July 02, 2022

‘Historic hurt’ is a modern phrase | Anirudh Kanisetti

 The Print

‘Historic hurt’ is a modern phrase. Muslims were integral to South Indian gods

The legends of Vavar and other South Indian gods venerated by both Hindus and Muslims show that the Deccan's religious history in the region is far more complex.

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Every year, millions of devotees congregate at the gold-plated shrine of the Hindu god Ayyappa in the Sabarimala temple in Kerala. Thousands undertake an arduous forest trek of over 60 kilometres to reach there. Of those, many start from the town of Erumely where they perform an ecstatic dance; they break coconuts and offer them, along with pepper and rice, to the god. They do all this on the premises of a grand mosque of Vavar Swami, a Muslim saint believed to have lived between the 9th and the 14th century, joined by Muslim devotees of Ayyappa. After arriving at Sabarimala, they also pay their respects to Vavar in a shrine at the foot of the Ayyappa temple itself.

Today, both Hindu and Muslim devotees believe that they must take Vavar’s permission before worshipping Ayyappa since the former was his devotee or companion. Some claim that this tradition is a way of assuring good relations between religious communities. But exploring the legends of Vavar, and other South Indian deities venerated by both Hindus and Muslims reveals that the history of religious interactions in the region is much more complex and fascinating.

Marriage, ritual, and social hierarchy

Ayyappa is just one among many Hindu deities to have a Muslim companion (using the term ‘Hindu’ to refer to such diverse gods is, it should be noted, a colonial invention). In medieval South India, even the most elite temples integrated Muslims into their mythologies and worship. At a time when Ayyappa at Sabarimala was a relatively minor god with worshippers only from the Travancore and Cochin regions, Ranganatha at Srirangam and Venkateswara at Tirumala already attracted royal patrons and endowments from hundreds of kilometres away. Each of these gods is believed to have married a Muslim princess devoted to him: Thulukka Nachiyar and Bibi Nancharamma, respectively. The worship of these goddesses continues to this day and is a part of the temples’ annual ritual calendar.

Perhaps the most interesting example of this phenomenon is in the legends of a Deccan pastoralist god known as Mallanna in Telangana, Mailar in Karnataka, and Khandoba in Maharashtra. Elite worshippers believe that he is a form of Shiva, but he is primarily a god of the ‘lower’ castes and migratory peoples. His myths are astonishingly vibrant, incorporating influences from many different communities and traditions.

At Jejuri, Khandoba’s largest centre, he is believed to have five wives. G.D. Sontheimer, an expert on Indian folk traditions, lists them in Criminal Gods and Demon Devotees: “Mhalsa, a Lingayat; Banai, a Dhangar shepherdess; Phulai Malin, from the gardener caste; Rambhai Simpin, the tailor woman; and Candai Bhagvani, a Muslim woman”. Candai is believed to have been from the oil-presser caste. Oral epics relate stories of these wives and their arguments (and reconciliations) over ritual purity. One refrain, documented by Sontheimer, goes: “Banu (Banai) and Mhalsa are of different castes, [but] for the god Mallari (Khandoba), they eat from the same plate.” In one of his legends, the god even visits Mecca to obtain sacred turmeric for a future wife — and introduces its denizens to biryani!

Muslims also play important roles in the rituals of Khandoba. On Somvati Amavasya days, he is carried in a palanquin for a hunting expedition; the procession is led by a Muslim who attends to the god’s horse. A Muslim is also traditionally Khandoba’s policeman and the guardian of his stables at Jejuri. Muslims call the god Mallu Khan or Ajmat Khan, and he may be depicted as a Pathan on horseback. The fact that Mallu Khan is the same as Shiva can be seen in an inscription dated 1703 from Epigraphia IndoMoslemica (page 20): “śrī guruliṅga jaṅgama vibhūtarudraksha-bhūsena sadāśiva śaṅkara śambhu mahādeva mahārudra maluskhan”. Epithets usually applied to Shiva — Shankara, Shambhu, Mahadeva and Rudra — are used also for Mallu Khan.

Interestingly, we also see the converse of this phenomenon, where communities we think of as ‘Hindu’ venerate Muslim figures. The most noticeable example of this is Peerla Panduga (‘the festival of the Sufi Pirs’), an annual Muharram celebration in Telangana where ‘lower’ castes participate in processions and worship at dargahs.

