W’end Reading: Modi, Bajrang Dal and Syed Shah Geelani
Start your weekend by reading Sh Modi’s interview in The Indian Express…which re-emphasises why development ought to be priority #1 for any political party today.
Then read what drives young, articulate leaders like Prakash Sharma to bat for Bajrang Dal (Just in case, you are wondering, there are numerous points in his interview which I disagree with – Shantanu)
…and finally, here is why Lalit Koul believes Syed Ali Shah Geelani should be given a one-way ticket to Pakistan.
Bonus: Have a look at the new depth being plumbed by mainstream media while reporting on current affairs.
Excerpts from all these articles below.
*** Excerpts If there was any evidence against me, I would have been hanged long ago’ ***
•Suman K. Jha: How did you go from being an RSS leader to becoming the Chief Minister of Gujarat?
Narendra Modi: I was an RSS leader in Gujarat and in those days, there was a Jan Sangh leader called Natha Jhagda. He insisted that young people should join the party. So I joined the BJP in 1989-90. When the Ayodhya-Somnath rath yatra started, I helped organise it. That marked the beginning of my political career. In 1995, I became a BJP General Secretary. That’s when I closely observed how governments function. In 2001, I suddenly received a call from Atalji who told me to return to Gujarat….
Dheeraj Nayyar: You are one of those rare politicians who has put economic development on the campaign agenda. Why don’t other leaders do the same?
Narendra Modi: When I went to Gujarat in 2001, people told me, “Modiji, please ensure there is electricity in our homes when we sit down for our evening meal.” I know what it is to be without electricity. So I conceived a brilliant idea—Jyoti Gram Yojna. We installed 18 lakh new poles, 20,000 new transformers and some 78,000 km of new cables. It cost me Rs 1,600 crore but now Gujarat has uninterrupted power supply.
•Ambreen Khan: How far do you hold yourself responsible for killing the spirit of secularism in the country after the 2002 riots?
Narendra Modi: This is not a question but an accusation. And the accusation is absolutely baseless. We have a vibrant media, an active judiciary and global human rights groups working in the country. If there was even the slightest evidence that I had committed a crime, I would have been hanged long since. The government in Delhi is such that it will prevent me from returning to Ahmedabad, right now, if it finds a pretext. So if you have any evidence that Modi has done something wrong, please bring it forward. Secularism in India was not invented by the Constitution. It’s our age-old tradition.
•Ambreen Khan: Why should a Muslim vote for you?
Narendra Modi: It is this country’s curse that everything is weighed in votes. The only yardstick should be the welfare of the poor. I’ll give you the example: I have been successful in ensuring 100 per cent enrollment in schools—of both girls and boys. And when I say 100 per cent, I mean 100 per cent; I don’t see people as Hindu or Muslim as you do.
…•Soma Das: If you had to vote for one of the current UPA chief ministers, who would you choose?
Narendra Modi: The system of voting in this country is through secret ballot, and I’m committed to upholding the spirit of the Constitution. On a more serious note, however, there are issues every party should consider. First, why not make voting compulsory? Second, every government should be mandated to complete the full five-year term in office—that’s what people have elected it for. Third, there should be the option for a ‘No vote’—a vote of rejection—and if a candidate gets less than a minimum percentage of votes, elections should be held again with new candidates.
•D.K. Singh: Sonia Gandhi has apologised to the Sikh community for the 1984 riots. Have you ever considered apologising to the Muslim community for your failure as chief minister during the 2002 riots?
Narendra Modi: I have said this repeatedly: I seek punishment, not forgiveness. If I have done something wrong, punish me.
•Unni Rajen Shanker: After the 2002 riots, there has been considerable insecurity among Muslims in Gujarat. How will you allay this sense of insecurity?
Narendra Modi: I’m sending every child to school, I’m providing healthcare to every citizen, I’m giving everyone a share of the fruits of development. The Sachar Committee report, you’ll be surprised to learn, says that Muslims in Gujarat are better educated than Hindus. I always address my people as my five-and-a-half crore Gujarati brothers—the entire population of the state.
•Ashok Kumar: Do you think it’s possible to have casteless politics in India?
Narendra Modi: I’m a living example of casteless politics. I am an OBC and I come from a most backward caste. If I can be successful, so can others. The fact that I have no caste base helps me because no one says I take decisions based on caste.
*** Excerpts End ***
*** Excerpts from ‘Muslims, widen your hearts’ (Interview with Prakash Sharma, Head of Bajrang Dal) ***
…But what about the RSS attracts you? What is this society you want to create?
