Sunday, December 27, 2009

A Food-thought for Adam Smith

Adam Smith, father of modern economist, wrote a book titled The Wealth of Nations in 1776. The book is considered the magnum opus written at the outset of the Industrial Revolution advocating a free market economy which will be more productive and beneficial to society at large.

In the book, Adam Smith wrote,
“When the quantity of any commodity which is brought to market falls short of the effectual demand, all those who are willing to pay... cannot be supplied with the quantity which they want... Some of them will be willing to give more. A competition will begin among them, and the market price will rise... When the quantity brought to market exceeds the effectual demand, it cannot be all sold to those who are willing to pay the whole value of the rent, wages and profit, which must be paid in order to bring it thither... The market price will sink...”

To put it simply, it means when demand exceeds supply, the price goes up. When the supply exceeds demand, the price goes down.

The above law as laid down by Adam Smith is being challenged in India. The steady rise in the prices of essential commodities is not necessarily a result of law of demand and supply. There is one more element which has the potential to deceive the operating market forces: artificial food inflation.

Artificial food inflation is a creation of long chain of middlemen. The humble price of essential commodities becomes steeper by the time it reaches the ultimate consumer. The cursory glance at the current market prices of essential commodities will make one sweat. Potatoes are retailing at 100 per cent more than a year ago. Fruits and vegetables are 30 per cent more expensive than the last year. It was only when the inflation touched 19% (highest food inflation of the decade), government stepped in just to utter one phrase: that the rising prices are a “cause for concern”.

Outlook magazine has proved that the current food inflation is not a result of law of demand and supply rather it is the result of law of the middlemen. It followed the essential commodities from farm to the neighbouring shop. The survey compared farm prices, Mandi prices and retail prices of tomato, potato, cabbage and onion. The farm prices of four commodities is extremely cheap while the retail price is at at least five to six times higher. This cycle of steep price ride does not benefit millions of farmers as it is evident from the fact that farmer suicide continues to take place. It only benefits a handful of rich and powerful middlemen. This is the irony of a rising India that the price rise of essential commodities does not benefit the actual farmer rather it paves the way for the middlemen to make a booty out of it.

Where does central government stand in this artificial food inflation?

First of all, there is no effective mechanism to check whether there is the real scarcity of food grains. And even if corrective measures are taken to overcome this, there is no way to control the price of essential commodities. As Ashok Gulati, director of International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) puts it,
“The value chain is too fragmented. And if there’s even a slight supply shortage, agents, end-retailers raise prices arbitrarily.”

It is the job of Sharad Pawar, Union agriculture minister, to devise and smoothen the ways in which farmers cut the long chain and sell essential commodities at decent prices. Cutting the long-chain will not only benefit farmers but also the end-consumers.

Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee’s statement in Kolkata on Thursday that ‘cost-push’ element is behind the price rise is silly. He said, “It has to be understood that a cost-push element is responsible for the rise in food prices... it emerges from the Centre’s decision to give fair and remunerative prices to farmers among others [procurement, transportation and stocking prices].” Pranab Mukherjee very conveniently forgot the role played by the middlemen in the price rise. Pranab Mukherjee is no naivete who wouldn’t be aware of the role of the middlemen. One would like to believe in Centre’s sincerity behind such a measure but honestly speaking farmers are not getting much money out of it.

Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council (EAC) must take note of Pranab Mukherjee’s insensitive statement.

India is poised to take centre stage as it has the second largest economy after China. India Rising story has graced dozens of magazine covers across the world. We boast of four of the world’s 10 richest billionaires. But yet that does not help. That’s just one-side of the story. The other-side is ugly. Poverty and hunger are written on so many faces of Nehru’s India.

Tarun Tejpal rightly points out,
“While acquire and consume has been the anthem of the elite, a low hum has been gathering in the vast undergrowth of the country’s destitute. By official figures — and we may generously add to them if we are feeling particularly dark — more than 350 million Indians still live below the poverty line (which in itself is appalling: Rs 12 for rural and Rs 18 for urban).”

Adam Smith is no longer alive to witness the wonders of a free market. But economist Manmohan Singh is.

Sunday Inquilab, December 27, 2009

Sunday, November 22, 2009

A Judicial Ray of Hope

Shaikh Dastagir, a victim of September 8, 2006 Qabristan blasts

Ashwani Kumar, director of Central Bureau of Investigation, and his committed team of sleuths have suddenly discovered that power is not absolute in a secular democracy. Power comes with responsibility and subject to checks and balances by the short arm of legislators and by the long arm of judiciary. CBI sleuths were so confident of power that they went on to sleep for three long years before being woken up by a judicial bite. Isn’t it amazing that CBI took three years just to utter one sentence – which everybody in Malegaon knows – that accused of Malegaon 2006 blasts are innocent. Had it not been the deep and effective judicial bite of Justice J.N. Patel, CBI would have slept till eternity!

The response of judiciary was quick; Bombay High Court came out with its terse judgment in three months. There was no political response for three long years. Should one assume that the two arms of a democratic republic are in complete disharmony? Should one equate Manmohan Singh-led UPA with notorious CBI? Where PC Chidambaram’s golden-rule of democracy is which he very keen taught to Muslims at Deoband? Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, National Security Advisor and Home Minister must admonish CBI in two words: perform or perish.

Before being bitten by the judicial jaw, CBI had an opportunity to prove and reaffirm nationwide belief that it is indeed country’s most trusted and prestigious investigating agency. CBI had a golden chance to capitalize on the so-called “public outcry” which rose from Malegaon. It had a golden opportunity to score over ATS. But unfortunately it treaded the path of ATS which has a dead end. It followed the misleading footprints of a “communal” (that’s how SM Mushrif describes KP Raghuvanshi in his new book: Who Killed Karkare?) officer like KP Raghuvanshi. CBI inquiry may have been a ray of hope to some in Malegaon but it has proved to be eyewash.

The demand for CBI inquiry was not because of “public outcry” as the public prosecutor has claimed in the high court. It was a personal outcry borne with the desire to fill Muslim leadership vacuum. The lone voice filled the empty spaces in newspapers’ columns and each one of us accepted it as a gospel. It was S.M. Mushrif alone who publicly castigated and criticised this insane decision to demand a CBI inquiry on October 10, 2006 at KC College auditorium. CBI inquiry converted an easy puzzle into a complicated riddle.

The formation of Kul Jamati Tanzeem (KJT) did not help; it, in fact, made matters worse. KJT wanted to spearhead a democratic movement in order to release the accused but yet it forgot a golden-rule of democracy: to take help of secular activists. It aggressively portrayed itself as a Muslim organization which proved suicidal. It is precisely for this reason that KJT refused to cooperate and share its report with Teesta Setalvad and Justice Kolshe Patil. The inflated egos of its members must have further inflated when it submitted its so-called “report” to CBI. Is CBI a court of law? Was CBI legally bound to follow the report? Has KJT got any legal credentials that country’s premier investigating agency will follow its diktat?

CBI sleuths must have mocked at this blind and insane decision. The decision to handover the report was a collective mockery of people of Malegaon. KJT is guilty of connivance; it presented all the “evidence” to CBI the way a fresh bowl of soup is given to guests!

Centre and State government have been playing the role of hide and seek. Both are morally and politically responsible to pressurize the concerned agencies to speed up the pace of investigation. Home Minister PC Chidambaram need not become a judge to discover that justice is one of the foremost problems of Indian Muslims. He would do well to remember what American editor and reformer Frederick Douglass was fond of saying,
“I would unite with anybody to do right and with nobody to do wrong.”

Frederick once wrote:

“Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.”

Judges have performed their duty. Politicians have not.

Sunday Inquilab, November 22, 2009

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Raj Thackeray: Dissecting a lingual terrorist

The worst way to reason is to have no reason. There may be reasons not to have a reason. No reason is a good way to keep people guessing the reason. If you have the reason, you can’t actually fool people not to know the reason. The reason has to be real and not imaginary.

Raj Thackeray, the nefarious nephew of Bal Thackeray, has been on rampage citing a single reason: imagined insult to Marathi language. Does speaking Hindi or any other language in the state of Maharashtra belittle Marathi? By taking oath in Hindi Abu Asim Azmi has not shown any disgrace and disregard to Marathi language. Raj Thackeray’s elected goons’ rampage in Maharashtra assembly has proved that Abu Asim Azmi can alone bring disrespect to Marathi language! Is Marathi language and culture so hollow that it can be brought to disrespect by the utterance of a single being? In the recent past Raj Thackeray’s men have targeted Bollywood personalities. Jaya Bachchan’s unintentional utterance that ‘she will speak Hindi because she is from Uttar Pradesh’ did not go well with Raj although Jaya had apologized right there to the people of Maharashtra for not speaking in Marathi. Is Hindi, our national language, a threat to Marathi, Maharashtra’s official language? Can’t Hindi and Marathi co-exist in Maharashtra? Language should promote harmony and not hatred.

Raj must salute India’s tolerant democracy that allows him to indulge in lingual terrorism. Raj believes in lingual hegemony of aggression. He portrays himself as a messiah of Marathi language and Marathi manoos (Marathi population). Will his intolerant attitude towards Hindi promote Marathi? Aggression does not promote a language. It degrades the language and covers it with the dirt of exclusivity. If Raj sincerely wants to promote Marathi, he should rebrand his Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) as Multi-National Sena!

State government must make provisions to recognise ‘lingual terrorism’! The term “lingual terrorism” must find space in terror statues!

