July 27, 2017

How do India’s mainstream liberal Hindus perceive their own reality vis-a-vis the Hindu Right?

Deccan Chronicle

How Hindus face Hindutva?

Published Oct 1, 2014, 9:22 am IST

Members of Pakistani Hindu community sit next to the rubble of a Hindu temple, which was destroyed by a builder, in Karachi - AP
 Members of Pakistani Hindu community sit next to the rubble of a Hindu temple, which was destroyed by a builder, in Karachi - AP
Indian intellectuals claiming to be concerned for Pakistan's Hindus accosted a Karachi journalist in Delhi recently. How was the minority community coping with the onslaught from Muslim extremists, she was collared frequently by India's think tanks, which some see as a misnomer for a bevy of self-regarding nationalists. Excuse me, but it is Pakistan’s Muslims who are under attack, the journalist told them.
Pakistan’s Hindus, like its Christians, were a terrified lot and the extremists often targeted them no doubt, the journalist reasoned. Those incidents, however, came mostly as efforts by the zealots to hit soft targets when they were under attack from the security forces.
The terrorists’ main quarry is mainstream Muslims, including a majority of liberal men and women, be they Shia or Sunni — all tenaciously fighting the Right-wing upsurge. That’s why they are getting killed. Yes, you could say that the Saudi-style Right-wing Islam was originally spawned by the state itself, and there could still be extremist sympathisers lodged deep within our institutions, she confessed.
Since according to her it was Muslims and not Hindus who were the main targets of the extremists, could the journalist explain the periodically reported exodus of asylum-seeking Hindus from Pakistan into India? That’s because you will not allow Muslim asylum seekers from Pakistan into India. The rejoinder had her interlocutors on the mat though they may not have noticed.
The exchange prompted me to ponder the much-dodged but obvious question for India. How do India’s mainstream liberal Hindus perceive their own reality vis-a-vis the Hindu Right? Are they up for the fight? They write comforting editorials about the plight of Muslims in Narendra Modi’s India. They never shirk from sharing useful insights about the Sachar Commission findings, for example, which showed up Muslims as being at the bottom of the social heap. This was their lot also under Congress rule.
In economic and social scales, Muslims did not fare better under Communist rule either, for example, in West Bengal, according to Justice Rajinder Sachar. I am sorry to have to describe him as one of the liberal Hindus I wish to discuss. It is this or that liberal Hindu after all who will give you a verifiable account of how Indian Christians are under attack in Orissa, or in Gujarat, and now also in Uttar Pradesh where neo-fascist Hindutva gangs have attacked churches as they deepen their hold over the nation’s polity.
Does the middle-of-the road Hindu perceive his own plight too, or does he only feel moved by whatever is happening or may be about to happen with India’s minorities?
It is common knowledge that Siddharth Varada-rajan had to vacate his job directly or indirectly owing to the worldview he had nurtured for himself as an Indian, or, for present purposes, as an Indian Hindu. I use the word Hindu in the sense you would use Muslim to describe I.A. Rehman, Asma Jehangir, Salima Hashmi or Pervez Hoodbhoy who are all facing the extremist heat in Pakistan.
It is of course an unfortunate fact of our times that I must see, purely for the purpose of this analysis, widely admired academic icons like Harbans Mukhia, Badri Raina, Prabhat Patnaik, to name just a few among hundreds, as liberal Hindus. There was a time not too long in the past when these thorough professionals would be seen as Leftist or Marxist or simply secular or liberal intellectuals.
Why should Prakash Karat or Sitaram Yechury be left out from the purview of such a characterisation even though the thought of their being seen as Hindu would be revolting to their staunchly atheistic Communist Party of which they are the main leaders? Do the comrades feel, for instance, that an entire Indian cultural tradition, which comprises 85 per cent Hindus, is at risk with the rise of Hindutva, not just Muslims or Christians?
Or does their definition of the threat only relate to the overused sentiment about secularism? What might happen to the Muslims or Christians in India is no doubt of serious concern, but doesn’t such a limiting filter bring us close to the German reality of the 1930s when in its pervasive fear for the Jews — who were no doubt faced with a grim threat to their existence — the world almost completely failed to notice how the open-minded and genial German had turned into a helpless spectator before Nazi successes? Some later became reluctant or even conniving admirers of the Nazi regime.

Let me illustrate my worry with reference to a discussion I recently watched on an American TV channel. Journalist Brigitte Gabriel, not known to be the best friend of Muslims, said the fact that a majority of Muslims were peaceful and not radical was irrelevant. There were 1.2 billion Muslims in the world of whom, according to Western intelligence, 15 to 25 per cent had become radicals. In other words, 180 million to 300 million dedicated radicals posed a threat to the world order, including Pakistan.
I asked Prakash Karat before the parliamentary election if he saw Hindutva fascism as a threat to Indian democracy. He said the Indian bourgeoisie had alternative avenues to press its agenda without recourse to fascism. For the sake of the majority of Indians to be worried for, let’s hope the comrade is not wide of the mark yet again.

