28 December, 2008

63 convicted, 76 acquitted in Marad carnage case

Above: The special Court on Saturday convicted 63 accused in Marad massacre case.

ibnlive.com 27th December, 2009

Kozhikode: The special Court on Saturday convicted 63 accused, in a case relating to the May 2001 rpt 2001 communal attack at Marad beach near here, while acquitting 76 others for want of evidence. The attack had claimed nine lives.

Pronouncing the verdict in the case, Additional Session Judge Babu Mathew P Joseph said, of the total 139 accused, the prosecution could establish charges only against 63 of them.

While the court ordered cancellation of bail granted to the convicts, it said those absolved of the charges be set free immediately. Charges of murder had been framed against 62 of the convicts, while one had been held guilty of misusing a place of worship for carrying out the attack.

Argument against the convicts to decide the quantum of punishment would commence on December 30, the Judge, who himself had earlier received a life threat for conducting the trial, said.

The killings were carried out by assailants who reportedly arrived on the beach from across the Chaliyar river by boat late evening on May 2,2003. The dead, eight of them belonging to majority community, also included one of the accused who was killed accidentally during the attack.

The communal violence, worst-ever in the state's history, was said to be in sequel to the attack that took place in the same area a year before in which five persons were killed.

T P Mohammadali, brother of Aboobacker who was killed in the 2001 incident, is the prime accused in the case while Aboobacker's son Vijili is the seventh accused.

While the case was handed over to the Crime Branch on May 5, 2003, the Special Court was set up in 2004.

The accused were charged under various sections of IPC, Arms Act, Explosive Substances Act and the Religious Institution (Prevention of Misuse) Act.

Tight security arrangements had been made in and around the city since this morning where prohibitory orders would be in force till Monday evening.

The verdict was originally scheduled to be pronounced on November 29 but the Judge postponed it to Saturday seeking additional time for completing the report.

In all, 252 witnesses were cross-examination in the case.

Also Visit: Marad Hindu Massacre 

04 December, 2008

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar @ Babri Masjid issue

Golden opportunity of goodwill lost

Dinesh Godhke

The burning issue of the country was the Babri Masjid one. Through the media I was aware that His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar was involved in the negotiations with the Hindus and the Muslims. So I called up and felt quite fortunate when I got permission to accompany him for three days in Delhi. Those 3 days are still crystal clear in my mind for the amount of learning and love I experienced through Sri Sri and his interactions with a wide array of people.

One day four of us in a car, with Sri Sri in the front seat were driving down the small lane leading to the office of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB). It was a tiny place with about 15 members sitting there. I was taken aback by the welcome provided there, or rather the utter lack of it. One of the members, Mr. Zaffer Zillani came forward and told us pointblank, "If you have come to talk about the Ayodhya land, forget it. Even after two hours, we will be at the same place where we begin". The tension was palpable. But Sri Sri's smile and perseverance, without a sense of ego whatsoever, was a big lesson for me that day on how to open communication channels in spite of overwhelming odds. Sri Sri emphasized his commitment and readiness to do anything together to bring harmony and peace among the communities. He pointed out that Ayodhya was not just an issue of the Sangh Parivar or the VHP, rather, it was a people's issue since it touches the sentiments of crores of Hindus. He said that since the Ram idol was already there, a demand for a masjid would bring up more bitterness and make the situation more explosive. Sri Sri proposed that he would have the Hindu saints come together and express their regret for any hurt caused to the Muslim community and in turn the Muslims give the land as a bhiksha, the small piece of land which has caused so much turmoil in the country. Sri Sri's presence and his words made a shift in the whole atmosphere. In the end before leaving, he gave a hug to each one of them.

In those 3 days, I was witness to the calmness with which Sri Sri handles people, which is so heart-warming. Only once I saw him with a hint of disappointment when all the sincere effort to create a win-win situation for both communities was not being reciprocated just because of a hardnosed and dogmatic attitude of a few. In time to come, I got to know that the request for bhiksha, which was reiterated by the Shankaracharya and Pejavarshri of uddipi, too, fell on deaf ears. The same evening Guruji met with the VHP people and was trying to convince them to drop the demand for Kashi and Mathura. He told them that if you demand Kashi, you will erase from history the nefarious acts of Aurangzeb and all the pain inflicted by him on the people of Kashi and Mathura. He said that we should maintain the status quo at Kashi and Mathura as a symbol of Aurangzeb's tyranny. This would ensure that we do not forget history and our future generations would have a good lesson of what they should not be doing.

Here are a few excerpts of my conversation with Sri Sri:

From your level, how do you see the Personal Law Board's refusal to accede to any compromise?

Sri Sri: I have met different members of the AIMPLB separately on various occasions. Individually they may agree to this solution but collectively they are hesitating to take a step. The common Muslim doesn't bother at all. But for the PLB it is an ego issue, for the Hindus it is a sentimental issue.

But what about the Ayodhya land being a property of Allah in which case should the verdict be left to the Muslims or to the courts?

Sri Sri: If you truly believe and argue that the Ayodhya land is the property of Allah, then since Allah is god, he obviously belongs to everyone. In which case the Muslims can withdraw all the cases, the Hindus will directly deal with Allah. Islam anyway says that there is no one in between you and Allah. But if the court is brought in between, then whosoever the verdict goes in favor of, the winner will unfortunately be a real loser in terms of goodwill from the other community. So insisting on a court verdict only and not agreeing to settle amongst themselves is not an intelligent thing to do.

How about the many Hindus we found through surveys, who don't care what is built there?

Sri Sri: Many intellectuals and urbanites say we will have a hospital or a peace monument there. But I tell you, emotions and sentiments are so much more stronger. For a gyani or an atheist, it doesn't matter a lot. When a newspaper does a survey, those who reply to it fall mostly in the above category. You cannot ignore the sentiments of the rural and less educated people who can see Ram only in an idol or in a place of worship. The rural masses, constituting the vast majority of people living in India, are not adequately represented by the media or cared for their sentiments. In the hundreds of villages where our 5H work is happening, when our Yuvacharyas who go for providing health, hygiene and housing facilities, ask of the villagers what they want most; contrary to what we may think, most of them demand repairing their temples. It is there they put their faith. One has to understand the dynamics of their lives. Rural India is much more religious and sentimental. Throughout ages, people have given their lives for religion, not for science, mathematics, history or geography. For these people, the birthplace of Rama is very sacred, just as Mecca is sacred to the Muslims and Jerusalem to the Christians.

What about people who claim to be neutral?

Sri Sri: There is nothing like being neutral. Even Bhishma, Karna, etc had to choose to be on either side. Using your Viveka, intelligence, you can either be on the side of dharma or on the side of adharma. And mind you, dharma here does not mean any religion; it simply means - that which upholds the truth.

What do you say of the AIMPLB's viewing Shankaracharya’s proposal as a veiled threat? What should be done?

Sri Sri: A true religious leader will think not just for the people of his community but also for everyone. I know Shankaracharyaji. He is not a person who would threaten anybody or even think of using threatening words. Perceiving his letter as a veiled threat or a person like the Shankaracharya himself as a threat shows an unwillingness to reach an understanding. I feel that from an uncompromising state, if you don't want to come into an understanding, then you can squarely accuse anybody of anything. About what should be done, I think it is time we have to move away from the blame culture. We blame the communities, both the Hindu and Muslim, we blame the entire community for the job of a few, and we blame the police, the government, the media, our courts and the judicial system. We have started blaming our educationalists and historians. Now we have not even spared the Archeological Survey of India (ASI). In spite of the ASI agreeing to all the demands of the AIMPLB, like employing Muslim laborers and supervisor at the disputed site, yet discarding their report now when it is not in favor of them is a clear indication of a heads-I-win-tails-you-lose attitude.

Recently I heard Syed Shahbuddin bitterly accusing you of misleading people by your book 'Hinduism and Islam, the common thread', saying it is immature and unscholarly and warned the Muslims against you?

Sri Sri (smiles and says): To do that is his job! My job is to unite. I do welcome critics. I never claimed I am a scholar. 'Hum to dhai akshar wale hai'. We must realize that there definitely exists a common thread among all religions. Putting one religion superior to other will only cause resentment. Pulling on the common thread will bring people together. Making people irreligious is not the solutions either. You have to honor religion and lift them towards spirituality where all religions meet. That is the purpose of the booklet.

