September 24, 2023

Attempt to stop the Usage of word India

https://rampuniyani.com/what-is-in-the-name/ What is in the name? Attempt to stop the usage of ‘India’ by the Government Ram Puniyani Coincidentally after the opposition parties came together to form INDIA (Indian National Democratic Inclusive Alliance), the ruling BJP is desisting from the use of word India in official communiqu├ęs and its parent organizations RSS has issued a fatwa that only word Bharat should be used for our country. While inviting the representative’s participants of G 20, the President issued the invitation in the name of ‘Rashtrapati of Bharat’. Since then BJP is on the track of avoiding the use of the word India in all its pronouncements, saying this word smacks of colonial legacy since this word was given to the country by British colonial rulers. Mr. Hemant Biswa Sarma of BJP said that word India is part of the colonial legacy and should be removed. RSS chief and other functionaries have intensified this message. Speaking at a function at Guwahati Mr. Bhagwat, stated “We must stop using the word India and start using Bharat. At times we use India to make those who speak English understand. This comes as the flow however we must stop using this.” There are attempts to show as if India and Bharat represent different streams of culture and parts of the country. Sometimes these worthies have also been seeing the country in two contrasting components like earlier statement of Bhagwat that ‘Rape takes place in India not in Bharat”. As per his totally false notion, Bhagwat claimed that rapes and gang rapes are restricted to ‘urban India’ with its Western culture and that such 'things' do not happen in rural India, where traditional values hold sway. The debate has been propped up again in the context of very pertinent and effective use of the word INDIA for its coalition by opposition parties. As such the sources of the name of India are multifarious. AS civilizations are not static and things change with time and situation, even the names of continents, kingdoms and countries have transformed. We recall many sources of the two major names of the country. One is Bharat, which is rooted in the holy sources. In some sources we find other names like Jambudweep. This is found in the edicts of Ashoka also. Jambudweep stands for the Southern of the four continents around Meru, the center of these land masses. This is ratified by the Cosmological understanding also. This Jambudweep (After the Jamun (berry) tree,) includes Maldives, Nepal, Bangla Desh and Pakistan. Similarly Aryavarta is also used for the Ganga basin where the Aryans primarily settled after arrival here. Reference to Bharat is mostly after the Bharat tribe and the Great King Bharat. In Rig-Veda (18th Hymn, seventh book) there is a mention of Dasrajan’s (Ten Kings) battle against King Sudasa, the king from Bharat tribe. Mahabharata mentions Bharat Chakrvarty (winning emperor) of Bharat dynasty as the ancestor of Kauravas and Pandavas. Vishnu purana mentions Bharat Vansham, Bharat’s empire which includes today’s Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iran among others. In Jain literature Bharat Chakravarty is the eldest son of first Jain Tirthankar (Founder). The other series names are generally around the river Sindhu. Avesta mentions it as Haptahindu. Similarly Vedas at places mention it as Saptasindhu. Achaeminid (Persian) sources mention it as Hindush. Even before this; 4th Century BCE, Megathanese called it India, which transitioned into Greek called it Indike. This was the source of India in times to come. Those saying that it is a colonial legacy are unaware of the complex history of the genesis of the term India and have political motives now in refusing to use the Constitution’s nomenclature ‘India that is Bharat’. Human civilizations are not static. Rather static civilizations cannot prosper and flourish. This was seen by those who were struggling against the Colonial Forces. That’s how Surendranath Bannerjee used the term, ‘India: Nation in the Making’, Gandhi began his paper ''Young India '', Ambedkar formed his ‘Indian Labor Party’ and later laid the foundation of ‘Republican Party of India’. Use of the word India is not a colonial legacy in any way, the word was there much before the British East India Company came here for trade and plunder. This word also was used by anti-colonial movements. This is how the country was known in the World. On the pretext of colonial legacy and Western influence, those wanting to stop usage of this word are deeply opposed also to the values of the transition towards democratic values of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. Interestingly till a while ago the same forces used the word, India in abundant measure. Campaigns like ‘Made in India’, ‘Skill India’, and ‘My Clean India’ being few among them. In earlier election rallies also Modi did talk of ‘Vote for India’ times and over again. ‘India that is Bharat’ was a beautiful elaboration of continuity and change. While it retains the glorious aspects of traditions, it opens its arms to the changes which are in tune with times and which lay the foundation for Modern times in India. Those formulating the Indian Constitution had no allergy to the word Bharat. It was heartily accepted as our soul. They did not think of a binary but conceptualized the reality of the country in modern times. This is very well reflected in the acceptance of the Anthem ‘Jan Gan Man’ by Gurdev Rabindrnath Tagore, which mentions, Bharat Bhagya Vidhata (controller of India’s destiny). In continuation with this Rajiv Gandhi, while dreaming of India of 21st Century, also gave the slogan of ‘Mera Bharat Mahan’ (My Great India, Bharat). India is also how the World has been recognizing us. Interestingly the first person to oppose the use of India for us was Mohammad Ali Jinnah. Four weeks after we got Independence he wrote to the Governor General of India; Lord Mountbatten, objecting to usage of India for our country. ““It is a pity that for some mysterious reason Hindustan have adopted the word ‘India’ which is certainly misleading and is intended to create confusion.”, As per him India was the joint entity and after partition it ceased to exist. Can one say the present opponents of usage of word India are toeing Jinnah’s line on this matter?

