ARTICLES ENGLISH

Recently anti-Dalit atrocity laws were first diluted inserting the clause of anticipatory bail. Following this there were serious protests all over. In these protests, the anti-Dalit nature of the present ruling dispensation, the BJP-led NDA, was highlighted. Under the pressure of the protests, the government had to bring in a Bill to restore its previous provisions. The Lok Sabha on August 6, 2018 unanimously passed a Bill to reverse the effects of a Supreme Court order concerning certain safeguards against arrests under the the SC/ST law. The amended ‘Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Bill, 2018’ now rules out any provision for anticipatory bail for a person accused of atrocities against people from SC or ST communities, as it stood before the revision. Ram Vilas Paswan, a part of the NDA, thanked the Prime Minster and also criticised the Congress on the occasion. To show that the Congress is anti-Dalit he raked up the elections in which the Congress had contested against Ambedkar. Ram Vilas Paswan’s own allegiance to the Ambedkar ideology is strongly under cloud, as he is allying and empowering the BJP, the party with the agenda of Hindu Rashtra, something which was an anathema for Ambedkar as he stood for social justice, secularism and democracy.

Paswan was well described as Mausam Vaigyanik (a scientist predicting the weather), who in order to remain in power always twists and turns and makes ideological compromises. His own ideology is that of hunger for power and his words in a way should not matter much except on the electoral chessboard. His projection of the electoral battle between Ambedkar and the Congress is a very selective presentation of the relationship between the Congress and Ambedkar. While he points this out, he forgets that Ambedkar was not a member of the Congress party at any time. Also that it is the same Congress party in whose government he was made a Cabinet Minister. He needs to be reminded that not only was he a Minister in the first Cabinet of India, he was also made the Chairman of the Drafting Committee of the Indian Constitution, in which Babsaheb played a pivotal role. To cap this, it was he who was requested to draft the Hindu Code Bill, a major step to reform the family laws towards a gender-just society.

While the likes of Paswan, hankering after power, do mouth the name of Ambedkar, they deliberately forget that the major opponents of the Constitution drafted by him, the major opposition to the Hindu Code Bill came from the stable of the RSS, the parent organisation of the party, in whose alliance he is enjoying the perks of power. One can say that his ally, the BJP’s agenda of a Hindu Rashtra is a pole opposite to the dream of Babasaheb, the dream of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity, the dream of a secular democratic India. The RSS never hesitated in criticising the Indian Constitution, calling it Western; the BJP never severed its umbilical cord with the Hindu nationalist RSS. Lately from within the BJP itself, from top down, Hindu nationalism is being propagated and practised.

On the eve of the 2014 general elections Narendra Modi, the BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate, himself pronounced that he was born in a Hindu family; he is a nationalist, so he is a Hindu nationalist. Another Minister at the Centre, Anant Kumar Hegde, stated that the BJP is there to change the Indian Constitution and that the secular identity should not be used by the people. To cap it all, the UP Chief Minster, Yogi Adityanath, stated that secularism is the biggest lie of independent India. The BJP itself is very consciously walking the tight rope, balancing the phrases and actions as far as Dalits are concerned. On the one hand the power-lust of some Dalit leaders like Paswan, Udit Raj and Ramdas Athwaley are used to give a pro-Dalit veneer to the BJP’s actions; on the other hand the likes of Hegde and Yogi are forthright about their political agenda. It is also true that for the sake of electoral equations even the BJP has to pay obeisance to Ambedkar, despite having an agenda totally opposed to his political ideology.

At the ground level the impact of the BJP-NDA, of which the likes of Paswan are members, has affected Dalits in a very serious way. While by social engineering they are also trying to woo a section of Dalits through manufactured icons like Suhel Dev and Shabri Mata among others, they have unleashed policies which affect the Dalits in a very adverse way. The merciless beating of Dalits in Una, which Paswan dismissed as a minor event, the emotive issue of the Holy cow has affected the livelihood of the Dalits in a big way. We also remember that it is during this period that the institutional murder of Rohith Vemula and the anti-Dalit attack at Bhima Koregaon tormented the Dalit community no end. Even the Modi Government on its own did dilute the Anti-Dalit Atrocity Act, but once they saw a serious opposition to their move they were forced to retreat because of electoral calculations.

While the BJP pays tribute to Ambedkar on the one side, at the same time it presents Lord Ram as the central icon of its politics. What Ambedkar has said about Lord Ram in his various writings like Riddles of Hinduism is well known to us. For the BJP, what is important is to garland Babasaheb; it is of no consequence to them to take up the issues of social justice in any serious way. The attempt to selectively present the electoral battle of the Congress and Ambedkar is a deliberate ploy to undermine the efforts which the national movement and Mahatma Gandhi-Congress did to fight against untouchablity in particular. We have miles to go as far as Babasaheb’s dream is concerned, but one thing which Ambedkar pointed out was that a Hindu Raj will be a big tragedy for the Dalits of the country. It is too much to expect that the likes of Paswan will realise their folly of allying with the BJP-RSS whose very agenda is inherently anti-Dalit, as they are blinded by their lust for power!

On August 17 (2018), during the funeral procession of the former Prime Minster of India, Atal Behari Vajpayee, Swami Agnivesh was assaulted outside the BJP head office, when the Swami was trying to participate in the procession. The assaulters, some members of the crowd, began to heckle him and then they physically attacked him. They were raising the slogans, ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ and ‘Deshdrohi Wapas Jao (Go Back Anti-National)’.

A month ago, in Pakur, Jharkhand, Agnivesh was brutally assaulted, allegedly by the student wing of the BJP. The attack was severe and as a matter of relief he survived while his turban was taken away and his clothes were torn asunder. In the wake of this attack many a BJP supporter, justifying the attack, circulated the video of Swamiji’s speech. In this video he is criticising Prime Minister Modi for his statement that there was plastic surgery in Ancient India as seen in the planting of an elephant’s head on a boy’s neck or Kauravas’ being born though stem-cell technology. He went on to criticise Modi for his public pujas in Nepal and Dhaka.

Attacking the Amarnath yatra and idol worship, Agnivesh pointed out that the Barfani baba, the ice shivling, is a natural phenomenon which gets formed due to natural processes of deposits of stalactite and stalagmite. In the same video he points out that one of the years, when the deposits were inadequate to form the ling (the Shiva idol), ice had to be put to give it the shape of linga. Similarly criticising the Kumbh mela, people congregating to wash their sins, he points out that bathing in such polluted water on the contrary can lead to new diseases.

Overall, the Swami has been part of various social movement like the Bandhua Majdoor Mukti Morcha (against bonded labour) for which he has also participated in global eradication of the modern form of bonded labonr, under the aegis of the UN. He has been associated with movements opposing female foeticide and against sati. He has been part of the Arya Samaj organisation for a long time. In recognition of his work he has received various awards like Right to Livelihood (Alternate Nobel) in 2004, apart from the Rajiv Gandhi Sadbhavna Award again in the same year. There are various issues on which one can disagree with him, like his interpretation of Hinduism exclusively to the Vedic period etc., still what is important is his constant engagement with issues related to the downtrodden of the society, to those related to modern forms of bonded labour, to sati, female foeticide, to name a few.

A saffron-clad swami has been targeted by the followers of the Hindu nationalist brigade. This attack on him is in the series which began with murder of Dr Dabholkar, and later took the lives of Com Govind Pansare, Dr Kalburgi and Gauri Lankesh. As intolerance is growing in the society, those having opinions contrary to ruling dispensation are being targeted. As the culprits are enjoying impunity, appreciation from the leaders of the ruling party, they know they can get away with hate crimes of this dastardly nature. Let’s imagine, a saffron clad Swami is coming to pay last respects to the ex-Prime Minster of India and he is heckled and insulted! These hooligans, drunk on fake nationalism and false pride in things in the name of religion, get encouragement from the powers that be, the real culprits are those who support them, appreciate them, those who in the first place disseminate this ideology which is sectarian and looks down on their opponents or their ideas as anti-national or anti-religion.

What is more surprising is that all this is being done in the name of the Hindu religion, which celebrates diversity to its core. We know that most of the religions have a single founder and single Holy Book, still they develop sects within. Christianity has Catholics, Protestants, born again Pentecostals among others. Muslims have Shias and Sunnis in the main while Sufis and Ahmadiyas are also very much there. Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism also have sects within them. In contrast Hinduism has no single founder, no single Holy Book, and no single pattern of clergy or rituals. It is a collation of diverse traditions like Brahmanism, Tantra, Nath, Siddhanta, Shaiva, Vashanav and Bhakti among others. Diversity is the very core of Hindu religion. Right within the Hindu fold Swami Dayanand Saraswati could form the Arya Samaj and propound his ideology that Hinduism is primarily founded and based on Vedas.

While idol worship is part of some sects of Hinduism, as such Hinduism also encompasses from the animist nature of worship to tritheism, to polytheism to the nastik (atheist) tradition of Charvak as well. The concept of God also varies from the idol worshipers to those who believe in formless God. Swami Agnivesh propounds that Vedas are the base of Hindu religion.

The central focus of Agnivesh has been social reform, and that’s probably his most important engagement with the society. Irrespective of his views and his contribution to the cause of social issues, he has the right to follow his notion of Hinduism. No one can usurp his right of following his own Hinduism. The present attacks on him by the followers of Hindu nationalism are not grounded in the values of tolerance of Hinduism, they are rooted in the politics—they are part of the sectarian interpretation of Hinduism and selective use of Hindu identity for mobilising Hindus for political goals, there is nothing religious about it.

While hoping that the present government will provide security to this social reformer and political activists like him, one hopes that the serial killings of rational thinkers-activists, which began with the killing of Dabholkar, is brought to a halt, and the guilty identified, tried and punished as per the law. The nation should heave a sigh of relief that the two recent attacks by the ideology which killed these social reformers have failed (Agnivesh and Omar Khalid), and should pledge that these killers will not be able to extinguish the voice of dissent.

Assam: Pandora’s Box has been opened with the preliminary draft of National Register of Citizens (NRC) being released lately. This list leaves out nearly 40 Lakh people from the list of citizenship. Mr. Amit Shah, the President of ruling BJP, stated that those left out are Ghuspathia’s (infiltrators), they are a threat to our security and due to them there is a competition in the resources of the state and the natives are suffering due to that. After the final draft, once the appeal of ‘left out’ people is reviewed, there hangs uncertainty on their head. The perception is that those not finding their place in the NRC are supposed to be Bangladeshi Muslims. The primary anger of Mr. Shah is against this group of people.

As such those not finding their name in the list are a diverse group and there are reports that a large number of these are Hindus as well, from Nepal, West Bengal and other parts of the country. Interestingly many families have been torn by this NRC, as some members finding their place, while others missing from the list. This is bound to create lot of confusion and insecurity in the minds of those left out from the list. So the Chief Minister of neighboring state, Mamta Bannerjee, came out heavily against the NRC. The understanding being percolated is that apart from security threat and a drain on states’ resources, this group of people is a threat to ethnic and linguistic composition of the state.

On these lines; voice is being raised that such an NRC should be initiated in other parts of India also. Ethnic and linguistic aspects apart, the communal forces have been raising the issue of Bangla Deshi immigrants; times and over again e.g. in Mumbai this was raised in the wake of Mumbai carnage of 1992-93. In Delhi this issues has occasionally been brought up; at another level related to immigrants recently we came to know of the burning of Rohingya Muslims colony in Delhi.

As such the core point of the composition of the religious linguistic composition of Assam has been in the flux due to the many historical and political reasons. One recalls that first time around it was during colonial period that British ‘Human Plantation program’ was brought in. This program encouraged people from over populated Bengal to migrate to Assam and till the land, with a duel aim of releasing the population pressure on overpopulated Bengal and to increase the production of grains to solve food shortage by utilizing the vast tracts of land in Assam. Those migrating were Muslims and Hindus both. Assam as such had a large Muslim population of Muslims to the extent that at the time of partition of the country, Jinnah demanded that Assam should be part of Pakistan. Later with genocide launched by Pakistan army in East Bengal, many migrated to Assam to escape the persecution by the army. Later, as the condition of Bangla Desh was economically backward, some economic migration might have taken place.

As far as documents on which NRC is basing itself, it is interesting to note that while some legitimate people may not have proper documents, some non ‘citizens’ might have forged the documents. The argument that the migration has been encouraged for vote bank politics may only be partly true as people choose to stay or migrate under extreme situations; it is a matter of their whole life. These children of ‘lesser gods’ are also human beings trying to make their living in this cruel World, where haves can buy the citizenship with their money, or some can escape India with large booty to chose the country where they can peacefully enjoy their loot from our country. Poor of the World have no choice!

True, Assam has been a case of massive mix up. It has been looked up as being primarily due to a Muslims coming from Bangla desh, posing a threat to Indian security. Even earlier Government has deported many such people. What should be done to those who are making their living by lowest of the lowest type of work in the society? We do not have social security which may lure some to come over here! Similarly we are seeing the horrid plight of Rohingya Muslims being dumped in different countries, suffering ‘statelessness’. The communal forces are presenting Rohingya as a threat, presenting all Bengali speaking Muslims and Hindus as Bangla Deshis!

 

India so far has been a country with compassion and heart. We have accepted the Tamil speaking Sri Lankans and the Buddhists from Tibet. The proposal to treat Hindus coming from Afghanistan, Bangla Desh as refugees and Muslims as infiltrators is very inhuman. Even if we are able to take further the exercise of NRC to final draft, what will we achieve? Now the social-economic indices of Bangla Desh stand higher than those of India. Bangla Desh states that these are not from Bangla Desh and Bangla Desh will not accept repatriation. So what will we achieve by marking those not having documents? Put them in camps? At the moment they are making their meager living working at the low level of hard work in society, so what will be the net achievement?

And the talk of extending this exercise to other states of the country is meaningless. What is needed is the revival of compassion for these people which was operational when Tamil speaking people were accommodated or Buddhists from Tibet were accepted. India has seen changes in its population profile after partition due to massive migrations and economic migrations. We claim to believe in Vasudhiave Kutumkam (World as a family), we need to remember that only those polices will succeed which are based on compassion for weaker sections of society. To think that they pose is threat to our security is a misplaced way of seeing the issue. We need to evolve the principles where exclusivism gives way to empathy.

We are passing through times when hate against weaker sections of society and religious minorities is increasing by leaps and bounds. The increase in the mob lynching all over the country on the pretext of child lifting is coming on the back of mob lynching on the pretext cow-beef, public flogging—humiliation of Dalits on the issue of beef and other issues related to their caste humiliation. Mobs seem to be emboldened by the fact that there has been an approval of these acts from the top. Ministers like Mahesh Sharma came to the funeral of the Dadri accused, now Jayant Sinha has welcomed the Alimuddin lynching accused when they got bail. The matters are frighteningly increasing as the horrid incidents of rape are being given a communal twist, fake news is being employed with impunity on one side and rape accused are getting social support on the other. It’s a matter of shame that in the Kathua case the then Ministers from the BJP, Chaudhary Lal Singh and Chander Prakash Ganga, attended the event organised by the Hindu Ekta Manch, which was protesting against the arrests in the case.

In the case of the Mandsaur rape, the incident is being given a false twist to demonise a community. The accused belonged to the Muslim community. Muslim groups took out a procession demanding severe punishment to the accused. Jyotiraditya Scindiya of the Congress joined a candle-light procession to demand death penalty to the accused. Social media was used to spread the hateful message as if he was demanding the release of the accused. The pictures of the procession were photo-shopped to present Muslims in bad light. A message was circulated, which said that members of the Muslim community rallied in Mandsaur demanding that the perpetrator of the crime be released because the Quran sanctions rape of non-Muslim women.

The text of the placards in the Mandsaur procession was: “We won’t tolerate attacks on daughters, stop this brutality”. A tweet was circulated: “NCRB report: India is most dangerous for women. Reason: In India, 95 per cent of the rape cases have a Muslim perpetrator. Of the total 84,734 rape cases, 81,000 rapes had a Muslim rapist and 96 per cent of the victims are non-Muslims and with an increase in their population, the number of rapes will also increase.”

Nothing can be farther from the truth. The NCRB (National Crime Records Bureau) does not record the religion in cases of rape. This tweet and the one about Jyotiraditya Scindia were exposed by AltNews, the portal going to the roots of such fake news and doing a great service to society by giving the truth and exposing the news which is deliberately trying to demonise the religious minority. One recalls that in case of Muzzafarnagar, the violence was incited by circulating a photo of two young men being beaten by a Muslim looking crowd. It was presented that Hindu youth were being beaten. As such that picture was from Pakistan, the crowd beating two thieves.

Recently in Kairana the Mahagathbandhan candidate, Tabassum Hasan, won the election against the BJP candidate. After winning she stated: “This is the victory of truth and ‘Mahagatbandhan’ (coalition) and defeat of the BJP in the State and Centre. Everyone has come out and supported us. I thank them.” On social media and on TV debates what was presented was that she said: “This is the victory of Allah and defeat of Ram.” This quote was posted on a number of pro-BJP pages on Facebook among which Yogi Adityanath-True Indian posted it on June 1, and was shared massively.

One recalls that in recent times the BJP has deliberately muddied the waters of social media by employing thousands of trolls, as Swati Chaturvedi’s “I am a Troll” tells us. As such the hate propaganda began with demonisation of Muslim kings for breaking Hindu temples in the medieval period, for spreading Islam, for having large families, indulging in polygamy, being terrorists etc. Now it has taken a dangerous turn with people trained in communal ideology and in the use of social media twisting the facts blatantly. There are reports that in the forthcoming elections the BJP is planning to train lakhs of volunteers in the use of social media for electoral gains. The rising hatred is becoming like a monster, propelling itself beyond control.

Can we just accuse the social media for intensifying this hate? Some control and restraint is needed, some fact-check is necessary for this highly impactful media. What is also needed is that mechanisms like AltNews are made more popular to counter these falsehoods. It is heartening to note that Twitter has decided to suspend seven crore fake accounts. We also need to ensure that the misconceptions and hate which is ruling our society, streets need to be countered by the message of love. What we need is that truth is propagated and the message of peace is made more effective.

We have activists like Faisal Khan, who through his Khudai Khidmatagar takes out peace marches. Harsh Mander’s Paigam-E-Mohabbat (Message of Peace) has been doing yeomen service by meeting the families of victims of lynching and creating an atmosphere of amity. Mahant from Ayodhya Yugal Kishore Sharan Shastri, through his less advertised peace marches, is trying to reach sections of society with a message of tolerance and peace. Such efforts need to be upheld and broadened. These are just a few examples of the initiatives in this direction, there are many more which need to be projected to promote and preserve amity in India.

Countering hate and promoting amity became the central message of the Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi, who struggled to promote peace, in the highest traditions of his Hinduism. As the fake news is assuming frightening proportions and is doing serious harm to the concept of fraternity inherent in Indian nationalism, we need to retune ourselves to the core value of amity, which was the foundation of freedom movement and is very much a part of our Constitution.

While Sonia Gandhi at a party meeting lamented that the Congress is being presented as a Muslim party,1 an anti-Hindu party,2 her own party’s major Muslim leader, Salman Khursheed, confessed that the Congress has the blood of Muslims on its hands.3 This raises a lot of questions about the nature of the Congress as a political party and as to how the Muslims of India respond to the appeal for support from the Congress in particular. In the wake of the UP election results (2017) when the number of Muslim MLAs has fallen to 5.9 per cent, not a single Muslim candidate was put up by the BJP, while the population of Muslims in UP is about 19.26 per cent. The BJP won with a thumping majority. Mohammad Adeeb, one of the foremost Muslim leaders, stated that Muslims should withdraw from the electoral arena as due to their presence parties are able to polarise the elections on communal lines, with Muslims getting marginalised.4 As such also while on one side we see the worsening plight of the Muslim community at the social and economic levels, in matters of electoral representation there is a drastic decline.

At present the number of Muslim MPs in the Lok Sabha is down to 22 from the 1984 high of 49 MPs.5 There is a constant decline in the represen-tation of Muslims in electoral bodies. During this period the Congress has been in power most of the time, but the overall condition of Indian Muslims, their status is worsening to the extent that some may say that Muslims are being reduced to ‘second-class citizenship’. Is it the Congress which is responsible for the worsening plight of Muslims or are there some political factors which are shifting the political direction of the society in a narrow sectarian path to the detriment of Muslims?

Freedom Movement: Congress and Muslims

With the rise of the freedom movement, a large number of average Muslims, Muslim business-men started associating with the Congress (INC). Badruddin Tyabaji presided over the Congress convention in 1887. At the same time the Muslim elite, Nawabs and Muslim landlords kept aloof from the INC. Even the likes of Sir Syed, who made massive contribution to the education of Muslims, advised the Muslims to keep away from the Congress as it was a Hindu party. Gandhi’s efforts in uniting the people of all religions were a powerful message and thereby Muslims became part of the national movement in large numbers. At the same time the elite Muslims, particularly the landed gentry, sided with the Muslim League. Despite the ‘two-nation theory’ propounded by Savarkar, the presence of Muslims in the Congress was fairly large. Nehru at times refused to recognise the Muslim League as the party representing Muslims. His claim was that the Congress was a party with secular interests of all the religious communities in mind. Till the 1937 Assembly elections, when the electoral franchise was restricted to property owners and educated people only, the Muslim League could hardly muster over 10 per cent of votes. The Muslim League bit the dust in the 1937 Assembly elections.

During this time the ulema of major seminaries like Barelvi, Deoband stood with the national movement and supported the INC.

In tune with two-nation theory, Mohammad Ali Jinnah put forward the demand for a separate state for Muslims, Pakistan. The atmosphere started getting more communalised and support for the Muslim League grew. Still a large number of Muslims was with the Congress, it’s another matter that Muslim leaders of the stature of Maulana Azad were dubbed as showpieces by the Muslim League. The violence which was growing was the product of communalisation of the society, that picked up momentum due to the ‘British policy of divide and rule’, supple-mented by communal propaganda by the Muslim League against the Hindus and the Hindu Mahasabha-RSS against the Muslims. The British were neutral in the matter of communal violence; later the communalisation of the police and state apparatus started taking place with disastrous impact against the Muslims in India.

Post-Independence Plight

A section of the elite Muslims left for Pakistan while those who opted to live here, a majority of them were from the deprived sections. After independence the first blow to the nation and Muslims was the murder of the Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi. At the same time the propaganda against Muslims started picking up. ‘Muslims are responsible for creation of Pakistan’, ‘they are more loyal to Pakistan’ etc. was spread through various mechanisms, leading to their marginalisation from government jobs and social opportunities. They started resorting more to self-employment. The hate spread against the Muslim community intensified the communal violence. The additive factor was that the upright and principled stand of Mahatma Gandhi and Nehru was missing in the leadership that followed. Some communal elements started infiltrating into the Congress itself, Nehru warned against such elements but to no avail.6 Coupled with this was the communali-sation of sections of the police, bureaucracy, media etc. The spiral of communal violence started going up and the Congress in the beginning was unable to control it fully, while the ‘social common sense’ against Muslims deepened due to the propaganda of the RSS-BJP-VHP, and it got worsened due to the raising of issues like the Ram temple, Holy Cow, Love-Jihad etc.7

So the marginalisation of the community had two factors. One, its social demonisation by the communal apparatus, which kept working consistently, and two, the authorities in charge developed a strong bias against Muslims as a whole. While there were times when the Congress could not control violence, the major offence was not from the Congress, but the ‘system’ which developed due to the successful creation of the communal mindset and deflection of social issues into communal ones. It’s not that the Congress did not falter off and on. Its failure to rein in the communal offenders and its role in the 1984 anti-Sikh pogrom laid the foundation of a culture of impunity.8 The failure of the Congress to punish the guilty of violence has been the biggest flaw. The communal mindset of many of its leaders, lack of rigorous grounding in secular values proved to be a big help to the agenda of ‘Hindu nationalism’ of the RSS combine.

At another level the Congress did help the RSS-BJP by giving it the pretext of propaganda of ‘appeasement of Muslims’ on a platter. On one hand, the condition of Muslims kept worsening over a period of decades, and on the other it (the Congress) yielded to the conservative section of Muslims by conceding to the demand to scrap the Shah Bano judgment. This provided a big boost to the slogan of appeasement of Muslims. The misrepresentation of subsidy to Air India for Hajj travel was labelled as Hajj subsidy and this acted as yet another armament in the hands of the divisive forces. Very cleverly the weak attempt of the Congress to follow the secular policies was presented as pseudo- secularism by Hindu nationalists.9

Babri Demolition and After

To peak it all, the Congress led by Narasimha Rao appeared to be colluding with the RSS combine to bring down the centuries-old Babri mosque. The attitude of courts in these matters was well delineated by the Allahabad High Court judgment on the land dispute of Ayodhya. The Court opined on the basis of ‘faith of the people’ and the law took a massive retreat time and again. The consequent riots, orchestrated in Mumbai, were investigated by the Srikrishna Commission, that held the Shiv Sena and many police officers as being at the centre of the violence. In the consequent elections the Congress promised to implement Srikrishna Commission Report to punish the guilty, but no one was actually punished for the nearly thousand deaths which took place in the Mumbai violence. At the same time the blasts which followed the Mumbai violence saw the death of over 200 innocents and for that justice did come back with many death penalties and life imprisonments. The Congress has to take part of the blame of the two systems of justice which have developed in the country: one for the victims of the communal violence and another for the culprits of the Mumbai blasts!