I understand that the land in Ayodhya does not have much historical or religious significance to the Muslims, even then, how would the Muslims have gained mileage by donating the land to the Hindus?

Sri Sri: Many historic events from the atrocities of Aurangzeb to the sacrifices by the Sikh Gurus, Jinaah's uncompromising attitude to the Mahatma's plea, and the forced exodus of the Kashmiri Pandits have definitely left some scars about the Muslim community in the psyche of the people. At this juncture, when the world over, terrorism and bomb blasts have been unfortunately associated with Islam, a gift of the land would have shown the magnanimity of the Muslims and earned a lot of goodwill for the Muslim community. But that golden opportunity of goodwill is lost. Now that the ASI findings have been made public, saying that their report is concocted indicates a lack of foresight and wisdom. In the Upanishads it is said, 'give with faith, give without faith', somehow you give. Sometimes you give a gift out of love for the other person. The second type of gift is when you may not give out of love but give just to make the other person happy. The third type is when you give so that you prevent a problem for yourself. A fourth type is when you give a gift because if you don't give, you don't keep up with your image. Giving a gift in any of these categories is good for you. In the Babri Masjid case, I told them that by not giving, you are actually aiding those that you do not favor.

5000 years ago, Duryodhana, stuck in his own ego had said "O Krishna, not even a needle-point of space will I part with without war". Hearing the spokesman of the AIMPLB, Mohammed Rabey Nadwi proclaiming on Aajtak, "not an inch of space will we give you", do you see a similarity with what Duryodhana had said to Krishna and a classic case of history repeating itself?

Sri Sri smiles and says: "I hope not."


29 November, 2008

Teesta Setalvad: the Champion of anti-Nation and anti-Hindu NGO industry in India

Sanjay Kumar

In the past, I have raised many vital questions pertaining to our will to fight terrorism and the feedback I got has given me impetus to highlight few aspects further in detail. One of them is the role of some intellectuals, social activists, self appointed champions of human rights and secularists. Many ‘famed’ people come in this category but the names like Shabana Azmi, Arudhati Roy, Teesta Setalvad etc. are making ripples not only in India but in abroad also with their antics.

Firstly, let’s examine the role of Ms. Teesta Setalvad lauded as a social activist, championing cause of human rights and civil rights, educationist, secularist, journalist, and so on.

Recently she was in international news when she was invited by the Indian Muslim Council (Coalition Against Genocide), USA for a lecture tour in USA where she spew out venom against India. It is worth mentioning here that when NRI’s were gaining considerable social status after Pokhran two, this organization was formed with a view to overshadow the rise of nationalism and it rewards mostly anti-Hindus and pseudo secular Hindus. From the platform of the same organisation, Ms Setalvad and other ‘social activists’ urged U.S and international community for imposing sanctions against India.

Equipped with ample funds, holding flag of pseudo secularism she goes on maligning India by projecting a dismal picture sometimes in the name of minorities, or in names of human rights and civil justice.

Although she is writing and speaking since 1983 she came in the news particularly after Gujarat riots when she became a self appointed saviour of minority rights and issues.

But her well publicized self appointed role took a beating when one of the prime witnesses of the Best Bakery case, Zaheera Sheikh accused Ms. Setalvad and her colleague Raes Khan for pressuring her to identify innocent people as accused in the Best bakery case. Zaheera said, "I was shifted to Mumbai from Baroda under threat. Raees Khan and his goons, pointing a knife at me, had forced us to leave the city after the Baroda court's verdict last year. Teesta kept all my family members at different places and did not allow us to meet one another. She also tortured me.... Raees Khan and his goons took us all away forcefully, telling us, 'Chup rehna, yeh kaum ki baat hai', and transported us to Mumbai. I was kept at the residence of Teesta for about a month. I was locked in a room and was not allowed to meet anyone. My signatures were obtained on some papers typed in English that I couldn't understand.

I was told that those were the documents pertaining to the Best Bakery property in Baroda.... They told me, 'Kaum ka savaal hai, jhooth to bolna padega, aur jab case phir se chalega tab hum bolenge waise zoobani deni padegi'. "I pleaded with them to relieve me as I did not want to get into these affairs and did not want to give false statements against innocent people framed in the case. What I had stated in the Baroda court was the truth."

Truly, Zaheera episode raises questions about the very authority of Teesta Setalvad as an activist.

Take another case of Samir Khan who was killed by the Ahmedabad Crime branch in an encounter. His father, Sarfaraz Khan wrote a letter to activists and NGO’s including Teesta Setalvad and her advocate Sohel Tirmizi wherein he asked them not to interfere in his son’s case as he was pursuing the case ever since his son’s death. Setalvad had lodged a private complaint with the Ahmedabad metropolitan court, seeking CBI probe into the alleged encounter of Samir Khan Pathan. The complaint was lodged in the name of Samista Khan, Pathan’s cousin. Activist Shabnam Hashmi and Javed Akhtar had also moved a petition in the Supreme Court, contending that Pathan was killed in a fake encounter.

Also, Sarfaraz Khan stated in his letter that his consent had not been obtained before the petition was moved in the Supreme Court by Hashmi and Akhtar. He also said he had not been consulted before Ms.Setalvad registered the complaint. He further added that he did not agree with the petition or the complaint as there was no document or proof with either party. He requested the activists not to file any petition or complaint in the case. If they did, he would have to take action against them. What does this over-zealousness to move court in cases where minority community is involved indicate?

As if that was not enough, on another occasion, Ms.Arundhati Roy had to court embarrassment when in an article in Outlook about Gujarat riots she wrote, "The mob broke into the house (of former Congress MP Ehsan Jafari). They stripped his daughters and burned them alive." Just a week after T A Jafari, son of Ehsan Jafari, told the Asian Age, May 02, 2002 Delhi edition, "Among my brothers and sisters, I am the only one living in India. And I am the eldest in the family. My sister and brother live in the US."

This is the height of duplicity of these so called social activists.

Not to mention of the pressure tactics used by Ms Teesta Setalvad to disrepute judicial procedure. She wrote an article in a Kerala newspaper that the judiciary and Supreme Court are unduly delaying the Godhra and Gujarat cases. Supreme Court lashed out at her and said it was shameful and ‘not in good taste’ the attempts of some social activists, particularly Ms Teesta Setalvad, to blame it for the delay in hearing the Gujarat riots cases in which her NGO was one of the parties.

Even so, the bench comprising the CJI (Chief Justice of India) queried, who is this Teesta Setalvad? Is she a spokesperson of these persons or petitioners?”, "There is one article that appeared (written by her). If she is representing these persons (Godhra accused) we do not want to hear them," the bench said. The Chief Justice was particularly disconcerted over allegations that hearing on post-Godhra cases were fixed in such a way that it gets adjourned.

Funnily enough, Ms. Setalvad speaks against the country, Judiciary, and writes heavily biased against a particular community, but strangely enough instead of any checks on her she is bestowed with awards. Ironically, Teesta Setalvad won the Nuremberg International Human Rights Award 2003 and in 2007 she was awarded the Padma Shri by the Government of India and has received many other awards including the Rajiv Gandhi Sadbhavna Award 2002. Interestingly Communalism Combat, her publication cum organization which she runs with her husband Javed Anand, is a private limited company and it has been bestowed awards. So much so in the last national elections crores of rupees were expended in media publicity campaigns defaming a particular community and political party, is it the job of an activist? Communalism Combat has acquired a status of a big business. And for the reasons best known to it, our political establishment is bringing forth such people on the top who are insincere towards national issues, national interest, unaware of strategic and international situation.

The vital question that emerges amongst all this is who is behind her? Where do the funds come from? Very rightly a noted columnist, Indian Express Tavleen Singh’s has pointed out in her recent article: “In the vanguard of those fighting Hindu fundamentalism was Teesta Setalvad’s magazine, Communalism Combat. It won awards, went from strength to strength, received laurel upon laurel until, recently, when Teesta’s protégé Zaheera Sheikh condemned her for exploiting her for money. “She further adds that “This is not about Communalism Combat or the fight between Zaheera and Teesta. What it is about is the number of magazines and NGOs that have thrived on maligning India for being a country as fundamentalist as our Islamic neighbours. Is it not time to ask where their funds come from?”

