Wednesday, 18 March 2020

Basic mistakes in India's response to Covid-19

It's been more than 2 months since the global spread of the new Coronavirus which originated in Wuhan, China. The extensive lock down implemented by China seems to have help slowed down the spread of the Covid-19 disease with in China and outside. While the numbers reported by China are not reliable it is unquestionable that they have a fairly developed hospital infrastructure and production capability which has played a role in bringing the epidemic in control in China.

India had a two month advance warning and there were certain basic capability gaps that India had compared to China which it had to make and attempt to bridge in these two months.

1) Personal protection of medical staff and training for treatment of infectious disease.
2) Hospital capacity increase for critical care including procurement of required equipment.
3) Diagnostic Kits for Covid-19 disease detection in the numbers needed.

These are obvious gaps that are public knowledge, yet we have not seen the effort required at the scale needed to fill these gaps. We had two months to do this but only yesterday have we seen some communication from ICMR on a plan to increase the testing capacity. They have said that we have only two rapid diagnostic labs with capacity of 1400 tests per day. Total of 121 labs will be brought online by week ending 20/Mar/2020 most of them have the capacity of 90 tests per day. ICMR has mentioned that there is limit on how many tests can be conducted which is limited by number of probes available which are to be imported. India has ordered 1 million probes and has requested WHO for another 1 million probes. They have also now started to tie up with private labs for testing to increase capacity.

But the testing guidelines that India follows assumes that there is no community transmission of this disease in India. It involves testing only travel cases and their contacts. WHO guideline includes all atypical pneumonia cases for Covid-19. But India has not included that in its guideline. India is doing a surveillance testing which involves sample of 20 per lab in 52 government medical college hospital labs for severe acute respiratory illness patients to check for Covid-19 disease. This testing is seems can only reveal if there is a widespread Covid-19 epidemic in the country but it does not appear such a sampling method will catch the disease spread in its initial stages. The best way to catch that is to perform a more aggressive testing of GP doctors, respiratory ICU medical staff, atypical pneumonia cases and the like as per WHO guidelines.

There hasn't been any effort spent on increasing the hospital ICU capacity in the last 2 months. This is something which could have been started on a war footing immediately in mid January once the pattern of the disease in China had become clear. It was known that this disease is unstoppable because of asymptomatic transmission and has a high percentage of sever illness requiring ICU care. Hence this step of mass procurement of ICU equipment for hospitals should have been started immediately. But till date we have not heard of any effort by central or state governments to bridge the gap. Recently GOI has declared Covid-19 as a national disaster allowing states to utilize State Disaster Response Funds for procurement of medical equipment but there has been a cap of 10% put on the state spending for ICU equipment, PPE and training. Its inexplicable why there should be this cap of 10% put on these funds.

Finally on the front of personal protection equipment again the scale at which this equipment is needed has not been addressed. You can gauge the availability of this equipment with India on this figure the number of N95 masks which India could spare to send to China for Covid-19 relief sent by India in February was a total of 4,000.  We need millions of N95 masks and other high quality personal protection equipment for our medical staff in hospitals but it is not clear how much India is prepared on this front. The news reports coming out of several states on their handling of the first cases which were sent to isolation wards is not encouraging. The medical staff did not have correct equipment, they were not trained, no drills had been conducted, isolation wards were not proper negative pressure rooms, ICU beds were not available in isolation wards.

No doubt India has put a lot of effort in airport screening, contact tracing of confirmed cases and travel restrictions. India has also started implementing the so called social distancing measures slowly. But most of the testing that India has done has been a result of voluntary disclosures. There have been several cases where the patients have hidden their travel history before first approaching a medical professional or seeking medical care in hospitals. We can only conclude that there would be several silent chains of transmission of this disease and it is only prudent to assume that community transmission of the disease is taking place already. It is important to start testing for it and that required relaxing the test criterion and increasing the testing capacity asap.

Friday, 31 January 2020

India's response to Wuhan Coronavirus lacking

In one word the Indian response so far to Wuhan Coronavirus seems 'casual'. There have been some news reports of a shortage of N95 respirators and surgical masks in India due to demand in China.  But the public concern as well as more importantly the response from GOI on a threat of nCoV epidemic has been lacking any real urgency. We have seen the action which has been taken in terms of body temperature screening of inbound passengers from China on airports and some reports of certain states monitoring the returnees. But the effectiveness of such a screening is suspect. Given the studies emerging that this virus is infectious even in asymptomatic patients. China's health minister has also said the same. A study in Germany has shown that the virus is infectious both before the onset of symptoms and after the symptoms have disappeared. This makes is very difficult to contain the spread of this virus in populations since there is no existing immunity to it yet in any population cluster.

There have been some people returning from Wuhan who have been found with flu likes symptoms and have been isolated in certain hospitals across India out of which one person has so far tested positive in Kerala. Other tests have either come negative or are still awaiting results. From the news reports about the diagnostics which have come out till now it appears that the turn around time of PCR testing result from National Institute of Virology, Pune is upwards of 2 days. NIV itself takes 3-6 hours to test and total of 12-18 hours to prepare and upload a report. So far it remains the only centre for testing this virus. A report suggested that NIV was awaiting fast diagnostic test kits from abroad. One report even suggested that for a certain patient in Kolkata NIV determined not to conduct an nCoV test based on description of symptoms and other report of the patient. All this points to the expected current scenario that testing infrastructure is not adequate yet. Also it is not clear if  proper contact tracing is being done to ensure that all potentially infected people are being tested. This is a clear case where media should be asking questions to GOI and union health ministry should be addressing this seriously.

There are a number of Indian medical students studying in China and the infected person is also one of them. Indian government is also airlifting some 600 odd students from Hubei province and plans to house them in a military establishment in Haryana for a duration of 14 days. Now that may be fine but here are some lax deficiencies which are visible already. The Wuhan returnees will be housed in dormitories. With such a large number of 600 people I suppose India lacks infrastructure to be able to provide them all with isolated accommodation. The is a huge risk factor and shows how this epidemic can cause devastation in India which lacks woefully in terms of infrastructure. China which has a much better infrastructure than India is struggling to control this epidemic, for India this will be 10 times tougher.

It appears that nCoV is much more contagious than a normal flu and the severity of infection in some patients and percentage of complications including death rate is much higher. Though the severity is lower than SARS or MERS but is much more contagious with exponential growth rate so far. Clearly given the risk of an epidemic in India a lot more needs to be done and to avoid any panic among the people a transparent communication is needed regularly from the health ministries in state and centre both. I find that the updates from government about what action they are taking are very low especially when compared to what is being done across the world. This needs to change fast. In a media briefing today the Ministry of External affairs has mentioned that while preparations are on way to get the stranded Indians from Wuhan back to India there have been no moves to restrict any travel to and from China. Only the ministry of health has issued an advisory to avoid travel to China but no VISA restrictions have been placed on Chinese nationals visiting India nor has there been any action by the civil aviation ministry to issue any instructions to airlines to stop flying to China/ Hong Kong.

