Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Slicing Through the Chinese High-Tech Economy Propaganda

(Courtesy: India TV)

The Indian government’s decision to put 59 applications originating from the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has literally sliced through the Chinese economic propaganda of ‘interdependence and harmony’ that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and its propaganda arms, especially Global Times has been boasting about since the soldiers’ clash in the Galwan valley. This hits the Chinese where it hurts them the most, since these application developers and software companies represent the high-end Chinese software and hardware prowess that was being used to project CCP’s soft power push of an advanced hi-tech society, an alternative to the democratic virtues and ideals that mean so much to countries like India.

One must bear in mind that this step has not come out in isolation. Concerns about Chinese apps have been doing the rounds for months on a stretch now, with politicos and people alike raising questions on privacy concerns arising from them. Policy experts have noted how several apps need to be pushed out of the Indian market as they are excellent tools of spreading misinformation and have also ended up spreading the propaganda of the Chinese government. People have been arguing that the Chinese apps get economic benefits through Indian money earned by this app owners, while getting away with the propaganda.

In April 2020, a video by United States of America’s Republican Senator Josh Hawley went viral on social media in India. In this video, Senator Hawley said that he planned on introducing a legislation to ban the popular Chinese social media app TikTok, owned by the Chinese company Bytedance, as the permissions sought by the app were highly intrusive and worrisome, and data was essentially being stolen. This was but picking up from where several political representatives, cutting across party lines, had left off some time back - in July 2019, Opposition party MPs in Parliament had called for a ban on some Chinese apps, accusing it of helping to spread fake news and malicious content, and illegally collecting data and sending it to China. Even allies of the Narendra Modi government now coming forth to demand a ban on some of these apps. Moreover, the judiciary was already talking tough on some of these apps to the point of examining some form of regulation to prevent misinformation or even issuing notices in response to petitions seeking a ban.

Many of these Apps are Security Concerns

Intelligence agencies of India had red-flagged several apps, recommending their blockage or discouraging their usage because there were several issues of data and privacy related to them. India has not been the only one to express concerns with the Chinese apps - the United States, Australia, Taiwan and the Philippines observing these concerns among a bevy of nations. Several independent cybersecurity experts and independent think tanks have repeatedly flagged concerns on the Chinese hardware and software players. Even smartphone companies and hardware manufacturers have been repeatedly embroiled in scandals on sharing information without the knowledge of the product/app users to their ‘servers’ in China, with some even being accused of having installed Chinese spy chips in their devices.

Even connections with the Chinese military have been a cause of concern. Further, the links of several companies with the military and government are seen just as concerning. Links of the so-called technology giants of China like Baidu, Weibo and Tencent with the CCP have been well established. Moreover, many of the high-end technology companies of China have been involved with serious violations of freedoms of liberty by participating in the artificial intelligence-based surveillance state projects of the CCP in China, which are particularly active in restive provinces like Xinjiang and Tibet.

Answering the CCP in a Language It Understands
CCP has been given a response in a manner that hurts its interests the most. With their high-end companies being denied access to the world’s largest market, a strong signal has been sent out – India is not to be messed with in any which way.

Chinese technology companies profit from stealing other people’s intellectual property, and are given preference within China with the CCP governance architecture blocking similar platforms and creating a parallel internet architecture to control and regulate the flow of information through the Great Firewall – a modern day Soviet propaganda machinery which no other country, forget democracy has even has attempted to recreate so far. This is a blatant violation of basic human liberties and a violation of market equity that it is supposed to follow, being an apparent adherent to the World Trade Organization. Contrast this with the openness of the Indian market where Indian companies do not enjoy any special privilege or benefit in this space, much to their chagrin. It is also noteworthy that most of the platforms China blocks, like Google, YouTube, Twitter are heavily used by Indian content creators; thus content creators from India are practically denied access to the Chinese market through this Chinese Firewall. 

This ban hurts these companies financially too, the only language that the CCP understands. ByteDance, which owns Tiktok for instance, loses $500,000 every day if it is not available in India, and the Indian market contributes 15-20% of the total global revenue for the Chinese app SHAREit. Similarly, the Indian market forms a significant chunk of Zoom’s growth many other Chinese apps like Helo, UC Browser, PUBG, Shein, Club Factory, Vigo and Beauty Plus, many of whom have been found to seriously violate privacy issues and sharing data without users’ knowledge to servers within China.

India has actually become the only country other than the United States to take actions that hurt the Chinese economic interests and symbolically puts their high-tech companies with ties to the government and military in an uncomfortable spotlight. While some fanatics will continue to shout for blood, nothing less has been drawn from a dispensation that only values the colour of money and not the blood of its people. The real issue is with the government of China, and not its people – with such an incisive cut being inflicted on the malevolent CCP, the government has actually also managed to make that distinction between the people and the government. While the world awaits to see what the Chinese will do next, India certainly has made a bold move to counter the high-handed brashness on display from the Chinese regime. It has been trying to stoke tensions with all its neighbours – China, Indonesia, Vietnam, Japan – and tried to bully Australis alongside inviting the United States’ ire. India however has hit back hard, and delivered a strong message that national interest is paramount to any and every economic interest. This round has akin to a shock and awe tactic that one would rather see on the battle field, but in today’s world the battle fields are not just on the ground – they are very much in the economic sphere as well, which India has amply leveraged. 

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Perhaps There is a Shekhar in All of Us

Sushant Singh's death has left a void in many people hearts. Even those who vaguely knew him in a personal level feel the loss of Sushant as someone very personal today. As someone whose brilliance could have taken him anywhere to great heights, he had a zeal, a passion for art, and wanted to touch new heights, inspired by the greats of cinema in India and abroad. He did whatever it took to reach the pinnacles of success, only to be denied a seat at the high table by the hoi polloi of a film industry that never really welcomed him, that wanted to have nothing to do with a misfit like him. 

However, what people have perhaps thankfully gotten to talk about since the incident is nepotism.

Nepotism is everywhere. Publishing, cinema, politics, work - you name it, it's there. The pretensions of nepotism's non existence is a charade that has gone on for too long, and perhaps has been mocked at more often than not. The truth is that we don't mind nepotism in India as a rule. "Actor ka beta actor", "doctor ka beta doctor", "engineer ka beta engineer" - replacing a so called caste system that many nepotists claimed to fight all along with another kind of feudalism. Only there is more tools and tricks at their disposal today than ever, as these new societal elites go all out to destroy any potential threat to their interest groups.

It's a ruthless world out there. Matsya nyaya prevails. Dog eats dog world. The number of phrases that talk about the nature of any profession doesn't come to an end. And yet, a large number of them don't do more than cover up nepotism, shield the ineffectual and perpetuate the status quo. If we were animals it would make sense, but aren't we supposed to be humans? Isn't humanity supposed to be different? Or is humanity another club of exclusivity, where the talented shall be profited from till the individual dies in body and spirit, only to be exploited ever more?

