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COVER STORY

21-07-2017

March of Hindutva

Lynch mob Rashtra

Briefing

Interview: Prof. K.M. Shrimali

‘It is terrorism of a different nature’

cover-story

It is generally believed that the making and construction of identities necessitates the creation of certain historical facts. The creation of a pan-Hindu identity and, by corollary, a Hindu Rashtra has been on the agenda of the Sangh Parivar predating Independence and exemplified in the writings of its founders. Dr K.M. Shrimali, who retired as Professor of History from the University of Delhi in 2012, spoke to Frontline on the covert and overt agendas to use history in the making of a political project. He felt that the distinction between the sections labelled as “fringe” elements and their mainstream political fountainheads was no longer a valid one. Both were one and the same, he said, and had important portents for critical debate and inquiry.

As a historian with a specialisation in ancient India, Shrimali’s important publications include: History of Panchala (in two volumes); Agrarian Structure in Central India and the Northern Deccan; Dharma, Samaj aur Sanskriti; The Age of Iron and the Religious Revolution; and Aarthik Sanrachna aur Dharma. His forthcoming monographs are Prachin Bhartiya Dharmon ka Itihas and Itihas, Puratattva aur Vichardhara.

Excerpts from an interview he gave Frontline:

How would you view the renewed demand for a Hindu Rashtra?

After the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won the Assam elections, Amit Shah said there was no equivalent word in English for “Rashtra” and that people have been misled for using “state” for “Rashtra”. He said that India is a Rashtra and has always been one cultural whole. Even if one makes some allowance to his statement that they have power from Kutch to Kamrup, the whole notion of a Rashtra is questionable. What kind of a Rashtra are they talking about? What kind of a cultural whole are they talking about? The 1998 manifesto of the BJP said “our nationalist vision is not merely bound by the geographical and political identity of Bharat but it is referred by our timeless cultural heritage. This cultural heritage which is central to all regions, religions and languages, which is a civilisational identity and constitutes cultural nationalism of India which is Hindutva.” Ever since its inception, name anyone in the RSS [Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh]—be it M.S. Golwalkar, V.D. Savarkar, or more recently, L.K. Advani or M.M. Joshi—and you will see that their concept of a nation is rooted in religion. For them there is only one religion; and being Hindu is being Indian. The idea of a two-nation theory came about well before Jinnah took it up. It was first proposed by Savarkar.

Should we take the calls for a Hindu Rashtra at the Goa conclave seriously, given the political environment?

It is an ideology-driven establishment. They have a one-point agenda, that has been fighting a battle of ideas. The network of Saraswati Shishu Mandirs is a case in point; there is no matching educational apparatus on the other side.

There is no point in being complacent today. They have all the power in their hands, and the political apparatus and the necessary constitutional mandate as well. We all know what Hitler did during the Third Reich. He also came to power through a duly elected process. And Hitler is their ideal. There is phenomenal documentation of the links these people have with the fascists in Europe. They are committed to their ideology and are working towards it. This talk that they are putting up a Dalit for President is all hogwash. We read about Ram Nath Kovind’s views on the Ranganath Mishra Commission report where he talks about Islam and Christianity as being alien to the nation. For them [the Sangh Parivar], the minorities, especially Muslims, are demons. Modi thinks he can win India without the Muslims. And he has managed to do that—the BJP has no Muslim M.P. in the Lok Sabha; it didn’t put up a single Muslim candidate in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections. Muslims have been terrorised to such an extent that they dare not speak. It is terrorism of a different nature.

The idea of an exclusive Hindu Rashtra implies a certain religio-cultural hegemony.

Yes, of course. When Smriti Irani was HRD [Human Resource Development] Minister, a 44-page document titled “Some Inputs for the Draft National Education Policy 2016” was released. This was over and above the T.S.R. Subramanian Committee Report. Neither the note nor the report was discussed in Parliament, but policies are being formulated. In the preamble, the policy tries to implement the “one people, one nation, one culture policy”, which is an integral component of the idea of a Hindu Rashtra where Muslims and other minorities will have no rights.

I know of several hardcore RSS people who say openly that Muslims do not deserve any voting rights at all. Sanskrit, say, being taught in the IITs. Why only Sanskrit? They talk about cultural unity. We know of so many scientific works in Arabic and Persian; there is no place for them. What about non-Sanskritic languages? Mind you, all through its 3,000 years of existence, Sanskrit has never been the language of the people—it was always the language of the elite, the classes. But they want to have cultural unity by teaching Sanskrit at all levels. That is in the NEP [New Education Policy]. That is an area where there is no alternative to counter the hegemony. I cannot think of any establishment that can take on the Saraswati Shishu Mandirs. That is one battle in the area of education.

Right from the first non-Congress government, the portfolios of education, culture and information and broadcasting have always been held by RSS people. They would never give these up, as these are the ministries through which they can control people's minds.

During the first NDA [National Democratic Alliance] government, there were attempts to purge education of the influences of “Macaulay and Marx”. Do you see a continuum?

I would say there is much more aggressiveness from their end. Do not expect any norms of decency and liberal attitude from them. They will go all out to restructure everything at the earliest opportunity. What is Dina Nath Batra doing? In the name of the Shiksha Bachao Andolan, he got Wendy Doniger’s book The Hindus: An Alternative History pulped and led a campaign for the removal of A.K. Ramanujan’s Three Hundred Ramayanas. These are people who cannot tolerate any voice of reason or critical inquiry. The whole idea of a scientific temper is anathema to them. They want regimentation. That is why in the NEP they talk about the “gurukul” which is teacher-centric, not student-centric. Any dissent is unacceptable. The whole space of reason is shrinking by the day. This is very scary.

In the NEP, the ingredients head in one direction—whether it is the language policy, content of the course curriculum, complete omission of the medieval period of history, contribution of Muslims and complete obliteration of the non-Sanskritic traditions. Yet Amit Shah had the audacity to speak of a cultural whole as his idea of Rashtra.

How central is the writing and the rewriting of history to the notion of a Hindu Rashtra?

It is very central. I have been talking about the battle of ideas and minds. It is particularly through the discipline of history that they achieve their objective. It is not a coincidence that every time they come to power, the subject of history becomes their focus. Rewriting is not the issue; it is being done all the time. But the writing of history has to be done with a voice of reason.

History is a discipline of reason. It cannot be written with imagination and myth-making. Sadly, reason is the biggest casualty in their interpretation of history. The five Ms—Mill, Macaulay, Max Mueller, Marx and Muslims—are very central to their idea of writing history. Ironically, the vision and framework of history-writing of those who are shouting about patriotism and nationalism is taken from a colonial framework.

I was listening to the advertisements on International Yoga Day and Baba Ramdev saying on radio “Let’s make Bharat the Adhyatmik Shakti [spiritual power] of the world.” Max Mueller talked about India as a spiritual country and most colonialists had this approach that India was very spiritual, not materially oriented, and that Indian society was static. The main villain who propounded the notion of periodisation was James Mill, dividing periods into Hindu, Muslim and British (not Christian); in a small book called India: What can it teach us?, Max Mueller made Muslims the villains. For Max Mueller, everything glorious went back to the Hindu period and everything declined with the coming of Muslims. He called the Mughal invasion an “inferno”. This is what the Sangh believes too.

More recently, I read a report about the creation of a museum for Ram in Ayodhya. I am very apprehensive of this. I had an opportunity to study the Sri Krishna Museum in Kurukshetra which was established in 1987 and inaugurated in July 1991 at the peak of the Ayodhya movement. That museum does not show any representation of Krishna for a period of nearly 1,000 years in the so-called Muslim period, from A.D. 700 to 1700. If this is the approach, I fear the same will happen in the Ayodhya museum as well. Ayodhya has been a centre of multi-religious activity but the other religions are going to be eliminated, as Ram is more important for them [the Sangh] than the Buddha or Mahavira or the legacy of many medieval saints. The Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust organised the exhibition “Hum Sab Ayodhya” to convey the plural character of Ayodhya. But that kind of an orientation cannot be expected from them. The very notion of periodisation, that the colonialists started with a vested interest of dividing India, is being perpetuated by them. They forget that the Marxists were the first to question the colonial paradigm. A former HRD Minister called historians like Romila Thapar “terrorists”. The irony is that those historians who questioned the colonialists are branded as terrorists while those who perpetuate the theory of periodisation of the colonialists are now “nationalists”. All these ideas—pushing back the antiquity of the Vedas, Aryans being indigenous and hailed as the creators of the Harappan culture—are borrowed from the colonialists.

What does the hegemonisation of ideas do to the spirit of historical writing, inquiry and thought?

The voice of reason becomes a casualty. History is not a matter of faith but of reason. Whatever the faith of the historian, he or she has to rise above that. We have to demystify history. They [the Sangh Parivar] do not make any distinction between mythology and history. In 2014, the newly appointed chairman of the ICHR [Indian Council of Historical Research] invited S.N. Balgangadhara, an academic from Ghent University, Belgium, to deliver the (seventh) Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Memorial Lecture, where he said that history as a subject was a “fetish”.

How are the antiquity of Hindus and the tradition of myths central to the idea of a Hindu Rashtra?

In the view of the Sangh Parivar, Hindus go back to the time when the whole world was populated by Hindus. As evidence of the antiquity of the Aryans, Bal Gangadhar Tilak traced the Aryans to the North Pole in his The Arctic Home in the Vedas. This went against the theory of indigenisation of the Aryans. Golwalkar put forth the continental drift theory to defend Tilak’s ideas. So, in their writing of history, the antiquity of Hindus is absolutely central, for the Hindu religion as they define it. Their ideologues speak about this quite openly.

This is the civilisational identity that Advani spoke about. He also said at a seminar at Sarnath during Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s regime that Buddhists were Hindus, following which there was a walkout by the participants. Advani was being true to his ideology. And Golwalkar had said in as many words that the only religion they recognised was Hinduism. The Sangh Parivar maintains that Harappan religion was Hinduism.

It seems that the emphasis on restructuring education has now shifted to food habits and wider cultural idioms that define what Indian culture is and what is not.

I wouldn’t call it a shift. This has always been their agenda and is integral to their ideology. Gau raksha [protection of cows] has been a central idea. Do not forget the mayhem in the name of cow protection on the streets of Delhi by gau rakshaks in the 1960s. They still do not accept that beef-eating existed in India. Even today, it is a part of the diet of several million Indians. For a historian, the issue of beef is a non-issue. For them it is a matter of faith. Whenever they rake up these issues, it is to build the euphoria around the Hindu vote. The position against triple talaq is a ruse to consolidate the Hindu vote.

Do you think a Hindu Rashtra can be established given the kind of diversity that exists in our country?

I find that most people have a casual attitude because the great majority of them turn out to be Hindus, and feel they won’t be touched by it. But they shouldn’t forget what happened in Hitler’s time. It is scary. It is an ideological battle.

Is the use of violence central to the project?

The idea of a Hindu Rashtra is central to their idea of history. Homogenisation of Hinduism is their objective and “Hinduise India” and “Militarise Hinduism” has been one of the central slogans right from the days of the Hindu Mahasabha. I won’t be surprised if they communalise the army. If a Foreign Minister says that the Bhagavad Gita should be declared a Rashtriya Granth [national scripture], the portents are only too visible. I remember when Advani was Home Minister, he distributed the Gita to the Army on the pretext of Sindhu Darshan. It is an ideology and an ideologically driven apparatus. The fringe is an integral part of the apparatus. Three voices of reason, Dabholkar, Pansare and Kalburgi, were eliminated. It is not a small thing.

One of the complaints against leading historians in India is that they do not give enough importance to the rich glory and heritage of India.

It all depends on what view one takes of culture. Historians know that all concepts of “glorious” are mythical. It is not that one is unaware of the achievements of the past, but the objective of a historian is to assess them critically. And many things are the heritage of a global, collective humanity, not just India. If D.D. Kosambi spoke about myth and reality, he spoke about how to deal with religious subjects and religious development. One cannot accuse him of being ignorant of Sanskrit or argue that he did not have knowledge of the sources.

Culture is a process; there are so many things that go into the making of culture. This accusation is levelled mostly against so-called Marxist historians, “Macaulay’s children” according to the Sangh. But I refuse to accept this charge as it was the Marxists who studied so many aspects of culture, first questioned the colonialist paradigm and demolished myths. Marxists have shown that Indian society is constantly evolving. What you see as a cultural product has to be situated within a context. If Picasso created Guernica, can one be oblivious of the Spanish Civil War?

Ayodhya project

Mandir manoeuvres

With the arrival of two truckloads of sandstone at Karsevakpuram in Ayodhya on June 19, the Sangh Parivar, led by the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), launched one of its periodic exercises to keep its Ram Mandir agenda alive. Over the 25 years since the demolition of the Babri Masjid in December 1992, different outfits of the Parivar, such as the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the Bajrang Dal, have come up with several such exercises. In the last three years alone, the VHP had on three different occasions “celebrated” concrete moves to complete the construction of the Ram Mandir. In 2014, immediately after the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) swept to power at the Centre, the VHP organised a conclave to advance the temple project. In 2015, the VHP organised not only a conclave but also a parikrama (ceremonial perambulation) of the temple town and topped it up by bringing in two truckloads of stones to Ayodhya. The objective of all such manoeuvres is primarily to rekindle the Ram Mandir construction agenda in the temple town in such a manner that it also heightens communal tensions, at least among some sections of the population in Ayodhya and in Faizabad, its twin town located approximately eight kilometres away. The responses and ramifications that such developments in Ayodhya generate in other parts of Uttar Pradesh and the rest of the country also add value to the political and organisational objectives of the outfits in the Hindutva combine.

In spite of this “business as usual” aspect of the June 19, 2017, exercise, there is little doubt that the current move has generated relatively greater than usual fervour and enthusiasm among sections of Sangh Parivar supporters in Ayodhya. One such highly excited “Hindutva warrior” is Mahant Dharam Das, who was present at the “Ram Mandir workshop” at Karsevakpuram when Frontline visited it in late June. The workshop, where the prefabrication of the Mandir is apparently being carried out, has been functional under the VHP since 1993, a few months after the demolition of the Babri Masjid. Dharam Das told Frontline: “Now, this is not like earlier initiatives. This is the beginning of the final manoeuvres. There has not been a better time than this to complete the work of the grand temple. The political and social climate is just right. The Hindutva forces have our own governments both in the State and at the Centre, and that too with massive majorities. Along with it, the people across the country are energised by Hindutva fervour and values.”

Asked when he expected the actual construction to start, he had no doubt that things would start moving in late July. “Yogiji [Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath] is expected to be here in the last week of July, and that visit will give a fillip to the work.”

However, not all those associated with the Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas, the VHP-controlled trust that has campaigned for the Ram temple since the 1980s, shared this optimism. Swami Haridayal Mishra, one of the defendants in the Ayodhya title suit case, felt that since the original dispute was under the consideration of the courts, there was need for interventions beyond the efforts of the Hindutva organisations and the executive. He is of the view that the Supreme Court’s recent suggestion that it could act as a mediator, invoke Section 89 of the Code of Civil Procedure (CPC), and bring about a settlement between the different sides in the dispute could be pursued. Mishra also said that he was in discussions with several persons involved in the case from the Muslim side. However, he was not ready to disclose how far these discussions had gone. Mahant Nrityagopal Das, the current president of the Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas, did not want to go into all this. All that he would say was that whatever the route and the modus operandi, the construction of the Ram temple would start by the end of 2017.

The other side

Khaliq Ahmed Khan, a resident of Faizabad who is associated with the Babri Masjid Action Committee (BMAC) and has been actively pursuing the legal dispute, said that everything currently under way, such as the arrival of the consignment of stones in Ayodhya and the talk of negotiations to build a temple, was part of a political drama being played out by the Sangh Parivar. “There is no way that the Supreme Court can bring about a negotiated settlement. The law has to take its own course, and those with whom the VHP and the Nyas are apparently speaking are people with no acceptance in the Muslim community. The important Muslim entities that are part of the dispute, the BMAC and the Sunni Waqf Board, are clear that the claim dispute needs to be settled first,” he told Frontline.

There are as many as 14 appeals from various sides in the Supreme Court. These are, broadly, the Sangh Parivar side that represents the deity, the Muslim side represented by various individuals and organisations, and the Nirmohi Akhara, which had controlled Hindu worship on Ram Chabutara—a platform outside Babri Masjid, which was demolished along with the masjid in 1992—since the time of the Mughal emperor Akbar. Khaliq Ahmed Khan held that the Nirmohi Akhara, which is seeking total rights over the disputed property, would not become party to the Sangh Parivar manoeuvres.

The Akhil Bharat Hindu Mahasabha and the Nirmohi Akhara are opposing the claims of the VHP-led parties. There are six Muslim parties to the case—the Sunni Central Board of Waqfs; Hashim Ansari, deceased and now represented by his son Iqbal Ansari; the Jamiat-ul Ulema Hind; Misbahuddin; Farooq Ahmad, deceased and now represented by his son Mohammad Umar; and Maulana Mahfuzurrahman, represented by Khaliq Ahmed Khan; and all these want the title of the Babri Masjid land to be awarded only to the Sunni Central Board of Waqfs. In this context, the fresh consignment of stones does not appear to signal any concrete or immediate plan. But as followers of the former Nyas president, Ramachandra Paramhans, at the Digamber Akhara told Frontline, all the multiple narratives around temple construction had their value and might well converge to come up with a decisive strike at an opportune moment. “You will indeed be here, or you will be called to witness that,” said a group of mahants who had gathered at the Akhara. However, they admitted that the two truckloads that had come in by themselves did not add up to much in terms of construction. But then they recalled how the Nyas’ attempts to bring in stones regularly since December 2015 (when two truckloads of stones were brought) were blocked by the Akhilesh Yadav government, which withheld the Commercial Tax Department’s “form 39”. With a BJP government now in place, they pointed out, such obstructions would no longer be encountered.

Such contentions notwithstanding, the fact is that not much work is being done at the Mandir workshop near Karsevakpuram. There are only a couple of artisans at work, and Nagendra Upadhya, the main supervisor, is not on full-time duty. This is in sharp contrast to the situation that existed in the 1998-2000 period when as many as 135 workers were engaged in carrying out different tasks. At that time, the VHP boast was that all the pillars of the temple would be completed in five years. Another decade has passed since, but now no such claims are made. Three years ago, the supervisor did state that nearly 80 per cent of the prefabrication was over, but many in the Nyas itself raised doubts about this statement.

As things now stand, the latest stone-transporting exercise looks more like a publicity gimmick than anything else. And yet, as many “Hindutva warriors” based in places such as Digamber Akhara hope, the Sangh Parivar can change all this in a matter of days through militant moves of the kind that it is capable of. And then what? Perhaps the political climate that develops in the country in the run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha election will hold the answer to that question.

Cover Story

March of Hindu Rashtra

Aisa bhashanbaji ka kya matlab hai? Woh to Hindustan ka shahenshah hi hain. Chahe to woh yeh qatl rok sakta hain, jaise ek raat mein notebandi kiya tha. ("What is the meaning of this sort of speechification? He is the king of Hindustan. If he wants he can stop these killings, just as he imposed note ban in a single night.")

-- Jalaluddin, father of Junaid Khan, 16, who was lynched on a train near Delhi, at Khandawli village in Faridabad district of Haryana.



"It can no longer be classified as mere intolerance. It is the emergence and establishment of an oppressive regime that literally wants to do way with the minorities of India and proclaim Hindu Rashtra as conceived by the founders of Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS)."

-- Justice Rajinder Sachar, retired Chief Justice of the Delhi Hig Court, to Frontline.

THESE two statements made within a gap of two days broadly underscore the portents of the contemporary social and political context in India marked by a spate of lynching of members of the Muslim community across different States with the active connivance of governments at the Centre and in the States concerned. Jalaluddin’s outpouring came a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi used his participation at the centenary celebrations of Mahatma Gandhi’s Sabarmati Ashram in Gujarat on June 29 “to express pain and anger” at the sectarian developments, especially the “murders in the name of gau bhakti” (reverence for the cow). Jalaluddin, whose teenaged son was lynched by a mob which taunted him as “beef eater”, pulled his beard, and trampled on his skull cap before stabbing him to death, only saw platitudinous rhetoric in this so-called expression of pain and anger. He put it straight: just as Modi imposed demonetisation in one stroke, he can put an end to lynchings in the name of gau bhakti if he wants to. The unstated element in Jalaluddin’s lament clearly points towards how the Prime Minister and his political structure, including the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the RSS-led Sangh Parivar, are colluding with the perpetrators of the lynching spree.

Justice Sachar’s pained observation came on the day thousands of people across 17 cities of India, including the national capital, gathered to protest against the targeted lynching of Muslims, with the slogan “Not in my name”. The 93-year-old former Chief Justice headed a committee set up in 2005 to study the condition of the Muslim community in India, which resulted in the preparation of a comprehensive report on its social, economic and educational status. The report suggested concrete measures to improve their lot.

Justice Sachar told Frontline that the government at the Centre had not only turned a blind eye to most of the salutary recommendations made in the report but was also promoting and facilitating a social and political structure aimed at trampling even the minimal rights and privileges enjoyed by the minority community.

Indeed, it was on the day between the “Not in my name” protests and Jalaluddin’s anguished comment that Modi came up with his “expression of pain and anger about developments that have taken place in India”. Jalaluddin’s observation about the lack of sincerity and absence of positive intent in the Prime Minister’s statements to take concrete measures and live up to his own pronouncements is not an isolated case. Scores of social and political observers have made similar observations while analysing similar statements made by Modi in the past. The brutal lynching of yet another cattle trader in the eastern State of Jharkhand almost at the same time when Modi was holding forth in the western State of Gujarat also shows how Modi and his associates in the BJP are not ready to walk the talk in terms of protecting the minorities from the perpetrators of violence in the name of love for the cow.

Cow bhakti violence

In the past three years, Modi has referred to the barbaric assaults in the name of cow protection only thrice. Each time, the references were made only after public sentiment had built up to such levels that the government’s publicity managers and the BJP leadership realised that further silence would damage the personal and political image of Modi and his government . Equally significantly, in each of these references there was no specific condemnation of the perpetrators of the attack or specific individual condolences offered to the victims. All the references were essentially rhetorical. The first reference came during the campaign for the Bihar Assembly election in October 2015. Eight days before that comment was made, on September 28, 2015, Mohammad Akhlaq was killed by a lynch mob at Dadri, Uttar Pradesh. The mob barged into his house alleging that he had killed a cow and stored its meat in his refrigerator. The reference, of course, was not directly to the killing but was a roundabout and platitudinous one that merely contained the exhortation that Hindus and Muslims need to fight poverty together. Perceptions at that time were that the electoral climate in Bihar was turning against the Hindutva forces on account of the outrage caused by Dadri and other such incidents, and Modi was attempting a limited damage control.

The second reference to “cow bhakti” violence came when the BJP and its governments as well as organisational associates suffered damage to their political image. This was after the incidents at Una, Gujarat, in July 2016 where four Dalits were flogged for killing a cow. A video of the incident went viral, rousing public indignation not only in India but in several parts of the world. Modi’s reference at that time seemed to be a bit more direct and concrete. He stated: “I have seen some people who indulge in anti-social activities for the whole night, but wear the garb of gau rakshaks during the day.” He said he knew that 70 to 80 per cent of the so-called gau rakshaks were criminals and directed officials to open crime dossiers on these anti-social elements.

In the third reference, on June 29, Modi increased the drama quotient even further. His pronouncements were as follows: “I want to express my pain and anger about developments in India. The country that never killed an ant. The country that fed stray dogs roaming around. The country that fed fish in the ocean. The country in which a man like Bapu taught us the lesson of ahimsa. What has happened to us? Is this my country, the country of Bapu? What are we doing?”

Responding to this seemingly impassioned statement, Akhilesh Yadav, former Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh and president of the Samajwadi Party (S.P.), told Frontline that while the theatrics were of a high order in these statements, they gave a rather poor picture of Modi’s own governance record. “He has been ruling this country for the last three years proclaiming that achche din [good days] are here, and, now, he himself turns around and asks what has happened to the country? This could have been treated as a ludicrous political joke had it not been for the fact that the things he is referring to are heartbreakingly tragic and could literally debilitate the nation.” Akhilesh Yadav wanted to know what had happened to the so-called criminal dossiers that Modi had ordered to be prepared on gau rakshaks one year ago. “Obviously, nothing has been done. It is nothing short of a cruel gimmick, which ultimately helps the so-called gau rakshaks and other Hindutva fringe elements run amok causing grievous loss of lives and property. Make no mistake, the BJP leadership, including its Chief Ministers, are part of this Hindutva fringe facilitation.”

Developments in Jharkhand on the day of Modi’s speechification at Sabarmati, including the lynching of a cattle trader, Alimuddin Ansari, in the Giddi area of Ramgarh near the State capital, Ranchi, as also the cases filed with regard to the incident underscore the point made by Akhilesh Yadav. Jharkhand Chief Minister Raghubar Das condemned the killing formally, but the cases filed have some interesting and devious twists and turns. The primary case is against “at least 10 men who intercepted Ansari’s van near Ranchi and attacked him”. But, there is also a parallel case, which has the parameters to investigate the role of Ansari and his family in the alleged transportation and sale of “prohibited bovine meat”. The second case has also set the premise that the attack on Ansari could be a consequence of individual or trade disputes between the victim and the suspects. “It is anybody’s guess, given the track record of the current BJP government as to which of these cases would gather greater investigative momentum,” said Supriyo Bhattacharya, general secretary of the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM), the principal opposition in the State.

Talking to Frontline over phone from Ramgarh, Mustafa Ansari, secretary of the village masjid committee, said harassment in the name of cattle had become an everyday affair in these parts and the political establishment was certainly part of this torture by other means.

The statements made by other BJP leaders, including Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar and Union Minister Giriraj Singh, justifying gau rakshak violence and asserting that if people wanted to stay in India they would have to abstain from eating beef, have to be seen in this context. Another stark pointer to the current context has come in the form of the cancellation of the annual Eid Milan of the Jamiat-Ulama-i-Hind, one of the largest Muslim organisations in the country, citing the heightened communal atmosphere in the country that is making daily life extremely difficult for members of the minority community. All these add up to the establishment of a communally oppressive Hindu Rashtra regime as pointed out by Justice Sachar.

Public hanging of beef-eaters

The recent proclamations made at the so-called “Hindu Rashtra” Conclave held in Goa between June 14 and 18, which sought the establishment of a formal Hindu Rashtra by 2023 and the public hanging of beef-eaters and “seculars” (sic) who support them, is also relevant in this context. It is claimed that some 100 Hindutva organisations attended the conclave, organised by Hindu Janajagriti Samiti (HJS) and the Sanatan Sanstha. Members of the Sanatan Sanstha are among those accused of the killing of the rationalists Narendra Dabolkar, Govind Pansare and M.M. Kalburgi. The conclave also called for a ban on cattle slaughter, declaration of the cow as the national animal, a ban on all religious conversions, and construction of a grand Ram temple in Ayodhya. At the conclave, Sadhvi Saraswati, considered to be a rising star in the Hindutva circuit, calling to mind the firebrand speaker Sadhvi Rithambara of the Babri Masjid demolition days, exhorted the government to go in for public hanging of beef-eaters. “Whoever harms the cow abuses the country and can only be termed as our enemy. Those politicians who are supporting the consumption of beef in the country and those who see it as a status symbol should be publicly executed by the government. Protection of the cow is our duty. We should apply the same laws that are applied to homicide cases against people found butchering cattle,” she said.

Although the official Sangh Parivar, including the RSS and the BJP, have distanced themselves from the conclave and its proclamations, its message has had some resonance among many Hindutva groups, including sections of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP). Talking to Frontline in Ayodhya, Mahant Nritya Gopal Das, president of the VHP-led Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas, a trust with the proclaimed objective of constructing the Ram temple in Ayodhya, said that while a formal declaration of Hindu Rashtra would be a good idea, the country was already moving in that direction informally under the leadership of mahapurush (great men) Modi and Yogi Adityanath. Das explained that Hindu Rashtra as conceived by “margadarshak mahapurush” (guiding great men) Vinayak Damodar Savarkar and M.S. Golwalkar was a geographical and socio-cultural entity where people’s lives were defined by the parameters of race, religion, culture, language and the way of life including food habits. “Whoever accepts the preponderance of the Hindu Rashtra tenets on these parameters can stay on in the country, whatever religion they practise and whichever God they pray to. Those who do not accept this preponderance would fall out of the pale of real national life. What you are seeing in different parts of the country is the process towards this socio-cultural filtering,” Nritya Gopal Das said, adding that the political domination of nationalist forces in the country was a key factor in this process.

According to a number of Sangh Parivar activists in Ayodhya and Lucknow, the resolution of the Goa Hindu conclave marking 2023 as the year to proclaim the establishment of a Hindu Rashtra and Modi’s own repeated references to 2022 as the year to create a “New India” are not accidental and must be seen in conjunction.

The year 2022 would mark the 100th anniversary of the publication of the Hindutva-Hindu Rashtra thesis propounded by Savarkar. It is not for nothing that these two years have become talking points after the BJP’s phenomenal victory in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections in February/March.

Nearly 23 years ago, in 1994, after the BJP faced a shock defeat in the Uttar Pradesh election the previous year, Nritya Gopal Das’ former associate, Mahant Ramchandra Paramhans, told this writer that the project for Hindutva hegemony was a perennial work in progress for the Sangh Parivar, which would continue irrespective of gains and reverses. “We have set our sights on the final goal, and the main path through which we sought to reach the goal was by creating a pan-Hindu political identity. Many symbols, including that of the Ram Janmabhoomi and the Ram temple, came up in this struggle. Time and again we faltered, especially in the face of casteist identity assertion of Dalits and Other Backward Class (OBC) communities. All these reverses, and gains too, are taken in our stride, keeping in mind the final goal.”

Evidently, sections of the Hindutva combine perceive that they are near that goal, especially in the context of significant rallying of many dominant OBC communities behind the Hindutva agenda, both politically and socially.

Members of some OBC communities have been identified as leaders of the attack in a significant number of incidents relating to cow vigilantism, including lynching.

Against this background, what merit is there in the exhortation of Bapu’s name and ideals from Sabarmati? In the United States, a country Modi has visited several times after becoming Prime Minister, the fundamental guiding principle of governance, the Bill of Rights, asserts a Natural Contract between the people and the government through mandate, to be ruled and to rule in order to attain the gross pursuit of all happiness in people’s lives.

The proponents of Hindu Rashtra, and those who believe that they are close to establishing it, however, have no faith in the gross pursuit of all happiness in all people’s lives. The series of lynchings and the oppressive social climate imposed on minorities underscore this appalling and calamitous violation of rules and propriety of democratic governance.

From the States

The ways of the Parivar

cover-story


TAMIL NADU





Saffron in Dravidian land



By Ilangovan Rajasekaran



TAMIL NADU, the Dravidian heartland, is witnessing “saffronisation” on the sly. Hindutva forces are targeting minorities, be they Christians or Muslims, and Dalits with impunity across the State in varying degrees.

In the northern part of the State, especially in the cluster of interior villages and hamlets in the district of Kancheepuram, Dalit Christians, the majority among minorities here, have been living in morbid fear since April 14, Good Friday, when the solemn occasion at the St. Theresa of the Child Jesus Church at Sogandi village in Tirukazhukkundram block ended in chaos and violence.

In the southern part, in Cumbum town in Theni district, a mosque was targeted by stone-throwing miscreants on June 1 when prayers were being offered in the month of Ramzan. The incident shocked the conscience of the people of Cumbum, a plantation town located on the Tamil Nadu-Kerala border. Cumbum, local people claim, has never witnessed such an incident until then, not even when the Babri Masjid was demolished. “We share a warm camaraderie as our lives are intertwined and interdependent. Both are engaged in plantation and agriculture, the mainstay of our livelihood,” says Cumbum P. Selvendran, former Member of Parliament from Periyakulam and a farmer.

Of late, similar attempts of majoritarian hooliganism aimed at polarising people along religious lines have been reported across the State with alarming regularity. At least four other such incidents were reported in the State during the Ramzan month—at the Kannappa Nagar mosque at Rathinapuri in Coimbatore city and at mosques in Ramanathapuram town in Ramanathapuram district, and in Tirupur in Tirupur district. Besides, those who transported a few cows and calves in a lorry for a farmer came under attack in the temple town of Palani in the western region.

In fact, there is a devious pattern to these seemingly sporadic and impulsive acts. The attempt in all cases has been to instil fear in the minds of minorities. “Tamil Nadu is neither Gujarat nor Uttar Pradesh to get converted into a laboratory for the Hindutva ideology. But we cannot just ignore the fact that they are working aggressively at the grass-roots level against the secularists,” said M. H. Jawahirullah, a senior functionary of the Tamil Nadu Muslim Munnetra Kazhagam (TMMK).

Indeed, signals from the ground point to a disturbing phase ahead in a situation where governance is virtually absent and the political leadership is seen as corrupt and opportunistic. Besides, the Dravidian ideology that has held sway for many decades in the State seems to be fraying at the edges. This and the vacuum in the political leadership have led right-wing forces to believe that there is an opportunity for them to make inroads into the State. “Though the DMK [Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam] has been opposing the Hindutva agenda, it should activate its rank and file to fight against the oppressive forces at the grass-roots level,” Jawahirullah said.

A recent investigation by Frontline, covering some 20 villages and hamlets in a few northern districts, found that incidents of a communal nature involving members of the majority community, in the form of instigating social disturbances through acts of arrogance and vigilantism, have increased.

The targets of their attacks are Dalit Christian converts in the northern parts and Muslims in the southern and western regions.

Controversy in Arul Nagar

Sogandi village is a case in point here. Some 150 Dalit Christian families live in Arul Nagar colony located between Sogandi and Alagusamudhram villages, which have a strong Hindu Vanniyar population, which is listed as a most backward class (MBC) group. The Dalit Christians regularly offer worship at the St. Theresa of the Child Jesus Church in their colony. Two years ago, the village parish developed a portion of the barren hill, classified as “karadu poromboke” (barren and rough hill), as an official termed it, opposite the church into a 10 x 10 grotto and installed a statue of Our Lady in it. This is now at the centre of a controversy.

On Good Friday, residents of the colony gathered at the grotto for worship and then went in a procession when the caste Hindu Vanniyars from Alagusamudhram raised objection, saying that the hill belonged to Hindus and was known as “Perumal Malai”, though there is no such reference in government documents. “We have been celebrating festivals peacefully all these years. Besides Christmas, Palm Sunday and New Year, we also celebrate Pongal and Deepavali,” said Arul Nagar resident E. Meganathan.

In fact, villages around Sogandi have been known for inhuman levels of caste discrimination for years. Five decades ago there was mass conversion of Dalits to Christianity. In the 1960s, the district administration offered 50-odd Dalit families house-site pattas on a piece of parched land located between Sogandi and Alagusamudhram. The Dalits developed it into a picturesque settlement and named it Arul Nagar.

But Arul Nagar residents were surprised at the sudden resistance from the residents of Alagusamudhram on the statue issue. “On instigation from some fringe elements, the villagers, mostly Hindu Vanniyars, undertook a massive exercise on February 19 involving hundreds of school students and the general public to paint the religious identity mark of the Vaishnavite tradition, ‘tiruman’, popularly known as ‘namam’, on every boulder and stone on the hill. Even signs of the Holy Cross near the grotto were obliterated or replaced by ‘namams’, besides making markings on culverts, houses and government buildings,” said Amul Raj, a social activist who works among Arul Nagar’s residents.

Arul Nagar residents were well aware that it was a religiously motivated act. They alleged that the Hindu Munnani, which entered their village two years back, was instigating the people against the church and Christians. Even the Palm Sunday celebrations this year were disrupted. The simmering tension over the issue culminated in violence on April 14 when a mob attempted to remove the statue of Our Lady.

Youngsters of Arul Nagar retaliated, which led to a law and order problem that left many persons, including a few policemen, injured. The following day, on April 15, officials of the Revenue Department removed the statue, which Kancheepuram Sub Collector V. P. Jeyaseelan, who is also in charge of Chengleput, called “an encroachment”, and sealed the grotto. Villagers claimed that scores of Hindu temples had been built on the other side of the hill. “These temples are also on encroached lands,” said Arul, another villager.

Protesting against the incident, black flags were hoisted atop Dalit houses in the village. Two peace committee meetings that the Kancheepuram district administration convened could not usher in peace between the communities. A senior revenue official at the Tirukazhukkundram taluk office told Frontline that the church was reluctant to cooperate with the local administration to sort out the issue. Meanwhile, H. Raja, one of the national secretaries of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), staged a protest at Tambaram on the outskirts of Chennai urging the government to remove the shrine from the hill.

The parish priest, Fr. Jacob, told Frontline that the veneration of the cross and distribution of Holy Communion on Good Friday could not be completed because of the unsavoury incidents at the village. The Chengleput diocese bishop, Dr A. Neethinathan, urged the government to ensure the safety of Christians and other minorities. The church and other Christian outfits organised a protest rally and fast at Chengleput on April 24, condemning the violence against them.

A Vanniyar youth, however, said they did not want another Acharapakkam, where a church was constructed atop a hill, in their locality. “Ours is called Perumal Malai and it belongs to us,” he maintained. [The shrine of the Miraculous Mother Mary (Mazhai Madha) atop the hill in Acharapakkam near Chengleput is an important shrine, besides the renowned St. Thomas Mount shrine. Both fall under the jurisdiction of the Roman Catholic diocese of Chengleput. The Arul Nagar church also comes under the diocese.] The Catholic Bishops Conference of India, which met on April 19, asked the State government to ensure that “every person continues to feel safe and enjoys the basic right to worship freely and without fear”. It said: “The Catholic Church in India is very distressed and saddened by the happenings in Sogandi, Tamil Nadu, on Good Friday, a day very sacred to Christians everywhere.” Catholic News Agency (CNA) datelined Rome, April 21, while reporting the Sogandi incident, pointed to the rising intolerance in India towards people of all religions from “fundamentalist fringe” groups, which disturbed “the traditional peace and harmony” of the country.

‘Real issue is caste’

Muniamma, 70, a Dalit woman convert, said what really riled the Vanniyars and right-wing groups was their caste and their conversion. “We suffered cruel caste-based discrimination by birth as Hindus. No one treated us with dignity. Missionaries gave us education and economic empowerment and we voluntarily converted to Christianity. We do not depend on caste Hindus for our livelihood now since our children are well educated and happily self-sufficient. We are no longer vassals in the casteist feudal system. That we live in dignity today is their main grouse against us and the church,” she said.

The caste polarisation in the northern districts, especially between Dalits and Vanniyars, has emerged as a powerful tool of exploitation in the hands of Hindutva groups. The villages, which once had flags of the two major Dravidian political parties—the DMK and the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK)—besides the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK), now fly the BJP’s saffron flag and the Hindu Munnani’s. A saffron flag flutters right across the road and in front of the Arul Nagar church today, showcasing their aggressive agenda.

They also succeeded to a great extent in creating divisions among Dalits. Those who remain in the Hindu fold in the villages have been indoctrinated ideologically and offered liberal funds to carry out their plots and designs in their localities. “Many Dalit Hindus have fallen prey to them though Vanniyars, a few of whom too have embraced Christianity, continue to discriminate against them. Here no one is allowed to be identified in any group other than Vanniyars and Dalits. Only then it is easy for them to operate with the two main social entities,” said Amul Raj.

Billboards warning people that they are living in a Hindu country have sprung up in various places. Villagers have been told that any decision concerning sociocultural and developmental issues should be decided only by the village Hindus. Posters against cow slaughter and beef-eating can be seen on water tanks, and mud walls of huts and houses. “Even bhajans are being held for youngsters, especially in Dalit settlements, during evening hours,” said the Chengleput-based Dalit activist Ari.

Ari said statues of Mother Mary and Jesus and the cross sign, which could commonly be seen on hills and hillocks, had either been desecrated or replaced with Hindu shrines and idols. At Pulipakkam village off Kancheepuram, a cross and a small statue of Mother Mary were erected atop the hill some 20 years ago. But to the anguish of the people, it was found desecrated. “When we went up the hill to offer prayers to the Mother Mary statue on the hill, Vanniyars in the village objected. They broke the statue, which was later replaced after a prolonged struggle,” said A. Benjamin, a Dalit Christian of the village.

Pulipakkam has a strong presence of Vanniyars, the majority of them Hindus, and the other major caste group is Dalit Christians. Benjamin alleged: “The former village president, a Dalit Hindu, opposes us for having the statue of Mary atop the hill, part of which is ‘poromboke’ land, the rest belonging to the Forest Department. Today he is constructing an impressive-looking Sri Prasanna Venkatesa Perumal Temple on an area of about 10,000 square feet on the same hill. A mud road has been laid after burrowing out a portion of the hill to reach the temple. Who gave him the permission for this pucca construction on a hill?”

A Dalit Hindu in Palur, Baraneedharan (name changed since he is a State government employee), who has been entrusted with the task of rebuilding the dilapidated Sri Paravathavarni Udanurai Parameshwarar temple at a cost of Rs.1 crore, said, “Anyone can profess and practise their religion provided they respect the Hindu culture of the country.” A member of the Sri Parameshwarar Sivanadiyar Kootam, the group that is renovating the temple, Baraneedharan said he could not “tolerate the way conversions were taking place in villages around Kancheepuram and Chengleput towns”.

“Religious conversion should not hurt the feelings of other religions,” he argued. He became a staunch Hindutva foot soldier after a “special darshan” of the Kanchi Sankaracharya at his mutt in Kancheepuram. “It was a proud moment in my life. Many like me had the privilege of meeting the swamigal,” he said. Such acts, organised by senior functionaries of the BJP and the Hindu Munnani, hold an allure to these people, especially Dalits like Baraneedharan.

Dubious practices

Many dubious practices under the guise of religion are encouraged among gullible villagers to profess the philosophy of the majoritarian faith. Ari claimed that whenever a monkey died or was killed, villagers were asked to erect a huge statue of Hanuman, the monkey god of Hindus, at that site. Today many villages sport such statues of not only Hanuman but also of Siva, Kali and so on. Funding comes by way of sponsorships.

In fact, the journey through Kuravanmedu, Vadakkupathu and Olavetti villages of Kancheepuram district and a few in Tiruvallur district revealed that many temples of village deities, such as Sri Ponni Amman, which were either damaged or in a dilapidated state for long, were getting renovated. Besides, many small and medium temples rooted in the Vedic tradition that had fallen into disuse over a period of time because of various factors, such as the one in Palur, were being renovated.

Priests who had left villages and temples for greener pastures were being wooed back. “We have requested Brahmin priests who once performed pujas at our temple to return and revive the daily rituals,” said Baraneedharan. Such acts, sociologists say, will be rationalised to propagate ideological purity among the people of their faith.

The Christians of Sogandi are in a quandary about how they would celebrate Christmas this year. “It is a scary feeling being Christians here,” said Amul Raj. Jawahirullah insists that secular and democratic forces should unite under a banner to counter this cultural intimidation. “If a state fails to have power over such fundamental forces that asphyxiate the rights of the disadvantaged, it is very much a failing state,” he said.

But that is the toxic reality in Tamil Nadu today.





UTTAR PRADESH





Break with tradition

By Venkitesh Ramakrishnan

Participation in the Eid celebrations at the historic Aishbagh Eidgah in Lucknow is a custom Chief Ministers of Uttar Pradesh have observed for many decades. However, Yogi Adityanath, the current incumbent, chose to break with this tradition by not attending the celebrations on June 26. The absence was conspicuous since Governor Ram Naik, who also belonged to the BJP before being appointed Governor, and Deputy Chief Minister Dinesh Sharma were present on the occasion.

Rajnath Singh, as the last BJP Chief Minister (2000-02) before Yogi Adityanath, used to attend the programme regularly. Former Chief Minister and Samajwadi Party (S.P.) president Akhilesh Yadav, who was present at the Eidgah on June 26, made a reference to Yogi Adityanath’s absence, suggesting that it did not send the right message. “What can I do if he [the Chief Minister] is not here, but I wonder why?” he asked. Akhilesh Yadav’s query found great resonance among those who had gathered at the Eidgah, including several non-Muslims who came to wish their Muslim friends.

Obaidullah of Phoolpur, a member of the All India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat, a confederation of 16 Muslim organisations that is trying to build a common platform and approach amidst the several institutional and theological divides in the community, told Frontline that the central message of Yogi Adityanath’s conduct is that the Chief Minister would continue to practise a sectarian divide-and-rule policy. “He is telling the minorities not to expect him to stand shoulder to shoulder with them. And he is also telling the Hindutva fringe elements to continue with their rampage, which has already pushed the entire minority community and a section of Dalits into the grip of deep fear,” he said.

Satyam Singh, an Other Backward Class (OBC) Hindu who regularly takes part in Eid festivities, echoed Obaidullah’s opinion. He works in association with a number of organisations trying to build communal harmony and pointed out that while there had been no mob lynching of Muslims or other marginalised sections in Uttar Pradesh in the past three months, the activists of the BJP as well as other outfits in the Sangh Parivar had created a climate where free social interactions and movement were no longer possible. Their assaults reflected a range of crimes, from blatant communal violence to moral policing to lording over the administration.

Consider this, he said, holding up a list of assaults by the Sangh Parivar in the recent past. The list included the Saharanpur violence of May 2017 involving assaults by the upper caste Thakur community against Dalits, which was initiated when a Shobhayatra was undertaken under the leadership of local BJP leaders. In April, the list said, activists of the Hindu Yuva Vahini, a Hindutva outfit founded by Yogi Adityanath himself, unleashed mayhem across western Uttar Pradesh. It started on April 12 with the assault on a couple, a Muslim man and a Hindu woman, who were living together in Meerut; this was followed by an attack on a betrothed Hindu couple the next day while they were travelling on a two-wheeler in Fatehpur Sikri.

On April 22, BJP workers disrupted the functioning of the administration at the Taj Mahal complex in Agra and the office of the Senior Superintendent of Police in Mathura. “These are just the listed instances from western Uttar Pradesh. Across the State, the Yogi government has created a situation where a piece of saffron clothing worn around the neck immediately puts you above the law. Then you can terrorise people, attack them and do what you want,” said Satyam Singh.

Satyam Singh’s contention has wide resonance in the popular perception across Uttar Pradesh. Senior government officials admitted that the high-handedness of the Hindutva elements, including at the level of day-to-day administration, had started to have a serious impact on the general law and order situation. Even a bench of the Allahabad High Court, consisting of Chief Justice D.B. Bhonsle and Justice Yashwant Verma, took note of this and directed the Principal Secretary (Home) and the Director General of Police to show more application of mind in reining in criminal and mafia elements.

Alarming statistics

A comparison of the figures of the Home Department for crimes in the period from March 15 to April 15 this year and the corresponding period last year is nothing short of alarming. Rapes had shot up four times over the past year, murders had doubled and dacoity had grown manifold. As against 41 rapes last year, there were 179 in the same period this year. Murders went up from 101 to 240 and cases of dacoity rose from three to 20. Of course, all these are not communal crimes or ones engineered by Hindutva outfits. But, as Satyam Singh pointed out and as corroborated by several senior officials, the unleashing of Hindutva outfits has contributed to building up this climate of fear.