September 22, 2023

In rural India, private schools run by the Ekal Foundation Are Indoctrinating Poor Children | The Diplomat

The Diplomat

In India, Hindutva Schools Are Indoctrinating Poor Children

In rural India, private schools run by the Ekal Foundation provide access to education – but force children to imbibe divisive teachings that preach Hindu superiority.

In India, Hindutva Schools Are Indoctrinating Poor Children

Shammi Shukla teaches Hindu hymns to students, sitting beside photos of Hindu deities in Mishrikh, Uttar Pradesh, India.

Credit: Tarushi Aswani

On a scorching afternoon in Mishrikh, a remote village in northern India’s Uttar Pradesh state, children are gearing up to go to Ekal Vidyalaya. Most children who attend these schools wear tattered clothes and hand-me-down slippers, and carry half-broken and half-chewed pencils.

The school is part of the Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation (EVF), which claims that it aims to ensure children in rural India get access to education. These one-teacher schools are free and offer vocational classes alongside literacy to children aged five to 14 from any caste or religion.

However, the curriculum is firmly rooted in Hindu nationalism.

As children trail behind each other, they can be seen entering a local Hindu temple in their village, where they obediently sit on the floor, which exhales the heat of the sun. Facing a table with photos of Hindu deities neatly placed with the support of incense sticks, children focus all their attention toward the deities.

Shammi Shukla, the teacher at this makeshift school strictly goes by the book. She makes sure that all children, irrespective of their religion, are made to chant Hindu prayers and mantras. “We need to learn who the Adharmis (unrighteous) are and only Hinduism can teach us that,” Shukla said. 

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“Those who are not Hindus, are Adharmis.

Ekal and Education

This alternate school where Shukla teaches is called Ekal Vidyalaya, meaning a school that belong to the EVF, a U.S.-based organization that sets up private, single-teacher schools in rural India. This concept was conceived in 1986 in India’s Jharkhand;  in 1989, Shyam Gupta, a senior member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a Hindu paramilitary organization, stepped in to take over the campaign for Ekal Foundation. 

The Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation of USA was established in 2002. This branch is the primary campaigner for the donations that are received to run schools in India.

Another radical Hindu organization responsible for attacks on Muslims and Christians – the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) – has boasted of its involvement with the EVF. The VHP’s website states that the launch of the EVF of USA was among “some of the major contributions made by VHP of America.”

Classes at Ekal include a mix of children from all spheres of village life: Hindu upper castes, lower castes, tribals, and Muslims. As of March 2023, Uttar Pradesh housed 17,188 Ekal schools, where more than 519,301 students were enrolled. Students from the ages of five to 14 attend these schools, which provide free non-formal and vocational education.

