1. FESTIVALS: Holi, the full-moon day of the month of Phagun – Phalgun Poornima, falls on March 16 this year. Traditionally, a bonfire is lit in the night and next morning sees the play of colours. In the area of Braj comprising Mathura, Vrindavan, Gokul and Barsana, Holi is a two-week-long festival. Here, the men of Nandgaon and women of Barsana play 'latthmar Holi' in remembrance of the playful throw of colors by Krishna on 'Gopis' and their resistance. The festival features play of colors, folk songs called 'Hori', folk dances such as Raas-Lila, and staging various aspects of Radha and Krishna's love."
2. Parliament is the Gangotri of BHARATIYA democracy: Pranab: Rashtrapati Pranab Mukherjee said that Parliament is the Gangotri of Bharatiya Democracy. Rashtrapati said that the Parliament represents the will and the aspirations of billion plus people of Bharat and is the link between the people and the government. He was unveiling photographs of Presidents of Central Legislative Assembly and portraits of former Speakers of Lok Sabha at Central Hall of Parliament House on February 10.
Pranab said if Gangotri gets polluted, neither Ganga nor any of its tributaries can stay unpolluted. It is incumbent upon all parliamentarians that they maintain the highest standards of democracy and parliamentary functioning.
Rashtrapatiji said the Parliament, like other organs of the government, is not sovereign and “owes its origin and authority to the Constitution”. The prime function of the Parliament is to enact legislations to empower the people on every front - social, economic and political, to exercise control over the Executive and making it accountable in all respects. The validity of a law, whether Union or State, is tested by judiciary as defined in the Constitution.
The Parliament functions through debate, dissension and finally decision and not through disruption. In order to strengthen the functioning of our Parliament and other democratic institutions, it is important that all stakeholders – government, political parties, their leaders and parliamentarians do some introspection and follow sound parliamentary conventions and rules. Rashtrapatiji also said that our Parliament has evolved well-developed processes and procedures.
Upa-Rashtrapati and Chairman Rajya Sabha, Mohammad Hamid Ansari, Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh and Speaker, Lok Sabha, Meira Kumar were present on the occasion.
3. Sarasanghachalakji attends ‘DHARMASOOYA’ yajna in Kerala: Rashritya Swyamsevak Sangh Sarasanghachalak Shri Mohan Bhagwat participated in ‘DHARMASOOYA’ yajna at Palakkad in Kerala on February 6. Former ISRO chief Dr G Madhavan Nair praised Dr. Bhagwat’s leaderrship skills. ‘Bhagwat is a great visionary of Bharat, only because of the vision and action, the organisation which he belongs to can teach the new generation and the society to preserve our nation.” ‘All our traditional knowledge is derived from rishis. That consists of all the scientific and daily life knowledge. This type of yajna and ritual will give us strength to preserve our traditional Knowledge’ said Dr Madhavan Nair. RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat in his brief speech said, “Our rashtra needs a positive change. For this, great efforts have to be made with selfless and pure mind.
4. Create an Apple, a Mircosoft, a Google in Bharat: Narendra Modi: "Do whatever you can to make Bharat innovative and to be competitive. Recently, Sathya Nadella became CEO of Microsoft. Most of you must be dreaming to reach the heights of Nadella," said Narendra Modi, the BJP prime ministerial candidate addressing the ninth convocation of SRM University near Chennai on February 9.
"My advice to you is to create a similar enterprise here. Create Microsoft here. Create an Apple. Create a Google here in Bharat. And then own it and manage it," he added. Observing that knowledge would be the biggest bridge between education and nation building, he said it is sad that no university in Bharat has attained top global ranking status. "What is lacking we have to identify and work upon it." Pointing out that skill development is the need of the hour, he said "if there is no skill, there will not be employment."
