Hindus and Muslims derive their inspiration from different sources of history. Very often, the hero of one is a foe of the other
There were two sides to the coin of Partition. One was that the Muslim community was well behind the Hindus as well as the other minorities. They were about a third in population or one-third in numbers compared to the Hindus. Therefore, if Independent India adopted a universal adult franchise, they would be out-membered by lengths. Secondly, the Muslims were less educated. As a matter of long-term strategy, Islam had played down education from its early days of the seventh century. For the last thousand years, Hejaz as well as Caliphs had prohibited ijtihad (reinterpretation or change) and enforced taqlid (orthodoxy). The less educated a person, the fewer the questions he/she is likely to think up and ask. Thus, ensuring the perpetuity of the religion. Incidentally, women’s education was restricted to reading the Quran, especially the prayers.
When the British came to India, instead of using English, the clergy exhorted their followers to avoid the study of English and Western science. Sir William Hunter has made a lucid analysis of how and where the Muslim students fell back in the 19th century and even earlier. Then came the decision of Lt Governor of UP to make English the court language, Hindi and Persian was abolished. Such measures, although rational, put the Muslims back. Their fear was of diluting their identity which was dearer to them than their development.
The other difficulty was that very few Muslims took to business and industry, the only exceptions were the Khojas, the Memons and the Bohras, all based in Bombay. The Muslim elites of the rest of India were land based, whether agricultural, farming vegetables or cultivating orchards but had very few factories. In short, cultivating the Hindus had the economic lead. Timur Kuran, Professor at the University of Duke, has explained at length the financial disadvantage of Islamic communities. He has focused on West Asia and how Islamic ordainments have kept the common folk economically back. Imagine West Asia without petroleum! And imagine a business without banking and lending without interest!
The Viceroy had called an all-India election in December 1945 to January 1946. By that time, Jinnah’s speech preceding the passing of the Pakistan resolution on, March 23, 1940, at the Lahore session of the Muslim League was humming to virtually all Muslim ears in India. Incidentally, Jinnah deliberately made Fazlur Rahman of Bengal sign the resolution. Rahman was a popular, prominent peasant leader of the eastern wing of what eventually became Pakistan and now Bangladesh. His Two Nation Theory is very briefly stated here: the Hindus and Muslims have different religious philosophies, social customs and literatures. They neither intermarry nor interdine and, indeed, they belong to two different civilisations which are based mainly on conflicting ideas and conceptions. Their views on life and of life are different. It is also quite clear that Hindus and Muslims derive their inspiration from different sources of history. They have different epics, different heroes in different episodes. Very often the hero of one is a foe of the other and likewise, their victories and defeats overlap.
History has presented to us many examples, such as the union of Great Britain and Ireland. We know that the history of the last 1,200 years has failed to achieve unity and we have witnessed, during the ages, India was always divided into Hindu India and Muslim India. The termination of the British regime will be a worse disaster. Muslim India cannot accept any Constitution which must necessarily result in a Hindu majority Government. If Hindus and Muslims are brought together under a democratic system, it can only mean Hindu Raj. Muslims are not a minority; Muslims are a nation according to any definition and they must have their homelands, their territory and their State.
Indeed, Jinnah argued as if one is prepared to ignore the other. As Dr Rafiq Zakaria has put it: all throughout his younger years, Jinnah showed no interest in Muslims. He was, then, all for the Congress; its non-communal, nationalistic principle which enthused him.
When he was a young man, Jinnah worked for Hindu-Muslim unity and made every attempt to see that the Congress and the League presented a united front. He assured the British that they need not be unduly perturbed as its terms of the Lucknow Pact if implemented would help them as well. He welcomed the declaration made by the British Government on August 20, 1917, which assured Indians that “the policy of His Majesty’s Government, with which the Government of India are in complete accord, is that of the increasing association of self-governing institutions with a view to the progressive realisation of responsible Government in India as an integral part of the British Empire.” To give effect to it, the new Secretary of State Edward Montague visited India in the winter of that year. He along with Viceroy Lord Chelmsford conferred with the leaders of different schools of political thought to try and find a consensus on the future constitutional advance. Of all the politicians whom Montague met, he was most impressed by Jinnah. He recorded this in his diary: “Young, perfectly mannered, impressive looking, armed to the teeth with dialectics, and insistent upon the whole of his scheme....”
(This is part of an ongoing series on Indian Partition. The writer is a well-known columnist, an author and a former member of the Rajya Sabha. The views expressed are personal.)
