Saturday, August 29, 2015

Over 100 US Academics Caution Silicon Valley Against Doing Business With Modi's India

Leading South Asia experts at US universities have warned top tech firms to be cautious in doing business with India as India's Hindu Nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi prepares to visit Silicon Valley to promote "Digital India" in September 2015.

A joint statement signed by 124 professors accuses the Modi government of  "disregard for human rights and civil liberties, as well as the autonomy of educational and cultural institutions". The signatories are mostly Indian-American professors. Others include Columbia University's Akeel Bilgrami, Stanford University's Thomas Blom Hansen and the University of Chicago's Wendy Doniger, according to

Here is the full text of their statement:
As faculty who engage South Asia in our research and teaching, we write to express our concerns about the uncritical fanfare being generated over Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Silicon Valley to promote 'Digital India' on September 27, 2015.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Silicon Valley highlights the role of a country that has contributed much to the growth and development of Silicon Valley industries, and builds on this legacy in extending American business collaboration and partnerships with India. However Indian entrepreneurial success also brings with it key responsibilities and obligations with regard to the forms of e-governance envisioned by 'Digital India'.
We are concerned that the project’s potential for increased transparency in bureaucratic dealings with people is threatened by its lack of safeguards about privacy of information, and thus its potential for abuse. As it stands, 'Digital India' seems to ignore key questions raised in India by critics concerned about the collection of personal information and the near certainty that such digital systems will be used to enhance surveillance and repress the constitutionally-protected rights of citizens. These issues are being discussed energetically in public in India and abroad. Those who live and work in Silicon Valley have a particular responsibility to demand that the government of India factor these critical concerns into its planning for digital futures.
We acknowledge that Narendra Modi, as Prime Minister of a country that has contributed much to the growth and development of Silicon Valley industries, has the right to visit the United States, and to seek American business collaboration and partnerships with India. However, as educators who pay particular attention to history, we remind Mr. Modi’s audiences of the powerful reasons for him being denied the right to enter the U.S. from 2005-2014, for there is still an active case in Indian courts that questions his role in the Gujarat violence of 2002 when 1,000 died. Modi’s first year in office as the Prime Minister of India includes well-publicized episodes of censorship and harassment of those critical of his policies, bans and restrictions on NGOs leading to a constriction of the space of civic engagement, ongoing violations of religious freedom, and a steady impingement on the independence of the judiciary.
Under Mr Modi’s tenure as Prime Minister, academic freedom is also at risk: foreign scholars have been denied entry to India to attend international conferences, there has been interference with the governance of top Indian universities and academic institutions such as the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, the Indian Institutes of Technology and Nalanda University; as well as underqualified or incompetent key appointments made to the Indian Council of Historical Research, the Film and Television Institute of India, and the National Book Trust. A proposed bill to bring the Indian Institutes of Management under direct control of government is also worrisome. These alarming trends require that we, as educators, remain vigilant not only about modes of e-governance in India but about the political future of the country.
We urge those who lead Silicon Valley technology enterprises to be mindful of not violating their own codes of corporate responsibility when conducting business with a government which has, on several occasions already, demonstrated its disregard for human rights and civil liberties, as well as the autonomy of educational and cultural institutions.
Here are the names of 124 South Asian experts at US institutions who issued the statement:
Meena Alexander, Distinguished Professor of English, Hunter College and the Graduate Center, City University of New York
Arjun Appadurai, Paulette Goddard Professor of Media, Culture, and Communication, New York University
Anjali Arondekar, Associate Professor of Women’s Studies, UC Santa Cruz
Fredrick Asher, Professor of Art History and South Asian Studies, University of Minnesota
Paola Bacchetta, Associate Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies University of California, Berkeley
Sarada Balagopalan, Associate Professor of Childhood Studies, Rutgers University, Camden
Radhika Balakrishnan, Prof of Women’s and Gender Studies, Rutgers University
Shahzad Bashir, Professor of Religious Studies, Stanford University
Manu Bhagavan, Professor of History and Human Rights, Hunter College and the Graduate Center, The City University of New York
Mona Bhan Associate Professor of Sociology and Anthropology DePauw University
Srimati Basu, Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies, University of Kentucky
Prashant Bharadwaj, Associate Professor of Economics, University of California, San Diego
Nilanjana Bhattacharjya, Faculty Fellow, Barrett Honors College, Arizona State University
Nandini Bhattacharya, Professor of English, Texas A &M University, College- Station
Tithi Bhattacharya, Associate Professor of South Asian History, Purdue University
Amit R. Baishya, Assistant Professor of English, University of Oklahoma
Akeel Bilgrami, Sidney Morgenbesser Professor of Philosophy and Director, South Asian Institute, Columbia University
Purnima Bose, Associate Professor, English and International Studies, Indiana University-Bloomington
Christopher Candland, Associate Professor of Political Science, Wellesley College
Paula Chakravartty, Associate Professor, Gallatin School, & Department of Media, Culture and Communication, New York University
Shefali Chandra, Associate Professor of South Asian History Washington University, St. Louis
S. Charusheela, Associate Professor, School of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, University of Washington, Bothell
Partha Chatterjee, Professor of Anthropology and South Asian Studies, Columbia University
Indrani Chatterjee Professor of History and South Asian Studies, University of Texas, Austin
Swati Chattopadhyay Professor History of Art and Architecture, University of California, Santa Barbara
Marty Chen, School of Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School and Affiliated Professor, Harvard Graduate School of Design
Rohit Chopra, Associate Professor of Communication, Santa Clara University
Elora Chowdhury Associate Professor & Chair, Women’s and Gender Studies, University of Massachusetts, Boston
E. Valentine Daniel, Professor of Anthropology, Colombia University
Monisha Das Gupta, Associate Professor of Ethnic Studies and Women’s Studies, University of Hawaii, Manoa
Jigna Desai, Professor of Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies, University of Minnesota
Pawan Dhingra, Professor of Sociology, Tufts University
Wendy Doniger, Professor of the History of Religions, University of Chicago
Richard Falk, Professor of International Law Emeritus, Princeton University
Bishnupriya Ghosh, Professor of English University of California, Santa Barbara
Huma Ahmed-Ghosh, Professor and Chair of Women’s Studies, San Diego State University
Durba Ghosh, Associate Professor of History, Cornell University
Sumanth Gopinath, Associate Professor of Music Theory, School of Music, University of Minnesota
Nitin Govil, Associate Professor of Cinema & Media Studies, University of Southern California
Paul Greenough, Professor of History and Community and Behavioral Health and Director, South Asian Studies Program, University of Iowa
