The Vallasadhya is usually served to the oarsmen of the snakeboats in a ceremonious ritual. Over 45 delicious dishes such as parippu, sambhar, pulisseri, rasam, avial, thoran, kalan, olan, koottukari, pachadi, kichadi, injipuli, pickles etc. are served on plantain leaves including 4-5 varieties of Payasam (pudding). The dishes are served in the background of songs sung to the tune of Kuchelavritham Vanchipattu (songs in praise of the Lord) and as the songs are sung, the participants will demand for a particular dish which will be instantly served. The legend is that in a Vallasadhya, all dishes asked for must be served in order to please the Lord. Over 40,000 people participate and an estimated 3,500 kg of rice is cooked for the feast.
Aranmula temple is one of the five ancient shrines connected with the Mahabharata. Legend has it that Arjuna built this temple, to expiate for the sin of killing Karna on the battlefield, against the dharma of killing an unarmed enemy. According to another legend, the Pandava princes, after crowning Parikshit left on a pilgrimage and in Kerala, each of these brothers installed Vishnu idols on the banks of the River Pampa and nearby places and offered worship. It is said that the idol was brought in a raft made of six pieces of bamboo and hence the name Aranmula came to be known.
2. PM MAKES FRESH APPEAL TO J&K, NAXALS FOR TALKS: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh reached out to the agitating youth of the Kashmir Valley and to the Naxalites in his Independence Day address on August 15, emphasising once again his government's keenness for a dialogue with them. In a 35-minute speech delivered from the ramparts of the Red Fort, Singh said: "Discussion and dialogue are the only options to resolve complex issues."
Singh made a similar appeal to all sections of the troubled Northeast, where in recent months, the blockade of Manipur by Naga groups caused enormous disruption. The Prime Minister underscored that Kashmir was an integral part of India. "Within this framework, we are ready to move forward in any talks which would increase the partnership of the common man in governance and also enhance his welfare," he said.
3. SWATANTRYA IS A RESPONSIBILITY- BHAGWAT: PP Sarasanghachalak Mohanji Bhagwat hoisted the National Flag and offered salute to it, on the occasion of 64th Independence Day at the premises of Rashtrottha Parishat – an RSS affiliated seva organization -- Bangalore. Senior RSS adhikaris Sarkaryavah Suresh Joshi, Sah Sarkaryavah Dattatreya Hosabale, S/s Madandas , MC Jayadev, Mukund, V Nagaraj and Dinesh Hegde, Mahamantri Rashtrotthana Parishat were present on the occasion.
Mohan Bhagwat said “the remembrance of glory of our country twice a year during independence day on August 15 and republic day on January 26 is becoming part of our social life these days. Though it is a happy and good approach in a healthy society, it should not be mechanical. We need focus on the real importance behind these celebrations.
“Even after 63 years of independence, our nation is not out of external & internal problems. Our Prime Minister in his speech listed several issues which are disturbing national integrity. Lack of unity amongst all is also a problem. Kashmir is burning and the exact problem there is not yet specifically diagnosed. Border infiltration is also causing a major threat. Though people are independent they need to focus more on self-discipline to make the society healthier.
“Since 1857 and even earlier to it freedom movement of Bharat has witnessed several inspiring sacrifices. 90 years from 1857 to 1947 were a period of extreme struggle which achieved us independence. After obtaining independence one should realize that independence is a responsibility. In a democratic nation like ours this responsibility is to be shared by all individually and we should not merely finger each time at government or politicians only.
“Meanwhile one has to understand the meaning and importance of the term ‘swatantrya’ and what ‘swa’ stands for? What is the importance of tricolor and Ashok chakra or dharma chakra in our national flag? Saffron represents sacrifice and knowledge; white peace and purity and green symbolizes prosperity. Our nation expects all these 3 aspects equally from every citizen hence one need to focus on self-contribution to the nation in these 3 aspects in each sector of life.