What all these reveal is that in popular worship, sacred figures offer a space where local groups signal their places in the community — hence, Khandoba’s wives, each of a different caste, play a specific role in his rituals. It is not simply a matter of religious tolerance but rather a sign that local traditions and social hierarchies transcended religion. Deities like Thulukka Nachiyar and Nancharamma, as princesses, were a node for elite Muslims to patronise and participate in the worship of royal gods. Similarly, writes Dominique-Sila Khan in Lines in Water: Religious Boundaries in South Asia, Candai Bhagvani and Vavar Swami show that Muslims from working-class backgrounds actively participated in local traditions, often through legends that one of their own was a companion of a god. Yet another example of this phenomenon is Muttal Ravuttan, a Muslim who acts as the bodyguard of Draupadi, the wife of the Pandavas and a popular mother goddess in rural Tamil Nadu.

Also read: South India challenges the notions of medieval Islam—lessons from Deccan history

Religious Identities: A line in water

Today, occasional examples of Indian Muslim kings attacking temples are portrayed as ‘proof’ that relations between Islam and Hinduism have always been driven by hate and intolerance. But the truth is that temple destruction was not always seen as hatred towards Hindus even by Hindus. If that were really the case, we would certainly not see local ‘Hindu’ communities such as Khandoba, Ayyappa and Draupadi worshippers actively incorporating Muslim occupational groups.

Elite violence did not get in the way of daily life until 20th-century nationalism projected its own anxieties into the past. After all, the Hoysala king Vishnuvardhana claims (Epigraphia Carnatica, Volume 5, Hassan District no. 53) that he left so many Tamilians’ skulls alongside the Kaveri river that they stopped the flow of the southern winds. Yet, medieval Tamils did not hold all Kannadigas responsible. Indeed, the Srirangam temple, where the Muslim princess Thulukka Nachiyar was later worshipped, was quite pleased to accept gifts from Hoysala Vishnuvardhana’s descendants.

When there is continuing evidence of Muslims being integral to local traditions and economies, why are occasional attacks on elite institutions considered the only metric by which we can gauge religious interactions in the diverse world of medieval India? Most of our ancestors were not conquering kings but rather the humble peoples who came up with such accommodations. Instead of appreciating the diversity of their legacies, it is absurd that we insist on imagining into existence grievances that our ancestors did not hold.

Anirudh Kanisetti is a writer and digital public humanities scholar. He is author of Lords of the Deccan, a new history of medieval South India, and hosts the Echoes of India and Yuddha podcasts. Views are personal.

This article is a part of the ‘Thinking Medieval‘ series that takes a deep dive into India’s medieval culture, politics, and history. 

(Edited by Humra Laeeq)

India arrests two opponents of the government - Meanwhile Narendra Modi celebrates democracy at the G7 | The Economist, June 30, 2022

India arrests two opponents of the government
Meanwhile Narendra Modi celebrates democracy at the G7
Jun 30th 2022
Before hobnobbing with other world leaders at the g7 summit in southern Germany on June 26th Narendra Modi, India’s prime minister, stopped in Munich to address members of the Indian diaspora. He reminded them that the Emergency, a 21-month-long dictatorship imposed on India by Indira Gandhi on June 25th 1975, remained a “black spot” on India’s “vibrant democracy”. But efforts to crush that democracy, he went on to imply, were a thing of the past: “Today, we can proudly say that India is the mother of democracy.”
As Mr Modi was giving his speech Teesta Setalvad, an Indian human-rights activist, appeared before a court in Ahmedabad in the western state of Gujarat. She was charged with, among other things, fabricating evidence and committing criminal conspiracy against Mr Modi. A squad of Gujarat’s anti-terror police had arrested her at her home in Mumbai, India’s commercial capital, the day before.
Ms Setalvad’s arrest is yet another sign of the shrinking space for dissent and the erosion of the separation of powers in India’s “vibrant democracy”. It followed a decision by the Supreme Court on June 24th to uphold a ruling that cleared Mr Modi of complicity in deadly sectarian riots in Gujarat in 2002, when he was the chief minister of the state.
More than 1,000 people, most of them Muslim, were killed in the riots. Many observers have accused Mr Modi of failing to respond adequately to the violence, arguing that he could have done more to rein in the killers, protect the victims and investigate who was responsible for their deaths. Ms Setalvad went further. Working with the families of those killed in the riots, she has spent two decades trying to prove that senior officials in the state government, and above all Mr Modi, stoked or even planned the violence. In turn, authorities in Gujarat have pursued her with trumped-up charges and investigations. They have raided her offices and frozen her bank accounts. In 2016 the central government cancelled the licence that allowed her organisation to receive foreign funding.
Activists and journalists who criticise India’s government are growing accustomed to being hounded by it. Just two days after Ms Setalvad’s arrest in Gujarat, police in Delhi locked up Mohammed Zubair, the co-founder of a respected fact-checking service, following a complaint that a tweet he had posted in 2018 had hurt religious feelings. His associates believe that the aim was to punish Mr Zubair for publicising Islamophobic comments by two prominent officials in the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, the fallout from which ruptured India’s relations with the Muslim world in early June.
Until recently, activists could look to the courts to curb the worst excesses of the executive, at least on occasion: so far, none of the charges levelled against Ms Setalvad has stuck. Yet this time the Supreme Court itself appeared to suggest that she deserved to be prosecuted for her attempts to challenge the government.
The court could have limited itself to finding, as it did, that there was insufficient evidence to support the claim of a criminal conspiracy by the government. Instead the verdict goes further, encouraging the authorities to prosecute those who had sought to implicate the state. It mentions Ms Setalvad by name and accuses her of ulterior motives for pursuing the case. “All those involved in such abuse of process…need to be in the dock and proceeded with in accordance with law,” it concludes. The day after the verdict Amit Shah, the home minister, gave an interview in which he accused Ms Setalvad of feeding false information about the riots to the authorities and noted that the court had mentioned her by name. Hours later the police came knocking at her door.
The Supreme Court used to have a reputation for holding the government to account. But in recent years it has refused to say boo to Mr Modi and his lieutenants. For dissidents and critics, the message is clear. If you bring a sensitive case against the government, you may be persecuted for bringing it. This sounds like a formula for official impunity. ■

