Archive for November, 2010

Hey, what’s happening to India?
Hey, what’s happening to India?
TARUN VIJAY artcle: Nov 24-2010
“Oh God. So now what? What should I tell them? Tell me what should I tell them?”
Ran the line in the Open magazine exposing the wheeling-dealing between the corporate world and the most pious secular sirens of the noble industry — the fourth estate.
What after this?
Nothing. The media empire, the grand old houses of money and power protect each other. They have the platform to reach millions, but not a single one has tried to discuss it threadbare with the same savage ferocity they show in ripping apart their ideological opponents after having tasted a good French wine in a vineyard. They often use papers and channels for their political vendettas and abuse every other person they dislike without showing any civility. Then their outfits shut their doors for the other voices. No, the censorship is not by the state. It’s by the media houses. They invite guests to their shows and use them to have their own “super Oprah” image projected at the cost of the other voices and other viewpoints. Look what they have done, which made Washington Post write this: “India’s fiercely competitive and hungry free press has become the rising nation’s watchdog, unearthing a long list of banking scandals, real-estate scams and most recently, extensive government corruption during the international Commonwealth Games. But in recent days, Indian journalists have been accused of wrongdoing, including having inappropriate conversations with a corporate lobbyist and acting more like power brokers in recordings released as part of an investigation into an audacious multibillion swindle — considered the biggest scandal to hit the new India.”
India is going through moral turmoil. The man who helped go scot-free India’s first Supreme Court judge slated to be impeached for corruption was rewarded to become minister for human resources directing the education system. The man who would supervise all corruption cases for ensuring punishment for the guilty is the one who himself is facing charges and when the Supreme court asked the reason for this, the attorney general had the cheek to rebuff the lords of justice in these words: “If impeccable integrity becomes an eligibility criterion, then all judicial and constitutional appointments will be open to question.”
That’s what is happening to the land of all virtues and 9% growth rate. The nation which boasts of a great functional democracy, looks dwarfed before countries like Pakistan and Bangladesh. With a quivered lip and a smile that can’t be hidden, they can say, oh my God, this is you? Your journalists, your ministers and your judges … phew!!
The fear of “revenge killings” is so deep that the politicians, otherwise so vocal in demanding a probe into many other scandals, are keeping their mouths shut, least a bruised journalist take on them at “an appropriate time”.
Just see the grandeur of our scandals:
• Rs 1.71 lakh crore in 2G spectrum scam.
• A high court judge is charged with serious graft in West Bengal.
• Two most vocal sirens of “all that’s good for secularism and vocal missionaries of anti-Hindutva brigade” are caught on tape discussing, perhaps, “spiritual aspects of politics and the ashram-life plans” of Rajaji and Radiaji, who might be a Bhakti movement poetess. Who knows, after a few weeks, these channels will prove that too.
• The Commonwealth loot is estimated to be anything between Rs 60,000 crore and Rs 80,000 crore.
• The Adarsh housing scam crossed all limits by insulting the memories of our Kargil martyrs.
• Karnataka is scandalized, more because of the moneybag politics. But that too, doesn’t add to the glory of any of us.
We have an official voice of law and justice and all that is attached to it. He is called attorney general of India. He is respectfully known as a protégé or confidant of the ruling empire —naturally Soniaji and Manmohanji. If he was not so, he won’t have acquired the position that he is holding today. His words of wisdom to the Supreme Court have lowered India in everybody’s eyes.
As columnist Vrinda Gopinath said: “Let’s not hoodwink ourselves to believe that this morally pornographic journalism is objective, fair and exact. All of it stinks, in varying degrees of severity and phoniness.”
This is an India where every single party, with the exception of the BJP and the communists, is virtually a family fiefdom. They are known by the names of their “masters”, and not with their ideological distinctness.
An India where the assaulters abusing Mother India and the honour of soldiers remain untouched and unpunished but a comment on the head of a political party, much discarded and disowned, results in arson and stoning.
An India where the forced exile of half a million Indians remains a non-issue but millions of foreign infiltrators are helped to get registered as voters for the political convenience of a vote bank.
An India whose citizens, politicians and industrialists and administrators, stash a whopping Rs 70 lakh crore rupees in Swiss banks and the government, in spite of an assurance by the Swiss government, feels reluctant to ratify a treaty signed with the Swiss which would enable us to get the list of black-money stashers and maybe get the money back.
A nation where the terrorists facing charges of killing innocent patriotic Indians are offered lucrative comforts of money and jobs if they simply say “I surrender”, thus humiliating and insulting the families of the martyred soldiers and citizens who often get less than what the killers of their sons and daughters would get.
A nation where looters become members of the ruling class and whistleblowers turn to be schemers asking the corporate agent “Tell me what should I tell them?”
Let the people tell these “elite” that they would be assigned to the dustbin.

Hindu Group Stirs a Debate Over Yoga’s Soul

November 27, 2010
Hindu Group Stirs a Debate Over Yoga’s Soul

Yoga is practiced by about 15 million people in the United States, for reasons almost as numerous — from the physical benefits mapped in brain scans to the less tangible rewards that New Age journals call spiritual centering. Religion, for the most part, has nothing to do with it.

But a group of Indian-Americans has ignited a surprisingly fierce debate in the gentle world of yoga by mounting a campaign to acquaint Westerners with the faith that it says underlies every single yoga style followed in gyms, ashrams and spas: Hinduism.

The campaign, labeled “Take Back Yoga,” does not ask yoga devotees to become Hindu, or instructors to teach more about Hinduism. The small but increasingly influential group behind it, the Hindu American Foundation, suggests only that people become more aware of yoga’s debt to the faith’s ancient traditions.

That suggestion, modest though it may seem, has drawn a flurry of strong reactions from figures far apart on the religious spectrum. Dr. Deepak Chopra, the New Age writer, has dismissed the campaign as a jumble of faulty history and Hindu nationalism. R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, has said he agrees that yoga is Hindu — and cited that as evidence that the practice imperiled the souls of Christians who engage in it.

The question at the core of the debate — who owns yoga? — has become an enduring topic of chatter in yoga Web forums, Hindu American newspapers and journals catering to the many consumers of what is now a multibillion-dollar yoga industry.

In June, it even prompted the Indian government to begin making digital copies of ancient drawings showing the provenance of more than 4,000 yoga poses, to discourage further claims by entrepreneurs like Bikram Choudhury, an Indian-born yoga instructor to the stars who is based in Los Angeles. Mr. Choudhury nettled Indian officials in 2007 when he copyrighted his personal style of 26 yoga poses as “Bikram Yoga.”

Organizers of the Take Back Yoga effort point out that the philosophy of yoga was first described in Hinduism’s seminal texts and remains at the core of Hindu teaching. Yet, because the religion has been stereotyped in the West as a polytheistic faith of “castes, cows and curry,” they say, most Americans prefer to see yoga as the legacy of a more timeless, spiritual “Indian wisdom.”

“In a way,” said Dr. Aseem Shukla, the foundation’s co-founder, “our issue is that yoga has thrived, but Hinduism has lost control of the brand.”

For many practitioners, including Debbie Desmond, 27, a yoga instructor in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, the talk of branding and ownership is bewildering.