“We became independent in 1947. Rulers were changed. Now we have democracy and we are republic. We got independence to make our society stronger and more prosperous in every aspect. Our works and duties should focus on overall prosperity of the nation. To bring all positive changes required to make our country superior and stronger; all of us should think and work towards it” Bhagwat opined.
4. VHP LAUNCHES HANUMAT SHAKTI JAGRAN: Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) International president Ashok Singhal said in Bhagyanagar (Hyderabad) that they were resuming the Ram Janmabhoomi agitation across the country from August 16 under the banner of the 'Hanuman Shakti Jagran Samithi'. Ashok Singhal said the VHP had decided to take up the agitation from grassroots level and create awareness among the people on the need to rebuild Ram temple in Ayodhya.
The campaign would be steered by saints and seers affiliated to the parishad and not by political leadership. Singhal said the parishad wanted all the political parties to pass legislation in Parliament for construction of the temple in Ayodhya. The young volunteers of the VHP are using the social networking sites to pass on the message among the netizens. The campaign is the beginning of an agitation that the parivar wants to take to its logical end.
5. IMPLEMENT CHITRAKOOT MODEL IN OTHER VILLAGES TOO—MADAN DAS: “The miracle of development witnessed in over 500 villages of Chitrakoot has attracted the attention of entire world. There is a need to implement this model in all the villages. But while doing it we should not let the feeling of arrogance dominate us," said Akhil Bharatiya Pracharak Pramukh of RSS Shri Madan Das. He was speaking at the general body meeting of Deendayal Research Institute (DRI) organised in Chitrakoot on July 25.
Reminding the workers of their growing responsibility after the passing away of Nanaji, Madan Das said they should be vigilant and accelerate the work for welfare of the society. He stressed the need to involve villagers in the planning process to achieve better results of the schemes.
DRI president Virendrajit Singh stressed need to promote team spirit. Principal Secretary of DRI Bharat Pathak pointed out that Nanaji wanted to create the picture of entire Bharat in Chitrakoot and the DRI is working on that project.
Former vice president of DRI and noted thinker, Devendra Swarup Agrawal said: "There is a need to bring the whole personality of Nanaji before the society. The reminiscences of Nanaji being collected will show the way to the new generation."
6. SAMSKRIT BHARATI LAUNCHES BHASHA VYUTPATTI YOJANA: There are few people who can write and speak Sanskrit fluently and mistake-free. Rest do it to show off their own knowledge and not for publicising the language. To do away with this problem, the Samskrit Bharati has started Bhasha Vyutpatti Yojana to train the new generation which will be the frontrunner in popularising the language. Nineteen students from 10 different states have been selected for the project. They can read and write Sanskrit and have graduated with good marks. They will be trained in ten months for delivering the language in pure form.
Prof Ramsalai Dvivedi of Lal Bahadur Shastri Rashtriya Sanskrit Vidyapeeth and Dr Shreedhar Vashistha of Ramkrishna Dalmiya Shreevani Trust endorsed the importance of the project and offered their help. Delhi MLA Ramakant Goswami inaugurated the project on July 30. Suryanarayan Rao, President Samskrit Bharati Trust, Prof Chandkiran Saluja, President Karyagana Samskrit Bharati, Prof Upendra Rao from JNU and S Natarajan, president Kamakshi Temple Trust were amongst the distinguished audience.
7. GRAND DANCE SPECTACLE AT THANJAVUR: On September 25, the open space around the epic sculpture of the Nandi (the Bull) in the Rajarajesvaram temple at Thanjavur - popularly called the Brihadisvara or the Big Temple - will witness a grand dance spectacle. One thousand dancers from different parts of Bharat and abroad will come together to perform Bharatanatyam to celebrate the 1,000th year of the building of the temple by Raja Raja Chola.
The "Brhan-Natya Yagna" ((brhan in Sanskrit means big) is being jointly organised by the Association of Bharatanatyam Artistes of India (ABHAI) and the Brhan Natyanjali Trust, Thanjavur.
