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Was Gen Bipin Rawat’s appointment as Army Chief pushed by the influential Gorkha coterie?

The appointment of Lieutenant General Bipin Rawat as new Chief of Army Staff has snowballed into a controversy, once it emerged that Rawat was not the senior-most officer in the Indian Army. The officers who were bypassed to let Rawat become the new army chief were not only more senior, but they were also in command positions, placed there because they are capable enough and experienced enough to become chief.

They have been on the frontline as active commanders. You don’t get to become an army commander unless you’re ready and trained, as simple as that. It’s not just a question of seniority; hundreds of very senior people get bypassed, sidelined, passed over, and continue to serve “juniors” for several years if they wish to stay in uniform. In all these cases, the officers are competent field commanders, and have already touched the stars…literally.

Lt Gen Bipin Rawat. File photo. Getty ImagesLt Gen Bipin Rawat. File photo. Getty Images

Lt Gen Bipin Rawat. File photo. Getty Images

But then, it’s no secret that there is a coterie at the army headquarters. The Gorkha Rifles are so strongly represented at the highest levels that it raises eyebrows even within army circles. The incumbent Chief of Army Staff, Dalbir Singh Suhag, is from the Gorkha Rifles, as is Bipin Rawat, the man who will replace him on 31 December. In April this year, five of the 14 major generals promoted to their third star were from the Gorkha Rifles. The director general military intelligence, Lieutenant General SK Patyal, is from the Gorkhas. The director general military training Lieutenant General AL Chauhan is from the Gorkha Rifles.

These, by the way, are the top jobs at army headquarters; they oversee all strategic matters. Another very important position is director general military operations, currently held by Lieutenant General AK Bhatt, again from the Gorkha Rifles. Even the adjutant general Lieutenant General RK Sharma is from the Gorkha Rifles.

What are the odds that in an army of over a million, with dozens of battalions and regiments, all with glorious histories, the top five jobs would be held by officers from the same section of the army.

None of this is rocket science. And it’s all available on the public domain.

Sure, the Gorkhas have a proud history, but so do the Sikh Regiments, the Maratha Light Infantry, the Rajputana Rifles, the Madras Regiment, the Guards, the para regiments, the Punjab Regiment, the Grenadiers, the Bihar Regiment, the Jats, the Dogras, the Assam Regiment, J&K Rifles, the Armoured Corps, the Mechansied regiments, etc.

Handing command to a Gurkha is not a flaw in itself, but it means one regiment will continue to hold sway at South Block. If it is happening at the expense of others is a question worth asking.

Retired Lieutenant General Ike Singha, as head of the Peacekeeping Mission in Golan Heights in Syria and Israel from 2012 to 2015, has seen more action than anyone else in the Indian Army. This is what he has to say about the controversy over Bipin Rawat’s appointment. “The NDA government launched a surgical strike on the Indian Army by superseding very competent generals and selecting Bipin Rawat as the next COAS. In the past, only once has the seniormost army commander been passed over; when Lt Gen. Sinha was overlooked and Gen. AS Vaidya appointed COAS by the Congress government led by Indira Gandhi. History punished the nation for this folly. Gen. Vaidya lacked the moral guts to tell Gandhi that the army, an apolitical organisation should not be dragged into storming a religious place like the Golden Temple. Gen. Sinha, a strong man, would have perhaps resisted and that is why he was overlooked. The BJP resurrected Sinha, and he was appointed a member of the Rajya Sabha. Unfortunately, the NDA government has made the same mistake and overlooked two very capable officers. I have very closely served with all three senior officers and we have grown together. All three are thorough professionals and Praveen Bakshi and PM Hariz lacked nothing.”

“Modi, like Jawaharlal Nehru, feels that the country is not going to fight a war with any of its neighbours. Nehru showed Chou en Lai all our defence establishments, and the shrewd Chinese leader saw the chinks in our armour and annexed Tibet in 1959. India was stunned, but before it could recover from the jolt, China affected an embarrassing defeat in the 1962 war. Modi has a disdain for the Indian Army that I watched closely as General Officer Commanding in Gujarat. It seems he is going the Nehru way and has no inclination to learn from history. (Manohar) Parrikar is a technocrat and has been chief minister of Goa, a state with two districts. A novice in security matters, he thinks he has a magic wand and has a solution for all the complex problems and challenges facing the defence forces.”

He does not.

First Published On : Dec 20, 2016 15:26 IST

Congress hits back at Modi over Indira Gandhi jibe, says he should stop ‘insulting’ former PMs

New Delhi: The Congress asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to stop “insulting” former heads of government, a day after the Prime Minister cited a book to say Indira Gandhi paid no heed to the Wanchoo Committee’s recommendation to demonetise high-value currency notes in 1971.

PM Narendra Modi had claimed. ReutersPM Narendra Modi had claimed. Reuters

PM Narendra Modi had accused Congress of putting its own interests before the nation’s. Reuters

“Stop insulting former prime ministers. Change the narrative and mindset. From Jawaharlal Nehru to Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Manmohan Singh to Indira Gandhi, it’s a long list. When you insult them you do not insult Indira and Nehru, you also insult Lal Bahadur Shastri and Morarji Desai who demonetised high-value currency in 1978,” the party’s deputy leader in Rajya Sabha, Anand Sharma, said at the FICCI conference.

Modi had cited a book to say that when the then Finance Minister YB Chavan went to Indira Gandhi in support of the exercise, she asked, “Only one question. Are no elections to be fought by the Congress party?”

Accusing the Congress of putting its interests before the country’s, he had said what should have been done in 1971 has been done now by his government and that the delay in launching demonetisation caused a lot of damage to the country.

Replying to this, the Congress leader said, “It is sad. 1971 was the year when India gave Indira Gandhi a massive mandate. The same year we were challenged by the then East Pakistan. India had 10 million refugees. Genocide was going on in what is now known as Bangladesh. China, siding with Pakistan, had moved troops to the border. India had the courage and strength to take the decision and the rest is history.”

The country had just celebrated Vijay Diwas on Friday to mark the win over Pakistan in the 1971 war. “It was a day to salute
Indira and not insult her,” Sharma said.

Taking a dig at Modi for calling himself a fakir, Sharma said, “I do not have that kind of a wardrobe but I will not call myself a fakir. We are public servants. We must serve people and understand their pain. We must have humility.”

Asked as to when Rahul Gandhi will make public the graft charges against Modi he claims to have proof of, Sharma said, “It will be done at the right time.”

He also alleged that BJP purchased land in many states before the prime minister announced the decision to scrap high-value
notes on 8 November and demanded the Centre bring a white paper on demonetisation. “Crores of rupees were deposited in banks and all that information should come through a white paper,” he said.

Sharma said the government in power needs to maintain balance “before issuing any narrative and for good governance. It is important to have a responsible opposition”.

First Published On : Dec 17, 2016 20:11 IST

Najeeb Ahmed missing case: JNUSU promises full cooperation to police search in campus

File image of the JNU campus. JNU websiteFile image of the JNU campus. JNU website

File image of the JNU campus. JNU website

New Delhi: The Jawaharlal Nehru Students Union (JNUSU) on Thursday promised “full cooperation” to police search on the campus to trace MSc student Najeeb Ahmed who went missing two months back after a scuffle allegedly with ABVP affiliated students.

“JNUSU will extend its full cooperation in finding Najeeb. Delhi High Court’s direction to the Delhi police to search the university campus accommodation, ad-block, and the green areas using sniffer dogs, has long been a demand of JNUSU,” president of the students union Mohit Pandey said in a statement.

The Delhi High Court today directed the police to “scan” the entire campus, including hostels, classrooms and rooftops, of the varsity by using sniffer dogs. The court also asked Delhi Police to take all necessary steps without further loss of time to trace Najeeb, saying there has been delay in recording statements of some students suspected of thrashing him a day before his disappearance. Pandey said that, the Delhi police should have done this right in the beginning when they could not find Najeeb.

“JNUSU has been pointing out this lapse on the part of Delhi police even in its submission to the petition in the Court. We appeal to everyone to please cooperate with the High Court directions and in our struggle to find Najeeb” he said. Najeeb disappeared after scuffle with alleged ABVP students at his hostel.

First Published On : Dec 15, 2016 09:11 IST

Opinion: I love my country but here’s why I disagree with SC’s National Anthem order

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Earlier in 2016, the entire nation was enthralled with a students of Jawaharlal Nehru University. This had become the most-talked about news item for some time, and several political figures even labelled the organisers of an event ‘anti-national’. From the students’ arrest to their court trial, everything was under the microscope. And now, as the year 2016 draws to the close, a Supreme Court order pertaining to the national anthem, has made us ponder over the nationalism debate again.Since childhood, we’ve been taught that some entities deserve more respect than others, like our elders, books, gods and the nation. Hailing from a Bengali family, I was told to touch the feet of uncles, aunts, grandfathers and grandmothers and take their blessing. I never complained as a child, but as I grew up, I did not have the same feeling of looking up to some of those elders, in fact in my teenage years in the angst of the rebellion boiling inside me, I even expressed that I do not like them. But on every social occasion where I met those people, it was expected of me to touch their feet. At times, when it absolutely could not be avoided, I obliged, under duress. Was it just a symbolic gesture or does it still count as a sign of respect? Is it still respect if its forced upon me?We also undergo a similar kind of conditioning in school, where we are taught to stand when a teacher enters the classroom. It’s something that’s indoctrinated in us, and it became a habit that had been inculcated into us since childhood. And things changed in college. One day a cool professor walked inside the classroom in college one day and we, all the students, stood up while talking to each other or checking our mobile phones without even paying any attention to the teacher. The professor stood there as we took our seats without saying a word, some looking for their copies, some busy checking WhatsApp, some fidgeting with their pens. And then he asked us why we stood up when he entered?He reminded us that gesture is a sign of respect, which we clearly lacked when he walked in. We were left speechless. And the teacher taught us to do things out of respect, and not just because we are expected to do those. We all stood up again when he entered for his next class and thereafter, and none of us stood without feeling the immense respect and love for that professor/teacher.The idea of just following a custom mechanically and meaning the sentiment or feeling attached to it are different and will always remain the same. I do respect my country, and no I’m not an anti-national for having an opinion.There have been times when I walked inside some theatre in the middle of the national anthem with my hand full of popcorn or just gasping for breath after running to catch that show. And yes, I did not stand. I looked for my seat or just sat there getting ready for the movie that I went to watch in the first place.At times people passed comments seeing me sitting while the national anthem was playing. I never paid any attention to those comments because I knew in my heart that I respect my country and the national anthem. And I like to believe that my regard for the country is substantially more than them, because I was at least not pretending to stand straight and noticing whether others are following the custom or not. Isn’t talking and judging people and passing comments a bigger sign of disrespect?When I heard the news that all movie theatres are henceforth directed to play the national anthem, I was silent for a moment but then I burst out laughing. Theatres and halls across the country screen a variety of movies. In fact, there are halls where women don’t even dare to go. Who’s going to see whether those people are standing up or not? And even if they do, will they do it out of respect? Or stand up with the fear of the court working at the back of their mind. I love my country, but isn’t it time we ask ourselves how some order has become the parameter to measure our feelings and love and respect? I love my country, but I have seen others tagging a students’ movement as ‘anti-national’ earlier this year. I love my country, but I have seen too much pain and suffering of the people. I love my country, but I do not think I need to prove it to anyone. I do not think that anybody or anything, be it a court directive or a group of people, can tell how I should exhibit that love.

Castro’s relation with Indian leaders: When he hugged Indira Gandhi

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In the 1980s, amidst the cold war and Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), a picture defined the mood of the era and Cuba’s relationship with India. Fidel Castro’s bear hug to Indira Gandhi in the spring of 1983 at the Non-Aligned Movement summit in Delhi best symbolises his warm ties with India which always looked to the legendary leader as a “great friend”.In March 1983, India was to host the summit at Vigyan Bhavan. Former foreign secretary K Natwar Singh in his memoir ‘Walking with Lions’ recalled that India hadn’t offered to host the summit. Castro picked India over Indonesia and Yugoslavia, who had pitched for it.According to a Times of India article, India had less than six months to prepare for the summit wherein the country would host heads more than 100 states.
ALSO READ How Cuba’s Fidel Castro made revolutionary mark on historyOne of the theory says that, in 1979 when Castro was hosting the summit at Havana, he had proudly announced that he would pass on the conference gavel to his “sister”. When Fidel was presenting the symbolic gavel to Gandhi, he playfully didn’t give the gavel to her when she extended her arm. This happened again, and Castro smiled mysteriously. Finally, before she could realise Castro embraced her in a giant bear hug and gave her the gavel.Though, Indira was taken aback, she gracefully extricated herself quickly. The heads and representatives of 140 countries applauded and the picture became a symbol of bond that Non-Aligned countries shared against US and Russia.The bond of India-Cuba friendship is best symbolised with this unforgettable image of Castro embracing Indira Gandhi while handing over the NAM chairmanship to her. “Today, while handing over, after more than three years, the chairmanship of the Non-Aligned Movement to our admired Indira Gandhi and to India, that she in her historic right represents, we can affirm that we have a movement whose unity was not weakened, whose vigour has grown, whose independence has been withheld despite all the challenges it faced…,” he had said at the time.
ALSO READ All you need to know about former Cuban leader Fidel CastroJawaharlal Nehru and Castro’s bondUnder the late Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, India was amongst the first countries to extend recognition to Cuba after the 1959 revolution led by Castro, who overthrew the Fulgencio Batista regime.Unmindful of the US sanctions on Communist Cuba starting from the Cold War era, India has always maintained political, trade, cultural and people-to-people relations for about six decades when even Washington has revised its stand.It was Nehru who had reached out to the Cuban icon and told him that the non-aligned nations saw his leadership with immense hope. Castro, who died last night aged 90, in 1960 had been denied the possibility of staying in five-star hotels in New York when he attended the UN General Assembly and the owner of Theresa Hotel came and invited him and his delegation to stay there. Then, important dignitaries paid him courtesy calls there.Castro years later told former External Affairs Minister K Natwar Singh that, “The first person who came to see me was Prime Minister Nehru. I can never forget his magnificent gesture. I was 34 years of age, not widely known. I was tense. Nehru boosted my morale. My tension disappeared.” Castro’s relationship with India goes back decades when Nehru reached out to him and the friendship established between them was strengthened during Indira Gandhi’s tenure as the Prime Minister.Castro and other Indian leadersCastro and Gandhi had met on several occasions in the past. In September 1973, she hosted a dinner for him in Delhi when he was on his way to Vietnam. Another landmark visit happened in August 1985, when then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi visited Cuba and held extensive discussions with Castro.Prime Minister Manmohan Singh also visited Cuba in 2006 while Vice President Hamid Ansari met Castro during a visit to Cuba in October, 2013. Ansari’s 65-minute long meeting with Castro reflected the warmth in the relationship between India and Cuba, two of the founding members of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM).The meeting was the first time in a long time that the Cuban leader met a foreign dignitary. Reacting to Castro’s death, Natwar Singh said Castro was a very good friend for India, who stood with through thick and thin. “I had the privilege of meeting him 6-7 times both in Havana and Delhi…he was a very good friend for India. He stood by us through thick and thin,” Singh said on Saturday.Prime Minister Narendra Modi also condoled his demise, describing him as one of the most iconic personalities of the 20th century. “Fidel Castro was one of the most iconic personalities of the 20th century. India mourns the loss of a great friend”, the Prime Minister said.There have been numerous instances of bilateral cooperation between the two countries. In December 1992, while Cuba was passing through severe economic difficulties, India had provided 10,000 tonnes of wheat and 10,000 tonnes of rice. Fidel Castro termed the donation as the ‘Bread of India’.In 2008, India wrote off the principal and interest of US $62 million, equivalent to Rs 1.28 billion debt owed to India. India also granted an aid of US $2 million in cash as disaster relief assistance to Cuba in the wake of massive devastations caused by the hurricanes Gustav, Ike and Paloma during August and September 2008.(With PTI inputs)

Sonia Gandhi, Priyanka Vadra visit ancestral Swaraj Bhavan together for the first time since 2002

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A day after attending a function commemorating the birth centenary of Indira Gandhi in Allahabad, Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her daughter Priyanka Vadra met local party leaders, enjoyed a stroll at the sprawling Anand Bhavan premises and visited the Kamla Nehru Hospital before returning to New Delhi.”This was the first occasion in more than a decade when Sonia and Priyanka were together at the Swaraj Bhavan. The last time they had spent the night at their ancestral house was during the campaign for 2002 Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh,” UPCC spokesman Kishore Varshney said.On Monday, they were joined by Rahul Gandhi during the inauguration of the photo exhibition organised by the Indira Gandhi Memorial Trust. The party vice-president left last night. “For Congress supporters, yesterday was a memorable occasion as it was for the first time when mother, son and daughter were together at their ancestral house,” Varshney said.
ALSO READ No comparison between Narendra Modi and Indira Gandhi: Sonia GandhiHe, however, added that they (Sonia, Rahul and Priyanka) had also come to Anand Bhavan way back in 1991 when they were carrying the ashes of Rajiv Gandhi. “However, that was an occasion marked by grief and hence we do not wish to count that.”This morning, Sonia and Priyanka went to the Kamla Nehru Hospital – which is governed by a trust headed by the Congress president herself. Sonia inaugurated a blood bank there and interacted with a group of nurses who had completed their training recently. “Thereafter, they returned to Anand Bhavan, enjoyed a stroll on its sprawling lawns and interacted with the staff there,” Varshney said.Later, a group of local party leaders led by the divisional election campaign committee chief Nand Gopal Gupta Nandi called on them. “Sonia and Priyanka heard their grievances and offered advice besides exhorting them to work hard for improving the party’s position in the upcoming assembly elections in the state,” the UPCC spokesman said.

Demonetisation: Opposition’s criticism of Modi govt irrational, writes JDU MP Harivansh

The demonetisation divide is disturbing.

Sitting on the opposite side of the treasury bench, it becomes a normal impulse to oppose the government. But moving beyond partisan politics, a few decisions need to be seen in the context of both their end purpose and the means employed, without divorcing one from the other. The recent decision by the BJP government to demonetise requires one such analysis.

Today, India is facing countless challenges; both internal and external. Externally, a major challenge is posed by increasing assertiveness of China, a country that started its development journey with us but is now challenging the world’s biggest superpower, the USA. It cannot be disputed that it was only after it became an economic super power that China’s presence started being felt on the global high table.

File image of JDU MP Harivansh. Screen grab from YouTube

File image of JDU MP Harivansh. Screen grab from YouTube

On 13 November, Pakistan’s prime minister Nawaz Sharif inaugurated the operational activities of the strategic Gwadar Port, an important trade link between western China and the Arabian Sea. Gauging its strategic implications is not a tough job and is indeed a matter of concern for India. Fresh manoeuvring in the relationship of Bangladesh with China and Pakistan in the past few months compelled our defence minister to forge new ties with Bangladesh. The way India is being surrounded in the India Ocean also raises serious strategic concerns.

Without getting into the finer nuances of these issues, it is can be safely remarked that external challenges equal the internal ones, which are no less.

This country is of the youth. They are both our capital and strength. If we cannot provide employment to them, nation-building will not be possible. That is a categorical fact. The needs of our rapidly increasing population also need to be taken care of. Environment degradation is staring us in the face. We have mixed poison in the air and are inhaling it. Various reports have indicated how more people in India are dying than in China because of diseases caused by environmental degradation. It is not only impacting our health, it is impacting our society and our economy at large. If we don’t take strong steps in the economic realm, it is not very viable to expect the country to remain in its current shape.

Demonetisation and its desirability

Marx’s proposition that it is economic decisions that forge the historical narrative is so true and China is a living example of this. After Independence, the dream of making India great, a dream nurtured by the freedom fighters, was met with several roadblocks and the economic ones were the most gigantic among them.

To remove these roadblocks, it was only on two occasions that decisive steps — exuding full determination to bring a substantive change — were taken.

In 1969, the nationalisation of 14 banks by the Indira Gandhi government was a big step in regard to economic reforms. Also, the abolition of privy purses and nationalisation of coal mining in (1971-1973) was a decisive step that sent a very strong message to the people.

Again, decades of economic mismanagement pushed our economy to the wall compelling the PV Narasimha Rao government to initiate liberalisation and opening up of the economy in 1991.

The BJP government, while announcing the demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes on 8 November, joined the same line of reforms. Its consequences will be judged in time, but it can be safely said that it would be beneficial for the economy at large, given that it is taken to its logical conclusion by initiating more reforms. It is the sheer misfortune of this country that a decision that provides a direction to the country and determines it destiny is seen through a political prism.

Politics has become a 24-hour vocation for almost all the political parties. Every step is evaluated in terms of personal and political gain.

Of course, there are exceptions like Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar who chose to see it from a different perspective, not allowing myopic oppositional politics to colour his views. On the very next day after the demonetisation announcement, Nitish supported the move. The reason for his support was simple: Cleansing Indian polity of black influence.

I have earlier, in various discussions in Parliament talked about the Mumbai blasts of 1993. And I have also highlighted that in the same year the NN Vohra Committee submitted its report. The committee highlighted the problem of the criminalisation of politics and of the nexus among criminals, politicians and bureaucrats in India. It showed how this nefarious syndicate is destroying this country. It pointed out that this syndicate draws its strength from black money. The report was completely forgotten. We should deliberate upon implementing its recommendations.

