Review of ‘Religious Nationalism – Social Perceptions and Violence : Sectarianism on Political Chessboard‘- Ram Puniyani (Media House 2020)
“Blatant dictatorship – in the form of fascism, communism, or military rule – has disappeared across much of the world. Military coups and other violent seizures of power are rare. Most countries hold regular elections. Democracies still die, but by different means.
Since the end of the Cold War, most democratic breakdowns have been caused not by generals and soldiers but by elected governments themselves.”
(How Democracies Die, Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt)
Guest Post : Jantar Mantar Declaration of 1 March 2020 Against CAA, NRC and NPR
Adopted at the Convention of writers, artists, cultural activists, scientists and various associations such as Indian Cultural Forum, Janwadi Lekhak Sangh, Progressive Writers Association , Jan Sanskriti Manch, Dalit Lekhak Sangh, New Socialist Initiative, Jana Natya Manch, Delhi Science Forum, Janasamskriti (Malayalam), Vikalp, Cinema of Resistance, All India Peoples Science Network
We, at this Convention of writers, artists, cultural activists, scientists and various associations express our deep concern over recent violence and communal genocide in Delhi.
We understand that this tragic situation is a direct outcome of the communal design and divisive politicsof CAA-NPR-NRC. The silver lining is that the common people of Delhi remained united in their fight against this outrage. This convention reiterates that only by this unity and mutual trust and cooperation that the CAA-NPR-NRC design can be defeated.
We, at this Convention of writers, artists, scientists, cultural activists and various associations declare our solidarity with the on-going non-violent movement against the draconian CAA (Citizenship Amendment Act. 2019 ), proposed new format of NPR ( National Population Register) and the proposed NRC (National Register of Citizens) . Continue reading Jantar Mantar Declaration Against CAA, NRC and NPR→
PM Modi didn’t mention former RSS chief Golwalkar on his recent 114th birth anniversary. The idea is to implement his ‘essence’ in private while not mentioning him in public.
The 114th birth anniversary of Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar went unnoticed. Barring a stray article by a second-rung leader of the saffron party in a national daily, none from the top hierarchy deemed it even necessary to remember the second chief of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) who followed the organisation’s founder, KB Hedgewar.
Interestingly, while Twitter-savvy Prime Minister Narendra Modi found time to tweet about his litti chokha conquest at Hunar Haat in Delhi, there was not a single line about Golwalkar on his timeline that day. It appeared a bit strange because in his book titled ‘Jyotipunj’ on the “greatest social workers” who “burnt their lives to glow the Motherland”, Modi had devoted forty pages to Golwalkar. “The life of Golwalkar Guruji is a fine example of dedication. Guruji, possessed all those qualities which are expected of an individual who lives for his goal—patience, determination, perseverance,” he wrote.
Was Modi’s or his senior colleagues’ silence inadvertent, or deliberate?
Hindutva is being embarrassed by the very people it has wooed, by means fair and foul.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s attempt to further his deeply-sectarian and divisive agenda at Belur Math, global headquarters of the Ramakrishna Mission founded by Swami Vivekananda, has backfired. His controversial defence of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) 2019 at the historic math in which he invoked Vivekananda himself has enraged a broad spectrum of people and formations. The CAA is, of course, the most contentious piece of legislation independent India has ever had, and it has sparked protests across the country.
What is rather noticeable is that not only the Opposition parties, but monks associated with the mission have also expressed tremendous displeasure over the political content of the PM’s speech. They have said that they found it “deeply hurtful” and they criticised it for tarnishing the “sanctity of the place”.
The very fact that Swami Suvirananda, general secretary of the Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission, was constrained to say that “we could not have whispered into the Prime Minister’s ears to stop midway…” or his emphasising the inclusive nature of the “only organisation in the world, only order in the world” which has “monks from Hindu, Islam and Christian communities. We live like brothers of the same parents…” says something.
Nobody put it in as many words, but what perturbed people was how Narendra Modi’s speech complete erased Swami Vivekananda’s legacy. A great rift was evident between what Vivekananda had said in his historic speech at Chicago in 1892 and Modi’s espousal of a law passed by the government he heads, which creates a basis to discriminate on the basis of religion. Here is what Vivekananda had espoused before the world: “I am proud to belong to a nation which has sheltered the persecuted and refugees of all religions and all nations of the earth….”
Well, as far as close watchers of the Hindutva Right are concerned, they would underline that there was nothing unusual in Modi’s rather desperate attempts to appropriate Vivekananda and to recast him in the Hindutva mould.
