Killers in uniform – Editorial (Aug 10, 2011, Deccan Herald)
The Supreme Court’s harsh observations about fake encounters should wake up the law-enforcement authorities to the undesirability and dangers of extra-judicial killings. The court is right in condemning them as cold-blooded murders which fall into the category of the rarest of rare crimes that call for the most stringent punishment. It is a different matter whether the killers in uniform should be hanged to death but the observation may be taken as an expression of the court’s dismay over the tendency of the police and other security agencies to take the law into their hands and award summary capital punishment to suspected law-breakers. It is not only those who are suspected to be involved in criminal activities or terrorism who are killed in fake encounters. Even innocent people become victims of arbitrary killings, and there are a number of such cases, especially in disturbed areas like Kashmir.
The latest incident is from Poonch where a special police officer and a territorial army jawan picked up a mentally challenged young man, shot him in the forest and passed it of as an encounter with a Lashkar-e-Toiba gang. It was claimed that the man who was killed was a divisional commander of the LeT from Pakistan. The fake encounter was staged to claim rewards and promotions for a brave fight against terrorists. The culprits have now been arrested and are facing interrogation. Similar killings have taken place before also. They tarnish the image of the security forces and alienate common people. It is not only in Kashmir and the North-East that men in uniform resort to such killings. Though on paper there is a zero tolerance policy towards human rights violations, in practice they are quite common all over the country.
The rule of law demands that even the worst criminals are entitled to a proper investigation and fair trial. The argument that inadequacies and problems in the investigative system and delays in the judicial process make punishment difficult in many cases is wrong and unacceptable. In many cases, as in the Poonch incident, it is not even suspects but innocents who are done to death. A fake encounter does not happen on the spur on the moment. It is planned and executed with careful consideration and is therefore no different from deliberate crime. Such killings should have no place in a civilised and legal society.
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A fall in Karnataka – By Ravi Sharma (Aug 13, 2011, Frontline)
An unlikely stormy petrel. That is what B.S Yeddyurappa, who has been forced to step down as Karnataka’s Chief Minister, has turned out to be for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). A dyed-in-the-wool Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) worker and the archetypal party loyalist who rose from the ranks and remained in the legislative opposition for decades before donning the mantle of Chief Minister in May 2008, Yeddyurappa was not supposed to defy the diktat of the party’s central leadership. After all, discipline is the hallmark of the “party with a difference”. But the 68-year-old leader, who spearheaded the BJP’s drive to seize power in Karnataka and led the party’s first government in the South, would have none of it. He kept the party leadership on tenterhooks by rejecting its call for his resignation. When he finally relented, it was only on the date and time he chose. In an uncharacteristically belligerent and combative mood, Yeddyurappa faced the party’s central leadership and pressured it to concede a set of demands, which included the choice of D.V. Sadananda Gowda as his successor and himself as president of the State party.
The central leadership was not initially prepared to concede these lest it should antagonise the rival camp led by party general secretary and Member of Parliament Ananth Kumar, Karnataka Minister for Rural Development and Panchayati Raj Jagdish Shettar (both known rivals of Yeddyurappa), Home Minister R. Ashok and president of the State unit K.S. Eshwarappa. This group nominated Shettar as its candidate for the post of Chief Minister. The stalemate – which turned into a proxy war between Yeddyurappa and his bete noire Ananth Kumar – not only made the choice of a consensus candidate next to impossible but also created rifts within the State unit that will be hard to heal. The dirty tricks departments of both camps also dug out unpleasant details about their rivals. The reference to Ananth Kumar in the Niira Radia tapes and the alleged violation of building bylaws by Sadananda Gowda, the party’s Udupi-Chickmagalur MP, were highlighted. Failing to evolve a consensus on the issue at the Legislature Party meeting held on August 3, the central leadership conducted a secret ballot to choose the new leader. The affable Sadananda Gowda, backed by Yeddyurappa, got 62 votes as against 55 for Jagdish Shettar. Sadananda Gowda, who has grown from the ranks and has been a Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly, has no administrative experience. But his supporters say that given time and cooperation he will perform.
