February 07, 2016

India: The Puzzle of the BJP's Muslim Supporters in Gujarat (Raheel Dhattiwala)

The Puzzle of the BJP's Muslim Supporters in Gujarat

by Raheel Dhattiwala

Excerpt from Abstract:
This report examines an extant political phenomenon in the State of Gujarat: the support of Muslims for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) that many Muslims perceive as responsible for the brutal violence in the State in 2002 when at least a thousand Muslims were killed. Findings and implications presented in this report are based on 23 months of ethnographic fieldwork—in periods spanning three elections in 2010, 2012 and 2014—and an analysis of 101 polling booths in Ahmedabad city. [. . .]

Download full PDF: http://www.thehinducentre.com/multimedia/archive/01821/The_Puzzle_of_the__1821199a.pdf

India: On Gandhi’s death anniversary, need to do more than lament the tragedy (Gopalkrishna Gandhi)

The Hindustan Times

On Gandhi’s death anniversary, need to do more than lament the tragedy

Gopalkrishna Gandhi | Updated: Jan 30, 2016 15:48 IST

What makes Feliks Topolski’s painting astonishing? In a stroke of prescience, the Polish artist painted a possible future assassination of Mahatma Gandhi well before January 30, 1948. (Getty Images)

Rashtrapati Bhavan has many remarkable works of art. Of them one is astonishing. This is a large painting by Polish artist Feliks Topolski.

Its subject is Mahatma Gandhi. No big deal in that! There are countless portraits of that man, some of them being famous such as Jamini Roy’s seated Gandhi and Nandalal Bose’s strident ‘pilgrim’ in Noakhali.

So, what makes Topolski’s painting astonishing? This, that it portrays dramatically and magnetically Gandhi’s assassination by a man holding a smoking gun. A depiction of Gandhi’s assassination by a celebrated artist has to be of interest. But how does that make it ‘astonishing’?

The work is astonishing because Topolski painted it before the assassination. Before?

That is right, and that is what makes the work astonishing. In a stroke of prescience, he painted a possible future assassination of Gandhi well before January 30, 1948. The work, anticipating the event in startling detail, is, in a sense, figurative. There he is, Gandhi, looking all of his 79 years, in fact, more. It is almost as if he has suddenly aged to become something like 89, slumping, with a gnarled right hand raised in an ambiguous gesture that could suggest surprise, forgiveness, an appeal. The assassin too is portrayed with startling clarity, to the front of the stricken figure, facing us.

But the work is important for more than its anticipative, prescient theme. It’s saying something that is barely audible, but is impossible to ignore. The dying man is doing something as life ebbs out of him. He is speaking and his raised hand is also part of the message that is being conveyed.

Is ‘Rama’ on his mind in the painting? I am certain he is.

Gandhi became, as Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay has said, an ‘ichhamarani’, meeting the end he desired for himself in the ideal that Tulsidas describes in chaupai 10 of the Kishkindhakanda of Sriramacharitamanas: Janma janma muni jatanu karahin / anta Rama kahi avat nahin — sages strive from birth to birth, yet in dying they fail to say ‘Rama’. And despite his assassin’s contesting in court the belief that Gandhi invoked ‘Rama’ as he fell, that invocation will be immortally linked with Gandhi’s last moments.

But ‘Rama’ apart, there has to have been something like the last full sentence spoken by Gandhi. And it has been recorded by Pyarelal as having been spoken something like two minutes before he was shot without any knowledge of imminent death. Referring to his delayed arrival at the prayer ground that evening, Gandhi said in Gujarati to Abha Gandhi and Manu Gandhi, “I hate being late”. This very ordinary comment, a workaday remark, has no significance beyond its contextual salience. But such is the mystique of men like Gandhi that it has been raised to great metaphorical height by Lanza del Vasto, the Italian philosopher. Vasto imagines Gandhi looking his assassin in the eye and saying, “Brother, you are late.”

