February 25, 2017

India: Maharashtra civic polls 2017 - right-wing Shiv Sena and BJP win big block of seats

someone said about the Bombay polls and sent a map (see below)

City's political map speaks more than words
All Gujju areas swept by B

Marathi manoos lined up for SS.
Christian & Muslim localities voted Congress.



also see report:


India: A letter by Apoorvanand to members of the ABVP

The Indian Express - February 25, 2017

Dear friends from ABVP

As a Communist student activist, I was never attacked by your members. That was another era.

Written by Apoorvanand | Published:February 25, 2017 12:01 am
Ramjas college violence, Ramjas protests, ABVP, ABVP members, Ramjas college ABVP, Umar khalid, Umar Khalid speech, RSS, AISF, CPM, CPI(ML), Jamaat-e-islaami, delhi university protests, Ramjas , Ramjas violece, Ramjas college violence, india news, indian epxress news It is blunting of argument and conversation that we see in Delhi University, Jodhpur University, Haryana Central University, Mohanlal Sukhadia University, Jharkhand University and many other places. (File photo) I write to you very reluctantly as I am not sure if you would accept my right to speak to you. Many of you know that I do not share your ideology, one which has the RSS as its fountainhead. Yet, I feel we can have a conversation. This is also because many of my students have been members of the ABVP. I have not tried to covert them; at the same time, I cannot disown them.
As a student activist, I was an AISF member. But after taking up the profession of teaching, I decided not to be a party to any side in student politics. I am critical of the CPM, CPI(ML), CPI, the CPI (Maoist), the Congress and the Jamaat-e-Islami but when their student outfits call me, I do go. I was warned by well-wishing colleagues to not forward an application for a hall from the student organisation that supports the PWG, but did not pay heed to them.
I am confident that people with antagonistic ideologies can talk to each other. This confidence comes from childhood memories: That of Mahendra Babu, a respected high school headmaster and a well-known RSS pracharak in and around Siwan, a small town in Bihar. They did not belong to the same caste or profession but there was rarely a week when my father, a teacher at the DAV College, would not visit him or he would not be at our house. My father was a Nehruvian then and continues to cherish Nehruvian thoughts even after India has turned its back on Nehru. My father and Mahendra Babu didn’t meet only to exchange pleasantries. They would spend hours discussing politics. Those were the days when the RSS was trying to come out of the shadow that the murder of the Mahatma had cast over it. Yet, Mahendra chacha, as we knew him, was not denounced by my father nor did he ever think of converting my father to his kind of Hindu nationalism.
I have not forgotten Janardan Tiwari, a member of the then political arm of the RSS, the Jana Sangh, and three time MP from Siwan. He knew full well that my father would never vote for him but Janardan Tiwari always made a point to meet him before the elections. From my Siwan memories, I cannot remember an evening when Mahendra Babu was not seen without Faiz Sahab, a Muslim to the core, and also a chacha to us. He never asked him to move to Pakistan which has been in the eyes of many RSS members the destination of all the Muslims of India: Musalmaan kaa ek sthan, kabristaan yaa Pakistan.
I recall the friendship of Ajmat Ali with Tripathi Siya Raman. They were teachers of the same college where my father taught, one a card holder of the CPI, the other a follower of the RSS. Or, my uncle, my father’s elder brother, who, in even in his old days, would call to share his joy after reading a piece by me, which was often critical of the ideology he held and propagated, the Hindu nationalist ideology of the RSS. You would be surprised to know that Chandrashekhar, the student leader of the AISA, from the much-reviled JNU was a regular at Mahendra Babu’s. His son told me that a day before he was murdered, Chandrashekhar had dined with them at their place. He never called Chandrashekhar a traitor or somebody who should be barred from public places or imprisoned.
As a student activist and a known communist, I was never attacked by fellow activists from the ABVP. We protested against each other, but never tried to evict the other.
I decided to write to you after sharing a panel with one of your leaders on the noisy and bloody day at my campus. I had seen my colleagues and other students being hit by some of you. I heard and read them warning that communists would not be allowed to covert DU into JNU and that anti-nationals would not be allowed in the campus.
Your leader denied the involvement of ABVP in violence but what he said next disturbed me. He argued that the Ramjas College students were venting their emotion and the role of the ABVP was only to support them. It was not only a tacit approval of the violence but also a strategic evasion of your own role in it — blaming unnamed people for an act you committed. This is not how youth behaves. Your idol Bhagat Singh did not try to escape after the bomb blast. He took responsibility for what he had done and paid the price for it. What you are doing now cannot be called courageous. You do not talk, you shout. You do not meet your opponents face to face, you try to eliminate them physically.
This isn’t how students should behave. Have faith in your argument, meet argument with argument. If you respond to argument with physical force, you lose.
I think of Mahendra Babu. How would he have reacted to such acts from members of an organisation he had patronised? I imagine Chandrashekhar in the place of Umar Khalid or Shehla Rashid. Would Mahendra Babu have approved of forcing them out? Mahendra Babu was from a small town and from the times when one could have endless conversation without the fear of the opposite side winning the debate. The conservationists believed not so much in the power of conversation as in its beauty. The need to meet someone so different from you and walk with him, in fact, confirms your own humanity. Nations are actually unending conversation among its people. They stop growing when such conversation is blunted.
It is blunting of argument and conversation that we see in Delhi University, Jodhpur University, Haryana Central University, Mohanlal Sukhadia University, Jharkhand University and many other places. It is only your shouts that pierce the silence. Do you really think my friends that you have won?
The writer teaches at Delhi University

