Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Emperor Ashoka and Religious Tolerance

The Girnar Rock Edict of Emperor Ashoka, on Religious Tolerance
(Girnar is near Junagarh in Gujrat, and the Edict is inscribed on a rock on the Sudarshan Lake of the Mauryan Emperors. The probable date of the Edict is around 260 B.C.)

"Thus saith His Sacred and Gracious Majesty the King : The King honours all religious sects. His Sacred Majesty does not value gifts and honours as he values the growth of the essential elements of all religious sects. But the root of it is restraint of speech, that is, there should not be honour only of one's own religion and condemnation of other religions. On the other hand, other religions should be honoured too. By doing this, one helps his own religion to grow, and benefits the religion of others too. By doing otherwise, one harms his own religion and injures the other religions too. For whoever honours only his own religion and condemns other religions injures more gravely his own religion. Hence concord alone is commendable, and all should listen, and be willing to listen, to the beliefs professed by others. This is the desire of his Sacred Majesty."

The Age of Transition

This is the age of transition in India's history, transition from feudal agricultural society to a modern industrial society. At present we are neither totally feudal nor totally industrial, but somewhere in between.

This transition period in history is a long, very painful and agonizing period, when the whole society is thrown into turbulence, turmoil, social churning and intellectual ferment. If we study the transition from feudal agricultural to modern industrial society in Europe, which was roughly from the 16th to the 19th centuries, we find that it was full of turbulence, wars, revolutions, social chaos and churning, intellectual ferment, etc, with theories of Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Adam Smith, Voltaire, etc.

It was only after going through this fire that modern society emerged in Europe. India is presently going through this fire. We are going through a very painful period in our history, which I think will last for another 15-20 years or so.

For what is a transition in history ? It is a period when society is being rocked and torn apart, uprooted from its very bottom, and a new modern society is being put in its place. Old values, ideas and customs are being destroyed, and are being replaced with new ones.

Indian society is presently still quite backward, full of casteism, communalism, and superstitions. I gave several examples to prove this. One was of the lady OBC Professor in a College whom I met, and who said that her family was quite liberal, and many family members had married outside her caste. But when I asked her whether she would permit her daughter to marry a scheduled caste boy she firmly said no. This shows that most non-SCs still regard SCs as inferior.

The other example I gave was of the SC Madras High Court Judge who was a colleague of mine when I was the Chief Justice of Madras High Court. His wife told my wife that when they had a love marriage, her relatives performed her funeral rites, and thereafter had nothing to do with her.

Another example is of the 'honour killings' of a SC who marries a non SC in parts of India e.g. in western U.P. and Haryana.

I can give any number of other examples of the backwardness of the vast majority of people in india.

To convert this backward society to a modern scientific one will not be an easy task. It will require tremendous struggles of the masses led by the enlightened, modern minded minority in India. It entails changing the mindsets of 125 crore ( 1250 million) people and making it modern and scientific. Will that be easy ? Not at all. It will require the patriotic, modern minded section in our society to be ready for a long struggle to patiently explain and educate the Indian masses to give up their old, feudal ideas and customs ( casteism and communalism are feudal) and adopt modern scientific ones.

I have said all this not to frighten you all but to tell you realistically of the long, arduous road ahead for Indians.

Sunday, 24 August 2014


A Bihari student was allegedly so badly ragged in Scindia school that he attempted suicide.
 In my opinion ragging is a shameful practice, and must be stopped. It must be understood that a new student in an institution is normally scared and apprehensive as he has come into a new environment. At that time he needs emotional support and help from his seniors, who should tell him not to worry about anything, and give him all help and advice so that he can adjust in the new environment. They should act like elder brothers, and be especially kind and helpful during his early days when he has come into a new environment. Instead, ragging is a cruel practice, which can totally demoralize a sensitive new student, and even drive him to attempt suicide.
  We need not ape all practices of the British, particularly when it is bad, like ragging

Pick Chief Justice of India on merit, and not seniority

The present Chief Justice of India, Justice Lodha, is retiring on 27th September , 2014, and the question now is who should be appointed his successor ?