Raj is using his mother-tongue to flex his political muscle and put himself on the state’s political radar. The explosive entry of MNS in the assembly is a result of espousing a so-called ‘Marathi’ cause. Politics is the art of the impossible and Raj is very keen to master that ‘art’ even if he has to coin his own slogan of regionalism which is an antithesis to the very idea of Indian nationalism.

Raj’s theatrics began with the formation of MNS when he felt that he is being ‘sidelined’ by Udhav, Bal Thackeray’s son. A political party needs an ideology and issue to keep breathing. Raj raised an issue which became the core ideology of MNS: to check uncontrolled migration to Bombay from North India especially from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. This might have been a valid issue to an economically-impoverished Marathi but Raj’s constant maneuvering and tirade transformed it into venom. Raj suddenly jumped to language from economics. What happens when a politician propagating regional economics tries to become a linguist? He becomes a political snake whose bite is communicable.

Bal Thackeray became the first victim of the snake-bite when he had blasted Shahrukh Khan as an “outsider” who calls himself a “Dilliwala.” Why should Bollywood become a battleground for the uncle-nephew political rivalry? The answer lies in one question: What have the uncle-nephew done to improve the lot of hapless Marathis? They have only paid lip-service while Bollywood has paid fat cheques. Not many would know that Bollywood, the world’s biggest film industry, employs thousands of Marathis. To cover their collective failure, Bal Thackeray and Raj are competing with each other to target a symbol of economic success: Bollywood.

In the past, state has acted like a mute spectator. The reason was simple: The Congress-NCP alliance was in no mood to offend Marathi sensibilities. It had adopted an old British dictum: Divide and rule. It tacitly supported Raj’s rants in order to divide Sena’s Marathi votes. This political trend can’t survive any more.

Maharashtra’s mainstream political parties have reacted cautiously to issue of Marathi language after infamous slap-episode in assembly. Any official utterance is bound to have a long-term consequence. Marathi mass will not gain from this political game because players involved in this game are concerned about their private rather than public interests!

It is a dangerous game where Indian nationalism is being challenged by Marathi jingoism.

Lingual compulsions cannot succeed in a country like India. How would Raj react if Marathis working in the Middle East are forced to speak Arabic at public functions? Will Raj support the compulsion?

Bombay is a city that does not belong to any particular community. It is a city which has produced Suketu Mehta and Salman Rushdie. It equally belongs to Dileep Padgaonkar and Shobhaa De`. It is a city of dreams where a Marathi as well as a Bihari co-exist to eke out a living. It is a city of irony where thousands come for bread and butter. And a few have come here in search of the bomb as well. Bombay is Bombay not because of Marathis like Raj but because of Gujaratis, Parsis and Muslims who have nurtured this city into a cultural mega polis.

Having stayed in Poona, I know the fact that Marathi is a civilised language. Raj Thackeray and his frustrated men are making a mockery of Marathi. Average Marathis must realize the fact that lingual compulsion as demanded by Raj is not going to improve their condition. Raj is using it as an “ideology”. The empty Marathi stomach can not be fed by an ideology. The last word should be left to a Pune-based Marathi friend:

“If proficiency in speaking in Marathi was the only criteria, why not subject these politicians to examinations and elect them on that basis, rather than wasting resources on elections.”

Raj Thackeray’s terrible 13 should press to implement the above suggestion!

Sunday Inquilab, November 15, 2009

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Vande Mataram and Rise of Religiosity

30th General Session of Jamiat Ulema at Deoband

Jamiat Ulema has breathed a fresh leash of life into a decaying body called Sangh Parivar. The legitimate and illegitimate babies of the Sangh Parivar, who were on a deathbed, have suddenly discovered the art of resurrection and are on a revival path – thanks to Jamiat’s endorsement of an old fatwa of Darul Uloom Deoband against singing of the controversial song Vande Mataram. It’s akin to activating the dying cells of BJP! One doesn’t intend to question the validity of fatwa since it has already been settled by Darul Uloom. The subsequent endorsement by Jamiat and its timing are questionable since the matter has been decided by Supreme Court and it’s not mandatory. Also the issue of Vande Mataram was not at all being discussed!

Before we discuss the historical significance of Vande Mataram; three important issues must be made clear. First, the song is completely Un-Islamic. One may not agree with the second issue but many Muslims believe that Jamiat has always been the stooge of Congress. And thirdly the sound health of ‘Hindutva forces’ is a pre-requisite condition for the so-called secular parties to entice Muslim community on emotional issues, so that it may forget its legitimate demands and throw them into oblivion. The strengthening of Hindutva forces means that Muslims will be likely to go with the so-called ‘secular’ parties. This creates a conducive environment and greater prospects for secular parties to capture Muslim votes through false slogan of ‘secularism’.

One may recall that a few years ago, it was Arjun Singh, the then HRD Minister, who declared that the centenary of Vande Mataram would be celebrated with its singing in all institutions. Muslims reacted aggressively giving an opportunity to Hindutva forces to spew venom against the community. Arjun Singh later withdrew the circular and emerged a secular figure in the eyes of the Muslims! The purpose, perhaps, was served: to divert community’s attention from its main problems!

The unholy nexus between ‘Hindutva forces’ and the ‘fictitious secularism’ is the most effective instrument since independence to deceive Muslims.

Indian Muslims must understand the fact that Vande Mataram is more than a hundred year old-trap.

The controversial song Vande Mataram occurs in Bankimchandra Chatterjee’s novel Anand Math which was published in 1882. The song was originally written in 1876. Bhavananda, the hero of the novel plans an armed struggle against Muslims of Bengal. While reciting the song, he meets Mahendra. When Mahendra asks the meaning the song, Bhavananda replies, “Our religion is gone, our caste is gone, our honour is gone. Can the Hindus preserve their Hinduism unless these drunken Nereys (a term of contempt for Muslims) are driven away?” When Mahendra is not convinced, he is taken to temple and shown four-armed Vishu, with two decapitated and bloody heads in front. The priest tells Mahendra, “She is the Mother. We are her children Say ‘Bande Mataram’. The same procedure is repeated at the temple of Kali and Durga. Others have been portrayed as saying, “Will the day come when we shall break mosques and build temples on their sites”? The land of Bengal has been identified with a Hindu deity. Therefore, it is safe to conclude that Vande Mataram is a religious homage rather than national tribute to ‘Mother India.’

Nirad C. Chaudhuri describes the times in which the song was written. “The historical romances of Bankim Chatterjee and Ramesh Chandra Dutt glorified Hindu rebellion against Muslim rule and showed the Muslims in a correspondingly poor light. Chatterjee was positively and fiercely anti-Muslim. We were eager readers of these romances and we readily absorbed their spirit.”

Congress Working Committee which met on October 26, 1937 decided that the first two stanzas out of five will be sung (The last three stanzas have got religious connotation and therefore considered controversial). The first two stanzas began to be sung in some provinces and gradually it became associated with India’s freedom struggle. Commenting on this noted jurist and writer A.G. Noorani wrote in 1999, “’National’ songs do not need political surgery; the songs which do, do not win national acceptance.”

A.G. Noorani has termed Vande Mataram as “unconstitutional” citing Article 28 (1) and (3) of the Constitution which read:

(1) No religious instruction shall be provided in any educational institution wholly maintained out of state funds.

(3) No person attending any educational institution recognised by the State or receiving aid out of State funds shall be required to take part in any religious instruction that may be imparted in such institution or to attend any religious worship that may be conducted in such institution or in any premises attached thereto unless such person or, if such person is a minor, his guardian has given his consent thereto.

Should a particular religion play any role in a secular democracy like India? The question is obviously rhetorical. The deadly mixture of majority religion with India’s democratic framework has acquired frightening proportions.

Why do public servants break coconuts inaugurating new buildings? Why are religious mantras recited in the presence of bearers of public office? Why do judges invoke goddess Saraswati inaugurating a new court building? What has goddess Saraswati’s picture got to do with Indian judiciary? All this has happened recently at the inauguration of new court building in Malegaon in the presence of Chief Justice of Bombay High Court.

All this injures the spirit of world’s longest Constitution whose preamble contains words “sovereign socialist secular democratic republic.” It is the duty of judiciary and law enforcement agencies to check potent mixture of religion and public life.

Since singing Vande Mataram is not compulsory, Supreme Court must take suo moto cognizance of Bal Thackeray’s utterance that those who refuse to sing it, their tongues must be chopped off. Thackeray’s statement amounts to contempt of court. KG Balakrishanan, Chief Justice of India, must intervene to reassure that India does not believe and practice jungle law.

Sunday Inquilab, November 8, 2009

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Crime: the Swine flu of politics

Ashok Chavan: The Man in command needs to take initiative

Now that the electoral dust has settled down in Maharashtra, its time we carefully studied each of our representatives with a magnifying glass of honesty. Each one of them is our elected representative and therefore in a democratic parlance our mirror-image. The image which emerges is a collective reflection of us, the voters. It may be beautiful, ugly, twisted and in some cases a camouflage to delude ordinary individuals but nobody can deny the fact that we, the voters, are responsible for that image. Narendra Modi has presided over the genocide of innocent Muslims in Gujarat but he remains a democratic symbol and representative and therefore a mirror-image of Gujaratis. This paradox of democracy is like a bitter pill which each one of us has to swallow it.