Likewise, will her perpetual pro-Muslim, pro-minorities stance help in fighting terrorism or is it just a façade to show the nation how truly "secular" a Hindu she is? Upon being asked in a panel discussion, as to what does she think of the problem of educated muslim youth getting into terrorism she sounded evasive. Instead of coming forward and debating on grave concerns like terrorism rationally, Ms Setalvad in her address during the 15th anniversary day of a monthly periodical 'Satyagrah' called for a ban on certain Hindu organizations and certain Brahmin organizations and said this would keep India away from international terrorism.

If this is her definition of terrorism then she needs help.

Once again, in the debates on terrorism she always says that Mumbai blast is the result of Gujarat riots and adds that terrorism increased after demolition of the disputed site in Ayoodhya. Is it the sign of a true secularist that she proclaims herself to be? On the contrary a true secularist has faith and respect for all religions. Is it true secular spirit when she defames one community to bring up the case of another? Why she has never spoken on the reasons of militancy in Kashmir, plight of 5 lakh Hindus from the valley and the reasons of insurgency in North East. Never ever has she uttered a word on the relation between Christian missionaries and naxalism, are these not vital issues?

The book titled NGOs, ACTIVISTS AND FOREIGN FUNDS ANTI-NATION INDUSTRY edited by Radha Rajan and Krishen Kak very aptly points out – “The great and global managers in the anti-nation and anti-Hindu NGO industry in India like Teesta Setalvad, Praful Bidwai, Achin Vanaik, Arundhati Roy, Aruna Roy, Nirmala Deshpande, Angana Chatterji, Akhila Raman, Sandeep Pandey, Raju Rajagopal and Harsh Mandar are all self-appointed guardians of an undefined civil society that has been allowed in India to determine, define and decide what ought to be our national goals 'political, economic, moral, ethical and practical' and to proclaim with authority from the housetop what other immediate knock-down priorities of our society and our nation should be ignored and discarded with vibrant secular contempt in the larger NGOs' interest of de-nationalising the Indians and de-Hinduising the nation. The might of the UPA Government and the Congress Party is placed at the feet of these global personalities and the mighty NGOs they represent for achieving their undeclared objectives of selling five prime products in India? Terrorist Islam, Compassionate Christianity, Menacing Marxism, Noxious Nehruvian Secularism and Serpentine Soniaism.”

On one hand Ms Setalvad proclaims herself to be an educationist, on the other hand time and again she speaks about the educational backwardness among Muslims and very vociferously demands to implement the controversial Sachar Committee report. What kind of educationist is she? That she is only worried about education of a section of Indian society?

Incidentally, she had also prepared a handbook for a school which mentioned that Shivaji was a Shudra… which may be true but here it is important to highlight the ulterior reasons behind doing so. Hence it is worth quoting from the book NGOs, ACTIVISTS AND FOREIGN FUNDS ANTI-NATION INDUSTRY which highlights how “The main aim of the NGO’s activism is to prise apart important segments of Hindu society like women, tribals and so called Dalits from their family, community and culture, religious and national moorings. The ultimate intent of their activism is to damage the Hindu social fibre and weaken social cohesion by de-Hinduising large segments of Hindu society.”

Furthermore it is pitiable that how out of trivia she finds grounds to build a malice campaign against India and depict a gloomy picture of our society. This further illustrates that the intellectual honesty of our so called intellectuals is so abysmally low. All they do is go round and round mouthing same rhetoric and arriving upon same diagnosis time and again.

It is time to behave in responsible manner and hold accountable people like Teesta Setalvad who in name of social responsibility indulge in selective projections of the issues thus misleading people and creating a fear psychosis.

Also Visit: Evidence Against Teesta Setalvad

11 September, 2008

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar offers a counterpoint to Javed Akhtar's finite views on Spirituality

Everyone has the right to be ignorant

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

It is funny that in a country like India spirituality is talked about as a hoax. How can something which is so obvious, which is part of millions of people, be taken as a hoax? Spirituality is not a halo of the few, it is the breath of every human being. Have people forgotten that freedom was achieved through spirituality as the prime means by Mahatma Gandhi?

It has become a fashion with journalists to blindly continue the colonial tradition of calling Hindu spiritual leaders a hoax. They called Mahatma Gandhi, Vivekananda and Sri Aurobindo godmen and hoaxes, and their contemporaries continue to do so. Would they say this to Mother Teresa or the Dalai Lama? No! Only Indian spiritual leaders are singled out.

The India Today Conclave offered a basis for a discussion on spirituality, “Halo or Hoax?” Javed Akhtar joked, “In movies we create an illusion and then after three hours we put up a sign, The End, and make people step back into reality, whereas spiritual people also create an illusion but they do not put an end to it.” The audience applauded. I smiled within and thought, yes, what this man says is correct, all that is created comes to an end. If something does not end then it is not created! Perhaps he didn’t even realise the profound truth of what he was saying.

So in some way he tacitly accepted that the love and drama he creates in the movies does end, but the love and transformation created by spiritual people never end. Yes, this whole world is an illusion that never ends. I drew Adi Shankara from his sarcasm. What an enigma: the perception and the reality. So Mr Akhtar is actually saying that his reel love songs are false. If only he knew the reality: that his lyrics express the genuine feelings of thousands of youth when they come and sing his marvelous songs before me, with that spark of love in their eyes. Real-life love never ends; it moves from life to lifetimes.

Spirituality is intoxicating. Only those who step into it will know. Before criticising we need to do our homework. Has one visited ashrams, like the Ramakrishna Ashram, Ananda Mayi Ma Mutt, Brahma Kumaris’, Gayatri Parivar, Pandurang Shastri, Sri Aurobindo Ashram or Art of Living? Has one spent time with saints? Only then does one’s views carry weight, else they remain simple accusations only, a distorted perception, not reality.

Mr Akhtar thundered again: “All modern-day spiritualists are hypocrites”. Many people froze as he dismissed the present-day gurus. Today there are millions of people who follow spirituality: are they all hypocrites? I appreciated that he could express his feelings boldly, without pretension. But the contempt that was exhibited for gurus was alarming. The hatred and frustration were obvious from his body language. It’s not just Mr Akhtar. Many journalists, communists, atheists and naxalites live in that state of mind, of being anti-religious, anti-rich, anti-famous, anti-business.

Should I argue and put him down? No! I have never put anyone down. I can’t deviate from my nature. So I simply said, everyone has the right to be ignorant.

A flash of Aurangzeb, who butchered thousands of gurus and would not listen to any reason or logic, came to mind. An intelligent man would look into all the avenues before he makes a comment or accusation. It is necessary to stand up for justice and expose the misdeeds of the world. Instead the so-called activists only engage in accusations. Blaming the entire modern-day spiritual guru and sadhu community is as foolish as branding the entire Muslim community as terrorists.

It is the medieval brahmanical mindset to always put down business and politics and the colonial mindset to denounce gurus. As a result we never expanded our political influence nor globalised our business until very recently.

Then came his next statement that Buddha went from the palace to the forest and today the gurus come from the forest to the palace. I said to myself, ‘Come on! Buddha went to the forest when he was unhappy and miserable, and he came right back when he became a guru’. Any high school student knows this. Besides, every palace had a rajguru. Last year hundreds of sadhus were evicted from the caves and hermitages of the Himalayan region, near Haridwar, by the forest department. People generally think sadhus should live in forests with torn clothes but the forest department wanted to send them to the city!

The atheists have always fought with spiritual people. In those situations we should know how to act. It is pointless to argue with them. What do you say to a man who has never stepped into the realm of spirituality yet calls it a hoax? One cannot make a blind man see the light through his nose.

Unfortunately atheists are just fearful and good dramatists. A man who equates arms, drugs and spirituality is not going to change his opinion immediately and anyway his opinion is not going to matter for what is and what will be. Come on, I thought, sing a new song. My compassion grew.

Often activists seem to create rage and revenge in the victims; they cannot bring solace and creative action. In the name of justice they fume with hatred. This can lead to acts of violence like the recent killings of 19 sadhus in Uttar Pradesh. It has been an old tradition to glorify the dead, and call the living a hoax. Kabir had to put up with this as did Meera, Buddha, Jesus, Adi Shankara and many more... the wise do not mind the outburst of a few.

Spirituality is not a matter of the head, it is a matter of the heart. I had two choices: to argue and turn the conclave into a conflict or to keep silence. I chose the latter.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is the founder of the Art of Living


Punjab are you Listening… it is a Wake-Up Call!


