New age Islam Edit Bureau
07 December 2017
It’s Not about One Ram Temple
By Harsh Mander
Autonomy and Freedom versus Indoctrination
By Flavia Agnes
Blame It on Babur
By Shailaja Bajpai
Asian Age Debate: A Political or Religious Issue?
The Worry Is That Donald Trump Will Lead the US Into A Nuclear War
By Elizabeth Drew
Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
December 7, 2017
Twenty-five years ago, three domes of a medieval mosque in a UP town came crashing down. Throughout the 20th century, Hindu supremacists had fought a long battle to change the character of the nation. This was their first moment of decisive triumph. They have not looked back since then.
Their idea of India was that of a nation of and for the Hindus. People of disadvantaged castes and Hindu women would find a place in this nation but on subservient terms. Converts to other “Indian faiths” like Buddhism and Sikhism would also be accommodated but not converts to “foreign” religions — Islam and Christianity. Their adherents would either have to leave India or to live here as second-class citizens.
For long, the supporters of this alternate idea of India were a minority. They rarely fought the British rulers, preferring instead to combat the humanist pluralism of the Congress led by Mahatma Gandhi. Matters came to a head when the country was torn into two along religious lines, and a million people died in Hindu-Muslim riots on both sides of the border. Hindu nationalists were convinced that since Pakistan was a Muslim nation, India should be a Hindu nation.
But Mahatma Gandhi defended the idea of secular India with his life. Meanwhile, many supporters of the idea of Hindu India joined the Congress. Therefore, there were many contestations to the granularity of the uniquely Indian secularism when India’s Constitution was drafted. But leaders like Jawaharlal Nehru, B.R. Ambedkar and Maulana Azad — and the Constitution — upheld the right of every Indian to practise and propagate their faiths, even as the Indian state had no religion.
The RSS withdrew from public life in the first two decades of India’s freedom, sullied as it was with the taint of the ideology that led to Gandhi’s assassination. Its political front, the Jana Sangh, never attracted a majority of Hindu voters. However, sympathisers of Hindu nationalism penetrated the Congress, resulting in the party playing a partisan role during episodes of communal violence. The state was often tacitly complicit in the persecution of minorities, in denying them equal development chances, and in the passage of cow slaughter ban laws.
In the battle against what many believed to be the growing corruption and authoritarianism of Indira Gandhi’s government, the socialist leader Jayaprakash Narayan built a large anti-Congress front, into which he invited the Jana Sangh. This was the moment that the RSS was waiting for, to wash off the tarnish of Gandhi’s murder and acquire the political respectability to enter the mainstream of India’s political life.
In the 1980s, the RSS sought a new symbol to stir Hindu nationalist fervour. It found this in the movement to build a grand temple to Ram at the exact site where a mosque built by the Mughal emperor Babur stood. The sub-text of the campaign was to paint Indian Muslims as inheritors of a historical tradition of violence by Muslim kings. The inaccuracies of this version of history did not matter to the RSS. It also ignored the fact that most Muslims in India did not descend from the Muslim aristocracy, which came from other countries and made India their home. About nine out of 10 of them are converts from low-caste Hindus who were attracted to Islam’s message of equality.
As the movement for the Ram temple gathered support, the Congress floundered. It sought to appease both Hindu and Muslim communal sentiment by opening the locks of the Babri Masjid for Hindu worship and passing a law to bar divorced Muslim women from maintenance. BJP leader L. K. Advani travelled across the country in a chariot from Somnath Temple, which had been plundered by the Turk invader Ghazni in 1024. Anti-Muslim communal sentiments were roused to a fever pitch throughout this journey, peaking at levels unsurpassed since the Partition riots.
I was posted in a district in Madhya Pradesh at that time and watched India change before my eyes as Advani’s chariot cleaved the country, leaving a trail of blood everywhere it passed. The Union governments that followed, led by V.P. Singh with the support of the BJP, and then a Congress government led by P.V. Narasimha Rao, were weak-kneed when it came to discharging their constitutional duties. The day came when, cheered by senior leaders of the BJP and RSS, the mosque was demolished by a frenzied mob.
