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Ayodhya, the Battle for India’s Soul: Chapter Four
Paul Beckett

A fresh government was installed in November 1990 with a new prime minister, Chandra Shekhar Singh. He was a blunt-spoken socialist. This time, the government was supported by the Congress party, led by Rajiv Gandhi. The new prime minister tried, again, to find a solution to the Ayodhya dispute. He asked Subodh Kant Sahai, then minister of state in the home ministry, to lead discussions with Hindu and Muslim representatives, eight from each side. Three chief ministers – of Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh – participated to smooth tensions....

 

Ayodhya, The Battle for India’s Soul: Chapter One
Paul Beckett

Our story begins in 1949; two years after India became an independent nation following centuries of rule by Mughal emperors and then the British. What happened back then in the dead of night in a mosque in a northern Indian town came to define the new nation, and continues to shape the world’s largest democracy today. The legal and political drama that ensued, spanning six decades, has loomed large in the terms of five prime ministers. It has made and broken political careers, exposed the limits of the law in grappling with matters of faith, and led to violence that killed thousands. And, 20 years ago this week, Ayodhya was the scene of one of the worst incidents of inter-religious brutality in India’s history....

Ayodhya, the Battle for India’s Soul: Chapter Two
Paul Beckett

Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s prime minister, was greatly perturbed by an idol of Lord Ram being placed in a mosque. Polished, intellectual and sceptical of religion, Nehru was trying to propel the nation into an era of modern socialism and scientific thinking. But the events in Ayodhya forced him to grapple anew with the centuries-long friction between Hindus and Muslims – and to try to counter the spreading belief that a deity had materialized in the dead of night. “I am disturbed at developments at Ayodhya,” Nehru said in a telegram on Dec. 26, 1949, to Govind Ballabh Pant, chief minister of United Provinces, which roughly included what is now the state of Uttar Pradesh....

 

Ayodhya, the Battle for India’s Soul: Chapter Three
Paul Beckett

It started in 1981 in Meenakshipuram, an unremarkable village deep in the countryside of the southern state of Tamil Nadu, more than 2,000 kilometres from Ayodhya. The village hit the national news when its low-caste Hindus – about 400 families, villagers say — converted, en masse, to Islam. “We became Muslims to become equal,” said 65-year-old N. Hidayathullah, one of the converts, in an interview on the porch of his modest home, as a herd of goats wandered by. The families had felt ill-treated by local upper-caste Hindus, he said. “Nobody told us to convert; it was our desire to be treated with respect,” he added.....

From illegal detentions to wrong convictions, India’s terror prosecution is in dire need of attitudinal overhaul. Only those condemned to await their own deaths will know what it is to be suddenly blessed with the elixir of life. On November 22, two Kashmiri men found themselves lifted out of the darkness of their death row cells into light, life and liberty after the Delhi High Court set aside their convictions....

Ardeshir Cowasjee: Mourning a Man Who Mourned For Pakistan
Nadeem F Paracha

In a time when the press was being openly gagged and harassed, Cowasjee was one of the first Pakistanis to invent and articulate a way that has now become a common device used by liberals and secularists to critique political Islam in Pakistan. For example, during one such TV show when asked what he thought about Pakistan’s status of being a nuclear power, he smirked, pressed mischievously upon his walking stick, and said: ‘Sala iss qaum sey guttur to bundh hota nahi, bum kya chalaye ga …’...

After Gaza bombing, Israel is more isolated, Hamas has emerged stronger and Egypt is a major regional actor
Vijay Prashad

After bombing Gaza, Israel is more isolated, Hamas has emerged stronger and Egypt, which helped broker a ceasefire between the two, has returned as a major regional actor On the eighth day of the bombardment of Gaza, the Israeli government agreed to sit down with the Hamas leadership and the Egyptian government to come up with a ceasefire agreement. Hamas and Egypt had called for a ceasefire from early into the conflict, but the Israelis had refused....

How Many Ajmal Quassabs Are We Raising?
Sameera Rashid

Salman Khurshid, External Affairs minister of India, said India did not get any request from Pakistan, either from the government or the relatives, for handing over the body of Quassab. Thus, he was buried inside the premises of the jail. As a Pakistani, I can say that we were pained by the Mumbai attacks, but were, equally, intrigued by the perpetrators of the attacks. Who were the attackers? What were their motivations? How did they end up in Mumbai?...

Ajmal Qassab's Terrorism: Ticket to Paradise in a Brutal World
Praveen Swami

Quassab, the world came to call him, “the butcher”: butcher not because he shot dead 55 women, men and children, Hindu and Muslim at short range with a Kalashnikov assault rifle, but because it denoted his underprivileged southern Punjab caste. Extinguishing Quassab’s life does not change the fact that there are thousands of young men just like him — which makes understanding his story that much more important....

