Friday, August 12, 2022

Nehru's Secularism Was An Aberration; Modi's Islamophobia is the Norm For India

As India and Pakistan turn 75, there are many secular intellectuals on both sides of the border who question the wisdom of "the Partition" in 1947. They dismiss what is happening in India today under Hindu Nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi's leadership as a temporary aberration, not the norm. They long for a return to "Indian liberalism" which according to anthropologist Sanjay Srivastava "did not exist". 

India Pakistan Border Ceremony at Wagah-Attari Crossing

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

After nearly a century of direct rule, the British largely succeeded in dividing South Asians along religious and sectarian lines. The majoritarian tyranny of the "secular"  Hindu-dominated Indian National Congress after 1937 elections in India became very apparent to  Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the leader of All India Muslim League. Speaking in Lucknow in October 1937,  he said the following: 

"The present leadership of the Congress, especially during the last ten years, has been responsible for alienating the Musalmans of lndia more and more, by pursuing a policy which is exclusively Hindu; and since they have formed the Governments in six provinces where they are in a majority they have by their words, deeds, and programme shown more and more that the Musalmans cannot expect any justice or fair play at their hands. Whenever they are in majority and wherever it suited them, they refused to co-operate with the Muslim League Parties and demanded unconditional surrender and signing of their pledges."

Fast forward to 2021, a Pew survey in India found that 64% of Hindus see their religious identity and Indian national identity as closely intertwined. Most Hindus (59%) also link Indian identity with being able to speak Hindi language. The survey was conducted over two years in 2019 and 2020 by Pew Research Center. It included 29,000 Indians.  

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu Nationalist BJP party's appeal is the greatest among Hindus who closely associate their religious identity and the Hindi language with being “truly Indian.” The Pew survey found that less than half of Indians (46%) favored democracy as best suited to solve the country’s problems. Two percent more (48%) preferred a strong leader. 

Indian anthropologist Sanjay Srivastava sums up the current situation as follows: 

"Our parents practiced bigotry of a quiet sort, one that did not require the loud proclamations that are the norm now. Muslims and the lower castes knew their place and the structures of social and economic authority were not under threat. This does not necessarily translate into a tolerant generation. Rather, it was a generation whose attitudes towards religion and caste was never really tested. The loud bigotry of our times is no great break from the past in terms of a dramatic change in attitudes – is it really possible that such changes can take place in such few years? Rather, it is the crumbling of the veneer of tolerance against those who once knew their place but no longer wish to accept that position. The great problem with all this is that we continue to believe that what is happening today is simply an aberration and that we will, when the nightmare is over, return to the Utopia that was once ours. However, it isn’t possible to return to the past that was never there. It will only lead to an even darker future. And, filial affection is no antidote for it".

Acknowledgement: Charts and data in this blog post are sourced from 75 Years Economic Journey of Pakistan published by Pakistan's Ministry of Finance. 

Related Links:


Ahmed said...

I don’t agree with this post , I don’t think that British really had intention to divide and rule India. British could apparently see that their was already a difference between Muslims and Hindus who lived in Indian sub continent before partition of 1947. Muslims of India maintained their identity as a nation which had its own values and culture.

According to some Hindu Pundits and Scholars who lived before partition , they use to be so impressed and fascinated with the culture and value of Muslims at that time that they use to persuade and encourage Hindu people to adopt the culture and values of Muslims . They use to encourage their Hindu public at that time to learn Arabic or Persian language which was dominantly used as a standard language in Indian sub continent before British even came to India .

So the difference was already their between majority of the Hindus and the Muslims who lived in Indian sub continent even before British came as a ruler .

If British had such intention of dividing India then why when the last vicroy of India Lord Mount Batten came to India, he became angry on Quaid-e-Azam in the meeting when Quaid-e-Azam put forward the demand that Muslims of India should have an independent state ? According to my teacher of Pakistan studies , the face expression of Lord Mount Batten changed and after this meeting , he tried to stay away from Quaid-e-Azam.

So a divide was already their in India between Muslims and Hindus even before British came to India .

Also Sir pls read the book titled “ AL BIRUNIS INDIA “ published in 1962 written by Dr. Edward C.Sachau .