Shukla, the teacher at the local Ekal school in Mishrikh, feels that Ekals are significantly different from mainstream schools due to their syllabus, which binds together nationalism and Hinduism.

During its investigation, The Diplomat met with Mahender Yadav, the supervisor of Ekal schools in Sitapur district. Yadav, a staunch Hindu, is not shy about proclaiming the Hindu nationalist agenda. 

“Muslims and Christians need to be shown their rightful place in society, they can either accept Hindu supremacy or convert to Hinduism. Ekal prepares children to identify enemies of Hinduism at an early stage,” he told The Diplomat.

Under Yadav, 430 Ekal schools and institutions are able to further their agenda of radicalizing students.

Yadav also shared with The Diplomat a textbook that the teachers follow. Upon even a cursory glance, the reader can glean that the book has doctored stories about how Muslims forcefully convert Hindus to Islam – a narrative that has been pushed since years by radical Hindu organizations in India.

During the lessons that The Diplomat attended at a dozen Ekal schools across Uttar Pradesh, children were being made to correlate the Hindu goddesses to the idea of India as motherland. Teachers at Ekal schools are clear: for them there is no separation between Hinduism and nationalism. 

Hindu students display the textbooks that they received from the Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation in Sitapur, Uttar Pradesh. Photo by Tarushi Aswani

Harnessing Hate

At the same Ekal school, Nikhil Shukla, a 15-year-old student, is an energetic young man who chooses to wear the color saffron, purely because the color is considered holy in Hinduism. Shukla, inspired by his teacher’s understanding of Hinduism, has recently joined the Bajrang Dal, a Hindu nationalist militant organization. 

“Hindu religion is being attacked across India, we need to fight to save it,” Shukla proclaimed. 

Despite being just 15, Ekal has motivated Shukla to join a Hindu militant organization responsible for vandalism at churches and mosques, the murders of several Muslims, and furthering a demand to economically boycott Muslims so as to kill their mode of livelihoods across India.

Owing to the anti-minority harassment, for the the last four years, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom has recommended that India be designated a “Country of Particular Concern,”a category of governments performing poorly on religious freedom criteria. 

The Diplomat also spoke to two senior officials in the Uttar Pradesh Department of Basic Education regarding the functioning of the Ekal schools. Both officials denied having any information about these schools and their operations. The officials also confirmed that these schools are not affiliated with their department.

Instead, these schools are funded by individual donations and through foundations, including one that was registered with authorities in the United Kingdom until 2020, one in Canada, and one in the United States. According to 990 tax documents, over the last decade, the Ekal Foundation of USA sent over $60 million to its sister organization Ekal Abhiyan in India to run Ekal schools.

In 2009, a report issued by India’s Ministry of Human Resource Development found that the “training to the teachers of Ekal schools was mainly to spread communal disharmony in the communities and also to inculcate a fundamentalist political ideology… creating enmity amongst communities on the basis of religion.” 

Yet, these U.S.-funded schools are allowed to exist in India and those with limited resources are being lured to send their children to these schools.

Students learn using computers at an EVF center in Naimisharanya, Uttar Pradesh. Photo by Tarushi Aswani

Poverty and Propaganda

At another school, in Sitapur district’s Naimisharanya village, 30 students await their teacher, Lakshmi Kumari. 

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As students learned math inside a brick room, Lakhan Pal waited for his daughter, who is a student at this school. Pal, a daily wage laborer at a construction site, said, “I earn $5 a day on good days, so free schools like Ekal are a good option for my daughter, I don’t have to spend on her education then.”

Meethi and Pinky Kumari, two 4-year-olds, also attend the Ekal. While they barely understand anything beyond their ABCs and 123s, their mother Pooja, a recently widowed, unemployed woman sends them there because she is unable to send them to a public or private school. 

Pooja, a Hindu, who chooses to stay indoors since the death of her husband, has no agency to earn money for her daughters and herself. Since her in-laws and parents have mandated her to not venture into the village, Ekal Vidyalaya is the only place where her daughters can learn. 

