HOME | ABOUT US | Speaker | Americans Together | Videos | www.CenterforPluralism.com | Please note that the blog posts include my own articles plus selected articles critical to India's cohesive functioning. My articles are exclusively published at www.TheGhouseDiary.com You can send an email to: MikeGhouseforIndia@gmail.com

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Arvind Kejriwal; redefining Government of the people for the people by the people.


He has a bold message for Indian National Congress; inclusiveness without pragati will not cut it, and the message to the other extremity Narendra Modi, unnati without inclusiveness is not sustainable either.  
When there is a lack of leadership, or leaders have no idea how to proceed, Arvind Kejriwal, the leader of the new Aam Aadmi Party has found the way, and he is just doing the right thing, asking the very people who elected him!  Indeed, Mr. Kejriwal is redefining what Government of the people means.
The only worry, I have about the Aam Aadmi Party is – how will they ensure the corrupt people from creeping in to their system?  As long as they are a Delhi based manageable party, they would be fine, but if they go national, do they have the time to place safeguards and checks and balances in place?
It does worry me, in a press conference in December 2001, General Pervaz Musharraf gave me 6-7 minutes in the midst of huge media crowd in Washington DC. My major question to him besides Cricket Diplomacy was – have you got a “what if plan”, should you not be there, do you have institutions built up to carry the democracy forward? His answer was typical Desi – Oh, yes, don’t worry, we have figured it out everything.
I wish our damned politicians, particularly my fellow Republicans learn the lesson - to reflect the needs to the public rather than what they want. Arivind Kejriwal has redefined and clarified what it means to be Government of the People by the people for the people.
I will ask the same question to Arvind Kejriwal, what if you fell sick or become dear to God in an accident, is your system established to move forward on its own? Do you have enough people deeply oriented with your ideals to carry the mantle? A sustainable government should be based on a system and not individuals.
My recommendation for Kejriwal is to establish the party in Delhi, be a part of the opposition or form the governance if the Delhi voters say yes, but don't expand to other parts of the country yet, as you are likely to fall like all others.
IBN network has bestwoed the Indian of the year award to Arvind Kejriwal, a well-deserved award. Congratulations Mr. Kejriwal! The following  6 minutes video on YouTube is worth watching to understand a genuine democracy – of the people by the people for the people

Mike Ghouse is a speaker, thinker and a writer on pluralism, politics, peace, IslamIsraelIndiainterfaith, and cohesion at work place. He is committed to building a Cohesive America and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day at www.TheGhousediary.com. He believes in Standing up for others and a book with the same title is coming up. Mike has a strong presence on national and local TV, Radio and Print Media. He is a frequent guest onSean Hannity show on Fox TV, and a commentator on national radio networks, he contributes weekly to the Texas Faith Column at Dallas Morning News; fortnightly at Huffington post; and several other periodicals across the world. His personal site www.MikeGhouse.net indexes all his work through many links.

Friday, December 20, 2013

India’s New Face : Narendra Modi

This is an excellent piece - fairly objective assessment! He has given credit where it belongs and critique where needed. Mike Ghouse

India's New Face: Narendra Modi
April 2009
John Henry Claude Wilson/Robert Harding World Imagery/Corbis

IF THE SPIRIT of modern India has a geographic heartland it is Gujarat, the northwestern state bordering Sindh, in Pakistan. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, the mahatma—Sanskrit for “great soul”—was a Gujarati, born in Porbandar, on the Arabian Sea, in 1869. The signal event of the Indian independence movement was the Salt March that Gandhi, joined by thousands, led in March 1930 across Gujarat, from the Sabarmati Ashram 241 miles south to Dandi, on the Gulf of Cambay. There Gandhi picked up a handful of salt on the beach and defied the British law prohibiting the collection or sale of salt by anyone but the colonial authorities. “Next to air and water, salt is perhaps the greatest necessity of life. It is the only condiment of the poor,” Gandhi wrote. In a letter to the viceroy he argued, “I regard this tax to be the most iniquitous of all from the poor man’s standpoint. As the independence movement is essentially for the poorest in the land, the beginning will be made with this evil.”

Gandhi’s identification with the poor was intrinsic to his universalist philosophy. As he put it:

I do not believe in the doctrine of the greatest good of the greatest number. It means in its nakedness that in order to achieve the supposed good of 51 per cent the interests of 49 per cent may be, or rather, should be sacrificed. It is a heartless doctrine and has done harm to humanity. The only real dignified human doctrine is the greatest good of all.
To protect the poor against the ravages of capitalism, which benefits only the majority rather than everyone, India would adopt socialism after independence. More to the point, although the Hindus would numerically dominate, they could not ignore or trample the rights of tens of millions of Muslims. Indeed, the “greatest good” necessitated that the conscience of the new nation and the ruling Congress Party be avowedly secular.

But the spirit of India has undergone an uneasy shift in this new era of rampant capitalism and of deadly ethnic and religious tensions, which arise partly as violent reactions against exactly the social homogenization that globalization engenders. Gujarat finds itself once again at the heart of what is roiling India, and what singularly menaces the country’s rise to “Great Global Power” status. India is home to 154 million Muslims, the third-largest Muslim population in the world after Indonesia and Pakistan. India has arguably more to lose from extremist Islam than any other country in the world. Yet, as Dwijendra Tripathi, a historian based in Gujarat, lamented to me, “The Hindu-Muslim divide here is worse than at any time since the partition.” Not coincidentally, this rift is deepening even as Gujarat booms economically, with brand-new malls, multi plexes, highways, and private ports transforming it into a pulsing region-state athwart Indian Ocean trade routes.

Gujarat’s heightened religious tensions stem from “2002,” as it is simply called by everybody in Gujarat and the rest of India. In the local lexicon, that year has attained a symbolism perhaps as resilient as the force of “9/11” for Americans. It connotes an atrocity that will not die, a sectarian myth-in-the-making that constitutes a hideous rebuke to Gandhi’s Salt March. And at its epicenter stands another charismatic Gujarati, Narendra Modi, the chief minister of Gujarat, an icon of India’s economic growth and development, and a leading force in the Hindu-chauvinist Bharatiya Janata (Indian People’s) Party, or BJP.

