Islam is a religion of peace and tolerance. Through promotion of free debate on our website, New Age Islam encourages people to rethink Islam.
Tuesday, September 29, 2020
Indian Press on Babri Masjid Verdict, Pakistan and UN: New Age Islam's Selection, 29 September 2020
By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
29 September 2020
• A Day before Verdict In Babri Masjid Demolition Case, A Message From The Epics
By Nalini Singh
• Pakistan’s Opposition, Public Increasingly Irked by the Military’s Role in Politics
By TCA Raghavan
• UN Must Go Back To Its Original Mandate
By Shyam Saran
A Day before Verdict in Babri Masjid Demolition Case, A Message From The Epics
By Nalini Singh
September 29, 2020
The BJP’s veteran leaders LK Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Kalyan Singh, Uma Bharati and 28 others, including Sangh Parivar worthies, have been asked to be present in Lucknow on Wednesday, as Special CBI Judge S K Yadav delivers the judgment on the criminal conspiracies in the demolition of the “disputed structure” of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya, on December 6, 1992. Will the verdict be guilty or innocent? It is difficult to fathom what some of these notable accused are thinking today about the destruction of the mosque, since few have spoken publicly. Uma Bharati is one of the few who has claimed that it does not matter to her what the judgment will be: “If I am sent to the gallows, I will be blessed.”
Some of the prominent accused have denied all charges of conspiracy. Yet today, 24 hours before the verdict, do some of the accused wish silently that the mosque had not been flattened, or are they steadfast in their belief that the bruised Hindu faith was avenged only when the domes of the 500-year old Babri Masjid crumbled at their feet 28 years ago?
The Supreme Court has already recognised that the “polestar of faith and belief” among the Hindus is that the disputed mosque was built on the very temple which was made sacred by Lord Ram’s birth. Of course, since Ram was yuvraj, son of King Dashrath, he was doubtless born in the king’s palace, not in a temple (which would have been built later to consecrate the sacred place).
M R Shamshad writes: Ayodhya — History will be the judge
Based on astronomical information on the constellation of stars and eclipses corresponding to events in the Ramayana, scholars have conjectured that the events described in the Ramayana took place 7,000 years ago, and that this sweeping epic was first composed and recited in Sanskrit by sage Valmiki, and written manuscripts of his compositions have been traced to BCE 200 — that is, to 2,200 years ago.
Tomorrow’s judgment on the criminal conspiracy to demolish the 500-year old masjid in Ayodhya, refers to a relatively recent event in the 7,000-year old belief in Ram’s birthplace being at the exact spot where the mosque was located. Thousands of years prior to this demolition, the chronicler of Ram’s life, sage Valmiki had pointed to two astonishing and complex truths manifested by Ram and Sita after their return to Ayodhya.
After their victorious reception in Ayodhya, Sita, who was pregnant, was again faced with a clamour for proof of her marital fidelity and innocence. Rather than submit to this ominous demand, Sita took shelter in Valmiki’s ashram where Ram’s twin sons, Luv and Kush were born. Later, after Ram acknowledged the twins as his progeny, Sita asked the goddess Earth “to open wide for me” (Sarga 88, verse 11) whereupon “from the surface of the earth there arose an unsurpassed heavenly throne (verse 12) and Dharini, who was on the throne, took Maithili (Sita) in her arms…” and they descended below the earth’s surface as Sita re-entombed herself. Ram ruled Ayodhya benignly for 10,000 years (the cosmic equivalent of the blinking of an eye) during which Luv and Kush learnt statecraft. But the Valmiki Ramayan notes in the Uttar Kand (Sarga 99-100), that one day Ram set forth from the palace on foot to the river Sarayu, with his brothers Bharat and Shatrughan (Lakshman had died), and when they reached the river, Ram “bodily entered the sacred water of the Sarayu” and immersed himself fully, as did his brothers, amid “a blazing energy proper to Vishnu”. Victorious Ram immersed himself in the river.
Irena Akbar writes: SC’s offer of five-acre plot to compensate for Babri demolition is charity by privileged to the underprivileged
Victory did not tether Ram and Sita to the indulgence of perpetual triumph, and in their disappearance from the apron of life, they affirmed, one, that there are no victors in life and, two, that there are no survivors. And this is the sparkling tissue with which the great Hindu faith is woven. But does the other Hindu epic, the more recent 5,000-year old Mahabharata affirm this interpretation of victory and extinction, or does it valorise eternal triumph? Guru Ved Vyas’ epic describes an 18-day war between two sets of cousins, the Pandavas (five in number) and the Kauravas (numbering 100). The Pandavas swept up a conclusive victory under the sharp guidance of Lord Krishna through his dialogue with Arjun, the third Pandava. This dialogue nestles as the invaluable Gita in the heart of the Mahabharata.
