New Age Islam
Thu Jun 13 2024, 09:58 PM

Indian Press ( 7 Dec 2020, NewAgeIslam.Com)

Comment | Comment

Indian Press on Love, Faith and Consent, Nirankaris’ Mission and Hyderabad’s Culture: New Age Islam's Selection, 7 December 2020

By New Age Islam Edit Desk

 7 December 2020

• Love, Faith and Consent in a Hindu Rashtra

By Tanika Sarkar

• Nirankaris’ Mission And Christ’s Message Of Love

By CL Gulati

• Indians Should Thank These Three Journalists For Bringing 1971 Bangladesh ‘Genocide’ To Light

By Commodore Hari Krishnan

• Hyderabad’s Culture, Modernity Are Intertwined

By Dinesh C Sharma

• Proxy War Between Iran And Israel Heats Up

By Pinak Ranjan Chakravarty

• By Way Of Assassination Of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh

By Vivek Katju

• India Low On Biden’s Watch List

By KP Nayar


Love, Faith And Consent In A Hindu Rashtra

By Tanika Sarkar

7 Decvember 2020


Photo: Prashant Kharote/Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 4.0


In the last few days, three excellent articles in the Indian Express (by Christophe Jaffrelot, Apurva Vishwanath and Abhinav Chandrachud) have clarified the provisions of the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020. I will try to consolidate their larger implications.

No doubt the ordinance will attain a permanent legal shape in all Bharatiya Janata Party-ruled states sooner or later: Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka are already keen to emulate it. There is a very real possibility that it may become the national template for regulating and punishing inter-faith marriages and conversions in the near future. It may also be seen as an anticipation of parts of the Uniform Civil Code that the BJP has long promised – the only pledge it is yet to redeem. Feminists across the board should be asking them to submit their blueprint for the Code in the public domain for debates and discussions. Otherwise, they would be staring at an irreversible fact of life soon.

Those who pray together…

The hallmark of the ordinance is that it draws two most intimate and meaningful parts of human life together: love and faith. It brings both under the purview of a state that now takes full charge of who can love and marry whom and who can hold which faith. Or rather, it decides who cannot do what. The ordinance prohibits and punishes, it closes doors and segregates religious communities as if they are different species.

The ordinance outlaws conversions supposedly based on fraud, coercion and what it strangely calls  “allurement”. The potential convert must apply to the magistrate for permission to convert  and the magistrate – not the person whose faith is at stake – will take the final call on it. The person who is accused of making unlawful conversions will need to prove that he is not guilty of fraud, etc. Once again, the would-be convert’s own religious preference will not possess legal validity.

If the magistrate decides that the conversion is unlawful, then the offence becomes non-cognisable and non-bailable, condemning the offender to arrest without warrant and years in prison. If the potential convert is a minor, or from the SC/ST communities, then the sentence is significantly enhanced. The right to worship and adore God in a form of one’s own choosing ceases to exist. The state regulates religious choice.

If a person wants to convert in order to marry outside her community, then it will not be her words or consent that will matter but those of her parents’. Her desire to convert would not count as a genuine religious choice but as one insidiously imposed on her by seductive ‘love jihadists’ from another community. Civil marriages have so far been exempted from the scope of the ordinance, but the prolonged two months’ notice that the couple is obliged to wait out before they can register their marriage at court already provides ample scope for obstructive parents to drag their daughter back, and allege coercion, abduction or enticement on the part of her lover from another community.

The ordinance prohibits marriages which involve conversion. But far-Right organisations have long designated inter-faith marriages, with or without conversion, as ‘love jihad’. That BJP-ruled states are calling the ordinance a long-awaited blow against so-called love jihad makes it clear that all such marriages will be put under the most rigorous scanner.

The logic of anti-love jihad vigilantism has now received the stamp of official sanction. The state has formally endorsed the view that inter-faith love marriages are a political conspiracy, organised by minority communities to convert Hindu women and, thereby, depopulate the majority community and enlarge their own until they have reduced Hindu numbers to nothing. And so does conversion to non-Hindu Indian faiths.

The real beauty of the ordinance lies in the way it entirely exonerates Hindus from all charges of fraud, allurement or intimidation when they convert people from another community. For in the case of shifting from another faith to Hinduism, conversion ceases to be conversion. It will be defined as “homecoming” or ghar wapsi  – returning to one’s authentic roots, one’s true faith. Conversion in this case is bathed in an ambience of warmth and self recovery. It becomes, by definition, innocent of malfeasance which strongly adheres to all other kinds of conversion.

One stone, many birds

The Sangh parivar shows real genius in the way it kills several birds with one stone. The ordinance couples marriage and conversion, love and faith – and, simultaneously, detaches both from freedom of conscience, thought and self-determination. But it goes much further than this. Because its consequences are not explicitly spelt out, we cannot clearly see their far-reaching implications, nor gauge how carefully the ground has already been prepared for them. We cannot anticipate the directions in which they will move.

In the first place, the ordinance radically violates Article 25 of the constitution which allows for the profession, practice and propagation of faith according to one’s conscience. Coming in the wake of annulling Article 370 for Kashmir, this is yet another major blow against the constitution which critically weakens its foundations. Since the diminution of constitutional provisions is happening piecemeal, we find it difficult to pull together the sundry moves to see what they add up to. Bit by bit, without much fuss, the constitution is becoming irrelevant.

