Democracy & Islam

Any system of governance where government formation, law making and decision making corroborates consultation with consensus is Islamic. In the contemporary scenario, democracy is the most apt example of such a proactive system of citizenry consensus and consultative governance and therefore, it’s most compatible with Islam.

Tomorrow a more enhanced system of such governance may be available at our disposal. Something like a bigger version of the system of self governance as enunciated under the paradigm of three-tier Panhayati Raj System in India. Democracy is one system of governance which is in consonance with Islamic principles but tomorrow, as I stated earlier, we may have an even better system whose Quranic acceptability will be higher simply because it’ll provide the electorate with greater force of articulation so we can say that democracy is permissible by Islam but it doesn’t command any monopolistic permissibility. It’s true that many of the countries in which Muslims are in majority happen to be undemocratic where human rights are painfully bulldozed but that’s not the intrinsic Islamic way of governance. In monarchies and dictatorships, there is unilateral decision making and hence, they can be ruled as un-Islamic simple because of the fact that the mandate of the people is not ascertained before swinging into action and that bluntly violates the Islamic teaching of managing affairs via consultation and consensus.

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The Spirit of Secularism

Communalism, casteism, regionalism and all sinister ‘isms’ have created preposterous and unnecessary ripples and tussles in the society. The vast presence of inequality and intolerance has given way to a gigantic amount of despondency which seems to indicate that insanity is ruling the roost but even amidst all this gloom, one is overawed with optimism when an institution named after an orthodox Hindu emperor who banned cow slaughter invites a Muslim as Chief Guest on its Annual Function and in his keynote address, the Chief Guest talks of Goddess Saraswati before honouring and giving away prizes to all meritorious students irrespective of their religious or regional affiliations. One starts believing in co-existence when a Professor hailing from Purvanchal openly denounces the political separatism being propagated by Purvanchali leaders with the intention of polarizing voters in East Delhi and one starts believing in togetherness when a UP’ite, Kashmiri and Punjabi sit down together, talk of contentious issues like separatism in Kashmir and insurgency in Punjab during the 80’s, listen to each other peacefully, are humble enough to disagree without being in disagreement and sign off with hugs and handshakes. Proud to be a part of an institution which practices what it preaches. A big salute to Maharaja Agrasen College, a bonafide beacon of secularism.

Stars & Sponsors are overshadowing fests at DU

Anecdotes from the lives of historic men and women have time and again proved that academics don’t happen to be the penultimate thing in life but the fact that the influence of academics in one’s life cannot be totally discarded also holds true. For the holistic and inclusive development of every child, he or she has to undertake a method of learning which couples both academic and extra-curricular activities involving sports, dramatics, debating etc. Delhi University has had the privilege of being repeatedly rated as the numero-uno university in India by various journals and magazines of national repute. The administration of Delhi University has always been a vocal proponent of the prevalence of extra-curricular activities and has skilfully managed to get it institutionalized and operationalized in nearly all of its constituent colleges and departments.

Every year the Academic Council in consultation with the Executive Council sets apart a huge chunk of money from the annual budget of the university for the sake of undertaking and promoting cultural activities among students. Over the years every college has developed a healthy environment for smooth and active practice of extra-curricular activities. All colleges organize cultural festivals in which students are given an opportunity to display their talent and compete with one another. Some of the cultural fests of foremost and heavyweight colleges of Delhi University like LSR, Hindu and Hansraj are able to attract participants from all across the country. The competitiveness level of these fests happens to be at the zenith and for a matter of few days they become the epicentre of all the talented people in the country. But the scenario is fast changing. Fests which once used to felicitate the skills of students have now become toast of capitalism and celebrities. 

Things are not as plain and simple as they seem to be. The very concept of holding such fests seems to have been dismantled and a new culture has taken over. Every college considers its annual fest as its baby. As an event which provides them with a make or break opportunity. What is at stake is nothing but the reputation of the college. While the lesser known colleges try to eclipse past the honchos of DU, the established ones try to build up on their reputation and hegemonic-popularity among the student fraternity. All this seems to be fine but the games which are played behind the curtains raise many significant questions. Hosting a cultural fest means the necessary need of sponsors who could finance the event. But DU provides colleges with funds then what’s the need of sponsors? It’s because the funds which are provided by the University Head Office are not meant for extravagance and are limited. Sponsors pour in a lot of money which helps the host college in increasing the prize money of every event. The more is the prize money, the more will be the participation. The financial help provided by sponsors for the sake of building goodwill enables the host college to launch a marketing-blitzkrieg and effectively popularize the fest between students. This is nothing but the breeding of the mercenary psychology where we are encouraging students not to come and display their talent but to earn money. These wrong practices have had many unfortunate repercussions. Students don’t turn up to compete at those places where the prize money is low and show complete disregard to such events. Many colleges which don’t resort to fund gathering from corporations fail to orchestrate the success of their event since the participation remains low. Also, if a fest fails to get sponsors then it isn’t considered as a big brand event and is given a miss by the students.
 
