Skip to main content

Balancing equities? Polarization of an already divided nation on August 5, 2020

By Fr Cedric Prakash SJ*

Fifth August 2020: A ‘bhoomi pujan’ has take place in Ayodhya, marking the beginning of the construction work for a Ram temple, at the site where the Babri Masjid once stood. The construction of the temple is expected to take three years and the costs, yet undisclosed, will surely run into astronomical amounts. The Babri Masjid- Ram Mandir fight, has been one of the most contentious issues in post-independent India. It has resulted in plenty of bloodshed, destruction, violence, hate and divisiveness.
In November 2019 in a rather unpalatable, controversial, yet historic written judgement (which is still unsigned), the Supreme Court granted the entire 2.77 acres of disputed land in Ayodhya to the Hindu litigants. In that very judgment, for apparently ‘balancing equities’, the court directed the Central and Uttar Pradesh governments to allot an alternative five acres of land to the Muslim party to build a mosque.
Many thinking citizens of India (mainly from the majority community) are not unhappy with the judgement, but also the fact that the ‘bhoomi pujan’ has taken place -- which will add to the polarization of an already divided nation! A lamentable day indeed!
Fifth August 2020: The Prime Minister was present for the ‘bhoomi pujan.’ He did not go there as a private citizen but as a Constitutional authority, who is expected to protect and promote the secular fabric of the country. Despite pleas from several sections of society that he does not participate in the event, he threw all caution and propriety to the wind, in order to display his threw colours (he stopped hiding them a long time ago). 
The majority of Indians are Hindu; but thanks to the vision and ideals of our Constituent Assembly secularism was allowed to flourish with (at least theoretically) all religions treated with respect and allowed to grow.
In the pathbreaking judgment of 1994 of SR Bommai vs Union of India, secularism was recognised as part of the basic structure of the constitution; Justice Jeevan Reddy held that the constitution does not recognise or permit mixing religion and state power, and the two must be kept apart. The judgement states:
“If the Constitution requires the State to be secular in thought and action, the same requirement attaches to political parties as well. The Constitution does not recognise, it does not permit, mixing religion and State power. Both must be kept apart. That is the constitutional injunction. None can say otherwise so long as this Constitution governs this country.
“Introducing religion into politics is to introduce an impermissible element into body politic and an imbalance in our constitutional system. If a political party espousing a particular religion comes to power, that religion tends to become, in practice, the official religion. All other religions come to acquire a secondary status, at any rate, a less favourable position. This would be plainly antithetical to Articles 14 to 16, 25 and the entire constitutional scheme adumbrated hereinabove. Under our Constitution, no party or Organisation can simultaneously be a political and a religious party."

With the PM actually being there at the ‘bhoomi pujan’ makes it a lamentable day indeed!
Fifth August 2020: Exactly a year ago, on August 5, 2019, in a move that is acknowledged by legal luminaries both in India and globally as blatantly unconstitutional, the Government of India abrogated Article 370 and Article 35A, thus revoking Jammu and Kashmir’s special semi -autonomous status guaranteed in the Indian Constitution. It demoted India’s only Muslim majority state to a Union Territory.
For a year now Kashmir has become one big prison and placed under a months-long lockdown, practically without any internet or communication facilities. Thousands including activists, lawyers and minors, were arrested; besides political opponents have been incarcerated, silenced and some even ‘bought up’.
The Government has destroyed what was once sacred to the state by making it now possible for all Indians to acquire rights to vote and buy land in J&K; it has initiated an exercise to redraw parliamentary and assembly constituencies that could tilt the balance of power to the Hindu-majority Jammu Division, and withdrawn an order that made it mandatory for Indian security forces to obtain a No Objection Certificate (NOC) before acquiring land in the region.
Media has been silenced; those who speak up and take a stand for Kashmir and her people are branded as ‘anti-national’ or ‘pro-Pakistan’. The losses to the J&K economy in the past year are conservatively estimated to be around Rs 40,000 crore. A sad anniversary: a lamentable day indeed!
From our towers we watched for a nation that could not save us. People stalked us at every step, so we could not walk in our streets
Fifth August 2020: Shehla Rashid, the firebrand young activist from Kashmiri, an alumnus of JNU has been one of those voices who has, despite all odds, been trying to keep Kashmir on the nation’s agenda. It is an uphill task indeed. In an interview to HuffPost India (August 4, 2020) when asked, “How do you feel one year after Article 370 was revoked?”, Rashid said:
“I straddle two very complex identities of Indian Muslim and a Kashmiri woman. In this new India, the space for me as a woman, as a Muslim, as a Kashmiri, and as a research student, is shrinking. The space to be different is shrinking. There is an attempt to paint everything in one colour and homogenise a very diverse country. One used to be afraid of being a Kashmiri in Delhi, now one is afraid of being a Kashmiri in Kashmir.
“It could be just psychological but that is what the government is doing. The biggest change is a feeling of insecurity. We have this feeling that Kashmir, our home, a distinct place where our culture could thrive, seems to be slipping away. That it is being snatched away from us. There is already a sense of nostalgia”.

