Sunday View: The Best Weekend Opinion Reads, Curated Just For You

Across the Aisle: India’s Soul Is Wounded

Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2019 is the BJP’s way of pushing their ‘Project Hindu Rashtra’ forward, writes P Chidambaram in The Indian Express. Despite several questions raised about making Muslims second-class citizens, the act has been passed. The onus on restoring equality and constitutional morality is now with the judiciary, he writes.

The only surprise is that the BJP is pushing its agenda so quickly after its massive election victory: criminalisation of triple talaq, the National Register of Citizens (NRC) exercise in Assam, the repeal of Article 370 of the Constitution and, now, the passage of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill are part of an elaborate plan to advance Project Hindu Rashtra.The common intent behind these moves is to send a blunt and unambiguous message to the Muslims of India that they are not equal citizens of this country and to reiterate the Golwalkar-Savarkar theory of ‘India is a Hindu nation’.

From Indo-Pak to Chindia and Back to Indo-Pak

There was a time when India was hailed for its cultural pluralism and democratic dissent and put at par with China as an emerging global power, but the country’s ranking has dropped drastically, writes Ramachandra Guha. In a column in Hindustan Times, he writes the passing of the ‘nakedly communal’ Citizenship (Amendment) Bill will make the world look at India as a nation driven by religious bigotry and sectarian prejudice.

When, back in the early years of this century, we sought to separate ourselves from Pakistan, the government of the day found an indispensable ally in the Indian entrepreneurial class. It was companies such as WIPRO, TCS and Infosys that presented an image of the innovative, outward-looking and productive Indian to the world. It was not just that these companies created jobs, wealth, and investment opportunities; it was that those who represented these companies abroad spoke the language of civility and reason, befriending and inspiring trust among entrepreneurs, politicians, and journalists of other countries. Now, however, as we find ourselves re-hyphenated with Pakistan, the government of the day has found a crucial ally in the Indian television industry. Several channels present an image of the narrow-minded and insecure Indian to the world.

Why Lawmakers Must Respect the Law

Karan Thapar wants to point out to the lawmakers of the country, who proudly supported the ‘fake encounter’ of the Hyderabad alleged rapists, that public lynching is retribution and not justice. It is shocking to see the blatantly wrong judgement of several ministers in understanding the law that clearly states that an accused is not guilty until a court determines so, he writes in Hindustan Times.

Most people would agree they should be diligent, accessible and committed to the principles and policies that led us to vote for them. However, I realised there’s something more we require. I’m talking of respect for the law, not just in terms of what they do but also in terms of what they profess. They are, after all, lawmakers. If they don’t understand or, even, observe the law, they fundamentally contradict their purpose.My concern began when four-time MP Jaya Bachchan said of the Hyderabad rape accused: “I know it’s little harsh but I think these kind of people need to be brought out in public and lynched.” And she said it in the Rajya Sabha, not quietly at home or to close friends. So I wasn’t just horrified by what she wanted but also where she declared it.

Out of My Mind: Myanmar, and an Asian Atrocity

Aung San Suu Kyi fought years in house arrest and finally won the battle for restoration of democracy in Myanmar only to other Muslims just like ‘the worst military general’?, asks Meghnad Desai. He writes in The Indian Express , that even as a Burmese delegation headed by her is facing trial at the International Court of Justice, it is quite astonishing that no neighbouring Asian nation has condemned this ‘genocide of the Rohingyas’.

It says something about Asian solidarity or humanism that no country in Asia has cast a critical eye towards Myanmar. Of course, the reason is China, which is a strong ally of Myanmar and a country no other Asian nation wants to displease. China has its own Uighur problem which has brought no protests on any street in any Asian country. Only the American Congress seems to be fighting for human rights these days. Though not the American President! During Gandhiji’s lifetime, Burma was a part of India. In 1935, it was separated. Then, in 1947, Partition made Pakistan a different country. In 1971, Bangladesh separated from Pakistan. From one, we have four. How many more?

Fifth Column: Dangerous Priorities

Tavleen Singh wants to understand why the amendment of a citizenship law was prioritised over solutions to fix a grim economy with prices rising, companies going bankrupt and unemployment rates soaring. In her column in The Indian Express, she writes, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has sure brought a social revolution by ousting a ruling elite but has been absent from matters of governance of extreme importance.