This book is about Al Beruni who was a Muslim Scholar who travelled to India with the purpose of studying about the culture , values and people of India . He lived in India for 13 years and he became the 1st indologist in the world. An indologist is a person or scholar who academically studies history , culture , languages and people of India . After observing the Hindus in India he realised that Hindus have serious problem of vanity and he even noticed that Hindus believe that their is no such nation as Hindus in the world , their is such science as Hindu science in the world , and their is no such country as India “.

In 1017 CE, at the behest of Sultan Mahmud of Persia, Alberuni, also known as Al-Biruni, travelled to India to learn about the Hindus and to discuss with them certain questions.He remained in India for thirteen years, his exploration and study of the country gave way to a scholarly work that, in its profound understanding of almost all aspects of Indian life, remained unmatched for eight hundred years.

Dr. Edward C. Sachau was a professor in the Royal University of Berlin.

Ahmed said...

Sorry I don’t agree with this post , according to some writers and historians the Muslims of India already maintained their identity as a seperate nation in India even before British came to Indian sub continent . Although Muslims and Hindus have lived together in India since many centuries before British came but their is hardly any historical evidence which could show that Muslims and Hindus intermingled with each other or had any kind of relations with each other as a whole .

Muslims of India who had their own values and culture maintained their identity as a Muslim and majority of the Hindus kept themselves seperate from Muslims .

If British had such intention of dividing and ruling over India then why when last british vicroy to India Lord Mount Baten came to India from England and when he had meeting with Quaid-e-Azam and when Quaid-e-Azam put forward the demand of having an independent and seperate homeland for Muslims of India , his face expression changed ? Why after this meeting Lord Mount Baten didn’t talk with Quaid-e-Azam?

Ahmed said...

If we study the history thoroughly and use different historical sources as references then we will come to know that Muslims of India maintained themselves as a seperate nation within Indian sub continent many centuries before British came as rulers . Hindus themselves who had problem with all the foreign people tried to keep themselves isolated from Muslims .

The Hindu pundits and scholars who lived centuries ago in India were so impressed and fascinated with the culture and values of Muslims that they use to encourage and persuade Hindus to adopt Muslim culture and to learn Arabic or Persian language which was dominantly a standard and common language for Muslims of India .

This clearly shows that divide and difference was already their between Muslims and Hindus of India in the pre-British rule era .

Riaz Haq said...

Ahmed: "I don’t think that British really had intention to divide and rule India. British could apparently see that their was already a difference between Muslims and Hindus who lived in Indian sub continent before partition of 1947. Muslims of India maintained their identity as a nation which had its own values and culture"

The British policy of "divide and conquer" is well documented. Differences exist in most societies bit these difference don't have to result in hatred and violence. The Brits and other colonizers exploited these differences to rule over large populations and vast territories.

In 1857, the ‘Great Mutiny’ broke out in which the Hindus and Muslims jointly fought against the British. This shook up the British government so badly that after putting down the Mutiny, they decided to start the policy of divide and rule. Check out online “History in the Service of Imperialism” by B.N. Pande.

All major communal riots began after 1857, artificially engineered by the British authorities. The British collector would secretly call the Hindu Pandit, pay him money, and tell him to speak against Muslims, and similarly he would secretly call the Maulvi, pay him money, and tell him to speak against Hindus. This communal poison was injected into India's body politic year after year and decade after decade.

Riaz Haq said...

Dr. Audrey Truschke
Upper-caste Hindu nationalists on this interview right now: “Googlers didn’t mind talking about caste, they just didn’t want a Dalit-led group talking about caste.”

What sheer, unadulterated bigotry.

Google’s Caste-Bias Problem
A talk about bigotry was cancelled amid accusations of reverse discrimination. Whom was the company trying to protect?

By Isaac Chotiner

ntil recently, Tanuja Gupta was a senior manager at Google News. She was involved in various forms of activism at the company, and, in April, she invited Thenmozhi Soundararajan, the founder of Equality Labs, a nonprofit, to speak about the subject of caste discrimination. (India’s caste system, which has existed in some form for centuries, separates Hindus into broadly hierarchical groups that often correspond to historical religious practice and familial professions. Those at the bottom of the system are called Dalits—formerly known as “untouchables”—and still face extreme discrimination in India.)