India: Democracy makes majorities | Dipankar Gupta

The Times of India - February 25, 2017

Democracy makes majorities: How India’s Hindu “majority” is an outcome of Independence and constitutional process

Pakistan’s new Hindu Marriage Act prohibits polygamy among Hindus, but can it reel the big fish in? There is no parallel law yet, nor is there one in the making, that would restrain Muslim men to monogamy in Pakistan. Paradoxically then, while the majority of Pakistanis is still bound by undemocratic norms, the minority there is relatively liberated. In Pakistan, Hindu men can have only one lawfully wedded wife while Muslims can have as many as four at a time, though only a fraction of the population is willing to chance it.
This has often promoted the belief that Hinduism is democracy friendly and citizenship enabling. While it is true that both the Hindu Marriage Act (1955) and the Hindu Succession Act (1956) were great achievements of independent India, it is also true that their passage through Parliament was heavily contested, with not a wishbone at work. Traditionalists, inside and outside Congress, strongly opposed these bills and it required a huge effort by Nehru and Ambedkar, among others, to see them through.
This much is well known. What is, however, not equally appreciated, and fully baked into our brains, is that the Hindu “majority”, such as we know it to be, is actually a creation of these post-Independence laws. Before they came into being, not just marriage, even inheritance and guardianship norms differed from place to place, from community to community in India. In some cases, succession was governed by the Mitakshara system, in others the Dayabhaga; and each had dashboards flashing different schools.
Nor could one ignore the many matrilineal communities that had to also conform to this newly minted uniform standard. The Delhi high court in two recent judgments, one in 2015 and the other in 2016, overturned Hindu tradition yet again and brought about a greater consolidation of the majority. It first decreed that a Hindu mother could be the single guardian of her child and later also allowed a woman to be “karta” in a Hindu Undivided Family unit.
Where then were the Hindus before the mid 1950s, other than a scattered lot with diverse customs? The community we consider to be in overwhelming “majority” today is an outcome of these laws and did not predate them. The “majority”, in other words, is a creation of liberal democracy – from the many came one, under the watchful eye of the Constitution. Therefore, the first government of independent India deserves a further credit: it not only created a majority, but also tamed it. This is an enormous task that easily frightens many new nations, but India was different.
The first job then in democracy and citizenship making is the creation of just such a “majority”, and this is rarely ever a gift bequeathed by tradition. Instead of being shamefaced about this majority, we should celebrate it as a laser-focussed republican moment. The Hindu of independent India is a new creature and, in strictly legal terms, its personal code is a creation of the present. A good democracy alters many aspects of tradition to create a “majority”, and there is nothing so unusual about this.
Just as Hindus had to be disciplined before they could become a “majority”, so also were Christians in the Western world. There is simply no majority culture that emerged out of any democracy that has not been burnished and moulded by the concerns of citizenship. What we know as Italy today was a powder keg of viciously divisive forces; the Sardinians against Bourbons against Sicilians, and all of them against a unified nation-state. Yet, for a long time now they have all been Italians.
Likewise, Quakers, Presbyterians and Methodists are presently part of the Christian majority in Britain, but a little over a hundred years ago they were classified as “dissenters”. Consequently, they were denied government jobs; they could not even earn degrees from Oxford or Cambridge. All of this sounds unreal today as these sects are now chartered members of the Protestant “majority” in the United Kingdom. Since then there has been further progress. In 2013 a new law was passed that even allows a British monarch to marry a Catholic. This enlarged the Christian majority from just being a Protestant one, erasing completely the memory of the 1780 massacre of Catholics.
A similar process took place in America when, post World War II, Jewish people began to be considered as “white folks”. Till the 1920s, Jewish students were discouraged from entering elite educational institutions in the United States. Perhaps, World War II brought home the wisdom to conservative Christian establishments that Jewish talent would be hugely beneficial to America’s well-being.
Taken together this should easily expose the myth of a pre-existing “majority” in a democracy. If, at times, it appears as if the majority has to do little adjusting, leaving the burden on minorities alone, then that is an optical illusion. This conclusion overlooks how a good and vibrant democracy has long been at work to merge hitherto disparate groups and sects, to form a majority. If democracies, step by step, by incessant crafting and cajoling, create majorities, the same methods must be put to work to merge those who still see themselves as outliers and minorities.
After all, a majority is known by the minorities it embraces.

