Who do we believe? Modi Butcher of Gujarat puts even butcher to shame

Narendra Modi Messiah or Mass Murderer has been morally isolated for his colourable exercise of power

Article-370 is an integral part of the constitution, which has made Kashmir an integral part of India. Attacking this article is an anti-national act, because this is equivalent to attack the constitution. War does not start in the battlefield. War starts in politics. This is impossible and absurd, that union ministers will declare civil war against Kashmir and Kashmir ministers will control it. Those who are declaring civil war against Kashmir everyday, in the form of attacking article-370, they have to come forward to take the load of civil war, including load of refugees

The National Conference, the Indian National Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party have all expressed divergent views on this contentious and misunderstood provision of the Constitution.

Imam Syed Ahmed Bukhari’s appeal seeking ‘secular votes particularly that of Muslims’ for the Congress nationally and Trinamool Congress in West Bengal ahead of the Lok Sabha polls kicked up a storm recently. It provoked angry newspaper columns, editorials and hours of prime time debate on TV channels. As has been the case with the self-styled community leaders, the media offered disproportionate attention to the imam. The pressing issues of education, employment, security, marginalisation and ghettoization were as usual lost in the din. The same old debates on clerical hold on Muslims followed even as they have repeatedly been proved to be bogus due to diversity and scattered nature of the community. Muslims voting preferences vary from place to place, depending on the alternatives they have to the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) in their respective states.

But the media’s fixation with the dodgy and supposed powerbrokers despite this reflects a larger malaise. It is partly mechanical and sometimes deliberate – worrisome in both cases — to reinforce stereotypes and condemn alleged Muslim herd mentality. Had that not been the case, the media would not have conveniently overlooked Bukhari’s history of political flip-flops and his failure to even influence voters in his backyard – Delhi’s Jamia Masjid area with almost 100% Muslim population. There his rival, legislator Shoaib Iqbal, has been getting elected successively for the last two decades despite his strident opposition. Even Bukhari’s brother refused to accept the imam’s latest appeal and held a presser in Lucknow with Maulana Kalbe Jawwad, who went to the extent of calling voting for the Congress as ‘betrayal of Islam’.

Within the community, Bukhari has serious credibility issues. His opportunistic endorsements have often lacked ideological coherence. He was among those who got carried away when the BJP launched its India Shining blitz in 2004 and ended up endorsing Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee for re-election that year. Public memory is notoriously shot. But in the imam’s case, memory appears to be even shorter. His Vajpayee ‘endorsement’ came over two years after the 2002 anti-Muslim pogrom in Gujarat, where as per the norm police and BJP administration mostly looked the other way as innocent people were burnt or hacked to death and women violated.

His endorsement had ignored Vajpayee’s infamous April 2002 speech in Goa when his famous mask had again slipped there. Vajpayee had virtually justified the pogrom shortly following his ‘redeeming’ invocation of ‘rajdharma’ after the pogrom in presence of Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi in 2002. The Congress has recently used the invocation in its desperate bid to prevent Modi from becoming the Prime Minister.

The imam also forgot Vajpayee owed his power and the BJP’s remarkable growth from a two-member party in the 1980s to the single largest group in the Parliament a decade later to the Babri Masjid demolition, which led to massacres of Muslims in its aftermath. And in any case, how could he have overlooked the BJP’s inherent antagonism towards the people he claims to represent. Deep influences of people like K B Hedgewar, who likened Muslims to ‘hissing yavana snakes’, on the party explains its hostility towards the community.

Bukhari now berates the Samajwadi Party. But he had endorsed it before it made an impressive comeback to power in 2012 in Uttar Pradesh. The imam snapped his ties with the party a year later citing its refusal to fulfil the promises made to the community. But in reality his kin were not given important posts, which forced him to look for new ‘secular’ allies. It is widely believed the imam’s new found love for his latest allies – chiefly the Congress — has come with usual personal promises. But it may be too late for the Congress, whose duplicity had cost it Muslim votes and power in the 1990s. The party has made it a habit to make promises and then go back on them to avoid backlash from the reactionary forces. Its dillydallying on the Sachar Panel recommendations best represents its lack of sincerity.

