Monday, December 19, 2011

Islam : The last hope of Christianity in Europe

From the time of Alexander the great, through the imperial commands of the Romans, through the cultural prosperity of the Byzantines, through the inhuman theocracy of the ecclesiastic, the society of Europe is now where it is, mandated by democracy, given up itself to secularism and proclaiming itself to be the champion of human rights.

From a religious retrospect, the Europeans have been subject to a consistent transition for millennia, from the Greco-Roman days of paganism, through the promulgation of Christianity as the official religion by Constantine associated with and accompanied by heresies and schisms, successfully defeating the expansionist tendencies of Islam up to a certain extent and transforming itself to a secular society, thanks to the modern revolutions and massive movements of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Europe introduced world the concept secularism as the separation of church (religion) and state, but Europeans later transformed that concept of secularism to the rejection of religion and the acceptance of state and it was an apparent rejection of Christianity as the religion. Even in his recent Regensburg lecture, the Holy Father was concerned about the over secularization of Europe, but it is from a papal perspective, the rollback of modern democracy to medieval theocracy is inconceivable.

The secular adoption of Europe is of with no parallels in history, as when the rest of the world was in the midst of superstitions and in the darkness of religious dogmatism, Europe with at most adventurism embracing the intellectual path of human thought conquered the quest of the inquisitors, successfully separated church and state, so that its inhabitants of present enjoy the saccharine fruits of freedom for the vinegary seeds sown by their forefathers.

At this crucial juncture what will be the religious future of Europe? The ghost of the twin towers far across the Atlantic is haunting the minds of Europeans, the implications of the cartoon controversy are afresh in their memories and are there far right politicians and intellectuals predicting the emergence and establishment of a Eurabia. The far right politics, armed with all arguments want to educate the commons the imminent danger of Islam and the consequences are that the Hijab is banned in France, the Dutch right wing is all set to take over Amsterdam and that the anti immigration movements are gathering further momentum.

From a different perspective, the current religious ambience of Europe gives us a very ambiguous picture. On one hand, churches are empty, religious festivals as celebrated by Christianity are of no divine significance and the religious icons are either disregarded or even disrespected by the disciples of the great religion of Christ. On the other, there is a Muslim demography burgeoning, Islam as viewed by its own puritans is marching towards an inevitable objective and are mosques erected day by day, that such an Arabian architecture decorates even the city of Rome once the heart of Christianity, which can be seen from the papal State of Vatican and from which the Mohammedan rhymes can be heard five times a day by the Sancta Sedes.

Thus it is more about the future of Christianity in Europe than about the future of religion of Europe. Concerning the former it is an issue of existence, but concerning the latter time will take its own course and another chapter will be appended to the history of the religious transition of Europe.

Probably this may be the last hope of Christianity in Europe. The European society which is now accustomed to secular privileges is in no way willing to give them up, nor is it letting itself to be subjugated to the theocratic ethics which evolved to a dictatorship during the dark ages. The takeover of Islam by Europe by Islam will be a reversal to theocracy with only the oppressive religion replaced; Islam replacing Christianity.

With all the thirst towards luxurious life style, the entire quest towards monitory achievements and the whole enthusiasm to reject the intervention of religion in public life, Europeans are aware that it was for the struggle and strivings which lasted for centuries that they achieved the freedom that they enjoy today. They are more or less aware that Christianity as of medieval ages was a corrupted from of the religion of Christ and that it was reversal of this corruption that they accomplished at the cost of so many lives.

At least it is highly improbable that the ecclesiastical tyranny is in return, but it is extremely probable that the Islamic radicalism is introduced putting an iron curtain to all the privileges of these days. The outcome may be that European society asserts its Christian identity as a defense and that Christianity may be rejuvenated in Europe in its moderate form, whatever objective Church could never achieve on its own, Islam will let Church achieve.

The 1971 Bangladesh war: a retrospective on the fortieth anniversary

16th December 2011, as the fortieth anniversary of the surrender of Pakistani military and fall of Dhaka to the Indian forces and the Mukti Bahini was overlooked by all the three countries concerned, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. There were no much celebratory emotions in India, Pakistan expectedly ignored its loss of the war and the subsequent partition of their country and for Bangladesh it was like any other normal day of the Gregorian calendar.

