October 20, 2018

India: The real reason for Allahabad’s rechristening must be sought in the BJP’s sustained campaign to distort history (The Telegraph)

The Telegraph

Improper nouns: The mischief of renaming

The real reason for Allahabad’s rechristening must be sought in the BJP’s sustained campaign to distort history
By The Editorial Board
  • Published 19.10.18, 7:46 AM
Activists of the Rashtriya Rakshak Samuh cover a railway station sign that says "Allahabad Junction" with a poster that says "Prayagraj", as the Uttar Pradesh government approves renaming the city ahead of the Kumbh Mela in Allahabad on Wednesday PTI Photo
Rechristening can be mischievous business. It is especially so when a politician helms the name change. The chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, Yogi Adityanath, has proposed to change the name of Allahabad, one of India’s most ancient cities steeped in myth and history, to Prayagraj. Mr Adityanath’s proposal, unsurprisingly, has met with his cabinet’s approval, even though the chief minister’s detractors have opposed the move on a number of grounds. For instance, a member of the Samajwadi Party has alleged that this is a ploy on Mr Adityanath’s part to deflect public attention from serious administrative failures. The shocking pollution of the Ganga — the Bharatiya Janata Party had promised to remove the filth as an electoral pledge — patchy preparations for the approaching Ardh Kumbh Mela, a marked deterioration in the law and order situation and sustained polarization — Mr Adityanath and his party allegedly endorse this kind of divisiveness — seem to have soured the public mood. The BJP leader has now thought up a palliative — baptizing Allahabad anew.
The real reason for Allahabad’s renaming must be sought in the BJP’s sustained campaign to distort history. Distortion, in this case, alludes to expungement. The BJP has succeeded in ridding some of India’s public spaces of their mixed legacies. Mughalsarai is now named after an ideologue of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh; a road in the capital bearing the name of Aurangzeb is known by a new name. The fact that another Mughal emperor had given Allahabad its name could not possibly have sat easily with the proponents of Hindutva who are eager view India’s history through a majoritarian lens. Such a jaundiced vision resists the ideals of syncreticism and pluralism, the tenets that give the Idea of India its remarkably inclusive character. Ironically, over the years, Allahabad — the town is situated at the confluence of sacred rivers — has been held up as an example of a culture that celebrates the harmonious coexistence of multiple ideas and faiths. That must have added to Mr Adityanath’s sense of urgency. It can be argued that merely changing the name of a place is not enough to erase its ancient, diverse traditions. But disturbing transitions often begin with seemingly benign revisions. In that sense, the renaming of Allahabad to Prayagraj should be read as an omen.

India: An Open Letter to Dr Kailash Satyarthi, the Nobel Laureate from India - after he attended a public event at the headquarters of Hindu supremacist RSS

 The Wire, 20 October 2018

Kailash Satyarthi, Could You Not Find More Worthy Haulers of Peace Than the RSS?

It is but a matter of worry that at the very function which you bejeweled, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat issued a call against the so called ‘urban Naxals’.
Kailash Satyarthi, Could You Not Find More Worthy Haulers of Peace Than the RSS?

by Shah Alam Khan

Dear Kailash Satyarthi ji,
I write this letter to you with a heavy soul. ‘Heavy’, not as in sad, but because I feel burdened by the baggage of your recent visit to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) headquarters for the Vijayadashami function. You are the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize and therefore, the peace loving citizens of this globe unconsciously feel to have a right on your actions. My writing this letter to you is the use of that collective right on the so-called gospels of peace.
Your attendance of the RSS event has belittled the peace prize which was bestowed on your good self. Imagine Malala Yousafzai, your Nobel co-recipient, going to a function of say Jamat-e-Islami of Pakistan? What havoc would that create? What face would she have if she did that? I may mention that I purposefully avoid sending her to an imaginary Talibani function in Pakistan because the comparison between RSS and Taliban would not be correct even though the actions purported by the two organisations were for a similar end point: one, a Hindu Rashtra and the other, an Islamic Caliphate.

