Oped - Reporter Post: reporterpost.co.in

Loss in Delhi
bad for Parivar
not the BJP
By Saeed Naqvi
In politics, sometimes
normalcy looks abnormal. That the Bharatiya
Janata Party should be
with its back to the wall
in the Delhi battle is abnormal for those who
have not yet recovered
from the awesomeness
of Narendra Modi’s victory in May 2014. That
was a tsunami. Tsunamis
subside. Modi has risen
that and another wave.
A third is due, maybe after the Delhi elections. The first wave he
crested when he became
chief minister of Gujarat without ever having
contested an election.
This was 26 days after
the two planes brought
down the twin towers
in New York on Sep 11,
2001 - 9/11, in brief. The
US air strikes against
Afghanistan began on
Oct 7, exactly the day
Modi became chief minister. Of course there is
no connection between
the two. And yet, there
is. The saturation TV
Muslim societies created
for the BJP a favourable
atmosphere. The BJP
hoped to win the crucial election to the Uttar
Pradesh assembly due in
February 2002. Rajnath
Singh was the chief minister in Lucknow. To his
and his party’s dismay,
BJP lost the election
which had been fought
on a hard platform, Ram
Mandir included. The
'kar sewaks' assembled
at Ayodhya for victory
and Ram Mandir celebrations were stunned
by the election reversal announced on Feb
24/25, 2002. Imagine the
black mood in which the
kar sewaks boarded Sabarmati Express which
reached Godhra on the
morning of Feb 27. Gujarat BJP was waking
upto two defeats in bye
elections. Modi won Rajkot narrowly. Then the
Godhra train carnage
took place and the Gujarat pogrom. The lesson from the electorate’s
rejection of the hardline
in UP should have been
a sober and softer line in
the future. But, no, the
96-year-old head of the
Vishwa Hindu Parishad,
Shastri thought otherwise. The global war on
terror was a boon. In an
atmosphere so conducive for Hindu consolidation a harder, not softer, line was required. I
met Jayanti Ravi, collector of Godhra when Gujarat was still smouldering. The investigations,
she said bitterly, had
instantly been handed
over to Vijay Vipul, DIG
anti-terror squad. Terror was the flavor of the
season. So, terror it was
for Godhra and Gujarat
too. Then Modi rode the
second crest with even
greater aplomb. This
one was to deliver unto
him the prime ministership of India. A timid
Manmohan Singh carrying on his forehead labels of scams he may not
have committed, made
for a soft target. Worse
was the Nehru-Gandhi
family. Yes he will; no
he won’t, but he might
- this exasperating indecision of Rahul Gandhi made for a silly side
show in the middle of
what should have been a
do or die campaign. He
made a fool of himself
with FICCI, CII, in the
Arnab Goswami interview, the high point of
his life being a night of
great simplicity he spent
with David Miliband in
a Dalit hut. The mother
would disappear to far
off hospitals and reappear without the nation
being any the wiser as
to what the ailment was
and whether a transition
was round the corner.
Election after election
was being lost but the
mother and son duet
would neither disappear
nor connect. A private
social group remained
more important than
the more public, but
supine political group.
It was appalling for the
country’s oldest party to
be neither in nor out of
reckoning. Meanwhile
corruption charges, beginning with Bofors,
would just not go away.
It was this universal
anger with Congress
leadership that Modi’s
campaign managers brilliantly harvested. Add to
this the greatest media
campaign ever mounted.
The helpful Sonia-Rahul negative image is,
alas for Modi, now out
of the way. A Muzaffarnagar-like polarization
cannot be repeated in
quick succession. This
is too gentle a country.
Even Kali and Durga
have their seasons. The
open season given to
Yogi Adityanath, Sakshi
Maharaj and a Sadhvi
adept at abusive diction
will never be tolerated
by the world’s oldest
civilization. The writing
has been clear on the
wall since the bye-elections in UP. A reversal
in Delhi will not be such
a bad thing for the BJP.
It will enable the party to
off load those interests
who by their vulgarity
neutralize gains like the
Obama visit and who
have all too frequently
made the BJP look embarrassingly inelegant. (
Naqvi is a senior commentator on diplomatic
and political affairs . The
views expressed are personal.)
01 FEBRUARY 2015
The forgotten Mahatma
By Brij Khandelwal
We remember Mahatma
Gandhi only on October 2
and January 30. The symbolic spinning of the charkha,
recital of bhajans and selling
khadi at a discount are the
only activities that remind
us of him.
