Debating the death penalty – Geeta Madhavan

Geeta Madhvan“It is not argued that capital punishment ought to be used at all times but when all the appeals provided for clemency have been rejected  because of the nature of the crime, capital punishment cannot be termed unnatural, unnecessary or  barbaric. All human beings do not adhere to natural justice or the higher principles of good and evil. It becomes mandatory for a state to impose punishment on those who disregard sanctity of human life.”- Dr Geeta Madhavan

Hanging nooseEvery hanging opens up a huge public debate on abolishing or retaining capital punishment in India. It throws up a plethora of reasons for the imposition of death penalty as well as for its continued existence or for its abolition. There are three schools of thought on this subject: those who vociferously support it; those who virulently oppose it and those  who are ambivalent and choose one side or the other depending on whether they consider it punishment enough or not — depending on how heinous the crime seems to them. A reading of Oscar Wilde’s Ballad of Reading Gaol or watching a cleverly edited news channel documentary on death row prisoners can highlight the despair of the condemned persons and stir up further deliberations on capital punishment.

It is  often reflections about the particular condemned individual that starts the debate and most of the rhetoric, whether from the political establishment or the media, confuses the average citizen about whether that person should  be hanged or not. Various elements influence the debate that are inconsistent with the actual reasons. Unfortunately, most of the debate is also emotional and is rarely based on whether the imposition of the death penalty should be an act of judicial responsibility fulfilled by the State. While many Western countries have legally abolished capital punishment, there are also many countries where capital punishment exists in their legal procedural codes but they have not meted out capital punishment for a long time. In practice, it is considered to have been abolished.

The creation of the entity of the state had at its primary role the protection of its citizens.  It was created with the primal need for the people to be subjects of a sovereign power whose duty it was to protect the people and ensure their well being. Thus it became incumbent upon a state to create a system of acceptable behaviour that later became rules and were codified by the State as laws. These not only dealt with how a citizen of that state should conduct himself but also how a state is bound to conduct itself for the benefit of its citizens. Statehood, therefore, does not inhibit itself to mere governance but stretches itself into protection of all the people who live within its territorial limit. It also has a responsibility towards its own people beyond its geographical territorial limits. The State is thus vested with the right to take the life of such people who threaten its existence, peace and the safety and security of its people. Thus a state is permitted to kill people, creating under its law the enforcement machinery for this purpose in the form of military, paramilitary, police and such other forces with specific powers in specific instances tasked to take life. It is in this same manner that a state creates the right to inflict capital punishment. In its duty to protect its citizens, a state can by due process of law require to take the life of those it deems as an existing threat or a possible future threat. However, this is not an unlimited power to be used at will. Thus it makes capital punishment not only acceptable but also a necessary duty imposed upon a state as part of its obligations for proper governance.

The argument for the pursuance of capital punishment is perfect if such argument is based on a just and fair judicial system bereft of human frailties. In reality, studies have shown that it is the marginalised, the discriminated against and the vulnerable who end up on death row more often than those with recourse to knowledge of law and its nuances. In an ideal situation where the state, the judicial process and the enforcement authorities are not dogged by human fallibility based on prejudices and pre-conceived notions, a fair system for justice can exist.

The other argument is that a state is not a sanctified entity; it is made up of people who govern and are governed. Private and social prejudices often play a role in societies. In most countries, a person brought before law who cannot afford a legal counsel is provided one by the state so that the accused has all means to defend him.

In reality, however, the legal incompetence or disinterest of the court-appointed legal officers works against the interests of the accused. In India, in most cases, the free legal aid system is not adept and efficient to the extent it should be, to protect the interests of the accused. It is therefore rather difficult to categorically reach the conclusion that there is no miscarriage of justice. However, these by themselves cannot be reason enough to abolish capital punishment in its entirety but should be reasons to strengthen the judicial system and to assuage fears that a state won’t impose capital punishment arbitrarily.

B. RamanA state is bound by duty to ensure protection of all lives and not just the life of one individual. Retributive justice is an essential component of statehood. Often a weak argument is placed that crime does not stop due to the existence of laws that prescribe punishment. One cannot even begin to imagine the crimes that will be committed in the absence of laws!

Just as the laws that prescribe punishment for crimes deter potential criminals, capital punishment deters those who will act with impunity if it does not exist. Those who argue that retributive justice does not act as a deterrent fail to accept that the fear of death upon conviction does indeed deter potential offenders against violence directed towards the state and its people.

It is not argued that capital punishment ought to be used at all times but when all the appeals provided for clemency have been rejected  because of the nature of the crime, capital punishment cannot be termed unnatural, unnecessary or  barbaric. All human beings do not adhere to natural justice or the higher principles of good and evil. It becomes mandatory for a state to impose punishment on those who disregard sanctity of human life.

