All is Fair in War

Modi RahulMasses respect power, ability and endurance. Vision, will and relentless image management is the eternal edge in the bloodless battlefield of politics. There are multiple narratives in the arsenal of every political party and in the great game of Gujarat, the BJP and Congress invoked all of them. A battle royale of netagiri over Vikas, Mandir, Neech and Pakistan consumed the fight for the BJP bastion.

In the shatranj of politics, every move and tactic is fair game. It is never about how you say or do anything in the game for power, it all depends on how much credibility and trust one wields to sway the people. Gujarat is no less than a laboratory national election, and in the image wars for the average voter, the Prime Minister continues to reign supreme.

Rahul Gandhi in DwarkaRahul Gandhi, the new Congress President was not the ‘9 to 5’ and ‘rent-a-cause’ politician we are used to. He led the Congress blitz in the state with multiple rallies and road shows, focusing his attack on GST and demonetisation, and extensive temple hopping under the glare of the hungry media. Narendra Modi as always showcased his boundless energy, his track record as a successful former Chief Minister and Prime Minister all in the Gujarati vernacular. He even introduced the mandir, caste and Pakistan cocktail into the campaign strategy, all from the BJP playbook which has delivered dividends in the past.

The BJP and Congress have clashed in Gujarat with almost equal vigour, but the BJP cadre are fuelled by the numerous victories of the Modi-Shah combine, while the Congress remains a defeated and demoralised unit, with a perpetual credibility crisis. Rahul Gandhi still carries the burden of the corruption crippled UPA II regime, a legacy he refuses to disown or bury. Even after 10 years in politics, he is still seen as a political novice, who has never played a pivotal role in any of the party’s victories. On the national stage, his political image is dominated by gaffes and blunders, with even school children, the future voters, sharing jokes about him on social media. Rahul Gandhi does not champion a vision like Modi did for ‘Aspirational India’ in 2014. His target is limited to Narendra Modi, in an environment where the Prime Minister is at the peak of his political powers.

Modi winThe Congress may have many emotive issues to play to the galleries, but Rahul Gandhi still lacks the power-perception dynamic that can rally his base to the polling booths and pull the undecided voters. As Prime Minister Modi holds the edge, he can and has launched numerous narratives based on pure speculation, moulding and re-moulding the negative miasma that surrounds the Congress. Rahul Gandhi may counter with factual and pointed responses, but he will continue to be seen as the new monarch of an ever shrinking kingdom who fails to learn from the tactical advantage his opponents wield. Only election victories led by the Gandhi scion can elevate his image beyond that as the nation which yearns for a competitive democracy awaits the blueprint of the Congress’ ‘surgical’ introspection. Till then, no standard or controversial narrative can grant Rahul Gandhi any advantage in the political battle.

No war is won by the virtue of one’s birth. Rahul Gandhi must hold on to that eternal lesson if he truly wishes to beat Narendra Modi and Amit Shah’s BJP.

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MAY THE VALLEY HEAR ME ROAR

I am armed, I am ready,

I am guided by my duty,

No masks to hide who I am,

I wade through the smoke and chaos,

I challenge you to test my mettle,

Hear me BOY, I am IMMORTAL

 

You scamper and hide in these dark alleys,

To ash you turn my beautiful valley,

You strike from the sanctuary of crowds,

False prophets and death dealers in your head,

I may fall beneath the stones you hurl,

Hear me BOY, I am IMMORTAL

 

I am a soldier of the Tricolour, I walk proudly wrapped in the banner,

I am bound to this land same as you,

But I am ready to march and die protecting,

Even the likes of you,

Under your blows I will not buckle

Hear me BOY, I am IMMORTAL

 

Call your crusade whatever you like,

Follow which ever Devil you may find,

You are an abated captive of a poisonous thought,

And you didn’t even put up a fight.

I am here to protect what is ours, but I will not settle,

Hear me BOY, I am IMMORTAL

 

If my words fail, if fury still blurs your vision,

Meet me face to face on an open field,

Let us test our conviction.

I am the will of a billion hearts,

And when the dust settles after our brief battle,

I shall tower above you and you shall see BOY,

I AM IMMORTAL

RAMA’S LAMENT

They chant my name, with fire in their hearts they scream,
They call me saviour who wandered out of a wise mystic’s dream,Rama Lament
I buried their villain, they say I washed the earth’s soul clean,
But I smile at them with a heavy heart,

For I miss my beloved queen.

They marvel at me and say I am God’s decree,
They say I am a prophet of virtue and duty,
They cling to me for meaning, parade me in gilded castles,
But I am hollow just as my inanimate life,

For I miss my beloved wife.

