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Payment of monthly honorarium to religious workers by Govt. of AP –Will it stand Judicial scrutiny

By: K. Sahadev

The Government of Andhra Pradesh has issued orders vide GENERAL ADMINISTRATION (SC.I) DEPARTMENT G.O.MS.No. 52 Dated: 14-05-2021, enhancing financial support to the religious workers in places of worship of two important religious communities of the State viz., Hindus, Muslims. In the case of Christians, it is a new scheme. It leaves out three other minorities- Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists.

The present G.O cites “ensuring religious harmony” in the state as the main objective of payment of monthly honorarium to religious workers of different religions. The G.O. further mentions extension of payment to functionaries working in churches is similar to the support being given to the Archakas working in temples and Imams/Muezzins working in mosques. However, this is a false comparison as the G.O. very clear states that quantum of payment to Archakas is based on grade of the temple, which in turn depends upon income generated by the temple. It clearly means that Hindu temple archakas are NOT paid out of public exchequer.

The Scheme for Payment of Honorarium to Imams and Muezzins of Mosques in Andhra Pradesh commenced in June 2016. The G.O. mentions that:

The scheme for payment of Honorarium to the selected Imams and Muezzins of the non-income earning Masjids in the State of Andhra Pradesh is intended to support the Andhra Pradesh State Waqf Board since the Board is not in a position to meet the expenditure. The Andhra Pradesh State Waqf Board shall take steps to strengthen the respective Waqf institutions to attain self-sufficiency to meet the expenditure.

The latest order marks the beginning of state funding of religious workers in Andhra Pradesh. Promoting communal harmony was not the objective stated at in 2016. The new G.O. not only increased the quantum of payment for Muslim religious workers but also introduced payment of monthly honorarium for Christian religious workers. But by including the enhancement of honorarium for Hindu archakas in this G.O., an impression is sought to be given out that even they are being paid out of state exchequer, which is factually incorrect. State is yet to show any concern towards Hindu archakas rendering their services in temples without any income. On the contrary, state is meddling with Hindu religious institutions through legislation and administrative actions by arbitrarily fixing the remuneration of Archakas, grading of temples, appointing Executive Officers, interfering in dharmic rituals of temples, disposing off temple assets etc.

CAN PUBLIC FUNDS BE USED FOR PAYMENT TO RELIGIOUS WORKERS?

This raises the larger question whether the public money can be used to pay individuals of a particular religion with the purported objective of ensuring communal harmony?

In 2012, the Government of West Bengal issued instructions for payment of monthly honorarium to Imams in mosques. The decision was challenged in Calcutta High court (W.P. No. 358 of 2012) and the decision of the government was quashed. The highlight of the judgement are:

1) The State Government cannot spend any money for the benefit of few individuals of a particular religious community ignoring the identically placed individuals of the other religious communities since the State cannot discriminate on the ground of religion in view of the Article 15 (1) of the Constitution of India.

2) The State Government by providing funds for making payment of honorarium to the Imams and Muezzins has acted in clear violation of the provisions enshrined under Article 14 and 15 (1) of the Constitution of India.

3) No exercise has been made by the Competent Authority of the State Government to ascertain the financial condition of various other members of the Muslim community as well as members of other religious communities before taking the decision for issuing the impugned memorandum.

4) The public purpose mentioned in Article 282 cannot be a purpose which offends the provisions of Article 14 and 15 (1) of the Constitution of India.

5) Imams and/or Muezzins are few individuals of the Muslim community and attached with the mosques. Decision to provide honorarium to the said individuals cannot serve the general interest of the community as a whole.

6) We hold that the impugned memo issued by the State Government is not only discriminatory in nature being violate of Article 14 of the Constitution of India but the same also discriminates on the ground of religion which offends Article 15 (1) of the Constitution of India.

7) We are constrained to hold that the grants made by the State Government for providing honorarium to the Imams and Muezzins were not for the public purpose as mentioned in Article 282 of the Constitution of India

8) Hon’ble Supreme Court in the case of Sri Divi Kodandarama Saram & Ors. Vs. State of A. P. & Ors., reported in 1997 (6) SCC 189 considered the payment of salary to ‘Archaka’ of Hindu Temple. In the aforesaid decision, Hon’ble Supreme Court made it clear that public fund cannot be utilised for the purpose of making payment of Archakas and trust looking after the temple was advised to collect donation from the public to defray the expenses.

