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Pak shedding Image of Intolerance

The Kashmir Monitor

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By P.K.Balachandran

While the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is beginning to revive its non-Islamic past and is proudly displaying artefacts related to its Buddhist and Sikh heritage, “secular” India has started obliterating its Islamic past and is trying to re-establish and highlight the Hindu heritage instead.

Pakistan is trying hard to shed its image of an intolerant Islamic country and is assiduously preserving artefacts relating to its ancient Gandharan-Buddhist cultural heritage. But the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-ruled Center is making a serious attempt to “saffronize” medieval history which is largely Islamic.

 

The Yogi Adityanath-led BJP government in Uttar Pradesh, India’s largest State, is showing the way to the rest of the country to change the Muslim names of places.

“Allahabad”, thus named in the 17th Century by Mughal Emperor Shahjahan, has now been renamed “Prayagraj” with virtually no one protesting against the blatantly communal move.

An official statement released by the UP government hid the real “Hindutwite” intention behind the name change and asserted that a board of researchers had perused documents and found that people had been under a “delusion” that Allahabad had been “Allahabad’ all the while.

“There was a delusion that the place was always called Allahabad and so the revenue board suggested that in order to correct this delusion, it would be reasonably legal to change the name to the original name,” the statement said.

Indeed, before the advent of Mughal Emperor Shahjahan, the area was known as “Prayagraj” being the most prominent of the 14 Prayags in India. However, the renaming was clearly motivated by the government’s Hindutva political agenda.

Given the extent of BJP’s hold over Hindu India, the tendency to change names with an Islamic or Muslim-era tint would continue and become the norm as changing British-era names to Indian names had caught on in the earlier “Indian” nationalist period.

But strangely enough, there is an incipient but noticeable trend in Islamic Pakistan to revive and display the country’s non-Islamic past.

For about a decade now, Pakistan has been trying hard to live down its sectarian image and portray itself as a tolerant society equally proud of its Islamic and pre-Islamic Hindu, Buddhist and Sikh past.

Pakistan is now angling for foreign tourists, especially from Buddhist countries, so that they may savour the delights of its multi-cultural and multi-religious past and bring much needed dollars into the country.

It is also trying to revive the ideology of its founder, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, who immediately after securing a “homeland” for the Muslims of the Indian sub-continent, pledged to make Pakistan a non-sectarian haven for all citizens irrespective of their faith.

In a speech made in 1947, Jinnah told the minority Hindus, Christians, Sikhs and Parsees: “You are free to go to your temples; free to go to your mosques, or any other place of worship in this Pakistan. You may belong to any religion, caste or creed – that has nothing to do with the business of the State.”

However, Pakistan became an Islamic State in 1956. The Shariah law imposed by President Zia-ul-Haq in the 1970s triggered open persecution of religious minorities. Radio Pakistan went to the extent of destroying the recording of Jinnah’s 1947 speech on the accommodation of minority communities.

After 1971, Pakistan’s students were not taught the pre-Islamic history of the country. “Instead, history books started with the Arab conquest of Sindh and swiftly jumped to the Muslim conquerors from Central Asia,” points out Nadeem F.Paracha in Dawn.

However, quietly, Pakistan’s small community of archaeologists had kept the torch of tolerance and liberalism burning.

Dr.Ahmad Hasan Dani, who was one of Pakistan’s earliest archaeologists, had come to the field with a gold medal in Sanskrit studies from the Banaras Hindu University in India.

He took a fancy to Buddhist sites in the Gandhara region of North Western Pakistan. The Gandhara region had been a cradle of Hindu and Buddhist civilizations in the early Christian era. Its impact is evident even today as the image of the Buddha we have today is actually a Gandharan construct.

The land of Gandhara has been well known since the reign of Cyrus the Great (558 – 528 BCE). The region comprised the present day Peshawar and Swat Valleys in northern Pakistan and a part of Afghanistan. There was a confluence of cultures and religions in Gandhara. It included ethnicities such as Greek, Mauryan, Scathian, Parthian, Kushan, and White Hun.

Dr. Dani later became External Director of Taxila Institute of Asian Civilizations at the Quaid-i-Azam University Islamabad; set up the Archaeology Department in the University of Peshawar; established the school of social sciences in Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad; and inaugurated the Islamabad Museum. An appreciative Pakistani government bestowed the Hilal-i-Imtiaz award on him.

There are 6,000 historical/archeological sites in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Of these, 2,000 sites belong to the Gandhara Civilization. But many of these have virtually disappeared due to local vandals, plunderers, antique thieves and smugglers.

