October 25, 2021

Bangladesh's dysfunctional secularism | Bharat Bhushan (Business Standard, Oct 25, 2021)

Business Standard, Oct 25, 2021

Bangladesh's dysfunctional secularism

Bharat Bhushan

Despite Islam being declared as its state religion since 1988, Bangladesh’s nationalism has been primarily defined in a cultural and linguistic idiom and it sees itself as a secular nation. The ruling Awami League claims a commitment to the secular values on which the republic was founded and is considered “minority friendly”. As Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her party have had an uninterrupted tenure since 2009, one would think that secularism would have strengthened under her regime. Yet secular voices have become somewhat muted in Bangladesh.

The recent communal violence during Durga Puja is not unprecedented. A study by the human rights group Ain O Salish Kendra of Bangladesh records as many as 3,679 attacks on the Hindu community between January 2013 and September 2021 prior to the latest events. In these 9 years, 559 Hindu houses and 442 businesses were torched and there were at least 1,678 cases of vandalism and arson affecting Hindu temples, idols and places of worship. This is a disturbing statistic during the tenure of a government that has monopolised the minority vote.

More disconcerting is the fact that the government’s response to the current violence is less solicitous compared to its actions in 2012 when Buddhist monasteries were attacked in Ramu Upzila in Cox’s Bazar district. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had then ordered the Bangladesh Army to rebuild the 12 Buddhist temples and monasteries destroyed, allocating Taka 200 million for the project. She herself visited the affected areas. Two years later, the then Bangladesh President, Abdul Hamid, visited several rebuilt temples and made it a point to inquire about the wellbeing of the Buddhist community.

While there was a protest at the historic Shahbagh demanding stern action against those who attacked the Hindu minority, it did not last more than one and half hours. Moreover, the protestors were mostly Bangladeshi Hindus with little visible social support.

Sheikh Hasina has announced that the culprits will be “hunted down” and several arrests have been made. The communal violence in Bangladesh has been reduced to a law and order problem, ignoring its political nature. Successive governments have failed to take on the Islamists so that radical Islamism of the period before Partition has only grown with the rise of political Islam from West Asia to Afghanistan and foreign funding for Wahabi madrasas.

Political parties across the spectrum have also made use of political Islam for electoral ends. The Awami League government may have decimated the most prominent Islamist grouping the Jamat-e-Islami, but organisations such as Hefazat-e-Islam and Islami Andolan Bangladesh are allowed to function with the connivance of the State. The Awami League has had an opportunistic relationship with Hefazat-e-Islam in the past which wants Sharia law to be implemented in the country. The Bangladesh Nationalist Party, on the other hand, has had an electoral alliance with the Jamat-e-Isalmi. Because of political patronage, Islamist preachers, religious groups and militants have managed to raise the ambient religious temperature in the country. In this milieu any perceived insult to Islam sets off violence targeting not only minorities but also liberal bloggers, atheists and secular intellectuals.

Yet the discrimination against minorities is neither as deliberate, nor systemic as the Indian Hindu right makes it out to be. The minority population is 12 per cent of the total – of these 9.6 per cent are Hindus, 1 per cent Buddhists, 0.5 per cent Christians and less than 1 per cent other ethnic minorities. Their share in government employment is not insignificant -- 5 to 7 per cent in the administration and about 10 per cent in the police force. In the higher echelons of the administration and the police, minority share is estimated by some to be much higher. For example, in Pirganj Upzila in Rangpur district, where 65 Hindu homes were torched in a village, the sub-district officer was a Hindu as was virtually the entire police chain of command.

However, there is undeniably a growing suspicion of the minority community that is new. Even those who hold secular views are not happy when delegations of Hindus and members of temple committees interact with the Indian High Commissioner in Dhaka in the aftermath of communal riots and he then meets Bangladesh officials with their complaints. It is seen as an infringement of national sovereignty and interference in their internal affairs. It may well be within the mandate of the United Nations to act on its “right to protect” but can India take up the violation of human rights of minorities in Bangladesh peremptorily? It increases suspicion about the allegiance of Hindu and they get seen as India’s Trojan horse.

This belief is fuelled further by statements from Indian Hindutva leaders who view Hindus across national boundaries as their natural constituency. India’s own treatment of its minority population has also sharpened anti-Hindu feeling among Islamists in Bangladesh. Indeed, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina indirectly said as much when seeking the cooperation of India in fighting communalism. She cautioned the “neighbouring state” that “they must make sure that nothing is done there which affects our country and hurts our Hindu community.”