9) No provision has however, been made in the Constitution authorising the State Government to make payment of the honorarium to few individuals of a particular religious community. As a matter of fact, Government cannot spend any money for the benefit of few individuals of a particular religious community to the exclusion of the members of the other religious communities in view of a specific provision of Article 15 (1) of the Constitution.

10) The concerned Executives of the State Government have squandered public money by releasing funds to the Wakf Board for the purpose of making payment of monthly honorarium to the Muezzins even in absence of any government order under Article 166 of the Constitution of India. We take strong exception for spending money even in absence of appropriate government order under Article 166 of the Constitution of India.

Thus it is very clear that payment to religious workers from public funds has been held to be “squandering of public money”. The objective cited in the Govt. of AP G.O. i.e., “communal harmony” also fails to stand judicial scrutiny in view of observation (5) cited in the above judgement. The judges have clearly held that payment to few individuals of a particular community does not serve the interests of all members of that community, leave alone serving promotion of inter-faith communal harmony.

The judgement also referred to a judgement of the Hon’ble Supreme Court in a matter of payment of honorarium to Imams. The hon’ble court clarified that the scheme formulated by the SC was for payment of a uniform scale of salary to Imams from the income of the respective state Wakf Boards and not public funds.

The Hon’ble Supreme Court in the aforesaid decision never directed the State Government or the Govt. of India to take the responsibility for making payment to the Imams who are admittedly performing the duty of leading the community prayer in the mosques.

KERALA HC JUNE 2021:

June 2021, the Kerala High Court on Tuesday asked the state government, why they were financing a religious activity while considering a petition against the former’s decision to provide pension to madrasa teachers in the state. The order was  issued on a petition filed seeking to quash the Kerala Madrasa Teachers’ Welfare Fund Act, 2019, which is passed for disbursing pension and other benefits to madrasa teachers.

This is an ongoing case but it is pertinent to note that courts have consistently upheld the view that governments cannot finance any religious activity and such actions are unconstitutional. Article 46 of the Directive Principles of State Policy enshrined in the Constitution of India call upon the state to “promote with special care the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections of the people”.

Anomalies observed in recent payment of honorarium to religious workers in Andhra Pradesh:

In May, 2020, the Government of Andhra Pradesh made a one-time payment to religious workers who are facing hardship and distress of various religious institutions, as a measure of relief arising out of break out of COVID-19 Pandemic. A sum of Rs.33.92 crores was sanctioned out of Disaster Relief funds. The ratio of religious workers to population of that religion as per 2011 was highly irrational. While Christians constituted 1.39 % of the population of AP, Christian religious workers received 43.99 % of total amount paid out. Every 24th Christian in the state is a religious worker, if we go by 2011 census figures for the state of AP.

ANDHRA PRADESH – ONE TIME PAYMENT FROM DISASTER RELIEF FUNDS TO RELIGIOUS SERVICE RENDERERS – RELIGION-WISE FIGURES OF BENEFICIARIES VIS-À-VIS STATE POPULATION

POPULATION OF AP as per Census 2011% OF POPULATON% OF BENEFICIARES: TOTAL BENEFICIARIESTOTAL BENEFICIARIES
HINDUS4,48,75,69890.86 %45.70 %31,017
MUSLIMS36,17,7137.33 %10.31 %7,000
CHRISTIANS6,82,6601.39 %43.99 %29,841
OTHERS2,10,7280.42 %0.00 %0
TOTAL4,93,86,799100.00 %100.00 %67,858

This lead to a peculiar situation wherein, in some areas, the number of Christian religious workers was more than the actual number of Christians in the area. Sample figures from Prakasam district:

MANDALCHRISTIANSNO. OF PASTORS
Naguluppalapadu8475
Ballikurava8449
Pedda Aravidu1633

In addition, data obtained through RTI queries on the details of Christian religious workers who were paid honorarium showed that 60 % of Christian pastors in the sample were holding Hindu community certificates. This raised many questions and exposed a lack of strict scrutiny in the processing of applications for sanction of honorarium to religious workers.