Sadananda Gowda told Frontline that there was nothing wrong in party members fighting over a post: “It is quite natural in politics. This has been going on in every political party since 1950.” He, however, agreed that “considerable damage had been done to the party” and “collective work was necessary to rectify this”. Predicting that a political churning was bound to take place, he said although discipline was important, the party had to maintain unity first and then ensure discipline. The new Chief Minister said he would seek to implement the programmes formulated by the Yeddyurappa government. For Sadananda Gowda, who will be seen as Yeddyurappa’s hand-picked man, donning the Chief Minister’s mantle may be the easiest part. Holding the party together and handing out ministerial berths are more challenging tasks. Hours after he was declared elected, there were insinuations that the rival camp would stay away from the swearing-in ceremony. The Ananth Kumar camp lost no time to organise a meeting to take stock of the situation. A Minister remarked: “Given the friction and hardening of positions that have occurred between the two camps, the new Chief Minister cannot afford to have any dreams. He will only have nightmares.”
According to a senior BJP functionary, although there were differences between Yeddyurappa and Shettar (both belong to the Lingayat community), they could have been amicably solved as had been done in the past. But the presence of Ananth Kumar, a known Yeddyurappa baiter, is what widened the divide. The functionary opined: “A few years ago when Sadananda Gowda was the president of the State unit, he was instructed at a meeting by L.K. Advani to ensure that Ananth Kumar and Yeddyurappa stayed united. Sadananda Gowda told Advani that the two were ‘a dangerous combination [for the party] either together or separately’.” Most political observers feel that an unrepentant and despotic Yeddyurappa and a weak BJP central leadership had to take much of the blame for the unsavoury turn of events. Allowing Yeddyurappa, admittedly the only leader in the BJP to have some degree of mass appeal, especially among the Lingayat community, to keep wrangling showed the leadership had become totally dependent on him. Were key functionaries in the central leadership beneficiaries of the largesse from Karnataka’s illegal mining? It is alleged that the wedding expenses of a prominent functionary’s daughter were bankrolled by the Reddy brothers, the mining barons of Bellary.
According to a senior Cabinet colleague of Yeddyurappa, the central leadership allowed Yeddyurappa to become larger than the party. The Minister said: “Because of the spectacular results in the various byelections, it was believed that Yeddyurappa could do no wrong. He became the mascot of the BJP. The central leadership should have woken up at least six months ago, if not earlier, when the first allegations of misdemeanour started emerging. Unfortunately, this did not happen. It was busy projecting the positive side of the Chief Minister. What should be clear is that ultimately the image counts more than achievements. One scandal takes away months of achievements. This crisis is also the result of all that happened during the past three years. Outsiders were brought into the party through Operation Kamala [Lotus] and given plum ministerial berths. These entrants were encouraged to be indebted to one individual [Yeddyurappa]. There was no attempt to make them part of the BJP. As a result they have not been able to adjust to our ethos and ideology and have no emotional attachment to the BJP.” Younger members of the party feel that the State BJP is going through a transition phase and that new forces want to take over from some of the tainted leaders. They said that so far the accusations against Yeddyurappa had been of a political nature, but the Lokayukta report was an investigative report and the central leadership could not have kept quiet. …
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Spiritual Bedfellows: The Norway massacre and the Indian connection – By Meera Nanda (Aug 6, 2011, Openthemagazine.com)
On 22 July, Anders Behring Breivik, a 32-year-old Norwegian, set off bombs in the heart of Oslo. He then went on a shooting spree on a nearby island where young members of the Labor Party were holding a summer camp. All told, he killed 77 people that day, many in their teens. He targetted Labor Party youth because he saw them as part of a multicultural left-wing cabal that was allowing a Muslim takeover of Norway. In his view, they were ‘category A traitors’ who had to be eliminated to save Europe from Islam. Even though Anders Breivik alone pulled the trigger, the massacre in Norway was by no means the work of Breivik alone. He is a product of years of immersion in a worldwide web of anti-Islamic ideas espoused by cultural purists and nationalists of all stripes. India, it turns out, figures quite prominently in this web of hate. So far, the India connection has been limited in media reports to the 100-odd references to India that appear in Breivik’s massive manifesto, including his ringing defence of ‘Sanatan Dharma movements’. The irony of a Muslim craftsman from Banaras embroidering the skull-and-sword badge for his army of ‘Knights Templars’, modelled on the 12th century Christian crusaders, has also evoked much commentary. But there is a lot more to the India connection than it appears at first glance. The simple fact is that some of the most revered personalities of the Hindu Right have actively cultivated and nurtured links with the European New Right. We don’t have to go as far back as the Nazi-loving founding fathers of the Sangh Parivar. The Savarkar and Golwalker generation that admired Adolf Hitler for trying to exterminate the ‘Semitic races’ has been replaced by a newer generation of Hindu chauvinists that raves and rants against ‘Semitic monotheistic religions’ – Islam, above all.
