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It is often believed that the idea of secularism is universal and so it should be applied. However, Rajiv Malhotra, noted Indologist and author of several books on the issues of Dharma, Indian history, culture, and languages, believes that the concept is a Western creation. Yesterday, he shared a video on his Facebook page, where he emphasised on the point that ‘secularism’ was a solution to the problems of West where religions like Christianity propagated the thought of ‘we are the only religion that is right, others are wrong’.

That meant there was no scope of a dialogue in a society that heavily relied on the directives of the Church, which guided police, society and even the reigning monarchs.

He said, “Secularism is a Western concept, to solve a western problem. The problem in Western religion was the ‘exclusivity claim’, which means ‘only I am right, others are wrong’, which is built into the Western religion.”

Stressing further on the power that religion and the Church enjoyed, he said that religion often interfered with science and persecuted people who fiddled away with its own thoughts. The Church didn’t allow even science to have its own independent inquiry.

The Indologist, when asked about whether it was unreasonable to define India as Hindu Rashtra in modern times, continued to elaborate on what Dharma meant and how it was different from European view of religion and the need of secularism as a solution.

“Secularism was to curtail the excessive ‘state authority’ and ‘state power’ that the Church had, not only over the people who dissented and belonged to some other religion, but also people who were scientists.”

However, he said, “In India, the Dharma never had a posture against scientific inquiry. The Raja (King) never had an authority to impose his dharma over others. Manu was very clear that Raja must practice his Dharma, and he must allow others to practice their Dharma. In fact, not only it’s theoretically the case, but (even) in practise like, when the early Syrian Christians came, the Raja even gave them land. When the Zoroastrians from Persia came to India, they were also given land to live and practice their religion.”

Adding to the concept of dharma and how it is pluralistic in nature, Malhotra talked about how Hinduism was not a religion as defined by the West, “Hinduism is not necessarily a religion in a Western sense, it got a lot of claims within it. There are people who believe in different philosophies… there are people who are atheists, which is also ok, you can be a nāstik (atheist).”

The Indologist further explained how concept of religion with regards to Hinduism and Dharma, was different from the Abrahamic religions. “There is a built-in ‘pluralism’ within the Dharma (which) has made it different than the built-in ‘exclusivity’ in the Abrahamic religions.”

“Now, if the Dharma has a built-in pluralism (Sāpeksha Dharma), which means inclusive of all the Dharma, Sufis can have their Dharma, Muslims can have their Dharma, as long as you also respect others to have their Dharma. We can have differences (but) with mutual respect,” he elaborated.

Saying that Dharma meant a flow of free thinking and not a limitation on the same, Rajiv Malhotra debunked the idea of secularism for India as he opined it was a solution for the Western problem where scientists were beheaded and dissidents were persecuted.

As he spoke on the topic, in reply to the question of secularism and Dharma, he remarked that Dharma “never said that if your scientific conclusion is different then you are disobedient and it’s blasphemy. We never had any blasphemy law kind of things. So, free thinking was always there.”

Later, adding on to why pluralism was best suited to us, he said, “Lot of Indians believe that secularism is a “gold standard’ because they have been brainwashed. They don’t even think what it is, where it came from, what does it do. They are just taught that way. They have learnt it from childhood and parroted it saying ‘ain’t we seculars’, this and that.”

Malhotra explained that secularism, as an idea, was needed because the Western society didn’t have a space for any other religion. They needed a concept where people tried to coexist and practice different faiths. They needed an idea where science and other religions could coexist and be tolerated. However, he said that in India there were no such issues as pluralism made sure we have mutual respect.

Answering to the second part of the question regarding India being a ‘Hindu Rashtra’, he said, “As far as would India be a Hindu society, I use the term Dharmic society. India is a Dharmic society and I do not use the word Hindu, because Dharma also includes Buddhists, Jains, Sikhs. It includes anyone who complies with the basic principles like mutual respect.”

“So, the people who themselves want to be called as Hindus are fine, or something else are also fine. But, if you use Dharma, then Yes, Indian civilization is a Dharmic Civilization. This is my position,” he asserted.

