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

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Allama Iqbal Honored for his poem

From Chief Minister of Bengal, Mamta Bannerjee's official page

Today we were honoured to confer the prestigious “Tarana-e-Hindi” Award posthumously on Allama Iqbal, the great poet who penned the famous patriotic piece, “Sare Jahan Se Accha Hindustan Hamara…” in a colourful programme at Nazrul Mancha.
The award was received by Prof. Dr. Waleed Iqbal, grandson of Allama Iqbal.
Some pictures of today’s event are uploaded here for all of you.

Urdu Hindi 
website: www.UrduHindi.net ​ 

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Dilip Kumar in Guinness world records

India has three legendary actors - Dilip Kumar, Dev Anand and Raj Kapoor, all were born in the early 20's and each one has set the standards for the cinematic acting, they were pioneers. Dilip Kumar is one of the most emulated actors in India, he is an institution. Dev Anand just passed in December 2011 and I wrote a tribute about him and Raj Kapoor passed some ten years ago. 

I have had the honor of spending a lot of time with Dilip Kumar when he was in Dallas. Taj Bhai and I went to pick them up from the Airport and due to the traffic, the four of us were on the road for about three hours and then I was assigned the task of coordinating media interviews for him. The experience was a delight, what a great and humble man he was. I will write about him when I get a chance. We talked about the Ganesh Miracle, which was the biggest news in India at that time, and talked about Prophet Abraham. The way he spoke will remain etched in my memory for ever and I have to write those dialogues some time, they are worth reading. Dilip is a great human being... here are two quick stories.

1. Raj Sharma came to see Dilip and said he was a student in acting, as usual he touched Dilip's feet and sat down on the floor, Dilip would not let him do that.. he said sit by me, you and I are equals, we are in the same profession... you can imagine all that you want from this.

2. Checked Dilip and Saira into Omni hotel which was not a five star hotel, Saira was not happy with the pillows and the room size... they are the mega stars of India and this is what they get? Dilip explained to Saira, let's stay here, the money saved by the organization goes to the education of children... I almost burst into tears with such a pure emotion...

I will write more about it, meanwhile, here is what the report reads:

Veteran star Dilip Kumar recently bagged a prestigious entry into the Guinness World Records. He earned the honor for being the only living Indian actor to have won the maximum number of awards.
 Dilip Kumar will soon grace a special show produced by Guinness, where he will be interviewed by Preity Zinta. Read more: http://?143masti.blogspot.com/2011/?03/?dilip-kumar-enters-guinness?-records.html#ixzz1MARAxpK?H
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Mike Ghouse is committed to building a cohesive America and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day. A writer, thinker and a speaker and is available to speak on pluralism, politics, islam, peace, cohesive societies and a variety of topics. Check out 4 websites and 27 Blogs indexed atwww.MikeGhouse.net. Current articles at www.TheGhousediary.com

Friday, May 15, 2015

One Year of Modi Sarkar: Hate Speech Galore

Thanks to Ram Punyani and Madhu Kishwar; 

Good summary of Modi Sarkar. 
As an Indian committed to do my share of work in building a cohesive India, I am keeping up with thousands of Indians. It is embarrassing to see that nearly 31% of Indians exhibit intolerance towards a different point of view, a handful of them don’t even want to handle any criticism of Modi Sarkar. 

I look at the human body, the universe or a car and even an office or a family, and the best functioning ones are those who do well individually and collectively.  One major disconnect with any one of the organs will bring a collapse. 

Mr. Modi does not comprehend that his silence is what is encouraging the extremists among us to go wild creating chaos within the structure.  Ram Punyani has clearly listed them in the link below, so does Madhu Kishwar. 

Obama’s advice should be pinned on every wall of the parliament about social harmony as the basis for the strength of our nation.  Indeed, if we don’t see the other Indian as an Indian, an equal Indian, our prosperity is like a body with an unknown disease eating it away. 

I sincerely hope each one of us, asks ourselves – am I prejudiced towards a fellow Indian? Do I genuinely feel every Indian should have the same rights and opportunities? If I need to correct myself every day, I must until I find Mukti from that ugliness. 

When you see something is wrong, speak up, and for God’s sake don’t slap religion on it, a bad guy is a bad guy regardless of his religion. Every group has rapists, murderers, cheaters, abusers… 

Without criticism our country would have gone to dogs, it is the criticism that keeps the ruling parties in check, not completely but somewhat. I remember those newspapers editors, including Indian Express editor who went to jail protesting Indira Gandhi’s clamp out. 

Ram and Madhu, I have got to salute them, and salute you for standing up against what you perceive things “to be wrong”.  I will continue to present the good, bad and ugly of who we are. 

We have to keep at it, the larger population of the nation believes in live and let live, and that gives me hope. 

