Let’s move towards peace!!

The 15th Anniversary of Babri Masjid demolition was observed on December 6th. Whenever this date approaches there is a countrywide alert and vigils to avoid any communal tension.

Babri MasjidThere are processions led by Hindus and Muslims throughout. Muslims mark it as “Black Day” while Hindu extremists mark it as “Victory Day”. There are speeches and both the sides put their demands forward. This year it was also not much different. There was some tension in New Delhi. One group demanded that temple should be built at the disputed site while the Council of Indian Muslims (CIM) in UK on Friday asked the Indian government to hand over Babri mosque site to Muslims and allow them to rebuild the mosque there. Both Houses of the Parliament were adjourned on 6th as Left and other MPs staged noisy protests seeking punishment to those who razed the Babri mosque on this day 15 years ago.
On 16 December 1992, Liberahan Commission was set up by the Government of India to probe the circumstances that lead to the demolition of the Babri Masjid. It has been longest running commission in India’s history with several extensions granted by various governments. There is no estimate of when the report will be given by this Commission. The case is going on and on, and only one witness has been presented in the court and that too 3 days before. The Archaeology Society of India conducted a study and an excavation to ascertain the type of structure that was beneath the rubble. The summary of the ASI report indicated definite proof of a Hindu temple under the mosque but that too was rejected as Muslim’s attacked the report, claiming that it pandered to certain interests and made no remarks on evidence in support of Muslims such as bones unearthed with tool markings on them.

In an interview Zafayab Gilani of Babri Masjid Action Committee has said “Muslims will not accept a temple at the place where Babri Masjid once stood and they will never hand over the land to any one”.

The demolition of Mosque has repercussions all over the country with communal riots and bombing of few major Indian Cities. Till date there is no solution visible of this situation. The case is still in the court but the progress that has been made is very little. The emotions run very high in both the communities over this issue and it often spills on the street. Many argue that the solution to this problem should be given by the court. Whatever solution we propose to find, it has to be a win-win solution for both the parties, and not a win-lose situation. Moreover, it should be win-win not only for the two parties (the Hindu extremists and the Muslim extremists), but also for a large number of peace-loving, liberal Indians who are unbiased to any party (irrespective of their own religious affiliations), and wish to resolve this issue without compromising on the secular and democratic values. But is there any such solution?

The Judiciary i feel, is not likely to find a win-win solution for both parties. Courts (if they remain unbiased) would continue to postpone taking any final decision, or (if they get politically influenced) would end up taking an unwise decision, which might upset one of the parties. I strongly condemn the act which took place 15 years ago and would want that justice should prevail by punishing those who instigated the mob “that day”. One should understand the ground reality as of now and not run by emotions and passions. There is already a temple existing at the disputed site and if the mosque is build there it will mean that a temple has to be demolish. The demolishment of one structure almost broke the fine thread of secularism and trust between two communities. Imagine a situation if another such demolishment takes place!!! The building of a new mosque on a nearby plot along with the Ram Mandir is something that few Muslims would not give a second thought and in present scenario building of mosque at the disputed site will ignite the communal tension again. Any solution to this problem will not guarantee the end of communalism and religious extremism.

The only possibility is that both the communities should amicably reach a solution. I feel that Muslims should give up their claim on the disputed land and it can be a first step towards abating the tension that has crept in these so many years. This will set an example as well for lifelong to the world (A similar stand was also taken by the few of liberals in Faizabad). Though same can be said about Hindus too but i don’t think that is a possibility now considering a temple is already there at the site. All this is, of course, too much of wishful thinking. This proposal may look too naive and fragile in front of the hooligans who want their house of worship at any cost. We need more feedback, dialogue and active participation in this process from everyone. But before this few things should be sorted out and then only this alternative can work.

