No your lordship, everybody opposing Aadhar is not following an“NGO line”: Baidik Bhattacharya

Guest post by BAIDIK BHATTACHARYA

We live in strange times. A judge in the country’s Supreme Court believes anyone challenging the government’s decision to impose Aadhar-based surveillance regime is following an “NGO line.” Another judge wonders in the court whether “one nation one identity” is not the necessary path forward. Soon, one wonders, if any opposition to surveillance, and any resistance to being spied upon by the state, will be deemed anti-national not only by the government but also by our top judiciary.

Since the hearings on the various anti-Aadhar pleas are being heard in the Supreme Court, and since such inconsiderate observations are being made regularly, let us look at a few problematic aspects of the biometry-based Aadhar idea itself—not only the technical glitches and possible misuses (of which there are many), but the central philosophy that underlines the state’s eagerness to bring every citizen under one biometric identity.

Continue reading “No your lordship, everybody opposing Aadhar is not following an“NGO line”: Baidik Bhattacharya”

Defend Constitutional Values, Save Hinduism from Hindtuva: For Civil Servants and Armed Forces Veterans

On 30 January 2018, retired civil servants and veterans of the armed forces jointly organised a conclave on ‘Hinduism and Hindutva’ at the Indian Social Institute, New Delhi. The conclave attended by over hundred participants, emphasized the need to rescue both Hinduism and the Indian Constitution from the clutches of the political project that calls itself Hindutva, and which has nothing to do with religion as such. The participants at the conclave sought to make a plea for saving Hinduism without making any concessions to the monstrosity of caste oppression, which in the spirit of many earlier reformers, they rejected.

This conclave followed an earlier one on ‘A Fractured Polity: The
Relevance of Gandhi Today’ organised on 10 October 2017, which had been
addressed by Justice A P Shah, Mrinal Pande and Ramachandra Guha. The
speeches are available on YouTube (Justice A.P. Shah, Mrinal Pande,
Ramachandra Guha). These civil servants and veterans have also raised severe
concerns about the present situation in a series of open letters over the last few
months: on vigilantism and hyper-nationalism; the suspicious death of Justice
Loya; and violence and discrimination against minorities in India. (See: Retired
Civil Servants open letter – 10 June 2017, Armed Forces Veterans open letter –
30 July 2017, Retired Civil Servants Letter 02 December 2017 – Enquiry into
Judge Loya’s death, Armed Forces Veterans letter to Supreme Court & Bombay
High Court on Judge Loya’s death, Retired Civil Servants open letter – 28 January
2018).
Continue reading “Defend Constitutional Values, Save Hinduism from Hindtuva: For Civil Servants and Armed Forces Veterans”

कासगंज हिंसा- तिरंगे को हड़प जाएगा भगवा? वैभव सिंह

Guest post by VAIBHAV SINGH

kasganj-uttar-pradesh-violence, image courtesy ndtv

पूरे हिंदी क्षेत्र में और विशेषकर उत्तरप्रदेश में ऐसे बडे, छोटे और मंझोले किस्म के नेताओं की बड़ी फौज पैदा हो गई है जिसकी नेतागिरी केवल सांप्रदायिक नारे लगाने और समाज में सांप्रदायिकता फैलाने पर टिकी है। सार्वजनिक जीवन पर इन संकीर्ण सोच वाले हिंदुत्व नेताओं की निरंतर मजबूत होती पकड़ ने सांप्रदायिक हिंसा को ‘न्यू नार्मल’ के रूप में मान्यता दिला दी है। हिंदू धर्म को कलंकित करने में इस नए जमाने के हिंदुत्व की क्या भूमिका है, यह अब किसी से छिपा नहीं है। एक समय था जब समाज पर समाजवादी और गांधीवादी विचारों के प्रभाव के कारण सांप्रदायिकता का सामना करना अपेक्षाकृत कम मुश्किल काम था। पर इन विचारधाराओं का प्रभाव कम हो जाने से सांप्रदायिक नेताओं-समूहों का तेजी से विस्तार हो रहा है। एबीवीपी, विहिप, हिंदू युवावाहिनी और बजरंग दल जैसे संगठन सामाजिक-राजनीतिक जीवन के पूरे परिदृश्य पर हावी हो चुके हैं।अक्सर साधारण परिवारों के युवक इन संगठनों की चपेट में इसलिए आ जाते हैं क्योंकि सांप्रदायिक संगठन समाज सेवा के मुखौटे के भीतर रहकर अपना काम करते हैं। वे दिखावे के तौर पर ब्लड डोनेशन या स्वच्छता मिशन या फिर शहीदों के सम्मान जैसी गतिविधियां करते हैं पर उनका असल मकसद समाज में सांप्रदायिकता का विचारधारा का विस्तार करना होता है। मुस्लिमों में भी सांप्रदायिकता है, पर वे उस प्रकार से संगठित सांप्रदायिकता को व्यक्त नहीं कर रहे हैं। Continue reading “कासगंज हिंसा- तिरंगे को हड़प जाएगा भगवा? वैभव सिंह”

