Saturday, October 13, 2012

Light at end of tunnel, finally:The new development towards Islamic banking in India

Dr.Mohammad Manzoor Alam
Dr Mohammad Manzoor Alam

The Reserve Bank Governor Mr D. Subba Rao’s recent announcement constitutes a significant advance in the field of Islamic banking and finance in India, which has been a cherished goal for all of us, and for the attainment of which the Institute of Objective Studies has worked tirelessly over the last quarter century.

Although in Islamic finance we have already made substantial advance in India in terms of growing acceptance of Shariah-compliant investments and other Shariah-compliant financial services and products. The IOS, with the collaboration of financial consultants Estwind, developed a Shariah index of thousands of companies in India, which has helped pious Muslim investors to invest safely.

However, Islamic banking itself has been a far more tougher nut to crack. Finally, it has begun to crack and we hope to have a proper Islamic banking system in India, which so far had no such institution. Despite a huge body of research carried out by the IOS, and a large number of books published by us, introducing a large number of issues of Islamic economics to the wider society, the scene did not seem to change even a wee bit.

After writing hundreds of articles by scholars associated with the IOS, long debates, including an hour-long discussion on India’s premier TV network on prime time by Prof. Omar Chapra, Prof. Ausaf Ahmad and me on the advantages of interest-free banking and financial mechanisms nothing seemed to have changed. This programme was organized by IOS with great effort.

After years of long consultations with financial experts, seminars by erudite scholars, highest officials of Reserve Bank of India, Securities and Exchange Board of India, besides government secretaries in the ministries of finance, trade and commerce, and law we could come to the conclusion that unless India’s banking laws are suitably amended the Reserve Bank of India cannot allow Islamic banking operations in India.

For the last eight to ten years, the IOS, often with Indo-Arab Economic Co-operation Forum, has run a massive campaign of public awareness of the non-exploitative and stable nature of Islamic banking and finance as well as lobbying with the political elite to convince them about the desirability of introducing Islamic banking in India.

Our deliberations over the issues have been graced by the Prime Minister, Finance Minister, Home Minister and eight to ten ministers of the Union Cabinet, besides Chief Ministers of Delhi state and other states at a time. At one of these conferences, the Prime Minister met Arab delegates and also invited them for a longer talk over tea to his office in the evening.

After all these years of struggle and relentless toil, the Governor of Reserve Bank of India, announced late last week that he had formally written to the Government of India to restructure or amend the laws to allow Islamic banking in India.

He said: “Islamic banking is allowed in many parts of the world, but the Banking Regulation Act of India does not conform to Islamic banking because it allows banks to borrow from and deposit money with the RBI on interest. But we are in correspondence with the government on how our laws can be restructured or amended so that they are in conformity with Islamic banking”.

As far as the change in the law is concerned, I have met Mr Salman Khurshid, India’s Law Minister, several times in last few weeks to impress upon him the need to initiate the necessary measures. He has written to the Planning Commission of India and RBI as well as consulted with the top level of the federal government on the issue. Being among the four most powerful ministers in the cabinet of federal government, he has assured me of help, and has worked on that assurance.
The political establishment is today convinced that Islamic banking will allow inflow of billions of dollars into India and strengthen it. This will also help the country’s struggle to create a non-exploitative and equitable financial system in India.

God must be thanked and the struggle continued. It is a long story headed for a happy end.

The contents of the article rest on its author.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Sivakami I A S, the champion of the oppressed

Shafee Ahmed Ko

 captionP.Sivakami I.A.S.

P.Sivakami an I.A.S officer, of 1980 batch from Tamil Nadu, chose a deliberate exit from significant post mainly to fight atrocities towards Dalits. She joined Bahujan Samaj Party, and contested 2009 parliamentary election and unfortunately she was not able to win the race. Later she has organised party “Samuga Samatuva Padai Party”, and she steers it to a greater success.

