My First Blog Post

Be yourself; Everyone else is already taken.

— Oscar Wilde.

This is the first post on my new blog. I’m just getting this new blog going, so stay tuned for more. Subscribe below to get notified when I post new updates.

Hindu Rashtra: India

In a lecture on “India and secularism” eminent economist, statement, veterann political leader Dr. Subramannam Swami remarked that India is already a Hindu Rashtra. More than 80% citizen of India is Hindu. India is a place where Hindu deties are worshipped. Though other sects of people live here with same status.

But nowadays some people of both Hindu and Muslim religions are violating the Indian Constitution. Even political leaders are making nuisance with their hate speeches before election.

Hardly any action is taken against leaders of political parties making hate speeches. Unless the law is trained to disqualify a person from contesting the election for making hate speeches, there will be no effective check on this sensitive issue,” says Dr Madhav Godbole, who resigned as Union home secretary in the aftermath of the Babri Masjid demolition.

Dr Godbole, who has written 26 books on Indian policy issues since he bid farewell to the Indian Administrative Service in 1993, has just published his latest book India – A Federal Union of States – Fault Lines, Challenges and Opportunities (Konark Publishers).

“I fail to understand why the Supreme Court has not given a direction so far to operationalise secularism,” Dr Godbole tells it.

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In his book he says that though secularism is part of the basic structure of the Constitution, secularism has not been operationalised. What threat does it pose to India and Indian federalism?

All those advocating a Hindu Rashtra must realise that rashtra is a much larger concept and a Hindu Rashtra cannot consist of Hindus alone. It can be a mix of different religions that constitute India.

Secondly, there hasn’t been a real commitment to secularism by successive governments over the years in spite of the Supreme Court ruling that it is part of the basic structure of the Constitution. Secularism has not been operationalised.

Dr. Godbole further says that he fails to understand why the Supreme Court has not given a direction so far to operationalise secularism.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has declared a number of rights as fundamental rights, even those which are not mentioned in the Constitution, like the right to privacy, right to information.

There are 8-10 rights that been recognised by the Supreme Court as fundamental rights though they are not explicitly mentioned in the Constitution.

Similarly, why can’t the Supreme Court say that secularism is part of the basic structure of the Constitution, and therefore, steps must be taken to operationalise it?

Thirdly, the minimum that a government can do is to bring a law which says that a candidate should get 50% plus 1 vote to be declared a winner in an election.

S/he will then represent the majority in the real sense of the term and her/his appeal will not be limited to her/his own caste, creed, community, religion, etc.

The candidate will have to make an appeal to various sections of society and that will be real representative democracy.

Fourthly, hardly any action is taken against leaders of political parties making hate speeches.

Unless the law is trained to disqualify a person from contesting the election for making hate speeches, there will be no effective check on this sensitive issue.

It needs statesmanship amongst all political parties to come together and make a Constitutional amendment and also amend the Representation of People Act to debar the mixing of religion and politics.

For example, why should political parties have flags which are so common to their own religions? The Election Commission of India should not have permitted such flags by some regional parties.null

These is a very large, complex, complicated and sensitive subject, but it will require real statesmanship.

11th September:A Remarkable Day

11th September is a remarkable day in the history of India. This is the red-letter day in human civilisation. This is the day when Swami Vivekananda introduced India to the world.

11th September is a remarkable day because Swami Vivekananda represented India and Hinduism at the Parliament of the World’s Religions(1893). On 11th September, 1893 Swami Vivekananda became acquainted with the World as an Indian Hindu monk and delivered his eloquent speech before the Western audience.

Swami Vivekananda’s iconic speech at the World Religion Conference in Chicago is remembered by one and all. It is on September 11, 1893 when Swami Vivekanand gave the speech full of wisdom. For those unversed, it is in this iconic Chicago Speech that Vivekananda addressed the audience as ‘Brothers and Sisters of America’. In the speech that blew everyone’s mind, Swami Vivekananda had mentioned the basic yet most important things that one should follow in life.

These things included being patriotic, loving all religions, analysing religion, being acquainted with science, knowing importance and necessity of rituals, being aware of roots of Hinduism, being aware of the goal of science, being aware of the cause of downfall of India, and being against religious conversations.

Sisters and Brothers of America,

It fills my heart with joy unspeakable to rise in response to the warm and cordial welcome which you have given us. I thank you in the name of the most ancient order of monks in the world; I thank you in the name of the mother of religions; and I thank you in the name of the millions and millions of Hindu people of all classes and sects.

My thanks, also, to some of the speakers on this platform who, referring to the delegates from the Orient, have told you that these men from far-off nations may well claim the honour of bearing to different lands the idea of toleration. I am proud to belong to a religion which has taught the world both tolerance and universal acceptance.

We believe not only in universal toleration, but we accept all religions as true. I am proud to belong to a nation which has sheltered the persecuted and the refugees of all religions and all nations of the earth.

I am proud to tell you that we have gathered in our bosom the purest remnant of the Israelites, who came to southern India and took refuge with us in the very year in which their holy temple was shattered to pieces by Roman tyranny.

I am proud to belong to the religion which has sheltered and is still fostering the remnant of the grand Zoroastrian nation. I will quote to you, brethren, a few lines from a hymn which I remember to have repeated from my earliest boyhood, which is every day repeated by millions of human beings:

‘As the different streams having their sources in different places all mingle their water in the sea, so, O Lord, the different paths which men take through different tendencies, various though they appear, crooked or straight, all lead to Thee.’

The present convention, which is one of the most august assemblies ever held, is in itself a vindication, a declaration to the world, of the wonderful doctrine preached in the Gita:

‘Whosoever comes to Me, through whatsoever form, I reach him; all men are struggling through paths which in the end lead to Me.’

Sectarianism, bigotry, and its horrible descendant, fanaticism, have long possessed this beautiful earth. They have filled the earth with violence, drenched it often and often with human blood, destroyed civilization, and sent whole nations to despair.

Had it not been for these horrible demons, human society would be far more advanced than it is now. But their time is come; and I fervently hope that the bell that tolled this morning in honour of this convention may be the death-knell of all fanaticism, of all persecutions with the sword or with the pen, and of all uncharitable feelings between persons wending their way to the same goal.”

Teacher’s Day

Today, 5th September is a special day for the teacher. We convey our regards to our teachers. Generally students arrange this Teacher’s Day celebration every year. And really it’s a grand festival in the educational institution. For a long long time I have been enjoying this lovely ceremony in my college. It’s about three and half decades. But last two years it has been continued through online. Though today is Sunday, despite students have been arranged and previously told us to join in Google meet.

They meteculously started and finished this program. We enjoyed it very much. They participated in music, dance, recitation and speech and very perfectly they performed it. In fact, we have learned from them. Sometimes I think I have a long way to learn many things in this knowledgeable world from anywhere, from anybody, may it be a daily labour, or an unknown person. Sometimes I used to learn from daughter. She is expert in digital world. But I am a novice. New generation have a different looks about the life and about the world. So we learn from my students and others people. Might be they’re also our teacher. Are they really so ?

In fact, knowledge is within us. Teacher only can Ignite this. He is the torch bearer. His main duty is to remove the ignorance and to open the door of the heart. Aggano timirandhosya Jnanjono Shalakaya Chokhsur urmilitang Jeno tosmai Shree gurabe namoh.

