Archives  >  2019  >  November  >  11th

Ram Janmabhoomi

1. What’s the story?

On Saturday, the Supreme Court of India finally delivered that hugely anticipated verdict. Passing its judgement on the Ayodhya dispute (an argument simmering for centuries, as covered by 6 Things earlier here), it ruled that a Ram temple will be built on the controversial piece of land, “where, till 1992, the Babri Masjid stood.

The judges also instructed the Government to allot Muslims a 5-acre plot of land somewhere prominent in Ayodhya for the building of a mosque.

The judgement is hugely significant, “revolving around an intersection of faith and politics that has gripped and driven India for the past three decades.”

Tell me more.

Now that the legal tug of war has ended, experts claim that there are multiple ways this could play out in the broader sphere of Indian politics in the upcoming years. 

First off, Hindu nationalism seems to be a dominant political ideology that is here to stay. When India gained independence, Hindu nationalism was at best a fringe ideology. Even later, in 1984, the Bharatiya Janata Party won only two seats in the Lok Sabha elections across India. All that, however, has now changed. Religion and state now seem to be intricately melded with each other. 

“Now that the Supreme Court itself has passed a judgment that ratifies the main aim of the Ramjanmabhoomi judgment, the ascent of Hindu nationalism is complete. To understand just how closely religion and state are now fused, the court has ordered that the temple will be built not by a private organisation but by a trust set up by the Modi government itself. “The court seems to have weighed religious belief over the rule of law,” argues legal scholar Faizan Mustafa.” 

Secondly, this ruling most assuredly cements BJP’s space as the leading power within the country. 

“The BJP now has far more than a majority in the Lok Sabha – it moulds India ideologically with a magnitude of influence that can maybe only compared to the mind-space the Congress occupied in 1947.”

Additionally, the Supreme Court’s verdict over the weekend also allows the BJP a breather from the worsening economy.

““Perhaps no need for the common man to ask for bread. He is getting Sikkim,” journalist BG Verghese had written sarcastically, commenting on the Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s contentious annexation of Sikkim in 1975.

This dynamic is at play in 2019, as the BJP will hope that the building of a temple will take attention away from India’s economic slowdown and poor human development parameters.”

Most significantly, though, the recent ruling also opens up the possibility of a large number of other mosques in the country to be converted into temples. 

“Ayodhya is not the only one: according to Hindutva ideologues, there are a numbers of mosques built allegedly on temples. In a book by Sita Ram Goel and Arun Shourie, this number runs into the thousands.

… post the verdict, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad made it clear that when it comes to mosques to Varanasi and Mathura, the “Supreme Court judgement is not the end of the story, it is the beginning”.

So, what now?

Now that this long-held bone of contention has finally been put to rest, maybe India can turn its attention towards other pressing matters, such as the rapidly worsening climate situation, a stagnant economy, and increasing unemployment. 

Keep your eyes on this space. We’ll keep you updated.

2. Who else should I be keeping my eyes on?

Shafali Verma, that’s who. At only 15 years, this teenager from Haryana has managed to smash Sachin Tendulkar’s long-held record of being the youngest Indian to score an international fifty. Tendulkar managed to achieve this feat at more than 16 years, while Shafali’s blazing knock came when the player was only 15 years and 285 days old. 

“Fifteen-year-old Shafali Verma became the youngest Indian cricketer to score a half-century in international cricket, her 49-ball 73 in the first T20 International against West Indies surpassing Sachin Tendulkar’s 30-year-old record.

Playing in only her fifth T20I, Shafali put the West Indies attack to the sword, blasting six fours and four sixes on way to her maiden fifty at the Daren Sammy National Cricket Stadium.

Shafali achieved the feat at 15 years and 285 days, surpassing batting legend Tendulkar, who had notched up his maiden Test fifty at 16 years and 214 days.”

3. What more?

In major drama unfolding in Maharashtra, the formation of the state Government is still at an impasse, with Shiv Sena-BJP’s “Maha Yuti” alliance unable to come to a power-sharing agreement. On Sunday, BJP refused to form the Government, since, without Shiv Sena’s support, it does not have the majority in the house. 

“Hours after BJP stated that it will not form the government in Maharashtra, Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari on Sunday, 10 November has invited Shiv Sena to indicate their willingness to form the government in the state.