RELIGIOUS COMPOSITION OF CHRISTIAN PASTORS WHO RECEIVED ONE TIME HONORARIUM FROM GOVT. OF AP

(Sample size 347)

CHRISTIAN39.19%
HINDU-SC42.94%
ST1.44%
HINDU-OBC9.51%
HINDU-OC4.32%
NA2.59%
TOAL100%

The present G.O. has laid out 3 eligibility criteria that have to be fulfilled by the applicants to be considered under the scheme.

(a)  Church should be registered under the Societies Act;

(b)  Land should be registered in the name of Church;

(c) The institution should not have any other source of income.

This is in addition to the existing conditions of the Christian religious worker holding a Christian community certificate and being a qualified Christian religious worker. However, the additional eligibility criteria have not gone down well with the Christian religious worker community. In videos and social media posts, they have been pointing out that most of the churches are not registered as societies and they have been functioning from premises owned/taken on rent by the religious worker on an individual basis. In some cases, the churches are functioning from structures raised on public land.  Christian community elders expressed the opinion that not more than 1,000 Christian religious workers will meet the criteria and thus eligible to receive a monthly honorarium. Well established churches, popularly known as mainline churches pay monthly salaries, have regular postings/transfers and promotions. Religious workers from such churches will be out of the purview of the present scheme.

Thus it will be interesting to see whether the present scheme, as outlined above, will stand judicial scrutiny if and when challenged in a court of law. Also, it will be keenly observed whether the government will heed the concerns raised by the Christian community and relax existing eligibility criteria.

Source:

https://www.organiser.org/Encyc/2020/9/10/Andhra-Pradesh-70-percent-Christian-pastors-who-received-govt-honorarium-hold-SC-OBC-caste-certificates.html

Communist China failed to destroy Dalai Lama, not learnt any lesson: Human Rights activists

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has failed to force Tibetans from following the Dalai Lama, even as Beijing deprives the Tibetans of their legitimate civil and religious rights, according to human rights activists.

Communist China’s claim over Tibet is also based on historical lies, even though military power and authority have been used to clamp down on facts about occupied Tibet, even as Beijing continues to demonise the Dalai Lama through fake narratives, the activists said. They were speaking at a webinar on “Communist China and its Failure to Destroy the Institution of the Dalai Lama: Lessons for the Future” organised by New Delhi-based think-tank Law and Society Alliance and geopolitical magazine Defence Capital.

Joining the event from Geneva in Switzerland, Ms Thinlay Chukki, a Special Appointee for Human Rights at the Tibet Bureau, said Tibet was militarily occupied by the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in 1949 as part of its expansionist agenda.

“Since then, China has constantly tried to destroy the institution of the Dalai Lama,” Chukki said.

The Dalai Lama has been the political ruler of Tibet at least since 1642, with nearly 500 years of a Tibetan government under the institution of the spiritual leader, she said.

“For China, usurping the powers of the Dalai Lama marks the first step towards the consolidation of the CCP’s power. When His Holiness was forced into exile from Tibet, Mao Zedong lamented saying that China had lost the entirety of Tibet. Only if the Dalai Lama were in control of the Chinese, would their military conquest of Tibet gain some sort of legitimacy,” she said.

Chukki blamed present Chinese President Xi Jinping for projecting CCP’s ideological battle in Tibet as a national security concern for the PRC due to Tibetans’ unique culture, language, and identity. She pointed out that in 1994, the United Nations compiled a special report after the visit of the special rapporteur on religion to China in which it was noted a consistent attack and persecution of Buddhists was in progress in Tibet.

“The Tibetan Buddhists are persecuted for even possessing a photograph of the Dalai Lama because the CCP feels that the spiritual leader, who embodies compassion, posed a greater threat to Beijing’s rule over Tibet, as the religious figure symbolizes a legitimate government of the Tibetans, even though in exile.”

She said the international community needs to keep an eye on Communist China’s actions. Because, this oppression was not just confined to Tibet, under CCP rule, as a recent report by Freedom House stated.

“By taking control of the institution of the Dalai Lama, CCP is also trying to exert influence Tibetan Buddhists settled in all parts of the world. This includes those in states such as Ladakh, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, apart from nations such as Nepal, Bhutan and Mongolia.”

