‘Secularism’ has now become a bad word and it is quite fashionable to attack, criticize and ridicule it. Just about anyone, regardless of whether s/he has spent even a minute thinking about it, can attack it. A television channel recently even decided to have a vote on whether we should ‘have’ secularism or not, I understand, after an utterly ill-informed debate. It is almost as if the blame for everything that is wrong with Indian society can be laid at the door of this monster called ‘Secularism’. Modern Hindu ideologues have of course, mastered this art of blaming every evil practice of Hindu society on to some ‘Other’: From untouchability and sati to child marriage, purdah and the everyday violence of caste oppression – everything apparently happened because of ‘Islam’ and Christianity’. Later, Marxism and secularism were added to the list. And while we are at it, let us remember that the great Bal Gangadhar Tilak led what was perhaps the first mass nationalist anticolonial mobilization, against raising the Age of Consent of girls for sexual intercourse from 10 to 12 years! Much of that righteous indignation continues to be the hallmark of the new defensiveness that the 21st century ‘raging Hindu’ exhibits.
For everything wrong in the behaviour of these adult men with walrus moustaches, an explanation exists in some founding childhood trauma for which their adulthood can never be held responsible! ‘Secularism’ now is the name of the insistence that wants to hold the modern Hindu responsible for his acts today, rather than let it remain suspended in a permanent state of childhood. I suspect, the term ‘secularism’ today, in Hindu Right discourse, is no longer about the ‘separation of religion and politics’ or ‘sarva dharma samabhava‘ (equal respect for all religions) and ‘dharma-nirpekshata‘ (neutrality between religions) at all, but the ghost-house where all the pathologies of this traumatized child(hood) are played out.
Continue reading Secularism and the Myth of ‘Hindu’ Tolerance
On 22 June 2017 fifteen-year old Hafiz Junaid was stabbed to death on a Mathura-bound train from New Delhi. He was traveling home for Eid with his brothers and two friends. A dispute over seats resulted in a group of men repeatedly assaulting and stabbing Junaid and his companions. The assailants flung their bodies onto the Asoti railway platform. A crowd gathered. At some point an ambulance was called and two bodies were taken away. Junaid is dead. His companions are in critical condition. While one person has been arrested the police investigations are running into a wall of social opacity since they have been unable to find a single eye-witness to the incident. Of the 200 hundred strong crowd that assembled on Asoti railway platform on Thursday evening, the police cannot find one person who can say what they saw. The police cannot find a witness because something very peculiar seems to have happened to those present at Junaid’s death. A report by Kaunain Sherrif M in the Indian Express provides specific details. When asked if he had seen anything that evening, Ram Sharan a corn-vendor whose daily shift coincides with the killing, Sharan said he was not present at the time of the incident. Two staffers who were sent to investigate by the station master were unavailable for comment. Neither the station-master, the post-master or the railway guards saw the event they were present at.
In this startling piece the journalist reports how the public lynching of a Muslim child becomes a social non-event in contemporary India. He shows the reconfiguring, and splitting, of a social field of vision. He reports all the ways in which people – Hindus- did not see the body of a dead – Muslim – child that lay in front of them. The Hindus on the Asoti railway platform managed to collectively not see a 15 year old Muslim boy being stabbed to death. Then they collectively, and without prior agreement, continued to not see what they had seen after the event. This is the uniquely terrifying aspect of this incident on which this report reflects: the totalising force of an unspoken, but collectively binding, agreement between Hindus to not see the dead body of a Muslim child. Hindus on this railway platform in a small station in north India instantly produced a stranger sociality, a common social bond between people who do not otherwise know each other. By mutual recognition between strangers, Hindus at this platform agreed to abide by a code of silence by which the death of a Muslim child can not be seen by 200 people in full public view on a railway platform in today’s India. Continue reading Why Two Hundred Ordinary Hindus Did Not See A Dead Muslim Child On A Railway Station In North India
Guest post by Satya Sagar
Eight years ago I remember listening to Tarun Tejpal in Bangalore as he held forth on how the news media could change the world for the better. It was a gathering of journalism students from Catholic institutions around the country and Tejpal was impressive in his defense of media freedoms.
He was passionate, charismatic, extremely articulate and as Chief Editor of Tehelka- with some of the best stories of Indian journalism behind them- very credible too. After his speech Tejpal left in a hurry, like a star priest dashing off to his next flaming sermon and fawning audience. Continue reading Tehelka, Jhatka and now Tamasha:Satya Sagar
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
This is a guest post by Ayesha Khan
The other day, my brother dug out an old DD animation film on unity in diversity – Ek Titli, Anek Titli… We replayed it umpteen times in a fit of summer nostalgia, until we got all the lines correct. We ignored the political subtext. But only until it rebounded starkly on us, with the wails of a baby that had newly come in to the family. The little one foisted on us the first ponderous responsibility – finding him a name.
The family brief for me, aunt to a six day old nephew, and equally to childhood pal Vandana, who is soon-to-be aunt to a niece in US, was to think up names resonating a core Indian-ness, the Muslimness, the TamBram-ness (in Vandana’s case), with a universal appeal and encapsulating everything that is pious, lucky and great.
Continue reading Of Shared Spaces and Experiences in Gujarat: Ayesha Khan
The star of fortune has risen for Malayali women, not in this world but in the next. Catholics in Kerala celebrated the canonization of Sr. Alphonsa, a young nun from Kudamaloor in Kottayam district, who passed away after a life of intense bodily suffering and prayer in 1946, as a ray of hope in hard times. Becoming a nun and leading a life of asceticism were never easy choices. That too, for a eligible, beautiful young woman in early 20th century Kerala, born in a small village, whose guardians were determined to see her respectably married. Given to excruciatingly difficult forms of prayer even as a child, Alphonsa resisted her maternal aunt’s plans dramatically by trying to disfigure herself. She jumped into a smouldering ash-pit; badly burned, she climbed out. The family was so taken aback that they gave in to her desire to become a nun. Continue reading Do gods and saints weep?
What is common between Kathmandu – the capital of Nepal ; Thane, Vashi which happen to lie in Maharashtra; Tenkasi, which is part of Tamilnadu and Indore, which lies in Madhya Pradesh? Aprops there seem to be no commonality, although a close look at stray sounding incidents in these places brings forth a pattern which has serious import for the manner in which (non-state) terrorism is viewed in this country. It is disturbing that media which calls itself ‘watchdog of democracy’ and which has no qualms in stigmatising the minority community on unfounded allegations of ‘terrorist acts’ has suddenly gone mute since the perpetrators of terrorist acts in all these cases belong to the majority community.
Continue reading Join The Dots: Silent Emergence of Hindu Terrorism