Saturday, November 29, 2014

My Nagaland, My Modi : Interesting, very interesting similarities!!

I have a significant statement to make. If my father had his reasons to declare that I think like a Naga, it’s my audacity to suggest that Narendra Modi often conducts himself as a Naga...I have my arguments....

Now how does a Naga think....actually he does not think least so feels my father and that probably prompted him to give me such a description.
Now how does a Naga conduct...and that I find it similar to the manner Narendra Modi conducts!

More often Nagas “feel” and then act and thus my risk-taking statement is here to draw a parallelism between Naga way conducting and Modi’s.

It’s altogether a different chapter and perhaps also ironical that a headhunting community is “so emotional” that they base most of their actions to emotion called FEELING. 
So does Modi; at least some actions of his past as well as present suggest !!
YES YOU HAVE GUESSED IT THERE IS THAT ‘DABANG’ WAY OF CONDUCTING THAT HAS A COMMON FEATURE TO NAGAS AND NARENDRA MODI. Look at the manner he inducted Suresh Prabhu into BJP first and then into his cabinet.
In short, as my good friend Arun Kumar Shah suggests,  Nagas are the most humble and most furious at the same time depending on the situation. Many people say almost similar thing about Narendra Modi.

Interesting?? Or a boring argument?? The choice is yours.
Mind you when I am trying to draw such a comparison, I am not bordering my thought process – on the question of right or wrong.
So coming to the basics --- yes, Nagas too have been ‘wrong’ at times and committed mistakes and so did Narendra Damodardas Modi.
But they have been ‘right’ also and have played their cards well. In retrospect, rest all is history.
A quick check list at similarities and dissimilarities:
- The history of Nagas actually represents the larger history of insurgency in northeast ## The history of Narendra Modi represents the history of Gujarat from 2002 and gradually turning out to be the future-history of BJP especially since 2013.
-  Notwithstanding tough situations they have crossed, the Nagas also have a tendency to believe that they are destined to ‘succeed’. Here too a similar situation can be suggested about Modi who despite 2002 and international press hounding stuck to his guns and has today changed the game in his favour. 
Losing is one way of learning how to win, and who can tell us better on this other than Narendra Modi….so would be the story of Nagas.

I am not saying ‘Naga-succeeds’ phrase would apply to Naga independence alone. It’s on development too. Individual Nagas have achieved so much since independence that senior political leaders believe that the kind of development Nagaland has seen, the feats achieved by many Nagas could not be imagined by their forefathers.
In terms of ‘Dabang’ style of functioning, Modi has given a glimpse of his state of mind when recently he allowed freehand to NSA Ajit Doval and his chosen IPS friend, R N Ravi to go ahead with Naga peace talks. The NSCN (IM) leadership had reservation about Ravi for the latter’s controversial articles against NSCN (IM) in the past. But once the message has been passed that Prime Minister has made up his mind to retain the negotiator R N Ravi, the tough diplomatic mantle in Thuingaleng Muivah also saw reason and has agreed to go along with the talks.
"U always think like a Naga": My dad and my daughter

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Black Money: Modi Govt. Gives "weakness in Law" Twist

The Narendra Modi government, which came under tremendous attack from opposition parties on black money issue in Parliament and outside, sought to give a new twist to the raging debate and said there was "a weakness in law" to bring the money stashed overseas.
"I admit that there is a weakness in law. If the black money stashed abroad has to come, how will it come? Even the SIT is worried about this," the Finance Minister Mr Arun Jaitley said in his reply to the marathon two-day debate on the politically sensitive issue in Lok Sabha.

In the debate marked by allegations and counter allegations and wherein BJP members linked black money to the hyped Saradha chit fund scam in West Bengal, the Finance Minister, however, explained this does not mean information will never come out.  "..... but how it will come out, we will file cases and in a court, information can become public. If we make it public before that, it is violation of that treaty".
Mr Jaitley was responding to repeated but pointed questions as to how soon the black money could be brought back. The opposition members like M. Kharge (Congress) and Sudip Bandyopadhyay (TMC) more than once asked FM to reply as to how could the money be brought back.

