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Is Anna another Gandhi? Should such labels matter for a national campaign?



Even as Anna recovered from health issues, his criticism from detractors and worship by followers shows no signs of abatement. Given that the government sympathizers are hell-bent on proving that Anna is no Gandhi, it is important to ask if there are parallels between Anna and Gandhi. More important than the comparison between the two heroes, is to ask, if it really matters whether Anna is Gandhi. Most importantly, we need to worry if we are too focused on personalities rather than on issues.

The anticorruption campaign spearheaded by Anna has had a rather forceful yet ridiculous slogan “Anna nahi ye aandhi hai, yahi desh ke Gandhi hai”. Ridiculous it certainly was but no more ridiculous than the slogans of many other social and political campaigns, including the most transformational ones. More than ridiculous, this slogan was an effective one. In a nation full of gods, demigods, saints and mahatmas it is not a surprise that Anna Hazare, a great hero, was compared to the sacred cow image of Gandhi and a lot of colorful slogans were used in the campaign. It was an effort to raise the stature of one very effective human hero, a person of his time, with great leadership qualities and many failings, to the level of the godly image of another exceptional leader of his time. Just as Gandhi stood up to the need of the hour so did Anna in galvanizing support for a mass movement. Given that Indian public is always ready to drink the kool aid of sainthood and personal vilification, Anna’s detractors have been busy proving that one undemocratic mere-mortal Anna Hazare is not comparable to their great savior Mahatma.

Anna Hazare Mahatma Gandhi

The main claim is that Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi believed in heart transformation of his opponents, while Hazare wants his enemies to conform. Let us examine the claim. Gandhi, at times, successfully forced British to conform, instead of changing their hearts but enough has been written on those achievements of his, so for a change, I would give you some less than favorable examples of the conduct of father of Indian nation. A look at forcing Subhas Chandra Bose to quit the position of president of Congress when Gandhi could not get his candidate elected can be an eye opener for anyone wanting to see Gandhi’s willingness to twist and bend his opponents will instead of relying on heart transformation and democratic means. Gandhi’s differences with Tagore are often hyped but Gandhi’s reluctance to budge in that equation is again not hidden from any student of modern Indian history. It was not with heart conversion that Gandhi forced a secular, socialist, non-violent champion of unity of South Asia – Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, the red shirt alliance leader of Pathans, to accept the dictates of Jinnah’s partition plan. Ghaffar Khan, a lifelong Gandhian appropriately wrote of the betrayal and complained of throwing the fate of Pathans to the hounds of separatism exploiting religion. By no means, I am putting the sole or even an overwhelming burden of partition on the shoulders of Gandhi but I am trying to make it clear that it was not just those who should be considered opponents of the Indian independence but also even those who championed the cause of India, who were forced to conform by Gandhi. I would also urge readers to realize that for many differences between Gandhi and Subhas or Gandhi and Tagore, one should not see their interaction in just black and white of antagonism but in the shades of grey that also involved tremendous corporation. So the charge on Anna, forcing an irresponsible and dictatorial government to budge through non-Gandhian means is untrue, not because Anna is not sticking to heart transformation alone but because even Gandhi did not. In fact, Anna has been less stubborn than Gandhi and Gandhi would have acted no different than Anna in a similar situation.

Just as the association with Gandhi gave some people credibility so does the association with Anna. In fact, now all of the politicians in opposition are attracted to Anna as are bees to the nectar. Similar to Gandhi, Anna has a handpicked team, some with genuine mass support and some without a base. While the charge of non-elected representatives trying to voice Indian concerns is somewhat (not completely) true but for all the pretense of our founding fathers being answerable to people, a look at the electoral play of Congress and Muslim League for much of 30s and 40s will make one realize that it is a repeat of historical mistakes but not a deviation from the sorry existing pattern of South Asian politics. I realize that my last point is an aside, as I am talking of people who run the show on name of a credible leader, instead of the leaders themselves, so it is not a valid comparison of the two people: Hazare and Gandhi but I am just trying to draw historical parallels. Back to Hazare and Gandhi, Anna has been criticized for his lack of inclusiveness. It is somewhat true. He has taken support of progressive forces simply for granted but bent over backwards to allow sectarian Mullahs and Sanghis to share his dais just to make the movement look like a rainbow coalition. This top down approach of getting communities involved by bringing in his fold their leaders has been a plague of all Indian struggles. Such short cut has in part been a reflection of an immature culture of putting too much faith in some leaders by the followers and treatment of followers by the leaders as some kind of sheep herds. Gandhi’s lack of sufficient inclusiveness and acceptance of progressive, freethinking and modern elements, apart from a token self-proclaimed modernist Nehru, who was preoccupied with pushing other agendas of personal ambition more than modernist causes, is similar in this campaign too.

