Tuesday October 17, 2017
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Why Mani Shankar Aiyar is misunderstood

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The issue with my friends on the right side of India’s political spectrum is that they view Pakistan in a different light as compared to Mani Shankar Aiyar or people like me. To understand Aiyar, one ought to understand the Congress of Mahatma Gandhi and so as to apprehend that Congress one must know the role India’s Grand Old Party played in the freedom struggle that culminated into the country’s independence and also partition along the lines of religion in 1947.

68 years ago, a people – who had so much in common in terms of language, culture and food habits and who had been living together for centuries as brothers – were divided in the name of religion, leading to the formation of Pakistan, a separate homeland for the Muslims of the subcontinent.

The cataclysmic partition took place despite the Congress party’s incessant efforts to somehow keep India united. But we must remember there were ‘breaking India’ forces at work in the form of Muslim League led by Muhammed Ali Jinnah and Hindu Mahasabha led by the likes of Vinayak Damodar Savarkar. The latter was one of the prominent leaders who influenced and shaped the ideology of the RSS.

It is these ‘breaking India’ forces the ‘secular Indians’, whom the Congress is supposed to represent but has apparently failed to do so, have been battling since so many decades and that fight continues till date, be it in Dadri, Gujarat or Muzaffarnagar. It’s a fight between love and hate, good and evil within us.

While Jinnah wanted a Muslim Pakistan, Savarkar longed for a Hindu India. The RSS and the Muslim League were two sides of the same coin, seeking Hindu and Muslim supremacy. In fact, the cadres of both the outfits were allegedly involved in the mass murders and rapes during and after the tragic partition. When the Congress was fighting for India’s independence, these two outfits were allegedly collaborating with the British. When Gandhiji pleaded for unity, no one listened to him.

This could be understood from the fact that almost no one from these outfits went to jail during the independence movement. The gaols of India were filled by the Congress workers and other nationalist forces.

Tushar Gandhi, the great-grandson of Mahatma Gandhi in his book ‘Let’s Kill Gandhi’, writes that Savarkar was the first Indian leader to publicly say that India could never be a united country; at the Ahmedabad convention of the Hindu Mahasabha, he stated that there are two Indias – a Hindu Rashtra and a Muslim nation. This was much before Jinnah’s Muslim League voiced the demand for Pakistan.

It is these ‘breaking India’ forces the ‘secular Indians’, whom the Congress is supposed to represent but has apparently failed to do so, have been battling since so many decades and that fight continues till date, be it in Dadri, Gujarat or Muzaffarnagar. It’s a fight between love and hate, good and evil within us.

To my friends on the right, both Hindus and Muslims, the partition of India is a fait accompli. For them, Pakistan is a done deal and it cannot be reversed. This is where the differences in perception arise. For the true followers of the ideology of the Mahatma Gandhi’s Congress or the secular Indians the party is supposed to represent, ‘partition’ was a blunder of Himalayan magnitude committed by the then leadership -Nehru, Patel and Jinnah – under those taxing circumstances when India was under the yoke of a foreign third party, namely Britain, which should be corrected.

Much has been written about Britain’s divide and rule policy, how they fought ‘uniting India’ forces like the Congress by propping up and using ‘breaking India’ forces like Muslim League and Hindu Mahasabha. The Hindus and Muslims of India were more than capable of resolving their issues between them, but such ‘uniting India’ efforts were deliberately allowed to be failed by the British so as to achieve their imperial motives.

So after dividing Punjabis, Bengalis and north India in the name of religion and much bloodshed, a theocratic Pakistan came into being, a country which according to The New York Times ‘presents danger’ to entire world today. This and India’s boiling communal pot further show how the powers-that-be committed a mistake by dividing our country.

People like Mani Shankar Aiyar, I believe, have been trying to undo the damage done to India’s unity and integrity by uniting the hearts that have been torn apart. This is how at least I view Pakistan. I look at Pakistanis as our lost brothers who should be reunited with us through the message of love and sincere efforts. For me there is no difference between an Indian and Pakistani; after all we were one once upon a time.

Punjabis live here, there also; Sindhis live here, there also; Biharis live here, there also; Urdu speaking people live here, there also; Kashmiris live here, there also; Pashtuns live here, there also; Bengalis live in Bangladesh, here also. Where is the difference? We are the same people. The only thing that differentiates us is religion and that too is a matter of personal choice. The State should ideally have nothing to do with religion (duh).

