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Abhinav Pandya

Kerala Floods-A time to Rethink Development Policies than Do Aid Politics

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Kerala Flood

God’s own country, Kerala, became the victim of the nature’s wrath and is experiencing the worst floods of the century. It was all over the news, but not for its backwaters, not even for the age-old rightwing-leftwing rivalry, but for the most devastating floods and a humanitarian disaster of epic proportions. The floods left 445 people dead and 15 missing. Within a fortnight, while at least 280,679 people were evacuated, mainly from Chengannur, Pandanad, Aranmula, Aluva, Chalakudy, Kuttanad, and Pandalam.  In the hilly regions like Coorg, floods have caused landslides which have exacerbated the destruction of homes, bridges, homes and road networks.  1/6th of the population of the state has been directly affected, and the central government has declared it as a calamity of the level 3 which means the catastrophe of the severe nature. The flow of water in the deluge has led the opening for the 35 of the 42 dams in the state for the first time.

First of all, it deserves attention to explore why the God’s own country has become a symbol of the God’s wrath. For all the farrago of superstitious explanations for the floods coming from various quarters, it need be clear that the eminent ecologist Gadgil has clearly stated the recent floods as a manmade disaster. The 2011 report submitted by Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel, headed by ecologist Madhav Gadgil had apparently warned the ill-thought development practices were ruining the ecological sustainability of the Western Ghats hill chain, one of the world’s most biodiverse area. The report had advised many states including Kerala and Karnataka to follow sensible and sustainable development policies by restricting activities such as dams, construction, and quarrying near protected forests in hilly areas. The report was rejected by the Ministry as well as by both states. The worst damage had taken place in areas where the Gadgil committee had recommended protection. Indeed, this is a great warning not just for India for the entire sub-continent. South Asia,has lately been on a development-high economic growth rate spree to improve its infrastructure and cater to its fast-increasing population and its demand for jobs, housing, recreation, and food. With the CPEC, this drove has further strengthened with a strong sense of strategic competition and rivalry. However, the states involved need to exercise caution in this rat-race for development.

Coming back to Kerala, this author would like to address the controversial issue of foreign aid for Kerala floods. Many Indian media platforms are running stories of India rejecting foreign assistance from UAE and projecting it as an example of inhumanity. These media stories have strong undertones of turning the issue into a political vendetta against the existing government. The implied meanings suggest that the aid was rejected because the central government is being partial against the state government as the state is run by a non-BJP regime. Further, one can also sense a subtle intent to give a communal color to the issue as the state of Kerala has a substantial Muslim population working in gulf countries, following a Wahabi school of Islam with strong cultural and economic linkages with Arab nations.

However, it appears that the issue is being blown out of proportion.  The media and intellectual quarters are not applying rational minds, and their op-eds are loaded with political baggage. First and foremost, I would like to mention that there was no formal offer of aid through official channels by UAE. It was merely a verbal gesture. Secondly, the policy of not accepting foreign aid was started by former PM Manmohan Singh when US and Japan offered humanitarian assistance during 2013 Uttarakhand floods. Before that in 2004 also, India did not accept the US aid provided for Tsunami rehabilitation. The reason being India is economically self-sufficient, and it has a robust disaster management infrastructure. India is currently the sixth largest economy and 2nd largest in terms of population. It has the ability to generate surplus plus finds for natural and man-made disasters like Kerala floods.  There are paramilitary cadres and organizations like CRPF, Army and National Disaster Response Force with high-quality expertise in the field.

Further, as stated by Minister of State for External Affairs, Gen. VK Singh in the parliament that over the past many years India has become a nation that has given more foreign aid to other countries than it received in the last three years. He also explicitly mentioned that as the country’s international stature and economic heft grows, India should avoid taking aid from foreign countries. Hence accepting foreign assistance does not rhyme well with India’s growing global stature and economic heft.