In the argument for abolition of capital punishment, it is important to remember that clemency is the prerogative of the state. It is not an unassailable right of the accused to demand compassion. In cases where high treason has been committed against the state and in “rarest of the rarest” cases, capital punishment has been justified. The Supreme Court of India has been extremely clear that exceptional circumstances demand capital punishment. It is rather strange then to note that jurists, social activists and others seem appalled when it is ordered and when clemency petitions are rejected by the judiciary and the executive. No state can and should tolerate treason, subversion, sedition or any such act that threatens security or the state’s territorial integrity. No such act should go unpunished by which the lives of its people are endangered. A State is deemed weak if it cannot protect its people and if it cannot protect them from internal enemies. – The New Indian Express, 4 August 2015

» Dr Geeta Madhavan is an expert in international law and a founding member of  the Chennai based think tank Centre for Security Analysis.  See her blog here.

What B. Raman really said about Yakub Memon – Sushil Pandit

Sushil Pandit“I recall all this only because Raman has been profusely invoked, lately, by the usual suspects, to save Yakub Memon from the gallows. Invoked, and that too in such distortion, that there is real risk of Raman being mistaken as someone from the very cabal that comprises these usual suspects. Take just one look at the record and conduct of these self-appointed auditors of the rights, justice, propriety, morality and national conscience, and you might want to rise in defence of someone so upright and patriotic as Raman was, more so since he himself cannot anymore.” – Sushil Pandit

B. RamanThe former RAW official wanted to bleed Pakistan and make it pay for its state-sponsorship of terror.

I had the good fortune of meeting the late B. Raman a few times. He started off in his profession as an IPS officer and rose to be one of our finest sleuths. After retiring from an illustrious career at the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) which followed a stint at the Intelligence Bureau (IB), he excelled as a prolific public intellectual and commented incisively on the security and strategic issues. His concerns and interventions couldn’t have been but that of a patriot of unimpeachable integrity.

This, let me quickly clarify, is not his belated obituary. I recall all this only because Raman has been profusely invoked, lately, by the usual suspects, to save Yakub Memon from the gallows. Invoked, and that too in such distortion, that there is real risk of Raman being mistaken as someone from the very cabal that comprises these usual suspects. Take just one look at the record and conduct of these self-appointed auditors of the rights, justice, propriety, morality and national conscience, and you might want to rise in defence of someone so upright and patriotic as Raman was, more so since he himself cannot anymore.

One disingenuous stock-in-trade of this cabal is that a terrorist, in the immediate aftermath of committing a carnage, has no religion and no designated hue. But, when the same terrorist is awaiting his just wages, on death row, he mysteriously develops a “religious identity”. It also turns out, invariably, to be the same identity that is being “unfairly targeted, repeatedly”. Unless, of course, he fits the description of a “right wing Hindu”. The perversion in this argument is so apparent that despite the fact that it was Ajmal Kasab in 2012, Afzal Guru in 2013, and now, in 2015, Yakub Memon, the argument does not wash even with the uninitiated. Adding a generous dose of Sachars, Nayars and Bhushans also evokes but a yawn. This is where someone like B. Raman is useful. Just a few distortions here and concealing a few facts there, has helped these self-righteous usual suspects sound somewhat credible in their shenanigans. A key distortion attributed to B. Raman is that Yakub came back to India willingly and surrendered as vouched for by B. Raman himself.

This is what Raman wrote about Yakub Memon’s arrest: “He had come to Kathmandu secretly from Karachi to consult a relative and a lawyer on the advisability of some members of the Memon family, including himself, who felt uncomfortable with Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence, returning to India and surrendering to the Mumbai Police. The relative and the lawyer advised him against surrender due to a fear that justice might not be done to them. They advised Yakub to go back to Karachi. Before he could board the flight to Karachi, he was picked up by the Nepal Police on suspicion, identified and rapidly moved to India.” This adequately debunks the surrender theory. No wonder, Yakub’s defence never invoked his “surrender” during the entire course of his prosecution to seek leniency.

On the issue of Yakub’s involvement in the Mumbai blasts of March 1993, Raman wrote: “There is not an iota of doubt about the involvement of Yakub and other members of the family in the conspiracy and their cooperation with the ISI till July 1994.”

So, on the two critical issues of a) involvement in the crime and b) voluntarily surrendering to India, there is absolutely no doubt that Yakub could neither have been promised any reprieve nor has earned any grounds for sympathy. Not, at least, from B Raman certainly.

Now, on the issue of the death to Yakub. Here, Raman, admittedly, has a point of view. He writes that: “The cooperation of Yakub with the investigating agencies after he was picked up informally in Kathmandu and his role in persuading some other members of the family to come out of Pakistan and surrender constitute, in my view, a strong mitigating circumstance to be taken into consideration while considering whether the death penalty should be implemented.”