Numerous employees within the company expressed the view that any talk on caste discrimination was offensive to them as Hindus, and made them feel unsafe. The talk was eventually cancelled, and Gupta, who had been at Google for more than ten years, resigned amid an investigation into her own behavior. (A spokesperson for Google said that it has “a very clear, publicly shared policy against retaliation and discrimination in our workplace.”)

I recently spoke with Gupta. Her lawyer, Cara Greene, joined the conversation, which we agreed would stay on the record. During the interview, which has been edited for length and clarity, we discussed how Silicon Valley deals with issues of caste discrimination, why Google employees felt “threatened” by the talk that Gupta had scheduled, and the circumstances behind her departure from the company.

Why did you want to join Google, and what did you feel about the place when you did?

tanuja gupta: I started working at Google in 2011. I had been working as a program manager in engineering and software for about a decade, but Google was top of the top. Of course you want a career at a great company. That was a product that I used day in and day out. It was a great opportunity.

When did you decide that you wanted to get involved with activism inside Google?

t.g.: Probably with the Google walkout in 2018. It was the height of the MeToo movement. The Kavanaugh confirmation was happening. The news about Andy Rubin had broken—the ninety-million-dollar payout that he received despite allegations of sexual misconduct. And so I think there was a little bit of a breaking point within the company, and in myself, the experiences that I’d had in tech. That’s when it started.

As we’ve all grown during the past couple of years, diversity, equity, and inclusion [D.E.I.] has become more and more recognized as not just a moral nicety but actually as a business imperative, that companies have a competency around these matters, especially in products. For the past three years, I was working on Google News products. To be able to cover news topics about matters of race, gender equity, caste, things like that, you actually have to be able to understand matters of diversity and inclusion. And so it went from being a separate, side thing to integral to being good at your core job.

Riaz Haq said...

What got you interested in the subject of caste discrimination?

t.g.: There was my own obvious background. My parents immigrated from India in the early nineteen-eighties. I was certainly familiar with the topic. In September, 2021, two employees approached me. I hosted D.E.I. office hours every week where people could come in and talk about these topics, confidentially, and multiple Google employees came into my office and reported that they had faced discrimination when trying to talk about matters of caste in the workplace. There was already a public condemnation of caste discrimination at Google from the Alphabet workers’ union. They had put out a press statement when the Cisco case broke. There were reports from at least twenty Google employees as well. [In June, 2020, California sued Cisco and two of its managers for engaging in caste discrimination. Afterward, Equality Labs received complaints from more than two hundred and fifty tech workers, including twenty Google employees.]

What made it really relevant to Google News was that, in 2022, there was a huge election in India where matters of caste equity were integral. Given the news-product footprint in India, caste is absolutely something we need to talk about, and we need to make sure that our products are thinking about folks from different caste backgrounds.

You’re talking about the election earlier this year, in Uttar Pradesh, which is the most populous state in India, with more than two hundred million people, where a very right-wing politician, aligned with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, was reëlected as chief minister. [The B.J.P, led by India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, is known for its defenses of Hindu identity and religious chauvinism; its base of support has typically come from privileged-caste Hindus, although under Modi the Party has made inroads among voters from a variety of castes.] Are you saying that to understand these issues of caste was important for your work, and not just for the inner harmony of your workplace?

t.g.: That’s right. It was a perfect storm of all these things—colleagues coming to me as well as our products being affected by it.

And were these colleagues coming to you in India or in the United States or both?

t.g.: Both.

Were these people who were experiencing discrimination firsthand, or was it more people who wanted to talk about this issue and why it’s important?

t.g.: The first conversations I had were with people who felt that they were being discriminated against for even raising this topic. I think that’s a form of discrimination in and of itself—where you can talk about some matters related to D.E.I. but not others. Then you had some other folks who faced it directly because of being caste oppressed.

When you say that people felt that they could not bring up caste discrimination, was this in the context of stories about what was happening in Uttar Pradesh, or things within the workplace, or both?

t.g.: Within the workplace.