A student of LSR and a member of the organizing committee of Tarang, the annual cultural festival of LSR, told me that the institution instructed girls to go on a sponsor-hunting spree. She said, “The teachers told us to arrange as many sponsors as possible by using the goodwill of the institution as a bait to woo them. The girls launched an onslaught and approached many corporations. They explained to them the benefit of being associated and funding a college like LSR. Many organizations readily agreed and sponsored the event. In return they set up stalls at the event inside the college premises and sold their products. But our over concentration on sponsors took a toll on the event. Tarang didn’t sail through nor was it aptly managed. Everything appeared to be in a mess and there was complete chaos. Competitions were conducted in a harum-scarum way.” An ace debater from SRCC agrees that his participation in competitions depends on the prize money. He says, “I usually participate in only those college fests where the prize money is high or else I don’t consider the event a worthy place to compete at as my efforts will not be properly financially compensated.” But he agrees to the ill-effects of this mercenary psychology. He says, “This has taken a toll on the quality of debating as well as the quality of debaters. Events aren’t as smooth sailing as they used to be. Anarchy prevails in all. So much of attention is given to other things that the students hardly prepare for the competition. They do not even organize the event in an immaculate manner.”
   
Another sinister thing associated with cultural fests in DU is the appearance of celebrities. The money which colleges accumulate via sponsorships enables them to hire celebrities, film stars and rock bands. They appear or perform at fests in exchange for money. The presence of a star figure happens to be a crowd puller and his performance is seen as the main event which easily surpasses all levels of excitement. Other events in which students participate are not given any importance and all eyes wait in eager anticipation of the main event. Colleges cash in on the celebrity’s popularity. They sell event tickets to students from other colleges who are willing to come and see the celebrity perform and hence rake in a lot of money from this exercise of selling tickets or entry passes. Many a times the situation goes completely ballistic and haywire. The crowd goes insane and stampedes result.

During the cultural festival of Ramjas College a major stampede resulted in the amphitheatre and the adjoining ground. The chaos soon spread till the metro station of North Campus. A second year student of Ramjas, recollected the unfortunate incident which resulted on that fateful day during her candid conversation with me. She said, “The crowd went crazy after seeing Honey Singh (a famous singer who performed at the fest) and started breaking barricades. Soon the police lathi-charged and a stampede broke out.” Educational institutions are the very temples of learning and discipline. During such fests breach of discipline and decorum has become a common practice which is facilitated by celebrities. During Ramjas’s fest, Honey Singh took off his shirt on stage. Many boys went on to replicate him and started acting in a hooliganistic way. Honey Singh happens to be an x-rated singer and he did not shy away from humming some of his explicit songs for the students. The songs were full of filthy words which were for everybody to hear when the students started screaming along with Honey Singh. Celebrities have converted such fests into cheap events. A student of LSR, told me, “A comedian had come to perform on our fest. He cracked a very lame joke when he said that Mayawati is very ugly and the only thing which she can erect is statues (pun intended).”
 
Fests are meant to honour student skills and encourage them to carry on with their talent. It encourages them to spare and devote some time out of their busy schedule to extra-curricular activities not to make them voyeuristic by running after prize money and by acting cheaply in an undisciplined manner. It’s time for DU to drive stars and sponsors out of college fests so that the essence of cultural fests remain unharmed and is not taken over by a pseudo-corporate-celebrity culture.

Lessons to be learnt by the Congress from the MCD Elections

The outcome of the MCD elections has once again established the fact that the Congress is in complete disarray and needs to undergo a magnanimous rejuvenation in order to regain a commanding political position all across the country. The results were a major boost for the Bhartiya Janata Party who looks all set to give the incumbent UPA Government at the Union level a tough fight in 2014.

The electoral route of the Congress in the municipal elections of Delhi has sent a very subtle and clear message. It’s a vindication of the fact that the voter dislikes desperation. In Mumbai, during BMC elections, the Congress went in for an alliance with the NCP in order to beat the unbeatable Sena-BJP combine. The move turned sour and Sena-BJP retained their stronghold. In UP, Congress raked up the minority quota issue days before the polling began. It proved to be highly detrimental and drowned Rahul Gandhi’s high-octane campaign. Similarly in Uttarakhand, BJP replaced Ramesh Pokhriyal with BC Khanduri months before the elections in the State and made him the face of the campaign. This miffed the voter and the BJP was voted out of power. In Manipur, three-month long economic blockade and withdrawal of AFSPA were big issues and the mood in the State was such that the Congress Party was facing a possible drubbing but the Opposition made one mistake when it formed a United Front which involved all sorts of parties including BJP, Left, TMC, NCP etc from left, right and centre. This move triggered a vote change and the votes fell in favour of the Congress. Such trends are indicative of the fact that voters simply hate moves taken with the intention of short term electoral gains.

