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Indian Press On Guru Nanak’s Philosophy, Faisal Khan And Gilgit: New Age Islam's Selection, 30 November 2020

By New Age Islam Edit Desk

30 November 2020

• Guru Nanak’s Philosophy Is Of Eternal Rrelevance

By Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

•  In Memory Of Frontier Gandhi, A Plea For Justice For Faisal Khan

By Rajmohan Gandhi

• Is Anyone Here A Muslim, With A Victim Anecdote For My Column?'

By Farah Naqvi

• Electoral Fraud In Gilgit

By Tilak Devasher

• 3 Chinese Scientists Just Said Covid Came From India, Bangladesh. It’s Politics, Not Science

By Sumaiya Shaikh


Guru Nanak’s Philosophy Is Of Eternal Rrelevance

By Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

November 30, 2020

At a time when people were lost in endless intellectual discussions about God and Self, everyone arguing and believing themselves to be right, a simple saint of great depth woke them up by giving a call: “The Divine cannot be reduced to thought, even by thinking lakhs of times.”

Guru Nanak Dev’s teachings continue to be relevant to the world. Of all rishis, sages and seers who have blessed this planet, Guru Nanak Dev has a unique place. He put forth the essence of all scriptures in the simplest words that people can understand and absorb.

The first guru of the Sikhs would say, “you don’t have to be scared of God.” After having conversations with Siddhas, the ‘perfected ones,’ he said only a few people will be able to renounce the world. But the highest knowledge is available here for every human being beyond caste, class and circumstances. Young or old, everybody is qualified to receive this knowledge. He spoke from experience and revolutionised the world. Guru Nanak Dev’s contribution to Indian philosophy is unique, beautiful and timeless; they need to be taught to every human being.

Another beauty of Guru Nanak’s teachings is that philosophy and practical living go hand-in-hand. We cannot speak of philosophy that cannot be practised in daily life. For example, any talk about sustainability needs to be backed by strong philosophy. Guru Nanak’s teachings seamlessly blend the two, where serving the people, taking care of water, natural resources and the planet is considered divine service.

The Japji Sahib composed by Guru Nanak Dev says, “Ek Onkar, God is One; Satnam, His name is true; Karta-purakh, creator; Nirbhau, without fear; Nirvair, inimical to none; Akal-murat, immortal; Ajuni saibhang, beyond birth and death; Gurparsad, realised by the kindness of the true guru; Jap, chanting his name; Aad sach, the truth before creation; Jugaad Sach, eternal truth; hai bhi sach, truth here and now; Nanak Hose Bhi Sach, He will be true in the future.”

The whole world is born from one Onkaar. Around us everything is composed of its vibrations alone. It is there everywhere, but it can only be understood through the guru.

Guru Nanak Dev spoke of the unity of mankind, that people of all faiths should work together. He said, there is just one Karta Daata, doer-creator, who is indivisible, and just one cause of causes.

A sense of separation comes when we consider others as different from us but when we know that the root, source, is one, can there be separation? Realising we are one, all enmity disappears.

This separation exists when we hold onto something, to our idea of right and wrong, and there is no surrender. Then you will miss Gurprasad. Repeat God’s name – jap karo. Being hateful leads a person towards self-destruction. But for someone who is always in remembrance of God, in divine love, repetition of the divine name comes naturally to them, and they find the highest joy in it.

Guru Nanak Dev has given his blessed words. Gurbani, to enable us to lead a beautiful life. Such knowledge should be listened to, with great sincerity, honour and devotion. When you consider this knowledge as sacred, then life itself becomes sacred.


In Memory Of Frontier Gandhi, A Plea For Justice For Faisal Khan

By Rajmohan Gandhi

Nov 30, 2020


I know Faisal Khan and have seen his selflessness, his tirelessness, and his passion for friendship and reconciliation(Mint Archive)


It has been exactly a month since the October 29 arrest in Delhi of Faisal Khan, national convener of the Khudai Khidmatgars, an organisation he had revived 10 years ago. Denied bail, he has also not been brought to trial. Moreover, there are troubling reports that, after the arrest, he tested positive for Covid-19.

