DEMOCRACY DYING IN INDIA AND FASCISM TAKING BIRTH

By Promod Puri

Fascism is a system that is run or led by a dictator who has full power in every aspect of a nation. To achieve and maintain that hold, a fascist ruler suppresses any opposition and criticism. A false sense of aggressive nationalism and patriotism gets developed and promoted. Racism and xenophobia are encouraged in a dictatorial environment.

That is a typical explanation or scenario of a nation under fascist rule. In the india flag nazi1contemporary world, despite being still democratic, we find shades of authoritarian governments having essential control over their peoples and institutions. For that reason, these nations fit very well as fascists regimes. But to the world as well as their citizens, such governments put on a democratic or socialist mask.

Under the fake democratic outfit, resides the modern version of fascism where almost all the elements of dictatorial control are present. Fear factor gets liberal infusion to weed out voices of dissent.

Bureaucratic and democratic institutions are restrained and corrupted. Manipulated elections decide the results before the polls take place. Religious sentiments of the majority community become a handy tool to suppress the minorities. Bribed, threatened, and intimidated media sit on the lap of the fascist ruler, ever ready as a mouthpiece of the government.

A network of social media goes full swing for the manufacturing and distribution of false and propagated news and views that are efficiently spread within the country and globally.

Judiciary, election commission, media, and statistics are some of the most operative integrals of democracy, that keep it authoritative, functional, dynamic, and accountable. But when any or all these systems are damaged, corrupted, compromised, or abused, democracy collapses, and fascism emerges.

India is one of those countries where signs of this new version of fascism are quite discernable and visible. Knowingly or unknowingly, fascists developments are fast taking place for power’s sake as there is practically no active and creditable opposition either.

All the democratic fundamentals have been brazenly as well as subtly fiddled with shrewd politics of religious fanaticism, fear, threats, murders, fake police raids, intrusions, and influences in the media, obstructions, and interference in the bureaucracy, and deceptive claims of accomplishments.

The autonomous, independent, and credible status of the democratic establishments has been defaced and undermined.

Cracking down on free speech, threats, murders of writers, dissident lawyers, and judges, frequent imprisonment of protesting students constitute the new and dreadful feeling of the current political climate in the country.

And once all these developments take roots and become a new norm, fascist India would destroy the very spirit and fabric of the nation as a free, secular, and a multi-racial society. Democracy dies, and fascism takes birth.

A CASE FOR FULL AUTONOMY TO STATES TO KEEP INDIA UNITED

By Promod Puri

Because of its vast linguistic and cultural plurality, as represented by most of its states, suggesting India’s division into individual autonomous regions may sound a Utopian or even an insensible concept.

But the divisive motion would reflect and meet more effectively the political and social aspirations of its peoples than the current restrained setup.

The unity and stability of the region, called India, lie in granting more independence to its diverse provinces.

From north to south, east to the west, and in between, India is a country of countries.

What Ladakh has in common with Kerala, or Manipur sharing any similarity with Maharashtra? And that goes for every state in the Republic of India. Each one of them has their separate identities.

In its present political formation, India has always been a grudging union of 28 states and eight Union Territories. Even people belonging to the same faith have different religious rituals, customs, and traditions influenced by local collective identities.

A loose federation of autonomous states would release the subdued regional urges of its peoples. The social and political aspirations of people based on their cultural and local needs are often ignored or repressed by the authoritative regime at the Centre.

It is a case of granting complete autonomy to the states that would help realize the territorial sentiments of people. Less interference from the Center in local affairs means peace and political stability to the nation as a whole. Moreover, regional sovereignty would help in resolving the perennial Kashmir problem.

The slogan “unity in diversity” is meaningless unless that very diversity gets politically recognized and becomes part of the system by granting complete autonomy to the states. And that would indeed strengthen and revolutionize the democratic traditions of India.

US Presidential Race

And the rest of the news from across the border is Bernie Sanders has quit the Democratic nomination race.

He hangs up his hat and let Joe Biden enter the ring where the foregone conclusion is President Trump would have an easy win unless some divine intervention happens.

Flickering pragmatism of Biden wins over the dogmatic consistency of Sanders.

It is the second time in a row that Sanders has dropped out to the disappointment of many looking for a real change in the political environment of the USA.

Americans expected this change from Barrick Obama. But more words were delivered by him than actions during his two-term at the White House.

Come, Biden, there is hardly a difference of red and blue in the baggage he carries. The contents of the baggage have enough of his personal choices that are in line with the Republican Party from wars in foreign lands to the domestic social or economic issues.

Is the November presidential election would be a battle between the two-in-one political figures or based on some real ideological differences?

So far, being a “moderate” candidate, Biden has not demonstrated a distinct approach to challenge the style of rule with Trump stamp on it.

What can Biden do to offer a marked difference in the election fray?

He can pick up where Sanders has left his progressive agenda related to domestic and foreign policies. He must adopt those elements that appealed to the young voters.

To reinforce Sanders’ legacy, Biden can seriously consider Elizabeth Warren as his vice-presidential running mate because she echoes many of veteran socialist’s policy statements.

If not, the upcoming presidential vote would turn out to be a predictable and bland one.

-By Promod Puri

Shaeen Bagh Women Protest Unique

Indian women protest new citizenship laws, joining a global ‘fourth wave’ feminist movement

Women in Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh neighborhood are protesting a new Indian citizenship law that they say will discriminate against Muslims, women – and, particularly, Muslim women.
Burhaan Kinu/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

Alka Kurian, University of Washington, Bothell

Women are among the strongest opponents of two new laws in India that threaten the citizenship rights of vulnerable groups like Muslims, poor women, oppressed castes and LGBTQ people.

The Citizenship Amendment Act, passed in December 2019, fast-tracks Indian citizenship for undocumented refugees from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan – but only those who are non-Muslim. Another law – the National Register of Citizens – will require all residents in India to furnish extensive legal documentation to prove their citizenship as soon as 2021.

Critics see the two laws as part of the government’s efforts to redefine the meaning of belonging in India and make this constitutionally secular country a Hindu nation.

Since Dec. 4, 2019, Indians of all ages, ethnicities and religions have been protesting the new citizenship initiatives in scattered but complementary nationwide demonstrations. The uprisings have persisted through weeks of arrests, beatings and even killings across India by the police.

But the most enduring pocket of resistance is an around-the-clock sit-in of mostly hijab-wearing women in a working-class Delhi neighborhood called Shaheen Bagh.

Women take charge

Since Dec. 15, 2019, women of all ages – from students to 90-year-old grandmothers – have abandoned their daily duties and braved near-freezing temperatures to block a major highway in the Indian capital.

This is a striking act of resistance in a patriarchal country where women – but particularly Muslim women – have historically had their rights denied.

The Shaheen Bagh movement uses both novel and traditional forms of protests, including marches, silent sit-ins and musical performances.
Biplov Bhuyan/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

The Shaheen Bagh protests are as novel in their methods as they are in their makeup. Protesters are using artwork, book readings, lectures, poetry recitals, songs, interfaith prayers and communal cooking to explain their resistance to citizenship laws that, they say, will discriminate against not just Muslims but also women, who usually don’t have state or property papers in their own names.

On Jan. 11, women in the Indian city of Kolkata performed a Bengali-language version of a Chilean feminist anthem called “The Rapist is You.” This choreographed public flash dance, first staged in Santiago, Chile in November 2019, calls out the police, judiciary and government for violating women’s human rights.

A dangerous place for women

India is the world’s most dangerous country for women, according to the Thompson Reuters Foundation. One-third of married women are physically abused. Two-thirds of rapes go unpunished.

Gender discrimination is so pervasive that around 1 million female fetuses are aborted each year. In some parts of India, there are 126 men for every 100 women.

Indian women have come together in protest before, to speak out against these and other issues. But most prior women’s protests were limited in scope and geography. The 2012 brutal gang rape and murder of a 23-year-old Delhi woman – which sparked nationwide protests – was a watershed moment. All at once, the country witnessed the power of women’s rage.

The current women-led anti-citizenship law demonstrations are even greater in number and power. Beyond Shaheen Bagh, Indian women across caste, religion and ethnicity are putting their bodies and reputations on the line.

A Shaheen Bagh protest song.

Female students are intervening to shield fellow students from police violence at campus protests. Actresses from Bollywood, India’s film industry, are speaking out against gender violence, too.

Women’s secular agenda

With their non-violent tactics and inclusive strategy, the Shaheen Bagh women are proving to be effective critics of the government’s Hindu-centric agenda. Their leaderless epicenter of resistance raises up national symbols like the Indian flag, the national anthem and the Indian Constitution as reminders that India is secular and plural – a place where people can be both Muslim and Indian.

The Shaheen Bagh movement’s novel and enduring strategy has triggered activism elsewhere in the country.

Thousands of women in the northern Indian city of Lucknow started their own sit-in in late January. Similar “Shaheen Baghs” have sprung up since, in the cities of Patna and even Chennai, which is located 1,500 miles from Delhi.

Anti-citizenship law protests in India’s Assam State, Feb. 16, 2020.
Anuwar Ali Hazarika/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

Global women’s spring

India’s Shaheen Bagh protests form part of a broader global trend in women’s movements. Worldwide, female activists are combining attention to women’s issues with a wider call for social justice across gender, class and geographic borders.

In January 2019 alone, women in nearly 90 countries took to the streets demanding equal pay, reproductive rights and the end of violence. Young women were also at the forefront of the 2019 pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, Lebanon, Sudan, Brazil and Colombia.

As I write in my 2017 book, such inclusive activism is the defining characteristic of what’s called “fourth wave feminism.”

There isn’t a common definition of the first three feminist waves. In the United States, they generally refer to the early 20th century suffragette movement, the radical women’s movement of the 1960s and 1970s and the more mainstream feminism of the 1990s and early 2000s.

Fourth wave feminism appears to be more universal. Today’s activists fully embrace the idea that women’s freedom means little if other groups are still oppressed. With its economic critique, disavowal of caste oppression and solidarity across religious divides, India’s Shaheen Bagh sit-in shares attributes with the women’s uprisings in Chile, Lebanon, Hong Kong and beyond.

The last time women came together in such numbers worldwide was the #MeToo movement, a campaign against sexual harassment which emerged on social media in the United States in 2017 and quickly spread across the globe.

Shaheen Bagh and similarly far-reaching women’s uprisings underway in other countries take #MeToo to the next level, moving from a purely feminist agenda to a wider call for social justice. Women protesters want rights – not just for themselves, but human rights for all.

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Alka Kurian, Senior Lecturer, School of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, University of Washington, Bothell

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

What Causes Native Chiefs Opposition To Gas Pipelines

Among the First Nation communities, there are Hereditary Chiefs and the “elected” chiefs.

And this institutional binary is the primary reason that the proposed natural gas pipeline issue has put Canada in a standstill spot with blockades stopping rail and road traffics across the country.

In the traditional form of First Nations governance, Hereditary chiefs are higher than elected Chiefs, especially on issues like this one, where their lands and cultures are in danger by encroaching developments.

The epicenter of the Canada-wide protests is the indigenous lands of Wet’suwet’en outside the village of Burns Lake in British Columbia.

The proposed pipeline would pass through the Wet’suwet’en lands that have not been permitted by the Hereditary Chiefs.

However, of the five Wet’suwet’en elected band chiefs, only the Hagwilget Village Council declined to sign benefits agreements with the LNG pipeline. The remaining four elected Chiefs signed the go-ahead arrangement.

It is being claimed that “based on Wet’suwet’en and Canadian law, it’s ultimately the hereditary chiefs who have jurisdiction to the territory, and they have been clear about their aim—to assert self-governance over their land and demand a nation-to-nation relationship with Canada.”

The opposing positions of two sets of Chiefs are the cause of the current situation over the Native blockades that are making headlines in Canada.

In the latest development, two Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs have launched a constitutional challenge against the Trudeau government in the federal court. It seeks commitment from Ottawa that to achieve climate targets, the government must “modify or cancel” energy projects like the one under construction in BC by the Coastal GasLink pipeline.

The court challenge, in its statement, says that “Canada has a constitutional obligation to adhere to its emissions targets under the Paris Agreement.”

Coastal GasLink has a  $6.6-billion pipeline project from northeast BC that would deliver natural gas to LNG Canada. The latter is building an $18-billion terminal in Kitimat, BC, to export liquefied natural gas to Asia.

Kitimat is booming with construction works, creating plenty of jobs, mainly benefitting the Native workers. A big boost to the local economy is what the expectations are amid environmental concerns, including some erosion in the traditions and cultures of the Wet’nuwet’en nations.

 (Promod Puri worked as editor of the New Nation, a Native and Metis weekly newspaper from Winnipeg in the early ‘70s. he is a journalist, writer, and author of Hinduism beyond rituals, customs, and traditions.) 

Kejriwal’s Simple Ideology Is Good Governance  

330px-Arvind_Kejriwal_September_02,_2017_cropDelhi election straight three-time winner Arvind Kejriwal is politically neither a Leftist nor a Rightist. His politics is simplistic in its approach to have honest and good governance. It seeks real results nor promises.

Kejriwal’s swift rise and popularity after his dedicated support to anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare made him a new class of leader who does not show leanings towards the worn-out Left and Right political platforms. Some Leftists tried to steer the leadership away from him in the early stage of his political entrance, but he fought back. They were out from his natural turf.

Kejriwal is a grassroots political worker. He is, in the real sense a simple “aam aadmi.” That means an ordinary person determined to make his moves in the tangled and corrupt politics of contemporary India.

In fact, under the lamp of India’s shadowy Modi’s rule, Kejriwal offers a luminous light of good, secular, and democratic governance in the capital city-state of Delhi.

By Promod Puri

BJP’S LEGACY COMPARED TO CONGRESS

If the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party in India is responsible for the structural damage of democracy in India under the fervency of its Hindutva agenda, then the record of the Congress is not clean either.

Under the leadership of Indira Gandhi, India’s democracy was subverted overnight with the declaration of Emergency in 1975. However, in the subsequent national election, the Congress Party was mercilessly beaten. Thanks to the intactness of the Election Commission that was not tinkered with weaponry of the Indira Gandhi emergency.

In that respect, we can say there was resilience in India’s democracy.

But now, it is the institutional chiseling that has been purposely done to carve out a non-secular nation based on narrow confines of the Hindutva agenda.

The latest salvo being the amendment of the Citizenship Act with its discriminatory provision to offer citizenship to all the refugees except Muslims. This is followed by the upcoming National Registry of Citizenship that could be impacted by the corrupt bureaucratic system biased towards the Muslim population. It has already happened in the state of Assam.

Hindutva is an agenda that is fundamentally anti-Hindu. The identity of Hinduism lies in its wide-open structure where liberal, secular and diverse customs and traditions co-exist and flourish.

Pursuing the Hindutva agenda also goes against the very spirit of democratic India in which its national institutions play non-religious, non-political, professional and bureaucratic roles crucial for unbiased, audited and scrutinized direction to the governing party in the conduct of nation’s business.

But when these institutions are politically fixed, controlled and manipulated or even nixed by the governing party to uphold its power base then the damage is being done to them.

And this is where the BJP’s legacy, compared to the Congress Party, is being established by its leadership.

-By Promod Puri

INDIA TODAY

While the Lathi-raj, enforced by the police and goons, is in full swing, the BJP bhagats are kept ignorant and brainwashed that everything is normal, India is progressing, and going to the moon.
For most of the Hindu population, especially in urban middle or upper-middle-class, there is insensitivity towards the seriousness of the new anti-minority Citizenship Act, that deprives the citizenship to “undocumented citizens.” Their consciousness can’t hear the nationwide protests against the discriminatory law. They are not sitting on the fence. Instead, they have boxed themselves in fear and apathy.
That is the sorry state of India today.
-By Promod Puri

Radical Changes In India’s Secularism Thru New Citizenship Act


Protests have engulfed Assam since the National Register of Citizens was published in August 2019. They have intensified since the Citizenship Amendment Act was passed by the parliament. Central security forces, pictured here, have been sent in to repress the spontaneous protests by different citizens groups. (Arunabh Saikia),

Author provided Sara Shneiderman, University of British Columbia and Sahana Ghosh, Brown University

Nearly two million residents of India’s eastern state of Assam are at risk of losing citizenship. The National Register of Citizens (NRC) published by the state government in August 2019 declares people who cannot prove they came to the state before March 1971, the day before neighbouring Bangladesh declared independence from Pakistan, to be foreigners.

According to Fernand de Varennes, the UN Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues, this is potentially “the biggest exercise in statelessness since the Second World War.” Those excluded are primarily poor and marginalized people who can not adequately prove their citizenship.

As the 120 days granted to appeal for those excluded from the National Register of Citizens in Assam comes to an end, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah have announced they will implement the NRC across the country. This catastrophic move is part of a broader state project to unravel the secular, inclusive basis of citizenship in India by targeting the country’s Muslim minority and other marginalized communities.

Included in their plan is the unilateral repeal of Kashmir’s constitutional self-determination in August 2019, and the Citizenship Amendment Act passed in December 2019, which omits Muslim migrants from obtaining naturalized citizenship.

Seeking out “illegal migrants” — which in India has become synonymous with “Bangladeshi Muslim” — the National Register of Citizens has torn apart families as some members find themselves excluded from the list. Reports indicate a gendered dimension to this exclusion, with women suffering most from this bureaucratic violence and in detention.

Militarized borders

When Dulal Paul, a man in a detention camp in Tezpur, Assam, died in October 2019, his kin in India refused to accept his body. Since Indian authorities had, they said, declared Paul to be a “foreigner” and “a Bangladeshi,” Paul’s family asked them to send his body to Bangladesh. They forced the authorities to acknowledge the fatal inconsistencies within their own system. Bangladesh, meanwhile, insists that it has no citizens living illegally in India.

Many excluded from the NRC have no claim to citizenship elsewhere. Our research shows that South Asia’s historically flexible borders mean that many who have lived their entire lives in India may not have the full complement of documentary evidence to prove it. The practice of recording births and marriages is relatively recent, and even those who have documents have been excluded because of minor inconsistencies in the spelling of names or dates of birth. Regardless of documentary proof, those people had no reason to think they would ever be required to produce evidence. They had established livelihoods and relationships in their Indian communities — and there was nowhere else they could call home.

Migration and the question of who belongs has been central to Assam’s politics since the very inception of postcolonial India’s citizenship acts. Militarized borders have become a focal point to unify and stoke disparate anxieties around minorities and majoritarian identity, just as they have with Brexit in the United Kingdom and the detention and separation of families at the United States-Mexico border.

The rise of Hindutva nationalism

The Assam Agitation of 1979-85 demanded the detection and deportation of all “foreigners” regardless of religion or ethnicity. The regional political history of Assam has dovetailed uneasily with the rise of Hindutva nationalism. Their leaders have pledged to detect and deport Muslim “illegal immigrants.”

The religious basis of the NRC becomes explicit with the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) just approved by the parliament. That law ensures that Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, Parsis or Jains facing persecution in neighbouring countries will be eligible for citizenship in India and not treated as illegal migrants while Muslims will be excluded. This imminent constitutional change is a radical transformation of the secular principles of citizenship in India.

Political theorists have rightly suggested that the NRC and the Citizenship Amendment Act must be considered together to grasp the ramifications for India’s secular democracy. The ongoing siege in Kashmir is also a critical part of this equation.

States today deploy techniques of both forced inclusion (for example, the so-called “re-education centres” for Uighur Muslims in China) and forced exclusion (the U.S. Immigration Customs Enforcement deportation of undocumented immigrants, and EU processing centres in Turkey and Africa to keep migrants from reaching Europe) to address majoritarian demands around the perceived problems of mobility and difference. Both strategies are on show simultaneously in India.

Also, in August 2019, the Indian government unilaterally repealed constitutional provisions for autonomy in the state of Jammu and Kashmir — India’s only Muslim-majority state — amid a military siege and complete communication shutdown and curfew, much of which continues to date. Kashmiris have been forcibly included in the Indian polity through a downgrading of their self-governing federal state to a centrally governed Union Territory.