I was only godly with her by my side,
I was only a King when I felt her strength nearby,
I was only a Man when her hand was in mine,
Only for her did I make the heavens kneel,

Oh, how I miss my beloved queen.

My father always told me to follow my heart,
Why did my earthly duty tear it apart,
I sit atop a golden tower as my people hope and pray,
I breathe in the clouds they only marvel at, but it tastes so damn stale,

Oh, how I miss my beloved wife.

Rebirth, this power may be mine,
But how can I redeem myself, no other can play her part,
I once roamed the earth as Narsimha, a grotesque beast,
But he protected his child, he had more of a heart,

Oh, how I miss my beloved queen.

I turned my back on her, and she returned to the nurturing earth,
Even death can’t reunite us, my divinity is my curse,
I see her in the grace of all creation,  I see her in the compassion of our sons,
They will be better men, as her love mocks me the same,
Let humanity see, even a God hangs his head in shame.

Oh, how I miss my beloved wife.

OMEN

There is a dark space beyond my window,

Shards of light and twisted shapes of human chaos,

She stands in the middle as creatures wail in despair,

Staring at me, a scarred spectre at peace in the black,

All I can do is stare back.

 

Every night she appears, this unholy omen,

Making the air and inanimate restless,

The night is frozen, yet my skin burns,

She sniffs out my fear, drawing closer to me,

All I can do is stare back.

 

She floats with poise above me,

Her empty gaze piercing my heart,

I close my eyes seeking the shelter of conviction,

Yet they are only empty words, an elusive peace,

All I can do is stare back.

 

I thought faith and love are cherished armour,

Yet she heralds a crippling futility,

No heavenly light at the edge, only chains of solitude,

Fixated by her horrible truth, her Godless gaze,

All I can do is stare back.

 

My fear loosens its grip, a strange comfort breaks my fever,

Am I broken for having accepted her truth?

Am I broken if only my mortality comforts my yearning soul?

In her gaze I find a fearful sanctuary,

All I can do is stare back.

 

I have never known what holds the hearts of priests and romantics,

Or why she shows me my reflection every night,

As she slowly fades into the night once again,

She leaves me stunned with a tragic calmness,

And All I can do is stare back.

My Broken Angel

In the din and endless motion,
Her eyes liberate all the shadows,
A flair of grace and a warm glow,broken-angel
And a painful sight of crippling sorrow,
A dark space so vast in a gentle soul.

She resonates light to the weary and lost,
A charity of joy and strength in a time of bartered hearts,
Her skin soft and delicate, with scars old and new,
Wounds which fade beneath her alluring gaze,
The hurt deep within, showing no mercy.

She plays my heart strings, my beautiful, broken angel,
I a Man yet a base creature, mute and powerless,
Just a sigh and silence as she weeps behind a tired smile,
I yearn an embrace to comfort her,
She crumbles in my arms, my love undivine.

All I do is hold her hand,
A silent prayer to draw out her grief,
The cruelty of fate slowly dragging us to a forked road,
A struggle unforgiving,
A faith strong, but not enough.

Piety is for fools, and I am one today,
Hope for another plane, a world somewhere,
Where my angel is cradled and blossoms with love enduring,
Where our brimming eyes can melt God’s icy heart,
There, under the watch of kinder stars, I will find you again.

The canine spirit of friendship

 

photoTrust in me my friend for I am your comrade,

All I have to offer is love and comfort.

When all others have left you and the loneliness of the night closes in,

I will be at your side.

 

Together we will conquer all obstacles,

All I ask of you is compassion,

The caring touch of your hands,

It is for you that I will selflessly give my life and spend my nights unrested.

Although our days together may be marked by the passing of the seasons,

Know that each day at your side is my reward.

 

My days are measured by the coming and going of your footsteps,

I anticipate them at the opening of the door.

You’re the voice of caring when I am ill,

The voice of authority over me when I’ve done wrong,

I attempt to do only what you bid of me,

I seek only to please you and remain in your favor,

A bond only like you will understand, when outsiders see us together.

 

I will quietly listen to you and pass no judgment,

Nor will your spoken words be repeated,

I will remain ever silent, ever vigilant, ever loyal,

And when our time together is done and you move on in the world,

Remember me with kind thoughts and tales.

 

If we should ever meet again on another field,

I will gladly relive my life with you.

Waiting for the Islamic Reformation

ReformNo matter what the proponents of Islam and Christianity believe, it is a challenge to call a faith peaceful when the good and evil receive sanction from the same scripture. Punishment for apostasy and homosexuality, curtailing the rights of women, and slavery – while the peaceful proponents of both faiths can identify religious tenets against them, there are others belonging to the same faith who can find religious authorization for them.