I like the melancholy of the movie Pyaasa. Pyaasa was a great movie, and told the story of nepotism, of exploitation and disappointment in the system in a brilliant way, the anguish of which cannot be expressed in a better way. The movie's climax is called one of the most outstanding pieces of world cinema ever. I see more to it - a mirror to the very industry it was produced by. A fatigued poet Shekhar, played fabulously by Guru Dutt himself, sings out his disgust at the manner in which fame is granted to him after he is presumed dead, while everyone who ridiculed him when he was struggling now wanted to milk his name.

A song and a climax where the hero were disgusted to the point that he refuses to identify himself as Shekhar out of sheer disgust, 'killing himself' once again, and choosing to be anonymous.

Such is the disgust of Shekhar with the world of poetry and publishing, and the artificial world propped around it, that he would rather die than continue to be in it.

Perhaps it was a sign of things to come. Perhaps there is a Shekhar in many of us average people with a belief in our abilities and big dreams and plans for life, with the only difference that we choose to exit the scene after crushing our dreams for good, stomp on it and walk away. 

Perhaps, that Shekhar of Pyaasa turned out to be Sushant, only to end up a horrid death.

Or sometimes, we exit the scene by exiting the world we live in in every sense possible, breaking or connections with life.

I'll leave you today with that song that still gives the heart a tug. Ye duniya agar mil bhi jaaye toh kya hai.

Au revoir Sushant. You were perhaps like Shekhar of Pyaasa, a man who ended up declaring himself dead only to escape the persecutions of the world.

Friday, June 12, 2020

सुखोचक - 3

"एक बात का ध्यान रखना है सभी को। कोई भी बहु बेटी इन मुसलमानों के हाथ जीवित न लगे। अगर हो सके तो पिता उन्हें स्वयं मार दें, भाई अपने हाथों से उनका गला घोंट दे - हमारी लाज को इस तरह हम कतई न हारेंगे, जीते या मरते। जो बाप या भाई न कर सके, तो बेटियां बहुएं अपने आप किसी कुएं में कूद कर जान दे दें, या चाक़ू से अपने आप को रेत कर या घोंप कर अपनी लाज की रक्षा करें।"

सुखमनी रोने लग पड़ी। नौ साल की इस लड़की को मृत्यु से बहुत भय था, पर उस पगली को कौन समझाता के लाज खोने का, नाक काटने से जो मान का नाश होना था, वो उससे भी बढ़कर था? कई महिलाओं ने अपनी सिसकियाँ दबा लीं, कुछ ने कड़वे घूँट पी कर हामी भरी, और सब जत्थे चल पढ़े। ऐसा ही एक जत्था किशोरी लाल और उसके भाई कन्हैया का था, जिनके साथ सरला और सुखमनी और माँ चाची भी थे।

मशाल की रौशनी में गति से चलना थोड़ा कठिन था, और वह भी पीछे की ओर से सुखोचक से निकलना था। हिन्दुओं के इलाके का पलायन पता नहीं कैसे थम सकता था, जब तक के वह जम्मू नहीं पहुँचते, चाहे कोई गाँव ही पहुंचे। शायद शिवजी का आशीर्वाद था, के चुपचाप सारे हिन्दू सुखोचक से निकल सके, और कोई हरकत नहीं हुई थी मुसलमानों की अब तक।

बरसात के मौसम में मढ़ियों पर चलना बहुत कठिन हो जाता है, तो खेत की बात ही क्या करें। मौसम भी मक्के और दाल का था, तो मक्के के खेतों का सहारा लेकर सुखमनी और सरला परिवार समेत आड़ लेकर चलते रहे, न जाने किस ओर - बस यह मालूम था के किसी भी तरह पहुंचना था जम्मू। पथ कठिन था और फिसलन अधिक होने के कारण कीचड़ से कपडे भी सन गए थे। परन्तु शिवजी की कृपा थी के रास्ते में कुछ भी नहीं मिल रहा था। एक पल के लिए जब सुखोचक से कुछ दूर हो चले थे तो एकदम से कन्हैया जी रुक गए।

"क्या हुआ भाई साहब?" किशोरी लाल एकाएक पूछ बैठा। उसके स्वर में समस्त मंडली की चिंता का स्वर गूँज रहा था।

कन्हैया जी कुछ बोले नहीं, बस मुड़ कर चुपचाप सुखोचक की ओर देख रहे थे। वह रात के अंधेरे में अपनी स्मृतियों में अपने घर का अंतिम दृश्य शायद कहीं संजो के रखना चाहते थे, जैसे वो मेले वाले फोटो के कैमरे करते थे। पर यह तो कुछ और ही हो रहा था सुखोचक की ओर!

आग की लपटों से रात्रि में मानो दिन सा उजाला हो चला था। दूरी तो हो गयी थी, पर अग्नि की ज्वाला का ताप मानो यहां तक पता चल रही थी। उन्होंने शायद गुस्से में आकर हिन्दू बस्ती में आग लगा थी। कोई भी नहीं रह गया था - सुदर्शना और देवकी फूट फूट कर रोने लगीं, और किशोरी लाल बस मौन रहा - संभवतः उसके मन में एक संतोष था जीवित बच पाने का। पर कन्हैया जी कुछ भी नहीं कह पाए या सुन पाए - बस देखते रहे वह सुखोचक की ओर।

"भाईसाहब, जल्दी चलिए, वरना वो हमें मार डालेंगे!"

मार डालेंगे - यह शब्द बिजली से कौंध गए, और कन्हैया का मौन तोड़ गए। उसे एकाएक ध्यान आया उसके उद्देश्य का, और अपने होश संभल वह चल पड़ा दोबारा टोली की अगुवाही करते हुए।

तीन घंटे हो गए थे चलते चलते, और भगवन की कृपा से कुछ अनहोनी नहीं हुई। पर अब एक छोर आ गया था। नाला का एक किनारा था, और उस पार जम्मू की सीमा आरम्भ होती है।

सबने सांस में सांस भरी, पर सरला अचानक रुक पड़ी।

"क्या हुआ सरला?" सुदर्शना ने पूछ लिया। "जल्दी कर, जान बचानी है हमने!"