Both Anna and Gandhi have not been secular in true sense of the word. Instead of keeping religion at bay they both have used the Indian logic of balancing different religions. This spirit is unfortunately even summarized in Indian constitution as “sarvadharma sambhava”, which translates to equal respect for all religions instead of secularism: a clear separation of religion and state. Gandhi, a devout Vaishnav, was in part responsible for turning Muslims away from a Congress that transformed under his leadership from a secular but elitist organization into a rural Hindu spiritual organization with mass following. There is no denial that this transformation also catalyzed mass enrollment that otherwise would have taken a longer and harder road of enlightenment and education leading to a modern, progressive and all encompassing struggle. This pro-Hindu bias of Gandhi was not just present during the early change of character of congress that in part sowed the seeds of partition but there are also instances of Gandhi turning his back on Muslims during communal strife, especially at the time of British and even Hindu reaction to the atrocities of Mopla rebellion. No, I am not justifying the heinous dimensions of Mopla rebellion that involved killing of non-Muslims but I am talking of Gandhi’s response to it. Apart from Hindu appeasement, Gandhi was equally responsible for Muslim appeasement at the cost of Hindus interests at multiple times. Inclusion of the Khailafat movement that demanded respectable treatment of the remnants of the Ottoman Empire, instead of being concerned with the fate of poor Indians at the forefront of anti-British coalition during the First World War ended up encouraging separate Muslim and Hindu identities instead of promoting a united Indian identity. It consolidated the schism between two non-concentric circles of faith tearing the Muslim identity in the subcontinent: one centered on South Asia: ones motherland and other centered in the foreign Turk and Arab lands associated with mythologies and religion. One can only regret a lack of secular approach that would have excluded all religious demands – Hindu or Muslim from contaminating Indian interests. This compromise of yielding to the backward Muslim feudal religious identity that was more concerned with the fate of Turks than Indians during World War one was not the only compromise of Gandhi. Who can forget Gandhi giving Jinnah the legitimacy of becoming the Quaid, capable of speaking on behalf of whole Muslim quom? In total, Gandhi may not have leaned more to Hindus or more to Muslims, if viewed in totality but in this case the average or the sum total of his leanings hides more than it reveals. Instead of having no business with either faith or having equal disdain for the stupidity of faith based politics, Gandhi tried to balance his biases and leanings. Just as Gandhi dealt with leaders as representatives of Hindu or Muslim community instead of bottom up approach of building true mass base everywhere, when confronted with challenge of inclusion of separatist forces, Anna has not taken a much different road either. Anna is willing to court Hindu and Muslim fundamentalists and religious leaders alike, just as Gandhi did. Anna, like Gandhi is not a secularist or progressive in the modern sense of the word. Who can forget the well-orchestrated publicity stunt of children of underprivileged caste and of Muslim faith helping break Anna’s fast to provide a photo finish to the fast?

In his village, Anna acts like a patriarch, a benevolent dictator who knows what is best for everyone. Anna like Gandhi believes himself to be on some kind of God ordained mission where instead of skeptical secular questioning to evolve solutions, he clearly knows what is right and what is wrong based on his faith. Apart from the obvious weakness in the nature of campaigns due to inclusion of people with religious fundamentalist and separatist interests and overall damage to Indian subcontinent due to backward religious thinking there have been some positive dimensions due to this contamination of religion in mass movements too. Given their unwavering religious faith, both Gandhi and Anna have put all their personal life aside for the sake of what they consider right and necessary sacrifice for their country. The spiritual leader facet of both the leaders has also resulted in them being regarded as a miracle cure to problems by the wide-eyed public. This provides for instant galvanization of support that through secular, educated and questioning means would require longer struggles. Both men did not show any problems being minted as saints. This embrace of sainthood can only come from either religious conviction in ones “right path” or sham performance to grab power. Neither Gandhi nor Anna are in the struggle for iota of personal benefit so clearly this embrace of sainthood comes from their religious convictions.

In his private life Anna has in fact been more of a Gandhi than Gandhi could ever be. Both humans, with obvious failings have within the human bounds bravely experimented with the nature of what they consider ‘truth’. Anna never married, tried addictions, visited prostitute, and verbally and physically assaulted his immediate family member to embrace his way of life, at least nothing comparable to the path of metamorphosis of saint of Sabarmati into a Mahatma. In public life, imposition of ones way of life by Gandhi and Anna has been undeniable. So one should note that though justifiable personal vilification of Anna is easily possible but it is more difficult than that of Gandhi.