This new Hindu Right has managed to move beyond the old Nazi fixation on racial purity to a new ideology of hate based on cultural and religious purity that is proving to be attractive to ‘crusader nationalists’ such as Breivik and his fellow ‘patriots’ from Europe, North America and Israel. The new Hindu Right has been honing its radical critique of Islam and Christianity from the perspective of ‘yogic spirituality’ largely through books published by the Delhi-based publishing house Voice of India (VoI), which was founded in 1981 by two ardent Hindu revivalists and anti-Communists, Ram Swarup and his friend, Sita Ram Goel (both now deceased). VoI’s goal is to produce ‘bauddhik kshatriyas’ (intellectual warriors), who will defend Hindu society against the triple ‘threat’ of Islam, Westernisation and Marxism. The signature theme of VoI thinkers is to attribute these three ‘evils’ to ‘Semitic’ or monotheistic religions that are ‘inherently intolerant’ because they believe in One True God, One Truth and One Book. In recent years, VoI has emerged as the hub where ‘Sanatan Dharma movements’ make common cause with Islam-bashers, anti-Christian pagans, New Age seekers, deep-ecologists/eco-feminists and other disaffected right-wingers from Europe and the US. Evidence of the global reach of the VoI-school of Hindutva can be found in the 1,518-page-long manifesto titled 2083: European Declaration of Independence that the Norway killer posted on the internet just hours before he went on his rampage. The manifesto makes two references to a Belgian writer, Koenraad Elst. The first time Elst is mentioned is as the authority behind the highly contested claim that Muslims enslaved Hindus and drove them to their death in the Hindu Kush mountain ranges, now in Afghanistan. (This reference appears in an article by Srinandan Vyas, which is reproduced in the manifesto.)
The second reference to Elst appears in his ‘recommendations to the West’ on how to make the life of Muslim minorities in Europe so difficult that they will either give up Islam or leave. Elst is quoted here to suggest that though Islam is in decline, it can still take over Europe before it collapses. (Here Elst is quoted in an article by Fjordman, the anonymous Norwegian blogger well known for his anti-Islamic views and greatly admired by Breivik). It so happens that Koenraad Elst has one foot firmly in the European New Right and the other foot in the Hindu New Right spawned by the VoI school. In Europe, he is considered a ‘leading Orientalist’, and writes frequently for The Brussels Journal, a European nationalist anti-Islamic blog, cited repeatedly by Breivik in his manifesto. Elst has also worked with think-tanks and publications suspected of links with Belgium’s far right, anti-Islamic, anti-immigrant party, Vlaam Belang. In India, Elst is the darling of the Hindu Right, and is held in great regard as the ‘intellectual heir’ of Ram Swarup and Sita Ram Goel, who practically took him under their wing when he was researching the Ayodhya conflict in the late 1980s. His book, Ram Janmbhoomi v Babri Masjid, was published by VoI and released by LK Advani. VoI has published at least eight more of his books, and he is counted among VoI’s bestselling authors. VoI has quite a few other European and American fellow travellers apart from Elst.