The rise of the Pakistani Taliban, an offshoot of the Afghan Taliban of the early 2000s, led to a systematic destruction of Buddhist antiquities in the Gandhara region.

Antiques were dug up and sold to international smugglers. Villagers were told that they would earn spiritual merit if they destroyed these artifacts or idols (or even sold them illegally). Over 20,000 Gandhara art works are now said to be abroad.

In 2007, a Swat valley schoolteacher, Osman Ulasyar, was arrested and put on trial by the Taliban on charges of preserving the “symbols of infidelity.” His crime was constructing a 300-feet protective wall to safeguard a Buddhist stupa court. He had sold his car to pay for the wall construction.

While the Taliban has been routed in Swat and the threat is over now, the archeological sites there face new threats from the land mafia and artifact smugglers. Negligence of the government and the lack of awareness among people about the region’s history impede protection, Ulasyar says.

To prevent looting, the government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province has set up eleven museums. There are now 16 “protected sites” registered with the archaeology and museum department. Under the antiquity laws, no construction is allowed within a 200 feet distance of a historical sites, though this rule is beached in many places.

Come 2012, there was a turning back in governmental circles from Zia-ul-Haq’s Islamic zealotry. The Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation (PBC), which had earlier destroyed a recording of Jinnah’s speech on the rights of the minorities, sought from All India Radio a copy of it.

PBC’s then Director-General, Murtaza Solangi, had said: “This speech is very important for people who want to direct the country to the goal of a modern, pluralistic, democratic state.”

As years rolled, Pakistan began using its Buddhist past to build bridges with Buddhist countries like Sri Lanka.
In 2006, the Pakistan High Commission launched Sri Lankan Professor J.B. Dissanayake’s Sinhala translation of Pakistani academic Ahmed Hassan Dani’s 1992 work Gandhara Art in Pakistan.

The following year, the High Commission helped translate into Sinhala, Ihsan H. Nadiem’s Buddhist Gandhara-History, Art and Architecture. In 2010, at the request of the then Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Pakistani President Asif Zardari sent the Buddhist relics of Gandhara for exhibition in Sri Lanka.

In June 2011, to mark the 2600th anniversary of the Buddha’s enlightenment, the government of Pakistan handed over two Buddhist relics from museums in Pakistan to officials from Sri Lanka. In January 2016, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif visited the holiest Buddhist shrine in Sri Lanka, the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic at Kandy.

In May of the same year, by invitation of the Pakistani government, a 43-member delegation of Sri Lankan ministers, monks, scholars, and journalists visited Pakistan to attend the first-ever Pakistani Vesak Festival at Taxila.

Recently, the Pakistan High Commission revamped its website which, besides being comprehensive in its coverage, also stressed Pakistan’s links with Buddhism and Sikhism.

The Pakistan government has now sought Sri Lanka’s cooperation in developing its Gandharan and Buddhist Studies Center located in Taxila (the ancient Taksasila) near Islamabad, set up in 2017.

The proposal for cooperation was mooted at a meeting between the Pakistani High Commissioner in Sri Lanka, Dr.Shahid Ahmad Hashmat, and the Sri Lankan Minister for Foreign Affairs,Tilak Marapana, on October 9.

The Center for Gandharan and Buddhist Studies is pushing for grants to do research on the history of Gandhara. The idea is to revive the spirit of the ancient University of Taxila. “Although a lot of archaeological and historical studies has been done on the Gandhara region, a lot remains to be done,” the Center’s website says.

To facilitate research on Buddhist remains and understand their significance, Pali and Sanskrit will be taught at the Center. It is in the sphere that the Center would need Sri Lanka’s help as Sri Lanka has Buddhist research institutions and Pali is taught in the universities.


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Opinion

Religion and Modernity

The Kashmir Monitor

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By Amir Suhail Wani

“I have always avoided with horror all error in matters of faith”Eckhart

A voice lost to wilderness or the madman’s rubric, any talk of religion, God, metaphysic, values and reality suffers any of two possible consequences. Giving him the advantage of anonymity, a top notch Jamat I Islami scholar pertinently described modern epistemology with all its offspring as the means and instruments of ensuing and securing a revolt against the God and religion. Never before was civilization so shallow in matters of faith and never before a unanimous and collective onslaught was launched against the sacred, Transcendent and divine. A mere mentions of words like “Divine”, “sacred” or “Transcendent” makes people, experiencing the opiedation of modernism, to rise their eyebrows. Any talk of worlds beyond the sensual is termed as intellectual backlog. World has seen, now and then, people rising, out of their intellectual sincerity or otherwise rising against religion and God. But historically they could never enjoy the status of metanarrative, but were always, by virtue of historical entelechy confined to margins of civilization. In post renaissance era world has succeeded, by and large, in constructing a civilisation and culture with man rather than God as its ontic reference. This man cantered civilization has paved all the possible ways for criticism and demolition of religious meta narrative.

