Saturday, February 28, 2015

Mother Teresa and Conversion by Fr Cedric Prakash

Mother Teresa and Conversion
Published Date: 28 Feb, 2015 (7:39 AM)
by Fr Cedric Prakash sj
Ahmedabad: An unnecessary controversy is raging in the country today created by Mohan Bhagwat, the RSS Chief who a few days ago went on record to say that the sole aim of Mother Teresa was to convert others to Christianity.

Mother Teresa seen with Fr Cedric Prakash and his mother, Cynthia
There is of course nothing new about Bhagwat’s utterances. It is in keeping with the ideology of the Sangh Parivar in which the denigration of minorities of the country is paramount. Meenakshi Lekhi, the spokeswoman of the BJP added her two-bit opinion saying that Mother Teresa was baptising even from her death bed. Both of them could obviously have not been making such statements if they did not have the approval of the country’s supremo, Narendra Modi.
Very naturally thousands from all over have taken a stand in defense of Mother Teresa praising her good works and the profound impact she had on millions the world over. The social media has gone viral with people from every walk of life joining in the chorus. Pictures of Mohan Bhagwat with his feet being washed by a woman are placed alongside those of Mother Teresa who is seen caressing a leprosy patient.
Navin Chawla, the former Chief Election Commissioner and Mother Teresa’s biographer in an interview to the Times of India (February 26th, 2015) states that he had even asked Mother Teresa directly if she converted people. “You know what she said, “I do convert but convert you to be a better Hindu, better Muslim, better Catholic and better Sikh. Once you have found Him, it is up to you to do what you want. Conversion is not my work.’”
In March 1996, Mother Teresa was in Ahmedabad. At a reception hosted for her by the Municipal Commissioner, a man belonging to the RSS asked her “why do you convert people to Christianity?” Very humbly and gently, Mother replied, “I have no power to convert anybody; but if you wish to be converted, I will certainly pray to Jesus and he will touch your life.” Of course, the man was just dumb-founded!
So raking up this controversy on Mother is indeed a very cunning strategy to defocus from some of the major problems which grip the country today; these include the massive protest by farmers all over against the land acquisition ordinance and which seems to be conveniently ignored by the media.
It is an appropriate moment however for the common person to reflect on Mother Teresa’s legacy to us which includes:
- Compassion
Mother Teresa was compassion personified. She had the extraordinary gift of touching almost anyone with her heart; from the dying man on the street to the President of a powerful country.  Her love was contagious and over the years, she succeeded in opening many doors with this one key.
- Candour
Mother was honest to the core, to the discomfort of many!  She had no hesitation in calling ‘a spade, a spade’.  She was transparent and did not hide the fact that she was able to serve the poorest of the poor only because she loved Jesus and saw him in them.
- Courage
Mother Teresa demonstrated a tremendous courage in whatever she did. She feared only God and not any human.  She was convinced that what she and her Sisters were doing was needed. She was ready to face any amount of obstacles to ensure that the dying, the orphan, the unloved and the rejected had a home to go to.
- Commitment
What Mother has surely shown each one of us is the importance for commitment in order to make our world a better place!  Her unflagging commitment to the poorest of the poor has been her hallmark all along.  Her Missionaries of Charity continue this legacy today.
If Bhagwat, Lekhi and their ilk make an attempt to imbibe some of these qualities, India will surely be CONVERTED!
About author: Fr Cedric Prakash SJ is the Director of PRASHANT, the Ahmedabad-based Jesuit Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace.)

IN THE RELENTLESS PURSUIT OF JUSTICE & PEACE (On the 13th Anniversary of the Gujarat Carnage)

(On the 13th Anniversary of the Gujarat Carnage)

Today(February 28th 2015) on the 13th anniversary of the Gujarat Carnage, several victim-survivors gathered together at "Prashant", Ahmedabad -to share with the Media (and others) the pain and suffering which they have been going through all these years!With heavy hearts and tear-filled eyes they narrated what they witnessed and experienced in one of the bloodiest chapters in the history of India!

They still find it unbearable that their loved ones were brutalised ,raped and massacred .Many of them still await that promised compensation and the fact that they are NOT allowed to go back to the place which they once called "home" 

They questioned as to how those who were responsible for the carnage and convicted like Maya Kodnani have now been granted bail.Where is 'Justice" ? some of them asked

They condemned unequivocally the unwarranted harassment of Teesta Setalvad by the Gujarat Government and police.They were  very vocal in saying that Teesta , Javed Anand and others from the CJP  have accompanied them -despite all obstacles these past years in their quest for justice!Because of them 126 persons have already been convicted.

Finally , they told the media and others that their struggle for Truth and Justice will continue resolutely till the very end! 

Thursday, February 26, 2015



Remembering today my beloved mother CYNTHIA on her birth anniversary!
She loved and revered MOTHER TERESA very much
Praying and interceding for EACH ONE OF US here on earth
Love you Mum! Love you Mother!

Modi, Ever the RSS Pracharak by Mani Shankar Aiyar

Modi, Ever the RSS Pracharak

(Mani Shankar Aiyar is a Congress MP in the Rajya Sabha.)
The 56-inch mountain has at long last heaved - and produced the proverbial mouse.

After eight months of maun vrata over issues of religious tension, Narendra Modi has now disclosed that his "government will ensure that there is complete freedom of faith" and "will not allow any religious group, belonging to the majority or the minority, to incite hatred against others, overtly or covertly".

