Hindustan Times (Delhi) : 2019-02-10

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18 hindustantimes S U N DAY H I N DU STA N T I M E S , N EW D E L H I F E B R U A RY 1 0 , 2 0 1 9 past&present RAMACHANDRA GUHA A MISDIRECTION OF THE ENERGIES OF HINDUS Gandhi said he “condemned violence most strongly and unequivocally, and said he considered it a sin against God and man”. Several decades later, northern and western India experienced an orgy of violence committed by men speaking in the name of a God said to be born in Ayodhya. Mahatma Gandhi would have been appalled by the hatred and bigotry spread in the name of Ram in the 1980s and 1990s. I say this as Gandhi’s biographer, but also as a citizen of the Republic, who lived through that violence, and studied it at first hand. I can testify to the shame and indignity it brought to Hindus, Hinduism, and India. Do we want a repeat, a rerun, of those awful years now? In the 1990s, and since, several proposals were offered as alternatives to the polarising project of building a large temple to Ram in Ayodhya. They have included a hospital and a university, each committed to serving people of all faiths. The Mahatma’s own grandson, the philosopher Ramchandra Gandhi, suggested the construction of a “Ram-rahim Chabootra” to “honour the oldest tradition of interreligious spirituality in the world”. Which of these proposals would have most met with Gandhi’s approval we cannot say. What we can say is that Gandhi was altogether opposed to the belief that a massive structure was in any way necessary to spiritual faith, or to national and civilisational pride. There can be absolutely no doubt that the Mahatma would have seen the movement for a grand Ram temple in Ayodhya as a tragic misdirection of the energies of Hindus and Hinduism. I n 1932, a young Christian priest named Verrier Elwin was thrown out of his church. Educated at Oxford, Elwin made his home among the Gonds of central India. He sought to bring education and healthcare to the adivasis, but refused to take the gospel to them, out of respect for their own spiritual traditions. For this, he was expelled from the priesthood by his bishop. Verrier Elwin knew and admired Mahatma Gandhi. When he wrote to him about his excommunication, Gandhi wrote back: “Your pulpit is the whole earth. The blue sky is the roof of your own church.” Gandhi consoled Elwin that the message of Jesus was, in any case, “in the main denied by the churches, whether Roman or English”. A Christian did not need a grand or beautiful building in which to express his faith. Nor did men or women of other faiths. Gandhi called himself a devout Hindu, yet in the many years he lived in Ahmedabad, he did not go to any of the city’s temples to demonstrate to himself (or to others) how deep or strong his Hinduism was. He prayed on the ground in front of his hut, facing the Sabarmati river. When he moved to Sevagram, he prayed in the open in that ashram too. Gandhi’s Hinduism was syncretic rather than sectarian. He respected other religions, and conducted a lifelong campaign for interfaith harmo- ny. Notably, though, the last words he uttered were of the Hindu deity, Ram. That particular deity was a particular favourite of his. He spoke of a just society as being a “Ram Rajya”, and corresponded with his spiritually inclined friends on the benefits of Ramanama, viz., uttering the name of Ram repeatedly, in harmony and with devotion. Gandhi’s Hinduism was expressed in many ways and in many places. But almost never in temples. His faith did not require this. Besides, his own experiences with famous places of worship were not entirely pleasant. In 1902, on his first visit to Varanasi, Gandhi went to the Kashi Vishwanath temple, and was unimpressed. “The swarming flies and the noise made by the shopkeepers and pilgrims were perfectly insufferable,” he recalled, adding: “Where one expected an atmosphere of meditation and communion, it was conspicuous by its absence.” He walked through the entire temple, “search[ing] for God but fail[ing] to find him” in the dirt and the filth. In 1916, after returning to India, Gandhi revisited the Kashi Vishwanath temple, to find it as dirty and degraded as before. These encounters in Varanasi confirmed for him that the gods of Hinduism were not to be found in the temples erected for them. Over the next three decades, Gandhi travelled all across the country, by train n and on foot. In the course of these journeys he visited every town containing a major Hindu shrine. But while he saw these ancient temples from outside, he never sought to go within, with one exception (to which we will return). Gandhi’s lack of interest in worshipping inside temples stemmed from two reasons. First, he believed that God resided in one’s heart, and that trust in or love for God was realised through one’s personal conduct; rather than in prayer, ritual, pilgrimage, or ceremony. Second, he saw that the message of gender and caste equality was denied by Hindu temples, which had discriminated harshly against women and savagely against Dalits. After his early and