What is interesting is the state of the government, led by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh but controlled behind the scenes by Congress president Sonia Gandhi. Take a close look at the UPA’s Cabinet. One minister in charge of railways is perpetually in Kolkata, battling the Marxists in her state. Another minister whose literacy does not go beyond his native language is perpetually in Chennai or Madurai — his bailiwick —preparing for a succession battle. Shockingly, he chose to miss Question Hour for queries of his own ministry.
Where does the civil society stand in its war against terror? Are the hi-tech security measures and strict policing sufficient to deal with this menace? The failed car bombing in New York’s Times Square has underlined the grim reality that the civil society cannot hope to win this war till the religious mindset — which is the motivating factor behind mindless violence — is not suitably dealt with.
It seems that Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi has deprived the so-called secularists of a golden opportunity they were looking for. Now they are a disappointed lot. That explains their ridiculous demand of asking the Chief Justice of India, K.G. Balakrishnan, not to share the dais with Mr Modi at the first convocation ceremony of Gujarat National Law University in Ahmedabad.
One after the other, the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance-2 (UPA) has taken steps backward on the two issues crucial to its government — the Women’s Reservation Bill and the civil nuclear liability limitation bill. And on many others that it promised it is said to have a rethink. This could mean only two things: the government’s claimed honeymoon with the people is turning bitter and, secondly, it has failed in its floor management.
Where was the secular pack, which carries a regular crusade in defence of controversial painter M.F. Husain, when fanatic Muslim mobs were holding Karnataka to ransom? Buckling under pressure, the Karnataka Police has registered cases against Kannada daily Kannada Prabha and Urdu daily Siasat for “hurting religious sentiments” though unidentified goons ransacked the offices of Kannada Prabha and an evening newspaper and threw petrol bombs late on Tuesday night in Mangalore. Can a debate on this issue be considered an insult to Islam?
Union home minister P. Chidambaram might be a better and dynamic captain of the ship at the North Block compared to his dour and uninspiring predecessors, but I am sure even he would agree that the back-to-back strikes — bomb blast in Pune and the Maoist destruction of a security force camp in West Bengal’s Paschim Mednipur district, have some connection. It would do the country much good if he views these issues as connected — planned together as part of a larger conspiracy to destroy India.
Jammu and Kashmir: A tale of two flags
The contrast between the agitators in Jammu, holding the Tricolour and shouting "Bharat Mata ki jai," and the separatists in Kashmir Valley, marching across the LoC to Pakistan, with the Pakistani flag, sums up the crisis in a way which will remain in the nation’s consciousness for years to come. The clash is not between two regions, but two value systems. The character of the two groups of agitators is defined by their respective flags: The Tricolour represents the spirit of India — respect for diversity in all its multitudes, be it faith or language; The Pakistani flag denotes an exclusivist character devoid of the right to dissent in all avenues of life.
Madrasas: A two-school theory
The Muslim community in India has rejected the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government’s proposal to have a centralised madrasa board to oversee the education of Muslims through these religious schools.
The government is keen to give official recognition to madrasa education and accept madrasa certificates as equivalent to the secondary board certificates. It is now waiting for a suitable law draft from the community. By giving a veneer of science and general knowledge to the religious education that is imparted to poor Muslim students in these so-called schools, is it possible to get the community to progress?
It’s by now a settled fact that the UPA government, at the instance of the Rajindar Sachar committee, tried to seek a Muslim headcount in the armed forces. The unprecedented opposition though has the government resorting to speaking with a forked tongue now. On the one hand, it denies the entire move while on the other it rationalises the exercise in the name of "secularism".
The idea of ‘dividing’ the armed forces on communal lines was inspired by a book, Khaki and Ethnic Violence in India by Omar Khalidi, a professor of Hyderabadi origin who teaches architectural history at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Excerpts from the book were part of IUML president G.M. Banatwala’s memorandum to the Sachar committee. Khalidi had also advocated, in an interview with The Times of India, a reorganisation of the districts in Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal and Assam to create "compact Muslim zones" where their culture and rights could be "safeguarded". In other words, he’s playing ‘Pied Piper’ Allama Iqbal to a future Jinnah (ironically, he even has a Muslim League president by his side). It’s no surprise then that he suggests increasing the Muslim presence in the forces—it stems from the same mindset of Islamist consolidation.
I cannot agree with Vinod Mehta when he says that Vajpayee’s personality is no match for "the Byzantine complexity of contemporary Indian reality where class, caste, ethnic and religious loyalties change every 200 kilometres" (Outlook, May 24). If that were the case, would anyone qualify, considering the failure of almost all media pundits and modern psephologists to catch the undercurrent of resentment (or is it apprehension?) against the government of the day. The same which the analysts said (post-results) has expressed itself in the rout of the NDA government.
Now if the Indian reality is so complex, how did you jump to the conclusion that it’s a question of governments losing elections rather than the opposition winning it? What makes you say the BJP choosing to focus on Sonia Gandhi’s foreign origin was a mistake? The complexity lies in the fact that there is no single explanation for the kind of results we have seen. What rationale can explain the incumbent government winning in Orissa but losing in Kerala? The TDP government in Andhra loses and the Congress wins but in neighbouring Karnataka it is the turn of the Congress regime to lose with the BJP emerging as the largest party, though short of a majority?