Excellent - except that this is what he should have said - and done - at the Shah Alam refugee camp in Ahmedabad in 2002 when an anti-Muslim pogrom was taking place under his watch.  There was neither a word of sympathy then, nor any action to establish that his Government was with the victims, not the perpetrators.  Indeed, it was not until he was compelled to accompany Prime Minister Vajpayee to the Shah Alam camp a full month later that he even made his first visit to the camp.  And when, finally, a word of sympathy came from him a decade or so later, it was to compare the murdered, injured and looted Muslims to a puppy dog accidently coming under the wheels of a car.

Nor is this the first time Modi has declared  that he "strongly condemn(s) State violence".  He had said it before to the BJP's Parliamentary Party.  But with what result?  Only the filthy statements from those he selected to represent his Party in the Lok Sabha and adorn his Council of Ministers.  Perhaps he cannot deprive Sakshi Maharaj of his seat but by what standards does he continue to include Sadhvi Jyoti among his Ministers?  In the behavior of a whole cohort of his most ardent supporters, there is no indication that "equal respect for all religions" is in their "DNA".  If they do not have that in their DNA - as manifestly they do not- what are they doing sitting beside and behind him in Parliament?

And talking of Parliament, why did Modi so adamantly refuse to come to the Rajya Sabha and say exactly what he did to the Syrian Christians? The Opposition was demanding no more.  They wanted him to unequivocally declare on the floor of the sacred precincts of Parliament that he "consider(ed) the freedom to have, to retain and to adopt, a religion or belief (as) a personal choice of a citizen". He did not because he was afraid of being questioned about the gap between such an oral declaration and the ugly effects of ghar waapsi, love jihad and election-oriented riots strewed around him.

The RSS pracharak in Modi is manifested in virtually every sentence of his speech.  Note that all his quotes come from Hindu religious texts.  He finds nothing in the Dhammapada or the Holy Quran, in the Zend Avesta or the Torah or even the Guru Granth Saheb to share with his audience.  He talks of "spiritual exchanges thousands of years back" between "the Indian saints and Greek sages", but rears away from even hinting at the spiritual exchanges between Muslim saints and Hindu sages over more than a thousand years that have given rise to the synthesis of spiritualism that defines the whole of India today. Nor does Modi's constricted conflation of "India" with "Hindu" allow him to talk expansively of the profound influence of Buddhism and Jainism on Hindu spiritual thought and traditions and over most of the period from Asoka (3rd century BC) to Harshvardhan (7th century AD) - that is close to a millennium - which eventually gave rise to Sankara's Advaita which resolved the age-long disputation within the Hindu fold of whether Mind or Matter are one or separate.  No, his quotes are all from Rig Veda and "ancient Indian sayings".  Nothing from Guru Nanak or Guru Gobind Singh, nothing from the saints of the Bhakti Movement.  Indeed, given  that Modi was in a Christian church,  neither he nor his speechwriters could find anything  to cite from the Bible or more recent Christian philosophers.  Surely, Gandhiji's devotion to "Lead Kindly Light" or the Sermon on the Mount could have found more reflection in his remarks.

"Spiritualism", said Modi, "is rooted in India's heritage".  Of course it is.  But it is a spiritualism that derives from India being  a confluence of virtually every religion the world has or has known.  Compare any page of Jawaharlal Nehru's Discovery of India and Modi's speech, and the gap becomes glaring between a truly profound understanding of India's numerous spiritual traditions and Modi's one-way street. For Modi to affirm, however, that important religions have gone into the making of India's contemporary spiritual heritage would be to deny Savarkar's fundamental proposition that only those Indians are genuine Indians who regard India as not only their "pitrubhoomi" but also their "punyabhoomi".  That is precisely why he spoke of "Mother India" having given "birth to many religious and spiritual streams" but completely ignored the many religions and spiritual streams that have come into India, that have been imported into our cultures and civilization over and over again.  Consider the contrast between Modi's boast that "some of them (religions born in India) have even travelled beyond Indian borders" with sidelining the religions born outside India but which have travelled into India, crossing Indian borders and becoming part and parcel of our composite Hindu and non-Hindu heritage.  Modi's speech privileges those religions born within India over those whose origins lie elsewhere.  That is not the Hindu tradition.  It is Hindutva at its most naked.

Let us not forget that when Modi presented a copy of the Gita to the Emperor of Japan, he sneered that "secularists" back home would object. That is to totally misunderstand "secularism".  Secularism is not about being anti-Hindu or anti-Gita.  We secularists regard the Gita as integral to not just the Hindu Way of Life, but the Indian Way of Life.  We would also applaud Modi presenting a copy of the Holy Quran, printed at the Darul Uloom, to Prime Minister Koirala when he next visits Kathmandu; or of Dara Shikoh's Persian translation of the Upanishads to Nawaz Sharif were Modi to ever meet Sharif again; or even a copy of the Torah printed in Jew Town, Kochi to the Israeli President:  that would be to give full expression to India's pluralism.  It is in the active celebration of all of its faiths and beliefs, in rejoicing that all things Indian are not only Hindu, in bringing together all Indians instead of sequestering some of them in khaki half-pants in Nagpur, that the true spirit of India lies.