  • A permanent status quo on all historical buildings. No one should claim for any other temple/mosque to built in place of existing one. Anyone who does so should be punished.
  • A complete ban on all organizations, institutions and individuals involved in any kind of communal extremism, hate campaign, excessive nationalism, religious bigotry, or international terrorism, whichever religion, caste or region they belong to.
  • Punish all who were involved in demolition of the mosque, riots that followed.

This is only my view and i know the all will not agree with me and there might be many fallacies in this attempt as well.
The educated and liberal class of India has assumed that this it is too complicated and messy an affair to get into, and have simply allowed the religious fanatics to exploit it their way – and far too long. But let me tell you that Mandir-Masjid issue is not the gravest problem in India – Indian people have much more serious issues of livelihood to deal with but it is certainly a big roadblock to peace and we should try to eliminate this issue from political circle at the earliest.

This is Human Behaviour. Isn’t It? A story of Gujarat riot victim

“The Gujarat riots was a reaction to the Godhra train burning (As it has been told by officials) . An entire coach was burnt down by a mob of local in which 58 people were killed. The victims included 25 women, 14 children that were returning from Ayodhya. Mob rioted after this incident. Gujarat administration completely failed to control the riots effectively in time. More than 700 people were killed in this and the following riots (only official figure).” an official’s quote.

a riot sceneIndia could not free itself of curse of communalism even more than sixty years after independence. If anything it has been getting worse year after year. There has been not a single year in post-independence period, which has been free of communal violence though number of incidents may vary.
I need not to tell what happened in Gujarat in the year 2002. The country was horrified by the gruesome tragedy, but there was no immediate sense then that the incident at Godhra was to become one of the most corrosive ruptures in our nation’s recent history. The incident clearly shows that how a human becomes animal. “I can still hear their screams. I saw my mother-in-law being stabbed; I saw them rape my daughter and then cut off her breasts before setting fire to her,” (Hindustan Times dated 02/11/07) says Madina Bi who witnessed deaths of 7 members of her family . The complete story was published in Hindustan Times.

Now this is something which makes me think are the human the most cultured and emotional species on this Earth? If that is so then how a human becomes a demon and doesn’t think twice before he commits such a heinous crime. It is further shocking that the administrators are also involved in all this be it cops, ministers, judiciary etc. The man in quest of power can be so brutal. The truth that the bloody conquest of Gujarat is actually the conquest of us all: of our minds, our humanity and our self-respect at the very least. If we remain silent, victory over secularism is assured. We need to be more conscious so that evil doesn’t takes over our conscience.

Even today no effort is being made to pacify the wounds of the victims of this carnage. Gujarat witnessed a genocide that led to the deaths of more than 3000 people. As many as 150,000 people were driven away from their homes, many of whom now live in refugee camps. The delicate social fabric has been torn apart; time has not yet healed the wounds of those brutalized, particularly the women and children. Today, most of the victim survivors live without the most basic civic amenities like potable water, sanitation, access to schools, primary health centres and approach roads. The second most disturbing general observation is that while on one hand it is the innocents who are killed in the communal violence, the perpetrators and planners of the riots generally go unpunished, many a times their social and political prestige also goes up.
This is how the political games is played in India, a secular state or pseudo secular state??? You need to give the answer of this. Sometimes religion takes over everything and the wounds are left for ever on humanity. This Human behaviour is indeed very shocking and its shameful. On one hand we hope to make India of our dreams and on other hand our history is full of communal tensions and alienation of a community from the others. Will we be able to fulfill our dream this way? Unless the political establishments in India are seen as even handed in treating various communities, unless the justice system in India is seen as doing its job these incidents will continue for ever and ever.

Don’t remind the Muslims that they are Muslims and Hindus that they are Hindus. We are just Indians. Let us fight as two brothers, if we must, without vitiating the atmosphere. Let the unfortunate incident die down and those found guilty be punished.