By the mid-1990s, when "spying missions" were despatched to India by US-based transnational missionary organisations (TMOs), it was part of the larger conversion mission, AD2000 and Joshua Project. Abraham's commentary in a film produced by Agape reveals that "by the mid-1990s, a growing realisation for the need for a systematic church planting effort covering the entire state was gaining momentum. We held a systematic grassroots level harvest force research in 1998 and the results were an eye-opener for us. There were 262 pin code areas in Punjab without any churches in 1998. In the next three years, however, all the 491 postal code areas in the state gained entry into the church map." This was possible due to the research and survey conducted by Brother Issac Dutta, research coordinator, Punjab, Operation Agape. "God gave me the burden of Punjab in 1997. I started my research in 1997. My team and I visited 1,100 Christian workers in the whole of Punjab, collecting data from them on who was working in different villages, blocks and districts," Dutta explained.

The North India Harvest Network, also started by Abraham, used the 'Pin Code survey' conducted by the Indian Missions Association, Chennai, to generate ethno-graphic data in the North Indian states. The data has armed the US intelligence agencies for they now have unparalleled access to the remotest corners of India and are-again, pincer like-bringing areas into "the fold" by secretly unleashing pastors in different blocks and districts.

Operation Agape has, for example, been instrumental in producing over 3,000 'house-churches' in Madhya Pradesh in the last six years. Their conversion figure stands at a record number of "60,000 to 70,000" converts. "Our methods have become a model for churches all across India," says Abraham. "The house-church movement does not strive for buildings. We do not believe in buildings. Traditional churches are dying. The Anglican church in England is dying. The house-church movement is the spirit of God. Ludhiana is a city where the church has done really well. Now we are dreaming of a church in every colony. Fifty percent colonies in Ludhiana and 60 percent villages in Punjab have churches now," he told Tehelka.

Planting churches in India

Operation Agape is supported by Christian Aid, a US-based conversion-funding agency, run by Rev Bob Finley, a loyal supporter of President Bush. The mission headquarters of this operation is Agape Bhawan, located within the Christian Medical College in Ludhiana. Abraham was extremely evasive about answering questions on Operation Agape, but a video CD produced by AGAPE foundation, which is in Tehelka's possession, is explicit about the movement.

The film on Operation Agape interviews Rev C George, who claims to have begun the church planting movement in Punjab: "I had great concern for Punjab…Then the Lord very definitely, specifically asked me to go to the state of Punjab and do whatever possible so that the people will come to know that Operation Blue Star or Operation Black Thunder did not help, but operation of God's love will be the solution to the problem of Punjab."

Simply put, the strategy is to plant a church in every village and urban colony and notch up a figure of 100,000 churches in the state by 2010. "We cannot say we have any challenge here because Punjab is open. All religions are respected and we can go freely to everybody. The most difficult states to evangalise are Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh because extremist Hindus are there," says Simon P George, manager, Punjab Bible College, Hiran (near Ludhiana).

URL: http://www.tehelka.com/story_main.asp?filename=ts013004qaeda.asp

05 September, 2008


Sanjay Kumar

The 25 serial blasts that ripped through Bengaluru and Ahmedabad claiming scores of innocent lives, once again serve as an eye-opener to the grievous state of our internal security. As always the blasts were followed by slick sound bytes by the Union Home minister to convene a CM’s meeting to counter terrorism and the Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, who is once again stressing upon the need of a Federal Agency to fight terrorism. With these politically right notes, the compensation to the victims has been announced and the usual allegations and counter allegations between the political parties to outrank each other are underway.

As far as the security of politicians is concerned, it is stepped up after every such incident and they are content condemning such horrendous acts. Not to mention that during the PM’s visit to Ahmedabad along with Smt. Sonia Gandhi and the Home minister, besides the SPG protection available to them, there were two IG level officers, three DIG’s, seven SP’s, and over 400 Police personnel deployed for their protection.

The life after the blasts has begun to come back to track and as after the blasts in Hyderabad, Malegaon, Mumbai and Jaipur, the citizens of this nation will forget the incidents till something else happens to shake them up.

Thus, this write up aims to draw forth some uncomfortable questions before our political leadership, policy makers, and security and intelligence agencies and above all before the citizens of the country so that we all awaken before it is too late. Your views in this regard will be highly appreciated.

Q 1. Have we clearly defined and outlined our policy to fight terrorism even after 60 years of independence, or are simply content with off and on discussions about it? Isn’t it true that the political leadership of this nation makes policies keeping in view their political gain or loss and no party is exception to it?

Q 2. Isn’t it true that the internal security matter was never as grave as now?

Q 3. Why blasts are happening here in India and why after 9/11 and Metro Rail attack in U.K no other terrorist attack has taken place when all the ‘jehadis’/ terrorist outfits are staunchly opposed to U.S and Europe? Are we weaker than Iraq and Afghanistan also?

Q 4. Chechnya was a headache for Russia once, where has problem now disappeared? And can Sikiyang and Tibet ever challenge China? Why Kashmir and North-East and Naxalism have become our nation’s life long problem?

Q 5. Have we not given utterly wrong message to Pakistan and the terrorist outfits by repealing POTA that they can freely operate in our country? According to a report after repealing of POTA the number of terror attacks and the ambit of terror related activities have increased like never before. Notably POTA dealt with not only terror activities but also checked the support to terror activities. Thus we are dealing with terrorism as we deal with general crime activities, which is amply evident in hardly any convictions for terrorism lately.

Q 6. Didn’t we compromise with terrorism during hijack of Indian Airlines plane to Kandhar?

Q 7. Isn’t the main concern of UPA government its vote bank, even if national security and national pride has to be put on stake for it? Otherwise why did UPA repeal POTA? Why is the law made on lines of MACOCA (by Maharashtra government) sought for approval by state governments (of Rajasthan and Gujarat) to fight terrorism pending?

Q 8. Why the Union Cabinet (UPA) under the pressure of Mufti Mohammad Sayeed (PDP) decided to provide compensation to the relatives of Kashmiri militants? Aren’t we aware that Mohammad Sayeed is the same man who enacted the drama of the kidnapping of his daughter, Rubaiya Sayeed and got released 3 dreaded militants and all this happened while he held the post of Union Home Minister? The details of this shocking episode has been revealed by a former JKLF terrorist, Hilal War, who was involved in this episode, in his recent book called – “The Great Disclosure”.

Q 9. Isn’t it the glaring example of appeasement that whenever the investigation of blasts reaches a particular community then only the question of vote bank comes up? Likewise, what do decisions like providing soft loans to a particular community and recognizing the ‘Degree of madrasas’ for railway jobs signify? Our leaders have a lot to answer to this nation.

Q 10. Is national security the priority of any political party? Why is it that where one political party takes the case of LTTE another one opposes it? Furthermore why Naxalism is supported by some political parties and opposed by others? It is well known how the former CM of Uttar Pradesh supported the case of SIMI (banned terrorist outfit whose main aim is to destabilize India, currently operating under the name of INDIAN MUJAHIDEEN) chief in Supreme Court and got him released on one occasion. There is speculation in political circles that this former CM might become the Home minister, as reward to help UPA win trust vote.

Q 11. Isn’t it shameful that UPA government had appointed one Bangladeshi national as the advisor in the national security agency and now RAW has registered the report against him and he is absconding?

Q 12. Similarly, the statement of Omar Abdullah in parliament before the trust motion is being so much lauded by certain news channels as ‘stirring speech’, doesn’t everyone knows that his father Farooq Abdullah started Jihad in Kashmir valley and sent Yasin Malik (JKLF chief) and many others for training in Pakistan and later on the same Sr. Abdullah ‘traded power for autonomy’?

Q 13. Isn’t it shameful for us as a Nation that the same people who supported Mao attack on our nation in 1962 are in power? There is no supporter of Bin Laden in U.S but our country is replete with Mao supporters.

Q 14. Surprisingly, the arrested SIMI chief, Nagori, had long back revealed in his Narco test that major cities could be the target; in spite of it, the serial blasts shook the nation. What were our security agencies and intelligence agencies doing? What is the reason till now not even a single case has been cracked down? Why are our intelligence agencies unable to track down the local sleeping modules which aid and abet such incidents of terror?

Q 15. Where does so much of explosive come from? It is very well known that ISI has established a strong network in the entire country and it has expanded its preview of activity much beyond its ‘Mission Kashmir’ strategy. Intelligence sources themselves say that in 9 states ISI has ten thousand spies. What is our preparation to tackle all this?