This is the reason why the so-called secular parties like the Congress fall back upon the self-styled community leaders at the eleventh hour. They tend to believe they would deliver in the absence of any personal connect. These ‘secular leaders’ need to be held accountable for shamelessly wooing clerics as vote contractors and promoting opportunistic fly-by-night community leaders for their short-term goals. This is the biggest disservice they have done for decades to the most marginalised community in the country. The ‘middlemen’ often get their ‘commission’ while pressing Muslim issues remain unresolved as a result. Tokenism becomes a substitute for them for five years before fresh promises are made.

This tendency highlights the extent of the community’s ‘otherisation’ and how it is being pushed to the margins represented best by increasing ghettoization and the need for the secular parties to have conduits to seek their votes. The otherisation is reflected in the phraseology used in the media ‘like understanding Muslim mind’, which even in big urban centres are to be found in the ghettos. Even those who can afford the best housing are forced to live in there subhuman ghettos, where the struggle for even basic needs is a daily reality in a damning indictment of the legacy of the decades of the ‘secular’ rule.

Who do we believe?

The inevitable has happened, though some might argue that it happened too soon for comfort.


 

The fact that Article 370 has reared its controversial head again in our public discourse is rather unsurprising, especially in the context of a new and assertive Prime Minister who detests Delhi’s Nehruvian status-quoist attitude and has made clear his intention to excise this temporary provision for good from our Constitution. If his intention is to strengthen the link between the impoverished residents of Kashmir and the largesse that emanates from New Delhi, then the Prime Minister must be lauded for his vision to better integrate this troubled state with the rest of the Union.

NC & Congress – Misplaced criticism or honest concerns?

However, those who oppose the deletion of Article 370, such as dynasts whose fortunes are inextricably tied to emotive issues concerning the theoretical autonomy of the state, have failed to offer cogent reasons for the preservation of this archaic and increasingly irrelevant constitutional provision. Shockingly, instead of encouraging a public debate and discussion on the issue of its deletion, critics of the move such as the state’s chief minister Omar Abdullah and the Congress’ Manish Tewari have cited bizarre arguments when confronted with questions about PMO MoS Jitender Singh’s statement on the need to engage with stakeholders before taking any decision on Article 370.

Unfortunately, this trend to treat Article 370 as some sort of sacred and untouchable covenant is doing more harm than good to the development of the state.

Firstly, the National Conference argues that this provision is the only legal bridge between Kashmir and the Union of India. The ramifications of such an extreme view are quite alarming – in other words the CM is warning the government of India that his state will sever itself from the rest of the Union and become an independent entity, unless this temporary provision is preserved permanently. However, the NC conveniently forgets that under Common Law, entrenchment of legislation is prohibited thus nothing can ever be made permanent, including Article 370.

Strangely, Omar Abdullah mistakenly appears to believe that Article 370 is higher than the constitution. This is simply unacceptable, and has even provoked some observers to term his statement as bordering on sedition. Personally, I do not think the statement is seditious in as much as it is irresponsible and constitutionally incorrect, because no law or provision can ever be above the constitution. The CM’s hypocrisy however, is particularly striking, since he owes his powerful position to the same Constitution that he wishes to keep out of the boundaries of his State on the dubious ground of maintaining ‘autonomy.’

But what does he seek autonomy from? Surely there must be an excellent reason for his deep-seated fear of Union oversight over the affairs of his state. Aside from the numerous exceptions carved out especially for Kashmir, the most striking omissions are the exclusion of Directive Principles of State Policy and the diluted protection of fundamental rights. By choosing to retain a system that classifies ostensibly Indian citizens as ‘permanent residents’ and otherwise, Article 370 only serves to widen the chasm between mainstream India and the troubled state.

Secondly, the Congress party not only reaffirmed its ally’s position by chiming in with Omar to prevent even a discussion on the provision with the main stake-holders but it went a step further and made the strange assertion that sub-clause 3 of Article 370 creates a permanent restriction against any amendment of the provision. Simply put, their view is that Article 370 may only be revised or revoked by acquiring the consent of the State’s Constituent Assembly – and since such an Assembly no longer exists, the provision can never be touched. Such an understanding of this provision is not only irresponsible but also incorrect.