Various narratives suggest that after vanquishing and killing the Kauravas, the Pandavas ruled for 36 years over Hastinapur and Indraprastha. But this land had been laid waste, with most young men killed in the war. The victorious Pandavas were exhausted, and despite winning all they desired, they were unhappy with conflicts in the concept of life and living.
Eventually, bestowing the kingdom upon Parikshit (Arjun’s grandson), the Pandava brothers and wife Draupadi walked away from the land they had conquered and set off for the Himalayas. But each of the Pandavas, and Draupadi, died on the way. Only Yudhishtir reached heaven’s portal with Yama, the god of Death, in the form of a dog, and yet even he could not enter until he had performed a long penance for his sins. In essence, the Mahabharata confirms the boundless truths of the Valmiki Ramayana — about triumph and survival.
Anand Patwardhan writes: A lesser-known narrative of Ayodhya from 1857 — and the dispute
So, before the CBI court’s verdict tomorrow, are the 32 accused of the conspiracy of the demolition of Babri Masjid asking themselves if they are victors because the domes were pulverised, or is the “Muslim side” asking itself if a guilty verdict will be their victory?
For answers, look back in awe at the great Hindu epic-savants who held that in life there are no victors and no survivors.
Pakistan’s Opposition, Public Increasingly Irked by the Military’s Role in Politics
By TCA Raghavan
Sep 28, 2020
Former Pakistan prime minister (PM), Nawaz Sharif’s, defiant roar summarises both his biography and Pakistan’s history over the past three decades. The occasion was an opposition conference on video on September 20. Quite apart from what the former PM said, the occasion was significant. The conference was hosted by the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP). It brought together all the major opposition parties and leaders. The Pakistan Muslim League (N) — Nawaz Sharif’s party — coordinating action with the PPP has not been seen for some time. These two together make up a large chunk of the political spectrum and both are now increasingly led by charismatic next generation leaders — Nawaz Sharif’s daughter Maryam Nawaz and Benazir Bhutto’s son Bilawal Bhutto Zardari. What is common to both is that they attach to their names that of a parent who was the political face of Pakistan for long periods of its history — Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto. This is dynastic politics, of course, but it is also real politics.
What made the news most was Nawaz Sharif’s broadside against Prime Minister Imran Khan and his government, of course, but more against those “who installed Imran Khan and who manipulated elections to bring an incapable man like him into power and thus, destroyed the country”. Khan’s failures of economic and foreign policy, on Kashmir, Pakistan’s international isolation, alienation from Saudi Arabia and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the stagnation of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), thus formed one aspect of the speech. The real firepower was in the references to the erosion and throttling of democracy, that “every child knows that no prime minister has been allowed to complete five years in power”, of a “state above the state”.
All this refers to the role of the military — euphemistically called the establishment — in politics. What has been less reported than his references to the military and the generals were the comments about the judiciary and how it acts in concert with the military.
Nawaz Sharif has been PM longer than anyone else — in all over nine years but spread over three terms in which the first (November 1990-July 1993) and the third (June 2013-July 2017) are separated by a quarter of a century. While the military, or at least certain generals, had much to do with his meteoric rise through the 1980s, once PM, Nawaz Sharif acted as if he was in charge. His first tenure ended, therefore, with a bitter feud with the president; the second with a coup after GeneralPervez Musharraf’s Kargil misadventure; the third with what amounted to a judicial coup – or so at least many in Pakistan felt. In each of the three terms, his party had a majority but this was no defence against the forces arrayed against him.
The third term was marked by near constant friction with the military on a whole range of issues. A close political associate and astute observer, former foreign minister Sartaj Aziz, has recently written: “Nawaz Sharif’s transition away from the military establishment grew incrementally when his core political interests or stakes were threatened by the absence of real democracy”. Nawaz Sharif’s second and third terms stand out for his willingness to walk Pakistan’s most dangerous minefield — relations with India. That story is well known. The point, however, is that Nawaz Sharif understood intuitively that his authority as PM could be cemented only by limiting the role of the military and for this to happen some improvement of relations, if not normalisation with India, was essential. Sartaj Aziz also notes, “Fundamentally, Nawaz Sharif did not fully comprehend the depth and strength of de facto forces and also ignored the importance of a broader coalition of political forces for establishing the supremacy of democratic institutions.”
Whether this present front of opposition unity and better atmospherics between the leaders of the PML-(N) and the PPP, therefore, heralds something new happening in Pakistan is too early to say. Nawaz Sharif stands disqualified from politics for life and effectively in exile. Most Pakistani politicians in the opposition are fearful of the skeletons in their cupboards and the risk of jail or worse is real. Yet for all this both the PML-(N) and the PPP have remained largely intact with no major desertions or breakaways in the past two years. Khan’s problems, on the other hand, are mounting — not the least of which is managing the growing clamour in public discourse that the military is too involved in national affairs. Nawaz Sharif’s speech is designed clearly at advancing this discourse. Certainly he knows that what displeases the military more than anything else is an open discussion of its political role. Possibly he believes that agitation on this front will increase pressure — both on Khan and the military — and mistakes happen under pressure. The September speech may well mark Nawaz Sharif’s fourth foray into Pakistan’s murky terrain of curbing the military. If that is so, then describing Nawaz Sharif as epitomising a man with his future behind him may well sum up his biography as also Pakistan’s political history.
