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Thursday, February 26, 2015

The charm of Taj Mahal goes on, but its birthplace slowly collapses

There is something about the Europeans and Americans that we don't have in our genes; they value history, things and know how to turn things to be productive cash cows and preserve the history for the posterity. You drive on any freeway, you will find a historical maker, that seem insignificant, but part of the history that is preserved.

Whether you drive in Karnataka, UP or MP - there are a lots of Hindu and Muslim buildings abandoned all over...  its so saddening. This Burhanpur Monument can be turned into a tourist spot. There is a beautiful story to be told, architecture to view and heritage to be cherished.

I can never forget what I saw on trip back from Agra, there was a monument in the dead center of Delhi and Agra road to mark the center, and it was in the middle of the divided road... there was a ox-driven cart loading the bricks and stones off it...  its probably gone now. 

We need to learn to respect our history and heritage and there is money in it to preserve it. Shame on us that we don't respect our own history.

We need to build toilets. Mr. Modi start working on it.

Mike Ghouse


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The charm of Taj Mahal goes on, but its birthplace slowly collapses

  • AP, Burhanpur | 
  • Updated: Feb 26, 2015 05:37 IST

Taj Mahal (Shutterstock)

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It is no secret that the Taj Mahal is a monument of love, built by a Mogul emperor as the final resting place for his beloved queen who died giving birth to their 14th child in 1631.
What's less known is that the white-marbled tomb was not her first resting place after death.
Queen Mumtaz Mahal in fact died some 900 kilometers (555 miles) away in central India's Burhanpur town and was buried there, in a rose-tinted sandstone pavilion in her favourite deer park. The once opulent and richly decorated pavilion is now a sad, crumbling ruin, thanks to neglect and apathy by authorities and Burhanpur's own 200,000 residents.
And it's not the only gem in the treasure chest of this town, which even most Indians could not identify on a map.

Behind its dirty, unpaved streets and open garbage dumps, Burhanpur hides an abundance of magnificent Islamic monuments dating back to 15th century. Once an important trading and military outpost, Burhanpur slipped into margins of history in less than two centuries and is now nowhere to be found in any tourist advertisement.
On a recent trip, we found in Burhanpur the ruins of a riverside palace; airy pavilions with intricately carved pillars; grand stone mausoleums with latticed windows that throw filtered beams of dusty light on the graves inside; a royal bath house with cheerful paintings of birds and flowers; austere and imposing mosques with incredibly fine calligraphy, and a fort on a cliff with a mind-boggling view of the undulating plains below.

Each one of the town's treasures is a reminder of India's rich multi-cultural history and the contribution that about 800 years of Muslim rule made to the predominantly Hindu country's heritage.
Many of the monuments in the town are in utter neglect. Infrastructure as basic as toilets and roads to the sites is missing. Open drains run along some important tombs, which are ravaged by overgrown shrubs. Mountains of garbage greet visitors.
"Every monument here tells a story. Every stone here says 'come to me and listen to what I have to say' but there is nobody to listen or to take care of them," lamented Hoshang Havaldar, 60, who has lived all his life in Burhanpur, and runs one of only two decent hotels in the town.

Burhanpur was ruled by the founding Faruqi dynasty from 1400 to 1599 and by the fabled Moguls from 1600, when Emperor Akbar conquered it. His grandson, Emperor Shah Jahan, ran his military campaigns against southern kingdoms from Burhanpur, accompanied by his wife Mumtaz.
She died while giving birth to their 14th child and was buried in a pavilion facing a small palace in a deer park.
Today, the Ahukhana, as the park was called, and its two buildings are one of the most dilapidated among Burhanpur's treasures.
The sprawling park is locked up with no caretaker. Its rusty metal gates are tied by a chain loose enough to leave enough space for humans or animals to slip through. The grounds are overgrown with shrubs and weeds. Wild goats and cows roam freely. All that remain of the one-story pavilion are pillars and walls, some art work on them still visible. Its ceiling is no more.
For about six months, Mumtaz's body remained in the pavilion while Shah Jahan made plans to build the Taj Mahal on the banks of the nearby River Tapti. But unfortunately Burhanpur's geography, geology and hydrology conspired against his plans.
According to historians, Shah Jahan wanted the monument to be of white marble, which was only available in the faraway Markana, making transportation difficult. River Tapti's breadth was a little narrow where he envisaged the mausoleum -- meaning it would not be reflected fully in the water on moonlit nights.

