18 December, 2009

08 December, 2009

Don't Geelanise Kashmir

Tania Andrabi, The Kashmir Times

An open letter to Syed Ali Shah Geelani
Shopian is a part of Kashmir too

Syed Ali Shah Geelani - the name that reverberates in every nook and corner of the Valley, the person who brought together millions of Kashmiris in his support just last year. Such was the trust reposed by the people in him. You claim to represent Kashmiris and their struggle for the right to self determination; some people follow you blindly while others are not enamoured by your politics.

Mr Geelani I have never had any specific opinion of you as a leader, but today I am deeply dismayed by your actions. You may be a tall leader but your recent stand on Shopian agitation smacks of hypocrisy and egoism. By asking the Majlis-i-Mushawart Shopian to confine their struggle to seek justice for Asiya Jan and Neelofer Jan, who were raped and murdered in May this year, to Shopian only you have shown how big an ego you have; an ego which does not allow you to accept a call given by any organization other that the one which you head.

Mr Geelani, the Majlis does not represent an individual, it is a duly elected body of the people of Shopian, acknowledged even by the Hurriyat. If it gives a call for a Kashmir Bandh, in what capacity do you ask them to "confine their struggle to Shopian only"? This call was given by the Majlis after the High Court granted bail to the cops accused of destroying vital evidence in the Shopian incident. As a Kashmiri I feel this Bandh call was completely justified. If we can protest over minor issues, why should we not protest against the rape and murder of our women?

Mr Geelani if you deem it proper to hold protests over small issues, does not an incident like Shopian demand one? Mr Geelani, were not Asiya and Neelofer the daughters of Kashmir? If yes, would you explain why you asked the Majlis to "confine their struggle to Shopian" only?

Over the two decade long struggle in Kashmir, thousands of youths have disappeared, one lakh people have been killed while millions have been tortured. The situation here is so unpredictable that people do not know if they would return home after leaving in the morning. Nevertheless, during last year's land row and the struggle for right to self determination, people from every nook and corner of the Valley came out in your support and in support of every word you uttered. They knew they could be killed, but this did not stop them. The five lakh massive gathering at the Tourist Reception Centre, the largest in the history of Kashmir, bears testimony to this fact.

It was after many years that people had reposed their trust in you and your "ability" to guide them. Unfortunately, it was here that you asked people if they acknowledge you as their "only leader", a question to which the massive gathering replied in the affirmative. It might have overjoyed you at that time but it was enough to offend the other separatist leaders. This one statement changed the entire scenario; the struggle for self determination lost relevance for it led to an internal rivalry within the ranks of Hurriyat. The Geelanization of Kashmir cause overshadowed the larger picture.

Last year's mayhem claimed more than sixty innocent lives - mothers lost their sons, wives lost their husbands, children lost their fathers, sisters lost their brothers. But death was no deterrent and people continued to pour out in your support. Your Muzaffarabad Chalo call saw two and a half lakh people march on your call. They had faith that even if they are killed, you and other separatist leaders won't let their sacrifices go waste.

On this day fifteen people were killed and hundreds more injured when police and paramilitary forces opened fire on them. Among them was Hurriyat leader Sheikh Abdul Aziz. Today the whole of Kashmir knows that Sheikh Aziz was martyred on August 11, 2008 because he has been hailed by the Hurriyat. Bur Mr Geelani there were fourteen other people who laid down their lives on that very day for the bigger Kashmir cause but ironically their sacrifices have passed into oblivion. Not many of us remember them, but their families can't ever forget them for they lost their loved ones to no gain.

Sixty odd families were devastated in the protests you called for last year. Today we remember just one and he is Sheikh Aziz only because he was a part of the Hurriyat. Mr Geelani do not the other martyrs deserve the same honour as has been accorded to Sheikh Aziz? If yes why have they been forgotten? Mr Geelani why did you let their lives, rather deaths, go waste? The situation on ground today while I write this is like it was before last year's turmoil. Why did you make promises which you knew you won't live up to? Why did you show people dreams which you knew you can't fulfill?