Announced: A public discussion on 'Facing up to the global avalance of hate' regarding a new report by UN spl. rapporteur on cultural rights (UN in Geneva March 3, 2017)

an upcoming event on the new report (on fundamentalism, extremism and cultural rights) by the UN Special Rep on cultural rights   "Facing up to the global avalance of hate." @ UN in Geneva Friday March 3 (10-11:30, Room XVIII)
The speakers include Karima Bennounne, Chetan Bhatt, Samia Allalou, Alejandra Sarda-­‐Chandiramani and Magnus Ag

India: ABVP, BJP and the art of controlling political conversation in India (Sushil Aaron)

Hindustan Times - Feb 24, 2017

by Sushil Aaron 

The harassment of liberal and left wing students in India by the ABVP-RSS-BJP cohort continues. Last February, JNU student leaders were wrongfully arrested on charges of sedition. This time it is the forced shutdown of a seminar on ‘cultures of protest’ on February 21 at Ramjas College where JNU student leaders Umar Khalid and Shehla Rashid were to speak. An academic who was at Ramjas relates that members of Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarti Parishad (ABVP), the student wing of the RSS, flooded the canteen area, shoved their way aggressively. Young men stood on the roof of the building, threw branches and dangled “steel buckets in a threatening way” at the dense crowd below. The next day ABVP targeted students protesting their violence and threw bricks and stones at them, thrashing many with total impunity caring little about watching Delhi Police or the cameras recording them. The videos that have emerged tell their own story.
The ABVP denies that it has been violent but it is unapologetic about opposing ‘anti-nationals’. It says it does not want DU to turn into JNU; one of its leaders has said that “Even in the future, if anyone does any such thing, we will raise the issue and protest.” Two conclusions can be drawn from this. The ABVP recognises that JNU student leaders like Kanhaiya Kumar, Khalid and Rashid have emerged as impressive public figures who can speak forcefully on a range of political issues – and thus it wants to oppose them in whatever way possible to limit their influence. These methods of intimidation are also designed to undermine liberal spaces and reshape the (political) imagination of students at colleges and universities across India.
Read more
Speaking to NDTV, Delhi university professor Apoorvanand mentioned some instances of ABVP’s strong-arm tactics in universities. A lecture by JNU professor Nivedita Menon at a university in Jodhpur led to the suspension of the academic who invited Menon. Teachers who staged an adaptation of Mahasweta Devi’s short story at the Central University of Haryana were issued a show cause notice by administrators. An academic at Mohanlal Sukhadia University was attacked (for organising a lecture on Hindu deities). An associate professor at the Central University of Jharkhand was suspended last year for inviting a JNU professor for an event. Apoorvanand points that ABVP activism is common in such incidents and says that college administrators in Delhi University are now wary of giving permission for academic events that features those from JNU for fear of disturbances.
In effect ABVP has set about making any student, activist and academic with a connection to JNU as taboo in university campuses. Having tasted success, it is now in a position to declare any subject it does not like as “anti-national”. This is not only a grave threat to free speech but is a strategy that has the potential to transform the substance of political conversation in India. The ABVP is the student arm of the RSS and the latter is of course closely linked to the BJP. The ABVP’s mode of altering the climate of universities in this manner works very well for the BJP and could constitute the next stage of its ambition to establish political dominance in India. Looking at the pattern of targeting universities it is possible to argue that the BJP is surging into newer frontiers of controlling political conversation in India, after it has conquered other realms in the public sphere.
ABVP activists beat up students of Ramjas college during clashes in Delhi University on Wednesday. (Raj K Raj/HT PHOTO)
To get a sense of this, look at how the political landscape looks from the BJP’s vantage: The opposition is fragmented, the mainstream media is largely compliant, social media is vibrant but manageable because loyalist trolls relentlessly target opposing voices. The only space that the BJP does not yet control are universities, which it sees as the last bastion that stops its march to an ideological takeover. The Sangh Parivar sees universities in adversarial terms because they are spaces for free speech and inquiry, they allow for tradition and authority to be questioned; importantly they allow women to dress as they like, craft personal identities and make individual choices (a prospect that rattles Indian conservatives no end). Universities are incubators where India’s liberal democracy reproduces itself; think of the academics, journalists, lawyers, artists and social movement activists across the country that have sprung, for instance, from universities in Delhi, Mumbai, Calcutta and Madras. Universities are important because they raise awareness of important issues in ways mainstream political parties cannot do because the latter are wedded to the news cycle. For instance, students can organise discussions or rallies on deprivation of adivasis, dalits and other marginal groups in India at any point, without being beholden to topicality which politicians are wary of. In other words, student politics is a crucial point of continuity for transmitting political knowledge, advancing political agendas and socialising future generations of leaders and activists who often return to their states after stints at university.

