Sunday, January 28, 2018

Padmaavat Reinforces Negative Stereotypes of Muslim Rule in India

Famed Bollywood producer Sajay Leela Bhansali's Padmaavat is a fictionalized portrayal of a Rajput queen Padmavati, played by Deepika Pudokone, whose earliest mention is found in a 16th century epic poem by a Muslim poet Malik Muhammad Jayasi. With the movie Padmaavat's (Padmavati's) musical score and the song and dance sequences and the opulence and the splendor of the costumes, the jewelry and the sets, it's safe to say that the fans of Bhansali's earlier Bollywood blockbusters like Bajirao Mastani and Devdas will not be disappointed. It looks particularly spectacular when watched in 3D-IMAX version-- something my wife and I experienced in a local Silicon Valley multiplex.

Released amidst death threats by right wing Hindu groups,  one would have expected that the movie in some way challenges the revisionist history being promoted by the ruling BJP's ideologues.

Surprisingly, the movie Padmaavat  reinforces the current Hindutva narrative about the Muslim rulers of India. It portrays Muslim ruler Alauddin Khilji of the Delhi Sulatanate, played by Ranveer Singh, as a violent and lustful man lacking any scruples, fitting in with the current wave of Islamophobia in India. On the other hand, his Hindu Rajput counterpart Maharawal Ratan Singh, played by Shahid Kapoor, is shown as an honorable and principled person.

The story appears to glorify the act of mass suicide by Rajput Hindu women by self-immolation in the name of idea that the Karni Sena opposing it picked up by threatening mass self-immolation by 1700 women in protest if the film is released. It begs the question: Why should only women commit this mass suicide in protest? Why not the men of the Karni Sena?

Meanwhile, it remains a mystery as to how a fictional Hindu queen first mentioned in a poem by a 16th century Muslim poet has become the symbol of honor for Rajputs in the 21st century.  For this, one must understand the larger underlying trend in Indian polity today with the rise of Hindutva under right-wing Hindu Prime Minister Narendra Modi's leadership.

American historian Audrey Truschke, in her recently published book "Aurangzeb: The Life and Legacy of India's Most Controversial King", attributes today's Hindutva revisionist history to the colonial-era British historians. She says they deliberately distorted the history of Indian Muslim rule to vilify Muslim rulers as part of the British policy to divide and conquer India. These misrepresentations of Muslim rule made during the British Raj appear to have been accepted as fact not just by Islamophobic Hindu Nationalists but also by at least some of the secular Hindus in India and Muslim intellectuals in present day Pakistan, says the author.  Aurangzeb was neither a saint nor a villain; he was a man of his time who should be judged by the norms of his times and compared with his contemporaries, the author adds.

Alauddin Khilji, portrayed in Padmaavat as a villain, was in fact neither an angel nor a devil; he was a man of his time who should be judged by the norms of his times and compared with his contemporaries.  Colonial-era British historians deliberately distorted the history of Indian Muslim rule to vilify Muslim rulers as part of their policy to divide and conquer India, according to American history professor Audrey Truschke. Professor Truschke has systematically dismantled all the myths about India's Muslim rulers as hateful and bigoted tyrants who engaged in rape and pillage of Hindus and carried out widespread destruction of Hindu temples across India. Hindu Nationalists led by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi are using false history to justify their hatred and violence against Indian Muslims today.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Hindu Nationalists Admire Nazis

Lynchistan: India is the Lynching Capital of the World

Hindu Supremacist Yogi Adiyanath's Rise in UP

Hinduization of India

Globalization of Hindu Nationalism

Hindutva Distortion of Indian History Textbooks

2017: The Year Islamophobia Went Mainstream


Ahmad F. said...

Where is the film that conveys the Muslim version of the story?

Riaz Haq said...

Ahmad: "Where is the film that conveys the Muslim version of the story?"

I don't know of any "Muslim version" of this fictional story specifically.

However, I do my best to counter the false Hindu Nationalist narrative of Muslim rule of India.

Fortunately, I'm not alone.

The one person doing a marvelous job of it is American historian Audrey Truschke through her book on Aurangzeb, her articles in newspapers and magazines and her postings on twitter challenging Hindutva trolls.

And another person doing something similar is Indian politician and diplomat Sashi Tharoor.

Here's what he said recently:

Under Muslim rule, India was the richest country in the world producing 27% of the world GDP.

“The British came to one of the richest countries in the world when the GDP was almost 27% in the 17th century, 23% in the18th. But, over 200 years of exploitation, loot and destruction reduced India to a poster child for third world poverty”, he said in reply to a question about the British rule in India.

Riaz Haq said...

#Padmaavat: #Malaysia Bans Controversial
#Indian Film – Variety

Malaysia has barred controversial Indian period drama “Padmaavat” from receiving a theatrical release. The announcement by Malaysia’s National Film Censorship Board (LPF) was made Saturday.

Its “not approved” ruling gives no explanation for the ban. But local media quoted LPF chairman Mohd Zamberi Abdul Aziz as saying: “The storyline of the film touches on the sensitivities of Islam. That in itself is a matter of grave concern in Malaysia, a Muslim-majority country.” The film as directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali sees a Muslim sultan waging war in order to be able to win a beautiful Hindu princess of the Rajput warrior class.