Among the more notable is David Frawley (aka Vamadev Shastri), an American convert to Hinduism, who teaches Ayurveda and Vedic astrology in the US. Like Elst, Frawley follows Ram Swarup and Goel in decrying Islam and Christianity as inherently intolerant and fit only for ‘lower’ intellects. Like Elst again, Frawley tops the VoI bestseller list. Francois Gautier, a follower of Sri Aurobindo, and more recently of Sri Sri Ravishankar, is another VoI author who had a long career with the French newspaper La Figaro, which has been described as the mouthpiece of the French New Right. Gautier is the brain behind the idea of creating a museum showcasing the Hindu ‘holocaust’ at the hands of Muslims. A collection of his ‘Ferengi’s Columns’ has been published by VoI. VoI, predictably, has also published Daniel Pipes, a well-known American critic of Islam, who also finds many mentions in Breivik’s manifesto. Well-known tracts of anti-Islamic literature, including Sir William Muir’s The Life of Mohamet and David Margoliouth’s Mohammed and the Rise of Islam, dating back to the 19th century, have also been reprinted under the VoI imprint. In addition to nurturing extreme critics of Islam and Christianity, the founding fathers of VoI also tried to encourage the revival of pre-Christian and pre-Islamic pagan religions on the assumption that these ancient Indo-European religions shared the polytheism and ritualism of Hinduism. Ram Swarup personally mentored neo-pagans from many parts of Europe including Lithuania, Russia, Britain, Ireland, Iceland and Belgium (including Elst himself, who at one time harboured pagan sympathies). VoI’s overtures to neo-pagans have not been terribly fruitful, as the nationalism favoured by ‘indigenous Europeans,’ who want to bring back pre-Christian gods of ‘blood-and-soil’, has been overtaken by an openly anti-Islamic ‘crusader nationalism’ exemplified by Breivik. …
Once they got rid of the mantra of sarva dharma samabhaav, VoI militants declared an open war against Islam. Their new consensus is that rather than ‘appease’ Muslims by pretending to respect their religion, Hindus need to debunk the claims of the ‘false’ and ‘monstrous’ doctrines of Islam. Indeed, Koenraad Elst has himself applauded this new war on Islam. In accordance with the VoI line on Islam being ‘asuric’, he has proclaimed that, “Every Muslim is a Sita who must be released from Ravana’s prison. We should help Muslims in freeing themselves from Islam.” This is exactly the agenda of the Norway killer – to ‘educate’ Norwegian society, including Muslim immigrants – that ‘Islam is not a religion but a political ideology.’ This is the ‘non-violent’ component of the ‘crusade’ against Islam in Europe: to create an environment so hostile that the practice of Islam becomes difficult and that Muslims have no choice but to either leave or give up their faith. Indeed, if there were any doubt about the shared ground between the VoI and European Islamophobes, Elst gives the same advice, in almost the same words, to the Norway killer as he does to his VoI admirers. The solution to the ‘Islam problem’ is not to use violence, ‘but to liberate Muslims from the mental prison-house of Islam’. This war against Islam is the thread that dubiously binds Extremist India with the Norway massacre.
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Swamy’s Anti-Muslim Diatribe: Recipe For Disaster – By Yoginder Sikand (Aug 12, 2011, Countercurrents)
Subramaniam Swamy’s recent article, titled ‘How To Wipe Out Islamic Terror’, has provoked widespread comment in the media. Advocating a hard-hitting approach to the phenomenon of Muslim extremism and urging the Hindus to take to militant Hindutva-style politics, the former Union Cabinet Minister and President of the Janata Party can safely be said to represent the convictions of a sizeable section of middle-class, ‘modern’-educated ‘upper’ caste Hindus, who, despite the thin veneer of Western ‘liberalism’ that they sport, are deeply wedded to the pernicious doctrine of Brahminical supremacism in the guise of Hindutva. Swamy’s article is full of gaping holes, gross exaggerations, unfounded claims and downright lies. Conforming to the usual pattern of Hindu chauvinist writings on Muslims and Islam, the article serves several goals simultaneously. It aims at demonizing Muslims and Islam as supposedly inherently violent and hate-driven, while, contrarily, presenting Hindus as the supposed epitomes of virtue. In this way, it conveniently denies the undeniable reality of terror engaged in by Hindu groups (including Hindu mobs) that, since 1947, has taken a much heavier toll of innocent lives (mainly of Muslims but also of Dalits) than has the terror resorted to by fringe Muslim groups in India in recent years. Equating being Indian with being ‘Hindu’, it denies non-Hindus the right to live as equal citizens and with dignity. It seeks to pit Hindus against Muslims, advocating a wide-range of anti-Muslim measures that can easily lead to large-scale violence against the latter and used to justify their slaughter if they dare protest against such brutalities.