5. Dalai Lama considers himself 'son of Bharat': A total of 54 years I am having Bharatiya rice, chapati, tea. Now I consider myself as the son of Bharat, son of the soil. "I am very happy," said the spiritual leader who was in Guwahati to inaugurate a five-day Festival of Tibetan Art and Culture and to deliver the First LBS Founders' commemorative lecture on 'A Human Approach to Peace and the Individual'. He also addressed an Interfaith Conclave on Peace and Religious Harmony. Following the invasion of Tibet by China, the Dalai Lama had passed through Guwahati in 1959 after his escape from his country via the Khenzimani Pass in Arunachal Pradesh with 80,000 Tibetans.
6. Bharat Ratna CNR Rao: Bharat's highly regarded scientist Professor CNR Rao, on Feb 4 joined the pantheon of three other pre-eminent people from the field of science who have been conferred the Bharat Ratna in the past - Nobel Laureate and physicist CV Raman who was given the same award in 1954; civil engineer M. Visvesvarayya in 1955 and most recently aeronautical engineer APJ Abdul Kalam in 1997. Rao is former director of the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, and currently works at the Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research in Bangalore.
One of the most prolific chemists, who at age 79 still spends several hours every day in his laboratory and has published over 1500 research papers on materials science, his latest craze was to work on thin films of carbon called 'graphene'. He has been in the running for the Nobel Prize for many years. Rao gets most animated when discussing science and says "If you are not childlike, you cannot be a scientist."
An avid educationist, he is responsible for unleashing the reforms seen in science education in the last five years and was the driving force for the setting up of the new high profile Indian Institute Science Education and Research.
7. Local Kashmiris work to preserve beloved culture: For 5,00,000 Kashmiri Hindus who were forced to flee their native land in 1989 and later, preserving their culture has been quite difficult. About 4,500 families out of them call the United States home, including 70 in South Florida.
In April 2013, Chandramukhi Ganju and her husband Deepak Ganju formed ‘Preserve Our Heritage’, a nonprofit based in Miami Shores doing business as Kashmiri Hindu Foundation. Preserve Our Heritage’s mission is to promote and preserve Kashmiri culture and heritage through music, dance, drama, art, cuisine, literature, history and the humanities. It aims to showcase the “richness of Kashmiri culture and interact with other cultures.”
Former North Miami mayor Andra Pierre named the third Sunday in November, ‘Kashmiri Hindu Heritage Day’ and the organizations holds annual events at the North Miami Public Library. Chandramukhi Ganju said the heritage day events have three purposes: to keep younger Kashmiris abreast of their native language and culture, for members of different cultures in the county to represent themselves and so the different groups can learn about each other. To preserve her culture Ganju writes dramas as well as recipes.
A social issue Kashmiri children, parents and grandparents have to handle in the United States is adjusting to American culture. Chandramukhi Ganju said “We are like cultural orphans. You don’t want your child to feel alienated but at the same time it is important to preserve our heritage.”
8. Yoga Has Healing Powers: Study: In the minds of the 20 million or so devotees in the U.S., Yoga helps people to relax, making the heart rate go down, which is great for those with high blood pressure. Now, by a study of yoga that used biological measures to assess results, led by Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, professor of psychiatry and psychology at Ohio State University, and published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, it has been found that meditative sun salutations and downward dog poses can reduce inflammation, the body's way of reacting to injury or irritation. Researchers looked at 200 breast cancer survivors who had not practiced yoga before. Half the group continued to ignore yoga, while the other half received twice-weekly, 90-minute classes for 12 weeks, with take-home DVDs and encouragement to practice at home. In the study it was found that the group that had practiced yoga reported less fatigue and higher levels of vitality three months after treatment had ended.
The study didn't rely only on self-reports. Kiecolt-Glaser's husband and research partner, Ronald Glaser of the university's department of molecular virology, immunology, and medical genetics, went for stronger laboratory proof. He examined three cytokines, proteins in the blood that are markers for inflammation. Blood tests before and after the trial showed that, after three months of yoga practice, all three markers for inflammation were lower by 10 to 15 percent. That part of the study offered some rare biological evidence of the benefits of yoga in a large trial that went beyond people's own reports of how they feel.
