Indian Thought

Babri Masjid – A View of our Historians …

Posted on January 3, 2018. Filed under: Indian Thought, Personalities |

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Rama and Ayodhya’ and ‘The Battle for Rama’, by Meenakshi Jain …

Posted on December 13, 2017. Filed under: Indian Thought |

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Hindus of Bali …

Posted on November 28, 2017. Filed under: Indian Thought |

Bali is a province of Indonesia, a country with the biggest Muslim population in the world. But the majority in the state of Bali, over 93 %, are Hindus.

Bali is home to 4.22 million Hindus whose ancestors had to flee from other islands of Indonesia, after the great Indonesian Hindu Empire Majapahit was defeated and most of Indonesia was converted to Islam. Here are some interesting facts about Bali

1. Nyepi day, a day of total silence (mauna) once a year, when even the Ngurah Rai International Airport of Denpasar is closed from 6 am to 6 am. No cars, no traffic, no entertainment, no TV. Sit in the house, do contemplation, do prayers.

2. The culture of Bali was begun by the Rishis of India, whose names are no longer taught in the schools of India but which are common in the schools of Bali—Markandeya, Bharadwaja, Agastya – the names we hear in the Puranas but they are part of the way the history of Bali is taught in the schools of Bali. How many Rishis can you name? Do you remember any one of the 402 names of the Rishis and Rishikas (female Rishis) from the Rig Veda (the most ancient and most sacred text of Hinduism), which are our ancestors and the forming fathers of our religion – Vaidika Sanatana Dharma?

3. The national Balinese dress for both, men and women, girls and boys, is Dhoti. No one can enter a temple without wearing a Dhoti. Except in some parts of South India, Dhoti is laughed at in India today. Why are we so ashamed of our heritage? Even most Indian priests change their dress after they are finished with the worship because they feel ashamed to be seen in a Dhoti??

4. The social, economic and political system of Bali is based on the principle of tri-hita-karana…three benevolent, beneficent principles— that every human being has three aspects …the duty, the relationship that we have with God [Parahyangan]; the relationship that we have with human beings [Pawongan]; and the relationship that we have with nature [Palemahan] and these are the three principles on which the entire culture of Bali is built. This was all established by the Rishis whose names are just about forgotten in India which are taught in the schools of Bali.

5. Trikala Sandhya (Sun worship three times a day) is practiced in every Balinese school. The Gayatri Mantra is recited by every Balinese school child three times a day. Many of the local radio stations also relay Trikala Sandhya three times a day. Can we even think of introducing something like this to our schools in India? How many Indian Hindus are aware of their duty of Trikala Sandhya? It is as central to our religion as the 5 times Namaz is to Islam, yet?

6. In the year 1011 AD, at a place which is now known as Purasamantiga… there was the first interreligious conference of three religions: Shaiva Agama, Bauddha Agama and Baliyaga, the traditional pre-Buddhist, pre-Hindu, Balinese religion. The scholars and the leaders sat down and worked out a system by which the three religions should work together and exchange forms with each other and that is the religion of Bali today.

7. In Bali every priest is paid by the government. Despite the fact that Indonesia is a secular country with the biggest Muslim population in the world, the priest of every religion is paid by the government. Every religion is supported by the government. That is the Indonesian form of secularism.

8. The national motto of Indonesia “Bhinneka Tunggal Ika. One is many, many is one.” is inspired by an Indonesian Hindu scripture Sutasoma Kakavin. The complete quotation is as follows – “It is said that the well known Buddha and Shiva are two different substances; they are indeed different, yet how is it possible to recognize their difference in a glance, since the truth of Buddha and the truth of Shiva are one? They may be different, but they are of the same kind, as there is no duality in truth.” Why can’t we have “Ekam Sad Vipra Bahudha Vadanti” (The truth is one, but the wise express it in various ways – Rig Veda) as our national motto?

9. Bali is one of the world’s most prominent rice growers. Every farm has a temple dedicated to Shri Devi and Bhu Devi (Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth and Mother Earth – the two divinities that stand on the either of side of Tirupati Bala ji in India).
No farmer will perform his agricultural duties without first making offerings to Shri Devi and Bhu Devi. That is called culture, that SubSystem.

10. The agricultural and water irrigation plan for the entire country was charted in the 9th Century. The priests of a particular water temple still control this irrigation plan. And some World Bank or United Nations scientist did a computer model that would be ideal for Bali. And when they brought the model the Balinese said ‘we have been practicing this since the 9th century. What are you bringing here?’ And I don’t know how many million dollars these WTO, these World Bank people, United Nations people, spent on creating that chart which was already created in the 9th century without any computers…. and that Subak System still continues.
Such systems were in place in various parts of the country. Its remnants are still visible here in India. I have visited areas where there is no water for miles due to drought, yet the well at the local temple still provides fresh water.