Yet Hindutva organisations like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad have upped the stakes by asking the UN “to send a peacekeeping force to Bangladesh” in the wake of the communal violence and compared the attacks to “the brutality of the Nazis”. The BJP has been quick to use the violence in Bangladesh to political advantage in the by-elections due in four state legislative constituencies– Shantipur in Nadia district, Dinhata in Coochbehar district, Khardah in North 24 Parganas and Gosaba in South 24 Parganas - on October 30. Three of them are within a 10 to 20 km radius of the border with Bangladesh. The BJP’s election propaganda for the by-election predicts that Hindus in West Bengal would face violence similar to their co-religionists in Bangladesh if they did not mobilise against Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.

Such short-sighted communal propagandising by Hindutva ideologues has had a deleterious impact on Bangladesh. However, the larger blame still lies with Bangladesh’s dysfunctional politics which is the cause of a continuous slide in its secular ideals.

Indian cricketer Mohammed Shami faces torrent of online abuse after India's loss to Pakistan in a cricket match | news rpeort in Times of India

T20 World Cup: Mohammed Shami faces online abuse after India's loss to Pakistan in a cricket match https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/sports/cricket/icc-mens-t20-world-cup/t20-world-cup-mohammed-shami-faces-vicious-online-abuse-after-indias-loss-to-pakistan/articleshow/87255167.cms

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October 23, 2021

India: Carricature - Open and Shut @Lord_VoldeMaut

source URL: https://twitter.com/Lord_VoldeMaut/status/1451422605928386563/photo/1

October 21, 2021

India: Narsinghanand, a Russian-educated, London-returned engineer, became ‘hate-spewing’ sadhu | nanya Bhardwaj, The Print, Oct 23, 2021