Khudai Khidmatgars — God’s servants — were first organised 90 years ago, in the North West Frontier Province of yore, by that astonishing figure, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, whose people called him Badshah or Bacha Khan. To others, he simply was the Frontier Gandhi. Because they worked for Independence and for Hindu-Muslim partnership, many Khudai Khidmatgars, including the Frontier Gandhi himself, were jailed for long spells. They were among the freedom movement’s greatest heroes, and their presence was an unforgettable rebuke to the pernicious two-nation theory.

After reviving the Khudai Khidmatgars in Delhi, Faisal Khan has striven without pause for two goals — communal harmony and relief for the neediest. He is also a wonderful singer of the Tulsi Ramayan. Hindus of all types, from venerated guru to college students, have been charmed by his rendering of the Ramayan’s verses. Keen, as part of his efforts towards harmony, to identify with the traditions of his Hindu friends, Khan, along with associates, recently performed the much-valued Braj Parikrama. On the last day of this 84-km yatra, they went to Mathura’s Nand Baba Mandir, where they were courteously received by the priest.

When Khan bid farewell to the priest in order to offer namaaz elsewhere, the priest apparently said, “This is a sacred place. You can read the namaaz here.” Khan did this on a courtyard of the temple premises, along with one of his friends. Three days later, however, the Uttar Pradesh police arrested him in Delhi on charges of hurting relations between communities. It seems that misgivings were caused by a video taken at the temple by one of Khan’s associates, which perhaps was over-enthusiastically circulated. Anyone seeing this video, which includes a glimpse of two men doing the namaaz, can observe the friendliness and respect that marked their visit to Nand Baba, as also the priest’s courtesy to the visitors.

A gesture of respect and friendship, which was also a painstaking effort at bridge-building, was later seen or described as an attempt to sow discord, even to pollute a place of worship.

The real question here is whether a dedicated individual whose organisation recalls one of the finest chapters in our country’s history, and who himself has been striving to strengthen relations between communities, should continue to be kept behind bars and denied bail. How normal or acceptable is it that an Indian citizen should remain a month or more in detention without an open trial? Not that Khan is the only one caught this situation. Others have been shut away for much longer, which is not a tribute to the police or the judiciary, or to the ministers who control the police.

If I add my voice to those of other citizens troubled by this episode, it’s for two reasons.

One, I know Faisal Khan and have seen his selflessness, his tirelessness, and his passion for friendship and reconciliation. Second, I also knew Badshah Khan, whom I first met in 1945, when I was 10 and he was staying in our Connaught Circus home above the offices of the Hindustan Times, where my father, Devadas Gandhi, was the editor. I last met Badshah Khan in Mumbai in 1987, a year before his death at the age of 98. Later, I had the chance – and the privilege – of writing Badshah Khan’s biography, where, among other things, I had to address the betrayal meted out in 1947 to Badshah Khan and his Pathans.

That India would permit the continuing incarceration of a gallant man who restarted, in Delhi and elsewhere in the country, the work of the Khudai Khidmatgars[N1]  is not a thought I can easily stomach. I must express my anguish and request the authorities to free Faisal Khan.


Rajmohan Gandhi is presently teaching at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign


Is Anyone Here a Muslim, With a Victim Anecdote for My Column?'

By Farah Naqvi

30 November 2020

Last week, I received a message on my phone from a respected columnist. The call to Muslims, sent to me and presumably to others, said the following: “Hi, This is X. Please share a story about being Muslim in India today? One anecdote of everyday Islamophobia. For my column.” End of message.

I found it repugnant. The kind of offensive you immediately know when you see it. And it raised questions about the need for self-reflexive progressive journalism in times of war. For it is a social war against Muslims we are living through. What exactly did I find so wrong about this journalistic practice? The columnist in question is an upper-caste and upper-class Hindu. Substitute ‘Dalit’ for ‘Muslim’ in the formulation and you will see why a journalist may have hesitated to send this message out to a Dalit. I tried it out for size: “Hi. Please share a story about being Dalit in India today? One anecdote of everyday Caste Oppression. For my column – Signed, Upper Caste Hindu.”

