Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Some information for Israelis (and the rest of us)

NB: Amidst the fanfare of the Israeli Prime Ministerial visit to India, and the especial warmth being displayed towards him by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, it may be of interest for Israeli citizens to know the ideological roots of India's current ruling dispensation - DS

Briefly put, it's simple: their icon, V. D. Savarkar, the hero of the Hindu nationalists, was a staunch admirer of Hitler and the Nazis. So were the top figures of the Rashtriyya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS; or National Volunteers), the mother-organisation of the BJP. These are facts that this spokesman of the BJP, does not care to place before his readers. And since the two PM's have visited Mahatma Gandhi's famous Sabarmati Ashram, let it be known that soon after Modi's government came to power some members of his party and its ideological allies were celebrating the memory of Gandhi's assassin. Savarkar was one of the prime accused in the assassination case and was let off on a technicality. He also made an infamous peace with the British imperialists. Since January 30 will mark the 70th anniversary of Gandhi's assassination, I leave it to readers with a knowledge of the history of fascism and Nazism, to reflect on the irony of what is transpiring in India just now.

Savarkar was being quoted approvingly by the Nazi press in 1939. The founder of the RSS, K. B. Hedgewar, was part of a meeting in 1934 where the desirability of a Indian fascist dictator was discussed. The following citations are from a research article by Italian historian Marzia Casolari, in EPW, January 22, 2000, entitled Hindutva’s Foreign Tie-up in the 1930's. See especially pp 221 to 224. Here is a quote from the conversation: I have thought out a scheme...  that provides for standardisation of Hinduism throughout India...But the point is that this ideal cannot be brought to effect unless we have our own swaraj with a Hindu as a dictator like Shivaji of old or Mussolini or Hitler of the present day in Italy and Germany...But this does not mean that we have to sit with folded hands untill (sic) some such dictator arises in India. We should formulate a scientific scheme and carry on propaganda for it..

Here is VD Savarkar speaking approvingly of the Nazi's persecution of Jews in 1939
A Nation is formed by a majority living therein. What did the Jews do in Germany? They being in minority were driven out from Germany. (Speech at Malegaon, October 14, 1938). 

In December 1939, on the occasion of the 21st session of the Hindu Mahasabha, he said: 'the Indian Muslims are on the whole more inclined to identify themselves and their interests with Muslims outside India than Hindus who live next door, like Jews in Germany.'

Let it also be recorded that the first Indian translation of Mein Kampf was in Urdu, by Inayatullah Mashriqi, founder of the para-military Khaksars. After a trip to Cairo in 1926, he visited Germany and met Hitler, whom he took to be a kindred soul. He returned to India in 1931 and organised the Khaksar militia (khaksar means humble) on an Islamic nationalist platform. In 1940 the Khaksars had a series of confrontations with the police. After a jail-term he made peace with the authorities; and shifted from an antagonistic to a deferential stance toward the Muslim League. Despite ideological differences, there were immediate similarities between the Khaksars and the extreme Hindu nationalists of the RSS. [For more on Indian Islamo-fascists see my article on Indian fascism, esp the paragraphs linked to footnotes 39 and 40]

Here is M.S. Golwalkar, the second leader (after the founder) of the RSS, in 1938: To keep up the purity of the race and its culture, Germany shocked the world by her purging the country of the semitic races - the Jews. Race pride at its highest has been manifested here...a good lesson for us in Hindusthan to learn and profit by." (In We, or our Nation hood defined)

And here is Savarkar on the Munich Agreement in which the Sudetanland was annexed by Hitler: 'the Hindu Sanghatanists in India hold that Germany was perfectly justified in uniting the Austrian and Sudeten Germans under the German flag. Democracy itself demanded that the will of the people must prevail in choosing their own government. Germany demanded plebiscite, the Germans under the Czechs wanted to join their kith and kin in Germany. It was the Czechs who were acting against the principle of democracy in holding the Germans under a foreign sway against their will...Now that Germany is strong why should she not strike to unite all Germans and consolidate them into a Pan-German state and realise the political dream which generations of German people cherished.' (Savarkar papers, misc correspondence January 1938 May 1939); also published on November 30, 1938 by the Nazi daily, the Volkischer Beobachter

On March 25, 1939 the Hindu Mahasabha issued the following statement:
Germany’s solemn idea of the revival of the Aryan culture, the glorification of the Swastika, her patronage of Vedic learning and the ardent championship of the tradition of Indo-Germanic civilisation are welcomed by the religious and sensible Hindus of India with a jubilant hope. Only a few socialists headed by Pandit J Nehru have created a bubble of resentment against the present government of Germany, but their activities are far from having any significance in India. The vain imprecations of Mahatma Gandhi against Germany’s indispensable vigour in matters of internal policy obtain but little regard insofar as they are uttered by a man who has always betrayed and confused the country with an affected mysticism. I think that Germany’s crusade against the enemies of Aryan culture will bring all the Aryan nations of the world to their senses and awaken the Indian Hindus for the restoration of their lost glory. 

