Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Terror Threat to India from Illegal Bangladeshi Migrants

Friday, January 12, 2018

The Most Valid Way to Counter Islamism

Basically, four approaches are suggested to counter the menace of Islamism (right-wing political Islam, of which jihadist terrorism is the most extreme manifestation) – the first is anti-Muslim bigotry, which is actually counterproductive and only gives further fuel to the jihadist fire, the second is to harp on Muslim victimhood exaggerating it but without asking Muslims to introspect, which fails to explain why a harmless minority like the Yazidis of Iraq or a school-girl like Malala have been targets of jihadist terrorism, the third is denigrating Islam as a faith to make Muslims abandon Islam but which is only intellectually consistent coming from an atheist or agnostic for all faiths have controversial dimensions, and tu-tu-main-main debates over right or wrong interpretations of Islam or any other religion to prove superiority (otherwise, I do support promoting humanistic and progressive interpretations of Islam as accurate) can be endless, and the fourth one, which I subscribe to, is to promote a liberal and humanistic understanding of Muslim identity and Islam, rebutting wrong notions of perennial Muslim victimhood and portraying the likes of APJ Abdul Kalam as role models, which I think is the only viable option, and so, to acknowledge Kalam's Muslim-ness is essential if he is to be promoted as a role model for Muslims.

I do not believe that communalists under any banner, except arguably those actually resorting to killing innocent civilians, should be dehumanized or can never be logically made to modify their views, as the must-watch movie Road to Sangam, based on a true story, demonstrates, and to draw an analogy, you can see this video of a Muslim who initially wanted to become a terrorist wanting to blow up Jewish civilians but changed his standpoint about Israel for the better after visiting that country.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Can India's Hindu Majority Be Entitled To Say It Has Grievances?

Our left-liberal friends never tire telling us about how the Indian Muslims joining the ranks of jihadist terror outfits are often victims of Hindu extremist violence, but can’t the same logic be applied the other way round too? Isn’t it possible that many of the Hindu extremists engaging in violence against innocent Muslims could have been victims of Muslim extremist violence by way of terrorist attacks or riots?

Violent Muslim extremism with the Indian Mujahidin, Indian Muslims joining the ISIS and Al Qaeda, vandalism in Malda, Muslim extremists killing Hindus in riots (including even the Gujarat riots of 2002, which weren't one-sided even after the Godhara train-burning), often instigated by hate speeches by leaders like Azam Khan and the Owaisi brothers, DOES EXIST in India (not only in Pakistan). The prospect of Hindu Majoritarianism taking an absolute fascist form to extinguish democracy some day or even taking us anywhere considerably close to that, as worrisome as it is for me, doesn't mean that if Muslim extremism can't dominate the country, the damage to Hindus' life and limb shouldn't still be a matter of as much concern for everyone, and communalism under one banner feeds communalism under the other; so, a genuine fight against communalism can never be selective.

I sincerely wish that a lot of left-liberals opposing negative stereotyping of Muslims (something I completely support) were equally careful to not make instances of Hindu extremism sound like "almost every average Hindu is out to get you, Muslims", such as by labelling our country as 'lynchistan' (when very many Muslims lead regular lives alongside Hindu friends, and Muslims from weak economic backgrounds have gone on to make it big in India, some examples including APJ Abdul Kalam, Irfan Khan, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Irfan Pathan, Yusuf Pathan and several Indian Muslim entrepreneurs) or be okay with even lying about having been complete denial of justice for Muslim victims of hate crimes. Hundreds of Hindu extremists have rightly been convicted in the Gujarat riots for massacres in Ode, Sadarpura, Naroda Patiya, the Best Bakery, the Bilkis Bano gang-rape etc. at the behest of Hindu activists like the late Mukul Sinha (and not all Muslim extremists have been convicted; think Bitta Karate, killer of many Kashmiri Pandits, and Azam Khan, a venom-spewing politician allegedly involved in fanning riots from the Muslim side in Muzaffarnagar and Sahranpur), and many Muslims implicated in terror cases have even been acquitted... even in the case of beef lynchings, there have been several arrests, as you can see here, here, here and, here.