Finally, the rock-bed just wasn't right to hold up a building of that mass. As it turned out, Agra on the banks of majestically wide River Yamuna and not too far from Markana, was the perfect choice.
Mumtaz's body was disinterred and taken to Agra, then the imperial capital of the Mogul empire that ruled India from 15th to 19th centuries. And so Burhanpur faded away.
One of the most beautiful monuments in Burhanpur is the tomb of Bilquis Jahan, the wife of Shah Jahan's son. It is known as the Kharboozi Gumbaz, or Melon Dome, because of its distinctive dome and bulging walls that look like the fruit.

An unimposing structure, it nevertheless stands out because of its shape and stunning interior -- every corner of its walls and roof is decorated with murals in floral pattern, its colors as fresh as they were centuries ago.
But to get there we had to walk through a graveyard, where a horse lay dying in a ditch while little boys played nearby.
Burhanpur, located in Madhya Pradesh state, was the reason for our trip, but not the destination. Our 10-day trip cut an arc through the vast state, stopping at four other places of Islamic and Hindu culture that carried in their stone monuments stories of love, valor, devotion and sex.
The last stop was the 10-11th century Khajuraho group of Hindu and Jain temples, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Their distinctive steeple domes are made of interlocking blocks of finely carved stone, and the outer walls of temples dense with sculptures of Hindu gods and goddesses, scenes of court life, and a profusion of graphic erotic sculptures inspired by the Kama Sutra, depicting all kinds of sexual acts.
But we will save that story for another day.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Modi's stand on religious tolerance won't stop RSS anti-minority tirade

The best response to the stupidity of RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat comes from one of my friends Amal Chattarjee:

"Dear All: I was shocked and sad to read in the TOI today that  RSS leader, Mohan Bhagwat said, Mother Teresa's motive was conversion . Details on the internet. 

If touching the untouchables, cleaning the unclean , feeding the unfed and bringing dignity in death to the dying is conversion, then I welcome conversion.

The truth is otherwise . Conversion was never Mother Teresa's focus, not that it matters given what she was all about. She was a Saint all the way and was a gift to India from Macedonia.

SHAME ON YOU BHAGWAT FOR WHAT YOU SAID. Even 100 of you put together cannot come close to what Mother Teresa did for the poor, untouchables and sick. Don't ridicule yourself any further."
I always wondered how can any Muslim even follow a creep like Osama Bin Laden? Then comes this question, how can a Hindu with any common sense follpwGuru Golwalker?   "Guru Golwalkar, the highly influential sarsangchalak of the organisation for nearly three decades, had identified three ‘internal threats’ to India — the Muslims, the Christians and the Communists." What's wrong with the common sense of my fellow Indians to consider this man a Guru?

For every Hindu ass, there is a Muslim ass. 

Mike Ghouse - 49 links  

Modi's stand on religious tolerance won't stop RSS anti-minority tirade

  • Sidharth Bhatia | 
  • Updated: Feb 25, 2015 10:08 IST

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The reported statement by RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat that conversion to Christianity was the real aim of Mother Teresa is hardly new. RSS ideologues have said this repeatedly over the years, not just because they want to provoke a controversy but also because they firmly believe it to be so. Mother Teresa — like Christian missionaries in general — has been in the organisation’s sights for decades and periodically someone reiterates this long-standing view. Yet, it is worth asking why someone of Bhagwat’s stature in the larger Sangh parivar, whose utterances are more or less policy statements for all its members, has seen it fit to bring up the subject at this juncture.
Before speculating on his motives, it will be worth considering the Sangh parivar’s antipathy towards the Christians, who, after all, were just about 2.3% of the country’s population according to the 2001 census. (Figures from the 2011 census are yet to be officially released). Surely they are no threat to the 80% or so Hindus of the country. The RSS does not see it that way.