“Nobody owns yoga,” she said, sitting cross-legged in her studio, Namaste Yoga, and tilting her head as if the notion sketched an impossible yoga position she had never seen. “Yoga is not a religion. It is a way of life, a method of becoming. We were taught that the roots of yoga go back further than Hinduism itself.”

Like Dr. Chopra and some religious historians, Ms. Desmond believes that yoga originated in the Vedic culture of Indo-Europeans who settled in India in the third millennium B.C., long before the tradition now called Hinduism emerged. Other historians trace the first written description of yoga to the Bhagavad Gita, the sacred Hindu scripture believed to have been written between the fifth and second centuries B.C.

The effort to “take back” yoga began quietly enough, with a scholarly essay posted in January on the Web site of the Hindu American Foundation, a Minneapolis-based group that promotes human rights for Hindu minorities worldwide. The essay lamented a perceived snub in modern yoga culture, saying that yoga magazines and studios had assiduously decoupled the practice “from the Hinduism that gave forth this immense contribution to humanity.”

Dr. Shukla put a sharper point on his case a few months later in a column on the On Faith blog of The Washington Post. Hinduism, he wrote, had become a victim of “overt intellectual property theft,” made possible by generations of Hindu yoga teachers who had “offered up a religion’s spiritual wealth at the altar of crass commercialism.”

That drew the attention of Dr. Chopra, an Indian-American who has done much to popularize Indian traditions like alternative medicine and yoga. He posted a reply saying that Hinduism was too “tribal” and “self-enclosed” to claim ownership of yoga.

The fight went viral — or as viral as things can get in a narrow Web corridor frequented by yoga enthusiasts, Hindu Americans and religion scholars.

Loriliai Biernacki, a professor of Indian religions at the University of Colorado, said the debate had raised important issues about a spectrum of Hindu concepts permeating American culture, including meditation, belief in karma and reincarnation, and even cremation.

“All these ideas are Hindu in origin, and they are spreading,” she said. “But they are doing it in a way that leaves behind the proper name, the box that classifies them as ‘Hinduism.’ ”

The debate has also secured the standing of the Hindu American Foundation as the pre-eminent voice for the country’s two million Hindus, said Diana L. Eck, a professor of comparative religion and Indian studies at Harvard. Other groups represent Indian-Americans’ interests in business and politics, but the foundation has emerged as “the first major national advocacy group looking at Hindu identity,” she said.

Dr. Shukla said reaction to the yoga campaign had far exceeded his expectations.

“We started this, really, for our kids,” said Dr. Shukla, a urologist and a second-generation Indian-American. “When our kids go to school and say they are Hindu, nobody says, ‘Oh, yeah, Hindus gave the world yoga.’ They say, ‘What caste are you?’ Or ‘Do you pray to a monkey god?’ Because that’s all Americans know about Hinduism.”

With its tiny budget, the foundation has pressed its campaign largely by generating buzz through letters and Web postings to academic journals and yoga magazines. The September issue of Yoga Journal, which has the largest circulation in the field, alluded to the campaign, if fleetingly, in an article calling yoga’s “true history a mystery.”

The effort has been received most favorably by Indian-American community leaders like Dr. Uma V. Mysorekar, the president of the Hindu Temple Society of North America, in Flushing, Queens, which helps groups across the country build temples.

A naturalized immigrant, she said Take Back Yoga represented a coming-of-age for Indians in the United States. “My generation was too busy establishing itself in business and the professions,” she said. “Now, the second and third generation is looking around and finding its voice, saying, ‘Our civilization has made contributions to the world, and these should be acknowledged.’ ”

In the basement of the society’s Ganesha Temple, an hourlong yoga class ended one recent Sunday morning with a long exhalation of the sacred syllable “om.” Via the lung power of 60 students, it sounded as deeply as a blast from the organ at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

After the session, which began and concluded with Hindu prayers, many students said they were practicing Hindus and in complete sympathy with the yoga campaign.

Not all were, though. Shweta Parmar, 35, a community organizer and project director for a health and meditation group, said she had grown up in a Hindu household. “Yoga is part of the tradition I come from,” she said.

But is yoga specifically Hindu? She paused to ponder. “My parents are Hindu,” she said. But in matters of yoga, “I don’t use that term.”

Arunachal youth boycott Chinese good

Arunachal youth boycott Chinese goods
By Maj Gen G D Bakshi, SM,VSM (retd)
Hindi in Arunachal
Who says that India ends in the North East? Frankly, it begins here.
Did you know that a group of students in Arunachal Pradesh have taken a chapter out of India’s freedom struggle and begun a movement to boycott Chinese goods?
I made this discovery, and many others, when I was invited to Itanagar in October to meet 645 college students from 28 colleges and technical institutions of Arunachal Pradesh.
The Youth Camp, inaugurated by Education Minister Bosiram Siram, turned out to be a most memorable and unforgettable experience.
I went to teach, but was left speechless and deeply moved by the burning patriotic fervour and tremendous enthusiasm of these tribal youth from the Adi, Apatani, Monpa, Mishmi, Nyishi, Tagin and so many other tribes across this border state.
All of them were fluent in a pure and Sanskritised form of Hindi. They were well informed and deeply aware of national, regional and global issues.
They have an innate flair for community singing and their melodious chanting of Sanskrit hymns from the Vedas and Upanishads left one spellbound. In fact, it moved one to tears to see their love for their country and culture.
Say No to China
What one group of students from Tawang said at a workshop took our breath away. The young people of Tawang had decided to boycott all Chinese goods.
Some Marwari traders were resisting this boycott for the purposes of economic gains/profits. The traders claimed they brought these cheap goods from legitimate channels and hence, should be allowed to sell them.
The students felt this was a betrayal. China had evil designs on their beautiful state and this was their forthright response.
They were not enamoured of China or its totalitarian state model. Some of them were quite keenly aware of how Tibetan Buddhism had virtually been destroyed, how the Dalai Lama and thousands of Tibetans had to flee their homeland forever, simply to preserve their culture and their way of life.
The sad saga of Tibetan resistance to Hanisation was fresh in their memories. The Hans in Tibet now outnumber the local people. A century down the line, Tibet would cease to exist as a unique cultural and linguistic entity.
The response of the young people of Tawang was a page straight out of the history of the Freedom Struggle. In a poignant statement (so very reminiscent of Gandhiji’s approach in our freedom Struggle), they had decided to boycott Chinese goods.
The message was loud and clear – they saw the Chinese as prospective colonisers of their sacred land; as aliens and invaders who would destroy their culture and efface their unique identity.
Too short for the Army?
What else moved these young people? ”Why is height such a disqualification for joining the Army?”One young man after another asked me this agonizing question.
Their tremendous zeal and enthusiasm for joining the Army was as apparent as their keen disappointment over being rejected on the basis of not being tall enough.
One student patiently tried to explain that people of Arunachal Pradesh were given 1.5 cm worth of concession in height stipulation. As a Military Commander, I would have given my right arm to have such motivated and enthusiastic young men in our fighting units.
If there was one thing that they were so keenly looking forward to, it was the raising of two battalions of the Arunachal Pradesh Scouts. Seeing the burning zeal and commitment of these young Apatani, Monpa, Tagin and Mishmi boys, I felt the Indian Army would do itself the greatest favour by expediting the raising of these Arunachal Scout battalions. I am told these battalions are in the pipeline and will fructify soon.
I am certain, that as and when that happens, the Arunachal Pradesh Scouts will give as good an account of themselves in battle, as the brave Nunoos of the Ladakh Scouts.
In Siachen and Kargil, the Ladakh Scouts have become a byword for bravery, grit and sheer tenacity. Having seen these young boys from Tawang, I cannot help feeling they will be as good, if not better than our Ladakh Scout units. The Army Headquarters must expedite the raising of these Arunachal Scout battalions, for in the heightened threat profile, they have a very significant role to play.
An Eastern renaissance
As the helicopter took off from Itanagar, the haunting strains of 645 boys and girls, chanting Sanskrit hymns from the Vedas and the Upanishads, lingered in my ears. It had been a beautiful and unforgettable experience.
I could not help thinking that what we were seeing was the beginning of a remarkable Indian revival; a great civilizational renewal and it was starting from the Eastern-most corner of India.
With such dedicated boys and girls, the sun of an Indian renaissance will truly rise from Arunachal Pradesh and spread to the rest of our land. God Bless these children and their beautiful chants of faith and confidence in being the proud inheritors of an ancient Indian tradition of excellence. It restores my faith in the manifest destiny of the Indian people.
The decision of the youth of Tawang to boycott Chinese goods is a clarion call that should raise the rest of the country out of its slumber.
Maj Gen Bakshi is Deputy Director (Research) of the Vivekananda International Foundation.