9. For UK Hindus, River Soar is their 'Ganga': Officials in the east Midlands city of Leicester have designated a quiet, leafy spot on the River Soar where, instead of travelling to Bharat, members of the city’s large community of Bharatiya origin can scatter ashes of the deceased.
Residents of Leicester say it is often difficult for people to go to Hardwar or Varanasi to scatter the ashes, due to the cost and travel problems faced by older family members.
10. Open Doors: Visa-on-arrival is great, follow up with comprehensive measures to boost tourism - The governments decision to clear visa-on-arrival and electronic travel authorisation facilities for citizens of all countries barring eight is a significant reform that augurs well for Indias tourism industry. The move marks a welcome departure from the principle of strict reciprocity which guided the Indian visa regime in the past. Hitherto India offered visaon-arrival to tourists from only 11 countries. But the new policy will dramatically extend the facility to 180 nations. With tourism creating the maximum number of jobs for every rupee invested, a larger influx of foreign tourists on account of a liberalised visa regime will boost inclusive growth.
Given its diverse landscape, rich history and myriad religious traditions, theres no doubting Indias huge tourism potential. However, the tourism industry is hamstrung by woeful infrastructure. In 2012, around 6.5 million foreign tourists visited India. In comparison, a tiny country such as Thailand received around 22.3 million visitors the same year. The latter has emerged as a veritable Asian tourism giant on the back of concerted efforts to create a conducive tourism ecosystem. Since the 1960s, the Thai government has invested heavily on infrastructure, resulting in improvements in road construction, power supply, banking, communications and other government services that aid tourism.
In the same vein, tourism in India requires a complete change in mindset. While measures such as tax concessions for the tourism industry are welcome, implementing the time-honoured philosophy of atithi devo bhava requires a comprehensive approach. Most of Indias historical monuments and sites lie in a deplorable state of neglect. Roping in private organisations for their refurbishment and upkeep Aga Khan Trusts work on Humayuns Tomb is a great example can be a solution. Similarly, dedicated tourist police units must not remain on paper alone. Infrastructure, connectivity, safety and cleanliness are all important if India is to monetise its natural tourism assets and bolster its foreign exchange reserves. -- Editorial, Times of India, 10 February 2014.
11. BRO assures trouble-free Char Dham pilgrimage: In a meeting on February 8, DG Lt Gen AT Parnaik ascertained Union Road Transport and Highways Minister Oscar Fernandes and Uttarakhand Chief Minister Harish Rawat that all roads leading to the pilgrimages would be operable by April 2014. The BRO (Border Roads Organization) has been entrusted with the task of repair and reconstruction of damaged roads leading to the famous Himalayan shrines of Badrinath, Kedarnath, Yamunotri and Gangotri. “The BRO has been asked to submit its requirements to the State Government by February 15. The State in-turns, if it deems necessary will further forward a formal request to the centre, if it fails to give funds from its own resources,” said an official from the Ministry of Roads.
12. ‘Kashmiri Kutumb Milan’-II, a concept to celebrate together the culture and heritage of “Kashmiri Pandit”, was organised by KP Youths of Bangalore, on 2nd February 2014, at Bangalore. The event was associated with a noble cause & organised in association with KMECT (Kashmiri Medical Emergency & Charitable Trust.) to generate funds to help the Kashmiri people in medical emergencies. It was inaugurated with Deep Prajavalan by Pt. B.L Kaul. Children’s participation in the program was as grand as it could be. The variety of presentations by young children added the kashmiri spice to the program and made it chatpatta in real sense. The audience was still enjoying the songs, dance, shlokas, bhajans by talented kids when yet another enthralling program “Vohrvoudh” (birthday) celebration in Koshur (kashmiri) way was presented. Children of the community performed the birthday pooja as per the tradition & Tahar (Yellow Rice) was prepared & served as Naveedh. Audience was equally participative and this was highly appreciated by one & all. A presentation on KMECT (Kashmiri Medical Emergency & Charitable Trust) followed where Pt. Jatinder Kaw and Pt. Maharaj Pajan enumerated journey traversed by the trust.
