On The Social Fabric In Narendra Modi’s Gujarat


18 May 2013  By Shivam Vij

Narendra Modi; Pic Courtesy: in.com

Narendra Modi’s phenomenal success story is indeed very interesting; how he shaped his political victories based on to ‘the aam aadmi’ welfare concept is the real catch. Secular intellectuals of our country however blame him for creating an inhuman divide between Hindus and Muslims in Gujarat. There are many such things on which NaMo gets cornered!

This is an excerpt from the chapter, ‘The Enemy Within’ in NIIANJAN MUKHOPADHYAY’s book,Narendra Modi: The Man, The Times.

From the label of “Master Divider” in India Today in January 2003 to the tag of “The Great Polariser” in the Outlook in July 2012 – Narendra Modi’s image remained static: self-declared champion of one community of people. But the strain Gujarat faced in the course of his tenure has increased manifold.

Wherever I travelled in Gujarat, there was a clear distinction between “us” and “them”. This difference was articulated by several Hindus every time the conversation veered in this direction. In contrast, counterparts among Muslims denied this. The disagreement with the hypothesis stemmed not from a belief and perception that they faced no discrimination but because of a “fear” that accepting such a viewpoint could be interpreted as levelling an allegation that they were being targeted – a risk no Muslim is willing to take after the post-Godhra violence.

The ever-widening gulf that exists amongst Hindus and Muslims at a social level was unmistakable in two places: first, in Bhuj, the headquarters of Kutch district and the epicentre of the 2001 earthquake that actually began the Modi-era in Gujarat’s narrative. The second place where the tattered social fabric of Gujarat becomes evident is in an outgrown village nearly twenty-five kms away from the heart of Ahmedabad – the spiritual headquarters of a community of people who belong to the Pirana sect.

In Bhuj we are in the office of Kutchmitra – the largest selling Gujarati paper in the district. A reporter who requests anonymity, mentions that Muslims in cities and towns of Kutch no longer cook non-vegetarian food at home. Instead, they go to a few Muslim-run restaurants in colonies where only people from their community live. This was done because of social pressure from Hindus. Kutch incidentally has the highest percentage of Muslims – twenty-one per cent – in the state.

The reporter continued his narrative on changed social customs in Kutch in the past decade: whenever there is a marriage in a Muslim family and they wish to invite Hindu business associates (there are no friends across communities- rishta sirf zaroorat ka hee hai – the relationship is purely need-based) – they make a special announcement in the wedding card. There will be a separate- and sanitized- dining hall for “Hindu guests” at the wedding reception.

The second place which testifies to the dramatic transformation of inter-community relationships in Gujarat in the aftermath of the post-Godhra violence is at the shrine in Pirana, on the outskirts of Ahmedabad, whose followers have ancestral roots in Kutch. This religious order was established almost five hundred years ago by Imam Shah, a deviant from Islam who has often been given the tag of a Sufi for want of another label. He set up the sect and initially drew followers from the community of Patels of Anjar Taluka in Kutch.

 

Narendra Modi: The Man, The Times by Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay; Tranquebar Press

The temporal head of Satyapanthis – as the followers were named – fused practices of Islam with Hindu traditions and evolved a code of his own. The Patels integrated with Muslim followers (Syeds) of Imam Shah who ran his religious order on democratic lines with a governing council taking all key decisions. The council consisted of ten people — seven Patels and three Syeds and the successors of Imam Shah (called Kaka) were selected by mutual consultation over the past five centuries.

Soon, the Satyapanthis — like several other communities emerged as a small little third religious group, distinct from Hindus and Muslims. The outsider status of Satyapanthis started coming under strain from the late 1980s due to several reasons: growing sentiment among Patel followers and the then Kaka to give a greater “Hindu-thrust” to the sect and convert each member into a “political Hindu” being the most significant one. Called a dargah till then, the shrine came to be frequently referred to as a temple — deifying Shri Nishkalanki Narayan Bhagwan. The tombs which lay scattered around the shrine were one-by-one adorned with Hindu motifs. Rituals inside the sanctum sanctorum — the tomb of Imam Shah — acquired Hindu characteristics. In 1997, when I visited the shrine as part of a study on inter-community relations in Kutch, I still found Syeds among the regular devotees.

