ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Nuclear Issue as Hollow as 'India Shining'

The scatological nuclear debate - with its irrelevance for most citizens struggling to feed themselves in inflationary times - has discredited all parliamentary parties. The demeaning feud could have grave political consequences with an increasingly scornful electorate turning further towards petty, sectarian parties or to extraparliamentary forces.

COMMENTARYEconomic & Political Weekly EPW august 2, 200815Jawid Laiq ( is a political commentator and author of The Maverick Republic. Nuclear Issue as Hollow as ‘India Shining’JAWID LAIQThe scatological nuclear debate – with its irrelevance for most citizens struggling to feed themselves in inflationary times – has discredited all parliamentary parties. The demeaning feud could have grave political consequences with an increasingly scornful electorate turning further towards petty, sectarian parties or to extra-parliamentary forces. The nuclear drama has been running for three long years ever since Manmohan Singh visited Washing-ton in July 2005 and coyly shook hands with George Bush on the White House patio, signifying commitment to an Indo-US nuclear deal. During these three years, the political energies of our entire parliamentary spectrum of parties have been furiously concentrated for or against the deal. Our media has played a stellar role in turning the deal into the most entertaining game show in the country, pushing vital national bread-and-butter issues into the background. The drama reached a high pitch on July 8 when Prakash Karat announced the Left Front’s withdrawal of support to the United Pro-gressive Alliance (UPA) government. This was followed by two weeks of the most brazen political bribery and buying-and-selling ofMPs south Asia has ever seen in the last 60 years since the end of colonial rule. And then on July 22 evening the curtain fell on the sordid drama with the victory of the UPA government in the Lok Sabha by 19 votes. This is a sleazy triumph for the UPA and a degrading defeat for the left and the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA). The defeated NDA and its new-found friends cannot paint themselves as martyrs to an honourable cause as they, together with theUPA, have so eagerly helped to convert Parliament into a glitzy mall where votes can be openly marketed. This was all for an issue which has only a minimal connection with the crying needs and concerns of the overwhelming majority of our people – price rise, nutri-tion, employment, health and education. The nuclear deal would, of course, accel-erate the growth of nuclear-powered electricity generation from its present pro-portion of 3 per cent to around 6 per cent in 2020. Ninety-four per cent of electricity would continue to be generated by power plants fuelled by coal, gas, hydro and other non-nuclear sources. Road, marine and air transport will continue to be almost totally reliant on oil and gas-based fuels.So what was all the commotion about? Was it all about the gigantic ego of a small, vociferous class bent on assuring itself that it had been admitted to the exclusive nuclear club of great nations? The BJP after its nuclear blasts in 1998 had assured us that we had overnight become a great power. The Congress Party with its nuclear deal in 2008 has sought to reassure us that we shall become almost a superpower standing only a little shorter than the US. At the other end, the left has convinced itself that the nuclear deal will make this nation a slave of the US. Both sides have inflated the importance of the nuclear balloon far beyond any rational calculus and reduced the deal to a simplistic, black-and-white issue, leaving out all its complex shades of grey. The nuclear obses-sion has also pushed aside the fact that Indian information technology, pharma-ceutical, steel and automobile companies and their skilled personnel have done exponentially more to project this coun-try’s image as a global major power than the ersatz claims of being a muscular nuclear state. The grossly inflated nuclear balloon burst in the Lok Sabha on July 22. The fall-out from the explosion is bound to have a toxic effect on this country, especially on its polity. The crass wheeling and dealing between MPs and parties was nasty enough. What is far worse is that the entire parliamentary spectrum from right to left has failed to realise that it has com-mitted political suicide in full public view for a cause that does not evoke much con-cern among the vast majority of Indian citizens. If the coming national election campaign is fought by the Congress Party on the basis of the nuclear deal, it will prove as insulting to the feelings of the ordinary voter as was the BJP’s ‘India Shining’ campaign of 2004. The Congress would then be more firmly rejected by the voter than theBJP was in 2004.The scatological nuclear debate – with its irrelevance for most Indian voters struggling to feed themselves in inflation-ary times – has discredited all parliamen-tary parties. Parliamentarians have