They alleged that the BJP-led dispensation has failed to keep the electoral promise that within 100 days of its coming to power the black money would be brought back. The Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu strongly contended that the BJP never made such promise and quoted BJP-Election Manifesto to strengthen his argument that the saffron party's only pledge was to "initiate concrete steps" in getting the money from abroad and book the culprits.

Bosom Friends or Tactical Strategists

Endorsing him, during the reply and intervening in between the debate, the FM Jaitley said in its first cabinet meeting on May 29, 2014 the Modi government approved the setting up of SIT and the same probe panel was functioning since June 2014.
Members of Congress and Trinamul Congress staged a walkout saying they were not satisfied with the FM's reply. Similar walkout was marked earlier during Rajya Sabha debate on previous day too.
Before walking out of Lok Sabha, Leader of Congress in the House Malllikarjun Kharge said he was "dissatisfied"  as the Finance Minister was only talking about procedural matters which he had already stated and which even the UPA regime used to point out. 
Prior to that FM told Kharge, "The same court instruction applied to the UPA regime, for 3 years you did not act on a court order of 2011 till May 2014. never wanted to make a SIT". 
 Mr Kharge had said the government must tender an apology for making false promise of bringing back the money in 100 days. "You knew the money cannot come still you misled the country," Kharge said attributing to PM Narendra Modi's pre-election speeches across the country.
The FM said the government is moving in the right direction and no stone will be left unturned to bring back the black money.
"We will make all efforts... whatever time is required and till we get onto the last account holder.....I am confident we will bring back the black money," Jaitley said.   
He said with an aim of improving the environment for investments, the government is taking steps to ensure a "tax friendly regime" to correct the country's image which had become "bad" over the years. "Our tax system has to be friendly with tax payers and that is what we are trying to do step by step," he said.

Referring to the issue of confidentiality of information in the treaties signed with various countries, he said Indian laws should be in harmony with international jurisprudence. The Minister said if India does not sign the proposed Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) of the US, then remittances would be subject to 30 per cent withholding tax and India will not get information from the US or other countries signing the agreement.

Tail Piece: Black Money = Black Umbrellas= Black shawls

The BJP and Trinamul Congress members debated over Saradha chit fund scam raucously in the lower House of Parliament with the saffron party MP, Mr Anurag Thakur alleging that those who “earned black money” come to Parliament with “black umbrellas only to mislead people”.
Participating in the debate on Black Money, Thakur attacked Trinamul  Congress, who has been at the vanguard of attack against government on black money,  and said before discussing the black money abroad, one should also first talk about what is happening within the country.
“CBI will bring out the truth….we are waiting for the day,” he said referring to various charges on the Saradha Ponzi scam against ministers in West Bengal government. He also raked up the issue of exorbitant price paid for Mamata Banerjee’s paintings and wondered, “why her paintings did not sell so costly earlier”.
“Why the Chief Minister (Mamata) had ordered that all schools and libraries in Bengal should have the newspapers from a particular group,” he said.
TMC floor leader Sudip Bandyopadhyay challenged Thakur for an exclusive debate on Saradha scandal and said the BJP member could give a separate notice for such a debate.
"You must not forget Sardha owner (Sudipto Sen) was arrested by Mamata Banaerjee (Bengal police) from Kashmir,” he said.  (ends)

Friday, November 21, 2014

Modi's Diplomatic Coup and thereafter

The media is already calling it the BIGGEST diplomatic coup by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The US President Barack Obama will be the first US President to grace the next year's Republic Day parade in New Delhi as the chief guest.
The importance is not so much with the date of his arrival and attending the grand annual ceremony, but it lies in the timing that Obama will be in India within 8 months Modi took over the reins.
True to the hope of Obama-Modi parleys; the US administration tweeted:
"President Obama will meet @narendramodi and Indian officials to strengthen and expand the U.S.- strategic partnership".

This coup would work well against the detractors of Narendra Modi who saw little virtue in his popularity both in the United States and more recently in Australia. A Congress spokesman and that too a former Foreign Minister, Salman Khurshid had surpassed all illogical sense when he suggested that Modi must have taken over 20,000 odd supporters from India to work as cheer leaders during his visit to that country.