Washington DC-based International Campaign for Tibet’s Interim Vice President and International Director for Outreach Ms Tencho Gyatso said the present Dalai Lama’s actions and sacrifices over these 70-odd years have only deepened the Tibetan people’s connection with the spiritual leader. “The Dalai Lama now represents the whole of Tibetan culture, religion and nationhood.”

She said Communist China has attempted to rewrite all of Tibet’s historical narratives. “The Chinese government calls the Dalai Lama ‘a wolf in sheep’s clothing’. The CCP has indulged in mass cover-ups of the atrocities it perpetrates in Tibet and on the Tibetans, just as it has tried to erase the Tiananmen Square massacre, as though it never happened.”

Gyatso said despite the CCP’s best efforts, the bond between the Tibetans and the Dalai Lama has only grown stronger.

“Young Tibetan monks that have been forced to grow up under the oppressive Chinese regime and have never even seen the Dalai Lama. Yet, their allegiance and spiritual connection to him are unbelievably strong. Over 150 Tibetans have self-immolated and called for the freedom of Tibet.”

Gyatso noted that while Tibetans enjoyed full freedom in India, a democratic nation, this freedom was impossible to imagine for those Tibetans currently under the CCP’s rule.

“Tibetans in Tibet today have to deal with a strictly regulated society. There are cameras everywhere and any display of Tibetan culture, language or loyalty to the Dalai Lama is dealt with very harshly.”

She said the final straw was the atheist CCP trying to control the process of selection of the next Dalai Lama by introducing laws that Tibetan Buddhists are forced to follow.

“Besides, the CCP leaders these days are talking about the idea of Sinicization of Tibetan Buddhism – that is, Buddhism with Chinese characteristics,” she added.

Gyatso noted that several democratic nations globally, including the United States, are now supporting the idea of a successor to the Dalai Lama, as chosen by the present spiritual leader and that CCP would have no say in it. “This position has been supported in the US administration’s Tibetan Policy and Support Act that threatens to penalise any Chinese authority that interferes with the institution of the Dalai Lama.”

Veer Savarkar: The unsung Hero of our Freedom struggle

By: Shambu Nashipudi

The 30th President of America Calvin Coolidge once said, “A nation that forgets its heroes will itself soon be forgotten.” and our nation is guilty of this crime. Indian History is perhaps more about the missing pages about Nationalist Heroes, whose lives should have been a must read for all Indian. Yes, bulk of the blame lies with Marxist propagandist, sorry historians, but can we completely absolve ourselves for remaining inert?

Sri Aurobindo Ghosh, Subhash Chandra Bose and Veer Savarkar were the few prominent ones whom the British dreaded for their revolutionary thoughts and armed struggle. Unfortunately, the same narrative continued even after Independence under the dispensation of Nehru and ecosystem of Left-Liberals.

Albeit propaganda has its own limitations. Savarkar’s thoughts and ideas have again started capturing imagination of thinking class but in popular memory and discourse, Savarkar still remains either maligned or ignored. A new generation of scholars, writers are now attempting a course-correction in their own humble ways.

The story of Savarkar and his nationalism goes back to his childhood days, when the hanging of Chapekar brothers by British govt in 1890’s traumatized the young Savarkar, who would vow before Goddess Durga that he would strive to ensure Bharat is independent from the clutches of foreign occupation.

The seeds of patriotism sown in childhood days were blossoming into a plant that would grow up into a giant banyan tree. Savarkar traveled to England to study Law on a scholarship and his revolutionary activities started to take shape. He was arrested in London in 1910 on charges of inciting revolt and violence against the British and was deported back to India. What followed was 50 years of imprisonment and transportation for Life to the dreaded Cellular jail in Andaman & Nicobar Islands.

Apart from being a true Nationalist, Savarkar was a historian par excellence. In 1908, at the young age of 26, Savarkar wrote the magnum opus ‘The First War of Independence – 1857’. The book remains the most detailed account of the uprising of Indians against the ruthless British rulers. He successfully established the fact that the uprising was a ‘War of Independence’ and not a mere ‘Sepoy Mutiny’ as recorded by the British historains. 

Savarkar wrote “The history of the tremendous Revolution that was enacted in the year 1857 has never been written in this scientific spirit by an author, Indian or foreign.” The book became the inspiration for Indian revolutionaries.

