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Undermining the politics of secularism – Hindustan Times

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Unless Indian politics is able to move beyond this excessive focus on group identities, and creation of binaries based on these, this approach will only get more entrenched. (Arijit Sen/HT Photo)

Undermining the politics of secularism

The BJP’s majoritarian politics is a challenge to India’s composite and diverse social mosaic, but the Opposition’s politics, with open appeals to minorities to prioritise their religious identity, weakens the secular project too.
By HT Editorial
PUBLISHED ON APR 04, 2021 08:03 PM IST

In an election rally, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee had contrasting messages for the two major religious communities of the state. She appealed to Hindus not to vote on religious grounds, on the basis of “Hindu-Mussalman”, and fall for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s attempt to divide people on religious lines. She appealed to Muslims that they must not let minority votes get divided, warned them not to fall for the rhetoric of Abbas Siddiqui (who is a part of the Left-Congress alliance), and warned the community that it would face the “biggest danger” if the BJP came to power.

This message, in a way, sums up all that is wrong with the politics of secularism in India. Ms Banerjee clearly did not see a contradiction in asking Hindus not to vote as Hindus, and asking Muslims to vote as Muslims in a consolidated manner. It was in tune with her party’s strategy of winning a majority of the minority votes and a minority of the majority votes. But this undermines secularism, just as the BJP’s attempt to win a majority of the majority votes by stoking their anxieties, and constructing Muslims as the “other” undermines secularism. In fact, by pointing to attempts to consolidate the minority vote, the BJP is often able to stir up Hindu political consciousness across caste lines.

Unless Indian politics is able to move beyond this excessive focus on group identities, and creation of binaries based on these, this approach will only get more entrenched. The BJP’s majoritarian politics is a challenge to India’s composite and diverse social mosaic, but the Opposition’s politics, with open appeals to minorities to prioritise their religious identity, weakens the secular project too.

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‘Heartbroken’: Politicians express shock at killing of British MP – Al Jazeera English

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British Member of Parliament David Amess has died after being stabbed several times during a meeting with his constituents at a church in eastern England. He was 69.

Reports said a man walked into Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea, south Essex, on Friday while Amess was holding a surgery with locals and attacked the politician.

Police arrested a man and recovered a knife.

Politicians from across the political spectrum expressed shock and sadness over the horrific incident.

Here are some of the reactions:

Boris Johnson, UK prime minister

In a tribute to Amess, Johnson said the late MP was killed after “almost 40 years of continuous service to the people of Essex and the whole of the United Kingdom”.

He added: “The reason people are so shocked and sad is above all he was one of the kindest, nicest, most gentle people in politics.

“He also had an outstanding record of passing laws to help the most vulnerable, whether the people who are suffering from endometriosis, passing laws to end cruelty to animals, or doing a huge amount to reduce the fuel poverty suffered by people up and down the country.”

Johnson continued: “David was a man who believed passionately in this country and in its future. And we’ve lost today a fine public servant and a much-loved friend and colleague.

“Our thoughts are very much today with his wife, his children and his family.”

Dominic Raab, UK deputy prime minister

“Heartbroken that we have lost Sir David Amess MP. A great common sense politician and a formidable campaigner with a big heart, and tremendous generosity of spirit – including towards those he disagreed with. RIP my friend.”

Priti Patel, UK interior minister

“I am devastated we have lost Sir David Amess … David served the people of Southend with endless passion, energy and integrity. That he was killed while going about his constituency duties is heartbreaking beyond words. It represents a senseless attack on democracy itself.

“Questions are rightly being asked about the safety of our country’s elected representatives and I will provide updates in due course.”

Rishi Sunak, UK finance minister

“The worst aspect of violence is its inhumanity. It steals joy from the world and can take from us that which we love the most. Today it took a father, a husband, and a respected colleague. All my thoughts and prayers are with Sir David’s loved ones.”

Liz Truss, UK foreign minister

“Devastated to hear the terrible news about Sir David Amess MP. He was a lovely, lovely man and a superb parliamentarian. My thoughts are with all his family and friends.”

