The 15 th lecture in the Democracy Dialogues Series will be delivered by Prof Achin Vanaik on Sunday, 27 th February at 6 PM (IST)
He will be speaking on
‘Secularism, Communalism and Indian Politics Today‘
Writer and Social Activist, Former Professor of Political Science at Delhi University Prof Achin Vanaik is a fellow of the Transnational Institute
He is author of numerous books including The Furies of Indian Communalism ( 1997) , The Painful Transition : Bourgeois Democracy in India ( 1990) , Hindutva Rising – Secular Claims, Communal Realities (2017), “Nationalist Dangers, Secular Failings:A Compass for an Indian Left”
The presentation will start with a series of definitions of crucial concepts such as secular, secularization, secularism as well as distinguishing between religious fundamentalism, religious nationalism and communalism. This is important to get a handle on how the widespread Indian understanding of secularism as an ancient form of ‘tolerance’ is dangerously mistaken. Of course the rise of the political right and far-right is a global phenomenon in the last few decades giving rise to different forms of what can be called the ‘politics of cultural exclusivism’. So the first principle of explanation for this rise has also to be transnational. After this the question of the rise of the Sangh/BJP in the wider context of developments in India over time will be taken up. It is obvious that the Sangh/BJP is seeking to expand its existing power and influence i.e., to establish and expand its hegemony and this must be understood as well as what are the projects central to its efforts to establish a Hindu Rashtra or Nation. It should be obvious that its particular conception of how to secure a strong Indian nation/nationalism must be exposed and combated. The presentation will end with recognising that this is a long term struggle and how we must go about it.
Perhaps celebrities know that talking about the plight of an animal—who died in a state not ruled by the ruling dispensation at the Centre—is a safe bet
Migrants wait for a means of transport to travel to their native places during the fourth phase of the ongoing COVID-19 nationwide lockdown, at Kundali Industrial Area in Sonipat. (Photo: PTI)
The killing of a pregnant elephant has caused national outrage. The elephant had strayed into a village in Palakkad, Kerala, and is said to have been fed a fruit stuffed with firecrackers, which exploded in its mouth. It is impossible to comprehend the tremendous suffering of the elephant, who died a painful death. It is also learnt that people in the region have in the past used incendiary materials to protect their crop from animals, particularly wild boar.
One person was arrested after the matter came to light and few others have been identified. Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has promised “justice will prevail”, but one does not know if that includes legal action against the hatemongers—including a former cabinet minister who gave the incident a communal colour by claiming, incorrectly, that the incident occurred in Muslim-majority Malappuram. A sitting cabinet minister also retweeted this fake news, which further vitiated the atmosphere.
In a complaint to the Malappuram Police, a lawyer has urged the police chief to file an FIR against the former minister and others for a “derogatory” campaign against the district.
Now, many Indian celebrities, for example Indian cricket team captain Virat Kohli, have said that they are “appalled” by the incident. The chairman of India’s biggest corporate giant, Ratan Tata, has compared the “criminal act” with “meditated murder”. The celebrities, the anchors of 24/7 news channels and many other prominent figures are undeniably upset by the plight of the elephant. But do they also feel the same kind of outrage and disquiet over the communal overtones being imparted to it?
BJP’s Delhi campaign was not divisive by sanyog or coincidence. That is its prayog or experiment. Which it will take to other elections.
Kitney aadmi thhe—how many were there?
A meme based on this famous monologue from the highly successful film, Sholay (Embers), from the early seventies, started trending when “David” Kejriwal, leader of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), defeated “Goliath” Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Delhi’s recent Assembly elections.
No doubt this election’s result has put paid to the efforts of Home Minister Amit Shah to retain his image as “Chanakya” of Indian politics, at least for now. The result is despite BJP’s desperate attempts to win Delhi, as part of which pulled chief ministers, former chief ministers, cabinet ministers and more than 240 Members of Parliament to campaign in the city. Blame it on the high stakes battle that allegations surfaced that they had distributed cash and liquor ahead of the polls.
The result is for everyone to see.
The most toxic electoral campaign, perhaps ever, in which leaders of the ruling dispensation even provoked violence through their hate speeches, did not work. The BJP’s seat tally rose by merely five and a bloody nose.
This election verdict will have vital ramifications for democracy’s onward journey for decades together, and silencing and further invisibilisation of religious minorities would be its logical outcome.
“The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear.” — – Gramsci
A journalist friends’ prophesy has finally come true.
The day India launched ‘surgical strikes’ across the border supposedly to avenge the Pulwama terror attack, this friend immediately sent a message on a WhatsApp group that Narendra Modi has ensured himself a second term. He stood his ground despite few heated exchanges on the group from Left leaning friends.
In the coming days, this not so expected debacle of the secular camp and the surge of the Hindutva Supremacist camp in newer areas and communities would be further analysed/debated/discussed from various angles. It will be debated why despite the caution expressed by the likes of Amartya Sen, who had concluded how India has taken “a quantum jump in wrong direction since 2014”; how despite being cautioned by leading scholars, intellectuals, scientists of our times that the very idea of India is at stake in the elections, the people in general did not pay any heed to their appeals and have resolved to continue the journey with a renewed frenzy in the same direction or have fully supposedly embraced this idea of ‘New India’ jettisoning the old one. Remember, not only has the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) been able to garner more seats than last time but its vote share has also increased more than 5%.
How Hindutva Supremacists are rushing to give themselves Clean Chit in terror related cases
(Picture : Courtesy – Indian Express)
Whether investigations into Hindutva terror related cases are changing course? A series of apparently unconnected developments definitely strengthen the belief.
Close on the heels of renowned public prosecutor Rohini Salian’s revelations that she is being pressurised to go slow on the Malegaon bomb blast case (2008) and news of no of witnesses turning hostile in the Ajmer bomb blast case (2007) and sudden decision of the NIA to shift the Sunil Joshi murder case back to M.P, has come the news that the NIA has finally decided to close the Modasa bomb blast case citing ‘insufficient evidence’.
As is being rightly said it is the first concrete indication that with the assumption of power by the BJP investigations into Hindutva terror related cases a shift in emphasis is visible. Perhaps an indication of the changed times is the statement by a senior Minister that there is ‘nothing like Hindu terror in the country’ despite being aware of the fact that the NIA, the premier investigating agency formed after 2008 terror attack in Mumbai to focus on terror related cases, is handling at least a sixteen high profile cases supposedly involving Hindutva terrorists and many of their top bosses are still under scanner.
Bomb blast at Modasa, part of Sabarkantha district then and recently made into a separate district, which witnessed one death and injuries to many, is one of the least explored bomb blast in the country. The following write-up tries to discuss the blast, discusses the prevalent ambience then when bombs were discovered at different places without anyone claiming responsibility for it, the interim findings of the NIA when it took over the particular case during the UPA II regime and the announcement by the then home minister P Chidambaram that the central probe agency has achieved a “breakthrough” in the 2008 Modasa (Gujarat) blast case.
Praful Bidwai is no more. He died in Amsterdam on Tuesday evening due to a cardiac arrest, With his death we have lost the ‘best left-wing journalist’ in this part of South Asia whose articles appeared in many newspapers and magazines in the subcontinent and in the middle east and was frequently published by The Guardian, Le Monde Diplomatique as well. Praful will be missed by thousands and thousands of his readers (this pen pusher included) who were ‘groomed’ by him in a career spanning more than four decades. For them he was one such voice who remained uncompromising in his strident criticism of communal fundamentalisms of various kinds and the crony capitalism which is having a field day these days. He was a leading voice for nuclear disarmament and peace as well and had written extensively on it. It was a strange coincidence that we met last in the capital when a memorial meeting was organised by Communist Party of India to remember the legendary Comrade Govind Pansare who was assassinated few days back. He was to speak in the meeting. The meeting was yet to start and I could steal some time to talk to him. He told he is working on a book – which was near completion – on the left movement in the country and had interviewed many activists associated with the movement to listen to their understanding of challenges before the left. And in that connection he had long meeting with Com Pansare – once in Kolhapur and one possibly in Mumbai. He shared his fascination about the energies he still had at that age for ‘the cause’. Few days after the meeting, there was a call from him asking for a phone number of a dalit activist which incidentally I did not have. Yes, that was the last time I spoke to him.