Guru or Teacher is our God. He always stand by us in every situation of our lives. They inspire us, help us to go forward and achieve any goal. Vidyasagar, Rabindranath, Swami Vivekananda, Dr. Sarbepalli Radhakrisnan, Rishi Aurobindo – they’re all our great teacher.

Today is Radhakrisnan birthday. His birthday is celebrated as Teacher’s Day in India. He was a great teacher, distinguished philosopher, eminent statesman. He was also a great writer. He wrote my books on philosophy.

Dr. Radhakrisnan was a brilliant student. He studied in the Madras University. Served as a Professor in Presidency College and Madras University. Having requested by Vice Chancellor Ashutosh Mukhopaddhay he joined in Calcutta University and hold the post of fifth Jorge. He became Vice Chancellor of Andhra University and Banaras Hindu University.

Radhakrisnan became two times Vice President of India and One time President of India. He was given Bharat Ratna in the year of 1954.

During his Vice Presidentship, his students came to celebrate his birthday. He then adviced them to celebrate his birthday as Teacher’s Day. From then 5th September is celebrated as the Teacher’s Day.

AFGHANISTAN: THE GRAVEYARD OF EMPEROR’S

Afghanistan is called as the graveyard of emperors. It’s easy to understand why it’s called so. Kings had been ruled out here for a uncertain periods. They ruled this lands for a time being, but ultimately the rulers had to flee from here. Very recently Taliban fighters captured this lands after American President Mr. Biden administration’s promised to leave this soil. Last 20 years, Afghanistan was under the control of America, though there’s a local government there headed by Ghoni. But he had to flee from the country due to invasion of militants group, Taliban.

AFGHANISTAN AND ITS SETTLEMENT

Afghanistan was settled at least 5,000 years ago. Early cities such as Mundigak and Balkh sprang up around 5,000 years ago. They likely were affiliated with the Aryan culture of India. Around 700 BCE, the Median Empire expanded its rule to Afghanistan. The Medes were an Indian people, rivals of the Persians.

In the middle ages, up to the 18th century, the region was known as Khorasan. Several important centers of Khorasan are thus located in modern Afghanistan, such as Balkh,Herat, Ghazni and Kabul.

THE POLITICAL HISTORY:

The political history of modern state of Afghanistan began with the Hotak dynasty, whose founder Mirwais Hotak declared Southern Afghanistan independent in 1709. In 1747, Ahmed Shah Durani established the Durrani Empire with its capital at Kandahar.

WHO FOUNDED AFGHANISTAN ?

So, the first Durrani ruler, Ahmed Shah, is obviously the founder of the Afghan nation. He united the Pushtan tribes and by 1760 built an empire extending to Delhi and the American Sea. The empire fragmented after Ahmed Shah’s death in 1772, but in 1826 Dost Mohammed, the leader of the Pashtun Muhammedzai tribe, restored order.

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

The Pre-Islamic Period: 

Archaeological evidence indicates that urban civilization began in the region occupied by modern Afghanistan between 3000 and 2000 B.C. The first historical documents date from the early part of the Iranian Achaemenian Dynasty, which controlled the region from 550 B.C. until 331 B.C. Between 330 and 327 B.C., Alexander the Great defeated the Achaemenian emperor Darius III and subdued local resistance in the territory that is now Afghanistan.

Alexander’s successors, the Seleucids, continued to infuse the region with Greek cultural influence. Shortly thereafter, the Mauryan Empire of India gained control of southern Afghanistan, bringing with it Buddhism. In the mid-third century B.C., nomadic Kushans established an empire that became a cultural and commercial center. From the end of the Kushan Empire in the third century A.D. until the seventh century, the region was fragmented and under the general protection of the Iranian Sassanian Empire.

The Islamic and Mongol Conquests: 

After defeating the Sassanians at the Battle of Qadisiya in 637, Arab Muslims began a 100-year process of conquering the Afghan tribes and introducing Islam. By the tenth century, the rule of the Arab Abbasid Dynasty and its successor in Central Asia, the Samanid dynasty, had crumbled. The Ghaznavid Dynasty, an offshoot of the Samanids, then became the first great Islamic dynasty to rule in Afghanistan. In 1220 all of Central Asia fell to the Mongol forces of Genghis Khan. Afghanistan remained fragmented until the 1380s, when Timur consolidated and expanded the existing Mongol Empire. Timur’s descendants ruled Afghanistan until the early sixteenth century.

Ahmad Shāh Durrānī, Durrani Empire

Ahmad Shāh Durrānī (c.1723–1773), the founder of the Durrani Empire and regarded as the founder of present-day Afghanistan.
 The Pashtun Rulers: In 1504 the region fell under a new empire, the Mughals of northern India, who for the next two centuries contested Afghan territory with the Iranian Safavi Dynasty. With the death of the great Safavi leader Nadir Shah in 1747, indigenous Pashtuns, who became known as the Durrani, began a period of at least nominal rule in Afghanistan that lasted until 1978. The first Durrani ruler, Ahmad Shah, known as the founder of the Afghan nation, united the Pashtun tribes and by 1760 built an empire extending to Delhi and the Arabian Sea. The empire fragmented after Ahmad Shah’s death in 1772, but in 1826 Dost Mohammad, the leader of the Pashtun Muhammadzai tribe, restored order.

Dost Mohammad Khan (1793-1863) was Emir of Afghanistan from 1826–1839 and 1845–1863. He was was the founder of the Barakzai dynasty, the two branches of the Barakzai dynasty Afghanistan from 1826 to 1973 when the monarchy finally ended under Mohammad Zahir Shah.

The Great Game:  Dost Mohammad ruled at the beginning of the Great Game, a century-long contest for domination of Central Asia and Afghanistan between Russia, which was expanding to the south, and Britain, which was intent on protecting India. During this period, Afghan rulers were able to maintain virtual independence, although some compromises were necessary. In the First Anglo-Afghan War (1839–42), the British deposed Dost Mohammad, but they abandoned their Afghan garrisons in 1842. In the following decades, Russian forces approached the northern border of Afghanistan. In 1878 the British invaded and held most of Afghanistan in the Second Anglo-Afghan War.

Amir Abdur Rahman, Emir of Afghanistan

Amir Abdur Rahman was Emir of Afghanistan from 1880 to 1901.
 In 1880 Abdur Rahman, a Durrani, began a 21-year reign that saw the balancing of British and Russian interests, the consolidation of the Afghan tribes, and the reorganization of civil administration into what is considered the modern Afghan state. During this period, the British secured the Durand Line (1893), dividing Afghanistan from British colonial territory to the southeast and sowing the seeds of future tensions over the division of the Pashtun tribes. Abdur Rahman’s son Habibullah (ruled 1901–19) continued his father’s administrative reforms and maintained Afghanistan’s neutrality in World War I.

Full Independence and Soviet Occupation: In 1919 Afghanistan signed the Treaty of Rawalpindi, which ended the Third Anglo- Afghan War and marks Afghanistan’s official date of independence. In the interwar period, Afghanistan again was a balancing point between two world powers; Habibullah’s son Amanullah (ruled 1919–29) skillfully manipulated the new British-Soviet rivalry and established relations with major countries. Amanullah introduced his country’s first constitution in 1923. However, resistance to his domestic reform program forced his abdication in 1929. In 1933 Amanullah’s nephew Mohammad Zahir Shah, the last king of Afghanistan, began a 40-year reign.