An empress of India in new clothes

An empress of India in new clothes
John MacLithon

Like Sonia Gandhi, I am a Westerner and a brought-up Christian. Like Sonia Gandhi, I have lived in India many years and I have adopted this country as my own.

But the comparison ends there. I did land in India with a certain amount of prejudices, clichés and false ideas, and I did think in the enthusiasm of my youth to become a missionary to bring back Indian ‘pagans’ to the ‘true god’. But the moment I stepped in India I felt that there was nothing much that I could give to India, rather it was India which was bestowing me. In fact in all my years here India has given me so much — professionally, spiritually, sentimentally. Most Westerners, who come here, still think they are here to ‘give’ something to a country, which, unconsciously of course, they think is lesser than theirs. It was true of the British, it was true of Mother Teresa, it is true of Sonia Gandhi.

t is a fact that Sonia brought discipline, order and cohesion into the Indian National Congress. But the amount of power that she, a person of foreign origin, an elected MP like hundreds of others, possesses should frighten her. All the television channels report without a blink that Maharashtra CM rushes to Delhi to meet Sonia Gandhi to plead for his life. But should not Chavan have gone to the prime minister first?
The CBI blatantly and shamelessly quashed all injunctions against Ottavio Quattrocchi and even allowed him to get away with billions of rupees which he had stolen from India. Yet, without batting an eyelid, and with the Indian media turning a blind eye, it goes ruthlessly after the chief minister of the most efficiently run state, the most corruption free. Today the Congress, with Sonia’s overt or silent consent, pays crores of rupees to buy MPs to topple non-Congress governments. Her governors shamelessly hijack democracy by twisting the law

Are Indians aware that their country has entered a state of semi-autocracy where every important decision comes from a single individual residing in her fortress of 10 Janpath surrounded by dozens of security men, an empress of India? Do they know that the huge amounts of the scams, whether the 2G, the CWG, or the Adarsh housing society scam, do not go into politicians’ pockets (only a fraction), but to the coffers of the Congress for the next general elections, and more than anything to please Sonia Gandhi? Nobody seems to notice what is happening under the reign of Sonia Gandhi.
That an Arundhati Roy is allowed to preach secession in India, whereas on the other hand the Congress government has been going after the army, the last body in India to uphold the time-honoured values of the Kshatriyas — courage, honour, devotion to the Motherland. They alone today practise true secularism, never differentiating between a Muslim or Hindu soldier and who for a pittance daily give their lives to their country. First it was the attempt of a caste census, a divide-and-rule ploy if there is one; then there are the first signs that the government is thinking about thinning down the presence of the Indian army in the Kashmir valley, which will suit Pakistan perfectly. And now there is the Adarsh housing society scam in which the army officers, at the worst, were innocently dragged into it. We know now that it was the politicians of the Congress who benefited the most out of it.
It would be impossible in France, for example, to have a non-Christian tell a Hindu (who is a non-elected president or PM) to be the absolute ruler of the country behind the scenes, superseding even the PM. There are many capable people in the Congress. Why can’t a billion Indians find one of their own, who will understand the complexity and subtlety of India, to govern themselves? Not only that, but her very presence at the top has unleashed forces, visible and invisible that are detrimental to the country. There is nothing wrong in espousing the best of the values of the West — democracy, technological perfection, higher standards of living — but many of the institutions are crumbling in the West: two out of three marriages end in divorce, kids shoot each other, parents are not cared for in their old age, depression is rampant and Westerners are actually looking for answers elsewhere, in India notably.
One does not understand this craze to Westernise India at all costs, while discarding its ancient values. Sonia Gandhi should do well to remember that there still are 850 million Hindus in India, a billion worldwide and that whatever good inputs were brought by different invasions, it is the ancient values of spirituality behind Hinduism which have made India so special and which gives it today unique qualities making an Indian Christian different from an American Christian, or an Indian Muslim different from a Saudi Muslim. It is an insult to these tolerant Hindus to show United States President Barack Obama as his first input of the Indian capital the tomb of Humayun, a man who slaughtered Hindus in thousands, taking Hindu women and children as captives. He even subjected his elder brother Kamran to brutal torture, gauging his eyes out and pouring lemon into them.
The tragedy of India is that it was colonised for too long. And unlike China, it always looks to the West for a solution to its problems. Sonia Gandhi, whatever her qualities, is just an incarnation of that hangover, an empress of India in new clothes.
(The writer is the author of Hindutva, sex & adventures)

