Sunday, October 28, 2007

Media, Religion and politics- all mixed into one

India is all about cultural tolerance. It has survived and prospered where other more powerful have disappeared and disintegrated. The greatness of this country is that it allows many different religions to co-exist together .It’s a great religious conflux where various religions co-habit just like the many rivers flowing in this country that lose their individual identity and merge into one.

This greatness can be attributed to the fact that India through thousand of years has seen many a rules. This country has seen Hindu, Buddhist, Islamic and Christian rulers and yet it has remained secular. Religious tolerance doesn’t comes easily. India has never been a Hindu or a Muslim state and it will never be one.

What happened in Gujarat in February 2002 was shameful and it should have never happened. But what has this particular sting operation achieved? They have not come out with anything so incriminating that can be termed as path breaking or one which can help the law in giving justice. Neither they have fished out something which was unknown. Is not Babu bajrangi a known Hindu fundamentalist? His name already figures in the list of those who have taken an active part in the riots. It has been for long being alleged that it was a state sponsored riots and if some fundamentalist says that the state machinery was supporting the Hindu mob than does this it proves it?

What this sting operation has done is freshen the wounds that the people of Gujarat got in February 2002 and which to some extent was healing.

Intelligence agencies have time and again said that the Islamic Militant groups have regularly used the Gujarat riots to breed terrorism in young susceptible minds. The lessons of Jihad that are taught to the innocent minds draw their reference from what happened in Gujarat. Thanks to this particular sting operation now every house has heard and seen what happened in Gujarat.

The Tehelka people approached every national channel for airing the tapes. Some of them refused fearing the authenticity and the the possible backlash the airing may generate and some of them refused because they were not able to pay the sum desired by Tehelka in exchange for trading the tapes. Ultimately it landed in the hands of the Aaj-Tak group which aired it, and those who have seen it will agree that the whole show was more of a couple of minutes of actual footage and subsequent discussions and more time was devoted to the advertisements. The Aaj Tak Group got more than what it had paid for the tapes and their TRPs soared. As like in most cases ultimately it is all about money and the ‘national interest’ was put on the back burner.

These so called ‘guardian of democracy’ talks about media ethics that dwells on bringing the truth out. But what about the delicate religious secular environment of the country? Don’t they find anything unethical in that? Don they think that by airing such footages they are inciting the religious fundamentalists to destroy the secular fabrics of the state?

They could have telecasted the whole thing without using the crude words and graphical representation and narration. But that would have meant missing out on the ‘masala-sensationalization’.

Media is a very powerful effective tool and it can influence minds in no small manner and this is what the people in this profession should keep in mind.

Election time is about to arrive and I strongly think that the general Elections should now be called as ‘Religious elections’ because this is what the leaders have made it. Elections should be contested on issues of development, but sadly even after 60 years of Independence we have not been able to stop ourselves from being influence by religious and caste rhetorics. Religious issues will never lead us anywhere though they may pull us some steps back.

30% of India’s population lives below poverty line, millions are dying from disease like malaria and aids, forest and natural resources are being depleted and corruption is eating into our system. And mind you all these and many other countless issues are age old phenomenon and yet we are still shackled by the same Hindu-Muslim debate.

Every politician has his/her take on local, religious and petty issues but not even a handful of them can independently decide that how the nuclear is deal going to affect our country. Most of them have no idea whether to say yes or no to the deal, except the Left. The Left has decided to say no to the deal, but they themselves are confused on what grounds they have decided so.

This country sure has some confused leaders running the show, leaders who have no belief in themselves, leave alone the whole country having belief in them. But on second thought if India has managed to survive for so long then there is no reason why it won’t continue to do so in the future…. Hopefully!

Friday, October 05, 2007

Congress fighting 'infighting' in Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh

With the mid-term elections to the Lok Sabha looming large following constant threats from the Left , political parties have started to gear up for the forthcoming 'Dance of democracy'.
The Congress party across the state of Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh has its hands full with infighting plaguing the organization in both the states and it has is yet to decide on many a important appointments. Including that of who would be the PCC chief for 6 different states including Chhattisgarh.