In contrast to Assam, where people are forcibly excluded when they cannot meet the high bar for verifiable documents that demonstrate their residence in the region before 1971, this forcible integration is in complete denial of Kashmiri demands for azadi, freedom.

Both actions reveal an Indian state intent on weaponizing the bureaucratic logic of citizenship as a strategy for securing its borders. The nation has been working to radically reshape its secular polity along Hindu nationalist lines by expelling or repressing Muslim minorities. Dissent against the CAA and the attack on secularism is being violently quelled by the government, particularly on university campuses across the country, including in Delhi.

Protesting against human rights violations in all of these locations — both already perpetrated and yet to come — is critical. But effective long-term political action, within India and elsewhere, must address shared structural concerns in Assam and Kashmir where profoundly exclusionary forms of Hindu nationalism seek to strip certain kinds of people of demographic and political power.

Those committed to justice and fighting fascism must recognize and reject the linked logics of weaponized citizenship in Kashmir and Assam. Experiences there are neither isolated nor exceptional; instead, these margins have long been subjected to the violent repression that has moved to India’s centres today.

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Political Anarchism Brewing In India

When political opposition becomes ineffective, or it is almost non-existence, political anarchism takes place led by leaderless young revolutionaries against the governing party and its leadership.

This is precisely the situation in India where the Congress Party and other major opposition groups, including the Left fronts, are hardly visible on the street to oppose the anti-Muslim acts in the government’s new citizenship amendments.

India has exploded in recent weeks with violent protests by the students from every major university in the country. They’re demonstrating against the discriminatory rejection of Muslim migrants, while fast-tracking permanent residency for non-Muslim refugees from the neighboring countries.

The students’ demonstrations and outcries have been met by police firing and brutality. The war game has started. “People’s Power” seems to be emerging in an anarchist spread by the students’ solidarity.

-By Promod Puri

India’s New Citizenship Act Discriminatory Towards Muslims

by Promod Puri

There have been some severe and quick fundamental transformations taking place in India to reweave the social and secular fabric of the nation.

In this operation, the country’s citizenship act has been stoked to allow only non-Muslims, migrants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan for permanent residency.

This is where the problem erupted and escalating to angry protests all over the country and triggering strong condemnation across the globe.

The Citizenship Amendment Act was passed in both houses of Parliament early this month. In the majority ruled Bhartiya Janata Party coalition, prime minister Narendra Modi’s trusted lieutenant Home Minister Amit Shah delivered the controversial changes.

The changes are clearly discriminatory both in its spirit and practice. It lays the path for non-secular India to make Muslims feel outcaste. They can’t be part of saffron India conceived in the Hindutva frame.

“If Hindus in Pakistan want to move to India, why not Muslim in India go to Pakistan,” was one anti-Muslim post I recently noticed on the social media.

That is the mood the BJP and its ‘Parivar’ are catering to meet their longstanding agenda of a theocratic and monolithic “Hindu Rashtra.”

The very notion of such a state violates the fundamentals of the Indian constitution as a secular nation in a multi-religious and multi-ethnic society. India, unlike Pakistan, was not envisioned as a purely Hindu state at the time of the partition in 1947. The commitment to the secular character of the nation was authored and signed by its first law minister, Dr. Ambedkar.

The Citizenship Amendment Act, along with another BJP government trap, the National Register of Citizens, sends out a clear message that Muslims are being segregated to be second-class citizens in a country where ethnic and religious equality is enshrined in its constitution.

India is the home of the third-largest population (10.9 %) of Muslims in the world after Indonesia (12.7 %) and Pakistan (11.0 %).

The idiotic argument of “go to Pakistan” is racist, anti-national, and anti-constitutional. This is the same constitution upon which the BJP lawmakers and their partners offered their pledge to uphold its fundamentals of secularism.

 

Canada Can Resume Its Global Image With NDP-backed Liberal Minority Govt.

By Promod Puri

Irrespective of the party’s reduced numbers from 39 to 24, Jagmeet Singh’s led New Democratic Party is going to have more clout in the governing politics and policies of Canada.

Justin Trudeau’s Liberals won 157 seats compared to 177 in the 2015 election. Short of 170-mark, the ruling party needs NDP’s backing for its second term to rule as a minority government.

The 24-seat NDP win, in fact, has halted the surge of the Conservative Party that raised its strength from 95 to 121. Throughout the election campaign, the poll numbers gave the Tories some percentage point lead over the Liberals.

The loss of the Liberal seats did not result in the gain for the Tories. Come, Jagmeet Singh, the NDP did not let Canada’s political Right to takeover the loosely linked Left-of-the-centre and the Left political turf.

In the election juggernaut, the NDP leader led an impressive and clean campaign that earned him the distinction of as the most admirable and likable leader compared to Trudeau and Andrew Sheer of the right-wing Conservative Party. Jagmeeet Singh’s popularity was rated at 59 percent compared to around 30 percent each for Trudeau and Sheer.

In fact, the proud turbaned leader emerged as the real hero in the electoral fights throughout the campaigns, where besides campaigning, he was seeking acceptance of his ethnic identity as well.

An interesting interaction took place on October 2 when a fellow Canadian in Quebec asked New Democratic Leader to “cut off” his turban to look “like a Canadian.”
In a poised and cool manner, which is the image he has created for himself, Jagmeet Singh responded: “I think Canadians look like all sorts of people.”

The man tried another approach: “in Rome, you do as the Romans do.” A polite response from Mr. Singh: “But this is Canada, you can do whatever you like.”
In agreement, the man nodded, “I hope you win.”

Jagmeet Singh came to federal politics only in 2017, and it has been a challenging task to introduce himself in an outfit not much seen before. But he dared to do so without compromising with his Sikh identity. Even many among the Indo-Canadian community have been uneasy with his round style of “pagg.”

Ethnic identity representation is part of the Canadian mosaic. Jagmeet Singh contributes to this aspect of Canadian multiculturalism both in his personal and political life.

Besides being a symbol of Canada’s multiculturalism, Jagmeet Singh, as leader of the Left-leaning NDP, now has some control steering the direction Canada moves domestically and globally.

In the upcoming minority government, he and his party, in partnership with the Liberal Party, are expected to resume the progressive agenda that made Canada a global symbol in the worldwide struggle against the rise of authoritarianism, populism, and white nationalism.

The Trudeau government was marked by compassionate policies to welcome thousands of refugees in the last few years, increased immigration quotas, a record number of ethnic and women ministers in his cabinet, and emotional apologies for the serious wrongs past Canadian governments committed on indigenous peoples and visible minorities.

But lately, there has been a conspicuous erosion of his progressive platform that relates to environmental issues, human rights, and continuing sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia, notorious for its human rights violations and crimes.

The Liberal-NDP combine will get Canada back to its liberal, humanist, and compassionate image in the world left with a few rules-based, progressive, and true democracies.

(Promod Puri is a writer, journalist, and author of Hinduism Beyond Rituals, Customs, and Traditions. Websites: promodpuri.com, progressivehindudialogue.com, and promodpuri.blogspot.com) 

 

Jagmeet Singh Plugs Fortune Of Sheer As PM

Promod Puri
“We’re not going to support a Conservative government; we’re going to fight a Conservative government; we’re going to fight it all the way. We’re ready to do whatever it takes.”
With that straightforward and definitive statement, New Democratic Party leader Jagmeet Singh has plugged the fortune of Conservative Party leader becoming the next Prime Minister of Canada, given the neck-to-neck race with the Liberal Party.
As none of the two leading parties are expected to capture the magic number of 170 seats out of 338, Jagmeet Singh’s declared choice to support the Justin Trudeau led Liberal Party is the likely scenario post-election.
Will it be a coalition between the Liberal and the NDP? In that case, Jagmeet Singh or a few others from his party will hold ministerial portfolios. Even the NDP leader could become deputy prime minister, a historic chapter for the South Asian Canadian community.
Another alternative is a minority formation of the government when the NDP will lend the tactical support to various pieces of legislation. The moment that backing is withdrawn, the minority government collapses. Minority governments usually do not last very long because it is hard for the majority partner to keep the minority partner happy all the time. However, this arrangement is working fine so far in British Columbia where the Green Party is supporting the ruling provincial NDP.

NDP May Not Win Enough Seats To Support Minority Govt.

It is going to be a minority rule in Canada as neither the Liberal Party nor the Conservative Party is going to get the winning number of 170 seats as per all the poll indications.

Meanwhile, the trajectory of New Democratic Party leader Jagmeet Singh in recent weeks as the most favorable leader by most of the polls and the media may not land him to the position of a kingmaker in the formation of the next government in Canada.

That crucial role now belongs to the Parti Quebecois with the projection of 31 seats compared to 24 by the NDP. The Liberal Party is expected to win more seats (143) than the Conservative Party (133).

These numbers are from ‘338 Canada Seat Projection’, a poll model “based on opinion polls, the electoral history of Canadian provinces and demographic data.” The model is the creation of P.J. Fournier, astronomy and physics professor at Cégep de Saint-Laurent in Montréal.

Promod Puri

Andrew Sheer A Leader Without Lifetime Experiences

Can a person get into politics straight after finishing school or college education? And sticks to that as a career. For most politicians, this is not the case. Before entering politics, they had careers in different vocations. This is called lifetime experiences in their professional fields. Moreover, this is of vital help in political pursuits with the background and maturity in public life.

But this has not been the case with Canada’s Progressive Conservative Party leader Andrew Sheer.

His first real job, aside from brief stints as a waiter, insurance broker, and political aide, was a 25-year-old Member of Parliament. In this political career, he moved on to become Speaker of the House at the age of 32.

To be an MP and then the Speaker at a very young age may be a matter of pride for Mr. Sheer. But when he lacks lifetime experiences in public life, the age maturity matters.

-Promod Puri

JAGMEET SINGH AND CANADIAN CULTURE

queens-park-u100kAn interesting interaction took place October 2 when a fellow Canadian in Quebec asked New Democratic Leader Jagmeet Singh to “cut off” his turban to look “like a Canadian.”

In a poised and cool manner, which is the image he has created for himself, Jagmeet Singh responded: “I think Canadians look like all sorts of people.”The man tried another approach: “in Rome, you do as the Romans do,.” A polite response from Mr. Singh: “But this is Canada, you can do whatever you like.”

In agreement, the man nodded, “I hope you win.”

The encounter between the two Canadians with different cultural backgrounds, the antiquated proverb “in Rome, you do as the Romans do” has a broader meaning from the Canadian perspective.

The question is ‘what is Canada’s culture’?

The simple and clear answer lies in its multicultural fundamentals, where “Canadians look like all sorts of people.” Canada is not a monolithic society and was never like that since its inception. The culture of multi-culture is an ever-evolving and a developing phenomenon of this nation.

In a contemporary cosmopolitan society “in Canada, you do as Canadians do” is much more contemporary than “in Rome, you do as the Romans do.”

-by Promod Puri

There Is Faith In Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau’s Ethnic Sentiments

His father, Pierre Trudeau, was an intellectual statesman. Justin Trudeau falls into that grade. The genes are there.download (4) trudeau seniordownload (4) justin trudeau

He is a “thoughtful and intelligent guy”, commented former Liberal leader Bob Rae. In his policies, we hope for better and more compassionate Canada.

The clear majority gained by the Liberal Party under his leadership in the 2014 election not only demonstrated the rejection of ultra-right-wing politics of discrimination, anti-immigration and fake security concerns, but it restored the confidence in Canadian values of humanism and compassion.

Justin Trudeau’s rise to political leadership has been like that of an ordinary common man. He worked his own way to climb that ladder. He was not handed life in politics on a platter as being the son of legendary former prime minister.

His adult life began as a school teacher, snowboard instructor, bouncer in a night club, and playing the role of a war hero in a World War 1 TV drama. These credentials show the traits of a young man trying to gain some space in society.

He also has a tattoo of Haida nation printed on his arms. He loves ethnic food; his first outing with his date, now his wife Sophie, was to Khyber Pass, an Afghan restaurant in Montreal. He is an ace Bhangra dancer too.

From this simple portfolio, we can see him as a down-to-earth leader with a thoughtful and intelligent approach to run the affairs of the nation.

He has expressed openness to let in all the views and concerns in dealing with environmental issues.

He pursues a humanitarian and independent foreign policy which is not influenced by the big brothers south of the border. This foreign policy puts Canada in its traditional role of no-combat military involvements, but for peaceful missions only.

His domestic liberal policies include: legalizing marijuana, protection of transgender people, reuniting families of immigrants, reinvigorate ethnic cultures and diversities, and bring more diversity in the government. One of the outstanding features of his leadership has been welcoming refugees.

Mr. Trudeau has recognized the true multicultural fabric of Canada. It was also the hallmark of his father’s political life when he declared multiculturalism as the official policy of the Canadian government.

He has shown his enthusiastic participation in ethnic cultural events. More than that he recognizes the contribution of Canada’s ethnic diversity to make this nation a truly multicultural society of equal opportunities.

There is faith in Mr. Trudeau’s ethnic sentiments. And that is the kind of leadership the ethnic communities feel encouraged to see their involvement in Canadian affairs.

-Promod Puri

(Credit: The picture portrait of Pierre Trudeau on the right is by artist Mayanwy Spencer Pavelic. It hangs in the gallery of theHouse of Commons)  

EXCITING ELECTION STEAMING UP IN CANADA

As the starting gun waqueens-park-u100ks fired2015-Swearing-In-Large this week for October 21 election campaign, the ruling Liberal Party and the opposition Conservative Party are running almost neck-to-neck with 34 and 35 percent support respectively, according to the latest poll.

Besides, this close-race pairing, another crucial dual emerging fast, is the 11 percent support for each of the New Democratic Party and the Green Party.

And then there is a new political sneaker this time representing the Far-Right burrows of Canada. The guy is the disgruntled former Conservative, Maxime Bernier, who launched the People’s Party last year. Currently, it is getting three percent approval, according to the poll.

The real race, which is traditional in Canadian power politics, has always been between the Liberal and the Conservative parties. And this time is no different. However, the difference in this election fray is the emergence of the Green Party.

The Green is creating a strong wind to shift the direction of Canadian politics. The party will share the stage with the New Democratic Party in the roles of being the kingmaker. After all, both the NDP and the Green ideologically sit together in the same political carousal. They ride on the environmental issues facing Canada and the world. The difference between the two is only of degree.

How the post-election game will play depends upon how much the supporting parties, i.e. the NDP and the Green, can extract from either of the Liberal or the Conservative to meet their poll promises and ideological commitments.

The post-election arena would be as much exciting as during the entire campaign period. In that excitement, all eyes will be on NDP leader Jagmeet Singh and the Green Party leader Elizabeth May as which side of the seesaw they will sit.

Promod Puri

THAT SILENCE IS NEWS TOO:

The unrest and protests in the Kashmir Valley over the abrogation of Article 370 have made it insignificant the overwhelming silence and calm in Ladakh, Kargil, Jammu, Kishtwar, Doda, Rajouri, Poonch, Udhampur and other regions of the vast state of Jammu and Kashmir.

The tranquil scene in these regions has a message in it. However, that message is insignificant. What is significant and newsworthy is the hostile and volatile atmosphere in the Kashmir region. But that is not new. The mindset bias is always inspired by what happens in the Valley.

Does not this silence matter in understanding the Kashmir Problem? It seems not.

Intellectuals, academics, journalists, Leftists, and others “progressive” communities in India and all over the world avoid considering this fact. Perhaps, that would unload them from the bandwagon.

A fair perception of the entire state of Jammu and Kashmir problem is the need before delving on the Kashmir problem and its related developments.

-Promod Puri

NDP LEADER JAGMEET SINGH’S IMAGE BEYOND POLITICS

By Promod Puriqueens-park-u100k

The man is more than his round turban and drawn beard. He is also the most well-dressed politician among his peers in the Canadian parliament.

Federal New Democratic Party leader Jagmeet Singh is an identity reflecting the spirit and reality of the contemporary Canadian society. In the multi-religious, multi-language, and multi-cultural environment of the nation, he stands out in his physical appearance with conviction.

The dynamics of his visible presentation is not only to represent himself with his Sikh heritage. But he wants to see the same pride among the peoples of Canada in their own cultural medley.

“I’m not like the others,” he tells Quebecers during his recent trip to the province. “Like you, I’m proud of my identity.”

The statement, “like you…”, while recognizing the French-Canadian linguistic and cultural identity, seeks the same importance for the rest of the Canadian identities. His words are portrayed in his being the way he grooms himself with his colorful turban and a long beard.

In his three-piece suit and matching tie, Jagmeet Singh does not look like a politician of the Left or socialist mold. In that dressed up outlook, he is a typical Canadian out to do his political business.

Jagmeet Singh is indeed a man with guts. His appearance and dressing are guided by his self-confidence. He does not want to efface his faith-based symbolism for easy acceptance and political gains.

He entered the federal political arena to lead the socialist agenda of the NDP. Besides that, Jagmeet Singh has an added message, symbolized by his turban, that Canada is a land of multiple identities. And each of these identities seeks acceptance and space in its multicultural landscape.

Will Removal Of Article 370 Solve Kashmir Problem?

By Promod Puri

Some action is better than no action. But this action is a big one, shaking the very status of the state of Jammu and Kashmir.
The dillydallying over the Kashmir problem for over 70 years got some kick from the government of India with the announcement that Article 370 is removed from the Constitution. This very article gave special status within the union of India. This special status meant significant autonomy to J and K, that no other state in India has.

Besides the abrogation of Article 370, the Indian government has also bifurcated the state into two central-controlled Union Territories. One is the Jammu-Kashmir region, and the other is Ladakh.

Was Article 370 ever help the people of the state in terms of socio-economic conditions. Or did it ever give some autonomy to Jammu and Ladakh regions within the state? Did Article 370 help in resolving the Kashmir problem. The one answer to all these questions is NO.

Not because anything wrong with the article, rather I support it. Even to the extent that this kind of provision should be granted to every state in India. Autonomy is the key that can guarantee the unity of India by respecting its linguistic and cultural diversities.

The special status under Article 370, instead of honoring its intents, has been exploited by the Kashmiri leadership, more precisely by the Valley. And over the years the Kashmir Problem has become a full-fledged industry controlled by the few families of the Valley and terrorists within the state and across from Pakistan.

Will, the removal of Article 370, will result in big migration of people to the state from the rest of the country over the years? Hitherto, only the subjects can buy properties in the state. This kind of law has been in existence in a few other states of India. But no major migration has so far occurred there. So, there should not be any fear that the removal of the status will result in changing the demographics of the state from Muslim majority to minority.

Although, we can condemn the repealing of Article 370 from the Constitution as the way it got presented in the parliament without any discussion at all, which is not a democratic way. But the whole dramatic exercise is to be considered in the context that over the years the politicians, both in the opposition and in power, talked and talked and talked without resolving the Kashmir Problem.

Now, we have some action, but no talk.

Will all this solve the perennial Kashmir Problem? The answer is no. Because Jammu and Kashmir are two separate identities. Keeping them together without giving regional autonomy to the Jammu region will keep the frustrations of this region alive. Jammu could be the clue to the Kashmir tangle if it gets a fair share of the power within the state. And then there is the “Azad Kashmir” factor also, which is still legally part of the State of Jammu and Kashmir.

Anyway, no action is better than some action to keep the ball rolling. Hopefully, it will stop somewhere, sometime.

PromodPuri is native of Jammu, a journalist, writer, and author of “Hinduism beyond rituals, customs, and traditions.”

Article 370: Its Future In J & K, And For Rest Of India

by Promod Puri

The revocation of Article 370, which covered the entire state of Jammu and Kashmir by giving it significant autonomy, has been received with protests from the Kashmir region while both Jammu and Ladakh are quieter over the issue.

Did not Jammu and Ladakh savor the special status too? Of course, they did. But the tranquil scene in these two regions has a message in it. However, that message is insignificant. What is significant and newsworthy is the hostile and volatile atmosphere in the Kashmir region.