Second, by shifting the burden of proof onto the accused, it overturns a fundamental legal norm and principle – that one is deemed innocent until proved guilty. By exempting Hinduism from the scope of the ordinance, moreover, it militates against yet another basic legal morality – that of equality before law. In that sense, citizenship is once again communalised and made unequal, just as the Citizenship (Amendment) Act did, by rendering certain kinds of citizenship entitlements conditional upon religious affiliation for the first time in our history.

In an even broader sense, the ordinance negates the adult will and informed consent of the marriage partner or the would-be convert. In their place, it installs parental and community control – already confirmed by a very high age of consent and the two months’ notice period before courts for a civil marriage. Adults are now placed firmly under their guardians’ authority in their own crucial life decisions. They lose the right to think for themselves in these domains. As I have argued elsewhere, this enables the continuous production of docile citizens who learn to follow orders and not to think against the social grain, or to trust their own judgment.

The ordinance brackets Dalits/Adivasis with minors. Their conversion will now fetch a more stringent sentence. It infantilises them by classifying them as equivalents of minors – people incapable of knowing their own minds.

By classifying conversion to Hinduism as a return to one’s original faith, the ordinance makes Hinduism the single authentic faith for all Indians. In the same stroke, all other Indian religions get branded as products of force, fraud, coercion or seduction, in the present or in the past – hence illegitimate and deserving of annulment and punishment.

What free will?

Such ideas have deep and strong roots in longstanding social conventions. Arranged matches, even when they are non-consensual, are still the order of the day and many parents object when their children choose to marry without their consent, even if it is within the same caste and community. That convention, too, is anchored in the principle of endogamy – people from another caste or faith are definitionally mlechha or untouchable, while inter- caste marriage leads to varna sankara or miscegenation: a social offence that demolishes family and lineage honour and caste status. There can be no open explicit condemnation of inter-caste marriage as yet since the rhetoric is one of Hindu unity and sameness. But in practice, such marriages are punished as brutally as inter- community ones by community guardians.

We saw how deep-seated such convictions are in the case of Hadiya’s marriage and conversion. Hadiya, indubitably an adult girl with a strong will and mind of her own, had converted and then married a Muslim in 2016. When her parents approached the court, alleging coercion, even the progressive state of Kerala agreed with them and sent Hadiya to her parents, away from her husband. After a prolonged wrangle, even while Hadiya  firmly declared her decision to convert and marry a Muslim, the couple could be reunited only after the National Investigative Agency declared the marriage to be valid. We may not expect the Agency to repeat this elsewhere.

There is a historical precedent that comes to mind if we try to assess the possible trajectory of such changes: the Nuremberg Laws that Germany had enacted in 1935. They had two main provisions. One was the Law for the Protection of German Blood and Honour which prohibited love and marriage between Jews and “pure” blooded Germans. To prevent extra-marital relationships, no Jewish women under 45 was allowed to work in a German household. The second was the Reich Citizenship Law, which restricted citizenship to people of German blood alone. Non-German minorities were designated as non-citizens, with no rights or claims in the Reich. In the case of Indian marriage and citizenship, the distinction is not racial or blood-based but a religious one. The direction, however, is rather similar.

Such selective denial of free will and agency is strangely inverted in the case of Indian farmers. The government  claims that its new farm laws have released farmers from controls of the government and middlemen, and have allowed them to access the market on their own terms and according to their free will. In reality, however, it leaves them stranded under the machinations of gigantic corporate wholesalers and retailers, whose operations are opaque and completely beyond the farmers’ control. In this case, extreme vulnerability gets translated as total freedom. Indeed, the BJP possesses an exceptional semantic ability to turn around meanings.

But none of this should come as a surprise. The Sangh parivar has always been perfectly open and honest about its intentions. Its agenda for realising a Hindu rashtra in India is almost 100 years’ old and, from 2014, Modi’s electoral campaigns had promised economic “reforms”. They have, indeed, been true to their pledge of constructing the Ram temple on the site of a demolished mosque, of reading down Article 370, of ensuring cow protection at the cost of minority lives. We need to reflect on whether opposition parties have been similarly faithful to their proclaimed agenda.


Tanika Sarkar is a historian who retired as professor, Centre for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University.


Nirankaris’ Mission And Christ’s Message Of Love

By CL Gulati

December 5, 2020



The four main pillars of mainstream spirituality are that the formless cosmic God belongs to all; divine revelation is possible through a genuine master; rites and rituals cannot by themselves help us gain divine knowledge; and all true masters who blessed seekers with revelation of the one formless supreme power, promoted qualities of humanism, altruism, humility, love, mercy, compassion and service. All prophets, scriptures and their messages that transcend divisions, belong to entire humanity.

Jesus Christ said: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them, but to fulfil them.” Christ spoke of God as Spirit, as formless Being, there being no exception to this divine principle. He spoke of the significance of knowing the formless with the help of prophets: “I am the gate, whoever enters through me will be saved.” Speaking of surrender, he said, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek and ye shall find; knock and it shall be opened unto you.” Christ gave great importance to love, humility and humanism and declared that the humblest are the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. Arrogance and pride have no place here.

