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Islam and Politics ( 13 Sept 2015, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Silencing a Tradition: New Age Islam’s Selection from Indian Press, 14 September 2015

New Age Islam Edit Bureau

14 September 2015

 Attempts On To Destroy Indian History — but History’s Not Mythology or Theology

By Irfan Habib

 Migrant Crisis: Europe Feels the Pinch of a Continental Shift

By Ummu Salma Bava

 Snapshot of Our Times

By Sreeram Chaulia

 Palestine Needs A New Leadership

By S. Nihal Singh

 The Meat Ban: Between Guilt & Loathing

By Santosh Desai

 On The Wrong Side of History and Civilization

By Balbir Punj

 Indo-Pak War: Snatching A Draw From The Jaws Of Victory In 1965

By Karan Thapar

 Silencing A Tradition

By Amrith Lal

Compiled by New Age Islam Edit Bureau


Attempts On To Destroy Indian History — but History’s Not Mythology or Theology

By Irfan Habib

September 14, 2015

Historian is Professor Emeritus Irfan Habib, Aligarh Muslim University. Speaking with Eram Agha, Habib discussed hotly debated Indian history, revamping Nehru Museum and renaming Aurangzeb Road, Syria, Libya, America — and meat bans: 

There’s a proposal to revamp Nehru Memorial Museum & Library — how do you analyse this?

Well, from what’s happened in the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR), filled now with RSS men unknown to professional historians, a similar ‘revamp’ of the Nehru Museum & Library would be quite in line. The effort to run down Gandhi and Nehru is an old one in RSS. From statements made, it seems the idea is to make the institution a propaganda centre for RSS heroes — who, during our freedom struggle, kept on the good side of the British while pouring venom on the national movement’s leaders.

But critics say Indian history must accommodate diversity and hence, updating ICHR, etc., is required.

No institution is perfect but ICHR has done much to publish sources of Indian history, like volumes on the national movement from 1937-47. RSS and Hindu Mahasabha were of little consequence then. RSS is naturally unhappy with this.

One must understand that behind the illiteracies now uttered in respect of history, the desire is not to improve anything but to destroy what has been achieved.

Renaming Aurangzeb Road after late President Kalam is debated. What’s your position?

Renaming places to remove Muslim names is one of RSS’s programmes. Earlier, there were proposals to rename Allahabad and Lucknow. Maharashtra government is said to be considering renaming Aurangabad.

The effort is partly to saffronise even geographical nomenclature — the use of Kalam’s name is a mere tactical ploy.

Is quoting Mughal Emperor Akbar’s meat ban an attempt to justify modern bans?

Today, India is a secular country — there should be some limitations set on religious sentiments.

Why does history provoke so many conflicts?

History provokes no conflict. It simply records what happens. It must be distinguished from mythology as well as theology. Accurate history serves the nation in the same manner as accurate memory serves the individual.

It is not the purpose of history to glorify either Vedic times or early Islam — a false reading of history often justifies barbarous acts.

The Islamic State claims to be a continuation of the pious Caliphate of Islam, but under that Caliphate, Christians were tolerated and Palmyra remained untouched — yet, invoking that same Caliphate, Islamic State is massacring Christians and destroying Syria’s antiquities.

What’s your view of Western military intervention in Syria?

Well, the present migrant crisis was created when USA and European Union decided to bomb Libya, a prosperous country, and intervene in Syria, which had a modern, secular government.

Even today, US and its allies are arming Syrian rebels and rejecting peace settlements there while in Libya, they’ve let loose marauders of every hue.

Europe is now reaping the harvest of its own leaders’ deeds.

I cannot see how these streams can be stopped unless USA and EU give up plans to overthrow Syria’s government and agree to a UN mandate for Libya.


Migrant Crisis: Europe Feels the Pinch Of A Continental Shift

By Ummu Salma Bava

Sep 14, 2015

The anguish of seeing a toddler’s body washing up on the Turkish coast gripped us all for the last few days. As Europe struggles with one of the largest humanitarian crises after World War 2, questions and accusations are flying thick and fast on the failure of the European Union (EU) to respond. The EU is confronted with the biggest refugee and migration influx and the wars in Syria and Iraq have only exacerbated the exodus to Europe that also includes people coming in from Afghanistan, Pakistan and conflict zones in Africa.