In India, the film was banned for two months after protests by Rajputs, but eventually was released last Thursday amid some violence by protesters. India’s censors required a title change and a disclaimer explaining that the film was not based on historical fact.

Salah A. said...

I agree with you for the most part regarding what is going on in India these days (especially since Modi became PM). But, what I don’t understand is the fierce (and sometimes violent) demonstrations in that country by the right-wing Hindu nationalists, rajputs, etc. against the movie since the rajputs and their culture, history, etc. are being depicted very positively, whereas the Muslims are being portrayed in a very negative way. So, actually it should be Muslims in India who should be demonstrating against their ‘unkind’ portrayal in the movie. Your thoughts, please.

Also, accept for a few well-known writers (Audrey Truschke, Shasi Throor, etc.) why aren’t there more (‘scholar-type’) people who can/would present a counter-narrative about past Muslim rule in India, and present day Muslim societies, their achievements in the South Asian subcontinent.

Riaz Haq said...

Salah: " why aren’t there more (‘scholar-type’) people who can/would present a counter-narrative about past Muslim rule in India, and present day Muslim societies, their achievements in the South Asian subcontinent."

The Brits have dominated the discourse on Indian history for a couple of centuries and claimed lots of unsuspecting victims in both India and Pakistan, including liberal Hindus and Muslims

The tide is now starting to turn with the Hindutva excesses and their justifications based on British distortions.

I hope we’ll see more scholarly scrutiny building up on the work of Truschke and Tharoor

Sika said...

I don't buy your line. Alauddin's wife and father-in-law are portrayed positively. So is the nephew, the Mughals - all Muslim. The court Hindu Brahmin Priest is portrayed very negatively and so is the first Rajput queen. My father is an Indian Muslim involved with Bansali. Please don't be so alarmist.

Riaz Haq said...

How Hindu nationalists devoured India

Shikha Dalmia

Loosely based on an epic poem by a 16th century Muslim Sufi poet, the movie's cinematic sophistication — it is shot in 3-D with absolutely breathtaking scenes of courtly pomp set in medieval India — contrasts sharply with its crude and cartoonish characters. The film isn't a clash between mere good and evil, but utmost perfection and complete depravity as embodied by Singh, the Hindu hero, and Khilji, the Muslim villain.

The Hindu Singh, with his buff bod and kohl-smeared eyes, is a paragon of Rajput virtue who treats women like queens (of which he has two), moves with grace, deals with matters of state with flawless judgment, conducts himself with decorum, and fights with valor and integrity. Twice he foregoes the opportunity to kill the unarmed Khilji because that would have meant violating the Rajput code of honor.

The Muslim Khilji, by contrast, is not just dastardly, but a savage lech. He is a sadist who gets a sexual high from humiliating his minions. On the day of his wedding, he is off jumping other women. He is cruel toward family and friends and happily turns on them for the slightest advantage. He doesn't dine from shining utensils sitting serenely in the traditional lotus position like the cultured Rajputs. He hunches over a table grabbing large pieces of meat with his bare hands, tearing the flesh with his teeth.

And he believes that for victory in war, no tactic is too ignoble. After killing Singh on the battlefield through treachery, he races to claim his prize. But Padmaavati, herself a paragon of virtue, calmly leads 800 women into a fiery cauldron in an act of mass self-immolation that Rajput widows were expected to perform to protect their — and their husbands' — honor. (This dénouement has rightly incensed Indian feminists struggling against traditional attitudes that measure a woman's worth by her devotion to her husband.)

It is not clear that Padmaavati ever existed, but Singh and Khilji were real historical figures and, unsurprisingly, much more nuanced than the movie's ridiculous caricatures. But literally every Hindu in the film, except the king's Brahmin tutor, is upright, humane, and decent — and every Muslim, but for Khilji's wife, is craven, randy, and slothful.

Such demeaning portrayals would be controversial under any circumstances. But today, when Muslims (and other religious minorities) are under siege in India, they are downright irresponsible.

Casual bigotry against Muslims has always existed in India. But since Modi assumed office, the situation has gotten considerably worse. Hindu nationalism's singular project is to restore Hindu pride and identity by avenging historic harms, real and imagined, inflicted on Hindus by "Muslim invaders" who ruled the country for centuries.

Lynching of Muslims suspected of consuming beef — which is taboo for Hindus — have become commonplace. And in recent years, paranoid Hindus have taken to accusing Muslim men of engaging in "love jihad" — or converting Hindu women by seducing them into marriage. (Christians face analogous allegations.) Hardly a day goes by when Hindu thugs don't beat up a Hindu-Muslim couple somewhere in the country. Last month, a court actually annulled a marriage between a Muslim man and a 25-year-old Hindu woman in med school. The court concluded that a woman of her station and background could not possibly in her right mind have consented to such a nuptial without being "brainwashed," her protestations that she was in love with her husband notwithstanding.

Given all of this, you would probably think that Muslims would be protesting this movie, directed by a Hindu with an all-Hindu cast, for feeding every single rabid anti-Muslim stereotype. Instead, it is Hindu extremists who have taken to the streets.