Nirankari Baba Hardev Singh ji advocated selfless service. “Life gets a meaning, if it is lived for others,” he said. True religion is about love and God and the ideal way to live peacefully with all beings. The Sant Nirankari Mission, as an all-embracing religious, socio-spiritual and charitable organisation, promotes the concept of Nirankar, the one formless God, and believes that God can be realised with the grace of a living satguru, true master.

The Mission’s philosophy is in sync with the teachings of all past prophets and globally accepted scriptures, enjoined by the message, “Man is human when entire humankind is his family and he is aware that his real home is God.” Nirankari Baba ji said, “No God, no peace; know God, know peace.” The Mission believes in unconditional love in action through selfless service.

Since we are mere trustees of all material and non-material assets that belong to God, we need to use them for the common good. The apostles laboured hard, the evolved proclaim the beauty of a higher life, sociologists speak of the duties of a good citizen to promote an ideal society, philosophers pioneer sublime thoughts, and all agree that God is one and realising this is the ultimate goal.

Religion essentially means knowledge of God. In the absence of actual knowledge, God is different for different persons and for the same person on different occasions. The concept of one God for all, foresees the idea of one religion for all, that suits the whole human race.

Mata Sudiksha ji Maharaj, present spiritual head of Sant Nirankari Mission says, “The world needs to be united as a family, accepting and loving each other.” The Covid-19 pandemic has prompted the whole world to ‘shut down for renovation’. A time for reflection, rejuvenation and restoration. Restoration of enlightened faith holds out the promise for a happier world eagerly waiting for a ‘grand opening.’


CL Gulati is Vice-Chairman, Sant Nirankari Mandal, Delhi. Sant Nirankari Mission is holding its 73rd Annual Nirankari Sant Samagam online, December 5-7, 2020.


Indians Should Thank These Three Journalists For Bringing 1971 Bangladesh ‘Genocide’ To Light

By Commodore Hari Krishnan

4 December, 2020

As the 50th anniversary of the Liberation of Bangladesh draws near, what also draws near is the 50th anniversary of a genocide so gruesome that it ought not to be allowed to slide into oblivion.

To begin at the beginning, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was not part of the deception — he was the deception. Having won only 85 seats, Bhutto’s Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) had been a runner-up in the elections of December 1970, losing to the Awami League’s 167 seats. In the political stalemate due to then-West Pakistan’s attempt to modify the people’s mandate, Bhutto’s presence in Dhaka, on 25 March 1971 for “talks” with Sheikh Mujibur Rahman (the legitimate Prime Minister-Elect for the whole of Pakistan), probably lulled Awami leaders into thinking that “the 26th would be just another Friday, like every other Friday before it”.

Although it was almost an open secret that the thousands of crew-cut youth who had been arriving in civil clothes onboard civil flights, day after day for over a month, were actually soldiers, the Pakistan Army troops in Dhaka had always behaved with deference and remarkable restraint towards Sheikh Mujib – at least on the surface. Despite martial law being in force, the Pakistan Army had withdrawn into their cantonments on 3 March, with nearly no indication that they would not continue to remain there. The sporadic clashes were largely attributed to the eagerness of free agents. After all, Awami supporters were also creating civil nuisance by going on strikes, blocking roads, etc.

So, even after his face-to-face talks with Pakistan’s military ruler Yahya Khan had failed, Sheikh Mujib’s call to his people, “to prepare themselves for an all-out struggle”, was still only a call for non-violent civil resistance. While Yahya left Dhaka, Bhutto stayed to ostensibly ‘continue the talks’ that he had come for. A wily deception.

An H-Hour of 01:00 am on the 26th and the arrest of Mujibur Rahman had already been green-signalled at 11:00 am on 25 March, but Bhutto’s presence had successfully crafted the impression that ‘talks would go on’, creating the belief that the night would be peaceful, and the days ahead conducive for democratic protests through civil disobedience.


Evening of 25 March. The iconic clock of St Thomas had just struck 10, its chimes soothing. But soldiers, many with shawls to hide their insignia, started streaming into the telephone exchanges, radio and TV Stations, teleprinter and telegraph offices, and also around the InterContinental hotel in Dhaka. Even as the last of the city’s busybodies were getting ready for bed, the stroke of 10, that night, was the sign for the Pakistan Army to effectively blockade any foreign journalists who hadn’t already been expelled or left the country on their own, to stop every means of communication, and to quietly encircle Sheikh Mujib’s residence. All of this took them just over an hour. Killings, thus far, remained purposeful – limited to what was necessary to take over control of the communication.

By 30 minutes to midnight, all that changed. The H-Hour had apparently been advanced. And the true purpose of Operation Searchlight harshly shone forth: to kill and show. Each kill had to be a signal to the other Bengalis, and Pakistanis went out of their way to make it so.

Mass deaths

Sheikh Mujib was fortunate in a way, he didn’t have to personally witness all these killings, for at about 1:30 am on the morning of 26 March, he was abducted from his home, flown to Rawalpindi and then taken to solitary confinement in West Pakistan. But his people suffered. The armed soldiers of East Pakistan Rifles, and the armed constables of the local police, were not spared either, if they were Bengalis.

