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A new chapter in the saga of the Ram temple

The test will probably encompass the “nationalists” as well, including Muslims, Sikhs, Christians and other minorities, in the House.



Babri Masjid Ram Temple Supreme court

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), the two “non-electables”, to use Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s term, are among the Hindutva groups which are pushing for immediately starting the construction of the Ram temple in Ayodhya.

While the RSS chief, Mohan Bhagwat, has called upon the government to bring an ordinance to facilitate the work, a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP is introducing a private member’s bill in the Rajya Sabha on the subject, presumably to test the faith of all the Hindus, especially those who claim to be secular — such as those in the Congress.

The test will probably encompass the “nationalists” as well, including Muslims, Sikhs, Christians and other minorities, in the House.

Since the Narendra Modi government itself has not been noticeably proactive on the matter, the efforts of the RSS and others are apparently intended to create an atmosphere about the inevitability of the temple being built, which is expected to be electorally helpful to the BJP.

However, the government’s reticence does not mean that the RSS and the others do not enjoy the ruling party’s tacit support. But the government cannot but lie low because the matter is sub judice. If it joins the clamour for the temple, it may fall foul of the law.

At the same time, the government probably secretly welcomes the upping of the ante on the temple because it will divert attention from its inadequacies on the economic front, especially where the availability of jobs is concerned.

The government will also hope that if the cry for the temple becomes louder, it will push the controversies relating to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Reserve Bank of India, which haven’t shown the government in a favourable light, out of the front pages of newspapers.

But it also cannot be unaware that it is playing a dangerous game, for any raising of the communal temperature carries the possibility of riots or create a tension-ridden atmosphere which will deter investors despite the improvement in the ease of doing business index from 100 to 77.

What is more, the risks of raising the temple pitch may not be as electorally effective as the Sangh parivar believes because it is now widely recognised that religiosity does not have as much to do with the issue as politics.

It is for this reason that the temple did not figure in the BJP’s electoral campaign in 2014. Moreover, the party’s success was based on the secular plank of development for all enunciated by the “sabka saath, sabka vikas” slogan. A return to the temple, therefore, is a virtual admission that the “sabka saath” endeavours have not worked.

However, for the RSS and the VHP, who do not have to contest elections, and have a single-minded focus on ushering in a Hindu rashtra — a nation of, by and for Hindus — it is apparently now or never. They appear to have realised that this will be their last chance in a long while of building a temple of their dreams because the BJP may not secure a majority of its own in the Lok Sabha in 2019 although the alliance led by it may do so.

If that happens, as seems likely, it will be extremely difficult to enact a law for constructing the temple because not all of the BJP’s allies — the Janata Dal-United, for instance — will not be eager to support it for fear of alienating the Muslims. The BJP’s weakened position will also prevent it from asserting itself.

It has been argued that the BJP raises the temple issue — or allows it to be raised — before every major election to consolidate the Hindu vote. Since the party has never been as politically strong as at present, the belief in the saffron brotherhood apparently was that all that was needed was one final concerted effort.

The party also expected a favourable verdict from the Supreme Court, enabling it to “sweep” the elections, as BJP MP Subramanian Swamy said. However, the court’s decision to defer the hearings till next year has disappointed the Hindutva camp.

It was already unhappy with the apex court on several counts, including the verdict allowing women of all ages to enter the Sabarimala temple in Kerala when “tradition” prohibits the women of a reproductive age from being in the temple precincts.

On the Ayodhya temple, too, the saffron lobby used to say during the Ramjanmabhoomi movement in the 1990s that the courts can have no say in a matter of faith. After its ascent to power, the BJP has softened its stance on Ayodhya (though not on Sabarimala), but the RSS and VHP are not willing to wait for a judicial pronouncement.

It is obviously a tightrope walk for the BJP between constitutionalism represented by the judiciary and its belief that the Ram temple is the “soul” of India. Since the BJP has been engaged in this balancing act ever since the temple issue was raised in the party’s Palanpur resolution in Gujarat in 1989, the latest initiatives are probably no more than a new chapter in an ongoing saga.

