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Nehru, Ambedkar and Challenge of Majoritarianism

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( 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

“Welcome to the Land of Enlightenment”: Kaveri Gill

Guest post by KAVERI GILL

Bihar Tourism’s Neglected Treasures

Kesariya Stupa East Champaran
Kesariya Stupa East Champaran

A recent work trip took me to the north-east of Bihar, the poorest region of a state with ‘critical’ poverty incidence by any measure. For instance, within the state, on NSS 2004-05 data, West Champaran is the worst-performing district on headcount ratios (76.9) in rural India (Chaudhuri and Gupta, Economic and Political Weekly, 2009). Such destitution was on ample evidence amongst the segregated group of mahadalit and minority women members of a self-help group we spoke to, in a tola with no electricity and only candles to dispel an eerie fog settled over the village at dusk. Of 13 of them, 11 had repeat experience (up to three times per woman) of losing a child in the last trimester of pregnancy, just after giving birth or of a child under 5 years of age.  It was from Champaran that Gandhi first led landless labour and tenants or ryots, in his first satyagraha against the British, protesting the coerced cultivation of the cash crop, indigo. Almost a century later, not much has changed in tangible terms for the population of this part of the democratic Republic of India. Continue reading “Welcome to the Land of Enlightenment”: Kaveri Gill