November 21, 2014

Announcement: meet to discuss the plight of Minorities in South Asian Countries (24 Nov 2014 @ People's SAARC in Kathmandu, Nepal)

Dear all,

Greetings from Mumbai !

You must be aware of "People's SAARC meet in Kathmandu, Nepal from 22 Nov,2014 - 24 Nov,2014. We are organizing a meet to discuss the plight of Minorities in South Asian Countries. Our objective is to develop a strong network of organizations working for the Human Rights of minorities.The second objective is to evolve a broad principles based on which South Asian Charter for Minority Rights could be developed.

We could slowly walk towards persuading a SAARC status to adopt the charter.

Our meeting is scheduled on 24th Nov,2014 in the first shift i.e. from 8:30am to 11:00am in LDTA small hall.

Are you participating in People's SAARC meet.In case you are then we would appreciate if you participate in our meeting and share with others the situation and status of minorities in your country; Laws,policies and ideologies that protect/oppress them and broad principles that should be included in South Asian Charter of Minority Rights.

We are requesting all resource persons to present their view in about 5 minutes. We would be highly obliged if you share yours views with others and contribute towards the charter and building a strong network towards minorities.

we proposed to meet as under :-




Neha Dabhade

Introduction to the purpose & objective of the meet
Irfan Engineer

Key note address, Majoritarians, Ideologies, State & Plight of Minorities in South Asia.

Harsh Mandar,
Ram Puniyani,
Kamla Bhasin,
Ranu Jain

Status of minorities in south Asian countries

Karamat Ali (Pakistan),
Zakia Soman (India),
S.balakrishnan (Srilanka),
Mohiuddin Ahamad,
Raz Mohammad Dalili(Afghanistan),
Bashir Manzar and others

Suggestion of broad principles, South Asian Charter of Minorities and strengthening network of Minority Organization in South Asia
Harsh Mandar,
Karamat Ali

warm regards,
Adv. Irfan Engineer

Centre for Study of Society and Secularism
603, New Silver Star, Near Railway Bridge, Prabhat Colony Road,, Santacruz (E), Mumbai, India. PIN: 400055.
Call: +91-22-26149668 | M: +91-9869462833, +919820553173 | Fax: +91-22-6100712
e-mail: forirf@gmail.com; irfanengi@gmail.com; csss@mtnl.net.in

India: Return of the Colonial Mind - How Hindu majoritarianism has undermined the Nehruvian legacy (Priyamvada Gopal)

Open Magazine, 14 November 2014

Priyamvada Gopal is a member of the Faculty of English at the University of Cambridge
Return of the Colonial Mind
How Hindu majoritarianism has undermined the Nehruvian legacy

There has been some discussion recently about how the ongoing project of normalising India’s Hindu majoritarian Government—and rehabilitating the reputation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to re- configure him as a man of impeccable, if improbable, secular credentials— has involved appropriating iconic national patriarchs such as Mahatma Gandhi, Pandit Nehru and Sardar Patel. Both Nehru and Gandhi undoubtedly espoused different sets of ideological commitments from Modi and his Sangh Parivar, and had ideas of India that were quite different from each other’s and from his. Whatever Nehru’s failings in policy and practice, he certainly did not envision an India run by implacable votaries of Hindu majority dominance.

While it will simply not do, as the ultra-radical sometimes tend to, to claim that there is no meaningful difference between the Nehruvian vision of a secular and plural India, and the rather more insidious brand of majority ‘toleration- ism’currently on offer to India’s minorities— whereby they will be tolerated as long as they defer in docility to majority rule— it is worth asking one question: Was there something about the moment of Nehru’s ascendance and the forging of the so- called ‘Nehruvian Consensus’ that paved the way for the present, the era of Modi’s yet to be manifested ‘Achche Din’? The answer is ‘yes’ and the reasons for it lie in a concept I have touched upon before in Open: India’s ‘arrested’ and incomplete decolonisation, which has as much to do with Nehru’s own ambivalences and compromises as it does with the existence of powerful retrograde forces which sought to hijack the new nation birthed from the ruins of empire. For all the triumphalist bluster about self-reliance and sovereignty, the India of Modi is one that is being taken back towards, not away from, the toxic, hierarchical and exploitative vision of the world set up by the British Empire, one in which the worship of corporate profit merges seamlessly with religio-cultural triumphalism.