Metaphors are untruths that seek to convey a truth. And so Gandhi telling Godse, in this imaginary line, that he, the assassin, or his act, the assassination, was late in coming is both a fantasy and a verity. Gandhi had done everything in his power to stem the blood-tide of India’s Partition but he could not avert it, could not prevent butchery, rape, abduction, dispossession. He had said words to the effect of ‘Partition over my dead body’. Partition had happened and he was not dead. Not for five and a half months after the division. He to be washed into that river of defeat. And on 30 January, 1948, he was drowning but he was late, according to his own time, his own chain-watch, dangling famously and now reproachfully, at his waist.

Different eyes read different meanings into works of ideational art. His up-raised hand in the painting, and his tremulous forefinger can indicate a different thing to each beholder. To me they seem to say ‘Hold it! Don’t proclaim me an ichhamarani…I am not going with any sense of fulfilment…I am late…I have missed the boat…Don’t miss yours…But perhaps that is what was meant to happen…this young man who has just shot me… His violence is only a sign of the violence everywhere around us…Hatred….Spite…Intolerance…Hindu and Muslim…India and Pakistan…This way it will never end…this conflict…Now it is up to you to change things…to stop this intolerance in thought and word and deed...Don’t you miss the boat…don’t you be late…’

That finger addresses us. The assassin’s smoking gun addresses us too.

Topolski gives us the choice between the signalling hand and the smoking gun.

And then the master artist offers us two extraordinary redemptions.

The first is from the hand, firm, young, confident, rising to hold the dying man’s hand as it is about to come down. It says ‘See, Bapu, I am not late…I am right here…’

The second is another figure, above the prone figure’s right, which is unquestionably the Mahatma in an after-life, stronger and younger than his 79 years, perhaps, at a 69, moving out of the mortal frame, haloed, and confident that he has been heard, heeded.

Today, on the anniversary of that day, we can and must do better than lament the tragedy of that assassination, tragedy that it was, the greatest that has visited Independent India. We must see the smoking gun for what it is: A sputtering tube of insanity. And we must see the brave and strong hand that has been raised to hold Gandhi’s.

The hand raised by civil society to warn and check intolerance has without doubt slowed its spread. But the polarisation of our people, which is the psychological co-efficient of Partition, remains high on the divisive agenda. And terror, in all its gruesome versatility, is delighted by the polarisation. The two — fundamentalist terror and fundamentalist intolerance — fulfil each other.

Festivals used to be communal flashpoints. Our collective good sense has made riots over festivals rare. But elections, democracy’s great festival, load the communal gun. Bihar grabbed it, ejected the cartridges from its muzzle. But we cannot be too vigilant, we cannot be complacent. The steaming mouth is only at one remove from the smoking gun.

The unnamed hand that Topolski shows ready to clasp Gandhi’s is now supporting more than one man’s dream for India. It is supporting India.

Gopalkrishna Gandhi is distinguished professor in history and politics, Ashoka University. The views expressed are personal.

Attempts being made to convert India into a Hindu nation: Sharad Pawar

The Financial Express - February 6, 2016

Attempts being made to convert India into a Hindu nation: Sharad Pawar
"Some people are working with an intention of converting India into a Hindu Rashtra by distorting history in school textbooks. This will prove to be dangerous as this will harm the secular fabric of the country," Sharad Pawar said while addressing a seminar at Y B Chavan here.
By: PTI | Mumbai | February 6, 2016 3:30 PM

pawar-l-pti Sharad Pawar said that a separate ‘history wing’ will be set up at Y B Chavan Centre, and historians can take up the responsibility of organising seminars and discussions there. (PTI)

NCP chief Sharad Pawar today alleged that attempts were being made to convert India into a “Hindu Rashtra” distorting history in school textbooks and implored historians to come together and “pen the truth” for the sake of generation next.

“Some people are working with an intention of converting India into a Hindu Rashtra by distorting history in school textbooks. This will prove to be dangerous as this will harm the secular fabric of the country,” Pawar said while addressing a seminar at Y B Chavan here.

