Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Great Loss

Mrs. Coretta Scott King passed away earlier this morning. Her leadership of a movement that armed men and women not with weapons but conviction to challenge the most heinous forms of prejudice will forever inspire all of those who persevere for a just society. Mrs. King was a gracious symbol of a movement that fought the most hideous part of human nature. Her and Dr. King’s dedication to nonviolence inspired many. They executed the Gandhian method for nonviolent transformation to perfection.

In these times when India and the United States are searching for issues to build a “strategic” partnership through military collaboration and exchange of nuclear technology, our leaders are oblivious of a great collaboration that should become the basis for bilateral relations. Dr. King and Mrs. King went to India as a guest of Prime Minister Nehru in efforts to study and learn more about Gandhi's philosophy and techniques of nonviolence from February 2 through March 10, 1959. The interactions they had with luminaries of India’s nonviolent freedom struggle convinced them of the efficacy and moral necessity of nonviolence as the method for change in the United States. Many years later at a Young India organized tribute to Mahatma Gandhi on Capitol Hill Rep. John Lewis, a very close King associate, shared with us how the Mahatma was a figure that the entire movement looked up to and followed.

I admire Mrs. King for her devotion to justice and peace, for her commitment to nonviolence and for her symbolizing what truly binds India and the United States – the collective battle for a society that is inclusive and respectful of everyone’s life, liberty and their pursuit of happiness. May God rest her soul in peace and give us the strength to be worthy followers of her.


Saturday, January 28, 2006

Hamas's victory in Palestine : A systems perspective

The Palestinian election results have surprised everyone, including its victors, Hamas. Beyond the context of the Middle East/West Asia politics there are lessons to be duly noted.

The results show that incumbent progressive forces are widely incompetent and complacent. Fatah is the latest casualty. The recently concluded Canadian elections and a little before that the German elections too are evidence of this phenomenon. Of course, unlike the United States where incumbency has a stranglehold on democracy, most democracies are not kind to incumbents. But in the recent past we have seen popular progressive movements faltering when their activism is required to transform into governance. Such results push back the progressive movement and allow radical ideas to fill in the void.

South America is tilting left and it will be very interesting to see if the populism that has fueled this shift is converted to accountable governance. Progressives must hold their own leaders to the same standards as they have their political opponents. Transparency must become a core value of all progressive movements. We have already seen this principle harmed in Brazil and Venezuela. The insistence on justice should not be limited to big issues but it must permeate all workings of our governments. In this context the people's right to information must be integral to all civil society and progressive political efforts.

Hamas has a chance to shed its radicalism for a more conciliatory approach towards peace. Both the Palestinians and the Israelis have immensely suffered over the last 58 years. Israel may not be able to easily forget attacks on civilians just like the Palestinians won't be able to easily forget atrocities committed against them. But they have no other choice. Reconciliation is not hoped for but is now demanded by history. Both sides have dug their heels on the matter of justice. What is a just solution? Who has the objectivity to adjudicate this conflict? No one. But there is a starting point - forgiveness. Both parties need to move towards conflict transformation. Only then can they move towards conflict resolution. With Hamas laying down its weapons this process will get a much needed push. The world will greatly welcome this move and give all the support it needs to win the peace. Hamas must seize this opportunity. It has to. If it does then Israel should break down all other barriers for peace. It's time to be statesmen.