March 22, 2017

A Balanced View on Uttar Pradesh

Posted in Ponderer's Box, Religion at 6:33 pm by వసుంధర

Here is an article showing unusual balance for nowadays. Such realistic analysis is what our country is looking for.

Secular Manifesto For Change


Saba Naqvi

A Yogi Adityanath could not have been elevated to CM of the country’s largest state had there not been a complete hollowing out of secular values. For those of us who still have secular stardust in our eyes, let’s recognise that secularism as practised in India has been reduced to electoral management, that first sees Muslims as a herd and then tries to keep that herd together.

It’s a vaguely insulting formulation, particularly as practitioners of the craft of secular politics have auctioned out the task of delivering the imaginary herd to a bunch of middlemen, all too often clerics or strongmen with criminal antecedents.It should be crystal clear by now that they repel others and have brought Indian Muslims to the point where candidates who presume to be the people’s representatives are unelectable and the community’s vote has been rendered ineffective.

The secular model currently offers no counter narrative to challenge Hindutva that claims to unite people above caste and region in a national symphony . All of this has been some time in the making.The clout of clerics increased ever since Congress famously capitulated before them when it overturned the Shah Bano judgment in 1986. This reinforced the “separateness“ of Muslims and contributed to the rise of BJP in national politics.

The All-India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) was at the heart of that churning. Founded in 1973, it is a collection of clerics with a motley crew of professionals whose main purpose is to protect Sharia law. Half its members are life members who represent an orthodox male viewpoint, by default promoted by the state that swears by secularism, that actually means separation of religion and government.Frankly , the Ulema should have no complaint with Yogi Adityanath, the head of a religious order, occupying political office! The same clerics also have their hand in managing Waqf properties that can be described as religious endowments made in the name of Allah for the benefit of the poor. There are approximately 3,00,000 registered Waqf properties in India on about four lakh acres of land (the second largest land holding after Indian railways).It is a national resource that should have been developed for the welfare of the community (the Sikh community is a model to emulate here). Instead, many Waqf boards are repositories of corruption, both petty and large. Yet they get away with it because any demand for scrutiny is described as an attack on Islam.

It’s all rather pathetic. There is actually precious little that the Indian secular state has given the Muslim community except to ensure that they live for eternity in the museum of stereotypes, most notably that of the clerics who mostly talk rubbish when they showcase their views on television. The imagery of these men as “sole spokespersons“ only works to counter mobilise. The community has slipped on all human development indices yet an entire mobilisation has thrived on the argument that they are appeased. It’s true, the clerics have indeed been appeased in a manner of speaking.

The real wealth of the Muslim community lies in its artisans, weavers and craftsmen who make both functional and beautiful things with their hands. It lies in the intellectual reservoirs of poetry and literature, in music and architecture.It is a real irony that over 200 years ago a poet such as Mirza Ghalib would mock the mullahs so relentlessly while we in contemporary India were doomed to take their views so seriously .

These elections have also exposed as a zero sum game the cynical mathematical model that works with the presumed value of the Muslim vote. Indeed, a politician such as Mayawati should recognise that her projection of the mullah-meat tradermuscleman candidates fitted communal stereotyping and hurt rather than helped a community she so grandiosely set out to represent. She spoke so incessantly of Muslims that a casual visitor to Uttar Pradesh during the elections could be forgiven for getting the impression that the state was voting to elect a minority CM! Now that the shock of the verdict has registered some voices are beginning to express bitterness against the mullahpolitician nexus. A process of introspection has begun and at the very least the community must recognise that in the narrative emerging in India their only utility lies as an image that is a caricature of the multiplicity of Muslim identities in India.No one will shed tears unless the change comes from within. Here are my humble suggestions for a manifesto for change:

Tell the mullahs to restrict their activities to the masjid. Ban them (short of issuing a fatwa!) from appearing on TV . Be vocal about stating that you have different role models. Begin the process of examining the structures of law boards and Waqf boards, managed by groups of men guarding their turfs.Get professionals to create a genuine welfare structure for the community .

Ask for participation in existing government schemes instead of harping on separate identity constitutional guarantees. Build campaigns over economic issues, jobs, small loans, education and not issues such as triple talaq. Yes, you will be baited but don’t fall into the many traps.

Salvation lies in propagating the many cultural traditions that unite, not those that separate. Take on the conservative views on music, women’s right and freedoms. Highlight the pluralist traditions.

If someone comes asking for votes on the basis of fear and tells you that Muslims are supposed to be in the frontline of the battle to save secularism, turn around and tell them in that case it may not really be worth saving.

The writer is a journalist and author


January 7, 2015


Posted in Religion at 1:04 pm by వసుంధర

‘Perfect democracy is one in which you can have healthy disagreements. Right to protest -peaceful, if I may add -is a fundamental right of a democracy . But not violent protests. Violent protests are symptoms of a disease’ – says Filmmaker Vishal Bhardwaj….

imggallery  imggallery

Jan 06 2015 : The Times of India (Hyderabad)
Filmmaker Vishal Bhardwaj writes about the personal price he paid for making a Kashmir movie, and why violent protests -whether against pk or Haider -don’t have a place in a democracy
Pathar puje Hari mile Toh main puju pahaadTante te chakki bhaliPis khaye sansar Kakar pathar jod ke masjid lai banai Ta chadh mulla baag de kya bahra hua khudai (If God can be found in an idol made of stone then I’d pray to the mountainWhy not worship the home flour mill that gives us the flour to eat and survive? After constructing the mosque with rock and stones the priest shouts from the rooftop Is God deaf?) -KabirThese are strange times we live in. If Kabir was born today , he’d been lynched to death. In Kabir’s time, India was a land of the learned and the enlightened.

Today , it looks like a land of the uncivilized and the intolerant. I invoke Kabir because nobody knows whether he was Hindu or Muslim. Since Kabir, we have not progressed ­ but actually , regressed. Surely , something went wrong somewhere.

In today’s India, anybody can wake up and vandalise anything heshe wants, especially if it’s about God. I’m sure God Himself is quite amused. He must feel like telling these people, `Why are you feeling bad when I’m not feeling bad?’ God is not weak. He’s capable of defending Himself. So, let’s just shut up and leave that to him.

Recently , some activists protested against Raju Hirani’s pk for hurting Hindu sentiments. The same thing happened with Haider. First, I was accused of being anti-army . Next, I became anti-national.

It was my duty to make a film on Kashmir. More than a duty , it was my job to reflect the reality, as I saw it. I didn’t take any sides. That’s the rule of a filmmaker. With Haider, I was an objective observer. I was trying to discover the human tragedy in that conflict ­ how a common man got sucked into that and the consequences. In fact, many from the army came out in support of Haider.

I can understand the pain of lakhs of Kashmiri Pandits who were displaced from their homes overnight. My family was among them. We were once served eviction orders and had to leave our house.My father died on the road. Obviously , what we as a family went through is nothing compared to the tragedy of Kashmir Pandits which, I feel, is greater than even that of Kashmiri Muslims. Their story needs a film on its own.

People called Haider a brave film but you know what was the price I had to pay? Because of the threats, I had to move around with a personal security guard. No matter where I was ­ whether in the car or playing tennis ­ the guard would guard me all the time, impinging on my personal space. Forget about freedom of expression, my own body’s freedom was at stake now.

There is no place for violent protests in any democracy . I was in the US recently when Citizenfour, the documentary based on Edward Snowden and the NSA scandal, was successfully released without a single theatre being vandalised. The US could have easily banned that film. Yet, despite Snowden being perceived as an enemy of the state, they didn’t. You can argue that America is an evolved society , and that we are getting there. Still, why do people resort to violence?
Perfect democracy is one in which you can have healthy disagreements. Right to protest -peaceful, if I may add -is a fundamental right of a democracy . But not violent protests. Violent protests are symptoms of a disease. The disease is somewhere else. If you are running a temperature and your body is hot, you don’t sit in the fridge or sleep on a slab of ice to cure it. You go to a doctor. The doctor then finds out what the problem is, locates the infec tion and treats you only after he has all the information. The real disease is that we don’t respect our democracy and we don’t respect our freedom of speech. And law enforcement agencies are not doing their job to protect films that have been cleared by the necessary authorities. If we don’t put a stop to this, we are in danger of becoming China or Pakistan. At the same time, I also want to say that a film like Haider could have only been made in a country like India. Nowhere in South Asia will you be allowed to make such a politically-charged film.

But banning films is not the answer. Take the smoking disclaimer issue, for instance. Putting a disclaimer every time somebody smokes on screen is not the answer. If M F Husain had painted a man with a cigar, would you have asked him to put the disclaimer, `Cigarette smoking is injurious to health’ on the painting? I see this as a larger problem. It’s an organised way of telling artists, `Don’t do this,’ or, `We’ll teach you a lesson.’ You scare them so much that next time, they will think hundred times before making a film that might offend you.

Thank God that artists are fearless by nature.So, what’s the next best thing? Curtail their finances, which is being done in an organized way . Films like pk and Haider are made examples of because films are the most powerful franchise of freedom of expression.

I hope we are taken seriously by the government and not merely seen as naachne-gaane waale. It’s the duty of law enforcement agencies and government to protect us. Artists and their voices need to be protected. A nation’s history is written by artists.We know of India through Khajuraho and Konark, through our paintings, writings and sculptures.

But coming back to protests against films, I have no problems with it. In fact, I’m grateful to the protestors. Because of them, people got curious and actually went and saw Haider. It made some money . It’s my most successful film at the box-office to date.

As told to Shaikh Ayaz

April 30, 2011

The Death of an Immortal- Sri Satya Sai

Posted in Religion at 3:15 pm by వసుంధర

Not less than 30 million people from all over the world consider Sri Satya Sai as the incarnation of God. He did many miracles conforming just to the status of an ordinary magician.  He could inspire his followers for service to humanity conforming to the status of a great leader.  He could accumulate wealth valued over a lakh of crores of rupees conforming to the standards of a great entrepreneur.  His followers call him Bhagavan and consider themselves his devotees.

God is immortal.  Yet he may have to die if is in mortal form.  It happened for the earlier incarnations of Lord Vishnu. Among the latest of such incarnations, Lord Buddha attained nirvana. One may say that Sri Satya Sai’s death is not as graceful. He was ailing and considered helpless.  He was being treated in a hospital set up through his efforts.  The functioning of his system deteriorated gradually. He was declared dead on April 24.  A fight is likely to emerge for heir ship of his trust. No need to doubt his credentials as Godman.  Lord Krishna’s life ended through the arrow of an ordinary archer. His followers were the victims of internal fight just before his death. 

Faith is a great healer. It builds confidence in a weak person and may add glory to an ordinary person. Faith is strength for great people and weakness for selfish people. In the name of faith, many corrupt politicians, businessmen and officials were also among Sri Satya Sai’s devotees. Sri Satya Sai may be an abode of love, but some of  his devotees were not inspired enough by his preaching to leave their untenable path. Those devotees serving the needy in the name of Sri Satya Sai need to be commended and those who approach him for favours with selfish motto need be condemned.

A true believer does not approach God as he knows that God takes care of the needy on his own.

When a great soul exists, people rush to the soul. When it departs, people spread to rush its message. Sri Satya Sai, undoubtedly a great soul, is no more. Now, it is the responsibility of his true devotees to spread his message to cleanse the society of its evils.

Click here for the view point of a rationalist on Sri Satya sai.

October 23, 2008


Posted in Religion at 4:50 pm by kailash

Religion has evolved through ages to meet the moral and spiritual needs of mankind. There are many religions and almost all of them advocate peace and brotherhood beyond boundaries. It is interesting if quite a few wars on earth have taken place in the name of religion. As there is a big gap between preaching and practice, interpretations overwhelmingly outnumber the religions and hence the malady. Some of the interpretations take the negative angle to dangerous levels while some end up just as misconceptions. Thus, one of the major religions on earth, the Hinduism, is still considered by many as a philosophy or way of life rather than religion. However, it is not our intention to discuss the merits and demerits of various religions. “Flat Forum” wishes to identify the best possible means to eliminate interference of religion in day-to-day life of an individual without hurting the religious sentiments.