In Bali Hindus still don’t read a printed book when they perform Puja (worship). They read from a Lontar, which has traditionally been scripted by hand on a palm leaf. Before they recite the Ramayana Kakavin the book is worshipped. There is a special ritual of lifting the sacred book, carrying it in a procession, bringing [it] to a special place, doing the bhumi puja, worshipping the ground there and consecrating the ground, then placing the book there. Then the priest will sit and recite the Ramayana.

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Non Functional Up Grade – Clever Ploy or Cause of Admin Inefficiency …

Posted on November 18, 2017. Filed under: From a Services Career, Indian Thought |

By Meenakashi Lekhi

Imagine a batch of students appearing for their tenth standard exam and the rule is set that whatever marks the topper gets, the rest of the class would get the same marks, on condition that they wait for two years. Sounds crazy? Well, that is exactly how the Indian bureaucracy rewards itself through something called Non Functional Upgrade (NFU), which has become a bone of contention between the civilian group A officers and officers of the armed forces, who have been denied the same by the civilian bureaucracy.

So what is Non Functional Upgrade?

As per a circular issued by the department of personnel and training, Government of India, ‘Whenever an Indian Administrative Services Officer of the State of Joint Cadre is posted at the Centre to a particular grade carrying a specific grade pay in Pay band 3 or Pay band 4, the officers belonging to batches of Organised Group A Services that are senior by two years or more and have not so far been promoted to that particular grade would be granted the same grade on nonfunctional basis from the date of posting of the Indian Administrative Service Officers in that particular grade at the Centre.

This scheme was introduced by the United Progressive Alliance government in 2008 and was extended to 49 organised Group A central services for time bound pay promotions of every officer till the higher administrative grade (thus ensuring ‘one rank, one pay’ for most), irrespective of capability, performance or vacancy.

Therefore, in a country where every prime minister, chief minister, MP, MLA or municipal councillor has to face the electorate every five years, where every student has to compete and work hard for each mark he scores in board exams or competitive exams and where every company chief’s performance is evaluated in three months, our bureaucracy is exempted from such scrutiny.

Performance and vacancy be damned, they would get time bound promotions. While barely 1 to 2 per cent of Army officers get to reach the apex scale of lieutenant general and upward, an IAS, IPS or IFS officer is guaranteed to reach the rank of director general of police.

Today, India has a ridiculous situation where every state police force has innumerable director generals and additional director generals, one each for prison, CID, home guard, training and so on, and yet the constabulary and subordinate officers face stagnation in terms of promotion because no one thinks of them.

How has such a top-heavy structure helped India’s administration? Has any feasibility study ever been done on it? Is there any precedence of such Non Functional Upgrade anywhere in the world?

Today, the armed forces and the central armed police forces cannot be blamed for asking for similar benefits because the UPA rocked the apple cart and created major fissures in the civil-military relationship. If NFU is good then it should be given to all, including the armed forces and employees in Group B and C categories. It cannot be exclusively for the babus.

How would an officer, who has won a Param Vir Chakra, feel when he sees an IPS or IAS officer being promoted just because he appeared for an exam and qualified in it? Doesn’t an army or central police officer face a much bigger challenge of dodging the enemies’ bullets?

Wouldn’t it be demotivating for the officers in the armed forces to be stagnating in one position while the civilian officers enjoy promotions?<

In a resource-scarce nation, where the priority of the state should be to spend every penny on the people and cut out wasteful administrative expenditures, NFU should be scrapped.

Merit alone should be the criterion for promotion. The feudal system of exclusive benefits has to end.





Vijay Sitaram</stro

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Einstein and Tagore Square Off …

Posted on November 11, 2017. Filed under: Indian Thought, Personalities |

The New York Times wrote an Article with the headline ‘Einstein and Tagore Plumb the Truth’ and a memorable photo (of their New York Meeting) titled “A Mathematician and a Mystic meet in Manhattan.”

Unsurprisingly, this fascinating conversation quickly became a media sensation with many publications across the world carrying the recorded version. Here’s an excerpt from this historic exchange of ideas (published in the January 1931 issue of Modern Review)

TAGORE: You have been busy, hunting down with mathematics, the two ancient entities, Time and Space, while I have been lecturing in this country on the Eternal World of Man, the Universe of Reality.

EINSTEIN: Do you believe in the Divine isolated from the World?

TAGORE: Not isolated. The Infinite Personality of Man comprehends the Universe. There cannot be anything that cannot be subsumed by the Human Personality, and this proves that the Truth of the Universe is Human Truth.

EINSTEIN: There are two different conceptions about the Nature of the Universe — the World as a unity dependent on Humanity, and the World as reality independent of the Human Factor.

TAGORE: When our Universe is in harmony with man, the Eternal, we know it as Truth, we feel it as Beauty.

EINSTEIN: This is a purely human conception of the universe.