Guru Golwalkar, the highly influential sarsangchalak of the organisation for nearly three decades, had identified three ‘internal threats’ to India — the Muslims, the Christians and the Communists. He further writes about Indian Muslims and Christians that: “Together with the change in their faith, gone are the spirit of love and devotion for the nation. Nor does it end there. They have also developed a feeling of identification with the enemies of this land. They look to some foreign lands as their holy places.”
For the RSS, the Christians, more than the Muslims, remain a more sinister influence in some ways. The reason for that is simple. The Christians have made deeper inroads into two areas that worry the RSS the most — religion and education. The RSS is alarmed by the work of missionaries in remote areas, especially among tribals — hence the attempts at ghar wapsi to bring them back into the Hindu fold. Second, the presence of Christian schools all over the country, which, in the opinion of Sangh members, has created large numbers of deracinated Indians who have moved away from the Hindu ethos. These Indians — identified as English speaking Macaulay putras — are seen as highly influential, allowing the Christians to punch above their weight. Anti-Muslim prejudice runs deep in the country; Christians, however, are seen as the ‘good minority’, educated, gentle and service-oriented. This frustrates the RSS.
Mother Teresa is the most potent symbol of that frustration. She is criticism proof, given her international reputation as well as the deep admiration for her among Indians. Even if some Indians think she was doing little more than saving souls for Christianity — i.e. ‘converting’ them — the fact that she picked up lepers and the terminally sick from the streets and looked after them till their death is seen as selfless service of the kind others don’t do. For all their pieties, no Hindu organisation can match up to her work. That has not stopped the RSS from periodically attacking her. In 2003, an article in the RSS mouthpiece Organiser demanded that the Indian government not send any representative to her beatification ceremony. Bhagwat has thus merely reiterated a long-standing position.
The timing of his statement cannot be coincidental. On February 17, at an event organised by a Christian church, Narendra Modi condemned the series of attacks on churches in the capital and declared his government would not allow any religious intolerance. This was his strongest statement on the subject so far, and was immediately seen as a determined effort to put down the hate mongering by members of his own party as well as those belonging to the various groups who owe their allegiance to the Hindutva cause. Just days before that, United States President Barack Obama had spoken about growing religious intolerance in India; Modi’s speech was seen as a response to that criticism.
Bhagwat couldn’t have liked this kind of ‘minority appeasement’ by Modi, who, after all, has come up through the RSS ranks. Was the RSS chief, in his capacity as chairman of the Sangh parivar board, letting everyone know that it was his word that was final, whatever the prime minister may say? Within hours BJP spokespersons were out in public defending not their PM but Bhagwat’s statement. This should leave no doubt about the power hierarchy. Modi critics claim that this is all a fixed match, a kind of ‘good cop bad cop’ strategy arranged between the PM and the RSS. But his supporters are dismayed that the RSS is tripping up the government’s focus on economic growth with these extraneous issues.
Modi’s stated resolve is not going to stop the anti-minority tirade. For the RSS and its affiliates, ghar wapsi is not a gimmick, but a crucial activity to somehow reconvert all those who have been converted by Christian — and also Muslim — proselytisation. That decades of missionary preaching or education has not turned India into a Christian land is something that escapes the notice of the RSS — it thrives on creating a sense of victimhood among the majority.
The latest bashing of Mother Teresa and conversions is also a signal that more attempts will be made to introduce an anti-conversion Bill in Parliament. Modi’s speech shows that he understands that he needs to reach out to minorities — his own old rhetoric in Gujarat will no longer work. But with the RSS chief making it clear where he — and therefore the rest of the Sangh parivar — stands, will Modi be able to resist the pressure?

Sidharth Bhatia is a senior journalist and author
The views expressed by the author are personal

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

For India’s Largest Jewish Community, One Muslim Makes All the Tombstones

It was a joy to read this article and I was saddened with the state of affairs between Jews and Muslims.

Jews have been persecuted through out their history, however, the safest period for a small group of  them was in India,  and for the larger population, the Muslim nations were a safe haven for Jews for nearly 1300 of the 1400 years of Muslim history. Indeed, the Golden period of Jewish history was in the Muslim Spain. I need to dig up the history about King Akabar's time... most of his buildings in Agra, Fatehpur Sikri, and other places have the Star of David along with other religious symbols, I don't know that relationship. 

Even the creation of Israel was not a Muslim-Christian and Jewish problem,  but when injustice was done to the Palestinians (Christian and Muslim), driving them out of their homes and taking over their land...  the creepy men on all sides gave a full color of religion to the conflict.

Both Muslims and Jews are justifying their idiotic claims to the land instead of caring for life and ironically both the scriptures claim - killing one individual is like killing the whole humanity.

I am for the security of Israel and Justice for the Palestinians, one will not happen without the other.

If Israel goes back to the 1967 borders, and stops usurping the land and building settlements, and if Hamas stops firing rockets into Israel - most of the conflicts will die down. Israel will have no enemies in a heart beat. The Israeli people have to chose the right leadership to achieve that, as long as the Rogue Netanyahu is their leader, peace is a distant hope. This is not my view, it is he view of prominent Israeli intellectuals. I have a full blog dedicated to the topic www.IsraelpalestineDialogue.com

It is a shame that people of the  world are prejudiced either towards Jews or Muslims. Shame on those who are prejudiced. If each one of us removes the sewer of prejudice from our hearts, I have hopes, the momentum for goodness will build up. 

