Narendra Modi On Sardar Patel: Putting Goebbels To Shame


MODI1

By Shamsul Islam

13 June, 2013
Countercurrents.org

Gujarat Chief Minister and Hindutva icon Narendra Modi, while inaugurating an all-India conference on livestock and dairy development on June 11, 2013 in Gandhinagar, announced a nation-wide campaign to collect small pieces of iron from farmers and use them to build a ‘Statue of Unity’ in memory of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, the first interior minister of independent India in Nehru’s cabinet.

He announced, “On the day of Sardar Patel’s birth anniversary on October 31, 2013, we will launch a nation-wide campaign, covering more than five lakh villages throughout the country, to collect small pieces of iron of any tool used by farmers from each village, that will be used in the building of the statue.” This ‘Statue of Unity’ is to be the tallest statue on Earth: the 182 metres (392 feet) tall statue of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel — the Iron Man — will be built opposite the Sardar Sarovar Dam over the Narmada river in south Gujarat.

Modi lamented the fact that architect of modern India, “Sardar Patel brought the nation together. But gradually his memories are fading away” and went on to declare that “to reinvigorate his memory and as a fitting tribute to the Iron Man of India, we are building this statue, which will be double in height than the Statue of Liberty in New York.” He also reminded the audience that “Sardar Patel was also a farmer who was instrumental in bringing farmers into the freedom struggle.”

This grandiose project of Gujarat Chief Minister, Narendra Modi, who is an RSS whole-timer, raises a few pertinent issues. He was inaugurating a national conference on livestock and dairying, both of which are passing through a very critical phase due to famine, corporatization of agricultural land and high costs. The well-being of livestock and dairying is essentially connected with the well-being of farmers. According to official data, in the last one decade, on an average, one Indian farmer committed suicide every 40 minutes due to debt, sub-standard seeds/manure, high costs and scarcity of water, to name only few of the endless problems. In the same decade millions of head of cattle have perished due to famine, shrinking pasture lands and handing over fertile lands to business houses and builder mafias. Dairy products have become luxury items beyond the reach of common Indians. India leads the world in having the largest number of under-nourished children and women. Shockingly, Modi had no comments on this worsening scenario.

Modi’s love for Sardar Patel is intriguing for many reasons. Patel was a Congress leader who, inspired by Gandhi’s principle of non-violence, led a great and very powerful movement of farmers at Bardoli taluka in 1928. This is known as the Bardoli Satyagraha and the then pro-British English Press described it as “Bolshevism in Bardoli” and Patel as its “Lenin.”

Patel was awarded the title ‘Sardar’ after this heroic struggle. This peasants’ movement started against the extortionate lagan imposed by the British rulers and landlords and selling of large tracts of agricultural land to moneybags of Bombay. Sardar Patel led the movement but he had devoted Congressmen/women workers, both Hindus & Muslims, like Imam Saheb Abdul Kadir, Uttamchand Deepchand Shah, Mohanlal Kameshwar Pandya, Bhaktiba Desai, Darbar Gopaldas Desai, Meethubehn Petit, Jugatrambhai Dave, Surajbehn Mehta, Umar Sobani and Phoolchand Kavi, who challenged the colonial masters and their henchmen at the ground level.

One important fact to be noted is that the Hindu Mahasabha and the RSS, which existed during this period, kept aloof from this historical struggle. Modi’s co-option of Patel, who was a prominent Congress leader of the anti-British freedom struggle, is part of a ploy of the Hindutva camp to be seen as part of the freedom movement despite having betrayed it. This kind of co-option game is likely to succeed, as the Congress as a party has become indifferent to its anti-colonial legacy.

Dead persons do not speak, and Sardar Patel cannot appear to put across the truth. However, contemporary documents show that Modi’s and the Hindutva camp’s love for Sardar Patel is based on lies. Sardar Patel hated Hindutva politics and was the person who imposed the first ban on the RSS. The February 4, 1948 communique issued by the Home Ministry headed by Sardar Patel banning the RSS was self-explanatory:

“In their resolution of February 2, 1948 the Government of India declared their determination to root out the forces of hate and violence that are at work in our country and imperil the freedom of the Nation and darken her fair name. In pursuance of this policy the Government of India have decided to declare unlawful the RSS.”

The communique went on to say that the ban on the RSS was imposed because

“Undesirable and even dangerous activities have been carried on by members of the Sangh. It has been found that in several parts of the country individual members of the RSS have indulged in acts of violence involving arson, robbery, dacoity, and murder and have collected illicit arms and ammunition. They have been found circulating leaflets exhorting people to resort to terrorist methods, to collect firearms, to create disaffection against the government and suborn the police and the military.”

It was Sardar Patel who, as Home Minister, did not hesitate in telling the then supremo of the RSS, Guru Golwalkar, that his organization was responsible for killing Gandhi and instigating violence. In a letter written to Golwalkar, dated 11 September 1948, Sardar Patel stated:

“Organizing the Hindus and helping them is one thing but going in for revenge for its sufferings on innocent and helpless men, women and children is quite another thing… Apart from this, their opposition to the Congress, that too of such virulence, disregarding all considerations of personality, decency or decorum, created a kind of unrest among the people. All their speeches were full of communal poison. It was not necessary to spread poison in order to enthuse the Hindus and organize for their protection. As a final result of the poison, the country had to suffer the sacrifice of the invaluable life of Gandhiji. Even an iota of the sympathy of the Government, or of the people, no more remained for the RSS. In fact opposition grew. Opposition turned more severe, when the RSS men expressed joy and distributed sweets after Gandhiji’s death. Under these conditions it became inevitable for the Government to take action against the RSS… Since then, over six months have elapsed. We had hoped that after this lapse of time, with full and proper consideration the RSS persons would come to the right path. But from the reports that come to me, it is evident that attempts to put fresh life into their same old activities are afoot.”

Sardar Patel continued hammering the fact that the Hindutva brigade collectively was responsible for the murder of Gandhi. In a letter to Nehru dated February 27, 1948, he wrote, “It was a fanatical wing of the Hindu Mahasabha directly under Savarkar that hatched the conspiracy and saw it through. It also appears that conspiracy was limited to some ten men… Of course, his [Gandhiji’s] assassination was welcomed by those of the RSS and Hindu Mahasabha who were strongly opposed to his way of thinking and to his policy.”

Sardar Patel stressed the same fact in his letter to a prominent leader of the Hindu Mahasabha, Shyama Prasad Mookerjee, on July 18, 1948: “As regards the RSS and the Hindu Mahasabha, the case relating to Gandhiji’s murder is sub-judice and I should not like to say anything about the participation of the two organizations, but our reports do confirm that, as a result of the activities of these two bodies, particularly the former, an atmosphere was created in the country in which such a ghastly tragedy became possible. There is no doubt in my mind that the extreme section of the Hindu Mahasabha was involved in the conspiracy. The activities of the RSS constituted a clear threat to the existence of Government and the State. Our reports show that those activities, despite the ban, have not died down. Indeed, as time has marched on, the RSS circles are becoming more defiant and are indulging in their subversive activities in an increasing measure.”

Despite all these facts, Narendra Modi claims to love Sardar Patel. It only shows that Modi has no qualms about resorting to deceits for selfish gains. Sardar Patel is a ready-made heroic figure. Modi does not have to manufacture him. He and the RSS have only to hide the fact that the man was opposed to their organization and had acted against it, and then, by what can only be called theft, proceed to make him one of their own. This defiance of historical fact is characteristic of the strategy of the Hindutva camp. Goebbels is dead, long live Modi.

[I am thankful to Mr. Mukul Dube for inputs]

Shamsul Islam is Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, Satyawati College, University of Delhi.notoinjustice@gmail.com

 

Why hardline Hindutva is a national security issue


by Praveen Swami. First Post  Apr 2, 2013

     

“The country should be taken over by the army”, railed Hindutva leader BL Sharma ‘Prem’ at a 26 January, 2008 meeting in Faridabad, near New Delhi.

“It has been a year since I sent some three lakh letters, distributed 20,000 maps of Akhand Bharat on 26 January, but these Brahmins and traders have never done anything and neither will they do. I do not talk of casteism. It’s just that they don’t have the potential; they don’t have the aptitude for this kind of feelings”.

“It is not that physical power is the only way to make a difference, but it will awaken people mentally”, Sharma concluded. “I believe that you have to light a fire in society, at least a spark”.

Five years on, as Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi prepares to lead the Bharatiya Janata Party into a bitterly-contested election, he might well to reflect on those words with care: small children and arsonists play with matches, not responsible politicians committed to Indian democracy.

The BJP’s new Parliamentary Board and Central Election Committee includes some of the most venomous voices in Indian politics. There is Amit Shah, a former Gujarat minister who is being tried for murder. There is like Varun Gandhi, with a disturbing record of incendiary speech.  There is Uma Bharati, who has said she feels no regret at the demolition of the Babri Masjid-and event which sparked off riots and terrorism that claimed the lives of over 2,000 Indians.

]Right wing Hindu groups have been blamed for their role in the 2006 Malegaon blasts. ReutersRight wing Hindu groups have been blamed for their role in the 2006 Malegaon blasts. Reuters

For figures consigned to the margins by a party leadership that was firmly focused on alliance-building, this is a triumph.  Praveen Togadia, Modi’s one-time ally-turned-enemy,has been exulting, promising to “declare Gujarat a Hindu state by 2015”.

It’s no secret why the BJP has acted as it has: shoring up their right flank makes sense. The hard core of Hindutva cadre will be critical to its electoral performance.  Election strategists believe centrist voters, who have in the past shown themselves to be repulsed by religious chauvinism, are even more repulsed by the Congress’ corruption.