Who was the discrimination coming from, and how did it manifest?

t.g.: I can share what I’ve seen and what’s been shared with me. The first thing is denial. Saying this doesn’t even exist. That is a form of discrimination. There were messages on e-mail threads that talked about how this isn’t a problem here. If you replace the denial of caste discrimination with the denial of the Holocaust or something like that, it instantly clicks where other people start to realize, “Oh, something’s wrong if people are denying this.” The second thing—and I think the Cisco case is probably the most publicly known example—is that, within a team, when you’ve got people who are caste privileged and caste oppressed, the people who are caste oppressed start to be given inferior assignments, get treated differently, left out of meetings, which are certainly things that I heard from Google employees within the company. [The Google spokesperson said that caste discrimination has “no place in our workplace and it’s prohibited in our policies.”]

Riaz Haq said...

Another thing is these coded conversations. If you’re not attuned to what the issue is, you won’t even realize what’s happening. Asking things like “What’s your last name? I’m not familiar with it.” Then, when the manager hears that last name, they’re, like, “Oh, so you’re from this caste—no wonder you have these leadership skills.” Things like that. And somebody else in the room is, like, “What the hell?” It’s those different types of experiences that I’ve seen or that have been shared with me that show that caste discrimination is happening in the workplace.

Are you saying that in the United States this discrimination is coming from other Indian Americans? This is not to say that white people or Hispanic people or Black people or whoever else can’t perpetrate caste discrimination. But I think a lot of people who aren’t aware of the caste system or do not recognize someone’s name or what that might suggest about their caste would say, “How could I discriminate about caste? I don’t even know anything about caste.”

t.g.: I don’t fault people for not knowing the intricacies of caste discrimination. I fault people for not wanting to learn about it. Willfully not wanting to learn more about certain topics when you hear that people are being discriminated against, choosing not to do anything about it, that is a problem. And that’s what was happening. People can absolutely discriminate based on caste by essentially denying it and not wanting to learn about it.

In other words, there is first-order discrimination by Indian Americans toward people from underprivileged castes. And then when this gets kicked up the chain of command or gets commented upon, people of varying backgrounds practice their own form of discrimination by not looking into it or not wanting to hear about it.

t.g.: That’s exactly right.

So, you are hearing these stories. What happens next?

t.g.: We asked a speaker to come talk to our news team about matters of caste and discrimination, and specifically caste representation in the newsroom. Two days before the talk, which is part of a larger D.E.I. programming series that I ran for the team, a number of e-mails got sent to my V.P., to the head of H.R., to our chief diversity officer, to our C.E.O. directly, claiming that the talk was creating a hostile workplace, that people felt unsafe, that the speaker was not qualified to speak on the topic, and several other allegations. The talk got postponed. That was the term that was used.

Who was sending these e-mails?

t.g.: They were all internal Google employees. That’s about as much as I can say. Google essentially decides to turn down the temperature by postponing the talk and conduct further due diligence on this speaker. Bear in mind that, just five months earlier, this speaker had spoken at Cloud Next, which is a huge event for Google Cloud.

Then nothing happened for two weeks. There was no follow-up on the due diligence, or what made the speaker objectionable in the first place. I told Google that they’d been given some misinformation, and explained why it wasn’t true, and got nothing. At that point, Dalit History Month, which is in April, was about to end.

Riaz Haq said...

Do you want to say what Dalit means?

t.g.: Dalit is a term that means “broken,” or “untouchable.” It refers to folks at the bottom or outside of the caste system who have been relegated to perform the dirtiest jobs because they are considered spiritually polluted. It comes from a millennia-old system that has religious roots. There has been a cultural and societal impact on millions of South Asians in America, and across the globe, who have faced tremendous setbacks, particularly gender-based violence, but also when it comes to owning land or homes, or finding economic and educational opportunities.

The reason it was important to do the event in April is that the speaker is the founder of Dalit History Month. We were at a point where nothing was being done; it was just silence. At that point, there is no difference between a postponement and a cancellation. In April, we started a petition internally to raise awareness about the lack of action. We got four hundred signatures overnight, and a lot of people actually started to learn about caste, which was the whole point of this talk in the first place. H.R. then informed me that I had violated Google’s standards of conduct, claiming that I publicly criticized Googlers for raising concerns to leadership about the harm and risk they felt from the talk. I should have also mentioned that, during the process of these escalations and concerns, my direct employee got doxed. Her personal information was put on Twitter. The content of the tweet was her e-mail invitation to the Google News team to join this talk on caste equity.