Given the kind of disease we are dealing with and the severity of contagion in China, one would expect that GOI will do more than a mere airport screening, which they keep repeating as a reply to every question, as if its going to solve the issue. It is clearly not effective in preventing this disease from spreading in India. GOI ministers seems to be acting this was to avoid panic when in fact they should be erring in favour of caution here and take a leaf from what other countries are doing. Russia and Mongolia have stopped land border with China. US has issue strong warning to its citizens against travel to whole of China. Several foreign airlines have already stopped all to and fro flights to China or have curtailed the number of flights. So far Indian airliners like Air India and Indigo have curtailed the number of flights and destinations in China and Hong Kong but there is no blanket ban yet.

While World Health Organisation has declared this a world wide health emergency, but it has cautioned countries against taking any travel or trade restrictions on China. In its press conference on 30/Jan/2020 it even suggested that it would be questioning countries which declare a unilateral trade or travel restriction on China. This seems puzzling to say the least. On the one hand WHO commends China for its quarantine efforts, while the spread of the disease in China and around the world looks quite extensive including the disease spreading from person to person outside of China, including cases of asymptomatic spread and yet WHO is favouring economic reasons over health reasons in its advisory. So far it seems GOI is not going to do anything to restrict movement of people to and from China and other affected counties. One hopes the truth dawns on GOI soon and these travel and VISA restrictions are put in place. Israel has decided to suspend all flight to China and quarantine all travellers from China. Singapore has decided to not issue VISA to any Chinese passport holder nor to anyone who has been to China in last 14 days. I hope India too takes some drastic steps now when there may still be time.

Tuesday, 31 December 2019

Sadhguru on Citizenship Amendment Act

Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev has given a lucid explanation on the noble motives of Citizenship Amendment Act in response to a question to him. He has urged the protesters to read and understand the act rather than fall for the malicious propaganda that has been going on over it.

His entire explanation can be seen here.

Unfortunately the same journalists who have been spreading misinformation on CAA have started questioning Sadhguru's statement as factually incorrect by nitpicking on irrelevant points rather than understanding the thrust of his argument.

I clear the air here and explain how Sadhguru is absolutely correct and those questioning him are engaging in dishonest journalism driven by prejudice and mala fide intent, which can also be gauged from the disrespectful tone and tenor of their statements against a respected religious figure like him.

1) The religion census of Pakistan was not released since 1998. There is no doubt that there has been drastic decline in percentage of Hindus in these Islamic countries. In West Pakistan the bulk of (>90%) Hindus reside on Sindh. Of which majority are in princely state of Amarkot which was a Hindu majority state which joined Pakistan after Independence. In rest of Pakistan Hindus have been nearly wiped out. Some people are nitpicking over the number of 23% as population of minorities in whole of Pakistan(East + West) at the time of independence, this figure may be accurate if one looks as pre- partition population before migration induced by partition.  In fact in West Pakistan the percentage of Indian religions had reduced from 16% in 1901 to 1.68% in 1991. The thrust of Sadhguru's argument was correct that there is reduction due to persecution & violence.

2) Sadhguru cites an incident of his visit to Jwala Mata temple in Baku where he met a Hindu whose wife had been abducted, converted to Islam and married to someone else on same day. He mentioned in context of this incident that Pakistan did not recognize Hindu marriages which is why this man had no legal case to protect his wife. This was an incident in past not recent. In 2016 Sindh province passed a Hindu marriage act and in 2017 rest of the provinces got a Hindu marriage act. But this in no way changes what Sadhguru said. This is a clear case of persecution of Hindus in Pakistan. Even the current law of Pakistan is being criticized for its annulment clause which causes the marriage to be annulled if any spouse converts to Islam. This is a loophole that can be exploited to abduct and convert even married Hindu women. . There are several cases of abduction of Hindus girls reported from Pakistan.So Sadhguru's example of persecution of Hindus stands valid.

3) A propaganda is being spread that the Citizenship Amendment Act does not mention persecution hence it is not about religious persecution of minorities in Islamic countries in subcontinent. Fact is that in the statement of objects and reasons of the act it is clearly mentioned that religious persecution is the reason. There are associated government notifications on Passport Act and Foreigners Act of 2015 which clearly mention exemption based on religious persecution or fear of religious persecution. When there is overwhelming evidence of an obvious religious persecution based on state discrimination in these countries then such media propaganda is condemn able. Sadhguru in fact says that discrimination in these countries is state defined by law, because of the Islamic nature of these states. So he is again absolutely correct.

4) Sadhguru mentioned that police response has been relatively restrained compared to the kind of riots taking place. He is absolutely correct on this point. One need not go to far back in history just compare this with how 36 people were shot dead by Police after Baba Ram Rahim's followers rioted in Haryana in 2017. Now consider at the Police action in Jamia Milia Islamia university. Sadhguru mentioned that if students pelt stones then won't police enter the university to control the crowds. A lot of noise has been created in police action in Jamia Millia. It must be noted that even courts have not entertained such motivated arguments of police excesses. It is interesting to note that police has sought access to the CCTV footage from the University which has still not been provided to them. What's the justification for this denial? What is there to hide? Sadhguru is again correct in saying that police action was going to happen when there is rioting and even innocents will unfortunately get caught in this action.

5) Sadhguru is correct when he says that rumour are being spread that Muslims will lose their Citizenship because of CAA. This is a malicious propaganda that many people including students have fallen for. If they simply read the act they will know this is not the case. Thus act simply provides a faster path to citizenship to persecuted religious minorities from 3 Islamic states. Does not affect ant Indian citizen. Does not adversely affect anybody's case for seeking citizenship of India under existing process.

6) Sadhguru was asked about NRC so he responded with his views about it how every nation needs to know who its legal citizens are. It is obvious this is needed. He mentioned that for proving citizenship by birth several documents can be accepted. People are arguing they don't have documents. So he question who are these people who have no ID documents. How is it possible for people in this day and age to have no documentary proof. He further states that people who don't have documents can produce witnesses. The possible list of documents can clearly be deduced based in Assam NRC. Spokesperson of home ministry has recently tweeted that witnesses may be considered for illiterate people who don't have documents and a process around that be created. So Sadhguru's entire reply to the question on CAA-NRC is absolutely correct. Those trying to nitpick are dishonest and reflect the same kind or media propaganda journalism that has spread disinformation on CAA in the country.

Tuesday, 24 December 2019

Information War on Citizenship Act

In the past couple of weeks, the kind of reporting we have seen in Indian and in world media backed by several motivated academicians and politicians on the recent amendment to Indian’s Citizenship Act, can only be described as an Information War, that has been unleashed on the Indian state. It is well known that the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party is seen as a right-wing nationalist party. In India it is seen as a party with primarily Hindu voter base. In international media it is often described as a Hindu nationalist party which in their eyes is a negative portrayal. The ideological opposition to BJP is well entrenched in the left leaning English media in India and also in similarly inclined western media. In general, western media has a negative view of India as a result of cold war dynamics of the past, but off late with the political rise of BJP in India, they have a particularly negative view about India under BJP government.

Various reasons can be attributed to this entrenched opinion. Political positions viewed as right wing are automatically disliked by self-described left liberal media. Influence of Christian evangelical organizations on western and even local Indian media is another factor, since these organizations see the BJP as a less conducive to their evangelical project in India. Similar motive can be attributed to media organizations under influence of Islamic evangelical organizations and Islamic countries. When such motivations are at play then its is almost impossible to expect reasonable analysis of events in India from these media organizations. Their criticism however is often cloaked in the language of liberalism, pluralism, women’s rights, democratic values etc.