Mike Ghouse

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For India’s Largest Jewish Community, One Muslim Makes All the Tombstones

Muhammad Abdul Yassin has worked in Mumbai’s Jewish cemetery for more than 40 years. Now he’s passing the chisel to his sons.


Muhammad Abdul Yassin. (Rachel Delia Benaim)
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Even though the Jewish population in Mumbai has declined dramatically over the past several decades—from a peak of 30,000 in the late 1940s to some 3,500 today, due in large part to mass aliyah—it is still the largest Jewish community in India. But for decades there was only one person in Mumbai, and the entire state of Maharashtra of which Mumbai is a part, who engraved Jewish tombstones: a devout Muslim named Muhammad Abdul Yassin.

On a recent visit, I found Yassin sitting in his cement hut on the southern end of Mumbai’s Jewish cemetery, surrounded by smooth marble and granite slabs—soon to be used for headstones—and the tools of his trade, hammers and chisels of various sizes. He stared out into the crammed cemetery, whose sidewalks have been narrowed to create more grave space over the last decade. The discernible dates on the headstones date back to the 1800s, though some of the graves, Yassin told me, date back earlier than that.

He has come here every day except Friday, the Muslim special day of prayer, for more than 40 years, rain or shine. But Yassin, now 75, is now passing the baton—or chisel—to his sons.
Raised in a poverty-stricken area of Uttar Pradesh in northern India, Yassin decided he would move away and change his fate as soon as he was old enough. “Everyone was poor in my neighborhood,” he told me. “I did not want to live that way.” In 1968, when he was 27, Yassin left Uttar Pradesh in search of work, any work, that would enable him to live comfortably. He began traveling south, and a few months after he left home, he received word from a friend of his uncle’s that the Jewish tombstone engraver in Mumbai was looking for an apprentice. Yassin never imagined working for Jews, let alone being a tombstone engraver. But it was a job.

Within a week, he arrived at the cemetery and was met by a man named Aaron Menasse Navgavikar, a Bnei Israeli Jew who made tombstones for the community. (The Benei Israel, India’s oldest Jewish sect, claim to be part of the biblical tribe of Zebulon who were shipwrecked in India at some point between the First and Second Temple periods.) Navgavikar took him on as an apprentice and taught him much more than the tools of the trade. When Yassin began his apprenticeship, he spoke Gujarati fluently but was completely illiterate. After three years under Navgavikar’s apprenticeship, he could read and write fluently in six languages: English, Hebrew, Marati, Hindi, Gujarati, and Urdu.

In 1971, Navgavikar and his family moved to Israel and left the art of Jewish tombstone engraving for the Bnei Israel to Yassin. Soon, Mumbai’s other Jewish community, the Baghdadis, asked Yassin for his services as well. Over the course of the next decade, the other Jewish engravers in the area, Yassin recalls, also moved to Israel, leaving him the sole expert in the trade across the entire state of Maharashtra, which is currently home to the majority of India’s estimated 5,000 Jews.

“They made me like their own,” Yassin said of the Jewish community. “They loved me and always treated me well and always paid me on time. India went through hard times in the ’80s and ’90s—the recession, the riots—but they always took good care of me.”

Aaron Benjamin, who for the last 18 years has been the honorary secretary of Mumbai’s Tipheret Israel synagogue—and its spiritual leader, since like most Indian synagogues Tipheret Israel does not have a rabbi—said Yassin “is a member of our community.”

Daniel Pezarker beside his grandfather’s grave, which Yassin carved in 1988.
As Daniel Pezarker, the son of the Bnei Israeli community president and a licensed Mumbai tour guide, told me, close business and personal relationships between Jews and Muslims aren’t unusual in Mumbai. Followers of each faith have long lived side by side in peace. Shaare Rahamim, Mumbai’s oldest of its four surviving synagogues, is in Bhendi Bazaar, one of Mumbai’s prominent Muslim neighborhoods. Pezarker, whose family has lived in India as members of the Bnei Israel tribe for centuries, explained how everyone in the community is fond of Yassin: “We call him Yassin chacha,” meaning Uncle Yassin, a term of endearment and respect.

