REPORTER POST Ranchi 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 phenomenally, riding 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 coverage pummelling 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, Keshvaram Kashiram 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.) Oped 01 FEBRUARY 2015 5 SUNDAY 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 another. 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.
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