‘My Transportation for Life’ by Savarkar was published in the weekly “Kesari” of the venerated Late Lokmanya Tilak in a series during 1925-26. Savarkar writes about Hindu Muslim relationship in his book Hindu Pad Padshahi, that while the historic enmity between Islamist aggression and Hindu resistance should not be projected into current normal Hindu-Muslim relations but the lessons from history, however, should not be forgotten.

Savarkar was also emphatic and critical about the existing fault lines in Hindu society. He was a fierce rationalist and rejected the birth based varna system. He worked to build places of worship for people from all sections of society.  As a Social reformer, he worked to eradicate many issues ailing the Hindu society like accountability, cast based divisions among Hindus, and proselytization of Hindus to Islam. The fact that there were no ways for Hindu brethren to return back to Dharmic fold agitated him immensely.

Savarkar gave the country the political philosophy of Hindutva and coinage of the term ‘Hindutva’ in his book ‘Hindutva: Who Is a Hindu?’ (1923). He said those who regard this land of Bharat, spread between the river Sindhu in the north and the ocean Sindhu Sagar, Indian Ocean in the south, as their Pitrubhumi (fatherland) and Punyabhumi (holy land) are Hindus.

In the age of political correctness, the fact remains that it was Savarkar who gave Hindutva a definitive shape and without a shred if doubt he remains the philosophical and intellectual fountainhead of Hindu political renaissance.

In the later years Savarkar wrote ‘Six Glorious Epochs of Indian History’ to counter the then accepted view that India’s history was a saga of continuous slavery and defeats by external powers and regimes inimical to culture of the land.

The name ‘Savarkar’ is synonymous with courage, bravery, might and patriotism. True to his name, he was an inspiration to many revolutionaries of Indian’s freedom struggle, starting from Bhagat Singh, RSS founder Dr Hedgewar, Subhash Chandra Bose, among others.

In spite of being a self-proclaimed atheist, Savarkar was a true karma yogi who followed the principles of the Gita in his life.

Britishers confined Savarkar’s spirit to the cells of Cellular jail for over a decade but there is no bigger ignominy to patriots like Savarkar when the nation forgets or ignores the sacrifices of people who laid down their lives for the nation’s greater good.

Veer Savarkar led the country through troubled times. He unapologetically united the Hindus under one flag and gave them an ideology for ages to come. Savarkar said, for a nation to survive it has to reclaim its past. “The nation that has no consciousness of its past has no future.”

The only fitting tribute for Savarkar in the 21st century would be realisation of the nation about the reality of Bharat being a Hindu Rashtra and the emphatic declaration of the same.

Six Sources of Communist Power

By: Sri Sitaram Goel ; Additions by Dr. Rahul Shastri

SIX SOURCES OF COMMUNIST POWER – MYTH, IDEOLOGY, ORGANISATION, FINANCE, CULTURAL NETWORK, USE OF 3 INSTITUTIONS
. . . – Sitaram Goel in Nehru’s Fatal Friendship

. . . [Sita Ram Goelji’s seminal analysis has enduring significance, although some observations have become dated with the fall of Soviet Union. His analysis is presented here edited somewhat to suit the changed times. All additions & comments are parenthesised.]

[IDEOLOGY & ORGANISATION]

Communism is an ideology as well as an organisation. While the ideology perverts and subverts men’s minds, the organisation infiltrates and disintegrates all institutionalised life within a given community.

In fact, there is a dynamic integration between the ideology and the organisation. The prevalence of communist ideology in any sector of social life facilitates the task of communist organizational infiltration ; and communist infiltration, overt or secret, always helps the spread of communist ideology.

This interdependence of communist ideology and organization should never be lost sight of in any correct estimation of communist power and the location of the sources of that power.

With this background, we can proceed to identify the sources of communist power in India.

[MYTH & IDEOLOGY]

… the greatest source of its ideological power is the … Myth.

. . .[Goelji identifies two myths: the Soviet myth and the Spectre of American Imperialism. Points worth considering are: a) there could be many more and b) the election of Biden with left support is bound to complicate their positions on America]

The … Myth … [is] sanctioned, in the final analysis, by something more than mere propaganda by the communists and their allies. The ultimate basis of … [its] acceptance is provided by Marxist thought-categories which are accepted as ‘scientific’ truth even in avowedly anti-communist circles.