Inderpal Grewal, Professor of South Asian Studies, Yale University
Sumit Guha, Frances Higginbotham Nalle Centennial Professor of History, University of Texas, Austin
Thomas Blom Hansen, Professor of Anthropology and Director of the Center for South Asia, Stanford University
Syed Akbar Hyder, Associate Professor of South Asian Studies, University of Texas, Austin
Nalini Iyer, Professor of English, Seattle University
Priya Jaikumar, Associate Professor of Cinema and Media Studies, University of Southern California
Pranav Jani, Associate Professor of English, Ohio State University
Sheila Jasanoff, Professor of Science and Technology Studies, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government
Arun W. Jones, Associate Professor, Candler School of Theology, Emory University
May Joseph, Professor of Social Science, Pratt Institute
Priya Joshi, Associate Professor of English and Associate Director, Center for the Humanities, Temple University
Sampath Kannan, Henry Salvatore Professor of Computer and Information Science, University of Pennsylvania
Suvir Kaul, A.M. Rosenthal Professor of English, University of Pennsylvania Waqas Khwaja, Professor of English, Agnes Scott College
Naveeda Khan, Associate Professor of Anthropology, Johns Hopkins University
Nyla Ali Khan, Visiting Professor of Women’s Studies, University of Oklahoma, Norman
Satish Kolluri, Associate Professor of Communications, Pace University
Ruby Lal, Professor of Middle East and South Asian Studies, Emory University
Sarah Lamb, Professor of Anthropology and Head of the Division of Social Sciences, Brandeis University; Co-Chair of South Asian Studies
Karen Leonard, Professor of Anthropology, Emeritus, University of California, Irvine
David Lelyveld, Professor of History, Emeritus, William Paterson University
Jinee Lokaneeta, Associate Professor of Political Science and International Relations, Drew University
Ania Loomba, Catherine Bryson Professor of English, University of Pennsylvania
David Ludden, Professor of History, New York University
Ritty Lukose, Associate Professor of Anthropology, Gender and Sexuality Studies, and South Asian Studies, the Gallatin School, New York University
Sudhir Mahadevan Assistant Professor of Film Studies, Comparative Literature, Cinema and Media, University of Washington, Seattle
Tayyab Mahmud, Professor of Law and Director, Center for Global Justice Seattle University School of Law
Sunaina Maira, Professor of Asian American Studies, University of California, Davis
Bakirathi Mani, Associate Professor of English Literature, Swarthmore College
Rebecca J. Manring, Associate Professor of India Studies and Religious Studies Indiana University-Bloomington
Monika Mehta, Associate Professor, Department of English, Binghamton University
Jisha Menon, Assistant Professor of Theatre and Performance Studies, Stanford University
Kalyani Devaki Menon, Associate Professor of Religious Studies, DePaul University
Sally Engle Merry, Silver Professor of Anthropology, New York University
Raza Mir, Professor of Management, Cotsakos College of Business, William Paterson University
Deepti Misri, Associate Professor of Women and Gender Studies University of Colorado, Boulder
Chandra Talpade Mohanty, Chair and Distinguished Professor of Women’s & Gender Studies, and Dean’s Professor of Humanities, Syracuse University
Satya P. Mohanty, Professor of English, Cornell University
Megan Moodie, Associate Professor of Anthropology, University of California, Santa Cruz
Projit B. Mukharji, Martin Meyerson Assistant Professor in Interdisciplinary Studies, History & Sociology of Science, University of Pennsylvania
Madhavi Murty, Assistant Professor of Feminist Studies, University of California, Santa Cruz
Vijaya Nagarajan, Associate Professor of Theology & Religious Studies, Program in Environmental Studies, University of San Francisco
Gyanendra Pandey, Arts and Sciences Distinguished Professor of History, Emory University
Carla Petievich, Visiting Professor of South Asian Studies, University of Texas, Austin
Sheldon Pollock, Professor of South Asian Studies, Columbia University Kavita Philip, Associate Professor of History, University of California, Irvine
Vijay Prashad, George and Martha Kellner Chair of South Asian History, Trinity College
Jasbir K. Puar, Associate Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies, Rutgers University
Balakrishnan Rajagopal, Professor of Law and Development, Department of Urban Studies and Planning, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
R. Radhakrishnan, Chancellor’s Professor of English and Comparative Literature, University of California, Irvine
Gloria Raheja, Professor of Anthropology, University of Minnesota
Junaid Rana, Associate Professor of Asian American Studies, University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana
Anupama Rao, Professor of Anthropology, Barnard College
Velcheru Narayana Rao, Distinguished Visiting Professor of Middle Eastern and South Asian Studies, Emory University
Kasturi Ray, Associate Professor of Women and Gender Studies/Co-Director, South Asian Studies, San Francisco State University
M.V. Ramana, Program on Science and Global Security, Princeton University Sumathi Ramaswamy, Professor of History, Duke University
Chandan Reddy, Associate Professor of English, University of Washington, Seattle
Gayatri Reddy, Associate Professor of Women’s Studies, University of Illinois, Chicago
Parama Roy, Professor of English, University of California, Davis
Sharmila Rudrappa, Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Texas at Austin
G.S. Sahota, Assistant Professor of Literature, University of California, Santa Cruz
Yasmin Saikia, Hardt-Nickachos Chair in Peace Studies & Professor of History, Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict, Arizona State University
Arun Saldanha, Associate Professor of Geography, Environment and Society University of Minnesota
Juned Shaikh, Assistant Professor of History, University of California, Santa Cruz
Nitasha Tamar Sharma, Charles Deering McCormick Professor of Teaching Excellence and Associate Professor of African American Studies and Asian American Studies, Northwestern University
Elora Shehabuddin, Associate Professor of Humanities and Political Science, Rice University
Bhaskar Sarkar, Associate Professor of Film and Media Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara
Priya Satia, Associate Professor of History, Stanford University
Aradhana Sharma, Associate Professor of Anthropology, Wesleyan University
Snehal Shinghavi, Associate Professor of English and South Asian Studies, University of Texas, Austin
Ajay Skaria, Professor of History, University of Minnesota
Shalini Shankar, Chair and Associate Professor of Asian American Studies, Northwestern University
S. Shankar, Professor of English, University of Hawai’i at Mānoa Amritjit Singh, Langston Hughes Professor of English, Ohio University
Mytheli Sreenivas, Associate Professor of History and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, Ohio State University
Rajini Srikanth, Professor, English, University of Massachusetts Boston Nidhi Srinivas, Associate Professor of Nonprofit Management, The New School
Ajantha Subramanian, Professor of Anthropology and South Asian Studies, Harvard University
Banu Subramaniam, Professor, Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Kaushik Sunder Rajan, Associate Professor of Anthropology, University of Chicago
Raja Swamy, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, University of Tennessee Tariq Thachil, Assistant Professor of Political Science, Yale University
Ashwini Tambe, Associate Professor of Women’s Studies, University of Maryland, College-Park
Vamsi Vakulabharanam, Associate Professor of Economics, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Jyotnsa Vaid, Professor of Psychology, Texas A&M University
Sylvia Vatuk, Professor of Anthropology, Emeritus, University of Illinois, Chicago
Kamala Visweswaran, Professor of Ethnic Studies, University of California, San Diego
Kalindi Vora, Associate Professor of Ethnic Studies, University of California, San Diego
Bonnie Zare, Professor of Gender & Women’s Studies, University of Wyoming
Related Links:
India is World's Biggest Oligarchy

