August 17, 2017

India: In the past, Supreme Court had stood up for inter-faith and inter-caste marriages

 Hindustan Times

Before Kerala ‘love jihad’ case, SC upheld inter-faith, inter-caste marriages in ‘free and democratic’ India

In the past, Supreme Court had stood up for inter-faith and inter-caste marriages but ordered the NIA to probe the marriage between a Hindu man and Muslim woman from Kerala.

india Updated: Aug 17, 2017 12:46 IST
Ashok Bagriya

A few years back, the Supreme Court came to the rescue of a sitting Rajasthan High court judge’s daughter, allowing her to go with a man she wanted to marry.
The girl was kept under house arrest by her father, justice RS Rathore, because the man she intended to marry was outside her caste.
The top court, however, ascertained the wishes of the woman and let her go with the person.
A similar incident played out in the Supreme Court more than 20 years ago.
Two Delhi-based advocates, Vipin and Jaspreet Gogia, approached the top court seeking protection from the woman’s father, a civil servant in Punjab. Jaspreet’s father was opposed to the marriage as she was a Jat Sikh and Vipin a Khatri Hindu.
Despite the court’s intervention, the couple were allegedly abducted by a team of Punjab Police from outside the court premises.
The then chief justice of India, MN Venkatachaliah, threatened the Punjab Police chief and Delhi Police of consequences unless the couple returned safely. Days later, the couple returned and Supreme Court blessed the union.
In a recent landmark judgment, the Supreme Court stood up for inter-caste and inter- religion marriages.
“This is a free and democratic country, and once a person becomes a major he or she can marry whosoever he/she likes. If the parents of the boy or girl do not approve of such inter-caste or inter-religious marriage the maximum they can do is that they can cut off social relations with the son or the daughter,” court said.
“Inter-caste marriages are, in fact, in the national interest as they will result in destroying the caste system,” it added.
Read more
But a recent interfaith marriage between a Hindu woman and a Muslim man in Kerala has become a matter of national security, with the top court asking the National Investigation Agency (NIA) to probe the marriage between Shafin Jahan and Akhila.
The woman’s father claims the marriage was forced and was a case of love jihad, a term right-wing groups use to allege an Islamist strategy of converting Hindu women through seduction, marriage or money.
He has sought custody of his daughter saying his daughter’s conversion to Islam was an instance of love jihad and that efforts are underway to send her to Syria to join the international terror outfit, Islamic State. The man denies the allegations.
Investigations into the allegations are ongoing .
However, a preliminary probe suggest that the Muslim man and people who helped him get married are under the scanner in a separate case of forced conversion.
A trial in the case is yet to take place.
While all of this plays out in this Kerala case -- legal experts have called the Supreme Court ordering a NIA probe “absolutely horrific”.
“I am horrified. In every case of inter-caste or inter-religion marriage, the first instinct of the court is to ascertain the wishes of the girl and protect her from any influence. But here, the court has decided to first let police investigate the matter and in the end speak to the girl,” said Sanjay Hegde, a senior advocate.
Anand Grover, another senior advocate, too felt the court order was not correct.
“Why do you need the investigation? In this case, the girl and her marriage is the core issue and not something else. Ultimately, it is about the wishes of the girl, she is an adult and she can take decisions for herself,” he added.
In May, the Kerala high court – responding to a plea by Akihila’s father– declared the marriage invalid.
The verdict had sparked a wave of protests across Kerala, with rights groups criticising the court for curtailing the rights of an adult woman.

August 16, 2017

The Rising Tide of Intolerance in Narendra Modi’s India | Shanoor Seervai (July 27, 2016)


