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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/