8. WAVES INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE IN PORT OF SPAIN: World Association for Vedic Studies (WAVES) has held a successful Eighth International Conference in Port of Spain, Trinidad-Tobago from August 4 to August 7, 2010, with the support of a number of organizations in Trinidad-Tobago (TT)
Dr. Suraj Ratan Rambachan, TT Minister of Foreign Affairs, delivered the keynote address at Diwali Nagar of NCIC, and underscored that there could be no clashes of civilizations in a global society when governed by the Vedic precept of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam. HE Malay Mishra spoke of the unity of religion and culture in all societies and commended the institution of Ministry of Multiculturalism in TT. Mr. Mishra also hosted a banquet which was graced by the First President of TT, His Highness Sir Ellis Clarke,
Working in close collaboration with WAVES 2010 was the First International Conference on Ayurveda organized by the Bharaitya High Commission, in coordination with the Mahatma Gandhi Institute and the University of West Indies, Mt. Hope Campus. The Ayurveda Conference had participation from experts from various parts of the world including Bharat, and deliberated on Ayurveda as an Alternative Medicine System.
Over 100 scholars of Vedic studies and practicing Vedic scholars participating in WAVES 2010 covered a variety of topics related to the evolution of languages and cultures since Vedic times, the validation of Vedic wisdom by a number of scientific disciplines such as genetics, biology, neurosciences and consciousness studies. The central theme was the significance of Vedic knowledge for civilizational harmony and continued relevance of Vedic traditions for present times.
Scholars who participated in the Conference included: David Frawley, Jeffrey Armstrong, Rajiv Malhotra, Sethuraman Rammohan, Subhash Kak, S. Kalyanaraman, Nicholas Kazanas, Oleg Perzashkevich, Kalidas Shetty, Ved Nanda, Sampadananda Mishra, Kaushal Vepa, Shekhar Sastri, Sampada Savardekar. There were presentations in the Youth section by Eshan Kejriwal, Arnav Kejriwal and Kavita Pallod.
9. A PAGE FROM MY EXPERIENCE AS A VISTARAK: From July 13 to August 1, after the Midwest SSV where I was a shikshakh, I was a vistarak in North and South Carolina, during which I spent time in different homes, planning and conducting activities with local swayamsevaks. From Raleigh to Columbia to Charlotte and back, I met a number of swayamsevaks and stayed the night at eight different homes. One evening while I was in Columbia, Sabariji, Meghnaji, Debjitji, and I attended a dinner thrown by a friend of Sabariji. There I met some kishores, one of which, Arjun, comes regularly to shakha and conducts activities. The other four do not come at all but are close friends of his. This was a familiar setting for me – they were my age and we talked about things I would talk to with my friends. I told them about myself and asked them about shakha; they told me about their lives in Columbia and how they lost interest in shakha and stopped going. As we continued getting to know each other, I built a nice rapport with them; however, this was no major feat. In the comfortable social setting, I forgot why I had come to Columbia – to be a vistarak. I should’ve taken that friendly nonchalant conversation to a deeper level and diagnosed the reason for their shakha absence. Perhaps they feel bored and peerless at a shakha with a mostly bala gana, and thus don’t feel the value in waking up early for shakha – a reasonable excuse. If this was the case, that evening itself, I should’ve prompted the teenagers to consider taking a session at shakha or starting a shakha for kishores – something to get them involved again. However, the conversation that evening remained at the surface level and did not reach the maximum potential it could’ve. Nevertheless, later in the week, Arjun and I met to discuss some of these issues that I should have brought up that evening. We plan to conduct a Hindu Heritage Camp on October 2, targeting two age groups: bala and kishore, while the primary focus will be on the kishore. Afterwards, with the kishore gana at the camp, we will start conducting a regular shakha for kishores. (Aman Sharma, firstname.lastname@example.org, HSS short term Vistarak in USA shares his thoughts during the vistarak period )
10. OVERSEAS FRIENDS OF BJP-USA has strongly objected to the statement made by the Prime Minister of Bharat, Dr. Manmohan Singh, about granting autonomy to Kashmir saying that an insidious attempt is being made by the Congress party to divide Bharat on religious lines. Dr. Surinder Kaul, Chairman of OFBJP’s Jammu & Kashmir Cell, has said that the Bharatiya Americans are closely monitoring the unfolding situation in J & K, and are very concerned as J & K Government has completely buckled under the pressure of separatists. Chandrakant Patel, OFBJP organizing secretary, expressed deep concern that the separatists are now forcibly using the young innocent children as an instrument in their diabolical plans.