13. Konsam Himalaya Singh first from NE becomes Lt. Gen in BHARATIYA Army: Major General Konsam Himalaya Singh of Manipur has become the first Army officer from the North-East to become a Lieutenant General. Major General Himalaya, who hails from Charangpat in Thoubal district, Manipur is an alumni of Sainik School, Goalpara (Assam) and the National Defence Academy. He was commissioned into the Second Battalion of The Rajput Regiment (KALI CHINDI) in June 1978 and later commanded 27 RAJPUT.
The General Officer is a graduate of the Defence Services Staff College, College of Defence Management and the prestigious National Defence College. He was General Officer Commanding (GOC) of 25 Infantry Division in J&K and was awarded with 'Ati Vishisht Sewa Medal' in 2013.
14. UNIVERSITIES TO offer courses in spoken Sanskrit: As per a new proposal by the University Grants Commission (UGC), universities across the country must foster centres offering certificate courses in spoken Sanskrit. The objective behind the introduction of this course is to inculcate basic knowledge related to the subject among students and teachers. Lack of awareness about Sanskrit is thought to be one of the main reasons behind the diminishing curiosity.
15. SHREE VISHWA NIKETAN: Pravas: Shri Saumitra Gokhale samyojak Vishwa Vibhag arrived Bharat for ABPS baithak in March. Dr Ram Vaidya sahsamyojak would reach Bharat by end February.
Visitors: Shri Om K. Tondon & Smt. Ann Tondon – USA. Kalpana Vekaria – UK.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT: All people are basically nice. One should deal with every person by believing in his goodness. Anger, jealousy, etc. are the offshoots of his past experiences, which affect his behavior. Primarily every person is nice and everyone is reliable. – Prof. Rajendra Singh (Rajju Bhaiyya), the fourth Sarsanghchalak of RSS.
JAI SHREE RAM
i. Dinanath Batra:Here comes the book police
In his modest office above a school in Naraina Vihar in southwest Delhi, Dinanath Batra is wreathed in smiles. He’s been on the phone all morning, fielding questions from journalists. “I feel 84 years young”, he says. The reason lies on the chequered plastic cloth of the small coffee table in front of him—a mustard-yellow folder with the words “Penguin Book India Pvt. Ltd” printed boldly on the front and “Delhi Police” in the top left corner.
Batra is the subject of renewed interest because Penguin Book India chose to settle a civil suit he filed in 2011 against the publisher and the American scholar Wendy Doniger over The Hindus: An Alternative History, deliberately conceived (the title makes it clear) as a response to the prevailing narrative about Hinduism. “Part of my agenda in writing an alternative history”, Doniger notes in her preface, “is to show how much the groups that conventional wisdom says were oppressed and silenced and played no part in the development of the tradition—women, Pariahs (oppressed castes, sometimes called untouchables)—did actually contribute to Hinduism.”
This lengthy (over 700 pages), scholarly volume, more anvil than book, attracted protests in March 2010 in New York when it was nominated for a prestigious literary award. The protesters got in touch with Batra, he says, “to campaign to stop the book in India”. He read the book and “felt instantly angry”. Doniger, an academic of repute, was accused by Batra, and members of his group the Shiksha Bachao Andolan Samiti, of having a “hateful mentality”.
A pamphlet distributed by the group read: “On book’s jacket Lord Krishna is shown sitting on buttocks of a naked woman surrounded by other naked women just to outrage religious feelings of Hindus.” Doniger, 69 when she wrote the book, was accused of being “jaundiced...her approach is that of a woman hungry for sex”. The group is made up of volunteers: teachers, intellectuals, parents, essentially anyone devoted to a particular ideal of a culturally appropriate education. Batra wants to go further, to create a national non-governmental commission to examine and approve syllabi. He has already begun holding monthly meetings with proposed committee members.