There is also a set of Indian urban population which has primarily grown cut off from the civilizational ethos of India under the influence of an education system that specializes in turning the mindset of people away from anything that is culturally Indian in general and Hindu in particular. There is a belief in this population that being less Indian, less Hindu is somehow being more modern. This population has long considered itself to be the guardian of “Indian secularism”. A term which is as difficult to define if not more, than the term Hindutva or Hindu-ness which BJP espouses. In this scenario those who consider themselves anti-Hindutva also consider themselves to be the sole guardians of secularism in India. This group is most turned off by the “Hindu nationalist” image of BJP and views every action by BJP with suspicion. They are also most easily influenced by the western media being English speaking themselves. Many among them consider themselves global citizens who happen to hold an Indian passport.

This urban Indian population especially students of humanities discipline in Indian universities have been under influence of certain ideological groups namely Ambedkarites, extreme Marxist, Islamists and to a lesser degree evangelical Christian groups. The influence of last of these is most subtle since it is not explicitly in Christian fundamentalist terms in most Indian universities but instead in the language of western universalism. This student population has seen BJP as antitheses of what they understand should be the future direction of India. With rise of BJP and loss of political space in electoral democracy to these ideologies they have chosen to combine forces in campus politics by projecting their most extreme form on impressionable college students who are easier to mould towards these ideologies due to a fertile ground created by absence of civilizational knowledge and cultural awareness. In short due to a lack of emic perspective in the humanities education in India these students are most prone to be turned towards these ideologies that are often described as breaking India forces (read Breaking India by Rajiv Malhotra, Aravindan Neelakandan) since they see the cultural underpinnings of India and the mainstream culture as oppressive and worthy of being thrown out.

Some of the recent political decisions by the BJP government like the law banning Muslim practice of triple divorce, curb on foreign funding of Indian NGOs which either work for evangelical purposes or influencing Indian political process, the revocation of article 370 which gave a separate constitution to the J&K state and the judicial decision on Ayodhya Ram temple case which went in the favour of Hindus, left these ideological groups completely shattered. It was unexpected by them that these important issues on which they had staked their entire existence had gone out of their hands completely. They were confident that no Indian government will be able to change the constitutional status of J&K, that their case on Ayodhya Ram temple was undefeatable and that no government will be able to touch the Muslim personal laws. They considered these issues to be the touchstone of Indian secularism and set back on these issues hurt their cause greatly.

Under this back drop one must see another issue that these forces see as important which is the status of illegal Bangladeshi immigrants in India. Whether you look at the liberal left, or the Islamist both see that inaction by GOI in the problem of illegal Bangladeshi immigrants is the happy state of affairs. No government in past had been able to deal with this problem even when there was a widespread movement in Assam to deal with this problem of forced demographic change in north eastern states especially Assam. One of the reasons for this inaction was the difficulty of dealing with this problem without also affecting the Bangladeshi Hindu population which had come to Indian since the 1971 genocide of Bengali Hindus. It is now well known that 80% of the 10 million refugees of the Bangladesh war that came to India were Hindus so were the approximately 3 million victims who were killed in East Pakistan by the Pakistani army. It would not be wrong to say that it was genocide particularly of Bangladeshi Hindus which is easy to see if one compares the census figures of Bangladesh from the pre and post war periods. 

The recent change to the citizenship act which was done by the BJP can be seen as an attempt to solve this conundrum. How to protect the population of religious minorities from Bangladesh living in India from any legal action for deportation back to Bangladesh, where they are vulnerable, but at the same time be able to act on the illegal economic migration from Bangladesh, which has changed the demographics in North eastern states in particular, but has also led to creation of settlements of Bangladeshi populations in several cities in rest of India? This law which provides a faster path to Indian citizenship to religious minorities from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh and prevents their deportation on grounds of illegal entry or lack of valid documents of entry is a safety net to protect this population for any future state action against illegal economic migrants living in India. A vast majority of such migrants are Bangladeshi.

This distinction between refugees escaping religious persecution a majority of whom happen to be Hindus and the illegal economic immigrants a majority of whom happen to be Muslims does not go down well for the self-described liberal secularists in India. Thus, the Citizenship Amendment Act and the expected national register for citizens which would follow was seen as the final nail in the coffin of secularism by them. They first argued that the CAA is not permitted in Indian constitution which is secular. When it is pointed out that the same constitution permits special consideration to religious minorities when its comes to freedom of operating their educational and religious institutions which Hindus don’t get, or how it is permitted for the state to provide special scholarships and run state funded educational institutions which provide reservations based on religion, how it can run a special minorities affairs ministry and can tolerate separate personal laws, these inconvenient questions are completely avoided by them. The question of legality of this law has been challenged by them in the courts, which has for now refused to stay the act and given the central government one month to respond to the objections.

Without waiting for the court decision to arrive they immediately cried foul of the motive of the government in bringing the CAA in conjunction with yet to be announced pan India National Register for Citizens. While their concern is that with the difficulty of Bangladeshi Hindu refugees being resolved by CAA the illegal Bangladeshi economic migrants now become vulnerable to state action in any future NRC, they chose to project the CAA and NRC exercise being somehow against Indian Muslims. Their weird argument was that Hindus and other religions except Muslims are protected by CAA safety net in any future NRC. Which is completely wrong since CAA is for foreign refugees not for Indian citizens. No Indian will ever choose to apply for naturalization using the CAA route just because his or her name is missed in any future NRC due to lack of any required documents. Naturalization is a longer process and will require clearance by intelligence agencies etc. If such an application is rejected that this person will be left in the lurch despite being an Indian citizen for several generations. It would be utterly foolish for an Indian national to do this rather than produce a community certificate or witnesses from the community in lieu of government issued ID. This was also clarified by spokesperson of the home ministry.

On this rumour that NRC+CAA combine will disenfranchise Indian Muslims in particular they ran a nation-wide campaign against CAA. In this media war the central government of India was projected as being of fascist intent that wishes to put Muslims in detention camps also called in some circles as concentration camps. Such absurd claims and hijacking of the movement by radical Islamists lead to large scale rioting in several urban centers of the country with higher concentration of Muslims. The international media outlets have carried front page articles, editorials and oped criticizing the Citizenship Amendment Act as a “Muslim ban”. When the reality is that it simply provides a faster path and easier process for naturalization to persecuted religious minorities from 3 Islamic countries in the subcontinent. It does not take away any opportunity for anyone no matter what their background on seeking Indian citizenship by naturalization etc by the existing process. What they have described as an action being taken by India for the first time is also not correct. While there was no law as such, it has been the policy of GOI to give special consideration to religious minorities from Pakistan in particular for providing then Indian citizenship by registration or naturalization. It has been seen a commitment by post partition India to provide a refuge to people escaping the Islamic state created in India after partition. This was provided specifically to the non-Muslim communities coming from Pakistan. One is not able to fathom how the executive action remains in the realm of secularism even if favours a particular religion but a legislative action is suddenly a threat to the secular principles of the state.