OFBJP has strongly condemned the recent arrests of displaced Kashmiri pundits in Delhi who were peacefully demonstrating against secessionists.
Mr. Jayesh Patel, OFBJP president elect, summarized that Bharatiyas all over the world are opposed to the idea of autonomous Kashmir as it is unquestionably the integral part of Bharat.
11. CLOUDBURST and FLASH FLOODS in LEH (J & K) - APPEAL for RELIEF -2010: The worst CLOUDBURST in Leh , and subsequent flash floods, triggered by sudden overnight heavy rain on the 6 August 2010, have resulted in killing approximately 150 people as per latest report and over 500 people are reported missing. Five villages – Nimmo, Basgo, Shapoo, Faing and Ney, apart from Choglamsar and Leh town have been very badly hit, where all communication systems, bus stands, Hospital and many other buildings have been washed away. Leh airport inundated with mud and water has been rendered un-operable.
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12. CBI’s CYNICISM EXPOSED: Plea to transfer case a motivated move -- The Central Bureau of Investigation’s plea to shift the Sohrabuddin ‘false’ encounter case outside Gujarat on the pretext that the atmosphere is ‘not conducive’ in the State and hence ‘fair’ trial is not possible is fit to be trashed. The investigative agency is now indulging in nit-picking by saying the status report it has filed before the Supreme Court does not make any such categorical demand. The fact is that the report is believed to have claimed the “atmosphere is not conducive” for holding trial in the State. Under attack for serving more its political masters in New Delhi than the cause of justice, the CBI has only lived up to its dubious image of being a Congress tool to settle political scores. How is the CBI so certain that a fair trial cannot take place in Gujarat when proceedings have not even begun, leave alone the case going to trial? In fact, the CBI plea came just five days after it filed a chargesheet in the case, and in the midst of questioning the accused, including Gujarat’s former Minister of State for Home, Mr Amit Shah. The case still has some way to go before actual trial proceedings begin. In the meantime, what indications has the CBI received for it to conclude that it will get a raw deal in the State? It must provide specific details and not take refuge in vague statements like the atmosphere there is “not conducive” for a proper trial. Just because the CBI is seen by many in Gujarat as being biased does not mean the State’s judiciary will be persuaded by popular opinion. If the agency’s convoluted logic is applied across the country then hundreds of cases would have to be transferred from various States.
It is not surprising, therefore, that the CBI’s absurd pleas has angered Gujarat’s legal fraternity. Both the Bar Council of Gujarat and the Gujarat High Court Bar Association have slammed the CBI for its crude remark; it has been pointed out that the agency is plotting to arm-twist witnesses to extract fabricated statements after getting the case transferred to another State. Given the manner in which the CBI has conducted its inquiry till now, this is a credible explanation for its strange demand. Even if for the sake of argument we were to accept the CBI’s plea, does it not place a serious question mark on the competence and integrity of the judiciary in the State? Moreover, since the Sohrabuddin case is being directly monitored by the Supreme Court, there is no reason for the CBI to be so dismissive of Gujarat’s judiciary. Quite clearly, the agency’s brief has nothing to do with ensuring a fair trial. The Congress has pressed it into service to discredit the Government and thejudiciary of Gujarat with the ulterior motive of destabilising the BJP Government. -- Editorial, the Pioneer, August 3, 2010
13. PAKISTAN's HINDU COMMUNITY has called for deployment of army in the flood-affected areas of Sindh province to safeguard the lives of thousands of Hindus allegedly being looted by the locals. Pakistan Hindu Council chief Ramesh Kumar has appealed to the government to move in the army in affected areas. "Our families are being targeted at gun-point by the locals of their localities. About 95 shops and 50 houses have been ransacked and looted by the miscreants," said Kumar.