सरला एक क्षण के लिए मौन हो गयी, पर उसने मुड़ कर धरती को हाथ लगा अपने माथे से लगा लिया। वह जानती थी के अब उसका यहां आना कभी भी संभव नहीं हो पाएगा। वो भारत में जा रही थी एक जीवन जीने, लेकिन कौनसा भारत? जिस भारत को वह जानती थी उसका अस्तित्व तो मिटा दिया गया था चंद बदनीयतों के हाथों। उसे तो एक अनदेखे, अपरिचित भारत में अपने जीवन को, अपने परिवार संग फिरसे संजोना था। आज अंतिम घड़ी थी के वो इस माटी का एक अंतिम बार स्पर्श कर सकती। जिनकी अस्थियां चेनाब में बहनी थीं, वो जाने कब उसके दर्शन कर सकेंगी।

बस, यहीं तक का साथ था हिन्दुओं का सुखोचक के साथ।

बस इतनी सी थी सरला की सुखोचक वाली कहानी।

उसने एक पोटली निकाली , और सब लोग देख हैरान रह गए। उस पोटली में कुछ मिट्टी पड़ी हुई थी।

"अरे यह क्या है?" देवकी के मूँह से प्रश्न निकल आया।

"सुखोचक की निशानी। बाबा, इसे संभाल के उस पार ले जाओ।"

कन्हैया लाल के आँखों से आंसू छलक गए, और उसने अपनी बेटी को गले लगा लिया।

Sunday, June 7, 2020

सुखोचक - 2

कन्हैया के भाई किशोरी लाल ने रेडियो चालू किया था, और वहाँ नेहरू का भाषण चल रहा था देश की स्वतंत्रता की बधाई का । तभी, रेडियो पर भाषण पर्यन्त समाचार आने लगा।

विभाजन हो गया था पंजाब का। और उसमें कई हिन्दू बहुल क्षेत्र भी पाकिस्तान में चले गए थे।

साथ ही साथ, खून की होली शुरू हो गयी थी, और उसमें भी यह सुनने में आ रहा था के कई क्षेत्र जो जम्मू के निकट थे वो पाकिस्तान का भाग घोषित हुए थे।

अचानक, चारों ओर से चीखने चिल्लाने के स्वर आने लगे। तकबीर के नारों के बीच मृत्यु तांडव करने लगी। हिन्दुओं और मुसलमानों के गुटों में मार काट आरम्भ हो गयी थी। किसी को भी नहीं पता था के सुखोचक हिंदुस्तान में सम्मिलित हुआ था या पाकिस्तान में, लेकिन मौत के नंगे नाच के समाचार जब लाहौर और अमृसतर से सुनाई दे रहे थे, और जम्मू तक उसके प्रभाव की तरंगें फैल रही थी, तो असंभव था के यहां शान्ति बानी रहती । किशोरी लाल ने और खबरों में सुना कैसे मीरपुर, कोटली और मुज़फ़्फ़राबाद से भी हिन्दू और सिखों को मौत के घात उतारा जा रहा था।

शिवाला थोड़ी ही दूरी पर स्थित था, और उसके चारों ओर हिन्दुओं ने एक सुरक्षा रेखा खींच ली थी। मंदिर की सीमा पर बानी ६ फुट ऊँची दीवार के साथ ही जो बन सका, सबल हिन्दू आदमिओं ने चारों और दीवार के पीछे एक और सुरक्षा रेखा खींच ली थी। दिन भर की काट पीट से लड़ लड़ कर थक गए थे सब। वहीँ कुछ दूर, सरला ने देखा के सारे बड़े बूढ़े लोग मंत्रणा कर रहे थे के अब क्या करा जाए। एक सुख तो यह था के मुस्लमान लोग इस ओर आने की हिम्मत नहीं कर रहे थे, पर कब तक? कठोर निर्णय का क्षण तो आ ही गया था न!

"चलो, अस्सी जम्मू पासे चलिए!"

"जम्मू? पर ओ ते भारत विच्चों नहीं सीगा!"

"वहां से हम चलेंगे फिर पंजाब की ओर, अगर जीवित रहे तो," एक बड़े आदमी ने कहा।

"पर सुखोचक?"

"हो गया हमारा रिश्ता ख़तम सुखोचक के साथ!" एक आदमी ने अपने स्वर को दुःख में डुबो कर कहा।

अनेकों आँखों से चुपचाप अश्रु बह रहे थे, पर स्वर सभी के कंठों से विमुक्त था। सरला को एक बेचैन करने वाले शुन्य का आभास हो रहा था। क्या उनके पुरखों की यह धरती उन्हें बिन वजह यूं ही छोड़ देनी होगी? क्या कोई और उपाय नहीं था? क्या सुखोचक भारत का हिस्सा किसी तरह नहीं बन्न सकता था ? नेहरू जी ने तो हिन्दुओं और मुसलामानों को बराबर अधिकार देने का वायदा रेडियो पर दिया था, फिर भी क्यों हिन्दू ही सुखोचक से पलायन कर रहे थे? क्या मुसलमान भारत का हिस्सा नहीं होना चाहते थे?

सरला ने पंडित रामदत्त की ओर देखा। पंडित जी अपने को इन सभी चर्चाओं से दूर ले जा चुके थे। उन्होंने एक बहुत ही हिम्मतवर पर जानलेवा काम करने का दुस्साहस उस क्षण में किया।

रामदत्त जी मंदिर के पुजारी थे, और उन्होंने तीन पीढ़ियों से मंदिर की रख-रखाई भी करी थी। मूलतः साम्बा के रहने वाले दत्त महाराज आज इस दु:खद क्षण में और कुछ तो कर नहीं पाए, और उनकी अग्रणी आयु भी उनकी सहायक न बन सकी, पर उन्होंने यह ठान ली थी के आज वह मंदिर में जोत अवश्य जलाएंगे।

चाचा किशोरी लाल और चाची सुदर्शना ने भौएं चढ़ा ली थीं। दत्त पंडित यह क्या अटपटा काम करने जा रहे थे? अंधेर की आड़ लिए ही तो अब तक सभी हिन्दू किसी तरह सुरक्षित थे सुखोचक में - यह पूजा पाठ से क्या मिलने वाला था?

"पंडित जी, ये क्या कर रहे हैं? आप होश में तो हैं न?" एक सज्जन महाजन बोल ही पड़े। स्वर में क्रोध की एक झलक थी, और भय भी उसी से कुंठित था। मगर दत्त पंडित ने मानो उन्हें निषेध कर अपना काज जारी रखा। "यह दीपक की लौ हमें रास्ता दिखाएगी," इतना कह कर उन्होंने एक एक करके दसियों दीपक जला दिए ।

शिवाले के अँधेरे को आज इन दीपों की रौशनी निगल गयी थी। संभवतः सरला को कोई ऐसा दिन स्मरण नहीं हो रहा था जब दीपों की इस रौशनी से मंदिर कभी इतना पवित्र, इतना पावन कभी प्रतीत हुआ हो। दत्त पंडित ने आरती करना शुरू किया, और जय शिव ओमकारा के जाप से मानो सरे सुखोचक के हिन्दुओं में एक ऊर्जा की लहार दौड़ उठी। स्वर किसी का भी ऊँचा नहीं था, परन्तु इस आरती की शक्ति आज सभी को छू रही थी, आशा दे रही थी। सरला ने देवकी की ओर देखा तोह पाया के देवकी संग कई बड़ी विवाहित, वृद्ध महिलाएं अश्रुओं का एक अम्बार बहा रहीं थीं, मानो उसी अश्रु सागर के जल से वे शिवलिंग का अभिषेक कर देंगे। सरला याद करने लगी एक दिन को, जब उनकी दादी ने उन्हें कटास राज की कथा सुनाई थी, के कैसे शिवजी के आंसुओं से एक बिंदु सरोवर उत्पन्न हो उठा था।

