Maharaja Ranjit Singh

It’s unlikely the buried last Sikh king would be exhumed

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

It is no small matter that the last king of the powerful Sikh empire of the 19th century is buried in a small nondescript village of 300 people in eastern England for 125 years now and voice is now being raised in the Indian parliament for it to be exhumed and his remains brought back to India.

It is also no small matter that the buried, Maharaja Duleep Singh, happened to be the son of magnificent one-eyed Maharaja Ranjit Singh who ruled over much of north and north-western India for 38 years, including Afghanistan and Kashmir, and had the ears of Napoleonic forces against the British expansion in India.

There is enough poignancy in the story of a young lad, enthroned as emperor at the age of five, falling to the machinations of British who pounced on his father’s death to usurp his empire, imprison his mother and ship him to England, converted as a Christian, and later denied his wish to return to his homeland as a reborn Sikh, Apparently, he died in penury in 1893 and buried in the premises of a small church of the Elveden village in West Suffolk district of England to this day.

It would appear strange too that neither the Sikhs, adherent to world’s fifth largest religion with 30 million numbers, nor their country of a billion-plus, has made a serious stake to reclaim a glorious symbol of their past even though a noise is often made to retrieve the magnificent Koh-i-Noor, arguably one of world’s most famous diamond, which once adorned his father Maharaja Ranjit Singh and is today part of British crown of jewels in England.

India was jewel in British crown for a reason. It lost precious stones (gold, silver diamonds etc), materials (sculptures, scrolls etc), resources (millions of men fighting their wars or out of famines) and lands (Pakistan and Bangladesh due to the Partition) in decades of rapine and plunder by the British colonialists.  Its’ economy, from a share of quarter of world’s GDP fell to three per cent during this horrific grab of their fortunes by the British.

But the grave of the last Sikh king is not the tomb of Pharaohs, like the one of Tutankhamun, which alone carried a wealth of a billion dollars, including a coffin of gold. Nor his remains could sink a Titanic which the doomsayers assert happened only because the gigantic ship carried an Egyptian Mummy among its cargoes.

The buried Maharaja is also no Christopher Columbus, exhumed multiple times around the world due to various claims on world’s most famous explorer, nor is he a revolutionary like Simon Bolivar whose remains was unearthed from Colombia and transferred to Venezuela in a fully-televised event to ascertain if the great revolutionary had been poisoned. He is also no Abraham Lincoln whose tomb was raided with the idea of holding the corpse to ransom by some horrid grave-diggers.

Neither the last Sikh king is some criminal like the exhumed assassins of Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy, nor akin to a former US president, Zachary Taylor who died in 1850 but his body was disinterred in 1991 to ascertain if he was a victim of arsenic poisoning. He is also no Eva Peron or Oliver Cromwell, two of history’s most recognized names, whose remains met a fate of mystery and macabre.

In making the demand on Mahraja Duleep Singh’s remains, the specific parliamentarian, a member of the opposition, hasn’t probably factored in a few testy details: Should the remains go to India or Pakistan for the throne of the Sikh empire ruled from Lahore; the difficulty of obtaining a licence for exhumation since it’s in a property of the powerful Church of England; wading into the elaborate procedures of Ministry of Justice in England which sits on decisions on non-consecrated grounds. The parliamentarian’s demand though wouldn’t be contested by the lineage of the last Sikh emperor, none of whom are alive today.

There is unlikely to be any serious follow-up on the demands on the Maharaja’s remains. It’s politically hazardous to release a rallying symbol for a community which for over a generation is being baited by the separatists to bolster their demands for a separate Sikh homeland. It’s also unlikely that the honourable parliamentarian of the opposition isn’t aware of the repercussions of his demands. But it would at least add heft to his party’s presence in Sikh-dominated Punjab and show the ruling dispensation of Delhi in poor light which probably is good enough for him.

Death touches all of us at some stage of our lives. In some cases, it does more than once.

(This is a reprint from rt.com)

 

Now Jammu, and not Kashmir Valley, would call the shots

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

The game and set are already with the Bharatiya Janata Party vis-à-vis Jammu and Kashmir but the match would be truly over when the delimitation exercise kicks in.

The chances are it would happen in double quick time as the Centre has decided to set up a delimitation commission which would loosen the unethical hold of Valley’s political parties over the entire erstwhile state and disallow them from punching above their weight.