After World War II, in which Afghanistan remained neutral, the long-standing division of the Pashtun tribes caused tension with the neighboring state of Pakistan, founded on the other side of the Durand Line in 1948. In response, Afghanistan shifted its foreign policy toward the Soviet Union. The prime minister ship of the king’s cousin Mohammad Daoud (1953–63) was cautiously reformist, modernizing and centralizing the government while strengthening ties with the Soviet Union. However, in 1963 Zahir Shah dismissed Daoud because his anti-Pakistani policy had damaged Afghanistan’s economy.

Mohammad Zahir Shah - King of Afghanistan


Mohammad Zahir Shah
, the last King (Badshah) of Afghanistan, reigning for four decades, from 1933 until he was ousted by a coup in 1973.

A new constitution, ratified in 1964, liberalized somewhat the constitutional monarchy. However, in the ensuing decade economic and political conditions worsened. In 1973 Daoud overthrew the king and established a republic. When economic conditions did not improve and Daoud lost most of his political support, communist factions overthrew him in 1978. In 1979 the threat of tribal insurgency against the communist government triggered an invasion by 80,000 Soviet troops, who then endured a very effective decade- long guerrilla war. Between 1979 and 1989, two Soviet-sponsored regimes failed to defeat the loose federation of mujahideen guerrillas [who were supported by the US, Pakistan , and Saudi Arabia, note from the editor] that opposed the occupation. In 1988 the Soviet Union agreed to create a neutral Afghan state, and the last Soviet troops left Afghanistan in 1989. The agreement ended a war that killed thousands, devastated industry and agriculture, and created 5 to 6 million refugees.

Civil War and the Taliban: 

The 1988 agreement did not settle differences between the government and the mujahideen, and in 1992 Afghanistan descended into a civil war that further ravaged the economy. Among the leaders of the warring factions were Ahmad Shah Massoud, an ethnic Tajik; Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a Pashtun; and Abdul Rashid Dostum, an Uzbek.

Despite several temporary alliances, struggles among the armed groups continued until one Islamic fundamentalist group, the Taliban, gained control of most of the country in 1996. The Taliban used an extremist interpretation of Islam to assert repressive control of society. The economy remained in ruins, and most government services ceased.

The Taliban granted the Arab terrorist organization al Qaeda the right to use Afghanistan as a base. As al Qaeda committed a series of international terrorist acts culminating in attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001, the Taliban rejected international pressure to surrender al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. When the United States and allies attacked Afghanistan in the fall of 2001, the Taliban government collapsed, but Taliban and al Qaeda leaders escaped. A United States–led International Security Assistance Force began an occupation that is still in place in 2008.

Rebuilding the Country: In December 2001, Afghan leaders in exile signed the Bonn Agreement, forming an interim government, the Afghan Interim Administration, under the leadership of the Pashtun moderate Hamid Karzai. In 2002 Karzai was selected president of the Transitional Islamic State of Afghanistan, whose ruling council included disparate leaders of the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance. A new constitution, written by a specially convened Loya Jirga, or constituent assembly of regional leaders, was ratified in early 2004. In October 2004, an overwhelming popular vote elected Karzai president of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. However, regional warlords and large areas of Afghanistan remained beyond the control of the Karzai government. Despite substantial international aid, the Afghan government, which included representatives from many factions, was unable to address numerous social and economic problems. The parliamentary elections of September 2005 gave regional warlords substantial power in both houses of the National Assembly, further jeopardizing Karzai’s ability to unite the country. The Bonn Agreement lapsed after the 2005 elections.

Determined to end the tragic conflict in Afghanistan and promote national reconciliation, lasting peace, stability and respect for human rights in the countryThe participants in the UN Talks on Afghanistan of the Afghan Bonn Agreement – December 2001
 The agreement’s successor, the Afghanistan Compact, went into effect in January 2006 to set goals for international assistance in economic development, security, protection of human rights, and the fight against corruption and drug trafficking through 2010.

Hamid Karzai, President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, U.S. President Barack Obama and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari


Hamid Karzai, President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, U.S. President Barack Obama and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari at an US-Afghan-Pakistan Trilateral meeting in May 2009.
 In the meantime, the resurgent Taliban intensified terrorist activities in areas beyond government control, particularly the southeastern provinces. In mid-2006, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) forces turned back a Taliban offensive aimed at Kandahar.

However, beginning in 2007 the Taliban utilized safe havens in adjacent Pakistan to gradually restore and expand its control in Afghanistan. In early 2008, it controlled an estimated 10 percent of the country while the government controlled only an estimated 30 percent. Local tribes controlled the remaining territory. Despite U.S.-aided efforts to reduce cultivation of poppies for narcotics production, in 2007 and 2008 that crop accounted for an increasing percentage of Afghanistan’s economy and was a major support of the Taliban.

In mid-2008, a new International Conference in Support of Afghanistan reaffirmed international commitments to the country’s economic and political stability but demanded improved coordination of aid and reduced corruption. Meanwhile, widespread economic hardship increasingly weakened the Karzai government’s support among the population.

The Pioneer Of New Democracy

Nadir Khan (aka Nadir Shah, shah meaning ‘king’) allowed rural chiefs greater autonomy. Assassinated by a student in 1933, he was succeeded by his 19-year-old son Mohamed Zahir (Zahir Shah). For two decades Zahir Shah was controlled by his two uncles, who were successive Prime Ministers. The second uncle ushered in a ‘liberal parliament’ which sat from 1949 until 1952 when Zahir Shah’s cousin, Daoud, seized control as Prime Minister and in 1955 turned to the Soviet Union for military aid. In 1963 Zahir Shah tried to develop a constitutional monarchy under the ‘New Democracy’ which lasted from 1964 to 1973. During this time intellectuals enjoyed greater freedom; women began to enter the workplace and government. Zahir Shah decided to introduce a more representative form of government, but legislation permitting the existence of political parties was never signed.

Women Empowerment And The Hunger for change

In 1973 the King’s cousin, Daoud, staged a coup, proclaiming Afghanistan a republic and himself President. Cold War rivals, the USSR and the US, poured aid into the country ($2.52 billion and $533 million respectively between 1955 and 1978). During Daoud’s brief rule the country benefited from oil and gas revenues. There were other changes. Women’s rights were confirmed by Daoud. Kabul was now full of students and its University was a hotbed of political ideology – both Communist and Islamic. Women and men studied together and came into contact with foreign teachers. They were hungry for change.

NEW ERA IN AFGHANISTAN:

Communism – Afghan-style

On 27 April 1978 Daoud was overthrown and killed in a communist coup (the Sawr Revolution) led by Afghanistan’s People’s Democratic Party (PDPA). Internal conflict soon split the party. The leaders of one faction – Parcham (‘banner’) – were expelled while the other faction, the Khalq (‘the masses’), headed by Noor Mohammed Taraki, took power. The latter attacked Islam, ruled by decree and enjoyed little popular support. Radical reforms sparked local rebellions and army insurrections; troops defected to resistance groups. The USSR increased aid to Taraki’s regime; the US, meanwhile, actively supported resistance groups. Although urged by the Soviets to modify its unpopular policies, the Taraki regime refused. Fearing the US would take advantage of mounting chaos, USSR President Breshnev sent in troops in December 1979. He believed Soviet troops would be able to withdraw after six months.