“I don’t earn and the family is not willing to invest in the education of two girls. Government schools are subsidized, but I don’t have any way even to afford basics such as uniforms, books, and transportation,” Pooja lamented.

The Ekal school is not only free, but provides amenities many of the rural residents can only dream of – such as access to a computer lab, a luxury in a village that is barely electrified. That serves as a potent attraction, drawing students into receiving the Hindu nationalist teachings on offer. 

Nidhi Maurya stands in front of Muslim students at an Ekal Vidyalaya in Bahraich, Uttar Pradesh. Photo by Tarushi Aswani.

Sitting 100 kilometers away from Naimisharanya is a Muslim-dominated district, Bahraich. In another Ekal school, Nidhi Maurya in Bahraich’s Gulra village has accomplished a task that has fetched her admiration from her superiors: during her eight-month tenure, Maurya has made Muslim children into Hindu-prayer-reciting students. 

Maurya beamed at the sight of the Muslim girls sitting near her feet. “These Muslim girls know three Hindu prayers – the Gayatri Mantra, the Saraswati Vandana and  Pratah Kaal prayer – by heart,” she boasted.

On being asked why the Muslim girls were being sent to Hindu schools where the goal of the syllabus is to glorify Hinduism and demean others, a Muslim girl named Muskan told The Diplomat, “This school is free, our parents send us here to learn whatever little we can.”

The Muslim students at Maurya’s school are essentially being made to give up Islam in order to gain a free education. 

Filling the gaps in access to education, Ekal is a unique model. While providing decentralized, non-formal education, it mandates that its students to follow and believe in Hindutva, a radicalized form of Hinduism, by making it a part of the compulsory curriculum. Students across Ekal schools are being made to believe that being Hindu equates to being more “Indian” than following another religion. 

While the schools may be free for individual families, they do come at a steep cost for society: deepening communal divisions and further marginalizing hundreds of millions of non-Hindu Indians.

Tarushi Aswani
Guest Author

Tarushi Aswani

Tarushi Aswani is an independent journalist based in New Delhi, India. She covers stories on human rights, governance, refugee rights, communalism, religion and politics in India.

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The blatant anti-Muslim bias displayed in the Indian parliament is a shame for the country | Tanya Arora

Sabrang India

BJP MP targets a Muslim MP, uses anti-Muslim slurs, calls him “Muslim terrorist and militant” during the Special Session of the Lok Sabha, comments expunged after uproar

An elected member of the Lok Sabha openly uses anti-Muslim slurs against a Muslim member of Parliament during an ongoing session of the Parliament. He calls the Muslim MP a “B****a (pimp)”, “K***a (circumcised)”, “Mullah Atankwadi (Muslim terrorist)” and a “Mullah Ugrawadi (Muslim militant)” while giving a speech on record. The words uttered by the MP from the ruling party are televised. 75 years after attaining Independence, this is the state of our beloved India that is Bharat.

On September 21, BJP Lok Sabha MP Ramesh Bidhuri, from South Delhi, used filthy and violent anti-Muslim slurs against MP Danish Ali of the Bahujan Samaj Party during the special session of the Parliament. In the video that has now surfaced, Bidhuri can be heard giving a communally charged rant while talking about the recent Chandrayan 3 mission, referring to the Ali as a terrorist, urging the speaking to “throw the Mullah (anti-Muslim slur) out”. The video also shows another senior BJP member and former government minister, namely Harsh Vardhan, sitting behind Bidhuri and laughing at the anti-Muslim diatribe. The Lok Sabha speaker, Om Birla, can be heard asking the MPs to sit down.

 [ . . . ]

Full text at: https://sabrangindia.in/the-blatant-anti-muslim-bias-displayed-in-the-indian-parliament-is-a-shame-for-the-country/


September 14, 2023

Muslim invasions subjugated Hindu women?

