June 20, 2018

India: Image making videos of PM Modi now include his excercise and fitness work is packaged for wider echo

From Business Standard

Fitness challenge: How PM Modi can politically gain from the exercise
Bharat Bhushan

Watching Prime Minister Narendra Modi wade through patches of water and walk gingerly over pebbles, gravel, mud and grass before sprawling on a rock in a 1.48 minute video unleashed on the nation, viewers might well ask why the Prime Minister felt compelled to publicise his morning routine.

Modi then tagged police officers, film stars and sportspersons into his fitness challenge. That covers all those with any social capital to invest. But as in any Ponzi scheme, only the man at the top of the pyramid reaps a profit. While those down the food chain are given hope, it is the initial investor, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who will benefit by burnishing his fading image.

To believe that he was only responding to a challenge by cricketer Virat Kohli is to test credulity. Would Virat Kohli have had the gumption to throw a fitness challenge to the Prime Minister of India had it not already been ‘gamed’? The Fitness Challenge began with Sports and Youth Affairs Minister Rajyavardhan Rathore. Was it mere coincidence that he began his fitness video by first invoking Prime Minister Modi as his inspiration and praising him for following a hectic schedule “effortlessly”?

The orchestrated public relations exercise is not about a self-indulgent prime minister’s exercise routine. It has several political objectives. In the run-up to the next general election, it tries to shift public attention away from the social crises facing the country to bring the focus back on the prime minister; it packages him as someone in the pink of health at 67; and it showcases him as a leader rooted in ancient Hindu traditions, so essential to his image as a ‘Hindutva’ leader.

If indeed society could be transformed by self-improvement of the individual as suggested by the hashtag Hum fit toh India fit (If I am fit, India will be fit), there would be no need for politics, Parliament or governance. Unfortunately, social, political and economic issues require collective action and not running around on pebbles holding a wooden club.

The Modi government has little to show for itself on matters of everyday concern to the citizens after four years in power.

The Prime Minister’s record in Parliament is dismal. A public interest litigation filed in the courts reports that in the last four years he has spoken only on 19 occasions in Parliament – once on a government Bill, 5 times to introduce his ministers, 6 times on thanksgiving motions and twice in special discussions. He has avoided democratic accountability to Parliament and he does not address press conferences where he will have to take questions. Even Zen masters answered questions however abstruse their replies.

The prime minister has, on the other hand, mastered every form of one-way communication: the radio monologue called “Mann ki Baat”, pre-recorded speeches on TV and abusing the Opposition in public meetings.

The fitness challenge not only diverts political criticism but can also be used to target political rivals. Why else would Modi have chosen to tag Karnataka Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy who it is widely known, has had two open-heart surgeries – the last one in 2017. Anyone who thinks this was a “friendly gesture” should stop to ask whether the prime minister would have posted a fitness challenge to some of his own ministers and chief ministers recovering from serious health issues.

The Karnataka Chief Minister was unfazed and retorted that he was more concerned about the development of the state than himself.

It is also significant that the prime minister threw the fitness challenge to Indian Police Service officers above the age of 40 – i.e. officers in the top echelons of the central and state police forces. Expectedly, some of them like the Director General of Police of Jammu and Kashmir, responded with a five push-ups video and in turn threw a fitness challenge to all his men. The Prime Minister immediately retweeted “Shaabash Jawan! (Well done, Soldier!)”.

In a hierarchical organisation like the police force, there is an overwhelming desire to curry favour with one’s superiors. An Inspector General of the National Investigation Agency (NIA), Mukesh Singh, also accepted the fitness challenge and posted a video of himself doing one-arm planks. He has invited all NIA officers of the rank of Superintendent of Police and above to do the same. Similarly a 1987-batch IPS officer Sanjeev Kumar Singh, serving as Additional Director General of Police, Anti-Naxalite Operations in Madhya Pradesh, has posted three exercise videos of himself.

There are more than 2.4 million policemen in the state police forces in India while the central armed police forces number more than 1.1 million. If a large number of them start sharing workout videos to please their bosses, they will all get into the Twitter timeline of the prime minister.

Perhaps Modi chose not to draw the Indian armed forces into the challenge because they do not allow use of the social media.

Prime Minister Modi also got to embellish his Hindutva credentials by harking back to the ‘five elements’ in his workout – “Prithvi, Jal, Agni, Vayu, Aakash (Earth, Water, Fire, Wind and Sky)”. In the Vedas, they constitute the basis of all cosmic creation. Prime Minister Modi’s ‘fitness walk’ over pebbles, water, etc, before stretching himself over a rock exposing himself to the sky is like a ritual establishing his connection with the ‘pancha-bhootas’ (five elements) that form the basis of Ayurveda.