The unabated flow of people risking everything to get on to a boat to Europe, and depending on ruthless smugglers has created fault lines within the EU. The south and southeast of the EU is under siege with Italy and Greece bearing the brunt of the incoming refugees. The Syrian civil war and the subsequent rise of the Islamic State (Isis) have turned the steady stream of refugees into a raging torrent of humans fleeing war, exploitation and poverty.

A cursory glance at the map of the region raises the question: Why are the refugees heading to the EU and not their immediate neighbourhood? Around 4.5 million Syrian refugees have been on the move and Lebanon, a tiny country, has taken in over 1.2 million and 1.8 million others have gone to Turkey, along with many more escaping to Egypt, Jordan and Iraq. In stark contrast to these, the wealthy Gulf States like Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE have not taken in any refugees as they are not signatories to the United Nations refugee convention.

A European consensus on the migration crisis has not come forth as national borders have become stronger calling into question the European solidarity at this time of crisis. In the light of Britain’s refusal to accept more and more refugees last week, Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, termed Britain’s immigration policies as “politically toxic”. Within the EU, under the Dublin regulation, asylum seekers stay in the country they first arrive in till their application gets processed and it is this rule that has turned into a nightmare for Italy and Greece, as since last year the numbers coming across the Mediterranean has swelled.

German chancellor Angela Merkel took a bold step recently when she suspended the Dublin regulation with respect to Syrian refugees and confirmed the country would take in more refugees. This action has also unleashed a larger wave of refugees attempting to cross Hungary and Austria to reach Germany. Merkel’s call for a unified European migration policy has not resonated within the EU. The four Visegrad Group states — Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic and Slovak — have rejected the proposal of migrant quotas.

Rather, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said the crisis was a “German problem”. Both Hungary and Austria enhanced controls within and the border checks can be seen as violating the EU’s open-border policy. The humanitarian crisis has multiple implications, but more importantly, calls into question the norms and values of the EU and in this context, Merkel’s decision of taking moral responsibility has stood out like a beacon of hope.

Across the Atlantic, the growing refugee crisis appears to have taken a backseat in the United States with no leadership in this regard as the country is headed for presidential elections. The economic slowdown in Europe, coupled with the financial crisis, has contributed to the rise of Right-wing and anti-EU political parties, which have only served to enhance the fears that refugees and immigrants will transform society and endanger culture as it is largely a Muslim influx. The responses from some EU countries have only brought out the bigotry into the open as the refugees are seen as a threat to Europe’s prosperity and stability. And for many others, it has raised fears of Isis infiltrating among the refugees and targeting European cities and people.

It is here that Germany has stood out as an exception by taking a stand; this goes back to the time when Germany had the most liberal asylum laws and also to its historical responsibility in Europe. But given that it has taken the largest number of refugees along with Sweden, it has also lead to sharpening of the debate on seeking asylum. The Pope joined other sane voices in calling for protecting and sheltering refugees alongside common people’s initiatives who opened up their homes and helped in cash and kind.

Juncker attempted to devise ways of addressing the crisis on Wednesday, including introducing mandatory quotas that may have the support of the German chancellor and French President Francois Hollande, but will face resistance from the East European countries, who want distinctions to be made between wartime refugees and economic migrants. Given that there are different asylum-processing timelines in the EU, there will also be an attempt at creating wide benchmarks. However, the challenge lies in the EU’s open borders policy and thus holding people back after giving them papers will be difficult and will still lead to internal mobility which will undermine the quota system.

According to the International Organisation for Migration, since January, 350,000 migrants have been registered in Europe, while the actual figures could be more. As Europe faces this dark hour, the bigger question is, whether the issue of refugees is a European regional problem or a global concern; apart from more fundamental issues of what make people refugees.

Ummu Salma Bava teaches at the Centre for European Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University


Snapshot of Our Times

By Sreeram Chaulia

Sep 13, 2015

A picture is worth a thousand words. The photograph of three-year-old Syrian refu-gee Aylan Kurdi, with his head buried in sand on a Turkish beach after his boat to Greece capsized and killed him, his sibling and mother, has pierced the global conscience.

Having gone viral, the image of Aylan’s untimely end has galvanised demands for humane treatment of refugees desperately seeking protection in Europe. It has also thrown light on the root causes of the heart-rending tragedies in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Eritrea and the Central African Republic, which are all trapped in generalised violence and impunity.

Little Aylan, in his death, shook humanity out of its numbness towards protracted warfare, forced displacement and mass suffering. His picture is not the first to depict the pathos of refugees knocking on insensitive Europe’s doors. Nor is there a dearth of imagery about the graphic devastation of his native country, Syria, over the last five years.

