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

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

India’s Elite Institutions Are Facing a Credibility Crisis


Thanks for the write up on India’s Elite Institutions,  you have precisely identified the problem and hope it leads to solutions.

You made a very powerful statement, a dire warning indeed, “
This should concern Indians, but also foreign investors and governments seeking to do business with India. India’s democracy is its most important calling card, but its governing apparatus has failed to keep pace.”

I have expressed similar thoughts in my write up about the need to respect human rights. An online newspaper in Indian published my interview; 

How can International Religious Freedom Caucus exert its influence on the Indian government against atrocities against Muslims, Christians and Dalits?

The Americans (that includes all of us) are aware of what is going on, we are driven by our interests, and human rights are one along with business and security of our investments. Do you remember South Africa? American companies will pull out of India if they sense injustice and eventual chaos, hurting everyone. Any investor wants security for his investment. It is in the interests of Indian corporations as well to ensure that their investments are safe. We need responsible business people to be involved who will bring prosperity to all.

The success of a nation hinges on its two solid feet; economic prosperity which brings “sab ka vikas,” (development of all) not just “mitron ka vikas” (development of friends) and “sab ka saath,” (with everyone) where every Indian should feel included. That is a cohesive India, where no Indian feels excluded or lives in apprehension. Both the economy and social fabric must remain intact. One will not succeed without the other, otherwise what we will witness would a langda (lame) India and ultimately everyone will suffer.

We need to work on this. Being an Indian American, my interests are long-term sustainable security of India in terms of stable economy and cohesive social structure.    Full interview at http://mikeghouseforindia.blogspot.com/2018/02/hindu-right-changes-come-when-people.html  

Mike Ghouse
Center for Pluralism
Washington, DC
(214) 325-1916
# # #

India’s Elite Institutions Are Facing a Credibility Crisis
February 20, 2018

The realities of India’s institutions are captured most evocatively by Lant Pritchett’s notion of a “flailing” state. Pritchett’s term refers to the fact that India’s public institutions have a Jekyll and Hyde quality to them: an exclusive set of elite agencies that are high-functioning and a patchwork of lower-level institutions that are not. As Pritchett wrote: “the head, that is the elite institutions at the national (and in some states) level remain sound and functional but this head is no longer reliably connected via nerves and sinews to its own limbs.”

If one were to ask a reasonably well-informed Indian to name which of the country’s apex institutions—the proverbial “head”—they held in high esteem, three would invariably appear near the top of the heap: the Election Commission (EC), the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), and the Supreme Court. Indeed, these federal institutions are not only well regarded by many Indians, but are also considered by many developing democracies as models to be emulated.

Against this backdrop, one cannot help but reflect on recent events and wonder whether India’s elite institutions are as healthy as we had once thought. In the last 12 months, each of the aforementioned institutions has experienced a crisis of credibility. These events—and the systemic infirmities they point to—suggest that we should no longer take the health of these apex institutions for granted.

Start with EC, which is one of the world’s most respected elections agencies. It has historically benefitted from a robust constitutional mandate, which granted the body wide powers and significant independence from the executive. Whereas some developed democracies struggle to implement even rudimentary improvements to their electoral machinery, the EC routinely executes logistically complex elections for millions of voters while relying exclusively on electronic voting machines. But within the past one year, the EC’s judgement has been called into question on several occasions. Consider two examples.

In October, the EC broke from convention by announcing dates for elections in Himachal Pradesh while staying mum on Gujarat, despite the fact that these two states have followed nearly identical electoral calendars since 1998 (with the exception of 2002, when the assembly polls in Gujarat were delayed on account of riots). Typically, the EC holds elections together in states where the terms of the incumbent governments coincide. The chief election commissioner (CEC) A.K. Joti’s stated excuse for the delay was a desire not to disrupt flood relief work underway in the state. Several former CECs, men not eager to speak against their former agency, swiftly criticized the move. Former CEC T.S. Krishnamurthy called the delay an “avoidable controversy”. The Model Conduct of Code, which prohibits the government from announcing new public schemes on the eve of elections, “does not stand in the way of any emergency relief work”, he reasoned. Former CEC S.Y. Quraishi was similarly puzzled, stating that the EC’s delay raised “serious questions”. The reason for the strong reaction had to do with the perception that the EC was giving the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in Gandhinagar an advantage by ceding it more time to announce populist schemes designed to woo voters, which is precisely what transpired.

A second questionable act was the EC’s about-face on the Narendra Modi government’s creation of a new political funding vehicle known as “electoral bonds”. These bonds create a mechanism for private actors to fund political parties through the banking system rather than cash (a good thing), but without the actor or the political party having to disclose a single rupee (a very bad thing). The EC, which has been agitating for greater transparency in political finance for decades, told a parliamentary panel in May 2017 that the scheme was a “retrograde step” because transparency would be “compromised”. Former CEC Syed Nasim Ahmad Zaidi demanded that the Indian people “have a right to know who has contributed to political parties”. Yet, Joti proclaimed in mid-January that the scheme was a “step in the right direction”. This was a disturbing flip-flop absent any change in the underlying material facts.

Next, we come to RBI, an agency with a respected track record on monetary policy, banking and finance. While the RBI has often tussled with the executive when it comes to the central bank’s independence, it has maintained high standards of competence and professionalism. Unfortunately, the bank’s credibility has taken a hit in the wake of the Modi government’s demonetisation exercise. The ruling party has maintained that notebandi was a call taken by RBI, although the facts suggest an alternative narrative. On 7 November 2016, the government advised the RBI Central Board that it ought to consider withdrawing Rs500 and Rs1,000 notes to mitigate the triple threat of counterfeiting, terror funding and black money. The very next day, RBI accepted the advice and that same evening Modi went on national television to announce the move.

So, either the RBI was used by the government or it genuinely backed the half-baked measure. Either way, the institution’s stature stood diminished—a position further supported by the foibles associated with the policy’s sloppy implementation. To make matters worse, RBI then prevaricated when it came to informing the public how much old currency had come back into the system post 8 November. It was finally forced to disclose in its August 2017 annual report that 99% of the notes that had ceased to be legal tender wound up in Indian banks—an embarrassment to the government. While it is true that the new Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) has held the line on interest rates—much to the consternation of the executive—one cannot help but wonder whether institutional lines were crossed.

The third example of an elite institution grappling with credibility issues is the Supreme Court, whose internal fissures have played out in spectacularly public fashion. The Supreme Court has historically enjoyed widespread popular support, especially when compared to the highly uneven lower judiciary. Over time, however, a number of structural issues affecting its operations have gone unaddressed. One of these is the accumulation of power in the hands of the Chief Justice of India (CJI). The CJI is the “master of the rolls”, and therefore exercises considerable discretion both in setting up benches and in deciding what cases get heard. In an unprecedented January press conference, four Supreme Court justices accused CJI Dipak Misra of selectively setting up benches in order to shape the outcomes of particular cases pending before the court.

One notable example involves the case of the Prasad Educational Trust, a matter which the CJI had been overseeing. According to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), the trust had retained a retired Odisha high court judge to “fix” the outcome of the Supreme Court’s decision. When an NGO implored the apex court to set up a special investigation team (SIT) to investigate the matter, Justice J. Chelameswar ordered the establishment of a five-judge Constitution Bench to consider its plea. The CJI quickly overruled his colleague, listing the matter before a bench of relatively junior justices on which he also figured. Misra took this decision despite the fact that he had been personally involved in the Prasad case—the very one that required an independent investigation into its handling.

Then of course there is the enigmatic subject of Justice B.H. Loya, a judge who presided over a case in a special CBI court in which BJP president Amit Shah stood accused of murder. After Loya’s unexpected death, the court cleared Shah of all wrongdoing, prompting many to speculate that Loya himself was murdered. Given the sensitive nature of the case, the Supreme Court was compelled to take it up, but Misra assigned it to a junior bench. Only after Misra’s colleagues failed to persuade him to constitute a more senior bench to hear the potentially explosive case did they decide to hold their controversial press conference.

Sceptics might respond to these examples by claiming they are aberrations linked to individual personalities, rather than hallmarks of institutional malaise. Such a reaction blinds us to the multiple systemic challenges India’s core federal institutions face. First, across the board, Indian institutions continually struggle with managing human capital, as evidenced by the unending morass concerning judicial appointments. Second, exogenous actions, like the passage of the Right to Information Act, have compelled greater accountability to the public. Yet the quality of external accountability is in doubt, as evidenced by how all three institutions have struggled to balance the demands of public justification with the temptation to hold on to discretion. Third, internal accountability mechanisms have largely foundered. In nearly all Indian institutions, power remains far too centralized in the hands of the chief. Fourth, political interference remains an ever-present obstacle. Much of this interference comes down to subverting behavioural norms rather than actual violations of the law. As US President Donald Trump has shown us, the grey area in between offers ample room to manoeuvre.

The meta-lesson from the trials and tribulations of India’s elite institutions is the stark divergence between the rule of law in practice and the rule of law on paper. This should concern Indians, but also foreign investors and governments seeking to do business with India. India’s democracy is its most important calling card, but its governing apparatus has failed to keep pace. For certain public functions, there is scope for institutional regeneration from below and state-level experimentation. Unfortunately, these remedies do not apply to India’s core federal institutions. Either government must tackle their challenges head on or risk facilitating greater institutional decay.

Milan Vaishnav is senior fellow and director of the South Asia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and a co-editor of Rethinking Public Institutions In India (Oxford University Press, 2017).

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Hindu Right - Changes come when people feel other’s pain

By Santosh Digal
The International Religious Freedom Caucus on February 13 organized a discussion on the religious freedom in India. Congressmen Gus Bilirakis and Thomas Garrett chaired the program.
A leading personality behind the discussion was Mike Mohamed Ghouse, founder of Center for Pluralism, Washington. Ghouse is a regular fighter against Islamophobia in America. he is committed to building cohesive societies and has relationships with people of "all' faiths from Atheists to Zoroastrians, including Native Americans, Pagans, Wicca, LGBTQ, and the immigrant communities. 

Part of that work can be seen at www.Standingupforothers.com and the Center for Pluralism. He is engaged in building relationships with various religious groups, especially Muslims and Christians of America. His work assumed significance after 9/11, which witnessed massive pluralization in American society.
He is often criticized by Islamic scholars for taking a rather liberal view of Islamic teachings and for trying to conform Islam to the demands of Western societies. However, he remains unfazed by the opposition. He has been a vocal critic of America’s war in Iraq and played a prominent role in the campaign against those who opposed a mosque in the Manhattan.
The Bengaluru-born pluralist and outstanding interfaith and peace activist settled in the United States shared with Matters India his views on religious freedom in India and the reasons for holding the discussion.
MATTERS INDIA: Why should the Hindu America Foundation (HAF) take the initiative against the lynching of Muslims, persecution of Christians and harassment of Dalits in India?
MICHAEL MOHAMED GHOUSE: HAF is a very active human rights organization in the US, and I expect them to condemn such violations of human rights. They have rightfully condemned such violations in Bangladesh, Pakistan, Afghanistan and elsewhere, as we have condemned. They did not get an opportunity to condemn the violations of the right-wing Hindu organizations in India. This is an opportunity for them to earn respect from all as a true human rights organization.
How can the recommendations that your forum made to the International Religious Freedom Caucus be fruitful?
The Caucus will take that up, and on my part, I will follow it up with them as well as the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom. The HAF is well connected in India, and they can reason with the right wing organizations of India. They are in the best position to understand how the Hindus as minorities feel, they can understand the harassment they feel being a minority in America and elsewhere, and they can empathize with the minorities in India. Changes come when people feel the pain of the other, and I am sure HAF does feel because it is made up of people with American values; justice and fairness.
How can International Religious Freedom Caucus exert its influence on the Indian government against atrocities against Muslims, Christians and Dalits?
The Americans (that includes all of us) are aware of what is going on, we are driven by our interests, and human rights are one along with business and security of our investments. Do you remember South Africa? American companies will pull out of India if they sense injustice and eventual chaos, hurting everyone. Any investor wants security for his investment. It is in the interests of Indian corporations as well to ensure that their investments are safe. We need responsible business people to be involved who will bring prosperity to all.
What is the wake-up call for democracy in a country like India?
The success of a nation hinges on its two solid feet; economic prosperity which brings “sab ka vikas,” (development of all) not just “mitron ka vikas” (development of friends) and “sab ka saath,” (with everyone) where every Indian should feel included. That is a cohesive India, where no Indian feels excluded or lives in apprehension. Both the economy and social fabric must remain intact. One will not succeed without the other, otherwise what we will witness would a langda (lame) India and ultimately everyone will suffer.
Injustice to one is an injustice to all – and it would be anti-Sanatana dharma (eternal religion) not to respect the otherness of the other, and it would be adharma (irreligious) to harass, lynch and compel fellow Indians to do anything against their will. India will be back on its righteous track if Indians bring a strong opposition in Parliament or flip the party to govern.
Monopoly given to any party tempts them to become evil. The Bharatiya Janata Party is no exception. We the people have to wake up and save our democracy, the democracy that gives freedom to each one of us including the perpetrators and the victims. It is a shame if we let the incoherence is passed on to next generation; they don’t deserve our prejudices, ill-will, and pettiness.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Bharatvarsh - Syncretic, Pluralistic and Cohesive India in Vegetable Language

Here is an extraordinary analogy of India's syncretic culture expressed in vegetable language.

Over the years, I have read many articles written by Chidanand Rajghatta and have enjoyed the message he communicates with a good sense of humor. He is fellow Bangalorean and I learned that he,  Late Gowri Lankesh (was his ex) and I went to college at the same time, and we were all pukka (strong) humanists, which we still are. His home in Bangalore is two streets from my Sisters home, which is home to me.

In the past, I have written and spoken extensively about how human organs work cohesively to create a normal functioning human body. When I read Chidu's piece, I was imagining the vegetables come to life and teaching us a lesson how to live cohesively.

I read this again, and one of my other stories I tell is "the community is a bus" and how we can imagine each tire of the bus to be a representation of a faith and how all of them need be filled with right amount of air in the tires, sort of level playing field for the bus to certainly, smoothly and assuredly reach its destination. I started reading this again - each veggie to be representative of a group - it can apply both to India and US, where insecurity is raising the heads of nativism and biases against other immigrants is raising its ugly head as well.

Let an Indian read and explain to you, many of the vegetable named in here are in several Indian languages, if you google the name, the English version will popup. Bhartvash simply means India. 

The Optics of growing together in a plural, syncretic, inclusive Bharatvarsh

By Chidanand Rajghatta

All the vegetable representatives in India gathered at the kitchen table to discuss a vital matter. The Prime Minister of India had declared that Tomato, Onion, and Potato were his TOP priority, causing great consternation among native vegetables. They felt foreigners were being given preference over homegrown varieties.

“Let the meeting come to order!” commanded Brinjal, the reigning vegetable king who traced his origin to the Baingone Era in Bhartavarsh. He was a widely traveled intellectual who was known as Eggplant in America and Aubergine in Europe, where the French had honored him with the Grand Prix des Legumes.

“So why is everyone so agitated about this TOP spin?” asked Brinjal.

“Well, your Highness…the TOP vegetables are all of foreign origin. If they get priority, we natives will rot. They have already become essential for Indian cooking and dominate the sabzi mandi,” complained Okra. Although of African origin, Okra claimed he was a Brahmin of desi provenance. He also boasted that Bhendi Bazaar in Mumbai was named after him, although the discerning knew it came when the British referred the area south of Crawford Market as “behind the” bazaar.

“Well, I’ve been hanging out with Potato and never thought of him as a foreigner,” mused Brinjal, candid about his soft corner for a friend he fondly called Aloo. “In fact, he has deep roots in India and keeps an eye out for me.”

“They just pretend to be from India, sire. They all came from Mexico,” whispered Bottlegourd, a low-key vegetable who was actually a social climber and an alcoholic. “Imbosters!” hissed his cousin Bittergourd, who said he was a native of Karela. "Immigrants!” snorted Carrot, whose ancestors came from Persia but who pretended to be Indian. “Yes, yes! Foreigners!” piped up spiteful Chilli, who was herself from Mexico but was always mean to others who arrived in India more recently.

“Ain’t no problem where they come from. We are all in this together now. Make India Great Again!” yelled Pumpkin and his brother Squash, who were Americans settled in India.

“Oye Kaddu! Chup!” snapped Cucumber and Lettuce, withered old layabouts whose salad days were behind them but who were always shutting up purported foreigners. “Yeah, ask the potheads to bring them in and let’s hear what they have to say,” drawled Fool Gobi, who didn’t even know if he was a vegetable or a flower, if he was from India or China.

So on King Brinjal’s orders, Potato, Onion and Tomato were ushered into the meeting by Weeds, who were useless security guards. Weeds were always high, thought they deserved to be called Highness, and didn’t care where they came from or anyone’s origins for that matter. When they first heard the PM advocating TOP, they misheard it as POT and swayed wildly in the breeze, giving each other high-fives.
“So what do you have to say about these charges?” King Brinjal asked TOP.

“Sire, we have been in Bhartavarsh for so long that we have become natives. We can OPT out, but you will have no batata vada,” said Potato, as his wife Hot Potato and their children Small Potatoes cowered behind him.

“And no sambar,” piped up Tomato, blushing as she eyed Potato’s lazy brother Couch Potato.
“And no pakodas,” added Onion, tearfully.

King Brinjal weighed their words. They were right. If they left, Bhartavarsh would be left with just useless Weeds, that Fool Gobi, that infernal Okra, and too many Gourds. Everyone would start to worship Gourds and it would rob the country of its variety and diversity. And who knows, one day they might even decide that he, King Brinjal, actually came from China!”

“Well, I have thought this over. If we let them go, we will all miss them because we all came from the same mother earth,” he told the agitated desi vegetables. “We should let baingones be baingones and live together happily ever after."
Chidanand Rajghatta is an Indian-born opinion columnist based in Washington, D.C. He is the present foreign opinion columnist and a United States liberal blogger for the Times of India. He received his Master's Degree in Mass Communication from Bangalore University, Bangalore. He is the author of The Horse That Flew: How India's Silicon Gurus Spread Their Wings.

Did Russia Meddle with Indian Elections in 2014?

Do you see a correlation in getting the innocent Hindus to develop anti-Muslim sentiments through the communal riots, leading into to complete takeover of the Uttar Pradesh by BJP?  The likes of which were done here in the United States.  Did Russia pay for those riots through the Sangh Parivar organizations to weaken the Indian Democracy?  Both Modi and Trump have a special affection for Putin, and both of them want to emulate Putin.   

Deepa Seetharam, a reporter from Wall Street Journal called me and asked if I spoke in a rally at White House in September 2016? I said no, and then she reminded me that my name was a listed as a speaker.

Seetharam wrote in WSJ’s October 30, 2017,  publication, “Representatives from the Facebook page “United Muslims of America” asked Mike Ghouse, an interfaith activist, to speak at a Sept. 3, 2016, event in Washington, D.C. billed as “a peaceful rally, to make mosques and their neighborhood safe!”
The group sent Mr. Ghouse placards they intended to use that included anti-Trump messages, causing him to back out, he said. “I said they should be more pluralistic, more inclusive because there’s no need to attack Trump,” Mr. Ghouse said. “They wouldn’t, so I didn’t go.” Obviously, I did not speak there either.
“Some events stoked public discord. At the rally in front of the Islamic center in Houston, about a dozen protesters gathered, some waving confederate flags or holding a sign that said “#WhiteLivesMatter,” according to video footage.”
Russians had an elaborate plan of pitting one American against the other, their end goal was to weaken democracies and create discord within each nation – their logic was; for Russia to shine, other countries have to be weakened, and Russia will stand out as the strongest nation in the world with a strong man running the nation. Putin is the Czar under his skin.

CNN reports that “80 times Trump talked about Putin.” Indeed, “Throughout the 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump consistently broke from political orthodoxy in his effusive praise of Russian President Vladimir Putin. His glowing statements on Putin have become central in stoking the suspicion that he and his campaign were somehow connected to Russian interference in the election.”
Narendra Modi in Russia praises President Vladimir Putin’s family for sacrificing lives for the country. Modi praises Putin’s effort in convening 1st Tiger conservation Summit.
Both Modi and Trump think Putin is awesome, someone to be modeled after, as they want to dictate to the public.
 Senator John McCain said in an interview that Putin is determined to prove to the world that Democracies don’t work. Indeed, that is what the fascists think about democracies – they get their devoted slaves to do whatever they want – attacking others as Sikularist and calling the news that goes against them as fake news.  It’s amazing how many people buy that stuff in India and the United States.
Both Modi and Trump have resorted to divide and rule policies; they are determined to pit one Indian against the other in case of Modi, and one American against the other by Trump.

Russians staged “Anti-Trump rallies’ in the name of American Muslims. Perhaps, that may be the reason Trump is so anti-Muslim. Some of the rallies were held against Hillary to give the impression that it is the work of public, and some were devised against Trump just to make it look real.
What happens in India? Manohar Joshi writes in the Wire, “The fact that communal violence is rising in India is not hidden. Even the government acknowledges that there has been a steady uptick in communal incidents. In response to a question in parliament on Tuesday (February 6), minister of state Hansraj Ahir disclosed that as many as 111 people were killed and nearly 2,500 injured in 822 communal incidents in 2017, as compared to 751 incidents in 2016 that took the life of 97 people and 703 in 2016 when 86 were killed.” 

Did the Russians stage these events? Did they pay these men to stage communal riots and murder people?
The fake encounters set up by the Gujarat police earned further support for BJP from an average innocent Hindu. Of course, Musharraf’s Kargil invasion strengthened the hold of BJP in power.
Putin failed in France and Germany but succeeded in Austria, India, United States and other nations.
Most Indians will resist the idea of an investigation; they simply do not want to believe that the Indian Elections may have been rigged. They are afraid of even exploring the possibilities. If they have lost their loved ones, they would want to know if Russia is paying the goons to create chaos. Is Yogi Adityanath paid agent of Russia?  The purpose of the investigation is to find the truths if they are clean, that would be good news. What if they were not? Should they continue governing India and continue to pit one Indian against the other?
Do you see a correlation in getting the innocent Hindus to develop anti-Muslim sentiments through the communal riots, leading into to complete takeover of the Uttar Pradesh?  The likes of which were done here in the United States.  Did Russia pay for those riots through the Sangh Parivar organizations to weaken the Indian Democracy?  Both Modi and Trump have a special affection for Putin; both of them want to emulate Putin.
Neither Trump nor Modi was expecting to win; all the surveys, reports and polls indicated the win for Congress in India and Democrats in America. Both the men were surprised with the win, let alone land-slide wins.
The Russians publicized or financed at least 60 events – on all sides of most polarizing issues – before and after the 2016 election.  What about India’s 2014 election?
Is it worth investigating Russian hand in the mess that is created in India?   Should we save the nation from divisive men? These men will come and go in one or two terms, but it is the common men and women in India that will bear the brunt of their karma.
(The author is an Indian-American committed to building cohesive societies and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day.  As we learn to respect the “otherness” of others and accept the God-given uniqueness of each one of us, conflicts will fade and solutions emerge. He is the president of the Center for Pluralism in Washington, DC.)

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Shehla Rashid - in support of Interfaith Marriages

It is disappointing to see the ‘a few’ among Hindus and Muslims are misled about their own religions. Neither of the religions is for violence and both the faiths believe in Vasudhaiva Kutumbukum as a part of Hindu belief,  and the Muslim belief is no different, they believe and the entire world is from one couple – we are all one large family with our differences.  None of us are alike, each one of us is endowed with our own thumbprint, eye print, taste buds, religion bud, cloth bud and of course, DNA.  

What is needed is education.  There is no compulsion in religion says Islam, free will is the way forward. No one is responsible for other’s act; we pay for our karma either afterlife (Islam, Christianity) or thru reincarnation (Hinduism and Buddhism). I hope we live our lives and let others live theirs.  I hope to respond to this particular incident through an article in support of interfaith marriage and in support of Shehla Rasheed.

Those of you who are Muslims, an article "Can a Muslim woman marry a non-Muslim man" will be out in a few days explaining the freedom God has offered to women. If your promise to think and not react, I will email you the link. MikeGhouse@aol.com

Dr. Mike Ghouse
Center for Pluralism | World Muslim Congress
Washington, DC

Shehla Rashid, former JNUSU vice-president.
Shehla Rashid, former JNUSU vice-president.(Photo Courtesy: Facebook/ Shehla Rashid)

Shehla Rashid Speaks Up for Interfaith Love, Receives Rape Threats


Former JNUSU vice-president Shehla Rashid had to deactivate her Facebook profile after receiving multiple rape threats and hate messages for speaking up in support of interfaith marriages and the right of Muslim women to choose their partners.
Referring to the recent murder of Ankit Saxena in the national capital by his Muslim girlfriend’s family, student activist Shehla Rashid Shora published a Facebook post asking if the Muslim community would allow their daughters or sisters to marry a non-Muslim man of her choice.
Demanding an answer from her own community, she said if Muslim girls are not allowed to marry a non-Muslim of her choice, then they “lose the moral authority to fight the ruckus created by RSS” over the so-called “love-jihad”.

Drawing a comparison with the Hadiya case, she said, while the outrage over the denial to let an adult Muslim woman choose her life partner was justified, the same right should be given to all Muslim girls, irrespective of who they love.

When we insist that Hadiya be treated as an adult, as an individual who has Constitutional rights, let’s please uphold the same standard for all adult Muslim women – regardless of who they love

Shehla in her Facebook post.

She further went on to say that it is the Constitution, and not Islamic/Hindu law, that gives both Hadiya and all other Muslim women to choose their partner.

Special Marriage Act allows interfaith couples to register a marriage without conversion, she said adding that while Muslims as a community insist on Constitutional rights, they should also respect the rights given by the Constitution to an individual.

Slamming the so-called “love-jihad” brigade, Shehla said, “If we do not make room for love, we deserve to be ruled by hatred.”

Soon after her post on Facebook, rape threats, hate messages and regressive trolls were hurled at Rashid, alleging her of trying to spew hatred among people.

Kavita Krishnan Writes in solidarity with Shehla

Shehla Rashid has deactivated her Facebook account - NOT HER PAGE WHICH IS STILL ACTIVE - and the reasons are distressing and angering.

She wrote a post appealing to fellow Muslims to recognize that Muslim opposition to inter faith relationships by their daughters - as witnessed in the Ankit Saxena case - weakened the moral ground for opposition to the Sangh hate campaign against inter faith relationships that they brand 'love jehad'. She was visited with hateful rape threats by some Muslim men who misrepresented and distorted what she was saying. They claim she is 'egging on Muslim women to marry Hindu men'. This is plain silly - as a feminist Shehla would never presume to tell Muslim women or any women whom they should love and marry! The whole point is that we must respect the right of women and men and persons - of any community - to choose their faith, their ideas, their relationships and partners and stop treating women as the property of communities.

What's also alarming is the attempt by the opportunist and right wing Sanghis to try and use this episode to rationalize and legitimize their own Islamophobic campaign to brand the Muslim community as uniquely 'backward and patriarchal'. That's bullshit. Every community has its fundamentalists. In India, what makes the khap /Sangh /anti Dalit brand of patriarchy more dangerous is that it has state backing - courts and police support Hindu upper caste patriarchy and cooperate with it, this isn't the case with Muslims and Dalits.
Solidarity Shehla.

INDIA- Inter-Faith Marriages Are No Reason For ‘Conscience-Keepers’ To Interfere, Declares Supreme Court

Thank God, the Supreme Court is taking actions against the villains of the society. This restores hopes that people can continue in the pursuit of their lives.  I do hope any voilations of these, must result in holding the Chief Minister of the state accountable and responsible.