I remember the days when I was young and immature when I loathed Aiyar for his ‘love for Pakistan’. I did not then understand the idea of India, the idea of Pakistan, the Congress, the Muslim League, the Hindu Mahasabha, and the reasons behind India’s partition and the role played by the British Raj therein. Now when after understanding all of them, the light has finally dawned on me, I look at Aiyar as nothing but a man on a mission.

The man, for heaven’s sake, has been ploughing a lone furrow for the past 24 years to improve relations between the two south Asian cousins, not because he wants to ‘break India’, but because he sincerely wishes to better the relations between the people of two countries. My friends on the right should know such ‘secular’ forces are extant in Pakistan as well.

Now let’s come to Aiyar’s remarks in Pakistan on PM Modi. While speaking to Barkha Dutt, Aiyar clarified that he gave a straight answer to a straight question asked to him by the anchor on Duniya TV. When he was asked how the current stalemate in India-Pakistan relationship could be ended, the latter replied: “Hume le aaiye, inko hatayiye (Bring us, remove them) i.e. bring in the Congress and remove the BJP at the Centre.

What Aiyar, as he mentioned later, literally meant was that the Congress party will have to be brought back to power to improve the Indo-Pak relations considering the Modi Sarkar’s performance in the past 18 months in this regard. In a democracy like India, needless to say, regime change is only possible through free and fair elections.

That is why he said that was possible only after four years when the new elections would be held for the Centre. Now that is my point of view as well and we can agree to disagree on this. However, to suggest that Aiyar or others are asking for Pakistan’s help in changing the current regime in India is like misreporting or twisting his words to suit one’s agenda.

India and Pakistan are at crossroads today. We must learn from Pakistan’s creation and its painful experience as a theocratic state that ‘Hindu Rashtra’ is a bad idea. Equality for all irrespective of their religion, caste, creed, creed, sex or color should be the way forward.

The time has come to reunite the ‘divided India’.

In legendary bard Rabindranath Tagore’s words,

Jodi tor dak shune keu na ase tobe ekla cholo re (If they do not listen to your call, walk alone walk alone)

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Pakistan Elected to UN Human Rights Council along with 14 other countries

The new members will serve a three-year term from January 1, 2018

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UN General Assembly elect 15 new members of Human Rights Council. Wikimedia

United Nations, October 17, 2017 : Fifteen countries, including Pakistan, have been elected to the UN Human Rights Council by the UN General Assembly.

In a vote on Monday, Afghanistan, Angola, Australia, Chile, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mexico, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Qatar, Senegal, Slovakia, Spain and Ukraine were elected, a Foreign Office statement said.

They will serve a three-year term from January 1, 2018. (IANS)

 

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Richard Thaler Supported Demonetisation, there is More to the Story

Demonetisation is what Richard Thaler had long supported. However, he remarked "Really? Damn," when he was informed about the introduction of Rs. 2,000 notes in place of the discontinued Rs. 500 and 1,000 notes thereby highlighting how his joy of seeing a step towards a cashless economy and reduction of corruption was momentary.

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Richard Thaler won the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences on 9th October.Wikimedia

When Prime Minister Narendra Modi decided to scrape Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes last November, Nobel Prize winner Richard Thaler supported demonetization describing it as a policy that he had long supported.

Dr. Richard Thaler, a Professor of Economics and Behavioural Science at the University of Chicago won the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences on 9th October.

Did Richard Thaler really support demonetization in the way BJP took it? There is more to the story than what meets the eye.

As soon as Thaler was declared the Nobel Prize winner, members of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) started sharing Thaler’s tweet regarding demonetization on social media affirming that the move which was severely criticised by the members of the opposition was actually supported by a Nobel Prize winner. The BJP IT cell head Amit Malviya retweeted the old tweet within a fraction of a second.

However, Richard Thaler remarked “Really? Damn,” when he was informed about the introduction of Rs. 2,000 notes in place of the discontinued Rs. 500 and 1,000 note thereby highlighting how his joy of seeing a step towards a cashless economy and reduction of corruption was momentary.

It was not only the BJP supporters but also a large number of BJP leaders who were flowed away with incomplete picture depicted by Malviya and tweeted about it.‬ This included Union Minister Giriraj Singh, former BJP IT Cell Head Arvind Gupta, and many others.

Soon after, twitterati realized that the full picture of Thaler’s statement on demonetization was rather hidden.