The seeds for this lethal cocktail were sown during the immediate post- Independence era, when India, despite the great strides made by its freedom struggle, set off down a path of partial decolonisation, one which failed to break entirely from the structures, practices and habits of thought put in place by two centuries of British imperial rule. For all the important gains of Independence and the anti-colonial visions behind it, the truth enshrined in the national motto—‘Satyamev Jayate’—demands that we acknowledge the many ways in which post- colonial India has itself become a colonial state. This claim can be exemplified by many aspects of India’s present, but I will restrict myself to three related spheres which also, unsurprisingly, constitute three areas of conflict: land and resources, militarism and repression, and finally, religious nationalism and communalism. In these, the heavy imprint of colonial ideologies can be seen, with populations displaced and impoverished, innocents shot down by military forces, and divide-and-rule manifesting in riots conveniently instigated just before elections. How is it, we must ask, that a land once subjugated is becoming—or has become—one that subjugates?


What is colonialism in the first instance? After its initial trading ventures, Britain came to dominate India in order to feed its quest, fuel- led by the Industrial Revolution, for natural resources and eventually cheap labour and markets for its goods. In the process, Britain deforested India extensively, partly to build the railways, taking over forests through legislation which also disastrously restricted the rural poor’s access to them as well as other resources traditionally held as ‘commons’. The quest for fixed land revenues and land for lucrative plantations, for instance, displaced millions of the poor, who attempted, then as now, to resist, only to be brutalised by the forces of the colonial state. Were these processes of expropriation arrested by Independence in 1947? Despite some limited land reforms and labour legislation, the key feature of Nehru’s ‘mixed economy’ still entailed capital-intensive industrial- isation accompanied by the unsustainable and cheap extraction of resources, with heavy pollution part of the fallout. The Land Acquisition Act of 1894, not amended till recently, granted the State enormous power in appropriating land without adequate compensation to the poor who were displaced in large numbers, not least for dams, Nehru’s beloved ‘temples of modern India.’ Following liberalisation in the 1990s and the on- going erosion of the few environmental and labour protections in place accompanied by swifter clearances for industrial and mining projects, exploitation, displacement and environmental degradation have taken on gargantuan and unchecked proportions. India is still a site for a multinational corporate scramble for resources, with hugely damaging consequences for people and the ecology; this scramble is now being extended to parts of Africa by Indian companies. To raise concerns is to be accused of failing to ‘Let India Develop’, development that has overwhelmingly favoured the urban middle class and elites. Madhusree Mukerjee, reviewing the book Churning the Earth: The Making of Global India by Aseem Shrivastava and Ashish Kothari, notes that the capacity of India’s natural resources to sustain its people has almost halved over the past 40 years with India as a whole actually losing wealth, if ecological resources are accounted for. People’s rights campaigners Felix Padel and Samarendra Das argue that the ‘internal colonialism’ that takes the form of large-scale privatisation of resources and appropriation of cultivable tracts of land by mining companies in places like Orissa are tantamount to ‘cultural genocide’, with hundreds of communities, particularly Adivasi ones, simply ceasing to exist. To resist, which people do, is to invite being branded a ‘Maoist’ and to face the barrels of State weaponry, literally and judicially. The ‘drain theory’ propounded by people like Dadabhai Naoroji condemned the way in which India’s resources and wealth were siphoned off to Britain; if you are a poor person in rural India today, your experience is not very different.

Colonialism is to hold down a population by superior military technology, ostensibly ‘for its own good.’ Britain’s possession of India using a coercive state apparatus was justified in terms of security threats from Russia and later from Germany and Japan. Now it is Pakistan that provides justification. The great achievement in breaking free of colonial rule might have given India an ethos of sympathy for national sentiments and the will to self-determination. It was this ethos which ostensibly drove India to support Bangladesh in its liberation war against Pakistan. Why then has the Indian state resorted to such enormous violence in holding down the people of Kashmir—and in repressing insurgency in the Northeast? Is being ‘Indian’ something to be voluntarily embraced or is it something, like the ‘civilisation’ that the British claimed they gave us, to be shoved down reluctant throats? Whatever the complexities of the Kashmir issue and the fact that it has become political football with an equally belligerent Pakistan, the fact remains that in Kashmir and also towards the Kashmiri people, the Indian state behaves much like the British did towards its Indian possessions and the people of India, using ‘security’ and ‘order’ as its mantras. No surprise then, that like many other pieces of repressive legislation, including anti-sedition and Emergency laws, the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA)—which has shielded the Indian Army from accountability for thousands of deaths, ‘dis- appearances’ and rapes—was originally a colonial creation, brought into force as an ordinance by Lord Linlithgow to crush the Quit India movement, killing thousands. Nehru’s Government reworked this ordinance and passed the AFSPA in 1958 to crush a Naga rebellion. Today, as Irom Sharmila fasts bravely— for the fifteenth year running—for the utterly indefensible AFSPA to be repealed, the Army in Kashmir finds itself once again with the blood of teenage innocents on its hands.