Another question that comes to mind while accepting foreign aid is its informal and unwritten obligations. If a country takes assistance from a foreign country, in many ways, it may lose its strategic autonomy. Hence, when India is in the position to finance its relief efforts, it would not be sane to accept foreign aid.  Further, the state and center have done a commendable job in disaster management so far in Kerala. The state has provided shelter to one million people in 3000 shelters, and the center has provided the assistance of INR 600 cr. All Indian states have provided financial and other kinds of assistance to Kerala. Many civil servants, politicians and ordinary civilians have donated their one month’s salary to Kerala.

In an interview to the Economic Times, the state CM Vijayan expressed gratitude to center for cooperating and providing relief assistance-“I need to make it clear in no uncertain terms that the government of India was forthcoming and responded positively. PM Narendra Modi and Home Minister Rajnath Singh visited the flood-hit areas and have been understanding the situation fully”.

India has sincerely expressed her gratitude to Pakistan’s new government for offering relief assistance but as per the policy, has not accepted it. However, this need not be the reason to deduce that it is a jolt to peace-making efforts between the two countries. In fact, in official and civilian circles Pakistan’s offer has been appreciated. In India, people have strong hopes with Imran Khan’s NayaPakistan. Imran Khan is already a hero in India because of his tree-plantation initiative in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. His earlier interactions with India during his cricket career and his study of Indian states like Bihar prove in no uncertain terms that he has a better understanding of India and its concerns. I believe that his vast public following, sincerity and out-of-the-box thinking makes a perfect combination in achieving a breakthrough in Indo-Pakistan relations provided he get enough support from the deep state and Pak army. On India’s side, Prime Minister Modi has expressed his commitment to good India-Pakistan ties. He has clearly stated that India is looking for constructive and meaningful engagement with Pakistan.

Hence, there is no reason for biased and the hate-mongering Cassandras to portray India’s refusal to accept Pakistan help as an indication of stiffening relations between the two countries and make doomsday predictions. However, it needs to be mentioned that substantial progress and dialogue between India and Pakistan can take place in an overall atmosphere of peace and goodwill.  If the issue of terrorism is addressed, then the sky is the limit for cooperation between India and Pakistan.

Abhinav Pandya

India needs a robust strategy to counter Pakistan’s proxy war

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On every occasion of Pakistan’s ceasefire violation, we are found fumbling in our response except for our hyper-nationalist media going overboard in abusing Pakistan. Since 2003 ceasefire agreement, there have been numerous instances of ceasefire violations (CFVs). In the first two months of 2018 alone, India reported 633 violations and Pakistan reported 400 violations. Days before, once again Pakistan displayed barbarity, tortured an injured jawan and returned its badly mutilated body.

Lt. General Syed Ata Hasnain in his essay, “The Counter Proxy-war Strategy for Jammu and Kashmir” (Kanwal Gurmeet The New Arthashatra-A security Strategy for India) scathingly critiques this shortage of expertise on Pakistan’s proxy war in our strategic establishment, and my understanding of his thoughts boils down to the conclusion that so far India’s response has been ad-hoc, reactionary and lacking a long-range vision.

First and foremost, India must have a clear understanding that it has been at the receiving end of the proxy-war with Pakistan since 1989. Though in effect, the proxy-war started with the birth of Pakistan and had existed since then in some crude form but with Zia’s strategic insights and efforts, it became organized and systematic. And, so far Pakistan is winning that war.

Venturing beyond the superficialities reveal that ceasefire violations are not random incidents of misadventure, but they are calculated strategic moves under the bigger umbrella of irregular warfare. The recent ceasefire violations have occurred in the Jammu region. The violations are aimed to terrorize the Hindu community that still has a strong presence in the Jammu region. The Deep-state (read ISI) wants to intimidate the Hindu community living there forcing them to emigrate out of J&K. Further, the ceasefire violations make sense when seen in the light of the central government’s intentions to rehabilitate the Kashmiri Pundits in the valley. Scare-mongering is aimed at demoralizing the government and Kashmiri Pundits and obstruct their homecoming. The broader objective behind such shenanigans is to usher in a demographic change in J&K by a gradual and sustained ouster of Hindus from the state, weakening India’s moral and territorial claims to the state. Further, there is also a strong possibility of such demographic experiments in Ladakh also to dilute the current-Buddhist nature of the region. In a recent visit to Leh and Kargil, this analyst came across the phenomenon of increasing religiosity merging with radicalization among the Shia community. Many young students visit Iran for religious studies. It is very common to come across the hoardings of Aytollah Khomeneh in Kargil and Leh. One can easily come across communal frictions between Shias and Buddhists. Further, there is also a strong possibility of Wahabbi activities in Leh region, in response to a rise in Shia activism.