The time now is for Modi to fulfill - particularly with respect to his own Sangh Parivar and associated outfits - that he really will "act strongly in this regard."
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Story First Published: February 23, 2015 11:27 IST

Amnesty International criticises Modi govt’s rights record

  • PTI
    Prime Minister Narendra Modi's human rights record has come in for criticism from Amnesty International.
  • Bihar's Muzaffarnagar district has been especially vulnerable to communal clashes. Here, locals light candles to commemorate the anniversary of the Muzaffarnagar riots. — Photo: Sandeep Saxena
    The Hindu
    Bihar's Muzaffarnagar district has been especially vulnerable to communal clashes. Here, locals light candles to commemorate the anniversary of the Muzaffarnagar riots. — Photo: Sandeep Saxena

In its Annual Report 2015, Amnesty has highlighted poll-related violence in May, communal clashes and failure of consultation on corporate projects as key concerns.

Human rights group Amnesty International on Wednesday criticised the Narendra Modi-led government, saying under the new regime India had witnessed a rise in communal violence and its Land Acquisition Ordinance has put thousands of Indians at “risk” of forcible eviction.
In its Annual Report 2015, released here, Amnesty highlighted poll-related violence in the lead-up to the May 2014 General Elections, communal clashes and failure of consultation on corporate projects as key concerns.
“National elections in May saw a government led by the Bharatiya Janata Party come to power with a landslide victory.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who campaigned on promises of good governance and development for all, made commitments to improve access to financial services and sanitation for people living in poverty.
“However, the government took steps towards reducing requirements to consult with communities affected by corporate-led projects,” Amnesty said in its report.
The report highlighted that “the authorities continued to violate people’s rights to privacy and freedom of expression. There was a rise in communal violence in Uttar Pradesh and some other states and corruption, caste-based discrimination and caste violence remained pervasive.”
In reference to communal violence, it noted that, “A string of communally charged incidents in Uttar Pradesh prior to elections led to an increase in tensions between Hindu and Muslim communities...Politicians were accused of and in some cases criminally charged with making provocative speeches.”
”...In December, Hindu groups were accused of forcibly converting several Muslims and Christians to Hinduism,” the report said.
The rights body also went on to single out the Land Acquisition Ordinance for criticism as it described the move as a new “risk” to thousands of Indians.
“In December, the government passed a temporary law which removed requirements related to seeking the consent of affected communities and assessing social impact when state authorities acquired land for certain projects,” it said.
“Thousands of people remained at risk of being forcibly evicted from their homes and lands for large infrastructure projects. Particularly vulnerable were Adivasi communities living near new and expanding mines and dams,” it added.
While the group recognised “progressive legal reform”, it was critical of India’s “overburdened and under-funded criminal justice system“.
Amnesty pointed out two court orders as important “gains” for India in 2014, including a Bhopal court’s decision in November to demand that its criminal summons against the Dow Chemical Company be re-issued and a “landmark judgment” by the Supreme Court in April granting legal recognition to transgender people.


Mother Teresa’s works of mercy were liberal actions’ by Cedric Prakash (26th Feb 2015)

Mother Teresa’s works of mercy were liberal actions’
In March 1996, Mother Teresa was on a very special visit to Ahmedabad. The then municipal commissioner of the city, Keshav Varma, made sure to make her visit a memorable one. He also wrote a letter requesting the then BJP mayor, Bhavna Dave, to accord a civic reception to Mother. Dave flatly refused this. Varma then hosted a tea party in his official bungalow for Mother inviting several eminent citizens of the city to interact with her. Mayor Dave also dropped in. One of the Sanghis who accompanied her directly asked Mother, “Why do you convert other people to Christianity?” Very humbly and gently, Mother replied, “I have no power to convert anybody; but if you wish to be converted, I will certainly pray to Jesus and he will touch your life.” Of course, the man was just dumbstruck!
More than nineteen years after her death, Mother Teresa once again hogs the headlines. Mohan Bhagwat, the RSS chief has gone on record to say that Mother’s sole aim was “conversion”; the BJP spokeswoman Meenakshi Lekhi adds her two bit saying that Mother was baptising even when she was on her death bed! Such petty statements warrant no comment! Mother Teresa is being very conveniently ‘used’ to draw attention away from several serious problems that confront India today: be it the Land Acquisition Ordinance, which has brought thousands of farmers onto the streets of Delhi, or the swine flu which has reached epidemic proportions in several parts of the country!
The ordinary citizen, however, needs to be reminded of the rich legacy, which Mother has left all; these include:
Courage to challenge the rich and the powerful
It is common knowledge that Mother, at most times, ‘got what she wanted and more’. She had that ability of creating discomfiture for certain sections of society. She was not content with the ‘crumbs’ that fell off their tables. She wanted the best (especially dignity) for the poorest of the poor
Ability to be a bridge for a more humane society
Mother was perfectly at ease with all sections of society. The rich and powerful were unable to ‘co-opt’ her to their way of living; many of them joined in her mission. Her unparalleled work proved to be a great leveller. She had no qualms hobnobbing with dictators, as long as she was able to touch their hearts and loosen their tight fists to give to the poor
Commitment to compassion
Mother’s works of mercy were liberal actions. A person who lies in a gutter: in filth and in squalor - with a body that is maggot-ridden, hungry and emaciated, needs just one thing: to be accepted with love as a human being first; then a bath and hot wholesome food. Her compassion was shown in deeds.
Humility in accepting her limitations
She was often criticised of ‘spoiling the poor’; in her typical way she used to quip, “I really can’t help it. That’s all I can do...perhaps you are better, since you spoil the rich.” Or on another occasion when she was accused of not addressing the root causes of injustice, she replied “Well, I think you should be doing that...I am good at doing only this!”
It was not without reason that Mother Teresa was given the Bharat Ratna, the Nobel Peace prize and innumerable other awards from across the globe. The likes of a Bhagwat or a Lekhi and their utterances will never be able to dislodge the fact that she truly “converted” millions the world over, not to Christianity, but to be able to do good to the poor and the marginalised of our world. It is high time many of us accept this CONVERSION!
In response