The international media and political pundits in both the academic and journalistic circles have focussed on the technicalities involved in removing Article 370 as well as warning of some catastrophe in this already unstable region by disturbing the status quo.

Moreover, in their explanation and subsequent analysis, only the psyche of the Kashmiri mind reflects on representing the entire state. What Jammu and Ladakh people think is being ignored. But that is not new. The mindset bias is always inspired by what happens in the Valley.

In a fair and objective study, the Jammu and Ladakh perspective over Article 370 removal deserves as much attention as that portrayed for Kashmir.

The article 370 ever since it became part of the unique feature of the state granting more powers to it than to any other state in the Union of India, has not united the three regions, namely Jammu, Kashmir, and Ladakh. They were different from each other for centuries, and they remain different up to now.

Bridges to connect the medley were seldom attempted. For example, nobody in Jammu can speak or understand Kashmiri language or for that matter Ladakh’s Bodhi language. No inter-racial marriages among the three regions of the state either.

Article 370 gave enough powers to the state without interference from the Delhi regime. The same powers could be used to establish an independent political and bureaucratic mechanism geared towards the diverse nature of its three regions.

The J and K regimes over the years did not give regional autonomies to its three regions. Whereas, it attained significant autonomy from the Centre. The intactness of the state was comprehended to create a composite personality out of its social, religious, and linguistic diversities.

It was a post-independence experiment in creating a workable political homogeneity out of its multi-facet heterogeneity. But this exercise has failed.

Article 370 became irrelevant as for as regional autonomies were concerned. It has not worked because of the distinct linguistic and cultural multiplicities within the state. Moreover, Article 370, despite its autonomous values, is pointless in front of the human psychological fact where the dominance of one group always prevails, even though the constitutional guaranties ensure equality.

But Article 370 cannot be rejected.

Basically, there is nothing wrong with Article 370, rather I support it. Even to the extent that this kind of provision should be granted to every state in India. Autonomy is the key which can guarantee the unity of India by respecting its linguistic and cultural diversities.

Keeping the Kashmir experience aside, it is more viable in those states of India where commonality of language and culture exists. The merits of Article 370 lie in its granting more freedoms to individual states in the monolithic situation.

India is a nation of nations. And each of these nations or the states has its own uniformity in terms of language and culture. In the case of Jammu and Kashmir, the demographics are distinctly different in its vast geographical and diverse landscape.

Article 370 can be and should be reintroduced in Jammu and Kashmir when eventually, these two regions become separate states based on their individual identities.

(Promod Puri hails from Jammu, now living in Vancouver, Canada. He is a journalist, writer, and author of Hinduism Beyond Rituals, Customs, And Traditions.)

Websites: promodpuri.com, progressivehindudialogue.com, Promodpuri.blogspot.com

 

Separation Of Jammu from Kashmir Will Prune Kashmir Problem

Apple and oranges don’t mix. They grow in separate regions and in separate climates. They have separate shapes and separate tastes.

Jammu grows oranges, sweet and juicy. Kashmir grows apples, luscious and crispy. Put them together in a box. And market it as a product of Kashmir. That is simply deceptive labeling. It should be marked as a product of Jammu And Kashmir.

That is the same subtle difference when Kashmir and Jammu are packaged together linguistically, socially, and politically. And the entity is stamped as Kashmir. For example, Jammu does not speak Kashmiri, and Kashmir does not speak Dogri.

But this has been a political packaging done by Kashmiri leaders while ignoring the different reality existing in the Jammu region. The rest of the world, including people in India, believe that Kashmir carries one identity of the same language, same culture, and the same religion.

The simple but mostly ignored reason is that the colloquial Kashmir Problem is not representative of all the diverse regions of the state, as well as those held by Pakistan. The occasional violence erupts only in the valley, not in other parts of the state. We seldom hear about political protests and fury in Jammu or Ladakh regions, or even for that matter in Pakistan-controlled “Azad Kashmir.”

With the recent reorganization of the state where Ladakh is detached and becomes an independent entity, separation of Jammu from Kashmir based on the distinct realities is due as well.

Jammu will love it, and perhaps Kashmir too.

And in the process, the perennial Kashmir Problem can be pruned. After all, timely pruning is important, besides oranges and apples, for the healthy growth of the beautiful regions of both Kashmir and Jammu

BY Promod Puri

Will Removal Of Article 370 Solve Kashmir Problem?

By Promod Puri

Some action is better than no action. But this action is a big one, shaking the very status of the state of Jammu and Kashmir.

The dillydallying over the Kashmir problem for over 70 years got some kick from the government of India with the announcement that Article 370 is removed from the Constitution. This very article gave special status within the union of India. This special status meant significant autonomy to J and K, which no other state in India has.

Besides the abrogation of Article 370, the Indian government has also bifurcated the state into two central-controlled Union Territories. One is the Jammu-Kashmir region, and the other is Ladakh.

Was Article 370 ever help the people of the state in terms of socio-economic conditions. Or did it ever give some autonomy to Jammu and Ladakh regions within the state? Did Article 370 help in resolving the Kashmir problem. The answer is NO.

Not because anything wrong with the article, rather I support it. Even to the extent that this kind of provision should be granted to every state in India. Autonomy is the key which can guarantee the unity of India by respecting its linguistic and cultural diversities.

The special status under Article 370, instead of honoring its intents, has been exploited by the Kashmiri leadership, more precisely by the Valley. And over the years the Kashmir Problem has become a full-fledged industry controlled by the few families of the Valley and terrorists within the state and across from Pakistan.

Will, the removal of Article 370, will result in big migration of people to the state from the rest of the country over the years? Hitherto, only the subjects can buy properties in the state. This kind of law has been in existence in a few other states of India. But no major migration has so far occurred there. So, there should not be any fear that the removal of the status will result in changing the demographics of the state from Muslim majority to minority.

Although, we can condemn the repealing of Article 370 from the Constitution as the way it got presented in the parliament without any discussion at all, which is not a democratic way. But the whole dramatic exercise is to be considered in the context that over the years the politicians, both in the opposition and in power, talked and talked and talked without resolving the Kashmir Problem.

Now, we have some action, but no talk.

Will all this solve the perennial Kashmir Problem? The answer is no. Because Jammu and Kashmir are two separate identities. Keeping them together without giving regional autonomy to Jammu region will keep the frustrations of this region alive. Jammu could be the clue to the Kashmir tangle if it gets a fair share of the power within the state. And then there is the “Azad Kashmir” factor also, which is still legally part of the State of Jammu and Kashmir.

Anyway, no action is better than some action to keep the ball rolling. Hopefully, it will stop somewhere, sometime.

Promod Puri, Vancouver, BC, is native of Jammu, journalist, writer, and author of “Hinduism beyond rituals, customs, and traditions.”

Rise Of People’s Party Would Help Liberals

By Promod Puri
The best thing which can happen to the Liberal Party in the October election would be the rise of Maxime Bernier People’s Party.
According to the latest poll, the People’s Party has three percent support across Canada. And if the party gathers momentum, the kicked-out leader from the Conservative Party would significantly help the Liberals by vote-splitting among the diehard Conservatives.

That would be a strategical development on which the Liberals will keep a tab in its game plan for the upcoming federal election.


In the meantime, the latest numbers as gathered by the Research Co., suggest the Liberal Party has 34 percent support among the decided voters, while the Conservative Party has 31 percent.


Keeping in mind there is always an error of 2 to 3 percent, it is a neck to neck fight if the election were held tomorrow.


About the score of the other parties, 17 percent would vote for the Jagmeet Singh led New Democratic Party. The Green Party has 10 percent support, and the Bloc Quebecois sits at 3 percent.


Since the numbers keep on changing till the final day of the election, for both the leading parties, the Liberal and the Conservative, it would be an indecisive scenario.


Being barely ahead of the Conservative, it is imperative on the leadership of Centre-left Liberal Party to seek electoral alliances with the two Left parties, the NDP and the Green.
If that happens, the Conservatives, under its right-leaning leadership of Andrew Sheer, will remain in the Opposition at least till the next big one. And the Bernier’s ultra-right party could be annihilated.


And that is what progressive Canadians would like to see that this country does not become a shadow image of the USA under Trump’s presidency.


Prime Minister Justin Trudeau can take the alliance route, which would be historical in the politics of Canada, as his approval rating is ahead of Sheer with 41 percent and 36 percent respectively, according to the Research Co.

(Promod Puri is a journalist, writer, and author of “Hinduism beyond rituals, customs, and traditions).

Trudeau’s Advice To Muslim Canadians Can Be Tried In India Too

By Promod Puri
It was quite a politically mature and bold statement from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of the Liberal Party urging Muslim Canadians that they should join the Opposition Conservative Party, volunteer themselves, donates to the party, and help its candidates in the upcoming federal election.
In a statesman-like spirited message, Trudeau made his remarks at an event marking Eid celebration in Toronto recently.
Why did he put advice like this to Muslim Canadians as such guidance only benefits the Conservative Party by increasing its membership and votes?
The answer lies in Liberal PM’s interpretation of his liberal concept.
He said, “I want you to make Muslim volunteers important to the Conservatives so that never again would any mainstream party in Canada think it’s a good idea to stoke fears and divisions against Muslims or any other group of Canadians.”
Trudeau’s intellect words justify attention in contemporary political thinking.
The directive seeks entry of Muslims and people of other faiths into the rank and file of a major political party where disregard and phobia of minorities are being exploited for political gains from the majority populace.
Nevertheless, the Muslim involvement, or for that matter, any other minority group, helps change mindset attitudes against those who are openly or covertly looked down upon on a prejudiced political platform.
Trudeau’s message may be unusual, but as far as South-Asian Canadian communities are concerned, the political participation in the mainstream parties has been happening for quite some time.
However, when the South-Asian involvement takes place in the Conservative Party of Canada, seeking a change of racist behavior is not the motive. It could be opportunism. The Right-leaning party traditionally remains embedded in an image of being bigoted and xenophobic in its leadership and the core membership.
For that reason, Trudeau’s plea to the Muslims, besides helpful to the Conservatives in getting their votes will clean its blighted image. And the party can then genuinely sense the freshness of the multicultural spirit of Canadian society. In that respect, Trudeau’s remarks rise above party politics.
Turning to the Liberal Party and New Democratic Party, both have an appeal of being anti-racist, along with their secular and sympathetic understanding of people of different race and religious backgrounds. These two Centre-left and Left parties do not need the sort of entry suggested by Trudeau.
Now let us move beyond Canada and transport Trudeau’s proposition into the present political reality of India. This is a country where its image has been radically changed in the last five years.
What the Conservatives think about the Muslims in Canada, the same perception of Islamophobia is ingrained in the ruling Right-wing Bhartiya Janata Party’s leadership, its cadre, MLAs, MPs, and its entire ‘parivar’ of political and non-political fronts.
The anti-Muslim sentiments in the BJP are not only its striking aspect, but it thrives on this agenda backed by the wave of state-encouraged Hindu radicalism.
Besides the anti-Muslim, anti-minority and even the cloaked anti-Dalit stand of the BJP, the saffron party has a deep disdain for the progressive and intellectual community as well.
Do the Muslims in India join the pro-Hindu Bhartiya Janata Party en-masse?
That would be an almost utopian move. But what is practically possible that the progressive and intellectual community can, without hesitation, join the BJP and make an effective review of its anti-minority and Hindu-nationalism stance.
After all, the BJP itself has almost hollow or little intellectual and educational credentials in its leadership as well as at the grassroots level.
It is in this intrusion into the BJP’s growing complex that the progressive and intellectual community can follow Trudeau’s political strategy. That very game plan would ensure changes in the BJP’s racist fundamentals. Otherwise, the party in its present avatar of committed engagement with the Hindutva agenda is posing a serious threat to the democratic structure of India.
If the progressive and intellectual community does not introduce itself into the BJP’s ideological cells, its critical assessment of the party just keeps circulating among its own Left-leaning membership without hitting the street.
(Promod Puri is a journalist, writer and author of Hinduism Beyond Rituals, Customs, And Traditions. Websites: promodpuri.com, progressivehindudialogue.com, and promodpuri.blogspot.com)

 

TRUDEAU URGEs MUSLIMS TO JOIN CONSERVATIVE PARTY:

justin-trudeauIn a statesman-like speech at an Eid dinner in Toronto June 21, Liberal Party leader, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urged Canadian Muslims to join the Conservative Party, help the Conservative Candidates, volunteer and donate to the party for the upcoming federal election.

In his spirited speech, attended by the mostly Muslims audience, Trudeau said: “I want you to make Muslim volunteers important to the Conservatives, So that never again would any mainstream party in Canada think it’s a good idea to stoke fears and divisions against Muslims or any other group of Canadians.”

Trudeau said The Canadian-Muslim Vote had reached 2.5 million people in the past four years.

“Our government will always stand with you and all Muslim Canadians in condemning Islamophobia and all forms of hate at home and abroad,” Trudeau said.

-Promod Puri

PM Modi Pursues Politics Of Hindu Nationalism- What Does That Mean

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is garlanded after winning the elections.
AP Photo/Manish Swarup

Sumit Ganguly, Indiana University

Almost immediately after winning a second term in office on May 23, India’s Prime Minister Modi gave a speech making light of parties and individuals who had espoused secularism over the past five years.

During the five years while the Indian government has been led by Modi and the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party – or BJP – several Muslims were lynched on allegations of eating beef or even just transporting cattle for slaughter. As the number of attacks on Muslims grew, Modi mostly remained silent.

The consumption of beef in India has long been a divisive issue because many Hindus believe that the cow is a sacred animal. Cow slaughter and consumption of beef have long been banned in 24 out of 29 states across India.

Despite this concession to orthodox Hindu sentiments, India has a constitutional commitment to secularism. Unlike in the West, where secularism calls for a strict separation of church and state, Indian secularism is based on the premise of respect toward all faiths.

However, Modi and the political party he represents are adherents of Hindutva. What exactly is Hindutva and how is it different from the beliefs and practices of Hinduism?

Colonial roots

Hindutva is an ideology that states that India is the homeland of the Hindus. According to believers, those who profess other faiths can live in the country only at the sufferance of Hindus.

As a scholar of contemporary Indian politics, I find this proposition to be profoundly disturbing and deeply antithetical to the the central tenets of Hinduism.

The roots of this ideology can, in considerable part, be traced to the growth of Hindu anxieties in colonial India. In 1906, a Muslim political party – the All-India Muslim League – was created. Later, a charismatic politician, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, became its standard-bearer and subsequently the first governor-general of the state of Pakistan following the British partition of India in 1947. Partition led to the division of the former British India into the two independent states of India and Pakistan.

The creation of the All-India Muslim League caused some serious misgivings on the part of some segments of the Hindu population, leading to their political mobilization along religious lines, pitting Hindus against Muslims. In 1921, an organization emerged in northern India called the Hindu Mahasabha.

It brought together people who opposed the secular outlook of the major political party at the time, the Indian National Congress, led by Mahatma Gandhi and others. The Mahasabha’s ideology espoused the education and uplift of Hindus and also the conversion of Muslims to Hinduism.

The ideology has its roots in the ideas of an important but controversial Indian nationalist, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, who was not only ardently opposed to British rule in India, but advocated violence to end colonial domination and argued that India was the sole preserve of Hindus.

His ideas were fundamentally at odds with the principals of the Indian nationalist movement, Mahatma Gandhi and his disciple Jawaharlal Nehru, who would become the first prime minister of a free India. Gandhi, though deeply religious, had advocated Hindu-Muslim amity. Nehru, a staunch secularist, had supported religious pluralism. He died at the hands of a fanatic, Nathuram Godse, a member of the Hindu Mahasabha, in 1948.

Growth of the BJP

The Hindu nationalists sought to make Hinduism, an ancient religion which has no common holy text, no overarching set of beliefs and no single place of pilgrimage, into a homogeneous, organized faith based upon a set of common religious tenets.

During the early years of the Indian republic, following its independence from British colonial rule in 1947, the ideology of Hindutva and its adherents found little appeal among the Indian electorate.

BJP gained in strength since the 1990s.
AP Photo/Mahesh Kumar A.

However, since the 1990s the BJP has gathered strength in both the electoral and social arenas. Electorally, it was in power as the dominant partner in a coalition regime from 1998 to 2004. Later, in 2014, it emerged as a majority party in Parliament.

It has also attracted substantial numbers of followers. In considerable part their disaffection stems from the willingness of secular governments to pander to the Muslim minority.

The Indian National Congress, on a number of occasions, especially in the 1980s, made a series of concessions to orthodox Muslim sentiment in its quest for their votes. Among other matters, a Congress government banned Salman Rushdie’s “The Satanic Verses,” even before Iran had issued the fatwa against Rushdie. On another occasion, it overturned an Indian Supreme Court judgment that had granted alimony to a Muslim woman. Members of the Muslims orthodoxy were outraged with the decision, as they deemed it to be an affront to their religious beliefs.

The BJP deftly dealt with the myriad concessions made to sectarian Muslim demands. They argued that the majority Hindu community was being short-changed and that only the BJP would adequately protect the interests of the majority Hindu population.

These sentiments, it appears, struck a resonant chord with significant segments of the electorate and played a not inconsiderable role in propelling the BJP to victory.The Conversation

Sumit Ganguly, Distinguished Professor of Political and the Tagore Chair in Indian Cultures and Civilizations., Indiana University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

THE MODI WAVE CONTINUES

A  juggernaut of all the resources and forces, while crushing the opposition, pulled the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) under prime minister Narendra Modi’s command to another massive victory in the just concluded India election.

An army of hard-core members of the Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP), the leading partner in the alliance, disciplined media, unlimited funds, absolute and effective use of social media, plus the disunited Left and Centre opposition all contributed to Modi’s and party for another five year of running the largest but blighted democracy in the world.

In this juggernaut which continues with promises of more development and economic wellness, there is going to be a further rise of Hindu fanaticism. And that could be the chilling wave for the minorities, Dalits and lowest of lowest under dreadful casteism of India.

Hopefully, Modi will grow up from a shrewd politician to a true statesman. That is the Modi India needs to govern the diverse nature of the country’s population.

-by Promod Puri

WHY MODI AND HIS PARTY SHOULD NOT WIN AGAIN

By Promod Puri

It is the institutional damage which is a primary cause of concern for the survival and functioning of democracy in India.

The plummet of the Congress paved the way for the BJP to capture the power four years ago primarily by nurturing and exploiting its inherent strength in Hindu nationalism. It is under this ideological guideline that the BJP has got an opportunity to reshape the very character of India’s democratic institutions.

Judiciary, election commission, media, and statistics are some of the most operative integrals of democracy which keep it authoritative, functional, dynamic, and accountable. If any or all these systems are damaged, corrupted, compromised or abused, democracy becomes meaningless or even collapses.

Allegedly, all the democratic fundamentals have been brazenly as well as subtly fiddled with shrewd politics of religious fanaticism, fear, threats, murders, fake police raids, intrusions and influences in the media, obstructions, and interference in the bureaucracy, and deceptive claims of accomplishments.

The autonomous, independent and credible status of the democratic establishments has been defaced and undermined.

The seventy-three years of the solid foundation of Indian democracy after the Independence in 1947 suddenly became fragile in just four years of the BJP rule.

It has been almost a Machiavellian leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi assisted and ideologically maneuvered by his trusted and crafty lieutenant Amit Shah.

To cash out the desired outcomes, crony appointments have been made. Suitability and competence criteria along with academic and professional credentials have been secondary or trivial in this politically-infused drafting.

Examples being in the choice of supreme court judges, the governorship of states, Reserve Bank governorship, university vice chancellorships, Election Commission chief, Chief of the Indian Army and film censure board. Recently, a bureaucrat with only a masters’ degree in history got the Reserve Bank governorship position.

As far as the constitution of the country is concerned, it carries only ceremonial value. Seeking direction from the prime minister rather than the constitution is the loyalty which is supreme under the BJP regime.