There is a larger issue, though: the rise of hardline Hindutva could pave the way to violence the country simply cannot afford. For this reason, what is happening in the BJP is a national security issue.

Sharma’s remarks in Faridabad help understand why.  From the tape-recordings of their conversations the group maintained of its discussions, we know Hindutva hardliners began meeting to plan a new course of action soon after 2002.  The group included Sudhakar Dwivedi, RP Singh, Ramesh Upadhyay and Shrikant Prasad Purohit-men the National Investigations Agency now says were involved with a series of terrorist attacks against Muslims.  The men had hailed the rise of Modi, seeing the communal killings in  Gujarat as a stepping-stone to the construction of a Hindu state.  Modi’s development agenda, however, pushed him into confrontation with the hardliners-leaving the them disgusted.

From 2003, the hardliners thus drifted away from democratic politics and into a new cult of the bomb. That summer, Naresh Kondwar and Himanshu Phanse of the Bajrang Dal were killed in a bomb-making accident in Nanded. Bajrang Dal operatives linked to the Nanded cell, the police discovered, were also responsible for the bombing of mosques at Purna and Jalna in April, in which 18 people were injured. In a 2006 interivew, former senior Maharashtra police officer KP. Raghuvanshi noted that the Nanded incident could have “frightening repercussions.” He acidly observed that the “bombs were not being manufactured for a puja.”

In June, 2008, Hindu Janajagruti Samiti operatives were held for the bombing of the Gadkari Rangayatan theatre in Thane. Later, in October, 2008, Bajrang Dal-linked Rajiv Mishra and Bhupinder Singh were killed in a bomb-making accident in Kanpur.

Madhya Pradesh-based Sunil Joshi and Pragya Thakur, the National Investigation Agencyhas alleged in ongoing trials, set up networks which carried out a series of lethal attacks-among them, in Malegaon, at the Mecca Masjid in Hyderabad, the Ajmer Sharif shrine in Rajasthan, and on the Samjhauta Express.

The group’s ambitions went further than bombings, though.  In the 2008 meeting, Purohit laid out plans to overthrow the constitution.  His new draft constitution rejected diversity, and called for “a singular cultural binding”. It rejected the idea of democratic governance, saying instead that a “decision once taken by the leader shall be followed at all the levels without questioning [his] authority”. It called for “one party rule”, allowing for “any Hindu on earth will be an honorary member”. Members of the group also called for the assassination of top BJP leaders, seeing them as enemies tying down the more-radical Vishwa Hindu Parishad.

It’s little understood that such ideologies, like other shades of political violence in India, have deep historical roots.  The name the Hindutva terrorists chose for their group, Abhinav Bharat, invoked the memory of an organization set up Named after a group set up by the Hindutva ideologue Vinayak Damodar Savarkar in May 1904 to wage war against imperial Britain. In one manifesto, the original Abhinav Bharat’s followers promised to “shed upon the earth the life-blood of the enemies who destroy religion.” Later, the radical right journal Yugantar argued that the murder of foreigners in India was “not a sin but a yagna [ritual sacrifice]”.

Words like these inspired figures Edinburgh-educated Pandurang Bapat, who obtained a bomb-making manual from a Russian engineer in 1908.  He was suspected suspected of involvement in the Alipore bomb case – an attack on a British magistrate by Khudiram Bose and Prafulla Chaki which missed its target, and killed two women.

For the most, these actions achieved little. “Indian terrorism,” scholar Walter Lacquer has recorded, “was relatively infrequent and on the whole quite ineffective: more often than not, the Indian terrorists managed to kill some innocent bystander rather than their intended victims.”

Bapat soon turned to education, hoping it would prove more effective at throwing out the British than terrorism. So did Savarkar’s close associate, Hindutva ideologue BS Moonje. In 1937, Moonje founded the Bhonsala Military School in Nashik-an institution to which two men charged with the Malegaon bombings were linked.

For decades now, the proximate costs of competitive communalism have been evident. In a 2003 article, Pakistani scholar-diplomat Husain Haqqani warned that “the rise of Hindu extremism serves as a catalyst for recruitment by extremist Islamists in South Asia.” Haqqani’s claim is borne out by facts. The Mumbai riots of 1992-1993 helped Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence find recruits to carry out the subsequent bombings. The Lashkar-e-Taiba used images of communal violence in India to raise cadre-and the Indian Mujahideen, perpetrators of the worst urban terrorism campaign India has seen, invoked Gujarat.

The even more severe existential costs of communalism, though, have been just as stark.  Hate-politics has created deep internal fissures, which in turn have bred a pernicious politics of identity. Political pathogens have ethnic-religious swamp, crippling our polity. India simply cannot progress if its ethnic and religious communities are at war with each other.

Ever since last year, there has been a subterranean, but steady, uptick in communal politics-provoked by politicians hoping in to cash in on religious chauvinism in the elections. It has to end.

India has been locked, too long, in a competitive cycle of hate.   The BJP has done neither itself, nor the country, any favours.

 

PUCL- JP Memorial Lecture – New Social Movements, New Perspectives


New Social Movements, New Perspectives

Nivedita Menon

Her side of the storyNivedita MenonPhoto: SAMPATH KUMAR G.P.

photo courtesy- : SAMPATH KUMAR G.P.

JP Memorial Lecture March 23, 2013

 

We stand at an electrifying and exciting moment of history, when new forces are coming into view through a range of movements, shaking the foundations of political power. They do not seek to ‘capture’ political power but rather, to make it accountable and answerable to ‘the people’. The massive upsurges against corruption and against the Delhi gang-rape, whose reverberations were heard in Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Nepal, tie up with a global moment which has been marked by similar unrest in different parts of the world – the Arab Spring, the Occupy Wall Street movement, the youth movement in Bangladesh against the Islamic right-wing and for a return to the secular ideals of the 1971 liberation struggle.

But there are dots that connect these current rounds of movements to a longer history of non-party activism in India, which I want to trace in my presentation, before returning to the present and the difficult questions we face about democracy today.

In the long history of people’s movements in India, we have seen them take different forms. I’m referring of course, to non-party movements, among the first of which is the JP movement itself, whose ultimate demise, as is widely accepted now, can be traced to its takeover by political parties.

Today I will try to map the forms that people’s movements have taken since the 1980s, and it should be clear that the focus will be on what we perceive as ‘new’ movements. Thus, I will not refer to the long struggles against the Indian state in Kashmir and the North East because a discussion of those requires another lecture altogether that will question the very legitimacy of the claim of India to be a Nation.

A new kind of social and political action emerged in the 1980s, that we might call citizens’ initiatives. These non-funded and non-party forums came into being out of a sense of the inefficacy of mainstream political parties and their lack of concern regarding vital issues of democracy, freedom and civil rights. ‘Citizens’ initiatives’ have been more involved in a watchdog kind of activity and are not generally characterized by mass support. While some are small, self-sufficient groups of long standing, others are broad coalitions formed around specific issues, that bring together parties and trade unions of the far left, Gandhian, Dalit and feminist groups, some of which may be funded NGOs, as well as non-affiliated individuals. The distinguishing feature of such coalitions is that all the constituents are subject to the ‘common minimum programme’ set collectively by the forum, and separate party/organizational agenda are not meant to influence the activity of the forum. The tension that this sets up between differing imperatives is usually also the reason for the short-lived nature of such forums, which tend to dissipate after a period of intense and often very effective interventions.

Among the first citizens’ initiatives that came into existence were around civil liberties and democratic rights. Acquiring particular salience in the immediate aftermath of the Emergency, a number of such organizations came into being throughout the country. For instance, the Peoples’ Union for Civil Liberties and Democratic Rights (PUCLDR) set up during the Emergency later split into the People’s Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR), with a more leftist perspective on ‘rights’ including economic rights, while the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) decided to focus on ‘civil liberties’ more narrowly. There was a string of such formations in the country. In many states like Andhra Pradesh (the Andhra Pradesh Civil Liberties Committee – APCLC) and West Bengal (Association for the Protection of Democratic Right – APDR), the main initiative for the formation of such civil liberties and democratic rights organizations came from activists linked to the far Left groups. We distinguish such forums from what are called ‘human rights organizations’, many of which are funded organizations that work in tandem with internationally evolving agendas. The latter we would place under the rubric of  ‘NGOs’.

Such groups have continued to play an active role in the years since, painstakingly documenting and exposing cases of civil liberties and democratic rights violations. In recent years they have also been actively campaigning against capital punishment. While the initial impulse for their formation was the violation by the state of citizens’ rights to freedom of expression, they have over the last two and a half decades expanded their activities to address violations of freedoms by non-state actors in the context of caste, gender and sectarian/ communal violence. Some of them have also taken up questions of the worst cases of exploitation of labour, which effectively nullify rights and liberties sanctioned by the Constitution to all citizens.

A recent significant battle fought by one such citizens’ group – Committee for Fair Trial for SAR Geelani – demonstrates how effective such interventions can be. Syed Abdul Rehman Geelani, a lecturer of Arabic in a Delhi college, was one of the ‘prime accused’ in the attack on Parliament on December 13, 2001. Following as it did on ‘9/11’, the incident got inserted into the stridently nationalist discourse that drew nourishment from both the Hindu-right dominated NDA government and the rhetoric of George Bush’s ‘war on terrorism’. A group of teachers and students of Delhi University kept up a consistent struggle to ensure a fair trial for SAR Geelani in the bleak days of 2002, when one of the worst state-sponsored carnages of post-Independence Indian history was in progress in Gujarat, and Geelani was not only sentenced to death by a POTA (Prevention of Terrorist Activities Act) court but also subjected to a blatant media trial pronouncing him guilty even before the court verdict. Eventually a national level Committee was formed, drawing in respected academics like Rajni Kothari and writer Arundhati Roy, while lawyers like Nandita Haksar and others undertook to fight the case on Geelani’s behalf. Their patient and unrelenting work was successful in exposing what turned out to be a blatant frame-up. Geelani was acquitted and released. The Geelani case revealed the extent to which democracy can be subverted by the discourse on ‘national security’. However, it also demonstrated that spaces for democratic intervention are not entirely closed off.