 AFGHANISTAN TURNED INTO THE USSR’s VIETNAM

Meanwhile Taraki was overthrown, and allegedly suffocated, by party rival Hafizullah Amin, who in turn was killed by Soviet troops entering his palace. The Russians installed as leader Babrak Kamal, head of the Parcham faction, who reversed Taraki’s most unpopular policies and declared allegiance to Islam.

But the presence of foreign troops on Afghan soil had already sparked a national uprising. Soviet forces responded by destroying agriculture and livestock to cut off supplies to the resistance. Russian bombing of villages claimed nearly a million Afghan lives. The KGB-organized secret police spread terror in urban areas. Soviet troop numbers reached 120,000, but still the resistance grew – and became international. Support came via Mujahidin groups exiled in Pakistan which were funded mainly by the US, Saudi Arabia and China.

However, the US, determined to make Afghanistan the Russian ‘Vietnam’, poured in money and weapons to arm the opposition through the Pakistani secret intelligence services known as the ISI. The commander receiving most US aid was Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, known to the CIA for his ‘fascist’ and ‘vicious’ tendencies. Intellectuals, especially, were targeted in his murder campaigns. Anti-communist support also came from Britain and Pakistan. By the late 1980s, aid from the US and Saudi Arabia reached around $1 billion per year; while between 1986 and 1990 around $5 billion worth of weapons went to the ‘holy fighters’ of the Afghan Mujahidin.

SOVIET WITHDRAWAL AND THE REIGN OF DR NAJIBULLAH

The occupation claimed at least 14,000 Russian lives and was costing the USSR more than $5 billion a year. New President Mikhail Gorbachev prepared to withdraw, working to leave behind a ‘friendly’ government in Afghanistan. Dr Najibullah, head of the Afghan Intelligence Service, was installed as President. The last Soviet troops were withdrawn in February 1989; the occupation had left 1.5 million Afghans dead, five million disabled, and five million refugees. The Mujahidin were able to capture large parts of Afghanistan, continuing to fight against the Russian puppet, Najubullah. In April 1992 they took Kabul and declared an Islamic state. Burhannaudin Rabbani was elected President, but the Mujahidin victors were far from united and a bitter power struggle ensued.

THE HISTORY OF BATTLING WARLORDS

Commanders Abdul Rashid Dostum and Ahmad Shah Massoud entered Kabul to prevent a takeover of the city by rival warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and his allies. Four main groups, each with their own foreign backers, fought for control of Kabul. In August 1992 the UN reported that more than 1,800 civilians had been killed and 500,000 were fleeing the city. By the end of 1992, Kabul was devastated thanks to the actions of competing warlords; 5,000 people had died and around a million had been displaced. Rape was condoned by most factional leaders. Other cities suffered similar fates. By 1994 at least 20,000 had died – and still the leaders of the warring factions refused to meet. At this point a new force appeared.

   ENTER THE MILITANT TALIBAN

A small group of religious students (or taliban) living near Kandahar objected to the behaviour of commanders controlling the area. With support from elements in Pakistan, they launched a military campaign aimed at creating an Islamic state based on strict sharia law.

The first city they took was Kandahar, home of their leader Mullah Mohammed Omar, in November 1994. They met little resistance from the war-weary population: the Taliban imposed order, collected weapons, tore down checkpoints to extort money and refused to take bribes. Their version of Islam was harsh, extreme and dogmatic. Educated city-dwellers, especially women, were worst affected. After a while, the Taliban made alliances of convenience and increasingly relied on foreign fighters; torture, killings and other human rights violations committed against civilians intensified.

 THE ROLE OF PAKISTAN & SAUDI GOVERNMENT

An estimated 100,000 Pakistanis trained and fought alongside the Taliban in Afghanistan from 1994-2001. Saudi Arabia provided funds, goods and diplomatic support. Osama bin Laden, a wealthy Saudi who during the Soviet occupation had funded and trained Arab Mujahidin recruits, renewed his support, returning to Afghanistan in 1996. By 2000 the Taliban controlled 90 per cent of Afghan territory, but were only officially recognized by Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and the UAE. Relations with the US were especially hostile. The US accused the Taliban of harbouring Osama bin Laden, suspected mastermind of the 1998 bomb attacks on US embassies in Nairobi and Dar-es-Salaam. This, combined with international concern about extreme oppression of women, and the country’s opium poppy production, prompted two rounds of UN sanctions.

   9/11 AND US ROLE :

Certain that Osama bin Laden was behind the 11 September 2001 attacks, the US demanded the Taliban hand him over to face US justice. Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar refused and on 27 October 2001 the US, backed by Britain, launched ‘Operation Enduring Freedom’. More than 12,000 bombs were dropped in just a few weeks. Fighting on the ground was conducted by Afghan Northern Alliance forces with the support of Coalition Special Forces. On 13 November the Taliban deserted Kabul and the Northern Alliance walked into the city. On 16 December US Secretary of State Colin Powell declared: ‘We have destroyed al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and we have ended the role of Afghanistan as a haven for terrorist activity.’ Al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders fled over the porous border into Pakistan, where they were able to regroup.

   GOVERNANCE AND INSECURITY :

In December 2001 the Northern Alliance and elements linked to the former king, Zahir Shah, were brought together in Germany. The result was the Bonn Agreement – a deal between the victorious factions, which included warlords guilty of murder, rape, extortion and rocketing Kabul during the 1990s. An interim authority was set up. A Loya Jirga (or grand assembly) was convened in 2002, headed by Hamid Karzai.

In 2004 a new Afghan constitution was ratified and Hamid Karzai was elected President. Parliamentary and provincial elections were held the following year, bringing in a greater proportion of women MPs. After July 2006 the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) took over responsibility for security from the US-led coalition in parts of Afghanistan; fighting and insurgency attacks intensified during 2007.

Taliban are back – what next for Afghanistan?

After 20 years of war, the Taliban have swept to victory in Afghanistan.

The group completed their shockingly rapid action across the country by capturing Kabul on 15 August.

It comes after foreign forces announced their withdrawal following a deal between the US and the Taliban, two decades after US forces removed the militants from power in 2001.

The conflict has killed tens of thousands of people and displaced millions.

Taliban forces have pledged not to allow Afghanistan to become a base for terrorists who could threaten the West.

But questions are already being asked about how the group will govern the country, and what their rule means for women, human rights, and political freedoms.

Why did the US fight a war in Afghanistan and why did it last so long?

Back in 2001, the US was responding to 9/11 attack in New York and Washington, in which nearly 3,000 people were killed. Officials identified Islamist militant group al-Qaeda, and its leader Osama Bin Laden, as responsible.

Bin Laden was in Afghanistan, under the protection of the Taliban, the Islamists who had been in power since 1996.

When they refused to hand him over, the US intervened militarily, quickly removing the Taliban and vowing to support democracy and eliminate the terrorist threat.

The militants slipped away and later regrouped.

Nato allies had joined the US and a new Afghan government took over in 2004 but deadly Taliban attacks continued. President Barack Obama’s “troop surge” in 2009 helped push back the Taliban but it was not long term.