Most media, with due respect for some fearless and vigorous journalism, are the cheerleaders who are spun to report, misreport or ignore the news. Rather false news and biased views are manufactured in the party’s publicity machinery and delivered thru paid press and social media. Also, are tasked an army of loyal soldiers (known as Bhagats) for country-wide and world-wide spread of the fake commodity.

Cracking down on free speech, threats, murders of writers, dissident lawyers, and judges constitute the new and dreadful feeling of the current political climate in the country.

Along with that lynching of minorities followed by blessed and garlanded welcome support with job offers for those accused of these heinous crimes have happened quite frequently. Rallies, organized in support of rapists affiliated to the party, rather than consoling the victims, have taken place in the recent past. Example being the Kathua rape case of an 11-year-old nomad girl.

It is the institutional chiseling which has been purposely done to carve out a non-secular nation based on narrow confines of Hindutva agenda.

This is an agenda which is fundamentally anti-Hindu. The identity of Hinduism lies in its wide open structure where liberal, secular and diverse customs and traditions co-exist and flourish.

Pursuing the Hindutva agenda also goes against the very spirit of democratic India in which its national institutions play non-religious, non-political, professional and bureaucratic roles crucial for unbiased, audited and scrutinized direction to the governing party in the conduct of nation’s business.

But when these institutions are politically fixed, controlled and manipulated by the governing party to uphold its power base just for electoral gains then the damage is done to them.

(Promod Puri is a journalist, writer, and author of Hinduism Beyond Rituals, Customs, And Traditions). Websites: promodpuri.com,progressivehindudialogue.com, and progressivehindudialogue.com)

Why India elections are more about Modi than anything else

Britta Ohm, Université de Berne

India votes until May 19, and Western media and opinion seem to be slowly waking up to the dangers faced by what is often hailed as “the world’s largest democracy” to constitutional guarantees.

Like in other cases of today’s right-wing and populist authoritarianisms around the world, these dangers are not completely new, even if they are rising in a particular fashion.

“Good days are coming”

The currently held general elections in India are seen by many as a watershed. Narendra Modi of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has made his way over the past two decades from being the chief minister of the State of Gujarat, where the anti-Muslim pogrom of 2002 happened under his responsibility, to the prime minister’s office in New Delhi.

His first incumbency 2014-19 was won with an absolute majority of seats for the BJP coalition but only 31% of the actual vote (due to India’s first-past-the-post election system) and carried the slogan Achhe din aane waale hain (“Good days are coming”).

From a gigantic political exercise, Indian elections are now a purely managerial exercise (P. Sainath and Teesta Setalvad).

Modi’s supporters and the members of his government are now disputing in all available media whether the “good days” have arrived more for big industrialists rather than for starving farmers, oppressed Dalits and terrorised minorities, as the opposition tries to point out.

But these elections are not really about policy issues. Instead, they have zeroed in on the person and leadership of Narendra Modi, and with him on the legitimacy of Hindutva (Hindu-ness) as India’s new dominant ideology.




Read more:
Politics of Hindu nationalism: India Tomorrow part 2 podcast transcript


Identification with the country

Narendra Modi’s trajectory from “good days for all” into an extremely personalised election campaign has palpable parallels in the path that Indira Gandhi of the Congress Party travelled in the 1970s. Her famous call Garibi Hatao! (“Erase poverty!”) soon became reduced to her very identification with the country in the slogan “India is Indira, Indira is India”.

In both cases, the initial, apparently democratic promise carried within it the future damage to democracy, because its utopianism barely concealed the priority of claiming power.

In Gandhi’s case, democracy was eventually suspended during “the emergency”, the phase of open authoritarianism 1975-77, with which she hoped to consolidate her rule but which propelled her out of power when she finally held elections.

In Modi’s case, one could ask – as critical activists have done – if an “emergency” is yet to come or if it is already taking place in other forms.

Indira Gandhi’s speech during “the emergency” (1975).

Shifting modes of controlling the media

Rather than simply censoring and shutting down media and jailing journalists, as Mrs. Gandhi did, Modi performs a three-dimensional dance with different media, so to speak.

First, he disables uncontrollable questions and unpleasant images of himself by outright refusing to speak to the press or by demanding the questions ahead. Press conferences with the prime minister, once a norm, were terminated immediately when Modi took power in 2014.

A video from The Print.

Second, he maintains a pronounced silence not only on vigilante, social media–circulated violence, particularly against Muslims, but also on organised hate campaigns and physical attacks against journalists. Among many others, the most prominent example was the murder of Gauri Lankesh in Bangalore.

Consequently, Modi’s ever-growing media presence has been shifted into the sphere of mass-event management and image production, supportive TV networks and personalised platform media, including Modi’s own Internet stream and the controversial NaMo TV, which was launched ahead of the current elections, apparently without any licence.

Newslaundry analyses the new channel NaMo TV.

In a dual mode of immediacy – through online addressability and especially though his mediated presence at countless mass rallies all over India – Modi ensures a direct and unfiltered contact with “the people” that has largely replaced representative mechanisms of government.

On the other hand, his main institutional reference is the non-mandated Hindu-nationalist core organisation Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), which shapes and connects countless affiliated outfits – the so-called Sangh Parivar (‘family of organisations’) – across India and also well beyond.

This indicates a dimension of organisation beyond established state structures that Indira Gandhi never quite commanded.

What we mean by democracy

It would thus be misleading, as is common in the media coverage of various right-wing populisms, to merely focus on Modi as a direct threat to democracy. Instead, it has become important to ask what we mean by democracy, not only in post-colonial countries such as India.

It is crucial to remember that since the 1980s, the Hindutva movement rode on a wave of evolving media and technology as much as of democratic criticism against a liberal democracy that acted in the interests of privileged elites (chiefly embodied by the Nehru-Gandhi family).

Hindutva thus appropriated popular urges for the democratisation of an often self-serving and benevolent established democracy. Especially with the neo-liberalisation of the economy came growing demands for wider political participation and access to both material and immaterial resources. It is this “democratisation of democracy” that has turned visibly toxic, along with the masculinity it celebrates, in Modi’s populism.

Other current political strongmen, from Trump to Erdoğan, feature a similar toxicity. It is important to keep in mind, however, that Modi’s variant is ideologically rooted in the history of fascism.

The long road of fascism

Modi himself comes from the fold of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the National Corps of Volunteers. The RSS was founded in 1925, at the same time as fascist organisations in Germany, Italy and Japan.

Modi is a pracharak, an unmarried full-time volunteer of the RSS. While he admitted in 2014 that he was married when he was younger, he appears today as a “bachelor” who remains faithful to his duty, “serving” the country. He swore an oath to the RSS basic ideology of a Hindu rashtra (Land of Hindus), which clearly understands “Hindu” in terms of race, blood and soil.

After BJP’s former leader A.B. Vajpayee (1998-2004), Modi was the second pracharak to become India’s prime minister, but the first with such a nominal majority of votes and such a devoted and active following.

Different from their European and Japanese equivalents, the RSS and the Sangh Parivar have now spent, largely without interruption, almost a century violently working themselves through India’s diversity and democratic structures.

A wide network of influence

On the way, they could built operative networks in both state and private institutions, ranging from the police and army to the judiciary, academia and media. Moreover, they have established their own organisations for many societal groups, including students, women, workers, peasants, Adivasis (India’s indigenous populations) and even Muslims. In addition to setting up professional, welfare and religious associations, they also run the largest private education networks in India.

‘The RSS in India’, Times of India.

Not least, they have consistently recruited large numbers especially of young unemployed or underemployed men for the “defence of Hinduism” in paramilitary groups such as the Bajrang Dal (Hanuman’s Force). They are notorious for their organised violence against minorities and dissenters. Over the past few years they have also been trained in the use of firearms.

Pracharak Modi and his professionally agitated supporters are not likely to take losses in these elections lightly. That possibility implies a threat of further violence which might already have motivated a fair number of votes in Modi’s favour. The failure of building a powerful opposing coalition, on the other hand, and the grandchildren of Indira Gandhi yet again being put up as the main alternative, have made the space for voters between a rock and a hard place narrower than ever before.The Conversation

Britta Ohm, Associate Researcher, Institute of Social Anthropology, Université de Berne

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

2019 Poll: BJP Leads In Social Media Use

In India, WhatsApp is a weapon of antisocial hatred

File 20190419 28116 15hgsdx.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Smartphones are a conduit for misinformation about the Indian election.
AP Photo/Manish Swarup

Rohit Chopra, Santa Clara University

A general election in India, the world’s most populous democracy, seems a theoretical impossibility. Collecting the votes of nearly a billion people across a staggeringly diverse subcontinent has for more than half a century faced challenges of logistics, politics, economics, violence and law.

This year, a new challenge has arisen in the form of social media – specifically the text messaging app WhatsApp, owned by Facebook. Hate speech, disinformation and scary rumors on the platform are already responsible for violence and deaths in India.

A line of people wait to vote in the Indian election.
AP Photo/Dar Yasin

I have been studying the impact of the internet on Indian political, cultural and social life for the better part of two decades. Under the strict protocols of the Election Commission of India, voting has proved one of the more robust signs of Indian democracy. Voters turn out in large numbers, particularly the poorer segments of the electorate, making the process and its results a fascinating study and experiment in Indian politics.

The 2019 parliamentary elections, now underway, will show how social media affects Indian democratic life. They will also provide additional information about the nature of technological threats to democracy in general.

Indian social media in 2014

Two years before Russian troll farms infiltrated Facebook in an attempt to tilt the 2016 U.S. presidential election, social media played a critical role in Indian politics. It helped the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party and its hard-line candidate for prime minister, Narendra Modi, come to power, though in a different way than the U.S. experienced.

Bharatiya Janata Party supporters rallied passionately in 2014.
AP Photo/Channi Anand

In India, the Bharatiya Janata Party ran a formidable social media campaign on Facebook and, to a lesser extent, Twitter. The party’s online efforts complemented and supplemented its equally well-orchestrated campaign on the ground. The Bharatiya Janata Party’s trained social media teams, and a veritable army of enthusiastic volunteers, ensured that the party’s online presence was much more active than its rivals.

The Bharatiya Janata Party’s information technology group, as well as the party’s supporters, exploited the political power of social media. They unleashed an often abusive barrage of criticism at the Congress Party, then-incumbent Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and other Bharatiya Janata Party opponents.

In the lead-up to the 2019 election, social media is being used in a far uglier and more dangerous fashion. The Bharatiya Janata Party even has its own official app, which is rife with disinformation and inflammatory propaganda about non-Hindus, posted by party members and supporters. More broadly, WhatsApp is being used to disseminate rumors and disinformation to spark fear among the populace, particularly about people who are perceived as outsiders.

This connects with the Bharatiya Janata Party’s main message that Hindus should have first claim over India and that India should be a culturally Hindu nation, rather than a secular state governed by a diverse range of voices. The chief opposition, the Congress Party, seems to lack the Bharatiya Janata Party’s level of reach and skills at weaponizing social media.

Threats of violence

Online, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s volunteer army of internet trolls blurs lines between troublemakers, genuine supporters and party officials. Their collective intensity, especially about Hindu nationalism, has put everyone on edge about violence – including social media platforms, law enforcement officials and ordinary citizens.

The danger is real. By one count, the use – or misuse – of WhatsApp has already resulted in 30 deaths in India. Many of these are not political events, but rather because of fear of outsiders spread through WhatsApp messages carrying fabricated warnings about strangers allegedly coming to rural communities to kidnap children.

It’s not clear yet whether WhatsApp’s remedial measures, such as blocking users from forwarding any single message more than five times, will effectively counter the dissemination of dangerous and fake information. Earlier restrictions – including limiting forwarding to 20 times – did not.

Getting benefits but avoiding responsibility

Of course, media technologies do not make anything happen by themselves. Their effects depend on how they’re used. In the Indian context, Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party-led coalition government and its digital allies have legitimized an unusually high degree of bigotry and virulence against minorities, particularly Muslims and the members of the lowest caste, called Dalits.

As a result, it’s easy for party members and social media volunteers to use digital platforms like WhatsApp and Facebook to inflame sectarian sentiments. In the run-up to the election, they have created a climate of general distrust, fear and paranoia in which disinformation cannot be distinguished from credible facts.

My own research, explained in my forthcoming book, suggests that the decentralized nature of online networks has allowed the Bharatiya Janata Party government to benefit from hateful and violent messages sent out by other hardline Hindu nationalist groups, while being able to avoid accountability or responsibility for those messages. It also enables the Bharatiya Janata Party to benefit politically from religious violence while at the same time diverting blame to WhatsApp or Facebook.

These developments in India raise deeper questions about the nature of social media communications. In particular, these abuses of social media may cause people to rethink the relationship between free speech – including forwarding messages from others – and violence. The outcome of the Indian election will be just one signal of how one society is beginning to wrestle with how new technologies are letting people reshape their lives.The Conversation

Rohit Chopra, Associate Professor of Communication, Santa Clara University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Coalition Politics In India More Than Fighting Election And Sharing Power

By Promod Puri

Politics of coalition has been the norm in India for the last over two decades.

So far, this has been essentially an alluring and opportunist wangling when political parties form coalitions with the sole intent of sharing power. United Fronts of Left and Right, Centre-left and Centre-right, or a mix of all is the reality of India’s vibrant, dirty and still maturing democracy.

In recent years, especially after the near-fatal downfall of the once mighty Centre-left Indian National Congress in the last 2014 election, and the sharp emergence of the Centre-right Hindu religious-leaning Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), the inevitable coalition politics of the country can and should be more relevant for the diverse Indian society than just political maneuvering and horse trading.

Coalition alignments of multi-parties in multi-dimensional societies need more spaces, adaptations, and adjustments compared to the governance of monolithic populations to conform to the order of manageable and functional democracy.

Traditionally, India has been a multi-racial, multi-cultural, multi-religious and geographically diverse country.

For that reason, democracy in this nation of over a billion people (1,350,438,098) can only be covered by a multiplicity of political parties catering to its diverse masses rather than two or three parties as the case in most culturally, linguistically and religiously homogeneous countries.

In India’s heterogeneity, coalition politics is the innate necessity as a result of its accepted and reasonably functional multi-party system.

It is in this coalition of diversities that the regional parties are obligated to meet the needs and distinct cultural, linguistic and religious values of their peoples rather than just filling the numbers to have a piece of pie in their hunger for power.

Since the overall composition and spirit of national alliances depend upon its constituent partners, a challenge to the Indian democracy lies in how it accommodates a multiplicity of regional demands, issues, and identities. For example, immigration, minorities’ rights, and job or educational reservations are the matters which demand regional understanding, concerns, and sentiments.

Consequently, the regional parties of India can be more assertive in their distinct provincial responsibilities and commitments while extending their support for the existing two national parties, the BJP, and the Congress.

The BJP leads the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), while the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) is led by the Congress Party.

The NDA was formed by the BJP in 1998, and since 2015 it has 37 member parties. Except for the BJP, most of the constituents of the NDA are all regional parties representing the various states of the country. It is the ruling front since the last general election.

The UPA is a center-left fluctuating union of around 30 parties. Except for the Congress Party, most of its membership belongs to the regional parties as well.

Besides the BJP-led and the Congress-led national fronts, a third alternative has recently emerged. It is presented as Mahagathabandhan, which is an alliance of Centre-left opposition groups of 15 parties with secular fundamentals unlike the claims of the BJP and even the Congress Party.

Except for the All India Trinamool Congress and the Bahujan Samaj Party (recognized as national parties by the Election Commission of India), the Mahagathabandhan can be viewed as an assemblage of regional parties. And that gives a different flare to the coalition system of India’s democratic outlook as there is practically no dominance of a major national party in this BJP and Congress free political bloc.

The ‘gathabandhan’ is basically a union of ideologically-related constituents unlike that of BJP-Akali Dal in Punjab or now dissolved BJP-PDP (Peoples Democratic Party) in the state of Jammu and Kashmir.

In the absence of a dominating national party, whose leader often holds dictatorial powers, the regional ‘gathabandhan’ or alliance can be more autonomous and democratic in its entity and operation than the BJP-led and the Congress-led alliances.

The almost monocratic aspects of Indira Gandhi and later Sonia Gandhi of the Congress Party, and now Prime Minister Narendra Modi are the known realities of disregard and even abuse of democracy in India.

In that respect, the Gathabandhan is a positive new feature of coalition politics of the country which can offer the true spirit of democratic functioning as there is little chance of emergence of dictatorial dominance in this arrangement.

The wheels of democracy can only move when these are not stalled by the authoritarian controls of national parties’ leadership. Otherwise, it is an autocratic functioning within a shell of so-called democracy.

The unity of India lies in its diversity. And that diversity can only be safeguarded when its politics of coalition is not impacted by autocratic behavior of any single party leadership.

-30-

Promod Puri is a journalist, writer and author of Hinduism Beyond Rituals, Customs, And Traditions. Websites: promodpuri.com, progressivehindudialogue.com, and promodpuri.blogspot.com

Mueller Report Spares The Big One

By Promod Puri

The Hindi phrase “khoda pahar nikla chuha (dug the mountain, got out a rat) or the English equivalent: much ado about nothing, is the essence of Robert Mueller’s partially-released report.

However, in this case instead catch of one single big rat, the two-year-long digging did find lot more casualties, 34 of them in all, much to the disappointment of many who were expecting an explosive closure.

It all began when Donald Trump was accused that he along with his election team conspired with Russians to influence the 2016 US presidential poll.

The high-profile investigation which involved many lawyers and dozens of FBI agents incurred an expense of over $30 million.

President Trump all along claimed that he was innocent and that he was being witch-hunted by his opponents. Nonetheless, the Mueller report did result in indictments of many of his lieutenants.

They included Robert Stone (former Trump advisor), Michael Cohen (former trump attorney), Paul Manafort (former campaign chair), George Papadopoulos (former campaign aide), Michael Flynn (former national security advisor, Konstantin Kilimnik (alleged Russian spy), etc., etc.

While the curtains are finally down for the Mueller-directed political drama, Trumps stands tall, happy, golfing and continues delighting and distracting the world with his daily treats of tweets.

Changing World Needs Changing World Orders

Many rituals, customs, and traditions related to our religions need a review for their practicality in our ever-changing world culture.
Moreover, in the progressive development, the call of humanity seeks to re-evaluate each of our religions, rituals, customs, traditions, social and political institutions, including Left and Right isms, which impart values and behaviors impacting our societies.

 

This resolution is part of the evolution and management of civil society we live in. The evolution of civilization is natural as well as essential for the rational and intelligent creation of environments influencing our lives.

The contemporary world society needs Neologism.

Neologism means to introduce a new word or new senses of existing words. In its expanded definition neologism also involves “a new doctrine, especially a new interpretation of sacred writings”, according to Dictionary.com.

 

-By Promod Puri

Apples, Oranges & Kashmir Problem

BY Promod Puri

Apple and oranges don’t mix. They grow in separate regions and in separate climates. They have separate shapes and separate tastes.

Jammu grows oranges, sweet and juicy. Kashmir grows apples, luscious and crispy. Put them together in a box. And market it as a product of Kashmir. That is simply deceptive labeling. It should be marked as a product of Jammu And Kashmir.

And that is the same subtle difference when Kashmir and Jammu are packaged together linguistically, socially and politically. And the entity is stamped as Kashmir.

The packaging is done and marketed by Kashmiri political traders.

As such the Kashmir issue in its present outlook does not justify to be the basis of the agenda of talks between India and Pakistan.

The simple but mostly ignored reason is that the colloquial ‘Kashmir issue’ is not representative of all the diverse regions of the state, as well as those held by Pakistan. The occasional violence erupts only in the valley, not in other parts of the state. We seldom hear about political protests and fury in Jammu or Ladakh regions, or even for that matter in Pakistan-controlled “Azad Kashmir”.

The entire Kashmir leadership is controlled by Kashmiri-speaking politicians and activists. There is no representation from the other regions of the state such as Jammu and Ladakh.

The state of Jammu and Kashmir is extensively diverse: linguistically, culturally, religiously and geographically.