Actually, the bigger problem lies in the failure of a group of Indians to admit the reality that yes, Modi is the Prime Minister of India. That his flambuoyant style of functioning works almost as a magical spell both on commoners and the world leaders. 

Actually there is a historical reason to underestimate Modi's variety of foreign policy framework as under the Congress regime both in last decade and before that, the Indian foreign policy largely had remained as intangible as it has been always. Typical of its characteristic New Delhi’s policy approach often gave mixed signals. It took a step forward and two steps backwards. 
The Indian foreign policy generally showed tendency to go back to non-aligned spirit – something abandoned by the world community long ago. And who mastered that art: none other than Pt Jawaharlal Nehru. Most of his successors and even BJP's own Atal Behari Vajpayee simply followed that.
There have been therefore, a series of tales on flip-flop vis-à-vis Indian policy with regard to crucial fronts like China, Pakistan and also the US.

In the process, it remained a near negligible player globally.
New Delhi thus struggled for 'peace' without victors or vanquished concept -- something unimaginable in the 21st century. Like the Congress netas often did in domestic politics, in larger platform of global interaction also New Delhi generally played please all. 

So the brinkmanship and the faulty one at that lay in pursuing policies those were non-committal, passive and mostly guided by short term and emotive agendas – and those lacked tactical visions. 
But here is a different man in Modi trying to shake up the moribund security and foreign policy establishments.

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Gospel Journey in Arunachal Pradesh and Impediments

(This piece appeared in The Statesman, 17 November, 2014)

Notwithstanding immense hurdles to make headway in the state of Arunachal Pradesh, the sustained campaign seems to be paying in dividends to Christian missionaries in the state.

Nowhere else other than Arunachal Pradesh perhaps among the northeastern states, the Christianity has had a very tumultuous history. Compared to this state, Christian missionaries made easy and fairly smooth entry into states like Meghalaya, Nagaland and Mizoram – where the local native tribes are known as valiant and at times even warmongers. 

But in Arunachal Pradesh, from the very beginning Christians had been facing ‘opposition’ and hardships from the locals as well as administration.
History book suggests Christian missionaries first landed in Arunachal way back in 1836 but the Khamti-British war in Sadiya and the locals’ ‘refusal’ to accept an alien religion (Christianity) made the story all different.

Mirbuk Church near Pasighat
Subsequently, the “seed of growth of Christianity” returned to Arunachal hills again only in 1954 when tribal Christian population from other states entered the then NEFA region.

But lately claims are being made in Christian quarters in the state that the missionary zeal for last six decades has paid in dividends and more and more people are coming forward to embrace the teachings of the Gospel.  
“There is good number of local Arunachalis now embracing Christianity. It has made significant entry among influential tribes like Adi and Nyishi and in geographical areas like Lower Subansiri, East Kameng, West Kameng Tirap and Changlang,” says Neelam Taram, a former Arunachal Pradesh Home Minister, who was arrested in 1970s for working for the church.

Neelam Taram with his wife
There are several reasons for the gradual increase in the followers of Christ. “One being the qualitative change in the society. With the advent of Christianity there has been marked change in the manner and behaviour of natives. People are staying away from vices like alcoholism and even polygamy,” says Taram. 

His views were endorsed by a young Mass Communication student in Rajiv Gandhi University in Itanagar; who says, “I converted to Christianity first as a young boy at the age of 12 and then I persuaded parents to embrace Christianity two years later in 2005”.

Topen Rimo maintains his father took to alcoholism in a serious way and, “My family was going haywire. My father used to beat my mother daily. Now thanks to Jesus teachings, we are a happy family”.
However, local non-Christians and various groups like Indigenous Faith and Cultural Society of Arunachal Pradesh are trying to shield the spread of Christianity and to encourage locals to preserve their traditional rights and practices. 

Some say that even the RSS, the Sangh Parivar fountainhead that is championing the cause of Hindutva, is backing  local bodies (of non-Christians). But the local RSS leadership denies there being  any confrontation. 
“As an organisation, we are in no confrontation with local tribal groups nor do we try to influence their activities. People here are not only nationalists and peace-loving, but also show the  spirit of co-existence. 