A Revolution Called Chandrashekhar Azad ‘Ravan’ – the Republic on Trial

देख ज़िन्दां के परे, रंग-ए-चमन, जोश-ए-बहार

रक्स करना है तो पॉंव की ज़ंजीर न देख – मजरूह सुल्तानपुरी

Look –  beyond the the prison walls, the brilliance of flowers, the vitality of spring

If you must dance, ignore the chains that bind your feet – Majrooh Sultanpuri

Today, the scared Republic that has imprisoned its young idealistic fighter son, Chandrashekhar, is on trial. The Republic, scared of its own offspring, stands in the dock. This Republic Day, we must all answer how it came to pass that a gang of adventurers and marauders simply took it over, submitted it to their command, while all the elderly, wise men and women, watched. Today, when the Republic bondage we must seek answers from all those who watched helplessly – or self-righteously – as marauders took it over.

It is official now. A radiogram from the Deputy Secretary, Home, Govt of Uttar Pradesh to the Superintendent, Saharanpur District Jail, dated 23 January 2018, confirms the slapping of charges under the National Security Act, on Bhim Army founder, Chandrashekhar Azad ‘Ravan’. Pradeep Narwal, Coordinator, Committee for the Defence of Bhim Army, who met Chandrashekhar in jail yesterday, underlined how the Karni Sena activists attacking school buses and vandalizing schools were being allowed the freedom to do so while Chandrashekhar, responsible for setting up and running of schools (see the video below), is being held in jail for months and has now been slapped with charges under NSA. “Karni Sena are apparently deshbhakts and Shekher bhai and Bhim Army are ‘terrorists’ in the perverted logic of this government,” he said.

 

In conversations with friends and sympathizers who have been meeting him over the past months, including Pradeep Narwal, Chandrashekhar ‘Ravan’ has been expressing a fear that many of us have also had, independently, for some time now: that the government wants to actually get rid of him – just as judge Loya was, it now transpires. Continue reading “A Revolution Called Chandrashekhar Azad ‘Ravan’ – the Republic on Trial”

Nehru, Ambedkar and Challenge of Majoritarianism

Image result for nehru ambedkar

( Photo courtesy : The hoot)

(To be published in the special issue of ‘Janata’)

 

The spectacle of what is called religion, or at any rate organised religion, in India and elsewhere, has filled me with horror and I have frequently condemned it and wished to make a clean sweep of it. Almost always it seemed to stand for blind belief and reaction, dogma and bigotry, superstition, exploitation and the preservation of vested interests.

– Toward Freedom: The Autobiography of Jawaharlal Nehru (1936), pp. 240–241.

If Hindu Raj does become a fact, it will no doubt, be the greatest calamity for this country. No matter what the Hindus say, Hinduism is a menace to liberty, equality and fraternity. On that account it is incompatible with democracy. Hindu Raj must be prevented at any cost.

– Ambedkar, ‘Pakistan or Partition of India’, p. 358.

Introduction

India’s slow ushering into a majoritarian democracy is a matter of concern for every such individual who still believes in pluralism, democracy, equality and a clear separation of religion and politics. The way people are being hounded for raising dissenting opinions, for eating food of their choice or entering into relationships of their own liking or celebrating festivals according to their own faith is unprecedented. The situation has reached such extremes that one can even be publicly lynched for belonging to one of the minority religions or for engaging in an activity which is considered to be ‘suspicious’ by the majority community.

No doubt there is no direct harm to the basic structure of the Constitution, its formal structure remains intact, de jure India does remain a democracy as well as a republic, but de facto democracy has slowly metamorphosed into majoritarianism and the sine qua non of a republic—that its citizens are supreme—is being watered down fast. It does not need underlining that this process has received tremendous boost with the ascent of Hindutva supremacist forces at the centrestage of Indian politics. Continue reading “Nehru, Ambedkar and Challenge of Majoritarianism”

The Meaning of Jignesh Mevani

[A shorter version  of this article was published in The Wire on 18 December. I thank K. Satyanarayana, P. Sanal Mohan and Jangam Chinnaiah for their very helpful comments on it, which have helped me to clarify and elaborate on certain points.]