Speculation is that Subhash Yadav who is the PCC chief of Madhya Pradesh will be removed from the post as to save the party from the infighting that has plagued the state organization for as long as one can remember.

The state has many a political leaders who have a heavy stake in the state. Digvijay Singh, Kamal Nath,Jyotiraditya Scindia, Suresh Pachouri and not to forget the old stalwart Arjun singh, all are in a midst of a war so as to decide that who would emerge stronger. These leaders have found a ring to match their strength in view of the expectation that the appointment for the post of state Youth Congress president would be made soon.

Among those in the race for the post include Union Minister Suresh Pachouri-supported Vikalp Deria and Atul Sharma, and MLA Rajwardhan Singh, a close confidant of Gwalior's Jyotiraditya Scindia. Other contenders include Mr Kamleshwar Patel, a supporter of Union Minister Arjun Singh, Mr Dinesh Gurjar, a confidant of Union Minister Kamal Nath.The post of state Youth Congress President had been vacant since the past two years after the tenure of then incumbent Meenakshi Natrajan ended.

Arjun Singh just like his own ambition of becoming Prime minister harbours an age old ambition of seeing his MLA son Ajay Singh become the CM of Madhya Pradesh. Though Political analysts feel that it would be difficult for Ajay as he will have to counter many a more senior and suitable leaders on his path. His not so successful stint as a minister in the previous Digvijay singh government hasn't helped his cause much.

Similarly Digvijay Singh who till recently was more active at the central stage has shifted his focus towards his home state. Diggi Raja has a point or two to prove after his loss in the previous state election where congress was completely wiped out by Uma Bharti led BJP. His clash of interest with the other 'royal blood' leader, Jyotiraditya Scindia is not hidden. The battle between the two can be seen as fight between a veteran ruler trying to consolidate his position and a young turk trying to make his mark.

A more interesting situation is being witnessed in the state of Chhattisgarh. Here it is "one against all", With the minority guy being Ajit Jogi. The former CM who has been going through a tough period of late and he will have to garner all his strength and experience to win the 'make or break' battle in the tribal state. With the entry of V C Shukla in the party, his climb has become more steeper.

Charan Das Mahant, Moti Lal Vora and now VC shukla, it appears that the tribal leader has got his hands full. Mahant is by no means a novice and with the active support of Vora, he has been able to make situation sticky for Ajit Jogi. The state PCC has not had a PCC chief since the previous election as both the rival camp are yet to decide on a consensus candidate. Although Mahant was apppointed as chief , but that is a temporary measure.

Observers feel that the only leader who can match Jogi in drawing crowds is Shukla. The previous round was won by Jogi when he defeated VC with a heavy margin to win the Mahasamund Lok Sabha seat. Motilal Vohra is seen as the man who facilitated Shukla's re-entry into the congress.

Most of the congress MLAs from the state claim support to the Jogi faction and this is where the Mahant-Vora-Shukla group may lose out. Detractors, specially VC Shukla may rake up the murder case of National Congress party (NCP) treasurer Ram Avtar Jaggi who was allegedly killed in 2003 allegedly at the behest of Amit Jogi ,son of Ajit Jogi.

After falling out from the good books of Sonia Gandhi , Ajit Jogi has slowly but gradually regained his lost position. This was evident after he was able to successfully demand a congress ticket for her wife Dr.Renu Jogi from Kota for the by-assembly . The seat was won by Renu Jogi by more than 22,000 votes after defeating BJP's Bhupendra Singh Thakur in a keenly contested by-election, for which she had got the ticket at the last minute amid protests from senior party leaders.

The Kota battle was dubbed a battle of prestige between the BJP and Ajit Jogi and was seen as a referendum on the state government. The BJP treating it as a prestige issue used all its weight andRaman Singh deployed all his 12 ministers for campaigning. RSS memebers also flew in from New Delhi.