There are other voices from civil society too, who no uncertain terms condemn the assault on the rights and freedom of the people of #KashmirCaged #StandWithKashmir #ReleasePoliticalPrisoners #Restore4G #EndOccupation .Making the reality there today: a lamentable day indeed!
Fifth August 2020: Nobody cares when India has the greatest spike in the Covid-19 cases and deaths on a single day worldwide. When the poor, the excluded and the vulnerable (particularly the daily wagers and the migrant workers) are on the receiving end of a system which has neither a heart nor a conscience! When human rights defenders, journalists, activists, intellectuals and all who take a stand for Truth and Justice and stand up to the anti-people policies of the Government – are throttled, incarcerated and even killed!
It is the eve of the 75th Anniversary of the nuclear holocaust: first in Hiroshima (August 6, 1945) and then in Nagasaki (August 9, 1945). The world at that time said ‘Never Again’ – a ‘No’ to every form of violence. India (which gave to the world the doctrine of ‘ahimsa’: non-violence) does not seem to have learnt. The ruling regime clearly espouses hate, divisiveness and violence: Kashmir today and the bhoomi pujan today are indicators of this! A lamentable day indeed!
There is a small book in the Holy Bible called the ‘Book of Lamentations’, the writer says:
“Moreover, our eyes failed, looking in vain for help; from our towers we watched for a nation that could not save us. People stalked us at every step, so we could not walk in our streets. Our end was near, our days were numbered, for our end had come.” (4: 17-18).
And further:
“You, Lord, reign forever; your throne endures from generation to generation. Why do you always forget us? Why do you forsake us so long? Restore us to yourself, Lord, that we may return; renew our days as of old” (5:19-21).
Words worth reflecting on, this fifth August 2020: a lamentable day indeed!
--- 
*Human rights and peace activist/writer

Comments

TRENDING

August 22 to be observed as Apostasy Day: International coalition of ex-Muslim groups

By Our Representative
In a unique move, an international coalition of ex-Muslim organisations has decided to observe August 22, 2020 as the Apostasy Day. To be observed for “the abandonment or renunciation of religion”, the coalition, calling upon people to join the call, said, the decision to observe the Apostasy Day has been taken because of apostasy is “punishable by death in Afghanistan, Iran, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritania, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, UAE, and Yemen.”

Buddhist shrines massively destroyed by Brahmanical rulers in "pre-Islamic" era: Historian DN Jha's survey

By Our Representative
Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book, "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

RSS' 25,000 Shishu Mandirs 'follow' factory school model of Christian missionaries

By Bhabani Shankar Nayak*
The executive committee of the International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences (IUAES) recently decided to drop the KISS University in Odisha as the co-host of the World Anthropology Congress-2023. The decision is driven by the argument that KISS University is a factory school.

India must recognise: 4,085 km Himalayan borders are with Tibet, not China

By Tenzin Tsundue, Sandeep Pandey*
There has as been a cancerous wound around India’s Himalayan neck ever since India's humiliating defeat during the Chinese invasion of India in 1962. The recent Galwan Valley massacre has only added salt to the wound. It has come to this because, when China invaded the neighbouring country Tibet in 1950, India was in high romance with the newly-established communist regime under Mao Zedong after a bloody revolution.

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur*
Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Time to give Covid burial, not suspend, World Bank's 'flawed' Doing Business ranking

By Maju Varghese*
On August 27, the World Bank came out with a statement suspending the Doing Business Report. The statement said that a number of irregularities have been reported regarding changes to the data in the Doing Business 2018 and Doing Business 2020 reports, published in October 2017 and 2019. The changes in the data were inconsistent with the Doing Business methodology.

Delhi riots: Cops summoning, grilling, intimidating young to give 'false' evidence

Counterview Desk
More than 440 concerned citizens have supported the statement issued by well-known bureaucrat-turned-human rights activist Harsh Mander ‘We will not be silenced’ which said that the communal riots in Delhi in February 2020 have not been caused by any conspiracy, as alleged by the Delhi Police, but by “hate speech and provocative statements made by a number of political leaders of the ruling party.”

WHO chief ignores India, cites Pak as one of 7 top examples in fight against Covid-19

By Our Representative
In a move that would cause consternation in India’s top policy makers in the Modi government, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, World Health Organization (WHO) director-general, has singled out Pakistan among seven countries that have set “examples” in investing in a healthier and safer future in order to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.

Tata Mundra: NGOs worry as US court rules World Bank can't be sued for 'damages'

By Kate Fried, Mir Jalal*
On August 24 evening, a federal court ruled that the World Bank Group cannot be sued for any damage caused by its lending, despite last year’s Supreme Court ruling in the same case that these institutions can be sued for their “commercial activity” in the United States.