Friday, November 28, 2008

Terrorism Mumbai

As we face the challenge of terrorism in Mumbai I wish to reflect on the vicious cycle of retribution and revenge that has resulted in the present conflagration. It is well said that that those who forget the lessons of History are condemned to repeat it. At the time of the division of the nation India chose to be a secular democracy where we gave freedom to all to follow the religion of their choice without infringing on any other persons rights and subject to the laws of the land. Our founding fathers and Gandhi in particular conducted a freedom movement where they worked to have a social reconstructive program me to prepare the nation and its people for freedom. Our constitution has asked the leaders to make a uniform civil code for the people of India based on the best values of all religions. While a Hindu reform bill was passed after a decade of resistance by right wing orthodox parties our first PM was unable or unwilling to push for a similar reform bill for the minority religions mainly for fear of alienating the Muslims. The Muslims of this country at the time of partition were either refugees reduced to penury by circumstances or locals who had no choice but to remain behind. A very small number remained by choice. Gandhi's assassination by persons who preached the ideology of a Hindu state resulted in greater Muslim insecurity. In spite of the best efforts of Nehru the Muslim leadership passed into the hands of the fundamentalists. Over the years the leadership of our country deteriorated and the visionaries were replaced by puny men who made politics their business and winning elections by dividing the people become a norm rather than an occasional aberration. One side appeased the minorities and kept them undeveloped while the other made the majority feel they were victims in their own land. Any division, caste, community, language, religion was handy as long as it gave votes and power. Since the last three decades the cycle of violence in the name of religion has seen a series of events which have been an action and reaction by one community against another. A Masjid destruction was followed by riots was followed by bomb blasts in 1992. Later came series of bomb blasts, attack on Indian Parliament, blast outside temples and mosques and Godhra followed by the Gujarat carnage followed by terror. Coupled with Kashmir issue of militant strikes and expulsions of the pundits vs the human right violations of the army the cycle of retribution and violence seems to be never ending. All religions preach human values and essentially are means for humans to realize the divine within themselves. The core and essence are the same but the man made rituals and practices have resulted in differences which lead one to believe that a particular religion is superior to another. The exclusive ideology leads to an attitude of hatred instead of a positive tolerance.

It is all to easy to say after every terrorist strike that we need to flush them out of their holes as though they were some rats who cannot think for themselves. Terrorists are motivated misguided youth who have been created by circumstances and indoctrination. Nobody is born evil and the natural inclination of all human beings is love and compassion for all. The Mahatma said "An eye for an eye will only make the whole world blind". While this is literally true, today we all have become blind to the fact that we are all responsible for this mindless violence. Our greedy materialistic life style, living on debt and our selfishness is all directly responsible for this cycle of terror. At this moment there will be a cry for retribution and a war like situation with the hawks calling for an attack on our neighbours. The US did that and it created a generation of terrorists. Muslims world over feel victimized and much as we deny it the same feeling occurs in India. Every time innocent youth are rounded up and the whole community is branded as terrorist we are actively creating terrorists. The right wing leadership in the garb of taking bold action against terrorism has repeatedly target ted the innocents and made the whole Muslim community feel unwanted and second class citizens in their own country. Now they are trying to do the same to Catholics in Orissa and Karnataka.

In this debate the issues of vigilance, intelligence gathering, a well motivated and well paid trained police force take a back seat. When will we see through the game that our politicians play? Both sides are equally responsible for this state of affairs. As I see the problem, it needs to be tackled on three fronts. An immediate strengthening of the security and an accountability of the intelligence gathering wings of the nation is required. We need to be a tough but fair democratic state. The people need to voluntarily accept curbs on their freedoms in the interest of safety. The second thing is a complete rejection of politicians indulging in divisive competitive vote-bank politics. The third front is a rejection of a life-style based on mindless accumulation of wealth without caring for people around us. We have and are going on paying the price for our failure on all the above three fronts. Our attitude of indiscipline, and we are like that only has made us a soft state. A failure to see through the nefarious designs of our politicians and a blind aping of western modern life-style are all directly responsible for terrorism in Mumbai today.

At this hour even as our security forces are fighting to save innocent lives, we all need to offer a collective prayer and resolve that we mumbaikars will show our cliched spirit and go back to work and defeat the terrorists designs. But this should not be out of sheer helplessness and lack of choice. We need to pressurize our governments and leaders to give top priority to our security but at the same time create an atmosphere of communal harmony and peace and last but not the least realize that the heartless pursuit of wealth at any cost is also a violent act which will perpetuate the cycle of terror.

Dr. Vispi Jokhi

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Tolerance

Tolerance is a virtue we attribute to our country and we say that we are a tolerant lot. This is juxtaposed against the intolerant races like the elements who resort to violence when they cannot get their way. Is tolerance a positive virtue or is it a negative virtue, a sign of cowardice and weakness. According to the Webster Dictionary and tolerance defined in the context of religious belief is sympathy or indulgence for beliefs or practices differing from or conflicting with one's own. This makes it a negative virtue and sounding more like sufferance. To my mind this is certainly not the correct meaning of the word.

In our earthly existence we come across all kinds of personalities and we mostly react to them on a physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual level depending on our state of knowledge or lack of knowledge about the real Self. There are the seers of the person who are men of peace who are realized souls. To such people we must have nothing but friendly feelings. We must be reverential to them. There are person who are long suffering and miserable due to poverty, hunger, pain and physical and mental ailments. Also there are the poor rich who in the midst of wealth are lonely and neglected, unloved by their near and dear ones. To all these we must react with compassion and give them all the help and love we can. The third category of persons are the achievers and successful persons, who are more talented and endowed with greater prowess than us. For these persons we must be happy for their achievements and look on them as inspirations for us to reach similar heights without seeing them as enemies or competitors. The last category of persons are the ones who hurt us and are evil in their thoughts. We must be indifferent to them without hating them at any point of our association with them. This I think is the positive virtue of true tolerance. A man of wisdom who has gained the ultimate knowledge of the true divine Self or universal consciousness is able to see the unity of creation and for him all differences of class, caste, religion, nationality, gender etc . cease to have any significance. For such a man tolerance comes naturally and it becomes a truly positive virtue. He will accept all of God's creation and exhibit friendliness, compassion, gladness or indifference without hatred as discussed above.