Jamaat-Ud-Dawa Turning Its Product Ajmal Qassab’s Memory Into Asset
Ayesha Siddiqa

No one knows what Quassab’s father, mother and siblings are going through today. They were moved out of Faridkot soon after his capture, and their whereabouts are not known — perhaps they are bitter; maybe they are relieved. We know from his statement that his mother had tried to stop him when she saw him last. It is also possible that Quassab’s mother might have heaved a sigh of relief realising that in death her son has been delivered from the agony of being in custody of the enemy and being tortured….

 

Ajmal Qassab: Chasing a Name in Jihadi Heartland
Saeed Shah

Ajmal Qassab was an enigma back in November 2008. Was this superman terrorist, dressed in combat trousers and a T-shirt, wielding a machine gun like a veteran commando, really a poor Pakistani villager? The idea that he was part of an elite squad of terrorists who had gone from Pakistan, by boat, and caused so much carnage in India, was met in Pakistan with public and official disbelief and blanket denial. Even to a journalist, the story seemed like a fantasy....

 

Ajmal Kasab Hanged At Pune’s Yerwada Jail This Morning
Mohammed Ajmal Amir Kasab

Mohammed Ajmal Amir Kasab, 25, the only terrorist caught alive during the 26/11 attacks on Mumbai, was hanged at Pune's Yerwada Jail at 7:30 this morning, in a swift and secret execution.  Doctors confirmed that he was dead. CNN IBN quoting a Pakistani press source as saying, “We respect judicial process in India. We have everything is done under proper scrutiny. Our understanding says President has jumped the queue in rejecting the mercy petition of Ajmal Kasab and till last minute it was under wraps....

Shaheed Bhagat Singh: Can A Non-Muslim Hero Be Honoured In Pakistan?
Amna Lone

That Pakistan is afflicted with the evils of bigotry and prejudice is no secret. But however much one gets accustomed — sadly, even immune — to this state of affairs, one is still left aghast at the extremely narrow worldview held by certain quarters. Another argument offered is that Singh was essentially an Indian hero, not a Pakistani one, and that there are many who have served Pakistan diligently over the years and are perhaps, more deserving of such an honour....

 

Once there was A Tiger: Death and Bal K. Thackeray
Bal K. Thackeray

We have reasons to be grateful that Bal K. Thackeray has died, a normal, natural death. Several of those whom he admired, didn’t. Adolf Hitler, the fellow ‘artist’ he often invoked, killed himself, his mistress and his dog. Indira Gandhi, and her son Sanjay, the mother and son firm of despots that Bal Thackeray endorsed, didn’t go gently into the night either. Sanjay Gandhi, the ‘bold young man’ whom Thackeray recognized as a fellow spirit came spiralling down in his own airplane,...

Shiv Sena: An Authentic Indian Fascism
Bal K. Thackeray

The Shiv Sena chief gave voice to a Nazi impulse in Indian politics — one that poses an ever-growing threat to our Republic “Fascism”, wrote the great Marxist intellectual Antonio Gramsci, in a treatise Balasaheb Keshav Thackeray likely never read but demonstrated a robust grasp of through his lifetime, “has presented itself as the anti-party; has opened its gates to all applicants; has with its promise of impunity enabled a formless multitude to cover over the savage outpourings of passions, hatreds and desires with a varnish of vague and nebulous political ideals....

Girish Karnad on Naipaul
Asghar Ali Engineer

Girish Karnad on Naipaul
Asghar Ali Engineer

Girish Karnad defended himself by saying that my conscience did not accept this and there could not have been a better occasion that this when award is being given to him. Being a Nobel awardee Naipaul does have celebrity status but that does not mean he is beyond any criticism, literary or otherwise. And as a secular activist myself I agree with Girish that iron must be struck when hot and he chose right moment to attack the views of Naipaul….

Israel’s Short Sighted Assassination
Gershon Baskin

Israel’s government has declared that the aim of the current strikes against Gaza is to rebuild deterrence so that no rockets will be fired on Israel. Israel’s targeted killings of Hamas leaders in the past sent the Hamas leadership underground and prevented rocket attacks on Israel temporarily. According to Israeli leaders, deterrence will be achieved once again by targeting and killing military and political leaders in Gaza...

Badal and Nitish’s Embrace Of Pakistan Stands In Contrast To the BJP's Reflexive Hawkishness
Tridivesh Singh Maini

Both are part of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance. C Rajamohan, in an article titled, Ambassadors to Pakistan, (November 12) highlights this interesting point: "Badal's Akali Dal and the Nitish Kumar's Janata Dal (United) are both allies of the BJP." Their embrace of Pakistan stands in contrast to the BJP's reflexive hawkishness.  Apart from the fact that their visits reveal the increasing influence of states on Indian foreign policy, both visits were fascinating for a number of reasons….