Additionally, the ceasefire violations in Jammu region have strong potential to deepen the mistrust between the Hindus and Muslims, and between the Jammu region and the valley. The PDP-BJP government symbolizing an alliance between Jammu and Kashmir is a big leap towards the integration of the Kashmir valley with India. The deep-state wouldn’t tolerate it in the least bit, as it jolts Pakistan’s Kashmir ambitions from within. Apart from this, such ceasefire violations are also aimed at eroding the electoral support for the Modi government, which is abhorred by Pakistani establishment beyond imaginations for the reasons more than evident. Further, ceasefire violations also aim at providing momentum and a morale boost to disruptive activities in Kashmir valley or diverting attention for some large-scale infiltration attempt or executing any other completely unrelated social-political unrest in other parts of the country.

The better terminology is irregular war with Pakistan as proxy-war is just one of its several dimensions. The “irregular war” with Pakistan is a very complex, subtle, refined and a nuanced phenomenon. It is a study in itself which needs to be done from diverse stand-points, i.e., intelligence, demographic, military, and sociological, economic and diplomatic. Pakistanis have mastered the art of irregular warfare after years of experiments in Afghanistan and refined it in its diverse aspects, i.e., strategic, operational, tactical and sub-tactical. They devise innovative and timely interventions to infuse life in the event of the militancy floundering in the valley. They control the irregular warfare like a water-tap. The events such as the Kargil intrusion, recent civil unrest/stone-pelting in Srinagar, terror attacks in Uri and Pathankot, frequent ceasefire violations and bomb-blasts in other parts of India must be analyzed in the broader context of Pakistan’s irregular warfare. Seeing them in isolation isn’t entirely helpful in crafting the right response. In fact, there is also a need to explore the seemingly unrelated and remote events like Dalit unrest, environmental protests, communal riots and the left-wing radicalism even, regarding their subtle connections with the overall-objectives and planning of the deep-state.

Understanding Pakistan’s irregular warfare is a study-in-itself and well beyond the scope of this article. However, it must be clear that our options to counter Pakistan’s irregular warfare are limited. The way Pakistanis have their assets here, India, unfortunately, does not have that advantage in Pakistan, for the reasons that may not necessarily be mentioned keeping in mind the considerations of the political correctness of the piece. To build deep assets that could be used for covert actions and long-range irregular warfare, a country needs a sustained effort with clarity and continuity of purpose, high-morale of the concerned intelligence agencies, competence, muscle and skills, and a strong political will. Unfortunately, we have none. In Pakistan, the military has been reigning over the security and foreign policy for the last 70 years with clear policy objectives and sustained efforts. On the contrary, with every new election, the policy, personnel and the ideology changes in India. Further, our agencies lack enough authority, are highly bureaucratized, suffer from inter and intra-agency rivalry and work in a democratic culture which may not be the most friendly work-culture for a spy agency. Lastly, India lacks a “strong strategic culture.” We have never engaged in aggressive psywars and aggressive military action. Remember, it was Pakistan that attacked India four times, not India.

So, what do we do?  Shockingly, the option of being a silent spectator to civilian and military deaths in ceasefire violations have also appealed some great human rights workers and internationally-acclaimed intellectuals who even shamelessly argued that demolition of Babri Mosque turned a peace-loving Maulana into a terrorist Masood Azhar. However, such breed hardly matters to India.

While thinking of a counter-move, the first and foremost thing that needs attention is the fact that India’s edge over Pakistan has always been in a conventional war. Precisely this was the reason they made strategic and tactical nukes, to use them as a deterrent in case if India’s threshold for tolerance is crossed in the irregular war and India resorts to a conventional attack.  We have acted naively in taking Pakistan’s boastful nuclear rhetoric at a face-value.  Our strategic community has come to believe and, without much thought that Pakistan is going to retaliate with a full-scale atomic attack in case of a strong response by India to its terror tactics. This precisely has been the deep state’s trap, and foolishly, we fell into it and thriving in it for more than two decades now, with cuts in India’s body-politic fast exceeding General Zia’s dream number of 1000.

