Thursday, 2 February 2017

Few thoughts on Trump's executive order

Trump's executive order on halting immigration from 7 country's have kicked up a storm in many parts of America, and the order is being projected as something unprecedented, diabolical, and unexpected from a civilized world. But looking at the coverage, I think some very important points are completely being overlooked into this debate. I will try to point them briefly.

1. Most critics are in denial of a problem in the first place: While India has been a victim of Islamic separatism, radicalism and terrorism after it's partition in 1947 on religious lines, the problem has expanded worldwide in the post 9/11 era. There have been regular terrorist attacks in Mumbai in 26/11, Thailand, France, Belgium, London, Spain, China and numerous other countries which have direct links to Islamic radicalism. But instead of recognizing the JIhadi inspiration and link behind such attacks, many commentators try to cover them with the apology of 'Terror has no religion'. To prevent such attacks, governments have been forced to step up the security at airports, and are trying to spy in the digital world, which have created another uproar in the the form of Snowden leaks. But until the ideological fountainhead of these attacks are identified and countered, increased security measures will only lead to a police state with limited effectiveness.
While Trump's order may or may not be correct, he is spot on in identifying the problem. The critics who fail to recognize the problem in the first place don't have enough credibility left, howsoever noise they will make. Advent of social media has ensured the such people don't retain monopoly on disseminating their ideas.

2. Golden principal is not a one way street: While Trump's order must be criticized, it must be pointed out that sixteen countries ban Israel passport holders to enter their countries, all of which are Muslim majority. It is just one example of discrimination against people of different religious beliefs from these countries, and in most of them, the situation of minorities can be termed pitiable at best. If Muslims are not ready to treat other religious beliefs with respect, why should they expect equal treatment from other countries. Trump's order should be criticized, but only after these countries revoke the ban on Israel passport, right?

3. Immunity of religious criticism is inconsistent with freedom: While most religious beliefs are mocked and criticized, Islam has been given a free rope due to the fear of violent reprisal. Many movies mock and have uncharitable portrayal of Jesus, TV series like South Park are acerbic to every one, but they dare not portray Muhammad. Books like Satanic verses has been banned, and the authors is still in hiding to protect his life. The editorial staff of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo was gunned down. Islamic society is plagued with problems such as Sharia law, which allow polygamy and divorce by saying 'Talak' three times. Criticism of such practices are met with the labels of 'Islamophobe' and 'Intolerant', while it is the other way round. Such a myopic and 'my way or highway' attitude towards religion is inconsistent with the principles of free movement and integration. Granted that not everyone is like that, but even a small fraction of people with such attitude are enough to bring the system out of equilibrium. Remember, not every Muslim demanded that Pakistan be created out of India, not everyone wanted Charlie Hebdo punished. Thus immigrants in need must be helped, but at the same time, it must be recognized that special efforts need to be in place to ensure that the integration is smooth, that freedom and criticism including satire should be accepted as a part of life.

In my personal view, Islam needs lot of reform, the most important among which is the rejection of Sharia. Religions are private belief, and they should not be allowed to affect legislative matters. Immigration without efforts coupled with such reforms will continue to increase the problem due to few bad apples. And while immigration helps a small fraction of population, a majority of them continues to suffer under the regressive Sharia laws. It is time that the world takes notice. 

Saturday, 11 June 2016

Shocking new revelations about the 26/11 Mumbai terrorists attack

Certain shocking revelations about the Pakistan sponsored terrorist attack in Mumbai on 26/11/2008 attacks have come to light following an RTI by RVS Mani, former Under Secretary, Home Ministry.

  1. It was well known that Indian delegation, consisting of Union Home Secretary(Madhukar Gupta), Director and Joint Secy of Internal Security, Joint secy of Foreign division, Joint Secy CBI to name a few were in Islamabad for the 'Composite Dialogue' process. 
  2. What was completely unknown that after this dialogue ended on 26 evening, Pakistani establishment proposed to take them to a hill resort at Murree, a place 50 km away from Islamabad, to which the Indian delegation agreed.
  3. As a result, when the attacks unfolded in Mumbai, the control room at the Home Ministry was almost empty, and there was confusion about coordinating information and action. 
  4. The Indian delegation returned only next afternoon, after loosing critical hours in the beginning phase. Surprisingly, this critical piece of information, and strong circumstantial evidence on Pakistani duplicity was not let known to the public.
Even more surprisingly, instead of raising storms, Madhukar Gupta who was silent for all these years, made the following points in an interview with Times Now, where he mentions that
  • dialogues were hold in a 'very cordial' manner, hence they had no reasons to mistrust their hosts
  • what difference would it have made had they been in Islamabad or Murree
  • What is to be gained by raising this issue after 7 years