It is this potential of universities as the vehicles of liberalism that right-wing activists want to undermine. Hence the use of force to break the morale of students. The violence at Ramjas is there for all to see. There have been death threats to JNU leaders Kanhaiya Kumar, Khalid and Rashid over the last year. Hindustan Times reported recently that the JNU campus has changed in significant ways and that it falls silent after 11:30 pm, which will shock old-timers. One JNU student says “There is panic among students as we are seeing things that we had never seen before. Late in the night at around 3 am we heard some people shouting slogans outside the hostel like, ‘Desh ke gaddaron ko ek dhakka aur do’, ‘Afzal ki jo baat karega, woh Afzal ki maut marega’ and ‘Jis ghar se Afzal niklega, us mein ghus kar marenge.” In JNU one never had to look over your shoulder to speak your mind. Now you evidently are beginning to. What force by activists cannot achieve, the flouting of rules will. JNU’s vice-chancellor, whose pro-establishment credentials are well-founded, has brazenly overruled the university’s academic council to make crucial policy changes, leading one academic to say that “the JNU administration is now in an open war with teachers and students to destroy everything that the institution has been known for.”
The silencing of campuses through steady punctuated tactics of intimidation and subterfuge is a grave moment for India’s democracy and its constitutional freedoms. Citizens and opposition parties must come to terms with what India will become if universities are repressed. As noted, free academic debate and student politics are nodes of continuity for democratic activism, universities are the repositories of political memory that compel change and produce future leaders. To realise their worth try imagining an India where the media is largely deferential, social science is starved of talent and resources and (liberal) student politics falls silent. That will be an India that sounds the death knell for other parties as they will have contrive the energy and intellectual muscle mostly by themselves to challenge the BJP. Parties should note that a university system cleansed of social science mettle is the ground on which political competition is eliminated. A country in that state is poised for authoritarianism. It is imperative for that reason that every seminar, conference and student rally is protected.
(The views expressed are personal. Twitter: @SushilAaron)

India: Director of ‘Lipstick Under My Burkha’ vows to fight Censor Board snub

Sabrang India
Written by IANS | Published on: February 24, 2017

Director Alankrita Shrivastava said that "as a woman and as a filmmaker no one can take away my voice".

India's film censors have declined to certify "Lipstick Under My Burkha" for its sexual scenes and abusive words, among other things. Director Alankrita Shrivastava says the decision is "an assault on women's rights" and she will do everything to ensure the Indian audience gets to watch her film.
The film -- starring Konkona Sen Sharma and Ratna Pathak Shah -- chronicles the secret lives of four women of different ages in a small town in India as they search for different kinds of freedom.

A copy of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) letter to the film's producer Prakash Jha states: "The story is lady oriented, their fantasy about life. There are continuous sexual scenes, abusive words, audio pornography and a bit sensitive touch about one particular section of society, hence film refused."

Shrivastava, who is in Glasgow, where the film will be screened at Glasgow Film Festival, told IANS: "I am not defeated, disheartened or disillusioned by the CBFC's refusal to certify 'Lipstick Under My Burkha'. I am more determined than ever before to ensure that 'Lipstick Under My Burkha' can be watched by Indian audiences."

"I will fight this out till the very end, and do whatever it takes because this is not about my film. The real issue is the systematic suppression of women's voices and the throttling of freedom of expression," added Shrivastava, who last helmed "Turning 30!!!".