(Milan Hauner, India in Axis strategy: Germany, Japan and Indian nationalists in the Second World War, 1981, p 66) 

A brief history of Indian fascism may be read here:


Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Christine Cole - Four tough actions that would help fight the global plastic crisis

The environmental impact of plastic is finally receiving the attention it deserves. This is partly down to the BBC’s Blue Planet II highlighting the problem of ocean plastics. But it’s also because the Chinese government has recently imposed quality restrictions on the import of recyclable materials, in an attempt to address domestic concerns over pollution and public health.

Beijing’s move in effect closes down the export of recyclable plastics, paper and other materials from the world’s richest countries. The UK, rest of Europe, US, Australia and others have for a long time been dependent on China to take the poor quality materials that they collect and do not have the infrastructure or capacity to use themselves. Until more recycling plants are built to deal with it domestically, the UK faces a build-up of plastic waste.

Other countries in Asia will continue to accept some of the lower quality materials, but this is a temporary fix at best. Sending plastic to India, Vietnam or Cambodia instead of China may limit the amount that has to be stored, placed in landfill or burnt in the UK, but it does nothing to reduce the overall amount of plastic. We cannot simply rely on the actions of concerned individuals. What’s needed goes beyond reusing plastic water bottles, stopping using plastic drinking straws and taking reusable bags to the supermarket. Here are a few suggestions: read more:

More posts on plastics

Mexico: 500 years later, scientists discover what killed the Aztecs

In 1545 disaster struck Mexico’s Aztec nation when people started coming down with high fevers, headaches and bleeding from the eyes, mouth and nose. Death generally followed in three or four days. Within five years as many as 15 million people – an estimated 80% of the population – were wiped out in an epidemic the locals named “cocoliztli”. The word means pestilence in the Aztec Nahuatl language. Its cause, however, has been in questioned for nearly 500 years.

On Monday scientists swept aside smallpox, measles, mumps, and influenza as likely suspects, identifying a typhoid-like “enteric fever” for which they found DNA evidence on the teeth of long-dead victims. “The 1545-50 cocoliztli was one of many epidemics to affect Mexico after the arrival of Europeans, but was specifically the second of three epidemics that were most devastating and led to the largest number of human losses,” said Ashild Vagene of the University of Tuebingen in Germany. “The cause of this epidemic has been debated for over a century by historians and now we are able to provide direct evidence through the use of ancient DNA to contribute to a longstanding historical question.”

Vagene co-authored a study published in the science journal Nature Ecology and Evolution. The outbreak is considered one of the deadliest epidemics in human history, approaching the Black Death bubonic plague that killed 25 million people in western Europe in the 14th century – about half the regional population. European colonisers spread disease as they ventured into the new world, bringing germs local populations had never encountered and lacked immunity against.

The 1545 cocoliztli pestilence in what is today Mexico and part of Guatemalacame just two decades after a smallpox epidemic killed an estimated 5-8 million people in the immediate wake of the Spanish arrival. A second outbreak from 1576 to 1578 killed half the remaining population. “In the cities and large towns, big ditches were dug, and from morning to sunset the priests did nothing else but carry the dead bodies and throw them into the ditches,” is how Franciscan historian Fray Juan de Torquemada is cited as chronicling the period. Even at the time, physicians said the symptoms did not match those of better-known diseases such as measles and malaria.

Scientists now say they have probably unmasked the culprit. Analysing DNA extracted from 29 skeletons buried in a cocoliztli cemetery, they found traces of the salmonella enterica bacterium, of the Paratyphi C variety. It is known to cause enteric fever, of which typhoid is an example. The Mexican subtype rarely causes human infection today. Many salmonella strains spread via infected food or water, and may have travelled to Mexico with domesticated animals brought by the Spanish, the research team said. 

Salmonella enterica is known to have been present in Europe in the middle ages. “We tested for all bacterial pathogens and DNA viruses for which genomic data is available,” and salmonella enterica was the only germ detected, said co-author Alexander Herbig, also from Tuebingen University.
It is possible, however, that some pathogens were either undetectable or completely unknown.“We cannot say with certainty that S enterica was the cause of the cocoliztli epidemic,” said team member Kirsten Bos. “We do believe that it should be considered a strong candidate.”

Monday, January 15, 2018

Medical Council of India bribery scam: Prashant Bhushan sends transcripts - says probe CJI // H. S. Giani: Caesar’s wife must be above suspicion // Death of Judge Loya: Uncle Shrinivas wants a probe

NB: An RSS functionary has denounced the public protest of the four SC judges as a 'political conspiracy', and for 'poisoning the waters' by undermining the Indian peoples faith in the judiciary. This is a richly ironical statement for an organisation whose core beliefs require the promotion of hatred and enmity towards selected sections of the Indian public. Their accusations of 'love jihad', 'beef-eating', 'anti-nationalists' etc., have polluted India's polity and caused numerous deaths over the past three years since their man assumed supreme executive power in Government. Some material may be read hereAnd as January 30, 2018, will mark seventy years of Mahatma Gandhi's murder, we can refresh our memories regarding the communal hatred behind that crime. (Incidentally, there is a libel case pending in the SC regarding accusations of their involvement). 