Contrast the above information with the actions of the Indian establishment(6:20 min). The Pakistani Foreign Minister and Foreign Secretary were in India the same fateful night. As soon as the information about Mumbai attacks emerged, they were provided an immediate flight to Pakistan, as the Indian establishment was concerned about their safety and security.

Now it is an incredulous task to pin point the real issue at hand: are our bureaucrats incompetent beyond belief, or they have something nasty to hide. Also, whether the Indian media is much more obnoxious than it usually seem to be. While the reporting of Barkha Dutt, and the Tamasha by news channels has been heavily criticized on this issue, what have been the investigative journalists doing? 

Even though Kasab had been caught alive, Digvijay and co. tried to blame this event as 'RSS ki Sazish'. What would have happened if all the 10 Jehadis had been shot dead, and thus there would have been no testimony of Kasab? Looking at the coverage of media, it was highly probable that 'Hindu groups' would have been blamed for this by a very large section of the media. Tukaram Ombale, the constable who paid by his life, but caught Kasab alive foiled this very likely scenario. 

Are the above suspicion just a wild goose chase? Consider other revelations related to security issues during UPA2:
  • The role of a Lashkar-e-Toiba Fidayeen Ishrat Jahan has been tried to be whitewashed by the entire UPA machinery, and tried to be portrayed as 'Fake encounter'.
  • The same issue was used to break the morale of IB, create a fissure between IB and CBI, where CBI tried to arrest top officers of IB, including Rajinder Kumar who provided intel for Ishrat Jahan.
  • Recent revelations have shown that Col Purohit was framed in false cases, just because the term 'Hindu terror' could hang in air.
  • Samjhauta blasts, in which initially the role of Lashkar was being investigated, was suddenly turned towards some 'Hindu groups'.
The criminal rot brought in by UPA 2, and the complicit role played by 'secular liberal' media has brought things to a dangerous juncture. If national security can be thrown to the winds, and doesn't invite intense scrutiny, how long can this vast nation remain together? 

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Introducing a Scholar Hindu Monk: Swami Sarvapriyananda

We all have fond memories of our childhood, including the time spent at the school. If your childhood was spent in a residential school, away from home, then the school memories occupies a larger part of your persona. I have been fortunate to spend my childhood at the very beautiful and scenic campus of Ramakrishna Mission Deoghar, now in Jharkhand.

The entrance test of this school had consisted of two parts, a written and a "kind of" interview part. In the interview, all the children were collected in a classroom, and were required to do various tasks, assigned by various people. During that period, a monk dressed in white came to our class. He showed us some examples of mathematical calculations, based on multiplications of 11. For example, he showed that 11x11=121, 11x11x11=1331, etc, and asked us to compute us some larger products. That's all I can recall today from that time. 

After joining the school, we had chance to meet many monks, and the above monk also was present, and we came to know him as Vishwaroop Maharaj. Soft spoken and smiling, he was also present many times during the computer labs in those times of BASIC language. But there was not a lot of interaction with him, until we moved to more senior classes. I don't remember if he taught us ICVE(Indian Culture and Value Education) or not, as I remember this being taught by some other monks to my class. But Vishwaroop Maharaj had an opportunity to come to our class for short period during our final years. 

During class 10, we had to study world history, primarily the history of World war 1 and 2, modern world, and modern India. History classes are supposed to be soporific, though world history did seem interesting. Vishwaroop Maharaj was not our history teacher, but he was substituting for the absence for some teacher for few periods. He offered us to narrate the history of a specific war during world war II: The attack on Pearl Harbor.  We happily agreed, but nobody had thought his narration would be so spellbinding and will leave a lasting impression. 