Q 16. Isn’t it alarming that the number of madrassas harboring anti-national activities is increasing at a startling rate? In Kerala alone, more than 6000 madrasas have come up. According to another report ISI spends about 600 million dollars each year to destabilize India be it through terrorism, havala, narcotics to name a few. As a result a strong and dangerous nexus – Militants-Mullah-Madrasa has come up. Where does this money come from? To top it all, UPA government has gathered all kind of anti-national activists and appointed them as members to National Integration Council and Central Advisory Board on Education.

Q 17. Isn’t it ironical that not an inch of our land seems safe? In some places it is infested with naxal violence, somewhere separatism, and somewhere anti-national activities. And we are brushing it aside by terming the disturbances as ‘foreign hand’? The vital question here is who shelters these terrorists in the country? Evidently, they are being given shelter by some anti-national people amongst us only and some power hungry leaders? Ex-I.B Chief Shri. A.K Dowal reveals that those involved in Mumbai and Hyderabad blasts were caught early on but had to be released due to political pressure and the result is before us.

Q 18. When will our political leaders understand that terrorism is a proxy war and can be dealt as war only and requires a proper counter terrorism strategy? Time and again it has been repeated that India is the most targeted nation after Iraq.

Q 19. Isn’t there a serious need to examine the role and sources of funds and mission of some so called NGO’s? In a book titled ‘NGO’s , Activists and Foreign funds’ Radha Ranjan and Krishna Kak have outlined and revealed ‘programs’ of some Ngo’s and social activists whose main aim is to make India “Hinduless” or without Hindus. The book outlines how Islamabad+ Missionariesism+ Marxism+ Macaulayism = terrorism in India.

Q 20. Isn’t it true that instead of showing some seriousness towards dealing with terrorism, the sole aim of our so-called ‘intellectuals’, is to distort the discussion to some other end best known to them? Absurdly they reason out that because Gujarat happened Mumbai happened; and because Ayodhaya happened the terrorism increased. If terrorism is result of Gujarat and Ayodhaya, then what is the reason behind anti-national activity in Kashmir and North-East?

Q 21. Our political establishment is bringing forth such people on the top who are insincere towards national issues, national interest, unaware of strategic and international situation. Our business community is expanding its economic empire throughout; our scientists, economists, and managers carry impeccable reputation worldwide but why is there a stark contrast when we look at our political leaders?

Q 22. There are about seven lakh villages in India and there are more than 7 lakh saints in our country. Even if one saint adopts one village each can’t they spread awareness about dharma and nation?

Q 23. Sooner or later the citizen of this nation has to understand that the long drawn battle of terrorism is also a part of well planned plot. This battle has led to increase in the so called ‘liberated’ zone of Naxalism. These naxal forces are moving ahead to take shape of state. By being caught up on one front aren’t we giving chance to the other enemy? Likewise when Chang-kai Sheik was busy dealing with Japan then only the Maoist forces became strong in China. Any such expansion of naxals would be our failure as a nation.

Q 24. What about the ‘fourth pillar of our democracy’?

The dramatic way in which the electronic media has portrayed the tragedies proves that it certainly needs a rethinking on the part of media. The zealous anchors hardly realize that they are adding to the trauma of people and creating panic. The way serious discussions are diverted for TRP is really pathetic. Already there is a lack of healthy debate to find solution to the issue and the way the quality of contemporary political debate has deteriorated, it is hardly making our political executive accountable. Total transformation is the need of the hour. So much so that at least the sensitive issue of national security should not be politicized rather it requires a common understanding and common program.

Q 25. Are our political leaders still unable to understand that the serial blasts were not a retaliatory act otherwise why they were timed so perfectly after the trust vote backing Nuclear Deal?

The need of the hour is not only politicians, the citizens too should come forward, as national security is equally their responsibility as well. Even spiritual leaders should come forward to show the way. More than any federal agency, a strong will is required be it political will or the will of the citizen of this nation to fight terrorism.

No doubt the situation is alarming but what is our preparation as a nation and as the citizens of this glorious nation to tackle such state of affairs? These are lot of uncomfortable questions that we need to ask ourselves and our rulers, let alone to use our right to vote judiciously.

31 August, 2008

BAD MANNA - An on-the-spot report on Christian missionary misdeeds in India - A Film by Pia Skov

Mahatma Gandhi on Conversions

'It is impossible for me to reconcile myself to the idea of conversion after the style that goes on in India and elsewhere today. It is an error which is perhaps the greatest impediment to the world's progress toward peace. Why should a Christian want to convert a Hindu to Christianity? Why should he not be satisfied if the Hindu is a good or godly man?'

- Mahatma Gandhi (Harijan, January 30, 1937)

29 August, 2008

Indian Muslims: Spiritualise the radicals

by M. Rajaque Rahman

The toll in the serial blasts in Bangalore and Ahmedabad needs to be counted beyond the numbers of deaths and injured. If the bombings are the handiwork of the Indian Mujaheeden as claimed by the outfit, then the biggest casualty of the latest episodes of fanatical madness is India’s ability to tackle terrorism.

The impunity with which bombs were planted and set off confirms the expanding reach of terror groups on Indian soil. This means that terror groups have been able to convince more Indian Muslims to support them and act as their sleeping cells. This needs to worry India as a nation.

More than the bombs, what threatens India is the increasing radicalisation and indoctrination of young professionals and the educated. The unfolding details of the recent terror plots dispel the perception that Islamic radicalism is a domain of the marginalised and uneducated.

This begs the question: What is convincing these youths, many of them with off-the-charts intelligence and family pedigree one should be proud of, to leave this world as a “martyr” in the name of saving Islam.

There is no point seeking an answer from the so-called leaders of Indian Muslims, both political and religious, as they have more or less silently watched the swelling ranks of the radicalised youth. Nor does the Indian political class have the answer; it is more keen to play to the gallery than address this national calamity at its roots.

That the lack of spiritual education among Muslims is the main cause of the spread of Islamic terrorism is borne by the fact that it has coincided with the rise of Wahabism as the more vocal and dominant brand of Islam. The ultra-conservative philosophy robbed Islam of its rich spiritual facets and propagated a one-dimensional interpretation of the Quran and Hadith. The Tablighi Jamaat, the Muslim revivalist movement, is effectively the flag bearer of Wahabism in the Indian subcontinent.

More than the odd cases of terror suspects sharing some kind of Tablighi pedigree, what must worry the anti-terror brigade is the narrow doctrine of the Tablighis. For them the concept of jehad literally means fighting against infidels. More spiritually-oriented sects of Islam interpret the Quranic promise of heaven for one who performs jehad as a reward for a struggle against one’s soul (nafs).

This limited understanding has corrupted the minds of many. The time has come for some serious sermons on peace and co-existence from the pulpit.

Spiritual education is also vital to channelise youth energy into constructive pursuits. There is no doubt that Muslim youths are anguished by the plight of Muslims the world over and the amount of suffering in Afghanistan, Iraq and Palestine. It is natural for them to feel guilty and want to do something to alleviate the suffering; there is always an inner call to do something for those in need.

Islamic fundamentalists are exploiting this innate human nature by offering jehadi potion to quench the inner quest.

If youth of today attain a multi-cultural, all-inclusive spiritual education, they would not take to the barbaric tooth-for-a-tooth or eye-for-an-eye response. The whole nation has to be involved in this task of peace education. The role of the Muslim intelligentsia and religious leaders cannot be overemphasised. Unless they stand up to be counted in this national call of service, their bluff will be called sooner than later.

I recall a huge public gathering in Bangalore where hardline Islamic evangelist Zakir Naik dismissed the phenomenon of Islamic terrorism as mere imaginations of the Indian media. Such trivialisations should be denounced not only as a desperate attempt at playing to communal constituencies but also as a dangerous camouflage to mask the mujahideen.

Indian Muslims must now stand up and assert that they will not be fooled by fanatical posturing of a few fundamentalists and the misguided. There couldn’t have been a better time to answer the call of the deen (faith) to tell the world that Islam stands for peace, at least in India!