Do you or other leaders of your party have any knowledge of how the families of those martyred last year are surviving? Have any of you once visited them? Has your party provided some help to any of the martyrs' families? If no, who are the people you claim to represent? As a leader is it not your duty to safeguard the interests of your people?

During last years economic blockade many people did not have a morsel of food to eat at their home. Their children went to sleep with an empty stomach every day. Did you or any other separatist leader empathise with them by going to sleep with an empty stomach even once? No, Mr Geelani, nobody did.

Today you are anti-India, but Mr Geelani how do you explain the fourteen years you served as a member of the state legislative assembly? Today you criticise the mainstream politicians, but if they are so inhumane why did you choose to become one at some point in your life? India had the same control over Kashmir at that time as it has today, then how can you justify the fourteen long years you took oath by the constitution of India? Why have you labeled it a forbidden fruit for Kashmiris when you yourself have tasted it? Mr Geelani it cannot be ruled out that had it not been for your old age, you would still be a part of the mainstream politics.

Mr Geelani you are anti-India, then why do you choose to spend the winter months in Delhi to escape the Valley chill? Your ideology says that New Delhi is the brain behind all the mishappenings in Kashmir, then how can you live there? Will you please tell us why is it that our separatist leaders desire world class medical care when the common Kashmiri suffers in ill-equipped government hospitals in Kashmir? Why do you need to travel to Delhi and Mumbai for your health checkups when the common man who you represent cannot afford to do so?

You plan to launch another agitation after Eid to get back the land which is presently under the control of Indian forces in the Valley. But Mr Geelani don't you feel there are more important issues which need to be addressed? Is it not important to secure the lives of the people, rather than securing their land?

Mr Geelani, an agitation will only lead to further bloodshed. More people will die to no gain. The people of Kashmir can't take it anymore, not atleast when the resolve is as weak as that of the Hurriyat leaders. Why don't you first try to forge unity in the ranks of Hurriyat, and then think about how to lead the people?

Everything that could possibly go wrong on this 'paradise on earth' has gone wrong. Youths killed, women widowed, children orphaned, girls raped, innocents murdered - the list is too long. Kashmir, our motherland, must be ashamed of its people, as much as I am to be called one.

There goes a saying about Kashmiris that 'Kashmiris are the only people for whom God needs no guards at the hell door, for before a Kashmiri could jump out another fellow Kashmiri would knock him down'. How sardonic, but how true! If this be the state of our amity in the hereafter, the world we live in is but too materialistic to pay heed to other's wellbeing. You are no exception Mr Geelani for you too are a mortal, like each one of us. But unfortunately, you are also a tall leader. People have expectations of you leading them in a more responsible way.

01 December, 2009

No votes for temple, we needed roti with Ram: man who cast the first Ayodhya stone

The Indian Express

Two days before the Lok Sabha discusses the report of the Liberhan Commission of Inquiry into the demolition of the Babri Masjid, Kameshwar Chaupal, who laid the foundation stone for a proposed Ram Mandir at the shilanyas site at Ayodhya in 1989, has said that the Ayodhya movement has lost its electoral appeal. And the BJP, which has to blame itself for it, should have included “roti (livelihood) with Ram.”

Chaupal, a Dalit (Paswan, by caste), has been a much-feted swayamsevak in the BJP/RSS, and the Sangh Parivar has always maintained that “his shilanyas act showed that the RSS-BJP’s Hindutva was an inclusive, all-encompassing idea.”

“You won’t be able to mobilise voters in the name of Ram or Ayodhya now. The politicisation of the Ram Temple movement proved to be its bane. It should have been left to the religious leaders of both communities. Ram, like Gandhi, Subhash (Chandra Bose) and Patel, is a revered symbol in the country. The symbol of Ram then should not have been reduced to the BJP when leaders from even the Congress, like Dau Dayal Khanna and Karan Singh, were also involved in it,” Chaupal told The Sunday Express today.