What local human-rights groups label the “pogrom” began with the incineration of 58 Hindu train passengers on February 27, 2002, in Godhra, a town with a large Muslim population and a stop on the rail journey from Gujarat to Uttar Pradesh, in north-central India. The Muslims who reportedly started the fire had apparently been taunted by other Hindus who had passed through en route to Ayodhya, in Uttar Pradesh, on their way to demonstrate for a Hindu temple to be built on the site of a demolished Mughal mosque. Recently installed as chief minister, Modi decreed February 28 a day of mourning, so that the passengers’ funerals could be held in downtown Ahmedabad, Gujarat’s largest city. “It was a clear invitation to violence,” writes Edward Luce, the Financial Times correspondent in India, in his book, In Spite of the Gods: The Strange Rise of Modern India. “The Muslim quarters of Ahmedabad and other cities in Gujarat turned into death traps as thousands of Hindu militants converged on them.” In the midst of the riots, Modi approvingly quoted Newton’s third law: “Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.” Mobs coalesced and Hindu men raped Muslim women, before pouring kerosene down their throats and the throats of their children, then setting them all on fire. Muslim men were forced to watch the ritualistic killings before they, too, were put to death. More than 400 women were raped; 2,000 people, overwhelmingly Muslim, murdered; and 200,000 more made homeless throughout the state.

The killers were dressed in saffron scarves and khaki shorts, the uniform of the RSS, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (Organization of National Volunteers)—the umbrella group of the Hindu nationalist movement—and came armed with swords and gas cylinders, as well as electoral registers and computer printouts of addresses. The police stood by and observed the killings, and in some cases, according to Human Rights Watch, helped the rioters locate Muslim addresses. As for the 200,000 made homeless, the Gujarati state government provided very little in the way of relief, or compensation for the loss of life and businesses. Today, much of Ahmedabad’s Muslim population remains sequestered in squalid relief communities that Modi once called “baby-making factories.”

For all its carnage and horrors, 2002 also continues to echo because of Modi’s subsequent political success. In a remarkable three terms as chief minister, he has never apologized, has never demonstrated regret of any sort for 2002, and has become a hero to the Hindu nationalist movement. Furthermore, his machine-like efficiency, financial probity, and dynamic leadership of the government bureaucracy have made Gujarat a mecca for development, garnering more internal investment than any other state in India. Migrants, both Hindu and Muslim, from throughout India have been streaming into Gujarat to find work at its expanding factories.

There is an element of Lee Kuan Yew’s Singapore in Modi’s Gujarat. What’s more, Modi’s hypnotic oratory and theatrical flair have led some to compare him to Hitler. Certainly he is the most charismatic Indian political leader to emerge since Indira Gandhi in the 1970s.

Of course, Modi is neither Lee Kuan Yew nor Adolf Hitler. He is what he is, a new kind of hybrid politician—part CEO with prodigious management abilities, part rabble-rouser with a fierce ideological following—who is both impressive and disturbing in his own right. While Barack Obama may give hope to millions in the new century, a leader like Modi demonstrates how the century can also go very wrong when charismatic politicians use modern electoral tactics and technology to create and exploit social divisions, and then pursue their political and economic goals with cold bureaucratic efficiency. And here is why Modi is so important: although he is not his party’s standard-bearer going into this spring’s national elections, his popularity and influence in the BJP mean that he could one day be governing the world’s largest democracy.
AS HINDU IDEOLOGUE and innovative CEO of Company Gujarat, Modi in many ways embodies his state’s history: his character testifies to Gujarat’s vibrant, outward-looking entrepreneurial spirit and its hard-edged communalism, and his trajectory follows the larger trends that have brought the state, and the country, to this uneasy moment.

Gujarat’s vast seaboard—the longest in India—looks westward to the Middle East and Africa, and so Gujarat has been a land of trade and migration. During the age of British imperialism, Gujarati businessmen sold cloth to Yemenis and were paid in silver, which they then lent to English merchants, who bought Yemeni coffee, sold it, and repaid their lenders, so that the Gujarati businessmen made a double profit. In the 19th century, large Gujarati communities sprang up in British East Africa. Later, when America beckoned and loosened its visa restrictions, Gujaratis flooded to its shores, becoming, among other things, motel proprietors and Silicon Valley software tycoons.

Faith—both Hindu and Muslim—underpinned the business networking, providing a social and cultural framework. Thus have two devout, highly distinct ethnic and religious communities operated easily within Gujarat’s cosmopolitan framework. Even as the state leads India in electronic governance and indexes of economic freedom, it also has the tightest dietary restrictions; alcohol is prohibited in this land of Gandhi, and vegetarianism (partly the result of the religious influence of the Jains) is widespread. Indeed, Hindus in Gujarat negatively associate meat-eating with the late-medieval Mughals, the Muslim conquerors from Central Asia who were another critical factor shaping the Gujarati historical experience.

Gujarat’s post on a frontier zone of the subcontinent exposed the state to repeated Muslim invasions. Some of the worst depredations came at the hands of the Turco-Persian ruler Mahmud of Ghazni, who swept down from eastern Afghanistan and in 1025 destroyed the seaside Hindu temple of Somnath. During a trip to India last fall, whenever I mentioned the events of 2002 to Hindu nationalists, they would lecture me about the crimes of Mahmud of Ghazni. For these Hindus, the past is alive, as if it happened yesterday.

This combination of geography and history has made Gujarat fertile ground for Hindutva (Hindu-ness) and for the Hindu nationalist movement that first emerged in the 1920s and that has since given birth to a wide range of Hindu organizations, beginning, most notably, in 1925 with the RSS, a vast, volunteer-driven self-help corps. As members of the Hindu nationalist movement such as Vijay Chauthaiwale, a molecular biologist, told me, the RSS provided a “true Hindu voice lost by the pro-Muslim tilt of the Congress Party. Muslims invaded in earlier centuries. They conquered,” he told me. “We lost. The British conquered. We lost. We were a defeated society. We needed to come together as Hindus.”

Narendra Modi, who was born into a middle-caste family in Gujarat in 1950, joined an RSS-inspired student group, going on to become a pracharak—a “propagator,” or propagandist—for the RSS itself. Unmarried, the pracharaks live sparely, inspiring hundreds of workers while trying to remain faceless, in an effort to eliminate their own egos. The average pracharak serves only two or three years before marrying and resuming a normal life. Modi is unusual. He was a pracharak for close to a decade. In 1987, he joined the BJP, which had been founded in 1980 to advance Hindutva in the political sphere. One year later, he became the party’s state general secretary.

Modi entered the political arena just as larger forces were propelling the BJP forward. Information technology enabled standardized and ideologized versions of Hinduism and Islam to emerge: just as Shiites became united across the Middle East, Hindus became united across India, and the same for Sunni Muslims. Meanwhile, the spread of education made people aware of their own histories, supplying them with grievances that they never had before. “The Hindu poor are blissfully ignorant of Mahmud of Ghazni. It is the middle class that now knows this history,” explained one local human-rights worker. That is why Hindu nationalism is strongest not among the poor and uneducated, but among the professional classes: scientists, software engineers, lawyers, and so on. In the eyes of this new, right-wing cadre of middle- and upper-middle-class Hindus, India was a civilization before it was a state, and while the state has had to compromise with minorities, the civilization originally was unpolluted (purely Hindu, that is)—even if the truth is far more complex.