We must have celebrated the hat-trick of “clean” and “secular” Congress-NCP alliance. Many of us would have been relieved that voters rejected “communal” and “filthy” saffron brigade. But there is one factor which cuts through all party lines – criminal record of elected members of legislative assembly. Not many would have noted this phenomenon. And those who are aware of this societal reality may not care about it. Or perhaps it makes little difference in their lives.

According to the data compiled by National Election Watch, an NGO working for electoral reforms, Maharashtra leads the list of largest number of legislators with criminal cases pending against them followed by Haryana and Arunachal Pradesh. Out of 288, 143 MLAs have a criminal background or some criminal case is pending against them. Almost half of our representatives come from a criminal background or done some nefarious activity which entitled them to enroll themselves in the muster roll reserved for criminals. The magical figure of 145 is required to form government in Maharashtra. What will happen if all the MLAs with criminal cases pending against them come together to cobble up an alliance and manage to get support of two more MLAs? Will Maharashtra government be led by criminal-like-creatures? This assumption should never come true but the number of 143 is a collective blot on our conscience. It’s a blot on the very idea of democracy because there is no law in India which bars persons with criminal cases from contesting elections. This democratic flaw has enabled some criminals win an election right from inside the jail!

Shiv Sena has 33 MLAs with criminal cases pending against them, the highest from a single party. Congress and BJP are on the second position with 26 MLAs each. NCP is ranked third with 24 MLAs. Then there are 36 successful candidates who are either independents or from other regional parties and have criminal cases pending against them, according to National Election Watch data.

India’s democratic framework is such that crime and politics have always been intertwined. Money and muscle power are supposed to be the first steps in climbing up the political ladder. This political trend does not necessarily apply to all because this election has produced the candidates who have won against the might of money and muscle power. But there can be no denying that fact that use of money and muscle power lead to criminal cases.

The 143 tainted MLAs are dirtying Maharashtra’s political pond. Each one of us is responsible for this criminal contamination. Each one of us is guilty for injecting the criminal blood which is polluting the entire Maharashtra. Each one of us owes a responsibility to wipe out this swine flu which is slowly eating us without our realisation.

Perhaps judiciary can play an important role in the operation cleanup. If not, we can’t expect much from our legislators! Legislators of all hues – green, red and saffron – will come together to save themselves! Therefore, a people’s movement seems to be the last and the most practical option.

Is Mr. Ashok Chavan listening?

Sunday Inquilab, November 1, 2009

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Hindu Iftar for Malegaon Muslims

Muslims at the Hindu-hosted Iftar

MALEGAON – Hastimal Vardera, a Hindu, is busy preparing iftar for fasting Muslims in the northwestern Indian city of Malegaon, setting an example of communal harmony in the Hindu-majority Asian country.

“I arrange Iftar party for our Muslim brethren once every Ramadan with the help of my Hindu friends and some members of Malegaon Lions club,” Vardera, a businessman, told
Every year, the Hindu trader leads a team of 50 colleagues to host the iftar in the communally sensitive city.
At least 600 Muslim weavers attend the iftar every year.
“The basic purpose of organizing such an Iftar party is to strengthen our business relations so the society can live amicably,” said Vardera.
Muslim weavers dominate the grey cloth production in Malegaon while Hindu traders act as intermediaries who sell the finished product outside the city.
The idea of hosting iftar for his Muslim neighbors first came to the Hindu trader in 1992.
“Earlier, it used to be a close affair with Muslim weaver friends. Only a handful of people used to attend it,” he said.
It was only in 2002 that Vedera decided to expand the iftar.
“Initially the idea of inviting hundreds of Muslim for Iftar was difficult but slowly I picked it up.”

Malegaon, in the northern state of Maharashtra, has a long history of Muslim-Hindu tension.

The city was rocked by two deadly blasts in 2006 and 2008, leaving many Muslims dead.
Eleven Hindus, including a serving army colonel and a retired general, were accused of masterminding the attacks.
“Ramadan provides an opportunity for Iftar and this exercise helps to improve business relations as there is a lively inter-community dialogue which rarely takes place in a town like Malegaon,” Vadera said.
In Ramadan, adult Muslims, save the sick and those traveling, abstain from food, drink, smoking and sex between dawn and sunset.
Most dedicate their time during the holy month to become closer to Allah through self-restraint, good deeds and prayer.
“We earn from our Muslim brother so it is our duty to give them back even if it is in the form of an Iftar party,” said Vedera.
The Hindus-hosted iftar is drawing praise across the city.
“This Iftar is very special,” Sanjay Patil, additional superintendent of police, told IOL.
“It improves Hindu-Muslim relations between weavers and traders and both act as the lifeline of this town.”
Outbreaks of communal violence between Hindus and Muslims are not uncommon in India.
Last year, hundreds of Muslim homes and shops were burnt to ashes by Hindu mobs in different areas of Jammu and Kashmir.
The unrest was triggered by the local government's decision to donate local land to a Hindu pilgrimage trust, a decision opposed by Muslims.
In 2002, at least 2,000 Muslims were hacked or burned to death by Hindu mobs in Gujarat after 59 Hindu pilgrims died in a train fire first blamed on Muslims but which a later inquiry concluded was accidental.
“The fate of Hindus and Muslims is linked to each other,” said Patil.
“The inter-dependency factor is like two wheels of the same cart.”
Aziz-ur-Rahman, a businessman, shares the same view.
“Iftar acts as a meeting point for the two communities,” he said, adding that the iftar also helps local authorities to deal with sensitive Hindu-Muslim relationship.
“People to people interaction in any form must be welcomed.” September 18 2009

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Unbottling the Djinn of Jinnah

The powerful persona of Jinnah still reverberates in India sixty years after his death. Dead Jinnah has the potential to shatter and disintegrate an increasingly fascist BJP where freedom and forgiveness are being applied selectively. What would have been the fate of BJP had Jinnah been alive? Nehru and Gandhi have been painted as permanent saints while Jinnah has been portrayed as a permanent sinner in the Indian history. When one looks closely at the cult figure of Jinnah, the famous line comes to mind: No man can be hero all through his life…

Nobody would have thought that Jaswant Singh, one of the tallest BJP leaders, would unbottle the jinn of Jinnah from the bottle of history and mystery! The core issue of the ongoing debate is not that Jaswant Singh’s new book on Jinnah has rattled the BJP but his contention that Jinnah was not responsible for the Partition of India and the blame lay with Nehru and Vallabhai Patel. We will examine this assumption later; let’s first have a look at the kind of man Jinnah was and what drove him towards two-nation theory which culminated in the creation of Pakistan.

Jinnah was a towering national leader much before Gandhi returned from South Africa and entered public life. Jinnah was a colleague of Gopal Krishna Gokhale and Bal Gangadhar Tilak. He was better known than Motilal Nehru, Tej Bahadur Sapru and M.R. Jayakar. Gandhi’s rise to prominence lies in the Khilafat movement which Jinnah bitterly opposed. Jinnah was a permanent secular liberal while Gandhi adjusted his secularism according to the prevalent condition and the requirement. Gandhi believed in the idea of compromise while Jinnah didn’t. Gandhi appeased Muslims with Khilafat movement and Hindus by intoning Ramrajya. Therein lays the popularity of Gandhi. It is this “compromise” of Gandhi that made him more popular than any other leader in the Indian subcontinent.

In a letter dated October 30, 1920 – which is of historic importance – Jinnah wrote to Gandhi:

“I thank you for your kind suggestion offering me ‘to take my share in the new life that has opened up before the country’. If by ‘new life’ you mean your methods and your programme, I am afraid I cannot accept them; for I am fully convinced that it must lead to disaster. But the actual new life that has opened up before the country is that we are faced with a Government that pays no heed to the grievances, feelings and sentiments of the people; that our own countrymen are divided; the Moderate Party is still going wrong; that your methods have already caused split and division in almost every institution that you have approached hitherto, and in the public life of the country not only amongst Hindus and Muslims but between Hindus and Hindus and Muslims and Muslims and even between fathers and sons; people generally are desperate all over the country and your extreme programme has for the moment struck the imagination mostly of the inexperienced youth and the ignorant and the illiterate...I have no voice or power to remove the cause; but at the same time I do not wish my countrymen to be dragged to the brink of a precipice in order to be shattered. The only way for the Nationalists is to unite and work for a programme which is universally acceptable for the early attainment of complete responsible government. Such a programme cannot be dictated by any single individual, but must have the approval and support of all the prominent Nationalist leaders in the country; and to achieve this end I am sure my colleagues and myself shall continue to work.”

Jinnah was beginning to dislike the dictatorship of Gandhi yet he remained a nationalist. After this, Jinnah’s disillusionment with Congress began to develop and there is historical evidence to this. The famous Nehru report which adopted alternative constitutional proposals ignored Jinnah completely. Jinnah’s 14-points were rejected the report. Further, he was personally humiliated at All-Parties Convention yet Jinnah remained steadfast and did not lose self-control. At the Convention he said, “We are all sons of the soil. We have to live together... If we cannot agree, let us at any rate agree to differ, but let us part as friends.”

In 1928, Jinnah advised and insisted Congress to seek Hindu Mahasabha’s assent to which Nehru arrogantly replied, “There are only two parties in the county, the Congress and the government.” Jinnah shot back, “There is a third party in the country and that is the Muslims.” Jayakar questioned Jinnah’s credentials as a representative and Nehru did the same in 1937 when he said, “May I suggest to Mr. Jinnah that I come into greater touch with the Muslim masses than most of the members of the League.”