June 30, 2022

IMSD statement on murder of Kanhaiya Lal in Udaipur by 2 Muslim fanatics

 Indian Muslims for Secular Democracy

Press Statement

IMSD condemns in strongest terms the brutal murder of Kanhaiya Lal in Udaipur by 2 Muslim fanatics, who have openly declared that they did so for the love of the prophet & thus is a case of death for Blasphemy!

A tailor by profession, Kanhaiya’s only ‘crime’ was that he put up an online post in support of Nupur Sharma. India is a country governed by its constitution which means that its citizens are obligated to follow the rule of law. We cannot have any sympathy for those extremist Muslims who espouse the ideals of the Taliban or ISIS, or those extremist Hindus who want to turn this country into a fascist Hindu Rashtra.

Some years back, we had a similar attack on a migrant Muslim worker, who was hacked to death on camera by Shambhulal Raigar. While there were online petitions supporting Raigar, it is heartening to note that all Muslim organizations have condemned the killing of Kanhaiya in unequivocal terms.

IMSD reiterates its stand that there is no place for such an extremist mindset in India and that the culprits be handed the strictest possible punishment.

We would also like to underline the fact we are disturbed by the proclivity of certain Muslim organizations who are demanding and campaigning for blasphemy laws, which is a very regressive demand. Blasphemy laws are unacceptable in a secular liberal constitutional democracy, and IMSD strongly opposes this demand by the All India Muslim Personal Law Board and other conservative Muslim organizations.

We advise those who speak on behalf of Muslim issues to desist from making emotional, bigoted, intolerant and fanatical appeals in the name of religion. As citizens of this country, the Muslim cause is best served through appeals to the constitutional ethos rather than some pan-Islamic rallying together in the name of saving the honor of the prophet.

We also need to understand that incidents like Udaipur also send a chilling message to dissenters within the Muslim community. The case of Saad Ansari, a young 19 year old educated boy from Bhiwandi (Maharashtra), who spoke his mind on the issue of blasphemy is a further case in point. The local Muslim community hounded him no end, even physically attacked him but we saw no condemnation from any Muslim organization or individual. Saad was made to apologise & read the Kalma again by the 150 strong mob. For his son’s safety, his father has had to send Saad away to study. If a young Muslim boy is fettered and not allowed to speak his mind, then it is a telling statement on the depths of intolerance that we Muslims have descended to. While we rightly agitate for Zubair, the AltNews co-founder being hounded by the state, we are equally concerned about our regressive attitude which sent the young Saad away from his family. The police have registered cases both against Saad and the violent mob.

The IMSD appeals to all Muslims not to fall for the rightwing-Islamist rhetoric. Indian Muslims have been an exception to the worldwide Islamist movement, by shunning violence and reposing their faith in the constitution. It is with this faith in the foundation of our republic that Indian Muslims have categorically condemned the ISIS-style beheading of Kanhaiya in Udaipur. We hope that the same ethos also makes them withdraw cases against Saad Ansari.

In these difficult times, it’s essential that the Indian Muslim community seriously and honestly introspect on the intolerance & bigotry within the community and arrive at ways to combat such cases of violent fanaticism.

It is imperative that we as Indians unite to resist and defeat all forms of religious extremism, hatred & violence and work towards creating a peaceful harmonious society, not one built on mere tolerance, but on mutual respect and acceptance of each others faiths, religions and cultures.