(Courtesy: The Pioneer)
The Taliban may get aid but not recognition unless they start recognising women’s rights
The Taliban are making it difficult for the world community to recognise their interim Government in Afghanistan. Their fresh diktat against women being the latest reason. They have a Ministry that seeks to regulate and control the lives of Afghan women – Ministry for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice. The Ministry has banned women from appearing in television dramas and entertainment shows. Women news presenters have to wear headscarves. These are part of the eight directives in the first tranche of restrictions imposed on the media. Films in opposition to Islamic law and “Afghan values” cannot be broadcast. Foreign films that promote “foreign values” are banned. Comedy shows cannot insult anybody. Shows depicting the "prophets and companions" are disallowed. Cynics would say the people have escaped with only a few restrictions because last time the Taliban were around, they had totally banned television and other forms of media. However, it is the Taliban’s attitude to women that needs to be repeatedly highlighted. However much they profess to have moderated and modernised themselves, it is sadly true that at their core, they have not changed a bit since their rein between 1996-2001. That it is the Ministry on virtue and vice that deals with women’s issues is a dead giveaway. Is that why the Taliban also did not find the need for a minister for women and child welfare?
It was only three months ago, on August 17, two days after the Taliban grabbed power, that Beheshta Arghand became the first-ever female television host to conduct a sit-in interview with a Taliban leader. There would be no second time as the Taliban’s moderate make-up wore off fast. Women employees in the private and public sectors have since been asked to go home. Women-oriented jobs are under review. Girls were told they could attend segregated classes in universities. Some women, used to relative freedom in the last two decades, tried to protest but they were beaten and even whipped by Taliban enforcers. Contrary to the Taliban assurances that women’s rights would be respected, women are being increasingly left out of the public sphere. The world should know that women would be worse off in the rural areas where the Taliban fighters and tribal heads hold sway and who alone have decided for decades how women ought to live. Many of the far-flung provinces have different rules for women depending on how radical the local Taliban chiefs are. Women’s groups want the international community to leverage financial aid to Afghanistan to improve the women’s lot. But that is a Catch-22 situation because the lack of aid can lead to mass hunger and deaths in the country. The United Nations has collected over $600 million as distress aid. With the onset of winter, the supply of food and medicine is crucial. Ironically, most of the aid workers are women and one wonders if the Taliban have anything to say about that.
(Courtesy: The Pioneer)
The TMC has been successful in nagging the BJP unlike the Congress ahead of the Assembly polls
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has started cementing her aspirations of a national footprint for the Trinamool Congress in the coming months, especially in the first quarter of 2022. Both Mamata and her nephew Abhishek, an official of the party’s national organ, had declared soon after crushing the BJP in the State Assembly election that the Trinamool wouldn’t contest a number of upcoming Assembly elections not just to mark presence but also to win the States and form a Government there, the Chief Minister has now declared that the “march to the Centre cannot be possible without the support of States”. The Trinamool Congress supremo sent out this message after a number of prominent leaders from different political parties joined the TMC recently. Ever since her party bagged an undisputed victory against the BJP in Bengal, the TMC has been on the front foot against the ruling party at the Centre. It has courageously been staking its claim to the Chief Minister’s chair even as far as in Goa. It’s been signing up and roping in newer regional leaders, mostly at the cost of the Congress and possible dent in the fortunes of the BJP.
In the latest addition to its political and electoral arsenal, Ashok Tanwar, who had quit the Congress a couple of years back, has joined the TMC in New Delhi in Banerjee’s presence. Tanwar, a former Haryana Congress chief, was considered to have had Rahul Gandhi’s ears but later fell out with the party over his rivalry with other State leaders, including former Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda. Tanwar had floated Apna Bharat Morcha after quitting the Congress but has now come out in strong support of the TMC supremo and has been throwing his weight in support of her party “across the entire country” and against the “misgovernance of the BJP”. Tanwar’s entry is sure to have given a shot in the arm to the TMC in Haryana, which is a State, apart from Punjab and regions in Uttar Pradesh, that played a major role in the farmers’ unflinching demand against the BJP-led Union Government for the withdrawal of the three farm laws. However, that threat staring in the face of the BJP is still not over, what with the Bharatiya Kisan Union leader Rakesh Tikait warning the Centre of a prolonged agitation if it didn’t agree of “all the demands” of the protesting farmers, including those involving the Minimum Support Price and punishing the Union State Minister Teni for the Lakhimpur Kheri incident.
(Courtesy: The Pioneer)
Event managers make our moments their own but we haven’t yet realised their challenges
So we thought we've got rid of the COVID-19 pandemic. But then there have been people who have, as always, brought cheer to our dreary lives. No doubt that it's just a make-believe world where all good happy things come to fructify. However, the past couple of years have not been hunky-dory for the people who run the show and bring joy and happiness to your family gatherings. They may come draped in shiny silver costumes and perhaps sing and dance to make your day special, making your moment of happiness their very own, but have any of us thought where did they come from and where did they go once the show got over? Their journey, especially in the last two years, has been haphazard and a roller-coaster. Those who ran the show were incapable of running their livelihood. The forced stoppage in their eventful lives made them pick up other employment avenues; an event manager took to driving his bike for a travel platform and some others had to settle down for selling vegetables and other food items. Of course, they have been paying taxes, but where was the Government or its welfare schemes to protect its very own people?