Even the name for their operation was apt. A searchlight can be used either to ‘search for’ or to ‘illuminate’. This operation met both aims. Search out every person suspected of being a politician, a student leader, a teacher of Bangla, or a cultural activist. Don’t hide the deaths, but emphasise the gruesome details of these deaths as symbols and signals to illuminate the choices before people who didn’t kowtow. It was macabre.

“The killing began shortly after 10 pm,” says Mashuqur Rahman, describing the demons of 1971, “in the first 48 hours the orgy of killing had ravaged Dhaka city…… (but)….. the genocide had just begun”.

The intensity of the genocide in Bangladesh surpassed that of the Holocaust. The Nazis had cruelly notched a monthly average of over 80,000 innocent lives between 1941 and 1945, but the Pakistan Army broke the Nazi speed-record five times over in 1971, with their savage murders averaging about 400,000 Bengalis each month, not counting their rapes and other unspeakable atrocities. The ‘Gear 5’ intensity of the Pakistani Genocide stands out — the Pakistanis had committed approximately three million murders in nine months, and more than 200,000 rapes.

And most Western countries looked the other way.

Had India not intervened; had Pakistan been allowed to continue the killings for six years as the Nazis had, there would have been 24 million Bangalis dead, and the Lord knows how many more women violated.

Though the Nuremberg Trials had in no way offset what the European Jews had suffered, they had at least attempted to bring many of the Nazis to justice for murdering an estimated six million Jews.

It is one of the deepest shames of the Seventies, that the Pakistani officers responsible for the murder of nearly three million Bengalis could not be tried for their crimes. India, which had proclaimed East Pakistan a free nation, had to set free 93,000 prisoners of war (PoWs) in order to obtain the release of ‘Bangabandhu’ Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, whose presence was central to the fledgling nation of Bangladesh. Blackstone’s ratio of ten criminals to one innocent, has perhaps never in history been skewed on a grander scale.

The role of the media

From Governor General Tikka Khan, the infamous ‘Butcher of Bengal’, or his successor General Amir Abdullah Khan Niazi, to the soldiers who made beauty their booty (to paraphrase Andrew Jackson) – everyone escaped trial.

But, even if so many criminals got away, what ensured that their crimes pierced the world’s conscience? To quote Walter Lippmann, “News and (the) truth are not the same thing”. Indeed, when it comes to news about India, Western media often chooses authors and journalists who tell their readers what they wish to hear. That becomes news. That news becomes cited history, through the sheer perversity of ‘pervasity’ (even if it’s not a real word). Western media is so pervasive that history cannot be written by the victors unless they happen to be from the West.

The news in the West may never have resembled the whole truth even in the 1971 War, had it not been for a few brave souls, thanks to whom the truth of the genocide got through to the Western media, and changed the colour of the “News” as being reported there.

Who are these heroes?

Foremost among them is Archer Kent Blood, who, as the Head of the United States Consulate in Dhaka, sent a series of cables to Washington, commencing with the one on 27 March, which read, “Here in Decca we are mute and horrified witnesses to a reign of terror by the Pak Military….”.

On 6 April 1971, he sent a ‘dissent cable’ (later dubbed ‘The Blood Telegram’) to the US Secretary of State William P. Rogers, which read: “Our government has failed to denounce the suppression of democracy. Our government has failed to denounce atrocities. Our government has failed to take forceful measures to protect its citizens while at the same time bending over backwards to placate the West Pak dominated government and to lessen any deservedly negative international public relations impact against them. Our government has evidenced what many will consider moral bankruptcy,… But we have chosen not to intervene, even morally, on the grounds that the Awami conflict, in which unfortunately the overworked term genocide is applicable, is purely an internal matter of a sovereign state. Private Americans have expressed disgust. We, as professional civil servants, express our dissent with current policy and fervently hope that our true and lasting interests here can be defined and our policies redirected in order to salvage our nation’s position as a moral leader of the free world….”. National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger didn’t react, but the Blood Telegram found its way into the press, and the ‘truth’ suddenly became the ‘news’ in the US.

The moment of convergence came in the British media too. First, a small snippet by Simon Dring appeared on the front page of The Daily Telegraph on 30 March 1971. Dring had gone underground just before the murders began, and collected evidence of the atrocities at great risk to himself, but his article failed to really alter the tone of reporting in Western media. Even though the BBC subsequently carried a broadcast made on the 27th  of March 1971 by Major Ziaur Rahman from a small clandestine radio station in Chittagong (reading out Mujibur’s declaration of Bangladeshi independence), it had mostly been interpreted as the justification for a Pakistani crackdown rather than the right way around.

The defining change came when Pakistani journalist Neville Anthony Mascarenhas, penned his article, “Genocide“, in The Sunday Times on 13 June 1971. He had originally been embedded by the Pakistan government with the Pakistani forces in East Pakistan in order to report favourably, but was so disturbed by what he saw that he escaped to the United Kingdom. His article on the Bangladesh genocide has been credited by the BBC as having “exposed for the first time the scale of the Pakistan army’s brutal campaign …”, and indeed even “impelled India to look at a military option to resolve the humanitarian crisis”.