The economic reforms of the 1990s, which brought India truly into the vanguard of globalization, aggravated these Hindu-chauvinistic tendencies. Because the socialistic nation-state of Hindus and Muslims had become a thing of the past, both groups needed a strengthened communal identity to anchor them inside an insipid world civilization. This need has been especially apparent among Gujaratis living overseas: even as successful immigrants in the United States, they have engaged in a search for roots that they have transmitted back to relatives at home.

Against this backdrop, Modi has gone from strength to strength. Promoted in 1995 to become the BJP’s national secretary, he helped orchestrate the party’s rise to power. After taking over the chief ministership in the wake of a disastrous earthquake, in 2001, he has been reelected twice, becoming Gujarat’s longest-serving leader. During his visits to villages, pregnant women regularly touch his feet so that their newborn will be like him. He is so honest that gifts for him are regularly deposited in the state treasury—a far cry from the corruption and nepotism that are so routine in Indian government. Even those Indians who despise Modi’s politics acknowledge his skill and power.
MODI’S OFFICE IS on an upper floor of a massive, scabby-faced ministry building in Gandhinagar, the planned city of government workers north of Ahmedabad that is a monument to the flawed architectural schemes of formerly socialist India. Outside his door, Western businessmen and investors in expensive suits clustered after meetings with the chief minister. At 5 p.m. sharp, I was ushered in. Modi sat behind a desk that looked over a long committee table. He wore traditional paijama pants and a long, elegant brown kurta—ironically, the traditional dress of India imported by the Mughals. A row of pens lined his pocket. Rimless glasses rested on his face. He had a clipped and distinguished salt-and-pepper beard. His was a handsome, welcoming visage. A small stack of documents lay in front of him. He thrust them at me before I even asked my first question. “I heard you were interested in development here, so here are your answers.” What he gave me was not the usual promotional brochures, but long lists of sourced statistics put together by an aide. Gujarat had experienced 10.2 percent annual GDP growth since 2002. It had eight new universities. In recent years, almost half the new jobs created in India were in Gujarat. The state ranked first in poverty alleviation, first in electricity generation.

Was Modi trying to create another Singapore or Dubai in Gujarat, a place that would be, in a positive sense, distinct from the mother brand of India?, I asked him.

“No,” came the reply. “Singapore and Dubai are city-states. There can be many Singapores and Dubais here. We will have a Singapore in Kutch,” he said, waving his arm dismissively, “and GIFT [Gujarat International Finance Tec-City, a new high-tech city planned nearby] can be like Dubai. Gujarat as a whole will be like South Korea. Global commerce is in our blood,” he added, lifting his eyebrows for emphasis. There was a practiced theatricality about the way he talked. I could see how he moves crowds, or takes over boardrooms. I have met Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and both Bushes. At close range, Modi beats them all in charisma. Whenever he opened his mouth, he suddenly had real, mesmerizing presence.

His ambition seemed grandiose: South Korea is the world’s 13th-largest economy. Yet I could understand the comparison. Like Gujarat, South Korea is a vast peninsula open to major sea-lanes. It emerged as an industrialized, middle-class dynamo, not under democratic rule but under the benign authoritarianism of Park Chung Hee in the 1960s and ’70s. I mentioned this to Modi. He said he wasn’t interested in talking about politics, just development. Of course, politics represents freedom, and his momentary lack of interest in politics was not accidental. Modi’s entire governing style is antidemocratic, albeit quite effective, emphasizing reliance on a lean, stripped-down bureaucracy of which he has taken complete personal control, even as he has pushed his own political party to the sidelines, almost showing contempt for it.

Modi spoke to me in clipped, to-the-point phrases, with a didactic tone, about the cosmopolitan trading history of Gujarat going back 5,000 years, and how Parsis and others had come to its shores and been assimilated into the Hindu culture. I asked him about the contribution of the Muslims, who make up 11 percent of the state’s population. “We are a spiritual, god-fearing people,” he answered. “We are by and large vegetarians. Jainism and Buddhism impacted us positively. We want to create a Buddhist temple here to honor Buddha’s remains.” He then prompted me for my next question. He had nothing further to say. His terse responses spoke volumes: Muslims, of course, are meat-eaters.

I asked if he had any regrets about anything he had done or failed to do since becoming chief minister seven years earlier. Again, he had nothing to say. I then asked specifically if he regretted 2002. His answer: “There are so many views about that. Who am I to judge?” He said that a commission would decide about his role in the riots. In fact, a preliminary report by a commission from his own state bureaucracy had already absolved him of any wrongdoing.

“There was no Kalinga effect on Modi,” Hanif Lakdawala, a Muslim who runs a human-rights NGO, told me. He was referring to a war fought in the third century B.C. by the Mauryan Empire under King Ashoka against the kingdom of Kalinga on the eastern coast of India. Ashoka’s forces slew 100,000 civilians. Yet the slaughter left Ashoka with so much guilt that he dedicated his life thereafter to nonviolence and the peaceful development of his empire.

I wondered if Modi felt differently behind closed doors. By all accounts, after the riots, he manically dedicated himself to development, sleeping less than four hours every night, up at 5 a.m. to check his e-mail and read the local papers, visiting about 3,000 of the 7,000 villages in the state, and empowering the lowest reaches of its bureaucracy through his slogan, “Less government, more governance.” As Atul Tandan, director of the Mudra Institute of Communications, in Ahmedabad, told me, “You have to separate Modi’s political ideology from his management ability. Because there is not a hint of corruption about him, Modi is effective because people believe his decisions are only results-oriented.” Even many Muslims have come to respect Modi for cracking down on the gambling and criminal rackets that have infested some of their communities.

Nevertheless, there were so many ingenious ways Modi could have shown remorse for what happened in 2002 without directly admitting guilt, and he had expressed no interest in doing so. Perhaps it was a Machiavellian ploy: first, allow RSS forces to launch what most neutral observers said was a methodical killing spree in 2002, and then turn toward development after you have used violence to consolidate power and concentrate the minds of your enemies. But Machiavelli believed in using only the minimum amount of cruelty to attain a positive collective result, and thus any more cruelty than was absolutely necessary did not, as he put it, qualify as virtue.

“I am from a poor family,” Modi told me. “If I had become a teacher, it would have made my family happy. But I got involved in a national patriotic movement, the RSS, where one must sacrifice. As a pracharak, I was like a Hindu monk in a white dress. My Hindu philosophy: terrorism is the enemy of humanism.” I assumed he meant Islamic terrorism, which accounts for most large-scale violent attacks in India. He compared himself to Gandhi: “When the British ruled, so many fought for independence, and Gandhi turned this into a mass movement. I have converted economic development into a mass-movement psychology.” His words echoed through the empty room. “I have a toll-free number where callers hear my recorded voice and can make complaints against the government, and the relevant department must respond within a week.”