Kishore Kumar was right when he refused to pay his due taxes, saying that when the Government (read Indira Gandhi) did not help him secure work, why should he pay the Government? This is not to instigate the citizenry against the powers that be, but then why should it be called a welfare State? They have hungry children at home, wives fighting for their remuneration and elderly mothers dabbing their eyes with hope, much less with cash. They still go around working, or working to find some work, which may or may not result in the evening bread. Their limbs may be tired, but their soul is not. In the setting sun, with their bellies half-fed, they strive to deliver happiness and joy to our family and gatherings. On a somewhat different note, as showman Raj Kapoor said in Mera Naam Joker, “Joker ke upar sab hanste hain, uske saath koi nahi hansta.” We, maybe unknowingly or unfeelingly, do the same thing; we call them in last, feed them last and then let them out. So why should the Government levy entertainment tax? There's hardly any entertainment left in our mutual lives. It's time the policies and the babus did something to protect this industry, too.
The degrading condition of urban poor is a challenge that the Govt must take heed of
Health governance for the urban poor in India is chaotic at best, rendering them helpless, a study by the Azim Premji University in collaboration with a group of NGOs reveals. In a country where a third of the people living in urban areas are poor, mostly jobless, unable to get even a full meal a day, they are saddled with a disproportionate disease burden as well. The report draws attention to India’s best-kept of secrets: Welfare programmes rarely take into account the factors that make people poor. They are all about ameliorating their situation, but not for rooting out the causes. Otherwise, the situation of the urban poor, for example, would not have worsened, as it has done, during the COVID-19 lockdown in 2020-21. The pandemic left the urban poor poorer, hungrier and without nutrition than those in the rural areas who had family or relatives, and importantly the public distribution system, to fall back on in the lockdown period, and were able to pass their days off without going hungry. Their fellows in the cities, in comparison, fared worse. They came to the cities to find jobs no doubt, but the lockdown messed with their lives, made them lose their jobs as workplaces closed down, there were no wages and so, they had no access to food. The soup kitchens and the largesse from NGOs and the Government did help them, but not to the extent of not losing out on nutrition and health. The urban poor rarely have access to the public ration system and they ended up borrowing money for food. The rural poor had relatively better access to the social security schemes operating during the pandemic. Vulnerable groups among the urban poor, like families run by single women or people with disabilities and transgender people, fared badly, ironically at a time when India has had record food grain production.
The Azim Premji University report tells us how joblessness and hunger are now impacting their health. The lack of access to medical care for the urban poor is so bad that “the life expectancy among the poorest is lower by 9.1 years and 6.2 years among men and women, respectively, compared to the richest in urban areas”. What is worse, the multiplicity of health care providers, and the lack of coordination between them, is playing havoc with the health of the poor. Thirty per cent of the urban poor have no access to public health facilities and have to seek private sources, adding to their financial stress. The Government must address the problem of lack of administrative efficiency dogging the health governance system even as it tries to implement social security measures to provide subsidised food and employment guarantee for the poor in the urban areas. The number of the urban poor is only going to increase in the coming days. It is for the Government to coordinate its efforts better.
Article 15 is violated by Muslims themselves. A man is entitled to marry up to four wives but the wives cannot marry more than one husband
The Allahabad High Court has rightly reminded the Government about Article 44 of the Indian Constitution which is a Directive Principle of Policy, which was meant to be parallel to a fundamental right to be implemented in due course. This Article relates to a Uniform Civil Code or a common civil law. It is certainly not to be an imposition of Hindu law on all the communities. Yet, it has not been even drafted for a national discussion. To a lay Indian, this appears like a discrimination for two reasons.
All other non-Hindu communities like Christians, Parsees, Jews et al are happy with the civil law prevailing. Only Muslims are unhappy unless their civil rights under their law called sharia are allowed to be applied to the civil conduct of Muslims. Essentially, it boils down to marriage and succession rules, especially the former. All other subjects are happily applied to all, including Muslims; even the criminal law. Why this discrimination within a discrimination.
Sharia prescribes that if a person is charged for theft, the punishment is to chop off his hand. Muslims do not want this to happen. Possibly because the punishment is too harsh. Does the Indian Penal Code, originally drafted by Lord Macaulay, become superior to sharia because the former is more convenient? Article 15 of the Constitution begins with the prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth.