chastening experiences with the Kashi Vishwanath temple, Gandhi never went back there, although he visited Varanasi often. Gandhi visited Puri, but he refused to enter the Jagannath temple. He spent time in Thanjavur, but declined to worship at the Brihadeeswara temple. However, when the Meenakshi temple in Madurai admitted Dalits in 1946 — following 20 years of sustained struggle — Gandhi visited the temple, to signify approval of this belated departure from Hindu orthodoxy. In 1921, Gandhi visited Ayodhya for the first and last time. He did not care to enter any of the town’s many temples. However, while addressing a public meeting, Ramachandra Guha is the author of Gandhi: The Years That Changed The World The views expressed are personal THE CONSEQUENCES OF AN IRRESPONSIBLE BREXIT DEAL the fact that they cannot get jobs. Surely one reason is that those jobs don’t exist? Data suggests that the worst unemployment is faced by India’s youth. The Centre for Sustainable Employment at Azim Premji University says it stood at 16% in 2018. The leaked NSSO report claims the unemployment rate for young rural males jumped over three times between 201112 and 2017-18, whilst that for young rural females increased nearly three times. These are truly astonishing findings and would suggest a huge measure of youth anger. But is that so? Step back a bit and you’ll discover another truth. The unemployment rate has been steadily rising since 2011-12. At the same time, the labour force participation rate has been steadily falling since 2004-05. So the jobs and employment problem is a concern that stretches back over a long time. It was an issue even under the UPA. It didn’t begin with Narendra Modi, although it seems to have exacerbated. But is that too academic a point in the present highlycharged polemical atmosphere? I would assume so. So what’s my conclusion? I can see this debate becoming increasingly feverish and contested as we near voting day. Perhaps it will only be decided by the results? sundaysentiments KARAN THAPAR NO CLEAR PICTURE ON UNEMPLOYMENT IN INDIA saying that Europe is not going to help May pull Britain out of that mess. He clearly sees the heart of the problem as being the irresponsibility of the Brexit campaign. The Conservative Brexiteers’ demand for a referendum on leaving the European Union was irresponsible from the start because they never planned for the consequences in case of a victory. Their campaign during the referendum was marked by demagogy, slogans like “make Britain great again”, lies like the claim that Turkey would soon be joining the European Union, the false promise of independent trade deals, and dismissing the very real threat to British business and industries leaving the European Union would pose. The demagogy has continued in the uncertainty which has followed the Brexiteer’s victory in the referendum. Now a new irresponsible threat has been added. It is the threat of dire political consequences if the Brexiteers demand for a total break with Europe is not met, or if as they put it, “the voice of the people is ignored.” If the 28% who didn’t vote in the referendum are taken into account, nowhere near half the population voted leave. The reason May’s plan failed was her effort to avoid any possibility of a hard border between Northern Ireland, a part of Britain, and the Republic of Ireland. A soft border which allowed for the free movement of people and goods was an essential feature of the agreement that ended 30 years of terrorist violence by Protestant paramilitary organisations wanting Northern Ireland to remain in Britain and Roman Catholic paramilitaries wanting Ireland to be united. The exit from Europe the Brexiteers want would mean the imposition of a hard border again because Northern Ireland and the Republic would no longer be in the same customs union. With a hard border the revival of Catholic terrorism is more than likely. For my money just the possibility of that justifies Tusk’s criticism of the Brexiteers for their irresponsibility. MARK TULLY I’ m not surprised the jobs and unemployment situation has hit the headlines two months before the elections. After all, if it’s as serious as the opposition and analysts claim, it will have a determining influence on the elections. Unfortunately, it’s also true we don’t have a clear picture. Instead, what we have are two angry and polar-opposite viewpoints. A leaked National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) report says in 2017-18, the unemployment rate was 6.1% and the highest in 45 years. The Centre for Monitoring the Indian Economy, relying on its own surveys, says that by December 2018, the unemployment rate had shot up to 7.4%. If this data is correct, the situation is both worrying and steadily getting worse. This also explains why, when the railways last year advertised 89,400 jobs, over 23 million people applied. So do we have a real and growing hunger for jobs? The government, of course, dismisses this analysis. If the situation is so bad, Arun Jaitley asks, how come we haven’t seen widespread social unrest? Indeed, if there’s