Sivakami held responsible posts, including as collector in Thoothukudi district.
 As a steadfast bureaucrat, she served as special commissioner and commissioner,
 directorate of Stationary and Printing for Tamil Nadu Government and
 she opted voluntary retirement on November 23,2008 is now making brilliant history.
As a politician one could see Sivakami’s   bold step since she travelled wide and long from February (2012) to various states, including Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, West Bengal, Shillong to promote her mission also with an idea of electing a Christian successor to former President Pratibha Patil.  This could be one of her political manifestation that a minority to become the first citizen although Abdul Kalam had a fitting laurels. She was vociferous in the stand telling news reporters at the Shillong Press Club, “Our campaign is to look for a suitable Christian candidate who has integrity, who is apolitical and secular who would go on to occupy the highest office. He or she should be candidate who can represent the whole nation,” (The Telegraph: Kolkata Tuesday, April 3, 2012)

P.Sivkami's book release in Madurai (Courtesy:The Hindu)

One could comprehend her attempt Sivakami as champion of oppressed and 
depressed group and this is what she envisages that our nation should be.
Although wiping off the tears and woes the Dalits, Sivakami is optimistic
 to win the goal, and she has seen in her own experience as an upright officer a
 situations where upper class bureaucracy has denied the fitting post to Dalits
, for the simple reason that they are Dalits a wrongly conceived concept.
 It is no denial in politics, media, judiciary, and in executives 
upper class is dominating entire system of our country.
This, she feels that there should be an end to such socially diseased
 class conscious system. 
 All we know about Dalits ostracized as untouchable no matter
 they are living from urban or from rural area. 
 A kind of discrimination is being menaced everywhere as casteism,
 what we hear as two tumbler formula in
 Tamil Nadu, a raised  wall  in cemetery dividing one
 for upper caste, the other for untouchable are all
 well familiar news.
But Sivakami has more to tell about the atrocities meted to Dalits and she wonders 
as we all know how long such tragic situation of unemancipated racism, schaunism,
 and nepotism one could be bear with. The greatness of Sivakami  is her writing skill that
 would  expose the Dalit woes, key issues, it’s her greatness that  she sacrifices time
 in travel and meeting people of different parts of India only to disseminate her mission 
of rights of feminism, and to tell all how  atrocities against Dalits could be rooted  out.
As a literary insightful writer, we see Ms.Sivakami,attending a most important Literature Festival held
in Jaipur, on 26 January 2010 to commemorate,the 60th Republic Day which and almost most
 renowned writers including Ms.Sivakami who was the first Dalit woman writer participated.

The writers from different ends chiefly from Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Uttarakhand, 
Punjab, Delhi and Maharashtra converged to spotlight the Dalit woes through skilled writing.
 Madam Sivakami, Om Prakash Valmiki, Kancha Ilaiah, Ajay Navaria, Desraj Kali, 
Iqbal Udasi, and Laxman Gaikwad were among the key speakers. Amongst these personalities
Christophe Jaffrelot, a regular French columnist of Indian Express,
had to be a panellist along with Nirupam Dutt, S.S.Nirupam and S.Anand during the session.

 “The Dalit resurgence which took place in the 1990s in the State one
 among the prominent writers was the former Civil Services Officer P.Sivakami” 
  recorded “The Hindu” on December 1,2011(Madurai Edition) captioned
 “Dalit literature played vital role in resurgence” It was a celebrate event when
 Ms.Sivakami’s poetry compilation “Kadhavadaippu” nearest English could be
 “Lockout”. On the occasion at De Nobili centre of Madurai found the celebrities
 such as R.Adhiyaman, founder-president, Adi Tamizhar Peravai, and S. Tamil Selvan,
 state president, Tamil Nadu Progressive Writers' Association received the first copy.
 The most important thing that Mr.Adhiyaman extolled Sivakami’s writing comprised,
” Feminism, Dalitism and Body Politics” In reply Sivakami expressed her anguish how
 the poverty prone Dalits were exploited in every sphere of their life,
 be it economic resources, and society as a whole, the rich is an upper
 hand everywhere in anything. Mr. Adhiyaman was with all praise that Sivakami's writings dealt with,” Feminism, Dalitism and Body Politics.

Sivakami further added, “The ruling classes which form this elite section have no regard for the poor and the recent increase in prices state that, even schemes like Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme does not result or work towards empowering the poor but enslaving them, she opined”.