Yet, his picture has a universal and emblematic value due to the fact that he was a toddler who had already escaped aerial bombing, sniper gunfire and terrorism in Syria, only to finally fall prey to the vicious politics of who in Europe must bear the burden of hosting helpless civilians. Survivors of wars and dictatorships die once in their destabilised home countries and they die again as they flee to safety. Aylan is the quintessential representative of this double calamity.

The nagging question — Who killed Aylan? — has cropped up since Turkish authorities discovered his lifeless body on the shore. A proximate interpretation would affix blame on unscrupulous human smugglers packing in refugees in ungainly dinghies and dispatching them across the choppy Mediterranean Sea. Aylan is one among thousands of boat people who have drowned this year along different smuggling routes from Libya in the west to Turkey in the east.

The barbaric and exploitative behaviour of traffickers who hoodwink refugees is indeed a criminal enterprise that must be busted through joint efforts of the international community. The recent discovery of a truck in which dozens of asylum seekers were discovered asphyxiated in Austria was another ghastly reminder that these criminal syndicates are major threats both on water and on land.

But viewed through a longer chain of responsibility, Aylan was murdered by an array of regional and global powers fuelling the intractable wars in Syria and Iraq. The rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which has made these conflicts so bloody, is attributable to the proxy war unleashed by Sunni Gulf monarchies and Turkey with Western consent and encouragement against Shia Iran. On the other hand, the stubbornness with which Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has tried to retain power without compunctions for the atrocities being inflicted by his military owes to the support of his principal foreign backers — Iran and Russia.

American opinion makers are capitalising on the Aylan saga to argue that President Barack Obama should have militarily intervened in Syria against Mr Assad much before the destruction reached epic proportions. But these spin masters conveniently ignore the fact that the US already fatefully intervened via its Sunni allies, whose disastrous conduct spawned the ISIS and rendered the Syrian war intractable.

Aylan’s death is a damning verdict on the international system where major powers selfishly meddle and exacerbate conflicts for geopolitical gains and then wash their hands off the fallouts of their actions. It exposes the UN Security Council as an “insecurity council” and reveals the true colours of regional players who are sitting back and enjoying the carnage they ignited.

History has witnessed other iconic photographs which reflected everything that was wrong with particular eras. Who can forget the “girl in the picture”, nine-year-old Phan Thi Kim Phuc screaming and running naked in agony after American napalm bombing in South Vietnam in 1972?

The pain on her face is etched forever in our memory because it encapsulated the essence of American colonialism in the developing world. That photo helped push a speedy end to an inhuman military intervention by a superpower. It spoke truth to power.

We also have the startling photograph of 12-year-old refugee girl, Sharbat Gula, living in a refugee camp in Pakistan during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The visage of her stunning green-eyed gaze, which appeared on the 1985 cover of National Geographic magazine, brought home the point of how a hitherto proud and liberal nation like Afghanistan was destroyed by superpower rivalry and proxy wars. Having lost her parents to Soviet bombardment, Sharbat survived as a refugee for many years and later remarked that she had never felt safe in her entire life. Her story was another indictment of the inhuman Cold War.

With the advent of handheld cameras and digital technology, videos and photographs are telling equally harrowing stories of human indignities. In 2009, the world stood to attention when a 26-year-old Iranian student Neda Agha Soltan was shot dead by a government militiaman in Tehran during a protest rally against electoral fraud. Her killing was captured on amateur video and circulated like a flash with millions of online, television and print media viewers in what became known as the “most widely witnessed death in human history”. Neda’s sacrifice confirmed that the Islamic Revolution had failed the younger generation of Iranians.

The video of the last moments of 31-year-old poet and activist Shaimaa el-Sabbagh, who was shot dead in early 2015 by a policeman while protesting against military dictatorship in Egypt, was widely shared, discussed and mourned. It unmasked the soul-crushing character of the Egyptian state and called into question the strategic alliance that the US and other powers have maintained with Egypt’s authoritarian regime.

Like the martyrs preceding him, Aylan has now been memorialised as a symbolic victim of the unjust and violent structures of our age. May his soul stir up revolutionary consciousness against oppression.


Palestine Needs A New Leadership

By S. Nihal Singh

Sep 13, 2015

It is ironic that Palestine’s historic victory in the United Nations General Assembly in having its flag raised at the world body’s headquarters, despite its observer status and however symbolic in nature, has come at a time the movement’s fortunes are at their lowest ebb. The Palestine Authority President, Mahmoud Abbas, will be present when the flag will be raised later this month.