  • Javed Anand, National Convener, IMSD
  • Feroze Mithiborwala, National Co-Convener, IMSD
  • (9029277751)
  • Anand Patwardhan, World-renowned Documentary Filmmaker
  • Tushar Gandhi, Author, Human Rights Defender
  • Arshad Alam, Writer
  • Anjum Rajabali, Film script writer
  • Adv. A W Jawwad
  • Adv. Lara Jesani
  • Amir Rizvi, Creative artist
  • Muniza Khan, Researcher
  • Com. Preeti Shekhar, Social Activist
  • M A Khalid, Social Activist
  • Khadija Farouqui, Social Activist
  • Arif Kapadia, Social Activist

religion keeps killing - Islamists kill over 'hurt sentiment' in Udaipur - three editorials

The Times of India


Act of terrorism: Horrific Udaipur incident must lead to thorough investigation to see if there’s a bigger pattern

June 29, 2022,

Following the gruesome murder of Kanhaiya Lal in Udaipur – which was plainly an act of terrorism – the course of investigation suggests that governments think this was not an isolated local incident. GoI yesterday directed the National Investigation Agency to take over the probe, with the search for international links being a key dimension. Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot echoed the view. He said the murder was meant to spread terror and the information available indicated the two perpetrators have contacts overseas.

It bears mention that the two terrorists, Mohmmad Riyaz Akhtari and Gaus Mohammad, who have freely admitted to murdering Lal, apparently belong to groups that believe that the “punishment” for “blasphemy” must be death. Indeed, the most chilling aspect of what Riyaz and Gaus did was the videography, reminiscent of ISIS-style brutality. Clearly, what happened in Udaipur requires a multi-level and multi-agency response.

A thorough investigation by NIA into Lal’s murder, with the state government cooperating, and quick, definitive results are the best first responses to the act of terrorism. Interminable delays do great harm to the cause of fighting terror, especially when social situations are volatile. The other crucial job for investigators is to figure out whether Riyaz and Gaus are part of a deadly pattern that will emerge over time. If that’s the case, it’s imperative that agencies are proactive in their response.

There’s also the question of the quality of local policing. The victim, Lal, had communicated a threat to his life in a formal complaint. For sure, the state has suspended an assistant sub inspector in Udaipur for negligence. But this horrifying incident shows the cost of states’ reluctance to implement even most basic police reforms. In state after state, and in incident after incident, local police forces have been found wanting even when clear indications of threats have been available. And finally, all political parties must keep an eye on groups and individuals who can say or do things that aggravate an already volatile situation.



 o o

 The Tribune

Murder in Udaipur

Religious, political leadership must work for peace

The gruesome killing of an Udaipur man, Kanhaiya Lal Teli, by Islamist extremists for allegedly supporting blasphemy against their faith deserves the most unequivocal, strongest possible condemnation. Teli, a tailor by profession, was brutally killed in his shop by two men posing as customers on Tuesday evening. He was murdered less than three weeks after he had been arrested over the allegation that he had supported and propagated former BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma’s comments on Islam and the Prophet. The killers — who also issued death threats to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Nupur — have been arrested and the Central Government has handed over the probe into the case to the National Investigation Agency.

The murder and its aftermath, with curfew being imposed in Udaipur after protests and arson, must be met with a responsible, restrained response from the political and religious leadership. Since the controversy over Nupur’s comments began a month ago, several states have witnessed protests and violence, resulting in a number of fatalities and damage to public and private property. It is incumbent on religious leaders to emphatically denounce violence in the name of religion and God; and, for the sake of peace and harmony, political leaders must desist from making provocative, divisive statements and prodding their followers towards violence. The investigation into Teli’s murder must be completed at the earliest and the killers — as also those who hatched the conspiracy and indoctrinated the two — must be brought to book.

India is an amazingly diverse country with different beliefs, customs and practices, which people cherish; however, it’s time the people realised a fundamental, universal truth: human beings have rights, feelings and ideas do not. Modern, tolerant democracies are founded on the principle that even the most loathsome ideas can be expressed as long as they are focused on ideologies or belief systems rather than individuals. The sanctity of human life is paramount; sentiments can never be accorded more importance than it. This is a priceless lesson, and the earlier the people of India learn it, the better it would be for the peace and progress of its citizens.

o o

The Indian Express

The two men who killed Kanhaiya Lal must face the full force of the law, they must not get the power to spread their poison

While the crime has played out in public view, the grisly videos don't tell all, important questions remain

By: Editorial

Updated: June 30, 2022
Even as there is no room for the politics of one-upmanship, there is hard political work to be done by all parties and players.