For the rest of the year,
Gandhi remains a forgotten Mahatma, deified like
one of our numerous gods
and his teachings reduced
to mundane rituals. Long
back, Albert Einstein had
said that the coming generation would scarcely believe that a man like him
had ever walked the planet
earth. Einstein was probably
thinking of the very distant
future when people might
raise their eyebrows in sheer
disbelief and ask: "Was there
a man like Gandhi in flesh
and blood? Less than 70
years after his death, Gandhi, who preached the gospel
of truth and non-violence all
his life and strove to liberate
India, has become, in his
own country and among his
own people, a legend and a
myth. What Gandhi said or
did is mostly forgotten and
we are stuck up with symbols like the charkha and
khadi. Khan Abdul Ghaffar
Khan, known as the "Frontier Gandhi" caustically remarked when he visited In-
dia in 1969 on the occasion
of Gandhi's birth centenary
celebrations: "I have come to
remind the people of India
that they have forgotten the
Mahatma." Horace Alexender rightly asked us to bring
Gandhi "down to earth again
as a living man among his
men, which is what he wanted to be", to strip him of his
mahatmaship and look at
him, if we can, as plain Mr.
Gandhi." Unlike most leaders anywhere in the world,
Gandhi knew how to risk his
popularity. Ram Manohar
Lohia wrote about Gandhi:
"He had a calf, the child of a
sacred cow, injected to death
in a certain situation; he had
a monkey shot, he took Harijans into temples, he refused
to attend weddings unless
they were inter-caste; he
sanctioned divorce, he had
a large sum of Rs.55 crore
and more given to Pakistan
at a time when Hindus held
that treasonable; he acted
and not alone spoke against
property; in brief, he hardly
ever missed doing anything
that brought danger and calumny to him." The reason
why we, as a nation are still
struggling hopelessly is that
we have shown more interest in aping the West and
adopting Western growth
models. The result inevitably is that while we have
created "islands of prosperity", the masses continue to
exist in vast areas of darkness. Hypocrisy has become
our new religion and falsehood our way of life. We
have fatal doses of these in
all spheres of our life. Fat
pundits stooge on gullible
masses; pseudo-leftists and
chauvinistic scoundrels run
the circus that is our politics.
Public and private monopolies sustain the "functioning
anarchy" that is our economy. Gandhi had warned us
of an ennui that will have
overtaken us but we never
bothered to create conditions in which life will have
some mission and purpose.
Little wonder we are overwhelmed by rank passivity
and continue to wait for a
messiah for our deliverance.
The relevance of Gandhi is
now being realized the world
over as mankind grapples
with one vast problem after
The schizophrenic despair
resulting from obesity in
affluent societies and the
pangs of chill penury in the
underdeveloped countries
calls for fresh thinking on
Gandhian lines. The poor
countries of the world particularly cannot do without
Gandhi, who lit the torch of
freedom in the hearts of millions of people all over the
world. His understanding
of socio-economic problems
and his deep insight into human psychology were aimed
at liberating the downtrodden from their difficulties.
He made a valuable contribution to politics by his
practical application of the
non-violent weapons of satyagraha, fasts and strikes,
demonstrating how vulnerable modern states which
depend on the 'Big Lie' are.
It is a pity that the scope of
non-violent movements or
peaceful resistance against
totalitarian or fascist regimes has not been enlarged.
In fact, there has been no
fresh thinking on these subjects, although there has
been a large-scale proliferation of Gandhian institutes.
Unfortunately an impression has gained ground that
the real prestige of a nation
is measured not in terms of
the wellbeing and prosperity
of the people but in relation
to the armed might of the
state. This is a fallacious argument which needs to be
countered. Unless the people of a nation are healthy in
mind and body, any amount
of stockpiling of arms will
not boost its image.
India for greater feRomancing Indian
Railways, some memoirs male participation
in UN peace efforts
Nostalgic accounts of travellers
who rode the earliest trains in
India, personal journeys of
men who who have written memoirs of their life and
struggle in the US and East Africa and former union minister
Salman Khurshid's account of
Muslims in India. IANS bookshelf this weekend offers these
delights. Take a look: 1. Book:
Halt Station India; Author: Rajendra B. Aklekar; Publisher:
Rupal Pages: 205; Price: Rs.395
From the arrival of the first
train and the subsequent emergence of a pioneering electric
line - all in Mumbai, this book
rekindles the romance with Indian Railways by highlighting
the the rise of India's original
rail network.
Written by journalist Rajendra B. Aklekar, the book draws
from journals, newspapers
and archives, along with "nostalgic accounts" of those who
have traveled by the country's
earliest trains. It also captures
the "economic and social revolutions spurred by the country's first train line". With a
foreword by journalist and
author Mark Tully, the book
is peppered with images, maps
and sketches. 2. Book: Building Bridges: The Role of Indian Americans in Indo-US
Relations; Author: Swadesh
Chatterjee; Publisher: Rupa;
Pages: 224; Price: Rs. 500 Not
satisfied with simply being an
immigrant success story, the
author decided it was time to
give back - both to his adopted land and his motherland.
He took on a leading role in
the burgeoning movement
of Indian Americans seeking
rapprochement between the
United States and India after
decades of Cold War misunderstandings and resentment.