This was not the case in 2012 and a lot other than this had also changed. To begin with, the main gate of the dargah had been shut — which was a typical medieval structure and had a distinct influence of Islamic architecture. The entry to the shrine was now through a huge ornate gate, typical of temples with ample resources. The gate led into the main building of what was initially an adjunct but has now become the principal shrine. Inside the old dargah, barring the graves everything has a “Hindu look”. In the past decade, the Satyapanthis witnessed their gods being taken away.

The head of the governing council, the current Kaka got agitated with my probing questions – pertaining to the virtual disappearance of Syeds from the shrine and the reasons why the original main gate was closed. Syeds may have been virtually turned away from what used to be their shrine also till a decade ago, but their “presence” still causes problems — especially for Modi.

In September 2011, Modi launched a much-publicised officially-run campaign to promote social harmony. Called Sadbhavna Mission, the name was similar to programmes initiated by several Indian political leaders in the past with the intent of invoking secular-tokenism and have been accompanied by appropriate symbolism. But Modi did not make any gesture signalling public overtures to Muslims. The Sadbhavna Mission grabbed headlines after Modi’s refusal to accept a skull cap associated with Muslims though he accepted the shawl.

Media reports called the cleric a Sufi leader – Syed Imam Shahi Sayed. But, he is one of the deposed members of the governing council of Satyapanthis. Due to this deposition, Sayed now speaks more like a Muslim and less like a believer of a rebel-sect. He told journalists that ‘Modi’s refusal to accept the cap is not my insult but an insult to Islam.’ The contention of Vijay Rupani, BJP spokesman was similar to what Modi told me in an interview:

‘Narendra Modi has clearly said that his policy is not of appeasement of a section of society unlike other parties, but our approach is development for all and treating everyone as equal.’

In less than a decade and a half, Kutch has witnessed social stratification that will be difficult to undo. Similarly, the Pirana Dargah has lost its name, its spiritual pluralism and a large section of its followers who have tragically reverted back to the faith from where the founder branched out. Though the onset of these developments pre-dates the Modi era in Gujarat, it reached acute and probably irreversible levels of disconnect in his tenure coinciding with the period when the “us” and “they” have become more antagonistic.

When I had begun working on this biography I was painfully aware that the nascent schisms which I had witnessed in Gujarat in 1997 would have been brutally prised wider. The crudeness with which the divisions in the state were amplified, I was sure, would yield multiple narratives. To ensure that I did not stray from the narrative I was in search of — my own “Modinama”– I consciously decided to restrict my visit to only Pirana Dargah (as I still insisted on calling the place) and Kutch instead of travelling to other places in Gujarat known for spiritual diversity which includes Hindu folk deities.

*

One of the most emotive reasons behind the pillorying of the “other” by Hindus in Gujarat has been the sustained campaign advocating that “they” are swamping “us” — it was also the underlying sentiment of Modi’s Ame paanch, Amara pachhees (we are five and we have twenty-five) speech — that echoed the old argument of rabid Hindu communalists that “Muslims breed more”. But this claim is not consistent with census data based on religion from the pre-independence period. Religious demography of Gujarat is also available in post-independent India through the various decadal census reports.

According to this, the first census in 1951 pegged Gujarat’s Muslim population at 8.9 per cent. But in 1951, the state as we know was yet to be formed and a better representative figure would be 1961 which lowered the figure by half a point to 8.4 per cent. According to census data of 1971, 1981, 1991 and 2001 the percentage of Muslims in Gujarat remained more or less similar and touched 9.1 per cent in the latest headcount for which religion-wise data has been tabulated — an increase for sure but not dramatic or alarming by any yardsticks to merit propagation of myths regarding higher breeding rates among Muslims.

The “breed more” theory also gets knocked off by data presented by the committee appointed by Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, to study the “social, economic and educational” status of Muslims in India. Called the Sachar Committee in popular parlance, it found that contraceptive prevalence rate among Muslim couples is almost equal to the overall state rate.

Among Christians there has been an increase of only 0.2 percentage points between 1991 and 2001, but it could be argued that in absolute terms the number is fairly high because of small numbers of Christians in the state. From a total number of almost eighty thousand Christians in 1951 the numbers had increased to more than two lakh eighty-four thousand in 2001. In absolute numbers, the data has been used as a handy tool to spread the campaign of hate and distrust with an aim to heighten paranoia.