The two articles are at these links:

Ram Punyani - http://mikeghouseforindia.blogspot.com/2015/05/one-year-of-modi-sarkar-hate-speech.html

Madhu Kishwar - http://mikeghouseforindia.blogspot.com/2015/05/modi-is-like-new-bride-refashioning.html

Mike Ghouse for India

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One Year of Modi Sarkar: Hate Speech Galore

Ram Puniyani

The coming to power of Narendra Modi in a way gave an open license to all the affiliates of RSS combine to indulge in open hate speech against the religious minorities. The current agenda behind the hate speech is to consolidate the communal polarization of the society along lines of religion. The well known case of MIM’s Akarbar Uddudin Owaisis’ hate speech has been despicable and very rightly Akbarudin Owaisi had to be in jail for some time. The case against him should be pursued and the legal course of action must befollowed.  At the same time what about the hate speech indulged in by the likes of Pravin Togadia, Subramaniam Swami, Giriraj Singh, Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti, Sadhvi Prachi, Sakshi Mahraraj, Yogi Adityanth, Sanjay Raut and company?

Apart from these associates of Hindu right wing patriarch, RSS, who are reported in the media, there are many more indulging in the divisive speech and worsening the communal situation. During this year they have started feeling emboldened as they know it is ‘their’ Government and they can get away with it. Day in and day out they are becoming more aggressive and vicious in their language. The hate speech against religious minorities has been stepped up.

One recalls even before Modi Sarkar assumed the seat of power the divisive activities of ‘BJP  associates’ in the form of propaganda of love jihad and Ghar Vapasi were on, and they continued without any respite during this year. Soon after this Government came to power in Pune, Mohsin Sheikh, a person working in IT was hacked to death by activists of Hindu Jagran Sena, in the aftermath of morphed pictures of Bal Thackeray and Shivaji being posted on the social media. The attack on Churches was very glaring and the process which was dominant in Delhi and Haryana was also witnessed in places like Panvel near Mumbai, Agra in UP amongst other places.

Sakshi Maharaj not only said that Godse was a patriot; he also went on to say that Hindu women should produce four children, as Muslims are overtaking the population. Sadhvi Prachi went to prescribe eight children for Hindu women. She also gave a call that the Muslim film actors, Aamir Khan, Shahrukh Khan and Salman Khan should be boycotted. Pravin Togadia has been the leading person in making hate speeches; he has the highest number of cases regarding hate speech against him. Yogi Adityanath, BJP’s MP keeps making very derogatory remarks, He said that in ‘love jihad’ if one Hindu girl is converted then 100 Muslim girls should be converted to Hinduism. The propaganda around love jihad keeps simmering and various small and big leaders keep using it to divide the society. Same Yogi went on to say that Mosques should be converted into den of pigs and that Muslims should not be allowed to come to Hindu holy places.

Two central ministers of Modi Sarkar, Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti and Giriaj Singh made very insulting and humiliating remarks about non Hindus and the color of skin of UPA chief Sonia Gandhi. Niranjan Jyoti stated that all those who are non Hindus are illegitimate, Haramzade. Giriraj Singh had earlier said that those not voting for Modi should go to Pakistan. Interestingly he said this before the elections and despite such a record he was elevated to the level of minister in the Modi sarkar. He made racial comments about Sonia Gandhi recently. Sakshi Mahraj also held Godse as a patriot, while his another party colleague from Kerala, one Gopal Krishnan wrote in RSS mouth piece Keasri that Godse chose a wrong target in killing Gandhi, he should have killed Nehru instead. Subramaniam Swamy, one of the very senior leaders of BJP, said that God lives in temples alone, not in mosques and Churches, The hidden implication of this statement is fraught with danger. These are few of the samples from what all has been stated during this year. Its impact in increasing the sense of fear amongst religious minorities is more than obvious. BJP ally Shiv Sena’s MP Sanjay Raut went to the extent of demanding that the voting rights of Muslims should be revoked.

As such one realizes that ‘Hate speech’ is the outcome of the politics of divisiveness, it is the concentrated expression of the ‘social common sense’ prevailing in the society, it is the forth right and blunt way of putting things, which communal parties propagate anyway. It is not out of the blue that these formulations suddenly crop up, their infrastructure, the base of these has already been made by a section of political outfits.

Also ‘Hate Speech’ in case of India is an accompaniment of the politics in the name of religion and language, and also many times it precedes the violence or helps in polarization of communities for electoral benefits. While BJP was on the upswing during Ram Temple campaign; one recalls that Sadhvi Ritambhara, was propped up for pravachans (religious discourses) by RSS combine. She was bluntly talking anti minority things, duly endorsed by communal political organizations. This took place around the Babri demolition period.

One has been hearing similar things from many a sadhus of VHP, small and sundry members of communal gang, some Muslim communalists and the ilk of Togadia. There has been a more sophisticated presentation of the similar formulations by many others. Modi, in his initial rise to power talked divisive language, but kept changing the form in a very subtle way to suit the needs of his political strategy. When he said that post Gujarat refugee camps should be shut down as they have become factories of production of children, he was reinforcing the propaganda about Muslims having more number of children.