Quite a dismal record for the INC, which has passively watched the rise of the communal ideology. Why did the INC cede the ground? While the Congress is not be excused for the sins of omission and partly commission in matters of communal violence, the major force which has been pushing the ground in the divisive direction is surely the RSS combine. While the major chunk of Muslim communalists shifted to Pakistan, the Hindu Mahasabha partly receded into the background in the aftermath of its worker, Nathuram Godse, murdering Gandhi. In this murder the tallest Hindu Mahasabha leader, Savarkar, was also one of the accused. After a brief setback due to Nathu-ram Godse having been a trained RSS pracharak, the RSS started coming back first with the formation of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh and later strengthening its activities through shakhas, in which the glorification of Hindu kings (Shivaji, Maharana Pratap and demonisation of Muslim kings (Aurangzeb, Khilji, Ghori etc.) was trans-lated in the contemporary context of aggressive Muslims attacking Hindus, Hindus being under threat and so the need for a Hindu nation with the RSS coordinating the efforts.

RSS in Social Space: Post-Emergency Period

The RSS did remain weak in the public space till Jayaprakash Narayan certified it [“If they (RSS) are fascist; I am a Fascist”] and gave them credibility by making them part of the anti-Emergency movement and later Janata Party. Rammanohar Lohia, otherwise a great socialist leader, also failed to see the danger of ‘Hindu nationalism’ and in the blind anti-Congressism which he pursued, the RSS progeny started finding its space. With a plethora of organi-sations the RSS started dominating the social scene in different sections of society, Dalits, Adivasis, OBCs. Through a complex process of social engineering and co-option different social groups started coming under the influence of the communal ideology and sow the seeds of ‘Hindu nationalism’ and Hatred for Muslims.10 It is this intensifying ‘Hindu nationalist’ ideology which is shifting the social discourse in a Rightward direction away from the principles outlined in the Constitution of India, away from the values for which the national movement stood.

Shrinking of Social Space: Congress

As communalism is expanding its reach, secular organisations are being forced to shrink; and the Congress is the example of that. While we began with Nehru, who never flaunted his sacred thread, we have come down to Rahul who has to flaunt his sacred thread and publicise his visits of temples, to hold the middle ground. There are global Rightward shifts also which have affected the social thinking in India; Trump best exemplifies it like many other leaders worldwide. The era of national liberation where the Rightwing was under criticism has been replaced by the present time where an assertive Right-wing worldwide is strengthening conservatism and orthodox values all around.

What are the options for the Muslim community? The likes of Zafar Sareshwala, M.J. Akbar, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi have bought themselves peace and reconciled to the notion of Hindu nation. Today the need for all is to strengthen the secular organisations, whatever be their limitations, whatever be their mistakes in the past. The way we have witnessed the erosion of secular values, the way minority rights have been trampled, the way Dalits have been flogged and the way weaker sections have suffered during the last few years are indication enough as to what is in store for these sections if the Hindu nationalists win the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, if the RSS dominates the social space and thinking. The crimes of the Congress and stains of blood of the Muslims cannot be erased and should not be forgotten, but what needs to be discussed now is how to combat the rising tide of divisive, sectarian, exclusive nationalism? The Congress needs to be repri-manded and pressure needs to be put on it to bring back the vision and policies of Gandhi-Nehru-Patel-Maulana Azad to name a few. Salman Khursheed’s characterisation should be taken in a corrective spirit, that these should never be repeated, that these were deviations from the basic policies for which the Congress stood during the freedom movement. The extraneous pressure of nationalism in the name of religion is the major threat not only to religious minorities but also to a majority of Hindus, particularly the non-upper caste, workers, farmers and Advasis. Muslims need to assess the dangers of the absence of a national party like the Congress (Congress-muktBharat) and visualise that it will be a catastrophe for both the religious minorities and weaker sections of society. We need campaigns to combat and struggle for the values of the Constitution, for secularism and equality for all irrespective of their religion, and distinguish between the programmatic communalism of the RSS combine and pragmatic communalism of the Congress.11

On the eve of the 43rd anniversary of the Emergency, which was imposed on the country in 1975, the BJP has come out strongly condemning the event, issued a half-page advertisement and Modi said that it was imposed to save the power of a family. There are claims that the BJP’s parent organisation, the RSS, and its political predecessors valiantly fought against the Emergency. Surprisingly many streams of Indian politics, like the CPI(M), shades of socialists, and sections of dissident Congress, who fought against the Emergency, did not make any noise about their role. While the Congress itself has not overtly criticised the act of its leader, Indira Gandhi, it needs to be recalled that Mrs Gandhi had regretted the excesses during this period in a speech in Yavatmal in 1978. Apart from Jaitly and BJP leaders there are many others also who compare the authoritarian Emergency regime and its excesses with what happened during Hitler’s fascist regime.

It’s true that during this period there was a serious violation of democratic freedom. The similarity with Hitler’s fascist regime ends there. The main mechanism of Hitler’s regime was to instigate emotions, intensifying divisiveness by activating the storm-troopers and targeting against the racial minority, the Jews. Other characteristics of his regime were to promote the interests of big business houses and suppress the rights of the working class in particular. It projected the golden past and also promoted ultra-nationalism and implemented a muscular foreign policy leading to soured relations with its neighbors. People like Einstein left the country. The targeting of racial minorities was the central and most conspicuous part of the policy. The excesses which took place during the Emergency were not targeted against any minority. It’s true that the pavement dwellers suffered a lot, demolitions and the compulsory vasectomy of the poor sections affected Muslims as well, but it was not targeted against the Muslim community in any way.

How can one say that the Emergency which was authoritarianism was not fascism in any way? In fascist methods what is central to the undermining of democracy is to operate through the mechanism of mobilisation of foot soldiers, whipping up mass hysteria and giving promi-nence to emotive issues. Let’s remember Indira Gandhi herself had lifted the Emergency and called for elections in a democratic way, elections in which she suffered a massive defeat. In Germany the fascist regime destroyed Germany itself.

While a lot is being said about the Emergency, what was the role of the RSS during this period? The claims that the RSS was a central force to fight against this regime fall in the category of a cock and bull story. T.V. Rajeswar, who served as the Governor of Uttar Pradesh and Sikkim, after his retirement from service, in his book, India: The Crucial Years [Harper Collins], tells us: “Not only they (RSS) were supportive of this [Emergency], they wanted to establish contact apart from Mrs Gandhi, with Sanjay Gandhi also.” Rajeswar, in an interview with Karan Thapar, disclosed that Deoras “quietly established a link with the PM’s house and expressed strong support for several steps taken to enforce order and discipline in the country. Deoras was keen to meet Mrs Gandhi and Sanjay. But Mrs Gandhi refused.”As a matter of fact the executioners of the Emergency excesses found good favour with the BJP as it was formed after the Jana Sangh component left the Janata Party. One recalls the Emergency time slogan, “Aapatkal ke tin dalal: Sanjay, Vidya, Bansilal (three executioners of Emergency: Sanjay, Vidya, Bansilal)”. Later the BJP gave ticket to Vidya Charan Shukla, and allied with Bansilal to form the Government of Haryana. Sanjay Gandhi’s wife, Maneka, was taken into the BJP and became a Minister without ever condemning the excesses committed during that period.

As a matter of fact what is happening today is much more repressive though there is no official Emergency. Many have labelled it as undeclared Emergency. Nayantara Sahgal, who was a strong critic of the Emergency, has stated very aptly that “…we have an undeclared Emergency; there is no doubt about that. We have seen a huge, massive attack on the freedom of expression. The observation is that there are killings of innocent, helpless Indians; they were killed because they did not fit into the RSS’ view of India. Every dissent is labelled as anti-national.” She continues: “Writers like Gauri Lankesh have been killed. And there has been no justice for the families of the wage earners who have lost their lives in this fashion. In fact they are now being called the accused. So we have a horrendous situation, a nightmare which is worse than the Emergency.” Similarly we know that today the danger to civil liberties and democratic rights is through the ideologically indoctrinated foot-soldiers, who have been called fringe elements, but as such they are part of a clear division of labour, working against Indian Constitution and for Hindu Nation.

The prevalence of violence against religious minorities, the intimidation, the lynching in the name of the Holy cow, beef, love-jihad,ghar wapsi has become a sort of New Normal of the present regime. It not only goes beyond the authoritarian regime but borders on the divisive politics which is out to relegate the religious minorities to second class status in the country. While the top rulers keep quiet in cases of serious violations, the ground level vigilantes have a field day in furthering the agenda which is the outcome of the RSS ideology. Lately even the use of tricolour to instigate violence as witnessed in Kasgaonj is further stifling our democracy.

We need to distinguish between the authori-tarian regime of the Emergency where the machinery of the state was used to suppress democratic rights with fascist regimes which are guided by narrow nationalism and target the minorities while pushing forward Hindu nationalism and bringing in divisions in society on sectarian grounds. Democracy is stifled in both cases, but in narrow nationalism the very concept of citizenship is denied to sections of society on the grounds of their religion or race. And this is the crucial marker of sectarian nationalism.

Dialogue is a core part of the democratic process. The question thus is: can there be a dialogue between two opposing ideologies, the one of Indian nationalism and the other of Hindu nationalism?

We witnessed a strange spectacle when the former President of India, Pranab Mukherjee, a lifelong Congressman, arrived at the Nagpur headquarters of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the apex organisation promoting narrow, divisive, exclusive Hindu nationalism.

The decision of the former President to speak from the RSS platform was strongly opposed by large sections of Congress leaders and many others, on the ground that regardless of what sentiments he spouted, the advantage would remain with the RSS.

And that for the RSS it was only about gaining legitimacy from the visit.

Gandhi, who was one such visitor received by the RSS in 1947, was killed by its ideology of hate. “All their (RSS) leaders’ speeches were full of communal poison. As a final result the poisonous atmosphere was created in which such a ghastly tragedy (Gandhi’s murder) became possible. RSS men expressed their joy and distributed sweets after Gandhi’s death.” (Sardar Patel’s letter)

So what happened in Nagpur during Pranab Mukherjee’s visit on June 7, 2018? To begin with, Mukherjee visited RSS founder K.B. Hedgewar’s birthplace and wrote: “Today I came here to pay my respects and homage to a great son of Mother India KB Hedgewarji.” Hedgewar, guided by his Hindu nationalism, called Muslims yavana snakes. Hedgewar-RSS also kept aloof from the freedom movement, which gave us Independence and later the Indian Constitution.

Mukherjee did not speak of the Muslims and minorities directly but did talk of pluralism and the inclusive nature of the Indian Constitution, India being a meeting ground of different people, “It is our composite culture which makes us into a nation. India’s nationhood is not one language, one religion, one entity.” He advised the RSS swayamsevaks: “You are young, disciplined, well trained and athletic. Please wish for peace, harmony and happiness. Our motherland is asking for that, our motherland deserves that.” And “any attempt at defining our nationhood in terms of dogmas and identities of religion, region, hatred and intolerance will only lead to dilution of our national identity”.

The highlight of his speech was his recalling Surendranath Banerjea for his phrase “nation in the making” as this phrase aptly defined the emergence of Indian nationalism during the freedom movement, in contrast to the RSS assertion that India is a Hindu nation from times immemorial.

Mukherjee recalled the values of Gandhi and Nehru in trying to understand India’s past and Sardar Patel’s contribution in merging the princely states into India.

Mukherjee toed the line of Indian culture as a synthesis of different streams: “It is our composite culture which makes us into a nation. India’s nationhood is not one language, one religion, one entity.”

And, more significantly, he pointed out that secularism and pluralism are the soul of India which is constituted by “Perennial Universalism of 1.3 billion people who use more than 122 languages and 1600 dialects, practice seven major religions and belong to three major ethnic groups, who live under one system, one flag and one identity of being Bharatiya.”

The present scenario resulting from the RSS’ Hindu nationalism, where hate has been created around emotive issues like Ram temple, Cow-beef, Love-Jihad needed to be underlined. The direct connection of the present atmosphere of narrowness and intolerance needed to be drawn out. He did not mention the important fact that the current intimidating, sectarian atmosphere which is building up in the country is due to the Hindu nationalist agenda. While he spoke of pluralism and diversity, he failed to mention the political fallout of the RSS’ agenda that does not respect the other opinion.

The contrast between the agenda of two nationalisms, Hindu nationalism and Indian nationalism, was not even touched.

But now, after the speech, it is more than likely that the RSS will use the speech to create legitimacy for itself. It will be taken as recognition of the RSS as a legitimate organisation, for building the Ram temple after demolishing the Babri mosque, for justifying the issue of cow-beef as ‘nation-building’.

Surely, despite a good articulation of Indian nationalism by the ex-President, the likely outcome of the visit has been well described by his daughter, who said, the speech will be forgotten and pictures will remain.

Dialogue is the core part of the democratic process. The question that comes up is: can there be dialogue between two opposite ideologies on the Indian horizon, the one of Indian nationalism and the other of Hindu nationalism? We witnessed a strange spectacle when Pranab Mukherjee, a lifelong Congress-man and believer in plural, inclusive Indian nationalism, accepted the invitation from the RSS to speak on the platform of the Sangh, the apex organisation promoting narrow, divisive, exclusive Hindu nationalism. The visit of the ex-President to address the RSS event was strongly opposed by large sections of Congress leaders and many others on the ground that the RSS is adept at gaining legitimacy from such visits while at the same time working at cross-purpose to the message of the invited guests.

One such visitor to the RSS was Mahatma Gandhi, who was killed due to the ideology of hate propagated by the RSS. “All their (RSS) leaders’ speeches were full of communal poison. As a final result the poisonous atmosphere was created in which such a ghastly tragedy (Gandhi’s murder) became possible. RSS men expressed their joy and distributed sweets after Gandhi’s death.” (Sardar Patel’s letter)

Whether there can be a dialogue with the RSS has been a question on the minds of many.

What happened in the Nagpur event when Pranab Mukherjee paid a visit to Nagpur (June 7, 2108)? To begin with, Mukherjee visited RSS founder K.B. Hedgewar’s birthplace and wrote: “Today I came here to pay my respects and homage to a great son of Mother India, K.B. Hedgewarji.” Whether out of courtesy for the host one should write in such a manner is a matter of debate again as Hedgewar, guided by his Hindu nationalism, called Muslims Yavan snakes. Hedgewar-RSS also kept aloof from the freedom movement, which gave us independence and later the Indian Constitution.

To his credit Mukherjee did talk of pluralism and the inclusive nature of the Indian Consti-tution, India being a meeting ground of different people. “It is our composite culture which makes us into a nation. India’s nationhood is not one language, one religion, one entity.” He advised the RSS swayamsevaks: “You are young, disciplined, well trained and athletic. Please wish for peace, harmony and happiness. Our motherland is asking for that, our motherland deserves that.” He also stated that “any attempt at defining our nationhood in terms of dogmas and identities of religion, region, hatred and intolerance will only lead to dilution of our national identity”. The highlight of his speech was his recalling Surendranath Bannerjea for his phrase “nation in the making” as this phrase aptly defines the emergence of Indian nationalism during the freedom movement, in contrast to the RSS’ assertion that we are a Hindu nation from time immemorial.

He also remembered the values of Gandhi and Nehru in trying to understand India’s past and Sardar Patel’s contribution in merging the princely states into India. Mukherjee toed the line of Indian culture as a synthesis of different streams: “It is our composite culture which makes us into a nation. India’s nationhood is not one language, one religion, one entity.” And more significantly he pointed out that secularism and pluralism are the soul of India which is constituted by the “Perennial Universalism of 1.3 billion people who use more than 122 languages and 1600 dialects, practise seven major religions and belong to three major ethnic groups, who live under one system, one flag and one identity of being Bharatiya.” He proceeded to reflect on the vast pluralism enshrined in the Indian society affirming: “India’s nationhood is not one language, one entity and one religion.”

In a way, despite slipping on the point of praising Hedgewar, he did speak about the values enshrined in the Indian Constitution. Mostly what one does not speak on such occasions also matters a lot. The present scenario, created due to the RSS’ Hindu nationalism, where hate has been roused around emotive issues like the Ram temple, Cow-beef, love-jihad, needed to be underlined. The direct connection of the present atmosphere of narrowness and intolerance needed to be drawn out. He did not mention the important fact that the current intimidating, sectarian atmosphere which is building up in the country is due to the Hindu nationalist agenda. While he correctly articulated the pluralism and diversity of the country, he failed to mention the political fallout of the RSS agenda and left an open space where vague homilies, ‘we respect different opinions’ are put forward by the RSS ideologues without at all registering the differences which are too deep for such ‘respecting others’ opinions’. The contrast between the agenda of two nationalisms, Hindu nationalism and Indian nationalism, needed to be spelt out.

True, the RSS has grown into a huge organi-sation, and the discourse emanating from its stable is dominating the social scene. Today undoubtedly values of pluralism, which Mukherjee talked about, need to be underlined more than before. In the aftermath of his speech what is more likely to happen is the attempt to show that what the RSS says and what Mukherjee said are complementary. It will be an exercise in creating further legitimacy for the RSS. For the RSS, building the Ram temple (demolishing the Babri mosque) is part of nation-building, for the RSS taking up the issue of cow-beef is nation-building while for the stream of Gandhi-Nehru-Patel-Indian nationalism such issues have no place on the political horizon. What matters for this stream is what Mukherjee pointed out aptly: “People are at the centre of all activities of the state and nothing should be done to divide them. The aim of the state should be to galvanise them to fight a concerted war against poverty, disease and deprivation. Only then can we create a nation where Nationalism flows automatically.”

Surely despite good articulation of Indian nationalism by the ex-President, the likely outcome of the visit has been well described by his daughter Sharmishtha Mukherjee, who said, ‘The speech will be forgotten and pictures will remain.’ The pictures will be circulated with different content, enhancing legitimacy to the divisive agenda of the RSS.

The coming to power of Modi in 2014 gave a signal to the so called fringe groups that now it is their Government and they can get away with their hate speeches and action with ease. It was a total uninhibited show by the RSS Combine as for as spreading hatred, the foundation of violence, is concerned. While even during previous UPA regime, RSS combines leader lead in Hate speech, now it is a total dominance of theirs’ in matters of spreading hate. The NDTV report is very revealing on the matter.

“90% of hateful comments made during the NDA’s current terms are by BJP politicians. During the NDA period, a total of 44 political leaders made hateful comments. Of them, 34 politicians, or 77%, are from the BJP. 10 leaders, or 23% of the offenders, are from other political parties, including the Congress, the Samajwadi Party and Lalu Yadav’s Rashtriya Janata Dal.” The communal issues were regularly thrown up. Vinay Katiyar of BJP said temple has to be built up in Ayodhya. He said this at a time when the matters are lying in the court. On similar lines RSS Supremo Mohan Bhagwat has been declaring that the temple will be built in his life time.

The incidents of mob lynching in the name of Cow, beef have been skyrocketing. While Mohammad Ikhlaq and Junaid are few names stuck in the memory; there are many, who have been attacked by hysterical mobs on the pretexts of skinning, killing, trading cows. The statistics of IndiaSpend@ shows these acts of violence have gone up with Modi sarkar. According to the data collected by IndiaSpend, based on the content analysis of media reporting, “Muslims were the target of 51% of violence centered on bovine issues over nearly eight years (2010 to 2017) and comprised 86% of 28 Indians killed in 63 incidents. As many of 97 per cent of these attacks were reported after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government came to power in May 2014, and about half the cow-related violence — 32 of 63 cases –were from states governed by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), recorded until June 25, 2017.”

The emotive issues related to Nationalism have been dominating the scene. Mohan Bhagwat of RSS said early March 2016 that “Now the time has come when we have to tell the new generation to chant ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ (Hail Mother India). There is no such slogan in our Constitution, while some prefer to follow the slogan, Jai Hind, without any reservation.

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The issue of love jihad has been taking horrible turn. On December 6, 2017; gruesome murder of a poor Muslim laborer Ifrazul Khan, shook the nation. His killer Shambhulal Regar not only hacked him to death, burnt him, got the whole incident videotaped and uploaded it. Killing of Afrazul by Shambhulal Regar has been inspired by the social media propaganda about love jihad by divisive forces and shows the brutality to which hate created by this ideology can penetrate the vitals of society. Regar has support from sections of society and funds were raised for his family which shows that the degree of hate is not superficial. It is making deeper inroads with the all pervading Hindu nationalism. PUCL report on the incident says that Shambhulal was “a clone of the RSS hate factory and indulged in the gruesome hate crime.” Frightened by the crime many Bengali immigrants have left for their state.

In the case of conversions to Hinduism in Agra (10 December 2014) nearly 350 pavement dwellers-rag pickers and other destitute sections were promised that if they participate in the religious function they will be given the ration card and BPL cards. This was done by the Bajrang Dal activist and the Hindu Janjagriti Samiti both outfits affiliated to RSS. The process is part of Ghar Vapasi campaign.

 

In a subtle encouragement to the criminals the Prime Minster has been generally keeping quiet for a long time on ‘hate crimes’ and then blurts bland statement which in a way does not reprimand the criminals, who are inspired by his own ideology. On completion of six months in power, Yogi Government brought out a brochure related to the tourism development. The booklet omits to mention the biggest tourist spot of UP Taj Mahal. Some leaders of BJP went on to label Taj Mahal as a symbol of foreign rule and a shame on Nation.

The issue of film Padmavati was very curious. Even before the film was released there were protests, even without seeing the film. It was said that film is an insult to Rajput honor. As such the film is based on a novel, a fiction, Padmavat. Padmavati is not a historical character she is creation of fiction. Fact is; the film distorts is the presentation of Khilji, who is shown to be a barbarian, running after women and devoid of culture, while historical accounts tell us he was a cultured king, who not only built Hauz Khas but also streamlined the market mechanism of trade in Delhi.

As hate speech and statements related to history, which demonize Muslims, is on the rise, the communal violence also went up, showing this in year 2017, which saw a rise of 17%, (from 703 incidences in 2016 to 822 in 2017). Kasganj violence came as a new pattern of instigating violence. A group of ABVP-VHP workers entered the Muslim locality armed with weapons, shouting ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ and giving anti Pakistan slogans. They wanted the Muslims, who were celebrating Republic Day to make way for their rally to pass through that narrow lane and violence followed. Similarly the Kathua rape and murder will remain a matter of deep shame. Here in addition to the patriarchal notion, communalism was the factor.

 

The assertiveness of so called fringe groups, the increasing hate speech, is leading to an atmosphere where the sense of insecurity among the religious minorities has gone up. The appeal of Archbishop of Delhi Couto to observe fast is just a small reflection of the sense of helpless, which the minorities are perceiving with Modi Sarkar, which is pursuing its agenda of Hindu Rashtra.

In the recently held Karnataka elections, Narendra Modi made statements which are not true, and which are made to raise the emotive pitch against his opponents. In a blatant lie, in a rally in Bidar, he asked: “When Shaheed Bhagat Singh, Batukeshwar Dutt, Veer Savarkar, greats like them were jailed fighting for the country’s independence, did any Congress leader went to meet them?…” One is surprised as to how this can be an electoral issue today! The central tactic of the BJP and communal organisations is to bypass the issues related to people’s needs and to distract the attention towards one’s related to emotive issues. Issues which can put his opponents in a bad light have been regularly resorted to by Modi. For creating this Modi can go to the extent of saying untruths with great amount of confidence. In this statement-question raised, he is speaking a lie on one side and is also trying to glorify his icon, Savarkar, on the other.

As a matter of fact, the INC, while it had differences with revolutionaries like Bhagat Singh, respected the high level of commitment and dedication of these young men. There are reports in The Tribune about Nehru visiting the jail to meet Bhagat Singh and his comrades, The reports in The Tribune, on August 9 and 10 of 1929, tell us about Nehru meeting the jailed revolutionaries, inquiring on them. Motilal Nehru had even formed a committee to demand the humane treatment for the revolutionaries on fast unto death. In his autobiography, Towards Freedom, Jawaharlal Nehru gives a very touching account of his meeting Bhagat Singh, Jatin Das and other young men: “I happened to be in Lahore when the hunger strike was already a month old. I was given permission to visit some of the prisoners in the prison, and I availed myself of this. I saw Bhagat Singh for the first time, and Jatindranath Das and a few others. They were all very weak and bedridden, and it was hardly possible to talk to them much. Bhagat Singh had an attractive, intellectual face, remarkably calm and peaceful. There seemed to be no anger in it. He looked and talked with great gentleness, but then I suppose that anyone who has been fasting for a month will look spiritual and gentle. Jatin Das looked milder still, soft and gentle like a young girl. He was in considerable pain when I saw him. He died later, as a result of fasting, on the sixtyfirst day of the hunger strike.”

The other aspect of the statement by Modi is to equate Savarkar with the dedicated young revolutionaries like Bhagat Singh. This seems to be a clever ploy to elevate Savarkar to the level to which he did not belong. While Bhagat was in jail, pending death penalty, he was requested by his family to seek clemency, which Bhagat refused. On the contrary he wrote to the British Government that since he and his comrades have been sentenced to death for waging war against the empire, he should be made to face the firing squad not just death by hanging. On the contrary Savarkar, after being sentenced for his role in the case of murder of a British officer, totally changed his stance in jail. From an anti-British role he wrote series of apology letters, he surrendered to the British and promised them to be of their help in future! He did remain loyal to the British after his release from jail.

As a matter of fact Congress in recognition of Savarkar’s initial role was trying to put pressure on the British Government for his release, but Savarkar was already writing petition after petition to British to release him. From 1920 the INC was asking for his unconditional release, but due to reasons best known to him Savarkar preferred to give a written undertaking, which in a way was total surrender. “I hereby acknowledge that I had a fair trial and just sentence. I heartily abhor methods of violence resorted to in days gone by and I feel myself duty bound to uphold law and constitution (British, added) to the best of my powers and am willing to make the ‘reform’ a success in so far as I may be allowed to do so in future.” (From facsimile of Savarkar’s letter to the British authorities.) There are many such letters and the British did grant him clemency.