This will surely go down well with the gullible lot who pop untested and uncertified Ayurvedic pills, glug unpalatable vegetable juices and munch on plants, leaves and seeds every morning for their health benefits. This is a huge constituency of voters and consumers as the various Babas and God men with double honorifics have realised. However, many unbelievers out there are having a hearty laugh at the prime minister’s antics. But isn’t laughing also good for one’s health?
The writer is a journalist based in Delhi

India: Untruth Prevails - Tales From The 4G Rumour Mill | Dola Mitra

The Magazine
18 June 2018

Untruth Prevails
Tales From The 4G Rumour Mill
Fear is trending and violence is a ping away, why does fake news make India erupt?
Dola Mitra

Shillong is pushed into curfew as fake news about the death of a tribal causes a riot- like situation in the hill town
Photograph by PTI

Memories of Haze

Bangalore 2012 This was one of the early episodes of chaos induced through social media. Messages claiming that people, largely students, from the Northeast were being targeted in Bangalore by locals were circulated via social media, still at a somewhat nascent stage. What followed was a mass exodus ­attempt by people from Northeastern states with thousands rushing to the railway station to flee the virtually created hostile vibe.

Muzaffarnagar 2013 The main spark of the 2013 communal riots in Muzzafarnagar was a stray WhatsApp video. The video, most likely from a remote area of Pakistan, showed a mob brutally beating two men. It was shared widely to spread anger against a community. The state government had to intervene and clear the air around the falsely attributed video, but the venom had been spread by then.

Jharkhand 2017 Last year, another WhatsApp scare around ‘child-kidnapping’ in Jharkhand resulted in the lynching of seven people.


It came out of nowhere—no sour­ces cited, no eyewitness accounts, yet it spread all over the internet and suddenly, it was social media breaking news: a tribal man had been killed following an argument with a bus conductor, who belonged to another community. In no time, a usually laidback Shillong was in the grip of both fear and rage, courtesy, innumerable WhatsApp forwards, Facebook shares and retweets.

No one bothered to check the veracity of the ‘news’ as angry local residents descended on the streets, baying for the blood of their ‘enemies’. When police intervened, they were showered with stones and bricks. Such was the anger that mobs even defied curfew and continued their rampage—pelting stones, attacking religious places, damaging vehicles, anything that came their way.

By now it’s known, Shillong only adds to the list of rumour madness, a growing trend across India. Behind the violent bouts of anarchy are the usual suspects: WhatApp, Facebook, Twitter—social media platforms that can proliferate information like never before. Platforms that offer super-convenience, for all our endeavours, mischief included.

Calcutta goes into panic mode over the alleged sale of ­carcass meat in the city’s meat shops and eateries
Photograph by Sandipan Chatterjee

Across the country, several people have died in the recent past due to such fake news, mischievously planted into social media platforms by unidentified people or groups. “Internet hoaxes are driven by a large number of different reasons. Individuals, groups or organisations are often driven by religious ­intolerance to generate rumours about other communities,” says P.K. Das, former officer-in-charge of Calcutta Police’s cybercrime cell.

READ ALSO: Squint Eye On The Postcard Boys

“Helpless rage on issues beyond their control compels a section of people to group themselves into mobs to take the law into their own hands, when they feel they cannot adequately rely on the ­administration. Other compulsions ­include revenge and even the need to relevant in some way,” he tells Outlook.

Weeks before the Shillong violence, at least six people, all ‘outsiders’, were lynched in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh by local residents, whose ­mobile phones were flooded with messages about gangs of kidnappers. Some of these messages were even circulated as ‘warnings’ by the local police about ‘gangs’, giving a strong ring of legitimacy to the rumours.

Das offers an explanation for the ­online rumour mill: “Individuals are disconnected from society and their interface with the world happens through their computers and smartphones. It creates deep mental chasms. The gratification is immense when they inject into cyberspace something sensational and it becomes a talking point, with hundreds of people clicking and liking their post.”

Calcutta has been another epicentre of fake news recently. Since it has to do with the city’s meat, it has impacted everyone—businesses, the administration and the common man. But before the “dog meat” scare came the “plastic egg” scare, almost as if to test the wat­ers for the city’s rumour potential.

On a cool evening towards the end of 2017, news channels were streaming a video of a Calcutta homemaker holding up a lit matchstick to an egg, which was melting like wax onto a plate on her dining table. She alleged that it was made of plastic. In the subsequent weeks, the city’s poultry traders ­reported drastic drops in the sale of eggs. The scare lasted a few weeks and ended only after the state administration declared that it was a rumour.