Batra, a mild, affable man, tall and still upright, maintaining the posture of the school headmaster he once was, does not seem unhinged by rage now. But he is implacable in his belief that Doniger’s book is malevolent, has no place being read or discussed in India. In his petition to the court, The Hindus is described as “shallow, distorted...a haphazard presentation riddled with heresies and factual inaccuracies”.
Doniger herself is driven by a “Christian Missionary Zeal and hidden agenda to denigrate Hindus and show their religion in poor light”, the petition said. The Mint February 12, 2014
II. Why Not Hindu India?
Germany, with its minority religions, still calls itself Christian. Why not call India Hindu?
BY MARIA WIRTH
Though I have lived in India a long time, there are still issues here that I find hard to understand. For example, why do so many educated Indians become agitated when India is referred to as a Hindu country? The majority of Indians are Hindus. India is special because of its ancient Hindu tradition. Westerners are drawn to India because of Hinduism. Why then is there this resistance by many Indians to acknowledge the Hindu roots of their country? Why do some people even give the impression that an India which valued those roots would be dangerous? Don’t they know better?
This attitude is strange for two reasons. First, those educated Indians seem to have a problem only with “Hindu” India, but not with “Muslim” or “Christian” countries. Germany, for example, is a secular country, and only 59 percent of the population are registered with the two big Christian churches (Protestant and Catholic). Nevertheless, the country is bracketed under “Christian countries” and no one objects. Angela Merkel, the Chancellor, stressed recently the Christian roots of Germany and urged the population “to go back to Christian values.” In 2012 she postponed her trip to the G-8 summit to make a public address on Katholikentag, “Catholics Day.” Two major political parties carry Christian in their name, including Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union.
Germans are not agitated that Germany is called a Christian country, though I actually would understand if they were. After all, the history of the Church is appalling. The so-called success story of Christianity depended greatly on tyranny. “Convert or die” were the options given—not only some five hundred years ago to the indigenous population in America, but also in Germany, 1,200 years ago, when the emperor Karl the Great ordered the death sentence for refusal of baptism in his newly conquered realms. This provoked his advisor Alkuin to comment: “One can force them to baptism, but how to force them to believe?”
Those times, when one’s life was in danger for dissenting with the dogmas of Christianity, are thankfully over. Today many in the West do dissent and are leaving the Church in a steady stream. They are disgusted with the less-than-holy behavior of Church officials and they also can’t believe in the dogmas, for example that “Jesus is the only way” and that God sends all those who don’t accept this to hell.
The second reason why I can’t understand the resistance to associate India with Hinduism is that Hinduism is in a different category from the Abrahamic religions. Its history, compared to Christianity and Islam, was undoubtedly the least violent as it spread in ancient times by convincing arguments and not by force. It is not a belief system that demands blind acceptance of dogmas and the suspension of one’s intelligence. On the contrary, Hinduism encourages using one’s intelligence to the hilt. It is an enquiry into truth based on a refined character and intellect. It comprises a huge body of ancient literature, not only regarding dharma and philosophy, but also regarding music, architecture, dance, science, astronomy, economics, politics, etc. If Germany or any other Western country had this kind of literary treasure, it would be so proud and highlight its greatness on every occasion. When I discovered the Upanishads, for example, I was stunned. Here was expressed in clear terms what I intuitively had felt to be true, but could not have expressed clearly. Brahman is not partial; it is the invisible, indivisible essence in everything. Everyone gets again and again a chance to discover the ultimate truth and is free to choose his way back to it. Helpful hints are given but not imposed.
