India Insight

Are Muslims of troubled Kashmir treated unfairly by Indians?

Parvez Rasool, a Kashmiri cricketer, was briefly detained in Bangalore on suspicion of carrying explosives, an incident which triggered anger in the Muslim-dominated Kashmir valley.

This is not an isolated case.

Earlier actor and model Tariq Dar, a Kashmiri Muslim, was mistakenly imprisoned in New Delhi for weeks for having terror links. But Dar was later found innocent.

Delhi University lecturer S.A.R. Geelani, a Kashmiri, was even awarded the death sentence in connection with the 2001 Parliament attack case, but was later released.

Are Kashmiri Muslims, weary of decades of violence, treated unfairly by Indian authorities in different parts of the country?

The Kashmiri cricketer’s detention did not go down well in the strife-torn region, where anti-India sentiment still runs deep.

How to get more women into parliament?

As part of its 100-day action plan, the Congress-led UPA government is pushing for the Women’s Reservation Bill, which seeks to reserve 33 per cent seats in parliament for women.

The UPA has also promised to give women 50 percent seats in local government institutions like the village council, up from the 33 percent of seats currently reserved for them.

That measure has  been in place for over a decade and a half. But has it done any good?

Should the Prime Minister be a member of the Lok Sabha?

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is not contesting elections to the Lok Sabha, the lower and popular house of parliament.This is for reasons of health and also because the constitution permits the prime minister to be a member of either of the two houses of parliament.Like Singh, we have had prime ministers from the Rajya Sabha earlier but they sought to get elected to the lower house and succeeded easily.As the de facto head of the government, the prime minister is expected to earn people’s approval directly.Mayawati recently took a dig at Singh over the issue.”This Manmohan Singh has not contested any public election…he was brought back door in Rajya Sabha and made prime minister,” the Bahujan Samaj Party chief said at an election rally.”If Manmohan can become PM, why can’t an educated Dalit woman.”This is possibly the first instance in Indian politics where the sitting prime minister has decided to stay away from the race.But should India’s prime minister be a member of the Lok Sabha?The opposition, after initially trying to make it a poll issue, now seems to have lost the plot.The question keeps popping up on internet discussion boards.FOR– Those who support the idea of a prime minister from the lower house say that a popular vote marks acceptability by the people as compared to someone nominated to the Rajya Sabha.– Such a person having earned the people’s mandate is seen as less susceptible to manipulation.– A person’s performance as an MP is seen as a necessary test of his competence and claim to the top job.– Some even suggest that a prime ministerial candidate should seek election with a pre-announced team, something like the shadow cabinet system in Britain.AGAINST– The most convincing argument against the idea is that the constitution puts no such caveat.– The upper house is seen as a talent pool where competent candidates are sent after consideration. This compensates for impulsive behavior of voters which can sometimes make “good” candidates unelectable. For example, Manmohan Singh lost the 1999 Lok Sabha election from the posh South Delhi constituency.– It is also felt that any prime minister would work according to the party’s ideology, membership of a house being irrelevant to his policies and performance.– Moreover, the prime minister is in any case indirectly elected (by the party MPs), so the argument of his having greater acceptance may not cut much ice.– Some feel that if the person is a representative of the majority party and competent then nothing else should count. Others say the proposal calls into question the very rationale of having an upper house, and therefore, needs to be fleshed out.One comment on the online forum points to the question being a moral rather than a legal one.There are two facts to bear in mind.In the Westminster system of democracy, a prime minister from the upper house would be an anachronism.Secondly, the constitution review commission recognised the lower house’s pre-eminence in its recommendation that the prime minister be directly elected by the house in the event of a hung poll verdict.As for the practical aspect, the Congress is contesting around 400 seats in these elections, and finding a safe seat for a politician like Manmohan Singh, the sitting prime minister, should have been easy.In March, opposition leader L.K. Advani raised the issue at an election rally.”Singh will be more acceptable to the people of India if he decides to fight the elections and go to the Lok Sabha,” he said.Did Advani have a valid point?

Do we need sex-education in schools?

A parliamentary committee, with a varied political membership, recently recommended that there should be no sex education in schools.

Sex even if done at the proper time, with a proper person, in a proper place, is a topic that makes many Indians uncomfortable.

The committee itself refused a power point presentation on the question “after going through the hard copy because of its explicit contents.  The Committee felt that it was not comfortable with it and could be embarrassing especially to the lady Members and other lady staff present.”

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

India and Pakistan: remember Kaluchak?

History never repeats itself exactly, but it does leave signposts. So with India and Pakistan settling into a familiar pattern of accusation and counter-claim following the Mumbai attacks, it's worth remembering what happened after the December 2001 assault on India's parliament brought the two countries to the brink of war. Or more to the point -- thinking about the less remembered follow-up attack on an Indian army camp in Kaluchak in Jammu and Kashmir in May 2002 that nearly propelled India over the edge.

Following the attack on parliament that India blamed on the Laskhar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed, both Pakistan-based militant groups, India mobilised its troops all along the border, prompting a similar mobilisation on the Pakistani side. Then Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf went on national television in January to promise to crack down on Islamist groups; the activities of Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed were curbed, and tensions abated somewhat.

These tensions exploded again in May when gunmen launched a "fedayeen" attack on a camp for army families in Kaluchak, killing 34 people.  (For an Indian version of the Kaluchak attack written at the time, this piece by B. Raman is worth reading.) The Kaluchak attack so outraged India, and particularly the Indian Army, that it came perilously close to war with Pakistan.  The crisis was averted after intensive American diplomacy. 

Hoping for an Oxford degree in India

Now that the proverbial Left monkey is off the government’s back, the country’s education system will be among the sectors on the radar of the administration in its push for reforms.

With more than half of the billion-plus population aged 25 or below and foreign players eager to have a share of the lucrative industry by setting up branches in India, the education sector can potentially bring in a huge amount of foreign investment.

school.jpgAnd for many students who would otherwise be squeezed out of the few elite colleges or would have to study abroad, opening up the system could make world-class education available to them without having to leave the country.

Fix politics before it hurts democracy

As a financial journalist, covering politics and parliamentary debate is sometimes part of my job. What I witnessed on Tuesday in parliament — wads of cash being flashed around inside the lowerhouse– is something I had never bargained for.

sg.JPGThe civil-nuclear deal with the United States will go through, and some reforms may be pushed by the government with the help of
its new allies. But politics will never be the same again, tainted by allegations of bribery and a vulgur display of money power.

Shortly after his government won a convincing victory in parliament, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said the victory sent a message to the world that “India’s head and heart was sound and India is prepared to take its rightful place in the comity of nations.”

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