But the article’s sinister intentions do not stop there. Like any other piece of shoddy anti-Muslim Hindutva propaganda, the article is also geared to shoring up Brahminical supremacy and the interests of the ruling castes/classes. Thus, in true Brahminist fashion, Swamy calls for a hard-hitting military approach to ‘eliminate’, as he puts it, the Naxalites, as if they were a mere law-and-order problem and not one rooted in the mounting oppression faced by vast numbers of Dalits and Adivasis, who, finding other means of securing justice closed to them by a system that is based on their exclusion and subjugation, feel compelled to take to the militant path. Further, rubbishing the entire legacy of the non-Brahmin Dravidian Self-Respect movement, Swamy mocks its challenge to the hegemony of the Tamil Brahmins, the community to which he belongs. It would thus seem that any dissenting voice that dares to critique Brahminism (for which the term ‘Hinduism’ is a euphemism) and Brahminical notions of Indian culture and nationalism is to be readily branded as an affront to Indian (read Brahminical) identity, and, hence, anti-national. There is nothing at all here to distinguish Swamy from any other run-of-the-mill Hindutva ideologue. Nothing what he writes here is at all original or novel.
Swamy’s article is also geared to promoting Brahminical supremacy in another way – by maintaining a deafening silence on the enormous and rapidly mounting caste-class contradictions within the so-called ‘Hindu community’ and the daily violence to which Dalits and other oppressed caste-groups are subjected to by caste Hindus. By deliberately and constantly projecting Muslims as the menacing ‘other’ of the so-called ‘majority Hindu community’, and castigating Muslims as a violent threat to the very existence of the latter, Brahminist ideologues like Swamy deliberately cover-up the fundamental role of the ruling caste-class establishment (which they represent) in generating violence on a massive scale, of which the oppressed castes/classes are the principal victims. This strategy of ‘otherizing’ Muslims through consistently demonizing them is crucial to the project of constructing the notion of a singular ‘majority Hindu community’ which conceals internal caste-class differences within the ‘Hindu’ fold. This concealment is necessary so that the wrath of the oppressed castes/classes can be diverted from their real oppressors – the ruling caste-class establishment – onto the demonized Muslim ‘other’. The trope of a singular ‘Hindu’ community (whose internal caste-class contradictions are conveniently denied in the name of ‘Hindu unity’) is an indispensable tool for enabling the Brahminical caste/class minority to use the logic of majoritarianism to claim to speak for the ‘Hindu majority’ simply in order to promote the interests and worldviews of this hegemonic minority, which hardly counts for more than a tenth of the Indian population. In true Hindutva fashion, this is also precisely what Swamy’s article seeks to do.
Swamy begins his article with a reference to the recent bomb attacks in Mumbai. Although viscerally anti-Muslim Brahminist Hindu terror groups are known to have engaged in terror blasts in various parts of the country in recent years, besides, of course, in murderous anti-Muslim pogroms on a massive scale, many Hindus, even in the absence of any evidence, would readily blame Muslims, or a known or even imaginary Muslim group, for any blast that may occur. This has now become an instinctive reaction, so deeply-rooted has the notion of Muslims being linked with terrorism become. This is precisely what Swamy does in this case, too, appearing to suggest that the recent blasts were the handiwork of Muslims, even thought there is no confirmed evidence to support this contention. Swamy does not stop there, though, and goes on to speak of India’s very existence being threatened by what he calls ‘Islamic terrorism’, which he terms as an ‘existential threat’ and India’s ‘number one problem of national security’. The reality of Hindu or Hindutva terrorism and state terrorism thus completely eludes him. Swamy’s visceral hatred for Muslims makes him completely blind to the enormity of anti-Muslim violence engaged in by Hindu mobs (often in league with the state) for decades, which is definitely a major cause for Muslim dissatisfaction, and which, in some cases, might even have led to retaliatory violence, especially in the face of an indifferent and hostile state apparatus. ‘Let us remember that every Hindu-Muslim riot in India since 1947, has been ignited by Muslim fanatics’, Swamy announces, completely oblivious to or, possibly, ignorant of, reality, which is quite to the contrary.