This Article, an exemplary one, is violated by Muslims themselves. A man is entitled to marry up to four wives but the wives cannot marry more than one husband. A husband can divorce his wife by swearing ‘talaq, talaq, talaq’ but a wife cannot do the same. For her, there is no talaq and her privilege is confined to khul which she can resort to when the two spouses agree that they have become inimical to each other and their union no longer serves the purpose of marriage. She can release herself from the power of her husband by inducing him to separate by paying him a compensation acceptable to him (adapted briefly from the Dictionary of Islam by Thomas Patrick Hughes published in India, Rupa & Co. 1999).
The discrimination continues; where one man is sufficient as a witness, two women are needed. This implies that a woman is half a human being or a man is a double human. Over and above, allowing a man to marry up to four wives, he is allowed to have as many female concubines or domestic slaves as he wishes. A Shia is also allowed temporary marriages which are called mutah. These privileges enjoyed by men and the discrimination against women may seem unequal or unfair, the conditions of women before the advent of Islam were far worse. The women were extremely degraded in Arabia. They were chattels and an integral part of the estate of a man. Frequent unions between sons-in-law and mothers-in-law were called Nikahu-al-Maqt and Prophet Muhammad abolished such hideous practices which were prevailing in old Arabia. In other words; Sharia was a vast improvement on what prevailed before.
At one stage in time, Islam was a progressive religion. As it happened some five centuries after its beginning,
ijtehad (reinterpretation) by men in power was stopped. Thereafter, taqlid (orthodoxy) has prevailed. Apparently, men currently in power are handicapped by this injunction. Unless the Government intervenes, reform is obviously difficult. In this unfortunate situation, Muslim women, by today’s values and standards, are sinned against.
What about the citizens of India who belong to other faiths? Those men cannot be called sinned against but certainly are discriminated against. This is a phenomenon prohibited by Article 15 of the Constitution. Which is greater? The sacred law of a community? Or the Constitution of the country? Some may argue that the latter is amendable and has been amended some one hundred times. Whereas with the advent of taqlid a thousand years ago, Sharia in India has not been reformed. What then is New Delhi to do? Reform and progress or stay put and stagnate? Do not change and discriminate against the kafirs. In the ultimate, is it a choice between momins and kafirs and additionally between momin women and their men? Therefore, potentially half the momins are for change, justice and progress. The tarazu or weighing machine of human justice goes in favour of a Common Civil Code.
The long delay on part of the Government is explained by electoral considerations. In answer to a member’s question after passing of the Hindu Code Bill, Nehru told Parliament, “Well, I should like a civil code which applies to everybody, but wisdom hinders. If he (the member) or anybody else brings forward a Civil Code Bill, it will have my extreme sympathy. But I confess that I do not think that at the present moment, the time is ripe in India for me to try and push it through. I want to prepare the ground for it”.
It was believed, and right so, that Muslims voted solidly at election time, up to 90 per cent. The rest of the electorate in the earlier polls generally cast only about 40 to 45 per cent. The Muslim vote was thus considered twice as effective. It is no wonder that political parties chased it by pampering it.
(The writer is a well-known columnist, an author and a former member of the Rajya Sabha. The views expressed are personal.)
Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat on Monday said that India is now rising but not just to become a superpower but to become a Vishwa Guru (World Leader).
His statement is being seen as an endorsement of the work of Prime Minister Narendra Modi as the BJP has been claiming that India's stature across the world has risen many times since the party came to power.
Speaking at a programme organised by the Bharat Vikas Parishad at Vigyan Bhavan, Delhi, Mohan Bhagwat said: "Despite the country being divided into three parts, India remains a force even today." He said, India is now rising but not only to become a superpower, but to become a 'Vishwa Guru'. We have to become such a 'Vishwa Guru' which is number one in all aspects -- economic, strategic, environment, etc. RSS chief indicated that he may travel to overseas destinations to improve the perception about RSS in specific and India - "Vishwa Guru" in general.
Speaking at the closing ceremony of Dr Suraj Prakash's birth centenary organised at Vigyan Bhavan, the Sangh chief explained the meaning of development in different ways and said that there is no justification for advancement only in material terms. A country can be called developed only when there is all-round development of the society.
He said India has its own definition of development and we have to give this dynamic to the world.
Bhagwat also released a book "Coffee Table" of the Bharat Vikas Parishad and a book on the speeches of senior Sangh leader Bhaiyyaji Joshi.
Along with this, the RSS chief also honoured several doctors, nursing staff and ward boys who worked tirelessly during the Covid pandemic by giving mementoes for public service. Famous industrialist Mahendra Kumar Dhanuka and National President of India Development Council Gajendra Singh Sandhu were present as chief guests, besides several RSS functionaries.
