India Diffident over growing Chinese Incursions

Over the last year or so, the incursion of Chinese troops on Indian soil has gone up. The Indian Army has said that it has registered the protest with Chinese officials but it still looked lethargic in their approach to me.
The government is just playing down these border violations by saying that it is not a big deal since the Line of Actual Control is not clearly defined. Whatever the case, if these issues are not addressed seriously then India will face tough times ahead.

China is clearly a stronger power than India, both militarily and economically. As former Indian Navy Chief, Admiral Sureesh Mehta, put it, “The power gap between the two is just too wide to bridge and getting wider by the day.” The day China will be confident enough; it will assert its claim on disputed land more aggressively. Diplomatically also India has performed very badly.

The talks over the border dispute have been going on since the year 1981, making them already the longest and the most-barren process between any two countries in modern history. Thus, the longer the process of border-related talks continues without yielding tangible results, the greater the space Beijing will have to mount strategic pressure on India.

The futile discussion and time buying process will put India under even tremendous pressure. It seems the only progress here is that India’s choice of words in public is now the same as China’s. “Both countries have agreed to seek a fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable settlement of this issue,” Indian External Affairs Minister SM Krishna told Parliament on July 31. “The matter, of course, is complex and requires time and lots of patience.”

It was as if the Chinese foreign minister was speaking. Isn’t it odd for India, the country at the receiving end of growing Chinese hostility, to plead for more time and patience after nearly three decades of negotiations?

One thing is clear that New Delhi does not have any well defined plan and strategy to go around settling the disputes. More time means, more time for Beijing to define its strategy. Today, China’s muscle-flexing along the Himalayas cannot be ignored. After all, even when China was poor and backward, it employed brute force to annex Xinjiang (1949) and Tibet (1950), to raid South Korea (1950), to invade India (1962), to initiate a border conflict with the Soviet Union (1969) and to attack Vietnam (1979).

India’s long record of political diffidence only emboldens Beijing. India accepted Chinese annexation of Tibet and surrendered its own British-inherited extraterritorial rights over Tibet on a silver platter without asking for anything in return. Now, China wants India to display the same ‘amicable spirit’ and hand over to it at least the Tawang valley. Indian diplomats failed miserably and even in registering protests they appear to be defensive. It gives a feeling that they are clueless about China.

If the situation goes like this then one day, the duo might again be at war. The history has shown that the cost of weak politics and diplomacy has been paid by the soldiers.

Some part of the article has been referred from Rediff.

Why India is Clueless about China

A prosperous, militarily strong China cannot but be a threat to its neighbours, especially if there are no constraints on the exercise of Chinese power, notes Brahma Chellaney, professor of strategic studies at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi.

The latest round of the unending and fruitless India-China talks on territorial disputes was a fresh reminder of the eroding utility of this process. It is approaching nearly three decades since China and India began these negotiations.

In this period, the world has changed fundamentally. Indeed, with its rapidly accumulating military and economic power, China itself has emerged as a great power in the making, with Washington’s Asia policy now manifestly Sino-centric. Not only has India allowed its military and nuclear asymmetry with China to grow, but also New Delhi’s room for diplomatic maneuver is shrinking. As the just retired Indian Navy Chief, Admiral Sureesh Mehta, has put it plainly, the power ‘gap between the two is just too wide to bridge and getting wider by the day.’

Of course, power asymmetry in inter-State relations does not mean the weaker side must bend to the dictates of the stronger or seek to propitiate it. Wise strategy, coupled with good diplomacy, is the art of offsetting or neutralising military or economic power imbalance with another state. But as Admiral Mehta warned, ‘China is in the process of consolidating its comprehensive national power and creating formidable military capabilities. Once it is done, China is likely to be more assertive on its claims, especially in the immediate neighbourhood.’

It is thus obvious that the longer the process of border-related talks continues without yielding tangible results, the greater the space Beijing will have to mount strategic pressure on India and the greater its leverage in the negotiations.

After all, China already holds the military advantage on the ground. Its forces control the heights along the long 4,057-kilometre Himalayan frontier, with the Indian troops perched largely on the lower levels.

Furthermore, by building new railroads, airports and highways in Tibet, China is now in a position to rapidly move additional forces to the border to potentially strike at India at a time of its choosing.

Diplomatically, China is a contented party, having occupied what it wanted — the Aksai Chin plateau, which is almost the size of Switzerland and provides the only accessible Tibet-Xinjiang route through the Karakoram passes of the Kunlun Mountains. Yet it chooses to press claims on additional Indian territories as part of a grand strategy to gain leverage in bilateral relations and, more importantly, to keep India under military and diplomatic pressure.