For quite some time the convention has been to appoint the seniormost Judge after the Chief Justice as his successor. In my opinion now the time has come to do away with this convention as it is often leading to undesirable results which has caused great harm to the judiciary. The Chief Justice of India is head of the judicial family, and an undeserving appointment can cause great harm which may last for several years.

It may be noted that there is no Constitutional provision or even a statutory rule that the seniormost Judge of the Supreme Court should be appointed as the Chief Justice of India.

In England and in the US there is no such rule or convention. In England the convention was that when the Lord Chancellor, who was the head of the British judiciary ( until the Supreme Court was created recently), resigned or died (there was no retirement age) the attorney general was appointed as the next Lord Chancellor. In fact in India in the early years after the promulgation of the Constitution, when a certain Chief Justice of India retired at the age of 65, the then Union law and home minister, Dr. KN Katju asked the then attorney general, Motilal Setalvad, whether he was willing to take over as the Chief Justice. Setalvad replied that he was ineligible as he had crossed the retirement age of 65 ( see Mr. Setalvad's autobiography 'My Life').

In the US there is no such convention of appointing the seniormost Judge of the US Supreme Court as the Chief Justice. In fact some of the outstanding Chief Justices of the US Supreme Court were not even judges of the US Supreme Court when appointed as its Chief Justice. For instance, Earl Warren was the governor of California when he was appointed Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court, and he proved to be one of the most outstanding chief justices, heading the Court which gave historical judgments e.g. Brown vs. Board of Education (1954). The present Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court was not even a Judge of the Supreme Court when he was elevated directly from the DC Circuit Court in 2005 at the age of 50 years as the Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court, and he is proving to be a great Judge ( see his judgment in the Healthcare case).

Perhaps the convention of appointing the seniormost Supreme Court Judge as the Chief Justice of India was adopted so as to keep away any controversies. However, experience has now shown that this convention has proved to be defective, and often results in grave mistakes.

Shanti Bhushan, former Union law minister, and presently a very senior lawyer of the Supreme Court, in an affidavit filed in the Supreme Court has stated that half of the 16 Chief Justices of India, prior to the filing of this affidavit, had been corrupt. Even subsequent to the filing of this affidavit there have been Chief Justices of India, about whose integrity grave question marks were raised. Their names are well known, and need not be mentioned. A Chief Justice of India who retired recently got his sister elevated to his parent high court although she was almost 60 years old ( the retirement age of high court judges being 62) and was widely regarded as undeserving. The Chief Justice of the high court who recommended her name was rewarded by being elevated shortly thereafter to the Supreme Court, while the Judge next in seniority ( who has the highest standard of integrity) who strongly objected in writing to her appointment as she was undeserving,was punished by being denied elevation to the Supreme Court, while his junior was elevated. This is the price which has often to be paid for honesty !

In my opinion the convention of appointing the seniormost Judge of the Supreme Court as the Chief Justice of India should now be given up for the following reasons :

(1) The seniormost judge may be a person of questionable integrity, or may have done wrong things. I have with me a dossier ( given to me by a senior member of the Committee of Judicial Accountability) of one senior judge of the Supreme Court containing documentary proof of his corruption, and yet he was appointed as Chief Justice of India being the seniormost in the Supreme Court. A copy of this dossier had been sent to the President of India and other high authorities before his appointment as Chief Justice, but no heed was paid to it.

(2) The seniormost judge may be a man of integrity, but may be a mediocre person. He, too, should be superseded, and a judge next in seniority, or one even lower down in seniority, if outstanding ( as borne out from his judgments),should be made Chief Justice of India.