“Strong governments may not, however, move in the right direction. Hitler provided Germany with extremely effective administration – the trains ran on time, as did the trains during our own Emergency in 1975-77. His was a strong government, but Hitler took Germany efficiently and determinedly on a path to ruinoverriding the rule of law and dispensing with electionsIt is not sufficient that the trains run on time, they have to go in the right direction at the desired time. The physical rail network guiding the trains could be thought of as analogous to rule of law, while the process by which consensus is built around the train schedule could be thought of as democratic accountability.”

“... In India, we have the opposite situation today, with strong institutions like the judiciary, opposition parties, the free press, and NGOs, whose aim is to check government excess. However, necessary government function is sometimes hard to distinguish from excess.”


Thank you for inviting me to this Festival of Ideas. Since this festival is about ideas, I am not going to tax you with the Reserve Bank’s views on monetary policy, which are, by now, well known. Instead, I want to talk about something I have been studying for many years, the development of a liberal market democracy. In doing this, I will wear my hat as a professor in the field known as political economy, and discard my RBI hat for the time being. If you came here expecting more insights on the path of interest rates, as I expect many of you did, let me apologise for disappointing you.

My starting point is the truism that people want to live in a safe prosperous country where they enjoy freedom of thought and action, and where they can exercise their democratic rights to choose their government. But how do countries ensure political freedom and economic prosperity? Why do the two seem to go together? And what more, if anything does India have to do to ensure it has these necessary underpinnings for prosperity and continued political freedom? These are enormously important questions, but given their nature, they will not be settled in one speech. Think of my talk today, therefore, as a contribution to the debate.
Fukuyama’s three pillars of a liberal democratic state                               In his magisterial two-volume analysis of the emergence of political systems around the world, political scientist Francis Fukuyama builds on the work of his mentor, Samuel Huntington, to argue that liberal democracies, which seem to be best at fostering political freedoms and economic success, tend to have three important pillars: a strong government, rule of law, and democratic accountability.
I propose in this talk to start by summarising my (necessarily imprecise) reading of Fukuyama’s ideas to you. I would urge you to read the books to get their full richness. I will then go on to argue that he leaves out a fourth pillar, free markets, which are essential to make the liberal democracy prosperous. I will warn that these pillars are weakening in industrial countries because of rising inequality of opportunity, and end with lessons for India.
Consider Fukuyama’s three pillars in greater detail. Strong government does not mean one that is only militarily powerful or uses its intelligence apparatus to sniff out enemies of the state. Instead, a strong government is also one that provides an effective and fair administration through clean, motivated, and competent administrators who can deliver good governance.
Rule of law means that government’s actions are constrained by what we Indians would term dharma – by a historical and widely understood code of moral and righteous behaviour, enforced by religious, cultural, or judicial authority.
And democratic accountability means that government has to be popularly accepted, with the people having the right to throw unpopular, corrupt, or incompetent rulers out.
Fukuyama makes a more insightful point than simply that all three traditional aspects of the state – executive, judiciary, and legislature – are needed to balance one another. In sharp contrast to the radical libertarian view that the best government is the minimal “night watchman”, which primarily protects life and property rights while enforcing contracts, or the radical Marxist view that the need for the government disappears as class conflict ends, Fukuyama, as did Huntington, emphasises the importance of a strong government in even a developed country.
No matter how thuggish or arbitrary the government in a tin-pot dictatorship, these are weak governments, not strong ones. Their military or police can terrorise the unarmed citizenry but cannot provide decent law and order or stand up to a determined armed opposition. Their administration cannot provide sensible economic policy, good schools or clean drinking water. Strong governments need to be peopled by those who can provide needed public goods – it requires expertise, motivation, and integrity. Realising the importance of strong government, developing countries constantly request multilateral institutions for help in enhancing their governance capacity.
Strong governments may not, however, move in the right direction. Hitler provided Germany with extremely effective administration – the trains ran on time, as did the trains during our own Emergency in 1975-77. His was a strong government, but Hitler took Germany efficiently and determinedly on a path to ruinoverriding the rule of law and dispensing with electionsIt is not sufficient that the trains run on time, they have to go in the right direction at the desired time. The physical rail network guiding the trains could be thought of as analogous to rule of law, while the process by which consensus is built around the train schedule could be thought of as democratic accountability.
But why do we need both rule of law and democratic accountability to keep strong government on the right path? Would democratic accountability not be enough to constrain a dictatorial government? Perhaps not! Hitler was elected to power, and until Germany started suffering shortages and reversals in World War II, enjoyed the support of the majority of the people.
The rule of law is needed to prevent the tyranny of the majority that can arise in a democracy, as well as to ensure that basic “rules of the game” are preserved over time so that the environment is predictable, no matter which government comes to power. By ensuring that all citizens have inalienable rights and protections, the rule of law constrains the majority’s behaviour towards the minorities. And by maintaining a predictable economic environment against populist democratic instincts, the rule of law ensures that businesses can invest securely today for the future.
What about asking the question the other way? Would rule of law not be enough? Probably not, especially in a vibrant developing society! Rule of law provides a basic slow-changing code of conduct that cannot be violated by either government or the citizenry. But that, by itself, may not be sufficient to accommodate the aspirations of new emerging groups or the consequences of new technologies or ideas. Democratic accountability ensures the government responds to the wishes of the mass of the citizenry, allowing emerging groups to gain influence through political negotiation and competition with others. Even if groups cannot see their programs translated into policy, democracy allows them to blow off steam non-violently. So both rule of law and democratic accountability check and balance strong government in complementary ways.