That the three countries of south Asia sharing the common heritage, civilization and history and their people forming forty percentage of humanity disregarded the fortieth anniversary of the war clearly exposes the transition that the three countries have been subject to for the last four decades.

As Pakistan is already on the edge of a civil war which may turn to a full fledged one in the near future, the silence on the 1971 war was quite natural. On the Indian side, the country is divided over the war on corruption, the Indian government is under pressure for various reasons and India is on the verge of a financial crisis in the midst of its quest to become one of the economic power houses of the world.

India, a neglected third world country in the backyards of the international community was so triumphant those days that it turned to be the first country to divide a member state of United Nations, something unrealistic even for the then super powers such as United States and Soviet Union. Our then prime minister Ms. Indira Gandhi was projected almost as an avtar of goddess Durga and her popularity was at the highest.

But, on the commemoration of the war from an Indian perspective, we have to have observations on the mistakes that we committed in spite of the advantageous position at the end eof a successful war. We abided by all the international laws, well treated millions of refugees from East Pakistan and fed the ninety thousand or so Pakistani prisoners of war. As an official end of the war Ms. Gandhi had a pact with then prime minister of Pakistan Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the Simla agreement.

Based on the pact, India exchanged almost one lakh Pakistani POWs for Indian POWs who where minimal in number. The territories conquered were also exchanged with some exceptions such as Kargil. The pact also insisted that all the bilateral issues between India and Pakistan including the Kashmir conundrum would be settled peacefully.

At the end of the war, Pakistan’s dignity, economy and the two nation theory, the very foundation of that country were at stake. Had our leadership taken the stand that captive POWs and conquered territories would be exchanged only upon the settlement over the Kashmir and other bilateral issue, there would have been no option for Pakistan but to agree and India would naturally have had an upper hand. Whether Indians would ever get such an opportunity in future is something that only time can predict.

At the end of the 1971 war Indian foreign policy was still under the influence of what was framed by Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru. Our diplomatic and political visionaries were still unwilling to comprehend that the influence of nehruvianism was the root cause behind the issue of Tibet, the Indo-Chinese border disputes and an ambiguous non aligned foreign policy.

Further, our leaders refused to conceive that a theocracy like Pakistan, vulnerable to military coups, Islamic extremism and political instability would acquire the morality, maturity and integrity in executing the terms and conditions of the Simla pact and the rest is history. The cost of the blunder of our leaders done by the Simla pact was as costly as we brought the Kashmir imbroglio to the UN and binding ourselves to a referendum.

Now that it is four decades down the Bangladesh war, we have to admit historical facts. Besides all the glory that we possess as the land of Gauthama Budha, Emporer Ashoka and Mahathma Gandhi, let us be conscious that foreign policy is not about dogmatism but about pragmatism. Let us hope that we will be cognizant about this reality in utmost honesty and that in future we will no longer be porn to such mistakes in the wake of our experiences from past.

A counter appeal in answer to “An appeal” in reply to selvi J Jayalatihaa


The Hon!ble Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu,

With reference to the appeal made as the hon!ble Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu to the people Kerala on the sensitive Mullaperiyar issue dated dec-10-2011, I would like to bring into your notice the unmentioned facts in your appeal as well as the concerns of the people of Kerala.

You have been very careful in drawing your attention to the historical background of the treaty signed by the then Madras presidency and the princely state of Travancore during the British Raj. But there are some facts that you have missed in your appeal on how such an illogical and imbalanced lease agreement with duration of 999 years was formulated which was apparently against the interests of one party, the state of Travancore.

In the last decades of the ninetieth century, the British were under the illusion that the sun would never set on the British Empire. Resistance to the colonial rule was not so much in picture, the Indian people were not enough reminded of the great heritage they possess and the momentum of the freedom movement was limited. The British must have been under the misapprehension that the empire of their majesty was eternal and must have found nothing irrational in a lease agreement lasting for a millennium.

It was during those days that the agricultural prospects of the drought hit southern areas of the current Tamil Nadu state were explored by the government of the then Madras presidency which was directly under the rule of British India. The solution that the British introduced to cultivate this rain deficient and almost barren region was to divert the water of the west flowing Periyar River eastwards for irrigation purposes.