 

Let’s come to philosophy first. Modern philosophy, starting with Descartianskepticism and evolving through the stages of Positivism, Naturalism, Materialism Nihilism and Existentialism, modern philosophy seems to have ultimately ended up at postmodernism. The possibilities of future development can’t be ignored nor can it be claimed that postmodernism is an all pervasive philosophical trend claiming universal adherence. But the broader picture of things has unfolded thus. Postmodernism maintains incredulity towards metanarrative and has brought with it a host of questions. Traditionally and even up to recent past man seemed to be unanimous on ontic and epistemic stability of things. But with postmodernism not only have been the institutions of religious and traditional impotence held under scrutiny but the very fundamentals of human existence like language, society and all other institutions of human importance have been deprived of their ontic reference and have been made to float freely in abyss of uncertainty. The case with science has been no better. Being a victim of excessive and inordinate empiricism, the Modern day science has surrendered its inquisitive and rational spirit to sheer scientism.

Ibn Arabi, a classical theorizer of Islamic mysticism noted that “God is a percept, not a concept”. In this single line, the master has resolved an age old question and the problems associated with it. The notion of “conceptual scheme” as it has been adopted unquestionably alike by scientists and philosophers has brought with it an equal number of goods and ills. Man has turned obsessive to reduce everything to his conceptual categories. The human attitude of dividing a problem into subunits, though it has paid heavily in scientific realm, but has simultaneously brought irreconcilable problems in other affairs of human existence. Modern medicine treats biology disentangled from psychology and this piecemeal approach has landed us in an era where we know more and more about less and less. In a sense we know everything about nothing and nothing about everything. Traditionally things were seen associated and entangled in the cosmic Web. Coming back to human methodology of understanding things by dividing them into subcategories and then understanding things in terms of local mental categories has distorted and ruined our understanding of God, sacred and divine. We need to understand that the laws formulated by human mind are refuted within the physical realm itself. Thus the laws obeyed by matter aren’t obeyed by light and the laws applicable to fermions are completely defied by bosons. So within our physical immediacy are instances to cleave apart our ultimate trust in the laws of physics. The unending quest for unified theory in physics might bring further insights in this direction. Thus we need to be careful and watchful to the fact that the laws of matter do not apply to the realm of spirit. Coming back to God who is neither material nor spiritual, neither defined by material boundaries nor circumscribed by contours of space we need to be all the more careful. While we try to understand God in terms of mental categories derived from our physical realm we need to be very cautious that all these categories do not hold true beyond this material universe. Our conceptual schemes, which in the final analysis rest on the categories of mundane material realm are too coarse and inappropriate to conceptualise and theorise the realm of divine, sacred and godhead. At a point where despite all boasting scientific discoveries man is yet incapable of understanding his basic biology and where despite of conquering the vastness of space man is yet to gain a glimpse of his psychological depths any sweeping statements and miscalculated statements oriented towards reduction of divine to categories of psyche seems but a naive affair. The enlightened theologians, mystics and philosophers of the past have explicitly denounced the access of finite human mind to infinite cosmic intelligence. What God has informed us here and there in sacred texts is to contemplate the nature and our own selves. This unbiased contemplation is sure to bring forth some indirect aspects of divine. Though we shall be fully conscious of the fact that within the physical universe and human civilization there are instances which are heartrending, discouraging and at times they run quite contrary to the notion of divine. But the mystics and enlightened men throughout the history have been able to dissect the veil of appearance and have succeeded in looking at the essence of existence. On having this enlightened vision they bowed their heads and understood the essence of these apparent vagaries of nature. Ibrahim, the father of modern monotheism, Buddha a silent contemplator, Nanak, a socially conscious religious purgator amply demonstrate this state of enlightenment. Modern scientific mind is highly welcome in questioning the authenticity of religion, aspects of divine and the apparent chaos that is witnessed everywhere in physical and social landscape. There can be no proper understanding in absence of questioning. Likewise doubt is an essential ingredient of faith. But while one raises questions in atheist or any such frame one must have patience, tolerance and wide sightedness to understand theistic point of view. To dub religion irrational for its simple disagreement with science seems a rather constricted opinion. Religion has been a great architect in shaping the course of human civilization and to unfasten our knots with this perennial source of wisdom, learning, inspiration and exaltation will amount to gross intellectual injustice. The need of hour is not to posit theists and atheists as antithetical but to encourage each to understand the point of other. Maybe in this collective endeavour humanity discovers a paradigm that has still not been thought of.