But let us leave their history aside. Since they claim to be opponents of corruption, why has their government not undertaken an inquiry into the suicide note of ex CM of Arunachal in 2016? 

The note contains numerous instances of judicial corruption, and accuses personages from both the Congress and the BJP of perverting the course of justice. Why the thundering silence from the RSS/BJP on this burning evidence? Why has there been no inquiry? Why are the op-ed writers keeping silent? I find it dismaying that a learned commentator who wants us to 'carefully parse out the issues' has chosen to bring up the lack of 'justiciable evidence' of the CJI's wrong doing, while at the same time completely passing over the implications of Kalikho Pul's suicide note. Not to mention the MCI bribery scam. If high judicial officials are to adjudicate allegations concerning themselves, of course there will be no justiciable evidence, because they will not allow it to see the light of day! 

Here's a quote from HS Giani's article below: "The Chief Justice of India ordered the next senior-most judge of the Supreme Court of India, not to list the case which touched on allegations of impropriety against himself, before the top five senior-most judges of the Supreme Court of India. And for this purpose, the Chief Justice broke up the Constitution Bench that afternoon..."

Where are all our conscience keepers hiding? Why are their 'eyes wide shut'? Is all this an example of 'faith in the judiciary', or of a cynical cover-up of criminal actions? DS
(NB: The above story was in a prominent place in the IE portal, and has disappeared from view in the past 40 minutes. It's still on the portal, but you can't see it, you have to look for it. DS)
Just over two months ago, senior lawyer Prashant Bhushan and Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra locked horns in the Supreme Court after Bhushan demanded that the CJI recuse himself from the Lucknow medical college graft case. The CJI refused to do so and Bhushan stormed out of the court.
Now he is back with a new complaint against the CJI in the same case and has sent copies of it to the four “rebel” judges, Justices J Chelameswar, R Gogoi, K Joseph and M B Lokur.

A copy of the complaint was also sent to Justice A K Sikri. Signed by Bhushan, as Convenor of the Campaign for Judicial Accountability and Reforms, the complaint calls for an inquiry against the Chief Justice by either three or five senior Supreme Court Judges for what are described as “various allegations of misconduct.”

The complaint alleges, “The CBI FIR makes allegations that the entire conspiracy and planning was to bribe and influence apex court judges who are dealing with the case of Prasad medical Trust. This Bench was clearly headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra. In these circumstances, he was an interested party and could not have dealt with this case either on the judicial side or the administrative side by way of assigning a particular Bench to hear this case…while at this stage there may not be conclusive evidence of Justice Dipak Misra’s involvement, the circumstances listed definitely warrant a thorough investigation…”.. read more:

Harpreet Singh Giani: Caesar’s wife, it was said, must be above suspicion
History tells us that after Publius Clodius Pulcher was prosecuted for gaining admittance to Pompeia’s house with the intention to seduce her, Caesar divorced Pompeia, saying that “my wife ought not even to be under suspicion”. Received wisdom tells us that Caesar found it irrelevant that Pulcher was acquitted of the charge. He believed that it was impermissible for Caesar to remain married to anyone remotely connected with a scandal.
Contemporary wisdom has taken the idiom and turned it on its head. Contemporary wisdom decrees that just because she is married to Caesar, his wife must be deemed to be beyond any suspicion. Her status as Caesar’s consort places her above and beyond suspicion. To suspect her, would be to suspect Caesar, unthinkable and blasphemous.

It used to be the integrity of the individuals that gave an institution its dignity and respect. If the leadership of an institution was trustworthy, the institution would be trusted. If the successors were unfit, the institution was distrusted. The reputation of the institution was rightly transient, being as good or as bad as the persons who controlled it. Today, we are told that securing a place in a historically-venerated institution entitles a person to be absolved of all his sins, he or she must be elevated to Godhead and regardless of his personal qualities or fallibilities, he must be deemed to be beyond doubt and unamenable to scrutiny. The institution is now the protector of the virtue of the man, rather than the other way around.

The Supreme Court of India is just one of the institutions making up the Indian constitutional system. In conjunction with the legislature and the executive, the judiciary is equally responsible for preserving and perpetuating the rule of law within the country. Despite their enthusiasm and unbridled optimism, the Constituent Assembly that gave us the voluminous 1950 Indian Constituent could neither predict, nor provide for every eventuality or challenge that an inchoate and unfolding future held. Yet the document they produced was crystal clear in the division of powers – the legislature was to make the law, the executive to enforce it and the judiciary to adjudicate any disputes. India never understood the boundary that separates the executive from the polity, or the legislature. But that is a lament for another day.

Successive generations of ignoble legislators had conspicuously failed to address the emerging gaps in legislation and this resulted in gaping voids in our legislative schema. While the Constituent Assembly had men and women from the learned professions who understood the nuances of juridical and legal drafting, lamentably today the Parliament and legislatures provide retirement sinecures for actors, sportsmen and others, who possibly could not be expected to legislate for the nation.

Conveniently, though inappropriately, the judiciary has repeatedly stepped in and backfilled the legislative voids. These unwarranted and unwholesome forays by the judiciary into the domain of the legislature were tolerated and even welcomed, from the great reliance the nation placed on the integrity and scruples of those who sat on the Supreme Court bench in the early day. The initial transgressions were properly out of dire necessity and expressed by those judges as temporary measures, in anticipation of responsive legislative action.

