/**SNAP Code begin **/ /**SNAP Code end **/

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Tirupati's Dalita Govindam

Tirupati Venkateswara Swamy visits dalits at their homes!

Named ‘Dalit Govindam’, the initiative involves Dalits in prayer rituals and ceremonies without any prejudice or cutting costs. The Lord and his entourage spend the night with the Dalit residents.

Living in abject poverty, a majority of the Dalit families here cannot afford a pilgrimage to Tirumala. Prevailing caste bias means they are not allowed into many local temples.

“The God does not discriminate and this is the message we want to convey to them. Due to poverty, most of them wait several years to make a trip for the Lord’s darshan. We introduced this programme of taking the idols of Lord Venkateshwara and his two consorts to Dalit settlements to eradicate caste discrimination and also to give them an opportunity to pray and worship to their heart’s content and take part in the traditional rituals and ceremonies which they never witness. The priests also give them ‘Vedic blessings’ which only VVIPs visiting the main temple in Tirumala normally receive,” says TTD’s Chairman B Karunakar Reddy.

The idols are kept on a platform in the middle of the ‘dalitwada’ for the rituals. To make sure that there is no hesitation among the residents, the priests go to each and every household and invite them to join the ceremony and rituals. “Three couples are selected who will join the priests in reciting the hymns and perfoming the various rituals. The ‘prasadam’ and food is also prepared with the involvement of everyone. To clear misconceptions like untouchability and segregation, the priests, TTD officials and the local residents then share the prasadam and food from the same vessels and plates,” Reddy informs.
Without being defensive about it, Karunakar Reddy says the program is also to stop the hallowing out of Hindus and Hinduism by well-funded religious converters and soul harvesters.
Pointing out that Dalits are getting alienated from the society and Hindu religion, leading to conversions, Reddy adds: “I hope this will also help bring them back into the mainstream.”
This action of Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD) will do infinitely more to erase caste/jati/varnam discrimination than any law or reservation system that has been in force for sixty years. I hope TTD will not only visit villages in A.P. but also visit villages all over the country - in the south, north, and northeast - and make it mission to be visible and to speak loudly and clearly that it and Lord Venkateswara doesn't condone discrimination and segregation amongst Hindus, especially against dalits and the so called untouchables. One hopes taking the lead of TTD, other temples stop their discriminating practices and that this action by TTD would take the dialogue against discrimination and segregation within Hinduism to a new level and hopefully pave the path for eliminated segregation from amongst Hindus within a generation. What a complement it would be for economic growth and material development!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

All That For Nothing!

Glenn Kessler of Washington Post writes that US Congress may not ratify the finalized version of 123 Nuclear Agreement between US and India mainly because the much discussed Hyde Act says US Congress needs to have "30 days of continuous session to consider it" and more importantly because leader of US Congress does not want a lame duck session before the new US president is sworn in, sometime in January.

So far so good. But Kessler also says, quoting American officials, that after an agreement with NSG - that 45-member nuclear supply group (which comes after an agreement with IAEA) - India doesn't need an agreement with US. It can go directly to Russia or France to go ahead with the civil nuclear equipment purchase agreements. An agreement then, post-NSG, is actually in US interest so that US companies can bit for civil nuclear projects in India! So US gets little in return for all the help, at least right away, if the agreement is not ratified by US Congress. President Obama and his liberal supports may block it, but who cares! In the long run, surely, India will be grateful for what US, and specifically president Bush, has done and continue to be strategic partner.

So all the hot air from the communists that India will become US stooge apparently is bogus. We may end being the stooge of Russia and France! And BJP's worry that somehow US will scuttle Indian nuclear test capability also seem to come to knots, because there is no Hyde Act with the Russians and the French. Once India is free from the shackles of NPT and American-lead sanctions, it will practically be impossible to put India in that straight jacket again even if India tests and Americans somehow impose sanctions per Hyde Act.

It's another matter if the NSG will ratify the agreement. G8 apparently support it. But once NSG ratifies the IAEA agreement, there is no turning back.

And, it seems, all those arguments are over nothing!

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

One Off Or New Strategy

Yesterday I wondered if the latest car bombing in Kabul was a change in Pakistan's strategy towards Afghanistan. Today Praveen Swami writes about how the security and intelligence apparatus is approaching the suicide bombing targeting Bharatiya embassy.

“The water in Afghanistan,” Pakistan President General Mohammad Zia-ul-Haq told his spymaster Lieutenant-General Akhtar Abdul Rehman Khan in December 1979, “must boil at the right temperature.”