In the wake of Mumbai riots Bal Thackeray had indulged in Hate speech, inciting his Shiv Sainiks to undertake violence. He also got away with it due to clever way of putting his vitriol and due to the lack of adequate laws which can distinguish the Hate speech from freedom of expression, which can distinguish between one’s political opinion and painting the ‘other’ community in a negative light. Incidentally it is important to distinguish between criticizing a community and criticizing a political organization. While political organizations can and must be criticized, communities should not be humiliated or insulted. Also no political organization can be synonymous with the religious community, whatever its claims.

It is not only disturbing but totally against the values of our democratic society that such ‘hate other’ ideology and speeches have become the weapon in the hands of a type of politics, which thrives on exclusion, which identifies a particular religious community as synonymous with the nation state. Again this ‘hate speech’ is the language of a section of those who thrive on identity politics far away from the real issues of the society.

As such Hate speech in India entered the political arena with the rise of communal streams in politics, like Muslim League on one side and Hindu Mahasabha and RSS on the other. These streams believed in the nation based on one religious community. These streams came from the sections of earlier rulers, landlords, Nawabas and Rajas etc. The ideology of religion based nationalism is narrow and it excludes ‘other’ from its notion of nationhood. These beliefs then get converted into Hate other, and later turn in to ‘Hate speech’. This did form the basis of many a communal violence in pre independence era and also during the last two decades. Varun Gandhi, allegedly said ‘he will cut the hands’, is a BJP MP.

In this atmosphere once a while the BJP spokespersons will say that the view expressed by the particular leader are ‘personal’ and stop at that. For BJP another escape clause is that its associated organizations like VHP, Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram and Bajrang Dal are formally different organizations though they are also part of RSS controlled Sangh Parivar. They all are working in tandem with BJP for actualization of agenda of Hindu Rashtra. So while BJP is not directly responsible for their actions, the direction of the actions is the same. Many a people call these organizations as fringe elements, while as a matter of fact there is a division of labor between these organizations. These have become more aggressive during this time. And surely after the Modi Sarkar coming to power their vitriol has become more intense.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Modi is like a new bride refashioning herself for a wealthy sasural, says Madhu Kishwar

Madhu Kishwar and I have gone from admiring Modi talk prior to elections to wondering about him - his silence is the most difficult one to understand. May be Madhu's notes have a lot of insight.  This is one of the most critical pieces about Modi, and Madhu has praise where it needs to be and criticized where it should be.  Hope you ponder over this interview.

Mike Ghouse

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Modi is like a new bride refashioning herself for a wealthy sasural, says Madhu Kishwar

Modi is like a new bride refashioning herself for a wealthy sasural, says Madhu Kishwar
Photo Credit: Sam Panthaky/AFP
The noted academic provides a caustic report of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s first year in office.
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In this season of discontent with Narendra Modi, academic and writer Madhu Purnima Kishwar is yet another admirer who is disappointed with the prime minister's leadership, goals and aspirations. In a free-wheeling interview, Kishwar outlines what has gone wrong and gives a caustic report of Modi’s first year in office. Excerpts:

You published a series on Narendra Modi in the run-up to the 2014 Lok Sabha elections where you set out to demolish Modi the Demon and project Modi the Doer. What do you believe today?
Narendra Modi as chief minister of Gujarat acquired the reputation for having a very sharp focus about what needed to be done – he had a clear road map; resource allocation was clearly laid out; he picked the right man for the right job; he was admired for not having favourites and no official or minister could claim proximity to him as to influence his decisions. People praised him for being a good listener and he was very accessible; he was constantly travelling to different parts of the state and had direct contact with diverse sections of society. Gujarat had his personal stamp, with a clear command control structure.

None of this can be said about Modi, the prime minister.

Let’s look at the plus side first. There’s no big-ticket corruption, no scandal or scam as yet. Fiscal deficit is low as no extravagant schemes have been announced. There’s single window clearance for projects, cash transfers in welfare programmes have minimised scope for corruption. It’s also a good idea that arms purchases will be done government to government, thus cutting out middlemen. The Yemen, Kashmir and Nepal rescue operations are very laudable.

However, Modi as PM has come as a huge shock and a big disappointment. He has created a bubble for himself from day one. It began with the swearing-in ceremony when Modi did not invite a single person from the vast army of volunteers who gave him their passionate support in the run-up to the elections – whether from the ranks of BJP-RSS [Bharatiya Janata Party-Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh], the Citizens for Accountable Governance, Friends of BJP, Mission 272 Plus, etc. There was not even a thank you from Modi, or even an SMS acknowledging their hard work and extraordinary effort.

Anyone serious about accountable governance would have used this huge network of supporters to boost programmes like the Beti Bachao campaign, Swacch Bharat and anti-corruption drive. In Gujarat, he was very successful in involving civil society in government programmes. Today, even eminent citizens and close associates don’t as much as get a response when they write to him.