Eliyahoo Benjamin, caretaker of Ohel David—one of two synagogues in Pune, the second largest city in Maharashtra—remembers Yassin from growing up in Mumbai and is familiar with his work in Pune as well. The members of this Baghdadi synagogue also commission their tombstones from Yassin, who must transport the completed stones three hours by car. “He is the only one,” Benjamin said.
In recent years, Yassin’s health has taken a toll on his ability to work so strenuously out in the beating sunlight, so his two adult sons—Islam, 52, and Salaam, 45—help him around the graveyard.
As he intently chiseled a biblical Hebrew verse into a fresh tombstone, Islam told me how engraving had become a family business, starting with “uncle Aaron Menasse” who “guided my father through the harder times when he arrived in Mumbai.” For the last 34 years, Islam assisted his father in some of his work. When his father’s health deteriorated after a heart attack in 2001, Islam started taking on more work at the cemeteries.

Yassin considers himself retired now, but he still goes to the cemetery daily. “My sons are in charge now,” he said, “but I love my work and the people. Everything I do here is from my heart.”
As Daniel Bamnolkar, the cemetery’s Bnei Israeli caretaker, told me, it doesn’t matter that Yassin and his sons are Muslim; what matters is that they do a good job.

It is unclear, however, how much longer the community will be in need of a dedicated tombstone engraver. “Each tombstone takes 15 days,” Yassin said, estimating the amount of time and care he puts into each project, which involves a great deal of physical labor. Nowadays, because of Jewish Maharashtra’s dwindling numbers after years of aliyah, there are around three tombstone orders a month, compared to the more 10 a month that he was carving in the mid ’90s. So, the family business that supported Yassin for more than 40 years may not have a lucrative enough future for his two sons and their families.

Many of those Indian Jews now living in Israel have invited Yassin to join them, he said, where they assure him his profession is in demand. Yassin, however, prefers to stay in his homeland with his family and community. “My children and grandchildren are here,” he said. “Family is the most important.”

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Saturday, February 21, 2015

Prof Romila Thapar on Somnath Temple and how History is actually studied!

A must see interview for everyone specially for the academicians and students. 

Prof Romila Thapar on Somnath Temple and how History is actually studied!

it is a good perspective to hear, and I have been articulating the same thoughts, kings are kings, regardless of the religion they wear, all their interest is expanding their empire, looting the wealth and annexing the next door land. 


Thank you


Mike Ghouse, President
America Together Foundation
(214) 325-1916 text/talk

Mike Ghouse is a public speaker, thinker, writer and a commentator on Pluralism, Islam, India, Israel-Palestine, Politics and other issues of the day. He is a human rights activist, and his book standing up for others will be out soon | He is producing a full feature film " Sacred" to be released on 9/11 and a documentary "Americans together" for a July 4 release.  He is a frequent guest commentator on Fox News and syndicated Talk Radio shows and a writer at major news papers including Dallas Morning News and Huffington Post. All about him is listed in 63 links at www.MikeGhouse.net and his writings are at www.TheGhousediary.com - Mike is committed to building cohesive societies and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day. 

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Narendra Modi’s convenient new religious tolerance


The last paragraph of this article is so similar to mine, and I am glad, I am not the only to read this. 

I wrote in an article, "Republic Day's pluralistic message to Modi and Obama," Of course, it is not your mistake for excluding Muslims or Christians from your language, address or embrace; unfortunately, that is how you were trained. Each one of us is a slave to or our nurturing, but as a Prime Minister of the nation, you may consider looking at the “exclusive” Madrasas of the Rashtriya Swayam Sevak and the training an average pracharak gets.

The article in last but the one paragraph reads, " For him, India’s religious diversity is stressful to his own religious and political beliefs, which were formed early in life by his time in the Hindu nationalist movement. "
One of the days, I hope Modi will say this from his heart,
“My dear fellow Indians, you are, yes, everyone of you is an Indian and that is all it matters to me, as your Prime Minster, I am here to make sure, you have equal access to justice, employment, schooling, loans, housing, health care, food, places of worship and retirement.” You can count on me, and together let's build an India where every one of you is comfortable with the other regardless of what you speak, believe, eat or wear. "

Full article at: http://theghousediary.blogspot.com/2015/01/republic-day-message-to-modi-and-obama.html
Mike Ghouse committed to building cohesive societies, and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day - MikeGhouse.net

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Narendra Modi’s convenient new religious tolerance

Modi had spoken at least 2 months late, as far as the nation was concerned, but probably not a moment too soon in other respects

At a function this week in New Delhi arranged by the Catholic Church in India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi came out emphatically in support of religious freedom. Speaking in English (his third language), Modi said, “Mine will be a government that gives equal respect to all religions” and, further, that “equal respect for all religions should be part of the DNA of all Indians.”

