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Elections and borders

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By Christophe Jaffrelot

Sometimes what has not happened needs to be explained as much as what has happened. External Affair Ministers of India and Pakistan, Sushma Swaraj and Shah Mehmood Qureshi, did not meet on the sidelines of United Nations General Assembly in New York in September. Why? In his victory speech in July, Imran Khan had said that Pakistan would respond by taking two steps for any step taken by India for normalisation of relations. In his congratulatory message to Khan on his swearing in in August, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had responded constructively and called for dialogue. Imran Khan had then sought a meeting between the two ministers of foreign affairs in New York. India had agreed — the meeting was supposed to take place on September 26 — but called it off less than 24 hours later for two reasons: The “brutal killings” of Indian security personnel at the hands of “Pakistan-based entities” and the release of 20 postage stamps “glorifying a terrorist”, Burhan Wani. These two incidents happened before the Ministry of External Affairs had confirmed the talks. Some analysts have pointed out that only after confirming the talks did New Delhi realise that three days after the meeting, it would celebrate the second anniversary of the “surgical strike”. Contradictory signals would be sent if peace talks were followed, that closely, by a grand commemoration of a transborder attack against Pakistan.

This explanation is convincing but needs to be seen in a larger perspective. The BJP is in an election mode and that makes it more difficult for the government to talk to Pakistan. After all, this country has figured prominently in all the recent election campaigns of the party — those by Modi in particular. As the chief minister of Gujarat, Modi had constantly spoken about the Pakistani threat and projected himself as a strong leader vis-à-vis Pakistan and its jihadists. During the 2012 Gujarat election campaign, he arraigned then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for being weak vis-à-vis Pakistan. In a letter to Singh that was released to the public even before it reached the PMO, the then Gujarat CM warned that “any attempt to hand over Sir Creek to Pakistan would be a strategic blunder”. Singh responded that that was not his intention.

This tactic gained momentum during the 2014 election campaign. In March that year, Modi tweeted, “3 AKs are very popular in Pakistan: AK 47, A K Antony & AK-49”. While Antony was the then UPA government’s defence minister, Modi dubbed Kejriwal “AK 49” in obvious reference to his first term of 49 days as Delhi’s chief minister. In a meeting in Hiranagar in Jammu and Kashmir, he said that the three AKs were helping Pakistan in different ways. In Kejriwal’s case, this accusation stemmed from the fact that “his website shows Kashmir as part of Pakistan”. Antony was seen as too weak vis-à-vis Pakistan. One month later, a former BJP minister of the Bihar government and a future Union minister, Giriraj Singh, declared at an election meeting in Mohanpur in Jharkhand: “Those opposing Narendra Modi are looking at Pakistan, and such people will have a place in Pakistan and not in India.”

Modi himself never indulged in such rhetoric, but constantly referred to Pakistan during subsequent election campaigns. The 2017 Gujarat assembly election is a case in point. During the campaign, he declared: “There was a meeting of the High Commissioner of Pakistan, the former foreign minister of Pakistan, the former vice president of India and the former Prime Minister of India Manmohan Singh at Mani Shankar Aiyar’s house (…) My brothers and sisters, this is a grave matter. Pakistan is a sensitive issue; what was the reason behind this secret meeting with that high commissioner, especially when elections are taking place in Gujarat?”

To suggest that Congressmen were conspiring with Pakistanis over a dinner (that, incidentally, held no secrets) was part of an electoral tactic, but it also aimed at creating a politics of fear. Such politics were fostered by alleged recurring jihadi attempts to assassinate Modi, that were exposed by the Gujarat police in the early years of his tenure as CM.

While the sense of vulnerability vis-à-vis the Pakistani threat is particularly acute in the border state of Gujarat, BJP leaders have referred to Pakistan during other state elections. During the 2015 Bihar election campaign, for example, Amit Shah said: “If the Bharatiya Janata Party is defeated in the Bihar assembly polls and does not form a government, firecrackers will be burst in Pakistan.” During the 2017 assembly election in UP in 2017, a BJP leader told journalist Prashant Jha (How the BJP Wins): “We want anti-Muslim polarisation. Why pretend otherwise?” Another BJP member explained his party’s success in UP to the same journalist in simple terms: “It was an India-Pakistan election.”