Where do these three pillars come from?                                                  

Much of Fukuyama’s work is focused on tracing the development of each pillar in different societies. He suggests that what the nature of states we see today is largely explained by history. For instance, China had long periods of chaos, most recently before the Communists came to power; groups engaged in total war against one another. Such unbridled military competition meant groups had to organise themselves as hierarchical military units, with rulers having unlimited powers. When eventually a group was victorious over the others, it was natural for it to impose centralised autocratic rule to ensure that chaos did not remerge. To rule over the large geographic area of the country, China needed a well-developed elite bureaucracy – hence the mandarins, chosen by exam based on their learning. So China had strong unconstrained effective government whenever it was united, and Fukuyama argues, unlike Western Europe or India, did not have strong alternative sources of power founded in religion or culture to impose rule of law.
In Western Europe, by contrast, the Christian church imposed constraints on what the ruler could do. So military competition, coupled with constraints on the ruler imposed by canon law, led to the emergence of both strong government and rule of law.

In India, he argues, the caste system led to division of labour, which ensured that entire populations could never be devoted totally to the war effort. So through much of history, war was never as harsh, or military competition between states as fierce, as in China. As a result, the historical pressure for Indian states to develop strong governments that intruded into every facet of society was muted. At the same time, however, the codes of just behaviour for rulers emanating from ancient Indian scriptures served to constrain any arbitrary exercise of power by Indian rulers. India, therefore, had weaker government, constrained further by rule of law. And, according to Fukuyama, these differing histories explain why government in China today is seen as effective but unrestrained, while government capacity in India is seen as weak, but Indian governments are rarely autocratic.
Any of these grand generalisations can, and should, be debated. Fukuyama does not claim history is destiny, but does suggest a very strong influence. Of course, the long influence of history and culture is less perceptible when it comes to democracy where some countries like India have taken to it like a duck to water. A vibrant accountable democracy does not only imply that people cast their vote freely every five years. It requires the full mix of a raucous investigative presspublic debate uninhibited by political correctnessmany political parties representing varied constituencies, and a variety of non-governmental organisations organising and representing interests. It will continue to be a source of academic debate why a country like India has taken to democracy, while some of its neighbours with similar historical and cultural pasts have not.
I will not dwell on this. Instead, I turn to a different question that Fukuyama does not address. Clearly, strong governments are needed for countries to have the governance to prosper. Equally, free markets underpin prosperity. But why is it that every rich country is also a liberal democracy subject to rule of law?
I will make two points in what follows: First, free enterprise and the political freedom emanating from democratic accountability and rule of law can be mutually reinforcing so a free enterprise system should be thought of as the fourth pillar underpinning liberal market democracies. Second, the bedrock on which all four pillars stand is a broadly equitable distribution of economic capabilities among the citizenry. That bedrock is fissuring in industrial countries, while it has to be strengthened in emerging markets like India.
Free enterprise and political freedom                                                          

