Indian Secularism

Announcement made by Mrs. Shiela Dikshit, Delhi Chief Minister,

On the occasion of Dastaar Bandi function (convocation) at Madrasa Talimul Qur’an, R. K. Puram on 17 May :

“Delhi Waqf Board’s proposal to increase the salaries of Imams and Muazzins performing their duties in Waqf Board’s Masjids in Delhi has been approved by Delhi chief minister Shiela Dikshit according to which salaries of Imams have been increased from the present Rs. 6022 to Rs. 10,000 pm and those of Muazzins have also been increased from the present Rs. 5022 to Rs. 9000 pm.”

My point is : Forget increase, the State should hardly be paying any salary to purely religious functionaries, such as Imams and Muezzins are.

Bad politics.

It costs a lot in terms of warped social values and intemperate personal ones that erode moral being and ethics in daily life.

Isn’t secularism a constitutional committment anymore ?

No matter what, this perpetuates the nation’s divide.

Social Media Citizen Initiative

My thought for the initiative started

with a desire to meet people …

and forge personal links with individuals I would value …

People who are capable of saying, “I want nothing for myself …”

who are already espousing simple human values,

quite apart from the other affiliations they may or not have

politically, socially, professionally or community-specifically. 

 

The initiative will be, by its embracing nature, a global one.

But it will start small with a series of meetings with people in Delhi and around,

before spreading out to Social Media Citizen communities

coordinated by altruistic individuals in other Indian metros.

I imagine the moral support of people who are abroad is invaluable

even though they might not participate in the regular meets

except during their sojourns here …

or of those in India who are unable to travel and be physically present

for whatever reason.

 

We all would have no need of a harangue on what issues to champion

or outrage against. We have already been doing it in our own way,

to the extent we can or are comfortable with. There’s nothing more

to be added or explained.

 

And, this isn’t an organisation in the making with offices and office bearers,

or hard structured hierarchies. If at all, it will be voluntary, found on love

we have for each other, for the spirit we have to welcome or defy.

 

Far from big money, there is no money in this initiative !

Everybody remains as free and unburdened … but now

in association with others who may not exactly be of like mind

but are definitely of like spirit : socially conscious, politically sharp and empathetically universal.

 

I have opened a Google doc for individuals to self – enlist in the initiative

http://fe.gd/6sZ   Please do so. At the moment it has just one … !

 

 

Journal : Musings

The year rolls in anew …

There is a countenance in my view when I write … it is always sad and hopeful, looking intently at me. I am wagering the rest of my lifetime to see her one day skipping on the ropes or pushing the flat round “gittee,” the small disc of stone or clay, with her feet and hop on to the next house in the grid sketched by a piece of red brick … with a smile on her face and cheer in her heart, without fear, despair or hope, when she’ll wrap her arms around my wide girth with a child-like abandonment and make me choke on a cry of joy and recalled pain of all that our people, young and old, have suffered and continue to till this day.

*  *  *

Am I a citizen of this land or is this govt going to confer or, more importantly deny me because I have or do not have one document or another ?

It is strange to even contemplate. What is this govt doing with our citizenship ? It would be a good rule that bars a foreign-born from holding public office high enough to lay down policy for the natural-born. The gap in emotional rootedness we feel for the land and its culture is likely to be too wide between the two.

I am inclined to include the foreign-educated under the same bar … How is the layered concept-within-concept of contrived argument to be understood by the farmer, who has tilled his land without a thought along those complicated lines of identity ?

*  *  *

The avalanche of protest against rape and crimes against women is a good thing that is happening, amidst the inane, corrupt and criminal, callous, insensitive and, yes, incompetence. It was charged … in the media, govt corridors, personal discussions and social forums online.

But as someone pointed out : Is policing and punishment the solution ? I’d say, in India, policing is the problem … a long, long way off to becoming part the solution. The Govt ? The less said the better … an overwhelming majority of the lawmakers are millionaires, all tending to becoming billionaires … alongwith a sizeable proportion being actually charged for rape and crimes against women !

It’s all come from the same pool of the general population that, through its growing up years, has lost the capacity to respect for human beings, and for women in particular. Everything conspires to that effect : the society, dog eat dog values, system that prefers and promotes psychopaths to leadership positions, a sea of population that is marginalised and uncared for, with little in the economic loop for them, the pervasive entertainment industry, the imposed western norms in stark conflict with staid native continuity … everything disincentivises sensivity and empathy, and respect, for others.

And that’s the root problem. Women themselves may be a part of the same problem, in common with the society exhorting individuals to push ahead and surge forward, no matter what. Punishments, both the severity and speed of it, is necessary but not enough. It is the Kantian “absolute value” an individual has for himself or herself that needs to be restored in our awareness, recognised, reminded of and remembered, against all factors sustained by the systemic rot and the hormonal factors rising in the individual.

That is the challenge and the task before us. I see the solution in pervasive culture, the sanatan kind that the Hindus have not yet lost or forgotten, and in real education that prepares individuals for conflicts and urges in life ahead. Do I see any emphasis on these two fronts ? The answer is, ” No.”

*  *  *

If you feel like being a monarch in that moment, as you already are, without needing a grain more, without aspiring for or wanting a thing … it is both your good fortune bestowed by the universe and your victory over the forms of self you have lived with ! #Happiness

Some of my best online friends did not wish me on my supposed birthday, perhaps remembering from my advisory the previous year. This year too, I put up a note … but ended up thanking those who did. To someone who questioned my alternate view obliquely, I clarified : I was less bigoted about the matter than find it vain. Hopefully, I’d have more friends next year who’d be more accepting of the seeming inanity I value.

Finally, the old lady in my house beamed in celebration : the hearing aid was perfect to her 90% deaf ears ! The old one had begun to whistle and feed the sounds of a speeding train into her ears. Now she was back in the connect with her daughter, far-away daughter-in-law, and her young grandchild who murders her mother tongue lovingly because he was brought up with another … the one city folks speak in.

Wishing everybody great health and good fortune through 2013 !

– vamadevananda –

PS : ‎#Delhi recorded minimum temperature of 2.7 degree Celsius at 8.30 am !

          A man on the road below hurried as Pinocchio – Chaplin combine would.

Journal : A Metaphor For India

Kalinjar Fort : An Introduction 

Kalinjar is a sleepy town in Banda district of Uttar Pradesh. But the area is almost an exact metaphor for India, the country itself. It was venerated ground in Vedic times, rose to great prominence and power over a millennium, turned into a refuge for crooks, abductors, killers and kidnappers, and now rests without a meaning, lost and without the animal vigour India’s Prime Minister seeks to infuse in the economy ! 

Information is scarce about the makers of the historically impregnable fort close to the town, as also of those fantastic sculptures in temple-dense Khajuraho some 100 km away. But chronological events about the fort are today available … including the people who lived by it, those it sheltered, invaders it drew, happenings it caused and invited, and the future it affected and shaped. 

Over centuries past, people never ceased to converge on this the hill fort… the high and mighty, learned and aspiring, renunciates and devotees… all would arrive on this huge, desolate plateau among hills, forest and cave dwellings, for pilgrimage, penance, discourse on wide range of facts and discoveries, exchange of personal views and studies, rise to power and live through decline. 

The Neelkanth Temple, cut into solid rock of a mountain slope, precedes the Fort by a few thousands of years it seems and still draws worshipers from far and wide. The entire Fort, massive as it is, came up around the cave temple. 

Historical events that occurred around the Fort often arose with developments far from it… in Deccan and far south in Indian sub-continent; Magadh and Kalinga in east; Saurashtra and Rajputana in west; Delhi, Kannauj, Kashmir and Kabul in north; and Persia, Arabia, Turkey, Mongolia, Tashkent and Samarkand abroad… right up through the reign of Aurangzeb, the last prominent Mughal, when the Fort and neighbouring region was filled with intense frenzy while the Marathas and Bundelas rose to peaks of power and gave way to British occupation in early 19th Century. 

The Fort’s history offers the occasion to glean a comprehensive perspective of what the people of Indian subcontinent lived though over the ages… how they grew with their genius and lost under those of inferior stock, how they sustained their beliefs and fought with forces unleashed from within and abroad. 

A fascinating and absorbing account of about 2000 years … 

* * * 

Representing a history entire in itself, Kalinjar Fort in Bundelkhand is a story that runs through 6000 generations in immediate past alone. You cannot think of it without the convergence it includes of people and events from a rather wide world that arrived at it. It is too much of history, we note in astonishment, with far too many people of all kinds to be converging on this quiet forested periphery of one the oldest mountain ranges on earth – the Vindhyas ! What economic and political significance did the region acquire to foster such legendary architecture as can be still be found in Kalinjar and nearby ruins from antiquity ? What we observe accentuates our wonder of that intangible bundle of happenings wrapped within an immense scale of time. The exquisite temples and irreplaceable sculptures at Khajuraho, mere 100 km away, never fail to cast its awe upon us. 

One may imagine the culture the region spawned over the centuries as the sub-continental civilisation itself evolved from its Vedic roots to the age of rich breakaway ideals offered by Jainism and Buddhism, through Greek infusions, Maurya nationalism and peace, the Golden era of mighty Guptas, through Hun, Shaka and Muslim invasions, Adi Shankar’s spectacular monism, Turk and Mughal domination, beautiful lyrics of devotion and rare philosophical texts by a series of exponents and savants, and spirited people movements that rose during the British period. The art we observe today is perhaps a tiny remnant of a pervasive phenomenon and the remarkable political stalwarts embody multitudes of endowed bravehearts, even as the battlefield came to be prevailed over by more devastating guns, canon and artillery. 

The Fort is principally associated with the Chandels who reigned high from 10th to 13th Century and minimally up towards the end of 16th Century. The cultural seat of Chandel kings was in that fantastically temple – dense “city” of Khajuraho. But the “Kalinjara” connection is with a stream of influx, back from the Kalchuris who might have been involved in some of the grand carvings in Elephanta and Ellora caves, the Rashtrakuts of Deccan, to Gujarat Parmars, Kannauj Pratihars and Chauhans, Vijaynagar empire, Mughals, Afghans, the English, the armed rebellions against British occupation and for Indian independence, and to Mahatma Gandhi. It takes the wind out of me, the heart brimming with humanity. 

The Kalinjar Fort was a fortress with unparalleled strength, much culture and uncounted wealth. Together with its twin fort at Ajaigarh, Kalinjar formed a formidable line of defence against attacks from the north. In 1019, Mahmud of Ghazni ravaged much of north and west India but had to turn back from Kalinjar on account of difficulties it posed and the opposition he encountered. The year 1022 saw a repeat, with Ghazni having to remain content with a few gifts from the Chandel ruler of Kalinjar, but without the keys to the Fort itself. 

In its heydays, it is said that the Fort was ‘ a frightening embodiment of Hindu power.’ The most significant place within the Fort, still extant, is the Neelkanth (Shiva) Temple. The wide platform in front of its small entrance includes a mandapa, with proud pillars that still stand, but which is now without a roof. All around it are priceless, ancient rock cut relics and carvings. 

It is certain that had the Kalinjar Fort fallen to Ghazni’s plunder, Khajuraho and its priceless expressions of art, its liberal thought and architecture, would not have survived. The irony is that Khajuraho, which the Fort shielded, is a thriving well-promoted tourist hub today while Kalinjar is a gray area, seldom appreciated, rarely remembered and infrequently visited by connoisseurs of history, art, architecture and defence strategy. 

The Chandel supremacy was constantly under challenge since early medieval period and its kings had to face assaults from rulers of Kannauj in their north-west, Malwa in the west, the Chalukyas and Rashtrakuts in south and south-west, the Pals in the east, and of Kalinga in south-east. But the survival of Chēdi–Kalchuris lineage – the Chandels, through a millenium in such hostile environment, with their own dateline, currency and administrative institutions, speaks a lot for their commitment to the dominion and of their capability of shoring up order and security in the region to allow for pastoral and agricultural occupations, crafts and trade, arts and culture. 

Towards their end, when the Chandel dominion had shrunk to a few districts in the neighbourhood, the forts at Kalinjar and Ajaigarh were still with them before the last of their line of kings was finally submerged in the waves of history that saw attacks by the Gonds … because the reigning Gond king wanted the hand of the Chandel princess ! Onslaughts of Afghan and Mughal armies followed, before the rise of Raja Chhatrasal and the sway of Maratha power, and its occupation by the British until India’s independence in 1947. 

Today, the Fort is at peace. The battles have ended and the two old forts are gradually fading, much like old soldiers of yore. 

In popular hearsay that survives, it is said that the Queen’s Palace in Kalinjar Fort precincts stills fills with spooky sounds at night, of ankle trinkets specially worn by courtesans and danseuse while they performed before a gathering of eminent persons invited by the royals for an evening of art, joy and pleasure ! 

* * *

I might continue this fascinating tale …