Of Elections in India

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I have been in India for a few years now and I have realized that of the few matters every Indian always has an (informed) opinion about, Politics and Cricket take the cake. The Election season has just come to an end with the BJP capturing a Majority and their allies taking the numbers well over the halfway mark. The internet and Media is abound with congratulatory messages, expectations from the new government, reasons the old one lost and forecasts of economic growth among other topics. While the general tone seems hopeful of the future to come, it is the Muslims who seem most dejected by the electoral victory of the BJP.

Mr. Modi, who was always seen as a ‘polarising figure’ – a term coined specifically to rid himself of the memories of Gujurat – coming to power means an uncomfortable and uncertain future for Muslims in India. There is a lot to be said about the right wing, pluralism, multiculturalism and the idea of a nation and much more erudite men and women have expressed these opinions in bigger outlets. As for me, there were few thoughts that struck me during and post the elections that I thought I would share and others could benefit vy.

  1. Leadership – The Indian elections are usually fought on the basis of party ideologies and what parties have to offer the people. This election was however turned into the ‘Battle of the Premiers’ by both Mr. Modi and the media. While the champion of the ruling party was portrayed as ineffectual and indecisive, the challenger was the complete opposite. Portrayed as person who can ‘do’ things that would make your life ‘better’, the campaign was won on the back of a leader’s ability. It goes to show that if the leader has sufficient skill and charisma, he can truly rally the masses behind him. As Yawar Baig pointed out in a recent article on Muslim Matters, the Muslim community in India has failed to invest in developing true leaders that could guide the community to greater participation in national affairs.

 

  1. Victory Comes with Preparation – The elections in India are a numbers game. Be it pre poll alliances, election rallies, voting patterns or votes garnered, one needs to have a good idea of how different segments of society will act in order to campaign successfully. The RSS-BJP combine were better prepared in all aspects of this numbers games. From mobilizing cadres of volunteers early in the campaign to using social media to reach out to a large number of people, no stone was left unturned in attempting to win the elections. Another striking feature of the election was that the party that came to power, did so on the back of the least percentage of votes in their favour (31%).

         One is reminded of the many times in the Prophet SAW’s life when he would prepare of for battle – in terms of material strength            and seeking help from Allah SWT, the measures would never be half hearted

  1. A Reminder to Us – That Muslims cannot rid themselves of the memory of riots in the past and fears emanating from Mr. Modi’s leadership are a challenge that we as a community have to face.  But one can find comfort in the Hadith of the Prophet SAW when he said

         “If the whole of mankind gathered to do some thing to help us, they could not help in anything which Allah had not already                     written for us. And if the whole of mankind gathered together to harm us, then they would not be able to harm with anything                  which Allah had not already written for us.”

           One needs to realize that the decree of Allah SWT is over and above any of the creation in this world and all good or evil that               comes one’s way comes with His permission.

  1. Best of Nations – Realizing this would help a Muslim continue working towards good without a fear of creation but with the consciousness of His Lord SWT. The Muslim nation has been selected by Allah SWT to guide the rest of the mankind to its complete spiritual realization and we as Muslims are tasked with this heavy mission irrespective of the circumstances surrounding us. Muslims form about 13% of the Indian population, spread across the length and breadth of India. The fortunes of this community may not have improved very much through successful governments but in the light of the global awareness and inquiry into Islam, it our job to contextualize our faith to the wider population and espouse clearly the message of Prophet hood (through belief, speech and action) for the benefit of our brethren.

 

  1. Current System – Though there are many more thoughts about the victory of Mr.Modi, I would like to end with a critical look at our times. Democracy and Capitalism, two bedfellows of each other, can override all notions of morality through its inherent nature. Defining man as a materialistic creature and then giving him to power to decide his economic progress, has led people to be blind to morality and ethics as we know it. This election is another case in point that a sufficient incentive of economic progress can preclude moral considerations in making a decision.

         PS: A cautioning is in order – One might be pro-development without necessarily being anti-minority/Muslim. Please keep this              distinction in mind while interacting with your friends and family.

 

 

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Oxfam Relief Efforts in Uttarakand

Recent rains in Uttarakand have created widespread damage in the region with entire villages being washed away and thousands of people still stranded. The Indian army and other agencies are coordinating relief efforts while certain politicians are taking this as an opportunity for one upmanship.

Below is a quick picture I came up with, after a conversation with the Oxfam India representative in Bangalore. The email conversation along with details of operations on the ground and contact details are included here. Oxfam is currently providing relief services in terms of food and blankets at the moment along with help from people experienced in disaster management through their local partners.