I will end this with a poem which i found on

i came alive
from the burning flames
while she stood there
succumbing to the political games

they slit open her womb
and flung the foetus in the pyre
who would say they are humans?
they were beasts
in human’s attire

‘in the name of god we do this’
they killed mercilessly and said
one ghastly act provoked another
and soon the untamed fire spread

six years have passed
but those screams still haunt me
the bloodbath, the horrifying sights
flash across unexpectedly and jolt me

‘you were lucky to have escaped the genocide’,
they thank the lord and say
somebody go tell them
i was saved once
but i die every single day

” An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind”

-MK Gandhi

The Kashmir Conundrum

Kashmir – An area of conflict in South Asia that hasn’t seen peace, freedom and security for a very long while. After several hundred years of imperial rule, part of Kashmir became a part of the Secular, Democratic, Republic of India while the other part became a part of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. A minute section of Kashmir is also occupied by China.

The History of the state is the key to understanding the basis of the Indo-Pak conflict and also offers the means for a peaceful resolution of the issue. The last ruler of Kashmir was Maharaja Hari Singh, a man who was despised predominantly by the Muslim population of Kashmir for his autocratic and anti-Islamic regime. It is Hari Singh who handed Kashmir over to the Government of India through a document of Accession which many claim he had no right to write in the first place by virtue of his lack of control over the Islamic rebel groups in his own kingdom.

This is where the feud between India and Pakistan began; over who had a claim over the territory of Kashmir. Pakistan chose to separate itself from India as a nation built for the Muslims because they felt marginalized in India. They claim Kashmir due to its Muslim majorities and India claimed Kashmir by virtue of the accession document signed by the Maharaja.

The real reasons are the strategic importance of the region in terms of Defense and Trade along with its abundant natural resources like water supply and the potential for agriculture. These reasons, along with a strong tendency towards power-play, are apparently sufficient for both countries to wage large scale conventional wars (1947, 1965 and 1971).

There are blatant human rights violations in the area coupled with a severe lack of development and employment opportunities that lead inevitably to large sections of the Kashmiri population living in conditions of fear, anger and squalor. They have not yet been given the right to exercise their will in this matter. This has led to the growth of various militant organizations in the region that oppose the oppression of the Indian Government. These “freedom fighters” are labeled terrorists by the Indian government justifying their military pressure over the entire civilian population in the area.

In 1947, when the Kashmir issue was first referred to the United Nations, India did not want to be at an equal footing with Pakistan while Pakistan was openly hostile towards the Indian Government. On 31st December 1947, Nehru wrote to the UN Secretary-General:

“To remove the misconception that the Indian Government is using the prevailing situation in Jammu and Kashmir to reap political profits, the Government of Indian wants to make it very clear that as soon as the raiders are driven out and normalcy is restored, the people of the state will freely decide their fate and that decision will be taken according to the universally accepted democratic means of Plebiscite or Referendum.”[1]

More than 50 years have gone by and the Kashmiris are still not acquainted with “normalcy”. They still have not had the (long overdue) plebiscite.

India’s stand was that, Kashmir was formally a part of India according to a legal agreement with the Maharaja to this effect and that any claim to any part of Kashmir by Pakistan is illegitimate.

Pakistan was of the opposite view where it felt that the Maharaja was driven out of his country by the people of Kashmir and that he had no authority to hand over the state which wasn’t under his control anyway. This nullifies any agreement made between the Government of India and the Maharaja.

The road ahead

The most pragmatic solution to this dispute comes from an unlikely source… Pakistan’s Military Dictator, General Pervez Musharraf. He proposed a four-point formula that addresses the key problems to this feud:

1. Demilitarization of the disputed area.

This would be done by both sides; India and Pakistan in tandem with a UN sponsored cease fire leaving room for organizing a plebiscite in the area.

2. Self Government.

Self-Government by the Kashmiris implies that both India and Pakistan will need to bring the Kashmiri interests to the table and add them to what has become a bilateral argument involving only Indian and Pakistani interests. Let the Kashmiris decide what they want.