This has degenerated now into a system where using the optimistically-sounding phrase “Judicial Activism”, the Supreme Court has trampled recklessly even in those areas which are taboo even for the Parliament… read more

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Oprah Winfrey Helped Create Our American Fantasyland. By Kurt Andersen

Forty-eight hours ago, after watching Oprah Winfrey give a terrific, rousing feminist speech on an awards show, millions of Americans instantly, giddily decided that the ideal 2020 Democratic nominee had appeared. An extremely rich and famous and exciting star and impresario—but one who seems intelligent and wise and kind, the non–Bizarro World version of the sitting president.

Some wet-blanketing followed immediately, among the best from the New York Times Magazine writer Thomas Chatterton Williams in an op-ed headlined “Oprah, Don’t Do It.” “It would be a devastating, self-inflicted wound for the Democrats to settle for even benevolent mimicry of Mr. Trump’s hallucinatory circus act,” he wrote. “Indeed, the magical thinking fueling the idea of Oprah in 2020 is a worrisome sign about the state of the Democratic Party.”

Despite the “magical thinking” reference, neither Williams nor other skeptics have seriously addressed the big qualm I have about the prospect of a President Winfrey: Perhaps more than any other single American, she is responsible for giving national platforms and legitimacy to all sorts of magical thinking, from pseudoscientific to purely mystical, fantasies about extraterrestrials, paranormal experience, satanic cults, and more. The various fantasies she has promoted on all her media platforms—her daily TV show with its 12 million devoted viewers, her magazine, her website, her cable channel—aren’t as dangerous as Donald Trump’s mainstreaming of false conspiracy theories, but for three decades she has had a major role in encouraging Americans to abandon reason and science in favor of the wishful and imaginary.

Oprah went on the air nationally in the 1980s, just as non-Christian faith healing and channeling the spirits of the dead and “harmonic convergence” and alternative medicine and all the rest of the New Age movement had scaled up. By the 1990s, there was a big, respectable, glamorous New Age counter-establishment. Marianne Williamson, one of the new superstar New Age preachers, popularized a “channeled” book of spiritual revelation, A Course in Miracles: The author, a Columbia University psychology professor who was anonymous until after her death in the 1980s, had claimed that its 1,333 pages were dictated to her by Jesus. Her basic idea was that physical existence is a collective illusion—”the dream.” Endorsed by Williamson, the book became a gigantic best-seller.

Deepak Chopra had been a distinguished endocrinologist before he quit regular medicine in his 30s to become the “physician to the gods” in the Transcendental Meditation organization and in 1989 hung out his own shingle as wise man, author, lecturer, and marketer of dietary supplements… read more:

An ex-CM commits suicide in 2016, alleging corruption in the high judiciary - no probe. A senior judge in a sensitive case involving a political heavyweight dies a mysterious death. His family thinks it might be murder & India's pliant media covers it up. What Does the SC Judges’ protest mean for this situation?

NB: Between 1939 and 1941, some 100,000 German men, women and children (prisoners, mental cases, alcoholics), were killed by a group of German doctors under the direction of Dr Werner Heyde, neurologist, at the University of Wurzburg. The means used were lethal injections, poison gas and starvation. Some of the doctors had written false death certificates and co-operated with the authorities to keep the actions a secret. These persons were tried in 1960 in a Hamburg court, and acquitted on grounds of being unaware of the illegality of their actions. One of their elder colleagues had this to say of them: 'It is true they have a head but its too close to their arse, because they have no backbone': Paraphrased from J P Stern, The Fuhrer and the People, 1992; p 192. 

Fortunately some of our senior judges have shown exemplary courage. They deserve our thanks - DS

NB: The public protest of four senior SC judges is unprecedented and marks the most massive crisis in Indian justice since the Emergency. The criticisms being levelled at the judges are ironical. One op-ed writer says they have crossed the line. How would he describe a situation wherein the CJI insists on hearing a case allegedly involving himself; refusing an applicant the right to speak his arguments, and moreover, permitting the advent of sympathetic lawyers into the court to shout at applicants? When the CJI reiterates that he is master of roster, accuses applicants of forum shopping; and then uses that to indulge in what appears to be bench fixing, who exactly is crossing the line here? Read more about the events of November 10, 2017 here

When the mysterious death of a judge in a case with grievous political implications is not assigned to any of the senior judges, and sought to be hushed up, who is crossing the line? A former Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court has asked for this to be investigated, yet the bulk of our media and commentators refuse to pursue the matter - what line is being crossed and by whom? 

The biggest scandal that has been quietly buried both by the Government and the pliant media, is that of the suicide note left by Kalikho Pul, ex-Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh in 2016. 

Pul alleged that brokers approached him in the run up to the Supreme Court’s July 2016 verdict (on the viability of his government) demanding large sums of money in order to ensure the judgment went in his favour. The latest version of the note implicates politicians from both Congress and BJP in rampant corruption. Page 23 refers to relations of SC judges asking for large sums of money to secure favourable verdicts. The BJP government proclaims its commitment to fight corruption from the rooftops - why is it refusing to probe these extremely serious allegations? Why is the suicide note not being treated as a dying declaration? Why is  the press silent?