The shenanigans of unscrupulous Congress and Abdullah dynasty had carved up the erstwhile state, now a union territory, terribly tilted in favour of Kashmir Valley even though in size and density Jammu had a far larger claim to presence in the legislative assembly.

Out of 87 seats in the assembly, 46 were reserved for Kashmir region and 37 for Jammu (Ladakh had the other four seats). No wonder Abdullahs and Muftis, due to their clout in the Valley, controlled the levers of the troublesome region

This of course is historical injustice. Dogras (Jammu) have dominated the region historically. Dogra ruler Maharaja Gulab Singh amassed a state bigger than left behind by Maharaja Ranjit Singh, a Sikh ruler in the 19th century. Till 1941, Hindus in Jammu numbered Muslims in Kashmir Valley.

However, Kashmir changed forever once Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru and Sheikh Abdullah rose to power simultaneously in Delhi and Srinagar. Nehru afforded Abdullah a free run. Abdullah arbitrarily allocated 75 assembly seats in the 1951 state assembly between Kashmir Valley (43), Jammu (30) and Ladakh (2). There was no population data but just his whim to guide Abdullah.

Jammu and Kashmir had changed forever.

Abdullah’s son, Farooq, made it worse. His father had constituted the Delimitation Commission which had further increased Kashmir’s representation to 46 seats, as against 37 to Jammu. Farooq amended the Section 47 of the Jammu & Kashmir constitution in 2002 under which no addition or alteration of constituencies could take place up to 2026.

Game, set and match over. Or so they thought.

Modi has now abrogated Article 370 and 35A and bifurcated the erstwhile J and K state into two union terrirotry, J & K and Ladakh. The one of J & K though would still have a legislative assembly and if the present arrangement is allowed to remain, the PDPs and NCs would still control the valley and call the shots.

But now the J and K Reorganisation Bill, 2019 would remove the anomaly. The strength of assembly was 107 (24 being earmarked for Pakistan-occupied Kashmir) which would now become 114 after the delimitation exercise is carried out. The new Union Territory will also have reservation for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in the legislative assembly.

Once the delimitation kicks in, the ascendency of Jammu is inevitable. It already has more area than Kashmir Valley. It has more people in some constituencies than Valley has in two. (For instance, two constituencies in Srinagar City has nearly 50,000 less electorates than in single constituency of Gandhi Nagar in Jammu region. Same would be the case with Jammu City East seat).

Once this happens, everything would flow from the ballot and not from the bullet. Just imagine the scenarios below:

  • Lakhs of Gujjars, Bakerwals, Gaddies–around 11 per cent of the state’s population—don’t have any reserve seat in the Valley even though they were given Scheduled Tribe (ST) status way back in 1991. The seven reserved seats for ST—Chamb, Domana, Ranbir Singh Pura, Samba, Hiranagar, Chenani and Ramban in Jammu, Kathua and Udhampur district–are all in Jammu region and have stayed stationery since 1996, never ever rotated to Kashmir Valley;
  • A secure Kashmir would be such a powerful bulwark against Pakistan and its’ ISI, not to say a leverage which would come handy against China;
  • If terrorists are throttled, Jihadi organizations such as Islamic State (IS) and Al Qaeda, not to say Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed—and its leaders such as Hafiz Saeed and Masood Azhar—would be neutralized.
  • Safer borders means lesser martyred soldiers. A buoyant and not a demoralized force. It would also free up India’s security apparatus. Men and money both could be saved.

The delimitation commission would table in its recommendations to the Centre with regard to the number of assembly constituencies only. The number of Lok Sabha seats—three to Kashmir Valley and two to Jammu—can’t be altered as Parliament had passed a law freezing it till 2026.

 

 

Delimitation: Amit Shah set to make early moves in Kashmir Valley

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

Delhi has little control in Kashmir Valley. Out of 87 seats in assembly, 46 are reserved for Kashmir region and 37 for Jammu (Ladakh has the other four seats). No wonder Abdullahs and Muftis, due to their clout in the Valley, control the levers of power in the troublesome state of Jammu & Kashmir.

This of course is historical injustice. Dogras (Jammu) have dominated the region historically. Dogra ruler Maharaja Gulab Singh amassed a state bigger than left behind by Maharaja Ranjit Singh, a Sikh ruler in the 19th century. Till 1941, Hindus in Jammu numbered more than Muslims in Kashmir Valley.