Jinnah took up this challenge personally and began to work in order to establish his political credentials.

All this did not dishearten Jinnah to such an extent that he demands a separate homeland for Muslims. Till 1937, Jinnah saw “no difference between the ideals of the Muslim League and of the Congress, the ideal being complete freedom for India.”

Jinnah became to nurse a grudge against Nehru and Congress after his repeated attempts to obtain constitutional safeguards for Muslims and attempts at power-sharing had failed.
In October 1937, he said that “all safeguards and settlements would be a scrap of paper unless they were backed up by power.” In Britain the parties alternate in holding power. “But such is not the case in India. Here we have a permanent Hindu majority....”

This is where Jinnah went horribly wrong. His constant humiliation led him to majority-minority trap. He forgot that the key issue to Muslim development was through empowerment on all fronts including politics. Jinnah was so frustrated that he raised the slogan of “permanent Hindu majority”. As ace commentator A.G. Noorani writes, “The solution lay, not in aggravating the communal divide by his two-nation theory; but in the tactics of the Jinnah of old - mobilise both communities, espouse secular values and seek protection for the rights of all minorities as Dr. B.R. Ambedkar had urged him to do.”

In February 1938, Jinnah delivered a speech which is not well-known. There he poured his heart out: “At that time there was no pride in me and I used to beg from the Congress.” The first “shock” came at the Round Table Conference; the next, in 1937. “The Musalmans were like the No Man’s land. They were led by either the flunkeys of the British government or the camp-followers of the Congress…”

When viceroy asked him about the alternative, he replied on October 5, 1939, that “an escape from the impasse ... lay in the adoption of Partition”.

If Nehru compromised on minorities rights then Jinnah on India’s unity although both men were secularists. A.G. Noorani writes,

“Therein lies the tragedy. Nehru harmed secularism by denying the legitimacy of minority rights. Jinnah ruined it by the two-nation theory.”

He adds,

“Yet, it is doubtful if, in the entire history of India’s struggle for freedom, anyone else has been subjected to such a sustained, determined denigration and demonisation as Jinnah has been from 1940 to this day, by almost everyone - from the leaders at the very top to academics and journalists.”

The Cabinet Mission’s Plan of May 16, 1946, for a united India failed and dragged it “into the abyss of inevitability.” Everyone including Nehru and Patel had given up; only Maulana Abul Kalam Azad remained opposed to it. Both Nehru and Jinnah were equally responsible for the Partition.

“Jinnah”, in the word of A.G. Noorani, “was of a heroic mould but fell prey to bitterness and the poison that bitterness breeds.”

No man can be hero all through his life. It equally applies to Jinnah as well.

The last word should be left to M.J. Akbar:

History might be better understood if we did not treat it as a heroes-and-villains movie. Life is more complex than that. The heroes of our national struggle changed sometimes with circumstances.
Sunday Inquilab, August 23, 2009

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Indian memorizers ready for Taraweeh Test

Qur'an memorizers ready for special prayers of Ramadan

MALEGAON – Shabbir Ahmed, 45, has been leading the Tarawih, a special night prayer during the holy fasting month of Ramadan, in this small town of Maharashtra state for more than twenty years.

For him, this honor is the culmination of tireless study and practice throughout the year.
“I do daily and rigorous preparation for 11 months so that I can lead the special night prayer in the month of Ramadan,” Ahmed, who sat cross-legged on a clean mat, told
“I devote at least two hours daily for recitation of the Qur’an.”
In Ramadan, adult Muslims, save the sick and those traveling, abstain from food, drink, smoking and sex between dawn and sunset.
Most dedicate their time during the holy month to become closer to Allah through self-restraint, good deeds and prayer.
The Tarawih prayer usually includes the recitation of the entire 114 surah and 6,666 verses of the Qur'an divided on the days of the month.
Ahmed says that just 15 days before the beginning of Ramadan, he recites the entire Qur’an in one sitting without looking in the book.
“This is the longest and final revision call.”
Ahmed, who is not a full-time imam, says that during Ramadan itself he usually recites the assigned chapters of the holy book at least ten times in a single day.
“When I go onto the prayer mat to lead the special night prayer, it’s the eleventh time.”
Ahmed does not understand Arabic but this has never been an obstacle.
“I don’t know Arabic. But that has very little to do with memorization of the Qur’an.”
He asserts that memorizing the Qur’an is the easy part, while preserving the Word of Allah in human heart is that makes a difference.
“What matters is your intent. If your intentions are pure, then Allah will guide and help you to memorize His Book.”
Qari Rizwan, a mosque imam, says he has been eagerly waiting for the beginning of Ramadan.
“Ramadan is our most beloved month,” he told IOL.
“We, memorizers of Qur’an, prepare for months to recite the holy book in the special night prayer,” he explained.
“Ramadan is a month to bear the fruits of labor.”
Hafiz Ibrahim, one of the most senior memorizers, recalls the old days when there were very few people who would come forward to brace this uphill task.
“There was a time when very few families would volunteer to devote their sons for memorization of the Qur’an but now things have changed,” he told IOL.
“Malegaon alone has thousands of such persons.”
Ibrahim feels blessed to have led fifty five Tarawih prayers before his retirement because of his age.
“All you need to do is stay calm and not panic,” he advises the younger generation of Qur’an memorizers.
“The key to successful recital lies in daily practice,” he explains.
Ahmed sums up the mood for him and fellow Qur’an memorizers.
“It is like our examination,” he says cheerfully. August 20 2009

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Why Diarrhoea does not Matter in Malegaon

According to one estimate, 55 deaths have occurred because of diarrhoea, pneumonia and other related diseases in the last one and half months in the textile town of Malegaon. State government must declare an emergency. Is anyone listening?

Ordinary Indians, politicians and a select group of media organisations may have become paranoid over the issue of swine flu but a placid calm greets dingy by-lanes of Malegaon as the town reels under the shadow of diarrhoea, Calera, pneumonia and other related diseases. The brave hearts of this small and neglected corner of Maharashtra face death with honour. In October 2001, we faced police bullets. The 2006 blasts did not shatter us; we did not lose the element of sanity. 2008 blast was a grave provocation to spark a communal conflagration but saffron souls didn’t succeed. We lost our sense of sanity for sometime but common sense and good judgment prevailed over anger. Malegaon did not crumble.

It’s a different kind of terror this time. It has surfaced in the form an epidemic, a disease which refuses to lie low even after a month, a disease which refuses to take orders from superior government officials. Let’s face it: filth is our recognition. Whether we like it or not, it’s true. That is how a Muslim mohalla is recognised: by heaps of garbage. From Mumbai’s Kurla to Delhi’s Chandani Chowk, it’s the same old story.

That’s only the one part of the story. The second part is equally despicable and ugly. Our representatives have failed us. The issue of Muslim leadership is a mirage. According to records maintained by Bada Qabristan trust, 55 Muslims have died in the last one and half months because of diarrhoea, pneumonia and other related diseases. One may dispute the actual figure of death toll but no Muslim will provide the wrong cause of death to Qabristan authorities. That brings us to an interesting question: Will 2009 be remembered as a year of medical terror? The current estimate exceeds the death toll of two bomb blasts put together. Did anyone realize that?

The wave of diarrhoea began in the first week of July. If local administration took time to wake up late then State government was in deep slumber till Shobha Buchao, minister of state for health visited Malegaon on August 10. Her quiet visit to Malegaon did not change the prevalent ground realities. Deputy CM Chagun Bhujbhal repeated the usual platitudes on Saturday when he visited Malegaon General Hospital. He was misled by handful Marathi journalists who even went on to claim that beef-eating and slaughterhouse are the main cause of diarrhoea wave! Muslim politicians kept quiet. Silence may be a virtuous act but in such a time of communal mudslinging, silence must be declared a political sin! It seemed as if those Marathi journalists had been hired to advice the deputy CM and the local administration! The press conference was turned into a public relation conference!

As India marches ahead in every sphere of life, the colonial Indian mindset remains mired in the 18th century. State government is hyper-busy in a much-hyped swine flu precisely because it comes with a made-in-America tag! Diarrhoea is a local phenomenon and it comes with a made-in-Malegaon tag. Any foreign-export even in the form of disease and epidemic is considered worthy of media coverage. Mainstream media may have completely ignored Malegaon epidemic wave because towns are not part of their target audience.

What will happen if this kind of diarrhoea wave grips a metropolitan city like Mumbai? What would have been the response of state government if this epidemic spread in Ashok Chavan’s home town? Malegaon’s diarrhoea wave is more dangerous than India’s swine flu. It has taken more lives than swine flu if we compare it proportionately.

Incidentally, all the victims happened to be Muslims. A question worth-asking: Is Muslim blood cheap in the eyes of state government?

Malegaon should not be remembered only for riots and bomb blasts. Senior journalist Pamela Philipose has rightly observed in September 2006, “The tragedy of the September 8 blasts in this town served to uncover the greater tragedy of Malegaon, a town that Maharashtra — and India — remembers only in times of blasts and riots.”

State government needs to give a human face to human beings of Malegaon.