As the 50th anniversary of the Liberation of Bangladesh draws near, what also draws near is the 50th anniversary of a genocide so gruesome that it ill behoves humanity to ever forget it.

It would only be a befitting tribute to the millions of Bengali lives lost in the Pakistani genocide of 1971, that in the year 2021, the Indian government appropriately honours the names of three good men: the Late Archer Blood, the Late Anthony Mascarenhas, and Simon Dring, for their courage of conviction and honesty.

Thanks to them, news came much nearer to the truth.


Commodore Hari Krishnan is currently Director of the Indian Navy’s Centre for Ethics, Leadership and Behavioural Studies, and has earlier headed the Directorate for Strategy at Naval Headquarters.


Hyderabad’s Culture, Modernity Are Intertwined

By Dinesh C Sharma

Dec 07, 2020

It is usually the bread-and-butter issues of bijli, sadak and paani that dominate local body elections. But the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation polls which concluded last week proved to be an exception. It was history, culture and geography that figured prominently in the campaign. The tone was set by the big guns of the Bharatiya Janata Party from Delhi and Uttar Pradesh. They talked of ending the so-called ‘Nizami-Nawabi’ culture of Hyderabad and also referred to a geographic area — the old city — in deriding terms. For ardent Hyderabadis, it amounted to an assault on Hyderabadi culture which is celebrated for being tolerant, peace-loving and steeped in a rich food tradition. As the results have shown, the campaign rhetoric seems to have paid rich dividends. This is despite the fact that while his party leaders were targeting Hyderabadi culture in one part of the city, the Prime Minister was busy reviewing the progress of Covid-19 vaccines with vaccine companies in another.

The public discourse during the election was about aspects of Hyderabadi culture in the context of its feudal past that ended in 1948, ignoring the present realities of the pandemic during which the city is playing a critical role as the global hub of science and medicine. This is what makes Hyderabad an enigma to outsiders. Is it a city steeped in old ways of life, the Nawabi culture, or is it a modern metropolis buzzing with new ideas? The truth is that the culture and modernity of Hyderabad are intertwined.

The ‘oriental splendour’ that Hyderabad was, in the late 19th and early 20th century, now only belongs to history books and museums. Mir Osman Ali Khan (the seventh and last Nizam), once named the richest man on the planet, died half a century ago. Descendants of Nawabs and Rajahs — who represented the nobility in princely Hyderabad — are not a force in Hyderabadi society. Barring a few notable exceptions, most of the deodhis, havelis and palaces of the Nizam era have given way to real estate dreams of their owners. The city does not have any statue of the Nizams or main thoroughfares named after any of them.

Yet the Nizam, or the culture he epitomised, became a central figure in the local body elections in 2020. This is because the present day Hyderabad is intrinsically linked to its past — not through built heritage or road names, but through the uniqueness of culture dating back to the very founding by the Qutub Shahis over four centuries ago.

The basic tenets of Hyderabadi culture — multilingualism, multiculturalism, religious tolerance and peaceful co-existence, respect for knowledge, typical food traditions — have not eroded since then. The city has a sizeable number of people who speak each of the four principal languages of the princely Hyderabad — Telugu, Urdu, Kannada and Marathi — in addition to Hindi, Odia, Tamil, Gujarati, Marwari and so on.

The eclectic mix of the modern and traditional is not new to Hyderabad. Western science was introduced in the city a decade ahead of the founding of universities in the British presidencies. The Hyderabad Medical School was established in 1846, when the city had barbers conducting ‘surgeries’ and blood sucking by leeches was the main line of treatment. The Darul Uloom theological college of learning, established by Turab Ali Khan (Salar Jang I) in 1854, not only taught Persian and Arabic, but also English along with Telugu and Marathi. The ideas of setting up an Islamic University in Hyderabad by visitors like Wilfrid Scawen Blunt and Sheikh Jamaluddin Afghani had few takers. Instead, Salar Jung invited Dr Aghorenath Chattopadhyay, chemist and educationist, to become the principal of the English-medium Hyderabad School which later morphed into the famous Nizam College.

He also inducted Syed Husain Bilgrami from Lucknow to shape public instruction in the state. Chattopadhyay’s children — Sarojini and Virendranath — were among those granted government scholarships to pursue higher studies in England. Sarojini later married Dr MG Naidu, a product of the Hyderabad Medical School who was also sent to England for advanced degrees in medicine. The medical school earned global recognition for clinical research, resulting in the landmark Hyderabad Chloroform Commissions. In contrast, state support to Unani and Ayurvedic education came many decades later.

The investment in building knowledge institutions and modernisation continued in the early twentieth century. Mir Mahbub Ali Khan, the sixth Nizam, invited M Visvesvaraya — then in service of the British — to plan rebuilding the city after the devastating Musi floods of 1908. The seventh Nizam carried forward the task, established the City Improvement Board and funded construction of iconic buildings on the riverfront. Bureaucrats and intellectuals from British India like Akbar Hydari and Syed Ross Masood helped conceive the Osmania University — the first Indian university to teach in a vernacular language. Japan, where all scientific and technical education was in the Japanese language, served as a model. The Nizam being an ally of the British, Hyderabad participated in both the world wars. The war effort triggered industrial production as well and research, paving the way for Central laboratories for scientific and industrial research, a starting point for research attracting talented scientists and nurturing future leaders of Indian science — Dr S Husain Zaheer, Dr GS Sidhu, Dr G Thyagarajan and Dr PM Bhargava.