The killing of Kanhaiya Lal in Udaipur, captured and flaunted by his killers on video, is a gruesome crime. It has deservedly drawn the strongest condemnation across political and ideological lines in the country. The starkness of the horror permits no ambiguity in the aftermath — the perpetrators of murder as ghastly spectacle must be brought to justice quickly and firmly. In the days ahead, political parties and governments also need to step up to the challenge to keep the calm. Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot has called for Prime Minister Modi to address the nation and appeal for peace. It is essential that this does not become a bid by the Gehlot government to abdicate its own responsibility, or to pass the buck. It is its primary task to ensure that a firm message is sent out that any attempt to stoke or inflame communal anxieties and tensions will not be brooked in the state, in Udaipur or elsewhere.

Even as there is no room for the politics of one-upmanship, there is hard political work to be done by all parties and players. While the crime has played out in public view, the grisly videos don’t tell all, important questions remain. The National Investigation Agency, tasked with investigating terror-related crimes, has been called in, and a thorough probe will be needed to arrive at the answers.

Meanwhile, it will be the work of politics to ensure that important distinctions are not blurred and crucial perspective is not lost in a climate in which prime-time TV seems to increasingly take its cue from the fringe and hardliners, and too many of those with a social media account unresistingly give in to the temptation of delivering instant justice on complex issues by playing judge, jury and executioner. The industry of hurt sentiments is quite capable of manufacturing hate and violence, too. It is necessary, in this moment, to remember and to remind that one of Indian democracy’s biggest success stories has been that it is home to a Muslim minority which has not been drawn into the Islamic radicalisation story that has been unfolding in troubling ways elsewhere in the world.

As the law follows its course, therefore, politics has to step up to ensure responsibility and restraint after the crime in Udaipur. The two men who walked into the tailor’s shop and killed Kanhaiya Lal in cold blood must face the consequences — they must not be given the power to spread their poison.

Arrest of Teesta: Targeting Human Rights Defenders


Gujarat Carnage: Human Rights Defenders as Culprits

Ram Puniyani

The Supreme Court in its judgment the case of Zakia Jafri vs. State of Gujarat dismissed the petition filed by Zakia Jafri. Zakia Jafri had called for an investigation into the conspiracy to hatch the events which resulted in the massive carnage in Gujarat following the Godhra train burning on the morning of 27th February 2002. While dismissing this Supreme Court also went on to put the blame on the human rights defender, Teesta Setalvad and few state officials (R.B. Sreekumar, Sanjiv Bhatt) for creating sensation and making baseless false revelations. Judgment was scathing against these state officials and particularly against Teesta Setalvad. She and many others had taken up the cases for getting justice to the victims of the violence.

Following this, in an Interview Mr. Amit Shah, the home minister blamed these officials and Teesta Setalvad. Immediately in the aftermath of the judgment police officials wasted no time in detain Teesta Setalvad, who was also manhandled, arrested the retired DIG of Gujarat R B Shrikumar and put fresh charges against Sanjiv Bhatt, the police official, who is already in jail.

Just to recall Gujarat violence was orchestrated in the aftermath of burning of S6 coach of Sabarmati Express. In this ghastly tragedy 58 Kar Sevaks, (Ram Sevaks) died in a tragic manner. The then CM of Gujarat Narendra Modi blamed it on terrorism-local Muslims in collusion with ISI and international terrorism. It was propagated that Muslims poured the inflammable material from outside and burnt the coach. Haji Umarji was named as the chief conspirator and close 60 others were arrested. Later after long trials Haji Umarji was exonerated as there was no proof against him. The Gujarat Forensic Laboratory pointed out the inflammable material cannot be poured from outside. Bannerjee Commission report on the Godhra train fire, corroborated by independent expert analysis, disproved the "conspiracy" theory hatched by Hindutva forces to rationalize the terrible pogrom of Muslims that followed.

The charred bodies were taken in a procession to Ahmadabad. P.C. Pandey while deposing in front of Nanavati Commission did state that that the decision to transport the bodies to Ahmadabad was taken at the top level. During the violence the rioters were equipped with the lists of Muslim households and establishments. Even before the pogrom it was being propagated that Gujarat is the ‘Laboratory of Hindu Rashtra’.

While the army was called on same day, it could not get into action as Lt General Zameeruddin Shah kept waiting for support from the state Government. The 3,000 troops that had landed at the Ahmadabad airfield at 7 am on March 1 had to wait for a day before the Gujarat administration provided the transport - during which period hundreds of people were killed.