TAGORE: The world is a human world — the scientific view of it is also that of the scientific man. Therefore, the world apart from us does not exist; it is a relative world, depending for its reality upon our consciousness. There is some standard of reason and enjoyment which gives it truth, the standard of the eternal man whose experiences are made possible through our experiences.

EINSTEIN: This is a realization of the human entity.

TAGORE: Yes, one eternal entity. We have to realize it through our emotions and activities. We realize the supreme man, who has no individual limitations, through our limitations. Science is concerned with that which is not confined to individuals; it is the impersonal human world of truths. Religion realizes these truths and links them up with our deeper needs. Our individual consciousness of truth gains universal significance. Religion applies values to Truth, and we know Truth as good through own harmony with it.

EINSTEIN: I cannot prove, but I believe in the Pythagorean
argument, that the Truth is independent of human beings. It is
the problem of the logic of continuity.

TAGORE : Truth, which is one with the universal being, must be essentially human; otherwise, whatever we individuals realize as true, never can be called truth. At least, the truth which is described as scientific and which only can be reached through the process of logic—in other words, by an organ of thought which is human.

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Ladakh …

Posted on October 4, 2017. Filed under: Indian Thought, Uncategorized |

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Indian Math and Music …

Posted on September 26, 2017. Filed under: Indian Thought, Personalities |

Prof. K. Ramasubramanian from IIT, Mumbai, delivered a lecture titled “Glimpses of Indian Mathematics: Sutra Style to Paragon of Poetry” at MIT on Sunday, August 13, 2017.

In this talk organized by Samskrita Bharati Boston and MIT Samskritam, Prof. K. Ramasubramanian offered an illuminating view of Indian Mathematics over the ages, its unique approach based on poetry rather than prose, the need for such an approach, and presented many surprising facts about mathematical results ranging from algebra and trigonometry through calculus, that were discovered in India much before the West.

For example, Fibonacci numbers are described in Bharata’s Natya Shastra. Prof. Ramasubramanian mostly used the work of Pingala (prior to 300 BCE), Bhaskara (12th century CE) and Nityananda (17th century CE), mathematicians from three different periods of history to illustrate his ideas.

It was fascinating as well as amusing to learn how complex ideas in Math were taught and transmitted over the millennia via the medium of delightful poetry, in effect giving a musical character to Mathematics! Here are highlights from his talk.
Music in Mathematics

In most of the world, technical literature is written in prose, while poetry is reserved for subjects involving fantasy and feeling. However, a significant corpus of scientific and mathematical literature in the Indian tradition have been composed in Sanskrit verses that can set to melodious music.

This approach was driven by compulsion, because the Indian learning tradition was an oral tradition where ideas are captured and transmitted via sound rather than the written word. There was an element of choice also to this approach because structuring a concept as musical poetry makes it fun and easy to memorize.

For example, this verse (link to recitation) captures the date of its composition in musical form (in a meter known as “shaardUla vikriiDita”). The chanted verse actually describes the following set of simultaneous equations: y=m2, t = y/2, v= t x 3, b = v/2, that when solved will yield the exact date of the verse’s composition (April 25, 1629)!

This musical method of conveying ideas in Math has been used for representing numbers, specifying the value of pi and representing it as an infinite series, specifying expressions for sums of series, and even computing the derivative of a quotient, among other things!

The earliest shaastras were composed in sutra style, for example Panini’s grammar, and Bodhayana’s shulba (measurement) sUtras – see “Pythagorean” theorem above. A sutra is a pithy aphorism and its length is not uniformly regulated, and is not really constrained by any metrical discipline.

The rules of prosody (chandas shaastra) were composed later in the 2nd century BCE by Pingala-naga (though Prof. Ramasubramanian believes that Pingala may have predated Panini, based on the coarser style of the sUtras used in chandas shaastra), and consists of two classes of meters, one based on number of syllables (varNa vRRittaH), and another based on the number of beats (maatraa vRRittaH).

The later shaastras were set to these poetic meters, and are more musical to hear than sutras. Use of a meter restricts the choice of words that can be used in a verse, and therefore created challenges in conveying mathematical ideas. This resulted in some innovations such as the “khyughRRi” representation invented by Aryabhata, and the number naming system of “bhUta sa~Nkhyaa”.

The khyughRRi notation for instance used vowels to denote powers of 10 and consonants for other numbers (e.g., ka=1, ki=100, ku=100000), and created new (but difficult to pronounce) words such as “khyughRRi” (=4.32 million) for numbers used in astronomical calculations. The “bhUta sa~Nkhyaa” approach employs representative ideas to stand in for numbers that these ideas are typically associated with.

For example, the word “eye” (netra) represents the number two (we have two eyes), “veda” represents the number four (there are four vedas), and “aakaasha” (space – is empty) the number zero. Further a composer can choose from any of the numerous synonyms of these words which may each have a different number of syllables to meet metrical requirements in a verse. For example, “kham”, “vyoma”, “aakaasha” are all synonyms for “sky” but with different number (1, 2 and 3 respectively) of syllables.