She feels that entering into political arena; she will gain more power to fight against the menace of upper caste meted to the Dalits. For a leading news magazine she said, “For long, I was planning to quit government service. I have worked with the downtrodden and for women’s empowerment. But in politics we have more power to bring about change,” She has   authored four novels and almost hundred short stories.

Sivakami with her mission marches as a champion of oppressed, and her steps are welcome with people’s cooperation and has gained lot of well wishers.


Saturday, October 6, 2012

Is ‘Hindu’ our identity and Nationalism?

     Baba Saheb Ambedkar  pained by the ignominies

Batla House Protesters
Religious identity has come to the bigger prominence in the social-political space during last few decades. The rise of communal and fundamentalist politics has vitiated the popular perceptions about ‘who are we’ and this in turn has deepened the divides in the society. Recently RSS supremo, Sarsanghchalak, Mohan Bhagwat stated (September 2012) that, “When we use the word ‘Hindu’, we refer to everyone in the Indian society—be it Hindus, Muslims or Christians—since it is a word that gives us our identity and nationalism.” Will it be acceptable to all Indians? The statement operates at two levels, one religious and two political-national.

Ram Puniyani
Are we all Indians, Hindus, as being stated by Bhagwat? It is true that the word Hindu itself came into use since around 8th century, when those coming from the West, Iraq, Iran to this side of the continent coined the word Hindu for those living on East of Sindhu. In their language word H is used more often for S, so Sindhu becomes Hindu. This word initially begins as a geographical category. Later various religious traditions, Brahmanism, Nath, Tantra, Siddh, and Bhakti, prevalent in this part of the continent started being called Hindu, and Hinduism became the broad umbrella for these different religious traditions. Today while in some parts of the World word Hindu still has geographical meaning, here in India and broadly at most of the places this word is primarily used as a religious category.

Varun Gandhi:Starred Speech.
Ambedkar, pained by the ignominies hurled on untouchables by Hindu caste system, expressed his sorrow by stating that, I was born a Hindu; that was not in my hands but I will not die a Hindu. He embraced Buddhism and left the Hindu religion. As communal politics started coming up to oppose the emerging Indian Nationalism, the feudal sections and Kings came together to give a religious colour to their opposition to emerging nationalism. In contrast to Indian national movement, they, feudal-lords-kings, posited Muslim Nationalism or Hindu nationalism. The parent organization which in due course gave rise to religious nationalist organizations, was United India Patriotic Association (UIPA) formed in 1888. In the formation of this organization Nawab of Dhaka and Raja of Kashi were the main people. Later some other middle class educated elements also joined in. This UIPA was the parent organization from which Muslim League and Hindu Mahasabha emerged.

While Islam, being a Prophet based religion, did not require any redefinition, Hinduism being an umbrella of various religious tendencies required to be defined for providing a base to Hindu religious nationalism. That’s how Savarkar came up with the definition that all those whose Punyabhu (Holy Land) and Pitrabhu (father land) is in this part of the World are Hindus. This was a political definition of Hinduism, as Savarkar was championing Hindu nationalism and wanted to exclude Muslims and Christians from being a part of nationalism envisaged by him. This definition of Savarkar also included Jains, Buddhists and Sikhs into Hindu fold, calling them as mere sects of Hinduism, which is not unacceptable to the followers of those religions. As these religions are also full-fledged religions.

Buddhists, Jains, Indian Muslims and Indian Christians have a Hindu identity is far from true.

Now to say, as Bhagwat is doing, that all Buddhists, Jains, Indian Muslims and Indian Christians have a Hindu identity is far from true. It is in a way a political imposition of Hindu identity and thereby Hindu rituals etc. on religious minorities. In the similar vein, nearly two decades ago Murli Manohar Joshi, another RSS Pracharak, then BJP President, stated that we are all Hindus, Muslims are Ahmadiya Hindus, and Christians are Christi Hindus and so on and so forth.

