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?