Will sick pseudo- secularists stop running down religion? – M.V. Kamath

Will sick pseudo- secularists stop running down religion? – M.V. Kamath

If India has not often got what it deserved by way of recognition, it is because of our sick pseudo- secularists who revel in running down their own religion, not to speak of their own country. The more they run down their country and their ancient culture, the more they feel self- fulfilled.
What sort of people are Hindus? What sort of people have they been down the centuries as barbarians from Central Asia and elsewhere mounted assault after assault on their coveted land? Servile, according to some foreign observers.
In his book The Crimson Throne, Sudhir Kakar refers to a diary maintained by an Italian traveller who came to India in the 17th Century to Goa to find most of the Hindus “ utterly cowed down” by the Portuguese who looked down on them “ with disdain” and denied them the right even to wear shoes! The Italian Niccoleo Menucci, like another traveller, a Frenchman, Francois Bernier, journeyed to Delhi where they lived under the Mughal Court and watched how Hindus were treated. Abominably, it turned out. Bernier has given instance after instance of how Hindus were insulted by the Muslims under Mughal rule, and at one point he writes: “ There are five or six idolaters for every Mohammadan.
It is astonishing to see how this enormous multitude has allowed itself to be subjected by so small a number of Mohammadan princes”. According to Bernier, “ the mohammadans rightly despise the idolaters as a naive and primitive people”. There is more such stuff in the book. Then read Meenakshi Jain’s Parallel Pathways: Essays on Hindu- Muslim Relations ( 1707- 1857). In the course of his third attack in 1757 Ahmed Shah Abdali destroyed the holy city of Mathura.
The Jesuit Tieffenthaler described the event. “ They burnt the houses together with the inmates, slaughtering others with the sword and the lance, hauling off into captivity maiden and youths. In the temples they slaughtered cows and smeared the images and pavements with blood”. How many Hindu kings, one may ask, have invaded Afghanistan or Central Asia to destroy mosques and rape Muslims women? Forget the role of Aurangzeb.
A more despicable character has never ruled India. In South India, one had to reckon with Tipu Sultan and what he did to Hindus has to be read to be believed.
Just to celebrate the marriage of his son, according to a British historian James Bristow, in “ a piece of contemptible, fanatical and tyrannical despotism, he compelled 1,00,000 of his defenseless Hindu subjects to embrace Mahamotism on the same day”. Even Christians were not spared of his intolerance which led to the extermination of a total of 40,000 souls. Scores and scores of temples were destroyed or desecrated during Islamic rule in India.
Why should these events be recalled? Why can’t we let bygones be bygones? The answer is simple: One gets disgusted with the way our pseudosecularists has been running down Hindus and giving them a sense of guilt. A time has come to call there wretches to order.
Hindus and pardon the generalization – have invariably been at the other end of the stick. Our history books are bland. Our textbook writers conveniently omit Islamic misdeeds lest they are dammed as communalists. Our psedo- secularists won’t even accept the ` fact’ that the Babri Masjid was built on the very site where a huge structure dedicated to Sri Ram existed and which has destroyed.
Hindus may have a million faults, but no Hindu ruler has gone to Portugal or Spain, destroyed Churches and converted Christians into Hinduism on pain of death. We have a pretty clean record. Our pseudo- secularists want deliberately destroy the selfrespect of Hindus by constantly condemning them as communalists, when they would rather forget all the suffering they have undergone in the past under alien rulers. Believe it, they would rather forget the humiliation that they have suffered in the past and move on, but our pseudo secularists are making it difficult for them. Just for asking that one place the Ram Janmabhoomi be cleared of an illegally constructed Masjid, Hindus are damned to eternity.
Faith is questioned. Let them question the faith of Muslims and Christians and they will know what they will get back in return.
India, it is said, is on its way to be a Great Power. There is no such thing as India is ‘ on its way’. India, even under centuries of tyrannous rule has always been great because India is more than a state: It is a civilization, which has helped it to maintain its place under the most trying circumstances.
If India has not often got what it deserved by way of recognition, it is because of our sick pseudo- secularists who revel in running down their own religion, not to speak of their own country.
The more they run down their country and their ancient culture, the more they feel self- fulfilled. We can achieve wonders and in many ways we have.
True, so much needs to be done, but Rome, its is said, was not built in a day. But our Army engineers set right a broken bridge in Delhi associated with the Commonwealth Games in just four days.
es, there is poverty in the land and don’t our home- grown enemies make so much of it? but at the national level we are a thriving nation. es, in tribal areas, much injustice has been done but there is a growing awareness of it among the people at large and a desire to make amends. That is the first step towards achieving our goal of equality among all Indians.
We don’t have to aspire for greatness. Let us aspire for goodness and leave greatness to China which is proving itself to be a worse imperialist country than Britain was in its heyday. China is today’s imperial power and Pakistan is the running dog of Chinese imperialism.
We Indians aspire for nobody’s land and only want to be left alone.
es, there is corruption in the land but we admit to it and seek to rectify it. India lives under many layers of civilization and culture and that is as much its strength as it is its weakness.
But which country in the world can put up a show such as we did at the inauguration of Commonwealth Games? We don’t have to be apologetic to anyone for anything.
We will overcome our shortcomings as we have done so often in the past to become, not necessarily a Great Nation, but a Good people with an open heart, ready to forget a painful past, ready to work with all people irrespective of their religion, to build an India of our dreams.
That is Hindutwavad, if our pseudo- secularists want to know.
It is said, but if there are just tow idiots in Bollywood films there are two thousand of that variety in our pseudo- secular society. We can build an even greater India if only our pseudo- secularists do not constantly pull us down by our legs.
They need to be called to order and the sooner, the better.

’93 Surat blasts:Ex-Congress Muslim minister gets 20 years jail

’93 Surat blasts:Ex-Congress Muslim minister gets 20 years jail
Surat, DeshGujarat, 4 October, 2008
Former Congress Fisheries Minister of Gujarat Mohammad Surti and ten others were found guilty in 1993 Surat twin blast case by TADA court on Saturday. While Mohammad Surti along with four other convicts including former Congress corporator Iqbal Vadiwala received 20 year prison sentence, another six received 10 year prison sentence. In Varachha blast case 12 were sentenced while one rickshaw-driver Asif sheikh was given benefit of doubt and was acquitted. In Railway station blast case 7 were sentenced while 4 were acquitted. Total 21 persons were found guilty out of which five are absconding.
The special Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA) designated court judge R.B.Dholaria in his judgment ordered convicts to pay Rs 2 lakh to relatives of girl child who was killed in the blast while Rs 25,000 to all 11 people who were injured.
Twin grenade blasts were executed on Varachha road’s Mini Diamond market in January 1993 and Surat railway station in April 1993 by group of Muslims. The group had lobbed a Russian grenade at Gujarat Express stationed at Surat railway station platform no.1, injuring 38. Blast on Surat’s Varachha in January 1993 killed one girl child was and ijured several others.
According to police, a part of the arms cache smuggled into Mumbai for 1993 Mumbai blasts was diverted to Surat. Mohammad Surti had procured hand grenades from the late Ahmedabad don Abdul Latif for the bombings, the court said.
Four men accused in the station blast but still at large are listed on the Interpol red corner list as they are absconding. One of them is Farooque Surti(son of Mohammad Surti), who reportedly went to the extent of test firing AK-47 rifles and even exploded a grenade on the outskirts of Surat, before lobbing one at the passengers in the train. The others are Salim Lala, Hanif Tiger and Gajnabi alias Gajno.
They were involved in the conspiracy, transaction of cash and shipment of arms and ammunition into the city. While Farooque Surti is reportedly based in Pakistan, Gajnabi operates from Dubai, Hanif Tiger, last heard, and escaped to United Kingdom.
The Surat twin blasts case was traced after the city police arrested an accused Mushtaq Ibrahim Patel from Varachha in early March 1995. A drunken Patel claimed in public that he had caused the station blasts and helped Salim Chawal lob the grenade. A special action group (SAG) was formed to investigate the case. A chain of arrests followed since then, which led the police to unfold the mystery behind the blasts.

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Sex, lies and money in the church

Sex, lies and money in the church

Shevlin Sebastian
October 24, 2010
Indian Express

It was midnight. Fr Jose George could not sleep because there was no fan in his room. Jose knocked on Anna Jacob’s door. When she opened it, he told her he could not sleep. She invited him inside, because there was a fan.

Jose had met Anna while conducting a retreat at Kottayam. “Why don’t you come home, have dinner, and stay the night?” Anna said. She lived with her mother-in-law, while her husband worked in Dubai. Jose accepted the offer.

