Majboori ka naam Mahatma Gandhi (Roughly: Compulsion thy name is Mahatma Gandhi)
I have grown up hearing this expression and have often wondered about its meaning and at the almost proverbial status acquired by it. Whose majboori or compulsion was Gandhi really? Well, at one level, everybody’s, for practically every current within the anti-colonial struggle was uncomfortable with his presence and his leadership. Jawaharlal Nehru had even remarked once that after independence, his fads would have to be kept in check. All nationalists who fought for independence from colonial rule (as opposed to the pseudo-nationalists who tried to convert it into a cow-protection movement) had their gaze fixed on the state. They wanted control of that coveted instrument – that was the crux of their anticolonial struggle. There were others like BR Ambedkar, who too invested a lot in the state but realized that the state in the hands of the nationalists would be a disaster for his people. But no one among them (poet-thinkers like Tagore apart) was prepared to look beyond the state. And Gandhi’s disavowal of the state – and of politics as such – was something that no one could digest. More than anything else, that was what made him a majboori for this set of people who could only lay their hands on their object of desire as long as Gandhi was in the leadership – for he alone could move millions like no one among his contemporaries could.
But my hunch is that these were not the people who coined this expression. Gandhi was a bigger majboori for another set of people who were, ironically, equally disinterested in the state and its ‘capture’ – at least till recently. Yes, these were the different currents of the Hindutva Brigade (VD Savarkar of the Hindu Mahasabha and his followers and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh). They had to tolerate Gandhi – that is exactly what their majboori meant – till they could finally eliminate him. And it was one Nathuram Godse, with connections to both Savarkar and the RSS, who eventually killed him. There were earlier attempts too on Gandhi’s life – all from upper caste Hindus (one lot being Chitpavan Brahmins). Continue reading The Impossible Gandhian Project and its Limits – Remembering the Mahatma Today→
New Socialist Initiative Condemns Hindutva Engineered and Inspired Atrocities on Dalits
Hardly a day passes without headline news of some or another atrocity on Dalits. On 24 May, a Dalit man in the Ahmedabad district was beaten and his house attacked by a gang of socalled ‘upper’ caste men after he had attached Sinh to his name on his facebook post. On 21 May a dalit ragpicker was beaten to death in a Rajkot factory. Atrocities on Dalits are occurring in the midst of a public ideological environment against them. On 26 May news came of a private school in Delhi asking 8th class students to write a note on how reservations help undeserving and unqualified people for their summer vacation homework. According to National Crime Record Bureau reports for recent years, between 10 to 15 thousand cases of crimes are reported under the Prevention of Atrocities act every year; an average of 35 crimes per day. Many times more crimes actually go unreported. In 2016 Indian courts had over 45 thousand cases under this act. Out of the 4048 cases decided, conviction occurred in 659 cases only. That is, five out of six cases of atrocity against Dalits did not result in any punishment. The number of attacks against one of the weakest and the poorest sections of the society, and the abysmal rate of conviction would put any civilized society to shame, but India chugs along. Continue reading Statement on Atrocities on Dalits : New Socialist Initiative→
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→
(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.
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→
Kafila normally does not carry guest posts that have appeared elsewhere, but I think JANAKI NAIR’s article from The Telegraph needs to be read widely – a scholarly, lively, feminist take on sexuality in Hindu traditions.
It is our good fortune that our knowledge of Hinduism does not come from the authorized versions that Dina Nath Batra and his Shiksha Bachao Andolan wish to propagate. Neither does our collective imagination remain reined in by his fantasies about the Indian past. This large and luxuriantly complex society, even when all else has been brutally taken from its wretched millions, has its imagination intact. And, we fervently hope, for some time to come. Therein lies the challenge to our desperately needed “historical temper”.
As an 18-year-old, I had read the sexually frank passages of the Rig Veda with wonder and amazement. In a small village called Sanehalli, Karnataka, where the performing arts have been vigorously patronized by Swami Panditaradhya, I recently watched, along with the people from surrounding villages, the Kathakali performance at the annual theatre festival, in which Shakuntala incrementally raised the decibel level and shouted “Anarya!” at Dushyanta, violating all norms of womanly behaviour and appropriate performance voice. There was thunderous appreciative clapping at the end. I have filed past, with lots of ardent devotees of Krishna, the brilliant murals at the Cochin Palace at Mattancherry, where Krishna does not waste a single digital extremity of his eight hands and two feet in pleasing his gopis (his two flute playing hands excepted). Ditto the Guruvayur Temple, whose sexually explicit murals are now, alas, being modestly covered in (NRI-sponsored) gold plate. The erotic sculptures at the Nellaiappar Temple at Tirunelveli, the great Chalukyan temples at Aihole Pattadakkal and Badami, all visited daily by hundreds of chattering and irreverent school children, continue to stand as testimony to what our illustrious forebears were also preoccupied with. One could go onad nauseum, about the little and great traditions of Indian mythology which are not only sexually explicit but bloodstained to boot. It is Wendy Doniger’s triumph that she brings us these complexities in just one book. Continue reading Terrorized By The Past: Janaki Nair→