At the core of its strategy is an apparent resolve to indefinitely hold off on a border settlement with India through an overt refusal to accept the territorial status quo.

In not hiding its intent to further redraw the Himalayan frontiers, Beijing only helps highlight the futility of the ongoing process of political negotiations. After all, the territorial status quo can be changed not through political talks but by further military conquest.

Yet, paradoxically, the political process remains important for Beijing to provide the façade of engagement behind which to seek India’s containment.

Keeping India engaged in endless talks is a key Chinese objective so that Beijing can continue its work on changing the Himalayan balance decisively in its favour through a greater build-up of military power and logistical capabilities.

That is why China has sought to shield the negotiating process from the perceptible hardening of its stance towards New Delhi and the vituperative attacks against India in its State-run media. Add to the picture the aggressive patrolling of the Himalayan frontier by the People’s Liberation Army and the growing Chinese incursions across the line of control.

Let’s be clear: Chinese negotiating tactics have shifted markedly over the decades. Beijing originally floated the swap idea — giving up its claims in India’s northeast in return for Indian acceptance of the Chinese control over a part of Ladakh — to legalise its occupation of Aksai Chin. It then sang the mantra of putting the territorial disputes on the backburner so that the two countries could concentrate on building close, mutually beneficial relations.

But in more recent years, in keeping with its rising strength, China has escalated border tensions and military incursions while assertively laying claim to Arunachal Pradesh.

According to a recent report in Ming Pao, a Hong Kong newspaper with close ties to the establishment in Beijing, China is seeking ‘just’ 28 per cent of Arunachal. That means an area nearly the size of Taiwan.

In that light, can the Sino-Indian border talks be kept going indefinitely? Consider two important facts:

First, the present border negotiations have been going on continuously since 1981, making them already the longest and the most-barren process between any two countries in modern history. The record includes eight rounds of senior-level talks between 1981 and 1987, 14 Joint Working Group meetings between 1988 and 2002, and 13 rounds of talks between the designated Special Representatives since 2003.

It seems the only progress in this process is that India’s choice of words in public is now the same as China’s. ‘Both countries have agreed to seek a fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable settlement of this issue,’ Indian External Affairs Minister S M Krishna told Parliament on July 31. ‘The matter, of course, is complex and requires time and lots of patience.’

It was as if the Chinese foreign minister was speaking. Isn’t it odd for India — the country at the receiving end of growing Chinese bellicosity — to plead for more time and patience after nearly three decades of negotiations?

Second, the authoritative People’s Daily — the Communist Party mouthpiece that reflects official thinking — made it clear in a June 11, 2009 editorial: ‘China won’t make any compromises in its border disputes with India.’ That reflects the Chinese position in the negotiations. But when Beijing is advertising its uncompromising stance, doesn’t New Delhi get the message?

The recent essay posted on a Chinese quasi-official Web site that called for India to be broken into 20 to 30 sovereign States cannot obscure an important fact: Dismember India is a project China launched in the Mao years when it trained and armed Naga and Mizo guerrillas. In initiating its proxy war against India, Pakistan merely took a leaf out of the Chinese book.

Today, China’s muscle-flexing along the Himalayas cannot be ignored. After all, even when China was poor and backward, it employed brute force to annex Xinjiang (1949) and Tibet (1950), to raid South Korea (1950), to invade India (1962), to initiate a border conflict with the Soviet Union through a military ambush (1969) and to attack Vietnam (1979).

A prosperous, militarily strong China cannot but be a threat to its neighbours, especially if there are no constraints on the exercise of Chinese power.

So, the key question is: What does India gain by staying put in an interminably barren negotiating process with China? By persisting with this process, isn’t India aiding the Chinese engagement-with-containment strategy by providing Beijing the cover it needs?

While Beijing’s strategy and tactics are apparent, India has had difficulty to define a game plan and resolutely pursue clearly laid-out objectives. Still, staying put in a barren process cannot be an end in itself for India.

India indeed has retreated to an increasingly defensive position territorially, with the spotlight now on China’s Tibet-linked claim to Arunachal Pradesh than on Tibet’s status itself.

Now you know why Beijing invested so much political capital over the years in getting India to gradually accept Tibet as part of the territory of the People’s Republic. Its success on that score has helped narrow the dispute to what it claims. That neatly meshes with China’s long-standing negotiating stance.

What it occupies is Chinese territory, and what it claims must be on the table to be settled on the basis of give-and-take — or as it puts it in reasonably sounding terms, on the basis of ‘mutual accommodation and mutual understanding.’

As a result, India has been left in the unenviable position of having to fend off Chinese territorial demands. In fact, history is in danger of repeating itself as India gets sucked into a 1950s-style trap. The issue then was Aksai Chin; the issue now is Arunachal.

But rather than put the focus on the source of China’s claim — Tibet — and Beijing’s attempt to territorially enlarge its Tibet annexation to what it calls ‘southern Tibet,’ India is willing to be taken ad infinitum around the mulberry bush.

Just because New Delhi has accepted Tibet to be part of China should not prevent it from gently shining a spotlight on Tibet as the lingering core issue.

Yet India’s long record of political diffidence only emboldens Beijing. India accepted the Chinese annexation of Tibet and surrendered its own British-inherited extraterritorial rights over Tibet on a silver platter without asking for anything in return. Now, China wants India to display the same ‘amicable spirit’ and hand over to it at least the Tawang valley.

Take the period since the border talks were ‘elevated’ to the level of special representatives in 2003. India first got into an extended exercise with Beijing to define general principles to govern a border settlement, despite China’s egregious record of flouting the Panchsheel principles and committing naked aggression in 1962. But no sooner had the border-related principles been unveiled in 2005 with fanfare than Beijing jettisoned the do-not-disturb-the-settled-populations principle to buttress its claim to Arunachal.

Yet, as the most-recent round of recent talks highlighted, India has agreed to let the negotiations go off at a tangent by broadening them into a diffused strategic dialogue — to the delight of Beijing. The process now has become a means for the two sides to discuss ‘the entire gamut of bilateral relations and regional and international issues of mutual interest.’

This not only opens yet another chapter in an increasingly directionless process, but also lets China condition a border settlement to the achievement of greater Sino-Indian strategic congruence. Worse still, New Delhi is to observe 2010 — the 60th anniversary of China becoming India’s neighbour by gobbling up Tibet — as the ‘Year of Friendship with China’ in India.

Brahma Chellaney

Sorce: REDIFF

 

Pokhran II was a fizzle????

Santhanam ‘S claim:  Pokhran II was a fizzle. It did not produce desired yield.

But Why Now? Why after 11 years of the test?

I do not Doubt Santhanam Integrity. As a scientist, he is free to disagree. The question is why now.

My reason- By making such statement he is trying to create a faction and public opinion that will ensure India does not give up her right to conduct more test (if necessary) by signing some stupid treaty (CTBT)

Dr Kalam Statement: Pokhran II was a success. The desired yield was obtained. However, subsequent review of the test was done by Santhanam. (sic)

So what’s the controversy?

As a science student I might conclude that my observations/experiments were successful but on reviewing it later it may be possible that my inference or deductions can be insufficient.

Dr. Kalam Never ruled out that possibility. And it is not necessary that all scientists may have same opinion about such a complicated test.

So what is a big deal? If Mr. Santhanam feels that the test were not as successful as he thinks…Fine but what does he propose.. Should we conduct more tests? What other alternatives have we got? Are they adequate? What could be the consequences if we go for further testing?

Instead of debating on that we like M 0 R 0 N s are fighting over whether NDA is good or UPA?

Instead of focusing on solutions we always try to rope in new controversy and will fan the fire for vested interests.

No wonder we are called the world’s largest Mobocracy!!!

Vijay Divas: Remembering Real Heroes

TEN YEARS have passed since the Indian Armed Forces fought one of the toughest wars against Pakistani intruders at Kargil, Drass and Batalik. July 26 is Vijay Divas – and commemorates this victory. It was 26 July 1999 when the last of the Pakistan Army intruders beat a retreat leaving their fallen compatriots in uniform on Indian soil unhonoured, unwept, unsung and unburied.

I have followed this war very closely through newspaper and television. This was the first war in my generation and even the first televised war. This war has left its mark on the current generation. The soldiers who died while defending the honour of the country were mostly in their early 20s. They climbed up the steepest cliffs in the middle of enemy fire to hoist the Indian flag. They conquered what was considered impossible. Even then, the Army Chief, General VP Malik said,”In Kargil, nobody ever told me this can’t be done, every soldier was full of high spirits. It was the spirit of the Indian soldier on the battlefield, which steeled the leadership. And therein a famous victory was forced.”

There will be many for whom the memory of this war must have diluted. But this is the time to pay tributes, homage and gratitude to those who chose to walk on the road to death for us citizens. You just cannot let them fade from your memory. They are figures of inspiration and motivation. They are figures of grit and determination. They are the figures to guide us through difficult times and make our nation proud. These figures must be idolized.

These war heroes have motivated thousand of youth of my generation to join the forces and take charge of the security of our nation. There is no higher honour than serving the nation. The Indian Armed Forces give you that feeling of pride and dignity. In today’s time, the biggest Dharma is “Rashtra Dharma”. The stories of these heroes should be told over and over again. This will motivate even more men to serve the nation. Currently, Indian Armed Forces is short of thousands of officers. It is very important for young men of this generation to sacrifice their personal comforts to join the forces.

The government of India and the ministry of defense should also focus on this shortage, else the situation can get out of control. If the military is weak, all of us will have to share the blame. These are tough times and call for tough men to stand up.

As a grateful citizen of this nation, I salute all our nation’s warriors.
I can think of a couple of lines at this time in praise of our warriors:

How else can a man die better
Than facing fearful odds
For the ashes of his fathers
And the temples of his god.

Revisiting Kargil with Ex Army Chief VP Malik

Mumbai: Ten years after India’s stirring military victory at Tiger Hill in Kargil, the then Army Chief General VP Malik has broken his silence.

For the first time on television, he has confessed that the high casualties suffered by the Indian Army during the Kargil War were agonising for the military leadership. The General bares his heart out in a rare emotional interview to CNN-IBN’s Vishal Thapar.

For the General who led the blood and guts Indian fight back at Kargil, the deaths of 527 troops in pushing out Pakistani intruders were traumatic. “The most critical moment I was always scared of was the morning briefing, when I was told that in the last 24 hours we have lost so many people. That was the most scary part of the day for me,” said the war-time Army Chief.

As the Indian fight back rolled on from Tololing to Tiger Hill, the death of heroes like Captain Vikram Batra – whom he had personally commended for valour in the battlefield – were heavy blows. I remember giving him a bottle of scotch after his first battle, which he had done so well. After .4875 had been captured, there was no Vikram Batra because we had lost him. So it hurts,” described Gneral Malik.

Captain Batra’s victory call sign, Yeh Dil Maange More (the heart desires more), is one of the iconic highlights of the brutal war, it still haunts General Malik. “I’ve still got that clip with me,” said General Malik. In the thick of all the mayhem of the battlefield, there was loneliness for the man in the middle.

“Those were tense moments and sometimes we didn’t sleep properly,” he said.

With his country’s honour and his own reputation on the line, the General turned to his foot soldier on the battlefront for motivation.

“In Kargil nobody ever told me this can’t be done, every soldier was full of high spirit,” he recalled. It was the spirit of the Indian soldier on the battlefield, which steeled the leadership. And therein a famous victory was forced.

Source: IBN

Congress MP denigrates success of Operation Vijay

THE APATHY and shamelessness of our politicians is yet again highlighted by the comments made by Rashid Alvi, a Congress member of Parliament. In an interview to correspondent of Headlines Today, he said “Kargil isn’t a thing to be celebrated. The war was fought within our territory. We didn’t even come to know when the Pakistani army crossed over and built bunkers inside our territory. It’s only the NDA, which may celebrate.”Union Coal Minister, Sri Prakash Jaiswal asked, “When is Vijay Divas celebrated?” to the same channel.

 

Later, live on the channel, he was remorseless even when accused; by father of Kargil martyr Vijayant Thapar, of politicising the war.

I must tell this fellow that Kargil was due to the failure of intelligence and other reasons. The enemy occupied the nation’s territory and it was imperative to dislodge the enemy. The battle, which was fought saw the supreme sacrifice made by our soldiers. Let us not politicise the war for personal gains. You must acknowledge the bravery, commitment and patriotism of the soldiers.

This so-called MP must understand that every day, there are so many patriots dying to save the nation. Let’s not use the soldier of this country as a punching bag. Every year, since Kargil at least 400 security personnel have died in action across India. We are fighting a war within the territory and on borders. Is their martyrdom less significant?

It might be for you, Rashid Alvi but not for majority of population in India. You cannot hurt the sentiments of a billion people. Please refrain from politicising the issue. Alvi, while putting a question to Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit, last year referred to Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (POK) as ”Azad Kashmir,” little knowing that India’s policy is to call it PoK. This is what he knows about India and her geography.
 
The MP’s like him are a danger for this nation.

It is a humble request to Alvi that he must render apoplogy to this nation and realise his mistake.

We need to learn to honour our brave soldiers.

Jai Hind

Let us not forget our brave martyrs

Last year on 23rd of March, we wrote about the death anniversary of our martyrs Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev. They lost their lives and made a valuable fraction of contribution towards the freedom we enjoy today.

Today is 23rd of March again and this post is a conscious reminder to our readers of this contribution and its importance.

Read the detailed post we did last time here.

Here is a poem dedicated to Shaheed Bhagat Singh, which I wrote:

Iss Daur ko Bhagat Singh ki talash hai
Bhagat Singh ki talash hai–

Talash hai ek aise shakhs ki
Jo hamein need se utha sake
Jo hamari aatma ko jhakjhor sake
Jo hamein Bharat ka matlab bata sake
Jo hamein Azaadi ke maayne sikha sake
Jo hamein swabhimaani bana sake

Muft mein mili thi Swatantrata
isiliye hamne uski ahmiyat ko bhula diya hai
Amar Krantikaariyon ko Lajjit kar diya hai
Unke khoon ko paani kar diya hai
Mar Gaya hai Jazba-Junoon watan ke liye kuch bhi kar jaane ka
Swaarth ke is jeevan mein apne ko bhi apmaanit kar diya hai

Kabhi gaur karna ki kahan jaaoge
Agar apne adhikaaron ke liye awaaz nahi uthaoge
Chahte ho ki desh ki soorat badle par khud uske liye kuch karna nahi chahoge
Kaun badlega halaat jab tum hi aage nahi aaoge

Yeh watan karaah raha hai
Tum to kuch karoge nahi isiliye
Cheekh Cheekh kar Bhagat Singh ko pukar raha hai
Kya uski yeh pukar koi sunega
Kya fir se woh gulaami ki bediyon mein jakda jaayega

Is Daur ko Bhagat Singh ki talash hai

Shaheed Bhagat Singh to ab na aayenge

Is Daur ko apne hi daur ke Bhagat Singh ki talash hai
Intezaar karo uske paida hone ka ya fir ban jaao tum ek aur Bhagat Singh
Nirnay Tumhara Hai, Waqt tumhara hai, Abhimaan Tumhara hai
Aakhir yeh Mulq Tumhara hai……

Jai Hind!

Inquilaab Zindabad!!

27th February: Death Anniversary of Chandrashekhar Azad

Indian Freedom Struggle during the year 1920-35 saw emergence of young revolutionaries. It was in thie period when “CHANDRASHEKHAR AZAD”, “BHAGAT SINGH”, “RAJGURU”, “SUKHDEV”, “RAMPRASAD BISMIL” “ASHFAQULLA KHAN”, etc arrived and created thunder in the British administration. This young brigade sacrificed their family, job, entertainment and all comforts at very tender age and plunged into the freedom movement. They were oozing with confidence and had just one motto: Freedom from British Rule. As the Rang De Basanti says “In this world there are 2 kind of people one who calmly goes towards death and anther who goes with lot of noise and irritation but these were stands in third category which Happily, Knowingly and wantedly going towards the mouth of Death.”

 

27th February is the death anniversary of Chandra Shekhar Azad. If you read the saga of self sacrifice and courage of Azad, you will remember the words of Thomas Jefferson- “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.” Azad joined the freedom struggle when Gandhiji launched Non Co-Operation Movement in 1920. But with the sudden withdrawal of movement in 1922 following Chauri-Chaura incident like thousands of his countrymen, Azad too was greatly disappointed. Azad switched over to armed revolution and formed ‘Hindustan Socialist Republican Association’ with other revolutionaries to spread the message of complete independence.

 

Chandrashekhar Azad was involved in Kakori Train Robbery (1926), the attempt to blow up the Viceroy’s train (1926), and the shooting of Saunders at Lahore (1928) to avenge the killing of Lala Lajpat Rai. Azad was a terror for the British police. He was on their hit list and the British police badly wanted to capture him dead or alive. For his part, Azad had also vowed that he would never be arrested by the British police and that he would die a free man. On this day, in the year 1931, Azad was betrayed by an informer and was besieged by the British police in Alfred Park, Allahabad. Azad fought valiantly till he had ammunition but later killed himself as he vowed to stay “Azad” throughout his life.

 

Chandrashekhar Azad is a legend and motivated many people to join the freedom struggle. Legends are fearless, selfless and passionate about the things they do and Azad certainly belongs to this category. Chandrashekhar Azad was the heart of all revolutionary leaders and his poetic composition, ‘Dushman ki goliyon ka hum samna karenge, Azad hee rahein hain, azad hee rahenge’ is still recited by Indian soldiers.

 

Whenever a religious belief is criticised, its adherents say they’re victims of ‘prejudice’

The right to criticise religion is being slowly doused in acid. Across the world, the small, incremental gains made by secularism – giving us the space to doubt and question and make up our own minds – are being beaten back by belligerent demands that we “respect” religion. A historic marker has just been passed, showing how far we have been shoved. The UN rapporteur who is supposed to be the global guardian of free speech has had his job rewritten – to put him on the side of the religious censors.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights stated 60 years ago that “a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief is the highest aspiration of the common people”. It was a Magna Carta for mankind – and loathed by every human rights abuser on earth. Today, the Chinese dictatorship calls it “Western”, Robert Mugabe calls it “colonialist”, and Dick Cheney calls it “outdated”. The countries of the world have chronically failed to meet it – but the document has been held up by the United Nations as the ultimate standard against which to check ourselves. Until now.

Starting in 1999, a coalition of Islamist tyrants, led by Saudi Arabia, demanded the rules be rewritten. The demand for everyone to be able to think and speak freely failed to “respect” the “unique sensitivities” of the religious, they decided – so they issued an alternative Islamic Declaration of Human Rights. It insisted that you can only speak within “the limits set by the shariah [law]. It is not permitted to spread falsehood or disseminate that which involves encouraging abomination or forsaking the Islamic community”.

In other words, you can say anything you like, as long as it precisely what the reactionary mullahs tell you to say. The declaration makes it clear there is no equality for women, gays, non-Muslims, or apostates. It has been backed by the Vatican and a bevy of Christian fundamentalists.

Incredibly, they are succeeding. The UN’s Rapporteur on Human Rights has always been tasked with exposing and shaming those who prevent free speech – including the religious. But the Pakistani delegate recently demanded that his job description be changed so he can seek out and condemn “abuses of free expression” including “defamation of religions and prophets”. The council agreed – so the job has been turned on its head. Instead of condemning the people who wanted to murder Salman Rushdie, they will be condemning Salman Rushdie himself.

Anything which can be deemed “religious” is no longer allowed to be a subject of discussion at the UN – and almost everything is deemed religious. Roy Brown of the International Humanist and Ethical Union has tried to raise topics like the stoning of women accused of adultery or child marriage. The Egyptian delegate stood up to announce discussion of shariah “will not happen” and “Islam will not be crucified in this council” – and Brown was ordered to be silent. Of course, the first victims of locking down free speech about Islam with the imprimatur of the UN are ordinary Muslims.

Here is a random smattering of events that have taken place in the past week in countries that demanded this change. In Nigeria, divorced women are routinely thrown out of their homes and left destitute, unable to see their children, so a large group of them wanted to stage a protest – but the Shariah police declared it was “un-Islamic” and the marchers would be beaten and whipped. In Saudi Arabia, the country’s most senior government-approved cleric said it was perfectly acceptable for old men to marry 10-year-old girls, and those who disagree should be silenced. In Egypt, a 27-year-old Muslim blogger Abdel Rahman was seized, jailed and tortured for arguing for a reformed Islam that does not enforce shariah.

To the people who demand respect for Muslim culture, I ask: which Muslim culture? Those women’s, those children’s, this blogger’s – or their oppressors’?

As the secular campaigner Austin Darcy puts it: “The ultimate aim of this effort is not to protect the feelings of Muslims, but to protect illiberal Islamic states from charges of human rights abuse, and to silence the voices of internal dissidents calling for more secular government and freedom.”

Those of us who passionately support the UN should be the most outraged by this.

Underpinning these “reforms” is a notion seeping even into democratic societies – that atheism and doubt are akin to racism. Today, whenever a religious belief is criticised, its adherents immediately claim they are the victims of “prejudice” – and their outrage is increasingly being backed by laws.

All people deserve respect, but not all ideas do. I don’t respect the idea that a man was born of a virgin, walked on water and rose from the dead. I don’t respect the idea that we should follow a “Prophet” who at the age of 53 had sex with a nine-year old girl, and ordered the murder of whole villages of Jews because they wouldn’t follow him.

I don’t respect the idea that the West Bank was handed to Jews by God and the Palestinians should be bombed or bullied into surrendering it. I don’t respect the idea that we may have lived before as goats, and could live again as woodlice. This is not because of “prejudice” or “ignorance”, but because there is no evidence for these claims. They belong to the childhood of our species, and will in time look as preposterous as believing in Zeus or Thor or Baal.

When you demand “respect”, you are demanding we lie to you. I have too much real respect for you as a human being to engage in that charade.

But why are religious sensitivities so much more likely to provoke demands for censorship than, say, political sensitivities? The answer lies in the nature of faith. If my views are challenged I can, in the end, check them against reality. If you deregulate markets, will they collapse? If you increase carbon dioxide emissions, does the climate become destabilised? If my views are wrong, I can correct them; if they are right, I am soothed.

But when the religious are challenged, there is no evidence for them to consult. By definition, if you have faith, you are choosing to believe in the absence of evidence. Nobody has “faith” that fire hurts, or Australia exists; they know it, based on proof. But it is psychologically painful to be confronted with the fact that your core beliefs are based on thin air, or on the empty shells of revelation or contorted parodies of reason. It’s easier to demand the source of the pesky doubt be silenced.

But a free society cannot be structured to soothe the hardcore faithful. It is based on a deal. You have an absolute right to voice your beliefs – but the price is that I too have a right to respond as I wish. Neither of us can set aside the rules and demand to be protected from offence.

Yet this idea – at the heart of the Universal Declaration – is being lost. To the right, it thwacks into apologists for religious censorship; to the left, it dissolves in multiculturalism. The hijacking of the UN Special Rapporteur by religious fanatics should jolt us into rescuing the simple, battered idea disintegrating in the middle: the equal, indivisible human right to speak freely.

Source: Johann Hari, Common Dreams

Nathuram Godse: A Fanatic or a Nationalist?

Today is January 30. It was on this day in the year 1948 that Mahatma Gandhi was killed by Nathuram Godse at 5:17pm when Gandhiji was leaving for evening prayers. To commemorate the death of ‘Father of Nation,’ this day is observed as martyr’s day to remember all the martyrs who died during the freedom struggle and after the independence. A two-minute silence in memory of the martyrs is observed throughout the country at 11am.

For the last few days I was just reading few things on Nathuram Godse. I wanted to know what he thought of Gandhi as a person and what motivated him to kill such a great person?

Gandhiji played a pivotal role in the freedom struggle but his methods and few decisions have been criticised umpteen times. The greatness of his personality lies in the fact that even after 62 years of the independence we can openly criticize him, like him or dislike him. I am not an ardent follower of Gandhiji but respect him for motivating the people of India to join the freedom struggle. If someone will ask me to choose between Netaji and Gandhi, I will choose Netaji.

I read few accounts of Nathuram Godse during his trial and tried to read into his mind. Today, when country is facing troubles from other side of the border, it becomes more fascinating to analyse whether Godse was a Hindu fanatic or out and out nationalist? I am quoting few excerpts (source rediff) from his long statement read out by Godse himself, on November 8, 1948. during his trial. This is what he said:

“The background to the event of 30th January, 1948, was exclusively political. The fact that Gandhiji used to recite during prayers verses from the Gita, the Quran and the Bible never provoked any ill-will in me towards him. In this vast area live people of various faiths and I hold that these creeds should have full and equal freedom for following their beliefs.

“In my writings and speeches I have always advocated that religious and communal considerations should be entirely eschewed in public affairs of the country… I have throughout stood for a secular State with joint electorates.

“I am prepared to concede that Gandhiji did undergo sufferings for the sake of the nation… I shall bow in respect to the service done by Gandhiji to the country and to Gandhiji himself for the said service, and before I fired the shots I actually wished him and bowed to him in reverence

“Since the year 1920, after the demise of Lokmanya Tilak, Gandhiji’s influence in the Congress became supreme. His activities for public awakening were phenomenal… and were reinforced by the slogans of truth and non-violence. To imagine that the bulk of mankind is or can ever become capable of scrupulous adherence to these lofty principles in its normal life… is a mere dream. It was the heroic fight put up by Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj that first checked and eventually destroyed Muslim tyranny in India. It was absolutely correct tactic for Shivaji to kill Afzal Khan as the latter would otherwise have surely killed him. In condemning Shivaji, Rana Pratap and Guru Gobind as misguided patriots, Gandhiji has merely exposed his self-conceit.

“During more than thirty years of the undisputed leadership of the Mahatma there were more desecration of temples, more forcible and fraudulent conversions, more outrages on women and finally the loss of one third of the country.

“Gandhiji was, paradoxically, a violent pacifist… He had often acted contrary to his professed principles and if it was for appeasing the Muslim, he hardly had any scruple in doing so. By the Act of 1919 separate electorates were enlarged and communal representation was continued not only in the legislative and local bodies but extended even within the Cabinet… Government patronage to Muslims in the name of Minority protection penetrated throughout the body politic of the Indian State and the Mahatma’s slogans were no match against this wholesale corruption of the Muslim mind. The position began to deteriorate and by 1926 it became patent to all that Government had won all along the line but Gandhiji… went on conceding one undemocratic demand after another to the Muslim League in the vain hope of enlisting its support in the national struggle.

“The communal principle became deeply embedded in the Reforms of 1935. Mr Jinnah took the fullest advantage of every situation. During the war, 1939-44, Mr Jinnah… promised to support the war as soon as the Muslims’ rights were conceded; in April 1940, within six months of the War, Mr Jinnah came out with the demand for Pakistan on the basis of the two-nation theory.

“The ’Quit India’ campaign of 1942 had completely failed. Britishers had triumphed and the Congress policy can be quite correctly described as ’Peace at any price’… The Congress compromised with the British who placed it in office and in return the Congress surrendered to the violence of Jinnah, carved out a third of India to him an explicitly racial and theological State, and destroyed two million human beings in the process.

“Gandhiji is being referred to as the Father of the Nation — an epithet of high reverence. But if so, he has failed in his paternal duty… Had Gandhiji really maintained his opposition to the creation of Pakistan, the Muslim League could have had no strength to claim it and the Britishers also could not have created it in spite of all their utmost efforts… The reason was… the people of this country were… vehement in their opposition to Pakistan. But Gandhiji played false with the people. He has proved to be the Father of Pakistan.

“…after handing over crores of Hindus to… Pakistan, Gandhiji and his followers have been advising them not to leave Pakistan but continue to stay on. Everyday that dawned brought forth news about thousands of Hindus being massacred… Gandhiji did not even by a single word protest and censure the Pakistani Government…

“About Kashmir, Gandhiji again and again declared that Sheikh Abdullah should be entrusted the charge of the state and that the Maharaja of Kashmir should retire to Benares for no particular reason than that the Muslims formed the bulk of the Kashmiri population. This stands out in contrast with his attitude on Hyderabad where although the bulk of the population is Hindu, Gandhiji never called upon the Nizam to retire to Mecca.

“About this very time he resorted to his fast unto death. Every condition given by him for giving up that fast is in favour of Muslims and against the Hindus. One of the seven conditions was to the effect that all the mosques in Delhi, which were occupied by the refugees, should be vacated… and be made over to the Muslims. Gandhiji got this condition accepted by the Government… Those were the days of bitter or extreme cold and on the day Gandhiji broke his fast, it was also raining.

“Families after families of refugees who had come to Delhi for shelter were driven out and while doing so no provision was made for their shelter and stay.

“The decision to withhold the payment of Rs 55 crores to Pakistan was taken by our government which claims to be the people’s government. But this decision of the people’s Government was reversed to suit the tune of Gandhiji’s fast.

“All his fasts were to coerce Hindus.

“Honourable Pandit Nehruji has himself taken a leading part in the acquiescing to the establishment of Pakistan, a theocratic State. But he should have realised that it will never bring prosperity to the Indian Union with a State founded on fantastically blind religious faith and basis.”

The three judge bench, which was hearing his speech, was silent after Godse finished reading. Justice Khosla, one of the three judges hearing the appeal, wrote after his retirement: “There was a deep silence when he ceased speaking. Many women were in tears and men coughing and searching for their handkerchiefs… I have no doubt that had the audience of the day been constituted into a jury and entrusted with the task of deciding Godse’s appeal, they would have brought in a verdict of ’not guilty’ by an overwhelming majority.” (source: rediff)

Now it is upto you to decide, whether Godse was really “guilty or fanatic or nationalist”?

What would have been the situation if there had been no partition is diffult to say. But, one thing is very true that partition has caused many wounds to India in last 62 years. Be it illegal invasion of J&K, or wars in 1965, 1971 then Kargil and now terrorism. Pakistan has become a thorn in flesh for India.

The motive of the partition was to give space to two communities, Hindus and Muslims. But looking after the history of 62 years, I feel that India fares much better than Pakistan or Bangladesh. Pakistan is a failed democracy and is on the path of becoming a terror state. Bangladesh is not doing well either. India is leading the way but is facing great troubles from both these countries.

I also feel that till date the policy of appeasement of minority of Congress is not done away with. But in this process of appeasement and vote bank politics, the divide between Hindus and Muslims is widening with each day. The extremist elements in both the communities are adding fuel to the fire.

The politics of India needs an overhaul. It is mandatory for more and more youth to enter politics and be part of the decision making body because this generation feels and thinks more about the country than about any ideology or community.