Dalit writers, poets, intellectuals and activists in India regularly challenge savarna takes on Dalit histories and lives. Arundhati Roy’s introduction to Annihilation of Caste was one such controversial moment. More recently, Anubhav Sinha’s film, Article 15, led to a debate about the ‘savarna saviour complex’. A columnist doing this may have been named and called out on social media by any number of Dalit writers, poets and activists. In the US, there are raging debates on cultural appropriation – how whites have appropriated and portrayed the Black experience (culture, manners, music, rap, voices, victimisation) in writing and in film – often reductively and in highly stereotyped ways.

Is it ‘appropriative’ for journalists to solicit Muslim stories, and should all such experiences be penned only by those who undergo them? Is there no place here for empathy, no connection possible across identities – can the liberal-minded privileged not legitimately speak for justice for others? I believe they can, and should. But there has to be a better way to get these stories out there than the message I received.

Debates on media representations have unfortunately tended to look at the outcome of the story-telling, and less at the practice of story-getting. On representations of Muslims in India, for example, the discussion has centred on media and Bollywood portrayals. It is well documented how the exotic tawaif of Pakeezah and the good Muslim (Imam Saheb of Sholay), gradually gave way to the terrorist, the Islamist, the oppressed Muslim woman.

These critiques of Muslim representation have been different from the Dalit-Savarna and Black-White power binaries. For they have not been Muslim-Hindu. They have looked at the communications industry – and pointed fingers at ‘the media’ and ‘Bollywood’. They have also examined the overwhelmingly ‘negative’ portrayals of Muslims (as terrorists and regressive Islamists), because there is simply so much of that. And been silent and grateful for the sympathetic/progressive writing.

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It is perhaps time to look at the practice of progressive, privileged journalism. For Columnist X is a progressive and compassionate writer, a positive ‘influencer’ in these times. And it is important to bring into public writing the daily humiliation that many Muslims are experiencing, which the mainstream seems unaware of or does not recognise as humiliating. The point, then, is how privileged liberals seek and tell that story. To modify one writer’s evocative words – how do you dip your pen in someone else’s blood?

Unfortunately, the text-message reeked of an unselfconscious entitlement. It recalled the title of veteran war correspondent Edward Behr’s book – Anyone Here Been Raped and Speaks English? That crass call for a rape story is what Behr heard shouted out by a British journalist to survivors fleeing war-torn Congo in November 1964. It has been the gold standard for journalistic crudity for over 50 years. It was not real enough to have suffered; that suffering had to be rendered accessible and accorded legitimacy in the language of the teller – English, the power language of the British journalist. There was also the presumption that female victims would gladly tell a foreign male their story. He did not say, ‘Is anyone willing to speak to me?’ For that inverts the power moment, where the victim now has something the journalist wants. He – white, privileged, with access to the media space – had the power to simply ask for a victim-tale.

The journalism of the text message was a polite version of the same. Muslims were asked to please give precisely – ‘a’ story and ‘one’ anecdote. To have to distil seamless human experience down to an anecdote is a challenge at the best of times. Even for a child writing a diary entry about his flowering plant for a school test. What if there were more than one anecdote, or a hundred? And many stories from many people? How would each of them compete for space? Or handle the rejection, after having trotted out rawness?

The stories could range from a simple Islamophobic stare to downright lynching and murder. A lynching story may not have made it to a curated column. Because the request was for the real stuff of life – the soul-destroying identity-awareness of each minute of an average 24-hour Muslim day in India today. ‘Everyday Islamophobia’ was the ask – but please, in brief. It was a crisp, synoptic request to modulate oppression.

In essence, the message, bursting as it did into my private phone space, was structurally no different from ghoul-journalists who thrust mikes at people in harsh times – fathers who have lost sons, mothers whose daughters are raped or incarcerated, the families whose loved ones have died – and ask, ‘How do you feel?’ They want pain in a sound byte. This ask was an anecdote. Journalists often do it because they can. Structures of media power, structures of entitlement and the demand for consumable stories determine that. For daily reporters, the pace of the newsroom becomes an alibi for poor ethics in the field. Columnists have less excuse to be unmindful.