This act of his seeking pardon from the British was a betrayal of the freedom movement; his followers present it as a tactical ploy to get released so that he can struggle against British rule. As matter of fact after his release Savarkar floated the concept of Hindu nationalism, brought to the fore the word Hindutva (total Hinduness) and stated that there are two nations in the country, Hindu nation and Muslim nation! This was precisely the equal and opposite of the politics of Muslim nationalism being brought up by the Muslim League. This is what also contributed to the partition tragedy.

So Mr Modi on one hand speaks a lie about Congress leaders ignoring those struggling for freedom. On the other he puts Savarkar in the same category as Bhagat Singh. The Congress was trying to get Savarkar released. Bhagat Singh remained firm on his ideology and path of resistance against British power. For his principles he undertook a hunger strike in jail. Savarkar, on the other hand, buckled under the jail conditions and surrendered to the British. The methods like that of Goebbels methods being resorted to by Modi need to be opposed.

Recently (May 2018) Hamid Ansari, the ex-Vice President of India, was invited to the Aligarh Muslim University to honour him with life membership of the AMU Students Union (AMUSU). He had due security with him, still the Hindu Yuva Vahini-ABVP activists could reach near his place of stay. The pretext of the armed protesters was that Jinnah’s portrait has been put up to please Ansari and that they will not allow Jinnah’s portrait in the AMU. The usual violence followed a few arrests of Vahini volunteers, most of them let off. This has been followed by a series of statements from Yogi Adityanath, who incidentally is also the founder of this Hindutvagroup, saying that the portrait will not be allowed, Subramanian Swami questioned as to who will teach a lesson to the AMU! The students of the AMU are on protest against the violence unleashed by the Vahini and ABVP.

Too many angles to the story! First of all, how come the armed volunteers of the Vahini and ABVP reach near the place where Hamdi Ansari was put up? One recalls that on every occasion there has been an attempt to humiliate this distinguished scholar, diplomat who held the high office. His photo of not saluting the Republic Day parade, hinting he is disrespecting, was made viral only to bring in the realisation that he was following the rule book as only the President takes the salute and no one else. When he was given farewell Modi hinted at his being a Muslim, being attached to issues related to Muslims in a very humiliating way. In this light he being targeted is just the continuation of what the RSS combine has been doing to Ansari so far.

How come someone recalled that Jiannh’s portrait is there and on that pretext the armed volunteers sneaked into the AMU campus? Has the portrait been put up yesterday? The portrait has been there from 1938, as the AMU Students’ Union conferred a rare honour on him by giving him life membership of the AMUSU. The statement is that Jinnah divided the country, so how can we celebrate him?—was the slogan.

The role played by Jinnah in the freedom movement is not a linear one and is not uniform. He began as a part of the movement and was part of it in the beginning. He was to his credit the Chairman of the Reception committee which welcomed Gandhi on his return from South Africa. He was the one who fought the case, in which Bal Gangadhar Tilak was given the death sentence and it is due to his legal brilliance that he could save the life of Tilak. He was also the lawyer for the young revolutionary, Sardar Bhagat Singh, and to cap it all he entered a Hindu, Muslim unity pact with Tilak (Lucknow, 1916). India’s nightingale Sarojini Naidu called Jinnah as the ‘ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity’.

There is another side to the story also. He dissociated from the national movement once Gandhi launched the non-cooperation movement in 1920, in which for the first time the average people of the country were involved. This move-ment laid the foundation of the biggest ever mass movement in the history of the world. Jinnah was a constitutionalist and he felt involving average people in the struggle against the British is unwarranted. Similarly he opposed Gandhi’s role in the Khilafat movement and gradually dissociated from active involvement with it and left for London to practice law.

The second major flaw which transformed Jinnah, who was basically secular, was his associating with and leading the Muslim League. The Muslim League was given the status of being the representative of Muslims by the British. This was a basically a motivated exercise by the British as the Muslim League began from the Nawabs and Landlords, with feudal values inherent in it down to the core. His role as a leader of the Muslim League and his Lahore resolution of a separate country for Muslims, Pakistan, is what made him a communal leader. To blame him alone for the partition of the country is a distorted presentation of the history of modern India. The process of partition was begun by the British who pursued the policy of ‘divide and rule’. This was supplemented by communalists from both the Hindus and Muslims. Savarkar was the first one to articulate that there are two nations in the country, the Hindu and the Muslim. As per this under-standing, the country belongs to Hindus; so the Muslim nation will have to remain subordinate to the Hindus. This is where Jinnah falls in the communal trap and the logic he puts forward is: if there are two nations in the country, so why not two countries? So why not Pakistan?

Jinnah that way has been the subject of various biographies and interpretations. His August 11, 1947 speech in Pakistan’s Constituent Assembly states that people are free to follow their own religion, state will not interfere in that, elaborates his secular values. Advani quite late in his life after having launched the biggest attack on secular values by demolishing the Babri mosque, realised that Jinnah was secular. He called Jinnah secular and paid with his career as the RSS combine has built on the understanding of ‘Hate Jinnah’, has presented Jinnah as a symbol of Indian Muslims, Jinnah as a symbol of India’s enemy Pakistan!

With this AMU episode, Hindu nationalist politics is killing many birds with a single stone. First, to target Hamid Ansari, whom they can’t approve of as his credential is thoroughly secular. Second, is to create yet another divisive issue in the form of the portrait of Jinnah, to add on to other emotive issues manufactured so far. And thirdly, to intimidate the AMU campus in line with what has been done in the JNU, Hyderabad University to name a few.

One can say the Ghost of Jinnah, who can be called as a ‘Secular soul in a Communal body’, will keep visiting us, and the RSS combine through its efforts will keep propping up divisive issues one after the other!

Currently there is propaganda from the BJP combine that the Congress is an anti-Hindu party. On every conceivable occasion it states that the Congress is insulting Hinduism. In the wake of the verdict of the Mecca Masjid blast cases as the accused got released, BJP spokespersons went hammer and tongs saying that Rahul Gandhi-Congress have defamed the Hindu religion, they should apologise for that. In the ongoing campaign for the Karnataka elections (2018) the BJP has taken out a yatra against the so-called ‘anti-Hindu policies’ of the Congress. The propaganda has gone to such an extent that even Sonia Gandhi, the ex-Congress President, had to say that the Congress is perceived as a party for Muslims!

How should we understand the policies of a party for any religious community? The BJP is propagating that it is a party which is taking care of Hindu interests. Is it true? It has taken up issues like the Ram temple, Holy cow, Article 370, Love-Jihad etc. Have Hindus at large benefited from it? We see an economic slide in the conditions of farmers, workers, Dalits and increasing atrocities against Hindu women. The claim that these emotive issues are for the benefit of Hindus is a pure make-believe propaganda which has led to polarisation, increased hate and a rise in the acts of violence. The major victims of these policies are not only the Muslims but Hindus in large numbers.

What about the Congress being anti-Hindu, against Hinduism? Let’s take the case of Mecca Masjid blast. The major part of investigation was initially done by Hemant Karkare, who was killed in the 26/11 act of terror on Mumbai. Swami Aseemanand, the accused, himself had confessed of his crime in front of a Magistrate, which was not under duress, and his confession was legally valid. Most of the investigations pointed fingers at Aseemanand, Sadhvi Pragya, Lt. Col Purohit et al. During the last four years of BJP rule the case has been so presented by agencies as to exonerate them all and put the blame of wrong investigation on the part of the Maharashtra ATS. While Karkare was proceeding with the investigations, Modi and Thackeray had called him anti-Hindu. Karkare felt so much pressured by these intimidations that he sought the advice of his distinguished elder, Julio Reibero, who advised him to carry on with his honest work, ignoring the pressures.

While the anti-Hindu image of the Congress has been constructed around such issues, its pro-Muslim image has been constructed in the last few decades more so after the reversal of the Shah Bano issue by the Congress Government, which apparently was a flawed decision. Still it was just yielding to retrograde elements within the Muslim community. The Muslim community as a whole did not benefit from it. Dr Manmohan Singh’s statement ‘Muslims have a first claim on national resources’, is yet another statement circulated to assert that the Congress is pro-Muslim. What is hidden from the public view is that this statement came in the wake of the Sachar Committee Report. This report had debunked the claim that Muslims have been appeased; it concluded that the economic condition of the Muslims has got a big slideback while they are also victims of communal violence, and that the only place they are over-represented is the jails!

As such the attempt to walk on the path of secularism in our country, which has suffered from the impact of the ‘divide and rule’ policy of the British, is not easy. With the rising Indian consciousness, Indian nationalism, the Indian National Congress came up with people from all religions. Badruddin Tybaji presided over the Congress session in 1887. It also had Presidents who were Parsis, Christians, and Hindus. This time around the Congress faced criticism from Muslim communalists (Sir Syed for example), as being a Hindu party, while Hindu communalists (like Lala Lalchand) dubbed that Congress as appeasing the Muslims at the cost of Hindu interests. All through the Congress had to face criticism from these elements, as it had the primary focus on Indian nationalism; it was actually practising secularism with some slips here and there.

The criticism of Muslim communalists, the Muslim League, culminated in the formation of Pakistan. Hindu communalists, Hindu Mahasabha, RSS’ criticism was that Gandhi was appeasing Muslims, it is due to Gandhi that Muslims have raised their head, due to which Pakistan was formed. The sharpest articulation of this came in the action of Nathuram Godse, who was a trained RSS pracharak and also became the Secretary of the Pune Branch of the Hindu Mahasabha in 1936. In his statement in the Court (‘May it please your honour’), he says that Gandhi was responsible for the formation of Pakistan, he compromised the Hindu interests and had been pro-Muslim!

The present criticism of the Congress, it being called a Muslim party, it being against Hindu interests seems to be a continuation of the arguments, which began with the Hindu communalists in the 1880s, via the articulations of the Hindu Mahasabha-RSS-Godse, which have become intensified during the last couple of decades. Surely the condition of Muslims has worsened during the last several decades and during the last four years, its status is having a ‘free fall’, while those in power, making these accusations, anti-Congress propaganda are having a field day with emotive issues in which Hindus are as much the losers as the other sections of society.

Walking the secular talk is becoming more difficult by the day. Gandhi was killed for this and his disciple Nehru is being the subject of vilification and calumny for the same. The Muslim communalists rejoiced at the formation of Pakistan, where development and amity are missing. With the Congress-Gandhi-Nehru we could make a small journey towards fraternity and progress. The criticism of the Congress as being a Muslim party, as being against Hindus, reflects more about the sectarian agenda of those propagating it rather that the nature of the Congress, which despite all the flaws has been trying to protect secular values, in the face of massive limitations! 

In a historic judgment the Supreme Court gave the verdict that instantaneous triple talaaq(Talaaq-e-Biddat) is invalid as per the law. (August 22, 2017) Giving this verdict the Court invoked the ethos of equality of the Indian Constitution. This judgment has been path-breaking as it upholds the demands of many Muslim women’s groups on the subject. Just to recall this verdict was in response the petition filed by Shayra Bano, a victim of triple talaaq and many Muslim women groups who approached the Court in this matter. The Court asked the government to file an affidavit on the issue. The government in its submission asked for abolition of triple talaaq, nikah halala and polygamy on the ground that they inhibit gender equality.1 Interestingly now many BJP leaders and Ministers are trying to take the credit for the same and projecting as if the BJP is the one to come forward as a guardian of Muslim women’s interests. They also make it appear as if the Muslim women’s leadership is aligned with the Right-wing BJP Government on this issue.

Muslim women’s groups dismiss the claim that they are allied with the BJP in the matter and also state that it is due to their efforts that such judgment has come forth. They point out that statements like that of BJP leader Subra-manian Swamiy saying that the BJP won the UP elections as Muslim women felt that it was only the BJP which could save them from triple talaaq, is totally contrary to facts.2 In sum and substance, statements like this and the one by the Prime Minister that his government was committed to upholding the rights of Muslim women, do not have much meaning. Such outpourings on the part of the BJP leadership are just for the sake of conveying opportunistic views, meant for electoral purposes alone.

Muslim women have dissociated with the statements of the BJP leaders. “Muslim women’s rights activists have condemned the continuous attempts by the Bharatiya Janata Party to appropriate the movement against instant triple talaaq practised in the community and its efforts to make the recent Supreme Court judgment against it a political victory for the party.”3 It is true that many of those belonging to the RSS-BJP have been shedding big crocodile tears over the plight of Muslim women, the ill-effects of Muslim personal laws on women in particular. As such in practice they have done precious little to ameliorate the condition of Muslim women at the social level and have done nothing as far as legal provisions are concerned; on the contrary the implications of their politics is a big curse for Muslims as a whole including Muslim women. Women like Shayra Bano and many Muslim women’s groups have through their initiatives braved the odds to reach the courts to quash this practice which is against the principles of the Indian Constitution.

Triple Talaaq as a Practice: as a Part of Muslim Personal Law

While triple talaaq as a concept in Islamic practice has various limitations, the interval at which the word talaaq can be pronounced is well defined; the process of mediation which must be brought in the interim period is the core part of Islamic practice. As it got distorted, courtesy the helpful Maulanas, many men used this provision to get rid of their wives by pronouncing three talaaqs in a single go or even by using other means like SMS, whatsapp messages etc. This is a vulgarisation of the practice which came to be part of Islamic practices at places. Enlightened Muslim men and large sections of women have been talking of throwing away this practice by a process of social and legal reforms.

In India Hamid Dalwai, the social reformer, was among the first one to raise his voice against this. “Fifty years after radical Muslim reformer Hamid Dalwai led the first street protest against the practice of triple talaaq in Bombay (now Mumbai) along with just seven women.”4 Now his younger brother, Husain Dalwai, a Congress MP, has introduced a private member’s bill in the Rajya Sabha titled the ‘Dissolution of Muslim Marriage Bill, 2016’, which is pending. Triple talaaq has validity as it is a part of the Muslim personal law. At the another level the personal laws, Hindu, Christian and Muslim, are separate and have a legal sanctity.

Background

Personal laws under the British administrators were drawn from diverse sources. It reflected the gender prejudices of its times since the interpreters of “religion” have been mostly men. The process of reforming regressive practices also began during the British rule. Reformers struggled to end practices like sati and child marriage. Conservative sections in the society opposed these reforms and insisted that these be preserved for the “defence” of religion.

These laws were drafted at British times and carried on in independent India. After indepen-dence Pandit Nehru set the ball of social reforms rolling. Ambedkar took up drafting of the Hindu Code Bill (HCB). The idea was that since Hindus are the largest community, once these laws are reformed, other communities will follow suit. Somehow as the draft was published, there was a big uproar against provisions of the HCB and they were opposed by the conservative sections of society, led by the likes of the RSS. As the draft was strongly opposed, including by those who were in the ruling party, the draft was diluted and passed in a milder form. This saddened Ambedkar, who decided to resign from the Ministry.

The HCB was used as a pretext by the Hindutva forces to project that the government was opposed to the interests of Hindus and was appeasing the minorities, as their laws are not being touched. A bit later after the Mathura rape case, the women’s movement picked up and put forward the demand for reforming the laws, calling for a Uniform Civil Code (UCC). These laws cover marriage, divorce, custody of children and inheritance. Gradually it dawned upon the women’s movement that uniformity can be gender-unjust, laws can be made uniform by taking up different laws which are gender- unjust.5 So from the viewpoint of the UCC, large sections of the women’s movement rallied to the call for a gender-just civil code. Among Muslims, the major body opposed to social reforms has been the All India Muslim Personal Law Board.

Muslims in India

Muslims in India are facing a paradoxical trajectory. A majority of Muslims are coming from a poor socio-economic background. The formation of Pakistan has been a big tragedy for the subcontinent as a whole and for Muslims in particular. It has affected the Indian Muslims to the worst possible extent. The anti-Muslim violence picked up after partition, peaking from the decades of 1980. The Muslim community came to be faced with the problem of equity and security. Due to this the problems related to social reform among Muslims took a back seat as the Muslim leadership kept struggling to focus on the issue of security, which became of paramount importance. It is in this background that when the issue of Shah Bano came up, a large section of society stood to oppose it, leading the government to go for legislating the Muslim Women’s Protection Bill. This gave a further pretext to the Hindutvaelements to step up polarisation in the society and to intensify the issue of the Ram temple, increasing the degree of violence, pushing the Muslim community further into a shell. This in turn pushed the issues of reforms to the margins of the community’s concern.

Efforts of Muslim Women

Despite this, sections of Muslim women started taking up the issues of gender equality. There are many groups, like Awaj-E-Niswan, Bebak Collective, Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan to name a few. The basic premise for some of these groups was that Islam gives justice to women, while others took the battle on the ground of the Indian Constitution. The latest in these moves has been the campaign launched by Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA),6 a campaign against triple talaaq. Its survey had shown that 92 per cent Muslim women were opposed to this abominable practice. It collected signatures of 50,000 Muslim women to oppose triple talaaq and also to oppose talaaq halala. In triple talaaq, a man can pronounce talaaq three times and throw his wife out of the house. In talaaq halala, if the husband decides to take her back, she has to get married to someone else, consummate the marriage, and then divorce the new husband before she can return to the earlier husband. Many maulanas offer this service of being “temporary husbands”. As per the BMMA, both these practices are un-Islamic. It points out that such practices are not mentioned in the Quran.

A memorandum submitted to the National Commission for Women points out: “The instant method of divorce has no mention in the Quran. In fact, the Quranic method requires a 90-day process of dialogue, reconciliation and mediation before divorce takes place.”7 Many Islamic scholars endorse the BMMA’s stand. However, the Muslim Personal Law Board and Jamaat-e-Isalmi did not agree with the BMMA. The Jamaat has been opposing the campaigns of Muslim women for reforming personal laws. Many progressive groups, prominent activists and writers from the community have declared solidarity with the agitating women. However, these people are being dubbed by the conser-vatives as supporters of the Uniform Civil Code (UCC), a pet theme of the BJP and RSS.

The fact is that triple talaaq is banned in over 21 Muslim-majority countries including Pakistan. The rights of religious minorities for culture, right to life and affirmative action need to be supported. At the same time, the process of reform within the community must also be upheld and supported on moral, social and legal grounds.

BJP-RSS and Reforms of Laws pertaining to Muslim Women

The demand for personal law reforms by Muslim women and the BJP-RSS call for a UCC are not comparable. The RSS-BJP combo is inherently patriarchal and its pro-UCC stance is merely to intimidate the religious minorities. The same RSS had opposed the HCB, which was striving towards gender-just laws for Hindu women.8 The politics of this combine has adversely affected the social-political life of the Muslim community as a whole and Muslim women in particular. The communal violence, in many of which some affiliates of the RSS are directly implicated by Inquiry Commission reports, is based on the propaganda by the RSS combine. In the violence most of the victims are Muslims and after every major act of violence the ghettotisation of Muslims become much worse. Now the situation is such that in major cities like Ahmadabad, Mumbai and other places the Muslim areas are well marked; in the these areas the civic and modern amenities do not reach or are inadequate. The hold of the conservative elements opposing reforms in the ghettoes goes up.

The actions of the BJP leaders directed at Muslim women are aplenty. In most of the acts of communal violence, women are a major victim. In the aftermath of the Gujarat violence Narendra Modi got the relief camps closed down on the pretext that the refugee camps are ‘factories producing children’9. The current hero of the BJP, the UP Chief Minister, Yogi Adityanath, once went to the extent of saying that Muslim women should be dug out of the graves and raped. One such incident did take place. He was also to say that if one Hindu girl gets married to a Muslim boy, 100 Muslim girls should be made to marry Hindu boys.10,11

Ideological Foundations of Hindutva and Muslim Women

The ideological root of the RSS-BJP is Hindutva. This was brought to the fore by Savarkar in his book, Hindutva or who is a Hindu? Savarkar had a very aggressive take on Muslim women. While commenting on the incident of a Muslim woman, brought to Shivaji as a gift who was sent back and the incidents of rape of Hindu women in the context of partition of India, Savarkar’s comment is articulated by his biographer, Dhananjay Keer, ““He (Savarkar) said that Pakistan’s inhuman and barbarous acts such as kidnapping and raping Indian women would not be stopped unless Pakistan was given tit for tat. Two years earlier Savarkar had expressed similar opinion that the liberal policy adopted by Shivaji in case of Muslim women was wrong, as this cultured and humane treatment could not evoke in those fanatics the same feelings about Hindu women. They should have been given tit for tat, he observed frankly, so that they might have realised the horrors of those brutalities.”12.

The projection that the BJP is concerned about the welfare of Muslim women is a pure opportunistie stance. Most of the campaigns launched by the RSS-BJP are directed against Muslims in general and in turn are directed against Muslim women. The campaigns like Love-Jihad, beef, linking of Islam to terrorism are affecting the lives of the Muslim community and Muslim women in turn.

Muslim women need parity with Muslim men, but still they are Muslims. The BJP’s politics is based on an anti-Muslim tirade which is the foundation of their Hindu nationalism. Hindu nationalism is directed against religious minorities, and Muslims in particular. The major ideologue of the RSS, Golwalkar, regarded Muslims as a threat to the Hindu nation.13

While Muslim women do want reforms, they are also aware that the BJP voicing these concerns is a case of pure opportunism. They are just using the reforms to frighten the Muslim men, who are dominant among Muslims as a whole. Progressive Muslim women are walking a delicate balance. On one hand, they are for reforms, and on the other, they know the current ruling party will try to use it for their political goals. Their claims that Muslim women voted for them in the UP elections (2017) is something which is unverified and made so as to gain political mileage. It is far from the truth.

Summing Up

The Muslim community has been facing tremendous pressure of insecurity. It has lagged behind in social and economic parameters, as pointed out in the Sachar Committee Report. Due to these constraints, a section of the Muslim leadership has been focusing on the issues of equity and security and ignoring social reforms. Despite odds, Muslim women’s groups have been struggling for reforms, gender equality. The RSS-BJP fully back the patriarchal norms; that’s why the RSS opposed the Hindu Code Bill’s original draft by Ambedkar. Muslim women are a big victim of the politics of the RSS-BJP. The Hindutva ideology (Golwalkar) sees Muslims as a threat to the Hindu nation. While the BJP has no interest in the welfare of Muslims-Muslim women, it is using the issue of triple talaaq in an opportunist manner to serve their petty, selfish, partisan interests.

Last few years there is a concerted attempt on the part of the ruling BJP to ignore and undermine the legacy of Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minster of India, the architect of Modern India. In the international meets his name is deliberately ignored. He does not find a mention in the National archives Museum on ‘Quit India’ movement. In many school books chapters on him are being deleted. The Government spokespersons are trying to attribute all their failures of present government to Nehruvian policies. At social media level dirty propaganda about his being a man living in luxury, his ancestors are making rounds. The misinterpretation of events of history is being used to the hilt to blame him for partition and Kashmir issue. Mr. Modi went on to say that Nehru did not attend the funeral of Sardar Patel!

Let’s have a brief recap of the man immortalized in his work of laying the foundations of modern India in the fields of industries, technology, agriculture, education and science. He was exposed to the global issues and became a committed to anti imperialist struggles, stood against racism and believed in equality of all nations. Coming to India; he came under the magic spell of Gandhi and went headlong in to participate in freedom movement. The major highpoints of his contribution is to give the call of total independence as President of Congress. He adapted simple Khadi (handspun cloth) in his life style. As a participant of the freedom struggle he was jailed time and over again, the total period of his being in jail was 3259 days! He was a prolific reader and writer. His books ‘Autobiography’, ‘Discovery of India’ and ‘Letters of a father…’have become a permanent part of Indian-world literature.

The question of partition was a very intricate one with British determined to divide the country, this became easy for them due to the fall out of Savarkar’s ‘Two Nation theory’ and Jinnah’s adamant demand for ‘separate Islamic country’, Pakistan. It was Sardar Patel who first realized that partition is inevitable, while Nehru was to come to this realization months later. In matters of Kashmir, as Patel pointed out in his speech in Junagadh, he was willing to let Kashmir go if Hyderabad was merged in India. It was Sheikh Abdullah’s insistence that Nehru came forward to have the ‘treaty of accession’ and sent the army to quell the aggression from Pakistan.

As far as Prime minster ship is concerned Gandhi had the mandate of the nation and he did realize that Nehru has a better grasp of World affairs and will be a worthy successor to him in matters political. Nehru was a mass leader, as Sardar Patel in response to a journalists quip; that there are lot of people who have turned up for meeting; said that the people have come to see Jawahar not him. His public sector policies are being criticized today. It was not just his pipe dream to have this sector. The industrialists, as per Bombay plan (1944) were asking for state assistance in setting up industries, and needed protection. It was these public sector heavy industries which provided the base on which other industries could come up and thrive. Paul Kruggman, the Nobel Laureate, points out that India achieved in last 30 years, is close to what Britain achieved in last 150 years. This is only because of the solid foundations by the initial years of the republic.

His policies in education and science are the base due to which today we are able to compete in the world and India is coming up as a major economy. Parallel to the policies in industrialization was the focus on science and education. Today if we compare the state of science and technology with the countries which also became independent when we became independent, we are far ahead. While Nehru-Ambedkar due ensured that scientific temper is the part of Directive principles of our Constitution, Nehru also went on to actualize it by laying the foundations of institutions like IITs, ISRO, BARC, CSIR etc. Health care in state sector saw the emergence the enviable AIIMs. We began with a literacy rate of 14% and the health was reflected in the longevity of 39 years. We are miles ahead today, though still a long way to go!

 

Nehru was firmly committed to pluralism at social level and secularism as a policy of the state. It is in this direction that in post partition riots he came out in the open jeep to himself quell the riots. In the wake of 1961 Jabalpur riots, he instituted National Integration Council (NIC). He could fully win the trust of religious minorities, a far cry from what is the state of affairs today. His institutions like Planning Commission and NIC have been put to sleep today. The income differentials are leaping to sky today with Corporate having a free hand.

Was he faultless? No way. He had his own quota of failures as in the case of trusting China and the setback in India-China war. His policies of big dams have its own shortcomings. The question is overall he left a deep and positive mark on the destiny not only of India but also over the World.

 

In its pettiness the present government wants to ignore, undermine and belittle his contributions. Two of his major initiatives Planning Commission and NIC have been done away with. Nehru is a particular target of sectarian ideology which is spreading all sorts of falsehoods on his name. This is abominable situation where in a systematic way his character, lineage and contributions are being targeted. The present ruling dispensation did not participate in freedom movement, does not have any icon worth its name, and so is trying to appropriate some icons like Sardar Patel. Ideologically they see Nehru as a big obstacle to their narrow goals so this ugly propaganda and narrow minded attitude towards Nehru.

 

Laws of nature cannot be applied to human society so directly. Still sometimes these have been used to explain-justify social catastrophes, “When a big tree falls. Earth shakes (in the aftermath of anti Sikh massacre 1984), ‘every action has equal and opposite reaction’ (during Gujarat carnage of 2002) are too well known. I have been very puzzled from last month or so since the scholars-writers, who have returned their honors and are being questioned as to why they did not do so when emergency happened or anti Sikh violence took place or when the mass migration of Kashmiri pundits took place or when the Mumbai train blasts killed hundreds of innocent lives.

I am tempted to think of the laws of physics of ‘qualitative transformation’ during heating or cooling of water, the temperature remains the same but water becomes either steam or ice.

When Dr. Dabholkar, Com Pansare and then Prof Kalburgi were killed over a period of months, the danger signals started being perceived but still it took the beef lynching of Mohammad Akhlaq to give a message that something has drastically changed in the society , and the spate of returning of Sahiya Academy, National and state, awards followed in quick succession. Their protest was against the rising intolerance in the society. The incidents that followed and ran parallel to these ‘award-returns’ were equally horrific. The killing of a trucker on the assumption that he is carrying cows for slaughter; beating of a MLA in Kashmir Assembly by BJP legislatures and the scattered incidents of attacks on Muslims on the ground of beef consumption are too striking. We are currently facing a situation where anybody can incite the violence by just uttering the word beef, while seeing mutton or some such thing. We are living in an atmosphere where cow cannot be shooed away even if she is blocking the traffic.

The viciousness of atmosphere is not lost on the social perceptions. The insecurity of minorities has gone up by leaps and bounds. One knows that since the present NDA regime came to power all those ‘spewing hate’ are working overtime. For one Akbaruddudin Owaisi there is an army of Sakshi Mahraj, Sadhvis, Yogis and what have you. This army of mostly saffron robed or the one’s with the association with Hindu Nationalist politics has high position within their political combine, what is known as Sangh Parivar. The prime Minister himself had exerted the Hindu youth to emulate Maharana Pratap to save the honor of Mother cow during the election speeches. During this last over one year, words like Haramjades (illegitimate) have been used with gay abandon. On the mere suspicion; a Pune techie Mohsin Shaikh was done to death. Serial attacks on Churches were passed off as thefts, the love jihad bogey was kept alive and the likes of Yogi Adityanath, the top BJP leader from UP, stated that for every one Hindu girl marrying a Muslim, Hindus should bring 100 Muslim girls. Muslim youth have been barred from participating in festivals like Navaratri. Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, the BJP’s Muslim face advised those wanting to eat beef to go to Pakistan. The glorification of Mahatma’s killer Godse has been stepped up and temples are being planned in his memory, while a BJP MP from Kerala stated that Godse was right but he chose a wrong target. Atmosphere of communal violence has gone up in a big way during the preceding year.

Even after the awards started being returned the BJP leadership looked down upon the writers/scholars and overlooked the phenomenon which has lead to returning of awards. To mock these writers Buddhi Shuddhi puja path (purification of intellect ritual) has been organized and BJP spokespersons are humiliating them in talk shows with all their ferocity. To cap it all the Haryana Chief Minister, an old RSS pracharak, said that Muslims can live here but only if they will give up beef eating. No doubt the BJP Chief Amit Shah has talked to some of these leaders behind the close doors, but that does seem to be a mock drill as the leaders concerned did say that they went to meet their chief for some other reasons and none of them gave any serious apology.

Disturbed by what is going on, the President Pranab Mukherjee on three occasions urged the nation to uphold, pluralism, the core civilizational value of the country and to uphold tolerance. The Vice President Hamid Ansari reminded the Government that it is the duty of the state to uphold the ‘right to life’ of citizens. The index of the changing social atmosphere is reflected by the statements of two outstanding citizens of the country. Julio Reibero, the top cop, expressed his pain and anguish by saying that “as a Christian suddenly I feel stranger in my own country.” And the renowned actor Naseeruddin Shah had to point out that “Have never been aware of my identity as a Muslim until now.”

These are not ordinary times. The values of pluralism and tolerance have been pushed to the margins. With this Government in power all the wings of communal politics, the RSS affiliates, have unleashed themselves in full blast. Communalism is not just the number of deaths due to violence, it is much more. The foundation of this violence begins with the manufacture of perceptions about the religious minorities. These perceptions based on history and some selective aspects of present society are given an anti human tilt and interpretation. This is used to create hatred for the minorities and that’s where the communal elements can unleash violence either as a massive violence like Gujarat or Mumbai or Bhagalpur or Muzzafarnagar or the one in Dadri. This creates the divides in society which over a period of time is converted into polarization. And polarization is the foundation of electoral strength of party wanting a nation in the name of religion. As per Yale study, the communal violence is the vehicle which strengthens BJP at electoral level.

Communalism has been planted in India over a century and a half ago. The British policy of ‘divide and rule’ used communal historiography as a major weapon. This type of interpretation of history was picked up by communal organizations and given an anti Hindu or anti Muslim tilt and gradually this has been strengthened after every act of violence which has been the outcome of their politics. The present phase is the one where the cup of communalism is spilling out from its earlier levels or boundaries. The intensity of ‘Hate’ constructed around temple destructions, love jihad has been supplemented by the oft used tool of beef. In the present situation where the divisive elements, who are in center stage of politics also know that they are safe and secure as the present Government precisely wants what they are doing, their contrary posturing notwithstanding.

The present combination of the Government guided by the ideology of Hindu nationalism and the ‘fringe elements’ having same ideology, has a vast network and with a wide reach. This party has the advantage that mostly it does not have to dirty its hands in the local agenda of sectarian nationalism, and so there are many elements which can do the local work for dividing the society. The so called fringe elements now are occupying the center stage, and so the ‘qualitative change’ in the situation. The flood of awards being returned is due to the situation created by deeper communalization of society. This is manifested in growing intolerance, attack on plurality and is leading to the insecurity of minorities, which has qualitatively transcended the earlier limits. The question is how to uphold the values of Indian Constitution in the current times?

Just over a decade ago (2002) in Dulina village of Jhajjar in Haryana a mob of over a thousand people lynched five dalits who were skinning a dead cow to sell the hide. A few months ago in Malegaon Mahahrashtra police arrested three Muslims on the charge of storing beef. On the back of this come the news from Bisara that a Muslim was killed and his son injured seriously on the charges of storing-eating beef.In the context of Dulina lynching VHP’s Acharya Giriraj Kishore in a press conference stated that “the life of a cow is more precious than that of a human being.

” The recent incidents, the above quoted may be a sampler of what is happening, this is becoming a ‘new normal’ after the new Government at Center has taken charge. States with BJP ruled Governments beginning with Maharashtra have been bringing in legislations banning storage of beef.
For Hindu nationalist politics identity issues have been the hallmark and they pursue it to divide the society and polarize the communities along religious lines. Today the insecurity amongst minority is going through the roof, making their life very difficult. For implementing the polarizing agenda, so far Ram Temple issue was the core one. Over a period of time as it has played its role; now lately Holy cow, ‘cow as mother’ is the major tool. As such ‘Cow as mother’ was the ploy used by Hindu communalism all through from late nineteenth century. At that time, there was a matching slogan of ‘pig as an object of hate’ from Muslim communalism on the battleground. As classic serial Tamas (Bhism Sanhi) showed the use of pig being thrown in a mosque to instigate the riots was running parallel to beef in the temple, such incidents leading to communal violence and boosting communal politics in turn.

After independence the ‘pig in the mosque’ is heard of less often. Occasionally one did hear of beef in the temple being put in by Bajrang Dal elements. But not too many casualties were heard on this ground. On subconscious level the issue of beef has been kept very much alive and now this issue has become more important one as far as communal polarization keeping in mind electoral arithmetic is concerned. It has added to the worsening scenario as far as communal harmony is concerned.
It is remarkable that in our country to begin with cow could be presented as ‘mother’ and then used as a tool of communal propaganda and action. Talking at economic level cow has been an important part of the agricultural economy. The old bullocks and cows being used for food by large sections of society has been the norm. Apart from Adivasis, large sections of dalits, Muslims, Christians and even upper caste Hindus consumed beef, as a cheap and rich source of protein. Being a large country with big cattle strength, India is also the major exporter of beef.

Historically; it is interesting to note that beef was part of food habits from Vedic times. Cow got transformed in to mother hood and a major tool of identity politics later. Bhimrao Ambedkar in his celebrated essay “Did Hindus never eat beef?” demonstrates this very well. At popular level Swami Vivekananda confirms the findings of historians like Prof D.N.Jha, who traces the history of beef consumption in Vedic times. Swamiji points out, “You will be astonished if I tell you that, according to old ceremonials, he is not a good Hindu who does not eat beef. On certain occasions he must sacrifice a bull and eat it.”
[Vivekananda speaking at the Shakespeare Club, Pasadena, California, USA (2 February 1900) on the theme of ‘Buddhistic India’, cited in Swami Vivekananda, The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, Vol 3 (Calcutta: Advaita Ashram, 1997), p. 536.]
This is corroborated by other research works sponsored by the Ramakrishna Mission established by Swami Vivekananda himself. One of these reads: “The Vedic Aryans, including the Brahmans, ate fish, meat and even beef. A distinguished guest was honoured with beef served at a meal. Although the Vedic Aryans ate beef, milch cows were not killed. One of the words that designated cow was aghnya (what shall not be killed). But a guest was a goghna (one for whom a cow is killed). It is only bulls, barren cows and calves that were killed.”
[C. Kunhan Raja, ‘Vedic Culture’, cited in the series, Suniti Kumar Chatterji and others (eds.), The Cultural Heritage of India, Vol 1 (Calcutta: The Ramakrishna Mission, 1993), 217.]
It is not that society cannot resolve the issue of contrasting food habits and faith in an amicable way. Gandhi shows the way and one wishes that we he has to say on the issue of beef eating, “…beef is not their (Muslims, added) ordinary food. Their ordinary food is the same as that of the millions. What is true is that there are very few Muslims who are vegetarians from religious motive. Therefore, they will take meat, including beef, when they can get it. But during the greater part of the years, millions of Muslims, owing to poverty, go without meat of any kind. These are facts. But the theoretical question demands a clear answer. As a Hindu, a confirmed vegetarian, and a worshipper of the cow whom I regard with the same veneration as I regard my mother (alas, no more on this earth!) I maintain that Muslims should have full freedom to slaughter cows, if they wish, subject of course to hygienic restrictions and in a manner not to wound the susceptibilities of their Hindu neighbours. Fullest recognition of freedom to the Muslims to slaughter cows is indispensable of communal harmony, and is the only way of saving cow.
(http://www.mkgandhi.org/g_communal/chap14.htm)

By now the Muslim as the ‘Cow killer’ has been propagated so much by communal forces that yeoman efforts by those; wanting peace, tolerance and pluralism; are needed to overcome the hate built around this propaganda.

Published on February 13, 2007

The violence in France has been sparked off by the death of two youth. These young men were trying to avoid being spotted by police as they did not have the proper identification papers. Police was making a search in the aftermath murder of a white man. The way the violence is spreading it seems as if the pent up frustration has found an outlet. Nearly three hundred cities have been gripped by this painful process. The immigrants, mostly Muslim are staying in the suburbs, are the one’s who are more involved in the violence. Is it one more example of Islamic terrorism?

Does it reconfirm that wherever there are Muslims there is violence? Gerard Larcher, the employment minister of France, hinting at the involvement of Muslims, stated that (Nov 16, 2005) large polygamous families sometimes led to anti-social behavior by youths who lack father figure because of which the employers are reluctant to hire them. It is also being said in the ruling circles that there is problem with integration of immigrants and more importantly with their children. Also their number is too big to be integrated in the society. Some of the important public figures went on to abuse this section of French population by calling them as scum, barbarians, gangrene and what not.

The section of population being referred to is from the ex colonies of France, from different parts of Africa, Morocco, Tunisia, Mali, Senegal and Algeria, the countries from where a big section migrated to France in the decade of 50s and 60s. There is also a substantial chunk of people who have come from Sudan, Ethiopia and Somalia. They also include substantial section of Blacks. Most of these are poor Muslims, who came to France in search of greener pastures. The prevalent laws, norms and mores did not treat them on par as equal citizens and they were discriminated against in jobs and other social facilities. Their lot became that of a second class citizens and a different France came into being, which is not regarded as the mainstream . The rate of unemployment amongst this section is three times higher than the national average. Economically bypassed, socially ostracized and politically sidetracked, these sections of society lapsed into ghettoes. The mentality, which goes with deprivations, the conservatism of worst kind sets in, makes it a fertile ground for the orthodox Ulema, underground criminals and even the terrorist elements.

Interestingly the plan of integration devised by French authorities laid out that, housing colonies should have provided low rent housing to the extent of 20% of the units, so that these immigrants can also stay in the main areas. Failing this, housing colonies had to pay a fine. Most of the housing colonies preferred to pay the fine rather than have these economically and socially deprived in their vicinity. Identity becomes the main bulwark of the psychological makeup of those forced to live in ghettoes. It is in this background that one has to look back the at desirable secular norms of uniforms in schools. Authorities did not permit hijab and other Muslim identity symbols in schools. It created yet another cause of giving the sense of humiliation.

Such ghettoes become the hub of underworld activities with high crime graph. Education takes the backseat and religious identity takes the driving seat amongst such communities. The whole process of social and economic deprivation triggered the process of alienation. This was well reflected by one participant of the violence,

We hate France and France Hates us, I don’t know who I am, and what I am. I do not have a house here; my grand parents live in Algiers. France is humiliating us. We are like mad dogs jumping to bite whosoever we see. If we don’t burn cars who will listen to us. This is the only symbol of our unity with the deprived masses. By doing this we are letting out our anger against the enemies.

This poverty through exclusion of the particular sections of society has reached a critical limit bursting in the form of the blind violence. One is sadly reminded of some of the similarities with Indian Muslims, who being the inheritors of the legacy of partition tragedy; victims of communal violence and social discrimination have also been forced to live in ghettoes, mini Pakistans. Many a similarities of the suburbs of Paris can be seen in the life of large section of Muslim youth and Muslim community here as well.

At most of the times social phenomenon appears to be obverse of what they are at the roots. The same phenomenon can be seen in a different many ways. One, it is the deprived sections indulging in the violence out of frustration; second, it is the Muslims who are indulging in this. The latter is a more convenient view for the ruling establishment. The point however is to look at the trajectory of the events and the dilemmas of communities facing discrimination of one or the other type. Even here the superficial observations lead one to think as if polygamy and bigger families are the cause of the plight of Muslims. To put it in the perspective it is because of discrimination, poverty of exclusion, which in turn leads to the social backwardness, large families etc. Tragedy is that such phenomenon is emerging world wide to give the bad image to Muslims and Islam. It is from such superficial observation that the likes of Samuel Huntington derive their thesis of Clash of Civilization. The twin track demonization of Islam, through the training of Al Qaeda by U.S. for its interests in the Middle East and the legacy of colonial problems being reflected upon the Muslims of today in the form of discrimination are contributing to this bad image. The truth is standing on its head. Islam and Muslims are not the cause of these tragic events. These tragic events are an outcome of the political processes, some coming from present imperialist exploitation and some coming as the legacy of the colonial rule of yester years.

website- www.dawn.com

Over 1,000 people died in the horrific 2002 Gujarat violence. Subsequently, I visited different parts of Gujarat on a number of occasions, and got the opportunity to learn about two legendary youths who had laid down their lives to protect people when communal violence broke out in Ahmadabad, India in July 1946.These two young men, Vasant Rao Hegishte and Rajab Ali Lakhani, close friends and workers of the Congress Seva Dal, came to the streets to stop the killings. Vasant Rao was trying to protect Muslims, while Rajab Ali stood firm to save the Hindus.

Both were killed by the mobs on the 1st of July.

In the aftermath of the violence and the sacrifice of Vasant and Rajab, activists in Gujarat decided to celebrate July 1st as the day of communal harmony. Recognising this fact, the government in Gujarat has raised a memorial in their memory called the Bandhutva Smarak (Brotherhood Memorial). In news coverage of this programme, what struck me was that while Vasant Rao’s relatives were present for it, Rajab Ali’s relatives were not there.

Acts of violence have continued in the country after 1946 with increased intensity. Rajab Ali’s relatives were targeted in subsequent violence to the extent that they first started concealing their relationship with him, then they started assuming Hindu names and eventually, some of them adopted the Hindu religion and fled to Canada and the US.

The person who stood for the amity of religious communities must not have imagined that his own kin would be subjected to the kind of hatred and divisiveness that he chose to fight against.

The story of Rajab’s family mirrors the trajectory of events in India, where Hindu-Muslim violence has made Muslims feel increasingly insecure.

Today, the percentage of religious minorities as victims of communal violence is several times more than their percentage in population. The Ministry of Home Affairs data of 1991, quoted by researches, shows that while Muslims were a 12 odd per cent in population then, they constituted over 80 per cent of all victims of communal violence.

Communal violence, or violence in the name of religion, originated in the Indian subcontinent from the colonial policies of the British idea of ‘divide and rule’. They introduced communal historiography, where the religion of the king became the central marker of his rule and his major policies related to taxation were downplayed. The kingdom’s central focus of power and wealth was substituted by ‘religious identity’, and this was picked up by communal organisations.

These communal organisations remained aloof from freedom movements and did their best in spreading hatred against the ‘other’ religious communities. Communal clashes began and thereby, a ‘social common sense’ that looked down on the other community, became the norm.

The prevalence of myths, stereotypes, biases against minorities came in handy for the practitioners of communal politics in instigating violence. Investigations into incidents of communal violence, especially as explained in one recent Yale University study, tell us that the instigating communal organisation becomes electorally strong in the areas where the violence takes place, and that’s what we are witnessing in India today.

Climbing the ladder of violence, communal organisations then come to the seat of power, irrespective of the amity that people like Gandhi promoted and people like Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi laid down their lives for.

Today, we are in a phase where violence has changed its form; from the massive bloody phenomenon to sub-radar actions, where minorities get intimidated on some issue of a mosque or a church or eating beef or some other social practice. The major goal of communal forces is to polarise communities along religious lines.

What would a Gandhi have done in such a scenario? Many an experiment in peace have been floated.

There have been mohalla committees (area level inter-community committees); shanti sena (peace armies); awareness programmes about the need for harmony, interfaith dialogues, inter-community celebrations of religious festivals, promotion of films on harmony, Kabir festivals and the likes.

Social activists are also struggling to get justice for the victims of violence and have been encouraging people to come together through programmes cutting across religious lines.

How to undo the ghettoisation; how to create an awareness for amity that overcomes negative perceptions is a great challenge for today’s India.

The issue needs to be addressed to ensure that the likes of Rajab Ali’s kin do not have to hide or change their identities.

Friday, September 11, 2015

The killing of Professor M.M.Kalburgi on August 30,2015 came as a severe jolt to all those who are for an open, liberal society, who uphold the values of reason and are against blind faith. Prof. Kalburgi was a renowned scholar with over 100 books to his credit. He had brought to fore the ideology of Basavanna; the 12th Century poet saint of Kannada; and had supported the idea that Lingayats, the followers of Basavanna be given the status of religious minorities as they do not belong to the Vedic tradition. His study of Vachanas, the teachings contained in the verses of Basavanna, was a profound contribution to the rational though.

It was his forthright reminder of Basavanna’s teachings, criticism of idol worship and Brahmanical rituals, which earned him the wrath of Hindutva groups like Bajrang Dal. As there are many traditions within the broad pantheon of Hinduism, the atheist tradition has its own existence from centuries, Charvak being the one from ancient times. Even opposition of idol worship is not new to Hindu traditions as Swami Dayanand Saraswati, founder of Arya Samaj, had given the call to stop the idol worship.

Incidentally as we are receiving the news of this killing, neighboring Bangladesh has witnessed the murder of three young secular bloggers in recent times (2015). In Syria a Scholar Khaled al-Assad has been killed by Daesh fanatics.

Maharashtra was shaken by the murder of a rationalist of repute Dr. Narendra Dabholkar nearly two years ago. He was instrumental in getting the law against black magic and practices related to blind faith passed in Maharashtra. Another well respected activist, Comrade Govind Pansare was killed just a year ago. Pansare was working on many issues; anti-blind faith campaign being one of them. He is also the author of well known tract on Maharashtra’s revered king Shivaji. Contrary to the communal presentation of Shivaji as a anti Muslim king, Pansare shows that Shivaji was the king who was very sympathetic to the farmers (rayyat) and that he was respecting all religions. This interpretation of Shivaji is a great eyesore to Hindutva politics.

Prof Kalburgi, the third rationalist to be killed in a row, was a very well accomplished man, ex Vice Chancellor of Kannada University in Hapmi, and recipient of National and Karnataka Sahitya Academy Awards for his writings. The learned professor had deep study of Virshaiva, Basavanna tradition amongst others. The opposition to him was due to his criticism of idol worship, Brahmanical rituals and ritualization of Basavanna tradition by the Lingayats. Controversies followed him and so did the threats from conservative forces. The first one of which, was the publication of Marga treatise on Kannada folklore including articles on Veerahaiva, Basavanna. Due to the death threats to him time and over again police protection was given. This police protection was withdrawn on his request recently. He supported U.R. Ananthamurthy on the issue of stopping idol worship. When he invited VHP leaders and the pontiff of Vishvesha Tirtha Swami for a public debate; another controversy followed. His support to Karnataka bill against practices of superstition invited anger of Bajrang Dal and associate organizations and he had to face protest; where his effigy was burnt.

There is a pattern in the murders of Dabholkar, Pansare and Kalburgi. Though there are some differences in the broad range of field of their social engagement, the similarity is very striking. They were rational, they made their voice abundantly clear and many threats were received by them. Another stark similarity is that all these three murders took place in early mornings by those who came on motorcycles, one person driving the bike and the second one pumping bullets. Strangely despite a long lapse of time the killers of Dabholkar and Pansare have not been nabbed so far.

After the murder of Kalburgi one Bajrang Dal activist Bhuvith Shetty tweeted, “Then it was UR Ananthamurthy and now MM Kalburgi. Mock Hinduism and die dogs (sic.) death. And dear KS Bhagwan you are next”. This tweet was later withdrawn. Also many connected with Hindu right wing organizations started saying that Kalburgi had insulted Hindu gods, so anger among Hindus and so such murders. This is a subtle justification of the intolerance which our society is being gripped with. As such the attitude of communal elements in different religions is very similar. One recalls the threat to Salman Rushdie, the type of intolerance shown to Taslima Nasreen and the murder of bloggers in Bangla Desh and also murder of Salman Taseer in Pakistan. Taseer had stood in defense of a Christian woman who was accused of blasphemy.

The opposition to the voices of reason has been going on in History all through. One can as well begin with Charvak, who opposed the Brahmanical understanding about the world, divine nature of Vedas in particular. Charvak said Vedas are man made, social in nature, and was persecuted. Gradually with the power of clergy the imposition of faith on society became more institutionalized. Even teachings of Gautam Buddha, who was agnostic, and talked about the social nature of human problems, were attacked. This had led to the wiping out of Buddhism from India. The medieval Bhakti saints were also more for rational thinking, critical of the imposition of various social practices-rituals in the name of faith. Many saints like Tukaram in Maharashtra had to face persecution at the hands of those who were close to social power, the clergy.

Globally one can see the same pattern in Europe. In Europe the scientists, rational thinking had to face the opposition from organized Church, which condemned Galileo to hell for stating that the Earth is round etc. Similar was the fate of many scientists who had to face inquisitions and punishments of various types. Clergy hid behind the façade of ‘divine authority’: faith, and tried to stall the process of social change and halt the scientific thinking. The society over a period of time overcame the opposition to the rational thinking and so we saw the rooting of science and scientific inquiry. Clergy had maintained that they are the repository of whole knowledge; as knowledge is already there in our ‘Holy books’. This is a part generalization and it manifested in different cultures and religions in diverse ways. In Pakistan, some Maulanas asserted that the problems related to power can be solved by doing research on djinns, who are power houses of infinite energy; this was presented as part of the religious knowledge.

In India with freedom movement, those standing for social change and transformation did stand for rational thinking and critiqued the scriptures from that angle. The traditionalists, who wanted to retain the old social equations; resorted to ‘our glorious heritage of knowledge’. Faith based understanding was counterpoised against the spirit of scientific inquiry. With independence, with Nehru being at the helm of affairs, the notion of ‘scientific temper’ came up in a big way paving the way for establishment of institution of higher learning and research; leading to the national growth and transformation towards democratic structures. This was the time when the nation was looking forward to all round progress and rational thinking was duly promoted. The national science resolution; based on reason and logic was passed unanimously in 1958.

Things start changing in the decades of 1980s. The politics in the name of religion came up in a very assertive manner and faith not only continued to be the emotional support system in the times of social anxiety but some political forces started asserting identity politics, faith based politics. Identity issues and faith based politics started getting more legitimacy. The social conservatism and undermining of rational thought went hand in hand. Incidentally it is around this time also when the groups promoting rational thought, scientific temper, groups to oppose blind faith, came up. The most prominent of these groups was Kerala Sastra Sahitya Parishad. Later in Maharashtra Narendra Dabholkar took the lead to establish Andhshraddha Nirmulan Samiti (Committee to oppose Blind faith).

This took the Maharashtra conservative elements by storm as the volunteers of this organization started going from village to village and started demonstrating the science behind the magic tricks which were being practiced by hoards of God men and other of their tribe, who were taking full advantage of the social insecurity of poor villagers and exploiting them. Pansare, in addition to opposing blind faith was also disseminating the values of Shivaji, presenting him as a person respecting all religions, which Shivaji was. The right wingers could not stomach it; neither could they oppose the logical formulations presented by him. In Karnataka individual like U.R. Ananthmurthy articulated against idol worship and blind faith. Kalburgi not only supported U R Anathmurthy; he also went on the support the bill against the practices promoting blind faith. He did author papers/books to disseminate his ideas.

Slightly back in time when the first NDA Government came to power with Dr. Murli Manohar Joshi as the MHRD minister, he introduced the courses like ritualism (paurohitya) and astrology (jyotish shastra) in the universities. This gave a big boost to the ‘faith’ based groups who were politically close to the politics in the name of Hindu religion. With the new Government coming to power (2014) again now the mythology is being promoted as history, the Pushpak viman, ‘plastic surgery in ancient India’ etc. is being promoted; at the same time so called fringe elements, which as such are part of the Hindutva politics, are becoming more assertive. The liberal open space is shrinking and the place of debate is being taken by physical violence. The liberal values which accept the validity of differences is being eliminated by force, intimidation and even partly by state support. The murder of these ‘saintly’ figures , Dabholkar, Pansare and Klaburgi, just goes to show that we are landing in a situation where those entrenched in the conservative values are becoming dominant and do not want the rational thinking to exist in our society.

The aggressive stance by the Hindutva right wing on those who are putting forward the rational thought, criticizing the ills of caste system, idol worship etc. is ideological supplement to the politics of Hindu right wing. The march of this politics in recent years has been built around identity issues like Ram temple or cow slaughter. Their whole assertion is built around the Brahmanical Hinduism, which upholds the caste hierarchy. The ideology being propounded by the likes of Dabholkar, Pansare and Kalburgi stands closer to the ideology for liberation from the caste hierarchy, which is the root of HIndutva politics. This politics does target the religious minorities, while ironically Hinduism is so diverse with contradictory tendencies within same religious umbrella. Kalburgi’s murder is part of the larger scheme of things where the ideologies opposed to the present status quo are being hounded along with persecution of those who are struggling to uphold these values.

On the other hand there has been a tremendous opposition to these brutal acts. The social groups upholding pluralism and rationalism have been agitating against these murders and the ideology of those involved in these killings. Opposition of sections of society to the murders of Daholkar, Pansare and Kalburgi shows that there are still large numbers of people who are willing to uphold rational values and that gives a ray of hope for the times to come. In last couple of years after the murder of Dabholkar, various social groups have been coming together with a determination not only to oppose the intolerant conservative aggressive right wing politics, but also to take up the unfinished task of these slain pioneers committed to social change.

The release of Shahrukh Khan’s film Dilwale (December 2015) was accompanied by protests by Shiv Sena and other Hindutva groups. These protests were supposedly against his comment on the growing intolerance in India. Shahrukh Khan; on the occasion of his fiftieth birthday few weeks ago had said that there is a growing intolerance in India and that being non secular is the worst crime for a patriot. In response to this the Hindutva cabal descended on him and he was labeled as anti-Nationalist, unpatriotic and that he should go to Pakistan. The BJP general secretary Kailash Vijayvargheey said that he lives in India but his soul is in Pakistan.

Shahrukh did come with a sort of apology when he said that ‘really sorry if someone felt bad’, he also said that he is not saying this as his film is going to be released but that he means it. On the back of this Kailash Vijayvargiya again tweeted that Nationalists have taught a lesson to the morons (nalayaks)

It is not the first time that Shahrukh Khan is being subject to such base abuses and charges of being anti national. In 2010, when he supported the idea of Pakistani cricket players to be allowed to come for IPL matches, Mumbai Hindutva group Shiv Sena protested intensely and the posters of his film, ‘My name is Khan’ were torn. At another level he has also been the victim of global Islamophobia as he was interrogated and strip searched twice in America. The other stars who have received similar fate are Aamir Khan and Dileep Kumar (Yusuf Khan). In the current times Aamir Khan while talking on the occasion of Ramnath Goenka Excellence in Journalism Award function shared his anguish that his wife Kiran Rao feels unsafe particularly for their son. To this Yogi Adityanath, the BJP MP retorted that Aamir Khan is talking like Hafiz Sayeed of Pakistan and that it will be better if he goes to Pakistan.

Aamir Khan in his statement clarified that he had never thought of leaving India that he will continue to live in India and quoted Rabindranath Tagore’s poem, ‘Where head is held high…’ The label of unpatriotic and anti national were freely hurled upon him by different worthies of Sangh Parivar, and interestingly these had full sanction of the top leaders of the party and the Parivar as none of them came forward to reprimand those hurling the abuses. One of the leaders of VHP in a talk show said that when a person like Shah Rukh Khan makes such a comment; the whole community comes under the scanner. Making it clear that Muslim community is suspect for VHP and its associates.

One also recalls the plight of thespian; Peshawar born, Dileep Kumar when he supported the film by Deepa Mehta, Fire. The Shiv Sena volunteers protested in front of his house wearing underwear’s. (1998). When he was awarded Nishan-e-Imtiyaz, the highest civilian honor of Pakistan, there was a lot of protest that he should not receive it. He went on to accept the honor. The Hindu nationalists in their spree of hurling abuses on him called him anti National, un-patriotic etc. Dileep Kumar was so shaken and disturbed that he approached the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who went on to defend Dileep Kumar’s nationalist credentials. Vajpayee seems to be the only exception to the abuse hurling, keeping silent to approve what others are saying leaders of BJP and company. Incidentally India’s one of ex Prime Minister Morarji Desai was also recipients of this award from Pakistan.

What is most striking in this episode is the differential response to similar statements in the recently witnessed intolerance debate. Just to recall the atmosphere got very heated up by and by due to various factors. The statements of Hindutva leaders like Sakhi Maharaj, Sadhavi Niranjan Jyoti, Yogi Adiyanath, Manoharlal Khattar, Kailsh Vijayvarhiya and Sangeet Som shook the roots of our society down deep. The silence of Prime Minister indicated that all this is being with full connivance of the BJP-RSS. The precipitating point came with the murders of Dabholkar, Pansare and Kalburgi and lynching of Akhlaq. The response to all this came in the form of returning awards and issue of statements by former Admiral Ramdas, academics, historians and activists. The ‘uncoordinated spontaneous’ award returning began and went on mostly till the results of Bihar elections came out. These results acted as soothing balm on the tensed nerves of the society and so the process of award returning came to a halt barring one exception of Jayanta Mahapatra, who returned award after the Bihar assembly election results.

What is noteworthy is that during the process of returning awards right from President Pranab Mukherjee to industrialists Narayan Murthy, Kiran Majumdar Shaw and RBI governor Raghuram Rajan all stated that there is a growing atmosphere of intolerance. Interestingly only Muslim icons were chosen for the intense attacks, doubting their patriotism! Those non Muslims were dubbed as being motivated by political reasons. None dared take on Presidents’ observations. So what does this indicate? Aamir Khan correctly pointed out that response to his statement does finally prove that there is growing intolerance, if at all there was some doubt about it. The differential response to Muslims statements and similar statements made by non Muslims gives the game away and tells us the type of mindset the RSS affiliates; the followers of Hindu nationalism and their followers have.

One recalls that in the wake of acts of terror like Mecca Masjid, Malegaon, Ajmer and Samjhauta Express; number of Muslim youth was being arrested recklessly. After Hemant Karakare’s investigation showed that it was the Hindutva groups with Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, Lt Col Purohit, Major Upadhayay and Swami Aseemanand; who have role in those acts of blast; the arrest of Muslim youth got a respite. In the wake of that I remember having attended a meeting organized by group Anhad (Act Now for Harmony And Democracy) in 2009. The theme of meet was ‘What it means to be a Muslim in India?”. With great disbelief I heard prominent Muslim writers and activists pouring their heart out and confessing that they do feel that Muslims are being given a differential treatment and they have started feeling the pain of being a Muslim. Most of these friends are known mainly for being activist or for their literary contributions, much beyond their religious identity. This is what currently Naseeruddin Shah said that lately he is being made aware of his Muslim identity. And on similar vein Julio Rebeiro said that ‘as a Christian suddenly I am a stranger in my own country’.

India has been a democracy with good space for secular, plural values. This has been much better than most of the countries in South Asia, where the democratic processes are comparatively weaker. Countries like Saudi Arabia are nowhere close what we have achieved in matters of democratic processes. It is disgusting to hear when India is compared with these countries in some way. We have been pursuing a path ahead towards better human rights, not a regressive path which countries with authorization, semi fundamentalist regimes have been pursuing. To say that Indian Muslims are better off than the Muslims in Pakistan or Saudi Arabia is degrading our own system which has emerged due to the freedom struggle, our system which is trying to keep Indian Constitution as the reference point. Needless to say we do need a course correction and those following the politics in the name of religion need to be countered to preserve our democratic-plural values.

Key Words #intolerance #Shah Rukh Khan #Aamir Khan # Pakistan #Kailash Vijayvargiy # Yogi Adityanath #insecurity #BJP led NDA # Modi # RSS Combine

30 March, 2015

Countercurrents.org

Julio Ribeiro is one of the best known police officers in India. Recently (March 16, 2015) he wrote in his article that he is feeling like a stranger in this country. ‘I feel threatened, not wanted, reduced to a stranger in my own country’. This pain and anguish of a distinguished citizen, an outstanding police officer has to be seen against the backdrop of the rising attacks on Churches and rape of the 71 year old nun in Kolkata. All over the country the rage amongst the Christian community is there to be seen in the form of silent marches, candle light vigils and peaceful protests.

As such during the last several months in particular the instances of attacks, and intimidation of the minority community has become more frightening. There is also a noticeable change in the pattern of violence against them. Earlier these attacks were more in the remote Adivasi areas, now one can see this taking place in urban areas also. The change in frequency of these attacks after the new Government took over is a striking phenomenon.

As such Christians are one of the very old communities in India. Right from the first century when St. Thomas visited Malabar Coast in Kerala and set up a Church there the Christian community has been here, part of the society, contributing to various aspects of social life. The missionaries, the nuns and priests, have also spent ages in the rural hinterlands setting up educational and health facilities and have also founded the most reputed educational institutions in most of the major cities of the country. Christians today are a tiny minority (2.3% as per 2001 census). It has been a community which like any other has its own internal diversity with various Christian denominations.

In this context the rise of anti Christian violence during last few decades in Adivasi areas, Dangs (Gujarat) Jhabua (MP) Kandhamal (Orissa) has been an unnerving experience for the community as a whole and for those believing in pluralism and diversity of the country in particular. The violence which picked up from mid nineties peaked in the burning alive of Pastor Graham Stains (23rd Jan 1999) and later Kandhamal violence in 2007 and 2008. After this there was a sort of low intensity scattered violence in remote areas, till the attack on Churches in Delhi from last several months. The Churches which were attacked were scattered in five corners of Delhi, Dilshad Garden (East), Jasola (South West), Rohini (Outer Delhi), Vikaspuri (West) and Vasant kunj (South), as if by design the whole terrain of Delhi was to be covered for polarization. It was claimed by police and state that the main cause of these has been theft etc.; in the face of the fact at most of the places the donation boxes remained intact. BJP spokesperson are vociferously giving the data that during this period so many temples have also been attacked, which is a mere putting the wool in the eye, as the targeted nature of anti Christian violence is very glaring.

In the meanwhile the RSS Sarsanghachalak, the boss of the Hindu right, to which BJP owes its allegiance, states that Mother Teresa was doing the charity work with intent to conversion. Post the statement two major incidents have come to light. One is in Hisar in Harayana, where a church has been attacked, it’s Cross replaced by the idol of Lord Hanuman and the Chief Minister of Haryana, who again has RSS background, stated that the Pastor of the Church has been alleged to be part of the conversion activities. At the same time RSS progeny Vishwa Hindu Parishad stated that more such acts of attack on churches will take place if conversions are not stopped. This incident reminds one of the placing of the idols of Ram Lalla (Baby Ram) in Babri Mosque in 1949 and then claiming that it was a birth place of Lord Ram. In addition the statement of the Chief Minister gives a clear indication as to how the investigation of the incident will take place and whether the real culprits will ever be nabbed. Incidentally there are no police complaints about Pastors’ conversion activities if any, in the police records. This ‘they are doing conversions’ is a standard ploy which is propagated for anti Christian violence, which one has witnessed so far.

After Bhagwat’s comments on Mother Teresa the anti Christian violence seems to be intensifying by the day and the incidence of Haryana and Kolkata are symbols of that and VHP is openly talking of more attacks. When Prime Minister Modi broke his deliberate silence on the issues of violence against minorities, he did say that religious freedom will be respected. But one also knows that what he says and what he means are mostly not the same. Also that now the silence of last several months has given a clear message to his associates in RSS combines that they can carry on their disruptive and polarizing activities at will. A large section within the Christian community feel that Modi was voted on the agenda of development and this type of violence was not anticipated! That is a sheer naivety, Modi is a RSS trained Pracharak, for whom the divisive agenda remains at the core, to be implemented by a clever ‘division of labor’ implemented through different organizations, which are part of RSS combine popularly known as Sangh Parivar.

As such India has been the cradle of many religions, which celebrated and lived together, a far cry from the present atmosphere which is intimidating the minorities. Christian’s plight in recent times is something to which the concerned democratic rights individuals need to wake up to. This seems to be unfolding of the script, Pehle Kasai Phir Isai, (First Muslim, then Christians). It is not just a violation of their rights; it’s also a violation of very basic norm of democracy. As they say, a democracy has to be judged by the litmus test of level of security and equity its minorities enjoy!

Friday, June 12, 2015

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made it a point to keep visiting temples when visiting other countries.Visits to Dhakeshwari Mandir and Ramakrishna Math in Bangladesh were part of his itinerary (June 2015). On the heels of this he is planning to visit the oldest mosque in India. This happens to be the Cheraman Jama Masjid in Thrissur in Kerala. Contrary to the present perception and propaganda that Islam came to India with Muslim kings with sword in one hand and Koran in the other, initial Islam in India came via the Arab traders in Kerala.

It is due to this that the first mosque in India came up in Kerala. Wikipedia gives a brief history of this mosque. There were trade relations between India and Arabia. Arabian trader used to come to Malabar Coast even before the advent of Islam. With the rise of Islam in Saudi Arabia, the traders brought this faith with them. “Cheraman Perumal, the Chera king, went to Arabia where he met the Prophet and embraced Islam and changed his name to Tajuddin. From there he had sent letters with Malik Ibn Dinar to his relatives in Kerala, asking them to be courteous to the latter. In the 7th Century, a group of Arabs led by Malik Bin Deenar and Malik bin Habib arrived in north Kerala and constructed a Masjid at Kodungalloor, naming it after their contemporary Cheraman Perumal.

This interesting peep into history should help us delink religion from politics. Modi’s associates within BJP and with RSS family (Sakshi Maharaj and the like) have begun asserting that the Ram Temple will be built soon at the site where the Babri Mosque was demolished. Recently we have witnessed a series of attacks on Churches in Delhi, with authorities trying to pass these off as ordinary robberies. This despite the fact that nothing of any consequence was stolen, only religious symbols were desecrated.In Atali in Haryana a half built mosque was destroyed. Subramanian Swamy of the BJP is facing a court case for saying that a Temple is a holy place but a mosque is not.

Communal politics has been built around the issues related to identity. Even during the freedom movement when the communal streams (Muslim League-Hindu Mahasabha-RSS) came up issues related to pig in the mosque and beef in a temple were made the pretext of violence. In Independent India the story begins with the Ram temple issue. Its seeds were sown in 1949 when some miscreants installed Ram Lalla Idol in the mosque. The rest is history. The issue is pending in the Supreme Court but to keep the pot boiling VHP-BJP has started making noises for construction of temple.

There is a long trajectory of incidents related to mosque-temple-dargah. Disputes have been constructed around them systematically. In Karnataka the Baba Budan Giri dargah was claimed to be the Datta Peetham. In Hyderabad near Charminar, Bhagyalaxmi temple is gradually being extended to be dangerously close to the Charminar. In Madhya Pradesh, the Kamal Maula Masjid in Dhar has been claimed to be a Bhojshala.

Historically it is amusing to see that while kings had diverse policies towards holy places, communal historiography which became prevalent looked at Muslim kings as destroyers of temples. This irrespective of the fact the Kings were there to rule primarily for power and wealth, religion being incidental to their policies. Emperor Asoka was the only king who worked for spreading his religion, Buddhism.

Kings also could not rule just on the strength of yhe sword and had to respect the faith and feelings of their subjects. That’s how we see that Babar in his will to Humayun writes “Son, this Nation Hindusthan has different Religions. Thank Allah for giving us this Kingdom. We should remove all the differences from our heart and do justice to each community according to its customs. Avoid cow-slaughter to win over the hearts of the people of this land and to incorporate the people in the matters of administration. Don’t damage the places of worship and temples, which fall in the boundaries of our rule. Evolve a method of ruling whereby all the people of the kingdom are happy with the King and the King is happy with the people.”

Tipu Sultan got the temple of Shrirangapatnam repaired after it was damaged due to the attack by Maratha armies. Primary cause of destruction of the Somnath temple was the massive wealth kept there. Even Babri Mosque has been the pretext of biggest communal polarization in recent times. Hindu King Shivaji got a mosque built at the entrance of his fort in Raigadh. The clever British policy of introducing communal historiography and dividing the history into Hindu, Period, Muslim period and British period paid them rich dividends and the communal streams picked this version from their angles to incite base sentiments.

Lately many from the RSS stable have been making damning statements about holy places. Yogi Adityanath of BJP said that non Hindus should not be permitted in Hardwars ghats. The Somnath temple trust has barred the entry of non Hindus into the temple. Such attempts will be a great detriment to our social practices which have united the society. People from different religions keep visiting places of all the faiths. These are practices where people overcome the religious divides in practice. These will weaken the fraternity which is integral part of our values.

While watching the TV debates on Ayodhya temple-mosque issue, one can see VHP spokespersons beating their breast that Lord Ram has to live in the tent, while he deserves to live in the Bhavya (great) temple. Here is the question, contrary to the belief of communal forces; for most of the medieval saints; the place of worship was within one’s own heart and soul. The identity issues have been brought to the fore by communal forces for their own vested interests. What we need is not the issues related to identity but struggle for a society which wants to see that all its citizens have bare minimum facilities, food clothing, shelter, employment health and dignity.

One of the best parts of childhood for me was to enjoy the mythological tales and become aware of the world where Lord Hanuman could fly, as the emergency herbal treatment is to be delivered to his master’s brother; Laxman. Lord Ram travelling by Pushpak Viman (aero plane), Lord Ganesha being planted with the head of elephant as his human head was chopped off by his father, all this was uncritically digested. Karna is born from the ear of his mother; Kauravas are born from the mass delivered by Gandhari, the mass being divided into 100 pieces and being preserved. Such fanciful imaginations were so engrossing that questioning them never came to my mind.

With age, some exposure to science and then rigorous training for close to decade in a medical school forced one to revisit the childhood fantasies built around mythological fictions. Realization gradually dawned as to how to distinguish between fact and fiction, history and mythology. The beauty of imagination; fiction of the pre-Historic times, does still remain etched somewhere but is not a guiding principle for understanding of social phenomenon and processes.

While going through the tough medical discipline, one came to see the complexity of human body, histopathology, immune systems, blood groups, bio-compatibility and what have you. A mere thought that Lord Ganesha could carry an elephant head if taken logically will lead you to so many questions. If the head is severed from the body; for how many minutes one can survive? The head houses the brain with higher centers for control of breathing and heart pumping amongst others, so how long can one remain alive to be a recipient for other’s organs, and that too the head of an elephant?

What is the difference in the immune system of human body and elephant? Even while transplanting kidney to one human being to another there are battery of tests carried on meticulously to assess the compatibility between recipient and the donor. So there was all this paraphernalia, if Mr. Modi is to be believed?

A mass delivered from uterus; can it be divided into 100 pieces? What type of micro surgery is required for splitting the fertilized ovum? Can uterus be located near ear? I am sure all these questions must have cropped up in the minds of the doctors, who had the privilege of listening to their Prime Minister in person when he was inaugurating their hospital.

They heard, “We can feel proud of what our country achieved in medical science at one point of time. We all read about Karna in Mahabharata. If we think a little more, we realize that Mahabharata says Karna was not born from his mother’s womb. This means that genetic science was present at that time. That is why Karna could be born outside his mother’s womb… We worship Lord Ganesh. There must have been some plastic surgeon at that time, which got an elephant’s head on the body of a human being and began the practice of plastic surgery”.

Hope the hospital he inaugurated is not planning to undertake such miraculous surgeries and splitting of the ovum in to hundred pieces! Many in the country surely must be feeling happy that their PM has given glory to ‘our’ past achievements! By all accounts it was a pastoral society or might have been the beginning of agricultural times, with hunting stage still lurking somewhere. The facts are very different from the utterances of the PM.

The practical impossibility of these fictional tales being true cannot be overemphasized. As understood with great pain and scientific enterprise the fictions of mythology of Mahabharata or Ramayana do not stand even a chance of being actualized. All this requires a huge infrastructure, body of scientific knowledge of human body, physics, astronomy, and myriad other components of knowledge which have been growing from the past but have taken definitive contours in last few centuries only.

With all this progress in scientific enterprise today none of these ‘glorious achievements’ can even be dreamt of even today. The World of science has taken giant strides and built up on the cumulative knowledge of human society as a whole. Surely there are many contributions which came up in ancient India, and they need to be underlined, and their wisdom and logical method highlighted.

Some of these are the ones related to Charak Samhita (Medical science), Sushrut (Surgical techniques); contributions of Aryabhatt in astronomy and discovery of zero. What is important is to build a method of thinking and logic which can take us to the next step of the knowledge, ultimately leading to techniques and applications, which in turn can be used to enhance and enrich existing scientific knowledge.

It’s not that it’s only in our country that such mythological fantasies developed. All old civilizations have such interesting myths. In Egypt, in prehistoric times the tales of Cleopatra tell us that she had belief, like probably many other Egyptians, in the supreme power of many gods who had animal’s heads, like Baboon God head Hedj-Wer and Annubis the jackal headed God. Had the likes of Modi known about this Egyptian belief, the claim of ‘export of our knowledge’ claim would have been registered by now. What a coincidence with our own Lord Ganesh? Is it again a case of plastic surgery or flight of imagination? In Greek mythology, Chinese mythology and many other traditions such fictional characters do merrily abound.

The hope and prayer is that in order to prove the point, those in seats of power do not divert and waste social funds for investigations of these fantasies. While an average person can believe in Lord Ram’s travel in Pushpak Viman or someone else travelling on a flying mat, if those in power believe in these things; the danger of public money and state funds being diverted for ‘research’ in these fantasies is very frightening.

One recalls that during Zia Ul Haq’s regime in one of the conferences was on ‘how to solve the power shortage’. Encouraged by the atmosphere where it is supposed that all knowledge is already there in our holy books, one ‘scientist’ presented a ‘research paper’ which argued that the jinn are an infinite source of energy and that they should be ‘harnessed’ to solve the power crisis in Pakistan! Mercifully, one hopes that state did not allocate funds for such a research! Any way science is a universal knowledge not owing allegiance to any country or religion. There cannot be anything like a Hindu science or a Muslim science!

While individuals can harbor the reality of mythology, the matters will be difficult if the chief of state has belief in these fictions being part of history. That will be a big setback to the progress of scientific, rational thinking and enterprise. This combination of mythology, religion and politics will make the matters worse. Many competing mythologies will be struggling with each other for their acceptance and being encouraged by such utterances. And the fantasies of power of the jinn and plastic surgery for Lord Ganesha will a have a field day.

Manufacturing And Undermining National Icons: RSS Style 
By Ram Puniyani

04 June, 2015

Many social and political processes related to projection of some icons and undermining of the others have intensified during last few years. Even during the last regime of NDA led BJP rule from 1998, Savakar’s portrait was unveiled in the Parliament. At one level the game of undermining some icons and projecting icons is a part of various political streams and RSS seems to be the past master in the same. One recalls its machinery has been putting forward some names. bypassing others and undermining some others. Since the time Modi has come to power as Prime Minister Mahatma Gandhi’s assassin Nathuram Godse is being upheld by many from RSS combine.

One BJP MP called him a patriot and other BJP MP said that Godse chose the wrong target, instead of Gandhi; he should have chosen Nehru as his target. There are demands from various quarters to allot land for raising his statues in different places.

Times and over again Sardar Patel is projected vis a vis Nehru. In one of the speeches Modi said Patel should have been the first Prime minister of India instead of Nehru. Various ‘word of mouth’ propaganda to denigrate Nehru has been the consistent activity of many. Again to undermine Nehru Modi said something which was not true. He said that Nehru did not attend the funeral of Sardar Patel. This again is a blatant lie. As far as Mahatma Gandhi is concerned this present ruling dispensation has projected him but only for the values of cleanliness. One knows that the stature of Mahatma is such that even those who do not believe in his inclusive nationalism have also to pay obeisance to him at home as well as abroad. To circumvent this problem while the core essence of Gandhi’s struggle for Hindu Muslim unity is sidelined, the teachings of the Mahatma for National Integration are give a go bye and he is projected for only for swachhta abhiyan (cleanliness drive).

Currently major concerted efforts are being made to highlight Ambedkar. There are statements that Ambedkar and Hedgewars’ (The founder and first supreme leader of RSS) values were similar, both were against untouchability for example. RSS mouthpiece Organiser (English) and Panchjanya (Hindi) have come out with the special supplements on the life of Ambedkar, presenting his teachings in a distorted manner to create the illusion that there was similarity between the teachings of RSS ideology of HIndutva and Ambedkars values. Ambedkar had contributed in various ways for social justice and democratic values and struggle for annihilation of caste was the foremost amongst the movements launched by him. Incidentally one need to recall that in contrast to Ambedkars Annihilation of caste, RSS has floated and organization called ‘Samajik Samrasta Manch’ (Social Harmony Forum) which works for bringing harmony between castes without challenging the very existence of caste, which was the prime motive of Ambedkar.

One can see two trends in the exercise being done by the RSS combine. On one hand since RSS never participated in the freedom struggle as an organization, it has no icon to present as a freedom fighter. This is why they have to stretch their myth making to project Savarkar as being a freedom fighter. The case of Savarkar is peculiar. He was initially working against the British rule but after he was jailed in Andaman’s, he buckled under pressure and turned from anti British revolutionary to the one who apologized to British and later never participated in any anti British agitation. That’s all RSS combine has to show for their participation in freedom struggle. Even Savarkar was not the part of RSS, but ideologically Savarkar and RSS both held Hindutva, Hindu nation as their goals.

As many in the RSS combine revere Godse, he always slips in as the major icon for them. Godse was initially trained in RSS Shakhas and later he went onto become the Secretary of Pune Branch of Hindu Mahasabha. Since many BJP leaders have background in RSS shakhas, and are on same page as Godse as far as Hindu Nationalism is concerned, they do come out to praise Godse. These two, Savarkar and Godse are projected to show their allegiance to the ideology of Hindu nationalism in contrast to Indian nationalism, which is the core part of Indian Constitution. This is necessary for them as they are projecting themselves as biggest nationalists unmindful of the fact that their nationalism is Hindu Nationalism and not Indian Nationalism. They want to derive legitimacy from Savarkars’ initial anti British role. The later part of Savarkar where he kept aloof from freedom movements is the exact way in which RSS also kept aloof from freedom movement.

At another level they want to contrast Patel with Nehru. It is meant to undermine Nehru. Patel and Nehru, both were close allies on most of the issues related to freedom movement, both were the major followers of Gandhi, who was their mentor and they were collaborating with each other in the national movement and later as part of the first Cabinet of Independent India. RSS combine cannot swallow the uncompromising stand taken by Nehru during his long years of Prime Minister-ship on the issues of secularism and his long association with these principles in a forthright way so they want to contrast him with Patel, who was also a deeply secular person.

At another level there are some in-house icons which are propped up or are undermined. RSS second Sarsanghchalak Golwalkar has been a great influence on generations of RSS workers. His book, ‘We or Nationhood defined’, shaped the thought process of many of them. He went to the extent of upholding Hitler’s method and type of nationalism expounded by him. His book used to be available in RSS shops for long time. One of his quotes sums up the RSS ideology very well, writes Golwalkar “German national pride has now become the topic of the day. To keep up the purity of nation and its culture, Germany shocked the world by her purging the country of semitic races-The Jews. National pride at its highest has been manifested here. Germany has also shown how neigh 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 Hindustan to learn and profit by. (We or Our nationhood Defined P. 27, Nagpur 1938). From more than a decade ago RSS started feeling embarrassed about this due to electoral-political compulsions and started making arguments that this book was not written by Golwalkar. It was withdrawn from market. Here electoral expediency shaped their decision.

At another level they have been projecting Deendayal Upadhayay as the major figure. Deendayal Upadhdyay is the ideologue who had coined “integral humanism’ as the concept, this essentially talks about upholding status quo of social relations of caste in particular. This is done to give a subtle message of deeper agenda of the RSS politics. The play with the icons goes with the long term program of the cultural and social manipulation for building a society with the hegemony of Hindutva politics, a politics which derives its name from a religion but at core is the political agenda of elite of the Hindu society, irrespective of the fact that some from the lower strata of society are also co-opted for this political agenda. It’s due to this that RSS focuses a lot on propagating the culture of a variety which is sectarian and backward looking, the agenda of Hindu Nationalism.

Ram Puniyani was a professor in biomedical engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, and took voluntary retirement in December 2004 to work full time for communal harmony in India. He is involved with human rights activities from last two decades.He is associated with various secular and democratic initiatives like All India Secular Forum, Center for Study of Society and Secularism and ANHAD.

website- www. kafila.org

APRIL 14, 2015

tags: Ambedkar, Hindutva, Indian Constitution, RSS

by Nivedita Menon

Guest Post by RAM PUNYANI

In order to gain larger legitimacy, RSS has been making claims of sorts. One of that which was made few months back was that Gandhi was impressed by functioning of RSS. Now on the heels of that comes another distortion that Ambedkar believed in Sangh ideology (Feb 15, 2015). This was stated recently by RSS Sarsanghchalak, Mohan Bhagwat. There cannot be bigger contrasts between the ideology of Ambedkar and RSS. Ambedkar was for Indian Nationalism, Secularism and social justice while the RSS ideology is based on two major pillars. One is the Brahmanic interpretation of Hinduism and second is the concept of Hindu nationalism, Hindu Rashtra.

Where does Ambedkar stand as for as ideology of Hinduism is concerned? He called Hinduism as Brahminic theology. We also understand that Brahmanism has been the dominant tendency within Hinduism. He realized that this prevalent version of Hinduism is essentially a caste system, which is the biggest tormentor of untouchables-dalits.

Initially he tried to break the shackles of caste system from within the fold of Hinduism. He led the Chavadar Talab movement (right to access to public drinking water for dalits), Kalaram Mandir agitation (movement for access to temples). He also went on to burn Manu Smriti, the holy Brahmanic- Hindu text saying that it is a symbol of caste and gender hierarchy. His critique of Hinduism, Brahmanism was scathing and in due course he came to the conclusion that he will give up Hinduism. In his book ‘Riddles of Hinduism’ published by Govt. of Maharashtra (1987) he elaborates his understanding about Hinduism i.e. its Brahmanical version. Introducing his book he writes, “The book is an exposition of the beliefs propounded by what might be called Brahminic theology…I want to make people aware that Hindu religion is not Sanatan (eternal)…the second purpose of the book is to draw the attention of Hindu masses to the devices of Brahmins and make them think for themselves how they have been deceived and misguided by Brahmins” (from Introduction of the book).

Ambedkar had started moving away from Hinduism in 1935 itself when he had publicly declared that he was not going to die as a Hindu. In 1936, he had attended the Sikh Missionary Conference as he had toyed for some time with the idea of embracing Sikhism. In 1936, Ambedkar also wrote and published Annihilation of Caste, his undelivered presidential address to the Jat-Pat-Todak Mandal Conference at Lahore. At the end of his written address, Ambedkar reiterated his resolve to give up Hinduism. (http://bihar.humanists.net/B.%20R.%20Ambedkar.htm)

He said “I have decided for myself. My conversion is sure as anything. My conversion is not for any material gain. There is nothing which I cannot achieve by remaining an Untouchable. My conversion is purely out of my spiritual attitude. The Hindu religion does not appeal to my conscience. It does not appeal to my self-respect. However, your conversion will be both for material as well as for spiritual gains. Some persons mock and laugh at the idea of conversion for material gain. I do not feel hesitant in calling such persons stupid.” (http://www.columbia.edu/itc/mealac/pritchett/00ambedkar/txt_ambedkar_salvation.html)

Lord Ram is the major symbol of Cultural Nationalism propounded by RSS. Let’s see what Ambedkar has to say about Lord Ram, “The life of Sita simply did not count. What counted was his own personal name and fame. He of course does not take the manly course of stopping this gossip, which as a king he could do and which as husband who was convinced of his wife’s innocence he was bound to it.” And further, “For 12 years the boys lived in forest in Ashram of Valmiki not far from Ayodhya where Rama continued to rule. Never once in those 12 years this model Husband and living father cared to inquire what has happened to Sita whether she was alive or dead, …Sita preferred to die rather than return to Ram who had behaved no better than a brute.” The signals to the Dalits in Hindutva cultural Nationalism are more than glaringly obvious as the Lord demonstrates in his own life, “…he was a Shudra named Shambuk who was practicing Tapasya with a view to going to heaven in his own earthly person and without so much as a warning, expostulation or the like addressed to him, cut off his head…”(From Riddles of Rama and Krishna).

Ambedkar envisioned ‘annihilation of caste’, which remains unfulfilled despite India getting Independence. Multiple factors have operated in the society due to which caste still remains a major factor in India. In contrast to Ambedkar’s ‘Annihilation of Caste’ the politics of RSS combine says that there should be ‘harmony amongst different castes’ and so they have formed an organization called ‘Samajik Samrasta Manch’ (Social Harmony Forum). Contrasting approach to social issues, Ambedkar and RSS!

Core of RSS political ideology is Hindutva or Hindu nationalism. Ambedkar engaged with this issue in much depth, particularly in his classic book ‘Thoughts on Pakistan’. In this book he deals with the question of Hindu nationalism as represented by Savakar; the progenitor of RSS ideology of Hindu nation; and Jinnah, leading the ideology of Muslim nationalism, Pakistan. “Strange as it may appear Mr. Savarkar and Mr. Jinnah instead of being opposed to each other on the one nation versus two nations issue are in complete agreement about it. Both agree, not only agree but insist that there are two nations in India- one the Muslim nation and the other the Hindu nation.” he continues, “They differ only as regards the terms and conditions on which the two nations should be. Jinnah says India should be cut up into two, Pakistan and Hindustan, the Muslim nation to occupy Pakistan and the Hindu nation to occupy Hindustan. Mr. Savarkar on the other hand insists that, although there are two nations in India, India shall not be divided into two parts, one for the Muslims and the other for Hindus; that the two nations shall dwell in one country and shall live under the mantle of one single constitution: that the constitution shall be such that the Hindu nation will be enabled to occupy a predominant position that is due to it and the Muslim nation to made to live in the position of subordinate co-operation with the Hindu nation.” (Thoughts on Pakistan, Third section, chapter VII)

He was for composite Indian Nationalism, “Is it not a fact that under the Montague Chelmsford reforms in most provinces, if not in all, the Muslims, the non-Brahmins and Depressed Classes united together and worked for the reforms as members of one team from 1920 to 1937? Here in lay the most fruitful method of achieving communal harmony among Hindus and Muslims and of destroying the danger of Hindu Raj. Mr. Jinnah could have easily pursued this line. Nor was it difficult for Mr. Jinnah to succeed in it.” (Thoughts on Pakistan, P. 359)

He was totally opposed to the concept of Hindu Raj as well. In the section “Must There Be Pakistan” he says, “If Hindu Raj does become a fact, it will, no doubt, be the greatest calamity for this country. No matter what the Hindus say, Hinduism is a menace to the liberty, equality and fraternity. On that account it is incompatible with democracy. Hindu Raj must be prevented at any cost.”(http://ecumene.org/IIS/csss101.htm)

On all associated matters related to affirmative action for weaker sections of society, rights and status of religious minorities their positions are totally contrasting. Even in the matters of the very Constitution of India, Ambedkar was the chairman of its drafting committee while many a sections from RSS stable have called it as anti Hindu and need to bring in Hindu Constitution based on Indian Holy books. This attempt by Mr. Bhagwat is like putting wool in the eyes of people to achieve their political goals and to get legitimacy from amongst the sections of people who are deeply wedded to ideological values of Ambedkar.

This attempt by the Hindutva to appropriate Ambedkar, the Dalit icon and architect of Indian constitution, is like putting wool in the eyes of people to achieve their political goals and to get legitimacy from amongst the sections of people who are deeply wedded to ideological values of Ambedkar

RAM PUNIYANI

In order to gain larger legitimacy, RSS has been making claims of sorts. One of that which was made few months back was that Gandhi was impressed by functioning of RSS. Now on the heels of that comes another distortion that Ambedkar believed in Sangh ideology (Feb 15, 2015).This was stated recently by RSS Sarsanghchalak, Mohan Bhagwat. There cannot be bigger contrasts between the ideology of Ambedkar and RSS. Ambedkar was for Indian Nationalism, Secularism and social justice while the RSS ideology is based on two major pillars. One is the Brahmanic interpretation of Hinduism and second is the concept of Hindu nationalism, Hindu Rashtra.

Where does Ambedkar stand as for as ideology of Hinduism is concerned? He called Hinduism as Brahminic theology. We also understand that Brahmanism has been the dominant tendency within Hinduism. He realized that this prevalent version of Hinduism is essentially a caste system, which is the biggest tormentor of untouchables – Dalits.

Initially he tried to break the shackles of caste system from within the fold of Hinduism. He led the Chavadar Talab movement (right to access to public drinking water for Dalits), Kalaram Mandir agitation (movement for access to temples). He also went on to burn Manu Smriti, the Brahmanic-Hindu text, saying that it is a symbol of caste and gender hierarchy.

His critique of Hinduism, Brahmanism was scathing and in due course he came to the conclusion that he will give up Hinduism. In his book ‘Riddles of Hinduism’ published by Govt. of Maharashtra (1987) he elaborates his understanding about Hinduism i.e. its Brahmanical version.

Introducing his book he writes, “The book is an exposition of the beliefs propounded by what might be called Brahminic theology…I want to make people aware that Hindu religion is not Sanatan (eternal)…the second purpose of the book is to draw the attention of Hindu masses to the devices of Brahmins and make them think for themselves how they have been deceived and misguided by Brahmins” (from Introduction of the book).

Ambedkar had started moving away from Hinduism in 1935 itself when he had publicly declared that he was not going to die as a Hindu. In 1936, he had attended the Sikh Missionary Conference as he had toyed for some time with the idea of embracing Sikhism. In 1936, Ambedkar also wrote and published Annihilation of Caste, his undelivered presidential address to the Jat-Pat-Todak Mandal Conference at Lahore. At the end of his written address, Ambedkar reiterated his resolve to give up Hinduism. (http://bihar.humanists.net/B.%20R.%20Ambedkar.htm)

He said “I have decided for myself. My conversion is sure as anything. My conversion is not for any material gain. There is nothing which I cannot achieve by remaining an Untouchable. My conversion is purely out of my spiritual attitude. The Hindu religion does not appeal to my conscience. It does not appeal to my self-respect. However, your conversion will be both for material as well as for spiritual gains. Some persons mock and laugh at the idea of conversion for material gain. I do not feel hesitant in calling such persons stupid.” (http://www.columbia.edu/itc/mealac/pritchett/00ambedkar/txt_ambedkar_salvation.html)

The signals to the Dalits in Hindutva cultural nationalism are more than glaringly obvious as the Lord demonstrates in his own life, “…he was a Shudra named Shambuk who was practicing Tapasya with a view to going to heaven in his own earthly person and without so much as a warning, expostulation or the like addressed to him, cut off his head…”(From Riddles of Rama and Krishna).

Ambedkar envisioned ‘annihilation of caste’, which remains unfulfilled despite India getting Independence. Multiple factors have operated in the society due to which caste still remains a major factor in India. In contrast to Ambedkar’s ‘Annihilation of Caste’ the politics of RSS combine says that there should be ‘harmony amongst different castes’ and so they have formed an organization called ‘Samajik Samrasta Manch’ (Social Harmony Forum). Contrasting approach to social issues, Ambedkar and RSS!

The core of RSS political ideology is Hindutva or Hindu nationalism. Ambedkar engaged with this issue in much depth, particularly in his classic book ‘Thoughts on Pakistan’. In this book he deals with the question of Hindu nationalism as represented by Savakar; the progenitor of RSS ideology of Hindu nation; and Jinnah, leading the ideology of Muslim nationalism, Pakistan:

Strange as it may appear Mr. Savarkar and Mr. Jinnah instead of being opposed to each other on the one nation versus two nations issue are in complete agreement about it. Both agree, not only agree but insist that there are two nations in India- one the Muslim nation and the other the Hindu nation.” he continues, “They differ only as regards the terms and conditions on which the two nations should be. Jinnah says India should be cut up into two, Pakistan and Hindustan, the Muslim nation to occupy Pakistan and the Hindu nation to occupy Hindustan. Mr. Savarkar on the other hand insists that, although there are two nations in India, India shall not be divided into two parts, one for the Muslims and the other for Hindus; that the two nations shall dwell in one country and shall live under the mantle of one single constitution: that the constitution shall be such that the Hindu nation will be enabled to occupy a predominant position that is due to it and the Muslim nation to made to live in the position of subordinate co-operation with the Hindu nation.” (Thoughts on Pakistan, Third section, chapter VII)

He was for composite Indian Nationalism: “Is it not a fact that under the Montague Chelmsford reforms in most provinces, if not in all, the Muslims, the non-Brahmins and Depressed Classes united together and worked for the reforms as members of one team from 1920 to 1937? Here in lay the most fruitful method of achieving communal harmony among Hindus and Muslims and of destroying the danger of Hindu Raj. Mr. Jinnah could have easily pursued this line. Nor was it difficult for Mr. Jinnah to succeed in it.” (Thoughts on Pakistan, P. 359)

He was totally opposed to the concept of Hindu Raj as well. In the section “Must There Be Pakistan” he says, “If Hindu Raj does become a fact, it will, no doubt, be the greatest calamity for this country. No matter what the Hindus say, Hinduism is a menace to the liberty, equality and fraternity. On that account it is incompatible with democracy. Hindu Raj must be prevented at any cost.”(http://ecumene.org/IIS/csss101.htm)

On all associated matters related to affirmative action for weaker sections of society, rights and status of religious minorities their positions are totally contrasting. Even in the matters of the very Constitution of India, Ambedkar was the chairman of its drafting committee while many a sections from RSS stable have called it as anti Hindu and need to bring in Hindu Constitution based on Indian Holy books.

This attempt by the Hindutva to appropriate Ambedkar is like putting wool in the eyes of people to achieve their political goals and to get legitimacy from amongst

the sections of people who are deeply wedded to ideological values of Ambedkar.

Propaganda around conversions has been one of the major political tools during last few decades. It was Niyogi Commission report which investigated the conversions in Adivasi areas in 1950s, then the Meenakshipuram conversions of Dalits into Islam, the and then the gruesome murder of Pastor Graham Stewart Stains on the charges that he was doing the conversion; are few amongst the big spectrum related to the phenomenon of conversions.As such the regular propaganda by communal forces that Muslim Kings converted people into Islam by sword has been made the part of ‘social common sense’ by now.

On regular basis around Christmas time one saw the anti- Christian violence in Adivasi areas a decade ago, and in that context rather than focusing on the violence against religious minorities, the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee called for a National debate on Conversions.

In the recent conversions to Hinduism in Agra (10 December 2014) nearly 350 pavement dwellers-rag pickers and other destitute sections were promised that if they participate in the religious function they will be given the ration card and BPL cards. This was done by the Bajrang Dal activist and the Hindu Janjagriti Samiti both outfits affiliated to RSS. The only difference is that this process has been called as Ghar Vapasi and not conversion. On one hand this is being projected as a great valorous achievement by the RSS leaders like Yogi Adityanath, on the other it is being labeled as a masterstroke by other RSS ideologues.

According to one ideologue of RSS, they had been calling for a ban on conversions, which was being opposed by the secular elements and religious minorities. This conversion nay Ghar Vapasi will bring to fore the debate to bring in the strict law against any conversion. If, as reported, the conversion of 350 odd Muslims in Ved Nagar in Agra to Hinduism is the work of RSS, it is clear that the RSS has grown strategic, according to RSS ideologue.

As per this ideologue this move of RSS is a smart one too. It seems to have triggered a debate on conversions which it has been asking for decades but was evaded by its critics. While communal elements are crying hoarse that Meenakshipuram has been the act of conversions through petro dollars and the Christian missionaries are doing conversion though foreign money, the truth of the matter is somewhat different. Meenakshipuram conversion was triggered by humiliation of the Dalit youth by the upper caste.

While the propaganda that Christian missionaries are doing forcible conversions is on the peak the fact is that no evidence of the application of force has been generally reported. It is also true that while some sects of Christian do claim that they are converting; the majority sects affirm that when the conversion is sought by someone in the society and only under that voluntary request the conversion if at all takes place. Interestingly as many people have started believing that the missionaries are converting the population of Christians has been shown a marginal decline during last few decades as per census figures (1971-2.60, 1982-2.44. 1991-2.34, 2001 -2.30 and probably 2.20 in 2011) The Wadhwa Commission, which was appointed by the then home minister L.K.Advani in the after math of the burning of Pastor Stains points out that Pastor was not involved in the work of conversions and that in Keonjhar in Manoharpur of Orissa, the percentage of Christians has shown fair stability, or an statistical insignificant rise in the percentage of Christian population during the time Pastor Stains was working there.

How have conversion taken place in India? We can examine this in two stages. In medieval period as far as conversion to Islam is concerned it took place mainly due to the caste oppression, as pointed out by Swami Vivekananda “Why amongst the poor of India so many are Mohammedans?  It is nonsense to say that they were converted by the sword.  It was to gain liberty from Zamindars and Priests…..” (Collected Works, Vol. 8, Page 330).

A small section may have converted to Islam due to anticipation for reward by Muslim kings, a smaller section due to fear and a substantial chunk due to the social interaction as seen in the Muslims of Malabar coast and the Muslims of Mewat.

Major conversion to Islam during medieval time though was due to the influence of Sufi saints, whose dargahs (shrines) the untouchables could visit. Since even today one fourth of the population holds to the norms of untouchability, it is not surprising that some dominated castes do keep deciding to leave the fold of Hinduism, as was proclaimed by Dr. Ambedkar, who left Hinduism with proclamation that ‘I was born a Hindu; that was not in my hands, but I will not die a Hindu.”

The conversions to Christianity did not begin with the coming of British as propagated by some. Christianity is centuries old in India, as it arrived with St Thomas in the first century. Some doubt this version and hold that Christianity came here in fifth century. The Christian missionaries have been working here in the neglected Adivasi areas providing the health and educational services, the appeal of which prompted many an Adivasi-Dalit to embrace this religion. It is only during the last six decades that communal forces have been showing their discomfort at missionaries working in the Adivasi areas. Violence has been more frequent in those areas.

Many a Christian institutions are located in cities, where all sections of society vie to send their children. One can also concede that a few of these missions may be aiming for conversions through their prayers and healing services.

The question of allurement and fraud, if at all, may be a small component of the phenomenon of conversions to Christianity. Most of the attacks and accusations which took place against Christian missionaries were when they were holding prayer meetings. The money they receive comes through proper FCRA channel, and many a NGOs including the organizations like RSS also receive foreign funds to be sure.

Now the assertion is that what RSS affiliates do is a ‘ghar vapasi’ (home coming). They claim so many things which are a pure political concoction. The voluntary conversions have very much been a part of caste ridden Indian society. It is another matter that even the Christian and Muslim communities could not remain free from this caste virus, but the hope of the dominated castes to get social justice has played a major role in changing one’s faith.

The RSS claim that the ancestors of all these converts are Hindus has no relevance in the debate. How is ancestry important in one’s faith and the citizenship today? Do we have to trace our ancestry to decide today’s faith? Where will this lead us? The theory of evolution apart the latest DNA studies show that human origins were in Africa. The coming of Aryans to India from Arctic zone (Lokmanya Tilak) to that Aryans were original inhabitants of India is a perpetual debate, with more heat than light in it.

What was the religion of Nomads-Pagans? Some social scientists call it Indigenous culture, rather than religion for the phenomenon which was and is practiced by indigenous (Adivasi) people all over the World. Society is always changing.

As caste system has been the central part of religion in India many of the dominated castes regularly kept leaving Hinduism for other religions like Jainism, Buddhism, Christianity, Islam and Sikhism. People felt that they are not getting equality and so kept leaving the Hindu fold and embracing other religions.

After Lord Buddha’s teachings a large chunk of people became Buddhists in the subcontinent. It is another matter that later in the Brahminical reaction, Buddhism was totally wiped out from India. Many felt that the missions are doing service to their community so they changed their faith.

The problem, which RSS projects is due to its being hung up on the values and system of past; pastoral, agricultural-feudal societies. The changes in social system accompany the changes in systems of production and education in particular; are totally missing in its world view. India came into being through the freedom struggle led by Mahatma Gandhi, who could unite the people of all religions as he treated all religions on equal ground. For him, there is no distinction between foreign and Native religions. Three types of Nationalisms competed with each other during freedom movement.

On one hand was the concept of Indian Nationalism and the accompanying concept of ‘India as a nation in the making’, this is what was followed by most of the people. The other was Muslim Nationalism, which located its beginning from the time of Muhammad bin Qasim’s victory in Sindh in eight century. And the third one was Hindu nationalism, ‘we are a Hindu nation from times immemorial’, held by the Hindu Mahasabha and RSS. Both these latter nationalisms derived their legitimacy from identity of religion had miniscule social support.

Unfortunately Gandhi is quoted extensively by Right wing forces to oppose conversions; but his quotes which are taken support are fragments of what he said. His major quote on conversion is from collected works, Volume XLVI p. 27-28. In an interview dated 22nd March 1931, given to The Hindu, Gandhi apparently stated that “if in self-governing India, missionaries kept ‘proselytizing’ by means of medical aid, education etc., I would certainly ask them to withdraw. Every nation’s religion is as good as any other. Certainly India’s religions are adequate for her people. We need no converting spirituality.”

