Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Can lost Hindu empires be recovered?

One of the common misconceptions about Hinduism is that it is an India-specific religion. Indeed it is true that Hinduism and the Vedanta philosophy originated in India and even today a vast majority of the followers of the religion are Indians; emigration and migration in the last couple of centuries and the universal appeal of Vedanta have made people recognize the fact that it is a global religion with a worldwide following.

Even historically, Hinduism was never an India-specific religion. Ancient Hindu idols have been discovered in places as far as central Asia. However, for a variety of reasons, Hinduism got erased from most of the places which lay to the west of India.

But in Indonesia, where Hinduism flourished in style and in substance, it continues to maintain its presence even today – reminding us of its past glory and global appeal.

How Hinduism was introduced in Indonesia:

Records of foreign trade with Indonesia exist from the early AD centuries. Consequently, it was earlier thought that Hinduism was introduced to Indonesia through traders arriving from India.

However, recent discoveries of Sanskrit transcriptions in places like eastern Kalimantan, a considerable distance from the international trade route, and also in western Java have given rise to a new theory that it was introduced to the Indonesian islands through rishis and their Indian and Indonesian disciples.

References in Balinese literature about Pura Pucak Raung (in the Eastern Javanese district of Glenmore), where Maharishi Markandeya is said to have visited and gathered followers, further bolster this claim.

Local Influence:

But as is common with most of the religions, Hinduism in Indonesia (known formally as "Agama Hindu Dharma" in Bahasa Indonesia) got influenced with local beliefs, customs and traditions and developed a distinctly Indonesian flavor.

It shares all the main beliefs of Hinduism like a belief that all of the Gods are manifestations of the Supreme Being, belief in the Trimurti of Brahma, Vishnu (Wisnu), Mahesh (Ciwa) representing the creator, preserver and destroyer roles of the Supreme Being, belief in sacred texts of Vedas, Puranas and Itihassas etc.

However it lacks the traditional Hindu emphasis on cycles of rebirth and reincarnation, but instead is greatly influenced by the Chinese and Eastern Asian concept of ancestral spirits. Brahmins are regarded as the prestigious class but instead of being affiliated with any temple, they act as spiritual leaders and advisers to individual families.

Hindu Kingdoms:

Being accepted as an Indonesian religion, Hinduism is reflected in early Indonesian polity as well. Various Hindu kingdoms began to emerge in the main islands of Java and Sumatra. Most notable amongst them are Srivijaya and Majapahit which flourished to become empires and influenced the events of the region.

Srivijaya Kingdom:

Srivijaya kingdom was based in Palembang, in the island of Sumatra. Accounts of its origins vary from 200 AD to 500 AD. But mainly from 7th century AD, it appears in contemporary Chinese and other trade records as an important maritime Indonesian kingdom.

Srivijaya established suzerainty over large areas of Sumatra, western Java and much of the Malay Peninsula. Dominating the Malacca and Sunda straits, it controlled both the spice route traffic and local trade, charging a toll on passing ships. Serving as an entrepôt for Chinese, Malay, and Indian markets, the port of Palembang, accessible from the coast by way of a river, accumulated great wealth.

In 903 AD, a Muslim writer Ibn Rustah was so impressed with the wealth of Srivijaya’s ruler that he declared one would not hear of a king who was richer, stronger or with more revenue. Srivijaya also maintained close relations with the Pala Empire in Bengal and an 860 AD inscription records that the maharaja of Srivijaya dedicated a monastery at the Nalanda University in Pala territory.

Fall of the Srivijaya Kingdom: Relations with the Chola dynasty of southern India were initially friendly but deteriorated into actual warfare in the eleventh century. Although Srivijaya managed to survive Chola invasion and conquest, it got gravely weakened, lost its regional hegemony and gave rise to formation of small kingdoms. As the decline went further, Islam made its way to the Aceh region of Sumatra.

In 13th century, the kingdom of Pasai in northern Sumatra converted to Islam putting further pressure on Srivijaya. In 1365 AD, Srivijaya was conquered by the Hindu Majapahit Empire from Java. A rebellion in 1377 AD was squashed down by Majapahit, but left the area of Southern Sumatra in chaos and desolation giving further impetus to the growth of Islam.

By 1402 AD, Parameswara, the last prince of Srivijaya who had fled Palembang after being defeated by Majapahits, married a Muslim princess of Pasai and founded a kingdom on the Malay Peninsula. In 1414 AD, at the age of 70 he himself converted to Islam declaring his kingdom as the ‘Sultanate of Malacca’.

Other Hindu Kingdoms: During the same time period some other Hindu kingdoms like Sailendra and Singhasari existed on the island of Java. Some of the magnificent Hindu and Buddhist temples in Southeast Asia are built-in that time frame.

The Borobudur temple complex, in honor of Mahayana Buddhism, contains 2,000,000 cubic feet of stone and includes 27,000 square feet of stone bas-relief. Shiva’s great temple is less than 50 miles away at Prambanan.

Majapahit Empire:

Based in eastern Java in since 1293 AD, Majapahit was the last Hindu empire in Indonesia. It reached its height in the mid-14th century under King Hayam Wuruk (1350AD-89AD) and his Prime Minister Gajah Mada.

The New Year ceremony during the Majapahit era was a major religious ceremony which used to be attended by Indian scholars as well. Thus in one of the inscriptions, the poet asserts that the only famous countries in the world were Java and India because both contained many religious experts! However, after the death of Hayam Wuruk, the kingdom grew internally weaker due to family feuds and found itself unable to control the rising power of the Sultanate of Malacca.

Finally in 1478, Brawijaya the last Majapahit ruler converted to Islam. The last remaining courtsmen of Majapahit were forced to withdraw eastward. A large number of courtiers, artisans, priests, and Hindu members of the royalty moved east to the island of Bali at the end of Majapahit’s existence; where they remained isolated before being colonized by the Dutch.

Conversion to Islam:

In both Java and Sumatra, as the royalty converted to Islam, the citizens followed suit. And although many cultural aspects of the religion were preserved, Hinduism ceased to exist as a major spiritual force after being the main Indonesian religion for centuries.

This is undoubtedly a major event in the history of Hinduism and should be studied and understood in great detail by all those who love this ancient continuous tradition. It would reveal the conditions and reasons behind the downfall of Hinduism from one of its strongholds and might prove as a guidance to avoid such circumstances elsewhere in the future.

Hindus Renaissance and Challenges:

Preserved by Balinese Hindus through their turbulent history, Hinduism is experiencing a revival in all parts of Indonesia in the recent times. While many Javanese had retained aspects of their indigenous and Hindu traditions through the centuries of Islamic influence, under the banner of ‘Javanist religion’ (kejawen), no more than a few isolated communities upheld Hinduism as the primary mark of their public identity.