He rolled off his accomplishments: “modern roads, private railroads with double-decker containers, 50,000 kilometers of fiber-optic networks, 2,200 kilometers of gas pipelines, 1,400 kilometers of drinking-water pipelines to 7,000 villages, 24-hour uninterrupted power in rural areas, the first Indian state with private ports, a totally integrated coastal-development plan, two LNG [liquefied natural gas] terminals and two new ones coming on line.” Statistics and lists seemed to have a spellbinding effect on him. He quantified everything.

He mentioned, too, the plant to be built in Gujarat by Tata Motors, which will employ several thousand workers to produce the Nano, the world’s cheapest car, priced at $2,500. Luring Tata, perhaps India’s most prestigious company, to Gujarat had been a coup for Modi, and billboards around Ahmedabad proclaimed his accomplishment. “For so long, the whole coastal area had been subjugated to Mumbai,” he said. “But now the richness is coming back home to Gujarat. Gujarat will be the center point for east-west connectivity, from Africa to Indonesia.”

He is a very driven man, with no personal life, from what I gathered. He exuded power and control. How could he not have been implicated in the 2002 pogrom?, I asked myself.

A NUMBER OF HINDUS, all of them of the enlightened, cosmopolitan class, as well as Muslims and several foreign writers, told me that Modi’s personality contains an element of fascism. Sophia Khan, a human-rights worker, put it bluntly: “He’s a fascist man. We Muslims don’t exist for him. Our neighborhoods are called mini-Pakistans, while the Hindus live where the malls and multiplexes are.”

Is Modi a fascist? Although episodes in his political career and his role in the events of February 2002 suggest as much, the answer is, ultimately, no. “What makes Modi different from Hitler,” explained Prasad Chacko, who heads a local NGO, “is that while Hitler thought fascism the end result of political evolution, Modi knows that Hindutva is only a phase that cannot last, so now he focuses on development, not communal divides.” In fact, Modi has recently gone after the very Hindu nationalists who put him in power, arresting some members of a Hindu-chauvinist group. He can’t or won’t apologize for 2002. Therefore, showing that he is less extremist than other Hindu-firsters has become his method for gaining acceptance on the national stage, in advance of running for prime minister, according to Achyut Yagnik, a journalist and historian.

Modi is helped in his ambition by the general atmosphere of civilizational tension. Whether it be the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the threat posed by Iran, possible chaos in Pakistan, or Islamic terrorism in Kashmir and in India itself, the global situation reminds Hindus—the overwhelming majority of Indian voters—how much they have to fear from Muslim radicalism, and how much Modi signifies a bulwark against it: not through any specific act nowadays, but through the whole aura of his no-nonsense rule. As much as India fears Pakistan, it fears Pakistan’s collapse even more. The threat of Islamic anarchy in the region is perfectly suited to the further consolidation of Hindu nationalism, even as intercommunal tension represents, arguably, a more profound threat to the country than even the increasingly drastic shortage of water. What I encountered in interviews with victims of the 2002 violence was not so much radicalization, but alienation from India, evidenced by their withdrawal into their own communities, their reluctance to venture among Hindus.

The corresponding Hindu fear of Islam runs parallel with a more understated but palpable yearning for order. India’s rise as an economic and naval power has invited frustrating comparisons with China: whereas the authoritarian government in China can make things happen, development happens in India mainly in spite of the government. Hanif Lakdawala told me that, especially because of the nightmarish chaos of Indian cities, “there are some in this country ready to accept a fascist, or at least a very strong dictator.”

Not a fascist, in my opinion, but certainly someone like Modi. As Vimal Ambani, a prominent, liberal-minded Gujarati businessman, told me, “At the end of the day, Modi still offers the best model for governance in India.”
OF COURSE, MODI’S record since 2002 has not been perfect. Because of 2002, he has been denied a visa to the United States, and this stigma has hurt foreign investment, even as Gujarat has become the prime destination for domestic deal-making. Despite all the infrastructure projects, Gujarat still ranks low on scales of human development in India: malnutrition afflicts almost half of the children younger than 5, three-quarters of the women suffer from anemia, and two-thirds of the people are literate—barely above the national average.

In fact, what truly prevents Modi from taking the grand leap of his imagination—that is, remaking Gujarat into a kind of antiseptic global entrepôt, like Singapore and Dubai—is the ball-and-chain reality of the Indian landscape itself. Take Ahmedabad, encased in tear-inducing smog, jammed with wailing motorbikes and auto rickshaws, its broken sidewalks punctuated by stray cows and beggars. Founded in 1411 by Ahmed Shah of the Gujarat sultanate, the city was something of a playground for internationally renowned architects in the 1950s, when the Western elite placed newly independent India on a pedestal as the hope of humanity. (Le Corbusier designed the Textile Mills Association Building, and Louis Kahn the Indian Institute of Management.) But with the exception of a few gems, Ahmedabad, with a population of 4.5 million, remains weighed down by the same affliction that ails other Indian cities: little of architectural note or beauty among a handful of truly magnificent medieval Muslim monuments and the mishmash of steel-and-glass Dubai-style dwellings of the newly rich.

India is 37 percent urban. Within the next two decades it will be 50 percent so. Bimal Patel, a local architect and urban planner, explained that the real governing challenge of India’s leaders will be to make cities like Ahmedabad more livable and efficient. Under Modi, a new park-and-waterfront project, designed by Patel, is rising along six miles of the Sabarmati River, which runs through Ahmedabad. For the most part, though, the chief minister has avoided the local politics of this and other Gujarati cities.

Modi has also done nothing about the communal cantons that have sprung up under his rule. Now Ahmedabad’s old walled city is one of the only areas where Muslims—who make up 9 percent of the city’s population—and Hindus can really mix. The most poignant scene I came across during two weeks of wandering around Ahmedabad was at the Sarkhej Roza, the 15th-century mosque-and-tomb complex dedicated to Sheikh Ahmed Khattu, the spiritual adviser to Ahmed Shah. Amid the medieval domes and balconies overlooking a water tank, families picnicked, young couples whispered, children played ball, and young men attended prayer meetings. The architecture, with its elegant stucco and grillwork, blended Islamic and Hindu styles in a composite known as Indo-Saracenic. But at least until the park-and-waterfront project is completed, there is no corresponding mixing of peoples in Ahmedabad today: the crowd at the Sarkhej Roza was exclusively Muslim.

FOR 10 HOURS, I traveled by bus and car from Ahmedabad south to the coast at Diu, the southernmost point of Gujarat’s Kathiawar Peninsula, the site of Portuguese monuments that have particular relevance to the larger Indian story.