Yakub Abdul Razak MemonRaman may have been, momentarily, moved by the cooperation he received from Yakub post his capture. The question we must ask ourselves is that, after all, what options was Yakub left with. Being in Indian custody and confronted with a mountain of evidence, his best chance to escape the gallows was to sing, and if asked to, dance as well. And that is what he did. That is precisely what Kasab did too. What Kasab revealed about the entire plot, and also the people involved, was not ordinary. But should this be taken as a “mitigating” factor or was it an obvious last-ditch attempt to buy sympathy, is the moot point.

To get an insight into how Raman thought, the following example may prove useful. In October 2006, Mr Raman had written an article (not in DailyO) on the Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru’s sentence, who was hanged in February 2013, advocating a deeper investigation of his case. In reply to a query from a reader Vijay Shankar, he had replied: “I have no views other than what I have already expressed. I have been of the view ‘kill them in action and not in custody, even after a fair trial, make the state-sponsor of terrorism bleed and differentiate the individuals who let themselves be used by it.’ Regards. Raman.”

It is abundantly clear that Raman was not averse to making terrorists pay with their lives. He even preferred disposing them off in encounters as opposed to judicial hangings, even after they were convicted through a due process of law. Raman, in fact, goes much further, and does not merely stop at extracting retribution from the foot soldiers. He wanted to bleed Pakistan and make it pay for its state-sponsorship of terror. That is the Bahukutumbi Raman I somewhat knew. – DailyO, 31 July 2015

» Sushil Pandit is a student of media and politics, make a living by managing communication for brands and issues, interested in and active among Kashmiris expelled from Kashmir.

 

Pakistan’s continuing war against Indian civilisation – Tufail Ahmad

Tufail Ahmad“The jihadism in Kashmir is [Pakistan’s] continuing war against Indian civilisation…. The Pakistani identity is an interim construct; the identity, the civilisational impulse, remains Indian. Today’s jihadism is external to Indian civilisation. Attempts to buy peace with this force must be discouraged, more so since the Syria-based Islamic State has already made an incursion into India, like Muhammad bin Qasim led Iraqi and Syrian fighters to India.”

Muhammad bin Qasim was an Umayyad general who conquered the Sindh and Multan regions along the Indus River (now a part of Pakistan) for the Umayyad Caliphate. He was born and raised in the city of Taif (in modern-day Saudi Arabia). Qasim's conquest of Sindh and southern-most parts of Multan enabled further Islamic expansion into India.Over thirteen centuries ago, in 712 CE, an external force made an incursion into Indian civilisation. For the next thousand years, Indian people accommodated it in different ways. In 1947, they came to believe they could buy permanent peace with it by giving away a piece of our territory, thereby creating Pakistan. Once again in 2015, political analysts, acting on behalf of this external force, have convinced us and our government that we must buy peace. On July 10 in Ufa, Prime Minister Narendra Modi promised to ride a peace plane to Pakistan next year.

Speaking of planes, our media has been teaching Indian youth since 1999 that the Indian Airlines plane IC814 was hijacked to Kandahar that year by terrorists. This is contrary to facts. The plane was hijacked by the Pakistani state to bargain for the release of Maulana Masood Azhar, the chief of Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) imprisoned by India in Kashmir. This jihadist organisation is a branch of the Pakistani military’s Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI. In interviews, three terrorist commanders have testified that the JeM is part of the ISI.

On June 25, Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) released an interview of Adam Gadahn, the American spokesman of Al-Qaeda killed in a drone strike in Waziristan this year. Gadahn shed fresh light on the Pakistani state’s support to JeM. For his final trip to Pakistan in late 1998, Gadahn stayed at Kuwait Hostel of the Islamic International University in Islamabad. From the Kuwait Hostel, Gadahn said he was picked up by “two Pakistani brothers” who “told me they were from the group headed by Maulana Masood Azhar, who was still in an Indian prison.” Jaish-e-Muhammad, along with Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), is the lead group fighting in Kashmir. Two more interviews of Adnan Rashid and Shamsh Kashmiri establish that JeM is a branch of the ISI. Shamsh Kashmiri, a former JeM deputy chief, revealed last year that when Pervez Musharraf ‘shut down’ offices of jihadist groups under global pressure, Ashfaq Kayani, then ISI chief, raised salaries for JeM, LeT, Hizbul Mujahideen and others. Kayani was elevated to the post of army chief by Musharraf on whose watch 26/11 attacks were planned.

Adnan Rashid, a commander with the Pakistani Taliban, revealed in 2013 that as a Pakistan Air Force (PAF) staff he was sent to a JeM training camp where he realised: “We are soldiers in uniform” and JeM members “are soldiers without uniform”; “we follow them and they take instruction from our institution—the ISI.” Adnan also revealed that he was part of a unit in the PAF called Idarat-ul-Pakistan (the Institution of Pakistan), whose stated objective was to create a jihadist network across the Pakistani armed forces. AQIS is its new offshoot.