It is often argued that modernisation projects during the Asaf Jahi era were a result of direct and indirect British influence. And some of them, like the war effort during the time of the last Nizam, were implemented for strategic gains. The Nizam, in the 1940s, had also developed the ambition of becoming a king and making Hyderabad an independent state. He was a feudal autocrat, muzzling dissent and cries for participative government. But all this does not diminish core values of the Hyderabadi culture, of being composite and inclusive, which has made the city a melting pot of new ideas and development. The need is to preserve, not eradicate, this culture.


Proxy War Between Iran And Israel Heats Up

By Pinak Ranjan Chakravarty

The recent assassination of Ira

07th December 2020n’s top nuclear scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, has ignited another round in the proxy war between the two countries that have been sworn enemies ever since the Mullahs took over power in Tehran after the 1979 Iranian revolution.

Predictably, the Iranian leadership has pointed the finger of suspicion at Israel for the assassination that took place 65 km outside the Iranian capital, when a motorcade ferrying the nuclear scientist on a highway was first blasted by a car bomb and then came under direct gunfire by car- and motorcycle-borne assassins. There can be little doubt that the brazen attack was meticulously planned.

The attackers are yet to be identified. The Iranian dissident organisation Mujahedin-e-Khalq has cropped up as a possible perpetrator that mounted this assassination. Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu had publicly named the Iranian scientist in a presentation on Iran’s nuclear programme in April 2018. Israel believes he is the mastermind behind Iran’s nuclear weapons programme.

Recent reports indicate that US President Trump had been advised not to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities as this would trigger a wider conflagration in West Asia. Any US attack will also complicate matters for the incoming Biden administration. Israel has strenuously opposed Iran’s nuclear programme and put in place plans to stop Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons by any means.

This assassination is another milestone in Israel’s plan. This is not the first time that Iranian nuclear scientists have been assassinated. Between 2010 and 2012, four scientists were killed; while no one claimed responsibility, fingers were pointed at Israel. The most audacious attack was in 2018, when armed men broke into a vault in a warehouse in Iran and carted away reams of documents on Iran’s nuclear programme.

Iranian leaders have vowed to take revenge and continue with the nuclear programme that has been in the crosshairs of Israel and the US ever since it began. Israeli officials have denied any involvement, as per the standard operating procedure. In an already volatile West Asia, this killing, coming after the assassination in Baghdad in January this year by America of Gen. Qasem Soleimani, the Commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), raises tensions once again with unforeseen consequences.

The EU and some other countries have called the assassination a criminal act and called for restraint. Sections of the US media have quoted a former CIA director as having said that Israel was behind the assassination, which he has called highly reckless and a criminal act. This could be another standard operation procedure, in which former senior US intelligence officials point a finger at Israel but the latter denies all knowledge.

Intriguingly, the assassination came days after PM Netanyahu’s secret trip to Saudi Arabia, where he reportedly met Muhammad bin Salman, the Saudi Crown Prince, and Mike Pompeo, the US Secretary of State. Both Israel and the US have been monitoring Iran’s nuclear programme after the Trump administration abandoned the nuclear deal, the JCPOA, in 2018.

Iran has since raised production of Low Enriched Uranium (LEU), a vital ingredient in nuclear power generation and nuclear weapons, much above the limit prescribed by the JCPOA. Iran has always maintained that as a signatory to the NPT, its nuclear programme is entirely peaceful and its leadership has affirmed that Iran shall never produce such weapons. The problem is no one believes Iran. Israel had staunchly opposed the JCPOA which, according to it, had merely postponed Iran’s march towards nuclear weapons capability. Israel has no interest in the revival of the JCPOA and this assassination can be seen as creating hurdles for the new Biden administration to rejoin the agreement.

Over the years, tit-for-tat attacks by Iran and Israel have continued. Iran launched attacks on Israeli targets, including a diplomat’s wife, in New Delhi in 2012; Iranian agents botched up an attack in Bangkok and a potential strike was thwarted in Tbilisi. For decades, Iran has armed the Hezbollah in Lebanon and Palestinian organisations Islamic Jihad and Hamas to attack Israel, though the motivation for these outfits is their fight against Israel for the Palestinian cause.

Currently, an Iranian diplomat is on trial in Brussels for his complicity in planting a bomb in Paris to target anti-Iran demonstrators. Iran may have vowed retaliation as part of its rhetorical posturing to satisfy domestic public opinion. But by retaliating, it risks scuttling a deal with the Biden administration and extricating the nation from the crippling sanctions that have debilitated its economy.

The hardline sections of the Iranian media are calling for an attack on Haifa, the port city in north Israel on the Mediterranean coast. Pragmatists in Iran would be calling for restraint, as Tehran wrestles with the dilemma of retaliation at a time when Biden is on the cusp of taking over from Trump. Iran must be hoping that the new administration will live up to its declared campaign promise of reviving the JCPOA. Biden has already indicated his policy on the pact, by naming Antony Blinken, a strong supporter of the JCPOA, as the incoming US Secretary of State.