I may mention in this connection that when I was appointed as Chief Justice of Madras high court I contacted Justice Venkatachaliah, former Chief Justice of India, and the father figure in the Indian judiciary, to seek his blessings. He told me that some chief justices think that their main job is administrative, and so they get bogged down in administrative work, and neglect their judicial functions. This, he said, was a total mistake and misunderstanding. The main function of a Chief Justice is to give leadership to the Court on the judicial side, by giving outstanding and landmark judgments.

So if a Judge is mediocre he will be unable to give outstanding and landmark judgments, even if he is a man of integrity. In my opinion such a mediocre Judge should be superseded.

(3) If there is an outstanding Chief Justice of a high court, he can be directly appointed as the Chief Justice of India. In this connection it may be mentioned that when the then Chief Justice of Bombay high court, Justice Chagla, who was known to be outstanding, was sought to be directly appointed as Chief Justice of India when the then Chief Justice of India retired, this move was strongly opposed by the then Supreme Court Judges who threatened to resign en bloc, and hence the move could not fructify ( see Justice Chagla's autobiography 'Roses in December'). In my opinion it was highly improper for Judges to give such threats, and Justice Chagla should have been appointed Chief Justice of India, and the Government of India should not have succumbed to such threats. If the Judges resigned, so be it. They could be replaced by others. No one is indispensable.

I have already given the example of the present Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court, Justice John Roberts, who was a Judge of a Court lower than the US Supreme Court ( the DC Circuit Court) when directly appointed as Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court, and he is proving to be an outstanding Chief Justice, though much younger than his colleagues.

At present I know of some outstanding Chief Justices of High Courts whom I regard as deserving to be appointed directly as Chief Justice of India.

In conclusion I repeat : when the present Chief Justice of India, Justice Lodha retires, the Government of India should not go by seniority but choose the fittest person and appoint him as the Chief Justice of India.

(Published in The Times of India on 24/08/2014 : Link )

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Liquor ban in Kerala

The Kerala government has decided to ban sale of liquor in the state in 10 years. In my opinion this prohibition policy is flawed, and will result in increase in crime and deaths by consumption of illicit toxic liquor by poor people.

One is reminded of the experience of U.S.A. where the 18th Constitutional Amendment in 1920 introduced prohibition in U.S.A. This resulted in the growth of the Mafia and other organized criminal gangs which did widespread bootlegging. Ultimately it was realized that prohibition was counter productive and had failed. Consequently by the 21st Constitutional Amendment prohibition was done away with in U.S.A. We must take a lesson from this historical experience.

Poor people often drink to get some temporary relief from their miserable life. So to reduce drinking we have to raise their standard of living and give them a decent life. This does not, of course, mean that rich or middle class people do not drink

To reduce drinking liquor, education is required, not prohibition. Prohibition is only counter productive.

Friday, 22 August 2014

India's basic problem

The basic problem of the country is not how to increase production but how to raise the purchasing power of the Indian masses.

With our huge pool of competent engineers and scientists, and our huge natural resources, we can easily increase production several times. The problem, however, is that of sale of these goods produced. 80% of our people are so poor that they do not have the purchasing power to buy these goods. This is particularly so in view of the high prices of basic requirements like food, which eat up most of the income of most people. Where is the money to buy other goods ? And unless the people have money to buy these goods there will be a glut in the market as the goods will remain unsold.
In classical economics there was a law called Say's Law, named after the French thinker Jean Baptiste Say ( 1767-1832) which said " Supply creates its own demand". This was disproved by the British economist John Maynard Keynes ( 1883-1946) in his famous book ' The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money' ( in brief known as 'The General Theory'), published during the Great Depression of 1929-1939.

So our thinkers must seriously consider and find out a viable solution to the problem of how to raise the purchasing power of the Indian masses.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

How to be true Indians

This is the modern age of equality To be true Indians we must change our mindsets and genuinely believe in equality But do most indians genuinely believe in equality ? I am afraid the answer is no. Most Hindus and most Muslims do not genuinely believe in equality. Let me try to prove this.

Let us take Hindus first.