An example of “bhUta sa~Nkhyaa” may be found here, where bhU” (earth) represents the number one, and “baaNa” (arrows of manmatha) represents the number five.

Meters based on syllables and beats lead to innovations that are today known by the names of scientists in the West who also discovered them much later. For example, Pascal’s triangle, which captures binomial coefficients in a triangular array of numbers, is described by the concept of “meru prastaara” (arrangement in the form of a mountain), the construction of which is described by a Sanskrit verse composed by Halaayudha.

Prof. Ramasubramanian presents this verse and its translation here. Each level of the “meru prastaara” captures the number and types of meters that are possible for a given number of syllables. When the number of beats is fixed instead of the number of syllables, and a rhythm is constructed either using a set of ‘laghu’ (1 beat long) or ‘guru’ (2 beats long) units, determining the number of rhythms possible leads to the discovery of what is known as the Fibonacci sequence in the west.

Prof. Manju Bhargava from Princeton University, the young winner of the 2014 Fields Medal (considered by many as the Nobel Prize equivalent in Mathematics), who as a tabla player encountered this problem of number of rhythms given a fixed number of beats, popularized the fact that this problem has been solved before Fibonacci (1202 CE) by an Indian Mathematician known as Hemachandra (1150 CE).

Fibonacci numbers are now also referred to as “Hemachandra numbers” by many. Prof. Ramasubramanian pointed out that there are mathematicians even before Hemachandra, such as Virahanka (600 CE), Pingala (200 CE), and Bharata (100 CE) who described the same idea.

In fact, these numbers are described in Bharata’s “naaTya shaastra”. To add to the fun, the Hemachandra numbers can be derived from the “meru prastaara” by adding along the diagonals.

Prof. Ramasubramanian also presented verses from Bhaskaracharya’s Lilavati, that has problems at the level of high school algebra expressed as poetry. One verse dealt with a problem involving a single variable linear equation.

This verse expresses what would now be called a “word problem”, but with a poetic touch and describes a collection of bees split divided into various fractions groups. Here is a link to the recitation of the verse. Another verse described a “word problem” involving a quadratic equation.

The problem uses a setting in the “Mahabharata” war and deals with the number of arrows that Arjuna needs to discharge to kill Karna on the battlefield (link to recitation).

A more interesting verse (link to recitation) specifies not only the sum (sankalita) of the first ‘n’ natural numbers (1+2+3+…+n = n(n+1)/2), but also the sum (sankalitaikya) of such sums: (1 + (1+2) + (1+2+3) + … (1+2+3+…n) = n(n+1)(n+2)/1.2.3).

Trigonometry was important for astronomical calculations. Prof. Ramasubramanian described the work of Nityananda, who was a brilliant astronomer in the court of Mughal Emperor Shaj Jahan, and the author of the monumental treatise “Sarvasiddhaantaraaja” (1639 CE).

In addition to original contributions, Nityananda also absorbed ideas from various sources including Arabic Astronomy and Mathematics, and incorporated them into his Sanskrit works.

Nityananda devoted 65 verses to trigonometric sine formulae, provided a summary of Arab mathematician Al-Kashi’s method for determining the sine of 1 degree, and an original procedure to solve the cubic equation that arises in Al-Kashi’s method, all in verse form. The sine formulae that he describes includes the well-known expansion for sin(a+b) = sin(a)cos(b) + cos(a)sin(b), but in verse form.

Prof. Ramasubramanian also mentioned the work of other earlier Indian mathematicians who came up with methods of computing sines, such as Aryabhata’s recurrence relation and Bhaskara’s approximation function, He also pointed out how infinite series expansions for trigonometric functions and pi – the ratio of the circumference to the diameter of a circle, and the idea of a derivative defined in calculus appear in the work of Indian mathematicians a few centuries before Newton and Leibniz.

Prof. K. Ramasubramanian is at IIT Mumbai in the Cell for Indian Science and Technology in Sanskrit, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences. He holds a doctorate in Theoretical Physics, Bachelors in Engineering, and Masters in Samskritam. His research interests include Indian Science and Technology and other disciplines such as Indian Logic and Philosophy.

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Greater than Jhansi ki Rani – ABBAKKA CHOTA – …

Posted on September 17, 2017. Filed under: Indian Thought, Personalities |

Viswanath Swanatha Bllavara –


The year was 1555 and Portuguese colonial power was at its zenith. They had destroyed Zamorins of Calicut, defeated the Sultan of Bijapur. They had taken away Daman from the Sultan of Gujarat and Established a colony in Mylapore.

They had Captured Bombay and made Goa as their headquarters. And while they were at it pretty much unchallenged, they even ruined the ancient Kapaleeswarar Temple to build a Church..

Their next target was the super profitable port of Mangalore. Their bad luck was just 14 kilometers south of Mangalore was the small settlement of Ullal – ruled by a feisty 30 year old woman – Abbakka Chowta.

Initially, they took her lightly and sent a few boats and soldiers to capture and bring her to Goa. Those boats never came back. Enraged, they sent a fleet of ships under command of the much celebrated Admiral Dom Álvaro da Silveira. The Admiral returned badly wounded and empty handed.

Another Portuguese fleet was sent but only a few injured made it back.

Now the Portuguese decided on another approach THey went on to captured Mangalore port and fort and planned to tackle Mrs. Chowta from the Mangalore fort.

An army under João Peixoto, an experienced Portuguese General was sent to Ullal. The brief was simple – Subjugate Ullal and capture Abbakka Chowta.and the plan was foolproof and there was no way a 30 year old woman with a few men could withstand the might of an army with modern weapons.

The Portuguese reached Ullal and found it empty and deserted. Abbakka had disappeared and was nowhere in sight. They roamed around, relaxed and thanked their stars. Just when they were about to call it a day, Mrs Chowta attacked with 200 of her chosen warriors.

In the chaos and confusion, many portuguese lost their lives without a fight and even General João Peixoto lost his life while some 70 portuguese were captured while the rest ran away.

So there is Abbakka Chowta, who’s just defeated a large aggressor army, killed their General, captured prisoners and defended her city – but what will an ordinary person do? – Rest? No!

Rani Abbakka Chowta rode with her men towards Mangalore that same night and laid siege to the Mangalore fort.

She not just broke inside the fort but killed Admiral Mascarenhas – the Commander of the Fort and let the remaining Portuguese flee. She didn’t just stop at that but went on to capture the Portuguese settlement at Kundapura, a full 100 km north of Mangalore.

However the Portuguese eventually managed to get back at Abbakka Chowta by the usual method of betrayal and intrigue. They succeeded in bribing her estranged husband who betrayed her for power and money.
She was arrested and put in the prison and killed while attempting an escape.

Abbakka Chowta was a Jain who fought against the Portuguese with an army comprising of both Hindus and Muslims – a full 300 years before the First War of Indian Independence in 1857.

What have we Indians done for her? We just forgot her! We do not name our children after her. We do not teach about her in our History Books. Yes, we did release a Postage Stamp in her name, named a boat after her and erected 2 statues in the whole of India for one who is a true a National Hero!

We Indians remain busy arguing whether it was actually one of her daughters who fought the battles instead of her. Some talk of her being the last Indian to have had the power of the agni-ban.

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Making of a Hindu Rashtra …

Posted on September 7, 2017. Filed under: Indian Thought, Personalities |

The Wire – 30/5/2017 Injustice, Intolerance and Intimidation in the Making of a ‘Hindu Rashtra’

The veteran rationalist thinker, writer and communist leader Govind Pansare was brutally assassinated in Kolhapur on February 20, 2015. More than two years have passed, but justice remains elusive. The same is true for Narendra Dabholkar and M.M. Kalburgi, whose second death anniversary is three months away. All three men were also killed by right-wing fundamentalists.

The investigations into the assassinations have been very slow and have moved only because the Dabholkar and Pansare families have petitioned the high court to monitor the investigation. The police have managed to arrest only two suspects so far and two have been absconding. All the accused are associated with the radical Hindutva organisations Sanatan Sanstha and Hindu Janjagriti Samiti, with their totally unconstitutional agenda of establishing a ‘Hindu Rashtra’ in the country.

The chargesheets filed by the police in the Dabholkar and Pansare cases clearly mention that the accusedare absconding since the Margao bomb explosion case in Goa in 2009. In spite of objections on the pressure tactics used by the lawyers of the accused and the spokespersons of Sanatan Sanstha, no action has been taken against them. The state government has not yet declared the absconding suspects as wanted in the Pansare case. The investigation officer is changed at every interval and the activists’ demand to hand over the case to a dedicated team for investigation is also pending with the government.

Fundamentalism has no religion

It is really painful to define ‘justice’ in cases where people are killed because their ideology and expression of thought are not acceptable to some. Regardless of political affiliation, the government seems to be insensitive in solving these crimes and punishing the guilty. Not even a single arrest has been made in Kalburgi’s case yet.

Fundamentalism and fanaticism is not a characteristic feature of any specific religion. Farook Hameed, a young activist of the Dravidar Viduthalai Kazhagam (DVK), was killed by Muslim fundamentalists on March 17, 2017 in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu. The DVK is an offshoot of the Dravidar Kazhagam founded by Periyar in the 1940s and propagates atheism and rationalism.

Being an atheist in individual life is something accepted by the society, but it seems one cannot propagate atheism the way others propagate a religious faith without risking one’s life. Farook openly expressed his ideology. He had posted comments about atheism, criticising religion and caste on his Facebook page. He was the administrator of a WhatsApp group called ‘Allah Murdad,’ meaning ‘There is no God’. The result: he was killed, reports say, by his own friends. Farook’s murder is in fact a threat to all Muslim youths who embrace atheism or even rationalism.