Iran has to deal with domestic public opinion that is questioning its leadership about the hollowness of its superior intelligence capabilities. But it is unlikely to retaliate in a knee-jerk mode and has already declared that it will not fall into any such trap. It has vowed to increase activity on its nuclear programme that has reached a stage where it is not dependent on one scientist.

While India has not reacted to the assassination, Trump’s trashing of the JCPOA reduced India’s space for manoeuvre in view of US sanctions. India was forced to reduce oil imports to zero from one of its leading suppliers. Financial sanctions also deterred many companies from dealing with Iran. Hence, India would prefer removal of sanctions on oil imports and other financial curbs.

Sanctions on Iran are directly linked to the rejuvenation of the JCPOA with American participation. Iran-US negotiations on this issue, when it happens, will be long-drawn, complex and difficult, because it will hinge on how far back Iran would be willing to roll back its nuclear programme.


Pinak Ranjan Chakravarty (


By Way Of Assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh

By Vivek Katju

December 5, 2020

Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, a leading Iranian physicist, was assassinated on November 27 near Absard, a city around 70 km to Tehran’s east. Fakhrizadeh was reportedly involved in Iran’s clandestine programme to develop nuclear weapons. On its part, Iran has always denied that it has ever had any interest in making nuclear weapons, leave alone undertaking any activities to manufacture them. It is a fact though that it was enriching uranium which it implicitly claimed was never going to be of weapons-grade. It committed to end the enrichment programme in its deal with the US which was endorsed by the other permanent member-states of the UN Security Council. President Donald Trump took the US out of the agreement. His move was opposed by other countries which were parties to it but was greatly supported by Israel and Saudi Arabia. These two countries had lobbied very hard to prevent a US-Iran nuclear agreement but the Obama administration had gone ahead despite their opposition. It is also noteworthy that as a non-weapons member-state of the Nuclear non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) Iran had pledged not to make nuclear weapons.

There were initially conflicting reports about the mode of Fakhrizadeh’s assassination but later Ali Shamkhani, secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council said that electronic devices were used to ‘remotely’ carry out the assassination. He pointed a finger at Israel and has been reported by an international TV channel as saying that Israel wanted to kill Fakhrizadeh for 20 years. The same channel went on to quote him asserting “this time, the enemy used a completely professional, sophisticated and new method”.

Shamkhani also alleged that the Iranian group Mujahedin-e-Khalq had a ‘role’ in Fakhrizadeh’s killing. The group founded in 1965 waged a struggle against the Shah, was aligned with Ayatollah Khomeini for a couple of years but later fell out with him and since 1981 gradually became a great enemy of the Iranian clerical system. It has been in exile since the past two and a half decades and has used violence to target prominent Iranian figures in the past.

Clearly, the object to target Fakhrizadeh was to greatly damage Iran’s nuclear programme. In the past too Iranian nuclear scientists have been murdered and no one has taken responsibility. Many believe that these killings were carried out by Israeli intelligence. This shadowy game has thus gone on for years. Israel holds that Iran is committed to develop nuclear weapons. It fears that an Iran with nuclear weapons will endanger its security. There is abiding enmity between Iran and Israel; the former supports some Arab groups such as the Hizbollah which undertake violent and terrorist attacks against the Israeli people.

Some security analysts have said that the Fakhrizadeh’s killing is meant to queer the pitch for the incoming US President Joe Biden’s West Asia policy. As US Vice-President Biden was part of the Obama administration which was instrumental in initiating purposeful contacts with Iran which culminated in the nuclear deal. That deal not only eased Iran’s economic situation but also ensured that it could play a larger role in the region. It is expected that Biden would seek to return to updated Obama format with Iran. Naturally, Israel would not wish that to happen. Fakhrizadeh’s killing would have only increased anti-West feelings in Iran. That would assist Iranian hardliners to press President Hassan Rouhani to adopt more rigid approaches towards a Biden lead US. For the time being Rouhani has expressed great anger at Fakhrizadeh’s assassination but has been cautious not to foreclose the possibility of a dialogue with the Biden after January 20 when he will be sworn in as President.

The Fakhrizadeh assassination compels consideration of the wider issue of states targeting officials of another state to cause injury or death. Countries seldom undertake such actions for fear of reciprocal acts but they are not unknown. They are obviously meant to retard the progress of programmes that the state undertaking these actions regards as hostile to its interests. Thus, in this case, Israel’s fear of an Iran with nuclear weapons. On its part Israel maintains silence, clearly, as a matter of policy, whenever such events take place in Iran.

Of course, states should never undertake to bodily harm or even harm the reputation of officials of another state. The international system coheres on the premise that all states respect this basic principle. Indeed, this principle extends to the sanctity of all nationals from injury or bodily harm from the direct and targeted actions of other states. If this principle is violated as in Fakhrizadeh assassination it can only be called a rogue and barbaric act.

The international system also rests on the principle that a country would not seek the overthrow of foreign governments through provoking violence or interference in their political processes. This principle is however often violated. But naturally the targeting of individuals is inherently different from that of regime change. It is a fact that the US, especially under President Trump has favoured the demise of the clerical system in Iran. Israel too has sympathy with such an approach.