Gujarat Riot Victims 

Hindu Nationalists Admire Hitler

India Has World's Largest Population of Poor, Hungry and Illiterates

Pakistan Needs More Gujaratis? 

India's Israel Envy


Rks said...

Dear Riaz Bhai

the primary reason for these people to oppose Mr.Modi is more due to coercion from various radical Islamist organisations (I refer to Islamist - not Islamic) prevalent in many US universities. Most of them like CARE etc are just there funded by Saudi Arabia and being run by Pakistani students to push Islamist agenda. Nobody takes serious look at them. They were even flashing IS salute (single finger) in recent campus rallies.

Just wait till Modi sweeps the whole of Silicon valley off its feet. If he can do it in Dubai, why not USA?

Riaz Haq said...

19640909rk "..Mr.Modi is more due to coercion from various radical Islamist organisations (I refer to Islamist - not Islamic) prevalent in many US universities."

Do you know that the bulk of the signatories on the letter against Modi are Hindu professors from India? Why are they so afraid of a few "Islamists" on US campuses? Do you think their situation is even remotely like that of the professors in India who are afraid to speak their minds because of threats from Modi-loving Hindu Nationalist thugs on Indian campuses?

Ramesh said...

What is surprising about this ? These Indian professors are no different than left leaning professors in American Univ who will always find fault with America's foreign policy and support Islamic terrorism as a reactionary tool. The good thing is that , such leftism, has been thoroughly rejected in recent times in Europe, India and soon-to-be in USA tool. Cameron is hardly left leaning now. Watch until Hillary takes over.

"Just wait till Modi sweeps the whole of Silicon valley off its feet. If he can do it in Dubai, why not USA?"

True that. Only that matters, not rants

Neal said...

See, the problem is that most fellows who signed the document never bother to read it. Most sign it because some of their friends signed it. It has happened to me also. Sometimes people of my area come to me with some petition against some govt. fellow and ask me to sign it. On seeing so many signatures I also sign it not knowing what is in there. I just ensure that it will not harm me in future.

Riaz Haq said...

Neal: "See, the problem is that most fellows who signed the document never bother to read it."

The signatories are serious academics most of whom are Hindu professors from India. Do you think they would take it so lightly as to sign a serious letter so casually?

majumdar said...

So Prof sb, what are you going to do? Will you listen to your fellow academics and boycott ModiGee? Or will you hold your nose, meet him and see if you can get a deal for yourself and Pakiland? Regards

Rks said...

"Do you think their situation is even remotely like that of the professors in India who are afraid to speak their minds because of threats from Modi-loving Hindu Nationalist thugs on Indian campuses?"

There is not much Hindu nationalist activities in Indian universities as you seem to suggest. There is more of left wing politics. Kindly do some research.

Riaz Haq said...

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the Silicon Valley next month to woo its movers and shakers to provide heft to his Digitial India initiative, has met with its first roadblock with several leading academics in American universities advising IT firms to exercise caution when engaging with the Indian Government.

While Mr. Modi will be seeking to build on the Indian connect, the list of Silicon Valley giants is emblazoned by the names of Sundar Pichai chief executive officer of Google and Satya Nadella who heads Microsoft, the academics have taken the opportunity to remind them of their responsibilities to the forms of e-governance proposed by Mr Modi’s plans of digitisation. The academics, write that it does not just disregard safeguards about privacy of information but also carries with it the threat of surveillance that Indian citizens will be subjected to.

The academics’criticism of Mr Modi’s government was countered by the chief of the foreign affairs cell of the BJP, Mr Vijay Chauthaiwaale, who said, “Mr Modi’s popularity and his place in the hearts of millions of people all over the world is not determined by classroom simulators of socialism who are enjoying all the benefits of capitalism. It is determined by the ballot box and development agenda beneficial to millions of people at the bottom of the pyramid.”

On the other hand, in a signed statement, the academics have drawn the attention of the firms to the Modi Government’s “disregard for human rights and civil liberties, as well as the autonomy of educational and cultural institutions.” The signatories include Columbia University's Akeel Bilgrami, Stanford University’s Thomas Blom Hansen and the University of Chicago’s Wendy Doniger.

In particular, the statement questions the Indian’s Government’s track record in the last one year on several issues ranging from censorship, bans and restricting NGOs from engaging with the public, to ongoing violations of religious freedom as well as attempts to curtail the independence of the Judiciary.

The academics also questioned the restrictions to academic freedom like the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, the IITs, IIMs, Nalanda University, as well have questioned questionable appointments made to premier institutes like the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR), the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) and the National Book Trust.

Riaz Haq said...

Apart from granting anticipatory bail to Teesta Setalvad and Javed Anand in the case against them for violating foreign funding rules, the Bombay High Court has obliquely warned the Modi government and its agencies not to allow a citizen’s “different point of view” to colour the investigation process.

In her written judgment, released in writing on Wednesday, Justice Mridula Bhatkar held that “A citizen may conduct social activities and may have a different point of view, which may not be liked by the government. However, in a democratic state, a citizen may have his or her point of view.”

The court also made it clear that the activist couple’s remaining free would not amount to a threat to “national security and public interest” as the Central Bureau of Investigation had charged.

The judge said there was in fact no need for custodial interrogation of Setalvad and Anand at all since the CBI’s case was based entirely on documents which they said they already had in their possession.

Organisations led by Setelvad which have been at the forefront of the fight to secure justice for the victims of the 2002 riots in Gujarat. They became the target of close financial scrutiny by the CBI after an FIR was lodged against them following a letter from the Gujarat government to the Union Home and Finance ministries alleging violations of the Foreign Contributions Regulation Act.

Among the allegations levelled against them is a case of fraud related to a proposed plan to build a memorial for the victims of the Gulberg Society killings, as well as embezzlement of funds, none of which have been proven despite the raid conducted on Setalvad’s premises on July 8, 2015.

Setalvad and her supporters have alleged that the CBI was seeking her custodial interrogation in order to ensure she was not able to devote time to the crucial Zakia Jafri case, in which the widow of a former MP killed by riotous mobs in Ahmedabad in 2002 has demanded the prosecution of Narendra Modi, who was Chief Minister of Gujarat at the time. The Special Investigation Team set up by the Supreme Court to probe the charges decided there was not enough evidence to charge Modi; Jafri and Setalvad are currently appealing this finding, and a lower court’s decision to close the matter, before the Gujarat High Court.

Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh argued in court that Sabrang Trust run by Setalvad was not only acting against the interest of the state but was also receiving foreign contributions to do the same. This, he stated, was a “threat to national security”, and therefore both Setalvad and her husband should be detained for custodial interrogation.

In its verdict, the court stated that “Prima facie it appears that there is some misuse of amount they received from the (Ford) Foundation for which (Teesta and Javed) are undoubtedly answerable”, but went on to reject the CBI’s claim that their activities amounted to any threat to sovereignty and integrity of the nation. It further declared that since the case is largely based examination of accounts and documents, custodial interrogation of the accused was not necessary.

Anonymous said...

It's amazing to see so many Indian professors in renowned American universities unlike Pakistanis ..::it's sad though for you Pakistanis that the number of Pakistani professors are so few or negligible.

Riaz Haq said...

Anon: "it's sad though for you Pakistanis that the number of Pakistani professors are so few or negligible."

Do you know how many Pakistani professors are teaching in US? What makes you think their numbers are negligible relative to their population size?

There are 3.2 million Indians vs 410,000 Pakistanis in America, a ratio of 8:1, according to US Census.

r_sundar said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Riaz Haq said...

r_sundar: "I contacted a couple of them, and both of them responded back with similar response - Their friend requested to include their name as well, and were surprised it used out of context."

These are serious academics, not flakes and cowards.

r_sundar said...

I accidentally deleted my previous post.
Nevertheless, these is no doubt in my mind all of them are very serious academicians, and are no fakes & cowards.
There were a very few determined Modi haters in this group, who used their power of friendship to convince their friends to do them a favor by including them in the list (and they unwittingly did so- this I just confirmed from two serious academicians in the list above).
There are a very few Modi Haters for sure, but this is trumped by a super vast majority who like him as well (Muslims inclusive).
The registration requests for the SAP centre event has already crossed 40,000 from what I heard last, and it can seat only 30,000 I believe.

Wanderer said...

Riaz Haq said...

Wanderer: ""

This kinds of arguments are not new.

There were many apologists and supporters of Hitler and Mussolini in 1920s and 1930s. So there is precedent of people like Dhruva Jaishankar who support and empower Nazis and Fascists like Narendra Modi.

Wanderer said...

Do you know "begging the question" logic" ?

Before you label Modi as a Nazi, you need to prove that he is one. In his 16 month rule, less killings has taken place there than in land of pure Pakistan.