Since we live in times of collective amnesia, it may be worth remembering that the very organisation you decorated was banned thrice by the government of India. The very first memorandum which banned the organisation four days after Mahatma Gandhi was murdered had some remarks which should worry us all who love peace and peaceful means of struggle. The order said, “to root out the forces of hate and violence that are at work in our country and imperil the freedom of the nation…the Government of India have decided to declare unlawful the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh in several parts of the country, individual members of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh have indulged in acts of violence involving arson, robbery, dacoity, and murder and have collected illicit arms and ammunitions. They have been found circulating leaflets exhorting people to resort to terrorist methods, to collect fire arms….the cult of violence sponsored and inspired by the activities of the Sangh has claimed many victims (sic)”.
I suppose an order banning the Taliban in your co-recipient’s country Pakistan wouldn’t sound much different than this Satyarthi? Don’t you think so?
I also know your commitment to the Gandhian philosophy of non-violence. You had always come out as a Gandhian to the world, although knowingly or unknowingly, you have avoided speaking against state sponsored violence. I don’t remember you condemning the brutalities unleashed by the state against the children of Kashmir (most blinded by the notorious pellet guns happen to be teenagers) or even against the killing of tribals in the state of Chhattisgarh by labelling them Naxals. I hope you understand that for every tribal killed, a child is orphaned?
I suppose an order banning the Taliban in your co-recipient’s country Pakistan wouldn’t sound much different than this Satyarthi?
It is but a matter of worry that at the very function which you bejeweled, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat issued a call against the so called ‘urban Naxals’. This is a problematic term in itself which unfortunately is used in the present day to delineate those who seek to speak for freedom of expression, liberal values and ideas of a free and inclusive society. I would definitely like to hear your opinion on this jargon of hate and more so when the Mahatma had himself said, a man is but the product of his thoughts; what he thinks he becomes. Please let us know what you think of Bhagwat, more so in view of the regular rhetoric of the kind he said at the function? Isn’t he the product of his thoughts?
Group photo of Hindu Mahasabha. Standing - Shankar Kistaiya, Gopal Godse, Madanlal Pahwa, Digambar Badge. Seated - Narayan Apte, Vinayak D. Savarkar, Nathuram Godse, Vishnu Karkare. Credit: Flickr
Group photo of Hindu Mahasabha. Standing – Shankar Kistaiya, Gopal Godse, Madanlal Pahwa, Digambar Badge. Seated – Narayan Apte, Vinayak D. Savarkar, Nathuram Godse, Vishnu Karkare. Credit: Flickr
Also, who doesn’t know that the organisation you chose to go to as an honored guest is involved in the assassination of Gandhi? I understand that in the last couple of years, there are desperate attempts by the RSS and it’s Sangh parivar to legitimise Gandhi’s killer, Nathuram Godse. But fortunately, history has a knack of catching up with its characters. Unless of course, they are given a kind of credibility which visits by a Nobel Peace Prize winner will definitely (and unfortunately) bring to their fib claims. I hope I don’t need to reiterate what the Swedish Nobel Committee, which bestowed you with the Nobel Peace, says about Gandhi. They call him their missing laureate, having failed to give him the Nobel Peace despite six nominations.
You should have been careful of the legacy of the RSS before accepting their invitation.
I understand that it is difficult for you to speak on all the issues I mentioned in this letter because of various reasons and you, being a Nobel recipient, are not entitled to echo sentiments on every issue under the sun. But you giving credibility to a function of the RSS is a serious breach of trust in peace. Peace and its gospels should be careful in choosing their friends, sir.