What does it reveal about Modi the prime minister?
Obviously he wants to construct a new persona for himself. It would be worthwhile to compare Modi’s swearing-in with Arvind Kejriwal’s swearing-in at the Ram Leela grounds – there was mass rejoicing; it was open to all citizens. At Modi’s ceremony, those who were occupying pride of place were film stars, Adanis, Ambanis and socialites. Why would you want to do this?

Is Modi glamour-struck after moving to Delhi?
I would say disorientation. After coming to 7 RCR [Race Course Road], it has brought a dramatic makeover for his persona. It indicates the desire to adopt a totally new identity and determination to avoid people who remind him of his past – much in the same way a new bride from a modest background tries to refashion herself to suit her wealthy sasural. He certainly displays his penchant for glamour, the high and mighty, even wanting to be a fashion icon – these are not positive signs coming from someone who is supposed to lead India out of its morass.

Is he being a wannabe?
That’s the impression you give, when you change your attire five times a day or wearing a new suit for each occasion when visiting abroad. It doesn’t behove a serious statesman to try and become a fashion icon. You wouldn’t notice what Obama is wearing, right?

What did you think of his monogrammed suit?
It did Modi a lot of damage and it’ll stick. It’s vanity that’s coming through… it’s this bubble he’s created for himself.

What are your other disappointments?
The second jolt was the cabinet appointees. I may have reacted very fiercely to Smriti Irani’s appointment because education is very close to my heart but many key appointments are lacklustre and don’t fit the job profile. Modi’s choice of cabinet colleagues caused a deep upset even within his party. On the one hand he rode roughshod over party hierarchy by sidelining most of the senior leaders. On the other hand, he gave the most weighty portfolios to those who have never won an election in their life. Both [Arun] Jaitley and Irani lost even at the height of the Modi wave. Therefore, even first-time MPs like Meenakshi Lekhi are raging as to why they have not been given a ministerial berth.

Of course, few appointments like [Manohar] Parrikar as Defence Minister is creditable. But again, a credible face like Harsh Vardhan was unceremoniously removed as Health Minister even though he had a clean image and competence in that field. Modi had promised far-reaching administrative reforms and bringing synergy between different ministries by breaking silos. He did this well in Gujarat. But as PM he has allowed the old chaos to prevail.

For instance, Ministries of Agriculture, Rural Development, Panchayati Raj, Irrigation and Food Processing should have been clubbed under one ministry with dedicated teams of experts. But nothing of the sort happened and so the old system prevails. In Gujarat, Modi gave the highest priority to rejuvenating agriculture. But as PM one doesn’t see in him that sense of urgency about reviving the health of farm sector. The man appointed as his agriculture minister seems as rudderless as his HRD minister.

What do you think of the decision to replace the Planning Commission with Niti Aayog?
The Planning Commission was scrapped with much fanfare but Niti Aayog took months to come into being with only three people appointed till date to replace the mammoth structure – that too without a clear mandate. It’s inexplicable why there is not a single farm sector expert in Niti Aayog – this, when agriculture is in deep crisis.

Any change in corruption?
There’s no noticeable difference for the ordinary citizen who is still battling harassment and bribes. An important reason why BJP suffered such a humiliating defeat in the Delhi elections is that the party failed to make the slightest improvements in the scam-ridden and inefficient Delhi Municipal Corporation which the BJP rules. Modi could have easily cracked the whip on councillors on corruption, demanded performance, or [told them] to deliver at least a spotless Swachh Delhi within six months. But apart from municipal councillors doing the silly nautanki of holding the broom for the benefit of news cameras, we did not witness the slightest improvement on governance. Hence the backlash.

What does IAS officer Ashok Khemka’s transfer yet again show?
The PM had let it be known that Ashok Khemka, the IAS officer who risked his life and career in exposing Robert Vadra’s fraudulent land deals in Haryana, would be brought in to the PMO. But I have it from very reliable sources that Arun Jaitley put his foot down and got that decision cancelled. Worse still, the chargesheet filed against Khemka by the Congress government has not been withdrawn by the new BJP government in Haryana. What’s more, he has been humiliated further with a punishment posting where he has no work, no staff and office space that resembles a garage.

Similarly, the PM had promised that justice would be done to Sanjay Srivastava, the Income Tax Commissioner who caught the alleged Chidambaram-NDTV hawala scam [Editor’s Note: In a statement last year, NDTV denied Madhu Kishwar’s charges of a scam and announced that it is initiating legal action against her for making defamatory allegations]. He too was hounded out of his job by Chidambaram with numerous false cases filed against him when the UPA [United Progressive Alliance] was in power. His chargesheet has not been withdrawn, he continues to be on “compulsory wait”. The rules permit an officer to draw his salary while on “compulsory wait” but Srivastava continues to be deprived of his posting and salary since April 2013.

It is the same story with the promise regarding the return of black money stashed in foreign accounts. This was a major electoral promise of Modi but there is very little follow-up required to fulfil that promise.