"सच्ची बीजी?" सुलोचना का आश्चर्य पूर्ण स्वर आज अचानक से उसके कानों में गूँज रहा था।

"हाँ बिटिया, ऐसा ही हुआ था," उसकी दादी का वो आश्वासन आज साथ नहीं था। भागोंवाली थी उनकी दादी, जो गत वर्ष चल बसीं थी - अपनी मिट्टी पर मरने का सौभाग्य तो उनके माथे लगा था।

पूजा समाप्त हुई, और अंततः एक निर्णय हुआ, के सब चलेंगे गुटों में जम्मू की ओर। जीवन पर संकट तो था, लेकिन कुछ नहीं - शायद मृत्यु ही धरम परिवर्तन से बेहतर होगी। डोगरी होने का जो गर्व आज भी किशोरी लाल को था, वह अभूतपूर्व था। निर्णय हुआ था के जत्थे में दो लोग होंगे जो रक्षा के लिए होंगे - आदमियों को अनुसार बाँट दिया गया। सबने मशालें हाथ में दे दीं, और रामदत्त के कहने पर उन्होंने उन मशालों को पवित्र जोत से जला लिया।

"आज की पूजा हमारी अंतिम स्मृति होगी इस स्थान की," रामदत्त ने धीरे से बोला। "अब जम्मू में हमारी भेंट होगी, जो शिवजी की कृपा रही। उनका आशीर्वाद आप सभी के साथ है।"

सुखोचक - 1

सरला और उसकी बहन सुखमनी माँ और बापू के साथ शिवाले में छुपे हुए थे । किवाड़ बंद थे और रौशनी का कोई आता पता भी न था, क्योंकि दिए सब बुझे पड़े थे। और भी परिवार थे उनके संग, जो चुपचाप सांसें होंठों में भींच प्रतीक्षा कर रहे थे दंगाई भीड़ के शांत होने का, थम जाने का। सरला १५ की ही हुई थी, और उसकी बुद्धि में यह समझ नहीं आ रहा था के यह सब क्यों हो रहा था । सुना था पाकिस्तान की घोषणा हुई है, उसने परसों ही यह बात बापू से कुछ चिंताजनक स्वर में सुनी थी, मगर कौन ऐसे दृश्य की कल्पना कर सकता था?

सुखोचक जम्मू रियासत से मात्रा कुछ किलोमीटर की दूरी पर स्थित छोटा सा गाँव नुमा शहर था। हिन्दू मुस्लिम की जनसंख्या बराबर बराबर होने से कभी कभार तनाव तो रहता था, मगर शिवजी की देन से यह शहर छोटा ही सही अति समृद्ध होता था। हिन्दू और मुसलमान दोनों ही व्यापारिओं ने खूब कमाया था जम्मू की राहगीरी से, और उस पैसे का वर्चस्व जमाने की होड़ लगी रहती थी दोनों ही समुदायों में। जहां हिन्दू मंदिर के शिखर ऊँचे करते, वहीँ मुसलमान मस्जिद की गुम्बदों को और बड़ा बनाने का प्रयास करते। पर पिछले कुछ वर्षों से थोड़ा तनाव भी था, क्योंकि यह पाकिस्तान का विषय सबके गले में हड्डी बन उलझ गया था ।

सरला के जीवन में इस सब का कोई महत्त्व नहीं था; बीएस, वह यही सोच में डूबती जा रही थी के अब मेरा स्कूल छूटने वाला है । १५ साल की सरला, जो छठी कक्षा में प्रवेश पा चुकी थी, सुखोचक की सबसे पहली लड़कियों में गिनी जाने लगी जिन्होंने स्कूली शिक्षा का अनुभव किया था। अमीर जमींदार-व्यापारी परिवार में कुछ आर्य समाज का प्रभाव, तोह कुछ अब भी डोगरी विचार और रीती-प्रीति का प्रभाव - पंजाबी और डोगरी मिश्रित भाषी ये लोग और यह गाँव में कभी भी ऐसा नहीं था के झगडे नहीं हुए थे, लेकिन इन सब का सरला के जीवन से कोई मेल नहीं था। मुसलमान कामगार खेतों को जोत बटाई लेते, और उनको दूर से देखने का ही अनुभव था उनसे किसी भी प्रकार के मेलजोल के नाम पर।

सुखोचक के हिन्दू व्यापारी थे बहुत प्रसिद्ध पूरे पंजाब और जम्मू में । उनके सामान धन-धान्य संभवतः ही पंजाब और जम्मू में किसी सुखोचक समान शहर में देखने को मिलता हो। एक हवेली के किस्से अनेकों बार सुनाये जाते थे सुखोचक के बारे में - किसी समय एक साहूकार की हवेली में बरात आयी थी ब्याहने। हवेली में अनेकों द्वार होने के कारण बाराती सारे भिन्न भिन्न द्वार से निकल कर बिखर गए, और भटक कर परेशान होते रहे रात भर। भोर होने के पश्चात ही उन्हें समझ आया के क्या हुआ था, और इसी सब कोलाहल में विवाह का मुहूर्त टल गया था। वैसे तो जिस शिवाले में अभी इतने सारे हिन्दू छुपे हुए थे, उसका कलश भी कहते हैं के शुद्ध सोने के पत्तर से लिप्त था, और सूरज की किरणों को चहुँ ओर बिखेरता रहता था दिन भर, मानो स्वयं सूर्य की लघु भूमिका को निभा रहा हो ।

थोड़े आश्चर्य की बात तो थी के अभी तक मुसलामानों ने अभी तक मंदिर पर धावा नहीं बोला था - उनके हाथ हिन्दुओं की धन संपत्ति हाथ जो लग गयी होगी। गत दो दिनों से हिन्दू अपने अपने खेतों में अपने गहने, सोना और धन को रात के अंधेरों में गाढ़ रहे थे - सुनने में आ रहा था के पाकिस्तान बनने वाला है, और यह समझ नहीं थी किसी को भी के वह कहाँ जाने वाले थे। सुखोचक न तो हिन्दू बहुल था और न ही मुस्लिम बहुल - बात बात पर व्यापारी, कभी लड़के और कभी दोनों ओर के गुंडों में लगातार झड़पें हो रहीं थीं।

किन्तु कुछ समय से कुछ जानकार विद्वान हिन्दू अध्यापक, जो स्थानीय विद्यालयों में पढ़ाते थे, चुप चाप सुखोचक को छोड़ के जा रहे थे । हिन्दुओं की गिनती थोड़ी सी कम होने से वातावरण बहुत गरमा गया था। कहाँ जाएँ - सब यही सोचने लगे थे । भविष्य की चिंता सरला की माँ देवकी और पिता कन्हैया जसरोटिया में आये दिन बहस का रूप लेती।