Public Statement issued by People’s Alliance for Democracy and Secularism (PADS) on 6 June, 2015
A case has been filed by the Hyderabad police against well known Dalit writer and academic Kancha Ilaiah on a complaint by Vishwa Hindu Parishad members for hurting their religious sentiments. The complaint was filed on the basis of Ilaiah’s article Devudu Prajasamya Vada Kada? (Is God a democrat?) published in a Telugu daily on May 9. In the said article Ilaiah had argued that the possibility of democracy, or its lack inside different religious groups depend on the conception of their God(s). The VHP activists have accused Prof Ilaiah of comparing Hindu gods with God in Christianity and Islam, and of ridiculing their worship. Police have filed a case under sections 153A and 295A which prescribe imprisonment upto three years for spreading enmity among groups of people and outraging religious feelings. The police action against Ilaiah has come around the same time that the IIT Madras has derecognised a student group Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle that organises discussions around socio-cultural and political issues. The group was derecognised after an anonymous complaint against it was filed with the central HRD ministry. While many political parties and groups have justifiably come out in support of the APSC, it is surprising that Prof Ilaiah has received little solidarity. Both these incidences are a proof of the aggressive intent of Hindutva forces to attack any discourse which publicly questions their castiest, Brahminical and majoritarian understanding of Indian society. Successes of Mr Narendra Modi in the recent elections have emboldened them further . Continue reading Withdraw police case against Prof Kancha Ilaiah and revoke the ban on Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle : People’s Alliance for Democracy and Secularism→
Whether discussing issues of contemporary concern among students, raising debates around them on the campus – taking inspiration from the ideas of leading social revolutionaries of 20th century – should be construed as an act of creating ‘social disharmony’ or ‘spreading hatred’ ?
Any sane person would rather reject this weird proposal but it appears that the bureaucrats in the Ministry of Human Resources Development (MHRD) think otherwise. It was evident in the way they acted on an anonymous complaint regarding the activities of a group of students in IIT Madras which calls itself ‘Ambedkar-Periyar Study Circle’ (APSC) – which comprises mainly of dalit, bahujan and adivasi students. Perhaps they were worried that the particular students group, has been critical about PM Modi’s policies and has been raising issues of caste, communalism as well as corporate loot of resources and challenging the ‘development’ narrative which is popular these days among a section of people. The impetuosity with which they acted when they wrote to the management of the Institute can also be gauged from the fact that in this process they violated the recommendations of the CVC (Central Vigilance Commission) itself which has ‘barred’ organisations from taking action on such (anonymous) complaints.
As of now the issue of ‘derecognition’ of APSC by the IITM management, has snowballed into a major controversy, with issues of curtailment of freedom of expression, infringement of autonomy of educational institutions and dominance of caste in higher education all coming to the fore. Continue reading No To Ambedkar-Periyar in ‘Modern Day Agraharam’?→
Even as the communal cauldron in UP is kept on the boil, there is news that the RSS has launched a campaign to tie Rakhis to lakhs of Hindu men, asking them to pledge to protect their sisters from Muslim men and “love jehad.” The VHP has been running a helpline urging Hindus to approach them “if your daughter is being harassed by Muslim boys.” And a khap panchayat in Muzaffarnagar has imposed a ban on mobile phones and jeans for girls, claiming that these result in ‘eve-teasing’.
Woven into the above events is an old, familiar theme – that of patriarchal restrictions packaged as ‘protection’. In the wake of the anti-rape movement that followed December 16 2012, the streets of Delhi and many other parts of India had resounded with the voices of women declaring ‘Don’t take away our freedoms in the name of ‘protection’ – protect our right to fearless, fullest freedom instead’. Those women had raised their voice demanding freedom from sexual violence – and also freedom from rape culture that advices women to dress decently to avoid rape; and freedom from the khap panchayats, freedom even from the restrictions imposed by one’s own fathers and brothers.
Although the BJP has attempted to build a campaign around the issue of “vikas” during this election, the hate filled fumes of “communalism” keep slipping through the cracks. Last week, we heard Ramdas Kadam say that Modi would find a permanent solution for recalcitrant Muslims and ship them off to Pakistan, which he would also incidentally destroy in six months. Giriraj Singh wanted to send everyone who opposed Modi to Pakistan. A video clip showed Praveen Togadia inviting his audience in Bhavnagar to evict Muslims and forcibly occupy their homes, openly encouraging criminal activity. FIRs have been filed against Kadam and Togadia after the Election Commission took note of their speeches while Singh has been barred from campaigning.
But then some would say other candidates and parties are no better and make similarly incendiary remarks: Shazia Ilmi, AAP’s candidate from Ghaziabad recently urged a group of Muslims to be more “communal” and less “secular” in deciding whom to vote for. She urged them to defend their own interests and to vote for one of “their own”, including Arvind Kejriwal in that category. Continue reading What is ‘communal’? The problem of false equivalence: Sheba Tejani→
‘It was all very well to say “Drink me”, but the wise little Alice was not going to do that in a hurry. “No, I’ll look first,” she said, “and see whether it’s marked ‘poison’ or not”; for she had read several nice little stories about children who had got burnt, and eaten up by wild beasts, and other unpleasant things, all because they would not remember the simple rules their friends had taught them: such as, that a red-hot poker will burn you if you hold it too long; and that, if you cut your finger very deeply with a knife, it usually bleeds; and she had never forgotten that, if you drink much from a bottle marked “poison,” it is almost certain to disagree with you, sooner or later.’
पड़ोसी कब पड़ोसी न रह कर अजनबी बन जाता है ? या वह हमेशा ही एक अजनबी रहता है जिस पर मौक़ा मिलते ही हमला करने में ज़रा हिचक नहीं होती ? हम अपना पड़ोस चुनते कैसे हैं? क्या पड़ोस मात्र एक भौगोलिक अवधारणा है? क्या जो भौगोलिक दृष्टि से हमारे करीब है, वही हमारा पड़ोसी होगा? पड़ोस चुनना क्या हमारे बस में नहीं? क्या पड़ोस कुछ–कुछ धर्म या भारतीय जाति की तरह है जिसके साथ जीवन भर जीने को हम बाध्य हैं? क्या पड़ोस का अर्थ हमेशा आत्मीयता ही है? क्या पड़ोस का मतलब एक दूसरे का ख़याल रखना,आड़े वक्त एक दूसरे के काम आना ही है? या यह रिश्ता अक्सर उदासीनता का होता है , जिसमें हमें दरअसल अपने पड़ोसी में दिलचस्पी नहीं होती? क्या इस उदासीनता के हिंसा में बदल जाने के लिए कोई भी कारण काफी हो सकता है? यह प्रश्न जितना शहर के सन्दर्भ में प्रासंगिक है उतना ही भारतीय गाँव के सन्दर्भ में भी पूछे जाने योग्य है. एक बार फिर, मुज़फ्फरनगर के गाँव में हुई हिंसा के बाद, पड़ोस के मायने पर बात करना ज़रूरी हो उठा है. Continue reading पड़ोसी और अजनबी→
क्या भगत सिंह और गांधी पर एक साथ बात की जा सकती है? परस्पर विरोधी विचारों और व्यक्तित्वों का ऐसा युग्म शायद ही मिले.एक को हिंसा का पक्षधर और दूसरे को हिंसा का घोर विरोधी माना जाता है.एक की छवि चिरयुवा की है,दूसरे की एक स्थिर वार्धक्य की. एक अधैर्य का प्रतीक माना जाता है,दूसरा धीरज की प्रतिमूर्ति.एक समाजवादी क्रान्ति का पैरोकार है तो दूसरा सह्य पूंजीवाद का वकील ठहराया गया है जिसके लिए उसने ट्रस्टीशिप की खूबसूरत आड़ ली.
असमानताएं यहीं खत्म नहीं होतीं.भगत सिंह ने औपचारिक शिक्षा न के बराबर ली, हालाँकि वे भयंकर अध्ययनशील थे,गांधी ने एक भले इंसान की तरह पूरी पढ़ाई की और फिर एक पेशेवर वकील की ज़िन्दगी बसर करने की कोशिश की. भगत सिंह अपनी पारिवारिक पृष्ठभूमि के कारण बचपन से ही ब्रिटिश साम्राज्य के घोर विरोधी थे.गांधी के जीवन के आरंभिक वर्ष ब्रिटिश साम्राज्य के वफादार के थे और वे उसकी बुनियादी अच्छाइयों में यकीन करते थे.भगत सिंह का ब्रिटिश हुकूमत के खिलाफ होना ही स्वाभाविक और तर्कसंगत था, गांधी कई संयोगों और दुर्घटनाओं के रास्ते इस नतीजे पर पहुंचे. Continue reading भगत सिंह और गांधी→
An obituary by ZAHIR JANMOHAMED: I first met Asghar Ali Engineer in January 2002 in Mumbai. I was a fellow with the America India Foundation and a few weeks later I would be posted to work with an NGO in Ahmedabad.
A few minutes before his presentation, I noticed him standing off to the side in silence, staring at the ground. I walked up and introduced myself. I was young, in my twenties, and I did not know what to say.
“As-salaam alaikum,” I said.
“Wa-alaikum salaam,” he replied.
I am not sure what response I expected but I thought that perhaps because he and I share the same faith that we might have a special bond, that my greeting would spark a conversation. After all, I always thought phrases like these serve less as greeting and more as an announcement, as in, I am part of the same religion as you.
But Asghar saab just held my hand and then put his hand on his heart. “Nice to meet you,” he said, and then stared at the ground again in silence. I thought it was odd, rude even.
As I continued to meet Asghar saab, I realized that he had very little patience for superficial connections. I witnessed this when I saw him greet crowds after his lectures. If you told him you were from the same caste or city he would not be as excited as if you told him that you also believe that we must fight patriarchy with the same vigor that we must fight communalism. Continue reading Asghar Ali Engineer (1939-2013)→
(An edited version of this Fact-Finding Report appeared in February issue of Samayantar)
गुजरात और मध्यप्रदेश की सीमा से लगे हुए महाराष्ट्र के धुले जिले में 6 जनवरी को होटल में पैसे के लेन-देन के आपसी विवाद को लेकर शुरू हुआ झगड़ा जल्द ही हिन्दू एवं मुस्लिम समुदाय के बीच पत्थर बाजी में तब्दील हो गया। इस हिंसा की परिणति पुलिस की गोली से मारे गए छः मुस्लिम नौजवानों (1) इमरान अली कमर अली (25) (2) असीम शेख नासिर (21) (3) सउद अहमद रईस पटेल (18) (4) हाफिज मो. आसीफ अब्दुल हलीम (22) (5) रिजवान हसन शाह (24) (6) युनुस अब्बास शाह (20) के रूप में हुई। लगभग 55 मुस्लिम नौजवानों, जिनमें से लगभग 40कोगोली लगी, पुलिस की हिंसा के शिकार हुए। 58ऐसे लोग हैं जिनके घर,वाहन, दुकान, ठेलागाड़ी को क्षतिग्रस्त किया गया। धुले में हुई इस साम्प्रदायिक हिंसा की खासियत यह है कि न तो पुलिस और न ही कोई साम्प्रदायिक संगठन झूठ बोल सकता है, क्योंकि धुले में लगभग 3 बजे के आसपास जब विवाद ने पत्थरबाजी का रूप ले लिया तब उसके बाद के ज्यादातर फुटेज वीडियोक्लिपिंग अथवा फोटोग्राफ के रूप में मौजूद हैं। धुले में हुई इस हिंसा की हकीकत जानने के लिए वर्धा के हिंदी विश्वविद्यालय के अध्यापक, छात्र, सामाजिक कार्यकर्ता एवं पुणे के स्वतंत्र पत्रकार ने 19-20 जनवरी को धुले जिले का दौरा किया। Continue reading राज्य हिंसा का एक और नमूना – धुले→
Rahul Pandita’s book Our Moon Has Blood Clots must be looked at both as a personal account of suffering as well as a political project that implicitly and explicitly makes use of that suffering towards a particular end. The undertaking is a legitimate one on both counts. What the book manages to achieve on each, warrants a fair and dispassionate assessment.
His narration of events experienced by the Pandits is a welcome exposition of subjectivity around a range of traumatic events, humiliations, killings and betrayals undergone prior to and after the outbreak of mass political rebellion in Kashmir in 1989. The events thus narrated, especially the account of the personal experiences of trauma do make one strongly identify with the suffering of the families involved and agree with the wide swathes of subjective anger and hurt shared by the community. The chilling accounts of individual and mass killings and the circumstances that made them possible, call for collective self-reflection, remorse and atonement. This account also calls for serious reflection on the fragility of human associations and trust in exceptional circumstances that we normally take for granted.
The book as well as the promotional interviews around the book push the claim that not only certain militants but also many ordinary people, including those personally known to the victims, were responsible for the exodus through their acts of omission and commission. This claim is substantiated through a range of indictments based on personal encounters with individuals, shared nuggets of information, as well as the interpretation of the larger political symbolism and slogans which were seen as a deliberate attempt to intimidate Pandits, and Pandits alone. While it is difficult to deny that a number of individuals took advantage of those anarchic times to gratify personal hate and lust for loot, it makes for an overstatement to underplay the equally frequent narrative of mutual support between individuals that one gets to hear during conversations between the members of the two communities privately. Such underplay does violence to those aspects of shared memory. Continue reading Our memories come in the way of our histories: Gowhar Fazili→
The Ayodhya judgement is out; Pandora’s box has been opened and I suppose the hope fairy is fluttering amidst us all. That there haven’t been riots is being seen as a sign that “the country has moved on”. My personal sense is that the absence of riots simply proves that riots are rarely spontaneous: adequate security has ensured an uneasy calm.
It’s still too early (at least for me) to make sense of this verdict, so I thought we could kick off the debate on Kafila by posting a list of links and resources and perhaps take the conversation forward as more and more information comes in.
To start off, the Judgements can be accessed at http://rjbm.nic.in/ . The top half of the page contains the gist of the judgments while your can find the entire judgement below the fold.
Those two M’s recur, on this blog and elsewhere, in the heated discussions around the tragic, provocatove events that have unfolded this past week. I am reminded of this point Martha Nussbaum wrote after Obama won: Continue reading “Mindless,” “Muslims”→
On Wednesday, I met some young men from Dhule. I am not at all sure where Dhule is and I said as much to them. “There was some violence there. It has been in the news lately,” they said. “Did any bombs go off in Dhule?” said I. “No bombs, no. But there was communal violence. It was on the news.” “I only watch prime time news. I don’t usually manage to view the afternoon bulletins. Nor the eleven PM one (informative though they are),” I explained. “So where exactly is Dhule?” I persisted. “It is a district on the north-western tip of Maharashtra. It’s not so far from Malegaon.” Ah, Malegaon! Where the blasts occurred? Finally I had a co-ordinate. Continue reading Such absurdity on a Wednesday→