While we kept talking about curbing black money, a new power-broking class like Ponty Chadha, Matang Singh and Abhishek Verma and a host of political people who still hold important posts in different political parties, has emerged. Their sole interest is to generate black money on which to thrive. These power brokers have permeated defence deals, major policy decisions and even in the justice delivery system.

Demonetisation is an important but small step to check these trends. To take it to its logical conclusion, the government has to strike on benami property, where most of the black money is invested.

Tough economic decisions are required to strengthen democracy. Nitish’s decision to ban liquor — estimated to cause a revenue loss of thousands of crores — was to benefit the people at the bottom of the social pyramid. And when this happens it strengthens the democratic ethos of the country. In 2005, Bihar was written off by the leading publications of the world such as The Economist, TIME and Newsweek. It was declared as a hopeless case. But the same Economist magazine in 2010 talked about its transformation and turnaround. It was the result of some very strong legal and economic steps, like speedy trials — wherein 90,000 criminals where convicted in record time — and sounding the bugle against benami properties of corrupt government officials and politicians.

It is assumed that in a democracy, strong steps cannot be taken with decisiveness. And the long-held image of India as ‘soft state’ allows the corrupt and the thugs to turn audacious enough to openly endorse, support and perpetrate wrong.

Today top economists are arguing that the current demonetisation might be problematic in the short run but it will be beneficial in the long. Consider this: In Khairagarh, Chattisgarh, after 29 years, people came out in the open to pay up tax worth Rs 50 lakh. This is a story of a small district in Chattisgarh. In Ranchi, after demonetisation, Rs 1.16 crore was deposited as municipal tax in one week against Rs 20 lakh a week in normal times.

A Congress member asked in Parliament as to what was so great about demonetisation. It has happened earlier too. Now consider this: In 1945, of a total Rs 1,235 crore worth of currency, Rs 143 crore (11.57 percent) was demonetised. In 1978, out of Rs 9,512 crore, Rs 146 crore (1.53 percent) was demonetised. In the current exercise, of the Rs 16,41,500 crore currency, Rs 14, 21,539 crore (86.6 percent consisting of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 denominations) has been demonetised.

This is huge and unprecedented. In terms of the value of the currency, it is a whopping 73.656 percent more than the 1978 exercise. In terms of the number of notes that need to be removed, it is even more mind-boggling. Against around 10,00,000 (give or take a few lakh) notes taken out in 1978, this time around 22,56,00,00,000 (two thousand two hundred and fifty-six crore) pieces of currency will have to be taken out. That is, this time, the effort is 22,56,000 percent larger.

Now the government should ascertain the impact of demonetisation on Naxal funding, insurgency in Kashmir and the North East. It needs to enquire as to what extent the reports of note-burning like the one reported from Kolkata are true and who these people are. Information regarding this will justify the government’s move. And in due course, all efforts should be made to ensure that if we want to move towards a cashless economy, the infrastructure to support this dream is put in place quickly.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

What the Opposition should be doing now
Now what should be the role of the Opposition in this case? I think it should be of constructive deliberation. Rather than blindly opposing demonetisation, it is a moment when the Opposition should initiate a debate as to why in the last several decades, in spite of all the serious talk on the issues of corruption and black money, we failed to take any decisive steps.

In 1962, Lal Bahadur Shastri formed the Santhanam Committee to suggest ways to tackle corruption. While one of its recommendations did result in the setting up of the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC), several other important recommendations were never debated seriously. In the following years, numerous committees were formed on the same issue and several reports on corruption and black money were submitted to the government, but without any substantive outcome.

Corruption and black money was once a big issue. But over the decades, instead of sharpening the fight against corruption, ironically it got normalised by the shameless acceptance of its inevitability. In Jawaharlal Nehru’s first Cabinet, a minister named Keshav Dev Malaviya had to resign because he was accused of taking Rs 10,000 donation in elections.

Sankar Das, in his biography of Nehru, writes that in April 1963, certain charges of a minor nature were brought against KD Malaviya — a Central minister. Nehru asked SR Das, a Supreme Court judge, to ascertain whether there was a prima facie case against Malaviya. Nehru otherwise liked Malaviya because he had done useful work in helping develop oil prospecting in India. Das’ enquiry was not conducted openly; it was held in camera. However, Das found that there was a prima facie case against Malaviya on two out of six charges. Malaviya resigned.

This sort of aversion to corrupt practices has dissipated largely. It is an indisputable fact that black money is the direct outcome of corruption and there is a symbiotic relation between the two.

In the past 40 years, since the time I started observing social and political developments, the base and impact of black money has increased manifold. As members of the Opposition we need to look up how many committees were formed to check corruption and black money in last few decades and question why no steps were taken to implement their recommendations.

We need to ask if the governments till now were only interested in forming committees.

The World Bank has put the extent of India’s parallel economy at roughly 20 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP). The 2014 and 2009 Lok Sabha elections were evidently fought with black money. People like Baba Ramdev, Ram Jethmalani and Professor R Vaidyanathan were vocal about this. It can be nobody’s case that the host of social evils facilitated by black money can be allowed to remain. Now that the government has decided to demonetise currency, there is no point in irrationally criticising it.

Of course, some tough questions need to be asked of the government. But before that as an Opposition we should see that the government machinery ensures that people in the most distant places get the new notes in the shortest span of time.

Debate, dissect

CPM leader Sitaram Yechury speaks about demonetisation in the Rajya Sabha. PTI

CPM leader Sitaram Yechury speaks about demonetisation in the Rajya Sabha. PTI

Also, all the news that is emerging after demonetisation should be debated. A few days ago a leading financial paper reported that at the India-Bangladesh border, the fake currency racket has suffered a huge setback due to the demonetisation process. The same day Mint published a report headlined, ‘Hoarders woo friends to turn black money into white’. According to this report. big politicians and government officials are asking people to help them convert their black money into white for a commission.

Some other reports claimed that the government is monitoring the income of around 400 big jewellers. Given the fact that a 10-gram gold coin costs Rs 30,000, a briefcase full of such coins can hold black money worth crores. Another important concern is the way Jan Dhan accounts are being used to stash black money. According to a Times of India report, Rs 170 crore was deposited in these accounts in just three days. The government needs to probe all abnormal transactions in these accounts.

It is estimated that Rs 30,000 to Rs 40,000 crore of hawala money is with terrorist organisations. According to some estimates, terrorists funding in Kashmir rides on this money and following demonetisation, this has been severely affected.

All these news reports — both positive and negative — need to be debated and dissected by the Opposition to ensure the government follows through and taken demonetisation to its logical end. The extent of black money is vast. According to World Bank, it is around 20 percent of the total GDP.

The government estimates it at a far more conservative Rs 15-20 lakh crore which is less than 20 percent of GDP. What is the exact extent of this is tough to ascertain. Professor Arun Kumar, who has written a very important book on the subject, has, in his article published in Economic and Political Weekly (subscription required), put the figure at 62 percent of the GDP. That, too, in 2013.

It is true that farmers, small businessmen and traders, patients, passengers and common people are facing huge problems. But in a decision of this scale, it was bound to happen. An argument has been made that people should have been given some time before announcing demonetisation. It is common sense that if such a big decision had leaked even 15 minutes before earlier, it would have had the potential of destroying the economy. It is natural that with a population of around 1.3 billion, there will be challenges. The government needs to provide immediate succour to the people and move quickly to mitigate the adverse impact of this massive move.

This is a fight against organised corruption. Information regarding tax havens on foreign shores was given to this government time and again. In 2015, the Black Money Bill was introduced to bring back black money. But a measly Rs 2,500 crore was netted.

Then came the income declaration scheme. By September-end, only Rs 65,000 crore had been received. If the estimated black money is Rs 10-15 lakh crore and only Rs 65,000 crore is received, it surely calls for some serious steps.

All said and done, there is no denying the fact that demonetisation is an audaciously positive move. But it can reach its logical end only if it is accompanied by electoral reforms, confiscation of benami properties and stern action against those still in possession of wealth disproportionate to their known source of income. These objectives if attained substantially would set India on a different course. Politics can come later.

The author is a former editor of Prabhat Khabar, a Rajya Sabha MP from Bihar and JDU spokesperson. Views are personal.

First Published On : Nov 22, 2016 10:32 IST

Congress floating Priyanka’s name signals Rahul Gandhi’s lack of credibility, says BJP

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>With Priyanka Gandhi consenting to campaign for the Congress in the upcoming 2017 UP assembly elections, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) trained their guns on her brother and Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi, saying the development clearly indicated that his credibility was in question.According to reports, Priyanka will begin her campaign with an event in Allahabad on the 99th birth anniversary of former Prime Minister and her grandmother Indira Gandhi. BJP spokesperson Siddharth Nath Singh said the Congress floats the name of Priyanka, whenever they feel Rahul’s image is in trouble.”Whenever the stock of Rahul Gandhi is down, the Congress floats this idea. All I can say is its shows that there is less credibility of Rahul Gandhi, therefore, Priyanka’s name keeps coming up now and then,” he said.This comes after Congress confirmed that Priyanka will be promoting the party’s agenda. “Priyanka has agreed with our request. However, it is not decided as to when and where will she campaign,” Congress leader Raj Babbar said.Priyanka’s presence in the Congress camp is expected bring new vigour into the grand old party’s poll campaign in Uttar Pradesh, which has come under the attack from rival parties for being soft. Priyanka Gandhi has so far campaigned only in Amethi and Rae Bareilly, known as the bastions of the Nehru-Gandhi family.Several members within the Congress feel the party will greatly benefit from Priyanka’s presence.Last month, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi held a 26-day long “Kisan Yatra” in Uttar Pradesh to woo voters.

Sushma Swaraj’s tweet on kidney failure sets her apart from peers and predecessors

The External Affairs Ministry under Sushma Swaraj is known to have developed a speedy grievance redressal system on Twitter. Her candid tweets and quick responses on the microblogging site has been appreciated all along.

Swaraj, however, took to Twitter on Wednesday to inform the nation about her health.

She was admitted to the Aiims due to kidney failure and underwent tests for a transplant, but the doctors said the procedure may take some time as a donor was yet to be found. Swaraj has been suffering from diabetes for a long time, which could have damaged her kidneys.

After Swaraj tweeted about her health, there was a flood of “get well soon” wishes from politicians and also people from a cross section of society. Some even offered to donate a kidney to her.

File photo of Sushma Swaraj. AFPFile photo of Sushma Swaraj. AFP

File photo of Sushma Swaraj. AFP

However, many saw her announcement as setting new standards of transparency, as politicians are usually not forthcoming about divulging details of their health condition.

According to a report in The Indian Express, JDU leader KC Tyagi said,  “Some leaders hide their disease fearing that this may lessen their grip on the family and the party. Those who live with simplicity and integrity in public life are not afraid of going to the public. Her life is like an open book. I greet her for her open stand.” The same article also quotes Aiims spokesperson stating that Swaraj’s decision to divulge her medical condition in first person was “a first” for a politician that he has seen.

In the long list of our ailing netas, Swaraj indeed sets a precedence. In fact, her candidness inadvertently reminds us of the veil of privacy surrounding the health status of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa during her recent bout of illness from which she is yet to fully recover.

Jayalalithaa was admitted into the Apollo Hospital on 22 September for an unspecified ailment, where she remained for over a month. Whatever did trickle out in the public domain amid a slew of rumours — and thereafter through the hospital’s press briefings — was that Amma was suffering from pneumonia and a chronic lung infection. What ensued was a high-drama narrative emanating from  the southern Indian state as rumours of her death started doing the rounds.

What this opacity in revealing real and credible information does is it gives wings to rumours and generates mass hysteria. As happened in the case of Jayalalithaa’s illness, police was asked to quash the rumours emanating from the virtual world. But that did not stop panicking AIADMK cadre from attempting self-emulation, which even resulted in the death on one person.

Neither did it ease the sense of an impending doom amid the masses. Somehow, a feeling persisted that something was amiss and the entire truth was not being revealed. Mass prayers for her speedy recovery were organised, while several Amma loyalists went without food for days. As they still did not get the news of their beloved leader’s speedy recovery, some supporters devised even more innvative (read bizarre) ways of pleasing the gods. An Amma supporter, reportedly pierced his skin with thick hooks and hung himself from a crane, according to a report in The News Minute. Even children were not spared, as reports surfaced that some kids had their faces pierced with metal rods to pray for Amma’s speedy recovery.

Political fervour has always bordered on irrationality in the state, largely known for its cult politics. The clampdown of information with an iron hand, though perfectly within an individual’s right to privacy, is a problematic concept especially in such cases.

However, the tradition to shroud a political leader’s health condition predates Jayalalithaa or Swaraj’s tenure. It is till date a matter of debate whether the Indian subcontinent’s history would have been any different had Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s cancer been common knowledge at the time of India-Pakistan partition.

“By the time Mountbatten came to India as Viceroy in 1947 Jinnah was dying; he would be dead in 1948. Neither the British nor the Congress suspected the gravity of Jinnah’s illness. Many years later Mountbatten confessed that had he known he would have delayed matters until Jinnah was dead; there would have been no Pakistan,” according to an excerpt from the book Jinnah, Pakistan and Islamic Identity – The Search for Saladin, posted by The New York TimesJinnah, it is believed, willfully kept his illness a secret as he believed that after him, the more malleable row of leaders in the All India Muslim League will relent under Congress’ pressure and his dream for a separate Pakistan would never be a reality.

Jinnah’s Indian counterpart, Jawaharlal Nehru also was very secretive of his illness around his last days, as he believed it would give rise to a tussle for succession within the ranks of a party he has held united till then. As pointed out in this NDTV article, Nehru’s sister Vijaylakshmi Pandit wrote a letter to Lord Mountbatten expressing her worry of the political consequences of Nehru’s illness.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi makes for a more recent example as she has been frequently flying out of the country for unexplained medical reasons. Rumours were abound when Sonia underwent a surgery in August 2011 for an unspecified form of cancer. This article in Sunday Times from the time also states “the refusal of the ruling Congress party to divulge information has raised some uncomfortable questions about transparency in the world’s biggest democracy.” In fact there was a dedicated Quora thread where people discussed and speculated what could be wrong with Sonia, who was the most powerful woman in India at the time.

For public figures, especially mass leaders, admitting an ailment is like conceding that they are not infallible and indispensable: it requires both courage and humility, because an admission of illness is an admission of vulnerability. Another reason why politicians are secretive of their health is because they fear it will hurt their political career, influence election results, or simply make them dispensable from the current role amid a scrambling tussle for succession.

An individual’s health is 100 percent a private matter. After all, there is a reason the doctors are administered the oath to secrecy. But having said that, one cannot but be admiring of a public figure who chooses to do that.

Besides this, those in public service are at least answerable to the masses to the point that whether they are fit to discharge their duties. The Sunday Times article also quotes senior journalist Siddharth Varadarajan as saying, “When you are in the public domain, you cannot claim the benefits of privacy of the private citizen… I think it is something that people have the right to know.”

First Published On : Nov 17, 2016 18:20 IST

Congress-owned National Herald relaunches in digital format, promises to defy ‘swamys of vitriol’

Eight years after being shelved, the Congress-owned newspaper National Herald staged a comeback in digital format on the 127th birth anniversary of its founder and the nation’s first Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. The Associate Journals Ltd announced in a press release that the long-defunct newspaper, which his been mired in a legal battle, resumed publication on the digital medium from Monday, according to The Indian Express.

“In keeping with the changing times, the newspaper group resumes phased publication as a multi-media outlet with a strong digital presence. The digital website will follow the same editorial vision and principles as that of our Founder, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru,” The Day After quoted AJL’s press release as saying.

Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi also tweeted out his best wishes on the occasion, commenting on the symbolism of the day chosen for its relaunch.

Smeared in Spanish red against a white background, the website neatly stacks stories on its homepage with relevant images. The first look of the digital news journal is a refreshing change from its closely typeset print variant. It also features ten category pages like business, world, lifestyle etc. Barring small alignment issues in the two stacks of stories — namely ‘Top read’ and ‘Featured Stories’ — on the front and inner pages, the website sports a fairly neat interface for a start.

National Herald newspaper. IBNLiveNational Herald newspaper. IBNLive

National Herald newspaper. IBNLive

Symbolically, there couldn’t have been a better day for the relaunch of the Congress mouthpiece. However, the new look fails to wipe off the memory of the recent legal quagmire the newspaper has been mired into. The relaunch of the historic newspaper, founded in 1938 by Nehru himself, could not shed the shadow of the bitter legal battle it has been embroiled into.

Acknowledging and challenging this fact, the National Herald‘s newly appointed editor-in-chief Neelabh Mishra writes in the editorial welcome note, “Here we come again, defying swamys of vitriol. A vitriol that seeks to sicken our democracy and the harmonious soul of our nation.” In a not-so-subtle reference to BJP leader Subramanian Swamy, who had dragged the newspaper to court over charges of corruption, Mishra promises a website “with a free voice to uphold the values of our freedom struggle that our founder (Nehru) represented.”

From ‘love jihad’ to atrocities against Dalit to the FTII row, Mishra’s opening note captures all the soft spots of the current ruling dispensation. The edit piece also features a cartoon featuring Nehru himself, captioned “Don’t spare me Shankar.” The masthead carries the message — the publication hopefully aspires to maintain — “Freedom is in Peril, Defend it with All Your Might” in Nehru’s hand.

However, another right-leaning news website PGurusdubs the re-launch a “cover-up to beg-mercy from the court.” Recalling the alleged scam, the article states that AJL was taken over by YIL in 2010 even when the newspaper had already become defunct in 2008. The article alleges “covert means” in the acquisition. It further goes on to say that after Swamy “exposed the fraud” the Congress said that the takeover was meant to revive the newspaper, which the party has managed to do only now, six years after the takeover.

National Herald was launched in the heat of the Indian freedom struggle in 1938 by Jawaharlal Nehru, who later became Independent India’s first prime minister. AJL also published two other news dailies, Navjivan in Hindi and Qaumi Awaz in Urdu, which the party also seeks to relaunch, according to Live Mint. The newspaper, since then, served as the Congress party’s mouthpiece until 2008, when it folded up due to incurring losses.

However, in 2012, BJP leader Subramanian Swamy filed a complaint alleging misappropriation of funds in the acquisition of Associate Journals Ltd by Young Indian Pvt Ltd., a company owned by Congress leaders, including Sonia and Rahul Gandhi both of whom hold 38 percent shares each. Apart from the Gandhis, Congress leaders Motilal Vora, Oscar Fernandes, Suman Dubey and Sam Pitroda are also accused in the case filed by Swamy.

Swamy has accused them of allegedly conspiring to cheat and misappropriate funds by just paying Rs 50 lakh by which YI obtained the right to recover Rs 90.25 crore which Associated Journals Pvt Ltd (AJL) owed to the Congress.

First Published On : Nov 15, 2016 14:31 IST

Demonetisation: Move over bhakts and trolls, citizens want unprejudiced debate, reliable info

Pained by the insults that the friends and foes of Narendra Modi are heaping on each other over his move to flush out black money, I write two separate notes to them and beg for ceasefire.

First to the Prime Minister’s friends:

If tweets were bullets and Facebook posts were poison-tipped arrows, half of Indians would have been dead by now. Neither your group nor the one that is rubbishing Modi’s move to flush out black money is in a mood to call truce.

It has been 96 hours since this cyber space dishum dishum began, and the ache in my head refuses to go away. My head feels as if two people are tugging my hair in opposite directions.

But a particular tweet nearly got me on Sunday. Even as I was reading it, mulling over the wisdom of it, I fell off my chair, got up after several minutes, shouted for water, gulped it down like a thirsty desert vagabond, got up, pinched my cheek to confirm I was awake, read it again and began to type these letters with a shaking finger.

Here is that tweet:

Okay. To talk about the inconveniences caused by demonetisation, I must either be corrupt to the marrow of my bone or I must be moonlighting for a mafia establishment run on money as black as Singareni coal. To be honest, I am neither of that. Yet, I have been inconvenienced by the sudden scrapping of the Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 notes. The move was a bolt from the blue.

People queued outside an ATM. PTI

People queued outside an ATM. PTI

Let me tell you about my mother. On 4 November, four days before Modi announced the currency ban, I withdrew Rs 30,000 from her pension account and handed it to her in Visakhapatnam for her expenses. Then I travelled a thousand kilometres to make my living — to reiterate, not from a mafia.

On the night of 8 November, I remembered to my utter shock that Rs 28,500 of the money I gave my mother was in Rs 500s. You can imagine her inconvenience. And I am far away.

On 10 November, when ATMs — or at least some of them — were expected to open after a day of closure, I made a dash for eight of them close to where I lived. Six were shut like graves, with not a word of explanation as to why. Two had no money. I was inconvenienced. I went to banks, but the helpful souls at the counters threw up their empty hands before my turn came in the queues that spilled onto streets. I was inconvenienced.

I repeated this routine every day without result, till no three words of any alphabet created such mixed emotions of fear, hope and hate like A, T and M. Then finally on 13 November, I found an ATM with cash. I am lucky, and I feel sorry for those who aren’t.

Yet, I continue to be inconvenienced — mentally — by reports of small businessmen shutting shops for lack of customers, hospitals turning away patients who can pay only with scrapped notes and senior citizens collapsing like heaps of bones or even dying in cash queues.