JHARKHAND & BIHAR





Workshop of Hindutva

By Venkitesh Ramakrishnan



“Earlier, leaders of the Sangh Parivar, including those of the BJP, used to say that Jharkhand was the second laboratory of Hindutva politics, after Gujarat. But now, with the Raghubar Das-led BJP ministry completing one and a half years in office, this State has been turned into a full-fledged workshop of Hindutva. It can no longer be described as a laboratory.” This is how Supriyo Bhatta, national general secretary of the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM), the principal opposition party in the State, summed up the situation in the wake of the spate of communal violence in Jharkhand. “Organised lynching, mob attacks and destruction of property of minority communities, especially Muslims’, are, of course, the most extreme forms of this violence, and these have risen to unprecedented levels. But these are only a few of the myriad forms of their communal machinations. The Sangh Parivar is also advancing a hundred other devious operations blatantly with the full patronage of the State government,” he said.

Even a cursory glance at the incidents of communal violence in the State corroborates the JMM leader’s contention. Official records of the State Home Department state that as many as 12 people lost their lives in sectarian violence from March 2016 to June 2017. Of them, nine belonged to the Muslim community. Other forms of communal assault have also grown by leaps and bounds. According to National Crime Records Bureau data for the years 2014 and 2015, Jharkhand is a joint first in terms of communal violence in the country. It recorded 408 incidents of communal violence (349 in 2014 and 69 in 2015), the same as Haryana which reported 207 incidents in 2014 and 201 in 2015.

The latest sectarian killing was committed by the police at Piperwar of Chatra district. Mohammad Salman, a 19-year-old Muslim boy, was dragged out of his house and shot dead by the local police on the night of June 23. The police initially sought to argue that Salman was an extortionist involved in criminal offences and that the police were forced to shoot him when he attacked them. However, this story did not gain credence and public outrage mounted in Piperwar immediately after the killing. So much so, mine workers and villagers struck work in the coal mines in the region. The Home Department was forced to retract the claim and suspend Station House Officer Piperwar Vinod Singh and five other policemen. One constable involved in the action was arrested.

Four days after this, a police team saved Mohammad Usman, a dairy farmer from Barieya village of Giridih district, from a mob that had attacked his house alleging that he had slaughtered a cow. While such actions of the police and the authorities do get reported from time to time, the majority of observers are of the view that the political climate created by the BJP government has allowed Hindutva lumpen elements a free run in the State. In this climate, large sections of the authorities also adopt Hindutva aggression, as was seen in the Piperwar incident. Several activists of minority welfare organisations belonging to both the Christian and Muslim communities told Frontline that there were moves by the government to bring in legislation to curb their activities. “Once that too comes in, the aggressions are bound to rise manifold. Evidently, that is the political objective of the BJP and the Sangh Parivar,” a Christian missionary told Frontline.

The Bihar experience

The communal situation in neighbouring Bihar is starkly different and is made possible by the strict vigil by the authorities and the absence of state patronage to Hindutva hooliganism. Not a single case of gau rakshak vigilantism or mob attacks has been reported from the State throughout 2015-16. Of course, efforts have been made by many Hindutva leaders, including Union Minister Giriraj Singh, to upset the state of affairs with his extremely provocative statements, but each time the Nitish Kumar-led Grand Alliance government of the Janata Dal (United), the Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Congress has held things under control.

The political observer Nalin Verma cites the Bihar experience as an example of how the humane socio-anthropological legacies of a region, including Buddhism, can get reflected in matters of statecraft and influence in moulding society. Evidently, that is not a tradition that the BJP government in Jharkhand wants to follow.





RAJASTHAN





Agendas and action

By T.K. Rajalakshmi



The BJP led by Vasundhara Raje, which formed the government in Rajasthan with a sweeping majority in the Assembly elections held in December 2013, began its innings with controversial labour law reforms. A parallel agenda began to unfold in the fields of education and culture, which entailed a sectarian interpretation of history. Soon enough, the disdain for alternative streams of thought, cultural, social and political, metamorphosed into open aggression against the “other”. At least two attacks against members of the minority community turned fatal. The more recent one was in April 2017 in Alwar where the victim was labelled a “cow smuggler” by State Home Minister Gulab Chand Kataria.

In the third week of March, a 100-strong mob led by the State president of the Rashtriya Mahila Gauraksha Dal stormed the popular Hayat Rabbani Hotel in Jaipur alleging that beef was being served there. According to media reports, the crowd shouted “Bharat Mata ki Jai” and “Narendra Modi zindabad”. At the behest of the local councillor, the Jaipur Municipal Corporation sealed the building. In May, a forensic laboratory certified that samples of the meat seized were not beef. A district and sessions court in Jaipur directed the corporation to lift the seal, but it has not been done to date.

Significantly, Rajasthan is the only State to have a ministry for cow welfare. In an incredulous attempt to glorify the cow, School Education Minister Vasudev Devnani even said the cow was the only animal to inhale and exhale oxygen.

Under the BJP, Rajasthan also became the only State in post-Independence India to have two State universities closed down—the Hardeo Joshi University of Journalism and the B.R. Ambedkar Law University, both set up during Congress regimes. This was revealed following retired professor of sociology Rajiv Gupta’s query made under the Right to Information (RTI) Act to the University Grants Commission.

Changing textbooks

In 2015, drastic changes were made in school textbooks. The emphasis was on the superiority and the exclusiveness of Hindu society and culture, making it synonymous with Indian culture. Nomenclature, myths, folklore, manufacturing of facts and obfuscation of significant but politically inconvenient figures became part of the project to “Indianise education and culture”. For instance, the famous Ajmer Fort built during Akbar’s reign, also called Akbar’s Fort and known for its connection to the trade pact signed between the Mughal ruler Jahangir and Sir Thomas Roe of the East India Company, was renamed without Akbar’s name in it as “Ajmer Ka Qila Aivam Sangrahalaya” (“Demonising Akbar”, Frontline, June 9). No historian or committee of experts was consulted regarding this. Devnani told a prominent daily that the renaming was done to “respect the sentiments of the public”.

The latest preoccupation of various supporters of the ruling party is with the “greatness” of the Rajput ruler Rana Pratap vis-a-vis the “foreign invader” Akbar. Textbooks have been written to underscore the greatness of specific communities and particular historical figures. Dina Nath Batra, the convener of the Shiksha Bachao Andolan Samiti, who rose to fame as the man behind the pulping of the Indologist Wendy Doniger’s books, has been helping with the new textbooks for school education in Rajasthan and also in BJP-ruled Haryana.

Prominent educationists from Delhi and Rajasthan who did a review of the textbooks in 2016 (which were introduced in 2015) found that they were “weak by every parameter of content, knowledge acquisition, pedagogy and scientific temper”. Led by Rajiv Gupta of Rajasthan University and Apoorvanand from the University of Delhi, the review found first and foremost that the Indus Valley Civilisation had been renamed as Sindhu Saraswati Sabhyata, implying that it was part of the Vedic civilisation. The establishment of the antiquity of Vedic society has been central to the idea of a Hindu Rashtra (“Fiction as history”, Frontline, May 12). Similarly, Class 9 textbooks say that Aryans were native to India and that the “Aryas” were “very good people” and praise the caste system.

A chapter on biodiversity in a Class 8 textbook begins with a Hindu religious verse which has no connection with the subject under discussion.

What is of serious concern is the manufacturing of history. Gupta told Frontline that a PhD thesis submitted by a teacher on Rana Pratap’s alleged victory of 1576 at Haldighati over Akbar’s forces, in which the teacher herself claims that it may be a preliminary conclusion, has been accepted as truth by the government and included in the syllabus of history in Rajasthan University. “The idea is to project that between ancient India and Modi’s India, there was nothing,” said Gupta, referring to the Sangh Parivar’s rejection of the idea of medieval India.

Films are also viewed through the lens of identity and sectarian politics. In January, director Sanjay Leela Bhansali, who was at the receiving end of Maratha identity politics for his film Bajirao Mastani, was attacked in Jaipur by members of the Karni Sena, a Rajput organisation, for his film Padmavati(“Targeting a film-maker”, Frontline, March 3). The film was on the fictional romance of Allauddin Khilji and Princess Padmini of Chittor. Many prominent names from the industry supported Bhansali, who wrapped up shooting after the assault. A tweet by the actor Shahid Kapoor at that time sums up the feelings of many people: “We need to look deep within as a society, as a country, as a people. Where are we headed.”





MAHARASHTRA





Moving away from multiculturalism

By Lyla Bavadam



Abou and Rabia, who were house-hunting, thought they could sell their small flat in the suburb of Andheri in Mumbai and buy a larger one in the same area—a convenience they were keen on because of their children’s schools. But after five years of being turned down because of their Muslim identity, the couple finally moved to Vasai in the neighbouring district of Thane. When they did find a home, Rabia recalls how terrified she was that this too would slip away when she told the potential sellers that they were Muslims. Fortunately the seller said neither she nor her building society was concerned with their religion and the sale went through. If the couple had been Kashmiri Muslims or, worse still, bachelors, the experience would have been nightmarish.

Maharashtra’s cosmopolitan report card has largely remained without blemish, but with Hindutva ideas gradually taking seed there are increasing examples of polarisation along communal lines. At the top of the list is Muslim baiting. At its simplest level, it is to taunt Muslims telling them they are nothing but converts from Hinduism (implying that they were low on the caste scale).

At a more dangerous level it is the deification of the cow. Sacred to Hindus but not to Muslims, the animal has become a pawn in the Hindutva game which prompted the ban on beef. It is difficult to say if Maharashtra actually supported the beef ban or just fell in line because of the violence of vigilantes, but food has become a divisive factor, especially in Mumbai. There are entire housing societies that admit only vegetarians. The underlying reason is usually to give entry only to a particular community because often vegetarian non-Hindus too are denied entry. This food tyranny reached its pinnacle in Mumbai’s Malabar Hill area where a predominantly Gujarati Jain population managed to hound out even non-vegetarian restaurants.

While Muslims are prime targets, Christians have increasingly been victimised ostensibly because of proselytising but all too frequently the real reason is something as base as an attempt to grab property owned by them.

Cult creation

Proponents of Hindutva are also involved in the creation of a cult, like that of the warrior king Shivaji. The cash-strapped Maharashtra government is determined to erect a mid-sea statue of Shivaji at a cost of Rs.3,600 crore. A criminal and ferocious outcome of such deification was the 2014 lynching of a 28-year-old Muslim techie in Pune for his alleged involvement in posting some photographs denigrating Shivaji on a Facebook page. His murderers were members of the Hindu Rashtra Sena, a fringe Hindutva group.

The Shiv Sena has built itself up as the self-proclaimed keeper of the faith purely by its anti-Muslim rhetoric. The worst of this was seen in the post-Babri Masjid demolition riots in 1992-93 in Mumbai. In those dark days, a vicious fashion police targeted anyone who wore the salwar kameez. In an obvious plan to intimidate Muslims they held massive public aartis (a ritual) on the streets.

Promoters of Hindu Rashtra see secularism as inimical to their cause as was obvious by the murders of rationalist and superstition-buster Dr Narendra Dabholkar and the Communist leader Govind Pansare. Investigations have revealed the involvement of Sanatan Sanstha, a Hindu revivalist group, in the murders.

Although Maharashtra still preserves a strong vein of liberal thinking, the irony is that it is the birthplace of Hindu nationalism. V.D. Savarkar wrote “Hindutva: Who is a Hindu” when he was jailed in Ratnagiri, in Maharashtra, in the 1920s. His thinking influenced another Maharashtrian, K.B. Hedgewar, who founded the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) in Nagpur which was then in the erstwhile Central Provinces. An offshoot of the RSS is the Vanvasi Kalyan Kendra, which aims to convert non-Hindu tribal people “back to their Hindu roots”. All these people and organisations have defined what Hindu nationalism is today and while the idea of a Hindu Rashtra or nation is not yet aggressively pursued in Maharashtra, there is an insidious shift in the thinking.





KARNATAKA





Emerging hub of Hindutva

By Vikhar Ahmed Sayeed



Like in the rest of the country, Hindutva activists have been emboldened in Karnataka since the Narendra Modi-led BJP government came to power at the Centre in 2014. One of the incidents that shook Karnataka and the nation was the murder of Prof. M.M. Kalburgi at his house in Dharwad in north Karnataka on August 30, 2015. Kalburgi was an outspoken critic of Hindutva forces. Through his scholarly work, he had demonstrated that the numerically strong and politically influential Lingayat community had a distinct identity that was not Hindu. Many in the BJP did not like his assertion about this as the party’s social base had widened among the Lingayats over the past three decades. Almost two years after the incident, the assailants have not been captured. The murder followed similar attacks on progressive intellectuals such as Narendra Dabholkar and Govind Pansare in Maharashtra.

On July 11 last year, a day before the shocking video of Dalits in Una, where four men were beaten up for skinning a dead cow, came to light, a similar incident took place in Shantipura village of Chikkamagaluru district of Karnataka. Around 25 members of right-wing groups such as the Bajrang Dal, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the Hindu Jagarana Vedike (HJV) thrashed five Dalit men on suspicion that they had stolen a cow and slaughtered it. The fact that the Karnataka Prevention of Cow Slaughter and Cattle Preservation Act of 1964 allows for the selective slaughter of cattle in the State did not prevent them from attacking the five Dalits, including a physically challenged person called Balaraj.

Later that month, two Assamese labourers became targets of Bajrang Dal activists who asked them to return to where they had come from. The bulk of the labourers working in the coffee plantations in Chikkamagaluru are Muslims.

The saffronisation of Chikkamagaluru, which adjoins the “Hindutva laboratory” of coastal Karnataka, has been going on since the mid 1990s when the Hindu right-wing saw a vested interest in transforming the syncretic shrine of Guru Dattatreya Baba Budan Swamy Dargah in the hills into a “disputed” site. Since 2014, saffron activists under prominent BJP leaders have been targeting minorities and Dalits.

Coastal Karnataka

Coastal Karnataka, which has emerged as a hub of aggressive Hindutva, saw the Sangh Parivar taking the life of one of its own in August last year. Praveen Poojary, a 28-year-old member of the BJP, was beaten to death by cow protection vigilantes belonging to the HJV in Hebri, a small town in Udupi district. They claimed he was transporting cows in his vehicle.

There have also been several reports of Hindu and Muslim youngsters, especially of different genders, being prevented from fraternising with each other. In one of these incidents, a Muslim man was stripped and beaten mercilessly by Hindu right-wing activists after he was seen with a Hindu girl. The video was circulated on social media.

On June 13, a communal clash erupted in the town of Kalladka, around 30 km from Mangaluru. Kalladka is home to Dr Kalladka Prabhakar Bhat, a senior leader of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) from Karnataka who freely speaks against religious minorities. Videos of him spewing venom against Muslims and Christians are available online. A trivial issue led to the communal clash, but members of the HJV were openly threatening Muslims at the time.





ODISHA





Shifting into top gear

By Prafulla Das



At least three recent incidents in Odisha make it clear that Sangh Parivar outfits have gone into overdrive in the State. Significantly, the new-found enthusiasm among them follows the BJP’s emergence as the principal opposition party overtaking the Congress in the panchayat elections in February.

Violence struck the communally sensitive Bhadrak town during the Ramnavami festival in the first week of April. Although there was no loss of life, Bajrang Dal activists were out on the streets demanding action against those who apparently had posted derogatory remarks about Hindu deities on social media. About 150 persons were arrested even as a curfew remained in force in the town for several days. Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik visited the town to take stock of the situation before peace was finally restored.

The violence occurred days before the BJP held its National Executive meeting in Bhubaneswar with great fanfare. Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a road show on his arrival in the city in April to attend the two-day meeting.

Bajrang Dal activists were again in the news when they detained a train carrying cows at the Bhubaneswar railway station on May 24 evening and attacked four persons, including railway staff and caretakers of the cows. The 20 milch cows on the train were being transported to Meghalaya as part of the dairy mission in that State. That the firm selected by the Meghalaya government had valid papers to transport the cows from Salem in Tamil Nadu to Ampati in Meghalaya was of no significance to the group of about 20 people who attacked the train in the belief that the cows were being smuggled.

Surprisingly, the railway police failed to detain any of the attackers. Later, the Bhubaneswar station superintendent lodged a complaint with the Government Railway Police and eight youths were booked after they were identified from CCTV footage.

Again, on June 11, Bajrang Dal activists took out a rally in Boriguma block of Koraput district raising slogans against minority communities. The representatives of minority communities met the district administration officials to complain against it after a video clip of the rally made the rounds on social media.

Sangh Parivar activists who have entered the party fold have drawn up different strategies to improve the strength of the BJP. A 10-member delegation of the Sangh Parivar attended the recent Hindu convention held by the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti in Goa to discuss Hindu Rashtra.

Odisha is not new to cow vigilantism and violence in the name of faith. Dara Singh, the prime accused in the killing of the Australian missionary Graham Staines and his two sons in Keonjhar district, has a history of attacking vehicles carrying cattle in the late 1990s.

Kandhamal district witnessed the worst ever communal violence in the State’s history when the Biju Janata Dal and the BJP were running the government in coalition from 2000 to 2009. Many Christians were killed and their houses burnt down in the violence that erupted in the aftermath of the killing of Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Swami Lakshmanananda. In fact, the Sangh Parivar spread its wings when the BJP was a part of the ruling establishment. Hundreds of schools were opened across the State under the banner of Saraswati Shishu Mandir and Saraswati Vidya Mandir.

Though the Sangh Parivar outfits went about their work silently in the State from 2009 onwards, they came to the fore after Modi assumed power in Delhi. Their activities gained momentum after Yogi Adityanath became the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh and the BJP put up a good performance in the panchayat elections in Odisha. Although the BJP’s performance in the civic body elections can primarily be attributed to the anti-incumbency sentiment against the BJD government and the severe infighting in the State unit of the Congress, Sangh Parivar outfits and the BJP are busy highlighting Brand Modi in the party’s bid to implement its “Look East” policy.

Non-RSS leaders, including Bijoy Mohapatra and Dilip Roy, who joined the BJP and were made members of the party’s National Executive, have been sidelined in the new avatar of the party.

The BJP is now trying to enhance its presence by highlighting welfare schemes on the plank of Modi’s “Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas” slogan and by organising Modi fests. And Sangh Parivar organisations are busy wooing unemployed youths at the grass-roots level into their fold. Literate youths are also engaged in increasing the Sangh Parivar’s penetration on social media.





ASSAM





Catching them young

By Sushanta Talukdar



In June 2016, when State Education Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma pronounced the BJP-led government’s desire to set up Shankardev Shishu Niketans in every panchayat in Assam, many people objected to the idea in their comments in mainstream and social media. Shankardev Shishu Niketans are a network of schools affiliated to the Vidya Bharati Akhil Bharatiya Shiksha Sansthan, the educational wing of the RSS. The disapproval of the people was mainly because of their belief that an institution named after Srimanta Sankardeva could not be used to indoctrinate students with Hindutva ideology and Hindu Rashtra.

Srimanta Sankardeva (1449-1569), the propagator of Eksarana Naamdharma (a Vaishnava faith), was one who ushered in a sociocultural renaissance in Assam. He has influenced the Assamese way of life with his ideals of an inclusive society for six centuries.

The noted Indologist Dr Maheswar Neog, in his book Sankardeva (published by the National Book Trust), writes: “In Sankardeva’s system, therefore, we find Brahman disciples of Sudra teachers, and even people who are untouchables in other parts of India in the following of Brahman mahantas. We also find a Brahman occupying superiorship of a sattra in succession to a Sudra. Nobody, on the other hand, is to be considered unfit for securing initiation to the faith on caste considerations. Among the disciples of Sankardeva and Madhavdeva were Chandsai and Jayhari, both Mussalmans; Govinda, a Garo; Jayananda, a Bhutiya; Madhava of Jayanti of the Hira or potter’s profession; Srirama, believed to have been a Kaivarta; and Damodara, a Baniya.”

The Shankardev Shishu Niketan schools were just a camouflage for the RSS’ game plan to indoctrinate students with Hindutva ideology.

The Shishu Shiksha Samiti, a registered society formed on April 21, 1979, runs the schools. The promoters of the Samiti decided to name the Vidya Bharati schools in Assam after Sankardeva. Shankardev Shishu Niketan, Ambikagiri Nagar, was the first school established by the Samiti in Assam. Over the past 38 years the number of these schools in Assam has gone up to 493, with 1,19,000 pupils.

The vision of the Shishu Shiksha Samiti, Assam, as stated on its website www.vbassam.org, is: “Vidya Bharati is of firm opinion that education will be useful for a person and nation at large which has its roots in Hindutva. So, it is crystal clear that revival of Hindu Philosophy will be all of our educational Renaissance. The aim of education and the basic concepts of the development of the personality of the child are based of [on] this philosophy.”

One of its publications, the Vidya Bharati Sangbad, in its January-March 2016 issue which is uploaded on the website, gives an idea on how young minds are indoctrinated in these schools. The issue has an article on the significance of the “Hindu New Year Day” and how it coincides with the birth anniversary of RSS founder K.B. Hedgewar on April 1, 1889. However, there is no reference to Sankardeva or the Assamese New Year which begins in mid April.

Also on the website is a sample form that is required to be filled in by every Shankardev Shishu Niketan and submitted to the Shishu Shiksha Samiti, Assam, which says a lot about the activities undertaken by these schools. Among other information required to be provided are whether the schools have observed the Hindu Samrajya Divas, the Swadeshi Saptah (a week-long event to mark the birth anniversary of Pandit Deendayal Upadhyay on September 25 and Mahatma Gandhi on October 2), the Guru Purnima Divas, and the Jammu and Kashmir Biloy Divas (the Accession of Jammu and Kashmir on October 26). The column seeking information on the observance of the death anniversary of Sankardeva figures at the bottom of the list.

Whether the government will facilitate the running of Shankardev Shishu Niketans in every panchayat remains to be seen, but the Education Minister’s statement is a pointer to the Sangh Parivar’s plans to saffronise education in the State. It also reveals a devious design to use Sankardeva’s name to replace his vision of an inclusive society with the vision of a “Hindu Rashtra”.

Deprivation tales

the-nation

Six postgraduate students live in each room of about 300 square feet in the 24 hostels located on the Osmania campus. At least six or seven of these hostels are unfit for any use.

Kaveri Hostel is a single-storied, asbestos-roofed complex with rudimentary metal beds and crumbling shelves. In room number 24 lives 28-year-old Rajinder Chamar from Warangal, who is pursuing a master’s in psychology. He already has a master’s in chemistry and tried to get a job at one of the many pharmaceutical companies in Hyderabad. He could not get through, because, he says, the company owners prefer to employ people from their own caste. Rajinder is a Dalit. He obtained a bachelor’s and a master’s in education but has not been able to find a teaching job. To remain in Hyderabad, he enrolled for a master’s in psychology at Osmania. The story is the same with 30-year-old Akkula Rajkumar, also from Warangal, who has enrolled in a master’s in philosophy after having obtained a master’s in physics. Rajkumar says he simply cannot afford to rent accommodation in Hyderabad while he looks for a job in the city.

Azad, alias Odelu Bouthu, who led the 14-party Osmania University Telangana Joint Action Committee (OUJAC) in the last phase of the struggle, said: “Neelu, Nidhilu, Niyammakalu—that slogan remains unfulfilled.” That was Chief Minister Rao’s oft-repeated slogan seeking “water, funds, employment”. Azad is a 28-year-old from Warangal pursuing a master’s in philosophy. He belongs to the radical left that played a key role in the TRS capturing power. He said most postgraduate students are so desperate that they are content with getting low-level jobs in the police department.

Kunal Shankar

Case for inclusive courts

This is an important book on public interest litigation (PIL) in India. It traces the origins and history of the development of PIL and argues that the enormous powers that the PIL confers upon the appellate judiciary stem from its populist character. In its different chapters, the book outlines the pitfalls and drawbacks of PILs, and strongly critiques the political role that they have come to play in the country. Anuj Bhuwania argues that PIL procedures evolved by courts are undemocratic and exclusionary, and that the new generation of PILs entertained by the courts is of a very different kind from the original votaries of PIL.

What Justice P.N. Bhagwati termed “public interest litigation” in the 1980s, Prof. Upendra Baxi chose to rename “social action litigation”. There is a reason for this distinction. The term “public interest litigation” originated in the United States, and it meant litigation in the interest of the public. By terming it “social action litigation”, Prof. Baxi envisaged it to be litigation and judicial activism aimed at social transformation and access to justice for the most marginalised and vulnerable.

Right to sue

In PUDR vs Union of India, in 1982, Justice Bhagwati defined PIL to be any litigation which was a collaborative effort between the petitioners and the state or public authorities to secure the observance of constitutional or legal rights for the most vulnerable. In order to enable this, the Supreme Court devised an expanded notion of locus standi or the right to sue. Under this expanded notion of standing, any member of the public, acting bona fide, could move the court for judicial redress of any legal injury or wrong suffered by such person or class of persons, and this could be done even by writing a letter to the court. It was also expanded in cases where there was a general breach of public duty by the state or a public authority or from the violation of the Constitution or any law. Justice Bhagwati stated: “Having regard to the peculiar socio-economic conditions prevailing in the country where there is considerable poverty, illiteracy and ignorance obstructing and impeding accessibility to the judicial process, it would result in closing the doors of justice to the poor and deprived sections of the community if the traditional rule of standing evolved by Anglo-Saxon jurisprudence that only a person wronged can sue for judicial redress were to be blindly adhered to and followed and it is therefore necessary to evolve a new strategy by relaxing this traditional rule of standing in order that justice may be available to the lowly and the lost.”

This expansion of standing led to an incredible opening up of access to courts for marginalised groups that would otherwise have been unable to do so. Thus, in Fertilizer Corporation Kamgar Union vs Union of India, when the factory plants and equipment of fertilizer factories set up by the Fertilizer Corporation of India were being sold, the Supreme Court with the expansion of locus standi allowed the workers’ union to file a petition challenging such a sale as it directly affected their right to livelihood. This would not have been possible without the expanded procedural rules for standing.

The central argument of “Courting the People” is that with the development of the PIL jurisdiction, the Supreme Court devised new procedures, thereby giving itself unlimited power, and dispensed with the existing rules of procedure as unnecessary, resulting in a kind of panchayat justice being delivered. Bhuwania argues that “PIL was a tragedy to begin with and has over time become a dangerous farce.” These are strong claims and I will respond to them in this review.

Some of the special procedures Bhuwania refers to are expansion of locus standi, setting up of court-appointed fact-finding commissions, the appointment of amicus curiae, the expansion of remedies and the granting of continuing mandamus orders. Only the expansion of standing is a special procedure devised by the Supreme Court for enabling PILs. All other special procedures Bhuwania refers to are used by courts in all kinds of proceedings. This is demonstrated by Bhuwania himself when he refers to the ad hoc manner in which the Supreme Court agreed to the settlement in the Bhopal gas leak case in Union Carbide vs Union of India, which was not a PIL but an appeal on claims made under the Bhopal Gas Leak Disaster (Registration and Processing of Claims) Act, 1985, for compensation. Thus, his argument that “PIL styled” procedures are used indiscriminately by courts is weak because these procedures neither originated through public interest litigation nor were propagated by it.

In the chapter titled “Competing Populisms”, Bhuwania discusses the trend of the Supreme Court appointing amicus curiae in PILs.

The concept of amicus

His criticism of the manner in which the amicus curiae is appointed is important and useful because there is not much literature on how an amicus curiae is appointed in India. Amicus curiae literally means “friend of the court”. In many cases, courts have the discretion to inform themselves of the facts beyond the scope of judicial notice and act upon them in order to prevent miscarriage of justice. A court may frequently require more than the assistance that is usually provided by counsel to the parties to a case. A custom was thus adopted of allowing counsel unconnected with a case to give advice, either on the request of the court or by its permission, as amicus curiae.

However, the judicial use of the amicus curiae status has undergone much change and modification, not just in India but in other Anglo-American jurisdictions as well. In the United States, it has evolved into a means of representing third party interests potentially affected by ongoing litigation. As Michael K. Lowman writes in his article in American University Law Review 1, when higher courts had to confront ever more complex cases and sought innovative techniques to manage judicial resources and secure fair representation of interests outside their jurisdiction, the device of the amicus curiae provided a potential solution. Judges sought to maximise the amicus curiae’s adaptability and allowed “litigating amicus curiae” to participate in matters before their courts.

In India, too, as evidenced by Bhuwania, courts allow amici to perform various roles normally reserved for party participants in the litigation, such as responding to pleadings of the parties, submitting reports, reviewing evidence and even making submissions on behalf of other intervenors. Courts in India have appointed “litigating amicus” not only in PILs but also in a wide range of cases. Recently the Supreme Court appointed two senior counsels as amici curiae in the criminal appeal in the Nirbhaya case. Even the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) petitions that Bhuwania refers to consisted of an appeal against the order of acquittal by a fast-track court in Gujarat, and a separate transfer petition where the NHRC sought for the trial of the Gujarat riot cases outside of Gujarat and the Supreme Court appointed an amicus.

In trying to deal with the complexity of the cases before them, courts have enlarged the role of the amicus curiae to such extremes that it puts at risk the procedural norms of hearing parties in a fair manner. In some instances, as Bhuwania has pointed out, the litigating amicus even replaces the petitioner. He points out how in the T.N. Godavarman Thirumulpad and Others vs Union of India PIL known more commonly as the “Forest Case”, filed originally to protect forest areas in the Nilgiris and Kerala, the amicus was filing applications for directions and court orders and had almost taken the role of the petitioner’s counsel.

As Lowman notes, when courts are faced with large, unwieldy petitions that often involve multiple parties and complex issues—social, factual or scientific—that demand more judicial time and resources, they see the use of the amicus curiae as a potential solution to overcome some of these difficulties. But in their anxiety to address these problems, the enlarged role of the amicus has often led to the ousting of the affected persons intervening as parties or even being heard—exactly what the amicus was supposed to aid, not deter. The High Courts and the Supreme Court often appoint an amicus in PILs from a handful of well-known senior counsels. Because of the great influence many of these senior counsels wield and the complexity of the petitions, the courts give them roles and power that go much beyond the powers of an amicus.

If we want to revitalise our PIL process substantively, the role of the amicus curiae should be used in a balanced manner, where it remains flexible, but with safeguards. Courts should ensure that the amicus does not cross the threshold and replace parties; they should appoint an amicus based on his/her special expertise and knowledge, allowing experts to come in; they should also ensure that the amicus is not allowed to decide on intervening parties, as to who gets heard and who does not. This would ensure that the amicus does not usurp the powers of the court.

Anti-poor bias

In the chapter titled “PIL as a slum demolition machine”, Bhuwania reviews a set of cases in the Delhi High Court centred on slum evictions. He argues that the kind of power the PIL vests in judges “actually empowers them to act on their biases (aesthetic, anti-poor or otherwise) and that too with a free hand, in a most expansive manner, unconstrained by technicalities and rules of adjudication, and on such flimsy evidence as random photographs”. This chapter is informative and interesting because it discusses threadbare many of the slum eviction cases of the Delhi High Court, provides extracts of some of the orders and throws light on case proceedings. However, would it not be more appropriate to understand the issue discussed in this chapter in terms of what happened in these particular cases in the Delhi High Court and not as a PIL-induced problem?

The Delhi High Court cases referred to in this chapter were mainly PILs filed by resident welfare associations for the removal of slums. There is an argument that often slum dwellers were not made parties to such slum eviction petitions, but the chapter mentions that in the lead petition in Pitam Pura Sudhar Samiti vs NCT Delhi, there were a batch of petitions filed by the slum dwellers themselves and all the petitions were decided together. The chapter also describes a controversial judgment of the Delhi High Court in the Okhla Factory Owners Association case where it set aside the slum redevelopment policy that was in place. The Supreme Court set this judgment aside subsequently. If these cases were used to support an argument against public interest litigation, that would not explain why the Supreme Court set aside the Delhi High Court orders under the very same PIL jurisdiction.

Bhuwania’s argument that the High Court would have been restricted by procedural norms in non-PIL cases but was able to pass orders to carry out large-scale slum demolitions only because of the malleable jurisdiction of the PIL is also flawed. The courts have wide procedural powers and have often used them in a completely ad hoc manner even in non-PIL cases. One glaring example would be the manner in which the Supreme Court ordered a medical check-up of Justice C.S. Karnan and subsequently issued an arrest warrant against him without any procedural basis for the same. Hence, we need to address the manner of legal informalism in which our courts function and understand that this is a problem that affects not just PILs but all adjudication in general.

I agree with Bhuwania's observations that the courts are biased against the poor. There is some, although not sufficient, empirical work done on this subject. The anti-poor bias of the courts has been reflected in the death penalty study by NLU Delhi (which showed the more than 75 per cent of the prisoners on death row were from economically vulnerable backgrounds), as also in the work of Balakrishnan Rajagopal. However, this only shows that such a bias, if present, is not PIL-induced and is indeed a core problem with our courts and judges that needs to be tackled head-on.

Going forward

So where do we go from here? While Bhuwania dismisses PIL as dangerous and its procedures as undemocratic, I am far more optimistic of the role that the courts can play in social transformation through social action litigation. The radical procedural innovation of liberalising standing has led to the protection of the right to food, the right to livelihood, the right to health, and the right against sexual harassment and made justiciable innumerable other socio-economic rights that would not have been possible otherwise. Bhuwania’s caution against PILs should be read, instead, as an argument to improve PIL procedures in order to revitalise social justice litigation and restore legitimacy to the courts.

First, there has to be some measure of predictability to the process of the courts. That this is not limited to PILs is endorsed by Bhuwania himself when he states: “The institutional impact of such legal informalism is not limited to PIL jurisdiction alone. It has infected every part of the legal system.” As Balakrishnan Rajagopal succinctly states in his piece “Judicial Governance and Ideology” 2, despite its laudable activism in human rights, the “Supreme Court’s record is characterised by a serious measure of substantive ad hocism”.

In a particular case, the court might get extremely technical and legalistic, whereas in another petition, it would use its broad constitutional adjudication powers to pass unprecedented orders without insisting on procedure. This unpredictability is heightened by the fact that there are different judges sitting in different benches and a single petition can completely change its course depending on the judge hearing it. For social justice litigation to be effective, there has to be predictability of both substantive and procedural aspects.

Secondly, if we need to restore legitimacy to PILs, as Krishnaswamy and Saikumar note in their piece titled “Restoring Legitimacy to PILs” 3, we need to ensure that the radical procedural innovation of the Supreme Court in PIL is used for the truly unrepresented, for those who do not have access to courts, and not to provide a forum for partisan interest groups.

And, finally, in response to the strong anti-poor bias pointed out by Bhuwania in the slum removal cases, it is a fact that in the last two decades, with a few exceptions, courts have failed to protect crucial rights affecting the poorest and most vulnerable such as the right to housing, to livelihood and tribal rights,among others, while they have rushed in to protect the right to environment and other civil and political rights.

Social action litigation in its revitalised avatar should reaffirm its goals of access for the most marginalised. The courts need to ensure that the poor, the homeless, slum dwellers, Dalits, sexual minorities, women, persons with disabilities and minorities are not only not excluded but also placed centre stage if they want to play a significant role in social transformation.

Footnotes:

1. Lowman, Michael K. "The Litigating Amicus Curiae: When Does the Party Begin after the Friends Leave", American University Law Review 41, no.4 (1992): 1243-1299.

2. B. Rajagopal, " Judicial Governance and Ideology" in C. Raj Kumar and K. Chockalingam (eds.) 'Human rights, justice, and Constitutional Empowerment' (OUP New Delhi 2012)

3. S. Krishnaswamy and R. Saikumar "Restoring Legitimacy to PILs", The Hindu, May 3, 2014, and available at: https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/restoring-legitimacy-to-pils/article5970631.ece

Jayna Kothari is an advocate practising in the Karnataka High Court and in the Supreme Court and is executive director, Centre for Law and Policy Research, Bengaluru.

Economics with a human face

ECONOMICS is among the subjects highly sought after by students when they turn to collegiate education. With economic aspects very much in the news emphasising the role of the market and of corporations, job prospects may be the main reason, and rightly so, for the preference for the subject. For over a century, economics has had the reputation of being a “science”, unlike most other disciplines in the humanities such as history, politics and sociology.

In fact, in the second half of the 19th century, some economists, chief among them a French engineer-turned-economist by the name Leon Walras had made a deliberate attempt to convert economics into a “physico-mathematical science” with a unifying principle similar to Newtonian physics. Later in the century, Alfred Marshall, Professor of Economics at Cambridge University, brought out a textbook titled Principles of Economics with very little mathematics explicitly, but using diagrams (among them the most familiar being the intersecting of the “supply and demand curves” determining equilibrium prices). In the first half of the 20th century, Marshall’s Principles entered colleges and universities throughout the English-speaking world. Then came Paul Samuelson’s 1948 publication, Economics: An Introductory Analysis (from its 1964 sixth edition titled just Economics), which replaced Marshall’s work not only in the English-speaking world but in Japan and, to a large extent, even in many countries in Europe.

A rigorous mathematical model of what was by then known as the “competitive economy” was presented by two American economists, Kenneth Arrow and Gerald Debreu, in 1954 showing how the allocation of resources by the market with competitive conditions was superior to what a socialist regime could achieve through administrative decisions. (Both these economists later won the Nobel Prize, Arrow specifically for his work on the competitive economy.) From then on, this version of economics, widely known as “neoclassical economics” (different from “classical economics” of Adam Smith and David Ricardo, and Marxian economics and “institutional economics” propagated by some early American economists), has reigned supreme.

There has been growing discontent mainly because of the disconnect between the rigour of the theory and its relevance to real-life conditions. In the real world, markets did not seem to work according to the tenets of the neoclassical theory. Many questioned the basic assumptions of that theory: that all who enter into exchange transactions are “maximisers”, producers maximising profit and consumers maximising “satisfaction”, and that this follows from all decision-makers being “rational”; that information is freely and equally available to all participants; that production, whether large-scale or small-scale, will have the same cost per unit of output; and many more. To begin with, questions arose from students who were more interested in the relevance of the theory than in its rigour, and felt that economics as a discipline was narrow and inward-looking. In Sydney, Paris, Cambridge and other centres, students started demanding that teaching of economics be radically transformed. Fairly soon, senior economists from different parts of the globe came forward to champion the cause.

What really shook the complaisant attitude to economics came from real life, the 2007-08 meltdown, which hardly any economist had anticipated, but which soon became “global”. There were other global experiences, too: growing inequality of incomes and wealth; “jobless growth”; the recognition that the earth’s natural resources were being rapidly depleted and that global warming and air pollution were affecting not only economic activity but also the health of people in practically all parts of the world.

It is against this background that Kate Raworth, who teaches at Oxford University’s Environmental Change Institute and is focussed on exploring the economic thinking needed to address the 21st century’s social and ecological challenges, puts forward her suggestions for reworking economics for the future. Judiciously combining history, theory, anecdotes and diagrams, she provides a narrative that is easy to follow. I shall not try to summarise all her recommendations but shall concentrate on a few.

The thrust of her arguments is that if one is to see the mismatch between the problems to be solved and theory’s failure to deal with them, one has to recognise that economics not only deals with some narrowly defined issues but is also part of the attempt to understand and resolve complex problems of society at large. The inner boundary of her “doughnut”, therefore, is appropriately titled “social foundations” and the outer boundary is an ecological ceiling of planetary pressure that should not be exceeded. To paraphrase, economics as a discipline must have two foci: how to ensure tolerable living conditions for all human beings and how not to exceed the upper limit of the ecological ceiling. Stated thus, it appears not only noble but even reasonable. However, it goes against the scientific discipline of economics, especially its neoclassical version which is averse to any policy objectives and assumes that the only prescriptive statement it makes is to leave all economic decisions to respond to signals that the market provides.

At a different level, the only policy objective that is compatible with a “neutral” scientific approach in economics is to pursue growth of income. At the national level, it implies maximising the value of total output represented by the gross domestic product (GDP) on the assumption that when output increases everyone will be better off, possibly unequally so. That being the case, the author’s first suggestion is that there must be a change in goals. She suggests “meeting the human rights of every person within the means of our life-giving planet” as the new goal. It may be noted that whether economists agree with this proposition or not, at the global level and via the United Nations’ efforts, there is a general acceptance of this goal. To achieve this goal, it is necessary to think of the economy as embedded within society and nature. It also calls for a different understanding of human nature. The decision-makers of neoclassical economics are “maximising” individuals who enter into market transactions as self-interested and calculating beings. A different and more realistic understanding of human beings as social, interdependent, willing to share and learning through experience is necessary for a new economics. To cater to the needs of a growing population and to raise the standards of living, increase in output is necessary; but it is not necessary to make a cult of growth.

Resource power

To be agnostic about growth does not mean being indifferent about it or refusing to measure it. It means promoting human welfare whether GDP is “going up, down or holding steady”. That is more easily said than done.

The author recognises that the underlying problem is not merely economics as a discipline, but that it is set within the mould of the capitalist system with neoclassical economics being its brand ambassador. While claims are made, including by some well-known economists, that under capitalism the consumer is king, the reality is that the market is substantially controlled by those whose profits depend on persuading everyone to buy more and more. What the market needs are customers; it is immaterial whether they consume or not, but they must purchase.

Theory is silent on the fact that purchasing power arises from resource power, which, in turn, depends largely on the pattern of ownership of resources. The market is driven not by tastes and preferences but essentially by those who have the power to purchase.

In the present phase of capitalism dominated by finance, the market has become even more powerful because transactions, instead of production, have become the main source of income and even of wealth, especially for those who are already wealthy. The ethos is different from what it was in the early stages of capitalism where the owners of capital were accumulating wealth but were using it for increasing production and thus ensuring growth of goods. By contrast, we are now at a stage where the pursuit of growth is largely the pursuit of financial assets, of claims rather than goods, neglecting the basic needs of those who are deprived of possessions. At the same time to the extent that production also is increasing without adequate protection for natural resources and the environment, prospects for the future do not appear to be promising.

What the author aims at is to warn about the great crisis that awaits humanity if the present economic policies based on misinterpretations of economic processes are not altered radically. However, she is not a prophet of doom. She provides something of a new road map for the future, specifically of economic thinking and action. A worthwhile and challenging beginning, indeed.

Scars of memory

SHORTLY after the Gujarat pogrom in 2002, Narendra Modi, then the Chief Minister of the State, launched a Gujarat Gaurav Yatra ( Frontline, October 25, 2002). Speaking at the yatra rally at Becharaji in Mehsana district in northern Gujarat, he is reported to have said, “Hum paanch, hamare pachees” (we five, ours 25), alluding to the imagined explosion of the Muslim population. He mocked the members of the Muslim community who found themselves in relief camps and temporary dwellings as the state failed to protect their life, limb and property. Yet Modi could not help saying: “What should we do? Run relief camps for them? Do we want to open baby-producing centres? But for certain people that means hum paanch, hamare pachees.” He then went on to communalise water, too, wondering whether the Congress would criticise him for bringing Narmada water to the Sabarmati river basin in the Hindu holy month of Shravan and not in the Muslim month of Ramzan.

Modi’s remarks provoked a wave of anger and protests. Members of civil society, trying to help Muslims find their feet again, were shell-shocked at the gross insensitivity of the Chief Minister mocking his own people, who had seen their houses burned down before their eyes, their life’s savings looted and their lives turned upside down. Worse still, their girls and women were raped and elderly members of the community hacked to death. Yet, the Chief Minister could only think of them as baby-producing factories and not about rebuilding their homes or providing justice.

Modi the BJP leader held sway that day at Becharaji; Modi the human being lost badly. More than 15 years later, the insults he heaped on the beleaguered Muslim community came back to mind as I read Rupture, Loss and Living: Minority Women Speak about Post-Conflict Life.

The book brings out the horrifying stories of the women victims of mass violence, of women longing to belong, of displacement and yearning to return to the place they called their home. In story after story, sentence after sentence and word after word, the authors K. Lalita and Deepa Dhanraj touch upon old wounds and leave you feeling hurt, angry and ashamed all over again. These women deserve better. This is a book that is not to be read in a hurry. It is a book that essentially says something that has not been said earlier. Yet, it says something that deserves and needs to be said all over again in 2017 as fury manifests on roadsides in the form of lynching of innocent cattle owners. Lalita and Deepa Dhanraj open a review window; the look is still ugly and despicable. For the media, every riot begins as breaking news and is soon consigned to the dustbin of history. For politicians, it is an opportunity. For the victims of communal violence, the passage of years does little to heal their wounds. Distance in time does not diminish the trauma. All that they want is to go back to the time when life was peaceful and neighbours cutting across religions shared a camaraderie.

As Salmaben of Sabarkantha says: “We shall get killed but we shall go back to our place.” She had 52 bighas (8.3 hectares) of land in Sabarkantha. When the hate violence gripped the State, several families of the village were killed. Salmaben escaped in a Tempo Traveller along with 83 others. Only 17 survived and Salmaben was one of them. She was a midwife and had even worked with the government’s Adult Education Department. All she longed for after escaping was to go back to her fields where she grew lentils, groundnut, chillies and wheat.

Salmaben continues to live in hope, her displacement still palpable. The only consolation is that she is not alone in her predicament. There is Sajidaben, too. Her house was reduced to cinders by hooligans. When she went back to survey the wreckage, she found that the walls were broken and the house was burnt. She found water flowing out of a broken tap and set about plugging the leak with rolled rag. Although she lost everything, Sajidaben still felt it was her place. The authors write: “It is poignant that Sajidaben makes an effort to seal the broken water tap in a house that no longer really existed. Why does she even remember the water gushing out? Did the gesture simply indicate a claiming of what was once hers, or does it perhaps also point to the very deep connection she has with the physical and emotional space that represents ‘home’?”

Salmaben, Sajidaben and the rest of the victims were uprooted from the place they had called their home for 30, 50 or even 70 years. Every brick of the house, a tuft of grass, a bit of soot meant so much to them. It gave them a sense of belonging, a sense of ownership. Yet the question is: belonging to whom, to what? Ownership of what? The houses were all gone, even many family members had perished. All that stayed were memories, stoked by a broken tap here, a smashed wall there.

Lost childhood

The Gujarat pogrom and, for that matter, all conflicts leave families dispossessed, deprived and even divided. Take, for instance, the children of Naroda Patiya, who were sent away as “orphans” to places such as Kolkata, Mumbai and Bengaluru so that they could get education. Or even the son of Ayeshaben, a single woman with two sons. Following the riots, she had to relocate to a relief camp at Idar. The incidents had disturbed her son so much that he failed in the examinations held after the mob violence. The failure even threatened his life. Some children had seen their mothers criminally assaulted and killed, their fathers hacked to death. Many of them were brought to Delhi by civil society members and provided psychological help to restart their lives. It was a tall order. Some scars refuse to go away.

Lalita and Deepa Dhanraj write: “Witnessing extreme forms of violence against family members, friends and strangers results in feelings of impotence and varying degrees of fear and trauma. The violences—often sexualised and of exhibitionist brutality—perpetrated against men, women and children, by people known to them, sometimes aided and abetted by police and mob militias, cause severe trauma. Both victims and witnesses suffer from recognised symptoms of trauma and immense levels of insecurity and betrayal.”

It manifested itself in the case of young men and women, who years after the 2002 violence, found themselves waking up in the middle of the night, screaming, shrieking. Some mouthed expletives on seeing Modi on television, others were kept away from such exposure by friends and relatives, as the documentary film-maker Rakesh Sharma once recalled. Some boys quit their studies and went away unannounced, unseen. Violence affects everybody, not just the direct victims. Nobody is safe from the poison. The authors bring to light the experience of Sophia Khan, a lawyer and social activist in Ahmedabad. Like many in that stratum of society, she imagined herself to be above cases of hate violence on the basis of religion. She lived in a social vacuum, she assumed, before reality knocked hard. She was a Muslim after all. Or is it first of all? Yes, communal riots make people aware of their roots, of where they come from. Sophia Khan recalls: “I did not observe rituals; I did not offer namaaz five times a day. I had full faith in Islam but I am not able to observe it diligently. Hence, people may have doubts about my allegiance to my Muslim identity. After 2002, such questioning became milder. There was once change there. In NGOs and women’s groups, I was now majorly seen as a Muslim. Some people wanted to call me to their meeting because I am a Muslim; and some did not want to because I am a Muslim! ...I felt that, though I had become a feminist, in the end I was only a Muslim. I mean, I was being reminded I am a Muslim; I am a Muslim and that’s why I had to change my house, I am a Muslim and that is why I had to change my office.... I am a Muslim, and that is why after 2002 I took a conscious decision that I should work with Muslim women.”