Yet Mr Abbas has overstayed his term in office by several years and Palestinians remained hopelessly divided between the mainstream Fatah movement and Hamas, in control of the Gaza Strip, which lies in ruins after its last war with Israel a year ago. What is even more important is that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is merrily multiplying Jewish settlements in occupied Jerusalem and the West Bank, seeking to close the option of a two-state solution, the official credo of international peacemakers for decades.

Mr Netanyahu took on US President Barack Obama frontally on its nuclear deal with Iran, lambasting him in the US Congress and letting loose the power of the American Jewish lobby, smug in the belief that whatever he does, American goodies in the form of military and economic aid will continue to flow. He won over US Republicans to his side even as it has become clear that the US President has enough votes in the Senate to frustrate attempts at sabotaging the deal.

Having lost his gamble, Mr Netanyahu made noises during his recent London visit on talking to the Palestinians without preconditions when there is nothing left to discuss. If anything, the Israeli leader is only embarrassing his indulgent sugar daddy, the United States, by highlighting how a client state can lead its benefactor on a string.

Indeed, the US has a heavy burden to carry in indulging Israel in its patently unjust suppression of Palestinians that is making the continuing turmoil in the Middle East worse. True, US secretary of state John Kerry made an effort to revive talks on the Palestinian issue after assuming office. Predictably, they went nowhere because the Israelis wanted to keep what they have illegally taken and Washington proved too weak to go against Jerusalem’s wishes.

After a time, when problems become too complicated, the world tends to forget them, except that with the Palestine issue remaining unresolved, the Middle East turmoil, with the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, the injustice of Israel ruling over Palestinians as a coloniser makes a sane approach to peace impossible. Undoubtedly, Washington has geopolitical interests in Israel’s existence in an unstable area, but propping up Tel Aviv irrespective of its actions comes at great cost to its own world standing.

There was a time not so long ago when US Presidents curtailed an aid project to make their point, but even such token gestures are no longer made because, given the subjugation of American lawmakers to Israel’s desires, they are too scared of the American Jewish lobby’s money power and reach to strike a dissenting note. Will President Obama’s success in getting most Democrats to support the Iran deal against Republican attempts to sabotage it make a difference?

It is unlikely to change the American political picture. Indeed, President Obama has bent over backwards in heaping even greater military largesse on Israel, apart from assuaging a Sunni Arab world wary of Shia Iran’s resurgence. Washington’s pro-Israel bias will not go away because the Jewish lobby has become an essential part of the American political power structure. In the meantime, Israel has largely succeeded in effacing the 1967 borders, which are the starting point of all negotiations. Much of the world will take

Mr Netanyahu’s new proposal of talks with Palestinians without conditions for what it is: hogwash.

Since American moves on any meaningful move on Israel are constrained by domestic political factors, what can the rest of the world do to help Palestinians out of a hopeless situation? First, Palestinians must help themselves. Mr Abbas has long outlived his usefulness and must resign to energise a decrepit Palestinian Authority to make way for a new young team in the leadership ranks. Second, a rejuvenated leadership must make a serious attempt at reconciling with Hamas.

It suits Israel to keep Mr Abbas and his team of veteran negotiators with Tel Aviv in place because they have become accustomed to the perks of their assignments and, as opposed to the plight of their people, live comfortable lives. Yet given the level of unemployment and other privations and indignities, Palestinian youth are ready to rebel for a better future against their own leaders as well as their Jewish occupiers. Palestinian citizens of Israel have no voting right.

However, the larger responsibility lies with the so-called world community, in effect the major powers led by the United States, which is paralysed in calling Israel to account. The irony is that protected and indulged by the United States, Israel has developed into a modern high-tech country, an expert in cyber security and a major exporter of military hardware to the world, including India. Is it trying to prove that, given propitious circumstances, it can indulge in old-style colonialism in the 21st century and get away with it?

Mercifully, there are many sane Israelis who realise that their country’s future is not paved with gold because in biological terms Palestinians will overtake Jews in the future if the two-state project is finally jinxed. The whole concept of a Jewish homeland will go up in smoke because of Jews’ own folly. But these Israelis are in a minority and are subject to the power of propaganda that plays upon the perils of their neighbourhood to keep the country brisling with arms, including of the atomic variety, and wary of Palestinian aspirations. In a sense, Israelis themselves are held in political bondage by their own political masters, apart from suppressed Palestinians.

