|Parivar's Re-Conversion Offensive|
|Nasty threat to citizenship|
|The Sangh Parivar has made a habit out of raking up divisive issues which most people thought were settled at the time of Indian Independence or shortly thereafter. For instance, India adopted Parliamentary democracy in preference to the presidential system after much debate. But the unitarian, pro-centralisation Bharatiya Janata Party has always been partial to the presidential form despite its unsuitability for a huge and diverse country like India.
When it first came to national power in 1998, the BJP-led government set up a high-level commission to review the Constitution. To give the commission minimal credibility, it had to appoint a legal luminary to head it. Mercifully, former Chief Justice M N Venkatachaliah refused to alter the basic structure of the Constitution.
|Good enough to vote..!|
|The poor man who had converted from the religion of his forefathers to that of a so called foreign god, stood in front of a judge in a courtroom somewhere in India wearing a loin cloth and a bit of a discarded shirt.
"Did you change your religion out of your own free will?" asked the judge.
"Yes your honor."
"Was there any allurement or inducement that made you do so?"
"Yes your honor!" said the poor man and the courtroom buzzed with excitement.
"What was the inducement offered?" asked the judge peering at the poor tribal and getting ready to close the case.
"The promise of an attractive spiritual life and of a God who listens to me!"
"Was there no other inducement?"
"No your honor, I was not offered any money to change my God, as I was offered by all the candidates in the last el...|
|Meet the fearless female fighters of Rajasthan|
|"Dousing the hungry flames is certainly not an easy task. It's a test of one's physical strength as well as courage and agility. But if one is determined, one can overcome any risks however daunting they may look," says Sita Khatik, an officer with the fire department in the desert state of Rajasthan. While her namesake in the mythological epic 'Ramayana' had given the 'agnipareeksha' once in her lifetime, for Sita, the fire fighter, every day is like a trial by fire. Stationed in Jaipur, the state capital, she is one of the 155 female fire fighters recruited by the state government in March this year. Six from this first batch are serving in the city at present and they are simple, all smiles and, yes, armed with that tremendously daring spirit that makes them perfect of the job.
|The Lessons from Peshawar|
|Peshawar should be the wake-up call that Pakistan has apparently failed to respond to all these years.|
|Commenting on the decline and decay of the Islamic world, Robert Reilly writes in his interesting book, The Closing of the Muslim Mind: "The fatal disconnect between the Creator and the mind of his creatures is the source of Sunni Islam's most profound woes."
I do not entirely agree with the arguments and conclusions of the author. And I have serious issues with this whole simplistic, sectarian approach to the understanding of Muslim societies. However, Reilly's prognosis suggesting the "fatal disconnect between the Creator and the mind of His creatures" appears increasingly relevant to explaining the state of Islamic world today.
Islamic men of learning and wisdom have preached from the pulpit ad infinitum insisting there is no place for force or violence in religion.
|Pakistan's terror sitcom|
|All those bright and shining faces lost in the darkness of blood and violence. But will this be treated as Pakistan's 9/11? Is this the moment when, after losing 132 children, we have recognised that we will have to fight this battle for our survival so that our children can live their lives peacefully and schools don't have to close to mourn the death of the innocent? People seem to be in a state of shock. But there is also the likelihood that all of this may ultimately turn out to be a sitcom that we have played for the last so many years.
Painful as it may sound we are likely to mourn for a couple of days until someone will talk about this being a security lapse. People are already asking - as they probably did at the time of the Osama bin Laden operation - how could terror happen in ...|
|They did Not Die In Vain..!|
|Even as we condemn these attacks on innocent children we have to realise that the germ, the seed of such dastardly actions springs from our own minds when we deride and despise each other in our conversations and thoughts with regard to our different paths of worshipping God! Stop communal talks, and jokes and let us through the death of these children unite as one world family. Then one day it will be written in history that those kids did not die in vain! Because dear friends it is prejudice that is the killer: I doubt we have any choice over the color of the skin we are born with, the caste or religion we are born into or the country we are born in........ and this choice was also not given to the people we ridicule or those we treat with contempt.
There is a lovely little verse by El...|
|It's about intimidation|
|Pakistan massacre not about religion|
|Last week I wept with pride as Malala Yousafzai collected her Nobel Peace prize in Oslo, next to Kailash Satyarthi. The world stopped to listen as she gave her acceptance speech, in which she said:
"It is time to take action so it becomes the last time, the last time, so it becomes the last time that we see a child deprived of education … Let us become the first generation to decide to be the last, let us become the first generation that decides to be the last that sees empty classrooms, lost childhoods, and wasted potentials."
