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

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara 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".

Gyanvapi case: Use of 'illegal' lawfare to keep the communal pot simmering

By Venkatesh Narayanan, Bobby Ramakant, Manoj Sarang* With a steady drumbeat of bad news for the lives of ordinary citizens --  inflation at a multi-year high , rupee at an all-time low , negative job creation and when all forward indicators as seen by industry leaders point to recessionary clouds on the horizon , what’s a serially-incompetent government to do?  Dust out their time-tested-citizen-distraction playbook. The Gyanvapi-Masjid case is all of this -- as a weapon of mass distraction. This zeitgeist of our times is best captured by a recent opinion piece : "The idea is to keep the pot on a perpetual boil, simmering at the top, whirling feverishly beneath. A restless society forever living precariously on the precipice arouses distrst, uneasiness, fear and discomfort, That is a toxic panoply for manufacturing rage, which can then be effortlessly mobilized at short notice. BJP is creating an eco-system of real-time instant delivery of hate-mongers. That is how we are sudde

Upholding labour rights, Nehruvian scientific temper, Rajni Patel opposed Emergency

By Harsh Thakor*  Rajni Patel, who died 40 years ago, whatever his flaws, had one great quality: his human touch to offer selfless service and ability to galvanise or influence human beings from all walks of life. Few people would ever go out of the way to help someone or serve as selflessly without aim of personal gain. Rajni championed Nehruvian secular ideas and scientific temper. As a master in public relations he revealed utmost humility. As a barrister, he never appeared against the trade unions or workers. A Fabien Socialist he opposed liberal capitalism and radical socialism. Unlike most lawyers, he did not succumb to the lure of amassing wealth. Rajni was born in Sirsa, in Gujarat, on the very day Gandhi set foot on Indian soil, on 9th January, 1915. He gained his baptism through one of Gandhi's speeches calling for the boycott of foreign goods, which was the virtual turning point of his life. Rajni toed Gandhi to organise boycott of foreign goods. Rajni was able to cros

Targeting mosques, churches: 'Roadmap' for 2025, RSS' centenary year?

416 years old Our Lady of Health Church, Sancoale, Goa  By Fr Cedric Prakash SJ*  Fascists use manipulative strategies aimed at whipping up sympathy and support from the majority community, to which they normally ‘belong’. They do so in a variety of insidious and subtle ways. In the past few months, they have gone overboard in their efforts to denigrate and demonize minorities in India, particularly Muslims and Christians. They have spewed hate and divisiveness through their venomous speeches; incited people to violence and have effectively used officialdom to further their vested interests. The results are there for all to see: greater polarisation of the majority community in a country which prided itself for its pluralism and diversity. Their meticulously planned agenda is in order to gain absolute power of the country in the 2024 national elections. More so it is also a roadmap towards 2025 when the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) will complete one hundred years of its existence.

Vadodara violence: Fine Arts Faculty alumni raise fingers at Varsity's political appointee

Hasmukh Vaghela with PM Counterview Desk  In a statement, alumni of the Faculty of Fine Arts (FoFA), Maharaja Sayajirao University (MSU), Baroda, Gujarat, referring to the “violence” by right-wing groups for displaying “objectionable” paintings that “hurt religious sentiments” at the one of India’s top fine arts institute May 5, have taken strong exception to “the assault and rustication” of one of the students, and lack of action taken against those who “violated” the institution and committed the act. Floated as an online petition seeking wider support, the FoFA alumni, in their statement, addressed to the vice chancellor, MSU, said, there should be “thorough” investigation in the whole incident and “immediate action” should be taken against syndicate member Hasmukh Vaghela, MSU, who sparked the assault, and “other co-conspirators” for breaching “university code of conduct and unlawful activities committed in broad daylight”. While the alumni statement doesn't say so, Vaghela

UK leader cites Indian farmers' struggle one of top global fights against neoliberal order

Counterview Desk  Jeremy Corbyn, member of the UK Parliament, former leader of the UK Labour Party and founder of the  Peace and Justice Project , in his  inaugural speech to the  Progressive International’s  Summit at the End of the World on May 12, 2022, has said, what is happening across globe suggests that "image of apocalypse -- bombs and raids, oil spills and wildfires, disease and contagion -- is a reality for people across the planet." In an adaptation of his speech, distributed by  Globetrotter , Corbyn, however, said, there are fresh examples action, too -- by Indian farmers forcing Prime Minister Narendra Modi to withdraw three neo-liberal laws;  by workers, communities and activists against the top giant multinational Amazon's "greed and exploitation"; and by Latin American people's struggle to say "no more to the domination by imperialism, the destruction of their communities and the abuse of their environments." Stating that this is n

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.

This varsity succumbed to extra-academic mobocracy, 'ignored' Hindutva archives

By Shamsul Islam* Open letter to Sharda University vice-chancellor Sub: Discarding a Question on Linkages of Hindutva with Nazism/Fascism is blatant Academic Dishonesty! Dear Professor Sibaram Khara Saheb, Namaskaar! According to your esteemed University’s portal: “The name of University, 'Sharda' is synonymous to 'Goddess of knowledge and learning-Saraswati'. She is identified with 'veena', an Indian musical instrument and the ‘lotus’, where she resides. The lotus in our logo symbolizes the seat of learning that the University is created for.  "Variety of colours signify the variety of disciplines the university offers and the overlap between petals creating new colours demonstrate the ethos of collaboration between students and teachers of different programme, nationality, creed and colour working towards creating new knowledge…the University's cherished mission to provide education beyond boundaries and to facilitate the students and faculty to achie

Welfare? Govt of India spends just 19% of manual scavengers' rehabilitation budget

By Bharat Dogra*  While the Dalit community has been always known for higher levels of poverty as well as social discrimination, even within the Dalits there is a sub-section known for even worse levels of poverty as well as social discrimination. This is the section which was traditionally involved in manual scavenging. The shocking injustice they have suffered from over the years has been widely recognized leading to a ban on manual scavenging. At the same time there is urgent need for the rehabilitation of those engaged in manual scavenging. Hence a self-employment scheme for the rehabilitation of those engaged in manual scavenging was drawn up. The allocations and the expenditure for this scheme for the last eight years are shown in the Table below: Union Budget for Self-Employment Scheme for Rehabilitation of  Manual Scavengers (in Rs crore) By Budget Estimate we mean the original allocation made when the budget is presented. It is clear from this table that the actual expenditure

A former Modi ally, Prashant Kishor wanted to enter Congress 'on contract, as trader'

By Anand Sahay*  The Congress Party and the election campaigns specialist Prashant Kishor, whose company has done strategic communications for a host of political parties across ideology, should both count themselves lucky that they could not reach an agreement for Kishor to join the party. News reports suggest that the Congress rejected Kishor’s terms. This is not wholly unexpected. People join a party because they are attracted to it, and wish to serve it in any capacity that the party may see fit. But that isn’t Kishor at all. He gave the impression of entering into a contract, as a trader might. If news reports are to be believed, he sought freedom to report directly to party chief Sonia Gandhi, and sought untrammeled control over party communications. When such ideas did not find favour, the consultant withdrew. It is clear he has no particular love for the Congress, and its ideas, ideology and politics. In contrast, look at the key personae in G-23. They