Most Hindus believe that the Scheduled Castes are inferior. The test of this is whether non- SC Hindus would object to their sons or daughters marrying SCs. Most would certainly object, obviously because they regard SCs as inferiors.

I had in earlier posts given two examples. One was about a lady OBC Professor with whom I spoke. She claimed to be liberal and modern minded, but when I asked her whether she would permit her daughter to marry an SC boy she immediately said no. So even the so called backward castes regard SCs as inferior. The other example was of the Madras High Court SC Judge who had married a non-SC lady, and the lady's family performed her funeral rites on her marriage and thereafter had nothing to do with her. Any number of similar examples can be given. In many parts of the country if a non-SC boy or girl marries an SC both are killed as an 'honour ' killing.

Does this not prove that most Hindus do not believe in genuine equality, and regard SCs as inferior ?
Now let us consider Muslims. Most Muslims have castes, and Sayyids, Sheikhs and Pathans regard themselves as superior to Ansaris, Qureshis,etc. and would normally not marry with them, although Islam teaches equality of men. 

Moreover, Muslim Personal Law treats Muslim women as inferior, because while Muslim husbands can orally divorce their wives giving no reason, Muslim wives cannot do so, and have to file a petition in Court which may take several years to decide ( after appeals and second appeals), and then, too, the outcome is uncertain because they have to establish by evidence one of the grounds mentioned in section 2 of the Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act, 1939.

Also, Muslim daughters get only half of what their brothers get to their father's property.

When I said this a fierce attack was made on me by many conservative Muslims alleging that I am against Islam. I have many Muslim friends, and I am not against Islam, but I am certainly against inequality. The Muslim Personal Law is an unjust law as it treats women as inferior, and so it must be abolished ( just as the old Hindu Law was abolished by the Hindu Marriages Act, 1955 and the Hindu Succession Act, 1956).

So if Hindus and Muslims want to become real Indians they must change their mindsets and practice and genuinely believe in real equality. Hindus will become real Indians when they stop regarding SCs as inferior, and marriages between non-SCs and SCs take place on a large scale. Muslims will become real Indians when marriages between the so called 'upper caste' Muslims and 'lower castes' take place on a large scale, and when a large number of Muslims demand abolition of the unjust Muslim Personal Law which treats women as inferior and get it abolished by legislation which abolishes oral divorce and makes Muslim men get a divorce in exactly the same manner, and on the same grounds, as Muslim women. Also, daughters should get the same share as their brothers to their father's property.

Until that day arrives, I will not regard most Hindus and most Muslims as real Indians.

I know I will be fiercely criticized for saying this, but that does not matter. I have been called a maverick, a publicity seeker, a crazy person, a person with a hidden agenda, and even a dog ( by one Chief Minister) in the past, so by now I am quite used to such vilifications and abuses. I will continue saying what I regard as in the national interest.

Saturday, 16 August 2014

God help this country

I met a friend who is head of an educational institution in Meerut today. He told me that he recently held an interview of persons who applied for the posts of lecturers, Assistant and Associate Professors in his college. The applicants all had a master's degree, some even pursuing Ph.D.

One candidate was asked who is Maneka Gandhi ? The answer : daughter of Mahatma Gandhi. When my friend asked are you sure, he said daughter of Indira Gandhi. 

Another candidate was asked who is the President of U.S. A. ? Answer : Osama. When my friend asked, please think again, he said Barack Osama.

Another candidate was asked, who is the Vice President of India ? Answer : Raj Nath Singh. 

Another candidate was asked who was the Prime Minister of India ? Answer Pranab Mukherji. Another candidate was asked what is the colour of the Indian flag ? Answer, red. 

Similar howlers were given by many applicants. And these are persons wanting to become lecturers, Assistant and Associate Professors ! God help this country.

Spirit of Sanskrit

In Chennai in a speech I had said that it is the spirit of Sanskrit which unites India. Several people have asked how can Sanskrit unite us as a nation when it is spoken or known by less than 1% people in India ?