In his 8 November speech, Modi led us to believe that the inconvenience would last no longer than 72 hours. But it still goes on. That leaves us with uncomfortable questions. Did the government underestimate the hassles that the move would cause the common man? Or did it overestimate its own efficiency? Why didn’t it deal with this changeover on a war-footing?

Reports suggest that cash is available but distributing it to banks and ATMs is causing logistical nightmare. So why didn’t the government get the NGOs, the police, the military and the paramilitary forces into the operation?

An important point of this letter is that there is a group of people which wholeheartedly backs the move to ferret out the black money but that, at the same time, gives expression to its inconveniences. Anecdotal evidence suggests that this group is even larger than the other two representing Modi’s friends and foes.

Telling me not to talk about my inconvenience is like kicking the meal plate away from me and then stuff a ball of gag into my mouth. That intensifies the inconvenience.

And that amounts to a bias on your part.

Give us a break.

Dispassionate citizens are looking for dependable information and unprejudiced debate.


To the foes of Narendra Modi

You flummox me as much as the friends of Modi.

Like a railroad worm burrowing into an apple, a suspicion gnaws at my mind. It’s that you are using demonetisation to indulge in demonisation of the man who is behind it all. You had closed your warped and dwarfed minds to the whole idea and were tweeting venom on Modi even before he had finished his 8 November announcement. From the start, you have been mulishly refusing to offer him even a tiny bit of a benefit of doubt that any civilised soul would extend to his worst enemy who professes good intentions.

The currency changeover caused inconvenience. It really did, in a big way. But to conform to your prejudices, you dwell on nothing but that, sometimes blowing the common man’s hassles out of proportions and sometimes spreading falsehoods. You are refusing to even acknowledge the possibility that the whole thing might after all do some good which it might.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. PTI

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. PTI

As you see it through your blinkered eyes, the sole purpose of demonetisation is to hassle honest citizens in the name of catching crooks. It’s as if, according to you, Modi were a suicidal maniac who has hit upon an idea to harass his own voters, daring them to vote for him in elections three years from now. And it’s as if Modi was Tughlaq who woke up one fine morning and decreed to his minions: “Change the currency!”

Fundamentally, you not only question the very utility of demonetisation but even attribute sinister motives to him, not by way of a healthy debate but by pouring scorn on the man who promises to fight corruption and begs for a chance to do it.

And you brim with questions, which include:

Do crooks always stack up black money in pillow covers and under the bed? Isn’t a good part of black money lying hidden in real estate, benami deals and gold? Are the troubles that people are being subjected to worth the effort? Can’t the crooks divide their black loot into small portions of less than Rs 2.5 lakh and distribute it to flunkeys and relatives to legalise it without penalty?

There are indeed reputed economists who believe that demonetisation is not an option to eradicate black money or corruption. And it’s indeed a mighty good thing to ask questions in a democracy.

But there is a problem. Scarcely hidden behind your questions is a pre-determined eagerness to knock the bottom out of Modi’s boat. And you then brand anyone not toeing your school of thought as a Modi bhakt. As a matter of fact, you yourselves, strike us as either the acolytes of the Nehru dynasty or bhakts of Karl Max who cannot have an opinion unless it runs contrary to that of Modi.

And that amounts to a bias on your part.

Give us a break.

Dispassionate citizens are looking for dependable information and unprejudiced debate.

(The author tweets @sprasadindia)

First Published On : Nov 15, 2016 08:24 IST

Delhi: Queues seen outside banks, ATMs on second day

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Long queues outside banks and ATMs were witnessed on the second day this morning as people rushed to exchange their demonetised Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes with new ones and withdrew cash which caused hardship to them.Delhi Police has beefed up security in banks and ATMs in view of the expected rush even as residents fumed over the idea of waiting in long queues on a working day. However, people at many of the automated teller machines (ATMs) were agitated finding that there is no cash. Bank officials said ATMs have not stocked up yet.In anticipation of getting cash, people including women and elderly persons had gathered at ATMs in their localities but were upset after finding that it was yet to be stocked up in the machines. “I had woke up at 4 AM and rushed to the ATM to get cash but found that there was already a crowd who were complaining that there was no cash,” said IP Extension resident, 62-year-old Vimla Devi. Officials said that ATMs in many parts of the city were yet to be stocked with cash. The machines which were stocked with cash also ran out of it within a short duration as people queued up there from early morning hours.The queues outside the banks grew longer with people bringing their old Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes for exchange. “There is an acute shortage of cash as old notes are no longer useable. I need to go to my office at Nehru Place but I have joined the queue as I have no cash and its getting difficult to survive solely through online shopping,” said IT executive Radhika queued up outside a bank in Laxmi Nagar in east Delhi.Following Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s announcement to withdraw the high denomination notes, the banks were ordered to remain closed on Wednesday to realign and reload new Rs 500 and Rs 2,000 currency.Banks have been asked to be open on weekends including Sunday to deal with the situation. The ATMs resumed functioning from today but there is a limit of withdrawl of Rs 2,000 per day which is expected to be increased in coming week.

Delhi: Pollution, pooja and protests take toll on traffic

New Delhi: Chhath festivities, smog-filled air and protest by Jawaharlal Nehru University students over the missing student led to traffic snarls in the city on Monday.

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

Tight security was in place in Lutyens Delhi amid reports of protest by Jawaharlal Nehru University students over the missing of Najeeb Ahmed.

Security personnel were posted around the roads leading to India Gate and traffic restrictions and diversions were put in place in anticipation of the protest, police said.

C Hexagon was closed for traffic movement, they said.

As students were detained around 5 pm while marching towards India Gate, traffic snarls were observed in the area.

Amid accusations of manhandling of students and missing Najeeb’s mother, Dependra Pathak, Delhi Police spokesperson and joint commissioner of police (Southwest) said, “We took all the precautions. Najeeb’s mother was not manhandled by our cops. When police were making the protesters sit inside buses, she lied down on the road. Our female officers waited for a while and tried to explain to her, but then they picked her up to ensure that she was not trampled in the crowd.”

The protesting students were taken to Mandir Marg police station. Mandir Marg was closed for a couple of hours as many students stood outside the police station, said a traffic police officer.

27-year-old Najeeb Ahmed, a student of School of Biotechnology and a native of Badaun in Uttar Pradesh, went missing on 15 October following an on-campus scuffle allegedly with the members of ABVP the night before.

Traffic was also affected in the city due to Chhath Puja celebrations and poor visibility over smog.

Heavy traffic was observed between Chandgi Ram Akhada and ISBT, Kalindi Kunj and Noida due to Chhath Puja, the traffic police officer added.

Sardar Patel’s family never took copyright over him: PM Modi’s jibe at dynastic politics

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel neither did anything for his family nor has his family taken a “copyright” over him, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Monday as he emphasised on highlighting contributions of such great men before future generations.Speaking at an event where he inaugurated a digital exhibition on the life of Patel on his 141st birth anniversary, he also said a country as diverse as India cannot run if we focus on our divisions and not live by the mantra of oneness. “When we talk about unity, the message is clear, that I am a BJP ‘wallah’ but Sardar Patel was from Congress and still we are celebrating this jayanti with the same pomp and fervour,” Modi said.He said in the times of every great man there are different ideas and debates associated with them but the succeeding generations don’t have the right to use contributions and achievements of great men to create divisions. The attempt should be to find things from their lives which bind everyone, he added. “I am surprised that some people ask who am I to celebrate the jayanti of Sardar Patel. But Sardar was such a person whose family has not taken any copyright. And anyways in public life, he did not do anything for his family. Whatever he did, was as duty for the country,” Modi said hitting out at critics.”If we present these examples to the current generation, we can say – it is alright there is family but pay some attention to the country also,” he said taking a swipe at dynasty politics. Some people were so great, he said, that attempts were made to make their contributions forgotten for 70 years but these met with no success.Terming Patel as a visionary, Modi said that he had brought in a proposal for 33 per cent women’s reservation as Ahmedabad municipality chief. He said that most states were in favour of Patel and not Jawaharlal Nehru to head the government after independence. He added that Sardar however accepted Gandhiji’s wishes after which Nehru headed the government.In a lighter vein, he said perhaps being a Gujarati himself Gandhi did not want to pick another Gujarati. Speaking about Patel’s sacrifice in the present context, he said people won’t even give up the chairmanship of a municipality. Earlier in the day, Modi paid floral tributes to Patel at his statue in the heart of national capital at Patel Chowk here. “I bow to Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel on his birth anniversary. We recall his rich contribution to India,” he said.In his speech digital exhibition event, Modi also emphasised on the role of lives of people like Patel in inspiring people to stay united. “We are watching it everyday and sometimes it appears as if we are looking for ways to diverge. As if we are sitting with binoculars seeking things which can create divisions. A country so filled with diversities cannot run like this. We will have to live by the mantra of oneness. And inculcate it as our heritage and percolate to further generations,” he said.Modi credited to Patel’s stature that rulers of hundreds of princely states got convinced to merge in India. There is a traditional rivalry between Patels and Kshatriyas in Gujarat but even Kshatriya royals agreed with Patel, he said highlighting the spirit of unity. Modi also said people should be made aware of the contributions of people in freedom struggle. It was more a struggle of the people, than that of the leaders and the contribution of these people should be highlighted.He said museums would be created in each state to bring forth the contributions of the tribals in the freedom struggle. At the event, Modi also launched the government’s ‘Ek Bharat Shreshtha Bharat’ scheme to promote greater awareness among people of various states about one another and hence promoting the spirit of unity in diversity. Six MoUs between two states each were also signed under this initiative.Modi said people often take pride when their kids speak Spanish or French, but an environment needs to be created when encouragement should be given to speaking more Indian languages.He suggested a range of activities which children from various states can undertake to know each other better under Ek Bharat, Shreshtha Bharat. A database of 5000 questions related to each state can be prepared and there can be quiz competitions, he also suggested.

Bharat Mata Ki Jai: How Jawaharlal Nehru’s Discovery of India offers a peek into the soul of India

I read Jawaharlal Nehru’s Discovery of India for the first time, when I had just joined college. Since then, I must have re-read it at least half a dozen times, the latest being in October when I was preparing for recording a conversation with Shyam Benegal for Kitab — my weekly show on Rajya Sabha TV. This time, the reading acquired added poignancy given the current environment characterised by vulgar, in fact hostile rejection of intellectual vocation; and political scene populated by “leaders” who proudly display their ignorance of Indian history and culture while aggressively professing great love and reverence for “Bharat Mata“. Naturally, some of this environment reflected in the recording also, when nonchalantly admitting their ignorance of the text, some of the audience condemned it nonetheless. After all, “why should anybody bother to read such a thick and obviously dated book?”

File image of a protest rally against the attacks on Dalits in Gujarat. Reuters

The leaders of India’s Struggle For Freedom envision a nation confident enough to look at itself critically, not suffering from self-pity of present or delusions of the past, committed to a just and inclusive growth-pattern. Reuters

The question was blunt enough and the answer can be similarly straight: “Going through this book will help you in knowing that leaders of our freedom movement were struggling not merely for political freedom, but for regaining the soul of India and for creating a just and compassionate society.”

The idea of India — a nation self-confident enough to look at itself critically, not suffering from self-pity of present or delusions of the past, committed to a just and inclusive growth-pattern, conscious of its historical role — was not Nehru’s alone. It was shared by all forward looking leaders and thinkers of his generation — their disagreements (sometimes quite acrimonious) notwithstanding. In fact, People like BR Ambedkar and Bhagat Singh were critical of the Congress party, precisely because they thought that it was not doing enough to realise the shared vision of an egalitarian and just society.

The slogan desiring the ‘Jai’ or victory of Bharat Mata was popularised during the freedom struggle. Nehru recalls that he used to ask his audiences the “meaning of the expression Bharat Mata“, and proceeds to decode the slogan. He writes, “…what counted ultimately were the people of India, people like them and me. who were spread all over this vast land. Bharat Mata — Mother India was essentially these millions of people, and victory to her meant victory to these people” (page 53).

There can be no “people” without shared memories, dreams and aspirations. And, “A nation like an individual has many personalities, many approaches to life. If there is sufficiently strong bond between these different personalities, it is well; otherwise those personalities split up and lead to disintegration and trouble” (page 562). To Nehru, “discovery” of India meant discovering the matrix of “strong bond” holding the personalty of India together and to identify the potential threats as well. It was a search of destiny, as given its human, material and cultural resources “India can only be in the frontline in the comity of nations; it is her destiny”.

Written in Ahmednagar Fort prison during April-September 1944, the “discovery” begins with reflections on national and international political situation of the time. In these, reflections are interwoven with the memories of his wife Kamla Nehru who after a prolonged illness, passed away in February, 1936. Nehru’s reflections on this admittedly less than perfect relationship reach to the fundamental “problem of human relationship” which is “often ignored in our fierce arguments about politics and economics”, he reminds his reader, “it was not so ignored in the old and wise civilisations of India and China” (page 34).

This book is an attempt to trace the evolution, nature and problems of the “wise civilisation of India”. Starting from reflections on contemporary political scene, the book turns into a poignant re-telling of the evolution of Indian society, its culture and economy. Nehru notes the remarkable continuity of Indian culture and its material context from Indus Valley Civilisation to his own time, and also the “break” in its natural growth caused by the British colonialism. Delving into the heritage of literature, art, science and philosophy, he underlines the crucial fact that one can not imagine Indian civilisation without diversity and dialogue amongst various viewpoints. He underlines the importance of scientific temper and method for understanding the mysteries of nature, but is clear about its limitations as well — science can hardly tell us anything about the purpose of life, hence there must be moral basis and ethical dimension to the life of individual, community and nation. To him, one of Gandhiji’s greatest contributions was his “stress on right means” (page 16), ie, the ethical idea of the purpose of life.

Quite contrary to popular ignorance, Nehru did not dismiss religion summarily. He was, of course motivated by the desire to see a “culture less based on religion, and more on morality and ethics” (page 577). As a matter of fact, by making ethics more important than dogma and belief as a principle of social organisation, Nehru is speaking here in a quintessentially Indian way. He did not fancy himself as a crusader against religion, because, “…religion had supplied some deeply felt inner human needs of human nature” (page 13). As for himself, he felt attracted “towards the advaita philosophy of Vedanta” and felt at home “in the old Indian or Greek pagan and pantheistic atmosphere, but minus the conception of God or Gods that was attached to it” (page 16).

In Nehru’s own words, this book is an attempt to “travel into the past and peep into the future”. He borrows TS Elliot’s words to describe his venture as an attempt to “balance myself on that point of intersection of the timeless and time” (page 627). This book, so directly concerned with the events of that time has a timeless quality, because such a balance on the “point of intersection of the timeless and time” is always needed in the lives of individuals and nations. More so, these days, when we seem to be living under the illusions regarding past and confusions regarding future, coupled with a disastrous lack of a higher ethical vision.

(All page numbers are Discovery of India, Penguin edition, New Delhi, 2010)

Why PM Narendra Modi’s speech on triple talaq was Nehruvian in scope, zeal and importance

The debate over triple talaq is so conflated with hard ideological, religious and political positions that it is very easy to miss the woods for trees. Strip the conflations and it seems incredible that in the 21st century and as members of a democratic, secular nation-state, we are still ‘debating’ basic building blocks of democracy such as human rights. And yet, “secularism” is a word so abused and twisted in Indian political discourse that any attempts to challenge the status quo and address the fundamental issues plaguing a section of our citizens is immediately met with the bogey of “communalism” or “political agenda”.

Taking advantage of this subversion, a horde of regressive patriarchs — All India Muslim Personal Law Board and some other self-declared interpreters of Islam — have successfully stifled any debate over triple talaq by burying it within the ‘minority vs majority’ binary.

Since the debate concerned reforming Muslim personal law, the Left — the so-called champions of individual’s rights — dropped all pretensions and looked the other way even though triple talaq involves the worst sort of human rights violations against women. As for the Congress, it buried Nehru’s reformist legacy deep within the abode of Hades and remained trapped within its own version of dubious secularism. Neo-left outfits such as AAP or socialist parties such as the Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party, Trinamool Congress or Janata Dal (United) followed the same time-tested model.

This is precisely why Narendra Modi‘s statement on Monday was a game-changing one.

In one of his most statesman-esque speeches yet, the Prime Minister sought to yank the triple talaq debate away from the tricky terrain of religious rights and place it where it belongs — the realm of fundamental rights. By equating the practice of instant divorce with female foeticide, Modi gave the issue a new dimension and raised it above the vicious cycle of partisan politics.


In one of his most statesman-esque speeches yet, Modi sought to yank the triple talaq debate away from the tricky terrain of religious rights and place it where it belongs. PTI

While lending his voice for the first time in the churn that has emerged from within the Muslim community and is being led by women, their most vulnerable section, Modi was also mindful of the perils of taking up the cudgels. Given the hard, confrontationist position taken by Muslim ideologues on triple talaq and their insistence on conflating it with the larger debate over Uniform Civil Code, it was imperative that passions are not fanned further. Modi’s job was therefore twofold. Introduce the debate for a much-needed reform while taking utmost care that his entry doesn’t jeopardize the fight being staged by Muslim women. And he did it masterfully.

The emphasis on female foeticide, prevalent among Indians cutting across religious or regional divides, stresses on the primacy of Constitution ahead of social customs or personal laws, especially when it comes to enforcing fundamental rights. And the comparison also has a political motive: taking away the sting of the charge that Modi’s wading into the churn was aimed at muddying the waters ahead of Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls.

“Female foeticide is a sin. So what if the sinner is a Hindu? My government has taken a number of steps (to stop this practice). Daughters, mothers, sisters should be protected. One should not consider religion. Mothers and sisters should be respected.

“Any Hindu who commits female foeticide will have to go to jail. Similarly, what is the crime of my Muslim sisters that someone says talaq, talaq, talaq over the phone and her life is destroyed?” said the Prime Minister during a rally on Monday in Uttar Pradesh’s Bundelkhand.

In his ‘advice’ to media, Modi’s mistrust of the medium was evident. The subtext of his statement was clear — that media often twists the important debate on gender justice into a political slanging match between BJP vs the Rest in search of higher TRPs.

“The debate should be between knowledgeable persons from Muslim community knowing ‘Quran’. In Muslim community, knowledgeable and progressive people are there. There are educated Muslim women who can put their views forth.

“When you do TV debate do not turn it into Hindu-Muslim issues. Debate should be between those who want change in Muslim society and those who do not want 125 crore Indians to know what is the issue,” The Times of India quoted the prime minister as saying.

In stressing on the need to heed and follow the rules prescribed by the Constitution, Modi was imposing faith in a crucial Indian institution that remains the cornerstone of our democracy. In doing so (and not for the first time) he was treading the path charted by Jawaharlal Nehru. Here, Modi is as zealous about reforms (be it social or religious) as Nehru but this is a trait that is little emphasized and he himself might be uncomfortable with.

As this Firstpost article argues: “For thousands of years, Indians knelt before temples. But Narendra Modi kneels down at the footsteps of the Parliament, an institution created not by religion, but by liberty, by constitution, by reason. Nehru was at least intellectually honest, someone who could praise Atal Bihari Vajpayee on the floor of parliament. But India’s counterfeit secular Hindus are intellectually dishonest and will not acknowledge that Modi is Nehru II, albeit added with civilisation. If Nehru were alive, he would be happy to see Modi.”

Muslim women and groups at the forefront of the battle for gender justice and their rights, welcomed Modi’s speech and criticized the All India Muslim Personal Law Board.

Zakia Soman, Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan co-founder whose survey went a long way in showing how unpopular the practice was among Muslim women, said Modi’s statement “will go a long way in enabling and supporting struggle for gender justice in Islam, particularly to Muslim women in India.”

According to ANI, Soman said: “I would appeal to Muslim board and other patriarchal institutions to give up this un-winnable and unethical fight, their insistence on the continuation of triple talaq is unethical, un-Quranic and unconstitutional, they should give up this demand and they should acknowledge us,” she said.

Feroze Mithiborwala, The founder of the Haji Ali Sabke Liye movement, came out in support of the PM and denounced the AIMPLB for creating a “fear psychosis”.

“Even in this political ambit, the Prime Minister has chosen to speak on it, it’s a welcome sign. The point being that we have been trying to say this forefront, that do not communalise or politicise the issue, focus on the issue of gender rights, Muslim women, issue of reform within Muslim personal law, the issue of triple talaq, halala and polygamy are now today in SC,” Mithiborwala told ANI.

But as long as it will remain beneficial for political parties to twist the secularism narrative, we will have the Congress trying hard not to take a position on this regressive custom because it doesn’t want to jeopardize its chances of getting Muslim votes. We will continue to have statements from politicians like Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar, who recently asked Narendra Modi government not to touch the issue of triple talaq and leave it to the Muslims to decide. One wonders if the state should abdicate all responsibility of enforcing equality and gender justice and leave it for communities to decide. Why do we need the state at all?

