No doubt the clarification that India will not map Covid-19 infections on the basis of religion has many heaving sighs of relief. But will the peace last?
Image Courtesy: AP
“Move for community-based mapping of coronavirus?” a recent news item in a prestigious daily asked, getting tongues wagging about “closed-door meetings at the highest level”, though no “official” decision had been taken in them. The Ministry of Health declared that any such news is “baseless, incorrect and irresponsible”. Lav Agarwal, the top bureaucrat in the ministry—who interacts with the media on Covid-related developments—called such news reports “…very irresponsible”. “The virus does not see people’s caste, creed or religion,” he said, quoting the Supreme Court’s directions on controlling non-factual or fake news.
No doubt the official clarification has many heaving sighs of relief.
The relief is understandable, because it was only last month—when the Novel Coronavirus pandemic had started taking a toll—that Muslims were being stigmatised as “super-spreaders” of the disease.
Taking a grim view of the situation, in its press conference on 6 April, the World Health Organisation had given the Indian government some simple advice. The WHO said, in response to an India-specific question, that countries should not profile Covid-19 infections in religious, racial or ethnic terms. The WHO Emergency Programme Director Mike Ryan also underlined that every positive case should be considered a victim.
( Read the full article here)
Guest post by CHARU GUPTA
The synchronised vocabulary of anti-conversion by the BJP and that of reconversion by the VHP and Dharm Jagran Samiti, an RSS affiliate, reveals the intimate relationship between the two. Anti-conversion and reconversion are two sides of the same coin. Even though the Dharm Jagran Samiti dropped its plan to ‘reconvert’ 4000 Christians and 1000 Muslim families in Aligarh on 25 December, due to pressures from a parliament in session as well as other protests, the day has had strategic significance. Christmas Day has been given a different meaning by the Hindutva brigade — the birth anniversaries of Madan Mohan Malaviya, one of the stalwarts of the Hindu Mahasabha, and Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the eminent BJP leader. Equally critically, on 23 December 1926 Swami Shraddhanand, the leading ideologue of the shuddhi movement (purification; Hindu movement in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries to reclaim those who had converted from Hinduism to other religions) was assassinated by a Muslim fanatic, and on 25 December, a condolence motion was moved at the Guawhati session of the Congress.
The twin strategies of anti-conversion and ghar wapsi have a long history and past, which saw its efflorescence in the shuddhi movement, but have become much more aggressive in the present context. As part of their community and nation making rhetoric, the Arya Samaj and the Hindu Mahasabha had launched the programme of shuddhi on a large scale in Uttar Pradesh in 1923. Though Arya Samaj had stronger roots in Punjab, shuddhi movement was more effective in UP. Various scholars have pointed to the communal character of the movement. A note prepared by the criminal investigation department at that time stated that though the movement had older origins, ‘its application to mass rather than individual conversion gave it a special prominence’ in 1923. Shuddhi came to be touted as a movement to reclaim the ‘victims’ and protect the ‘faithful’. Reconversion attempts have since been a part of agenda of various Hindutva outfits, and the present assertions should be seen in that context. Today, organisations like the VHP and Dharm Jagran Samiti have acquired a new importance and are emboldened to not only challenge conversions in an organised manner, but also to simultaneously aggressively campaign for reconversion. Just as shuddhi became an instrument for Hindu communal mobilization in early twentieth century, ghar wapsi is fulfilling the same role today. Continue reading Anti-Conversion and Ghar Wapsi, Or Hindutva’s Doublespeak: Charu Gupta
Guest Post by Sanjay Kumar
Mr Asaduddin Owaisi, the leader of MIM recently remarked in a media conclave that ‘Muslims are not coolies of secularism’. The statement made perfect sense for his politics. He is the leader a party that aims to mobilise voters on the basis of them being Muslim. The unprecedented success of Hindutva under Mr Modi in recent elections has upset many old electoral calculations, and opened new opportunities. Mr Owaisi is smelling a chance for the MIM to expand beyond its turf in Hyderabad, to regions where non-BJP parties have been getting the major chunk of Muslim votes with the slogan of secularism, seen principally as the promise of protection from riots. For Mr Owaisi, the remark serves multiple purposes. Average Muslim citizens are deeply disillusioned with a political process that has resulted in the utter marginalisation of their community. For such voters, the statement is intended to clearly distinguish his party from the so-called secular non-BJP parties. It is calibrated to raise a doubt in their mind, why should only Muslims be expected to vote for such parties, when significant sections of the Hindus have sided with the communal BJP? It is also a preemptive answer to his political competitors and ideological critics, who are likely to accuse him of being communal.
Otherwise too, the secular discourse in India has largely become a minorities’ affair. It is said to be under threat when minorities are attacked. It is claimed to be flourishing when minorities rights are protected. A corollary belief among major sections of the so called majority community is that India could have as well been non-secular if there were no minorities in the country, or if they are put in their place as the RSS political programme demands. Continue reading The Secular Stake- A Burden, or a Democratic Imperative? Sanjay Kumar
Guest post by UZAIR BELGAMI
I have been reading around of late and was surprised to see that there are actually still some people who think there is still a chance that Narendra Modi will not become PM of this country in 2014. Hah! Must be those minorities, or those Secularists, or those Communists who are saying and thinking this – all are Pakistan-lovers, Leftists and anti-nationals. I felt it is necessary I deal with these people through this article, in order to deal the ‘final blow’ before the elections. Continue reading Why Modi will become PM of India: Uzair Belgami
Away from the obscenity of a parade of tanks, nuclear missiles, and military might, the citizens of Delhi, once again (yesterday, the 26th of January, Republic Day) demonstrated that their re-definition of citizenship and the idea of a republic does not necessarily need an army, the AFSPA, restrictive laws like section 377, moral policing, censorship and assaults on workers, gay, lesbian and transgender people, women, the young, pensioners, minorities, Africans and other non-Indian inhabitants of Delhi, disabled people, or discrimination against people from the North East and Kashmir. Since last year, in the wake of the anti-rape protests, the 26th of January, which is nominally observed as the day when the Indian state performs its show of strength on New Delhi’s Rajpath has now been liberated by many of Delhi’s citizens groups as an occasion for us to turn away from the spectacle of the state and walk towards a liberated future. This is how the Republic gets Reclaimed on 26th January in Delhi.