One prominent journalist writes: 'whatever the system’s flaws, it is better than having the politicians mess with it.' Were they not messing with it a long time ago? What did it mean when the elevation of Gopal Subramaniam was 'borked' by Mr Modi's government immediately upon coming to power? Another says the protest will make it easier for the government to manage the judiciary. What was happening before the press conference? Was not the government meddling with justice? Why was the judge dealing with the 2006 fake encounter cases in Gujarat transferred when he pulled up Amit Shah for non-appearance? Here are a few examples of what the governments actions in the first weeks of coming to power in 2014. Why do we hear nothing about the Vyapam case in Madhya Pradesh where over 40 possible witnesses have died since 2013? Why the silence regarding reports linking the Sangh Parivar to Vyapam? Who threatened the retired judge Jyotsna Yagnik? Did not the Public Prosecutor in the Malegaon blast case Rohini Salian, protest the Government meddling that obliged her to resign? The move to get the SC to hear the case on Loya's death is seen by some as a means to get it out of the Bombay HC. If this is the case, is this not a grave misuse of authority? 

Messrs respected op-ed writers, what is is all this if not blatant messing with the criminal justice system? Why are most of you trying to pull the wool over our eyes? DS

Here are some recent comments. I shall add new comments when they appear:
Harpreet Singh Giani  Caesar’s wife, it was said must be above suspicion
Watch: What Does the SC Judges’ Statement Mean for the Judge Loya Case?

Loya Case the Tipping Point, Four SC Judges Say Democracy Is in Danger
‘Black Day for Judiciary’: Legal Fraternity on Unprecedented Move by Four SC Judges

See also
Ajmer blast case: Two including a former RSS worker get life imprisonment

Very short list of examples of rule of law in India
The law of killing - a brief history of Indian fascism

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Aadhaar – An idea gone very wrong. By Tavleen Singh

In the village last week in which I met a man who had an Aadhaar card but could not use it because manual labour had erased the lines on his fingertips, nobody was literate. There is no road to the village, electricity is erratic and clean water impossible. Village water is so awful that villagers regularly get sick, but to get to the nearest hospital they have to walk 2 km to the highway where they take a bus to the nearest town.

To find work they catch the same bus to a stone mine 50 km away, where they earn Rs 300 a day, of which they spend Rs 60 on transport. The rest on somehow staying alive. It has always been this way, but when the BJP government came to power and the Prime Minister promised ‘sabka saath, sabka vikas’ they hoped that things would change.

The one thing that has changed is that they are all forced now to have an Aadhaar card, and if they want work under the MNREGA, they need to upload their details to get a job card. Nobody in the village has a cellphone so they need to go to the nearest town to do this as well. A village elder said, “We still believe Modiji is a good man and that he wants to do something for us, but please tell him we cannot spend Rs 100 a day on photos and going online.” If anyone needs proof that it is India’s poorest citizens who are most hurt by Aadhaar, let them travel to a village like the one I went to and do a reality check.

At this point I need to remind you that I have been a conscientious objector to the Aadhaar card. I did not get one for as long as I could because I thought it was a dangerously irresponsible idea, but in the end was forced to get one because it is impossible to do anything in India now without this wretched card… read more:

More posts on Aadhaar

Mahatma Gandhi's Speech at his prayer meeting: New Delhi, December 22, 1947

NB: January 13, 2018 is the 70th anniversary of the start of Mahatma Gandhi's last fast; that he also called his yagna, or sacrifice. He announced his intention on January 12; and the fast continued till the 18th. On each day of his fast, he spoke to his fellow Indians in his prayer meetings, or prarthana pravachan. I shall post his speeches for the duration of the fast; as also extracts from his speeches till the last day of his life. But it is often forgotten that he was fasting for communal reconciliation. Here are the contents of the Delhi Declaration, which ended his fast, and which make clear his purposes. Some details of his assassination may be read here; the former post also contains material pertaining to the background of these events. 

The document below contains his statement on December 22, 1947, about the sad fate of the tomb of Khwaja Bakhtiar Chisti in Mehrauli, and the need for it to be restored to its proper dignity. This year marks the 70 anniversary of his murder. It is a matter of grave significance for Indians of all faiths, as well as all those who believe that a stable democracy requires a foundation of friendship and mutual respect, to remember Mahatma Gandhi's last days. For he no longer belongs to us Indians, many of whom in any case have forgotten him. He was a friend of humanity. DS

(Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Gandhi Heritage Portal, vol 90, p 282-4)
Some eight or ten miles from here, at Mehrauli, there is a shrine of Qutubuddin Bakhtiyar Chisti. Esteemed as second only to the shrine at Ajmer, it is visited every year not only by Muslims but by thousands of non-Muslims too. Last September this shrine was subjected to the wrath of Hindu mobs. The Muslims living in the vicinity of the shrine for the last 800 years had to leave their homes. I mention this sad episode to tell you that, though Muslims love the shrine, today no Muslim can be found anywhere near it. It is the duty of the Hindus, Sikhs, the officials and the Government to open the shrine again and wash off this stain on us. The same applies to other shrines and religious places of Muslims in and around Delhi. The time has come when both India and Pakistan must unequivocally declare to the majorities in each country that they will not tolerate desecration of religious places, be they small or big. They should also undertake to repair the places damaged during riots.