When Jose entered the bedroom, Anna’s mother-in-law noticed. “She prayed till morning,” says Fr K P Shibu Kalamparambil. “She cannot speak about this incident to her son, because that will destroy the marriage. Then society will ask questions about why it happened. That would affect the family’s social standing.” So she kept quiet. But the secret came out when she told Shibu at the confessional. (Every Sunday, Catholics can confess their sins to the priest before Mass. They communicate through a grid or lattice).

The advantage priests have is that when they go to the house of a woman, society does not look askance, according to Shibu. “He has the social sanction. And priests take advantage of that.”

Shibu was a priest with the Vincentian order till March this year. Like Sr Jesme, he quit the priesthood and has written a 160-page book, Here is the Heart of a Priest, in which he talks about his experiences during his 24 years in the congregation. The most stunning revelations are the incidents of sexual misconduct.

“If a woman has financial problems and is desperate, she will approach the priest,” says Shibu. “He will help her, but ask for sex in exchange. She gives in because she has no option.” Similarly, priests take advantage of widows, troubled women, and nuns.

“Most nuns are sexually frustrated,” says Shibu. “To lead a celibate life is unnatural.” Initially, they try to leave. But the older nuns persuade them that it’s not necessary, because things will get better in the future. “Since the elder nuns are trapped, they want to ensure that others also remain like them,” says Shibu. “Nobody is allowed to escape.”

So the young nuns look for safe ways to have sex. “It is either through priests, servants, drivers, or the milkman,” says Shibu. “There are cases of nuns caught red-handed, but the matter is quickly hushed up. And the nun is transferred immediately.”

In the priestly life, sexual misconduct starts early. “Sexual abuse is rampant in the seminaries,” says Shibu. Since it is a dormitory system, it is easy for a boy to manipulate or exploit another boy for sex. “They have no other forms of entertainment, like watching films,” he says. “Neither do they have any contact with the opposite sex.”

Shibu, who was a prefect in a seminary, has caught students in the act many times. “They are immediately sent away,” he says. “Sometimes, a few boys escape being caught and carry on their activities long after they have become priests.”

Apart from sex, money is a big attraction. “Nobody knows how much donation a priest receives in the name of helping the poor,” says Shibu. “The priest also gets cash gifts from parishioners after he blesses a new car or a home. The money can range from Rs 500 to Rs 1 lakh.”

He remembers the case of a businessman who gave Rs 1 lakh to a priest because he had conducted the baptism ceremony of his son. “The priest kept the money instead of giving it to the congregation,” says Shibu. Usually, they buy electronic goods, a car, insurance policies, or invest in shares and real estate.

“Priests are so busy making money, that being a priest has become a secondary role,” he says. “But I heard allegations that the same thing is happening among pujaris and maulvis. I feel disheartened.”

But there were other reasons why Fr Shibu decided to quit. He had an MA in Sociology from the University of Pune, MEd from the Mahatma Gandhi University, Kottayam, but was not given jobs commensurate with his qualifications. “The authorities wanted loyalists. They will not promote the meritorious, because they are afraid their positions could get shaky.”

So he had to face the humiliation of seeing juniors appointed principals, while he was given a job as a teacher.

The priests in his congregation are aware of what is happening, but are afraid to speak out. “I thought to myself, ‘Why should I remain silent’?” he says.

“I joined the priesthood because I wanted to serve God and serve humanity. But I was unable to do so. If I wanted I could have made a lot of money and led a very comfortable life. But I know that these compromises will prick at my conscience. So I thought it was better to quit.”

Shibu also admits that there are blessings in the priestly life. “The vocation gives peace of mind, provided one is working in a spiritual environment,” he says. “Then a person is inspired to work for the betterment of society. Priests in many congregations lead dedicated lives, but there is a certain section, very large in number, which is spoiling the name of the priesthood.”

Asked whether celibacy should be abolished, he nods. “In order to serve God, there is no need to remain unmarried,” he says. “The disciples of Jesus Christ, except John, were married. The first Pope was married and had three children. My suggestion is that the Pope and priests should marry. Celibacy forces priests to succumb to temptations.”

He said Christian sects like the Mar Thomites and Jacobites allow priests to marry. “They are respected by society,” he says. “So why can’t the Catholic church do the same thing?”

But this insistence on celibacy by the Catholic church could be based on economic considerations. “If there is a married priest, the church would need to give higher salaries and better accommodation,” says Shibu. “The senior clergy will not have the money for the lush lifestyles they have now.”

Not surprisingly, there are those that do not agree with Shibu. Fr Paul Puthuva, one of the Provincial Superiors of the Vincentian Congregation, says, “The book is full of baseless allegations. Any person who leaves the congregation can level all sorts of unfounded charges. So we prefer not to respond to what Shibu has said or written.”

In person, Shibu comes across as straight-forward and intense, but under mental strain. A person close to him, but who does not wish to be identified, says he is under a lot of pressure from the Vincentians and also his own family, who are devout Catholics. They are displeased with him for writing the book and talking to the media. So, Shibu left.

He now works as a teacher of social science in an Indian school at Doha, Qatar. Shibu himself admits that the road ahead is tough. “But I have courage, determination, and the will to succeed,” he says.

His future plans include marriage and setting up a short-stay home for priests who want to leave the priesthood. “Initially, when they leave, they are not accepted by family or society,” says Shibu. “They go through a tough time. I will provide a room, with an attached bath, as well as a kitchen. A job will also be arranged.”

Asked whether Sr Jesme served as an inspiration, Shibu says, “Yes, her example was an impetus. What Jesme said is the truth, but it has not been accepted by the church. But there is one thing I can say with certainty: truth cannot be concealed forever. One day it will come out.”

(Some names have been changed to protect identities)

Here Come the Pious – V K Shashikumar

ENGINEERING STUDENT Rayana Khasi returned home to north Kerala from Chennai four months ago, charmed and unaware that she was carrying deadly arsenal in her baggage. She had just finished with a course in aeronautical engineering, and was considering a career in the civil services. From Chennai she brought a few of her favourite things. Dreams. Knickknacks. Jeans. In Kasargod, northern Kerala, where she lived, Rayana got the shock of her life. They hated her jeans. They called her at odd times, men she didn’t know, and told her what they would do with her if she didn’t dump the jeans and put on purdah. Each time Rayana stepped out, they stared and said horrible things.

Then, four months later, she wrote to the Women’s Commission asking that she be allowed to wear what she likes. The state posted constables to protect Rayana so she could sport denim. Now, they stalked her. One day Rayana was returning after meeting her lawyer in Ernakulam, a town near the middle of Kerala. The constable got off midway. A group tried to block the car Rayana was in. She drove off. They chased the car and attacked her with stones. She had to drive to a town nearby, where the locals lent a touch of security. All this, because they didn’t like what she wore. Because they thought she was impious.

Hindus and Christians are beginning to feel uncomfortable with this brand of assertive, militant religion-centred politics of the Popular Front of India
THEY SAID they were from the Popular Front of India. Initially it was teasing and harassment. But harassment is worse than a threat to life. The comments and staring each time I ventured out, as if I was a criminal, was intolerable. They wrote to me saying they want me to wear purdah. They said what I did was blasphemy. But I don’t think it is a problem of Islam. This is an issue of the right over one’s body. It is sad that everybody is making it out as a religious problem, even those who support me,” says Rayana. Soon after the stone attack, she met Chief Minister VS Achuthanandan and the DGP. “They promised me they would do their best.”