We drove along broken roads through a never-ending series of hovels, past creaking and dusty carts and the shanties and lean-tos of burlap and rusty corrugated iron that define rural India. On this journey through Gujarat, though, I found paved roads in many places, and running water and electricity just about everywhere. As primitive as the scenes looked, I knew from journeys in poorer Indian states like Bihar and West Bengal that much progress had been made. Still, South Korea? No, not for a few decades at the very least. India could be a great regional power and a pivotal state, but it is not likely to reach the level of development of the East Asian tiger economies.

Diu, a key strategic base for Portugal’s Indian Ocean Empire, had been captured from the Ottoman Turks in 1535. The sea gently knocked at the ramparts of the Portuguese citadel, mustard- and lead-colored after centuries of wear. Weeds crept between the stones, wild pigs wandered about, and groups of young men loudly ambled along the stoneworks, seemingly unaware of the significance of this immense curiosity, topped at its highest point by a lonely white cross. The massive Portuguese churches, with their colossal white Gothic facades, stood equally forlorn, their walls faded and leprous. You could actually see and hear the plaster falling at the close wing-beats of the pigeons. Only a few hundred years old, these dilapidated monuments are more like relics from far-back antiquity, so divorced do they seem from the local environment.

As empires rise and fall, only their ideas can remain, adapted to the needs of the people they once ruled. The Portuguese, given only to plunder and exploitation, brought no ideas save for their Catholic religion, which sank little root among Hindus and Muslims. And so these ruins are merely sad and, after a manner, beautiful. The British, by contrast, brought tangible development, ports and railways, that created the basis for a modern state. More important, they brought the framework for parliamentary democracy that Indians, who already possessed indigenous traditions of heterodoxy and pluralism, were able to fit to their own needs. Indeed, the very Hindu pantheon, with its many gods rather than one, works toward the realization that competing truths are what enable freedom. Thus, the British, despite all their flaws, advanced an ideal of Indian greatness. And that greatness, as enlightened Indians will tell you, is impossible to achieve without a moral component.

For as the influence of an economically burgeoning India now seeps both westward and eastward, to the Iranian plateau and to the Gulf of Thailand (the borders of viceregal India and its shadow zones a hundred years ago), it can grow only as a force of communal coexistence, a force that rests on India’s strengths as the world’s largest democracy. India, in other words, despite its flashy economic growth, will be nothing but another gravely troubled developing nation if it can’t maintain a minimum of domestic harmony. Mercifully, the forces of Indian democracy have already survived 60 years of turmoil, attested to by the stability of coalition governments following the era of Congress Party rule. These forces appear sufficiently grounded either to reject Modi at the national level or to contain his worst impulses as he moves—as many expect he will—from Gandhinagar to New Delhi. After all, the churches and bastions in Diu are ruins not because they represent an idea that failed but because they represent no idea at all, whereas India has been an idea since Gandhi’s Salt March in 1930. Either Modi will fit his managerial genius to the service of that idea, or he will stay where he is. Hindus elsewhere in India are less communal-minded than those in Gujarat, and that will be his dilemma.

Living history: the Hindu temple at Somnath, one of the most sacred in India, was sacked by a Muslim conqueror in 1025.

BUT IN GUJARAT, at least, peace will not come easy. From Diu I hired a car and drove two hours westward along the coast to Somnath, site of the Hindu temple destroyed by Mahmud of Ghazni, as well as by other invaders, and rebuilt for the seventh time starting in 1947.

This temple, with its massive pale-ocher shikhara (tower) and assemblage of domes, sits at the edge of a vast seascape glazed over with heat. The coiled and writhing cosmic scenes on its facade are so complex that they create the sculptural equivalent of infinity. The day I was there, prayer blasted from loudspeakers. It was a madhouse on account of the full moon. Hundreds of worshippers checked their bags at a ratty cloak stand and left their shoes in scattered piles. Signs warned that no mobile phones or other electronic devices would be permitted inside, but I knew better. I put my BlackBerry in my cargo pocket, not trusting it to the mild chaos of the cloak stand, and expecting the usual lackadaisical developing-world frisk. I then joined the long single-file line to enter the temple. At the entrance, I was savagely searched, and my BlackBerry was discovered. I was rightly yelled at, and summoned back to the cloak stand. “Muslim terrorism,” one worshipper alerted me. From the cloak stand I got back into line and entered the temple.

Semidarkness enveloped me as worshippers kissed the flower-bedecked idol of a cow. The air was suffocating, as packed-together bodies approached the womb-chamber. I felt as if I were trespassing on a mystery. Though nonbelievers were officially welcomed, I knew that I was outside the boundaries of the single organism of the crowd—the philosopher Elias Canetti’s word for a large group of people who abandon their individuality in favor of an intoxicating collective symbol. This sanctum was a pulsating vortex of faith. Some dropped to their hands and knees and prayed on the stone floor. I’d had the same extreme and cloistered sensation at two of the holiest sites of Catholicism and Shiism: the Shrine of the Black Madonna in Czestochowa, Poland; and the Imam Ali Mosque in Najaf, Iraq (where I had to sneak in with a busload of visiting Turkish businessmen).

You couldn’t help but understand Hindu feelings about Muslim depredations of this temple, one of India’s 12 Jyotirlingas, or places with “signs of light” that symbolize the god Shiva. And yet, as emotions crackled like electricity all around me, I also couldn’t help but think of what Hanif Lakdawala had asked me, in a plea as much as a question: “What can we poor Muslims of today do about Mahmud of Ghazni?”

Robert D. Kaplan is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security, in Washington, D.C.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Economist - Narendra Modi A man of some of the people

Economist is on the most respected magazines that I have been reading for a long time. It is good to see a good critical article - Mike Ghouse
Courtesy: Economist

A populist with a nasty past and a decent economic record wants to run India
Dec 14th 2013 | AHMEDABAD AND DELHI | From the print edition

ON DECEMBER 8th the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), India’s main opposition party, handsomely won state elections in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, with a combined population of well over 100m. It also won, a bit more narrowly, in Chhattisgarh, and it got the largest share of the vote in Delhi (see article).
Narendra Modi, chief minister of Gujarat and the party’s national leader, claims much of the credit. He is a forceful campaigner, hugely popular with his party’s Hindu-nationalist core and increasingly accepted beyond it. His chances of becoming India’s prime minister in next year’s general elections, which must be held by May, were already good before the weekend. Now they look better than ever.
Indians, especially those in towns, in the north and in the middle class, are fed up with the ruling Congress party. Stubbornly high inflation, chronic joblessness and growth of less than 5% make the economic outlook gloomy. Manmohan Singh, the prime minister, is ineffectual; Rahul Gandhi, who is emerging as Congress’s new leader, is uninspiring. At rallies Mr Modi, who looks like a barrel-chested cross between Father Christmas and a professional wrestler, mocks his rival—son, grandson and great-grandson of earlier prime ministers—as a prince. His audiences bellow their scorn. Opinion polls (which Congress wants to ban) show Mr Modi as easily the most popular national figure. “Everyone now assumes it’s Modi,” says a columnist in Delhi. Mr Modi reportedly talks of an aandhi, a “storm blowing in our favour”.