Swamy appears to paint all Muslims with the same baneful brush. ‘Muslims cannot be divided into “moderates” and “extremists” because the former just capitulate when confronted’, he claims. Thus, in his view, it is by definition almost impossible for a Muslim not to collude in extremism, whether actively or otherwise. Accordingly, for Swamy there can simply be no hope for better Hindu-Muslim relations in India, unless, as he ardently advocates, Muslims agree to effectively Hinduise themselves. If Swamy is to be believed, till the Indian Muslims consent to reclaim their supposed ‘Hindu past’, all efforts to promote harmony between Hindus and Muslims are useless and it would serves no purpose to work for it. But Swamy does not rest content simply with this depressing prognosis. Instead, he goes further and passionately advocates a vast range of policies that seem calculated to suppress, humiliate, demean and, inevitably, provoke Muslims, all in such a manner as to completely sabotage any prospects for Hindu-Muslim camaraderie and to set off a Hindu-Muslim war of cosmic proportions across South Asia. Al-Qaeda, one supposes, would certainly be delighted at having discovered a comrade who shares its Manichaean world-view! After all, destroying India by igniting Hindu-Muslim conflict on a massive scale is, so it is said, and as Swamy himself notes, precisely what Al-Qaeda wants. …
- ‘Dr Subramanian Swamy, I strongly disagree with you’ – By Aditya Ramakrishnan (Jul 18, 2011, DNA India)
- Terror Has Political Goals: Religion Should Be For Humanism – By Ram Puniyani (Aug 11, 2011, Countercurrents)
- We Muslims are mature, we can take criticism – By Rahu Raouf (Aug 6, 2011, The Hindu)
- India And The Swamy – By Babatdor Dkhar (Aug 11, 2011, Countercurrents)
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Muslims need quotas more than SC/STs – By By Kancha Ilaiah (Aug 10, 2011, Twocircles.net)
A debate is likely to be triggered by the Union minister for minority affairs, Mr Salman Khurshid’s proposal for reservations for Muslims in Central institutions of education and employment. Though the Justice Ranganath Mishra Commission and the Minority Commission in their reports recommended 10 per cent reservations for Muslims based on their social and educational backwardness, so far the Indian state has not taken any steps in that direction. In this context, we must appreciate the minister for taking the initiative. Though certain sections would say that this proposal is being made keeping the Uttar Pradesh elections in mind, it is still an issue that needs to be dealt with. Several commissions – the Gopal Singh Commission, the Ranganath Mishra Commission and the Sachar Committee – have examined the socio-economic conditions of Muslims and come to the conclusion that the condition of Indian Muslims is as bad as that of people from other weaker sections.
In terms of employment, their position is, in fact, worse than that of SC/STs. According to a white paper prepared by the All-India Milli Council (AIMC) and presented to former prime minister, Mr I.K. Gujral, in 1998, there were only 116 Muslims out of a total of 3,883 administrative service officers (2.98 per cent), 45 out of 1,433 police service officers (3.14 per cent) and 57 out of 2,159 foreign service officers (2.64 per cent). In other words, in the Central government, Muslims constituted 1.6 per cent of all class I officers, 3.9 per cent of all class II officers and 4.4 per cent of the technical supervisory staff. The situation has not changed even now. The Sachar Committee concluded that in 12 states where the Muslim share in total population is 15.4 per cent, their representation in government jobs is only 5.7 per cent. In police, administrative and diplomatic services their representation varies from 1.6 to 3.4 per cent. Other studies have shown that Muslims are poorly represented in judiciary and military and are almost absent in intelligence agencies such as the RAW and the NSG because they are mistrusted.