Silence of the sage and saint

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>His first novel, Kanthapura, written in 1937 when he was only 21 years old, has continued to be acclaimed as a precursor of a kahani – Puranic style of Indic-English.His preface to Kanthapura is often cited as the quintessential statement or manifesto of Indian writers in English, where he wrote that “English is not really an alien” to India, but like Persian and Sanskrit before, has become the language of governance and of India’s “intellectual make-up.” He continued, “We cannot write like the English. We should not. We can write only as Indians” because the “tempo of Indian life must be infused into our English expression. . . . We, in India, think quickly, and when we move we move quickly.”His 1937 preface concludes, “There must be something in the sun of India that makes us rush and tumble and run on. . . . Episode follows episode, and when our thoughts stop our breath stops, and we move on to another thought. This was and still is the ordinary style of our storytelling.”These words written by Raja Rao almost 80 years ago, sound very much like words he spoke to me less than 20 years ago when he described India. His concept was that the idea of India was greater than the terrestrial entity, transcending the material world, offering a gift of knowledge to the planet. Many times in eloquent language he explained his perspective that India’s energy or aura, goes out into space, follows trajectories, mutates, vibrates and hums in all directions, thereby influencing the cosmos.Raja Rao thought there was something in the bedrock of the Subcontinent that hums the Dharma, a glow, an energy that keeps the world keeping on. It’s the Dharma’s Shakti, the Cosmic hum rising from that inverted triangular piece of land located between Sindh and Bengal, from the Himalayas to Sri Lanka. Raja Rao said that when he was younger, he felt, and saw, and heard India’s metaphysical terrestrial energy as he was approaching India by boat in 1939 fleeing the war in Europe after having lived in France. Raja Rao often spoke about the power emanating from India, the collective cosmic Shakti power that was ‘Indianness’ (Dharma).He knew scientifically that, he was not off-base theoretically, since India has the oldest rocks on earth from the Precambrian age. In fact, the Narmada flows through the ancient Gondwana Plate. Raja Rao felt that India was an idea that transcended geographical limitations. In his novel The Serpent and the Rope (1960) he wrote, “Anybody can have the geographic—even the political—India; it matters little. . . . India is not a country like France is, or like England; India is an idea, a metaphysic.”Raja Rao was a sage, for him words were made from light that formed during meditation. He was a sage who practiced Advaita Vedanta and his fictional characters were expressions of that tradition. It can be said this is writings were not real, but were true. One logical political reason that his work was waylaid and forgotten compared to other Indian authors such as his contemporaries Mulk Raj Anand and RK Narayan, is that in post independence India, Socialism was elevated and Raja Rao was critical of Marxism. In Comrade Kirillov, Raja Rao critiqued Marxism and its incompatibility with Indic thought.His wife Susan Raja-Rao wrote to me concerning his views on communism, “He did not like Nehru’s socialism or Nehru’s whole view on India. He felt it was a misfortune that Nehru had not followed Gandhi.”Additionally, his works, though patriotic and nationalistic, were spiritual expressions of the absolute… metaphysical writings that only those who are open to the oneness and the totality of that oneness could grasp. But those not able to conceive that concept can’t fully appreciate its undulations moving through the work of Raja Rao. Non-duality is the foundational essence found in Raja Rao’s work.He was a metaphysician and mere secular critics can only reference his unique use of English not his transcendent point of view.Raja Rao was not an easy writer. He demanded attention and honesty. Reading Raja Rao was often more than a mere act of reading. Just as writing was a form of Sadhana for Raja Rao, reading his work was often a form of meditation as well. An honest response to the words of Raja Rao was often threatening to one’s carefully cherished illusions and ego, hence, more convenient to ignore, in a new generation, with new literary fashions.Raja Rao loved the young Americans who filled his classes by the thousands in the sixties and early seventies, the hippy generation. He publically disagreed with Indira Gandhi about the youth who were going to India in droves to find spirituality, many of whom he sent there after having taken his courses.Rao felt that the time is coming for Hinduism, that India’s spirituality was on the rise internationally. He knew that the time is now, for the Dharma to become more familiar and respected in the West and also better understood in modern India. Raja Rao knew this change was imminent…. A movement he helped to usher in.The author is a writer and Indic Scholar

Nehru failed on Kashmir promise, says Gujarat Deputy CM Nitin Patel

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Taking a swipe at Congress, Gujarat Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel on Monday claimed that the country’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru failed to fulfil his promise on Kashmir, giving rise to a perennial problem. Congress was quick to take exception. State Congress president Bharatsinh Solanki said Patel needed to take history lessons, and Kashmir was a part of India today only because of the Congress leadership of the past.”During Congress rule, there was a law under which Kashmir’s CM was referred to as Prime Minister of that state. Kashmir also had a separate flag other than the tricolour,” said Patel, addressing a government function in Gandhinagar.”Unfortunately, when the issue of Kashmir emerged, Nehru told everyone to leave it to him as he belonged to Kashmir and promised that he will annex it to India. But it never happened, as separatists did not accept Nehru’s idea. Even after 70 years, protests by separatists are on,” he said.Reacting to Patel’s remarks, Solanki contended that Kashmir became a part of India only because of the efforts of Congress and its past Prime Ministers Nehru, Lal Bahadur Shastri, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi.”I feel that Patel needs to understand India’s history first. It is an indisputable fact that Kashmir became a part of India because of the efforts of Nehru and Congress. Contribution of Congress, Nehru, Shastri-ji, Indira-ji and Rajiv-ji helped India keep Kashmir,” he said.”If Rahul-ji (Rahul Gandhi) had been our PM today, the issue of Kashmir would have been solved long ago,” Solanki added.

Congress responsible for contemporary fragmented Indian society: RSS

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Telling the Congress Party that it has no right to preach to the government or to progressive, democratic and secular forces of the country, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) on Sunday blamed the former for creating a contemporary fragmented society for vote bank politics and, added that had it not done so, Jawaharlal Nehru, the nation’s first prime minister, would have introduced the Uniform Civil Code (UCC).”The Congress is responsible for the contemporary fragmented society. It is the Congress that initiated vote bank politics. Had it not done, Pandit Nehru (first Prime Minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru) would have brought the Uniform Civil Code. The Congress’ social philosophy is a reactionary social philosophy and they are behind the fundamentalists, so the Congress has no moral right to preach to the government or to the progressive, democratic and secular forces of the country,” RSS ideologue Professor Rakesh Sinha told ANI.Dubbing the Congress as a party of “reactionaries” and having “blinkered vision”, Professor Sinha said, “Due to their blinkered vision and intention of vote bank, the Congress party is no longer a supporter of progressive positions, and they are behind the reactionary forces.”His reaction came in the wake of former union law minister and Congress veteran M Veerappa Moily stating this week that plurality, diversity and multiplicity is the real valuable culture of the country, and thus, the implementation of UCC is next to impossible in India.The RSS ideologue, however, sought to know as to when there was no demand for a “Hindu Civil Code”, the Government of India formulated the Hindu Civil Code and that was a progressive step, but who stopped them from bringing the Uniform Civil Code; if they legislated it for Hindu society, why did not they legislate for a Indian society?Accusing former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi of bowing before fundamentalists, Sinha said, “Despite the clear and unambiguous directive and the verdict of the Supreme Court of India to formulate Uniform Civil Code, Rajiv Gandhi bowed down to the fundamentalists’ pressure.”Moily, who was reacting to the move of the Muslim Personal Law Board (MPLB) to boycott the UCC while terming it as “not good for the nation”, said the concept and the design of India is unity in diversity.”So, it is not uniform, we have hindered castes, then have 100 personal laws. I think this is impractical and one can’t implement personal law that very strongly governs the lives of the people of this country,” Moily said.

Uniform Civil Code: Left liberals must change position or risk being sidelined by history

Liberalism, that cornerstone of a modern nation-state, has undergone a curious and radical transformation in India. Its practitioners — historically the Left which has an illustrious legacy of having authored most of the principles that serve as the foundation of a liberal democracy — have absolved themselves of all responsibilities when it comes to advocating for the common civil code.

The Left’s continued and resolute failure to root for a truly progressive reform that replaces a clutch of illiberal and regressive personal laws has forced it to cede space to the conservative Right, which, in this case, has taken over the task of promoting, protecting and enhancing an individual’s liberty within the principles of gender justice, human dignity and equality before law.

And because it finds itself fenced on the regressive side of history, the Left has sought to use the slur of “communal agenda” as a battering ram against the Right to stifle all debates around a civil code that in historian Ram Guha’s words, “does not discriminate between individual citizens on the basis of caste, community, religion, or gender.”

As the torchbearers of a legacy that includes fighting for universal adult suffrage, against patriarchy, in favour of gender justice and protection of minority rights, the Left must pause and take a long, hard look at its untenable position on the common civil code. Not only is it doing a grave disservice to the real minority (an individual vis-à-vis the community or state), it is fighting a futile battle against an idea whose time has clearly come.

Representational image. AFPRepresentational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

As the clamour led by Muslim women against triple talaq, nikah halala and polygamy has shown, the need for reform in Muslim personal law and its codification has arisen from within the community. And the struggle is being led by women — the most vulnerable section within the Muslim community. The women have shown an increasing awareness about their rights, raised a legitimate demand to be treated with due dignity and have sought equality before law — all fundamental rights guaranteed by the Indian Constitution.

The Left must therefore decide which side it wants to be on? The real minority that needs protection? Or a posse of entitled, chauvinistic, regressive power-mongers like the All India Muslim Personal Law Board whose real aim is to ensure their relevance in an ever-changing world and hold on to their sway over the community?

As a recent survey has shown, of the 4500 women interviewed by the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan, over 95.5 per cent have claimed they have never heard about the AIMPLB — the self-declared custodians and interpreters of Muslim law.

Does the Left (apropos the position taken by some of its venerated mouthpieces such as EPW — Uniform Civil Code: A Heedless Quest?) realize that in refusing to even engage in a debate over the reform and in taking a hard, reactionary position, it is transforming into an extended arm of the hierarchical, boorish law board whose very existence — to quote Tufail Ahmad — is antithetical to the Indian Constitution..?

In his piece Outlaw the Muslim Personal Law Board; Ensure Five Constitutional Paths for Reform, author, commentator and social reformer (also the Director of South Asia Studies Project at the Middle East Media Research Institute, Washington DC) Tufail Ahmad writes, “It (AIMPLB) is unconstitutional because such organisations were established with the objective of working against the fundamental rights guaranteed under the constitution. Since its founding in 1973, the AIMPLB has endorsed Sharia courts across India and runs a legal system parallel to the Indian constitution…. It is a privately-owned NGO that rules over the lives of Muslim masses. The ideas propagated by this anti-equality organisation do not fall within the sphere of freedom of speech.”

And falling into the elaborate trap laid by such regressive interest groups, the Left has conflated the battle for gender justice, personal liberty and equality before law with the narrative that Article 25 of the Indian Constitution (that allows each and every individual to follow, practise and propagate the religion of his or her choice) is in danger if even a discussion over common civil code is undertaken.

The ruse of using identity politics to cloud the debate over a progressive reform isn’t surprising. The interest groups led by the entitled maulanas and maulvis will do it to hang on to power and political parties — led by the Congress — will do it to keep Indians divided along religious fault lines. A common civil code in line with the CrPC and IPC does not harm the plurality of a nation. Giving women — and not just Muslim women — the ability to decide the course of their lives cannot be at odds with the right to practice one’s own religion.

If certain retrogressive practices come in the way, those must be tested on the altar of Article 14 of the Indian Constitution — which guarantees that “the state shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India” — and dealt accordingly, as was done by Jawaharlal Nehru and BR Ambedkar during the Hindu law reforms. It is another matter that the Congress now finds itself on the dustbins of history precisely because it has shifted away from the progressiveness of past to regression of present.

But the Left surely must look through the ruse. To quote Guha again from his Hindustan Times column: “…left-wing intellectuals who oppose a common civil code disavow the progressive heritage of socialist and feminist movements in India and across the world. They are — whether they sense it or not — apologists for the status quo, whose tortured and convoluted arguments only serve the interests of Muslim patriarchs and the Islamic clergy.”

If the Left has ceded its space, it is only natural that the Right would step in to fill the vacuum. To raise the bogey of “communal agenda” against the Right for leading the cause for common civil code is end of logic. To suggest, as some left-wing commentators have done that the NDA government is “raising the pitch for one nation, one law to polarize the electorate” ahead of UP elections, reflects stunning arrogance and total disdain towards the electorate.

Reform can’t be bad politics. There was considerable opposition towards Nehru and Ambedkar’s move during codification of Hindu law. The effects of the reforms are evident. The Left must abandon its reflexive fear that Indian secularism can be hijacked by a few.

Aligarh Muslim University junior doctors go on strike

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Medical services in Aligarh and the surrounding districts were badly hit in Aligarh on Friday following a strike by junior doctors at the Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College, the biggest medical facility of its kind in this region.The strike call was given following an emergency meeting of the Resident Doctors Association (RDA) at the Medical College Hospital, AMU.The junior doctors were protesting over the alleged manhandling and misbehaviour with their colleague on Wednesday.The RDA has alleged that Dr Vikas was manhandled by a close associate of the newly elected President of the AMU Students’ Union, Faizul Hasan. They were demanding Hasan’s suspension.A decision to extend a strike indefinitely would be taken later by Friday night, RDA spokesman said.The anger of the students against Medical College doctors stems from the recent death of a University student who was suffering from dengue. The students alleged that his death was due to negligence by the medical staff. On September 25, Sabir Hussain, a final year engineering student from Ghazipur district, had died at the Medical College.Later, a junior doctor and a nursing staff of Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College and Hospital were suspended by the Aligarh Muslim University Vice Chancellor for their alleged negligence in treatment of the student. The VC had also setup a three-member committee to probe the incident.

Counter iconography: Modi government pushes to elevate Deendayal Upadhyaya as new national icon

India has never had a dearth of great political leaders to commemorate but for historical reasons, somehow the credit has gone to only a handful. Or as some would like to say, it has been monopolised by just a few.

The long overdue change in our political iconography may be silently underway with the BJP government in power, spreading its net wide to dig out leaders who deserved to be crowned but have gone unrecognised or undervalued so far.

Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel was the first such leader, whom Prime Minister Narendra Modi eulogised and presented as a national icon, with a message that Patel’s status was no less than that of Jawaharlal Nehru. It’s important to note that Patel didn’t belong to the BJP, but the Congress. The PM has, from time-to-time, also trained the spotlight on other Congress leaders, such as Lal Bahadur Shastri.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. PTIPrime Minister Narendra Modi. PTI

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. PTI

Are we witnessing a paradigm change in the way India’s post-Independence iconography has developed, which has come round to settle on just one family?

With the birth centenary of Pt Deendayal Upadhyaya (1916-1968) — political ideologue, thinker and a stalwart leader of Bharatiya Jan Sangh — Modi has grasped the opportunity for counter iconography, going beyond the Congress narrative that focuses on the Nehru-Gandhi family.

For the year-long celebrations of Upadhyaya’s birth centenary, the PM has constituted two committees. While one is a national committee comprising 149 members and is chaired by Modi himself, the other is a 23-member executive committee chaired by Home Minister Rajnath Singh. What’s important to note is that besides former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee as its member, the committee has members from across the political spectrum, such as former PM HD Deve Gowda of JD (S), Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar, Rajya Sabha MP Sharad Yadav of JD(U) and NCP president Sharad Pawar.

By getting these diverse political leaders on the same page, Modi has ensured a pan-Indian approval for Upadhyaya’s centenary celebrations — and for his status as a national icon — rescuing him from being labeled merely a Jan Sangh-RSS ideologue.

And the common thread that binds all the political leaders on this platform is the objective to work towards poverty eradication. Following what Upadhyaya had said — “The purpose of integral humanism was to provide the benefits of development unto the last man standing in the queue”— the PM has urged to celebrate the year as ‘Gareeb Kalyan Varsh’ (Year for Welfare of the Poor).

BJP’s push to develop Upadhyaya as a new icon is also not likely to face resistance from Lohia-ites like Nitish Kumar and Sharad Yadav, as Upadhyaya shared an excellent rapport with socialist leader Ram Manohar Lohia.

“It’s for the first time that Pt Deendayal is getting his due, who failed to get it despite his ideological depth. Post-Independence, he worked relentlessly for over 18 years with a ‘Nation first’ approach. He never believed in the partisan rivalry. Deendayalji and Ram Manohar Lohia issued a joint statement in 1964 urging India and Pakistan to explore the idea of a confederation, which is unique and shows the rapport they both shared. The PM is doing course correction by rebuilding the lost glory, an icon who the Congress tried to crush ideologically and politically,” a senior Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) functionary told Firstpost.

In fact, the acceptability of Upadhyaya across the political spectrum can be found in the words of his political adversary and Marxist stalwart Hirendranath Mukherjee, who described him as ‘Ajaatshatru’ (without a foe).

“No one should monopolise the national space. Gandhi and Nehru were great leaders, but there were others as well and made an immense contribution to our freedom struggle and nation-building. They too should be celebrated,” said historian Prof Saradindu Mukherji, member, Indian Council for Historical Research.

“Till now almost every institution, building, airport, stadium, etc has been named after Nehru, Indira Gandhi or Rajiv Gandhi. It’s a timely measure by the Modi government to pick up Deendayal Upadhyaya as a new icon, who truly deserves to be celebrated. But this is not enough. The contributions of these leaders need to be incorporated in textbooks for a more meaningful and long-term memory,” added Mukherji.

PM Modi to deliberate on pros and cons of Indus Waters Treaty on Monday

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>According to ANI sources, Union Water Resources Minister Uma Bharti and senior officials will brief PM Modi on the Indus Water Treaty on Monday. PM will be discussing the pros and cons of taking action against Pakistan, and that reconsidering the details of Indus Water Treaty might be one of the possible moves to cause discomfort to Pakistan.The Indus Water Treaty was signed between Pandit Nehru and Pak president General Ayub Khan in 1960. The treaty has stood two full-scale wars and withdrawing the treaty has risks since it’s an international agreement and legally India can’t withdraw from it alone. The Indus originated in China, who haven’t signed any international treaties, and if it plays foul, then India could lose as much as much as 36% river water. Under the original agreement India has rights over three rivers that flow westward – Sutlej, Beas and Ravi – while Pakistan receives water from the other three – Jhelum, Chenab and Indus.There was no confirmation of the reports. The officials of the ministries of Water Resources and External Affairs denied any such knowledge of a meeting being convened by the Prime Minister. There have been consistent calls in India that the government scrap the water distribution pact to mount pressure on Pakistan in the aftermath of audacious Uri terror attack earlier this week. Under the treaty, which was signed by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and Pakistan President Ayub Khan in September 1960, water of six river – Beas, Ravi, Sutlej, Indus, Chenab and Jhelum – were to be shared between the two countries.Pakistan has been complaining of not receiving enough water and gone for international arbitration in couple of cases. Former diplomat Rajiv Dogra told ANI: “Taking a step against Pak artists I’m not in favour of. As a State, individuals aren’t affected. Most Favoured Nation status to Pak should be withdrawn, our nationals should be advised its dangerous to go to Pak. Look at prisoner Ansari in Pak, he has finished his jail term and yet we aren’t allowed consular access to him. It will need a lot of effort and time if India wants Pakistan to be isolated. Indus Waters Treaty has a provision for revision. First we should ascertain the reality and the facts. Last week Pakistan Parl passed a irresolution asking for revision of Indus Waters Treaty. We will be fooling ourselves if we think we will any violate international law if we revise Indus Waters Treaty.”Earlier, Jammu and Kashmir Deputy Chief Minister Nirmal Singh said a rethink was required on the Indus Waters Treaty, 1960, as Pakistan has been consistent in not respecting it. The Indus Waters treaty has been an issue since its inception. Jammu and Kashmir believes that it is at a loss and the concessions given to Pakistan are more than it should have been given. It is a good thing that rethinking on this issue has been initiated by the central government and it conveys a positive message to Jammu and Kashmir,’ he said.The Indus Waters Treaty is a water-sharing arrangement signed by former Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and martial law administrator General Ayub Khan on September 19, 1960, in Karachi. It covers the water distribution and sharing rights of six rivers — Beas, Ravi, Sutlej, Indus, Chenab and Jhelum. The agreement was brokered by the World Bank The agreement was signed because the source of all the rivers of the Indus Basin were in India (Indus and Sutlej, though, originate in China). It allowed India to use them for irrigation, transport and power generation, while laying down precise do’s and don’ts for India on building projects along the way. Singh also maintained that the Central Government is rethinking on the treaty which would send a positive message to the people of Jammu and Kashmir. The treaty gave the three “eastern rivers” of Beas, Ravi and Sutlej to India for use of water without restriction. The three “western rivers” of Indus, Chenab and Jhelum were allocated to Pakistan. India can construct storage facilities on “western rivers” of up to 3.6 million acre feet, which it has not done so far. India is also allowed agriculture use of 7 lakh acres above the irrigated cropped area as on April 1, 1960. Under the treaty, the waters of the eastern rivers have been allocated to India and New Delhi is under obligation to let the waters of the western rivers flow, except for certain consumptive use, with Pakistan getting 80% of the water. According to the United Nations, the 1960 Indus Waters Treaty has survived three wars and is a source of cooperation, not just conflict. ‘Pakistan should be declared terrorist state and all types of move should be performed to combat the situation,’ he added. With agency inputs

Rahul should retire, BJP likely to dominate for next 20 years: Ramachandra Guha

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Prominent historian Ramachandra Guha, a well-known critic of the RSS and BJP, shocked a few people when he suggested Congress scion Rahul Gandhi ought to take a permanent hiatus from Indian politics. Guha also suggested that BJP would be the most powerful party in India for the next 20 years.He compared the electoral strength of the BJP to the Congress of the 60s and 70s when Indian politics was dominated by one party. He told Economics Times: “Rahul Gandhi is an object of ridicule and contempt by people who would otherwise be attracted to a liberal Congress point of view… Rahul Gandhi should retire from politics, get married and start a family. That will be good for him. That will be good for India also.”He also expressed disappointment at the ambitions of Nitish Kumar and Arvind Kejriwal. He said: “Earlier people thought Nitish Kumar and Arvind Kejriwal could become an alternative pole, but they have been disappointing.”Guha also expressed concern over BJP exerting influence over prominent national institutions and while he admitted that the Congress sought to control those also, the party had ‘no malicious intent’ because of its ‘left-liberal credentials’. Guha on the hand worried that the BJP would unleash a ‘conservative onslaught against the nation’. He also remarked about the Jain monk incident which caused a huge furore stating that it was ‘fundamentally wrong’ and religious preachers shouldn’t have a place in modern democracy.Most right wingers associate Ram Guha as someone with undying love for Nehru. However, Guha had criticism reserved for India’s first PM too. He said Nehru ought to have rolled back the First Amendment which has put reasonable restrictions on free speech. Guha said about Article 191(a): “It, unfortunately, doesn’t have the political will to do that. So this will continue. In the late 1950s, when India was secure and safe, Jawaharlal Nehru should have rolled back the First Amendment (restricting free speech), which he didn’t do. Subsequent political regimes did not have the legitimacy or the courage or the conviction to do that. I don’t think this government sets great store by creative or artistic or intellectual work.”He also hoped that an alternate right-wing could emerge from youngsters, who are ‘outside the RSS ecosystem’.