You spent hours talking to Modi, interviewing him, what has gone wrong?
I think many of the problems arise from the fact that Modi has decided to cocoon himself and become inaccessible. Compare it to how Sonia Gandhi built a power base for herself starting from total scepticism about her suitability for the top job. One of the first things she did was to co-opt several high profile do-gooders as her personal courtiers by creating the National Advisory Council. With this one stroke she managed to tie most of the NGO leaders, left-leaning academics and intellectuals to her apron strings.

They became intoxicated by their proximity to the UPA High Command and felt they had high stakes in this government. Even though the NAC was an unconstitutional body, none of the leftist intellectuals or activists objected because she made them stakeholders in the government. They also helped create a halo for Sonia Gandhi as someone who was pro-poor, pro-minorities, pro all good causes. Even though the Congress ran a scam-ridden government, the leftist NGOs and intellectuals remained Sonia’s firm allies.

By contrast, far from creating new allies, Modi has studiously distanced himself from old allies like Arun Shourie, the Jethmalanis and numerous others who stood by him. Even his party colleagues do not have easy access to him. And who has he surrounded himself with? Nameless, faceless bureaucrats and a couple of political favourites who are themselves lightweights. If you want to be seen as a tall leader, you can’t afford to be surrounded by political dwarfs. To surround yourself with yes men is a sure shot disaster recipe.

Isn’t the India Foundation being groomed to look like the NAC?
Far from it. At the Goa conclave, India Foundation attracted a substantial talent pool of super bright young people eager to do their bit for India. I doubt very much that any of them have been recruited to help the government. It’s unfortunate that the BJP has not yet developed the tradition of nurturing high worth intellectuals and academics. It has not done so even in states where it has been in power. Even Modi failed to do so in Gujarat even though as CM he paid far more attention to the education sector than he is doing as PM. BJP better realise that the education sector provides the software for effective politics. They will continue to suffer from talent deficit if they don’t pay serious attention to this domain.

How has he handled the agrarian crisis?
To begin with, there’s been complete mismanagement on the Land Acquisition Bill, Modi should not have left it to Rahul Gandhi to start his padyatra and label him as anti-farmer. Second, the government’s response to the agrarian crisis on account of untimely rains and hailstorm has been far from effective. As farm policy expert Ashok Gulati has pointed out, in this day and age of technology you can use satellite imagery and drones to assess crop damage and get computerised data for each farm within hours. This can be easily tied up with the Aadhar card system to reach speedy compensation to farmers. This job should not have been left to the corruption-friendly and inefficient patwari system. The relief money should have reached the farmers with the same speed with which the PM responded to the Nepal disaster.

There is also very little sign of Modi government introducing noteworthy changes in farm policy that need to be brought in on a war footing.
At a personal level too, it was important for Modi to be seen interacting with farmers and coming up with innovative schemes that gave them hope. But his avoiding to do so is both puzzling and disappointing.

Modi has been accused of being a Capitalist Crony? Adani is his constant companion on official trips abroad?
It is a well-established fact that crony capitalists thrived under the socialist regimes of the Congress. Ambani or Adani are not Modi creations. In Gujarat the fact is that Modi created an overall business friendly ecosystem. Even small-scale industry thrived. People from many other states went and invested in Gujarat grew fast. Adani’s growth ought not to be an issue if others are also allowed due space to thrive. However, it was not appropriate of Modi to personally preside over Adani signing mining contracts in Australia.

What about his self-promotion pageants abroad?
Pageantry apart, one area where Modi has undoubtedly made a substantial difference is in the foreign policy domain. The Congress had ignored this crucial area and put India in a very vulnerable position. Modi is determined to fix this with urgency. If in the process, he indulges in some amount of extra hoopla, so be it. No doubt he loves himself, even though self-love is not a bad thing if it’s not out of control. However, when the performance is not in sync with image, then it risks looking exaggerated.

Like you, there were several academics, analysts and journalists who openly supported Modi in the campaign. Do they agree with you?
All of his well-wishers are sounding alarm bells. Recently the loudest one came from Arun Shourie on Headlines Today. Either Modi is floundering because the task is too big and he doesn’t have a competent team or because he has decided he has reached the acme and doesn’t need to bother any more. The Modi we all supported was someone who seemed to care intensely to make India a global power in the best sense of the term, someone who was passionate about improving the life conditions of the most marginalised. Maybe he is preparing the ground for all that in a slow, quiet manner and we will see the results in a year or two. All I can say is people may lose their patience if they don’t see signs of visible change.