In fact, all communities, native followers of the Donyi Polo religion, Protestant Christians, Catholic Christians, Buddhists and Hindus from other parts of India live together happily and participate in festivals like Durga Puja and Vishwakarma Puja,” says RSS pramukh in Itanagar, Pradip Joshi.

Therefore, perhaps it would not be erroneous to assert that away from the heat and dust of national controversies over conversion, converted Christians and native tribals practising traditional religions like Donyi Polo in Arunachal Pradesh are living in harmony and also “happily participate” in each other’s religious fests.
Blogger with RSS leader Pradip Joshi
The confrontation over the conversion-reconversion row is perhaps also attached to lifestyle and something basic, like eating habits. According to a local Christian educationist in Itanagar, “in food habits you would not find much of a difference between Christians and non-Christians in Arunachal Pradesh. Eating beef, for instance, is not much cherished even among Christians in the state,” he says. 

“Actually, a cow or bullock as an animal itself is ‘alien’ to Arunachal Pradesh and the natives. Can you believe, we don’t have a local Arunachali name for cow…”
However, protagonists of religious freedom like Neelam Taram are now on a campaign in the state demanding repeal of the controversial Arunachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, 1978. Under the Act, “no person shall be converted or attempt to convert, either directly or otherwise, any person from one religious faith to other”.

Other states also have similar  anti-conversion laws. In 1967-68, Odhisa and Madhya Pradesh enacted the Orissa Freedom of Religion Act, 1967 and the Madhya Pradesh Dharma Swatantraya Adhiniyam, 1968. These prohibit conversion from one religious faith to any other by use of force or inducement or by fraudulent means and for matters connected therewith. 

But officials in Arunachal Pradesh say the Act is generally dormant. While there is a general debate nationwide that such laws actually “contravened” the fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution, another refrain is that the Act is not able to prevent people from renouncing their own indigenous religion and adopting a new religion. 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Rahul Gandhi's hidden card: Emulating Jawaharlal Nehru

Pt Jawaharlal Nehru is making news for all obvious reasons. But today as we pass through yet another anniversary of this ‘illustrious’ son of India, it does not need any scholarly unraveling that Nehru is and will continue to be rated as the most talked about Prime Minister of India. 
His purported love for democracy and the dynasty he left behind, his Nehruvian secularism and legacy of planned governance – everything is being debated especially in the context of a landslide victory recorded by Narendra Modi – who in all perspective is an anti-thesis to Nehru. 
In the words of Krishna Kripalani, Nehru was truly, “an aristocrat in love with the masses, a nationalist who represents the culture of the foreigner”.
But circa 2014 also opens up another can of worms. Were Nehru and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel co-equals? Were the one better than the other? Could either have ousted the other?
Noted writer Michael Brecher answers few of these questions in ‘Nehru – A Political Biography’ and says eloquently: “there were differences which set them apart”. While Patel, for instance was “ruthless, practical and blunt in speech and action”; Nehru was a man of great charm and aesthetically inclined, impulsive and emotional. He also argues: “to the world at large Nehru was, with Gandhi, the symbol of India’s struggle for freedom. Patel never attained this stature….”.
These comparisons could go on between the two as they were different in more ways than one. However, it goes without saying that the rivalry between the two was also highly exaggerated by cliques of civil servants and politicians devoted to each leaders. Actually, the same phenomenon continues even today as Modi-led BJP regime has almost usurped the Sardar Patel legacy.
The Congress party has therefore erred in not inviting the incumbent Prime Minister of India (their arch rival Modi) for Nehru anniversary function even as honestly, the Congress party was left with little choice given the animosity between two sides. But given to the immature and short-sightedness in handling the crisis, the Congress has only erred in not inviting a Prime Minister in office. Probably they have walked into a trap in the process and made it official now that Nehru belongs to “us, the Congress party”.
This is just the opposite of what Nehru actually was. Till the other day, the worst of critics of ‘the dynasty’ despite all reservations could not help admit that: Pt Nehru undoubtedly stood almost at par with Mahatma Gandhi and the Nehru legacy was above political party or even ethnic/state or caste considerations.
 The situation demanded that Sonia Gandhi took a much benign approach and rather embarrassed Modi by inviting him into a show where Nehru’s admirers from world over would have come and would laud his stand on secularism, pluralism and tolerance towards opposition.
Now take this sample: "If India is a vibrant democracy today, it is because of the foundations laid by Nehru. If India has become the third largest economy. It is because of the multi-purpose projects, the PSUs and institutions of higher learning established by Nehru”. This quote came from a long time Congressman and the President of India Pranab Mukherjee.
Sample this gem of reference made by Pranabda; "I do not want India to be a country in which millions of people say 'yes' to one man, I want a strong opposition”. 
Imagine Modi sitting next to President, who would have been embarrassed more – BJP’s Modi or Congress chief Sonia Gandhi.