The main purpose of this exercise appears to be to target Muslim ‘infiltrators’, when there is already an atmosphere of terror spreading through the ghettoes in which our poorest Muslim communities live. Many have never had documents to prove their Indianness. Nor do Hindus and Sikhs of my generation. In those lax, louche old days when the ruling elite was less allergic to Muslims, most Indians spent their lives without documents of identity. Those who had passports were only a small handful of us privileged types who could afford to travel to foreign lands.

BJP's Ideological Leaps

The furore over the Citizenship Amendment Bill 2019 has resurrected the forgotten histories of the partition and has strongly questioned India’s national sovereignty, writes Swapan Dasgupta. In a column in The Telegraph, he writes about how the country has failed to understand the lives and future of people who were once uprooted from their country but now have a passionate commitment to India and see it as their natural homeland.

The opponents of the bill have viewed it as an attempt to inject a religious dimension in Indian citizenship. It has been suggested that the bill legitimises the demotion of India’s Muslims to second class citizens — a grave charge that will obviously have to pass exacting scrutiny by the Supreme Court. Indeed, judging by the somewhat half-hearted attempt by the fractured Opposition to counter the bill — Mamata Banerjee may be the only exception — it would seem that Modi’s opponents have reposed their entire faith in the judiciary to bail them out of a larger political failure. It is not for me to prejudge any Supreme Court verdict. However, from a political perspective, it would seem that the hostile reactions to the bid to fast track the citizenship of non-Muslim refugees from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan verge on alarmism.

This Christmas, Restore the Spirit of Giving

Pondering over the festive season of giving, Mark Tully wonders if CSR can really be equated to genuine giving or just doing what is required by the law and trying to squeeze the maximum advantage out of doing that? He writes in The Hindustan Times
about how CSR projects are picked not to serve the people but to improve the company’s image, boost their brand, have a commercial spin-off, thus always avoiding long-term projects.

Another part of India’s dwindling heritage has been preserved. Conservation has become a new category for CSR giving. The project’s returns to the Interglobe Group group seemed so limited that the board took a lot of persuading before they agreed to it. But wait a minute, the cynics, will argue, Interglobe is in the transport business and Indigo airlines is a member of the group, so the directors could have been motivated by the tourism potential of restoring the tomb. Maybe they were, but it seems to me to be far better to forget the cynicism, especially at this time of goodwill, and simply acknowledge that the restoration of Abdur Rahim Khan’s tomb is a gift.

‘Encounters’ Need to End but the Real Culprit Is a Moribund Judicial System

The real culprit behind the celebration of the encounter of the four rape suspects by the Hyderabad police is the ‘moribund judicial system’, points out SA Aiyer. The public is disgusted with the outrageous formal system that it happily accepts outrageous alternatives, he writes in a column in The Times of India. He believes the need of the hour is additional judges, speedy justice and enhanced forensic skills and elimination of political interference.

UP has a backlog of 25,000 rape cases and 42,000 offences against children. The state promises 218 new fast track courts to deal with this. But is it serious? Last Tuesday, the Ministry of Law and Justice released data showing only 62% of high court posts in India have been filled. The Allahabad high court topped the list with 60 of 160 posts vacant. The Economic Survey this year highlighted the need for judicial speed, not just for justice but to ensure enforcement of contracts, without which a market system cannot flourish. The Survey estimated that adding just 2,279 judges in the lower courts, 93 in high courts and one in the Supreme Court would suffice for a 100% case clearance rate. Has this been done? Alas no.

Towards Gender Equality: Paid Paternity Leave Is Needed to Address Toxic Masculinity

Rudroneel Ghosh explains why not having paid paternity leave can strengthen patriarchy in the society, leading to toxic masculinity and devaluation of women. In a column in The Times of India, he writes that giving men this facility could create a gender equal society, break down the stigma that the woman is the docile caretaker of the family and put an end to male chauvinistic attitudes.

Under pressure, a broken Nehru conceded the demand from the Jana Sangh — articulated by young Atal Bihari Vajpayee — that India resettle one lakh “sturdy” Punjabis, especially Sikh ex-servicemen in NEFA. Elwin fought back. The Jana Sangh, however, said the state which the Chinese had just invaded, had a Muslim chief secretary, Parsi adviser (Rustomji), and a Christian chief anthropologist (Elwin). It was unacceptable. Guha’s biography mentions how Elwin visited the home ministry on February 21, 1964, and was told by another Northeast specialist officer, Rashid Yousuf Ali, that the decision to resettle Punjabis and lift all restrictions was final. He had the file on his desk. The next day Elwin met friend Nehru. He died the day after, at 62. Three months later, Nehru died too.

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