Thursday, December 18, 2014

Janus-faced BJP

The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party has two sharply contrasting faces.  One looks westward, to the capitalist economy and technological advance.  The other looks backward into history and clings to ossified fossils that will stand out like monstrous gargoyles on the edifice of any modern thinking.

Thus the party has a leader who hops on and off airplanes that take him places which have absolutely no affinity for his or his party’s ideologies and long term objectives.  Back home in the country, his colleagues go on harping on one and the same string of ancient – very ancient – history producing a tedious monotony ad nauseam.

The latest pronouncement is from the urban development minister, Mr Venkaiah Naidu, who wants to rename Delhi as Indraprastha or Hastinapur.  How far back does the BJP want to take India?  How forward, on the other hand?  Is the party suffering from a split personality disorder?  Some kind of political schizophrenia?

I wonder if Mr Naidu has some basic knowledge of human history.  Or is he mixing myth with history with some heinous ulterior motive?  “The question to ask here is whether Mahabharata is a myth or reality. If it is a reality then when did it exist. Some say it was lakhs of years ago. ... Evidence of the oldest settlement in Delhi dates to the 3rd century BC inside Purana Qila, which means just 2,300 years ago,” remarked Sohail Hashmi, historian and film-maker.

Every day one or another leader of the BJP comes out with some suggestion which can only take India backward by centuries and reinforce certain superstitions and ignorance.  Why is the party doing this?  Does it want India move ahead toward a greater civilisation founded on scientific temper or push us deeper into the world of myths, mantras and old wives’ tales?

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Peshawar’s Children

More than a hundred innocent children were killed by the Taliban today in Pakistan’s Peshawar.  Many were injured.  Teachers were burnt alive.  All in the name of religion.

Nurturing a cruel thought in your mind implies you are cruel.  I remember having read something to that effect long ago in Dag Hammarskjold’s little classical diary, Markings

How cruel must one be in order to line up innocent children and fire bullets into their hearts?  And they call that religion!

Like most religious fundamentalist organisations, the Taliban was born out of a conflicting mix of passions: hatred towards certain sections of people and a childish longing for an ideal world

Mullah Omar was a barely literate jihadi who had lost his right eye fighting the Russians in Afghanistan.  In 1994 he witnessed a local warlord eliminating an entire family, not before raping every girl in it.  The incident put the fire in the romantic soul of Mullah Omar.  He vowed to restore the true sharia in Afghanistan.  He went from madrassah to madrassah enlisting volunteers for his ‘noble’ cause.  Soon the Taliban was born.  It recognised no Islam but their own.  It imposed its will on the people.  It became the law. 

True to the spirit of such romantic dreams, it elected Omar Amir-ul-Momineen, Commander of the Faithful, in 1996.  In no time, the Mullah became the successor of the Prophet himself and declared jihad on anyone who opposed the Taliban.

Thousands of people have been killed all over the world by this organisation which grew out of an infantile dream and much hatred.  People like Osama bin Laden, “idealist and romantic, dreamer of past future glories and perhaps even harbouring apocalyptic visions of martyrdom” (as described by Charles Allen in his book, God’s Terrorists) and the learned Dr Ayman al-Zawahri lent their support to the Taliban dreams.  Pakistan’s ISI used the organisation for its political purposes.  And today, there it strides all over the world like the Frankenstein  monster.

How do we save ourselves from such monsters who come donning the garb of the Messiah?

We, the ordinary people, are quite helpless. We can question them.  We can refuse to support them.  We can speak against them, write against them, teach against them.  What more can we do?

We are the hapless children of Peshawar.

Politicians use such monsters for their own nefarious objectives.  Politicians create them too.

Ignorance is the root cause of such diabolical forces which masquerade as holy outfits, custodians of public morality and guardians of gods.

They have existed throughout human history in one form or another.  When will mankind be redeemed from these redeemers?