The Print How Narsinghanand, a Russian-educated, London-returned engineer, became ‘hate-spewing’ sadhu A speech by Yati Narsinghanand Saraswati went viral last weekend after he threatened an onslaught on Islam to avenge Kamlesh Tiwari’s murder. Ananya Bhardwaj 23 October, 2019 6:42 pm IST Yati Narsinghanand Saraswati Lucknow: Few people besides his faithful knew Yati Narsinghanand Saraswati, 51, the mahant (chief priest) at Dasna Devi Mandir in Ghaziabad, until last Sunday. And then he made headlines with a vitriolic speech that threatened Muslims and went viral. Standing beside the grieving mother of Hindu Samaj leader Kamlesh Tiwari, who was murdered at his Lucknow home Friday by suspected Muslim assailants, Narsinghanand thundered that India “will be clean of Islam” soon. He also threatened to “eliminate” Muslims. But the rant was no aberration for Narsinghanand, a Russian-educated engineer who has worked in Moscow and London and claims to be a former member of the Samajwadi Party. Narsinghanand faces over six cases of alleged rioting, causing communal hatred and under the Arms Act, including for attempting to set up an “army” to counter the West Asia-based terror group Islamic State. Police in Uttar Pradesh describe him as a nuisance but, to his followers, Narsinghanand is a “dharm yoddha (warrior of faith)”. VDO.AI The man himself has few regrets about his virulent statements. “Islam should be eradicated from Earth,” the national head of the Akhil Bharatiya Sant Parishad told ThePrint in an interview, adding that “all Muslims should be eliminated”. “I am proud of what I do,” he said. Also Read: Kamlesh Tiwari was shot in the face and then stabbed 13 times, says post-mortem report ‘Serial troublemaker’ Following his speech about Tiwari, Narsinghanand and his followers have been booked under IPC sections 295A (deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings), 298 (uttering words with deliberate intent to wound the religious feelings of any person) and 504 (intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of peace). Asked about the FIR, Narsinghanand laughed. “What do you expect from these eunuchs (police)? Whoever criticises me for what I said are all jihadis,” he said. The contempt is mutual. A source in the Uttar Pradesh Police said Narsinghanand’s activities were constantly monitored because of his reputation as a “troublemaker”. Just a day before Narsinghanand left for Lucknow to visit Tiwari’s family, the source added, police had initiated proceedings to book him under the Goonda Act because of his alleged proclivity to incite tensions. “He organises his own panchayats (at Dasna, which is predominantly Muslim) without police permission. Moreover, the speeches he gives are extremely provocative… in nature, which can lead to a communal clash,” the source said. “For example, he asks Hindu men to have more children to outnumber Muslims.” A Tyagi by caste, Narsinghanand allegedly also held a panchayat when Dhruv Tyagi, a Delhi businessman, was reportedly killed in May by Muslim suspects when he objected to their misbehaviour with his daughter. The police officer said that, a month ago, Narsinghanand started a panchayat to mediate between two Hindu groups that turned violent. Police registered a case, but could not arrest him as he got a stay from the Allahabad High Court, the officer said. “This is why we decided to book him under the Goonda Act and keep him under preventive custody,” the source added. “The process to invoke the Goonda Act against him is underway.” ‘Born to do something big’ According to Narsinghanand, he completed his Master’s from what was then known as Moscow Institute of Chemical Machine Building. Once he completed his course, he said, he worked “as an engineer and headed marketing teams” at several companies in the Russian capital as well as in London. After over nine years abroad, he added, he returned to India in 1997. “I felt that I was born to do something big, so I thought I should return and try my hands in politics,” Narsinghanand said. “My father worked with the Ministry of Defence but, before Partition, he had also been with the Congress. I had seen him discuss politics, so I thought maybe I can be a politician too,” he added. On his return to India, Narsinghanand said, he started teaching mathematics, which he claims is a strength. “I won the All Europe Olympiad (sic) in mathematics in 1992. So, I thought I should teach children,” he added. “But after that, I got an offer from the Samajwadi Party to lead their youth brigade. I thought I would start as a youth leader and then slowly get into mainstream politics,” he said. ThePrint spoke to Samajwadi Party members for information about Narsinghanand’s stint with the outfit, but no one seemed to remember him. ‘Not always a hater’ An unapologetic baiter now, Narsinghanand claimed he hadn’t always hated Muslims. “Many of them were my friends too. I associated religion with superstition but later my life transformed,” he said. It was during his initial days back home, he added, that he met BJP leader Baikunth Lal Sharma aka Prem, who had won his first parliamentary election in 1991 by defeating Congress veteran H.K.L. Bhagat. The leader, he said, “saw a spark in me”. “When I met Premji, he had quit the BJP and joined the Hindutva Jagran… I started meeting him often and he told me many stories of Muslim atrocities, which shocked me,” he said. However, it wasn’t until a personal experience, he added, that he believed Sharma. A girl from a Ghaziabad college allegedly approached him and complained about harassment by a group of Muslim men he hung out with. According to him, she alleged that one of her friends (a Muslim woman) asked her to befriend a Muslim man. When she agreed and started meeting the man, her friend allegedly clicked objectionable photographs of the two and circulated them in college. The photographs, she is said to have alleged, were used to blackmail her into granting sexual favours to “professors, ministers and other Muslim men”. “She told me that those were the same Muslim men I roamed around with. I was shaken,” he said. “She told me that I was responsible for her misery. It shook me from within,” he added. “That day I thought, what if these Muslims do the same to my daughter… That is when I began this fight for Islam-mukt (Islam-free) Bharat,” he said. Hindus, Narsinghanand added, should pick up arms. “It is time for revenge,” he said. “I do not regret anything I said. I have now taken this work, to eliminate Islam from this earth, in my hands, and I will do it.” Also Read: Internet behind rise in ‘hate speech’ and anti-national activities, says Modi govt in SC An ‘army’ against Islamic State In 2016, Narsinghanand gathered hundreds of his followers to start a “dharam sena (religious army)” to fight the Islamic State. More than 50 centres at ashrams in western UP were allegedly engaged to give arms training — in swords, knives and firearms — to Hindu boys and men between the ages of 8 and 25 years. Narsinghanand said the step was meant for the “welfare” of the nation. “Kids and youth were trained to fight terrorists of the Islamic State. What is wrong with that? We were just creating our parallel army, but police did not understand this and they shut down the training centres and put our boys behind bars,” he added. He was booked by police in the matter. Another Arms Act case was filed in 2017 when a dozen of Narsinghanand’s followers allegedly fired gunshots in the air during “shastra puja”, a tradition associated with Dussehra where arms are worshipped. Police said the firearms used by his followers were not licensed and hence illegal, but Narsinghanand sees the entire incident as observing tradition. “Yes, my boys did fire in the air but that is how shastra puja is done. What is the big deal?” he said. Narsinghanand has been arrested twice, but managed bail on both occasions. ‘A real sadhu’ A YouTube page with thousands of followers hosts several of Narasinghanand’s speeches — speeches as provocative as the one he made Sunday. In a speech from May 2016, Narsinghanand is heard saying that India will collapse in 20 years if the Muslim population continues to grow at the same pace. Speaking to ThePrint, he said he went on a hunger strike for the cause in 2017 and only ended it when one lakh youths pledged to have five children each. Such comments and campaigns appeal to his followers, who number in the thousands and visit his temple in Dasna. Some of them have vowed to spend their lives in his service. Ragini Tiwari, who claimed to be Narsinghanand’s shishya (student), told ThePrint that his “popularity” could be attributed to his “selfless service”. “He helps everyone. He has helped many Hindu families get medical treatment that they could otherwise not afford. Whenever a Hindu is in trouble, he is always standing beside him,” she said. “He is a dharam yoddha (warrior of faith) who is truly fighting for Hindutva. He does not walk around with a bodyguard, a gunman, any banner. Because he is a real sadhu who does not care about his life,” she added. “He just knows how to serve people.”