The author helped shape this
movement and its strategy -
By Arul Louis
and in the process developed a
new play book for the political
empowerment of immigrants.
This memoir is a chronicle
of the ups and downs of that
movement, a blueprint for
younger Indian Americans
and other immigrant groups
raising their voices in the United States - and a deeply personal family story. 3. Book: And
Home Was Kariakoo; Author:
M.G. Vassanji; Publisher: Penguin; Pages: 384; Price: Rs. 599
The author was born in East
Africa, and like many Indian
East Africans of his generation,
he migrated to the West and
made a life for himself there.
But Africa remained his primal
home - the land whose colours
and smells most beckoned to
him, the land in which his family roots went deepest. In this
book, he travels to his homeland to draw a vivid portrait
of East Africa today - always
the melting pot of Asia, Africa
and Arabia - and tells the story
of the Gujarati Indians of that
region for whom Africa is both
home and not home. 4. Book:
At Home in India: The Muslim
Saga; Author: Salman Khurshid; Publisher: Hay House;
Pages: 392; Price: Rs. 699 As
a former union minister who
has held several crucial portfolios, the author, on the basis
of his vast and varied experience, recounts how Muslims
in India accept this country as
their own despite many provocations and allegations doubting their patriotism. In the
process, he reinforces his contentions by providing numerous real-life examples of how
the community has proved its
commitment and capability
by making immense contributions in almost all fields. This
timely volume, which covers
a wide span from the late 19th
century to the present, succinctly brings out the pivotal
roles played by a galaxy of distinguished Indian Muslims.
The author describes how the
Aligarh Muslim University in
Uttar Pradesh and the Jamia
Milia Islamia, Delhi, came into
being and how many of their
alumni became part of the
freedom movement and maintained communal harmony.
To protect women caught in conflicts, India has called for greater
female participation in UN peace
efforts and a broader approach
that focuses on "peacebuilding"
rather than concentrating on traditional peacekeeping operations.
India's Permanent Representative
Asoke Kumar Mukerji told the
Security Council Friday: "The participation of women in all aspects
of the prevention and resolution
of conflicts is an important policy
measure which the Council should
encourage while mandating peace
operations." Speaking in a debate
on protecting civilians in armed
conflict, he drew on Indian women's participation in peacekeeping
operations and said, "Our experience in Liberia showed that the
actual requirements for addressing issues confronting women in
armed conflict were related to the
concept of peacebuilding, rather
than peacekeeping." A representative of non-governmental organizations (NGO), who was invited
by the Council to speak about the
issues facing women, said the UN
should increase the number of
women staff in peacekeeping operations, in both military and police
components. Ilwad Elman of the
NGO Working Group On Women, Peace and Security said that
when there are female peacekeepers and police, women in areas of
conflict are better able to communicate their concerns about
safety and request protection.
Mukerji said India was the first
UN member to bring about the
active participation of women in
peacekeeping operations when it
sent an all female police unit to the
UN peacekeeping operations in
Liberia in 2007. He recalled what
the then-US Secretary of State
Hilary Clinton said of India at the
Council in 2009: "They have set
an example that must be repeated
in UN peacekeeping missions all
over the world." India now has a
total of 137 women participating
in UN Peacekeeping Operations,
112 of whom are from the police
and 13 are from the military. Of
them 102 serve in a police contigent in the UN Mission in Liberia
(UNMIL). Setting out a strategy
to deal with the problem, Mukerji
said the Council should now split
up "the complex multidimensional
nature of its peacekeeping mandates, and focus on addressing issues confronting women in armed
conflict situations through focused
peacebuilding activities, so that the
transition to a post-conflict society
can be sustainable." This approach
would give greater scope to humanitarian and development programs and fight the exploitation of
women caught in armed conflicts,
he said. The nature of armed conflicts has changed since India first
contributed troops to UN operations under the traditional mandate when "keeping the peace, was
the best guarantee for protection of
civilians caught up in armed conflicts," he said. "Whereas earlier,
our peacekeepers were deployed
to keep the peace between states,"
he said, "we are now witnessing a
steady increase in the deployment
of UN peacekeepers in situations
of internal conflicts within member states." The impact of the instability and violence in the areas
of conflict due to the breakdown
of government "has been felt by
the most vulnerable of the civilian populations, especially women
and girls," he said. Mukerji pointedly drew attention to how the
working of the Council itself has
contributed to the situation. "The
evident inability of the Council to
address and nurture sustainable
political solutions to such conflict
situations" was a major reason
for the "open-ended" situations of
conflict and instability that took
a toll on women. India speaks authoritatively on UN peacekeeping
operations as it is the single largest contributor to these missions,
having sent over 180,000 troops to
43 of the 68 operations which have
claimed the lives of 156 Indians.