The author of ‘Breaking India’, ‘Indra’s Net’ and ‘Being Different’, was asked whether he meant that the alternative name to be asked for India should be a Dharmic Nation rather than Hindu Rashtra.

Rajiv replied in a candid way, “I think it would be very difficult for someone to reject Dharma, no matter who they are, because basic ethics, basic responsibilities, basic life-style of respecting yourself, your family, your community, animals, nature, society, the world, the environment are all part of Dharma. Dharma is not just religion between me and God, it is all encompassing human ethics and responsibility.”

Here is the link to the YouTube video from his speech in December 2014:


Photo by Wikimedia Commons.

Char Dham Yatra resumed on Friday with more than 16,000 devotees resuming the pilgrimage from the Rishikesh camp.

As weather cleared up in Uttarakhand, Char Dham Yatra restored on Friday with more than 16,000 devotees resuming the pilgrimage from the Rishikesh camp.

According to sources, road leading to Badrinath has been repaired and helicopter service has also resumed.

Meanwhile, Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami visited Dungi village and met families of people who were missing after the landslip incident, and consoled them.

Dhami assured them of all possible assistance. Two people from the village are still reported to be missing.

Pilgrims were seen leaving from Rishikesh Char Dham Bus terminal and Haridwar bus station for the pilgrimage since morning.

As per the state government, various departments -- Devasthanam Board, police are assisting the pilgrims.

Police Chowki Yatra Bus Terminal, Rishikesh, was announcing passenger-information via loudspeaker.

Free RT-PCR tests of pilgrims were being conducted at Rishikesh bus terminal.

Uttarakhand Char Dham Devasthanam Management Board's media in-charge Dr Harish Gaur said pilgrimage was on in Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamunotri, while for Kedarnath, helicopter service was also available.

Though the weather was cold in all dhams, thankfully there was no rain, he added.

Portals of the temple in Badrinath will close on November 20, Gangotri on November 5, while that of Kedarnath and Yamunotri on November 6.

Uttarakhand floods, triggered by a major downpour from October 17 to 19, have claimed 65 lives so far, 3,500 people have been rescued while 16,000 evacuated to safety.

Seventeen teams of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), seven teams of State Disaster Response Force (SDRF), 15 companies of Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) and 5,000 police personnel have been engaged in rescue and relief operations.

The state has already been provided with Rs 250 crore Disaster Fund which is being used for relief works.

To prevent spread of the diseases, the Central and state governments have decided to send medical teams to the affected areas.

Snapped power lines will be restored at the earliest, the government assured.

The state government said that as soon as alert for heavy rainfall was issued, the Incident Response System was activated at state and district levels, and pilgrims were halted at safer places. (IANS/JB)

Keywords: Uttarakhand, India, Char Dham Yatra, PushkarDhami, Rishikesh.

Photo by Wikimedia Commons.

Naga leaders are adamant in their main demands for a separate Constitution and flag.

The Centre has continued the Naga peace talks with the Isak-Muivah faction of National Socialist Council of Nagalim (NSCN-IM) leaders, but negotiations face roadblocks as the Naga leaders are adamant in their main demands for a separate Constitution and flag.

The sources aware of these developments said that the Centre was hopeful that a successful solution of the six decades-long peace talks would arrive at a logical conclusion, but in the recent statements, Naga leaders have accused the Centre of offering post-solution options.

Sources quoting the stand of Naga leaders said that NSCN's stand was loud and clear that it would not follow the forbidden route to the Naga solution that was linked to foregoing the Naga national flag and Constitution, which is the face of the Naga political struggle and identity.

The Naga leaders have also said that the Centre has been using divisive policy and flattery in the name of finding the Naga political solution when the matters heated up.

When the Centre resumed the peace process in September this year and sent the former special director of the Intelligence Bureau (IB) A.K. Mishra as the Ministry of Home Affairs' emissary to the rebel outfit's chief negotiator and general secretary T. Muivah, he assured him (Muivah) that the peace talks would be initiated under the original framework signed in 2015, a source in the Naga rebel group said.