Why are political freedoms in a country, of which representative democracy is a central component, and free enterprise mutually supportive?
There is, of course, one key similarity: Both a vibrant democracy and a vibrant free enterprise system seek to create a level playing field which enhances competition. In the democratic arena, the political entrepreneur competes with other politicians for the citizen’s vote, based on his past record and future policy agenda. In the economic sphere, the promoter competes with other entrepreneurs for the consumer’s rupee, based on the quality of the product he sells.
But there is also at least one key difference. Democracy treats individuals equally, with every adult getting one vote. The free enterprise system, by contrast, empowers consumers based on how much income they get and property they own. What then prevents the median voter in a democracy from voting to dispossess the rich and successful? And why do the latter not erode the political rights of the ordinary voter. This fundamental tension between democracy and free enterprise appeared to be accentuated in the recent U.S. Presidential elections as President Barack Obama appealed to middle-class anger about its stagnant economic prospects, while former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney appealed to business people, disgruntled about higher taxes and expanding healthcare subsidies.
One reason that the median voter rationally agrees to protect the property of the rich and to tax them moderately may be that she sees the rich as more efficient managers of that property, and therefore as creators of jobs and prosperity that everyone will benefit from. So, to the extent that the rich are self-made, and have come out winners in a competitive, fair, and transparent market, society may be better off allowing them to own and manage their wealth, settling in return for a reasonable share of their produce as taxes. The more, however, that the rich are seen as idle or crooked – as having simply inherited or, worse, gained their wealth nefariously – the more the median voter should be willing to vote for tough regulations and punitive taxes on them. In some emerging markets today, for example, property rights of the rich do not enjoy widespread popular support because so many of a country’s fabulously wealthy oligarchs are seen as having acquired their wealth through dubious means. They grew rich because they managed the system, not because they managed their businesses well. When the government goes after rich tycoons, few voices are raised in protest. And, as the rich kowtow to the authorities to protect their wealth, a strong check on official arbitrariness disappears. Government is free to become more autocratic.
Consider, in contrast, a competitive free-enterprise system with a level playing field for all. Such a system generally tends to permit the most efficient to acquire wealth. The fairness of the competition improves perceptions of legitimacy. Moreover, under conditions of fair competition, the process of creative destruction tends to pull down badly managed inherited wealth, replacing it with new and dynamic wealth. Great inequality, built up over generations, does not become a source of great popular resentment. On the contrary, everyone can dream that they, too, will become a Bill Gates or a Nandan Nilekani. When such universal aspirations seem plausible, the system gains added democratic support. The rich, confidant of popular legitimacy, can then use the independence that accompanies wealth to limit arbitrary government, support rule of law, and protect democratic rights. Free enterprise and democracy sustain each other.
There are, therefore, deeper reasons for why democratic systems support property rights and free enterprise than the cynical argument that votes and legislators can be bought, and the capitalists have the money. The cynics can only be right for a while. Without popular support, wealth is protected only by increasingly coercive measures. Ultimately, such a system loses any vestige of either democracy or free enterprise.
The bedrock: Equitable distribution of economic capabilities                    
There is, however, a growing concern across the industrial world. The free enterprise system works well when participants enter the competitive arena with fundamentally equal chances of success. Given the subsequent level playing field, the winner’s road to riches depends on greater effort, innovation, and occasionally luck. But success is not pre-determined because no class of participants has had a fundamentally different and superior preparation for the competition. If, however, some group’s economic capabilities are sufficiently differentiated by preparation, the level playing field is no longer sufficient to equalise a priori chances of success. Instead, the free enterprise system will be seen as disproportionately favouring the better prepared. Democracy is unlikely to support it, nor are the rich and successful as likely to support democracy.
Such a scenario is no longer unthinkable in a number of Western democracies. Prosperity seems increasingly unreachable for many, because a good education, which seems to be today’s passport to riches, is unaffordable for many in the middle class. Quality higher educational institutions are dominated by the children of the rich, not because they have unfairly bought their way in, but because they simply have been taught and supported better by expensive schools and private tutors.
Because middle class parents do not have the ability to give their children similar capabilities, they do not see the system as fair. Support for the free enterprise system is eroding, as witnessed by the popularity of books like Thomas Pikkety’s Capital in the 21st Century while the influence of illiberal parties on both the Left and Right who promise to suppress competition, finance, and trade is increasing. The mutual support between free enterprise and democracy is giving way to antagonism.
Moreover, as class differences create differentiated capabilities among the public, governments can either continue choosing the most capable applicants for positions but risk becoming unrepresentative of the classes, or they can choose representativeness over ability, and risk eroding effectiveness. Neither biased nor ineffective government can administer well. So government capacity may also be threatened.
Thus, as the bedrock of equitable distribution of capabilities has started developing cracks in industrial countries, all four pillars supporting the liberal free market democracy have also started swaying. This is, to my mind, an enormously important concern that will occupy states across the world in the years to come.
Lessons for India                                                                                             Let me conclude with lessons for India. India inherited a kind of democracy during British rule and has made it thoroughly and vibrantly her own. Of the three pillars that Fukuyama emphasises, the strongest in India is therefore democratic accountability. India also adheres broadly to the rule of law. Where arguably we may have a long way to go, as Fukuyama has emphasised, is in the capacity of the government (and by this I mean regulators like the RBI also) to deliver governance and public services. This is not to say that we do not have areas of excellence strewn throughout central and state governments – whether it is the building of the New Delhi Metro, the reach of the public distribution system in Tamil Nadu, or the speed of the roll-out of the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana – but that such capabilities have to permeate every tehsil in every state. Moreover, in many areas of government and regulation, as the economy develops, we need more specialists, with the domain knowledge and experience. For instance, well-trained economists are at a premium throughout the government, and there are far too few Indian Economic Service officers to go around.
An important difference from the historical experience of other countries is that elsewhere typically strong government has emerged there first, and it is then restrained by rule of law and democratic accountability. In India, we have the opposite situation today, with strong institutions like the judiciary, opposition parties, the free press, and NGOs, whose aim is to check government excess. However, necessary government function is sometimes hard to distinguish from excess. We will have to strengthen government (and regulatory) capability resisting the temptation to implant layers and layers of checks and balances even before capacity has taken root. We must choose a happy medium between giving the administration unchecked power and creating complete paralysis, recognising that our task is different from the one that confronted the West when it developed, or even the task faced by other Asian economies.
For instance, a business approval process that mandates numerous government surveys in remote areas should also consider our administrative capacity to do those surveys well and on time. If it does not provide for that capacity, it ensures there will be no movement forward. Similarly, if we create a multiple appellate process against government or regulatory action that is slow and undiscriminating, we contain government excess but also risk halting necessary government actions. If the government or regulator is less effective in preparing its case than private parties, we ensure that the appellate process largely biases justice towards those who have the resources to use it, rather than rectifying a miscarriage of justice. So in thinking through reforms, we may want to move from the theoretical ideal of how a system might work in a country with enormous administrative capacity, to how it would work in the actual Indian situation. Let me emphasise, we need “checks and balance”, but we should ensure a balance of checks. We cannot have escaped from the License Permit Raj only to end up in the Appellate Raj!
Finally, a heartening recent development is that more people across the country are becoming well-educated and equipped to compete. One of the most enjoyable experiences at the RBI is meeting the children of our Class IV employees, many of whom hold jobs as business executives in private sector firms. As, across the country, education makes our youth economically mobile, public support for free enterprise has expanded.
Increasingly, therefore, the political dialogue has also moved, from giving hand outs to creating jobs. So long as we modulate the pace of liberalisation to the pace at which we broaden economic capabilities, it is likely that the public will be supportive of reform. This also means that if we are to embed the four pillars supporting prosperity and political freedom firmly in our society, we have to continue to nurture the broadly equitable distribution of economic capabilities among our people. Economic inclusion, by which I mean easing access to quality education, nutrition, healthcare, finance, and markets to all our citizens, is therefore a necessity for sustainable growth. It is also, obviously, a moral imperative.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Hounding an activist By ANUPAMA KATAKAM in FRONTLINE