Of course, this was only a partial victory and the December 13th attack on parliament has a darker story behind it which we cannot go into now, the latest episode of which was the unjust execution of Afzal Guru for a crime the Supreme Court conceded he did not commit.

Another set of citizens’ initiatives that came since 1984 and the massacre of Sikhs were several anti-communal groups in different parts of the country. One of the earliest of these was a forum called the Nagarik Ekta Manch, formed in 1984 itself. This was an initiative where people from different backgrounds and vocations came together to work in the relief camps – collecting and distributing relief materials, helping people file claims and so on. At about the same time, another group, the Sampradayikta Virodhi Andolan (SVA) was formed in Delhi, focusing primarily on public campaigns, attempting simultaneously to find a different language in which to conduct such campaigns. A wide debate was sparked in secular circles by one of the slogans evolved by the SVA to counter the Hindu right-wing campaign on Ramjanmabhoomi, discussed in Chapter 2. This slogan, in a radical departure from secular strategy, appealed to the religious Hindu – kan-kan mein vyaape hain Ram/Mat bhadkao danga leke unka naam (Ram is in every atom/let not His name be used to incite violence).

These could be said to have been precursors to a series of new initiatives in different towns and cities of India that came into being in the 1990s, especially in the wake of the demolition of the Babri Masjid and the communal violence that followed. Perhaps the most significant part of the citizens’ actions of the 1990s was that they took up the struggle that was all but abandoned by political parties – whether ruling or opposition, Right or Left. Through this period groups have worked throughout India, engaging in a range of activities – street demonstrations and sit-ins to engage the public in debate and discussion, designing and implementing educational programmes, monitoring the media, pursuing cases in court, providing legal and other assistance to the victims of communal violence and making every effort to see that the guilty officials and political leaders would not escape punishment. Again, in the aftermath of the Gujarat carnage of 2002, during the long months of continued violence, innumerable individuals and newly formed groups from all over India went to Gujarat, helping in running relief camps, coordinating collections and distribution of relief materials, running schools for children of the victims – and of course, providing the legal support to fight the cases. These efforts might well comprise one of the most glorious chapters of citizens’ interventions in post-independence India.

Urbanism could be said to be one of the fledgling movements in contemporary India. Prior to the 1990s issues of the urban poor, (pavement dwellers, hawkers and vendors, rickshaw pullers) were raised by Left political parties, individuals and groups in Mumbai and Kolkata, largely as questions of poverty and the ‘state’s responsibility’ to the poor. The old Nehruvian state was also much more responsive to this call of responsibility. It was in the 1990s, with India’s rapid global integration, that urban space really began to emerge as an arena of struggle. Alongside the contests over space arose newer concerns regarding urban congestion, pollution and consequent concerns about health. The state’s response – prodded by a section of environmentalists and the judiciary – was to revive the old modernist fantasy of the ordered and zoned city. It was around these issues that struggles started seriously erupting in the late 1990s.

In Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Bangalore, citizens’ initiatives brought together questions of environment and workers’ rights and linked them up with the larger question of urban planning. Some groups conducted mass campaigns through their constituent political groupings, but the most significant impact they had was in making urban planning a matter of public debate, drawing architects and planners with alternative visions into the debate. The question of a public transport system, road planning and such other questions came into the ambit of the debate for the first time. In some cities alternative data was generated on the availability and consumption of water, electricity and other amenities in settlements of the labouring poor as well as the affluent.

Today as Arvind Kejriwal begins his civil disobedience campaign on the inflated costs of water and electricity, we can see the historical links to earlier forms of activism.

Since the late 1980s, non-party movements and citizens’ initiatives have grown and functioned in a complicated relationship with NGOs. The apprehension of being driven by funder agendas, becoming depoliticized and being co-opted by funding has kept most movements and citizens’ initiatives consciously ‘non-funded’. At the same time many NGOs often provide movements with vital support in terms of infrastructure, campaigns and educational materials. Thus, while the peoples’ movements fight their battles in faraway rural or forest areas, with little access to the media, it is these NGOs that set up and house the various metropolitan ‘support groups’ whose task it is to approach friendly and influential people in the media, bureaucracy and academia to advocate the cause of the movement concerned. Such NGOs have often also provided critical research inputs on technical details, environmental impact and other information required to conduct a credible campaign. A striking example of such a symbiosis is the Narmada Bachao Andolan.

These citizens’ initiatives were rarely mass movements, but in the first decades on the 21st century we have begun to see mass movements of this new, coalitional kind, arising around the issue of land acquisition. Such movements have brought into crisis the hitherto unquestioned assumption that industrialization and economic development of a particular kind are natural stages in human history. This assumption is shared across the political spectrum from Right to Left and so these movements come into sharp contradiction with an Old Left framework that has still not understood the deep ecological crisis our planet  faces and the need to rethink entirely the idea of endless growth which is in fact impossible.

Increasingly, movements against land acquisition are coming together with the movement against nuclear energy, from Jaitapur to Kudankulam. In these mass movements we see the new form of coming together of political energies. That is, around a single issue, a range of forces come together, from religious forces like the Jamat in Singur and Nandigram and the Church in Kudankulam, to the familiar spectrum of individuals and groups – Gandhians, Dalit groups, NGOs, left groups and sometimes left parties and so on. The anti-nuclear energy movements of course, go back to the era of citizens’ initiatives when groups like Anumukti, Network to Oust Nuclear Energy (NONE) and Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy (COSNUP) were set up. Such citizens’ initiatives were undertaken to highlight issues such as the dangers of radiation to communities located in uranium mining sites, the undemocratic and opaque nature of functioning of India’s nuclear establishment, and as always, the injustice of displacing populations from their homes and occupations in order to set up nuclear energy plants. More importantly, these groups developed a critique of nuclear energy as such, asserting, along with a growing chorus of voices globally, that it was ‘neither clean nor safe nor cheap.’ While this work did not have a mass movement dimension until now, we see the coming together of these older initiatives with the mass movements in Kudankulam and Jaitapur.

Again, the Old Left is completely out of tune with these new developments, as in its imaginative horizon, nuclear energy is central to a strong nation state. For example, the proposal to build a giant nuclear power station in Haripur in West Bengal is a central government project, but is fully supported by the Left Front. The ecological and social consequences of building a nuclear plant in the densely populated Gangetic delta region are fearsome to contemplate, and the CPI (M)’s enthusiastic support for it is deeply troubling.

Coming now to the women’s movement, it has functioned more or less in the form of citizens’ initiatives of the kind I have described, with occasional mass mobilization by political parties. In the 1980s, the “autonomous women’s movement” emerged from the patriarchy and control of left-wing political parties. The first national-level autonomous women’s conferences were thus attended by non-funded, non-party, self-defined feminist groups. Over the 1990s, very few of these survived as non-funded organizations, and the seventh conference in 2006, held in Kolkata, referred to above, was almost entirely attended by funded NGOs. It is also important to note that many “non” governmental organizations receive funding from the government for specific projects. Thus, the only groups that were finally excluded were non-funded left wing and radical women’s organizations, which seemed to many feminists to be a strange paradox. Increasingly however, in the last few years, coalitions around issues such as sexual violence and the rights of LGBT people, include political parties of the Left. Feminists also perceive the close link between movements around livelihood and ecological sustainability, and the women’s movement – Nalini Nayak, who works with fisher- people’s movements on these issues, terms ecological movements the “resource base of our feminism”.

And so we arrive at the end of the first decade of the 21st century, a decade in which we see two kinds of new political action. One - unprecedented urban mass movements in the city of Delhi and in other cities and towns, around two issues – corruption and sexual violence.

Two – social media driven mobilizations by young upper class women around the issue of women’s rights to public space.

Both these kinds of mobilizations, quite opposite in character to each other, have proved difficult for older Left and women’s movement perspectives to come to terms with, for they follow none of the older patterns of mobilizing, there is no comprehensive programme of action, only one narrow slogan, and the mass character necessarily means there can be no broader agreement around large political issues.

Let me start with the second phenomenon I mentioned.

Two campaigns have caught media attention. One, the Pink Chaddi campaign. In 2009, men of a hitherto little known Hindu right-wing organization called Sri Ram Sene, physically attacked young women in pubs in the city of Mangalore. These attacks, supposedly an attempt to protect Indian culture from defilement by western values, were met with protests and solidarity campaigns all over the country, but the most imaginative one came to be called the Pink Chaddi campaign. A cheeky Facebook group was launched by Delhi journalist Nisha Susan, with the name of ‘Consortium of Pubgoing, Loose and Forward Women’, which called upon women to send pink chaddis (underwear) to the leader of the Ram Sene, Pramod Muthalik, as a gift on Valentine’s Day, in a non-violent gesture of ridicule and protest.  Over 2000 chaddis were in fact delivered to the Ram Sene office, and the organization was a butt of ridicule all over the world. It is striking that the campaign used the word ‘chaddi’ rather than ‘panty’, simultaneously desexualizing the piece of clothing, ungendering it (chaddi refers to underwear in general, not just to women’s panties), and playing on the pejorative slang for Hindu right-wingers, after the uniform of their parent organization, the RSS, whose members wear khaki shorts. At one level an undoubtedly successful campaign, it faced criticism from conservative opinion for obvious reasons, and also from the left of the political spectrum.