Leaders in the EU think that Belarusian President Lukashenko is creating the illegal passage for migrants from most of the war-torn and poverty-ridden countries to neighbouring Poland and other rich nations of the EU. Brussels and other major western powers must see to it that the migrant crisis does not turn into a broader regional conflict. Instead of raising concerns about Russia’s hidden intentions, the international community must clinch a deal with Lukashenko for an immediate solution to settle thousands of migrants stranded on the no-man’s-land on
Belarus-Poland border before the cold waves sweep them away Europe is once again facing the heat of a new migration crisis. This time two East European (EU) nations — Belarus and Poland — are on the verge of fighting on their borders. The reason is that over thousands of migrants that are camping on the Belarus-Poland frontier are trying to cross over to Poland. And the Polish border guards are simply not allowing them to get into their country. These hapless migrants are also trying to cross over to other European nations such as Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. It seems to be a hybrid attack by Minsk, especially over Warsaw, Tallinn, Riga and Vilnius. For poor and helpless migrants from most of the conflict zones of the world, including Africa, this arduous journey could be a passport to the greener pasture of Europe. But what seems to be emerging from the ground is that it is soon sliding into a major humanitarian crisis, with the death of more than 10 migrants by now.
It is worth exploring the origin of the current imbroglio on the Belarus-Poland border. Belarus was rocked by massive opposition protests following the presidential election in the month of August 2020. That election gave Alexander Lukashenko more opportunity to tighten his grip over Byelorussia (historically called), the Republic of Belarus. However, the Opposition, the European Union (EU) and the West openly declared the election and its result as sham. The Belarusian authorities responded to the demonstrations with fierce force followed by jailing of prominent activists and opposition leaders. The US and the EU subsequently imposed sanctions over Belarus. These restrictions over the Government of Lukashenko were toughened when after an incident in May when a passenger jet flying from Greece to Lithuania was diverted by Belarus to Minsk simply to detain dissident journalist Roman Pratasevich. The EU later termed this incident as ‘Air Piracy’ and barred Belarussian State airlines from its sky. Besides, the group also drastically cut the import of top commodities from the country like petroleum products and potash. The authorities in Minsk hit back at Brussels and refused to abide by an agreement to prevent illegal migration to the EU. It also opined that the severe EU sanctions deprived the Government of much needed funds to stem the flow of migration across its borders. Thus, gradually the massive flow of migrants hailing from Syria and other conflict zones around the world started arriving in Belarus and they all moved towards the borders of Latvia and Lithuania in the North-West and Poland in the West. Today the opposition in Belarus is accusing Lukashenko of using the Government tourist agencies to offer free visa facilities to all these migrants so that they could go to the bordering nations like Poland, Latvia and Lithuania. And finally, they could easily enter different parts of the EU.
The centre point of the migration crisis is President Lukashenko. Leaders in the EU think that he is creating the illegal passage of migrants from most of the war-torn and poverty-ridden countries to neighbouring Poland and other rich nations of the EU. These migrants are mostly from war-ravaged nations such as Syria, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Afghanistan, and even from Communist land of Cuba. Most of the EU leaders say that Lukashenko’s trouble-making is fundamentally connected to the strict sanctions imposed by the bloc over Belarus. These sanctions have been in place since late 2020 because of the controversial presidential election in this landlocked East European country that saw the return of Lukashenko for the consecutive sixth term to power. And most importantly, massive human rights violations and his brutal treatment of all his opponents, including the main contestant for presidency, 37-year-old Svetlana Tikhanovskaya who is currently in exile in Lithuania.
Today, Lukashenko is probably the last surviving dictator of Europe. He took over power in the year 1994 immediately after the breakdown of the mighty Soviet Union. Many say that he has been maintaining the glory and elements of bygone era Soviet style of communism. Almost each sector of the economy of this former Soviet Republic is under the absolute control of the State. The secret police that maintain strict surveillance over all powerful and anti-Government forces in the country is still known as the KGB.
Lukashenko, the mercurial leader, is known for his West-battering. He has a long history of defying the West. His immediate relief directly flows from no other than the Russian strongman Vladimir Putin, who makes no secret of his sheer disavowal of colour revolutions in his neighbourhood, especially one that has been troubling Belarus since last year. And now comes the migration crisis, wherein the EU leaders are all up in arms against his longstanding ally Lukashenko. Putin blames the West for the migration crisis at the Belarus-Poland border. To him, the root of the current migration problem lies in the chaos created by the West in Iraq and in Afghanistan; and Belarus can nowhere be blamed for the same. Referring to conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, Putin highlighted that Iraqi Kurds and Afghans were among the migrants at the Belarussian border. His comments came as the Polish police recovered the body of a young Syrian man near the border town of Wolka Terechowska in the north-eastern Poland close to Poland-Belarus border.