Even officially identifying their religion as Hinduism was not a legal possibility for Indonesians until 1962 AD, when it became the fifth state-recognized religion. This recognition was initially sought by Balinese religious organizations and granted for the sake of Bali, where the majority was Hindu.

The largest of these organizations, Parisada Hindu Dharma Bali, changed its name to P.H.D. Indonesia (PHDI) in 1964, reflecting subsequent efforts to define Hinduism as a national rather than just a Balinese affair. Religious identity became a life and death issue for many Indonesians around the same time as Hinduism gained recognition, namely in the wake of the violent anti-Communist purge of 1965-66.

Persons lacking affiliation with a state recognized-religion tended to be classed as atheists and hence as communist suspects. Despite the inherent disadvantages of joining a national religious minority, a deep concern for the preservation of their traditional ancestral religious practices made Hinduism a more palatable option than Islam for several ethnic groups in the outer islands.

In the early seventies, the Toraja people of Sulawesi island were the first to realize this opportunity by seeking shelter for their indigenous religious practices under the broad umbrella of ‘Hinduism’, followed by the Karo Batak of Sumatra in 1977 and the Ngaju Dayak of Kalimantan in 1980. The rate of conversion (or re-conversion) to Hinduism accelerated dramatically during and after the collapse of former President Suharto’s authoritarian regime in 1998.

For some Indonesians this return to the ‘religion of Majapahit‘ was a matter of nationalist pride. PHDI, in an annual report claims the ‘Hindu congregation’ (umat hindu) of East Java province to have grown by 76,000 souls in 1999 alone.

Temple Reconstruction:

Apart from political environment, socio-economic factors also contributed to this trend. In the last few decades, especially after being formally recognized as an official Indonesian religion, some of the ancient Hindu temples are being revived in Indonesia with the generous donations from wealthy Balinese Hindus.

Surge in the number of households proclaiming themselves as the followers of Hinduism has been seen around these revived temples. Prominent among them include Pura (temple) Blambangan in the regency of Banyuwangi completed around 1978, Pura Mandaragiri Sumeru Agung, located on the slope of Mt Sumeru, Java’s highest mountain completed in 1992 and recently completed Pura Loka Moksa Jayabaya in the village of Menang near Kediri and Pura Pucak Raung in the Eastern Javanese district of Glenmore. Similar resurgence was observed around major archaeological remains of ancient Hindu temple sites in Trowulan near Mojokerto. Economically, the newly built temples have brought new prosperity to local populations.

Apart from employment in the building, expansion, and repair of the temple itself, a steady stream of Balinese pilgrims to this now nationally recognized temple has led to the growth of a sizeable service industry. In the recent international environment, pondering on the secret to the economic success of their Balinese neighbors, several local inhabitants have also concluded that Hindu culture may be more conducive to the development of an international tourism industry.

What the future holds:Contributed by all these factors, a slow yet certain revival of Hinduism in Indonesia is observed. However, it also should be noted that simultaneously, a steady increase in the number of Wahabi mosques funded by Saudi oil money has contributed to the increased radicalization of Southeast Asian Muslim populace. It would be interesting to see how the Hindu revival movement proceeds under such circumstances in future.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Mounting Bangladeshi Muslim infiltration – a grave concern for India

Infiltrators aren’t economic exiles

The two unstable Islamic countries flanking India have emerged as the Al Qaeda's staging posts. While Pakistan has been the epicentre of terrorism since the early 1980s, the emergence of Bangladesh as an extension of a global terror network pose serious challenges to the world, particularly India.

Though the terrorist groups targeting India (there is a hardly any difference between such groups and others with a global agenda) continue to be inspired by terrorist leaders based in Pakistan and Afghanistan, Bangladesh is where they meet, learn techniques of bomb making and collaborate for terrorist actions in India.

While the world is focussed on Pakistan's tribal areas and North-West Frontier Province as an Al Qaeda-Taliban Emirate, the Bangladesh terror network's emergence and growing power remains largely unnoticed.

This impression needs to be corrected without delay. Before September 11, 2001, no one really took seriously India's struggles to cope with an externally-aided and abetted terrorism. Pakistan, despite a huge evidence of its complicity in promoting terrorism, remained on the blind side of the Western nations, particularly the US, which, till recently, considered it as a 'strategic ally' in the war on terrorism.

Today, it is widely acknowledged that Pakistan has become global headquarters of terrorism. Similarly, Bangladesh is fast becoming a major centre of outsource for this grand coalition of terror groups which are facing intense heat in West Asia and Afghanistan.

Bangladesh has become host to various terrorist groups anxious to recruit and train young students coming out of these madarsas. One of the more prominent ones is Harkat-ul-jihad al-Islami (HuJI), widely regarded as the Al Qaeda's operating arm in South Asia. HuJI has been consolidating its position in Bangladesh where it boasts a membership of more than 15,000 activists, of whom at least 2,000 are "hardcore".

Led by Shawkat Osman (alias Sheikh Farid) in Chittagong, the group has at least six training camps in Bangladesh. According to one report, about 3,500 Bangladeshis had gone to Pakistan and Afghanistan to take part in jihad. Barring 34 who died, a large number of them returned home; of these, about 500 form the backbone of HuJI.

What should be of immediate concern to regional nations and the West (in particular the US) is, irrespective of the absence of sustained links between Islamic groups like HT, JeI and terrorist organisations, they essentially share the same ideology and anti-Western agenda. In Pakistan, the Al-Qaeda has been quite successful in co-opting various religious and sectarian groups to work for the larger "cause" of global terror. In Bangladesh such networking could be easier, making this small, impoverished country a potential sanctuary for Al Qaeda clones like HuJI.

For India, HuJI presents a clear and immediate danger. But even Indian authorities ignored the emerging evidence of HuJI's footprints. The group's activities in India were first noticed in August 1999 when four HuJI activists were detained in Guwahati -- two of them were from Pakistan, one from Kashmir and another from Muzzaffarnagar in Uttar Pradesh. Their interrogations revealed a cache of explosives -- 34 Kg of RDX -- hidden in a Bangladesh mosque and the recruitment of young immigrant Muslims in Assam. But it was the attack on the American Centre in Kolkata on January 22, 2002 that uncovered the growing linkages of HuJI-B within India.

Investigators found HuJI-B's links with a local group called Asif Reza Commando Force (ARCF) formed by illegal Bangladeshi migrants living in Assam and West Bengal with the help of HuJI-B and Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) activists.

Another clear evidence of HuJI's strength and alliances was revealed when a suicide bomber walked into Hyderabad's Special Task Force office on October 12, 2005, and detonated a pressure-activated bomb carried in a backpack. Investigations pointed to a joint operation by cadres of the Jaish-e-Mohammed, HuJI and LeT. Two months later, Delhi Police detained three HuJI-B militants involved in the Hyderabad attack who said they were trained at ISI-run camp in Balochistan and were sent to India to target Bangalore and Hyderabad.

The series of terrorist attacks, beginning with Varanasi (March 7, 2006), besides numerous arrests of terrorists, their supporters and seizure of weapons and explosives, exposed the contours of a grand merger of various extremist and terrorist groups and organisations within India. Of the two terrorists shot down within hours of the Varanasi explosions, one was a LeT commander in Lucknow, while the second a HuJI activist from Bangladesh living in Delhi.

This alliance could not have operated across the country without extensive local support provided often by SIMI and other small, less-known outfits. The terrorist coalition utilises the support base to plan and execute terrorist operations, besides planning a safe exit. This support base in many areas like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar rely on modules set up by ISI for gathering intelligence on Indian strategic assets.

Madarsas have also been used in providing the logistics in the past and continue to do so but more covertly than in the past. The groups seek out rooms to rent out in outlying colonies or in crowded areas where they could remain anonymous; in many cases they have set up small businesses to merge into the crowd. The objective of this coalition of terror is to create political upheaval in India.

The fast emerging linkages between LeT, SIMI and HuJI (and Jamaitul Mujahideen Bangladesh) depict the contours of a pan-Islamist network in Asia, linking groups operating in Iraq and Afghanistan to Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and several south Asian countries like Indonesia.

Monday, June 27, 2011

A True Assessment of Breaking India

This book has an eerie cover image taken from, showcasing a map of the Indic region wherein its northern part stretching up to Assam is depicted in green as Mughalistan — Pakistan and Bangladesh included. The southern parts are called Dalitstan and Dravidistan. For the authors, such a holocaustic scenario seems a distinct possibility unless the process is immediately halted and neutralised.

Rajiv Malhotra and Aravindam Neelakandan expose three strands operating in contemporary India — Islamic radicalism, Maoist and Marxist activism, and Dravidian and Dalit identity politics — all engaged in systematically breaking up what the venerable Ram Swarup called a “shrinking and shrunken” India.

This book, however, deals only with the third dimension related to the Dravidian/Dalit ‘studies’, the ridiculous Afro-Dalit project that seeks to showcase the Dalits as ‘Blacks’ of India and non-Dalits as ‘Whites’. It also exposes the hypocritical roles of various American/European academic institutions and evangelical organisations, besides the NGOs and their collaborators in the media.

The entire gamut of the mechanism and ‘ideology’ to break the country is exposed in 19 well-researched chapters. “Breaking civilisation”, the authors say, is “like breaking the spine of a person. A broken civilisation can splinter, and the balkanised regions can undergo a dark metamorphosis.”

The book suggests that the Western imperialists have sought to undermine India by both ideological and institutional means. They used the Aryan invasion theory (now discredited), the Criminal Tribes Act 1871, caste-based Census, Indological studies, etc, to divide and rule the country. Surprisingly, while the British abandoned the caste-wise enumeration after a while, the present UPA Government has resumed it!

Despite criticism of Orientalists like Max Müller, Johann Gottfried von Herder, etc, for their loyalties towards Christian evangelists, several Indologists were also admirers of India’s ancient Hindu texts and civilisation. They stood apart from those during the Islamic rule, who merely destroyed/vandalised much of the country’s Hindu-Buddhist heritage. The presence of people like William Jones, despite their evangelical biases, along with the establishment of the Asiatic Society and the Archaeological Survey of India, helped restore the country’s past that contributed to the emergence of national consciousness. It would, therefore, be wrong to tar every strand of European scholarship with one brush.

The chapter, ‘Imperial Evangelism Shapes Indian Ethnology’, examines the true character of HH Risley (ICS), often projected by the less discerning as a “brilliant anthropologist”. He comes out as one who “morphed” jati-varna into a racial category. The authors cite BR Ambedkar convincingly demolishing the spurious racist theory based on the nasal index. “The measurements establish that the Brahmins and the untouchables belong to the same race. From this it follows that if the Brahmins are Aryans, the untouchables are also Aryans. If the Brahmins are Dravidians, the untouchables are Dravidians,” Ambedkar said.

The politics of Dravidian separatism gets more than six chapters. ‘Seminal’ contributions of evangelist-propagandist intellectuals like Brian Houghton Hodgson and Bishop Caldwell in creating an unhistorical divide between the Aryan north and the non-Aryan south are well explained. In this mischievous invention of Dravidian separatism, evangelists sought to de-Indianise and de-Hinduise the Tamil traditions. They distorted ancient Tamil texts like Thirukural and Shaiva Siddhanta by attributing them to Christianity. Though rejected by other Christian scholars of that time, it has been revived in our times by evangelical movements, aided and abetted by racist politicians in the country. In reality, all Shaivite hymns written in Tamil speak of Shiva as residing in the Himalayas.

The authors err in blaming only Pakistan for fomenting terror in India, overlooking the home-grown Islamic separatists/terrorists. Long before Pakistan was created, large tracts of the country had been Islamised/Arabised and massive conversion to Islam accomplished; moreover, Pakistan was created by “Muslim Indians”. Islamic jihad has been operating in India long before Western/evangelical intervention, and with much greater ferocity and success. Both the “Godhra carnage” and the “Babri demolition” are inadequately explained in historical terms.

The authors blame scholars like Martha Nussbaum, Lice McKean, Romila Thapar, Meera Nanda, Angana Chatterji, Christophe Jafferlot and Gail Omvedt for floating many academically unsound ideas that would strengthen anti-India forces. The book also exposes the dark sides of the American Government, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, the United States Agency for International Development, Ford Foundation, Dalit Solidarity Network (UK) and many others. It is a fact that most ‘glorified’ scholars in social sciences have strong anti-Hindu and anti-India biases. India’s Nehruvian, pan-Islamic revivalists, Leftists and subaltern scholar-propagandists have long been party to this unholy alliance, and many of them are funded through the public exchequer.

The authors rightly assert that “the colonial constructs of previous centuries have transformed themselves subtly, yet persistently, today” and turned more radical than before through “institutional mechanism and networks”. After all, these academicians have “become tools in facilitating strategic Western interventions”. The book, however, fails to see that the Nehruvian state system with its blatant anti-Hindu bias was no less a culprit.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Doesn’t USA know where ISI-led Pakistan is heading?

India must get tough with Pakistan to save kith and kin

While promoting terrorism abroad has been the trademark of Pakistan’s military establishment, new skeletons are tumbling out of the ISI’s cupboard, revealing the horrors perpetrated by its torture and assassination networks within the country. The ‘tell-all’ book titled Inside Al Qaeda and the Taliban: Beyond Bin Laden and 9/11, written by journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad, widely believed (even within Pakistan) to have been bumped off by the ISI, has been banned in that country.

Shahzad made some startling revelations to an American television network virtually hours before he was abducted. He revealed that even before the 9/11 terrorist strikes, there were formal agreements between the ISI on the one hand and the Taliban and Al Qaeda on the other. Moreover, just after 9/11, the then Director-General of the ISI, Lieutenant General Mehmood Ahmed, assured both Mullah Omar and Osama bin Laden in Kandahar that Pakistan would neither mount operations against their organisations nor would it arrest them.

Given these assurances, it is not surprising that Mullah Omar, Osama bin Laden and their supporters and armed cadre crossed the Durand Line and were given haven in Pakistan. Some second ranking Al Qaeda leaders were, however, targeted when they were suspected of involvement in attempts to assassinate General Pervez Musharraf in December 2003. Shahzad asserts that the “Pakistani Army has always been closely allied with Islamist forces”, adding that mutinies from within the Army’s ranks were always possible in the event of major operations in future against Al Qaeda and Taliban sanctuaries.

While the Islamist propensities of significant sections the Pakistani Army establishment are well known, what is now emerging is that support for Islamic extremism is also significantly prevalent in the Pakistani Air Force and Navy. The recent attack on the Mehran naval base in Karachi, during which US-supplied reconnaissance aircraft were destroyed, has revealed the extent to which radical Islamist elements have infiltrated the Pakistani Navy.

Even more widespread has been the infiltration of radical Islamist elements into the Pakistani Air Force, including into the Chaklala air base near Rawalpindi where US-supplied transport aircraft are based. Airmen from this base were involved in an attempt to assassinate Gen Musharraf in 2003. The links of the Pakistani Air Force with Al Qaeda go back to 1996 when a senior PAF officer, Mushaf Al Mir, known to be close to Islamist elements in the ISI, entered into a pact with Al Qaeda leader Abu Zubayada, promising the supply of arms.

Interestingly, while elements from Saudi Arabia were evidently supportive of this deal, Mushaf Ali Mir, who later became the chief of Pakistan’s Air Force, died in a mysterious air crash while on official duty in a PAF aircraft on February 20, 2003. Three Saudi Princes associated with Air Chief Marshal Mir’s 1996 deal with Al Qaeda died in similarly mysterious circumstances shortly thereafter. Interestingly, the mysterious deaths of Mir and the Saudi Princes occurred after both Gen Musharraf and the Saudi monarchy had become averse to Al Qaeda influence in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

The malaise of Islamic radicalism has also spread to Pakistan’s nuclear establishment. AQ Khan, infamous for his rabid references to “Hindu treachery”, was a major player in moves to transfer nuclear weapons capabilities to Iran, Saudi Arabia and Libya. Bhutto himself described Pakistan’s quest for nuclear weapons as his country’s contribution to “Islamic civilisation”. These sentiments are shared by senior Pakistani nuclear scientists like Sultan Bashiruddin Mehmood who, along with his colleague Abdul Majeed, was detained shortly after the terrorist strikes of 9/11 for helping Al Qaeda to obtain nuclear and biological weapons capabilities.

Mehmood openly voiced support for the Taliban and publicly advocated transfer of nuclear weapons to the whole ummah (Muslim community worldwide). Two other Pakistani scientists, Suleiman Asad and Al Mukhtar, wanted for questioning about suspected links with Osama bin Laden, disappeared in Myanmar. The million dollar question is: Did they disappear into the territory of Pakistan’s ‘all-weather friend’ and partner in proliferation, China? The malaise of Islamic radicalism runs deep across Pakistan’s entire security establishment — civilian and military.

The roots of this radicalisation can be traced back to the days when the US and other Western countries backed Pakistani military dictator General Zia-ul-Haq to the hilt. It was Gen Zia who ushered in a new era of Islamisation, bigotry and blasphemy laws targeting minorities, together with nurturing radical, armed Islamic groups, bent on waging jihad across the world. Officers recruited in his era are today three-star Generals and the Army is largely motivated by the ideology of the “Quranic Concept of War” articulated by his protégé Brigadier (later Major General) SK Malik. Describing anyone who stands in the way of jihad as an “aggressor”, he held that “the aggressor is always met and destroyed in his own country”.

Maj Gen Malik also had a unique view of the concept of ‘terror’. According to him, “Terror struck into the heart of the enemy is not only a means. It is an end in itself. Once a condition of terror into the opponent’s heart is obtained, hardly anything is left to be achieved. Terror is not a means of imposing a decision upon the enemy, it is the decision we wish to impose on him. It is a point where the means and end merge”. This is precisely what was sought to be ‘imposed’ on the ill-fated people killed in Mumbai on 26/11.

Despite evidence that the ISI recently passed on operational intelligence received from the CIA to terrorist groups, both the US and the UK are making conscious efforts to gloss over the ISI-terrorist nexus. The British are realising that in their desire to be pro-active across the world as America’s most “loyal ally”, they have been punching above their weight. Moreover, the greatest threat to internal security in the UK comes from nationals of Pakistani origin, motivated and trained in terrorist safe havens in Pakistan. Britain seeks to appease Pakistan to facilitate an early withdrawal from Afghanistan and secure ISI cooperation for internal security.

The Americans evidently believe that Pakistan has to be kept in reasonably good humour, at least for the present, to achieve larger strategic objectives. In these circumstances, India has to shed illusions that the Pakistani military establishment can be persuaded to discard the use of terrorism as an instrument of state policy by sweet words and ‘composite dialogue.’

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Learn how Communal and Targeted Violence Bill penalizes Hindus

Being charred to death in a train compartment transformed into a raging inferno by a violent, baying pyromanaical mob reeking with animosity would certainly codify one as a victim of communal violence by any lexicographic criterion (Godhra 2002). But not if you happen to be a Hindu, the majority community, you do not, according to the Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence Bill, 2011.

As per the bill, a 'victim' is not a stand alone descriptor but includes a modifier of 'belonging to a group as defined under this Act'.

And a 'group' the bill stipulates is "a religious or linguistic minority, in any state in the Union of India, or Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes within the meaning of clauses (24) and (25) of Article 366 of the Constitution of India."

This restrictive definition of victim hood with its deliberate and manipulative syntax smacks of a furtive agenda to tilt the scales in favor a specific community at the cost of the majority and violates the basic tenet of equality before the law.

Additionally by co-opting a minority status into the definition of victim hood, this bill makes the fallacious assumption that members of the majority are immune to sectarian violence and do not warrant specific legal intervention: a fantastic and unrealistic claim that jars with realty.

While an affirmative action type of approach maybe valid in countries with homogenous populations where the minority and majority communities fit into typical molds, such a proposition may not hold good for an overwhelmingly pluralistic India.

A diversity of manifold traits splashed against the backdrop of a contentious history with discordant power equations has created a complex land where a numerical majority does not automatically translate into functional advantage and security. Demographic logistics often reduce a so-called majority community into a minority and vice-versa making such labels meaningless.

For example, in pre-partition India, Hindus comprised 70 percent of the population making them numerically a majority. Yet this perceived advantage did not protect them from becoming the victims of what is arguably the worst communal fracas in the history of the subcontinent -- the massacre at Noakhali in 1946: over 5,000 Hindus were butchered, hundreds of women were raped and thousands more were forcibly converted to Islam.

Closer to recent times is the plight of the Kashmiri Hindus. Nearly a quarter million Kashmiri Hindus have been driven out of their homes permanently negating the hypothesis that a majority identity guarantees security.

The misfortune of the Kashmiri Hindus has failed to evoke the appropriate response that such a horrendous atrocity should elicit thanks to a warped mindset prevalent in certain sections of our society that consistently underplays atrocities committed against the majority community. It is this same twisted thought process that is the driving force behind this flawed bill.

The aphorism justice is blind is meant to emphasise the non-partisan nature of law. An ideal bill should endorse a uniform code of conduct that is universally applicable in the setting of communal conflict making no distinction between Hindu, Muslim, Sikh and Christian. The present draft, a complete anti-thesis of an ideal instrument, needs to be scrapped.

Finally the million dollar question: Do we need such a bill at all? Are additional stringent laws the answer or are we barking up the wrong tree?

Scholars postulate that paucity of adequate laws is not what fuels communal violence. Paul R Brass, Professor of Political Science and International Studies at the University of Washington, Seattle and Steven Wilkinson, Nilekani Professor of India and South Asian Studies, Yale University implicate political delinquency as the cardinal culprit.

In his book, The Production of Hindu-Muslim Violence in Contemporary India (University of Washington Press, 2000), Paul Brass concludes: "while there are demographic, economic, and caste/communal differences that distinguish the populations in such localities, it is political activity, organization and leadership that demarcate most clearly the riot-prone or riot-affected from the less affected localities."

Steven Wilkinson concurs with the concept of political complicity. In an article titled Communal Riots in India (Economic and Political Weekly. October 29, 2005) he remarks: "What causes communal riots in contemporary India? In my book Votes and Violence(2005), I argue that politicians both cause them and, more importantly, have the power to prevent them, through their control of the state governments responsible for law and order."

Furthermore in his book, Wilkinson specifically indicts the Congress Party which masquerades as the high priest of secular values: "at one time or another, Congress politicians have both fomented and prevented communal violence for political advantage. Congress governments have failed, for example, to prevent some of India's worst riots (e g, the Ahmedabad riots of 1969, the Moradabad riots of 1980, and the Meerut riots of 1987) and in some cases Congress ministers have reportedly instigated riots…"

Ashutosh Varshney (Ethnic Confict and Civic Life, Yale University Press, 2003) is of the contention that forging bonds at the level of civil society could be the great game changer: "If vibrant organisations serving the economic, cultural, and social needs of the two communities exist, the support for communal peace not only tends to be strong but it can also be more solidly expressed."

The panacea for communal discord therefore lies in exacting accountability from our political leaders and championing efforts to bring one and all into the mainstream erasing suspicion and distrust that stems from parochial schools and segregated neighborhoods.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Islam has no Respect for Women

Earlier this month police in Pakistan arrested several men for stripping a middle-aged woman naked and parading her in a village after one of the offenders accused her son of having illicit relations with his wife. The BBC's Aleem Maqbool travelled to the north of the country - where the incident happened - to find out more about a case which has shocked most Pakistanis.

"That day, I had no idea anything was wrong," says Shahnaz Bibi.

She had been at home in the village of Neelor Bala in northern Pakistan. Her husband was away in the city of Lahore where he worked as a driver.

She is clear and determined as she recounts details of her assault.

"I suddenly heard people smash the front door, they were shouting," she says. "They asked my 11-year-old son where I was and of course he told them."

Shahnaz Bibi says four men, armed with pistols and rifles, burst into her room. She says she knew them all as members of the same family, and as neighbours.

"Before I knew what was happening they tied my wrists and pushed me hard out into the lane, abusing me and sometimes throwing me to the ground," she says.

"They dragged me to an open plot of land. There, they tore off all of my clothes.

"For a full hour they pushed me around and paraded me naked. I cried and pleaded with them but they wouldn't listen and they kept beating me."

Shahnaz Bibi says that very soon the entire village was watching.


"Men, women and children were all there, but nobody came forward to help. Nobody even tried to cover me up," she says.

"One of the men was holding up a rifle and saying that if anyone came forward, he would kill them, so one came near me the whole time, but everyone was just standing around watching the drama.

"In between abusing me and pushing me and exposing me, the men were telling me my son had had an affair with a girl from their family. I knew nothing about it."

All Shahnaz Bibi says she knew before the assault was that a woman in the village was getting divorced. What she says she did not realise was that her son was accused of being the reason behind it.

Police say there had been a meeting of some of the men of the village to sanction the divorce, and that it was immediately after that meeting that several of the men rushed to Shahnaz Bibi's home.

"I said they should have discussed it with us, or should have gone to the police about my son if they felt he had done something wrong, but they just wanted to humiliate me."

“Start Quote

I feel ashamed even to show my face to my own brothers and sisters.”

End Quote Shahnaz Bibi

"The whole time I was asking myself why this curse had befallen me from nowhere. What had I done? I was begging them to stop.

"After a long time, they finally left me, pushing me and abusing me more. I ran to my house to put some clothes on."

At this point in telling us what had happened to her, Shahnaz Bibi's voice cracks and she bites her lower lip. Then, after evidently having tried hard to keep her composure, she breaks down in tears as she continues.

"Me and my son were both crying and we ran into the forests outside the village. I was too embarrassed to go home so I slept the night in the forest," she says

"We had no money, so we persuaded a driver to take us far away."

Shahnaz Bibi now says that she can never return to her village. Three days after the attack though, she did come back to the district to see the police.

"You know, not a single person had reported the incident," she says.

"The police registered our case, and thanks to them some of the men are in jail, but others are still on the run. I'm so frightened; any of them or their relatives could kill me for reporting them."

In Pakistan, targeting a woman for the alleged crimes of her family members is not uncommon. There are regular reports of feuds being settled through women being burned with acid, mutilated, raped or even killed.

Pakistan's penal code even has a specific law relating to stripping a woman and exposing her in public. It is punishable by life imprisonment or death.

"I want them punished, though it won't help me much," says Shahnaz Bibi.

"Before all this, I was poor but I had a respectable life, I was happy. But after something like this, my life is finished," she weeps.

"How can I go back to a village where every single person has seen me naked? I feel ashamed even to show my face to my own brothers and sisters."

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Get conscious of Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment Act

The Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment Act of 1951 allows State Governments and piliticians to take over thousands of Hindus Temples and maintain complete control over them and their properties. It is claimed that they can sell the temple assets and properties and use the money in and way they choose.

A charge has been made not by any Temple authority, but by a foreign writer, Stephen Knapp in a book (Crimes Against India and the Need to Protect Ancient Vedic Tradition) published in the United States that makes shocking reading.

Hundreds of temples in centuries past have been built in India by devout rulers and the donations given to them by devotees have been used for the benefit of the (other) people. If, presently, money collected has ever been misused (and that word to be defined), it is for the devotees to protest and not for any government to interfere. This letter is what has been happening currently under an intrusive law.

It would seem, for instance, that under a Temple Empowerment Act, about 43,000 temples in Andhra Pradesh have come under government control and only 18 per cent of the revenue of these temples have been returned for temple purposes, the remaining 82 per cent being used for purposes unstated.

Apparently even the world famous Tirumala Tirupati Temple has not been spared. According to Knapp, the temple collects over Rs. 3,100 crores every year and the State Government has not denied the charge that as much as 85 per cent of this is transferred to the State Exchequer, much of which goes to causes that are not connected with the Hindu community. Was it for that reason that devotees make their offering to the temples? Another charge that has been made is that the Andhra Government has also allowed the demolition of at least ten temples for the construction of a golf course. Imagine the outcry writes Knapp, if ten mosques had been demolished.

It would seem that in Karanataka, Rs. 79 crores were collected from about two lakh temples and from that, temples received Rs seven crores for their maintenance, Muslim madrassahs and Haj subsidy were given Rs. 59 crore and churches about Rs. 13 crore. Very generous of the government.

Because of this, Knapp writes, 25 per cent of the two lakh temples or about 50,000 temples in Karnataka will be closed down for lack of resources, and he adds: The only way the government can continue to do this is because people have not stood up enough to stop it.

Knapp then refers to Kerala where, he says, funds from the Guruvayur Temple are diverted to other government projects denying improvement to 45 Hindu temples. Land belonging to the Ayyappa Temple, apparently has been grabbed and Church encroaches are occupying huge areas of forest land, running into thousands of acres, near Sabarimala.

A charge is made that the Communist state government of Kerala. wants to pass an Ordinance to disband the Travancore & Cochin Autonomous Devaswom Boards (TCDBs) and take over their limited independent authority of 1,800 Hindu temples. If what the author says is true, even the Maharashtra Government wants to take over some 450,000 temples in the state which would supply a huge amount of revenue to correct the states bankrupt conditions.

And to top it all, Knapp says that in Orissa, the state government intends to sell over 70,000 acres of endowment lands from the Jagannath Temple, the proceeds of which would solve a huge financial crunch brought about by its own mismanagement of temple assets.

Says Knapp: Why such occurrences are so often not known is that the Indian media, especially the English television and press, are often anti-Hindu in their approach, and thus not inclined to give much coverage, and certainly no sympathy, for anything that may affect the Hindu community. Therefore, such government action that play against the Hindu community go on without much or any attention attracted to them.

Knapp obviously is on record. If the facts produced by him are incorrect, it is up to the government to say so. It is quite possible that some individuals might have set up temples to deal with lucrative earnings. But that, surely, is none of the governments business? Instead of taking over all earnings, the government surely can appoint local committees to look into temple affairs so that the amount discovered is fairly used for the public good?

Says Knapp: Nowhere in the free, democratic world are the religious institutions managed, maligned and controlled by the government, thus denying the religious freedom of the people of the country. But it is happening in India. Government officials have taken control of Hindu temples because they smell money in them, they recognise the indifference of Hindus, they are aware of the unlimited patience and tolerance of Hindus, they also know that it is not in the blood of Hindus to go to the streets to demonstrate, destroy property, threaten, loot, harm and kill.

Many Hindus are sitting and watching the demise of their culture. They need to express their views loud and clear Knapp obviously does not know that should they do so, they would be damned as communalists. But it is time some one asked the Government to lay down all the facts on the table so that the public would know what is happening behind its back. Robbing Peter to pay Paul is not secularism. And temples are not for looting, under any name. One thought that Mohammad of Ghazni has long been dead.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Holocaust Museum stops Hindu detractors

The massacre of 6 million Jews by Hitler and the persecution that Jews suffered all over the world in the last 15 centuries has been meticulously recorded by Jews themselves after 1945 and has been enshrined not only in history books, but also in Holocaust museums, the most famous one being in Washington DC. It has not been done with a spirit of revenge - look at Israel and Germany today - they are in the best of terms; yet, facts are facts and contemporary Germany had to come to terms with its terrible actions during Second World War.

Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists have suffered also a terrible Holocaust, probably without parallel in human history. Take the Hindu Kush for instance, probably one of the biggest genocides of Hindus. There is practically no serious research ever done about it and no mention in history books. Yet the name Hindu Kush appears many times in the writings of Muslim chroniclers: in 1333 AD Ibn Battutah, the medieval Berber traveller, said the name meant 'Hindu Killer', a meaning still given by Afghan mountain dwellers. Unlike the Jewish holocaust, the exact toll of the Hindu genocide suggested by the name Hindu Kush is not available. “However, writes Hindu Kush specialist Srinandan Vyas, the number is easily likely to be in millions”. Or the beheading of the Sikh Guru Tegh Bahadur, was because he objected to Aurangzeb's forced conversions.

A few known historical figures can be used to justify this estimate. Encyclopaedia Britannica recalls that in December 1398 AD, Timur Lane ordered the execution of at least 50,000 captives before the battle for Delhi; likewise, the number of captives butchered by Timur Lane's army was about 100,000 . Encyclopaedia Britannica again mentions that Mughal emperor Akbar 'ordered the massacre of about 30,000 captured Rajput Hindus on February 24, 1568 AD, after the battle for Chitod, a number confirmed by Abul Fazl, Akbar's court historian. Afghan historian Khondamir notes that during one of the many repeated invasions on the city of Herat in western Afghanistan, which used to be part of the Hindu Shahiya kingdoms “1,500,000 residents perished”. “Thus, writes Vyas, it is evident that the mountain range was named as Hindu Kush as a reminder to the future Hindu generations of the slaughter and slavery of Hindus during the Moslem conquests”.

Or take the recent plight of the Kashmiri Pandits. Over 4 lakh Kashmiri Pandits have been forced to flee their homeland. Many Pandit men, women and children have been brutally murdered. About 70,000 still languish in makeshift refugee camps in Jammu and Delhi. Scores of temples in Kashmir have been desecrated, destroyed, looted, More than 900 educational institutions have been attacked by terrorists. Properties of Pandits have been vandalised, businesses destroyed or taken over, even hospitals have not been spared. Did you know that this huge human tragedy is taking place in Free India? Kashmir was known as "Sharda Peeth" , the abode of learning.

BURNING BOOKS, LOOTING OF CULTURE is also a very important part of the plan, as we have seen during the early Muslim invasions, where the Buddhist centres of learning were ruthlessly burnt and razed to the ground. Kashmir was also the crucible of Knowledge, Spirituality, a hallowed centre of learning and the cradle of Shivaism. Kashmiri Pandits excelled in philosophy, aesthetics, poetics, sculpture, architecture, mathematics, astronomy and astrology. Sanskrit was studied, propagated and spoken by women and men. Scholars and saints such as Kalhan, Jonraj, Srivar, Abhinavgupta, Somanand, Utpaldev, Somdev and Kshemendra created here an intellectual centre of unrivalled repute. Fundamentalism and terrorism have been ruthless in their assault on "Sharda Peeth", zealous in ravaging its heritage, and consistent only in bloodthirsty intolerance. The destruction of Hindu places of worship, forced conversions of Pandits and death and ignominy to those who resisted, were accompanied by a savage assault on literary activity. This process has been going on since centuries.

As a correspondent covering India for more than 20 years, I have witnessed the terrible damage that terrorism in Kashmir has inflicted upon people’s lives, their family, their culture, the very fabric of society, not only of the Kashmiri Pandits, but also of the Muslims of the Valley, who after all, are the victims too of Pakistan’s bloody designs. Hence, with two journalist friends, we started a Foundation: FACT – Foundation Against Continuing Terrorism. The first task of FACT has been to mount an exhibition on terrorism, focussing on the plight of the Kashmiri Pandits, so that the people of India, who do not suffer directly from terrorism understand, what it does to others.

This exhibition, which opened in Habitat Centre, Lodhi Road, New Delhi, on 18th July, was a great success. It was inaugurated by the acting US ambassador, Robert O Blake, and Mr Bitta, Chairman All India Anti Terrorist Front. More than 25.000 people visited the exhibition till its closing day, on 23rd July. Amongst them; L.K. Advani, Deputy PM, Justice Anand, Chairman National Human Rights Commission, Dr Karan Singh, MM Joshi… It was covered by most English and Hindi national newspapers and reported on by Zee News, Star News, Sahara, DD1, ANI, DD2 and NDTV.

The Kashmiri Pandits’ exhibition was inaugurated by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, the founder of the Art of Living Foundation And M..S. Bitta, president of the all India anti terrorist front on 1st September at, at fluid space, Manipal Centre, in the heart of Bangalore city. It was a huge success and it was covered by all major newspapers. The exhibition also traveled to Poland on 10th Sept and to Berlin, at the Asia pacific meet on 15th.

Our aim is manifold: we would like to take the present exhibition all around India and all over the world, particularly the United States, where most symposiums on Kashmir, including some organized by the US State Department, are peopled mostly by Pakistanis, Muslims and US based Indians who are anti-Hindu, such as Angana Chatterjee, who uses Sri Aurobindo’s name to teach anti-Indian stuff in an American university. Then we would like to start another exhibition on forced Christian conversions in the North-East. And ultimately, we would like to build a Hindu/ Sikh/ Buddhist Indian Holocaust Museum based in New Delhi, or in Bangalore. It will record not only the genocide of Hindus Sikhs and Buddhists at the hands of Muslim invaders, but also the terrible persecutions of the Portuguese (hardly mentioned in Indian History books), the British atrocities – nobody knows for instance that 20 millions Indians died of famine between 1815 and 1920, because the English broke the agricultural backbone of India to get raw materials which they needed, cotton, jute etc. We need the support of all of you for this Indian Holocaust Museum.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Anti-Hindu barons in India getting powerful more and more

What’s the secret?

The day I entered Indiraji's household I became an Indian, the rest is just technical -- that is Sonia Gandhi's latest explanation for not having acquired Indian citizenship till fourteen years after her marriage to Rajiv Gandhi.

First the facts. Surya Prakash, the Consulting Editor of The Pioneer, has documented these in detail. Sonia married Rajiv on 25 February, 1968. Under section 5(c) of the Indian Citizenship Act she became eligible to register herself as a citizen of India on 25 February, 1973. She chose to continue as a citizen of Italy. She applied for Indian citizenship only ten years later, on 7 April, 1983.

A foreigner seeking Indian citizenship has to state on oath that he or she has relinquished his or her citizenship of the original country. This requirement was all the more necessary in the case of an Italian citizen: under Italian law, an Italian taking citizenship of another country continues to retain his or her Italian citizenship. Sonia Gandhi's application did not have the requisite statement, nor did it have any official document from the appropriate authorities in Italy. The omission was made up in a curious way: the Ambassador of Italy stepped in, and wrote to the Government saying that Sonia Gandhi had indeed given up her citizenship of Italy. He did so on 27 April, 1983. Sonia got her citizenship forthwith -- on 30 April, 1983.

Another nugget Surya Prakash has unearthed is that while Sonia became a citizen on 30 April, 1983, her name made its way to the electoral rolls as of 1 January, 1980! In response to an objection, it had to be deleted in late 1982. But sure enough, it was put back on the electoral roll as of 1 January, 1983. She hadn't even applied for citizenship till then.

All technicalities! If any ordinary person were to proceed in the same way, he would be up for stern prosecution. Maruti was one of the most odious scandals connected with Mrs Indira Gandhi and her family. The Commission of Inquiry headed by Justice A C Gupta recorded that, though she was at the time a foreigner, Sonia Gandhi secured shares in two of their family concerns: Maruti Technical Services Pvt. Ltd. (in 1970 and again in 1974), and Maruti Heavy Vehicles (in 1974). The acquisition of these shares was in contravention of the very Act that Mrs Gandhi used to such diabolic effect in persecuting her political opponents, the Foreign Exchange Regulation Act, 1973. Just another technicality!

But the Mother of Technicalities, so to say, is to be found in the way Sonia Gandhi, without having any known sources of income, has become the controller of one of the largest empires of property and patronage in Delhi. The Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Library and Museum is one of the principal institutions for research on contemporary Indian history. It is situated in and controls real estate which, because of its historical importance, cannot even be valued. The institution runs entirely on grants from the Government of India. Sonia Gandhi has absolutely no qualification that could by any stretch of imagination entitle her to head the institution: has she secured even an elementary university degree, to say nothing of having done anything that would even suggest some specialization in subjects which the institution has been set up to study. But by mysterious technicalities she is today the head of this institution. So much so that she even decides which scholar may have access to papers -- even official papers -- of Pandit Nehru and others of that family, including, if I may stretch the term, Lady Mountbatten.

Real estate, only slightly less valuable, has been acquired on Raisina Road. The land was meant to house offices of the Congress. A large, ultra-modern building was built -- the finance being provided by another bunch of technical devices which remain a mystery. The building had but to get completed, and Sonia appropriated it for the other Foundation she completely controls -- the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation. The Congress(I) did not just oblige by keeping silent about the takeover of its building, in the very first budget its Government presented upon returning to power, it provided Rs 100 crores to this Foundation. The furore that give-away caused was so great that the largesse had to be canceled. No problem. Business house after business house, even public sector enterprises incurring huge losses, coughed up crores.

The Foundation has performed two principal functions. The projection of Sonia Gandhi. And enticing an array of leaders, intellectuals, journalists etc. into nets of patronage and pelf. But the audacity with which the land and building were usurped and funds raised for this Foundation falls into the second order of smalls when they are set alongside what has been done in regard to the Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts.

This Centre was set up as a trust in 1987 by a resolution of the Cabinet. The Government of India gave Rs. 50 crores out of the Consolidated Fund of India as a corpus fund to this Centre. It transferred 23 acres of land along what is surely one of the costliest sites in the world -- Central Vista, the stretch that runs between Rashtrapati Bhavan and India Gate -- to this Trust. Furthermore, it granted another Rs. 84 crores for the Trust to construct its building.

The land was government land. The funds were government funds. Accordingly, care was taken to ensure that the Trust would remain under the overall control of the Government of India. Therefore, the Deed of the Trust provided, inter alia, Every ten years two-thirds of the trustees would retire. One half of the vacancies caused would be filled by the Government. One half would be filled by nominations made by the retiring trustees.

The Member Secretary of the Trust would be nominated by the Government on such terms and conditions as the Government may decide. The President of India would appoint a committee from time to time to review the working of the Trust, and the recommendations of the committee would be binding on the Trust.

No changes would be made in the deed of the Trust except by prior written sanction of the Government, and even then the changes may be adopted only by three-quarters of the Trustees agreeing to them at a meeting specially convened for the purpose.

Now, just see what technical wonders were performed one fine afternoon.

A meeting like any other meeting of the trustees was convened on 18 May, 1995. The minutes of this meeting which I have before me list all the subjects which were discussed -- the minutes were circulated officially by Dr Kapila Vatsyayan in her capacity as the Director of the Centre with the observation, "The Minutes of this meeting have been approved by Smt Sonia Gandhi, President of the IGNCA Trust."

What did the assembled personages discuss and approve? Even if the topics seem mundane, do read them carefully -- for they contain a vital clue, the Sherlock Holmes clue so to say, about what did not happen.

The minutes report that the following subjects were discussed:

1: Indira Gandhi Memorial Fellowship Scheme and the Research Grant Scheme.
2: Commemoration volume in the memory of Stella Kramrisch.
3: Sale of publications of the IGNCA.
4: Manuscripts on music and dance belonging to the former ruling house of Raigarh in M P
5: Report on the 10th and 11th meetings of the Executive Committee.
6: Approval and adoption of the Annual Report and Annual Accounts, 1993-94.
7: Bilateral and multilateral programmes of IGNCA, and aid from U N agencies, Ford Foundation, Japan Foundation, etc.
8: Brief report on implementation of programmes from April 1994 to March 1995.
9: Brief of initiatives taken by IGNCA to strengthen dialogue between Indian and Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, China.
10: Documentation of cultural heritage of Indo-Christian, Indo-Islamic and Indo-Zoroastrian communities.
11: Gita Govinda project.
12: IGNCA newsletter.
13: Annual Action Plan, 1995-96.
14: Calendar of events. 15: Publications of IGNCA.
15: Matters relating to building project.
16: Allocations/release of funds for the IGNCA building project.

There is not one word in the minutes that the deed of the Trust was even mentioned. This meeting took place on 18 May, 1995. On 30 May, 1995 Sonia Gandhi performed one of technical miracles. She wrote a letter to the Minister of Human Resources informing him of what she said were alterations in the Trust Deed which the trustees had unanimously approved. Pronto, the Minister wrote back, on 2 June, 1995: "I have great pleasure in communicating to you the Government of India's approval to the alterations."

The Minister? The ever-helpful, Madhav Rao Scindia. And wonder of wonders, in his other capacity he had attended the meeting on 18 May as a trustee of the IGNCA, the meeting which had not, according to the minutes approved by Sonia Gandhi, even discussed, far less "unanimously approved" changes in the Trust Deed.

And what were the changes that Sonia Gandhi managed to get through by this collusive exchange of two letters?

  • She became President for life.
  • The other trustees -- two-thirds of whom were to retire every ten years -- became trustees for life. The power of the Government to fill half the vacancies was snuffed out.
  • The power of the Government to appoint the Member Secretary of the Trust was snuffed out; henceforth the Trust would appoint its own Member Secretary.
  • The power of the President of India to appoint a committee to periodically review the functioning of the Trust was snuffed out; neither he nor Government would have any power to inquire into the working of the Trust.

A Government Trust, a Trust which had received over Rs. 134 crores of the tax-payers' money, a Trust which had received twenty three acres of invaluable land was, by a simple collusive exchange of a letter each between Sonia Gandhi and one of her gilded attendants became property within her total control.

The usurpation was an absolute fraud. The Trust Deed itself provided that no amendment to it could come into force -- on any reasonable reading could not even be initiated and adopted -- without prior written permission of the Government. Far from any permission being taken, even information to the effect that changes were being contemplated was not sent to Government. An ex post "approval" was obtained from an obliging trustee.

That "approval" was in itself wholly without warrant. Such sanctions are governed by Rule 4 of the Government of India (Transaction of Business) Rules, 1961. This Rule prescribes that when a subject concerns more than one department, "no order be issued until all such departments have concurred, or failing such concurrence, a decision thereon has been taken by or under the authority of the Cabinet." Other departments were manifestly concerned, concurrence from them was not even sought. The Cabinet was never apprised.

The rule proceeds to provide, "Unless the case is fully covered by powers to sanction expenditure or to appropriate or re-appropriate funds, conferred by any general or special orders made by the Ministry of Finance, no department shall, without the previous concurrence of the Ministry of Finance, issue any orders which may... (b) involve any grant of land or assignment of revenue or concession, grant... (d) otherwise have a financial bearing whether involving expenditure or not..."

And yet, just as concurrence of other departments had been dispensed with, no approval was taken from the Finance Ministry. The Indian Express and other papers published details about the fraud by which what was a Government Trust had been converted into a private fief. Two members of Parliament -- Justice Ghuman Mal Lodha and Mr. E. Balanandan -- began seeking details, and raising objections.

For a full two and a half years, governments -- of the Congress(I), and the two that were kept alive by the Congress(I), those of Mr. Deve Gowda and of Mr. I. K. Gujral -- made sure that full facts would not be disclosed to the MPs, and that the concerned file would keep shuttling between the Ministry of Human Resource Development and the Ministry of Law.

As a result, Sonia Gandhi continues to have complete control over governmental assets of incalculable value -- through technicalities collusively arranged.

A latter-day Dalhousie -- annexation of Indian principalities through technicalities!