What would you call rulers of 1971 genocide ?

Riaz Haq said...

Wanderer: "Before you label Modi as a Nazi, you need to prove that he is one. In his 16 month rule, less killings has taken place there than in land of pure Pakistan. "

Modi represents the Sagh Parivar which is responsible for the killing of tens of thousands of Muslims in India over the years. Memories of Gujarat 2002 are still fresh in the minds of most people.

The Hindu Nationalist philosophy is a copy of Nazi and Fascist philosophies.

Hindu nationalists in India have a long history of admiration for the Nazi leader, including his "Final Solution". In his book "We" (1939), Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar, the leader of the Hindu Nationalist RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) wrote, "To keep up the purity of the Race and its culture, Germany shocked the world by her purging the country of the Semitic races -- the Jews. Race pride at its highest has been manifested here. 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 in Hindusthan to learn and profit by."

A very pro-India American author and analyst Christine Fair has compared BJP to KKK and called Modi its "Grand Wizard".

Riaz Haq said...

From Soutik Biswas of BBC:

She has been called a "threat to India's national security" and a prosecutor wants to send her to prison. Her house and office have been raided a number of times, her bank accounts have been frozen and she has been relentlessly vilified and threatened on social media.
Teesta Setalvad, the country's best-known social activist, has been accused of receiving funds illegally, violating foreign exchange rules, embezzling funds raised from victims of religious riots and coaching witnesses.
But investigators have failed to press charges in any of the seven cases they have been investigating against her since 2003. And the courts have stood by her: she has been given bail about five times after prosecutors sought to question her in custody, and in July, a Mumbai high court judge rubbished a prosecution allegation that she was a threat to national security.
"The reason the government thinks she should be locked up is, because this tenacious woman refuses to allow India, or the world, to forget what happened in Gujarat in 2002," says Kalpana Sharma, an independent journalist.
Record convictions
The 2002 riots in Gujarat left more than 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, dead and were among India's worst outbreaks of unrest in decades. The rioting began after 60 Hindu pilgrims died in a train fire blamed on Muslims in the town of Godhra. The Hindu nationalist BJP state government, then led by Narendra Modi, was accused of not doing enough to bring the violence under control - an allegation he has consistently denied.
The same year Ms Setalvad and her husband Javed Anand formed a non-profit organisation to provide legal aid to victims of mass crimes like religious riots and terrorism. Working with human rights organisations, her group Citizen for Justice and Peace has secured 120 convictions in 68 cases involving nine major riot incidents - a record for convictions for any religious riot in India, according to a top lawyer.
Mr Modi swept to power in general elections last May, but this has not deterred Ms Setalvad from doggedly continuing her campaign to hold the prime minister criminally responsible for the riots.

"The last few months have been particularly harrowing," Ms Setalvad, 53, tells me sitting in her cramped office overflowing with papers and books. The office - from where she runs her rights group, a secular education initiative and a publications office - is inside a leafy family bungalow in Mumbai's upscale Juhu neighbourhood, where she, daughter of an eminent lawyer, is a fourth generation resident.
In April and May, officials from the home ministry came and inspected their papers.
July was worse. First, 16 officers from the federal Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which reports to Mr Modi's government, raided her house and office for 22 hours. In the end, she says, they took away up to 700 pages of documents from four files.

The activist says fighting the Gujarat riot cases - two trials are still going on, apart from the Zakia Jafri case - and defending herself has meant that she spends a lot of time these days meeting her lawyers and going to courts. Money is tight and she says the family - her two children are in college - is living off their pension savings.
"But the fight has to go on. There is a culture of impunity around mass violence in India. Institutions are compromised, activists are attacked. There's also wilful amnesia about past crimes. Our work has paid dividends, but we have to keep fighting," she says.

Riaz Haq said...

Shashank Bengali on strike at Film and Television Institute of India (FTII):

For nearly three months, the roughly 400 students here have been on strike, protesting the Indian government’s appointments of loyalists with dubious credentials – including an actor who appeared in B-grade adult movies and a maker of right-wing propaganda films – to the state-funded school’s governing body.

“They want to turn the institute into a factory for their political views,” says Ranjit Nair, a directing student helping lead the protests. “We totally reject that.”

The skirmish is over not just the future of the foremost film academy in the world’s biggest movie-making nation, a breeding ground for Oscar winners, expert technicians, darlings of the international festival circuit and stalwarts of Bollywood and India’s thriving regional cinema.

It also represents the biggest showdown yet over Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s efforts to reshape India’s cultural institutions to fit his conservative Hindu nationalist agenda.

During 16 months in power, Modi has packed the national censorship board with political supporters; named an obscure historian who believes in a literal reading of Hindu mythology to lead a prestigious research institute; and created a government ministry to promote yoga and traditional medicine while docking the country’s overall health budget.

“It’s obvious that these moves are connected,” says Jabeen Merchant, a film editor and alumna. “Every government nominates people it likes; that’s inevitable. But this particular government is doing it in such a way that nobody can miss the agenda that’s being promoted.

The confrontation escalated early this month after a group of students refused to let the institute’s director, Prashant Pathrabe, leave his office one night. They formed a chain and blocked Pathrabe’s door in a type of civil disobedience known as a gherao, or encirclement, a favourite tactic of Indian labour activists in the 1960s.

Police arrived to free Pathrabe, who filed charges the next day, saying he had been subjected to “mental torture”. That night police arrested five students, who were freed on bail.

Supporters of the strike accused police and administrators of overreacting, while those sympathetic to Modi’s government called the students insubordinate.

“They are not discussing with the government; they are trying to dictate,” says Uday Shankar Pani, a 1974 graduate who was a first assistant director on Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi.

“They’re saying, ‘We don’t want anyone connected to your party’. Hey, man, who are you talking to? The government is paying for this school.”

At the core of the dispute is the peculiar status of the institute, which is formally a unit of India’s Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, founded in 1960 to train skilled workers for a nascent film industry. The full-time professors are civil servants. On the campus in the bustling western city of Pune, everything is subsidised, from the US$1,100 annual tuition and fees to the cafeteria’s US$1 chicken curry.

New Delhi’s view of the institute as a polytechnic has long clashed with students’ creative aspirations. The school vacuums up national film awards, and its graduates include some of the leading lights of Indian film and theatre, including actor Anupam Kher, director Shyam Benegal and Resul Pookutty, who won a sound mixing Oscar in 2009 for Slumdog Millionaire.

“The institute has contributed immensely to the flowering of both mainstream and art house Indian cinema,” says Indranil Bhattacharya, a directing professor. “Its place in the industry is extremely crucial.”

It has also developed a reputation as a hotbed of protests – “‘One strike a decade’ is an unofficial institute slogan”, a professor says – although they never before spilled into national politics.

Nitin B said...

Good to see so many Indians in high positions in academia!

Anonymous said...

Yup it is notable that everyone in your list are either english or humanities professors or should i say guys who will never find gainful employment back in India.
Indians really don't care about this nuisance.

Riaz Haq said...

Anon: " Yup it is notable that everyone in your list are either english or humanities professors or should i say guys who will never find gainful employment back in India"

Do you think the people who built modern human civilization were all STEM or IT grads? Do you think Modi and his Hindu Nationalist gang are all great scientists and engineers?

Rks said...

"Do you think the people who built modern human civilization were all STEM or IT grads? Do you think Modi and his Hindu Nationalist gang are all great scientists and engineers?"

Maybe not. But he gets support from all great scientists and engineers.

Also Riazbhai, kindly refrain using names like " Hindu Nationalist gang". You will end up cheapening your reputation.

Rks said...