The worry is that Pakistan continues to support the JeM chief Maulana Masood Azhar, much as it protected Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and Mullah Mohammad Omar and protects Ayman Al-Zawahiri, Hafiz Muhammad Saeed,  and others. Al-Qalam is an Urdu-language jihadist weekly sold across Pakistan, published by the JeM’s Al-Rehmat Trust. In a July 14 report, Al-Qalam celebrated “two weeks of success by Jaish-e-Muhammad mujahideen” in Nowgam sector in Kashmir. The external force that arrived under Muhammad bin Qasim is now led by the JeM-ISI combine.

Kashmir MapIn Kashmir, it is testing India’s spirit for coexistence. During July 1-19, Pakistani troops violated ceasefire along the Line of Control in Kashmir for 11 times and ISI-backed terrorists from Jaish-e-Muhammad and LeT fought against Indian troops. On July 13, Pakistani national Mohammad Anwar of LeT was killed in Poonch district. On July 3-4, five militants were killed in Uri sector. There are recurring cases of incursions and militant attacks. A private website must compile the list of Indian soldiers being killed by Pakistan in this manner.

A divided Punjab is acceptable to this force but a division of Kashmir isn’t because it is a Muslim-majority region. Lead organisations fighting against the Indian civilisation are: Pakistani military, LeT, JeM and Indian Mujahideen, the last three backed by the first. This singular force also aided non-Muslim proxies like pro-Khalistan terrorists who should ideally be fighting to take back Lahore as their capital instead of fighting against India. This is the force that shot Malala Yousafzai, who is an Indian; Pakistani is not an identity; the identity is only Indian. Former PAF chief Asghar Khan has testified that all wars with India were initiated by Pakistan.

To this external force, peace is unacceptable; peace is merely a tactic. The historic peace bus to Lahore by A. B. Vajpayee led to Kargil war in 1999. When Musharraf was talking, terrorists were trained to attack Mumbai. When Nawaz Sharif was talking of talks, India’s consulate in Jalalabad was attacked in August 2013. Trust talks of peace with this external force after Pakistan amends its constitution allowing non-Muslim Pakistani citizens to become head of the state.

Countries like Pakistan that do not allow their non-Muslim citizens to become the head of state are the anti-thesis of Indian civilisation and Malala Yousafzai. The jihadism in Kashmir is their continuing war against Indian civilisation. This writer was questioned on Twitter for arguing that teaching India’s history could undercut Islamic extremism. The argument remains: this external force subverts the process of India’s history; Multan was a Hindu city, Lahore a Sikh metropolis. Teaching our kids that we all are Harappans will indeed aid Islamic reformation in India. Actor Salman Khan, holding a torch of hope in his new movie Bajrangi Bhaijaan in which he helps a lost mute girl return home in Pakistan, tweeted that Modi and Sharif should watch the film “because love for children is above all boundaries.” Khan the Bajrangi is indeed the impulse of Indian civilisation; the Pakistani identity is an interim construct; the identity, the civilisational impulse, remains Indian. Today’s jihadism is external to Indian civilisation. Attempts to buy peace with this force must be discouraged, more so since the Syria-based Islamic State has already made an incursion into India, like Muhammad bin Qasim led Iraqi and Syrian fighters to India. – The New Indian Express, 31 July 2015

» The author is director of South Asia Studies Project at the Middle East Media Research Institute, Washington. Email: newcriterion@yahoo.co.uk

Nawaz Sharif

Open letter by a cop to those opposing death penalty to Yakub Memon – OpIndia

Yakub Memon

Indian Police Service“Some of our “intelligentsia” have been crying that “due processes of law” have not been followed in this case. It is a shame that a case which is going for two decades, which has been debated at multiple levels of the judiciary, even at the highest level, is still subjected to scrutiny by mis-informed, half-read, cretins sitting in AC cabins and reading op-eds.” — A “Thulla”

Dear “Intelligentsia” of India,

I am not a TV panelist. I am not a “human rights” activist. I am not a lawyer. I am not a political commentator. I am not a best-selling author. I am not the son or  grandson of a famous man. I am an aam aadmi. More than an aam aadmi, I am an officer in the Indian police force. And I am writing this letter to all of you, after seeing your robust defence of a terrorist.

Why I mention who I am is important because unlike all of you, I don’t sit in plush AC offices and write editorials seeking clemency for a murderer. Nor do I visit TV studios and shout myself hoarse. Instead I meet such killers every single day. But I don’t meet them for cocktail parties or at press conferences (like some of you do).

I meet them on the road, in the streets, with weapons in their arms and hate in their eyes. I have been in situations with them where they would not hesitate a single moment before pulling the trigger on me, but I have to consider all the ramifications like “human rights”, “due process” and “fake encounter” before I save my life and of the innocent people around me.

Given the above, I believe I am in a far better position to comment on a mass murderer like Yakub Memon than any of you are.

To defend this criminal, multitudes of arguments have been put forth by what are now called “Adarsh Liberals” in our society. Luckily, almost no one has pleaded that he is innocent. The situation is such that Indians have to be grateful to our “Intelligentsia” for such small mercies.