a catastrophic collapse of jobs, how come till December 2018, the BJP won an unprecedented 21 states including a sweeping victory in UP? The government also claims that an economy cannot be growing at 7 and 8% — whilst investment is declining and exports are stagnating — without creating jobs unless there’s a miraculous explosion in productivity, which clearly hasn’t happened. So, to buttress the belief that enough jobs have been created, the finance minister Piyush Goyal points towards a 20 million increase in Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) membership and the fact that 1.56 million people have received Mudra loans totalling ~7.23 lakh crore, which have con- O ver the past four weeks I have been in London witnessing the spectacle of the two main political parties tearing themselves apart as members of Parliament (MPS) disagree on Britain’s exit from Europe. I arrived in London on the evening the Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May was humiliated when many of her own MPS voted down her plan for the exit. The next day she recovered her authority when her party rallied behind her to defeat a no-confidence motion, but that was a brief demonstration of unity, which fell apart once the threat of an election was averted. Thereafter May demonstrated that sturdy refusal to budge she has become famous for. She wasn’t going to postpone Britain’s exit. She wasn’t going to agree to a second referendum. She wasn’t going to rule out exiting without an agreement. European leaders were equally stubborn saying there was no room for reopening negotiations on the exit now that the deal was rejected. Then last week, the president of the European Union, Donald Tusk, put his oar into the muddy waters of Brexit. Making the waters even muddier he said: “There should be special places in hell for those who promoted Brexit without even a sketch of a plan how to carry it out safely.” That provoked outrage with Andrea Leadsom, the leader of the Commons, describing the remarks as “pretty unacceptable and pretty disgraceful” and demanding an apology. Outrageous though, the European Union president’s remark may have been undiplomatic, they appear to be his way of saying he regards Britain as being in a mess created by its politicians. At the same time he seems to be n verted job seekers into job creators. The government also argues that the concept of employment has altered. Uber and Ola are two examples of the new types of job. So too are Amazon and Flipkart delivery boys. Unfortunately, significant parts of the government’s argument doesn’t hold water. EPFO membership reflects formalisation of jobs, not the creation of new ones, whilst 90% of Mudra loans are of sums under ~50,000 and, therefore, can at best facilitate self-employment. They can’t create many jobs. And whilst it’s true that we haven’t seen widespread social unrest, the agitation by the Marathas, Jats, Kapus and Patidars for reservations is a reflection of Karan Thapar is the author of Devil’s Advocate: The Untold Story The views expressed are personal INDIA-IRAN RELATIONS MUST MOVE BEYOND SYMBOLISM ONE CAN SAY WITH CERTAINTY THAT THERE IS CONSENSUS WITHIN IRAN FOR STRENGTHENING ENGAGEMENT AND CEMENTING THE PARTNERSHIP WITH NEW DELHI region. In my opinion, if both sides try to boost their economic profiles, the strategic dimension will ensue soon. Chabahar port enjoys special strategic status and it is the gateway to Afghanistan, Central Asia, Caucasus, Russia and Europe. It should not be forgotten that Chabahar is a free economic zone and given India’s growing appetite for energy, it could turn into the largest industrial complex especially on the downstream and upstream oil and gas sector in the region. The International North–south Transport Corridor (INSTC) is another axis of partnership. If cultivated properly, this connectivity project would be a game changer in the region. Despite the fact that connectivity and energy will continue to be the basis of the relations, there are many opportunities in the non-oil sectors, direct investment or joint ventures targeting the big market of the region. We need some drivers and incentives in many areas such as biotechnology, IT, car manufacturing and so on. It is essential to overcome barriers such as bureaucracy and third party. We have already signed several Mous in all the above areas during the visit of Prime Minister Modi to Tehran in 2016 and President Hassan Rouhani to New Delhi in 2018. We must translate these good intentions to actions. nations and peoples are bound by strong ties of friendship, mutual sympathy, trust, and respect for each other’s cultures, traditions and interests. How best can we move beyond a situation described as symbolism in the bilateral relations of both sides? I think the answer lies partly in Iran’s view on global and regional issues. In this context, Iran and India also have common ground based on shared interests, particularly in Afghanistan. The Islamic Republic of Iran strongly believes that preserving the achievements of the Bonn Agreement on Afghanistan, supporting