Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Deep Divisions Mark India's Independence Day 2018

The rise of Hindutva forces is tearing India apart along caste and religious lines as the country celebrates 71 years of independence from the British colonial rule.  Hindu mobs are lynching Muslims and Dalits. A recent  Pew Research report confirms that the level of hostility against religious minorities in India is "very high", giving India a score of 9.5 on a scale from 0 to 10. Pakistan's score on this scale is 7 while Bangladesh's is 7.5.

Chart Courtesy of Bloomberg
Will India Break Up? 

In recently published "The Raisina Model",  British-Indian author Lord Meghnad Desai asks: "A country of many nations, will India break up?" The Hindu Nationalists who are blamed for deepening divisions are themselves divided on the key questions of caste, religion and trade.  Professor Walter Anderson, co-author of "The RSS: The View to the Inside" raises the specter of "a battle between Hindutva and Hinduism".

The Raisina Model:

In "The Raisina Model", Lord Meghand Desai says that India's breakup can not be ruled out. Specifically, he points to three issues that could lead to it:

1.  Cow protection squads are killing Muslims and jeopardizing their livelihoods.  The current agitation about beef eating and gau raksha is in the Hindi belt just an excuse for attacking Muslims blatantly. As most slaughterhouses in UP are Muslim-owned, owners and employees of these places are prime targets.

2. India has still not fashioned a narrative about its nationhood which can satisfy all. The two rival narratives—secular and Hindu nation—are both centred in the Hindi belt extending to Gujarat and Maharashtra at the most. This area comprises 51% of the total population and around 45% of the Muslims in India.

3. India has avoided equal treatment of unequal units. Representation in the Rajya Sabha (Upper House of Parliament) is proportional to population size. If anything, it is the smaller states that may complain about being marginalized, though so far none has. The larger states thus dominate both Houses of Parliament. It would be difficult for small states to object, much less initiate reform. In future, small states could unite to present their case for better treatment. Except for Punjab and Nagaland, there has been no attempt to challenge the status quo.

Hindutva vs Hinduism:

In  "The RSS: The View to the Inside", the author Walter Anderson brings out several areas which could lead to a split within the Hindu Nationalists. These disagreements have to do with low caste Hindus, Muslims and  foreign trade and investment policies.

1. The leadership of the the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) is drawn entirely from the upper caste Brahmins. The RSS founder Golwalkar never spoke against the caste system. The RSS opposes affirmative action, called reservations, to benefit low caste Hindus. At the same time, they want to integrate Dalits and OBCs (Other backward classes of which Prime Minister Modi is a member) into the organization to promote Hindu unity.

Anderson believes that it will be extremely difficult to reconcile Hindutva embrace of lower castes with the entrenched Hindu caste system. He says the following:

"..there will eventually be a battle between Hindutva and Hinduism. Hindutva emphasizes the oneness of Hindus, whereas ground realities are very different. Let me give an example. Following the egalitarian ideology, Tarun Vijay, an RSS ideologue and former editor of Panchjanya and Organiser, once led some Dalits into a temple in central India, where they had not been before. He was beaten up, but few in the RSS family vocally supported him. They kept mostly quiet. As one important RSS functionary put it to me, the key question is: how do we keep our organisation intact if we do move towards an egalitarian Hindu society?"

2. When RSS leader MD Deoras invited Indian Muslims to join the RSS, he argued that Muslims were mostly India-born, and therefore Indian. But he made the Muslim entry into the RSS conditional upon accepting India’s “historic culture”.  RSS leaders argue that South Indian Muslims, or Indonesian Muslims are ideal Muslims. South Indian Muslims speak the regional languages; and Indonesia, a primarily Muslim country, has the Ramayana as its national epic.

3. Many RSS ideologues oppose Prime Minister Modi's policies of promoting foreign trade and investment. They view Modi's economic policies with great skepticism.

Summary:

The rise of RSS and its affiliates in India is deepening divisions in the country along multiple fault lines, the most important being caste and religion. The RSS leadership itself is not unified on how to deal with the divisions they have created and promoted. This situation has raised the social hostilities in India to very high levels. Pew scores social hostilities against minorities in India at 9.5 on a scale from 0 to 10.  Professor Walter Anderson, co-author of "The RSS: The View to the Inside" has raised the specter of "a battle between Hindutva and Hinduism". And it has caused Lord Meghnad Desai, author of The Raisina Model, to ask the question: Will India break up?

13 comments:

Ahmad F. said...

Let me wish India and Indians the very best on this auspicious day. May they prosper and live in peace and happiness with all their neighbors.

Criticizing India on its birthday day is in bad taste.