Yet human nature being what it is, the raising of the flag at UN headquarters will bring a smile to Palestinian faces.


The Meat Ban: Between Guilt & Loathing

By Santosh Desai

September 14, 2015

As someone who grew up in a vegetarian household, and took to eating meat only as a teenager, the idea of making do with vegetarian food for a few days does not fill me with horror. We were not staunch vegetarians, in that we could cook eggs once in a while- my mother would not participate, but the kitchen was made available to us, and forays into non-vegetarianism were not considered mortal sins. Even so, at heart one remains a vegetarian, and consequently can neither eat seafood, nor anything even mildly adventurous in terms of meat (that includes lamb), on account of the ‘non-veg’ smell.

The idea of killing animals for the purpose of pleasure (for one doesn’t absolutely have to eat meat for sustenance) is admittedly a source of some moral discomfort and one deals with it by not thinking about it. However, on occasions when the awareness of that reality cannot be artfully sidestepped, like for instance when one passes a tempo crammed with terrified chickens, screaming their heads off with every evolutionary instinct at their command at the fate that is to befall them, it is difficult not to wrestle with the question about the legitimacy of eating meat. There is something about animals that know that they that they are about to die, that particular note in the bleat, that speaks of the preciousness of their own lives to them, and which is matter-of-factly ignored by us, when we dig into their remains.

It is a complex question, without any absolute answers. Humans have hunted and eaten animals since the beginning of time, so there is little historical basis for thinking of vegetarianism as an absolute moral imperative. Even hunting as a sport, has many champions, although the idea of killing defenceless creatures merely to prove the superiority of one’s equipment, should perhaps be one that is easier to be repulsed by. Even here, there are many who oppose hunting, but see nothing wrong with fishing, although, how exactly it is different is something that is not entirely clear. The Maharashtra government seems to agree – for it is able to argue that we don’t kill fish, we merely take them out of water. They then proceed to die. The trouble is, fish die with an obviousness that is difficult to misinterpret. They writhe about, they leap around in agony, they flip before finally flopping in death. But culturally, fishing is deemed legitimate — a relaxing sport, one that one can take a young child to.

There are many such disparities — wearing fur is a modern sin, but farming imprisoned cattle industrially for meat is just business. And why does the slaying of a lion Cedric, cause more grief than any other endangered creature? Why do we care more about saving the tiger rather than say, the Griet bush frog, a species that is critically endangered? Why can we celebrate the eating of all kinds of exotic animals, but find the idea of eating dogs barbaric?

Respect for life gets viewed through a cultural filter, and the hierarchy of human preferences has more to do with what cultures choose to privilege from time to time. It is always possible to find ways to justify what we need, sometimes by constructing arguments that are designed to win and at other times, by simply ignoring inconvenient truths. In this case, who gets to live and who doesn’t, whose departure is mourned, and whose is systematically planned, what gets eaten and what doesn’t — all these questions get culturally convenient answers.

The current debates around meat bans have also similarly little to do with the respect for life and everything to do with issues of culture and power. Token support for a community, the implicit separation of the meat — eating ‘them’ and the vegetarian ‘us’, ignoring the fact that this an obviously flawed definition, the idea of maintaining purity in the face of cultural contaminants, these are all markers of cultural identity rather than universal humanity.

To be vegetarian, not merely because one was born one, or because of some new fangled health movement aimed at reaffirming one’s firm belief in one’s own specialness, but because of a belief in the sanctity of living beings is an act of humanity. Not wishing to harm others is in effect not putting one’s life above that of any other living creature, to the extent possible. One could argue that is a misguided ideal, for there is no way that human beings can ensure that they do not cause harm to another living organism; indeed, all food sources are some form of life, but even if that is so, there are moral and ethical issues involved that could legitimately be contemplated at the level of the individual.

The problem today is that the vegetarianism that is on display is not cast in ideals of humanity that shape the thought of the very community that it purports to support. It is an aggressive intervention that takes a refined moral ideal and converts into a blunt device to mark boundaries between people. It is rooted in loathing for the ‘other’ that is seen as an impure defiler. It legitimizes a particularly virulent form of self-righteousness, and represents a weaponised form of discrimination. Invoking purity in effect argues that meat-eating pollutes the cultural environment for the vegetarians. The ideal world for the vegetarian is by implication, one that does not contain non-vegetarians.