T C A Raghavan is a former high commissioner to Pakistan. He is currently director-general, Indian Council of World Affairs
The reality is that the original and uplifting vision, which underlay the establishment of the UN, has lost its focus. (AFP)
The United Nations (UN)is observing the 75th anniversary of its founding amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Heads of States/governments marked the occasion with speeches delivered through the digital medium. They applauded the UN and the role it has played in the maintenance of international peace and security and in addressing major social and economic challenges.
The reality is that the original and uplifting vision, which underlay the establishment of the UN, has lost its focus. The UN faces a crisis of credibility at the root of which is the enfeeblement of the spirit of internationalism and related to that, the diminishing role of multilateral processes in addressing cross-cutting and global challenges. This is evident in the marginal role that the UN is playing in dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic and the doubts expressed over the credibility and effectiveness of the World Health Organization (WHO) in mobilising the international community in the fight against the virus. Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke of the concerns of countries like India and the need for reform in his address to the UN.
Despite the pandemic being a global crisis, it is being tackled as a public health emergency mostly at the national level. The results are suboptimal as is to be expected. The pandemic has spawned a major economic crisis, but countries are held in thrall by the growing confrontation between the largest and the second-largest economies of the world: The United States (US) and China. Without a minimal agreement between them on supporting the recovery of the global economy and trade, it is impossible to recreate the G-20 collaboration which dealt successfully with the global financial and economic crisis of 2007-08.
The World Trade Organization has been rendered irrelevant by the growing salience of large multi-nation regional trade and investment arrangements such as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and the increasing recourse to bilateral deals. Both global economy and trade flows are becoming fragmented and the international economic environment is less conducive to the development of countries like India.
Multilateralism is more important to emerging countries whose bargaining clout is still limited. But India, too, appears to have adopted the current preference among major countries to deal with issues through a narrower and more self-centred nationalism prism. The UN today is a depleted version of its founding ideals and there are several reasons for this. Its original democratic impulse, limited though it was by the institution of the UN Security Council with five permanent members with veto power, is now weak. Resolutions of the UN General Assembly are rarely taken seriously. Its agenda is limited by the narrow sensitivities of its most powerful members.
A major problem relates to finance. The assessed contributions to the UN, based on the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of its members, is barely enough to support the UN establishment leaving virtually nothing for its wide range of activities, including peace-keeping. The UN and its specialised agencies are able to engage in their mandated activities only through project funding from major donor countries. They determine where and how these funds will be spent. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that the activities of the UN are heavily oriented towards the preferences of the donors and not the priorities of its larger membership.
Developing countries who are in the category of middle powers, such as India, Indonesia, Brazil, South Africa and Mexico, for example, could prevent the capture of the UN by a small cluster of richer countries, China now among them, through larger contributions to the general budget. However, even among these countries the tendency is to mimic the behaviour of the affluent countries. They, too, would rather seek to influence the activities of the UN to pursue their own foreign policy aims rather than serve the larger purpose of a relatively more autonomous UN.
It is now apparent that in key areas of technology and public health, large multinational corporations are playing an increasingly influential role. The turnover of five big tech companies, Amazon, Google, Apple, Microsoft and Facebook together exceeds the GDP of some of the largest economies of the world at over $5 trillion. They run large philanthropic foundations and agencies but it would be naïve to think that their activities are de-linked from their business interests. When the UN becomes a partner of these foundations and receives funds from them, then it is unlikely to encourage any questioning of their activities. The credibility of the UN is further undermined through these associations.
The major powers and more affluent nations have no interest in leading the UN back to its original vision and mandate. They are comfortable with its current role as their handmaiden and its collaboration with big business. It is the large constituency of developing countries, including middle powers like India, whose interests would be served by a UN which in its role and activities, truly reflects the interests of its larger membership. I recall my experience as India’s Alternate Representative to the Committee on Disarmament (CD) in the early 1980s. The Disarmament Secretariat led by Ambassador Rikhi Jaipal, played the role of adviser and counsellor to the Non-aligned and Neutral Countries in the CD, helping them set the agenda, marshal their arguments and acquaint them with procedural issues. If such secretarial positions are financed by project funds, independence of action by UN functionaries is impossible. It is these fundamental issues which need to be addressed by the UN at 75 if it is to regain its credibility and effectiveness.
Shyam Saran is a former foreign secretary and senior fellow, CPR