(M. Rajaque Rahman, a former journalist, now conducts spiritual workshops for the Art of Living. He can be reached at rajaque@gmail.com)

08 August, 2008

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar 's dialogue with Student Islamic Movement of India (SIMI)

Swami Sadyojathah & Harish Ramachandran

A dialogue between H.H. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and activists of the Student Islamic Movement of India (SIMI)

One wonders what is the psyche of a fundamentalist? What is it that spurs them on their mission of hatred? How should one deal with such a person? We were lucky to witness an interaction between a handful of SIMI activists and His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar a couple of years ago. We felt that the same would be of relevance and could serve as an eye-opener in the current scenario. The backdrop for this article is one of Sri Sri’s tours of Kerala in the first week of December 2000. A series of Anandotsavams had been planned in various cities of Kerala to coincide with Sri Sri’s visit to those cities. Sri Sri ‘s visit was expected to attract huge crowds running into several hundred thousands and the local organizers spared no effort in ensuring the smooth conduct of such public meetings. The planning for these functions began several months before the actual event and drew upon the efforts of hundreds of enthusiastic Art of Living volunteers. A week before the tour commenced, towards the end of November there was a surprise in store. The newspapers announced that SIMI – Student Islamic Movement of India had called for a general strike (hartal) all over Kerala on December 6th, being the Babri Masjid demolition day. Coincidentally, an Anandotsavam had been planned on December 6th at Thrissur, the cultural capital of Kerala. The police also warned that they had received bomb threats. However, when contacted. Sri Sri assured Xavier, the president of the organizing committee that "Satsang will happen". On December 6th, though the newspapers had announced that the function was cancelled and the police had withdrawn their permission due to the bomb scare, more than a lakh of people attended the satsang. The following day, Sri Sri gave an audience to the SIMI leaders. Four leaders from SIMI came to meet Sri Sri at the residence of one of the organizers. Following their entry, an air of tension enveloped the hall where hundreds were waiting to meet with Sri Sri. Naseeb, one of the devotees, guided them to the room where Sri Sri was sitting with a few of us. They (the SIMI leaders), were dashing youths in their mid 20’s. One of them was carrying the holy Koran. They were little stern and stiff. Their eyes were fixed and seemed to reflect an inner fire. They looked prepared to repulse anything that Sri Sri would tell them and most unlikely to listen to reason.

Sri Sri was His usual smiling self.

The stage was set. It had all the signs of a classic confrontation. On one side were the brash youth – intemperate, impatient, driven by ideology and out to prove their superiority. On the other was a youthful, realized sage, unperturbed, offering sane explanations that echoed an uncommon depth and breadth of understanding. Those of us in the room, were eager to see how Sri Sri would deal with these firebrands. Sri Sri embraced them and offered them chairs to sit. There was not an iota of difference in His attitude. Any casual onlooker could be forgiven for thinking that Sri Sri considered these gentlemen as amongst His most ardent devotees. Perhaps the only difference that we could see was that they were seated on chairs while the rest of us were on the floor! For us, it was yet another opportunity to witness the unconditional love that Sri Sri exemplifies.

The leader of the group spoke first. He asked

SIMI: You had wanted to meet with us.

SRI SRI: Yes. I wanted to understand why your organization was opposed to the Anandotsavam.

SIMI: We thought that holding an Anandotsavam (celebration) on December 6th was a deliberate move to insult our religious sentiments. Do you know about our religion?. Do you believe in the Koran at all?

SRI SRI: Yes of course.

SIMI: (Not expecting this answer, pointing to the Koran, they shot the next question) We believe that Koran is the only knowledge. What about you?

SRI SRI: This is one amongst the various knowledge revealed to man from time to time.

SIMI: But God has said this is the only knowledge. The way of the Koran is the only way. There is no other way.

SRI SRI: This message can be found in scriptures of all religions. In the Vedas it is said "Naanyah Panthaah Ayanaaya Vidyate" meaning "There is no other way but the way of Truth!" The same is said in the Bible, Jesus says, "To go to my father, you have to go through me. I am the only way".

SIMI: But our scripture says worshipping any form or idol is evil, it is blasphemy.

SRI SRI: What is Good and Evil after all? It is relative. Relative existence is not the complete picture For example: Milk is good, but too much milk can kill you. Poison is harmful, but a drop of poison can save your life. Most lifesaving medicines have poison written on them! These are neither absolutely good nor bad they are just there. Truth transcends duality, and God is the Absolute and only Truth. So, where is the place for evil?

SIMI: Yet you Hindus worship many Gods, whereas our ideal is there is only one God and His message is what is required to go to heaven.

SRI SRI: There is only one god in many forms…

SIMI: (Restless and unwilling to listen to any explanation, they interrupted Sri Sri.) But the Koran says you should only worship Allah who is formless whereas the Hindus worship idols which are only stones.

SRI SRI: At this, Sri Sri suddenly asked them: Do you honour the Koran?

SIMI: (They seemed a little taken aback at this question from Sri Sri and with a righteous air answered). Yes, it is God’s word!

SRI SRI: Do you honor the Mecca?

SIMI: Yes, of course! That is our sacred place.

SRI SRI: So also, Hindu’s honour God’s creation as God. Just like sound (Koran), the crescent moon, Kaaba and the month of Ramadan are sacred for you, Hindus consider the River Ganges, the Himalayas, Saints as sacred. See, a picture of your daughter is not your daughter, but you still adore the daughter’s picture. When you see the picture aren’t you reminded of your daughter?

(They nodded a yes)

SRI SRI: So also, a symbol is not God but is honoured as God. This sense of honouring and sacredness makes you awake and alive. That is why the ancient Rishis said to feel the entire creation and your whole life as sacred. They considered God as omnipresent, as inseparable from His creation; like the dance and the dancer.

Sri Sri elaborated further – Spirit loves diversity. Is there only one type of vegetable or fruit? God created many type of fruits and vegetables. There is not just one type of tree, not just one type of snake, cloud, mosquito….Even you change your dress for different occasions. So how could this consciousness that manifested this whole creation be monotonous? There is only one God in many forms. Only one God is advocated. When you accept the variety of Divinity, you cease to be a fanatic and fundamentalist. A pregnant silence filled the room as they looked at each other expecting the other to speak. Then as a face saving measure, the SIMI leader replied, "I will need to go and consult my higher scholars." With a compassionate expression on His face, Sri Sri said: Never mind, (with a wave of His hand) forget about religion. We are all human beings. Let us have a peaceful society. Let us focus on development.

SIMI: No No No! What are you saying? You are talking about this world. What we do here is immaterial. The Koran tells us that what matters is what you get in eternal life and not to worry about material life. By doing service to the society you will simply remain here. You have to obey Allah. Allah is the only God and Mohammed is the last prophet.

SRI SRI: At this Sri Sri stopped them and after a pause asked them: Do you think the Sikh Gurus are not prophets. Isn’t Mirabai a prophet? What about Chaitanya Mahaprabhu?

Once again, there was silence. Their expressions had changed. The rigidity had weakened and in its place was some confusion/uncertainty. Sri Sri seemed totally at ease unmindful of the challenges posed at Him.

SIMI: No! You can go to heaven only if you believe in Allah and the Koran.

SRI SRI: No my dear – there was Buddha, Mahavira, Nanak, Jesus, Shankara… Do you think they are not in heaven? If not, then I would rather be with them!

SIMI: You are such a nice person, but we pity you because you cannot get the truth. You can’t go to Allah. You can’t be rewarded by Allah. God will never show mercy on you.

SRI SRI: Never mind. (with a mischievous smile ) I will be with these people (Shankara, Jesus, etc.)

(Even as we were admiring Sri Sri’s patience and objectivity, we were concerned at the wrong indoctrination that these youths had been subjected to. We also observed a few others who were in the room were getting a little restive, possibly wondering why Sri Sri was spending so much time with these people who were obviously not at all receptive and that too when hundreds were waiting outside just for a glimpse of Sri Sri.)

SIMI: Do you know, that over 1400 years ago, in the middle of the desert, God revealed the secrets of creation. Even when there was no science, God said that the Atom is the smallest particle!

SRI SRI smiled and said: Yes, the same is there in the shaastras too which were known more than 10,000 years ago. In the shaastras it is said that the Earth is over 19 billion years old! Truth is beyond time and space. It is not confined to one time or one place One needs to have a scientific spirituality.

As if to conclude the conversation Sri Sri gave them Ladoo as prasad. By now there were traces of a smile on their faces. When they were about to leave He gave them a hug. They definitely seemed to be less stern than earlier. Could their attitude have changed? We wondered whether this (‘changed attitude’) would persist or would they go back to their old fanatic ways. But one thing was for sure, Sri Sri had made an impression that they would not forget!

Later, while Sri Sri was having His lunch, someone asked Him, "Why is that Islam is producing so many terrorists all over the world? No other religion has given rise to so many terrorists in the world. What is the reason?"