What’s your message for Modi?
Failure is not an option because India cannot afford to waste more time. People have invested their hopes in you. You cannot be timid about government reforms without which you cannot deliver your promises. If you are seen faltering or being half-hearted the backlash will be more ferocious than the tsunami of support that swept you to power.
We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in

Sunday, May 10, 2015

India's sacred text

A Page from India’s constitution – every time I look up our constitutions (India and America), a sense of reverence and admiration for the founding fathers emerges, and I thank them for this sacred document, as always, I take a few minutes to thank Nehru, Ambedkar, Patel, Azad and of course the Mahatma.  Mike Ghouse

I think of the song

Hum laye hain toofan saykishti nikal kay
es desh ko rakhna mere bachho sambhal kay

Tum hi bhavish ho mere Bharat vishaal kay


Click the picture to enlarge it. Can you identify who they are? please write in the comments. 
Mike Ghouse is a public speaker, thinker and a writer on pluralism and building cohesive societies. More about him in 63 links at www.MikeGhouse.net 

Saturday, May 9, 2015

India's Five Greatest Empires of All Time

With an exception of a few Kings, most all of them were thief's - they only business they had was to kill the next king, annex his territory, loot the wealth and take the women.  Whether it is the Europeans, Indians, Arabs, Chinese - Christians, Muslims, Hindus or Buddhists, the story is same - kill and rob others to make your own good.   Is that what made them great?

Thanks to America for inventing Democracy, at least there is a will of the people here, and
Thanks to Pandit Nehru for nurturing India to be a stable, secure, safe, and secular democratic nation.

I shudder at the thought of what India would have been if it was not for Nehru, Ambedkar, Patel and Azad. Thanks to them for passing on a great India into the hands of Lal Bahadur, Gulzari Lal, Indira, Morarji,  Rajiv, Atal, Manmohan and Modi. Although Indira messed up with emergency the first time, almost all of them have done a great job in preserving the democratic, secular pluralistic credentials of India and I hope Modi keeps it going. Now, It is in our hands to keep India great and have it continue on its pluralistic ethos - respecting the otherness of others.

What would make India truly great? It is when every Indian feels free, safe and secure to pursue his/her own happiness. Greatness does not come from conquests, authoritarian, iron fist or fascist rule, but from caring and being just for every citizen.
Happy Mother's day - here is my interfaith Mother's day message.
Jai Hind


Mike Ghouse


India's Five Greatest Empires of All Time

You won't believe what these states accomplished...
Akhilesh Pillalamarri
May 8, 2015

South Asia is like a world unto itself. Also known as the Indian subcontinent, its particular geography and climate have always led to it having distinct sets of histories and cultures. Currently, over a fifth of the world’s population lives on a landmass almost the size of Europe excluding Russia—it contains deserts, polar-like conditions, rainforests, plains, hills, and temperate forests. In short, South Asia is a microcosm of the world.

Therefore, it should come as no surprise that its history is complex, with empires, states, and independent cities often coexisting together in the region. South Asia’s historical political configuration bears more resemblance to Europe’s than China’s: a recurring theme in South Asian history has been the difficulty of creating and maintaining empires that span the entire subcontinent, with smaller, regional states being the norm. As in traditional Hinduism's idea of reincarnation, empires are born to die, only to give rise to new empires, which then fall, in a never-ending cycle.

With that in mind, here are South Asia’s five greatest empires. Since the Mughal and British Empires are well known to western audiences, I have decided to omit them and focus on the pre-European, pre-Islamic empires of South Asia.

Maurya Empire

The Maurya Empire (320-185 B.C.E.) was the first major historical Indian empire, and definitely the largest one created by an Indian dynasty. The empire arose as a consequence of state consolidation in northern India, which led to one state, Magadha, in today’s Bihar, dominating the Ganges plain. In the wake of Alexander the Great’s invasion of northwest India, one Chandragupta Maurya took over Magadha and created the Maurya Empire.

The empire was initially very successful both internally and in terms of foreign policy. Many of its policies were set out by Chanakya, Chandragupta’s minister, who wrote a book advocating a strong, centralized, authoritarian state, TheArthashastra. After a treaty with Alexander’s generals, the empire acquired territory in Afghanistan and Iran. By the time of Chandragupta’s grandson’s reign, the empire included most of South Asia except the southernmost parts of it. This grandson, Ashoka, is famous for having embraced Buddhism due to remorse after his bloody conquest of Kalinga (today’s Orissa) around 260 B.C.E. This elevated the nascent religion.

The Maurya Empire collapsed not too long after Ashoka's death in 232 B.C.E.  Some historians have argued that the elevation of Buddhism was responsible for this as it is not as compatible with running a state as Hinduism. However, the empire’s fragmentation reveals the problems of actually maintaining an empire in a region as diverse as South Asia. Despite Chanakya’s book, the empire depended less on institutions than on able rulers, the lack of which doomed it and led to increasing local rule.

Kushan Empire

The Kushan Empire (135 B.C.E.-375 C.E.) was founded in the Bactria region of northern Afghanistan by Yuezhi nomads who migrated there from Xinjiang due to Han Dynasty campaigns. Once there, they displaced the Greco-Bactrian kingdom and expanded over the Hindu Kush mountains into today’s India and Pakistan. At the height of their empire, they controlled most of the Ganges valley and an arc that extended through Afghanistan and Central Asia into Xinjiang. It was under their reign that trade routes developed between India, China, Persia, and Rome.