Jignesh Mevani, image courtesy New Indian Express

The rise of Jignesh Mevani constitutes a significant landmark in the political configuration in which the Congress has risen, despite itself, from a state of utter disarray to become the point of articulation for a possible political realignment in the near future. The process of political reconfiguration had already begun as a very significant section of the powerful patidar community, long understood to be the bedrock of the BJP’s social base in the state, had broken away from it. But alongside this, the rise of the young leaders Hardik Patel, Alpesh Thakore and Jignesh Mevani together produced the new young face of emergent Gujarat.

There is no doubt that the vacuum that characterized the space where the opposition should have been, no longer exists. The masthead of a new opposition formation is evident on the horizon. This turnaround in the fortunes of the Congress would not have been possible without the re-alignments in the non-electoral arena, facilitated in no small measure by the rise of this young leadership.

Continue reading “The Meaning of Jignesh Mevani”

The Indian Constitution too was Demolished Along With Babri Masjid 25 Years Ago

Twenty five years ago, on 6 December 1992, the structure of Babri Masjid was brought down by a mob of vandals, presided over by the top leadership of the BJP/RSS/VHP, as the Congress government led by prime minister Narasimha Rao looked on benignly. As did the Supreme Court before which a commitment was made by the Kalyan Singh (BJP) government in Uttar Pradesh – to the effect that nothing would be allowed to happen to the structure of the mosque.

Journalist Sajeda Momin, covering the demolition, recalls the scene thus,

I can still see the thousands of saffron-clad ‘kar sevaks’ clambering atop the 16th century mosque and pounding it with shovels, iron rods, pickaxes and anything they could lay their hands on. I can hear the screeching of Sadhvi Uma Bharti egging them on shouting “ek dhakka aur do, Babri Masjid tod do” through the microphones from atop the specially-built watchtower for the BJP/RSS/VHP leadership. I can visualize the three domes of the mosque collapsing inwards one by one at intervals of roughly an hour on that cold, wintery Sunday afternoon.

Everyone knew who were the dramatis personae at each level – and practically every bit of evidence that would ever have been required exists, captured in videos and photographs. Our present prime minister was said to be  one of the key organizers of the of the Rath Yatra that led up to the demolition and can be seen holding the microphone in his  hands in the photograph below.

Rath Yatra – precursor to the demolition, image courtesy Quora.com

Worse was to follow the demolition. The  demolition of the structure of the mosque was over that day but the process of the demolition of the Indian Constitution that had begun with what was called the ‘Ram janmabhoomi movement’ continued. By ‘Constitution’ I do not simply mean the book that embodies the law of the land but rather the very weave that came to constitute Indian society as a result of the new contract that the document called the Constitution embodied. Constitution, therefore in a triple sense. The document called the Constitution too was not merely a book of laws; it was rather, the only existing, largely agreed upon, vision of a modern India. It was a vision which was put in place through the long process of struggles, debates and contestations over the long decades of the anticolonial movement and finally given shape in, in the Constituent Assembly. There was nothing benign or innocuous about it – every bit of it had to be achieved through a fight. And yet, in the end, that was the document that embodied the vision of modern India. The only political current that stood far away from both the anticolonial struggle and had no role in the creation of this vision is the political force that rules India today.

The RSS and its numerous offshoots were neither fighting the British nor joining in the anti-caste and anti-untouchability struggles through the period since they came into existence in the mid-1920s. No wonder leaders of the Sangh combine think the anti-colonial/ national struggle was about cow-protection. That they neither subscribed to the anti-British agenda nor to the anti-caste agenda around which struggles of that period took shape, is not just a matter of historical record but is also visible in the way its leaders and ranks conduct their politics today. Every single step taken by the Sangh leaders is a step out of sync with the vision of the future spelt out by the social contract of modern India. That the Sangh attributes this vision to the Congress is an expression of its own illiteracy about the diverse forces in struggle throughout that period.

Even though it is conducted in the name of Hindus, there is nothing ‘Hindu’ about its agenda. Sangh and Sanghism is the name of a malignant political machine that seeks to destroy the very body of society in the name of an ancient past. That is the political machine we confront today. That is the political machine that we must fight today with all our vigour.