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Secular Democracy or Hindu Rashtra?

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With freedom of the country and later coming in to being of Indian Constitution, India became a secular democratic republic. At the same time the breakaway Pakistan’s founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah, in a speech in Pakistan Constituent Assembly also declared that Pakistan would be a secular state. Soon enough after the death of Jinnah the logic of partition took over and Pakistan in due course was declared the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Same Pakistan, which came to be formed in the name of Islam, broke into Bangla Desh and Pakistan on the ground of language and geography among other reasons. India progressed to be a secular state; has been trying to uphold the values of secularism. Despite many hiccups, its attempt to keep alignment with secular values has been there until couple of decades ago, when the issue of Ram Temple raked up along with an assertion that India is a Hindu Rashtra. Sectarian nationalists have been asserting that, the secular values and Indian Constitution are not as per the ethos of this country and so the Constitution be changed to pave the path for Hindu Rashtra (Nation).

The lopsided partition of India, formation of Pakistan in the name of Islam on one side and secular India on the other was the accepted historical fact at that time. With the assertion of Hindu nationalism, many of those who should know better are also not able to fathom the historical events in the correct light and its complexity. This came to surface yet again, when the judge of Meghalaya, Justice Sen, in a judgement related to a petition related to domicile certificate made comments that, as India was partitioned on the ground of religion and Pakistan was formed for Muslims, India should have been declared as a Hindu Rashtra. When faced with criticism he did say that he does believe in secularism and that India should not be further divided based on religion or caste.

How do we see such utterances from such learned judges and their likes? The history of India’s freedom movement and partition has been misrepresented times and over again. It shows that popular perceptions of the causes of partition tragedy do not present the real dynamics of the phenomenon and the massive tragedy of mass migration, which followed that partition process. The subcontinent continues to suffer from the after effects of partition in various forms. While in India, it is presumed that it was the separatism of Muslims, which led to partition, In Pakistan it is presumed that Muslims have been a nation since the time Mohammad bin Kasim ruled in Sind in eighth century, and that formation of Pakistan was needed to overcome the domination of Hindus.

 

Both these are mirror image views, which are very superficial and present the viewpoints of communal sections of society. Majority of Muslims and Hindus did stand for composite Indian nationalism, as represented by Indian National Congress (INC) led by Gandhi. These were the views of those who, which led the, anti-colonial movement, the movement for India’s independence. With the rise of freedom movement which represented the longings of the newly emerging social classes of industrialists, businesspersons, workers, and educated classes who aspired for a democratic society. They veered around, INC, Gandhi. The freedom movement had two aspects. One was to oppose the British rule and the other was to build modern India founded on the values of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity.

At the same time, the feudal elements, declining classes, started opposing the process of making of modern India and opposing the anti-colonial movement. These declining classes were steeped in the values of birth-based inequality, hierarchy of caste and gender. They in due course; separated in the name of religion. British policy of ‘Divide and rule’ played major role in separation of elements of feudal origin in the name of religion. First, Muslims elite was encouraged and they formed Muslim League and the remaining Hindu elite grouped themselves into Punjab Hindu Sabha and later Hindu Mahasabha. Interestingly only kings and land-lords were part of these organizations in the beginning.

(Ram Puniyani)


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Editorial

Ramadan calling

The Kashmir Monitor

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The most sacred month Islamic calendar, Ramadan is all set to enter and with that the month long fasting shall begin across the Muslim world.Fasting is an essential part of faith in innumerable religions spread across the world. Yet, the fundamental difference between fasting in Islam and other beliefs is that the one prescribed in the sacred book of Islam ensures that although abstinence is there, the permitted period of food consumption guarantees that there is no real chance of malnutrition or inadequate calorie intake.

The basic difference between abstinence in Ramadan and total fasting is the timing of the intake of food. We basically miss lunch, have an early breakfast and do not eat until dusk. Nothing more.Even the insufficient supply of water, which is essential for human survival, does not have an adverse impact — it adjusts the concentration of all fluids within the body, resulting only in a nominal state of dehydration, which itself has beneficial effects.

One of the five pillars on which the monotheistic religion of Islam stands upon, fasting is primarily a religious obligation and a spiritual experience. Yet, the design of a month-long fast makes it clear that Islam is pragmatic even in its obligatory duties.While fasting is ordained for all Muslims, it is not obligatory for the elderly, the young or the ill, and people suffering from some other clinical, or non-clinical circumstances. From a nutritional point of view, fasting in the month of Ramadan is not a burden, but rather, a manner of reaping physical and, as research shows, even psychological benefits. This, as many claim, is proof that Islam is a pragmatic religion that addresses the realities and more.