During this carnage the likes of Maya Kodnani, who later became Cabinet minister in Modi cabinet, was playing a role for which she was given life imprisonment. Currently she is out on bail. Babu Bajarangi in his bravado stated in a sting operation by Ashish Khetan of Tehelka that they have been given three days time and he has to play ‘one day match’ and that he was feeling like Maharana Pratap while doing the killings.

Ashsish Khetan in his book, (Undercover) unravels the world of Babu Bajrangi, the prime accused in the Naroda Patiya massacre, in which over a hundred Muslims perished. Bajrangi concedes that the state’s leadership had a firm grip on the riots. He is blasé about arranging 23 revolvers bang in the middle of the riots. His associates reveled the fact that the police is on their side while rioting. He also asserted that he had only two enemies, Muslims, and Christians.

Supreme Court had earlier reprimanded the state Government by stating that it did not undertake necessary steps to protect the innocent citizens, children and others. While discussing the Best Bakery case, it had said: “The modern day Neroes were looking elsewhere when Best Bakery and innocent children were burning, and were probably deliberating how the perpetrators of the crime can be protected.” We also recall the plight of Bilkis Bano, who was raped and struggled for seeking justice.

All these harrowing incidents led to the ghettotization of Muslim community and Juhapura became the sort of refuge for Muslims. It is same Juhapura where, earlier in a relief camp, with abysmal facilities for the residents, the then Prime Minster Atal Bihari Vajpayee had visited and reminded Modi of his Raj Dharma. Modi true to his ideology shot back that it is precisely what he is doing.

The Gujarat carnage gave a big spring board for Modi to launch the Hindu Rashtra campaign. Modi associates, from VHP like Ashok Singhal started asserting that now Hindus are not going to take it lying down. Many from this politics started using ‘Gujarat will be repeated’ as a threat.

This harrowing chapter of violence changed the equations of major religions communities for the worse. Now this is probably for the first time that the Court has passed such comments on those who have been fighting for the justice for the victims of violence. The state-police has been overactive to apprehend Teesta Setalvad and R B Shrikumaar. There is an all-round condemnation of this highhanded police action. The human rights groups are petitioning and demonstrations are in place against this unwarranted act of the police. Amnesty international correctly pointed out, “Detention of prominent human rights activist @TeestaSetalvad by the Indian authorities is a direct reprisal against those who dare to question their human rights record. It sends a chilling message to the civil society & further shrinks the space for dissent in the country,” “Targeting human rights activists for their legitimate human rights work is unacceptable. The Indian authorities must immediately release @TeestaSetalvad, and end the persecution of Indian civil society and human rights defenders,” it added.

Mary Lawlor, the UN special rapporteur for HRD, was also forthright in her tweet, “Deeply concerned about Teesta Setalvad being detained by Anti Terrorism Squad of Gujarat Police. Teesta is a strong voice against Hatred and discrimination. Defending human rights is not a crime. I call for her release and an end to persecution by Indian state.” 

India: Maha Vikas Agadi govt before its collapse decides to rename the cities of Aurangabad and Osmanabad ...


India's President Idolizes Gita Press That Preaches Enslavement Of Hindu Women! | Shamsul Islam

India's President Idolizes Gita Press That Preaches Enslavement Of Hindu Women! | Shamsul Islam

It is mandatory for every President of India to take the following oath prescribed under Article 49 of the Indian Constitution before occupying the august office:

"I, [Name] do swear in the name of God/solemnly affirm that I will faithfully execute the office of President (or discharge the functions of the President) of India and will to the best of my ability preserve, protect and defend the Constitution and the law and that I will devote myself to the service and well-being of the people of India.”

There is no ambiguity on the character of India polity which is explained in the Preamble of the Constitution. It is a democratic Republic, formed to secure for all its citizens, justice, liberty, equality, fraternity and dignity. Surely, the present President of India, His Highness Ram Nath Kovind has not been exempted from this constitutional obligation. However, sadly discarding totally this commitment he graced and addressed the centenary celebrations of Gita Press at Gorakhpur on June 4, 2022 in the presence of Uttar Pradesh Governor and chief minister. According to the Press Information Bureau press release,

“Speaking on the occasion, the President said that Gita Press has played a very important role in taking the spiritual and cultural knowledge of India to the masses through its publications...The President noted that apart from the Bhagavad Gita, Gita Press publishes books like Ramayana, Puranas, Upanishads, Bhakt-charitra etc. It has made a record by publishing more than 70 crore books till now and has the distinction of being the world’s largest publisher of Hindu religious books. He praised the Gita Press for providing religious books to the public at cheap prices even despite financial constraints.”