The Popular Front of India (PFI), with its headquarters in Kozhikode, Kerala, is throwing up a curious test for India’s secularism. In classified central government reports, the PFI is accused of introducing an extremist pan-Islamist movement to India. In submissions to the High Court, the Kerala police claim it is linked to the Al Qaeda. Achuthanandan suggested the PFI has a 20-year plan to Islamicise Kerala. And then, Keralites were jolted out of their secular somnambulism on the first Sunday of July when a bunch of PFI cadres chopped the right palm of a college teacher, TJ Joseph, for setting a question paper that allegedly insulted Prophet Mohammad.

Faux power SDPI’s Abubacker inspects the guard of honour at a ‘freedom parade’
Hindus and Christians are beginning to feel uncomfortable with this brand of assertive, militant religion-centred politics. “They are the Indian Taliban, but they cannot overcome the syncretic culture of Kerala,” says Raveendran, a building contractor in Thrissur. According to him, the PFI is a temporary fad funded by petrodollars from Saudi Arabia. Mathew Nethumpara, a lawyer in Ernakulam, says he is not surprised because “intolerance has been brewing for several years”. Rayana’s struggle is a graphic illustration of the holes in Kerala’s secular net. This young student from Cherkalam in Kasargod has already received two death threats from the PFI for refusing to wear the veil. “I will not succumb to their pressure,” she says.

The PFI is a four-year-old organisation that has thrived on the controversy it generates. It was formed in December 2006, when three organisations, the National Development Front (NDF) of Kerala, the Manitha Neethi Pasarai (MNP) of Tamil Nadu, and the Karnataka Forum for Dignity (KFD) merged to form the new entity. The NDFwas involved in the Marad Beach carnage, Kerala, in May 2003. Its cadres killed eight Hindu fishermen after a scuffle over drinking water at a public tap spiraled into a communal conflict. In 2009, a special court sentenced 65 NDF cadres to life imprisonment for this. The MNP is believed to be the new avatar of Al Umma, accused of attacking an office of the rightwing Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in Chennai in November 1993. Eleven RSS cadres were killed here. The PFI considers the members of Hamas, Taliban, and Al Qaeda as freedom fighters. In one of its publications, it says: “We declare solidarity to the freedom fighters in Palestine, Afghanistan and Iraq.”

The PFI is expanding because there is a feeling among Muslims, Dalits and Adivasis that they have been cheated, says chief Nasrudheen Elamaram
Confidential missives of the Union Ministry of Home Affairs and the Kerala Police accessed by TEHELKA suggest the PFI is the fastest-growing cadre-based Muslim organisation in India. It held its first political conference in 2009 in Kozhikode, where it came out with its influential Kozhikode Declaration. In it, the PFI said: “The War on Terror is a US agenda. It is a political tactic shaped by hegemonic forces bent upon world domination. The Muslims are the victims of the war on terror. The Indian government supports the WOT and makes available the county’s machinery for implementing the plan hatched by the US-Israel axis. It’s in the wake of this alliance that we witness the increase in bomb blasts in the country.

“The Muslims, on the other hand, have been pushed down by inferiority complex created by peculiar historic developments. They are under the wrong impression that any political move of their own is wrong. While the national secular parties are anxious to use the Muslim votes, they have been reluctant to take them in as equal partners. They have failed to secure the rights of the Muslims as citizens and refused to give even legal protection to them during communal riots which are a byword for collective anti-Muslim attacks. When the administration joined hands with anti-Muslim forces it created fear in Muslim minds. There is strong suspicion that plans are being hatched and implemented deliberately to break the Muslims economically and socially.

“The denial of basic needs and willful negligence of their just demands have imposed social slavery. No political party can shrug off responsibility for creating this situation. So it is imperative that Muslim organisations come to the forefront for the advancement of the community and to create awareness about their rights.”

It is impossible to judge whether the PFI has really sown the seeds of Talibanisation in India. For instance, Kerala’s Director General of Police Jacob Punnose says, “I realise the danger but I don’t want to exaggerate it.” Unnikrishnan, a well-known Malayalam filmmaker and culture critic says educated Muslim youth in Kerala cannot be seen in a monolithic context. “But we cannot deny that the consolidation of pan-Islamism can be seen in Kerala.” He considers the PFI’s militant retaliation for perceived injustices “a dangerously romantic imagery”. He says Muslim radicalisation in Kerala would have a big impact.

Forward march The parade, which was held in 2008 and 09, was banned this year
THE PFI’s Kerala head Nasrudheen Elamaram says his organisation is expanding because there is a feeling among Muslims, Dalits and Adivasis that they have been cheated. The PFI sees the State as the enemy. That there are visible signs of Islamisation is accepted by all. Unnikrishnan describes this as “hybrid Islamisation”. Suddenly, over the past decade, Kerala’s 26 percent Muslims appear to be twice their number. That’s because the dress code of Kerala Muslims has been made Arabic. All across Kerala most Muslim women wear head scarves or purdah or hijab. “It is fashionable to wear hijab,” says Salima, a student of BSc, Applied Statistics, in Kozhikode’s Ferook College. When first-generation educated Muslims went to the Gulf countries, they returned far more conservative than they might have been when they left India. This has been subsequently imbibed by friends, relatives and neighbours. While Elamaram admits “Gulf influence” is a factor, he adds, “Purdah is matter of faith. There is no compulsion.”

Sunil Kumar KK, is an administrator in Calicut University. He has been an anti-communalism activist working primarily among students. “In the past few years I have seen more women, and more educated women, for instance my neighbour who has a Phd, take to the hijab. There is radicalisation but that would be in small pockets. Also, one must not underestimate the role of the mafia in fuelling terror activities or easing recruitment. Go to a remote town and promise jobs or college admissions or just money. Tell people that ‘another community’ has lots of college seats and Muslims don’t. This seems to be what works for groups like the PFI,” he says.

PART OF the PFI’s growth is because it has a separate media company, the Inter Media Private Limited, held by the Thejas Publishing Charitable Trust. Thejas is the name of the PFI’s Malayalam daily that started publishing in January 2006. Since then the PFI has launched four news publications in Malayalam, Tamil and Kannada. It also has four book publishing ventures in the same languages. It has a website and a dedicated web team. It has set up an ‘Empower India Press’ to publish titles in English, Hindi and Urdu. Another organisation, called ‘Media Research and Development’ produces audiovisual products and documentaries. “We see the media as a vehicle for political empowerment,” says NP Chekkutty, Executive Editor of Thejas. “The PFI’s membership is only for Muslims because a cadre-based organisation is important for social mobilisation. So, it is not the Talibanisation or radicalisation in the sense of what is happening in Pakistan and Afghanistan,” he adds. Soon Thejas will start an edition in Saudi Arabia. So far, Thejas has employed more than 400 media professionals and is working on a Saudi Arabia edition.