Then I got put under investigation. So I’ve got three things happening at once. I’m trying to run this investigation with our security team to figure out who doxed my direct employee. I’m answering questions because I’m under investigation. And I’m still trying to keep the train moving on actually holding a caste-equity talk and getting the speaker cleared. In May, a number of conversations started to happen where it became clear that there were no universal standards for actually bringing speakers into the company. There was no way to actually get approval for a speaker on caste equity. [The Google spokesperson told The New Yorker, “We made the decision not to move forward with this proposed talk which was pulling employees apart rather than bringing our community together and raising awareness.”]

Then I got issued a warning letter saying that I had violated these standards of conduct and that I was going to be penalized for showing a lack of good judgment, for disrupting the workplace, and for making people feel unsafe because I publicly outed them, even though I never, ever publicly named the Google employees who complained. My ratings were going to be lowered, and my compensation would be affected.

There was also an e-mail group within Google with around eight thousand employees of South Asian descent. What exactly was that forum?

t.g.: Eight thousand is a number that was tallied up from the different Google groups or aliases. We have internally moderated forums. Some forums are specific to groups—Hindus at Google, or Desis at Google, things like that. It’s a mix of them. My initial e-mail started getting forwarded to different forums, and then you could just see these e-mail threads spawn. I wasn’t engaging with any of them, but I saw conversations in which people were denying that caste discrimination was ever a thing, were saying that people weren’t smart enough to understand this topic, all these different kinds of allegations.

Did you have any conversations with fellow-employees who were opposed to this talk?

t.g.: No. At that point, the whole H.R. machine had kicked in, so I couldn’t engage with any of these conversations for risk of being seen as retaliatory.

Riaz Haq said...

I think Americans have a pretty clear idea of who at a company might object to a conversation about the way law enforcement treats African Americans, and who would say “All lives matter,” or something like that. They would have an idea of politically where those people were coming from. What do you think was going on here?

t.g.: I think it’s probably a couple of things combined. There’s certainly the nationalist political movement that is well documented across the board, and the emboldening of that movement with the current leadership [in India]. Apart from that political side, any time you talk about a topic that’s going to threaten your own power you’re going to get some resistance. To your point of comparing it to talking about police brutality and racism in America, I think that’s exactly what we’re seeing here. Caste is just a different concept than we’re used to in America. We understand race, we understand religion, but caste is neither of those things fully. That’s where I think the lack of understanding is happening right now.

The right-wing Hindu movement in India has historically not been associated with people from underprivileged castes, and those people have generally been less supportive of the movement. Much of the criticism of the ruling party in India and talk of caste discrimination has been chalked up to “anti-Hinduism.”

t.g.: It’s so absurd to me. If you think about L.G.B.T.Q. rights, when you have a talk about those kinds of rights, that is not saying you’re inherently anti-Christian. They’re so different. That’s the only way I can think to explain it to someone here. The opposite of caste is not religion.

That’s where things have gotten really conflated. This was a talk about civil rights and the cultural and socioeconomic impact of caste discrimination on people in America, and how this system has moved here. That’s what we were trying to talk about, but, when you have people who are threatened by that conversation, because they associate caste discrimination with religion, with that kind of power, that’s where a lot of the conflicts came in.

One of the things that strike me as ironic here is that the language from those opposed to the talk is not unfamiliar. You can imagine, in another context, people who support D.E.I. efforts saying that, if people who are Hindu feel offended by this talk or feel that it’s an attack on their religion, that is a really important thing to protect. Is there a tension there?

t.g.: You don’t get to claim or hijack one form of discrimination to perpetuate another form. I had many personal friends who I could talk to about this who were, like, “I am Hindu, I am Brahmin, and I am deeply disturbed with how Hinduism is being used to perpetuate caste discrimination.” I don’t want to say that this is a monolithic thing, how Hindus feel about this. That’s not at all what I’m saying. I’m half-Hindu. You can absolutely have a conversation about caste discrimination and know that there may be religious roots in some of it, but that’s not where we are today. We are talking about a socioeconomic issue. That’s how you can hold the two things in your brain together. Does that answer your question?

Riaz Haq said...