The way one relates to Pakistan can be used as an acid test, not only to polarise society along religious lines but also to differentiate the patriots from the traitors. The February 2016 JNU event that resulted in the arrest of Kanhaiya Kumar and others is a good illustration of this process. They were arrested because of the alleged anti-national slogans they had raised — these were publicised via video broadcast. Journalist Vishwa Deepak gave a revealing testimony after resigning his job at Zee TV: “The video, that never had a slogan of ‘Pakistan Zindabad’, we ran again and again to stoke passions. How could we convince ourselves so easily that the voices in the darkness belonged to Kanhaiya or his friends? Blinded by prejudice we heard ‘Bharatiya court zindabad’ as ‘Pakistan zindabad’.” Deepak does not attribute the words, “Pakistan Zindabad” to any doctored tape, here, but to his own confusion, the confusion that had been created by propaganda.

Pakistan has become part of India’s election campaign for good reasons. Election campaigns are the right time for debating issues such as national security. And there is evidence of the fact that the ISI did orchestrate the Mumbai attack in 2008 and engineered infiltrations of jihadists though the Line of Control. Other terrorist attacks, including the one in Pathankot, have also been convincingly attributed to the Pakistani security establishment.

But peace talks are made even more difficult when the party in office tries to mobilise voters by highlighting its military achievements against its neighbour. For instance, in an Aap ki Adalat show in September on India TV, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman was asked: “During the election campaign, you people had said that if they cut two heads, we will cut 10 heads. But 10 heads are not really being cut.” The minister responded: “We are also cutting heads, but not displaying them.” Another election campaign has started.


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Opinion

Beyond the Manifest

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By Amir Suhail Wani

Modern philosophical worldview with its nomenclatural diversity has pushed the human mind further and farther into trajectories of abstraction. The ideological extravaganza clad in tricky rhetoric denies any possibility of metanarrative, but simultaneously bombards the human mind with an infinitude of narratives. This irreconcilable dualism has rendered our intellectual tradition plundered, and made us survive on decaying ideological carcasses. Bonaparte is reported to have said, “I died because of too many doctors”; our state of affairs is no different. Ours is a state of ideological multiplicity which culminates into dread. The jargon of authenticity, and authenticity of authenticity ad infinitum, is going to render us intellectually bankrupt. There is such an impending gloom hovering over our intellectual horizon that multiplicity is in a continuous process of devouring the originality. Accepted, that truth in its process of manifestation assumes a multitude of forms, but to throw a mind open to all these forms without proper appreciation for this diversity, has created an aura of ideological inundation. It is believed that, loosely speaking, philosophy stands on the substructure of its contemporary science, though at times it may break away here and there from accepting scientific norms in its quest for ultimate realities, but the correspondence between philosophy and the science of any age is undeniable. Our contemporary scientific landscape has been dominated for the last hundred years by Quantum theory, which in its philosophical overtones favours uncertainty, chaos, subjectivity and perspectivism. These scientific notions have their philosophical equivalence in trends like existentialism, deconstruction and postmodernism.