Many understood Modi’s words — uttered not in Parliament but at a ceremony to celebrate the elevation of two priests to sainthood — as a long-overdue response to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the Hindu revivalist organization that Modi served for many years before moving on to a career in politics with the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Many also thought that the prime minister had spoken at least two months too late, as far as the nation was concerned, but probably not a moment too soon in other respects. 

Since mid-December, Modi has watched the headlines slowly move away from his own government’s “development agenda” to toxic disputes over religion. The decisive moment was a declaration by RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat — a close friend of Modi’s — that “all Indians were Hindus,” and that his organization would embark on a drive to “reconvert” Christians and Muslims to Hinduism. Shortly afterward, there followed yet another provocation from the Hindu right: a campaign to celebrate 30 January, the anniversary of the death of Mahatma Gandhi, as “Heroism Day” in honor of Gandhi’s assassin, Hindu nationalist Nathuram Godse.

These episodes drew no reaction from the prime minister. Outspoken and emphatic on so many matters, Modi revealingly decided to keep his thoughts to himself. Even President Barack Obama, visiting India in January, left his mark on the debate over religious freedom before Modi did.

Finally, last week, Modi was rudely reminded of the substantial erosion in recent months of his political capital when, in New Delhi’s legislative assembly election, the BJP was routed by the fledgling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). It was the first time Modi had ever faced a reverse in electoral politics. “Where Modi has failed is in providing political governance,” Surjit Bhalla, once a firm supporter of Modi, wrote in a biting article last week. “Ever since May 2014, India has been subjected to a barrage of actions oriented towards the encouragement of social disharmony.”

One need not go to the doors of the prime minister’s most prominent critics to conclude that Modi’s long-delayed reassurance to India on the subject of religious freedom is driven more by expediency than commitment.

However, even expedient actions have their uses — politicians are rarely very principled anyway, and they must instead be held to overarching principles — and their meanings. In this case, Modi’s words reveal to many that the country’s democratic institutions (whether the media or elections) and robust public sphere do have the force to keep those in power honest and to hold them, even somewhat belatedly, to account.

Two weeks ago, I went to hear Modi speak at a rally ahead of the New Delhi elections. As always, a vast crowd had gathered to hear the prime minister, one of Indian history’s greatest orators. Modi delivered a rousing speech about the necessity of voting the BJP into power in the capital, and said, referencing his own move from state politics to the national capital, “Brothers and sisters, I speak to you today as someone who has himself become a Dilliwallah.”

I felt at the time — and perhaps Delhi’s voters did, too — that the prime minister had gotten something wrong. Being a Dilliwallah — a resident of Delhi — is not simply a matter of domicile. At least since 1947, when it became the capital of independent India, Delhi has also represented, to the Indian imagination as that of the world, a certain set of Indian and republican values, with their roots in realities both old and new.

Central to Delhi’s sense of itself is the awareness of being one of the subcontinent’s greatest sites of religious diversity and intermingling, the city having been at the capital (by other names) of at least seven different kingdoms over two millenniums before it became New Delhi, the capital of an independent country.

Delhi’s secularism, one might say, is not just a political doctrine self-consciously instituted by a political elite but also a deeply felt pleasure in the palpable evidence — whether architecturally, gastronomically, sartorially — in its streets and neighborhoods of many ways of life and ideas of God. When such a city is the capital of an even more diverse republic, a technical understanding of secularism, such as that emphasized this week by Modi, should be the least that the prime minister of the day brings to debates on religion, not the most.

If Modi really wants to be a Dilliwallah, then, he has plenty of work ahead of him. My own sense is that he will not manage this spiritual, rather than civic, transformation: For him, India’s religious diversity is stressful to his own religious and political beliefs, which were formed early in life by his time in the Hindu nationalist movement.

For him, this is merely the first of many such cycles of religious provocation and political bad faith that will unfold during his tenure, never to be decisively dealt with, always to be finessed. For him, the words “economy” and “development” will serve both as part of a progressive agenda and as a screen for his shortcomings in other spheres — this when he, once a Hindu nationalist pracharak, knows better than anyone else that man does not live by bread alone. Bloomberg

Read more at: http://www.livemint.com/Opinion/trJbZdDDhXmCkuFP2sf4AK/Narendra-Modis-convenient-new-religious-tolerance.html?utm_source=copy

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Modi vows to uphold freedom of faith, stand against hatred

February 17, 2015 | published at http://MikeGhouseforIndia.blogspot.com

I am encouraged by the step taken by PM Modi and pray that he believes in it and implements it with justice and equal opportunity to every Indian. 