Now let us examine another finer point. In Nehru’s life time, two conceivable rivals Sardar Patel in 1950 and Subhas Chandra Bose earlier in 1945 had passed the scene. This made Nehru’s task easier in terms of political survivor and more so as Mahatma Gandhi’s acknowledged heir. Now the Congress has tried to hijack Nehru from the national scene to its party politics and indulge in one-upmanship against a man called Narendra Modi, who has made a virtue of attacking the first political dynasty. Modi’s target is not Nehru – but his great grand son Rahul Gandhi. So has Modi's task too has been made easier?
At this moment of history when Congressmen and women try to rediscover the virtues of Nehru legacy, they ought to remember one quality of their hero which had clearly given him an upper hand vis-à-vis Sardar Patel. 

That was in Nehru’s role as a “strategic link” among diverse social and political groups in India
Nehru too was often a lonely traveller, but he never seemed to be bogged down by that. 
It’s time for Rahul Gandhi to emulate Nehru and give up playing a part-time political star. 
The photo ops remarks he made against Prime Minister again would be exploited against him.

In Nehru, intellectuals saw a bridge between tradition and modernity; the younger Indians looked at him for inspiration, peasants as a man of their hopes, the left wing found him reasonable enough for capitalists. 

To realize it well that Nehru had earned a great respect and enjoyed closest of personal rapport in political circle could only now come handy for Rahul to try this route to save his sinking ship called the Congress party.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Maulana Azad – the low-profile man who almost saved India the Partition

In politics, an oft repeated statement is as much they change, as much they would remain the same. In the season of who has ‘stolen’ whose history, thanks to certain assertive moves on the issue by the Modi regime, the birth anniversary of Abul Kalam Azad, freedom fighter and country’s first Education Minister, passed off in a low key affair.
This also justifies the allegation that over the decades, India’s ruling elites have tried to keep all glories for one family primarily and occasionally agreed to share the limelight between two ‘surnames’ – Nehru and Gandhi.

Born on November 11, 1888, Abul Kalam Azad certainly did not get his due despite the blowing the trumpet on serving the country’s minorities. Azad was not only a minority community leader but a great nationalist and one of the main organisers of the Dharasana Satyagraha in 1931. The former AICC president had emerged as one of the leading limelight carrying the conviction of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose in espousing Hindu-Muslim unity, the true secularism and welfare of the downtrodden, the true socialism. 

With Gandhi & Nehru

Azad was president of Congress party from 1940 to 1945 and during this period the Quit India rebellion movement was launched at the personal interest of Mahatma Gandhi.
This brings us to the relevance of this blog piece.
A Facebook poser from me on November 11 (2014) afternoon: 
Some questions from history needs to answered: IT'S HIGH TIME
#Why Gandhi resorted to starting the ‘Quit India’ movement in spite of opposition from Maulana Azad, fetched merely 2 likes in 9 hours.

Thanks to friends like Arun Kumar Shah and Paromita Acharya for liking the question. There were no comments, however.
Well, even if this query did not generate a debate; perhaps the next issue from the pages of history I would refer would generate some interest.