These statistics and the assessment of various commissions and committees go to show that there is a need for affirmative action for Muslims, especially in the spheres of education and employment, where they are worse off than some of the historically backward castes within the fold of Hinduism. But how did this happen? Muslims as a community study the Quran, then how and why did such a religious community remain backward in literacy rate and education? According to the 2001 census, the Muslim literacy rate is 60 per cent against 75.5 per cent of Hindus. The Christian literacy rate is 90.3 per cent, the Sikh literacy rate is 70.4 per cent, for Buddhists it is 73 per cent and Jains’ literacy rate is the highest, at 95 per cent. We can understand the Jains having the highest literacy rate because the community constitutes mostly the Baniyas who live by trade. All the Jains, therefore, at least make their children literate. Obviously, the Hindu literacy rate includes the literacy rate among the SCs, which is 54.69 per cent, and the STs, whose literacy rate is just 47.10 per cent. Overall the Hindu literacy rate has grown quite well, as against that of the Muslims. The phenomenal rise of SC, ST and OBC literacy rate in the recent past is because of the hope of getting jobs through the instrument of reservation.
If one goes by the evolutionary history of Islam, there is clear evidence that it was a religion that brought a revolution in the sphere of reading and writing in the Arab world. Then why does such rampant educational backwardness exists among Indian Muslims? Why are people who read the Holy Book illiterate? One reason could be that most of the Muslims in India are converts from lower and untouchable castes. Unlike a poor Dalit, a poor Muslim lives without the hope of a job. The Muslim poor are not so worried about their education because there are no job opportunities for them. Though the Muslim population is more urbanised than the SC, ST and OBC population, their educational awareness is confined to reading of the Quran, whereas the SC, ST and OBCs are more worried about their children not getting English education. The failure, therefore, is of both their religious leadership and the political leadership.
After the September 11 attacks, the lives of Muslims became more insulated. Even in elite English-medium schools Muslim children face discrimination and suspicion. In many non-Muslim middle-class and upper-middle class colonies they do not even get a house on rent nor can they buy one. Untouchability has come to them in another form – through religion, not caste. An all-India reservation debate alone can open up their closed mind in relation to education, or, at least, create a churning among the Muslim intelligentsia. But reservation for Muslims should not be pitted against the OBC 27 per cent quota. The debate must also look at the 50 per cent cap that the Supreme Court of India imposed on the national reservation formula but did not explain the reason and logic behind it.
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A Battle for India’s Soul – By Rachel Saltz (Aug 11, 2011, New York Times)
Nothing less than India’s soul is at stake in Prakash Jha’s “Aarakshan,” a Hindi movie about the battle – as intense as any gang war – between a righteous teacher and the hucksters who would make education a commodity available only to the privileged.
Mr. Jha likes to take political stories and turn them into pulpy, populist epics. His last film, “Rajneeti,” a sort of “Mahabharata” meets “The Godfather,” set in present-day Bhopal, was about corruption in a dynastic ruling family. Here he grapples with caste prejudice and the Indian version of affirmative action: the reserving of spots in schools for low or “backward” castes. (“Aarakshan” means reservation.)
To help tell his big story, he has enlisted Bollywood’s Mr. Big, Amitabh Bachchan, who plays Prabhakar Anand, a Bhopal college principal whose integrity costs him his job. Among his proteges is the low-caste Deepak (Saif Ali Khan).
“Tell us about your father,” job interviewers demand of Deepak in the opening scene. Yet even as the film works to overturn the idea that family status determines worth, it can’t help placing its hopes in a good daddy figure: namely, Mr. Bachchan’s Prabhakar, who looms as large to his students as the man who plays him does to generations of Indian moviegoers.
At times “Aarakshan” comes off like a pep rally for pluralism and inclusion. (“Just give me a chance -and watch me take flight” go the lyrics to one song.) But Mr. Jha doesn’t stint on the melodrama, unabashedly pitting smirking corruption against heroic rectitude. Subtle it ain’t and subtle it needn’t be. It is, though, mostly involving (if Bollywood long, at 2 hours 45 minutes) and even occasionally stirring.
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