On January 16, 2015 I wrote,

Mr. Modi, you surprised the nation with your inclusionary statements made on November 1, 2014.  As a Pluralist, I whole heartedly welcomed your statements and congratulated you for taking that step. You said, “The BJP should be like a bouquet so that every Indian felt there was a flower in it that he or she could identify with. “And, “A poor and illiterate person living in a slum should think, ‘Yes, there is a flower for me in this bouquet’. That is the only way he can make his voice heard.”

Mr. Prime Minister, I admire you for saying that, even though I am not your Chamcha (sycophant) blindly praising or even worshiping you, I am pleased to take a critical approach towards your policies with the intent of preventing you from falling from grace.  I will keep you on your toes.

Since you made that statement, a few rogue elements  are hell bent on throwing your bouquet into gutter; your legacy is on the line.  You can go down as the greatest Prime Minister of India or finish your term as a another promiser and talker, the choice is clearly yours, indeed, you alone are the driver of your legacy.

We hope you have not given the explicit permission to anyone to destroy India’s social fabric that includes but not limited to pushing, accusing, and maligning India’s fellow Citizens who are not Hindu. But your silence is really bothering us all, yes all of us Indians. We need clarification today, did you permit anyone to do what they are doing on your watch? 
I asked him to announce this:

2. Declare that India is God’s own country, and is represented by every race, nationality, ethnicity, language, culture and religion. We see God as one, none and many; and in every form; male, female, genderless and non-existent, being and non-being, nameless and with innumerable names, and as Indians, we should not be biased towards any one. Aspire for an India that the world can emulate; a pluralistic democracy where every one can eat, drink, wear or believe whatever he or she wants to in her pursuit of happiness.

3. Announce that from this day forward, every Indian will have equal access to education, employment, housing, business loans, entrepreneurial opportunities and if anyone is denied that opportunity, you will step up and stand up against the violators.

Full article at: http://mikeghouseforindia.blogspot.com/2015/01/republic-day-message-to-modi-and-obama.html
Mike Ghouse for India
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Please read the note now:

Modi vows to uphold freedom of faith, stand against hatred

  • HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  •  | 
  • Updated: Feb 18, 2015 01:01 IST

Prime Minister Narendra Modi receives a memento by Cardinal George Alencherry during a function to celebrate the elevation to sainthood of Kuriakose Elias Chavara and Mother Euphrasia as Union finance minister Arun Jaitley looks on, in New Delhi. (PTI Photo)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi pledged on Tuesday to uphold freedom of faith and crack down on inciters of sectarian tensions, his first unequivocal condemnation of religious violence after a series of attacks on Christian properties in Delhi.
In his clearest commitment to secularism yet, the Prime Minister told church leaders every citizen had the right to follow any faith without coercion and vowed to protect all religious groups in India.
“My government will ensure that there is complete freedom of faith and that everyone has the undeniable right to retain or adopt the religion of his or her choice without coercion or undue influence,” Modi said  at a national ceremony of the Syro-Malabar Church to celebrate the canonisation of Saints Kuriakose Elias Chavara and Mother Euphrasia.
“My government will not allow any religious group, belonging to the majority or the minority, to incite hatred against others, overtly or covertly.”
The Prime Minister had been silent so far on religious tensions in India despite mounting criticism over growing intolerance of Hindu hardliners and the recent Delhi attacks that fuelled concerns religious minorities were being increasingly targeted after the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power.
Modi rarely attends events organised by minority communities and his decision to speak at the conference was seen as an attempt to reassure the Christian community after the BJP’s bruising defeat in the recent Delhi election.
His comments were also seen as a condemnation of a recent spate of forced religious conversions by hardline Hindu groups across the country, an issue he had refused to comment on despite pressure from the Opposition in Parliament.
Reading in English from a prepared speech aimed as much at a global audience as those at home, Modi endorsed pluralism, calling “equal respect” for all faiths, an ancient Indian value that was also integral to the Constitution.
“This principle of equal respect and treatment for all faiths has been a part of India`s ethos for thousands of years. And that is how it became integral to the Constitution of India. Our Constitution did not evolve in a vacuum. It has roots in the ancient cultural traditions of India.”
Last week, hundreds of Christians protested the attacks on churches in the Capital, saying they saw a “deliberate” pattern of targeting the community.
Church leaders said on Tuesday they were reassured by Modi’s speech but would look forward to its implementation. “It was joyous thing to hear the Prime Minister give these assurances. We have to wait and verify its outcome,” Father Jacob Barnabas, the apostolic in-charge of the Syro-Malabar Church organisation outside Kerala, told HT.
Modi’s comments came after US President Barack Obama called for religious tolerance in a speech wrapping up his recent visit, saying India would not succeed if it was splintered along religious lines.
Reacting to Modi’s speech, the Congress said it was “better late than never” on the prime minister’s part. “However, the proof of the pudding lies in stopping the vitriolic agenda of the RSS and its fringe elements,” party spokesman Randeep Singh Surjewala said.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Valentine's day, Vandalism and its future in India

Valentine's day is a celebration of love, while it is a meaningful day for most people around the world,  it is a day of harassment and vandalism for some in India.  As Indians should we feel embarrassed about it? Of course not! 