To make food a cultural fault line is dangerous, given its essential nature. To disallow a certain kind of food in the name of sentiment has unlike the case of other freedoms like the right to expression, no other intention but to draw boundaries. To use vegetarianism as a sign of disdain is to distort everything that it stands for and turn what is potentially a complex moral dilemma into a lazy political gambit.


On The Wrong Side of History and Civilization

By Balbir Punj

14 September 2015

The Syrian refugee crisis in Europe shows how those who claim to act in the best interests of Islam actually prefer to push their agenda with bombs, while the Church is using the opportunity to harvest more souls

The massive exodus of terrified individuals and families from West Asia and North Africa to parts of Europe has helped explode several myths that have been repeated regularly for aeons. Myth number one: The Church simply serves humanity without any ulterior motive and conversions to Christianity are voluntary and based on informed choice.

Here is a scene from the evangelical Trinity Church in Berlin, as reported by the Associated Press. “Mohammed Ali Zonoobi bends his head as the priest pours holy water over his black hair. Will you break away from Satan and his evil deeds?” Pastor Gottfried Martens asks the Iranian refugee. “Will you break away from Islam?” “Yes”, Zonoobi fervently replies spreading his hands in blessing. Martens then baptises the man “in the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Ghost”.

Mohammed is now Martin — no longer a Muslim, but a Christian. Mohammed Martin is one of the hundreds of “mostly Iranian and Afghan asylum seekers who have converted to Christianity” at the said church, according to AP reports. And most of these new converts say true belief prompted them to change their faith!

But anyone can see through the charade! The Church is taking advantage of helpless victims who are desperate to escape death and persecution back home. They have risked their lives, trudged long distances through snow and rain in search of security, both physical and economic, which Europe offers.

Obviously, overwhelming human instinct for survival over rides their commitment to the faith that the unfortunate refugees were born into. Converting to Christianity will ensure that they are not deported back.

The evangelical Trinity Church in Berlin is not acting in isolation. Pope Francis has called upon Catholic parishes, convents and monasteries across Europe to provide shelter to refuges who are “fleeing death” from war and hunger. Invoking the Gospel and citing the example of Mother Teresa, the Pope has asked the faithful “to be neighbours to the smallest and most abandoned to give them concrete hope”.

One does not have to read in between the lines. The message is loud and clear. Reach out to the needy and hungry. Strike now, the iron is hot. For the church, it’s time for business — buy a soul for a loaf of bread. Is it not the way souls have been won over to the faith for hundreds of years across the continents? It’s a time tested strategy which seldom fails.

Myth number two: There is a Islamic super state, an Ummah, where the boundaries are supposed to go and one Islamic supra-nation prevails. What did the rich Arab nations like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates do for these refugees, most of whom are Muslims themselves? An Arab newspaper Al-Khateeb carried a report on September 4, telling the world about the resettlement contribution of these rich Arab nations to the survival of these Islamic refugees. Against each rich Arab Gulf country, the surprising figure was a big zero.

The Washington Post’s correspondent Ishan Tharoor pointed out in another report, “These countries have some of the Arab world’s largest military Budgets, highest standards of living. Some of them played conspicuous role in funding and arming a constellation of rebel and Islamist factions fighting the Syrian Government of President Assad”.

That means, these Gulf countries themselves are responsible in creating the armed power struggle going on for several years now in the area in which many of them are involved either directly or indirectly. The flood of people, escaping the  horrible civilian consequence of this conflict is their own creation.

But when it comes to supporting the survival of these human beings, mostly women and children, they seem to be utterly unconcerned. Though they claim a billion dollars contribution in various forms for these refugees, the US alone has spent four times that amount. In addition, the conflict goes on. The flood of refugees, therefore, is bound to continue.

What is going on in Yemen for the last three years is, in a sense, a mirror image of what is happening in Syria, a power struggle between the Shia and the Sunni factions of the Islamic world, with some local twists. One faction is led by Saudi Arabia, the other by Iran.

Starting from across North Africa and ending in Pakistan, the meltdown between the two factions, the suicide bombings including the destruction of mosques, territorial expansion, wars, are all happening. Where then is the Islamic super state? First, let these fundamentalists decide between the Sunni-Shia divide on who is a ‘true’ Muslim. They want to decide by being at each others’ throat, and hold civil society to ransom.