He said that an awareness needs to be created among the youth that some people are trying to “corrupt” their minds to spread poison in the society.

“Articles need to be written, discussions should take place on this issue as it is a grave matter,” he said.

“Some people are spreading rumours that Shivaji Maharaj was anti-muslim. The fact is that he placed Muslims in important positions in his army. Spreading such hatred is not good for secularism and national integration,” he said.

He said that to counter the existing atmosphere, historians need to come together, meet regularly and pen the truth so that “original history” can be shown to the country.

“If these unscrupulous elements succeed, what will we teach the next generation? There must be a mechanism or institutions to take measures to correct distorted history,” he said, adding that he will provide help in correcting facts in every possible way.

“I am the trustee of two institutions – Nehru Science Centre and Y B Chavan Centre. Historians can use the infrastructure at Nehru Science Centre and take responsibility of publishing materials against these attempts and we will circulate the material,” he said.

Pawar said that a separate ‘history wing’ will be set up at Y B Chavan Centre, and historians can take up the responsibility of organising seminars and discussions there.

First Published on February 6, 2016

India: Targetting of Dalit Student at TISS by RSS supporters Hosting Talk by Rajiv Malhotra (Sonali Waghmare)

[Reproduced from a Post on Peoples Media Advocacy & Resource Centre-PMARC list]

Dear friends,
Please find attached a note by a TISS student on the recent attempts by RSS supporters in the TISS campus, supported by the director Dr. Parasuraman to harass a dalit student because he asked some pointed questions in a talk by Hindutva-supporting author Rajiv Malhotra. I would request that this note be circulated and be put up in the dalits media watch newsletter.
in solidarity,

Targetting of Dalit Student at TISS by RSS supporters Hosting Talk by Rajiv Malhotra
Sonali Waghmare
While TISS campus was reverberating with slogans against Brahminwaad and highhandedness of HRD ministry and Hyderbad Central University administration on 25th January, posters and banners of an event by Rajiv Malhotra titled ‘Sanskrit and Sanskriti’ appeared on TISS main campus gate announcing the event.
On 27th of January around 10 pm TISS students received an email invitation to a talk organised by ‘a group of students’ titled ‘Breaking India: Return of Colonialism inside India through Intellectual Elite’. Neither the banners nor emailed event posters mentioned the organisers or moderator of the event. It may be noted that there was no invitation sent to the TISS faculty, perhaps deliberately as it is clear from the ensuing programme that there was no agenda for academic discussion or engagement.
In the India itinerary posted on his website Malhotra it was declared that he had received an invitation to the TISS by the Students’ Union. This was officially denied by the Students’ Union subsequently. The Director, has been quoted on Malhotra’s blog site as having given permission for the event to a group of students, clarifying that it was not organised by the Students’ Union.
Most of the attendees consisted of outsiders and uniformed policemen were posted outside the venue doors. It appears that the ‘presence of goons’ was planned for and perhaps planted?
The speaker spoke at length about America and what he described as American Orientalism. He spoke of how British orientalism has been replaced by American orientalism although the period of colonialism was officially over. The speaker did not speak a word about the Indian context, or his latest book titled ‘The Battle for Sanskrit’ or about Indian philosophy.
At the end of the lecture several students raised their hands to ask questions but questions were discouraged after a TISS PhD student raised the issue of plagiarism having been proved against him. The lengthy response to the plagiarism issue included justification such as wanting to keep intact his good relationship with his publisher, mention of the plagiarised author 32 times in the text instead of 35 as should have been done and the inadvertent disappearance of formatting when he cut-pasted pages of his book before sending it to his publisher.
On 30th January around 3 a.m TISS faculty received a mail from a Dalit student forwarded by a faculty member at TISS, with the accusation that participants from outside who were present at Rajiv Malhotra’s event passed casteist remarks to the effect that his way of questioning was clearly that of a lower caste (SC). The student sought intervention from TISS faculty and administration.