But one common hypothesis put forward by many is that Yakub Memon surrendered to the Indian authorities, and then cooperated with the investigations. Plain lies. Late B. Raman, one of India’s finest intelligence officers wrote this in his article:

He had come to Kathmandu secretly from Karachi to consult a relative and a lawyer on the advisability of some members of the Memon family, including himself, who felt uncomfortable with Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence, returning to India and surrendering to the Mumbai police. The relative and the lawyer advised him against surrender due to a fear that justice might not be done to them. They advised Yakub to go back to Karachi.

Before he could board the flight to Karachi, he was picked up by the Nepal police on suspicion, identified and rapidly moved to India.

This was yesterday confirmed on some news channels when they interviewed the Nepali police officer. He re-iterated that there was no deal and Yakub was fleeing to Karachi. Then why are our “Intelligentsia” hell bent on stating otherwise?

Let me put it another way: I know there is a rat in my house, and I place a laddoo in a trap. The rat gets caught and then pleads for mercy saying that he had come to “surrender” because I had offered him a “laddoo” (deal). Do I let him live?

The second common argument is “but we are against death penalty. It is barbaric”. My simple question is: Did it take the death sentence of a terrorist to wake up the bleeding heart activists? Couldn’t you demand a change in law for so many years? Why are you crying for this beast?

For the record even I am not decided on this issue. Just because we are from the police force doesn’t mean we do not value human life. But in the case of a terrorist, what choice do we have? Do we preserve him hoping he will reform? Can terrorists who come with guns in their hands and an unshakable belief that what they are doing—killing innocent people—is right, be ever reformed?

Forget reformation, keeping such a dastardly mind alive is a big security risk too. Every time he is shifted from jails we have to be our toes to see if any attempt will be made by his gang members to either kill him, so that he is silenced or rescue him, so that he can continue his activities. And there is always the risk that one fine day his friends will hold some innocent civilians hostage and demand his release, so that we can put our lives at risk all over again to re-capture him.

You want to abolish death penalty? Go ahead, but not for terrorists.

Some of our “intelligentsia” have been crying that “due processes of law” have not been followed in this case. It is a shame that a case which is going for two decades, which has been debated at multiple levels of the judiciary, even at the highest level, is still subjected to scrutiny by mis-informed, half-read, cretins sitting in AC cabins and reading op-eds. If you did have a problem with the process, why did you not raise your voice in 2013 when he was sentenced to death? Why now when his death is imminent? Are these delaying tactics? Where do your loyalties lie dear “Intelligentsia”? I sincerely hope all these people are tried for contempt of court.

And finally there are some utter lowlifes who have given this entire thing a political, communal and even casteist colour. How can one party whichever it may be, be held responsible for a Supreme Court verdict, which has taken two decades and during which time multiple political parties have fought in courts against Yakub Memon? Do you have even an iota of conscience and rationality left in you when you make such absurdly illogical statements to defend a terrorist?

In the aftermath of the Gurdaspur attacks, it has been reported that now India may be a target of the ISIS. In such situations Indians must unite and fight such a huge demon. But given how our “Intelligentsia” are hell-bent in sowing seeds of discord among us, I fear we will be easy targets for such groups. While we keep shouting Hindu-Muslim, Brahmin-Dalit, BJP-Congress, I fear these terrorists will rip my poor country apart.

— A “Thulla” (Author’s identity has been withheld by request) – OpIndia, 30-7-15

(From Left-Right) Tiger Memon, Essa Memon, Yusuf Memon, Ayub Memon, & Yakub Memon

Mumbai blast victims at India Gate

Mumbai Bombings 1993

Did Nepal temple officials ban animal sacrifice at Gadhimai festival? – Anna Jones, Surendra Phuyal & Geeta Pandey

Gadhimai Devi

Gadhimai Festival“Ram Chandra Shah, the [Chairman of the Gadhimai Temple Committee] … said flat out that the ban [on animal sacrifice] was not true. ‘Devout Hindus could be requested not to offer animal sacrifice to the Goddess, but they could not be forced not to do so—nor [could] the tradition be banned or stopped completely,’ he told the BBC.”

News was reported around the world on Tuesday that one of the world’s bloodiest religious ceremonies was being ended.

The festival at the Hindu temple in Bariyarpur in Nepal sees tens of thousands of animals sacrificed to the goddess Gadhimai, and always provokes international outrage.

The announcement that sacrifices were now banned was greeted with delight by animal activists—but then the temple’s chairman said it was not true. So what happened?

Bird offerings to Gadhimai DeviWhat happens at the Gadhimai festival?

Every five years, Hindu pilgrims from Nepal and India buy animals ranging from buffalo to rats, and bring them to be sacrificed at the temple in Bara district.

Over several days of gore, thousands of buffalo and tens of thousands of smaller animals are killed, either by priests in the temple or by others in the surrounding fields.