In my early days in India I thought every Indian knew and valued his tradition. Slowly I realized I was wrong. The British colonial masters had been successful in not only weaning away many of the elite from their ancient tradition but even making them despise it. It helped that the British-educated class could no longer read the original Sanskrit texts and believed what the British told them. This lack of knowledge and the brainwashing by the British education may be the reason why many so-called “modern” Indians are against anything Hindu. They don’t realize the difference between Western religions that have to be believed (or at least professed) blindly, and which discourage, if not forbid, their adherents to think on their own, and the multi-layered Hindu Dharma which gives freedom and encourages using one’s intelligence.
Many of the Indian educated class do not realize that those who dream of imposing Christianity or Islam on this vast country will applaud them for denigrating Hindu Dharma, because this creates a vacuum where Western ideas can easier gain a foothold. At the same time, many Westerners, including staunch Christians, know the value of Hindu culture and surreptitiously appropriate insights from the vast Indian knowledge system, drop the original Hindu source and present it either as their own or make it look as if these insights had already been known in the West. As the West appropriates valuable and exclusive Hindu assets, what it leaves behind is deemed inferior. Unwittingly, these Indians are helping what Rajiv Malhotra of Infinity Foundation calls the digestion of Dharma civilization into Western universalism. That which is being digested, a deer for example, in this case Hindu Dharma, disappears whereas the digester (a tiger) becomes stronger.
If only missionaries denigrated Hindu Dharma, it would not be so bad, as they clearly have an agenda which discerning Indians would detect. But sadly, Indians with Hindu names assist them because they wrongly believe Hinduism is inferior to Western religions. They belittle everything Hindu instead of getting thorough knowledge. As a rule, they know little about their tradition except what the British have told them, i.e., that the major features are the caste system and idol worship. They don’t realize that India would gain, not lose, if it solidly backed its profound and all-inclusive Hindu tradition. The Dalai Lama said some time ago that, as a youth in Lhasa, he had been deeply impressed by the richness of Indian thought. “India has great potential to help the world,” he added. When will the Westernized Indian elite realize it?
MARIA WIRTH, 63, a freelance writer, has lived in India for the past 33 years. https://www.hinduismtoday.com
III. Give Stateless Indians Their Due
The twelfth edition of the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) was held in New Delhi on January 7-9. Representatives from diverse overseas Indian communities spread worldwide assembled in the national capital where they interacted with one another and with the government. Prime minister Manmohan Singh, minister for Overseas Indian Affairs (MOIA) Vayalar Ravi, cabinet ministers and chief ministers from various states exhorted them to avail of investment opportunities and be valuable partners in Bharat’s economic development. The festival was capped with gala dinners and cultural performances by renowned artistes.
But one section of the overseas Bharatiyas was conspicuous by its absence. They were the stateless people of Bharatiya origin. Most of them are descendants of the labourers who migrated to different parts of the British Empire under the protective umbrella of the imperialists. They provided the labour for the development of plantations, construction of roads and ports and other activities which laid the foundation of the British Empire. The sufferings undergone by the Bharatiya “coolies” under British Raj are innumerable. For example, the verdant carpet of green in the central parts of Sri Lanka, which has made it a veritable “island paradise”, was due to the sweat and toil of Bharatiya Tamil workers. C V Velupillai, the Indian Tamil poet, has described the workers’ lives as follows: “Here is but a row of tin roofed lines, the very warehouse where serfdom thrives, with a scant space of ten by twelve, there is the hearth, home drenched in soot and smoke, to eat and sleep, to incubate and breed, to meet the master’s greed”.
As time went on the Bharatiya immigrants became permanent settlers and citizens, and through sheer hard work and perseverance moved up in life. Their descendants have made a niche for themselves in their chosen professions. They include Nobel laureate V S Naipaul, Shridath Ramphal, Anerood Jugnauth, Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Muttiah Muralitharan. As former prime minister Vajpayee put it, “Few people who entered foreign lands can claim such a testimony.” But unfortunately, sections of them still remain stateless.
