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The Battle over Hindu History

Author Wendy Doniger, Professor of the History of Religions, University of Chicago’s Divinity School , writes on this blog about her new work. This new work further consolidates the view that much of the now politically packaged Hinduism was actually a product of colonial scholarship in the ninteenth centruy.

The Battle over Hindu History

For years, some Hindus have argued that the 16th century mosque called the Babri Masjid (after the Mughal emperor Babur) was built over a temple commemorating the birthplace of Rama (an avatar of the god Vishnu) in Ayodhya (the city where, according to the ancient poem called the Ramayana, Rama was born), though there is no evidence whatsoever that there has been ever a temple on that spot or that Rama was born there. […]

May 9th, 2009|books, History, India, India-Pakistan History, Politics|2 Comments

Chronicles foretold

A piece that I wrote with Asad Sayeed for The Friday Times. This piece was written before the long March and the subsequent developments that include the restoration of deposed judges.

The two years old lawyers’ movement is now entering its decisive phase. It started in March 2007 as a spontaneous, vibrant expression of fatigue with a military dictator, after which the lawyers mobilised Pakistan’s inert middle classes and sections of civil society against the arbitrary ouster of the former Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, and his subsequent maltreatment at the hands of the security agencies. Within weeks, the political parties jumped into the fray and mounted a formidable challenge to an otherwise seemingly well-entrenched military rule. This was a critical year when General Musharraf had assured both the world as well as the nation of a transition to democratic rule. However, Musharraf’s efforts to direct the transition in his favour were forcefully countered by the lawyers through a judicial and political struggle that continues to date. […]

March 21st, 2009|Politics, Published in The Friday Times|2 Comments

Guest Stars at the Long March

My article that appeared in Dawn. here.

THE enthusiasts for the long march towards Islamabad are justifiably feeling let down by the grand posturing, thundering rhetoric and the subsequent retreat from agitation outside the dreary citadels of power in Islamabad’s dark heart.

A Bastille, which was not meant to be? Interpretations abound and explanations are flowing in from the motley groups who ventured to change the contours of state-society relations. The lawyers’ movement is profoundly significant. It constitutes the finest historical ‘moment’ in our troubled history. However, many observers have hinted at its limitations and the problematic phase that the movement has now entered.

Unlike China, Pakistan’s long marches have been nefarious for their results. Orchestrated by political and non-political actors to undermine the democratic process, we are well aware of this stratagem. This time it was different, complex and refreshingly path-breaking alas with similar results: pressurise the beleaguered PPP government still trying to find the proverbial power-ground beneath its truncated legs. In that sense, the march was a roaring success. From the sloganeering against the much maligned Asif Zardari, to de-legitimising three decades of PPP’s valiant struggle against dictatorship culminating in the assassination of Benazir Bhutto.

Irony, that all is now a forgotten snippet of history. What is indeed more pressing, as we are told time and again, are the sacrifices made by the honourable judges. Indeed they have altered the parameters of the state and perhaps buried the subordination of the judiciary to the all powerful executive. Well, one may ask what about Asif Zardari and his eleven and a half years in jail without a single conviction? Therefore the vilification of Zardari by anti-Musharraf sections of the media and by the historical long march is symbolic. It is a testament to the deep-seated middle class trend of demonising politicians and party politics that are prerequisites for democracy and means to establish the ‘rule of law’.

The opportunism of individuals and groups jumping onto the lawyers’ bandwagon is also alarming. It is most convenient to have been all-powerful army chiefs, heads of the ISI and former honchos of the civilian bureaucratic monolith and once the party is over, re-christen yourself as firebrand democrats. The patriotic Hameed Guls, Aslam Begs and Faiz Ali Chishtis and the neo-constitutionalist Roedad Khans and right-wing ambassadors (who slept while Afghans were killed for strategic depth), must be questioned by the anti-Musharraf movement for it was their historical culpability that undermined civilian governance. Is it not important that circumspection be exercised while letting them be the spokespersons of the new vanguard? If Zardari has to be isolated then these dubious characters must also be questioned. […]

June 29th, 2008|Journalism, Personal, Politics, published in DAWN|2 Comments