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

Friday, December 14, 2018

White Washing Religious Freedom in India

By Dr. Mike Ghouse
India has an impeccable history of welcoming the stranger and giving refuge to the oppressed, rejected and the evicted. She has welcomed Jews, Christians, Zoroastrians, and the Baha’is. Indeed the very first mosque built outside of Arabia was in India by a Hindu King in the state of Malabar. The Tibetan Buddhist refugees found a home in India; the Ahmadiyya Muslims felt secure, so were the displaced Bangladeshi and Afghan refugees.

This beautiful pluralistic 5000-year-old tradition of India is in peril now. BJP and its affiliates (The SanghParivar) that govern India “currently” are hell-bent on destroying that heritage. They want to force non-Hindus into obedience and tell them what they can eat or believe, and whom they can marry or live as 2nd class citizens. They want to free India from Christians and Muslims and plan to convert them by 2025 to Hinduism. Indeed, the ISIS had given similar options to the Christians and Yazidis.

Make no mistake about it; Hinduism is a religion of peace like all other religions. The problem is not between people of faith, but the radicals.

A few Indian American organizations linked to the SanghParivar want to whitewash the situation. They want to portray that everything is hunky dory in India.

Hunky dory it is not, the Congressmen and Senators are fully conversant of the harassment, lynching, raping and killing of Christians, Dalits, Muslims, Sikhs, Atheists and others in India.

It is time for the Indian Americans to save the honor of India and restore her pluralistic heritage that got derailed in the last four years.

The prosperity of a nation stands on her two firm legs; economic growth and social cohesion, one will not sustain without the other.

If the minorities continue to live in apprehension and fear, the whole nation gets engaged in useless battles and the prosperity will come to a grinding halt, and the country will limp until it reaches a new life or loses all that was achieved.

The confidence of foreign investments in a nation spurs the growth, India’s IT industry, call centers, and businesses have raised the standard of living for many. As long as the investors feel secure about their investments they will pump in more funds. However, when they see chaos emerging with the nations discriminative practices, harassment, lynching, rapes and killing of the minorities, they will pull out and everyone stands to lose.

It was embarrassing to note the missing presence of India at the religious freedom conference held by the Department of State in July 2018. If the violations continue, India may get stamped as a “Country of Particular Concern” for violations of religious freedom. It will hurt India, particularly the business community and the information technology sector.

The whitewash report produced by the Hindu America Foundation is understandable. No Indian wants India to lose, but neither should we compromise on the truth to look good. We hope to produce an accurate state of the union; after all, India’s emblem includes the phrase, SatyamevaJayate – Truth triumphs.

The majority of Indians of all faiths believe in Pluralism, i.e., respecting the otherness of other. It is not Hindus either, but the radicals among Hindus that are causing the problems with the subtle encouragement from the BJP government.
“The Indian government provides “unprecedented” religious accommodations to its religious minority population, says a report by a US-based Hindu advocacy group.”
The truth is far from it. It sounds like the majority is doing a favor to the minorities in ‘accommodating’ them. It is like saying “we give equal rights to women” who the hell are we to give them their rights, to begin with, the rights were theirs. Indeed, every Indian is guaranteed those rights; we are all equal citizens. No one has more privileges than the other.

“To bring greater stability to the region and prevent the growth of radical Islamist and Communist/Maoist terrorism.” This statement is too hypocritical and divisive to exclude radical Hindutva terrorism from the list. The issue is not with Hindus or Muslims; it is with radicals among them.

“Overall, it seeks to show the broader story of religious freedom and pluralism in India, which is often not, reflected in the media or US policy circles.” Indeed, India was a pluralist nation until the Hindutva brigade took over the country four years ago.

We need to come together and appeal to the Government of India, to issue visas to the commissioners of the USCIRF to investigate the Sikh Genocide, Massacre of Muslims in Gujarat, killing of Christians, Rapes, and lynching of Dalits, and harassment of Sikhs. If the commission gives a clean certificate, it will help boost the investor confidence in India; on the other hand, if India’s record is of particular concern, then it is time to fix it than pretending to be holier than thou.

I would appeal to the Hindu America Foundation to issue press releases condemning the lynching of Muslims, killing of Christians, harassment of Dalits and Atheists, by condemning each event, it will give them the credibility to be a legitimate pluralist organization for Human rights.

We will also write a letter urging Prime Minister Modi to speak out forcefully against harassment of any Indian and pledge that no Indian has more privileges than the other. Ambassador Sam Brownback says, if evil acts get condemned as they occur, they will be choked and will not see the light of the day.

(The writer is president of the Center for Pluralism and is committed to fostering cohesive societies where no human has to live in apprehension or fear of the other)
Published in several Indian Newspapers including https://www.thekashmirmonitor.net/whitewashing-religious-freedom/

Why is Supreme Court "failing" to decide on anti-Sikh genocide, Gujarat massacre?