Under the influence of the Kushans, who eventually moved their capitals to Peshawar (in Pakistan) and Mathura (in India), Indian influence, especially Buddhism, became predominant across Central Asia. This tendency reached its height under the Emperor Kanishka (127-151 C.E.) who convened the 4th Buddhist Council—essentially converting Buddhism into a state religion; Kanishka also expanded his empire deep into central India.

Ultimately, however, the empire fragmented into many principalities and was replaced in North India by the resurgent Hindu Gupta Empire while its Afghan territories became tributary to the Persian Sassanid Empire.

Gupta Empire

The Gupta Empire (320-550 C.E.) was a great empire but also had a mixed record. Like the previous Maurya Empire, it was based in the Magadha region and conquered much of South Asia, though unlike that empire, its territory was limited only to what is today North India. It was under Gupta rule that India enjoyed the height of its classical civilization, its golden age, when much of its famous literature and science was produced. Yet, it was also under the Guptas that caste became rigid while the decentralization of power to local rulers continued.

After a period of initial expansion, the empire stabilized and did a good job of keeping out invaders (like the Huns) for two centuries. Indian civilization expanded into much of Bengal during this time, which was previously a lightly inhabited swampy area. The main achievements of the Guptas during this era of peace were artistic and intellectual. During this period, zero was first used and chess invented, and many other astronomical and mathematical theories were first elucidated.

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The Gupta Empire collapsed due to continuous invasion and fragmentation from local rulers. Power at this point increasingly shifted to regional rulers outside of the Ganges valley.

Pratihara Empire

The Pratihara Empire (650-1036 C.E.), also known as the Gurjara-Pratiharas is little known in the West and hardly better known in India. Yet it is one of the most consequential states in South Asian history and its size and duration exceeded many other empires listed here. The empire originated among military clans in western India after the fragmentation of the Gupta Empire. This period saw the rise of the Rajputs in the deserts of parts of Gujarat and Rajasthan, who were to play an important role in subsequent Indian history. The Rajputs were Kshatriyas (a caste of warriors and rulers) who dedicated themselves to warfare, martial prowess, and fortification with a zeal previously not found in India; in this sense, they resembled the feudal knights emerging in Europe around the same time. Rajputs were fiercely independent and always held their fiefs autonomously while also allying themselves to the Mughals and British at various times.

Shortly after the rise of the Pratiharas, they defeated Arab invaders at the Battle of Rajasthan (738 C.E.), halting Muslim expansion into India for three hundred years. Later on, they set up a capital at Kannauj, near Delhi, and expanded into central India. In both western and central India, they set up a large number of fortifications, making these regions hard to conquer. More importantly, a more muscular form of Hinduism emerged in this period that provided the ideological basis for later resistance to Islam in a way that was not possible with Buddhism.

Like most Indian empires, the Pratihara Empire eventually fragmented into multiple states and Mahmud of Ghazni, an invader from Afghanistan, who took away a lot of gold and demolished temples, sacked Kannauj in the early 11th century. The Pratiharas soon petered out.

Chola Empire

While most of India’s empires have been primarily land-based powers, the Chola Empire is unique in that it was a naval empire. The historian John Keaynoted “the idea that the sea could be political, a strategic commodity in its own right dominated by a state rather than by commercial competition, was a relatively new concept for Indians.” The Cholas were based in Tamil Nadu and had been around as a minor state from the second century B.C.E. However, their imperial period began in the 10th century C.E, when they dominated all of South India.

Due to geographic and topographic reasons, the projection of military power outof South Asia has always been difficult, leading to relatively little conquest of territories outside this region by South Asian states. However, South Asia’s position on the sea is an exception to this rule, and a great naval power can use the region as a base to dominate the Indian Ocean. The Cholas knew this, as did the British later. The Cholas were famous for their maritime expeditions that gave them control over the Maldives, Sri Lanka, and the Malaysian-Indonesian archipelago by 1025 C.E. Large portions of northern India and Southeast Asia’s coasts were tributary. After a period of decline, the Chola were overthrow by a vassal in 1279 C.E.