Muslims have asked me whether, in view of the decision of the Muslim League in Karachi, members of the Muslim League should take part in the Conference called by Maulana Azad in Lucknow and also whether Muslims might participate in the Conference of the Muslim League in Madras, and in any case what should be the course to be adopted by the members of the Muslim League in India. I have not the least doubt that if they receive a personal or public invitation they should attend the Conferences in Lucknow and Madras. They should fearlessly and openly declare their views at these meetings. If they have learnt anything from the 30 years of non-violent struggle they should not worry that they are in a minority in the Indian Union and that the majority in Pakistan can be of no help to them. It does not need belief in non-violence to see that a minority however small it may be has no reason to feel afraid for its honour and for the things it holds dear. If man could but know his Maker and realize that he himself is a reflection of that Maker, no power on earth can take away his self-respect. No one can take away my self-respect; I can only lose it.

During my struggle against the mighty Government of the Transvaal, a dear English friend of mine in Johannesburg used to tell me, "I always like to be with a minority, for a minority as a rule does not commit mistakes, and even if it does it can be rectified. But a majority is drunk with power and it is difficult to reform it." If by majority the friend also meant one-sided armed might he was right. We know from bitter experience how a handful of Englishmen had transformed themselves into a majority through force of arms and how they dominated the whole of India. India lacked arms and, even if the arms had been there, we did not know how to use them. It is a matter of regret that Hindus and Sikhs have not learnt a lesson from the British rule in our country. The Muslims of the Union suffered from false pride in their majority in the East and the West. Today they are rid of that burden. If they now see the virtues of being a minority they will show the beauties of Islam in their own way. They must remember that the best days of Islam were the days of the Prophet Mohammed's minority in Mecca. Christianity began to decline after the time of Constantine1. I do not want to prolong the argument here. My advice emanates from my faith and if Muslim friends do not have this faith they are free to reject it.

In my view they should all be prepared to join the Congress. But they must not apply for entry into that body till they are sure of a hearty welcome and equality of treatment. In principle there is no question of majority and minority so far as the Congress is concerned. The Congress follows no religion unless it be a religion of humanity. It treats men and women alike. It is a purely political body in which Sikhs, Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Par sees and Jews are all equal. The Congress has not always been able to practise what it preached. This sometimes created an impression among the Muslims that it was a caste Hindu organization.

In any case as long as this kind of tug of war goes on Muslims should keep away with dignity. When the Congress wants their services they should come into the Congress. Till then they can be servants of the Congress as I am a servant of the Congress. Although I am not a four-anna member of the Congress I have a voice in that organization, and that is because ever since 1915 when I returned from South Africa I have been loyally serving the Congress. If every Muslim similarly serves the Congress he will find that his services are similarly appreciated.

Today every Muslim is considered a supporter of the League and therefore an enemy of the Congress. This has been the unfortunate result of the teachings of the League. Today there is no cause left any more for enmity. Four months are a very short time for getting rid of the poison of communalism. It is the misfortune of India that Hindus and Sikhs took this poison to be nectar and made themselves the enemies of the Muslim League. In returning brickbat for brickbat they brought a stain to their name and put themselves in the same category as Muslims. I appeal to the Muslim minority to raise themselves above this poisonous atmosphere, to remove the suspicion that had been created concerning them and to show that they could live in India as her honourable citizens without any deceit and dissimulation.

One consequence of partition is that the League cannot continue as a political organization. The Hindu Mahasabha, the Sikh Sabha and the Par see Sabha similarly cannot continue as political bodies. They may well stay as religious bodies. Their task then will be internal reform of society, to search for things of religious value and to act on them. Then the atmosphere will become free of poison and these organizations will rival each other in doing good. They will have amity for each other and they will help the Government. Their political ambitions can be realized through the Congress alone whether they are in the Congress or not. If the Congress thinks only of those who are in the Congress it will become very narrow in its sphere of service. Even today there are very few people in the Congress. If no other  organization can rival the Congress it is because the Congress has been trying to represent the whole of India, because it has dedicated itself to the service of the poorest and the lowliest.

[From Hindi] Prarthana Pravachan- 11, pp. 229-32

Thursday, January 11, 2018

An opaque justice. By Dushyant Dave

Chief Justice of India is exercising his power to constitute benches, allocate cases in a manner that raises questions about independence of judiciary.