By Mike Ghouse* 

Is the Indian judiciary accountable? The people of India have never questioned the authority of India's judiciary. Indeed, they are the only branch of government, who have not been examined for their role in upholding the constitution and the rule of law. It is the time one questions their lackadaisical attitude towards growing lawlessness in the nation and hold them accountable for their action. 

What is holding the Supreme Court from rendering judgment, and bringing closure to the anti-Sikh genocide, Godhra burning, Gujarat massacre, Nellie massacre, uprooting of Kashmiri Pundits, Babri Masjid, and freedom of speech issues? 

The silence of the state when the liberties of the citizens are trampled has gone unpunished. The Supreme Court can put an end to the catalytic nature of these unfortunate and tragic events. 

Many things will be straightened if justice is delivered on a timely basis. If a concerted effort is made and the momentum is built to remind the Supreme Court to take their responsibility seriously, they can put an end to the fear that has grasped the nation. 

The politicians, legislators and the administrators may be corrupt, but the judiciary has remained intact and is still free in India. The decisions by the apex court on the issues of LGTB, Sabarimala, Triple Talaq, and Babri Masjid are good examples, people have accepted their decision with protests but not violence. If we can hold the Supreme Court accountable for preserving the constitution and restoring justice, it will restitute hope to the hopelessness that is prevalent in India. 

Dr Zafar Iqbal writes, “It is an unfortunate fact that many attempts were made to influence Supreme Court judges, still, compared to other institutions, the Indian Supreme Court's record is much better. The SCI is still the best hope we have. The venomous culture being supported and promoted by the people in power is spreading like metastatic cancer.” 

Supreme Court is the last resort and defender of India's constitution, and if they can make bold decisions, they can restore sanity and the rule of law to India. The Supreme Court's role is to interpret the Constitution and serve as a check to the abuse of powers by the legislative and administrative branches of government. The judiciary is set up to be an independent body free from politicians and the bureaucrats. 

India is a mature democracy when people decide to unseat a tyrant like Indira Gandhi, they have done it through the ballot. Not only Indira, but the Prime Ministers and Chief Ministers of India have honored the verdict of the people and have stepped down every time when they lost the elections, and respectfully handed the keys to the new person elected. 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is no exception; he is one of the most attacked politicians of India, perhaps more than the combined attacks on all Prime Ministers. His biggest mistake is his inability to speak up when bad things happen in the nation. Since it is a pattern with him throughout the ordeals of rapes, lynching, murders, and harassment; one is inclined to think if there was merit in Sanjiv Bhatt’s statement that Modi let the goons have three days to finish killing as many Muslims as they could in a supposed revenge spree in Gujarat. 

Modi is not dumb, he can boldly speak out against miscreants that the rule of law would be applied to all those who lynch, harass, and rape, and will be punished severely. No murderer and rapist will get a ticket from his party to contest the elections. He knows he has the power and if he uses for good governance, it will substantially subside the cow vigilantes, lynching’s, rapes and murders and felicitation of criminals. 

Holding the Prime Minister accountable is the right thing to do. After all, it is the government of the people by the people for the people. Everyone is responsible in a democracy. Thank God, the era of dictators, kings, and tyrants is gone. 

Thanks to the Indian media, the first saviour of democracy, for protecting your rights to be free to pursue life, liberty, and happiness. Thanks to the “Indian Express”, the “Times of India” and the “Hindu” newspapers for standing up against the bullying by Indira Gandhi during her infamous emergency rule. The editor heroes went to jail instead of temporary protection that comes with sycophancy or silence. 

Now that awakening has come back, and we see the emergence of new heroes in the wire, squint, and other media outlets. They will be the new saviours of our freedom, and we need to celebrate them. Judiciary is a critical part of the governance if we write about the cavalier attitudes of the judiciary, things will start changing for the better. I welcome any criticism of the judiciary and solutions to go with them. 
*Public speaker, author, interfaith wedding officiant, executive director of the Center for Pluralism in Washington, DC. Click HERE for more 

Published at Counterview - https://www.counterview.net/2018/12/why-is-supreme-court-failing-to-decide.html

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

India awakened, democracy restored

A tsunami of good news has just hit India, five of the 29 states of India held the elections in December 2018, and produced amazing results, and the winner is the Indian Democracy.

Parties come and go, but what is constant is our freedom. Freedom to speak, freedom to prosper, and freedom to marry whom you want, eat what you want, drink what appeals to you, wear what works for you, and believe whatever the hell suits you. 

I am sure no Indian wants someone to tell him or her how to live. The BJP followers will not like what the Congress may tell them to do, and the same is true the other way around. The durable policy is to follow the principles of freedom. 