We are living in interesting times where the definitions of inclusiveness, justice, equality and peace are being rearranged to the convenience of those in power. Let’s not partner those who are on the other side of the fence. Those in power are not more important than the peace which you have been given the responsibility to represent. To share the legacy of peace, I am sure you could have found better and more worthy haulers than the very killers of the epitome of non-violence. In the words of Dominique Pire, a peace laureate like your good self, to act without knowledge is folly, to know without acting is cowardice.
Yours truly,
Shah Alam Khan
Shah Alam Khan is a professor of orthopaedics, AIIMS, New Delhi, and the author of Man With the White Beard. Views expressed are personal.
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India: No Glasnost in the RSS say Suhas Palshikar

Reshimbagh reality check

There is no glasnost. The same consistently confusing politics manifests itself as the core project of RSS.

Written by Suhas Palshikar | Updated: October 20, 2018 1:50:22 am
reshimbagh, rss, sabarimala temple, ram temple, rashtriya swamasewak sangh, mohan bhagwat, mohan bhagwat speech, vijayadashami, indian express
Bhagwat concluded his Vijayadashami speech by yet again emphasising the oneness of being Indian and being Hindu.
In the speeches given by the RSS chief last month at Delhi’s Vigyan Bhavan, he had claimed that the RSS volunteers are free to join any party and he did not know why so many of them join only the BJP. Mohan Bhagwat could have waited for his Vijayadashami speech to seek an answer to that puzzle. His Vijayadashami speech addressed three crucial political controversies of the current moment — “urban Maoism”, Sabarimala temple entry and Ram temple. On all three, his message must have been music to the ears of the BJP.
He demonised “urban Maoists”, even caricatured them; on Sabarimala he expressed anguish that “repeated and brazen onslaughts” happen to Hindu society alone and demanded a law to facilitate a Ram temple at Ayodhya at the “janmabhoomi”. With such a strong coincidence of views, ideas and aspirations, it would be a wonder if RSS volunteers did not simultaneously work for the BJP.
Bhagwat concluded his Vijayadashami speech by yet again emphasising the oneness of being Indian and being Hindu. This is also the argument he made at length in the second speech he gave in September. Listening to that speech and now listening to his Dussehra speech, one wonders why the September speeches were exaggerated both by insiders and observers outside the RSS, as something of a departure and even glasnost.
The current RSS chief is different from his predecessors in three respects. One, he is more self-consciously attempting to reach out to outsiders. This is more a sign of organisational confidence gained by the RSS in the past two decades or so. It knows that some of its sanitised tenets have a broader acceptance now more than ever before and therefore, it has to keep intellectually intervening in the public arena unlike in the past. Two, Bhagwat is adept at packaging political controversies in the course of seemingly ordinary and acceptable messages. This art ensures that the eager follower gets the message right and, at the same time, confuses the gullible effectively. His September speeches got headlines not because he repeated the core ideas of the RSS but because he spoke about “diversity”. His discourse on diversity was a classic instance of appropriating existing intellectual trends and giving them a different meaning. Three, in practically disowning Golwalkar, Bhagwat certainly appeared bold. But there too, he gave an out to RSS swayamsevaks. He made a distinction between the contextual and the eternal and argued that the contextual is obviously context specific — so Guruji was not wrong, what Guruji said had a context. This line of argument gave Bhagwat headlines as a reformer and, at the same time, allowed him to console the core constituency.
How, then, does one place Mohan Bhagwat? His Vijayadashami speech as much as his September speeches amply make it clear that he is by far the most politically astute and politically driven RSS chief. In this, he is following in the footsteps of Balasaheb Deoras. Bhagwat’s politics is manifold. He clearly wants to keep channels of communication open with the Congress. He is also quite aware of the dangers of megalomania undoing the BJP and hence not afraid to implicitly criticise the government. At the same time, for the RSS, a strong BJP government is a precondition to expanding its agenda of uniting all Hindus. Thus, in the Dussehra speech, he went out of his way to say that non-voting is not a good option.
But Bhagwat’s politics is not confined to merely asking RSS cadres to vote; it is more about reasserting the Savarkarite ideas in a slightly modified form. He gives a circularly argued, confusing and yet crystal clear message about what Hindutva means. In the Vijayadashami speech, where the major part is about generalities such as security and self-reliance in military preparedness etc, the powerful message is about “we”, Hindus. The key words are “swa”, the nation and Hindu identity. This same theme is more elaborately explicated in the second speech in September.
Ironically, the RSS chief has managed to introduce confusion among observers and critics by his skilful appropriation of the vocabulary of diversity. A careful reading of his second speech, however, shows that he is constantly referring to sects that emerged from “our” tradition (sabhi bharat se nikale sampradayon ka jo samuhik mulyabodh hai uska nam Hindutva hai — Hindutva is the name of the collective normative essence of sects that emerged in India). So, while mentioning that the term Hindu is of a much later origin, he equates that term with Indic, Bharat and Arya. As such, the diversity he speaks about has more to do with the multiple traditions and sectarian practices within the broader “Hindu” fold. The objective is to underscore the unity of these traditions and practices and bring them together under the common conceptual rubric of Hindu thereby ensuring a pan-Hindu identity that transcends the diverse practices.
This larger politics is the politics of Hindutva. This politics seeks to address two challenges. On the one hand, it insists on unity of sects born “here”. As Bhagwat said in his Q&A at Vigyan Bhavan, everyone (including the Adivasis) is Hindu; some know this and claim this with pride, some know this but do not take pride in the fact, some know but hesitate to admit and some don’t know. So, here is the politics of constructing Hindutva that encompasses all “Indian” faiths and transforms those faiths into a more homogenised Hindu order and also converts faith into a powerful political lever called identity.
On the other hand, this politics seeks to give the impression that Hindutva is not so much about religion (faith, rituals and manner of worshipping), than about the nation. That is why “those who hesitate to admit being Hindu” need to be persuaded to adopt the non-faith based Hindu national identity. But this has a caveat. Even if one does not follow any of the faiths born “here”, everyone has to accept that the cow is sacred. While facilely agreeing that lynch mobs of gau rakshaks must be punished, Bhagwat asserted at Vigyan Bhavan that the cow is in any case a subject of traditional belief (parantu gai paramparagat shraddha ka vishay to hai hi). Evidently, Bhagwat is unable to de-couple his Hindu-Indian nationalism from Hindu religious sentiment. That is why his latest speech concludes with an unequivocal demand that the disputed site at Ayodhya be assigned for “constructing a magnificent Ram temple at the birth place of Shri Ram who is the personification of the life energy of the nation”.
From Vigyan Bhavan to Reshimbagh, the same, consistently confusing politics manifests itself as the core project of the RSS. Bhagwat will probably be recognised as one of its more articulate and audacious spokespersons. The articulation consists of his valiant effort to argue that Hindutva is not about religion and his audacity pertains to the claim that Hindutva is about religious beliefs and traditions.
So, the RSS is changing and the RSS has not changed.
The writer taught political science and is based at Pune

source URL: https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/editorials/reshimbagh-reality-check-rss-mohan-bhagwat-sabarimala-ram-temple-bjp-reshimbagh-vijayadashami-speech-5409827/

India: RSS: Any real changes in stance? - discussion on Episode 1 of Present, Past & the Future @ NewsClick

Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay talks to Journalist Akshaya Mukul, and Associate Prof. at CSDS, Hilal Ahmed about the shifts that have taken place within the RSS over the past couple of years.


Shame at Sabarimala: Why India’s women need a uniform civil code | Barkha Dutt

Shame at Sabarimala: Why India’s women need a uniform civil code

As a proud feminist I do not accept that tradition and custom can remain frozen in time

columns Updated: Oct 19, 2018 17:29 IST
Barkha Dutt


India: Will Sabarimala rewrite the Kerala secular story? G Pramod Kumar

The Indian Express

Will Sabarimala rewrite the Kerala secular story?

The BJP’s only chance for any upward mobility from its present stagnation in Kerala is by gaining the support of more Hindu votes and the Sabarimala agitation offers a tailor-made opportunity to whip up communal passion.

Written by G Pramod Kumar | Updated: October 19, 2018 6:39:54 pm
Will Sabarimala rewrite the Kerala secular story?
BJP youth wing protesters during a protest at Nilakkal. (Express Photo by Vignesh)
Originally hailed as a historic decision, the recent Supreme Court verdict allowing entry of women of all ages to the famous Sabarimala hill shrine in Kerala is turning out to be the cause of a major crisis for the CPM-led Left Democratic Party (LDF). The socio-political turbulence that the verdict has led to looks as politically significant as the upper class “liberation struggle” against the first Communist government in 1959.
In 1959, the tumult that was spearheaded mainly by the Nairs and the Syrian Christians against educational reforms that the government of the day had proposed, led to the latter’s premature dismissal by the Centre. This time around, the CPM and the LDF have a strategy. They do want to play by the book and appear to be progressive, but not at the cost of losing a political edge. The Opposition – mainly the Congress and the BJP – are trying to retain their Hindu voters and also eat into each others’ support base by siding with the protesters.
Over the last few days, the main stopovers to Sabarimala from where the pilgrims begin their final forest trek to the shrine, and the places en route to the sanctum sanctorum (called “Sannidhanam” in Malayalam), have witnessed unprecedented violent religious protests. There was organised stone pelting and attacks on the police, public property and journalists. The state government and media called out the BJP and the RSS for the attacks. The RSS accused the government of infiltrating their “peaceful” protests to defame them.
Immediately after the Supreme Court announced its judgment on September 28, the Kerala government had announced that it would implement the verdict because it was the new law. The BJP and the Congress opposed it and said that the decision by the Constitutional Bench should be challenged. The two parties had a logically absurd argument: they said that they respected the Supreme Court verdict, but the traditional rituals and the sentiments of the devotees also needed to be respected. While the government was duty-bound to defend the Constitution, the BJP and Congress were bent upon reaping political capital from the issue.
Will Sabarimala rewrite the Kerala secular story? Hydrabad based jounalist Kavitha Jakkal and activist Rehna Fathima step off shabarimala with police protection as they were not allowed to enter sannidhanam. (Express Photo by Vignesh Krishnamoorthy) When some women—reportedly journalists, devotees and activists—tried to reach the shrine on the strength of the Supreme Court verdict on Thursday, they faced violent resistance. Journalists were attacked even at the transit points while devotees and activists had to abandon their plans even when they had the support of armed police and commandos. The closest thing to a flashpoint came on Friday, when two women – one an activist from Kerala in pilgrim’s robes, and the other a journalist from Andhra Pradesh – almost reached the entrance of the shrine. However, they were opposed not just by the devotees, but the priests as well. The priests said that if the women were allowed in they would close down the temple. The police had to finally take the two women back.
The developments over the last few days, and on Friday, give a heads-up of what’s in store because presently the temple will stay open only for five days. The real pilgrimage season will begin in mid-November, when a few million from southern states will visit the temple over two months, and it will be impossible to control the crowds if such situations arise again. If the police was ineffective in dealing with the violence and vigilante behaviour by “devotees”- allegedly activists from the Sangh Parivar and affiliate organisations that included women – for a few days, would it be able to handle the situation when the scale is much bigger and for a much longer period? The forested terrain, near-stampede level crowds, and protesters motivated by religion and political motives could make it a dangerous situation.
In a massive crowd, it would he hard to tell a real pilgrim from a mischief-maker, and even the most sincere and careful intervention to uphold the law could lead to major mishaps. It could also be dangerous for women who try to visit the temple because the thick forests would allow trouble-makers to launch guerrilla-style attacks.
Will Sabarimala rewrite the Kerala secular story? s. The ruling CPM has no choice but to abide by the verdict, but the eyes of the BJP and the Congress are on the possible political capital. Given the situation, the Supreme Court verdict will have practical value only if there is political consensus. The ruling CPM has no choice but to abide by the verdict, but the eyes of the BJP and the Congress are on the potential political capital. Clearly, the verdict is the religious trigger that the BJP has been waiting for to scale up in a state where polarisation of votes on communal lines has been very difficult due to high political literacy.
The Congress, on the other hand, cannot take any risks, because in addition to its traditional vote banks of Muslims and Christians, what keeps it afloat are the upper caste Hindus. The Sabarimala agitation was initiated by the upper caste Hindus, but soon became a pan-Hindu agitation cutting across castes. Hence, the Congress had no choice but to be on the protesters’ side, although the BJP rode it with all its resources. In the end, it was the Congress and the BJP on the side against the Constitution while the CPM, righteously stood alone in upholding it.
The political calculations are simple. The BJP’s only chance for any upward mobility from its present stagnant position is by gaining the support of more Hindu votes. The Sabarimala agitation offers a tailor-made opportunity to whip up communal passions. The Congress cannot afford any further erosion of their existing Hindu support base, and would also want to retrieve part of their recent loss of votes to the BJP. Besides splitting the BJP votes and winning back some voters, they also hope to wean away some of the Hindu votes of the CPM by being on the side of the agitators. The CPM’s major bloc of Hindu supporters are the Ezhavas (majority Hindus in the state), who constitute about 27 per cent of the population.
In simple terms, the BJP hopes get more Hindu votes from both the Congress and the CPM, while the Congress hopes to get back what it has already lost to the BJP and wean away Hindu votes from both the BJP and the CPM. Therefore essentially, the Congress and the BJP are playing the same politics while the CPM is sticking its neck out by taking a principled stand, possibly by betting on the secular mindset of the Malayalees. They also hope that such a neutral non-Hindu position will help wean some minority votes from the Congress camp.
Will Sabarimala rewrite the Kerala secular story? Devotees at the Sabarimala shrine. (Express photo by Vishnu Varma) One has to wait till 2019 to see who wins this strategic battle. Despite all the efforts being made, what will most probably keep the BJP out will be Kerala’s unique demography. The state has only about 55 per cent Hindus and to an gain electoral majority from them is impossible because the historic division of their political patronage has been between the Left parties and the Congress-led front. Gaining more than 15 per cent (the BJP’s vote share) of the Hindu votes will be a very difficult task, except in a handful of pockets. So, the battle will be between the Congress and the CPM. The CPM hopes that the communal polarisation caused by the issue will lead to a split of its opposition votes between the Congress and BJP, with the latter weaning more votes than in the past from the former. The Congress hopes that by being a proxy-BJP on the issue, it would gain both the BJP votes as well as soft-Hindu – or rather Ezhava – votes from the CPM.
Probably after watching how things panned out over the last few days, the government on Friday recalibrated its position by announcing that it would support only genuine pilgrims, and not activists. It also said that the shrine was meant for devotees and their beliefs, and not for activists to prove their strength. However, the biggest challenge will begin in mid-November if some women try to gain entry. Going by the decision on Friday, the government and the CPM are most likely to temper their stand with the lessons learned since the Supreme Court verdict, while the BJP will try its best not to lose the communal momentum it has gained. And the poor Congress, unfortunately, has no other choice but to imitate the BJP, because that’s what its expedience has landed itself in.

October 19, 2018

India: In Sabarimala violence, a flashback to the RSS 1982 agitation to stop a church from being built

religious matters

In Sabarimala violence, a flashback to the RSS 1982 agitation to stop a church from being built

That movement had helped the Sangh grow in Kerala. The BJP now hopes to gain politically from the current protests.