Inquilab, August 18, 2009

Sunday, August 09, 2009

The Seeds of Anger and Despair

The collective Muslim response to dropping of MCOCA against Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur and company may have confused ordinary Indians but this response is a mirror image of decades of cries for justice. It encompasses and narrates the story of decades of bias, hate, neglect and subjugation openly practiced by communal forces and at times by the state apparatus directly. It captures the mood of a downtrodden and penniless Mussalman. There is indeed a sense of victimhood among Muslims, but too is not misplaced. Exaggeration of victimhood is a natural corollary to the events that unfolded on the night of Independence Day and continue to reoccur in various forms and manifestations till today.

There was a time when riots were a means of terror. And this terror was being implemented with a sickening regularity. In the beginning, riots were sporadic, localized and controllable but this changed in post-Nehru era. As eminent historian Mushirul Hasan writes,

“Riots at Aligarh, Kanpur, Meerut, Moradabad in UP, Hyderabad in Andhra Pradesh, Baroda and Surat in Gujarat, were bloodier, more widespread, and extended over weeks and months.”

Post-Babri and Gujarat 2002 riots are the finest example of this phenomenon. What more, this phenomenon was being helped and abetted by the State governments. As India entered into internet and 24x7 eras, it became extremely difficult to engineer riots. (Gujarat genocide of 2002 is an exception but then it has been heavily documented. It is precisely for this reason that Narendra Modi’s role is being investigated).

The Muslim answer to the riots came in the form of serial bomb blasts. Dawood Ibrahim pioneered this trend at such a time when Muslim self-esteem was below the belt. He successfully channalised Muslim despair into violence which turned to be fatal for the community in the long-run. Dawood’s one-single devilish idea has uncorked blocked arteries of Hindu fundamentalists! Bombs began to explode in Hindu as well as Muslim neighbourhood wearing the cloak of anonymity. Investigating agencies only gave a ‘Muslim’ name to this anonymity and the ‘Hindu’ remained anonymous till the Sadhvi episode. It was being implemented to redress a community’s grievance that it has been denied justice. Bomb-plotters of 1993 have been punished by India’s judicial system. Judiciary deserves a standing ovation for this feat. The culprits of 2003 twin blasts have been punished. But judiciary behaves like a toddler when it comes to punishing the rioters. A toddler cannot do anything without the help of his parents! (read executive). To an average Muslim, it is natural to ask: Is judiciary biased? Does it only favour the majority community?

The seeds of anger breed despair. And despair did begin to crawl in the Muslim mind. Despair can be a deadly weapon as senior journalist Shoma Chaudhury writes,

“When you lose faith that a system will protect and play fair by you, it breeds fatal recklessness. It makes you abdicate from the rules that cement human relations. Despair can turn you from citizen to perpetrator. From the hunted to the hunter.”

Meanwhile the trend of exploding bomb was being implemented by Hindu zealots as well. The myth that bomb blasts are only a Muslim specialty was ripped apart only in 2008 when Hemant Karkare’s ATS decided to lift the curtain from the hidden Hindu fundamentalists. Anonymity finally got another name. The long list of deadly masterminds (Safdar Nagori, Maulana Haleem, Mufti Abu Bashr, Atif Ameen etc) got another names in the form Sadhvi and Colonel Purohit. Bomb blasts of Hyderabad, Delhi, Jaipur, Bengaluru, Ahmedabad, Malegaon 2006 had only the ‘Muslim’ names. Malegaon 2008 revealed a ‘Hindu’ name for the first time although the same set of elements have been targeting mosques and other places in the Marthwada region (Parbhani, Purna, Jalna, Nanded) since 2003.

There was a full stop to a long sentence of despair.

Muslims once again regained faith in Maharashtra’s premier terror agency. The one single act of arresting Sadhvi and the company began to erase decades of mistrust. Hate, revenge, bias and injustice began to evaporate from the Muslim mind and then came the first judicial jolt which paralysed the Muslim psyche. For the first time, Indian Muslims had got an opportunity to prove their innocence. To prove that bombs-making techniques are not taught in their madrasas and homes alone. Temples and Ashrams too have been used as a terror factory. They rightly raised the issue that there was not a single blast after the arrests of Sadhvi.

The first test of sincerity of ATS will be proved in Bombay High Court or Supreme Court of India. The real test of ATS will be the conviction of all the accused of Malegaon 2008 blast; be it under MCOCA or under Indian Penal Code (IPC). If the grave charges of the ATS are to be believed, all the accused can be easily convicted under IPC. Conviction and not the legislation will be the litmus test for the ATS. And even after all this, if ATS fails to convict the accused then they will be remembered as an anti-Muslim agency like Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) of yesterday years which has slaughtered many Muslims of UP in the riots of 70s and 80s. In his book, New Wave of Violence, C.F. Rustamji quotes a senior police official as:

“I have watched with dismay during the year 1982, the conversion of the Uttar Pradesh PAC (Provincial Armed Constabulary) from the model force that I worked with in the fifties to a unit which is feted by the Hindus and hated by the Muslims in the towns of Uttar Pradesh.”

ATS can’t afford to be compared to dreaded PAC. Krish Pal Raghuvanshi can still save his team and men-in-khaki from the bad name.

The seeds of anger and despair have been planted on the soil of Malegaon. It should not turn into a volcano.

Sunday Inquilab, August 9, 2009

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Justice or Just-ice?

Saffron "terror": Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur outside court (file photo)

“Doubt”, wrote M.J. Akbar, “is theoretically equidistant from right and wrong, but in real life, there is evidence, evidence creates weightage, and the weight of evidence demands judgement.” Now that stringent MCOCA has been dropped against Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur and all other accused in Malegaon 2008 blast, ‘dormant’ doubt of people of Malegaon concerning ATS will get a new leash of life. And why should it not? They have an every right to be doubtful of an organisation which, perhaps, has provided little legal evidence against Sadhvi. Doubt as a consequence of rumour can be dangerous but now it has acquired judicial stamp of approval.

Doubt gives birth to many unanswered and intriguing questions: Did prosecution go soft on the accused? Was the arrest of all the accused to buy the time of minority community and hoodwink them after the general elections are over? Was the arrest meant to alter the thought-process of Muslim sub consciousness? Did the death of Hemant Karkare make space for the evaporation of “evidence”? Did KP Raghuvanshi slowly loosen his grip on the baton passed on by his predecessor? Or did he deliberately forget to implement his successful 2006 blast formula of legal entrapment? Or is he taking orders from political masters? What is the quality of evidence available with the ATS? What were the demerits of legal argument of ATS that fell flat in a court of law?

When Sadhvi and company were arrested, the men-in-Khaki behaved like trumpeters of triumph. They successfully used mainstream media to plant and leak “exclusive” stories in order to create a goody-goody image and leave an impression that they were being very ‘secular’. In a way, they left such an imprint upon people that they had the credible evidence against the accused. No other bomb blast has got so much media coverage and hype in the recent years. ATS was too busy fighting the Malegaon blast case in the media jungle rather than in a court of law. The discharge of Rakesh Dhawde from the Porna mosque blast case on Wednesday was taken lightly by the ATS. ATS officials, in fact, went on record to claim that his discharge will not affect the Malegaon blast case!

The ATS of KP Raghuvanshi must remember that their integrity and honesty is proved in a court of law. We would advise KP Raghuvanshi to follow his 2006 manual which he very “successfully” applied on 2006 Malegaon blast accused. His tactful application of MCOCA has lasted three years and its fate has been reserved in the Supreme Court.
The first major blow is judicial. KP Raghuvanshi and his men still have time to prove their assumptions in a higher court of law.

Meanwhile, a question on everybody’s lips in Malegaon is this: Is it justice or just-ice?

Justice has begun to melt like ice in public perception.

How will you deal with the public perception, Mr. Raghuvanshi?

Inquilab, August 1, 2009

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Liberhan Commission, Babri Masjid: A Historical Perspective

December 6, 1992: Hindu fanatics celebrating demolition of Babri Masjid at Ayodhya

Had Zahiruddin Mohammed Badshah Ghazi, popularly known as Babar, been alive today, he would be certainly ashamed of modern India. A mosque built in his name razed by Hindu fundamentalists has become a functioning temple but yet it is termed as a “disputed structure.” Babar would have certainly argued with the present rulers that his medieval India was far better than the modern India in terms of justice. In Babar’s India, there was no such thing called as “delayed justice” or “judicial delay.” Justice Manmohan Singh Liberhan Commission of Inquiry has taken 17 long years just to ascertain events leading to the demolition of Babri Masjid. Babar would have decided the fate of the so-called “disputed structure” in 17 minutes! Politicians, judges, bureaucrats, journalists all love to use the “disputed structure” tag; it in fact gives them a legitimate right to feel ‘secular.’ Their “secularism” will pale when one compares Babar’s conception of secularism. For Babar, secularism did not mean separation of religion from the state but rather equal respect for all religions.

The secularism of Babar is hidden in a forgotten document. It could be a commandment of good governance for leaders like L.K. Advani.

Babar had drafted a secret will much before his death for his son Prince Nasiruddin Muhammad Humayun. In this will, there is a lesson for each politician father and a politician son. An extract of the will reads:

“Oh son! The Kingdom of India is full of different religions. Praised be to God that He bestowed upon you its sovereignty. It is incumbent on you to wipe all religious prejudices off the tablet of your heart, administer justice according to the ways every religion. Avoid especially the sacrifice of the cow by which you can capture the hearts of the people of India and subjects of this country may be bound up with royal obligations. Do not ruin temples and shrines of any community which is obeying the laws of Government. Administer justice in such a manner that the King be pleased with the subjects and the subjects with the King. The cause of Islam can be promoted more by the sword of obligation than by the sword of tyranny.”
(A copy of this will used to be in the possession of the late Dr. Balkrishna, Principal, Rajaram College , Kolhapur).