The transition of epistemology and ontology from expansion of human understanding to its limitation has proved to be most grievous crime committed by pundits of Western philosophy. Philosophy, in the post renaissance era operated under the influence of science and this led philosophical methodology to be characterised by same shortcomings as were inherent to the science of the times. In placing entire emphasis on the sensory faculties of man, the philosophers of this era paid no attention to the rational and spiritual facilities of man. Hegel, Kant and others of their species metamorphosed the landscape of western philosophy which later had its repercussions of widest and worst possible nature. From what one can know the nature of question was now changed to what one cannot know. From what one can understand the emphasis was laid on what one can perceive by mere sense organs. Locke thought that the role of philosophy was not to extend the boundaries of knowledge but precisely to limit it. This limited epistemology and consequently bounded ontology constricted and constrained the trajectories of human imagination. Human mind, with its sensory, rational, imaginative, intellectual and spiritual possibilities of understanding is intrinsically infinite. The infinity of human imagination is not circumscribed by the finitude of human physicality. Man’s quest for infinity with all its possible implications finds its satisfaction in the perception of God, the institution of sacred and the concept of divine. Despite his physical finitude, man is infinite in terms of his rational and spiritual dimensions. Despite the fact constraints of space nullify his quest for physical infinitude and constraints of time defy his quest for eternity. But man, blessed with sensual, rational, cognitive, and spiritual faculties has devised means of conquering this finitude of time and space. Religion, with its overtones of spirituality and metaphysics is man’s response to his quest for eternal and literature with its all diverse manifestations is man’s response to his yearning for infinite.

Philosophy has reached a stage where one comes across notions like “morality as cultural relativity”, “gender structured language and its consequences on reality imaging”, and sometimes irksome theories like “reality as a social construction”. This is to say that philosophy has learnt not only to criticize concepts, but to dissect its own soul as well. But one is afraid to accompany a philosopher in this process of dissection. Though all these perspectives are healthy in their own right as long as their postures reflect a quest for reality (if there’s any), one must not lose insight of the fact that, any philosophy that weaves ideological fancies and recedes far from the realm of pragmatic human affairs, may survive well as an academic discourse, but it may never inspire humans to scale higher altitudes of life in living. These philosophies may survive the textual worth, but may fail to transform into living text; whether it is a presupposition of philosophy to become living text is an issue much debated in pragmatic, analytic and continental philosophical traditions. But in the east, this philosophical enquiry presents a quagmire of lesser degree to populace, for we share “the heritage of tradition”. The traditional itself is a touchstone reliable enough, that we can assuredly test the verity of any philosophical idea on this touchstone before incorporating it into our cultural corpus. The tradition includes in its lap: the old wisdom, religious inspirations and cultural constructions, and all of them are to be equally favoured to arrive at a comprehensive picture of life and the Universe that we live in.

(The author is a freelance columnist with bachelors in Electrical Engineering and a student of comparative studies with special interests in Iqbaliyat & mystic thought. He contributes a weekly column for this newspaper that appears every Monday. He can be reached at: [email protected])

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Congress and cow nationalism

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By Prabhat Shunglu

We promise to build gaushalas in all panchayats. We promise to start commercial production of gau-mutra (cow urine). These are not statements culled out from a political speech of UP’s BJP chief minister Yogi Adityanath. These are not guidelines from the Sangh Pariwar elder to a BJP functionary.

The two statements are part and parcel of the Congress manifesto for the impending state Assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh.

The Congress released the manifesto in Bhopal last Saturday. Those present on the occasion included party seniors Kamal Nath, in-charge of the Congress campaign in MP, two-time CM of the state Digvijay Singh, and former Union minister Jyotiraditya Scindia, one of the lead campaigners and among the party’s top choices for the chief minister.

The Congress, in its manifesto, has also promised to build more cow sanctuaries and provide grants for their upkeep and maintenance. This in a state that boasts of developing the first cow sanctuary, whose foundation was laid by the RSS Kshetra sanghchalak Ashok Soni.

Expounding on the virtues of the manifesto that has strong shades of saffron and could have been mistaken for a BJP manifesto, Rajinder Singh — incharge of the party’s manifesto committee and deputy speaker in the state Assembly — made it clear the Congress wants to shed its pro-Muslim image. “The BJP used to brand us as Muslim party. Earlier we did not do anything to change the perception. It’s a conscious decision to do away with that tag,” Rajinder Singh told a correspondent.

The party has been out of power in the state for 15 years and is seemingly desperate for home coming. Surely, the Congress would like to exploit the anti-incumbency sentiments against the BJP’s Shivraj Singh Chouhan government. But the party seems unsure whether its traditional secular tag shall help it romp home and wrest the state from its arch-rival, the BJP, which has vowed for a ‘Congress-mukt’ new India it engineers to construct.