Ejaz N. said...

Do you notice that too? "Indeed, a selective survey of 41 films had concluded that 75.60 per cent of them portrayed Muslims negatively, 12.20 per cent positively, and the rest were ‘mixed.’ Be that as it may, Muslims are no longer Rahim chachas, rib-tickling Hyderbadi chefs (Mehmood, Gumnaam, 1963), kindly daai maas ( the daijaan nanny of Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham, 2001). Instead, largely, they’re shown as terrorists without delving into the reasons why." ~

Riaz Haq said...

Bollywood, please spare us your Muslim stereotyping by Milia Ali

Films are powerful tools that shape ideas, attitudes and social norms. But as any art form, the message can be diffused or even distorted if it's not presented in the right way. In general, movies produced in Bollywood are not inspiring or stimulating — most of them defy logic and common sense. But sometimes they manage to touch a cord — unfortunately it could be the wrong cord. I must admit that once in a while I enjoy Bollywood entertainers, simply because they make no pretences about projecting “real life”. Hence, when a friend invited me to watch Raees I accepted, looking forward to a fun evening of laughter and light chatter.

I will refrain from commenting on the quality of the film since it's beyond the purview of this column. What irked me is the stereotyped portrayal of the Muslim characters. The story centres on the life of a Robin Hood style mobster Raees played by Shah Rukh Khan. Interestingly, Raees, his sidekicks and rival dons are predominantly Muslim, creating the impression that the Indian underworld is entirely controlled by Muslims. Shah Rukh's surma-eyed, kurta-clad new avatar was charming and impressive. But his bloody, self-flagellating appearance as a mourner in a Moharram procession was too much for my palate. It evoked all kinds of negative connotations, especially now when Islam is projected by the media as a violent and “bloodthirsty” religion. As if that was not enough, we were subjected to a 10 minute (or what seemed like 10 minutes) brawl between Shah Rukh and a group of butchers in a bazaar with pieces of meat, and human and animal blood splattering all over the screen. This raw display of flying flesh and blood was a perfect gift for the RSS, who label Muslims as beef-eating savages and are advocating a ban on cow slaughter!

The movie could have picked up some traction with its diversion toward the Gujarat riots, but this thread was unfortunately sidetracked. On the contrary, by a strange twist of the plot, it was revealed that a Muslim underground don was involved in a major terrorist attack on the country, killing and maiming hundreds!

Bollywood's depiction of Muslim stereotypes is not new. In the late 60s and 70s, I remember watching Muslim socials (as they were then called) that came straight out of the studios and had no connection to reality. They were popular because they showcased a surreal world where the hero (usually a nawab's son) fell in love with the marble white (sang-e-marmar) hands of the burka-clad heroine whose face was revealed to him halfway through the film. After several twists and turns of mixed identities, the story ended happily. There was also the popular genre of the proverbial courtesan (always Muslim ) rescued by the hero after a three-hour long tamasha with conspiring brothel madams, devious pimps and “khandani” fathers trying to preserve their family honour by disavowing the smitten, prodigal son!

The question that continues to puzzle me is: Why are Muslims usually depicted as veiled beauties, dancing girls, nawabs, emperors, princesses, gangsters and terrorists! The Bombay film industry has given us many iconic directors, scriptwriters and actors who are Muslim. Yet it is hard to name a memorable movie that has “normal” Muslim characters with normal dreams and aspirations — like the boy or girl next door.

Riaz Haq said...

“Very few films go against Muslim stereotypes”
Mohammad Ali

As an industry Bollywood resists movies which will break stereotypes of Muslims as terrorists, argued filmmaker Subhas Kapoor while speaking at a function organised to mark 25 years of the Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust.

While talking about the “Trajectory of the Secular/Communal Impulse in Indian Cinema”, the Jolly LLB director pointed out there were very few films which go against the established Muslim stereotypes.

“Who is a Muslim character in Bollywood today? He is a terrorist and if the filmmaker is progressive then the terrorist is shown dying while trying to save the flag,” the filmmaker said.

While mentioning cases of innocent Muslim youths being framed in terror cases in which later they get acquitted, Mr. Kapoor shared his future plans to make movies which challenge the perception of Muslims as terrorists.

He talked about his desire to make ‘ Pandit Saleem Mohammad Chaturvedi’ , a movie where a Brahman youth gets killed in a fake encounter.

“There is a lot of resistance if one wanted to change that perception. When I discussed my plan for the movie, senior producers frankly told me that it was not possible to make such a movie and it may lead to communal riots,” he said.

But at the same time, the filmmaker said, Bollywood remains one of the most secular spaces to work without any strong biases. And there is competition between Kapoors and Khans to get the Eid slot for the release of their films.

Posing a rhetorical question as to when will the situation change, the filmmaker said the answer lies in the society, the domain outside the film industry.

While adding to the filmmakers’ argument, one of the trustees of SAHMAT Sohail Hashmi said the Muslim character in Hindi cinema has to pay for not going to Pakistan.

“Muslim characters are drunks, poets or terrorists. Where do we have a hero who is Muslim? Normally a Muslim character has to die saving a Hindu hero. The opposite is quite rare,” he said.

While talking about how reality was distorted to suit stereotyping of Muslims, Mr. Hashmi mentioned Sarfarosh, a movie which talks about Pakistan-sponsored terrorism . The origins of the movie lies in the attack by Shiv Sena on a ghazal concert of Ghulam Ali.

Riaz Haq said...

#India Should Be Grateful to Alauddin #Khilji for Thwarting the #Mongol Invasions. Mongol success would have completely destroyed #Hindu civilization. #Padmavati #PadmavatiControversy … via @thewire_in

At a time when most of the medieval world was laid waste by the brutality of the Mongol armies, Khilji kept India – and its culture and civilisation – safe.

What is not well-known, however, is that Khilji, for all his faults, saved India from a fate much worse than even his own oppressive rule – that of the murderous Mongols, who tried to invade the Indian subcontinent six times during his reign as the sultan of Delhi, and failed miserably, thanks to his brilliance as a general, the quality, discipline, and bravery of his army and its commanders, and their superior military tactics.

What the Mongol invaders inflicted on Persia, the Caliphate of Baghdad, Russia, and elsewhere is well documented – genocide, the destruction of infrastructure, and the destruction of native culture, literature, and religious institutions. Their habit of leaving conquered countries as wastelands that would not spring back for at least a hundred years, and their tendency to rule even the regions they settled in, such as Russia, in an exploitative and backward way, are well-known to historians and laypersons alike.

Against this backdrop, one can safely argue that Alauddin Khilji, for all his faults, actually saved the syncretic culture of the Indian subcontinent of that time – which included Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, and Jain subcultures – from enormous destruction, even if preserving the culture of India may not have been what motivated his resistance to the Mongols.

Indeed, Khilji is a classic study in the layered and complex nature of historical figures whom it is impossible to portray in the black-and-white terms that modern politics seems to demand. Khilji is rightly viewed negatively for his cruelty and brutality; but he should also, in fairness, be seen as the saviour of Hindustan that he unwittingly ended up being, by repelling the formidable and ruthless Mongol hordes.


For the past month, Rajasthan has been convulsed by a controversy over the Bollywood movie, Padmavati, based on Padmavat – a prose-poem written by Malik Muhammad Jayasi in 1540 CE which uses Alauddin Khilji’s conquest of Chittor in 1303 CE and his supposed obsession with Rani Padmini of Chittor as a backdrop for its ficitional tale.

None of the politicians and activists accusing the film maker of denigrating the honour of the Rajput queen of Chittor, Padmini, and glorifying the “Muslim conqueror Khilji” has even seen the film yet.

Much of the controversy is fuelled by ill-feeling towards Khilji, based on the fact that he was an oppressive ruler to his subjects, who were mostly Hindu. So the possibility of romance – or even unrequited love – between a Muslim “villain” and a Hindu queen being depicted on screen, even as a fantasy, as has been rumoured, infuriates Hindu right-wing groups.

Dawud said...

Wow, so the “good invaders “ prevented the “bad invaders”. Such generosity to protect what they captured.

Makes a good bedtime story for kids :)

Ahmad F. said...

They came anyway. The Mughals were Mongols.

Riaz Haq said...

Ahmad: " They came anyway. The Mughals were Mongols"

The Mongols were illiterate and uncivilized.

The Mughals were a later civilized version of the Mongols.

The Mughals enriched India by all genuine historical accounts while Mongols laid waste to the places they invaded.

India got its reputation as "golden bird" during the Mughal rule.

The most lasting Mughal influence on India can be found in India's architecture, literature, poetry, music, cuisine, etc etc.

The biggest , most iconic and most lucrative tourist attractions in India were built by Muslims.

Muslims from Arabia and Persia coined terms like Hindu and Hindustan that are celebrated by Hindutva today.

Dawud said...

Historic and magnificent buildings have existed in India for centuries.

Mugals filled their treasuries using local wealth by collecting taxes, etc.

When one accumulates such huge resources, it is easy to find great artisans to build. It would have been different scenario had they brought in wealth from their lands to build and beautify India. No wonder that Emperor Shahjehan emptied his treasury in his quest of building the Taj Mahal. He paid the price as his son had him imprisoned.

Riaz Haq said...

Dawud: "Historic and magnificent buildings have existed in India for centuries. Mugals filled their treasuries using local wealth by collecting taxes, etc."

1. India’s top 10 tourist attractions in terms of tourism dollars were built by Hindu king or raja ever built anything as beautiful and iconic as the Taj Mahal

2. All of the Hindustani music gharanas are Muslim

3. Biryani, the most popular dish in India owes itself to Muslims

4. Tandoori meats and nan were introduced to India by Muslims

5. India’s textile industry that made and exported the world’s finest muslins was started by Muslims...the Brits singled it out for destruction

Arshad M. said...

Doesn't matter what Mughal did for India, they were invaders ..

Riaz Haq said...

Arshad: "Doesn't matter what Mughal did for India, they were invaders .."

Wrong....only Babar was an invader. All others were born and raised in India. Several had Hindu mothers.

They were as Indian as anyone else.

Ahmad F. said...

India under the Mughals had begun declining and to blame that on the British is a stretch. To argue that India under the Hindus after 1947 would have done better under the Muslims is even a bigger stretch.

Riaz Haq said...

Ahmad: "India under the Mughals had begun declining and to blame that on the British is a stretch. To argue that India under the Hindus after 1947 would have done better under the Muslims is even a bigger stretch"

Your statement is an opinion based on misinformation.

Assessment by serious scholars who have done research on this subject differs strongly from yours

Among the scholars whose work you need to read are American historian Audrey Truschke and Indian writer-diplomat Sashi Tharoor who have published recently

I suggest you also need to study the work of
Economist Angus Madden

Riaz Haq said...

Soni Wadhwa 14 July 2017 Non-Fiction, Reviews
“A Book of Conquest: The Chachnama and Muslim Origins in South Asia” by Manan Ahmed Asif

Chachnama, and its discussion of Chach as a just ruler, was incorporated in subsequent regional histories Masum’s Tarikh-i Masumi (1600) and Qani’s Tuhfat ul-Kiram (eighteenth century). Chachnama also finds a mention in Firishta’s history of cluster of regions in India, Gulsham-i Ibrahimi/Tar’ikh (1606-16). It is with Alexander Dow’s summary/translation that Chachnama came to be seen as “exposing” the origins of the “brutal” and “despotic” “Mahommedan empire in India”. Dow’s attempt was a part of larger project of conquest of Sindh by the British. Sindh was annexed to the empire of the East India Company in 1843. James Mill’s History of British India (1817) draws upon Dow’s interpretation to package the political arrival of Arabs as the history of Islam in India and to frame the British rule as enlightened and civilized. The British were manufacturing a Hindu past and thereby a 19th-century present that needed to be “rescued” from the Muslims.

Asif studies the aftermath of Chachnama and argues that it is misunderstood and misclassified as a work of history. It claims to be a translation of an earlier Arabic text but that claim is, as Asif argues, a gesture in gaining currency, legitimacy and authority in the period it was written—the 13th century.

Asif’s critical reading of Chachnama goes on to substantiate his opening sentence: “Beginnings are a seductive necessity”. In claiming to be a work of history, an authentic account that originates in an Arabic text written in 8th century, the author of Chachnama, Ali Kufi, strategically positions his creation to be perceived as carrying a certain magnitude. Asif demonstrates that this self-styling as history cannot be taken at its face value. He systematically makes a case for studying the case as a text of political theory after comparing it with other texts in the genres of so-called “conquest narratives” and “advice literature”.

Chachnama fails on all the points of reference of a conventional conquest narrative. To begin with, it does not describe all the conquests of the protagonist’s, that is, Qasim’s, achievements. The title “Chachnama” itself is inconsistent with a work purported to be about the conquests of Qasim. Asif shows that the text is a work of political theory and is concerned with dos and don’ts of governance, justice, ethics, kingship and warfare:

Chachnama argues that recognizing forms of difference and translating them into politically viable structures allows for communities to coexist. Chachnama’s theory of making difference commensurable and citing precedents is remarkable from a text that is understood as a conquest narrative.


Asif closes his book with the statement, “The stories we tell have consequences” after providing an extraordinary account of the kinds of stories left out of about thirteen centuries of the story of Islam in India: the stories of the women in Chachnama, and the strength of their participation in the definition of right conduct, or the stories of Buddhism, or the stories of the violence that Qasim did not commit.

The nineteenth century distortion of a text continues to have repercussions on national identity and communal harmony in South Asia and all around the world. The notion that Muslims are outsiders and thereby have a separate identity had been the premise behind the demand for the creation of Pakistan. It has also been used by the Hindu right to avenge the “humiliation” of its past. Muhammad bin Qasim’s invasion is time and again invoked to provoke and justify terrorist actions. Asif’s book is a timely reminder that the questions of origins cannot be answered categorically and need to scrutinized carefully.

Riaz Haq said...

#India deputy rep at #UN: #Indian civilization built on "waves of #migration". "Science confirms that all of us are migrants. The deep and the more recent history of our migration and mixed ancestry is, in fact, recorded in our genes," via @timesofindia

India has acknowledged here at an international forum that its civilization was built upon successive waves of migration like most countries and it was a scientific fact.
"The Indian civilization has been built upon successive waves of migration throughout history comprising traders, soldiers, missionaries, communities escaping persecution, artists and academics and artisans seeking better opportunities," India's Deputy Permanent Representative Tanmaya Lal said on Monday.
"This mega diversity of our peoples is among our greatest strength," he said at a session of the intergovernmental negotiations on a global compact on migration.
The statement comes amid heated debates in India about historic migrations, some that happened eons ago.
Lal did not get into the debate or into the specific theories or peoples, but made a general statement, which mentioned "soldiers" among the wave of migrants.
He pointed out that migrations were a global phenomenon throughout history and nations have emerged through this inter-mingling.
"Most nation states and societies have been built upon waves of migration over the past several centuries," he said.
"Science confirms that all of us are migrants. The deep and the more recent history of our migration and mixed ancestry is, in fact, recorded in our genes," Lal added.
"Migration has continued to expand and is now aided by the integration of economies over the last few decades," he said.
Speaking of the benefits to the world through migration, he cited the example of Mahatma Gandhi, who studied in England and worked in South Africa, saying he is "among the most well-known international migrants who contributed hugely to our collective progress."
Lal also mentioned the many Nobel Prize-winners of Indian descent "who made seminal contribution to science" as well as foreign-born scientists, inventors, businesspersons, artistes, sportspersons, authors, academics, doctors and political leaders "who have made an indelible mark not only on societies where they lived but globally."

Negotiations are taking place for a global agreement to facilitate safe, orderly and regular international migration that is to be concluded in December in Marrakesh, Morocco.

Lal tried to dispel what he considered two widely held misconceptions about India and migrations

While India is considered to be among the top countries of origin for migrants globally, the rate of emigration from India is less than half of the world's average, he said.
"It is much lesser known and appreciated that India is also among the major countries of destination, as also a transit country, for migrants largely from our neighbourhood," he added.

Riaz Haq said...

What the Zaira Wasim controversy reveals about contemporary India
The teenage Muslim actress's decision to quit Bollywood for faith reasons brought India's Islamophobia to the fore.

On Sunday, Zaira Wasim, an 18-year-old Kashmiri Muslim Bollywood actress, caused a stir in India by announcing her decision to "disassociate" from the film industry. The actor took to Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter to declare that while the five years of being in the industry had brought her a "lot of love, support and applause", it had also led her to a "path of ignorance" as she had transitioned out of "imaan" (faith) and her relationship with her religion.

In her native Kashmir, however, many were less concerned with a young girl acting, as they were with her participation in an industry that is seen as being aligned with Indian national interests; Islamophobic; and misrepresentative of the Kashmiri struggle against Indian rule. Bollywood celebrities came to her defence, and Wasim was lauded as a role model of integration for Kashmiri youth, a nomenclature that Wasim herself resisted at the time



Bollywood is certainly not a reputable industry. It is ensnared by nepotism, rampant sexual harassment, and drug and alcohol abuse. It thrives on jingoism (as seen in the most recent incident over the Pulwama attacks), materialism, and scandal.

When it comes to the role of women, Bollywood is also hardly a source of female empowerment, a modern Constitution notwithstanding. Actresses are literally paraded around as "item numbers" and as with general celebrity culture, pressured to fit normative bodily ideals. Female stars are routinely harassed to lose weight in order to remain relevant. Marriage is often a death sentence for women in lead roles.

A number of stars, including Deepika Padukone and Wasim herself in 2018, have gone public with their struggle with depression and anxiety.

Research has also identified significant gender bias, stereotyping, and acts of sexual violence against women in Bollywood films, and the effect they have on how people behave in real life, including the phenomenon of eve teasing.

With this in mind, why is it so difficult for people to accept the kinds of struggles that led to Wasim's decision, especially given the young age in which she entered the industry? Why is Wasim's choice to leave considered regressive, but not an industry that is sexist and patriarchal, thriving on the objectification of women? Furthermore, why is criticism directed towards an 18-year-old Muslim actress, and not the countless Bollywood stars that have cosied up to the Hindu nationalist government of Narendra Modi, under whose watch lynching of Muslims in India has become rampant? Besides a handful of notable exceptions, where is the outrage over the actual radicalisation of the Indian public? If liberal journalists like Lakshmi and Dutt cast aspersions on the legitimate and constitutionally protected beliefs of others, it is little wonder that the Muslim polity in India can be treated with disdain.


The irony is that in a world that is so obsessed with a Muslim woman's agency, when Muslim women do express that agency in ways that do not seek to disparage or distance themselves from their religious faith, they are deemed to have undergone indoctrination or radicalisation.

What the response to Wasim reveals once more is that one has to absolve oneself of any sense of Muslim-ness to be accepted into the odd terrain of secular and Hindutva fascism that undergirds contemporary India.

And while the attention has been on Wasim, perhaps the limelight should be on Bollywood and why an 18-year-old Muslim woman from a conflict zone on the cusp of superstardom would choose to step away from its clutches.

Riaz Haq said...

Hail the #Hindu Male! How #Bollywood Is Selling #Hindutva as #History. The makers of Tanhaji and Panipat are both following the template put in place by Sanjay Leela Bhansali in Padmavat (2018) and Bajirao Mastani (2015). #Islamophobia #Modi #India #BJP

Films often reflect the politics of their time. If the Nehruvian era witnessed films with a socialist bent like Do Bigha Zameen and Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hai , Narendra Modi-led BJP’s reign has seen a series of Bollywood films projecting a sense of muscular nationalism.

Films focusing on counter-terrorism like Uri: The Surgical Strike and Baby are the most obvious examples of films glorifying the Indian State. More important are a series of period dramas, mostly set in medieval India, that push the narrative of Hindu nationalism.

This was evident in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmavat (2018) and Bajirao Mastani (2015) and the latest examples of this are upcoming films Panipat : The Great Betrayal and Tanhaji: The Unsung Hero.

Let’s begin with Tanhaji, whose trailer was released on Tuesday, 19 November.

How a Maratha Vs Rajput Battle Became Communal
When actor Ajay Devgn released the trailer, he labelled it as “The surgical strike that shook the Mughal Empire”. The same tagline featured in the trailer as well.

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The filmmakers’ use of the “surgical strike” analogy appears to be a deliberate ploy to equate the battle between Marathas and Mughals to India’s tensions with Pakistan. The underlying narrative, obviously, is ‘Hindu vs Muslim’.

But the Battle of Kondhana (now Sinhagad near Pune) of 1670, on which the film is based, was anything but a religious one.

The battle’s main protagonists were Tanaji Malusare, a Koli General of Chhatrapati Shivaji and Udaybhan Singh Rathod, the Rajput Commander fighting for the Mughal Empire. There was no Hindu-Muslim angle.
This fascinating battle is a part of Marathi folklore and its most dramatic aspects are how the Marathas used a monitor lizard to scale the hill fort, the duel between Tanaji and Udaybhan, and Chhatrapati Shivaji’s remark after the victory: “Gadh aala pann sinh gela” (We won the fort but lost a lion [Tanaji])”.

But the filmmakers appear to have deliberately tried to present the battle as being one of ‘good vs evil’, ‘Hindu vs Muslim’ and also one between Indian nationalism and foreign occupation.

The poster itself shows Tanaji, played by Devgn, looking visibly Hindu with a tilak, while Udaybhan, played by Saif Ali Khan, is made to almost look like a Muslim, with a beard and no religious markers. This, despite the fact that the both of them were Hindu.

Official poster of Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior.
Official poster of Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior.
(Photo: Accessed by The Quint)
In the poster and throughout the trailer, the Maratha side is depicted with hues of yellow and saffron while the Mughal side is projected as dark and eerie. The Marathas are shown wearing white or saffron, while the Mughals are invariably in black or green, clearly in line with the “Good vs Evil” and “Hindu vs Muslim” theme.

Also Read : Top Entertainment News: Ajay & Saif-Starrer ‘Tanhaji’ Trailer Out

The obsession with Bhagwa (saffron) is stressed repeatedly throughout the trailer.

Tanaji’s mother is shown as saying, “Jab tak Kondhana me phir se bhagwa nahi lehrata, hum joote nahi pehnenge” (I won’t wear shoes until there’s a saffron flag atop Kondhana).

Then, a captured Tanaji tells Udaybhan, “Har Maratha paagal hai Swaraj ka, Shivaji Raje ka, bhagwe ka” (Every Maratha is mad about self-rule, Shivaji and saffron).

Riaz Haq said...

Indian historian Rmila Thapar:

As with all nationalisms of all kinds, Hindu religious nationalism also turned to history. But interestingly, it appropriated the two dominant colonial theories – the Aryan foundation of Indian civilization and the two-nation theory. These they now describe as the indigenous history of India. Ironically, it is claimed that these histories are cleansed of the cultural pollution of Indian historians influenced by Western ideas! That their own ideas are rooted in colonial theories is conveniently ignored.

The core of this ideology is the identity of the Hindu. The Hindu is the only one who can claim the territory of British India as the land of his ancestry – pitribhumi, and the land of his religion – punyabhumi. Muslims and Christians are described as foreigners since they came from outside the territory of British India and their religions originated in other lands. The ancestors of the Hindu and his religion having been indigenous to India, he, therefore, is the primary citizen. The true claimants to the ancient civilization can only be Hindus, descendants of the Aryans, and this is one reason why it has to be proved that the Aryans were indigenous to India, irrespective of whether they were or not. Being indigenous, they are the inheritors of the land. There are, however, glitches in this argument. Those of us who have pointed out the problems get our daily dose of abuse on the internet, and we are described as ignorant JNU professors and worse, even if in fact most are not from JNU.


The point that I am trying to make is that the reading and interpretation of the past requires a trained understanding of the sources and a sensitivity to understanding what has been written. The political requirements of today cannot be imposed on the history of the past. To maintain a generalized statement that the period of the last thousand years was one of the victimization and enslavement of the Hindus by the Muslims is historically unacceptable. This kind of generalization feeds communal nationalism. That is why I am cautioning against it. Unfounded generalizations have to be replaced by analytical history.

Riaz Haq said...

Can #India's #Bollywood Survive #Modi? #Muslims have always had a disproportionate influence in Bollywood. Actors such as Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan, and Aamir Khan have towered over the landscape of #Indian #cinema for the past 30 years. #BJP hates it.

“Everybody is just shit-scared and wanting to lie low,” a woman who is closely involved with the industry told me recently. “This is such a vindictive government.” The day before we spoke, tax authorities had raided the home and offices of one of the country’s finest directors, along with those of an actor he worked with. Both are outspoken government critics, and the raid was widely seen as politically motivated.

As we talked, a director friend sent me a vanishing message on Signal, the encrypted-communications platform, about a case before India’s Supreme Court. A senior Amazon executive in India was facing arrest, along with others, for a nine-part political drama called Tandav, which includes a portrayal of the Hindu god Shiva that some found objectionable. The director of the series had apologized, and removed the offending scene. And according to the message I received, the court had declined to offer protection (a decision it later revised). “The problem,” one senior executive for a major streaming service told me later, “is that the director is Muslim and the actor is Muslim.”


Bollywood has been central to the creation of India’s national myth. Its movies are full of dance and song, but their genius lies in the ability to weave serious issues—social justice, women’s rights, gay rights, interreligious marriage—into entertainment. Bollywood films are at once commercial and political. They epitomize the pluralism of India.

And in today’s political climate, that makes them a target. In ways reminiscent of the old Hollywood blacklist, the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is using powerful tools to curtail the creative freedom of Bollywood—in particular the influence of Muslims, who have an outsize presence in the industry. The measures pushed by the Modi government include indiscriminate tax investigations, trumped-up accusations against actors and directors, intimidation and harassment in response to certain movies and TV shows, and the chilling rap of law enforcement at the door. Fearing worse to come, Bollywood has remained mostly silent in the face of the government’s catastrophic response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Riaz Haq said...

Alauddin Khilji was one of India’s greatest kings and one of the world’s greatest military geniuses.
He was born in Delhi in 1266 AD (and hence an Indian; not a foreign invader) and ruled as Sultan of Delhi from 1296 AD – 1316 AD. Khilji greatly expanded the empire that he inherited from his uncle.
during his rule, the Mongols of the Chagatai Khanate invaded India. Khilji, by his military brilliance, managed to defeat the Mongols not once, but *five* times: in 1298 AD (led by Ulugh Khan, and inflicting 20,000 casualties on the Mongols), 1299 AD in Sindh (led by Zafar Khan), 1299 AD in Delhi (leading the army himself against the Mongols), 1305 AD (led by Malik Nayak, and inflicting 8000 casualties on the Mongols), and 1306 AD (led by Malik Kafur); and a “draw” in the sixth Mongol invasion of 1303 AD (again personally leading the army), where the Mongols were unable to defeat Khilji, but were able to sack Delhi.
This was a military feat unprecedented in those days, because the Mongols were an unstoppable force wherever else they went. No one in the rest of the world – whether the Russian Empire or the mighty Persian empire or the Baghdad Caliphate – could stand up to the dreaded Mongols. Khilji defeated them 5 times and had a draw in a 6th confrontation. The armies of the Delhi sultanate under Khilji were some of the most disciplined and well-trained in the world, and that is why they could defeat the Mongols time and again.

Riaz Haq said...

The (Bollywood) film (Sooryavanshi) does not even pretend to mask its agenda — which is the right-wing Hindu nationalist agenda of Modi’s government. It justifies the abrogation of the special status accorded to Kashmir, where thousands of youth were detained and an Internet blackout was imposed in 2019. Like the government, the film argues that the abrogation of Article 370 of the Indian constitution has wiped out terrorism from the valley.

If the filmmakers had read any news about Kashmir, they could have had a brush with reality. But who wants to talk about reality when the purpose is propaganda?

Propaganda sells, obviously. News just gets in the way.

Recently the police in India filed a case against 102 Twitter accounts that include journalists, activists and lawyers who spoke out against the anti-Muslim violence that unfolded in the northeastern state of Tripura in October. Hindu nationalists vandalized mosques and attacked Muslim homes, but the Tripura police went after those who spoke against it, accusing them of sedition.

For weeks in New Delhi, Muslim Friday prayers have been obstructed by Hindu nationalists. The Muslims were finally displaced, and a grand Hindu prayer service was organized in the presence of a leader of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Nov. 5.

In this context, a film like “Sooryavanshi” is not just entertainment. The film makes a point of repeating attacks carried out by Muslims, ignoring the numerous episodes of violence carried out by Hindu radicals. Kumar’s protagonist speaks about the 1993 blasts in Mumbai but conveniently ignores the 1992 anti-Muslim carnage that preceded it. He conveniently ignores the 2002 riots of Gujarat, the Malegaon blasts of 2006 that killed Muslims after Friday prayers and the Malegaon blasts of 2008, where retired officers in the Indian army were implicated.

In India, Muslim seminaries and organizations are being hounded by the Modi government for allegedly spreading terror in the country using foreign money. In the film, a Muslim scholar and priest who runs an organization is seen as the mastermind of a terrorist nexus that receives funding from Pakistan. The filmmakers should have at least given writing credits to Modi and his allies.

Disappointingly, the film is produced by Karan Johar, a well-respected director who made a film called “My Name Is Khan.” That movie addressed the demonization of Muslims post-9/11. But that was before Modi. Johar’s new worldview is celebrated by the government; he recently received one of country’s highest civilian honors in the presence of the prime minister and his powerful minister of home affairs, Amit Shah.

“Sooryavanshi” is dangerous. After watching it, it’s impossible not to think of Nazi Germany, where Hitler cultivated a film industry that paid obeisance to him and made propaganda films against Jews. In a sane world, India’s film industry — and actors, directors and producers from all over the world — would denounce it for its criminal and brazen Islamophobia. But maybe I’m asking too much. If Bollywood continues this aggressive descent into nationalism and hate, it will have blood on its hands. No box office record will be able to change that.