Modi has time to show that he really believes in Democracy and is not authoritarian. He can do that by initiating three national awards; Patriotic Citizen, Patriotic Media and National Chamcha Award.  The award goes to those individuals and News Media who relentlessly criticize the government to keep them on their toes, and National Chamcha Award goes to the individuals and who consistently equate support for Government as a Patriotic act.   A true patriot would hold the feet of the government to the fire rather than do the chamchagiri and let the country make mistake after mistake.

If Congress were to wins elections in 2019, the BJP supporters will go ballistic against the elected government and that is the time Congress party needs to show its civility, and they will, as they have a proven record.  Unlike our Goonga Prime Minister, the Congress Prime Minister will speak out against anyone calling the BJP supporters anti-National or anti-Hindu. No one is anti-National or anti-Hindu, it is the wild imagination of fanatics among BJP to sow the seeds of discord. 

I am proud of India’s freedom and salute the men and women who went to jail, and took the beatings but chose to fight for freedom. They not only got the freedom but set up great institutions for India. Today India is among the top 7 powerful nations, and the credit goes to Gandhi, Nehru, Azad, Patel, Ambedkar and a few others who had the vision and laid the foundation of a great nation.

Whether you align with BJP, INC or other parties, you have the freedom to speak and prosper because the foundation of our nation was laid out on the principles of Democracy. We cannot let anyone curb those freedoms, the media needs to be free and people need to free.

I admire Modi’s supporters in America and their loyalty. I wish they show the same devotion to India by respecting every Indian without prejudice.  

Do you recall a tyrant grandfather or even a father, who is all about control, he claims to live a simple life, but wants to keep everyone under his thumb? Our Prime Minister, under the guise of Sanyasi (hermit), claims that he has nothing to gain and wants nothing. How does he account for enriching his friends? Would a Sanyasi do that?

We cannot blame Modi for who he is, he is conditioned by the RSS schools where they teach exclusive ideology and disrespect to others who do not think like them. A majority of Hindus innocently believe that RSS is a service organization, but fail to see the poison it injects into the innocent children.   I wish Modi frees himself from the petty Hindutva ideology and becomes an all-embracing leader and a giant like Nehru.

I pray that a handful of right-leaning Hindu Americans fight their temptations to support the forces in India who want to deny the freedoms to ‘other’ Indians. Their American born children think they are stupid to have such hatred towards the other. 

A young Hindu Medical doctor doing his residency stayed with me for a month while attending a conference in Washington DC. We had terrific conversations on a daily basis.  He wished his parents had the opportunity to know Muslims, Christians, Dalits, Sikhs, and the Blacks. He deplored their hatred towards them. He said, he has lived in the dorms, and everything they have said about others was wrong. 

There are parents out there who are selfish and poison their kids by injecting ill-will towards others. Some Hindu parents tell their kids how bad Muslims, Christians and Sikhs are and vice versa goes as well, they even believe Dalits are untouchables. The dumb men (women are not as hateful) don’t realize that when the kids grow up in America, they have to work with the very people they were told to stay away from. It must be painful for the kids to work with others, many of them wish they did not have such ugly parents. I urge the Indian Americans not to poison their kids, the kids have sixty to seventy years to live, let them decide whom to love or hate based on their personal experience and not prejudice.

The Law of Karma does not spare anyone. Modi’s arrogance will bring him down in 2019. He has got to stop bullshitting Indians with issues that don’t put food on their tables or clothe their kids or have clean drinking water. Let him make one promise and keep rather than make ten and cheat. 

All of us want the best for fellow humans including Modi. Mr. Modi can make a comeback in 2024 if he turns BJP into a party where every Indian, be it a Muslim, Sikh, Christian or Dalit wants to become a member of his party. He has got to do his praischit (repentance) for quietly letting a few goons to go on a killing spree in 2001. Indians will forgive him if seeks forgiveness. Hinduism is not a religion of violence or revenge, it is not about forcing others to eat, drink or believe against their will. It Hinduism is not a violent religion, then the moderate Hindus have an obligation to protect the image of Hinduism and not let the Hindutva guys tarnish it. 

Indians are good people, they are as good as gold. They are clamoring for a leader who can bring jobs and don’t want to be fooled again.

Two BJP contestants in two states, a Minister for Cow Welfare and Minister for Happiness lost the elections badly. This is a major loss and a clear signal to the party that Indians cannot be fooled over and over again with the issue of cow or the building a temple. 