But this battle was never about one more temple for Ram. Many such temples exist in Ayodhya itself. In any case, few would object to the temple if it was built adjacent to the mosque. The demand was to build the temple at the very site where the mosque stood. This demand was a powerful symbol of the terms on which Muslims could be “allowed” by the Hindu majority to live in India. As minorities, the Muslims must know their place — that of second-class citizens — and if they resist, they must be violently taught their place in the country.
This Hindu supremacist triumphalism paved the way for the political rise of the BJP. What was unthinkable 50 years earlier came to pass when the BJP-led coalitions formed the government at the Centre in 1996 and 1998. In 2014, led by an even more openly hard-line Hindu nationalist leader, Narendra Modi, the party was voted to office with a comfortable parliamentary majority.
Since then, we have witnessed a surge of hate speeches by BJP leaders and an increase in attacks on Muslims, Dalits and Christians. It is open season for the BJP leaders to question the secular pledges of the Constitution. RSS head Mohan Bhagwat has declared that a Ram temple alone will be built at Ayodhya with the same stones that people had gathered from around the country a quarter century earlier. If indeed the BJP government builds a Ram temple at the site of the demolished mosque, India’s secular Constitution will be shredded to tatters.
Dec 7, 2017
The media reports on the Supreme Court’s Hadiya case hearing on November 27 show that even during the tense hearing, which lasted around two-and-a-half hours amid pin drop silence, there were lighter moments which sent out peals of laughter. Ironically, these revolved around the comments made by the judges about the status of a wife in society.
When Hadiya made a naïve comment that her husband Shafin Jehan should be appointed as her legal guardian (instead of her father to whose custody she had been relegated by the Kerala high court), Justice Chandrachud quipped, “No husband can be the guardian of his wife. At least, I am not.” He followed this by asking senior advocate Kapil Sibal, who was representing Shefin Jahan (who was challenging the annulment of his marriage to Hadiya by the Kerala high court), to explain to her that a wife is not a chattel and that she is an individual entitled to her own status in society.
However, what transpired in the court seems to suggest that even the highest court in the country is not fully convinced about a woman’s freedom and autonomy to contract a marriage of choice against the wishes of her parents. Even when a woman declares that her marriage was out of her own free choice and that she wants to live with her husband, the court seems to be hesitant to respond.
The lawyers defending the right of the couple claim that it was a victory of sorts since that day all they wanted was to secure Hadiya’s freedom to end her house arrest in her parental home. The simple logic that a woman is not a chattel seems to have eluded the high court then.
Though it was obvious to everyone that it was clearly a case of gender discrimination, the apex court, seeped in its own brand of patriarchy, could not clearly see its own role in undermining the right of an adult woman to autonomy and personal freedom. The SC judges kept vacillating about granting Hadiya, especially brought in from Kerala to be interviewed by the court, her right to be heard in her own case.
When senior counsel Indira Jaising, who appeared in the matter along with Mr Sibal ,commented that this sort of a treatment would not have been meted out had Hadiya been a man, Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra queried why Ms Jaising was making it a gender justice issue. When she asked the court not to trivialise what she had said, the CJI responded with a caustic comment that it was she who was trivialising the issue and it was unfair on her part to do so. It is surprising how the apex court failed to see the issue clearly as one of gender injustice and denial of women’s freedom in matters concerning marriages of choice. A few months earlier, during the triple talaq controversy, the media was lamenting over the fact that a Muslim woman is devoid of rights and lacks an agency and that she is a victim of Islamic patriarchy. In the present controversy, it appears that it is the Hindu woman who lacks agency and can easily be “brainwashed” or “indoctrinated” into changing her religion and marrying against her own better interests. What gets articulated while terming conversions and marriages by Hindu women to Muslim men as “love jihad” is that Hindu women are devoid of making intelligent choices while choosing their marriage partners and that they can easily be enticed by Muslim men and lured into marriage. Further, since women are not able to decide what is good for them, it is the father of the bride who must decide for her and without his consent the marriage is not valid.