14. BHARAT HAS MORE RICH PEOPLE THAN POOR NOW’: For the first time ever, the number of high-income households in Bharat has exceeded the number of low-income, the National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER) has estimated. In its report, "How India Earns, Spends and Saves", the NCAER estimated that despite the economic slowdown of the last three years, the number of high-income households should have reached 46.7 million by March 2010, exceeding the 41 million households counted as low-incomes.
15. BANGALORE TEENAGER DESIGNS CYBER SAFETY CURRICULUM: Shourya Saluja, a Class 12 student of Bangalores Indus International School is devising a curriculum For Classes IX to XII which will create awareness about cyber safety.
Its three components will focus on different safety issues of social networking sites. Children disclose too much information in their profiles, they upload photos and accept random people as friends just to increase the number in their friends list.They don’t know what dangers this can lead to, said Shourya.Kids will also be taught how to protect themselves from dangers like phishing messages, things to look after in a Local Area Network (LAN), internal security.
Cyber ethics will be another subject and kids will be tutored on how to be a good cyber citizen.
Infosys will leverage its subject matter expertise to develop content as part of its corporate social responsibility initiative.
16. SAPTAKAM CELEBRATES GURU POURNIMA AT FINNISH DAYCARE: Finnish Daycare in Hervanta named Maijalanpuisto Daycare invited Saptakam, a Bharatiya Sangeet Forum in Finland, to celebrate Guru Pournima at the daycare. The head teacher was touched by the concept of respecting a teacher, just like mother and father. As a token of respect to the teachers, Saptakam presented Greeting Cards and a Rose Flower to every teacher in the daycare. The group thanked the teachers and conveyed message of Guru Pournima. All the teachers were extremely happy at this gesture. Shri Vinod ji Pendharkar, senior karyakarta from Mumbai was also present at the occassion
17. 14-YR-OLD IS JUST ANOTHER BRIGHT BOY AT IIT-KANPUR: His lanky figure may find it difficult to push a tennis ball across but replace the racket with a pen and throw in some complex algebra and 14-year-old Sahal Kaushik, the youngest entrant into IIT-Kanpur's prestigious MSc physics programme, is instantly at ease.
If Sahal's feat of topping the Delhi JEE and landing an All-India rank of 33 is regarded as prodigious, it does not find mention within the Kaushik household. His parents, Nageshwar and Ruchi, are proud but are in no mood to let the success get to Sahal's head. A doctor by profession, his mother Ruchi Kaushik, said: "At the time of Sahal's admission to IIT, the director told us it was important to treat Sahal like any other student. He has done very well, but for us he's like any other bright boy who performs well in academics."
18. BHARATIYA-AMERICAN IS NYC'S FIRST INVESTMENT ADVISOR: Bharatiya-American finance expert Ranji H Nagaswami has been appointed the New York City's first ever chief investment advisor by Mayor Michael Bloomberg in the wake of spiralling pension costs. Nagaswami will be the "full-time, central advisor to the Mayor's trustees on the five New York City retirement system boards, the largest municipal public employee retirement system in the country and the New York City Deferred Compensation Plan Board," the mayor's office said.
Nagaswami was born in Bharat and came to the US in 1984 to attend business school at Yale University. She most recently worked at Alliance Bernstein, where she was chief investment officer, overseeing $100 billion in assets and management.
19. BHARAT READIES CYBER ARMY TO SPY ON HOSTILE NATIONS: Borrowing a page from China’s art of cyber war, the government is giving shape to an IT infrastructure setup manned by a small army of Bharat's top 10 BPOs software professionals to spy on the classified data of hostile nations by hacking into their computer systems.
IT workers and ethical hackers who sign up for the ambitious project will be protected by law. The expertise of these professionals will be used to go on the offensive or preempt strikes by breaching the security walls of enemy systems.