He started his narration with the context of world war II, and how the Japanese involvement started. For the next two or three classes, he told us minutely about the different aspects of the preparation for the attack, how they were able to keep it as a secret, and how the micromanaged the plan. For example, to not let the military radars detect the fighter planes, they practiced flying as low as a few hundred feet over the land! He talked about the minute planning attack, best case and worst case scenario in the plans and so on. As mere students, we all were left mesmerized and craving for more after his periods were over. A bit more we got indeed, as the movie "Pearl Harbor" was released during that time, and he arranged for us to watch that movie. But after his narration, the movie actually looked quite stale :)

After my passing out from the school, he soon got sannyas and the ochre robes, with the new name of Swami Sarvapriyananda, a very apt name. I had few chances to interact with him after that, as he came once to IIT Kharagpur for a lecture on Vedanta, and other time when I went to Belur Math. Fortunately, he also made me say hello to another monk Mahan Maharaj(mathematician). 

Though we had know Vishwaroop Maharaj as a very learned monk during that time, but since, he has been introducing Hinduism and Vedanta at various platforms in a very beautiful manner. His lecture series at IIT Kanpur has been really popular. I am not sure, but I think he has been transferred to a Vedanta society in United States. 

Many of his video lectures are available on Internet, where he talks about various aspects of Hinduism, consciousness, body and mind, Vedanta in his beautiful voice. Beyond any religious dogma, he focuses on the essential questions of life, and provides lot of material for thinking and pondering over. I am giving link to one of the lectures, and others can be seen over youtube. 

Swami Sarvapriyananda at the Hindu Temple of Greater Chicago

Swami Sarvapriyananda at IIT Kanpur

I hope that he will introduce the elegant and beautiful ideas of Hinduism to the world, which are strew across the various texts of Upanishads, which will provide a way out for religious harmony in the coming decades.

Friday, 29 August 2014

Spiritual cities in India: Open meditation centers near the holy temples

Narendra Modi has been elected the Prime Minister of India from the most ancient and holy city of Varanasi on a new dawn of hope after a very long era of pessimism, neglect and stagnation. While Varanasi has been one of the center points  points of Indian spiritualism, in its present condition, it is disorganized and dirty. After taking over, Modi is fast tracking the ways to take the city out of its sorry state, and to scale it to new heights. He has added Kyoto on his upcoming visit to Japan, so that Varanasi can learn something from the development of this charming city.

While there must be hundreds of proposal to transform Varanasi and other heritage cities into vibrant centers of spirituality and culture, I would like to add one more suggestion to it. This has got purely to do with the spiritual aspect, rather than the infrastructure of the city. In present Kyoto, while there are hundreds of very beautiful temples who have preserved the rituals and cultures of Japan, they have mostly become a tourist destination. On the contrast, in India, many people visit Varanasi or other holy cities primary for the spiritual purpose rather than tourism. Thus, while developing these cities,  this aspect has to be kept in mind.

Indian spirituality definitely emphasizes rituals as a way to take the mind deeper into itself, but it prescribes self-introspection, primarily via meditation as the most important tool of self upliftment. Meditation has recently gained traction all over the world due to its perceptible and tangible benefits. Thus, while upgrading our own holy cities to the next level, it should be important to upgrade them spiritually as well. One of the ways to achieve it is to construct meditation centers for people in the vicinity of the holy temples, so that people can not only meet their deities, but they can also meditate upon them in peace for sometime. A beautiful statue of the deity related to the holy city can be placed in the meditation center. In many cases, there is no space near the temple as it is a very crowded area. In this situation, the meditation centers can be located as close as possible to the temple area.

Having such a meditation center will help the devotees to quietly sit down and infuse himself with the spirit pervading around the holy city. Meditative postures in holy atmosphere is a breeding ground for noble and uplifting ideas. It is the way forward for self upliftment, and to understand the true meaning of spirituality.

I am sure many other additions can be made to this suggestion, though I keep myself confined to this simple idea. Any other related ideas are welcome.

Friday, 22 August 2014

School toilets in India: Statewise Comparision

Narendra Modi, the most popular prime minister in India in about three decades, delivered his maiden independence speech from the ramparts of red fort on 15 August. The speech, delivered extempore, was memorable for a number of reasons.  Instead of talking in abstract terms and eloquent visions, he surprised one and all by talking about the most elementary and banal things related to day to day life of the common Indian men. One of the things he dwelt upon at length was related to cleanliness, hygiene, and toilets. Indian public places, even those in the so called metro cities are unfortunately indescribably dirty. But again, instead of talking in jargon, Modi set a simple goal: to have toilets in each and every government school in India. Unfortunately again, many of the government schools are devoid of this basic amenity, and is one of the big reasons that many students, particularly girls, stay away from schools in rural areas.