(Amulya Ganguli is a political analyst. The views expressed are personal. He can be reached at [email protected])


Aatmanirbhar Bharat: Tribal Affairs Ministry to ink 2 MoUs with KVIC

A Tribal Affairs Ministry source related to development said that the two MoUs will be signed later this week.




Employment Generation programme

New Delhi, Jan 17 : Giving a major thrust to the government’s ambitious Aatmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan, the Tribal Affairs Ministry is all set to sign two MoUs with the Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) for procurement of Khadi fabric for tribal students and for partnering with KVIC in implementing the flagship employment generation scheme – Prime Minister’s Employment Generation Programme (PMEGP).

The ministry will purchase over 6 lakh metres of Khadi fabric worth nearly Rs 15 crore for uniforms of tribal students studying in Eklavya residential schools across the country.

As part of the second MoU, National Scheduled Tribe Finance Development Corporation (NSTFDC), an agency of the Tribal Affairs Ministry, will be roped in as KVIC’s partner in implementing PMEGP scheme. NSTFDC is an agency that provides concessional loan schemes for economic development of tribals in India for funding entrepreneurial ventures of aspiring scheduled tribes in all sectors of the economy.

A Tribal Affairs Ministry source related to development said that the two MoUs will be signed later this week.

The MoUs are in line with the government’s Aatmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan by creating local and self employment for Khadi artisans and the tribals. The huge purchase of Khadi fabric will create additional employment and income for artisans, a government official said. Similarly, roping in the Tribal Affairs Ministry with PMEGP will increase its ambit and also include more entrepreneurs from the ST community with local manufacturing.

Officials said the first MoU for purchase of Khadi fabric will be between NESTS and KVIC while the other one one will be between NSTFDC and KVIC.

The source said that the Tribal Affairs Ministry, which runs Eklavya residential schools where at present 75,000 students are studying, proposes to establish a total of 750 schools by 2022. He said that with 750 more schools, a total of 3.6 lakh students will be enrolled in these schools, which has been envisioned by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The source said that each school will have 480 students.

He further explained that the ministry has recently standardised school uniform design for the students in the schools with a distinct logo in partnership with National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT) based in New Delhi.

The source said that keeping in view the focus of the government and the call of the Prime Minister to embrace Khadi as a philosophy and recently as a critical component of the Aatmanirbhar Bharat strategy, the Tribal Affairs Ministry felt it appropriate to source the fabric for uniforms of Eklavya residential schools from KVIC after several rounds of discussions.

He said that current requirement of around 6 lakh metres will increase in subsequent years as enrolment in the schools will go up.

“In order to take this forward, the Ministry through NESTS shall be entering into an MoU for procuring the fabric at an approximate cost of Rs 14.77 crore for 2020-21.”

The source further said that as two dresses are given each year and number of students will increase every year with establishment of new schools, this would be an annual affair and procurement is likely to multiply every year and expected to be of Rs 50 crore by 2022.

He also said that it would not only give quality dress material to the students but also give employment to thousand of artisans and workers across the country.

The source said that based on the success of school uniform initiative, other requirements of schools like bedding, towels, ‘dari’, and others can also be procured from KVIC in future.

“Therefore the proposed MoU between NSTFDC and KVIC will formalise this arrangement and will be a landmark initiative to bring synergy between NSTFDC and KVIC in reaching out to tribal entrepreneurs under the larger ambit of PMEGP scheme,” the source added.

The source further said that the MoU will be signed in presence of Union ministers Nitin Gadkari and Arjun Munda.

(Anand Singh can be contacted at [email protected])

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Horror of Jan 1990 continues to haunt migrant Kashmiri Pandits

For a common Kashmiri, both Muslim and Hindu, world has never been the same after January 1990.




kashmiri pandit

Jammu, Jan 17 : The world for 70-year-old Autar Krishan Raina has never been the same place, not after he left his home in Srinagar in the aftermath of that horrifying night in January 1990.