This solution required the will of the rulers of Travancore to lease the catchment area of Mullayar, a tirbutory of Periyar and additional land for a reservoir to Madras presidency. Here, the British obviously forced Travancore to sign the treaty. The state of Travancore had no option but to sign as it was a protectorate of the British Empire. It is said that H.H Vishakham Thirunal Rama Varma, the then Maharaja of Travacore signed the treaty lamenting “I sign this agreement with the blood of my heart”.

Thus putting the Travancore state in a dismal situation and having had the treaty a reality, the Madras presidency went ahead with the construction of a masonry dam across Mullayar under the supervision of the Engineer Benny Quik. The maximum life of this masonry dam anticipated by Mr. Quik himself was just fifty years. Going by none but by the very designer of the Mullaperiyar dam, the dam should have been decommissioned at most late by the early nineteen fifties and it could have been easier as India had secured Independence and as there would not have been much tension between different regional entities because the states reorganization on linguistic basis was not yet carried out.

But the dam was not decommissioned even after its expected life span and continued to irrigate the five southern districts of Tamil Nadu. I blame none for this mistake in not decommissioning the dam those days as we had just gotten freedom, come out of a catastrophic communal violence following partition and our leadership was onerous in bringing the new Indian state out of a chaotic state.

By the nineteen sixties, green revolution was introduced concerning the food security of the country. For the unawareness of ecological consequences, more and more dams were proposed and erected for irrigation purposes. At that time decommissioning of an already existing dam like Mullaperiyar which cultivates hundreds of thousands of acres of land was even unthinkable.

Half a century down the line the situation has changed. Now in 2011, it will be irrational to assume that a dam with an age of 116 years will be safe for the rest of the lease period of 999 years. Cracks have been reported across the entire basement of the dam. The Roorky IIT, one of the prestigious organizations of the country expertized in the concerned matter has approved that the dam is in danger. Taking into consideration the frequent earth quakes in the region where the dam is situated, the safety concerns of the people of Kerala can not be just given up.

That the Idukki reservoir can accommodate the water of Mullaperiyar reservoir is misleading. Arithmetics apart, this argument may be valid if the entire water of Mullapeiryar reservoir drains to the Idukki reservoir over period of months. But what if the Mullaperiyar dam breaks, let it not happen, and what about the pressure of the water being discharged from Mullaperiyar dam to Idukki reservoir in seconds? Who can guarantee that the three dams, Idukki , Cheruthini and Kulamavu forming the Idukki reservoir can withstand to such an unimaginable and unpredictable pressure of 15 TMC feet of water discharged in seconds from Mullaperiyar?

If at all for the sake of argument we conclude that the Idukki reservoir is capable enough to accommodate the entire water stored in Mullaperiyar dam, What about the fate of Lakhs of people inhabiting in between the two reservoirs of whom a substantial portion are Tamilans? Or can we find peace in the delusion that only a one or two Lakhs people will die and not the millions of people of the five districts, Idukki, Ernakulam, Alapuzha, Kottayam and Thrishoor of Kerala.

Now, what about the economic consequences if the Mullaperiyar dam breaks? Definitely none can guarantee that the Idukki reservoir can resist the pressure of such high quantity of water in case the dam breaks. The entire Ernakulam district will be washed off to the Arabian Sea. The Kochi port, the Kochi International container terminal, the Kochi International airport along with so many industrial establishments will disappear into the Arabian Sea in no time.

I would like to remind you that the Kochi port and the Kochi International container terminal serve not just Kerala, but the industrialized Combatore city and its suburbs in Tamil Nadu as well. The economic impacts will not be minimal just to Kerala but will affect the entire country and the Indian economy may collapse in the worst case.

At any case there will come a day when the decommissioning of the Mullaperiyar dam becomes inevitable. Nobody can wait for a long period of 999 years for that. The leadership and people of Kerala have been unanimous in their stand, “safety for Kerala, water for Tamil Nadu”. So what is wrong in solving the issue with a new dam where Tamil Nadu is guaranteed the same amount of water that it currently receives from the existing dam?

So, in the wake of the above mentioned factors, Ad tuum, appello (I lodge my appeal before you) as the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu to support the cause of a new dam in Mullaperiyar. Along with that let us be united in isolating the minute sections of both the sates responsible for chauvinistic acts. Both of us take the stand that violence in the name of Mullaperiyar issue is condemnable, is of unpredictable consequences and in no way helpful in reaching an amicable solution.