By arrangement with Dawn

July 26, 2017

India: The UP Government’s Colossal Cover-Up Attempt to Protect Adityanath from investigation into his role in anti-Muslim violence

The Wire

The UP Government’s Colossal Cover-Up Attempt to Protect Adityanath

July 25, 2017

RSS's education man DN Batra wants Tagore, Urdu, English, Arabic words removed from school texts

The Indian Express

Dina Nath Batra again: He wants Tagore, Urdu words off school texts

Along with five pages of recommendations, the Nyas, headed by Dina Nath Batra, a former head of Vidya Bharati, the education wing of the RSS, has attached pages from several NCERT textbooks, with the portions that it wants removed marked and underlined.

Written by Ashutosh Bhardwaj | New Delhi | Updated: July 24, 2017 10:27 am
Dinanath Batra, moral education by Dinanath Batra, Shiksha Bachao Andolan Samiti, RSS, school textbook, textbooks, books, RSS, Dinanath Batra, GBEAC, NCERT, Haryana Education Board, Kothari Education Commission, RSS ideologue, Nation news, Nation news
Dina Nath Batra at his home in New Delhi.

Remove English, Urdu and Arabic words, a poem by the revolutionary poet Pash and a couplet by Mirza Ghalib; 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, and to the National Conference as “secular”; an apology tendered by former prime minister Manmohan Singh over the 1984 riots; and a sentence that “nearly 2,000 Muslims were killed in Gujarat in 2002”. These are some of the many recommendations the RSS-affiliated Shiksha Sanskriti Utthan Nyas has sent to the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT), which recently sought suggestions from the public on reviewing school textbooks of all classes.
Along with five pages of recommendations, the Nyas, headed by Dina Nath Batra, a former head of Vidya Bharati, the education wing of the RSS, has attached pages from several NCERT textbooks, with the portions that it wants removed marked and underlined.
“Several things (in these books) are baseless, biased. There is an attempt to insult members of a community. There is also an appeasement… how can you inspire children by teaching them about riots? The history of valour, of great personalities like Shivaji, Maharana Pratap, Vivekananda and Subhas Chandra Bose find no place,” Atul Kothari, secretary of the Nyas and a veteran RSS Pracharak, told The Indian Express.
“We have found these things objectionable and have sent suggestions to the NCERT. We hope that these will be implemented,” Kothari added. The Nyas had earlier run a campaign demanding the removal of A K Ramanujan’s essay Three Hundred Ramayanas: Five Examples and Three Thoughts on Translation, from the syllabus of Delhi University’s undergraduate syllabus, and gone to court demanding the withdrawal of Wendy Doniger’s The Hindus. Three Hundred Ramayanas was removed from DU’s reading list, and Doniger’s book was temporarily unavailable.
The five-page note has objected to the fact that the Class XI political science textbook mentions the “massive majority of Congress in 1984” but “does not present the 1977 election details”; that the Class XII political science textbook “terms National Conference of J&K a secular organisation”; and that the Class X English textbook “places nationalism against other ideals” as “an attempt has been made to show a rift between nationality and humanity by citing thoughts of Rabindranath Tagore”.
The Nyas wants that Hindi textbooks must mention that the medieval Sufi mystic Amir Khusrau “increased the rift between Hindus and Muslims”.
Some key deletions the Nyas has sought are as follows.
Political Science, Class XII:
* Paragraph on 1984 riots that ends, “During his parliament speech in 2005, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh expressed regret over the bloodshed and sought an apology from the country for anti-Sikh violence.”
* A paragraph saying the Ram temple movement was “linked with the growth of BJP and politics of Hindutva”.
* A paragraph that describes the BJP as a “Hinduvadi party”; another that says “Hindutva or Hindupan were coined by VD Savarkar”.
* The sentence, “Babri mosque was built by Mir Baqi… Some Hindus believe that it was built at the birthplace of Ram by destroying a Ram temple.”
* A description of the Godhra incident of 2002 says: “A train caught fire… on a suspicion that the fire was caused by Muslims.” The Nyas wants “caught fire” to be replaced by “set on fire”, and the word “suspicion” removed.
* A box that says “Can we ensure that those who plan such massacres… they can be at least taught a lesson in a political manner (voting)”.
Hindi textbooks:
* These are among the many words the Nyas wants removed: Vice-Chancellor, worker, margin, business, backbone, stanza, royal academy (in English); betartib, poshaak, taakat, ilaaka, aksar, imaan, jokhim, mehman-navaazi, sare-aam (Urdu/Arabic words); ullu kahin ka, kambakht, badmaash, luchche-lafange, chamaar, bhangiyon (“abusive” words)
* Ghalib’s couplet, “Hum ko malum hai jannat ki haqiqat lekin/dil ko khush rakhne ko Ghalib ye khyal achchha hai”.
* A Class IX book has a poem by Ramdhari Singh Dinkar that follows a question on the “yearnings of a lover”. Such questions “misguide children and cause the loss of their character,” the Nyas has written.
* A Class XI book contains extracts from M F Husain autobiography. The Nyas wants it removed because the “central government considered his activities a threat to the country’s unity and sovereignty”.
* A chapter on the Kannada Bhakti poet Akka Mahadevi describes an incident in which she took off her clothes in protest. This “description of naked women” is an “attack on Hindu culture in the name of women freedom,” says the Nyas.
* Class VI: During the post-Vedic period, “women were normally considered equivalent to Shudras”.
* Class VII: Akbar introduced “Sulah-e-Kul policy”, which stated that “the followers of all religions have an equal place… (before) God’s grace.”
* Class VIII: An extract from the 19th century activist Tarabai Shinde’s milestone book A Comparison Between Women and Men, which attacks patriarchy and is considered the first feminist text in modern India. The extract details the “misfortune” and “social boycott” a widow suffers.
* Class XII: A chapter on the varna system says, “In this system the status was probably determined by birth. They (Brahmins) tried to make people realise that their prestige was based on birth… such parameters were often strengthened by stories in many books like The Mahabharata.”
* A chapter terms “Indra, the war god of Aryas” as the “accused” of “massacre of men, women and children” during the last phase of Mohenjo Daro.
* A chapter on the Mughal period says that “the rulers had an extremely liberal policy towards people… All Mughal rulers gave grants for the construction and maintenance of places of worship. Even when the temples were destroyed during battles, grants for their repair work were released later.”
* In his “memoirs”, Jahangir mentioned a “chain of justice” he got erected to ensure justice. This “30-yard chain had 60 bells”, and anybody could ring it and “attract attention” of the authorities.