The NSA has also asked the Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO) and DIA to magnify efforts against electromagnetic-pulse bombs that can interrupt wireless signals inside the country. It has also directed the DIA to harden its Transient ElectroMagnetic Pulse Emanations Standards, known as TEMPEST in military parlance.
20. GEETA JAYANTI – Gita has outstanding capacity to harmonize between conflicting forces, because it says: "Sarvabhuteshu yenaikam bhavam avyayam ikshate Avibhaktam vibhakteshu tajjnanam vidhi sattvikam"
(That by which the one indestructible reality is seen in all beings, inseparate in the separated, know that knowledge to be sattvika. In all diverse things and beings of the world, one who perceives one single reality pulsing in them, has a sattvik knowledge.)
Mahamana Malaviya Mission has put a request that Gita Jayanti (Margashirsh Shukla Ekadashi) should be observed as "NISHKAM KARMAYOGA DIVAS" every year. Hindi tithi is fixed, but the English date will vary every year, which is fortunately falling on 17th December, 2010 in this calendar year. The Mission will make endeavour to perpetuate and propagate this message with its limited resources. However, the efforts by all government/non-government players all over the world will strengthen this mission of Universal Brotherhood by Nishkam Karma.
21. HINDUS WELCOMES JULIA ROBERTS TO FOLD: Hindus in USA has extended warm welcome to Oscar winning Hollywood star Julia Roberts into their fold after reports that the Pretty Woman lady goes to temple to pray.
September issue of women's fashion magazine Elle, on which Roberts, 42, is the cover girl, reportedly says: "The entire Roberts-Moder family, she reveals, goes to temple together to "chant and pray and celebrate. I'm definitely a practicing Hindu."Roberts grew up with a Catholic mother and Baptist father.Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada (USA), heartily welcomed Roberts into Hinduism.
According to reports, Roberts has been interested in yoga for quite some time. She was in Haryana (India) in September last to shoot "Eat, Pray, Love" in an ashram (retreat).
In January 2009, she sported a "bindi" (vermillion mark on forehead) during her trip to India when she also visited Taj Mahal with husband Danny Moder. She has a production company called "Red Om Films", and "Om" in Hinduism is the mystical syllable containing the universe.
22. AGNI-III READY FOR INDUCTION: The indigenously designed and developed Agni-III missile, capable of hitting a target at 3,000 km, is ready for induction into the armed forces, Defence Minister AK Antony informed the Lok Sabha on Monday. The intermediate range Agni III ballistic missile is capable of carrying nuclear and conventional warheads and now allows scientists to develop an inter-continental ballistic missile with ranges of 5,000 km and beyond.
23. JAGANNATH RATHYATRA IN SPAIN: The presence of the devotees was too large that the rope to pull the Rath was extended to 500 metres. Amidst the chanting of slogans like Jai Jagannath, the atmosphere turned highly devotional.
The popularity of Lord Jagannath has reached globally. Though the Rathyatra in Puri is famous world over and the devotees from across the world reach Puri to participate in it, similar Rathyatras are taken out in some other countries also. Many religious and social organisations including ISKCON play a key role in such Yatras.
A similar Yatra was taken out in one of the seven islands of Spain, Tenerife island, on July 11. The idols of Lord Jagannath, Baldev and Subhadra were specially brought from Orissa by a special plane. Before starting the Yatra, Mayor of Tenerife, Gop Mahatani of Indian Embassy, Shri Patit Pavan Das of ISKCON, Laxman Godhvani of VHP and many other distinguished personalities broke coconut and formally cleaned the streets to which the Yatra was to pass through.