How baseless and unfounded our fears have been, is amply demonstrated by Pakistan’s timid response to India’s surgical strikes. Resorting to nuclear options will be a greater disaster for Pakistan and Pak army is a highly rational actor and understands the fact stated above, well. In fact, Pakistan does not have a response mechanism in case India retaliates with an aggressive military action, short of full-scale war. Pakistan knows that it cannot use the nuclear option and therein lays the chink in the armour of Pakistan. Hence, the option of a full-scale war may be unrealistic, disproportionate and unwise but something like a step short of it may be a sensible idea to explore. We may call it a sub-conventional military response.

India could explore the option of regular bouts of aggressive, high-intensity counter-offensive sustained over a long period with no immediate end in sight. The objectives must be clear- destroy the terror infrastructure including terror camps like Lashkar’s headquarter at Muridke, make civilian life hellish in Pakistan’s border areas and break them psychologically. Ceasefire violations should happen from our side on a regular basis. Along with this, we must activate the Afghan border also, indeed within the bounds of good taste !! The strategy must be to confuse them- two steps ahead and one step backward, i.e., an aggressive action followed by an informal proposal/statement indicating a genuine intent for ceasefire or even a declaration of unilateral ceasefire or a dialogue or some versions of track 2,3,4 diplomacy. Such moves must be followed, after a period, by another bout of aggressive military action on the border. India needs to create smokescreens where aggressive military action becomes a norm, but it does not look like a conventional attack. And, if it appears that Pakistan’s threshold is getting narrower, then India must guard itself with a nuclear threat. Finally, this is the best time to do it because the morale in Pakistan’s strategic establishment is low because of India’s tough approach in the valley and on the border, in the last four years. Besides, internationally Pakistan is under tremendous pressure as the world community sees Pakistan as a more or less a terrorist state. US-Pak relations are highly strained and Pakistan increasingly faces American pressure to act against Haqqanis. In June, FATF is most likely to declare greylist Pakistan for finding terrorism. In such circumstances, even China is least likely to stake its international credibility by defending Pakistan.

The pressure has to be on the border rather than in the valley. The remote control, i.e., Pakistan should feel hemmed in and broken, militarily and psychologically. The idea is to bust their morale. An aggressive action during the month of Ramazan or prayer times can also be a great idea to crack down their confidence.  The valley has to be a witness to the goodwill gestures, economic activity, and civil liberties. The tourism must be actively encouraged, and it will always be welcomed.

While dealing with Pakistan, India needs to care a little less about ethical aspects and its image of a responsible and a democratic actor in the international community. And, in the long-run we India can devise its hybrid-warfare strategy. My essay on India’s hybrid war strategy can be a useful document for India’s strategic community.

 

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Abhinav Pandya

India needs a robust strategy to check the use of Crypto-Currencies in terror funding

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Today, world order’s hallmark is its general instability and unpredictability, which in the eyes of the political philosophers, is the essence of the post-modernism. This essence of uncertainty reflects itself in myriad ways and forms that include non-state actors and terrorist organisations challenging sovereignty, cyber revolutions threatening the foundations of human security, democracy and law, and the artificial intelligence shaking the very notion of the prominence of the human race. The phenomenon of cryptocurrencies has brought the much-feared uncertainty, anonymity and unpredictability in the global financial system.

There was a time when one could take cash secretly and perform a transaction without any fear of surveillance or tracking by the regulatory agencies. The digitalisation of the financial system deprived us of that anonymity and privacy. The cryptocurrencies promise to return our privacy and anonymity. However, it comes at a massive cost.