Is it alright for any journalist to tersely solicit a story of potential pain by simply saying– ‘Share it. For my column’? No further nicety or persuasion seemed necessary. The column was a power space I must automatically know and value. Reasonable assumption. I can count on fingers the remaining number of Muslim journalists who still have regular columns. A column is part of structural privilege. And, just like the British journalist of Ed Behr’s title, that power was exercised, unthinkingly, with all its benefits, including the assumption that any Muslim, in these times, will be a) ready to morph themselves into ‘victim of Islamophobia’ and b) be willing to modulate their oppression for column-consumption. This electronic message was the exact half-century-later equivalent of the Brit’s physical trawl through a Congo airport. Shout-out-a-message in a war zone to potential victims – and get a mail box flooded with accessible pain. Privilege can breed lazy journalistic habits.

In our over media-determined age, real grounded journalism in India is among the most valued of responsibilities and duties. Seek fact, truth and justice, and deepen democracy, by writing column upon column about the increasing structural violence against the unequals. Progressive journalists who analyse sharply the many injustices of our times spend well the currency of their privilege. Columnist X’s journalism thus far has worked hard to do all of that.  So, I hope the text-message was an aberration. Muslims will gain little from any journalist soliciting oppression anecdotes in this manner. For these are not equal-exchange invitations. Words like power, privilege, minority and dominance are key to decoding all such requests.

The structurally privileged continue to be the dominant storytellers of our times. Identity-privileged journalism means retaining the power of framing, of editing, of deleting bits of oppression that do not work, and making those choices with other people’s experiences. Exercising privilege is not an act of individual ‘bad people.’ It is a system of structural inequity. The flip-side of victim tales is the normalcy and habit of everyday entitlement. Privileged journalism practices can be so ‘normal’ that they are hard to see. It is in their very hiddenness that all practices of privilege – whether of gender, caste or community – exercise their greatest power, and uphold the status quo. Without some self-examination, all the compassionate columns in the world will not dent the hierarchy such columns purport to bravely challenge.

It may be good practice to turn the mirror inwards. Learn to inhabit discomfort. Try being the subject instead. Imagine if one day a range of progressive, privileged journalists received the following message on their phones: ‘Hi. This is Farah Naqvi. Please share a story of being Upper-Caste Upper-Class Hindu in India today. One anecdote (no more), of everyday UC-UC Hindu privilege. For my article.’ What kind of response do you think I might get?


Farah Naqvi is an activist and writer who lives and works in Delhi.


Electoral Fraud In Gilgit

By Tilak Devasher

Nov 30, 2020

The run-up to and the results of the keenly contested November 15 election to the Legislative Assembly in Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) could have far-reaching consequences for the region and for Pakistan.

Bilawal Bhutto set the tone by arriving in the area weeks ahead of other political leaders. His high decibel campaign set the standard, forcing others to emulate him. His impressive campaigning should stand him in good stead in his future political career.

The fact that the PTI could not win a majority on its own reflects Imran Khan’s lack of popularity in Gilgit-Baltistan.

Maryam Nawaz followed Bilawal to GB and also undertook several rallies and campaigned across the region during her seven-day stay. In her speeches, she remained focused on Imran Khan and his ‘selected, rejected’ government.

Imran Khan visited Gilgit briefly on November 1 to announce that GB would be granted ‘provisional’ provincial status, a thinly disguised ploy to win. However, the PTI campaign was marked by the obnoxious and sexist comments of Ali Amin Gandapur, federal minister for Kashmir affairs. He stated at a rally that Maryam was beautiful, ‘but only because she has spent millions of taxpayer money on surgeries to look the way she does’. He went on to target Bilawal Bhutto in similar fashion, asking him to ‘be a man’.

The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) boosted its electoral chances by poaching 10 leaders from the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N). Not surprisingly, it emerged as the single-largest party, winning nine seats out of the 24 being contested directly but fell short of a simple majority to form the government. Independents won six seats, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) three seats, PML-N and others one each. Election in one seat was postponed due to the death of a candidate that was subsequently won by the PTI. With five independents joining the party, the PTI would form the government. However, the fact that the PTI could not win a majority on its own reflects Imran Khan’s lack of popularity in GB. In fact, in the absence of PML-N turncoats, the PTI would have come in third.