The Coimbatore incident is, in essence, no different from those where the victims belonged to the Hindu religion and were killed by Hindu fanatics.

The situation in India is growing more complex by the day. The space for free expression and freedom is shrinking rapidly. The fascist forces are trying to shut voices of freedom and we are compelled to fight the battle in the available space.

The campaign of returning awards by the writers and scientists brought the anxiety of intellectuals before society. They were concerned about everything that is going against the principle of equality, freedom of expression, cultural diversity and secular values in our nation. There have been three ‘yatras’, or journeys, of writers and poets to express solidarity with the families of Pansare, Dabholkar and Kalburgi so far. The first was a part of the Dakshinayan campaign in which 14 eminent writers from Gujarat visited Pune, Kolhapur and Dharwad, where the three rationalists were killed.

Then a team of Marathi writers and activists followed the same route during their journey to Goa for a national conference in defence of freedom of expression held in November, 2016. In February 2017, 11 members of the Progressive Writers’ Association, Madhya Pradesh travelled to Maharashtra, Karnataka and Goa. They condemned the respective governments for failing to arrest the killers. Based on their dialogue with local people in these regions and their experiences, they will write books, plays and hold discussions to spread their thoughts across the Hindi speaking belt.

As the atmosphere of fear and intimidation grows, hundreds of writers and artists visited the historical place of Dandi, Gujarat to hold a silent protest march on January 30, 2016 to commemorate the death anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. A platform of collective voices of the left and Dalit movement was created in Mumbai Collective, while Delhi observed Pratirodh I and II with a clear stand to enjoy the right to dissent and free expression. The progressive forces in many towns, small and big, in the country have started organising programs like seminars, book publications and poetry recitations to protest against the attacks on women, minorities, progressive people and Dalit communities.

The atmosphere of fear exists, not only because of fundamentalist violence, but also because of the criminalisation of peaceful expression. Many have been attacked by the self-appointed nationalists and so-called religious people, while many from the minority communities, especially youth, have been arrested, held in pre-trial detention, and subjected to extensive criminal trials by the government machinery.

Fear of such repression, combined with uncertainty as to how the statutes will be applied, leads others to engage in self-censorship. State governments are using draconian laws such as the sedition provisions of the penal code, the criminal defamation law and laws dealing with hate speech to silence dissent. These laws have been repeatedly used for political purposes against critics.

There have been major attacks on free speech in the country from the government itself. The information and broadcasting ministry under the BJP government has become an image manager for Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The government’s advisory to news channels not to telecast the Nirbhaya documentary and serving a legal notice to the BBC for airing the Nirbhaya film India’s Daughter, issuing show cause notices to channels on Yakub Memon’s execution coverage, banning a documentary on beef – all of this tell their own story.

The BJP government has crushed the resistance of the students from the Film and Television Institute of India against the appointment of a pro-BJP director and has charged JNU students with sedition. It has appointed RSS affiliated people in various academic institutes.

There have been cases of deaths of journalists, intellectuals, attacks, arrests, threats, sedition, defamation and censorship of films, broadcast media, print media, music, cyber media and hate speech. The attempt to impose a one-day banon NDTV India, the filing of a complaint against an Outlook investigation on child trafficking in Assam, the trumped up cases against human rights activists in Bastar, are all attempts to silence the media and the voices of democratic dissent. Reporters covering the courts have been assaulted by lawyers, taken into police custody and their access to the courts restricted.

The time has come for thinkers, writers, poets, artists, scientists to overcome this feeling of intimidation and regenerate the society. Thinkers can become an explosive, powerful force. We have seen some examples in our freedom struggle, in Revolutionary Russia, Latin America and Africa. We have seen recently in India that the individual writers chose their timing of dissent in tandem with other fellow writers. Their act wasn’t solitary, but in solidarity with others.

At such a crucial time it will be unfortunate, if the real thinkers stop writing or speaking or expressing their views. The active thinkers can awaken society, create standards of morality, humanism and honesty and preserve them. The absence of thinkers causes civilisations to collapse. We have been observing this decay with our own eyes. The process of decaying has taken alarming speed. Make the people think aptly at individual, collective level and at the level of small groups is the first step. To create a live internal debate is the second and going to the people and thinking together, is the third.

We have seen Russel taking a stand against war, we have seen Sartre taking a stand against the US in Vietnam, and we have seen Chomsky and many others taking a stand against the aggressive foreign policy of America. Many writers opposed Franco’s dictatorship. We have seen and heard Dabholkar, Pansare and Kalburgi doing this during many social campaigns. We have seen them expressing their views fearlessly throughout their lives.

The strategy to fight the battle with right-wing forces, in Pansare’s words, is ‘shatru-mitra vivek’ (Śatru-bandhu bibēka). The regressive forces are in power not because they have support from the majority of people, but because the progressive forces are scattered and not united. The union of the left and Dalit movement can challenge the communal forces in power, he used to say.

