May 25, 2015

Publication Announcement: Pluralism and Democracy - Debating the Hindu Right (eds) Wendy Doniger and Martha C. Nussbaum


Edited by Wendy Doniger and Martha C. Nussbaum

Offers a uniquely cross-disciplinary approach, which considers democracy's past and future in India in connection with the arts, the media, the history and current practice of political debate, and religious questions
Includes essays from leading scholars

Wendy Doniger and Martha Nussbaum bring together leading scholars from a wide array of disciplines to address a crucial question: How does the world's most populous democracy survive repeated assaults on its pluralistic values?

India's stunning linguistic, cultural, and religious diversity has been supported since Independence by a political structure that emphasizes equal rights for all, and protects liberties of religion and speech. But a decent Constitution does not implement itself, and challenges to these core values repeatedly arise-most recently in the form of the Hindu Right movements of the twenty-first century that threatened to destabilize the nation and upend its core values, in the wake of a notorious pogrom in the state of Gujarat in which approximately 2000 Muslim civilians were killed. Click here to read more

About the editors
Wendy Doniger is Mircea Eliade Distinguished Service Professor of the History of Religions at the University of Chicago.

Martha C. Nussbaum is Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics at the University of Chicago.

"A timely conversation about the resilience of India's pluralist democracy."—Niraja G. Jayal, Professor, Center for the Study of Law and Governance, Jawaharlal Nehru University

ISBN 9780195395532

Paperback | 416 Pages


Rs. 895

Oxford University Press
Marketing Department, Global Academic Publishing,
Indian Branch Head Office, YMCA Library Building,
1st Floor, 1 Jai Singh Road, New Delhi 110 001

May 24, 2015

Report in the RSS journal Organiser makes case for granting Indian Citizenship to Bangladeshi Hindus, Buddhists and Chakmas

Report : Citizenship to Bangladeshi Hindus


So is India openly espousing use of non state actors in counter terror operations and even across borders (Editorial, Hindustan Times)

It's one thing to warn Pak, another to follow its flawed policies

Hindustan Times | Updated: May 23, 2015 08:36 IST

It is not often that India gets to be defensive on the issue of terrorism. Pakistani commentators and parts of its establishment can, however, be expected to react sharply to defence minister Manohar Parrikar’s remarks that India will “definitely take some pro-active steps” to preempt the terror plans of “any country”. The minister said: “We have to neutralise terrorists through terrorists only.” He subsequently clarified that he did not intend covert actions to be undertaken “by our own people” but that may not entirely reassure neighbours.

The remarks may have been motivated by the government’s intent to reiterate that India can raise the costs if State and non-State actors in Pakistan were to plot terror strikes in India — in line with New Delhi’s approach to step up intensity of firing across the LoC when responding to ceasefire violations, as was the case last winter. Perhaps a direct statement of intent would have worked better; the controversy will fan the Pakistani narrative, which New Delhi has denied, that India is waging a covert war within Pakistan by aiding rebels in Balochistan. Pakistan has long alleged Indian involvement in an effort to draw an equivalence between India’s alleged support to Baloch insurgents and its own barely disguised support to the insurgency in J-K. The Pakistani establishment has also been insisting that India’s consulates in Afghanistan plot covert activity and some analysts even suggest that insurgents of the Tehreek-e-Taliban — currently fighting the Pakistani army in North Waziristan — are also backed by New Delhi.

There is also a serious principle at stake here. By explicitly indicating its openness to such covert activity, India risks undermining its firmly held belief that terrorism should not be used as an instrument of State policy. In fact, a significant measure of India’s diplomatic successes vis-à-vis Pakistan after 9/11 can be attributed to the narrative on “cross-border terrorism” that it crafted and rolled through the international community. Any suggestion about using terrorism for diplomatic ends undercuts India’s moral authority on the issue and weakens its case in the event of terror attacks in the future. This has domestic implications too. Proscribing Maoists, for instance, for terrorist violence becomes less convincing when the State itself sees it as a convenient bargaining tool abroad. Not only is such an approach diplomatically untenable, it can also be counterproductive — risking reprisals and other political complications. And if there is anything Pakistan’s experience has shown, terrorists do not always do the bidding of their masters and often turn against them. We ought to stay away from such artifices.


So what happened during Adityanath's Trip with right wingers to Nepal for Earthquake relief

Yogi Adityanath plans Nepal trip with team to reconstruct temples

HT Correspondents, Hindustan Times, Lucknow| Updated: May 04, 2015 00:37 IST

Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) MP from Nepal-bordering Gorakhpur,Yogi Adityanath plans to lead a team of right wing organisations to Nepal to assist in the reconstruction of the temples that were damaged in the earthquake.

Adityanath, who is the head priest of the Gorakhnath Mutt in Gorakhpur, visited Sonauli town, which is on the border, on Saturday to oversee relief work done by his Gorakhnath temple trust. “Two teams sent by the Gorakhnath temple trust are carrying out relief and rehabilitation works in Kathmandu valley as well as the Gorkha district that was the epicentre of the earthquake. I visited some villages and assured all assistance to the quake victims. The inclement weather is playing villain in the relief work” he said.

The MP said that India has a cultural and religious bond with Nepal. “The temples and pagodas in the Bhaktapur area have been badly damaged. The Gorakhnath temple trust has a long association with Nepal and has built some of the temples as well. Once the situation turns normal we will hold talks with the Nepalese government for the reconstruction of the temples”, he said.