Given the level of misinformation that is being spread on this issue in India as well as world over, one is struck by the vulnerability of the Indian state to information war of this kind. No matter how many clarifications are given by several quarters, whether state institutions or private individuals, the rumour and the fear mongering around it refuses to die. Riots and protests by university students against the CAA continue unabated. Several lives have been lost, corers of rupees of public property has been damaged and India’s reputation abroad is tarnished in the campaign which has flimsy factual grounds. While one would have understood the academic disagreement on the approach or the legal questions raised on the Law which could have been discussed and resolved in rational manner, the irrational public outrage at display has every marking of an information war that the Indian state needs to better prepare itself for and be able to pre-empt and counter in future, through appropriate communication strategy. The grip of combined breaking India forces on Indian universities is also a cause for worry and the long-term security risk for India that needs to be solved by introducing the emic perspective in Humanities education and making it the mainstream perspective rather than the fringe perspective it currently is. It is only though giving primacy to civilizational knowledge systems in humanities education can this be done. Which is of course another battle ground for the “secularists” who will resist it at every level in the name of it being Hindu.

Wednesday, 18 December 2019

Citizenship Amendment Act 2019

We have witnessed a sea change in the approach of National Democratic Alliance government since the 2019 election towards addressing issues that have been long in the election manifesto of BJP, compared to the previous five years. Many people were expecting that 2019 general elections will produce a much reduced mandate in the backdrop of the state assembly results in Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh and Rajasthan which were held just before the general elections. But the mandate received by the NDA was much bigger than last term. We have seen that not just in Lok Sabha but also in Rajya Sabha NDA has been able to muster a majority with the help of parties which are not in formal alliance with BJP, like Biju Janata Dal and AIADMK.

With this stronger mandate from the people of the country, BJP has found itself in a position to implement the long held promises in its manifesto. We have seen the long awaited scrapping of Article 370 which was seen as unexpected in terms of the swiftness with which it was executed. While the dust had not yet settled on Article 370, NDA went ahead and addressed another difficult problem of what to do about the crores of refugees from neighbouring states who have been living stateless in India for decades. Since partition of India in 1947 and the further splitting of Pakistan in 1971 after a mass genocide of East Pakistan population by Pakistani Army and its supporting militias, an overwhelming majority of whom were Hindus, there have been several waves of immigration of religious minorities from Pakistan into India.

There is almost daily news on the persecution that religious minorities face in the self declared Islamic countries of Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. There are hardly any Sikh and Hindu citizens left in Afghanistan since the advent of Taliban. The Population of religious minorities has seen a steady decline in Pakistan and Bangladesh. Even in the population which was left after the initial population exchange at the time of partition, there has been reduction of more than 50% among the Hindus in these countries. It is no body's case that religious minorities enjoy any semblance of religious freedom in these three Islamic countries. Abduction of Hindu, Sikh and Christian minor girls and forced conversion after marriage is a common occurrence in Pakistan's Sindh province where majority of Hindu population of Pakistan lives. In Bangladesh also restrictions on Durga Puja, destruction of temples and forced occupation of property of Hindus is very common. All these of these countries are constitutionally Islamic states which discriminates against religious minorities by Law.

Religious minorities from these three countries in the subcontinent are estimated to be close to 2 crores and are living in India stateless for decades. India has given citizenship to such refugees in past via executive orders. Some of these instances have been cited during the parliamentary debate over the citizenship amendment bill. While the refugees from Pakistan have been absorbed as citizens in batches, the most contentious issue has been about the twin problem of refugees and illegal economic immigration from Bangladesh. It is no body's case that the majority Muslims from these countries can claim state oppression based on religion. The qualitative difference has to be understood that while some citizens who happen to be Muslims may face oppression because of political activism or other reason but the religious minorities face discrimination by state and by the community in large simply for "existing".

Government of India has an obligation towards its citizens to secure its borders and keep a check on illegal immigration. However it is well known fact that over the years GOI has been terribly lax in this effort. Out borders are porous and movement of people and smuggling of goods takes place with impunity. This is a result of a weak state with lopsided priorities. The primary function of the state is internal and external security, but India's spending on this is woefully low. While the socialist welfare state spends its resources and energy in running inefficient loss making public sector companies in areas where the state should simple not operate like running airlines. As a result of this lack of attention wilful or otherwise the borders have been left unsecured and a huge population of illegal migration primarily from Bangladesh has resulting in change of demographics primarily in the norther eastern states, but also in several other parts of the country.

This gordian knot which is as complex as or perhaps even more complex than article 370 had to be cut and it has been cut by the twin actions of Citizenship Amendment Act(CAA) and the Nation wide register of citizens. This nation wide NRC is already part of the Citizenship Act which was added to the act in 2003 in article 14A of the act but it has not been implemented yet. The CAA 2019 essentially provides a one time amnesty to the illegal migrants who have been persecuted in these three Islamic countries in the subcontinent on the bases of their religion and form a minority population their. As has already been mentioned before there isn't much data required to be presented to prove this the religious census in these countries clearly establishes the dwindling populations of religious minorities there, in contrast with flourishing population of religious minorities in India. In fact the population of Hindus is in steady declined in India under the twin pressures of relatively slower birth rate and mostly unethical targeted religious conversion which is directed primarily towards the Hindu population. In Bangladesh in particular there has been large scale targeted persecution of Hindus. It has been established by other sources which I cite here 80% of the 10 million refugees who came to India in 1971 and 80% of estimated 3 million killed in the genocide perpetrated by Pakistan army in then East Pakistan were Hindus.

Under this backdrop of 71 genocide and the partition of the country on religious lines which left a number of religious minority populations in these Islamic states it was and continues to the be responsibility of Indian state to provide refuge to these people who were stuck on the wrong side of the border for no fault of theirs. While it is not in the interest of the Indic civilization that Indic population goes extinct in these states which were once flourishing centers of the civilization. But at the same time India cannot turn its back on these populations who have sought refuge in India and are living here as stateless and send them back to their source countries. There has been recent news of how 500 Hindus who were deported from Rajasthan to Pakistan were en-masse converted to Islam.

In treatment by the Indian state in grant of citizenship or otherwise they should not be considered at par with the illegal economic migrants. While both have entered India illegally one group has entered under threat of persecution based on religious lines and the other for economic benefit. It has been reported in 2014 that as much as 6% of the GDP of Bangladesh is the amount of remittance that the Bangladeshi workers send back home from India. They prefer India because of ease of entry and low cost of migration since they don't need to procure "Passport" etc to come to India. This number is four times of the remittance they receive from Saudi Arabia. This clearly points to the enormity of the problem of illegal immigration from Bangladesh and loss of employment opportunity to own  population in the low end labour market of India.

CAA makes this clear distinction by giving these refugees twin guarantee that they would not be deported if they belong to 6 religious minority population of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh as defined in the Act and by reducing the wait time for their naturalization from 12 years to 6 years of aggregate period of stay in India. This is all that the act does it gives a fast track process for application of citizenship of India by registration or naturalization by these refugees and protection against deportation. It does not take away any right from any one else whether Indian Citizen or a foreign national applying for the citizenship of India or seeking asylum on any grounds. It has to be understood that the refugees need to apply for citizenship. So it is possible that their application may be rejected and they may be denied citizenship. But my interpretation of the CAA 2019 is that they will still enjoy protection from deportation if they belong to religious minorities from these 3 countries as defined in CAA 2019.

