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What went wrong, and why?

india Updated: Mar 10, 2007 04:24 IST

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Results of the state elections in Punjab and Uttaranchal have been a major setback in the fortunes of the Congress party. Instead of explaining them away as anti-incumbency or regional phenomena which will have little impact on the ruling coalition in the Centre, the Sonia Gandhi-Manmohan Singh government should face it squarely and do some soul-searching: why did it happen?

The Punjab electorate has some features which do not exist in other states. This makes its electoral battles different. It is the only state where a religious minority, the Sikhs are dominant. They are the most prosperous agricultural community of India.

The mystique of the Khalsa Panth prevails. The Akalis are a single community-based party which has been able to equate itself with the Panth. When it comes to voting, large sections of the Sikh peasantry, including those who do not observe Khalsa traditions by chopping their beards, smoking or chewing tobacco and drinking alcohol, vote Akali because they believe it stands for the Panth.

In Punjab the thought process is simple: I come first, my kin comes next, my panth third and my country last. This order of priority was very much in evidence in the last elections. Candidates of both the main contenders, the Akalis and the Congress were promoting members of Punjab’s leading zamindar families. There was little to choose between them.

Akalis have little in common with the BJP, which is also essentially a single community-based party, the Hindus. Theirs is an unprincipled alliance for the sole purpose of defeating the Congress Party at the polls.

The motivating force behind the BJP’s façade of Hindutva has always been Islamophobia. It is fuelled periodically by acts of terrorism carried out by Muslim militants from across our borders and from within our own country. Mosque-breaking and temple-building are still on their agenda.

Not one of those guilty of destroying the Babri Masjid has been punished nor is likely to be if the BJP and its saffron-tinted allies have their way.

It is not a very pleasant scenario. But it is a timely warning to the secular and non-religion based regional parties to pull up their socks and be prepared to take on anti-national elements in our midst.

Adi Shankaracharya

I have received dozens of explanations of Adi Shankaracharya’s lines. One which I was able to comprehend is from VV Subrahmanyam of Rajahmundry (AP). I quote it in full:

Dehendriya Manobuddhi Ahankara Chittani naham
Chidananda rupeya sivoham
sivoham.”

When the words are separated, the first line comes:

Deha, indriya, manh, buddhi, ahankara, chittani na aham.

Deha is body; indriyas means senses; manah is the stream of thoughts that doubt, consider and discard various options in any matter; buddhi is the stream of thoughts which are decisive.

Chitta is the stream of thoughts involved in reasoning, analysing and inquiring and speculating.

Ahankara is the I — consciousness present in every being and naaham means “I am not.”

The first line means “I am distinct from the body in which I dwell, from the senses through which I perceive, from the manah, buddhi and chitta constituting my mind with which I think and decide, from the ahankara which gives me consciousness of myself; I am a separate and formless being who is only associated with these entities or I am the soul or jiva.

Then what is the relation between this soul (jiva) and almighty (Shiva)?

The second line gives Sankara’s answer to this. His Advaita (monoism) propounds that jiva, and Siva are one and the same though they appear to be different. The second line states just this, “I am Shiva, who is the form of bliss associated with knowledge (chit-knowledge, Ananda-bliss).”

There is no manobuddhi. This is a compound of two words manah and buddhi. Chitta is the singular and chittani is the plural, encompassing the earlier mentioned items.

The first line above is non-controversial. The assertion in the second line “Shivoham” is a brief statement of Sankara’s Advaita or monoism or bon-dualism. One may argue with it or disagree with it. In fact it is very difficult logically to agree with it or disagree with it. All the later acharyas disagreed with it.

The dispute whether jiva and Shiva are one or not has assumed extreme dimensions which it did not deserve; overshadowing a lot of other precious and undisputed material in Indian spirituality.

Bird watchers primer

It is heartening to see a college student spending his spare time watching birds and persuading his friends to take up bird-watching as a hobby.

An outstanding example is Mehran Zaidi who is yet to do his graduation from Delhi University and came out with a book: Bird by Bird (Scholastic) illustrated by his friend Mohammad Anwar.

It can be described as a primary text book on ornithology because it introduces readers to birds one sees everyday around one’s home, city parks and the countryside. Though most of the material is taken from published material, Zaidi takes pains to make his language easy enough for Indian undergraduates to comprehend and be persuaded to pursue the subject in greater detail.

His little book has been blessed by Ruskin Bond.