Ignorance of this reality generates the impression that everybody in the state is Kashmiri-speaking. The same applies to “Azad Kashmir”. Nobody there speaks Kashmiri, nor do they identify culturally with the Valley.

Unless a correction in the “Kashmir problem” is made to recognize the diverse realities of the state of Jammu and Kashmir, only then it can be discussed among all the concerned parties. In its present avatar, the Kashmir Issue itself is unrealistic, undemocratic and monopolized.

promodpuri.com

Progressivehindudialogue.com

Promodpuri.blogspot.com

No Basis Why Indian Sub-continent Divided 72 Yrs Ago

Flip the coin and on one side India and Pakistan seem to be combating with each other forever. On the other side, they are sharing the same bread of common roots, common cultures, languages, and traditions.

This love and hate relationship between the two neighbors is both as a result of natural and historic bonding between the peoples of the two countries. At the same time, there is the hostility generated by militancy from Pakistan and India’s dithering stand in resolving the Kashmir problem.

In 1947 when the British colonial rulers left the Indian subcontinent Pakistan was established. It was on the basis that the Muslims population would have their own country. This was done by simply drawing a distorted boundary line along the north-western part of united India. A similar line was drawn in the northeastern part. Thus a geographically unique nation of Pakistan, with miles apart east and west regions, was constituted.

The partition of United India in practically three regions saw one of the worst communal riots. In this abrupt war of hatred, hundreds of thousands of Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs were killed. Millions faced unprecedented miseries as a result of sudden uprooting of people from their ancestral homes and lands.

In that bloody anarchy, however, Pakistan got its Muslim majority.

But the genesis of Pakistan based on one religion could not represent the diversity within its Muslim population. Different languages, different cultures, along with different sects within Islam were part of the reality of Pakistan as well. The result East Pakistan was completely scratched out from the map. And a new nation of Bangladesh was born. This was a negation to the perception that a common religion would hold the nation together irrespective of its cultural, linguistic and ethnic pluralities.

In this context, one wonders why the subcontinent was divided in the first place. If carving a Muslim state was the main reason to establish Pakistan then it did not take in its fold all the Muslims in united India. Nor it could address the regional and diverse cultural and linguistic aspirations of its people. Urdu or Hindusthani speaking migrants settled in the Sind and Punjab provinces of Pakistan felt alienated.

Moreover, the division of the sub-continent generated a never-ending hostility between India and Pakistan which is dominated by the Kashmir problem.

By Promod Puri https://promodpuri.com/

Leader of Choice

His image may be soiled by the media-branded “explosive” testimony of ex-justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould recently, Prime Minister Justine Trudeau is still my choice of being the leader of the Liberal Party to win the next federal election in Canada. The alternative of the Conservative Party with its leader Andrew James Scheer is politically and socially retrogressive for the liberal-spirited, non-racist multicultural Canadian society. NDP leader Jagmeet Singh fits well as a dedicated socialist leader, but he needs to undergo more political baking to be better known and accepted by all Canadians from coast to coast.
-Promod Puri

Kashmir: India and Pakistan’s escalating conflict will benefit Narendra Modi ahead of the election

Sita Bali, Staffordshire University

Tensions in the Kashmir region were already building after more than 40 Indian troops were recently killed by a suicide bomber. India’s “pre-emptive strike” over the disputed border on Tuesday – the first of its kind by India since it went to war with Pakistan in 1971 – has escalated the situation further. India said it had targeted a terrorist training camp and accused Pakistan of violating a 2003 ceasefire, while Pakistan now claims to have shot down two Indian fighter jets.

The origins of the Kashmir conflict lie in British imperial disengagement from the subcontinent. At independence in 1947, the unpopular Hindu Maharaja of Kashmir was faced with invasion by Pakistani tribesmen. He turned to India for help, signing the treaty of accession that took Kashmir into the Indian Union. India sent troops to Kashmir and so began the first war between India and Pakistan.

The Pakistanis were held off by Indian troops after they occupied one-third of Kashmir in 1948. Today, Pakistan continues to occupy that third and India holds the remaining two-thirds including the Kashmir Valley. The border between these two areas in Kashmir is demarcated by the Line of Control (LoC), established after fighting in 1947-48. This demarcation has changed little in all the conflicts of the subsequent years.

Disputed territory: green is Kashmiri region under Pakistani control; dark-brown is Indian-controlled Jammu and Kashmir; striped is Aksai Chin under Chinese control. CIA World Factbook/Wikipedia Commons

Maharaja Hari Singh’s move to join India was supported by the popular secular Kashmiri political movement – the National Conference, led by Sheikh Abdullah. Particularly so, as India agreed a special status for Kashmir within the Indian Union – spelled out in Article 370 of the Indian Constitution. A further article in the constitution prohibits people from outside Kashmir from buying land and property in the state, allowing Kashmir to preserve the balance of its ethnic and religiously mixed population (60% Muslim, 35% Hindu and 5% Buddhist).

Ladakh: a mountainous region in the disputed north-west of Jammu and Kashmir in northern India. Phuong D. Nguyen/Shutterstock

Pakistan has always maintained that, in accordance with the logic of partition, Kashmir should have been integrated with it. It attempted to take Kashmir by force in 1947-48 and again in 1965, with no success. The Kargil conflict in 1999 was the last substantial direct confrontation between the two militaries.


Read more: India and Pakistan’s rivalry isn’t territorial or ideological – it’s psychological


Since then there have been regular terrorist attacks on mostly military, paramilitary or government targets in Kashmir – see the full list here. Successive Indian governments have held the Pakistan military and their Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) responsible for training and aiding the terrorists involved, which Pakistan denies.

After this latest suicide attack, claimed by the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM) terror group, the debate now rests on whether the wider apparatus of the Pakistani state was aware of, and can be held responsible for, the actions of a terrorist group based in their country and with supposed links to the ISI.

Modi operandi

The suicide attack that killed Indian paramilitary personnel takes on added significance because it occurred in the context of the looming general election in India in which the BJP, led by Narendra Modi, is trying to retain its grip on power. Modi and his BJP came to power with a thumping majority in May 2014, promising competent, clean government and economic development.

However, things have not gone well for the government in recent months. The Indian economy is suffering from the long-term effects of the decision to demonetise in 2016 and the inability to generate new jobs. The BJP was also defeated in five state elections in 2018, including key states of the Hindi belt such as Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.

India’s Narendra Modi. Escalation of tensions with Pakistan could play into BJP plans ahead of Indian elections. By Madhuram Paliwal/Shutterstock

With Modi’s supposed record of economic competence and good governance under challenge, he has increasingly relied on his party’s version of extreme nationalism to keep people’s support. The BJP’s Hindutva ideology sees India as a Hindu country and believes all Indian Muslims should have been forced to move to Pakistan in 1947, and now constitute a fifth column in the country. So an attack such as the recent suicide bombing – whether or not it was actually instigated by Pakistan – plays into Modi’s narrative.

That the attack was carried out by a young man from Indian Kashmir also serves to illustrate the failure of the Modi government in dealing with the Kashmir problem. For more than three years the BJP was itself part of the government of Kashmir in alliance with the People’s Democratic Party of Mohammed and Mehbooba Mufti. This alliance fell apart in 2018, mostly over disagreements between the two parties about how to handle the increase in violence in Kashmir and the radicalisation of young Kashmiris, who were once again taking up arms against India.

The Jaish-e-Mohammad terror group, unusually, took immediate responsibility for the attack. Equally, the Indian response to the attack was a first, in that India has never before responded to terrorism within its borders by attacking Pakistan. India’s airstrike is considered the first major use of air power against Pakistan since 1971.

At this stage there are claims and counter claims from both sides about what the Indian bombing raids achieved. Pakistan is threatening an appropriate response, so there is potential for an escalation of this volatile situation between two nuclear armed countries.

Amid an intensifying war of words and action between the two, the only beneficiary will be the BJP. As jingoistic fervour rises in India, they hope they will be swept back to office on the crest of that wave.

DEADLY ATTACK BRINGS BACK KASHMIR ISSUE

Another targeted deadly attack in Kashmir. And that brings back the unresolved Kashmir problem up-front again.

All the present and the past regimes in both India and Pakistan have not been able to untangle the issue. Perhaps, for the simple reason the ruling leaderships of both the countries don’t have the will to tackle the problem on behalf of the people of the state. Or they don’t want it for their own political agenda.

For that reason, let the people of the state decide their future. And that decision should be based not what the Kashmiri-speaking population want, but it must include rest of the linguistically, culturally, geographically and religiously other regions of the State of Jammu & Kashmir.

Jammu, Ladakh and the Pakistan-controlled “Azad Kashmir” are parts of the state who deserve as much recognition and say in resolving the “Kashmir” problem as the valley-dominated Kashmir leadership.

-Promod Puri

Politics Of BJP Damaging To India’s Democratic Institutions

 

By Promod Puri

It is the institutional damage that is a primary cause of concern for the survival and functioning of democracy in India.

And that is the major contrast between the years of governance by the Congress Party with its united front allies and the present ruling power politics of Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) with its debilitated minor partners.

The once-mighty Congress Party certainly gave the country its secular and democratic outlook.

But along the track, it drifted and distinctly mismanaged nation’s affairs where corruption has been the most dominant part of its legacy in power.

As of consequence that was the major cause of its fall.

The plummet of the Congress paved the way for the BJP to capture the power four years ago primarily by nurturing and exploiting its inherent strength in Hindu nationalism. It is under this ideological guideline that the BJP has got an opportunity to reshape the very character of India’s democratic institutions.

Judiciary, election commission, media, and statistics are some of the most operative integrals of democracy which keep it authoritative, functional, dynamic, and accountable. If any or all these systems are damaged, corrupted, compromised or abused, democracy becomes meaningless or even collapses.

Allegedly, all the democratic fundamentals have been brazenly as well as subtly fiddled with shrewd politics of religious fanaticism, fear, threats, murders, fake police raids, intrusions and influences in the media, obstructions, and interference in the bureaucracy, and deceptive claims of accomplishments.

The autonomous, independent and credible status of the democratic establishments has been defaced and undermined.

The seventy-three years of the solid foundation of Indian democracy after the Independence in 1947 suddenly became fragile in just four years of the BJP rule.

It has been almost a Machiavellian leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi assisted and ideologically maneuvered by his trusted and crafty lieutenant Amit Shah.

To cash out the desired outcomes, crony appointments have been made.  Suitability and competence criteria along with academic and professional credentials have been secondary or trivial in this politically-infused drafting.

Examples being in the choice of supreme court judges, the governorship of states, Reserve Bank governorship, university vice chancellorships, Election Commission chief, Chief of the Indian Army and film censure board. Recently, a bureaucrat with only a masters’ degree in history got the Reserve Bank governorship position.

As far as the constitution of the country is concerned, it carries only ceremonial value. Seeking direction from the prime minister rather than the constitution is the loyalty that is supreme under the BJP regime.

Most media, with due respect for some fearless and vigorous journalism, are the cheerleaders who are spun to report, misreport or ignore the news. Rather false news and biased views are manufactured in the party’s publicity machinery and delivered thru paid press and social media. Also, they are tasked with an army of loyal soldiers (known as Bhagats) for country-wide and world-wide spread of the fake commodity.

Cracking down on free speech, threats, murders of writers, dissident lawyers, and judges constitute the new and dreadful feeling of the current political climate in the country.

Along with that lynching of minorities followed by blessed and garlanded welcome support with job offers for those accused of these heinous crimes have happened quite frequently. Rallies, organized in support of rapists affiliated to the party, rather than consoling the victims, have taken place in the recent past. Example being the Kathua rape case of an 11-year-old nomad girl.

In this state of affairs, the credibility of established opposition politicians can be reasonably doubted as well. In their closets are enough skeletons which in reality are the exploitative treasures for the ruling party to keep the opposition quite or on selective criticism mode.

The silence of the Congress on many issues of national interest, for example, the Raffle scandalous deal, reveals the bedfellow relationship between the leadership of the BJP and the main opposition party.

If the BJP is responsible for the structural damage of democracy in India under the fervency of its Hindutva agenda, then the record of the Congress is not clean either.

Under the leadership of Indira Gandhi, India’s democracy was subverted overnight with the declaration of Emergency in 1975. However, in the subsequent national election, Congress was mercilessly beaten. Thanks to the intactness of the Election Commission which was not tinkered with weaponry of the Indira Gandhi emergency.

In that respect, we can say there is resilience in India’s democracy.

But this time it is the institutional chiseling which has been purposely done to carve out a non-secular nation based on narrow confines of Hindutva agenda.

This is an agenda that is fundamentally anti-Hindu. The identity of Hinduism lies in its wide-open structure where liberal, secular and diverse customs and traditions co-exist and flourish.

Pursuing the Hindutva agenda also goes against the very spirit of democratic India in which its national institutions play non-religious, non-political, professional and bureaucratic roles crucial for unbiased, audited and scrutinized direction to the governing party in the conduct of nation’s business.

But when these institutions are politically fixed, controlled and manipulated by the governing party to uphold its power base just for electoral gains then the damage is done to them. And this is where the BJP’s legacy is being established by its leadership.

(Promod Puri is a journalist, writer, and author of Hinduism Beyond Rituals, Customs, And Traditions). Websites: promodpuri.com, progressivehindudialogue.com, and progressivehindudialogue.com)

Nationalism & Patriotism Are Threats To Global Peace And environment

By Promod Puri

I have been an anti-national ever since I understood the nature of its allegiance to the country one belongs to. At the same time, I am not a patriot either with its blurred image as it is often a consequence of nationalism.

Patriotism and nationalism have obscure borderline between them. It is a “problematic pair” to find independent definitions to isolate each concept. Both the words are synonyms to each other according to their dictionary explanations. Still, certain attempts have been made to detach the two.

Nationalism arises from the word nation. As such it seeks love, devotion, pride and unconditional loyalty for it. This commitment must be confined within a nation’s borders. It is an outright, and avid engagement with the country one resides in.

Nationalism also seeks pride in the nation’s identities contained in monolithic societies.

One religion, one language, and one culture dominate the monolithic societies. Together these are showcased to represent the overall nationalistic character of the nation. The politics of the country are espoused and steered around the sensitivities linked with these aspects.

However, in the universality of contemporary society, nationalism has a confined perspective. It denies or ignores the fast-emerging reality of multicultural, multi-lingual and multi-religious expressions of nations. In the nationalism of the majority, minorities’ share is limited or unimportant.

As technology, internet, and social media are the current factors cementing the multi-facet character of the world’s societies, the sentiment of nationalism is not much of an appeal.

Moreover, nationalism thins out when people migrate due to political, economic and other reasons or as refugees. It is often a dilemma for immigrants to settle in host countries to pick one national loyalty and reject the other.

Nationalism has lost its impact because no single identities are monopolizing cosmopolitan populations. But it is used as a political tool to arouse the religious, cultural and linguistic sentiments of the majority community.

Nationalism leads to the political exploitation of the dominating community apprehensive of being overwhelmed by the population mix of multiple and distinctive identities.

Xenophobia is thus forged thru the nationalistic politics.

Governments are elected in a manufactured atmosphere of fear and hatred for minorities, foreigners, and refugees. Enemies are concocted within a nation where bigotry, racism, and injustice are encouraged and played for political sovereignty.

Albert Einstein said: “Nationalism is an infantile disease. It is the measles of mankind.”

Nationalism finds accomplice in patriotism for political gains and opportunism. In this behavior, patriotism becomes a victim of nationalism.

Patriotism is derived from the word patriot. Its character is better understood in valor, bravery, sacrifice, duty and devotion toward the nation and its citizens.

The purity of patriotism lies in the concerns and care of the nation’s people, devoting and even sacrificing for their protection and peace irrespective of their class, caste, religious or cultural affiliations. It encourages pride in the achievements of the nation while seeking a critical analysis of its failures which even involves governing leadership.

A changing behavior has been observed toward the concept of patriotism among school kids in the United States recently. According to a study by Professor Jane Lo of Florida State University, “students opt out of the ritual of saying the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag of the United States of America.”

Further according to the professor, “a public opinion poll conducted by the Foundation for Liberty and American Greatness suggests that young people see the flag, less as a symbol to be proud of and more as a symbol of what is wrong with the country. If more students are associating the flag with flaws in the system, it would explain why some students opt out of standing for the pledge of allegiance or other celebratory acts.”

Patriotism, nevertheless, is an evocation to support and shield the parochial aspect of nationalism. As it keeps subtle binding with nationalism, military patriotism is manifested.

But military patriotism induces an ever-escalating global war budget in the name of “defense.”

As patriotism is a major motivating factor, armed forces are raised and maintained with the spending of billions and trillions of dollars for the “defense.”

The question is: defense from whom?

Countries are not being invaded by other countries anymore. That era, which dominated the histories of humanity, ended with the Second World War 73 years ago.

The thirst of the political Left and Right ideologies for political dominance and expansionism are not the factors either. That period was over with the end of the Cold War between the Eastern Bloc and the Western Bloc in the late last century.

What is aimed now is the business or corporate expansionism. The reason being an ever-increasing appetite of capitalism which significantly impacts both the democratic and communist political systems. Business-political nexus is thus created.

In this expansionist development over the last several decades, borders for battleground are not needed. But the war industry’s clout keeps the borders hostile. Aggressive patriotism, infused with nationalism, is set up across the borderlines.

From that perspective, military patriotism is a deadly commitment.

The eighteenth-century French philosopher Voltaire said, “It is lamentable, that to be a good patriot one must become the enemy of the rest of mankind.”

We can admit that patriotism has been a motivating factor in the service of humanity. Both nationalism and patriotism have historical contributions toward pride, unity, independence, and sovereignty of a nation.

But the world has changed comprising of varied demographic characters. Nationalism and patriotism are now divisive concepts within a nation’s borders. Most fights and conflicts worldwide are happening within a country, not between nations.

When nationalism stirrups patriotism, the latter develops into a chauvinistic tool of power politics.

Both nationalism and patriotism relate only to the confines of the nation’s border, while the world thru technology, mass communication, and social media is fast emerging a cosmopolitan mix of one world- community.

“Our true nationality is mankind,” H.G. Wells

As such, our concerns and issues are now at the global level of wellness of all humanity. This empathetic awareness creates respect and understanding among peoples of the world irrespective of class, caste, religious or societal differences.

In this concern, our environments, which have no space in the nationalistic and patriotic jingoism, are also equal partners seeking their attention and protection.

As we are fast developing into a multi-facet global community, what we need is humanitarianism and environmentalism without the caging borders of nationalism, and the obscurity of patriotism.

-30-

Promod Puri is a Vancouver-based writer and author of Hinduism Beyond Rituals, Customs, And Traditions. Websites: progressivehindudialogue.com, promodpuri.com, and promodpuri.blogspot.com

 

When Immigrants Become Anti-immigrants

By Promod Puri

With compassionate temperament, an immigrant is not expected to be an anti-immigrant.

But without that sentiment, immigrants can be anti-immigrant. Or they are selective in their prejudiced choice of immigrants.

The sentiment of humanism over time fades as mindset attitudes toward fellow human beings based on religion and ethnicity take over.

The prospective immigrants are thus categorized as “illegal and “legal,” refugees and migrants.

But, except being a criminal, nobody is illegal.

And those refugee claimants and migrants who “jump the queue” do so in desperation because there is no dedicated queue with considerate sympathies.

Politicians of the alt-right exploit the changed feeling of being anti-immigrant in the vote-rich immigrant pool.  Expressions like “extreme multiculturalism” and “too much diversity” are coined.

Quebec MP Maxime Bernier, who quit the Conservative Party of Canada August 23, is breeding an anti-immigrant temperament, perhaps knowing some immigrants are anti-immigrants too.

His appeal is based on the fear that “Canadian values” will be marginalized with “too much diversity.”

But Canadian values and its culture constitute an evolving phenomenon in which immigrants play the most significant role.

The diverse contribution of immigrants enriches the Canadian culture of multiculturalism.

When immigrants become anti-immigrant, and they are being played in the hands of alt-right politics, the secular and diverse foundation of Canadian heritage of being multicultural and multi-racial society becomes insecure.