…. There are very few people amidst our politically conscious intelligentsia who have been through these categories and realised that they do not interpret the real situation. Our universities are totally dominated by professors and lecturers who regard these categories of thought as incontrovertible and holy truth and who continue to poison generation after generation of our young men and women.

. . . [Goelji goes on to identify the political streams and thought processes that contribute to the strengthening of the Myth]

[THREE PRONGED ORGANISATION]

Now I pass on to communist organisation … Today this organisation enjoys all constitutional and legal rights which democratic India can afford and has become highly respectable in the public eye …

The organisation is three-pronged :– open, camouflaged and secret.

The open organisation consists of what is commonly known as the ìCommunist Party of Indiaî which has a constitution, publishes party manifestos, maintains party organs, publishing houses, a network of party offices, members and paid whole- timers, participates in all sorts of elections and sends its representatives in our Parliament, the State Assemblies and all sorts of local bodies.

The camouflaged organisation consists of what are called ëfrontí organisations, such as the All-India Trade Union Congress, All-India Kisan Sabha, All-India Studentsí Federation, All-India Peace Council, the Progressive Writersí Association, the Indian Peopleís Theatre Association, the National Federation of Women, the Indian Association of Democratic Lawyers, the India-China Friendship Association, the Indo-Soviet Cultural Society, the Congress of Scientific Workers, etc. The fronts build specialised platforms in every walk of our social life, politicalise every non-political issue, create fellow-travellers, use non-political reputations for political purposes, infiltrate, control and influence the government, the press, the universities, political parties and every type of club and association, and organise exchange of delegations with communist countries and communist organisations abroad.

The secret organisation consists of what is popularly known as the ‘underground’ but which the communists call the ‘Tech’. No member of the ‘Tech’ can be recognised as a communist or a fellow-traveller. Their special job is to infiltrate the Armed Forces, the Police, the policy-making organs of the Government, to carry on espionage for the Soviet Government, to carry arms and ammunition and prepare for insurrection, civil war, or coup díetat, whichever method suits the Party in its final bid for power.

[FINANCE:- ORGANISATION, NETWORK & CULTURAL INFLUENCE]

. . . [Goelji identifies Soviet finance that was significant in his time. Today money flows from China, Middle East, Northern Europe and America as well as finance from domestic industry and trade can be scrutinised.]

Ample finances enable the Communist Party of India to maintain : 1) … whole-timers … [including party functionaries, MPs & MLAs]; 2) scores of daily, weekly and monthly newspapers ; 3) … publishing houses and bookstalls; 4) hundreds of party offices… and 5) several hundred professional fellow-travellers clustered around the front organisations.

Enormous amount of money is spent in subsidizing papers …, arranging conferences, festivals, dramas and frequent delegations and missions abroad … [to] allure intellectuals, writers, poets, artists, sports men, publicists, journalists, etc. with the help of money in cases where the ideological pull fails or proves inadequate.

[AIM OF NETWORKS: SPREAD-IDENTIFY-DENIGRATE-DIVIDE]

. . . [The networking thus created has dual use: to spread influence on the one hand and to identify, denigrate and/or divide opponents on the other]

And this tremendous organisational power is used by the communists not only for spreading their ideology, politics and organisational network, but also for denying opportunities to, and character assassination of, all those who are opposed to communism.

While persons, groups and parties amenable to communist ideological influence are attracted into the communist network, persons, groups and parties opposed to communism are set against each other by sheer organisational manoeuvres and whispering campaigns. Today this organisational domination by the communists has assumed serious proportions in India.

[USE OF INSTITUTIONS: UNIVERSITIES, MEDIA & CONGRESS]

. . . [Apart from its own organisations, three institutions in India are extensively used by Communism to further its purposes according to Goelji ]

First of all, our universities are deeply infiltrated by communist professors and student whole-timers. I know many university teachers who openly ‘teach’ communism in their classes. Anyone who tries to oppose them or to carry on some amount of anti-communist work is hounded out and blackened in no time. Thus the nation gets a large number of communised young men and women to run her administration, economy and education, in times to come.