In 2014, at the end of what was the bloodiest year since 2001, Nato’s international forces ended their combat mission, leaving responsibility for security to the Afghan army.

That gave the Taliban momentum and they seized more territory.

Peace talks between the US and the Taliban started tentatively, with the Afghan government pretty much uninvolved, and the agreement on a withdrawal came in February 2020 in Qatar.

The US-Taliban deal did not stop the Taliban attacks – they switched their focus instead to Afghan security forces and civilians, and targeted assassinations. Their areas of control grew.

Who are the Taliban?

They emerged in the civil war that followed the withdrawal of Soviet troops in 1989, predominantly in the south-west and the Pakistan border areas.

Video caption,Full interview: Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen speaks to the BBC’s Yalda Hakim

They vowed to fight corruption and improve security, but also followed an austere form of Islam.

By 1998, they had taken control of almost all of the country.

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Find out more on the Afghan conflict 2001-2021

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They enforced their own hardline version of Sharia, or Islamic law, and introduced brutal punishments. Men were made to grow beards and women had to wear the all-covering burka. TV, music and cinema were banned.

After their overthrow they regrouped in Pakistani border areas.

How costly has the war been?

In terms of lives lost, it is obviously not easy to say exactly. The number of coalition casualties is much better recorded than Taliban and Afghan civilians.

Research by Brown University estimates losses in the Afghan security forces at 69,000. It puts the number of civilians and militants killed at about 51,000 each.

More than 3,500 coalition soldiers have died since 2001 – about two-thirds of them Americans. More than 20,000 US soldiers have been injured.

According to the UN, Afghanistan has the third-largest displaced population in the world.

Since 2012, some five million people have fled and not been able to return home, either displaced within Afghanistan or taking refuge in neighbouring countries.

Brown University research also puts the US spending on the conflict – including military and reconstruction funds in both Afghanistan and Pakistan – at $978bn (£706bn) up to 2020.

What could happen next?

How the Taliban plan to govern Afghanistan remains unclear.. Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen says the group will respect the rights of women and minorities “as per Afghan norms and Islamic values”.

On Tuesday, the militants declared an amnesty across Afghanistan and said it wanted women to join its government.

But there are fears over women’s freedom to work, to dress as they choose, or even to leave home alone under Taliban rule.

DURING 1990s :

During the 1990s the Taliba forced women to dress in certain ways and denied them equal rights

Another major fear is that the country will once again become a training ground for terrorism.

Taliban officials insist that they will fully adhere to the US deal and prevent any group from using Afghan soil as a base for attacks against the US and its allies.

They say they aim only to implement an “Islamic government” and will not pose a threat to any other country.

But many analysts say the Taliban and al-Qaeda are inseparable, with the latter’s fighters heavily embedded and engaged in training activity.

It is also important to remember that the Taliban are not a centralised and unified force. Some leaders may want to keep the West muted by not stirring up trouble but hardliners may be reluctant to break links with al-Qaeda.

Just how powerful al-Qaeda is and whether it could now rebuild its global network is also unclear.

Then there is the regional branch of the Islamic State group – ISKP (Khorasan Province) – which the Taliban oppose.

Like al-Qaeda, ISKP has been degraded by the US and Nato but could use the post-withdrawal period to regroup.

Its fighter numbers could be only between a few hundred and 2,000 but it may try to gain footholds in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and parts of Tajikistan, which could be a serious regional concern.

The Lore of the Drowned

Very interesting. It’s nicely penned. Thanks

Bonjour From Brittany

Surrounded on three sides by the wild ocean, Brittany has always enjoyed a special relationship with the sea. It has long played an important part in the life and soul of Brittany; its waters have nourished and sustained generations of Bretons since time immemorial but the bargain has sometimes been cruelly struck. A point that is well made in an old Breton saying that tells: “Who trusts the sea, trusts death.”

By its very nature, folklore often differs quite distinctly from village to village and can be riddled with inconsistencies and contradictions. The traditional lore surrounding the drowned in Brittany is no different but there are many areas of commonality across the region. While the cries of the dead were feared and even resented, the dead themselves were profoundly pitied by the living. Generally, those claimed by the sea showed no ill will towards those still living whom they often…

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Changing Values and Our Political Leaders

India had given birth of so many eminent intellectuals, leaders, scientists, artists and so on. From Raja Ram mohan Roy, Vidyasagar to Swami Vivekananda, Rabindranath Tagore to Rishi Aurobindo, Netaji Subhash in Bengal and Mahatma Gandhi to Ballav Bhai Patel, Ambedkar, Padmaja Naidu, Malviya of other states of India sacrificed their lives for the upliftment of our country. Especially, the numerous freedom fighters like Bhakat Singh, Surya Sen, Matangini Hazra, Khudiram Bose and so many compatriots selflessly struggled for freedom from colonial rules of British. They were not like today’s leaders. They had a firm values and ethics in their lives. But there’s a drastic changes in present scinerio in regards this. Changing Values and Our Political Leaders is the topic which I have been trying to discuss here in this post.

Ultimately we have achieved freedom since 15 August of 1947. Now it’s going to complete 75 years of independence. From the very birth of independence we have been divided into two separate countries – Pakistan and India due to divide and rule conspiracy of British rulers. We know the history behind it. We can’t only blame to Britishers, our leaders were also responsible for this separation.

When two brothers become rivals of each other, their enemity never end. India and Pakistan both are the sons of same mother. But power, wealth distribution etc are the roots of helarious enemity between the two countries is a long term problems. Here we can refer the Kashmir issue. But it’s not our subject of discussion in this blog.

Last few weeks our parliamentary activities are not going on due to chaos of the opposition leaders, mainly some TMC leaders shouted and torned papers and had thrown out to Hon’ble speaker of the house. So it’s totally suspended. Yesterday a Lady Marshall has been heckled and ill- behaved by some opposition MPs of Congress. Being a public – elected MP of Parliament, how can they breaking rules of the House? If they don’t know the decorum of the parliament, they should be penalised accordingly. They should be suspended for one season. As a common public, we never support this misconduct of the parliamentarians. They’re not above law.

These MP’s are not our representatives. As a citizen of my country we can’t bother such kind of anarchism in the parliament. I think the Hon’ble speaker and also the Ministry of parliamentary affairs should take bold steps against this violence made by some notorious law-breakers MP’s. We have sent them to make laws for public – betterment, but not doing so, they’re breaking laws.

I think our Hon’ble Supreme Court is watching this matter. Already SC has taken initiatives to control this situation. MP’s must not be considered as criminals. Therefore, they should be aloof from any criminal cases in the court. But it’s matter of fact that most of the MP’s are connected with criminal cases whether they made crime or not.

Though it is true that a portion of members of parliament are corrupted. Their past and present activities are not satisfactory according to the law. They don’t care values and ethics. They’re getting MP salaries and other benefits which are fulfilled by the public taxes. Actually motherland is not superior to them. They love money and power. For their own satisfaction they can sell our motherland.

Perhaps SC will take over this matter and give orders to follow the instructions to maintain the decorum of the parliament House. If any member doesn’t follow it seriously they should have been penalised by the Hon’ble court.

I am looking forward to continue discussion about this matter. Readers who love our country can join us for discussing this issue for better India.

Dr. Sushil Rudra

Durgapur West Bengal 12/08/2021

Why Should We Follow Swami Vivekananda’s views !