During freedom movement, two concepts of nationalism developed. One was the Indian nationalism, which was the hallmark of the founders of Indian National Congress. This was the defining principle of World’s largest ever mass movement, India’s freedom movement. Here nationalism is geographical and religion is personal. Majority of Indians supported this concept and joined the movement, which not only aimed to throw away the yoke of British colonialism but also laid the foundations of caste and gender transformation, and gave the defining principles of Liberty Equality and Fraternity, which came to be enshrined in our Constitution. The other Nationalism was religious nationalism, which began from the landed élites primarily and was later to divide in two parallel nationalisms, which had similar principles. These were Muslim Nationalism (Muslim League) and Hindu Nationalism (Hindu Mahasabha and RSS). These nationalisms not only kept aloof from the freedom movement, were opposed to the mass movement for freedom struggle but they also subtly protected the caste and gender hierarchy of feudal times in the name of ‘our glorious traditions’ or ‘our religion’ and so on. These religious national streams took back their nationalisms to ancient times. Muslim League claimed that ‘We Muslims are a Muslim Nation since the time Mohammad bin Kasim, established his kingdom in Sindh’. While Hindu nationalists claimed that we are a ‘Hindu nation since times immemorial’.
Hindu Terrorists at Malegaon

In this understanding; projection of Nationalism to the earlier times is totally flawed. The very concept of Nationalism begins from last three centuries or so, while putting an end to Kingdoms due to changes in industries and education. Even before kingdoms, there were other patterns of society, which can by no stretch of imagination be called as Nations. These concepts of nations glorify the kings belonging to their religions, while they also demonize or look down upon kings of ‘other’ religions, forgetting that the very system of kingdoms is highly exploitative and hierarchical.

At the same time during freedom movement, the ‘religious nation’ concepts gave a status to other religious minorities as the status of second class citizens. This has what has happened in Pakistan with the logic of Muslim nationalism unfolding there and this is what is happening to Indian minorities with the ascendance of Hindutva nationalism. Hindutva word is again not synonymous with Hindu religion, it is parallel to ‘political Islam’, Hindutva is ‘political Hinduism’ so to say. Golwalkar the major ideologue of RSS-Hindutva had formulated in his book ‘We or Our Nationhood defined’ that the Muslims and Christians must subordinate themselves to Hindus, else they will not deserve any citizenship rights. In India unfortunately his prophesy is getting actualized by and by, with the rise of communal violence and its aftermath.

To say that we are all Hindus is a political assertion to subjugate religious minorities on one hand and to uphold caste and gender hierarchy on the other. The later part related to hierarchical inequalities is the unspoken part of religious nationalism, political ideologies based on religion. To identify Hindu with our nationalism-identity is to oppose the very concept of Indian Nationalism, values of freedom movement and values of Indian Constitution. Such political agenda of RSS as articulated by Bhagwat is to stifle the democratic space offered to us by our Constitution to all of us, including religious minorities, and is an attempt to bring back the Golwalkar’s articulation in a more shrewd way. It will also be the beginning of telling the minorities that they will have to follow Hindu rituals, and Hindu holy books, Hindu deities amongst others. So, saying that we regard all as Hindus, is not an expression of magnanimity but is a way to impose Hindu identity on religious minorities. In sum a substance, Hindu is not the identity of all Indians, its religious identity only of Hindus. And of course ‘Hindu’ is not nationalism in any sense of the word as our nationalism is Indian.  

Issues in Secular Politics
I October 2012
Response only to

The contents of the article rest on the author.

PMO: No government money spent on Sonia’s foreign travel

Smita Gupta

Four days after Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi publicly accused the United Progressive Alliance government of forking out a whopping Rs. 1,880 crore on UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi’s foreign trips since 2004, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) rubbished these allegations.

Describing them as “untrue and misleading,” a statement issued by the PMO also stressed that the government had not paid for Ms. Gandhi’s medical treatment either abroad or in India. The only expense incurred on a foreign trip undertaken by Ms. Gandhi, the statement said, was when she travelled to Belgium to receive an award, and the tab was picked up by the Indian Council of Cultural Relations. The amount spent? Less than Rs. 3 lakh.

Interestingly, on Friday, even as the PMO issued the statement denying Mr. Modi’s claim (without naming him), the Congress turned the heat on BJP president Nitin Gadkari, saying a party headed by a man who saw nothing wrong in pleading the case of contractors should think before making baseless allegations against political rivals.