The tradition dates back to a priest who was told about 250 years ago in a dream that spilled blood would encourage Gadhimai, the Hindu goddess of power, to free him from prison.

What did the charities say?

“Victory! Animal sacrifice banned at Nepal’s Gadhimai festival, half a million animals saved,” said the press release from Humane Society International (HSI) and Animal Welfare Network Nepal (AWNN).

After “rigorous negotiations”, the temple agreed to “cancel all future animal sacrifice” and would “[urge] devotees not to bring animals to the festival”, they said.

They quoted the chairman of the Gadhimai Temple Management and Development Committee, Ram Chandra Shah, as saying: “The time has come to replace killing and violence with peaceful worship and celebration.”

The charities held news conferences in Delhi and in Bihar—where most of the sacrificial animals originat—with four key members of the temple committee, including the chief priest, though not Mr Shah.

Motilal Prasad, secretary of the temple trust, confirmed to AFP news agency: “We have decided to completely stop the practice of animal sacrifice,” he said. “I realised that animals are so much like us … and feel the same pain we do.”

How did the temple chairman respond?

Then Ram Chandra Shah, the man quoted by the charities, said flat-out that the ban was not true.

“Devout Hindus could be requested not to offer animal sacrifice to the goddess, but they could not be forced not to do so—nor [could] the tradition be banned or stopped completely,” he told the BBC.

It was not clear whether he denied giving the statement used by the charity, but he said the quotes from other officials had been taken out of context.

While he had “no objections” to the campaign against the sacrifices, “if people don’t heed, we can’t do anything about it”.

“Nothing will change as far as the tradition of offering animal sacrifice during the festival is concerned. Things will not change no matter what the four [in the delegation] do or say. It’s our age-old tradition,” he said.

What did the charities say to that?

HSI spokeswoman Navamita Mukherjee said she was “surprised and confused” by Ram Chandra Shah’s comments. The ban was true, she told the BBC. “Why would we organise a press conference on such a large scale to announce such a move” if it wasn’t true, she said.

Another HSI spokeswoman, Alok, who was in Bihar with the temple officials, said the statement quoting Mr Shah “is definitely from him”.

“We have the priests and the rest of the temple here,” she said, all ready to promote the no-sacrifice rule to future festival pilgrims.

“There might be a misunderstanding—they might think we’re implying that the entire festival is over but it’s only the animal sacrifice.”

Manoj Gautam, president of AWNN who was also in Bihar, said the temple had agreed outright to end their involvement in the killing inside the temple, and to dissuade others from “spontaneous” sacrifices outside.

Pramada Shah & Gadhimai High PriestThe support of the chief priest—a direct descendant of the festival’s founder—was key, he said. “Just a year ago he was a very proud supporter, but now he despises it and vowed to take a step forward on this matter.”

“Without him sacrificing the animals, it cannot be done,” he said, which would promote the view that a sacrifice is not expected.

He said the charities had been carefully campaigning against the festival for years, but that neither they nor the temple had wanted to risk resentment by issuing a ban before they had public support.

Gadhimai Devi TempleAre temple board members split on the issue?

Tripurari Shah, a member of the temple board, denied that temple trust members were divided.

“There’s no rift. I think what [Ram Chandra] Shah is trying to say is that we have millions of devotees. We have to reach out to them and make them aware,” he told the BBC.

The temple was campaigning to stop animal sacrifices, and he believed that the “2019 festival will be blood-free”.

What does this mean for the next festival?

Mr Gautam said the slaughter tradition had been dying out anyway in recent years, with a huge drop in the number of animals killed, and the charities would spend the next four years working with the temple to ensure the 2019 gathering would be “completely bloodless”.

“We don’t oppose the festival,” he said, but there was no reason people couldn’t bring pumpkins or fruit, making it “a grand celebration of life itself “, as well as a boost to tourism.

But many in southern Nepal have a deep-rooted belief and faith associated with the festival, and feel the tradition is unlikely to stop anytime soon. – BBC, 31 July 2015

» Anna Jones, Surendra Phuyal & Geeta Pandey report for the BBC in Asia.

Butchers at the Gadhimai Mela

Gadhimai Animal Sacrfice

Gadhimai Buffalo Sacrifice

Hindu devotees attending celebrations of the Gadhimai festival watch butchers brandish khukris (traditional Nepalese knives) from a tree, in an effort to get a better view of the first sacrifices, in the village of Bariyapur on November 27, 2014. Millions of Hindu devotees from Nepal and India migrate to the village to honour their goddess of power. The celebrations includes the slaughtering of hundreds of thousands of animals, mostly buffalo and goats. Worshippers have spent days sleeping out in the open and offering prayers to the goddess at a temple decked with flowers in preparation.   AFP PHOTO/ROBERTO SCHMIDTROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images