3. Softening of existing borders.

The primary reason for the existence of hostilities amongst India and Pakistan is Kashmir. Once the region is divided according to the plebiscite, there will be no reason to have gargantuan armed forces regiments posted in the area leaving room for more productive interactions like trade and development. This can be achieved through creating, in phases, a permeable border amongst India and Pakistan.

4. International supervision and guarantee from the UN and major regional powers.

International supervision is necessary to ensure that both sides are operating in the interests of the people caught in the crossfire. The border drawn after the plebiscite and division of Kashmir will need to be recognized by the international community.

The plan is quite straight forward. However, implementing this plan is another challenge altogether with the primary obstacle being India’s unwillingness to give up territory. The Government of India will have to be convinced about its priorities. Territory comes after people. The people of Kashmir are suffering and are being driven into desperation. This could pose a serious law and order situation in India through the coming years with an increase in the already high levels of “terrorist” infiltrations across the country. The Indian public also needs to be made aware of the situation that prevails in Kashmir today. The Government has skillfully kept this away from them through manipulation of the mainstream media. Demanding accountability and productive action from the Government of India should be the first step preceding international pressure through sanctions and power play.

This is an urgent situation that requires immediate remedial action before it exacerbates into uncontrollable dimensions.

[1] Jawaharlal Nehru, as quoted in Korbel, Danger in Kashmir, p. 98.

Remembering Bhagat Singh

The Legendary Martyr of India - Bhagat Singh2007 is the birth centenary of the legendary Bhagat Singh. He is the symbol of heroism for the lively youth of India. Despite Bhagat Singh being in the hearts of the people, we do not have a proper memorial for the great martyr.

BHAGAT SINGH was one of the most prominent heroes of the Indian freedom struggle and was a revolutionary ahead of his times. Bhagat Singh was born in the village Banga in Layalpur district of Punjab (now in Pakistan) in a Sikh family on 27 September 1907 & was the third son of Sardar Kishan Singh and Vidyavati. Bhagat Singh’s family was actively involved in the freedom struggle. His uncle Ajit Singh and father Kishan Singh were members of the Ghadar Party founded in the US to oust British rule from India.

In 1916, the young Bhagat Singh came into contact with well known political leaders like Lala Lajpat Rai and Rash Bihari Bose. At that time, he used to study at the local DAV School, in Lahore. Those days, Punjab was very charged politically. When the Jaliawalan Bagh massacre took place in 1919, Bhagat Singh was only 12 years old and was deeply disturbed by it. The day after the massacre, Bhagat Singh went to Jaliawalan Bagh and collected the soil from the spot and kept it as a memento for the rest of his life. The cruel killings strengthened his resolve to drive out the British from India.

From 1923, to the time of his execution, in 1931, he devoted himself completely to the liberation of the motherland. He gave a new direction to revolutionary movement in India and formed the “Naujavan Bharat Sabha” to spread the message of revolution in Punjab. He formed the “Hindustan Samajwadi Prajatantra Sangha” along with the great Chandrasekhar Azad to establish a republic in India. Bhagat Singh killed police officer Saunders to avenge the death of Lala Lajpat Rai. He dropped two bombs in Central Legislative Assembly along with Batukeshwar Dutt. The bombs were thrown in such a way that they did not hurt anyone. After that, Bhagat Singh and Batukeshwar Dutt, deliberately courted arrest by refusing to run away from the scene.

Bhagat Singh when he was in jailMeanwhile, friends of Bhagat Singh who turned ‘approvers’ identified the killers of Saunders. During his trial, Bhagat Singh refused to employ any defence counsel. In jail, he went on hunger strike to protest the inhuman treatment of fellow political prisoners by jail authorities. On 7 October 1930, Bhagat Singh, Sukh Dev and Raj Guru were awarded death sentence by a special tribunal. Despite great popular pressure and numerous appeals by political leaders of India, Bhagat Singh and his associates were hanged on March 23 1931.