India: Vande Mataram - National song should be sung at least once a week in educational institutions - Text of Madras high court order


K.Veeramani .. Petitioner Vs. The Chairman, Teachers Recruitment Board,
College Road, Chennai-6. ..

Respondent PRAYER: Writ Petition is filed under Article 226 of the
Constitution of India to issue a Writ of Mandamus, directing the respondent
to award one mark for the answer attended by the petitioner in Question
No.107 (D-Type) (Paper-II) and publish the correct result in so far relates
to the petitioner.

For Petitioner : Mr.C.Prakasam

For Respondent: Mr.R.Muthukumarasamy, Advocate General Assisted by
Mrs.K.Bhuvaneswari, Government Advocate 2 Assisting the Court by Advocates
1) Mrs.S.Sujatha, 276, L.C. 2) Mr.A.S.Bilal, 283, L.C. 3) Mr.Annadurai,

O R D E R The Petitioner has filed the instant Writ Petition for issuance
of a Writ of Mandamus, directing the respondent to award one mark for the
answer attended by the petitioner in Question No.107 (D-Type) (Paper-II)
and publish the correct result in so far relates to the petitioner.

2. A country with a population of more 1.32 billion people with 29 states
and 7 Union Territories and extremely different languages and dialects
spoken across every part of this nation makes our country a largest
democracy in this world. As Nelson Mandela has remarked, “If you talk to a
man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him
in his language, that goes to his heart”.

3. Language has perhaps been bridge between people across towns, cities,
states, countries and continents. As civilizations developed, so did
languages and our country has the pride of having many languages that have
been in existence and practice for several thousands of years together. 3

4. As there are several languages in our country, it is sometimes difficult
to ascertain as to what evolved in which language. This Court is now posed
with the question as to in what language was our National song originally
written. The answer would in fact answer the main issue involved in the
present writ petition.

5. It is the claim of the petitioner that he has taken part in the Teacher
eligibility test conducted by the Respondent on 18.08.2013 and as applied
for the post of B.T. Assistant. It has been contended by the petitioner
that he had secured 89 marks in the examination and upon receiving the
final answer key he has found that the respondent has not awarded marks
properly to the questions. In particular it has been contended by the
petitioner that he has attended question number 107 (D-type) in paper-2 but
according to him the answer given in the answer key is incorrect. The
question is as follows:- In which language the song “Vande Matharam” was
written first a. Bengali c. Urdu b. Marathi d. Sanskrit

6. It has been contended by the petitioner that the correct answer is
option A.Bengali, whereas the respondent in the answer key has wrongly
given it as option D.Sanskrit. To support his claim, he has relied upon the
book “Anandamath” which was authored by Bankim Chandra Chatterjee 4 which
was published in 1882 which included the song “Vande Matharam”, which later
become the national song of India.

7. Since it was felt by this Court that the matter required consideration,
notice was ordered to the Respondent and the petitioner was also directed
to be called for certificate of verification. When the matter was again
called on 07.06.2017, the learned Special Government Pleader had submitted
that the answer key to question number 107 was prepared on the basis of
authenticated text and sought time to produce the said materials on
13.06.2017 failing which the Secretary, Teachers Recruitment Board was
directed to be personally present before the Court. Again after two
adjournments no response was forthcoming and on 07.07.2017 when the matter
was taken up, the learned Additional Government Pleader submitted that the
national song was only written in Sanskrit and later translated to Bengali.

8. To resolve this controversy, this Court directed the learned Advocate
General to appear and inform the correct answer to the question since there
were conflicting answers to the said question. This Court also sought the
assistance of any advocate to offer their reply to settle the controversy
involved in the present writ petition.

