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By Sapan Kapoor
Raising a red flag over growing intolerance and attacks on minorities and Dalits in India, former Navy chief Admiral Laxminarayan Ramdas has written an open letter to President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, entreating them to ensure that rights of every citizen of this land were honored as amply spelled out in the Preamble of the Constitution.
“I also write to you as one who was brought up in the Hindu faith. However, the Hinduism I knew and experienced was gentle, inclusive, and filled with extraordinary diversity,” Ramdas wrote, adding that, “Today, as a veteran in my eighties, I am forced to hang my head in shame as I witness a series of incidents and assaults on our fellow citizens, especially minorities and Dalits.”
Ramdas called upon the President and the Prime Minister to “stem the rot now, else it might be too late.”
He warned India’s top leadership that “it is like playing with fire.”
“I do not need to point out to the top leadership today, that this is playing with fire in a nation where minorities – especially Muslims and Christians, as also dalits and adivasis, are already feeling discriminated and marginalised,” the former Navy chief wrote.
Here’s his open letter:
Honourable President and Honourable Prime Minister,
It is with a heavy heart, that I write this open letter to you at a time when our beloved country and people are facing severe challenges and threats to our shared heritage.
I have served in the Armed Forces of India – joining soon after Independence as a 14 year old, to end up 45 years later Chief] of the Indian Navy [1990 to 1993] I have witnessed many transitions in India – from the horrors of partition in 1947 to the very different world of digital connectivity that we see today.
I also write to you as one who was brought up in the Hindu faith. However, the Hinduism I knew and experienced was gentle, inclusive, and filled with extraordinary diversity. My religion taught me values of love and respect for all beings. My brand of Hinduism was not filled with the kind of violence, intolerance represented by the current brand of “Hindutva” that seems to be fanning the flames of division and fear across the country.
Today, as a veteran in my eighties, I am forced to hang my head in shame as I witness a series of incidents and assaults on our fellow citizens, especially minorities and Dalits. Our armed forces which I have had the honour to serve for 45 years, have been an exemplar of India’s secular ethos. Be it in ships and submarines, or in planes and battle formations, we do not discriminate on the basis of caste or religion – we train, we fight, we live, we eat and we die together.
So why are we bearing witness to increasing attacks on minorities across the country, ever since the present government came to power in May 2014? It appears that certain communities are being singled out for special attention – for instance Muslims . Today a Muslim has to prove his or her loyalty, and they are being repeatedly put in a situation where their places of worship are under attack, as indeed their eating habits, and other basic freedoms. The instances of completely unacceptable and unilateral mob behaviour leading to many deaths as well as direct insinuations being made by senior leaders are too numerous and well known to be repeated.
There seems to be a systematic and well-orchestrated attempt to impose a majoritarian single point agenda of creating a Hindu Rashtra in India – led by the RSS and their network of groups, which is disturbing to say the least. This in turn has resulted in a dangerous pattern of mob behaviour including intimidating and lynching people merely on the basis of rumours – in total disregard for the established rule of law. In many cases those responsible for implementing the law, have themselves displayed blatant partisan tendencies and behaviour.
Most shocking of all is the fact there has been no unambiguous condemnation of such actions and behaviour by those at the helm of affairs in the country. Sadly, time and time again, the response of the government seems to indicate an almost studied, but certainly not benign, indifference. The co-ordinated response of those in government seems to be to downplay the serious and vicious nature of these allegations and attacks – by terming them ‘sad’ and ‘unfortunate’ – whereas there should be outrage and a demonstrated will to ensure that this society will not tolerate such behaviour. That there are MPs, Cabinet ministers and elected Chief Ministers who are in the forefront of these comments and actions, leads one to believe that the ruling party and its satellite organisations are working to a plan.
I do not need to point out to the top leadership today, that this is playing with fire in a nation where minorities – especially Muslims and Christians, as also dalits and adivasis, are already feeling discriminated and marginalised. Instead of treating this amazing diversity as our strength, today we are being seen by the international community as increasingly insular, parochial, intolerant, racist and even fascist. The violence visited upon vulnerable sections reinforces the image of India as an imperfect democracy where all forms of dissent are discouraged and human rights trampled upon with impunity.