The reality is that despite the humanist teachings of various faiths, they cannot be cut out of the political sphere of human society. The difference emerges when we consider how the medieval practices sanctioned by faiths are implemented by political authorities. Islam is the only religion, which operates in countries as a theocracy. These nations, primarily in the Middle East, have dismal human rights records regarding minorities and the rights of women. There are 13 Muslim nations where apostasy is punishable by death. Even in democratic Islamic nations like Pakistan, blasphemy is punishable by death. In nations like Saudi Arabia, there are serious constraints on the freedom of expression. Women can’t drive, and face restrictions over employment and ownership rights. The tribal politics perpetuated by the Islamic faith, finds its most telling manifestation in ISIS, which aims to establish a Caliphate – a medieval Islamic state, to practice the same brand of religion the world is trying hard to subdue and sideline.

Those who propose that Islam is a peaceful faith, one that ensures social justice, tend to espouse the virtue when protected under liberal democracies. In the discussion surrounding multiculturalism, what gets missed many times, is that Muslims in liberal democracies are able to practice the positive elements of their faith under the protection of secular laws. These laws protect the same Muslims from the negative elements of their faith, something they cannot deny as multiple cases of discrimination and violence in Muslim nations are authorised by Islamic law.

shariaConsider female rights. If a woman is denied the right to seek out employment, if she is denied the right to choose whom to marry, what to wear, or when and how to move around in public, she can go to the police and achieve justice. But in a Muslim nation, where the Sharia is the law of the land, the authorities will be upholding the law in denying justice to the same woman. Similarly, if someone speaks up against a tenet of an ideology or faith in liberal democracies and receives threats, they can too seek protection of the law. In Muslim nations, the same authorities will be required by law to punish someone who criticises the Islamic faith. Regardless of their faith, being a citizen of a secular and democratic nation, a person is ensured human rights and social justice. Apathy can impede the implementation of laws and there are many cases to prove so, yet there are multiple avenues and authorities through which citizens can seek justice.

GospelReligionThe conundrum arises when peaceful Muslims claim that social justice ensured in secular democracies is also ensured by Islamic scripture. But those who commit human rights atrocities also back their actions with scripture. When the world witnesses how the word of God is implemented in Muslim states, it becomes difficult to understand the same faith as peaceful and progressive. Moreover, there is usually a ‘no comments’ retort when these peaceful Muslims in liberal democracies are asked if they if would ever live in the nations dominated by Islamic law.

Christianity was once considered a dogmatic political power in the Western world. The Spanish Inquisition, the Crusades and the persecution of scientists are dark chapters in human history where a faith was used to divide and suppress, exercising political power emanating from the high seat of the Pope, and evil cardinals. But Christianity witnessed a reformation from within, where communities challenged the dogma, and overtime established a spiritual, and to a great extent, genuine form of faith, creating a more direct link between Man and God. The reformation created the Protestant faith and a series of other Christian sects, which understood faith as a celebration of life and God, not submission to a higher authority.

The contraction of religious authority in the West, laid the foundation for the establishment of secular laws. As God stepped back during the establishment of nation states, enshrining civil rights in laws became the calling card of humanists and revolutionaries around the world. Issues like slavery, ban on abortion and punishment for homosexuality, which claim sanction from biblical scripture, have been weakened and almost wiped out as God has taken a backseat, and humanist principles, universal rights, the human drive for freedom and secular doctrines continue to gain more legitimacy. They face challenges all the time when struggling to ensure rights to multiple communities, yet they gain new ground and achieve new feats everyday.

This internal reformation in Christian societies had the effect of a spiritual overhaul in Christianity. Same sex rights, which is the new civil rights struggle of the 21st century, has been championed by traditional Catholic communities, namely Ireland voting unanimously in favour of same sex marriage and even Pope Francis giving his blessing to same sex relationships, focusing on celebrating the universal human emotion of love. We seldom, if not never see, such a push towards universal human rights in Islamic nations or from Muslim leaders.

If the crusades were on today, Christianity would have a nefarious image in the world, but human society has come a long way in achieving and continuing the struggle for human rights, maintaining a strong winning streak. Religious-political authorities have relatively moved ahead with the times erasing restrictions on civil liberties, while in the Middle East these restrictions are alive and kicking as they are sanctioned by Islamic scripture. We must realise that elements like the Klu Klux Clan and White Supremist groups, which draw their ideology from scripture, cannot operate with impunity in the West, yet the world they imagine does exist in some regards in the Middle East and North Africa.reform 2

Islam needs its own Reformation to curtail the dogma that has tarnished the image of the faith in the 21st century. The Middle East witnessed an Arab spring calling for an end to dictatorships, but the world is waiting for an Arab spring for civil liberties to sweep the Middle East. Islamic societies must move ahead with the rest of the world, so theocracies and medieval ideas do not continue to restrict the progress of human development across the world.