Gadhimai Festival

See also

Guru is like a full moon – Chaitanya Keerti

Adhi Guru Dakshinamurthy

Swami Chaitanya Keerti“A guru is the one who liberates us and with whom we are in deep love, faith and reverence. A guru is a presence. Through him one gets the first glimpse of divinity. A guru creates, transforms and gives a new birth to a seeker so that with complete trust one can follow his guru while travelling through many unknown paths and doors and opening many unknown locks. His blessing is a vital phenomenon. Through a guru, we can look into our own future and can be aware of our own destiny. Through him, we start growing up like a seed trying to sprout towards the sky.” – Swami Chaitanya Keerti

Full moon over Arunachaleshwar TempleThousands of disciples of various gurus, especially in India, will be celebrating July 22, the night of full moon, to express their gratitude towards their gurus. The full moon in July is very significant, and it is called Aashadh Purnima. It is such a time, when we can never be sure if the full moon will be visible in the sky or not.

Osho has given a very poetic expression to this. He says: “Guru is like full moon and disciple is like Aashadh (the month of clouds and rains). The moon of Sharad Purnima is beautiful because it is in the empty sky.”

“There is no disciple then, the guru is alone. If the same beauty happens in Aashadh, then it is something, where the guru is surrounded with cloud-like disciples.”

Rishi Vyasa“The disciples have come with their darkness of many lives. They are like dark clouds, they are the weather of Aashadh. If the guru can shine like the full moon in that atmosphere of darkness, if he can produce light, only then he is the guru. That’s why Aashadh Purnima is called Guru Purnima.”

This brings us to another question: Who is a guru?

A guru is the one who liberates us and with whom we are in deep love, faith and reverence. A guru is a presence. Through him one gets the first glimpse of divinity. A guru creates, transforms and gives a new birth to a seeker so that with complete trust one can follow his guru while travelling through many unknown paths and doors and opening many unknown locks. His blessing is a vital phenomenon. Through a guru, we can look into our own future and can be aware of our own destiny. Through him, we start growing up like a seed trying to sprout towards the sky.

In Osho’s words: “Guru means one who has gravitation, around whom you suddenly feel as if you are being pulled. The guru is a tremendous magnet, with only one difference. There is a man who has charisma—you are Adi Shankarapulled, but you are pulled towards him. That is the man of charisma. He may become a great leader, a great politician. Adolf Hitler has that charisma; millions of people are pulled towards him. Then what is the difference between a charismatic leader and a guru? When you are pulled towards a guru you suddenly feel that you are being pulled inwards, not outwards.”

When you are pulled towards Kabir, Nanak or Buddha, you have a strange feeling. The feeling of being pulled towards them and at the same time you are being pulled inwards—a very strange paradoxical phenomenon: the closer you come to your guru, the closer you come to yourself.

The more you become attracted towards the guru, the more you become independent. The more you surrender to the guru, the more you feel that you have freedom you never enjoyed before.

Guru does not exist as an ego—he exists as a pure presence and godliness radiates through him. He is transparent. – Asian Age, 22 July 2013 

» Swami Chaitanya Keerti, editor of Osho World, is the author of Osho Fragrance.

A. P. J. Abdul Kalam: Bomb in one hand, Gita in the other – S. Gurumurthy

A.P. J. Abdul Kalam

S. Gurumurthy“The national confusion about … military power started with Ashoka giving up wars after he was shocked by the scale of destruction in the Kalinga war. Ashoka, after the Kalinga war, was in the same state for mind as Arjuna was before the Kurukshetra war. One cried after the war, and the other, before the war. But Sri Krishna with Bhagawad Gita cleared the confusion of Arjuna and made him a warrior. But Ashoka did not have the benefit of a Krishna to clear his confusion. And his confusion became our national pride. We paid the price for that high-cost pride with invasions and [the] destruction of India.” – S. Gurumurthy

AshokaWe have often asked ourselves and others why India in its several thousand years of history has rarely tried to expand its territories or to assume a dominant role. Many of the experts and others with whom we had dialogue referred to some special features in the Indian psyche which could partly explain their greater tolerance, less discipline, the lack of sense of retaliation, more flexibility in accepting outsiders, greater adherence to hierarchy and emphasis on personal safety over adventure.”