The Constitution is the suprema lex for this country. In Kesavananda Bharati v State of Kerala, it was held that supremacy of the Constitution is among the basic features of the Constitution of India and is protected by the authority of an independent judicial body to act as interpreter of a scheme of distribution of powers. In a recent order in the matter of Campaign for Judicial Accountability and Reforms v Union of India and Others, a five-judge bench held that, “… the Chief Justice is the master of the roster and he alone has the prerogative to constitute the Benches of the Court and allocate cases to the Benches so constituted.” Even though empowered with the order of November 10, 2017, does the Chief Justice of India possess absolute and arbitrary powers to “constitute the Benches of the Court and allocate cases to the Benches so constituted”? Of course not. He is as much bound by the Rule of Law as anybody else. If there is one principle firmly rooted in our constitutionalism, it is: “Be you ever so high, law is above you.”

Yet, a little insight into the functioning of the Supreme Court today will reveal that the Chief Justice has been exercising his powers in an opaque manner. Several instances reflect that the Constitution Benches are constituted by including certain judges and excluding certain others. It is not my endeavour to criticise or attack any individual judge. But the fact remains that senior judges and even judges known for their proficiency in certain branches of law are excluded from such benches.

Book review: Gorbachev: His Life and Times by William Taubman – the mysteries remain

Gorbachev: His Life and Times by William Taubman
Reviewed by Johnathan Steele

If Russia is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma, the same holds true for its most famous living citizen, Mikhail Gorbachev. From March 1985 to December 1991 he was under an unrelenting national and international spotlight as the Soviet Union’s leader. He wrote several autobiographical books while in power and has written more since retirement. At least a dozen associates have published memoirs in which he features prominently. Yet in spite of all this scrutiny, key questions about the man who did more than any other to change Europe and the world in the last half of the 20th century remain without clear answers.

How did a secret reformist get chosen by deeply conservative elders to be their country’s next leader? Gorbachev felt his country needed fundamental change, so why did he not quickly develop a programme of political and economic action once he had secured the top job? Why did he fail to foresee the rise of nationalist unrest that eventually led to the Soviet Union’s fragmentation? Why did he consent to Germany’s reunification inside Nato without demanding anything in return, except cash to pay for Soviet troops’ rehousing?

William Taubman, a professor at Amherst College in Massachusetts, who won a Pulitzer prize for his biography of Khrushchev, has done a phenomenal amount of research into Gorbachev’s career, including interviews with the man himself. He relies heavily on accounts by the closest aides, in particular the sparky diary of Anatoly Chernyaev, which reveals Gorbachev’s bewildering volatility of mood as well as his intellectual contradictions. But Taubman concludes he has to leave many questions about Gorbachev unresolved. Here is a man who confided to Chernyaev in 1987 that “we’ve made a mess of socialism: nothing is left of it”, yet took time off during crises to reread Lenin’s speeches in the conviction that he could learn lessons from 70 years earlier on how to strengthen socialism in today’s context. Or take Gorbachev’s attitude to the Communist party when its cadres became increasingly vocal in resisting change by 1990. His aides were urging him to leave the party and found a social democratic alliance to compete and take its place. “I can’t let this lousy rabid dog off the leash. If I do, all this huge structure will be turned against me,” he told them, using the foul language to which he often descended in moments of anger or despair.

Gorbachev’s biggest contribution was to provide Russians with freedom of speech and a multi-party democracy. Internationally, it was not to have used force to retain control of eastern Europe when its ruling Communist parties started to lose their grip. Behind this strategy lay a kind of Russian isolationism that ran counter to decades of Soviet internationalism. One might expect such a dramatic shift to have been preceded by long debate. Yet Gorbachev and his colleagues hardly ever discussed it. On the day after the Berlin Wall fell, Gorbachev did not even call the politburo into session, although he found time to send messages to US President George Bush, Margaret Thatcher and François Mitterrand, saying the East German leaders had taken the right decision. He was equally relaxed about the fall of communism elsewhere in the region.

One reason was that Gorbachev was preoccupied and overwhelmed with domestic crises within the Soviet Union. What had started as a revolution from above had become a revolution from below, with street protests and revolts breaking out all over. This provoked massive resistance from conservatives in the Soviet Communist party. Gorbachev was buffeted by pressures on all sides. Taubman’s approach to this tumultuous story is chronological and Kremlin-oriented. While this means that his fast-paced narrative leaps about, accurately reflecting Gorbachev’s tactical zigzagging, it leaves insufficient space for describing the context of daily life for Soviet citizens and the mounting disillusionment with reform that led many Russians to view Gorbachev as an agent of destruction. It also means the book lacks an explanation for basic issues.

To name just a few: why did shops have such massive food shortages? How come the black market became so pervasive? What went wrong with the effort to allow the development of private enterprise and small business under the guise of co-operatives? The book jumps from crisis to crisis just as Gorbachev’s daily agenda did, but readers would have benefited from some thematic chapters looking at key topics with the advantage of scholarly hindsight, such as the role of the mass media in hastening change, or Gorbachev’s clumsy handling of Baltic nationalism, or why (a question of renewed significance since 2014) a majority of people in eastern Ukraine, and even in Crimea, voted for independence and a break from Moscow in 1991... read more:

Opinion We laugh at Russian propaganda. But Hollywood history is just as fake. By Simon Jenkins

The new thriller All the Money in the World, based on the kidnap of John Paul Getty III in 1973, carries an announcement that it is “inspired by” true events and that its genre is “history”. What does that mean, since some of it is clearly not true? Why not say it is “inspired by lies”, and its genre is fiction? That would be true. Likewise, promotion for the latest Churchill movie, Darkest Hour, says that the actor Gary Oldman “is Churchill”. Everyone, including the great man, is made up to appear as in real life. We are asked to treat it as true. Yet it includes a fabricated scene, out of character, in which he chats on the tube with ordinary people, clearly to make him look good. If that is not true, how much else “isn’t Churchill”? Some of it; most of it; or all of it?