Secondly, the press has, to a very large extent, passed into the hands of the Communist Party. One has only to look a little more closely into the headlines, news items, feature articles and editorials … an iron-curtain is being sprung up round this country, all unknown to people who run the government or the political parties.

Thirdly, the ruling Congress Party [ then ruling ] has been considerably penetrated. Though the Congress Party still swears by Gandhism, its slogans have already become communist slogans for all practical purposes. Many communists and fellow-travellers, such as the Marxist Forward Bloc, are entering the Congress … If the present trend continues, it is absolutely sure that the communists will, in near future, make a bid to capture the Congress organisation and, through it, the country.

What is happening in Israel?

Abhishek Ranga

The Historical walled city of Jerusalem is in again in a midst of a raging crisis.  To understand the present scenario that is fast unfolding and snowballing into a major conflict between Israel and Palestine,  we need to understand the geography of the city. The city of Jerusalem is predominantly divided into 4 different blocks- Jewish block, Muslim block which houses the Masjid Al-Aqsa as referred to by Muslims and as Temple Mount as referred to by the Jews. This predominantly Arab neighbourhood was ‘annexed’ by Israel during the 6 day war or as Israel puts it- was rightfully united with the rest of Jerusalem that has for ages been the epicentre of Jewish Civilisation. The remaining two quarters are the Christian and the Armenian quarters.

Since the ‘annexation’ of East Jerusalem (The Muslim Neighbourhood) by Israel there have been long standing ownership cases that have time and again sparked of violent clashes led by Palestinians who are fully backed by the Hamas- The designated Terror group that operates out of the contested Ġaza Strip.

A land ownership case pertaining to the predominantly Arabic neighbourhood  of Sheik Jarrah of which the judgment was due on May 10th once again led to clashes between the Israeli police and the Palestinians. The Palestinians argue that the ruling could well mean several Palestinian families evicted from their homes. The ruling in the wake of the violent protests have been deferred  according to a latest statement  by the Israel’s Justice Ministry.

The Al-Aqsa Connection

The Masjid Al- Aqsa or Haram esh Sharif (The Noble sanctuary) is the third most holiest site according to Islam. Muslims believe that Prophet Muhammed ‘ascended’ to heaven from here. Though it is officially under the Israeli Govt. – the Jurisdiction of the Masjid is under the Jordanian Waqf. It is also the Holiest site for Jews who are allowed to visit it but prayers by Jews and other Non-Muslims is prohibited inside the complex.

The 35 acre complex has been a hotbed of several clashes in the past and with possible eviction in the Ownership case pertaining to the neighbourhood of Sheik Jarrah tensions have been simmering for a while which reached a crescendo during last week. Israeli police which secures and mans the entire complex anticipating large scale violence had restricted access to the area after clashes broke out in the neighbourhood.

Rampant Stone throwing and rioting was reported From Al Aqsa compound on Friday as mark of ‘protest’ against the forced evictions from Sheik Jarrah With heavy stone pelting the riot police forced their way to disperse the crowd using sten grenades and rubber bullets. When situation spiralled out of hand the police broke into the Al Aqsa mosque which angered the Muslim ‘Ummah’ around the world that have accused the Israel of defiling a holy place in the month of Ramadan.

However, Israelis and independent researchers observed that since a very long time Al-Aqsa was used as a ‘cover’ whenever such law and order issues arose and ‘defiling’ of place was beyond question.

Things took a drastic turn for the worse when Hamas fired over 200 rockets from the Gaza strip into Central and Southern Israel predominantly directed towards Tel Aviv, these attacks have led to the death of 5 citizens and an Indian living in Israel. Dramatic scenes of Israelis running into bomb shelters have emerged on the Social Media. The Iron dome intercepted many missiles that have been fired by Ġaza. The Israeli defence forces have since them launched the ‘ Operation Guardian of Walls’ which is the biggest Air Strikes since 2014. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has reported that the Israeli Missiles have taken down several important hideouts of top Hamas leadership and pounded the building that was supposed to be the HQ of Hamas for Military research and Intelligence.

PM Netanyahu was quoted saying – ‘..this campaign will take time. With determination, unity and strength we will restore security to the citizens of Israel.’

With unremitting fire from Hamas and a determined fightback by Israel, the world watches the sudden military escalation in the Middle East after the much touted Abraham Accords.