Ever since a car bomb ripped through the Indian mission in Kabul on Monday, India’s National Security Adviser, M.K. Narayanan, as well as top officials of the Research and Analysis Wing, the Intelligence Bureau and the Ministry of External Affairs, have all been focussed on just one question: was the attack a one-off strike by Islamist terror groups, or part of a focussed operation by Pakistan’s covert services to make the water in Afghanistan too hot for India to swim in?

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

And The Pitfalls in Getting The Deal

Even as Manmohan Singh bought Amar Singh's and Samajwadi Party's support using CBI's help, sidelining the communists after four long years of being under their thumb on every issue, the task to getting 123 Nuclear Agreement with US ratified by IAEA and NSG is not going to be easy. C. Rajamohan outlines the hurdles especially from the so called liberals.

As a New York Times editorial revealed over the weekend, those who oppose India’s membership of the nuclear club have not raised the white flag. The caution from the Times against an international rush to implement the nuclear deal is likely to be repeated by some other leading publications. So long as the CPM and the BJP were blocking the deal, India’s international adversaries had no reason to step into the debate. The very moment that India signalled its readiness to make the final push, the opponents have come out of the woodwork.
The potential new president of US, presumably Obama, already conveyed that he would not proceed with the deal and that the relationship with India would be on a lower footing. (Knowing this why American Indians and Indians in India support Obama is a mystery!) McCain already endorsed the deal. All that the opposing groups, this could include China, have to do is to delay the ratification of the agreement until January when the newly elected president Obama can take over to make the agreement unworkable for India. After all, the agreement - C. Rajamohan calls it the "most consequential diplomatic campaigns" - may still not be Manmohan's legacy. But I do wish him well.

Terror Innovator Innovates Again

No one innovates more than LTTE in creating terror in new ways. The suicide bombers. A Navy. A disassemblable bomber plane. And now a human torpedo!

Rattled by the “mystery explosion” that sunk one of its fast-attack naval crafts on March 22, the Sri Lankan government has shared the findings of its investigation with an official team led by National Security Advisor M K Narayanan that visited Colombo last week. The Indian team was briefed on the LTTE’s latest weapon — “human torpedoes”. The Indian team included the Foreign Secretary and the Defence Secretary.

Attacking Indian Embassy

Even as some argue that Bharat should even attempt to be a super power - one reason being there is Bharatiya Hindu Right (sic) in the country, apparently we already are. If not a super power, at least a region power that matters.

What else would explain the suicide car bomb terrorist attack - second largest in the recently initiated suicide terror in Afghanistan - that specifically targeted the ambassador to Afghanistan Sri Jayant Prasad, who was unhurt. Other 41 people weren't so lucky including two senior embassy personal and two low-level Bharatiya employees and number of Afghans waiting in line to get a visa to India and others shopping in the nearby market. About 150 were hurt. It was one powerful car bomb. But why target India? And why now?

Early AP story claimed that Taliban denied the attack and Land of the Pure's foreign ministry spokesperson had nothing to say. But now Taliban claims it did it and LoP denies its ISI's involvement. One apparent LoP political analyst that AP reporter spoke said Indians were asking for it by opening consulates all over Afghanistan. Presumably for influencing events in Afghanistan and spying on its eastern neighbour. So it's clear who perpetrated the attacks.

The why now may be easier to answer. With election season in India and US, the likely repercussions are less. In fact if the terrorists are lucky and if it plays out well on India's TV, with enough public pressure, India may even pull out of Afghanistan. There was some public outrage when civil engineers were killed by Taliban in the past.

And why would Taliban attack Indian Embassy when the Afghanistan Interior ministry was just down the road? Surely Taliban cannot overturn Karzai's government by targeting India.

Recently president Karzai claimed that ISI was planning to assassinate him. Few days before that Karzai said he would send Afghan forces across the border to hunt down Taliban and al Qaida. With European forces on-again-off-again support to US and NATO involvement in Afghanistan, ISI seems to be working on a strategy. It cannot direct its attacks on US and NATO forces - if the NATO forces have any inclination that ISI is directly killing Americans or Europeans, LoP will be in deep trouble. With Karzai out the way, with India out the way, and with Bush retiring, LoP establishment could use its charm offensive to, may be, talk the newly elected US president, presumably Obama (who seems to be the next Carter when it comes relations with India), into negotiating with Taliban in the name of stability and early withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan. The promise can be made to the Americans that Taliban and ISI will work together to fight al Qaida. In fact, a few key al Qaida personal may even be handed over at the right moment. That way the intense Islamic jihadi pressure building up in LoP could be released westwards. It would be back to the strategic depth situation of the mid-90s - an ideal situation for ISI.

It's just possible ISI may be taking its chances to create conditions that may play out to its advantage after elections are held in US and in India, late this year and early next. The next US president and Bharatiya prime minister may be the wild cards.