The latter chastised the campaign for elitism (‘after all, only westernized women in cities go to pubs’) and for diverting attention to such a trivial issue when for most women in India, their very survival is at stake. Is going to pubs what feminism is about, was the question such critics raised. Of course not. And nor did the ‘Consortium’ claim it was anything as large as ‘feminism’ itself. It was a specific campaign in response to a specific attack, and as Nisha Susan put it, ‘for many of those who signed up, neither Valentine’s Day nor pub-going meant anything. What we agreed on is the need to end violence in the name of somebody’s idea of Indian culture’ (2009). The campaign brazenly owned up to the identities the Hindu right-wing attributed to women in pubs – ‘loose and forward’ – and made them badges of pride. And it clearly touched a chord across the country, for most people understood it as defiance towards the Hindu right’s moral policing in general, not merely about women’s right to drink in pubs.

The other instance was the organizing of Slut Walks in Delhi and Bhopal. Slut Walks, both in European and American cities as well as in some Indian ones, must be understood as a critique of the victim blaming culture that surrounds rape. The original Slut Walk was a reaction to a Canadian police officer’s remark that if women dress ‘like sluts’, they must expect to be raped. However, the overwhelmingly positive responses world-wide to Slut Walks, reveal that blaming the victim is not an attitude restricted to the West.

In India, within the feminist camp, there were misgivings expressed that the English word ‘slut’ has no resonance at all here. In response, the organizers of the march added a Hindi phrase explaining the name, so that it became Slut Walk arthaat Besharmi Morcha, drawing on the Hindi word besharam meaning ‘without shame’ or shameless, often used for women who refuse to live by patriarchal rules. What was interesting about Slut Walks in India (held in Bhopal and Delhi in July 2011), was that they were not organized by the established women’s movement organizations and well-known feminist faces, but by much younger women new to political organizing, who were expressing, however, an old and powerful feminist demand – the right to safety in public spaces.

If this was elite mobilization, what is the problem for the Left with mass mobilizations? It appears that the non-party Left has a deep rooted fear of the masses, which it can only see as communal and casteist, and politically regressive. Throughout the Anna Hazare phase of the India Against Corruption movement, we saw from this section, which forms our community, strident demands for absolute  purity of the radical position (for example, what do these people have to say about Kashmir?). We saw a sort of aggressive self-marginalization and self-exile to a high ground where all credentials were closely scrutinized, and we saw the absolute incomprehension of and contempt of people who are our friends, for  ’the people’ when actually confronted by them.

Interestingly, political parties of the Left, especially CP(ML), were supportive of the movement and active in various ways, this sharp criticism came from individuals of the non-Party left.

What I saw was a carnivalesque celebration of the pure ideals of democracy – of the idea that ‘we the people’ are sovereign, that politicians are the servants of the people, that laws must originate in the needs and demands of the people.

What my community saw though, was a mindless mob of communal and casteist – and even “fascist” middle classes.

For twelve days, a city in which protest had been consigned to a museumized space, Jantar Mantar, was reclaimed for protest by a crashing tide of humanity so huge, so peaceful and non-violent, that it simply took back the city. No violence. No untoward incidents and no hysteria (except on television channels). How is this fascism? Are all large gatherings of the masses fascist?

Since many of the critics swear by some form of ‘Marxism-Leninism’, let me quote from Lenin who said in 1916 of the 1905 revolution:

“Whoever expects a ‘pure’ social revolution will never live to see it. Such a person pays lip-service to revolution without understanding what revolution is…The Russian Revolution of 1905 was a bourgeois-democratic revolution. It consisted of a series of battles in which all the discontented classes, groups and elements of the population participated. Among these there were masses imbued with the crudest prejudices…; there were small groups which accepted Japanese money, there were speculators and adventurers, etc. But objectively, the mass movement was breaking the [back] of tsarism and paving the way for democracy.”

Another kind of critic speaks not in the name of revolution, but of democracy; a democracy disciplined through representative institutions with The People entering the stage every five years. The People are a continuous source of anxiety, casteist and communal as all of them are. Little wonder then that this set of Leftist and Left-liberals remained silent when the government denied permission for the protest and arrested Hazare on August 16; some even denying that there had been a violation of civil liberties.

Law-making needs to be demystified – “it’s a very complex process”, the experts on TV kept saying. But what the movement did was it made it legitimate to say that we have a right to the information that will enable us to arrive at a conclusion. I heard a young law student stumblingly explain before a TV camera in English, which was clearly not his first language: ”They say the Parliament is sovereign. No. They should read the Constitution. The people are sovereign.”

And I loved the way people said to the camera – Main Kapil Sibal se kehna chahta hoon, main Manmohanji ko batana chahti hoon – directly, they addressed the “leaders”, the politicians, as if they have a right to. This is neither anti political nor anti political classes – it is the exact opposite. It is the insistence precisely that “we the people” are political, we demand accountability from those whom we send to Parliament.

It is by now established that there was substantial Muslim and Dalit participation despite their leaders’ disapproval. The other misrepresentation being continually purveyed is that the supporters of this movement are the middle classes. If the lakhs of people who participated in the protests over twelve days in Delhi alone, are all ‘middle class’, then India must be Shining after all! Anybody who moved around where protests were happening could have seen that the large majority of participants were lower middle class to working class people. In Delhi local protests happened everywhere, far away from TV cameras – in middle class housing societies, working class ‘unauthorized’ colonies, around local mosques in poor localities, small temples.

We also know from newspaper reports that there was growing participation of workers throughout – railway workers affiliated to AITUC; 1800 temporary-for-years Delhi Transport Corporation workers who were sacked for going to Ramlila Maidan; dabbawalas in Mumbai who have not struck work for 140 years;   sections of auto drivers; Maruti workers from Manesar in Haryana.

The other argument against an anti-corruption law is that ‘corruption provides a little shade to the poor’.  As a skeptics about the law and the state, I have often written about the freedoms made possible by going under the radar of the state. But how to understand the poor and working class who throng the movement?  Perhaps ‘corruption’ is precisely not to be in the shade, to be forced into engaging with the force of Law, but outside the protection of the law. Perhaps the ‘corrupt’ people protesting corruption would like to live a life in which they wouldn’t have to be corrupt just to survive every day? We need to recognize that the term ‘corruption’ as it plays out in the movement, condenses within it a range of discontents – an accumulating anger over repeated betrayals of democratic expectations over years, but especially over the last decade. The immediate trigger of the movement was the series of instances of looting of the public exchequer that came to light recently – the Commonwealth Games, the 2G Spectrum scam, the Niira Radia tapes that exposed how ministers were being fixed to benefit particular business houses, and so on. But corruption is also an everyday matter for the poor – the thelawala paying hafta to the beat constable;  the labourer whose muster rolls are faked, the agricultural worker whose NREGA payment is swallowed up; every poor undertrial in jail on trumped up charges (was it surprising then, that the undertrials in Tihar fasted in solidarity with Anna?); the farmer whose land is seized to be passed on to corporates, an issue mentioned by Anna Hazare in his speech at Ramlila Maidan (kisanon ki zameen zabardasti chheeni ja rahi hai); the aspirant to own an auto rickshaw costing 1 lakh, who ends up paying more than a car costs, and drowns in debt.

A young working class boy we know, falsely implicated in a theft case by the police for over four years, rang up at the height of the agitation to tell us jubilantly that the beat constable had told him that the cases were being closed – “Anna hazare ke chakkar mein pulis saare case khatam kar rahi hai” (All this Anna Hazare stuff is going on, so the police are closing all the cases.) We don’t know what made him think this had anything to do with Anna Hazare. But this is the Anna moment. This is what the Subaltern Studies historians drew our attention to, the multiple meanings Gandhi had for different sections of people, the ‘rumours of Gandhi’ that galvanized a variety of protests that directly addressed local issues.

But also, maybe the police were scared for an instant?

To all those who woke up to the India Against Corruption movement in April 2011 – a gentle reminder that this is the crystallization of a long process that began in the villages, initiated by the campaign around the Right to Information. The RTI Act (2005), instrumental in exposing corruption in a range of spaces from NREGA to municipal schools, was the culmination of one phase of the movement; the establishment of an Ombudsman or Lokpal was always planned as the next stage. Corruption is tied fundamentally to the RTI Act that exposes it, so effectively that several RTI activists have been murdered.

Now of course, Arvind Kejriwal has decided to go the way of a political party, but what we see of the AAP so far, it is clearly not a conventional party with a top-down leadership, and it appears to be genuinely seeking a new way of being a party, with actual mass participation in decision making, which might change the ground rules for all parties.

The experience of the mobilizations around IAC were behind the massive protests around the Delhi gang-rape. This time, the voices of critique were muted, although a prominent critic was Arundhati Roy, who immediately termed the protests upper class. But again, this was not the case. The protests were sparked off by the rape of a girl on a bus at 9.30 at night. She could have been anybody – she was not in a car, or even an auto. Nobody knew her caste – later it turned out she is from a very poor family and from the Kurmi caste, which is by no means an upper caste – but the point is nobody actually knew who she was – she was Everywoman.

And again, exactly like the IAC movement, there were right-wing voices as well as left-wing and feminist voices against sexual violence. These feminist thoughts were being articulated by not only people calling themselves feminists but ordinary middle class people who may not consider themselves to be very political at all. There were thousands of submissions to the Justice Verma committee and many of these have been made by ordinary people, resident’s Welfare Associations and so on, asking for changes in the broader patriarchal context of society – things like women’s safety and police sensitivity.