9. I have heard the submissions of Mr.C.Prakasam, learned counsel appearing
on behalf of the petitioner and Mr.R.Muthukumarasamy, learned Advocate
General of the State assisted by Mrs.K.Bhuvaneswari, 5 Government Advocate
and also the submissions of Mrs.S.Sujatha, Mr.A.S.Bilal and Mr.Annadurai,
learned counsels, who have come forward to assist this Court.

10. Our Independence struggle to attain freedom from the British has been
one of the most toughest independence struggle across this world which
resulted in loss of numerous number of lives but still unified this whole
nation together in a peaceful way to protest against the British to leave
this country and return it to the natives and the sons and daughters of
this soil. To unify and to create a feeling of oneness amongst all Indians
across the whole country, several renowned leaders and authors have
composed several songs, poems, verses and also enacted several street plays
and dramas to bring together the people for the sustained independence

11. One such songs that touched the hearts of thousands of people and acted
as a unifier was the song “Vande Matharam” which meant “I bow to thee,
Mother”. It was first sung in a political context by Rabindranath Tagore at
the 1896 session of the Indian National Congress. In 1950, subsequent to
the Independence, it was adopted as the national song which even today
touches our heart when we hear it.

12. To find out the origin of this song this Court has sought the
assistance of the learned counsels from the bar who were willing to assist
the Court and the learned counsels Mrs.S.Sujatha, Mr.A.S.Bilal and 6
Mr.Annadurai have readily come forward with considerable research and
material on the subject. Mrs.S.Sujatha has taken painful efforts in
collecting materials from the National Encyclopedia of Bangladesh, extract
from the book Interpretation of Vande Matharam and also produced other
records collecting from the native of Bankim Chandra Chatterjee which would
clearly throw light on the subject. Mr.A.S.Bilal, learned counsel has also
given extensive materials collecting from all levels and Mr.Annadurai has
made submissions tracing the history of the song “Vande Matharam”.

13. From the perusal of the materials produced before this Court, that the
song “Vande Matharam” was originally penned down as “Bondey Matorom” by
Bongkim Chondro Chottoapadhyay in Bengali. It was later translated to
Sanskrit as “Vande Matharam”. Though Sanskrit has been used in the song a
cursory perusal of all relevant records produced would reveal that the
native language in which the song was written in Bengali.

14. The learned Advocate General Mr.R.Muthukumarasamy, has also accepted
the fact that the song “Vande Matharam” was originally written in Bengali
and there was a mistake on the part of the respondent in not awarding the
mark for the petitioner though he has selected the correct option Bengali.

15. Therefore, it is clear that the petitioner is entitled for one
additional mark since he has rightly answered the question in issue. Hence,
it is directed that the respondent shall award one additional mark 7 to the
petitioner. Though it has been communicated that even if the petitioner is
granted one additional mark as claimed, he would still have a cut-off of
58.57 which is 0.16 marks lesser than the prescribed cut-off marks for
SC(G), the learned counsel for the petitioner would however submit that
several persons below the petitioner have been accommodated and given
appointments as B.T. Assistant. But, the Special Government Pleader through
the Additional counter informed this Court that one Mr.Elavarasan, who
secured 54.12 marks in the TET and belongs to SC(G) was given appointment
on the ground that he perused B.Ed. in Special Education.

16. Considering the submissions made by the learned counsel appearing for
the petitioner and also considering the fact that the petitioner is only
0.16 marks below that cut-off marks as claimed, the respondent is directed
to accommodate the petitioner in any vacancy that have arisen in the SC(G)
category and consequently issue appointment order as B.T. Assistant, if
otherwise eligible within a period of four weeks from the date of receipt
of a copy of the order. The writ petition is allowed in the aforesaid
terms. However, there shall be no order as to costs. Consequently,
connected miscellaneous petition is closed.

17. Before parting this Court places its appreciation for the able
assistance provided by Mrs.Sujatha, Mr.Bilal and Mr.Annadurai, learned
counsels who have taken pains in providing voluminous material to this
Court for resolving the controversy. 8

18. Patriotism is an essential requirement for every citizen of this
country. The fact that this country is our Motherland should always be
remembered by every citizen of this country. Several people have sacrificed
their lives and families to the independent struggle that prolonged for
several decades. In these tough times, it was songs like our national song
“Vande Matharam” which created a sense of belief and confidence in the

19. Perhaps in today's modern era where we have marched ahead with
technology, our lives have changed a lot. We have become busy with our own
lives that sometimes we forget our nation. Sensing this fact the Hon'ble
Supreme Court in Shyam Narayan Chouksey v. Union of India reported in 2016
SCC Online SC 1411 has directed that National Anthem shall be strictly
respected by all citizens and the Anthem shall be played in all cinema
halls across the country before the start of the movie. This direction was
issued by the Hon'ble Supreme Court by clearly observing that: “7.From the
aforesaid, it is clear as crystal that it is the sacred obligation of every
citizen to abide by the ideals engrafted in the Constitution. And one such
ideal is to show respect for the National Anthem and the National Flag. Be
it stated, a time has come, the citizens of the country must realize that
they live in a nation and are duty bound to show respect to National Anthem
which is the symbol of the Constitutional 9 Patriotism and inherent
national quality. It does not allow any different notion or the perception
of individual rights, that have individually thought of have no space. The
idea is constitutionally impermissible.”