India's First Cow Minister Loses In Rajasthan Election

Madhya Pradesh Results Bring Bad News For India's Happiness Minister

Dr. Mike Ghouse is a public speaker, author and the Executive Director of the Center for Pluralism in Washington, DC. He is committed to building cohesive societies and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day. Mike is also an interfaith wedding officiant. More at https://www.linkedin.com/in/mikeghouse/

Sunday, November 18, 2018

India’s prosperity hinges on Religious Freedom

India’s prosperity hinges on Religious Freedom
The Indian-Americans have a moral duty to prevent India from being labeled as a “Country of Particular Concern” by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).
If India were to be ascribed with such a label, it would hinder the flow of foreign direct investments and subsequent reversal of economic prosperity achieved in the last twenty years. This label may not affect the poor Indians, but it will severely impact all those Indians working in information technology related jobs and businesses involved in software development and services.
South Africa once was an apartheid nation, and its prosperity came to a grinding halt when the foreign corporations realized that they are supporting a regime that discriminates her citizens. The harassment, lynching, and killing of Dalits, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs and others in India needs to stop; if not, it will hurt all Indians as the investors will start pulling out of the country. Who wants to invest in a place where their investment is not secure?
The success of the American economy is based on the rule of law, the law is enforced equally, and no criminal will get away with the power of his or he monies. If someone violates the rules, the individual or the company will pay the penalty, and this builds confidence and trust in the society and frees them from tensions. Every Indian should feel secure about his or her faith, ethnicity, language and culture.
The First Amendment of America’s constitution serves as a model of success for any government. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
Ambassador Sam Brownback had once said that the prosperity of a nation hinges on religious freedom. Indeed, the success of a country is directly proportional to religious liberty. It frees people from the daily tensions of what to eat, drink, wear and believe. It allows them to become a productive employee to the company, and a fully participating member of the family by giving the family the full attention it deserves instead of worrying about a fellow employee at the place of work.
Furthermore, the quality of life is directly proportional to freedom from religious and cultural tensions.
The sense of security is diminishing rapidly. A Christian is apprehensive of going to the Church on a Sunday, and a Muslim is afraid of storing meat in his refrigerator should the vigilantes descend on him. The women including little girls are not safe either. The murderers and rapists got felicitated with Garlands from among the current leaders instead of sending them to prison.  The man who lynched and brutally killed a Muslim man was videotaped and shared on WhatsApp, and the lyncher was rewarded with a party ticket to contest elections.   This is shamefully a weekly occurrence.
Ambassador Brownback had once said referring to mob violence around the world. If the leaders respond immediately to such incidents and tell the nation that the lynching and harassment of fellow citizens will not be acceptable, then the violence will cease or at least mitigate. Unfortunately, the current Indian leadership has remained silent when vigilantes kill and maim the people, causing every Indian to live in fear – both the minorities and the ones who frighten.
Please note that Hindutva ideology propagated by RSS and its family of parties is not Hinduism. Hindutva is to Hinduism; what Islam is to Islamists. Hindutva and Islamist are anti-Hinduism and anti-Islam respectively.   It may take a few generations for Hindutvadis and Islamists to see the value of respecting the otherness of the other and accepting the God-given uniqueness of the other. When we get there, conflicts will fade, and solutions emerge. Ultimately, every Indian wants to live in peace and feel secure about his faith and focus on contributing to the common good of the nation.
The Indian Americans have equal access to all the opportunities in the market without discrimination, and I hope the Indian Americans would want India to treat her minorities as America does hers. It is an embarrassment to note that a few Indian Americans don’t want Muslims, Christians, and Dalits to have equal rights in India.  On top of it, they are poisoning their children with ill-will towards each other.
The good news is that most of the American Indian youth are rejecting the ugliness of their parents and choose to respect the otherness of the other. After all, they have to work with people of different faiths and races, and it would be a pain for them to work with others if their parents have dumped their biases on their children.  Should parents poison their children?
We appeal to all the India oriented American organizations including the Hindu America Foundation, the Indian American Muslim Council, Federation of Indian American Christian Organization of North American to support our petition.
The petition will be addressed to the Government of India to issue Visa’s to the Commissioners of USCRIF.  They can do the investigations about the plight of Kashmiri Pandits, Sikh Genocides, Gujarat Massacre, Lynching and harassment of Dalits, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, and others.
If India gets a “Clean Chit” it will ensure continued prosperity and investor confidence in India’s democracy.  However, if the Indian government is found guilty of the violations of religious freedoms, then two choices left to deal with are; risk losing the confidence of the investors in the stability of India, or fix the problems and earn a clean chit.  Every Indian American must ensure the sustainability of India’s democracy and prosperity.