This is the first part of the quote and the lines that follow give the totally opposite idea, the ideas, which Gandhi held. Gandhi goes on to write, “This is what the reporter has put in my mouth… All that I can say is that it is a travesty of what I have always said and held.” He goes on to explain, “I am, then, not against conversion. But I am against the modern methods of it. Conversions nowadays have become a matter of business, like any other… Every nation considers its own faith to be as good as that of any other. Certainly the great faiths held by the people of India are adequate for her people. India stands in no need of conversions from one faith to another.” And then he goes on to list the faiths of India, “Apart from Christianity and Judaism, Hinduism and its offshoots, Islam and Zoroastrianism are living faiths.”

As Gandhi opposed the divisive agenda of communal forces, which were using identity of religions for political purpose, Gandhi in contrast was harping on ‘morality’ of religions to unite the people. So while he was leading the anti-colonial struggle the communalists were spitting fire against the ‘other community’ and ‘Shuddhi’ (Arya Samaj) and Tanzim (Tablighi Jamaat) was part of their political agenda in the early part of twentieth century. The Hindu religion is not a prophet based religion, so the concept of conversion is not there. In most prophet based religions the call for spreading the divine word is there.

So earlier Arya Samaj coined the word Shuddhi, which was for forcible conversion into Hinduism. RSS improvised on that and has coined the word Ghar Vapasi as a clever move to hide its ‘forcible conversion drive’. Its claim that it is undertaking Ghar vapasi to bring the religious minorities in the mainstream is again a hoax as minorities had been equal participants in the movement for India’s freedom, a struggle from which RSS remained aloof, barring one exception. To claim that Adivasis are Hindus again does not hold water as Adivasis are animists, believing in nature worship, and in the spirit of their ancestors and spirit of Nature. All over the world indigenous people hold similar beliefs and have similar practices. This is unlike Hinduism where Gita, Ram and Acharya are the core part of its belief today.

The central point is that RSS does not recognize Indian nationalism and holds on to Hindu nationalism so the whole maneuver for this ‘forcible conversion’ is being passed off as ‘Ghar Vapasi’ while dubbing other conversions as forcible. Rather than recognizing the qualitative changes in the formation of India as the nation state, it is stuck in the pastoral-feudal-preindustrial society with the values of caste and gender hierarchy. The ‘Ghar Vapasi’ is being planned at larger scales. And an intimidating and fraudulent atmosphere is being created to execute the forcible conversions. This is a frightening message to religious minorities. This is a clever manipulation of political power to violate the norms of Indian constitution.

Then how do we distinguish between a forcible conversion and adoption of a new religion? In the present scheme of things if one leaves Hindu fold to embrace Buddhism-Jainism-Sikhism, it is OK, as they are ‘Indian religions. For communalists problem seems to be only with Islam and Christianity! The basic shrewdness is to call religions as national or foreign. As such religions are basically universal not bound by national boundaries.

The Constituent Assembly had discussed this threadbare and so the right to practice and propagate one’s religion is very much there. In the debate the word used is ‘converting’ others. Where is the place for people volunteering and adopting another religion, like Ambedkar and so many others did? In a way it is a way to undermine the conscience of people that somebody is converting them. Where is the place for choice of one’s religion in a democratic society believing in ‘freedom of religion and conscience’?

With RSS plans for a bigger conversion nay Ghar Vapasi in Aligarh this Christmas (2014) the attempts to polarize the society are being taken to a higher pitch. The heroes of RSS parivar like Yogi Adityanath are saying that those being subjected to Ghar Vapasi will be given the Gotra and caste from which they converted! So come what may the caste structure and rigidities remain and thrive. That’s what the agenda of nationalism in the name of Hinduism is!

Do we need laws to ban conversions? We have laws to punish those who indulge in force, fraud and allurement. What we need is to distinguish between voluntary conversion and forced ones. Ghar Vapasi is a shrewd name for forcible conversions. So what we need is the political and moral will to promote freedom of religion and punish the guilty, using illegal means to achieve the change of faith. The so-called ‘Freedom of Religion’ bills are there not to provide freedom of conscience but to curb the same by legal means.

While the personal laws of several religions are inimical to gender justice, the Muslim code comes in for the most criticism. However, even as the debate on a Uniform Civil Code hangs fire, a Muslim women’s group has made a significant move towards liberating women from the shackles of patriarchy. On 23 June, the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA) — one of the several groups striving for a gender-just civil code for Muslims — released a model Nikahnama (set of marriage norms) that seeks to empower Muslim women. It outlines various changes in personal laws that a large section of Muslim women have been longing for.

The model Nikahnama calls for registration of all marriages and rejection of a second marriage unless there is a valid ground, such as death of the first wife. It stipulates that the wife should have her due place in the household even after her husband’s death. Significantly, it requires the presence of both the husband and the wife for divorce to be permitted, and only when it is supported by legal documents. The Nikahnama also calls for respecting a woman’s voice when she demands a divorce and states that she should be allowed to retain her personal belongings.

The notion that the present plight of Muslim women is due to Islam holds no water. The opinions of thousands of Muslim women went into the drafting of the Nikahnama. Islamic scholars and reformers like Asghar Ali Engineer also contributed immensely to it. The challenge now is to launch a campaign for making it the basis of personal laws.

The Directive Principles in the Constitution call upon the State to evolve a Uniform Civil Code. The issue came to the forefront in the wake of historic Shah Bano judgment of 1985, in which the Supreme Court held that Muslim women, too, are entitled to maintenance after divorce. Orthodox Muslims opposed the judgment and the then Rajiv Gandhi government reversed it with an Act of Parliament. That was a serious mistake.

The women’s movement has long been pitted against the continuation of archaic personal laws that deny gender justice. Rather than mere uniformity in personal laws, the women’s movement has been demanding laws that ensure gender justice. In continuation with British policy, while the civil and criminal laws are the same for all communities, laws related to marriage, divorce, custody of children and inheritance are based on the traditional customs of particular religious communities, which are heavily loaded in favour of men.

While a Uniform Civil Code can be an amalgam of unjust laws from different traditions, that is not what the women’s movement wants. The new personal laws must stand the test of gender equality and be introduced through social reforms rather than diktats from above.

The efforts of Muslim women’s groups have to overcome the domination of orthodox elements in the community. As Muslims comprise nearly 90 percent of the victims of communal violence in the past several decades, the ensuing sense of insecurity fans the orthodoxy. Women bear the brunt of the violence and are also subjected to sexual assault. This physical insecurity whittles away at their assertiveness within the community in matters concerning their wellbeing. That is why the cry for reforms from within the community often goes unheard.

On the other hand, the Hindu Right’s demand for a Uniform Civil Code is not really a voice for gender parity. Rather, the issue is used as a political stick to beat the Muslims with. This obfuscates the need for overhauling personal laws to ensure gender justice for all citizens, irrespective of religion. As women suffer the most because of the unjust laws, they should have a major role in formulating new laws.

The BMMA has shown the way forward. Its model Nikahnama has emerged from a process of extensive community participation and articulates the aspirations of Muslim women. Surely, personal laws pertaining to other religious communities also need to go through a similar process. Only then will new personal laws help overcome the patriarchal norms that shackle Indian society.

http://indiatogether.org/women/opinions/rp02-1.htm

Communal violence aggravates the conservatism in both communities, more so amongst the Muslims. Ram Puniyani on the All India Muslim Personal Law Board’s (AIMPLB) decision to oppose the Child Marriage restraint Act 1929.
 
July 2002 : Proper legislation to curb child marriages is one of the markers of democratic modern societies, where equal status and rights of women are accepted as a norm. But it is not with ease that the conservative elements (read: vested interests) permit such bills to go through. On various grounds – in the name of religion, sacred traditions et al. – the medieval-minded have opposed the raising of the age of marriage for girls. The thinking seems simple: the earlier girls fall into domesticity, the easier it is to cage them and have a slave and companion for men. With religious sanction.

It is in this light that one looks at the All India Muslim Personal Law Board’s (AIMPLB) decision to oppose the Child Marriage Restraint Act 1929, which puts 18 years as the lowest age at which girls can be married. One needs to recall that it was opposition by the same worthies to the Shah Bano judgement and creation of hysteria – Islam in Danger, et al – that made Rajiv Gandhi concede the demands of mullhas, and to get the judgment overruled by a new act of Parliament. Something that the Hindutva right never fails to rake up against the “pseudo” secularists.

Needless to say, most of the Muslim majority countries have brought in legislation which gives due justice to women in matters of marriage, divorce and the like. In India this is a sore point for civil society. While on one hand it hurts Muslim women, on the other it gives a much-needed pretext to the Hindu communalists to launch one more offensive on the Muslims as a whole, whether they are pro- or anti- such legislation.

The story is quite complex.

Despite the odds of being a religious minority and from relatively lower-income classes, a large section of muslims was still able to struggle for modern education and obtain decent employment, business ownership, etc. Nehru’s impeccable secular credentials and policies gave confidence to the minorities. After his demise the Hindutva elements in Congress were strengthened — first Indira Gandhi and later Rajiv Gandhi and Narasimha Rao were to use Hindu communal cards for electoral purposes.

Communal violence rose in intensity by and by. The violence not only paralyses the minorities for a long time, it also creates ghettoisation – fertile ground for the rise of medieval-minded within the community. Which increases the power of religious leaders, whose retrograde thinking imposes practices which are detrimental to the status and rights of woman in particular.

It is remarkable at one level that despite such odds the Muslim women have covered a lot of ground towards a honorable place in family and community. After the Babri demolition, however, the retrograde march has picked up steam and mullahs have ruled the roost.

And this is precisely what adds fuel to the communal fire being witnessed by us from 1980s. The two – imposition of conservative norms on Muslim minorities and the strength of communal thinking – have a complementary relationship. Each feeding the other to create a vicious cycle, the result of which is the social atmosphere where the human rights of the weaker sections is sacrificed on the altar of religious nationalism.

Here one must concede that that trishul-wielders are the prime movers of communal politics today, while the Mullahs and Law boards of this ilk give ammunition to offensive communal politics. The Indian nation needs neither of these.

In current times the communal violence, in which Muslims are often the larger victims of the violence, aggravates the conservatism in both communities, more so amongst the Muslims. Every riot leaves Mullahs in a stronger position. In the aftermath of the Mumbai riots the Muslim womens’ struggle for abolition of triple talaq, polygamy and burqa received a big setback. It did take long before the local groups working in this direction could regain the rhythm of their work for reforms amongst the community.

In the struggle for preservation of democratic norms, minority rights has no meaning if the rights of women are not taken up with utmost sincerity. It is the struggle of men and women from minority communities along with other democratic-secular forces, which has the potential of being a strong pillar in the struggle against religious fascism, which is the major threat in India today.

Moves like the one proposed by AIMPLB will put the struggle back by miles.

After the last general elections where Narendra Modi and his party won a majority overwhelmingly, the Bharatiya Janata Party has not been doing so well in subsequent by-elections. The Lalu-Nitish experiment is one model, but whether it will be replicated by the concerned political parties in UP is a million-vote question.The BJP appears to resort to the basic tools of divisive politics. On one hand Yogi Adityanath, with his venomous ‘hate speeches’ is coming up as the BJP’s major player; on the other the word of mouth propaganda of ‘love jihad’ is being spread like wildfire.

This year, Adityanath began his hate attack on Muslim minorities blaming all communal riots on Muslims when he campaigned for the BJP ahead of the general elections. In subsequent speeches he went on to make similar baseless allegations such as wherever Muslims are in the majority there is more trouble, or that when they trigger the violence then they also have to face the consequences.

None of this is grounded in the analysis of the communal violence in India. Referring to ‘Love Jihad,’ Adityanath said that if ‘they’ convert one Hindu girl, we will convert 100 Muslim girls. His unrelenting ‘hate speeches’ are going on at a time when the Prime Minister himself has asked for a ten-year moratorium on violence.

The ‘Love Jihad’ propaganda is a double-edged sword: By stating that Muslim youth are being trained to lure Hindu girls, on one hand they demonize Muslims and on the other they tighten their control of the lives of girls and women.

In this propaganda, Hindu women are projected as gullible, easy to be lured and incapable of deciding for themselves. In a way the communal agenda’s twin goals are achieved here. Communal politics wants to marginalize the religious minorities at the surface level and at the deeper societal level it aims to restrict the rights and freedom of women.

BJP affiliates are not only indulging in the word-of-mouth propaganda on this issue. They have also started forming fronts to oppose ‘love jihad,’ some of them have come up in western UP, and more seem to be in the offing.

The Vishwa Hindu Parishad has come to the forefront on this issue by stating that “Patriots will support our crusade against ‘love jihad’ that is leading the country towards another partition.”

One more Sangh Parivar outfit, the Dharma Jagran Manch, has started a similar campaign which is appealing to Hindus to oppose the ‘threat of ‘love jihad.’

As far as Hindu girls being converted to Islam through Love Jihad is concerned, it is a complete hoax — there is no doubt about that. A friend wrote from UP that he was to talk in a girls college there.

He met a young faculty member all charged up to save Hindu girls, claiming that over 6,000 girls have been converted in his area. When confronted to give the names of some of the alleged converts, he retracted, saying he had heard rumors about it and so it must be true.

A booklet priced Rs 15 about the Love Jihad conspiracy has been published by some Hindu zealots: ‘How to Save Our Women from the Terrorism of Love Jihad’. It contains some alleged case studies.

Most of these stories feature a typical pattern: a young Hindu woman lured into a relationship or into marriage by a Muslim man who had allegedly posed as a Hindu. It is claimed that those who get married often convert to Islam and need to be ‘rescued’ and this is where the RSS affiliates want to pitch in according to their plans.

While a lot of historical material has come out on the issue of so-called Love Jihad, two items in particular need to be mentioned.

Many analysts have compared the Hindutva tactics with those employed by Hitler, who used a similar tactic to polarize German opinion against the Jews, who were called the ‘internal enemy’.

The Nazi propaganda held that Jewish young men had been luring German girls and polluting the purity of Aryan blood with a view to subjugating the German nation.

Similar tactics were adopted by the Arya Samaj and Hindu Mahasbaha in India in the 1920s, when organizations to save the honor of Hindu women were formed and pamphlets like ‘Hindu Auraton ki Loot’ (Loot of Hindu Women) were brought out. This propaganda was a potent weapon to polarize the communities along religious lines.

Can this be combated in some way? There is news that some Muslim youth have planned peace marches in the areas to create an atmosphere of amity. I hope more such marches take place and can restore the sanity of our society. But I am sure such peace marches would not achieve any intended goal until we see members from the majority religious community taking part in them spontaneously.

02 May, 2004
Issues In Secular Politics

During the current elections (April-May 2004) many a Muslim leaders, or self proclaimed representatives of the community, like Shahi Imam of Jama Masjid, came out with Fatwas to vote for BJP, to give it a chance. The argument was that during BJP regime only Gujarat riots have taken place while during Congress regimes thousands of riots have taken place.Riots, communal violence have become a sad reality of India’s life. There are many an observations pertaining to the riots. The major one being that after every riot BJP in particular becomes stronger in that area.

Also that the majority of the victims of riots in India are Muslims. The data from1961 to 1992, shows that during these four decades 80 percent of victims of communal violence have been Muslims. During the 1984 Delhi riots nearly 4000 Sikhs were done to death. In a similar vein another minority; Christians
saw the ghastly burning of Pastor Graham Stains along with his two minor sons.

Who is to be blamed for these riots? In case of 1984 anti Sikh riots the role of Congress was most abominable. In addition to overt role of Congress one
has to see the role of RSS also in this tragedy. In one of the articles in a Hindi Monthly, Pratipaksha, Nanaji Deshmukh a veteran of RSS wrote around that
time that there is a threat to the National unity, due to Sikh extremism, and so Rajiv Gandhi should be supported to the hilt. Needless to say it was Rajiv
Gandhi who blurted during these riots that when a big tree falls the ground shakes. The role of RSS during 1984 riots is anybody’s guess. It was around this time that Bajarang dal, the storm troopers of RSS was formed. The rise of Sikh militancy, rise of Bhindranwale, attack on Golden temple, operation blue star and murder of Indira Gandhi preceded the anti Sikh violence. The anti Sikh tragedy had different dynamics than the two other minorities (Muslims,
Christians) who have also been under the chopping block.

The Muslims and Christians have been targeted for slightly different reasons. The anti Christian violence has also not assumed the form of riot as such. While we talk of riot the major phenomenon which comes to mind is the so-called Hindu Muslim riot. From pre-partition times, this name stuck to such
skirmishes, which went to assume more and more horrendous proportions over a period of time. There are calls for bandh, calls for direct action or at
times an event is given the twist to project as if the community is under the threat of an attack so there is a need to take up arms.

This becomes possible to begin with due to the massive hatred spread against the ‘other’ community. In pre partition times Muslim League indulged in spreading anti Hindu poison and Hindu Mahadsabha-RSS indulged in
spreading anti Muslim venom. These sentiments of hatred against the ‘other’ community are the fertile soil in which particular events can be given a
communal twist, or calls for attacks in a veiled language can be given. So many an events can take place in the society but unless the inherent hatred
for the other community is there they cannot be translated into violent episodes.

After the partition process, those from amongst the hate spewing machines, Muslim communalism got deflated, Hindu Mahasabha got eclipsed and RSS
proliferated as the time passed by. It went on from strength to strength, and from organization to organization, manned by the Hate embodiments, the RSS swayamsevaks, whose core ideology is based on the Hate ‘other’. By now there are over 150 RSS progenies doing the job at various levels apart from those swayamsevaks who have infiltrated in media, education and bureaucracy.

Grounded on Hate, certain incidents are twisted to give it a provocative interpretation, a call for action to attack the other community. Sociologist
Dipanakar Gupta in one of his recent articles in a popular newspaper outlined the role of ethno-preneur in giving such a twist to the events. This soldier of
communal politics is on the look out for the chance to convert a Human tragedy into a ladder for his political enhancement, into enhancement of his
communal agenda, into converting it into a riot. In recent past two such ethno-preneurs can easily be discerned. The first one amongst these is Mr.
Balasaheb Thackeray, who gave an open call to Hindus to ‘deal’ with the rising attacks on them. The detailed analysis of the events of Mumbai riots shows that the scattered isolated, unrelated events of murder of Mathdi workers and the burning of Bane family was projected as the onslaught by Muslims on Hindus. And so the call that Hindus should become aggressive. The call was duly backed up by regular instructions. And than one sees over 900 dead bodies. One witnesses property worth 10000 crores going up the
smoke. Most of this is well chronicled and investigated in Shirkrishna Commission report. On the dead bodies of the riot victim’s Hindu community got its first Soul Emperor (Hindu Hriday Samrat), none other than Balasaheb Thackeray, who was the ethno-preneur

A train is burnt in Godhra. One is not sure how and why it has happened. it needs to be investigated and the guilty need punished. Here another ethno-preneur is lurking in the wings. Without wasting time he declares that this is the act of International terrorism, in association with the much-hated Pakistani ISI and their ‘natural associates’ the local Muslims. He instructs all those concerned in controlling the riot, to sit back and relax. Those given these instructions take the cue and duly assist the ‘process of revenge of Godhra’. Two thousand lives down the gutters of fire, twenty thousand worth property down the drain, another Hindu Soul Emperor emerges, Narendra Modi.

Prior to this many a riots had taken place. In most of the investigations of the riots, Madon (Bhivandi), Ahamdabad (Jagmohan) Kanyakumari (Vythathil)
Bhagalpur, Meerut and others the inquiry commissions did come to the conclusion that the role of ethno- preneur is generally played by some scattered RSS organization, especially put together for the purpose
but drawing from the existing organization already being conducted by a swayamsevak. Congress was ruling. Within Congress and within administration there are elements that have been communalized. Congress did not deal with riots in an effective manner, many a times it just looked the other way around, when the carnage was in progress. Guilty either got promoted (Thackeray, Modi) at worst and remains unpunished at
best.

To look at riots just as to under whose regime they took place is to overlook the bigger reality. The truth of riots involves multiple factors and each of
this contributes at a different level. Pastor Stains burning took place under a particular regime, looking at that alone does not give us the full picture. We
have to see as to who is spreading the anti Christian venom in villages and Adivasi areas, which organization or individual is instigating others to
join in such inhuman acts a so on. Anti Muslim riots took place aplenty under Congress regime. We have to see who has been spreading hatred against this
community, who is instrumental in spreading the myths about them, which by now have become a social common sense. These myths spread systematically by different progeny of RSS, and this is the ground on which the events are taken up by ethno preneuers and converted into the riots, which benefit their political agenda.

Shahi imam and others’ observation that more riots took place under Congress regime is a very superficial and distorted way at looking at things. It does not help us in apportioning the blame of riots properly. We have to delve deep in order to understand the nature of these political formations to come to
conclusions, especially which are going to have a far-reaching effect on our political future. In that sense the worst of Congress crimes come nowhere close to the machinations of RSS which operate at multiple layers and which is making the life of minorities miserable in this country. It is this, which is a big obstacle to the efforts to get the justice for the weak sections of society.

The RSS like formations, and their progeny are in a different league altogether. Since they do not hold to the values of democracy, affirmative actions and human rights, they should not be compared with potentially democratic organizations, which under the grass root pressure can become better tailored for democratic polity.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made it a point to keep visiting temples when visiting other countries. His visit to Dhakeshwari Mandir and Ramkrishna Math in Bangla Desh were part of his itinerary (June 2015). On the heels of this he is planning to visit the oldest mosque in India. This happens to be Cheraman Jama Masjid in Thrissur in Kerala. Contrary to the present perception and propaganda that Islam came to India with Muslim kings with sword in one hand and Koran in the other, the initial Islam in India came via the Arab traders in Kerala to begin with. It is due to this that the first mosque in India came up in Kerala. Wikipedia gives the brief history of this mosque. There were trade relations between India and Arabia. Arabian trader used to come to Malabar Coast even before the advent of Islam. With the rise of Islam in Saudi Arabia, the traders brought this faith with them.

“Cheraman Perumal, the Chera king, went to Arabia where he met the Prophet and embraced Islam and changed his name to Tajuddin. From there he had sent letters with Malik Ibn Dinar to his relatives in Kerala, asking them to be courteous to the latter. In the 7th Century, a group of Arabs led by Malik Bin Deenar and Malik bin Habib arrived in north Kerala and constructed a Masjid at Kodungalloor, naming it after their contemporary Cheraman Perumal.

This interesting peep in to the history; when the issues related to mosque, church and temple is very much in the air; should help us to delink religion from politics. Modi’s associates within BJP and with RSS family (Sakshi Maharaj and the like) have begun asserting that Ram Temple will be built soon at the site where Babri Mosque was demolished. As Modi led NDA Government came to power we witnessed a series of attacks on Churches in Delhi, which many tried to pass off as series of thefts, despite the fact that not much was stolen; only damages were there, religious symbols were desecrated. The trend continues. In Atali in Haryana the violence was unleashed and the half built mosque was destroyed. In Rajagir (Bihar) the issue of holy place is being raked up. Subramniam Swami of BJP is facing a court case for saying that Temple is a holy place but mosque is not a holy place.

The communal politics has been built around the issues related to identity. Even during freedom movement when the communal streams (Muslim League-Hindu Mahasabha-RSS) came up the issues related to pig in the mosque and beef in temple were made the pretext of violence. In Independent India the story begins with Ram Temple issue in the decade of 1980s when BJP made it a political issue. Its seeds were sown in 1949 when some miscreants installed Ram Lalla Idol in the mosque. The rest is history. The culmination of this has been that the Allahabad High Court gave the verdict on the ownership of land on the grounds of faith of majority community, and divided it into three parts. The judgment was a precedent of sorts as faith became the base of judgment. The matters are pending in Supreme Court but to keep the pot boiling VHP-BJP has started making noises for construction of temple.

There is a long trajectory of incidents related to mosque-temple-dargah. Disputes have been constructed around them systematically. In Karnataka the Baba Budan Giri dargah was claimed to be the Datta Peetham. In Hyderabad near Charminar, Bhgyalaxmi temple is gradually being extended to be dangerously close to the Charminar. In Madhya Pradesh Kamaal Maula Masjid in Dhar has been claimed to be Bhojshala. In most of these places the campaigns were launched and polarization around these was brought in leading to electoral benefit to BJP at most of the places.

Historically it is amusing to see that while kings had diverse policies towards the holy places, the communal historiography which became prevalent looked at Muslim kings as destroyers of temples. This irrespective of the fact the Kings were there to rule primarily for power and wealth, religion being incidental to their policies. Emperor Asoka was the only king who worked for spreading his religion, Buddhism. Kings also could not rule just on the strength of sword and had to respect the faith and feelings of their subjects. That’s how we see that Babar in his will to Humanyun writes “Son, this Nation Hindusthan has different Religions. Thank Allah for giving us this Kingdom. We should remove all the differences from our heart and do justice to each community according to its customs. Avoid cow-slaughter to win over the hearts of the people of this land and to incorporate the people in the matters of administration. Don’t damage the places of worship and temples, which fall in the boundaries of our rule. Evolve a method of ruling whereby all the people of the kingdom are happy with the King and the King is happy with the people.”

Tipu Sultan got the temple of Shrirangpatanam repaired after it was damaged due to the attack by Maratha armies. Primary cause of destruction of Somanth temple was the massive wealth kept there. Even Babri Mosque has been the pretext of biggest communal polarization in recent times. Hindu King Shivaji got a mosque built at the entrance of his fort in Raigadh. ## The clever British policy of introducing communal historiography and dividing the history into Hindu, Period, Muslim period and British period paid them rich dividends and the communal streams picked this version from their angles and this came in handy to incite the feelings of people.