The history of Wahhabism that began in Egypt and created an Osama bin Laden — the divine leader who would lead the fight to end all opposition to Islamisation — is plain enough in explaining this hatred as the driving force. After the killing of Osama bin Laden, the leadership for this fight has been captured by the Islamic State with its self-styled caliph.

When the Ali brothers launched the Khilafat movement in un-divided India, it was the same driving force of an Islamic caliphate that provided fuel among the Muslims in this country too. At that time, England and France together (to serve their colonial interests) had ended the Ottoman Empire which was seen by Muslims as a religious attack on Islam.

The movement called for the restoration of the caliphate. By supporting this movement, inadvertently Mahatma Gandhi watered the seeds of separation of India along religious lines. As it happened in Turkey, the caliphate was finally liquidated by Army officers led by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk who crushed the religious movement and imposed a secular state.

Back to 2015: Civilised society continues to face serious threats from those who claim divine injunction to force their God, Holy Book and the Prophet on “Kafirs, pagans, heathens etc..”. History is replete with numerous instances of massive human bloodshed through crusades and jihad, all in the name of ‘the god’. The gory process goes on unabated.

While those claiming to be acting on behest of Islam continue to push their agenda with bombs, the church has changed its stratagem, though it’s goal remains unchanged. Now, its violence against human dignity is bloodless; deceit and inducement are the weapons in it’s armoury. A large part of the European establishment funds these sordid covert operations — of destabilising and destroying ‘pagan’ societies.

Whether you use money or a missile to push your ‘holy’ agenda,  you are surely on the wrong side of civilisation and a threat to global peace.


Indo-Pak War: Snatching a Draw from the Jaws of Victory In 1965

By Karan Thapar

Sep 13, 2015

It’s the 50th anniversary of the 1965 war and the spate of newspaper articles and television discussions has, ironically, provoked an intriguing question and a potentially disturbing controversy. Today, I’d like to address both.

First the question: Was 1965 “a decisive victory” as defence minister Manohar Parrikar has claimed? Or is the official history, commissioned by the ministry of defence and presented with a foreword by then defence secretary NN Vohra — and now available on Bharat — correct in calling the war “a draw”?

The official history is categorical in its judgement: “In military terms the contest was a draw” (introduction page xxv). It also states that the war “showed up the Pakistani as well as the Indian armed forces in definitely poor light. There was lack of professional competence and good generalship on either side … the performance of the Indian armed forces was equally if not more unimpressive.”

Is the official history right? Captain Amarinder Singh, who in 1965 was ADC to the Western Army Commander and, therefore, had a ringside view of the war, believes it is. In his judgement, it was a draw with India holding the upper hand.

Gen. Malik, who was army chief during Kargil in 1999, disagrees. India, he argues, successfully prevented Pakistan’s designs on Kashmir. Both Operations Gibraltar and Grand Slam were checked and defeated. That could constitute a victory.

However, India also had a second goal, which was to degrade Pakistan’s fighting capacity so that it would never pose a threat again. Here, even Gen. Malik would accept India didn’t succeed. Indeed, you could actually argue even 1971 did not fully achieve this goal.

The official history makes a further telling point: “The Pakistanis have openly debated in the press and through professional journals the various aspects of their performance in the war. There has been no corresponding debate in India, in spite of India being an open society as against dictatorship in Pakistan.”

Now, let’s come to the controversy. The official history records that “towards the end of the war, the Indian Prime Minister enquired from Gen. JN Chaudhuri whether India could win a spectacular victory if the war was prolonged for some days. The General replied that most of India’s frontline ammunition had been used up and there had been considerable tank losses also” (Page 333-334). So, presumably, Mr Shastri agreed to a ceasefire.

However, the official history continues: “Later it was found that by 22nd September (the date of the ceasefire) only about 14% of India’s frontline ammunition had been fired and the number of tanks still held by India was twice the number Pakistan had.” Meanwhile, Pakistan had utilised 80% of its ammunition.

So did Gen. Chaudhuri’s apparent ‘ignorance’ of the actual state of affairs cost India a significant victory? The official history says: “India would have won a decisive victory if the war had continued much longer.” It calls Chaudhuri “a cautious General” and says “perhaps initially he was afraid of the much touted, ultra-modern Patton tanks.”

When I asked Captain Amarinder Singh whether he agreed with that description this is the conversation that followed:-

Captain Amarinder Singh: “I won’t say the word chicken but certainly he was over-cautious … had he taken a bold decision we would have achieved much more …”

Karan Thapar: “You began by saying I won’t call him chicken but the thought actually occurred to you even if you dismissed it?”