The estimated number of members of the Bharatiya diaspora, according to the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs (MOIA), is approximately 25 million. It would be simplistic and naïve to assume that the problems these people face and what the future holds for them are identical. Their problems are intertwined with the nature of their migration, their social and economic status, their educational attainments, the numerical size of the community and the majority-minority syndrome in the countries they have settled in.
In terms of legal status, the Bharatiya diaspora can be divided into four groups. Firstly, people of Bharatiya origin who have taken citizenship of the countries in which they have settled. Secondly, Bharatiya citizens, who have gone abroad for work and retain their Bharatiya passports. They are non-resident Bharatiyas. Thirdly, Overseas Indian citizens (OIC). The scheme was introduced in response to the demand for “dual citizenship” from developed countries. The scheme was launched in the PBD in Hyderabad in 2006. Under this scheme, persons of Bharatiya origin who were citizens of Bharat on January 26, 1950, or thereafter and have acquired citizenship of foreign countries can apply for OIC. The OIC does not confer any political rights in Bharat. People living in Pakistan and Bangladesh are not entitled for OIC. Latest statistics of OICs are not available. But according to the MOIA, as on May 31, 2013, 13.25 lakh OIC registration booklets and visa stickers have been issued.
The fourth category is the stateless persons of Bharatiya origin. They have not been granted citizenship of the countries they live in nor have they taken Bharatiya citizenship. Most of them, for example, in Myanmar and in Malaysia, are second- or third-generation settlers and by any yardstick should have been granted citizenship. The host governments, to say the least, are callous and adopt a discriminatory policy towards them. What’s worse, the government of Bharat seems to be adopting a hands-off policy towards them.
According to the Singhvi Committee Report on the Bharatiya Diaspora, the maximum number of stateless persons reside in Myanmar (400,000), followed by Kuwait (2,95,000), Malaysia (50,000, Hindu Rights Action Force maintains this is an underestimated figure), Italy (71,500) Jamaica (61,500) and lower numbers in Japan, Jordan, Kenya, Lebanon, Libya and the Philippines.
It should be pointed out that the problem of the stateless people vitiated Bharat-Sri Lanka relations in the years soon after independence. The two governments later maintained that the Sirimavo-Shastri Pact of 1964 and Sirimavo–Indira Gandhi Pact of 1974 would solve the problem once and for all. But when the agreements expired in October 1981, it was realised that the problem of statelessness still continued. It is to the credit of Tamil leader Thondaman that he was able to pressurise recalcitrant Sinhalese leaders to grant citizenship to the stateless people of Bharatiya origin in 1988. However, the problem of Bharatiya passport-holders and their natural increase, yet to be repatriated to Bharat, continued. At last they were also granted Sri Lankan citizenship by prime minister Ranil Wikramasinghe.
The stateless people of Bharatiya origin in Myanmar deserve special mention. Most of them are rice cultivators and continue to reside there under the work permit system. They were retained by the Burmese government because it was keen to expand rice production, one of the mainstays of Burmese economy. When former Bharatiya ambassador T P Sreenivasan visited them a few years ago he found they were “totally impoverished”. Ironically, they did not even have rice to eat, as the procurement authorities “lifted their produce wholly”. They had to eat low-quality rice which the state did not want to procure for export. What were more saddening, efforts made by Sreenivasan to make South Block take interest in the subject turned out to be a futile exercise. Has the position of these people improved during the last few years? South Block should issue a clarification.
Let us hope the PBD in future devotes some time at least to analyse the problems faced by stateless people of Bharatiya origin. It will be a welcome step if a committee of experts is appointed to analyse the problem in depth and make recommendations for a solution. Simultaneously, New Delhi should impress upon the host governments the necessity to confer citizenship on stateless people of Barratiya origin without any delay.
(Prof V Suryanarayan is former senior professor, the Centre for South and Southeast Asian Studies, University of Madras. The New Indian Express, Feb 10, 2014)