Friday, September 25, 2015

Mecca As an International City: Time to ask for "Vatican" status

A look at the world of politics, statecraft, diplomacy and books The horrific tragedies that have taken place in the Holy City of Mecca has led people all over the world to ask the question: Are the Saudi authorities at all capable of dealing with the huge crowds that come on the annual pilgrimage, the Haj rituals. In a space of less than two weeks, three horrible accidents have happened at Mecca and our hearts are are full of grief. However, it is time to think of the status of Mecca. Mecca belongs to the entire Muslim fraternity and not to Saudi Arabia. The Saudi kingdom which legitimizes its brazen dependence on Wahhabi Islam, has taken charge of the two holy cities and the key component of the Saudi kingship is the fact that the Kingdom is the "protector of the holy cities". It is obvious that the Saudi authorities are doing a poor job. The stoning of Satan, a ritual at Mina draws a crowd of nearly 2 million and unfortunately, the Saudi authorities seem to have not learnt any lessons from the mistakes of the past. Each Haj season there are accidents due to the inefficiency of the Saudi crowd management techniques. India manages the Khumb Mela which draws huge crowds of more than 3 to 4 million without major mishaps. Crowd management is needed. It is also surprising that cranes with heavy booms were at the site of the pilgrimage. The collapse of a single crane cause nearly 400 deaths. Of course, the belief that a death in Mecca assures a safe passage to Heaven is not very comforting to the bereaved families. The inability of the Saudi authorities to provide for the security of the pilgrimage necessitates a rethink on the status of the Holy City. Mecca is holy to both the Sunnis and the Shias and the Iranian authorities have always been critical of the manner in which the Saudis manage the pilgrimage. A few years back there was an unfortunate tragedy at Mecca when Iranians dressed as pilgrims fired in the Grand Mosque killing nearly 300 pilgrims. Given the importance the site has for people of Islamic faith and the frequency with which accidents are happening it is necessay to liberate Mecca from the clutches of Wahabi Islam. Like Vatican, Mecca can be made into a Sate under the control of all the important denominations of Islam and this body should undertake to regulate the Pilgrimage. Ithink this is the best solution for the ever recurring problem.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

The Bihar Elections: Why the BJP will do well

A look at the world of politics, statecraft, diplomacy and books Bihar, like Tamil Nadu, is a state with clearly defined dominant castes that are concentrated in geographical zones which enables the dominant castes to turn local influence into political power in the form of seats in the Assembly or Lok Sabha. The BJP in the last Lok Sabha polls swept the state gathering all but 4 of the seats. This in effect meant that the traditional caste equations had collapsed and the development wave of Narendar Modi took everything in its wake. Old alliances were swept aside and Laloo Prasad Yadava who tried to send his daughter to the Lok Sabha was completely defeated. Misa Bharathi lost and lost badly and that too in a Yadava dominated area. This time around the BJP, though sure of a victory, is having to fight for every seat. The alliance of SP,RJD and Congress may look formidable but in reality there is little strength for this Alliance. With the SP marching out, the going has gotten tougher for Nithish Kumar and his JD(U). The BJP has stitched up a loose alliance of intermediate castes and influential sections of the Dalit castes particularly the Paswans and the Mahadalits. The inclusion of Manji in the alliance is undoubtedly a masterstroke as it creates a very broad spectrum of support for the BJP which can count on the Brahmins, Rajput and Bhumiar votes to a substantial degree. The BJP Alliance has now gained traction and Modi's announcement of a special package for Bihar has made the BJP more or less secure. The real challenge for the BJP lies in the rural pockets. Nitish Kumar tried to make this electoral battle into a personal fight between him and Modi. This strategy has failed because the alliance with Laloo Prasad Yadava has raised people's fear of the return of the Jungle Raj. Given this state, it is certain that our of 243 seats the BJP will win around 157 seats.