The credibility of the elections was marred by serious charges of rigging. The independent Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) reported an average of three illegalities or irregularities per polling station. According to its preliminary report, the irregularities included breach of secrecy of the vote, stamping of ballots by others on behalf of voters and the prevention of registered voters to cast their ballots. There were cases where excess and fake postal ballot papers were issued leading to many of them being misused. In several areas, women were barred from voting. In many cases, observers were asked to leave the polling stations before counting began. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and the Gilgit Union of Journalists confirmed this.

Both the PPP and the PML-N rejected the results, with Bilawal coining a new slogan: ‘Vote per daaka namanzoor’, a slogan that is gaining popularity in GB. Maryam tweeted that the PTI’s inability to get a ‘simple majority despite worst rigging and changing loyalties through full state power, government institutions, government machinery and black tactics’ was actually a ‘shameful defeat’.

Due to the electoral fraud, a series of protests have broken out in the region, forcing the caretaker government to seek the army’s assistance to control the security situation, especially in Gilgit and Chilas.

A notable feature of the elections in GB (and so-called Azad Jammu Kashmir) was that the ruling party in Islamabad had the edge. On the previous two occasions, the PPP in 2009 and the PML-N in 2015 had won majorities when they were in power at the centre. For the establishment it was important to make sure that the region followed the Islamabad line so that there was uniformity of messaging from Pakistan on the Kashmir issue.

The elections took place against the backdrop of the larger political confrontation between the PTI and the opposition alliance, the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM). This was the underlying theme of the campaign rather than local issues and developmental needs. Not surprisingly, the PTI claimed that the poll outcome demolished the opposition’s narrative; the PPP and PML-N asserted that the results were due to rigging.

There were three takeaways from the election. Though both the PML-N and PPP fared poorly, the PDM’s campaign and narrative have actually got a fillip. It has obtained fresh ammunition of rigging and political engineering, strengthening its overall narrative of the establishment’s interference in politics and ‘selecting’ governments. The PDM used this effectively in its November 22 rally at Peshawar. However, by allowing a month’s gap between the Quetta and Peshawar rallies to account for the GB election, the PDM could well have lost some of the momentum the first three rallies had generated.

Second, GB election, together with the 2008 general election, is indicative of the establishment’s new play-list of political engineering — leave the ‘selected’ government short of a majority and make up the deficit with smaller parties and independents. While such a strategy would produce a government beholden to the establishment for survival, it is unlikely to provide a stable government.

Third, with the elections over, it remains to be seen if Imran Khan would redeem his pledge of making GB the fifth province of Pakistan. This would require constitutional amendments for which he will have to take the opposition on board, something that he is loath to do. It will also require an examination how such a move would impact Pakistan’s position on the J&K issue and have implications for India.

Tactically, the army has succeeded in ensuring that the PTI cobbles a majority to form the government. In the long run, however, it has given the PDM further ammunition to push its agenda of the establishment’s interference in politics. With this narrative gathering steam, the establishment could well rue rigging the GB elections.


Tilak Devasher is a Member, National Security Advisory Board


3 Chinese Scientists Just Said Covid Came From India, Bangladesh. It’s Politics, Not Science

By Sumaiya Shaikh

30 November, 2020

The Chinese culture of eating exotic animals has been widely condemned, including by the people of China. Even within China, the difference between Beijing’s mandarin cuisine — from the Southern Cantonese — and rural cuisine such as from Guanzhou, is stark, not to mention the abundant use of exotic animals for medicinal purposes. Many urban and expat Chinese have termed the culture of eating wild animals ‘uncommon’. The viral ‘bat-soup’ video was denied by the Wuhanese, which was allegedly from Palau — an island nation 2,100 km from China.