The Rising Tide of Intolerance in Narendra Modi’s India

The resounding victory of Hindu nationalists at India’s federal polls in May 2014 is attributed to one man: Narendra Modi. Fed up with the corruption and complacency of the Congress—the party that led India’s anti-colonial struggle and governed for much of its independent history—the world’s largest democracy voted for a leader who promised an era of growth.[i]
The Modi “wave” that swept India cannot be chalked up to his political platform alone. It was the result of artful public relations and dogged hard work, which gave the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) the biggest majority for any single party in thirty years.[ii] One of the advertising gurus who played an instrumental part in the BJP’s media strategy told me in an interview in July 2014 that Prime Minister Modi’s election campaign was modeled along the lines of a US presidential one.[iii] “This was a situation where Narendra Modi equaled the BJP,” he said.
Modi’s first post-victory speech to a sea of adulating supporters included a declaration that “to run the country, we need to take everyone with us.”[iv] But his past casts a shadow over his will to quell religious violence. Over one thousand people (mostly Muslims) were killed in religious riots in 2002 during his tenure as chief minister of the western state of Gujarat.[v]
Some critics say he did not do enough to stop the violence; others believe he strategically engineered the massacre of Muslims. While a Supreme-Court-appointed investigation did not find sufficient evidence to convict Modi of wrongdoing, [vi] many senior officials of the Gujarat government were convicted of crimes including murder, attempted murder, and conspiracy.[vii] Modi, in a New York Times interview he gave in 2002—his last one—offered no consolation to the state’s Muslims and expressed satisfaction with his government’s performance. The only regret he voiced about the carnage was that he did not handle the news media well.[viii]
Two years after Modi’s triumph, it remains unclear whether he has any intention of fostering tolerance, religious or otherwise, in India. While Hindus are the majority, almost 250 million people—more than 20 percent of India’s 1.21 billion-strong population—belong to religious minorities. Muslims are the largest minority, at 14.23 percent.[ix] India is one of the globe’s most diverse countries, with a historical commitment to secularism tracing as far back as 270 BC, when Buddhist emperor Ashoka ruled a largely Hindu country.[x]
The Hindu right in more recent times has worked to thwart this history of plurality, but the tenuous nature of its political power (until 2014, the BJP had never held a majority in Parliament) always curtailed its opportunities for unfettered sectarianism. With Modi at the helm today, however, senior politicians make bigoted remarks with distressing frequency, stoking perpetually simmering embers of a fear that India’s government prescribes to a bigoted brand of Hindu nationalism.[xi]
Religious Intolerance
When Muslim computer engineer Mohsin Sadiq Shaikh was killed in western India a week after Modi took office, I interviewed the head of an umbrella organization for Muslim groups in New Delhi. “I’m glad you are talking about this case,” Zafarul Islam Khan told me. “But this is only one of several other, silent, undocumented acts targeting Muslims across North India.”[xii] Modi never publicly acknowledged Shaikh’s murder.
Emboldened by the Hindu government at the center, local BJP leaders have preyed on Muslims with a systematic attempt to prevent consumption of beef. Hindus believe the cow is sacred, and in its 2014 election manifesto the BJP pledged to increase “protection and promotion of cow and its progeny.”[xiii] Expanding a 1976 law that prohibited the slaughter of cows, a law passed in 2015 bans the slaughter and possession of bull and bullock meat in the western state of Maharashtra. Other states are following suit with similar laws.[xiv] Such bans on beef hurt not only religious minorities like Muslims and Christians, but also lower-caste Hindus, who eat beef and work in industries related to cattle slaughter.[xv] More worrying than exercising legal muscle or illegal vigilantism over what people eat, is the violent manifestation of intolerance.
Hindu mobs beat to death a Muslim man in September 2015 for allegedly eating and storing beef, which was later discovered to be goat meat.[xvi] Modi was studiedly silent as national outrage erupted; he did, however, find time to tweet a famous singer to condole her son’s death.[xvii] He waited more than two weeks to acknowledge the lynching of Mohammad Akhlaq—and when he did, he called it “sad” and “unfortunate,” but implied the federal government is unable to do anything to prevent such violence.[xviii] 
No Room for Dissidents
In the weeks after Akhlaq was murdered, writers started to revolt. Indian authors and poets returned prestigious awards from Sahitya Akademi, the National Academy of Letters, to speak out against the “violent retrogressive forces dictating terms in the field of literature and culture.”[xix] The protest was also inspired by a series of endeavors to silence writers with alternative interpretations of religion. One writer posted on his Facebook page in early 2015 that he would stop writing after facing harassment from right-wing Hindu groups for his book depicting an ancient ritual.[xx]
The BJP government’s willingness to clamp down on dissent is perhaps most insidious in the case of Teesta Setalvad. One of India’s best-known human rights activists, Setalvad has tirelessly worked to bring justice to the victims of the 2002 Gujarat riots; her network of organizations is widely credited with helping prosecutors win more than one hundred convictions against those responsible for inciting the violence.[xxi]
Setalvad has been the subject of a string of investigations since she began her work, including allegations of tampering with witnesses, and a more recent federal investigation into alleged financial irregularities of her organizations. One reason India’s Central Bureau of Investigation is persecuting Setalvad is that her organizations spent funds from the Ford Foundation to create “communal disharmony,” tantamount to threatening national security.[xxii] Setalvad told me in an interview in December 2015 that these funds, a tiny fraction of what she has received from donors over the years, were used to build a human rights archive. “It has been very difficult to continue with our justice work… their intention is to get us bogged down,” Setalvad said, referring to the time she spends defending herself against criminal charges.[xxiii]
The trend of rolling out criminal charges against dissenters resurfaced with teeth as this piece went to press. Protests broke out across India in mid-February 2016 over the arrest of a student at a prestigious university in New Delhi on charges of sedition. Kanhaiya Kumar, president of the student union, was arrested after a discussion about capital punishment to mark the anniversary of the execution of a Kashmiri man convicted of a 2001 attack on India’s Parliament.[xxiv] The BJP government justified the arrest with allegations that in speaking about the hanging, and the expressed desire of some Kashmiris to secede from India, Kumar and other students were making anti-national claims that were seditious and could not be allowed. Clamping down on the freedom of students to demonstrate at an institution of learning strikes at the very core of democracy. In his column about the arrest, political analyst Pratap Bhanu Mehta wrote, “Nothing that the students did poses nearly as much threat to India, as the subversion of freedom and judgement this government represents.”[xxv] As of two weeks after the arrest, Modi had nothing to say to the public.
 Modi’s ties to the Hindu right
What’s frightening about Modi’s silence is that it could be read as tacit approval of the mobs leading the charge against minorities, writers, and activists. It is no secret that Modi relies heavily upon the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a Hindu nationalist organization, for ideological support and manpower during elections. The RSS is a grassroots movement with thousands of local branches. Millions of volunteers across India serve its mission to create a militant Hindu state.[xxvi]
Hindutva, the incarnation of Hinduism as national identity, got a boost when in 1992 BJP leader and former RSS member Lal Krishna Advani led the charge for mobs to demolish a mosque in North India. They claimed it had been built on the same land where a temple to the Hindu god Ram once stood. The Congress government in power did nothing to prevent the destruction or stem the nationwide religious riots that followed.[xxvii] Hindutva dates back further; even as the country celebrated its independence, RSS activist Nathuram Godse assassinated Mahatma Gandhi. In 2014, less than a year after Modi had been in power, there were murmurings of RSS-affiliated parties building a temple in honor of the assassin.[xxviii]
Modi began his political career as part of the student wing of the RSS, and rose rapidly through its ranks.[xxix] Many believe he does not oppose the RSS’s blatant attempts to drive its agenda because he subscribes to it. As rationality and secularism are slowly being bled out of Indian education, he has endorsed the views of those rewriting textbooks to depict science and history as a glorified Hindu past.[xxx] He has also given his minister of human resource development free rein to appoint (often unqualified) RSS ideologues at key institutions of academic research.[xxxi]
A Brief History of Intolerance in India
Regardless of whether Modi is too secure in his power to care about the handful of voices raising concerns about intolerance, or fully endorses the censorship, witch-hunts, and cultural appropriation, it is too convenient and simplistic to exclusively blame him. India is no stranger to sectarian tension. When the subcontinent divided into India and Pakistan in August 1947, more than a million people were killed.[xxxii] The Congress leaders of independent India built secular principles into the Constitution, but friction between religious groups has diluted these in practice.
Supporters of the BJP are quick to point out that Congress’ record on minority rights is hardly pristine. Former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi responded to the anti-Sikh pogroms after his mother Indira Gandhi was killed in 1984 with the words: “Once a mighty tree falls, it is only natural that the earth around it shakes.”[xxxiii] More than thirty years later, perpetrators of the violence have not been prosecuted.[xxxiv] Congress remained in power and won subsequent elections.
It is no wonder, then, that even those Indians opposed to communalism were able to forget or intentionally ignore the accusations against Modi for the 2002 riots. Many believed that in the decade that followed, he turned his attention to economic development in Gujarat, evidenced in the state’s rapid GDP growth and relative ease of doing business. In the process, Modi forged close relationships with Indian industrialists, opening doors to oil-refining and auto companies while other Indian states remained mired in red tape.[xxxv]