However, Kashmir changed forever once Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru and Sheikh Abdullah rose to power simultaneously in Delhi and Srinagar. Nehru afforded Abdullah a free run. Abdullah arbitrarily allocated 75 assembly seats in the 1951 state assembly between Kashmir Valley (43), Jammu (30) and Ladakh (2). There was no population data but just his whim to guide Abdullah.

Jammu and Kashmir had changed forever.

Abdullah’s son, Farooq, made it worse. His father had constituted the Delimitation Commission which had further increased Kashmir’s representation to 46 seats, as against 37 to Jammu. Farooq amended the Section 47 of the Jammu & Kashmir constitution in 2002 under which no addition or alteration of constituencies could take place up to 2026.

Game, set and match over.

Fast forward to present times. Modi 2.0 is in place. His party BJP rose to power, among others, on the promise of abrogation of Article 370 and 35A in its manifesto. Nationalism and his tough stance on separatist forces in Jammu & Kashmir, and their masters in Pakistan, reflected in Balakot surgical strike, helped him win the 2019 mandate with a staggering majority.

In people’s mind, Modi’s success or failure in his second tenure would be judged by what he does with Kashmir. The appointment of hard-nosed Amit Shah as home minister is an early signal. If Kashmir is settled, Modi would’ve earned the nation’s gratitude for centuries to come. He would be the favourite child of India’s history.

Modi has made his first move within hours into his second term. Amit Shah is positioned as home minister. Shah too has lost little time: He already has held a detailed closed-door discussion with Satya Pal Malik, governor of Jammu and Kashmir. The state is presently in its second year under the President’s rule. (Legally, President’s rule is tenable for three years at the most).

The rumour is abuzz that delimitation in Jammu & Kashmir could happen soon. Petitions are being written to the President of India. Now that the power of J & K assembly is vested with the President, it’s within his powers to order such a move. A Delimitation Commission could be set up which could redraw the constituencies—and take away the stranglehold which Kashmir Valley has enjoyed over the rest of the state. The freeze till 2026 would go in a jiffy.

This has the separatist forces in the Valley in a flutter. Everyday, Omar Abdullah (NC) and Mehbooba Mufti (PDP) are warning of the consequences if this comes to a pass. Once the freeze is lifted, the ascendency of Jammu is inevitable. It already has more area than Kashmir Valley. It has more people in some constituencies than Valley has in two. (For instance, two constituencies in Srinagar City has nearly 50,000 less electorates than in single constituency of Gandhi Nagar in Jammu region. Same would be the case with Jammu City East seat).

Once this happens, everything would flow from the ballot and not from the bullet. Just imagine the scenarios below:

  • A state under its political control could make BJP do wonders in not just protecting the integrity of the state but also of its soldiers who have died in tens of thousands over the last few decades;
  • Lakhs of Kashmiri Pandits, driven out of Valley by militants, could regain their paradise lost;
  • Lakhs of Gujjars, Bakerwals, Gaddies–around 11 per cent of the state’s population—don’t have any reserve seat in the Valley even though they were given Scheduled Tribe (ST) status way back in 1991. The seven reserved seats for ST—Chamb, Domana, Ranbir Singh Pura, Samba, Hiranagar, Chenani and Ramban in Jammu, Kathua and Udhampur district–are all in Jammu region and have stayed stationery since 1996, never ever rotated to Kashmir Valley).
  • Legislative control in the J & K assembly would make the abrogation of 370 and 35A a child’s play;
  • A secure Kashmir would be such a powerful bulwark against Pakistan and its’ ISI, not to say a leverage which would come handy against China;
  • If terrorists are throttled, Jihadi organizations such as Islamic State (IS) and Al Qaeda, not to say Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed—and its leaders such as Hafiz Saeed and Masood Azhar—would be neutralized.
  • Safer borders means lesser martyred soldiers. A buoyant and not a demoralized force. It would also free up India’s security apparatus. Men and money both could be saved.

Modi has the mandate. Shah is in the hot chair of home minister. Millions of Indians are looking for askance: Settle Kashmir once for all. This dispensation has a historic opportunity to undo the damage of appeasement to the Valley which India has practised since the accession of Jammu & Kashmir to the Union of India in 1947.