We watched as Malala received the award and raised it high, able to smile with only half her face but all of her heart. She announced later that she intended to return to Pakistan in 2015, yet another marker of her triumph over the terrorists that tried to depriv...|
|What do killers and murderers think when they look at their killing hands? What do you and I think, when we also look at our hands?
As An old man, probably some ninety plus years, sat feebly on the park bench. He didn't move, just sat with his head down staring at his hands. I sat down beside him and asked him if he was ok. He raised his head and looked at me and smiled. "Yes, I'm fine, thank you for asking," he said in a clear strong voice.
"I didn't mean to disturb you, sir, but you were just sitting here staring at your hands and I wanted to make sure you were ok," I explained to him.
"Have you ever looked at your hands?" he asked. "Stop and think for a moment about the hands you have, how have they served you all your years? These hands, though wrinkled, shriveled and weak have bee...|
|200 days on, missing Dr Singh|
|HISTORY will judge me, Manmohan Singh said in his last comments as prime minister. It was 200 days on Thursday since he relinquished office. I am not surprised how some of his erstwhile critics are already missing him though they may not regard his party with similar respect.
For all his sins of omission and commission, which include serious financial scandals, there was something pleasantly dignified about Dr Singh. President Obama approached him as an intellectual guru. The Japanese emperor honoured him with the highest civilian award for a foreigner. Dr Singh didn't tom-tom it. He embodied India's cultural sinews in his genteel person, and though a religious man, he didn't find it necessary to underscore the heritage by gifting religious scriptures to all and sundry.
There was someth...|
|Free maids in Manhattan!|
|I know of many grandfathers and grandmothers who've packed up lock stock and barrel to join their children abroad:
"So what d'you plan to do in the States?" I ask the old man as he practices walking round the house in a new pair of shorts he's bought.
"Well my son he's going to take us to see the Niagara on his off day!"
"He's always wanted to see the Nigara!" says his wife of many years as she shyly comes and stands next to him in jeans she's getting used to.
"And then I'd like to visit Washington!"
"Abraham Lincoln has been my husband's hero from his childhood!"
"My son knows that," says the old man proudly, "and he's promised to take me round to the Lincoln Memorial and even Ford Theatre where Abe was shot dead!"
"Don't try to do what John Wilkes Booth did! Jumping from the balc...|
|Self-inflicted wounds seldom heal|
|I am reminded of this whenever I think of the transfer policy of High Court judges being followed by the Supreme Court. No doubt the power of transfer from one High Court to another is to be found in the Constitution. But when in 1963 some amendments were to be made, the then Law Minister in order to remove the apprehension of misuse of power assured Parliament that the transfer of the High Court judge will only be done with the judge's prior consent.
But in 1975 the High Court judges were the target in a series of non-consensual transfers because they were said to be too independent. The Supreme Court, one had hoped, recognising the danger to the independence of the judiciary would strike down this provision; but rather it inflicted a self-wound by continuing to uphold this power.
|I wore my red shirt today, oh yes and the cream pants that didn't have pleats but which by pulling tummy back managed to show a somewhat slim waistline. "Where are you going?" asked the daughters.
"Why?" I asked trying to look puzzled.
My wife and I got into the car and I grinned to myself. "Something funny?"
"Oh no!" I said.
"Oh yes," she said.
"I was just thinking how other guys my age look so old!" I said, "You know what I mean?"
"They don't look after themselves! See Charles, he's got a stomach worse than a nine month woman!"
"What's a nine month woman!"
"Let it be!" I said.
"You think you look quite young huh?"
"Yeah!" I said.
"Let me drive!"
"Read this," she said, offering me a piece of the Sunday page. I exchanged places and started:
| Fighting the caste menace|
|Untouchability Thrives In India|
|It's fashionable in some circles to claim that discrimination based on caste has steadily decreased in India, as it's bound to, thanks to modernisation, urbanisation and industrialisation. The character of caste is itself changing from a system of social hierarchy based on birth and ritual purity, to a political phenomenon. As India evolves into a "merit-based" society, the argument goes, there can be no place for untouchability vis-à-vis Dalits (Scheduled Castes) in it.
This argument is bogus. India has failed to industrialise significantly. And the modernisation process is slow, uneven and combines many pre-modern elements of culture and society, including caste, and sometimes reinforces caste-based deprivation and discrimination. We know this from daily experience and official repor...|