Why should we follow Swami Vivekananda’s views ? India at present has been passing through a crucial situations due to unhealthy atmosphere of political anarchy, corruption, unemployment, violence and terrorism, inflammation and so on. Opposition parties are trying to discontinue by hampering activities of parliamentary seasons. By the name of democracy they’re protesting against the Central government as the privacy of some important people of different sectors had been leaked through Pegasus, a hacking company of Israel. So the activities of the Parliament have been getting stopped by the opposition.

Besides, it’s now going on pandemic. Sufficient vaccinations are not coming from Central Government. Though it is available in the free market. Some dishonest people are making profit selling it by taking extra money about 750 Rs to 1000/ Rs. There’s no hard and fast rules to vaccinate the common people. Government is not serious about it.

Here in West Bengal, political leaders are busy to enjoy political powers. They are running to Delhi and Tripura to establish themselves. Their target is to achieve the thorns of Delhi and preparing for the 2024 parliamentary elections. Madam Mamota Banerjee is dreaming of Prime Minister post. Though she is outsider in Delhi as she told previously outsiders to our Prime Minister and others Ministers when they came here to campaign in legislative assembly Elections. Hence, she is outsider when she and her party leaders are going to other states.

We have seen post – poll violence in Bengal and still now it’s going on. Democracy is here at stake. Ruling party always demands no opposition. Both the issues of privacy and the government without any opposition are dangerous to democracy. When opposition is not stable, government can do anything according to their interest. So in democracy, a stable and reliable opposition is the key to success.

Swami Vivekananda didn’t want such kind of social, political and cultural structure of society as well as democracy. What he wanted to establish ? What did he dreamt? Why should we follow Swami Vivekananda’s views under this circumstances of our country? We need to learn and follow the instructions which he expected.

Vivekananda: The Messiah Of New India

Everything I had read about Vivekananda came to my mind. I recalled the words of Rabindranath Tagore that he who wants to know or understand India must read Vivekananda, that he awakens in the younger generation love for, and devotion to,their motherland, their pride in its past and hope for its bright future. This is indeed so. If we read and re- read the works of Swami Vivekananda, each time we will find in them something new that helps deeper to understand India, her philosophy, the way of the life and customs of the people in the past and the present, their dreams of the future.

Vivekananda dreamt a vibrant motherland. He thought and praying for the happiness of his people. He wanted that his suffering motherland would have been possessed a stable and reliable lives. It would have been awakened. Vivekananda said that the sun of courage had risen, that his motherland would inevitably wake up and nothing could prevent that process. India would be in the grip of slumber no more.

True it’s! Our compatriots very soon sacrificed their lives for the freedom of motherland from the colonial Britishers. We became free. New government made five years planning for the development of the people. We have seen progress in science and technology. Our military forces are trying to protect the boarder line from the enemies. Green revolution already took place and we have got success in it. Our scientists and engineers, Doctors, Technicians are superb. We have achieved significantly in business. Pacca roads and highways had been extended to interior villages.

But we are lagging behind still now due to unhealthy rustic political atmosphere. We have to focus on the human resources which is neglected at present. Greedy peoples are now in politics. Muscle man and criminals are backing these leaders. Men of letters are disinterested in politics now. Most of the leaders are connected to big scams like coal mining etc.

Unemployment is the crying need of present day. Educated youngs are not getting any government jobs. Ruling party is not serious about it. Their appeasement politics however is busy to manage more power. Even they’re managing crores of money through back door.

I think Swami Vivekananda didn’t dreamt this situation. Values and ethics are on the wane. Corruption and mal – practices wrapped up in the system.

REVIEWS: ” The Old man & The Sea” / Ernest Hemingway It’s one of the classics from American literature. It fetched him Nobel and Pulitzer and took his works to new heights. Story: Santiago, an old fisherman at a fishing hamlet on the Cuban coast had been struck by ‘sala, the worst form of luck, haven’t had a single catch in 84 days in a row and his young apprentice had to abandon him. But he still ventures into the sea the next day and goes deep into the blues and had to fight for a night and day to harpoon out a large marlin and ties it to the side of his skiff. Unfortunately, the sharks surround him — feast his labour, his brother(fish). Later the boy wakes up in his hut, exclaiming the villagers are awestruck by his catch and quarrelling for its head — tired old-man goes to sleep, to dream about the lions of the African beach. Thirdeye: It’s ostensibly a very simple story, but is a typical example of the author’s iceberg theory: as only one eighth is visible the writer must leave the remaining for the reader to interpret and discover. For me it was ocean geography: Gulf stream, Florida strait, sea & land breeze, bio-luminance and it explores the rich fauna, flying fish, cod, dolphins, sea-birds etc. Moreover, it’s a story about Universal brotherhood, Oldman respects & bonds with nature and the globe. ” The old man and the sea” is a short novel by Hemingway, published in 1952 and awarded the 1953 Pulitzer Prize for fiction. I have already told that the story depicts a fisherman, Santiago’s untiring efforts who engaged in a battle with the great fish marlin,  to drag him up. The story begins with this old man who fished alone in a skiff, who had gone eighty-four days without catching a fish and the narrator illustrate this as salao, which is the worst form of luck. Throughout the reading, we can observe the life of a fisherman, the relation between a fish and him,  how he hooked the fish,  tasks related to fishing and his ardent connection with the boy ( his apprentice ). If you read this book,  you can gain a vast knowledge of fish, boats and I would like to refer to this book as oceanography. The great determination and optimism of an old man, who endures a lot of pain and difficulties throughout his life are o be emphasized. In the amid a portion of this book,  perhaps you could feel tedious as it deals with the interpretation of the way of fishing, but at the disclosure part, it’s very astonishing. I would like to quote some lines that hit my heart..”He had taken down the picture of his dead wife because it made him feel lonely & it now lay on the shelf underneath his clean shirt.” To me this symbolises her purity to him & also his love.”You can kill a man but u can’t defeat him “.This shows his courage and determination towards the hurdles he had faced. This is a best written short novel and no page of this beautiful work could have been done better or differently, and to be read and stored in the portmanteau of lifetime belongings, only to be extracted and read again during difficult times….

Swami Vivekananda – Leo Tolstoy – Gandhi

Dr. Sushil Rudra

Durgapur Steel City

On June 5, 1908, Leo Tolstoy told D.P.Makovitsky: Since six in the morning I have been thinking of Vivekananda. Yesterday, read Vivekananda the whole day. There is a chapter on the justification of violent means of resisting evil. Very talentedly written.

Again Makovitsky wrote on 26 June 1908: Yesterday Tolstoy came to the hall with one of Swami Vivekananda’s three volumes. ” Excellent book, so many thoughts are here for the circle of reading”, said Tolstoy. He further told the awaiting crowd there that these books contain such knowledge that should be known and useful to all and everyone. He also advised his students to translate these books into the Russian language.

But it was uncertain as to how this great Russian writer, Tolstoy became a fan of Swami Vivekananda. We know that Vivekananda wrote a book ” Raja Yoga ” for his American disciples was what impressed Tolstoy first. He constantly brought up Swami Vivekananda in his conversations with his students and well-wishers.