In a culture that favours insiders who govern as centrist coalition-builders, Mr Modi stands out as an outsider with a long history of extremism. His origins are humble. His father ran a tea stall at a railway station in northern Gujarat and his caste puts him in the category referred to as “other backward classes”. At the age of eight he volunteered for the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a movement whose purpose is to see India remade as a Hindu state.
Forswearing marriage in his devotion to the cause, and receiving relatively little schooling, he rose through the ranks of the RSS despite not being of high caste. In late 2001 the BJP put him in charge of Gujarat, where he subsequently won three elections.
Running a state is not normally a springboard to becoming prime minister, but Mr Modi has found three ways to make it one. He established himself as the strongest voice for Hindu nationalists on the national stage. He presided over a period of strong growth in Gujarat which broadened his appeal, developing a pro-business reputation which even brought him support from a small number of wealthier Muslims. The people he impressed this way see him as decisive, efficient and able to make civil servants do what he tells them. And he successfully marketed his state and himself. Helped by a PR firm, he has promoted himself as a green-energy champion. Every two years he hosts a big summit for investors, “Vibrant Gujarat”, which earns him lots of attention and praise.
In the 2009 general-election campaign he was an active campaigner nationwide, though his big rallies did not translate into electoral success. From then on he assiduously built up his public profile both in old media and on social networks; he has almost 3m followers on Twitter, far more than any other Indian politician. Restored to the good graces of the RSS, with which he had had a falling out, this summer he toppled 86-year-old L.K. Advani as the BJP’s leader. Mr Advani fought a rearguard action, attempting to promote Shivraj Singh Chouhan, the moderate chief minister of Madhya Pradesh, as the party’s prime ministerial candidate. But the RSS and the party faithful were not having it.
The shadow of 2002
Mr Modi has for the most part used his reign over Gujarat cannily. But what took place just after he came to office still casts a long shadow. On February 27th 2002, Muslims in the Gujarati town of Godhra set fire to a train carrying Hindu pilgrims back from Ayodhya, a town in Uttar Pradesh where, a decade before, the destruction of a mosque triggered nationwide riots that killed 2,000. Fifty-nine men, women and children died on the train; nine years later 31 people were convicted of a “planned conspiracy” to burn it.
After the attack on the train Hindu groups in Gujarat immediately called a bandh—a strike-cum-protest. Days of bloodshed, rape and torture followed, with weeks of further sporadic attacks on Muslims. Over 1,000 died, some 18,000 homes were destroyed and around 200,000 Muslims displaced. On February 28th an attack on the home of Ehsan Jafri, a former Congress MP, killed Mr Jafri and 68 others. On the same day at least 96 were killed in Naroda Patiya, a Muslim part of Ahmedabad, Gujarat’s largest city. In many places the police either did nothing to protect the victims or, according to Human Rights Watch, an American advocacy group, “actively supported” the massacres. Where the police did their jobs, in southern Gujarati towns like Surat, no one died.
Mr Modi could have forbidden the bandh; he could have quickly ordered a curfew; he could have compelled the police to act. He did none of those things. Nor did he call in the national police force or the army soon enough. India’s human-rights commission described the response by the state government as a “comprehensive failure”. The BJP’s leader wanted to sack him (it was Mr Advani, ironically, who saved his skin). In 2005 America revoked Mr Modi’s visa, on the basis that “he was responsible for the performance of state institutions” in the riots. Some say he was more directly culpable, alleging that he deliberately stood down the police.
A comprehensive failure, and then someCritics say that attempts to apportion blame by India’s courts were obstructed by the authorities in Gujarat, with charges badly filed, minutes of crucial government meetings either missing or never kept, and evidence destroyed. With the state’s courts doing a suspiciously wretched job, the national Supreme Court stepped in. So far a variety of courts have jailed 198 people. Last August 32 were convicted over the killings in Naroda Patiya; Maya Kodnani, a local BJP legislator who had urged on killers and used a pistol, was jailed for 28 years.

Mr Modi himself always denied wrongdoing and has been found guilty of nothing. (One relatively insignificant case in which he is indirectly involved is still ongoing.) A special-investigations team of the Supreme Court last year cleared him of 30 allegations made by Mr Jafri’s widow and others. It rejected testimony that he had told police not to confront Hindu mobs, ruling one witness, Sanjiv Bhatt, who worked in police intelligence, unreliable after others contradicted him. Other claims along the same lines were ruled out as hearsay. Over tea in his Ahmedabad home, an armed guard outside, Mr Bhatt still insists he told the truth. But as one senior journalist in Delhi puts it, “If it’s purely about the process of law, [Mr Modi] is okay. Even Congress does not argue that the judicial process has not been done.”

After the fire

A clean legal slate, however, does not mean Mr Modi was not, at best, fatally incompetent. Shankersinh Vaghela is not somebody anyone would go to for a dispassionate assessment; he and Mr Modi were rivals in the RSS and, having defected to Congress, Mr Vaghela now heads the opposition in Gujarat. But when he says, on the basis of his time as the state’s chief minister in the 1990s, that Mr Modi could undoubtedly have stopped the massacres, it is hard not to think he has a point. As he says, “If you are chief minister, with all kinds of powers…you own the state, the machinery, the police department.”

If there are doubts about what Mr Modi did at the time, there are also grounds for concern over what he has done since. He was happy to have the gun-toting Ms Kodnani serve as one of his ministers up to her arrest in 2009. He shows no real willingness to shoulder responsibility for the inaction that led the Supreme Court to compare him and his officials to “modern day Neros”, or to express regret for it. Asked this year to show contrition, the best he could manage was to speak of a general capacity to feel sorrow, as one does when one sees a puppy run over. He argued to The Economist that subsequent electoral successes somehow absolved him, saying: “I have completed this examination and with distinction marks.” There is a darker reading of those successes, though. “What worries me”, says a young Muslim in Ahmedabad, “is that nobody here thinks Modi is innocent. They know what he did and they are okay with that.”

The communal violence that stains India’s recent history (see map) has been connived in by other politicians. Mr Modi’s defenders rightly condemn Rajiv Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi’s father, for failing to stop the 1984 massacre of some 8,000 Sikhs across the country during which police also stood by. But there is a difference: Congress leaders are not drawn from a movement hostile to Sikhs or other minorities (Mr Singh is a Sikh). The RSS in which Mr Modi grew up is definitely hostile to Muslims. The BJP can win an election without any support from India’s 180m Muslims (it got 3.7% of their votes in 2009) and thus has no electoral imperative to speak to their concerns. In these circumstances its candidate’s record matters a lot.

Mr Modi has hardly been a model of reconciliation. The BJP fielded no Muslim candidates in the state’s regional elections last year, though it has done elsewhere. At a rally in November he allowed the celebration of two BJP politicians who had been arrested over recent anti-Muslim violence in Uttar Pradesh. But his rhetoric has softened. He does not style himself a “Hindu nationalist”, though he agrees that he is both those things. Today he insists leaders must be secular and emphasises that economic development trumps religious factionalism. At a rally in October he said “I want to ask poor Muslim brothers whether they want to quarrel with poor Hindus or fight against poverty. I want to ask poor Hindus whether their concern is disputes with poor Muslims or the fight against poverty…Let’s defeat poverty together.”

Putting economic development and poverty alleviation at the centre of the debate serves Mr Modi well. Gujarat’s economy has nearly tripled in size during his time in office; its GDP has grown by 10% a year, faster than India as a whole and roughly on a par with China. With 5% of India’s population, Gujarat now accounts for 16% of its manufacturing and about a quarter of total exports.

This tide has floated all boats. Two decades ago 43% of Gujarat’s Muslims were poor, a bit better than the national average of 51%, according to a study by Arvind Panagariya and Vishal More, of Columbia University, using a definition of poverty similar to that of the World Bank. Now only 11% of them are, compared with a national average of 25%. Central-government welfare programmes have played a part in this, but only a part.
State of success

Christophe Jaffrelot of Sciences Po in Paris argues that Gujarati Muslims—about a tenth of the population—remain much worse off than other Gujaratis. Wage rates for casual urban workers, who are mostly Muslims, are among India’s lowest despite the state’s prosperity. But then Gujaratis do less well on various social indicators than Indians in some other states. Amartya Sen, an economist, notes that its infant-mortality rate is more than three times that of Kerala, and overall life expectancy ten years lower. Jagdish Bhagwati, another economist, retorts that rapid growth under Mr Modi is bringing sharp social gains in its wake, and that Gujarat will catch up with the best before too long.

It is certainly true that economic growth has coincided with a period of communal violence much lower than that at the end of the 20th century. A Muslim car dealer in Ahmedabad, Zafar Sareshwala, recalls how “for 25 years, Ahmedabad was plagued by riots, then curfews of 200 days at a stretch. In the 11 years [since 2002], not a single curfew.” He puts this down to an “iron fist”, and many Muslims in Ahmedabad complain of police excesses, as well as of being forced into ghettos where the city won’t recognise title deeds or provide public services. But Mr Sareshwala also rattles off examples of progress: dozens of new schools and hospitals built for or by Muslims; wealthy Gujarati Muslims who, he says, pay much of India’s zakat—religious tax—to fund madrassas; more people making pilgrimages to Mecca.

Unforthcoming on 2002, Mr Modi is happy to talk about how he has successfully tackled economic problems in Gujarat that beleaguer other states. Take three: supplying electricity; attracting investment; and cleaning up the bureaucracy.

Mr Modi boasts that “24-by-7, 365-days-uninterrupted three-phase power is available to each and every village in the state”. This success came in part from letting the market work. In 2003 he broke up a deeply indebted power company and split supplies for farmers (who get power for eight hours a day) from those for other consumers (who pay a market price but get electricity all day). He made clamping down on illegal access to the grid a police priority.

A reliable grid with profitable electricity supply companies is not the only infrastructural success. Gujarat has good gas supplies, too, and Mr Modi says there is broadband access in every village; its roads and ports are in good repair. Mr Modi has managed to increase capital spending even as he has reduced government debt as a proportion of GDP. This helps to attract investors, both from abroad and elsewhere in India: Gujarat drew more investment than any other state, or any other state bar one, in six of the past ten years.

As for keeping government clean and effective, Mr Modi likes to boast that with no family to favour he must be honest. He prevents corruption in others, he says, through a mixture of leadership—“Unless and until you inspire the people, you will not get results”—and close monitoring. His unwillingness to let political colleagues take charge of state-run companies, thus preventing them from being milked for political or private gain, was one of the things that drove a wedge between him and the RSS during his early years in power.

None of these achievements is flawless. The 2011 census found over a million Gujarati households still without electricity. Mr Modi’s methods of luring investors may be focused too much on big companies; generous grants of land and tax holidays may be unsustainable. A new World Bank study ranks Ahmedabad as an easier place to do business than 12 other big Indian cities, but it rates four other cities as better still, reflecting difficulties enforcing contracts, paying tax and dealing with courts that could slow investment.

Time to talk

His management style and general caginess lead even some of Mr Modi’s supporters to worry that he is a secretive loner who refuses to delegate. There are also allegations of the abuse of state power during his time in office, often involving Amit Shah, his closest political confidant. Mr Shah was forced to resign as a minister in 2010, after being charged with extortion and murder over a series of police killings (the case has yet to come to trial). He is still close to Mr Modi, working as his campaign manager in Uttar Pradesh. A recent scandal centres on accusations that Mr Shah used intelligence officers to spy on a woman with whom Mr Modi was apparently besotted. A close supporter airily says such “snooping for private ends is a very common thing to do”. But it remains both illegal and disturbing.

Mr Modi would face more constraints, and enjoy fewer direct powers, as prime minister of India than he does as chief minister of Gujarat. It is unclear whether he would be good at holding together a coalition (which any BJP-led government would surely be), delegating to others, negotiating on legislation or responding to crises as they arise. But the record from Gujarat suggests he thinks hard about policy, has clear ideas of how he would promote higher economic growth and social development and would prefer to bolster overall wealth creation than promote social welfare schemes.

If economics alone mattered, Mr Modi’s achievements in Gujarat suggest he is the man best placed to get India moving again. The problem is that political leaders are responsible for more. For all his crowds of supporters, his failures in 2002, and his refusal since to atone for them, or even address them, leave him a badly compromised candidate with much left to do.

From the print edition: Briefing

Friday, December 6, 2013

Q & A: The Legacy of Babri Masjid

December 6, 2013 - Twenty one years ago today, the sanctimonious Indians who call their land their mother stabbed her. I am writing an article called " Do we have a leader among Indians who considers every Indian to be an Indian, and nothing but an Indian? " and it will be here at this blog http://MikeGhouseforIndia.blogspot.com and at www.TheGhousediary.com 


Meanwhile check this and links to series of 6 articles below

QA: The Legacy of Babri Masjid

Courtesy HarperCollins Publishers India
The book cover of “Ayodhya: The Dark Knight.”
Dec. 6 marks a seminal event in Indian politics. Twenty one years ago today, a 16th century structure, variously called the Babri Masjid and the Ram birthplace temple, was razed to the ground by Hindu activists in northern Indian pilgrimage town of Ayodhya.

In the communal violence and riots that broke out afterward, hundreds died, shaking the secular foundation of modern India.

The event was the culmination of years of religious campaigns to build a temple dedicated to Lord Ram at the place that many Hindus believed was the deity’s birthplace but that many Muslims contended was always a mosque.

As The Wall Street Journal’s six-part series  explored last year, the modern dispute over the place began with the events of the night of Dec.22, 1949, when local Hindu devotees in Ayodhya placed idols inside the Babri Masjid, effectively turning an erstwhile mosque into a temple.

The dispute that ensued between representatives of Hindu and Muslim communities over the Babri Masjid site has spanned more than six decades and is now pending before the Supreme Court.

In a book “Ayodhya: The Dark Night,” published late last year by Harper Collins, authors Krishna Jha and Dhirendra K. Jha examined what led to the events of Dec. 22, 1949. In an email interview with The Wall Street Journal, they discussed the ideas behind the book and the impact of the mosque’s demolition 21 years ago on today’s India. Below are edited excerpts from the interview.  

The Wall Street Journal: What inspired you to write the book?

Krishna Jha and Dhirendra K. Jha: It all began immediately after the Allahabad High Court’s judgment on the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute on Sept. 30, 2010. In the beginning, we were searching for the buried narrative of Abhiram Das, the man whose action on the night of Dec. 22, 1949 has had such a long-lasting impact on the nation, its politics and society, and yet about whom almost nothing was known except that he was a sadhu, a Hindu holyman, of Ayodhya. We had no inkling till then about the larger conspiracy behind the surreptitious planting of the idol of Lord Ram in the Babri Masjid that night. It was only a few weeks later while talking to Abhiram Das’s youngest brother, Upendranath Mishra, and his cousin, Awadh Kishore Jha, in their native village of Rarhi in Darbhanga district of Bihar that we got the first hint of the real story. The conspiracy that was slowly emerging was too shocking to be believed, and it soon led us to Mumbai to interview Indushekhar Jha, another cousin who followed Abhiram Das inside the Babri Masjid that night, to Balrampur in Uttar Pradesh for a chat with Rajendra Singh, son of Gopal Singh Visharad, a Hindu Mahasabha leader in Faizabad, and many more destinations with a clear objective to dig out the larger story.

WSJ: What led Abhiram Das and others to install Lord Ram’s statue inside the Babri


Ms. And Mr. Jha: The installation of the idol meant different things to different people who participated in placing it in the Babri Masjid.

It meant one thing for Abhiram Das, the Hindu Mahasabha’s enthusiastic member who actually led a band of Hindu communalists inside the mosque that fateful night, and something quite different to Mahant Digvijai Nath, one of the party’s top leaders who plotted the operation and saw it through. The different sections of vairagis, or sadhus, who directly or indirectly participated in the operation, also did so for different reasons and with different goals.

For Abhiram Das, the installation of the idol was a way of helping a group of sadhus, the Nirvani akhara, gain control over Ayodhya. Mr. Das was himself a prominent sadhu in this sect.

For Mahant Digvijai Nath, the Hindu Mahasabha leader, placing the idol in the mosque was a means to revive the party in Uttar Pradesh and perhaps in the whole of north India. He and other top leaders of the party saw the installation of the idol as a vehicle to change the destiny of the nation at a time when the old regime of the British had ended, and the new regime, to be heralded with the promulgation of the new constitution, was yet to formally take over.

On the other hand, the goal of the vairagis of the Nirmohi akhara, a separate sect of sadhus from the group Mr. Das was a member of, was very different. They already worshipped a small wooden platform with an idol of Ram in the outer courtyard of the Babri Masjid and participated in the buildup before and after the installation of the idol inside the mosque. To them, this was an opportunity to expand the area they controlled from the fringe of the Babri Masjid complex to the very heart of the mosque.

WSJ: The Hindu-Muslim conflict over the Babri Masjid site predated Dec.22, 1949. Had the idol not been installed in the Babri Masjid that night, do you think the trajectory of that conflict, and that of India as an independent nation, would have been entirely different?

Ms. And Mr. Jha: The present dispute over the mosque emanates primarily from the installation of the idol of Lord Ram inside Babri Masjid on the night of Dec. 22, 1949. All moves before that night had sought to construct a temple at Ramchabutara, an elevated wooden platform outside the inner courtyard of the mosque. Till then it was this platform that was considered the Janmabhoomi, or birthplace, of Lord Ram. Only after the idol was planted inside the mosque did the demand for converting Babri Masjid into a temple enter the legal and later the political arena. Had the idol not been installed in the mosque that night, the conflict might still have continued but it would not have been as Babri Masjid-centric as it is today. The wooden platform, which was located about fifty feet away from the mosque, might have been the real focal point. And had it been the focal point, it is difficult to say how history would then have unfolded.

This is not to say that the trajectory of India as an independent nation would have been bereft of communalism had the idol not been installed in the mosque that night. For the chances are that the communalists, to whom religion matters only so long as it can be used for politically and socially divisive purposes, might still have found some other pretexts to further their objectives.

WSJ: What’s the message of Dec.6, 1992, and why is it relevant to India today?

Ms. And Mr. Jha:  The events of December 6, 1992 are the symbol of the most serious assault on the Indian state, one that shook its basic character. The wound caused has festered ever since, even though the nation’s secular fabric ultimately withstood this assault, and the attempt to divide the nation on communal lines failed. Had it not taken place, the country would not have suffered the kind of trauma it did in the following decades – that of sharing the sin and anguish of razing down a prayer place. The mosque and the temple are both contributing streams in our rich cultural heritage. One without the other is incomplete. Their coexistence – as also of the religious places of other communities – is the only way to guarantee secularism in the country. December 6 thus remains a reminder of how Hindu communalists sought to trample on the soul of the nation and how in the end the inherent strength of the nation’s composite culture won.

Mike Ghouse is a speaker, thinker and a writer on pluralism
, politics, peace, Islam, Israel, India, interfaith, and cohesion at work place. He is committed to building a Cohesive America and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day at www.TheGhousediary.com. He believes in Standing up for others and has done that throughout his life as an activist. Mike has a presence on national and local TV, Radio and Print Media. He is a frequent guest on Sean Hannity show on Fox TV, and a commentator on national radio networks, he contributes weekly to the Texas Faith Column at Dallas Morning News; fortnightly at Huffington post; and several other periodicals across the world. His personal site www.MikeGhouse.net indexes all his work through many links.