Uttarakand Damage

Uttarakand Damage

The scope of their work will extend to providing shelter, health, hygiene and water services. Due to difficulties in transporting material from other parts of India, Oxfam is accepting monetary donations only (tax exemptible) and sourcing required materials from nearby locations. You can choose to blame this person or that or you can contribute in your own small way to helping out people.

Donate at http://www.oxfamindia.org (give them a call to get your tax exemption certificate). Go to the website for more details.

Of Jasmines and the Internet

I wrote this article a long time ago, when  I was in India and the so called Arab Spring had just begun. Tunisia had already removed their leaders and Hosni Mubarak was to be soon deposed. I was thinking about Syria and putting down my thoughts about it when I remembered this. In the face of the current Syrian situation this article almost looks naive. Khair. Read through to remember how “easy” the revolutions before Syria were. More on Syria later

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When, Mohamed Bouazizi, a street vendor in Tunisia, set himself on fire a couple of weeks back, out of sheer desperation that poverty brings with it, little did he know he was going to stoke flames of dissent long buried in the hearts of the citizens of the Middle East. These flames now raging like wildfires all over the Middle East from Yemen to Egypt have their leaders running for cover. Fanned by Internet Media ( Facebook, Twitter etc.) and to some extent the reports of Al Jazeera News Channel, Bouazizi’s self immolaion has set in motion a possible domino effect of governmental change across the Middle East. Tunisia’s own president Mr. Zine Al Abidine Ben Ali has long since resigned and is now under self imposed exile in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Hosni Mubarak’s family has already fled to London fearing for the safety of their lives.

JasmineThough uprisings against self-styled dictators in the Middle East arent uncommon given the massive corruption, rot and decay that exist in government institutions, the protests this time around have had a sense of purpose to it. Dubbed the ‘Jasmine Revolution’ to signify a revolution occurring across societies, Tunisians are not ready to step down until there is a popular government in place while Egyptians today hope to garner the support of a million people as they march to ouster Mr. Mubarak. While I scan the updates coming from Egypt constantly, I can’t help but laud the people of Egypt in their efforts. It would be insolent on my part to claim that affairs of Egypt and other Middle Eastern nations had been on my radar prior to these uprising. Yet, the popular nature of these protests is definitely noteworthy. Regular people who live regular lives have stepped out on to the streets to voice their opinion against the oppression that has left them crushed. The Egyptian army sent in to quell the crowds has declared hints of support towards the ‘Million Strong March’. Reports by Robert Fisk at The Independent currently in Egypt talk of the camaraderie and brotherhood apparent among the protestors and the law enforcement agents.

Such images are encouraging to say the least and though already democratized as a nation it is important for us as Indians to sit up and take notice of the developments taking place in the Middle East. True we elect our representatives, but governance in India today is a joke. How different is Hosni Mubarak from those in power today? Aren’t we witness to some of the biggest scams in modern Indian history? While we recline comfortably in our couches hardly having too wait for a live stream of the IPL on our 3G enabled cell phones, how many thousands literally die of hunger in India? Activists of human rights are simply convicted for secession and terrorism, while real terrorists and criminals languish in jail cells or government chairs afforded the best in their class of luxury! I reiterate our governance is a joke and we need to take a stand.

As I already mentioned the people in the protests in Egypt and related countries are everyday people with everyday stories like yours and mine. Another thing I’d like to mention is that we do not need to get onto the streets to create change. It took our freedom fighters 90 years (from the Revolt of 1857) to garner independence for us Indians. It hardly took 3 weeks (from the self-immolation of Bouazizi) to bring the matter to a head in Egypt. The difference this time being the pervasive nature of social networking and print/TV media. Boon or bane, one can hardly deny the role that Facebook et al. had to play in precipitating the events in the Middle East. While we watch the social networking revolution blitz us daily with new offerings it is imperative for us to indulge in a thought revolution. Muslims are the original disciples of SatyaGraha, learning it from their Prophets and in particular Mohammed (PBUH) while Indians were taught the ways of struggle by Gandhi himself. Through a revolution stemming not from violence but from moral rectitude and adherence to ethical standards there is hope for positive change again. A revolution that can be taken to the doorstep of almost any person above the age of 15 and having access to the internet without having to set a foot on the ground. A revolution which any person who follows the affairs of the world around will “Like”.

It is up to us to take notice of the issues that plague us. It is up to us to make the right noises about these issues. It is also up to us that the noises we make are heard by so many people that it can truly make a difference. The good news is we have a tool we can easily use. The bad news is we don’t “Share”.

PS : – While it is very easy for us to be happy with developments in Egypt, let us not forget the atmosphere of fear and uncertainty that pervade the streets. Shops and homes are being looted by anti social elements and food supply is becoming scarce. People who lose possessions in this period lose them for good. I pray for a speedy end to these occurences that is causing so much discord and I also pray for the lasting peace for the people of Egypt. Amen.