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The Nation
Published: February 18, 2015 12:30 IST | Updated: February 17, 2015 12:42 IST
Hounding an activist
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The Gujarat Police’s pursuit of Teesta Setalvad, who has been fighting for the riot victims in Gujarat, in a case of “misappropriation” of funds smacks of political vendetta. By ANUPAMA KATAKAM

Teesta Setalvad has always said they will get her one day. She has told this magazine several times that if Narendra Modi becomes Prime Minister, her future as a lawyer and activist will be finished. She has been on the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) radar for several reasons, the main one being the Zakia Jafri case in which Modi is held culpable for the 2002 communal riots in Gujarat. She has believed that he will pursue a political vendetta against her.
In a dramatic move on February 12, the Gujarat Police arrived at Teesta Setalvad and her husband Javed Anand’s house in Mumbai, probably to arrest them, after the Gujarat High Court rejected her anticipatory bail plea in a criminal case relating to the charge of “misappropriation” of trust funds collected on behalf of riot victims. Reportedly, the couple were away for a family function. Through the intervention of the well-known lawyer Kapil Sibal, the Supreme Court stayed the arrest until February 13. This was later extended to February 19. The hearing of the bail pleas of Tanvir Jafri, the son of Ehsan Jafri, the former Congress Member of Parliament who was killed by rioters in Gulberg Cooperative Housing Society, Ahmedabad, and that of Salim Sandhi and Firoz Gulzar, members of Gulberg Society, who were also named in the case, was also extended.
Teesta Setalvad and other activists have repeatedly said that anyone who crosses Modi’s path is not spared. “They will be hounded, intimidated, persecuted and eventually ruined,” she once said.
If Teesta Setalvad is found guilty and arrested, it could be the end of the road for any form of justice for the families and victims of the Gujarat riots. She and the late lawyer-activist Mukul Sinha were perhaps the only two people who, against all odds, relentlessly pursued the riot cases for more than a decade.
A statement issued on February 13 by the Citizens for Justice and Peace (CPJ), a non-governmental organisation she works with, says: “We have no doubt whatsoever regarding their honesty and integrity in the dealings of CJP. We are convinced that there is no factual basis to sustain the charge of embezzlement, and this has been asserted by the independent auditors of CJP.”
The human rights activist Father Cedric Prakash issued a statement saying, “All are aware that the charges are extremely flimsy and fabricated and are surely politically motivated.”
The case which is threatening Teesta Setalvad’s credibility and safety goes back to 2012 when she and her team from the Sabrang Trust and the CJP mooted the idea of a memorial museum on the premises of Gulberg Society. Of the various means employed to raise funds, one was an art show held in Mumbai. Titled “Art for Humanity”, this exhibition had close to 80 leading Indian artists donate pieces of art to help the CJP carry on its work in the struggle for justice. It was a sell-out. Reportedly, the CJP earned over Rs.1 crore from the exhibition.
At the time of the art show, Teesta Setalvad told this correspondent that “to sustain any movement on a long-term basis, it naturally requires serious commitment and a fair amount of funds, particularly when working on scores of legal cases.” Furthermore, “the aim of building this platform is to evolve a sustainable and strategic fund-raising initiative to ensure a support base for the CJP’s pioneering work in the area of legal rights and social justice. There was an overwhelming response from the artists when we broached the idea with them,” she said.
The CJP is well known for keeping up the fight for justice for the victims of communal attacks since the riots that followed the demolition of the Babri Masjid. Mainly concentrated in western India, the CJP in recent times has been waging a legal battle against the perpetrators of the 2002 Gujarat pogrom. Gulberg Society, a complex of approximately 30 houses and 10 apartments, was the target of one of the most brutal attacks by the Hindu mob in the 2002 communal riots that took the lives of over 800 people.
Rioters set fire to almost every house. Official figures say 69 people were killed and about 100 were injured. Most residents took refuge in Ehsan Jafri’s house within the compound hoping that help would come for him and that they would be saved. But Jafri was dragged out of his house, hacked and burnt to death in front of his family and neighbours. Another 35 people were hacked to death and burnt within the premises of Gulberg Society. Jafri had persistently telephoned the authorities, and reportedly Modi, the Chief Minister, to send help but sadly none came. There are telephone records to prove this.
This led to the theory that no one wanted to help or the police were told not to help and because of that Modi was complicit in the massacre.
Of the nine riot cases that the Special Investigation Team (SIT) was looking into, Teesta Setalvad was helping victims in almost every case. The Gulberg Society case was the only one in which Modi was implicated in the larger conspiracy behind the riots. Modi had to shake off the communal label. His prime ministerial ambitions had begun to emerge.