"हमें जम्मू की ओर चलना चाहिए । वहां अपने लोग भी हैं, रह लेंगे कुछ दिन जिज्जी के यहां, और फिर आंकलन करेंगे आके," देवकी अक्सर कहती। कन्हैया अक्सर इस बात पर बिफर जाते, क्योंकि वो मानते थे के सुखोचक को भारत में ही डाला जाएगा।

"देखती रहना तुम, ऐसा ही होगा!" वह गुस्से से बोलते, और बात वहीँ थम जाती ।

लेकिन जब विद्यालय के मास्टर हवेली राम जी गाँव से पलायन कर गए, तो मन ही मन कन्हैया की चिंताएं भी बढ़ रही थीं । दो बेटी हैं, पता नहीं इनका भविष्य क्या लेकर आएगा, ऊपर से यह मुसलामानों की लड़कियां अगवा करने की रीत और आये दिन हिन्दू परिवारों की नाक काटने का चलन भयावह होता जा रहा था। स्वयं तो सुखोचक के हिन्दू क्षेत्र के सबसे अंतिम छोर पर स्थित थे, पर मुस्लिम बस्तियों की ओर रहने वाले परिवारों की अपनी अदृश्य होती बेटियों पर मौन किसी से न छुपा था।

और इसी सब के बीच वह तिथि आ ही गयी, जब सब कुछ सदैव के लिए बदलने वाला था - १५ अगस्त १९४७।

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Popular Front of India - What is The Organization All About?

Image Courtesy (DNA)

As the Delhi Police filed a chargesheet in the court with respect to the mayhem resulting from the Delhi Violence, the name of the organization Popular Front of India (PFI) has come up once again. Given this context, I decided to look at the PFI and its history, and found a disturbing picture of Islamist supremacy emerging, with uncomfortable questions on its activities within India, its troublesome origins, and promoting religious bigotry.

Troubling Origins of the PFI
As per the website of the PFI, the organization came into existence after the merger of the Karnataka Forum for Dignity (KFD) of Karnataka, National Development Front (NDF) of Kerala, and Manitha Neethi Pasarai (MNP) of Tamil Nadu) among other after the a National Convention on Reservation in Higher Education was organized jointly with All India Milli Council at New Delhi on 29th August 2006. Once the leadership of these organizations decided to merge for better coordination among themselves, a joint meeting of the Secretariat of South India Council and representatives of KFD, NDF and MNP was held on 22nd November 2006 at Calicut where the PFI came into existence.

The Vision Statement from the PFI’s Constitution reads like a typical liberal manifesto. Sample this extract:

Since independence, the ruling establishment has empowered the big business houses and the urban and rural elite, as it ignored the basic needs of the people below. The traditionally dominant social groups have hijacked the democratic process. They work hand in glove with neo-colonial, fascist and racist forces. The dalits, the tribals, the religious, the linguistic and cultural minorities, the backward classes and the women are denied their cultural and social space, making India one of the most backward countries in the world. The development models being used by the establishment is pro-rich and promotes ecological destruction. Resistance against exploitation and deprivation now is mostly local and isolated with no coordination and pooling of resources at national level. This organisation is a move towards coordination and management of such efforts for the achievement of socio-economic, cultural and political empowerment of the deprived and the downtrodden and the nation at large. It will try to establish an egalitarian society in which freedom, justice and security are enjoyed by all.

However, this has been a very clever veneer. In 2010, Times Now had reported the seizure of documents by police in Kerala from the PFI office that showed the aspiration of PFI to convert India into an Islamic state.

This was again revealed by another front organization of the Popular Front of India, Sathya Sarani, which has been accused of promoting love jihad and Islamic fundamentalism. As a sting operation of India Today had revealed, the intentions of the PFI very amply clear when Zainaba A.S., head of PFI's woman wing accepted the fact that PFI's sister organisation Sathya Sarani has carried out massive conversions.  

A matter of concern remains that a large chunk of its membership originally came from the NDF of Kerala. As documented by V Govind Krishnan, NDF was essentially a spill-over of the members of the Student Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) after it was banned. Gaining popularity on the pretext of promoting religion, the NDF seminars were found to be promoting a rhetoric of jihad. Krishnan quoted Nasser Faizi Koodathai, then joint secretary of the state committee of the Samastha Kerala Sunni Students Federation (SKSF) (EK Sunni Group), who had accused the PFI of leading Muslim youth down the path to religious extremism.

“Since its formation, PFI has presented a democratic façade, but the ideology remains the same as in the days of NDF. In the years following Babri, a number of extremist groups became active in north Kerala, exploiting Muslim anxiety. After ISS, Jama Iyyathul Ihsania, Sunni Tigers, SIMI, etc. were banned or became inactive, NDF was the most active group. It went by no name in the beginning. It secretly held classes in playgrounds, school buildings, and in the guise of martial arts training. It was mainly young people who attended. No outsider had any idea who the members were in any area,” according to Faizi.

Charged with Running a Terror Camp in Kannur

In 2013, the Kerala Police had conducted a raid on the property of a certain Thanal Foundation Trust in Kannur in North Kerala. Arms and ammunition were discovered, even as people ran away at the sight of the police. The NIA was called in for investigation, and eventually more than 21 people were arrested, all of whom had conspired to participate in a training camp for terrorist acts, on 23rd April, 2013 in Kannur district. Convicted by the NIA Special Court in its order dated 20th Jan, 2016. Quoting from the judgment:

On 23.4.2013 at about 12.15 hours, A1 to A21 were found engaged in arms training inside a buirding owned by Thanal Foundatlon a religious and charitable trust run by PFI at Narath. A1 to A21 attended the training inside the building in weapons and explosives. A22 and A23 were guarding the building and on seeing the police party they ran away. On getting information the then Sub lnspector of police, Mayyil Police Station, Kannur District, reached the spot, detected the offence, arrested A1 to A21 at 16.30 hours, seized the articles such as sword, lathies, country made bombs, raw materials for making country bombs, pamphlets etc and registered the case as crime No.276/2013.

The Gory Activities of the PFI

Behind the veneer of the vision statement however there are several disturbing incidents and events that the PFI and its members have been associated with for long.

Activists of the PFI had chopped off the right hand of Prof T J Joseph on July 4, 2010, when he was returning along with his family members from the Sunday mass near his home in Muvattupuzha in Ernakulam district. PFI was reportedly was upset after Joseph - a Malayalam teacher at Newmans College Thodupuzha, Idukki - in the Malayalam question paper that he had prepared for an internal examination at his college, had inflammatory remarks on Prophet Mohammed.