More than Belarus and Lukashenko, now Putin has become more anxious about the migration crisis. Meanwhile, Russia and Belarus have conducted snap paratrooper drills just 20 miles away from the border where migrants are gathered. It was intended to test the readiness of their troops. Around the same time, Washington has also warned that Putin could be preparing for an attack on Eastern Ukraine. It is learnt that Russia is massing thousands of troops, artillery and tanks on the border posts. This all shows Moscow’s full preparation to support Minsk in case a crisis occurs from the other side of the border in Warsaw.
The EU has threatened that it will slap new sanctions on Belarus targeting everyone involved (people, airlines, travel agencies, etc.) in facilitating the migration crisis. Amid the escalating crisis, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen warned the EU will expand sanctions on Belarus and will target airlines which support “human trafficking”. Meanwhile, some carriers have already declared they won’t be undertaking services to Belarus, including the Turkish Airlines. Jens Stoltenberg, the Secretary-General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), warned Moscow against potential aggressive actions amid a large concentration of Russian troops on Ukraine’s borders. Kamala Harris, the US Vice President, has commented that Lukashenko is engaged in very troubling activity and world is watching what is happening there. In fact, Putin’s sudden movement of armed forces may indicate the potential for a wider geopolitical crisis in the region. Currently, Ukraine is not a member of the EU or the NATO, but both the organisations are deeply concerned about Russia’s quick military build-up on its border. The Baltic nations like Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania accused the Lukashenko regime of instrumentalising migration for political purposes. Again, Poland, Lithuania and Latvia are thinking of invoking Article 4 of the NATO. This Article calls for consultation when “the territorial integrity, political independence or security of any of the parties is threatened”. Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki is already talking to his counterparts in Latvia and Lithuania for all possible assistance from the NATO. Now it needs to be seen whether such an emergency has occurred or not. With Lukashenko dialling up Angela Merkel, known popularly as the de facto leader of the EU, a solution to the migration crisis is expected.
Finally, without speculating one can say that Russia has always demonstrated its firepower either to showcase its strength or simply to warn the West and the EU not to step into its traditional areas of influence like Belarus. Lukashenko, a man who has already survived many setbacks and crises in recent years, knows his limits and is well aware about of the impact of severe sanctions. Unless a big colour revolution comes with the full support of the elite of Belarus, Lukashenko will ever remain strong in Minsk. At the moment, the EU and the other Western powers are mounting pressures on Lukashenko, including further sanctions. At the same time, together they are targeting Russia whereas the centre of the problem lies in Belarus-Poland border. Brussels and other major western powers must see to it that the migrant crisis does not turn into a broader regional conflict. Instead of raising concerns about Russia’s hidden intentions, the international community must clinch a deal with Lukashenko for an immediate solution to settle thousands of migrants stranded on the no-man’s-land on Belarus-Poland border before the cold waves sweep them away.
(Dr Makhan Saikia has taught political science and international relations for over a decade in institutions of national and international repute after specialisation in globalisation and governance from Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai. He is the chief editor of the Journal of Global Studies, an international research journal)
(Courtesy: The Pioneer)
The infamous apartheid regime in South Africa came to an end with a series of discussions and dialogues between 1990 and 1993. This was the result of unilateral steps initiated by the de Klerk Government. These negotiations took place between the governing national party, the African National Congress (ANC) and a host of other civil rights groups belonging to different parts of South Africa
The last leader of the notorious apartheid era of South Africa, FW de Klerk, died on November 11 at 85 at his home in Fresnaye (a largely affluent white dominated locality of Cape Town situated between Signal Hill and Sea Point) after suffering from Mesothelioma, a type of cancer that is associated especially with the exposure to asbestos.
He won the Nobel Peace Prize along with Nelson Mandela for ending apartheid in 1993. He presided over a brutal regime that killed men, women and children to safeguard one of the most anti-human political systems that ever existed in world history. Its centrality lied in dehumanising people of colour and destroying the very spirit of humanity. It simply exemplified segregation of the white minority from the Africans and the rest of the colored people of the country, backed by an institutionalised system purely presided over by the Whites.
The Doctrine of Apartheid was made law in South Africa in 1948 when the Afrikaner Nationalist Party came to power. The word “apartheid” is originated from the Afrikaans language meaning “apartness”, or “separateness”. This apartheid called for separate development of different racial groups in South Africa.
The infamous apartheid regime in South Africa came to an end with a series of discussions and dialogues between 1990 and 1993. This was the result of unilateral steps initiated by the de Klerk Government. These negotiations took place between the governing national party, the African National Congress (ANC) and a host of other civil rights groups belonging to different parts of South Africa.