(Promod Puri is a journalist, writer, and author of Hinduism Beyond Rituals, Customs, and Traditions. Websites: promodpuri.com, progressivehindudialogue.com, promodpuri.blogspot.com)  

CANADA’S TWITTER ATTACK ON S.ARABIA SEEMS HYPOCRITICAL

by Promod Puri

Canada’s Twitter diplomacy in condemning Saudi Arabia has not affected the latter’s tormented human rights record, especially against women. Instead, it generated anger and overreaction from the Saudi leadership resulting with lightning speed the withdrawal of diplomats, investment and trade, stopping of flights and immediate return of the Kingdom’s students from Canada.

The question is why the Canadian foreign affairs minister Chrystia Freeland used the Twitter channel to raise the issue instead of traditional face to face dialogue. Presuming the minister and her advisory staff are not naive in their concern for human rights in Saudi Arabia, the motive has not served its desired purpose. Rather it has been a disaster toward Canada-Saudi relationship.

The feud has not only wiped out the friendly influence which Canada could use over Saudi Arabia in its grave violations of human rights, but it has generated another conflicting spot in the world already dotted with tensions and violence.

In its open denunciation thru series of Tweets against Saudi Arabia’s adamant violation of human rights, the government has won nil support worldwide. But the Leftist community seems to applaud the Liberal government as it is very well aware of the credibility of Canada on this issue.

Canada has its own bad record of human rights violations as well as its known double standards in observing complete silence when its biggest trading partner, the USA, has committed much more serious human rights violations all over the globe including Vietnam, Iraq, and in Afghanistan.

 

IMRAN KHAN, PAKISTAN, INDIA AND KASHMIR

Popular cricketer of yesteryears and a determined political activist to crack the status quo of two-party domination is now the prime minister-elect of Pakistan.

The country looks forward to an era of peace and prosperity as promised by Imran Khan for its impoverished people.

While Pakistan seems to be poised for an effective change, neighboring India is keenly watching the politics and leadership developments which can impact the relationship between the two ever combating countries.

In his victory speech July 26, Imran Khan said, “If India’s leadership is ready, we are ready to improve ties with India. If you step forward one step, we will take two steps forward.

“I think it will be very good for all of us if we have good relations with India. We need to have trade ties, and the more we will trade, both countries will benefit.

“The unfortunate truth is that Kashmir is a core issue, and the situation in Kashmir, and what the people of Kashmir have seen in the last 30 years …. they have really suffered.

“Pakistan and India’s leadership should sit at a table and try to fix this problem. It’s not going anywhere. I say this with conviction, this will be the most important thing for the subcontinent, for both countries to have a friendship.”

At this early stage of his leadership, we can trust Imran khan’s sentiments for a cordial relationship with India as both the countries share an emotional bond of being one family who split 71 years ago.

Flip the coin, and on one side India and Pakistan seem to be combating with each other forever. On the other side, they are sharing the same bread of common roots, common cultures, languages, and traditions.

Underneath the love and hate relationship between the two neighbors lies the natural and historical bonding between the peoples of the two countries.

Historically, culturally, and even emotionally they are together as one people. Their heritage is the same and will remain the same forever.

-By Promod Puri

 

 

 

Political Evolution Through Science, And Religion

By Promod Puri

Evolution of any political ideology, and that should be imperative, involves almost all the natural and social sciences, philosophies, metaphysics, as well as the wisdom manifested in spiritual orders.

It is in this integrated approach that the political spectrum of Marxism and Leninism, conservatism, and liberalism; capitalism and socialism, or any of their simulated entities can be more acceptable to the contemporary society than their present consent.

Till now all these political stripes are meaningless notably for that section of the humanity which is still toiling in poverty, hunger, and disease; discriminated, exploited, and victimized in the politically patronized class and caste-ridden order.

The promises of these political isms, which have more academic showcasing than their pragmatism, have not produced a peaceful and hunger-free world, while the environments are seriously damaged as well.

Autocrats, dictators, and tyrants; narcissists, illiterates, and idiots have elected and re-elected themselves under the democratic, socialist, and communist regimes. The vulnerability of the political systems has been exposed. The reason being there is no mix or an insignificant mix of scientific rationales, philosophical foresight, and spiritual sanity in their foundations.

Evolution in political ideologies is a hypothesis where the political science can expand its studies to determine as well as encourage the involvement of basic and laboratory-based sciences, philosophical, critical, and intellectual disciplines, and religious fundamentals in the political systems.

Inspired by the fact that sciences and institutional faculties offer systematic and observable physical evidence and logical argumentation, the premise can build more feasible and pertinent political pathways leading to better management of the civil society.

Political science besides being in its observatory and analyzing tasks of dealing with governing systems, political thoughts, and studying political activities, must seek a plurality of social and scientific disciplines which offer creditable connect with human behavior and environmental concerns.

Moreover, political science can be an active participant in the development and implementation of political ideology. It can review whether a political gospel needs some updating or renounced altogether.

The laws of physics, the formulas, and equations in chemistry and mathematics, or the biological and physiological phenomenon may or may not directly generate political thought, but their mechanisms guide its plausible acceptance.

However, human psychology is one science which has a direct impact in inducing political thinking, its acceptance or rejection, and its implementation. Without going into detailed explanations, it is the study of emotional and behavioral sentiments of individuals, and of the community of people related to natural, or human-made situations.

Psychology gives an assessed value of a political ideology.

The psychology of human nature or behavior impacts the practicality of any political order and its idealism of achieving economic development, social and religious equality of people.

Besides psychology, political science can also review the disdained relationship between politics and religion as the two do not sit well in the progressive political impression.

The fact is that the laws of the land with their universal application have been constituted from religious teachings to institute political ideologies.

Modern political pundits and their students or observers have not gone beyond religious customs and beliefs. They have seldom explored the intelligence and enlightenment generated over the centuries in discernable interpretations which touch every aspect of human endeavors including politics.

Philosopher T. S. Eliot “believed that democratic societies rejected the influence of an established church at their peril, for in doing so they cut themselves off from the kind of ethical wisdom that can come only from participation in a tradition. Thus, he argued, such a society would degenerate into tyranny and social and cultural fragmentation”.

(source: Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Chapter: Religion and Politics).

As we are seeking a coordinated proposition to creating better workable political models in the changing times, the reality is that fitness and pragmatism of existing political doctrines are not of much help or have failed badly in their utopian vision.

The viability and development of a political ideology must go through intelligent observation in line with human psychology, nourished and assessed by social and natural sciences, and enriched by the philosophies and universal truths revealed in most world religions.

 

A related article by Promod Puri: Religion Has Guiding Role In Politics.

 

(Promod Puri is a Canada-based writer, journalist, and author of “Hinduism Beyond Rituals, Customs, And Traditions”).

Websites: promodpuri.com, progressivehindudialogue.com, and Simple Thinking – Simple Living.

Trudeau Establishes New Political Etiquettes

By Promod Puri

When he said, the word “mankind” should be changed to “peoplekind,” there was something which seemed eccentric to many folks in prime minister Justin Trudeau.

But his idiosyncrasy reflects his style which is not normal for most world politicians or public figures. Otherwise, which prime minister or president visiting a foreign country on an official visit would act, dance and dress the way Trudeau did along with his adorable family during their recent trip to India.

It was most informal or casual style which defied the existing standards or protocols expected from a visiting head of state.

In his Indian ethnic attire which looked like as he was either attending a marriage party or he himself a “Gora” bridegroom, Trudeau freely and comfortably attended and actively participated in most of the events in India.

He did bhangra performances, and with the dedicated spirit of langar “seva,” rolled rotis at the Golden Temple kitchen. Has any invited world political dignitary dared or humble enough to do these deeds publicly while visiting India?

Trudeau belongs to a new generation of politicians for whom the world is smaller, closer, and sharing the contemporary thinking of oneness.

With his roots of growing in a multicultural Canadian society, which his late father officially declared as the country’s composite culture, the young Trudeau must have felt that he was going to a land to which he was most familiar with in its culture.

In his outlandish kurta-pajama outfits, he felt comfortable during his India trip, but that caused discomfort to those who would remain embedded in precedents expected from a visiting dignitary.

Trudeau has established new political etiquettes which perhaps will take time for people to accept and adjust to, while the critical media find some fodder to chew on till its ability to learn the changing norms.

AMID FUROR TRUDEAU CREATES NEW POLITICAL ETIQUETTES:

By Promod Puri
Prime minister Justin Trudeau’s recent week-long India trip has been dubbed by most of the Canadian media as a disaster for no reasons on his part.
It began the moment he landed in a country known for its traditional warm hospitality. But for Trudeau and his family, it was the most cold-shouldered welcome at the Delhi airport being received by a junior cabinet minister instead of prime minister Modi who seems to be selective in the choice of whom to personally welcome at the airport.
This lukewarm reception might have produced some resentment among those in the Trudeau entourage. But the issue was overshadowed by the Punjab Chief Minister’s continued bickering that Canada was and still is the hub of pro-Khalistan outfits and that the Trudeau government was supportive of their activities in the name of freedom of speech.
However, the moment Khalistan controversy receded after Trudeau meeting the Punjab CM, the sudden explosion of the news that a pro-Khalistan and convicted attempted murder individual by the name of Jaspal Atwal was among the invited Canadian citizen to a reception hosted by the Canadain High Commissioner in India.
And that was the most damaging part of the Trudeau trip.
The story had his origin way back over 30 years ago at the height of the Khalistan movement in Punjab as well as abroad where most of the Sikh diaspora is settled. Atwal was a young firebrand Khalistan activist in Vancouver, Canada, who got involved in an attempt to kill a moderate visiting Punjab politician. But the attack failed. However, Atwal was charged with attempted murder and sentenced to few years in jail as well as he was blacklisted by the Vancouver Indian consulate office in getting a visa for India.
The visa restriction stayed till recently when it was removed by the Indian government thru the advice of its intelligence services. And he made his controversial entry into India coinciding with the Trudeau visit.
The news is being circulated here in Canada that Atwal got his Indian visa thru the help of a local member of Parliament who had some friendly relationship with the Consulate officials in Vancouver. Was there bribery involved too to clear Atwal’s India visit? The suspicion is there.
Over the years Atwal, in order to clear himself off from the blacklist, started developing ties with the local political leaders as well. And that included Liberal Member of Parliament young Randeep Singh Sarai in his 30s, who was naively behind the invitation to the High Commionser reception.
The sudden eruption of the news of Atwal being invited to the party along with several widely-circulated photographs of him posing with Trudeau’s wife and other Indian members of the entourage, has been taken by the Indo-Canadian press in Vancouver as some sort of conspiracy to discredit the Canadian Sikh community by the Trudeau’s political foes with the help of “corrupt” Indian officials responsible for issuing the visa .
Was that whole episode planned? Well, that is the question which is being talked about within the Indo-Canadian community with the expectation that the Canadian Intelligence would investigate the matter so that both the Trudeau government and the Sikh population are not marred for being their alleged support to the non-existing movement of Khalistan.
While the Khalistan conspirational controversy took center stage of Trudeau official holidays in India, on the sidelines, the Indian media also generated the issue the way he and his family dressed in outlandish ethnic Indian outfits. And this is where we get a glimpse of his personality which does not reflect the typical image of most seasoned politicians.
When he said, the word “mankind” should be changed to “peoplekind,” there was something which seemed eccentric to many folks in Justin Trudeau.
But his idiosyncrasy reflects his style which is not normal for most world politicians or public figures. Otherwise, which prime minister or president visiting a foreign country on an official visit would act, dance, and dress the way Trudeau did along with his adorable family during their India visits.
It was most informal or casual style which defied the existing standards or protocols expected from a visiting head of state.
In his Indian ethnic attire which looked like as he was either attending a marriage party or he himself a “Gora” bridegroom, Trudeau freely and comfortably attended and actively participated in most of the events in India.
He did bhangra performances, and with the dedicated spirit of langar “seva,” rolled rotis at the Golden Temple kitchen. Has any invited world political dignitary dared or humble enough to do these deeds publicly while visiting India?
Trudeau belongs to a new generation of politicians for whom the world is smaller, closer, and sharing the contemporary thinking of oneness.
With his roots of growing in a multicultural Canadian society, which his late father officially declared as the country’s composite culture, the young Trudeau must have felt that he was going to a land to which he was most familiar with in its culture.
In his gaudy kurta-pajama outfits, he felt comfortable during his India trip, but that caused discomfort to those who would remain embedded in precedents expected from a visiting dignitary.
Trudeau has established new political etiquettes which perhaps will take time for people to accept and adjust to, while the critical Indian media find some fodder to chew on till its ability to learn the changing norms.
(Promod Puri is a Vancouver-based journalist, and author of “Hinduism beyond rituals, customs, and traditions.” He is also a frequent writer on topics related to Hinduism, politics, and human interest. Websites: promodpuri.com, </a>progressivehindudialogue.com, promodpuri.blogspot.com)

Politics Of Silence Over Padmaavat Cripples Democracy

By Promod Puri

Silence is golden!

But in India of today, it is not. Rather it is a political, social, and even communal contamination which is almost annihilating the very roots of democracy in the country.

For leaders in power and those who are not, silence is a strategic political tool. In the recent maniacal violence over the film Padmaavat, both the ruling and opposition leaders have remained quite tight-lipped for reasons determined by politics.

Silence is a sinister whip of the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) which has silenced the top brass of the once mighty Congress. Sonia Gandhi is silenced, and so is her son, party president Rahul Gandhi. Veteran socialist Lalu Prasad Yadav is being silenced, but the Bihar “lion” is still roaring while in jail. Silence gizmo is also being tried against parties who are not members of the big family, aka “parivar,” of the BJP.

On the issue of Padmaavat, the entire Indian film fraternity is silence because that is the norm now. Towering personalities like Amitabh Bachchan must have by now seen the movie secretly but dare not express themselves as for why this hullabaloo.

In the enforced era of silence, known intellectuals and academicians are silent. The fear of reprisal has gripped the intellectual, academic and writer community. For Arundhati Rao, her “ministry” is perhaps advising her to remain silent or already being silenced thru the disturbing court experiences she had a few years ago. The voices of dissent are often blocked out by bridled media as well.

The Indian media, with some exception, is tactically silent as it wants to save some of its credibility as well as keeping a ‘good boy” behavior with the saffron raj.

The raj avails several practices and arrangements to steamroll its rule of silence. Judiciary, the Central Intelligence Bureau, the income tax department, the police forces, media, the vigilante, lynching and murderous goons, fanatics, and bigot ‘bhagats,’ the ignorant middle class, and the social media are the channels to run the Indian democracy toward fascism.

Silence is generating fear in all sections of the Indian society. And that is the social aspect of the rule of silence. Minorities, the lower class and caste, and poor people dare not express themselves in the communal atmosphere as silence is imposed on them.

Silence is breeding apathy. When the Padmaavat controversy started brewing a few months ago, apathy, especially in the middle class, could be sensed from the expression “it is all publicity stunt.”

The democratic traditions of India, which are still intact in its constitution, were established by its author, Dr. Bhumirao Ramji Ambedkar, who broke the century-old silence of the discriminatory social order promulgated in the Manusamriti.

Martin Luthor King condemned silence when he declared: “In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

But in India of today silence is the governing force which has almost silenced the political, secular, and intellectual sentiments and culture of the nation.

To silence the Silence is the challenge for India now.

promodpuri.com

Does America Have Caste System Too?

By Subramanian Shankar
Professor of English (Postoclonial Literature and Creative Writing), University of Hawaii


Class system breeds caste. That is what happened in the Hindu society of India centuries ago when Manu froze the class stratification into caste segmentation. The same is happening in the USA as it is developing its own caste system. The following article by the imminient scholar explains.
-Promod Puri.

In the United States, inequality tends to be framed as an issue of either class, race or both. Consider, for example, criticism that Republicans’ new tax plan is a weapon of “class warfare,” or accusations that the recent U.S. government shutdown was racist.

As an India-born novelist and scholar who teaches in the United States, I have come to see America’s stratified society through a different lens: caste.

Many Americans would be appalled to think that anything like caste could exist in a country allegedly founded on life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. After all, India’s atrocious caste system determines social status by birth, compels marriage within a community and restricts job opportunity.

But is the U.S. really so different?

What is caste?
I first realized that caste could shed a new light on American inequality in 2016 when I was scholar-in-residence at the Center for Critical Race Studies at the University of Houston-Downtown.

There, I found that my public presentations on caste resonated deeply with students, who were largely working-class, black and Latino. I believe that’s because two key characteristics differentiate caste from race and class.

First, caste cannot be transcended. Unlike class, people of the “low” Mahar caste cannot educate or earn their way out of being Mahar. No matter how elite their college or how lucrative their careers, those born into a low caste remain stigmatized for life.

Caste is also always hierarchical: As long as it exists, so does the division of people into “high” and “low.” That distinguishes it from race, in that people in a caste system cannot dream of equality.

It’s significant that the great mid-20th-century Indian reformer B. R. Ambedkar called not for learning to “live together as brothers and sisters,” as Martin Luther King Jr. did, but for the very “annihilation of caste.”

Caste, in other words, is a societal difference made timeless, inevitable and cureless. Caste says to its subjects, “You all are different and unequal and fated to remain so.”

Neither race nor class nor race and class combined can so efficiently encapsulate the kind of social hierarchy, prejudice, and inequality that marginalized Americans experience.

Is America casteist?
In Houston, that sense of profound exclusion emerged in most post-presentation discussions about caste.

As children, the students there noted, they had grown up in segregated urban neighborhoods – a geographic exclusion that, I would add, was a federal policy for most of the 20th century. Many took on unpayable student loan debt for college, then struggled to stay in school while juggling work and family pressures, often without a support system.

Several students also contrasted their cramped downtown campus – with its parking problems, limited dining options and lack of after-hours cultural life – with the university’s swankier main digs. Others would point out the jail across from the University of Houston-Downtown with bleak humor, invoking the school-to-prison pipeline.

Both the faculty and the students knew the power of social networks that are essential to professional success. Yet even with a college degree, evidence shows, Americans who grow up poor are almost guaranteed to earn less.

For many who’ve heard me speak – not just in Houston but also across the country at book readings for my 2017 novel, “Ghost in the Tamarind” – the restrictions imposed by India’s caste system recall the massive resistance they’ve experienced in trying to get ahead.

They have relayed to me, with compelling emotional force, their conviction that America is casteist.

Caste in the US and India
This notion is not unprecedented.

In the mid-20th century, the American anthropologist Gerald Berreman returned home from fieldwork in India as the civil rights movement was getting underway. His 1960 essay, “Caste in India and the United States,” concluded that towns in the Jim Crow South bore enough similarity to the North Indian villages he had studied to consider that they had a caste society.

Granted, 2018 is not 1960, and the contemporary United States is not the segregated South. And to be fair, caste in India isn’t what it used to be, either. Since 1950, when the Constitution of newly independent India made caste discrimination illegal, some of the system’s most monstrous ritual elements have weakened.

The stigma of untouchability – the idea that physical contact with someone of a lower caste can be polluting – for example, is fading. Today, those deemed “low caste” can sometimes achieve significant power. Indian President Ram Nath Kovind is a Dalit, a group formerly known as “untouchable.”

Still, caste in India remains a powerful form of social organization. It segments Indian society into marital, familial, social, political and economic networks that are enormously consequential for success. And for a variety of practical and emotional reasons, these networks have proven surprisingly resistant to change.

Casteist ideologies in America
At bottom, caste’s most defining feature is its ability to render inevitable a rigid and pervasive hierarchical system of inclusion and exclusion.

What working-class Americans and people of color have viscerally recognized, in my experience, is that casteist ideologies – theories that produce a social hierarchy and then freeze it for time immemorial – also permeate their world.

Take, for example, the controversial 1994 “The Bell Curve” thesis, which held that African-Americans and poor people have a lower IQ, thus linking American inequality to genetic difference.

More recently, the white nationalist Richard Spencer has articulated a vision of white identity marked, caste-like, by timelessness and hierarchy.