Narendra Modi at the Republic Day celebrations in Himatnagar. (Source: Narendra Modi, Flickr)
The BJP’s 2014 watershed election victory was in large measure because many Indians want to see across the country the economic success Modi rolled out in Gujarat. With a majority in Parliament, the BJP is not beholden to a coalition partner and can push its sociocultural agenda. “What were fantasies in Vajpayee’s day can become a reality in Modi’s day,” explained writer Salil Tripathi, referring to the prime minister under India’s only other long-standing BJP government.[xxxvi] Both Tripathi and activist Teesta Setalvad were quick to point out the fallacy in arguing that Atal Bihari Vajpayee and his Home Minister L.K. Advani were more moderate than Modi and his top officials. They attribute any restraint the previous BJP government displayed to its political inefficacy.
Despite being ostensibly inclusive, India’s track record on freedom of expression has always been poor, Tripathi told me in an interview in December 2015. “Indians are very tolerant of intolerance,” he said.[xxxvii] The “right to freedom of speech and expression” is a fundamental right under the Constitution. But due to fears of the recurrence of religious violence India witnessed at partition, its criminal law includes several provisions, including ones on obscenity and religious offense, which restrict this freedom. India was the first country in 1988 to ban Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses, under a government led by the professedly secular Congress. Almost three decades later, Rushdie has voiced concern about the “real grave danger” to discuss ideas freely in India under Modi’s leadership.[xxxviii]
Where the right to express oneself ends and the right to practice one’s religion begins is an enduring question facing most modern societies. In January 2015, after murders at the headquarters of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, the magazine returned to publication a week later with its iconic “Je Suis Charlie” cover.[xxxix] News outlets across the world carried the cartoon to show solidarity, but an Urdu newspaper in India was forced to shut shop after it published the image. One of its editors lost her job, and has since been unable to find work as a journalist.[xl]
India’s poor record on tolerance notwithstanding, the long list of encroachments on freedom of expression, the climate of fear, and the systematic targeting of dissenters under Modi are alarming. But is this reading too much into the hate speech and stray acts of a handful? Politicians everywhere, after all, say outrageous things to attract and retain public attention.
But in India, the hot air is accompanied with poison gas. Senior political leaders not only say that Indian Muslims should go to Pakistan, they also have been known to compel Muslims to renounce Islam through conversions, thereby violating their constitutionally protected right to freedom of religion.[xli] With public encouragement from the RSS chief, mobs of Hindu nationalists in North India forced hundreds of Muslims to “reconvert” to Hinduism in late 2014. These Muslims, the hardline Hindu groups argue, have strayed from their path and are returning home to the Hindu fold.[xlii] True to form, Modi had nothing to say about these forced reconversions. Months after they began, he paid lip service to “complete freedom of faith” in India.[xliii]
Looking Ahead
Throughout repeated assaults on freedom of expression, Modi has remained stoic and stony-faced. When he does address the public, he uses banal phrases instead of taking a stance against bigotry. He cannot be held accountable for every instance of intolerance; undoubtedly, many take place out of his purview. But his typical, ostrich-like response, of saying nothing or tweeting platitudes when something serious or disturbing happens, is inadequate. It raises the question: what stake does Modi have in an intolerant India?           
Modi is a master politician—his public appearances are a performance of thundering oration and rainbow-colored garb. But beneath the sweeping statements about India’s bright future lurks his unresolved past. Perhaps ambiguity is part of his master strategy—his critics are right to read into his track record in Gujarat, muteness on growing intolerance, and alignment with the Hindu doctrine of the RSS. His moderate supporters can seek solace in his silence, and pin their hopes on his assurance of rapid economic growth—although he has yet to deliver his avowed miracles.
In the interim, Modi must confront the impatient churn of Indian democracy. The Congress is currently in disarray, but the Aam Aadmi (Common Man) Party (AAP), founded in 2012 on anti-corruption principles, trounced the BJP in local elections in the capital, New Delhi, in February 2015.[xliv] The AAP’s leader has his eyes set on the next federal polls, and while it is too early to gauge the party’s national appeal, it may give the political establishment a run for its money.
In November 2015, the BJP also lost state elections in the poor, densely populated eastern state of Bihar, in spite of Modi’s vigorous campaigning across the state.[xlv] The defeat was more likely the result of an unexpected but effective alliance of rival political parties that contested the BJP rather than the rising tide of intolerance in India, but it implies that Modi is not invincible. State elections in crucial states in East and South India in 2016 may indicate growing discomfort with his brand of politics.
Modi may continue to enjoy his power as prime minister even if he ignores threats to freedom of expression, but in the long run may lose some of his shiny popularity and perhaps even a second term in office. He may not care about convincing his detractors that he is not spearheading a movement to turn India into the unified Hindu nation his supporters want to create. But he should care about respecting and preserving the religious tolerance to which India has always aspired in spite of its unmanageable diversity. At the very least, he should be concerned about his legacy—not only of leading India into an era of economic growth, but also of deepening openness and tolerance.