All this has caught the Centre’s attention. A letter classified as secret issued by the union home ministry on 25 November 2009 states: “Thejas is part of a pan-Islamic publication network catering to the communal agenda of certain organisations. The publication invariably takes anti-establishment views on issues like plight of Muslims, Kashmir, and India’s relations with the US and Israel. Occasionally, it describes the government’s counter-militancy effort as state-sponsored terrorism, thereby endorsing the stance of militant elements. More importantly, contemporary developments and issues are invariably projected with a communal slant.” The Kerala Government took this seriously and withdrew all advertisements from Thejas on 14 May this year. “In the past financial year we got more than Rs 80 lakh as revenue from government advertisements. The decision to withdraw them from Thejas is a political decision aimed at destroying the newspaper,” says Chekkutty. But, in strange twist, the Centre’s Directorate of Advertising and Visual Publicity revived government advertisements in Thejas. The first one was an appeal by the central government to maintain calm and peace in the aftermath of the Allahabad High Court’s Babri Masjid verdict!

Black rage Activists of the NWF protest in Mysore against the Gaza blockade
In the period after the Babri Masjid verdict, the PFI is gearing up to bring all Muslim groups in India under its banner. At its Kozhikode conference, Zafaryab Jilani, the convener of the Babri Masjid Action Committee, articulated a long-cherished dream. “The Front should make sure that under its banner all the suppressed sections close ranks.” The Kozhikode Declaration also called for the unification and consolidation of Muslims, Dalits and Backwards as a ‘genuine Third Force’ in Indian politics.

The PFI has garnered rapid support within the Muslim community because it has been able to demonstrate its organisational capability. Its ‘Freedom Parade’ is the shining showpiece of its cadrestrength. On 15 August in the past two years, PFI cadres dressed in uniforms similar to paramilitary organisations staged a perfectly synchronised march in cities across Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. Muslims in Kozhikode thronged the roads and packed into the city stadium to watch the march. In 2008, the PFI chose to stage the Freedom March in Mangalore, a town known for its Hindutva extremist groups like the Sri Ram Sene. PFI seniors take pains to explain the rationale of the Freedom Parade. “The Muslim community needs to show its strength for political mobilisation. A disciplined cadre-based organisation is necessary for the progress of the community,” says Elamaram.

Some Muslims admire the PFI for its educational, social and public health initiatives. But the biggest inducement for the youth to join the outfit is jobs
This year the Kerala Government banned the parade. Kerala police officers point to a few curious features of the PFI’s show of strength. It was always held in the afternoon or evening after the official Independence Day functions were over. No PFI senior has ever turned up for official I-Day functions. The PFI has consistently refused to furnish the list of names and contact details of its marching cadres to the police so their strength is not precisely known. Police officers claim the cadres have been trained by former police and army personnel. The police claim that within the PFI, there is an Ideology Wing, Intelligence Wing and an Action Group.

SOME SOUTH Indian Muslims admire the PFI for its educational, social and public health initiatives. It offers career counselling, distributes educational aids and study material, and runs motivational programmes like the ‘School Chalo’ campaign every summer. Its medical camps are also popular. But the biggest inducement for Muslim youth to join the PFI is jobs. “We have been fairly successful in building an organisation. There was a change because employment was given to Muslim girls, boys and Dalits,” says Elamaram. The police claim PFI goes beyond providing jobs. “All Muslim youth joining the PFI are given mobile phones, motorcycles and money. The organisation also assists in job recruitments in the Gulf,” says Vinson M Paul, ADGP, Crime.

The PFI says it tapped into the anger of the Indian Muslim community after the release of the Sachar Committee Report. The official admission by the government that the Muslim community is the most backward in India set the ground for the PFI’s spectacular growth. Its assertive, militant brand of politics aimed at acquiring political power at the national level appealed to Muslims who felt powerless. The PFI’s political rationale, that the Indian Muslim community’s absence in the corridors of power is the root cause for genocidal attacks on Muslims, has resonated deeply within the community. This powerlessness leads to systematic killings of Muslims in fake encounters and communal pogroms, the PFI holds.

The Babri Masjid demolition, the riots in its wake and the Gujarat genocide are often cited in PFI literature. The organisation believes the American war on terror and India’s new-found friendship with Israel has furthered weakened Muslim “servility”. They claim that India’s security and strategic establishment have been irreparably influenced by American and Israeli intelligence and security agencies. PFI claims that Indian Muslims are victimised by Hindus for eating beef. The media constantly questions their patriotism and unquestioningly accept the role of Muslims in terrorist activities.

United front PFI leaders in a show of strength during the Kozhikode meeting
Much of this is true and a decision by Indian Muslims to consolidate themselves as a self-confident political force, partaking of democracy as equal players not second-class citizens dependent on “appeasements”, could have been a welcome move. Like the social churn Lalu Prasad and Mayawati brought in their wake, it could bring positive yield: more jobs, more education, more leverage. What makes the growth of the PFI and its associate organisations worrying though is its undertow of violence and Islamic fundamentalism.

Says Hameed Chennamangalur, former Calicut University professor and social commentator, “It’s not just the PFI. There are many other groups that share their Islamist ideology. They are like the Al Qaeda and similar groupings in Egypt, Pakistan or Bangladesh. They oppose America not because it is imperialist but because it is Christian imperialism and they see Islam as the only truth. The PFI, unlike older avatars, is extremely well funded and has been steadily building institutions — newspapers, publishing, schools.

The people who need to worry in Kerala are the liberal Muslims. Those who supported the professor who had his hand chopped off, the pro-Rushdie types…
“Mainstream Muslims in Kerala may not come out and applaud them when they do things like cutting the professor’s hand but they support them inwardly. They have supported them quietly earlier when, as the NDF, they conducted similar moral policing. The question paper incident was a small issue that they blew up because groups like them do not tolerate criticism or perceived criticism of Islam. Just like the Ram Sene or the Shiv Sena they are geared to blowing up tiny incidents.

A MUSLIM school in Kannur that took boys and girls out on a normal school excursion gets attacked. Their bus gets blocked because the NDF does not want boys or girls to mix. Or in Malapurram they tell Muslim owners of restaurants that they cannot open during Ramadan. Or decades ago in the same region the NDF burnt movie theatres they suspected were showing pornographic films. The people who need to worry in Kerala are liberal Muslims. The people who supported the professor who had his hand chopped off, pro-Rushdie people, pro-Taslima Nasreen people … they are the ones who need to watch out. People like the Chekkanur Moulvi who was a progressive cleric who was kidnapped and killed in 1993 … those are the kind of people who need to worry.”

There is evidently big following for the PFI even in states other than Kerala. In the past two years the PFI and its political wing, Social Democratic Party of India, have set up committees in 15 states and already have a significant following in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. The PFI’s formulations of “total empowerment” for Muslims, Dalits, Adivasis and Backward Castes have connected with other Muslim political groups and parties. The Asom United Democratic Front (AUDF), led by perfume magnate Maulana Badruddin Ajmal, has declared solidarity with the PFI. The AUDF, with 11 MLAs in the 126-member Assam legislature, is a significant player in Assam politics. Political midgets like the Milli Ettehad Parishad in West Bengal and the Tamil Nadu Muslim Munnetra Kazhgam (TMMK) have joined the PFI-led national alliance of Muslim groups and parties. Much of this comes from the Kozhikode conference. There, Ebrahim Rasool, then advisor to the South African President, energised the PFI leadership with a simple proposition: “Muslims in South Africa account for 3 percent of its population, but have 15 percent representation in Parliament. If we can do it, why can’t the 13 percent Muslims in India do the same thing?”