Hyderabad Police chief after the recent ­lynchings, asks people not to believe in social media rumours

A few days later, another, purposefully gross, video surfaced showing the production process of fake eggs—a drop of yellow food colour congealing into a yolk before being stuck into a thin, transparent, plastic egg-shell shaped sheet. “How are we supposed to distinguish between real and fake while buying food anymore?” says a homemaker, a mother of a ten-year-old child in Calcutta. She hasn’t just stopped giving her son eggs but is also on the verge of banning meat from the house following another massive scare which has taken over Calcutta: about the “bhagarer mangsho”, or mea­t­ culled from the carcasses of dead, wasteland animals.

Throughout April and May news channels carried reports of how meat from dead chickens, even cows, dogs and pigs was being “processed” by ­dubious operators and sent to the city’s eateries. Amid an outrage, police identified and arrested one of the kingpins, a man named Bishu, who is now being called “mangsho (meat) Bishu”.

READ ALSO: Fake News Busters

Though some of the allegations were true, the distribution of such meat was limited. But that did not stop huge numbers of consumers from boycotting chicken and meat. Abdur Rezzak Mollah, West Bengal minister in charge of the department of food processing industries, said that while the rumours could indeed be based on some real occurrences, the magnitude of public panic or outrage was far overplayed.

“No one can claim that illegal businesses, including those which are ­involved in fake food production, are not burgeoning not just in West Bengal or the rest of the country but across the world,” says Rezzak. “However, to allow these stray incidents to have such an impact as to cripple normal life is a matter of concern.” Rezzak does not just hold fake news sites on social media ­responsible for spreading paranoia but even mainstream media , which shows news without checking the sources.

Beverages including colas of multinational brands have been at the receiving end of numerous smear campaigns, allegedly by rival companies. Though the health hazards of aerated drinks are widely accepted, a recent video which went viral on WhatsApp showed two popular drinks using “bathroom-cleaning chemicals” as an ingredient. The video sparked panic among a section of consumers. The rumour was eventually contained, but not before it could do some damage.

Over the last few years, rumours and fake news with political and religious colour have been circulating almost on a daily basis, pitting communities or caste groups against each other. Such has been the menace that the government is now contemplating stricter laws to clamp down on fake news. In India, which is reportedly one of the world’s biggest WhatsApp’s markets, the spread of rumour viruses is far reaching and it seems to be mutating, appearing ceaselessly in various avatars.

In the latest instance, it has sprung up around the Nipah virus which has claimed several lives in Kerala. When the disease struck the state late in May, a fresh round of scare-mongering ­infected the Internet. The initial ­onslaught of advisory messages forbid the public from partaking of ripe fruits which could have been bitten by bats, which were initially thought to be the carriers of the virus, along with pigs. But at a national level, the messages soon became more offensive, advocating as they did, the ostracisation of Kerala and its residents. The state administration had to issue reassurances that the ­outbreak had been contained and ­managed to dispel fears.

Within Kerala itself, another cause for concern for the administration were the hate rumours that were flooding the ­inboxes of the state’s users—that ­migrant workers from Bangladesh and other states had brought the Nipah virus to the state. Worried that its 40-lakh migrant ­labour workforce would be targeted, the administration had to step in to dispel the xenophobic myths. This it is not the first time that Kerala’s ­migrant labour force had been the subject of rumours. In October 2017, hundreds of migrant labourers fled Kerala when rumours floated that their lives were in danger. Fake messages circulated on WhatsApp said that a ­migrant labourer from West Bengal was beaten to death in the state while others said that Hindi-speaking people were being attacked by locals. That was enough for this floating, vulnerable population to panic and an exodus began. Newspapers reports say that many of the labourers didn’t even ­collect their wages, they just fled the state without informing their employers. Chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan had to step in to condemn the rumours. Vijayan called the rumour mongers “mad” for spreading the cruel messages. His choice of word was not without a reason.

When Kerala was in the vortex of a ­crisis after Cyclone Ockhi grazed the coast last year, another rumour hit. Hundreds of fishermen out at sea had gone missing. As the state struggled with the rescue efforts, a WhatsApp message claimed that nearly 60 fishermen were rescued by a Japanese merchant ship that was heading towards Vizhinjam port. As the state rejoiced following the news, relatives of the missing fishermen took taxis and rushed to the port to receive them while ambulances were at the ready to rush the rescued to the hospital. But there was no Japanese ship nor any rescued fishermen at the port, causing anger among the relatives and huge embarrassment to the state government. Even the district collector of Thiruvananthapuram and the fisheries minister were taken in by the fake messages.