Viewers of the TV serial The Crown are also invited to treat its account of the Queen’s life as accurate. Yet the royal historian Hugo Vickers has voluminously documented references that are simply made up – including a Profumo affair connection between Prince Philip and the high society osteopath Stephen Ward. The viewer is offered no guidance as to what is true and what is false. The Crown will now be “the truth” about Elizabeth and Philip, round the world in perpetuity.

Should we care? Hollywood’s apologists claim that documentary fabrication is good clean fun. Since all news is entertainment, why complain if entertainment dresses itself up as news, to give it sex appeal? So what if the Getty kidnap did not end in a corny car chase, or if Prince Philip never had an affair? The biographer Lawrence James loves the new Churchill film because – while it “may not be wholly truthful” – it is “history as it ought to have been … history as a work of art designed to enthral the world”. I wonder if he would say the same of a fabricated movie glorifying the Germans. We are not told what the Queen thinks of the distortions in The Crown, but I doubt if she would call them “history as it ought to have been”. Why do the producers feel a need to fabricate incidents in the Queen’s life, or Getty’s, or Churchill’s, when the truth is interesting enough? Does Churchill really need lies to bolster his reputation?

The movie business seems to have lost faith in fiction as a way of moving hearts and minds. It craves the authenticity of history to help sell its wares. But fiction depends on the “suspension of disbelief”, on establishing a plausible fake reality, as does Tolstoy’s War and Peace in the historical setting of Borodino. Documentary purports to be journalism, “real” reality. This depends on trust in the veracity of the narrator. The Getty film was spoiled for me because, at every turn, the storyline veered from apparent history into obvious fantasy. Fact and fiction tumbled over each other until I lost faith in what I should be disbelieving... read more:

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

‘I Was Blacklisted and Deported For My NGO Activities’ - By MUKUNDA RAJ KATTEL

NB: In the eyes of the RSS/BJP government, human rights advocacy is criminal activity. And they talk about their resistance to the Emergency! DS

On December 20, 2017,  a Bangkok-based Nepali national, who is also a human rights activist, was denied entry into India and deported after being detained for 20 hours at Tiruchirapalli airport in Tamil Nadu.  Here’s his account of the events.

At midnight on December 20, 2017, I reached Trichy Airport from Bangkok by Air Asia Flight FD-110. I was on a holiday to Madurai (Tamil Nadu) and Adoor (Kerala) to participate in a few family get-togethers and celebrate Christmas with friends and colleagues. At around 0040, I reached the immigration desk. The lady officer on duty signalled that there was something wrong as soon as she keyed in my passport number. She had a surprised look and asked me to spell my name. I did so like an obedient child. She keyed in something again and with the same look, left the counter. 

Within five minutes, she returned with a male officer, probably the in-charge, and showed him what was on the computer. He read it, tried to key in my details again. He then looked at me grudgingly and instructed the lady to tell me to wait. Twenty minutes later, I went to the lady officer to enquire if there was a problem. Without a word, she signalled to the male officer asking him to come to the counter. He tried to key in my details once again, after which he firmly instructed the lady to “tell the airlines people to take their guest” and went back to his counter. I tried to talk to him, but he avoided me. I then asked the lady officer for an explanation. “You cannot go out”, she said and left the counter. I tried to talk to others but in vain.

The Air Asia ground staff, who were a witness to all this, called their senior officer who informed me that I would have to wait at the airport until a return flight was available. “We are sorry sir, we can do nothing about immigration.” I was then escorted to a room labelled “entry denied,” where I stayed for another 20 hours, protected by extremely caring armed personnel and completely cut off from friends, families and the rest of the world.

I didn’t have an Indian SIM and the airport didn’t have free Wi-Fi, so I could neither inform my friend waiting outside the airport nor my host in Madurai,  Henri Thipagne, a senior lawyer and executive director of Madurai-based People’s Watch. Both of them didn’t know why my entry into India was rejected. Worried and confused, they moved the court with a habeas corpus writ as soon as the courts began business on December 20, 2017. The court didn’t issue an interim order as asked for, but asked the immigration authorities to answer why my entry was denied.

On January 1, 2018, the chief immigration officer thus replied: “The habeas corpus petition is misconceived since the alleged detainee is not in illegal custody… The Nepali national was not allowed entry into India as he was blacklisted and is a subject of “ban entry” Look Out Circular for indulgence in NGO activities.” He denied the petitioner’s claim that my human rights were violated and “prayed that this Hon’ble Court may be pleased to dismiss HCP (MD) No. 1842 of 2017 (the case number) as devoid of merits and thus render justice.” Alas, the officer has become a victim because of me. I feel sorry for him… read more: