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The Raging Guha-Mander Debate Deserves Wider Participation



The Raging Guha-Mander Debate Deserves Wider Participation

~By Saeed Naqvi

It does not surprise me that the continuing debate on the Op-Ed page of the Indian Express on the Muslim predicament skirts fundamental issues. The debate has been triggered by Ramchandra Guha disagreeing with Harsh Mander on the Muslim question.

Mander’s column, headlined “Sonia, Sadly”, expresses his hurt at Sonia Gandhi’s public expression of fear that the Congress was being perceived as a “Muslim Party”.

In the very first paragraph of his column, Guha plucks out a quote from Mander. “A Dalit leader tells Muslims who come to political meetings: By all means come in large number to our rallies. But don’t come with your skull caps and burkas.”

“Mander is dismayed at this gratuitous attempt to get Muslims to voluntarily withdraw from politics.”  But Guha disagrees with Mander’s interpretation of what the Dalit leader said. Guha is emphatic: “while the words may be harsh and direct, the spirit of the advice was forward looking”, i.e. don’t come in skull caps and burkas.

This, I suspect, is the crux of the matter. Guha is endorsing the new line enunciated by the Congress Party: Keep Muslims at arm’s length just in case the BJP spin doctors pick up this visual to polarize. Rahul Gandhi’s frenetic temple hopping, janeu et al, is in pursuit of this soft saffron.

Apoorvanand, Harbans Mukhia, Mukul Keshavan, Mani Shankar Aiyar, Suhas Palshikar, Irena Akbar, Khalid Ansari, Jawed Naqvi, why, even Mander himself, have all written sensitively, even knowledgably on the subject. But Guha is a class apart: Muslims must give up skull caps and, to balance matters, Hindus their trishuls. His desire to equalize permeates the article. Praveen Togadia and Yogi Adityanath are bad but Guha will have his little orgasm only if Asaduddin Owaisi and Ali Shah Geelani are mentioned in the same breath. Togadia wants Muslims to leave the country. “Occupy their homes” he once famously said in Gujarat. Without batting an eyelid, Yogi heard his cohorts ask for buried Muslim women to be dug out from their graves and raped. Show me a comparable quote from Owaisi or Geelani.

“Yeh ajeeb majra hai ki baroz e Eide qurbaan

Wohi zubah bhi kare hai wohi le sawab ulta”

(Look at the illogical system of the ceremony of sacrifice.

He who slaughters claims the reward for paradise.)

The tragedy is that Guha belongs to the category of people who, because of their celebrity status, imagine that eminence in one field qualifies them to claim proficiency in all the others. His inadequacy on the theme he has rushed into unprepared, derives from a common malaise: he is a creature of uninstitutionalized apartheid which means separate development.

It would be interesting to know if Guha has ever visited Muslim homes or the other way around when he was a child. Did he know Muslims in school or college whose friendship he still values? Even if he is able to blurt out a name or two the undeniable truth will be that he has grown up only with his ilk. He has no experience of Muslims. He is not alone in this category.

A sharp contrast attends my circumstance. I, along with my three brothers grew up only among Hindus. Apartheid therefore didn’t touch us. Since our informal education was continuous since birth, we knew fairly early that Al-Biruni wrote Tarikh al Hind after his extended stay beginning 1017. Moinuddin Chishti, Shahbaz Qalandar and a host of Sufis and Saint poets like Kabir from the 12th to 14th centuries were spreading Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, paving the way for Abdul Rahim Khan-I-Khana who ended up writing the only Sanskrit verses in praise of Lord Rama. In his brilliant Persian poetry in the 17th century, Chandrabhan Brahman felt secure enough to taunt and tease the Muslim clergy.

Yagana Changezi, a 20th century poet, questions a basic tenet: why must namaz be said in a foreign language? If all of this sounds like nostalgia, let me invite you to Lucknow for an evening of spiritual poetry on Ahl al-Bayt or the Prophet’s family. The poet, Sanjaya Mishra, was a favourite with my mother who died three years ago. She had special vegetarian meals prepared for him.

I have shed light on the tiniest strand in the vast expanse of Muslim liberal traditions. Since the 16th century these have been bound up inextricably with the waxing and waning of Urdu in which Hindus and Muslims equally participated. The first great writer of Urdu prose was Pandit Ratan Nath Sarshar.

How many liberals know that  there is not a single couplet in Urdu which praises the Mullah or endorses orthodoxy of any kind.

Did you know that most of the poetry on Krishna, Rama in the last century has been written by Muslims? I will only confuse the issue if I bring in Kazi Nazrul Islam, Salbeg, Bekal Utsahi or Nida Fazli.

It puzzles me why liberal intellectuals sometimes fall prey to a tendency that the politician has cultivated as a calculated habit: consider the Muslim only as a religious category. Why must Muslim achievements in poetry, music, architecture, systems of governance not be celebrated? Such an exercise would surely cast them in a liberal mould. Guha might then heave a sigh of relief.

A false quest for a liberal Muslim leader almost flows from the above approach. A liberal Muslim leader, I never tire of repeating, is a contradiction in terms. That is an illiberal quest. Are we never going to find a Hindu whom Muslims can trust and the other way around? That must be the only possible way ahead.

India News

Women’s Reservation Bill: PM Modi says India at cusp of inclusive future, expresses gratitude to MPs

The Prime Minister remarked that with the passage of the Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam in Parliament, the nation usher in an era of stronger representation and empowerment for the women of India.



Women’s Reservation Bill: PM Modi says India at cusp of inclusive future, expresses gratitude to MPs

In a significant step ahead, Rajya Sabha passed the Women’s Reservation Bill, also named as Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam on Thursday night. A total of 215 MPs voted in favour of the bill with none voting against it. Prime Minister Narendra Modi hailed the passage of the bill and termed it as the defining moment in the nation’s democratic journey. He also extended gratitude to all the Rajya Sabha members who voted for the landmark bill. 

The Prime Minister remarked that with the passage of the Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam in Parliament, the nation usher in an era of stronger representation and empowerment for the women of India. He added that this is not merely legislation but a tribute to the countless women who have made the nation. He exclaimed that India has been enriched by their resilience and contributions. 

He continued that this historic step is a commitment to ensuring women’s voices are heard even more effectively, mentioning that it reminds of the strength, courage and indomitable spirit of all the women of the nation. PM Modi also congratulated 140 crores India after the historic bill was passed in the Rajya Sabha. 

In another X, formerly Twitter post, Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed that he had the honour of meeting dynamic women MPs who are absolutely thrilled at the passage of Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam. He added that it is gladdening to see the torchbearers of change come together to celebrate the very legislation which they have championed. 

Narendra Modi further hailed that with the passage of Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam (Women’s Reservation Bill), India stands at the cusp of a brighter, more inclusive future with Nari Shakti being at the core of the transformation. Evidently, this is the first bill to be passed in the new Parliament building. 

The historic bill, Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam seeks to reserve 33% seats for women in Lok Sabha, state legislative assemblies and the Delhi assembly. The bill will not apply to Rajya Sabha or state Legislative Councils.

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India News

PM Modi to interact with Team G20 including cleaners, drivers, waiters, host gala dinner today at Bharat Mandapam

The list includes 300 employees from Delhi Police, SPG, Rajghat, CISF, IAF, and 700 employees from MEA, among other departments.



PM Modi

Days after the successful wrap-up of the G20 Leaders Summit in New Delhi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is going to hold an interactive session with Team G20 at Bharat Mandapam today. A little over 3,000 people will participate in the interaction, which honours the unsung heroes who ensured the success of the recently concluded G20 Summit.

There will be a wide range of people in attendance, including waiters, cleaners, drivers, and other support employees from other Ministries who worked tirelessly behind the scenes to make sure that the summit went off without a hitch.