Subject: Seeking your intervention in false Complaint against me
Respected Sir,

This is to bring in your notice, that yesterday (29/01/2016) there was an incidence taken place in the talk organized by the few students at Old Conference hall, main campus Mumbai. Dr. Rajiv Malhotra, a right wing writer delivered talk on the topic "Breaking India: Return of colonialism inside India trough Indian Intellectual Elite". The majority audience were from outside, few of our student also attended the talk. I also attended same with few of my other friends. During the talk I had some questions, when I asked the question a lady sitting beside me asked why you are asking question with such energy, I didn't pay much attention, then she asked me "what is your caste? you must be belongs to lower caste (SC)", Still I didn't say anything to this lady and moved further and started asking question. Then she started shouting on me saying that "you lower caste people are bull-shit who always shout, you do not have manners of how to behave in academics' spaces".
After that when we were walking from the hall, one of my friends asked that lady why you were shouting and asking Amol's caste. But she didn't reply on that. Then our students started giving slogans that RSS go back due to ongoing controversies and the organizers attitude in hall. Soon after that, the RSS workers who participated from outside given the slogan of RSS Jindabad! RSS Jindabad! In response to that our student also give the slogan of RSS go back. During that one of the student from organizing team was taking a video of slogans, a another student asked that boy to stop taking same. During that I was standing there.
However, now I got know that one girl named Sumati Thusu MA IInd Year from Women Center Social Work TISS Mumbai have filed a complaint in the Tromby Police Station. I learn that she has filed case under section 354 that covers molestation. But the reality, I don't know that girl, never speak nor had any interaction. During the slogans and counter slogans, I have not seen her there. But got to know that she has file falls complaint against me giving reference of above mentioned incidence.
Therefore this kind request you to look in to the issue it need your kind intervention.

Thanking you

Yours Sincerely

Social media pages maintained by Rajiv Malhotra and his supporters accused the Dalit TISS student of manhandling a fellow TISS student during the event. Refuting these charges the Dalit student tried to draw the attention of the TISS faculty and administration to the incident of caste abuse that he had to face at the event and how a false case of molestation has been filed against him. Although TISS faculty members have expressed their solidarity to Hyderabad students in the recent case where a Dalit student committed suicide (institutional murder), in case of their own student not a single faculty member has responded to the mail of the Dalit student.

India: Haryana govt may soon issue special beef licenses to foreigners who live in the state ? (reports)



India's Government Is Becoming Increasingly Antiscience (Apoorva Mandavilli)

Scientific American

India's Government Is Becoming Increasingly Antiscience

Scientists join writers, artists and historians in protesting the Modi government’s growing interference in academic affairs

By Apoorva Mandavilli on February 3, 2016

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi
Photo by Al Jazeera English under Creative Commons

Three murders, a suicide and a rash of political appointments at universities have thrown Indian academia into an uproar against the conservative (right-wing) government. Prominent artists, writers, historians and scientists are speaking out against an intensifying climate of religious intolerance and political interference in academic affairs.

“What’s going on in this country is really dangerous,” says Rajat Tandon, a number theorist at Hyderabad Central University. Tandon is one of more than 100 prominent scientists, including many heads of institutions, who signed a statement protesting “the ways in which science and reason are being eroded in the country.” The statement cites the murder of three noted rationalists — men who had dedicated their lives to countering superstition and championed scientific thought — and what they see as the government’s silent complicity.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi leads the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which won the 2014 general elections in India in a landslide victory. The BJP and Modi, in particular, are aligned with the extremist right-wing group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, or RSS. (This unholy alliance is comparable to the relationship between the Republican Party and the Tea Party, but the RSS is a paramilitary group with more violent overtones than the Tea Party has shown so far.) Together, the BJP and RSS promote the agenda of Hindutva, the notion that India is the homeland of Hindus and all others — the hundreds of millions of Muslims, Christians, Sikhs and others in this sprawling, secular democracy — are interlopers.