Jafri’s widow, Zakia, filed her first case against Modi in 2006. With the help of Teesta Setalvad’s legal assistance, she had her family keep up their fight for justice even though the odds were stacked against them.
Informed sources say that Modi and his team were looking for an opportunity to discredit and teach Teesta Setalvad a lesson. The opportunity came when a disgruntled employee of the CJP, Rais Khan, a survivor of the Gulberg Society massacre, alleged that Teesta Setalvad and Anand had uploaded photographs and video footage of the riot areas and appealed to people across the globe to donate funds towards relief and legal work.
Khan, who worked for the CJP from 2002 to 2008, was dismissed by the organisation when it was found that he was conniving with various riot-accused people. The CJP says that following his disengagement with the organisation, he began filing complaints against them. In fact, it is believed that the government, rather Modi, used Khan to get at Teesta Setalvad and the Jafris.
In 2012, Khan said the websites posted appeals for money to be sent directly to the accounts of the CJP or the Sabrang Trust. He also accused the couple of collecting crores of rupees under the guise of building a museum on the Gulberg Society premises. Real trouble began for Teesta Setalvad when Khan allegedly forged a letter of the Society’s members stating that she and the CJP had not given the money to the victims in spite of collecting it in their names. He filed it as a complaint with the police.
In 2013, official representatives of Gulberg Society, in a letter to the Joint Commissioner of Police, Crime Branch, Ahmedabad, said that Khan’s letter was forged and his allegations were false, but the police disregarded it and said an investigation would be carried out before deciding whether Teesta Setalvad or the CJP was guilty.
After the “investigation”, the Crime Branch claimed that the Society members’ complaint did not have any substance in it and filed a first information report (FIR) against Teesta Setalvad on January 4, 2014. She and her husband were granted interim bail, but their bank accounts were frozen. In spite of Gulberg Society secretary Firoz Gulzar filing a complaint in court against the police’s biased approach, nothing changed.
Observers say the sudden filing of the FIR against Teesta Setalvad and the Jafris soon after the Ahmedabad Magistrate’s acceptance of the SIT report in the Zakia Jafri case against Modi and 59 others is not without significance. Attempts by Teesta Setalvad to shift the case to the Bombay High Court failed.
In 2012, the museum plan got shelved. Soaring real estate prices in Ahmedabad had Gulberg Society members thinking it might be a better idea to sell the property and rebuild their lives. A statement from the CJP says that the funds have been kept to be used once a decision is taken on this. “A formal resolution of the Society was passed after this was conveyed to them, leaving the members free to sell off their properties as per law. In no way have either the CJP or Sabrang in any way cheated them or let down the Society.”
Teesta Setalvad has often asked why 80 leading artists would throw their weight behind the CJP if they did not feel the organisation was genuine. Or why well-known citizens such as the lyricist Javed Akhtar and the businessman-philanthropist Cyrus Guzdar would support the organisation if it was not doing good work. Clearly, none of these arguments have worked in the court. Justice J.B. Pardiwala said the organisation was “a one-woman and one-man show” that misused funds meant for the poor.
His order states: “The facts of this case are quite shocking and disturbing. How can one seek materialistic pleasure and happiness at the expense of the poor and needy persons? The facts of this case reflect the sorry state of affairs of the NGOs. While giving freedom to the civil society to function with the flexibility is positive, too much freedom can lead to abuses by certain groups or individuals calling themselves an ‘NGO’, thus giving civil society a bad name. It is, therefore, very important to have strict laws regulating accountability and monitoring of the NGOs so as to maintain a high trust level and good functioning.”
When the attacks on Teesta Setalvad began two years ago, eminent citizens such as the historian Romila Thapar, Justice B.N. Srikrishna  and Justice P.B. Sawant put the issue in perspective in a statement that read: “Indian citizens have just got a disturbing glimpse of how the state would deal with dissidents and human-rights defenders should Narendra Modi come to power nationally…. Eleven months ago, the police had dropped investigations into these very charges after CJP activists explained what they were working towards. The sudden filing of the FIR is evidently in anticipation of CJP’s decision to appeal against the Jafri case judgment. This follows Gujarat’s well-established pattern of harassment of critics, the intention being to intimidate and silence them. Any attempt to prevent the early filing of an appeal will subvert the process of justice. Such intervention is contrary to the norms of our Constitution and speaks of an anti-democratic mindset.”
Whatever may be said about Teesta Setalvad, that allegation that she used the money to holiday and buy luxury goods is difficult to believe.
Printable version | Feb 20, 2015 12:14:17 PM |
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