Leo Tolstoy is regarded as the doyen of Russian literature. He had a profound philosophical and academic interest in India and Indian philosophy. Tolstoy cast a great influence over Mahatma Gandhi. But the man who deeply influenced Tolstoy was none other than the young monk of India, Swami Vivekananda.

But it remains still obscure or known in a distorted form is the great place which Tolstoy’s contemporary, one of the most eminent thinkers and social leaders of modern India, Swami Vivekananda, and his preceptor, Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, held in Tolstoy’s quests of spiritual life in the last years of his life.

  • Some Russian Indologists, like A. I. Shifman, K. Lomunov, E. P. Chelyshev, Professor V. S.Kostyuchenko of Moscow University had tried to explore by their interests about the relation of Tolstoy and India. Especially about Swami Vivekananda.

TOLSTOY AND INDIA

In India, Tolstoy has been enjoying singular popularity where, out of love and respect, he is called Rishi, an epithet used by the Indians for the sages of yore right from the time of the Vedas. And this great writer and the Saint ( Rishi ) was influenced by the contemporary eminent thinkers and social leaders of modern India, Swami Vivekananda and his preceptor, Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa. Curiously enough, just as much as Tolstoy’s books have had an amazing influence on Indian readers, India had also a strong impact on Tolstoy.

Tolstoy became interested in the thoughts of Vivekananda and Ramakrishna, and had several contacts and admirers in India, such as Rabindranath Tagore and Mahatma Gandhi. From his young age he started reading about Indian thought. Indian ideas, values and ethics had a part in Tolstoy’s philosophy. Moreover, he adapted Indian stories into Russian.

Thus, we have to read Tolstoy’s letters when we’re going to reveal the Tolstoy’s interest in Indian thought. In the letter, written by Tolstoy in 1908 to a Indian freedom-fighter, Mr. Taraknath Das, following the later’s request for support from Tolstoy for India’s independence, is indicative of the influence of Indian philosophy and religions on Tolstoy.

  • Tolstoy, in his letters, quotes from the Vedas and Upanishads as well as excerpt from Lord Krishna’s teaching, and stresses on the importance of love as they only source of freedom from every form of enslavement.
  • He had received the third volume of Vivekananda’s works in early 1909 and within a few months, he requested an editor of a prominent Russian Publishing House that Vivekananda was the most eminent of modern Indian thinkers and his works should be published in Russian.
  • Vivekananda’s speeches mesmerized Tolstoy. Through him, Tolstoy felt about Indian values and ethics, Indian spiritual knowledge.
  • 14 December, 1908, he wrote:
  • In India over 200 million people, highly gifted in both spiritual and physical strength, are under the rule of totally alien small circle of peoples, who are immeasurably lower than those whom they rule. The reason thereof, as seen from your letter… and from extremely interesting works of the Hindu writer, Swami Vivekananda, is the absence of a rational religious doctrine.
  • ( Letter to a Hindu)

Leo Tolstoy. Credit: Pixabay Image

Even today, 110 years after his death, Leo Tolstoy’s books continue to have a profound influence on thousands of people across the world. Most book lovers invariably have at least one or two masterpieces of the great Russian writer on their bookshelves – perhaps War and Peace or Anna Karenina.

Prime Minister Modi, addressing an economic forum in Russia said that Leo Tolstoy and Mahatma Gandhi had an “indelible effect” on each other and that India and Russia must take inspiration from them to strengthen bilateral ties. I will say here that it was Swami Vivekananda who tied up with the Russia and India through Tolstoy.

In this respect, we can remember another eminent thinkers of the world who translated the most profound and extensive works on Vivekananda and Ramakrishna into Russian language.

These works have, over the years, been a good source of inspiration not only for the scholars of the subject but also for those who have been interested in modern Indian thought.

Romain Rolland remarks in his translation of Vivekananda’s works( Volume -14, p. 338):

” The religious firmament of India was most brightly illuminated by stars of the first magnitude that had suddenly started shining in it… the two wonders of the spirit: Ramakrishna (1836 – 1886), the godly inspired man who had enveloped all forms of deity with his love, and his pupil, still more powerful than the teacher, Vivekananda (1863 – 1902), whose tempestuous energy had awakened the effective god, the god of Gita in his suffering people, for centuries to come…. Tolstoy, with his vast curious spirit, of course knew about them.”

Rolland further wrote: ” In 1896 he had felt exhilarated to see Vivekananda’s first published works Yoga’s Philosophy and Lectures on Raja Yoga. He was also delighted at Vivekananda’s book on Paramahamsa Sri Ramakrishna.”

In his biography of Vivekananda, Romain Rolland adds that up to June 1895 he had completed the redaction of his famous treatise on Raja Yoga, which was destined to inspire Tolstoy, but, Rolland continues in his Life of Tolstoy: ‘ the fatal movement of the historical stream took Tolstoy away from the yogis with their terror of God to the threshold of the great work of Vivekananda and Gandhi Hind Swaraj.( Vol.14, p.338).

Howsoever one perceives Tolstoy and his books are inspiring — there is no doubt that he was a powerful writer, and his books have an enduring appeal. More so, in the time of the ongoing pandemic that has seen sales of his books soar.

Curiously enough, just as much as Tolstoy’s books have had an influence on Indian readers, India also had a strong impact on Tolstoy. He became interested in Indian thought as a young man and started reading about it. Indian ideas had a part in Tolstoy’s philosophy, and he adapted Indian stories into Russian.

Later, he also became interested in the thoughts of Vivekananda and Ramakrishna and had several contacts and admirers in India such as Tagore and Gandhi. A letter written by Tolstoy in 1908 to the Indian revolutionary Taraknath Das, following the latter’s request for support from Tolstoy for India’s independence, is indicative of the influence of Indian philosophy and religions on Tolstoy.

 In the letter, Tolstoy quotes from the Vedas and the Upanishads as well as excerpts from Lord Krishna’s teachings and stresses on the importance of love as the only source of freedom from every form of enslavement.

The letter was later passed on to Gandhi, who translated it from Russian and published it in an Indian newspaper, Free Hindustan. The letter was then published in the form of a slim book titled Letter to a Hindu with a foreword by Gandhi. Thus, began a series of correspondence between the two.

 “I read your book with great interest,” Tolstoy later wrote of Gandhi’s Hind Swaraj (“Indian Home Rule”) “because I think that the question you treat in it – passive resistance – is a question of the greatest importance not only for India but for the whole of humanity.”

In early 1909, Tolstoy had received the third volume of Vivekananda’s works and within a few months, he told an editor of a prominent Russian publishing house that Vivekananda was the most eminent of modern Indian thinkers and he should be published in Russian.

TOLSTOY AND GANDHI

Tolstoy and Gandhi exchanged seven letters in 1909-10. Tolstoy was one of the sources of inspiration for Gandhi’s philosophy of non-violence. Gandhi was greatly influenced by Tolstoy’s book The Kingdom of God is Within You and his essay on Christianity and Patriotism.

Tolstoy’s ideal of simplicity of life and purity of purpose influenced Gandhi deeply and no wonder, when he started an ashram on a 1,000-acre farm in Johannesburg in 1910 for his Satyagraha campaign to protest discrimination against Indians, he named it Tolstoy Farm.

Meanwhile, Tolstoy’s literary output as well as the philosophy of his later years became popular reading in India, mainly through English translations as well as through Indian languages. Noted litterateur D Javare Gowda has translated at least three major works of Tolstoy into Kannada.