If there were a talk scheduled at a large company and a number of employees at the talk said that they felt that it was offensive to their religion, which was not a majority religion in the United States, a lot of people would be sympathetic to that and think that they should listen to those people. In this case, I happen to think that’s ridiculous, just like I think it’s ridiculous to say that people who critique Modi are advancing an anti-Hindu agenda, but, in the current moment, one which D.E.I. has played a role in creating, I understand why people’s attitude is, “Whoa, we’ve got to listen to these people who say that this talk is offensive to their religion.”

t.g.: This is where we have to talk about what’s “offensive” versus real harm. The real harm is when people are denied a voice, when they cannot speak about their own working conditions and the harm that they have faced socioeconomically. That is real harm compared with being offended because your own power is threatened and you’re feeling a little bit more fragile but you can’t point to actual harm that’s been done to you. The only people that got really harmed in this were all the people who are caste oppressed, who essentially are now feeling even more worried about being outed and have had their discrimination ignored. And my direct employee who got doxed. Those are the people that are really harmed.

A lot of tech companies, Twitter most recently, have been engaged in squabbles with the Indian government about matters of free speech. Did you have any sense that people in Google were concerned about pissing off the Indian government in some way?

cara greene: I’m just going to jump in. I don’t think Tanuja is in a position really to speak about Google and what they were thinking in that situation or what was driving their concerns beyond what was expressed to her.

Without focussing on this situation, is that something that you think that tech companies like Google are generally worried or concerned about? India right now is undergoing some very fast changes, and press freedom has been declining. Was that something that was on your mind, or your employees’ minds?

t.g.: I would be hesitant to try to speak to what could or couldn’t have been on their minds. I do know that we have a very large footprint in India, both in consumers and workers.

How did your departure from Google occur?

t.g.: When I got that conduct warning letter, it was kind of game over. My career was over, but the terms of the letter were still vague and I never got any answers to the questions that I posed. It was just clear from that letter that they wanted me gone. I decided that I needed to leave the company and make sure that my team was in as good a shape as possible. That was the last two weeks of May. At that point, I was still trying to have a talk on caste equity, to see if we could have something within Asian Heritage Month. But, because we had no clear vetting standards, some of the other speakers we considered were, like, “Why would we go through this? Why would we come speak after what has happened?”

Do you think Google is an outlier in terms of caste issues in Silicon Valley?

t.g.: This is not unique to Google. This is happening across tech because of the large number of South Asian employees. What I do think is unique to Google is the fact that they shut this talk down. This speaker, Soundararajan, has spoken at a number of other companies in Silicon Valley. For Google to not really have the cultural competence of understanding what was happening and to cancel the talk is what’s surprising. That’s really unfortunate because they can set a precedent for what’s going to happen at some of these other locations.

Riaz Haq said...

Since you left the company, are there things you’re not allowed to say legally or subjects you’re not allowed to discuss?

c.g.: Google requires of its employees a pretty extensive nondisclosure agreement that really limits what they can talk about with respect to their employment at Google. Luckily, and thankfully, California, among other places, passed the Silence No More Act, which allows Tanuja to speak freely about the discrimination and retaliation that she experienced and observed in the workplace. But that nondisclosure agreement does curtail employees and former employees from being able to speak freely about what they observed in the workplace.

t.g.: I’ll answer your question the way I can. First of all, I’m glad that you even asked because it’s been really frustrating to see some of the press coverage that said that I just left the company or resigned over the incident like it was an ultimatum. It wasn’t. There was this whole other thing where I was facing retaliation for reporting it in the first place. When I left, I filed a request for an investigation into retaliation and creating a safe workplace for caste-oppressed individuals.

Out of respect for the time that Alphabet has requested to conduct that investigation, I haven’t spoken publicly until now. At this point, we’re some per cent of the way through what looks like a pretty classic kind of deny, delay, distract cycle.

This is seen across different companies and across different topics. I’ve had a number of women of color who have reached out to me saying, “Hey, I’ve had similar experiences working on D.E.I. at my company,” or even within Google as well. And what is the safe way to do this work?