Many arguments have been made that this act is against secular principles. Claims are being made that it is unconstitutional. The fundamental logic that such arguments don't answer is that if Indian state can give special rights to religious minorities in India,w can it not give special rights to the religious minorities of these countries in the process of seeking citizenship of India. How can one act be secular but other cannot be secular. The definition of word secular it self is not very well defined. Indian state regularly interfears in the matter of religious activities of Hindus who happen to be national majority but not necessarily regional majority in every state of India. So I do not quite understand how this act fails the secularism test. The individual Muslims from Af-Pak and Bangladesh can still apply for Indian citizenship via the normal process. That right has not been denied to them, only a certain section of population from these countries has been given easier process as against the usually more complex process of acquiring Indian citizenship. Various aspects of the legality of this act have been mentioned by lawyers like Harish Salve.

Some people have argued that a combination of CAA and nation wide NRC is discriminatory towards Muslim Indian citizens since compared to say a Hindu who is rejected in NRC and a Muslim who is rejected in NRC the Hindu will not be expelled but a Muslim would. This is far from the truth and stems from incorrect understanding of Citizenship act and the process of naturalization after CAA and the process of national ID both of which are part of the Citizenship act. As has been explained by home minister several time the NRC process will not look at religion of a person at all. CAA will look at religion only for foreign nationals who apply for naturalization under the new process because of religious persecution in these 3 countries. It would be a weird argument to make that a Hindu who gets excluded in NRC will not be expelled if found to be a foreigner. Only a foreigner from these three countries will logically apply for naturalization under CAA. Why would a Hindu Indian citizen whose several generations have lived in the territory of India claim to be Pakistani and then claim persecution for claiming naturalization? Why would he risk his application being rejected and ending up being truly stateless? This logic is beyond belief. But this is the main argument made by the people who oppose CAA and protest on streets.

People are rioting, op-eds are being written, placard wielding students including law student are protesting over this supposedly unequal treatment that Muslims will get since they cannot claim this illegal way of getting citizenship by naturalization and a hypothetical hair brained Hindu can. Any such attempt will only make the case weaker for such a person and the process more complicated since it will trigger more scrutiny by Intelligence Bureau and may result in a rejection of claim when a perfectly legal way of resolving this issue of lack of documents could be found if not via the executive branch of the government then by approaching judiciary.  IB director had told the JPC on Citizenship Amendment Bill that the immediate beneficiary of this act will be around 31,000 refugees who have already applied for citizenship based on religious persecution. But any future claim while not disallowed will require enhanced enquiry by both Internal and External Intelligence agencies of India.

Now that some groups have challenged the act in court we await the judgement of the Supreme court of India to see whether the Act stays as is, parts of it are struck down or all of it is struck down. But the series of violent riots that have taken place across the country and the student protest in certain colleges where they have blocked normal functioning of the colleges shows that these people are not in line with the principles of constitutional democracy and the duty of a citizen to remain peaceful during public demonstrations etc. These actions also amount to putting pressure on the courts which are hearing this matter currently. Such activities should be avoided and court should be allowed to make a judgement on all aspects of this law.

Sunday, 23 July 2017

C K Raju responds to Amir Aczel's claims

I recently came across a book by mathematician Late Amir Aczel "Finding Zero". In a book promotion talk he started by mocking that Indians claim the number system comes from India and Zero came from India. In particular he attacks Indian Physicist and Mathematician Mr C K Raju. Mr Raju has authored several book in the history and philosophy of Maths. Including Cultural Foundations MathematicsEuclid and Jesus and more.

I wrote to Mr Raju if he would like to respond to Amir Aczel's claims. Here is the conversation with his response:

Mr Raju,

I have followed some of your work on de-colonization of Maths. In many of your talks you have mention that, most of the time western academia has chosen to ignore you.
I recently came across a work by mathematician Late Amir Aczel "Finding Zero". 

He seems to have met you personally twice. In this talk regarding his book he starts by mentioning those encounters and mostly dismissing your arguments as lacking facts. 

He quite literally slanders you with his 'audience wanted to throw eggs at you' remark.
He seems to be suggesting in his work that the Indian numerals and zero seems to come from east of India, based on his finding of a 7th century temple inscription in Cambodia.
Of course it is easy to see that he is confusing glyps with numbers themselves & does not address the origin of the Saka calendar, nor the origin of the script of inscription in Combodia.

But since he has directly slandered you, could you please respond with your side of the story.

He says, Raju claims "every thing comes from India, Einstein did not invent relativity it came from India, the theorems of Euclid and the Pythagorean theorem, all these theorems come from India, audience was about to throw eggs at him. He pretty much smashed western civilization, he said everything came from India."

He also mentions meeting you in Delhi for an hour where he says you made all sorts of claims without showing any evidence.

Since this is a direct attack on your credibility, would you like to respond. I would also like to carry your response on my Blog with your permission.

Mr C K Raju responds:

Response 1:

The West hasn't exactly ignored me: after all, as you perhaps know, Michael Atiyah the top Western mathematician repeatedly plagiarised my critique of Einstein!  Likewise two goons from Manchester and Exeter serially plagiarised my work on the transmission of calculus. 

Amir Aczel gave me a copy of the book a couple of years ago in Harvard Square, Boston. It has a big photo of me and a couple of pages, some of it clearly false, some of it intended to show that he was informed about zeroism. (Thanks for the video link but I haven't had time to see it, since I am excessively busy right now.) Shortly after that he died.

May respond in due course, but not right now. Western historians have been telling absurd lies for the last 1700 years, glorifying themselves and denigrating others, and there are more important lies to be destroyed.

Response 2:

Saw the video. I didn't know he was such a hopeless liar. This is irresponsible even as a joke. 

It is very clearly on record (in my books Time: Towards a Consistent Theory and Eleven Pictures of Time, that I said that Poincare invented the special theory of relativity, and gave the idea of general relativity, the equations for which Hilbert wrote down. Most recently, I stated this in my TGA acceptance speech posted on my blog, and in the article on Einstein on my website

As someone who has written a book on Einstein, Amir Aczel should have been familiar not only with my claims but their validity.

Since the facts are so clearly on record, and so easily accessible this is an example of how thoroughly dishonest and untrustworthy Western historians are, even when they seem to be saying something in favour of the non-West. They feel that to establish their credibility they must say something bad against the non-West, even if they have to invent it ("C. K. Raju said relativity came from India"). If this is how freely they distort easily accessible facts, you can imagine what all nonsense they say when the facts are in the remote past and not easily accessible. 

BTW when I met him in Delhi, I also met his wife who works in MIT. This naturally led me to mention Noam Chomsky who he and his wife promptly attacked calling him a "self-hating Jew", and anti-Semite. (Both husband and wife were dual citizens of US and Israel.) It is true I was late for the meeting,  but that was because I came from Malaysia the same day and the flight was late.  At that time he set up the meeting since he badly wanted me to take him to Gwalior and get the gates of the temple opened for him to be able to see the Gwalior inscription on zero.