Did Muslim Invasions Subjugate Hindu Women? Ram Puniyani The rise of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and its opposition to demands for caste and gender equality raised during the freedom movement went hand in hand. When India was a ‘nation in the making’, it sought to grant equality to all, which undermined the older feudal hierarchies. While Indian nationhood sought equality for all, irrespective of caste, class and gender, those who upheld the traditional order asserted themselves, too. Muslim and Hindu conservatives often couched their backwardness in the language of religion. The Hindu-nationalist RSS created a narrative about a golden past, an age when Manu and his word were law. It also claimed that “Hindu values” meant equal status for all castes, and women had a respectable position in Hindu society. They still claim that Muslim invaders and plunderers caused a decline in these glorious values and that evil invaders cost Hindu women their prominent place in society. They even blame the cruel practice of Sati on Muslim invasions. Such ideas and claims form the core of Hindu nationalist “myth creation” about why Hindu women were restrained. The RSS sahkaryavah, or general secretary, Krishna Gopal, repeated all such claims on 4 September when he addressed a gathering on women’s empowerment organised by an outfit called Naari Shakti Sangam. He said, “Prior to the 12th century, women were reasonably free to a great extent, but in the middle ages [India’s medieval era], a very difficult time came. The entire country was struggling with subjugation. Women were in danger. Lakhs of women were kidnapped and sold in international markets. [Ahmed Shah’ Abdali, [Mohammed] Ghori and [Mahmood of] Ghazni took women from here and sold them. It was an era of great humiliation. So, to protect our women, our society put multiple restrictions on them.” Gopal would have his listeners not just believe his justification to repress women but also that the plunder of wealth of rival kingdoms and enslavement of the conquered were restricted to Muslim invaders. Both, however, run through kingdoms and history. The Chola kings brought innumerable slaves from Sri Lanka. Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj’s army plundered Kalyan, and Kalyan’s governor’s Muslim daughter-in-law was taken captive. The restrictions on Hindu women that Gopal refers to prevailed long before any Muslim kings set foot in South Asia—including Sati, the immolation of a widow on her husband’s funeral pyre. Women were deprived of property and education due to the social norms prevailing in early India. In the Mahabharata, there are accounts of Pandu’s wife Madri and Lord Krishna’s father Vasudev’s four wives burning themselves to death after their husbands died. The subordination of women was due to patriarchy, influenced by sentiments such as clan superiority, and both factors had a crucial role in Sati. As per the historian Romila Thapar, the significant factors in the rise of Sati were the subordination of women in patriarchal society, the changing “systems of kinship”, and the desire to exert “control over female sexuality”. According to most historians of repute, Sati originated within the Kshatriya aristocracy and remained limited mainly to the so-called warrior classes among Hindus. The decline of trade and commerce in the post-Gupta period in Indian history is among the critical reasons for the decline in the status of women. They were prohibited from education; child marriage increasingly became the norm; widow remarriage was prohibited; occurrences of the dreadful practice of Sati grew, too. Before this period, Sati was an occasional phenomenon. How does RSS deal with the issue? An exclusively male organisation, it promoted the Rashtra Sevika Samiti as a subordinate outfit. Its very name reflects the Hindu nationalist outlook on gender, for the word swayam (being, self) is missing from its name, and the word sevika—service—is included instead. The Rashtra Sevika Samiti has been preaching to its women followers total support of the subordinate position of women. Vijaya Raje Scindia, vice-president of the Bharatiya Janata Party, the political offshoot of the RSS, took out a morcha to Parliament to support Sati in the aftermath of the Roopkawar sati case. That was when Parliament was discussing a new law to curb this practice. Scindia believed committing Sati was a “glorious” tradition and the right of Hindu women. In April 1994, Mridula Sinha, a top leader of the Samiti, who later became the Governor of Goa, advised Hindu women in an interview with Savvy magazine to “adjust” if her husband beats her—for she could have “provoked” the assault. She also defended dowry—“my father bought me a husband in just Rs 5,000”—and said women must not work outside the home unless it is a dire necessity. We also recall former RSS prachark Pramod Muthalik, members of whose outfit, the Sri Ram Sene, were recorded on camera beating girls leaving a pub in Mangalore, Karnataka, in 2009. The outfit was later acquitted, and the police investigation came under the scanner. Thrashing young couples on St Valentine’s Day is a regular feature of the Bajrang Dal, another RSS-related outfit. On 10 November 2020, Goa Police registered an FIR against Shilpa Singh, an assistant professor at a law college, for allegedly “outraging religious sentiments” by comparing the mangalsutra worn by married women to a dog’s chain. The RSS’s student outfit, Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, complained to the college authorities. The BJP government recently honoured the Gita Press with the Gandhi Peace Prize, but it, too, peddled values parallel to the RSS’s beliefs. The Gita Press has been rehashing the Manusmriti’s values on caste and gender issues for decades. Many books from this press advise Hindu women to remain subordinated to men, and give women a litany of advice. Some of these books are Nari Shiksha [Education of Women] by Hanuman Prasad Poddar, Grahsth Mein Kaise Rahen [How to Lead a Household Life] by Swami Ramsukhdas, Striyon ke Liye Kartawya Shiksha [Education on the Duties of Women] and Nari Dharm [Duties of Women] by Jai Dayal Goyandka are few of them. To top it, the RSS and its affiliate outfits aggressively campaign against their own make-believe’ love Jihad’. It is nothing but an effort to control Hindu women by targeting Muslims. On the pretext of love Jihad, these organisations go house to house advising the Hindu parents and male relatives to “keep an eye on girls”. The historian Charu Gupta wrote in 2009, “Whether it is 1920 or 2009, Hindu patriarchal notions appear deeply entrenched. In both campaigns, images of passive victimised Hindu women at the hands of inscrutable Muslims abound, and any possibility of women exercising their legitimate right to love and their right to choice is ignored.” The latest from the RSS leadership is yet another reiteration of their unshakable faith in patriarchy. That is why they blame all ills of Hindu society on external factors and hide behind the social structures and the scriptures that promote these problems.