In Washington DC, there are three Indians who regularly attend the meetings about religious freedom issues from among about seventy-five individuals to talk about the concerns in different nations. Jay Kansara has been representing the Hindu America Foundation, John Prabhudoss represents Federation of Indian American Christians of North America, and Mike Ghouse serves the Center for Pluralism, standing up for the rights of people from all faiths.  Now, Ajit Sahi of Indian American Muslim Council has joined the group to address Religious freedom issues of Indian minorities. The Dalits and Sikhs have been represented on an off by different visitors.
Swami Agnivesh was in Washington DC and spoke to a group of defenders of religious freedom across the world.  The Ambassador of religious liberty Hon. Sam Brownback presided the meeting. He was eloquent and precise, and it was an honor to meet the man whom I have come to admire for his stand on eradicating bonded labor, and fighting for religious freedom of all Indians.
Here is a short speech of Swami Agnivesh – https://youtu.be/eIwPXyQQi7g
Full speech of Swami Agnivesh.
Dear Ambassador Brownback and my fellow campaigners for human rights and religious freedom. I am grateful to you for this opportunity to speak here. Since the time allotted for me to speak is limited, I will get to the point immediately.
There is a grave threat today to civil liberties in general and religious freedom in particular in India. Indeed, the levels of violence we see in today’s India against the social and religious minorities are in many ways unprecedented in recent decades. The victims of such vicious violence are some of India’s poorest and most disadvantaged communities. They include Muslims, Christians, the Dalits, who are the former untouchables of the Hindu caste society, and the Adivasis, or the indigenous tribal people whose very existence is under threat.
Moreover, the perpetrators of this violence are directly linked with the RSS, which is the mother organization of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s BJP party. Especially since Mr. Modi became India’s prime minister in 2014, the attacks on the religious minorities have sharply increased. Armed mobs owing allegiance to the RSS and other Hindu groups have been lynching to death Muslims at will, accusing them of eating beef or slaughtering a cow. Such Hindu mobs also disrupt mixed-religion weddings in which the groom is Muslim, and the bride is Hindu because they don’t want Hindu girls to marry Muslim boys. There have been instances in which such Muslim grooms have been killed, too.
Similarly, these vigilante groups owing allegiance to the RSS have been attacking Christian Churches, priests, and congregants all over India. Once again, they blame the victims for the violence, accusing the Christians of converting Hindus to Christianity.
For thousands of years, the Dalits have suffered the worst violence and indignities at the hands of upper caste Hindus. However, now, that indignity is doubled because laws have been created to deny positive quota benefits to Dalits who convert out of Hinduism to Christianity and Islam. Converted Dalits face even greater violence and assault.
As for the Adivasis, the indigenous people, the RSS-BJP have for decades been forcing Hinduism on them even though millions of these Adivasis clearly state that they are not Hindus and they have their indigenous faiths. I have myself been a victim of their violence over the years. Twice in the last six months only I have been attacked by these violent mobs. Of course, it is futile to expect any police action against such violent perpetrators.
If I being a prominent human rights defender in India cannot expect the police to act against my attackers, you can imagine what would be the story of these social and religious minorities I have spoken about, the Dalits, the Adivasis, the Christians and the Muslims, who are being targeted in their hundreds of thousands across India.
Even more worrying is that some organizations in the United States that claim to represent the interest of the Hindus defend the highly divisive and violent activities of the RSS-BJP and instead blame the religious minorities. They try to create a false equivalence between the highly organized and structural violence of the RSS-BJP, who are in power in the federal government in India as well as more than a dozen and a half of India’s 29 states, and random acts of violence against Hindus that may occur.
The truth is that the biggest perpetrator of anti-minority violence in India is the RSS-BJP, which is now in power across India and is therefore grossly abusing its control of government machinery to provide impunity to its henchmen carrying out such violence. It would be a pity if the international community did not open its eyes and take notice of this worsening situation in the India of Mahatma Gandhi.
(Swami Agnivesh also added that he was coming from giving the keynote address at the Parliament for World’s Religions in Toronto, Canada and that the Hindu rightwing forces tried to prevent him from speaking there. He also said he had been a campaigner for justice for 50 years and had faced numerous attacks on his life, the most recent in Jharkhand in July, when hundreds of goons attacked him, and then again in Delhi in August. Swami Ji also spoke of his work with bonded laborers and said his organization had secured freedom and rehabilitation for more than 170,000 bonded laborers in India in the last thirty plus years.)
Dr. Mike Ghouse is a public speaker and the Executive Director of the Center for Pluralism in Washington, DC. He is committed to building cohesive societies and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day.  More about him at https://www.linkedin.com/in/mikeghouse/
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Sunday, October 14, 2018