Sad that he mixed up some trivial truths (about my being late) so freely with such grave falsehood (about Einstein), even given his ethnic sympathy for Einstein. 



PS. The audience did not throw eggs, during my lecture in UNSW, Australia, at the pendulum conference, the only one he attended. That invited lecture was published in the conference proceedings and also as follows. 

C. K. Raju, “Time: what is it that it can be measured?” Science and Education15(6) (2006) 537–551.

In my second lecture (see abstract at I did make the point that the continuum was not needed for the calculus, as it developed in India, and I very much stick to that today. It is an important argument for decolonisation of math. He deliberately overlooked the philosophical argument,  in order to caricature the related historical claim as chauvinistic. But the philosophical argument stands, irrespective of the history. I don't think he was such a dud that he just failed to understand it. 

PPS. He wanted to visit me in Malaysia, when he was in Cambodia, and when his book was attacked, and people pointed out that the Maya too used something like zero, he asked for my help.


Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Patrick French on Hindutva

Recently Patrick French was invited to CNN-IBN coverage of Indian multi-state elections. During the course of the debate in which Mr French's contribution was scant he made these statements regarding the the Congress Party.

"The thing that the BJP does get, that the Congress does not get, is that India now has dynamic electoral politics. A lot if it has to do with the fact that the average Indian is only 26 years old. You have got young voters who are willing to shift around and back the BJP and I think the big problem that the Congress has made ... is the Idea that we are secular and we are saving India from Fascism, and I think until this recognition that most of the people that you spoke to in UP who are voting for the BJP were not doing it for reasons of Hindutva. They were doing for reasons entirely separate from that"

Mins 41- 42

Anybody with any sense of comprehension will conclude that Patrick has used Fascism and Hindutva interchangeably. 

Congress accuses BJP of 'X'.  It does not recognise that people are not voting the BJP for 'Y'. If he is not saying that X is same as Y then what is he trying to say here.

On my pointing out this fact to Patrick that he considers Hindutva to be Fascist ideology, he accused me of Xenophbia which I think was nothing but an excuse to avoid scrutiny. 

I pointed another of his writings to him. His article in BBC. Published on 6 Dec 2012.

In this article he says.

writing a few months after the events in Ayodhya, the historian Sarvepalli Gopal feared "secularism would be strangled and India would be heading for a fascist take-over… The siege to the basic concepts on which free India has striven to build herself has become more intense"

To this he said to me that he only quoted Sarvepalli Gopal and then went on in the article rebutting him. But even in this article he does no draw any distinction between Fascism and Hindutva. Instead after quoting Mr Gopal he immediately says this.

"In the year following the demolition, there were reasons for fear.

Across the nation several thousand people, most of them Muslim, were killed in riots; a series of bombs exploded in Bombay (now Mumbai), orchestrated by a Dubai-based crime and terror mafia; and minorities (including Hindus in far-away Karachi) became the target of persecution."

I don't see any rebuttal in this. Instead I see another linkage drawn between fascism attributed to Mr Gopal and Hindutva which Patrick mentions in the context of Hindu identity politics.

"Back in 1992, two political impulses appeared to be on the rise: self-assertion by disadvantaged castes and the use of Hindu identity as a mass rallying cry for voters."

"Hindutva has faded away as a significant electoral force. There will always be vociferous people who believe that Hindus are a voiceless majority facing insidious persecution from "pseudo-secularists" - but their influence is declining"

Then he says "Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) politicians who are strongly associated with Hindutva, such as Lal Krishna Advani and Narendra Modi, now spend much of their time trying not to look like extremists."

I don't think there can be a clearer link drawn in one statement between Hindutva and Extremism and if you can comprehend the larger context of the article then the linkage with Fascism.

He then repeats the term Fascism. "Contrary to the fears expressed in 1992, the people of India show little sign of wanting either a religious state or a fascist take-over." Please note he says this again in the context of declining(in his view) political currency of Hindutva when he states "At the ballot box, Hindutva consistently plays badly."

So this is saying that Hindutva and Ramjanma bhoomi movement was a movement leading to religious state or fascist takeover.

So as I have shown Patrick french draws linkage between Hindutva and Fascism, never directly saying that Hindutva is Fascism in one sentence, but drawing a linkage with broad play of words, leaving no doubt in a readers mind that, Hindutva is an extremist ideology, is what Patrick is saying. Which of course, in his view has lost political currency, hence there is no fear of a fascist takeover any more.

The question is why have I gone through the trouble of explaining how Patrick makes these links. Whats wrong if he does and if that is his opinion? The reason why I went though the trouble of explaining this is because he denies that he draws any such linkage. He in fact claims that he has spoken against drawing such a linkage. When I point point out how he does he gets angry and accuses me of xenophbia and dishonesty. Well article from 2012 and the recent TV debate seems to suggest otherwise and readers will decide who is being dishonest and why. 

If he says he never meant to draw a linkage then it is only fair to expect from him a clear statement on how Hindutva is different from Fascism. Is it still extremism in his view?

PS: Please be aware that I do not make any claim of knowing what Hindutva ideology is. I don't subscribe to it nor do I oppose it. But what I do understand about it is that it is clearly not fascism which is a supremacist ideology of exclusion of others. Hindutva as is being claimed by the proponent seems to be an ideology of assimilation. Is it by force is it by persuasion? I do not fully know hence I am so far neutral on it.

Also Ram Janma Bhoomi movement in my view was far more complex to be given a short thrift as 'hindu extremism'.

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Mix with all other communities and not live in ghetto

Here I am publishing a recent interview I did with Yusuf Unjhawala (@yusufDFI). Yusuf is an out spoken critique of radicalization of youth in various Muslim communities in India, a voice of moderation and a proponent of equal rights for Muslim women. Yusuf is very active in social media. He has a large following of supporters and a long list of opponents too. Yusuf is also an influential voice in Indian social media on defence matters and is an administrator at

In this interview I ask him some questions which were difficult in my view, but the ease with which he has answered them gives me confidence that these are not so difficult to be shied away from.

1) To start with, please share some background about you. We know that you are an editor at Defence Forum India and have also written for publications like Swarajya Magazine on defence matters. But your main occupation is your business. A family business I assume. How did India Defence Forum India happen? From where did your interest in defence matters begin?

Answer: First of all thank you for considering me worthy of an interview.

Yes I am a businessman by profession. Not surprising as I belong to the Dawoodi Bohra community which is a trading community. Although many have moved into professional courses. I myself am a Mechanical Engineer.

My interest in defence has been from school days. I wanted to join to armed forces but it was not to be. But interest in defence and strategic affairs always remained.

In 2009, the forum was started as there was space for creating an outlet for young and old on issues of defence. Twitter and facebook had not caught on in a big way and forums were more structured and focused.

2) Commonly when people look at India they look at it in terms of its modern administrative units i.e. the states. Another way to define India is to look at it in terms of its various communities. These communities are spread across physical boundaries but may also consider a certain geography  as the root of their sub-culture. You belong to one such community which has earned a lot of respect and good will in India. The Bohra Muslims. Could you tell us something about the community from your perspective? What has been the reason for the community having made such positive contribution to society and earned good will?  