COMMENTARYaugust 2, 2008 EPW Economic & Political Weekly16abdicated their prime responsibility as people’s representatives by allowing shrill security strategists, nuclear scientists, South Block bureaucrats, retired intel-ligence spooks, verbose newspaper col-umnists and television blabbermouths to divertthenational political agenda to-wards the peripheral nuclear issue. Prime minister Manmohan Singh without any political constituency and Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Prakash Karat, who has never been elected to any post since his student days, have wasted three precious years in squabbling over the nuclear deal much to the glee of the opportunist BJP leaders, L K Advani and Rajnath Singh, and cynical regional satraps like Mayawati and Mulayam Singh. This needless confrontation will have grave political consequences. The increas-ingly bitter and scornful electorate will feel that their elected representatives have yet again demonstrated their callous dis-regard for the woes of the ‘aam admi’. The electoratewould become even more dis-enchanted with the idea of representative democracy and the concept of national political parties. It could turn further towards voting for small extremist, rabble-rousing parties catering to petty, local and sectarian issues. This would atomise the polity and leave it without any national focus. Large sections of the citi-zenry could also turn away from the entire exercise of electoral democracy and seek the intervention of extra-parliamentary forces like violent gangs of fascist goons, mass disruptive movements, exploitative non-governmental organisations, overtly religious and ritualistic ‘sants’, and armed liberators such as the Naxalites. Our par-liamentarians and a small coterie of blus-tering “opinion-makers” have brought us to this pass.Muzaffar Assadi ( is at the Department of Studies in Political Science, University of Mysore, Mysore.Fatwa, Terrorism and JehadMuzaffar AssadiThe decision of the Deoband school to denounce terrorism in no uncertain terms is welcome. The well-respected school’s decision is significant.May 30 was an important day for the centuries old historic Islamic seminary, Darul Uloom of Deoband. On that day at the Delhi Ramlila grounds, in its anti-terrorism conference, attended by a large number of Muslim seminaries, the seminary issued a fatwa againstterrorism. This fatwa was issued to remove the tag of terrorism attached to Islam and also to condemn terrorism in all its forms. Even before the fatwa was issued,a lot of debate had been under-taken while condemning terrorism. Inci-dentally, earlier in February the same school had condemned terrorism, but had not issued any fatwa.Not all fatwas have legitimacy;neither would the Muslim masses adhere to or support each and every fatwa. Exceptions are made, however, to the fatwas issued by the Deoband school for different rea-sons though: its fatwa is recognised by the Muslim masses as well as different Islamic schools in India and outside without any murmur or any discontent. In many countries Islamic schools of thought follow the Darul Uloom Deoband’s teaching methods. The impor-tance of the Deoband fatwa can be gauged by the fact that immediately after the issuance the Jamat-e-Islami Hind, the Muslim personal law board, Nadwatul Ulem, Lucknow and others ratified and acknowledged the fatwa. This is where the importance of the Deoband school lies.The establishment of the Deoband school or Darul Uloom was in the back-ground of the 1857 revolt against British rule. However, two important roles that it played in Indian history are important, other than its attempt related to “Silken Letters” against the colonialists in the early part of the 20th century. In 1921, at the time of the non-cooperation move-ment launched by Gandhi, it issued a fatwa asking all the Muslims in India to participate in the movement on grounds of religious as wellasmoralobligations. Many of its studentsactivelyparticipated inthenationalist struggle. Khan Abdul Gafar Khan once stated that. Sitting here we used to make plans for the independence movement as to how we might drive away the English from this country and how we could make India free from the yoke of slavery of the English. This institution has made great efforts for the freedom of this country [Darul Uloom Deoband 2008].However, this is not the first time that such a fatwa was issued against terrorism elsewhere in the world or in India. Three years back, the American Fiqh council had issued a fatwa opposing terrorism on three grounds: It is ‘haram’ (forbidden) in Islam to target innocent masses; it is also forbid-den in Islam to join hands with terrorism and that it is the duty of every Muslim to help the government to nab or checkmate terrorists. In fact, the Gyanvapi mosque inVaranasi, on the request of Muslim women, had earlier in 2006, issued a fatwa condemning terrorism.

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