The “love jihad” bogey has been effectively used by the RSS and other Hindu right wing groups during election campaigns in several states. But what is disturbing in the present case is that even our courts seem to be endorsing this terminology.
The “love-jihad” campaign diligently perpetuates the myth of an insatiably-lustful Muslim man. Hindu women, in contrast, are made out to be helpless and innocent, women who are unable to decipher what is best for them and are prone to seduction. This venomous propaganda has been wreaking havoc in the lives of young couples. Henceforth, all inter-community and inter-religious marriages will become suspect. The verdict of the Kerala high court, annulling the marriage of Hadiya at the instance of her father, will only serve to increase parental control over marriages of choice. What will be the impact of such a verdict in future cases of inter-religious marriages of choice is yet to be seen.?
Hindu marriages were rendered contractual more than 60 years ago and the Special Marriage Act was enacted in 1954 to provide for registration of inter-religious marriages. The consent of parents is not required for such marriages. However, today the right of young women to choose their marriage partners across the religious divide seems to be in danger of being termed as “love jihad”.
In the case of Hadiya, it is even worse. The fact that she did not convert to contract a love marriage but had converted earlier out of her own volition to Islam seems to be going against her. It is here that the bogey of “indoctrination” is brought in.
It was argued in the court that Hadiya is programmed and there is a need to “de-programme” her. By this logic, everyone is programmed since everyone has their own worldview and are socialised into certain belief systems. The BJP and the RSS have their own programmes for indoctrinating youth. Marriage alliances among cadres are generally made by leaders within many political parties.
Even assuming that Hadiya had converted because she was influenced by certain religious/ political ideology that cannot be construed as a crime. Our Constitution grants freedom to practice the religion of one’s choice even when one is not born into that religion. But the danger seems to be when that religion is Islam. When the spirit of secularism is deeply fractured and the nation is fragmented along religious and communal lines, it is convenient to label those who belong to a different faith as the “other’ and as an enemy of the community or of the nation. Unfortunately, Hadiya’s marriage seems to have been entangled within the political ideology of our times. The manner in which Hadiya has been able to withstand the pressures exerted on her from several quarters, her family and the state machinery is commendable. Even when her entire life, her life choices and her belief systems were under attack in an open courtroom, she did not buckle down but remained firm and was able to clearly articulate her demands — she wishes to complete her studies, keep her faith and rejoin with her husband. She deserves to be applauded for the courage of her convictions.
Blame it on Babur
December 6 is a day many remember as the day 25 years ago when the Babri Masjid was flattened by Kar Sevaks. There was no social media then, no 24×7 in-your-ears-and-face private news channels beaming “exclusive”, literally “breaking news”, of the kar sevaks scampering up the mosque. So many of us first learned about its demolition from BBC World News Service on the radio. Mark Tully’s voice rose above the din of chants: “Jai Shri Ram”. You could almost taste the dust in his voice.
If you were watching Aaj Tak this Wednesday afternoon, you would have witnessed some of what happened that day in Ayodhya, and you should have still been shocked: Kar sevaks acrobat onto the domes and pound them to the ground, security personnel stand at ease, observing the “Tamasha”, BJP leaders look on. It was a very sorry sight.
However, if you watched Zee News, Tuesday night, you’d have thought the Kar Sevaks were not really responsible for their actions on December 6, 1992; Mughal emperor Babur was wholly and possibly solely responsible for the events of that Sunday. Dismissing accounts of what he called “designer” writers and journalists; anchor Sudhir Chaudhary presented a completely new and revised edition of history with the “golden” Mughal era his primary target.