The Vandalism side of the story at - https://www.saddahaq.com/humaninterest/valentinesday/vandals-or-valentines-day

Pictures of Interfaith  couples followed by the positive side of the story and links to a few good romantic songs at - An album of interfaith couples will be set with your pictures of those couples who did not convert the one or the other. to their religious tradition. More about it at:  http://interfaithmarriages.blogspot.com/2015/02/future-of-valentines-day.html
King Akbar Married Jodabai - they remained Muslim and Hindu


If you are an interfaith couple and would like to share a picture, I will create an album for the same. Need to have it by 2/15 to be a part of the Album.

 Future of Valentine's day after the pictures:
Throughout the history of language, words have taken on new and expanded meanings; Valentine's Day is no exception.
From an exclusive meaningful rendezvous between two lovers, the Valentine's Day will morph into an all-inclusive romantic day. It will become a universal affection day within a decade.
Valentine’s Day is a universal expression of affection between two individuals. Love has no bounds; it is between two people in love, husband and wife, mother and son, father daughter, brother sister, brothers, sisters, friends, uncles, aunties, Grandpa and Grandma and any one you care about.
Please feel free to say happy valentine to your sister, mother, brother, daughter, dad, uncle or a friend. It is a much bigger word now than it started out to be. Take them out for dinner and send them flowers to let them know that you care if you are the only one for them at this point in life.
While we express it by presenting red roses to our loved ones, the Filipinos will break another record; the number of people kissing at the same time, Brazil will have another major festival on her beaches celebrating love. You are welcome to share other such expressions. Now there is a selfie competition going as well.
On the other side of the world, a few frustrated ones with life go to the other end. The right wingers among orthodox Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Jews and others will start giving religious tones to it instead of going to their place of worship and seeking God's love.
Sadly, some of you are going to feel lonely, if you miss the love in your life; you have an opportunity to fulfill it. There is plenty in you that you can give by feeding the homeless, visiting lonely patients in the hospitals or nursing homes, disadvantage women and children, our veterans... share whatever little you have with them including the time and just listening to them. When a homeless person asks, give whatever you can, that is the most affectionate thing to do, you will enrich yourselves far greater by sharing.
Whenever the word affection comes to mind, I picture my dad and recall the way he called out my Mother's name Khairun, it was filled with affection and I have always enjoyed the sound of that, it was simply soothing to hear.
I dedicate these three songs to people in love.  
Kenny Roger's, you decorated my life: I particularly like the line which says, there is no rhyme or reason that is what love is all about. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gJkPFSt326c
Ronnie Millsap’s, what a difference you made in my life, 
Muhammad Rafi's ai Husn Zara Jaag in Urdu/ Hindi, 
and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan's, aap say mil kay in Urdu/Hindi
My expressions would be incomplete without honoring the poet of love, Mirza Ghalib, one of the greatest romantic poets of all time who composed his poetry in Urdu/Hindi and Farsi.
Ishk per zor nahin, hai a o aatish ghalib
Ke lagaye na lege, bujhaye no bujhe.
Affection is that flame dear ole Ghalib,
it cannot be lit or extinguished,  it just happens.
If we can learn to respect the otherness of others and accept the God given uniqueness of each one of us, then conflicts fade and solutions emerge.

Be good to your fellow beings. 

Happy Valentine's Day 

Thank you


Mike Ghouse

(214) 325-1916 text/talk
Mike Ghouse is a public speaker, thinker, writer and a commentator on Pluralism at work place, politics, religion, society, gender, race, culture, ethnicity, food and foreign policy. He is a staunch defender of human rights and his book standing up for others will be out soon, and a movie "Americans together" is in the making.  He is a frequent guest commentator on Fox News and syndicated Talk Radio shows and a writer at major news papers including Dallas Morning News and Huffington Post. All about him is listed in 63 links at www.MikeGhouse.net and his writings are atwww.TheGhousediary.com and 10 other blogs. He is committed to building cohesive societies and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day.