 

To maintain a healthy life, every human being needs a certain number of calories, which differs from person to person. While it is true that generally during Ramadan the body is somewhat deprived of its total calorie count, any form of short fast, lasting anywhere from 20 to 36 hours, can in fact, reduce risks for heart disease, diabetes, and possibly, even cancer!

The changes that occur in the body depend on the duration of the fast. In the month of Ramadan, for a practicing Muslim, the body enters into a deprived state for approximately eight hours. In a normal person, body glucose, which is stored in the liver and muscles, is the body’s main source of energy. While fasting, this store of glucose is used up first to provide energy. Once the body runs out of the stored glucose, it starts using up from the fat reserve.

Short fasts also reduce oxidative stress and inflammation in cells. Many theorise that this helps prevent and even repair damage to our DNA; studies have linked damage to the DNA with developing cancer.

Scientists also have strong arguments for fasting as an anti-ageing method. In other words, fasting just may help us keep our organs health and this prolonging life. Fasting has been found to be an effective treatment for psychological and emotional disorders. It helps people build self-esteem and a strong will, cultivate and refine their taste and manners, and strengthen convictions, which ultimately all contribute towards a sound and healthy lifestyle.Besides conditioning for abstinence, fasting also reflects on outward physical appearance by help cutting out gluttony, and getting rid of excess fat, which, in today’s world, is a major medical issue.

One common term that gets thrown around is ‘detox’. However, only a few have a clear idea about what detox actually refers to, and how Ramadan can be linked with it.Detoxification is one of the more widely used treatments based on the principle that health can be hampered if toxin (toxic substance) becomes high in the bloodstream. Detoxification takes place when any toxins in the body’s fat reserve are dissolved and removed from the body.After a few days of fasting, higher levels of endorphins (a hormone) appear in the blood, which, without us even realizing, make people alert, giving an overall feeling of mental wellbeing.

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Editorial

BJP’s poll pangs

The Kashmir Monitor

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As India is in the thick of parliamentary elections, and polling for 302 seats (out of total 543) has already been held, the ruling BJP finds itself on a fiercely challenging wicket. The social engineering by regional parties, in UP and Bihar in particular, and MumtaBannerji’s assertive position in West Bengal, is likely to upset the BJP’s calculations. BJP’s position in southern states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, and Andhra Pradesh Orissa too is reported to be fragile. Rahul Gandhi’s rise from ashes is another factor that is casting shadow on BJP’s electoral prospects. Mocked as “Pappu” for being a novice and inexperienced in politics by the Prime Minister NarendraModi and his party colleagues, Rahul Gandhi appears to have come of age. He is putting up a valiant fight against the BJP and in the recent past has defeated the ruling party in three crucial states—Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh—in assembly elections. The Congress president—heir of Nehru-Gandhian dynasty—has made a careful departure from the party’s rhetorical and symbolic commitment to secularism and minority rights. He is taking on the Prime Minister on the agenda set by the BJP itself. To establish his Hindu identity, Rahul Gandhi visited hundreds of Hindu temples in the past few months leaving little scope for the hard-line Hindu detractors to call him a “non-Hindu”. Rather than stand against BJP’s majoritarian and Islamophobic politics, Rahul Gandhi chose to fight the electoral battle on the terms set by the Hindu right. He stayed silent about the violence and hostility encountered by the Muslim citizens. He essentially agreed with the terms set by Hindu nationalists that to speak of equal citizenship and political rights for India’s 165 million Muslims is no longer acceptable in India. Rahul Gandhi regularly posted on Twitter but he avoids references to India’s Muslims.
This seems to have paid for the Congress president in this new Indian frame of politics where inclusiveness is no more a virtue. It has rattled the BJP and its leadership, and they are finding themselves on quite a sticky wicket. Though it is premature to draw any conclusion about the outcome of the elections but the desperation in the BJP camp is visible. It is for this fact that the BJP leadership is trying hard to renew and revive the communal polarization ahead of four other phases of polling. There are two main indicators of this BJP plan. Prime Minister NarendraModi is trying to invoke Pakistan and nuclear bomb in his poll campaign to attract voters to his side. The other day he warned Pakistan of nuclear bomb saying “our nuclear bomb is not for Diwali”. Addressing an election rally in Rajasthan, he said that India could no more be frightened or blackmailed by Islamabad’s threats and said its nuclear capabilities are not being kept for Diwali. “Every other day they used to say ‘we have nuclear button, we have nuclear button’. What do we have then? Have we kept it for Diwali?” he said. The other major indicator of BJP’s growing frustration is fielding of terror accused Pragya Singh Thakur as party nominee from Bhopal parliamentary seats. She is challenging the Congress strong man Digvijay Singh. Singh is the main accused in 2008 Malegaon blast case in which six people had died and around 100 others injured (all Muslims). The trial court had in October last year framed charges against Pragya and other accused under the UAPA and other sections of the Indian Penal Code for murder, criminal conspiracy and promoting enmity between religious groups. If convicted, the maximum punishment would be life imprisonment or death. Pragya and the others facing trial in the case are charged with “hatching a conspiracy” to “strike terror in the mind of the Muslim community, to create communal rift….” Currently she is out on bail on health grounds. It goes without saying that charges against her have not been proven yet but the moral and political propriety had it that she, for the seriousness of the charges, should not have been considered for such a place in the party. By owning and fielding her, BJP has played out a game of polarization of voters on religious lines.