Chaupal, a BJP MLC in Bihar, was an RSS swayamsevak, involved with its Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram project, when his name was decided by a meeting of Hindu religious leaders in Allahabad to lay the foundation stone at the shilanyas site. “I was then busy countering the activities of missionaries in Jharkhand which had become a priority for the RSS after the Meenakshipuram conversions (when Hindu Dalits had converted to Islam at Meenakshipuram, in Tamil Nadu, in 1981). I laid the foundation stone at the site after the Uttar Pradesh Government’s go ahead, and it was only in 1991 that I joined the BJP,” he said.

The Liberhan Ayodhya Commission of Inquiry writes about Chaupal: “On 9th of November 1989, one Kameshwar Chopal (sic), a Harijan bandhu (sic), laid the first shila in presence of people.”

Chaupal today said that the very Palampur resolution that the BJP regards as a milestone in its evolution (when it included the Ram Temple in its charter, at its national executive meet at Palampur in Himachal Pradesh) was faulty. “I would have protested the inclusion of the Ram Temple in the BJP’s charter, if I was there,” said Chaupal.

The BJP MLC also said that the BJP ideally should have included roti (livelihood) along with Ram in its political campaign. Asked why Chaupal agreed to remain in the BJP, and contest Lok Sabha and Assembly elections, before being nominated as an MLC (he is serving his second term as MLC), he said: “If all of us in the BJP had a common opinion (on the Ram Temple issue, and other issues), its fate would have been somewhat different.”


Relevance of a faith that is timeless

Speaking Tree, The Times of India

Deepam Chatterjee

Young people today engaged in self-exploration are looking for inner peace. They question the relevance of rituals and religious practices. Religion needs to be reinterpreted to suit the context of modern times; otherwise today's youth might lose faith in Sanatana Dharma - the timeless faith.

The hallmark of Hindu tradition has been its great capacity to adapt itself to the lifestyles of people without losing its identity, and helping seekers focus on attaining the transcendent absolute.

One may ask, who then is a true Hindu? A real Hindu is one who searches for the Ultimate Truth and relentlessly pursues answers to questions such as, 'Who is God? Who am i? What is my purpose? How to know God? What is the Ultimate Truth?'

A true Hindu firmly believes in allowing every human being to search for God in his or her own way; to freely experiment with various practices and rituals to suit one's personal needs and temperament.

The inquiry into the nature of God and self, and the practices thereof could be termed as the Hindu way of life. The ultimate aim of a Hindu is God-realisation through the spiritual practices he adopts. It is a way of life which respects and accepts all paths to self-realisation.

What is commonly referred to as Hinduism is the collective wisdom of many great seers and sages as opposed to the teachings of a single teacher. It is more a group of faiths, somewhat connected by a set of scriptures and a pantheon. Hinduism has no universally accepted scriptural doctrine or uniformity of worship and it is impossible to define in a set of parameters, having no common practices, rites or rituals. Unlike many other faiths, Hinduism refuses to sanction the monopoly of one God, one spiritual practice, or one scripture as the One and Only way to liberation.

Hinduism is based upon the qualities of acceptance, absorption, continuous change and expansion. It is thus a dynamic, living, ever-growing set of ideas, rituals and spiritual practices. It incorporates constant acceptance and freedom of thought for all other Religions of the World.

One cannot be 'converted' to Hinduism. For every other religion, there are 'rites of baptism'. Hindus consider that everyone is naturally on a journey to reach a higher awareness through the cycle of birth and death; and that the soul continuously reincarnates to experience Karmas - the effects of actions performed in earlier incarnations. This is something automatic.

In a way, everyone who is trying to explore their divinity is practising Hinduism.

Hinduism is a way of life and does not conflict with any religion for it is simply the commitment to search for the truth. One does not have to give up one's religious identity to follow Hindu practices.

The greatness of Hinduism lies in its infinite capacity of acceptance and allowance. As long as an individual is mindful of 'raising consciousness' - of self, community, and humanity as a whole, one is following tenets of Hindu religion.

This has been termed as 'Shreya' - the essence of the Hindu way of life, in a single word.

From the introduction to 'The Timeless Faith - Dialogues on Hinduism' by the writer.