Shrivastava said that "as a woman and as a filmmaker no one can take away my voice".

"I will refuse to succumb. In a country where there is so much discrimination against women, so much violence against women, isn't it essential to listen to women's stories from their point of view?"

"I believe the decision to refuse certification to our film is an assault on women's rights," she added.

The film won the Spirit of Asia Award at the Tokyo International Film Festival and the Oxfam Award for Best Film on Gender Equality at the Mumbai Film Festival. It will be screened in Glasgow on Friday.

Shrivastava feels her film is being attacked because it presents a female point of view.

She said: "It is ironic that a film that has won the Oxfam Award for the Best Film on Gender Equality at the Mumbai Film Festival and the Spirit of Asia prize at the Tokyo International Film Festival and is being celebrated in several international film festivals across the world, is being attacked by the Indian censor board."

"Lipstick Under My Burkha" will also be screened at the Miami Film Festival. It is in the international competition of only eight features at the International Women's Film Festival at Creteil, Paris, France. It will then head to London Asian Film Festival.

In recent times, the CBFC had refused a certificate to "Haraamkhor", but the makers later took the film to the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal and got a green signal for release.

February 24, 2017

India:: ABVP 2.0: Women at the forefront, and a focus on nationalism (Mallica Joshi)

The Indian Express

ABVP 2.0: Women at the forefront, and a focus on nationalism

The sloganeering went beyond the standard Vande Mataram and Bharat Mata ki Jai, with many chanting slogans such as “Afzal ke in yaaron ko, ek jhatka aur do’, ‘Desh ke gaddaron ko, joote maaro....’ and ‘Khoon bhi denge, jaan bhi denge’.  

Written by Mallica Joshi | New Delhi | Updated: February 24, 2017 8:20 am
ramjas-759 The protest broke out over a seminar organised by Ramjas, for which Umar Khalid was invited.
From a predominantly male bastion to inducting more and more women into their ranks, protesting ‘anti-national’ events to taking up student issues, they have become the dominating force of student politics at Delhi University in the last three years. This is Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarathi Parishad 2.0.
The student outfit has been at the forefront of almost every issue in the university. In 2015, they protested against a play on communal violence by SGTB Khalsa College as they found it “anti-national and anti-Hindu”. But the student body also took up the case of law students, who were not allowed to write exams because of low attendance. In the protests at Delhi University over the past two days, women — who for many years were mostly missing from protests and marches organised by ABVP in DU — have been at the forefront.

The sloganeering went beyond the standard Vande Mataram and Bharat Mata ki Jai, with many chanting slogans such as “Afzal ke in yaaron ko, ek jhatka aur do’, ‘Desh ke gaddaron ko, joote maaro….’ and ‘Khoon bhi denge, jaan bhi denge’.
At the helm of the protests were DUSU vice-president Priyanka Chhawri, former president Satender Awana and Ramjas College students’ union president Yogith Rathi.
Chhawri (23), a first-year MA Buddhist Studies student, said, “In the past five years, the number of women who have come out in support of ABVP is very high. This is because of constant efforts by the party to connect with students, by reaching out to them in colleges and classrooms. We have also consciously projected ourselves not just as a party that stands for the rights of students but also as a nationalist force.”
Talking about the change in the way they protest, Chhawri said, “If we can pick up some good things that we see in others, it is a step in the right direction.”
The student outfit won all four positions in the DUSU elections in 2014 — after a gap of 14 years. They repeated this feat in 2015. In 2016, three of the four positions went to the party.
“ABVP has become the strongest student outfit in the country over the past two to three years and this is primarily because we have gained tremendous support of students. In DU, we have stood with students in every little problem they faced. Not that this wasn’t the case before. Our network, however, has grown stronger,” said Saket Bahuguna, national media convener, ABVP.
He was earlier the state secretary of the unit and has studied at DU as well as JNU. Rejecting allegations of violence, he added, “This is a bogey that the Left parties are raising because of our growing popularity. They are scared and can only resort to lies. We stand for the nation, not violence.”
Awana, who was the DUSU president last year, is a very active ABVP member. The 24-year-old is a first year law faculty student.
Rathi (21) is a Ramjas College student, enrolled in History (honours), one of the most prestigious courses in the university.
It was Rathi who first went to the college principal and teachers to protest against JNU student Umar Khalid’s participation in the seminar on Tuesday. “This is a movement that started because students at Ramjas had a problem with Khalid’s participation. We came into the picture only because of them,” said Rathi.