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Editorial

Collapse of Afghanistan peace talks

The Kashmir Monitor

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The hope for end of the war in Afghanistan has suffered a major blow as the peace talks between Taliban and the Afghan government have collapsed. A key meeting of Taliban leaders and Afghanistan government officials was scheduled to take place in Qatar on April 19 but a last minute row over the large number of delegates Kabul wanted to send culminated in the fall down. Taliban leaders refused to accept the Afghan government delegation in such a large size. The peace talks have been postponed indefinitely. The talks have collapsed at a moment when bloodshed continues in the war torn country. On Saturday suicide attackers stormed the Ministry of Communications in the capital Kabul trapping thousands of people inside the building for hours while security forces battled the assailants. At least 10 people died in the fighting. The Islamic State group claimed credit for the attack, which came a day after U.S.-led peace talks between the Taliban and Afghan leaders broke down in Qatar, with no immediate plans to reschedule negotiations. Taliban indeed is the major power group in Afghanistan. It now controls or influences more than half of Afghanistan. The government writ has largely been squeezed to Kabul only. A recent United Nations tally revealed that around 4000 civilians were killed across Afghanistan last year. The United States, which is leading an effort to end the war, signaled its disappointment and urged both sides to return to the table, though organizers gave no hint about when the conference might be rescheduled.

Efforts to end the Afghan conflict have accelerated since the appointment of U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad in September last year, who has since been shuttling across the region to revive Afghan peace talks. He has held several meetings with the Taliban leaders at their political office in the Gulf country of Qatar. American President Donald Trump’s letter, in recent past, to Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan seeking Islamabad’s support in establishing peace in Afghanistan too has helped in reviving the peace efforts in the decades old war torn country. Trump had earlier tried to terrorize and pressurize Pakistan through intimidating measures, and in the process stopped all the military aid the country was supposed to get as its share for being a partner in America’s war on terrorism. Trump directly accused Pakistan of harbouring and sponsoring the terrorists, and wanted Pakistan to fight the America’s war in Afghanistan. Trump issued threat and warnings to Pakistan with the intention that like in the past it would succumb to such pressure. But as it saw Taliban capturing more and more areas, Trump stopped all military and economic aid to Pakistan to make Islamabad more pliable. America even threatened Pakistan of military action if it did not comply to the US orders. But the rise of Imran Khan to power saw a new and confident Pakistan refusing to toe the American line. American officials have now admitted that the Taliban control more than 60 per cent of the territory in Afghanistan. Hence, the Trump administration has finally come to the conclusion that there is no other option but to talk to the Taliban. The U-Turn by Donald Trump is a huge indicator that no country, howsoever powerful it could be is invincible. In the new scenario, America’s interests in peace in Afghanistan are growing as the US wanted complete withdrawal of its forces from the country. There is no other alternative to peace. Irrespective of what America or other interested powers want, peace should restore in Afghanistan in the interests of its people. More than anyone else, it is the people of Afghanistan who need peace. It is imperative on all stakeholders to restore peace talks without any delay so that peace returns to the war-torn country.

 
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