After the speech, the human resource ministry, taking quick action, put up the complete list of all schools in India, along with the data about how many of them lack toilets completely of separately for boys and girls. The data for toilets can be accessed at this website. The population data has been taken from wikipedia.

The above list is a good indicator about the development index of every state. In the above list, I have added the data of population of each state, and computed the ratio of schools, populations, and toilets without schools. Also, the data for Andhra Pradesh and Telangana has been combined in the same state, as population data for them were not available to me separately.

 The best performers
The following states had toilets in all the schools!
a) Lakshadweep b) Daman & Diu c) Pondicherry d) Delhi e) Chandigarh 

All of them are union territories, and are not large in size. Despite, kudos for showing everything is not lost in India.

B) States/UT with maximum number of schools to population ratio:
If a state has larger population, it should have more number of schools. Computing the number of schools to total population may give an idea about the teacher-student ratio. Meghalaya was found to have the highest ratio, and all other states were normalized with respect to its ratio. Hence, Meghalaya has shown to be the highest ratio of 1. The top 10 states in this regard are:

States with best
Ratio States with worst
1) Meghalaya (Best) 1 1) Chandigarh 0.05
2) Arunachal Pradesh 0.94 2) Delhi 0.07
3) Himachal Pradesh 0.85 3) Kerala 0.07
4) Mizoram 0.8 4) Pondicherry 0.14
5) Chhattisgarh 0.72 5) Daman & Diu 0.15
6) Jammu And Kashmir 0.71 6) Tamil Nadu 0.2
7) Uttaranchal 0.67 7) Andhra Pradesh 0.21
8) Assam 0.62 8) Gujarat 0.22
9) Madhya Pradesh 0.61 9) Maharashtra 0.23
10) Sikkim 0.55 10) Haryana 0.23

The interesting thing about above ratio is, Chandigarh, Kerala, Delhi, all three have the worst ratio of schools, but these places are supposed to have good education in schools. It will be interesting to actually investigate the further effect of this ratio.

The north-eastern states figure prominently in the best ratio of schools per population. Hope the bigger and central states learn something from these places.

The worst performers:
Now we take a look at the best and worst performers in the number of dysfunctional toilets. The data shared by the ministry lists the number of schools with no toilets for boys, with no toilet for girls, dysfunctional toilets for boys and for girls. To get a simple picture, I have added the number of schools with absent toilets and dysfunctional toilets, for boys and girls separately. The total (dysfunctional+non-existent) toilets for boys and girls are very closely similar, so for the sake of convenience, I am presenting the results on the basis of data of boys toilet.

States with minimum
boys toilets per school
Best Performers
Ratio States with maximum
boys toilets per schools
Worst Performers
1) Lakshadweep 0 1) Arunachal Pradesh 0.63
2) Daman & Diu 0 2) Meghalaya 0.6
3) Pondicherry 0 3) Assam 0.46
4) Delhi 0 4) Bihar 0.42
5) Chandigarh 0 5) Jammu And Kashmir 0.41
6) Karnataka 0.01 6) Odisha 0.39
7) Andhra Pradesh 0.01 7) Mizoram 0.34
8) Maharashtra 0.04 8) West Bengal 0.3
9) Gujarat 0.04 9) Chhattisgarh 0.24
10) Kerala 0.05 10) Jharkhand 0.22

Gujarat and Kerala figure in the top 10 performers in this regard. In the worst performers category, the north-eastern states, which came out on top in the list of maximum school to population ratio, unfortunately they come on top in this regard also. Among the large states, Bihar, West Bengal take the top positions.
Honestly, I expected UP to be in this list as well, but it was a pleasant surprise that UP's performance is very good in the situation of toilets, and only 6% of its schools are without or with dysfunctional toilets.