JNU PhD scholar alleges former boyfriend stalked her and beat her up

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A 27-year old Ph.D student at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) has alleged that her former boyfriend had been threatening and stalking her. JNU has been in news since the beginning of this year for various crimes against women. In most cases of molestation and rape, both the accused and victim both have been scholars at the prestigious university. So far around three rape cases have been registered against students at JNU and one was recently arrested.In her complaint the victim has alleged that Rajaram Yadav (27) on Wednesday night stalked, threatened and beat her up. She stated that they parted ways around four months back but the accused was still troubling her. On the basis of the woman’s complaint a case under section 323//354D/506/509 of the Indian Penal Code was registered. “The accused was later arrested by the South District Police and released on bail. Further investigations are underway,” said a senior police officer.

India may consider govt-in-exile status to Balochis

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Big intervention by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, aimed at repeating the feat of India’s first premier Jawaharlal Nehru, seems to be yielding result as India has received the request for political asylum from exiled Baloch leader Brahumdagh Bugti.Highly placed sources suggested that if relations with Pakistan continue to deteriorate, the Modi government, besides providing political asylum to Brahumdagh — heir apparent to firebrand pro-India Baloch leader Nawab Akbar Bugti — may also allow Baloch expats to establish their government in exile in India.This has been done only once by India, with exiled Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama, who, in a big diplomatic blow to China, was welcomed by Nehru with open arms in 1959 and was allowed to set up the Tibetan government in exile with its headquarters in Dharamsala, Himachal Pradesh.If Pakistan does not stop using terrorism as a state policy to harm India, the government can take a policy decision to give persecuted Baloch leaders and people the political space to seek freedom from Pakistan’s occupation, said sources.In August, Modi had suggested a major shift in policy towards Pakistan by invoking the Baloch issue first at the all-party meet to discuss the Kashmir unrest and later followed it up in his Independence Day address.“Pakistan forgets that it rains bombs on its citizens. Now, the time has come for Pakistan to explain to the world about the atrocities it is unleashing on the people of Balochistan…,” PM Modi had said.Like the Tibetan government in exile, Brahumdagh can be provided a place to run his government in exile from the Bilochpura village of Baghpat in Uttar Pradesh, where many ethnic Balochis have been living since Babur’s period, sources said.Recently, Mazdak Dilshad Baloch, a prominent voice among the expatriate Baloch community fighting for the liberation of Balochistan, was allowed by the government to meet the Baloch families from Bilochpura and five nearby villages that have Baloch population.However, sources said that the call to give political asylum will be taken at the highest level by Modi after weighing all pros and cons as it is a big policy decision that can open a new area of conflict with Pakistan.After his grandfather Nawab Bugti was killed in a Pakistani air strike in 2006, Brahumdagh founded the Baloch Republican Party, a Baloch nationalist group, which broke away from his uncle Talal Akbar Bugti’s Jamhoori Watan Party in 2008.Pakistan government accuses Brahumdagh Bugti of leading the Baloch Republican Army, a separatist group designated as a terrorist organisation in Pakistan. Since the death of his grandfather, who was also his mentor, Brahumdagh, fearing for his life, has lived in exile – first in Afghanistan and later in Switzerland.Brahumdagh’s asylum request, received at the Indian consulate in Geneva, has been forwarded to the Union home ministry. The ministry is looking at old records for asylum procedures as there is not stated policy on asylum.

Author Perumal Murugan ends self-imposed exile with 200 new poems

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Contemporary Tamil author Perumal Murugan on Monday ended a self-imposed literary exile of 19 months with a new book – a collection of 200 poems “A Coward’s Song”. Threatened by protests from Hindutva activists against his Tamil novel “Madhorubagan” (One Part Woman), which they deemed offensive, a dismayed Murugan had announced in a Facebook post in December 2014 that the writer in him was dead. “Author Perumal Murugan is dead,” he had written.In July, the Madras High Court had dismissed a plea seeking prosecution of the author and ban of his “offensive” book in Tamil, besides forfeiting all the copies of its English translation “One Part Woman” saying there was nothing obscene in the book. Dressed in a white shirt and dhoti, Murugan, speaking in Tamil read out a powerful statement after the launch of his new book at the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, which was translated and read out in English. The 50-year-old author also recited two poems “Hometown” and “A Coward’s Song” before that.Describing the first three months after he had declared his “death”, Murugan said he did not want to “even write one word”. He said during that time he felt like a like “a walking corpse”, and “like a rat in a burrow”. “It was poetry that saved me. My mind has now attained a state of being able to write poetry,” he said, adding now when he writes he feels a censor seated within him and “unable to shake him off”.”My writing will do little to change the world so let me be quiet and speak through my writings,” said the author, who began writing poetry when he was a child.In the discussion with Nilanjana Roy following the reading statement, Murugan said he believed “No writer can write a single work in defence of caste.””In my perception caste is ubiquitous but present subtly in society. Why caste exists and why is so divisive is a question that plagues me,” Murugan said.The author was introduced by poet Ashok Vajpeyi, who said it was “encouraging for poets like us that he is alive and that he chose to write poetry instead of prose”. Refusing to delve into the dark days following his self- imposed exile, the author, who is also a professor of literature, said he never believed he would be able to write again.”Today is a happy day for me. My book of poems has been published and released in Delhi. I don’t want to relive my dark days of 2015,” he said. Murugan, who has previously written six novels, four collections of short stories and four anthologies of poetry, said he doubts whether he can continue to write in his usual realist mode. “I doubt whether I can continue to write in future in the realist mode. I might have to resort to other techniques. Only time will tell on that,” he said.

Dedicated Freight Corridor: Railways spends Rs 4,959 cr for land acquisition

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The railways, which keenly wants to start the Rs 81,500 crore Dedicated Freight Corridor (DFC) by 2019, is leaving no stone unturned to ensure that the project’s biggest bugbear —land acquisition and resettlement of project affected people —does not come in the way. The ministry last week announced that till July this year an amount of Rs 4,959 crore (Rs 4,600 crore for land compensation and Rs 359 crore for rehabilitation) had been awarded for the projects on the western leg between Jawaharlal Nehru Port near Mumbai and Dadri near Noida in Uttar Pradesh.The payments, officials said, had been made under the provisions contained in Railway Amendment Act 2008, Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act 2013. The expenditure likely to be incurred on this account is Rs 6,000 crore approximately by the time all the land required for the project is acquired and the PAPs are rehabilitated. As per the 2016-17 Pink Book — the railways book on budgeted expenditure for a financial year — a sum of Rs 3,000 crore was allotted by the railways for land acquisition. This includes Rs 1,500 crore for the western leg of the freight corridor between Jawaharlal Nehru Port and Dadri in Uttar Pradesh and Rs 1,420 crore for the eastern leg between Dankuni in West Bengal and Ludhiana in Punjab.One of the bigger land tussles in the DFC project was the acquisition of land between Panvel and JNPT. This issue between DFC and Cidco was solved by March this year and in April the DFC handed over a cheque of Rs 608 crore to Cidco to straight away acquire 14.4 hectares of the 32 hectares of land required between Panvel and JNPT.The land game*Total land required for DFC: 10,548 hectares or 105.48 sq km*Total land acquired: Over 85%*Land acquisition held-up on DFC: 440 patches across 358 km*Arbitration cases on land acquisition: 6,300 (out of which 3,125 finalised)*Court cases on land acquisition: 1,445 (out of which 432 finalised)

Netaji files: Nehru was ready to share INA funds with Pakistan

The recently declassified Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose files reveal that India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru wanted to share Indian National Army or erstwhile Azad Hind Government’s gold, along with a sum of Rs 10 lakh, with Pakistan.The cash and jewellery were in the possession of the custodian evacuee property in Singapore.Nehru’s note of June 30, 1950, mentioned in secret file (no. 23 (156)/ 51-PM) in Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) – ‘Disposal of Properties of Indian National Army (INA) in the Far East’ – mentions that “since it has been decided that the assets of INA/IIL funds should be divided between India and Pakistan in the ratio of 2:1, Pakistan might claim a part of this gold in which case it might lead to embarrassment if we were to take charge of it in its entirety now.”<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Nehru, obviously, didn’t knew the value of the gold. In a letter dated November 12, 1953 he had asked the ministry of external affairs to take possession of the gold and inquire about its value. He also sent along a letter of authority as the gold and other funds of the INA, after Netaji’s reported death in a plane crash in 1945, were pledged under his (Nehru’s) name as PM of India.Subsequent inquiries done by the MEA revealed that the amount of gold was Rs. 37,956 at the then Singapore value. Plus, there was a sum of Rs.10 lakh which the Custodian of Enemy Property in Singapore held with him as property of the provisional government of Azad Hind.But as Nehru had gone ahead and done a lot of correspondence for the return of gold, he pursued further and got it back. As for the remaining and larger sum of Rs.10 lakh, Nehru finally decided to let it remain in Singapore and asked the MEA to use the interest accrued on it for giving scholarships for Indian students there, various correspondences in the file reveal.But an intriguing part of this file is that many of its papers were destroyed by Nehru’s PMO without mentioning any reasons, thus leaving out much of mystery about the INA treasure remain unsolved.The first two pages of the file clearly mention the reference numbers of various notes and letters that were destroyed and includes U.O.Note No. d/s-8666, dated August 24, 1953 from Prime Minister Secretariat (as PMO was then known) to Mohd. Yunus, Ministry of External Affairs, and U.O. Note No. D. 3788-8EA/53 dated August 27 from Mohd Yunus, MEA to PM’s Secretariat.It appears from the file that Mohd Yunus had sent another Memo No. 2/53/19713/601 (151) to Prime Minister Secretariat which was also destroyed.

IIMC invokes Independence-era icons on campus

The Indian Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC) is busy invoking Independence-era idols on its campus. The institution which is on a renaming overdrive is naming its buildings after Bal Gangadhar Tilak, BR Ambedkar and Mahatma Gandhi. This new development is an initiative of the BJP’s newly appointed Director-General KG Suresh who has tried to find the journalist within these freedom fighters.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The 50-year-old institution operates under the aegis of ministry of information and broadcasting. So far the various buildings of this institution were recognised by the purpose they were set up for. The hostel blocks were knowns as hostel 1 and 2, the auditoriums as manch (stage) and teaching blocks, were all recognised by their generic names.Comparing itself with Jahawarlal Nehru University (JNU), where both students and alumni identify themselves with hostels likes Brahmaputra, Mandakini and eateries like Ganga dhaba, Suresh said, “We realised that an institution as old as ours, lacked an identity with which the students could feel a sense of belonging. We want students to identify themselves with the institution,” adds Suresh.Even before JNU named its library block after Dr BR Ambedkar, IIMC had christened its boys hostel after the Dalit icon. In February this year, a Dalit student residing in the boys hostel had approached the National Commission of Schedule Caste and Schedule Tribes complaining about derogatory comments being made about him by non-Dalit students. After the issue was resolved, Suresh felt that naming the boys hostel after Ambedkar has given a sense of belonging not only to the marginalised community, but also the other boys residing in the hostel.Being a media training institution, it has tried to identify these icons from their journalistic aspect. “All these people have contributed as journalists even during the freedom struggle. Tilak used Marathi newspaper Kesari as his tool, Mahatma Gandhi edited the Young India and Harijan and BR Ambedkar drafted the constitution of India and gave us the freedom of expression, a vehicle that journalists ride on,” explains Suresh.The auditorium and mini-auditorium have been named after Mahatma Gandhi and Tilak, the new teaching block is now known as Chanakya block and the girls hostel has been renamed after Naga freedom fighter Rani Gaidinuil, who was released from prison after Independence on the initiative of Nehru.

Were it not for Nehru, India would have been a UNSC member, global power already

If their recent records in office are any indication, the BJP and the Congress, despite their serious differences on many issues, agree on three important foreign policy goals.

1) India becoming a permanent power in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC),
2) India gaining global legitimacy as a nuclear power even if it is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)
3) India emerging as a major global power, particularly in what is now called the Indo-Pacific region.

In fact, Indian diplomats, whether under Manmohan Singh or under Narendra Modi, have been striving very hard towards the realisation of these three goals.

However, it is great irony that all these three goals were eminently realisable in the past. In fact, all the three exalted statuses that India wants to have (rather, deserves to have) were offered to India on a platter by the then-powerful nations of the world soon after the country’s Independence; but then prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru refused them on what appears in retrospect, dubious grounds.

Representational image. AP

Representational image. AP

The Nehruvian thoughts that overwhelmingly dominate our intelligentsia and political class never questioned Nehru’s foreign policy decisions; but now things are changing. It is not that Nehru’s decisions on those three issues were not known before. What happened in the past was that whenever and whoever tried to bring them into public parlance, the dominant Nehruvites ridiculed them and justified Nehru’s decisions. As a result, a majority of Indians do not know that but for Nehru, India would have been a permanent member of the UNSC, a legitimate nuclear power and a leading global power in the 1950s.

It is against this background that former foreign secretary MK Rasgotra’s assertion while releasing his new book “A Life in Diplomacy” at Delhi-based think tank Observer Research Foundation (ORF) early this week that former US president John F Kennedy offered India all the help to detonate a nuclear device much before China did it in 1964, assumes significance. According to Rasgotra, had Nehru accepted Kennedy’s offer, it “would have deterred China from launching its war of 1962 and even imparted a note of caution to (Pakistan’s) Field Marshal Ayub Khan’s plans for war in 1965”.

Rasgotra said, “Kennedy, who was an admirer of India’s democracy and held its leader Nehru in very high esteem, felt that democratic India, not Communist China, should be the first Asian country to conduct a nuclear test”. However, Nehru turned down Kennedy’s handwritten letter in which the offer was made. In fact, had India exploded the device in the early 1960s with American help, it would have easily become an original signatory to the NPT that legitimises nuclear weapons in the hands of those countries which went nuclear before 1968. And as a member of the NPT, we would have effortlessly entered the nuclear associations like the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).

Similarly, take the case of the permanent membership in the UNSC. In 1950, none other than the US wanted to see India joining the Security Council in the place of the nationalist China. After the Communist takeover of mainland China in 1949, the then Chinese president Chiang kai Shek had fled to the island of Taiwan. The Communist China was not recognised as a UN member and Chiang’s government was deemed to be representing the whole of China (this status continued till 1971 when following the normalisation of relations between the US and Communist China, thanks to the then US secretary of state Henry Kissinger, Beijing entered the UN and Taipei was pushed out). Chiang kai Shek was also agreeable to this proposition.

In fact, Anton Harder, whose PhD thesis in London School of Economics was on “Sino-Indian relations from 1949-1962,” has revealed the then Indian ambassador to the US Vijaylaxmi Pandit’s letter to her brother Nehru. She wrote:  “One matter that is being cooked up in the State Department should be known to you. This is the unseating of China as a permanent member in the Security Council and of India being put in her place. I have just seen Reuters‘ report of your answer to the same question. Last week I had interviews with (John Foster) Dulles and (Philip) Jessup, reports of which I have sent to (Girija Shankar) Bajpai (the then foreign secretary). Both brought up this question and Dulles seemed particularly anxious that a move in this direction should be started. Last night I heard from Marquis Childs, an influential columnist of Washington, that Dulles (US secretary of state) has asked him on behalf of the State Department to build up public opinion along these lines”.

Nehru’s response within the week was unequivocal: “In your letter you mention that the State Department is trying to unseat China as a permanent member of the Security Council and to put India in her place. So far as we are concerned, we are not going to countenance it. That would be bad from every point of view. It would be a clear affront to China and it would mean some kind of a break between us and China. I suppose the State Department would not like that, but we have no intention of following that course. We shall go on pressing for China’s admission in the UN and the Security Council. “

In other words, rather than India’s case, Nehru, in his zeal for “Asian unity”, went out of way to espouse the cause of China’s entry in to the United Nations. So much so that he rejected in 1955 a similar offer, this time from the Soviet Union. Soviet premier Nikolai Bulganin had suggested to Nehru that Moscow would propose India as the sixth permanent member of the Security Council, and thus not at the cost of China. But as Sarvepalli Gopal in his biography of Nehru (1979) has mentioned, “He (Nehru) rejected the Soviet offer to propose India as the sixth permanent member of the Security Council and insisted that priority be given to China’s admission”.

In fact, Nehru has been quoted to have said: “Perhaps Bulganin knows that some people in the US have suggested that India should replace China in the Security Council. This is to create trouble between us and China. We are, of course, wholly opposed to it. Further, we are opposed to pushing ourselves forward to occupy certain positions because that may itself create difficulties and India might itself become a subject to controversy. If India is to be admitted to the Security Council, it raises the question of the revision of the Charter of the UN. We feel that this should not be done till the question of China’s admission and possibly of others is first solved. I feel that we should first concentrate on getting China admitted.”

Just imagine what Nehru did for China and how China has responded to Indian gestures — border war in 1962 and now diplomatic war to prevent India getting in the NSG!

That brings me now to the last point: India’s deserved position as a great power in the Indo-Pacific region.

It may be noted here that given India’s civilisational links in Southeast Asia and its moral and material contributions towards the decolonisation movements in the region including China and Korea, countries like the Philippines and Malaysia had openly suggested in the 1950s that New Delhi should play the leadership role in the region. Following the Baguio (in the Philippines) Conference in 1949, which was attended by India, Australia, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia and Ceylon, Carlos Romulo, the trusted lieutenant of the Pilipino President Quirino, who was in charge of organising the Conference, had said in New York that “I want India to realise that the proposed (Pacific) Union is only a continuation of the Asian Conference and nothing more. The Philippines was taking up where India had left off and the Asian Union, according to Romulo, was supposed to work under the Indian leadership, for ‘India was the strongest and most enlightened nation of Asia today’.”

Many Southeast Asian countries thought that Indian influence, in combination with Japan and Australia, would prove reassuring to small and vulnerable states, especially when the western powers, particularly Great Britain, had indicated their withdrawal from the region. They perceived India as an alternative to the entanglements with major powers, such as the traditional Cold War powers of Russia and the US or the resurgent powers of China and Japan. This is because, India, unlike other powers, had not sought a military base in the region; nor had it attempted ideological or physical invasions of the region. In addition, Southeast Asian countries did not have any outstanding territorial disputes with India as opposed to those over the Spratly Islands with China.

But all this did not impress Nehru.

And it so happened during the subsequent years when the Cold War was intensified, India lost the war with China and India inched towards the Soviet bloc, these very countries — Asean nations, Australia, Japan, and the US — started seeing India negatively.  It was only after the end of the Cold War and advent of the PV Narasimha Rao government in the 1990s that things started changing and some basic features of Nehruvianism were challenged.

Better late than never!

After JNU row, draft education policy envisages curbs on campus politics

New Delhi: Debate over nationalism occupied much of the talking space, post 9 February incident that took place in Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU). But another debating point too ensued: should party politics be allowed in the campus. Some of the arguments emanating from both ends-those opposing student politics and those favouring it, had strong rational grounding.

However those who treat campus politics as a stepping stone for their political career may find the draft national education policy unwelcoming.

Talking about how most students in colleges and universities enroll themselves for study in courses of their choice and they spend a precious part of their young life in the pursuit of their education, with the intent of equipping themselves for various occupations and spend significant resources, including hard-earned money of their parents.

The report states that while most students in almost all colleges and universities could be classified in the above category there are those “whose priority may not be that of the main-line student, but who may have other interests outside academic goals”.

Raising serious objections against the party politics in the campus the report states, “Many national parties have their ‘chapters’ in nearly every university campus in India. Many campuses also have caste-or-community-based organizations. Thus one finds unions or associations of subsets of students, or teachers, or other employees, who aggressively pursue their special political or other interests, within the arena of the campus, and the college / university ambit. It is not infrequent that two or more of such groups of students or faculty members come into serious opposition with each other on this or other issue, and have no hesitation in blocking the main-line work of the university; they may have real or imagined grievances, but the collateral damage to the serious students can be heavy indeed.”