And as you listened to members of the BJP and the VHP recall December 6 on India TV’s special “Secret Formula” for Ayodhya, they spoke of the demolition of the “structure” like it was any old dilapidated building that had to be torn down once past its prime.
Actually, wait on, the man who’s really to blame for every villainy is Congressman Mani Shankar Aiyar — he first introduced the Mughals into the political narrative of the week. On Monday, as the Congress vice president cemented “#RahulRaj”, at precisely “10.43 am” when India Today found him hugging Sheila Dikshit after filing his nomination papers for the post of Congress president, Aiyar was asked about “dynastic politics” (ABP). He recalled that, historically, one leader succeeded another without elections, just as Shah Jahan had succeeded Jahangir and Aurangzeb had succeeded him.
He added that “in a democracy, however, there are elections”, and invited the disaffected Shehzad Poonawalla to file his papers — but that crucial clip was conveniently clipped to suit the needs of viral news. It reached Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ears while he was campaigning in Gujarat and not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, he went after RG with the entire might of the Mughal empire in his barbs. Where Modi goes the media toes the line: “Modi’s ‘Aurangzeb’ bomb: biggest attack of dynasty raj” said India Today; “for PM Mughals=Gandhis” (or vice versa) added CNN News 18.
Fake news? If not, what else would you call an abbreviated and revised version of what Aiyar said?
The “Aurangzeb” clip is a perfect case study for one of the more convincing TV news shows on the air, Viral Sach (ABP). Each week day evening, the programme investigates the authenticity of items that go “viral” and pronounces them “True or False”. On Tuesday, it faulted Rahul Gandhi’s mathematics in a tweet on prices of essential commodities during the 21 years of BJP rule in Gujarat and then revealed how Mahatma Gandhi was morphed into Aurangzeb in a viral photo of Rahul signing his application papers.
RG is currently, in Sheila D’s word, the “darling” of Indian news TV and the BJP’s favourite topic of conversation. We hear about what he did (visit another temple?), said/tweeted or what the BJP/Modi said/tweeted about him; in the evening, we listen to what TV anchors think of him, which, for the most, is not much but still they can’t get enough of him. On Times Now most recently: “Ra Ga rigged poll debate”, “Crown without Credibility”, “Rahul No Hindu: Fact of faux pas?” and “Rahul: A king without a citadel?”
And we haven’t even started on Republic TV’s Rahul-nama.
His “selection not election” as Congress president, was indeed a “farce” of internal party democracy since he was the sole candidate. And TV news was rightly incensed by “#RahulRise” (India Today). But in January 2016, Amit Shah was also selected BJP president, for a second term, unopposed and India Today had simply announced: “Amit Shah President, again”. Different standards? Ah, but RG is a “dynast”. Like Ivanka Trump?
Yes, Rahul is the man of the moment. So much so that in a recent interview, Amit Shah spent one third of the time talking about him (Frankly Speaking, Times Now).
Lastly, Shashi Kapoor was given a heartfelt farewell by TV news but why did neither DD National or the film channels change schedules and telecast one of his films in remembrance?
We’ll Abide by the Court Verdict
Frankly, the Babri Masjid demolition in Ayodhya is not only the BJP’s obsession but an electoral ploy that it unleashes to win elections. For the last 30 years, the BJP and its affiliates have kept the pot boiling on Ayodhya so that it can have electoral gains. It has got very little to do with their self-claimed Aastha or faith.
The strange aspect that always comes to light is that whenever the BJP is in power, its government says that the resolution of the Ayodhya dispute should be through courts, and when it is in Opposition it says that it’s a matter of faith for them. Surprisingly, BJP president Amit Shah has the gumption to ask the Congress to clarify its stand on the issue. I would like to ask Mr Shah — would he please clarify what his stand is.
The BJP government at the Centre is claiming that the dispute resolution should be done via the courts. Does it not show that the BJP as a party is speaking in a voice different from what the BJP government is saying?