SRI SRI: Look at the commitment and the fire in them. Take the good from them and learn what you should not be doing. Don’t label them as bad people. They have not been imparted the knowledge of Vedanta. (Then as He was adding ghee to the chilli powder) He smiled and said "In this creation, there is a place for everything."


25 July, 2008

Facilities at Amarnath vs. Haj: An Analysis

The unfortunate events in Jammu & Kashmir regarding the transfer of land by the government to Shri Amarnath Shrine Board call for each one's urgent attention and involvement.

What began as a simple effort to facilitate Amarnath pilgrims has suddenly developed communal and political overtones. This is appalling when compared to the facilities offered to the Haj and the Vaishno Devi pilgrims.

In an attempt to bring this to the attention of every responsible citizen of India, we would like you to have the benefit of some facts stated below.

In keeping with public policy statements, the Government of India makes elaborate arrangements for the welfare of Haj pilgrims and strives to improve the facilities provided to them every year. That is how it should be. The Government of India, and the ministry of external affairs in particular, deserves credit for providing perhaps the best arrangements that any government makes for their Haj pilgrims.

For eg: As reported in a newspaper article, here are the facts about the facilities provided to Haj pilgrims.

1. To begin with, the government provides an airfare subsidy to about 100,000 pilgrims selected by the Haj Committee of India who go for Haj annually. Pilgrims pay only Rs 12,000 for their air travel. This figure has remained unchanged for at least a decade or more. According to official figures, this subsidy was Rs 280 crores in 2006, or about Rs 28,000 per pilgrim. Today, with rising fuel prices, this figure would have gone up to Rs 350-400 crore. There is also a seperate Haj Terminal at Delhi International Airport.

2. There is a separate Haj cell in the ministry of external affairs. The Haj Committee of India has its own premises in Mumbai. Similarly the State Haj Committees have their own premises in various other Indian cities. These facilities have been built on land provided by the state governments.

3. Accommodation in Mecca and Medina is decided keeping in mind the need to provide maximum convenience and comfort to the pilgrims. Typically, all accommodation has lifts, telephones, running water, electricity and telephone at the minimum. There is total computerisation of pilgrim location and movement.

4. For Haj 2007, a contingent of 115 doctors (including 63 specialists with post-graduate degrees) and 141 nurses and other para-medical staff, 3 coordinators, 46 assistant Haj officers, 165 Haj assistants and 186 Khadimul Hujjaj were sent from India on short-term deputation to Saudi Arabia. Special attention is given to medical facilities for the pilgrims.

5. Some of the facilities provided by the government are: arrangements for polio, meningitis and influenza vaccinations for pilgrims before departure; a 75-bed hospital and 12 branch offices-cum-dispensaries in Mecca; a 15-bed hospital and 6 branch offices-cum-dispensaries in Medina; three medical teams at Jeddah airport to provide medical care round the clock to Haj pilgrims; 17 ambulances in Mecca and Medina; supply of medicines, medical supplies and critical medical equipment from India. All this adds up to the total money spent by the government to facilitate a hassle-free Haj pilgrimage each year for tens of thousands of Muslims from India.

What is due to one community by logic and fair practice is due to another. And yet in a discriminatory treatment lakhs of pilgrims who have been going to Amarnath for years have been denied basic human facilities. The question is what took them so long to consider these facilities and not whether or not they should be provided.

There isn't any adequate medical and sanitary facilities for the pilgrims of Amarnath Shrine. As the agitation continues, it has been reported that a water bottle costing Rs 14 was sold at Rs 70. And a khacchar or a pony that took pilgrims at the cost of Rs 1,500 charged an abominable Rs 10,000. Compare this with the subsidies for Haj Pilgrims. Buses of pilgrims were also stoned by unruly elements.

The whole agitation was started by the Peoples Democratic Party on the absurd presumption that providing these basic facilities to the travelling pilgrims will result in a changed "eco-cultural character" of the state. Does this imply that Kashmir only has a "Muslim" character?

Kashmir originally and lawfully belongs to both Hindus and Muslims. Nevertheless, 4,00,000 Kashmiri Pandits were driven out of Kashmir and are living as refugees and now even the very thought of Hindus settling in Kashmir is creating such violent repercussions. Is this a sign of a secular, healthy, fair society?

Even if we were to presume that it has a Muslim character, how can travelling pilgrims possibly change eco-cultural character of a place. Can there be a likelihood of someone settling down at the height of 13,500 ft? There can not be any possibility of Hindus settling down in the proposed land.

It is ironical that though the Hindus are being denied basic hospitable facilities to enable their pilgrimage, the temporary, pre-fabricated shelters built by the Amarnath Shrine Board were dismantled and sent for emergency relief operations during the earthquake in Kashmir in October 2005. "About 60-70 pre-fab shelters were sent to Uri and Tangdhar, where they housed thousands," a senior Government official is reported to have said. "The Amarnath Board also sent pre-fab toilets. There was no objection from any political party at that point."

For centuries pilgrims have been making the arduous trip to Amarnath cave without any benefit from the state. They have to depend to private philanthropy for food, accommodation and other facilities. It is shameful that people have lived in torn taurpaulin tents. But a caring State in independent India can and should do more.

View online exhibition on exodus and selective killings of 4,00,000 Kashmiri Pandits from Kashmir at http://refugees-in-their-own-country.blogspot.com/.

Ram - History or Mythology ?

Ramar Sethu is a man-made sea ridge: Study

New Indian Express

BANGALORE: A recent scientific research using archeo-astronomy tools has sought to prove that Ramar Sethu is not natural but a man-made sea ridge. It’s a testimony to the civil engineering marvel of an ancient civilisation, that stands even today as a man-made accretion over a natural formation in the sea.

DK Hari, conceptualiser of Bharath Gyan, a NGO which is in to collating specific, scientific knowledge of India has, at a presentation on ‘Historical Rama’ here on Saturday, said the records compiled together talk about Ramar Sethu’s usage until 1480. But it went into disrepair after a debilitating cyclone in 1480, he pointed out.

Hari said Rama indeed was a historical hero and lived nearly 7200 years ago. To rescue Sita from the clutches of Ravana, Lord Rama and his team built the bridge. With the help of Nala as the architect, he designed and executed the project along with the help of ‘Vanara’ tribe. So Rama named the bridge after Nala.

The Sethu came to be known as Adam’s bridge as Sri Lanka’s first Muslim leader, Adham, reached the island from India crossing over this bridge. The Europeans found it easy to call it Adam’s Bridge rather than Nala Setu or Ramar Sethu.

Hari said that the scientific corroborating evidences is the outcome from the analysis of astronomical skycharts using modern scientific tools, geological surveys and research, archaeological research, historical notes of travellers, published Government Gazettes and historical records of the British.

Today, there is a natural sea ridge formation over the seabed linking the land masses of India and Sri Lanka. Hari said "the sea level has risen nine feet above the bridge in the last 7000 years. The bridge is covered under the layers of hardened sands."

About the execution of the bridge, Hari said that Nala identified a linear chain of islands and converted it with land fills and used it for building the 35-km bridge in just five days at a ratio of 100:10 with an average breadth of 3.5 km as found by NASA and also mentioned in the ancient scriptures.

The dilapidated structure still stands testimony to the engineering marvel of that period. It comprised 103 small patch reefs lying in a linear pattern with reef crest, sand and intermittent deep channels. The space left between the stones allows water to pass through it. Thus, the knowledge of pore pressure was incorporated in the bridge, Hari said.

Don’t demolish: On the research work of Bharath Gyan, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar of Art of Living said, "while there are controversies surrounding the existence of Sri Rama, this organisation has come up with scientific details with facts and figures."

Please visit Bharath Gyan for more details.

28 June, 2008

Aurangzeb, as he was according to Mughal Records

Francois Gautier

Why an exhibition on Aurangzeb, some may ask ? Firstly, I have been a close student of Indian history and one of its most controversial figures has been Aurangzeb (1658-1707). It is true that under him the Mughal Empire reached its zenith, but Aurangzeb was a very cruel ruler - some might even say monstrous. What are the facts? Aurangzeb did not just build an isolated mosque on a destroyed temple, he ordered all temples destroyed, among them the Kashi Vishvanath, one of the most sacred places of Hinduism and had mosques built on a number of cleared temples sites. All other Hindu sacred places within his reach equally suffered destruction, with mosques built on them. A few examples: Krishna's birth temple in Mathura, the rebuilt Somnath temple on the coast of Gujurat, the Vishnu temple replaced with the Alamgir mosque now overlooking Benares and the Treta-ka-Thakur temple in Ayodhya. The number of temples destroyed by Aurangzeb is counted in 4, if not 5 figures. Aurangzeb did not stop at destroying temples, their users were also wiped-out; even his own brother, Dara Shikoh, was executed for taking an interest in the Vedas & Upanishads and the Sikh Guru Tegh Bahadur was beheaded because he objected to Aurangzeb's forced conversions.