It is true that very few people speak or know Sanskrit in India today. But I had spoken of the spirit of Sanskrit, not Sanskrit itself. What is this spirit ? It is the spirit of free thinkers, the spirit of the questioning mind, which questions everything.

The range of subjects dealt with in Sanskrit literature is remarkable, it covers subjects like philosophy, science, law, grammar, literature, etc.

For instance, in philosophy Sanskrit literature covers a very wide range, wider than even the ancient Greeks, from total atheism of the Charvaks to the most religious views of Vedanta etc.
I have written about all this in my article ' Sanskrit as a language of Science '

Unfortunately those who criticized my view think that Sanskrit is only a language of chanting mantras in temples or religious ceremonies. But, as I have pointed out in my article, that is only about 5% of Sanskrit literature. The remaining 95% or so has nothing to do with religion. How many people have heard of Aryabhatta, Sushrut, Vijnaneshwar or Panini ?

If India is to progress our people must develop the scientific questioning and rational attitude which is found in 95% of Sanskrit literature.

Friday, 15 August 2014

Dargah of Hazrat Amir Khusro

Went to the Dargah of Hazrat Amir Khusro in Delhi yesterday evening for the Urs Mubarak. Visited Sheikh Nizamuddin Aulia and Hazrat Amir Khusro's dargahs (they are next to each other in the same compound), and placed chaadar on them. Just in time for the dua prayers. Then went to the qawwali, after which I gave a short speech praising the sufi saints who made such a great contribution to our composite culture and spread the message of universal love and toleration. I was taken around by Farid Nizami, son of the head of the Dargah. Salman Chishty of Ajmer Sharif Dargah was with us.

I asked about the significance of Urs. I was told it is the death anniversary of the sufi saint, but it is celebrated as a wedding because after the whole life's service to mankind the saint goes to see God on his death. Thus his life's wish is fulfilled.

I was shown the photograph of Pt. Nehru with my grandfather Dr. Katju at the dargah. It must have been taken in the early 1950s when my grandfather was Union Home and Law Minister in Pt. Nehru's cabinet

(Pandit Nehru speaking at the Urs of Hazrat Nizamuddin Aulia. Dr. Kailash Nath Katju sitting in the middle)
I love going to dargahs ( which are shrines built on graves of sufi saints) because they unite Indians. In temples only Hindus go, in mosques only Muslims go. but in dargahs all go. So Dargahs unite us, and I love whatever unites us.

Amir Khusro ( 1253-1325) was the Michelangelo of India. He was a Sufi mystic, and disciple of Hazrat Sheikh Nizamuddin Aulia. He is an iconic figure in Indian cultural history, having made contributions in several fields, a few of which are enumerated below :

1.He is perhaps the first poet in Hindi ( also called Hindvi), though he also wrote poems in Persian
2.He introduced ghazals in India, having borrowed this poetic form from Persian
3. He is the father of qawwali, a form of spiritual music often sung in dargahs
4. He invented the musical instruments sitar and tabla

It is said that once the great Sufi saint Sheikh Nizamuddin Aulia was standing on the bank of the Jamuna in Delhi with his disciple Amir Khusro. On seeing some Hindu worshippers bathing in the Jamuna Sheikh Nizamuddin Aulia said ( in Persian ) :

: Har qaum raast raahe
Din-e-wa qibla gaahe"

" Every people have a pole (qibla) to which they turn "
( Qibla means the direction a Muslim should face while saying his prayers i.e. towards the Holy Kaaba in Mecca)

Amir Khusro immediately supplied the second line of the couplet :
" Man qibla raast kardam
Bar samt kaj kulahe "
" I however turn my face
Towards the tilted cap "
( Nizamuddin Aulia used to wear a tilted cap)

The verse means that I am a sufi like my master.

It is a pity that many Indians do not know about Amir Khusro, who is a giant in our cultural history.