April 18, 2024

Does Congress Manifesto Have Imprint of Muslim League

Does Congress Manifesto Reflect Muslim League thinking? Ram Puniyani Last week (4th April 2024) Indian National Congress released its manifesto, called Nyay Patra (Promise for Justice), for 2024 General Elections. It prominently talked of Caste census, raising the cap of 50% on reservations, jobs for youth, internship, and economic support for the poor among others. Its focus has been on justice for women, Advises, dalit-OBCs, farmers, and student-youth. One of its spokespersons of Congress stated that the Manifesto addresses the steps needed to undo the injustices heaped on different sections of society during the last ten years of BJP rule. Mr. Narendra Modi criticized this manifesto by saying that it has the divisive imprint of Muslim League of yore and the remaining part has been filled by the left ideology. One was immediately reminded of the fountainhead of Hindu nationalist ideology, RSS’s, second Sarsanghchalak M.S. Golwalkar, who in his ‘Bunch of thoughts’ articulates that Hindu nation has three internal threats, Muslims, Christians and Communists. The two of these threats have been invoked by the BJP at various levels and are being reiterated now. In a way it is a sort of communal dog whistle, the main weapon of BJP. Muslim League manifesto and program for 1937 Assembly elections revolved around Muslim identity demands and never talked of affirmative action for the weak. Its programs were parallel and opposite of what Hindu Nationalists have been pursuing. Mallikarjun Kharge, the Congress President in response to BJP’s allegations correctly brought out the collaboration of BJP’s ancestors-leaders with Muslim League. What is the truth? As such these ‘Religious Nationalists, Muslim League and Hindu Mahasabha-RSS share a lot in common. Their origin is the declining sections of society in the light of changes which took place in colonial India. As Industrialization, Modern education-judiciary-administration and communication came up the new social classes started emerging, the Working classes, modern educated classes and modern industrialists. The old rulers, landlords and Raja-Nawabs, started feeling threatened as their social- political-economic hegemony was declining. From the rising classes emerged the organizations of workers led by Narayan Meghaji Lokhande and Com Singarvelu and many more. The political expression of different emerging groups gave rise to the Indian National Congress among others. Their basic values were a nascent form of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. From the declining classes of landlords-kings first came the United India Patriotic Association, which pledged its loyalty to the British. Their core ideology was hierarchy of caste and gender. In due course this organization split, Muslim League in 1906 and Hindu Mahasabha in 1915. In 1923 Savarkar in his book ‘Essentials of Hindutva’ articulated that there are two nations in this country, Hindu nation and Muslim Nation. Taking off from this RSS came up with the agenda of Hindu Rashtra In 1925. Some pro Muslim League followers studying in London came up with the word Pakistan. The common thread of both these streams was that they looked at the rule of Hindu kings or Muslim kings as the glorious, golden period. They supported the British all through against the national movement for Independence. Their strategy was to ally with the British to counter the Hindu or Muslims as the case may be. Savarkar the main ideologue of Hindu Nationalism in 19th session of Hindu Mahasabha in Ahmedabad said, “India cannot be assumed today to be a Unitarian and homogenous nation, but on the contrary there are two nations in the main: the Hindus and the Moslems, in India.” Based on “two Nation theory” Jinnah demanded separate Muslim Nation Pakistan in 1940 in Muslim League’s Lahore convention. RSS unofficial mouthpiece Organiser on 14th August wrote, “...that in Hindustan only the Hindus form the nation and the national structure must be built on that safe and sound foundation…the nation itself must be built up of Hindus, on Hindu traditions, culture, ideas and aspirations.” Muslim League and Hindu Mahasabha formed joint ministries in Bengal, Sindh and NWFP in 1939. It was in Sind that the Muslims League passed the Pakistan resolution in the Assembly as Hindu Mahasabha members kept silent. Later Subhash Chandra Bose in a broadcast from Germany appealed to both Muslim League and Hindu Mahasabha to join the anti British movement. These organizations and RSS kept aloof from the massive 1942 movement. Savarkar supported the British in their war efforts in a very active way. “… every branch of the Hindu Mahasabha in every town and village must actively engage itself in rousing the Hindu people to join the [British] army, navy, the aerial forces and the different war-craft manufactories [sic].” As Subhash Bose’s Azad Hind Fauz was fighting against the British Army Savarkar was helping the British army. One can clearly see that both Hindu Mahasabha and Muslim League acted in the interests of the British. Subhash Chandra Bose was very much against the communal politics of both these organizations. His appeal of joining the struggle against the British was totally ignored by both these organizations. Shyama Prasade Mukherjee, as part of joint ministry with Muslim League in Bengal wrote to the British viceroy to control the 1942 movement, promising him that in Bengal he will ensure that the movement is suppressed there. In a letter dated July 26, 1942. He wrote “Let me now refer to the situation that may be created in the province as a result of any widespread movement launched by the Congress. Anybody, who during the war, plans to stir up mass feeling, resulting internal disturbances or insecurity, must be resisted by any Government that may function for the time being” As Subhash Chandra Bose categorized both these ideologies of Muslim nationalism and Hindu Nationalism in the same group, similar was the analysis of Bhimrao Babasaheb Ambedkar. In His book Pakistan or Partition of India, 1940, he writes “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.” No wonder any commitment for the downtrodden has to be condemned by BJP-RSS as that goes against the agenda of Hindu Rashtra. We can see the fate of deprived sections in Pakistan, which came up as Muslim Nation. Modi’s criticism of this hope giving manifesto is in tune with what his ideological forefathers were saying.