Riaz Haq said...

Ahmad: " Criticizing India on its birthday day is in bad taste."

Research based warranted criticism of India on its Independence Day is much more of a service to India than your daily drumbeat of criticism of Pakistan, warranted or unwarranted, that you insist is service to your place of birth regardless of the occasion

Ahmad F. said...

You are, of course, entitled to your opinion.

But I seriously doubt that anyone in India sees your incessant criticisms of India as constructive or helpful.

In my view, criticism is better received if it comes from within, and not from across a hostile border.

Riaz Haq said...

Ahmad: " I seriously doubt that anyone in India sees your incessant criticisms of India as constructive or helpful."

I agree that the source of criticism does matter to the recipient.

And that applies to criticism of Pakistan as well.

But that does not and should not stop the criticism, especially if it's genuine research based criticism and seen as warranted by others.

However, it can and should be rebutted with facts, not just opinions.

Saleem B said...

Very well researched article.. Congratulations to Pew survey...and good to see Pakistan ahead of neighbors...

Riaz Haq said...

August 16, 2018, 2:00 AM IST Rohit Saran in TOI Edit Page | Edit Page, India, World | TOI

https://blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/toi-edit-page/five-wars-that-pakistan-lost-and-why-india-shouldnt-let-it-lose-another-one/

It may have looked moth-eaten to its founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah, but Pakistan was anything but that at the time of Independence. An average Pakistani was richer, lived longer and lived more safely than an average Indian for almost two decades after 1947, which is roughly the time democracy was absent in Pakistan.

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What can India offer to Prime Minister Khan that’s new, substantive and outside the immediate no-go areas of J&K and terror? We should first banish the thought that a weak Pakistan is good for us. A crippled Pakistan is only good for two things: 1. Shouting matches on TV where those criticising India are asked to migrate to Pakistan. 2. To give us a false sense of achievement in doing better than Pakistan when India’s potential-performance gap is much wider than Pakistan’s.

A less hostile public attitude toward our neighbour will allow government to take a few out-of-the box steps. For instance, Indian companies should be allowed and encouraged to hire from top Pakistan campuses, even if for one or two years. If only 30 Sensex companies hire 50 Pakistanis each, there will be 1,500 young and talented Pakistanis working and living in India benefiting, and benefiting from, the world’s 6th – and soon to be 5th – largest economy. Companies will get good talent at competitive salaries – Pakistani rupee is nearly half the value of Indian rupee. For those worrying about a job loss for Indians, 1,500 is only 0.0007% of Sensex companies’ workforce.

Imran Khan’s passport has more Indian visas than any prime minister of Pakistan. Unfortunately, India allows only the rich and powerful in Pakistan to benefit from India’s soft power. That’s counterproductive to our own interests. We should want average Pakistanis to see India as a source of good to them. They will then begin to resent whatever power comes between that ‘good’ and them – whether that power is in Rawalpindi or Islamabad or Beijing – or even Srinagar.

Aspiring cricketers in Pakistan will dream of playing in IPL if we unblocked their entry. A budding artist (actors, singers, comedians …) in that country will look forward to hitting the big stage in India, if we don’t hum and haw over granting him a visa. Pakistanis with a critical medical condition in the family should want to get treatment in India – without having to try their luck on Sushma Swaraj’s Twitter handle. Pakistan should be allowed to fill its quota of students at the South Asian University, something we committed to at the time of deciding to host this institution that could one day be the region’s most coveted.

Not one of these will be acts of charity or concession because India’s gains will be as much as Pakistan’s – if not more. This is exactly what we tell the US while arguing for easier immigration. In geopolitics there is no positive emotion as powerful as seeing your countrymen excel in another country. India has that power in its grasp today. Let’s use Imran’s prime ministership as an occasion to unleash that power.

Ahsan H. said...

Has anyone seen the play Mulk? I haven’t. I know the movie “Garam Hava”, referenced in this piece, was playing in the Bay Area a while back. I didn’t see that either. —- Ahsan

https://scroll.in/reel/889162/why-i-cried-while-watching-mulk-i-finally-know-what-it-means-to-be-a-muslim-in-india

Why I cried while watching ‘Mulk’: I finally know what it means to be a Muslim in India
Anubhav Sinha’s drama explores the Islamaphobia experienced by a family following a terrorist attack.

I cried at every humiliation that Bilal was subjected to. I lived it with him because today one hears of many Muslim men who are arrested on mere suspicion and kept in jail for ages as under trials while their innocence or guilt is established. Proof, not prejudice, should be the reason for arrest and incarceration.