Dear Riazbhai

not here to prick your bubble. But go through this article. This looks like a very high profile visit waiting to happen. The people you painfully listed will not even matter. Beleive me, most of them will watch Modi's speech at home with their families.Like I said,most likely they have signed out of coercion from Islamist radicals who abound toady on American universities.


Riaz Haq said...

"Beleive me, most of them will watch Modi's speech at home with their families"

Hitler and Modi have much in common. Hindu Nationalists have long admired Hitler and his "final solution".

Like Hitler, Modi too is very popular with his country's people at home and abroad.

Indians need to listen to dissenting voices before Modi leads them to massive death and destruction.

Nitin B said...

"Hitler and Modi have much in common. Hindu Nationalists have long admired Hitler and his "final solution".

Oh please! Give me a break!
Lot of hot air that's all!

Riaz Haq said...

iDesi: "Oh please! Give me a break! Lot of hot air that's all! "

In his book "We" (1939), Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar, the leader of the Hindu Nationalist RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) wrote, "To keep up the purity of the Race and its culture, Germany shocked the world by her purging the country of the Semitic races -- the Jews. Race pride at its highest has been manifested here. 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 in Hindusthan to learn and profit by."

Nazi memorabilia, including Adolf Hitler's biography Mein Kampf, are growing in popularity in India, according to the BBC. The marketing chief of Crossword, a national chain of book stores in India, told the BBC that Mein Kampf has "been a consistent bestseller for us."

Recently, a very pro-India American analyst Christine Fair has said that India's Hindu Nationalists (RSS, BJP) are like the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), the violent post-civil war white supremacist organization made up mainly of former southern confederate supporters, in the United States. The difference is that while KKK has very little popular support in America, the RSS's political wing BJP recently won general elections by a landslide, making Narendra Modi ("KKK wizard") the prime minister of India.

Riaz Haq said...

#India's #SiliconValley #Hindu Nationalists "Harass, Bully & Intimidate" Academics @HuffPostBlog … via @theworldpost

The threat to academic freedom that this project might present is what led Sheila Jasanoff of the Harvard Kennedy School to sign, despite the fact that she says she's usually not the type to do so:

".. Because the Indian diaspora has produced such strong ties between Silicon Valley and India, I felt it was important to show that thoughtful academics, with no axes to grind, were concerned by the absence of adequate democratic oversight over a project like "Digital India." I was also in India in August and had a chance to see how the apparent retreat from core values of secularism and free speech make these developments in the digital realm all the more threatening"

Hansen also explained their concerns about possible repercussions, including a curtailment of academic freedom:

"As scholars were approached for support there were some worries that the Government of India might deny research visas or in other ways block the future work of people on the list. This is a legitimate worry considering the record of vindictive actions taken by the Modi government especially against those critical of Modi's record in the state of Gujarat... For those of us who have researched and published on Hindu nationalism for many years, the violent reactions, and the thinly veiled threats are not surprising... The slightly surprising element in the responses is the vehement branding of those of the signatories of Indian background as "traitors" and "saboteurs" of India's development and well-being. This has come with suggestions of stripping these individuals of the citizenship and of course vague threats of other forms of retribution to be exacted by the vast majority who supports Modi. The actual fact is that his parliamentary majority rest on the slimmest proportion of the popular vote ever in the history of independent India (31 percent)"

A report entitled "Hindu Nationalism in the United States: A Report on Non-Profit Groups" makes the following claims regarding the strength and nature of the Hindu nationalist movement in the United States:

1. Over the last three decades, a movement toward Hinduizing India--advancing the status of Hindus toward political and social primacy in India-- has continued to gain ground in South Asia and diasporic communities. The Sangh Parivar (the Sangh "family"), the network of groups at the forefront of this Hindu nationalist movement, has an estimated membership numbering in the millions, making the Sangh one of the largest voluntary associations in India. The major organizations in the Sangh include the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), Bajrang Dal, and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

2. Hindu nationalism has intensified and multiplied forms of discrimination, exclusion, and gendered and sexualized violence against Muslims, Christians, other minorities, and those who oppose Sangh violations, as documented by Indian citizens and international tribunals, fact-finding groups, international human rights organizations, and U.S. governmental bodies.

3. India-based Sangh affiliates receive social and financial support from its U.S.-based wings, the latter of which exist largely as tax-exempt non-profit organizations in the United States: Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS), Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America (VHPA), Sewa International USA, Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation-USA. The Overseas Friends of the Bharatiya Janata Party - USA (OFBJP) is active as well, though it is not a tax-exempt group

Mitra said...

Those professors are from the field of Arts. What do they know about Digital India?

Riaz Haq said...

Mitra: "Those professors are from the field of Arts. What do they know about Digital India?"

Technology policy issues are at least as important as development issues, if not more so.
These accomplished educators and scholars know human history and the consequences of enabling the likes of Modis. Human history shows the horrible consequences of the abuse of technologies like nuclear, biological and chemical technologies. Digital technologies in wrong hands can be just as dangerous if not more so. Such unconstrained abuse must be stopped by not enabling the abusers.

Mitra said...

since you are using so many big words would you mind telling me what exactly do you think Digital India is?

since you are using so many big words would you mind telling me what exactly do you think Digital India is?

Riaz Haq said...

Mitra: "since you are using so many big words would you mind telling me what exactly do you think Digital India is?"

Do you know what US NSA surveillance program does? And all of the serious privacy and abuse issues it has raised? Well, Digital India will enable Modi and his fellow Hindu extremists to do worse things with non-Hindu and liberal Indians who oppose Modi's policies.

Riaz Haq said...

19640909rk: "There is not much Hindu nationalist activities in Indian universities as you seem to suggest."

Sangh Parivar is very active on university campuses around the world, including those in North America. Here's an excerpt from a recent report on Hindu Nationalism in the United States:

"Sangh-affiliated Hindu Students Council (HSC) student groups were present on 78 U.S. and Canadian university and college campuses, including those of Duke University, Emory University, Johns Hopkins University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, McGill University, New York University, University of Wisconsin at Madison, Stanford University, Syracuse University, University of California at Berkeley, Irvine, and San Diego, University of Ottawa, and University of Texas at Austin and Houston"

Riaz Haq said...

Situation in #Modi's #India way beyond fascism: Arundhati Roy on FTII row … via @htTweets

As the impasse over Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) issue entered the 100th day, award winning writer Arundhati Roy on Saturday came out in support of the agitating students and said the nation was facing a "collective assault on its IQ" and the situation was way beyond fascism.

"We are facing a collective assault on the IQ of this country and this is a part of dismantling our collective intelligence," Roy told reporters at the protest venue in Jantar Mantar.

Talking about the FTII row, Roy said sometimes she heard that government is trying to find a solution which also gives them a face-saver. "The situation is quite serious," she said.

"When you will dismantle universities like this. When you will overhaul syllabus, when....non scholarly atmosphere will be created where anybody can do anything.... clean ICU's with cow urine, then it is very dangerous," she said.

Earlier, while addressing the protesting students, Roy said that comments were being made that Ganesha indicates that plastic surgery was initiated in India, or cow urine to clean hospitals and that culture minister is talking about things like "cultural pollution".

Institutions like FTII and Nehru Memorial are under attack, she added. "The situation is way beyond fascism," Roy said.

In an apparent dig at actor Gajendra Chauhan, who portrayed 'Yudhidhthir' in tele-serial Mahabharat and whose appointment as FTII chief triggered the protests, Roy said mythological characters are being chosen to head film schools.

Speaking to students, who took out a protest march from Mandi House to Jantar Mantar in Delhi, Roy said that she had been asked why she had come there.