The fact of the matter is that this is the evil-speak of the BJP to polarise people in an effort to garner votes. The BJP is in power at the Centre and in Uttar Pradesh as well. Instead of asking us questions, the BJP and its president should be giving answers now. Will the BJP please clarify its stand on this issue? What is their clear stand on the construction of the temple? And most importantly, what has the BJP and its affiliates done in the way of easing the hurdles in the construction of the Ram temple.
If the BJP is so worried and anxious for temple what legal steps has it taken? Apart from using the issue politically what has the BJP done? Our stand has been clear that we will abide by the verdict of the top court, so why is the BJP giving a running commentary when the matter is subjudice?
After the Babri Masjid demolition in 1992 what has the BJP done? Has the BJP ever started a movement for the construction of the temple? Has any of its leaders taken out a yatra like the one they did which culminated into the destruction of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya.
Sadly, you will find that there is no such movement. Because as I said earlier the entire issue is not about faith but about electoral gains that the BJP wants. Interestingly, the BJP also has an army of affiliates that keep on taking the hard line to hoodwink people, while the official line of the BJP keeps disassociating itself from these utterances.
The writer is a Congress spokesman
We Want an All-Party Meet On It
The Babri Masjid’s demolition is an important event in post-Independent India. The controversies, communal tension, political battle and religious flare-up over the issue have been the hallmark of this dispute. It led to the collapse of a government, and drew worldwide attention.
The Babri Masjid has been a contentious point in every election; it is more of a political than a religious issue. A special bench of Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and Justices Ashok Bhushan and Abdul Nazeer heard a total of 13 appeals filed against the 2010 judgment of the Allahabad HC in four civil suits in the Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi temple dispute at Ayodhya, on December 5. The final hearing on the matter is on February 8, 2018. What exactly is the Ayodhya dispute?
At the core of the nearly 70-year-old “Ayodhya dispute” is the belief that Hindu deity Lord Ram was born 900,000 years ago (in Treta Yug) in a room located under what was the central dome of the Babri Masjid. The Masjid was built on the orders of Mughal emperor Babur in the 16th century before its demolition by Kar Sevaks on December 6, 1992.
As for the BJP, it talked about building a Ram Mandir at Ayodhya for the first time in its manifesto in 1989. “By not allowing the rebuilding of the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya, on the lines of the Somnath Mandir built by the Government of India in 1948, it has allowed tensions to rise, and gravely strained social harmony,” the 1989 BJP manifesto stated. The other parties are alleging that it is only now that we (the BJP) are talking about a constitutional framework to build Ram Mandir in Ayodhya. But the BJP has always believed in going by the constitutional framework. In fact, it is the Congress which indulged in “Vote Bank Ki Rajneeti”. In 1986, Rajiv Gandhi ordered that the locks on the Ram Janmabhoomi Babri Masjid in Ayodhya be removed. Until then, a priest had been permitted to perform Puja once a year for the idols installed there in 1949.
Having said that, the BJP stand is absolutely clear. We are committed to building Ram Mandir as it is a question of our belief. That site is the birthplace of Lord Ram. But our topmost priority is finding an amicable solution to the issue. We want to have an all-party meet to discuss the issue, as directed by the apex court. We would like to explore all possibilities under the constitutional framework for building the temple.
The Worry Is That Donald Trump Will Lead the US into A Nuclear War
Dec 06, 2017
Much of America’s capital has entered a state of near-panic. In recent days, President Donald Trump has been acting more bizarrely than ever, and the question raised in the mind of politicians and civilians alike, though rarely spoken aloud, has been: What can be done with this man? Can the United States really afford to wait for Special Counsel Robert Mueller to wrap up his investigation (on the assumption that he’ll find the president guilty of something)? That could still take quite a while.
The question of timing has become increasingly urgent, given the heightened danger that the US will deliberately or accidentally end up in a war with North Korea. That risk, coupled with Trump’s increasingly peculiar behaviour, has made Washington more tense than I’ve ever known it to be, and that includes the dark days of Watergate. To put it bluntly: the worry is that the president might lead the US into a nuclear war.