Paradoxically, the riots that deprived millions of their identities reimposed it on others. The victims of Naroda Patiya and Sabarkantha found mirror reflections of their suffering in the widows and orphans of Hyderabad and Mumbai, Vadodara and Panchmahal. Not everybody took the suffering quietly. Some wept or wailed, others decided to fight back, inch by inch. Like Sajidaben, who now lives in a makeshift hut in Himmatnagar. Before the 2002 pogrom, she was a cattle breeder in Sabarkantha. Although not very rich, she enjoyed social and business ties with both Hindus and Muslims. Life was built on limited means and plenty of shared joys. It changed after 2002 when her house was destroyed and her cattle were stolen. She recalls: “It is the women of the village who first looted our house. Whatever they could lay their hands on, they took away on tractors.” She decided to try for legal redress, and lodged a complaint with the police, but the police registered her complaint on a wrong date. In this tale of gloom, there was a ray of hope. It came from a Hindu acquaintance, who pleaded with her neighbours that Sajidaben and her mother had done no wrong. She took them to a relief camp and gave them Rs.500 each. Soon, Sajidaben set up a tent on a parcel of land she mistook for wasteland. The owner, however, allowed her to stay. Sajidaben picked up the pieces of her life. She started working in a hospital and as a maid, too. Along the way came other challenges: being a single woman is never easy. Sajida was accosted by a hotel owner who urged her to give in to his demands. She fobbed him off. She decided to fight against those who wrecked her house and looted her belongings. She registered a complaint with the names of the accused. The case is pending in the Sessions Court.

Her case gives a ray of hope to those in a similar situation. Her Hindu acquaintance, her magnanimous landlord, who allowed her to dig a tent on his ground, and, above all, her own will to live and fight back are balm for wounded spirits. In lesser measure though, the hope comes from the words of Aminaben. For 35 years, she lived in her village house, which she called the Tajmahal. Her house was looted by her neighbours, who had been guests at her daughter’s wedding which had taken place a few days before the violence. She yearns to go back to her watan (homeland), even if it means putting her life at risk. After all, life is not merely about who you are. It is also about where you come from. In the case of Aminaben, Salmaben, and Sajidaben, it means the world.

Lalita and Deepa Dhanraj deserve credit for stating things as they are. They avoid hyperbole. They refuse to sink into sorrow. With the eye of a hawk and the precision of a geometrician, they have given us a book that tells us just how irresponsible Modi was when he made that inflammatory and communal remark at Becharaji and how we have failed as a society to lend a helping hand to the needy women. Every conflict takes its toll. It is the peacetime numbers that need to be attended to urgently.

Letters to the Editor

letters

Farmers

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THE Cover Story (July 7) convincingly brought out the tragedy in the farming sector. Cooperatives once assured farmers of reasonable prices, so it is strange they were allowed to wither away, leaving farmers dependent on the government for subsidies for inputs and on greedy intermediaries for marketing. Everything is uncertain. I hope the voice of farmers is heard and acted on in the best interests of the nation.

S.S. Rajagopalan, Chennai

AFTER the police firing in Madhya Pradesh that led to the death of six farmers, both the BJP and the Congress have been proactive about protecting their vote banks instead of pondering over the gravity of the problems facing farmers. The basic demand of farmers is waiver of agriculture loans. The clamour for farm loan waiver originated with the promises the Prime Minister made while campaigning for the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections.

It is the custom of State governments to waive farmers’ loans irrespective of their economic status just before elections. Even the Central government resorted to the loan waiver route in 1990 and 2008. Many economists have pointed out that loan waiver is not a solution as it reduces GDP growth. Both Central and State governments have paid little heed to various proposals that experts have presented relating to sustainable development in agriculture.

Buddhadev Nandi, Bishnupur, West Bengal

THE killing of the six farmers in Madhya Pradesh created resentment and anguish among farmers in other States. The farmers are agitating peacefully for waiver of loans and demanding other facilities that BJP leaders promised them before the elections. State governments must keep in mind that farmers play a pivotal role in the lives of people and in the development of the nation. They are national assets, and their welfare is of paramount importance.

Jayant Mukherjee, Kolkata

WAIVER of bank loans for farmers at the cost of economic growth is undesirable (“In a policy trap”, July 7). Appropriate steps should be taken to improve the economic conditions of farmers. The government can either fix a minimum price for their produce or purchase it directly from farmers. It can also help them find alternative sources of income such as village-based industries in which their family members can be involved.

Mahesh Kapasi, New Delhi

Climate change

PRESIDENT Trump’s announcement withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris climate deal was expected as it was one of his election promises (“A lot of hot air”, July 7). People in the U.S. have spoken out against Trump’s decision. Al Gore, the Obama government’s chief negotiator of the Paris Accord, slammed Trump for his action, saying it was not based on any scientific evidence and was based on rhetoric rather than any solid evidence that the climate agreement was bad for the U.S. economy. The Governor of California, a rich State and the U.S.’ most populous one, has distanced himself from the President’s line of thinking and stated that he would redouble his efforts to go “green” to minimise emissions.

India must redouble its efforts to harness solar, wind energy and biomass-based fuel energy. Mass transportation and other forms of public transport must be prioritised in all metros. Energy efficient devices should be used . The mantra of conservation of energy should be followed in letter and in spirit.

D.B.N. Murthy, Bengaluru

Gorkhaland

THE unrest in Darjeeling is due to the misrule of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who committed a blunder by dividing the people in the hills and imposing Bengali in schools in the hills and north Bengal (“Unrest in the hills”, July 7). The only hope for the people of Darjeeling and other parts of the hills and plains is the Centre. It must intervene and meet Gorkhas’ demand for Gorkhaland, which the BJP promised them before it came to power.

Janga Bahadur Sunuwar, Bagrakote, West Bengal

IT is clear that there will be no let-up in violence in Darjeeling unless the State government initiates meaningful dialogue with separatists. It is unfortunate that Mamata Banerjee appears unmoved as the call for Gorkha statehood gets louder. The trouble had been brewing for some time, but the government did not take any steps to nip it in the bud.

After having failed to control the violence, Mamata Banerjee is conveniently blaming an unknown foreign hand for it, which only goes to show that there is something amiss in the governance of the hilly region. It is time she accommodated the interests of the hill region so that peace returns without delay.

K.R. Srinivasan, Secunderabad, Telangana

Student unions

THE Trinamool Congress government’s order to curb the power of student unions is a welcome one (“End of student unions”, July 7). The order seems to be seeking to avoid the violence that often accompanies students’ involvement in politics. This will also prevent universities and colleges from being disturbed by protests for every small political issue.

A.J. Rangarajan, Chennai

Press freedom

THE price for not singing paeans to those in power may even be CBI raids as NDTV appears to have found out(“Gagging the media”, July 7). The fact that the owners of the channel did not default in the repayment of bank loans as alleged and cited a reason for the CBI raid lends credence to the suspicion that there is a witch-hunt against TV channels that dare to expose the follies of the government.

This is a direct challenge to freedom of the press. The list of such instances is growing. The moves against whistle-blowers such as Teesta Setalvad has brought disgrace to the ruling party. A comment on social media about the son of a Chief Minister led to punishment in jail in Hyderabad. The Karnataka Assembly recently passed a resolution that threatens two Karnataka journalists with a jail term.

It is reassuring that the media community took up the cudgels in defence of NDTV to expose the arm-twisting and put the facts in the public domain.

C. Chandrasekaran, Madurai, Tamil Nadu

GSLV

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KUDOS to ISRO for its successful launch of the GSAT-19. It has come after 15 years of hard work. The success highlights the fact that some organisations in India work without being affected by changes of government.

India needs to commercialise ISRO and the Defence Research and Development Organisation, which will in the long run strengthen its military power and enrich the economy.

Sushil Kumar, Bijoi, Bihar

SCO

IT is good news that both India and Pakistan have now become full members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) (“In Shanghai Eight”, July 7). It is important for these two countries to boost bilateral business ties.

China’s One Belt, One Road project will improve road, rail and maritime connectivity among participant states. Connectivity always plays a role in economic growth and the well-being of people. The Indian government should think of establishing greater connectivity with Pakistan, Bangladesh, Thailand, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Indonesia. Good diplomacy, cordial relationships, and so on, will go a long way towards establishing economic corridors among these growing economies, which will open up numerous job opportunities across the continent.

P. Senthil Saravana Durai, Mumbai

IT sector

IT was shocking to read that the IT sector in the country is seriously on the decline (Cover Story, June 23). A spate of lay-offs, job cuts and forced resignations in major IT companies in the last two to three years show that all is not well with the industry. The lucrative salaries and perks that were on offer in the sector all these years have suddenly vanished into thin air.

It is sad that there has been no intervention from the government to rein in the IT companies that treat employees badly. A pliant government at the Centre has emboldened these companies to indulge in open “hire and fire” of employees. The failure on the part of the employees to organise themselves has also not helped the situation.

J. Anantha Padmanabhan, Tiruchi, Tamil Nadu

Cow slaughter

WHY are extrajudicial groups taking the law into their own hands in the name of cow protection (“In the name of cattle protection”, June 23)? Immediately after Pehlu Khan was lynched in Alwar, Jaipur’s sub-divisional officer made the statement that he did not give permission for cattle transport. He might have said this fearing he would be targeted by vigilante groups. Even in the current climate, bovine protection should be the business of State governments, not vigilantes.

K.P. Rajan, Mumbai

KFD

THE article “Beware of the ticks of Kyasanur” (June 23) was excellent (except for one error: transovarian transmission of Kyasanur forest disease (KFD) has been shown only experimentally in the laboratory and not naturally). I was one of the earliest investigators of KFD. The article was timely since KFD is one of the neglected tropical diseases that has reappeared in many parts of the Western Ghats and is causing many deaths. Since the disease is tick transmitted,it spreads slowly (unlike mosquito-borne diseases) and there are not many deaths (the disease will attract greater attention from the authorities only if there are a large number of deaths, as occurred in 1957). The question is whether any research is being undertaken to find out the natural reservoirs of the virus.

P.K. Rajagopalan, Chennai

Manchester

TERRORISM has unfortunately become a reality of today’s world, and there is no easy solution to the problem (“After Manchester”, June 23). Hundreds of lives are lost to terrorism every year. Enforcing tighter security may not be the answer. How can one keep oneself safe from such attacks unless one hides at home forever? Leaders of countries, particularly the U.S., Russia, India and even Pakistan, need to sit down together to solve the terrorism problem. The U.S. bombing countries that support terrorism does not defuse the problem but only creates more terrorism.

Bidyut Kumar Chatterjee, Faridabad, Haryana

Medicines

THERAPEUTIC substitution—that is, using generic drugs from the same class as a branded-name drug—can bring significant savings to the patient and large institutions (“Ineffective remedy”, June 9). Doctors are not expected to judge the quality of the medicines prescribed by them. That responsibility lies with the State and Central drug control authorities.

It is distressing that even established companies have been found to be short on quality parameters. Breach of quality parameters is a global problem and is not confined to Indian manufacturers. It is for Indian drug regulatory authorities to ensure that substandard drugs do not reach the market and that patients have access to quality generic drugs.

H.N. Ramakrishna, Novi, Michigan, U.S.

Tasmania

Birding in Bruny Island

FOR birders the world over, a trip to Bruny Island at the southern-most point of Tasmania in Australia is a consummation devoutly to be wished for. The island is surrounded by breathtakingly beautiful bays and coves, dotted with inland waterbodies, and clothed in vast stretches of rainforest.

These varied habitats harbour a great variety of birds. There are penguin rookeries and breeding colonies of the short-tailed shearwater (Puffinus tenuirostris). For three days, we criss-crossed the island locating birding spots with the help of an expert bird guide, walked around in the forest, and took two boat safaris along the coast.

Named after an 18th century sailor, this island near Hobart is the size of Singapore but there are only 700 residents on it. There are excellent cottages in the wilderness for tourists, whose number on any given day is controlled.

Zipping along towering cliffs and the rainforest that extended right up to the shore, the boat safaris were oriented towards birdwatching and brought us close to some rare birds. Birds such as the Australasian gannet ( Morus serrator) that one has seen only in books or on television screens came alive before us. The celebrity bird on the island is the albatross, an oceanic bird. You can see three varieties of this legendary bird, including the wandering albatross (Diomedea exulans), which is one of the largest flying birds with a wingspan of nearly three metres.

The short-tailed shearwater is also known as the mutton bird as it was much sought after for the pot in earlier days. Its other claim to fame is its migratory journey from Norway at the other end of the globe, sometimes covering more than 15,000 kilometres, to its breeding ground in the tiny Mutton Bird island. The bird nests in a burrow in the sandy soil and lays a single egg.

On a tall tree near the coast we were shown a massive nest, held by a fork in the tree. We could spot three large eagles sitting in a nearby tree. This is the breeding area of the white-bellied sea eagle (Haliaeetus leucogaster), a majestic raptor known for its aerodynamic display as it dives to lift fish off the sea and lagoons. I have seen them in India on the Anjadiv island near Belgaum in Karnataka. Hard to believe now, a pair of them nested in the Theosophical Society grounds in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, in the early 1970s. Often in the evenings, we could see these birds sailing along the coast near Besant Nagar, where we lived.

The forests of Bruny Island consist mostly of tall eucalyptus trees of many varieties and bushes. We saw in the bushes quite a few New Holland honeyeaters ( Phylidonyris novaehollandiae), a colourful bird that feeds on nectar. The flame robin ( Petroica phoenicea), another small passerine bird, is a migrant from the northern part of Australia. The island is also home to some birds familiar to birders in India, such as the grey fantail ( Rhipidura albiscapa), flycatcher and the lapwing species. The common lapwing species one sees on the island is the masked lapwing (Vanellus miles), very similar to the yellow-wattled lapwing ( Vanellus malabaricus) found in India. There were white-eyes, passerine birds belonging to the Zosteropidae family, only that these were a different subspecies, a difference that is difficult to make out merely by the appearance.

Australia is home to parrots of many varieties. We could spot the sulphur-crested cockatoo (Cacatua galerita), which is much sought after as a cage bird all over the world. It is an ethereal sight to see flocks of them fly, like flakes of snow drifting in the wind. And there was the swift parrot ( Lathamus discolor), which remind one of the Indian lorikeet. The swift parrot is unique as it migrates. The birds nest in Bruny Island and, after the breeding season, head to the other end of Australia.

On the seashore, there were black oystercatchers, waders belonging to the Haematopodidae family. The species that visits the Indian shores, such as Point Calimere in Tamil Nadu, in winter are the Eurasian oystercatchers, or the Palaearctic oystercatcher. The other birds one can spot in the waterbodies of the island are the Australian pelican ( Pelecanus conspicillatus), the largest bird in the pelican family; the Caspian tern (Hydroprogne caspia); the Australian shelduck (Tadorna tadornoides); the chestnut teal (Anas castanea); the Pacific black duck (Anas superciliosa); and the white-faced heron (Egretta novaehollandiae). Darters, which are common in Indian rivers, could also be spotted here.

Black swans in Ramsar site

The moulting lagoon, a vast stretch of mud flats created by an estuary, is a great location for birders. It is a Ramsar site, that is, a wetland of international importance. (In 1971, a treaty was signed at an international conference held under the aegis of UNESCO in Ramsar in Iran to protect wetlands. The idea was to safeguard the habitat of waterfowl and to put wetlands to sustainable use. India is one of the 169 signatories to the convention, which has its headquarters in Gland in Switzerland. The signatories meet once in three years. The next meet is scheduled to be held in Dubai in 2018. There are 2,266 Ramsar sites in various parts of the world. Some of them stretch across national borders. In India, 26 sites, including the Chilika lake in Odisha, Nal Sarovar in Gujarat and Point Calimere, have been declared Ramsar sites.)

Exclusive to Australia

As you approach the lagoon what strikes you is the congregation of the black swan (Cygnus atratus), a bird exclusive to Australia. It is an arrestingly graceful bird, with a bright red beak and white wing feathers revealed dramatically in flight. As far as the eye could see, there were black swans, in a dreamlike tableau. The silence that pervaded the area added a touch of surrealism to the scene. If you strained your ears, you could hear the hissing sound of the swans. Binoculars revealed some swans with cygnets. This is a breeding ground for the bird. This bird once inhabited New Zealand but was shot out of existence there. In recent years, it has been reintroduced.

The first time I saw a black swan at close quarters was in the 1970s in the Ward Lake in Shillong, Meghalaya. A pair of black swans was in the lake located in the centre of the town as virtual captives with their wing feathers pinioned. Undeterred, they built a nest among the reeds in preparation for breeding.

A keen birder, the Chief Secretary of Meghalaya, Nari Rustomji, kept an eye on the swans as he walked to his office every day, and ensured that the birds got round-the-clock police protection. In time, four cygnets arrived and the family of six proved a major attraction in that hill station.

You get to see the kookaburra, the larger one, in Bruny. This bird has been introduced in the island, and wildlifers are concerned that the snake population is threatened by the presence of the bird. The legendary lyrebird is also a species that has been introduced in the island, but we could not sight the bird. The emu, a large, flightless land bird, once inhabited the island but was shot out of existence. It is found in mainland Australia. I was able to sight one during an earlier visit.

Cover Story

March of Hindu Rashtra

Aisa bhashanbaji ka kya matlab hai? Woh to Hindustan ka shahenshah hi hain. Chahe to woh yeh qatl rok sakta hain, jaise ek raat mein notebandi kiya tha. ("What is the meaning of this sort of speechification? He is the king of Hindustan. If he wants he can stop these killings, just as he imposed note ban in a single night.")

-- Jalaluddin, father of Junaid Khan, 16, who was lynched on a train near Delhi, at Khandawli village in Faridabad district of Haryana.



"It can no longer be classified as mere intolerance. It is the emergence and establishment of an oppressive regime that literally wants to do way with the minorities of India and proclaim Hindu Rashtra as conceived by the founders of Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS)."

-- Justice Rajinder Sachar, retired Chief Justice of the Delhi Hig Court, to Frontline.

THESE two statements made within a gap of two days broadly underscore the portents of the contemporary social and political context in India marked by a spate of lynching of members of the Muslim community across different States with the active connivance of governments at the Centre and in the States concerned. Jalaluddin’s outpouring came a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi used his participation at the centenary celebrations of Mahatma Gandhi’s Sabarmati Ashram in Gujarat on June 29 “to express pain and anger” at the sectarian developments, especially the “murders in the name of gau bhakti” (reverence for the cow). Jalaluddin, whose teenaged son was lynched by a mob which taunted him as “beef eater”, pulled his beard, and trampled on his skull cap before stabbing him to death, only saw platitudinous rhetoric in this so-called expression of pain and anger. He put it straight: just as Modi imposed demonetisation in one stroke, he can put an end to lynchings in the name of gau bhakti if he wants to. The unstated element in Jalaluddin’s lament clearly points towards how the Prime Minister and his political structure, including the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the RSS-led Sangh Parivar, are colluding with the perpetrators of the lynching spree.

Justice Sachar’s pained observation came on the day thousands of people across 17 cities of India, including the national capital, gathered to protest against the targeted lynching of Muslims, with the slogan “Not in my name”. The 93-year-old former Chief Justice headed a committee set up in 2005 to study the condition of the Muslim community in India, which resulted in the preparation of a comprehensive report on its social, economic and educational status. The report suggested concrete measures to improve their lot.

Justice Sachar told Frontline that the government at the Centre had not only turned a blind eye to most of the salutary recommendations made in the report but was also promoting and facilitating a social and political structure aimed at trampling even the minimal rights and privileges enjoyed by the minority community.

Indeed, it was on the day between the “Not in my name” protests and Jalaluddin’s anguished comment that Modi came up with his “expression of pain and anger about developments that have taken place in India”. Jalaluddin’s observation about the lack of sincerity and absence of positive intent in the Prime Minister’s statements to take concrete measures and live up to his own pronouncements is not an isolated case. Scores of social and political observers have made similar observations while analysing similar statements made by Modi in the past. The brutal lynching of yet another cattle trader in the eastern State of Jharkhand almost at the same time when Modi was holding forth in the western State of Gujarat also shows how Modi and his associates in the BJP are not ready to walk the talk in terms of protecting the minorities from the perpetrators of violence in the name of love for the cow.

Cow bhakti violence

In the past three years, Modi has referred to the barbaric assaults in the name of cow protection only thrice. Each time, the references were made only after public sentiment had built up to such levels that the government’s publicity managers and the BJP leadership realised that further silence would damage the personal and political image of Modi and his government . Equally significantly, in each of these references there was no specific condemnation of the perpetrators of the attack or specific individual condolences offered to the victims. All the references were essentially rhetorical. The first reference came during the campaign for the Bihar Assembly election in October 2015. Eight days before that comment was made, on September 28, 2015, Mohammad Akhlaq was killed by a lynch mob at Dadri, Uttar Pradesh. The mob barged into his house alleging that he had killed a cow and stored its meat in his refrigerator. The reference, of course, was not directly to the killing but was a roundabout and platitudinous one that merely contained the exhortation that Hindus and Muslims need to fight poverty together. Perceptions at that time were that the electoral climate in Bihar was turning against the Hindutva forces on account of the outrage caused by Dadri and other such incidents, and Modi was attempting a limited damage control.

The second reference to “cow bhakti” violence came when the BJP and its governments as well as organisational associates suffered damage to their political image. This was after the incidents at Una, Gujarat, in July 2016 where four Dalits were flogged for killing a cow. A video of the incident went viral, rousing public indignation not only in India but in several parts of the world. Modi’s reference at that time seemed to be a bit more direct and concrete. He stated: “I have seen some people who indulge in anti-social activities for the whole night, but wear the garb of gau rakshaks during the day.” He said he knew that 70 to 80 per cent of the so-called gau rakshaks were criminals and directed officials to open crime dossiers on these anti-social elements.

In the third reference, on June 29, Modi increased the drama quotient even further. His pronouncements were as follows: “I want to express my pain and anger about developments in India. The country that never killed an ant. The country that fed stray dogs roaming around. The country that fed fish in the ocean. The country in which a man like Bapu taught us the lesson of ahimsa. What has happened to us? Is this my country, the country of Bapu? What are we doing?”

Responding to this seemingly impassioned statement, Akhilesh Yadav, former Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh and president of the Samajwadi Party (S.P.), told Frontline that while the theatrics were of a high order in these statements, they gave a rather poor picture of Modi’s own governance record. “He has been ruling this country for the last three years proclaiming that achche din [good days] are here, and, now, he himself turns around and asks what has happened to the country? This could have been treated as a ludicrous political joke had it not been for the fact that the things he is referring to are heartbreakingly tragic and could literally debilitate the nation.” Akhilesh Yadav wanted to know what had happened to the so-called criminal dossiers that Modi had ordered to be prepared on gau rakshaks one year ago. “Obviously, nothing has been done. It is nothing short of a cruel gimmick, which ultimately helps the so-called gau rakshaks and other Hindutva fringe elements run amok causing grievous loss of lives and property. Make no mistake, the BJP leadership, including its Chief Ministers, are part of this Hindutva fringe facilitation.”

Developments in Jharkhand on the day of Modi’s speechification at Sabarmati, including the lynching of a cattle trader, Alimuddin Ansari, in the Giddi area of Ramgarh near the State capital, Ranchi, as also the cases filed with regard to the incident underscore the point made by Akhilesh Yadav. Jharkhand Chief Minister Raghubar Das condemned the killing formally, but the cases filed have some interesting and devious twists and turns. The primary case is against “at least 10 men who intercepted Ansari’s van near Ranchi and attacked him”. But, there is also a parallel case, which has the parameters to investigate the role of Ansari and his family in the alleged transportation and sale of “prohibited bovine meat”. The second case has also set the premise that the attack on Ansari could be a consequence of individual or trade disputes between the victim and the suspects. “It is anybody’s guess, given the track record of the current BJP government as to which of these cases would gather greater investigative momentum,” said Supriyo Bhattacharya, general secretary of the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM), the principal opposition in the State.

Talking to Frontline over phone from Ramgarh, Mustafa Ansari, secretary of the village masjid committee, said harassment in the name of cattle had become an everyday affair in these parts and the political establishment was certainly part of this torture by other means.

The statements made by other BJP leaders, including Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar and Union Minister Giriraj Singh, justifying gau rakshak violence and asserting that if people wanted to stay in India they would have to abstain from eating beef, have to be seen in this context. Another stark pointer to the current context has come in the form of the cancellation of the annual Eid Milan of the Jamiat-Ulama-i-Hind, one of the largest Muslim organisations in the country, citing the heightened communal atmosphere in the country that is making daily life extremely difficult for members of the minority community. All these add up to the establishment of a communally oppressive Hindu Rashtra regime as pointed out by Justice Sachar.

Public hanging of beef-eaters

The recent proclamations made at the so-called “Hindu Rashtra” Conclave held in Goa between June 14 and 18, which sought the establishment of a formal Hindu Rashtra by 2023 and the public hanging of beef-eaters and “seculars” (sic) who support them, is also relevant in this context. It is claimed that some 100 Hindutva organisations attended the conclave, organised by Hindu Janajagriti Samiti (HJS) and the Sanatan Sanstha. Members of the Sanatan Sanstha are among those accused of the killing of the rationalists Narendra Dabolkar, Govind Pansare and M.M. Kalburgi. The conclave also called for a ban on cattle slaughter, declaration of the cow as the national animal, a ban on all religious conversions, and construction of a grand Ram temple in Ayodhya. At the conclave, Sadhvi Saraswati, considered to be a rising star in the Hindutva circuit, calling to mind the firebrand speaker Sadhvi Rithambara of the Babri Masjid demolition days, exhorted the government to go in for public hanging of beef-eaters. “Whoever harms the cow abuses the country and can only be termed as our enemy. Those politicians who are supporting the consumption of beef in the country and those who see it as a status symbol should be publicly executed by the government. Protection of the cow is our duty. We should apply the same laws that are applied to homicide cases against people found butchering cattle,” she said.

Although the official Sangh Parivar, including the RSS and the BJP, have distanced themselves from the conclave and its proclamations, its message has had some resonance among many Hindutva groups, including sections of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP). Talking to Frontline in Ayodhya, Mahant Nritya Gopal Das, president of the VHP-led Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas, a trust with the proclaimed objective of constructing the Ram temple in Ayodhya, said that while a formal declaration of Hindu Rashtra would be a good idea, the country was already moving in that direction informally under the leadership of mahapurush (great men) Modi and Yogi Adityanath. Das explained that Hindu Rashtra as conceived by “margadarshak mahapurush” (guiding great men) Vinayak Damodar Savarkar and M.S. Golwalkar was a geographical and socio-cultural entity where people’s lives were defined by the parameters of race, religion, culture, language and the way of life including food habits. “Whoever accepts the preponderance of the Hindu Rashtra tenets on these parameters can stay on in the country, whatever religion they practise and whichever God they pray to. Those who do not accept this preponderance would fall out of the pale of real national life. What you are seeing in different parts of the country is the process towards this socio-cultural filtering,” Nritya Gopal Das said, adding that the political domination of nationalist forces in the country was a key factor in this process.

According to a number of Sangh Parivar activists in Ayodhya and Lucknow, the resolution of the Goa Hindu conclave marking 2023 as the year to proclaim the establishment of a Hindu Rashtra and Modi’s own repeated references to 2022 as the year to create a “New India” are not accidental and must be seen in conjunction.

The year 2022 would mark the 100th anniversary of the publication of the Hindutva-Hindu Rashtra thesis propounded by Savarkar. It is not for nothing that these two years have become talking points after the BJP’s phenomenal victory in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections in February/March.

Nearly 23 years ago, in 1994, after the BJP faced a shock defeat in the Uttar Pradesh election the previous year, Nritya Gopal Das’ former associate, Mahant Ramchandra Paramhans, told this writer that the project for Hindutva hegemony was a perennial work in progress for the Sangh Parivar, which would continue irrespective of gains and reverses. “We have set our sights on the final goal, and the main path through which we sought to reach the goal was by creating a pan-Hindu political identity. Many symbols, including that of the Ram Janmabhoomi and the Ram temple, came up in this struggle. Time and again we faltered, especially in the face of casteist identity assertion of Dalits and Other Backward Class (OBC) communities. All these reverses, and gains too, are taken in our stride, keeping in mind the final goal.”

Evidently, sections of the Hindutva combine perceive that they are near that goal, especially in the context of significant rallying of many dominant OBC communities behind the Hindutva agenda, both politically and socially.

Members of some OBC communities have been identified as leaders of the attack in a significant number of incidents relating to cow vigilantism, including lynching.

Against this background, what merit is there in the exhortation of Bapu’s name and ideals from Sabarmati? In the United States, a country Modi has visited several times after becoming Prime Minister, the fundamental guiding principle of governance, the Bill of Rights, asserts a Natural Contract between the people and the government through mandate, to be ruled and to rule in order to attain the gross pursuit of all happiness in people’s lives.

The proponents of Hindu Rashtra, and those who believe that they are close to establishing it, however, have no faith in the gross pursuit of all happiness in all people’s lives. The series of lynchings and the oppressive social climate imposed on minorities underscore this appalling and calamitous violation of rules and propriety of democratic governance.

From the States

The ways of the Parivar

cover-story


TAMIL NADU





Saffron in Dravidian land



By Ilangovan Rajasekaran



TAMIL NADU, the Dravidian heartland, is witnessing “saffronisation” on the sly. Hindutva forces are targeting minorities, be they Christians or Muslims, and Dalits with impunity across the State in varying degrees.

In the northern part of the State, especially in the cluster of interior villages and hamlets in the district of Kancheepuram, Dalit Christians, the majority among minorities here, have been living in morbid fear since April 14, Good Friday, when the solemn occasion at the St. Theresa of the Child Jesus Church at Sogandi village in Tirukazhukkundram block ended in chaos and violence.

In the southern part, in Cumbum town in Theni district, a mosque was targeted by stone-throwing miscreants on June 1 when prayers were being offered in the month of Ramzan. The incident shocked the conscience of the people of Cumbum, a plantation town located on the Tamil Nadu-Kerala border. Cumbum, local people claim, has never witnessed such an incident until then, not even when the Babri Masjid was demolished. “We share a warm camaraderie as our lives are intertwined and interdependent. Both are engaged in plantation and agriculture, the mainstay of our livelihood,” says Cumbum P. Selvendran, former Member of Parliament from Periyakulam and a farmer.

Of late, similar attempts of majoritarian hooliganism aimed at polarising people along religious lines have been reported across the State with alarming regularity. At least four other such incidents were reported in the State during the Ramzan month—at the Kannappa Nagar mosque at Rathinapuri in Coimbatore city and at mosques in Ramanathapuram town in Ramanathapuram district, and in Tirupur in Tirupur district. Besides, those who transported a few cows and calves in a lorry for a farmer came under attack in the temple town of Palani in the western region.

In fact, there is a devious pattern to these seemingly sporadic and impulsive acts. The attempt in all cases has been to instil fear in the minds of minorities. “Tamil Nadu is neither Gujarat nor Uttar Pradesh to get converted into a laboratory for the Hindutva ideology. But we cannot just ignore the fact that they are working aggressively at the grass-roots level against the secularists,” said M. H. Jawahirullah, a senior functionary of the Tamil Nadu Muslim Munnetra Kazhagam (TMMK).

Indeed, signals from the ground point to a disturbing phase ahead in a situation where governance is virtually absent and the political leadership is seen as corrupt and opportunistic. Besides, the Dravidian ideology that has held sway for many decades in the State seems to be fraying at the edges. This and the vacuum in the political leadership have led right-wing forces to believe that there is an opportunity for them to make inroads into the State. “Though the DMK [Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam] has been opposing the Hindutva agenda, it should activate its rank and file to fight against the oppressive forces at the grass-roots level,” Jawahirullah said.

A recent investigation by Frontline, covering some 20 villages and hamlets in a few northern districts, found that incidents of a communal nature involving members of the majority community, in the form of instigating social disturbances through acts of arrogance and vigilantism, have increased.

The targets of their attacks are Dalit Christian converts in the northern parts and Muslims in the southern and western regions.

Controversy in Arul Nagar

Sogandi village is a case in point here. Some 150 Dalit Christian families live in Arul Nagar colony located between Sogandi and Alagusamudhram villages, which have a strong Hindu Vanniyar population, which is listed as a most backward class (MBC) group. The Dalit Christians regularly offer worship at the St. Theresa of the Child Jesus Church in their colony. Two years ago, the village parish developed a portion of the barren hill, classified as “karadu poromboke” (barren and rough hill), as an official termed it, opposite the church into a 10 x 10 grotto and installed a statue of Our Lady in it. This is now at the centre of a controversy.

On Good Friday, residents of the colony gathered at the grotto for worship and then went in a procession when the caste Hindu Vanniyars from Alagusamudhram raised objection, saying that the hill belonged to Hindus and was known as “Perumal Malai”, though there is no such reference in government documents. “We have been celebrating festivals peacefully all these years. Besides Christmas, Palm Sunday and New Year, we also celebrate Pongal and Deepavali,” said Arul Nagar resident E. Meganathan.

In fact, villages around Sogandi have been known for inhuman levels of caste discrimination for years. Five decades ago there was mass conversion of Dalits to Christianity. In the 1960s, the district administration offered 50-odd Dalit families house-site pattas on a piece of parched land located between Sogandi and Alagusamudhram. The Dalits developed it into a picturesque settlement and named it Arul Nagar.

But Arul Nagar residents were surprised at the sudden resistance from the residents of Alagusamudhram on the statue issue. “On instigation from some fringe elements, the villagers, mostly Hindu Vanniyars, undertook a massive exercise on February 19 involving hundreds of school students and the general public to paint the religious identity mark of the Vaishnavite tradition, ‘tiruman’, popularly known as ‘namam’, on every boulder and stone on the hill. Even signs of the Holy Cross near the grotto were obliterated or replaced by ‘namams’, besides making markings on culverts, houses and government buildings,” said Amul Raj, a social activist who works among Arul Nagar’s residents.

Arul Nagar residents were well aware that it was a religiously motivated act. They alleged that the Hindu Munnani, which entered their village two years back, was instigating the people against the church and Christians. Even the Palm Sunday celebrations this year were disrupted. The simmering tension over the issue culminated in violence on April 14 when a mob attempted to remove the statue of Our Lady.

Youngsters of Arul Nagar retaliated, which led to a law and order problem that left many persons, including a few policemen, injured. The following day, on April 15, officials of the Revenue Department removed the statue, which Kancheepuram Sub Collector V. P. Jeyaseelan, who is also in charge of Chengleput, called “an encroachment”, and sealed the grotto. Villagers claimed that scores of Hindu temples had been built on the other side of the hill. “These temples are also on encroached lands,” said Arul, another villager.

Protesting against the incident, black flags were hoisted atop Dalit houses in the village. Two peace committee meetings that the Kancheepuram district administration convened could not usher in peace between the communities. A senior revenue official at the Tirukazhukkundram taluk office told Frontline that the church was reluctant to cooperate with the local administration to sort out the issue. Meanwhile, H. Raja, one of the national secretaries of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), staged a protest at Tambaram on the outskirts of Chennai urging the government to remove the shrine from the hill.

The parish priest, Fr. Jacob, told Frontline that the veneration of the cross and distribution of Holy Communion on Good Friday could not be completed because of the unsavoury incidents at the village. The Chengleput diocese bishop, Dr A. Neethinathan, urged the government to ensure the safety of Christians and other minorities. The church and other Christian outfits organised a protest rally and fast at Chengleput on April 24, condemning the violence against them.

A Vanniyar youth, however, said they did not want another Acharapakkam, where a church was constructed atop a hill, in their locality. “Ours is called Perumal Malai and it belongs to us,” he maintained. [The shrine of the Miraculous Mother Mary (Mazhai Madha) atop the hill in Acharapakkam near Chengleput is an important shrine, besides the renowned St. Thomas Mount shrine. Both fall under the jurisdiction of the Roman Catholic diocese of Chengleput. The Arul Nagar church also comes under the diocese.] The Catholic Bishops Conference of India, which met on April 19, asked the State government to ensure that “every person continues to feel safe and enjoys the basic right to worship freely and without fear”. It said: “The Catholic Church in India is very distressed and saddened by the happenings in Sogandi, Tamil Nadu, on Good Friday, a day very sacred to Christians everywhere.” Catholic News Agency (CNA) datelined Rome, April 21, while reporting the Sogandi incident, pointed to the rising intolerance in India towards people of all religions from “fundamentalist fringe” groups, which disturbed “the traditional peace and harmony” of the country.

‘Real issue is caste’

Muniamma, 70, a Dalit woman convert, said what really riled the Vanniyars and right-wing groups was their caste and their conversion. “We suffered cruel caste-based discrimination by birth as Hindus. No one treated us with dignity. Missionaries gave us education and economic empowerment and we voluntarily converted to Christianity. We do not depend on caste Hindus for our livelihood now since our children are well educated and happily self-sufficient. We are no longer vassals in the casteist feudal system. That we live in dignity today is their main grouse against us and the church,” she said.

The caste polarisation in the northern districts, especially between Dalits and Vanniyars, has emerged as a powerful tool of exploitation in the hands of Hindutva groups. The villages, which once had flags of the two major Dravidian political parties—the DMK and the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK)—besides the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK), now fly the BJP’s saffron flag and the Hindu Munnani’s. A saffron flag flutters right across the road and in front of the Arul Nagar church today, showcasing their aggressive agenda.

They also succeeded to a great extent in creating divisions among Dalits. Those who remain in the Hindu fold in the villages have been indoctrinated ideologically and offered liberal funds to carry out their plots and designs in their localities. “Many Dalit Hindus have fallen prey to them though Vanniyars, a few of whom too have embraced Christianity, continue to discriminate against them. Here no one is allowed to be identified in any group other than Vanniyars and Dalits. Only then it is easy for them to operate with the two main social entities,” said Amul Raj.

Billboards warning people that they are living in a Hindu country have sprung up in various places. Villagers have been told that any decision concerning sociocultural and developmental issues should be decided only by the village Hindus. Posters against cow slaughter and beef-eating can be seen on water tanks, and mud walls of huts and houses. “Even bhajans are being held for youngsters, especially in Dalit settlements, during evening hours,” said the Chengleput-based Dalit activist Ari.

Ari said statues of Mother Mary and Jesus and the cross sign, which could commonly be seen on hills and hillocks, had either been desecrated or replaced with Hindu shrines and idols. At Pulipakkam village off Kancheepuram, a cross and a small statue of Mother Mary were erected atop the hill some 20 years ago. But to the anguish of the people, it was found desecrated. “When we went up the hill to offer prayers to the Mother Mary statue on the hill, Vanniyars in the village objected. They broke the statue, which was later replaced after a prolonged struggle,” said A. Benjamin, a Dalit Christian of the village.

Pulipakkam has a strong presence of Vanniyars, the majority of them Hindus, and the other major caste group is Dalit Christians. Benjamin alleged: “The former village president, a Dalit Hindu, opposes us for having the statue of Mary atop the hill, part of which is ‘poromboke’ land, the rest belonging to the Forest Department. Today he is constructing an impressive-looking Sri Prasanna Venkatesa Perumal Temple on an area of about 10,000 square feet on the same hill. A mud road has been laid after burrowing out a portion of the hill to reach the temple. Who gave him the permission for this pucca construction on a hill?”

A Dalit Hindu in Palur, Baraneedharan (name changed since he is a State government employee), who has been entrusted with the task of rebuilding the dilapidated Sri Paravathavarni Udanurai Parameshwarar temple at a cost of Rs.1 crore, said, “Anyone can profess and practise their religion provided they respect the Hindu culture of the country.” A member of the Sri Parameshwarar Sivanadiyar Kootam, the group that is renovating the temple, Baraneedharan said he could not “tolerate the way conversions were taking place in villages around Kancheepuram and Chengleput towns”.

“Religious conversion should not hurt the feelings of other religions,” he argued. He became a staunch Hindutva foot soldier after a “special darshan” of the Kanchi Sankaracharya at his mutt in Kancheepuram. “It was a proud moment in my life. Many like me had the privilege of meeting the swamigal,” he said. Such acts, organised by senior functionaries of the BJP and the Hindu Munnani, hold an allure to these people, especially Dalits like Baraneedharan.

Dubious practices

Many dubious practices under the guise of religion are encouraged among gullible villagers to profess the philosophy of the majoritarian faith. Ari claimed that whenever a monkey died or was killed, villagers were asked to erect a huge statue of Hanuman, the monkey god of Hindus, at that site. Today many villages sport such statues of not only Hanuman but also of Siva, Kali and so on. Funding comes by way of sponsorships.

In fact, the journey through Kuravanmedu, Vadakkupathu and Olavetti villages of Kancheepuram district and a few in Tiruvallur district revealed that many temples of village deities, such as Sri Ponni Amman, which were either damaged or in a dilapidated state for long, were getting renovated. Besides, many small and medium temples rooted in the Vedic tradition that had fallen into disuse over a period of time because of various factors, such as the one in Palur, were being renovated.

Priests who had left villages and temples for greener pastures were being wooed back. “We have requested Brahmin priests who once performed pujas at our temple to return and revive the daily rituals,” said Baraneedharan. Such acts, sociologists say, will be rationalised to propagate ideological purity among the people of their faith.

The Christians of Sogandi are in a quandary about how they would celebrate Christmas this year. “It is a scary feeling being Christians here,” said Amul Raj. Jawahirullah insists that secular and democratic forces should unite under a banner to counter this cultural intimidation. “If a state fails to have power over such fundamental forces that asphyxiate the rights of the disadvantaged, it is very much a failing state,” he said.

But that is the toxic reality in Tamil Nadu today.





UTTAR PRADESH





Break with tradition

By Venkitesh Ramakrishnan

Participation in the Eid celebrations at the historic Aishbagh Eidgah in Lucknow is a custom Chief Ministers of Uttar Pradesh have observed for many decades. However, Yogi Adityanath, the current incumbent, chose to break with this tradition by not attending the celebrations on June 26. The absence was conspicuous since Governor Ram Naik, who also belonged to the BJP before being appointed Governor, and Deputy Chief Minister Dinesh Sharma were present on the occasion.

Rajnath Singh, as the last BJP Chief Minister (2000-02) before Yogi Adityanath, used to attend the programme regularly. Former Chief Minister and Samajwadi Party (S.P.) president Akhilesh Yadav, who was present at the Eidgah on June 26, made a reference to Yogi Adityanath’s absence, suggesting that it did not send the right message. “What can I do if he [the Chief Minister] is not here, but I wonder why?” he asked. Akhilesh Yadav’s query found great resonance among those who had gathered at the Eidgah, including several non-Muslims who came to wish their Muslim friends.

Obaidullah of Phoolpur, a member of the All India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat, a confederation of 16 Muslim organisations that is trying to build a common platform and approach amidst the several institutional and theological divides in the community, told Frontline that the central message of Yogi Adityanath’s conduct is that the Chief Minister would continue to practise a sectarian divide-and-rule policy. “He is telling the minorities not to expect him to stand shoulder to shoulder with them. And he is also telling the Hindutva fringe elements to continue with their rampage, which has already pushed the entire minority community and a section of Dalits into the grip of deep fear,” he said.

Satyam Singh, an Other Backward Class (OBC) Hindu who regularly takes part in Eid festivities, echoed Obaidullah’s opinion. He works in association with a number of organisations trying to build communal harmony and pointed out that while there had been no mob lynching of Muslims or other marginalised sections in Uttar Pradesh in the past three months, the activists of the BJP as well as other outfits in the Sangh Parivar had created a climate where free social interactions and movement were no longer possible. Their assaults reflected a range of crimes, from blatant communal violence to moral policing to lording over the administration.

Consider this, he said, holding up a list of assaults by the Sangh Parivar in the recent past. The list included the Saharanpur violence of May 2017 involving assaults by the upper caste Thakur community against Dalits, which was initiated when a Shobhayatra was undertaken under the leadership of local BJP leaders. In April, the list said, activists of the Hindu Yuva Vahini, a Hindutva outfit founded by Yogi Adityanath himself, unleashed mayhem across western Uttar Pradesh. It started on April 12 with the assault on a couple, a Muslim man and a Hindu woman, who were living together in Meerut; this was followed by an attack on a betrothed Hindu couple the next day while they were travelling on a two-wheeler in Fatehpur Sikri.

On April 22, BJP workers disrupted the functioning of the administration at the Taj Mahal complex in Agra and the office of the Senior Superintendent of Police in Mathura. “These are just the listed instances from western Uttar Pradesh. Across the State, the Yogi government has created a situation where a piece of saffron clothing worn around the neck immediately puts you above the law. Then you can terrorise people, attack them and do what you want,” said Satyam Singh.

Satyam Singh’s contention has wide resonance in the popular perception across Uttar Pradesh. Senior government officials admitted that the high-handedness of the Hindutva elements, including at the level of day-to-day administration, had started to have a serious impact on the general law and order situation. Even a bench of the Allahabad High Court, consisting of Chief Justice D.B. Bhonsle and Justice Yashwant Verma, took note of this and directed the Principal Secretary (Home) and the Director General of Police to show more application of mind in reining in criminal and mafia elements.

Alarming statistics

A comparison of the figures of the Home Department for crimes in the period from March 15 to April 15 this year and the corresponding period last year is nothing short of alarming. Rapes had shot up four times over the past year, murders had doubled and dacoity had grown manifold. As against 41 rapes last year, there were 179 in the same period this year. Murders went up from 101 to 240 and cases of dacoity rose from three to 20. Of course, all these are not communal crimes or ones engineered by Hindutva outfits. But, as Satyam Singh pointed out and as corroborated by several senior officials, the unleashing of Hindutva outfits has contributed to building up this climate of fear.





JHARKHAND & BIHAR





Workshop of Hindutva

By Venkitesh Ramakrishnan



“Earlier, leaders of the Sangh Parivar, including those of the BJP, used to say that Jharkhand was the second laboratory of Hindutva politics, after Gujarat. But now, with the Raghubar Das-led BJP ministry completing one and a half years in office, this State has been turned into a full-fledged workshop of Hindutva. It can no longer be described as a laboratory.” This is how Supriyo Bhatta, national general secretary of the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM), the principal opposition party in the State, summed up the situation in the wake of the spate of communal violence in Jharkhand. “Organised lynching, mob attacks and destruction of property of minority communities, especially Muslims’, are, of course, the most extreme forms of this violence, and these have risen to unprecedented levels. But these are only a few of the myriad forms of their communal machinations. The Sangh Parivar is also advancing a hundred other devious operations blatantly with the full patronage of the State government,” he said.

Even a cursory glance at the incidents of communal violence in the State corroborates the JMM leader’s contention. Official records of the State Home Department state that as many as 12 people lost their lives in sectarian violence from March 2016 to June 2017. Of them, nine belonged to the Muslim community. Other forms of communal assault have also grown by leaps and bounds. According to National Crime Records Bureau data for the years 2014 and 2015, Jharkhand is a joint first in terms of communal violence in the country. It recorded 408 incidents of communal violence (349 in 2014 and 69 in 2015), the same as Haryana which reported 207 incidents in 2014 and 201 in 2015.

The latest sectarian killing was committed by the police at Piperwar of Chatra district. Mohammad Salman, a 19-year-old Muslim boy, was dragged out of his house and shot dead by the local police on the night of June 23. The police initially sought to argue that Salman was an extortionist involved in criminal offences and that the police were forced to shoot him when he attacked them. However, this story did not gain credence and public outrage mounted in Piperwar immediately after the killing. So much so, mine workers and villagers struck work in the coal mines in the region. The Home Department was forced to retract the claim and suspend Station House Officer Piperwar Vinod Singh and five other policemen. One constable involved in the action was arrested.

Four days after this, a police team saved Mohammad Usman, a dairy farmer from Barieya village of Giridih district, from a mob that had attacked his house alleging that he had slaughtered a cow. While such actions of the police and the authorities do get reported from time to time, the majority of observers are of the view that the political climate created by the BJP government has allowed Hindutva lumpen elements a free run in the State. In this climate, large sections of the authorities also adopt Hindutva aggression, as was seen in the Piperwar incident. Several activists of minority welfare organisations belonging to both the Christian and Muslim communities told Frontline that there were moves by the government to bring in legislation to curb their activities. “Once that too comes in, the aggressions are bound to rise manifold. Evidently, that is the political objective of the BJP and the Sangh Parivar,” a Christian missionary told Frontline.

The Bihar experience

The communal situation in neighbouring Bihar is starkly different and is made possible by the strict vigil by the authorities and the absence of state patronage to Hindutva hooliganism. Not a single case of gau rakshak vigilantism or mob attacks has been reported from the State throughout 2015-16. Of course, efforts have been made by many Hindutva leaders, including Union Minister Giriraj Singh, to upset the state of affairs with his extremely provocative statements, but each time the Nitish Kumar-led Grand Alliance government of the Janata Dal (United), the Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Congress has held things under control.

The political observer Nalin Verma cites the Bihar experience as an example of how the humane socio-anthropological legacies of a region, including Buddhism, can get reflected in matters of statecraft and influence in moulding society. Evidently, that is not a tradition that the BJP government in Jharkhand wants to follow.





RAJASTHAN





Agendas and action

By T.K. Rajalakshmi



The BJP led by Vasundhara Raje, which formed the government in Rajasthan with a sweeping majority in the Assembly elections held in December 2013, began its innings with controversial labour law reforms. A parallel agenda began to unfold in the fields of education and culture, which entailed a sectarian interpretation of history. Soon enough, the disdain for alternative streams of thought, cultural, social and political, metamorphosed into open aggression against the “other”. At least two attacks against members of the minority community turned fatal. The more recent one was in April 2017 in Alwar where the victim was labelled a “cow smuggler” by State Home Minister Gulab Chand Kataria.

In the third week of March, a 100-strong mob led by the State president of the Rashtriya Mahila Gauraksha Dal stormed the popular Hayat Rabbani Hotel in Jaipur alleging that beef was being served there. According to media reports, the crowd shouted “Bharat Mata ki Jai” and “Narendra Modi zindabad”. At the behest of the local councillor, the Jaipur Municipal Corporation sealed the building. In May, a forensic laboratory certified that samples of the meat seized were not beef. A district and sessions court in Jaipur directed the corporation to lift the seal, but it has not been done to date.

Significantly, Rajasthan is the only State to have a ministry for cow welfare. In an incredulous attempt to glorify the cow, School Education Minister Vasudev Devnani even said the cow was the only animal to inhale and exhale oxygen.

Under the BJP, Rajasthan also became the only State in post-Independence India to have two State universities closed down—the Hardeo Joshi University of Journalism and the B.R. Ambedkar Law University, both set up during Congress regimes. This was revealed following retired professor of sociology Rajiv Gupta’s query made under the Right to Information (RTI) Act to the University Grants Commission.

Changing textbooks

In 2015, drastic changes were made in school textbooks. The emphasis was on the superiority and the exclusiveness of Hindu society and culture, making it synonymous with Indian culture. Nomenclature, myths, folklore, manufacturing of facts and obfuscation of significant but politically inconvenient figures became part of the project to “Indianise education and culture”. For instance, the famous Ajmer Fort built during Akbar’s reign, also called Akbar’s Fort and known for its connection to the trade pact signed between the Mughal ruler Jahangir and Sir Thomas Roe of the East India Company, was renamed without Akbar’s name in it as “Ajmer Ka Qila Aivam Sangrahalaya” (“Demonising Akbar”, Frontline, June 9). No historian or committee of experts was consulted regarding this. Devnani told a prominent daily that the renaming was done to “respect the sentiments of the public”.

The latest preoccupation of various supporters of the ruling party is with the “greatness” of the Rajput ruler Rana Pratap vis-a-vis the “foreign invader” Akbar. Textbooks have been written to underscore the greatness of specific communities and particular historical figures. Dina Nath Batra, the convener of the Shiksha Bachao Andolan Samiti, who rose to fame as the man behind the pulping of the Indologist Wendy Doniger’s books, has been helping with the new textbooks for school education in Rajasthan and also in BJP-ruled Haryana.

Prominent educationists from Delhi and Rajasthan who did a review of the textbooks in 2016 (which were introduced in 2015) found that they were “weak by every parameter of content, knowledge acquisition, pedagogy and scientific temper”. Led by Rajiv Gupta of Rajasthan University and Apoorvanand from the University of Delhi, the review found first and foremost that the Indus Valley Civilisation had been renamed as Sindhu Saraswati Sabhyata, implying that it was part of the Vedic civilisation. The establishment of the antiquity of Vedic society has been central to the idea of a Hindu Rashtra (“Fiction as history”, Frontline, May 12). Similarly, Class 9 textbooks say that Aryans were native to India and that the “Aryas” were “very good people” and praise the caste system.

A chapter on biodiversity in a Class 8 textbook begins with a Hindu religious verse which has no connection with the subject under discussion.

What is of serious concern is the manufacturing of history. Gupta told Frontline that a PhD thesis submitted by a teacher on Rana Pratap’s alleged victory of 1576 at Haldighati over Akbar’s forces, in which the teacher herself claims that it may be a preliminary conclusion, has been accepted as truth by the government and included in the syllabus of history in Rajasthan University. “The idea is to project that between ancient India and Modi’s India, there was nothing,” said Gupta, referring to the Sangh Parivar’s rejection of the idea of medieval India.

Films are also viewed through the lens of identity and sectarian politics. In January, director Sanjay Leela Bhansali, who was at the receiving end of Maratha identity politics for his film Bajirao Mastani, was attacked in Jaipur by members of the Karni Sena, a Rajput organisation, for his film Padmavati(“Targeting a film-maker”, Frontline, March 3). The film was on the fictional romance of Allauddin Khilji and Princess Padmini of Chittor. Many prominent names from the industry supported Bhansali, who wrapped up shooting after the assault. A tweet by the actor Shahid Kapoor at that time sums up the feelings of many people: “We need to look deep within as a society, as a country, as a people. Where are we headed.”





MAHARASHTRA





Moving away from multiculturalism

By Lyla Bavadam



Abou and Rabia, who were house-hunting, thought they could sell their small flat in the suburb of Andheri in Mumbai and buy a larger one in the same area—a convenience they were keen on because of their children’s schools. But after five years of being turned down because of their Muslim identity, the couple finally moved to Vasai in the neighbouring district of Thane. When they did find a home, Rabia recalls how terrified she was that this too would slip away when she told the potential sellers that they were Muslims. Fortunately the seller said neither she nor her building society was concerned with their religion and the sale went through. If the couple had been Kashmiri Muslims or, worse still, bachelors, the experience would have been nightmarish.

Maharashtra’s cosmopolitan report card has largely remained without blemish, but with Hindutva ideas gradually taking seed there are increasing examples of polarisation along communal lines. At the top of the list is Muslim baiting. At its simplest level, it is to taunt Muslims telling them they are nothing but converts from Hinduism (implying that they were low on the caste scale).

At a more dangerous level it is the deification of the cow. Sacred to Hindus but not to Muslims, the animal has become a pawn in the Hindutva game which prompted the ban on beef. It is difficult to say if Maharashtra actually supported the beef ban or just fell in line because of the violence of vigilantes, but food has become a divisive factor, especially in Mumbai. There are entire housing societies that admit only vegetarians. The underlying reason is usually to give entry only to a particular community because often vegetarian non-Hindus too are denied entry. This food tyranny reached its pinnacle in Mumbai’s Malabar Hill area where a predominantly Gujarati Jain population managed to hound out even non-vegetarian restaurants.

While Muslims are prime targets, Christians have increasingly been victimised ostensibly because of proselytising but all too frequently the real reason is something as base as an attempt to grab property owned by them.

Cult creation

Proponents of Hindutva are also involved in the creation of a cult, like that of the warrior king Shivaji. The cash-strapped Maharashtra government is determined to erect a mid-sea statue of Shivaji at a cost of Rs.3,600 crore. A criminal and ferocious outcome of such deification was the 2014 lynching of a 28-year-old Muslim techie in Pune for his alleged involvement in posting some photographs denigrating Shivaji on a Facebook page. His murderers were members of the Hindu Rashtra Sena, a fringe Hindutva group.

The Shiv Sena has built itself up as the self-proclaimed keeper of the faith purely by its anti-Muslim rhetoric. The worst of this was seen in the post-Babri Masjid demolition riots in 1992-93 in Mumbai. In those dark days, a vicious fashion police targeted anyone who wore the salwar kameez. In an obvious plan to intimidate Muslims they held massive public aartis (a ritual) on the streets.

Promoters of Hindu Rashtra see secularism as inimical to their cause as was obvious by the murders of rationalist and superstition-buster Dr Narendra Dabholkar and the Communist leader Govind Pansare. Investigations have revealed the involvement of Sanatan Sanstha, a Hindu revivalist group, in the murders.

Although Maharashtra still preserves a strong vein of liberal thinking, the irony is that it is the birthplace of Hindu nationalism. V.D. Savarkar wrote “Hindutva: Who is a Hindu” when he was jailed in Ratnagiri, in Maharashtra, in the 1920s. His thinking influenced another Maharashtrian, K.B. Hedgewar, who founded the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) in Nagpur which was then in the erstwhile Central Provinces. An offshoot of the RSS is the Vanvasi Kalyan Kendra, which aims to convert non-Hindu tribal people “back to their Hindu roots”. All these people and organisations have defined what Hindu nationalism is today and while the idea of a Hindu Rashtra or nation is not yet aggressively pursued in Maharashtra, there is an insidious shift in the thinking.





KARNATAKA





Emerging hub of Hindutva

By Vikhar Ahmed Sayeed



Like in the rest of the country, Hindutva activists have been emboldened in Karnataka since the Narendra Modi-led BJP government came to power at the Centre in 2014. One of the incidents that shook Karnataka and the nation was the murder of Prof. M.M. Kalburgi at his house in Dharwad in north Karnataka on August 30, 2015. Kalburgi was an outspoken critic of Hindutva forces. Through his scholarly work, he had demonstrated that the numerically strong and politically influential Lingayat community had a distinct identity that was not Hindu. Many in the BJP did not like his assertion about this as the party’s social base had widened among the Lingayats over the past three decades. Almost two years after the incident, the assailants have not been captured. The murder followed similar attacks on progressive intellectuals such as Narendra Dabholkar and Govind Pansare in Maharashtra.

On July 11 last year, a day before the shocking video of Dalits in Una, where four men were beaten up for skinning a dead cow, came to light, a similar incident took place in Shantipura village of Chikkamagaluru district of Karnataka. Around 25 members of right-wing groups such as the Bajrang Dal, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the Hindu Jagarana Vedike (HJV) thrashed five Dalit men on suspicion that they had stolen a cow and slaughtered it. The fact that the Karnataka Prevention of Cow Slaughter and Cattle Preservation Act of 1964 allows for the selective slaughter of cattle in the State did not prevent them from attacking the five Dalits, including a physically challenged person called Balaraj.

Later that month, two Assamese labourers became targets of Bajrang Dal activists who asked them to return to where they had come from. The bulk of the labourers working in the coffee plantations in Chikkamagaluru are Muslims.

The saffronisation of Chikkamagaluru, which adjoins the “Hindutva laboratory” of coastal Karnataka, has been going on since the mid 1990s when the Hindu right-wing saw a vested interest in transforming the syncretic shrine of Guru Dattatreya Baba Budan Swamy Dargah in the hills into a “disputed” site. Since 2014, saffron activists under prominent BJP leaders have been targeting minorities and Dalits.

Coastal Karnataka

Coastal Karnataka, which has emerged as a hub of aggressive Hindutva, saw the Sangh Parivar taking the life of one of its own in August last year. Praveen Poojary, a 28-year-old member of the BJP, was beaten to death by cow protection vigilantes belonging to the HJV in Hebri, a small town in Udupi district. They claimed he was transporting cows in his vehicle.

There have also been several reports of Hindu and Muslim youngsters, especially of different genders, being prevented from fraternising with each other. In one of these incidents, a Muslim man was stripped and beaten mercilessly by Hindu right-wing activists after he was seen with a Hindu girl. The video was circulated on social media.

On June 13, a communal clash erupted in the town of Kalladka, around 30 km from Mangaluru. Kalladka is home to Dr Kalladka Prabhakar Bhat, a senior leader of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) from Karnataka who freely speaks against religious minorities. Videos of him spewing venom against Muslims and Christians are available online. A trivial issue led to the communal clash, but members of the HJV were openly threatening Muslims at the time.





ODISHA





Shifting into top gear

By Prafulla Das



At least three recent incidents in Odisha make it clear that Sangh Parivar outfits have gone into overdrive in the State. Significantly, the new-found enthusiasm among them follows the BJP’s emergence as the principal opposition party overtaking the Congress in the panchayat elections in February.

Violence struck the communally sensitive Bhadrak town during the Ramnavami festival in the first week of April. Although there was no loss of life, Bajrang Dal activists were out on the streets demanding action against those who apparently had posted derogatory remarks about Hindu deities on social media. About 150 persons were arrested even as a curfew remained in force in the town for several days. Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik visited the town to take stock of the situation before peace was finally restored.

The violence occurred days before the BJP held its National Executive meeting in Bhubaneswar with great fanfare. Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a road show on his arrival in the city in April to attend the two-day meeting.

Bajrang Dal activists were again in the news when they detained a train carrying cows at the Bhubaneswar railway station on May 24 evening and attacked four persons, including railway staff and caretakers of the cows. The 20 milch cows on the train were being transported to Meghalaya as part of the dairy mission in that State. That the firm selected by the Meghalaya government had valid papers to transport the cows from Salem in Tamil Nadu to Ampati in Meghalaya was of no significance to the group of about 20 people who attacked the train in the belief that the cows were being smuggled.

Surprisingly, the railway police failed to detain any of the attackers. Later, the Bhubaneswar station superintendent lodged a complaint with the Government Railway Police and eight youths were booked after they were identified from CCTV footage.

Again, on June 11, Bajrang Dal activists took out a rally in Boriguma block of Koraput district raising slogans against minority communities. The representatives of minority communities met the district administration officials to complain against it after a video clip of the rally made the rounds on social media.

Sangh Parivar activists who have entered the party fold have drawn up different strategies to improve the strength of the BJP. A 10-member delegation of the Sangh Parivar attended the recent Hindu convention held by the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti in Goa to discuss Hindu Rashtra.

Odisha is not new to cow vigilantism and violence in the name of faith. Dara Singh, the prime accused in the killing of the Australian missionary Graham Staines and his two sons in Keonjhar district, has a history of attacking vehicles carrying cattle in the late 1990s.

Kandhamal district witnessed the worst ever communal violence in the State’s history when the Biju Janata Dal and the BJP were running the government in coalition from 2000 to 2009. Many Christians were killed and their houses burnt down in the violence that erupted in the aftermath of the killing of Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Swami Lakshmanananda. In fact, the Sangh Parivar spread its wings when the BJP was a part of the ruling establishment. Hundreds of schools were opened across the State under the banner of Saraswati Shishu Mandir and Saraswati Vidya Mandir.

Though the Sangh Parivar outfits went about their work silently in the State from 2009 onwards, they came to the fore after Modi assumed power in Delhi. Their activities gained momentum after Yogi Adityanath became the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh and the BJP put up a good performance in the panchayat elections in Odisha. Although the BJP’s performance in the civic body elections can primarily be attributed to the anti-incumbency sentiment against the BJD government and the severe infighting in the State unit of the Congress, Sangh Parivar outfits and the BJP are busy highlighting Brand Modi in the party’s bid to implement its “Look East” policy.

Non-RSS leaders, including Bijoy Mohapatra and Dilip Roy, who joined the BJP and were made members of the party’s National Executive, have been sidelined in the new avatar of the party.

The BJP is now trying to enhance its presence by highlighting welfare schemes on the plank of Modi’s “Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas” slogan and by organising Modi fests. And Sangh Parivar organisations are busy wooing unemployed youths at the grass-roots level into their fold. Literate youths are also engaged in increasing the Sangh Parivar’s penetration on social media.





ASSAM





Catching them young

By Sushanta Talukdar



In June 2016, when State Education Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma pronounced the BJP-led government’s desire to set up Shankardev Shishu Niketans in every panchayat in Assam, many people objected to the idea in their comments in mainstream and social media. Shankardev Shishu Niketans are a network of schools affiliated to the Vidya Bharati Akhil Bharatiya Shiksha Sansthan, the educational wing of the RSS. The disapproval of the people was mainly because of their belief that an institution named after Srimanta Sankardeva could not be used to indoctrinate students with Hindutva ideology and Hindu Rashtra.

Srimanta Sankardeva (1449-1569), the propagator of Eksarana Naamdharma (a Vaishnava faith), was one who ushered in a sociocultural renaissance in Assam. He has influenced the Assamese way of life with his ideals of an inclusive society for six centuries.

The noted Indologist Dr Maheswar Neog, in his book Sankardeva (published by the National Book Trust), writes: “In Sankardeva’s system, therefore, we find Brahman disciples of Sudra teachers, and even people who are untouchables in other parts of India in the following of Brahman mahantas. We also find a Brahman occupying superiorship of a sattra in succession to a Sudra. Nobody, on the other hand, is to be considered unfit for securing initiation to the faith on caste considerations. Among the disciples of Sankardeva and Madhavdeva were Chandsai and Jayhari, both Mussalmans; Govinda, a Garo; Jayananda, a Bhutiya; Madhava of Jayanti of the Hira or potter’s profession; Srirama, believed to have been a Kaivarta; and Damodara, a Baniya.”

The Shankardev Shishu Niketan schools were just a camouflage for the RSS’ game plan to indoctrinate students with Hindutva ideology.

The Shishu Shiksha Samiti, a registered society formed on April 21, 1979, runs the schools. The promoters of the Samiti decided to name the Vidya Bharati schools in Assam after Sankardeva. Shankardev Shishu Niketan, Ambikagiri Nagar, was the first school established by the Samiti in Assam. Over the past 38 years the number of these schools in Assam has gone up to 493, with 1,19,000 pupils.

The vision of the Shishu Shiksha Samiti, Assam, as stated on its website www.vbassam.org, is: “Vidya Bharati is of firm opinion that education will be useful for a person and nation at large which has its roots in Hindutva. So, it is crystal clear that revival of Hindu Philosophy will be all of our educational Renaissance. The aim of education and the basic concepts of the development of the personality of the child are based of [on] this philosophy.”

One of its publications, the Vidya Bharati Sangbad, in its January-March 2016 issue which is uploaded on the website, gives an idea on how young minds are indoctrinated in these schools. The issue has an article on the significance of the “Hindu New Year Day” and how it coincides with the birth anniversary of RSS founder K.B. Hedgewar on April 1, 1889. However, there is no reference to Sankardeva or the Assamese New Year which begins in mid April.

Also on the website is a sample form that is required to be filled in by every Shankardev Shishu Niketan and submitted to the Shishu Shiksha Samiti, Assam, which says a lot about the activities undertaken by these schools. Among other information required to be provided are whether the schools have observed the Hindu Samrajya Divas, the Swadeshi Saptah (a week-long event to mark the birth anniversary of Pandit Deendayal Upadhyay on September 25 and Mahatma Gandhi on October 2), the Guru Purnima Divas, and the Jammu and Kashmir Biloy Divas (the Accession of Jammu and Kashmir on October 26). The column seeking information on the observance of the death anniversary of Sankardeva figures at the bottom of the list.

Whether the government will facilitate the running of Shankardev Shishu Niketans in every panchayat remains to be seen, but the Education Minister’s statement is a pointer to the Sangh Parivar’s plans to saffronise education in the State. It also reveals a devious design to use Sankardeva’s name to replace his vision of an inclusive society with the vision of a “Hindu Rashtra”.

Lynching

Hatred unleashed

DIVYA TRIVEDI cover-story

ON June 26, Muslims of Khandawli VILlage in Faridabad district of Haryana, on the outskirts of New Delhi were in no mood to celebrate Ramzan, or Eid. Sounds of wailing filled the narrow streets of the village. Women gathered around a shell-shocked Saira, whose 16-year-old son, Junaid Khan, had been brutally murdered on a train from Delhi bound for Mathura. The men offered prayers wearing black armbands in protest.

What provided the trigger for the attack on the teenager was not clear. Reports said that it was over an argument over sharing of a seat on a crowded train that resulted in the skirmish. But Junaid’s family and friends maintain that it was Junaid’s skull cap and his brothers’ beards, which gave away their religious identity, that led to the attack. The assaulters pulled Junaid’s cap and stamped on it, and even tried to pull the beards of his siblings. They told them they deserved to die. According to the family, other passengers on the train egged on the assaulters, saying maas khate hai, maaro inko (they eat meat, kill them).

Rabiya, the eldest of Saira’s seven children, said the cap was a symbol of identity and dignity for Muslims and stamping on it was the highest form of insult. The siblings were educated in religious scriptures and Junaid was a hafiz, he had recited the entire Quran, which he had learned by heart, during Ramzan.

“There were 200 people in that bogie. Not a single one came to the defence of my children,” Junaid’s father, Jalaluddin, said. Junaid’s brothers, Hashim and Shaqir, survived the murderous assault. Junaid died on the platform. Shaqir, who, according to Rabiya, suffered 18 stab wounds, is recuperating in a Delhi hospital. His wife was in a state of shock and unable to speak. She spent her time tending to her one-year-old daughter and three-year-old son. “The brothers were returning after shopping for Eid celebrations. Shaqir’s wife was waiting for him to bring clothes for the children,” Rabiya said.

The predominantly Muslim village was grim. It has coexisted with the surrounding Hindu-majority villages for decades. Both Hindu and Muslim festivals used to be celebrated with gaiety until the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power at the Centre three years ago. Taunting in public places became common and it started disrupting the harmony. Parents were worried about their children’s safety. Mohammad Ali Jaan removed his children from a good school in Ballabgarh and enrolled them in a local school in Khandawli. “Their education will suffer, but at least they’ll be safe,” he told Frontline.

Jalaluddin, a taxi driver, said: “ Yeh sarkar soyi hui hai, usko jagane ke liye pehna hai (this government is sleeping, I have worn the black band to wake it).”

While lynching of Dalits and Muslims has been a recurring phenomenon for decades, it has increased in frequency and intensity since May 2014, when Narendra Modi came to power at the Centre.

The Sangh Parivar furthered its strategy of communal polarisation with its hold on power at the Centre. This found further traction in the run-up to the Uttar Pradesh election. By installing a Hindu hardliner, Yogi Adityanath, as the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, the Sangh Parivar attempted to perpetuate the communal polarisation, thereby discarding all pretences about the proclaimed agenda of the government at the Centre and in the State. Instances of lynching have risen in recent times, with more than 20 cases reported in the first six months of this year.

Cow-related violence

Collating information around gautankwad, or cow terrorism, the data journalism portal Indiaspend.com analysed cow-related violence over a period of eight years. It found that of the 63 attacks reported during these years, 61, or 97 per cent, were reported after May 2014. Half the cases were reported from BJP-ruled States and 86 per cent of the victims were Muslims. In all, 124 people were injured in the attacks, which took place in 19 States. What is unsettling was that around 52 per cent of the attacks were based on rumours. On June 7, Ainul Ansari was attacked by a mob in Dhanbad, Jharkhand, on the pretext that he was carrying beef for an Iftar party. Although he survived the attack, it was a grim reminder of what happened to Mohammad Akhlaq, who was lynched in Dadri, Uttar Pradesh, in 2015 on the basis of rumours that he had stored beef in his refrigerator. In May, two traders were assaulted in Malegaon, Maharashtra, for storing beef.

In most of these cases, videos showing the attackers using the foulest of language while beating the victims have gone viral on social media. Pehlu Khan, a cattle trader from Haryana, was brutally killed on April 1 in Rajasthan following rumours that he was transporting cows for slaughter. Some construction workers from Delhi were lynched in North Dinajpur in West Bengal following rumours that they were cattle thieves. The villagers said they killed cattle thieves as the police had reportedly told them to “take care of such petty matters themselves” and not bother them. Similarly, in Assam, cattle traders Abu Hanifa and Riazuddin Ali were killed for allegedly stealing cattle. According to Indiaspend, in 5 per cent of these attacks, there were no reports of the attackers being arrested. In 13 attacks (21 per cent), the police registered cases against the victims/survivors. The absence of any punishment to the murderers seems to have emboldened others to lynch with impunity.

The frequency of such attacks and the State’s silence over them have made it impossible to view them as isolated and spontaneous instances of mob violence. The attacks appeared to be a part of a well-calibrated plan of extermination, many observers said, akin to a slow genocide. It also served to create a fear psychosis in the minds of Muslims. The barbarous nature of the attacks was becoming intense with every passing day and the assaulters were no longer required to justify their actions. From accusing Muslims of slaughtering cows, storing beef, and breaking the law, to attacking them for wearing a skull cap, cultural and religious animosity towards the community has indeed increased.

In February 2016, a policeman, Yusuf Sheikh, was beaten up and paraded through the streets of Pangaon in Latur district of Maharashtra for doing his duty. He was made to hold a saffron flag and chant jai bhawani. In Pratapgarh, Rajasthan, Zafar Hussain was killed when he objected to civic officials working under the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan campaign taking pictures of women defecating in the open. In May this year, Munna Ansari of Ranchi (Jharkhand) was beaten up on rumours of being a “child-lifter”. In May again, Ghulam Mohammad of Bulandshahr (Uttar Pradesh) was killed for allegedly “helping” an inter-faith couple. The incidents reveal that no matter what the perceived crime is, Hindutva elements view a Muslim as an accused and instead of approaching the law and order authorities for justice they resort to mob violence.

The tacit approval of the ruling party by way of silence on the lynching incidents was encouraging the elements to resort to violent acts. In fact, BJP leaders expressed more outrage over the slaughter of cows than acts of murder by cow terrorists. When the Centre notified a Bill in May banning the sale of cattle for slaughter in animal markets, members of the Kerala Youth Congress slaughtered a calf in protest. Politicians, especially those belonging to the BJP, immediately condemned the act.

Two instances, in Rajasthan and Odisha, showed that even government functionaries could not escape the wrath of gau rakshaks (cow protectors). The Southern Railways’ initiative to earn revenues worth Rs.2.65 crore by transporting cows was spoilt by cow vigilantes in Bhubaneswar. The Kochuveli-Guwahati Express left Salem on May 23. When it reached Bhubaneswar, en route a government dairy farm in Meghalaya, a mob of around 25 people barged into the station and pulled the cattle out. They viciously attacked the two dairy department staff, the veterinarian and the station manager and the train driver although the officials had valid documents with them.

On June 12, officials of the Tamil Nadu Animal Husbandry Department sustained grievous injuries when they were attacked by around 50 cow vigilantes in Barmer, Rajasthan. They were transporting cows bought in Jaisalmer and had valid documents in support of their purchase. The mob attacked the driver and cleaner of the van and assaulted the policemen who tried to stop them. They tried to set fire to the trucks and blocked the highway.

Instances of BJP cadres violating the law have been increasing. They occupy seats on trains without buying tickets and behave in an unruly manner, sporting saffron gamchhas. Ticket collectors do not confront them for fear of being attacked. In Bulandshahr, a BJP leader, Pramod Lodhi, and his men reportedly misbehaved with a policewoman when she pulled them up for violating traffic rules.

Spontaneous protests

Junaid’s murder on the eve of Eid shook civil society out of its slumber. A spontaneous call on social media with the hashtag #notinmyname by film-maker Saba Dewan led to mass demonstrations in almost 20 towns and cities across the country. From students to factory workers to professionals to housewives, thousands of people took part in the gatherings to condemn the mass atrocities on the minorities and hold the government accountable. The protests invited a fair share of criticism over its use of the hashtag. An online petition addressed to Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, BJP leader, was initiated as a critique of the protests. It further nuanced the debate, gave a call to stand by Muslim brothers and sisters, and called for a regime change with the hashtag, “BJP should go”.

“These are organised crimes against the minorities, both Dalits and Muslims under the fundamentalist regime. Mainstream media names these hate crime as ‘mob rule’. The use of term ‘mob rule’ is systematically used to deviate and normalise state-supported violence against the minorities. It is years of indoctrination and preparation of the systematic massacre of the minorities, Dalits, and Tribal. BJP rule protects its goons who are trained and indoctrinated with the fundamentalists, supremacist ideology that envisions ‘Hindu Nation’,” it said.

A day after the protests, the Prime Minister was forced to make a statement at Sabarmati Ashram, Ahmedabad: “Killing people in the name of gau bhakti (cow worship) is not acceptable. No person in this nation has the right to take the law into his or her own hands.” He defended cow protection as valid activity, but reiterated that violence was not the solution to any problem. Last year, too, Modi made a statement against fake gau rakshaks who engaged in anti-national activities by night. The spate of lynchings this year shows that the Prime Minister’s statement has failed to act as a deterrent.

Syria

Shifting goalposts

JOHN CHERIAN world-affairs

With the Daesh, or Islamic State, in retreat and the Syrian Army and allied militias advancing all over Syria, the Americans and their proxy forces have begun to redouble their efforts to foil Syrian reunification. The Syrian Army, supported by the Russian Air Force, is advancing towards Raqqa, the “capital” of the self-proclaimed Islamic State.

The fight in Syria represents a total contrast from the fight for Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city across the border. Mosul should be completely liberated by July 2017. Only a few pockets in the old city are still under the control of the Daesh. Whereas the fight for Mosul is a coordinated one in which the Iraqi forces are backed by the Americans as well as Shia militias trained by the Iranians and Hizbollah, in Syria American special forces are backing the Syrian Kurds and other militias for hire in the race to capture Raqqa and carve out a statelet along the border with Turkey.

In a dangerous development, the U.S military shot down a Syrian Air Force plane and a military drone that were participating in the fight against terrorist groups in the third week of June. Earlier in June, the U.S. Air Force had shot down another Syrian military drone. This is the first time since the conflict in Syria began six years ago that a Syrian Air Force plane had been wilfully targeted by the U.S.

This is not the first time that the U.S. has intervened on the side of the armed militants and terrorists. In September last year, the U.S. Air Force targeted Syrian forces which were on the verge of inflicting a military defeat on the Daesh near the Deir Ezzor military base. As many as 10,000 Syrian soldiers have been holding out against the Daesh in Deir Ezzor city for the last four years, against overwhelming odds. A part of the city is under the control of the Daesh, which is expected to make its last stand in Syria near this city once it is expelled from Raqqa.

The Americans, the Israelis and the Jordanians do not want the Syrian government to regain complete control of the country’s southern borders. With the dream of regime change in Damascus evaporating, these three states want to carve out their own areas of influence in small enclaves within Syria. Eastern Syria and the area around Deir Ezzor is mainly desert but also the site of the country’s hydrocarbon reserves. Control of the area by the Americans and their allies will cut off an important land route connecting the capitals of Iran, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.

The Wall Street Journal recently reported that Israel had been regularly supplying rebel groups along its border with Syria with food, fuel and medicines. Israeli war planes have intervened on behalf of the rebel forces on several occasions. “Israel stood by our side in a heroic way,” said Moatasem al-Golani, spokesman for a rebel group that calls itself the Knights of the Golan. “We wouldn’t have survived without Israel’s assistance.” Israeli planes and missiles have never bothered to target the Daesh or al Nusra in the last six years of the war.

Tacit help from Turkey

Syrian troops and their allies have been consolidating their hold over the area around Deir Ezzor and Raqqa, undermining American plans to sever the strategic road link. The Syrian government is getting tacit help from the Turkish government and its ally, Qatar. These two countries were among the main backers of the rebel groups, including al Nusra and Daesh fighters in Syria until late last year. But with the U.S. showing its keenness for the establishment of a Kurdish enclave in Syria along the border with Turkey, there has been a dramatic change in the attitude of the Turks. Ankara is dead set against the People Protection Units (YPG), an affiliate of the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) in Turkey that runs a mini-state along its borders.

The PKK has been declared a terrorist organisation by the Turkish state. The U.S. and many European governments have also deemed the PKK a terrorist organisation. But outside Turkey, the PKK is working hand in glove with Washington. This has angered the Turks, who, along with the Qataris, have started indirectly cooperating with the Syrian government in the fight against the YPG and other American-backed rebel groups along the border with Syria. The two governments are also not happy with the U.S.’ game plan of escalating military tensions with Iran, with whom they have extensive trade and economic links. The facts on the ground in Syria are changing by the day. At one point of the war, Turkey and Qatar were among the biggest backers of the terrorist groups in Syria. Now they have been replaced by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Ever since Donald Trump took over as U.S. President, some of his senior non-military advisers have been pressing for an American-led intervention in southern Syria. The American and Jordanian military conducted war games along the Syrian border last year. The U.S. launched a massive missile attack on a Syrian airbase in April this year, on the basis of fictitious reports that the Syrian government had used chemical weapons on its own citizens. According to the investigative journalist Seymour Hersh, President Trump went ahead with his decision to target Syria despite the Pentagon warning him that there was no evidence that the Syrian government had used chemical weapons in the town of Khan Sheikhoun. In May, the U.S. Air Force targeted a Syrian Army convoy proceeding towards an area in southern Syria where American and British special forces were training rebel forces. According to most observers of the Syrian scene, only a large-scale American military intervention will be able to stop the Syrian Army from liberating most of the country.

It is important to emphasise that the American military has already unilaterally encroached into Syrian territory. The Syrian government has strongly protested to the international community that its sovereignty has been blatantly violated by unilateral acts of American aggression. The Russian military, along with militias like Hizbollah, are in Syria at the express invitation of the Syrian government. With the endgame becoming clearer, the Americans have decided to impose themselves militarily in an open way in the Syrian conflict. There are credible reports that the Americans are in the process of setting up a military base in Tabqah town in Raqqa province with the active support of the YPG, which is armed and trained by the U.S. Army. Many Kurd fighters, who were initially armed and supplied by the Syrian government to fight the Daesh and the al Nusra Front, have defected to the American-sponsored “Syrian Democratic Forces” (SDF). The YPG is part of the SDF. The Syrian Army and the SDF are in a race to capture Raqqa.

Russian warning

The Russian government issued a strong warning to the U.S. after its FA/18 plane shot down a Syrian Su-22 warplane. The Americans claimed that the Syrian plane was flying inside a so-called “deconflicting zone” and that the plane was brought down in “self-defence”, but Syria has not recognised this so-called “deconflicting zone” proclaimed by the U.S. The London-based Syrian Observatory on Human Rights, which is no friend of the Syrian government, said that the Syrian plane was targeted by the Americans to protect Daesh fighters operating in the area. After the incident, Moscow announced that American planes flying south of the Euphrates river would be targeted by its planes. The Russian Deputy Foreign Minister, Sergei Ryabkov, said that recent American actions would “only help the cause of the terrorists”.

Russia has announced the suspension of the hotline with the U.S. that helps prevent accidental confrontations over Syrian skies between the air forces of the two countries. Senior Russian lawmakers have warned that the shooting down of the Syrian Air Force jet could lead to a “major conflict” in the region. The Deputy Chairman of Russia’s Committee on Defence and Security in the Upper House of the Duma, Frants Klintsevich, said that the shooting down of the Syrian Air Force plane “was a provocation aimed against Russia”. Under international law, the Syrian government has the right to operate inside its own airspace and the U.S. has no right to station its troops inside Syria.

Speaking to the media at the U.N. Headquarters in New York, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said that the American presence in southern Syria was “absolutely illegal”. He said that there was neither a request from the Syrian government nor a U.N. Security Council Resolution that legitimised it. “Any presence, especially military presence, on the territory of a sovereign state is only possible when there is a corresponding resolution from the U.N. Security Council or a request or a consent from the legitimate authority,” Bogdanov emphasised.

The Iranians are also flexing their muscles on behalf of the government of Syria. In the third week of June, Iran fired medium-range missiles at Daesh positions in Deir Ezzor. In fact, the attack happened on the same day of the downing of the Syrian jet. Iranian military officials have said that the missile attacks, which were in retaliation for the twin Daesh terror attack in Tehran in early June, killed more than 65 militants, most of them of foreign origin. Iran has said that the June terror attacks were planned by the Daesh from Deir Ezzor. Tehran had coordinated with Damascus and Moscow before launching the missile attack. The Iranian missile attack was also intended to be a message to its enemies in the region that it had the wherewithal to target them. Gen. Yahya Rahim Safavi, military adviser to the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, had issued a warning to the West a few days prior to the missile attack against the Daesh targets in Syria saying that “if the U.S. decides to start any war against Iran, all its military bases in the region will experience insecurity”.

With the U.S. now virtually giving up on its goal of regime change in Syria, the goalposts are being shifted. Under the Trump administration, the focus of America and its regional allies will shift more towards Iran. But in order to isolate Iran, the West and its allies will have to further weaken Syria and its allies in the region by setting up new military bases and propping up sectarian militias and parties.

Saudi Arabia

Palace coup

JOHN CHERIAN world-affairs

THE timing of the sudden elevation of Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the sacking of the Crown Prince Muhammad bin Nayef by Saudi Arabia’s monarch, King Salman, on June 21 came as a surprise to most observers of the region. It was, of course, quite evident that the old and ailing monarch wanted his 31-year-old favourite son to succeed him. Soon after assuming the throne on the death of his half- brother, King Abdullah, in January 2015, King Salman sprang a surprise by naming his son as the Deputy Crown Prince and also giving him unprecedented powers. Prince Muhammad bin Nayef was reduced to a virtual figurehead. The King abolished the Crown Prince’s Royal Court, which was a parallel centre of power. Only the Interior Ministry remained under Prince Muhammad bin Nayef’s control. The Crown Prince had reportedly gone into a deep sulk, disappearing for months on an extended holiday to Algeria, last year. After he returned, he realised that his influence had been further whittled down. Prince Muhammad bin Nayef had made his reputation as the man who crushed the incipient Al Qaeda network in the kingdom and had powerful connections within the United States security establishment during the George Bush and Barack Obama administrations.

Prince Mohammed bin Salman was given charge of the Defence portfolio. He was only 29 at the time and became one of the youngest Defence Ministers the world had seen in recent times. It was under the young Prince’s watch that Saudi Arabia started its disastrous military intervention in Yemen. Under his father’s benign watch, he further expanded his powers by taking control of the economy, which was hit by low oil prices for three years in a row. The West hailed him as a reformer after he announced the launch of a “Vision 2030” plan to revive the Saudi economy.

Prince Mohammed bin Salman promised to partially privatise the Saudi oil behemoth Saudi Aramco, the world’s biggest oil company, and to cut the lavish subsidies that Saudi citizens enjoy. He announced wage cuts for public sector workers in September last year. Two-thirds of the Saudi workforce is in the public sector. The unemployment rate among young Saudis is said to be rising, with some experts saying that the official rate of 12.1 per cent is not the real figure. It is said to be closer to 30 per cent. Two-thirds of the Saudi population is below the age of 30.

The fall in oil revenues, coupled with the billions of dollars spent on the war in Yemen and Syria, has considerably depleted the kingdom’s treasury. This has led to a drastic cut in public spending and the imposition of taxes on Saudi citizens for the first time. Many of the big Saudi companies, such as the bin Laden Group, are on the verge of bankruptcy. The expatriate workforce, consisting mainly of South Asians, has borne the brunt of the problem, with many workers losing their jobs and many others going without pay for months. There are around 12 million foreign workers in Saudi Arabia. More than a million are going to be sent home before the year ends.

When King Salman issued the royal decree naming his son the Crown Prince, he also announced the restoration of the allowances that were slashed for public servants when Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced his grandiose “Vision 2030”. Another son of the King, Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, has been made the new Saudi ambassador to the United States. His previous job qualification was that of a pilot in the Saudi Air Force. A close associate of the new Crown Prince, Abdulaziz bin Saud bin Nayyef, has been put in charge of the Interior Ministry, which has a million-strong security force.

Anointed by Trump

The palace intrigue and changes in the kingdom came in the wake of the visit of U.S. President Donald Trump. As a veteran West Asia-watcher observed, for a Saudi prince to become the King, he needs the backing of the U.S. and, to a lesser extent, the extended royal family. The voice of the Saudi populace is virtually irrelevant. According to reports from the region, the royal in-house coup plan had started immediately after the election of Trump.

The United Arab Emirates’ Crown Prince Muhammad bin Zayed, who has emerged as a powerful player in the region, had reportedly laid the groundwork by arranging a visit of Prince Mohammed bin Salman to Washington in March where he met with Trump and his closest advisers, including his influential son-in-law, Jared Kushner. According to reports in the U.S. media, the spectacle and pomp that was on display during Trump’s state visit to Saudi Arabia in May was planned during that visit to Washington.

An article in The New York Times said: “Prince Mohammed was Trump’s anointed candidate—in this case for the byzantine struggle to control the House of Saud.” During the last years of the previous Obama administration, the Saudia were kept on a long leash of sorts. The Obama administration, unhappy with young Prince Mohammed’s Yemen misadventure and his open criticism of the U.S.-Iran nuclear deal, had stopped providing some lethal weaponry to the kingdom. There were also growing demands in the U.S. media and the political establishment to hold the Saudis responsible for the 9/11 terror incidents and the spread of fundamentalist ideology fuelling terrorism in the region. The scenario for the Saudis suddenly changed with the election of Trump as President. Every action the Saudi monarchy has taken this year, including the economic blockade of Qatar, has the unequivocal support of the White House.

Trump chose Saudi Arabia as his first official foreign destination as President. No other newly elected U.S. President had done so. During the visit to Riyadh, Trump fully endorsed the Saudi world view, including its theory that Iran is the biggest source and instigator of terrorism and that political parties like the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas were terrorist organisations. The Trump administration views Saudi Arabia as the pivot of a pro-American Sunni alliance in the region. It has bought the Saudi argument that its war against the people of Yemen is in fact a war to halt the expansion of Iranian influence in the region. The Trump administration has identified Iran as its primary enemy in the region.

Move against Qatar

Trump even supported the Saudi position on Qatar, despite the stated misgivings of the U.S. State and Defence Departments. Trump tweeted twice that Qatar was guilty of harbouring terrorists and supporting terrorist groupings. It may not be a coincidence that the Saudi move against Qatar came soon after Trump’s visit to Riyadh.

During Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s first visit to Washington, he spent more than four hours in a meeting with U.S. Secretary of Defence James Mattis. Every major move by Saudi Arabia these days is said to have the imprint of the new Crown Prince. The German Intelligence Agency, the BND, had in an internal memo issued two years ago characterised the new Saudi Crown Prince as “a reckless gambler with too much power”. His actions since then have vindicated this viewpoint. The war in Yemen and the move against Qatar have the imprint of the new Crown Prince.

Since Trump assumed the presidency, Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s statements against Iran have been even more belligerent. In an interview in May, the Crown Prince ruled out any dialogue with Tehran, insisting that Iran was out to dominate the region. “We’re a primary target of the Iranian regime,” he said. “We won’t wait for the battle to be in Saudi Arabia. Instead, we’ll work so that the battle is for them in Iran.” The Iranian government has blamed the Saudi authorities for instigating the twin terror attacks that rocked Tehran soon after Trump’s visit to Riyadh. The official reaction from Washington and Riyadh after the terror attack in Tehran only fuelled Iran’s suspicions. Both the governments tried to portray the attack as a kind of blowback for Iran’s alleged support for terrorism.

The elevation of Prince Mohammed bin Salman coincided with the Saudi-orchestrated move against Qatar. With Qatar rejecting the Saudi demands, which would have reduced it to a vassal state, the unity of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) seems to have received a death blow. Kuwait and Oman have refused to toe the Saudi line on Qatar. These two countries fear that if Saudi Arabia has its way with tiny but rich Qatar, they will be next on Riyadh’s hit list. Among the demands made by Saudi Arabia is the immediate disbandment of the Al Jazeera network and the abandonment of all ties with Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood and other such political groupings. The other key demand is that Qatar sever all diplomatic and trade links with Iran and remove the Turkish military base from its territory.

Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s ascendancy also coincides with the weakening of the GCC. It was only after his father assumed the throne in 2015 that Qatar invited Turkey to set up a military base on its territory. Turkey has now managed to re-establish its military presence in the region for the first time since the collapse of the Ottoman empire in the early 20th century.

The Trump administration expects Riyadh to play a proactive role in helping Israel to subdue the demand for a meaningful Palestinian statehood. The contours of an axis emerging between Tel Aviv, Riyadh and Abu Dhabi are already visible. Trump had flown directly to Tel Aviv after his official visit to Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia never allowed any previous head of state to do so. The new Crown Prince has the strong backing of the powerful Jewish lobby in Washington, which had been assiduously cultivated by UAE diplomats there. The U.S. media had reported that secret talks are being held to establish diplomatic relations between Tel Aviv and Riyadh. Israel has a semi-official presence in Abu Dhabi. Israel and Saudi Arabia have been coordinating their stance on Iran and Syria. Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s Defence Minister, has called for diplomatic relations to be established with “moderate Arab Sunni countries” before a “peace agreement can be made with the Palestinians”.

Meanwhile, there is no let-up in the Saudi-led war against Yemen. The country is facing a dire humanitarian crisis, the worst the world has seen in recent times. On top of that, the country has been hit by a cholera epidemic of gargantuan proportions. The new Saudi Crown Prince has not seen it fit to order a ceasefire to help humanitarian relief and health workers into the country. Instead, he has announced the donation of $66.7 million for the victims of cholera in the country devastated on his watch. UNICEF and other aid groups have, however, thanked the Prince for his charitable turn. In 2015, the Crown Prince spent $550 million to buy a second-hand yacht from a Russian tycoon in France. Interestingly, the Russian oligarch had initially bought the yacht for around $300 million.

United States

End of the social contract

VIJAY PRASHAD world-affairs

Disabled Americans came in wheelchairs into the United States Senate to register their protest against the harsh Republican plan to slash health care. ADAPT, a disability rights group, staged a die-in right before the office of the leading Republican in the Senate, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. About 60 protesters tried to block the entrance to McConnell’s office. Their goal was to show the rest of America what would come out of the American Health Care Act (AHCA), which the Republicans sought to push through as an alternative to Obamacare. The police arrested 43 protesters and wheeled out others from McConnell’s hallway. The McConnell plan would slash Medicare, a government plan that provides health-care coverage for low-income Americans and for those with disabilities. One of the elements of the plan envisages cutting funds for in-home assistance that allows disabled Americans to remain in their own homes rather than move to nursing homes. Fourteen million Americans will lose any access to health insurance.

One of the people who got out of her wheelchair to be arrested was Stephanie Woodward, director of advocacy for the Center for Disability Rights. She was arrested by the officers in the Senate, who carried her out. “We have a right to live,” Stephanie Woodward said. “And by live, I don’t mean just breathe. I mean be a part of the American dream, be in the community, raise a family, go to work. These Medicaid cuts will force people into institutions who don’t need to be there.”

Harsh budget

Evidence of a major assault by the Trump administration on the social safety net in the U.S. was already there in Trump’s budget proposal. He sought to cut funds for the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Medicaid and the Interagency Council on Homelessness. Cuts to affordable housing and to homeless assistance programmes were a centrepiece. But so too are cuts that would hurt the disabled. Sally Johnston, president of the Disabled in Action of Greater Syracuse, said: “Trump’s proposed budget will cut trillions of dollars in domestic services. How can this make America better?”

Harshness towards the vulnerable defines Trump’s agenda. There was a whisper of this when Trump mocked a disabled reporter for The New York Times, Serge Kovaleski, and when 12-year-old J.J. Holmes, who has cerebral palsy, was ejected from a Trump rally in Tampa, Florida. The disregard shown to people with disabilities reveals the kind of agenda that Trump was always going to drive. Generosity towards people is not his metier. His is a harsh project, to push aside the vulnerable in a social Darwinist drive to excellence. Weakness is reviled. Strength is applauded.

In late June, Trump’s Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin married the Scottish actress Louise Linton. They had a lavish wedding, attended by Trump, his Vice President and most of the Cabinet. Mnuchin and Louise Linton live in a $12.6 million home in an exclusive part of Washington, D.C. The money is Mnuchin’s, what he made as a partner in Goldman Sachs. Mnuchin is not the only fabulously wealthy person in Trump’s cabinet. He sits at Cabinet meetings near Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Deputy Commerce Secretary Todd Ricketts. Trump’s Chief Economic Adviser is Gary Cohn, another former Goldman Sachs president. All are worth hundreds of millions of dollars each.

At a rally in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, just after the Mnuchin wedding, Trump mused about the wealth in his Cabinet. “Somebody said—why did you appoint a rich person to be in charge of the economy? No, it’s true. And Wilbur’s a very rich person in charge of commerce. I said—Because that’s the kind of thinking we want’.” What kind of thinking would that be? The thinking of someone who was willing to set aside any social agenda for his individual gain.

Trump’s base is made of a combination of people of great wealth—who are few—and the immense white-collar middle-class sector that has found itself made vulnerable by globalisation. Business process outsourcing struck the white-collar middle class, which formed the base of the Tea Party and then the Trump movement. He promised this base that he would not become wedded to Wall Street but would put Main Street in charge. That has not come to pass. “I love all people, rich or poor,” Trump said, “but in those particular positions I don’t want a poor person.” No poor or middle-class person should direct commercial or budgetary policy. That should be left to the rich. This is an honest assessment of Trump’s project—to appeal to the mass of white-collar vulnerable workers, but to deliver the reins of power to the very wealthy.

In a new book, Duke University professor Nancy MacLean goes into the intellectual roots of the radical Right and the vision of the current agenda, as articulated by Trump. The Right, she shows in Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of The Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America, is interested in the destruction of “society” and the creation of pure individualism. Charles Koch, one of the major financiers of the radical Right, relied upon Baldy Harper. Harper argued, decades ago, that support for vulnerable populations would erode liberty. He suggested that liberal policies that helped the poor and the disadvantaged would be like a disease against society. “Once the disease has advanced,” he wrote, “a bitter curative medicine is required to gain already-lost liberty.” These are harsh words. The idea of a “bitter curative medicine” is something that is natural to the Trump team. The vicious knives they wield against any social policy for the poor and the vulnerable are sharp and are used with gusto. One can see the way they cut away at precious social policies in the budget and in their health care plans.

Nancy MacLean describes the agenda of the economist James Buchanan, who won the Nobel Prize for Economics. Buchanan is a favourite of the radical Right, for whom he acts as an important intellectual standard. A clear sentiment of Buchanan’s vision is available in a 2005 document, where he attacks people who have not been able to save enough for unforeseen circumstances or for retirement. If they fall catastrophically ill or lose their jobs, they should have prepared for this eventuality through prudent savings. If not, Buchanan wrote, they “are to be treated as subordinate members of the species, akin to animals who are dependent”. The language here is ferocious. It is mimicked by Trump and his Cabinet.

Let us return to Trump’s budget. He proposes to cut $2.5 trillion in programmes for the working class and the indigent. Food stamps, the essential means for the poorest Americans to access food, would go. It is important to underline that one in six Americans struggles with hunger—49 million Americans have a hard time putting food on their tables. One in five children is at risk of hunger, with the ratio higher—one in three—for African-American and Latino families. There will be no easy way for Americans who struggle with food insecurity to feed themselves. They will be left to starve, like “subordinate members of the species”.

‘Poverty a state of mind’

In a radio interview, Trump’s Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson said: “I think poverty to a large extent is also a state of mind.” Aid to the poor, says the Trump team, does not work. The poor must be made to “go to work”, said Trump’s Budget Director Mick Mulvaney. But how to go to work when jobs are simply unavailable, as Trump himself has said on many occasions? In fact, the office that helps the poor find jobs has also been slated to be cut. That means even those few programmes to assist the unemployed to find work will no longer be available. In fact, as New York University Professor Jonathan Morduch and Rachael Schneider say in their new book The Financial Diaries, even those who have jobs at low pay struggle to make ends meet. Many of them rely on government assistance to get by. If they do not get access to government programmes, they turn to credit card loans and payday loans to cover their bills. There is great fragility in the budgets of the working poor.

There is cruelty in Trump’s vision. It throws the poor to the lions of desperation. The remnants of liberalism are being withdrawn. This is the end of the social contract.

Hindu Rashtra

Battle against post-truth

SITARAM YECHURY cover-story

The conscience of modern Indian Republic was shattered when the more-than-four-centuries-old Babri Masjid was demolished by the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS)-inspired “kar sevaks” on December 6, 1992. This demolition was preceded by a “rath yatra”, led by the then Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president L.K. Advani, which left behind a trail of communal violence, death, mayhem and bloodshed.

My generation, which was born post-Independence and for whom the bloody partition of the Indian subcontinent was part of history, was numbed by this turn of events. This communal offensive had been gaining momentum for over a decade by then. It was clear that the Babri Masjid demolition was not a “one off” event. It came in the wake of the Ram Janmabhoomi movement, which has a long history predating Independence. That this was part of a larger ideological project of the RSS became clear upon a reading of the RSS Guruji’s 1939 booklet We or Our Nationhood defined.

Frontline had then invited me to present a detailed analysis of Golwalkar’s ideas as set out in this publication and to examine the links with the then current communal offensive. This was published in Frontline on March 12, 1993. Subsequently, Frontline published this tract as a booklet with an introduction to it by its then Editor, N. Ram.

Nearly quarter of a century has passed since then. The Ram Janmabhoomi movement and the demolition of the Babri Masjid led to the first ever Central government headed by the BJP, the political arm of the RSS, in the country in 1998 (apart from its short-lived 13-day government in 1996). Subsequently, the process of communal polarisation continued to sharpen, rising to a crescendo in the 2002 communal pogrom in Gujarat; it had given the BJP its State government in Gujarat, which it continues to hold on to even today.

Subsequently, the BJP returned to hold the Central government in 2014 with an absolute majority of its own. This unleashed a newer and more ferocious process of communal polarisation as can currently be seen in the private armies of g au rakshaks and moral policing squads that target innocent people, particularly Dalits and Muslims. Such “mobocracy” could not have been widely prevalent and growing but for the active patronage, encouragement and support it receives from the RSS, backed by the strength of BJP governments.

What is happening today is a vile attack on the very concept of Indian nationhood that subsumes an unprecedented range of diversity—religious, linguistic, cultural, ethnic, regional, etc. This pan-Indian consciousness is best captured in the concept of the “Idea of India” (for an elaboration of this, see the full text of the Chintha Raveendran Memorial Lecture delivered on July 4, 2015, and published in Frontline,August 5, 2015).

The unity and integrity of India can only be consolidated by strengthening the bonds of commonality that run through this diversity. Any attempt to impose a uniformity, like what the RSS/BJP are seeking to do today, will only lead to a severe social implosion that can threaten the very existence of our Republic.

That such a serious assault could be mounted is a matter that requires a deeper analysis. This effort would necessarily have to go back to the nearly century-long epic struggle of the Indian people for freedom from British colonialism.

Battle of visions

The emergence of the conception of the “Idea of India’ was a product of the Indian people’s struggle. It arose from a continuous battle between three visions that emerged during the course of India’s struggle for freedom in the 1920s over the conception of the character of independent India. The mainstream Congress vision had articulated that independent India should be a secular democratic Republic. The Left, while agreeing with this objective, went further to envision that the political freedom of the country must be extended to achieve the socio-economic freedom of every individual, which is possible only under socialism.

Antagonistic to both these was the third vision, which argued that the character of independent India should be determined by the religious affiliations of its people. This vision had twin expressions—the Muslim League championing an “Islamic State” and the RSS championing a “Hindu Rashtra”. The former succeeded in the unfortunate partition of the country, admirably engineered, aided and abetted by the British colonial rulers, with all its consequences that continue to arouse tensions to date. The latter, having failed to achieve its objective at the time of Independence, continued with its efforts to transform modern India into its project of a rabidly intolerant fascistic “Hindu Rashtra”. In a sense, the ideological battles and the political conflicts in contemporary India are a continuation of the battle between these three visions.

When the Indian freedom movement rejected the RSS vision and established a secular democratic Republic, even after Partition, Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated, which led to the RSS being banned by the government of independent India. Sardar Patel issued the orders as India’s Deputy Prime Minister and first Home Minister. The country, unfortunately, thought that since the RSS was seeking the withdrawal of the ban for which it had promised to stay away from politics and confine itself as a “cultural organisation”, the threat of its fascistic “Hindu Rashtra” had receded. That this has not happened is now abundantly clear.

The term “Hindutva” was coined by Vinayak Damodar Savarkar in a small booklet published in 1923 by that very name. Here, he defines Hindutva as a political project, which has very little to do with the religious practice of Hinduism. In order to achieve this political project, he advanced the slogan “Hinduise all politics and militarise Hindudom”. It was Savarkar who, in his presidential address to the Hindu Mahasabha in December 1939, first put forward the thesis that in India there exist two nations—a Hindu and a Muslim. This was two full years before Muhammad Ali Jinnah advanced his two-nation theory in 1941.

Among the many facts that the RSS seeks to suppress are the mercy petitions given by V.D. Savarkar to the British seeking his release from the cellular jail in the Andamans. In his petition on November 14, 1913, he assures the British: “ Now no man having the good of India and humanity at heart will blindly step on the thorny paths which in the excited and hopeless situation of India in 1906-1907 beguiled us from the path of peace and progress. Therefore if the Government in their manifold beneficence and mercy, release me I for one cannot but be the staunchest advocate of constitutional progress and loyalty to the English government which is the foremost condition of that progress” (R.C. Majumdar, Penal Settlement inAndamans, pages 211-213. A facsimile of another such letter was published in Frontline, April 7, 1995, page 94).

Seeking his release, he declared his “loyalty to the English government”. This came at a time when the British were mercilessly following their infamous “divide and rule” policy. They perfected this, post-1857, learning from the experience of our First War of Independence. The British came to the conclusion that if they were to permit ever again the unity of the various religious and linguistic, ethnic and other identities in India in a struggle against their rule, they had no chance of survival. A contemporary British chronicler, Thomas Lowe, in central India during the rebellion of 1857-59, wrote in 1860: “The infanticide Rajput, the bigoted Brahmin, the fanatic Mussalman, had joined together in the cause; cow-killer and the cow-worshipper, the pig-hater and the pig-eater…” had revolted together.

Inspired by Savarkar’s Hindutva, which dovetails the British strategy of “divide and rule’, and his slogan of militarisation, Dr B.S. Moonje, mentor to RSS founder Dr K.B. Hedgewar, travelled to Italy to meet the fascist dictator, Benito Mussolini. The meeting took place on March 19, 1931. His personal diary notes of March 20 reveal his fascination and admiration of the manner in which Italian fascism was training its youth (read storm-troopers) militarily. Upon his return to India, Moonje established the Central Hindu Military Education Society at Nashik in 1935, the precursor to the Bhonsala Military School established in 1937. Investigations had put this on the terror radar, following the attacks in Malegaon, Ajmer and Hyderabad.

The RSS forever denies any links with such people when they are caught or when their terror activities are exposed. For instance, the RSS always claimed that Nathuram Godse was not with the RSS when he shot Mahatma Gandhi, a claim strongly contested by Nathuram’s brother. Here is what Nathuram’s brother Gopal Godse had to say in a media interview: “All the brothers were in the RSS. Nathuram, Dattatreya, myself and Govind. You can say we grew up in the RSS rather than in our home. It was like a family to us. Nathuram had become a baudhik karyavah (intellectual worker) in the RSS. He has said in his statement that he left the RSS. He said it because Golwalkar and the RSS were in a lot of trouble after the murder of Gandhi. But he did not leave the RSS” ( Frontline, January 28, 1994). The point, here, is not the technicality of somebody being a current member. The point is the venomous ideological indoctrination that the RSS and its affiliates undertake, which nurtures and promotes such violent militancy.

Sardar Patel’s RSS ban order speaks of the “cult of violence sponsored and inspired by the activities of the Sangh”. This continues to claim the lives of innocent victims as can be seen in the current onslaught of gau rakshak samitis. All this is part of a larger jigzaw puzzle, which aims to metamorphose the secular democratic Republic of modern India into the RSS project of a rabidly intolerant fascistic “Hindu Rashtra’. This is the real challenge today.

The Aryan myth

Akin to the proverbial last straw that broke the camel’s back, some recent findings based on scientific investigations on the genetic data suggest that there was, indeed, an Aryan migration into India around 3,500 to 4,000 years ago and that genetic evidence has shown that even today, at least 17.5 per cent of Indian males carry the specific Y-DNA, R1a Haplogroup. It is further shown that the R1a lineage in India mostly belongs to three subclades of the R1a+Z93, and these are only about 4,000 to 4,500 years old. This scientific study, whose conclusions appeared in The Hindu (“How genetics is settling the Aryan migration debate”, June 16, 2017), shatters the foundations of both Savarkar and Golwalkar whose essential basis for Hindutva and the Hindu Rashtra was centred around a claim that Aryans originated in India. Both concluded that Aryans are Hindus, and, Hindus alone, are the original inhabitants of these lands and all others are foreigners. Savarkar had, indeed, argued that non-Hindus living in India may consider India to be their pithrubhoomi/mathrubhoomi, even their karmabhoomi (place of work and occupation) but India is not their punyabhoomi (holy land). And, therefore, they are foreigners. But with the latest scientific study suggesting that Aryans themselves came into India from somewhere near the Caspian Sea in Central Asia/Europe, the foundations of the RSS project crumble.

Hindutva, therefore, as Savarkar had said, is a pure and simple political project sans any scientific and historical veracity. It is this politics that is today seeking to destroy the foundations of India’s secular democratic republican values and bring in its place a rabidly intolerant fascistic Hindu Rashtra.

Post-truth

This fascistic RSS ideological project is unfolding in the pervasive atmosphere of “post-truth”. The Oxford Dictionary has declared this term as its 2016 “Word of the Year” and defines it as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief”.

Emotional appeals and the building up of a personality cult continuously bombard us today with propaganda that India is prospering in a hitherto unknown manner and the only obstacle for creating an Indian ElDorado are Muslims, Christians and Communists. This is buttressed by the intense campaigns for communal polarisation and murderous attacks against Dalits and Muslims by the private armies of gau rakshaks and the moral police.

Speaking at the Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad on June 29, on the centenary of its founding, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that Gandhiji would have found it unacceptable that humans are killed in the name of protecting the cow. True, Gandhiji would have found this not merely unacceptable but abhorrent. But how does our Prime Minister and this government find it? Till date, there has been no outright condemnation either by the government or by the RSS/BJP. Neither has the BJP government at the Centre nor the BJP State governments initiated any action to implement the law of the land and book the culprits who are out on a murderous rampage across the country. These private armies, reminiscent of the “black” and the “brown shirts” of Hitler and Mussolini, are denying Indian people the fundamental right to life and liberty guaranteed by the Constitution. Yet, there is no deterrent action of implementing the existing laws and apprehending these criminals by the BJP governments, both at the Centre and in the States.

In a sense, post-truth is not something that was unknown in past human history. Hitler’s Propaganda Minister, Goebbels, advanced his famous dictum: “Tell a big enough lie, frequently enough; it becomes the truth.” This was the essence of the Nazi fascist propaganda machine and remains the backbone of the current Hindutva propaganda machine of the RSS.

Post-truth aims at creating a make-believe world in which people are forced to live and battle on issues based on emotional appeals totally divorced from the miseries of their day-to-day existence.

The battle against post-truth must be conducted by restoring to centre stage agenda, the day-to-day issues of people’s livelihood and the realities of the class struggles today.

To strengthen this battle, to create this counter political narrative, it is necessary to revisit the chilling articulation of the RSS fascistic project made by Golwalkar in his 1939 tract.

Agriculture

Debt of honour

LYLA BAVADAM the-nation

THE tough stand taken by farmers in the middle of June seems to be paying off. On June 11, they called off their strike after the government gave a series of assurances. The most important of these was the blanket waiver of loans to farmers owning less than five acres of land, with the option of immediately applying for a fresh loan.

On June 24, the government kept its word and, in a decision ratified by the Cabinet, announced a Rs.34,000-crore crop loan waiver for the State’s marginal farmers. Introduced by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis as the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Krushi Sanman Yojana, the scheme is designed to benefit about 89 lakh farmers.

The press release from the Chief Minister’s office said those having outstanding loans between April 1, 2012, and June 30, 2016, would be entitled for the waiver. Loans up to Rs.1.5 lakh would be written off immediately, making some 35 lakh farmers instantly debt-free.

A one-time settlement scheme was offered to nine lakh farmers who had debts of over Rs.1.5 lakh. They would be eligible for a waiver of 25 per cent of the outstanding amount or Rs.1.5 lakh, whichever was less. The scheme would benefit those farmers who had sought restructuring of their existing loans but still had arrears as of June 30, 2016. Farmers who had been repaying their loans regularly would be eligible for 25 per cent (of their loan component, up to a maximum of Rs.25,000) credited directly to their banks as an incentive for their fiscal management. Even those making their payments in June 2017 would be eligible for this incentive.

Dr Ajit Navle, leader of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the All India Kisan Sabha, said there was an element of unfairness in this because many farmers had been paying off their loans by borrowing from moneylenders. “They were honourable in sticking to their loan schedule at great cost to themselves and now they have to pay the price for their honesty,” he said. Navle said their loans should also be written off completely.

The Chief Minister emphasised that the scheme was only for “genuine small farmers in distress” and that those who had an annual income of more than Rs.10 lakh would not be eligible for the scheme. He was emphatic that elected representatives including those in panchayats, traders who are also farmers, big farmers who paid income tax, and Central and State government employees who had their names on the 7/12 extract traditionally called the saath baara utara (an extract from the district land register maintained by the Revenue Department) to show they were farmers would not be eligible for exemption.

Biggest-ever waiver

All Ministers and MLAs of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have pledged one month’s salary to support the government’s loan waiver, but where the rest of the funds will come from is not clear. This is certainly the biggest-ever loan waiver in Maharashtra.

The Centre had categorically stated that there would be no fiscal help from New Delhi to the States that announced farm loan waivers. While negotiating with the striking farmers, government representatives had said that the State could not afford to waive loans and if it did so it would be at the cost of major infrastructure and other key projects. At a press conference, Fadnavis had also said that implementing the loan waiver would be “difficult” but he was committed to it “in the interest of farmers”. He also said he was hopeful because the decision had been taken in conjunction with Nationalist Congress Party president Sharad Pawar, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray and Swabhiman Shetkari Sanghatana leader Raju Shetti, who was one of the leaders of the farmers’ strike.

Apart from saying that the financial burden would be borne by the government and the banks together and would be repaid in instalments over a period of four years, Fadnavis did not elaborate on where the money would come from. He did, however, say that writing off debts was not a long-term solution since the whole cycle of accumulating unpaid debts could recur. To guard against this, he said, the State would invest heavily in long-term farm sector security.

Other issues

Navle said the State had focussed only on crop loans and had turned a blind eye to other farm-linked loans such as those taken for irrigation, farm machinery, polyhouses, godowns and poultry. “When the Congress in 2008 had given a loan waiver they had seen the problem more holistically,” said Navle.

Problems that need to be tackled on a war footing have primarily to do with the marketing of agricultural produce. This and providing irrigation solutions that are managed locally (small projects, check dams, watershed management, and so on) are issues that have been hanging fire for decades.

Presumably, the government will find more in-depth solutions such as remunerative pricing for produce linked to purchase guarantee, minimum wages for agricultural labour, and reintroduction of land mortgage banks.

The current farm loan waiver is a historic one, but farmers are still seething over many injustices. Navle said it was unfair of Fadnavis to say that the average farm loan of Maharashtra’s farmers was about Rs.54,000 and was low compared with that of other States. “Farmers in other States get systemic [i.e. bank] loans that are much higher than those granted by banks in Maharashtra. Here farmers are forced to go to moneylenders to get the actual amount they need,” he said. In essence, the loan waiver does not take these non-systemic loans into account.

In order to address this and other pending issues, farmers’ organisations have organised a meeting in Nashik on July 10 after which they will set out on a tour of the State to mobilise farmers to carry on their fight.

Presidential election

Symbolic contest

WITH the surprising selection of Bihar Governor Ram Nath Kovind as the National Democratic Alliance’s (NDA) nominee for the presidential election, the stage is set for a fresh round of identity politics on a larger-than-usual canvas. The opposition camp, taken aback by the choice, scrambled to find its own Dalit nominee and settled on Meira Kumar, former Lok Sabha Speaker. The NDA candidate clearly enjoys a definite advantage over the opposition nominee, having over 60 per cent of the votes in his favour.

Asked why she was contesting a “losing battle”, Meira Kumar said it was a matter of ideology for her: “Because I believe in the ideology of the freedom of the press, an inclusive society, abolition of the caste system, transparency, and removal of poverty.”

She said she was pained to see the discourse on the presidential election focussing on the two candidates’ caste just because it was “one Dalit against another Dalit”. She said this reflected how society thought and functioned. “In the previous presidential elections, when so-called upper-caste candidates contested, the debate was always about their capabilities, achievements and performance. Unfortunately, when there are two Dalits in the fray, everything else has become secondary. I feel it is time we destroyed the caste system and buried it deep inside the ground,” she said.

Meira Kumar will start her campaign from Sabarmati as “Sabarmati gives tremendous strength to fight against injustice”. She said she had written to all the members of the electoral college, urging them to listen to their “inner voice of conscience” because in this battle of ideologies they had an incredible moment to create history.

Party politics

In a symbolic contest like this, what has now gripped the imagination is how party politics plays out in the days to come, especially in the politically crucial State of Bihar where fault lines in the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD)-Janata Dal (United) alliance have become more pronounced after the announcement. Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who was one of the first to initiate talk of opposition unity to counter the BJP, was the first to jump ship when Kovind’s name was announced. Kovind had conducted himself honourably as the Governor of Bihar and he had no reason to oppose him, Nitish Kumar said.

The opposition, which still claims to have 17 parties in its fold, was left with no choice but to fall into the trap laid by the BJP. With Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) supremo Mayawati also declaring that unless the opposition announced a better Dalit candidate she would not be averse to supporting Kovind, the Congress and its allies had no choice but to propose Meira Kumar, who definitely has a better public profile than Kovind. A former Indian Foreign Service officer, she is the daughter of Jagjivan Ram, one of India’s best-known Dalit leaders. If the Congress had announced her candidature before the NDA named its candidate, the opposition could have mounted a substantial challenge to the NDA and perhaps also kept the JD(U) in its fold.

As things stand today, any talk of opposition unity to counter the rising challenge of fundamentalist forces does not sound credible. D. Raja of the Communist Party of India (CPI) said: “In view of the rise of right-wing forces, it had become necessary for the opposition parties to stand up to the challenge thrown by them. We are only trying to tell the people that this is an ideological war now and we will oppose the fundamentalist forces to the best of our strength. It is necessary to fight them and pre-empt their effort to push India towards becoming a Hindu Rashtra.” According to him, Nitish Kumar might have his personal reasons to support Kovind but this did not mean he would side with the NDA in the larger political battle. “That we will have to see,” he said.

But the fact remains that the war of words between RJD and JD(U) leaders has only intensified after Nitish Kumar’s decision to support Kovind. Lalu Prasad Yadav has advised Nitish Kumar to rethink his decision, which he called a “historic blunder”, and said that “in an ideological battle personal choices should not become the decisive factor”. Nitish Kumar, however, has not changed his mind.

Opposition discomfiture

The discomfiture produced in the opposition by Nitish Kumar’s decision is quite apparent. Though the Congress is upset at the way things have unfolded, it sees the contest as an ideological battle. Senior party leader Manish Tiwari said that since this was an ideological battle, Nitish Kumar should rethink his position and support Meira Kumar. He added that this was “about the idea of India, whether you want a bigoted or a pluralistic India”. He was not too worried about the bad blood being created between the alliance partners: “When there is a churning at the ideological level and people have to take positions, such things are normal.”

Political observers feel that the Narendra Modi-Amit Shah duo zeroed in on Kovind in order to prevent a combined ideological onslaught by the opposition. His background makes him immune to the sort of barbs the opposition throws at BJP leaders. Though he has occupied senior positions in the party and has been its Dalit Morcha president and also national spokesman for a short while, he has kept a low profile and low visibility and has never been involved in any controversy. Besides, though he has been close to the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), which he describes as “vichar parivar” (thought family), he has never been an active member of the Sangh.

To top it, he comes from an extremely humble background, belongs to the marginalised Koli caste, and is known to have worked among disadvantaged sections of society. He has been involved with providing care and support to leprosy patients in Haridwar, has built hostels for their children, and so on. Since he is a lawyer by profession, he has good knowledge of the Constitution and is known to be articulate. Also, as Bihar Governor, he maintained good relations with all parties and avoided controversies. These, indeed, were the reasons that Nitish Kumar cited to explain his support.

The Congress hopes to make capital out of this background, in order to emphasise that his profile does not instil the confidence that he can protect the “idea of India”.

Statements that Kovind made as a national spokesman of the BJP in 2010 have surfaced. On one occasion he was quoted as saying that “Islam and Christianity are alien to the idea of India”. This was in reply to a question whether the Rangnath Mishra Commission report, which had recommended 15 per cent reservation for religious and linguistic minorities, should be implemented. Like all other BJP leaders at that time, including Modi, who was then the Chief Minister of Gujarat, Kovind said the report should be dumped because it was against the Constitution. Statements such as this are bound to be used by the opposition during campaigning to emphasise that Kovind will not be able to uphold the idea of India.

Manish Tiwari said: “Can he stand up to Amit Shah and Narendra Modi when it comes to protecting the idea of India? In the sort of environment we are witnessing today and the unrest that is visible everywhere, we need a personality that can instil confidence among people that he can protect the Constitution. Kovind does not give us this confidence and that is why we are against his candidature.”

D. Raja had a similar view: “We need to have a strong personality in the Rashtrapati Bhavan, one that can inspire confidence that he/she will not allow India to become a Hindu Rashtra. Kovind does not give us this confidence.”

Kovind’s assertion that once he became Governor he ceased to be a member of any political party is not cutting much ice with the opposition parties. They hope that Meira Kumar’s call for heeding “the voice of conscience” will appeal to voters across parties.

But the call for heeding the “voice of conscience” is not being as aggressively sounded as it should. Badrinarayan, a Dalit scholar from Allahabad University, said: “Kovind has already started off on his campaign, whereas Meira Kumar is still to begin. Even if the result is pre-decided, if the Congress party manages to campaign aggressively and articulate its idea properly, that may set the stage for a larger re-grouping of the political parties around the next Lok Sabha election. But so far, the Congress has not given the indication of that.”

According to him, it would be better to treat the present presidential election as one event and not portray it as one big mobilisation against the BJP in the next Lok Sabha election because “politics today has become very pragmatic and 2019 is a long way off”. Indeed, even if arch rivals like the Samajwadi Party (S.P.) and the BSP and the Trinamool Congress and the Left are on the same page for this election, it is difficult to imagine them on the same platform during the Lok Sabha election. Factors operating at the time of general elections are totally different. It would be a mistake to assume that the position taken by various parties now will hold good at that time too.

Lynching

Hatred unleashed

DIVYA TRIVEDI cover-story

ON June 26, Muslims of Khandawli VILlage in Faridabad district of Haryana, on the outskirts of New Delhi were in no mood to celebrate Ramzan, or Eid. Sounds of wailing filled the narrow streets of the village. Women gathered around a shell-shocked Saira, whose 16-year-old son, Junaid Khan, had been brutally murdered on a train from Delhi bound for Mathura. The men offered prayers wearing black armbands in protest.

What provided the trigger for the attack on the teenager was not clear. Reports said that it was over an argument over sharing of a seat on a crowded train that resulted in the skirmish. But Junaid’s family and friends maintain that it was Junaid’s skull cap and his brothers’ beards, which gave away their religious identity, that led to the attack. The assaulters pulled Junaid’s cap and stamped on it, and even tried to pull the beards of his siblings. They told them they deserved to die. According to the family, other passengers on the train egged on the assaulters, saying maas khate hai, maaro inko (they eat meat, kill them).

Rabiya, the eldest of Saira’s seven children, said the cap was a symbol of identity and dignity for Muslims and stamping on it was the highest form of insult. The siblings were educated in religious scriptures and Junaid was a hafiz, he had recited the entire Quran, which he had learned by heart, during Ramzan.

“There were 200 people in that bogie. Not a single one came to the defence of my children,” Junaid’s father, Jalaluddin, said. Junaid’s brothers, Hashim and Shaqir, survived the murderous assault. Junaid died on the platform. Shaqir, who, according to Rabiya, suffered 18 stab wounds, is recuperating in a Delhi hospital. His wife was in a state of shock and unable to speak. She spent her time tending to her one-year-old daughter and three-year-old son. “The brothers were returning after shopping for Eid celebrations. Shaqir’s wife was waiting for him to bring clothes for the children,” Rabiya said.

The predominantly Muslim village was grim. It has coexisted with the surrounding Hindu-majority villages for decades. Both Hindu and Muslim festivals used to be celebrated with gaiety until the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power at the Centre three years ago. Taunting in public places became common and it started disrupting the harmony. Parents were worried about their children’s safety. Mohammad Ali Jaan removed his children from a good school in Ballabgarh and enrolled them in a local school in Khandawli. “Their education will suffer, but at least they’ll be safe,” he told Frontline.

Jalaluddin, a taxi driver, said: “ Yeh sarkar soyi hui hai, usko jagane ke liye pehna hai (this government is sleeping, I have worn the black band to wake it).”

While lynching of Dalits and Muslims has been a recurring phenomenon for decades, it has increased in frequency and intensity since May 2014, when Narendra Modi came to power at the Centre.

The Sangh Parivar furthered its strategy of communal polarisation with its hold on power at the Centre. This found further traction in the run-up to the Uttar Pradesh election. By installing a Hindu hardliner, Yogi Adityanath, as the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, the Sangh Parivar attempted to perpetuate the communal polarisation, thereby discarding all pretences about the proclaimed agenda of the government at the Centre and in the State. Instances of lynching have risen in recent times, with more than 20 cases reported in the first six months of this year.

Cow-related violence

Collating information around gautankwad, or cow terrorism, the data journalism portal Indiaspend.com analysed cow-related violence over a period of eight years. It found that of the 63 attacks reported during these years, 61, or 97 per cent, were reported after May 2014. Half the cases were reported from BJP-ruled States and 86 per cent of the victims were Muslims. In all, 124 people were injured in the attacks, which took place in 19 States. What is unsettling was that around 52 per cent of the attacks were based on rumours. On June 7, Ainul Ansari was attacked by a mob in Dhanbad, Jharkhand, on the pretext that he was carrying beef for an Iftar party. Although he survived the attack, it was a grim reminder of what happened to Mohammad Akhlaq, who was lynched in Dadri, Uttar Pradesh, in 2015 on the basis of rumours that he had stored beef in his refrigerator. In May, two traders were assaulted in Malegaon, Maharashtra, for storing beef.

In most of these cases, videos showing the attackers using the foulest of language while beating the victims have gone viral on social media. Pehlu Khan, a cattle trader from Haryana, was brutally killed on April 1 in Rajasthan following rumours that he was transporting cows for slaughter. Some construction workers from Delhi were lynched in North Dinajpur in West Bengal following rumours that they were cattle thieves. The villagers said they killed cattle thieves as the police had reportedly told them to “take care of such petty matters themselves” and not bother them. Similarly, in Assam, cattle traders Abu Hanifa and Riazuddin Ali were killed for allegedly stealing cattle. According to Indiaspend, in 5 per cent of these attacks, there were no reports of the attackers being arrested. In 13 attacks (21 per cent), the police registered cases against the victims/survivors. The absence of any punishment to the murderers seems to have emboldened others to lynch with impunity.

The frequency of such attacks and the State’s silence over them have made it impossible to view them as isolated and spontaneous instances of mob violence. The attacks appeared to be a part of a well-calibrated plan of extermination, many observers said, akin to a slow genocide. It also served to create a fear psychosis in the minds of Muslims. The barbarous nature of the attacks was becoming intense with every passing day and the assaulters were no longer required to justify their actions. From accusing Muslims of slaughtering cows, storing beef, and breaking the law, to attacking them for wearing a skull cap, cultural and religious animosity towards the community has indeed increased.

In February 2016, a policeman, Yusuf Sheikh, was beaten up and paraded through the streets of Pangaon in Latur district of Maharashtra for doing his duty. He was made to hold a saffron flag and chant jai bhawani. In Pratapgarh, Rajasthan, Zafar Hussain was killed when he objected to civic officials working under the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan campaign taking pictures of women defecating in the open. In May this year, Munna Ansari of Ranchi (Jharkhand) was beaten up on rumours of being a “child-lifter”. In May again, Ghulam Mohammad of Bulandshahr (Uttar Pradesh) was killed for allegedly “helping” an inter-faith couple. The incidents reveal that no matter what the perceived crime is, Hindutva elements view a Muslim as an accused and instead of approaching the law and order authorities for justice they resort to mob violence.

The tacit approval of the ruling party by way of silence on the lynching incidents was encouraging the elements to resort to violent acts. In fact, BJP leaders expressed more outrage over the slaughter of cows than acts of murder by cow terrorists. When the Centre notified a Bill in May banning the sale of cattle for slaughter in animal markets, members of the Kerala Youth Congress slaughtered a calf in protest. Politicians, especially those belonging to the BJP, immediately condemned the act.

Two instances, in Rajasthan and Odisha, showed that even government functionaries could not escape the wrath of gau rakshaks (cow protectors). The Southern Railways’ initiative to earn revenues worth Rs.2.65 crore by transporting cows was spoilt by cow vigilantes in Bhubaneswar. The Kochuveli-Guwahati Express left Salem on May 23. When it reached Bhubaneswar, en route a government dairy farm in Meghalaya, a mob of around 25 people barged into the station and pulled the cattle out. They viciously attacked the two dairy department staff, the veterinarian and the station manager and the train driver although the officials had valid documents with them.

On June 12, officials of the Tamil Nadu Animal Husbandry Department sustained grievous injuries when they were attacked by around 50 cow vigilantes in Barmer, Rajasthan. They were transporting cows bought in Jaisalmer and had valid documents in support of their purchase. The mob attacked the driver and cleaner of the van and assaulted the policemen who tried to stop them. They tried to set fire to the trucks and blocked the highway.

Instances of BJP cadres violating the law have been increasing. They occupy seats on trains without buying tickets and behave in an unruly manner, sporting saffron gamchhas. Ticket collectors do not confront them for fear of being attacked. In Bulandshahr, a BJP leader, Pramod Lodhi, and his men reportedly misbehaved with a policewoman when she pulled them up for violating traffic rules.

Spontaneous protests

Junaid’s murder on the eve of Eid shook civil society out of its slumber. A spontaneous call on social media with the hashtag #notinmyname by film-maker Saba Dewan led to mass demonstrations in almost 20 towns and cities across the country. From students to factory workers to professionals to housewives, thousands of people took part in the gatherings to condemn the mass atrocities on the minorities and hold the government accountable. The protests invited a fair share of criticism over its use of the hashtag. An online petition addressed to Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, BJP leader, was initiated as a critique of the protests. It further nuanced the debate, gave a call to stand by Muslim brothers and sisters, and called for a regime change with the hashtag, “BJP should go”.

“These are organised crimes against the minorities, both Dalits and Muslims under the fundamentalist regime. Mainstream media names these hate crime as ‘mob rule’. The use of term ‘mob rule’ is systematically used to deviate and normalise state-supported violence against the minorities. It is years of indoctrination and preparation of the systematic massacre of the minorities, Dalits, and Tribal. BJP rule protects its goons who are trained and indoctrinated with the fundamentalists, supremacist ideology that envisions ‘Hindu Nation’,” it said.

A day after the protests, the Prime Minister was forced to make a statement at Sabarmati Ashram, Ahmedabad: “Killing people in the name of gau bhakti (cow worship) is not acceptable. No person in this nation has the right to take the law into his or her own hands.” He defended cow protection as valid activity, but reiterated that violence was not the solution to any problem. Last year, too, Modi made a statement against fake gau rakshaks who engaged in anti-national activities by night. The spate of lynchings this year shows that the Prime Minister’s statement has failed to act as a deterrent.

Hindu Rashtra

Battle against post-truth

SITARAM YECHURY cover-story

The conscience of modern Indian Republic was shattered when the more-than-four-centuries-old Babri Masjid was demolished by the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS)-inspired “kar sevaks” on December 6, 1992. This demolition was preceded by a “rath yatra”, led by the then Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president L.K. Advani, which left behind a trail of communal violence, death, mayhem and bloodshed.

My generation, which was born post-Independence and for whom the bloody partition of the Indian subcontinent was part of history, was numbed by this turn of events. This communal offensive had been gaining momentum for over a decade by then. It was clear that the Babri Masjid demolition was not a “one off” event. It came in the wake of the Ram Janmabhoomi movement, which has a long history predating Independence. That this was part of a larger ideological project of the RSS became clear upon a reading of the RSS Guruji’s 1939 booklet We or Our Nationhood defined.

Frontline had then invited me to present a detailed analysis of Golwalkar’s ideas as set out in this publication and to examine the links with the then current communal offensive. This was published in Frontline on March 12, 1993. Subsequently, Frontline published this tract as a booklet with an introduction to it by its then Editor, N. Ram.

Nearly quarter of a century has passed since then. The Ram Janmabhoomi movement and the demolition of the Babri Masjid led to the first ever Central government headed by the BJP, the political arm of the RSS, in the country in 1998 (apart from its short-lived 13-day government in 1996). Subsequently, the process of communal polarisation continued to sharpen, rising to a crescendo in the 2002 communal pogrom in Gujarat; it had given the BJP its State government in Gujarat, which it continues to hold on to even today.

Subsequently, the BJP returned to hold the Central government in 2014 with an absolute majority of its own. This unleashed a newer and more ferocious process of communal polarisation as can currently be seen in the private armies of g au rakshaks and moral policing squads that target innocent people, particularly Dalits and Muslims. Such “mobocracy” could not have been widely prevalent and growing but for the active patronage, encouragement and support it receives from the RSS, backed by the strength of BJP governments.

What is happening today is a vile attack on the very concept of Indian nationhood that subsumes an unprecedented range of diversity—religious, linguistic, cultural, ethnic, regional, etc. This pan-Indian consciousness is best captured in the concept of the “Idea of India” (for an elaboration of this, see the full text of the Chintha Raveendran Memorial Lecture delivered on July 4, 2015, and published in Frontline,August 5, 2015).

The unity and integrity of India can only be consolidated by strengthening the bonds of commonality that run through this diversity. Any attempt to impose a uniformity, like what the RSS/BJP are seeking to do today, will only lead to a severe social implosion that can threaten the very existence of our Republic.

That such a serious assault could be mounted is a matter that requires a deeper analysis. This effort would necessarily have to go back to the nearly century-long epic struggle of the Indian people for freedom from British colonialism.

Battle of visions

The emergence of the conception of the “Idea of India’ was a product of the Indian people’s struggle. It arose from a continuous battle between three visions that emerged during the course of India’s struggle for freedom in the 1920s over the conception of the character of independent India. The mainstream Congress vision had articulated that independent India should be a secular democratic Republic. The Left, while agreeing with this objective, went further to envision that the political freedom of the country must be extended to achieve the socio-economic freedom of every individual, which is possible only under socialism.

Antagonistic to both these was the third vision, which argued that the character of independent India should be determined by the religious affiliations of its people. This vision had twin expressions—the Muslim League championing an “Islamic State” and the RSS championing a “Hindu Rashtra”. The former succeeded in the unfortunate partition of the country, admirably engineered, aided and abetted by the British colonial rulers, with all its consequences that continue to arouse tensions to date. The latter, having failed to achieve its objective at the time of Independence, continued with its efforts to transform modern India into its project of a rabidly intolerant fascistic “Hindu Rashtra”. In a sense, the ideological battles and the political conflicts in contemporary India are a continuation of the battle between these three visions.

When the Indian freedom movement rejected the RSS vision and established a secular democratic Republic, even after Partition, Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated, which led to the RSS being banned by the government of independent India. Sardar Patel issued the orders as India’s Deputy Prime Minister and first Home Minister. The country, unfortunately, thought that since the RSS was seeking the withdrawal of the ban for which it had promised to stay away from politics and confine itself as a “cultural organisation”, the threat of its fascistic “Hindu Rashtra” had receded. That this has not happened is now abundantly clear.

The term “Hindutva” was coined by Vinayak Damodar Savarkar in a small booklet published in 1923 by that very name. Here, he defines Hindutva as a political project, which has very little to do with the religious practice of Hinduism. In order to achieve this political project, he advanced the slogan “Hinduise all politics and militarise Hindudom”. It was Savarkar who, in his presidential address to the Hindu Mahasabha in December 1939, first put forward the thesis that in India there exist two nations—a Hindu and a Muslim. This was two full years before Muhammad Ali Jinnah advanced his two-nation theory in 1941.

Among the many facts that the RSS seeks to suppress are the mercy petitions given by V.D. Savarkar to the British seeking his release from the cellular jail in the Andamans. In his petition on November 14, 1913, he assures the British: “ Now no man having the good of India and humanity at heart will blindly step on the thorny paths which in the excited and hopeless situation of India in 1906-1907 beguiled us from the path of peace and progress. Therefore if the Government in their manifold beneficence and mercy, release me I for one cannot but be the staunchest advocate of constitutional progress and loyalty to the English government which is the foremost condition of that progress” (R.C. Majumdar, Penal Settlement inAndamans, pages 211-213. A facsimile of another such letter was published in Frontline, April 7, 1995, page 94).

Seeking his release, he declared his “loyalty to the English government”. This came at a time when the British were mercilessly following their infamous “divide and rule” policy. They perfected this, post-1857, learning from the experience of our First War of Independence. The British came to the conclusion that if they were to permit ever again the unity of the various religious and linguistic, ethnic and other identities in India in a struggle against their rule, they had no chance of survival. A contemporary British chronicler, Thomas Lowe, in central India during the rebellion of 1857-59, wrote in 1860: “The infanticide Rajput, the bigoted Brahmin, the fanatic Mussalman, had joined together in the cause; cow-killer and the cow-worshipper, the pig-hater and the pig-eater…” had revolted together.

Inspired by Savarkar’s Hindutva, which dovetails the British strategy of “divide and rule’, and his slogan of militarisation, Dr B.S. Moonje, mentor to RSS founder Dr K.B. Hedgewar, travelled to Italy to meet the fascist dictator, Benito Mussolini. The meeting took place on March 19, 1931. His personal diary notes of March 20 reveal his fascination and admiration of the manner in which Italian fascism was training its youth (read storm-troopers) militarily. Upon his return to India, Moonje established the Central Hindu Military Education Society at Nashik in 1935, the precursor to the Bhonsala Military School established in 1937. Investigations had put this on the terror radar, following the attacks in Malegaon, Ajmer and Hyderabad.

The RSS forever denies any links with such people when they are caught or when their terror activities are exposed. For instance, the RSS always claimed that Nathuram Godse was not with the RSS when he shot Mahatma Gandhi, a claim strongly contested by Nathuram’s brother. Here is what Nathuram’s brother Gopal Godse had to say in a media interview: “All the brothers were in the RSS. Nathuram, Dattatreya, myself and Govind. You can say we grew up in the RSS rather than in our home. It was like a family to us. Nathuram had become a baudhik karyavah (intellectual worker) in the RSS. He has said in his statement that he left the RSS. He said it because Golwalkar and the RSS were in a lot of trouble after the murder of Gandhi. But he did not leave the RSS” ( Frontline, January 28, 1994). The point, here, is not the technicality of somebody being a current member. The point is the venomous ideological indoctrination that the RSS and its affiliates undertake, which nurtures and promotes such violent militancy.

Sardar Patel’s RSS ban order speaks of the “cult of violence sponsored and inspired by the activities of the Sangh”. This continues to claim the lives of innocent victims as can be seen in the current onslaught of gau rakshak samitis. All this is part of a larger jigzaw puzzle, which aims to metamorphose the secular democratic Republic of modern India into the RSS project of a rabidly intolerant fascistic “Hindu Rashtra’. This is the real challenge today.

The Aryan myth

Akin to the proverbial last straw that broke the camel’s back, some recent findings based on scientific investigations on the genetic data suggest that there was, indeed, an Aryan migration into India around 3,500 to 4,000 years ago and that genetic evidence has shown that even today, at least 17.5 per cent of Indian males carry the specific Y-DNA, R1a Haplogroup. It is further shown that the R1a lineage in India mostly belongs to three subclades of the R1a+Z93, and these are only about 4,000 to 4,500 years old. This scientific study, whose conclusions appeared in The Hindu (“How genetics is settling the Aryan migration debate”, June 16, 2017), shatters the foundations of both Savarkar and Golwalkar whose essential basis for Hindutva and the Hindu Rashtra was centred around a claim that Aryans originated in India. Both concluded that Aryans are Hindus, and, Hindus alone, are the original inhabitants of these lands and all others are foreigners. Savarkar had, indeed, argued that non-Hindus living in India may consider India to be their pithrubhoomi/mathrubhoomi, even their karmabhoomi (place of work and occupation) but India is not their punyabhoomi (holy land). And, therefore, they are foreigners. But with the latest scientific study suggesting that Aryans themselves came into India from somewhere near the Caspian Sea in Central Asia/Europe, the foundations of the RSS project crumble.

Hindutva, therefore, as Savarkar had said, is a pure and simple political project sans any scientific and historical veracity. It is this politics that is today seeking to destroy the foundations of India’s secular democratic republican values and bring in its place a rabidly intolerant fascistic Hindu Rashtra.

Post-truth

This fascistic RSS ideological project is unfolding in the pervasive atmosphere of “post-truth”. The Oxford Dictionary has declared this term as its 2016 “Word of the Year” and defines it as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief”.

Emotional appeals and the building up of a personality cult continuously bombard us today with propaganda that India is prospering in a hitherto unknown manner and the only obstacle for creating an Indian ElDorado are Muslims, Christians and Communists. This is buttressed by the intense campaigns for communal polarisation and murderous attacks against Dalits and Muslims by the private armies of gau rakshaks and the moral police.