The Prime Minister and his ministers in the government are sworn in by the President of India, and they take an oath pledging to uphold the Indian Constitution. Their failure to do so, as evidenced in the foregoing, is a serious matter and does not augur well either for national security or national integrity. The Central and State Governments must act swiftly, unequivocally condemn all such incidents and ensure that justice will be done and the guilty are punished. Such action alone will have a salutary deterrent effect on all those, be they fringe or mainstream, who are speaking and acting in many voices that are totally against and inimical to, our traditional ethos and the syncretic culture of our country and its people.
India represents a unique blend of peoples and cultures which have evolved over 5000 plus years in a constantly changing and dynamic process. This diversity and unique nature of our society and people can probably never be replicated anywhere on this earth – and for this reason alone, the concept of a single religious identity or mono culture represents an insult to this ancient civilisational heritage.
Honourable Mr President, Honourable Mr Prime Minister, you have both sworn to honour the right of every single citizen to freedom of speech, worship, association as brilliantly articulated in the Indian Constitution. As a former serviceman and a veteran, like you, I too have promised to uphold the same constitution. It is our bounden duty that the elected Government of this nation must honour the rights of every citizen of this land as amply spelled out in the Preamble of the Constitution and further elaborated in the Directive Principles of state policy. As Supreme Commander and the Chief Executive – this is what you must ensure and implement by all the powers vested in you by the people of India.
If we do not stem the rot now – it might be too late. Indeed we the people of India look to you to take all steps necessary to restore faith in our democracy and in the promise of bringing dignity, fraternity and equality to each of our citizens.
Admiral L. Ramdas
The letter originally appeared here.
The symbol of Swastika is known to signify peace, prosperity, and good fortune in the religious cultures of Eurasia. In fact, this symbol is considered very significant in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. But, at the same time, it has become one of the most misunderstood religious symbols and has been globally banned in many countries.
The reason why the symbol of Swastika is banned in many countries is because of its association with Adolf Hitler's extreme political ideology, Nazism, as Swastika as its official symbol.
Austria, France, Latvia, Spain, Germany, and Russia are amongst the many countries that have banned the display and use of the Swastika.
Moreover, last week Victoria in Australia is preparing to become the first-ever state to ban the public display of the Swastika. This is a step towards an expansion of anti-vilification laws in the state.
Representation of the Swastika on the flag of Adolf Hitler's Nazi Movement.Photo by Flickr.
Now, we must know and understand what went wrong with this symbol, which is sacred and signifies all-good things.
For a very, very long time, in India, the Swastika is the first emblem that is worshipped or even drawn before any sacred and auspicious ceremonies as this symbol in Sanskrit represents 'well-being'. But, the Swastika lost all its credibility when it was wrongfully used by Adolf Hitler.
In fact, it is believed that if this symbol is worshipped properly, then it gives positive results. But if it is abused, then it gives negative results. So, when Adolf Hitler rotated the Swastika at 45 degrees, it slowly and steadily brought misery not only to Adolf Hitler and his theory of Nazism but also to all the people who were associated with him.
Therefore, in order to give the kind of respect and credibility which the Swastika deserves, World Interfaith Harmony Week which was held in New York in February this year, interfaith groups appealed to the United Nations to recognize and acknowledge the Swastika as an important and peaceful symbol. In fact, they also differentiated it from the Hakenkreuz or "Hooked Cross" of Adolf Hitler.
India celebrated a historic day on August 7, as 23-year-old Neeraj Chopra became the first Indian to win an Olympic gold medal in athletics. In the men's javelin throw event, he achieved his greatest triumph, throwing the javelin 87.58 meters on his second try.