Can a father who abhors ruining temples and shrines of other religions build a mosque in his name after demolishing a temple?

Babri Masjid was possibly built by a courtesan Mir Baqi on the instructions of Babar in the 1528 at Ayodhya. There is historical evidence in the form of inscriptions inside the mosque to support the assumption that it was constructed on the order of Babar. Also there is nothing in history that suggests that Babar ever visited Ayodhya. A complete and close reading of Babarnama shows that Babar was encamped north of Aud on March 28 1528. According to one historian Babar was encamped at the junction of the rivers Sirda and Gagra. On April 2, Babar went out to hunt in the area north of the camp. Babar must have left the encampment, as he records on March 28, 1528 that he had asked to find ways to cross the river. We are forced to doubt if Babar ever went to Ayodhya. So the question of demolishing a temple at Ayodhya does not arise.

So with Liberhan Commission, Indian Muslims have been awarded with one more inquiry report. Will it suffer the fate of Sri Krishna Commission report? Going by the history of promise and subsequent betrayals by the government, the four-volume report will gather dust in the dustbin of history. First government needs to clear speck of dust from earlier inquiry commissions and reports concerning Indian Muslims. Successive Congress governments have been extremely good in documenting Muslim issues but the true intent of any government is measured by the pace of implementation. Congress will once again show Indian Muslims bubbles of hope but alas bubbles don’t last a lifetime. For last 60 years, Indian Muslims have been appeased with bubbles.

The role of the judiciary in Babri Masjid episode has come under sharp criticism. Strangely enough, Pakistan has done better than India on this front. The story of
Lahore’s Shahidganj Masjid is Ayodhya in reverse. All the elements of Ayodhya case were present. A mosque in adverse possession of Sikhs was demolished. Muslims agitated and there was involvement of religious figures. Muslims were frustrated by the court decision. It upheld that the title of ownership was no longer in Muslim hands and therefore Sikhs were entitled to whatever they liked to do with the structure. Muslims decided to move in the Punjab Assembly to enact legislation for the takeover of the site. They all failed. But the situation was not reversed even after the establishment of Pakistan. To this day, when there is hardly anyone to visit it, the Gurdwara Shahidganj stands in Lahore as it did before August 15 1947.

In Babri Masjid case, the ownership of the land was in Muslim hands. It is a wakf property and according to section 51 of Wakf Act 1995, wakf property cannot be transferred to ‘Nyas’ (Shri Ramjanambhumi Nyas) for Ram temple construction.

In the Shahidganj case the judiciary acted impartially and speedily. In the Ayodhya case, Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer had angrily remarked: “The judiciary will be described as villain of the piece.”

According to Ms. Anju Gupta, the then superintendent of the police, Faizabad, Police had foreknowledge of the Babri Masjid demolition. Deposing before the Liberhan Commission in May 1994, she told that on December 5, 1992, the then inspector general of police, Faizabad zone, had warned officers of his department that there was clear indication from intelligence agencies that the disputed shrine would be attacked on December 6. She had told the commission that L.K. Advani expressed his desire to go to the area to stop the Kar Sevaks but she was discouraged by SP of Intelligence, PAC (Provincial Armed Constabulary). Ms. Gupta told the commission that Advani had in her presence said that temple would be constructed at the very spot and the same was repeated by Murli Manohar Joshi, accepting that they were pleased with the actions of Kar Sevaks. The Bajrang Dal leader, Vinay Katiyar, had mocked Mulayam Singh Yadav by saying over the public speaking system ‘Yahan parinda par nahi maar sakta.’

Will Manmohan Singh speak with clarity of thought over Ayodhya issue? One is reminded of what Jyoti Basu had said on December 9, 1992 regarding the makeshift construction by kar sevaks. “It is an illegal construction and government has every right to demolish it.” When he was asked about the possible Hindu backlash, Basu was honest and blunt, “Let there be repercussions from the Hindu fundamentalists. My party will support any government willing to bring down the structure erected by demolishing the shrine.”

Men like Basu are becoming a rare breed in Indian politics.

Can Prime Minister Manmohan Singh do a Jyoti Basu in 2009?

Sunday Inquilab, July 5, 2009

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Expectations high as Sonia Gandhi visits Malegaon

Malegaon General Hospital to be inaugurated today by Sonia Gandhi

For people of Malegaon, the long and patient nine-year wait is finally over as Sonia Gandhi visits Malegaon to inaugurate newly-constructed Malegaon General Hospital. The dream of a government hospital was envisioned by the then Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh in the aftermath of October 26, 2001 riots. For six years, Vilasrao Deshmukh kept dreaming about the hospital while people of Malegaon stood silently with an empty bowel. The soulful cry of a father that rose from the debris of 2006 cemetery shook the conscience of Mrs. Gandhi. Vilasrao woke up from the deep slumber of indifference and was compelled to implement his six year old dream.

So, what does people are Malegaon expect from Mrs. Gandhi, the political queen of India? People are of course happy and exuberant that Sonia Gandhi is going to visit their historical textile town. They just don’t want Mrs. Gandhi to cut the symbolic red-ribbon and repeat the usual platitudes. Any Tom, Dick and Harry can do that. People want Mrs. Gandhi to do an Obama in Malegaon. Muslim community, who very often feels betrayed by the state government, expects some plain and bold speaking from Mrs. Gandhi. She has to assure the town that the days of state neglect will be over. She has to utter unequivocally that Malegaon occupies a central place in the heart of Congress. She has to acknowledge that people of Malegaon are not very happy with the functioning of her party. The general election result in Malegaon is a testimony of this fact. If Mrs. Gandhi and her party want to conquer and safeguard Muslim votes, then Malegaon is an important bastion to wage the long and arduous battle.

Mrs. Gandhi should know that the feeling of injustice, alienation runs deep in Muslim psyche here. Her party should pick up a magnifying glass and take a hard look at ground realities. The wives of Malegaon bomb blast accused 2006 are desperately waiting for the completion of CBI inquiry. Mrs. Gandhi must use rightful political means to make sure that it doesn’t get delayed anymore. The growing kids of the accused need to know whether their fathers are really “guilty” in the official book.

People of Malegaon expect overall development of Malegaon. Malegaon is a town where the bellies of local politicians are fatter than a newly-built road. People want Mrs. Gandhi to use her political clout to ensure that central government schemes are duly utilised in Malegaon. They want Mrs. Gandhi’s government to treat Malegaon as a special zone for the development. They want colleges and institutes like the ones in Sonia Gandhi’s Rae Bareli. In the last 4 years, Mrs. Gandhi has managed to set up three institutes in her constituency.
People of Malegaon wonder whether it will also get the same kind of treatment which Rae Bareli enjoys where in a single year alone, 250 crores were sanctioned to build roads in and around Rae Bareli. One such another scheme of 313 crore was sanctioned to connect Rae Bareli to Allahabad.

There is a feeling of injustice among Hindu brethren of Malegaon. Some are of the view Malegaon is deliberately ignored because it’s a minority-dominated town. Mrs. Gandhi’s Congress party can prove this presumption false only by concrete action.

The patience of people of Malegaon can be gauged from the fact that their status has always been that of man waiting in a long queue. The wait never seems to get over. We are still waiting for railways promised 25 years ago. It has got the green signal of state government but the actual work is yet to begin.

Is Malegaon a town of waiting?

Mrs. Sonia Gandhi should know the answer.

Inquilab, June 30, 2009

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Unveiling Nicholas Sarkozy

Naked Truth: Nicolas Sarkozy is a hypocrite of secular liberalism. His problem is not that he can't accept Eastern tradition of convervatism in the form of burqa but his inability to come to terms with Western culrure of secularism liberalism.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy is the finest living example of Western hypocrisy. Hypocrisy, bias and double-standard are intrinsic in human nature and Sarkozy is no exception. Sarkozy’s racist, anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant speech at Chateau of Versailles, south-west of Paris on Monday, is bound to draw criticism from the Muslim World. When one dissects Sarkozy and his personal life with the help of a literary and secular knife, he emerges as a confused personality whose hostility against Islam is steeped in his ascendancy; his Jewish origin. His language was quite similar to the one used by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu recently. The draft of Sarkozy’s speech itself narrates a tale of his outlook towards Islam in general and Muslims in particular.

The tone of his language must be understood clearly, it is only when one can draw conclusion about his intentions. “The burqa”, he said, “is not a religious sign, it’s a sign of subservience, a sign of debasement—I want to say it solemnly. It will not be welcome on the territory of the French Republic….In our country, we cannot accept that women be prisoners behind a screen, cut off from all social life, deprived of all identity.”

Sarkozy is a self-appointed representative of the same West that believes in the doctrine of freedom. The definition of freedom in Western parlance is absolute. It includes freedom of choice rather than freedom of chance. The expression of freedom has been abused and used to suit Western convenience. So when it comes to freedom to choose one’s dress, they have no qualms about bikini but they would always have problem with burqa. A bikini is viewed as a symbol of women’s emancipation while a burqa is looked at a form of forced slavery. To men like Sarkozy, the bodily form of liberation is more important than the mental form of liberation. What more, when bodily form of liberation extends their desired limitation, they take the help of a flaccid morality evaporating slowly from the Western geography. So when an old nude photo of Sarkozy’s super-model wife Carla Bruni was leaked on the internet, Sarkozy left no stone unturned that it doesn’t get republished in any of the French magazine and tabloids!