“‘We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created unequal,’” he wrote in a July 2017 essay for an alt-right website. “In the wake of the old world, this will be our proposition.”

Add to these ideological currents the evidence on the race gap in higher education, stagnant upward mobility, and rising inequality, and the truth is damning. Five decades after the civil rights movement, American society remains hierarchical, exclusionary and stubbornly resistant to change.

Caste gives Americans a way to articulate their sense of persistent marginalization. And by virtue of being apparently foreign – it comes from India, after all – it usefully complicates the dominant American Dream narrative.

The U.S. has a class problem. It has a race problem. And it may just have a caste problem, too.

Source: https://theconversation.com/ca

Democracy Damaged By Political Silence Over Padmavat

Silence is golden!

But in India of today, it is not. Rather it is an epidemic virus which is almost annihilating the very roots of its democracy.

For leaders in power and those who are not, silence is a strategic political tool. Both the ruling and opposition leaders have remained quite tight-lipped in the recent maniacal violence over the film Padmavat.

Silence is a whip which has silenced the top brass of the once mighty Congress. It is also being used against other non-BJP parties.

Silence is generating fear and apathy in all sections of the Indian society. When the Padmavat controversy started brewing a few months ago, apathy could be sensed from the expression “it is all publicity stunt.”

In the midst of politics of silence, there are still many social media and a few daring news and views outlets combating against muzzling and threats from hotheaded vigilante outfits and ‘senas,’ to save the democratic traditions embedded in the constitution of India.

The true spirit of Republic Day celebrations in India can only be realized when silence is not used as a political whip to silence the opposition and the public.

By Promod Puri

Cashless Society Can Be Catastrophic When Electricity, Networks, Security Fail

Excerpts from an essay in the Conversation by

Economist and Research Scientist, The Ohio State University

A cashless society that solely uses credit cards, debit cards and electronic transfers is dependent on a complex network to replace physical money. This network requires three things to work all the time.

First, there always has to be electricity to power the computers and network storage. Second, communication between all parts of the network needs to be available. Finally, the network has to be secure, so only authorized money transactions occur.

Hurricanes Irma and Maria devastated Puerto Rico in September. Many weeks later, less than 20 percent of the electricity has been restored, and no one really knows when the rest of the island will regain power. Because the electricity has been cut off to almost all cities and towns, the entire island has reverted to a economy based on cash, which is in very short supply. Credit and debit cards can’t be used because there is no way to process transactions and no power to run credit card terminals and readers.

Wildfires are currently ravaging Northern California. One of the problems caused by the fires is that the flames have destroyed numerous cell towers. When the phone network goes down, it is impossible both to reach loved ones and for credit and debit card readers to connect to the network. Without a connection, those without cash can’t buy fuel to flee, pay hotels for temporary shelter or purchase food.

Finally, we’ve recently learned how unsecure the network that processes transactions and protects our financial data has become. As most people do not possess piles of coins or bills anymore, our money consists of entries in bank and brokerage databases. If those entries change or disappear, people’s wealth vanishes, too.

A cashless society means a country’s economy is vulnerable to anything that causes a long-term disruption in power, communications or security. And those threats are rising. The number of natural disasters striking the U.S. is increasing, and wars are no longer being fought using just conventional weapons. Today the computers that control a countryare playing a much bigger role.

Cash can ensure the economy won’t collapse in an emergency, since people with cash are still able to buy and sell.

Jagmeet Singh: New National Hero On Canadian Political Front

By Promod Puri     

He is dynamic. He is bold. He is the inspiration and hope.  He is a man of conviction based on his Sikh beliefs.

His appearance and dressing are guided by his self-confidence rather than from a fashion consultant, which is quite a norm for most political leaders.

He is Jagmeet Singh, the new national hero on Canadian political front.

He is challenging to both racists and the so-called progressives Leftists, as well as to the dirt-digging media.

The Canadian media and most political commentators are only narrowing him down as a political challenge to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s youthful and progressive leadership. But we need to go beyond that.

Although both are fighting against each other on political fronts, the dynamics both are creating is a landscape which syncs well with the multiracial, multicultural nature and spirit of Canada.

Together both are channeling the Canadian politics in a direction which can generate some fatal blows to the Conservatives and their Alt Right ideologies.

With the election of Jagmeet Singh as the national leader of the New Democratic Party, Canada seems to be much more progressive and politically mature than most democratic countries including the USA. promodpuri.com

Canadians ask: “is it safe to go to USA”

By Promod Puri

Let me first position myself as if I were present at the Las Vegas country music show on the night of October 1st. Although, I am not a concert-going enthusiast, but I could join with the joyous music lovers attending the Route 91 musical festival. It was like a celebration, and when the crowd heard some “fireworks”, they thought it was part of the event. No, it was not. Perched up at the adjacent Mandalay Bay Hotel, a “lone-wolf”, Stephen Paddock, from his room window started shooting indiscriminately down the concert crowd of over 22,000 people. Within few minutes an enjoyable and peaceful music festival turned into a chaotic scene of bloody carnage. They say it was the deadliest domestic massacre in the on-going mass shooting incidents in the U.S.A. The maniac before fatally shooting himself, pumped hundreds of bullets killing at least 59 fans, and hurting over 500 of them. I am hurt too.

In visualising the pathetic scene, I am hurt with empathetic feelings along with people all over the world. The vintage position of the insane gunman from the 32nd floor of the hotel entirely covered his widespread target. The musical retreat rolled into the gunman’s trap. The concertgoers could neither run for safety nor lie down. It was a stampede with hardly any escape. Only luck could save the attendees from being either shot dead or injured.

My hurt feelings have turned into anger and puzzles. What is going on in the United States of America? That too happening more frequently. Within a span of a year or so mass killings thru random shootings happened in Charleston, San Bernardino, Orlando, and now in Las Vegas. And who knows the next gunning could be in any city across the border where hundreds of Canadians, including myself, my family, and friends, frequently do their day trips.

The question most Canadians ask: “is it safe to go to the USA”. Mass shooting can happen anytime, in any incoherent places or neighbourhoods in the country. The authorities in Washington do not issue travel advisory for their own country. The US does show its concern and safety for all the humanity from possible nuclear charge by “rogue regimes” of North Korea or Iran. But does it care about the safety and lives of its own citizens and thousands of visitors from the foray of made-in-America terrorism?

I am mad at the madness of the psychotic killers. And my madness is supplemented by the inaction of all those Congressmen and women, and rest of the US lawmakers. They are quick in sending condolence messages and offering prayers for the victims. But enact no effective laws and restrictions to tackle gun violence. The US police forces are ineffective to police their rogue citizens, while its armed forces are engaged worldwide in policing the world.

“Whatever happens in Vegas stays in Vegas”, but not anymore.

The world saw another tragedy in the USA, this time on the Strip. It will remain top “breaking” news with extensive coverage for some time. The newscasting is laced with same old debates and arguments which are squeezed and distilled with comprehensive analyses, expertise, and data. But no action. Things cool down after a while. The issue subsides in few days or weeks.

But a bloody rampage can develop again under the shadow of “gun culture”, proudly protected by the Second Amendment. While a leading gun lobbyist advocates “the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun”.

God save America, and those visiting America.

Promodpuri.com

 

Multi Aspects Of Balraj Puri’s Patriotism

by Ramchandra Guha

(The Telegraph, August 19,2017)19edittop4

Balraj Puri (1928-2014)

I have been thinking a great deal recently about the difference between patriotism and jingoism. The provocation – or inspiration rather – was a visit to Jammu to speak in memory of Balraj Puri – writer, social reformer and political activist – who embodied Indian democracy at its best.

There are a great many hyper-patriots active in India today who spend their days and nights abusing either Pakistan or China, and, sometimes, both. Balraj Puri expressed his love for his country in an altogether different manner. Over the course of a long life, he fought for independence from the British, for freedom from the autocratic rule of the Kashmir maharaja, for the human rights of Kashmiris and for regional autonomy for Jammu and Ladakh as well.

Balraj Puri’s life as an Indian patriot started early, at the age of fourteen, when he started an Urdu weekly inspired by the Quit India movement. He was an active journalist for many decades thereafter, and also wrote many books in English, among them an important study of Indian Muslims, an analysis of the complicated relations between Jammu province and the Kashmir Valley, and an authoritative analysis of the origins of the insurgency in Kashmir.

Balraj Puri was admired for his writings, and for his probity and personal courage. In the 1980s and 1990s, Jammu was prone to bouts of communal violence, provoked on the one side by Hindu militants of the Ram Janmabhoomi movement and on the other by the persecution of the Pandits by Islamists in the Valley. Contemporaries carry vivid memories of Puri, then well into his sixties, moving around his home town on a battered old scooter, seeking to calm tempers and prevent anger being converted into violence.

In a state riven by suspicion and discord, Balraj Puri was trusted in all regions and by all communities. When he died in August 2014, one obituarist wrote that “Jammu has lost the champion of its regional identity, Kashmir has lost a crusader for democracy and human rights, the State as a whole has lost a peace activist, and the nation has lost a liberal and progressive voice.” Another compared Puri to India’s second prime minister, Lal Bahadur Shastri; both men whose small and slight frame “concealed a human dynamo with boundless energy for all constructive causes…”

A large crowd of mourners accompanied Balraj Puri’s body to the crematorium in Jammu. Among them was an elderly man crying loudly while muttering, ‘This person was not up for sale,’ ‘This person was not up for sale.’ Puri’s family and friends had never before seen this grieving Jammu-ite, whose spontaneous tribute was as moving, and as just, as any offered later in print.

Within Jammu and Kashmir, Balraj Puri remains a greatly respected figure. However, outside his home state, his work remains less known than it should be. That is a pity. For now, more than ever, India needs patriots like Balraj Puri. It needs men and women whose patriotism is expressed not in the continuous vilification of some other country, but in words and actions aimed at making our own country more tolerant, more prosperous, less unhappy, and less conflict-ridden. For perhaps the most important form of patriotism is that which seeks to give dignity to oppressed groups such as Dalits and women while simultaneously seeking to promote tolerance and mutual respect among citizens otherwise divided by language, caste or religion.

Unlike the hyper-ventilating hyper-patriots of the present time, Balraj Puri was not consumed by the desire to make India more powerful than its neighbours. Rather, he wanted to make India itself a better and safer place for its citizens. That was the first lesson of Puri’s life. A second lesson is that there is no one singular patriotism; rather, there are multiple and overlapping forms of patriotism.

There is a famous saying, ‘Charity begins at home.’ Patriotism also begins at home. Balraj Puri loved his town and his district, but he loved his state and his country too. He was a Jammu city patriot, a Jammu province patriot, a Jammu and Kashmir patriot and an Indian patriot – all at the same time. He demonstrated by example that love for your locality and for your province could be perfectly consistent with love for your country.

Notably, Balraj Puri devoted a great deal of energy to promoting peace and self-respect in the neighbouring state of Punjab. Among the half-a-dozen languages he himself spoke fluently was Punjabi. He urged the Hindus of Punjab to honour the mother tongue they shared with the Sikhs, rather than succumb to sangh parivar chauvinists who wanted them to promote Hindi instead. At the same time, he unequivocally opposed Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and his band of gun-toting Sikh extremists. He was one of the first from outside the state to visit Punjab after Operation Bluestar, speaking out against violence and in favour of reconciliation.

Some would like to reduce patriotism to the worshipping of symbols. However, offering puja to the tiranga jhanda ten times a day may or may not make you a better patriot. A more lasting, more constructive, form of patriotism is to endeavour to make your locality, your town, your district, your province and country a more tolerant, inclusive and democratic place.

Balraj Puri’s own patriotism was substantive rather than symbolic. He did not exhibit his love for the motherland by shouting ‘ Mera Bharat Mahan‘ every now and then, interspersing this with shouts of ‘Pakistan murdabad’. Rather, in how he behaved, what he wrote, and what he struggled about, he tried to make our country more worthy of the ideals of the Indian Constitution by promoting respect, honour, dignity, equality and justice in everyday life.

Balraj Puri was admirable and exemplary, but not, of course, unique. There are many such patriots active in our land, who promote the values of the Constitution while working in village, town, district, state or country. Some of these patriots are written about occasionally in the press. Others remain unknown. Not that they mind. For publicity, or at least an excess of it, can be antithetical to true patriotism and nation-building. The more you crave publicity, the less time you can actually devote to social reform or constructive work.

Balraj Puri was a patriot, not a jingoist. Making his own country a better place was far more important to him than demonizing other countries. He recognized that patriotism begins at home, with the place one is in, yet also understood that one must have a wider view of how one’s locality related to one’s state and one’s nation. In presenting his views, he never resorted to violence, not even to violence in language. And he worked out of passion and conviction, not for honour or reward.

There is one last aspect of Balraj Puri’s life that I would like to recall. Seventy years after Independence, India remains a deeply divided society, this divisiveness stoked and encouraged by power-obsessed politicians and by a TRP-obsessed media. In this atmosphere, one of the hardest jobs in India is reconciliation. But also perhaps one of the most necessary. For India can stay united and democratic only when respect and recognition replace suspicion and animosity in relations among castes, regions, languages and religions. This reconciliation is what Balraj Puri strove for all his life, admirably following in the footsteps of that other great patriot and reconciler, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi.

 This article is published courtesy of The Telegraph.

promodpuri.com

Apology From Govt. of Canada

“Today, we are announcing that the government of Canada has reached a settlement with Mr. Omar Khadr, bringing this civil case to a close,
“On behalf of the government of Canada, we wish to apologize to Mr. Khadr for any role Canadian officials may have played in relation to his ordeal abroad and any resulting harm”.

Along with the apology Khadr received a compensation of $10.5 million for the torture he faced in the notorious Guantanamo jail starting at the young age of 15.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal govt. deserves praise for this bold and principled step based on Canadian values for justice and rule of law which were shamefully traded with racist and ultra conservative stand by the Conservative Harper government.

Congratulations to the team of lawyers for successfully handling the Khadr case, which sure will get some space in the contemporary history of Canada loaded with prejudice and hatred. promodpuri.com

Behind Modi: The Growing Influence Of Indian Lobby

By Ashok Sharma

Ashok Sharma, University of New South Wales, Canberra at Australian Defence Force Academy

One has 32.9 million Twitter followers; the other has 31 million.

When U.S. President Donald Trump met Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the White House on June 26, Trump chose to draw attention to something the leaders have in common by saying “We are world leaders on social media.”

Prior to the June 26 meeting, news analysts focused on how the U.S.-India relationship was strained over possible changes to the U.S. H1B visa program. Approximately 70 percent of these visas were issued to Indians in 2014. Another source of friction: Trump’s remarks railing against India and China while withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement.

But Modi’s meeting with Trump showed these events would cause little loss of momentum in U.S.-India relations. In fact, as a scholar of U.S.-India relations, I’d argue that the ties between the two countries are so intertwined that derailment is almost impossible.

From logjam to strategic partnership

The economic relationship between the two countries has seen a tenfold increase in the past 15 years – from US$5.6 billion in 1990 to $103 billion in 2015.

The U.S. has displaced Russia as the biggest supplier of arms to India. It is also the country with which India conducts the most military exercises.

These stronger economic and military ties are two signs of ways the U.S. and India have drawn closer since the end of the Cold War. Other common interests including securing the Indo-Pacific region as China increasingly asserts itself there and fighting Islamic extremism.

A lesser-known catalyst pushing the U.S. and India together – lobbying by Indian-Americans – is the subject of my new book. In my view, this relatively new political force has played a pivotal role in transforming U.S. foreign policy toward India.

The emergence of Indian lobbying

Although Indian-Americans make up just about 1 percent of the total American population, they are an influential group.

Measured by per-capita income, Indian-Americans are the wealthiest ethnic group in the U.S. Beginning in the 1990s, their professional success gave the community confidence to play a more active role in the American social and political life. Backed by their own financial resources and growing population, Indian-Americans took to lobbying through a network of professional and political organizations such as the Indian American Forum for Political Education, Indian American Committee for Political Awareness and U.S.-India Political Action Committee.

The bipartisan Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans was formed in 1993. The caucus expanded from its original membership of eight to 50 within 12 months of its founding. Its membership peaked at approximately 200 members a decade later. Although it is somewhat smaller now, it continues to be the largest caucus dedicated to a single country.

In 2004, a bipartisan India Caucus was formed in the U.S. Senate which was headed by Hillary Clinton, Democratic senator of New York, and John Cornyn, Republican senator of Texas. This was the first time a Senate caucus was formed dedicated to a single country.

An evolving strategy

In the beginning of the 1990s, the Indian lobby focused on countering the Pakistani lobby groups, which had a strong presence during the Cold War period.

The first major test came in defending India’s nuclear test in 1998, an act by which India essentially declared itself as a nuclear power in defiance of international norms. Another early test was exposing exposing Pakistan’s military adventurism in Kargil War in 1999 and creating a more objective view of the Kashmir issue.

However, it was during the passage of the U.S.-India Civilian Nuclear Agreement Bill in the U.S. Congress in 2008 that the real clout of Indian lobbying was confirmed. The India lobby emphasized the positive aspects of the civilian atomic agreement, ensuring its safe passage at every stage in the U.S. Congress.

The caucus members were responsible for turning around the negative impression of India that dominated the Cold War period. They highlighted India’s credentials as a democracy, the value of its market economically and its growing strategic importance.

The growing support for India in the U.S. Congress was reflected when 40 congressional representatives attended an address given by Modi in Manhattan in September 2014 and by the applause Modi received during his address to a joint session of Congress two years later.

Visits from Modi

Modi’s frequent visits have reinvigorated both the India-U.S. ties and the Indian lobbying.

During his second visit to the U.S. in 2014, Modi met with a 50-member delegation of the Oversea Friends of BJP, India’s center-right ruling party, and listened to their concerns and issues.

The first-ever U.S. convention to mobilize the diaspora , organized by the same group, helped Modi connect with the Indian community.

The Indian lobby is paying close attention to the issue of H1B visa as the IT industry is one of the major success stories in the India-U.S. relationship. But Indo-U.S. ties go way beyond any single issue.

The Trump administration seems to realize this. Welcoming Modi’s visit to the U.S., White House spokesperson Sean Spicer listed “fighting terrorism, promoting economic growth and reforms and expanding security cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region” as common priorities for the two countries. The Indian side was looking for “a new direction for deeper bilateral engagement.”

Modi and Trump each have a corporate style of administration. This may help the India-U.S. economic cooperation accelerate and achieve their target of $500 billion in trade in the coming years.

The ConversationA challenge for both leaders will be how to reconcile Trump’s “America First” policy with Modi’s “Make in India” campaign. However, I believe the synergies between the two economies are strong enough to overcome this challenge, especially with the help of the India lobby.

(The article was originally published by the Conversation)

JAPAN COSTITUTION FORBIDS WAR

Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution (日本国憲法第9条 Nihonkokukenpō dai kyū-jō?) is a clause in the national Constitution of Japan outlawing war as a means to settle international disputes involving the state. The Constitution came into effect on May 3, 1947, following World War II. In its text, the state formally renounces the sovereign right of belligerency and aims at an international peace based on justice and order. The article also states that, to accomplish these aims, armed forces with war potential will not be maintained.

However, Japan maintains de facto armed forces, referred to as the Japan Self-Defense Forces, which may have originally been thought of as something akin to what Mahatma Gandhi called the Shanti Sena (soldiers of peace) or a collective security police (peacekeeping) force operating under the United Nations. Source: Wikipedia

What does Trump have to do with the Hindu sacred syllable, om?

 

Republican nominee Donald Trump was recently invited to a fundraising event organized by a conservative group of Hindu Americans, the Republican Hindu Coalition. A poster from the event, which describes the group as “Hindus for Trump,” portrays the candidate in a posture much like that of a yogi in deep meditation.

It shows Trump, face pointing upward and hands outstretched, rising up from a mass of red, white and blue flower petals in the shape of a lotus. Prominently displayed in the center is the Indian sacred syllable, “om,” decorated with stars and stripes.

