October 22, 2017

India: Is it legal for poltical party to access someone's voter ID card and publish on social media to prove someone's religion?

[. . .] BJP in Tamil Nadu on Sunday stooped to new low by posting what it claimed was the voter identity card of actor Vijay in a bid to establish his Christian faith

H Raja, an ex-MLA and the BJP’s national secretary, posted a photo of a voter ID card, which appeared to show actor Vijay’s name as Joseph Vijay. Raja wrote, “Truth is bitter.”

Raja had earlier said that he was also trying to establish if the producer of Tamil film, Mersal, Hema Rukmani, too was a Christian. This was after Rukmani rubbished media reports that said the producer had agreed to delete the scene with references to GST in Mersal.
It appears that, according to the BJP, anyone who is not Hindu does not have the right to criticise the government policy regardless of its adverse impact of on the population. Raja’s controversial act also suggests that one needed to practice the Hindu faith to be able to exercise his or her right to freedom of speech.

SEE FULL TEXT AT: http://www.jantakareporter.com/india/bjp-stoops-low-posts-vijay/156217/

Taj Mahal and the Communalisation of Indian Cultural Heritage - Video from The Wire

India: Will Ayodhya again be the epicentre of Hindutva politics ?

National Herald

Ayodhya will be epicentre of Hindutva politics now

Yogi Adityanath with artistes dressed as characters from Ramayana.

Yogi is banking on Hindutva to emerge triumphant in the ballot battle over Bijli, Paani and Sadak

With the promise to revive Ram Rajya, the BJP has made an attempt to keep the Hindutva flame aglow in the politically sensitive state of Uttar Pradesh which holds the key to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s dream to return to power in 2019.
Ayodhya has now emerged as the epicentre of this plan. The way Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath tried to recreate Treta Yug in this Kalyug by replicating the of Lord Ram along with Lakshman and Sita from `Vanvas’ was a real treat for the eyes. The proverbial Pushpak Viman was replaced with Pushpak chopper and it showered flower petals all over Ayodhya with people standing on their roof tops with folded hands soaking up the dose of Hindutva showered from the sky.
“It is unbelievable,” said Sumitra Sharma, 62, a resident of Ayodhya. “It was an unimaginable site to see Bhagwan Ram descending from sky along with Maiya (Mother) Sita. This must have happened in Treta Yug. Our scriptures have the full details. Yogi ji has just replicated that incident today,” she said, with her hands folded.
Yogi has been able to touch the raw nerve of the people. The actors who played the role of Ram, Sita and Lakshman may have been top models who are used to walking on ramps for top brands. But for the people of Ayodhya, they are their ‘Bhagwan’.
Namrata Verma, pursuing her graduation from a local college had volunteered to light diyas (earthern lamps) on the banks of the Sarayu river. She was enamoured with the beauty of Sita, model Anchal Ghai. Namrata did not know that the model had done ad campaigns for products like Gionee and Samsung but said: “Sita must have been beautiful like this lady.”
The hype created by the BJP government worked. In his almost 35 minute speech, Yogi spoke about Ram Rajya time and again but refrained from talking about Ram Mandir. He spoke a number of times about the negativity associated with Ayodhya but did not elaborate on what he meant by this negativity. He said that his government will respect the feelings of people (bhawanao ka samaan hoga) but did not explain what he meant by `Bhawana’. Whether this means construction of the temple is anyone’s guess.
But he began his speech with the chant of “Jai Sri Ram” and ended the speech with the same chant as the crowd roared in unison shouting “Jai Sri Ram.”
He spoke about Ram Lila being performed by artistes of different countries like Indonesia, Thailand and Sri Lanka, going on to add that they treated Lord Ram as their ancestor and asked as to why we in India question one if he talks about Lord Ram. “This is a matter of pride for us that Lord Ram belonged to this area and everyone here is linked with Maryada Purshottam. This is our heritage and we should protect it,” he said.
He talked about bringing Kashi, Vrindavan, Shakumbari Devi, Naimisaryana and other places of historical importance in the tourism map but refrained from taking the name of Taj Mahal.
Hindutava is Yogi’s trump card this Diwali. He will visit Chitrakoot, another religious place, soon. In the last few months, he has visited Gorakhpur five times, Varanasi thrice, Vrindavan twice and Ayodhya thrice as well.
The big question is whether this exercise will bear fruits in the ballot battle. Will Hindutva emerge winner over development? Will people vote for religion rather than Bijli, Paani and Sadak? Only time will tell.