Answer: The Bohra community derives its theological doctrine from the Fatemids of Egypt. It belongs to the Shia sect and within Shiasm, its part of the Ismaili branch. Fatemid dynasty that ruled was a time when “Caliphate’ and the political rule was one as per Ismailis. They ruled much of North Africa also known as Maghreb. From Egypt to Morocco and also parts of Middle East. At the end of the dynasty, the Imam went into seclusion and a post of vice-regent was established in Yemen called Dai commonly called Syedna.

They sent their missionaries to India and managed to convert people. So most Bohras are converts although normal migration and settlement would have happened from areas outside the current geography of India.

The Bohras got their name from Gujarati word vepaar meaning business. You will find Bohras all over the world. Bohras literacy rate is high both among boys and girls and that is probably why the Bohras stand out among other Muslim sects of India.

Bohras came into their own during the world wars especially the first. They supplied material for the British war effort and made a lot of money. Most of them had moved from their native villages in Gujarat to Bombay, Kolkata and later on to Chennai back then in search for their livelihood. Those who made this big money wanted to give back to the society and formed various trusts that ran schools, colleges, medical facilities etc. That they also got educated and the inherent docile nature of the Bohras have endeared them to everyone.

3) You have commented on some of the issues among the Bohra community. Like the issue of Female Genital Mutilation, recent influence of Arab culture and on the leadership of the community. What are some these issues that are subject of much debate and 'churn' in the community? What are your views on these?

Answer: Female Genital Mutilation or FGM has been prevalent in the Bohra community for centuries. One theory says that since the Bohras are a mercantile community with the men going on long tours in search of business opportunities, they got the women to undergo FGM to suppress their sexual desire. There hasn't been any debate within the community on this issue and years of what probably was a community or cultural practice acquired a religious color which has made sure that the topic will remain off the table of discussion. Also there was very little education on the subject for both the men and the women. The process is carried out by untrained elderly ladies of the community in utter secrecy on 6-7 year old girls. The girls have no clue as to what they have gone through.
All this has changed with the advent of social media which has exposed more people to the issue and there has been discussion within the community but its all hushed hushed. A few months back the Syedna cryptically announced that the process has divine sanction and must go on. This makes it difficult to even debate on the issue let alone get rid of it.

On the question of influence of Arab influence within the community, yes I have seen more use of Arabic words in sermons in the mosque. The Bohras are all Gujaratis and for a long time it was Gujarati which was the language of all communication. In the last few years, this has changed where a language called “Lisan-ud-Dawat’ (Language of Missionary) has become widely used. It consists of Gujarati, Hindi, Persian and Arabic words but lot of Arabic words these days which common folks dont even understand. Bohras are told Arabic is the divine language as Gods revelations in Quran is in that language. Ordinary bohras don't know the language nor do they make any effort to learn it. It is only taught in the Bohra universities that trains the clergy. I must say that bohras still use Khuda Hafiz and not Allah Hafiz and Ramzan and not Ramadan which is finding traction among other Muslims in India.

About the churn, if you are hinting at the ongoing power struggle following the demise of the previous Syedna, then yes. It split the community. Most “seem” to be with the son of the previous Syedna, Mufaddal Saifuddin and has become the dominant faction and carries the Dawoodi Bohra tag. The other faction has been called the Qutbi bohras although its not they who have named themselves as such and still call themselves Dawoodi bohra and claim to be the successors of the previous Syedna. The case is in the court. A court order will not change allegiance of people as they stand today but its more to do with the enormous wealth that the ruling cleric commands which is at stake.

The dominant faction has been using all the tricks in the book to shore up or show numbers including use of smart cards to track attendance of community members on various occasions and events in the mosques and those who don't come are questioned.

4) You have actively commented on this phenomenon which is described as Islamism. How would you define it? What is this ideology and why is it a matter of concern?

Answer: In simple terms, Islamism is political Islam. The use of Islam for political goals which will result in worldwide Islamic rule or Caliphate. It's adherents espouse a puritanical way and want to live life as it existed during the Prophet’s time. Non-muslims are called Kafirs and are expected to either convert or be dhimmis and pay protection money. This is what happened in the past and Islamists want to revive what they call the golden era of Islam when Muslims ruled large areas from Europe to India.  It's a supremacist ideology which has no regard for other religions. They don't entertain any debate on their practices and can get very violent as we see in many parts of the world. They follow a very strict and extreme version of Sharia law and deny women equal rights. They conduct violent jihad against “Kafirs” and finding causes with the purpose to establish Islamic rule across the world.

It is a matter of concern as this has led to spiralling of terrorism. No country is safe. India off course has been at the receiving end of terror from Pakistan. Its a state sanctioned Jihad and Kashmir is only an excuse.

The other issue that India faces is radicalization of its own Muslim population due to the extensive use of social media by the extremists in propagating their ideology. We have seen many Muslim kids to to Syria and join ISIS. there is a rise in the extremist wahabi ideology which is funded by Saudi Arabia. The home ministry is cognizant of the fact that money has come into India to fund mosques and madarsas with preachers from outside coming in propagating an extreme version of Islam. That is why a few months back Prime Minister Modi called on Indian Muslims to fall back on the Sufi ways that has always flourished in India over the centuries.

5) By and large the Muslim communities in India have escaped this ideology and most people reject it. But one knows that there is active influence being exerted by some sections/forces. Who are these forces? How can the various Muslim communities escape this? What do they need to do to keep the young generation on a positive path of prosperity and positive contribution to society?

Answer: Muslim community in India has escaped it by and large as they are Indic in origin and followers of sufi ways. But like I mentioned earlier, there is a wahabi influence these days. Add to this vested political interests are making matters worse.How can we address this is one question, will we be allowed to address this is another considering the politics that's played around.

One thing that is certain is that Muslims need to get educated. Get into public schools and study in multi-cultural environment. It's not that it will stop radicalization as we have seen doctors and engineers conduct terror attacks but it will to a large extent get them out of the narrow world that they live in guided by their faith and be more aware, respectful and considerate of other faiths and cultures. It will take them away from the narrow minded clerics who shape their worldview and motivate them to question and demand answers regarding practices and issues within the community and in fact get onto the path of reforms within the community.

But will it be allowed to be addressed? History has shown that clerics and politicians will not allow reforms. Prominent example is the Shah Bano case in which Muslims forced PM Rajiv Gandhi to legislate against Supreme Court order that went in favor of Shah Bano for maintenance after her husband divorced her. Or take the ongoing debate on triple talaq where again a Muslim woman has sought a ban on the practice which doesn't exist even in Islamic countries but strongly backed by clerics and Muslim politicians in India. The problem is they quickly declare any attempts to correct the wrongs as a war on Islam. Makes it difficult to reform both by the courts or by the reform minded members of the community.

The government has to figure out a way to clip the wings of clerics from the personal lives of ordinary Muslims. Engage with the intellectuals and common Muslims alike and delegitimize the role of self appointed and self serving thekedars of Indian Muslims like the All India Muslim Personal Law Board. The supreme court has already called the issuance of fatwas as unconstitutional. We can go a bit further and legislate a limited role for clerics in the lives of Muslims to just leading the prayers.