In 2015, the National Investigative Agency (NIA) court in Kochi had found 13 guilty and acquitted 18. Of the 13 people convicted, 11 were implicated on charges of attempt to murder and conspiracy. Ten of them were also found guilty under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. 

However, the attitude of the PFI has been ambivalent to it at best. In 2017, while dissociating itself from the attackers, Anis Ahmed, the National Secretary of PFI downplayed it by calling it a local incident involving local criminal elements, and clearly underlined that ‘there was no love for that teacher’ among the PFI members.

Two other murders where the PFI has been indicted or alleged to be involved have also seen investigation from the NIA. On 02.11.2016 the Karnataka State Police in 2016 along with the NIA arrested five people - Irfan Pasha, Waseem Ahmed, Mohammad Sadiq, Mohammed Mujeeb Ulla, and Asim Sheriff - all of whom were members of the PFI and its affiliated political organization, the Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI). As the 2017 NIA press release making the announcement on the chargesheet mentioned –

None of the accused had personal enmity with the deceased Rudresh. He was killed solely because of his leadership/membership to a particular organization. Investigation has established that the killing was a clear act of terror with the intention to strike terror among a section of the people. This was achieved by the broad daylight murder of a RSS member in uniform using a lethal weapon on 16 October 2016.

The other murder, currently under investigation, is the murder of Ramalingam of Tamil Nadu. As per the details shared publicly by the NIA on the case, Ramalingam was allegedly murdered by Rahman Sadiq, son of Mohammed Ismail, Administrator to DAWA activities in Thirubuvanam area and Muhammad Ali Jinna, son of Saji Muhammad, who is the District Secretary of PFI in Thirubuvanam district of Tamil Nadu along with other accused persons.
PFI members have been accused of moral policing in Kozhikode, Malappuram and Kasargod districts as well as in parts of Dakshina Kannada district in Karnataka. They have attacked Hindu and Muslim couples seen together in public as well as subjected Hindu men fraternising with Muslim girls to physical violence, much to the ignorant bliss of mainstream media despite coverage in local press. Krishnan interviewed Naveen Soorinje of local Mangalorean channel BTV, who clearly accused of large-scale moral policing by PFI in Mangaluru. He told Krishnan that the PFI was very clever about the way it especially attacked Hindu boys seen with Muslim girls, due to which very few FIRs get registered against them. He recalled a horrifying episode of moral policing in 2011, where PFI activists beat up and kidnapped a Muslim girl and boy eating together at Swagath hotel.

“They handed over the girl to her relative but kept the boy captive at a PFI office for several hours. When I called the PFI president in Mangalore over the phone, he admitted it brazenly,” Soorinje said.

In another case that had surfaced in 2018, the media had highlighted the case of one Harison who had married a Muslim woman being targeted and threated by SDPI, the PFI’s political wing. Death threats were issued against him and his family.

Religious Bigotry at the Heart of the PFI

Anti-Hindu rhetoric and religious bigotry is a continuing theme of the PFI’s rhetoric. In a speech from the 2017 National Convention of the PFI, a female delegate amid cheers and claps could be heard talking derogatorily about Hindus. “We are not like Hindus. We are born here, and we are buried here. In contrast, Hindus are ungrateful, for their ashes flow in to the ocean,” said Siraj.

One important face of the organization is Umar Shariff, head of an organization called Discover Islamic Education Trust (DIET). In a public lecture 4 years ago, Shariff had said that beef eating was very much the norm in ancient India, and that there was no substance to Hindu claims, and said that a majority of the people eat beef in India. In the speech, he also poked fun at the ‘hypocrisy’ of Hindus on eating meat.

“Cow is your mother, so is the bull your father?” Shariff mocked Hindus during the speech.

The group has been very careful to not let its anti-Hindu rhetoric come to the fore. However, the Athira case involving brainwashing by Sathya Sarani clearly highlighted the anti-Hindu mindset. In 2017, Athira gave a statement to the media post the high tension drama, where she reconverted back to Hinduism, where she clearly stated the anti-Hindu rhetoric of the PFI front. Athira told the media after converting back to Hinduism in 2017 about the anti-Hindu rhetoric of the group and its affiliates in detail.

“They told me it was stupid to worship a stone as an idol and that Hinduism has many Gods while Islam has only one Supreme God. They instilled this doubt in me. When they said that, I felt very curious about it and when I thought about it, I felt what they said was right. I was attracted to Islam through my college-time friends. They first told me about the evils of polytheism practiced by Hinduism. (They) prompted me to listen to religious sermons by Muslim scholars and gave me books about Islam. Siraj, brother of my friend Aneesa, was the key force behind my conversion. It was Siraj who prompted me to leave my home and embrace Islam.”

With piles of circumstantial evidence against the PFI on various fronts, nothing less than a thorough investigation on the organization must be undertaken by relevant authorities. The organization has a lot of questions to answer, and the sooner it is done, the more safe people would feel in general.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020


तेरे शौर्य की है ऐसी गाथा
तेरे सौंदर्य पर वो भारी पड़ी
तेरी चिता की राख की गर्माहट
ज्वाला से भी बहुत अधिक रही
करें कोटि प्रयत्न चंद तुच्छ मनुष्य
तेरी छवि को आज मिटाने की
पद्मावती, तू बस एक रानी नहीं
जीवन पर्यन्त तू अमर हुई।

तेरे हुकम रावल रतन की आँख
का तारा केवल तू नहीं रही
तू दूर आकाश में ध्रुव तारे
सी जग में यूँ तू ज्ञात हुई
तेरी वीरता से ख़िलजी थर्राया
तू वीरांगना श्रेष्ठ कुछ यूँ हुई
तू बस एक सुंदर रानी नहीं
मेवाड़ का अनमोल इक रतन हुई।

वो छल पारंगत क्रूर आक्रांता
जिससे बन लोहा तू भिड़ ही गई
तेरे प्राप्ति के हर संभव प्रयास को
तू आँधी बन छिन्बिन करती रही
तू बन चरित्र परिभाषा नई
हर पथ को प्रतिष्ठित करती चली
तू बन सिंहनी कर चली जौहड़
बनी आत्मसम्मान की नई गिरि

मरुथल में खिलते नहीं हैं पुष्प
तू बात असत्य कुछ यूँ कर गई
इतिहास स्वयं साक्षी था वहाँ
स्वयं धर्म बना तेरा अनुयायी
तेरी स्मृति महक रही आज भी है
तू भारत की ऐसी वीर हुई।
पद्मावती, तू बस एक रानी नहीं
जीवन पर्यन्त तू अमर हुई।

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

The Lost Story of Bihar's Industrialization


Today, this tweet came up to my knowledge, as I was walking through on the top trends on Twitter for a brief glance. What caught my eye was the image that was inserted in the tweet. Contrary to perceptions about Bihar being some agricultural rustic land, one saw some big plants having been named in the list. The tweet had an angry tone, and was asking that people are wanting to re-develop Bihar's industries so that the migrant labourers do not have to ever leave their state again. Ironically, while this topic rages on among the tweeters of Bihari origin, the topic seems to have hit a stonewall of silence, as if no one wants to talk about the story behind these pictures.