The list includes 300 employees from Delhi Police, SPG, Rajghat, CISF, IAF, and 700 employees from MEA, among other departments. During the occasion, a group picture will be taken.

Special CPs and other senior Delhi Police officers will also be present, according to a Delhi Police official. Ministers and representatives from several departments will also attend the event.

After the interactive session, a special dinner will be served to honour and commemorate the unsung heroes. On this occasion, PM Modi will also address the assembled people.

More than 40 heads of state and representatives from around the world attended the summit, including US President Joe Biden, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak attended the event with his wife Akshata Murthy, and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau were some of the prominent faces who attended the event which was held while India held the G20 presidency.

The ceremony took place at the state-of-the-art Bharat Mandapam at Delhi’s Pragati Maidan, for which the entire city was decked out. At the G20 meeting in Bali on December 1 of last year, India took the G20 presidency, which it will hold through the end of November.

On September 9, the first day of the conference, the G20 leaders endorsed the New Delhi Declaration.

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India News

Rajya Sabha passes Women’s Reservation Bill, all it now needs is President Murmu’s assent

The Rajya Sabha passed the Women’s Reservation Bill unanimously on Thursday. A voice vote was taken with Chairman of the House Jagdeep Dhankhar declaring the ayes have it. Then it was voted on with 215 in support and zero against.



The Rajya Sabha passed the Women’s Reservation Bill unanimously on Thursday. A voice vote was taken with Chairman of the House Jagdeep Dhankhar declaring the ayes have it. Then it was voted on with 215 in support and zero against.

Just before the vote, drawing the two-day discussions in both Houses to a close, Prime Minister Narendra Modi thanked the members and political parties for their constructive suggestions. He noted some 132 members spoke in both Houses of Parliament.

The synergy of the government and the Opposition over women’s reservation was a confidence-building measure, he said. This sends a new message to the people, he added. The Lok Sabha had cleared the Bill yesterday with 454 votes in favour and 2 against.

Earlier in the Rajya Sabha, Law Minister Arjun Ram Meghwal said with 33% reservation for women in the country, India will steal a march over developed nations which don’t have such measures.

Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge, the Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, wondered why the reservation was being promised after Census and delimitation. He demanded that the House be told when the reservation will be in effect as to the date and month and year when it will come into force.

Kharge joked if like the Rs 15 lakh and the 2 crore job promise of the BJP ahead of elections, this would also be an election jumla as said by party leaders. He said almost every party supports you on the Bill but let our support not go waste in election propaganda of the BJP. Raising each and every point, Kharge kept repeating that he was supporting the Bill in a scene reminiscent of Mark Antony’s speech from the play Julius Caesar. Pushing for the OBC quota, he said even SC/ST officers don’t even make it to joint secretary level.

Kharge asked if you can come up with the sudden demonetisation of 2016, why didn’t you bring this Bill then? There was no Opposition to you in the first term in the Lok Sabha, he charged.

Congress MP KC Venugopal mocked the BJP for its pro-women stance by saying that its stalwarts Vajpayee, Advani and Jaswant Singh voted against women’s quota in 1989.  

Earlier, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said the BJP has been consistently in support of women’s reservation. She said the BJP doesn’t like to bring politics in women-related matters.

BJP Rajya Sabha MP Sushil Kumar Modi slammed the UPA government for not supporting the Bill in the Lok Sabha. He said its allies did not want this Bill to be passed.

Samajwadi Party MP Jaya Bachchan noted that when a similar Bill was presented in the House in the presence of CPM leader Brinda Karat and late Sushma Swaraj but failed to pass. Bachchan said the SP is not against the Bill, her party has some concerns as echoed by other parties as well.

Before this, Trinamool Congress leader Derek O’Brien and Dhankhar had an altercation over time allotted to MPs to speak on the issue.

Independent MP Kapil Sibal demanded the resignation of Prime Minister Modi and Home Minister Shah if they do not complete the process of delimitation and implementation of the Women’s Reservation Bill by 2029.

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