Prime Minister Modi declared that the motivation behind scrapping Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes was to promote cashless economy and reduce corruption. This decision was severely criticised by different sections of the society putting on Modi the ultimate responsibility for heralding economic deceleration. Demonetisation pulled down India’s GDP growth rate to a mere 6.1% in 2016-17.

Some highlighted that the introduction of Rs 2000 note was an ephemeral panacea for remonetization and that its printing has been terminated.

-Prepared by Mohima Haque of NewsGram, Twitter: mohimahaque26

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Pakistan Electoral Body Bars Political Party Due to Terror Ties

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Sheikh Yaqub (C) candidate of the newly-formed Milli Muslim League party, waves to his supporters at an election rally in Lahore, Pakistan. voa

Pakistan’s Election Commission (ECP) on Wednesday rejected the registration application of a newly established political party with alleged ties to a banned militant group in the country.

Milli Muslim League (MML) has been disqualified to participate in the country’s state and general elections.

The electoral commission’s decision is said to be based on a request made earlier by the country’s Ministry of Interior Affairs, stating that Milli Muslim League is a front organization for Jamaat-ud-Dawa, a U.S.-designated terror sponsoring organization in Pakistan.

“The government is vigilant and under no circumstances will allow any political party with a proven record of promoting violence and terrorism to spread their extremist ideology through democracy and political means,” Tallal Chaudhry, Pakistan’s minister of state for Interior Affairs, told VOA.

Saif Ullah Khalid, president of Milli Muslim League, dismissed the election commission’s decision and said the party will take the matter to the country’s judiciary.

Political wing

Milli Muslim League was established in August 2017 as a political wing for the controversial Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), which is believed to be a front organization for the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terror group led by Hafiz Saeed.

Saeed was accused of masterminding Mumbai’s 2008 terror attacks that killed 166 people, including six Americans.

The U.S. government has offered a $10 million reward for information leading to his arrest. Saeed has been reportedly under house arrest in the eastern city of Lahore for the past eight months.

In September, during an important by-election in Lahore, when the National Assembly’s seat fell vacant following the disqualification of then-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, the newly launched MML backed an independent candidate who finished fourth in the race for Sharif’s seat.

At the time, Pakistan’s upper house of parliament strongly criticized the country’s election commission for allowing JuD’s political wing, MML, to participate in the Lahore by-election.

Some experts were concerned about the emergence of militant groups joining mainstream politics in Pakistan. They maintain that the political trend seen in Lahore’s by-election, where parties linked to militant groups are able to mobilize and generate sufficient numbers of votes within a very short period of time, as alarming.

“There should be a debate on this sensitive issue through social, political and media channels. By allowing militant-based political parties to integrate into mainstream politics, it will only escalate radicalization in the society,” Khadim Hussain, a Peshawar based political analyst, told VOA.

“There are people who believe with the merger of such militant groups into politics, we’ll provide them an avenue to maintain a political presence without leaving their extreme ideologies,” Hussain added.

Army’s support

Earlier last week, Pakistan’s army acknowledged they are mulling over plans to blend the militant-linked political groups into the mainstream political arena.

Some analysts side with MML, arguing the party should be allowed to participate in elections.

“I do not understand in what capacity the election commission has rejected MML’s application to register as a party,” said Ahmad Bilal Mehboob, the head of Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency (PILDAT).

“Did they (MML) break any law? If not, how can you bar MML from entering the mainstream politics when they’re doing it through legitimate ways,” Mehboob emphasized.

Zubair Iqbal, a Washington-based South Asia expert, also raised concerns over the validity of the decision.

“This is how democracy works. … There are some extreme groups, some moderate groups and no one should be stopped because of their extreme ideologies,” Iqbal told VOA. “The extremist groups can be barred from entering into the politics only through people and democracy.”

“Unless these parties and individuals are allowed to participate in the political system they might never change their extreme ideologies and might continue operating underground which will prove to be more dangerous,” Iqbal added.

International pressure

In the past few years, Pakistan has faced escalating pressure from the international community for not being able to crackdown on militant groups enjoying safe havens in Pakistan and launching attacks in neighboring countries.

In his recent speech on the region, U.S President Trump put Pakistan on notice to take actions against safe havens in Pakistan. Pakistani officials deny the existence of safe havens on its soil.

Pakistan is also accused of being selective in its pursuit of terror groups. It allegedly goes after only those groups that pose a threat to the country’s national security, ignoring others that threat India and Afghanistan.

Pakistan rejects the allegations and reiterates its stance of having no sympathy for any terror group operating in the country.(VOA)