Indian cinema's prominent film maker Yash Chopra was active in the RSS in his youth

Tracing Yash Chopra’s Journey, From the Sangh to Romantic Filmmaking

By on

The eve of independence brought with it a fearful darkness of violence and killing for the people of Punjab and Bengal. The Chopra family in Jalandhar too was in quest of the dawn that would deliver it from the abyss of despair. Only recently, the family had lost the head of the household when an accident in Bengal claimed the life of Lala Vilayati Raj Chopra. Even as the Chopra clan struggled to come to terms with the tragedy, the dark clouds of Partition started to gather over the land.
The branches of the family, settled in Lahore, Amritsar and Jalandhar, lay scattered on the chessboard of history, politics and fate. Communal forces were taking full advantage of the circumstances to further their ends.
Like the young Arya Samaj boys in the neighbourhood, a young lad of the Chopra clan also enlisted himself in the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and began actively participating in their shakhas, akharas and training routines.
While his zeal pushed him towards activities that sought to cross all limits of danger, his family remained unaware of it. It took one accident to reveal the teenager’s undesirable pursuits to everyone. One evening, as his sister-in-law lit the earthen stove, a big explosion rocked the house. The youngster had used the hearth as a hiding place for bombs to be used in riots. Fortunately, the explosion caused minimal damage. [ . . . ]

FULL EXT HERE: https://thewire.in/186803/sangh-romantic-filmmaking-yash-chopra/

India: Court raps Delhi university for not taking action against ABVP rowdies who terrorise teachers

Terrorising teachers unthinkable, high court tells Delhi University

DUSU President Satender Awana, pursuing LLB from the Faculty of Law in Delhi University, had allegedly threatened a female professor who caught him cheating during the semester exams

Oct 22, 2017 10:51 IST
The court pulled up the university for not taking action against a law student who threatened the professor. (File)
“Terrorising” teachers is an “unthinkable” and “shocking” act, the Delhi High Court said after it was told that a Delhi University law student had threatened a female professor who had caught him cheating during exams.
Anguished by the incident, a bench of Justices Siddharth Mridul and Najmi Waziri said it was an “anathema” to call such institutions schools or refer to such persons as students.
“Terrorising teachers is unthinkable. Shocking. It is an anathema to call them schools or such students as students,” the bench said.
It made the strong remarks after it was told that former DUSU President Satender Awana, pursuing LLB from the Faculty of Law in Delhi University had threatened a female professor who had allegedly caught him cheating during the semester exams in May-June this year.
He had also allegedly tried to intimidate the members of the unfair means committee of the varsity which was looking into the alleged incident.
The court pulled up the university for not taking action against the student with regard to the incident.
The incident was brought to the court’s attention by senior advocate N Hariharan, appointed by the bench as an amicus curiae in a matter concerning the standards of legal education in India.
The amicus was asked by the court to file a plea seeking contempt action against the student. The main petition by SN Singh, an advocate and a former DU law professor, was listed for further hearing on October 26.
During the hearing, Rahul Mehra, the standing counsel for Delhi Police, also told the court that the agency had received a communication from the lady professor regarding the alleged threat by the student.
The bench directed the police to ensure protection to the professor and told it not to “plead helplessness”.
The court has already ordered protection for the law faculty’s dean, Ved Kumari, in another matter pertaining to threats to her by some students, allegedly including Awana, in connection with attendance shortage for giving the LLB semester exams.

October 21, 2017

India’s religious right exploits faith and steps in where the state has failed

Published in Dawn, October 21st, 2017

‘Direct action’