Shanoor Seervai is a Master in Public Policy student at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. She is a Freedman/Martin journalism scholar and the Editor-in-Chief of the Kennedy School Review. She previously reported for The Wall Street Journal’s South Asia Bureau, where she covered India’s 2014 federal election, gender-based violence, urban development and rural health care. Her writing has appeared in The Daily Beast, Guernica Magazine, The Caravan and The Indian Express. She is also the author of ‘Daughters of the Red Light,’ a Kindle Single about the women and girls of Mumbai’s brothels.

Cover Photo via Al Jazeera English, Flickr.

[i] Niharika Mandhana, “Narendra Modi’s Election Win Heralds New Era in India,” The Wall Street Journal, 17 May 2014. http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702304908304579564810455296606?cb=logged0.4667692347429693
[ii] Soutik Biswas, “India’s BJP scores a historic win,” BBC World News, 16 May 2014. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-27435647
[iii] Shanoor Seervai, “Lessons From Narendra Modi’s Media Campaign,” The Wall Street Journal, 11 June 2014. http://blogs.wsj.com/indiarealtime/2014/06/11/lessons-from-narendra-modis-media-campaign/
[iv] Jason Burke, “Narendra Modi’s landslide victory shatters Congress’s grip on India,” The Guardian, 16 May 2014. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/may/16/narendra-modi-victory-congress-india-election
[v] Celia W. Duger, “Religious Riots Loom Over Indian Politics,” New York Times, 27 July 2002. http://www.nytimes.com/2002/07/27/international/asia/27INDI.html
[vi] Manas Dasgupta, “SIT finds no proof against Modi, says court,” The Hindu, 11 April 2012. http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/sit-finds-no-proof-against-modi-says-court/article3300175.ece
[vii] “Naroda Patiya riots: BJP MLA Maya Kodnani sentenced to 28 yrs in jail, Babu Bajragi life,” The Indian Express, 16 September 2013. http://archive.indianexpress.com/news/naroda-patiya-riots-bjp-mla-maya-kodnani-sentenced-to-28-yrs-in-jail-babu-bajrangi-life/995802/0
[viii] Duger, “Religious Riots Loom Over Indian Politics.” http://www.nytimes.com/2002/07/27/international/asia/27INDI.html
[ix] These figures are based on the Government of India’s 2011 Census; more recent estimates place India’s population around 1.3 billion.
[x] Samnath Subramanian, “Ashoka: The Search for India’s Lost Emperor by Charles Allen – review,” The Guardian, 16 March 2012. http://www.theguardian.com/books/2012/mar/16/ashoka-india-emperor-charles-allen-review
[xi] “Is Modi’s India flirting with fascism?” Al Jazeera Head to Head Interview with Ram Madhav, 25 December 2015, accessed 1 January 2016. http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/headtohead/2015/12/modis-india-flirting-fascism-151201114124802.html
[xii] Khan, Zafarul Islam. Interview by Shanoor Seervai. Phone Interview. Mumbai, 5 June 2014.
[xiii] “Ek Bharat Shreshtha Bharat: Election Manifesto 2014,” The Bharatiya Janata Party, accessed 2 January 2016. http://www.bjp.org/images/pdf_2014/full_manifesto_english_07.04.2014.pdf
[xiv] Shanoor Seervai, “Nothing’s Secular in Modi’s India,” The Daily Beast, 3 August 2015. http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/08/03/nothing-s-secular-in-modi-s-india.html
[xvi] Mohammad Ali and Vijaita Singh, “It was mutton, not beef: Dadri probe report,” The Hindu, 29 December 2015. http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/dadri-lynching-incident-meat-turns-out-to-be-mutton/article8037029.ece
[xvii] “Why is PM Modi silent on Dadri lynching? asks Opposition,” The Indian Express, 2 October 2015. http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-others/why-is-pm-silent-on-dadri-lynching-asks-opposition/
[xviii] Abantika Ghosh, “Sad, not desirable, but what is Centre’s role: PM Modi on Dadri, Ghulam Ali,” The Indian Express, 15 October 2015. http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-news-india/dadri-lynching-episode-ghulam-ali-row-is-sad-says-pm-modi/
[xix] David Barstow and Suhasini Raj, “Indian Writers Return Awards to Protest Government Silence on Violence,” New York Times, 17 October 2015. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/18/world/asia/india-writers-return-awards-to-protest-government-silence-on-violence.html
[xx] Shanoor Seervai and R. Jai Krishna, “Indian Author Lays Down Pen After Protests Against His Work,” The Wall Street Journal, 14 January 2015. http://blogs.wsj.com/indiarealtime/2015/01/14/indian-author-lays-down-his-pen-after-protests-against-his-work/