Captain Amarinder Singh: “Yes”.

The views expressed by the author are personal


Silencing a Tradition

By Amrith Lal

Sep 14, 2015

The Hindutva activists in Kozhikode who forced academic M.M. Basheer to stop writing on the Ramayana argued that there could be no criticism of Lord Ram (even by Valmiki) and that Basheer, being a non-Hindu, should not write on a “Hindu text”. They reveal a colossal ignorance of the Ramayana tradition in Malayalam. Their success in silencing a well-respected teacher and critic indicates the emergence of a new hate politics in Kerala.

The Ramayana tradition in Malayalam, as in most Indian languages, includes numerous retellings and interpretations of the Rama katha across genres. Some of these are soaked in Bhakti, while a few others offer different points of view, including criticism of Rama and his ethical universe. The tradition has been richer and more complex for the diverse readings. Basheer was not the first, or the only, non-Hindu to write on the Ramayana — Basheer himself has written nearly 50 essays on the epic.

Though the earliest Malayalam Ramayana is Ramakatha Pattu, believed to have been written in the 12th century, it was Thunchathu Ezhuthachhan’s 16th century Adhyatma Ramayanam that shaped Malayalis’ understanding of the Rama Katha and Rama. Ezhuthachhan was a product of the Bhakti movement and his transcreations of the epics laid the foundations of Malayalam language and literature. Ezhuthachhan’s Ramayana is an integral part of language textbooks and is recited in homes and temples during the month of Karkkidakam (mid-July to mid-August), observed as the Ramayana month in Kerala. Like most Bhakti poets, Ezhuthachhan invested more in the godliness of Rama.

Despite Ezhuthachhan’s overwhelming influence, many writers were drawn to the Rama katha and sought to narrate it in their own voice. Academic R.S. Varmaji once counted 197 independent Ramayana-based texts, 19 translations and 24 prose versions in Malayalam. The Ramayana tradition is alive in the numerous performance traditions in Kerala, ranging from Koodiyattam and Kathakali to shadow puppetry. In the Adivasi versions, the Rama katha plays out in the landscape of Wayanad, the hill district of Kerala, and the storytellers believe that Rama and Sita were their ancestors and the Ramayana sites were in their backyard. Valmiki, they suspect, could have borrowed from the Adivasi lore. The Mappila Ramayanam situates the Rama katha in the context of Malabar’s Muslim social milieu.

 In the 20th century, modern writers were inspired to explore the silences in the Rama katha. The recognition of individual rights, the emergence of social reform movements and political upheavals influenced their interpretations.

The Ramayana also existed as an ethical text and, unsurprisingly, writers started to question the moral universe of Rama, the lord and king. The first major writer to explore the omissions of Rama was Kumaran Asan, a disciple of Sree Narayana Guru, and arguably the most important Malayalam poet of the 20th century. In Chinthavishtayaya Sita (Sita immersed in reflection), Sita reflects on her life and her ruminations expose Rama as a prisoner of an inhuman and unjust raj dharma. In the 1940s, critic Kuttikrishna Marar wrote his celebrated essay, “Valmeekiyude Raman”, in which he questions the ideal of Rama and his treatment of Sita. C.N. Sreekantan Nair’s great Ramayana trilogy provided a radical political reading for the stage. His Kanchanasita (1958) is a powerful indictment of the “Brahmanical” political order of Ayodhya. C.N.’s Rama tells Hanuman that he is “a protector, a king”, not a human being, “just a bridge built by the human race to cross over the great sea of time… That bridge should not shake… not move this way and that…”, only to be advised by Hanuman that “this statecraft which breaks and smashes relationships of the soul is an eternal curse to this earth”. Sarah Joseph’s feminist reconstructions of the Ramayana take forward the radical Ramayana tradition that Asan launched.

The open nature of the Ramayana tradition and the diversity within prevents the Rama katha from being turned into an unchallenged moral tale of nation-building. For every political construction of Rama, a counter-narrative can be found within the tradition. This aspect of the Ramayana tradition is a challenge to political mobilisations that wish to build a singular political ideal called Rama, and imprison him in time and place. The attempt to restrict the Ramayana tradition to one text and squeeze it within a particular religious community and limit Rama to a preconceived image is a political project. This being the context of the attack on Basheer, the silence of Kerala’s political and cultural mainstream is deafening.