20. Likewise, it would be desirable that the National Song “Vande Matharam”
is sung by citizens from different walks of life as frequently as possible
in their educational institutions/offices/ workplace/stadiums.

21. Recently, this Court while considering whether “Thirukkural” ought to
be made part of the School Curriculum in S.Rajarathinam v. Secretary to
Government, Home Department reported in 2016 SCC Online Mad 2373 has held
that: “53.It was brought to the knowledge of this Court that the syllabus
is determined by the committee appointed by the Government. It is pertinent
to mention here, the policy is framed by the Government in consonance with
and to preserve the fundamental rights under Part III of the Constitution.
Once a policy is framed, then it is a matter of accommodation. If there is
a will, there would be a way. It will be the greatest contribution to the
society and to the language itself by the Government. Various adaptations
and stories associated with Thirukkural in the form of “Thirukkural
Kathaigal”. Therefore, it can be taught to the students without 10 causing

Moral values are more important that other values. Once, the moral values
are lost, it is only a matter of time, before the person falls, despite
possessing all other qualities, which may earn in name, fame, power and
money. If Thirukkural is taught with all its avenues and dimensions
elaborately, the students would be equipped with all the facets of life,
the probable problems and the solutions. The couplets about friendship,
hard work, good character, patience, tolerance and confidence will guide
them through, even the most difficult of times. Thirukkural will give them
the inner strength to withstand any storm. Therefore, this Court commends
that appropriate action must be taken by the Government through the
committee which decides the syllabus, considering the noble objective and
the demanding situation and finalise the syllabus for the next academic
year by including 108 Chapters/Adhigarams of Thirukkural (Arathupal and
Porutpal) in the curriculum of students between VI Standard to XII
Standard, keeping in mind that the purpose of education must be to build a
nation with moral values.”

22. Considering the larger public interest and to instill a sense of
patriotism in each and every citizen of the State, this Court in addition
to 11 direction already passed in the writ petition, issues the following
directions: (a)The National Song “Vande Matharam” shall be played and sung
in all schools/colleges/Universities and other educational institutions
atleast once a week (Preferably on Monday or Friday); (b)The National Song
“Vande Matharam” shall be played and sung in all Government Offices and
Institutions/Private companies/ Factories and industries at least once a
Month; (c)The Director of Public Information is directed to upload and
circulate the translated version of “Vande Matharam” in Tamil and English
thereby making it available in the Government websites and also in social
media; (d)Let a copy of this order be marked to the Chief Secretary of the
Government of Tamil Nadu, who shall issue appropriate instructions to the
concerned authorities; (e)In the event, any person/organisation has
difficulty in singing or playing the National Song, he or she shall not be
compelled or forced to sing it, provided there are valid reasons for not
doing so.
23. The youth of this country are the future of tomorrow. This Court hopes
and trusts that this order shall be taken in the right spirit and also
implemented in letter and spirit by the citizenry of this great Nation.

25.07.2017 Index : Yes Speaking order vs To The Chairman, Teachers
Recruitment Board, College Road, Chennai-6. 13 M.V.MURALIDARAN, J. vs
Pre-Delivery order made in W.P.No.32316 of 2013 and M.P.No.1 of 2013