This is what Dr A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, with the co-author S. Y. Rajan, wrote in the famous book India Vision 2020 A Vision for the New Millennium [1998]. Kalam had raised these profound issues that are sourced in our national confusion over couple of thousand years since Ashoka became the role model of India by giving up war altogether. Kalam is being profiled by his millions of admirers as a ‘people’s president, teacher, scientist, visionary, thinker, and patriot.’ He is certainly all these and more. He had bombs and missiles on the one hand with veena and Gita on the other. The huge bandwidth of the man brings out the complete philosopher-nationalist that he was. Dr Kalam introspected and posited for the nation critical issues which mirror the lessons our history has taught us but we have not learnt and still refuse to learn. Each of the issues raised by Kalam is profound. As we did not expand them, our territories contracted. As we were not disciplined, our tolerance was a mere vanity. Accepting outsiders at the cost of kinship has divided us. Preferring personal safety over adventures has made us victims of adventurists. How true Kalam was? Yet, there was, even now there is, no effort to reorient our education or national discourse on Kalam’s lines, even though he wrote his famous work in 1998. Even today, Kalam, the man, is being discussed—personally and anecdotally. But there is very little focus on what he said or envisioned for India. Encomiums are being paid to him as a visionary without discussing what his vision is. Kalam’s introspection should be the concern, even active enterprise, of the entire nation and its establishment—government, media, academia and intellectuals. Even now it is not too late. In the memory of Kalam, work on what he had envisioned for India can begin. But there can be no beginning unless there is honest introspection by Indians about the role and purpose of India.

Kalam’s Pokhran bomb and missiles have undoubtedly put India in a different league geopolitically and strategically. In his book Challenge and Strategy: Rethinking India’s Foreign Policy, Rajiv Sikri, India’s former foreign secretary recalled how despite Jawaharlal Nehru’s well-known but little publicised attempts to get closer to the US in the 1950s, India’s relations with the US remained at a low level for 50 years. According to Sikri, it was only after India became a nuclear weapons power in 1998 that the nature of India’s relationship with the US underwent a qualitative change and the US was jolted into taking India, and indeed the whole of South Asia, seriously from a security and geopolitical perspective. Pokhran-II coincided with India’s growing economic weight and the increasingly influential role of the Indian-American community in the US. Both factors added to India’s importance in US eyes. Kalam’s bomb showed what the West-centric world respects. Power. Nuclear weapons power is indeed fearsome. When the first atom bomb was exploded, its author Dr Robert Oppenheimer, a great admirer of Hindu spiritualism, quoted this verse in Bhagawad Gita to describe its power: “If the radiance of a thousand suns were to burst at once into the sky, That would be like the splendour of the Mighty One… I am become Death, The shatterer of Worlds.” And this is how the Gita-studying and veena-playing Dr Kalam described the Pokhran bomb in 1998. “I heard the earth thundering below our feet and rising ahead of us in terror. It was a beautiful sight. It was a triumph of Indian science and technology.” Power is indeed dangerous. But being without it is more dangerous. A democratic India, with 1/6th of humanity, humanistic philosophies of Sankara, Buddha and Gandhi and no record of invading others, high tolerance and flexibility in accepting outsiders was not respected. It was actually trivialised. See the contrast. In the 1970s, Henry Kissinger waited in Beijing for days for authoritarian China, which had 30 million people dying of hunger and was deep in poverty to agree to meet him! Why? A hungry and poor China had hundreds of nuclear warheads. That the world respects power is what the world has taught India—which is eight out of 10 populated by Hindus whom Mahatma Gandhi had described as “gentlest” of people on the earth.

A. P. J. Abdul Kalam as a studentThe geopolitical stature of India which started to rise with Pokhran has been on the escalator ever thereafter. The National Intelligence Council attached to the Central Intelligence Agency [US] reported [Dec 2012] that India will be among the three world powers in 2030 along with the US and China. But for Kalam’s bomb and missiles India would never have been seen as a candidate for a global power. Japan has trillions of dollars of assets. But that does not make it a world power. Power is comprehensive. Mere economic power is no power. Merely being an economic power without being a military power will invite invasions, like India did. We were the leaders of the world economy for 1,700 years, according to Angus Maddison who studied the world economic history on behalf of the OECD nations. But our wealth only invited invasions of barbaric peoples. We were conquered because we had no sense of the importance of power. We even detested power as uncivilised.

The national confusion about, even bias against, military power, started with Ashoka giving up wars after he was shocked by the scale of destruction in the Kalinga war. Ashoka, after the Kalinga war, was in the same state for mind as Arjuna was before the Kurukshetra war. One cried after the war, and the other, before the war. But Sri Krishna with Bhagawad Gita cleared the confusion of Arjuna and made him a warrior. But Ashoka did not have the benefit of a Krishna to clear his confusion. And his confusion became our national pride. We paid the price for that high-cost pride with invasions and destruction of India. Kalam’s Pokhran explosion cleared the confusion and transformed India into a global power, though it is yet to be internalised by our elites and intellectuals. The Economist magazine [March 30, 2013] in its cover story asking “Can India become a great power?” answered it at the end of its editorial: “That India can become a great power is not in doubt. The real question is whether it wants to be.” This is what the nationalist-philosopher Dr A P J Abdul Kalam wanted this nation of 1.25 billion to say in once voice: “yes we want to be”. Instituting an in-depth study of our history to learn and internalise the lessons from it is the greatest tribute to this great man. – The New Indian Express, 26 July 2015

» S. Gurumurthy is a chartered accountant and columnist for The New Indian Express.

A.P.J. Abdul Kalam at Pokaran

A.P. J. Abdul Kalam

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