The last date for the nominations for the post of the President of Congress, and thereby the first Prime Minister of India, was April 29, 1946.
Gandhiji had already made his choice widely known. 
A popular BBC snap on Partition
In fact, 9 days before on April 20,1946, Gandhiji had written to Azad expressing his displeasure on media reports about Azad’s willingness to contest for president of Congress and thereby possibly move an inch towards Prime Ministership.

“Please go through the enclosed cuttings.… I have not spoken to anyone of my opinion. When one or two Working Committee members asked me, I said that it would not be right for the same President to continue…. If you are of the same opinion, it may be proper for you to issue a statement and say that you have no intention to become the (Congress) President again…. In today’s circumstances I would, if asked, prefer Jawaharlal. I have many reasons for this. Why go into them?”

So that’s history for all of us!
But to me, the Quit India movement timing and Azad’s opposition is more perplexed an issue and that is why I am plunging into this article.
An assertive Azad was perhaps creating a sort of panic and insecurity in Team Mahatma Gandhi – comprising Gandhi himself and his two lieutenants Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel and Jawaharlal Nehru – if not in Mahatma himself.

In 1924 at Ahmedabad session, the Swarajists lobby comprising C R Das and ironically Motilal Nehru (Jawaharlal’s father) had opposed Gandhi’s idea that members who did not spin for half-an-hour a day and did not observe the five-fold boycott of legislative councils, law courts, government schools, titles and mill made cloth would have to resign from the All India Congress Committee. This resolution, if carried, would have excluded the Swarajists from power.
Again in 1939, Gandhi’s supreme leadership position in 1939 was threatened by Subhas Bose when Gandhi's candidate Pattabhi Sitaramaiha.
Later M N Roy wrote, “Gandhi’s tormented soul made him acknowledge after the election ‘Pattabhi’s defeat is my defeat’”.
Thus, it would not be erroneous to believe that by launching Quit India movement, Gandhiji wanted to strengthen his grip over Congress party.
In retrospect, even Azad as Congress president had tried to persuade Gandhiji not to launch Quit India movement in 1942, which even otherwise was realized later had failed to achieve any ‘tangible result’. 
1942 was politically a crucial year in Indian history. The Cripps mission under Stafford Cripps made an attempt in late March 1942 to secure Indian cooperation and support for their efforts in World War II. 
 Cripps worked to keep India ‘loyal’ to the British war effort in exchange for a promise of full self-government after the war. Had Congress leaders under Gandhi accepted this, the partition could have been avoided.

Even Mohammed Ali Jinnah had “accepted” the Cabinet Mission's proposals. Had this worked, perhaps, India's unity would have been preserved and partition avoided. But the course of human history is often predestined. 

In later years, the country had to witness a gory partition marked by unprecedented killings and arson and worse, the ‘hatred’ that has continued till today.
Thus in hindsight, the country should recall in all humility the efforts made by Azad to preserve its unity. On his part, Azad’s various predictions made in his famous speech in Jama Masjid area in Delhi about Pakistan has come true.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Namo all set go to recast his “unimpressive cabinet”

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “unimpressive cabinet” is in discussion yet again. Incidentally, PM is expanding his council of ministry at a time when a renowned TV face, who never had any soft corner for Namo, has come out with a book, ‘2014-The Election That Changed India’. On personal front, it’s another race where predicament of to do or not to do and some unfriendly circumstances, like the rejection of the ‘idea’ by two publishers, makes me feel, yes sir, performer is a winner. And obviously, winner takes it all.

One New Delhi-based publication with whom I have never dealt in the past – and a reputed one and not Rajdeep’s publisher (Penguin India), said it’s pre-occupied with other works. A Kolkata-based publisher friend, and a good friend, argued, none would read a book on an Indian election in airports. Point was taken!!
And I had my personal and good reasons not to go to my old publishers. 
In any case, my presumption was always that the general elections 2014 offered a whole new ball game. The players were the same and also a mix of new and the old but the rules had changed significantly.

For the first time, social networking sites were in play. The elections, therefore, marked a watershed in the history of free India. One question often debated has been why and how did Narendra Modi click across the country including in states where BJP hardly existed. 