The cryptocurrencies have emerged as the most advanced frontiers of terror financing. In 2016, Ibn Taymiyya media centre, an online jihadi unit of Gaza used social media campaigns to garner funds through bitcoins. Earlier, June 2015, a Virginia teen was posting instructions on twitter on how to donate to IS using bitcoins. In June 2017, The Wall Street Journal reported about the Syria-based Indonesian militant using PayPal and bitcoins to fund IS, as claimed by the Indonesian security agencies. A jihadist monitoring website said that an organisation viz… al-Sadaqah (Arabic for voluntary giving) was soliciting funds of the value of $750 in November 2017 for relief work in Syria. Al-Sadaqah campaign was circulating through Al Qaida linked social media channels like Facebook and the Telegram messaging app. In December, the Pro-IS websites like  Akhbaar-al-Musalmin ( (Arabic for news of the Muslims), and Isdarat were soliciting funds through bitcoin donations.

The cryptocurrency or ‘virtual currency’ does not have a government backing. It has no legal existence in any financial system. It exists under various names such as bitcoins, Monero, Ripples and Zcash. The money-launderers, cyber-criminals and terrorists find cryptocurrencies highly attractive because they offer anonymity and non-traceability. It provides anonymity in the sense that the user does not have to produce any document to validate his or her identity. Further, in a bitcoin network, the users are identified by an alphanumeric value rather than by their actual name. Moreover, the transactions are instantaneous and irreversible. Any amount of money can be transferred instantaneously from anywhere to anywhere concerning geographical location.

Further, such transactions take place on the dark web. The dark web is an encrypted area of the web with access to only specialized browsers like TOR (The Onion Router) and Freenet, and cybercriminals mostly use it, money launderers, terrorists, dissidents and journalists to avoid detection. On the dark web, terrorist or cyber criminals can buy a range of things such as driving license, passport, utility bills, guns, bombs and drugs. The website “silk route” that existed on the dark web was a global network of illicit money-launderers, smuggler and all kinds of criminals.

The counter-terrorism community across the world is perplexed as to how to respond to the challenge presented by the bitcoins. Moreover, there are worrying concerns. Over the last eight years, the use of bitcoins has exponentially risen from an average of 100 transactions per day in 2009 to 282,000  transactions per day in 2017. Amongst the millions of global Bitcoin transactions, it is challenging to spot the cases of terror-financing. Also, the fact that all this takes place on the dark web makes it a gargantuan challenge.

In India’s case, the state of affairs is rather grim. First, India is a special case. In the Middle East and Africa, the poor internet infrastructure discourages the terrorist groups from using bitcoins. However, India has a much better internet infrastructure regarding equipment, speed and connectivity. Plus, the IT skills are better.  The use of bitcoins is on the rise. Zebpay, a bitcoin exchange reported that in the last months of 2017, they were adding 300,000 to 400,000 users on its exchange every month as compared to 150,000 in June and July.  Also, a vast flourishing network of grey-market and the underground economy already exists.  A few years back, radioactive mineral cobalt-60 ended up in Delhi’s scrap market,  from Delhi University and was being sold in Delhi grey market. Imagine, if all this comes on an organized online market on a dark web. It will be a cake-walk for terrorist organizations to get hold of dirty bombs.

And, as if all this was not enough, the regulatory agencies are poorly skilled, understaffed and archaic. The legal apparatus to control bitcoins and cyber-crimes is not sufficiently developed.

India needs to invest a lot in the training and capacity building of counter-terrorism and money-laundering experts to build a specialized cadre in tackling the challenge that has come from the virtual currencies. Further, India also needs to develop a robust legal framework to address this challenge. Currently, though RBI has virtually banned all the banks from dealing in bitcoins or any other form of virtual currency, it will almost be impossible to prevent people from using crypto-currencies in future. Hence, high-handed measures such as outright banning will not serve the purpose of tracking or stopping the use of bitcoins for criminal and terrorist activity. Besides, cryptocurrencies have a huge potential to make the financial system genuinely global and state-of-the-art. The transactions are not delayed or hampered by sovereignty issues, and there is no need for endless paper-work, documents and complicated procedures. The virtual currencies can be a great asset to the vast population which is underserved by the banking system. It can genuinely democratise the banking services and save and a lot of time and money because of the speedy and simple nature of its transactions. Hence, outright banning of bitcoins which many countries are doing in the current scenario is not advisable.