Nupur Sharma with the Wire on #Metoo Movement in India


Video: https://www.facebook.com/TheWireUrdu/videos/181885542723321/

Nupur, God bless you for talking about this topic. For thousands of years, women have endured this pain and lived in anguish. There was no one to listen to them and their anxiety, except maybe the mother. 

As a supporter of the #Metoo movement, and deeply involved in the Kavanaugh hearings and protests at the Supreme Court, and relentlessly pursuing on the topic. I was concerned about my motherland, how a majority of Indian women who spoke nothing but Urdu/Hindi were deprived of the new hope, how do we communicate this to them, that a movement has started and there is hope to restore their dignity of women.  I am proud of my homeland, America, where continuous efforts are being made to think, act and believe that men and women are equal in the eyes of God. 

 A new milestone is achieved in 2018 in how women are treated, for the first time in the human history, the men in the Senate are showing their true colors of misogyny by reluctantly agreeing to listen to the testimony of Dr. Christine Ford.   Right off the bat, they do not want to believe Her but believe their man. This attitude of discounting women's evidence has got to end.   

“A woman should behave like a woman” “Her place is home."  They may not say it, but that is what the Conservative religious men from Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist and other traditions secretly want.

First for someone to listen to a woman’s story, believe in it and act upon it. Javed Akhtar Saheb has shared his wisdom on Rekhta, that woman does not need to be worshipped, but respected. 

Years ago, when I saw the series for the shows Satayameva Jayate, I was moved by it and was hopeful for the change it brought to our thinking and ultimate relief on a variety of issues. I had called Amir Khan an Avatar of Krishna for emerging among us to restore the righteousness in the society. This issue you have taken up needs to be listened to, and as you concluded, more complete. It needs to reach out to the Urdu/Hindi speaking masses.  

http://mikeghouseforindia.blogspot.com/search?q=avatar+of+krishna (an article about you is also in the search)

I have just completed writing my book, the Muslim Agenda, to empower Muslims to become contributing members of the society and restore cohesiveness in the community. One of the chapters is “Gender Equality.” The book is under revision and hopes to get that translated in Urdu/Hindi to reach out to my fellow Indians. 

Gender Equality is one of the most important values in society, it affects almost half of the human race. If we can fix this, most of our issues will be resolved, and we can see a lot more joy in the world, instead of battling who gets paid more for the same work or who controls the household. Indeed, misogyny is the mother of all sickness.  

I will be happy to join you in India for townhall discussions to communicate this message. 
The Sense of entitlement and patriarchy needs to be phased. 

Thoroughly researched piece! But requires a few more conversations. It is a full-time topic.

We are going through the season of Navaratri.   Navaratri is rich in meaning. At one level, Navaratri signifies the progress of a spiritual aspirant. During this spiritual journey, the aspirant has to pass three stages personified by Durga, Lakshmi, and Saraswathi. 

Your piece is timely, we need to connect the Yashoda ki hamjins and the hawwa ki beti.  My hats off to you to drive people to consider the issue and put blinders on them to focus on the topic.  God bless you Nupur! 

Dr. Mike Ghouse is a public speaker and the Executive Director of the Center for Pluralism in Washington, DC. He is  committed to building cohesive societies and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day.  More about him at https://www.linkedin.com/in/mikeghouse/