So, if now the government at the Centre says that people should sacrifice their desire for justice and truth in the national interest, in the name of nationalism and patriotism, it should be opposed. If there are forces, which declare that India will be a Hindu Rashtra by 2023 or 2025, they should be opposed. For this is a secular nation and will remain secular. This is a democratic nation and will remain so.

Megha Pansare is an assistant professor at Shivaji University, Kolhapur, where she teaches Russian. She is the daughter of Govind Pansare.

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Mr Modi and the Raincoat …

Posted on September 6, 2017. Filed under: Indian Thought, Personalities |

THE WIRE – Ashish Khetan is chairperson of the Dialogue and Development Commission of the Delhi government and a leader of the Aam Aadmi Party.

Narendra Modi is truly a street-smart politician. His ‘rain coat in a shower’ metaphor for Manmohan Singh is a simple but powerfully accurate description of Singh’s ten-year long prime ministership. He allowed scams like 2G spectrum, coal block allocations and the Commonwealth Games loot to happen right under his nose without any direct charge of personal corruption sticking to him. His staunchest critics derided him as ‘Maun Mohan Singh’ but even they could not call him a corrupt prime minister.

The Congress is understandably furious at the use of the ‘raincoat’ metaphor. It has touched a raw nerve. But instead of getting worked up, the Congressmen could have well pointed out how Modi himself has been a master at the art of being seen as clean, like a lotus, while remaining immersed neck deep in muck.

For 14 years, Modi, while he was Gujarat chief minister, held the home portfolio. While his deputy minister of state for home, Amit Shah, was arrested, jailed and then externed for a spate of extra-judicial killings, the chain of evidence never travelled beyond Shah. As Shah and his loyalist police officers did time in jail, Modi reaped a rich political harvest by polarising society using these killings.

His other ministerial colleague Mayaben Kodnani was sentenced to 28 years in prison for the Naroda Patiya massacre. Babu Bajrangi, who killed women and children in Patiya and later, after being released on bail, ruled the streets of Ahmedabad for several years, kidnapping girls, blocking the release of films and terrorising minorities, all along openly flaunted his proximity with the chief minister.

In 2012, he was convicted and sentenced to life based on eye-witness accounts and his own confession on a spy-camera, but his statement indicting Modi was dismissed as hearsay.

As chief minister, Modi presided over the killings of more than 1,000 men and women, and yet used every repudiation – whether from within the party or without – every judicial stricture, every effort to inquire into his culpability so to further cement his stay in power.

In fact, when it comes to the art of enjoying the proverbial shower without getting wet, Modi is many shades better than Singh.

Comptroller and auditor general (CAG) reports on the 2G spectrum, coal blocks and Krishna Godavari Dhirubhai 6 Basin singed Singh, politically and personally. But CAG reports on the scams of the Modi government in Gujarat faded without a whimper.

In 2012, the Modi government earned strictures from the CAG for giving away a 10% participating stake in a KG Basin gas field measuring 4,57,000 acres it had won in an expensive bid to a mysterious overseas company named GeoGlobal Resources, incorporated in Barbados, with a capital of just $64, for free.

As per the Modi government’s own estimates, announced in a press conference, the gas field was worth about $20 billion. Though state government-run corporation Gujarat State Petroleum Corporation (GSPC), the owner of the gas field, had spent in excess of Rs 20,000 crore in drilling and exploration costs, Geo Global’s share of Rs 20,000 crore towards expenditure cost was also borne by GSPC.

The issue failed to get the attention of the national media as Modi was on the ascendance and the corporate media owners could see which way the wind was blowing.

Arvind Kejriwal’s hour-long press conference on the issue was blacked out. Till date there has been no inquiry into this shady deal nor any investigation into the real operators behind Geo Global, which was incorporated just six days before the joint venture with the GSPC.

A new CAG report last year indicted Modi’s Gujarat government for wasting Rs 20,000 crore of public money in an exploration process which has yielded one-tenth of what he had promised. Primetime TV refused to take cognisance of it.

Just weeks after Modi’s inauguration as prime minister, the CAG released five different reports for the year ending March 2013, highlighting financial irregularities by the Modi-led Gujarat government amounting to more than Rs 25,000 crore, which included Rs 1,500 crore in undue benefits to companies including Reliance Petroleum, Essar Power and the Adani Group.

If the Singh government gave away coal blocks to Congress cronies for a song, Modi as Gujarat chief minister also gave away about 16,000 acres of land to Adani SEZ for rates between Rs 1 and Rs 32 per square metre.

Other companies like Bharat Hotels, Larson & Toubro, Essar Steel and real estate developer K. Raheja also got large parcels of prime land for a fraction of market price.

It had all the hallmark of crony capitalism: arbitrariness, private gains at the cost of the exchequer and proximity between beneficiaries and the chief minister.