There has been a ground level shift among people reflecting decades of feminist intervention at different levels, but there is a real disconnect between the people and politicians. Feminist understandings have caught on in the ordinary public but this is not matched by the understanding of state agencies. Not only was a feminist position NOT articulated by anyone in a position of power or any political organization in a consistent way, most politicians from Left to Right came out with the most misogynist and regressive statements about women and about sexual violence.

And again, people did not have to be mobilized by any organized left wing, right wing or feminist groups. The transformation that has taken place in the last 4-5 years is that people feel like they own the city and can come out in protest on the streets – and I think this can be tracked back to India Against Corruption.

Any mass movement brings together disparate and sometimes  starkly contradictory tendencies.  Don’t we know that from the Indian struggle for independence? Was the Indian bourgeoisie absent from it? Or the religious right of all sorts? Or casteist and Brahminical forces? If absolute purity and a point-to-point matching of our full political agenda is required for us to support a movement, then feminists would be permanently stuck restively in the waiting room of history, for I can assure you that every mass demonstration you see anywhere ever, is packed with patriarchal men and patriarchalized women! Nor does any movement except the women’s movement ever raise patriarchy as an issue. But what is it that we take into account when we do support a movement? One – does the movement express a goal or demand that we support? Two – Does the movement as such explicitly take positions that are anti-women or anti-anything-we-stand-for? (The answers of course, should be yes and no respectively).

The  huge movement in Goa that succeeded in scrapping the SEZ Bill was composed of precisely such a broad formation – from the Church to the Hindu Right, to all of the others  of my community as described above. They came together, they went their separate ways once their campaign succeeded. Nandigram saw a similar formation. Many non-party non-funded citizens’ forums have too. The Narmada Bachao Andolan is another broad alliance coalescing on a single issue. For that matter, at Tahrir Square there were Islamists (Muslim Brotherhood), and people and groups who stand for full-scale capitalism apart from secularists and feminists and workers and trade unions. Now it’s a struggle of secularists against the Muslim right-wing in Egypt, but that is a historically contingent, not necessary or inevitable development.

It is the logic of the development of a mass movement in all its messiness that we should seek to understand, rather than look for that pure, 22-carat revolution where everything will proceed according to the programme laid down by the Left elite. From this perspective, nothing less than our maximum agenda is acceptable – from SEZs to farmers’ suicides, from AFSPA in the Northeast to the murder of democracy in Kashmir. If you will not accept even one of these points, you’re out – we will have nothing to do with you. It is not “they” who say ‘if you are not with us you are against us’, this arrogant divisive slogan has always been ours, on the Left.

Those issues listed above are our issues too, but what if a mass movement does not raise them? What if it articulates itself around a more generalized and widespread concern? Any student of mass movements anywhere in the world knows that mass movements of this scale only arise around issues where the largest sections of the people feel affected by it. They can never arise around sectional issues – however big the sections concerned may be. And the question really is of the potentiality of the movement rather than what it is, at any given point.  It will only be inclusive to the extent that it is able to draw in the largest number.

We will of course have to part ways at some point to fight our separate battles, but we can come together for a specific limited goal.

We stand at the beginning of a new kind of politics that has all kinds of forces within it, but one of these is certainly the potential to radically transform and rejuvenate democracy. We should be prepared to ride that potential, not undermine it.

 

This lecture is based on material from my earlier published work, some of it singly authored, some jointly written with Aditya Nigam, in continuing conversation with whom these ideas have developed.

 

#India-Can Hindutva win votes? #minorityrights


Tariq Thachil : Mon Feb 25 2013, IE
Narendra modi

The answer varies across castes, communities, and local contexts

Winning consecutive elections in India is not easy. The attention given to the BJP‘s third consecutive triumph in Gujarat‘s state assembly elections is therefore understandable. The party’s 2012 victory prompted a flurry of analyses of how the BJP’s prospects in the 2014 parliamentary polls might have shifted, and of the viability of Chief Minister Narendra Modi as a prime ministerial candidate. Modi’s three-peat also invites analysts to think about the electoral appeal of Hindutva, especially since his campaigns and tenure have been so infamously identified with an aggressive Hindu nationalism. For the past decade, most observers of Indian politics have believed the electoral appeal of Hindutva to be on the decline. Does the BJP’s Gujarat victory suggest this decline can be arrested, or even reversed? Or does it indicate that the BJP can only succeed by emphasising claims of “development” and “good governance”?

Any attempt to analyse the electoral salience of Hindutva requires thinking carefully through a number of thorny issues.

First, and most simply, it is important to remember that we cannot equate votes for the BJP with ideological support for Hindutva. Not all supporters of the BJP are supportive of Hindutva, and not all supporters of Hindutva let this preference determine their vote choice. Yet there has been a widespread and persistent tendency to equate these two phenomena, leading to “conventional wisdom” that Hindutva’s appeal can be measured by the BJP’s performance at the polls: rising during the 1980s, peaking during the early 1990s, and steadily declining since then. More systematic analyses of voter surveys trouble such linear narratives, and point us in the more productive direction of analysing the degree to which these two phenomena are related in specific places and periods.

For example, statistical analyses of data from Lokniti’s National Election Study have helped uncover considerable variation in the importance of Hindutva even within the BJP’s support base in a given election. Such analyses show that support for key Hindu nationalist positions (such as building a Ram temple at Ayodhya or banning religious conversions) do indeed consistently distinguish upper castes who support the BJP from those who don’t.

Further, the overall prevalence of pro-Hindutva sentiments among upper-caste voters has been quite stable since the mid-1990s. Therefore, broad pronouncements on the “decline of Hindutva’s appeal” appear somewhat overblown: among the elite caste communities for whom Hindutva is important enough to affect voting decisions, no such decline is apparent.

At the same time, this data suggests some strong limits to the degree to which Hindutva’s appeal affects the BJP’s performance. Even among upper castes, pro-Hindutva views are not the only, nor even the strongest, determinant of BJP support. Indeed, support for economic liberalisation has remained a stronger predictor of upper caste support for the BJP than pro-Hindutva views during this period. So has income, with the BJP enjoying greater support among a “creamy layer” of wealthy upper caste voters than among poorer voters from these caste communities. Finally, Dalit and adivasi backers of the BJP are not appreciably more communal than voters from these communities who support other parties. This result holds true across multiple elections, and even within states where the party has been doing increasingly well among these constituencies (such as Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh). Even the BJP’s limited electoral successes outside its traditional “Brahmin-Bania” base cannot therefore be assumed to be either a cause or consequence of growth in Hindutva’s appeal.

Evidence garnered from surveys can thus help us develop more nuanced conclusions about how the relationship between Hindutva and support for the BJP varies across caste communities, states and even electoral periods. Yet such evidence comes with its own important constraints. Most importantly, surveys necessarily use narrow measures of concepts, in this case defining Hindutva only through voters’ support for specific agenda items.

This limitation draws our attention to a second major issue: “Hindutva” carries variable meanings in different electoral contexts. To ask whether Hindutva’s political appeal is greater in Gujarat than in Chhattisgarh, or has declined from 1992 to 2012, in some sense assumes the term carries an unchanging definition across time and space. Such rigidity may seem justified by, and complementary with, the goal of Hindutva’s early architects. These founders sought to standardise the practice of Hinduism, in an attempt to overcome the divisions produced by internal caste hierarchies and varied local practices that stood in the way of their majoritarian ambitions.

Yet, in many respects, Hindu nationalism as a contemporary political phenomenon departs from the visions of these early ideologues. Hindutva’s interaction with democratic politics has produced many ironies, but perhaps none greater than the fragmentation of a doctrine of standardisation. These differences are apparent across states: the issue of religious conversions is far more central to the Sangh’s Hindutva agenda in Orissa than in Uttar Pradesh, while the issue of Ayodhya is far less so. Similar distinctions are also evident between Hindu nationalist organisations within the same state. For example, activists with the Sangh’s “service wings” (such as Seva Bharati and the Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram) are often uncomfortable with the polarising rhetoric and mobilisations, including violence, emphasised by the VHP and Bajrang Dal. Such disagreements are more tactical than philosophical. Many seva activists worry that episodes of large-scale violence highlight the most polarising face of Hindutva, and inhibit their own attempts to ingratiate themselves among Dalit and adivasis communities wary of Hindutva’s upper caste image. Finally, service activists themselves highlight different aspects of Hindutva, depending on to whom they speak. In fundraising efforts among upper castes, they emphasise Hindutva’s mandate to offer welfare as a political counter to similar efforts by Christian missionaries. Yet, when trying to recruit lower caste or tribal voters, these activists present themselves as politically neutral welfare providers. They have also shown an increasing flexibility in their willingness to subsume local rituals into the structure of Hindu practices they advocate.

The purpose of pointing out such distinctions is to remind us that a voter’s perception of “what Hindutva is” can vary depending on which state they live in, which caste community they come from, and which organisation has the dominant presence within their neighbourhood or village. Such variation cannot be captured through national surveys, and requires more localised surveys and ethnographic study. Yet even such studies will need to be careful in determining how to assess whether these local faces of Hindutva actually help or hinder the BJP’s electoral performance, and the channels through which they do so.