I cried when I saw the words “Go to Pakistan,” written on the walls of Shahid’s house. Today, I understand what bigotry is. I encounter it often, some subtle some not so subtle. When a conversation about lynching with an old, old friend, initiated by him in the first place, ends in him asking me, “What about ISIS?” I was too shocked to give an answer, for I had no idea what mob lynching in India had to do with the barbaric not-so-Islamic ISIS in Syria. Was it because they called themselves Muslims and I am one? Wasn’t I an Indian to him any longer? Could I not question lapses in law and order in my country without being held answerable for barbaric and terror acts of Muslims everywhere in the world?

I cried when Murad Ali had to prove his patriotism and love for his mulk. I love my country and shouldn’t have to prove it, just as others of a different faith don’t need to prove their patriotism.

I cried that we have to keep fighting otherisation and that it increasingly comes down to ‘us vs them’ instead of the ‘we’ I grew up with. The ‘we’ that the Constitution guarantees us as “We the people of India”, which a character in the film reminds us of.

Rashid A. said...

I saw Garam Hava recently on Youtube. It left a big impact on me. It was a very powerful movie. It shows the life of those Muslims left behind in India as nothing but a fight against bigotry and discrimination.

Balraj Sahni played an amazing role. He was a progressive or left oriented celebrity. In fact after watching him I googled him and saw another of his movie: Do Bigha Zameen. Balraj hailed from Rawalpindi!

Riaz Haq said...

Rashid: "It shows the life of those Muslims left behind in India as nothing but a fight against bigotry and discrimination."

Modi and his Hindu Nationalists are creating conditions for yet another partition of India.

I hope Muslims join forces with Dalits and Sikhs and other non-Brahmin minorities this time to assert their rights and freedoms in an independent new state that covers most of what is now India.

Anonymous said...

Riaz Sb. Modi and company are not the first ones nor the only ones to work against Muslim interests. I remember an Indian cousin telling us in 70s that worst land reforms of India were done in UP, because that is where most Muslims were land owners.

On the other hand one of the reasons Sheikh Abdullah didn't get along with Nehru was because Abdullah's land reforms were hurting pundits of Kashmir.

Zamir

Hasan said...

Riaz sb,

While I wholeheartedly agree with your prayer for the indentured, downtrodden minorities of hindustan, I also think we need to look away from the lens of religion as the differential between the two countries.

Pakistan's minorities have served the nation with a loyalty and dedication that should make most Pakistani Muslims stop and think. Our atomic power came from the genius and determination of an Ahmadi. Our fighter pilots who won the war in 1965 included no shortage of Christians, perhaps the most famous of all being the legendary Group Captain Cecil Chaudhry.

From Karachi to Thar, from Chitral to Hazara, our ethnic and religious minorities have tirelessly given their lives to Pakistan - and often lost their lives to other Pakistanis - since the birth of the country. Let hindustan vote in one bloodthirsty fanatic after another; thanks to our Quaid-e-Azam, we no longer have anything to fear from their insecure hatreds. Our greatest fear must now be that we don't look after each and every Pakistani, regardless of gender, race or religion. Even if our neighbour burns in its own savagery, let us honour the all-inclusive Pakistan that Jinnah gifted to us.

Hasan

Riaz Haq said...

#Hindu lynch mobs killing #Muslims without fear in #Modi’s #India


https://www.washingtonpost.com/amphtml/world/asia_pacific/we-dont-have-any-fear-indias-angry-young-men-and-its-lynch-mob-crisis/2018/08/26/9a0a247a-a0aa-11e8-a3dd-2a1991f075d5_story.html?noredirect=on&__twitter_impression=true

‘We don’t have any fear’: India’s angry young men and its lynch mob crisis
By Annie GowenAugust 27, 2018 at 6:37 AM

Hindu activist Ram Kumar leads a march in honor of India’s Independence Day near Agra, India. (Ram Kumar/)
GOVARDHAN, India —The two young men at the leadership camp were soft-spoken yet assured, from well-off families, wearing aviator sunglasses and flip-flops.

The right-wing activists say they have beaten men they suspected of violating core Hindu beliefs and threatened interfaith couples because they fear Muslims are stealing their women. They say they’re ready to kill for their faith if necessary.

“Even if a life is lost, we don’t care,” said Ram Kumar, 23.

It’s been a summer of rage in India. Dozens have been killed by lynch mobs, and extremist Hindus continue to assault and kill others, many of them Muslims. In the latest viral video, religious pilgrims angered over a minor traffic incident used sticks to demolish a car as police looked on.

Much blame has been cast on India’s governing Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, with critics charging that they have encouraged violence by Hindu extremists. But India’s problem of male rage has roots beyond the strident Hindu nationalism embraced by the current government.

India has more than 600 million people under age 25, and they have greater access to technology and education than ever before. Yet millions have little hope of finding decent jobs, and a “bachelor bomb” of more than 37 million surplus men — a legacy of generations of a preference for sons and aborting female fetuses — threatens social stability for decades.


Ram Kumar, left, and Gaurav Sharma, right, at a leadership camp for Hindu activists in Govardhan, India, in June. (Annie Gowen/The Washington Post)
“People are frustrated that they are not being able to get jobs,” a leader from Modi’s party, Vasundhara Raje, told the channel CNN-News18. “There is angst which is spreading across communities and people. . . . It’s a reaction to their circumstances.”

More than 1 million job seekers enter the labor market each month, many with poor English and inadequate job skills, but the country generated only 1.8 million additional jobs last year, according to the Center for Monitoring Indian Economy, a research firm. Modi says the number of new jobs last year was closer to 7 million.

Without solid prospects, many young men are gravitating to India’s growing right-wing nationalist organizations, where they find a sense of purpose.

Over time, a stereotype of a right-wing troll has emerged: keyboard jockeys with too much time on their hands, sitting in their childhood bedrooms furiously tweeting about every perceived slight to Hinduism and Modi.

This summer, Kumar attended a leadership camp sponsored by the Hindu nationalist World Hindu Council, where he learned to protect cows, which Hindus regard as sacred, protect women’s modesty and prevent outsiders from converting Hindus to other faiths. The youths did military drills in the baking heat, slept in the spartan concrete dorm rooms, and ate lentils and rice.

Hindu activists do military marching drills at a leadership camp in Govardhan, India, in June. (Annie Gowen/The Washington Post)
Kumar, a college graduate who runs a tent rental company, and Gaurav Sharma, 22, a law student, grew up in Agra, the city of the Taj Mahal, which they see not as an ethereal white monument but as a reminder of the Mughal invaders who subjugated India’s Hindus.

Kumar said that as a boy he was shy, but after joining the Hindu nationalist movement, “I have a strange sense of confidence now. The group has taught us what is right, what we need to do for society.”

Riaz Haq said...

Indian constitution framer Ambedkar: “Democracy in #India is only a top dressing in an Indian soil which is essentially undemocratic.” It is a sham #democracy unless it wages war on #caste and #gender discrimination that is rampant. https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/when-ambedkar-and-lohia-meet-samajwad-akhilesh-yadav-5312503/

Citizens are of paramount importance in democracies and institutions are established to protect their rights. Today, each pillar of our democracy is under attack. Our administrative structure is unable to operate impartially, the state of the judiciary is such that judges of the Supreme Court have said that democracy itself is in danger and we all know the state of the media. When the institutional pillars of a democracy lose their impartiality and transparency, the country becomes a victim of partisan politics. A former judge of the Supreme Court has said that “a society not vigilant shall lose its liberties”. Therefore, it is not enough for people to vote but it is equally important to hold the government to account. As long as these institutional pillars are independent, not only will democracy be secure but the country will also prosper. Public servants in institutions are striving to do their duty despite being constantly hindered. The Opposition is the conscience-keeper of the government. It’s unfortunate that it’s being described as a daldal, or a quagmire.

There is lot of noise in the media and social media and we seem to have forgotten how to talk to each other. The nine o’clock news has become the noise o’clock news. We seem to have forgotten what the relationship between citizens, the media and a government should be. We have forgotten what the goals and responsibilities of governments are. Our country is the largest democracy in the world and its unique constitutional framework was decided by our great founding fathers, including B R Ambedkar. The Constitution placed limits on democracy precisely because, without limits, a democracy can very easily slide into anarchy and even tyranny.

A democracy must also allow for and promote different political opinions within its polity. Therein lies its beauty. However, today differences of opinion lead to being labeled anti-national. Fingers are even pointed at those who who have been honoured with the Nobel Prize. I would like to draw attention to the Bhagawat Gita. In the 32nd verse of the 6th chapter, Lord Krishna tells Arjun that the sign of a true Yogi is one who treats everyone with equality and who finds his own happiness in the happiness of others and feels pain in their pain. Indeed, Ram Manohar Lohia wrote that seeking to establish equality is as important a goal as searching for the truth. However, today people are being divided on the basis of religion, caste, gender, region and language and the seeds of animosity are being sowed amongst them. Women must play a pivotal role in the development of any society but the state has failed to ensure even basic security for them. Lohia wrote that any war on poverty is a sham unless it is also a war on caste and gender discrimination. In other words, equality, not only before the law but within society, is of paramount importance.