Yes, conscious, subconscious or unconscious bias in the form of a sense of bloated chauvinism based on birth-based identity and/or a general apathy towards extremism perpetuated against "others" by those of one's own community does exist among many Hindus, but the same is equally, if not more, true for very many (not all) Indian Muslims, who have an even higher section insisting on making scripture-based scientific claims without much basis, a propensity towards seeking to see themselves as perennial victims, having generalised hatred even for communities they have experienced no harm from (like Jews in the case of many Indian Muslims, or take the doctrinal intolerance towards Ahmedias) and believing in bizarre and baseless conspiracy theories that deny the very existence of jihadist terrorism, and if there are Hindus who don't sufficiently acknowledge secular Muslims, the vice versa is true as well, as many liberal Muslims concede, and to Hindu readers, I’d say that just because a lot of Muslims may not express their bigoted ideas to your face, it doesn’t mean that you must imagine that bigoted talk happens only among Hindus.

Besides, negative stereotyping of Hindus by Muslims is less understandable than the vice versa, for Muslims come in contact with Hindus more than Hindus do with Muslims (and secular Hindus are quite visible in the media, NGOs, judiciary, political class and academia), and given that owing to Muslims as an aggregate whole having failed to embrace wholeheartedly modern constitutional secular democracy (how many such Muslim-majority countries do we have? - yes, there are a few like Albania and Burkina Faso), sections of Muslims globally find themselves in conflict with those of other faiths (it's not just about Hindus in India), and therefore, it's for more and more Muslims to come out and prove their tolerance by being fully impartial in their outlook, for intolerance by others is largely (not entirely) only about antipathy to Muslims, there being hardly any very powerful, armed non-Muslim terror groups seeking to impose dictatorial theocratic rule. Indian Muslims would do better to (as many already do) embrace the approach of secular Indian nationalism of Maulana Azad (here is a piece by me clarifying misconceptions about him) Ashfaqullah Khan, APJ Abdul Kalam (who was a practising Muslim), and Muslims in our Indian defence forces, rather than imagine themselves as some marginalised monolith that needs to keep crying hoarse about some perennial victimhood (I have rebutted that line of thinking here) and sympathising with extremists from their community or believing in all kinds of bizarre and baseless conspiracy theories that deny the very existence of jihadist terrorism, and while wanting non-Muslims to care for Muslims' concerns, themselves overlooking the concerns of non-Muslims [except paying some lip service to the cause of those non-Muslims who fit into the "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" syndrome (like Christian victims of Hindu extremism, or victims of human rights violations in the northeast or Adivasi areas rather than only Muslim-majority Kashmir) or "I can use their victimhood to paint that community in a certain fashion" idea (like in the case of Dalits to promote Hinduphobia, just as many Hindu rightists cite issues like burqas and triple talaq not because they care for Muslim women but to portray Muslims as regressive people), but not caring for Hindu victims of riots and terrorism like the Kashmiri Pandits or Jat victims of Muzaffarnagar riots, over say, the Palestinians]. Fringe extremists among both Hindus (e.g. cow vigilantes) and Muslims (e.g. jihadist terrorists) have launched onslaughts, but no entire community has launched any onslaught on another. One ought to feel sad about Hindu riot victims in Muzaffarnagar, Assam, Gujarat and other places as much as Muslim riot victims, and the pain and suffering is the same, irrespective of which side the victim toll has been higher, and even feel sad for innocent Hindu shopkeepers beaten to pulp and consigned to wheel-chairs in places like Malda. Or for that matter, Hindu victims of Christian extremism in the northeast as you can see here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Examples of Women Outperforming Men in Sports

Examples include Sarah Taylor and Kate Cross from England and Elysse Perry from Australia, who have interestingly made a mark in domestic men’s cricket. Sarah Taylor, an English wicketkeeper, had, at the age of 23 years, even been interestingly selected for the Sussex Men’s Second XI team to represent the English county, and she did play a men’s cricket match in Australia, even taking two catches. One of the most important developments in the area of women’s cricket in the recent times has been the story of Kate Cross, the fast bowler from England who became the first woman to have played in the Lancashire league in its 123-year history. There are other precedents to this as well. Arran Bridle had also played in the Lincolnshire Premier League in 2011. She played for Heywood and performed well in at least two matches. She took three wickets in one match and eight wickets in the other, against Clifton and Unsworth respectively. Elysse Perry is an Australian who has represented her country in both football and cricket and was the youngest adult cricketer for Australia (men included). She has also played in Sydney men’s grade cricket and took wickets of men in the same too.