Continuing with his praise of Gita Press he told the gathering,

“‘Kalyan’ magazine of Gita Press has a prestigious place as collectible literature from the spiritual point of view. It is probably one of the most famous publications of Gita Press and most widely read religious magazine in India. The President noted that of the 1850 current publications of Gita Press, about 760 publications are in Sanskrit and Hindi but the remaining publications are in other languages such as Gujarati, Marathi, Telugu, Bengali, Oriya, Tamil, Kannada, Assamese, Malayalam, Nepali, Urdu, Punjabi and English. He said that this reflects the unity in diversity of our Indian culture. The religious and spiritual base in Indian culture is the same from east to west and from north to south.”

He also referred to Gita Press’s,

“plan for setting up its branches abroad, the President expressed hope that through this expansion, the whole world would benefit from the culture and philosophy of India. He urged Gita Press to enhance its relations with the Indians diaspora living abroad, as they are the messengers of Indian culture, who connect the world with our country.”      [https://pib.gov.in/PressReleaseIframePage.aspx?PRID=1831175]

This address of the President of the Indian Republic regarded as the largest democracy in the world made it clear that President was convinced of ideological contribution of Gita Press as transmitter of “spiritual and cultural knowledge of India”. For him India meant Hindu India only as he also underlined the fact that it was “the world’s largest publisher of Hindu religious books”. He even went on to share the exact count of the publications of Gita Press which numbered 1850 and printed more than 70 crore copies of its publications.

It was a sad day for the Indian Republic as His Highness the President of India, Guardian of democratic-secular Indian Republic not only glorified but also idolized Gita Press which publishes ‘Hindu’ literature which propagates Sati and beating of women. It publishes mass popular religious ‘Hindu’ literature which opposes remarriage of widowed/divorced/discarded, seeking employment by them and even reporting rape as we will find by the perusal of some of its publications. According to this literature it is the way for Hindu women to end in swarg or paradise.

It is the largest publication house in India which publishes literature espousing the ’‘Hindu’’ way of life for Hindu women on a very large scale. The low-priced publications are available throughout the country, especially in the Hindi belt, and are even sold through government allotted stalls at railway stations and government roadways stands.

Geeta Press has published more than a dozen titles on the subject, the most prominent of which 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 of Duties for Women) and Nari Dharm (Religion of Woman) by Jai Dayal Goindka and a special issue of magazine Kalyan on women. These are available in English and other Indian languages. The English titles are popular with the non-resident Indians.

The authors extensively quote from ancient texts like Shiva Purana and Manusmriti. They borrow heavily from these and other ‘holy‘ texts, upholding a subservient woman/wife as the ideal Hindu woman. For instance in the book titled How to Lead a Household Life which is in question-answer format, when a question is posed,Automatic word wrap
’What should the wife do if her husband beats her and troubles her?” Swami Ramsukhdas offers the following sagely advice to the battered wife and her parents:

"The wife should think that she is paying her debt of her previous life and thus her sins are being destroyed and she is becoming pure. When her parents come to know this, they can take her to their own house because they have not given their daughter to face this sort of bad behaviour."

And if her parents do not take her back to their house, learned Swamiji‘s pious advice is:

"Under such circumstances...she should reap the fruit of her past actions. She should patiently bear the beatings of her husband with patience. By bearing them she will be free from her sins and it is possible that her husband may start loving her."

Swamiji who has no qualms about thrashing of wives by the husbands and claims it to be Heavenly ordained is quite compassionate towards animals. While responding to the question:

"What dealings should a person have with rats, lizards, mosquitoes and bugs etc., which live in the house?”

His sagely advice is to be merciful towards these creatures and Swamiji wants no harm done to them. He decrees:

"A man should regard these creatures as the members of the family because they live in it by making their home. So they are entitled to live in it. It means that they should be nourished as far as possible...It is not proper on the part of the people to kill them as some people do."

And there is another piece of heavenly advice for a rape victim and her husband.

"As far as possible, it is better for woman (rape victim) to keep mum. If her husband also comes to know of it, he too should keep mum. It is profitable for both of them to keep quiet."

Can a woman remarry? The answer is very straight forward,

"When once a girl is given away in marriage as charity by her parents, she does not remain virgin any more. So how can she be offered as charity to anyone else? It is beastliness to remarry her."

But can a man remarry? No problem,

"A man can have a second wife for an issue in order to be free from the debt which he owes to manes (pitr-rin) according to the ordinances of the scriptures, if there is no issue from the first wife."

But this is not the only reason for which a man is allowed re- marriage. A man,

"whose desire for pleasure has not been wiped out, can get remarried because if he does not get remarried, he will indulge in adultery and go to prostitutes and will incur a badly sin. Therefore, in order to escape the sin and maintain the decorum he should get remarried according to the ordinance of scriptures."