Monday, September 24, 2018

Manto Is Not Only Worth Watching, It Is Also Worth Remembering

Kudos to Dr. Shah Alam Khan for such a beautiful review of the film. It one of the best literary pieces on films I have read and wanted to preserve it here at the Center for Pluralism and the blog https://MikeghouseforIndia.blogspot.com.
He watches the movie with people of different faiths and social background, and It is a delight to read this. I am pleased to quote a few of the many great lines from his essay:
“Manto is as beautiful and as poignant as a sunset.”
“it not only a movie worth watching but also one worth remembering, like the scented memory of your first love.”
“Watching Manto was like sitting under that dark sky of a moonless night where every whisper becomes precious.”
“The prejudices of our past have started to rule our present with a deadly assault on our liberal thoughts,”
“his savage narration of post-Partition violence with no holds barred is what was unacceptable to the people of his time, including the so-called progressive writers, as the movie depicts at multiple points. ”
“A good movie is one which can present its characters in a polychrome, with each shade revealing every aspect of the imagined. ”
“We are lucky to have filmmakers like Das and actors like Siddiqui, not because they can write good stories or act well but because they can make movies which leave us provoked and hence vulnerable. 
Published at the wire, https://thewire.in/film/manto-movie-review-nawazuddin-siddiqui-nandita-das
The cozy and comfortable chairs were a delightful respite from the humid heat outside. Radha sat next to me in that dark hall as Saadat Hasan Manto emphatically reverberated, “My stories are a mirror for the society to see!” And next to Radha sat Saugandhi, the prostitute (from Scorned) who loved her job. The Pathan saheb who looted the red thermos sat in the front row; Mozel, the Jewish girl who rented a flat in the Advani Chambers was sitting next to him and so was Ishar Singh, who sat clutching his neck exactly where a neat line of blood had clotted. A peeved Khaled miyan sat restlessly in Mumtaz’s lap.
There was Babu Gopinath and yes Sirajuddin too, (of course minus his Sakina). The post office clerk and the short story writer Joginder Singh sat in a lonely corner with his wife Amrit Kaur; Toba Tek Singh refused to sit and stood in front of others. And there were many more who had sprung out of Manto’s pages of ravishing creativity of angst. They all sat with me as I watched Manto in a posh Delhi multiplex.
What do you expect when you go to watch a movie based on the life of your favourite author? A delightful story with intricate details of his life? Or perhaps the revelation of secrets of his life we never knew – that clandestine affair, that one fetish, that missed opportunity. Fortunately, this is what Manto is not at all about. Director Nandita Das has neither spilt any beans, nor are there any moments of truth which we didn’t know about this great writer, but yet Manto is as beautiful and as poignant as a sunset. There are no conformities to the essentialities which are required in film-making and the narrative has been kept simple yet powerful. Das has bracketed the story of the great writer within two of his stories, one each at the beginning and the end. The absolutely beguiling acting by Nawazuddin Siddiqui makes it not only a movie worth watching but also one worth remembering, like the scented memory of your first love.
Watching Manto was like sitting under that dark sky of a moonless night where every whisper becomes precious. It was as if each story of the great master of realism tumbled out of the cupboard of history, allowing the viewers to pick it up, hold it in their hands and pass it on to the next generation to store in their hearts with care – because when all will be said and done and when we have all perished, only stories shall remain. How apt when in one shot Manto says, “Aakhir mein sirf afsane hee reh jayenge (In the end only stories shall remain).”
The timing of Manto couldn’t have been better. We are living in interesting times (I consciously refrain from using the word “dangerous” instead of “interesting”). In these interesting times of collective amnesia, it is important that we are shaken up now and then. We need to be jolted to breathe, else the festering wounds over our bodies will rot further. The prejudices of our past have started to rule our present with a deadly assault on our liberal thoughts, and who better could Das have selected to make a movie on but the man who is not only a master of realism but also a gifted rebel, the antithesis of the very society he lived in.
I doubt whether Manto can be conveniently called a liberal – he was much more than that. Calling him ‘liberal’ would be insulting his legacy. He was like his stories – truthful, simple and brutal. Strangely enough, he wasn’t a Sartre, neither a Marx and nor a Spencer. It’s equally cruel to compare him with other greats of short story writing like Nikolai Gogol. He was just Manto.
His oblique descriptions of sexuality, his love for the wretched of the land, his derision of collective morality, and his savage narration of post-Partition violence with no holds barred is what was unacceptable to the people of his time, including the so-called progressive writers, as the movie depicts at multiple points. Of particular note in this respect are the court scenes where the author defends himself against the charges of obscenity for his story Thanda Gosht (Cold Meat).
In fact, there are points in the movie when you, the Manto admirer, hallucinate that Nawazuddin Siddiqui is Manto. A feeling when you transcend with Das’s story and direction into a time zone which surely does not belong to this era. To enter into the mind of the great writer and to make the audience travel with you through the alleys of his thoughts is something which is commendable, and which Das and Nawazuddin have done with the patience of a skilled craftsman.
They have explored the reality of fiction like few others have. Fiction is made from the clay of reality and reality is made of layers of truth and untruth. Good writers pick both truth and untruth to weave a story, but great writers like Saadat Hasan Manto pick the threads of truth from reality and weave stories and this quality of the great man has been sacredly preserved and beautifully painted in Manto. No wonder the wordsmith feels offended by the testimony of Faiz Ahmed Faiz refusing to accept Thanda Ghost as a worthy piece of literature during his trial.
Credit also goes to the other members of the team who made this movie possible, in particular, Rasika Dugal, who charms in her role as Safia, the caring and at times cavil wife of Manto. Her frames with Siddiqui were a treat to watch. The brisk character of the great Ismat Chugtai and her relationship with Manto was something which stood out as a happy celebration of two of the subcontinent’s greatest writers. Her addressing him as ‘Manto, my friend and my enemy’ in a letter was a moment of literary history for me.
A good movie is one which can present its characters in a polychrome, with each shade revealing every aspect of the imagined. In the case of Saadat Hasan Manto, it was essential to maintain this sensitivity of shades. Das’s ability to narrate the sensitivity of Manto, the human being, separately from Manto, the writer, is something which is worth a mention. Him narrating a story to his younger daughter and his arrogance at the office of a magazine are the two poles which Das has wonderfully justified. In fact, the movie reconciles both aspects of Manto, something akin to the Fritz Perls’ concept of ‘gestalt’ – when an individual has the capability to acquire meaningful perceptions in an otherwise chaotic world. It seems that Das and her team had that ability even when they were surrounded by the chaos of Manto’s disruptive stories.
We are lucky to have filmmakers like Das and actors like Siddiqui, not because they can write good stories or act well but because they can make movies which leave us provoked and hence vulnerable. Proponents of existentialism say that there are constructive means against fear, but no such means exist against angst. Manto, in my opinion, is a means against angst. Let’s put our hands together to compliment the team of Manto and to compliment the king of words Saadat Hasan Manto himself. It took 63 years for someone to consider Manto as a subject worth making a movie on; we never know if there would be a chance in future for another movie on Manto in this sub-continent because as Jean-Paul Sartre has once said, we are the future to ourselves. And we, unfortunately, know what future we are becoming.
Shah Alam Khan is a professor of orthopaedics, AIIMS, New Delhi, and the author of Man With the White Beard. Views expressed are personal.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Arfa Khanum, India's star Journalist visits Washington, DC

Arfa is one of the star journalists of India visiting the United States for professional meetings as well as sharing her story with fellow Indians across the country. The meet & greet luncheon in Washington, DC was organized by Kaleem and Tahoora Khawaja of the Association of Indian Muslims of America.

Image may contain: 11 people, including Arfa Khanum, Meena Diwan and Saleem Kidwai, people smiling, people standing, suit and outdoor

Ms. Arfa Khanum Sherwani is one of the Indian journalists who is deeply committed to your freedom. Indeed, if you recall the 70’s, it's the journalists who saved India from fascism, some of them even went to Jail to protect our freedoms.
Right now, the Indian public is looking for a few more saviors who can speak boldly against the dictatorial tendencies. Thank God, a new breed of freedom fighters are emerging from the wire and other online news portals.

Democracy, that is your right to elect the representatives from among you to protect your interests- that is your life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The strength of Democracy hinges on four important legs: press, legislature, judiciary, and administration.

Arfa is fulfilling her dharma dutifully. The more critical you are of the government, the more patriotic you are. If you resort to chamchagiri, you are encouraging the politicians to keep doing the same thing and sink the nation. You've got to keep them on their toes; they work for us.
She urged Muslims to integrate into the society fully, and be a part of the Indian story and not apart from it. Here is an article I wrote several years ago, that reflects some of the conversations and a panacea to the current situation the Muslims are struggling with.

Are Muslims a part of the society? The same story holds good for India  http://worldmuslimcongress.org/are-muslims-a-part-of-the-american-story/

She articulated a few bold points; not only the education of girls is the key to bringing a positive change, but giving her the freedom to pursue her career is important, a woman should not be taught to be a gold digger and a submissive wife, but an independent woman who chooses how she lives her life and live her full potential.

Of course, many good ideas were floated about adopting a school in your hometown, establishing a scholarship and mentoring programs for at least a few journalists each year.
A weak Modi will be re-elected in 2019, allaying the fears about changing the constitution and pulling the right to be free. If freedom is not preserved, it will lead to the collapse of the social structure causing chaos.

RSS and Congress are two mindsets rather than two parties.

One ideology is based on the perceived fear that their way of life will be lost with freedom in the society, hence the need to dictate others how to live, what they eat, wear, believe and whom they marry - all to have a false sense of security.

Whereas, the other mindset is tethered to a firm belief in Vasudhaiva kutumbukum and accepting the God-given uniqueness of each Indian. They are secure under their skin.

So, what are our choices? Who do we support? Voting is a personal choice, an individual votes out of his or her own free will. All we can do is offer the knowledge - which party will bring peace to the communities, removes the fear of each other and brings people together for the common good.

Goodness is inherent in human, each one of us wants to get along with others, and we are the happiest, that is the natural state of mind when all of us help each other and get along. A few among us lose track of it, and resort to doing things that go against their nature, we have a responsibility to spread the knowledge of goodness.

Mike Ghouse is the founder and executive director of the Center for Pluralism committed to building cohesive societies, where no fellow human has to live in apprehension or fear of the other.

Ashamed of Gujarat's Extremists - A personal story


The Daughter of Ehsan and Zakiya Jafri Writes: My Mother, My Motherland

I hope this story shames us, all of us including the extremist elements among us. This is not who we are!

I also hope more stories like Nishrin come to the fore, so we can feel the agony, anguish her family and others have gone through, it will make us better humans.

The men like Rajiv Malhotra advocates Hindus to help Hindus of Kerala disaster and not Muslims and Christians. The dumb guy fools a few Hindus to believe in his false narratives. If it were not the Christian Charities, India would have faced massive death during the famine in the late sixties. They sent the food to non-Christians. Likewise, Hindus and Muslims have always been at the forefront of Humanitarian efforts regardless of the religion of the people suffering.

Indian's need to demand the Indian Government to wake up and issue visas to the USCRIF commissioners to give us an accurate report of sufferings of Kashmiri Pandits, Khandmal, Delhi Genocide, and Gujarat Massacres. If we are wrong, we need to fix them.

If India gets the labeling of particular concern on religious freedom, all the foreign direct investment will stop flowing and will hurt all Indians businesses. The IT guys who are doing well will also suffer. We have to save India and curb extremism.

Nishrin has given a moving account of the tragedy her family has faced in the article published at the wire https://thewire.in/communalism/the-daughter-of-ehsan-and-zakiya-jafri-writes-my-mother-my-motherland https://thewire.in/communalism/the-daughter-of-ehsan-and-zakiya-jafri-writes-my-mother-my-motherland

Mike Ghouse