RTI – A Retrospective

Jammu and Kashmir Right to Information Act lets people to access government data but the process of getting the data is daunting. We have law in place for a decade now but we have not been able to put the data on the fingertips of people.

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Jammu and Kashmir Right to Information Act (RTI) initially came into force in 2004. There were some amendments done in 2008 and it was then finally replaced with Jammu and Kashmir Right to Information Act 2009. It is important to get data from government agencies as it helps people to educate themselves and make informed decisions. This law is designed to increase the transparency of the administration so that people can keep themselves abreast of the work that is being performed by government agencies. In a system of government designed by the people, for the people, the RTI helps to access information that previously would have not been available to common people. The law has helped many people to uncover facts, results from unpublished studies, which would not have been otherwise available to the public. However, the process of getting the data from the government agencies is intimating, it is time consuming, needs people to interact in person, etc. We need to build a process around it so that everybody has data readily available and doesn’t have to go from door to door to fetch it.

There is a similar law like RTI in States, which has the same purpose and it is known as Freedom Of Information Act. If we want to get any information under this act, we can visit FOIA website and do the quick search if the information we need has been requested by someone else and there is a good chance that it may have been already requested. If anybody requests the information under FOIA, it is publically made available on the website so if anybody else needs the same information it is immediately available and same request doesn’t get processed over and over again. If the required information is not already available we can submit the request online or we can send via email or even postal mail. When the request is processed the information is made available immediately on FOIA website and we don’t have to run after people or be anywhere in person. We need to build similar process in Jammu and Kashmir as well, which will empower people.

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Kashmir in 1960’s

It is amazing to watch that neither the situation in Kashmir like ceasefire violations, killing of innocent people, demand for plebiscite, etc. nor the opinion of Kashmiri people has changed even after a span of five decades.

Reading Frithjof Schuon on Islam

Recently a lot of articles have been written on the writing of Frithjof Schuon and he has been projected as one of the greatest authors on Islam in the western world. In may be noteworthy that in an interview, Frithjof Schuon had mentioned that he was only interested in the hidden esoteric Islam, which he considered open mind like Hinduism and very near to Vedanta. Other than that he was not interested in Islam more than any other religion. Besides Christianity he also studied Hinduism, Buddhism and the Native American traditions.

Frithjof Schuon (1907 – 1998) was a metaphysicist and an exponent of the Religio Perennis. He has written books and articles on metaphysics, spirituality and comparative religions. The metaphysics exposited by Schuon is based on separation between ‘Atma’ and ‘Maya’. Schuon believes, idea of the absolute and the relative is provided by all the major religions sufficiently, if not always exhaustive. In Christianity, God became man and man might become God. In Hindu terms one would say, Atma became Maya that Maya might become Atma. In Islam the real and non-real is affirmed by the Testimony of Unity (the Shahadah). Religio Perennis is not a new religion but an underlying religion for Schuon. He considers the essential function of human intelligence, discernment between the real and the illusory, and the essential function of the will as the attachment to the real, which is the underlying universality in all the religions and what may be called the Religio Perennis.

He was one of the chief representative of the Perennialist school. A school of thought based upon a belief that all the world’s great religions share the same origin (in a primordial principle of transcendent unity) and are, at root, based on the same metaphysical principles. Also, modern civilization is the decadent civilization, which manifests the lowest possibilities of the Kali Yuga (the Dark Age of the Hindu cosmology). Through his many books and articles, Schuon became known as a spiritual teacher and leader of the Perennialist School. He classified prayers into three forms: first, canonical prayer, for instance the Lord’s prayer; second, personal prayer, whose best model is given by the Psalms; third, the prayer of the heart; this is mystical spirituality like Dhikr and Japa-Yoga. His book ‘Understanding Islam’ is considered one of the best book to introduce Islam to western world.