Tampering with Charminar
A make-shift temple at the north-eastern corner of the hoary Charminar in Hyderabad seems to be the latest weapon in the arsenal of the right wing extremists to stoke communal embers. Evidently, they are eyeing the issue for communal polarization of voters in Andhra Pradesh. While it will be too far-fetched to expect that the issue would develop into a Babri Majid like imbroglio, potential to fan the communal fires frequently cannot be denied and should not be underestimated. Hyderabad’s history is more well-documented than any other city in India and leaves not much scope for adulterating the history. It is less likely that the accretion to the historic edifice will ever carry conviction with the denizens of the city. Having been the seat of a highly cosmopolitan dispensation till the middle of the last century, the city has more defenders of the composite culture than any other place could possibly conceive. There is need for level-headed Muslims to engage the similar sections from among the Hindus to see that hotheads from both Majlis and the BJP do not cash upon the issue politically or electorally and the monument’s character is not tampered with any further.
The reports and the visual records produced by The Hindu have amply testified to the fact that there existed no temple at the spot till even 1970s. It was only around the end of 70s that the rightwing elements were able to stall a small temple and the then administration failed to muster courage to uproot the same. Story is the same everywhere. The communalists up the ante and secular administration is found wanting in moral courage to scuttle the communal designs for fear of being identified with minorities. No administration worth its salt would like to stand by its commitment to secularism-and for that matter to any principle—and no one has the gumption to call the bluff of the communalists. This has become the bane of democracy as well as secularism in India and allows the world to mock at us. It is one reason why institutions after institution are failing and add to the despair of the common man.
More than bone of contention between Hindus and Muslims, the temple around the Charminar should have been viewed as a threat to an architectural masterpiece and archaeological monument. The city administration should have initiated steps immediately after the principality’s accession to India to save it from being a traffic roundabout in the Old City. A monument is not expected to fit into the role the historic building has been pressed into assuming. That is however beside the point now. The Archaeological Survey of India should now be asked to implement its mandate with regard to all monuments and possibly a highly secular and trained force should be placed at its disposal to safeguard the historical character of the monuments.
Link Peace with Justice
Mr. Obama has earned a second term in the White House. It is natural to ask if he would be acting any different in advancing the cause of peace in West Asia which is turning into a tinderbox due to contending interest of diverse forces. Peace in the volatile region is predicated on the moves the State Department makes in near future.
It could be said with certainty that Israel would be left the only ally of the United States as popular windstorm that the Arab Spring has kicked, uproots one dictator after another despot. It will not take long for the Gulf Sheikhs, emirs and sultans to face the public ire. Any military misadventure by Israel, the American stooge, against Iran will push the entire region into a war that might prove endless. Iran is not a tribal state carved out by the departing British colonial administration. It is a nation-state with history stretching back to three thousand years and is fully recharged with the spirit of revolution. It will act as a giant monolith and will threaten the very existence of Israel and may trigger Hamas and Hezbollah from either flanks of the Jewish state. It will also provide it justification for taking the nuclear programme to its logical conclusion. Israel and the US may not find a pliable regime in Egypt too. The new dispensation in Cairo can disallow use of Suez Canal for transit of American reinforcements. Attacks on the US diplomatic staff in Libya have shown in ample measure that the new regimes in the region are not as beholden to the Americans as they were naturally expected. None is keen to keep its soul mortgaged to the Americans.
Arabs, except the ones living in monarchies, are in no mood to be fooled by the Americans and will be no game for partisan policies that seek to create emotive and sectarian Shia-Sunni or Arab-Iran faultlines. The new regimes will essentially look at their own long-term interests and equation rather than being dictated by the American hegemons. The suppression of the uprising against the monarch in Bahrain while arming the Syrian revolutionaries has already etched to broad relief the American designs and make it evident that policies are subservient to interests rather than principles.
It is imperative that the US links peace with justice in the region rather than interests. Ms. Hillary Clinton would appear less and less convincing if she continues to pursue the anti-nuclear Iran rhetoric but overlooks the Israeli nuclear accomplishments. If a mere Hezbollah could repel the Israeli threat so successfully in 2006, a mightier Iran will be no easy game for the tiny state, now that it is capable of force-landing the American spying drones.