The report says that because of agitation politics “one frequently hears of agitations, disturbances, gheraos and movements of one sort or the other in various campuses from time to time; it is not infrequent that examinations need to be postponed or in some cases the student even loses a year or more due to unsettled conditions”

It can be contended that restricting politics in campuses means curbing free speech and expression. However the report countering this argument states that while the constitution provides every citizen with the right to form groups or associations it should also kept in mind that “every right has a corresponding duty implicitly attached to it, that every right is circumscribed to ensure that it shall not adversely affect the interest of others”

Making a comparison with western universities the report states, “Traditionally universities in the US and the western world have encouraged new ideas to flourish, and have never placed any restriction of any kind on freedom of speech or association within their campuses. It should also however be noted that one has rarely heard in the context of US or Europe or other educationally developed countries of postponement of examinations or disruption of academic activities, arising out of groups of students pursuing their ‘right’ to free speech and association. Thus while intense political activity takes place nationally during an election year in US, like in 2016, and the student groups discuss these issues with much animation, one has never heard of disruption of the academic atmosphere in these universities”.

The report also stressed that “Ideally the universities ought not to lend themselves as play grounds for the larger national rivalries, inequalities, inequities, and social / cultural fault-lines” as these need to be tackled by society as a whole in other fora a such as parliament, courts, elections, etc”.

“ The point in short is that it is now essential to review the current situation, and find the balance between free speech and freedom of association guaranteed by the Constitution, the needs of various sections of society, and balance them with the primary purpose for which the universities and institutions of higher learning have been established”, the report reads.

After the JNU fiasco it was argued that many students stays in campuses for long years by enrolling themselves in one course or another and gets into ‘unnecessary politics’.

In this respect too, the report makes some strong observations. It states, “One other element need to be stressed. One frequently hears of ‘students’ who continue for 7 or 8 years or more, enrolled in the university, and occupying the hostels – in general should there not be some guidelines or time limits for enrolment in a particular course or for occupation of hostels; those who stay for long periods start ‘owning’ the universities, and frequently have an undue influence on the course of non-academic activities in campuses.”

Summarily it can said that party and agitation politics that has become hallmark of student politics in most of the campuses, finds no traction in the draft policy on education.

Hating Jawaharlal Nehru: Opponents envy him because they can never be him

Jawaharlal Nehru was a freedom fighter who spent 11 years in jail. After Mahatma Gandhi, he was the tallest leader of his generation, a popular mass leader who roused Indians with his inimitable Hindustani oratory. He was a scholar of international repute, a writer whose impressive body of work gives rare glimpses into the history of India.

Year after year, several generations of Indians voted in large numbers for this towering icon of India’s freedom movement, making him India’s longest-serving Prime Minister. When he died, India came to a standstill and thousands turned up from all across the country to mourn him.

“At 2 p.m. local time today (May 27, 1964), 460,000,000 people in this country that has been forged on the anvil of this one man’s dreams and conflicts were plunged into the nightmare world which they have, in the last decade, come to dread as the ‘after Nehru’ era.

Fear was the one dominant feeling one experienced as one came out. Fear that at this moment one had to avoid the reality of Nehru’s death and the Pandora’s box of suppressed ambitions it will release,” The Guardian wrote on his demise.

Former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. Getty Images

Former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. Getty Images

Back home, in Parliament, a young Atal Bihari Vajpayee remembered Nehru as the chief actor of the world stage. Vajpayee implored: “With unity, discipline and self-confidence we must make this Republic of ours flourish. The leader has gone, but the followers remain. The sun has set, yet by the shadow of stars we must find our way. These are testing times, but we must dedicate ourselves to his great aim, so that India can become strong, capable and prosperous.”

He built some of the defining monuments and institutions of modern India; nurtured its fledgling democracy when all around dictatorships were blooming; contributed to India’s liberal, secular, socialist ethos; argued for a scientific temperament; built several new cities and gave the country an identity on the world stage because of charisma and intellect.

For more than three decades, Nehru was India’s pride and joy. He was symbol of our syncretic culture and rich cultural heritage, a rare blend of idealism, intellect, penmanship and statesmanship. And now we want to punish the PM our ancestors elected for almost two decades? Want our future generations to think of him as a villain? In fact, not to talk about him at all?

Two days ago, the Madhya Pradesh government transferred Barwani district collector Ajay Gangwar for praising India’s first PM in his Facebook post. If remembering Nehru’s contribution to India is a crime, let me take the state’s chief minister — in case he has not read Vajpayee’s tribute to Nehru — back to a balmy morning in April 2014. Back then, standing on his home turf, with the CM in attendance, BJP patriarch LK Advani told a huge crowd that India’s democracy owes its strength to Nehru. Did Shivraj Singh Chauhan’s earns turn red then?

In his lifetime, Nehru survived at least four assassination attempts. But, it is clear that another attempt is now being on his life, reputation and legacy. References to his name are being omitted from history books, his iconic tryst-with-destiny speech is being removed from school syllabi. To supplant the image of India’s erstwhile hero, an entirely new persona is being created for Nehru with fake pictures, twisted facts and manufactured history. In the fertile imaginations of his assailants, an entirely new Nehru is being created for mass consumption and hatred.

The reasons behind this demonisation of Nehru are easy to explain. To his ideological enemies, Nehru is the epitome of the very idea of India — a secular, liberal, syncretic nation — they want to replace with their narrow, communal, conservative narrative of India. An assault on Nehru is actually a proxy for an attack on the Nehruvian legacy embedded deep in the Indian psyche.

The other reason is psychological. Hatred of the good is a manifestation of a deep-seated human hatred for a person who possesses virtues and qualities they themselves lack and find desirable. At the sub-conscious level, many of Nehru’s opponents envy him, detest in him what their own personalities lack.

As Ayn Rand argues in Atlas Shrugged: “They do not want to own your fortune, they want you to lose it; they do not want to succeed, they want you to fail; they do not want to live, they want you to die; they desire nothing, they hate existence, and they keep running, each trying not to learn that the object of his hatred is himself . . . . They are the essence of evil, they, those anti-living objects who seek, by devouring the world, to fill the selfless zero of their soul. It is not your wealth that they’re after. Theirs is a conspiracy against the mind, which means: against life and man.”

This is not to argue that Nehru did not have his shortcomings or failures. His handling of the Chinese attack in 1962, decision to take Kashmir to the UN (morally right, diplomatically wrong) and focus on socialism could have led to long-term consequences. By all means, these should be debated, argued and discussed in the public domain, in the right context and with the proper intent.

In the long run, attempts to erase Nehru from India’s history will backfire. So interlinked is India’s pre and post Independence history with him that several chapters of it could be written as a biography of Nehru. To separate Nehru from India would be impossible. In fact, recent attempts to vilify him will entice people to study him closely in an attempt to separate the truth from propaganda. Ultimately, his critics will end up reviving interest in Nehru and Nehruvianism.

Nehru will live on, he will survive his enemies.

Congress’ problem is that no leadership develops outside family: Arun Jaitley

Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said that Congress has been reduced to “crowd around a family”, which faces all the challenges faced by a political party centred around a family.”The hold of BJP is growing in the politics of all states be it Bengal or Kerala… what will happen to Congress no one knows”, Jaitley said on Friday at the Vikas parv of the party to observe two years of Modi government.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”Congress has been reduced to a crowd around a family….their problem is the one faced by a party which is centred around a family”, he said.”The first problem of such a party is to see that no leadership develops outside the family, the second is that if there is a powerful generation like Nehru or Indira they make the party strong but if the next generation does not have that strength it drowns alongwith the party”, Jaitley said.”Their problem is that they cannot attract crowd without the family and if the family is kept together the crowd does not grow”, he said.”It does not seem to now improve…the meaning of Congress free country does not mean the end of the party but the political culture followed by it and remove the blot it had put on way of governance. As an opponent we want Congress to remain in opposition”, he said.Making a mention of the idea of federal front mooted by Lalu Prasad, Jaitley said “it was a tried tested and failed idea tried many times in the past”.”The nucleus of any party should have power…for winning Bihar they needed the support of Lalu and now are talking about a federal front”, he said adding that a party having 15 to 20 seats cannot give stability.Stressing that BJP has been a nationalist party, Jaitley lashed out at the mainstream parties for aligning with fringe elements.”Some people felt they would be regarded as progressive if they aligned with those raising a ‘bharat todo ‘ campaign in Jadavpur and Jawaharlal Nehru University..they have been rejected by the country”, he said.”We hope that Congress will learn something from it…they made a historical mistake in this …we have a historical opportunity to strengthen party, take the country ahead towards development and show that an honest governance is possible. In the history of BJP, it today is at its peak in strength,” he said.

IAS officer who praised Nehru and criticised Asaram and Ramdev transferred by MP government

IAS officer Ajay Singh Gangwar and Barwani district Collector, who praised the country’s first Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru in a Facebook post, was transferred by Madhya Pradesh government tonight.Gangwar was transferred as Deputy Secretary in the Secretariat in Bhopal.”The state government has transferred Barwani Collector Gangwar as Deputy Secretary in the Mantralaya in Bhopal,” a state Public Relation department official said. <!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In the Facebook post written in Hindi, which has gone viral on other social media platforms, Gangwar has written that “let me know the mistakes that Nehru should not have committed…Is it his mistake that he prevented all of us from becoming Hindu Talibani Rashtra in 1947? Is it his mistake to open IIT, ISRO, BARC, IISB, IIM, BHEL steel plant, dams, thermal power? Is it his mistake that he honoured Sarabhai, Homi Jehangir in place of intellectuals like Asaram and Ramdev?”According to the government official, the FB post had not gone down well with the top officials as it was in “violation” of the service rules, following which an initial probe was conducted and Gangwar was transferred.Ever since the Facebook post had gone viral, there were talks that Gangwar could be shunted out of the district any time. However, his transfer order did not mention anything about his Facebook post on Nehru, the official added.

Check | TS EAMCET Result 2016, Engineering, Agriultural, Medical Common Entrance Test (TS EAMCET) Result declared

TS EAMCET examination for Engineering, Agriculture, and Medical, Common Entrances was conducted on 15-05-2016 from 10.00 AM to 1.00 PM for engineering (E) stream and from 2.30 PM to 5.30 PM for agriculture and medical (AM) stream.Over 2 lakh students were awaiting results for TS EAMCET Result 2016. The wait ends now.Here’s how you can check the TS EAMCET Result 2016.Steps to check your EAMCET Results 2016:1. Visit the website,<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>2. Enter your roll number, name and other credentials3. Click ‘Submit’4. Your result will be displayed on the screen5. Download your scores and save it for future referenceAbout TS EAMCET Examination:The TS EAMCET Exam is conducted by the Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University, Hyderabad on behalf of TSCHE.Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University Hyderabad (JNTUH) situated in the heart of Telangana state’s capital city, Hyderabad.Bringing the spark of knowledge to young minds and instilling a new confidence and vigour to face the world, it is providing quality education for nearly four decades.Telangana State Council of Higher Education (TSCHE) has delegated the task to JNTUH for conducting the most prestigious entrance examination of Telangana – Engineering, Agriculture and Medical Common Entrance Test (EAMCET) for this year 2016.

Watch: Man jumps into lion enclosure at zoo in Hyderabad, rescued unhurt

A 35-year-old “drunken” man jumped into a lion enclosure at Nehru Zoological Park in Hyderabad on Sunday reportedly “to shake hand with a lion” but was rescued unhurt by the alert animal keeper.Mukesh, a native of Sikar district in Rajasthan, crossed the barricade of the African lion enclosure despite warnings by the security staff, Nehru Zoological Park Curator Shivani Dogra said.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”The lioness (Radhika) was inside the enclosure but the person was rescued unhurt by its keeper R Papaiah,” the zoo officials said, adding the big cat had moved close to Mukesh but Papaiah diverted the lioness from him.”After preliminary enquiry it was found that Mukesh was in an inebriated state and had jumped inside the enclosure to go near the lion. He has been handed over to Bahadurpura Police,” Dogra said.Mukesh works as a labourer with L&T Metro Rail here.When contacted, Bahadurpura Police Station Inspector Harish Kaushik said Mukesh jumped into the lion enclosure in an intoxicated condition and he will be booked on the charge of trespass under IPC.”This kind of incident is creating fear among public, even after Nehru Zoological Park administration is trying its level best to make the zoo park a safe and secure place to visit,” Dogra said. Watch the video here:

Now, Nehru missing from Mumbai University textbook; Gandhi, Tilak called ‘anti-secular’: Report

Even as the issue of Jawaharlal Nehru’s references being dropped from Rajasthan Board textbooks is fresh, his name is also reportedly missing from Mumbai University textbooks, while Mahatma Gandhi and Bal Gangadhar Tilak have been labelled as ‘anti-secular’.According to a Mid-Day report, while there are chapters on several important Indian leaders in MU’s Institute of Distance and Open Learning textbook for the Political Science course, there is not a single one on India’s first PM Jawaharlal Nehru.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Highlighting excerpts from the textbook titled ‘Modern Indian Political Thought’, the report said that the book calls Bal Gangadhar Tilak as ‘anti-secular’ and has not even spared Mahatma Gandhi.
ALSO READ Now, Jawaharlal Nehru’s ‘Tryst with Destiny’ speech goes missing from textbooks in Rajasthan”The book blames Mahatma Gandhi for using too many ‘Hindu idioms and similes’ and pushing Muhammad Ali Jinnah to break away and form Pakistan. According to the book, the only side that didn’t play with politics of religion is the Left front,” the report said.On Tilak, the excerpt from the book reads “Starting of Ganesh Festival and invoking religious scriptures such as Bhagvad Gita for political actions were clear examples of mixing religion with politics and attitude that was categorically anti-secular.”
ALSO READ Revised syllabus has Jawaharlal Nehru’s name at 15 places, claims Rajasthan Education MinisterHowever, Surendra Jondhale, who compiled the book and is also the university’s course coordinator and the head of the Civics and Politics department, told the daily, “With this statement, it was actually meant to present that politics has to be kept away from religion and shouldn’t be mixed. But Tilak’s actions were contrary to this.”

Delhi HC stays JNU action against Kanhaiya Kumar, Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya

The Delhi High Court on Friday stayed all disciplinary action of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), against its students Kanhaiya Kumar, Anirban Bhattacharya and Umar Khalid till their appeal against University order is decided by appellate authority. Earlier in the day, the HC had asked JNUSU President Kanhaiya Kumar to immediately bring an end to the indefinite hunger strike by the students. It said that it would hear their writ petitions challenging the varsity’s disciplinary action only if they end the agitation. <!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Justice Manmohan said, “You (Kanhaiya) can ‘articulate’ to the students sitting on hunger strike from past 16 days to end the agitation, allowing the university to ‘function properly’.”They (JNU students) will have to end their agitation/strike. You will have to withdraw the strike immediately. No one should be on hunger strike.”Varying actions, ranging from rustication, debarment from the varsity and fines, were taken against them and several other students based on a high-level enquiry committee’s (HLEC) report regarding the controversial incident that had occurred on February 9 at JNU.Apart from Kanhaiya, Ashwati A Nair, Aishwariya Adhikari, Komal Mohite, Chintu Kumari, Anwesha Chakraborty and two others had challenged the order of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) against them.Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya moved the court earlier this week against their rustication. Umar had also been slapped with a fine of Rs 20,000, while Anirban had been barred from JNU campus for five years from July 23.(With PTI Inputs)

Now, Jawaharlal Nehru’s ‘Tryst with Destiny’ speech goes missing from textbooks in Rajasthan

Former PM Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru’s historic ‘Tryst with Destiny’ speech which was made on the midnight of August 15, 1947, is missing from Class IX social science textbooks, reports TOI. <!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>On Tuesday, Vasudev Devnani, state education minister had claimed that the portion about Nehru had just been revised and not removed. The Times of India reported that a chapter by Nehru titled ‘Bharat Mata’ had been removed from the revised Class XI Hindi literature textbook.The minister’s claims stating that Nehru’s name was mentioned in page number 37, 91 and 177 was also found to be fallacious, according to Times of India’s report, who analysed a revised copy of the textbook. TOI also found Nehru’s name in a paragraph along with 21 other freedom fighter, and Devnani’s claim that Nehru’s name had been given proper mention more than 15 times was found to false with 13 of them being passing remarks.The minister had also claimed that the textbook had a special mention of Nehru’s Pancheel Principles. However, the textbook called the principles a ‘myth’ and not suitable. Earlier, Vasudev Devnani had said in a statement: “The government has not omitted Nehru’s name from textbooks. His name is there at 15 places in the revised books. The references to Nehru are available in textbooks of Class 7 (Hindi), Class 9 (Social Science) and Class 11 (World History).””The state government does not favour politics in education. Syllabus from class 1 to 8 is prepared by the State Institute of Education Research and Training (SIERT) and the Board of Secondary Education prepares the syllabus for classes 9 to 12,” Devnani said.Accusing the state government of omitting references to Nehru from the textbook, the state unit of Congress had held a demonstration with state PCC chief Sachin Pilot saying that it reflected the “mental bankruptcy” of the Vasundhara Raje dispensation.With agency inputs

After Uttarakhand, will Rahul recall ‘murder of democracy’ by his own party?

Uttarakhand developments have sent the BJP spokesmen running for cover. The likes of Sambit Patra and Nalin Kohli, and a host of high profile ministers, who were waxing eloquent when the Supreme Court reversed the high court stand and sent Harish Rawat government out of office last month suddenly turned silent when the apex court asked for the revocation of President’s Rule and the reinstatement of the Congress government on Wednesday. The BJP leaders were at a loss of words as the court verdict was a sharp rebuke to the shenanigans of the Narendra Modi government at the Centre.

The Congress leadership was naturally ecstatic.

They called it a victory of democracy. But the tweet by Congress vice-president, Rahul Gandhi, soon after the Supreme Court judgement was delivered, was most noteworthy.

He tweeted:

Yes, the recent failed attempt in Uttarakhand — as well as the successful attempt in Arunachal Pradesh a couple of months ago — to use Article 356 for partisan gains was a clear case to highlight the ‘murder of democracy’. But then, Rahul should have remembered that Modi (or for that matter, the other BJP prime minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who dismissed five state governments) was not the only culprit in this abuse of the provision of Article 356 in the Constitution. He should have recollected that his own party, the Congress, and especially his own family spanning four generations — right from the days of his great grandfather Jawaharlal Nehru — has also misused Article 356 with impunity over the decades.

They are also a party to the ‘murder of democracy’ that he talks about.

Ironically, right from the days of our Independence, people of this country have been tolerating ‘the murder of democracy’. The very incorporation of the provision of Article 356 in the Constitution was itself an anathema for what we called a federal democracy. How could a democratically-elected government of a state be dismissed by the fiat of the Centre?

File image of Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi. AFP

File image of Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi. AFP

It was a draconian provision (Section 93) that the colonial government had incorporated in the Government of India Act 1935 to keep the provincial governments on a leash. That provision remained intact and unchanged in our Constitution; only Section 93 of the GOI Act became Article 356 of the Indian Constitution. When apprehensions were raised in the Constituent Assembly, Dr BR Ambedkar justified its inclusion to deal with the emergency situations but expressed the hope that “such articles will never be called into operation and they would remain a dead letter”.

But Ambedkar’s hopes were misplaced.

Barely a year after the promulgation of the Constitution, the Punjab government headed by Gopichand Bhargava was dismissed under Article 356. Another three years later, in 1954, the Andhra Pradesh government was sacked as apparently the Centre feared the possibility of a Communist takeover there. But then these dismissals did not earn much reproach because the Congress party was in power in both the Centre and the states, and the dismissals had more to do with internal party squabbles.

The real misuse of Article 356 became evident when the Nehru cabinet moved against the democratically-elected Communist government in Kerala. EMS Namboodiripad had a clear majority. True, his policies involving radical land reforms and educational reforms angered the vested interest groups; and so, the Catholic Church, the Nair Service Society and the Indian Union of Muslim League joined hands to protest against the government measures. The Congress party, smarting over the loss to the Communists in the 1957 election in Kerala, backed the violent stir.

The protesters attacked government property in different parts of the state. It was a serious law and order situation. But then the grave internal disturbance was not ground enough for invoking Article 356. (The Centre owed a duty under Article 355 to protect every state against internal aggression.) Nehru admitted as much when he said on the floor of the Lok Sabha on 10 June, 1959: “I am opposed to unconstitutional means at any time, anyhow, because once you adopt them, they would be justified in another context. You cannot judge things minus means.”

Despite all his good intentions, Nehru finally resorted to the ‘unconstitutional means’ of dismissing the CPI government on 31 July, 1959. Though some historians tell us that he could not resist the pressure by many party colleagues — mainly his own daughter, Indira Gandhi, who was the Congress president then — the burden of the crime must squarely rest with the prime minister who took the final call.

During the Kerala imbroglio, Indira had made an ominous statement, indirectly attacking her father who was emphasising constitutional means. She had said: “The Constitution is for the people, not the people for the Constitution. And if the Constitution stands in the way of meeting the people’s grievances in Kerala, it should be changed.”

Such a cavalier attitude to the constitutional provisions was on ample display when Indira became prime minister. All niceties were thrown to the wind and she brazenly went about dismantling the non-Congress governments elected to rule in several states. It is a terrible commentary on our democracy at work that she used Article 356 to dismiss as many as 48 opposition-ruled state governments during her tenure as prime minister.