“I never believed that old wounds could hurt so hard. I have often been jolted out of sleep as if those frightening slogans are still going on outside my home.

“We lived peacefully among our Muslim neighbours in Aaali Kadal area of downtown Srinagar. I had grown up alongside my best friend, Afzal, who would sit beside my mother like her second son.

“My mother loved Afzal like she would have if I had a blood brother,” Raina recalls the good old days walking down the memory lane to identify his home in Aali Kadal which today is a half-fallen ruin.

He now lives in Jammu city where his son and daughter grew up.

The daughter is a doctor while his son is working in Mumbai as a software engineer. Raina lost his wife two years after the family migrated with hundreds of other Kashmiri Pandits to take shelter away from home.

“My tragedy is that I did not only lose my home and friends. I have lost faith in the goodness of humankind,” he recalled with moist eyes requesting not to be pushed to relive the horror he has been through.

The exodus of Kashmiri Pandits has haunted both local Hindus and Muslims. For centuries, the two communities had co-existed with intertwined destinies. Eid and Maha Shivratri had been common festivals.

The shrine of Sheikh Humza Makhdoom atop the Hari Parbat hillock in old Srinagar city has wonderfully blend with the neighbouring temple of Sharika Devi.

Muslims and local Pandits have paid obeisance at these two places of faith to pray for brotherhood, love and mutual respect. Their societal interests have been common. Imagining life without each other was impossible till 1990.

All that was shattered and lost during the January of 1990. Slogans of ‘Azadi’ (Freedom) had achieved just one objective, Kashmiri Pandits lost their home and hearth while the local Muslims lost their innocence.

For a common Kashmiri, both Muslim and Hindu, world has never been the same after January 1990.

Local Muslims have suffered immensely at the hands of those who hated their lofty traditions and the ideals of religious tolerance. Local Hindus have become refugees in their own country.

“We lost our homeland. Living as refugees in your own country is perhaps a tragedy only the Kashmiri Pandit has suffered. The future of my children is safe, but they have lost their roots,” Raina ends his story as he closes the door of his house away from home.

Will Kashmir ever be the same as it was before January 1990? Might be it will, but the wounds in the hearts and minds of those who suffered the horror of those days and nights will continue to fester because some wounds are never fully healed.

(Sheikh Qayoom can be contacted at [email protected])

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Congress’s women wing to observe ‘Mahila Kisan Diwas’ on Monday

Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi and former party chief Rahul Gandhi joined the protest march here on Friday to show solidarity with the protesting farmers.




Mahila Kisan Diwas

The women wing of the Congress has decided to observe “Mahila Kisan Diwas” (Women Farmers’ Day) on Monday, to show solidarity with the thousands of farmers’ protesting against the three controversial farm laws.

All India Mahila Congress president Sushmita Dev said: “The All India Mahila Congress which has been at the forefront of the fight for women’s rights wholeheartedly welcomes this and will support this call to observe Mahila Kisan Diwas.”

The Congress’ women wing said that the farmers have played a critical role in the fight for justice and have shown the country the importance of women in agriculture and in revolution.

They have not only left their homes to protest against the farm laws, but also worked to ensure more awareness amongst people on how these legislations will destroy their livelihood.

Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi and former party chief Rahul Gandhi joined the protest march here on Friday to show solidarity with the protesting farmers.

Speaking on the occasion, Rahul Gandhi said: “Prime Minister Narendra Modi did not respect the farmers… the party is in farmerss support till these laws are withdrawn.”

Slamming the BJP, the Congress leader said the government is working for businessmen and these laws are not in favour of the farmers.

The Congress on Friday staged protests at all Raj Bhavans (Governor’s House) across the country and demanded the withdrawal of the farm laws.

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