Is it the fear of getting irrelevant that Congress is out to soak up in a hue of saffron, hithero an exclusive domain of the BJP? Going by the manifesto’s contents, party leaders’ replies and party president Rahul Gandhi’s discovery of Hinduism (he started his MP campaign with a visit to Mahakaleshwar temple in Ujjain) the answer certainly seems to be in the affirmative.

Though on the face of it, the Congress shall be loath to discard the secular tag completely, but it feels there is a symbiotic relationship in being secular and being a ‘pro-Muslim.’ It’s the latter image it wants to shed for electoral gains, though it remains to be seen how the party shall uncouple the two.

But the more important question is this: Is the Congress well on its way to becoming a BJP? Is the party square with the fact that it ignored majority sentiments all along? Is it also the admittance of a sort of guilt that it didn’t do itself any good electorally by ignoring the majority sentiments thus far? So, was there merit in BJP’s long-standing accusation that the Congress politics has always been about minority appeasement?

The Congress manifesto isn’t just about the cows. The manifesto promises to build a religious tourism corridor in the state by invoking Ram and rivers, some of which are considered holy in India. While the BJP bares its teeth in preparation to reclaim Ram’s birthplace in the disputed Ayodhya site for the Hindus, the Congress has found a MP connect with Ram of Ayodhya fame. According to scriptures, Ram left his imprints in the state, a slice of mythology that has not been popularised. The party has promised to develop ‘Ram Path Gaman’, a corridor that traces the route of Ram during exile in Chitrakoot, MP.

In fact, for all its manifest appropriation of Ram and rivers (Ganga and Saryu — UP CM Yogi Adityanath has started Saryu aarti on the same lines as Ganga aarti in Varanasi, along with Saryu mahotsav) by the BJP, the Congress wants to replicate a similar model around these two symbols of Hindu faith in MP too.
If voted to power, the party manifesto promises to come up with Ma Narmada Nyas Adhinayam and develop a Narmada parikrama (circumbulation) route dotted with resting places for pilgrims every 15 km.

Congress’ dalliance with soft Hindutva since the days of the return of Indira Gandhi to power post- Emergency is an open secret. Rajiv Gandhi pushed that envelope further by opening the gates of the disputed site at Ayodhya.

PV Narsimha Rao was prime minister when the mosque was brought down. After the humiliating 2014 Lok Sabha defeat and a series of setbacks in the Assembly polls, Rahul set out to discover himself anew and found nirvana in wearing a janeu (holy thread) and going on a temple-hopping spree.

There is no gainsaying the fact when Rahul claims “country’s temples are not the sole property of the BJP and the RSS”. But tapping into identity politics by exploiting symbols of religion and faith to appear as a contender in the battle of competing majoritarianism has its own pitfalls, some of which have blown up in the face of the idea of India, as our constitutional forefathers had envisaged.
(DNA)

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Opinion

Islam in Kashmir –Through the lens of becoming

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By Abid Ahmad Shah

Islam is one of the monotheistic and major religions of the world with an enormous following of 1.8 billion Muslims in the world. Prophet Muhammad (SAW) is the founder of Islam in Arabia. With the passage of time, the companions of Prophet SAW played a great role in the spread of Islam in the world facing a lot of hardships day-in and day-out.

The messenger of Allah sent his companions every right, left and centres to convey the divine message of one God to the people of the world in order to show them a real path of eternal religious prosperity.

History is replete with the facts that although Islam had reached Kashmir very early, but the practical aspect was missing thereof. Kashmir was once a non-Muslim land where people were accustomed to non-Muslim practices and were mostly Hindus. Thus, there came an intervention in their lives. Whether, we call it divine or by chance, Islam arrived to make its roots permeate into the lives of the masses of the valley of South Asia.

It was initially Hazrat Syed Sharaf-ud- Din Abdul Rahman(RA), a Sufi from Turkistan also known as Syed Bulbul Shah(RA) who provided the idea of Islam in Kashmir.