“The present government is deviating from the path of democracy, taking the country on the path to what I’d call a Hindu religious autocracy,” says Pushpa Mittra Bhargava , who founded the prestigious Centre for Cellular & Molecular Biology in Hyderabad.

Despite his blatantly anti-secular stance, Modi’s stated goals for economic development are wildly popular, particularly among the country’s majority Hindus. But academics and intellectuals have been protesting the erosions on academic freedom almost from the start.

In January 2015, at the 102nd session of the Indian Science Congress, several members of the BJP government led a session on ancient Indian science and claimed that thousands of years ago, Indians had built planes that could fly not just on earth but between planets. There were other outlandish claims — that the elephant-headed Hindu god Ganesha is proof that Indian ancients knew the secrets of cosmetic surgery, for example. Scientists were dismayed, and some did call for the session to be canceled, but their primary response then was still ridicule, rather than outrage.

In February 2015, economics Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen stepped down as chancellor of Nalanda University in Bihar, protesting the “considerable government intervention” in academic decisions. That same month, gunmen attacked a left-wing politician called Govind Pansare and his wife; Pansare later died of his injuries. Then, in August, gunmen killed Malleshappa Kalburgi, a leading scholar and rationalist, at his home. “They were a threat, so they were eliminated,” says Tandon.

The attacks shocked the academic community and ignited protests from writers, filmmakers and historians; many returned their national awards as a symbol of their dissent.

Scientists were late to the table, which is not surprising, given that most of Indian science relies on government funds. Still, in October, three separate groups of scientists made statements — the total signatories now number nearly one thousand — protesting the government’s inaction against the acts of violence. (Bhargava returned his Padma Bhushan, one of the highest civilian awards in India, to the president.)

“Other people were protesting and we scientists were keeping quiet, and all these things were going on around us,” says Tandon. “Keeping quiet just didn’t seem right.”

The latest controversy is over the suicide of Rohith Vemula, a graduate student in life sciences at the University of Hyderabad. Vemula was a Dalit, a member of an oppressed caste in India. In July 2015, he and a group of other students had clashed with the student wing of the BJP on campus. University administrators then barred the students from public spaces on campus and withheld their fellowships, citing administrative delays as the reason.

There have many other such reported incidents of discrimination against Dalit students over the past two years. Some level of discrimination has always existed in India, says Bhargava, but “now the discrimination has increased many-fold, has come out in the open and is clearly supported by the Government, as it is an integral part of the Hindutva philosophy of RSS and BJP.”

On 17January, Vemula hung himself, saying in his suicide note, “my birth is my fatal accident.” His death has rocked academia, with unabated protests on the Hyderabad campus and elsewhere. Even before the incident, Tandon and others openly referred to Appa Rao Podile, the university’s vice chancellor, as the famed institution's first political appointee. Appa Rao has since left the university on indefinite leave.

Not everyone agrees that scientists should join in the fray.

“If you’re a social activist, if you’re a politician, if you’re a journalist with strong political view, no problem, you take part in the debate at whichever part of the spectrum you want to,” says K. VijayRaghavan, head of the Department of Biotechnology, the largest grant-making organization in the life sciences. “But I don't think it’s an issue which is a core scientific one.” He says the debate runs the risk of detracting scientists’ focus away from more pressing public health and scientific problems in the country.

The protesters disagree, saying every scientist is a citizen first.

“I signed [the petition] as a scientist but this is something I would have signed even if I was a professor of English,” says Sharath Ananthamurthy, a professor in the physics department at Bangalore University. “If we are quiet and if we let this kind of rubbish be propagated without strong dissent, a lie told a 100 times becomes a truth,” he says. “Talking about it, protesting, clarifying is the right thing.”

India - Banaras Hindu University’s slide to the Right: Pro-RSS teachers get top billing, ABVP students get priority

scroll.in - 7 Feb 2016

BHU’s slide to the Right: Pro-RSS teachers get top billing, ABVP students get priority

The sacking of a Magsaysay award winner from its faculty puts the spotlight on the deeper rot that has set in at the prestigious university.
Rizwana Tabassum, Khabar Lahariya

On January 2, the Indian Institute of Technology affiliated to the Banaras Hindu University abruptly terminated the contract of visiting professor and Magsaysay award winner Dr Sandeep Pandey. His contract was to end in July.

No particular reason was cited for his ouster. Just weeks before, on December 21, the engineering institute’s board of governors met to take a decision on a complaint filed against Pandey. Of the nine members on the board, only six were present. These included vice chancellor Girish Tripathi and three members of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s ideological parent, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.

When Pandey’s ouster on allegations of being anti-national and carrying out Naxal activities on campus was put to vote, two board members abstained. This means that only four members of the board’s nine voted to remove him. These details emerged in the second week of January in a reply to a Right to Information query filed by the sacked professor who taught at the university’s Department of Chemical Engineering.

Right turn

The letter terminating Pandey’s contract reveals no specific reason for his removal that was ostensibly based on a student’s complaint. Who was this student? And what was his or her complaint?

A few students of the Indian Institute of Technology in Varanasi spoke to Khabar Lahariya on the condition of anonymity and said no one had any complaint against Pandey. The ousted professor alleged that a student of the Department of Political Science filed the complaint. But Pandey did not teach in that department.

This case is only the tip of the iceberg of the rot that’s set in at the Banaras Hindu University. Since 2014, when the BJP came to power at the Centre and Tripathi took over as vice chancellor, the prestigious centre for learning seems to have taken a turn to the Right. Irregularities in admissions of students and appointments of teachers have begun to surface. As the university starts a new cycle of admissions, Khabar Lahariya takes a look at what’s wrong.

Substandard appointments

In September 2015, the university’s Department of History hired for positions of assistant professor. Among those appointed were Ashok Kumar Sonkar and Satyapal Yadav, both former Banaras Hindu University students. According to an investigation by Khabar Lahariya, both Sonkar and Yadav’s doctoral theses are heavily plagiarised. Sonkar’s research has passages, even pages, directly lifted from a book titled Garhwal ka Itihaas while Yadav’s thesis is a copy of a book titled Kashi ki Ganga Ghat. Yadav hasn’t even bothered to change the tables presented in his thesis that appear in the same order and language as in the book.

Sonkar and Yadav didn’t respond to our repeated queries.

Worried about the substandard appointments, a professor in the history department wrote a letter to the Vice Chancellor, detailing the flaws in the appointment process and the low standard of teaching in the department. The letter, dated November 16, is yet to elicit a response.

Broken processes

That’s not all. The appointment process in the history department is opaque too. University regulations don’t allow a department head more than one term. The only exception is when the department is unable to find a suitable candidate. According to sources, Professor Binda Paranjape was supposed to take over as the head of the history department last year. But she was overlooked to give the current head, Dr Aruna Sinha, her third term. Sources say that this could be due to Sinha’s proximity to the RSS.

A master’s student in the history department told Khabar Lahariya that Sinha has begun to regularly refer to the Sangh and its work on Hindutva in her lectures.

Sinha refused to meet us or take our calls.

RSS playground

Many irregularities have cropped up even in the admissions process. Take the Ayurveda department. Sources reveal that members of Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, the right-wing student body affiliated to the BJP, have benefited over other students in the admissions process. Students who topped the entrance exam were pushed lower down the rankings to make way for ABVP students. For instance, a student ranked number three was pushed down to 30 for an ABVP student who failed the exam.

The university’s Brocha sports field appears to have become a regular hunting ground for new recruits and converts for the RSS. Just two weeks ago, on the occasion of Swami Vivekananda’s birthday (another Hindu icon appropriated by the right-wing), the ground reverberated with cries of Jai Shri Ram. Witnesses said that faculty members are regular visitors to the Sangh’s meetings held in the grounds. But the more worrying trend is that the number of university students at these meetings has rapidly increased in the last year
We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in