Thus we thought we should go at the root of the matter. History (like journalism) is about documentation and first hand experience. We decided to show Aurangzeb according to his own documents. There are an incredible number of farhans, or original edicts of Aurangzeb, hand-written in Persian in India's museums, particularly in Rajasthan, such as the Bikaner archives. It was not always easy to scan them, we encountered resistance, sometimes downright hostility and we had to go once to the CM to get permissions. Indeed the director of Bikaner archives told us that in 50 years, we were the first ones asking for these farhans dealing with Aurangzeb. Then we asked painters from Rajasthan to reproduce in the ancient Mughal style some of the edicts: the destruction of the Somnath temple, or the trampling of Hindus protesting jizya tax by Aurangzeb's elephants, or the order from Aurangzeb prohibiting Hindus to ride horses and palanquins, or the beheading of Guru Teg Bahadur and Dara Shikoh.

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Why bend backwards?

By Anirudh Sharma

There is no need to amend the Constitution to provide reservation for the economically backward classes since it has never prohibited it. Even the Supreme Court in its several rulings has never principally objected to this.

On September 28, 1962, Justice Gajendragadkar, in the MR Balaji vs State of Mysore case, unambiguously ruled, "The classes of citizens who are deplorably poor automatically become socially backward. They do not enjoy a status in society and have, therefore, to be content to take a backward seat."

On April 10, 2008, Chief Justice KG Balakrishnan seemed to repeat the findings when he observed, "All the Brahmins are not engaged in highly respectable employment, nor are all very wealthy. It may even be that some Brahmins may be servants of members of a lower caste, or it may also be so that the personal servant of a rich Brahmin may be a poor Brahmin."

This formulation of social backwardness, along with poverty, makes a very defensible criteria for socio-economic backwardness, which will pave the way for economically backwards to get the benefits of affirmative action programmes, including reservation, without any Amendment to the Constitution.

Reservation for the economically backwards, who have fallen behind in society because of their parents working as sweepers, rag-pickers, rickshaw-pullers, without reference to caste is intrinsically justified in our constitutional scheme. Those who point to the necessity of constitutional Amendment to this effect need a reality check.

The doomsayers of affirmative action for a so-called forward caste sweeper's son take recourse behind the judgement in the Mandal Commission case. It will be advisable for those doomsayers to take a peek at the constitutional history of India and refer to the judgement of the apex court in the R Chitralekha vs State of Mysore case where backward classes were identified on the basis of occupation-cum-income without reference to caste and the identification was held to be constitutionally valid.

On this judgement, Justice Jeevan Reddy, writing the majority judgement, observed, "In Chitralekha this court held that such an identification is permissible. We see no reason to differ with the said view inasmuch as this is but another method to find socially backward classes."

Justice Reddy went a step further to illustrate: "For example, agricultural labourers, rickshaw-pullers/drivers, street-hawkers, etc, may well qualify for being designated as Backward Classes." Hence, it will be misnomer to say that Mandal prohibits reservation of ground predominantly on economic backwardness. On the contrary, it allows reservation for the socially and economic backwards, where backwardness can be identified on the lines of Justice Gajendragadkar's definition.

Another contribution of Justice Reddy's judgement in the Indra Sawhney or the Mandal judgement, which may qualify as the most misunderstood judgement of its time, is the mandate that if the identification process begins with caste, "it does not mean that one can wind up the process of identification with the castes. Besides castes (whether found among Hindus or others), there may be other communities, groups, classes and denominations which may qualify as backward class of citizens". These communities will, of course, include agricultural labourers, rickshaw-pullers/drivers, street-hawkers, etc, as illustrated by Justice Reddy.

However the aforementioned mandate of the majority judgement in Mandal case was not followed till today and the affirmative action/reservation programme started and ended with caste, casting caste identities in iron mould. To repair this damage and restore equality, some justice had to be done.

The Bench headed by the Chief Justice has addressed the grievance of the economic backwards. Justice Pasayat and Justice Thakker lay down, "If the creamy layer has to be excluded, the economically backward classes have to be included. That would be social balancing and that would be giving true meaning of the objectives of the Constitution. Social empowerment cannot be and is certainly not a measure for only socially and educationally backward classes. It also has to be for the socially and economically backward classes."

However, the question that arises for consideration is: Will our executive toe the line of the law as declared? Justice Pasayat leaves no ground for that while writing his verdict, "To strike the constitutional balance it is necessary and desirable to earmark certain percentage of seats out of permissible limit of 27 per cent for socially and economically backward classes." This leaves no room for doubt anywhere in the executive's mind that it is mandatory.

The Chief Justice has also ruled that "determination of backward class cannot be exclusively based on caste. Poverty, social backwardness, economic backwardness, all are criteria for determination of backwardness". Justice Balakrishnan, while allowing a classification based on poverty and economic backwardness, has done a social balancing which had long gone astray, contrary to the judgement of the Supreme Court in the Indra Sawhney case.

There had always been a constant fear of reverse discrimination in India, which is justified to a certain extent. However with the current judgement of the Supreme court, these fears must be washed away. The apex court, while rejecting the plea that caste can be the sole or dominant criteria of backwardness or that classification of backward classes cannot be exclusively based on castes, has strengthened the belief of millions of Indians that India shall be a Union of States as per Article 1 of the Constitution and not a federation of castes, as desired by some.

As for the demand to amend the Constitution to provide reservation for the economically and socially backward people, it is not required. After all, the Constitution has never prohibited reservation for the economically and socially backward classes, nor has the apex court in its rulings right from times of its judgement in the Chitralekha case ever done so.

The writer is a lawyer associated with Youth for Equality. The article was originally published in the Daily Pioneer.

Destruction of Hindu Temples by Aurangzeb


Islamic literary sources provide far more extensive evidence of temple destruction by the Muslim invaders of India in medieval times. They also cover a large area, from Sinkiang and Transoxiana in the North to Tamil Nadu in the South, and from Siestan province of present day Iran in the West to Assam in the East. This vast area, which was long the cradle of hindu culture, came to be littered with the ruins of temples and monasteries, belonging to all schools of Santana Dharma - Baudhha, Jaina, Shaiva, Sakta, Vaishnava, and the rest. Archeological explorations and excavations in modern times have proved unmistakably that most of the mosques, mazars, ziarats and dargahs which were built in this area, stood on the sites of and were made from the materials of deliberately demolished Hindu monuments.

Hundreds of medieval muslim historians who flourished in India and elsewhere in the world of Islam, have written detailed accounts of what their heroes did in various parts of the extensive Hindu homeland as they were invaded one after another. It is alear from the literary evidence collected alone that all Muslim rulers destroyed or desecrated Hindu temples whenever and whereever they could. Archeological evidence from various Muslim monuments, particularly mosques and dargahs, not only confirms the literary evidence but also adds the names of some Muslim rulers whom Muslim historians have failed to credit with this pious performance.

Some of the literary evidence of temple destruction during Aurangzeb's rule is listed below.

1. "Mir'at-i-Alam" by Bakhtawar Khan

The author was a nobleman of Aurangzeb's court. He died in AD 1684. the history ascribed to him was really compiled by Muhammad Baqa of Saharanpur who gave the name of his friend as its author. Baqa was a prolific writer who was invited by Bakhtawar Khan to Aurangzeb's court and given a respectable rank. He died in AD 1683.


Muhiyu'd-Din Muhammad Aurangzeb 'Alamgir Padshah Ghazi (1658-1707) General Order

" ...Hindu writers have been entirely excluded from holding public offices, and ALL THE WORSHIPPING PLACES OF THE INFIDELS AND GREAT TEMPLES of these infamous people HAVE BEEN THROWN DOWN AND DESTROYED in a manner which excites astonishment at the successful completion of so difficult a task. His Majesty personally teaches the sacred kalima to many infidels with success. ... All mosques in the empire are repaired at public expense..."

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