Neeraj Chopra was born on December 24, 1997, in Khandra village in Haryana's Panipat district. He grew up in a Haryanavi family of farmers. He is the brother of two sisters. He graduated from Dayanand Anglo-Vedic College in Chandigarh and is now enrolled in Lovely Professional University in Jalandhar, Punjab, pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree. Chopra was bullied due to his obesity as a kid, which prompted his father to enroll him in a nearby gym. He then joined a gym in Panipat, where Jaiveer Choudhary, a javelin thrower, noticed his potential and coached him. When the 13-year-old Chopra finished training under Jaiveer for a year, he was enrolled at the Tau Devi Lal Sports Complex in Panchkula, where he began training under coach Naseem Ahmed.
In 2018, he broke the world record in the javelin throw and became India's first-ever gold medalist in the javelin throw. He is also a laureate of the Arjuna Award for 2018. | Wikimedia Commons
Chopra's first international medal came in 2014, as he took home a silver medal at the Youth Olympic Qualification Tournament in Bangkok. In 2015, he set a world record in the junior category of 81.04 meters in the 2015 All India Inter-University Athletics Meet.
Since emerging into the public eye with a historic gold medal at the junior world championships in 2016, he has maintained a high level of performance, setting an Under-20 world record of 86.48m, which still stands. Gold medals in both the 2018 Commonwealth Games and the 2018 Asian Games are among his other accomplishments, including a first-place in the 2017 Asian Championships. In 2018, he broke the world record in the javelin throw and became India's first-ever gold medalist in the javelin throw. He is also a laureate of the Arjuna Award for 2018.
Chopra has also had his share of bad events in life. In 2019, he underwent surgery on the elbow of his right throwing arm, which kept him out of the game for almost a year. However, he returned more robust than ever. In November 2019, he went to South Africa to train from Klaus Bartoneitz. He spent the following year in India training at the NIS Patiala because of the COVID-19 pandemic. He was allowed to go to France with his coach after weeks of trying to get a travel visa.
Neeraj Chopra made history in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics by becoming the first Indian to win a gold medal in athletics. Also, it is worth mentioning that after Abhinav Bindra, Chopra is only the second Indian to win an individual gold medal.
Keywords: Neeraj Chopra, Olympics, Tokyo2020, Gold medal, javelin, India, Haryana
The emergence of the Industrial Revolution in Victorian England brought with it many apprehensions and fears that translated into a new genre in literature: the gothic. Today, the idea of the gothic does not have to much with literature as much as it is associated with fashion.
The Victorians began to wear black more often during the Industrial Revolution to hide the stains of soot on their clothes. Many of the working class were employed in factories. They were newly introduced to technology, the idea of coal as fuel, and the working of machines to serve a certain purpose. This kind of work was hard and messy. Wearing light colours burdened the tired folk when the stubborn stains did not get washed away.
The steam engine was invented to make locomotion easier for the masses, but it brought fear to the people. They had led quiet and simple lives till now, and suddenly their world was infiltrated with loud noises and smoke. Dark places became synonymous with evil deeds and mysteries. It was from this time that horror gained a place in the imaginations of people and artists.
A man sporting gothic clothes and shock coloured hair Image source: wikimedia commons
The gothics of today are those who have held on to these practices. There is no need to fear smoke and noise anymore, but the goths wear black clothes all the time, paint their skin a pale shade, to contrast their clothes, and wear bright shades of red. The traditional gothics decorated themselves with jewellery bearing religious significances, as the belief in Dracula and vampires emerged in the Victorian period. Today, it is a trend to wear studded crosses, or crosses made of black metal either as neck chokers, or earrings.
Modern goths also wear bright monotones to show their patronage of a certain style or order of the goths. They can be seen in neon shades of green, pink, and yellow, often sporting piercings, and matching hair. Their tastes are metallic, and they have an uncanny love for tattoos.
Designers consistently include gothic tastes and styles in their clothing lines to create inclusivity for this subculture. Being gothic, or identifying with them is somewhat a concern even in today's society, and such people are often stigmatised to the extent that it is considered a mental illness associated with the dark arts. The phenomenon is mostly observed in teenagers, and often phases out when they reach adulthood, depending on their sphere of influence.
Keywords: Gothic, Fashion, Victorian, Black, Jewellery