Currently as India on one hand has claims for industrial growth and the figures of GDP are juggled to silence the critics, the fact is that India as a country is very low on the index of human development and per capita calorie consumption by large section is declining. At such a time the issues around temple and a mosque are a definite derailing of the priorities of the society. Lately many from RSS stable have been making damning statements about holy places. Yogi Adityanath of BJP said that non Hindus should not be permitted in Haridwar’s ghats. Somanth trust is barring the entry of non Hindus into the temple. Such attempts will be a great detriment to our social practices which have united the society. People from different religions keep visiting places of all the faiths. These are practices where people overcome the religious divides in practice. These will weaken the fraternity which is integral part of our values.

While watching the TV debates on Ayodhya temple-mosque issue, one can see VHP spokespersons beating their breast that Lord Ram has to live in the tent, while he deserves to live in the Bhavya (great) temple. Here is the question, contrary to the belief of communal forces; for most of the medieval saints; the place of worship was within one’s own heart and soul. The identity issues have been brought to the fore by communal forces for their own vested interests. What we need is not the issues related to identity but struggle for a society which wants to see that all its citizens have bare minimum facilities, food clothing, shelter, employment health and dignity.

Lord Ram and Allah are almighty and the mortals like us, including the breast beaters from communal formations, should prefer to see that the housing is provided to all the mortals, ordinary people so that they don’t have to live on the pavements-slums and suffer the ignominy. Can one hope that rather than presenting the past in a one sided; divisive manner we look at the story from all the angles, and put forth the rational one. We need to cultivate our faith for well being of all our society as a whole on the lines of Vasudhaiva Kutumbkam.

Caste hierarchy is a major obstacle to social justice. Adding to the plethora of theories regarding its origin, the RSS has recently brought out three books — Hindu Charmakar Jati, Hindu Khatik Jati and Hindu Valmiki Jati — where it is argued that atrocities by Islamic rulers in medieval times led to the emergence of untouchability and the lower castes.Sangh leaders claim that these castes did not exist prior to the “foreign invasion”. According to Bhaiyyaji Joshi, No. 2 in the RSS hierarchy, Hindu scriptures never referred to the Shudras as untouchables.

“To violate the Hindu swabhiman (dignity) of the Chanwarvanshiya Kshatriyas, the foreign, Arab, Muslim invaders, the beef-eaters, forced them to do abominable work such as killing cows, skinning them and throwing their carcasses in deserted places. The foreign invaders thus created a caste of charma-karma (dealing with skin) by giving such work as punishment to proud Hindu prisoners,” writes Joshi.

On the contrary, the origin of the caste system predates the “Muslim invasion” by many centuries. The Aryans considered themselves superior and called the non-Aryans krshna varnya (dark skinned) and anasa (those with no nose). Since the non-Aryans worshipped the phallus, they were considered non-human or amanushya.

Both the Rig Veda and Manusmriti prohibited the lower castes from coming close to the upper castes. They had to live outside the village. Society was divided into four varnas during the Rig Vedic times and this developed into a rigid caste system by the time of Manusmriti.

Untouchability had been introduced by the 1st century AD and Manusmriti, written a century or two later, codified the social practices of the time. The text clearly reveals the despicable practices that the upper castes had imposed upon the lower castes. The advent of Muslim invaders happened much later — around 11th century AD.

Over time, the caste system became hereditary and determined the rules for social intercourse and marital relations. The Shudras were excluded from caste society, and the upper castes were barred from dining or marrying with them. Notions of ‘purity’ and ‘pollution’ were enforced strictly to maintain caste boundaries. The Shudras became untouchables. It is this rigid social division that Manu’s Manav Dharmashastra (Human Law Code) codified.

MS Golwalkar, a pioneering ideologue of the RSS, defended the caste system in a different way. “If a developed society realises that the existing differences are due to the scientific social structure and that they indicate the different limbs of the social body, the diversity would not be construed as a blemish,” he wrote in an article for the Organiser in 1952.

Deen Dayal Upadhyay, another major Sangh Parivar ideologue, wrote in his 1965 book Integral Humanism: “In our concept of four castes (varnas), they are thought of as different limbs of virat purush (the primeval man)… These limbs are not only complementary to one another, but even further, there is individuality, unity. There is a complete identity of interests, identity, belonging… If this idea is not kept alive, the castes, instead of being complementary, can produce conflict. But then, that is a distortion.”

BR Ambedkar saw the struggles against the caste system as a ‘revolution’ and the reinforcement of the system as a ‘counter-revolution’. He divided the ‘pre-Muslim’ period into three stages: Brahminism (the Vedic period); Buddhism, connected with the rise of the first Magadh-Maurya State and representing the revolutionary denial of caste inequalities; and ‘Hinduism’, or the counter-revolution that consolidated Brahminical dominance and the caste hierarchy.

Shudras were treated as untouchables much before the invasion of Muslim kings. The rigidity and cruelty of the caste system and untouchability intensified during the post-Vedic and Gupta period. Later, new social movements such as Bhakti partly reduced the intensity of caste oppression and untouchability. The doctoring of this history by the Sangh ideologues is motivated by their political agenda and tries to hide the truth.

After staging the Yoga spectacle on June 21, 2015 on Rajpath in Delhi, the Modi government now plans to celebrate Rakhi, Raksha Bandhan on a grand scale in late August. This plan has full approval of its parent organization, the RSS. Now a Hindu religious festival will be given the status of a national festival. It surely is indicative of the deeper agenda of narrow nationalism this government has in mind.As such, this festival Raksha Bandhan stands for ‘bond of protection’ and is amongst the very popular festivals, primarily celebrated by Hindus, Jains and some Sikhs. There are legends which point to the innovative use of this festival for goals which are beyond the religious identity so to say.

There is a tale of Rani Karnavati of Chittor sending a Rakhi to emperor Humayun when she was faced with the attack by Bahadur Shah (1535), the Sultan of Gujarat. Touched by the gesture of the Hindu queen, the emperor set off to defend her, but it was too late to defend Chittor by the time he reached there.

This Rajasthani narration is doubted by many historians. Whatever be the truth, this tale does reflect Hindu-Muslim amity in medieval times, and it does reflect the Ganga-Jamani tehzeeb (syncretic culture) which was the kernel of the subcontinent.

Another legend is the invocation of Rakhi by Guru Rabindranath Tagore in the aftermath of the partition of Bengal by the British (1905) on communal lines. To register the protest against British policy and to cement the bonds between the two major religious communities, the poet laureate gave the call of celebrating Raksha bandhan as a bond of unity between Hindus and Muslims. This was also a time when the communal forces had begun articulating the sectarian mindset, trying to promote aversion for the ‘other’ community.

While the communalists from both the communities went on articulating hatred against ‘other’ community, this type of incidents show the deeper bonds which prevailed amongst Hindus and Muslims during the freedom movement, these were the bonds which reflected Indian nationalism at the social levels.

There are multiple other instances where Rakhi has acted as a symbol of love and unity cutting across social groups, kingdoms and clans. While all this is in place, the fact is that primarily Rakhi is a reflection of patriarchal relations. Here the sister is tying the thread on the wrist of her brother wishing for his well-being. The brother in turn is pledging to protect her all her life.

While recognizing the other lovely narrations, like ‘Rakhi brother’ (one who is not a biological brother but becomes brother after Rakhi is tied) etc. the core of the festival does remain structured around gender equations of prevalent from feudal times. Its meaning and tenor has not changed so far despite the development of industrial-democratic society and despite the concept of equality of women to coming to fore.

It is unnecessary to judge the past society by the values of the present times, but it all the same calls for revision in the symbols and rituals in the direction in which we aspire to go. The overdue just demand for gender equality is what we need. Today the deeper meaning of Rakhi needs to be understood before carrying on with it in the same form.

Many Hindutva ideologues are harping on the point that this festival empowers the woman to choose her brother, who is not a biological one. Brother in present equations stands for protection along with control as well while what women want is parity, the freedom to choose their way of life and their life partner. The intriguing fact of the rise of Khap Panchayats with the rise of communal politics needs to be underlined. Such social groups are intimidating and attacking the couples who make their own choices in matters of selection of life partners.

A promotion of this festival with inherent gender hierarchy means reinforcing curbs on freedom of women.

Primarily, festivals of this type are social. Holi, Diwali, Eid, Christmas are social events of joy, celebration. Many politicians and organization celebrate it at social-community level. Social festivals are family-community events. Two major questions which the decision of the Modi Sarkar raises are: one, why a Hindu festival is being presented as a national festival, and why the government should come forward to promote social festivals?

National festivals have to be restricted to the one’s which are related to freedom movement, a
phenomenon, which built us as an Indian nation.

In a plural society one religion cannot be singled out to become the national religion and a secular state does not go in for organizing the celebration of religious festivals, majority or minority. Government should not come in the arena of social festivals; communities are already doing that. It seems this government wants to give a subtle message of the deeper gender related agenda; that of the subordination of women as well through this festival.

All narrow nationalisms and ideologies which take recourse to the label of religion or race have this agenda inherent in them. Be it Christian fundamentalism, Islamic fundamentalism or Hindu fundamentalism, they all take recourse to some or the other pretext from the past or present to restrict the freedom, equality of women.

In a society where Khap Panchayats are becoming more visible, what is needed is the program to empower women for economic self-sufficiency and the promotion of an emotional build up which looks at both the genders on par. What should be promoted is the tendency for mutual help and coordination amongst siblings where they support each other on par in building their lives around their free choices.

The deeper agenda of RSS, upholding a patriarchal mindset is very well reflected in the celebration of this festival. Perpetuation of patriarchal norms is inherent in the very nomenclature of RSS. The term Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh is masculine (Swayam, self) in contrast to its women’s organization which is Rashtra Sevika Samiti, sans the swayam, the ‘being’. Women’s being is missing in this scheme of things and that’s what is aimed to be strengthened by such festivals being organized at the national level. The apparently innocuous is certainly not so.

While the communities prefer to stay in the localities frequented by their likes, the growing communal segregation of Hindus and Muslims in most north Indian metros, and to some extent, in smaller towns also, is frighteningAs per the report from Ahmedabad (12th April 2015), the uniform at the Shahpur School – where most of the students are Hindus – is saffron and the color of uniform in Dani Limda school – where almost all the students are Muslims – the color is green.

This is absolutely shocking. One knew that the ‘ghettoization’ of Muslims in Ahmedabad is probably the worst case in the country, but for things to go this far is simply unbelievable.

The process of communalization worsened after the 2002 Gujarat carnage, and this one is surely its most blatant, extreme expression.

While the communities prefer to stay in the localities frequented by their likes, the situation in most north Indian metros, and to some extent, in smaller towns also, is frightening when it comes to the segregation of communities.

In Ahmedabad, particularly post-2002 carnage, the majority of nearly 12 per cent of the Muslim population has been forced to live in the Juhapura and Shah Alam areas, both predominantly Muslim areas. Irrespective of their socio-economic profile, Muslims are not permitted to buy houses in mixed localities. The banks don’t extend their credit card facilities in these areas, neither do food outlets deliver pizzas etc.

In India, the phenomenon of ghettoization of the Muslim community has run in parallel with and as an aftermath of communal violence.

Once violence occurs in a particular city, not only is that particular city affected very severely but the fallout is seen in other cities as well. Places like Mumbai, Bhagalpur, Jamshedpur and Muzzafarnagar in particular are vulnerable to suffering tensions and ghettoization following communal violence of larger degrees.

In cities like Delhi, too, this phenomenon is clearly discernible to the extent that even the Muslim faculty members of the JNU – the prestigious university tagged as a ‘liberal’ institution – also prefer to live in the Muslim majority areas.

The builders in major cities make it a point to not sell housing units to members of the minority community. I know of a faculty member of the prestigious Tata Institute of Social Sciences Mumbai being denied a house because of his religion.

Mumbai is probably the most cosmopolitan city with great cultural diversity. But even here, the famous film star and social activist Shabana Azmi was denied a house in a mixed locality, as was actor Emran Hashmi.

There is a long chain of phenomena leading to such situations, where religion becomes the central marker of one’s identity, overtaking national identity, before even the right to housing of one’s choice is practically ruled out. These unwritten rules are a part of social practices.

As it happens, we are currently in the middle of a debate featuring the phenomenon of ghettoization: There is talk of making separate colonies for Kashmiri Pandits in the Kashmir Valley.

This plan is being opposed by different quarters as it is bound to lead to a ghetto-like situation for the Pandits. The Kashmiriyat culture – the core point of Muslim-Hindu amity in the valley – has already been undermined due to the strife raging in the valley for over two decades. On top of that, such a scheme from the government will further enhance the divisiveness in the state.

How do we deal with a situation where divisiveness created by communal politics is ruling the roost?

On a visit to Singapore, I saw the massive housing colonies in different residential clusters. I was told that within these housing complexes, there is a quota system of the allotment of housing units in the same complex along ethnic lines. Different ethnic groups, Malays, Chinese and Tamils have been allotted certain percentages according to their proportion in the population.

This encourages different groups to interact with each other on various occasions and promotes amity between them.

So what do we do in the face of a situation where schools are choosing uniforms according to the religion of the children, and how come the percentage of children is overwhelmingly Muslim or Hindu in particular areas?

This is all due to physical segregation, plain and dangerous; and is contrary to the spirit of communal harmony and the values ingrained in the Indian Constitution – the spirit of fraternity.

The myths, prejudices and stereotyping in notions regarding the ‘other community’ have to be countered, not consolidated, as these very stereotypes become springboards for communal violence; which in turn paves the way for segregation and ghettoization, leading to further ‘cultural demarcation’ – the way these two schools show.

What sort of a society should we expect for our future generations with such schisms entering our education system? These divides, physical and emotional, are detrimental to the unity of the entire nation.

I remember after watching V. Shantaram’s 1956 classic Padosi (neighbor), I left the theater with moist eyes, wondering whether Hindus and Muslims could ever live like that again; whether the composite culture which India inherited had any chance of survival in the prevalent divisive political scenario. Does it?-Courtesy Dawn.

http://www.digvijayasingh.in/Targeting-Nehruvian-Legacy.html

ISP II Nov 2014

The debates about India’s partition, Gandhi murder and policies of Nehru have been a matter of ceaseless debates. Each political tendency has their own interpretation of these events, which in a way are landmarks of sorts in modern Indian History. As such the phenomenon of Partition of India and assassination of Gandhi are interwoven in the sense that Godse held Gandhi responsible for appeasement of Muslims. Godse constructed his story around warped understandings of the events of the time to create the ground for murder of the Mahatma. These views are shared by many Hindu nationalists, who are in and around RSS-BJP. Now with the ascendance of BJP to the seat of power many of its leaders are coming out more boldly with Hindu nationalist interpretation of the events, but a twist is being added.

This twist is apparent in the article by a BJP leader from Kerala in the RSS mouth piece Kesari. This article indirectly suggests that Nathuram Godse should have killed Jawaharlal Nehru instead of Mahatma Gandhi, as according to him the real culprit was Nehru and not Gandhi.

The BJP leader who wrote this is B Gopalkrishnan. He says “If history students feel Godse aimed at the wrong target, they cannot be blamed. Nehru was solely responsible for the partition of the country.” What does one make of it? Is it the official RSS line? To be on the safe side RSS spokesperson Manmohan Vaidya has distanced the RSS from the statement of its leader. Still it is not difficult to guess that there may be prevalence of such thinking within the RSS circles on the lines of the author of RSS mouthpiece article. This Kesari article is significant as it is trying to shift the blame from Gandhi to Nehru. It may not be too difficult to understand the reason for the same. Before we have a look at who was responsible for partition, let’s try to understand why the blame is being shifted from the Mahatma to Nehru. Recently Narendra Modi launched Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (Clean India campaign) on 2nd October as a tribute to the father of the nation, Gandhi. This move has two shrewd aims. One is to appropriate Gandhi for the politics of Hindu nationalism; two is to reduce Gandhi’s contribution to mere cleanliness and hygiene. This over projection of cleanliness associated with Gandhi as such dwarfs the major contribution of Gandhi, Hindu Muslim unity and national integration in the deepest possible sense.

Nehru’s staunch and principled commitment to Indian nationalism, pluralism, secularism and scientific temper make him a figure totally unacceptable to Hindu nationalists, as Hindu nationalism stands for the values totally opposed to these. So the attempts like this article are planned attempts for tasting of waters by throwing up Nehru’s name as the culprit for the partition tragedy.

As such Gandhi, Nehru and Patel were the most prominent leaders of the anti colonial freedom movement. Gandhi was the central pillar, who built up the anti-British-Indian nationalist mass movement, gave it solid foundations and then gradually became the moral guide for the same. He passed the major mantle of his responsibilities to Nehru and Patel. Most of the times Hindu nationalists, Hindu Mahasabha-RSS, were critical of Gandhi’s efforts for Hindu Muslim unity. The Muslim communal stream, Muslim League looked at Congress as a party representing Hindus alone. The truth is that majority of people from all religions were with the Gandhi led movement for Indian nationalism. It is only after 1940s that more Muslims started shifting to Muslim League due to the rise of communalism.

Gandhi was criticized by both communal streams, Hindu communal stream criticized him for appeasing Muslims, and Muslim communalists called him a Hindu representative. Partition was due to multiple factors. The first and foremost of these was the machination of British policy of ‘divide and rule’ which strengthened the communal streams-Muslim and Hindu both. Secondly British had an agenda of colonial masters. They perceived that a united India will be a power in its own right, more likely to ally with Soviet Union in global bipolar world. Their perception was due to the presence of a significant Left wing in the Indian National Congress led by Nehru himself.

Partition tragedy was multi layered phenomenon, which cannot be reduced to a single incident. Many such incidents had their own impact on the totality of the phenomenon of course. We need to see the deeper differences between the Indian nationalists on one hand and Religious nationalists (Muslim League-Hindu Mahasabha) on the other and the clever role of British in partitioning the nation. That should be central to understanding the process, rather than putting the blame on any single individual.

As per the perception of Hindu communal stream so far it was supposed to be Gandhi who was responsible for partition and for appeasement of Muslims, now this stream is trying to shift the blame on to Nehru as they need Gandhi as an icon, though freed from his core virtues of truth and non violence, reduced to mere ‘cleanliness man’. In no way they can appropriate Nehru, as Nehru lived after Independence to nurture the values of Indian nationalism, pluralism, liberalism and diversity, the principles which were the cementing factors of Indian national movement, the biggest ever mass movement in the World. So this Keasri, RSS mouthpiece article and the façade of its being disowned!

website- www. kafila.org

Guest post by RAM PUNIYANI

A video of Shashi Tharoor speaking at Oxford on a debate related to the colonial period has been ‘viral’ on the social circuit for a while. In this video Tharoor makes a passionate plea to the British that they make reparations for the losses to Indian economy during the British rule. He puts the blame of India’s economic decline on the British and also recounts Jalianwala Bag, Bengal famine as the major highlight of British rule which reflected the attitude of British towards this colony of theirs’. Tharoor points out that resources from India were used by British to build there economic prosperity and to fund their Industrial revolution.

However, Dr. Manmohan Singh (2005), the previous prime minister, had made a very different kind of argument. In this Dr. Singh as a guest of British Government extols the virtue of British rule and gives them the credit for rule of law, constitutional government, and free press as the contributions which India benefitted from.

So where does the truth lie? Not only the context and tone of the speeches by these two Congressmen is totally different, the content is also totally on different tracks. Dr. Singh as the guest of the British Government is soft and behaving as an ideal guest and points out the contributions of the British rule and there is some truth in that. Tharoor as an Indian citizen with memory of the past; is narrating the plunder which this country suffered due to the British rule. He is also on the dot. These are two aspects of the same canvass. What Tharoor is saying is the primary goal of British and what Dr. Sigh is stating is an incidental offshoot.

British (East India Company) did come here looking for markets for their industrial products, gradually went on defeating one after another king, ruling in different areas and brought the whole subcontinent under a single rule, which became one of the ‘Jewel in the Crown’ for British as the whole wealth, raw material, resources from India were pumped out to Britain. In order to achieve this goal they did go on to introduce railways, communication network-postal, telegraph-telephone and modern administrative system and modern education to create the assistants for their officers ruling here.

The lacuna in our systems were primarily because the primary goal of British was to plunder the country and as an incidental thing; as by product; the new institutions, rule of law and later some reforms against ghastly social practices also began (like abolition of Sati). Perceptions do matter while Singh and Tharoor are talking of the same phenomenon from two different angles. The third angle is the one that was articulated by British themselves. British presented their rule as part of “Civilizing mission of the East”! There is very little truth in this, but it can be said that British also did help in the process of social reforms at times.

The major point which is unseen in these perceptions is one which had dangerous consequence on the social-political scenario and that was- British planted the seeds of divisive politics. As such broadly speaking the colonial-imperialist rule sows the seeds of ‘divide and rule’ and in this subcontinent they did it with gay abandon. In the wake of 1857 revolt, when the British East India Company’s rule was shaken, British identified existence of two major religious communities where the wedge could be driven. This is where they introduced communal historiography as a part of ‘divide and rule’ policy. James Mill with his ‘History of British India’ periodized the history on communal lines (Ancient Hindu Period, medieval Muslim period and modern British period). Supplementing this were Elliot and Dawson with ‘History of India as told by her historians’, which reduced the history to the eulogizing account of the courtiers of the kings. These played a major role in deepening the communal understanding of the past.

At social level we see emergence of modern classes, industrialists-workers and modern educated classes while the old classes of feudal lords and kings survive though with some reduced influence. The modern classes came forward to build up anti colonial movement; this movement led by Gandhi with people from all regions, religions, men and women both is what built modern India on the infrastructure of industrialization-modern education. This movement tied the people together in the bond of ‘Indian-ness’ and had imbibed the values of the central pillars of transformations of caste and gender relations. The latter aspects most highlighted by Jotirao Phule, Bhimrao Ambedkar and Periyar Ramasamy Niacker on one side and introduction of girls education with Savitribai Phule opening the girls school on the other. This group underlined that ‘India is a nation in the making’.

On the other hand the declining sections of landlords-kings, both Hindu and Muslim, threatened by the modern changes and seeing the rise of their vassals who were escaping from their grip, shouted that their religion is in danger. They upheld the communal historiography introduced by British. Muslim elite gradually came to form Muslim League. For them the raison d’être of their coming together was Islam being in danger. They held that here the Muslim Nation had been there since the time Muhammad bin Kasim had won over Sindh from Hindu Daher in eighth century and so they have to work for creation of a Muslim nation. That’s how they remained aloof from the freedom movement, which was aiming at the Secular democratic India.

The Hindu landlords Kings in due course came to form Hindu Mahasabha and then RSS. For them this had been a Hindu nation from times immemorial and Muslims and Christians are the alien invaders. They also remained aloof from freedom movement and harped on building Hindu nation in contrast to the goal set by National movement, that of secular democratic India. They constructed their own history of a glorious past of the Hindu rulers and its corruption by the Muslim invaders. Gradually they came to construct the ideology that all the ills of Hindu society are due to the Muslim invaders.

While the national movement brought together the people of all the regions, religions, castes: women and men both, the communal streams nurtured the seeds of divisiveness sown by British, and this is what led to communal violence and later the tragic partition of the country. Here also what is generally analyzed mostly is the fault of leader A or B for partition while overlooking the fact that partition was the part of continuing British policy, to have their interests preserved in the sub continent and that’s how they played their cards well enough to create a situation where partition became an inevitable calamity.

If one has to point the major problem which the British rule introduced; apart from the impact on the socio economic life of the sub continent; it is undeniably letting the feudal classes-kingdoms to continue in the face of changing scenario of industrialization-modern education. So in the sub continent on one side we see the emergence of the values of Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity as an ideology of the emerging classes, while the feudal ideology of ‘caste and gender hierarchy’ persists as the flag-mast of declining sections of society which came to be represented in the communal organizations, Muslim League, Hindu Mahasabha and RSS. These declining groups construct the ideology of ‘Religion based Nation state’ which is a unique synthesis of feudal values with the modern concept of nation state, their communal politics is a modern phenomena but derives its identity from as ancient as time as possible. As neither Hindu nor Muslim nor Christian Kings were ‘religious nationalist’ so to say; as actually they presided over on the empires based on taxation of the toiling peasants in their kingdoms. Their goals of power-wealth were written on their sleeves; sometimes they adorned the masks of Dharmyudh, Jihad or Crusade for their ambitions of expanding power.

So during freedom movement we see those working for anti colonial movement are saying, ‘India as a nation in the making’ the concept which runs parallel to modernization in transport, industrialization, education and administration in particular. Muslim League said we have been a Muslim nation from eight century and Hindu Mahasabha-RSS asserting that we are a Hindu nation from times immemorial Muslim league derives identity from the Kings’ rule while Hindu Mahasbha-RSS project the concept of nation to times when people were having pastoral pattern and later made a transition to settled agriculture. For the communalists the major transition of industrialization and modern education is of no consequence.

While the declining classes do eulogize the kings of their religions, it is interesting that none of the kings in the history set out to spread his religion, they set out to expand their empires. To make this rule grounded there of course is an exception, Emperor Ashok who did spread his religion.

Today we cannot say what might have been the course of History had India not been colonized, what patterns of Industrialization-modernization would have taken place, but one thing can be hypothesized that this communal politics, abuse of religions’ identity for political goals might not have been here to torment us, to kill and maim the innocents, may not have been ruling our streets and asserting for authoritarian structures right within the democratic institutions which the country has nourished from last six decades.

So while Tharoor and earlier Manmohan Singh are pointing to two supplementary aspects of British rule, we also need to delve deeper and see the result of their policies which gave rise to communal politics, the politics which is tormenting South Asia as a whole and India is witnessing the worst in the form of Hindu Nationalism, Hindutva which is dominating the political ideology.

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