(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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Opinion

Making Kids Sick and Stressed!

The Kashmir Monitor

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By Dr. Shahid Amin Trali

It is quite obvious that having a happy and thriving child can greatly enhance a parent’s personal happiness and their life satisfaction. But having a low, pessimistic or depressed child will certainly detract from one’s overall happiness. Children are the lovely birds. They are always innocent creatures. Rightly said that God lives there where children live. The smiling faces of our children can be a therapy for any kind of depressions.

Revisiting the past, our childhood was very rich. Life in the past was more social. Children hardly found time in past to be low and depressed. Earlier generations used to spend good time outdoors; playing sports, or engaged in physical activities. But the technology nowadays invites our children and adolescents to sit a lot. Now children are turning more isolated and limited to the world of games and gadgets. The excessive usage of the technology has truly damaged a lot and posing a serious threat to our future. So much so a bigger concern now is that a popular game Player Underground’s Battle Ground (PUBG) is turning more harmful for our youngsters. The Jammu and Kashmir Students Association (JKSA) has rightly demanded to immediately ban the game. The addition to this game has become so serious that our youngsters are unstoppably playing the game and losing a precious time.

 

A good data is available that Interviews with Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg and other technology elites consistently reveal that Silicon Valley parents are strict about technology use. A recent research has found children who spend more than two hours a day looking at a screen have worse memory, language skills and attention span. The research, which involved children aged between eight and 11 found that those with higher amounts of recreational screen time on smart phones and playing video games had far worse cognitive skills across a range of functions. One more research has found that an eighth-grader’s risk for depression jumps 27% when he or she frequently uses social media. Children who use their smart phones for at least three hours a day are much more likely to be suicidal.

Using the internet and technology is the need of the time but researchers suggest its safe and proper usage. One study reveals that in 2007, Bill Gates, the former world’s richest and CEO of Microsoft Corporation implemented a cap on screen time when his daughter started developing an unhealthy attachment to a video game. He also didn’t let his kids get cell phones until they turned 14. But the alarming situation today is that the average age for a child getting their first phone is about 10 years. If any kid is alone with the internet, and no one else is around, the technology can be a curse. When our kids use gadgets and access the internet within limits and in safe and public surroundings, the technology can enhance learning and prove a beneficial friend. But a good research is still needed to examine the potential impact of technology on our lovely children. Psychologists need to speed up efforts to show how dangerous modern gadgets and technology can be for our children brains and what limits are there for its right usage.

Today medical sciences have found greater advancements. But it is surprising to mention that the numbers of our children are also found increasing when it comes to anxiety, pressure and conflict among our children. This pressure and conflict is not evolving on its own. As society and parents, we have now become more rigid with our demands. But the life of our children has become more caged and suffocated with those unreal demands. In actual terms we are never doing justice with the upbringing of our lovely kids. There is always a bigger force applied on our kids now. We are forcing our children to get high marks or grades in examinations. We are forcing them to be only the doctors and engineers. We are even forcing a small kid to carry a burden of bags that is even unbearable for an adult. We are forcing them to be locked in a school even when they attain just two years of their age. This pressure on our children to achieve high levels of academic success and being caged is overriding their joys of education and making our kids anxious and depressed.

A study of University of Michigan, published in the Journal of Family Psychology, revealed that children whose parents said they would respond by lecturing, punishing or restricting their child’s social activities actually had lower levels of literacy and achievement by the end of high school. The study offers a useful advice that parents who use punitive parenting practices may unintentionally deny their children the opportunity to learn the very skills and knowledge they require to improve their grades. Even more worse, punitive strategies may increase children’s sense of frustration and aversion to school work.

Societies need to realize the value of development of children in right ways. Why we are that much rigid when we have big flaws in our system. It’s rightly said that we have the brilliant minds joining doctors and engineers at the initial level. Next level with exceptions we have those who do not qualify medical and engineering, they found success in other professions like education, law, management, security, administration etc. Next level with exceptions those who do not fit in these two levels become the politicians and they rule the first two levels. The current scenario proves it right when our youth sensation Dr. Shah Faisal resigned from his prestigious IAS post to and serve big as a politician. Also a good lesson is that we have majority of politicians who are hardly fit for any good post.

It is better to inculcate right values in our children. Parenting is a great and noble task, but it isn’t that easy to bring up happy and a confident child. We must strongly encourage creativity in our children rather than being rigid with them. Our strong focus must be to make our child healthy, happy and productive. We need to be as realistic as possible but don’t thwart the ambitions of our lovely children.

(The author is Assistant Professor, ITM University Gwalior.Educator at Unacademy and Editor in Chief at startupdailytips.com. He can be reached at: [email protected])

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Opinion

BEING AN ALIGARIAN

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By ShabbirAariz

Not so big and not so clean is a city in the state of Uttar Pradesh yet widely known because it is home to an iconic educational institution, the Aligarh Muslim University. Aligarh has some interesting features which get currency and access to places from wherever people come to study in the university. And an Aligarian is the one who is a pass out of the university generally. Generally because there are also some who even after staying for years on the campus, come out as ‘clean’ as while taking the admission. However, being an Aligarian has something of magical and magnetic about it, that can be felt only when one Aligarian comes in touch with another even while being from different socio-cultural backgrounds , having been on rolls of the university at different points of time and different disciplines and yet meet like long lost members of the same family. This may perhaps be true of other educational institutions also but is more expressing in the case AMU. Pass outs from AMU, across the subcontinent on their name plates besides their educational qualification, put a tag as ‘Alig’ with pride. AMU has played host to a cross section of society with means and those without means. AMU continues to remain a less expensive educational institution having benefited unimaginable number of under privileged people across the globe. AMU has shaped the lives of many like academicians, writers, diplomats, soldiers, sports persons, actors and also the leaders who in turn have been able to shape their nation. People with any sense of history consider visiting this university as a pilgrimage also for the reason that the last resting place of its founder, late Sir Syed Ahmad Khan is within the campus. The man who suffered humiliations and resistance from various quarters while establishing it. Some prejudices surface from time to time even now.

Everyone who has the opportunity of putting in time as a student in AMU, has his own stock of impressions and experience to share and plume his memory. I too am not an exception to my share of good and bad experiences while even bad ones with the afflux of time turn to be good too. Some of the features and facts remain common at all times. These include a certain features sounding with alphabet ‘M’, such as Muslim university, Majaz the poet who besides having remained a student in the university, has given an eternal anthem to the university. Also that Asrar-ul-HaqMajaz has remained most south after by the female on campus. And similarly the Maris road in close vicinity of the campus. Matri, a type of crisp biscuit, mosquito with terrible sittings etc form the part of everybody’s memory. Some of the events that are a regular feature, make AMU an institution distinguishable from other institutions. Besides annual Sir Syed day in the month of October, are mushairas and qawalis part of AMU culture. Other than what has been said here-in-above, I have had some memorable experiences of meeting and knowing some legends in their own right. I am sure that if I were not in AMU, I could not have met and known them. To name a few ; a great Urdu critic and satirist , late Rashid Ahmad Sidique, poet Bashir Badar, noted jurist, often consulted by the then prime minister, Mr Misba-ul-hassan, who was our dean in the law faculty.

 

You are never an Aligarian unless you jump from sublime to ridicule. In this line also am reminded of a friend known for playing pranks till this date with whosoever comes his way. Once out of tradition, on return from seeing off a home going friend at the railway station, he pointed to a hotel on our way back and wanted to have a cup of tea with me, to which readily agreed little knowing that the owner ran a brothel too which was revealed to me on his making enquiries of that kind. While negotiating with the owner, my friend sought STUDENTS CONCESSION on the charges for the ignoble act which left the owner furious who in all rage said that the concessions are available in railway and air and not here. My friend shrugged his shoulders and joined me in the street outside.

I will be leaving this write up incomplete unless I mention one AlamBhaie, a student and a class of his own. AlamBhaie was a generous person to my understanding, who always offered to help a fellow student at any level from the vice chancellor down to the level of a bearer least worried about the results of his effort. Alam known to everyone on the campus, was taken lightly and considered an idiot to the extent, the saying about him would go that if idiots had horns, AlamBhaie would be a stag with twelve horns. What an irony! God bless Alam, wherever he is. Yet another area of fascinations and affairs of which some culminating into success while others ending up in a fiasco is an added feature of AMU days and summed up by one poet- student Sabir in his verse;

SABIR ISS ALIGARH NAY QEHQAHOON K SAATH SAATH
KUCH ZAKHAM BHI DIYAY HAIN DILE BAY QARAR KO.

(The author is a senior lawyer and a well known writer and poet. He can be reached at:[email protected])

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