Actually, Narendra Modi represented different aspirations to different sets of people. That’s the yardstick of a mass appeal of a leader. Call it a ‘wave’ or something else. To middle class and educated lot, Modi’s appeal was more fundamental to economy. He was seen as the economic reformer the middle class Indian and the army of netizens smitten by social networking bug were looking for.

But But having said all these one point remains to be said that Modi’s first council of ministers was not very impressive in that sense of the term given the expectations.

Someone like journalist Manish Anand suggested in his blog  that a “larger story of brazenness” was reflected in his ministry formation. “A pattern emerges that all those who valiantly defended Modi in the media are now in his Cabinet. And that invites the criticism, that Modi yielded to favoritism and bias while picking his team”.
Obviously his reference was to the inclusion of faces like Nirmala Sitharaman, Prakash Javadekar and Ravi Shankar Prasad in the government. 
Now the stage is set for cabinet expansion and reshuffle. 
Of course, Goa’s most performing chief minister Manohor Parrikar is being mostly debated now. Whether Prime Minister Modi would pass on Defence portfolio to him is now everyone’s guessing game?

Of course, there are other names being talked about. Few conjectures are also being debated. Whether PM will elevate few loyalists like Nirmala Sitharaman and Prakash Javadekar? Whether a few supposed non-performing ministers like Sadanand Gowda could be dropped?
A few sections, especially sound-byte friendly journalists with news agencies would like Radha Mohan Singh, a RSS man from Bihar, removed as Agriculture Minister. 

Reasons are professional with a twist: unlike Sharad Pawar, who functioned more as a corporate man than a real farmer-friendly ‘mantri’, Radha Mohan Singh is a friendly minister to Hindi-speaking journalists. 

Moreover, Singh does not give bytes easily palatable to foreign agencies and which can impact stock market!
Yes, this is another face of Selfless Journalism.

Faceless Voters: High Expectations
But coming to his ministry formation it’s a fact that even Modi could not stay away from the general trend in Indian politics that cabinet formation is decided by political considerations and less by efficiency. 

Thus people questioned the inclusion of Jual Oram as Tribal Affairs minister, a portfolio he held under Vajpayee but could not leave any mark. There were others like Arun Jaitley as the Finance Minister himself. 

Jaitley is hardly known for his wisdom in economic affairs and thus Modi expected him to do a turnaround of the economy simply because Jaitley has been in his core group all along. 

So likes of Manish Anand have their argument well stated. At the same time Modi’s balancing act could not do justice to states like Rajasthan who sent all 25 MPs to Modi’s team of 282.

The states like Nagaland, Kerala, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, West Bengal, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Sikkim or Tripura were neglected. From Nagaland, a pre-poll ally, NPF leader Neiphiu Rio had moved out to Delhi leaving his safe comfort zone of chief ministership and was reportedly assured a berth.

But giving the devil its due, is it wrong to suggest a cabinet or a council of ministers will be decided by the Prime Minister or he will have a team which enjoys his full confidence? In fact, by having many crucial Ministers of State Independent charge, as stated above, Prime Minister has only retained his hold on these ministries like Power, Coal, Commerce, Environment and Mining to cite only a few. So non-performing if is an yardstick, it can reflect on the most powerful man in the PMO itself.
Non-performing ministers list as gossip industry in Lutyen’s city goes  include: Sarbanand Sonowal (Sports) and Dharmendra Pradhan (Petroleum). Just a few names. So if a former RJD-turn coat Ram Kripal Yadav is being considered for a berth; it’s purely caste consideration. Lalu Yadav-Nitish bogey needs to be countered well in Bihar on the eve of state elections in 2015.  

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Unraveling the tales of Krishna Bhakts among Muslims

As promised it’s high time I throw more highlights on the manuscript of the forthcoming book, ‘The Muslim Devotees of Lord Krishna’.
The author, Dipankar Deb, I personally know as a youngman of Science, is into something different.
The touch of glibness he displays on a subject as difficult and as potentially controversial is fascinating. The author, in short, brings insight and voluminous knowledge to bear on the subject and the result creditably is a series of fascinating discourses on individuals who turned Krishna bhakts and the emphatic assertion that “the all merciful Lord Krishna is available to anyone who approaches him”.