Finally, let me conclude where I began, by highlighting some implications of this discussion for the case of Gujarat. When thinking about Hindu nationalism, our national preoccupation with Gujarat is an understandable consequence of the BJP’s exceptional success in the state. However, it is precisely this exceptionality that should make us cautious about the degree to which lessons from Gujarat apply elsewhere. Second, even within Gujarat, we should avoid easy generalisations about Hindutva’s role in facilitating the BJP’s dominance. Currently, there are two such arguments: that Modi’s success has accrued from a “post-Hindutva” strategy based on “development”, or conversely, that this electoral dominance was produced and maintained through Hindutva’s most militant form of coercion and hate. Yet both arguments are usually proven by assumption, rather than rigorous evidence, and fail to explore more complex possibilities: the use of both coercion and claims of good governance with different segments of the Gujarati electorate, or even the blending of coercion, development rhetoric and unprecedented campaign pageantry into a distinctly Gujarati version of Hindutva. Whatever the context, we would do well to avoid the simplifications often used in discussions of the electoral salience of Hindutva, and pay a complex phenomenon the careful attention it deserves.

 

The writer, assistant professor of political science at Yale University, is completing a book on support for the BJP among Dalit and adivasi communities

express@expressindia.com

 

#India – Crossing the Lakshman rekha- moral policing #Vaw


 

 

VIKHAR AHMED SAYEED – Recently in Mangalore, Outlook

 

 

The attack on a homestay in Mangalore clearly shows that Hindutva ideologues define the moral and cultural boundaries in coastal Karnataka.

 

 

 

BY SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT 

Naveen Soorinje, the journalist who was arrested in connection with the attack on a homestay, being taken to a court in Mangalore in November 2012. 

The visiting hours at the Mangalore Sub-Jail are between 11-30 a.m, and 1 p.m. Visitors of undertrials gather around the imposing jail gate ahead of time as a guard usually checks the contents of their stainless steel lunch boxes before they are allowed inside. Soon, the motley group of relatives, friends and the odd journalist is led to either of the two wards where undertrials are lodged. A double-grilled window separates the visitor from the undertrial. Within minutes of reaching the enclosure, there is a cacophony of voices as the visitors jostle to find a convenient spot.

As this reporter heads for the window, a dishevelled Naveen Soorinje saunters in on the other side of it. The 28-year-old journalist has lost some weight since his arrest but he is upbeat. As is evident from his name, Soorinje is not a Muslim, but is lodged in the Muslim ward. “If I were in the Hindu ward, I would have been killed. There are many people there whom I’ve exposed through my work,” he says with a smile.

Soorinje, a journalist with Kasturi News, a 24-hour Kannada news channel, was arrested on November 7, 2012 when he was named in a charge sheet filed by the Mangalore police following the incidents that took place at Morning Mist Homestay. On July 28, 2012, a mob of 25 to 30 activists of the Hindu Jagran Vedike (HJV) led by 34-year-old Subhash Padil barged into the homestay and beat up a group of young men and women gathered there for a birthday party.

Videos of the attack, which are available online, show that the girls are manhandled, their dresses are ripped and they are slapped hard by HJV activists. A young man is stripped of his shirt and dragged by his hair across the room and pounded by a group of attackers.

The videos, which were played on loop on local and national news channels for a couple of days, drew nationwide condemnation. The ugly scene the Hindu right-wing elements created was recorded by some local journalists.

There were two other journalists at the venue apart from Soorinje, Rajesh Srinivas of TV 9, a well-known Kannada news channel, and Sharan Raj of Sahaya TV, a local news channel reportedly close to the Hindu right-wing. According to Soorinje’s testimony, he received a tip-off about the raid and tried to contact the police as soon as he realised that an attack was under way. However, his presence had irked the police who, Soorinje said, wanted to teach him a lesson.

Subsequently, charges were filed against the attackers as well as Soorinje and Sharan Raj (it remains a mystery why charges were not filed against Srinivas). Raj is in the Hindu ward of the jail. Strangely, the attackers and the journalists were charged under the same sections of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) pertaining to rioting, criminal conspiracy, unlawful assembly and outraging the modesty of a woman.

Subhash Padil is known to play the moral vigilante of the Hindutva forces in Mangalore city. He was one of the members of the group that attacked women in Amnesia Pub on January 24, 2009. He has had stints in the Bajrang Dal and the Sri Rama Sene.

“I have no remorse for what I did. Yes, I led the group that attacked the girls at the homestay but do you know what they were up to? They were drinking beer and you know what that leads to…,” Padil shouted from across the grilled window of the jail. He added: “How does a girl celebrate a birthday party? Do you go to a remote location with boys and drink beer? We don’t have any problem if you sit with your family and have a quiet dinner but going to parties and drinking and smoking…. Is that any way to celebrate a birthday? It is because of our actions that the girls at the homestay were saved from getting dishonoured. We have ensured that such immoral activities have come down in Mangalore.”

The attacks on Amnesia Pub and the home stay are just two of the many incidents that have taken place in the coastal Dakshina Kannada district of Karnataka in the past few years.

It is clear from the fiery rhetoric of people like Padil that the moral and cultural boundaries in the area are defined by Hindutva ideologues and anyone who breaches that boundary is a target of their foot soldiers. Women especially should be very careful about stepping out of the confines of the cultural Hindu rashtra, and if a woman is “spoilt”, then the family is dishonoured. Getting “corrupted” by “modernity” and by befriending Muslim men (love jehad) is the easiest way in which Hindu women in Dakshina Kannada can overstep the Lakshman rekha drawn by the Sangh Parivar.


The police escort youth who were attacked by pro-Hindutva activists at a party at Padil on the outskirts of Mangalore in July 2012. 

Sample some of the incidents that have occurred in the recent past as reported in the local media:

On January 30, a fracas broke out between a mixed-sex group of young people who were smoking at Rock Cafe in Mangalore and members of the Bajrang Dal and the Durga Vahini. The police, who arrived with the Hindutva brigade, took the youngsters to the police station and summoned their parents. On December 19, 2012, a Muslim boy and a Hindu girl were assaulted by activists at the Shibaroor temple festival near Mangalore. On December 15, a four-member gang assaulted a Muslim boy who was speaking to a Hindu girl in Bajpe in Mangalore. On November 7, a couple of youngsters in Kundapur in Udupi district was targeted. It later turned out that they were siblings. On November 2, activists of a Hindutva group brought a young woman to the Puttur police station alleging that she was engaged in immoral activities with a boy from a different community.

In a report brought out by the People’s Union for Civil Liberties-Karnataka (PUCL-K) and the Forum Against Atrocities on Women, Mangalore (FAAWM) after the homestay attack, 300 major and minor moral policing events between 1998 and July 2012 in Dakshina Kannada and Udupi districts have been recorded.

Suresh Bhat Bakrabail of the Karnataka Communal Harmony Forum, who has catalogued every reported event of moral policing, said: “The situation for young people in Mangalore is extremely scary as the youth are not able to mix freely.”

Postgraduate students at the Mass Communication and Media Studies Centre of St. Aloysius College expressed their views in a discussion with this journalist. “We are careful not to go out of the campus with friends of the opposite sex. We usually meet in groups and ensure that we do not stay out late,” said a first-year male student who did not want to be named. A girl student added: “We are apprehensive and make sure that we do not attract attention when we go out.” All the students had minor incidents to report about how people they knew were warned about public behaviour by self-appointed moral guardians.

Distinct Culture

Separated from the hinterland by the Western Ghats, the coastal belt of Karnataka has developed its own distinct culture. Dakshina Kannada district was part of the Madras Presidency during the colonial years.

The two dominant castes of Karnataka, the Lingayats and the Vokkaligas, have a minuscule presence in the region. The Muslims living in the coastal district, known as Bearys, are distinct from their counterparts elsewhere in the State. There is a historic Catholic Christian presence along the coast. The numerically strong Hindu castes of the region include the Billavas, the Moggaveeras and the Bunts, while Brahmins also have a significant presence.

The dominant languages of the region are Tulu and Konkani although Kannada is spoken and understood widely. Interestingly, Dakshina Kannada has the highest literacy rate in Karnataka, marginally ahead of Bangalore.

 

When migration to countries around the Persian Gulf began in the late 1960s, the Bearys took advantage of the economic opportunities that unfolded, and the funds they repatriated caused a fundamental change in the caste-based economy of the region. Non-Muslim migrants to other parts of India also caused the coastal belt to be flush with funds. Mangalore’s communal polarisation started with the riots that followed the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992.

Recognising the presence of important religious institutions and the changes in the economy, the Sangh Parivar constituents began to systematically work in the region from the 1980s, making it a Hindutva laboratory. Their efforts paid off when coastal Karnataka emerged as the Bharatiya Janata Party’s electoral bastion in the 1990s.

Muslims, who constitute 22 per cent of the population in Dakshina Kannada, have also been influenced by the identity politics of Muslim groups from northern Kerala in the past decade, and there are reported incidents of Muslims doing counter moral policing. The area has emerged as a communal tinderbox with slow self-segregation among the communities as well. Distinct Hindu, Muslim and Christian residential areas are emerging.

The district was once known as the most progressive part of Karnataka, but Hindutva forces have overrun it now. Jagadish Shenava, an advocate and the district working president of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), articulates this aggression when he says: “We are very strong here and the situation has gone beyond normal. No Muslim boys and Hindu girls in the area can meet without causing a communal riot. Our next target is Manipal as it is the hub of illegal activities like pubbing.”

It is in this background that the role of the media needs to be examined. There are only a handful of Kannada newspapers such as Karavali Ale (Coastal Wave) and Vaartha Bharathi that are waging a relentless battle against the excesses of the Sangh Parivar. Employees of Karavali Ale were targeted recently after the newspaper published an article that linked a senior leader of the HJV with drug supply in the region.

The journalist community in the region, for the most part, has either been silent on or collaborated with the gradual communalisation of the region. Soorinje’s work has had an impact in the media. About his reportage of the homestay incident, he says: “The July 28 incident in Mangalore is not a stray incident. Such events occur here every week. If I had not shot the visuals, the police would not have accepted the fact that the assault had happened. This has been the case in many such incidents in the past.”