"I am saying that these kids are the last people standing. They are standing up because we are really suffering an assault on the collective IQ of this nation," Roy said.

Riaz Haq said...

#India's #Modi to face ‘horrifying’ billboards in #SiliconValley …

San Jose, California, 22 Sep 2015 : PM Modi is all set to face criticising billboards when he will visit Silicon Valley on Sep 27.
Few billboards targeting him over human rights issues have already appeared on highways in Bay Area of California to welcome him they way he will never like .
As part of the #ModiFail campaign, the Alliance for Justice and Accountability (AJA) is using billboards to raise public awareness about Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his administration’s attacks on personal freedoms and human rights in India. AJA hopes this series of billboards in the Bay Area, will inform the American people that Modi’s upcoming Silicon Valley PR tour is being used as an excuse to whitewash his dismal record as Prime Minister, and before that, Chief Minister of Gujarat.
The billboards are visible from I-580 in Oakland, I-280 in Daly City, Highway 92 in Hayward, Highway 84 in Newark, I-880 in Newark, I-880 in Milpitas, and Highway 101 in Santa Clara.The billboards highlight, the AJA’s online report card calling attention to the facts behind some of Narendra Modi’s most egregious failures during his 16 months in office as Prime Minister.India’s celebrated values of pluralism and tolerance are under severe attack since Mr. Modi assumed office as Prime Minister. According to the Modi government’s sources, attacks against religious minorities are up 25% since last year. His own ministers are engaged in a malicious hate campaign against Christians and Muslims.
Narendra Modi speaks eloquently of Digital India, but individuals posting comments against Modi or his peers on Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, and other social media sites have repeatedly faced arrests; when the Indian Supreme Court struck down the hated “Facebook arrest” law, the Modi government expressed interest in passing replacement censorship legislation to skirt the ban.
The Modi government has been particularly vicious in its attacks on free speech, as it increasingly equates dissent, even in the form of social media posts, with sedition and “waging war against the state.”
The Alliance for Justice and Accountability (AJA) is a diverse coalition led by progressive Indian American communities. AJA members work for pluralism, civil rights, religious freedom, women’s rights, LGBTQ equality, and environmental justice in India and beyond.

Riaz Haq said...

Human Rights Advocacy Groups Oppose #India's #modiinsiliconvalley | NBC Bay Area. #BJP #ModiInUSA … via @nbcbayarea

News that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is slated to hobnob with the Bay Area’s leading tech executives has sparked outrage among human rights advocacy groups.
National advocacy group Sikhs For Justice plans to protest Modi’s visit at Facebook’s Menlo Park headquarters on Sunday morning and, later in the day, outside the SAP Center.

The group argues that Modi’s tenure as Indian's leaader has resulted in deteriorating religious freedom for its citizens. They allege that he is aggressively trying to turn the world’s largest democracy into a Hindu nation through forced conversion of Muslims and Christians.
Sikhs For Justice has also offered a $10,000 reward to anyone who poses specific questions to Zuckerberg and Modi regarding the latter’s treatment of Sikhs.

"We urge everyone to remind [Facebook CEO Mark] Zuckerberg that hosting a known human rights violator runs counter to the core American value of upholding religious freedom,” said Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, an attorney and legal advisor for Sikhs For Justice.
Modi, who was in the United States last September, is slated to visit Tesla and Google and meet with Indian-American startup founders. He believes that the technological innovation that these companies are known for can help to raise the standard of living in India.

The SAP center is expected to be at full capacity for Sunday evening's event. More than 45,000 people requested tickets to hear Modi speak, but the arena can only hold 18,000. Video screens will be set up outside to accommodate those who were unable to secure a spot inside.`

Riaz Haq said...

Independent intellectuals attacked by Sangh Parivar assassins in #India as #Hindu fundamentalism grows under #Modi

Kalburgi, who vocally opposed the Hindu practice of idol worship, is the latest secular thinker to be assassinated in South Asia. His slaying late last month raises questions about freedom of expression and highlights the growing might of religious fundamentalists across the region.

Hours after Kalburgi was killed, Bhuvith Shetty, a member of the Hindu militant group Bajrang Dal, tweeted in celebration: "Mock Hinduism and die a dog's death. And dear K.S. Bhagwan you are next."

Karnataka boasts one of India's highest literacy rates and includes the technology hub of Bangalore, but it is also home to deeply conservative Hindu groups. Last month in the coastal city of Mangalore, a group of Hindu men spotted a Muslim man speaking with a Hindu woman. They tied him to a pole, stripped him and beat him for nearly an hour, according to police.

Two other high-profile rationalists, Narendra Dabholkar and Govind Pansare, were shot point-blank 18 months apart in the western state of Maharashtra.

Dabholkar, a 68-year-old activist who worked on behalf of villagers exploited by local gurus and so-called godmen, campaigned for the state government to pass an anti-superstition bill. It's been two years since he was killed in the city of Pune, and no one has been charged.

"Fundamentalism in India is growing by the day across religions," Nayak said. "They feel they can scare us into submission but are completely mistaken. The anti-superstition movement in Maharashtra grew stronger after Dabholkar's assassination.

"As far as I am concerned, I would rather die speaking my mind instead of letting disgraceful things unfold in front of my eyes."

Riaz Haq said...

The Power of Social Media: Emboldened Right-Wing Trolls Who are Attempting an Internet purge -

Yesterday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi participated in a “town hall” meeting at the headquarters of Facebook in Menlo Park, California. At the event, Modi answered pre-screened queries from the audience and Mark Zuckerberg, the chief executive officer of Facebook. During this conversation, the prime minister heralded the power of social media as a vehicle for democracy and good governence, before adding that it “allows for accountability instantly.” Modi declared, “I ask all world leaders not to avoid social media and to connect to it.” However, in his eulogy to the power of the internet, the prime minister appeared to have forgotten about an aspect of social media that doesn’t lend itself to either a functional democracy or accountability. It is a spectre that has been haunting journalists in India: that of internet trolls.

The internet is no stranger to trolls—users who post inflammatory, threatening or disruptive messages—with Twitter itself having admitted to not having proper policies in place to protect its users from harassment. The Indian Twitter troll, however, is an oddly specific creature. This troll belongs to a motley digital mob comprised of Hindutva converts, misogynists, minorities, Congress baiters and “sickular”—a pejorative portmanteau coined for those percieved as having a secular point of view—haters, all united by their atavistic chest-thumping bhakti—devotion—for Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The use of social networking platforms by the BJP demonstrates their agility in using technology for the cause of “Hindu Rashtra.” Behind the apparently toxic rants of the Hindutva troll, there is a method and design. It is interesting to note that Modi hosted the 150 social networkers at his official residence on the occasion of the launch of the Digital India Campaign in Delhi. The prime minister could have easily taken up a digitally-enabled education or health project to kick-start his campaign; instead, he chose to meet people who have become a byword in online terror, hate and misogyny—a symbolism ignored by most, the press and the victims included. With Modi pushing for deepening of digitisation, the size and virtual power of his abusive online army will only increase in the days ahead in its political-ideological battle for a “Congress-mukt” Bharat, cold comfort for the likes of Ravish Kumar, Sagarika Ghose and the rest. -

Riaz Haq said...

Dadri’s dire warning: If Modi fails to give India change, it’s because of enemies within his house
Akhlaq’s death was foretold from the moment Bharatiya Janata Party chief ministers started banning meat on the excuse of festivals during which it has never been banned before.