This philosophy is actually only a testimony of an inherent strength of Indian national and social life. We often hear among intellectuals and western observers of India that complexity of India is essentially based on the division of Islam and Hinduism. Yet there are striking features. Both the religions have survived along side each other in the country even as Islam was actually ‘imposed’ and brought from outside.

One Krishna Bhakt selling books on the Lord to a Muslim soldier in Turkey

But Islam took roots in India and despite contradictions even on the ideological plane as Hinduism is a conglomeration of beliefs and Islam affirms the preeminence of One God, many things unite Hindus and Muslims.
It is therefore, I was not surprised that despite the gory partition of the sub-continent, this year I received first Diwali greetings from across the border – albeit a Muslim friend – in Pakistan.
Now where does Lord Krishna stand in all these?
The proposed book not only talks about Vaishnava poets like Rahim, Salebaga and Nasir Mamud, it tries to argue eloquently that the principle of qualification for Lord Krishna’s love is bhakti, the dedication, and not the birth.
“Anyone irrespective of birth, willing to undergo purification process of regulations, is a natural recipient of the Lord’s mercy,” it says. 

A group of Krishna admirers 
My understanding of Lord Krishna’s essential teaching or the underlining philosophy of Sanatan views, is that becoming ONE with Krishna the devotees (Bhakts) unite with a manifestation of the Absolute. 

In much simpler form, the road to God is through love and if one turns pages on Sufism, one would find undeniably similar theme.
Thus, the powerful words which are extremely useful and I present an extract from the manuscript is: “A fanatic cannot bring one to God but can turn one away”. At the same the author quote Iskcon founder, Srila Prabhupada, and reminds us: “religion without philosophy is fanaticism”.

Having led the readers around the idealistic platform, the manuscript I have in hand, also states that : “….many devotees from Islamic background have recognized the soul’s intrinsic state in Krishna Consciousness”. Subsequently, the author makes a very emphatic remark: “they (the individuals) have become “better Muslims, re-establishing a bond with the Almighty”.
In this context, the preview would also find relevance in the author’s attempted argument that Krishna influence was found in Mughal arts and paintings and the Mughal effect was reflected in Vaisnava practices.

 “The Malwa plateau region in Madhya Pradesh has a rich history of devotional arts and the early influence of Islam can be seen in the Vaisnava arts in this region”.
The book would be thus a history book in part and in a part a collection of diary pages and also a mini-compendium of memories of the author in his interaction with friends and followers of Krishna. Among other things it dwells at length on the Muslim devotee poets and readers could find it interesting that one of the names of Lord Krishna is ‘Uttamasloka’ – meaning one is praised with the choices poetic words. 

Not all Vaisnava poets wrote in pristine Sankrist, he says.

It goes without saying that the book is written honestly and is painstakingly researched. Thus among a few individual Muslims who turned Krishna Bhakts, we have a fascinating tale of Raheh Younis, who grew up in Beirut Lebanon and later turned Krishna Bhakt and also the first Muslim disciple of Prabhupada. Similarly fascinating is the story of Ben Moradi, born in Iran 1950.

There are few other tales. Well, I need not flatter anyone and that too on a man’s maiden attempt to pen a book on such a complex subject. However, some patrons of this blog and readers of the future-book might complain about certain lapses. Many could find it difficult to categorize the book in one particular genre. Is a religious book for Krishna followers alone? Is it a mixed bag or is it objective enough which questions the rationale of over-emphasis on mysticism and oriental philosophy?

Is the book at hand more an ambitious project on talking about non-believers’ transformation as Krishna Bhakts than merely narrating a straight forward story of Krishna admirers among Muslims? Is the author with his known Lord Krishna admiring leaning qualified to reflect the richness of the imagination and also the successful acumen in handling both the plot and treatment?

Without dwelling on the merits and demerits of this debate, one can only assert that the limitations and follies of the budding writer certainly do not reduce the merits of the book.