July 24, 2017

India: BJP spreads its wings -Translating Hindutva into national creed

 The Tribune, July 22, 2017

by S Nihal Singh

TO no one’s surprise, Mr Ram Nath Kovind, the BJP candidate, won the presidential election. He had the numbers and the main interest was in the volume of cross-voting in the opposition ranks. Judging by the level of the latter, opposition parties have a lot of work to do to prepare themselves for the 2019 general election. The RSS strand of nationalism has now captured three of the highest offices in the land in the personalities of Prime Minister Modi, Mr Kovind and, in days to come, Mr Venkaiah Naidu (vice-presidency). Despite the public pronouncements of the latter two on forswearing party loyalties, a lifetime or near-lifetime imbibing the narrow Hindu nationalism and myths of the RSS cannot but influence their decisions in performing their constitutional duties. That the Opposition is in a bind is no secret, and the chief hurdle before any measure of effectiveness is achieved is the long dominant Congress having come to the end of the road. Mr Rahul Gandhi is the heir apparent and even after he is crowned king, with mother Sonia keeping a close watch on him, his lack of political instinct must remain a tremendous handicap. The Opposition can be divided among the two main Communist parties and others. The Communists’ main task is to act as a ginger group with India’s main Asian rival China the only remaining classical Communist regime. Indian Communists are useful in reminding the country of the ideals of secularism which are being demolished each day by the present ruling dispensation. The Congress, as suggested, is in a terrible bind. The new emperor has no clothes and a party fed on excessive doses of family rule cannot look for leadership outside the restricted circle. Mr Nitish Kumar of the Janata Dal (United) does not have a party to speak of and has nimbly placed himself in a position to jump on the BJP bandwagon or claim a leadership role in the Opposition. He gave his support to the BJP presidential candidate even before the Opposition met to decide a joint candidate. Of the remaining regional parties, three stand out, Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress in West Bengal, Naveen Patnaik’s Biju Janata Dal in Odisha and the two DMKs in Tamil Nadu. Mr Amit Shah, BJP president, has already prioritised these states. Indeed, he has been most aggressive in Bengal by trying the medicine he administered in Uttar Pradesh, also with a significant Muslim population, by polarising the electorate along communal lines. The BJP is facing a problem in Bengal because it faces a combative chief minister, who has made mistakes over coping with a corruption scandal and in giving fillip to the Gorkha movement in Darjeeling, but will fight each inch before ceding territory.  In Odisha’s case, Mr Patnaik, a chip of the old block, is a wily politician who plays his cards carefully and thought it wise to support the BJP candidate for presidency. Tamil Nadu falls in a separate category because it has distinguished itself by the level of skulduggery the DMK parties practice. The AIADMK had Jayalalithaa reigning as a queen to be followed by the melodrama of her companion Sasikala, who landed herself in jail on money-related matters after usurping the party leadership even as her proxies continue to rule the state. In jail she has made news by allegedly enjoying special privileges for a consideration leading to the transfer of two senior police officers. The BJP must therefore pay a price high enough to attract support. Opposition ranks will be inevitably denuded over the coming weeks and months as the lure of power tempts a number of leaders and followers to join the BJP’s bandwagon. After all, tasting power is the dream of every politician and with the traditional source of power, the Congress, in the doldrums there is nowhere else to go. Opposition disunity is an old problem. There is no coherent policy its constituents share except for broad ideas such as secularism. But secularism comes in many shapes and sizes although now frontally challenged by the present ruling dispensation. The problem is that even with this new threat, many Opposition leaders are more concerned by narrower regional and caste concerns to guard their flanks.  At the intellectual and middle class levels, issues of national policy are clear cut. But these sections do not constitute a majority. Indeed, Mr Modi’s success lies in presenting the problems of the country in crisp terms understood by the proverbial common man even while carrying on the pro-poor rhetoric so successfully used by Indira Gandhi in the past. Therefore, in a sense most in the modern secular Indian society are bystanders even as the ruling party and its leaders seek to build a new Hindu India of their dream. And now they hold three senior positions to frame and influence policy. For persons of integrity more interested in the direction the country is taking, rather than the gains and losses of individuals and parties, from this point of view, the picture looks bleak. Politics, as we have learned by trial and error, is the game of the possible and the phase the country is passing through, much as the US is experiencing under the Trump presidency, is a transient phenomenon. However, unlike in the US, the BJP is set on changing the very basis on which the idea of India is founded. The leaders of the Indian independence movement achieved the rare distinction of shepherding the country into following a modern set of ideas ultimately enshrined in a constitution that promises equality irrespective of caste or religious affiliations. Although the practice of Indian democracy leaves much to be desired, the goal has been clear. The BJP-RSS leadership is now suggesting that the ideal of a secular India is wrong. In essence, it argues that we live in a Hindu India and all minorities must pay obeisance to the Hindutva cause and practices. If only the Opposition leaders kept this central theme in mind, they would render service to the country.

India - Jammu Kashmir: RSS pushes minority status for Hindus living in Jammu and Kashmir

The Tribune

RSS demand for minority panel puts BJP in fix

Dinesh Manhotra
Tribune News Service
Jammu, July 23

The BJP is in a quandary after the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) favoured minority status for Hindus living in Jammu and Kashmir. The coalition government, in which the BJP is an equal partner, had opposed the creation of a minority commission in J&K which is the only Muslim majority state in the country. “It is a welcome step. Ultimately, the RSS leadership has come forward to restore constitutional and fundamental rights to the minority community in J&K,” said Ankur Sharma, a Jammu-based advocate who has filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court for setting up the minority panel. He, however, regretted that the state BJP, which is one of the constituents of the Sangh Parivar, has opposed constitutional rights to Hindus, Sikhs and other minorities. “The RSS leadership must direct the state BJP not to deprive Hindus and Sikhs of the state of their constitutional rights,” he had said. On Thursday, All India Prachar Pramukh of the RSS Manmohan Vaidya had favoured minority rights for the Hindus living in J&K. He said the government should take note of the demand for setting up a minority commission in J&K. Since Vaidya’s statement, no BJP leader is ready to come on record on the issue because neither the party can oppose its political mentor’s stand nor it can contradict its own government’s affidavit in the Supreme Court. Responding to the writ petition, J&K had filed an affidavit in the apex court in February to oppose a minority commission. “The petition for setting up a state minority commission in Jammu and Kashmir through a proper legislation, including time-bound identification and notification of religious and linguistic minorities by the state, is legally not maintainable,” the PDP-BJP government had told the apex court. Similarly on the floor of the Legislative Council, Social Welfare Minister Sajjad Lone on June 24, 2016, had outrightly rejected the demand for setting up a minority commission. On March 27 this year, the Supreme Court had asked the Centre and J&K Government to sit together and take a decision on setting up a minority commission in the state.