Of course, no widow is allowed to remarry. However, she may be allowed to choose to be some male’s concubine.

"If she cannot maintain her character, instead of indulging in adultery here and there, she should accept her affinity for a person and live under his protection."

Is it proper for woman to demand equal rights? The sagely answer is quite unambiguous:

"No, it is not proper. In fact, a woman has not the right of equality with man...in fact it is ignorance or folly which impels a woman to have desire for the right of equality with man. A wise person is he/she who is satisfied with less rights and more duties."

This literature about Hindu women openly preaches and glorifies the ghastly practice of Sati. To the question:

"Is ’Sati Pratha‘(viz., the tradition of the wife being cremated with the dead body of the husband on the funeral pyre) proper or improper?”

The sagely answer is:

"A wife’s cremation with the dead body of her husband on the funeral pyre is not a tradition. She, in whose mind truth and enthusiasm come, burns even without fire and she does not suffer any pain while she burns. This is not a tradition that she should do so, but this is her truth, righteousness and faith in scriptural decorum...It means that it is not a tradition. It is her own religious enthusiasm. On this topic Prabhudatta Brahmachariji has written a book whose title is Cremation of a Wife with her Husband’s Dead Body is the Backbone of Hindu Religion, it should be studied.

Swamis in this series of literature while demanding the restoration of practice of Sati go on to tell us that

"There is absolutely no doubt that a woman who happily follows her dead husband to the cremation ground receives on every step benefits of Ashawmedh Yagya [Ashvamedha means horse in Sanskrit and Ashawmedh Yagya was a sacrifice of a horse in the Vedic tradition used by the ancient Indian kings to prove their imperial sovereignty]...It is a Sati woman who snatches her husband from the hands of yamdoots (angels of death) and takes him to swarglok (Paradise). After seeing this pativrata lady the yamdoots themselves run away."

It is not only Nari Shiksha which starts with a chapter captioned Sati Mahatmmey or ’greatness of Sati‘ but Gita Press also published a special issue of its Hindi journal Kalyan glorifying Sati which was idolized by the Indian President in his address.

Apart from glorifying Sati, the Gita Press publication like Nari Dharm produces dozens of shlokas from ‘Hindu’ scriptures to establish that women are not capable of enjoying independence. This book begins with the chapter swatantarta ke liye striyon ki ayogeta (incapability of women for independence). Another notable facet of this literature is that long a list of rituals is laid down to be practiced by pregnant women so that ’bright, talented, brave and religious inclined son’ is born.

Gita Press is allowed open circulation of such anti-women literature through book stalls provided by the Indian Railways. Minister of State Manoj Sinha replying to a question in Rajya Sabha on 08-08-2014 informed that Gita Press was allotted 45 stalls out of 165 allotted to social/religious organizations for putting on sale their publications at railway stations. Surprisingly, as per the details provided by minister the allotment seemed to be restricted to Hindu and the Gandhian organizations. It will be interesting to know that this allotment was ordered by Kamalapati Tripathi in 1980 when he was minister of railways in Indira Gandhi ministry

Moreover, major bus stands like ISBT (Kashmiri Gate Bus Terminus, Delhi) have Gita Press stall. The mobile vans of Gita Press often sell such obnoxious anti-women literature even in the premises of the Supreme Court and Central Secretariat in New Delhi from where the Democratic India is governed. These Gita Press publications are available at Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh run book shops also.

Indian President by praising such publications, in fact, contradicts and violates Indian Penal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code which are frequently invoked to ban rationalist or progressive writings. Sadly, the Indian judiciary which is very fond of intervening into issues of public interests finds nothing objectionable in this dehumanizing propaganda under the garb of religious literature.

Kovind whose appointment as President in 2017 was welcomed as a proof of demolition of Casteism and restoration of the honour of Dalits of India by idolizing Gita Press has hugely disappointed so far as the fight against male chauvinist Hindutva world-view which has been the foremost enemy of an egalitarian Indian polity is concerned. Sadly, a Dalit President of India has not only failed the persecuted Dalits and women but also the Preamble of the Constitution of India!


Shamsul Islam

June 24, 2022

Link for some of S. Islam’s writings in English, Hindi, Urdu, Marathi, Malayalam, Kannada, Bengali, Punjabi, Gujarati and video interviews/debates:Automatic word wrap
http://du-in.academia.edu/ShamsulIslamAutomatic word wrap
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Twitter: @shamsforjusticeAutomatic word wrap
http://shamsforpeace.blogspot.com/Automatic word wrap
Email: notoinjustice[at]gmail.com