The reasons may differ, but most readers will agree with the assessment of British poet Matthew Arnold that “a novel by Tolstoy is not a work of art but a piece of life.”

To end, a memorable line from Tolstoy: “We can only know that we know nothing. And that is the highest degree of human wisdom.”

Rabindranath as a Singer, Musician & Lyricist

Rabindranath as a singer, musician and lyricist /image:kalpatarurudra.org/jpg

Rabindranath was certainly a polymath. He is regarded as Kobiguru or Viswakabi. But he is less familiar as a singer, musician and lyricist. He was a great singer and musician. From his childhood, he was famous for singing music. Here in this post, I will try to depict his talent( Rabindranath as a Singer, musician and lyricist ).

Tagore wanted to know the world through his songs and music. He wrote a famous lyric: ” Ganer Bhitar diye Jakhon Dekhi Bhuban Khani / Takhon tare jani, Takhon tare cini.” That means, when I see the world through the song, then it reveals to me and I become acquainted with this world. Once he told me about his singing aptitude: When I have started singing, I couldn’t recollect in memory.

Song Offerings is often identified as the English rendering of Gitanjali ( Bengali: গীতাঞ্জলি), a volume of poetry by poet Rabindranath Thakur composed between 1904 and 1910 and published in 1910. However,  Song Offerings anthologizes the English translation of poems from his drama Achalayatan and nine other previously published volumes of Tagore poetry. The ten works, and the number of poems selected from each, are as follows:

  • Gitanjali – 69 poems (out of 157 poems in )
  • Geetmalya – 17 poems
  • Naibadya – 16 poems
  • Kheya – 11 poems
  • Shishu – 3 poems
  • Chaitali – 1 poem
  • Smaran – 1 poem
  • Kalpana – 1 poem
  • Utsarga – 1 poem
  • Acholayatan – 1 poem

Song Offerings is a collection of devotional songs to the supreme. The deep-rooted spiritual essence of the volume is brought out from the following extract :
My debts are large,
my failures great,
my shame secret and heavy;
yet I come to ask for my good,
I quake in fear lest my prayer be granted.
(Poem 28, Song Offering)

The word gitanjali is composed from “geet”, song, and “anjali”, offering, and thus means – “An offering of songs”; but the word for offering, anjali, has a strong devotional connotation, so the title may also be interpreted as “prayer offering of song”.

Nature of translation

Rabindranath Tagore took the liberty of doing “free translation” while rendering these 103 poems into English. Consequently, in many cases these are transcreations rather than translation; however,  literary biographer Edward Thomson found them ‘perfect’ and ‘enjoyable’. A reader can himself realize the approach taken by Rabindranath in translating his poem with that translated by a professional translator. First is quoted lyric no. 1 of Song Offering as translated by Rabindranath himself :

Thou hast made me endless, such is thy pleasure.
This frail vessel thou emptiest again and again,
and fillest it ever with fresh life.

This little flute of a reed thou hast carried over hills and dales, and hast breathed through it melodies eternally new.
At the immortal touch of thy hands
my little heart loses its limits in joy and gives birth to utterance ineffable.

Thy infinite gifts come to me only on these very small hands of mine.
Ages pass, and still thou pourest, and still there is room to fill.

It is the Lyric number 1 of Gitanjali. There is another English rendering of the same poem by Joe Winter  translated in 1997:

Tagore undertook the translations prior to a visit to England in 1912, where the poems were extremely well received. In 1913, Tagore became the first non-European to win the Nobel Prize  for Literature, largely for the English  Gitanjali.

Publications

The first edition of Song Offerings was published in 1912 from London by the India Society. It was priced ten and a half shillings. The second edition was published by The Macmillan Company in 1913 and was priced at four and a half shillings.
The second edition contained a sketch of the poet by Rothenstine , in addition to an invaluable preface by W.B. Yeats.

Introduction by Yeats

W.B. Yeats in 1908

An introduction by poet W.B.Yeats  was added to the second edition of Song Offerings. Yeats wrote that this volume had “stirred my blood as nothing has for years. . . .” He candidly informed the readers,

“I have carried the manuscript of these translations about with me for days, reading it in railway trains, or on the top of omnibuses and in restaurants, and I have often had to close it lest some stranger would see how much it moved me. These lyrics–which are in the original, my Indians tell me, full of subtlety of rhythm, of untranslatable delicacies of colour, of metrical invention—display in their thought a world I have dreamed of all my live long.”

Then, after describing the Indian culture which considered an important facilitating factor behind the sublime poetry of Rabindranath, Yeats stated, “The work of a supreme culture, they yet appear as much the growth of the common soil as the grass and the rushes. A tradition, where poetry and religion are the same thing, has passed through the centuries, gathering from learned and unlearned metaphor and emotion, and carried back again to the multitude the thought of the scholar and of the noble.”

Nobel Prize in 1913

In 1913, Rabindranath Tagore was awarded the prestigious Nobel Prize  for literature. Evaluation of Tagore as a great poet was based mainly on the evaluation of Song Offerings, in addition to the recommendations that put his name on the short list. In awarding the prize to Rabindranth, the Nobel committee stated:

“because of his profoundly sensitive, fresh and beautiful verse, by which, with consummate skill, he has made his poetic thought, expressed in his own English words, a part of the literature of the West”. The Nobel committee recognized him as “an author who, in conformity with the express wording of Alfred Nobel’s last will and testament, had during the current year, written the finest poems «of an idealistic tendency.” The Nobel Committee finally quoted from Song Offering and stated that Rabindranath in thought-impelling pictures, has shown how all things temporal are swallowed up in the eternal:

Time is endless in thy hands, my lord.
There is none to count thy minutes.
Days and nights pass and ages bloom and fade like flowers.
Thou knowest how to wait.
Thy centuries follow each other perfecting a small wild flower.
We have no time to lose, and having no time, we must scramble for our chances.
We are too poor to be late.
And thus it is that time goes by,
while I give it to every querulous man who claims it,
and thine altar is empty of all offerings to the last.
At the end of the day I hasten in fear lest thy gate be shut;
but if I find that yet there is time.
(Gitanjali, No. 82)

In response to the announcement of the Nobel prize, Rabindranath sent a telegram saying, “I beg to convey to the Swedish Academy my grateful appreciation of the breadth of understanding which has brought the distant near, and has made a stranger a brother.” This was read out Mr. Clive, the-then British Chargé d’Affaires (CDA) in Sweden, at the Nobel Banquet at Grand Hôtel, Stockholm, on 10 December 1913.  Eight years after the Nobel Prize was awarded, Rabindranath went to Sweden in 1921 to give his acceptance speech.

Did Nobel Committee read only Gitanjali?

The answer is in brief ” No “. Before 1912, Tagore composed his best anthology of poems( Manasi, Chitra, Chaitali, Kheya, and novels Chokher Bali, Ghare Baire[Home and The World], Gora, Short Stories, lyrics, Gitanjali, Gitimalya, Gitali etc.). As a poet, writer, Philosopher, Humanist and patriot, – Tagore was then famous. He had translated and some other ( Poet & Tagore friend Amiya Chakravorty ) close friends of Rabindranath Translated Togore writings in English. So the members of the Nobel Committee might read his writings in translation.