Nicola Sturgeon, first minister of Scotland

“This is awful beyond words. My thoughts and deepest condolences are with David’s family, friends and colleagues. May he rest in peace.

“Elected representatives from across the political spectrum will be united in sadness and shock today.

“In a democracy, politicians must be accessible and open to scrutiny, but no-one deserves to have their life taken while working for and representing their constituents.”

Nadhim Zahawi, UK education minister

“Rest In Peace Sir David. You were a champion for animal welfare, the less fortunate, and the people of Southend West. You will be missed by many.”

Sajid Javid, UK health minister

“Devastated to learn of Sir David Amess’ murder. A great man, a great friend, and a great MP killed while fulfilling his democratic role. My heart goes out to Julia, his family, and all who loved him. Let us remember him and what he did with his life.”

Kwasi Kwarteng, UK business minister

“Sir David was a thoroughly decent, kind and thoughtful man. An exemplary Member of Parliament who fought for his constituents with devotion. My thoughts and prayers are with his family at this deeply tragic time.”

Simon Coveney, Irish foreign minister

“What a shocking and tragic incident. Our thoughts and sincere sympathies are with family, friends and political colleagues of Sir David Amess MP.”

Michael Gove, UK levelling up minister

“David Amess’s passing is heartbreakingly sad. Just terrible, terrible news. He was a good and gentle man, he showed charity and compassion to all, his every word and act were marked by kindness. My heart goes out to his family.”

Joao Vale de Almeida, EU ambassador to the UK

“Very shocked by the news of the death of MP Sir David Amess following a horrific attack. Our heartfelt condolences go out to his family and loved ones.”

Philip T. Reeker, US charge d’affair to the UK

“I’m deeply saddened to hear about the death of Sir David Amess MP. My thoughts go out to his family, friends and all those who worked with him during his distinguished parliamentary career.”

Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury

“Sir David Amess dedicated his life to championing causes he believed in, serving constituents and his country for almost forty years as a Member of Parliament. He was a devout Roman Catholic whose deep faith fuelled his sense of justice. We are richer for his life, and we are all the poorer for his untimely death.”

Carrie Johnson, wife of UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson

“Absolutely devastating news about Sir David Amess. He was hugely kind and good. An enormous animal lover and a true gent. This is so completely unjust. Thoughts are with his wife and their children.”

Keir Starmer, opposition Labour Party

“This is a dark and shocking day. The whole country will feel it acutely, perhaps the more so because we have, heartbreakingly, been here before.

“Above all else, today I am thinking of David, of the dedicated public servant that he was and of the depth of positive impact he had for the people he represented.”

Lindsay Hoyle, speaker of the House of Commons

“This is an incident that will send shockwaves across the parliamentary community and the whole country. In the coming days we will need to discuss and examine MPs’ security and any measures to be taken, but for now, our thoughts and prayers are with David’s family, friends and colleagues.”

Brendan Cox, husband of Labour lawmaker Jo Cox who was murdered in 2016

“My thoughts and love are with David’s family. They are all that matter now. This brings everything back. The pain, the loss, but also how much love the public gave us following the loss of Jo. I hope we can do the same for David now.”

Theresa May, former Conservative UK prime minister

“Heartbreaking to hear of the death of Sir David Amess. A decent man and respected parliamentarian, killed in his own community while carrying out his public duties. A tragic day for our democracy.”

Gordon Brown, former Labour UK prime minister

“Saddened and shocked to hear about the death of Sir David Amess. My condolences to his family and friends.”

David Cameron, former Conservative UK prime minister

“This is the most devastating, horrific & tragic news. David Amess was a kind & thoroughly decent man – & he was the most committed MP you could ever hope to meet. Words cannot adequately express the horror of what has happened today. Right now, my heart goes out to David’s family.”

Tony Blair, former Labour UK prime minister

“David and I came into Parliament together in 1983. Though on opposite political sides I always found him a courteous, decent and thoroughly likeable colleague who was respected across the House. This is a terrible and sad day for our democracy.”