Prakash Sharma: See, no matter what you say, the basic thing is, Bharat is a Hindu rashtra and because it is a Hindu rashtra, Muslims and Christians can live with such ease here. What Muslims are doing in India today, they will not be able to do in any Christian country. Similarly, what the Christians are doing here, they will not be able to do in a Muslim country. The Sangh is driven by the view that as Bharat is a Hindu rashtra, it should develop in keeping with its culture and tradition….We believe the only way the country will progress is if ordinary citizens are taught to be full of character, to believe in their ancestors and traditions and love their land in a way that they are willing to do anything for it.
What is it you are alleging Muslims and Christians are doing in India?
Prakash Sharma: It is in front of you to see! Under whose shelter are the terrorists in India operating today? Who were the Muslims who gave patronage to the terrorists in Batla House (in Jamia Nagar, New Delhi)? They are not from Pakistan or Bangladesh, they are people born out of this very land. You tell me, why can’t the Muslims of this country forge a collective forum and speak against terrorism? Who is planting Pakistan’s flags on Kashmiri soil? During the Amarnath yatra issue, who were the people shouting, “Jo Bharat ka yaar hai, samjho woh gadaar hai” (Those who befriend India are traitors)? Who are advocating allegiance to Pakistan? Even if the Kashmiris were upset with the Jammu road blockade – I don’t concede it was a blockade – but if they felt it was one, why not march towards Delhi, why march towards Muzzafarabad? I believe Muslims have to come out and take on these questions frontally. Until they do, this question will remain in people’s minds: true, not all Muslims are terrorists, but why are all terrorists Muslim? Read the India Today story where three terrorists were interviewed. Hear the Sahara TV interview with Abu Bashr and note all their talk of jihad. Why do Muslims feel they have to stake all of India and the world with Islam’s flag before they can rest in peace? They have to give up this way of thinking. As Hindus, we tolerate everything. But you tell me, where in the Bible is it written – “Sarve bhavantu sukhinaha” – The universe should be happy. The Bible divides the whole world into believers and non-believers. So does the Koran. But not our shastras.
If that is the case, why do you want to change this tolerance among Hindus?
Prakash Sharma:Who is trying to change it? I am saying they can be happy here because Hindus tolerate everything. But they don’t want peaceful coexistence, they want to instate Islamic rule….See, Hindus believe god can have any name, and the paths to god can vary. We have 32 crore gods and goddesses; it won’t hurt us if one more Mohammaden or Christian is added to the ranks. So what difficulty do Indian Muslims have in saying they are “Mohammamed panthi Hindus” or Indian Christians have in saying they are “Christ-believing Hindus”? After all, this is a Hindu nationality.
They are Indians, they are Bharatiya, why should they have to call themselves Hindus?
Prakash Sharma: What is Bharatiya, what is not – that is a debate I don’t want to enter. What is the difference between being Bharatiya and Hindu? I see no difference.
…Your youth camps, your rhetoric – it creates a predisposition for violence. As head of the Bajrang Dal, are you saying you don’t have control over your cadres?
Prakash Sharma: What cadres? We don’t have any cadres. All of Hindu samaj is part of us, we are part of Hindu samaj – how can we control everyone? And we train our youth to shoot and fight because physical prowess creates self-confidence. Why don’t you visit one of our camps before you decide what they are about.
Hindu society is so brutal and caste ridden, why should dalits and other castes not want to convert to a religion that gives them dignity?
Prakash Sharma: You are right about the shortcomings in our society. I will not deny that. We do have to fix them, though you are exaggerating its extent. But that is what Swami Laxmananda was doing. That is why he was murdered.
…let’s get back to your ideal society. Does it have any place for people of other faith?
Prakash Sharma: I have already told you — we want a society in which everyone is prosperous. Our chant is, may the righteous prevail, may the unrighteous be destroyed. What is the anti-Muslim sentiment in this? Are we saying Muslims or Christians should be destroyed? We are only saying all traitors should be destroyed.
You brought up Kashmiri Muslims leaning towards Pakistan, but that has a complex history. Why mix Indian Muslims with Kashmiris?
It is not at all a separate issue. When the Amarnath land transfer issue came up, did any influential maulvi or Muslim leader issue a statement saying this pilgrimage is a centuries-old tradition going on from a pre-Islamic time, so what is the problem if a mere 100 acres of land is given for two months to build temporary constructions that will make the yatra smoother? And this is not new. In 1996, terrorists had threatened to stop the yatra itself. It is because of the Bajrang Dal’s determination that 50,000 Bajrangis went for the yatra despite that.