Speaking at the Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad on June 29, on the centenary of its founding, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that Gandhiji would have found it unacceptable that humans are killed in the name of protecting the cow. True, Gandhiji would have found this not merely unacceptable but abhorrent. But how does our Prime Minister and this government find it? Till date, there has been no outright condemnation either by the government or by the RSS/BJP. Neither has the BJP government at the Centre nor the BJP State governments initiated any action to implement the law of the land and book the culprits who are out on a murderous rampage across the country. These private armies, reminiscent of the “black” and the “brown shirts” of Hitler and Mussolini, are denying Indian people the fundamental right to life and liberty guaranteed by the Constitution. Yet, there is no deterrent action of implementing the existing laws and apprehending these criminals by the BJP governments, both at the Centre and in the States.

In a sense, post-truth is not something that was unknown in past human history. Hitler’s Propaganda Minister, Goebbels, advanced his famous dictum: “Tell a big enough lie, frequently enough; it becomes the truth.” This was the essence of the Nazi fascist propaganda machine and remains the backbone of the current Hindutva propaganda machine of the RSS.

Post-truth aims at creating a make-believe world in which people are forced to live and battle on issues based on emotional appeals totally divorced from the miseries of their day-to-day existence.

The battle against post-truth must be conducted by restoring to centre stage agenda, the day-to-day issues of people’s livelihood and the realities of the class struggles today.

To strengthen this battle, to create this counter political narrative, it is necessary to revisit the chilling articulation of the RSS fascistic project made by Golwalkar in his 1939 tract.

From the Archives

What is Hindu Rashtra?

SITARAM YECHURY cover-story


This article was first published in the Frontline issue dated March 12, 1993, and is reproduced here.



CONSIDERABLE controversy has been generated, once again, around M.S. Golwalkar’s book We or Our Nationhood defined (Bharat Publications, 1939, Re.1). The controversy centres on the embarrassment of the Saffron Brigade, which finds its real mission of establishing a Hindu Rashtra being exposed in all its fascistic glory by this book. Thus, puncturing its efforts to mislead the Indian people by posing as adherents of democracy becomes important.

Various advocates of the Saffron Brigade, in various tones, assert that it was not Golwalkar who actually wrote this book; that it was not republished after 1942, and so on. Interestingly, however, not one of them makes any substantiative point by retracting any position that Golwalkar has taken.

For the benefit of those who say that this book was not written by Golwalkar but was merely a translation of the Marathi work Rashtra Meemansa by Babarao G.D. Savarkar, brother of V.D. Savarkar (as claimed by a senior official of the RSS-run Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Research Centre, New Delhi, in Jansatta, January 7, 1993), here is a quote from the preface written by Golwalkar on March 22, 1939, to the first edition of the book:

“In compiling this work, I have received help from numerous quarters, too many to mention. I thank them all heartily; but I cannot help separately naming one and expressing my gratefulness to him—Deshbhakta G.D. Savarkar. His work Rashtra Meemansa in Marathi has been one of my chief sources of inspiration and help.

“The manuscript of this book was ready as early as the first week of November 1938, but its appearance earlier, however desirable, was not possible due to many difficulties.” (Golwalkar, 1939, page 4).

The authorship thus being beyond dispute, we can say quite certainly that the book was neither barred from republication nor withdrawn after 1942 (on the basis of such a claim by the same RSS official in Jansatta, the editor of Navbharat Times went to the unethical extent of appending a comment to one of my articles that RSS claims that it has withdrawn this book!). We have in our possession the fourth edition of the book published in 1947 (Golwalkar, 1947). Though it must be noted that in certain places offensive language has been modified (for example, “idiots” is replaced by “misguided”), the content remains the same. Such modification, however, was considered so marginal that the author does not mention it in his preface; neither is it discernible unless closely scrutinised. An important omission from the latter edition was the foreword to the book by one “Lok Nayak” M.S. Aney.

The reasons are not far to see. Aney says: “I also desire to add that the strong and impassioned language used by the author towards those who do not subscribe to his theory of nationalism is also not in keeping with the dignity with which the scientific study of a complex problem like the Nationalism deserves to be pursued. It pains me to make these observations in this foreword” (Golwalkar, 1939, page xviii).

Such views could not have been allowed to be propagated at a time when the RSS was reaping most of the benefit of the growing communal tensions and strife preceding Partition. The inflammatory propaganda value of the book could not be undermined.

The disinformation that they are now spreading is to conceal their ideological foundations, as Golwalkar’s book continues to be the clearest expression of the real nature of the Saffron Brigade’s mission today.

We can do no better than quote a very sympathetic account of the RSS, J.A. Curran’s Militant Hinduism in Indian Politics—A Study of the RSS: “The genuine ideology of the Sangh is based upon principles formulated by its founder, Dr Hedgewar. These principles have been consolidated and amplified by the present leader in a small book called WE or OUR NATIONHOOD DEFINED, written in 1939. ‘WE’ can be described as the RSS ‘Bible’. It is the basic primer in the indoctrination of Sangh volunteers. Although this book was written twelve years ago, in a national context different from the contemporary one, the principles contained in it are still considered entirely applicable by the Sangh membership” (Curran, 1979, page 39. Emphasis as in the original).

The importance of this book for the RSS must be seen also in relation to Golwalkar’s role in its history. Golwalkar assumed the reins as the RSS chief in 1940. Two years prior to that, in 1938, he was appointed RSS general secretary by Hedgewar. Incidentally, the RSS Sarsanghchalak (chief) is always nominated by the outgoing one. He continues in his post till death. So much for their “democratic” credentials!

Golwalkar served in this capacity till 1973. His role, particularly in the first phase, from 1940 to 1954, has been summed up thus: “It (Golwalkar’s leadership) remains a historical source today for the RSS and its ‘family’, called upon to suit specific times and audiences (particularly, during riots). It is also exceptionally helpful for our understanding of precisely what the triumph of Hindutva will mean for our country” (Basu, Datta, Sarkar, Sarkar and Sen, 1993, page 25).

Golwalkar’s abiding influence has been in providing the Saffron Brigade with an ideological formation, not merely in terms of ideas and principles but also in establishing an organisational structure to achieve the aim of a fascistic Hindu Rashtra.

This is demonstrated sharply in the period following the withdrawal of the ban imposed on the RSS after the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi. (The ban was in effect from February 4, 1948, to July 12, 1949.) The RSS, eager to negotiate the withdrawal of the ban, adopted a course of deceitful compromises. Curran notes: “Golwalkar’s announcement soon after legality had been restored, that he had given “no agreement or assurances” to the government, was an ineffectual attempt to maintain ‘face’. The provisions for elections within the organisation and the promise to denounce communalism and to maintain a tolerant attitude towards other communities were quite contrary to past Sangh practice and obviously had been accepted because of government insistence. However, these provisions have not been observed; in practice, the Sangh membership has consistently ignored them” (Curran, 1979, pages 31-32. Emphasis as in the original). Forced by the government, the RSS adopted a constitution (which till date is not available for public scrutiny). Article 3 states: “The aims and objects of the Sangh are to weld together the diverse groups within the Hindu Samaj and to revitalise and rejuvenate the same on the basis of its Dharma and Sanskriti, that it may achieve an all-sided development of the Bharatavarsha” (quoted by Curran, 1979, page 35). But Curran himself adds: “The Constitution gives no hint of a militant and intolerant advocacy of a Hindu state. There is a basic difference between the formal profession of aims embodied in the constitution and actual plans of the Sangh. The Sangh abjures secrecy of ends and means, but the incompatibility of the tolerant Hindu philosophy of the constitution and the fanatically pro-Hindu and anti-non-Hindu aims instilled in the membership is clear. The proclaimed philosophy is a pale and often deceptive reflection of the real objectives of the Sangh. ...Too open an expression of Sangh ideals would undoubtedly result in repression of RSS activities. The Sangh leaders are too shrewd to risk an open struggle with the government while the odds heavily favour the latter” (Curran, 1979, pages 35-36. Emphasis as in the original).

It is in line with this that Golwalkar in September 1949 publicly voiced in Lucknow the RSS criticism of the Indian Constitution which he termed as “UnBharat”. There is a similarity indeed here with the present leaders of the VHP who describe it as “UnHindu”.

Apart from such tactical manoeuvres, Golwalkar undertook certain organisational initiatives. Following the agreement with the government on the withdrawal of the ban, Golwalkar went on to establish the now infamous Sangh Parivar. The strategy was clear. The RSS would in the public eye confine itself to “cultural activity” while its affiliates would branch out into the various sections spreading the message of “Hindu Rashtra”. These seemingly independent tentacles were welded together by the RSS. This organisational network is today there for all to see.

Golwalkar’s important initiative, however, comes in the attempt to organise the Hindu religious leaders in mid-1964 “to discuss ways in which various Hindu sects and tendencies could sink their many differences, work together and establish contacts with Hindus residing abroad. Thus was laid the foundations of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, and an RSS pracharak, Shivram Shankar Apte, became its first general secretary. The subsequent career of the VHP, today the most formidable of the RSS affiliates, demands a separate study” (Basu, Datta, Sarkar, Sarkar, Sen, page 50).

Another organisational measure taken by him was to utilise this organisational structure of the “family” to create a political front which would be always under the leadership and control of the RSS. In 1951, he sent cadres to help Syama Prasad Mookherjee to start the Bharatiya Jan Sangh, whose later incarnate is today’s BJP. Among those who were sent were Deen Dayal Upadhyay, Atal Behari Vajpayee, L.K. Advani and S.S. Bhandari. (This fact is mentioned in Basu, Datta, Sarkar, Sarkar, Sen, 1993, page 48). It is precisely for this reason that when Advani was arrested after the December 6, 1992, events, it was S.S. Bhandari who was BJP’s chief spokesman.

Thus, Golwalkar’s role in evolving the present ideological foundations for the Saffron Brigade cannot be underplayed. The entire organisational structure was to establish a political goal, and this was unambiguously articulated in the book We or Our Nationhood defined. Hence, the abiding importance of this book for the Saffron Brigade. A proper understanding of the contents of this book and the intentions of the Saffron Brigade is necessary for all patriots who do not wish to see India slide into the morass of darkness and medieval theocracy.

Golwalkar begins his entire exercise by seeking to understand the word “Swaraj”. He begins by questioning what is “Swa”, meaning “We”. In the prologue to the book, he says: “We stand for national regeneration and not for the haphazard bundle of political rights—the state. What we want is Swaraj; and we must be definite what this ‘Swa’ means. ‘Our kingdom’—who are we?” (Golwalkar, 1939, page 3). The entire book is an elaboration of the thesis that “we” means the Hindus and hence Swaraj means the Hindu Raj or Hindu Rashtra.

The basic purpose of the book was to establish that India was always a Hindu nation and continues to be one. By India here Golwalkar means the “lands from sea to sea”. In fact, the map on the cover of the book gives the outline of his geographic limitations of India which expands from Afghanistan to Burma and includes Sri Lanka.

Golwalkar attempts to achieve this purpose through an ingenious distortion of both history and science. First, the entire diversity of culture, traditions, language and customs of the peoples who inhabited India over centuries is sought to be straitjacketed into a monolithic “Hinduism”. Secondly, an external enemy is created (that is, “external” to Hindus), the hate against whom is used to whip up “Hindu” consolidation.

Golwalkar here relied heavily on the experience of Hitlerite fascism. Georgi Dimitrov, the indomitable anti-fascist who led the struggle of the international working class, had said: “Fascism acts in the interests of extreme imperialists but presents itself to the masses in the guise of a ill-treated nation and appeals to outraged ‘national’ sentiments.” To present the RSS as such a champion, it was necessary to create a false consciousness that the Hindus have been and are deprived while, at the same time, generate hate against the Muslims (taking the cue from Hitler’s rabid anti-Semitism) to the effect that they are responsible for this. This was the precise purpose of the book.

The present-day activities and propaganda of the Saffron Brigade is based precisely on these two points that Golwalkar provided as the ideological input. To achieve this, it has perfected the Goebbelsian technique of telling big enough lies, frequently enough to make them appear as the truth.

It is necessary to note, at this stage, that the external enemy was not identified by the RSS as the British, against whom the Indian people were then in struggle. The hate against the Muslim community was sought to be spread much deeper than against the British by the RSS precisely because the Indian people could not be united for their “Hindu Rashtra” against the British, since their anti-British feelings found expression in the growing strength of the united freedom movement. It is for this precise reason that the RSS never nailed down the British as its enemy. For that matter, it virtually boycotted and at times opposed the freedom struggle. Even sympathetic accounts of the RSS ( The Brotherhood in Saffron by Walter K. Andersen and Shridhar D. Damle, 1987, amongst others) detail the virtual absence of the RSS in the freedom movement and the consequent concessions it gained from the British. Even Nanaji Deshmukh raises the question: “Why did the RSS not take part in the liberation struggle as an organisation?” (Deshmukh, 1979, page 29). This urge to establish a “Hindu Rashtra” drove the RSS to be a virtual ally of the British. The freedom struggle and the Congress were regarded as a diversion from their objective. The animosity grew particularly after the AICC announced that free India would be a secular, democratic republic (at the Karachi Congress, 1931). This was seen, and correctly, as the very antithesis of the RSS conception of a Hindu Rashtra.

Mahatma Gandhi, the tallest of devout and practising Hindus, was assassinated because he along with the majority of Indian people embraced secular democracy—rejecting the RSS ideology.

Golwalkar, however, had to establish certain points in order to validate his thesis. First, it was necessary to establish that Hindus and Hindus alone were the original inhabitants of India. This Golwalkar does by the simple recourse to assertion. He states: “We—Hindus—have been in undisputed and undisturbed possession of this land for over 8 or even 10 thousand years before the land was invaded by any foreign race” and therefore, this land, “came to be known as Hindusthan, the land of the Hindus” (Golwalkar, 1939, page 6). There is a deliberate total silence on the entire wealth of investigations of ancient Indian history, including the possibility of the name Hindusthan originating from people outside India who described this land as the land of the Indus river.

Having asserted this, he proceeds to “prove” that Hindus did not come here from anywhere else. This is absolutely central to Golwalkar’s political project since, if this cannot be proved, then logically the Hindus would be as much of a “foreign race” as anybody else who came to this land.

A remarkably perfidious exercise is employed to prove this point. All through this book Golwalkar uses the terms “Hindu” and “Aryan race” synonymously. He thus sets out to show that the Aryans did not migrate to India from anywhere but originated here. All historical evidence to the contrary is dismissed as the “shady testimony of Western scholars” (Golwalkar, 1939, page 6). The RSS guru, however, had to contend with Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak’s theory of the Arctic origin of the Vedas. However, Golwalkar, accepting Tilak’s thesis, comes up with the incredible assertion that the Arctic zone was originally that part of the world which is today called Bihar and Orissa, “...that then it moved north-east and then by a sometimes westerly, sometimes northward movement, it came to its present position. If this be so, did we leave the Arctic Zone and come to Hindusthan or were we all along here and the Arctic Zone left us and moved away northwards in its zigzag march? We do not hesitate in affirming that had this fact been discovered during the life-time of Lok. Tilak, he would unhesitatingly have propounded the proposition that ‘The Arctic Home of the Vedas’ was verily in Hindusthan itself and that it was not the Hindus who migrated to that land but the Arctic Zone which emigrated and left the Hindus in Hindusthan” (Golwalkar, 1939, page 8).

Lunatic logic indeed! Granting the benefit of doubt, that Golwalkar was unaware of the advances in geological sciences and plate-tectonics (which today fairly accurately allows man to map the movement of various land masses over centuries), we ask the simple question: Even by the logic of his own argument, if the Arctic zone moved away from Bihar-Orissa, how could it leave behind the people who were inhabiting that land mass? When the land mass moves, it moves along with everything on it. People cannot be left hanging in a vacuum only to drop down when and where Golwalkar wishes! Such perfidy is employed to “establish” that the Aryans originated in India and did not immigrate from anywhere else. This is central to the political aim of establishing a fascistic Hindu Rashtra.

In order to achieve an internal consistency for such an incredible theory, Golwalkar had to resort to a gross distortion of history. Presenting the “glory of Hindu civilisation” till the time of the Mahabharata he says that later, “we have another gap of many centuries, which the accredited history has not been able to fill. But we can surmise that the nation lived its usual life without any serious occurrence. Then came Buddha and the great Emperors of the Gupta Dynasty, Asoka, Harshavardhan, Vikramaditya, Pulakeshi, and others of whose rule of peace, power and plenty, we obtain incontrovertible evidence. The invasion of the ‘world-conqueror’ Alexander was a mere scratch. In fact he cannot be said to have invaded the country at all, so hasty was his retreat” (Golwalkar, 1939, page 9).

Totally ignoring—in fact rejecting—the recorded history of this period which was available to Golwalkar’s generation, he straitjackets these centuries into a static time-frame whose only denominator is “Hindu kings”. Even amongst the kings he names, why was it that the same Pulakeshin II stopped the southward march of Harshavardhana and defeated him on the banks of the river Narmada? Both were great Hindu kings according to Golwalkar and members of the same nationhood! His exercise defies not only history but also the laws of social development. Why do kings fight against one another, why do empires rise and fall? Why did the slave system give way to the feudal agrarian order? Or how and why did the British succeed in subjugating “Hindu kings” through superior arms? Why did the great Hindu nation not produce such firepower? All such questions are irrelevant to Golwalkar’s exercise.

In a similar vein, revolts against the oppressive Hindu rituals and caste order are ignored. Buddhism is described merely as a variant of Hinduism. In fact, all other religions (especially Sikhism and Jainism) which originated in India are sought to be appropriated into the Hindu monolith.

Indian history for over eight hundred years is depicted as a single thread of a long war by the “Hindu nation as a whole” against the invading Muslims. Golwalkar, however, says that the Hindu nation, which was finally emerging victorious, was subjugated by a new foe—the British. The First War of Independence against the British in 1857 is depicted as “the last great nation-wide attempt to end the long war” (Golwalkar, 1939, page 11) by the Hindu nation. “The attempt failed but even in their defeat a whole galaxy of noble Hindu patriots stands out—glorious objects of the Nation’s worship” (Golwalkar, 1939, page 11).

Golwalkar conveniently forgets that the symbol of this revolt against the British, even by the heroic and devout Hindu queen, Rani Laxmi Bhai of Jhansi, was the Mughal monarch, Bahadur Shah Zafar! Was this the war of ‘Hindus’ against Muslim invaders or that of Indians for their freedom? Such facts of history, however, are irrelevant for Golwalkar. Further, Golwalkar adduces five characteristics (or “unities”) which, according to him, define the nation. “Geographical (Country), Racial (Race), Religious (Religion), Cultural (Culture) and Linguistic (Language)” (Golwalkar, 1939, page 33). The entire exercise that follows is to establish that the Hindus in India possessed all these characteristics and hence have always been a nation.

But the task, even for Golwalkar, is not easy. Of all, “the knotty point is Religion and to a certain extent language” (Golwalkar, 1939, page 33). Race for Golwalkar is “... by far the most important ingredient of a Nation” (Golwalkar, 1939, page 21). It is for this reason that he always uses the terms Hindu and Aryan synonymously. Historical evidence, of course, is irrelevant.

According to his entire body of argument, the Indus Valley civilisation would be an indigenous Aryan civilisation. In which case, why did it disintegrate? What were the internal causes? If this civilisation was overrun from outside, who were these people? After coming into this land, did these people continue to live here or did they go back? And if evidence points to the fact that they continued to live here, what was the race that emerged as a result of this admixture? All these questions are as inconvenient for Golwalkar as historical evidence is inconvenient for the Saffron Brigade today. Such questions are countered by the formidable assertion of “matters of faith”. Noted historian Romila Thapar, for example, says, “The linguistic evidence of Vedic Sanskrit supports the coming into India of an Indo-European language from Iran but does not support the notion that India was the homeland of the Aryan-speaking people” ( Seminar 400, December 1992; also see Seminar 364, December 1989).

Golwalkar dismisses all such historical evidence in a footnote: “But obsessed with the idea, that Aryans came to Hindusthan from somewhere near the Caspian Sea or the Arctic region or some such place, and invaded this land in bands of marauders, that later they settled down first in the Punjab and gradually spread eastward along the Gunga, forming kingdoms at various places, at Ayodhya among them, the Historian feels it an anachronism, that the kingdom of Ayodhya in the Ramayan should be older than the more western Pandava Empire at Hastinapur. And he, with pedantic ignorance, teaches us that the story of the Mahabharat is the older. Unfortunately such misconceptions are stuffed into the brains of our young ones through textbooks appointed by various universities in the country. It is high time that we studied, understood and wrote our history ourselves and discarded such designed or undesigned distortions” (Golwalkar, 1939, pages 5-6).

The inspiration for the BJP State governments to change the syllabi and curricula in accordance with such an understanding originates in this source. However untenable this theory may be, on this basis Golwalkar asserts the overall supremacy of religion in social life. This has little to do with religiosity. This has to be established to achieve the political objective Golwalkar sets out for the RSS. He dismisses the modern concept of a secularism where religion is separated from both politics and state and treated as an individual question. Treating secularism as virtual blasphemy, he argues: “There is a general tendency to affirm that Religion is an individual question and should have no place in public and political life. This tendency is based upon a misconception of Religion, and has its origin in those, who have, as a people, no religion worth the name” (Golwalkar, 1939, page 23).

Since no other religion is worth its name except Hinduism, he asserts: “Such Religion—and nothing else deserves that name—cannot be ignored in individual or public life. It must have a place in proportion to its vast importance in politics as well... Indeed politics itself becomes, in the case of such a Religion, a small factor to be considered and followed solely as one of the commands of Religion and in accord with such commands” (Golwalkar, 1939, page 24).

He thus negates the historical experience—different nations having the same state religion, or secular nations having no state religion and the existence of multinational states—and the scientific validity of the fact that religion has nowhere and at no time cemented national unity. The fact that Islamic Bangladesh separated from Muslim Pakistan as a result of the national struggle of the Bangladeshi people despite a common religion is, of course, uncomfortable for such a standpoint to consider. But it is necessary for Golwalkar to assert the overall supremacy of religion for his political project.

Golwalkar’s ingenious perfidy is, however, in relation to language. The multitude of languages that exists in our country, each with its own history, culture and tradition, and the fact that nationalities have emerged on this basis and continue to coexist is dismissed with contempt. “It appears as if the Linguistic unity is wanting, and there are not one but many ‘Nations’, separated from each other by linguistic differences. But in fact that is not so. There is but one language, Sanskrit, of which these many ‘languages’ are mere offshoots, the children of the mother language. Sanskrit, the dialect of the Gods, is common to all from the Himalayas to the ocean in the South, from East to West and all the modern sister languages are through it so much inter-related as to be practically one. It needs but little labour to acquire a going acquaintance with any tongue. And even among the modern languages Hindi is the most commonly understood and used as a medium of expression between persons of different provinces” (Golwalkar, 1939, page 43).

Such incredible logic, however, is only applicable to India. Many a European nation uses a common language, or their languages have been the off-shoots of a single Indo-European mother. They exist because of different languages and accompanying cultures and traditions as different nations and nationalities today. This is, however, irrelevant for Golwalkar, as the purpose of his exercise, divorced from scientific analysis and historical experience, is to straitjacket Indian diversity into a monolithic unity for political purposes.

It is precisely on the basis of this understanding that the Saffron Brigade all along opposed and continues to oppose today the linguistic reorganisation of States. It is, of course, of no concern to them that at least Tamil and Kashmiri have their origin in a non-Sanskrit group of languages. Or for that matter Sanskrit itself was a branch of Indo-European languages which evolved and developed in this part of the world. The Saffron Brigade’s opposition to Urdu, a language that completely and thoroughly evolved only in India, and its efforts to impose Hindi, are also to be traced to this source. Its current slogan, “Hind, Hindi, Hindusthan”, portends what its political project holds for the future of crores of non-Hindi speaking people of India.

Golwalkar finds himself in complete isolation from both the Western concept of a nation and that of the concept found in the Indian scriptures. He himself says: “For the Rashtra concept to be complete it should be composed of ‘Desh’ country, ‘Jati’ race or ‘Janpad’ people” (Golwalkar, 1939, page 52). But in order to reconcile his theory, he conveniently twists this understanding to assert that though “no mention is found of the three components Religion, Culture and Language” (in the ancient Indian scriptures), “the concept of ‘Janpad’ explicitly includes these” (Golwalkar, 1939, page 52).

Having thus “established” that the Hindus were always and continue to remain a nation on the basis of an unscientific and ahistorical analysis, Golwalkar proceeds to assert the intolerant, theocratic content of such a Hindu nation.

“...The conclusion is unquestionably forced upon us that... in Hindusthan exists and must needs exist the ancient Hindu nation and nought else but the Hindu Nation. All those not belonging to the national, i.e., Hindu Race, Religion, Culture and Language naturally fall out of the pale of real ‘National’ life.

“We repeat: in Hindusthan, the land of the Hindus, lives and should live the Hindu Nation—satisfying all the five essential requirements of the scientific nation concept of the modern world. Consequently only those movements are truly ‘National’ as aim at re-building, re-vitalising and emancipating from its present stupor, the Hindu Nation. Those only are nationalist patriots, who, with the aspiration to glorify the Hindu race and nation next to their heart, are prompted into activity and strive to achieve that goal. All others are either traitors and enemies to the National cause, or, to take a charitable view, idiots.” (Golwalkar, 1939, pages 43-44). He continues: “...We must bear in mind that so far as ‘nation’ is concerned, all those who fall outside the five-fold limits of that idea can have no place in the national life, unless they abandon their differences, adopt the religion, culture and language of the Nation and completely merge themselves in the National Race. So long, however, as they maintain their racial, religious and cultural differences, they cannot but be only foreigners” (Golwalkar, 1939, page 45).

And further: “There are only two courses open to the foreign elements, either to merge themselves in the national race and adopt its culture, or to live at its mercy so long as the national race may allow them to do so and to quit the country at the sweet will of the national race.... From this standpoint, sanctioned by the experience of shrewd old nations, the foreign races in Hindusthan must either adopt the Hindu culture and language, must learn to respect and hold in reverence Hindu religion, must entertain no idea but those of the glorification of the Hindu race and culture, i.e., of the Hindu nation and must lose their separate existence to merge in the Hindu race, or may stay in the country, wholly subordinated to the Hindu Nation, claiming nothing, deserving no privileges, far less any preferential treatment—not even citizen’s rights. There is, at least should be, no other course for them to adopt. We are an old nation; let us deal, as old nations ought to and do deal, with the foreign races, who have chosen to live in our country” (Golwalkar, 1939, pages 47-48).

And how should such “old nations” deal? The adulation of fascist Germany could not have been more naked. “The ancient Race spirit, which prompted the Germanic tribes to over-run the whole of Europe, has re-risen in modern Germany, with the result that the Nation perforce follows aspirations, predetermined by the traditions left by its depredatory ancestors. Even so with us: our Race spirit has once again roused itself as is evidenced by the race of spiritual giants we have produced, and who today stalk the world in serene majesty” (Golwalkar, 1939, page 32).

Further: “To keep up the purity of the Race and its culture, Germany shocked the world by her purging the country of the Semitic Races—the Jews. Race pride at its highest has been manifested here. Germany has also shown how wellnigh impossible it is for Races and cultures, having differences going to the root, to be assimilated into one united whole, a good lesson for us in Hindusthan to learn and profit by” (Golwalkar, 1939, page 35).

Hitler, thus, emerges as the “Guruji’s Guru”. This, in fact, exposes the diabolic nature of the RSS’ political project. It has no compunction in borrowing a thoroughly modern and Western concept of fascism, but making it appear in the garb of upholding Hindu religion and all that is ancient. All other Western concepts and civilisational advances are condemned as “alien”, except for fascism!

A glaring inconsistency, however, does not seem to bother Golwalkar. If, according to him, the Hindus were Aryans, who then were these Aryans that Hitler was championing? If those were also Aryans, then did they migrate from India to Germany or vice versa? According to his theory, both India and Germany should be part of a single nation!

The whole exercise, thus, provides the ideological basis for a fascistic Hindu Rashtra which continues to be the kernel of the present-day Saffron Brigade’s mission.

Two other important aspects of the book must be discussed. The first relates to the question of minorities. Castigating the minority treaties laid down by the League of Nations, Golwalkar says: “Our modern solution of the minorities problem is far more dangerous. It confers untold rights not only on those who by their number and years of residence (we doubt it) may be considered according to the League as minorities, but also on all else, howsoever few or recent in their settlement—rights and privileges far in excess of the minimum advocated by the League. The natural consequences are even now felt and Hindu National life runs the risk of being shattered. Let us take heed and be prepared” (Golwalkar, 1939, pages 49- 50. Emphasis added).

Seen together with the earlier-noted intolerance against the minorities, this understanding maps out the vision of purges that may well put to shame Nazi fascism—if the Saffron Brigade succeeds in establishing its concept of a Hindu Rashtra.

The second aspect refers to its conception of the social order in its Hindu Rashtra. Golwalkar acclaims Manu as the “first and greatest law giver of the world” who “lay down in his code, directing all the peoples of the world to go to Hindusthan to learn their duties at the holy feet of ‘eldest born’ Brahmins of this land” (Golwalkar, 1939, pages 55-56).

Now what does the Manusmriti say? “(Consumption of) liquor, slaying women, Shudras, Vaishyas, or Kshatriyas (i.e. all except Brahmin men) are all minor offences” ( Manusmriti, XI; 67). “A Brahmin may take possession of the goods of a Shudra with perfect peace of mind, for, since nothing at all should belong to the Shudra as his own, he is one whose property can be taken away by his master” (VIII; 417). “As woman cannot utter the Vedic mantras, she is as untruth is” (IX; 18). “Indeed, an accumulation of wealth should not be made by a Shudra even if he is able to do so, for the sight of mere possession of wealth by a Shudra injures the Brahmins” (X; 129). “The wealth of the Shudra shall be dogs and donkeys. The dress of the Shudra shall be the garments of the dead, their food they shall eat from broken dishes, black iron shall be their ornaments and they must always wander from place to place” (X; 52).

It is not as though such love for the Manusmriti was confined only to this book by Golwalkar. Much later, in his Bunch of Thoughts, he said: “Brahmin is the head, King the hands, Vaishya the thighs and Shudra the feet. This means that the people who have thus, four-fold arrangement, i.e. the Hindu people, is our God” (Golwalkar, 1966, page 25).

It is this understanding that prompted the RSS to oppose the amendments to the “Hindu Code Bill” after Independence, and it is this understanding that today propels the Saffron Brigade affiliates to reassert the Manusmriti. Witness the aggression at the recently held “Dharam Sansad” and the castigating of the present Indian Constitution as “non-Hindu”.

In this context, the significance of upper caste Maharashtra Brahmins being the leaders of the RSS till date must be noted. “The centrality of Maharashtra in the formation of the ideology and organisation of Hindutva in the mid-1920s might appear rather surprising, as Muslims here were a small minority and hardly a threat, and there had been no major riots in this region during the early 1920s. But Maharashtra had witnessed a powerful anti-Brahmin movement of backward castes from the 1870s onwards, when Jyotiba Phule had founded his Satyashodhak Samaj. By the 1920s, the Dalits, too, had started organising themselves under Ambedkar. Hindutva in 1925 as in 1990-91, was an upper caste bid to restore a slipping hegemony...” (Basu, Dutta, Sarkar, Sarkar,Sen, 1993, pages 10-11).

The vision of a social order under the Hindu Rashtra is thus one which legitimises both the inhuman caste oppression and the denial of elementary rights to women. Under such a dispensation, criminal practices such as Sati may not only be legitimised but may well be glorified.

This vision outlined by Golwalkar continues to form the basis for the Saffron Brigade to establish its vision of a Hindu Rashtra. If it today claims not to have republished this book in the 1950s, it has little to do with repudiating this vision. If this was so at all, then it was due more to the defeat of fascism in the Second World War and the liberation of millions from its oppressive yoke. With the Golwalkar-formulated ideal having been smashed, the Saffron Brigade could not propagate it in India. Domestically, following the assassination of Gandhiji, its offensive remarks about the Congress could not have been much of a comfort.

But the essential understanding outlined in the book, as noted earlier, continues to be the inspiration for the Saffron Brigade today. The dual objective is: attempt to straitjacket the internal diversity amongst the “Hindus” under a single domination, and generate hate against a community outside of the Hindus—the Muslims. (For an exposure of the falsehood on the basis of which the Saffron Brigade spreads this hatred, see Pseudo Hinduism Exposed: “Saffron Brigade’s Myths and Reality”, a CPI(M) publication, January 1993).

As a digression, it would be interesting to note that even the symbol around which they seek the internal unification of the Hindu people—Ram and Ramayana—has a very rich diversity. I recollect from my childhood the untenable characters in the Ramayana, the kings south of the Vindhyas like Vali, Sugreeva and Jambavanta who are depicted as animals and not humans. Was this not a reflection of the attempt of Aryan domination over the Dravidians?

Or take the legend around the festival of Onam celebrated in Kerala: The people of Kerala celebrate the annual return of their favourite King Maha Bali, who is described in the Aryan version as the king of Asuras (demons) who had to be killed by Vishnu in the form of Vamanavatara.

A hero for one set of Hindus is the villain for the other! (The Saffron Brigade, however, may say that these kings were different. Like the “sants” who when man landed on the moon screamed that this moon was different from the one referred to in the scriptures.)

Or, for that matter, take the entire interpretation of Ravanayana which describes the epic as the story of Ravana, who having earned the ultimate boon of not being killed by any living creature, gets fed up with mortal life and engineers that God comes down in the form of Rama, to be killed by his hands to achieve moksha. Vijaya Dashmi day, instead of marking the triumph of good over evil, could well mark the moksha of Ravana! (Refer Paula Richman, 1992).

In fact, the Kamba Ramayana in Tamil is found as a version authored by one Kampan in Thailand adorning the galleries of the royal palace in Bangkok. A rich story of epic proportions, which as Kampan says “it spreads, ceaselessly various, one and many at once,” is today being straitjacketed for the political purposes of establishing a fascistic Hindu Rashtra.

To return to Golwalkar. In the epilogue to his book he says, “All past civilisations ‘had their day, abode a day or two and passed away,’ because they had nothing to fulfil. We, however, live on, despite far greater calamities, and ever emerge triumphant masters of the world. We have no reason to lose hope. ‘Act first... a stage so gloamed with woe, We all but sicken at the shifting scenes. And yet be patient, our Play Wright ‘will’ show, in some fifth Act what this wild drama means. Let us be patient.” (Golwalkar (sic), 1939, page 65).

The “wild drama” is unfolding its fascistic proportions. Georgi Dimitrov (in his Address to the Seventh Congress of the Communist International, 1935) says that fascism, “while acting in the interests of the most reactionary circles of imperialism, intercepts the disappointed masses who deserted the old bourgeois government with its irreconcilable attitude to the old bourgeois parties”. Note today the vehemence with which the Saffron Brigade has mounted its attack on the very fundamental pillars of secularism and democracy that define the polity of independent India. Note also the vehemence with which it today places the entire blame for the wanton destruction of the Babri Masjid at the doorstep of the present government policies and not as an act committed by the Saffron Brigade in flagrant violation of the existing Constitution and the law of the land.

Further, Dimitrov notes: “Fascism puts the people at the mercy of the most corrupt and venal elements but comes before them with the demand for an honest and incorruptible government speculating on the profound disillusionment of the masses... fascism adapts its demagogy to the peculiarities of each country, and the mass of petty bourgeois and even a section of the workers, reduced to despair by want, unemployment and insecurity of their existence fall victim to the social and chauvinist demagogy of fascism.”

It is precisely this feature of fascism that defines the demagogy and campaigns of the Saffron Brigade today. Utilising the discontent arising out of the bourgeois-landlord class policies, they are attempting to divert this, not into channels that will reverse the conditions of impoverishment that continue to grow but divert this discontent into religious communal channels to advance their objectives. By placing before the people the construction of the Ram Janmabhoomi temple as the only agenda, the Saffron Brigade, in fact, is strengthening the very edifice of exploitation that is heaping miseries on our people. In conjunction with the open attempt to seek imperialist patronage for its purpose, this spells doom for the Indian people.

The Saffron Brigade today has clearly revealed that the actual conditions of the people and the alleviation of their miseries are not its concern. That more Indians than the entire population of the U.S. live below an abysmally low poverty line is of no concern to it. That children in our country, outstripping in millions the entire population of many a country, are forced to earn a livelihood is of no concern to it. That more Indians die every year from malnutrition than the entire population of Australia is of no concern to it. Can such a diversion of the people’s discontent for their political ambitions be allowed? In the name of Ram, the Saffron Brigade today seeks to consign crores of Indians to conditions of growing impoverishment. Golwalkar and the Saffron Brigade would, however, say, “ ... it is not these that are our bane, but the dormancy of National feeling...” (Golwalkar, 1939, page 62).

The agenda that the Saffron Brigade is posing before the country and the methods that it uses to achieve its objective are nothing but an expression of an Indian variant of fascistic rule. Both in terms of the form of state and in terms of its economic and social policies, the BJP has exposed itself as the most reactionary section of the ruling classes. The present attempt by the Saffron Brigade is not merely one of establishing a medieval theocratic “Hindu Rashtra” but one of negating the very basis of democracy and secularism.

The Saffron Brigade’s agenda has to be defeated today in order to safeguard modern India. Unless India is saved, it cannot be changed for the better. Two years after this book was published, the Jamaat-e-Islami was founded. On August 26, 1941, under the leadership of Maulana Abul Ala Maududi, the founding conference was held in Pathankot. Maududi is to the Jamaat what Golwalkar is to the RSS. The similarity of their political project and roles is indeed remarkable. Just as Hitler was a hero for Golwalkar, so was he for Maududi. Just as Golwalkar rejected everything modern in human civilisation—liberty, equality, fraternity, secularism, democracy and parliamentary institutions—as “alien concepts”, so did Maududi and the philosophy of Muslim fundamentalism.

Maududi, in a speech at Pathankot in May 1947, when Partition was imminent, urged Indians to organise their state and society on the basis of Hindu scriptures and laws, as they would organise Pakistan based on the laws laid down by “Allah”. He said: “If a Hindu government based on Hindu law came to India and the law of Manu became the law of land as a result of which Muslims were treated untouchables and were not given any share in the government, they did not even get the citizenship rights, I would have no objection” (Quoted in Nizami, 1975, p. 11).

Hindu communalism and Muslim fundamentalism feed on each other. In the process, both spread communal poison deeper, threatening the very fabric of our country’s unity and integrity. Both act against the interests of the majority of people they claim to represent. India today is a secular democracy because a majority of Hindus and Muslims rejected this politics. It is this axis of Hitler-Golwalkar-Maududi that has to be politically defeated to preserve India today. All patriots who have not sold their conscience to the enemies of the nation have to rise as one man to meet this fascistic challenge.

REFERENCES

Andersen, W. and Damle, Sridhar D., The Brotherhood in Saffron: The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and Hindu Revivalism, Vistaar Publications, New Delhi 1987.

Basu, Tapan; Datta, Pradip; Sarkar, Sumit; Sarkar, Tanika; Sen, Sambuddha; Khaki Shorts: Saffron Flags, Tracts For The Times/I, Orient Longman, New Delhi, 1993.

Curran, J.A., Militant Hinduism in Indian Politics: A study of the RSS, The All India Quami Ekta Sammelan, 1979.

Deshmukh, Nana, R.S.S.: Victim of Slander, Vision Books, New Delhi, 1979.

Golwalkar, M.S., We or Our Nationhood defined, Bharat Publications: I, 1939, with a foreword by Loknayak M.S. Aney, Re. 1.

Golwalkar, M.S., We or Our Nationhood Defined, Bharat Prakashan: 1, Fourth Edition, 1947, Re. 1

Golwalkar, M.S., Bunch of Thoughts, Vikrama Prakashan, Bangalore, 1966.

Nizami, Z.A., Jamaat-e-Islami: Spearhead of Separatism, Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, Government of India, New Delhi, 1975.

Richman, Paula (ed)., Many Ramayanas: The Diversity of a Narrative Tradition in South Asia, Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 1992.

Thapar, Romila, “The Perennial Ayrans,” Seminar, no. 400, December 1992.

Yechury, Sitaram., Pseudo Hinduism Exposed: “Saffron Brigade’s Myths and Reality”, a CPI(M) Publication, New Delhi, 1993.

Essay

Ambedkar’s warning

A.G. NOORANI cover-story

“If Hindu Raj does become a fact, it will, no doubt, be the greatest calamity for this country.… Hindu Raj must be prevented at any cost,” wrote B.R. Ambedkar in Pakistan or the Partition of India (1946, pages 354-355). He was against majoritarianism, which in the Indian context meant unbridled rule of the majority community, the Hindus.

Ambedkar wrote in a Memorandum on the Rights of States and Minorities, dated March 24, 1947, which he submitted to the Sub-Committee on Fundamental Rights set up by the Constituent Assembly’s Advisory Committee on Fundamental Rights, Minorities, etc.: “Unfortunately for the minorities in India, Indian nationalism has developed a new doctrine which may be called the Divine Right of the Majority to rule the minorities according to the wishes of the majority. Any claim for the sharing of power by the minority is called communalism, while the monopolising of the whole power by the majority is called nationalism. Guided by such political philosophy the majority is not prepared to allow the minorities to share political power, nor is it willing to respect any convention made in that behalf as is evident from their repudiation of the obligation (to include representatives of the minorities in the Cabinet) contained in the Instrument of Instructions issued to the Governors in the Government of India Act of 1935. Under these circumstances there is no way left but to have the rights of the Scheduled Castes embodied in the Constitution.” (B. Shiva Rao, Select Documents, volume 2, page 113).

He was not wrong. One of the finest minds of the Socialist movement, Prem Bhasin, wrote: “The ease with which a large number of Congressmen and women—small, big and bigger still—have walked into the RSS-BJP [Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh-Bharatiya Janata Party] boat and sailed with it is not a matter of surprise. For, there has always been a certain affinity between the two. A large and influential section in the Congress sincerely believed even during the freedom struggle that the interests of Hindu Indians could not be sacrificed at the altar of a united independent India. Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya and Lala Lajpat Rai had, for instance, actually broken away from the Congress and founded the Nationalist Party which contested elections against the Congress in the mid-twenties. In later years, in the forties, even Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel was sometimes accused of being soft on the Hindu Revanchists, who believe in and practised tit-for-tat in that turbulent and fateful period.”

Events have proved the validity of Prem Bhasin’s assessment in an article entitled “The Congress-BJP Duo” in the Janata (Annual Number 1998). The weekly was founded by Jayaprakash Narayan and has been edited by his devoted follower, Dr. G.G. Parikh. The writer was one of a kind and so is the editor, who renders selfless service to an institution for rural uplift. Prem Babu lived in Aligarh and was general secretary of the Praja Socialist Party. A man of modest means, he would carefully peruse all the national dailies, in English and Hindi, besides magazines at a public library. He was, in this writer’s opinion, far and away the most insightful and honest commentator on the political scene.

Birla’s letter

Small wonder that one of the leading industrialists, B.M. Birla, wrote to Vallabhbhai Patel on June 5, 1947: “I am so glad to see from the Viceroy’s announcement of the Partition of India that things have turned out according to your desire. It is no doubt a very good thing for the Hindus and we will now be free from the communal canker.

“The partitioned area, of course, would be a Muslim state. Is it not time that we should consider Hindustan as a Hindu state with Hinduism as the state religion? We have also to strengthen the country so that it may be able to face any future aggression.” Patel’s retort was swift. He replied on June 10, 1947: “I also feel happy that the announcement of 3 June at least settles things one way or the other. There is no further uncertainty.… I do not think it will be possible to consider Hindustan as a Hindu state with Hinduism as the state religion. We must not forget that there are other minorities whose protection is our primary responsibility. The state must exist for all, irrespective of caste or creed.” If a Hindu state was excluded, what other state had Patel in mind but a secular one? (Durga Das edited, Sardar Patel’s Correspondence, volume 4, page 56).

Ambedkar was perceptive. It is not necessary to declare India a Hindu state formally by amending the Constitution and making Hinduism the state religion. The same result can be achieved by administrative measures. The Supreme Court has held secularism to be part of the basic structure of the Constitution which cannot be discarded even by constitutional amendment ( S.R. Bommai vs Union of India(1994, 3 SCC 1)).

Ambedkar thought that the elaborate constitutional provisions on administration would work. He told the Constituent Assembly on November 4, 1948, when he moved for the adoption of the Draft Constitution: “While everybody recognises the necessity of the diffusion of constitutional morality for the peaceful working of a democratic Constitution, there are two things interconnected with it which are not, unfortunately, generally recognised. One is that the form of administration has a close connection with the form of the Constitution. The form of the administration must be appropriate to and in the same sense as the form of the Constitution. The other is that it is perfectly possible to pervert the Constitution, without changing its form, by merely changing the form of the administration and to make it inconsistent and opposed to the spirit of the Constitution. It follows that it is only where people are saturated with constitutional morality such as the one described by Grote the historian that one can take the risk of omitting from the Constitution details of administration and leaving it for the Legislature to prescribe them. The question is, can we presume such a diffusion of constitutional morality? Constitutional morality is not a natural sentiment. It has to be cultivated. We must realise that our people have yet to learn it. Democracy in India is only a top-dressing on an Indian soil, which is essentially undemocratic” ( Constituent Assembly Debates, volume 7, page 38).

The leaders of the Congress sought to inculcate secularism right from the first Congress held at Bombay in 1885. S. Srinivasa Aiyangar, president of the 41st Congress in 1926, articulated the credo of secularism very ably (see the writer’s article “Roots of Indian Secularism”, Frontline, August 8, 2014). So did Vallabhbhai Patel in the presidential address to the 45th Congress at Karachi in 1931. Hindu-Muslim “unity can only come when the majority takes courage in both hands and is prepared to change places with the minority. That would be the highest wisdom.”

Revivalist hate

But by then, forces that did not share the Congress’ ideology, did not participate in the freedom movement and were charged with revivalist hate had come to the fore.

Lala Lajpat Rai noted their growth in the ninth of a series of 13 articles that he wrote for The Tribune in 1924. “In their own way, Hindu revivalists have left nothing undone to create a strictly exclusive and aggressive communal feeling. Early in the eighties of the last century, some of the Hindu religious leaders came to the conclusion that Hinduism was doomed unless it adopted the aggressive features of militant Islam and militant Christianity. The Arya Samaj is a kind of militant Hinduism. But the idea was by no means confined to the Arya Samaj. Swami Vivekananda and his gifted disciple Sister Nivedita, among others, were of the same mind. The articles which she wrote on aggressive Hinduism are the clearest evidence of that mentality.

“It must be remembered in this connection that Western knowledge, Western thought, and Western mentality took hold of the Hindu mind at a very early period of British rule. The Brahmo Samaj was the first product of it. In the early sixties the Brahmo Samaj was a non-Hindu body, and under its influence Hindu scholars, thinkers and students were becoming cosmopolitans. Some became Christians; others took to atheism and became completely westernised. Thus, a wave of indifferentism about Hinduism spread over the country. The Arya Samaj movement, and aggressive Hinduism, was a reaction against that un-Hinduism and indifferentism. Most of the early Hindu leaders of the Indian National Congress were in this sense non-Hindus. What did Mr. S.N. Banerjea or Lal Mohan Ghosh or Ananda Mohan Bose care for Hinduism? Even Mahadev Govind Ranade was but an indifferent Hindu. G.K. Gokhale was not a Hindu at all.” Intellectual integrity here went hand in hand with communal bias. In 1899 Lajpat Rai asserted that “Hindus are a nation in themselves”. On December 14, 1924, he advocated in The Tribune partition of India and partition of Punjab.