An interesting piece of information with respect to domestic cricket in our country may be cited. In 2010, for the first time, the Baroda Cricket Association pitted its senior women’s team against under-14 boys’ teams in the under-14 DK Gaekwad Tournament and in the first match the girls played against the under-14 boys’ team of the Kiran More International Cricket Academy, the girls emerged victorious. In fact, they won three of the six matches they played in the tournament (the age difference should also, however, be taken into consideration, but would still be hard for male chauvinists to digest). An interesting fact is that in the first such match, the girls’ team comprised Taslim Sheikh, daughter of Mehendi Sheikh, coach of the famous male cricketers, the Pathan brothers – Irfan and Yusuf. And the captain of the girls’ team was Tarannum Pathan, another Pathan cricketer from Gujarat!

A prominent name historically that can be cited is that of American shooter Annie Oakley (1860-1926), who with her remarkable precision, thrilled spectators. At the age of fifteen, she outperformed famous marksman Francis Butler, who was ten years older to her and had laid a bet that he would perform better than her.

Danica Patrick from the United States of America was the first woman to win an Indy car-racing event and come 4th at a Las Vegas speedway event competing against men, Laleh Seddigh from Iran, a female Muslim female car racer has been a national champion competing against men, and is even known as the ‘Schumacher of the East’, and Alisha Abdullah from India has outperformed men in car-racing and bike-racing competitions.

In early 2015, a women-only crew won the Volvo Ocean race in Lorient defeating all the men’s teams! Female endurance athletes like Rory Bosio, Pam Reed and Lael Wilcox have beaten men in some of the toughest races in the world.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

The Need for a Right to Education Act and a Strong Child Rights Commission in J&K

The importance of child rights commissions in the context of education can be gauged from an example from J&K, where the RTE Act doesn’t apply owing to Article 370 (the desirability of which is another debate altogether), and the local politicians there have only dilly-dallied over making a law giving effect to the idea that education in the age group of six to fourteen years is a fundamental right (fortunately, in 2014, however, we learnt of a bill to this effect being drafted in J&K), though Article 10 of the constitution of J&K gives J&Kites the same fundamental rights as other Indians. The incident relates to a school in the Poonch region denying admission to certain students, in which the students had to stage protests and finally, the school relented on pressure from the district authorities. However, had J&K had an institutionalized right to education in neighbourhood schools for a certain age group, their state child rights commission (which does exist), if given the requisite powers, could have taken charge. Those with access to education in Kashmir, have, in some cases, become technology entrepreneurs, scientists and public policy analysts, more of whom we need, as against more militants and stone-pelters who have played a major role in crippling the Kashmiri economy and earlier drove out most of the Hindu minority of the Kashmir valley. As Neelesh Misra and Rahul Pandita point out in their much acclaimed book The Absent State, the handling of successive central and state governments in the Maoist belts, Kashmir and the northeast demonstrates considerable public policy failure, and while even several educated people do get radicalized and identity-based and ideological fault-lines do need to be logically eradicated, access to public goods and services, like roads, education and health care (which even free market economists like Milton Friedman have held to be a responsibility of the government, at least to a certain extent), obviously remains an important part of the equation, though given the militancy in these particular regions, even this does become more challenging than elsewhere. Institutionalizing the access to these public goods and services as rights can go a long way in preventing neglect of some regions compared to others owing to low electoral representation, as is the case with the people of the northeast in the national context, and Jammuites and Ladakhis (cutting across religious lines) in the context of J&K or even the Darjeeling region inhabited by Gorkhas, Lepchas etc. in the context of West Bengal, for example. Given that the BJP is in power in coalition in J&K, it would do well to push for an RTE Act there for the children of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh, but one which ought to be free from the original drawbacks of the central statute.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

The BJP and Religious Pluralism

While one may have many differences with the ideological and policy approaches of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, including on the issue of handling the question of communalism (and I do, especially given that I found rather distasteful, among other things, his remark snubbing taweez during the Bihar elections, something he would never do for say, rudraksh, and his long period of silence in the wake of very problematic statements concerning the Dadri episode not only from MPs but even ministers like Mahesh Sharma, which is not to say that I support appeasing communal and regressive Muslims or handing out religion-specific doles, that parties like the Congress, SP, RJD and Trinamool Congress have indeed engaged in), I believe that everyone ought to appreciate efforts made to integrate the minorities by encouraging them to adopt ancient Indic cultural facets without compromising on their religious beliefs, such as outreach attempts to practising Muslims to participate in the International Yoga Day celebrations in 2015, telling them that chanting what they may see as religious words or verses was not compulsory and that yogic exercises are very similar to namaz, being beneficial for physical fitness.  Prime Minister Narendra Modi has, time and again, stressed the need for religious tolerance, most emphatically at a church congregation in Kerala, and has condemned illegal vigilantism, while asserting that Indian Muslims ought to be neither appeased nor be subjected to hatred, but the need of the hour ought to be to reform them to enable them to be a part of the national mainstream, while having acknowledged that there are Indian Muslims who live and die for India, and that there is no need for any Indian citizen to prove his/her loyalty to the country day in and day out. He has praised in public the positive dimensions and contributions of Islam and good, public-spirited Indian citizens like Noor Jahan from Kanpur who formed a group of women engaged in making and renting solar lanterns and Imran Khan, a school teacher in Rajasthan’s Alwar district who created 40 Android apps and distributed them to students free of cost, other than the government awarding a Padma Shri to Jalpaiguri’s Karimul Haque transporting the poor to hospital on his motorbike as also a Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award to tennis player Sania Mirza, and there having been substantial budgetary allocations for modernisisng madrasas in tune with the present times. Both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Rajnath Singh made efforts to allay fears of Kashmiri Muslim students in different parts of India, as you can see here and here.

Also, while many people (including me) were deeply disturbed by the appointment of Yogi Adityanath as the chief minister of India’s most populous state, given his history of rabble-rousing (that had drawn criticism even from BJP-supporters like Anupam Kher) with no administrative experience and absolutely no other proven unique track record until then, and many have even been critical of some of his subsequent policies, as you can see here and here, it is noteworthy that the police, under him, has taken action against Hindu extremists on several occasions, as you can see here, here, here and here.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

What I Think of Chetan Bhagat

Chetan Bhagat is a commercial fiction writer who supported Narendra Modi for PM, but should that make him an object of ridicule? Those supporting Modi included several acclaimed public intellectuals like Andre Beteile, Lord Meghnad Desai (soaked in the Marxist tradition), Dilip Chakrabarti, K. Gopinath, Kapil Kapoor and the likes.

However much one may despise Modi, should their scholarship be written off on account of their believing that Modi was a reasonably good administrator, and was the best option for India at the time (as compared to a then thoroughly discredited Congress, an inexperienced AAP and a potentially unstable Third Front), with one not possibly being completely sure of his involvement in the riots in Gujarat in 2002 and given Modi’s many efforts at demonstrating his commitment to religious pluralism? (I may clarify that I, for one, I did not wish to see Modi as PM, and I voted for the AAP in the Lok Sabha elections in 2014.)

Moving on, has Chetan Bhagat just blindly supported Modi or the BJP on every occasion and has he ever exhibited bigotry towards the minorities? His views on the religious minorities can be seen in these articles of his, which don’t exhibit the faintest trace of bigotry. Nor, as these articles make clear, is he a blind fan of Modi or the BJP, nor was he even before Modi became PM.

Finally, coming to Chetan Bhagat’s credentials as a fiction writer. He is not a very literary writer and writes commercial fiction in a sincere, though not serious, manner that appeals to large sections of the youth, telling their stories, and he raises legitimate issues like sexism, regionalism, communalism, income divides and drawbacks of the education system in our country, with fairly interesting and gripping plots, which have even done well in cinematic adaptations. While one may not like his genre, to ridicule him as a writer is just symptomatic of an intellectually elitist superiority complex, which doesn’t suit left-leaning folks. This article exposing Bhagat's snobbish critics would make a good read in this regard, as would this one on Chetan by Aakar Patel, who is interestingly also a known Modi-basher.