It has been the Christmas week, and let me wish all my readers a very happy Christmas. May the message of Christ touch everyone, and lead our troubled world towards universal peace and non violence.
Our world appears to be getting sucked into growing religious violence, wars and barbarity of conquest, reminiscent of the brutality of the Dark Ages and medieval times, all in the name of religion. It has been rightly said that all the ships of all the navies of the world can swim comfortably in the ocean of innocent blood that has been shed in the name of religion throughout the history of mankind. In this regard, the 21st century is turning out no different from centuries a millennium ago.
Jesus Christ was a Prophet of peace and non violence. His Sermon on the Mount is the greatest gift he has given humanity, in particular, "You have heard it said love thy neighbour and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies ... bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for those who persecute you."
Let us absorb the unconditional love and compassion of this message; the inclusiveness, the idea of oneness, which is wholly inconsistent with hate, violence, war and terrorism, and completely consistent with the basic tenets of our great Hindu philosophic tradition. Let us maintain the sanctity of the holy day of Christmas.
Let me inform my readers that Gandhiji was so inclined to Christianity that some of his enemies called him a Christian in disguise. His last book, Ethical Religion was deeply influenced by Christ's words. He scandalised orthodox Hindus by teaching stories from the New Testament at Sabarmati ashram. Gandhi saw Christ as a non-violent prophet, and he saw Christianity as a moral doctrine that synchronised perfectly with the fundamental moral values of our own religious texts. He countered European boasts that Christianity was their special largesse to the world, by reminding them that Christ was originally Asiatic, and that it was easier for us Indians to understand him than Europeans, who had converted his simple teachings of love and non-violence into an imperialistic religion.
Christ's messages to humanity are invaluable, even if Christian countries around the world have turned indifferent to them. The world today requires that more of Christ's preaching be converted into practice. The core of the Vedas advocates that everyone may worship god according to his Dharma, and live in peace with all religions. Our ancient philosophy teaches us to hold the church, the mosque, the gurudwara and temple with equal reverence and respect.
I have been deeply pained by the destruction of Delhi's St Sebastian church on 2 December. This is the work of devilish anti-national elements, whatever their organisation or religion may be. They should be apprehended and dealt with severely by the law. I can only offer my sympathy and goodwill to the church and wish them a happy Christmas. I hope the guardians of law can bring out the truth about this carnage urgently.
Christmas Day also has another great personal importance for me. My dear grandson Ali Jethmalani was also born on this day. My beloved daughter Rani, who left us three years ago, adopted the little Muslim infant from an orphanage when he was just a few months old. He was brought up in our family just like all our other grandchildren. As he grew older, he wondered, just as any child would, why he was Muslim growing up in a Hindu family. He once spoke to us about converting to Hinduism. But we told him firmly and convincingly, "Young man, do not bother about religion yet. Be good and attend to your education. Think of religion only when you are at least 25 years old." He is now a practicing lawyer and has just turned 29 years, and keeps his name and faith. Perhaps, like me, his religion too is to be a staunch and loyal Indian, and our sacred scripture is the Constitution of our country, according to which we live a life guided by reason and inspired by love and compassion.
Christmas Day is also Atal Behari Vajpayee's birthday, a far greater honour to him than the Bharat Ratna that he has just received. Whatever may have been the short history of our differences, I admire him as being vastly superior to many other politicians in our country. He has an independent and distinct stature of his own, perhaps a little unconventional as compared with the organisational stereotype. But I am happy that this has been recognised through conferring the award upon him.
I read in the papers that 25 December is also Nawaz Sharif's birthday. May the Christmas spirit of peace, good will, non-violence and end of terror inhabit Pakistan, which has gone through its greatest tragedy last week.
The joy of Christmas week was marred by yet another massacre in Assam, the border state which the Congress party, since decades, had converted into its own demographic real estate for inviting an unlimited supply of Bangladeshi immigrants to service its vote bank greed. The Congress has, during the last few decades, wrecked the peace and serenity of this beautiful state. The Congress Chief Minister sounds helpless, his police force is ineffective and without motivation, and his Chief Secretary is on an uninterrupted vacation, even as the state burns. The death toll has risen to more than 80, as I write this, and several thousands have been displaced after a series of attacks by National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) in the Sonitpur, Kokrajhar and Chirang districts.
Coming to the recent Jammu and Kashmir election, I do believe that it augurs a new chapter, judging from the unprecedented turnout of 65%, the highest during the last 25 years. Whether they were voting for or against Narendra Modi is not the point. The point is that the people of Kashmir have participated in an election announced under the Constitution of India, conducted under the aegis of the Election Commission of India, and have given a mandate, the crux of which is secularism. They threw out the National Conference government, and have given a verdict, however fractured or hung it might appear.
The BJP has shown outstanding performance. From a complete political nonentity having a mere 11 seats in an 87-member state Assembly, it has become the second most influential political party, achieving a victory of 25 seats against 28 of the PDP, albeit all from the Jammu region. The Congress came a poor last with 12 seats.
Prime Minister Modi's initiatives in his Mission 44 overawed the nation and the world. He trod the path which others before him had failed to tread. Spending Diwali with the troops at Siachen, visiting Ladakh and Poonch, and finally venturing into an audacious election rally at Lal Chowk in the heart of Srinagar, which no Prime Minister had done since the outbreak of militancy a quarter century ago. Friends and foes alike could only acknowledge his courage and patriotism, silently or in words. As far as the sinking Congress Party was concerned, they were just too numb to react to the alacrity and momentum of his moves.
Well, even if it wasn't Mission 44, a formidable milestone has been reached. The BJP has established a huge footprint and achieved a large portion of political space in Jammu and Kashmir, for the first time in history.
No doubt, the votes had come from the Hindu dominated Jammu region, while the PDP votes came from the Muslim dominated Kashmir Valley. And herein lies the challenge for Modi. He must win the hearts of the Muslims of Kashmir, the same Muslims who supported the Indian Army, when Pakistan sent its infiltrators in 1965. I am confident he will do so, by giving them modern infrastructure, skills, services, education and employment opportunity, everything they yearn for, and what is closest to his heart for the progress of our country.
The political arithmetic thrown up in the J&K election is indeed tricky, and speculation about combinations is rife. I hope that the BJP and the PDP can come to an understanding for forming the government. The PDP has spent considerable time and has taken the trouble of drawing up a roadmap for the future of the state in its "self-rule framework" and resolving the Kashmir issue. This document released in October 2008 is built upon political restructuring, economic integration between the two parts of Kashmir, demilitarisation and constitutional restructuring within the Indian Constitution.
I hope we can just do it. And may this Christmas end terror in our world.