Migrants are not able to get work within Bihar has always been a major driver of the migrant exodus from the state. In 2015, when there were state elections, there was a detailed discussion after perhaps several decades in the news media about industrialization in Bihar. Perhaps it was a necessary question - more than a decade back Nitish Kumar had stormed to power with the promise of transforming Bihar. However, when one talks to the Biharis outside Bihar, one only hears from them about what I call the Patna mirage - the minute one steps beyond Patna, things are bleak as ever. What was ironic was that in places like Fatuha, a supposed industrial town that saw some industries working with government support, local people barely got any employment.

A classic example of the situation was a company called Lumbini Beverages. A plant for manufacturing soft drinks for Pepsi, the plant that had been operational since 1997 actually shut down in September 2019. Thousands of people, full time and contractual, lost jobs overnight, and they came on the streets. Ironically, the reason behind the closure was that Lumbini could not strike an agreement with Pepsi, and subsequently there were talks with Coca Cola, which also did not materialize. This news got buried under a host of Youtube videos that propagated the various mega projects that have announced investments in Bihar.

Now it has been a lazy argument that Jharkhand, once part of Bihar, was a big hub of industries, and somehow continues to remain so to an extent. However, it was never the case that other parts of Bihar did not have industries set up, which is where the picture raises a genuine question - what really happened?

A big factor of course would have been the fracturing of law and order in Bihar, courtesy Lalu Prasad. However, the story would have started much earlier - just like Bengal's industry decay can be traced back to 1977, one can certainly trace back a similar trajectory to the times of such leaders as Karpuri Thakur, who was continually sabotaged by his own partymen, particularly Lalu and Nitish, for 'failing to meet the people's aspirations'. Lalu too was a Nitish choice to sideline every other faction, and yet, despite being Minister for some time, he decided to part ways.

Of course, in general, the entire socialist ilk must bear responsibility for the fate of Bihar. In a write up for Uday India, long time Communist student leader and economist Mohan Guruswamy, who was friends with the slain Chandrashekhar Prasad, had detailed how everything, even economics, was seen as a casteist conspiracy, ably supported by the likes of Mohammad Shahabuddin and Sharad Yadav. To quote Guruswamy's words:

Lalu recalled some of the statistics in it and rattled off things from it like the credit/deposit ratios, the investment in irrigation and rural development, and the destructive freight equalisation policy. He had a somewhat different take on it though. He said it was an upper caste/class conspiracy to keep the people of UP and Bihar poor and backward. Sharad Yadav had no interest in such things. On the way back, Sharad Yadav told me that he had introduced me to the next CM of Bihar. VP Singh was curious to know what Sharad had to say. Among us Sharad Yadav, who had an infinite capacity for intrigue, was referred to as Mamashree, inspired by the portrayal of Shakuni in the then popular Mahabharata serial. I told him that Mamashree thought of Lalu as a future CM to take the place of the great Karpoori Thakur. VP Singh gave me a quizzical look, as if to say are you for real?

However, that is not the raison d'être alone. A significant period has passed since then, and many people perhaps are simply thankful for the fact that Bihar has not seen the crime wave that it became infamous for on that scale again for a long period of time. Even then, there are questions that remain, which never get answered. For instance, the 2019 Economic Survey poses some facts that make one wonder why there is not more industrialization in the state while questioning the policy adopted by the state in general:

  • Though Bihar contributed only 1.5% of the total industries in the country in 2015-16, the growth rate of such industries in the state was 10%, much higher than the national average of 4%.
  • Bihar has relatively lower productive capacity, which translates into low capital and labour returns. For instance, the average size of fixed capital per factory in Bihar was only Rs 3.39 crore compared to Rs 14.70 crore at national level in 2015-16.
  • Labour absorption capacity has also been very low in Bihar vis-à-vis other states. In 2015-16, the total employment in industries in Bihar was 1.19 lakh, mere 0.8% of the national average.
  • Similarly, the number of workers per factory was only 41 against 75 at all-India level. Interestingly, wages, salaries (including bonus) per person annually in factories in Bihar has not been particularly low. In Bihar, wages, salaries (including bonus) was Rs 1,19,305 per person annually in 2015-16, increasing from Rs 97,790 in the previous year.

With the varying questions in mind, I wish to find more answers to the problem. Hopefully, I will get guidance on the subject from those who know me and also find out more as I try to write (if I get the time on this subject)

Thursday, May 7, 2020

COVID Relief Package - What Other Countries Have Done

Courtesy: The Hindu
COVID-19 has impacted economies across the world, forcing people to seek government assistance in times of desperation. India already announced the PM Garib Kalyan Package and there are talks of a package to help the besieged Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) sector. Reserved Bank of India (RBI) too has announced a host of measures along with Ministry of Finance to ease compliance issues and infuse liquidity in the hands of the people to tide over the crisis. 

Interestingly in India, a debate has also started on the very need of a stimulus package given its potential impact on fiscal credit, led by Ila Patnaik and Haseeb Drabu. This section is advocating that instead of fiscal package, states should rather be allowed to raise funds on their own, an ability they lost with the implementation of the GST.

While the Indian government is working towards resolving the economic and human crisis in the most appropriate manner, we take a look at other countries and their economic packages during this period.

United States of America
The United States of America (USA) Senate passed a stimulus package of USD 2 trillion. The package was announced in the form of specific sector wise allocation announcements:
  • USD 532 billion for big business; USD 377 billion for small businesses, loans and grants to them.
  • USD 290 billion direct payment for families.
  • USD 290 billion to cover up for revenue lost due to tax cuts.
  • USD 260 billion unemployment insurance.
  • USD 150 billion for various states.

United Kingdom
With the Prime Minister of United Kingdom Boris Johnson temporarily out of the picture after being afflicted by COVID-19, Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak announced the stimulus in 4 packages:

  • Budget- First economic package of £12 billion allocation was announced during the budget delivery on 11 March.
  • On 17 March, he followed up with a £350-billion Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme for government-backed loans and £20 billion of grants and tax cuts for struggling companies.
  • On 20 March, he announced Coronavirus Job Retention Program of £7 billion of extra welfare spending. Government would pay 80% of salaried employees’ wages capped at £2,500/month. This was extended on 26 March to also cover additional employers. 

Germany announced a €750 billion stimulus package, comprising a mix of direct support and loans to specific sectors. Announcements were made using a mix of approaches:

  • €400 billion for securing corporate debt on the verge of default.
  • €100 billion for public sector bank KfW for giving out loans.
  • €100 billion to prevent hostile takeovers of companies by foreign entities
  • €50 billion to help small businesses and people affected by it including €15,000 Euro direct cash transfer to firms.