Guest Post by Students Against Fascism in India – Bonn/Köln/Aachen
“We, the students of Bonn, Cologne and Aachen stand with the protests all across India condemning the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens of India (NRC). In particular, we condemn and are deeply disturbed by the police brutality unleashed on the peacefully protesting students of Jamia Millia Islamia and Aligarh Muslim University. The police laid siege to university campuses, vandalising the libraries, tear gassing hostel rooms and firing water canons. Several students sustained serious injuries in this process and some continue to be in police detention. To suppress the protests the Indian government has withheld internet access in at least five states. We admire and stand in unequivocal solidarity with students and protestors across the country who took and continue to take to the streets protesting the unconstitutional and unsecular CAA and NRC.
The CAA, passed by the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) dominated upper and lower houses of the government, offers Indian citizenship to Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Jains, Parsis and Christians facing persecution on the grounds of religion in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. It blatantly discriminates on the basis of religion by specifically excluding Muslims, a first for the otherwise secular Indian Citizenship laws and constitution. This combined with the NRC, which is aimed at the disenfranchisement and detention of undocumented immigrants, equips the Hindu nationalist government of BJP led by Modi to institutionalise the ethnic cleansing of Muslim minorities by rendering them stateless.
We stand together to condemn the inherently communal and divisive nature of various actions undertaken by the Modi-led BJP government. We assert to not let such dangerously fascistic moves of turning a secular India into a Hindu nation go unchecked and call on others to do the same”
BJP’s poll promise of Bharat Ratna for Savarkar, who inspired a wide spectrum of fanatic individuals and violent organisations, shows the moral vacuousness of the Hindutva project
“The curious fact is that as we move into the 21st century, historians have become central to politics. We historians are the monopoly suppliers of the past. The only way to modify the past that does not sooner or later go through historians is by destroying the past….Mythology is taking over from knowledge”.
It was in the wee hours of dawn of the 21st century that renowned scholar and historian, Eric Hobsbawm, had talked about the process of “destroying the past” to “modify” it or how “mythology is replacing knowledge” in his speech at Columbia University in New York City.
Much water has flown down the Ganges, the Rheins, the Yangtzes of the world and as we stand at the cusp of the third decade of the 21st century, one realises that how this process — both literally and metaphorically — has advanced to different corners of the globe.
With the ascent of Hindutva supremacist forces in polity and society in this part of the world, perhaps this process has reached its extreme, so much so that every other saffronite seems to have gathered enough confidence to claim legitimacy to any weird thing. The news that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), in its election manifesto (for the Maharashtra Assembly) has promised that it would confer Bharat Ratna, the country’ topmost honour, on VD Savarkar if voted to power, should be seen in this light.
Ms. Amruta Fadanavis – wife of Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadanavis – found herself at the centre of controversy two weeks back. Her birthday greetings to PM Modi – whom she wished ‘Father of Our Country @narendramodiji a very Happy Birthday -…’ – on her twitter evoked reaction from twitterati. Her ‘height of ignorance’, was pointed out and her attempt was called ‘sycophancy at its top’ (https://twitter.com/fadnavis_amruta/status/1173877700290678785)
Anyway, as one hoped that this chapter around ‘discovery of a new Father of Nation’ was over and one was attempting to turn a new leaf what one witnessed was rather unusual.
The word lynching conjures up images of a dark period in the history of the United States of America. Between 1877 and 1950, white supremacist gangs murdered 4,000 African Americans, while the government and the police looked the other way. James Baldwin, whose essays Dark Days captures the unfolding violence, wrote, ‘A mob is not autonomous. It executes the real will of the people who rule the State’. In 1888, white supremacists lynched seven African American men for drinking from a well – which they had said was for ‘white’s only’. Baldwin recounts that story and writes, ‘The blood is on the hands of the state of Alabama which sent those mobs into the street to execute the will of the State’.
The lyrics quoted above are from the iconic song – Strange Fruit – written by the communist artist Abel Meeropol and sung by Billie Holiday. Continue reading Lynchistan→
Review of ‘Malevolent Republic : A Short History of New India’ by K. S. Komireddi
‘The idea of a peace-loving, nonviolent India exists, persists, as part of a selectively constructed and assiduously cultivated national self-image in the midst of a society pervaded by social and political violence…’ argued Prof Upinder Singh, in her well-researched voluminous book ‘ Political Violence in Ancient India’ which had appeared around two years back. She had also added that pioneers of independence struggle were instrumental in creating this ‘[m]yth of non-violence in ancient India which obscures a troubled, complex heritage.’
‘Malevolent Republic’ – A Short Hisotry of New India’ by K. S. Komireddi – a commentator, critic and journalist who has written for leading western publications, reminds one of this debate. The book tries to chronicle the trajectory of post-independence India from Nehru to Modi – and does not shy away from raising uncomfortable questions which demand broader contemplation as well as deep soul searching.
Thapar questioned imperialist versions of Indian history, which the Hindutva Brigade still goes by.