Will an enlightened West question Sarkozy’s definition of secular liberalism? If he really believed in the doctrine that freedom is absolute then he should have allowed his wife’s photo to be published. That would have made him an icon and torchbearer of absolute freedom of expression!

Sarkozy’s comparison of burqa as a “prison sentence” can be understood if it is forced and made compulsory in a free Western society. But what if a woman chooses to wear burqa voluntarily? Won’t the same freedom to wear a bikini be extended to a lady who wants to don a burqa? In this hypothesis lies the irony of the West. This irony looks like an ugly and a repulsive creature on the mirror wall. The Western leaders claiming to be secular need to take a hard look in the mirror. There they will encounter a bitter pill hard to swallow.

The main problem of Sarlozy is not burqa but his inability to do nothing to stop the rise of Islam in his own country. According to one independent report, Islam is spreading most rapidly in France in the entire Europe. France is the only country in Europe which has the largest number of Muslims, 6 million to be precise.

Sarkozy need to understand the definition of secularism in the Indian context where multicultural and heterogeneous society is flourishing. Noted lawyer Fali S. Nariman has rightly defined secularism as, “secularism in India means the ability to comprehend and tolerate an infinite variety of social problems.”

The present Century is going to be a Century of soft power. In dress code, if a bikini is manifestation of West’s soft-power, then burqa is an Islamic symbol of soft-power. Men like Sarkozy fear that in this bikini-burqa collision, the latter may emerge as a winner given the rise of burqa in the West.

Sarkozy may be comfortable with his wife in a bikini on a beach front but the same will not be true in Eastern countries especially India. No seasoned Indian politician will ever do such a thing. He will not be comfortable in a bikini or a mini-skirt even with his wife. Therefore, if a burqa is a statement of separation as believed by Sarkozy, then a mini-skirt is not an invitation to familiarity.

The ongoing debate about separation of church and state raises some interesting points. If we apply that logic then the Church of England should be disestablished, the blasphemy laws abolished, and religious education in schools replaced by an objective consideration of the role of the various religions as a part of History and Social Studies.

Nicolas Sarkozy is a product of secular hypocrisy. He would do well to remember what a British scholar once wrote, “My old mother, a very proper Christian lady, used to wear a headscarf – whether to quell lust or just in order to look respectable I don’t know. The ‘simple fact’ is that in the customs of most societies men and women dress differently.”

Sunday Inquilab, June 28, 2009

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Real Test of Obama

Let's Talk: President Obama making the historic speech in Cairo

Is Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu following in the footsteps of American President Barack Hussein Obama? Ten days after Obama’s address at Cairo’s Al-Azhar University, Netanyahu delivered a speech at the Begin-Sadat Center of Bar-Ilan University in Israel where he laid down his vision to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict. One may not agree with his flawed vision but one thing is certain that Netanyahu’s speech was in response to Obama’s castigation of Israel. Then shall we consider it as a step in the right direction? Yes and no.

“I strongly support the idea of regional peace that he (Obama) is advancing”, Netanyahu said on June 14. “I share the President of the U.S.A’s desire to bring about a new era of reconciliation in our region.”

Although his speech was full of flaws, this kind of language has never been used by an Israeli Prime Minister. When was the last time an Israeli prime minister used the word ‘peace’ 32 times in a single six-page speech? We do not hold the view that uttering the word ‘peace’ again and again can bring peace in the Middle-East but there is a fundamental shift in perception-management by the Jewish State of Israel and we have no doubt that this is the result of President Obama’s speech.

Any peace-loving person would be enraged after reading Netanyahu’s speech because apart from the word ‘peace’ which has been used as a camouflage, there is not much in it. The change in lingual tone was to please American President Obama and dullards in United States who believe Israel is committed to the idea of peace. Netanyahu has very carefully pushed the conditional ball of peace in Obama’s court. He wants a “demilitarized” Palestine.

“I told President Obama in Washington, if we get a guarantee of demilitarization, and if the Palestinians recognize Israel as the Jewish state, we are ready to agree to a real peace agreement, a demilitarized Palestinian state side by side with the Jewish state”, he said in the speech.

Even if one assumes that Palestinians recognise Israel as the “Jewish State”, is it possible for any State or country in the world to be “demilitarized?” Any such condition or assumption will be akin to living in fool’s paradise. Even Maldives, one of the smallest countries in the world with a population of 3, 40,000, has a National Defence Force to defend the security and sovereignty of the country.

Now the real test and truthfulness of President Obama’s Cairo speech lies in just one aspect of Israel-Palestine conflict. How Obama returns the conditional ball of peace in Netanyahu’s court remains to be seen. Obama must ponder over this issue with clarity of mind and conscience. How he deals with this condition will prove to be a litmus test. His decision can make or break America’s relationship with the Muslim World. If Obama wants to win over Muslims hearts and minds, then he must reject any such condition outright.

Netanyahu also warned that the Palestinians must decide between path of peace and path of Hamas. Perhaps Netanyahu has forgotten that Hamas is democratically-elected body of Palestinians. If Netanyahu wants Palestinians and Arabs to recognise the Jewish State of Israel then he must also recognise Hamas as a genuine political and military force in the region.

One common feature in both Obama and Netanyahu’s speech was the language of economics. With world economy looming under crisis, both know that to overcome this depression, Muslims all over the world needs to be involved because of their large population.

Action speaks louder than words. Both Obama and Netanyahu would want us to believe that this Century is going to be the Century of peace and dialogue. Their words must be matched by substantive acts. They also understand that the Muslim world is going through twilight-phase where one world is dead and another is waiting to be born.

Sunday Inquilab, June 21, 2009

Sunday, June 14, 2009

An Open Letter to KP Raghuvanshi

Dear Mr. Raghuvanshi,


Congratulations for accepting the post of new ATS chief. You have once again proved that you are a brave heart and indeed an iron man of Maharashtra police. You have agreed to become ATS chief at a time when our senior police officers are wary of taking up any post associated with terror! How can senior police officers decline the post of ATS chief citing ‘personal reasons’? Perhaps they have been “terrorized” by the fall of an equally noble officer, Hemant Karkare. The reluctance of law-keepers is an irony in itself. In this irony lies your bravery.

The good news must have lightened up your fortnight holiday. Why should it not? Tough cops like you deserve a standing ovation. What more, now your post has been elevated to the rank of additional director-general. We are in a state of double-bliss!

You must be happy and proud that you have regained an old post. You were the first occupant of the ATS office. With Karkare’s death, you have once again got an opportunity to occupy ATS office. Life has completed a full circle.

We are very happy that you have been credited for “successfully” investigating July 2006 train blasts in Mumbai and the subsequent cemetery blasts in Malegaon. We congratulate you for “cracking up” these two cases but we will not hold a felicitation for you. We would like to felicitate you in Malegaon only when it is proved in a court of law that all the accused in Malegaon case are the real culprits. We, like you, have faith in India’s judicial system despite its flaws.

We are happy that it was you who had spoken firmly on Nanded blasts of April 2006 in which a youth manufacturing a bomb died inside the house of the local Bajrang Dal and Vishwa Hindu Parishad activist. It was you who had conducted brain-mapping and narco-analysis test. It was you who had said openly that the same group of terrorists is responsible for the bomb blasts at the Parbhani mosque in April 2003 in which 25 persons were injured. It was you who had said that Nanded incident could have “frightening repercussions”. It was you who very frankly acknowledged that this was not an isolated incident but also part of an “organised pattern.” Unfortunately, the organised pattern was reflected on September 29, 2008 in the form of a bomb blast at Malegaon’s Bhiku Chowk. Your fears were true but alas each one of us could do nothing to stop it.

Hemant Karkare exposed the “organised pattern” in Malegaon. His greatness does not lay in the arrest of Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur but his ability to turn his “enemies” into “well-wishers” even after his death. It was his determination that brought out the Muslim community from the cocooned shelf of fear-psychosis.

Your appointment may once again draw flak from a section of Muslims in Maharashtra. We are aware that many Muslims have questioned your integrity. You have been accused of being “communal” and “biased.” It’s the time for you to turn the tables. You have a golden opportunity to prove your secular credentials. You must have heard of the famous English proverb: opportunity knocks but does not linger. You can still win over Muslims by your substantive acts rather than reassurances. We don’t hold the view that all police officers are communal, but there is no denying the fact that a minuscule minority is dirtying the pond of intelligence. It is your job to identify such dirty fishes and throw them away!

Some Muslims may raise the issue that you had invited Colonel Purohit and Major General Ramesh Uphadyay, both accused in 2008 Malegaon blast, for a lecture on intelligence for the ATS in 2003. We give you the benefit of doubt that you may not have been aware of their true intentions. All will be forgotten if your team can successfully prove them guilty in a court of law.
It was you who had rightly asked a question: Why are no questions being raised by fact-finding teams about the arms hauls in Malegaon and Aurangabad and the identity of the accused who have been arrested? This indeed is a right question. We will be very happy if you can seal the arms haul case with judicial seal. We would like to believe that it was a big haul but there is one question we would like to ask: What is the origin of such a big haul? Did it come across the border? Or did it originate in India itself? There are many questions which every sane Indian need to ponder over.

We wish you all the best and hope that your second inning will be more interesting and remarkable than the first. Each one of us, including your team, need to take a pledge to fight terrorism together because a bomb does not discriminate between a Hindu and a Muslim.

Hemant Karkare has left footprints in the sand. We hope you would follow in his footprints before it gets washed away in the tidal wave.

Yours humbly,

An ordinary citizen of India

Sunday Inquilab, June 14, 2009

Thursday, June 04, 2009

World Muslims Welcome Obama Speech

By IOL Correspondents

MUSLIM CAPITALS — From Asia to the heart of Africa and in the troubled Middles East, Muslims are hailing US President Barack Obama's speech as an important step on the way of healing the deep rifts in America's relationship with the Muslim world.

Yet, some Muslims believe the nearly one-hour address that touched on everything from Islam's contribution to humanity to the Mideast conflict had its weak points that overshadow Obama’s commitment to a "new beginning" with Muslims.

Saleh Hussein Darawish Farmer, trader from the West Bank

I listened to Obama's speech from the beginning to the end. I think it represents a sort of departure from George Bush's sullen political discourse.

This speech had a definite human touch, a fair degree of sincerity and honesty and frankness. Whether these characters, or more correctly these impressions, represent a real change of heart and mind on the part of the American government remains to be seen.

I personally liked his words about the merits of Islam and the Islamic civilization. This contrasted Bush's ignorance and unfriendliness.

Generally, speaking the tone of his speech was conciliatory and friendly.

On the other side, I was disappointed by his attempts to equate between Palestinian sufferings and Jewish sufferings, as if the Palestinians were responsible for the persecution of Jews at the hands of Western Christendom.

In brief, I can say that Obama's speech was generally balanced by the American standards. After all, it is unrealistic for Palestinians and Arabs and Muslims to expect a 180-degree transformation in the American policy toward the Muslim world, given objective political and historical considerations.

It is also unwise to think that this speech would immediately lead to new era of perfect harmony between the United States and the Muslim world. A real and lasting change will take time and a lot of good will, especially on the part of the US.

Now, it remains to be seen if the Obama administration will be willing to translate the speech into tangible policies or just consign to the dustbin of history.

Ahmed Abdul Baghdad Driver

I have hope that Obama’s words be put in practice and the human being equality, despite gender and religion become a true feeling among American society.

As he said Muslim people have highly helped for the development of United States economically and socially.

When he suggests the sharing of principles like justice, tolerance, dignity and progress, Iraqis and other Muslims around the world, should give him this chance to make the difference and bring peace in Middle East.

He said that will keep fighting extremists mainly Bin Laden, but he also should reflect that US Army has brought terror to our country like al-Qaeda.

The majority of Iraqi people have put all their hopes in his government, which will direct affect our lives in our country. The war was a mistake and he has in his hand the duty to correct what Bush couldn’t do.

I believe that he is a strong and powerful man who is able to look after human rights as priority.

But although we are thinking about our future, what I wish is that he really uses his potential to help the Palestinians and end up with all terror and displacement in their country.

Ahmed Abdel Ghany Carpenter, Egypt

Obama’s words are very nice in fact. He seems to have good knowledge of Islam and the holy Qu’ran. This shows that he has respect for the Islamic religion and Muslims in general.

The fact that he has taken off his shoes when he entered the Sultan Hassan Mosque reflects that Obama has real respect for the ideals of Islam.

But the problem is that the problems of Muslims would not be solved by words. The problems of the people in the Middle East would not be solved by words.

There must be some action.

Obama must be decisive with Israel. He must show some firmness in countering Israel’s desire to take up the whole of Palestine.

He says we should cherish our differences. That is great. But why are some Muslims subjected to mistreatment inside the US itself.

Islamophobia runs high inside the US. Americans should have respect for our faith.

Sarifah Barlian Secretary, Indonesia

I watched parts of President Obama speech. He is friendly, smart and charming. He said assalamualaikum. It’s very kind of him.

He even mentioned Indonesia many times in his speech. He gave us good impression and showed his ability to convince us to trust him.

He looks different with his predecessors. He did not seem arrogant. He seems sincere and honest.

When he talked about Islam in his speech, it’s like a proof of his commitment in his presidential campaign to be closer with Muslims. He also quoted the Bible and the Talmud to convince all religions to be united.

Since the beginning I liked him. When he started to run for president, I have been supporting him because he is young and having Muslim blood from his father.

I believe that his speech was not merely a bushtit. I think it’s not wrong to put a hope on him.

Abdul Hameed Shaikh, Laborer, India

I have heard the translated speech in Urdu but going by his body language, his concerns seemed to be genuine and he spoke from the heart.

From practical point of view, the speech was rhetorical but yet it’s an important milestone in the history of the Muslim-West relations. It was a carefully drafted and well-balanced speech.

Many Muslims would have expected him to be very specific as far as laying the foundation for a roadmap to improve the US-Muslim relationship. But a single speech cannot solve the centuries old problems.

President Obama’s speech was unexpectedly inclusive in the sense that he accommodated not only American views but also recognized the importance of Islam and Muslims.

But I was disappointed on two issues: when he spoke of Al-Qaeda’s mayhem on 9/11, he should have also raised the issue of innocent civilian deaths in Iraq. He chose to ignore this.

The second issue was the topic of nuclear proliferation where he squarely blamed Iran while ignoring Israel, the only nuclear country in the Middle East.

The nuke race is there because of Israel. If we consider Obama’s message that World should abandon nuclear weapons, it should start from Israel, at least in the Middle East.

Also, his speech was Arab-centric rather than an address to the Muslim world.

President Obama also should have given the example of Indian Muslims -- the second largest Muslim Population after Indonesia -- for their secular credentials and how they are thriving in religious diversity of India.

He carefully ignored the Indian Muslims whose lives could be a model to emulate all over the Muslim world. Perhaps, he should remember that in his next such initiative.

Malik Ahmed Electrician, Gaza

Obama’s message loses the least degree of objectivity.

He, in the beginning, criticized launching rockets by the Palestinian fighters and other means of resistance. He described them as useless means.

However, he didn’t say any word about the tons of explosives and the internationally illegal weapons the Israelis use against us.

He said that he understands the right of Jews to live in an independent state. This is a humiliation for the rights of the people who will be the preys for Jews; the Palestinians who had lost their historical land.

He spoke about extremism inside the Islamic countries and that it must be eradicated.

At the same time, he forgot to speak about the real extremism inside the United States which is represented by the very existence of Guantanamo.

He spoke about the nuclear power of Iran which until now no one can assert that it reached the degree to have nuclear power for peaceful purposes, while he ignored the widely-known nuclear power of Israel which has existed for several decades.

Finally, he spoke about development in the Muslim world and methods to improve it, while he can’t help himself to solve the unemployment problem in his country.

Muhammad Al-Amin Al-Nahhas Website editor, Khartoum

One saw in Obama’s speech a difference between the current US administration and the previous one.

He tried to show that the non-West could be an equal peer to the West; there was no sense of superiority.

There was also a sense that he was committed to the ideals he promoted during his electoral campaign, especially the idea of “change”.

It was important that he made clear that not all Muslims are extremists.

He emphasized the importance of Al-Azhar University, a mainly religious institution, as we Muslims see it; a source of enlightment to counter violent extremism.

Obama’s language in discussing the issue of settlements in Palestine seems to indicate a new policy that will address the Palestinian issue, a key issue to the Muslim World. It may not be at the level of our hopes but at least it signals that there is a move forward.

He should have though discussed Darfur in more details in a way that reflects the apparent current changes in US rhetoric toward Sudan. The new US special-envoy to Sudan, Scott Grasion, seems to reflect a new more positive policy towards Sudan.

Obama’s mentioning that Muslims in the US have the right to practice their religion freely seemed like an indirect criticism of other Western countries like France.

Mohammad. Badiul Alam Reporter, Bangladesh

The new beginning must start in USA with a broad -based change in US foreign policy.

The cycle of suspicion and discord has been created by the US foreign department and Administration. The US Administration is dominated by the Jews who are responsible for the conflicts in the world and the mistrust between USA and Muslim world.

The US should take first step to eliminate Jews from its administration and foreign department, then make new beginning in ties with Muslim world.

Mr. Obama said in his speeches that the world is passing through a tense time which is also created by the US.

The US should take proper attention and program to eliminate the tension in the world.

The US should withdraw all soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan and stop any US assistance to Israel to establish peace in the Middle East.

Valiant Mussa, Author, Malawi

His speech is quite remarkable to me. He has touched issues which no body before him has ever dared to address.

In His speech, I get a tone that Obama realizes the mistakes the US made to the Muslim world. He is trying to improve its image which battered in the eyes of Muslims all over the world.

Obama is sending a message to the rest of the Muslim world and the US that it is now time to forget what has happened before and forge ahead towards a path of reconciliation and that time for mistrust was fast nearing its end.

His speech alone is enough to heal the wounds Muslims had at the hands of some US presidents before him.

His speech is heralding a new era in the Muslim world in its relations with the US government.

He is giving us Muslims hope that under his administration, and even beyond, Muslims will not be treated as second class people and Islam, a second class religion.

In his speech, Obama is speaking like a comparative religious scholar and not a politician. It is this approach which gives me hope that one day the US will treat us with respect and recognition, even after Obama leaves the White House.

His Speech has laid the foundation. It is my only hope that whatever he has said will be highly accepted even by us Muslims.

We should now be waiting for nothing but real actions. June 4, 2009