Unlike what Rahul Gandhi tells us, “people of this country and the institutions built by our founding fathers” did — rather, had to — tolerate this “murder of democracy” being perpetrated by his grandmother, Indira Gandhi.  His father, Rajiv Gandhi, did not have to act with impunity as Indira did, as the opposition had been decimated in 1984, in the aftermath of the Indira assassination, (remember, the BJP had won just two seats in the Lok Sabha and even its iconic leader Vajpayee had lost the election). Rajiv was in a position just as his grandfather, Nehru. Both, unlike Indira, did not have to face formidable opposition in the states. So their track record looks comparatively better.

But then the misuse of Article 356 was not a monopoly of the Nehru-Gandhi family alone. Other Congress prime ministers like PV Narasimha Rao and Manmohan Singh have been equally unscrupulous in resorting to this diabolical provision. Even the small-time prime ministers like VP Singh, Chandra Shekhar, IK Gujral and HD Deve Gowda have been complicit in this constitutional crime.

Rahul Gandhi will do Indian democracy a lot of good if, while rightly attacking Modi, he assures the countrymen that the Congress governments under his watch will not resort to Article 356 in the future. If he does so, that will go a long way in putting a brake on the ‘murder of democracy’ that he bemoans.

But does Rahul have the courage of conviction to make that pledge?

Don’t use my picture without my permission: Mehbooba Mufti asks officials

Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on Tuesday asked officials not to use her pictures at government functions without her prior permission.”You should not use my pictures especially without my permission. Please do not do it. I am telling everyone that you should not use my pictures outside hospitals or any other places,” Mehbooba said.She was addressing a gathering after inaugurating a book-cum-coffee shop at Nehru Park in the middle of the famous Dal Lake in Srinagar where her pictures were put up by the Tourism and other departments and organisations. She especially asked the state Tourism Department to do away with the practice.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”The tourism department especially should not do it and not without my permission. They should not use my pictures, I do not want my picture anywhere. Please note this,” she said.The Chief Minister also holds Tourism portfolio.

Check & AP EAMCET Result 2016 declared

The Andhra Pradesh Engineering, Agricultural and Medical Common Entrance Test (AP EAMCET) 2016 Results have been declared. It was expected to be announced at 11 am earlier in the day but it got postponed. Now, the students can actually heave a sigh of relief.All you have to do is visit the official website and check your results.Steps to check your result:1. Log on to the official websites: and<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>2. You have to provide necessary information like roll number, phone number and your personal email-id to access the result. 3. Hit the ‘Submit’ button.4. The results will be displayed on the screen.5. Take a printout for future reference. About the Board:The AP EAMCET 2016 exam was conducted on April 29 and it was organised by Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University (JNTUK).The examination is for entrance in various professional courses run by the university. Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University Kakinada (JNTUK) is one of the biggest Technological University in the country. It conducts AP EAMCET test every year for admission in Engineering/Pharmacy/Management courses. Around 273 colleges are affiliated to it. All the best!

Space lovers witness Mercury transit in Delhi; Srinagar residents disappointed

New Delhi: Hundreds of space enthusiasts in Delhi witnessed a tiny black dot crossing the Sun, marking a rare astronomical event – the Mercury transit as the planet crossed the Sun between 4:43 pm and 7:01 pm on Monday.

However, in Srinagar, astrophysicists and space experts gathered under the aegis of Indian Astronomical Congress to witness the transit had to rely on webcasting from Noida, Uttar Pradesh, as clouds blocked the Sun in the valley.

“It’s a very rare event, as last time it occurred in 2006 but was not visible in India. The next transit is due 16 years from now, which is a long time. The cloudy weather here in Srinagar, did obstruct the observation but the live streaming helped a lot,” Prof. Manzoor Malik, HOD Physics, Kashmir University, told IANS on phone from Srinagar.

School students watch transit of Mercury through dark films at the science city in Ahmedabad on Monday. PTISchool students watch transit of Mercury through dark films at the science city in Ahmedabad on Monday. PTI

School students watch transit of Mercury through dark films at the science city in Ahmedabad on Monday. PTI

He said the discussions and debates drawn from the conclusions of the transit will be initiated by the Indian Astronomical Congress from Tuesday onwards at the varsity.

In the National Capital, people, especially children were mesmerised after watching the rare celestial event at the Nehru Planetarium.

“It was a lifetime experience and I am so excited to share my experience with my friends tomorrow. I first spotted a small dot cross over the Sun, later the planetarium officials briefed me and told that it’s a rare moment I’m witnessing,” Ishani Nair, a Class 5 student from Elizabeth Gauba School, told IANS.

“The Mercury transit left me spellbound. Through a solar telescope I could see the planet Mercury crossing in front of the Sun. It was like a tiny object moving between the Sun and the earth,” Deepanshu, a Class 6 student, said.

According to Nehru Planetarium director N. Rathnashree around 1,000 people came to see the Mercury transit event at Teen Murti.

“We had made different projection set ups using solar telescope to facilitate people to witness such an important and rare celestial event. This opportunity allowed people to see the rare astronomical event in real than what they read in text books,” Rathnashree told IANS.

Mukesh Sharma from Nehru Planetarium said that this was a rare astronomical event that takes place roughly only 10 times in a century. Last time it was sighted in 2006.

“Venus stands between the earth and Mercury, so it’s a rare moment when Mercury would directly come between the earth and the Sun. However, though much is known about the planet Mercury, the transit would still be useful for the researchers,” said Sharma.

Mercury is the smallest, and the next planet to the Sun. It takes 88 earth days to orbit around the sun.

AP EAMCET Result 2016: Check, for your result to be declared soon

The Andhra Pradesh Engineering, Agricultural and Medical Common Entrance Test (AP EAMCET) 2016 Results will be declared soon. It was expected to be announced at 11 am earlier today but it has been postponed to 5 pm so in a few minutes the students can heave a sigh of relief.All you have to do is visit the official website and check your results.Steps to check your result: 1. Log on to the official websites: and<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>2. You have to provide necessary information like roll number, phone number and your personal email-id to access the result. 3. Hit the ‘Submit’ button.4. The results will be displayed on the screen.5. Take a printout for future reference. About the Board:The AP EAMCET 2016 exam was conducted on April 29 and it was organised by Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University (JNTUK).The examination is for entrance in various professional courses run by the university. Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University Kakinada (JNTUK) is one of the biggest Technological University in the country. It conducts AP EAMCET test every year for admission in Engineering/Pharmacy/Management courses. Around 273 colleges are affiliated to it. All the best!

AP EAMCET Result 2016 result delayed, to be declared at 5 PM

The results for the Andhra Pradesh Engineering, Agricultural and and Medical Common Entrance Test 2016 (AP EAMCET ) will now be published at 5PM. Earlier it was expected that the results will come out at 11 AM.The candidates who have been awaiting the AP EAMCET 2016 exam results can visit the official website at 5 PM to access their results. The AP EAMCET 2016 exam was conducted on April 29 and it was organised by Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University (JNTUK).<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The examination is for entrance in various professional courses run by the university. How you can access your AP EAMCET results 1. Log on to the official websites: and You have to provide necessary information like roll number, phone number and your personal email-id to access the result. 3. Hit the ‘Submit’ button.4. The results will be displayed on the screen. Save it for future reference. About the University:Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University Kakinada (JNTUK) is one of the biggest Technological University in the country. It conducts AP EAMCET test every year for admission in Engineering/Pharmacy/Management courses. Around 273 colleges are affiliated to it. We wish the candidates all the best.

AP EAMCET Result 2016 to be declared today on May 9, 2016

The candidates who are eagerly awaiting the results for their AP EAMCET 2016 exam can now relax as the results of the entrances test are scheduled to be announced today on May 9, 2016.The Andhra Pradesh Engineering, Agricultural and and Medical Common Entrance Test 2016 (AP EAMCET ) which was held on April 29 by Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University (JNTUK) is a prerequisite for taking admissions in various professional courses in the state.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The entrance exams are conducted by JNTUK on behalf of Andhra Pradesh State Council for Higher Education (APSCHE).The candidates can view their results on the official Website: and are the steps to view your result:1. Log in to the official website: and Fill in the necessary information like your roll number, phone number and email id.3. Click on the ‘Submit’ button.4. The results will be displayed on your screen.Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University Kakinada (JNTUK) is the second biggest Technological University in the Country. The AP EAMCET 2016 exam results can pave way for the candidates to take admissions in varied courses in universities and private colleges in Andhra Pradesh.

Nehru died due to shock of India-China war, says Mulayam Singh

In what may trigger a fresh controversy, Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Mulayam Singh Yadav on Saturday said that India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru died due to ‘shock’ he suffered after 1962 India-China war, and not due to any disease.”Pandit Nehru did not have any disease. In 1962, China attacked us. Our army had no arms and ammunitions, even then they fought valiantly. Pandit Nehru did not live long after the 1962 debacle. It was not any ailment, but he died due to shock he suffered that China had attacked India,” said Yadav.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>His comments came during the inauguration of the Central medicine supply depot building in UP Rural Institute of Post Graduate Medical Sciences. Pt. Nehru died on May 27, 1964. His health began declining steadily after 1962, and he spent months recuperating in Kashmir through 1963.Some historians attribute this dramatic decline to his surprise and chagrin over the Sino-India War, which he perceived as a betrayal of trust.

Dagger stolen from Nehru Memorial Museum recovered, 2 held

With the arrest of two persons, Delhi Police has recovered a dagger stolen from the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library in New Delhi earlier this week.The accused, Ramchander and Sandeep, worked as ‘safai karmacharis’ (cleaning staff) in the building. They have been arrested for theft and the dagger has been recovered, Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime) Ravindra Yadav said on Thursday.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The incident came to light on Monday, the day the museum is closed for general public, when the museum staff found a casket in the gift room of the museum broken and the dagger, stored inside it as an exhibit, missing from its place. They called up police and conducted a thorough check of the museum premises.Later, a case of theft was registered at Chanakyapuri Police Station in New Delhi. The case was later transferred to Delhi Police’s Crime Branch, a senior official said.

Bihar to Tihar: JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar all set to pen a book

Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union president Kanhaiya Kumar is all set pen a book recounting his journey from a small village in Bihar to recent upheavel at the JNU campus.

Kanhaiya, who spent 20 days in jail on sedation charges plans to title his book, Bihar to Tihar.

File photo of JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar. ReutersFile photo of JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar. Reuters

File photo of JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar. Reuters

“It’s the story about how in this exploitative society, a boy from a marginalised section struggled his way to come to JNU to study and how some people target him. Against this backdrop, I would like to highlight certain facts of our society,” he said in an interview with The Times of India.

The book which Kanhaiya plans to complete writing by July-August will be released in both English and Hindi, says the report.

Kanhaiya came into the lime light after he was arrested on sedition charges following a slogan raising at the JNU campus on 9 February.

The arrest had triggered widespread protests at JNU and many other universities, following which the Opposition had accused the government of attempting to stifle dissent.

The JNU on Monday slapped a fine of Rs 10,000 on Kanhaiya and rusticated three others for varying duration over their alleged role in the controversial event.

In his reaction, Kanhaiya said the punitive action announced by the authorities was “simply unacceptable” and that the students rejected it.

With inputs from PTI

Suresh Prabhu plan to have Shivaji statue at CST violation of his own ministry rule

Railway minister Suresh Prabhu’s plan to install a grand Chhattrapati Shivaji statue at the sprawling CST terminus threatens to break one of the railway’s oldest and best-enforced rules.The Land and Amenities Directorate of the railway ministry, in several circulars over the past five decades, has reiterated the railway’s avowed stand that stations are not the appropriate place for statues of national leaders.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>For one, officials said, in a diverse nation like India, the demand for statues of leaders, historical and mythological figures can be unending.The cornerstone of this policy was a letter written on April 18, 1961, by then prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru to then railway minister Jagjivan Ram, in which Nehru states: “I am inclined to think that it will not be a good thing to put up these statues at railway stations’.The letter was written by Nehru after some members of Parliament asked a question about the need to install statues of Mahatma Gandhi at railway stations.According to officials, the statue decision is a pandora’s box yet not opened. “A statue of any personality comes with its own sensitivity and historical baggage among the personality’s followers. Soon it becomes an article of faith which cannot be tinkered with.”Every railway station is a dynamic work of engineering which has to be redeveloped, rebuilt every 30-40 years, depending on the passenger-and-train details of the station. You cannot have a situation where the station’s redevelopment has to be compromised because a statue coming in the way cannot be touched. It can even lead to a law-and-order issue,” explained an official.

Ambedkar is our icon too: OBC leaders

Days after grand celebration of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar’s 125th birth anniversary on April 14 this year which would be remembered more for the overenthusiasm of the right wing leaders ranging from Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis who left no stone unturned to give the Dalit leader his “due credit” and claim his legacy, the Other Backward Communities (OBCs) have also sought their share of pie in his glory and legacy.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Insisting that Dr Ambedkar had consistently fought for the welfare of OBCs and for their reservation in the government jobs and higher education institutions, the leaders of the community have sought a change in Maharashtra government’s “narrative” so that to give the chief architect of Indian constitution his full and correct identity before the people.In a letter written to the social justice and special assistance department last week, the OBC leaders have stated: “Rather than projecting Dr Ambedkar as the Dalit icon, the government must project him as the Dalit and OBC icon which is more prudent as he fought for backward communities as well.” They would also write to the prime minister about it requesting a change in the narrative of the Centre as well.Interestingly, they are citing Dr Ambedkar’s resignation letter from Pt Nehru cabinet in which he served as law minister, as “proof” of the Dalit leader’s grave concern for the OBCs as he stated government’s lackadaisical approach towards the a policy for the community as one the reasons for his resignation.They also give credit of OBC reservation to Babsaheb even though it came in 1990 after the recommendations of the Mandal commission. “Dr Kaka Kalelkar commission of backward class was set up in 1953 because of Dr Ambedkar’s pressure to consider the demand for reservation for socially and educationally backward communities in India other than ST and SC. The commission submitted its report in 1955 recommending 52% quota for the OBCs. It couldn’t be implemented though as its recommendations were rejected by the Centre.”The OBC leaders are also unhappy for the reason that they were ignored and even sidelined in the grand celebration of Ambedkar’s birth anniversary. To compensate, they have now organized a grand event on April 30 in Mumbai to mark Ambedkar’s birth anniversary where they would “highlight” his efforts for the backward community.”Wherever we travelled in the state and even in Mumbai, we noticed that Dr Ambedkar’s birthday was being celebrated at grand level but everywhere it remained a celebration for Dalits only. Only Dalit leaders had presided in these events while OBCs were totally ignored. This was despite the fact that Dr Ambekdar had equally fought for OBCs as well,” said Congress MLC Hairbhau Rathod who had submitted the petition to the state government on behalf of the community. Rathod was a BJP man till few years ago and had even represented the party in the parliament during Atal Bihari Vajpayee government.When asked why the community leaders were silent all these years and whether they have come forward now when Ambedkar is being glorified by the BJP governments at the Centre and the state, Rathod said: “Even we were unaware of the fact that Dr Ambedkar had resigned because of the then Central government’s no action on OBC reservation.”What had Ambedkar written in his resignation speechCopy of Dr Ambedkar’s resignation letter dated September 27, 1951 is available at Ambedkar’s writing, Volume 14 lists out various reasons of his resignation. This included his perception that Nehru didn’t give him much recognition within the cabinet and had offered him much less “work” than he deserved or others in the cabinet had due to handling multiple portfolios. Besides, Nehru’s “foreign policy” and dumping of Hindu code Bill.