In retrospect, it seems that various punitive measures invoked from different quarters of the globe, accompanied by the efforts made by the ANC, forced de Klerk Government to abandon the apartheid system.
Many of these international initiatives were not to pressurise the leading parties in South Africa to engage in a process of negotiations but simply to end the apartheid era. Subsequently the proponents of constructive engagement and most notably the Conservative British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher were able to convince de Klerk to talk to the ANC.
Besides, by late 1980s, the Soviet Union and many other African Governments encouraged the ANC to negotiate a political solution to the apartheid.
He left a troubled legacy behind. He was a key political figure in the long journey of South Africa’s transition from deadly apartheid regime to a modern democracy. He came to power in 1989 and continued till 1994 as the head of the South African State. And the iconic figure of the anti-apartheid era, Nelson Mandela came to power after him and scripted a new history by being the first ever black President of the country.
Interestingly, following his death, the FW de Klerk Foundation released a unique video worldwide-dubbed “final message”, in which he frankly spoke about the horrors of apartheid system of the yesteryear. In the message, he said, “Let me today, in the last message repeat: I without qualification, apologise for the pain and the hurt, and the indignity, and the damage, to black, brown and Indians in South Africa.” On his death, the fifth black president of the country Cyril Ramaphosa said de Klerk’s death should inspire all of us to reflect on the birth of our democracy. Indeed, it is the moment of reckoning for all the coloured people of South Africa who had to undergo all sorts of harassment and insult under the successive white Governments in the country.
And the one presided over by de Klerk brought the brutality to an inconceivable level. Apartheid practised in his country was widely recognised as a crime against humanity. Probably, de Klerk must have realised the sins committed by the white regimes in South Africa and read the writing on the wall very cautiously. He described himself as a “convert” in an interview in 2012. He said, “We should have gone much earlier with the flow when the winds of change blew across Africa.”
It simply indicates his sincere realisation of the evil effects of the racial discrimination prevailed during his presidency.
On record, de Klerk had been a firm believer in the system of racial segregation of people in South Africa. Therefore, even after his retirement from active politics, he remained a divided figure in public square. He was very much reluctant to condemn the apartheid system unequivocally. Though he was a staunch conservative politician, within his five-year rule from 1989-94, he gradually realised the futility and the deep divide in the system of apartheid. Thus, he became an unlikely agent of change in his conservative clan and heralded the new light of multi-racial democracy in that country.
Although the relationship between de Klerk and Mandela was quite often characterised by sharp disagreements, the new president always described the last white President as someone of great integrity. That indeed showed how Mandela wanted to bridge the gap between the powerful white minority and the rest of the coloured people of his country, by recognising the uphill task of rebuilding a multi-racial nation.
On February 1992, he came to Parliament of South Africa with a historic declaration — Nelson Mandela would be released from prison after a 27 years sentence, legalisation of anti-apartheid groups, end of a national state of emergency and finally, the beginning of negotiation to end racial inequality in South Africa. The announcement electrified the whole nation that for decades had been scorned and sanctioned by many nations and international organisations. Apart from these, South Africa witnessed severe isolation from the international community. With South Africa’s isolation deepening and its once robust economy deteriorating, the de Klerk Government was forced to lift the longstanding ban on the ANC and other anti-apartheid groups.
He remained truthful and strong till the end of his life. His was an era of divisive politics. But he oversaw the transition of South Africa from a pariah state to one of a multi-racial democracy. Of course, his was a troubled time. Even after his announcement of the end of apartheid, many conservative lawmakers in his country brand him as a traitor, as racial tensions and the possibility of a civil war were looming large.
However, he survived all and came ready to serve as the deputy of Mandela, once his bete noire. Though many would still love to hate him, millions would see in him a harbinger of a new age, with deep realisation of the atrocities of racial segregation. Surely, he was not sole factor in bringing an end to the apartheid. Therefore, once he spoke, “When I talk about the end of apartheid, I prefer not to claim the honour that I have ended it.” Today all of us must be grateful to him as he recognised the moment of change and had tenacity to take the South Africans to a new dawn. Nonetheless, he left a complicated legacy, while in power, after retirement and in his final journey.
(Dr Anjana Hazarika teaches Sociology at Jindal Global University, Sonepat, Haryana)
(Courtesy: The Pioneer)
With the construction industry having a huge environmental footprint, especially in developing nations like India, where a lot of construction take place over the next 50 years, timber and bamboo offer a solution to reduce carbon emissions, says an expert. Steel and cement manufacture are deemed to produce around 8 percent each (i.e. around 16 percent) of the world's carbon emissions. The nations must find substitutes for these materials.