The journalist community in Bangalore rallied around Soorinje. Some journalists even went on a three-day hunger strike in January demanding his release. This forced the State Cabinet to withdraw all charges against Soorinje on January 31 but he continues to remain in jail. On February 6, a public interest petition was filed against the withdrawal of the cases against Soorinje, prolonging his incarceration.

Some Questions for Comrade Karat on Afzal’ Guru’s killing #deathpenalty


To,
Shri Prakash Karat,

General Secretary,

Communist Party of India (Marxist)

Dear Comrade,

Afzal Guru was hanged yesterday in utter secrecy, denied in his last moments the right to meet his wife and children one final time. Denied to him also was the ultimate judicial resort, due to every condemned convict after his/her mercy petition has been rejected.

The entire legal proceedings against Afzal were shot through with contradictions, fabrications and travesties of legal procedure. The Supreme Court bench that finally sentenced him to death did so to ‘appease the national conscience’ despite inadequate evidence of his role in the Parliament attack case.

And yet this is what your colleague in the Polit Bureau Sitaram Yechury had to say to the media on this issue, “I think, the law of the land with all its provisions has finally been completed as far as the Afzal Guru case and the attack on the Indian Parliament is concerned. The issue which had been lingering for the past 11 years has finally completed its due course.”

‘Law of the land’ has ‘completed its due course’? Is this the official stand of the CPI(M) on the Afzal Guru case? Or is it just Com. Yechury trying to ‘appease the national conscience’ and joining the UPA in harnessing the ‘Hindu vote’?

Surely you and your colleagues in the Polit Bureau have heard that Afzal was unrepresented from the time of his arrest till he made his alleged ‘confession? You may have also perhaps heard of the letter that Afzal wrote to the Judge pleading he had no faith in the lawyer appointed for him by the Court, asking to be represented by any from a list of four lawyers he named. The Court records show that two of these lawyers refused to represent him but there is no information whether the other two on the list were even ever asked.

A lawyer, who had never met Afzal, admitted documents in court incriminating him. Or has your Polit Bureau been watching too many telecasts of his ‘confession’ – considered inadmissible in any court of law – as damning evidence of his guilt?

But never mind. Lack of legal representation for your Party does not seem too major an obstacle in implementing the ‘due course of law’. When elections are looming on the horizon, and your Party’s mass base is dwindling, a little injustice – like the murder of an innocent man- does not matter of course.

If the Congress is fast becoming the B Team of the communal Hindutva brigade should the CPI (M) try to become the C Team? Has your Party learnt nothing from the defeats it has suffered due to similar unprincipled stands it has taken in the past? Are we being completely delusional in expecting a Party named with grand terms like ‘Communist’ and ‘Marxist’ to take a stand different from that of political formations taking the nation fast forward towards all out Fascism?

Sincerely,

Satya Sivaraman

Manisha Sethi

 

CALL FOR ENDORSEMENTS- Defend Women’s and Artists’ Freedom From Fanatics’ Fatwas #VAW #Kashmir #FOE


freedom_of_speech

In Kashmir, young girls who performed in their own rock-band are now silenced by fear, following a fatwa by the Grand Mufti declaring that music, especially for women, is ‘un-Islamic.’ At a time when the whole country has been on the streets demanding women’s freedom to speak, sing, write, live, and love without fear, it is shameful that girls’ freedom of expression is under attack. After the recent ‘raid’ on ice-cream parlours in Mangalore by the Hindutva groups who handed young couples over to the police, we have this fatwa in the name of Islam against young women singers in Kashmir. Misogynist and patriarchal restrictions on women’s freedom, by fundamentalists and fanatics of all hues, must be resisted tooth and nail.

After the attack on the women artists’ freedom of expression in Kashmir, yet another artist’s freedom has been under attack. The paintings of an artist Anirudh Krishnamani in Karnataka have been taken down from an exhibition because Hindutva fanatics backed by the ruling BJP Government accused them of depicting Indian mythological figures in an ‘obscene’ way.

We condemn the culture cops who try to attack music and art. We stand in solidarity with the Kashmiri all-girl rock band Pragaash, and we are eager to be able to see them perform and hear their music. We stand in solidarity with Anirudh Krishnamani, and are eager to be able to view his paintings.

Kavita Krishnan

Kamayani bali Mahabal

IF YOU AGREE PL ENDORSE IN COMMENTS SECTION

Press Release-Footsteps of Fascism: Hindutva Goons attack Dalit College Teacher in Dhule


Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Association

 

 

Following swiftly on the heels of communal violence in Dhule in which six members of the minority community were killed, comes the news of physical assault on Prof. Pramod Bhumbe, a Dalit teacher at the BR Ambedkar Samaj Karya Mahavidyalay. Friends in Dhule and Jalgaon inform us that Prof. Bhumbe while teaching his students about Indian social reforms movement, discussed certain episodes from the Hindu epic Ramayana. This was videographed by a student on his cell phone and the video clip later circulated and handed over to VHP and Bajrang Dal goons.  The clip was quickly construed as proof of Prof. Bhumbe’s insult to Hinduism.

 

Teaching social reform movements without reference to the stinging critique of caste oppression and its implication in religious sanction is difficult anywhere. In Maharashtra, however, it is impossible. The legacy of Jyotiba and Savitri Phule, and Ambedkar is a living, thriving one. It survives in the fiery songs of Sambhaji Bhagat; in the hundreds of book festivals and cultural groups that can be found in the smallest towns and hamlets of the state. It is this culture of resistance, which often takes the form of sarcasm, and even ridicule of the superstitions of caste religion and its assorted institutions that Hindutva resents so much.

 

While Muslims are always cast as the other, radical Dalit critique cannot be domesticated and absorbed into the Hindutva identity.  The two incidents—of communal violence and the attack on Prof. Bhumbe – are not unrelated. They reflect the growing confidence of the Hindutva forces and the state support they enjoy, even under the rule of their political opponents. Neither the SP not the DM of Dhule have been suspended by the state government despite the clear indictment of the administration in the January anti-minority violence by civil society investigations. Can an administration, which was hand in glove with the storm troopers of VHP and Bajrang Dal in January, be expected to seriously pursue the case against Prof. Bhumbe’s attackers?  We appeal to all progressive and democratic groups in Maharashtra to ensure the security and safety of Prof Bhumbe, as the police which led the mobs against a vulnerable minority can hardly be entrusted to do so.

 

Moreover, as fellow teachers, we expect the classroom to be a space of developing and nurturing social critique—precisely what Prof. Bhumbe was doing. We stand in solidarity with him and condemn the right wing vigilantism.

 

Sd/-

Manisha Sethi, Adil Mehdi, Ahmed Sohaib, Tanweer Fazal, Arshad Alam, Farah Farooqi, Azra Razack, Anwar Alam, Ghazi Shahnawaz, Ambarien al Qadar, Adnan Farooqi, Sucharita Sengupta, Manoj Jena, MS Bhatt and Nabanipa Bhattacharya.

 

 

 

Journalist Victimized by the Karnataka police #FOE #mediagag


 

In jail for the past 50 days for covering the Mangalore homestay raid,

Naveen Soorinje’s bail application comes up tomorrow.   

 