[xxi] David Barstow, “Longtime Critic of Modi Is Now a Target,” New York Times, 19 August 2015. http://mobile.nytimes.com/2015/08/20/world/asia/teesta-setalvad-modi-india.html
[xxii] Victor Mallet, “India targets Ford Foundation as national security risk,” The Financial Times, 23 April 2015. http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/8bf1eb8e-e9f1-11e4-a687-00144feab7de.html#axzz3yyyHcGtb
[xxiii] Setalvad, Teesta. Interview by Shanoor Seervai. Personal Interview. Mumbai, 29 December 2015.
[xxiv] Jason Burke, “Protests to continue at Indian university after student leader’s arrest,” The Guardian, 15 February 2016. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/feb/15/jawaharlal-nehru-university-kanhaiya-kumar-student-arrest-india
[xxv] Pratap Bhanu Mehta, “An act of tyranny,” The Indian Express, 16 February 2016. http://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/jnu-sedition-case-kanhaiya-kumar-arrest-afzal-guru-event/
[xxvi] A. G. Noorani, The RSS and the BJP: A Division of Labor (New Delhi: LeftWord Books, 2000).
[xxvii] Shanoor Seervai, “Razed To The Ground,” Brown Journal of History (Spring 2009): 38. https://www.brown.edu/academics/history/sites/brown.edu.academics.history/files/uploads/spring2009.part1__0.pdf
[xxviii] Rajiv Srivastava, “Hindu Mahasabha to build Godse’s Temple,” The Times of India, 23 December 2014. http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/lucknow/Hindu-Mahasabha-to-build-Godses-temple/articleshow/45610617.cms
[xxix] “Narendra Modi: Biography: Dedicated Life,” accessed 1 January 2016. http://www.narendramodi.in/the-activist-3129
[xxx] Raksha Kumar, “Hindu right rewriting Indian textbooks,” Al Jazeera, 4 November 2014. http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2014/11/hindu-right-ideology-indian-textbooks-gujarat-20141147028501733.html
[xxxi] Ramachandra Guha, “Death by a thousand cuts,” The Indian Express, 21 May 2015. http://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/death-by-a-thousand-cuts/
[xxxii] William Dalrymple, “The Great Divide,” The New Yorker, 29 June 2015. http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/06/29/the-great-divide-books-dalrymple
[xxxiii] Rahul Bedi, “Indira Gandhi’s death remembered,” BBC World News, 1 November 2009. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/8306420.stm
[xxxiv] “India: No Justice for 1984 Anti-Sikh Bloodshed,” Human Rights Watch, 29 October 2014. https://www.hrw.org/news/2014/10/29/india-no-justice-1984-anti-sikh-bloodshed
[xxxv] Tom Lasseter and Kartikay Mehrotra, “Narendra Modi: A Man Apart,” Bloomberg, 4 August 2015. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-08-04/narendra-modi-has-enormous-ambitions-for-india-and-himself
[xxxvi] Tripathi, Salil. Interview by Shanoor Seervai. Personal Interview. Mumbai, 31 December 2015.
[xxxvii] Tripathi, Interview by Shanoor Seervai.
[xxxviii] Barkha Dutt, “Exclusive: PM Narendra Modi’s Silence Emboldening ‘Thuggish Violence,’ Says Salman Rushdie,” NDTV, 13 October 2015. http://www.ndtv.com/india-news/exclusive-pm-narendra-modis-silence-emboldening-thuggish-violence-says-salman-rushdie-1231426?pfrom=video-read
[xxxix] “Defiant Charlie Hebdo depicts Prophet Muhammad on cover,” BBC World News, 13 January 2015. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-30790409
[xl] Supriya Nair, “An Unclean Chit,” The Caravan, 1 December 2015. http://www.caravanmagazine.in/perspectives/an-unclean-chit-media-freedom-india
[xli] “Those who want beef should go to Pak: Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi,” The Hindustan Times, 22 May 2015. http://www.hindustantimes.com/india/those-who-want-to-eat-beef-should-go-to-pak-mukhtar-abbas-naqvi/story-kTyciMp58MrUhrWJfp5kFK.html
[xlii] “RSS chief Bhagwat says conversions will continue,” The Hindustan Times, 21 December 2014. http://www.hindustantimes.com/india/rss-chief-bhagwat-says-conversions-will-continue/story-6OWItkUyzprKIT1fZbGbDL.html
[xliii] “PM Narendra Modi breaks silence on attacks on Christians, ghar wapsi, threatens crackdown against extremists,” The Financial Express, 17 February 2015. http://www.financialexpress.com/article/india-news/in-wake-of-attacks-on-christians-ghar-wapsi-pm-narendra-modi-breaks-silence-threatens-crackdown/43933/
[xliv] “Delhi Election Result: Dream Victory for Arvind Kejriwal’s AAP, BJP Flattened,” NDTV, 10 February 2015. http://www.ndtv.com/delhi-news/delhi-election-result-sirf-aap-delhi-picks-arvind-kejriwal-again-738364
[xlv] Jason Burke, “Narendra Modi’s party concedes defeat in Bihar election,” The Guardian, 8 November 2015. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/nov/08/narendra-modis-party-concedes-defeat-in-bihar-election

India: No change of religion without permission in Jharkhand State

The Telegraph

Ranchi conversion law sparks outrage

- No change of religion without permission

Pheroze L. Vincent

New Delhi, Aug. 12: Jharkhand today enacted a law restricting religious conversions, inviting charges of targeting Christians and prompting Church leaders to mull a legal challenge.
The bill was introduced and passed a day after several Ranchi newspapers featured a full front-page Hindi ad from the state government, which attacked Christian missionaries by using a purported Mahatma Gandhi quote whose authenticity has been questioned.
The Jharkhand Freedom of Religion Act 2017 mandates four years' jail or a Rs 1-lakh fine or both for people and organisations converting women, minors and people from the Dalit and tribal communities through inducement or blackmail.
For forced conversion of adult males from other communities, the jail term will be three years and the fine, Rs 50,000. Those seeking voluntary conversion would need permission from the deputy commissioner, who will first examine the circumstances of the conversion.
"They want us to go to court, where lakhs will be spent on lawyers and we'll get bogged down in their game. Instead, we'll build a public movement," Hemant Soren of the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha said after the Opposition walked out of the Assembly protesting the hurried passage of the bill.
"It's an attempt to pit Sarnas (non-Hindu, non-Christian tribal people) against Christians. (Chief minister) Raghubar Das is doing this because Christian tribals, who are educated, helped raise awareness against his government's land-grab efforts."
Jamshedpur Bishop Felix Toppo, chairman of the Jharkhand Regional Bishops Council, said the bishops would meet early next week to chart their course.
"We'll first meet the chief minister and make an earnest appeal, as the idea behind this law seems to be the persecution of Christians. (Later, if necessary) we'll discuss legal means to stop this."
Yesterday's newspaper ad quoted the Mahatma as saying: "If missionaries feel that a human being can attain intellectual salvation only after converting to Christianity, why don't they begin with me or Mahadeo Desai (Gandhi's private secretary). Why do they want to convert poor, innocent and ignorant forest dwellers?"
Gandhi was quoted as further saying the tribal people were "mute and simple, like cows" and converted "not for Jesus but for rice".
The ad did not say where, when and to whom the Mahatma had said this. Activists such as Gladson Dungdung and Vasavi Kiro said Gandhi was not known to use the word " vanvasi" - a Sangh coinage used in the ad - for the tribal communities.
In Delhi, activists John Dayal, Harsh Mander and others are planning to file an FIR against the state government as well as the publications that printed the ad and the agency that designed it.
"Regardless of what the Church does, the state has tried to spread hatred and incite violence through the ad. So, we'll file a case," Dayal said.
Biswanath Tirkey, vice-president of the All India Sarna Religious and Social Coordination Committee, criticised the law.
"If the BJP was interested in protecting our faith, why couldn't they codify our personal laws like those of other religions, as we have been demanding?" he said.
Tirkey said the government was scared after the tribal communities' recent land protests and the Adivasi Diwas celebrations on August 9, and wanted to play "divide and rule".
The conversion law comes after the state government unsuccessfully tried to amend

Published here: https://www.telegraphindia.com/1170813/jsp/nation/story_167037.jsp

What is RSS Agenda in Education?

What is RSS agenda in Education? Ram Puniyani In its recommendation to NCERT, Shiksha Sanskriti Uthan Nyas, an RSS affiliate asks for removal of English, Urdu and Arabic words, the thoughts of Rabindranath Tagore; extracts from painter M F Husain’s autobiography; references to the Mughal emperors as benevolent, to the BJP as a “Hindu” party., an apology tendered by former prime minister Manmohan Singhover the 1984 riots; and a sentence that “nearly 2,000 Muslims were killed in Gujarat in 2002”. (25th July 2017) As such these recent recommendations to NCERT are continuation of the same agenda which is working for its goal of Hindu Rashtra. Education has been the major area of work for RSS all through. Since it has a view of Nationalism which is opposed to the concept of Indian Nationalism, it already had made lot of efforts to promote its views through Shakhas, through Sarswati Shishu Mandirs and through Ekal Schools. It has set up organizations to influence the policies in the field of education like Vidya Bharati. It has also started putting its followers in the top positions in Universities and major research institutes of the country. The previous BJP led NDA regime had already started the process of saffronisation by changing the school books and by introducing like courses like Paurohitya (priest craft) and Karmakand (rituals). The attempt to bring in their viewpoint on ancient, medieval and modern history have been intensified during last few years (from 2014) with BJP being in the seat of power. RSS leaders have been interacting with MHRD ministry to overall change the education system. One can say that the gradual changes in education and forthcoming education policy by BJP is aimed to bringing it in tune with golbalisation, privatisation along with Hindutva agenda of manuwad. The type of education aimed to be introduced aims to change the thinking pattern of the coming generations. The goal is to instill a pattern in consonance with the Brahminical norms, to promote orthodox medieval mind set and to undermine the scientific temper. Now in a recent meeting their leaders are saying that the past governments have written history and other subjects the way they wanted. It was their history. Now it's time to teach genuine history and take the education system in the right direction. Their aim is to introduce “Project Bhartiyakaran” in education. Already there are signs that RSS volunteers are out to change the total education system and the content of history, social science and other books. Even before BJP led NDA Government came to power, with the rise of Modi on political firmament, with the perception that he is likely to come to power, the Right wing organizations intensified their offensive against genuine scholarship. Dinanath Batra of Shiksha Bachao Abhiyan Samiti and RSS-affiliated Shiksha Sanskriti Utthan Nyas from many decades, succeeded in pressuring Penguin, the World’s largest publisher, to pulp Wendy Doniger's scholarly book ‘The Hindus: An Alternate History’. This book brings out through the interpretation of mythology the need to understand the caste and gender aspects in a sensitive manner. The history she has focused on goes against the hierarchical mind set of RSS combine and so pressure was put to pulp it. Already a set of nine books authored by Mr. Batra have been translated in to Gujarati and introduced in 42000 schools in Gujarat. This may be a trial run before doing similar things at larger scale. Union minister M Venkaiah Naidu explicitly stated as early as last year (June 23, 2013) that “it (the BJP) will change textbook syllabi, if it returns to power”. Batra wants a nationalistic education system has to be developed to address the requirements and through this we have to develop a young generation that is committed to Hindutva and nationalism. As a part of this scheme of things the Hindu mythology is looked up as a part of history. All the RSS pronouncements like Aryans were the original natives of this land are being given a higher projection. The distorted interpretation of Mohanjo Daro/Harappa being the Aryan civilisation are being presented forcefully and lot of money is being spent in the research of the river Sarswati and to prove the historicity of Ramayana and Mahabharata. These two epics Ramayana and Mahabharata are being given the status of History and attempts are being made to introduce these in the schools as part of the History curriculum. The assertions that this civilization had achieved all the peaks of development in stem cell research, aviation (Pushpak Vimana), Plastic surgery are being brought in as the part of 'our' achievements. Similar distortions in medieval period have been made part of the curriculum. Now it is being said that the Qutub Minar was built by emperor Samudragupta and its real name was Vishnu Stambha. At another level, the battles for power between Shivaji and Afzal Khan, the battle between Akbar and Maharana Pratap, Guru Govind Singh and Aurangzeb, are being given a religious color. The syncretic traditions, the core of spirit of India, are being sidelined and sectarianism is at the forefront in this version of history. These changes have come under scholarly criticism from the professional, progressive, secular historians. Even earlier when previous NDA regime made similar changes in books, the term ‘Saffronisation of education’ for this presentation of history was used. Now this process is being done very blatantly. This ideological understanding of RSS, that all the kings who fought against Muslim rulers are Hindu nationalists. It’s a total distortion of understanding of history as kings did not fight for religion; their fights were for power and wealth. And kings of same religion also had running battles with each other. With present recommendations to NCERT, the agenda of Hindu nationalism is marching in a very blatant way. The ancient, medieval modern History is being given a tilt along with doing away with the scientific temper. It seems RSS is out to create not just history but a whole knowledge system running parallel to its worldview of sectarian nationalism.

August 15, 2017

India: How identity politics is programmed to classify and rule

The Economic Times

India @70: How this identity politics game is programmed to classify and rule

August 15, 2017, 12:39 am IST in Red Herring | India, politics | ET
Inshallah, India may never believe in the two-nation theory, but like Hinduism’s belief in 330 million gods — one deity for every Indian in 1947 — it was hardwired from its bloody birth to practise its politics according to a multi-nation theory. If the All-India Muslim League was the first to successfully introduce the notion in December 1906 of a political entity to represent a people — in its case, Muslims — over the decades, independent India’s political parties learnt well from that template.
Divide and rule, of course, predates the formation of Pakistan and the independence of India. But the British divvied up India through (already existing) religious communities and castes — not to mention ‘martial and non-martial races’ after the 1857 mutiny — to handle their affairs of state better. In the case of their successors, as well as those competing for a slice of political action, identity politics became the most efficient way of keeping and getting their snouts in the trough of power.

In the early days of Independence, of course, the Congress, radiating with the afterglow of being the political party of the freedom struggle, successfully represented the proverbial everyone: the upper caste, the lower caste, the Hindu, the Muslim, the poor, the affluent, the middle classes, the peasantry, the trader, the nationalist, and all variations thereof.
Even as challenges came from the CPI (which accused Nehru’s government of not being socialist enough), and from C Rajagopalachari’s Swatantra Party (which accused Nehru’s government of being too socialist), the Congress managed itself to be seen as everything to everyone in the first two decades of the ‘sovereign democratic republic’.
The addition of the words ‘socialist’ and ‘secular’ — to the existing ‘sovereign’ and ‘democratic’ in the preamble of the Constitution — via the Constitution (42nd Amendment) Act, 1976, during Indira Gandhi’s Emergency was a good indicator of the desperate need for the Congress in government to emphasise that it, and not the communist parties, was the natural port of call for the peasantry and working class, and that it, and not other entities, was the protector of Muslims and other minorities.
The 1956-founded Republican Party of India (itself evolving out of the Scheduled Castes Federation founded by B R Ambedkar in 1942) made as little headway in electoral politics as a party representing Dalits as the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, founded in 1951 by Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, representing Hindus.
It was only after Janata Dal Prime Minister V P Singh announced in Parliament in 1990 that his government was keen on implementing the recommendations for reservations along caste lines made by the Government of India Report of the Backward Classes Commission — a.k.a. the ‘Mandal Commission’ — set up by the 1979 Morarji Desai Janata government to “identify the socially and educationally backward”, that saw political parties ideologically moored to identity politics erupt.
If the Bahujan Samaj Party, founded by Kanshi Ram in 1984 to represent Dalits in general and Jatavs in particular, had lost its security deposit in 222 of the 246 seats it contested in the 1989 Lok Sabha, by 1993, riding the Mandal surf, it came to power in Uttar Pradesh in a coalition with Mulayam Singh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party, a political entity ‘for Yadavs and Muslims’. In 1997, breaking away from the Janata Dal to create his own identity politics brand equity after the fodder scam made his tenure in the party untenable, Lalu Prasad Yadav formed the Rashtriya Janata Dal — this after two stints as chief minister of Bihar that started in that magic year for caste politics, 1990.
Year Mandal also marked the breakout year for the BJP, which now was able to pitch itself properly as the ‘sole unifier’ of Hindus in a political marketplace filled with self-proclaimed guardians of more and more atomised identities. The Babri Masjid demolition in December 1992 would become both the cause and an effect of this trajectory.
At the national level, the 1990s and 2000s saw the golden age of coalitions: each ‘tribal chief ’ bringing their tribes demands and support to the long wooden table. But for both the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led NDA government and the Sonia Gandhiled, Manmohan Singh-prime ministered UPA government, identity politics retained its lustre.
That is, until the ‘coalition compulsions’ that made corruption so visible and risible for a national electorate, ended the UPA’s tenure. Gujarat CM-turned-BJP’s prime ministerial candidate managed to convince India’s voters in 2014 that more than just narrow pipelines are needed as delivery mechanisms for ‘corruption-free’ development and progress.
This hardly spelt the end of caste and religious politics. It was about identity politics getting subsumed. Identity-based deliverables — as seen in both Nitish Kumar’s victory in Bihar and Narendra Modi’s BJP’s in UP — is today a more evolved, sophisticated, precise and subtle welding of the promise of governance and development with micro-managing the caste and community pipelines.
In Annihilation of Caste, Ambedkar had written, “I have no hesitation in saying that if the Mahomedan has been cruel, the Hindu has been mean; and meanness is worse than cruelty.” And by ‘meanness’ he meant denying the fruits of empowerment and wealth. Pure ID politics of the kind in decline today — as witnessed by the defenestration of Mayawati and defeat of the Yadav clan in UP, and the relative ease with which Nitish Kumar could dump Lalu Yadav in Bihar — was based on denying those not ‘in your fold’.
The new identity politics seeks to retain community and caste lines, perhaps even to accentuate them. But the stated objective is to make this kind of identification easier to deliver the goods. In that sense, it is a return to the old British strategy of classify and rule. It’s about not being stingy to anyone any more. Or, at any rate, not coming across as mean.

India: Making patriotism a coercive act is objectionable and unconstitutional (Editorial, Hindustan Times)

Hindustan Times


India at 70: Making patriotism a coercive act is objectionable and unconstitutional

States such as West Bengal have resisted the heavy-handed diktats of the government on celebrating Independence Day in the manner that New Delhi deems fit. Why do Muslims have to express their nationalism more loudly than the majority community ?

editorials Updated: Aug 14, 2017 17:08 IST
Schoolchildren rehearse on the eve of Independence Day in Ludhiana.  The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation made the singing of Vande Mataram compulsory in civic schools.
Schoolchildren rehearse on the eve of Independence Day in Ludhiana. The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation made the singing of Vande Mataram compulsory in civic schools. (Gurpreet Singh/Hindustan Times)

Patriotism appears to be the flavour of the Independence Day week. Governments in the Centre and states are creating a nationalist frenzy among the citizens, by way of instructions on hoisting the tricolour and singing patriotic songs. But as the nation turns 70, a disturbing new trend is expecting minority educational institutions to flaunt their patriotism and furnish evidence of the same. Last week, the Yogi Adityanath government instructed 8,000 madrasas affiliated to the Uttar Pradesh Madarsa Shiksha Parishad to organise programmes on August 15 that pay a tribute to freedom fighters. The circular issued by the Parishad to minority welfare officers expressly stated that officers should ensure shooting of videos at madrasas and keep recordings as evidence. Just last week an influential Muslim preacher from Mumbai asked madrasas to fly the national flag on Independence Day. Also the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation made the singing of Vande Mataram compulsory in civic schools. Yesterday, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray demanded that the Union government enact a law making the singing of Vande Mataram mandatory. Also, the Madras High Court ruled that ‘Vande Mataram’ must be sung at least once a week in Tamil Nadu’s schools and colleges.
The idea has created a kerfuffle among Muslims since the lyrics of Vande Mataram deify the Motherland. Leaders of the community argue that Islam prescribes ‘vandan’ (worship) only for Allah. Even when India became independent, Vande Mataram was among the songs considered for the status of national anthem but the idea was discarded when a section of Muslims perceived it inappropriate. The suggestion isn’t just odious but also unconstitutional. In February, observing that the Constitution didn’t have provision for the concept of a national song, the Supreme Court had refused to entertain a plea that directed the Centre to frame a national policy to promote Vande Mataram. A bench headed by Justice Dipak Misra said Article 51A (fundamental duties) of the Constitution required the promotion and propagation only of the National Anthem and the Tricolour.
States such as West Bengal have resisted the heavy-handed diktats of the government on celebrating Independence Day in the manner that New Delhi deems fit. Why should the voluntary expression of patriotism through singing Vande Mataram become a mandatory act? Also, do Muslims have to express their nationalism more loudly than the majority community and furnish proof of their patriotism on a day to day basis? This doesn’t agree with the ideals of freedom or secularism that India set out with in 1947.

India: RSS chief hoists Indian flag in Kerala school, flouts collector’s order

RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat hoists Indian flag in Kerala school, flouts collector’s order

A school in Kerala’s Palakkad district where RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat hoisted the tri colour on Independence Day, now faces police action for ignoring the collector’s order not to let Bhagwat do so.

Aug 15, 2017 11:28 IST

Ramesh Babu