The propagandist approach with use of distorted demographic data has often been used as a justification for anti-conversion laws in different states. Gujarat too joined the list of such states in 2003 with the Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act. The most contentious part of the law was that permission has to be sought from the local administration by any person wishing to either convert personally to another faith or act as the “convertor” by virtue of being a priest, maulvi or pandit. After being notified in 2008, the law was challenged in the High Court in March 2009 but though a notice was sent to the state government, there has been little progress towards hearing the plea filed by Gujarat United Christian Forum for Human Rights and some other petitioners.

The main basis on which the law has been challenged is that it violates Article 25 of the Indian Constitution which states that every citizen is ‘equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practise and propagate religion.’ The law virtually makes inter-religious marriages effectively impossible unless it has the consent of both families. But if a couple risks bravery, then there are always some people who are forever ready with “corrective steps.”

Gujaratis account for almost five per cent of the Indian population which Modi now keeps reminding everyone, adds up to six crores. With a Muslim population close to nine per cent it almost seems that Modi has to contend with more than five million people, the majority of whom by and large feel alienated from his government. I asked Modi about this, arguing that whether we like it not, Muslims and the issue of their existence cannot be brushed aside.

I contended that since there were a large numbers of Muslims in Gujarat it was necessary to include them in the state’s political evolution and growth. Or did he think they could be kept outside?

Modi of course said that he pursued an inclusive approach to politics but did not believe that there was need for any extra thrust for any group which according to him was “appeasement”. I asked him further if he felt that there was any need for him to invite people for dialogue if there was a sentiment of disgruntlement? His reply can be interpreted in several ways and he said: ‘I am always ready (for a dialogue). My doors were open… anyone can come, everyone is welcome, I am ready anytime, every time.’

But there are critics from within his fraternity who felt that Modi had not done enough to assuage the hurt of 2002. Govindacharya is one of them. I asked him about his assessment of the progression of social tension between 2002 and 2012. In reply, he said:

The situation has not eased – instead is similar to a wound which is bandaged – no healing. On the contrary, I have noticed that whenever society cannot find any solution there is a danger of a section slipping into a phase of melancholy. This is the opposite of the violent phase. I very often find Gujarat to be going through this phase of melancholy.

I wanted him to be more specific, which section of the society did he mean? He was unambiguous: Muslims. ‘This is the reason why they are not able to uplift themselves and are not able to contribute for the growth and development of Gujarat. Now I am not sure how this stagnancy will take a turn in the future – will it become a fodder or will it take a turn of assimilating tendency – there is a huge question mark on this. Unfortunately, I see no efforts being made to turn this into an assimilating tendency. All these Sadbhavna Yatras and other similar programmes are all varnishing efforts – they are not repair work.’

 

 

#India- #Dalit teacher denied housing, #Gujarat HC steps in #discrimination #gender #caste


TNN | Dec 14, 2012, 05.59 AM IST

AHMEDABAD: The Gujarat high court has taken suo motu cognizance of the scourge of untouchability because of which a female teacher from the dalit community was denied residence inKutch. The local residents’ prejudice and the government’s apathy forced her to quit her job.Jetal Rushi from Bharuch was appointed as Vidhya Sahayak in Gelda village near Bhuj. But since she belonged to the Valmiki community, villagers in and around Gelda refused to give her accommodation. The girl made a representation to the state government and requested that she be transferred to another place.

Since the government did not respond, Jetal resigned and went back to Bharuch. Perturbed by the girl’s agony, her grandfather wrote a letter to the high court narrating how the girl was forced to give up her job. He complained that the girl was posted in a village where she could not secure help from any government office because none existed there. A bench of Chief Justice Bhaskar Bhattacharya and Justice J B Pardiwala filed a public interest litigation on its own on perusal of the letter. Advocate Hemang Shah, who is part of this proceeding, said that the Article 17 of the Constitution provides for the eradication of the practice of untouchability and denying residence to a member of the Valmiki community — which is in the profession of scavenging — was nothing but violation of the constitutional provision.

Shah said that in 2008, a PIL was filed on the problems faced by the Valmiki community — people do not allow them to live in their vicinity.

The state government then took a stand that it would give priority to the community in providing housing facilities and a resolution too was passed. The high court has sought explanation from home secretary, director of primary education and the secretary of social justice and empowerment department asking them to file answers by December 27.