Unique position of Bihar:
Combining the two data above has unfortunately put Bihar in a unique special distinction: It is the only state which has a worse dysfunctional toilet ratio, as compared to its number of schools per population. All other states, from the worst to best performers in any category, have a better ratio of schools per population than its dysfunctional toilets.
The above statistics are an interesting indicator to the state of education in different states. I hope that the initiative taken by Narendra Modi will lead to fully functional toilets in all the schools. 
The data for the above analysis can be downloaded from here :.xls format, .pdf format, .ods format.

Monday, 17 February 2014

What AAP could have done differently

AAP unexpectedly got 28 seats in the Delhi MLA elections 2013. Though it contested on primarily an anti-corruption platform, the election manifesto was full of populist promises as well. A combination of both of it, combined with the enthusiasm of young generation propelled it as the second largest party. As its ascendency was coupled with lot of hype, the largest party, BJP, deemed it prudent to give AAP a chance to form a government, and show how an efficient and honest government ought to run. But sadly, and to the disappointment of its supporters and opponenets alike, it failed to live up to its promise, and visibly ran away from the challenge of a meaningful government. As suggested by my friend, I would like to point out how AAP could have provided a better government for all the people who had deposed their faith in it.

What AAP could have done differently:
First of all, governance is not a 100m sprint, it is a marathon. There are no shortcuts here, and a good vision needs sufficient time to implement. That AAP chose to quit so early points to nothing but a lack of vision. Yet, even in such a short span, there are some things which could have been done differently to set an example.
a)  Holding of Janta Durbar: AAP had promised regular janta durbar. Its first darbar saw enthusiastic participation, but that led to Kejriwal running away from there, promising a subsequent date, but only to announce two days later that no more janta durbar would be held at all !! This episode could have been handled in a much better way. Kejriwal should have made it a point to hold at least one efficient Janta durbar after the failure of the first one to set an encouraging example. This was the basic minimum which was expected of him, and to me, it is one of biggest disappointment.

b) Cleaning of Yamuna: Delhi has become notorious with the stench of one of India's historical symbols: Yamuna river. Sheila Dixit promised but did not give a damn on this issue. Spontaneously taking a resolve and initiating the work towards cleaning of Yamuna would have been a very positive and meaningful action. But not being a populist measure, it did not figure anywhere on the to-do list of AAP.

c)  Introducing a work culture of efficiency and punctuality: India is notorious for its laziness and not sticking to office timings. It is as much a part of corruption, as much is taking bribe. From the day AAP came into office, it could have tried to send a message of sticking to disciplined timings, and efficient work. That is the key to the corporate governance of India's ailing public sector. Emphasizing this would not have cost a dime, and such public conduct would win the hearts of one and all.

d) Announcing to make Delhi an entrepreneurship hub: If Bangalore can be an IT hub, if Gujarat can be Milk hub, why cannot Delhi be an enterpreneurhip hub? Kejriwal could have done some announcements to give special incentives to young graduates for supporting entrepreneurship. That would have dispelled all the negative doubts about its economic vision. But it was too bogged down with populist promises.

e) FIR against Sheila: You have a 370 page "proof" against Sheila in numerous cases, and in the end you don't have even an FIR against her in 50 days! Whom is AAP trying to fool?

These are just a few examples which came in my mind. If a party is ready to be in power, and supposedly has a vision, it should have 100s of such things in mind.

What AAP should not have done:
This list is long, and I would keep it short, and would not put much comments for it:
a) Announcing electricity dues exemption only for the people who had given in to the call of AAP for not submitting electricity bill: Without exception, it is extremely despicable, corrupt and divisive move. This would anyway have been challenged in the court, and party would have had to apologize in the end. But AAP tried to do it is itself extremely dangerous as a precedent.

b) Protecting Somnath Bharati to any extent: The list of antics of Bharati is long, and a prominent founding member of AAP resigned from the party as Bharati was untouched for his actions. For a party which demands the resignation of others over accusations, it was blatant double standards. For a party which seeks to set the bar higher, it has to adhere to its own principles.

Why AAP ran away in this manner:
Three principle reasons in short:

a) It had not expected coming in the power in the first place, and thus its manifesto was full of populism. Being in power, and not being able to fulfil those promises was exposing it everyday, and AAP chose to became a martyr instead.

b) Feeling the heat due to media scrunity of its accountability: Apart from the manifesto, the actions of its members like Bharati, Binny were attracting lots of negative press, and its image was taking a beating. AAP decided to quit to stop the erosion of this public goodwill, if you don't perform. It feared perishing to the hopes it had generated.

c) Lure of Loksabha: This was the most important reason for its quitting power. Having the responsibility to govern chained AAP to delhi, while it was looking forward to assuiming more power in central elections. It decide to ditch delhi government, only to garner more votes in center. But what for??? To stop Modi.