September 07, 2023

India: Curbs on women in Hindu society due to Islamic invasions | editorial with Sujit Nair HW news


Caste Eradication- What does Udaynidhi Stalin Say

https://www.newsclick.in/udhayanidhis-eradicate-sanatan-dharma-call-what-periyar-ambedkar-sought Udhayanidhi’s ‘Eradicate Sanatan Dharma’ Call is What Periyar, Ambedkar Sought Ram Puniyani Hinduism is not a prophet-based religion, neither does it have a single book, nor is the word Hindu part of holy scriptures. This gives enough leeway to different interpreters and reformers to attribute diverse meanings to what Hindu religion stands for, even to the extent of defining it as not a religion but “way of life”. As such, it is a collation of diverse tendencies which can broadly be grouped under Brahmanic (Vedic, Manusmriti, with caste and gender hierarchy at the base) and the Shramanic (Nath, Tantra, Bhakti, Shaiva, Siddhanta) traditions. The word Sanatan has been in use for “eternal religions”. The word Dharma is also supposed to be not easy to translate into English. It broadly stands for many things, the chief being religiously ordained duty. It also stands for spiritual order, sacred laws, the totality of social, ethical and spiritual harmony. In his book Why I am a Hindu, Shashi Tharoor points out that Dharma can also be defined as “that by which we live”. Intricacies apart, the word Sanatan Dharma has been used for Hinduism, particularly its Brahmanical version, which upholds caste and gender hierarchy. This is what BR Ambedkar meant when he said that Hinduism is Brahmanical theology. Hinduism is the root of Hindutva or Hinduness, which has manifested as Hindu nationalist politics. It, too, upholds Manusmriti and thereby the traditional caste hierarchy. In a way, Sanatan Dharma today stands for the caste hierarchy. This is the backdrop against which we need to understand Udhayanidhi’s call to “eradicate Sanatan Dharma”. The Youth Welfare and Sports Development Minister of Tamil Nadu, and son of MK Stalin, Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu and DMK leader, comes from the tradition of Periyar Ramasamy Naicker, the pioneer of the Self Respect Movement, which calls for caste equality and eradication of patriarchy. He was scathingly critical of Brahmanical norms, which dominated society. Just before him, Ambedkar had overseen the burning of Manusmriti by his colleague Bapusaheb Sahastrabuddhe. As per Ambedkar, this text is the repository of caste inequalities. Ambedkar, pained by the hold of Brahmanism over society—now referred to as Sanatan Dharmic values—declared in Yeola, “I was born a Hindu; that was not in my hands, but I will not die a Hindu.” Udhayanidhi has now said that Sanatan Dharma is a principle that divides people in the name of caste and religion…” He is merely repeating what Periyar and Ambedkar have said in their own ways. On his use of the words Sanatan Dharma, BJP spokesperson Amit Malaviya tweeted, “Udhayanidhi Stalin... has linked Sanatan Dharma to malaria and dengue…In short, he is calling for genocide of 80% population of Bharat who follow Sanatan Dharma.” Malaviya is not only twisting what Udhayanidhi Stalin has said, he is also confirming that Hinduism is synonymous with Sanatan Dharma today. Fact is, Udhayanidhi’s call is a call to eradicate caste and not people—and that is the spirit in which his remark has been popularly seen as well. When Ambedkar calls for the annihilation of caste, he does not call for