By Dola Mitra in Calcutta

June 19, 2018

India: Devendra Fadnavis Led Govt in Maharashtra Gives minister's status to Siddhivinayak Temple Trust Chief


Devendra Fadnavis Gives Siddhivinayak Temple Trust Chief MoS Status
Junior minister's status in Maharashtra cabinet for chairman of Siddhivinayak temple trust chief, who is a Shiv Sena leader and a TV show host
Mumbai | Edited by Debjani Chatterjee (with inputs from ANI) | Updated: June 19, 2018


Shiv Sena leader Aadesh Bandekar will now enjoy the facilities of MoS
Mr Bandekar said that he won't take any allowance
The move is being seen as BJP's bid to woo the Shiv Sena

In what could be the last cabinet reshuffle before the Assembly elections next year, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has given the chief of Siddhivinayak temple trust a junior minister's status. Aadesh Bandekar, a Shiv Sena leader and popular Marathi TV show host, will now enjoy the facilities of Minister of State (MoS) in the Maharashtra cabinet.

"I won't take any allowance; I just want to serve the people. The status of MoS has not been given to a man, it has been given to the position (Chairman of Shree Siddhivinayak Ganapati Temple) in which I am right now," Aadesh Bandekar told news agency ANI.

The elevation of Mr Bandekar is being seen by the opposition as the BJP's bid to woo the Shiv Sena, as he is considered close to party chief Uddhav Thackeray, say sources. [ . . .]


June 18, 2018

There are no detours in history - Krishna Kumar's comment on Pranab Mukherjee’s survey of history being at variance with Nehruvian values

The Hindu, June 18, 2018

There are no detours in history
Krishna Kumar

Pranab Mukherjee’s survey of history was at variance with his invocation of Nehruvian values

In his speech at the headquarters of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh at Nagpur earlier this month, at the function to mark the end of the Sangh’s annual training camp, former President Pranab Mukherjee referred to Jawaharlal Nehru and his book, The Discovery of India. The concluding part of Mr. Mukherjee’s speech touched upon the familiar Nehruvian values of tolerance, the equality of all citizens, and faith in India’s plurality.

If you looked at the lecture as a whole, you would have noticed a subtle disconnect between the survey of history presented in the first part of the speech and the values reaffirmed in the second. How we might interpret that disconnect depends on our view of Mr. Mukherjee’s aim at Nagpur. Perhaps his main concern was to propagate values he finds lacking in contemporary India. But if he was also interested in initiating a dialogue between two rival perspectives on India’s history, he pursued this aim hesitatingly. The reference to Nehru did not prove useful and remained mainly symbolic.

We derive our strength from tolerance, says Pranab at RSS event

In his midnight speech in August 1947, Nehru said, “We end today a period of ill fortune and India discovers herself again.” These words are not as transparent as they seem. If you work with young people, you realise the difficulty Nehru’s idea of “discovery” presents. He uses it as a metaphor for something deeper that inspires India’s civilisation. For someone born in the late 19th century, discovery had a psychological connotation, verging on “re-discovery”. That is precisely what makes Nehru’s idea of India more paradoxical for our times than rationalist Nehruvians would like to accept. The paradox became quite apparent in Mr. Mukherjee’s survey of history.

Findings from a school survey

A colleague once suggested to me, around 2001, that we should try to find out how standard IX schoolchildren understood India’s freedom struggle. We did a survey with 600 children, from both government and private schools, who had finished standard VIII and were in standard IX. As history of the freedom movement is taught in standard VIII, we prepared a few questions based on the material in textbooks at that time.

In one of the questions, we cited Nehru’s speech: “When the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom.”The question was: “Who did India become free from?” We offered four possible options, namely: bondage to tradition, British rule, Muslim rule, and all foreigners. As many as 8% of the children choose the third option. That about 8% of children in standard IX thought that 1947 marked India’s independence from Muslim rule can startle those of us who believe that schooling brings universal enlightenment. The rest of us can find some relief that this percentage is not higher. Teaching history in schools is unsatisfactory as it appears that common social perceptions and prejudices still have a hold over a small proportion of schoolchildren.

The point of this incident is to show that not everyone believes that Independence meant a new start for India. The slate that free India started with was hardly clean. Very old prejudices had left a strong imprint on it. Caste prejudices were one instance while prejudice against Muslims was another. In the latter case, the prejudice had to do with the perception that they colluded with the British to divide India into two nations.