After coming into power BJP hasn't had much opportunity to weaken the state Congress as this was easily done by the intra-fighting in between the various leaders. Observers feel that Raman Singh is fighting a very strong anti- incumbency wave and he also will have to pay a hard price for the corruption charge that has been levelled time and time against his party members.

A union cabinet expansion is on the cards, and it will be interesting to see that whether someone from Chhattisgarh makes into the Manmohan Singh ministry or not. Ajit Jogi has been a long standing candidate for a ministerial birth and he would have already been there but for Moti Lal Vohra.

It seems that the future political scenario in both these states would not be decided by the rivals outside but by rivals within.



Monday, October 01, 2007

In the name of God

In a recent Andhra Pradesh high court decision Justice V Easwaraiah of the Hyderabad High Court granted an interim stay and directed a company not to take up any construction activity on the 1,600 acres at Manikonda village which were alienated to them by the State Government.

This decision came in petition filed by a Telangana Rashtra Samithi Member of the Legislative Council H A Rehman in which he complained that the said lands are Wakf properties belonging to Dargah Hazrat Shah Hussain Wali and located in the Hazrat Shah Hussain Wali village.

The petitioner claimed that the erstwhile Telugu Desam government submitted a report to the court stating that the lands were Wakf properties and allotting them to various multinational companies like Microsoft and Wipro was illegal. The Congress, which returned to power in 2004, allotted them without considering the report, he said.

While passing the orders, the Judge said that prima facie it was not open to the State Government to dispute the said properties do not belong to the dargah. ''I am of the opinion that the lands belong to 'Allah" the Almighty. God is the owner of the lands and therefore no construction should be made on them,'' he said.

Conversely in another recent case of Siddivinayaka Temple peripheral wall issue, the Mumbai HC questioned the State Government rational behind constructing a wall around the famous temple so as to prevent possible suicide bomb attacks. The local residents of the area had protested this and moved to the court asking the court to remove the wall as it was obstructing the flow of traffic on one of Mumbai's major arterial roads and had asked the court to order the government to relocate the temple out of the residential area . In its judgement the court said "God is supposed to protect us and not we protect the GOD hence re-locate the temple".

Secularism is all about equality; equality of religion. But does that mean that since India has more of Hindus hence Hinduism comes on the lower pedestal? Does that imply that the faith of Hinduism is open to questioning whereas other religions with relatively less followers are untouchable? why this discriminataon? India adopted secularism in its constitution so as to see to it that every religion develops equally, no one weak no one strong.

One has to see the present issue in the context of a broader picture. A renowned artist paints Hindu gods and godess nude, and somewhere in Gujarat an arts student does the same . Some months back a Danish cartoon of prophet Mohammad created furore worldwide. Why this blasphemy? Its one thing not to believe god, its totally different to mock them.

Freedom of speech and freedom of expression as enshrined in the constitution doesn't mean the liberty to mis-use it.

I again reiterate the same point. All religion is equal, and it's a matter of faith. Faith is about one's belief. It's simple; either you believe or you don't .

Who is Karunanidhi to question Ram and that too with so much of disdain? Hindus believe that the Ram-Setu was used by Ram and his army to cross over to Lanka. A child may not have read or heard about Panchatantra, Jataka or for that matter SRK but once in his life he is sure to have heard about Ramayan and Mahabharat.

Isn't it pertinent to ask that can we prove existence of god? Can anyone prove Ram? Has anyone been able to prove that Muhammad walked on this earth or for that matter was Mary the mother of Jesus, and if yes was there any Jesus? Gita, Kuran and the Bible are one and the same, if you question anyone of them you are questioning all of them.

These kinds of unanswerable questions are, should and can never be answered. Who are we the question faith? The believers don't need it and the non believers won't believe it.

Foolishly raising such issues give an opportunity the zealots to rear their dangerous contagious head. Every religion has a fair share of them and once you give them the chance to become active then it's the common mass that suffers not the gods.


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