Akhlaq’s murder reminds us of how superficial India’s modernity is. The men who killed him and tried to kill his son would have all had cellphones in their pockets and colour television sets in their homes. Some may even have had access to computers and the Internet, and still all it took was a rumour for them to turn into savages. It is only savages who can turn so quickly into a killer mob. And in recent months a very ugly atmosphere has been created across the country by BJP chief ministers and Modi’s own ministers, and he has done nothing to stop them. Nor has he made the smallest effort to call a halt to the misguided ‘ghar wapasi’ (homecoming) campaign launched by his former comrades in the RSS. If the RSS is truly interested in serving India, and if they are true believers in the Sanatan Dharma, then they must concentrate their activities on more useful things like cleaning the Ganga and helping the Swachh Bharat campaign. Ghar wapasi is the antithesis of the idea of the Sanatan Dharma.
Meanwhile the Prime Minister must realise that the investors he woos on his travels in foreign lands halt in their tracks every time they see signs that beneath its new highways and shining malls, India remains a primitive country. Akhlaq was stoned to death in a village less than 50 kilometres away from Delhi and his young son, if he lives, could live with serious head injuries. Do we require more proof that we are going to need more than digital technology to make India into a country that truly belongs in the 21st century, instead of in some hideous, primordial time warp?

Riaz Haq said...

#Modi's (and his cabinet's) poor education, #India's great educational divide fueling anti-#Muslim bigotry, hate?

Aatish Taseer Op Ed in NY Times:

In India, the Congress Party was liberal, left-leaning and secular; but it was also the party of the colonized elite. That meant that practically everyone who was rich, and educated, and grew up speaking English, was also invariably a supporter of Congress.


The cabinet, save for the rare exception, is made up of too many crude, bigoted provincials, united far more by a lack of education than anything so grand as ideology. At the time of writing — and here the one will have to speak for the many — Mr. Modi’s minister of culture had just said of a former Muslim president: “Despite being a Muslim, he was a great nationalist and humanist.”

Some 10 days later, there was the hideous incident in which a Muslim man was lynched by a Hindu mob in a village outside Delhi, on the suspicion of slaughtering a cow and eating beef. It was a defining moment, the culmination of 16 months of cultural chauvinism and hysteria under Mr. Modi, the scarcely veiled target of which are India’s roughly 170 million Muslims. This ugliness is eclipsing Mr. Modi’s development agenda, and just this week, there was yet another incident in which a Kashmiri politician was attacked in Srinagar for hosting “a beef party.”

Poisonous as these attitudes are, they have much more to do with class than politics. They are so obviously part of the vulgarity that accompanies violent social change. If the great drama of our grandparents’ generation was independence, and our parents’ that post-colonial period, ours represents the twilight of the (admittedly flawed) English-speaking classes, and an unraveling of the social and moral order they held in place. A new country is seething with life, but not all vitality is pretty, and there now exists a glaring cultural and intellectual gap between India’s old, entrenched elite and the emerging electorate.

In other places, education would have helped close the gap; it would have helped the country make a whole of the social change it was witnessing. No society is so equitable that men as economically far apart as Bill Clinton and George W. Bush — or as Ed Miliband and David Cameron, for that matter — would have attended the same schools. But, in England and America, there is Oxford and Yale to level the field, to give both men the means to speak to each other.

This is not true of India. In India, one class has had access to the best private schools and foreign universities, where all the instruction is in English; the other has had to make do with the state schools and universities Indian socialism bequeathed them. The two classes almost never meet; they don’t even speak the same language. It has left India divided between an isolated superelite (and if you’re an Indian reading this, you’re probably part of it!) and an emerging middle class that may well lack the intellectual tools needed to channel its vitality.


In another society, with the benefit of a real education, Mr. Modi might have been something more than he was. Then it would be possible to imagine a place with real political differences, and not one in which left and right were divided along the blade of a knife by differences in class, language and education. But just as that other society does not yet exist, neither does that other Modi. Indians will have to make do with the Modi they have; and, as things stand, perhaps the cynics are right: Perhaps this great hope of Indian democracy, with his limited reading and education, is not equal to the enormous task before him.

Riaz Haq said...

How educated are Modi's cabinet ministers?

Just days after the Narendra Modi government took charge, a major controversy erupted over the educational qualification of Union HRD Minister Smriti Irani. In the wake of the same, we look at the academic prowess of other ministers in the Modi cabinet.

Narendra Modi (Prime Minister): India’s 15th Prime Minister holds an extramural degree in Political Science, which was achieved through distance education from the Delhi University in the year 1978. -

Arun Jaitley (Finance and Defence Minister): Jaitley, former law minister during Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s NDA regime, holds a degree in law from the University of Delhi and has also been a senior advocate of the Supreme Court. -

Sushma Swaraj (Minister for Foreign Affairs): India’s second woman foreign minister and first woman chief minister of Delhi has her LL.B degree from the Punjab University in Chandigarh and has also practiced as a Supreme Court lawyer.

Harshvardhan (Health Minister): One of the most qualified ministers in the cabinet, India’s health minister holds an M.B.B.S as well as an M.S in otolaryngology.

Maneka Gandhi (Women and Child Development): The women and child development minister and a staunch animal rights activist, Maneka Gandhi has complete her education upto the 12th grade.

Anant Geete (Heavy Industry and Public Enterprise): Geete, the leader of the Shiv Sena Parliamentary Party and a six time MP is currently the Union Minister for Heavy Industry and Public Enterprise. He has completed his matriculation.

Uma Bharti (Water Resources and Ganga Rejuvination): The current water resource and ‘Ganga Rejuvination’ minister is the least qualified minister in the Modi cabinet, having completed formal education only till class six.

DV Sadanand Gowda (Railways): The Union Minister for Railways has a degree in law from the Udupi Vaikunta Baliga College of Law.

Nitin Gadkari (Transport): Known as ‘Flyover Man’ during the Sena-BJP government in Maharashtra, Gadkari currently holds the transport portfolio in the Modi Cabinet. He holds a degree in Law from the Nagpur University.

Smriti Irani (Human Resource Development): The minister under fire has completed her H.S.C while her earlier affidavit states that she has completed her B.Com through correspondence from Delhi University.

Najma Heptulla (Minority Affairs): The first-time cabinet minister is now incharge of the ministry of Minority Affairs. The 74 year old has a Ph.D in Cardiac Anatomy from the University of Denver.

M Venkaiah Naidu (Parliamentary Affairs): The union minister for parliamentary affairs has his bachelor’s degree in Politics and Diplomatic studies as well as a degree in Law with a specialization in International law from the Andhra University.

Gopinath Munde (Rural Development Minister, Panchayati Raj, Drinking Water and Sanitation): The union minister for Union Development has a BA degree in commerce.

Ramvilas Paswan (Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution): The minister of Consumer Affairs; Food and Public Distribution is an M.A, LL.B from the University of Patna.

Kalraj Mishra (Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises): The union minister of the Narendra Modi cabinet has an M.A from the Kashi Vidyapeeth in Varanasi.

Ananth Kumar (Chemicals and Fertilizers): The Union Minister for Chemical and Fertilizers and a six time MP from Bangalore is a B.A from the University of Karnataka.

Ravi Shankar Prasad (Law and Justice, Communications & Information Technology): The union minister for Communications and I.T. has a B.A, M.A in Political Science and a degree in Law from the Patna University.

Riaz Haq said...

#India was better off under #British rule: #Hindu #RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat. #UK #Pakistan via @timesofindia

Expressing concern over the dominance of 'rich and powerful people' in politics, besides the soaring inflation rate, Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat said that India's situation was better during the British rule.

"After Independence, the dominance of rich and powerful people in politics and rising inflation have worsened the country's situation, which is worse than what it was during the British rule," Bhagwat said.