Many accusations of Anna not being Gandhi have come from explicit and implicit charge that Anna is not sticking to the principles of non-violence. There is a need to address the question of the use of non-violence as matter of principle or pragmatic policy. One needs to ask where such approach is more successful than others. Indian experiment has been an amazing example of the demonstration of both the pragmatic as well as moral strength and weakness of non-violence. I think examples of success of non-violence such as in salt march and of utter failures as in the inability to prevent Churchill from causing genocide of over 5 million East Indians during the Bengal famine is relevant for a detailed discussion elsewhere. Let us discuss here if Anna is deviating significantly from Gandhi in the use of violence. Just as Gandhi faltered at times in containing the anger of masses so has Anna. Did Gandhi condone violence more than Hazare by considering Bhagwat Gita, a call for arms for sake of ones duty, as his spiritual guide in comparison to Anna’s mere statement on a slap to Sharad Pawar by an angry citizen? Minor deviations aside, up till now Anna has been more successful than Gandhi was in containing people’s anger from spilling over and turning violent. Given that people read what they want to read, for the record, I would also like to state clearly that by defending Anna’s non-violence, in this article I am not defending, condemning or condoning the possibly destructive and violent potential of the wide eyed angry crowd.

I hope that I have shown you the stark similarities between Anna and Gandhi, sufficient to respond to the unjustified criticism of Anna not being Gandhi. I also hope that you realize the need of the comparison of the two is equally as silly as is the criticism. The reason that this comparison of the two is silly and very sad is because it shows how Indians needs justification of one person to be legitimate leader only if one can be connected to a higher unquestionable image, instead of being a questionable human hero. Unfortunately one needs sacred cows, just as Gandhi needed to be minted into a saint, for him to have a mass appeal. It reflects how majority is not willing to support and oppose something in an issue-based manner. How is it different than acceptance of Nehru Gandhi Royalty with dodgy citizenship credentials, unaccounted assets, criminal records and false educational degrees, as having a special place in Indian politics?

I hope that you will admire and criticize Anna whether he can be compared to Gandhi or not in your eyes. Anna being Anna has done a great job and should be credited for it. He has also failed at many instances. When Indian population starts questioning and caring, more Hazares and Gandhis would spring from our soil every day than have sprung in centuries of struggle, because it is everyone in the Indian youth who has the transformational potential and not some specially ordained ones to carry the tricolor to glory at the world stage.

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Dr. Sukant Khurana is a New York based scientist, artist and writer of Indian origin. His basic research involves neurophysiology, computational neuroscience, sensory perception, addiction, learning and memory, while his applied research extends into many areas of drug discovery and problems of the developing world. Both his visual art and writing explore the issues of modernization, displacement and identity.

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A Historical exploration of Khajuraho



khajuraho temple

The UNESCO world heritage temples of Khajuraho are situated in the Bundelkhand region of Madhya Pradesh. Built by the kings of Chandela dynasty during 950 to 1050 AD, these exquisite temples were lost to the world from 13AD onwards till they were discovered by the British in 1838 under the cover of dense date palm trees.

 This collection of Hindu, Buddhist and Jain temples are Khajuraho temples are famous for art on stone. Variously described as living temples, Temple of Love and consisting of unique erotic sculptures the Khajuraho group of temples are considered by many to be the pinnacle of India’s temple art. The temple complex creates an eclectic mix of spirituality, eastern philosophy, architecture and cultural heritage.

Khajuraho is best visited during winter on account of its extreme climate. Summer months can be very hot. The famous Khajuraho Dance Festival is held in March and attracts visitors from across the world.

 Khajuraho is well connected to major cities by train and by air. The airport is 5km from the city centre and links to Delhi, Agra and Mumbai. It is best recommended to use a trusted cab service provider like Savaari, where you can make an online booking by downloading the Savaari App.

Western Group of temples.

 The Western group of temples have the largest of the temples and are richly decorated and form the main area of attraction

  • Lakshmana Temple – The temple dedicated to the Hindu trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva is the oldest of the Khajuraho temples and has some the finest sculptures that can be seen in India.
  • Kandariya Mahadeo Temple – This Shiva temple is covered with beautiful carvings, sculptures and frescos that are known for their beauty, grandeur and finesse.
  • Devi Jagdamba Temple – This relatively dainty temple dedicated to Goddess Jagadamba has three bands of sculptures and the uppermost layer has some of the most erotic sculptures that Khajuraho is also famous for.
  • Chitragupta Temple – One of the rare temples of the Sun God in the country.
  • Vishwanath Temple – The temple is unique for its colossal bull statue dedicated to Nandi, the favourite companion of Lord Shiva.

Eastern Group of Temples

  • Parsvanath Temple – The Jain temple shows an eclectic mixture of Hindu, Buddhist and Muslim influences in its three roof architecture.
  • Ghantai Temple – This Digambar Jain temple has a beautiful frieze inscribed on stone depicting the 16 dreams as seen by the Mother of Lord Mahavira. The temple though gets its name from the remarkable pillars, carved with chains and bells.
  • Brahma Temple – Among the oldest temples in Khajuraho, the temple is built entirely using granite and sandstone and dedicated to Lord Vishnu.

 Southern Group of Temples

  • Chattarbhuj Temple – Situated 3 km from the main city, the temple is the only one in Khajuraho without any erotic sculpture and faces west. Best visited during the sunset, the temple is known for the intricate and beautifully detailed four-armed idol of Lord Vishnu.

Do remember to attend the Light and Sound Show conducted in the Western group of temples that describes the horary past of these beautiful monuments.

Khajuraho is surrounded by other places of interest, such as the Panna National Park and the Ranneh Falls. Do plan your visit and hire outstation or local cabs from the airport to visit these temple complexes.

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Explore the royal city of Mysore



Call it the Heritage City or the City of Palaces, the city of Mysore still emanates a feeling of au royale even in a 21st century India. A place of heritage for royal families, sultans, and legendary names in history, every corner of Mysore is steeped in stories of victory, power, and grandeur. A tour of this majestic city is only justified when you explore the royal heritage of the City of Palaces.

Getting there

Conveniently located on the southern edge of the Karnataka State, Mysore is easily accessible from major cities. It takes about three hours to travel the 152 KM distance from Bangalore to Mysore.

History and Heritage

The city of Mysore served as the capital for the Kingdom of Mysore between the 1300s until 1956. These six centuries saw the kingdom change hands of rulers and kings, from the Wadiyar Dynasty, Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan. But the common element of all the rulers was their penchant for art and culture. Under their patronage, they contributed to the city’s visual and cultural glory which earned Mysore the fame of Karnataka’s cultural capital.

A royal tour

If you want to experience the regal side of Mysore, you cannot but miss these structures of historical and architectural significance. You can join a heritage walking tour to explore the city on foot, or head from Bangalore to Mysore by car and stop by at monuments, palaces, and museums and learn about the legends that made Mysore. You can start your walk from the Town Hall, built in 1884, as a tribute to the first Dewan of the city.


Mysore Palace- The official residence of the royal family of Wadiyars, the palace itself is a work of marvel. An overwhelming blend of   Indo-Saracenic, neoclassical, Indo-Islamic and Gothic architectural works, the Mysore Palace is a breathtaking sight. Built in 1912, the palace is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and boasts delicate works of mirrors, stained glass, mosaic and more. On any given day, you will find more tourists here than even at the Taj Mahal. Every Sunday, the palace comes alive with 97000 light bulbs bedazzling its façade and the premises.

Lalitha Palace– Yet another heritage building, the two-storied Lalitha Mahal sits on a ridge at the foothills of the Chamundi Hills, which makes for a great vantage point. The palace was transformed into a hotel and offers a royal stay. If you truly want a feeling of royalty, then a stay here would be an experience.

Jaganmohan Palace– One of the seven prominent palaces of Mysore city, is a stunning work of ancient Indian architecture with intricate interiors and exteriors. The palace, transformed into a royal art gallery since 1915, houses paintings of the royal family, art by Raja Ravi Varma and an array of rare and antique musical instruments.

Museums- Stop by the Rail Museum to explore the archaic steam engines, the Maharani’s saloon, and other railway souvenirs. There’s also the Jayalakshmi Vilas Mansion showcasing more than 6500 folk artifacts from all parts of Karnataka. The Folk Art Museum, one of the most visited in the city, is also known for its collection of toys, models, and figurines.

Crawford Hall- Built in 1947, this is a must visit historic structure in Mysore. The royal palace is now known as the Mysore University but still renders a rich heritage to its ambiance.

Small, medium or large-scale, every historical building and monument of Mysore has a majestic touch to it. And such architecture speaks of its glorious past, which has left traces for the modern civilization to explore.

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India’s Victory at the International Court of Justice is the World’s Challenge to the Status Quo

Manak Suri




For the past week, both the Indian and British media have rigorously covered the story of the re-election of India’s justice Dalveer Bhandari to the bench of judges in the International Court of Justice on Tuesday, November 21. That the Indian judge retained his position on the bench was not the sole reason for the story’s extensive coverage; his reappointment combined with the fact that it happened at the expense of the United Kingdom’s spot on the bench is why the story is making so many rounds… and no, that many Indians may see it as some sort of a comeback against Britain’s 200 years of colonial rule over the country is not the reason why it matters. It matters because this is the first time since 1946 that the UK has no judge on the ICJ bench, and that signals possible changes in the way international bodies govern and are governed. So what does this mean for India, for the UK and for the world at large?