..an historian who is indefatigable in the pursuit of knowledge and prolific in its publication, and who is above all a devoted partisan of the truth. … The early history of the country has been illuminated by Professor Thapar, whom I now present, more than by almost any other scholar. An historian of that period who seriously wishes to refute accepted fictions and dispel the general darkness will need several high qualities. (From a citation presented by Oxford University to Romila Thapar while conferring on her an honorary Doctorate of Letters in 2002.)
It was 1960, when Romila Thapar, a young historian at the time, wrote a 400 plus-page monograph on Asoka and the Decline of the Mauryas. According to Oxford University Press, which published it in 2017, it tried to “trace virtually the entire span of Indian history.” The monograph is considered a classic today.
Thapar’s scholarly journey continues unabated at the age of 88. She is among the world’s foremost intellectuals, known for path-breaking work on Indian ancient history, as this interview acknowledges. Undoubtedly, her work has informed and inspired at least three generations of history students.
It hardly needs mention that Thapar has prestigious prizes to her credit for the scores of books and academic papers she has published. Twice, she declined the Padma Bhushan, the third highest civilian award granted by the government.
Now Thapar is in the news because of a strange query from the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) administration, where she has held teaching and administrative positions for roughly three decades.
Dear Prime Minister, nothing about Jammu & Kashmir is as your party sees it
Economist and activist Jean Dreze, who has co-authored books with Nobel laureates, such as Amartya Sen and Angus Deaton, was in the headlines for a placard he carried to a protest rally in Delhi earlier this week. His placard challenged the government’s most critical justification for its controversial move to scrap Article 35A and read down Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). The placard displayed statistics that compare J&K with Gujarat, which is Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah’s home state. Dreze clearly showed how Gujarat lags behind J&K on a raft of development indices.
Although Dreze’s data beautifully punctures the government’s claim that J&K’s special status was a hindrance to its progress, Modi in his address to the nation on Wednesday night repeated the same argument, based on dubious claims. For instance, his claim that J&K lags behind other Indian states in matters of health services, education and so on, is patently incorrect.
Figures recorded in the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) has extended the debate further and shown that J&K already excels many other Indian states on several human development counts. Once again, this underlines that all talk about how “development” will reach J&K after Article 370 is made redundant is sheer humbug.
The propagation of false information brings home the fact that the government has gone very far to generate legitimacy for its decisions in J&K. In his address to the nation, Modi also said that his government had “fulfilled the dreams of [BR] Ambedkar as well as [the then Home Minister Vallabhbahi] Patel”.
Hindutva’s Second Coming by Subhash Gatade; published by Media House, Delhi; 2019; pages: 272; Rs 395 (US $ 18).
The return of Modi to power with a huge margin in this 2019 election is a clear verdict for the Hindutva plank. Why and how it happened leave us, the secular billions, to ponder about the reality and its aftermath. And at that juncture Subhas Gatade’s 272-page analysis titled ‘Hindutva’s Second Coming’ gives us something concrete to think over once again. This in-depth study with rich academic perception is a commendable work, bereft of jargons and convoluted expressions, often found in books written from a high pedestal which goes beyond the mental reach of lay readers. Precisely for this reason the author needs to be specially acclaimed for bringing out facts at one place based on notes and references which are so far scattered in divergent historical materials. It serves as a Reader for millions who are combating communalism and distortion of history at the grassroot level.
By distributing knives to meritorious children, organisations like the Hindu Mahasabha, are trying to give religious legitimacy to what is essentially a political use of faith.
Image courtesy: Twitter
What does an organisation do when it wants to congratulate meritorious students who have excelled in exams?
Reward them with some gifts, say, books, and (if finances allow) give them scholarships or laptops to facilitate their further studies. Definitely not gift them knives.
Well, Pooja Shakuni Pandey, the national secretary of Hindu Mahasabha, who had been making news for controversial reasons for more than a year, exactly did this on Savarkar Jayanti. This mathematics professor made it clear that she was not much interested in how they study further or what they wanted to become. With this knife distribution programme, along with a copy of Bhagwad Gita, she wanted to ‘create Hindu soldiers out of these children’ and it was basically a “[s]tep to motivate Hindus and empower them, especially the younger generation, with knives to protect themselves.”
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%.
Recall Kalburgi and Shahid Azmi? There are several such unconnected looking incidents in recent times that are part of the same mindset that looks for ‘internal enemies’ in every dissenting voice.
Image for representational use only.Image Courtesy : Siasat
Ram Puniyani, the affable and relentless campaigner for communal harmony and peace, who at the age of 73 displays the enthusiasm of a 25-year-old ever ready to go from place to place with his characteristic bag full of literature, had some unusual visitors in his house a few days ago.