During MCD elections, the Congress’s move to trifurcate the body was seen as an electoral ploy and hence the party got rejected. This move was done with the intention of weakening the body and ensuring Congress’s triumph in at least one body but the result achieved was disastrous. The trifurcation gave the BJP an opportunity of accusing the Congress of overreach. Now this has been one issue in regard to which the BJP has been constantly attacking the Congress. It has accused the Congress of transgressing limits, thwarting the federal structure and dishonouring separation of powers between different institutions during debates on several issues. By trifurcating MCD, Congress handed over the BJP a natural advantage. The only plus point for the Congress was that it improved its total tally whereas BJP’s tally went down.

Secondly, the results resonated the anti-Congress mood in the country. Generally, it’s the Opposition which attacks and the Government which responds but due to the Congress led UPA’s hapless performance at the Central level, wherever the Congress party is in principal Opposition it becomes an Incumbent vs Incumbent election. The Centre sponsored anti-incumbency wave is huge. National issues get dragged into local elections and the Incumbent Government gets a chance to lambast at the Congress because of its poor showing at the Central level.

Thirdly, Congress is suffering from a serious dearth of leadership. It is because of this leadership crisis that it has to field its heavyweights and star campaigners instead of grassroots leaders at the local level. BJP merely relied on local leaders and party workers during its campaign trail and these very leaders helped in ensuring the campaign’s success. INC was banking on leaders like Dikshit and Sibal, both of them had no relation with MCD and predictably, their efforts went in vain. The writing on the wall is clear, UPA is weakening and NDA is gaining ground. Presently, NDA is better placed to win more number of seats in 2014 General Elections than the disintegrating UPA but it still doesn’t seem to be anyway near the magic figure of 273. Regional parties will hold the key in the forthcoming General Elections. BJP-led NDA is doing really well. All it needs to do is to continue its assault on the Central Government and weave in a few more alliance partners. NDA needs to fight the next general elections under united leadership. That would ensure 20-25 more seats for it which would end up as the game changer. Naming of a polarizing figure like Modi would rob NDA of a significant number of seats since that move wouldn’t be seen as secular by the electorate. This doesn’t mean that Mr Modi cannot become the PM. He can be projected as PM alongside other possible candidates like Jaitley and Swaraj. If NDA gets the requisite numbers then the decision can be taken by the elected legislatures. The Congress needs to do lot introspection and damage control. Till the end of 2010, the Congress skillfully played the victim and made BJP appear like the witch. When the entire winter session was washed out because of the Opposition’s demand for a JPC, it was the Congress which was consoled with and the BJP was criticized by the entire media for converting the Parliament into an agitating forum. But the Congress has been turned into the witch by a slew of corruption charges and the Anna Movement.

What is happening inside Parliament isn’t something new. Similar scenes of disruption were witnessed prior to 2010 but it’s the BJP’s agenda which is dominating the media nowadays. Earlier, when there was a logjam, the BJP was asked as to why it was disregarding Parliament and questions like why there was a need for a JPC. Now, whenever there is a logjam the Congress is asked why it took up this contentious issue just now when there were other issues to be dealt with and why don’t they have their allies onboard. Spin doctors of the Congress need to work overtime in order to ensure that the Congress’s agenda dominates the media. The Congress also needs to go into 2014 General Elections under Rahul Gandhi’s leadership. That would ensure an increase of at least 10-20 seats in favour of the Congress because of Rahul’s vast urban following and rural reach in UP. Although, the days of cult and personality politics are over since no leader presently has PAN India acceptability and popularity but Rahul Gandhi is one leader who enjoys PAN India recognition. He couldn’t do any wonders in UP but he will get seats for the Congress at the Union level. So the stage for 2014 is all set, UPA under Rahul Gandhi’s leadership will give a tough fight to NDA fighting under united leadership of its potential prime ministerial candidates.

The Monster Named EMI

Imperialistic globalization has given birth to a dreadful monster named Equated Monthly Installment (EMI). This sinister offspring of capitalism has singlehandedly managed to steal mankind’s sleep.

All individuals who aspire to study, own bungalows / cars / flats / property or start a business are bound to undertake life-threatening debts which overshadow the very motive of their stay on this planet, Earth. This debt gives way to colossal amount of mental tension which is in relation to the payment of Equated Monthly Installment. Men and women strive day in and day out and are eventually able to repay their debts by the time they turn 60. This is how lopsided the vision of mankind has become ever since the banking usury has evolved due to neo-liberal policies.

It’s better to receive substandard education, live in a rented house and make use of public transports instead of bearing the risk of meeting EMI’s on a lingering basis. Whatever assets one develops by means of taking debts may not go down to his/her successors as the debtor envisages since the destiny of his/her offspring’s may not be intrinsically relegated to the same city, country or profession. The intention should be that of leading a stress-less and woe-less life even if that means ending up without owning necessary assets or not passing on ancestral assets to your successors.