Dress code Rayana Khasi has been hounded for wearing jeans in Kasargod
Stuff like this is raising an alarm in New Delhi and Thiruvananthapuram. Achuthanandan said the PFI was trying to make Kerala a “Muslim country.” “How can we convert all the people of Kerala to Islam in 20 years?” rebuts Elamaram. “If this is true, then Achuthanandan and his children too will have to change their religion.”

Taking a cue from the freedom guaranteed in the Indian Constitution to propagate religion, the PFI has set up religious propagation and education centres in Theni and Ervadi in Tamil Nadu. While Kerala police officials allege that these Arivagam centres for men and women are basically conversion centres, the PFI claims these are institutions for teaching the basic tenets of Islam over four months to those who voluntarily accept it as their religion. The course covers “reading Quran, performing salah, learning basic duas and hadiths and also conveys the message of Islam to the people. Accommodation, food and other basic requirements are given free for those who undergo these courses.” The ‘Q’ (intelligence) Branch of the Tamil Nadu Police has despatched several missives to the government alleging that the PFI is conducting a conversion campaign through its Arivagam centres.

The PFI also mobilised the Imams in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka to form the Imams Council “for unity among the ulema”. The eventual aim is to string together a National Imams Council “to undertake (Muslim) social causes more effectively. But this is being viewed suspiciously by central intelligence agencies and the Kerala police because one of the first acts of the Imam Council was to republish a controversial 55-page book, ‘Asavarnarkku Nallathu Islam’ (Islam is Good for Non-Savarnas).

This book was first published by the Thiyya Youth League of Kochi in 1936. It contained essays by well known Ezhava and Thiyya intellectuals like Sahodaran K. Ayyappan, K. Sukumaran, K.C. Vallon and AK Bhaskar. They advocated mass conversion to Islam because of stubborn denial of temple entry rights to backward castes by the rulers of Travancore. The Kerala Police claims that in the present circumstances this book is “highly inflammatory”. The police interrogated the President of the Imam Council, Abdul Rehman Bakhiq, on the grounds that the Council was promoting communal discord. “What I am seeing is not radicalisation in the traditional sense. We understand what we are doing here is very effective. We are giving voice to a segment of people who have been ignored. We are becoming assertive through reasoned argument,” says Chekkutty. “And keeping it within the limits of the Indian Constitution.”

One argument the PFI is making is the implementation of Sharia or Islamic Banking in India. In early September, a team of Islamic scholars assembled by the PFI met RBI officials to present their case on Islamic Banking. According to the PFI, banking in accordance with Sharia laws “is the answer to abolish economic inequality and discrimination”. But RBI officials have already informed the government that under the current banking laws and regulations, Islamic banking cannot be legally implemented. The World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY) and the Muslim World League (MWL) or Rabitha, both funded by Saudi Arabia’s royal family are actively engaged in the propagation of Islam and Sharia banking in India.

Muslim politicians from Kerala, like Minister of State for Railways E. Ahmed and PV Wahab have been pushing the agenda of Islamic banking. WAMY’s representative Abdul Rahman and the MWL or Rabitha’s advisor Khalaf Bin Sulaiman Namary have also been in touch with Kerala Government and Muslim politicians for this. “The PFI is one of the beneficiaries of WAMY and Rabitha largesse,” says a police officer involved in investigating the PFI’s alleged terror linkages. For the sake of context, it is instructive to recall that American and European governments have severely curtailed the activities of WAMY and MWL on grounds of “terror financing”.

THE FUNDING requirements are channeled through these representatives, often through the hawala route. Union Home Secretary GK Pillai, during a recent visit to Kollam in Kerala, told journalists that “the funding (for Muslim organisations) seems to be more from outside than from locals.” These funds are then apportioned by WAMY and MWL’s local representatives to mosques and local Muslim community organisations for religious propagation, relief activities and education. More often than not these funds are used for religious indoctrination and radicalisation.

Taking a cue from the freedom guaranteed to propagate religion, the PFI has set up religious education centres in Theni and Ervadi in Tamil Nadu
Remittances to Kerala via legal channels show a 135 percent growth in the past five years. In 2003, remittance from the Gulf was $38 billion. In 2008 it was $90 billion. It is well known that funds transferred through hawala are 300 times the officially documented remittance. The Kerala Government has also come up with a curious nugget on land purchases. In several districts nearly 70 percent land ownership is held by Muslims, of which a considerable chunk is held by Muslim religious institutions and organisations through proxies. “We do not have a mechanism to monitor these activities. India will be taken by surprise,” says Dr Siby Mathew, ADGP Intelligence, Kerala Police. There are 25 lakh Malayali expatriates in the Gulf. More than half are Muslims. A significant amount of funding to fundamentalist and religious organisation is through their donation. A classified home ministry report alleges that rich Muslim businessmen in India and abroad fund PFI activities.

Also, the Internal Security Investigation Team (ISIT) of the Kerala Police is probing PFI activities. They claim to have seized Talibanic material, videos and “highly communal” and subversive literature, in raids conducted across Kerala. In an affidavit submitted to the Kerala High Court by R. Rajashekharan Nair, Deputy Secretary (Home), the government claimed the ISIT found CDs linked to the Al Qaeda. The court was also informed of the PFI’s alleged connections with the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba (LeT). The suspected PFI terror links were backed by revelations made the Maharashtra Anti Terrorism Squad when it arrested LeT operatives Mirza Himayat Baig and Shaikh Lal Baba Mohammad Hussain Farid, alias Bilal, for carrying out the German Bakery blast in Pune. According to the Maharashtra ATS, Baig was an active PFI cadre and was involved in arranging recruits for the LeT. None of this has been proved, of course, and PFI leaders rubbish the investigations as a fallout of India’s proximity to the US.

The Indian government believes that Kerala is turning into a cauldron of competing religious and communal interests. “Kerala should be concerned about religious fundamentalism,” warned Home Secretary Pillai in the first week of September. Surely, Kerala’s citizenry are aware of their responsibility. Only they can goad their political representatives to find a power-sharing solution for its large-sized religious minorities. It might become a role model for rest of India.

(With inputs from Shahina KK in Thiruvananthapuram)

West ignored India’s warnings on terrorism: Blair

London: Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair said that the West has always ignored India’s warnings on terrorism.

“Despite India’s warnings on terrorism, it took 9/11 for us to wake up,” Blair said in an interview to NDTV news channel aired on Monday.

“I used to say towards the end of prime ministership that we should have listened to India more…we should have watched what’s happening there and taken more account of it.

“It’s for our arrogance, something West is known for, that we didn’t quite understand it and ignored India’s warnings on terrorism,” Blair said.

“Now I realize that it is a global war (against terrorism) and it threatens all.”

Asked if terrorism is rooted in Pakistan, Blair said there is strain of extremism in Islam itself.

“I have many Pakistani friends and I have realized that they (Pakistan) too wants to defeat terrorism,” said Blair.

He further said: “I think it has more to do with the fact that this trend of extremism within Islam. What I learnt from the Indian experience is, you can’t hide away from the fact that this (extremism) is an element within Islam.…it doesn’t express itself as an accepted terrorism but as a narrative of extremism about society, about relations between countries and people of different places.”

“I think fundamental has to be confronted. That fundamental, I am afraid, is present as a strain in the Pakistani society,” said Blair.