The construction industry has a huge environmental footprint. According to some sources it is responsible for about 40 percent of the world's carbon emissions between the construction of buildings and infrastructure and operation of buildings, David Trujillo, an assistant professor in Coventry University's School of Energy, Construction and Environment, said.
He spoke to IANS in detail about the structural utility of bamboo, and how its use in the construction industry could help to step up efforts to combat climate change.
"In developing nations like India, where we would expect a lot of construction to take place over the next 50 years, this is likely to be very significant. We must find substitutes for steel and cement materials," he said in the interview.
"In developing countries, it is very common to construct buildings out of reinforced concrete and concrete blocks. I believe this is accurate for India also. We must change the way we build."
Responding to why bamboo is an important material, he said timber and bamboo offer a solution to reduce carbon emissions for two reasons: First, transforming them into useful materials requires little energy input.
And second, if responsibly grown and harvested, they can potentially act as carbon sinks.
"However, in most developing countries we have few established commercial forests ready to be exploited, and we must avoid exploiting primary forests. If we committed to planting timber forests now, it would be at least 25-50 years before we could harvest them.
"We cannot wait that long. Many developing countries in the tropics and subtropics have plenty of bamboo resources, this includes India. It is a resource that is ready to be exploited.
"And if they do not have them, it will only take about 10 years from green field to highly productive forest. Bamboo forests are easy to exploit, and in fact perform better if they are regularly exploited," the Coventry University researcher told IANS.
He was at the 26th Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP26) in Glasgow for delivering a presentation on why bamboo could play a crucial role in the future of the construction industry.
On how wide of a scale bamboo could be planted, he replied: "As bamboo can be, and has been, introduced in degraded soils, it seems possible that any increase in plantation and production can be undertaken without displacing primary forests or agricultural land.
"Another key benefit is that initial studies seem to suggest that bamboo is more productive per hectare and sinks more carbon, than timber."
About the social benefits of bamboo in construction, he said there are many.
"Firstly, it creates an additional and continuous source of income for rural communities. Unlike mining, which is capital intensive and concentrated, bamboo exploitation requires little capital and can be spread broadly.
"However, there are plenty of opportunities to generate new industries associated with it: preservation, transformation, etc. Modern bamboo housing has an excellent track record in disaster resilience (earthquakes and typhoons), low costs and high levels of thermal comfort.
"It is expected that construction of multi-storey engineered bamboo frames (for now only a potential and not current technology) would have similar benefits that modern timber structures have: better working environments, lower air pollution during construction, improved working conditions, etc."
The people of Karnataka are feeling proud as the idol of Adi Shankaracharya (Hindu philosopher who revived Hinduism in India) was unveiled in Kedarnath in Uttarakhand on Friday, said the sculptor, who carved the idol here in nine months. The 12-feet Shankaracharya idol was sculpted out of a single piece of rock by local sculptor Arun Yogiraj and his team.
Yogiraj is elated as the Uttarahand's Chief Minister and Tourism Minister congratulated him for giving the final shape to the beautiful idol in a short period of time. He had also got appreciation from the office of the Prime Minister.
The idol was sculpted in nine months. Seven sculptors worked for more than 12 hours in two shifts under the guidance of Yogiraj. Stone weighing 80 tonnes was carved into an idol weighing 26 to 28 tonnes.
Yogiraj said the idol represents 33-year old Adiguru Shankaracharya. "We have kept in mind that the face of idol should have a cherishing look, it should have a realistic appearance and it should also look beautiful from all 360 degree angles. Have read Shankaracharya's life history as preparations," he explained.
"I represent the fifth generation of sculptors in my family. My name was referred by Hampi Kannada University to the Prime Minister's Office in August 2020 for making of idol. The PMO office had asked to make 25 inches of idol from sculptors across the country. My model was finalised in September 2020," he stated.
After getting the assignment to make a 12-feet tall idol, a meeting was held with the Indian Air Force regarding the idol's weight and other matters as they had to airlift the idol to Kedarnath. The work was finished by June 2021. The idol was sent to Chamoli airbase by road. From there, it was airlifted to Kedarnath in a special helicopter, he said.
"I reached Kedarnath and installation was done between September 25 and October 25. This is my honour. It was a big responsibility as lakhs of devotees turn out at Kedarnath pilgrimage centre," he expressed his happiness.
At the time of making and when the idol was given the final shape, a large number of people thronged to see the idol in making. "This is a matter of pride that an idol made in Karnataka is going to be installed at pilgrimage centre of Kedarnath. It's an honour for all sculptors in the state," he says.
Recently, granite stones from Chikkaballapur town in Karnataka were sent to Ayodhya for building the Ram temple.