"Here we are talking about the Naga national flag and Yehzabo (Constitution), the two issues that are holding up the Naga solution under the ongoing Indo-Naga political talks in Delhi.

"The chequered history of the Indo-Naga political issue is clear enough before us, with accords and agreements that were never meant to be implemented in letter and spirit", an important office-bearer of the rebel outfit said while criticizing the governments' stand.

Accusing the Centre, he further accused the Centre of persuading the Naga people again to accept whatever is being offered to hurry up the Naga talks.

On the invitation of the Centre, the senior leaders of the NSCN-IM including T. Muivah arrived in the national capital on October 6 this year to hold another round of talks with the Centre.

Both, the Centre and the Naga leaders had indicated their keenness on resolving this long pending issue by the end of this year in an amicable manner.

Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sharma, who is also chairman of North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA), and Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio had been actively involved in the resumption of the peace talks and taking it forward to a logical conclusion.

Soon after the transfer of Nagaland Governor R.N. Ravi, who was appointed as the Centre's interlocutor for the Naga peace talks on August 29, 2014, to Tamil Nadu, the peace talks resumed on September 20 in Kohima when the Centre representative met the Naga leaders and invited them to visit Delhi for further rounds of peace talks.

The NSCN-IM and the other outfits entered into a ceasefire agreement with the Government of India in 1997 and over 80 rounds of negotiations with the Centre have been held in the past in successive governments. (IANS/JB)

Keywords: Nagaland, India, Constitution, Politics, Flag.

Photo by Wikimedia Commons

India-England test series will now be played next year from July 1 at Edgbaston Stadium

The series decider for the Test series between England and India will now be played at Edgbaston from July 1 next year, said the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) on Friday. India is currently leading the series 2-1 before the fifth Test at Old Trafford was cancelled hours before the start due to concerns over COVID-19 outbreak in the tourists' camp.

"The fifth match of the LV= Insurance Test Series between England Men and India Men has been rescheduled and will now take place in July 2022. The match, which was due to take place last month at Emirates Old Trafford, was called off when India were unable to field a team due to fears of a further increase in the number of Covid-19 cases inside the camp," said an ECB statement.

"With India leading the series 2-1, the concluding fifth match will now take place from July 1, 2022, at Edgbaston, following an agreement between the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) and the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI)," added the statement.

ECB also said that due to the rescheduled Test, the white-ball series between England and India will now start six days later than originally planned. The T20I series will begin on July 7 at Ageas Bowl with Edgbaston and Trent Bridge hosting the second and third matches respectively on July 9 and 10. It will be followed by the ODI series starting on July 12 at The Oval followed by Lord's and Old Trafford hosting the second and third ODI on July 14 and 17 respectively.

"Ticket holders do not have to take any action as all tickets will remain valid for the equivalent rearranged matchday at their host venue. Host venues will communicate the new fixture details to ticket purchasers and the options available to them, including the timeframe for requesting a refund if they are not able to attend the new match day," further said the statement.

"We are very pleased that we have reached an agreement with BCCI to creating a fitting end to what has been a brilliant series so far. I'm very grateful to all the venues involved for the cooperation they've shown in allowing us to reschedule this match. I'd also like to thank Cricket South Africa for their support and understanding to allow these changes to be possible," said Tom Harrison, the CEO of the ECB.

"We would like to apologise again to fans for the disruption and disappointment of September events. We know it was a day that so many had planned long in advance. We recognise that accommodating this extra match means a tighter schedule for the white ball series. We will continue to manage our players' welfare and workloads through next year while we also continue to seek the optimum schedule for fans, players and our partners across the game."

"I am delighted that the England-India Test series will now have its rightful conclusion. The four Test matches were riveting, and we needed a fitting finale. The BCCI recognizes and respects the traditional form of the game and is also mindful of its role and obligations towards fellow Board Members. In the last two months, both BCCI and the ECB have been engaged in discussions and our efforts were aimed at finding a suitable window. I thank the ECB for their understanding and patience in finding an amicable solution," said BCCI Secretary Jay Shah. (IANS/JB)

Keywords: India, Britain, BCCI, Test Match, Cricket.