Amid the power tussle, Sena’s Sanjay Raut reiterated Uddhav Thackeray’s claim that the chief minister of the state will belong to their party “at any cost.”

Opposition leaders have also been vocal about their disappointment over Government formation in Maharashtra.

“Rajasthan Congress president Sachin Pilot said that the BJP has dishonoured the mandate of the people of Maharashtra by its failure to form government in the state even after 15 days of the elections result.

Pilot, who visited Jodhpur today, said the BJP had not been given the mandate for politicking.

“Despite a pre-poll alliance with the Shiv Sena, the BJP has not been able to form the government in Maharashtra and by doing so, the party has dishonoured the mandate of the people of the state,” he said, reported PTI.”

Keep your eyes on this space. We’ll keep you updated.

4. Anything else?

This is the story of India’s most fabled jail “that housed the notorious and the respectable, and where some prisoners were more equal than others and some executions were stranger than what was reported.” Here are some “startling revelations” by a man “who witnessed their lives and last moments.”

“May 7th, 1981, Sunil Gupta left his employment in the Railways and landed up the next day at Tihar to join as assistant superintendent of prison only to be told that there was no vacancy. When Gupta pointed out he had an appointment letter, it made no difference because, well, that was just how it was in Tihar. The Superintendent (SP) was all powerful and could simply ignore a government document. Gupta would later learn that the SP preferred people from his own state and caste to be employed there. In panic, Gupta dropped the name of an IAS officer he had seen in school textbooks, which made the SP ask him to sit outside.

And that was where he saw a ‘smartly dressed man wearing a tie and jacket’ who asked him in English what he was doing there. When Gupta explained his crisis, the man told him, ‘Don’t worry. I can help you.’ He went inside, came out after an hour, handed Gupta his appointment letter and walked away. When Gupta asked a passerby who this man was, the answer was: ‘He’s Charles Sobhraj. He is the ‘super IG’ of the jail, he runs everything here.’ Sobhraj was a multiple murderer and would later become nationally famous for escaping from Tihar. Gupta, after he began duty, saw that Sobhraj had a cell that looked like a studio apartment with other prisoners as servants. He also had the unique privilege of being allowed to cook his own food.

Gupta had complained about the extraordinary facilities being provided to another famous Tihar prisoner, Sahara chief Subrata Roy. Roy had become the ‘only inmate in the history of Indian jails to have an air-conditioned stay. He also got internet and Wi-Fi access to hold video-conference meetings and use cellphones and laptops. His staff of stenographers and assistants were allowed to stay from 6 am right through to 8 pm.’ This was as per a Supreme Court order which allowed Tihar’s conference room to serve as Roy’s cell. However, it had only been stipulated by the court for 57 days to negotiate the sale of his properties and what rankled Gupta was that the jail authorities simply extended these facilities for his entire two-year stay.”

5. Is that all?

According to experts, humans have apparently “eaten thousands of species into extinction. Some, supposedly, were to die for.

“The earliest humans favored juicy, meaty mammoth at mealtimes. Ancient Romans loved their favorite herb, silphium, so much that they sprinkled it on everything from lamb to melon. In the 19th-century United States, passenger pigeon pie was a cherished comfort food, long before chicken potpie became commonplace. And for dessert, Americans a century ago might have enjoyed a superlatively buttery Ansault pear, reckoned to be the greatest pear ever grown. What did these foods beloved by previous generations taste like? Well, apart from some written descriptions, we’ll never know: They’re all extinct.

But the passenger pigeon wasn’t our first culinary extinction. In this episode, Newman takes us on a tour through the foods we have eaten to their end, such as the Pleistocene megafauna, which early humans destroyed as our numbers spread around the world, and the leek-flavored silphium that was so valuable that its last stalks were hoarded, alongside gold and jewels, by Roman emperors. In each case, we sift through the evidence that points to human appetite as the leading cause of extinction, and unpack the response of a bewildered, bereft humanity.”

6. Before you leave…

Take a look at how “hip hop and breakdancing changed the lives of two deaf boys from India.

Note: 6 Things will be off this week. We’ll be back next Monday. Till then, stay informed, stay cool.

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