Another thing that the government will have to take measures to stop provocative and radicalizing content that proliferates on social media.

6) Why do the influential people from various Muslim communities push Islamism under the carpet? Some don't like to use the term since it seems to in their view portray Islam itself in negative light.
Answer: I think the violent nature of Islamists prevents people from speaking up. We have seen what has happened to writers in Bangladesh who have been murdered. Then there is the use of blasphemy laws in Islamic countries which prevents people from speaking freely. In India too there are similar forces which scares people from raising their voices.

7) What do non-Muslims need to know about Islamism? How to single out this Ideology and separate it from wider Muslim religious traditions? How can non-Muslims positively address this?

Answer: I have already described what Islamism is all about. Thanks to internet and social media, there is awareness about it today.

I would also say that there are two parts to the issue. One that happens outside India and one that's within. There are different socio-political dynamics, i might add geo-political in the larger context.

In many cases what happens outside is applied to Indian Muslims which probably is not right. The situation in Europe for example is different & cannot be applied to India. Indian Muslims are ethnic of the country whereas there is a migratory,multi ethnic and multi cultural Muslim population in Europe & it has its own problems today with regards to integration with the rest. Indian Muslims are integrated into the larger population being of same ethnicity, language & Indic culture.

So there should not be any broad brushing of ordinary Indian Muslims who are culturally Hindustanis.

Then there is a geopolitical angle to Islamism in which the wahabi ideology is trying to penetrate across the world and use it to influence native policies. There is also a Shia-Sunni rivalry primarily stemming from Saudi-Iran power struggle. This led to propping and support of very violent groups of people in trying to achieve dominance.

Coming to Indian context, you have a few self styled Muslim leaders with political objectives indulging in competitive Islamism. Trying to push common Muslim population further into a more hardened form of Islam. This will only lead to further isolation of Muslims from the mainstream. Muslims as it is are at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder in the country. Isolation will only worsen the situation leading to more inward looking and greater chance of radicalization.

What the larger non Muslim community can do is to push Muslims into introspection by taking up various issues. The issue of Triple Talaq for instance or FGM has found support from wider population who agree that the practice is wrong and that rights of women need to be protected. This will emboldened Muslims to rise against such practices and break the wall or barrier that exists in not questioning.

8) Recently there have been some developments. Long after Shah Bano case now the case of triple talaq is in supreme court. There is also the case of entry of women in Haji Ali dargah sanctum. How are these being seen in the community? I would like to understand not just your view but that of the various Muslim communities.

Answer: Being from the Bohra community, I cannot speak on behalf of the larger Muslim community. But in this regards, Bohras are much better off. Women are allowed to pray in mosques & can go to any dargahs of Bohra saints or past Syednas and pray albeit there is clear separation of men and women within the premises. Also within the Bohra community there is no instant Talaq. It's difficult to get a divorce as all efforts are made to reconcile first.

But going by the reports and statements of clerics & some Muslim politicians, it's clear that they don't want to give women equal rights or their dues or give them a life of dignity. Recently Haji Ali dargah agreed to allow women in. So that is a welcome development. That there was a move to block women was surprising as women have been prominent in the spread of Sufism.

On the triple talaq issue, we now have comments from the Allahabad High Court which has observed that triple talaq is against the right of Muslim women and is unconstitutional. Justice Mushtaq in the Kerala High Court just a few days back said that justice has become elusive for Muslim women and the remedy lies in the codification of the divorce law. Justice Mushtaq went on to say that fear that uniform code on marriage will offend Sharia is a myth. The matter on triple talaq is also pending with the Supreme Court. The usual suspects who claim to represent Muslims are not expected to reform and keep harping on the keeping personal laws intact in the garb of right to religion. So it will need outside intervention by either the courts or the parliament to uphold individual rights which are violated in the name of religion.

9) What is the role of All India Muslim Personal Law board in Muslim life. How do people look at it? Who do they represent? What have been their positive contribution or otherwise?

Ans: the AIMPLB is an NGO which has assumed the role of being representative of all Muslims in India. Successive government indulgence and patronage has made it assume that. I don't know how many common folks even know about it. This has to stop. In this regard, the Allahabad HC comment comes at good time where it observed that “No personal law board is above constitution”.

10) There is view among some Indians that India is an artificial creation, that became a nation due to British occupation and they unified India. There is another view, that sees India as a civilization state. Some would say constitution makes India some others would say it is the civilization that has made the state and the constitution. Some fear that using such a formulation excludes people who do not consider themselves to be part of the civilization. How do you think an average Muslim looks at this? Do they not find themselves from the same civilization? Do they find such an Idea threatening?

Ans: LOL. India or Bharatvarsh has existed for thousands of years. This idea that India was born in 1947 is false. Anyways that's a topic in its own.

But since you refer to what an average Muslim looks at it, let me state India known as Hind has been mentioned by the prophet in a positive manner. It's another matter that Pakis concocted a ghazwa hadith.

The Muslims of India as people are no different from any other citizen. They are converts to Islam but that doesn't mean they become unrooted from what they are.

But in recent years thanks to competitive Islamism & influx of radical version of Islam, the need to be different has come up. So women who till a few years back who wore saris, salwar kameez,  are now wearing burqas. Men are growing long beards, wearing topi. Words that were very native to India are now being discarded in favor of Arabic.

Pakistanis who detached themselves from Indian roots in search for Arabic, Turkic identity, got into an identity crisis. Indian Muslims should guard against that. The clerics again play an important role in this regard as they are the ones who preach in mosques & teach in Madarasas.

11) What are your views on education for Muslim youth? Is modern education alone a solution to radicalization? After all Jinnah was educated in the west and he belonged to a community of Muslims who had a very composite culture. His mother's name was Mithibai. His Grandfather had converted to Khoja Islam and his family was a prosperous merchant family. All parameters and conditions seem to suggest the so called composite culture of India, yet we see an Islamist in him. What else could an intelligent man have seen except the current state of Islamism in Pakistan when he asked for it? Similar story exists for Iqbal.

What do you think Muslim families need to do and what should their non-Muslim neighbours do, so that youth do not turn to this ideology?

And: Yes Jinnah was a suited booted, pork eating, wine drinking Islamist who was seeking legacy. I mentioned earlier that some of the big terror attacks were carried out by doctors & engineers. So yes education alone doesn't guarantee move away from radical Islam.

But in general, education in math, science, social science, history etc in public schools is required for Muslims to be at par with other citizens of the country which will help them secure jobs and better lives for themselves. Mix with all other communities & not live in ghettos, indulge in exchange of ideas that broaden horizons which allows them to question ills within the community, break myths etc.

What non Muslims can do? Continue to be themselves as their ancestors were in being accommodating. All 180 million Muslims are not extremists or terrorists. Once you base everything on the presumption that all Muslims are potential terrorists, it will make it difficult to fight radical Islam.

The fight against radical Islam is not going to be easy. It's going to take generations to reform. Educating current & future generations of Muslims in secular schools, regulating what's taught in mosques & Madarasas will help develop the minds of Muslims away from radical ideas.