In steadfastly refusing to address the question of self-determination for Kashmir, which Nehru left in the limbo of Section 370, and letting militar- ism run riot in the name of fighting Pakistani terrorism, how are the Repub- lic of India’s behaviour and methods different from those of a heavily armed Britannic empire 70 years ago?

The British Empire, of course, began as a multinational corporation, the East India Company. Mired in scandals, the Raj of the ‘Kampani Bahadur’ came under direct Crown rule. What did not change was the primacy of the ‘sacred hunger’, as the novelist Barry Unsworth once put it, for huge corporate profits. Nehru’s famous ‘socialistic’ leanings did not obstruct a select handful of big business houses making money through good old-fashioned capitalism —particularly in resource-intensive sectors such as coal and steel—assisted lavishly by state subsidies. Nationalism, as Burton Stein notes, was good for business. Liberalisation under Rajiv Gandhi loosened the hated bureaucratic Licence Raj and fostered a prosperous middle-class, but also made way for rampant privatisation, undermined safety nets and widened wealthy disparities: today a mere hundred Indians own assets worth a quarter of the nation’s economy. The British put in place a formidable state apparatus aimed at suppressing labour unrest and this too was deployed by the post- colonial Indian state which also failed to ratify international regulations of the ILO for recognition of trade unions. Some anti-union laws were resisted, unsuccessfully, by Muslim and Dalit groups, not Nehru. Today, the process of safeguarding the interests of business at the expense of labour has intensified, with Prime Minister Modi promising ‘minimum government’ as part of so-called ‘shrameva jayate’—this means fewer labour inspections, easier firing of workers, and an erosion of protections including those pertaining to paid leave, maternity and retirement benefits, apart from workplace safety.


Colonialism also draws on a powerful sense of civilisational superiority. While Nehru was both an internationalist and personally committed to a genuinely multi-religious polity, the Nehruvian Consensus that emerged stressed national ‘unity’ and ‘integrity’ over the claims of different communities. Where Nehru did attempt to articulate an expansive sense of nationhood, he had to give in to pressures from the right, refusing necessary safeguards for religious minorities and insisting on the need for their assimilation with the larger national culture which was rendered in a Hindu-ised language. Hindu nationalism meanwhile simply parroted the claims that votaries of British civilisation made: Indian antiquity was falsely represented as Hindu and Brahminical, steeped in greatness, a just society organised by divisions of labour rather than caste hierarchies. The same bombastic claims that Macaulay made for English as the greatest language were made for Sanskrit. The peculiar claims made by Prime Minister Modi of the existence of ancient plastic surgeons or Vedic rockets are not new; one way of dealing with British arrogance was to simply echo it by claiming that what was great about the West was already inherent in Indian culture. The approval of affluent Western countries, being visited by Modi in a parade of triumphant trips, seems as important to him today as it was to Indian elites who did well collaborating with the British Empire. Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, theorist of Hindutva, was a self-declared atheist who explicitly modelled his idea of Hindu India on Western theories of nationhood based on a linguistic, cultural and religious homogeneity. As in post-imperial Britain even today, minorities and outsiders are acceptable so long as they assimilate with British culture just as minorities in India are expected to agree that Hindu culture is the ‘national culture’ (an idea mirrored by Pakistani Islamists). Nehru, to his credit, did not see secularism as an ‘amazingly generous’ or a ‘very mighty’ gesture on the part of the majority community as it is by some today: ‘We have only done something which every country does except a few very misguided and backward countries.’

While Independence brought India hard-won gains, the Indian state retained far too much of the apparatus and habits of thought put in place by two centuries of British rule. Yet, India is also fortunate in having other resources to draw on, more expansive ways of thinking about collectivity that are in danger of being suppressed or forgotten. In the recent controversy over ‘disrespecting’ the national anthem, one thing was forgotten: its author, Rabindranath Tagore, firmly refused a conception of the nation as an ideologically limited and culturally restricted entity which could exercise force to ensure compliance. Today, as India faces the prospect of turning into the mirror image of its erstwhile colonial oppressor, we could do worse than remember the great poet’s willingness to speak unwelcome truths both to foreigner and countryman: ‘Never think for a moment that the hurts you inflict upon other races will not infect you, or that the enmities you sow around your homes will be a wall of protection to you for all time to come.

Shake in India Prototypes - A satirical swing at the Hindutva right wing shaping society (by Anonymous for now) | A poster

India: Sectarianism of the secular brigade (Ajay Gudavarthy)

The Hindu, November 20, 2014

Sectarianism of the secular brigade

Ajay Gudavarthy

The secular sectarianism of feminists, Dalits, the Left and religious minorities has ghettoised communities and is leading to a political dead end.

Political imagination in India has come to a standstill, aiding and abetting the construction of a homogenised cultural and political sphere. The roots of this lie not only in the right-wing political imagination of a Hindu Rashtra but also in the secular sectarianism pursued by secular, democratic and progressive political formations. Secular sectarianism of feminists, Dalits, the Left and religious minorities has, over a period, ghettoised communities and advanced a sectarian political imagination, leading to a political dead end that they are now finding difficult to negotiate.

Cumulatively, they all seem to have contributed to a shrinking political imagination that has in turn contributed handsomely to the rise of right-wing politics. Feminist politics in India was silenced by the demand being made by right-wing forces for a uniform civil code, unable to negotiate the competing demands between women’s rights and that of the religious minorities, after the Shah Bano case. It is a puzzle as to why they did not proceed along the lines of equating gendered practices in all religions, whether against the Hadith or the Manusmriti or the Bible, along with many other very similar practices that are sanctioned which place women as being less than equal to men. In fact, it was B.R. Ambedkar who argued that it is only Dalits and women who face untouchability due to religious sanctions.
Mobility with dignity

Similarly, Dalit politics in India moved from its focus on Ambedkar as a philosopher — and who was the chief architect of the Constitution — to a claim that he belongs to Dalits alone. In the 1980s, the demand was that Ambedkar and Phule be introduced in university syllabi and taught by all in order to understand caste. Now, the demand is that nobody other than Dalits has the right to write and talk about Ambedkar. Similarly, the idea earlier was that all dispossessed social groups are Dalits, irrespective of their caste. Today, even progressive and democratic individuals and organisations are reduced to the caste they are born into; a new kind of homo sacer — as bare caste beings. This shift, to a narrower interpretation of anti-caste imagery, led to social justice shrinking to (political) representation, where even if it is the right-wing political organisations such as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) or the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) that provide for an opportunity, it should be taken as an opportunity for mobility that was otherwise denied to Dalits for centuries.
Minority rights

Today, the case for this has grown stronger, with the RSS advancing a more de-brahmanised mode of Hinduisation, in the sense of providing for leadership for individuals from the Dalit-Bahujan communities. Here it is being argued that for Dalits, the difference between left, right and centre makes no sense. Dalit politics, however, has ceased to question whatever happened to forging a bahujan samaj, along with the Other Backward Classes and Muslims, if they were to consider the opportunities provided by right-wing political mobilisation as justified mobility towards undoing demeaned social status. After the success of the Bahujan Samaj Party, the centrality of political power in anti-caste politics has undoubtedly been a source of some of these visible shifts. If mobility with dignity is the true meaning of the struggle against brahamanical hegemony, it can be accrued only by questioning sectarianism in all its manifold forms.

So has the case been with the secular discourse regarding minority rights in India. It not only assumed Muslims and other religious minorities to be homogeneous but also articulated their concerns disconnected from other political discourses in a democracy, by mentally and spatially ghettoising them into a segregated social group. For instance, Muslim political organisations could have talked about the witch-hunt against Muslims from Azamgarh and the alleged encounter killings at Batla House and also about the same kind of exceptionalism being practised against tribals in Chhattisgarh and what amounts to the racial profiling of citizens from the Northeast. In the same breath, it would be incumbent to speak of the plight of Hindus in Baluchistan and Bangladesh, as much as the rights of Kashmiri Pandits who lost their homes, and not merely or exclusively about the Palestinians of Gaza. It is important to conjoin the rights of Muslims with questioning the views of Mr. Geelani on Hindu religious minorities and women in Kashmir. Citizenship, as a political practice, is instantiated in the right to speak for others, and not in speaking just for one’s own self alone. This becomes all the more important in a context where neo-liberalism has, in a very substantive sense, undermined empathy for others, and fraternity and solidarity of all kinds. While capital and the market depend on a process of individuation, progressive politics has to move towards affinity and an idea of shared spaces rather than focus on mere claims of essentialised identity, notwithstanding the contribution ‘identity politics’ has made in highlighting the concerns of some of the most marginalised social groups in India. This, in essence, is also the difference with right-wing political mobilisations. Otherwise, there would be very little distinction between the sectarianism of the “democratic” kind, and the divisive politics of the RSS, the BJP, the Bajrang Dal, and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad.
Decline of the Left

Indian democracy — otherwise considered to be a success story among postcolonial nations — built its foundations on secular sectarianism of various kinds. This was previously typified as the “Congress System,” where different and conflicting social groups were accommodated within the same political party. This accommodation however, retained the social status of the groups as they stood in an umbrella formation. It is this politics of forming a coalition of social groups without any sustained attempt to forge intersectional dialogue that is now visibly unworkable and which has led to a sharp decline in the electoral prospects of the Congress. It is this very strategy of maintaining a centrist polity that has gradually shifted rightwards through replicating the same strategy of forging a status-quoist coalition but for a different purpose — of realising a Hindu Rashtra — by right-wing political formations. This decline of the Congress is made even more pronounced by the simultaneous decline of the Left parties that have found themselves in a political landscape best typified as a no-man’s-land. They have not only failed to align themselves with the non-class democratic organisations but have also never failed to express mutual contempt for other Left-based political mobilisations. In pursuit of a “correct line,” they could neither respond to the political exigencies nor overcome the dogmas that they have often fallen victim to. Today, they are faced with a difficult choice, of being either pragmatic or dogmatic, both of which have only contributed to a sustained decline of the Left in Indian politics. The “classism” in the Left too failed to instil a political culture of social groups speaking for each other.

The way forward really seems to be in opening up internal dialogue within communities as also across them. These will have to necessarily go together, and include the following: raising difficult questions such as masculinity within anti-caste movements that time and again attract them towards far-right groups like the Shiv Sena; highlighting various practices of discrimination including untouchability within and between various sections of the Dalit community; highlighting communal sentiments and the inward-looking philosophy of Muslims reflected in ideas of jihad or in considering non-Muslims (barring Christians and Jews) as Kafirs, along with the unholy alliance between the politically powerful and their convenient interpretations of the Koran; disallowing a more progressive interpretation around justice and equality being the core pillars of Islam and self-righteous tendencies in the Left that refuses to listen and learn that social change cannot be programmed, scientific and sanitised, but carries with it a load of uncertainties that need to be made sense of. Also, it must find within them the possibilities to break the condensation of the polity into a majoritarian construct. Majoritarianism in the Indian polity today is growing in the interstices of secular sectarianism that have left unanswered various inconvenient questions pertaining to social groups that were considered as the subaltern. It is within this space and the growing possibility of conflicts within the subaltern on the one hand, and their joining in alliance with the traditional social elite on the other that right-wing political mobilisation is finding its new space and turning democracy on its head.

(Ajay Gudavarthy, with the Centre for Political Studies, JNU, is now visiting professor, Centre for Modern Indian Studies, Gottingen University, Germany.)

Bangladesh: Intimidation and incitement to commit violence cannot be allowed to stand [editorial in Dhaka Tribune after killing of Prof Shafiul Islam]

Dhaka Tribune, 20 November 2014

Punish incitement to murder
Tribune Editorial
Intimidation and incitement to commit violence cannot be allowed to stand

Professor Dr AKM Shafiul Islam, the Rajshahi University professor who was brutally murdered last Saturday, had long voiced concerns that supporters of Islami Chhatra Shibir men might assault or otherwise harm him.

Law enforcers must take all violent threats and acts of incitement seriously. Even one case in which a threat is followed up by an act of violence is too many to tolerate.

With many groups going around putting bounties on people’s heads, it is important to set an example against those who incite violence.

The recent placing in remand of Mozaffor Bin Mohosin for being the prime instigator behind the murder of the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat television preacher, Shaikh Nurul Islam Faruqi, in August, is a case in point.

The accused, a preacher from a different religious grouping, denies involvement in the killing carried out by a group of multiple, unknown assailants, but is well known for having regularly preached and disseminated sermons demanding “violent punishment” for Faruqi.

It is important to investigate the significant amount of evidence available indicating the accused regularly incited violence against the victim. It is one thing for a preacher to speak generally of divine punishment but to exhort followers to commit violence against a specific individual crosses a line.

Section 504 of the Penal Code on intentional insult with intent to provoke a breach of the peace and Section 505’s prohibition against statements which may induce someone to commit an offence are both pertinent to consider.

The harm done to society by repeated threats and encouragement imploring others to commit violence is obvious. This kind of intimidation and incitement to commit violence cannot be allowed to stand. We are glad that the courts are finally taking notice.

See more at: http://www.dhakatribune.com/editorial/2014/nov/20/punish-incitement-murder