After the defeat of a Hindu coalition by Muhammad of Ghor in 1192 C.E., Islamic rule began over much of northern India. At least two Muslim empires worth the name of great powers existed during this period: the Delhi Sultanate (1206-1526) and the Mughal Empire (1526-1858). Other prominent empires during this era include Vijayanagara in South India (1336-1646) and the Maratha Empire throughout most of South Asia (1674-1818). After 1757, the British Raj eventually came to dominate South Asia afterwards by defeating local rulers, the Mughals, Marathas, and Sikhs and ruled until 1947.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Mother's Day Interfaith Celebrations - Huffington Post

Mother is the ultimate definition of selflessness! No matter what happens to the world or even her, she is there for you in your need; she recognizes your need much before you know it. Of course every day is Mother's day, and each one of us honors her in a variety of ways. From simple caring to doing things for her that makes her happy. Mothers don't need a whole lot; they just need to know that you care. Remember you were showered by her attention when you needed it.
Every religious tradition has elevated mother to nearly the status of God, because she possess many a qualities of God; kind, merciful, beneficent and caring among thousand other qualities. Mother is the reason for our existence; sustenance, nurturance and shaping who we are. I dedicate this write-up to my Mother, and all the Mothers out there. There is a beautiful song in Urdu/Hindi language

Full Report with Mother as she is called in over hundred global languages and almost all South Asian Languages - continued at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mike-ghouse/mothers-day-interfaith-ce_b_7233900.html

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Mike Ghouse is committed to building cohesive societies and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day- all about him at www.MikeGhouse.net

A test for Indian Americans - US hits out at Modi government for punitive action against NGOs

The NGO's are being harassed by the Current Indian Government, they have not even spared Ford Foundation. A government is to serve people and not dictate them. If the United States is taking the stand against the harassment,  should we stand with India's current Government or the United States as citizens of this nation?

Mike Ghouse


US hits out at Modi government for punitive action against NGOs


US Ambassador Richard Verma further said citizens have a "inalienable right" in a democratic society to argue peacefully and ask questions or challenge laws.
The US today hit out at Modi government for the punitive action against scores of NGOs, saying those who act peacefully to seek change are not anti-government and not trying to weaken national security.
US Ambassador Richard Verma further said citizens have a "inalienable right" in a democratic society to argue peacefully and ask questions or challenge laws.
"I read with some concern the recent press reports on challenges faced by theNGOs operating in India. Because a vibrant civil society is so important to both of our democratic traditions, I do worry about the potentially chilling effects of these regulatory steps focused on NGOs," Verma said.
He was delivering a lecture on "Foundation of the US-India Strategic-Plus Relationship" at Ananta Aspean Institute, a think-tank.
In a crackdown on NGOs allegedly receiving illegal foreign funds, the government last month had cancelled licences of nearly 9,000 such entities for violation of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA).
The US-based Ford Foundation has also been put on the 'watch list' by the Home Ministry, which directed that funds coming from the international donor should not be released by any bank to any Indian NGO without mandatory permission from it. The government had also barred Greenpeace India from receiving foreign funds with immediate effect.
Noting that it was natural to have areas of disagreement between the two countries, he said he was looking forward to some tough discussions with India on certain issues, indicating that action against NGOs may be one of them.
"I also know there will be times when we disagree, and I look forward to those conversations, too. Yes, I look forward to the tough discussions because my argument is not that our two sovereign countries must be exactly the same," he said.
After the Ford Foundation was put on the watch list, the US State Department had protested and the issue was also reportedly raised by under secretary for political affairs Wendy Sherman during her meetings with senior Indian officials here last week.
The US Ambassador said, "I believe in the inalienable right of citizens in a democratic society to argue peacefully for a government they believe is more just, more moral, and more reflective of their individual beliefs.
"This is the same right that found a manifestation in Gandhiji's satyagrahas in Africa and India," he added.
Noting that it was natural to have areas of disagreement between the two countries, he said he was looking forward to some tough discussions with India on certain issues.
"I also know there will be times when we disagree, and I look forward to those conversations, too. Yes, I look forward to the tough discussions because my argument is not that our two sovereign countries must be exactly the same," he said.
Talking about rights of the citizens and civil society groups, Verma also mentioned Jawaharlal Nehru, B R Ambedkar and Lokmanya Tilak.
"The American Revolution was steeped in the quest for liberty from tyranny. Our founding fathers sought a government that would be run by the people and for the people.
American founding father Patrick Henry expressed this when he exclaimed 'give me liberty or give me death!'
"Over 100 years later, Lokmanya Tilak's declaration that 'Swaraj is my birth right and I shall have it' was a siren call for all in India who sought to end British rule. And as India's freedom came at midnight in 1947, Nehru reflected that her 'soul, long suppressed' had found 'its utterance'," Verma said.
The Ambassador said the "similar histories of our founding eras make it clear that our societies are two that reject totalitarianism or authoritarianism in favour of giving every part of society a voice in government." Highlighting issues relating to various communities in the US, he said, "If we we seek to improve the fabric of our nation, we must be willing to engage
in a vigorous exchange about our values, their meaning, and the direction of our communities."
Talking about bilateral ties, he said it was fair to say the it is "stronger and more vibrant than it has ever been." "When our leaders first decided to cast off the chill of the cold war and improve our relations, it was mostly due to the many convergent strategic interests of India and US. The bet was that the democratic values and deep personal ties our nations shared would lead us naturally toward a strong economic and strategic partnership," he said.
The envoy said the visits of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the US and President Obama to India in January have re-energized the partnership that has been growing steadily for at least the last 15 years or so even if for one reason or another, it was not always growing as fast as it could.