Adityanath said he had met officers of security agencies on the border and held discussions regarding measures being taken to check infiltration of the anti-national and anti-social elements into India after the earthquake. “The central intelligence agencies have already sounded an alert that anti-national elements might take advantage of the chaos in Nepal to enter India and engage in disruptive activities,” he said. [. . .]

Abhaya Asthana, president of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America to speak at the US hindu catholic interfaith conference


Religious teaching that drives Isis to threaten the ancient ruins of Palmyra (Hassan Hassan)

Religious teaching that drives Isis to threaten the ancient ruins of Palmyra

By Hassan Hassan

May 24, 2015

Most historical sites under Islamic State control in Iraq and Syria remain intact. Palymyra might be different precisely because of western warnings


Amid the horrors that Islamic State has unleashed across the Middle East, many observers are holding their breath as they contemplate the fate of one of the world’s most cherished cultural sites.

The clock is ticking for the Roman world heritage site at Palmyra, in central Syria. After Isis obliterated the historical Assyrian city of Nimrud in Iraq last month, many fear a similar fate awaits the ruins after the group seized Palmyra from the Assad regime.

The city was once a Silk Road hub and one of the cultural centres of the ancient world. It has mythological status in Syria and is home to some of the most beautiful and well-preserved ruins of antiquity, including the Temple of Bel, built in the first century.

The Observer’s architecture critic, Rowan Moore, says the ancient Roman site is “exceeded by very few others: those in Rome itself, Pompeii, possibly Petra in Jordan. Its temples, colonnades and tombs, its theatre and streets are extensive, exquisite, distinctive, rich. The loss of Palmyra would be a cultural atrocity greater than the destruction of the buddhas in Bamiyan.”

So what is the logic behind such destruction? And how likely is it to occur? Warnings about the fate of Palmyra might do more harm than good. Most of the historical sites in Isis territory in Iraq and Syria remain intact. In March, the group even released a photo essay of historical sites in Raqqa, Syria.

The ruins at Palmyra would not normally qualify for destruction by Isis, but the attention drawn to the site might tempt the group to destroy them as a way to inflict psychological pain.

For Isis, only artefacts that involve a deity or worship must be destroyed. This also applies to shrines of saints because, according to the group’s cleric, they compromise absolute devotion to God. Such issues fall under so-called shirkiyat (polytheistic practices), a Salafi concept to justify crackdowns mostly on Sufi and Shia practices. Under this concept, clerics have the discretion to punish worshippers or destroy icons if they deem them to directly or indirectly compromise an exclusive belief in God.

Primarily, Isis uses a hadith (teaching) in which the prophet Muhammad orders one of his companions to “not leave any idol without defacing it and any grave without levelling it”. In 2010, Salafi cleric Mohamed Hassan stirred a debate in Egypt after he issued a fatwa saying that individuals could sell artefacts found in their areas but should destroy them if they were statues. Isis clerics also cite a story in which Muhammad approved the destruction by Jabir Abdullah al-Bajali of a house in Yemen that fulfilled a similar function to the sacred Kaaba mosque in Mecca.

Mainstream Muslim clerics, however, argue that Islam forbade actively worshipped deities, not ancient artefacts. They cite countless examples of early Muslim conquerors sparing historical sites, including ones clearly mentioned in the Qur’an, such as those of the pharaohs in Egypt.

Isis, on the other hand, considers itself a puritanical movement, addressing phenomena that did not necessarily exist in early Islam. But as a general rule it spares historical sites that do not depict deities. It allows people in its territory to excavate the sites, but bans the use of bulldozers and heavy machinery for the purpose.

According to Isis clerics, people have the right to sell gold, utensils and antiquities, but these should not be taken from public facilities such as museums. Based on existing precedents, Palmyra’s heritage site should not be wrecked. But the site does contain artefacts that might be destroyed individually. Syrian activists report that the regime had already relocated many of the city’s treasures before its forces withdrew.

But that cannot be stated with confidence, because Isis might have other motives to destroy the city. The group often seizes any opportunity to expose the hypocrisy and double standards of its opponents.

For many Syrians, the biggest event in Palmyra was last week’s capture of Tadmur prison, one of the Assad regime’s most notorious jails. The disproportionate attention ancient ruins have received, compared with human tragedies, has disturbed many. If Isis blows up the site, it would be largely because of this deemed hypocrisy.

Hassan Hassan is a Middle East analyst and co-author of Isis: Inside the Army of Terror, a New York Times bestseller

Public Event Announcement: Hum Dekhenge - One year of the Modi Government... (New Delhi, May 31st 2015)


One year of the Modi Government...
Time to Look back and Take Stock
Let's do that Together - through music, speeches and performances
Fact based Report Cards on 1 year of the BJP Government and release of the volume ‘Passion For Justice; Pioneering work of Mukul Sinha’

Sunday May 31st 2015
6PM Onwards
YWCA [New Delhi]

Jayanti Ghosh, Economist and Professor, JNU
John Dayal, Civil Rights Activist
Vrinda Grover, Human Rights Lawyer
Siddharth Varadarajan, Journalist
Nivedita Menon, Feminist, Activist
Kiran Shaheen, Civil Rights Activist

Dhruv Sangari, Sufi Singer
Majma, Music Band
Bring back the Poets, Poetry Slam Group
AUD Theatre Group
Abhivyakti, IP Theatre Group
Gautam Bhan, Queer Standup Performer

The NOMORE campaign seeks to scrutinize government policies, tracking promises made to the people and to the corporates, being alert to assaults on our secular fabric and forging solidarities.