Revivalism and nationalism

Bankimchandra Chatterjee’s novel Ananda Math, in which occurs the song Vande Mataram, is intensely religious. The novel was anti-Muslim and pro-British. J.N. Farquhar recorded that from 1895 to 1913, “a frightful portent flamed up in India, anarchism and murder inspired by religion… that in all the best minds the new feeling and the fresh thought are fired by religion, either a furious devotion to some divinity of hate and blood, or a self-consecration to God and India…” He went further to connect this “anarchism” with the work of Dayananda Saraswati, Vivekananda and others: “It is as clear as noonday that the religious aspect of anarchism was merely an extension of that revival of Hinduism which is the work of Dayananda, Ramkrishna, Vivekananda and the Theosophists.”

Another scholar opined: “One may not wholly agree with such views, yet there is some element of truth in them. That truth is that Hindu revivalism had a powerful influence upon the ‘revolutionaries’ of India. Bankimchandra Chatterjee’s Ananda Math had a very powerful impact upon the revolutionaries of the day. His depiction of future Mother India was singularly religious; Future Mother India was Durga, the goddess with resplendent face, wearing all sorts of weapons of force in her hands, and in the left hand seizing the hair of the Asura, her enemy, and in the right hand assuring all not to be afraid. The revolutionaries who moved incognito as ‘Sanyasins’ were like the characters in Ananda Math. Durga, the goddess and the mother, became one with the country, the greater goddess and the mother. His Bande Mataram became the hymn for the revolutionaries.

“Hindu revivalism has influenced the development of Indian nationalism both positively and negatively. We reach a stage here when it must be pointed out that the positive contribution of revivalism to Indian nationalism becomes feeble and the negative role of revivalism becomes more prominent.

“With the growth of the Mahasabha and RSS ideologies, a new current of nationalism—the Hindu Nationalism—grew powerful in the country. Hindu nationalism, instead of supplementing the forces of Indian nationalism, tried even to supplant it. The opposition of Indian nationalism by ‘Hindu Rashtravad’ was detrimental to the steady growth of the former. Hindu revivalism reached its high water mark under the aegis of the Hindu Mahasabha and the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh.” (B.R. Purohit, Hindu Revivalism and Indian Nationalism, Madhupriya, Bhopal, 1990, pages 171-173; a neglected work of rich insights.)

Majority rule for Hindu Raj

The leaders of these dark forces knew how to instal Hindu Raj—using the majority to establish it. In 1942 Shyama Prasad Mookerjee made a bid for power by a deal with the British in order to instal Hindu Raj. His innermost thoughts, bared to the pages of his Diary, expose the parivar’s motivations and also illustrate the central problem of all plural societies: “As seventy-five per cent of the populations were Hindus, and if India was to adopt a democratic form of government, the Hindus would automatically play a major role in it” (page 106). He and his political heirs sought to utilise the vote for the ends of power using the Hindutva card.

L.K. Advani said in Ayodhya on November 19, 1990: “Henceforth only those who fight for Hindu interests would rule India.” On October 2, 1990, he complained that “secular policy is putting unreasonable restrictions on Hindu aspirations”. And what is one to make of this gem from his successor, Murli Manohar Joshi? “Hindu Rashtra need not be a formal structure. It is the basic culture of this country. I say that all Indian Muslims are Mohammadiya Hindus; all Indian Christians are Christi Hindus. They are Hindus who have adopted Christianity and Islam as their religion.”

If a Hindu Rashtra was propounded during British rule, after Independence began the drive for a Hindu state for that Hindu Rashtra. The RSS boss M.S. Golwalkar’s reply to the question “Do you opt for a Hindu state?” is revealing: “The word Hindu state is unnecessarily misinterpreted as a theocratic one which would wipe out all other sects. Our present state is in a way a Hindu state. When the vast majority of people are Hindus, the state is democratically Hindu. It is also a secular state and all those who are now non-Hindus have also equal rights to live here. The state does not exclude anyone who lives here from occupying any position of honour in the state. It is unnecessary to call ours a Hindu state or a secular state.” A Hindu state can be called by any name, once the administration is run by Hindutvaites.

Hostile state discrimination

The classic on hostile discrimination by the state is a case decided by the United States Supreme Court in 1886 ( Yick Wo vs Hopkins 118 US. 356). Yick Wo, an emigrant from China, ran a laundry in San Francisco. A city ordinance required laundry owners to obtain a licence if the building was constructed of wood. Of the 320 laundries in the city, 240 were owned by persons of Chinese origin. Three hundred and ten were constructed of wood as, indeed, were nine-tenths of the houses in San Francisco. Yet, all applications for a licence by Chinese laundrymen were refused. Applications by all others, bar one, were granted. About 150 Chinese laundrymen were arrested for violating the ordinance.

The Supreme Court of California rejected Yick Wo’s petition for habeas corpus. An appeal to the Federal Circuit Court was also unsuccessful. The petitioner took his case to the Supreme Court and made legal history. The court spoke of “an administration directed so exclusively against a particular class of persons as to warrant and require the conclusion that whatever may have been the intent of the ordinances as adopted they are applied by the public authorities charged with their administration, and thus representing the state itself, with a mind so unequal and oppressive as to amount to a practical denial by the state of that equal protection of the laws which is secured to the petitioners, as to all other persons, by the broad and benign provisions of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.”

‘An evil eye and an unequal hand’

The Supreme Court then uttered these ringing words: “Though the law itself be fair on its face and impartial in appearance, yet, if it is applied and administered by a public authority with an evil eye and unequal hand, so as practically to make unjust and illegal discriminations between persons in similar circumstances, material to their rights, the denial of equal justice is still within the prohibition of the Constitution.” This is the test—“an evil eye and an unequal hand”. (To Golwalkar, Savarkar and Co., the land belongs only to Hindus. Muslims and Christians came as immigrants if not as invaders. The ones who live today are converts awaiting purification by the RSS.)

Apply this to the Modi government at the Centre and the BJP-ruled States and you will appreciate why and how they work the way they do. With an RSS pracharak, Narendra Modi, known for his antipathy towards Muslims, as Prime Minister, and Yogi Adityanath chosen by him as Chief Minister of India’s largest State, Uttar Pradesh, we have crossed the threshold to a Hindu state. The BJP’s presidential candidate, Ram Nath Kovind, is “deeply rooted in the ideological stream of the RSS,” an RSS man certified in the Organiser of July 2, 2016. A brand new rubber stamp has been manufactured for the Rashtrapati Bhavan, 25 years after the last rubber stamp, R. Venkataraman.

What The New York Times wrote in an editorial on February 27, 2017, on Donald Trump’s silence on the killing of an Indian engineer in Kansas applies to Modi’s wilful and sustained silence on acts of violence against Muslims. The editorial’s title “Who Belongs in Trump’s America?” is applicable to Modi’s vision, too. It said: “If Trump does nothing, he will enable the perpetrators of hate crimes and he will damage the vitality and strength of the country.” The editorial slammed Trump for being “shockingly slow” to condemn acts of hate perpetrated across the country following his election, saying his “denunciations of and policies” targeting Mexicans, Muslims, and others have “reawakened and energised the demons of bigotry”. Modi’s remarks on June 28 deprecating the lynchings of Muslims were feeble and belated, instead of an early and stern condemnation that should have come from the Prime Minister.

Professor Donald Eugene Smith exposed the double talk in his classic India As a Secular State (1963). He noted: “Golwalkar also demonstrated great dexterity in dealing with the concept of the secular state. ‘To a Hindu, the state is and has always been a secular fact. It was only a departure from the Hindu way of life that brought about, for the first time, a non-secular theocratic concept of state under Ashoka….

“Nehru once remarked that Hindu communalism was the Indian version of fascism, and, in the case of the RSS, it is not difficult to perceive certain similarities. The leader principle, the stress on militarism, the doctrine of racial-cultural superiority, ultra-nationalism infused with religious idealism, the use of symbols of past greatness, the emphasis on national solidarity, the exclusion of religious or ethnic minorities from the nation-concept—all of these features of the RSS are highly reminiscent of fascist movements in Europe.”

Attack on Christians

The regime of the day spawns a clime which fosters hate and crime. The late Archbishop of Delhi, Alan de Lastic, wrote to Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in May 2000, drawing his attention to the atmosphere of hate and violence. The All-India Christian Council laid the blame for the spurt in attacks on Christians squarely where it belonged—the Government of India. Its president, Dr Joseph D’Souza, said on June 16 in Chennai: “We are intrigued by the response of the Central and State governments who refuse to see the pattern of the violence.” The Bajrang Dal’s Gauleiter (Sah-Sahayojak) for the Braj region, Dharmendra Sharma, declared that Christians were now “bigger enemies” than Muslims.

We now have a Prime Minister whose Hindutva puts Vajpayee’s Hindutva in the shade. Lynchings of Muslims has become common. So are cries for a Hindu state. On June 18, 2017, a convention of 150 Hindu outfits met in Goa to urge that India and Nepal be converted into “Hindu Rashtras”. On June 7, Yogi Adityanath said on the Hindu Swaraj Diwas that no Indian should be hesitant about being proud of his or her Hindu identity ( Hindustan Times, June 8).

The drive will pick up speed. Modi made blatantly communal speeches during the Uttar Pradesh election campaign, as 65 former civil servants recalled in their open letter. He will do worse for the Lok Sabha elections in 2019. He aims to claim that he has fulfilled the BJP’s triple demand. His Kashmir adventure had “solved” the problem. For a uniform civil code, the first steps are being taken. No other Prime Minister has so relentlessly campaigned for a reform of Muslim law. It is a pity that the Chief Justice of India Justice J.S. Khehar rushed post haste to unprecedentedly set up a Bench during the vacation to hear the matter. As far as the Ram temple at Ayodhya is concerned, he will say: “have patience, I have crossed the threshold to a Hindu state in India. Can’t you see the dread on the faces of Muslims, Christians, Dalits and other minorities?”

Academic institutions

A quiet invasion

T.K. RAJALAKSHMI cover-story

Among the many tools available for indoctrination, education has been among the most trusted and tried ones. While appointments to key academic positions can be managed to an extent by subtle manipulation of the selection process, more overt forms of indoctrination can be done through intellectual activities in the selection of topics for seminars, workshops and research. More direct forms of intervention have been there in the university system, be it Hyderabad Central University or Jawaharlal Nehru University, with students and teachers getting caught in a nationalist versus anti-national binary. But what has been most consistent and of special interest to the proponents of a Hindu Rashtra is the reiteration of the antiquity of India. To that extent, the teaching and content of history and historical research have been of paramount importance.

The four-and-a-half-decade-old Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR) is a case in point. Its objective was to “give a proper direction to historical research and of encouraging and fostering objective and scientific writing of history”. In his message published in the “Aims and Objects” document of the ICHR, the then President of India, V.V. Giri, observed that a “proper historical perspective was necessary”. The then Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, said in her message: “Sometimes mere chauvinism and blind acceptance of past passes off as re-interpretation of history.”

Significantly, for the first time, the prestigious research organisation does not include a single medievalist on the list of historians. It was clearly not an oversight. In 2014, soon after the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government took charge, Y. Sudershan Rao was appointed Chairperson for a three-year term. Sudershan Rao headed the Andhra chapter of the Akhil Bharatiya Itihaas Sankalan Yojana (ABISY), an organisation associated with the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS). The ABISY’s main objective, according to itihasbharati.org, is to write “Bharatheeya history from a national perspective”.

One of the first things that the new Chairperson did on assuming charge was to remove from the ICHR office walls all pictorial representations of the First War of Indian Independence of 1857. The pictorial representations featuring Tantia Tope, Rani Laxmi Bai and Bahadur Shah Zafar, the “last Mughal” emperor, were put up in 2007 to commemorate the 150th year of the War for Independence. “That 35 per cent of the soldiers in the imperial army and who participated and died in the First War of Independence were Muslims is perhaps not palatable to the new government,” said a former ICHR official. Likewise, in 2007, the Ministry of Culture sanctioned funds for the publication of a “Dictionary of Martyrs” spanning the period from 1857 to 1947. Four volumes were printed but two others, one pertaining to martyrs from the southern States and the other to those from West Bengal, Odisha, Bihar and some north-eastern States, are pending publication even though the manuscripts were submitted. A historian told Frontline that it was possible that the government was uncomfortable with the fact that of the 15,000 martyrs, some 20-25 per cent were Muslims, which would be damaging to the “Muslims are anti-national” theory.

A study of some of the quarterly newsletters published by the ICHR since the BJP came to power reveal a certain pattern in the ideas promoted through seminars, workshops, lectures and projects. For instance, the booklet on the ICHR list of publications, 2016, makes no mention of pending projects, such as Towards Freedom or Dictionary of Martyrs. The Towards Freedomproject, initiated in 1975-76, was designed as a series of 10 volumes covering the 10-year period from 1937 to 1947, documenting the Independence movement. It is learnt that the volumes pertaining to 1941 (Part II), 1942 (Part II) and 1947 (Part III), have not been published even though the manuscripts were submitted long ago. “The problem is that in every volume, there is some reference to the participation of the Hindu Mahasabha on the basis of documents collected from the Mahasabha itself. The Towards Freedomvolumes negate the peaceful ‘transfer of power’ theory and hence are very important. Why the government is sitting on the remaining volumes is a mystery,” said a former ICHR official.

A resolution passed at the Indian History Congress (IHC) held in Thiruvananthapuram in December 2016 appealed to the ICHR to publish the remaining volumes of the pending projects. Interestingly, according to Sudershan Rao (Newsletter, April-June 2016), in June 2016 the ICHR took “decisions on far-reaching research proposals”. One of them was a “major ICHR project”, the preparation of a “Historical Encyclopedia of Towns and Villages of Bharath”, which, he said, could be treated as a “national project”. The silence on the pending projects continued. The quarterly newsletters give details of the ICHR’s activities through a designated column titled the “Chairman’s Column”. Among the activities detailed in the newsletter for the period January-March 2017 were several conferences that underpinned the glory of ancient India. One such national conference, on “The Bhagavata Purana: History, Philosophy and Culture”, was held in Chennai in January where the Chairperson, in his inaugural address, stated that Puranic literature, which was described as “mythical by Western scholars”, actually gave a “corpus of information about lineages of kings and sages and major events in the long history of human kind which is Bharat-centric”.

A three-day seminar was organised as part of the 45th anniversary celebrations of the ICHR on March 27 on the theme of “Antiquity, Continuity and Development of Civilisation and Culture in Bharat (India) up to the 1st Millennium B.C.” B.B. Lal, former Director General of the Archaeological Survey of India, was the chief guest. (Lal has been a consistent supporter of the theory of Ram Janmabhoomi.) David Frawley, a Padma Bhushan awardee and director of the American Institute of Vedic Studies, was the guest of honour. Frawley is known as Pandit Vamadeva Shastri, and for his support of the “myth of the Aryan invasion” theory. The objective of the seminar was “to kick-start a multidisciplinary approach to understand the major problems in constructing the true ancient history of Bharat that is presently called India”, Sudershan Rao wrote in the newsletter.

Gurukul-Shishya fellowship

The ICHR instituted an ICHR-Gurukul Fellowship in 2016. According to the newsletter (July-December 2016), the fellowship is “in keeping with the Indian tradition of education system”, and will be awarded to senior historians and their disciples. The first fellowship was awarded to two “gurus” , Lal and Dr R. Nagaswamy. Each “guru” will be given a “shishya” each, both of whom will be entitled to some payment. The aim of the fellowship is to “promote the traditional guru-shishya parampara education system”. Further, the “knowledge of the gurus will influence the research abilities of their disciples and thus the heritage of knowledge will be passed on to coming generations”. Historians Frontline spoke to said that it was a one-way form of learning, a form of regimented education leaving little scope for free interaction and critical inquiry between teacher and student.

In 2016, a retired professor of history from Deen Dayal Upadhyay Gorakhpur University delivered the annual Maulana Azad Memorial lecture. He rejected the Aryan invasion theory by saying that its supporters had “created and perpetuated this falsehood against all available evidence”. The falsehood was that “the Aryans had invaded India, destroyed the cities of the Indus Valley and killed, converted and drove away its inhabitants, the Dravidians, to south India”, that “Vedic is a rural culture while the Harappan is an urban civilisation; that Vedic society was illiterate while Harappan society was literate, that the Harappans did not domesticate horses while the Vedic Aryans domesticated and used them extensively”. All these assertions, he said, were proved wrong thanks to the clear and decisive rediscovery of the lost river, Sarasvati, with the majority of the Harappan sites in its valley. The Harappan civilisation, he said, should be designated as the Sarasvati civilisation. Many scholars, he said, who earlier believed in the Vedic-Harappan dichotomy and shared the view of Aryan arrival in India now accept the Vedic-Harappan identity. The retired professor of history was articulating what the Sangh Parivar has always believed, that Aryans were indigenous while the actual invaders were Muslims.

A somewhat insular approach to the study of history runs like a common thread in almost all the lectures and speeches of the ICHR Chairperson. Ideas repeatedly glorifying India, with the implication that the rest of the world had little civilisational value, find resonance in the content of most of the texts. At a national seminar on “Does history breathe? Some perceptions”, organised by the history department of a Delhi college, he said Indian history was deprived of “Bharteeyata”, or Indianness. Indian perspectives of history, he said, had been demonstrated in ancient literature, the epics and the Puranas. “The Chairperson is a Modern India specialist and he says he has great interest in the Puranas and epics. Nothing wrong in studying the Vedas but historians should not indulge in myth making,” said B.P. Sahu, a professor of history from the University of Delhi.

The funds for the IHC were slashed in 2015 and as a result the proceedings of the 2016 IHC were not printed. The Aligarh Historians Society was not given funds last year for organising its annual seminar.

In April 2016, speaking at the annual day function of a Delhi college, Sudershan Rao said: “India’s achievements in its remote past were unparalleled and every Indian, thus, inherits equally their merits”. Then at a seminar on “Chauhan rulers of Sapadlaksha and Ajmer” organised by MDS University, Ajmer, he said there was a need for an “impartial presentation of the history of ancient and medieval periods” and that the contribution of Indian kingdoms in medieval times and native princes under British rule to “protect, preserve and promote our age-old culture should be given proper treatment in our historiography”. He painted them as protectors of “our culture” and the “valour of spirit and sacrifice as exemplified by rulers such as Prithviraj Chauhan and Rana Pratap Singh shall always linger fresh in our memory”.

At a symposium organised by the ABISY, he said “serious efforts should be made to trace Delhi’s antiquity and its past glory” as “its urban civilisation could be dated back to Mahabharat times”, while modern historians traced its history to early medieval times and its earliest monuments to the Slave dynasty, its glory to Mughal times, and sophistication and modernity to the British era. On March 28, 2015, delivering the valedictory speech at an international seminar on the Indus-Sarasvati (Harappan) civilisation vis a vis the Rgveda, he said that historical research was not the forte of professional historians alone. At the foundation-day lecture the previous day, he said the “Aryan invasion theory was a Western construct and that it was not backed by any archaeological source”.

A document titled “Some inputs for the draft national education policy” 2016 seems to have created the contours of the broad approach that is being adopted. K.M. Shrimali, former professor of history in the University of Delhi, told Frontline that the real intent of the document was visible in its eulogy of the “Vedic system of education” and the “Gurukul system” in the mission of “achieving cultural unity in the country” through the “teaching of Sanskrit at the school and university stages” (see interview on page 26). All non-Sanskritic traditions, he said, right from the Charvakas, the Buddha and Mahavira to Nanak, Kabir, Ramdas and more recently Jyotiba Phule, “Periyar” E.V. Ramasamy and B.R. Ambedkar that questioned the “Vedic” tradition and Vedic system of education were blacked out. “Don’t Akbar, Dara Shikoh and Shah Jahan deserve a place for patronising and nurturing different linguistic traditions?” he asked. Recent studies, he said, showed that the Mughal rule constituted a rich and creative phase of Sanskrit writing in varied genres. Akbar’s patronage of Persian translation of the epics and Dara Shikoh’s translations from Sanskrit to Persian of the Upanishads are cases in point.

The obvious tilt towards a certain kind of education that focusses on a selective and uncritical understanding of the past does not appear innocuous. The plurality of Indian history and Indian culture seldom resonates in official circles and there seems to be an unwritten compulsion to see India’s glorious past and contribution to the world uncritically in every sphere. That apart, appointments to decision-making bodies in universities and administrative posts have been contentious.

Academics in Central universities have pointed out that persons with known political leanings to the ruling party at the Centre were appointed on academic bodies. At JNU, there has been heartburning over the introduction of diploma courses by the Sanskrit centre (set up during the previous tenure of the National Democratic Alliance.) The centre offers one-year diploma courses in Indian culture, yoga and philosophy. Academics feel that this and measures to introduce management and engineering courses would alter the character of the university, which was conceived as a research institution.

The views on caste expressed by the Chairperson of the Indian Council for Social Science Research (ICSSR), Braj Bihari Kumar, have been cause for concern. Before his appointment in May 2017, he officiated as editor of two quarterly publications, Dialogue and Chintan Srijan (the Hindi version of Dialogue), published by Astha Bharati, a society to promote national integrity and unity. The society is aimed at “correcting and righting the distortions and colonial misinterpretations of India’s past and present, its traditions, culture, social structure and social institutions, racial interpretations of society, colonial myths of exploitation and hegemony”. One editorial (October-December 2015) authored by him was titled “In defence of Modi”; in another (July-September 2016), he said Marxists were responsible for colonial constructs such as the “Aryan Aggression Theory”. In the January-March 2016 volume of Dialogue, he wrote that “caste and untouchability, in its present form, is a recent and at best, a post-Turk phenomenon”, implying that there was no caste system in ancient India. “Caste in its present form, untouchability and intra-Hindu societal exploitation are entirely non Hindu factors,” he wrote. Some academics Frontline spoke to said that given the Chairperson’s views, they had reason to be apprehensive.

The interpretation of history, the demonising of communities and historical periods, and the appointment of persons with known connections to right-wing majoritarian ideologies to academic positions form part of an overall agenda. The construction of a mythical glorious past lies at the centre of this fissiparous project.

Hindutva mind games

cover-story

To declare India as a Hindu Rashtra has been a dream project of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) for a long time. The National Democratic Alliance government of Atal Bihari Vajpayee had, at one stage, actively considered having a new Constitution, a draft of which the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders were studying then. That project has since been dumped because the RSS believes that with a strong BJP government at the Centre and in many States, India is a de facto Hindu Rashtra and there is no need for it to become a de jure one.

Subramanian Swamy, the BJP’s Rajya Sabha member, had been involved in studying the draft alternative Constitution. He told Frontline that the BJP leadership actively considered working on this draft but he dissuaded them from going ahead. “For one, I told them that the existing Constitution has enough elements of a Hindu Rashtra. I told them that we already are a de facto Hindu Rashtra and there is no need to become a de jure one. In my opinion, adopting a new Constitution is not possible unless there is a revolution. Besides, our Constitution already has enough of Hindutva in it,” he told this correspondent. He said this was his response when he and a few eminent lawyers were asked about their opinion on adopting a new Constitution. “This was shortly after I had joined the BJP [by merging his Janata Party with it at the time of the 2014 Lok Sabha election]. After the government was formed I was asked for my opinion on this issue,” he said. The draft alternative Constitution had been prepared by some Vidyarthi Parishad member in 2000-01, but that document was discarded for now, he said.

However, the fact remains that establishing a Hindu Rashtra is one of the pet projects of the Sangh Parivar. Now the game plan is to establish the concept at the thought level: changing the mindset of people so that the majority community becomes emboldened enough to assert its dominance and force the minorities into subjugation. The process has already started manifesting itself in the form of street vigilantism, resulting in instances of mob violence and lynching. Invariably, the victims are Muslims and the excuse for the attacks can be as trivial as suspicion of eating/carrying/transporting cow meat or issues such as love jehad, not saying Vande Mataram or Bharat mata ki jai, or even cheering for Pakistan in an India-Pakistan cricket match. And is it any coincidence that most of these instances are being reported from States ruled by the BJP?

The thinking in the Sangh Parivar seems to be, why go for lengthy routes involving documents and institutions such as Parliament and political parties when you can simply badger your way through by influencing people’s thought process. Said Manmohan Vaidya, all-India propaganda chief of the RSS: “For us Hindu Rashtra is not about the state. For us Hindu Rashtra is about the nation and the nation is made up of people: the way they think, feel, behave, carry themselves, their sanskaars. So we work with the mind and hearts of people and try and invoke a sense of oneness in them. After all, except for Jews and Parsis, who came from outside, all those who live in Bharat are sons of this soil, but they might have converted to other faiths. So we all have a shared legacy, culture, values, system. We may have our own different religions, but we have a common spiritual connect. This is what is Hindu Rashtra, the feeling of oneness. The feeling that the nation called Bharat is about us, we the people.”

According to him, the meaning of Hindu Rashtra is in the sense of pride in being a Hindu, which has nothing to do with religion, but has to do with culture and civilisation. A Hindu is one who proudly belongs to a particular territory, with a shared history, he says.

By this logic, all minorities, including Muslims, Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists, are Hindus and belong to the Hindu Rashtra, that is, India. However, this premise unnerves the minorities, especially Muslims. “When one is called a Hindu, one gets associated with a particular way of living, dressing, carrying on one’s daily life. This changes with every religion. People who profess a particular religion have a particular way of living, dressing and conducting their lives. These give one an identity. If you co-opt all religions into the Hindu way of life, then slowly we will lose our identity,” says S.Q.R. Iliyas, member of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board and president of the All India Welfare Party.

According to him, the attempt to change the mindset is singling out people who dress differently, eat differently and look different, and treating them with suspicion and hatred. “This suspicion and hatred come pouring out when there is even a minor clash between the two identities. People’s minds are being poisoned,” he says.

According to him, what causes concern is the fact that despite so many such instances, the Prime Minister has remained mum, and there has been no firm action anywhere. He also says that if indeed the BJP wants to convert India to a Hindu Rashtra, they should change it through the proper institution, that is, by amending the Constitution. “At least this will give us the chance to voice our position, state our apprehensions and, if possible, get remedies. But the covert manner in which they are trying to do it is instilling a sense of fear,” he says.

Purnima S. Tripathi

RSS & The Constitution

Debating secularism

V. VENKATESAN cover-story

JUSTICE VIKRAMJIT SEN, A RETIRED JUDGE of the Supreme Court, once observed during the hearing of a case in 2015: “India is a secular country, but I don’t know how long it will remain so.” A sense of exasperation might have been behind his observation, but events since then could make one wonder whether the judge’s remark was meant to shake up those who are complacent about the future of secularism in India.

There is no denying the fact that India’s unique brand of secularism, despite being subjected to various stresses and strains, has proved resilient. India’s brand of secularism is a complex mix of constitutional provisions that guarantee all persons freedom of conscience and the right to free profession, practice and propagation of religion; the freedom to manage religious affairs; the freedom from being compelled to pay taxes to promote a particular religion; and protection of the interests of minorities. But the enforcement of these provisions, in practice, has given rise to a number of challenges from both the state and non-state actors. One only needs to read contemporary news headlines to understand the severity of these challenges to secularism. They appear insurmountable partly because India’s unique brand of secularism has not been sufficiently understood either by its contemporary rulers or by civil society.

India’s Constitution-makers did not feel the need to explain the unique brand, leaving it to lawmakers and the courts to make sense of it through constitutional provisions. Therefore, it is not surprising that the word “secularism” does not find mention in the original Constitution. As secularism finds expression in a number of constitutional provisions, the Constitution-makers rightly thought it unnecessary to proclaim India a secular Republic even in the Preamble. Besides, secularism being a complex term defied easy definition; therefore, putting it in the Preamble without defining it elsewhere would lend the term to various interpretations not originally envisaged by the Constitution-makers. So it was believed at the time of the making of the Constitution. But Parliament’s insertion of the word “secular” along with the word “socialist” to describe the Indian Republic in the Preamble during the Emergency (1975-77) was, to infer from the debates, aimed at emphasising the “larger objective”. That it was conceived by the rulers as just an objective in the mid 1970s showed that the country was still far from realising it fully.

A.R. Antulay, a Congress Member of the Rajya Sabha who participated in the debate then, explained why the Constitution-makers had not included the word secularism in the original Constitution: “Maybe, the conditions and circumstances, then prevailing, were not favourable. The split in the Congress in the wake of Partition and immediately after Independence, the country could not have afforded, perhaps the newly won independence would have been lost. Pandit Nehru, himself a personification of secularism and himself of socialist conviction must have sensed that…. [a] split within the Congress over socialistic and secular lines immediately after Partition, immediately after Independence, would have meant the loss of independence, perhaps.”

S.A. Khaja Mohideen, a Muslim League Member of Parliament, appealed to the government to include a definition of the term secularism in the Constitution to make it clear that Indian secularism meant non-interference by anyone, including the state or any other public authority in the religion, religious rights and religious affairs of any citizen. He said: “When we declare our country to be secular and socialist, it becomes essentially obligatory on the part of Parliament to see that equal opportunities are afforded to the minorities so that they may develop equally and thus enable us to establish a welfare society in this country.” Another Member believed that the inclusion of the word secularism in the Preamble would create the right atmosphere to urge minorities to play a positive role in the development and progress of the nation.

The then Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, making an intervention during the debate, gave an interesting twist when she said: “The [British] historian [and biographer Hugh] Brogan describes the U.S. Constitution as having ‘acquired a patina of age that discouraged the irreverent hands of the renovator. Almost from the start, it was put into the care of a priesthood, the lawyers, who from time to time, have opened the Sibylline Book, and told the multitude what was the judgment of the ancestors on situations, which it is highly improbable that the ancestors had ever foreseen.’ Is this what we want for ourselves?” Reading the Constituent Assembly Debates to make sense of what the founders meant when they enacted a particular provision of the Constitution is a ritual for those seeking to interpret the Constitution. Originalism, as this is called, has often been criticised for its failure to admit that what the founders said may not be relevant for all time, and therefore, as an interpretative tool, it has its own limitations. Indira Gandhi’s attack on the originalists while trying to justify the 42nd Amendment (which was enacted during the Emergency) meant that she did not want the terms “socialism” and “secularism”, which were the sacred goals of the Constitution, to be left to the interpretation of judges. Endless debate on the meaning of these words would come in the way of their full realisation, and therefore, their insertion in the Preamble to the Constitution would give them a degree of certainty and emphasis, which the courts were unlikely to remove.

In the period following the Emergency, the Janata Party government reversed most of the features of the 42nd Amendment, which were inconsistent with democracy. But its attempt to provide a definition of the words socialism and secularism did not fructify (see “Preamble politics”, Frontline, March 6, 2015). It was felt that the then government’s move to confine the meaning of secularism to “equal respect for all religions” could actually limit the steps envisaged in the Constitution to ensure the freedom and protection of minorities. The government abandoned its move to define the term, conceding the reservations expressed by the Members of Parliament during the debate on the subject.

The controversy over the Goa conclave in June 2017 on Hindu Rashtra, organised by non-state actors with the connivance of the state, is sure to make observers question the motives of the present government, which two years ago saw nothing wrong in debating on the insertion of the word “secularism” in the Preamble. That debate, like the attempt to define the word in the Constitution, proved to be a non-starter.

As the Supreme Court has held in a number of cases, secularism not only is a basic feature of the Constitution beyond the amending power of Parliament but is its priceless jewel, which deserves to be jealously protected at all costs. In S.R.Bommai vs Union of India (1994), the Supreme Court emphasised that constitutional provisions by implication prohibit the establishment of a theocratic state and further prevent the state from either identifying itself with or favouring any particular religion or religious sect or denomination as it has been enjoined to accord equal treatment to all religions and religious sects and denominations.

Generals Rawat & Dyer

the-nation

IT is stupid to compare General Bipin Rawat with Brigadier General Reginald Dyer, who committed crimes in cold blood at the Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar on April 13, 1919. But it would be wholly wrong to ignore the disturbing similarities between the doctrines propounded by them. It is one thing for a colonial power like Britain, and recently George W. Bush of the United States, to boast about “shock and awe”. It is another for the Chief of Staff of the great Indian Army, which enjoys respect, and serves a democracy governed by the rule of law, to embrace that thesis. A comparison is necessary.

This is what Gen. Bipin Rawat told PTI on May 27, 2017: “Adversaries must be afraid of you.” Fine, but he did not stop there; “and at the same time, your people must be afraid of you”. Have you ever heard of an army chief of a democracy speaking in these terms? They are more appropriate for an army of occupation directed by a colonial power. The explanation did not dilute Doctrine. “We are a friendly Army, but when we are called to restore law and order, people have to be afraid of us.”

Compare this with Gen. Dyer’s assertions in his evidence before the Official Hunter Committee into the “disorders”.

He was asked: “I take it that your idea in taking that action was to strike terror?”

He replied: “Call it what you like. I was going to punish them. My idea from the military point of view was to make a wide impression.”

“To strike terror not only in the city of Amritsar, but throughout the Punjab?”

“Yes, throughout the Punjab. I wanted to reduce their morale; the morale of the rebels.”

The minority report remarked: “The action of General Dyer as well as some acts of the martial law administration, to be referred to hereafter, have been compared to the acts of ‘frightfulness’ committed by some of the German military commanders during the war in Belgium and France.”

The British government asked Dyer to resign. While doing so, it said: “The principle… when military action in support of the civil authority is required, may be broadly stated as using the minimum force necessary.”

It was Sir Chimanlal Setalvad’s brilliant cross-examination which exposed Dyer. India has yet to do justice to this patriot.

A.G. Noorani

Kashmir

Human shields & pellet guns

A.G. NOORANI the-nation

“They created desolation and call it peace.”

– Tacitus

This famous censure should serve as a warning to the adventurers Prime Minister Narendra Modi, his National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and associates who have embarked on a dangerous mission in Kashmir. They are out to crush, by reckless resort to brute force, the people’s revolt in the State so that they can claim in the general election to the Lok Sabha in 2019 that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had ended the militancy; the problem was solved and the Kashmir dispute ended.

It matters not that even if the militancy is ended thus, which is very doubtful, the people’s alienation will not cease. It will increase. In this sordid game, the Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Mehbooba Mufti, is very much a partner. The use and, even more so, the justification of a human shield and the murderous recourse to pellet guns are part of the game. It is nothing short of a war on the people of Kashmir. There will be no talks with “the enemy”, the people. The record provides ample warning.

On May 9, it was disclosed that a decision had been “taken at the highest level in New Delhi” not to have any talks with the separatists with a view to “isolating” the Hurriyat. The disclosure was made in Srinagar by the BJP’s State president Sat Sharma ( Greater Kashmir, May 10). This was confirmed by The Times of India on May 28: “The comments of senior BJP leaders seem to clearly indicate that the Government is not likely to engage in any political process soon.” This decision is based on the assessment that, contrary to general belief, “the situation in troubled parts of the Kashmir Valley was likely to improve”. Hence Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s confident claim that “we have come up with a permanent solution to solve (sic) Kashmir”. Mehbooba Mufti was told as much “unequivocally” when she met him and the Prime Minister on April 24; a snub to her pleas for talks ( Indian Express, April 25). She was asked, instead, to take a more “pro-active role” in maintaining law and order.

On April 28, the Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi flatly told the Supreme Court that the government cannot hold talks with the separatists or, for that matter, with Pakistan. Far from welcoming moves for talks, New Delhi resents them as “interference” in a game in which it has the upper hand. How long can stone-pelters fight a regular army? Its attitude towards the stone-pelters in Darjeeling reveals its mindset on Kashmir. In this, most in the media support it.

The Army Chief, General Bipin Rawat, called people who support the militants “overground workers of terrorists”, adding “I’d once again request the parents of these young boys” to make them “return to the fold”. This betrays his ignorance of and indifference to the realities. The boys who risk their lives to face the Army are not ones to listen to their parents. Few care to ask what it is that drives them or the girls in school uniform to pelt stones; the women who crowd at their window openly to wail in mourning when funeral processions of slain militants pass by; or the thousands who throng at their graves as they are being buried.

Attribution of militancy to Pakistan is a red herring drawn across the trail to deny the reality of a people in open revolt and to silence a guilty conscience. General Bipin Rawat’s threat that “we will target them with harsher measures” will not deter them nor will his threat that he would flout the law to get at them. I will come to his famous masterpiece presently. Well before that he threatened to “to go helter-skelter for them” ( The Asian Age, February 16). The Concise Oxford Dictionary describes it as “in disorderly haste or confusion”. In popular parlance it signifies worse. It was a curtain-raiser for his famous masterpiece to PTI on the human shield (emphasis added, throughout).

Human shield

That sordid episode is highly relevant not only for the sheer barbarity of the act but, even more so, for the barbarity that was so vividly reflected in the mindset of its supporters in high places.

On April 9, a byelection was held to the Srinagar parliamentary seat. A mere 7 per cent voted. One of them, Farooq Ahmad Dar, was a shawl weaver from a village in Budgam. He was on a bike with a friend on his way to attend a funeral thereafter. Major Leetul Gogoi grabbed him, beat him up, and had him forcibly tied at gunpoint to a jeep as a human shield to face a crowd of 1,200. The ink mark on the finger of this voter was no protection. He was paraded from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. through nine villages with a placard around his neck. The armymen belonged to the dreaded 53 Rashtriya Rifles.

Since Internet services were banned in the Valley until April 13, a video which recorded the deed surfaced thereafter and went viral. Heard in the clip was the threat “patharbazon ka yehi haal hoga” (this shall be the fate of stone-pelters). (Quoted in The Hindu’s fine editorial, April 17.)

Reaction in India revealed a lot. Attorneys General speak for the state in court. They are not required to defend it in public. Mukul Rohatgi bared his zeal when he did that on April 17 on a TV channel. “Nothing wrong… if it has to be done again it should be done. We are 100 per cent backing the Army and the major.” He improved on this brilliant performance by one even more brilliant on May 25: “Major Gogoi risked his life for the nation. His critics are speaking rubbish” ( Hindustan Times, May 26). This from an Attorney General.

On April 19, a senior BJP Minister in Jammu and Kashmir, Chandra Prakash Ganga, said “laaton ke bhoot baaton se nahin mante” (people deserving kicks won’t listen). He said: “There is only one remedy for them and that is bullets.” Mehbooba Mufti dared not sack him.

On May 22, Major Gogoi was given an award by the Army Chief himself. Awards are given either for a specific act of bravery or for a record of distinguished service. Gen. Bipin Rawat preferred discretion to valour and did not cite his vile act of April 9. He awarded him “for his sustained distinguished service till now in counter-insurgency operations in Jammu & Kashmir”. It is a pity that not a single part of the “sustained distinguished service” was revealed to the public hitherto.

The Army went on a public relations exercise. On May 24, Major Gogoi was asked to go public. His defence echoed the one instantly and ignorantly trotted out in his defence—he had saved lives “without firing a bullet or beating any one”—a brazen falsehood. Farooq Dar was mercilessly beaten. The stone-pelters “included ladies and children”. Farooq Dar was instigating them. Another falsehood. A man who had voted and was on his way to a relative’s funeral would not indulge in that. “Suddenly the idea occurred to me.” The idea was to teach a lesson to the crowd which included women and children by a humiliating punishment of Dar. Why else was he paraded through nine villages for seven and a half hours?

Nailing the lies

Three correspondents of two reputed dailies nailed the lies to the counter in detailed reports based on visits to the villages. Muzaffar Raina of The Telegraph (May 26) reported that a sarpanch of the village said that “the entire village, including newborns, women and the elderly is 1,200”—Gogoi’s figure for the crowd. Dar lived 20 km away. “The presiding officers of the polling booth directed the security force personnel, present at the school, not to open fire at the crowd.”

An eyewitness, Abdul Qayoom Shah, testified that Dar “was riding a bike and I saw some security force personnel chasing him”. “He got panicky and perhaps his bike overturned. They caught hold of him and beat him up. His bike was tossed down a slope and later they strapped him to the vehicle,” said Abdul Qayoom Shah, a shopkeeper. “Several villagers alleged that Dar was paraded through a number of villages like Gonipoh, Chakpora and Najan, adding that the army dared people over a loudspeaker to throw stones.” Villagers said that men of the 53 Rashtriya Rifles went, to use Gen. Rawat’s words, “helter-skelter” and stormed the village, breaking windows and roughing up the villagers.

Toufiq Rashid and Abhishek Saha’s report in Hindustan Times of May 26 is detailed and damning. They retraced the journey of his jeep that day, stopping at several villages on the way. Eyewitness accounts ran contrary to the official version: “Local residents say Dar was beaten up before being tied to the bonnet of the jeep. ‘After tying him up, they told us to pelt stones at him,’ Meema, another woman said. A placard saying he was a stone pelter was hung around his neck and the jeep drove away around 11 am. …

“4 pm, Hardpanzoo: The jeep finally drove into a Central Reserve Police Force camp. According to Dar, it was here he was untied from the jeep. He, however, was still bound by ropes. Dar’s brother, accompanied by the sarpanch and deputy sarpanch of his Chil village, reached the camp. Dar, they say, was kept tied to a tree inside the camp. Finally, at about 7 pm, he was let off.” Theirs is a meticulous half-hourly record.

For the Army this was par for the course. Engineer Abdul Rashid, an Independent MLA, described the Army’s behaviour in the rural area in an interview to Tasavur Mushtaq of Kashmir Life on November 20, 2011: “I was myself subjected to about 350 to 400 days of forced labour. Army treated us as slaves. We were supposed to wash clothes of Army, patrol their roads, construct bunkers, any damn thing. In this, fifty villagers suffered and I was not an exception. It was also because of AFSPA [Armed Forces Special Powers Act] and other draconian laws there was no accountability.… I was used as human shield at least on two occasions and I had a narrow escape. I was picked up and taken to the worst interrogation centre Cargo, then to central jail, CIK Humhama and Rajbagh. I had to pay bribe not less than Rs.1 lakh by selling land and few cattle to get myself released. It was these atrocities which forced me to come forward against them. I found no way better than participating in elections. I want to weep but who is listening.”

Analysis of Gen. Rawat’s interview

Gen. Bipin Rawat decided to get into the arena, both guns blazing, in an interview to PTI published on May 28. He had to talk. The award had boomeranged on him. This unusual interview deserves a far more detailed analysis than it has received. Here is a point-by-point analysis.

1. “This is a proxy war and proxy war is a dirty war. It is played in a dirty way. The rules of engagement are there when the adversary comes face-to-face and fights with you. It is a dirty war…. That is where innovation comes in. You fight a dirty war with innovations.” The subtext is clear—we are not bound by the law and the rules it lays down.

By common consent, infiltration across the Line of Control (LOC) is at an all-time low. It is the locals who are in the forefront. “The proxy war” doctrine is used to target them. A “dirty” war is launched against them and they enjoy the people’s support. The Army will innovate, breaking rules and running—“helter-skelter”.

2. The Army chief said he had a broad idea about what was going on in the Court of Inquiry into the “human shield” incident and that is why he went ahead with awarding the Major. “I know what is happening in the COI. It is being finalised. What do we punish him for?” A Court of Inquiry holds judicial proceedings. How did he know of its findings? Is that not interference?

But “an Army source” said on May 22 that it was a long process and it would take some time. “There are a lot of civilian witnesses to whom summons have been issued.” They awaited their turn to depose ( The Hindu, May 23).

3. Major Gogoi had a right to self-defence and he could have “opted to fire at the crowd”. Eyewitnesses refute this.

4. “In fact, I wish these people, instead of throwing stones at us, were firing weapons at us. I would have been happy. Then I could do what I (want to do)”. The itch to break loose is palpable. So is ignorance of the law. It imposes recognised constraints on the use of weapons even in wars between states.

5. “Has political initiative not been taken in the past? What was the result, you had Kargil.” This encroaches on the domain of the government. He has absolutely no right to say this. Political initiatives depend on political judgment. His ignorance is as crass as his impropriety. Kargil happened in 1999. Vajpayee parleyed with its architect Gen. Pervez Musharraf in 2001 and declared a ceasefire in 2003. Manmohan Singh came close to settling Kashmir in 2006. Almost every Commander of the 15 Corps in Srinagar or of the Northern Command urged a political settlement. Lt. Gen. D.S. Hooda, who heads the Northern Command, did so recently ( Indian Express, February 19). Gen. V. K. Singh said the same thing on June 25, 2010. He made a valid point, also made by his predecessors and Corps Commanders: “I feel there is a great requirement for political initiatives which take all the people forward together. Militarily we have brought the overall internal security situation in J&K firmly under control. Now, the need is to handle things politically” ( The Times of India, June 30, 2010).

6. The most disturbing bit of the interview was the Rawat Doctrine, which echoes the Dyer Doctrine 1919 (see box).

Gen. Rawat’s political chief, Defence Minister Arun Jaitley, agreed with him. The Army should be allowed to deal with a situation in a “war-like zone” ( Indian Express, May 25). So, we are at war.

Only one man had the courage to sharply criticise the use of human shields. He was Lt. General (Retd.) H.S. Panag, who headed the Northern Command. He lamented: “A tradition, ethos, rules and regulations swept away by ‘the mood of the nation’.” On April 15, he tweeted: “Image of a ‘stone pelter’ tied in front of a jeep as a ‘human shield’ will for ever haunt the Indian Army and the nation.” He told a TV channel: “This image will end up being the defining moment of the Indian Army, just like the napalm gun was for the Vietnam War.”

The New York Times (April 22) was scathing: “Members of India’s armed forces reached a new low in the long history of alleged human rights abuses in the Indian State of Jammu & Kashmir.” That history is studded with Kunan Poshpora rapes, Pathribal and very similar outrages.

Use of hostages in any conflict is a barbaric practice. It is an offence under the Penal Code—wrongful confinement (Section 340), use of criminal force, and assault (Sections 349 and 351), besides being a violation of the fundamental rights, especially the right to personal liberty (Article 21). Gogoi’s action had no legal sanction. Significantly none cited it. The Jammu and Kashmir Police registered a case of abduction with an intention to cause grievous hurt, wrongful confinement and criminal intimidation. “Information was received by the Beerwah Police Station through reliable sources on 9 April 2017, that on the polling day of Parliament elections, a news item was being telecast that a person identified as Farooq Ahmed Dar had been illegally confined by army personnel,” the first information report (FIR) said. Gogoi will escape punishment as did the killers of Advocate Jalil Andrabi and the rapists of Kunan Poshpora and the guilty of Pathribal. The Army protects its own.

Against international law

In 1982, Britain enacted the Taking of Hostages Act “in implementation of the International Convention against the Taking of Hostages (1979). Section 1 of the Act defines hostage-taking “(1) A person, whatever his nationality, who, in the United Kingdom or elsewhere, (a) detains any other person (“the hostage”), and (b) in order to compel a State, international government organisation or person to do or abstain from doing any act, threatens to kill, injure or continue to detain the hostage, commits an offence. (2) A person guilty of an offence under this Act shall be liable, on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for life.” Such is the gravity of the crime. It also constitutes “torture” as defined in Article 1(1) of the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. India signed it 20 years ago but refuses to ratify it.

Article 1 of the International Convention defines hostage taking as “any person who seizes or detains another person … (hereinafter referred to as the “hostage”) in order to compel a third party… or a group of persons to do or abstain from doing any act as an explicit or implicit condition for the release of the hostage commits the offence of taking of hostages.”

The International Court of Justice at The Hague’s ruling in the Iranian hostages case is relevant ( U.S. vs Iran, ICJ reports 1980, 3). It referred to expression of approval of the students’ takeover of the United States Embassy and its approval by the state. “The approval given to these facts by the Ayatollah Khomeini and other organs of the Iranian State, and the decision to perpetuate them, translated continuing occupation of the Embassy and detention of the hostages into acts of that State. The militants, authors of the invasion and jailers of the hostages, had now become agents of the Iranian State for whose acts the State itself was internationally responsible.”