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Jonathan Soloman walking away from politics – TimminsToday

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Mushkegowuk Council Grand Chief Jonathan Solomon is retiring from politics with mixed emotions and feeling good about his tenure.

Solomon is resigning effective today, Oct. 15.

With over a year still left in his term, Solomon, 59, said he is leaving the office to focus on his health and spend more time with his family in his home community of Kashechewan.

After reflecting on his career and speaking with his family, Solomon said he decided to walk away from politics.

“My diabetes really spiked up. So, I thought about my well-being first and foremost. My family wants me to be well and I want to be well,” he said. “I’ve been in politics for many, many years and it’s taking a toll on me.”

He will now be working as a health director in Kashechewan. Solomon said the job is non-political, more private and allows him to stay in his home community.

Solomon said the Council of Chiefs will likely hold a by-election to elect a new leader for the remaining term until the next Mushkegowuk Council election in 2023.

To a new grand chief, Solomon advised to have a good vision, work with communities and staff, have good communication and continue supporting the ongoing work at the Mushkegowuk.

“You got to love what you do. Don’t do it for the sake of getting that title,” he said. “Lead from the heart.”

Solomon has been leading the organization, which represents seven First Nation communities in the James Bay and Hudson Bay, for the past six years. Before that, he was chief of Kashechewan for six years.

He got into politics at the age of 19 when he was elected to council. He first became Kashechewan chief when he was 27.

He also worked as director of education and served as Mushkegowuk deputy chief.

“Although I was a politician, I’m more of a human. I had a heart, I had compassion. I loved what I did,” he said.

During his tenure, Mushkegowuk Council signed a revenue sharing agreement with the Ontario government.

Most recently, the organization signed a memorandum of understanding with Parks Canada regarding a proposed National Marine Conservation Area in western James Bay and southwestern Hudson Bay.

As a chief, Solomon said he championed and lobbied to launch the inquiry into the suicide crisis in the First Nation communities.

Mushkegowuk Council established a People’s Inquiry in 2013. The communities raised their own funding to conduct the inquiry, hold public hearings and choose commissioners. The final report with recommendations was released in 2016.

Re-establishing the Mushkegowuk youth department was also one of his priorities as the grand chief.

“I lobbied so hard to get the funding,” Solomon recalled.

When the funding was approved, it was an emotional moment.

“I still remember that day like it was yesterday,” he said.

He said he also lobbied to establish the Mushkegowuk health department.

When he was first elected as the grand chief, his first priority was to get the organization “back on feet.” Solomon said he was surrounded by dedicated hardworking people who had the same vision for Mushkegowuk as he did.

“They’re the ones doing most of the work, the technical work. You got to have the right people surround you and to support you, and vice versa,” he said.

Solomon questioned why a sitting grand chief can’t have a satellite office and work from their home community.

He is from Kashechewan, while Mushkegowuk Council’s head office is in Moose Factory.

Spending six years between two communities, away from his family was quite challenging for him, Solomon said adding if he had an office in Kashechewan, he’d finish his term.

“I missed the part where my children were growing up. I was too busy. I missed a lot of parts. The next thing I knew they were starting their own families,” he said. “I want to be there for my grandchildren, I want to see their birthdays, special days. I want to be part of their lives, and that’s what I’m looking forward to.”

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PM Trudeau to unveil new cabinet, vows gender balance despite losses

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Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Friday he would reshuffle his cabinet on Oct. 26 and ensure there was a  gender balance , even though he lost female ministers in an election last month.

Trudeau was re-elected to a third term in office on Sept. 20 but only won a minority of seats, which means he needs to cooperate with opposition legislators to govern.

“The new  cabinet will remain gender balanced,” said a statement from Trudeau’s office. Since taking power in late 2015, Trudeau – an avowed feminist – has named cabinets with an even split of male and female ministers.

But in the run-up to the election, one high-profile woman cabinet minister quit and another three lost their seats.

His office also said the new Parliament would be recalled on Nov 22.

(Reporting by David Ljunggren; editing by John Stonestreet)

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