Posted Tuesday, Dec 25, 2012, http://www.thehoot.org/

On November 7, 2012, Kannada TV channel Kasturi’s reporter in Mangalore, Naveen Soorinje, 28, was returning after covering a public function addressed by former Karnataka chief minister H D Kumaraswamy, when he was arrested by the Mangalore police. From that date to now, he has been lodged in the Mangalore sub-jail. He has been denied bail by both Mangalore Judicial Magistrate First Class [JMFC] and the Mangalore district and sessions court.
Soorinje’s crime? He covered and telecast the attack on a birthday party at a homestay in the Mangalore’s suburb of Padil by Hindutva activists on July 28, 2012. But the charges against him are: unlawful assembly [IPC section143], rioting [147], rioting with deadly weapons [148], criminal trespass [447], house trespass [448], wrongful restraint [341], voluntarily causing hurt by dangerous weapons or means [323/324], criminal intimidation [506], intentional insult with intent to provoke breach [504], assault or criminal force against women with intent [354] and dacoity [395].
The Mangalore police have arrested 31 persons with Hindutva links in connection with the homestay incident. Soorinje, the only reporter present on the spot, and whose report identifying this incident as  ‘’Talibanization of Mangalore’’ was the basis for the entire case against the Hindutva activists, has been charged and arrested under the same sections of the IPC [Indian Penal Code] as the accused.
When his bail application comes up on December 26, 2012, Soorinje will have spent 50 days in jail. A small band of committed journalists and activists from Mangalore are fighting for his release. They have given petitions to the district administration, tried to get chief minister JagadishShettar to intervene, but to no avail.  Home minister R Ashoka,  reportedly at the behest of Soorinje’s boss Anita Kumaraswamy, the wife of former chief minister H D Kumarswamy, is said to have tried to protect the journalist. But, according to sources in Ashoka’s office, his efforts were muzzled  by a PIL filed by some Mangalore residents in the Karnataka High Court seeking a restraint on his intervention.
Who is Naveen Soorinje?
Mangalore reporters point out that Soorinje has been responsible for several exposes in his career, first as a reporter for the tabloid Karavali Ale and later, for the Kasturi channel. In the course of his seven year career, he has written and done audio visual stories that have targeted Hindutva organizations, the Jamaat-e-Islami, the Popular Front of India which is also a Muslim organization, the pontiff of Pejawar Mutt Vishveshateertha, who is the guru of former Madhya Pradesh CM Uma Bharti, and the powerful head of the Dharmasthala temple, the DharmadhikariVeerendraHeggade, among others.
‘’Naveen has taken on all-powerful organisations in the region, indiscriminately. He wrote exposes on corrupt policemen, exposes on journalists taking gifts in return for favours, so everyone was out to fix him. They have deliberately put non-bailable charges on him and ensured that he is out of circulation as a warning to everyone else who wants to expose the communalism bubbling over in Mangalore,’’ a fellow journalist, who declined to be named, told The Hoot.
Soorinje, by his own submission, had got a tip off from a source in Padil on July 28h that some people were preparing for an attack on Muslim boys who were consorting with Hindu girls. Soorinje says, according to a report compiled by the People’s Union for Civil Liberties Karnataka [PUCL-K]: ‘’The immediate thought that crossed my mind was, should I inform the police right away or not? I had not information about the organization that was going to attack. I also did not know who was going to be attacked or for what reason or the place at which the attack would take place. As I had been given the information by my news source, I thought I would inform the police only after confirming it.’’
Soorinje was the only reporter who reached the homestay, Morning Mist, before the attack at 6.50 pm. He had with him Rajesh Srinivas, the cameraman of another Kannada TV channel, TV-9, as his own cameraman was not available. Soorinje says when he reached there,  he saw a girl sitting in the verandah and two boys were at another corner, playing on their mobiles. ‘’There was nothing there which could provide a reason for assailants to attack, so even at that point, I did not think it was necessary to call the police, as the information that I had been given could be wrong.’’
But some 30 people gathered and barged in, as the girl on the verandah ran in and tried to shut the door. Soorinje says he immediately called the local inspector Ravish Nayak, but he did not receive the call. Soorinje then called the TV-9 reporter Rajesh Rao and asked him to contact Ravish Nayak, with the same results.
Along with the assaulters, another cameraman, Sharan of the local Mangalore channel, Sahaya TV, had come in. Sharan and Srinivas barged into the home stay along with the assailants, while Soorinje began reporting the story and alerting others. He says he was shocked at the kind of violence and molestation of the girls that the assailants indulged in and felt ‘’these things could not be made into visuals for the news. Very little of what happened there could be shot on camera. However, the way the assailants were manhandling the girls, if news cameras were not present, I shudder to think how much further they would have gone.’’
The police have built a case against Soorinje based on a complaint filed by an event manager Vijay Kumar, who was hosting the birthday party at the home stay. But Vijay Kumar has told PUCL-K: ‘’If the media had not been there, the goons would certainly have raped the girls. After the incident we gave a statement to the police. My signature was taken on a blank sheet of paper and then an FIR was prepared, some of whose points I don’t agree with.’’ He, along with other victims, held a press conference in Mangalore on July 29 and said: ‘’The media has helped us, there should be no case against them.’’
The police, further, did selective chargesheeting. Soorije was charged and put into jail, but the TV-9 cameraman whose footage was used by all channels including the national ones, is not among the accused. Yet another accused, Sharan of Sahaya TV, is going about his work in Mangalore, but he has not been arrested. A CD of the entire incident submitted by Soorinje to Ravish Nayak has gone ”missing” while a pen drive from TV-9 has been shown as the evidence. This serves the purpose of making TV-9 the witness and Soorinje the accused. The police have slapped the dacoity charge on him along with section 34 of the IPC, which reads:”When a criminal act is done by several persons in furtherance of the common intention of all, each of such persons is liable for that act in the same manner as if it were done by him alone.”
Naveen’s bail application comes up on December 26, 2012.

Sparks fly at IISc over Anand Patwardhan documentary on Babri masjid razing


By Aishhwariya Subramanian | Place: Bangalore | Agency: DNA

Proving that communal tension exists even within the hallowed halls of the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), a heated argument broke out at IISc on Wednesday after a documentary was screened on the campus about the demolition of the Babri Masjid.

The documentary, Ram Ke Naam, which is Anand Patwardhan’s controversial take on the 20-year-old issue, was screened by a student body that has representatives from both IISc and the National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS).

When the documentary began, some students got into an argument with the organisers over its controversial content. By the time the documentary got over, the two groups erupted into a loud argument that left several members of the audience at loss for words.

Much of the problem arose from the posters used by the organisers. The posters contained a blurb from Patwardhan himself, describing Vishwa Hindu Parishad as a “militant group”.
“They plastered these posters, calling the VHP a ‘militant group’ all across the hostels in the campus. There is already some communal tension because of it and because of these posters, there are also counter posters put up in the hostels. They are just trying to cause trouble by screening this documentary, which is full of lies and does not even want to discuss the facts,” said a PHd student from IISc who did not wish to be named.

The student body group, on the other hand, said they simply wanted to screen the documentary to mark the 20th anniversary of the Babri Masjid demolition.

They also noted that several students from the IISc had written to the Students’ Council prior to the screening to get it canceled. The Students’ Council, in turn, wrote to the registrar and the public relations officer of the institute. While the administration gave the group the green signal to screen the documentary, the PRO was present the entire time.

“I just want to clarify that this documentary was not screened on behalf of the IISc but by the students’ group called Concern,” he said. Overall, the public screening was attended by close to 150 people, most of whom were from the IISc.

While the scuffle between the protesters and the organisers never turned physical, one of the protesters raised the slogan ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai‘.

 

BELOW IS A REACTION FROM RAVI, WHO WAS THERE AT THE SCREENING

 

From: ravi <ra.ravishankar@gmail.com>
Date: 15 December 2012 23:34

I went for the documentary screening and find this report very
problematic, right from the way it is pitched: “communal tension” in
the “hallowed halls” of IISc! The problem wasn’t one of “communal
tension”, it was more a reaction by a small group of rabidly
pro-Hindutva students to a film they feared would expose the Hindutva
movement’s blood-stained past and give the lie to its claim to
represent all Hindus.

The report describes the documentary as Anand Patwardhan’s
“controversial” take on the Ramjanbhoomi-Babri Masjid issue, and
attributes much of the problem to the publicity posters which
described the VHP as “militant”. Is any popular anti-Hindutva work
non-controversial? Why should a work be defined by the ruckus raised
by the Hindutva forces? If an adjective was badly needed, why not
“award-winning” instead of “controversial”? As for describing the VHP
as militant, I too find it problematic since the term has a fairly
neutral meaning; “fascist” would have been more accurate.

Here is my understanding of how the events unfolded. The screening was
organised by a student group called Concern
<http://www.facebook.com/pages/Concern-IISc/142948592461127>. Once the
screening was finalized, and necessary permissions taken from the
appropriate IISc authorities, publicity posters were put up. A motley
group of rabidly pro-Hindutva IISc students swung into action, put up
misleading counter-posters, and persuaded the Students Council
President to write to the IISc public relations officer recommending
cancellation of the film. A petition was also circulated to this
effect, and it apparently got about 100 signatures. However, Concern
folks got wind of this action, and eventually managed to let the
screening go ahead with an important caveat — there was to be no
discussion after the screening, and Concern was responsible for
evacuating the audience out of the venue once the film ended. There
was considerable uncertainty about whether the event will go ahead
until the day of the screening … The pro-Hindutva students also
threatened a legal suit if the posters describing the VHP as
“militant” were not removed, but (I think) Concern didn’t budge.

About 150-200 people came for the screening. I was about five minutes
late, but heard from a friend that when the organisers attempted a
brief intro to the film, the Hindutva group (sanghis) started shouting
and the screening was started hurriedly without an intro. Not that it
kept the sanghis quiet though. They continued to shout once in a
while, either when they were particularly aggrieved (as when none of
the Hindutva supporters interviewed in the film seemed to know exactly
when Rama was born; a sanghi in the audience asserted that Rama was
born 9.5 lakh years ago, and claimed fossil evidence to this effect!)
or to express approval for Narendra Modi or an egregious character on
screen (like when Advani barked “Mandir Wahin Banayenge” — we’ll
build the temple THERE). I think the guy who set Rama’s age at 9.5
lakh years departed midway through the screening, perhaps embarrassed
at his antics and not wanting to be identified in public (much like
the anonymous sanghi quoted in the DNA report). Another one shouted
out a suggestion: invite Subramanian Swamy to know the truth about
Ayodhya!

When the film ended, the sanghis who had stayed back started shouting
immediately. Concern folks tried to get everyone out of the room
immediately, but the sanghis wanted a captive audience. It later
turned out that they haven’t been able to muster such big audiences
for their events, so wanted to have a say then and there. In the words
of one of them, paraphrased as I remember: “When we have some events
to talk about corruption or issues of national interest, no one turns
up. But for this biased documentary, so many have come.” The room was
soon cleared, and a shouting match ensued outside. The Sanghis
departed with cries of “Jai Shri Ram, Bharat Mata ki Jai, Concern is a
Naxalite group, Ban Concern” etc.  For me, this was a good taste of
sanghi thuggery when they lack numbers and don’t have the active
support of the administration. Friends told me that a similar
screening in other campuses, such as Hyderabad Central University
which has a strong ABVP unit, would be more fraught with danger.
Likewise for events outside university campuses.

All in all, this event was an interesting contrast to the previous
screening of Ram Ke Naam that we had organised several years ago at
UIUC. The sanghis at UIUC didn’t want to crawl out of the woodwork and
stand exposed for their politics, but it turns out some of the sanghis
at IISc felt no such restraint. Perhaps they expected some support
from the neutral section of the audience, and when none was
forthcoming their boorishness took over. Such hostility to a
two-decade old documentary makes one wonder how much more rabidly they
would react to an event on contemporary Hindutva, or its practice in
Gujarat.

ravi