Mike Ghouse

Courtesy of Better India

Inter-Faith Marriages Are No Reason For ‘Conscience-Keepers’ To Interfere, Declares Supreme Court

The apex court is also considering appointing a high-level police committee appointed to protect couples from different castes, religion, or other “opposed” marriages.

In a remarkable move, the Supreme Court has taken a tough stance against khap panchayats and asked the Centre to protect couples whose marriages are opposed by these organisations.
They have observed that khap panchayats cannot be the “conscience keepers of the society” or play law-keepers against adult women and men who marry each other.
The apex court is also considering appointing a high-level police committee appointed to protect couples from different castes, religion, or other “opposed” marriages. They have directed the Centre to take steps towards this decision.

The bench was headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra and included Justice AM Kanwilkar, and Justice DY Chandrachud.

CJI Dipak Misra. Source.
They were hearing a petition seeking help from the court to put an end to the trouble caused by khap panchayats who take the law in their own hands and commit crimes against couples who have married outside their caste. The petition was filed by NGO Shakti Vahini in 2010.
“Where two consenting adults agree to enter into matrimony, no individual rights, group rights or collective rights shall interfere therein or harass couple. You don’t have to play the conscience keeper of the society. Law and courts will take care of all relationships. Whether it is parents, society or anyone, they are out of it,” the bench told counsel Narinder Hooda who represented the Sarv Khap Panchayats of Rohtak.

This list of directives explicitly includes parents and society to stay out of adults who have consented to marry each other.

Representative image of a wedding ceremony. Source.
As Hooda pointed out, “[the] main culprits of honour killings are not the representatives of khaps but the near and dear ones of the affected couples and more so the relatives of the girls.”

“They [khaps] are only against same gotra marriages for which they had made a representation to the Central government seeking an amendment to the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, which was a democratic act. Religious scriptures had prohibited such marriages, and as such, it should be part of [the] law,” Hooda said. He claimed that Khaps don’t go after couples from different religions, caste, creed or regions.
To this, the CJI replied, “The law will take its own course. Who are you to interfere?”
“We are conscience keepers,” responded the counsel

“When two adults get married, it is for the law to declare the marriage null and void and khaps cannot resort to violence against the couple,” the CJI retorted.

Representative image of a wedding ceremony. Source.
In one such incident about radical prejudices resulting in violence, a Facebook page had called for violence against over 100 interfaith couples in India. The post carried the names of men and women, along with links to their Facebook profile.
Fortunately, the post, as well as the page, were taken down from the social media site. If the Centre follows the directives by the SC, such radical outbursts could be brought under stringent laws.
Pinky Anand, who serves as the Additional Solicitor General of India, represented the Centre in this case and assured the court that the government would submit its proposal over this petition within a week.

Friday, February 16, 2018

South Indian Food - what is good food?

Good food is whatever appeals to your taste buds. Our taste buds are trained and conditioned to enjoy the foods we grew up eating. Whatever it was; American, Stew, Steak & Potatoes, Chinese, Mexican, French, Moroccan, German, Mongolian, Ethiopian, English, Italian, Korean, Japanese, Indian (Indian, Pakistani, Nepali, Bangladeshi and Sri Lankan), Thai or Middle Eastern or any one of the thousands of cuisines, we are drawn to the food we grew up with, essentially Mother’s food. That is the Gold Standard for each one of us.

I grew up with Idli-Sambar, Bisi Belebath, Biryani, Masala Dosa, Khichdi, Lemon Rice, goat curry etc. Of course, as a pluralist in food, I have enjoyed more variety of foods than most people. My friend who is like my older sister suggested us going to Savarana, an Indian Vegetarian Restaurant in Fairfax, Virginia. Their Daal (Lentil) was superb! My best Daals have been at my Mother and Sisters home, then my late wife’s daal, then the Daal at Apna Bazar Restaurant in Carrollton, Texas and now this Daal…. I need to learn to cook my own daal. Their Rasam was disappointing – it is a watery soup made with tamarind…I will wait to go see my sister in India, she makes the best Rasam.