24. SHRI VISHWA NIKETAN: Visitors: Hariom Bhat – UK, Dr. Martin from Germany Pravas:
FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Have you got the will to surmount mountain high obstruction? If the whole world stands against you sword in hand, would you still dare to do what you think is right? -- Swami Vivekananda
JAI SHREE RAM
Multiple Mutinies NowThe Kashmir valley has been burning, once again. This time it's the new generation of young Kashmiris pelting stones at the might of the Indian state. They are venting their anger at a government that has been unable to capitalise on the stability of recent years to provide them with economic opportunities and political reconciliation. The telegenic, much-hyped chief minister of Jammu & Kashmir took 55 days to reach out to the people of the state directly after more than 50 people had already died in street protests and police action. Meanwhile, New Delhi fiddled while the situation in Kashmir deteriorated. After squandering various opportunities for making real political progress over the last few years, its only substantive response was to deploy the Indian army again after a hiatus of 15 years. The vicious cycle of killings-protests-killings continues with the government unable to intervene effectively. Even as the security forces have complained that their hands are tied in dealing with stone-throwing mobs, the demand to reduce the footprint of the security forces has come from the state government itself.
Harsh V Pant
Harsh V Pant
The situation in Kashmir today is symptomatic of the larger malaise afflicting the Indian state, which is facing a crisis of credibility on multiple fronts. The situation in the north-eastern states is serious with blockades and political turmoil. The challenge of Maoism is gathering momentum with Mamata Banerjee giving the Maoists a legitimacy that the government of which she is a part is trying to deprive them. The turmoil in the neighbourhood is readily evident as New Delhi becomes marginal to the evolving strategic milieu in Af-Pak.
The Commonwealth Games that were to be India's coming out party as a rising power have become a symbol of all that is wrong with India's political system. The stench of corruption and the government's inability to take action against politicians running the show is corroding whatever enthusiasm ordinary Indians may have had for these Games. The UPA's inability to come to terms with multiple challenges is stark despite opposition disarray.
Just last May, when the Congress won 206 parliamentary seats in the elections, it had unleashed a wave of optimism. That feelgood is now a thing of the past. One year into its term, UPA-II seems to have lost its way and momentum. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has the office but no power; the Gandhis have all the power without holding any formal office. The authority of Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi rests on their distance from power and they have failed to use their political capital for anything except trying to maintain their own charisma. The prime minister, however, is in power because he is weak. There was a mistaken belief that the division of labour between Sonia and Singh she would take care of the party and he would run the government would work well for the nation. Exactly the opposite has happened.
The Congress has become callous and arrogant and the government is finding it hard to push forward any of the prime minister's priorities. Singh's cabinet colleagues are more interested in earning brownie points with the Gandhis and have openly expressed their contempt for the hapless prime minister. In the process, the Congress has perhaps irreparably damaged the office of the prime minister of India.
Not surprisingly, there is a whiff of fragility and under-confidence in the air, as if at any moment the entire facade of India as a rising power might simply blink out like a bad idea. Those who seek to challenge the Indian state's authority feel emboldened to take advantage of the paralysed decision-making in New Delhi.
Maladministration, dithering and incompetence are making India ungovernable with a growing loss of respect for all major state institutions. Corruption is having a corrosive impact on the social fabric by undermining the trust of ordinary Indians in their political system, institutions and leadership. Kashmir's recent turmoil has merely brought to the fore the fragile state of India's domestic affairs. The world media and India's elite talk about India's rise, often not realising that the state - beset with rising Islamist extremism, Maoist insurgency, and growing and conflicting demands of myriad interest groups is rapidly losing the ability to have its writ run over a large swathe of its territory. Though the Indian economy has continued to grow despite internal security challenges and foreign investors have not yet been discouraged by sporadic terrorist attacks, it may soon face the consequences of the grim security situation if investors find the Indian state too weak to wield due authority within its borders.
As a liberal democracy, India must acknowledge the aspirations of Kashmir's people. Yet there's little likelihood of this conflict getting resolved anytime soon, and the trouble for India is that its heavy-handed effort to keep the lid on Kashmiri demands will continue to besmirch its reputation as the world's largest democracy and a claimant for global leadership, including a permanent membership of the UN Security Council. India definitely needs to resolve Kashmir crisis but there are multiple mutinies that also need attention. It's not entirely clear if New Delhi's present political dispensation is capable of doing that. That's not a promising thought for a country that has just marked its 64th Independence Day. (The writer teaches at King's College, London). -- The Times of India, August 16, 2010.