July 23, 2017

Into the world of the Kanwariyas Reportage by Snigdha Poonam (Hindustan Times)

Hindustan Times

Shiva’s band of men: Into the world of the Kanwariyas

Who is a Kanwariya and what does he want from life? HT travels with a group of pilgrims, who are getting younger, wilder and more male every year, to understand why they take the journey

long reads Updated: Jul 22, 2017 22:45 IST
Snigdha Poonam
A monsoon ritual once known only in pockets of the Gangetic plains, the Kanwar Yatra is today India’s biggest annual pilgrimage. Where only a few thousands made the journey until the 1980s, around 20 million carried the kanwar between Haridwar and Delhi in 2016. Clad in saffron robes and balancing urns of Gangajal along hundreds of kilometres, here’s a look at the journey and motivations that draw these men to the pilgrimage in larger numbers each year. (Vipin Kumar / HT Photo)

“Where are the hockey sticks?” Omi Saini shouts into the air as his open-top truck first hits traffic 25 km into the drive from Hardwar. His fellow travellers first look at him in puzzlement and then at each other in accusation. They are six in all, but except for the one at the wheel, the rest of them are sitting in the back of the truck on a deck erected on bamboo poles and stacked up with mattresses. Actually, not all five of them are together on the deck at any point in the 300-km drive between Hardwar and Firozepur Jhirka, their destination. Two of them are always on the road, running behind the truck with a bag carrying two bottles of water. The positions change every 100 metres but without the truck ever coming to a full stop. As the vehicle slows down, two men climb a wooden ladder to the deck dripping sweat and two slither down a large plastic drum dripping water they have just poured over themselves. All that passes between the two set of sodden men across the truck in this split second is water: two bottles of Ganga jal from one of its holiest sources in Hindu mythology – the ghats of Hardwar where the river is believed to descend from lord Shiva’s topknot. The men are dressed like a team: orange T-shirts inscribed with the name of their town, orange shorts, travel pouches across their chest, compression sleeves around their calves, rescue whistles around their necks, and ghunghroos around their ankles. The look – a mix of hiker, football player and Kathak dancer – is only strange until you notice that the highway is crammed with all-male teams dressed the same way.
The whole exercise is planned around the holy water. One is only a true Kanwariya if his Ganga jal remains in motion over the two-day Kanwar route between Hardwar and his home, where he will offer the water to the nearest Shivalinga. It’s up to him to decide how he wants to cover the 200-odd kilometers without spilling a single drop: walking, running, crawling, or participating in a relay race involving a moving vehicle. Hordes of pilgrims have covered the route carrying the Kanwar – a wooden pole with an urn of Ganga jal tied to each end – since the 19th century. Little about the pilgrimage remains the same, however. What used to be a monsoon ritual undertaken in pockets of the Gangetic plains is today India’s biggest annual pilgrimage. Only a few thousand made the journey until the 1980s; around 20 million carried the Kanwar between Hardwar and Delhi in 2016.

A Kanwariya wearing a T-shirt with Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath’s photograph on it. (Vipin Kumar/HT PHOTO)
What has also changed is the scale and the style of the pilgrimage. The Kanwar itself is no longer two aluminium pots hanging from a wooden pole, but two multi-storied temples fashioned from every decorative item available in the local markets – tinsel, streamers, lace, Styrofoam – and attached to either side of a glittering rod. But only the pilgrims travelling on foot carry a Kanwar these days. The cooler set carry the water in bottles and switch between running like an Olympic racer and winding down on a motorbike or a truck. Nothing is cooler than a trailer – the bigger, the better. The trucks come equipped with a sound system and a DJ who can play the Kanwariya version of every hit Bollywood song. However, if you’ve got a trailer, you can pack it tight with speakers – floor to ceiling, side to side – turn up the bass, and blast the latest House beats from L.A. If you are more into sight than sound, you can hire a company of Kanwariya artists to dress up as Shiva and Parvati and enact domestic squabbles or swipe their faces with ash and roll their eyes into their heads.
“Bhole Has Called Me”
No change in the world of Kanwar Yatra is as visible as the composition of the Kanwariyas, who get younger, more male, and more out of control with every year. Until only a decade ago, the Kanwariya season meant a procession of saffron-clad men and women wobbling along the roads between Hardwar and Delhi. Now, it’s 200 kilometers of free-ranging masculinity: thousands of young men taking over every inch of public space to do what they think is their right – walking, running, driving, dancing, dressing, undressing, bathing, sleeping, getting high, and making all kinds of trouble.