#Invitation – Artistes travel across #Gujarat- Oct 29- Nov8 #mustshare


 

AJWADI WATEY

VIVIDHTA KA JASHN

AN ARTISTS KARWAN TRAVELS ACROSS GUJARAT

October 29- November 8, 2012

 

MALLIKA SARABHAI TO FLAG OFF ARTISTS CARAVAN ON OCTOBER 29, 2012 AT 3PM AT SABARMATI ASHRAM, AHMADABAD

 

CITY DATE Time Address
FLAG OFF:Ahmadabad 29/10/2012 3.00PM Sabarmati Ashram, Ahmadabad
Surat 30/10/2012 8.00PM Ishwar Farm,In Union Park Street, Ghoddod-Bhatar Road, Opp. Krushi Farm, Surat.
Ankleshwar 31/10/2012 7.30PM GIDC Town Hall, Ankleshwar
Ahmadabad 1/11/2012 7.00PM Darpana Academy, Usmanpura, Ahmadabad
Anand

Anand

02/11/2012

FRIDAY

8.00pm Town Hall, Anand
Mehsana 04/11/2012 8.00pm Samarpan Chawlk, Near Lake ,Mehsana- 384001
Rajkot 06/11/2012 9.30pm Hemu Gadhvi Hall, Tagor Road,Rajkot.
Bhuj

Bhuj

08/11/2012

THRSDAY

8.00pm Town Hall, Bhuj

 

Cultures, civilizations grow and develop because they constantly take from each other. Civilizations borrow from others and give to others. And it is in this process of give and take that each civilization, each country, each nation constantly reinvents itself. It defines and redefines itself. The idea is not to purge what we consider alien but to recognize that it is impossible to say what is ours and what is not. What we need to do is to see what is relevant, living and robust in our culture as it exists today, to accept what will enrich our lives and help us to improve as human beings and to reject and discard all that is likely to sustain prejudice and malice towards other human beings.

 

The search for the meaning of culture is a continuous process in the historical evolution of all societies. The dynamism of Indian culture is derived from its diversity, which molded the cultural practices of the people.

Anhad as part of its campaign Bole Gujarat is celebrating this diversity.

 

The programme’s objective is to contribute in creating a conducive environment for safeguarding cultural diversity, to promote and design ways of ensuring access to culture to all and to create platforms for artists to promote peace, diversity and pluralism. The programme also aims at strengthening the capacities of professional and rural  artists and youth at large to contribute towards a diverse and composite cultural atmosphere in Gujarat.

 

An Artist Caravan (musicians, dancers, poets, writers, designers, filmmaker etc will travel across seven small and large towns of Gujarat and perform in seven cities: Surat, Ankleshwar, Ahmadabad, Anand, Mehsana, Rajkot and Bhuj between October 30 and November 8, 2012.

 

Performing artists include: Siddi Goma Tribal Dance Group, Avni Sethi- a classical dancer from Ahmadabad, Odyssey Rock band from Surat, Sufi singer- Dhruv Sangari from Delhi and Namrata Pamnani –a Kathak dancer of international repute. A number of video spots and celebrity interviews will be screened during these concerts.

 

The programme called ‘Us Subah Ki Khatir’- Ajwadi Watey- hopes to spread the message of peace, communal harmony and non-violence through the artistic expression and celebrate the intermingling of different streams of cultural expression.

 

The artists will stop on the way to interact with local villagers in a number of villages on November 3, 5 and 7, 2012.

 

Information on Performing Artists

 

Dhruv Sangari

 

Dhruv Sangari began training in Hindustani classical music at the age of 7 under Smt. Shahana Bannerjee and Tabla with Pt. B.S. Ramanna. Later, he developed an interest in Sufism and Sufi music,and began learning Qawwali under Ustad Meraj Ahmed Nizami of the Delhi-Qawwalbachhe Gharana. He was also given training and guidance by the legendary Qawwali and Classical maestro late Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khansaheb.