Many people had predicted before the Delhi polls, that AAP would eventually have a coalition with congress. That proved true after sometimes, when AAP tried to fool the people by an "SMS Poll". This time also, it is quite evident that it would be happy to take outside support of congress, but would never take or give support to BJP. And that would lead to the backdoor entry of congress again. Precisely why Sheila Dixit was not chargsheeted in Delhi.

Some questions raised by "quitting power" by AAP in Delhi:
1. AAP wants majority government in Delhi, as it says a coalition makes it difficult to take decisions. Doesn't the same hold true in center? BJP with its pan-India presence and under able leadership of Modi is in a position to deliver it. So AAP itself is giving best arguments to support Namo. Why it is hypocritically opposing BJP then? Lure of power?

2. In a post poll scenario, whom would AAP support? Third front or Congress? Which of these two is better for the country.

3. Why Kejriwal is not at all interested in governing and providing good administration to Delhi any more? What about his promise to Delhi people, and why this hurry for Loksabha?

Monday, 10 February 2014

Samjhauta, Aseemananda, and Ishrat Jahan

My main contention in this post: Despite sufficient evidence, and despite contradictory, inconclusive evidences, present congress government is trying to malign RSS or BJP through leaks to media purely for political gains, and is already jeopardizing national security for this. Both Aseemananda and Ishrat Jehan point to this.

First the Aseemananda case. The relevant links are:
a) US review finds five warnings of Headley’s militant links
b) Samjhauta Express Blast Vs Mumbai Terror Attacks (Former director, NIA)
c) RSS man Kamal Chauhan also was alleged: Read its last paragraph, according to villagers, his presence in a marriage was video recorded.
d) Spanish news article on Arif Quasmani. UN resolution was passed condemning LeT and this terrorist role in Samjhauta blast.
e) A comprehensive listing by S Gurumurthy on all aspects: Gurumurthy is an RSS ideologue, but he would be last few person who can be accused of taking help of falsehood to forward their case.
f) Ex wife of David Headley had implicated him in Samjhauta blast.
e) An opinion piece: Is India blind and deaf

So while there is enough smoke to do an impartial investigation, government is using it a tool to malign RSS and BJP in the election season. There have been numerous blasts, but the investigation seems to be going in only one of them.

The case of Ishrat Jahan is even more sinister. She was a fidayeen, recruited to participate in eliminating Narendra Modi. But such is the hatred of Congress against Modi that it is trying to punish the officials involved in averting this catastrophe. Lets first see who all say whether Ishrat Jahan was a terrorist.

a) Headley confessed the role of Ishrat Jahan
b) Home ministry affidavit had called Ishrat a terrorist
c) Ishrat had come only for a "chota-mota blast", and not to kill Modi, thus says a journo on Prime time TV.
d) NIA note on Ishrat
e) US embassy letter on the same
f) Inconvenient story no one wants to tell
g) Again leaked NIA documents with more links
h) IB won't survive this attack on itself
i) Analysis: Why it is important to "prove" that Ishrat was not a terrorist
j) Fake encounter statistics: Gujarat is on number 17, with only 12 fake encounters out of a total of 880. But newspapers make us believe that this happens disproportinately higher in Gujarat.
k) LeT website had listed Ishrat Jahan as a Martyr after her death. (Original link doesnt seem to be working).
l) Ishrat Jahan was an LeT fidayeen: Headley
m) Analysis: Ungrateful People, Read about the case of Punjab officer A S Sandhu, who contributed in eliminating terrorism from Punjab.

Last year, papers were full of leaks to NDTV, Tehleka with stories of "kali dadhi, safed dadhi" etc, to keep the pot boiling against Amit Shah, and Narendra Modi. There was not even so much evidence to chargesheet him, but he has been held guilty without a trial. This is the real game of central government.

Can you understand the implications of a government destroying its own anti-terror infrastructure? A government must act very maturely in such a sensitive manner, but congress party is acting against National interests.