If you continue with these divisive arguments, India will fracture completely. Leave the Muslims aside. How are we to look at the conflicts between Hindus? The MNS politics in Bombay. Bombay only for Marathis, drive the Biharis out. Ditto in Assam.
Prakash Sharma: I am saying it is wrong. It is not good for the country and Raj Thackeray should think of the whole country. Instead of Biharis, we should all focus on driving out the three crore Bangladeshi immigrants that are being used as votebanks. Other than that, Bihar, UP, Maharashtra are all part of India – everyone has the right to travel or live freely.
But not Muslims –
Prakash Sharma: How are you bringing Muslims into this? Where have I said Muslims should be driven out of India? Not once have I said that. We are only saying that the Muslims who feel an allegiance to Saddam Hussein or Osama bin Laden or organize conferences that have AK 47s pasted across the globe or send emails like the Indian Mujadideen should be dealt with so firmly no one will ever dream of betraying the country again. We have never said Muslims shouldn’t pray in mosques or Christians shouldn’t go to churches. We are only opposing certain aspects or actions from them.
But why do you assert your views only in violent terms? If people don’t subscribe to your way of life, you unleash your wrath. Something as silly as Valentine Day couples, or boys and girls in parks –
Prakash Sharma: ‘Way of life’ has to emerge from this country’s soil. This soil does not give you permission to roam and dance naked in public.
You spoke with pride about our 32 crore gods and myriad ways of life.
Prakash Sharma: No, no, it is because of conversations like this that our families and values are breaking down. Elopements are on the rise. Licentiousness has never been tolerated in our culture and this holds true for men and women. You talk of Valentine’s Day – do we have to import a foreign concept to teach ourselves how to love? There is love and love and only love everywhere in this country. Mother’s Day! Father’s Day! Are we going to learn how to love our parents from a culture that dumps its parents in old people’s homes?
These are just silly things. You don’t need a stick.
Prakash Sharma: The stick is only used if things get excessive. Our point is, do we want our children to emulate Michael Jackson who gets caught every day in some shameful act, or do we want them to emulate Srawan Kumar who carried his blind parents on his shoulders to every pilgrimage point in India? These things have to be stopped. Do you know what sort of parties go on in hotels? I will tell you of an incident. We were opposing Valentine’s Day in Kanpur and in one hotel room we found a Class 7 girl lying naked. This is Valentine’s Day! This is not just a parental issue, we are part of this society and have an equal responsibility in instilling good values.
According to you India only comprises Hindu culture, but, in fact, it is the product of many historic and cultural layers. You deny this plurality. You even deny the tantric or erotic traditions within our own culture.
Prakash Sharma: No, we don’t, but what is supposed to happen between husband and wife in a closed bedroom cannot start happening in public spaces. That is not our culture. And what are all these influences you are talking about? You must read Indian history through an Indian lens. We can’t make you understand anything because you have read the history taught by the British and your mind is already set.
…Let us move away from specific incidents. Which three or four big issues would you pick which, if addressed, would create peace in your eyes?
Prakash Sharma: There is the Ram Janmabhoomi, Krishna Janmabhoomi and Kashi Vishwanath issue. There was a lot of discussion with the Muslims over this. They should have understood then that no Indian Muslims have come from outside of this soil. Several generations back, everybody’s ancestors were Hindu. So Ram cannot be compared with Babur; Krishna and Shiv cannot be compared with Aurangzeb. I think the Muslims squandered a big opportunity to create an atmosphere of goodwill at that time. If they had compromised over these three things, many issues today would have lost their teeth. Of course, we can still discuss things, but do any maulvis have the guts to come out and say vande mataram is not idol worship, merely an invocation to this land, Bharatmata? Do they have the guts to say, what is the need for Islamist jihad? Do they have the guts to say, everyone should respect the Indian flag unequivocally, especially Kashmir which enjoys special status under Article 370? We are ready to meet them halfway. I am ready to invite them to offer namaaz in the most holy temple of India. Our Ram or Krishna will not mind. But do they have the guts to invite us to read the Hanuman Chalisa alongside them reading the namaaz in any of their mosques? Where is the fight? Let them widen their hearts, our hearts are not small.
What are your other issues?
Prakash Sharma: They must not challenge India’s sovereignity. They are welcome to pray and live in any way, but why must Indian Muslims take their directional cues from Arab countries? If Hindus live in America and look towards India for their cues, I will deem that wrong as well. If they are citizens of that country, they must abide by the norms of that country. Why do they revere Osama and Sadaam? Why was the ruling on Shah Bano subverted?