Speaking at a function organized by Bhonsala Military School (BMS) to celebrate its platinum jubilee year in Nashik on Monday, Bhagwat said, "All political parties were in power some or the other time during the last 64 years since Independence, but the situation has not improved. Hence, citizens must introspect over what went wrong."

Stating the importance of imparting education through the mother tongue, he said, "Today, there is an insistence on education in a foreign language (English), instead of education in the mother tongue. As a result, the importance of the foreign language has increased to a large extent in the country."

Bhagwat laid stress on the need for imparting military education to students, citing rising threat to the nation.

He said, "Even 64 years after Independence, India is being threatened by China and Pakistan. With rising concerns over internal security, we should give top priority to military education to students to make India strong."

Bhonsala Military School was founded in 1937 by leader Dr B S Moonje, who also played a role in mentoring RSS founder K B Hedgewar.

"The school was founded by Moonje to protect the nation and has so far served as a feeder institute to fulfill the backlog of military officials," Bhagwat said. Senior RSS functionary Prakash Pathak said that the BMS was going to start a similar facility exclusively for girls in Nashik city

The BMS, run by the central Hindu military education society (CHMES), is also mulling setting up a flying club and a pilot training institute, besides a centre for service preparation and aeronautic engineering education. "We have received a lot of proposals from states like Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Uttarakhand for setting up military schools there and will soon take a call on this issue," Pathak said.

BMS students, also called 'ramdandees', earlier gave a salute to Dr Moonje. Bhagwat also released a book, 'Smaran Samaranche', written by Nashikite Girish Takale.

Riaz Haq said...

Top #Indian Scientists Say #India's #Modi Government Is Becoming Increasingly Anti-science. #BJP … #science

Three murders, a suicide and a rash of political appointments at universities have thrown Indian academia into an uproar against the conservative (right-wing) government. Prominent artists, writers, historians and scientists are speaking out against an intensifying climate of religious intolerance and political interference in academic affairs.
“What’s going on in this country is really dangerous,” says Rajat Tandon, a number theorist at Hyderabad Central University. Tandon is one of more than 100 prominent scientists, including many heads of institutions, who signed a statement protesting “the ways in which science and reason are being eroded in the country.” The statement cites the murder of three noted rationalists — men who had dedicated their lives to countering superstition and championed scientific thought — and what they see as the government’s silent complicity.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi leads the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which won the 2014 general elections in India in a landslide victory. The BJP and Modi, in particular, are aligned with the extremist right-wing group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, or RSS. (This unholy alliance is comparable to the relationship between the Republican Party and the Tea Party, but the RSS is a paramilitary group with more violent overtones than the Tea Party has shown so far.) Together, the BJP and RSS promote the agenda of Hindutva, the notion that India is the homeland of Hindus and all others — the hundreds of millions of Muslims, Christians, Sikhs and others in this sprawling, secular democracy — are interlopers.
“The present government is deviating from the path of democracy, taking the country on the path to what I’d call a Hindu religious autocracy,” says Pushpa Mittra Bhargava , who founded the prestigious Centre for Cellular & Molecular Biology in Hyderabad.
Despite his blatantly anti-secular stance, Modi’s stated goals for economic development are wildly popular, particularly among the country’s majority Hindus. But academics and intellectuals have been protesting the erosions on academic freedom almost from the start.
In January 2015, at the 102nd session of the Indian Science Congress, several members of the BJP government led a session on ancient Indian science and claimed that thousands of years ago, Indians had built planes that could fly not just on earth but between planets. There were other outlandish claims — that the elephant-headed Hindu god Ganesha is proof that Indian ancients knew the secrets of cosmetic surgery, for example. Scientists were dismayed, and some did call for the session to be canceled, but their primary response then was still ridicule, rather than outrage.
In February 2015, economics Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen stepped down as chancellor of Nalanda University in Bihar, protesting the “considerable government intervention” in academic decisions. That same month, gunmen attacked a left-wing politician called Govind Pansare and his wife; Pansare later died of his injuries. Then, in August, gunmen killed Malleshappa Kalburgi, a leading scholar and rationalist, at his home. “They were a threat, so they were eliminated,” says Tandon.
The attacks shocked the academic community and ignited protests from writers, filmmakers and historians; many returned their national awards as a symbol of their dissent.
Scientists were late to the table, which is not surprising, given that most of Indian science relies on government funds. Still, in October, three separate groups of scientists made statements — the total signatories now number nearly one thousand — protesting the government’s inaction against the acts of violence. (Bhargava returned his Padma Bhushan, one of the highest civilian awards in India, to the president.)

Riaz Haq said...

Intolerance and despotism are undermining #Modi’s reforms in #India. #BJP #Hindu …

This article first appeared on the Riding the Elephant site.

“Misinterpreting nationalism—BJP’s swing to jingoism does not augur well,” said a headline earlier this week in the Business Standard, one of India’s leading newspapers. It reflected concern in India and abroad over what the paper called the governing BJP’s “disturbing drift towards hyper-nationalism.”

The only word slightly wrong there is “drift,” because there is a growing suspicion among observers that this is not some gradual meandering, but a determination to develop divisive politics, driven for vote-catching reasons by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders, notably Amit Shah, the party’s hard-line president, Rajnath Singh, the government’s rather stern looking home minister, aided occasionally by Smriti Irani, the voluble minister for human resource development.

The latest example of their drive has come with a strident demand for people to prove their patriotism by declaring “Bharat Mata Ki Jai,” which means “Victory to Mother India” (or the motherland).

Originally triggered a couple of weeks ago when a Muslim member of a regional assembly refused to recite the line, this is really a non-issue because a wide spectrum of the population (including Muslims) have no problem with saying it (nor with others not saying it), though many would prefer the conventional “Jai Hind” which means “Praise be to India.” It is also the slogan used by the Indian army.

Narendra Modi, the prime minister, has led chanting of the Bharat Mata slogan at his big overseas Indians’ rallies in places like London’s Wembley Stadium, and this could have been a harmless debate until Shah and others said that not chanting it was “anti-national.” After a week of growing controversy that dominated the media, a meeting of the BJP’s national executive last weekend passed a resolution that said, “Refusal to chant victory to Bharat is tantamount to disrespect to our Constitution itself.”

The BJP ministers seem to believe that polarizing opinion around such Hindu-driven nationalism, especially the word Bharat (Hindi for India), will be a vote winner for various assembly elections next month, followed by a key election in Uttar Pradesh state next year and then the next general election that is due in 2019. For them, even opposition to the government is anti-national.

Modi presumably agrees, though he and they know that the BJP won the general election almost two years ago because of his image as a leader who would bring development and efficient government, not rampant nationalism. The BJP has lost key state elections in Bihar and Delhi in the past 15 months because Modi and others pushed the nationalist anti-Muslim agenda, but that has not deterred the hard-liners.

Modi and Development

Modi is now stressing development. “Vikas, vikas, vikas [development] is my only focus and it is our country’s solution to all problems,” he said at the party’s executive meeting. He does not, however, seem to have tried to rein in Shah and the others, so maybe he and Shah will each run their own lines so as to broaden the party’s appeal to voters.

That gels with reports that the RSS, the BJP’s ideology-driven parent organization that steers the behavior of the party’s leaders and government ministers, wants development to be included in the message. (The RSS has also recently softened its image by replacing its uniform of khaki shorts with long trousers.) Arun Jaitley, the government chief spokesman and finance minister, said last weekend that both nationalism and development could proceed together—which is, of course, correct if the nationalist angle is not turned into social divisiveness.