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Year after year, Kanwariyas make headlines for coming in the way of law and order. This season alone, Kanwariyas have been in the news for falling off trains, being electrocuted on a street, being hit by a bus, vandalising buses, blocking highways, blowing up a police vehicle and later a police station. Few things disrupt life in north India as extensively as the annual passage of the Kanwariyas. If in Hardwar their arrival means special battalions of police, in Delhi it means a shutdown of schools. Along the rest of the route, it means willing or enforced surrender, from the usual lockdown of shops and restaurants to the recent ban on selling meat and eggs in Greater Noida during the season. But who are these young men taking over the streets in much of north India and why is everyone afraid of them? For one, they are armed with hockey sticks.
“I definitely remember we loaded them in,” says Raju, reaching under a mattress in search of the hockey sticks. He goes by one name, like most members of the Kanwariya gang: Naresh, Naveen, Ajay… The oldest of them is 36 and the youngest 20, but currently their place in the hierarchy is decided by their Kanwar cred. So it’s 28-year-old Naresh with four yatras under his belt who took charge of the preparations a month and a half in advance. “There is so much to arrange for. Clothes, trucks, DJ, videographer, cook, diesel, generator, food, water,” he says, as the truck whips round a bend, flinging us to opposite sides of a deck only separated from open air by a rope. The “craze for Kanwar” only took off in his village seven years ago. Since then, larger numbers of young men set off every year on a week-long pilgrimage their parents hadn’t even heard of. The men from Firozepur Jhirka know each other like brothers. All of these men were born in the same village, belong to the same caste – Mali (OBC) – and most continue to live and work there. “Some of us work as cooks, some of us as vegetable vendors, some of us as construction labourers,” Naresh says, now holding on to the bamboo pole tied across the middle of the deck. He is a small man with dark skin, high cheekbones and sunken eyes. He and his friends make up the first generation of men in their families to work outside the fields; only one of them has gone to high school. Naresh himself dropped out in fifth grade to support his family. A vegetable vendor, Naresh makes Rs 15,000 a month and saves at least Rs 7,000 through the year to put in the Kanwar kitty. It’s what everyone must contribute towards a basic fund of Rs 1,25,000.
“Why spend the saving on Kanwar?” I ask him. “What to do – Bhole (lord Shiva) keeps calling me,” he says, sliding to the edge of the deck to prepare for the plunge.

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Ask any of the tens of thousands of men streaming in and out of Hardwar on any day of the Sravan and you will hear the same thing: Bhole has called me. A vast majority of Kanwariyas are young men from low-income families in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Rajasthan who are themselves hanging on to the edges of the informal economy as drivers, labourers and security guards. The four words – Bhole has called me – are uttered less in devotion and more as a code for escape from the uncertainties of their daily lives, from chances of earning fixed wages to chances of finding a good wife. The Kanwar Yatra is their one chance to prove their talents – physical strength, resourcefulness, wit – without being faced with market realities. Like an annual company offsite, the challenges of a Kanwar yatra prepare them to go back to their lives wiser and stronger.
That Special Feeling
Apparently, only a man can understand what a Kanwar yatra means to another man. Married for four years, Naresh has never brought his wife along on a Kanwar trip. “It’s not for the ladies. I have visited Hardwar with my wife otherwise but not like this. Some ladies from our village do the yatra but they prefer to walk back and forth, like the older people.” No matter what his wife thinks of his annual adventure, Naresh will keep returning to Hardwar with his gang. ““I like so many things about the journey.” It’s the only time in a year when, irrespective of his caste or class, the world treats Naresh like he thinks it should: families offer him meals, shopkeepers reserve a discount, complete strangers press his feet, and a policeperson accompanies his team from when their truck enters Delhi to when it recedes from the capital.
It’s the most conflict-prone leg of the Kanwariya’s journey: this is when Naresh and his friends come face to face with an urban middle class they only provide their services to otherwise. As Kanwariyas, though, their only loyalty is to each other and to “Bholenath” so the rest of the world can go to hell. The roads can remain jammed, the schools shut, and loudspeaker limits extended.

A group of Kanwariyas take a selfie in Hardwar - the pilgrimage is increasingly becoming a show of male bonding. (Vipin Kumar/HT PHOTO)
Halfway down the road from Hardwar, someone does finally find the hockey sticks. The one to discover them next to the stove is Vikram Majhoka, the youngest member of the team. Twenty-year-old Majhoka, a tall, muscular man with a big forehead and long hair, is also the most educated of the gang. He is currently enrolled in a professional institute in Gurgaon from where he will graduate in a year with a degree in computer applications.
He isn’t sure what he will do next. “I will sit for Haryana police exam maybe,” he says, panting. He has just covered about 25 km running with the Ganga jal. I wonder if the labour is for lord Shiva, but he doesn’t even see himself as religious. “Not really. My family does agarbatti-dhoop before the gods every Sunday. Sometimes I also stand around, that’s all.” I ask him why he is here at all. “To have a good time with friends. To have fun,” he says, sharing on Facebook a selfie he has just taken with me.
He would have got a real tattoo of Shiva on his arm for the trip if not for the fact that “some people have been rejected in the physical exam for Haryana police because of that.” He’s making do with a psychedelic tattoo sleeve. It’s his first Kanwar yatra and he tells me it’s been plenty fun so far. I ask him what he likes the most about it. He says it’s the dancing on the roof of the truck between the sprints. What about the part with the hockey sticks? “Oh that’s just to clear the traffic. If people are blocking the truck then you have to move them aside.” What if they are hurt in the process, I ask him as he swings a stick over his head. “No, no, we are not there to hurt anyone,” replies Omi Saini, who is now back on the deck after two rounds of running. “We are peaceful people.”