Equally ludicrous, is another suggestion from Omar Abdullah, who argues that the original constituent assembly be resurrected to debate this issue. Not only is this practically unviable but also demonstrates the length to which some of our beloved leaders will go to preserve their personal fiefs. The late professor MP Jain whose book is considered one of India’s foremost texts on Constitutional Law, makes it abundantly clear that since no such ‘Constituent Assembly’ exists anymore, any limitation sought under Article 370 (3) would cease to operate and the entire provision would be open to amendment under the regular route available to Parliament under Article 368.

No one doubts that the accession of Jammu & Kashmir into the Union of India at the time of independence was fraught with difficulties and internal troubles that needed to be addressed within a special legal framework that allowed for extra elbow-room – the kind that Article 370 provided, and rightfully so. The real problems arose when politicians with petty personal agendas sought to unilaterally extend the existence of this temporary provision decades after the conditions that necessitated its creation ceased to persist.

The framers of our Constitution were not in the dark about the dangers of perpetuating this provision beyond what the doctor ordered. Article 370 was the brainchild of the brilliant Gopalaswami Ayyangar, a Minister in Nehru’s first Cabinet and an illustrious member of the Constituent Assembly, who carefully laid down the reasons for drafting such a provision in his speech before the Constituent Assembly on 19th October 1949. Ayyangar explained that there “has been a war going on within the limits of Jammu & Kashmir state,” and thus the “conditions in the state are still unusual and abnormal.” It was specifically for these reasons that the administration of the state had to be geared up within the ambit of a temporary legal scheme that allowed immediate policy interventions to be made without delay. No one, least of all the framers of our constitution would have imagined that these short-term concessions would become a permanent feature in our polity.

Kashmiri’s deserve an honest chance to rebuild their lives without interference from empty political rhetoric – the question is, who’s listening to them?


Modi Butcher of Gujarat puts even butcher to shame

Priyanka Gandhi Vadra steals limelight from Rahul Gandhi, grabs BJP's attention
Even though she hasn’t stepped out of the Gandhi pocket boroughs, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra has matched BJP’s PM candidate Narendra Modi byte for byte, barb for barb

Lalu Attacking Narendra Modi, Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad on Tuesday said that Modi puts even a butcher to shame.

“Modi puts even a butcher to shame. Will this man become the PM of India?,” Prasad said here.

His remarks come in the backdrop of a no-holds barred war of words between Tinamool Congress (TMC) and BJP.

TMC had hit out at Modi on Sunday calling him the “Butcher of Gujarat”, in an angry retaliation to his attack on West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee.

“Butcher of Gujarat air-dropped into Bengal. He has no answers to Bengal’s development model. So, making personal attacks,” TMC Spokesperson Derek O’Brien had said in one of a series of his tweets lambasting the BJP Prime Ministerial candidate.

“The Butcher of Gujarat could not take care of his own wife. How will he take care of this great nation?,” he had said in another tweet.

TMC took on Modi after he fired salvoes at Banerjee in his public speeches by raking up the Saradha scam and had accused her of breaking the dreams of the people of Bengal.

He had also passed sarcastic remarks on sale of Mamata’s paintings.Yoga guru Ramdev sank deeper into trouble after he was booked under the stringent SC/ST Act for his comment that Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi has “picnic and honeymoon” in Dalit homes. He is likely to be arrested as the law hands out high penalties for practicing or preaching untouchability. The Election Commission too cancelled Ramdev’s campaign for the BJP in Himachal Pradesh and Amethi, effectively shutting down his promotion of saffron party candidates.

After the FIR in Gorakhpur late on Sunday evening, two more FIRs were filed, in Patna and Agra, under the same Act on Monday. While Bihar food and consumer protection minister Shyam Razak moved a Patna court against Ramdev under the prevention of SC-ST Act, members of Dr BR Ambedkar Bar Association in Agra filed a case in the sessions court under the same law. A case was also registered against BJP spokesman Shahnawaz Hussain in Agra for backing Ramdev’s objectionable comment.

The hearing in the Patna chief judicial magistrate’s court will come up on Tuesday. Gorakhpur-based lawyer Udai Nath, who filed the FIR, said, “The entire nation, especially Dalits, is angry over the honeymoon remark of Ramdev. It is an attack on the culture of the nation because he has abused women folk.”