The question is if the principle of the sanctity of foreign nationals can be extended to those private persons or officials who undertake clandestine violent or terrorist activity against a country. Thus, what is the validity of drone strikes undertaken by, for example, the US against persons it calls terrorists? It may be doing so through processes which are legal and justified in its own system but there is no binding international instrument on these matters as yet.


India Low On Biden’s Watch List

By KP Nayar

Dec 07, 2020

Strategic Analyst

Human rights campaigners are already lining up in front of Joe Biden with their familiar demands, although six weeks are left before he becomes President of the US. Their queue is long and will lengthen evermore once he assumes office.

The Indian Government has no reason to worry that it will face any action from the Biden administration on this score, unless New Delhi works overtime to lower India’s rights standards to the level of North Korea, for example. Such a prospect is unlikely, even the harshest critics of Modi’s government will concede.

On Gandhi Jayanti, in the thick of the presidential campaign, Biden said: ‘I will defend the right of activists, political dissidents, and journalists around the world to speak their minds freely without fear of persecution and violence.’ It offers a clue to the incoming administration’s freedom policies that his statement had nothing to do with the Mahatma’s birth anniversary.

Instead, his statement was devoted to Saudi Arabia. ‘Under a Biden-Harris administration, we will reassess our relationship with the kingdom…and make sure America does not check its values at the door to sell arms or buy oil. America’s commitment to democratic values and human rights will be a priority, even with our closest security partners.’ The statement was issued to commemorate the second death anniversary of Saudi dissident and journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, who Biden asserted, was ‘murdered and dismembered (by) Saudi operatives, reportedly acting at the direction of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.’

Yet, it is not even Saudi Arabia that will be on top of Biden’s list of human rights violators. Biden missed a more convincing victory because he lost Florida to Trump. That loss was on account of Cuban-American voters in the Miami area, who feared that under a Biden presidency, the US will revive the rapprochement with communist Cuba.

Venezuelan-Americans in Florida too liked Trump’s policy of delegitimising the Chavista government in Caracas, even creating a presidential alternative to Nicolas Maduro in Juan Guaidó, whom the US now recognises as Venezuela’s President. Early on in his first term as US President, Barack Obama had unsuccessfully attempted to mend fences with Venezuela, then led by the charismatic left-wing populist, Hugo Chavez. The Venezuelan vote bank rejected Biden en masse.

Given the compulsions of US domestic politics and broad Latin American opposition to Maduro, it is Venezuela and Cuba which may incur the Biden administration’s wrath most of all on the human rights front. In a few months, spadework will begin across America for mid-term elections to the House of Representatives, one third of the Senate and several gubernatorial vacancies. In a Senate precariously balanced between Democrats and Republicans, Biden would want to make an all-out effort to defeat Florida’s Republican Senator Marco Rubio, who is up for re-election in 2022. Rubio is of Cuban descent, which makes it all the more important for Biden to hold Havana to account for alleged rights violations.

Then there are urgent triggers for action to protect the vulnerable: Tigray in Ethiopia, where the central government in Addis Ababa has launched military action against ethnic peoples. Nigeria, which has seen political and jihadist violence is another. Egypt will be yet another focus for protecting rights. Political capital is Biden’s to gain by appearing to be tough on the Kremlin, especially because Trump was perceived to have been soft on Vladimir Putin.

If the Tibetan exile community worldwide pushes for a Dalai Lama visit to the White House, can Biden turn down a meeting with someone who is seen as a beacon of religious and cultural freedom? Also, there will be pressure on Biden from Britain to do more to protect human rights in Hong Kong.

All of this realistically puts Modi’s India very low on the incoming US administration’s list of global human rights priorities. Of course, the US cannot be seen as doing nothing about charges that rights and freedoms are at risk under a ‘Hindu nationalist’ government, in J&K after the abrogation of Article 370 and nationwide after the enactment of the Citizenship Amendment Act.

To satisfy this requirement of political correctness, responses from Washington to such charges are expected to be predictable, but inconsequential. The Congressional Research Service (CRS), for example, may issue a damning indictment of how liberties have been trampled upon in India and about the pressures on freedom of the Press. The US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), in its next annual report, may come down even harder on India over its treatment of religious minorities and loudly urge the US State Department to sanction BJP leaders whose actions promote majoritarianism.

The reality is that more often than not, CRS reports are not read even by US legislators, although the mandate of the CRS is to ‘provide policy and legal analysis to committees and Members of both the House and Senate, regardless of party affiliation’. As for the USCIRF, a US government commission created by an Act of Congress, it is not taken seriously by anyone who matters in Washington. But administrations often use the body to appease religious lobbies complaining of persecutions by foreign governments.

In India’s case, any damage to Indo-US relations on the human rights issue will be more of perception than real. In an environment where it makes big news in this country even if a worm in the US is crawling on a piece of cardboard on which ‘India’ is written, there will probably be more sound to report than action about America’s human rights approach towards India in the short term.

That said, like everywhere else in the world, there are politicians in India too, who could snatch defeat from the jaws of victory for their country on the human rights issue, not only in the US, but also on the global stage.