 

Dhruv has a masters degree in Hindustani Classical music from the University of Delhi and has been performing professionally since 2001 with his Sufi music troupe ‘Rooh’. His repertoire includes Persio- Arabic poetry, Punjabi-Hindvi Sufi poetry and Urdu Poetry from the works of famed poets and saints such as Amir Khusrau, Sant Kabir, Baba Farid , Bulleshah, Meerabai,  Hafez,  Rumi ,  Jami,   Baba Nanak, Sant Tulsidas

 

In addition to stage concerts at major festivals and international collaborations with artistes in more than 15 countries including China, India, Morocco, Turkey, Italy, Germany, France, U.K. and Spain; he has recorded for a number of private albums, film and solo projects like Jet-Lag (Phat-Phish Records, Mumbai, India.) and Rooh e Sufi.

 

Dhruv has taught and performed Sufi music in several universities, museums and cultural institutions such as Colby College, Maine, University of Boston, Massachusetts, University of York, UK; Nehru Center, London, UK; House of World Cultures, Berlin, Germany; Stadt Theatre, Freiburg-Breigsau, Germany; Louvre Museum, Paris, France; Smithsonian Museum, Washington DC, Society for Ethical Cultures, New York, US Library of Congress; Washington DC, Embassy of India, Washington DC, and Johns Hopkins University, Washington DC etc.

 

Avni Sethi

 

Avni  Sethi is an interdisciplinary artist who works with multiple mediums. Her work extends from choreographing large ballets or performing small solos to creating sound installations in parks to creating new forms of organisms in a lab to devising performance pedagogy for schools.

Her focus has primarily been on exploring the politics and poetry of humanity through her artistic practice. She is presently curating a museum of conflict in Ahmedabad.

 

Siddi Goma Tribal Dance Group

 

The Siddis of Gujarat are a tribal Sufi community of East African origin which came to India eight centuries ago and made Gujarat their home. They carried with them their exceptionally rich musical tradition and kept it alive and flourishing through the generations, unknown to the rest of the world.

 

A traditional occupation of African-Indian Sufis in Gujarat has been to perform sacred music and dance as wandering faqirs, singing songs to their black Sufi saint, Bava Gor.

 

Sidi Goma perform in a group of twelve: four lead musicians (drummers and singers) and eight dancers. While the music gradually gets more rapid and excited, the dances unfold with constantly evolving individual and small-group acts of animal imitations, climaxing in a coconut-breaking feat.

 

The exuberant energy and joy Sidi Goma brings to the stage is captivating and powerful, their unique African-Indian heritage a fascinating discovery, and every performance an exhilarating experience!

 

NAMRATA PAMNANI

 

Born in 1980, Namrata Pamnani began her training in Kathak with Guru Smt. Bharti Gupta with later specialization under Pt. Jaikishan Maharaj at the National Institute of Dance, Kathak Kendra, in New Delhi. A graduate in Economics from Delhi University, Namrata decided to take up her passion as a profession. She has also taken formal training in Hindustani classical music and holds a diploma from Prayag Sangeet Samiti; she is also learning the nuances of dhrupad singing from the Gundecha brothers.

Namrata believes that dance is a form of self purification.

 

Some of her major overseas performances have been at the Lincoln Centre in New York, the International Kathak Festival in Chicago, the Avignon Festival in France, and at venues in Switzerland, Estonia, Finland, South Korea, Shanghai, Los Angeles, Moscow, Sri Lanka and Germany.

 

Within India she has been featured at the Kathak Mahotsava (Baroda), Konark Festival, Pt. Lacchu

Maharaj Utsav, Kalakshetra Festival, Natya Vriksha Festival, Taj Mahotsava and Kathak Yatra by Sangeet

Natak Academy. Namrata has been a member of the renowned Kathak Kendra Repertory, New Delhi where she had the opportunity of working under some of the best gurus.

 

Odyssey Rock Band

 

Sometime in 2009, in the historical city of Surat, Odyssey was formed with the aim of creating independent, original music. Hailing from the diamond city draped in textile, Odyssey is a rock band with a unique touch to it. Five guys, each having more than a decade of stage experience, combine to create music that is not restricted to any specific genre. Each band member is a vital piece of the jigsaw puzzle that is Odyssey. The band strives to put Surat, a city more known for its trade and cuisine (not to forget its trademark slang!), on the global music scene.

 

ENTRY TO PERFORMANCES IS FREE AND DOES NOT REQUIRE ANY INVITATION ON FIRST COME FIRST SERVE BASIS.

 

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