POLITICAL parties and other outfits that are based on the cult of personality and divorced from a political programme pose a threat to democracy. Despite being recently sentenced to 20 years imprisonment for a rape case reported in 2002, the head of the Dera Sucha Sauda, Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, still commands an enormous following.
What concerns the workings of democracy is how he could evoke such fierce loyalties. He could not have amassed millions and acquired the power and influence he did but for political help. Once he acquired some following, leaders of political parties flocked to his doorstep to seek his support during elections. He variedly offered help to BJP, Shiromani Akali Dal and Congress. His help to BJP in 2014 reflected shrewd political judgement.
Gurmeet Singh exploited the people’s poverty, the state’s neglect of the poor, underprivileged and the wronged — and on their susceptibility to religious appeals and claims to faith healing. He provided food, subsidised ration and money to the poor. He also fostered a feeling of equality among the Dalits by asking followers to adopt the title of ‘Insaan’ and forsake their surnames, which reveal a person’s caste identity. Dera Sucha Sauda appealed to women particularly with its strong stand against liquor and drug abuse, which had played havoc with families. People found equality and dignity in its ranks denied to them elsewhere. Free medical aid was supplemented with faith healing; the Baba’s blessings or healing touch. His success provides proof of the state’s failure to do its duty — in crime detection, poverty alleviation, provision of medical and other services and, not least, in wiping out rampant caste discrimination.
India’s religious right exploits faith.
A far more instructive parallel is the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra. Set up in 1966 by a cartoonist, Bal Thackeray, it sought to arouse and exploit a feeling of discrimination among the Marathi-speaking people of the state. They felt insulted at the delay in conceding their just demand for the inclusion of Mumbai in Maharashtra. It began as a movement against South Indians, accusing them of monopolising jobs in the city; moved against Gujaratis gingerly; and settled on the more promising plank of Hindutva against Muslims. Thackeray’s resort to violence remained unchecked. He was also courted by some industrialists and businessmen to curb communist influence in trade unions, as well as by prominent Bollywood figures and politicians.
Shiv Sena is in coalition with BJP in Maharashtra. Censures of an inquiry commission on the killings during the Mumbai riots after the demolition of Babri Masjid did not affect Shiv Sena or its leader — nor did the Central Bureau of Investigation’s citation of Thackeray as an accused in the demolition case. For years, successive Congress state governments have turned a blind eye to Shiv Sena’s recourse to violence and its politics of intimidation.
One of the most insightful studies of this outfit is by German scholar Julia Eckert in her book, The Charisma of Direct Action. Eckert writes of how electoral results reveal that “the Shiv Sena has been stagnating at a certain percentage of votes for several years, these turning into victories or into defeat depending on its opponents’ strategies”. These opponents hardly oppose. Its technique is to work in three spheres — the political realm, the street and homes. “Direct action replaces parliamentary politics and is considered to be superior in efficiency and moral rectitude.”
Shiv Sena set up an ambulance service in 1968. Many shakhas (branches) have their own ambulance and use it for various purposes. Shiv Sena activists organised ‘cleanup’ drives and medical camps; put pressure on the municipality on behalf of the wards for water connections and other civic amenities. “The shakhas organise leisure activities and training in vocational skills for young people. Rooms have been made available for school studies and preparation for examinations.” They offer assistance with job applications, school admissions, and other formalities which require recommendations. They also step in with advice and support when there are illnesses, births, deaths, or marriages. “Sometimes funds are collected to meet emergency situations in a family.” Women activists help to resolve “cases of marital unrest, dowry quarrels, wife-beating, alimony and other issues”.
Issues resolved range from quarrels about the rights to a specific location of a hawker’s stall, disputes over garbage sites, noise pollution, petty crime and cheating, to litigations over loans and property, to real estate disputes.
Like Dera Sucha Sauda, Shiv Sena steps in where the state has failed. Its work is translated into votes. Democracy suffers by the activities of such bodies and the failure of the democratic state to do its duty by the people. The political process is fouled. Politics cease to revolve around issues of public policy.
The writer is an author and lawyer based in Mumbai.

Hindi article: Taj Mahal and Dvisive Politics

ताजमहल और विघटनकारी राजनीति के खेल -राम पुनियानी भारत, प्राकृतिक सुंदरता से भरपूर तो है ही, यहां मानव-निर्मित चमत्कारों की संख्या भी कम नहीं है। ये न केवल भारत वरन पूरी दुनिया से पर्यटकों को अपनी ओर आकर्षित करते रहे हैं। अचम्भित कर देने वाली ऐसी ही इमारतों में शामिल है ताजमहल, जिसका निर्माण मुगल बादशाह शाहजहां ने अपनी प्रिय पत्नी मुमताज़ महल की याद में करवाया था। ताज को दुनिया के सात आश्चर्यों में गिना जाता है और इसे यूनेस्को द्वारा विश्व धरोहर स्थल का दर्जा दिया गया है। कवि गुरूदेव रबीन्द्रनाथ टैगोर ने ताजमहल को ‘‘काल के कपोल पर रूकी हुई अश्रु की एक बूंद’’ बताया था। ताजमहल देखने दुनिया भर से पर्यटक आते रहे हैं और इसमें कोई संदेह नहीं है कि ये भारत का सबसे बड़ा आकर्षण है। परंतु उत्तरप्रदेश की योगी सरकार को इस सबसे कोई लेनादेना नहीं है। कुछ हफ्तों पहले, सत्ता में अपने छह माह पूरे होने के मौके पर योगी सरकार ने राज्य में पर्यटन के संबंध में एक पुस्तिका प्रकाशित की। पुस्तिका का शीर्षक था ‘‘उत्तरप्रदेश पर्यटन-अपार संभावनाएं’’। इसमें जिन पर्यटन स्थलों की चर्चा की गई थी, उनमें गोरखनाथ पीठ, जिसके मुखिया स्वयं आदित्यनाथ हैं, सहित कई स्थल शामिल थे। इस पुस्तिका का फोकस धार्मिक पर्यटन पर था। सबसे आश्चर्यजनक बात यह थी कि उत्तरप्रदेश का सबसे प्रसिद्ध पर्यटन स्थल ताजमहल इस पुस्तिका से गायब था। मुख्यमंत्री बनने के बाद योगी ने कहा था कि ताजमहल, भारतीय संस्कृति का हिस्सा नहीं है और विदेशी अतिथियों को ताजमहल की प्रतिकृति भेंट करने की परंपरा समाप्त होनी चाहिए। उसकी जगह गणमान्य विदेशी अतिथियों को गीता या रामायण की प्रतियां भेंट की जानी चाहिए। योगी के अनुसार ये दोनों पुस्तकें भारतीय संस्कृति की प्रतीक हैं। ताजमहल पर इस विवाद ने योगी सरकार के साम्प्रदायिक चेहरे का पर्दाफाश कर दिया। जब इस मुद्दे पर सरकार को मीडिया में आलोचना का सामना करना पड़ा तब एक मंत्री ने कहा कि ताजमहल भारतीय विरासत का हिस्सा है परंतु पुस्तिका में इसकी चर्चा इसलिए नहीं की गई है क्योंकि उसमें केवल ऐसे पर्यटन स्थल शामिल किए गए हैं, जिनका प्रचार-प्रसार किए जाने की आवश्यकता है। उन्होंने यह भी कहा कि ताजमहल के लिए सरकार ने अलग से धन आवंटित किया है और आगरा में अंतर्राष्ट्रीय हवाई अड्डा बनाए जाने का प्रस्ताव है। इस मामले में भाजपा के शिविर से कई अलग-अलग तरह की बातें कही जा रही हैं। कुछ लोग कह रहे हैं कि ताज एक हिन्दू मंदिर है। कुछ अन्य का कहना है कि वह कोई बहुत महत्वपूर्ण स्मारक नहीं है तो कुछ लोग यह भी कह रहे हैं कि वह भारत की गुलामी का प्रतीक है। भाजपा नेता संगीत सोम ने इस मुद्दे पर जो कहा वह मुस्लिम बादशाहों द्वारा बनाई गई इमारतों के संबंध में भाजपा के दृष्टिकोण को प्रतिबिम्बित करता है। उन्होंने कहा, ‘‘कई लोगों ने इस बात पर दुःख व्यक्त किया कि राज्य सरकार की पर्यटन संबंधी पुस्तिका में से ताजमहल का नाम हटा दिया गया। हम किस इतिहास की बात कर रहे हैं? क्या उस इतिहास की, जिसमें ताजमहल के निर्माता ने अपने पिता को जेल में डाल दिया था?...क्या हम उस इतिहास की बात कर रहे हैं जिसमें इस स्मारक के निर्माता ने उत्तरप्रदेश और भारत से हिन्दुओं का सफाया कर दिया था। यह दुखद और दुर्भाग्यपूर्ण है कि इस तरह के आततायी शासक अब भी हमारे इतिहास का हिस्सा हैं।’’ यहां यह महत्वपूर्ण है कि ताजमहल देखने आने वाले पर्यटकों की संख्या में पिछले कुछ वर्षों से कमी आ रही है और ताजमहल को एक पर्यटक स्थल के रूप में बढ़ावा दिए जाने की आवश्यकता है। प्रश्न यह है कि ताजमहल का नाम सरकारी पुस्तिका में से क्यों हटाया गया। योगी, ताज के बारे में जो कुछ कहते आए हैं उससे ऐसा लगता है कि वे ताजमहल को नापसंद करते हैं। ताज का निर्माण एक ऐसे व्यक्ति ने करवाया था जिसे हिन्दुत्व की विचारधारा हमलावर मानती है। भारतीय संस्कृति की गांधी जैसे राष्ट्रवादियों द्वारा प्रस्तुत परिभाषा, योगी और हिन्दुत्व की विचारधारा के बिलकुल विपरीत है। भाजपा और हिन्दुत्ववादियों के लिए हिन्दू संस्कृति ही भारतीय संस्कृति है। इससे भी आगे बढ़कर, कुछ संघी और हिन्दुत्ववादी कह रहे हैं कि ताजमहल एक हिन्दू मंदिर है और इसका नाम तेजो महालय था! यह दावा इतिहास और तथ्यों की कसौटी पर खरा नहीं उतरता। शाहजहां के ‘बादशाहनामा’ से यह साफ है कि ताज का निर्माण शाहजहां ने ही करवाया था। उन दिनों भारत आए एक यूरोपीय प्रवासी पीटर मुंडी ने लिखा कि बादशाह शाहजहां अपनी प्रिय पत्नी की मृत्यु से दुख के सागर में डूबे हुए हैं और उनकी याद में एक शानदार मकबरा बनवा रहे हैं। फ्रांसिसी जौहरी टेवरनियर, जो उस समय भारत में थे, ने भी यही बात कही। शाहजहां की हिसाब किताब की बहियों में ताजमहल के निर्माण में होने वाले खर्च की चर्चा है, जिसमें संगमरमर खरीदने और मजदूरी आदि पर व्यय शामिल है। ताज को शिवमंदिर बताए जाने के दावे का एकमात्र आधार यह है कि ताज जिस ज़मीन पर बना है उसे शाहजहां ने राजा जयसिंह से खरीदा था। यहां यह महत्वपूर्ण है कि जयसिंह एक वैष्णव थे और किसी वैष्णव राजा से यह उम्मीद नहीं की जा सकती कि वह शिव का मंदिर बनाएगा। दरअसल, ताजमहल की महत्ता को कम करने का प्रयास, भारतीय इतिहास के पुनर्लेखन की हिन्दुत्ववादी परियोजना का हिस्सा है। इस परियोजना के अंतर्गत इतिहास की सांप्रदायिक व्याख्या की जा रही है और तथ्यों को तोड़ा-मरोड़ा जा रहा है। दावा तो यहां तक किया जा रहा है कि राणा प्रताप और अकबर के बीच हुए हल्दी घाटी के युद्ध में राणा प्रताप की विजय हुई थी। हल्दी घाटी का युद्ध, सत्ता के लिए लड़ा गया था, धर्म की खातिर नहीं। हम सब को पता है कि अकबर और राणा प्रताप के सहयोगियों में हिन्दू और मुसलमान दोनों शामिल थे। न तो अकबर इस्लाम के रक्षक थे और ना ही राणा प्रताप हिन्दू धर्म की ध्वजा उठाए हुए थे। वे दोनों अपने-अपने साम्राज्यों का विस्तार करना चाहते थे। ऐसा लगता है कि ताजमहल और मुस्लिम राजाओं द्वारा बनाई गईं अन्य इमारतें, सांप्रदायिक शक्तियों की आंखों में खटक रही हैं। अब तक ताज को हिन्दू मंदिर बताए जाने का प्रयास किया जा रहा था। अब, जब कि इस विचारधारा में रचेबसे लोग सत्ता में हैं, ताजमहल को भारतीय इतिहास से मिटाने का प्रयास किया जा रहा है और भारत की संस्कृति में उसे कोई स्थान न दिया जाए, ऐसी कोशिश हो रही है। जिस तरह हिन्दुत्ववादियों ने ताजमहल को उत्तरप्रदेश पर्यटन की पुस्तिका से गायब कर दिया उसी तरह वे शायद मुसलमानों को भी समाज के हाशिए पर धकेल देना चाहते हैं। क्या इन लोगों का अगला निशाना लाल किला होगा जहां से भारत के प्रधानमंत्री स्वतंत्रता दिवस पर भाषण देते आए हैं? ताजमहल और इस तरह की दूसरी ऐतिहासिक और पुरातात्विक इमारतें और ढांचे, भारतीय संस्कृति का हिस्सा हैं। इनका संरक्षण और संवर्धन आवश्यक है ताकि भारत की मिलीजुली संस्कृति को बढ़ावा दिया जा सके। (अंग्रेजी से हिन्दी रूपांतरण अमरीश हरदेनिया)