genocide. Therefore, Ambedkar’s intentions and Udhayanidhi’s aspirations are the same. BJP leaders appear to be twisting his statement deliberately, since the DMK is part of the INDIA alliance of Opposition parties. Home Minister Amit Shah has said in public meetings that the Congress party has disrespected Indian culture and Udhayanidhi’s words amount to “hate speech”. Truth is, talking about the annihilation of a system of inequality cannot be hate speech. What has been said is in tune with what Ambedkar and Periyar said—the main point being that Brahmanical Hinduism is presenting itself as Sanatan Dharma. When Gandhi struggled to unite the country and worked against the practice of untouchability, he identified himself with Sanatan Dharma and Hinduism. For a few years after 1932, Gandhi made it his primary goal to work against untouchability, and pursue the rights of Dalits to enter temples. The diverse religious traditions of India, such as Buddhism, also identified themselves as Sanatan or everlasting. Today, the dominant tendency pursued by the RSS is to promote the word Sanatan for Hinduism to create a mix of Brahmanism and nationalism. Udhayanidhi, therefore, has deployed strong symbolism to explain the evils of the caste order. The charge of hate speech would not apply to the abolition of values that support caste hierarchy. BJP leaders and spokespersons are trying to use Udhayanidhi’s statements as a pretext to attack the Congress party and the INDIA alliance without any substantive argument. To say that the Congress party never respected Indian culture is to level an empty charge merely for political mileage. The Congress party was part of a movement that united all Indians under the umbrella of Indian identity, while retaining respect for cultural differences. At the same time, it promoted reforms in society. Shah has said of late that the Opposition wants power at any cost. “You have been disrespecting Sanatana Dharma and the culture and history of this country,” he said. Fact is, India’s national movement upheld the best aspects of Indian culture as first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru wrote in The Discovery of India, “She [India] was like some ancient palimpsest on which layer upon layer of thought and reverie had been inscribed, and yet no succeeding layer had completely hidden or erased what had been written previously.” The problem is not with the parties constituting the INDIA alliance. The problem is with the BJP and company, for whom culture is merely a Brahmanical past and everything that comes with it. Indeed, the caste system has persisted for too long. The struggles of Ambedkar, Periyar and even Gandhi were great beginnings but were arrested halfway through—and some gains were reversed over the last three decades. The time has come to annihilate caste rather than bicker over the terminology used. Truly, the word Sanatan has had a long journey. Starting with its use in Buddhism, Jainism and finally finding its place in the Manusmriti, it has come to symbolise Brahmanical Hinduism in the present times. Rather than nit-picking and making it a political issue, we need reforms for a society with equality, in tune with the Constitution of India. Besides, to be perfectly clear, Udhayanidhi’s remarks are not those of the INDIA coalition—whether the BJP can make it an election issue remains to be seen. Let us remember it did try to use Bajrang Bali in Karnataka, and fell on its face.