 

Is Obama About to Take Over the Internet?
Dana Liebelson

The Obama administration isn't sure, so it's moving to beef up cyber-security measures and to require companies to explain how they plan to defend against cyber-attacks. But some conservatives are accusing Obama of trying to take over the internet. "If you let the government take over some part of the internet, it's going to take over more and more,"...

 

Extramarital Affairs: The Moral Order Is Out Of Order in the United States
Murtaza Haider

The moral order is out of order in the United States where cheating on a spouse can cost you your job; whereas causing the death of thousands of innocents poses no harm to your career. The surge did not work in Iraq. After decades of wars and sectarian strife, Iraqis got tired of killing and they reorganised along the sectarian lines in cities. With Sunnis, Shias, and Kurds retreated to the safety of their respective ghettos, the killing spree ended in Iraq. However, this did not happen before nearly 120,000 civilians died in the American imposed war on Iraq, which was waged on false pretences....

A Reward for Mr. Naipaul Means Affirming Not Just His Great “Craft” But Also His Idea of India
Githa Hariharan

In a festival session at Neemrana in 2002, the Great Man threw darts at two of his fears: women and Muslims. He said women writers are banal; he finds them boring. In response, Shashi Deshpande said she found Naipaul’s preoccupation with the loss of an imaginary India boring. Naipaul cut off Nayantara Sahgal as she spoke of post-colonialism, again complaining of banality....

 

A Matter of Debate: Anil Dharker Responds to Girish Karnad’s Criticism of V S Naipaul for Being Ant-Muslim
Anil Dharker

Your other assumption of Naipaul being anti-Muslim is debatable, to say the least. He is married to a Muslim, and has been for the last 17 years. His wife’s two children by a previous marriage are being brought up as Muslims, all of which would be unlikely if he were so against the religion as you claim him to be. We will see you next year, and talk about theatre....

What Makes America Great  Is Its Diversity: Obama’s Re-Election Victory Speech – Full Text
US President Barack Hussein Obama

We want our children to live in an America that isn't burdened by debt, that isn't weakened up by inequality, that isn't threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet. 
We want to pass on a country that's safe and respected and admired around the world, a nation that is defended by the strongest military on Earth and the best troops this – this world has ever known, but also a country that moves with confidence beyond this time of war to shape a peace that is built on the promise of freedom and dignity for every human being. 

We believe in a generous America, in a compassionate America, in a tolerant America open to the dreams of an immigrant's daughter who studies in our schools and pledges to our flag , the young boy on the south side of Chicago who sees a life beyond the nearest street corner, to the furniture worker's child in North Carolina who wants to become a doctor or a scientist, an engineer or an entrepreneur, a diplomat or even a president. …
This country has more wealth than any nation, but that's not what makes us rich. We have the most powerful military in history, but that's not what makes us strong. Our university, our culture are all the envy of the world, but that's not what keeps the world coming to our shores. What makes America exceptional are the bonds that hold together the most diverse nation on Earth, the belief that our destiny is shared, that this country only works when we accept certain obligations to one another and to future generations, so that the freedom which so many Americans have fought for and died for come with responsibilities as well as rights, and among those are love and charity and duty and patriotism. That's what makes America great. 
America, I believe we can build on the progress we've made and continue to fight for new jobs and new opportunities and new security for the middle class. I believe we can keep the promise of our founding, the idea that if you're willing to work hard, it doesn't matter who you are or where you come from or what you look like or where you love. It doesn't matter whether you're black or white or Hispanic or Asian or Native American or young or old or rich or poor, able, disabled, gay or straight. You can make it here in America if you're willing to try. 

 

Congratulations Mr Naipaul, At Last Your Anti- Islamic Stand Has Borne Fruit
Girish Karnad

Anyone can find his statements in the archives of the New Yorker where he is writing about the Indian writer. Even that turns into a tirade against Muslims and how they destroyed Indian culture! This is the white man’s view of Indian history, an Orientalist stance and view that is also echoed by the RSS. Naipaul’s writing is vibrant, but a lot of his thought, though it sounds original, is something he has just inherited....

President Barack Obama Creates History, Wins Second Term In White House

US President Barack Obama swept to re-election on Tuesday, creating history again by defying the undertow of a slow economic recovery and high unemployment to beat Republican foe Mitt Romney.Obama became only the second Democrat to win a second four-year White House term since World War II, when television networks projected he would win the bellwether state of Ohio where he had staged a pitched battle with Romney...

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