What was rather strange was that the trio that visited his house in plain clothes on March 9, introduced themselves from CID but were reluctant to show their identity cards and supposedly had come to make enquiries regarding a non-existent passport application, as neither Professor Puniyani nor anyone else from his family had applied for the same.
The institute’s recent order, now withdrawn, of separate entrance for non-vegetarians is just a part of the overall policing and push for vegetarianism after the Modi government’s ascent.
Image Courtesy: Catch News
Nagesh (name changed), a bright student at the Indian Institute of Technology- Madras, who hails from a very poor economic background, had a shock of his life when he was entering the hostel mess. Someone literally stopped him at the gate and asked him to enter the mess from the other door if he is not a vegetarian.
A notice was duly pasted at the entrance of the mess, informing everyone of this ‘new order’. Even separate basins were demarcated for the students’ cuisine choices. Talking to a reporter with rage in his eyes, Nagesh questioned how the IIT-Madras management could issue such a discriminatory order without even consulting the students.
As of now, the notices have been removed after taking into consideration the uproar this ‘untouchability of a different kind’ caused at the national level. management is now trying to save itself by putting the blame on the caterer. Anybody can guess that a caterer, who is basically a contractor serving food for a fixed period, cannot suddenly disturb the existing arrangements, divide the mess into two separate sections, and have the courage ‘instructing’ his customers to use separate gates.
Commenting on this episode, the Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle – a student group within the institute- which brought this issue to national attention, says:
“Caste masquerades as something else in ‘modern’ society. In IIT Madras campus, it manifests itself as separate entrance, utensils, dining area and wash area in the mess for vegetarian and non-vegetarian students…:
These are times when the state of democracy is a cause of worry everywhere. With the emergence of populists, demagogues of various hues as custodians of the future of their countries, growing fascination for illiberal ideologies among masses in different parts of the world, the concern is not misplaced and it is apt that we are having this brainstorming where our focus would be on India itself.
‘Working Group on Alternative Strategies’ – which comprises of some of the finest public intellectuals and activists of our times – need to be thanked that they have been organising such seminars since last thirteen years and in this way commemorating the life and works of Prof Madhu Dandavate, a great Parliamentarian and Socialist ideologue. Continue reading Under the Shadow of ‘Holy Book!’→
Review of ‘Truth in Fetters : Broken Promises and Shattered Unity’
“Change is in the air”!
A retired academic who had his last assignment as Vice Chancellor of a leading university said to me the other day, while we were discussing the contemporary political scenario. Frankly admitting that he had supported Modi’s candidature then and had even discreetly campaigned for him, during 2014 elections, he said that what a ‘disaster’ it has been these last four and half years to our polity with him at the helm of affairs.
A Statement Issued by New Socialist Initiative (NSI) on the recent arrests of human rights defenders and public intellectuals
Democracy Under Siege !
With Ground Slipping Fast Beneath Its Feet, BJP government Resorting to Draconian Measures !
New Socialist Initiative strongly condemns the arbitrary and malicious manner in which the Pune Police, at the behest of its saffron masters, raided the houses of leading human rights activists, lawyers, professors and poets in different cities simultaneously and arrested five of them – Sudha Bharadwaj, Gautam Navlakha, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves and Varavara Rao – under concocted charges.
( This article would appear in the coming issue of ‘Think India Quarterly’)
(Photo Courtesy : jansatta)
..Kovind acknowledged that “the key to India’s success is its diversity” and “our diversity is the core that makes us so unique” and ended his speech with a call to build an egalitarian society as “envisioned by Mahatma Gandhi and Deendayal Upadhyayaji”… The Congress took umbrage at the way Kovind mentioned Upadhyaya in the same breath as the Mahatma. “The President should remember that he is not a BJP candidate any more. He is the President of India. He has to… rise above and think beyond party politics,” Congress veteran Ghulam Nabi Azad said.
Fighters for Hindu Rashtra who have reached topmost echleons of power in this part of South Asia and are expected to extend and deepen their influence in coming times – if secular and democratic and left forces do not act together now – find themselves in a typical quandary. Continue reading Deendayal Upadhyaya : BJP’s ‘Gandhi’ !→
Last week, Prime Minister Modi gave an hour long speech denouncing ‘pessimists’ who refused to see the bright side of demonetisation and other transformations that his government’s able management had visited upon the economy.
Now, a set of surveys by the Reserve Bank of India have concluded that 65% of the 5100 metropolitan households polled feel the economic situation has either worsened or stayed the same. It’s a small sample, but the results are revealing. To quote :
Households’ current perceptions on the general economic situation remained in the pessimistic zone for four successive quarters, with the outlook worsening — RBI
For those you wondering – “four successive quarters” is a full year.
I would urge most readers to read the report in full, but here are some key takeaways: