Thursday, February 2, 2017

"I Am a Troll" Exposes Indian BJP's Vicious Attack Machine

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi follows hundreds of twitter accounts regularly tweeting abuses and threats of rape and other forms of physical violence against Indian actors, artists, politicians, journalists, minorities in India and individuals of Pakistani origin, according to Swati Chaturvedi, author of "I am a Troll: Inside the Secret World of BJP's Digital Army".

Swati Chaturvedi
Swati Chaturvedi is an Indian journalist who found herself targeted by ruling BJP's highly organized professional troll operation directed from a location, called National Digital Operations Center (NDOC), in New Delhi, India. NDOC is staffed by paid workers as well as volunteers. Many of the volunteers are well-educated non-resident Indians (NRIs) from the United States and other parts of the world.

Threats Against Chaturvedi:

BJP trolls have spread lies about Chaturvedi being a "nymphomaniac" and threatened her with "Nirbhaya-style rape or an AK-47 bullet" to get her to shut up. Each morning she woke up to "hundreds of notifications discussing my "rate"". She says "her mornings were filled with rage and a sick, slightly nauseous feelings. The attacks were personal and I had had enough." She said she filed a criminal complaint under sections of Indian Penal Code dealing with "stalking, sexual harassment, transmitting obscene material over the Internet."  Twitter suspended the account and provided the IP address of the offender. But there was no action by Delhi Police.

Disinformation Campaign:

The BJP has extensively used social media apps to spread rumors, innuendo,  fake news, outright lies and various forms of disinformation against anyone seen to be even mildly critical of their leader Narendra Modi. Their harshest abuse has been targeted at the Opposition Congress party leaders, various liberal individuals and groups, Muslims and Pakistanis.

Chaturvedi cites many instances of hateful tweets from Modi-loving Hindu trolls, including Singer Abhijeet's lies to generate hatred against Muslims and Pakistan and BJP MP Hukum Singh's false claim of "Hindu exodus" from Kairana in western Uttar Pradesh blaming it on Muslims.

Kashmir and Pakistan:

Some of Twitter handles followed by Modi, including the account of BJP leader Giriraj Singh, routinely tell the BJP government critics to "go to Pakistan".

Chaturvedi talks about the use of graphic images of cow slaughter from Bangladesh and Pakistan being passed off with audio suppressed by BJP trolls as occurring in India as part of their campaign to stir up trouble against Indian Muslims.

Chaturvedi writes about "open gloating on Twitter at the pellet blindings in Kashmir during the protests that followed Burhan Wani's death. This was accompanied by calls on social media for the mass murder of Kashmiris. One Twitter handle @ggiittiikkaa with 80,000 followers--including Prime Minister Modi--tweeted pictures of Wani's funeral procession and added 20K attended funeral of terrorist Burhan. Should have dropped a bomb and given permanent Azadi to these 20K pigs". 

Modi Encourages Hate:

Prime Minister Modi has 21.6 million followers on Twitter and he follows 1375 people, according to Swati. Among the handles followed by Modi, there are at least twenty six accounts that "routinely sexually harass, make death threats and abuse politicians from other parties and journalists, with special attention given to women, minorities and Dalits. Describing themselves as "proud Hindu", "Garvit Hindu", "desh bhakt", "Namo Bhakt", "Bharat Mata Ki Jai", and "Vande Matram", these users are loud and proud, inevitably have a display picture with Mr. Modi and proclaim to be "blessed to be followed by the Prime Minister of India".

Sadhvi Khosla:

Among the key sources of Chaturvedi's research is Sadhvi Khosla who has direct experience as an ex volunteer at BJP's NDOC in New Delhi. Khosla volunteered at NDOC for two years. She began her stint before the elections in 2014 and left in late 2015.

Khosla told The Caravan magazine that "there was continuous hate directed at minorities, some journalists, and anyone else who has opposing views. When the head of the NDOC (Arvind Gupta) sends me direct WhatsApp messages saying, sign the petition to remove Aamir Khan from the Snapdeal campaign, what does that mean? When the head sends you messages with hashtags for the day and targets for the day, what does it mean? No one is forcing me to do work, but it means that the heads of these organizations are endorsing such views. To me, it becomes the official line."

Social Media, Fakes News and Disinformation Campaign:

The US intelligence report released after the November 2016 elections indicates that BJP-like tactics were used by the Russians in the 2016 US elections to help the Trump campaign. Ranjit Goswami, Vice Chancellor of RK University in the Indian state of Gujarat, explained this phenomenon in a piece titled "India has been post-truth for years" wrote about it as follows: "As the US (with Trump's election) and UK (Brexit) wake up to this new era, it’s worth noting that the world’s largest democracy has been living in a post-truth world for years'.

Summary:

Social media are rapidly changing the communications landscape of the world. Everyone, including politicians, bigots, demagogues and ordinary citizens, has its own megaphones to spread whatever message they like: love, hate, anger, lies, peace, violence, etc.  These messages become much more potent and powerful when done in an organized fashion such as the BJP's professional troll operation or the Russian intelligence's information ops. It's important to acknowledge the power of the social media and find ways to make it a force for good.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Planted Stories in Indian Media

Is Hollywood America's Unofficial Ministry of Propaganda? 

Burhan Wani's Murder

Islamophobia in America

Twitter Revolution in Pakistan

India's Pakistan Obsession

Hinduization of India

Hindu Nationalists Love Nazis

Breivik's Islamophobic Rhetoric


14 comments:

Ranjit said...

I hope she sold enough copies because after what Derek did today in parliament I can see her getting sued for defamation in coming days

Riaz Haq said...

Ranjit: "I hope she sold enough copies because after what Derek did today in parliament I can see her getting sued for defamation in coming days"

Defamation requires proof.

In Chaturvedi's case, her personal documented experience and her source Sadhvi Khosla offer substantial evidence of BJP trolls viciously attacking people. Then there's the physical evidence at NDOC that can be easily seen by a court.

Riaz Haq said...

Arnab’s Republic, Modi’s Ideology
BY SANDEEP BHUSHAN

A right-wing bias may be good business for Republic and, increasingly, for others in the media too, but what’s good for business may not be best for the actual republic.

https://thewire.in/102650/arnabs-republic-modis-ideology/


Goswami’s Republic indicates the mainstreaming of right-wing opinion as a business enterprise. Already, Swarajya and Open magazine – along with sundry portals like OpIndia and PGurus (not to speak of social media trolls) – are trying to carve a space for right-wing opinion-makers in the public sphere. Goswami at the head of a well-funded television network will undoubtedly lead the pack. In the United States, this has already happened and across media platforms – television, print, radio and digital. Fox News, like the Arnab-led Times Now earlier in India, leads CNN in ratings and has done so for a very long time.

-------

‘I am working really hard, you know. I have no time,’ Arnab Goswami’s voice crackled over the phone. Still, our chat lasted close to half an hour. While I tried to get him to give me at least a few lines for this story on ‘Republic’ – his proposed media project – Goswami cleverly ducked all of them. Instead, his focus was on our years together as colleagues at NDTV. You are seen as right wing, what do you say to that? How will you make Republic global? Will you have bureaus abroad? No reply. Instead, all my questions were answered by short bursts of laughter, signature Arnab, followed by small talk – an obvious attempt to divert the conversation. The only thing he admitted on record was that this project will have its footprint across media platforms.

It seems there are gag orders for his prospective employees as well. “Five former Times Now reporters from the Delhi bureau will be joining Republic,” said a former Times Now colleague of Arnab’s unwilling to go on record. “Also a number of desk hands from Mumbai will be joining him, including Arnab confidante and chief producer Charu Thakur,” he added. Only one of the five admitted to quitting Times Now around the same time as Arnab, but refused to reveal his future plans. ‘I am going abroad for now. I have offers from CNN and BBC. I will take a call,’ he told me, again, not willing to come on record. He also told me that “every single Times Now employee has been issued a precautionary notice by management apprising them of the ‘no compete clause’ in their contracts.”

But truth be told, while there is a buzz about Arnab Goswami the cult anchor in the national media, few reporters and journalists I spoke to – especially the senior lot – appear keen to work with him given his whimsical ways and reputation for the harsh handling of subordinate staff.

Much of the broad contours of Goswami’s project are already in the public domain. In a speech last month at IIT Mumbai, he outlined at least four defining features of Republic. For one it will be India’s first ‘independent media’. “India is on the brink of an independent media revolution,” Goswami had thundered earlier at a CII function in October just days before he quit Times Now. Secondly, the news will be ‘democratised’ riding on the ‘power of technology.’ Thirdly, Republic will be a global media project. After all, “For how long should we allow BBC and CNN to define the global media narrative?” And lastly, it will be ‘biased for the country’. “A media that is embarrassed to take a stand between India and Pakistan and pretends to be a bridge maker does not defend the interests of this country is not my kind of media”, he angrily remarked.

Riaz Haq said...

Indian media is abuzz with anti-Pakistan stories fabricated by "RAW's media directors" and planted by their "media assets" described by Professor Shyam Tekwani in his book "Media and Conflict Reporting in Asia" . These stories are part of Indian government's campaign to slander Pakistan to achieve the following objectives:

1. Deflect world attention from Indian Army atrocities in Kashmir.

2. Cover up India's proxy war of terror in Pakistan.

3. Isolate Pakistan internationally.

4. Sabotage China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

It's important for Pakistanis to not only understand what India is doing but also make a serious effort to make the world aware of it.

http://www.riazhaq.com/2016/10/planted-stories-in-indian-media.html

Riaz Haq said...

(Indian MP) Mr Derek O'Brien had, on Thursday, raised the subject of Twitter trolls and their alleged connection to the ruling BJP, and said some of them were invited to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's house for a "nice social digital party."

He said, "Twenty six Twitter handles that give out rape threats, communal threats are followed by the Prime Minister of India. 26. Two of these handles have been suspended by Twitter. Now this is not Trinamool or Congress or CPM or DMK, this is an international company called Twitter."

The opposition lawmaker went on to name some of the handles that he said had been suspended by Twitter - @Bhak_sala, used by Rahul Raj, and Mahiviram.

"Where are we headed, sir? And these twitter trolls, they are paid handles. And they are invited and this is not some private thing, they are public information, it is even published now in a book. They are invited now to the Prime Minister's house for a nice social digital media party," he charged, referring to a party that the Prime Minister hosted two years ago for 150 "social media influencers" and allegations that the list included notorious "trolls".

Smriti Irani didn't name anyone but did draw a "thank you" on Twitter.

"Thanks a lot @smritiirani ma'am. Thanks a lot. You spoke for the millions of commoners like me," tweeted Rahul Raj.


http://www.ndtv.com/india-news/pm-invited-trolls-how-smriti-irani-reacted-to-derek-obriens-charge-1655671

Riaz Haq said...

(Indian MP Derek) O’Brien’s strongest criticism was reserved for Modi’s government’s “Digital India”, which the TMC MP said was basically a euphemism for “divisive India”. He named a couple of the 26 Twitter handles which have been known to send out extremely serious threats on social media, including rape threats to women journalists and propagating hate speech, but which are still followed by PM Narendra Modi.

Social media abuse is a strategy that is actively devised and followed by the ruling regime and its expansive dominion of online warriors, who intimidate, threaten and abuse to silence criticism from liberal sections of media, public sphere as well as the celebrities. O’ Brien mentioned the Aamir Khan-Snapdeal case as an example of how superstars are hounded for airing their grievances, while others are targeted and beaten up in the real world for reimagining history.


http://www.dailyo.in/variety/derek-o-brien-ripped-apart-photo-mantri-modi-demitronisation-budget-session-parliament/story/1/15463.html

Riaz Haq said...

The dark side of #Indian politics: Why many Indian #politicians have a #criminal record. #India http://econ.st/2kt1dSo via @TheEconomist

When Crime Pays: Money and Muscle in Indian Politics. By Milan Vaishnav. Yale University Press; 410 pages; $40. To be published in Britain in March; £25.

ALL politicians are crooks. At least, that is what a lot of people think in a lot of countries. One assumes it is a reproach. But not in India. Indian politicians who have been charged with or convicted of serious misdeeds are three times as likely to win parliamentary elections as those who have not. In “When Crime Pays: Money and Muscle in Indian Politics” Milan Vaishnav of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace meticulously tracks the remarkable political success of India’s accused murderers, blackmailers, thieves and kidnappers. Having been a symptom of India’s dysfunctional politics, the felons are metastasising into its cause.

Sadly, this is not a book about some small, shady corner of Indian politics: 34% of the members of parliament (MPs) in the Lok Sabha (lower house) have criminal charges filed against them; and the figure is rising (see chart). Some of the raps are peccadillos, such as rioting or unlawful assembly—par for the course in India’s raucous local politics. But over a fifth of MPs are in the dock for serious crimes, often facing reams of charges for anything from theft to intimidation and worse. (Because the Indian judicial system has a backlog of 31m cases, even serious crimes can take a decade or more to try, so few politicians have been convicted.) One can walk just about the whole way from Mumbai to Kolkata without stepping foot outside a constituency whose MP isn’t facing a charge.

Mr Vaishnav dissects both the reasons why the goons want to get elected and why the electorate seems to be so fond of them. Their desire for office is relatively new. After independence in 1947 thugs used to bribe politicians to stay out of trouble and to secure lucrative state concessions such as mining rights. It helped that candidates from the dominant Congress party were sure to win a seat and then stay there. From the 1980s, as Congress started to fade as a political force, bribing its local representative became less of a sure thing for local crooks. So in the same way that a carmaker might start manufacturing its own tyres if it finds that outside suppliers are unreliable, Mr Vaishnav argues that the dons promoted themselves into holding office, thus providing their own political cover.

What is more surprising is that the supply of willing criminals-cum-politicians was met with eager demand from voters. Over the past three general elections, a candidate with a rap sheet of serious charges has had an 18% chance of winning his or her race, compared with 6% for a “clean” rival. Mr Vaishnav dispels the conventional wisdom that crooks win because they can get voters to focus on caste or some other sectarian allegiance, thus overlooking their criminality.

As so often happens in India, poverty plays a part. India is almost unique in having adopted universal suffrage while it was still very poor. The upshot has been that underdeveloped institutions fail to deliver what citizens vote for. Getting the state to perform its most basic functions—building a school, disbursing a subsidy, repaving a road—is a job that can require banging a few heads together. Sometimes literally. Who better to represent needy constituents in these tricky situations than someone who “knows how to get things done”? If the system doesn’t work for you, a thuggish MP can be a powerful ally.

Political parties, along with woefully inadequate campaign-finance rules, have helped the rise of the thug-candidate. Campaigns are hugely expensive. Voters need to be wooed with goodies—anything from hooch to jewels, bikes, bricks and straight-up cash will do. Criminals fill party coffers rather than drain them, and so are tolerated.

Riaz Haq said...

Hinduism and Terror

Paul Marshall


In the past decade, extremist Hindus have increased their attacks on Christians, until there are now several hundred per year. But this did not make news in the U.S. until a foreigner was attacked. In 1999, Graham Staines, an Australian missionary who had worked with leprosy patients for three decades, was burned alive in Orissa along with his two young sons. The brutal violence visited on Muslims in Gujarat in February 2002 also brought the dangers of Hindu extremism to world attention. Between one and two thousand Muslims were massacred after Muslims reportedly set fire to a train carrying Hindu nationalists, killing several dozen people.

These attacks were not inchoate mob violence, triggered by real or rumored insult; rather, they involved careful planning by organized Hindu extremists with an explicit program and a developed religious-nationalist ideology. Like the ideology of al-Qaeda and other radical Islamists, this ideology began to take shape in the 1920s as a response to European colonialism. It rejected the usually secular outlook of other independence movements; in place of secularism, it synthesized a reactionary form of religion with elements of European millenarian political thought, especially fascism.

---

Twentieth-century agitation against the British led to the rise not only of the secular and socialist Congress movement but also of the rival Hindu nationalist movement collectively known as the Sangh Parivar (“family of organizations”). The Parivar proclaims an ideology of “Hindutva,” aimed at ensuring the predominance of Hinduism in Indian society, politics, and culture, which it promotes through tactics that include violence and terror. Its agenda includes subjugating or driving out Muslims and Christians, who total some 17 percent of the population. It castigates them as foreign faiths, imposed by foreign conquerors—even though Christians trace their origins in India to the Apostle Thomas in the first century and Islam came to India in the seventh and eighth centuries.

The Sangh Parivar’s central organization is the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), founded by Keshav Hedgewar in 1925. Hedgewar was influenced by V. D. Savarkar, who believed that Hindus were the descendants of the ancient Aryans and properly formed a nation with a unified geography, race, and culture. Savarkar’s 1923 book Hindutva—Who is a Hindu? declared that those who did not consider India as both fatherland and holy land were not true Indians—and that the love of Indian Christians and Muslims for India was “divided” because each group had its own holy land in the Middle East.

M. S. Golwalkar, the RSS’s sarsangchalak (supreme director) from 1940 to 1973, sharpened these themes. In 1938, commenting on the Nuremberg racial laws, he declared: “Germany has also shown how well-nigh impossible it is for races and cultures, having differences going to the root, to be assimilated into one united whole, a good lesson for us … to learn and profit by.” In an address to RSS members the same year, he also asserted: “If we Hindus grow stronger, in time Muslim friends … will have to play the part of German Jews.” He insisted that “the non-Hindu … must either adopt the Hindu culture and language, must learn to respect and revere Hindu religion… Or [they] may stay in the country wholly subordinated to the Hindu nation, claiming nothing, deserving no privileges.” On March 25, 1939, the Hindu nationalist Mahasabha Party, an RSS ally, likewise proclaimed: “Germany’s solemn idea of the revival of the Aryan culture, the glorification of the swastika, her patronage of Vedic learning, and the ardent championship of Indo-Germanic civilization are welcomed by the religious and sensible Hindus of India with a jubilant hope.”


https://hudson.org/research/4575-hinduism-and-terror

Riaz Haq said...

Excerpt of Hinduism and Terror

Paul Marshall

M. S. Golwalkar, the RSS’s sarsangchalak (supreme director) from 1940 to 1973, sharpened these themes. In 1938, commenting on the Nuremberg racial laws, he declared: “Germany has also shown how well-nigh impossible it is for races and cultures, having differences going to the root, to be assimilated into one united whole, a good lesson for us … to learn and profit by.” In an address to RSS members the same year, he also asserted: “If we Hindus grow stronger, in time Muslim friends … will have to play the part of German Jews.” He insisted that “the non-Hindu … must either adopt the Hindu culture and language, must learn to respect and revere Hindu religion… Or [they] may stay in the country wholly subordinated to the Hindu nation, claiming nothing, deserving no privileges.” On March 25, 1939, the Hindu nationalist Mahasabha Party, an RSS ally, likewise proclaimed: “Germany’s solemn idea of the revival of the Aryan culture, the glorification of the swastika, her patronage of Vedic learning, and the ardent championship of Indo-Germanic civilization are welcomed by the religious and sensible Hindus of India with a jubilant hope.”


https://hudson.org/research/4575-hinduism-and-terror

Riaz Haq said...

Dark side of Army’s social media groups
Ali Ahmed, retired Indian Army officer

http://www.tribuneindia.com/news/comment/dark-side-of-army-s-social-media-groups/371308.html


While earlier, politics was a taboo subject in officers' messes, and perhaps continues to be so, reservation on espousing a political line failed to extend to regulating the social media behaviour of members of the armed forces. The enthusiasm for the conservative party's victory is explicable as it is in keeping with the universal political inclination of an officer corps; the attractions of the allusion to development; its anti-corruption packaging; and the BJP’s largely pro-security agenda.
The problem is that the ideological baggage that attends the politics of the BJP — Hindutva — was part of the package. One popular propaganda line that was seemingly heartily consumed — judging from its traffic on the social media group — was the conflation of the two “others” in the Hindutva worldview, the Indian Muslim with Pakistan.
This was easy to sell since a majority of the military has been through Kashmir and has seen the Pakistani hand at play. Exposed to the media attention to the terror attacks in the hinterland, that seldom went beyond the reporting on the blasts to the investigations that have attended these blasts, the theme of a strong government was easily sold. Lately, the letting off by courts of Muslims incarcerated for alleged complicity in the blasts suggests that India was well into the post-truth age before the term was coined.
Any collateral damage in terms of marginalisation of the minority and social relationships was found acceptable. The distasteful experience of this writer on social media chatter on Army groups led to his withdrawing from the three social media groups comprising his military cohort and former comrades. It was not so much on account of religious affiliation but constraints on expression of a liberal worldview encountered.
The military leadership needs alerting to this unseemly underside of social media. The military's social media policy is a work-in-progress. It needs updating with stipulations on the content that is exchanged. While self-regulation is best, it has proven insufficient. This has implications for the freedom of expression intrinsic to social media. A case can be made that those who do not wish to receive such posts can opt to leave. The problem with this line of reasoning is that it divides the officer corps, leaving the turf to the cultural nationalists in uniform, for whom patriotism is just not enough. The Army’s social media policy has further steps to take. It needs to be possessive of its social turf. Its cohesion and apolitical nature is at stake.

Riaz Haq said...

#Modi taps firebrand #hindu politician as UP CM who once advocated killing #India's #Muslims - The Washington Post

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2017/03/19/for-state-leader-modi-taps-firebrand-politician-who-once-advocated-killing-muslims/

Yogi Adityanath is a saffron-robed Hindu priest, a five-term member of India’s Parliament and has more than a dozen criminal cases pending against him, including an attempted murder charge. In incendiary speeches across the sprawling and impoverished Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, he has long advocated for Hindu ideals and even exhorted his followers to kill Muslims.

On Saturday, in a surprise move, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party tapped him to lead Uttar Pradesh, which analysts see as a clear signal that Modi is building on his party’s recent win in the state’s elections and moving to consolidate his Hindu base in a run-up to the 2019 general election.

In a front-page story Sunday, the Times of India called the selection of the “saffron hardliner” a “defiant assertion” of the party’s Hindu nationalist credentials.

“By picking him to govern India’s largest state, Modi and Shah have sent a clear message that they will be bound by neither the norms of ‘politics as usual’ nor the requirements of political correctness,” the Times wrote.

Adityanath, 44, has held sway in eastern Uttar Pradesh since he was first elected to Parliament at age 26, as a “sanyasi,” or devotee, of the Gorakhnath temple religious community.

Known as a controversial and fiery orator, he has vowed to cleanse India of other religions and in 2014 suggested that mosques feature Hindu deities.

“This is the century of Hindutva, not just in India but in the entire world,” he said.

He once accused Mother Teresa of being part of a conspiracy to Christianize India and likened a well-known Bollywood star, Shah Rukh Khan, to a terrorist. At one rally, Adityanath vowed, “If one Hindu girl marries a Muslim man, then we will take 100 Muslim girls in return.” He went on, “If they [Muslims] kill one Hindu man, then we will kill 100 Muslim men.”

He was arrested in 2007 and spent 11 days in prison for violating prohibitory orders in what was deemed a “communally sensitive area,” with tensions between the Muslim and Hindu communities. He had 18 criminal cases registered against him, according to one tally during the 2014 parliamentary elections, including attempted murder, criminal intimidation and rioting.


During rallies for state elections this winter, Adityanath’s supporters often chanted for Hindu-centric rule and demanded that Muslims leave the country. Adityanath also praised President Trump for his first travel ban on citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries and added that similar action is needed in India.

Adityanath was credited with helping the BJP and its allies win 325 of Uttar Pradesh’s 403 assembly seats during the state’s recent elections.

Uttar Pradesh, roughly the size of Brazil and with a population of more than 220 million people, has a history of Hindu-Muslim riots. In 2013, riots between the two groups resulted in the death of more than 60 people, with thousands displaced.

Analysts said the state’s electorate will now look to Adityanath to deliver on the party’s campaign promises, including the banning of cow slaughterhouses and the building of a temple on a mosque site that has been the subject of a decades-long controversy.

The BJP's announcement about Adityanath caught even some of the party’s most staunch supporters by surprise. “I am thankful to the party and PM Modi for considering me worthy of the post,” Adityanath said. “I will take UP forward with ka saath sabka vikas,” meaning "development for all.”

Riaz Haq said...

The Guardian view on a key poll: victory for anti-#Muslim bigotry in #Modi's #India | Editorial #Islamophobia

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/mar/19/the-guardian-view-on-a-key-poll-victory-for-anti-muslim-bigotry

he world breathed a sigh of relief last week as the Islamophobe populist Geert Wilders failed to become the head of the biggest party in Holland. The respite from elected bigotry did not last long. On Sunday an even more stridently anti-Muslim extremist took power in the biggest election of this year. Uttar Pradesh, with a population of more than 200 million, is not an independent nation. It is India’s biggest and most important state. UP, as it is known, by itself would be the world’s fourth biggest democracy – behind the rest of India, the United States, and Indonesia. In a stunning victory, the ruling Bharatiya Janata party swept the state elections, winning, along with its allies, 80% of the seats. Elections here are the most significant in India. UP sends 80 MPs to India’s national parliament of 545 seats. Regardless of party, they pay careful attention to the mood of UP’s electorate. If the nation’s governing parties do well in UP, parliamentarians feel they ought to stay in line. If opposition parties do well in UP, then gridlock rules in Delhi.

The man chosen by the Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi, to lead UP, home of Hinduism’s holy Ganges river and the Moghul tomb of Taj Mahal, is a fellow Hindu nationalist, Yogi Adityanath. Mr Adityanath is a Hindu priest who, while elected five times from his temple’s town, has been shown repeatedly to be contemptuous of democratic norms. He has been accused of attempted murder, criminal intimidation and rioting. He says young Muslim men had launched a “love jihad” to entrap and convert Hindu women. Mother Teresa, he claimed, wanted to Christianise India. He backs a Donald Trump-style travel ban to stop “terrorists” coming to India. On the campaign trail, Mr Adityanath warned: “If [Muslims] kill one Hindu man, then we will kill 100 Muslim men”. This cannot be dismissed as mere rhetoric. The argument that once in power the BJP would become more reasonable does not wash. There’s little sign India’s constitutional protections would enable the BJP to continue in power while the dynamics of its wider movement are kept in check. Mr Adityanath, now a powerful figure, is signalling that in India minorities exist merely on the goodwill of the majority. Step out of line and there will be blood. For some of India’s 140 million Muslims the threat is enough to see them debate withdrawing from public life to avoid further polarisation.

Riaz Haq said...

Indian history scholar Audrey Truschke says the Hindu-right largely ignore the colonial history and see their history through an Indo-Islamic lens only.
“So, to contradict that narrative or make it more nuanced and complex is a problem, since their current position in the Indian cultural and political landscape rests on their reading of the past,” says Truschke. “But Aurangzeb was a complex king who had a profound impact on the political landscape of 17th- and 18th-century India. As historians, we need to avoid this presentist stance and look at the evidence before us.”

A leading scholar of South Asian cultural and intellectual history, Truschke has just published a book on one of the most hated figures in Indian history, the last of six great kings of the powerful Mughal dynasty, whose empire stretched across the Indian subcontinent during the heyday of Muslim rule in the region from the 16th to 18th centuries.

Since this year’s publication of Aurangzeb: The Man and the Myth, Truschke has been targeted by Hindu-nationalists supporting the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and by other groups, whose current anti-Muslim sentiment traces back to medieval times, when Muslims started expanding into the region.

“My Twitter account is a nightmare right now,” Truschke says. “It hasn’t been fun.”

The popular view in today’s India is that, like other Mughal kings who were hostile to Indian languages, religions and culture, Aurangzeb was a Hindu-despising Islamist fanatic who destroyed Hindu and Jain temples and imposed a military tax on most non-Muslims.

But Truschke, one of the few living scholars who reads pre-modern Persian, Sanskrit and Hindi, had in a prior book argued that the Mughal courts were deeply interested in Indian thinkers and ideas, with elites and intellectuals engaging across cultures. In researching that monograph, Culture of Encounters: Sanskrit at the Mughal Court (2016), she was the first scholar to study texts in Sanskrit and Persian in exploring the courtly life of the Mughals.

In her latest work, she paints a much more nuanced picture of Aurangzeb, showing how he also protected most Hindu and Jain temples and increased the Hindu share in the Mughal nobility. Rather than hatred of Hindus driving his decisions, Truschke says, more likely Aurangzeb was guided by political reprisals and other practical considerations of rule, along with morality concerns, and a thirst for power and expansion.

That interpretation hasn’t sat well with some factions in India, but Truschke argues that as an academic historian, her project wasn’t to play political football with Aurangzeb to satisfy current agendas. It was to recapture the world of the sixth Mughal king, which operated according to quite different norms and ideas.

“My book looks at Aurangzeb as part of an Indian dynasty in all its complexities and nuances. I don’t ask if he was good or bad; that’s not an interesting historical question,” says Truschke. “I look at him with a purely empirical view, and that has been widely read by Hindu-nationalists as an apology for his Muslim atrocities.”

Truschke says that the current ethno-religious tensions in India were stoked during the British colonial period, when Britain benefitted by pitting Hindus and Muslims against each another while portraying themselves as neutral saviors who could keep ancient religious conflicts at bay.

Modern Hindu-nationalists, meanwhile, saw the political value in perpetuating the conflict and have done so with great success.

https://www.newark.rutgers.edu/news/historian-finds-herself-center-indias-hindu-muslim-conflict

Riaz Haq said...

Fears in #India over spread of '#Taliban-like' moral policing amid crackdown on meat and romance http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/04/02/fears-india-spread-taliban-like-moral-policing-amid-crackdown/?WT.mc_id=tmg_share_tw … via @telegraphnews

Controversial “anti-Romeo” squads to police and control young couples in public are spreading across India after they were introduced by the firebrand Hindu leader of the country’s largest state, Uttar Pradesh.

The squads of plain-clothed and uniformed police officers have been accused of “Taliban-like" moral policing by patrolling public spaces to prevent men from loitering near women. The authorities claim they are only trying to protect women from sexual harassment.

The patrols were launched just over a week ago on the orders of Yogi Adityanath, 44, a right-wing Hindu monk repeatedly accused of fanning religious tensions and who was jailed for 15 days in 2007 on charges of inciting riots, but who now rules a state of over 200 million people.

The idea has since spread to Jharkhand, north-east India, where reports emerged that the squads had “rounded up some young men and slapped them” for being found too close to women-only colleges.

In cities across Uttar Pradesh local parks, where many young couples traditionally find privacy, are said to have emptied.

“Between 300 and 400 couples visit the park every day, but since 21 March, only 5 or 10 have showed up,” Atul Kumar, a ticket seller at a park in Ghaziabad, told the Hindustan Times, claiming to have seen nine young men rounded up for no reason.

On Monday, 50 couples were apprehended for “immoral activities” after police raided two hotels in Ghaziabad.

“India is going through a very conservative and orthodox, almost Stone Age, where we can’t accept young boys and girls, above the age of 18, may freely choose who they want to be with,” said Shehzad Poonawalla, a lawyer and official with the opposition Congress party.

“How is this any different from Taliban culture?”

Poonawalla is one of many Indians who fear the squads form part of a wider right-wing Hindu political agenda by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party who appointed Adityanath despite his controversial past.

The move coincides with a widespread crackdown on Uttar Pradesh slaughterhouses to protect cows, considered sacred animals by India’s Hindu majority.

Most butchers are Muslims and many suspect that they are being unfairly targeted as they face the loss of their livelihoods.