Om is the preeminent Sanskrit mantra and symbol of Indian religions, especially Hinduism. In terms of religious identity, this sign denotes Hinduism in much the same way that the star of David and the Christian cross represent Judaism and Christianity. Om has its own dedicated sign in the scripts for Hindi and other Indian languages.

In global culture, the om sign has come to stand for Indian spirituality in general. It has been widely adopted by practitioners of yoga and meditation.

However, contemplation, transcendence or Indian spirituality would seem to have little in common with Trump’s public persona that has been described by the media as reflecting “narcissism, disagreeableness, grandiosity.”

So, what should we make of this juxtaposition of Trump and India’s “sacred syllable”?

For the uninitiated, here is what om means

The history of om stretches back more than 3,000 years. Om was first attested in the Vedas, a massive corpus of ancient “knowledge” (“veda” in Sanskrit) from the first millennium B.C. that furnishes the oldest and most authoritative texts of Hinduism.

The Upaniṣads, a collection of later Vedic texts regarded as the foundation for Indian philosophy, hailed om as “this whole world” and as the singular distillation of all wisdom.

Subsequent texts on Hindu law from the start of the Common Era codified the practice of intoning om at the start of every sacred recitation.

Hindu theological discourses emphasize that the sound of om is not of human origin – rather, it is a divine revelation and an audible expression of transcendence. By chanting or contemplating the mantra om, a practitioner gains access to a higher state of consciousness that leads to liberation from the cycle of rebirth.

In all these respects, the syllable has served as the quintessential symbol of religious authority in Hinduism – a role it continues to play up through the present day.

Multiple forms of om

This history, however, is not that simple. My research into om’s early history reveals that this symbol, much like the Hindu traditions it has come to represent, is neither monolithic nor static.

Om did not emerge suddenly as a full-fledged symbol of knowledge and the cosmos. Instead, premodern Hindu thinkers gradually constructed om as a single concept through contentious debates and theological reflections.

My research shows om in the Vedas does not have a single form or meaning. It is recited in many ways, appears in many different ritual contexts, and inspires a wide range of interpretations.

For example, Vedic experts in music described it as the sound of the sun, since it introduced their songs just like the sun signals the start of the day; the same singers called om “honey” for the sweetness it added to their melodies. Vedic specialists in sacrifice glossed om as an affirmation of ritual actions, as the “truth” inherent in their mantras. Other Vedic thinkers maintained that om was a secret password for attaining immortality at the moment of death.

Such examples could be multiplied many times over, not just in the Vedas but also in subsequent texts from Hindu, Buddhist and other Indian religious traditions where om is central to discussions about yoga, meditation, creation and salvation.

The bottom line is that India’s sacred syllable emerged over many centuries, depended on the contributions of different voices and accrued countless meanings along the way.

As a researcher of om, whenever I encounter the sign – whether inscribed in a manuscript, displayed at a Hindu temple or featured on a Donald Trump poster – its history of multiple meanings flashes into my mind.

There is no one Hindu voice

Now, against this background, let’s look at what the Hindus for Trump group is doing with its juxtaposition of Trump and om.

Hindus for Trump is closely allied with the Republican Hindu Coalition (RHC). Founded in 2015 by businessman Shalli Kumar, the RHC claims to provide “a single, unified platform for raising voice of Hindu Americans in public policy.”

In my view this raises the following issues:

Although in some contexts om is simply shorthand for “Hindu,” it seems problematic to harness this complex symbol to the single agenda of right-wing political activism among Hindu Americans.

Additionally, this raises another question: Do Hindu Americans really speak with only one voice?

Judging from the protests and the backlash on social media, there are many Hindu Americans besides Hindus for Trump and the RHC who might be inclined to associate Trump with syllables more profane than sacred.

Om’s history exemplifies the fact that Hindu traditions and Hindu identity are complex and varied. “Hinduism” covers an astonishing array of doctrines, practices and lifestyles in India, Asia and around the world.

While Hinduism’s history has not been free from conflict, there is an abiding openness to diversity at the roots of the tradition, as this famous verse from the Vedas attests (Rig Veda 1.164):

“Truth is one but the wise call it by many names.”

From a temple complex in suburban Boston to a street shrine in Varanasi; from Sanskrit dramas in Kerala to processions in Nepal – every day, practitioners, devotees and regular people create, contest and carry forward the traditions of this world religion in multiple ways.

The jarring juxtaposition of Trump and om reminds us that there is more to Hinduism and its iconography than a political poster can convey.

AUTHOR: Finnian M.M. Gerety Visiting Assistant Professor, Religious Studies, Brown University

Article courtesy The CONVERSATION.

American Election Scene

donald-trump-phone-2011Let us dump Trump and not see his face again.

With American politics at an all-time low, it’s no wonder that game developers are taking to their art to express their discontent with the presidential race. The last time we had a presidential race, social media wasn’t nearly as popular as it is today, but now I see Donald Trump all over my newsfeed on Twitter and Facebook. So it’s no wonder that Trump has also leaked into the video game world. Trump Dump is a mobile game that lets those take their anger out on Trump.

Trump Dump works a lot like Flappy Bird, except…backwards. In Flappy Bird, you tap the screen to bounce the bird upwards, but in Trump Dump, you tap the screen to bounce the bird downwards. It feels really weird at first and makes gameplay pretty difficult. The trick is to get through the hole in the wall. Once you finally make it through the hole, you get the opportunity to drop a dump on Trump. Check out the gameplay below.

Trump Has Great Plan For America

 

(Wamiq Misbahi in NY Times)Trump is a man with a vision for America, not a specific vision, a great vision…the best vision…Trump has a plan to make this country great again….What plan??….a great plan…a plan that will work because it’s the best plan…..Why???… because Trump knows good people…which people???….the best people….people that are not stupid like other people….people who know how to get deals done…what deals???…great deals…the biggest deals… because I know words… What words???…I have the best words… I get my information from watching TV… I consult with myself because I have a great brain… A great brain???…the best brain…Trump will also build a big wall to keep Mexicans out and he will make Mexico pay for it!…How….??? its all part of the great plan!…ISIS will be gone very, very quickly…How???… I won’t tell you.. It’s a secret !!!… (This guy is a “one-man circle jerk” and he is only about entertaining the uneducated who love him and his great plan. He’s all air – no substance. And he is their Champion

I “borrowed” this with permission of the author. So, don’t accuse me of plagiarism.
promodpuri.com

An Overview of the American Election Scene

Following the American election is like watching a live theatrical performance of wit and idiocy.

The ongoing show besides its elements of great entertainment and fuel for discussion, reveals the left-right extremes of current American political thinking and behavior.

No doubt the most colorful and watched character in this spectacle is Donald Trump who impulsively spits out his unscripted discourses the moment these are created in his narcissist egghead workshop.

The stupidity of Trump-level scripts is his big asset. He sure does a good job in creating the scenarios which are scary when introduced, but often laughable and entertaining as the show continues.

Without Donald Trump in his natural performances the entire episode of this 2016 edition of American election scene would be bland and unnoticed. He certainly has outperformed all others by creating and controlling the stage agenda.

Trump is proud of his management skills both as a businessman and of his personal life, including managing his ruffled hairs. His confidence in his seemingly irrational logics have produced some original proposals as for as safety and security of American public is concerned. Great Wall of America would be one of the most popular legacies of Trump even if it remains as his cherished dream. And his tirade to keep out Muslims will follow him like a shadow long after the election is over.

Another roadside show of the USA election is all about Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. She is getting impatient with her competitor as when he will move his food truck, which is drawing more customers than expected, so that she prepares for the final bout in the upcoming grand finally in November.

(Credit: the food truck idea borrowed from a recent cartoon with its political pun of US election scene).

Promod Puri is the author of recently released book “Hinduism beyond rituals,customs and traditions”.

By Promod Puri

 

 

Left Vs Right Ideologies

By Promod Puri

What is swaying the world for the past several decades is the binaries of left and right ideologies with elements of power, ego and greed.

These elements have been part of both left and right regimes from Cuba to China and Russia to the USA along with its allies in Europe, and in the developing countries of Asia, Africa and South America.

The left and right ideological factor has superseded the expansionist factor which dominated the reigning supremacy over land and people for centuries. And even religious domination is not much an ideological factor in sovereign expansion.

The idiosyncrasy of the present socio-political left and the right mental constitution is that the leftists have a revulsion for religion. And the rightists are religious fanatic. The former ridicules and rejects religion, and the latter is narcissistically illiterate about it.

Religion is neither left or right, nor it is centerist. Religion is a righteous ideology when comprehended in its true spirit.

Genesis Of Kashmir Problem And Its Resolution

By Promod Puri

The division of the Indian sub-continent in 1947 generated a persistent hostility between India and Pakistan, a hostility dominated by clashing territorial claims over the Kashmir region.

On the international stage, the Kashmir problem is viewed in diplomatic, political, government and media circles, with the understanding that the region has a single entity – geographically, religiously, linguistically and culturally. The complexity of the Kashmir problem can be unfolded when viewed from the divergent realities that exist in the region.

Involved in the Kashmir tangle are also the regions of Jammu and Ladakh along with Pakistan-controlled Azad Kashmir and Northern Areas.

Historically the present geopolitical formation of the state of Jammu and Kashmir happened in the middle of the 19th century. Sikh ruler, Maharaja Ranjit Singh annexed the territories of Jammu region in 1819, and then sold it to his Dogra commander Gulab Singh in 1820, and crowned him the King. In 1834 Gulab Singh annexed the kingdom of Ladakh, and in 1846 the Kashmir region was ceded to the Dogra king under a treaty with the British government, who then was ruling most of the sub­ continent.

Dogra dynasty ruled the state for almost a hundred years.

Under the Dogra rule, the state comprised a huge territory of over two million sq. km., touching boundaries of Afghanistan in the north, China in the north and east, present-day Pakistan in the west and India in the South.

As India was fighting for independence from the British, so were the people of Kashmir Valley seeking their freedom from the autocratic rule of the Dogra regime which ultimately ended in October 1947. Following that, the region underwent major political and communal turmoil which significantly changed the hundred-year-old map of the state in which Pakistan controls the north-western area of Gilgit and Hunza known as Northern Area and South-west area known as Azad Jammu and Kashmir.

The Indian part of the state with its three distinct regions Jammu, Kashmir, and Ladakh together don’t make a coalescent political entity as both regional and sub-regional differences in terms of history, physiography, ethnicity, language, and culture are remarkably very sharp.

According to the 2011 census, the present population of the Indian part of the state of Jammu and Kashmir is 12.55 million, of which the Jammu region is 4.4 million, Kashmir region has 5.4 million and Ladakh has over 236,000. Pakistan ruled the state of Azad Jammu and Kashmir, the total population is 4.6 million according to some latest estimation, and in the Pakistan-controlled Northern region, the population is 1.8 million.

Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists are the major religious groups in the state whereby Islam leads the faith with 67% of the population, followed by Hindus 30%, Sikhs 2%, and Buddhists by about 1%. Minority faiths in the Indian held areas of the state include Christians and Jains. Muslims are almost 100% in the Pakistan part of Jammu and Kashmir.

While a clear majority of the dominant Muslim faith in Jammu, Kashmir, and Azad Kashmir are followers of the Sunni sect, in the Kargil district of Ladakh and in the Northern Areas, except Gilgit, the majority of the population follows the Shia sect.

Contrary to the popular belief that all the people of the Indian controlled Jammu and Kashmir speak Kashmiri language, the fact is that according to the 1981 census 40% speak the language, and the rest 60% constitute the non-Kashmiri speaking population.

Whereas Hindus of the state mostly speak Dogri language, non-Kashmiri Muslims speak various languages and dialects depending upon the region they inhabit, and accordingly, there is quite a cultural variation among them.

The primary language in the Kashmir region is, of course, Kashmiri, and in the rest of the state, there is an abundance of languages and dialects. Moreover, each language or dialect is not confined to any religious group.

Kashmir is inhabited by Pre-Aryan and non-Aryan races, Jammu by an Aryan race, and Ladakh by Tibetan and Mongolian races. All three regions have distinct geographical, historical and cultural backgrounds that influenced the character and the role of religion in each one of them.

Kashmir region developed its own character based on its un-interrupted history of five thousand years. Originally inhabited by pre-Aryan tribes, Kashmir accepted Vedic, Buddhist, Saivite and Islamic faiths, retaining the essence of the beliefs, rituals, and practices of each of them while taking pride in its pre-Islamic achievements in the fields of philosophy, culture, and politics.

Unlike Kashmir, most parts of Jammu are mountainous and sub-mountainous. Its pluralistic society is almost entirely of Aryan stock and Dogri language is spoken by the single largest community of both Hindus and Muslims who culturally and politically dominate the region.

The Pahari speaking community lives in both the Kashmir and Jammu regions of the state. In the Pakistan-controlled region, they speak the same language with small dialectic differences. The Pahari community is predominantly Muslim. The Hindu and the Sikh members of the Pahari-speaking community, who had to migrate from the Pakistan-held area of the state, mostly live in Jammu district.

Ladakh, the third important region of the state, enjoyed its own status for centuries as part of the celebrated Silk Route. As an entrepot of trade between India, Central Asia, and Tibet for centuries Ladakh was a confluence of cultures. But its geographical position has helped it preserve its ancient culture and ways of life almost intact.

It was thru Ladakh that Mahayana Buddhism, which was born in Kashmir spread to Tibet, China, and Japan. Buddhists owe their loyalty to Lamas who have their own discipline and hierarchy. They used to go to Tibet for religious training. But after the Chinese intervention in Tibet and the flight of the Dalai Lama along with some of his followers Tibet has lost its status as a source of religious and spiritual inspiration. Buddhists who inhabit the Leh district constitute 50 percent of the Ladakh population.

In Kargil area of Ladakh Ulmas have a hold on Shias who constitute the overwhelming majority of Muslims and 48% of Ladakh’s population. Some of them have had their theological training in Iran and owe their loyalty with its Shia leadership.

An important facet to the Kashmir problem which is rarely discussed and reported is the situation in the Pakistan-controlled part called Northern Areas which is constitutionally separate from Azad Kashmir.

The Northern Areas joined Pakistan in 1947 thru a local revolt against the Dogra regime which had a small army there and was unable to control the revolt. In 1948, the region was formally merged with Pakistan under the Karachi agreement between leaders of the Azad Jammu & Kashmir and Pakistan, but without the participation of anybody from the Northern Areas.

The Northern Areas comprise five districts, but none of them has any ethnic-cultural affinity with any of either India or Pakistan parts of the state.

Different identities of the people on both sides of the Line of Control are established irrespective of their religious affiliations.

Jammu and Kashmir have far more religious, linguistic and cultural diversities than any state in India and Pakistan, and even in any other South Asian country.

If the interests and urges of the people with such multifarious identities could be reconciled, the diversities themselves would have been a great source of strength for the state. But the failure to recognize and reconcile them became its biggest weakness. The divergent character of the state is not widely known. Rather the religious temperament is overtly manifested.

Nobody can deny the role of religion and religion-based identities in shaping human behavior. But no identity is monolithic. There are other identities that cut across religious identities and play an equally significant and decisive role in determining this behavior.

With enormous diversity existing in the State of Jammu and Kashmir in terms of geography, religion, and culture that a wider look at the Kashmir problem reveals the regional aspirations of its people. These aspirations are very much reflected in the heterogeneous composition of its Muslim population as there are Kashmiri speaking Muslims, Gujjar Muslims, Pahari Muslims, Kargil Muslims, Dogra Muslims, and several other linguistic-based Muslims.

The regional aspirations of the people in the state based on their languages, cultures, and customs are felt much more vividly and emotionally on both sides of the border in the Jammu region than in the Kashmir valley.

It was primarily the Jammu region which was divided in 1947. And this is where thousands of people, Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs with allied linguistic and cultural backgrounds had to migrate in brutal sectarian bloodshed when they left their centuries-old habitats within the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir.

JAMMU: A CLUE TO KASHMIR PROBLEM

The regional aspirations of the Jammu region on both sides of the border constitute a clue to tackle the Kashmir tangle. The bonds of language and culture between the two parts of the state are what the leadership of both India and Pakistan need to further cement in order to make an effective beginning in understanding the fuller dimension of the Kashmir problem.

As far as the Kashmir problem is concerned Pakistan basis its argument that it is a Muslim majority region. True, the demographic data confirm this fact. But this should not be the sole argument for it being a part of Pakistan. India’s position is that Kashmir belongs to it because the autocratic ruler of the former Kashmir state signed an accession treaty with India. And the state’s constituent assembly had passed the resolution to accede with India.

While India and Pakistan are engaged in their on-and-off parleys and frequent skirmishes for decades including two wars, the divergent urges of the region itself have been suppressed for too long. The moment these are released and recognized the Kashmir problem opens up beyond religion and politics.

So where the parties can start or restart to resolve this longest outstanding problem on the world political scene.

The first step as far India is concerned is to smooth out wrinkles of ethnic, political and economic imbalances in the three regions of the state. Satisfying the regional aspirations of the people along with the economic uplift thru equal opportunities will not only ease the internal tension significantly but will bring a lot of stability and peace to the region. And the same goes for Pakistan controlled parts of the state especially the Northern Areas.

Secondly, both India and Pakistan in their endeavors to resolve the problem must open up the borders in the state, more significantly in the Jammu sector, to let the people with same linguistic and cultural affinities move and interact freely.

A cordial and enthusiastic atmosphere can be created at the grass-root level where linguistic and cultural realities can effectively compete with both religious and political considerations to determine the future of the region thru a referendum.

In this social and non-political scenario, the agenda of the referendum deciding the future of the region – if it will be part of India, Pakistan, or remain independent- would be the answer most inclusive of the region’s diversity.

Recognition of diversities existing in the entire area of Jammu and Kashmir at its pre-partition status followed by a referendum are critical if a permanent resolution to the Kashmir problem is to be found for a sense of ultimate peace in the region.

And peace is what people in the region are passionately waiting to breathe.

(Promod Puri, a native of the state of Jammu and Kashmir, resides in Vancouver, Canada, he is a writer and former editor and publisher of the South Asian Canadian newspaper, The Link, and ex-editor of Native Indian newspaper, The New Nation. He is the author of a recently published book titled “Hinduism beyond rituals, customs and traditions”). His website: promodpuri.com

 

APPLES, ORANGES AND KASHMIR

 

apples-oranges1By Promod Puri

Apple and oranges don’t mix. They grow in separate regions and in separate climates. They have separate shapes and separate tastes.

Jammu grows oranges, sweet and juicy. Kashmir grows apples, luscious and crispy. Put them together in a box. And market it as product of Kashmir. That is simply deceptive labelling. It should be marked as product of Jammu And Kashmir.

And that is the same subtle difference when Kashmir and Jammu are packaged together linguistically, socially and politically. And the entity is stamped as Kashmir.

The packaging is done and marketed by Kashmiri political traders.

As such the Kashmir issue in its present outlook does not justify to be the basis of agenda of talks between India and Pakistan.

The simple but mostly ignored reason is that the colloquial ‘Kashmir issue’ is not representative of all the diverse regions of the state, as well as those held by Pakistan. The occasional violence erupts only in the valley not in other parts of the state. We seldom hear about political protests and fury in Jammu or Ladakh regions, or even for that matter in Pakistan-controlled “Azad Kashmir”.

The entire Kashmir leadership is controlled by Kashmiri-speaking politicians and activists. There is no representation from the other regions of the state such as Jammu and Ladakh.

The state of Jammu and Kashmir is extensively diverse: linguistically, culturally, religiously and geographically.

Ignorance of this reality generates the impression that everybody in the state is Kashmiri-speaking. The same applies to “Azad Kashmir”. Nobody there speaks Kashmiri, nor do they identify culturally with the Valley.

Unless a correction in the “Kashmir problem” is made to recognize the diverse realities of the state of Jammu and Kashmir, only then it can be discussed among all the concerned parties. In its present avatar, the Kashmir Issue itself is unrealistic, undemocratic and monopolized.

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