Fortunately, the use of cryptocurrencies by terrorist organizations is still in the stage of infancy. Many handicaps such as the lack of developed internet infrastructure, rapidly changing and unpredictable nature of bitcoins, difficulties of converting them into fiat money and the lack of advanced IT skills still prevent the terrorist from using cryptocurrencies on a large scale. However, in the future, it will not be the case. The stringent oversight of regulatory bodies and the difficulties in using Hawala and formal banking systems may drive the terrorist and criminals majorly towards the world of virtual currencies. Moreover, it presents an alarming situation that needs planning and a great effort to develop a robust strategy to prevent the use of cryptocurrency for criminal and terrorist activities.

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Abhinav Pandya

Muslim Support for the Ram Temple Appears Realistic in The Near Future

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I wrote this article two and a half years back, advocating the idea that Muslims should come out in the support of the Ram temple. Most of the national publications of India refused to publish this article because the idea was against the zeitgeist of the time, or rather way ahead of its time. However, today the article becomes relevant because the idea proposed in this article has finally come true, though partially, in the fact that the Shia Central board has finally come out in the support of the Ram Temple.

For the last thirty years, if any political issue has been the most controversial and influential one in India then it is the Ram temple movement. In terms of its effect, the issue completely changed the political discourse in India and heralded a new era of politics in India. . Riding on the Ram Temple movement BJP had a meteoric rise from two seats (1984) to largest party in the parliament (1996). It marked the onset of the downfall of Congress and today, in India, the BJP which was once considered a communal and fascist progeny of RSS is the ruling party led by a man who is hated and liked equally.

Unfortunately, an informed and nuanced political debate on this issue has been lacking since the beginning. The left-wing historians, intellectuals, politicians and journalists have always held the Hindutva brigade in utter disdain, and their elitist attitude have always tried to banish them from the political discourse as sword and trident-wielding militant and communal scum, violating the sacrosanct secular spirit of India, and unworthy of giving a serious thought.  On the other hand, aggressive postures from the saffron leadership have vitiated the political atmosphere, increasing the communal frictions between Hindus and Muslims.

Before I begin to delve deeper into the subject, I would like to state categorically that I condemn the violent demolition of Babri Masjid in the harshest manner possible. But, having said this, I would like to argue that the Muslims of India could consider supporting the Ram temple movement.

If Muslims get offended by the demolition of one ordinary mosque, then they must think of what Hindus might have gone through when their prominent shrines like Ayodhya, Mathura, Kashi Vishwanath and Somanth were being ravaged, and they were being massacred and forcefully converted in thousands. It is a historical fact that some Muslim invaders ruthlessly demolished the temples and took the titles of “butshikan” i.e. the temple-destroyer. If Muslims take pride in Tajmahal and Akbar’s catholicity, then they can also admit the sins of some of the Muslim rulers, going beyond the rigid prism of religious bigotry. In no way, I am suggesting that today’s Muslims be held responsible for what some rulers did in the past. Neither am I suggesting any atonement for the sins of the past. However, as a goodwill gesture, it is expected that Muslims understand the Hindu sentiments when it comes to Ayodhya, Somnath, Mathura, and Banaras, because, the Muslims of present generation consider themselves the inheritors of the great Mughal heritage and the Islamic cultural and religious tradition. Secondly, when Babur’s commander destroyed the Ram temple, he represented an invader force demolishing the Hindu structure out of religious bigotry, to assert their religious and cultural superiority, not out of any political or secular motive, as contended by red-coloured historians (Marxist) in the case of Gaznavi and Aurangzeb.