In the context of the world in which we are and in the context of the many conflicts, this tolerance rather than the defined tolerance will work to resolve conflicts. In dealing with all these situations we need one more quality along with tolerance and that is patience. I sincerely believe that tolerance is natural to civilized human beings and it leads to universal love and peace. I will end this piece by quoting the Buddha. "He was angry, he attacked me, he defeated me, he robbed me. Those who dwell on such thoughts can never be free from hatred. For, hatred can never put an end to hatred, only love can. People forget their lives will end soon, but for those who remember all quarrels come to an end." For this to happen positive tolerance will the key to universal peace and brotherhood.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

A Green idea for Mumbai

In response to the issue of climate change and the global food crisis, the question uppermost in the mind of concerned citizens is what can we as individuals do to prevent the catastrophe looming over our heads. The idea on offer is not my original idea but an amalgamation of some of the ideas practically implemented and implementable without a major upheaval in the life of citizens. I feel that garbage disposal is a major issue and a methodology wherein wet garbage separated from the dry garbage and processed at site can be done very easily. The model envisages daily collection of garbage by women from an organization called Stree Mukti Sangathana. These women can be employed for 100 households paying Rs. 50 per month to these women of which Rs. 3000 is given as pay. They can make extra income from the lazy citizen who either gives up his dry garbage or gives his garbage not separated. I envisage a model of terrace or city farming where this garbage is used to directly grow vegetables on the roof top of every building participating in the project. This can be very easily done and in fact Mr R. T. Doshi has done this in Mumbai in his terrace garden in Bandra. The cost of maintaining this garden can be met from the extra Rs.2000 every month collected from the citizens. The veggies harvested can be given to the households in the building proportionately to the number of members in each household. In this way we can help by reducing the problem of acquiring land fills for disposal of garbage. We eliminate the use of fuel guzzling polluting diesel trucks to send the garbage out of the city. We make our house roof tops cooler and reduce consumption of electricity for cooling the house. We make the city greener. We become food producers. We provide employment to destitute women and help them live a life of dignity rather than reduce them to rag-pickers. We will reduce the carbon foot print of the city and earn carbon credits for Mumbai. In short it is a complete win win situation.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Conversion Acceptance

I am writing to express my views about the controversy regarding conversion which has been raised among the Parsi Zoarastrians.
Let me begin by saying that the laws of the universe are truly universal and apply to every cell living or non-living. In these circumstances how is it that we are so unique and different in our outward manifestation? Is this the reason that we have created man made boundaries of religion, language, nation,caste, colour etc.? If these boundaries were rigid and to be followed then God would not have universal laws applicable to all. On the other hand the difference and uniqueness of each one of can be explained as different stages of evolution of each one of us from gross to subtle manifestation from non living to plant to animal to human to divine.
Coming to the aspect of religion. I feel that religion is simply mans interpretation of God i.e. Universal consciousness. Essentially all religions stem from one source and at different times the Lord manifested on earth and guided men to follow certain values. Without exception these values have been universal and have included truth, non-violence and purity in thought word and deed. Conflicts in the name of religion arise when one claims superiority over the other. While one religion actively seeks to coerce and convert the others to its faith, the other seeks to bar anyone knocking at the door of their faith. It is an insult to the memory of the prophets of the various religions to believe that the message given by a prophet was not universal. In my view it seems far fetched and perverse to believe that Zoaraster, Christ, Krishna, Buddha, Mahaveer, Mohammed, GuruNanak and the countless prophets before them and the ones to come spoke only for their own sect or the ones to come will speak for the followers of the religion in which he is born. They all had a message and this message was for all at that time and for times to come. It is a matter of chance that we are born to a set of parents following a particular religion. We are taught the laws of this religion as interpreted by our parents and religious leaders. As we grow we learn about other religions and we use our discrimination and intellect to accept the good or reject the bad in ones religion.
My view that while there is no need to headlong plunge on a course of conversion from one religion to another. However, there is a need to become a good hindu, muslim, sikh, christian, parsi, buddhist, jain etc. i.e. to accept the good values and reject the bad customs. If in this journey, one is attracted to the values of a faith different from the faith of ones birth, there should be no objection to voluntarily convert to that faith. Zoaraster, Christ, Krishna, Mohammed and all the prophets spoke to and spoke for humanity for all times. Laws of religion are open to change and interpretation and like everything in the universe change is essential and inevitable. A seed evolves and becomes a tree and a tree gives the seed. There is no beginning and no end to the universe there is only evolution and involution. Just as the message of the Gita Bible and Koran benefits all, let us allow the Khrodeh Avesta and Gathas benefit all. I am certain that entry of new adherents to Zoarastrianism will enrich both the original Parsi and the new convert. We are not superior to any of Gods creation on the basis of our religion, caste, race or colour. I am a father of a child born with Down’s Syndrome. My daughter does not understand the labels of man made religion so she loves universally. Let us all learn from these children to accept God as one love all our brethren unconditionally. Let us share and propagate the good in our religion and make it truly universal by the force of universal love and inclusion not hate and exclusion.

Dr. Vispi Jokhi