To shift focus again, your campaign against MF Husain is very misplaced –
Prakash Sharma: If you see nothing wrong in his painting of our devis, we cannot have any conversation! If as a Hindu woman, you can see a naked Hanuman seated on Sita Mata’s crotch and say there is nothing wrong in that, what bigger misfortune can Bharat face? You should join our Durga vahini and become familiar with your own culture. Why should we put up with Husain? Hindu shops were burnt in India because of some cartoons of the Prophet in Denmark, for you that is natural? And we just tear one of Husain’s paintings and we become villains?
We have strongly condemned the Muslim reaction to the cartoons as well as to Taslima Nasreen and Rushdie.
Prakash Sharma: You are just an individual. I am talking of the whole secular spectrum. Tell me, what is wrong in our opposition to Husain? Muslims burn buses demonstrating against Taslima, so you send her out of the country. Why are you defending Husain? What is the need to show Sita minus her clothes? Will he paint Mother Mary naked? Will he paint his own mother naked? I say Husain should be punished in such a way no one in his family will remember how to paint seven generations later. If he ever comes here, I assure you there will be a spontaneous reaction to him.
…How do you justify your demographic insecurities? We are a billion plus. Minorities barely make up 18 percent. Orissa has 95 percent Hindus –
Prakash Sharma: Don’t look at it at a national level. Go to the particular district and see. There used to be a few thousand Christians there, now there are several lakhs. Why did only particular portions of India become Pakistan and Bangladesh? Because they were Muslim majority areas. Why are there secessionist movements in Christian dominated regions of the north-east? In the future, there might be fresh talk of partitions. They will raise their populations then ask for partitions. You will not understand these things. We do not oppose Muslims per se, we only oppose statements like Abdullah Bukhari who said recently that they will create such a movement, things will be worse than 1947.
These are extreme views. Statements like his are criticised by everybody.
Prakash Sharma: No. Read the history of the Ramjanmabhoomi movement. Read what Muslim leaders said on the discussion table. They said what proof do you have that this is the birthplace of Ram? What proof do we have that our fathers are who we think they are? For centuries we have believed that Ayodhya is Ram’s birthplace and Muslims can have the courage to ask us for proof of that! One of them said that if tomorrow my wife delivers a baby in a Boeing 737, am I going to take the Boeing? This is the level of conversation there was. Despite the fact that you and I are hostile to each other and think so differently on things, we have been able to talk for a couple of hours. You have been able to question me on everything. I can guarantee you will not be able to have such a conversation with a Muslim leader. If you do manage such a conversation, I will accept I was wrong and start listening to what you say. I do not want to criticize the Koran, but if they say that the Koran teaches that kafirs should be defeated and this will be rewarded with heaven, shouldn’t Muslims themselves debate this? You asked why there can’t be discussion instead of violence — why don’t people like you debate these things? Today every Muslim looks suspect to me and to others. Why is this the case? Because one does not see openness and a desire for discussion among them. There may be a few who want to debate and discuss, but largely Muslims themselves are not ready to talk about all the secularism you are talking about.
Many influential maulvis have recently put out a fatwa against militant jihad.
Prakash Sharma: That is just drama! It is too little too late.
What can one do if you denounce even positive things?
Prakash Sharma: That is because one does not see a genuine change of mood and desire for dialogue among ordinary Muslims. We might have different mothers and cultures, but why can’t they accept the three big important cultural references of this land – the cow, the Ganga, and the motherland Bharatmata as motherland as being a part of their lives? These could have a common sanctity between us.
Why must you insist on these things? Every culture has its own beliefs. There are other ways of coexisting. All this divisive talk has no end. Hindus, Muslims, Gujjars, Meenas.
Prakash Sharma: There is a big difference between different Indians fighting domestically over a share of the State’s pie and those who challenge the very sovereignity of India.
With regard to Muslims also, it is a question of equal opportunity. The Sachar Committee report –
Prakash Sharma: No, no, please don’t compare the two. Don’t compare the desire for jihad and Islamic states with fights over domestic government handouts. I come back to the simple point I made earlier: I am ready to invite Muslim maulvis to read the namaaz five times in the most revered temple in Kanpur. Are they ready to let us read the Hanuman chalisa just once in the Jama Masjid or any of their mosques? The uncomfortable truth you don’t want to face is that they are not open. On any issue, let Muslims take the initiative, every road will open up. Go back to the Ramjanmabhoomi movement itself. You will find the only reason the talks broke down so totally is because Shri Shahbuddin made that incendiary statement: “What proof do you have Ram was born here?” If you question our very identity, the basic fount of our culture — Did Ram exist or not — what discussion can there be? Let them take the initiative on anything. Let them amicably give us the three birthplaces, and there will be no more fight. Does any Muslim leader have the courage and statesmanship to initiate talk on this?