The International Court of Justice

The International Court of Justice or the ICJ was established in 1945 by the United Nations as its principal judicial branch and is located in The Hague, Netherlands. Its job is to settle legal disputes between states that are submitted to it and give advisory opinions on legal questions referred to it. The court comprises of a total of 15 judges that are elected to 9 year terms by way of voting from both the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) and the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) separately. One third of the court is re-elected every three years, and no two judges of the same nationality may assume positions on the bench simultaneously. However, the rule that led to the deadlock between the candidates from India and UK is that a candidate must obtain an absolute majority in both the UNGA and the UNSC in order to be elected to the bench.

UN General Assembly vs UN Security Council: The Race in Numbers

On November 9 and November 13, in seven rounds of voting justice Bhandari secured between 110 and 121 votes from a total of 193 in the UNGA against figures between 68 and 79 secured by his British counterpart Sir Christopher Greenwood. However, among the UNSC, justice Bhandari lost out by 5 votes to 9 in favour of Sir Greenwood. In the face of uncertainty, the UK then pushed for a ‘joint conference’ under the rules of the court between the UNSC and the UNGA. Under the ‘joint conference’ three countries from each side then determine the name for the court. However, the rules do not mention the procedure to select these countries and understandably so, since the option was last invoked in 1921. Fearing not enough support from the council, criticism for invoking the charter, and harming its friendly as well as economic relations with India, the UK eventually chose to not follow through with the process and withdrew its candidature for the post. In the end, India secured the seat with a total of 183 votes out of 193 at the UNGA and all 15 at the UNSC.

There is More to the Victory than Meets the Eye

The result means different things for the parties involved and also for the balance of power and influence between countries. For the UK, there are hardly any positives to take away from this result amid already turbulent times. Many in the British media have viewed this loss as ‘a blow to British international prestige’ and the country’s acceptance of a diminishing role in global affairs. This was the UK’s second major defeat at the ICJ after it lost a vote by a margin of 94 to 15 countries in June when the UNGA voted in favour of referring the question of decolonisation and self-determination of the Chagos Islands in the Indian Ocean to the ICJ, which is currently under its control. Many within and outside the country have also been quick to blame Brexit for the situation in which they find themselves today, arguing that the other states, especially the ones within the European Union would have been less willing to snub the UK had the UK chosen not to leave the alliance. In the face of defeat, British diplomats have continued to maintain that they are happy that their close friend India has won, but have also not been shy of hiding their natural disappointment at their own loss.

For India, their victory in having a judge win the contest in getting elected to the ICJ bench against a permanent member of the UNSC is more symbolic than anything else. It reinforces India’s image at the highest stage as a major emerging global player and its ability to bring in greater reforms that push for more involvement from developing countries and emerging economies. Also, having a judge on the ICJ bench gives India an edge over Pakistan in the case involving former Indian Navy Officer Kulbhushan Jadhav who has been sentenced to death by a Pakistan military court on the charges of espionage. True, a judge on the ICJ does not represent his/her country or their interests. However, as suggested by repeated criticism the court receives for being biased in favour of the states who appoint the judges, having a judge on the panel is certainly an asset for any country, no matter what the rules dictate on paper.

The most important takeaway from the whole episode far exceeds the ambitions of just the two countries and a race for a seat at the ICJ. India’s victory at the court reinforces the belief that power does not necessarily reside or has to reside with the ‘few global elite’, a sentiment which was expressed clearly when most member states of the UNGA backed India’s justice Bhandari to be re-elected against the choice of the permanent members or P5 of the UNSC. There seems to be an acknowledgment among the member states of the UN of the beginning of a change which sees an increasing shift in the balance of power away from the traditional powers of the world or the P5 – Britain, China, United States, Russia, and France. Of these countries, China was the only member to not have a judge on the ICJ between 1967 and 1985 till the final decision last week, when they were joined by the UK in the list. Last year, Russia was voted off the United Nations Human Rights Council. In the 2016 elections, France lost out on securing a position in the International Law Commission. While diplomats at the UN continue to maintain that there are no winners and losers here, that it is all part of a bigger picture, these developments undoubtedly mark diplomatic victories for the Group of 77 or the G77, a coalition of developing nations at the UN that have constantly pushed for an enhanced negotiating capacity. What remains to be seen is just to what extent they bring about a change in the status quo.

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