the continuation of the democratic process, strengthening the current political order and structure, and facilitating the peace process within the Afghanled, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled framework can help safeguard stability and security of the region. To reach these goals, Iran and India, with the assistance of the other countries, must cooperate closely to improve the capabilities of the Afghan government, especially Afghan security forces, and to enhance combating terrorism and illicit drugs. In another transition, West Asia is moving to Asianisation of its economy ALI CHEGENI in such a way that today East Asia and India are the largest oil importers from the region. Iran has also placed India in its priority in the line of Look East Policy, the respect for which, the supreme leader of the Islamic revolution has time and again advised to successive Iranian governments. One can say with certainty that there is consensus within Iran’s establishment for strengthening engagement and cementing partnership with New Delhi. From our perspective, the rise of India will be positive in the path of multilateralism. Many political and strategic issues could be listed to underscore the importance of both countries for each other. India, as one of largest economies, can be a part of Iran’s growth story. One of the most important points of strength in bilateral ties is the geographical closeness of the two countries that can generate many opportunities for both sides, specifically in respect of economic and trade relations. Besides, India and Iran enjoy potential connectivity assets in the U nderscoring Iran-india historical and cultural relations has always been the headline of every bilateral meeting between the officials of both countries. In my view, these inherent advantages cannot be taken away, because apart from the foreign policy agenda, these ties have pushed the relationship forward. These civilisational ties are the cornerstone for drawing a multidimensional and longstanding relationship. From Sanskrit ties in the Vedic era and “Hindi Style” in Persian poetry in the late medieval period to partnership engagements in contemporary times, mutual interactions have shaped an Indo-persian culture of which we have every right to be proud. Our modern engagements have brought remarkable results as India and Iran have always shared deep social, cultural, economic and political relations. Our The views expressed are personal sundayletters BOYS NEED GUIDANCE AS MUCH AS GIRLS DO This refers to Lalita Panicker’s “For gender parity, reach out to boys” (Feb 3). It is about time we stop charting out behaviour guides just for girls, since boys need our support through their growing years too. We must also teach boys not to equate strength with manliness, or vulnerability with weakness. This will allow them to seek guidance in times of trouble instead of resorting to violence or self-destruction. Schools must also reach out to their boy students. These efforts will help them build healthy relationships with girls and each other. Ali Chegeni is ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Iran in India The views expressed are personal BINDU PILLAI, NEW DELHI thisweekthat atera The budget was a masterstroke Forming alliances is key in 2019 FEBRUARY 10-16, 1970 >>FROM THE ARCHIVES OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES This refers to Chanakya’s “Class and caste: The twin axis of 2019 polls” (Feb 3). Modi’s interim budget announcements for farmers, Dalits and the middle class have boosted the confidence and prospects of the saffron party, while confusion continues to prevail in the opposition. Including elements of caste and class in the interim budget is a masterstroke aimed at capturing the seat of power in Delhi. This refers to Karan Thapar’s “2019 polls: There are no early favourites” (Feb 3). The article sits well with the common perception that no single party will come to power with a clear majority. However, the BJP has, in a last-ditch attempt, managed to woo the public with its last budget. But if that will pay off remains to be seen. PICTURE OF THE WEEK NE EWS OF THE WEEK STUDENTS GHERAO DELHI V-C 68 KILLED IN ISRAELI RAID WORLD INDIA British Overseas Development Minister Hart and Indiann Minister of State for Finance Sethi exchange documents after signing two agreements for U.K. financial aid to India in New Delhi on February 11 FEBRUARY 12: FEBRUARY 13: FEBRUARY 13: Vice-chancellor KN Raj of Delhi University was confined by a gherao. This was the first such serious incident in its 47year-old history. A group of about 20 students rushed into a special meeting of the Academic Council convened to discuss new admission policy The UAR said two Israeli planes pounded a scrap metal factory on the outskirts of Cairo with rockets time bombs and napalm, killing or wounded 166 workers. Director of Khanka Hospital told newsmen 68 workers were killed and 98 wounded AZHAR A KHAN, RAMPUR RAJAN KALIA, NEW DELHI R. N. I. No. DELENG/2002/07317 Postal Reg. 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