In just the past week, evidence of Trump’s instability has piled up. During an Oval Office ceremony to honour Native-American heroes of World War II, he offended them by issuing a racist comment. He picked an unprecedented and unnecessary fight with the prime minister of the United Kingdom, supposedly America’s closest ally, by retweeting a British neo-fascist group’s anti-Muslim posts. In an effort to win a Democratic senator’s vote for his pending tax-cut bill, he travelled to her state and told lies about her record (though the tax bill was so tilted to the richest 1% of Americans that no Democratic senator voted for it). And he continued to bait North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, who seems equally unstable.
At the same time, both the Washington Post and The New York Times ran articles containing disturbing stories about the president’s private behaviour. Trump, it was reported, told people close to him that he considers the infamous “Access Hollywood” recording of him joking, off-camera, about grabbing women’s genitals to be a fraud, even though he admitted its authenticity and apologised after the Post released it in the final weeks of the presidential campaign.
Trump has also been revisiting his mendacious claim about Barack Obama having not been born in the US – the bogus allegation that launched his political career, which, under pressure from advisers, he’d renounced prior to the election. He said in a tweet that he had turned down Time magazine’s suggestion that it would name him “Person of the Year,” because it wasn’t definite. (Trump sets great store by such appearances on Time’s cover). But a Time official said that no such thing had occurred.
The fact that Trump appears to have some mental disorder, or disorders, has created a dilemma for psychiatrists, politicians, and journalists alike. The American Psychiatric Association has a rule that its members may not offer diagnoses of people they have not examined. But, given what some psychiatrists see as a national emergency, many have broken the rule and spoken or written publicly about their professional assessments of Trump’s mental state.
The most widely accepted view is that he suffers from a narcissistic personality disorder, which is far more serious than simply being a narcissist. According to the Mayo Clinic, such a disorder “is a mental condition in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, troubled relationships, and a lack of empathy for others.” Moreover, “behind this mask of extreme confidence lies a fragile self-esteem that’s vulnerable to the slightest criticism.”
This definition is all too reflective of traits that Trump regularly exhibits. Another view held by a number of medical professionals, based on how Trump spoke in interviews in the late 1980s and how he speaks now – with a far more limited vocabulary and much less fluency – is that the president is suffering from the onset of dementia. According to the highly respected medical reference Up-to-date, a subscription-financed service used by professionals, the symptoms of dementia include agitation, aggression, delusions, hallucinations, apathy, and disinhibition.
Numerous Republican members of Congress are deeply worried about Trump’s capacity to handle the presidency – an incredibly demanding job. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, rumoured to be replaced soon, is said to have called Trump a “moron.”
Trump’s heightened erratic behaviour in recent days has been attributed to his growing anxiety about Mueller’s investigation into his and his campaign’s possible collusion with Russia in the Kremlin’s effort to tilt the 2016 election in his direction – an investigation that could end in a charge of conspiracy. (Trump appears to be the only significant figure in Washington who won’t accept that Russia interfered.) And that increasingly bizarre behaviour came even before the news broke, on December 1, that Trump’s first national security adviser and close campaign aide, retired General Michael Flynn, had agreed to plead guilty to one count of lying to the FBI in exchange for his cooperation with the investigation.
What made this highly significant was that Flynn is far and away the highest former official whom Mueller has “flipped.” Indeed, the generous plea deal makes it clear that Flynn is prepared to name figures higher than he was in the campaign and the White House.
That’s not very many people. It has already been speculated, with reason, that Flynn will point a finger at Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner. But Trump’s several earlier efforts to steer prosecutors away from Flynn were strong signals that Flynn knows something that Trump desperately hopes that prosecutors won’t find out. We may learn what that is fairly soon.
Meanwhile, American and the world nervously await Trump’s reaction to this latest very bad turn of events for him.