Congress general secretary Janardan Dwivedi accused the BJP of maligning his party leaders in a long and oblique preamble, but chose not to refer directly to Mr. Modi’s attack on Ms. Gandhi.

Instead, he trained his guns on Mr. Gadkari and demanded an investigation into a letter the latter wrote on July 30 to Union Water Resources Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal to expeditiously clear the dues of certain contractors involved in the centrally-sponsored Gosikhurd dam project in Vidarbha.

The project figures in the multi-crore scam in irrigation projects in Maharashtra, which led to Nationalist Congress Party leader Ajit Pawar quiting last month as deputy chief minister till a white paper is issued on the issue.

Meanwhile, the PMO statement comes in the wake of the Central Information Commission vouching for the fact that, as per its records, the government has spent no money on Ms. Gandhi’s foreign trips. “The Prime Minister's Office would like to put on record that the Government has incurred no expenses on UPA Chairperson’s visits abroad,” reads the PMO statement, adding, “Expenses for her security contingent are borne by the Special Protection Group. During the last 8 years only one trip to Belgium undertaken at the invitation of the Belgian Government to receive a national honour was paid for by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations. The total cost was less than Rs. 3 lakh. It is further clarified that the Government has not borne any expenses for UPA Chairperson’s medical treatment abroad and in India.”

The POM clarification also comes after Mr. Modi was forced to apologise and amend his accusations to saying that the RTI activist who had sought details on Ms. Gandhi’s foreign travels was yet to receive a reply. Mr. Modi had then attacked the government for not revealing the details sought by the activist swiftly.

Ms. Gandhi, who addressed an election rally in Gujarat on October 3, however, chose not to respond to the charges, saying she was not concerned about the personal attacks on her. Instead, she cited CAG reports to accuse the Modi government of misusing public funds.


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Nazi Inspiration:Narendra Modi’s familiar vituperation against Mrs Sonia Gandhi.

Dr Mohammad Manzoor Alam

By Dr Mohammad Manzoor Alam

Narendra Modi loves to attack two people Sonia Gandhi,  and General Pervez Musharraf, his favourite term for the general being Mian Musharraf.

It is pertinent to explain here that the Sonia Gandhi that he is attacking is the actual Mrs Gandhi, President of Congress Party and Chairperson of the UPA. However, Mian Musharraf is not General Musharraf, but Indian Muslims who, the Sangh thinks, are the Pakistani fifth column in India.

Also, he bragged about teaching Mian Musharraf a lesson during the Gujarat pogrom of 2002 only, but his attacks on Mrs Gandhi and Rahul never ceased.

Of late he has renewed his attacks on the Nehru-Gandhi family as a warm-up to the coming Assembly elections. His latest is that the Union government has spent Rs. 1880 crore on Mrs Gandhi’s medical treatment.

Modi has quoted a young RTI activist from Harayana. Ramesh Verma, who happens to be the probable activist from Haryana referred to by Modi, has said that the figures were not based on his inquiry on the same subject under RTI Act.
Verma said that he had tried several times to get the information, but he did not get it. That shows Modi’s claim as another malicious piece of lie.

According to reliable sources in the UPA, the amount spent on Mrs Gandhi’s treatment is only a few lakh rupees, not Rs. 1880 crore. Additionally, the expenses were borne by her only and the government had no role to play in it.

This has brought back former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister and Congress leader Digvijay Singh on the scene. He has twittered that Modi, having been brought up by the RSS in the Nazi mould, is doing what his spiritual guru, Hitler's  propagandist Goebbels, used to do.

Goebbels believed (and practiced what he believed) that if you speak a lie loud enough and go on repeating it, the lie would turn into truth. Modi is a loudmouth and an uncouth braggart. It comes naturally to him to shout and brag and lie endlessly. He is a real "chela "  of Hitler-Goebbels.

However, Hitler and Goebbels soon learnt it to their chagrin that endless repetition of a lie did not make it a truth. Soon, Modi too will learn.

The contents of the article rest on the author.

Cartoon courtesy:cartoonist Satish.