From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 5, Issue 44, Dated Nov 08, 2008
*** Excerpts End ***
*** Excerpts from Enemies within the borders by Lalit Koul ***
Hum Pakistani Hain, Pakistan Hamara Hai’ (We are Pakistanis and Pakistan belongs to us).
Finally, Kashmiri separatism has spoken the truth. These words were spoken by Syed Ali Shah Geelani, who is characterised by the Indian media as chairman of the hardline faction of the Hurriyat Conference. I could never understand what this ‘hardline’ tag means. Which is the ‘softline’ faction of the Hurriyat Conference?
The Indian media tags the Hurriyat faction led by Maulvi Umar Farooq as the softline faction. One wonders how these two are different and what makes one the ‘hardliner’ and other the ‘softliner’.
Both of them were present on the same dais at the same rally at the Tourist Reception Centre grounds in Srinagar on August 18, 2008. Both were raising anti-India slogans at that rally. Both were demanding secession from the Union of India. Both were involved in the strikes and drama that finally resulted in the revocation of the J&K state cabinet’s order to allot land to Shri Amarnath Shrine Board for building temporary structures for the protection of Shri Amarnath pilgrims.
…Both were silent when Kashmir’s original inhabitants, the minority Hindus, were ethnically cleansed from the Valley. Both condoned the following slogans raised in that rally on August 18:
- Jeevay Jeevay Pakistan [Long Live Pakistan]
- Pakistan se rishta kya, La-illaha Ill-lallaha [What is the relationship with Pakistan, faith of Islam]
- Yehan kya chalega, Nizaam-e-Mustafa [What will rule here, Sharia-law]
- Meri mandi teri mandi, Ralwanpindi Rawalpindi [My market your market, Rawalpindi Rawalpindi]
- Fruits to bahana hai, Rawalpindi jana hai [Fruits are just the excuse, real intent is to go to Rawalpindi]
- Bharat ka jo yaar hai, gadaar hai gadaar hai [Whosoever is India's friend, is a traitor, is a traitor]
- Bharat teri shamat aayi, Lashkar aayi Lashkar aayi [India, you are on notice; Lashkar-e-Tayiba has arrived, Lashkar-e-Tayiba has arrived]
…In a recent interview, Geelani explained his desire to enforce Islamic rule in Kashmir and said, ‘I have a three-point target. First is to impose an Islamic nizam (jurisprudence) in Kashmir. Islam should govern our lives, be it in our political thought, socio-economic plans, culture or the ongoing movement. The creed of socialism and secularism should not touch our lives and we must be totally governed by the Quran and the Sunnat (precedents from Prophet Mohammed’s life).’
…But all aside, I am relieved that Syed Ali Shah Geelani has finally admitted that he, along with hundreds of thousands of his followers, is Pakistani.
So that begs the questions:
What are Geelani and his followers doing in India? Why should Indian taxpayers pay for their pension and security?
It is about time Geelani and his followers bought a one-way ticket to Muzaffarabad and board the Caravan-e-Aman bus and leave India for good. If they are Pakistanis and Pakistan is theirs, they have no business to stay here in India.
Sixty years ago, Indians sacrificed a lot and gave away a large piece of their body and soul to make a new country Pakistan. Millions at that time made their choice and moved to Pakistan. Those who stayed back also made a conscious decision to stay back. And most of them are content and happy. But those who are still in India and for some reason are not happy, should stop whining and go to Pakistan — the country that was created solely for them.
India and Indians will not accept another partition, whatsoever.
…In case Geelani and his followers do not go to Pakistan, then they ought to be tried for sedition. The Sedition Act, embodied under the Indian Penal Code Section 124A, reads as follows:
‘Whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise, brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards, the government established by law in India, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, to which fine may be added, or with imprisonment which may extend to three years, to which fine may be added…’
…It is sad and unfortunate that a few leading opinion-makers from the media are now falling prey to Kashmiri separatists’ tactics and agenda. In recent days, we have seen these opinion-makers suggest a referendum in Kashmir. Their argument that if Kashmir secedes from India, all is going to be well in the rest of India, is preposterous and shows a lack of knowledge about the Kashmir issue and Kashmiri radical Muslims.
*** Excerpts End ***