When the opposition’s demand for a probe into land deals reached a crescendo, in 2011, chief minister Modi appointed an inquiry commission under a retired judge, a time-tested technique of deflection and obfuscation.

The report of the commission was never made public and with neither media nor courts interested in holding him accountable, the Gujarat government had little incentive to release the report. Modi’s proverbial raincoat remained intact.

For 13 years, chief minister Modi didn’t appoint a lokayukta in Gujarat. His government spent Rs 45 crore of taxpayer’s money in litigation blocking the appointment of retired justice R.A. Mehta, widely regarded as honest and competent, as lokayukta. For the last three years, Modi has not appointed a lokpal. Yet he projects himself from every pulpit as a warrior against black money.

Between 2004 and 2015, the BJP has shown more than three-quarters of its funds as cash received from unnamed sources. The same funds catapulted Modi to prime ministership. Yet he has been drumming about the virtues of a cashless economy.

As Modi’s march to Delhi was gaining pace, the UPA in a rearguard attack launched a probe into the business affairs of Gautam Adani, Modi’s principal backer.

A probe by the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) nailed the siphoning off of hundreds of crores abroad by the Adani Group by an intricate conspiracy involving over-valuation in imports for projects subject to a low or nil rate of customs duty. The report was finalised days before the results of Lok Sabha elections were due.

Seeing the body of evidence against Adani, the UPA quickly moved to hand over the case to the CBI. For two years, the CBI, which reports to the prime minister’s office, is sitting tight on the file.

In July last year another, the DRI probe revealed that 40 of the country’s biggest energy companies, including Adani and the Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group, were prima facie found involved in over-invoicing of imported coal. The scam was conservatively estimated at Rs 29,000 crore, with the common power consumers bearing the brunt of the inflated power bills, a direct effect of over-invoicing.

This author has written several letters to the PMO, CBI and Enforcement Directorate detailing the report and asking for a thorough probe. Only acknowledgments have come from in return, while Modi goes on publicly embracing both Adani and Anil Ambani.

The UPA was shamed into removing Ashok Chavan after the Adarsh Scam, Suresh Kalmadi after the CWG scam, A. Raja after the spectrum scam, Pawan Kumar Bansal after a bribery scam and Ashwani Kumar after the coal scam status report scandal.

No such scruples bother Modi. After more than 40 suspected killings connected with the admission and recruitment scam called ‘Vyapam’ which happened on Shivraj Singh Chauhan’s watch, Modi has not said a word about the propriety of a tainted chief minister continuing in office.

Public outrage after Vasundhra Raje and her family were found to be mixed up with fugitive Lalit Modi failed to evoke a response from Modi.

Addressing an election gathering in March 2014 in Chandigarh, then prime minister-designate Modi blasted the Congress for giving a ticket to the tainted Bansal. On his watch, Modi’s alter ego Shah appointed tainted B.S. Yeddyurappa, who presided over many scams including the infamous Bellary scam and whose corrupt image had compelled the BJP to expel him as Karnataka state president in April 2016.

Yet Modi can afford to talk about the janam patri of the Congress without having the fear of having to account for his own track record. Modi as a prime ministerial candidate talked of bringing lakhs of crores of black money deposited in offshore bank accounts back to India. On his watch as prime minister, Vijay Mallya fled the country.

The list of Modi’s wrongdoings runs long. His omissions and commissions in the Gujarat pogrom and the subsequent subversion of criminal justice system are shocking to the conscience of a reasonable person and a “kalank” for us as a nation. His silence over episodes like the Dadri lynching is as troubling as Singh’s silence as prime minister.

Though perhaps he will never have to face an inquiry into the alleged Sahara-Birla payoffs, the swift income tax settlements facilitated by his government in both cases will go down as egregious examples of an abuse of power to protect those in power.

The persecution of political opponents at the hands of police agencies, the harassment of civil rights activists and the systematic chipping away of institutional integrity and autonomy have surpassed the record of Congress regimes of the past.

If Singh was an accidental prime minister, notebandi has shown that Modi is an arbitrary prime minister.

Singh has never had to face criminal prosecution for any of his actions or omissions. Modi too so far has staved off a criminal prosecution. The prime minister who ran the most corrupt central government in independent India’s history ironically remained for ten long years in public imagination as Mr Clean. It was only towards the end of his stint that his sheen wore off and he became a figure of ridicule and revulsion.

The present prime minister, who is running one of the most duplicitous, insensitive and arbitrary governments since independence, is similarly projecting himself as an honest man. It remains to be seen how history will judge Modi – but so far, he has managed to reap a rich political harvest from all the wrongdoings of his government and his party, without one charge sticking to him.

You may attribute this to the inadequacy of our legal system that has always failed to hold the powerful to account, or to the artful device of “raincoat in the bath” as Modi himself has put it. Though their styles contrast – one professorial, the other a relentless demagogue – both Singh and Modi have made a fine art of donning the raincoat.

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