The expedition in science to trace back ‘patient zero’ of Covid-19 has been largely unbiased, as opposed to the media and political class. The release of preprints — scientific manuscripts yet to be peer-reviewed and thus open to interpretation by the public that lacks the understanding to review science — has been at the centre of such biases. Preprints can be hyped, misunderstood or taken out of context to spread misinformation because quality checks by independent scientists are missing. Previously, two Chinese scientists were criticised for a conspiracy theory based on evidence-free assumptions that claimed the origins of the novel coronavirus as ‘lab-created’. Thorough genetic research published by The Lancet determined that the SARS-CoV-2 is closely related to the SARS-CoV-1 in its receptor binding sites, only to be distinct in some amino acid sequences, and therefore unlikely to be created through an unnatural lab process.

Further phylogenetic analysis of coronavirus from different species revealed that the human SARS-CoV-2 found in 2019 in China is a close relative of the bat coronavirus RATG13 and far from those isolated from other species. Thus, if there was any evidence of a change in the coronavirus’ genome, it could have been through neutral evolution in a host such as humans after an infection. Such changes occur through mutations in five genes of the coronavirus genome, namely S, N, ORF8, ORF3a, and ORF1ab, with about 42 per cent of the variations occurring as non-synonymous mutations. Such mutations of nucleotide substitutions in the amino acid sequence in the protein-coding gene reflect the positive natural selection and evolution, far from the conspiracy theories of a lab-made virus.

Pushing unverified science

Despite most scientists largely holding up the tent of evidence throughout this year, the science available online before being awarded a publication status in a journal has been a barrier in the public understanding of the scientific process and the politics behind it.

The recent preprint by Chinese scientists Libing Shen, Funan He and Zhao Zhang titled ‘The early cryptic transmission and evolution of SARS-CoV-2 in human hosts’ suggests that the origins of SARS-CoV-2 may not be in China, but in the Indian subcontinent, coming via Australia before making its way into China — a ghastly allegation given the ongoing nature of the dreadful second Covid-19 wave.

The paper attracted a huge spotlight given that it is a Lancet preprint, even though that has no correlation with the quality of the research, and was featured in many international media platforms. The study claimed to have tested various SARS-CoV-2 strains across the world to compare with the first strain identified in China’s Wuhan. It suggests that this first strain found in Wuhan is not the least mutated strain on the basis of the theory of post-infection mutation in humans through adaptive evolution. It also suggests that the lesser the mutations in the genome, the closer the strain is to the origin of the 2019 virus or patient zero.

The study further claimed that the least mutated virus may have arisen from the Indian subcontinent as the region has the highest strain diversity calculated via statistics and the SARS-CoV-2 mutation rate. This hypothesis also made the Chinese scientists believe that the earliest transmission in human hosts could be in July-August 2019, and not in October-November in China as is widely believed.

More politics than science

Apart from the unverified science, there are two problems with the theory of the Chinese scientists. First, the Indian subcontinent — they specifically singled out India and Bangladesh — is large, populated and well-traveled. It is highly likely that the returning Indian expats, in huge numbers, got infected in their respective countries, thus bringing back the range of diverse strains from different parts of the world, perhaps even from China. At this time of the pandemic, and especially when the world is open for travel, it is impossible to label a group of viral strains as Indian or Chinese. In either case, peer review and further studies are needed to ascertain such origins, and only if it adds value to the current knowledge.

Second, the spread of mutated strains across the globe has not occurred in a linear manner. Once the virus enters the host, it can mutate, replicate and infect others, and can further mutate, all of which occurs through a multiway process globally. Diversity or mutation rate both, inevitably large in a highly populous country like India, does not provide the evidence required to conclude the origins of patient zero in India.

Perhaps scientists need to focus on the existing challenge of the second wave, which is in a terrible state, even in developed countries, despite copious knowledge that the second wave was going to be more severe.

This current pandemic problem is as political as it is scientific. If a scientist intends to politicise a pandemic, the most unscientific method would be the generation of populist theories without gathering further insight on their data. While the need to develop and manufacture vaccines for the masses has become a scientific race to push the human intellect forward as a joint global fraternity, our species have never been so divided during a global health crisis.


Sumaiya Shaikh PhD is an Australian-Swedish neuroscientist, researching the neuroscience of political violence, in Sweden. She is a consultant on security, terrorism and misinformation. She is the founding editor of the fact-checking portal Alt News Science, India. Views are personal.



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