This applies to official approval of Gogoi’s offences. In Tehran they were aggravated by the storming of diplomatic premises. The court said: “The Iranian authorities’ decision to continue the subjection of the premises of the United States Embassy to occupation by militants and of the Embassy staff to detention as hostages, clearly gave rise to repeated and multiple breaches of the applicable provisions of the Vienna Convention.”

Hostage taking is an offence by itself in domestic as well as international law. It also constitutes an act of torture. India ratified the four Geneva Conventions of 1949. Common to all is Article 3 which pertains to domestic conflict as distinct from international war. It reads: “In the case of armed conflict not of an international character occurring in the territory of one of the High Contracting Parties, each Party to the conflict shall be bound to apply, as a minimum, (1) Persons taking no active part in the hostilities,… shall in circumstances be treated humanely. …To this end, the following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever with respect to the above-mentioned persons: (a) violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture; (b) taking of hostages; (c) outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment; …

“An impartial humanitarian body, such as the International Committee of Red Cross, may offer its services to the Parties to the conflict. The Parties to the conflict should further endeavour to bring into force, by means of special agreements, all or part of the other provisions of the present Convention. The application of the preceding provisions shall not affect the legal status of the Parties to the conflict.”

In the last nearly 70 years, international humanitarian law has developed as part of the law. Reckoning with states’ propensity to quibble about Article 3, the International Committee at Geneva of the Red Cross at Geneva has propounded comprehensive norms. “The XXIIIrd International Conference of the Red Cross, concerned by the increase in hostage-taking in the world, alarmed by the suffering inflicted on the hostages involved in these acts and on their families, 1. condemns the taking of hostages, 2. urges all Governments to take the necessary measures to prevent the recurrence of such acts (Bucharest 1977, Resolution No.VIII).”

Article 8(2) (viii) of the Rome Statute for an International Criminal Court (1998) lists “taking of hostages” among “war crimes” triable by the court as also violations of Article 3 of the Geneva Convention.

The Hague Tribunal established by the United Nations Security Council ruled in the landmark Tadic case “an armed conflict exists whenever there is resort to armed force between States or protracted armed violence between governmental authorities and organised armed groups or between such groups within a State. International humanitarian law applies from the initiation of such armed conflicts and extends beyond the duration of hostilities until a general conclusion of peace is reached; or, in the case of internal conflicts, a peaceful settlement is achieved….

“A State-sovereignty-oriented approach has been gradually supplanted by a human-being-oriented approach. … It follows that in the area of armed conflict the distinction between interstate wars and civil wars is losing its value so far as human beings are concerned. Why protect civilians from belligerent violence, or ban rape, torture or the wanton destruction of hospitals, churches, museums or private property, as well as prescribed weapons causing unnecessary suffering when two sovereign states are engaged in war, and yet refrain from enacting the same bans or providing the same protection when armed violence has erupted ‘only’ within the territory of a sovereign State.”

Bosnian Serbs captured U.N. peace-keepers and used them as hostages (“human shields” in our lingo) against North Atlantic Treaty Organisation bombings. The U.S. brought Lt. Calley of the My Lai massacre in Vietnam to justice. Nixon reduced his sentence of life imprisonment to three years.

Pellet guns

Allied to approval of hostage taking is endorsement of use of pellet guns. They have a common object—intimidate the populace. Pellet guns fire hundreds of tiny shots with each cartridge.

The Hindu reported (March 2) that “over 10,000 civilians were injured by pellets” since July 8, 2016. “Over 1,000 were hit in eyes and many lost their vision.” Among them were students who returned to their classes “pellet injured and once jailed”. Shashi Bhushan reported in The Asian Age (May 13) that the police and the Army interfere even in hospitals. Victims, fearing arrests, avoid hospitals. Dr Showkat Ali Mufti of the premier hospital pleaded for an end to such practices.

The word barbaric would aptly describe such conduct. It reflects a fundamental mistake on the part of the armed forces, their political bosses and their lawyers. There are precise curbs on the use of firearms laid down over centuries in Britain. They were followed in India until lately. In his report on the firing by the Bombay City Police at the Chota Qabrastan on August 1, 1939, Justice R.S. Broomfield cited them. The report, given on October 12, 1939, was priced at “6 annas or 8 d. (pence)” (= 40 paisa). The great legal scholar R.F.V. Heuston discussed the use of firearms in an essay on Civil Disorders. He cited an important ruling which said: “Arms, now at such a stage of perfection that they cannot be employed without grave danger to life and limb even of distant and innocent persons, must be used with the greatest of care, and the greatest pains must be exercised to avoid the infliction of fatal injuries. A gun should never be used or used with any specified degree of force if there is any doubt as to the necessity.” That was 80 years ago. The judge awarded £300 damages against the Civic Guards who had killed the plaintiff’s son.

India is not the first or only country to face an internal revolt. Britain faced it for over 40 years in Northern Ireland; not from stone-pelting students but a regular, organised army, the dreaded Irish Republican Army. The distinguished Irish journalist Tim Pat Coogan wrote a 510-page tome on it ( The IRA: A History, 1993). It reproduces “The IRA Court Martial Procedure”. London lived with terror at the hands of the IRA for decades. It suffered the July 7 attacks in 2005 in which 52 were killed. In 1983, an IRA bomb exploded outside Harrods. It had fired mortar bombs at 10 Downing Street and at the Heathrow airport. It received “considerable training and arms from Libya” and “funds and arms from sympathisers in the United States”. There was no dearth of support from Ireland. Britain did not scream “proxy war” but made repeated attempts at a settlement and for ensuring respect for human rights. Elections in Northern Ireland were not rigged though the Sinn Fein sought secession from the United Kingdom and Union with the Irish Republic. Preventive detention lasted for four years from August 9, 1971, to December 5, 1975. There were 73 detainees then. There was a periodic review of the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act by judges of the highest eminence. There were at least six of them including the “Report of a Committee to consider, in the context of civil liberties and human rights, measures to deal with terrorism in Northern Ireland” in 1975. It was headed by Lord Gardiner who became Lord Chancellor. The Belfast Accords of 1998 settled the problem.

It is a particular outlook, a certain mindset, that shuns conciliation in and on Kashmir, resolves to “settle” the matter by brute force condoning pellet guns and hostage-taking, and launches a fight to the finish, leaving the Army free to act “helter-skelter”.

Institutions

Glorious past, perilous present

KUNAL SHANKAR the-nation

“To provide opportunities for higher studies and research for those qualified to benefit by them is the function of a university. When such opportunities are provided in healthy, beautiful and impressive surroundings, then a university becomes a powerful force for the cultural uplift of the nation. It is my earnest hope that the magnificently planned university which I had the pleasure of revisiting today after a lapse of some years will in ever increasing measure realise the high aims of its founder and of those who have worked for their attainment.”

-- Sir C.V. Raman, Nobel Laureate in Physics, on a visit to Osmania University on December 30, 1943.

C.V. RAMAN was not the only visiting dignitary who had such high praise for Osmania University. The accolades have been recorded in the visitor entry book that was kept at its iconic arts college between 1937 and 1960, when this practice was discontinued. Other dignitaries included United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Personal Representative to India, William Phillips, in 1943 (the U.S. did not have an embassy in India until 1947). India’s first Governor General, C. Rajagopalachari, delivered the convocation address at the university the next year. He noted: “I was deeply impressed by the reality of all the work shown to me. The university is justly proud of its buildings and the designing of them.” The Chinese Vice Minister of Education in 1943 and the Travancore kingdom’s last Dewan, Sir C.P. Ramaswami Aiyar, a year earlier, also had generous words of praise.

The encomiums were not entirely unwarranted. The seventh and the last Nizam of Hyderabad, Mir Osman Ali Khan, had given shape to a lofty ideal for higher learning a quarter century before C.V. Raman’s visit. That was to impart scientific education in an Indian language—Urdu. However, this would come to haunt him in later years as some of his Hindu subjects, who constituted the majority in his kingdom, resented it.

But there were several Hindus who accepted Urdu, according to Anuradha Reddy, a member of the Hyderabad Chapter of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH). Anuradha Reddy's uncle Pingle Jaganmohan Reddy was a judge of the High Court both during and after the Nizam period, and was well versed in Urdu, Telugu and English. “One forgets that besides being a language of the state, Urdu was popular across the subcontinent,” she added.

The genesis

The setting up of Osmania University in 1917 was a culmination of nearly four decades of a felt need to address the overwhelming presence of Western thought and knowledge in English in the British dominions of South Asia. By 1917, five English universities had been established in Calcutta, Bombay, Madras, Punjab (now in Pakistan) and Allahabad. The Mysore princely state had established a university the previous year, but with English as the medium of instruction. The state had resolved to make Kannada the medium of instruction in Mysore University, but this could not be implemented, writes Dawood Ashraf, a retired officer of the State Archives, in his authoritative 2002 book, Seventh Nizam of Hyderabad: An Archival Appraisal. However, he does not say why.

Some Indian rulers, along with anti-imperialists, felt that imparting knowledge in one’s own language was the most effective way to merge theology with scientific thought. It was an attempt to update Islamic theological education and to counter the perceived threat to local cultures, languages and knowledge. Ashraf mentions that academics expressed doubts about this venture, despite supporting the idea.

The genesis of this idea can be traced to the pan-Islamic social reformer and anti-imperialist Sayyid Jamal al-Din al-Afghani, widely known as Jamaluddin Afghani. “Progress depends on the instruction being imparted in the language of the country,” Afghani implored during his many lectures while in India between 1879 and 1883 on the last, and longest, of his five visits to the country.

He would ask: “How can a man point out proudly to his library if it contains thousands of books written in foreign languages but not a single book written in the language of his country?”

Prof. Anwar Moazzam, who retired as head of the Islamic Studies Department at Osmania, has written a book on Afghani titled Jamal-Al-Din-Al-Afghani: A Muslim Intellectual of the East. He quotes Afghani at a lecture at Albert Hall in Calcutta (now Kolkata) on November 8, 1882: “I am happy to see those who are the product of the land that was the birth place of humanism and from where it spread throughout the world. They belong to the land where for the first time… the zodiac [was] determined. Everyone knows that achieving this was not possible without mastering geometry. Therefore, we can say that mathematics and geometry were invented in India. This science reached the Arab lands and from there arrived in Europe. The youth of this same land have now to learn all the laws and the culture of knowledge from Europe.”

Afghani enjoyed considerable patronage from Persian and Urdu newspapers in India, whose editors gave him ample space to espouse his cause, particularly in Hyderabad. He felt less constrained to speak openly here and observed that Hyderabad had “refugees” from everywhere. Afghani was, however, constantly on the run from the Khedive in Egypt, the Ottoman rulers and the British for his anti-imperial activities and teachings at the Al-Azhar, the renowned fountainhead of Islamic theology in Cairo. He did not know Urdu but his Persian writings and lectures were regularly translated.

Another anti-imperialist poet and writer greatly influenced by Afghani was the Englishman Wilfrid Scawen Blunt. His reminiscences of Afghani in his 1907 book, Secret History of the English Occupation of Egypt, captures how Afghani was viewed across the Islamic world during his time: “The true originator of the liberal religious reform movement among the Ulema of Cairo was, strangely enough, neither an Arab, nor an Egyptian, nor an Ottoman, but a certain wild man of genius, Sheykh Jemal-ed-din Afghani, whose sole experience of the world before he came to Egypt had been that of Central Asia. An Afghan by birth, he had received his religious education at Bokhara (in modern day Uzbekistan), and in that remote region, and apparently without coming in contact with any teacher from the more civilized centres of Mohammedan thought, he had evolved from his own study and reflection the ideas which are now associated with his name. Hitherto all movements of religious reform in Sunnite Islam had followed the lines not of development, but of retrogression. There had been a vast number of preachers, especially in the last 200 years, who had taught that the decay of Islam as a power in the world was due to its followers having forsaken the ancient ways of simplicity and the severe observance of the law as understood in the early ages of the faith.”

Blunt went on to formally propose the idea of a Mohammedan University with Urdu as the medium of instruction to the sixth Nizam of Hyderabad, Mir Mahbub Ali Khan, in 1884.

In his “Scheme for a Mohammedan University” he stated the reasons for establishing the university. “It is no less acknowledged that, in the modern conditions of Indian life, that which principally conduces to the advantage of each community is its superiority in education. The force of natural character is no longer a sufficient element of success, and acquired intelligence is daily asserting itself more strongly as the condition of all participation in public life. Instruction in the arts and sciences of the Western world is at the present day an absolute necessity for high success.”

This scheme had to wait a few decades before it could be implemented as Blunt expressed his inability to see it through despite the Nizam’s eagerness. Events like the setting up of the Madras University-affiliated Nizam College in Hyderabad by the British in 1887 forestalled Mahbub Ali Khan’s own ideas for higher learning. But Hyderabad’s elite were considerably anglicised by now, and the need to modernise higher education in Urdu to keep up with trends in Europe grew stronger. Eventually, the young Osman Ali Khan, who had taken over the reins in 1911, issued the order to establish the university on April 26, 1917.

A grand idea

The idea was grand. Material for all major disciplines of the time, including rare manuscripts from across the world, was to be translated into Urdu. Osmania University’s library has over 6,000 rare manuscripts, some written on palm leaves. It has one of the largest collections of ancient manuscripts in India. The first department to be set up in 1918 was the Translation Bureau. Apart from translating books of various disciplines, it also produced teaching material for professors. Men and women competent in their fields were enlisted from across the world for the project.

Medicine was the only subject taught in English, according to Marri Shashidhar Reddy, son of the late Marri Channa Reddy, who was twice Chief Minister of undivided Andhra Pradesh. An alumnus of Osmania, Channa Reddy obtained a degree to practise as a medical surgeon. “When they wrote their exams, they had to write one concluding sentence in Urdu for each paper. Loosely translated, it went “These are my answers for these questions,” said Shashidhar Reddy, reminiscing about his father’s anecdotal references. English was a separate subject, but it was mandatory.

The tradition of inviting the best academic talent continued for several decades even after Hyderabad’s annexation, according to P.L. Vishweshwar Rao, a renowned journalism professor and retired Principal of the Arts College. The first appointments were made on June 29, 1919—of two professors, seven readers (assistant professors) and eight lecturers. Eight more faculty members were added later for theology. There were 142 students in the arts and science departments. Engineering and Medical Colleges were added in 1923 and 1926 respectively. By 1934, the university had a Training College. It was housed in 24 rented buildings across the city. “There is a history behind a prolonged search for a suitable site for the university. After eight years of rigorous drill, debate and discussion, a site was finally selected,” writes Dawood Ashraf.

Blend of styles

The centrepiece of Osmania University is its arts college, an institution for postgraduate studies in humanities and social sciences. A research work on “Educational Architecture”, authored in 1987 by professors Radhakrishna Sarma and S. Dhareshwari of the Department of Ancient Indian History, Culture and Archaeology, notes the conscious effort put into planning and executing the buildings and the campus.

Chief Engineer Syed Ali Raza and Nawab Zain Yar Jung, the architect of the Osmania project, were sent on a world tour for a year to study the buildings of educational institutions. They began their journey in Madras (now Chennai) on September 24, 1930, setting sail for Colombo, and then on to Japan for two months at the University of Osaka. The journey continued on to the U.S. for three months, beginning with San Francisco, where they visited the University of California, Stanford and several others on the West Coast and then headed to Princeton, Columbia, Yale and Harvard in the east. The journey continued to Britain, where they visited Oxford, Cambridge, Manchester and Edinburgh; then the Sorbonne in Paris, and Leiden, Heidelburg, Munich and Berlin in Germany. They also visited Vienna; the University of Hungary; Al Azhar in Cairo and institutions in Turkey. They zeroed in on a Belgian named Ernest Jasper in Cairo who had been contracted by University of Egypt as consultant architect.

Jasper laid out the plans for the arts and the law colleges, the library and the Senate Hall. He came to Hyderabad in 1932. Raza and Zain took him on an all-India tour beginning with the Qutb Shahi tombs and other buildings from the Golconda period in Hyderabad, to the rock-cut caves at Ajanta and Ellora, temples and towns across the kingdom; and then on to Agra, Delhi and Fatehpur Sikri in the north. “The aim was to have a synthesis of Hindu and Mughal architectural styles. Plans prepared exclusively based on architectural styles of Turkey, Jerusalem and Syria were to be avoided,” notes the research project. Jasper proved to be too expensive and left Hyderabad soon after submitting his proposals. The plan for the Senate Hall was dropped. The hostels, the science college and the dining halls were designed and executed entirely by Raza and Zain.

The arts college was the first and the finest in a series of buildings built over five years between 1934 and 1939. It is a blend of Persian, Indo-Saracenic and Deccan architectural styles. The building was declared a heritage monument by the Andhra Pradesh government in 1998 and put on the State’s tourism circuit. On any given day there are streams of visitors walking into the college on heritage tours.

Right from the beginning women were admitted into all streams, but for the first several years they entered the classrooms from separate doors located at the back of each lecture hall. Within the classroom too, they were separated from the men by a purdah. Vishweshwar Rao says: “Women could listen to the lectures but they could not see the professor.” In later years, Hyderabad’s elite families preferred to send their daughters to the University College for Women, which was established in 1924. Deemed autonomous in 1988, it boasts of better faculty and infrastructure than its parent university today.

Pantheon of alumni

Osmania has a stellar lineup of alumni in every walk of life spread globally. India’s ninth Prime Minister, P.V. Narasimha Rao, was rusticated for anti-British activities at Osmania where he had enrolled for an intermediate course. The popular cricket commentator Harsha Bhogle studied chemical engineering; his father, A.D. Bhogle, set up the French language department at the university, and his mother, Shalini Bhogle, was a professor of psychology there.

The university also launched the careers of several of India’s politicians. They include Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrashekar Rao, who cut his teeth as a Youth Congress leader while pursuing his master’s in Telugu literature; and senior Congress leader Jaipal Reddy, who was a Minister in the second United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government. Reddy was twice elected president of Osmania University’s student union when he was pursuing a master’s degree in English literature. Osmania unwittingly became one of the fulcrums of political and social change in Hyderabad State and indeed across India for several generations. It began with the anti-Nizam activities in the late 1930s and 1940s by centrists and leftists as part of the Andhra Mahasabha, the precursor to both the Congress and the Communist parties in Telangana.

Makhdoom Mohiuddin, who studied Urdu literature at Osmania, was part of the Comrades Association within the Andhra Mahasabha, a grouping that was influential in leading the Telangana Armed Struggle and that is credited with giving birth to the Communist Party in the State. The issues were similar to those in the rest of the country: slave-like work conditions and exploitation of agricultural labour by jagirdars; the landed aristocracy of the kingdom; and a sense of disenchantment among Hindus because Telugu was ignored. Mohiuddin was a firebrand trade unionist and a popular legislator in later years.

Hyderabad’s accession to the Indian Union in September 1948 after a period of resistance by the Nizam brought about drastic changes to both the university and the region, some of which were devastating. By the 1946-47 academic year, Urdu was almost the sole medium of instruction. The Nizam College, earlier affiliated to Madras University, was now under Osmania’s jurisdiction, as were other institutions like the Nizamia Observatory set up in 1908 to study space, and the Sanskrit Academy and the Dairatul Maarif, both departments set up for transcription and research on rare manuscripts in Sanskrit and Arabic. There were over 7,000 students on the rolls across the departments of Arts, Science, Law, Engineering, Medicine, Commerce, Veterinary Sciences, Agriculture, Education, Religion and Culture. In other words, a university imparting education entirely in an Indian language had come into its own and had gained world renown.

The period between 1948 and 1952 was turbulent. Hindi became the medium of instruction, and students were allowed to write exams in English, Hindi, Urdu or Telugu, and there was talk of the Central government taking over the institution. Both were resented by students and faculty alike. The voluminous collection of works and teaching materials translated into Urdu fell into disuse. Transcribing manuscripts slowed down considerably. English finally replaced Hindi as the medium of instruction in 1952, aborting an experiment in higher learning not emulated since anywhere in India. The emblem of the university dropped Arabic and Urdu entirely and replaced them with Hindi and Telugu.

Between 30,000 and 40,000 Muslims were killed in pogroms in the aftermath of the annexation across the State. This came to light from the 1948 Sunderlal Committee report, which was kept secret for decades and unearthed by the lawyer and Frontline columnist A.G. Noorani, who expanded on it in his 2013 book, The Destruction of Hyderabad.

“It was frightening particularly for Muslim families because there was lots of police force. One could not go out. Everyone connected to the Nizam’s government, and those holding high offices, was monitored,” said Salma Farooqui, the Director of the H.K. Sherwani Centre for Deccan Studies at Maulana Azad National Urdu University. Farooqui’s great grandfather, Shahzoor Jung Bahadur, lived in the Shah Manzil palace, which is today a heritage building within the Raj Bhavan complex of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.

Concerned about the fallout of the annexation, the Centre and the Congress-run State government in Hyderabad ensured steady expansion of the university into several spheres. Foreign languages, in particular, saw a massive expansion and so did fundamental research.

As of the 2016-17 academic year, there were close to 3.5 lakh students on the rolls in over 700 affiliated colleges, making Osmania arguably one of the largest institutions of higher learning in Asia. It also has the highest number of foreign students among Indian universities.

The university continues to be a political and cultural space. The struggle for a separate Telangana State found immense support among the students right from the late 1960s. It culminated in the formation of the largely student-led Telangana Joint Action Committee, popularly known as T-JAC, in 2009.

The T-JAC is credited with drawing up the political strategy and providing the intellectual heft for achieving the objective in 2014. It continues to be headed by one of Osmania’s radical and respected political science professors, M. Kodandaram, who retired recently. After the Telangana Rasthra Samiti (TRS) government came to power in 2014, the T-JAC has proved to be the most potent opposition outside mainstream parties.

Crumbling edifice

A hundred years after its founding, the university is decrepit and run-down, with abandoned faculty bungalows perilously standing, crammed and ill-maintained students’ accommodation and obsolete research labs and teaching material. Of the 1,260 sanctioned staff and faculty strength, 710 posts, well over half, remain vacant. The Vice Chancellor’s post was not filled for over two years beginning July 14, 2014, just a month after Chandrashekar Rao took charge as Chief Minister.

Battu Satyanarayana, president of the Osmania University Teacher’s Association (OUTA), said: “No decisions have been taken in the past three years. The Executive Council completed its term in July 2014 and the university has since been run by ex-officio members who are government servants, like the Principal Secretary of Higher Education. We are autonomous only on paper. Every single decision is being taken at the Secretariat. Even the planning for the centenary celebration, to form committees, raise funds and organise cultural programmes, were all charted at the Secretariat, not at the university.”

Government interference

In December 2015, the Telangana government usurped the Governor’s power to appoint Vice Chancellors to the State’s nine universities, including Osmania, and issued orders calling for applications to fill the posts. Speaking on the floor of the Assembly in March 2016, Chandrashekar Rao insisted that this was being done to weed out corruption in the system and to get the best talent possible. The norm is for the Executive Council or the Senate of the university concerned to appoint a search committee, which proposes three names to the Governor who is the Chancellor for all of them. The Governor, in turn, selects one name. This is, of course, a consultative process, but not without its share of nepotism and possible corruption. But this practice was evolved to insulate universities from undue governmental interference in their day-to-day functioning and to safeguard their autonomy.

The government also tweaked the 10 years’ professional academic experience requirement for appointment as professor or Vice Chancellor, which is a guideline laid down by the University Grants Commission. Anybody with five years in academia became qualified to be appointed as Vice Chancellor. The government made seven such appointments in July 2016, including S. Ramachandram at Osmania University. Ramachandram is an alumnus of the university and a professor at its Computer Science Department.

A teachers’ association challenged the government’s decision in the Hyderabad High Court, which struck down the appointments. The State government went in appeal to the Supreme Court, which ordered the Vice Chancellors to continue but reinstated the Governor as the Chancellor of all universities.

As per the Osmania University Act of 1959, the Executive Council must consist of 12 members and include teachers, students and staff representatives, apart from a few department-related government servants and eminent persons. This has not been the case at Osmania ever since former Chief Minister N.T. Rama Rao banned student union elections in 1984 at State universities citing violence. But the Executive Council and other bodies such as the Academic Council are required for the university to qualify for National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) ratings, which give the university access to Central funds for research. The better the ratings, the higher is the allocation. The Central government does fund a small percentage of running expenses for facilities already established for research purposes. However, the payment of staff and faculty salaries is funded entirely by the State government.

Underfunded

The university has remained chronically underfunded for over a decade now. No permanent faculty appointments have been made since 2005, and those hired on contract are often research and PhD scholars paid between Rs.15,000 and Rs. 25,000 a month. “Why would a person whose job is not guaranteed, and with such poor pay, be committed to excellence?” asked Prof. Dakshinamurthy, retired Head of the German Department. As a result, several classes are not conducted and students often resort to self-preparation or private tuitions.

Another language department professor who did not wish to be named narrated an incident to explain just how bad things were in the early 2000s as development funding, both from New Delhi and Hyderabad, began to dry up. These funds are required for basic upgrades such as buying computers or overhauling wiring systems. His department of two, including the stenographer, had run out of ink and the typist position was not filled (the university was not computerised until the mid 2000s). He had sent a handwritten note to the Arts College Principal requesting that the ink be replenished. (The department’s annual stationary budget remained a paltry Rs.360 until 2012, when it was doubled to Rs.720.) Promptly came a reply from the Principal seeking a typed and signed letter for the request to be acted upon. “They wanted us to be typists, stenos, clerks and professors all rolled into one,” said the professor indignantly.

The nano materials research lab is located on the ground floor of the university’s Chemistry Department. It is as rudimentary as a high school science lab, with several pieces of equipment either faulty or obsolete. Saravanan (name changed), a PhD student in the department, said the lack of testing and observation equipment forces them to send samples to labs in IIT Madras or any Sophisticated Analytical Instrumentation Facility (SAIF), run by the Department of Science and Technology. Only these facilities accept external samples for testing.

“We prepare a demand draft for their services and post our samples to them. They conduct the test and mail us back the results, which we then analyse,” said Saravanan. This could sometimes take weeks or even months as the samples get put on a long request list at SAIF units, and time-bound testing often does not take place, leading to flawed results. “If the equipment were on site, we could not only conduct our own tests, but monitor the samples during their evolution. This would enhance our analysis,” said another PhD student.

The Central Facilities, an expansive circular building situated in the heart of the campus, occupies a pride of place in Osmania. Spread over 54,000 square feet, it was built with Central government funds in 2009 to showcase the university’s ambitious research plans. Almost eight years later, most of its rooms are either shut or empty. The stairwell and the lift area of the three-storey building are filled with garbage and discarded construction material. A few rooms have some computers and students working in them. Vice Chancellor Ramachandram said this was because faculty members found it difficult to shift their research work to the building, which is at a considerable distance from their departments.

Speaking to Frontline, Ramachandram admitted that the university had not been able to pay staff and retirement pensions for several years now as successive governments, even before the State’s formation, had not allocated the required “block grants” or monies disbursed for salaries. Ramachandram said that Osmania required a minimum of Rs.400 crore annually to pay salaries and pensions alone. The undivided Andhra Pradesh government had allocated just Rs.170 crore in 2013-14. This did not change in the next financial year despite tall promises from Telangana’s first government.

Angry staff members struck work, which led to a marginal increase of Rs.30 crore. Incremental disbursements after constant wrangling has increased the amount to Rs.263 crore for 2017-18. But that is still just over half of what is required, and it has not really helped in bridging the mounting arrears that are to be paid. Just ahead of the centenary celebrations on April 26, the government, for the first time, announced an infrastructure development fund of Rs.200 crore.

Centenary highlights

The highlight of the centenary celebrations was the Chief Minister’s silence at the inauguration of the three-day festivities. Chandrashekar Rao did not speak for fear of being booed by students. It was an indication of how much Osmania University mattered in the politics of the State.

However, what would also be remembered is what President Pranab Mukherjee, the chief guest at the event, said to the Osmania family: “When you are celebrating 100 years of your institution, dear students and faculty members, I would urge you to look into these aspects: We are lagging far behind in basic research and innovation, and we cannot achieve excellence in education if these aspects are neglected. I do not blame the academic institutions alone because it requires a substantial amount of uninterrupted flow of funds either from government or from industries.”

As for the homilies paid to the former ruler and his family, “They were invited, but not a mention was made of them except in the President’s speech,” said Prof. Dakshinamurthy.

The only Urdu symbolism that now exists at the university is the white marble foundation stone located at the bottom of the entrance facade of the arts college. It announces the date of commencement of the project as July 5, 1934, and lists the official honorific title of Osman Ali Khan. Some words of the last line remained indistinguishable for the Persian and Arabic scholar Peyvand Firouzeh teaching at the Kunsthistorisches Institute in Florence, Italy, whose assistance was enlisted to decipher this plaque because of the mix of Arabic and Persian along with Urdu. It went something like this: The blessed hand of the one... University of Osmania.

India & the U.S.

Transactional hug

JOHN CHERIAN the-nation

IF the Indian government's cheerleaders are to be believed, the latest visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Washington has been an unalloyed triumph. After a meeting at the White House, Modi and the United States President, Donald Trump, had only superlatives to describe the state of bilateral relations as well as one another. After a couple of bear hugs, initiated by Modi, they jointly addressed the media. No questions were allowed after their joint appearance before the media. According to reports, it was on the request of the Indian side that the media were barred from posing the couple of carefully choreographed questions that usually follow after the appearance of visiting leaders on the White House lawns.

Trump was effusive about the bilateral relations, saying that India was a “true friend” and that strategic ties between the “two democracies were incredibly important”. Modi reciprocated his sentiments, describing him as a man whose “vast and successful” business experience would help further galvanise the bilateral relationship. Reading from a prepared statement, Modi said that bilateral relations would reach “new heights” under Trump’s watch.

The Trump administration had announced two important decisions just before Modi’s arrival: sale of the 22 sophisticated “unarmed” Sea Guardian naval surveillance drones and the listing of the Hizbul Mujahideen commander, Syed Salahuddin, on the U.S. terror list. The Kashmir Valley-born Salahuddin has been given the title of “Specially Designated Global Terrorist” by the Trump administration. Hizbul had anyway long been designated as a terror outfit by Washington.

India will be paying more than $2 billion for the drones. The Americans have sold the drones to India with the specific mandate of keeping a watch on Chinese naval movement in the Andaman Sea region. In his speech, Trump talked about the high priority Washington attached to the trilateral annual “Malabar” naval exercises conducted by the U.S., India and Japan.

Before Modi reached Washington, China had issued a statement warning India not to participate in naval exercises with the U.S. and Japan in the South China Sea. In a speech following his talks with Modi, Trump specifically underlined the importance of the joint military exercises. “Our militaries are working every day to enhance military cooperation, and next month they will join the Japanese Navy to take part in the largest maritime exercise ever conducted in the Indian Ocean,” Trump said. The exercises are scheduled to be held in the Bay of Bengal, far away from the South China Sea. In the joint statement adopted by the two sides this time, unlike the statement issued after the last Obama-Modi talks, there was no specific reference to the South China Sea. The two governments preferred to speak only about the need for the countries of the region “to respect the freedom of navigation” in the entire Asia-Pacific region.

The Indian government’s preference was for combat drones, such as the ones the U.S. uses in war zones to remotely target its enemies. The U.S. is reluctant to sell its Predator combat drones to India as it feels that the balance of power in South Asia will be further tilted in favour of India. “We want to avoid a situation that escalates the tension [between India and Pakistan],” a senior White House official told the media just before Modi arrived on his official visit. If the latest deal comes through, the U.S. will officially be the biggest exporter of arms to India, supplanting Russia, within a couple of years.

It was the first visit of the Indian Prime Minister to Washington after the election of Trump. The Indian political establishment, like most governments, had taken the victory of Hillary Clinton for granted. The “Hindu Republican Coalition” led by a BJP sympathiser, Shalabh Kumar, did however campaign vociferously for Trump. According to reports, many Indians in the U.S. voted for Trump, swayed by his anti-Muslim rhetoric. One of Trump’s key advisers and alt-right ideologue, Stephen Bannon, is said to be an admirer of Modi and his brand of politics. Alt-right, or alternative right, is a group that campaigns to protect “White Identity”. Bannon is also said to be one of the key planners of Trump’s visa ban on Muslims from six countries.

U.S. focus on trade

Though Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric may have been music to the ears of the Hindu supremacist government in Delhi, his tough stance on trade and on the H1B visa issue have made it nervous. Trump’s nationalistic “Make America Great Again” and “America First” slogans meant that the U.S. focus would henceforth be more on trade and economic issues than on security and military alliances. Trump had taken his time to schedule a meeting with Modi. He has already met with most of the major world leaders, including those from China and Japan. He hosted the Prime Minister of Vietnam at the White House in May.

Trump has been regularly bringing up the trade deficit issue with India and has accused New Delhi of unscrupulous practices while negotiating the Paris Climate accord. The Indian side kept a diplomatic distance from the controversy surrounding the historic climate accord and Trump’s decision to walk away from it. Instead, Modi went out of his way in his speech to emphasise that there was no dissonance between Trump’s goal of making America “great again” and his government’s vision of achieving a similar goal for India. But there will be contradictions between the goals of “America First” and “Make in India”. While India wants to export jobs to the U.S., the Trump administration wants Americans to be hired for local jobs, especially in the IT sector. The Trump administration could also be cautious about joint production of American weaponry in India. There is talk of joint production of F-16 fighter planes in India, whereas Trump would like India to buy directly more of the “beautiful” weaponry that America produces.

In his speech at the White House, Trump said that he expected to create a trade deal that would be “fair and reciprocal”. Only two paragraphs of the joint statement released after the Trump-Modi meeting related to security issues. On the other hand, six paragraphs were devoted to trade issues. In his talks with Modi, Trump suggested that lifting of more trade barriers by India would be a helpful step. The U.S. currently has a $30 billion trade deficit against India. The Trump administration considers China a more valued partner in the matter of containing its trade deficits. The huge defence deals India has concluded with the U.S. recently and the promises of more lucrative deals in the offing will no doubt cheer the transactional Trump administration.

The Pakistan factor

The Modi government is claiming credit for getting Trump on board on the issue of cross-border terrorism, India’s favourite theme. The joint statement for the first time named Pakistan as an instigator of terror and called on the latter “to ensure that its territory is not used to launch terrorist attacks on other countries”. It pledged that the two countries would fight global terrorism jointly and named some of the groups they would combat. The names include the D Group (led by Dawood Ibrahim), the LeT (Lashkar-e-Taiba), the JeM (Jaish-e-Mohammad), Al Qaeda and the Islamic State along with their affiliates. The Pakistan government is angry that the Trump administration has accepted the Indian view on cross-border terrorism. Pakistan’s Interior Minister, Chaudhry Nisar, said that the White House “was speaking India’s language”.

The terrorist tag attached to Salahuddin, one of the leaders of the Kashmir separatist movement, has also rankled Islamabad. “Any attempt to equate the peaceful indigenous Kashmiri struggle with terrorism, and to designate individuals supporting the right to self-determination as terrorist, is unacceptable,” said a statement from Pakistan’s Foreign Office. Pakistan regretted the “missed opportunity” of the Trump administration to raise issues relating to the human rights situation in Kashmir and the attacks on the minorities in the rest of the country.

Soon after arriving in Washington, Modi told the media that India’s “surgical strikes” against Pakistan last September showed the international community the country’s “power” and the world “realised that India practises restraint but can show power when needed”. Islamabad should find some solace in the fact the Trump administration still preferred to use the term “Indian-administered Kashmir” in the U.S.-India joint statement despite subscribing to New Delhi’s view that the popular unrest in Kashmir is a result of outside interference.

Yet another sore point with Pakistan is the recognition of India’s role in Afghanistan. Previous U.S. administrations were not very happy with India’s proactive role there, as it complicated efforts to involve Pakistan in meaningful peace negotiations with the Taliban. In his press statement, Modi said that both the U.S. and India have played an important role “in rebuilding Afghanistan and strengthening its security”. He stressed that New Delhi will closely coordinate with Washington over the developments in Afghanistan.

The Trump administration indirectly supported India’s position on China’s “One Belt and One Road (OBOR)” initiative. The joint statement talks about the need to strengthen connectivity “through the transparent development of infrastructure and the use of responsible debt financing practices, while ensuring respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity, the rule of law and environment and call on other nations in the region to adhere to this principle”.

New Delhi is still not reconciled to the reality of China’s OBOR initiative. All the countries in the region, barring Bhutan, have signed up with the initiative.

It may not have been a coincidence that the new flare-up along the LAC [Line of Actual Control], on the trijunction of the India-China-Bhutan border, was timed to coincide with the Modi visit. The Indian and Bhutanese sides were objecting to infrastructure projects on the territory claimed by China. The last time a serious incident of this nature happened was when Chinese President Xi Jinping visited India.

Modi’s visit to Washington also coincided with a slight downturn in the relations between Washington and Beijing. Trump had openly signalled his disappointment with Beijing’s inability to arm-twist North Korea to give up its WMDs [weapons of mass destruction] unilaterally. China was also named among the worst offenders in human trafficking in the world by the U.S. State Department at the time Modi was visiting Washington. China was put on the list by Washington because thousands of North Koreans work in China and send hard currency back to their homeland, which is under international sanctions.

In the joint India-U.S. statement, India was singled out for praise for faithfully implementing the U.S. sanctions on North Korea. Until recently, India had been North Korea’s second largest trade partner after China.

The statement also implicitly criticised China, noting that “all parties that support these (North Korean) programs” would be held accountable. Washington’s ultimate goal is to isolate China in the Korean peninsula. India under Modi is playing the role of a frontline state to implement Washington’s game plan against China in the Asia-Pacific region and the neighbourhood.

The States

Hills in chaos

THE agitation for a separate State of Gorkhaland, to be carved out of West Bengal and including the Darjeeling Hills and parts of the Terai-Dooar region in the foothills, seems to have reached a point of no return. In what is seen as the most violent agitation in the hills in the past 30 years, three protesters were killed, allegedly in police firing. The entire region has once again plunged into chaos and political uncertainty with ethnic animosity raising its ugly head.

The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM), the supreme political power in the hills, and other important parties have unanimously rejected the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA), the autonomous body established in 2011, marking the end of a period of relative peace and prosperity in the strife-torn region. With the mass frenzy for Gorkhaland that has been reignited and the certainty that the idea will not receive any support from the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress government or the Centre, the GJM leadership is finding that it has run out of ideas for a resolution of the volatile situation.

The mass agitation for statehood reached a flashpoint on June 17 when the three protesters were killed. This was a culmination of the events that followed the GJM’s call for an indefinite bandh in the hills from June 15 after the police raided the house-cum-office of the party’s president, Bimal Gurung. Although the police and the security forces have denied that they had a hand in the shooting, the deaths served to whip up a frenzy of protests against the State government and strengthen the resolve of the people of the region for a long-drawn-out battle for Gorkhaland.

R.B. Bhujel, senior GJM leader and former executive member of the GTA, told Frontline: “There can be no rolling back or compromise on the issue of Gorkhaland now. No one in the hills will support any kind of autonomy or self-governance within West Bengal any more. We cannot even think of negotiating with the State government. The people are ready to agitate for a separate State at any cost. Come what may, they are now determined to achieve Gorkhaland.”

GTA resignations

On June 23, 43 elected members of the GTA, including chief executive Bimal Gurung, submitted their resignations from the autonomous body and demanded a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into the alleged police firing. The decision was taken unanimously at an all-party meeting in the hills on June 20. The rejection of the GTA was a clear indication that there would be no compromise in the struggle for Gorkhaland. The GTA, which was established after a tripartite agreement between the Centre, the State government and the GJM, had served to keep the hills free from violent agitations for the past six years.

Both the GTA and its predecessor, the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC), were temporary solutions, a compromise reached by all parties to bring immediate peace in the region. The DGHC, created in 1988 during the tenure of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led Left Front government, brought an end to the violent agitation for Gorkhaland spearheaded by Subhash Ghising and his Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF). Between 1986 and 1988, more than 1,000 people were killed in the violence.

In 2005, Ghising demanded that the region be included in the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution. In 2008, he was dethroned by Gurung, his former protege. Gurung rejected the Sixth Schedule and once again started the agitation for Gorkhaland. Ghising, who was synonymous with the Gorkhaland movement, died in political obscurity in 2015, after being ousted from the very movement he had single-handedly built. The agitation under Gurung continued unabated until the Mamata Banerjee government came up with the GTA pact in 2011.

The eminent social scientist Biswanath Chakraborty told Frontline: “There have been repeated attempts to grant autonomy to the hills to fulfil the aspirations of the people of the region, but neither the DGHC nor the GTA agreement was implemented properly. In neither case were the three Fs—funds, functions and functionaries—given to the elected bodies. None of the parties involved in the agreements showed any real interest in following this up. Further, no review meeting, as per the rules of the GTA, took place.”

While it is true that Gurung needed a reason to reassert his political supremacy in the face of a gradually rising opposition, the agitation may not have spiralled out of control had the State government adopted a more sagacious approach. Mamata Banerjee’s new language policy, making Bengali compulsory in all schools, including private English medium schools of the State, gave the GJM a cause to protest, given that language is one of the key factors behind the demand for a separate State. Later, although she made a compromise on that front by saying that Bengali would not be made compulsory in the hills and in parts of the Terai and the Dooars, her repeated attacks against the GJM leadership during her last tour of the hills served as the trigger for the GJM to take a drastic step. Encouraged by her victory in the recent municipal elections in Mirik, she said it would take her “one minute” to take the GJM to task. It was seen as a challenge to the GJM’s supremacy in the hills, and Gurung was forced to react.

“The communal sentiment in the region had almost disappeared. But when Mamata Banerjee brought in the language issue, Gurung once again whipped up communal feelings. This gave him such a handle that it took care of every problem he was facing,” Harka Bahadur Chhetri, president of the Jana Andolan Party and former GJM heavyweight and Member of the Legislative Assembly from Kalimpong, said.

The violent demonstration on June 8 when Mamata Banerjee was holding a Cabinet meeting in Darjeeling was clearly meant to be a show of might and to send out a message to the State government. However, the situation was still under control as the GJM opted for a shutdown of government offices only in the hills and did not call for a complete bandh. Many feel that the situation could have been salvaged at that point and that it was a political agitation that could have been settled politically. But when, on June 15, the police raided the residence-cum-party office of Gurung and recovered a large number of bows and arrows and khukris (Nepali daggers), Gurung was compelled to go into hiding and the GJM to call for a complete shutdown.

“Raiding the GJM office and the house of its president not only was hugely unconstitutional but also humiliated the people of the hills. It was unbecoming of a Chief Minister,” Bhujel said. The agitation reached the point of no return when the three GJM activists were killed.

To make matters worse, Mamata Banerjee accused the GJM of having links with terrorist organisations that are active in the north-eastern States. “Mamata Banerjee’s allegation that we are terrorists and linking of our movement with that in the north-eastern States deeply hurt the people of the region. Gorkhas have always been strong nationalists and have died for the country,” he said.

Asok Bhattacharya, senior CPI(M) leader from north Bengal and Mayor of the Siliguri Municipal Corporation, said Mamata Banerjee’s style of politics had led to the present situation in the hills. “For nearly 20 years under the CPI(M) government there was peace in the hills. The reason for that was that we respected the autonomy of the DGHC. We never interfered. But the present Chief Minister’s impatience to secure control over everything, including the hills, has led to this impasse. Finally, when she tried to force the Bengali language on the people of the hills, they reacted. Now she is stoking the communal fire and trying to instigate Bengalis against the Nepali people,” he said. As a result, ethnic animosity between the hill people and the plains people has begun to surface. Rallies in the hills are being countered by anti-Gorkhaland rallies in the plains.

In order to clamp down on the movement, the State government has blocked Internet services in the hills—a move that has further alienated the general public. The district administration suspended Internet services and local cable television from June 18. “This is in the interest of public safety, preventing incitement and preventing commission of offences,” said an order issued by the District Magistrate, Darjeeling. As on June 27, Internet services remained unavailable in the hills.

The financial loss to the region owing to the indefinite bandh is expected to be enormous. Tea and tourism industries, the mainstay of its economy, have already suffered a tremendous setback. Sikkim has also been badly affected as a stretch of the National Highway that leads to the neighbouring State passes through the Darjeeling Hills. In a letter to Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Sikkim Chief Minister Pawan Chamling urged the Centre to facilitate the creation of Gorkhaland. “Creation of Gorkhaland will also restore permanent peace and prosperity in the region and Sikkim will be hugely benefited as her developmental tempo can be maintained undisturbed,” Chamling wrote in a letter dated June 20.

GJM’S predicament

If Gurung needed a reason to revive the Gorkhaland agitation in order to check the rise of the opposition, he certainly did not intend it to reach a point where it threatened to go out of control. Having transformed a mass agitation into a major tumult, he has shut the door on any kind of compromise. “People are now not prepared for anything less than a separate State. How to scale down the movement is now the main problem for Gurung,” said Harka Bahadur Chhetri.

Moreover, the movement has given an opportunity to other parties, who for so long were suppressed by the GJM, to assert themselves. At times, Gurung himself is turning out to be a helpless onlooker and his actions betray his insecurity. He had at first invited all hill parties to take part in the Gorkhaland movement, but on June 22, after the GNLF took out a massive rally in Darjeeling, he announced that “the all-party chapter is now closed… all must come under one party and one flag”. The very next day he reversed his decision and once again appealed for a joint movement. “He was scared that other emerging political forces might hijack the movement,” said Chhetri.

BJP in a spot

The fresh Gorkhaland movement also put the BJP in a politically tricky situation. The GJM’s support has provided the party with an assured Lok Sabha seat in Darjeeling Hills since 2009—a point the GJM has been raising to pressure the ruling party at the Centre to lend its support. However, the BJP is aware that if it is seen to be sympathetic to the cause of Gorkhaland, it may as well abandon any political ambitions in the rest of West Bengal. In a carefully worded section in its manifesto before the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP said that it would “sympathetically examine and appropriately consider the long-pending demands of the Gorkhas”. However, the BJP Member of Parliament from Darjeeling, S.S. Ahluwalia, has not visited the hills even once since the GJM relaunched its agitation for Gorkhland. “We are disappointed that the MP is not with us at such difficult times,” said Amar Singh Rai, GJM MLA from Darjeeling.

While the BJP’s Darjeeling unit was seen agitating shoulder to shoulder with the GJM, the party’s State leadership has made it clear that it did not support the creation of Gorkhaland. “We had to make this clear, otherwise the Bengalis of the plains would go against us. We cannot give up 41 Lok Sabha seats for the sake of one Darjeeling Lok Sabha seat,” a BJP leader from north Bengal told Frontline.

For Mamata Banerjee, this is turning out to be her toughest political challenge. One of her biggest successes after coming to power in 2011 was bringing peace to the hills. Now the same hills are turning out to be a thorn in the side of her government. All her initiatives to restore normalcy in the region have failed. An all-party meeting convened by the State government on June 22 turned out to be a damp squib. None of the major opposition parties, including the Congress, the CPI(M) and the BJP, attended the meeting. Even the representatives of the Development Boards she had created in the hills gave it a miss.

The hill parties have refused to enter into any dialogue with her government, and resentment against her is growing with every passing day in the region. Whatever gains her party may have made in the hills have been reversed, with Trinamool Congress members leaving the party and joining the Gorkhaland movement. With no immediate solution in sight and a section of the young agitators even threatening to end their lives for the cause of Gorkhaland, the crisis in the hills may end up being a black spot in the Trinamool Congress’ record in West Bengal.

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Oct 9,2020