Continue reading Reclaim the Republic 2014
Call given by VARIOUS CITIZENS GROUPS
As we commemorate another Republic Day, We The People proclaim that the parade of the powerful at Rajpath does not represent us. We The People, Reclaim our Republic.
As members of the LGBT community, women, workers, sex workers, students, teachers, activists, persons with disabilities, health rights activists, Dalits, indigenous people, farmers, those affected by unconstitutional military rule, we are united not as “minorities” or “others,” but as the people. We invoke the promises of the Constitution of India in our name. Our struggle will continue until all arms of the state are unwavering in their constitutional promises towards the marginalized in our society, rather than only representing the powerful.
Continue reading We The People, Reclaim the Republic: Various Citizens Groups
The following is the write up of my talk given at the Centre for Society and Religion on January 11th, 2010. I have articulated some of these concerns in greater depth in my recent article in the January 9th, 2010 issue of the Economic and Political Weekly titled, ‘State Power, State Patronage and Elections in Sri Lanka’.
Presidential Elections, Minorities and Political Space
First, I want to thank the organisers for inviting me to speak here at the Centre for Society and Religion (CSR), an institution that embodies a great tradition of conscious political engagement. It is an honour to be given this privilege and I hope this series of discussions at CSR on the upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections is the beginning of many discussions and debates on important political issues facing the peoples of our country. Indeed, the space that has opened up in recent weeks in the context of the elections should be expanded by all social institutions and social forums concerned about peace, justice and democracy. I for one believe that the debates, the social pressures and the mobilisations in the lead up to and after elections are at times even more important than the act of electing a President or other political representatives. Continue reading Presidential Elections, Minorities and Political Space
[This summary comes to us from ARVIND NARRAIN (ALF) of a report brought out by the People’s Union for Civil Liberties, Karnataka (PUCL-K) in the wake of the attacks on women in Mangalore by cadres of the Hindu right-wing Sri Ram Sene.]
It was only after the continuous telecast of the images of the women who were subjected to an horrific assault by cadres of the Sri Ram Sene in a pub in Mangalore on January 24, 2009, that public attention gravitated towards what was happening in Mangalore. Self styled vigilante groups in Dakshina Kannada have begun to police social interactions between members of different religious communities such as boys and girls drinking juice together or sitting together on a bus merely because they come from different religious communities. Cultural policing also targets women in particular and lays down norms with respect to public spaces they can occupy and the clothes which they can wear. Cultural policing has as its primary target, young people. From Shefantunde (16) who was attacked for talking to a Hindu girl to a college student Shruti and Shabeeb for talking on a bus to Anishwita (23), Akeel Mohammmad (24) and Pramilla(22) for drinking a juice together, its the young which has come under vicious attack. Perhaps we also need to think of the young not just as victims but indeed as agents of social transformation who through their everyday acts of fraternal living are fulfilling the promise of the Indian Constitution and thereby imperiling the ideological agenda of those who see India differently. Cultural policing aims to punish all those who try to live out the meaning of the Preamble’s promise of ‘fraternity’ and is a fundamental attack on the very Constitutional order. The promise of fraternity held out in the Preamble is what is contested at its very roots by cultural policing. What cultural policing wants to produce are monolithic self-enclosed communities with no form of social interaction between them. It is antithetical to the idea of ‘We, the people of India’ and insists that India is no more one nation, but rather a collection of separate peoples. This Report documents how sixty years after independence, the vision of the framers of the Constitution is sought to be so completely repudiated by organizations which are bent on ripping out the heart of Indian Constitutionalism.
The full report is available on the Alternative Law Forum website and can be accessed here.
I am posting a longer version of an interview with Jayampathy Wickramaratne. The February 2009 issue of Himal Southasian, a special issue on Sri Lanka, has a shorter version of this interview. At a time when there is much concern about the ongoing humanitarian catastrophe there have also been increasing voices calling for a political solution. On the history of displacement and humanitarian concerns with the twenty-fire year war in Sri Lanka, I recommend Rajan Hoole’s article in Himal. This interview with Jayampathy Wickramaratne might engage those interested in past attempts at a political solution as well as the problems with the 13th Amendment (which came out of the Indo-Lanka Accord of 1987 and is currently being talked about both in Sri Lanka and India).
Ahilan Kadirgamar talked to Jayampathy Wickramaratne, who is President’s Counsel, a constitutional lawyer, a former senior advisor for the Ministry of Constitutional Affairs, and a member of the team that drafted the 2000 Constitution Bill. Wickramartane was a member of the panel of experts to assist the All Party Representative Committee and signatory to the “Majority Report” (December 2006) that proposed extensive restructuring of the state, with extensive devolution and power sharing at the centre. Wickramaratne is a politburo member of the Lanka Sama Samaja Party. Continue reading Jayampathy Wickramaratne on Political Solution in Sri Lanka