Former government officer Paras Nath, part of the delegation that went to the police, said, “Ramdev’s remarks show his hatred of Dalits. He feels any leader who visits a Dalit home goes there for honeymoon.” Ramdev had stirred a controversy last week saying, “Rahul goes to Dalit homes for honeymoon and picnic. Had he married a Dalit girl, his luck could have clicked and he would have become the prime minister.” Later he apologized for his remarks claiming he was misquoted.

Razak told TOI that Ramdev’s statement not only insulted Dalit women but also portrayed them as commodity for entertainment. “The statement exposed the pseudo guru’s feudal mindset,” he said, pleading harshest punitive action against him for humiliating Dalits.

The petition filed by advocate Rajendra Kumar Kardam in Agra said Ramdev’s comment had insulted the downtrodden. He also objected against it for being a serious attack on the character of Dalit women. The petition also impleaded Shahnawaz Hussain for saying Ramdev said nothing wrong.In her crisp lemon yellow handloom saree, black three-fourth sleeves tee-shirt blouse and flat sandals, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra disembarks from the white Fortuner she travels in and mingles with the crowds. When she climbs the stage, television cameras block her view of the people. She lets her displeasure be known to the organisers, but when they’re unable to make changes, Priyanka steps down, crosses the barriers separating her from the crowds, gets onto a plastic chair and asks the ecstatic crowd, “Ab dikh rahi hoon sabko?” (Can everyone see me now?)

In her seven-minute address, Priyanka has every onlooker floored. With the byte-hungry press, she’s struck a deal; “I’ll say what I have to during the first meeting I address every morning. After that, you all can relax and stop chasing me,” she says, largely for the benefit of the television news crews camping in Rae Bareli and Amethi.

It would appear that Priyanka has achieved in her eight-day stint in her mother and brother’s constituencies of Rae Bareli and Amethi what Rahul hasn’t been able to in numerous meetings across states. She has had the nation hanging on to her every word, and the media follows her daily. The BJP too seems to be taking her challenge seriously.

Even though she hasn’t stepped out of the Gandhi pocket boroughs, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra has matched BJP’s PM candidate Narendra Modi byte for byte, barb for barb. It’s unlikely that she will change the course of the election now, but is the new Priyanka avatar a sign of her assuming a bigger role in the Congress after elections?

When TOI asked Priyanka about her plans after May 16, she smiled and said, “I am not a planner.” The reply isn’t surprising. She believes in springing surprises, just as she has done this election season. While commenting on her apparent desire to contest from Varanasi, Rahul had said that Priyanka was her own person. “She’s perhaps the sharpest political brain in the family. She’ll always have something up her sleeve. You just have to be prepared,” a Gandhi family confidant said.

While gushing remarks from family loyalists is only to be expected, the fact is that she has grabbed the BJP’s attention too. Over the last few days, the party’s attack has been focused on Priyanka, mainly through the Robert Vadra route. This would indicate that BJP is taking the challenge from her seriously.

However, if you ask a BJP leader, he will say Priyanka has made a strategic blunder by so aggressively defending her husband — it has now given the opposition an opening to target him with equal force. “Robert Vadra is a prime example of crony capitalism. This will boomerang badly on the Congress,” said a BJP leader.

While that debate will be settled later, it’s apparent from the reaction of crowds wherever she goes that there’s something special about Priyanka. She has the easy charm of her grandmother Indira Gandhi and her fighter instincts, say Congress veterans. “In her recent, aggressive defence of her husband, she is like the feisty Indira Gandhi who was resolute even after facing the 1977 election rout. Attack me and I’ll fight back, she had said,” said political analyst Sudhir Panwar.

Party insiders say Priyanka was Congress’ political “brahmastra” that they didn’t want to deploy just yet. But the party was finding it difficult to counter the increasingly strong onslaught by the saffron brigade. Sonia Gandhi and Rahul have led the national campaigns, but they have failed to counter the attacks convincingly. “She’s brought life back into the party’s campaign,” said Pawan Trivedi, a party office bearer in Rae Bareli city.

Her no-holds-barred attacks on Modi may have banished Rahul Gandhi from national headlines, but it has given party workers the green signal to fight back in what is viewed by most as a losing battle.

That both Sonia and Rahul have refrained from commenting on Priyanka’s defence of Vadra has spiked speculation about her growing role in the party. This year, Rahul skipped campaigning in Rae Bareli entirely, while Sonia has addressed only one rally. It’s been Priyanka all the way.

 

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