But then Sanyal, how do we keep 21st Century issues firmly in our gaze?

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

Sanjeev Sanyal posted a twitter thread on Saturday where he implored discussions on the 21st Century issues rather than being mired in historical characters like Veer Savarkar, Bhimrao Ambedkar and Mohandas K. Gandhi.

Sanjeev Sanyal is much admired for his books, certainly among young readers, and that he is also an accomplished banker/economist, he has been sought out by the Indian government to roll out the roadmap (I know he loves maps) for the economy.

So what are the 21st Century issues? Howsoever we define them, I presume Sanyal certainly doesn’t have in mind the political/ideological issues which keep us grounded. When we need to fight water, food, health, pollution, population, jobs, education, terrorism etc on a warscale, when survival is at stake, how winning or losing debates are going to help?

But then how do we fight the 21st Century issues when water is dragged down to Narmada-Kaveri disputes; food to loan-waivers for farmers; pollution to Deepawali but not Bakrid; population to South feeding the teeming millions of BIMARU states, jobs to turf wars on data, education to midday meal scams and terrorism to human rights issue against “stone-pelters”?

The truth is Sanyal has a composite India in mind but there are 100s of India within the geographical combine. Everyone’s idea of India is different from others (Remember, the odes which were written for Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru on the 50th year of independence in 1997? Would the same be feasible when India hits 75 in 2022?).

India is a political entity which has a different culture, tradition, rituals language, food, clothes, caste, colour,creed every 100 kilometres. These mini-Indias soon enough acquire a local leader who, in order to protect his turf, takes his captive audience on a trip—often fake–of its’ past glory, its heroes, and the injusticesits’ seminal breakthroughs. The sharper the distinction these leaders can draw for their constituents, better are the prospects of their longevity. That’s how Sikhs, who only saw themselves as protectors of Hindus till the 19th century—just count the numbers of temples Maharaja Ranjit Singh built–now talk of Khalistan.

Our founding fathers knew of these issues. They drew a brilliant Constitution. They recognized India could only function as a federal entity. States, but for a few matters, are almost autonomous. Everyone is allowed to have a voice; stifling it would be the end of India we know. So 100s of India are embedded in our Constitution.

Now Sanyal, how do we solve this dichotomy? The first one of course is education. Education brings aspirations, aspirations in turn progress. A critical mind is better suited to break the matrix of false history and false narrative spun by our politicians and media, clearly hand in gloves.  But then how do we get this unbiased education when our schools which prepare us for our jobs, won’t allow it? When “Veer” Savarkar is demonized; mentioning Godse is a slide to oblivion? Why should we look for Savarkar when chanting Nehru is more practical?

It’s clear we made mistakes in 1947. The foremost was to lock our heritage in a closet. To hug ideas, policies and a foreign language which were alien to our ethos. To subdue Hindus so that Muslims remain appeased. It was only a matter of time before a majority makes its presence felt in a room, as it always does. How long it would always be about Ghazni and Ghouri; Babar and Aurangzeb; and not about Brahmagupta and Varahamihira; Sushruta and Bhaskaracharya? How long Vijaynagar empire would remain eclipsed by Mughal dynasty?

The inherent culture asserts. And the resultant turmoil keeps Sanyal exasperated.

Sanyal is not alone in knowing the real dangers India has ahead. But like Sanyal, they too can’t set a narrative. When our front pages are only reserved for politicians, what hope people have? When our school textbooks are only an outreach for our “Deep State”, how does India connect with its soul?

It’s clear out institutions are failing us. Judiciary, bureaucracy, Media, Election Commission, Enforcement agencies etc. Or why a country as corrupt as India has so few persecutions? Who knows if India of old, god forbids, returns with vengeance after Modi?

So Godse and Savarkar in a way are good when narratives other than Gandhi-Nehru are not permissible. Even if Sanyal and I don’t want it, people with their buttons on social media would press. And they must too—we have seen how RSS reluctance to take on Left-Liberal’s quest for our minds has allowed the latter a suffocating hold.

It’s for those who are officially tasked about water, food, health, education etc—policy-makers like Sanyal himself and bureaucrats—who should keep India ahead of selves. Let India rumble in a cacophony. For haven’t we paid enough price for our silence?