April 17, 2024

Religiosity, Space-making, Exclusion: ‘Kanwar Yatra’ Celebrations in a North Indian City | Avishek Jha (Studies in Indian Politics)

 Religiosity, Space-making, Exclusion: ‘Kanwar Yatra’ Celebrations in a North Indian City
Avishek Jha


Through an ethnographic study of Kanwar Yatra celebrations in a north Indian city, this article seeks to highlight the changing notions of public religiosity and mass celebrations in contemporary India. This article will first show how the festival of Kanwar Yatra is invested with diverse forms of religious performance and carnivalesque celebrations. In itself, these celebrations especially provide young people with avenues for fun and entertainment that combine ideas of lower middle-class consumerism with religious fervour in a public space. However, the evolving spaces that are built, even in the momentary conclusion of such a festival, are based on wider strategies of belonging and identity, often complicated further with the involvement of the state. Influenced by the projects of socio-cultural actors and political institutions, this article ultimately argues that Kanwar Yatra celebrations reproduce ideas of spatial domination, exclusion and surveillance of communities, with severe implications for minorities, especially Muslims.


The recent and growing significance of the Kanwar Yatra celebrations in north India each year demands serious attention. Over the last few years, the scale of this festival has reached newer heights in terms of intensity, societal participation and state support (Kumar, 2018a; Panwar, 2019). This article will show how the Kanwar Yatra celebrations are invested with varied forms of religious performance, devotion and spectacle. It entails community mobilization and activation of social networks within the majority community and the subsuming of caste identities into the wider ambit of Hindu identity. Marked by acts of public religiosity, this festival is an apt example to understand the growing intertwining of religious and national identity, state-led patronage of religious interests and the changing notion of religion as a ‘competing ideology’ in contemporary India (Ahmed, 2023). Moreover, the growing youth participation in the Kanwar Yatra celebrations is reflective not only of the rising trends of a ‘new consumptive religiosity’ among young people in western Uttar Pradesh but also an expression of ideas of fun and entertainment that combine ideas of lower-middle class consumerism with religious fervour (Gopinath, 2019; Jodhka, 2017; Kumar, 2018a).
However, this article will also show how the evolving spaces that are built, even in the temporary conclusion of a festival, are based on strategies of social otherization and exclusion. With the involvement of the state and the consistent efforts of a host of socio-political actors, this festival ultimately acts as a tool for political mobilization and majoritarian aggrandizement in Uttar Pradesh. Through diverse initiatives, the use of language that emphasizes the differences in communities and their rights on the city, acts of regulation and blatant discrimination, the festival reproduces spatially influenced ideas of domination, demarcation and surveillance vis-à-vis diverse communities. These developments ultimately create severe anxieties in the everyday lives of minorities, especially Muslims.
Through an ethnographic study of the celebration of Kanwar Yatra in the North Indian city of Meerut in western Uttar Pradesh in July 2022, this article argues that the notions of public religiosity and mass celebrations are undergoing vital changes in contemporary India. With a thick description of the festival, the article will look at the multiple elements, practices and actors that constitute the Kanwar Yatra celebrations and its far-reaching consequences for notions of religiosity, space-making and exclusion in the following sections.

Celebrating Kanwar Yatra

Primarily practised in the Gangetic plains, the festival of Kanwar Yatra is age-old and celebrated by millions of people across different parts of north, central and eastern India (Sati, 2021). While generally observed by a small number of people over the years, several journalistic and scholarly works show that the festival became widely popular in the late 1990s, especially following the first wave of the Ram Janmabhoomi movement and the rise of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Uttar Pradesh (Kumar, 2018a).1 However, there has been a massive rise in its popularity especially in the last decade. Kumar (2018a, pp. 115–119) has documented the rise in participation of Hindus, especially young people in Meerut and western Uttar Pradesh, in the Kanwar Yatra celebrations as recently as 2016. In his field site of Khanpur, a village in Meerut district, he notes that the number of people participating in the yatra increased from a paltry one or two to more than 30 each year (Kumar, 2018a, p. 115). This is an example of just one village in Meerut district.
Majority of the devotees, predominantly young men, participate in an arduous journey carrying the holy Ganges water from designated pilgrimage spots to prominent Shiva temples in the Gangetic belt or local shrines in their villages or towns during the Hindu month of Sawan/Shravana.2 Especially, during July–August every year, millions of devotees walk barefoot with containers carrying the holy Ganges water over their shoulders with the help of a sling, called kanwar.
Meerut is one of the key cities on the pilgrimage journey for millions of devotees travelling or walking across western Uttar Pradesh from the holy sites in Uttarakhand. The former National Highway 58 that passes through Meerut, now broken into several segments between the city and the temple towns of Haridwar and Badrinath on the Himalayas, is packed with devotees. Moreover, Meerut is also significant as one of the prominent religious sites for several pilgrims in western Uttar Pradesh. The city is known for its famous Aughudhnath Temple, which is home to one of the oldest shrines dedicated to Lord Shiva.3 Several devotees travelling through Meerut offer their prayers and perform rituals at the temple before walking towards Delhi or Hapur in west Uttar Pradesh.

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April 16, 2024

India: Food, community and elections | Bharat Bhushan


Food, community and elections


Bharat Bhushan


Prime Minister Narendra Modi accused Opposition leaders of displaying a "Mughal mindset" when videos surfaced of Lalu Yadav, Tejashvi, and Rahul Gandhi bonding over cooking mutton. Not only did he accuse them of deviating from Hindu dharma in the auspicious month of Sawan, but he also alleged that the display of bonhomie was deliberate.

The videos, the PM said, were reflective of the mindset of the "Mughal" invaders "who found perverse joy in the demolition of temples and defiling places of worship.

To dismiss this as election rhetoric would be to forget that creating controversies over meat-eating has been part of communal propaganda for over a century and a half in India.

Today's smear campaign is reminiscent of the strategy said to have been used against CM Stephen, who was contesting against Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 1980 from the New Delhi Constituency-I. It was a close contest, and the right-wing organisations backing Vajpayee wanted to take no chances.

According to an apocryphal story, the cadre was deputed to join queues at polling booths and engage voters in conversation, alleging, "Aadmi achha hai par suna hai gau-maans khaata hai (He is a good man but we have heard he eats beef)." The whisper campaign is said to have cost Stephen the election -- losing by a mere 5,045 votes!

Today's political fight is nowhere as close as it was in 1980. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Prime Minister Modi said they are comfortably placed to win the upcoming Lok Sabha election. Then why are such cheap shots directed at the Opposition?

He had also earlier distorted Rahul Gandhi's remark about the Opposition pitted against the power (shakti) of the controversial Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs)—calling it "a well-thought-out attack against Hindu religion," where goddesses are worshipped as Shakti. He labelled those who did not attend the temple inauguration at Ayodhya sinners, exhorting voters, "Ram Navami is coming, remember those who committed this sin."

By drawing parallels between the Congress manifesto and the demands of the pre-Partition Muslim League, two organisations separate in time and context are made to appear similar, divisive and only representatives of sectional Muslim interest.

While such iterations of religious identity will keep the BJP's vote bank consolidated in Northern and Western India, it is even more crucial in states where the BJP is desperate to make inroads. Hindutva is the platform from which the BJP hopes to counter the strong regional sentiment and distinct political culture in these states. Its success has so far been uneven.

The BJP has made major inroads in West Bengal, where its Hindutva rhetoric seems to have struck a chord in a state that has witnessed two partitions on communal lines. The BJP is tapping into that deep and rich seam.

In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, it won 18 seats, and its vote share was only 3 per cent behind the ruling Trinamool Congress. In the state assembly in 2021, the BJP improved its tally from 3 to 77, becoming the main Opposition party. From Sandeshkhali to Ram Navami celebrations, all incidents and festivals are occasions to polarise the Hindu voters against the 30 per cent Muslim population of the state.

However, the BJP has not been successful in Tamil Nadu and Kerala so far. In Tamil Nadu, the BJP has aggressively argued that the Dravidian political parties and their allies are essentially anti-Hindu. 'Real' Tamil culture is postulated as having been part of a unified Hindu culture till Dravidian atheists hijacked it. This thesis was bolstered by the two Kashi-Tamil Sangamam organised by the Modi government in 2022 and 2023 and articulated in the Prime Minister's election campaign in Tamil Nadu.

The BJP's state president, K Annamalai, has also held forth about reclaiming Tamil culture from the Periyar-Dravida ideology, which he says is anti-Hindu and destroying 'true' Tamil culture and society.

In Kerala, too, the BJP faces a Hindu majority that is largely oriented towards Left and secular parties. The Hindu vote here is divided along caste lines. The marginalised and backward castes support the Communists, while the Congress has a proportion of the upper caste (Nair) Hindu vote and is seen as the party of the Muslim and Christian minorities. The Muslims are represented in North Kerala by the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML).

Kerala politics alternates between the Left Democratic Front (LDF) led by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the United Democratic Front (UDF) led by the Congress. The BJP aims to break this cycle by weaning away the Hindu vote.

It tried to woo the Dalit castes through the Kerala Pulaya Mahasabha and Kerala Peoples' Front, an organisation of 21 backward castes, but failed. Nor did its militant agitation against women's entry into Sabarimala Temple amount to much electorally. Now, a propaganda film, "The Kerala Story", is about a Hindu woman being converted to Islam and forced to join the Islamic State. The threat of 'love jihad' and 'narco-jihad' is also being propagated by the BJP to also mobilise the Christian minority.

Contrary to popular belief, the BJP is not bringing out its communal rhetoric because it is apprehensive about election results. It is an offensive strategy. Prime Minister Modi has learnt to successfully twist the meaning of his adversaries' statements and actions. The forms of distortion are sufficiently in tune with communal thinking so that his supporters can easily amplify them and influence voters. It also keeps the communal divide open against attempts by the Opposition to bridge it. 

Most importantly, it is used to increase the BJP's Lok Sabha seats. Like all good businessmen, who consider anything below the previous financial year's profits a 'loss', the BJP wants each election to bring in higher returns.

Prime Minister Modi needs this more than the party because that alone can sustain faith in his charisma. Anything less will be seen as the onset of weakness in his leadership.

Disclaimer: These are personal views of the writer. They do not necessarily reflect the opinion of www.business-standard.com or the Business Standard newspaper


Savera’s second report on Hindu supremacist VHP America's trail of violence


April 14, 2024

A Sound Democracy - Music, Movement and a Mob


Video: Release of the volume IN DEFENCE OF THE REPUBLIC by Constitutional Conduct Group April 13, 2024