India: Now it is politically correct to be frankly discriminatory - Editorial, The Telegraph, 21.10.21

The Telegraph, Editorial: Daily dose Now it is politically correct to be frankly discriminatory Right-wing fringe groups, powered by Hindutva believers, can create the appearance of popular protest, as has been happening in Sector 47 of Gurgaon. Although the spot is one of the designated ones for Friday prayers in the open after tensions in 2018, alleged residents are trying to disrupt worship by marching in with banners, loudspeakers and bhajans. Right-wing fringe groups, powered by Hindutva believers, can create the appearance of popular protest, as has been happening in Sector 47 of Gurgaon. Although the spot is one of the designated ones for Friday prayers in the open after tensions in 2018, alleged residents are trying to disrupt worship by marching in with banners, loudspeakers and bhajans. The Editorial Board | Published 21.10.21, 01:27 AM A change is best sensed from everyday happenings. Different regions of India are displaying aspects of religious discrimination as though to leave no doubt that expectations of peaceful coexistence — not always ideal but always possible — can now be jettisoned. Sometimes the government takes the initiative. The legislative committee on backward classes and minorities welfare in Karnataka has asked for detailed information on churches, priests and missionaries in the state. The goal is to discover how many churches are “authorized” and whether illegal conversions are taking place. The Bharatiya Janata Party legislator, who presided over the committee meeting in place of the chairperson, was vocal about his conviction regarding ‘illegal’ conversions because his mother had almost been through one. Non-BJP members of the committee claimed that the order had been given without consulting them. Strong protests from the Christian community, some pointing out that the Christian population has shown no noticeable increase since Independence, have apparently fallen on deaf ears, since the chief minister has promised to strengthen anti-conversion laws. Elsewhere, too, the goal is the systematic destruction of unthinking, everyday coexistence. Right-wing fringe groups, powered by Hindutva believers, can create the appearance of popular protest, as has been happening in Sector 47 of Gurgaon. Although the spot is one of the designated ones for Friday prayers in the open after tensions in 2018, alleged residents are trying to disrupt worship by marching in with banners, loudspeakers and bhajans. That the police are protecting the worshippers from this barefaced display of intolerance has resulted in threats and vilification. It is a contagious sickness. The Hindu religious and charitable endowments department in Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam-ruled Tamil Nadu has advertised for only Hindu applicants to fill teaching and non-teaching posts in one of the four colleges it is opening. This may be a deliberate extension of the regulation for temple employees; in any case, it is blatantly unconstitutional and discriminatory. It could not have been expected of any government department even a few years ago. Now it is politically correct to be frankly discriminatory. Not even advertisements suggesting inclusion can escape outrage, whether it is a clothing brand accused of naming its Diwali collection in terms of all-India celebrations, or a jewellery company showcasing inter-community marriage. India is thriving on daily doses of aggression and hatred.

Religion and Politics: BJP hobnobbing with Nihang sikhs to derail the farmers movement | Bharat Bhushan

Roping in Nihangs: Another attempt at derailing farmers' stir fails It is unclear why the agriculture minister and his deputy were hobnobbing with a Nihang leader instead of re-engaging in a dialogue with farm leaders by Bharat Bhushan https://www.deccanherald.com/opinion/roping-in-nihangs-another-attempt-at-derailing-farmers-stir-fails-1042363.html