Will be in politics until we can drive Mamata out of West Bengal: Chandra Bose

What are your expectations from this election?This is basically a fight to establish some kind of order into governance. In 2011, people of Bengal voted for a change. The Left front was there for 34 long years. In the initial years, the first 10 especially from 1977-87, they did some work in the rural areas. The panchayat system that was brought in by the Congress was implemented by the Left front in the districts. However, the cities were completely neglected, especially Kolkata. During, the last five years of their rule, Left front workers would terrorise people for votes and there was resentment among the masses.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Mamata Banerjee took advantage of this situation. She formed TMC in 1998 and she has been working hard at the grassroot level. She has been a rabble-rouser. She could connect with the masses because of the way she speaks, and people, especially the downtrodden, in rural areas, could connect with her. They brought in TMC hoping for a change.But Mamata’s contribution ended with the removal of Left. She did not have the capability or she was not really interested in governance. The main concern of TMC is to stay in power by hook or crook. She promised investments in the state because during the Left regime there was complete stagnation. The CPI(M) and the Left unions and the kind of work culture they brought about made corporate houses stay away from Bengal. That trend worsened under TMC. Dunlop, which used to operate in a couple of shifts during the Left, have practically closed shop. The entire jute industry is closed. The tea gardens in North Bengal are in a disarray, the workers are starving to death. It is highly unfortunate that Tata Motors could not come and set up their factory. 80% of the work had been completed in Singur, they should have been allowed to set up their factory. Singur would have been the Jamshedpur of Bengal. And it is not just the Tata factory, but hundreds of ancillary firms, which could have been set up centred around Tata Motors. The entire area would have become prosperous.Mamata Banerjee should have realised, once the land is acquired for industrial work, the same land cannot be returned to farmers for cultivation. It is concretised. Only about 30% of the farmers were not willing to give the land. Nowhere in the world would you get 100% support in such matters. If 70% farmers were ready, negotiations could have been done with the remaining 30%. They should have been persuaded. Instead of that, a political movement was raised by the TMC, misguiding the farmers of Singur, which is a graveyard today. The factory has gone to Gujarat. West Bengal’s loss is Gujarat’s gain.Your criticism of Mamata may be right but the fight currently seems between TMC and the alliance between Congress and Left. Hence the question, what are your expectations from the elections and what would be a satisfactory performance for the BJP?West Bengal has seen the Congress government prior to 1977, then the long tenure of Left and now the misrule of TMC for the last five years. BJP has not got an opportunity in Bengal. BJP was not very keen on Bengal in the past but now BJP is very serious about it. It is BJP’s turn now. When I campaign in Bhawanipore area and elsewhere in Bengal, people would like to give a chance to the BJP and see our performance in the next five years. I feel, if we have a free and fair election, if our supporters are allowed to vote, we have a fairly good chance of forming the government.You mentioned Bhawanipore, which is your constituency and the TMC’s candidate from there is Mamata Banerjee. Do you think you stand a chance of beating the Chief Minister?Mamata Banerjee has become the CM by default. She is not really considered the CM of West Bengal. She took the opportunity of the disillusionment with the Left and came to power. But today, the CM’s position in West Bengal is vacant. She has established herself as the CM of syndicate raj, which operates in Kolkata and Bengal. I explain TMC as a congregation of criminals, hoodlums and opportunists, who have assembled to gain power, to self-aggrandise.The flyover collapse, Saradha scam, Narada sting, have appeared in quick successions and they would certainly influence the voters. Mamata would lose all her seats in Kolkata, if the voters are allowed. I say that because, to give an example, I could not find an office space in Bhawanipore area. I am operating from a cramped office where only six people can sit. TMC goons are threatening voters in the constituency and South Kolkata.It seems you are laying a foundation to cry foul. The election commission has been taking all the necessary precautions. Are you saying they are not as strong in the city?The Election Commission has to be strong. Central forces should be fully alert. If the TMC goons can be kept at bay, then I think BJP has a fairly good chance in Kolkata seats. And in Bengal, there would be many surprises. I do not want to give a number because that would be guesswork.Why are you contesting against Mamata? You should have chosen a seat where your chances were better. You could have at least gone into the assembly.My idea is not to become an MLA. My idea is to fight injustice. I do not consider her the CM of Bengal. She should be driven out of West Bengal so the state can be saved. These are strong words but it is not me, the people of Bhawanipore have said that we are from a civil society, so we would not physically drive her out. We will do it at the ballot box.What attracted you towards the BJP? Rather, how did the BJP convince you to join politics?I am born into the family of Subhash Chandra Bose. Netaji was one of the first nationalists of India. And today, BJP stands for that nationalism. I find Narendra Modi ji a pragmatist. Subhash Chandra Bose, too, was a pragmatist. A lot of people say Netaji was a fascist. He was pro-Japan. It is not true. He was a pragmatist. He realised, at that juncture, you need the help of Germany to liberate India. Similarly, he took the help of Japan when he went to South East Asia. Because that was the most practical thing to do. Similarly, Modi is very flexible. Here is a leader of 21st century India who believes in development. Subhash Bose believed in modern science, technology and development. He was progressive. So is Modi ji. Also, Modi is inclusive. Netaji too was very inclusive. But that is the biggest charge against the BJP, that they are alienating the minorities.There are fringe elements in all parties, which must be contained. Religion is a personal issue. I feel politics and religion should not be mixed up. But, unfortunately, it does not happen. Congress party is the first party to bring religion into politics. Similarly, casteism has come into politics. Because once religion comes in, casteism follows. We must alienate religion from politics. And Modi is a leader who would like to respect all religions.You mentioned fringe elements. These fringe elements are in your cabinet and they do not seem to be respecting other religions.India is a diverse nation. And BJP is a national party, where you have people from all walks of life. India is a democratic country and you have free speech. Sometimes, certain people hoist their opinions and arguments. But I feel India is an inclusive country. That was Subhash Bose’s idea of India and today BJP has accepted Subhash Bose’s ideology as its own.Netaji was the strongest possible socialist voice in Congress. How can BJP and Subhash Bose’s ideology be the same?Netaji was a socialist in the sense that he wanted to have his own Indian way of socialism and development. He never accepted the import of ideologies from abroad. But today, BJP is a party which believes in pragmatism. There is nothing known as a left, right or socialist ideology anymore. In 21st century India, it is time for political parties to practice pragmatism. This is a misconception spread by opposition, that BJP is communal or right wing. BJP has evolved into a party which believes in working with all communities.I have read fair bit of Netaji and the most striking criticism by him was reserved for communism and Hindutva. I am pretty sure some of the statements by your party leaders would have disgusted him. How can the BJP, then, appropriate Netaji and, more so, you join the BJP?The concept of the staunch Hindutva is not what the BJP stands for.Apart from the fact that many of statements made by BJP leaders suggest otherwise, the allegiance to the RSS is well-known and one cannot say RSS does not stand for Hindutva.BJP and RSS are separate organisations. You cannot say the BJP falls under the umbrella of RSS. But yes, there are people in BJP who have come from RSS. That is history now. They have evolved into a different political being joining the BJP. Hindutva does not mean you are against other religions. Hindutva respects other religions. It is a propaganda spread by Congress. Today, if you see Modi’s speeches, he is trying to be extremely inclusive. And that is one of the main reasons why I joined BJP.Coming back to Netaji, don’t you think the BJP is milking his legacy?BJP is the first party to respect and honour Netaji. For the last 70 years, the Congress has suppressed each and every document pertaining to Subhash Bose. His disappearance angle, documents trickling out proves there was no air crash. Congress kept secrecy on the entire episode, why? On January 23, 2016, the first transparent government of Independent India was established by releasing the Netaji files. The process is on and it would be completed in 2018. This has been the demand of the people of this great nation, that we would like to know what happened to the liberator of India. Congress’ entire effort to suppress files had been successful so far. I agree the Congress is obsessed with the family and, thereby, has forgotten other major leaders. That is precisely why the BJP has been allowed to highjack freedom fighters like Bhagat Singh, Sardar Patel or Netaji, who did not conform to the BJP ideology at all.A party goes through transformation. BJP, when it was formed, was a different party. BJP under Modi is a different party which has evolved into a different progressive set up. What I find good about BJP is it is accepting the change. Maybe, for many years they did not. There were orthodox leaders. But under Modi, we have a progressive group that is willing to change and move forward.Whether it is JNU, Hyderabad, Srinagar or FTII, the BJP government seems to be constantly at loggerheads with students. Don’t you think the mood of the nation is going against the party for indulging in everything other than governance? BJP is not at all at loggerheads with students. There are certain misguided students. They must come back to the mainstream. You see, I have very closely interacted with terrorist organisations like ULFA in Northeast. I got to know the ULFA commanders and they were very educated boys, but they were misguided. Today, most of them have come back to the mainstream national life. I feel certain political parties are misguiding the JNU, Jadhavpur students for their political motive.Are you comparing ULFA recruits with Kanhaiya Kumar?No, not at all. I am speaking merely about misguidance. The Left forces have tried to utilise Kanhaiya, who is an innocent boy. He can be brought back to the mainstream. He has been brainwashed to create havoc in JNU.He does not seem like a guy who can be influenced so easily.Well, the kind of statements he has been making, I do not think he would make them if he is not influenced.You briefly spoke about the Congress suppressing the documents concerning Netaji. But the declassified files did not throw up anything the right wing expected it would. On the contrary, Nehru was looking out for Netaji. The only new development turned out to be a photoshopped letter in which Nehru spelt Attlee incorrectly.No. There are very serious links that have been found where it is clearly stated Netaji never died in the air crash. He went into soviet Russia. But we do not what happened after that. Only the KGB files will tell us. Modi government is the first government that has officially written to Russia, Great Britain, Austria and Germany asking them to release files regarding Netaji, if any. During Manmohan Singh’s tenure, Justice Mukherjee had requested him to take the initiative because when he went to Moscow, the KGB officials told him, ‘If the PM writes to Russian President, we will consider releasing those files’. Singh did not care to reply. But Modi has not only written to Russia, he personally spoke with Putin.Are you saying there is a lot more declassification to be done? Because the first set did not implicate Nehru everyone thought or hoped it would.The intention is not to implicate anyone. The intention is to expose the truth. If some of the Congress leaders have committed a crime, I think the Congress party should expose them. Nehru was not god. If he has committed a crime, Congress should expose that.We do not know whether he has committed a crime.Yes, we do not know. I am not saying that.Did BJP’s anti-Nehru campaign work for you while joining their ranks?I don’t think so. You have to correct history. Everything is around Nehru. Every university and college is named after him. The point is Nehru’s role should be stated as it was. I do not want to downgrade him, nor do I want to exaggerate things. Many of our freedom fighters do not find a place in our history books. It was a joint effort. It started from 1857. But nothing is there. Only Nehru aaya, baat kiya aur ho gaya. This is a bit ridiculous. At the same time, we should not say Nehru is a bad man. We will say what he exactly was.What was Nehru?Partition happened because of Nehru. Jinnah and Muslim League never wanted it. I say this from personal knowledge. My father was involved in the freedom movement. Netaji was imprisoned in the medical college. This was in 1937 when the elections were held in provinces. Netaji proposed the elections should be held jointly with the Muslim League. After the elections, joint ministries should be formed. Jinnah accepted it. When it was placed in the Congress Working Committee, Nehru and Gandhi rejected it. That is why Jinnah in 1940 for the first time raised the Pakistan issue. Jinnah realised he could not share power in India. He was alienated and pushed aside.But the two-nation theory was first mooted by Savarkar in 1920s. The alienation must have begun then.But Muslim League did not want Partition. In India, we blame Jinnah for Partition. He was definitely there. But it was Nehru who mooted the idea and pushed Jinnah completely to a place from where he could not come back to India’s main frame. Nehru made serious mistakes. He was in a hurry to become PM. He should have let Jinnah become the PM, he was dying in any case. After that, Nehru could have become the PM.Coming back to Bengal, do you intend to remain in politics irrespective of the results?Yes. I am here. I will ensure the state gets a government that works.Reports suggest Mamata is likely to retain power. If she does, would you continue to be in active politics?If she comes back to power, it will be hara-kiri for West Bengal, it is better to commit suicide. And I will continue to be in politics until we can drive her out of the state.

Kohinoor wars: BJP hits out at Congress, claims it reversed earlier policy on diamond

New Delhi: Under attack for the government’s U-turn on the Kohinoor diamond issue, BJP on Wednesday claimed the Narendra Modi dispensation has revised the stand of previous governments on the issue and will make all efforts to bring it back from the UK.

Kohinoor diamond. File photo. Getty imagesKohinoor diamond. File photo. Getty images

Kohinoor diamond. File photo. Getty images

Hitting back at Congress over the issue, it said the opposition party has no moral right to criticise it as the party-led government never made any effort to bring the Kohinoor back.

“The charge that the government made a U-turn on the issue is not correct. That earlier stand was consistent with the stand of the previous Congress government and our government on Tuesday made it clear that it will make all possible efforts to bring it back,” BJP national secretary Shrikant Sharma said.

He said Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister, never broached the issue with the UK government, fearing it will spoil his international relations.

“Had there been a strong government earlier, we might have got it back. Our government will make all efforts in this regard,” he claimed.

Govt says will amicably try to get back Kohinoor, cites Nehru reference to justify action

The government clarified on the Kohinoor issue saying it will make all efforts to bring back the valued diamond it had said in the Supreme Court was “neither stolen nor forcibly” taken by British rulers but given to it by erstwhile rulers of Punjab. In a statement, the government claimed it has not yet conveyed its views to the court “contrary to what is being misrepresented” in the media.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In an official press release from the Minister of Culture, the govt said:The Government of India wishes to put on record that certain news items appearing in the press regarding the Kohinoor Diamond are not based on facts. The Government of India further reiterates its resolve to make all possible efforts to bring back the Kohinoor Diamond in an amicable manner. The factual position is that the matter is sub judice at present. A PIL has been filed in the Honourable Supreme Court that is yet to be admitted.
ALSO READ #dnaEdit: The Kohinoor was not all the British took from IndiaThe Solicitor General of India was asked to seek the views of the Government of India, which have not yet been conveyed. The Solicitor General of India informed the Honourable Court about the history of the diamond and gave an oral statement on the basis of the existing references made available by the ASI. Thus, it should be reaffirmed that the Government of India has not yet conveyed its views to the court, contrary to what is being misrepresented. The Court granted six weeks’ time on the prayer of the Solicitor General to take instructions for making his submission in the matter.The status report on which the preliminary submission was made by the Solicitor General have references to the stand taken by Governments earlier that the Kohinoor was a gift and cannot be categorized as an object stolen. The material further has references to the views of India’s 1st Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru dating back to 1956. Pandit Nehru went on record saying that there is no ground to claim this art treasure back. He also added that efforts to get the Kohinoor back would lead to difficulties.
ALSO READ Will make all efforts to bring Kohinoor back: Govt makes a U-turnPandit Nehru also said, “To exploit our good relations with some country to obtain free gifts from it of valuable articles does not seem to be desirable. On the other hand, it does seem to be desirable that foreign museums should have Indian objects of art.”It may be added that ever since he has taken over as PM, Shri Narendra Modi’s efforts led to three significant pieces of India’s history coming back home. In October 2015, German Chancellor Angela Merkel returned a 10th century Indian statue of Goddess Durga that was stolen in 1990 and found in 2012 at a museum in Germany. In April 2015, then Canadian PM Stephen Harper returned a sculpture known as the ‘Parrot Lady’, which dates back to almost 900 years. Then Australian PM Tony Abbott, on his India visit in 2014 had returned antique statues of Hindu deities that were in Australian art galleries. None of these gestures affected India’s relations with either Canada, Germany or Australia. It was Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who as the Chief Minister got back the ashes of Shyamji Krishna Varma almost 70 years after his death.Thus, with regard to the Kohinoor Diamond too, Government of India remains hopeful for an amicable outcome whereby India gets back a valued piece of art with strong roots in our nation’s history.

Govt makes a U-turn on Kohinoor, says will make all efforts to bring back the diamond

New Delhi: Government on Tuesday night made a U-turn on the Kohinoor issue saying it will make all efforts to bring back the valued diamond it had said in the Supreme Court was “neither stolen nor forcibly taken” by British rulers but given to it by erstwhile rulers of Punjab.

In a statement, the government claimed it has not yet conveyed its views to the court “contrary to what is being misrepresented” in the media.

The government statement came a day after the Solicitor General told the Supreme Court, “Kohinoor cannot be said to have been forcibly taken or stolen as it was given by the successors of Maharaja Ranjit Singh to East India Company in 1849 as compensation for helping them in the Sikh wars.”

The court was hearing a PIL which sought government action for the return of over USD 200 million Kohinoor diamond from the UK.

Kohinoor Diamond. Image courtesy: Getty imagesKohinoor Diamond. Image courtesy: Getty images

Kohinoor Diamond. Image courtesy: Getty images

Wishing to put on record that the news items on the issue “are not based on facts”, the official release said the government reiterates its resolve to make all possible efforts to bring back the Kohinoor Diamond in an amicable manner.

The release said the factual position is that the matter is sub-judice at present and the PIL is yet to be admitted.

“The Solicitor General of India was asked to seek the views of the government of India, which have not yet been conveyed. The Solicitor General of India informed the honourable court about the history of the diamond and gave an oral statement on the basis of the existing references made available by the ASI.

“Thus, it should be reaffirmed that the government of India has not yet conveyed its views to the court, contrary to what is being misrepresented,” it said.

The release also noted that the court granted six weeks time on the prayer of the Solicitor General to take instructions for making his submission in the matter.

“… With regard to the Kohinoor Diamond too, government of India remains hopeful for an amicable outcome whereby India gets back a valued piece of art with strong roots in our nation’s history,” it added.

“The status report on which the preliminary submission was made by the Solicitor General have references to the stand taken by Governments earlier that the Kohinoor was a gift and cannot be categorised as an object stolen.

“The material further has references to the views of India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru dating back to 1956. Pandit Nehru went on record saying that there is no ground to claim this art treasure back. He also added that efforts to get the Kohinoor back would lead to difficulties,” the release said.

According to the release, Nehru also said, “To exploit our good relations with some country to obtain free gifts from it of valuable articles does not seem to be desirable. On the other hand, it does seem to be desirable that foreign museums should have Indian objects of art.”

Ever since Narendra Modi has taken over as Prime Minister, it said his efforts led to three significant pieces of India’s history coming back home which did not affect the relations with the respective countries.

“In October 2015, German Chancellor Angela Merkel returned a 10th century Indian statue of Goddess Durga that was stolen in 1990 and found in 2012 at a museum in Germany.

“In April 2015, then Canadian PM Stephen Harper returned a sculpture known as the ‘Parrot Lady’, which dates back to almost 900 years.

“Then Australian PM Tony Abbott, on his India visit in 2014 had returned antique statues of Hindu deities that were in Australian art galleries.

“None of these gestures affected India’s relations with either Canada, Germany or Australia. It was Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who as the Chief Minister got back the ashes of Shyamji Krishna Varma almost 70 years after his death,” the release said.

Will make all efforts to bring Kohinoor back: Govt makes a U-turn

Government on Tuesday night made a U-turn on the Kohinoor issue saying it will make all efforts to bring back the valued diamond it had said in the Supreme Court was “neither stolen nor forcibly” taken by British rulers but given to it by erstwhile rulers of Punjab.In a statement, the government claimed it has not yet conveyed its views to the court “contrary to what is being misrepresented” in the media. <!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The government statement came a day after the SolicitorGeneral told the Supreme Court, “Kohinoor cannot be said to have been forcibly taken or stolen as it was given by the successors of Maharaja Ranjit Singh to East India Company in 1849 as compensation for helping them in the Sikh wars.” The court was hearing a PIL which sought government action for the return of over $200 million Kohinoor diamond from the UK.Wishing to put on record that the news items on the issue “are not based on facts”, the official release said the government reiterates its resolve to make all possible efforts to bring back the Kohinoor Diamond in an amicable manner.The release said the factual position is that the matter is sub-judice at present and the PIL is yet to be admitted.”The Solicitor General of India was asked to seek the views of the government of India, which have not yet been conveyed. The Solicitor General of India informed the honourable court about the history of the diamond and gave an oral statement on the basis of the existing references made available by the ASI.”Thus, it should be reaffirmed that the government of India has not yet conveyed its views to the court, contrary to what is being misrepresented,” it said.The release also noted that the court granted six weeks time on the prayer of the Solicitor General to take instructions for making his submission in the matter.”… With regard to the Kohinoor Diamond too, government of India remains hopeful for an amicable outcome whereby India gets back a valued piece of art with strong roots in our nation’s history,” it added.”The status report on which the preliminary submission was made by the Solicitor General have references to the stand taken by Governments earlier that the Kohinoor was a gift and cannot be categorised as an object stolen.”The material further has references to the views of India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru dating back to 1956. Pandit Nehru went on record saying that there is no ground to claim this art treasure back. He also added that efforts to get the Kohinoor back would lead to difficulties,” the release said.According to the release, Nehru also said, “To exploit our good relations with some country to obtain free gifts from it of valuable articles does not seem to be desirable. On the other hand, it does seem to be desirable that foreign museums should have Indian objects of art.”Ever since Narendra Modi has taken over as Prime Minister, it said his efforts led to three significant pieces of India’s history coming back home which did not affect the relations with the respective countries.”In October 2015, German Chancellor Angela Merkel returned a 10th century Indian statue of Goddess Durga that was stolen in 1990 and found in 2012 at a museum in Germany.”In April 2015, then Canadian PM Stephen Harper returned a sculpture known as the ‘Parrot Lady’, which dates back to almost 900 years.”Then Australian PM Tony Abbott, on his India visit in 2014 had returned antique statues of Hindu deities that were in Australian art galleries.”None of these gestures affected India’s relations with either Canada, Germany or Australia. It was Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who as the Chief Minister got back the ashes of Shyamji Krishna Varma almost 70 years after his death,” the release said.

Hindutva outfits stayed away from freedom struggle: Historian Mridula Mukherjee

Historian Mridula Mukherjee has said the idea of nationalism in India, as in all third world countries, is essentially rooted in ‘anti-imperialism and anti-colonialism’ and asserted that proponents of Hindutva had nothing to do with it.”It is ironical that the proponents of Hindutva brand of nationalism, who are presently trying to appropriate the mantle of Indian nationalism had nothing whatsoever to do with the ideas of anti-colonialism and anti-imperialism.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”The other three essential elements of any sort of nationalism Equity, Civil Liberties and Democracy – also have no space whatsoever in the Hindutva brand nationalism,” Mukherjee, a former director of Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, alleged while delivering a lecture at the Aligarh Muslim University on ‘India and the Road to Nationalism and Freedom’ last evening.She claimed that even as late as 1942, organisations like Hindu Mahasabha and RSS had deliberately stayed away from the movement of freedom struggle. She said that there was no role whatsoever of these forces in the Quit India Movement.Mukherjee said that the past two months following the upheaval in Jawaharlal Nehru University have been very edifying and educating phase in the growth of democratic movement in contemporary India.She said that a vital fall out of the JNU episode was that “after quite some time the youth of India have once again started examining the roots and the future of democratic functioning of institutions, freedom of speech and civil liberties in India”.”This is like a new awakening and it is only a matter of time before these ideas begin to find space in the minds of youth all over the country,” she said. Mukherjee has been critical of the Modi government on the issue of intolerance and the JNU row.

From Mhow to New York, govt eulogises Dalit icon

There were many firsts to mark the 125th birth anniversary of BR Ambedkar. From Prime Minister Narendra Modi sharing dais with Buddhist monks in Mhow, the Dalit icon’s birth place, to Indian diplomatic missions all over the world, including the one at the United Nations, the anniversary was celebrated at par with Republic Day, Independence Day and Gandhi Jayanti.After invoking Buddhism in foreign diplomacy, Modi reflected his reverence to the religion on the domestic stage. While paying tributes to Ambedkar, who had converted to Buddhism, he had, by his side, Buddhist monks, one of whom was 87-year-old Dhamma Virio of Akhil Bharatiya Bhikshu Maha Sangha.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Kanshi Ram, the Dalit leader, who was Mayawati’s mentor, had, in 2002, announced his intention to convert to Buddhism on October 14, 2006, the 50th anniversary of Ambedkar’s conversion. However, he died just a week before that date and his last rites were performed according to Buddhist traditions.Modi has made symbolic gestures over his regards for Buddhism, a religion propagating peace. Making it a realm of diplomacy, he has tried to reach out to countries in East Asia, which have a Buddhist connect, BJP sources said.The BJP wants to leave no stone unturned in its outreach to Dalits, as it braces up for the Uttar Pradesh election, which is a year away.The Modi government and the party have planned a 10-day programme across the country, while outside, from Buenos Aires to Tokyo, Indian diplomatic missions hosted receptions to mark Ambedkar’s birth anniversary.For the first time, the UN also celebrated the day and Ambedkar was described as a “global icon” for marginalised people. Indian’s Permanent Mission at the UN headquarters in New York arranged a panel discussion attended by UNDP Administrator Helen Clark, and three academics.Government sources here said that the thrust of the celebrations of the Dalit icon’s anniversary had come from the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). So far the missions used to arrange such discussions only to mark Gandhi Jayanti or commemorate India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru.Sources added that Ambedkar’s legacy was pushed forward deliberately to claim his legacy and blunt the diplomatic fall-out on the debate on intolerance and student unrest, following the suicide of Dalit student Rohith Chakravarti Vemula in Hyderabad Central University.Many Dalit writers such as V T Rajshekhar had always tried to link the travails of American Black population to Dalits in India. Incidentally, Vemula’s family converted to Buddhism in Mumbai.Back home, the RSS was in sync with the BJP. A cover story in the latest issue of ‘Organiser’, the RSS mouthpiece, described Ambedkar as a unifier, while the editorial said it was Babasaheb who revived the reformist zeal of ancient civilisation in the modern era.”Though Babasheb criticised and denounced the rotten customs of Hinduism, when he had to find an alternative path, instead of going for foreign originated Semitic religions or divisive ideologies, he preferred the path of Buddha, simply because he was aware of the cultural spirit of his Motherland,” the editorial said.Meanwhile, hitting back at the Congress, which has accused him of trying to “appropriate” the legacy of national icons, Modi said that the party that ruled the country for decades should “repent” for “undermining” the legacy of the architect of the Constitution.Addressing a rally on the 125th birth anniversary of Ambedkar at his birthplace here, Modi asked why the Congress was getting perturbed when his government was working ardently for fulfilling the vision of the Dalit icon and said he would have felt proud to work at “the feet of Baba Saheb”.In Lucknow, BSP supremo Mayawati, cautioning Dalits and backwards against BJP’s designs, said its leaders will only act as “bonded labourers of RSS” and claimed Modi could do little for the OBCs, though he claims to belong to the community.Mayawati, who faced opposition attack during her last stint as UP chief minister over building memorials to Dalit icons, including her mentor Kanshi Ram and herself, on Thursday promised she would not construct new monuments and focus on development if voted to office again.Describing Ambedkar as one of the greatest icons of modern India, Congress president Sonia Gandhi recalled his contribution across every field of national development on his 125th birth anniversary. “One of the greatest icons of modern India, Dr Ambedkar’s contribution is spread across every field of national development.”His faith in democracy, which he shared with Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Patel and other stalwarts of the freedom movement, is one of his proud legacies to our country,” she said in a message.—With inputs from agencies