Unfortunately, there have been little literary forays into his life, although few references to him form a part and parcel of the historical narratives of the medieval Kashmir. He was thus the first Islamic missionary to Kashmir who laid the foundation of Sufi order here. He played a catalytic role in the spread of Islam to concretise the societal transformation at large. According to historical sources, many people in Kashmir embraced the creed of Bulbul Shah.

After this great saint, there arrived the descendent of Prophet Muhammad (SAW), known as Hazrat Mir Syed Ali Hamadani (R.A), a Sufi of Kubrawi order from Hamadan, Iran from central Asia along with 700 Sayyids in Kashmir to enlighten the masses with the glorious Islam and its practical aspects through his teachings. He was a Shafi Muslim scholar from an educationally well-off family. He was born in 1314 A.D. at Hamadan, Persia from parents namely Syed Shihab-Ud-din and Saiyidnah Fatima.

Shahi Hamadan R.A. came to Kashmir thrice with a noble mission of spreading the religion of Islam and arrived in Kashmir for the first time in 1372 A.D. and left for Mecca afterwards. Thereafter, he again arrived in Kashmir and stayed briefly and left vale again. Finally, he again came to Kashmir in 1383 and remained in Kashmir for a short span of time and left this earthly world towards eternal heavens afterwards and Tajikistan became the epicentre of his eternal bodily stay.

Shahi Hamdan is also known as Ali Sani (Second Ali) in Kashmir and revered by one and sundry with a linked genealogy through Imam Husain (R.A.) traced back to fourth Caliph, Hazrat Ali (R.A.). He contributed not only Islamic tenets and principles based on the Islamic philosophy for the people, but also contributed the dual elements of art and crafts in Kashmir.

He contributed subjects like ethics, science, philosophy, jurisprudence, theology, poetry and prose immensely in Kashmir. He also profoundly impacted the architecture in Kashmir through construction of Khanqahas and tombs.

The arrival and influx of Shahi Hamadan (R.A.) in Kashmir brought a socio-cultural and religious revolution. Shah-i-Hamadan was also an author and a poet par excellence who wrote books like, Zakhiratul Muluk and Muwwadatul Quraba. Zakhiratul Muluk dealt with his political ideology, the duties of rulers and the responsibilities of the people. Besides, he also authored several books spanning religious and spiritual aspects.

Awrad-E-Fathiya is a major case in point. It is the collection of religious prayers of great religious people which is recited every morning after the Fajr prayers in almost all the Hanafiya School of thought mosques reflecting the faith and deep commitment in one God laying emphasis on the the unity of God and His attributes.

Another important poetic collection of Shahi Hamadan (R.A) is Chahlul Asraar .Every year prior to Eid Ul Adha, the Urs of this great saint Shah Hamdan (R.A) is
celebrated on the 6th of Zil Haj of the Muslim calendar at few sacred abodes of his shrines, including Seer Hamdan, Dooru Shahabad, Tral and Srinagar as a mark of deep reverence and regard for the unrelenting efforts of this saint for the upliftment and prosperity of the people of Kashmir.

The inroads of Shahi Hamadan (R.A.) into Kashmir without any regard for the rewards makes the point clear that the great saint as a mark of legacy of the mission of his dynasty of Prophet Muhammad SAW cared about the people of Kashmir and yearned to stabilise their lives socially, religiously and culturally.

Today, when Kashmir is at the crossroads of uncertainty, whether politically or otherwise, if we follow the paths of the great religious saint, time will not be far when divinely support to our problems will annihilate them and a valley of scenic beauty will restore and regain its charm again and metamorphosize our pains into peace.

Together, by following the charted discourse of Shahi Hamadan R.A, our lives will blossom both here and hereafter. I still remember tears rolling down the cheeks of my deceased father Master GH Mohi Ud Din Shah at the time of prayer’s recitation of Urs of Shahi Hamadan R.A at dargah of the saint at Seer Hamdan. This was the time that etched my memory and solidified my love for the Auliya.Today,if we follow into the shoes of these mystics,there can really arrive peace in our trouble torn Kashmir.

(Feedback at: [email protected])

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