Bhagat Singh and his compatriots shook the British Empire and their views infused an aggressive spirit in the struggle for independence. The fear of Bhagat Singh among the British was such, that even after executing him along with Sukhdev and Rajguru, the jail authorities cut their bodies into pieces and stuffed them in jute bags. The bags were burnt on the banks of River Sutlej quietly to prevent outrage against the British government on seeing the bodies of martyrs.

Besides being a nationalist to his core, Bhagat Singh was a socialist and a republican. “Labour is the real sustainer of society. The sovereignty of the people is the ultimate destiny of workers. For these ideals and for this faith we shall welcome any suffering to which we may be condemned”. This brings out Bhagat Singh not as a terrorist, which his prosecutors laboured to prove him unsuccessfully. He was a socialist, and a democrat – all in one.

Bhagat Singh is dead; yet he lives on. He is idolised by youngsters who want to bring about change in society. Bhagat Singh still lives on in our hearts, thanks to films like ‘The Legend of Bhagat Singh’ and ‘Rang De Basanti’. The latter revived the spirit of Bhagat Singh. Generation X awoke from its slumber and came together to demand justice for Priyadarshini Mattoo, Jessica Lal and against reservations. They learnt speaking for themselves. They also fought against unfavourable amendments in the Right to Information Act. It seems this generation has now awakened and it’s the beginning of a new era where the youth is breathing rebellion. I would like to conclude with a quote from Bhagat Singh’s jail notebook:

I also wish my friends to speak little or not at all about me, because idols are created when men are praised, and this is very bad for the future of the human race. Acts alone, no matter by whom committed, ought to be studied, praised or blamed. Let them be praised in order that they may be imitated when they seem to contribute to the common wealth. Let them be censured when they are regarded as injurious to the general well being, so that they may not be repeated.

I desire that on no occasion whether near or remote, nor for any reason whatsoever, shall demonstration of a political or religious character be made before my remains, as I consider the time devoted to the dead would be better employed in improving the conditions of the living most of whom stands in great need of this.

Let us pay our rich tributes to the martyrs and learn and follow the path of these great souls.

POWs: Let’s bring our heroes back

A File Picture of Indian POWsDID YOU KNOW that there are still 54 Indian soldiers incarcerated in Pakistani prisons post the Indo-Pak war of 1971? It is an irony that even after the comprehensive victory, India could not negotiate freedom for her soldiers who were trapped by the enemy in the heat of war.

These prisoners are no ordinary mortals. They fought for the honour and glory of the country and have to be treated as such. They do not deserve to remain in the dark and dingy cells of an enemy nation. They are our heroes. Their tale should have formed part of India’s martial folklore and their names taken with respect and pride. Today they remain forgotten, mere names in the files lost in the labyrinth of the South Block. It is a collective failure of the entire nation. Not one government since 1971 has made a sincere attempt to get them released. Not one politician chose to take up their cause. As a nation, we have displayed only callous indifference towards these soldiers who fought to preserve the country’s freedom and in the process, lost their own.

Government of India should make it a point to place the release of the Indian soldiers high on the agenda of talks with President Musharraf. If pressed hard enough, Pakistan will have to accept India’s request. What is required is a display of serious resolve by Indian negotiators. As citizens of India it is our responsibility to impress upon the government to deal with this case very seriously. The release of our soldiers can very well mark a small but significant turning point in the long road to peace.

A collective effort can surely help secure freedom for our heroes. It’s time we fight for those who fought for us. If we fail to raise our voice now it will be too late and will be a blot on the entire nation.

The families of the POWs are fighting a lonely battle for the last 36 years. There are few others who have done their bit to bring this issue forward. YFE (Youth For Equality) has also started an awareness campaign through a play in Mumbai on this issue. But what is required is a collective effort of all concerned citizens.