Leaders such as Nehru expected that such prejudiced views would weaken with time. That is probably what he meant by saying that India would “discover herself again”. Had he not said “again”, his meaning would have been unequivocal. The use of the word “again” might tempt someone to think that there could have been earlier instances of India discovering herself in the past. That interpretation strengthens the idea of a core that India must re-discover in order to feel strong. It also reinforces the view that India’s history is a continuous, linear and single story equally applicable to every part of its diverse geography. Some people believe that the values foregrounded in the Constitution were already a part of our culture. For them, values/ideas such as equality and justice, even social justice, are not new enough to mark a departure.
Rooted to the past

Anyone familiar with life at school knows how unpopular history is as a subject. A vast percentage of children and youth find history to be boring. They can’t see why history is necessary to espouse nationalism. Quite a few feel cynical when they notice the gap between the glorified past and the mundane present. Mr. Mukherjee’s speech at Nagpur used history to define and explain Indian nationalism. It revived the old question many children ask in their final years of elementary education: “Why is such a long story taught to us?” The conventional answer is that India as a modern nation is inseparable from its old civilisation. Its uniqueness must be established in the minds of children to make them proud as Indians.

This conventional view does not recognise the way that children today think about and respond to history when it presents a long story. Traditional textbooks and teachers inevitably start with pre-history and the ancient world. Then comes the medieval period. Finally, you are allowed to learn something about the modern period.

Mr. Mukherjee’s survey of India’s past followed this format, but it was remarkably skewed. After spending a considerable amount of time over the ancient period, he came to the 12th century. For the next seven centuries he had little to say except that India was under Muslim rule. This is true but surely this cannot be the only point for this period of time.

The former President’s brevity suggested that there was a break in India’s continuity during this period. The idea of “discovery” drawn from Nehru suggested that if we ignore the medieval aberration, we can appreciate the real potential that India’s ancient history signifies.

Unfortunately, when India’s past is viewed in this manner, we can’t fully appreciate the break brought about by Independence. If Nehru thought that India can now discover herself despite Partition, his meaning becomes hazy when we imagine our long past as a linear journey with a long detour in the middle. By following this familiar linearity, Mr. Mukherjee softened his own emphasis, towards the end, on equality and plurality, and the fundamentals of the new India encoded in the Constitution as a vision.

Krishna Kumar is a former director of NCERT. He is the author of ‘Battle for Peace’

India: Saffronising Ambedkar

Saffronising Ambedkar: Why the Sangh portrays Ambedkar as anti-communist and anti-Muslim
By Anand Teltumbde | 17 June 2018

In his book Republic of Caste, the civil-rights activist and writer Anand Teltumbde explores the foundational idea of the republic—equality—and how caste has subverted this idea and its implementation in every institution in the country. Teltumbde examines education, reservation, politics and policy, alongside ideological movements such as Marxism and Ambedkarism, violence and atrocities against Dalits, and protests such as Una in Gujarat. He shows that caste—especially the oppression of Dalits—has defined modern India.

In the following extract, taken from the chapter “Saffronising Ambedkar: The RSS Inversion of the Idea of India,” Teltumbde notes that BR Ambedkar’s bitter critique of Hinduism pervaded the latter’s writings, and that his actions exhibited an “ultimate abhorrence” for Hinduism. This history, Teltumbde writes, comes in the way of the Rashtriya Swayamasevak Sangh’s goal to make India a “Hindu rashtra.” To bring Dalits into the fold, Teltumbde adds, the Sangh is left with no option but to co-opt Ambedkar and project him as opposed to Muslims and communists—effectively, to “saffronise” him.

[ . . .]

Full text here: http://www.caravanmagazine.in/politics/saffronising-ambedkar-sangh-rss

India: Sri Ram Sene's Muthalik equates Gauri Lankesh's murder to 'dog's death' ANI | Bengaluru

Sri Ram Sene (SRS) president Pramod Muthalik courted controversy on Sunday by comparing the murder of slain journalist-activist Gauri Lankesh to a dog's death.

Addressing a gathering in Bengaluru on Sunday, Muthalik lambasted critics and said no one questioned the murder of four journalists in both Maharashtra and Karnataka, which took place when the Congress was ruling both states.

"No one questioned the Congress government's failure. Instead, they are asking why is Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi silent and not speaking on Gauri Lankesh's death. Many wanted PM Modi to react after Gauri Lankesh's death. Why should Modi react if some dog dies in Karnataka?" Muthalik declared.

Further, Muthalik once again clarified that Parashuram Waghmore, who is the main accused in the Gauri Lankesh murder case, was not associated with SRS.
READ FULL TEXT HERE: https://www.theweek.in/news/india/2018/06/18/muthalik-gauri-lankesh-murder-death-dog.html?__twitter_impression=true

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