This is an excerpt fromConfluences: Forgotten Histories of East and West by ILIJA TROJANOW and RANJIT HOSKOTE(Yoda Press, 2012). In defiance of the current tide of national and cultural neo-tribalism, the authors argue that the lifeblood of culture is confluence. No culture has ever been pure, no tradition self-enclosed, no identity monolithic. Employing a variety of approaches, ranging from the essayistic to the poetic, from rigorous historical analysis to the playfulness of fiction, they follow the journeys of stories, ideas, people and songs, and trace the umbilical connections between Europe and Asia, Zoroastrianism and Christianity, Western revolutionary thought and the annihilatory politics of Jihad and Hindutva. In this particular section, titled ‘Travelling Back in Faith’, history is presented through the prism of science fiction:
The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) is a powerful organization founded on the belief that the Hindu religion is eternal and unvarying, that it has existed in India for thousands of years (the VHP’s chronological estimates vary between 8,000 and 50,000 years), and that its essence has never been affected by any foreign influence or borrowing. Hinduism is unique to India, and India is a uniquely Hindu country: such is the logic of the VHP. And yet, occasionally, the VHP is assailed by a sense of doubt. It is all very well to thunder at Muslims and Christians in self-congratulatory public meetings, its leaders say to themselves, but it would be nice to have some proof with which to fight off the scoffing scientists. And so, as documents recently made available to researchers reveal, the high command of the VHP decided to sponsor a time travel project, sending a fact-finder back to the glorious Vedic age to collect evidence of how the ancestors of the Hindus performed their rituals, worshipped their gods, and conceived of their relationship to the Divine. Continue reading When the Vishwa Hindu Parishad went time travelling: Ilija Trojanow and Ranjit Hoskote→
This release was put out by theINTERNATIONAL FEDERATION OF JOURNALISTSon 15 January 2012
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is extremely concerned to learn of the criminal charges filed against investigative reporter K.K. Shahina by police in the southern Indian state of Karnataka.
Shahina, who currently works with the weekly magazine Open, faces charges under various sections of the Indian Penal Code, including criminal conspiracy and intimidation of witnesses with intent to commit a crime. The chargesheet filed in the sessions court in the district of Kodagu in Karnataka state, also indicts her under sections of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, which is most commonly invoked to deal with terrorist offences.
My book Green and Saffron is just out. The book details and an interview are on the blog of Permanent Black. From the publishers’ notice:
This book examines contemporary environmental issues and movements in independent India on the one hand, and the development of Hindu conservative ideology and politics on the other. It includes the first thorough investigation of Anna Hazare’s movement in Maharashtra.
Mukul Sharma argues that these two social currents—environmental conservation and Hindu politics—have forged bonds which reveal the hijacking of environmentalism by conservative and retrograde worldviews. This, he says, constitutes a major aspect of hinterland political life which neither academics nor journalists have seriously analysed. Environmentalism and politics cannot be seen as separate from each other, for environmental issues are being defined in new ways by an anti-secular form of Hinduism. In turn, Hindu ideologues are gaining mileage for their ideology by espousing major environmental projects. Continue reading Green and Saffron: Hindu Nationalism and Indian Environmental Politics→
When you are in journalism, something that slowly builds up in you is your immunity to suprise. You can feel fear, sadness, hopelessness, impatience, and even joy, though the last emotion is increasingly becoming a rare thing in this field. But whatever you feel, one thing is for sure, that you generally don’t get surprised. So when I initially heard about a lone Canadian woman of advanced age and energetic spirits, who had come to India at the age of 19 in the 1960s, fighting the land mafia in Hardwar, without any help from anyone, I was intrigued, but NOT surprised.
Last week, after a gap of almost 12 years, when I was asked by my family members to accompany them to see Chhatth Puja, an ancient Hindu festival dedicated to Surya, the Sun God, I could not resist myself and readily agreed to join them. As a school going boy, I had always enjoyed watching the festival and devotees performing the rituals observed for the Puja in my hometown Supaul, a district of Bihar, which borders the Tarai region of Nepal. In the last 12 years, I couldn’t get a chance to do so due to the mobile nature of work I am involved in. The Puja, most elaborately observed in Bihar, Jharkhand and the Terai regions of Nepal in modern times, and those areas where migrants from these regions have a presence. Chhath, usually observed six days after Diwali, was observed on 12 November this year. Continue reading This Chhath Puja, Ram ke naam: Mahtab Alam→
The Times of India carried a story today that we are reproducing here in full. It is the story of a Rajput-owned dog who became outcaste because it was fed a chapati by a dalit woman. Not only was the dog turned ‘out’ to live in the dalit basti, worse, the woman Sunita was fined Rs 15, 000/- by the panchayat for the crime. But hold on, there is more: when Sunita and her brother went to lodge a complaint at the police station, the police officer asked her why she fed the dog? So, this is not really a matter of one mad, ‘illiterate’ individual (as if literates are by definition better): This incident reveals an entire structure of thought and belief that extends through from the panchayat to the police itself (which despite the Supreme Court’s directive has not yet filed an FIR). Here is the full report:
BHOPAL: A dog’s life couldn’t get worse. A mongrel brought up in an upper caste home in Morena was kicked out after the Rajput family members discovered that their Sheru had eaten a roti from a dalit woman and was now an “untouchable”. Next, Sheru was tied to a pole in the village’s dalit locality. His controversial case is now pending with the district collector, the state police and the Scheduled Caste Atrocities police station in Morena district of north MP.
The black cur, of no particular pedigree, was accustomed to the creature comforts in the home of its influential Rajput owners in Manikpur village in Morena. Its master, identified by the police as Rampal Singh, is a rich farmer with local political connections.