Australia has announced a 3-step fiscal stimulus package, using targeted approach:
  • AUD 17 billion fiscal stimulus package was announced on 11 March, targeting small business, welfare recipients and low-income households. 
  • On 23 March, the second fiscal stimulus of AUD 66 billion was announced. This included AUD 46 billion worth of direct government spending for individuals and businesses and AUD 20 billion loan guarantee. 
  • On 30 March, a AUD 130 Billion Jobs Plan was announced. Government will pay wage subsidies of AUD 1,500/employee every two weeks to help struggling businesses retain employees.

Japan announced a two-step fiscal stimulus worth $1.1 Trillion on April 7, using a combination of targeted and broad category approach announcements. The announcements were in continuation of the $121 billion fiscal stimulus announced in December of 2019 by the Japanese Prime Minister
  • Payment of ¥100,000 for every citizen
  • Government backed loan programs.

Singapore has announced three stimulus packages totalling to almost SGD 60 billion. The package is a mix of broad category announcements, targeted approaches and economic approaches:
  • SGD 6.4 billion allocated from the Health Ministry funds. This is targeted aid for sectors like tourism, aviation, food alongside household cash handouts.
  • SGD 48 billion announcement that provided for scrapping of property tax for hard-hit sectors, wage support for businesses and freezing of government fees.
  • SGD 5.1 billion allocation for extension of wage subsidies and foreign worker levy waiver, and raises cash handouts.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Seva and Karma – The Dual Helix of Causality and the Mandate to Engage

It is interesting to observe the idea of seva or service in the Indic darsanas. Whatever be the outlook towards life, the importance to service of others is given a lot of importance. This definitely arises from the intertwined helical relationship between karma and seva. A succinct example of the depth of embedding of seva in the philosophy of karma can be be found in the Srivaishnava sampradaya’s understanding of the Advaita marga as put out first by reformer saint Sri Ramanujacharya, who lived in the 12th century AD. As Mohan Sagar had elaborated in his short piece on Ramanujacharya’s darsana[1] highlights some important facts:

·   Each and every aatma or soul in a crude translation is in its essential nature, its svarUpam, a simple receptacle to the Lord's Grace, and a humble instrument to His Good. This nature of servitude is not only limited to the soul, but is indeed the nature of matter, as well.

·     Consequently, the Lord is likened to the Soul of the Universe, with all the myriad of souls, the bodies in which they reside, and the matter that are their material possessions, being likened to His Body, dependent wholly upon Him and serving as Instruments to His Good. It only stands to reason then that when we seek to love and serve God, we must be willing and able to serve what is His, namely His Body, this Universe.

·        When we go beyond the things that separate us, when we know that each and every one of us exists solely because of the Grace of God, and when we know that all living beings are in their True Nature servants to Sriman Narayana, we can begin to operate from this mood of serving the world as a means of expressing love and servitude to Him, nurturing and caring for each other such that we can serve Him better.

The nature of seva is also defined in its impact, both on the physical level and the metaphysical. It is well recognized that the conflict of what constitutes seva, the boundaries within which it gets defined, and its connection to karma are all limited in how individuals and societies relate within themselves and with other systems of belief and forms of social setups. Scale is appreciated, but not at the cost of the bhava or the sense of devotion that drives it. A classic example can be found in the parable surrounding Sri Rama’s affection for the chipmunk who brought tiny stones to build the bridge that would help Sri Rama’s vanara sena (monkey army) across the ocean to Lanka. As a rendition states Rama telling the vanaras, who made fun of the squirrel[2]:

“Always remember, however small, every task is equally important. A project can never be completed by the main people alone. They need the support of all, and however small, an effort should always be appreciated!”

This seva bhavana in turn helps to therefore fulfil both at the physical and the metaphysical requirements of humans, and has driven philanthropic efforts in India for millenia now. 

Seva does not go unrewarded in the matrix of religion, and does become ever more important as it is always about karma. The end goal of seva is not to gain heaven – rather, the end goal of seva is to ensure that your aatma gains mukti from the cycle of birth and death and become one with the Maker, a factor that makes the idea of service distinctly different from Abrahamic ideology of service to mankind, which is driven more by the idea of achieving heaven and coming closer to God. In this, the instructive guidance comes from the Dharmashastras, which clearly underline the need for people to be engaged with society through karma, which also includes seva. This can be seen in the way shastras talk about seva in improving the karma of humans. That philanthropy is dictated is a matter of fact reference for such scholars as P V Kane, who in a detailed note had this to say when criticizing the narrow view of missionary scholars of the West on the Dharmasastras[3]:

Every house-holder was called upon by the Hindu Śāstras to offer food according to his ability to students, ascetics and to all beings including the untouchable candālas and even dogs and crows. Every brāhmana who could teach had to do so without demanding any fee beforehand, Maṭhs were established in all parts of India for expounding religious books, feeding students and the poor. There are annasatras even now where hundreds are fed every day. No necessity arose throughout the ages for a Poor Law in India with its attendant evils well portrayed in Dickens' famous master-piece 'Oliver Twist’. The above were some of the different aspects of philanthropy and charity which are now dubbed social service.

Kane, in fact, goes on to further elaborate on the ancient nature of this sense of service, tracing it back to the Yajur Veda, which mandates the donation of cows to the sick people, and then finding evidences to the same in the Mauryan emperor Asoka’s reign, whereby hospitals were established even for beasts.

In the Buddhist and Jain realms, donations are extremely equally important. Service is again playing a major role in attaining moksha. In his introduction to the Niyamasara of Acharya Kunda Kunda, Uggar Sain had clearly enumerated hows every Jaina house-holder is supposed to perform six daily duties, one of which is Dana or charity, comprising of giving of food, knowledge, medicine, or protection[4]. Similarly, in Buddhist literature, one sees references to the importance of service and charity, as shown in the various Jatakas[5] or stories of the Buddha’s previous birth lives where he identified himself with the one who would engage in generosity, compassion and charity, and building many structures of service.

[3] Kane. P.V., HISTORY OF THE DHARMA ŚĀSTRA (ANCIENT AND MEDIEVAL RELIGIOUS AND CIVIL LAW), Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, Poona 1941, viewed at https://www.australiancouncilofhinduclergy.com/uploads/5/5/4/9/5549439/history_of_dharma_sastras.pdf
[4] The Sacred Books Of The Jainas: Niyamsara (The Perfect Law) of Shri KundKund Acharya, Jagmander Lal Jain Memorial Series, Vol V, 1931 Central Jain Publishing House, viewed at https://archive.org/details/Niyamsara/mode/2up
[5] Tales of the Buddha retold by Ken & Visakha Kawasaki 1995, viewed at https://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/kawasaki/

Slicing Through the Chinese High-Tech Economy Propaganda

(Courtesy: India TV) The Indian government’s decision to put 59 applications originating from the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has liter...