Very often, the red brigade is vocal against British colonialism and quite frank in its apologetic defence of the Muslim rulers. The argument presented is that unlike the British, the Mughals had settled in India and adopted it as their own country. The case is feeble and baseless. Mughals did not go back because they could not though they tried hard till the reign of Shah Jahan to recover the homelands in Central Asia. Secondly, even after staying in India for a century, if Aurangzeb dared to destroy Mathura and Kashi Vishwanath, then it merely shows the contempt and hatred which he had for Hindus and their religious beliefs. He might have adopted India as homeland because he had been staying in India for long, but he could not develop any respect and tolerance towards Hindus. He and the others of his ilk adopted India as their territorial conquest whose subjects are to be enslaved and forcibly converted to Islam, just like many Islamic fanatics of Pakistan consider India as their country and think of Gajwa-e-Hind, i.e., the re-conquest of India by Muslims. In their attempts to exonerate Aurangzeb, that smack of intellectual dishonesty, biases and communal mindset, they at best, end up proving him a cunning politician with no morals, but not at all a secular ruler. Instead, I recommend that they must use their energies in researching on Dara Shikoh, about whom we hardly know anything and whose secular credentials are beyond doubt. Hindu rulers like Rashtrakutas and Zamorin of Malabar gave complete religious freedom to Muslims and let them build mosques in their kingdoms. Muslims as a sign of gratitude to the above mentioned Hindu rulers who gave ample religious freedom to their ancestors, and as a sign of respect for the sentiments of present day Hindus should voluntarily come out and support Ram temple movement.

We are so hyper-nationalist when it comes to Kohinoor, and when Dr. Tharoor asks for reparations to British in Oxford University, then why can’t we ask the Muslims for a very puny and symbolic atonement for the sins of those rulers who existed just fifty years before the beginning of British empire in India. The argument presented is that how far we go back into history. Well, first of all, the Babri Masjid row did not originate in the 1980s. It has always existed in the minds of people since the demolition, just like the memories of Somnath still haunt the Gujarati conscience. As early as 1859, Hindu-Muslim riots over the possession of the mosque are reported in British documents.  Secondly, if Sunni Muslims can continue the 7th-century tradition of fighting Shias, if the clerics can take pride in the invaders of the 10th century then why can’t Hindus ask for the restoration of the temples demolished in 16th and 17th century?

Thirdly, historians have always been using the above logic with discrimination which smacks of dishonesty. When they use the contemporary Marxist analytical frameworks developed in European societies, to analyze the social, cultural and religious phenomenon of the caste system which originated about 2500 years ago in India, then they go against their theoretical foundations. When they are going into the remote past to analyze the present then how can they do it the other way round, i.e., use the present to explain what happened 2500 years ago in a completely different socio-cultural and political context. When Marxist intellectuals are against seeking the compensation for temple demolitions which occurred two to three hundred years ago then on what grounds they can explain their entire anti-Brahmin academic and political narrative for something allegedly wrong that the Brahmins of pre-Christ society did. If this is the case, then there is no justification for any affirmative action also, for the lower castes. Blaming the British as colonial exploiters and eulogizing the brutal bigots who existed 40-50 years before British as benevolent dictators, sounds unfair, dishonest and hypocritical.

Lastly, a  mosque is merely a place of worship. It has no religious significance. In Saudi Arabia, many mosques have been demolished including the one where Prophet himself prayed. In Hinduism, the temples are erected after Pran-Pratishtha, and once it is done, they are considered conscious, and of utmost religious significance. Therefore, the Muslims of India should themselves volunteer to support this, movement. It will strengthen the multicultural foundations of India and enhance the bonding of love and harmony between Hindus and Muslims.

Two years back, I was delighted to hear Owaisi saying that Muslims will gladly accept the court’s decision, in his debate with Swamy. Today, when Shias have lent their support to the Ram temple, it seems that wisdom and ethics cannot be held hostage by the vested interests of some political parties. Moreover, if the Muslim support for the Rama temple is possible, it is possible in India only as India has a rich history of Hindu-Muslim harmony. Kabir, Raskhan, Dara Shikoh, Maulana Azad and Shri Abdul Kalam Azad are the products of the syncretic culture of Ganga-Jamni Tahzeeb that appears almost surreal in today’s world. India is the country, where despite the world’s second largest Muslim population, the number of Muslims joining ISIS could barely cross the mark of 100. To conclude, I would like to state that if the entire Muslim community comes out in support of Ram temple, it will be most shining example of peace and harmony to the world community and for that India’s Muslims will deserve nothing less than a Nobel prize.

 

 

 

 

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