Yeah, you had a striking line in your goodbye letter saying that this work tends to fall on women.

t.g.: Yeah, because women, especially women of color, are disproportionately affected by a lot of these matters, they’re often the group that has the most scholarship and experience to address them. You then have the burden of also educating your colleagues, counselling them through these kinds of topics, and then leading the charge as well. But you only have credibility to do those things if you’re also really good at your other jobs where you’re useful to the company. You end up taking on a double amount of work, but you want to do it because it’s the right thing to do. And then, the moment that you kind of go out of your place, you get retaliated against. ♦

Riaz Haq said...

India at 75: How Hindu nationalism overshadows the promise of secularism
India is gradually being transformed from a secular multicultural nation to a Hindu supremacist state, activists and minority groups say.

When India gained its independence from Britain in 1947, its founding fathers envisioned the newly free nation as a secular multicultural state.

Over the next 75 years, the South Asian country has transformed from being poverty-stricken into one of the world's fastest-growing economies.

It has also emerged as a democratic counterweight to its authoritarian neighbor, China.

India has held free elections since its independence and had peaceful transfers of power, boasts an independent judiciary and a vibrant media landscape.

But many dissidents say that under Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government, which has been in office since 2014, there has been some backsliding when it comes to the country's secular character.

The defining credo of Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) since 1989 has been "Hindutva," a political ideology that promotes the "values" of the Hindu religion as being the cornerstone of Indian society and culture.

"The Modi regime is making legislative, administrative and cultural changes that seek to transform India from a secular democratic republic to an authoritarian Hindu-supremacist one," Kavita Krishnan, of the All India Progressive Women's Association, told DW.

"That's why I prefer the term Hindu supremacy to describe Modi's politics," Krishnan said.

Hindu nationalism on the rise
Since its independence, India has been proud of its multiculturalism, even though it has occasionally struggled with bloody sectarian violence.

Hindus make up the overwhelming majority of India's 1.4 billion people, and there have been growing calls in recent years from religious right-wing groups to declare India a Hindu nation and enshrine Hindu supremacy in law.

The demands, coupled with the BJP's pursuit of a Hindu nationalist agenda, have alienated religious minorities, particularly Muslims, critics say, pointing out that there has been a marked increase in hate speech and violence targeting the nation's 210 million Muslims in recent years.

Riaz Haq said...

#Nuclear arsenals of #China, #India, #Pakistan are growing. But it's not an arms race—yet. Combined arsenals of China (350 warheads), India (160) and Pakistan (165) are much smaller than #US's & #Russia's but exceed #British & #French stockpiles. #Nukes

Yet, in many ways, all three countries were hesitant nuclear powers. China did not deploy a missile capable of hitting the American mainland until the 1980s. When India and Pakistan fought a war over Kargil, in the disputed region of Kashmir, in the summer of 1999, India’s air force, tasked with delivering the bombs if needed, was not told what they looked like, how many there were or the targets over which they might have to be dropped.

All that has changed. China has been adding hundreds of new missile silos in recent years. When Pakistan celebrated its 60th birthday in 2007 it had roughly 60 nuclear warheads. Fifteen years on, that number has nearly tripled (see chart). The combined arsenals of China (350 warheads), India (160) and Pakistan (165), though modest by American and Russian standards (several thousand each), now exceed British and French stockpiles in Europe (around 500 in total). All three countries are emulating the American and Russian practice of having a nuclear “triad”: nukes deliverable from land, air and sea. South Asia’s nuclear era is entering a more mature phase.

That need not mean a more dangerous one. A new report by Ashley Tellis of the Carnegie Endowment, a think-tank in Washington, explores the dynamics among Asia’s three nuclear powers. Since 1998, most Western attention has focused on the risk of a conflagration between India and Pakistan over Kashmir. That danger persists. Yet the risk of an arms race has been exaggerated, argues Mr Tellis, a former State Department official.

India’s arsenal has grown slowly, he observes—it remains smaller than Pakistan’s—and its nuclear posture remains “remarkably conservative”. The comparison with the nuclear behemoths is instructive. America and Russia both maintain huge arsenals designed to enable so-called counterforce strikes—those which pre-emptively target the other side’s nuclear weapons to limit the damage they might do. That means their arsenals must be large, sophisticated and kept on high alert.

In contrast, China, India and Pakistan, despite their manifold differences, all view nukes as “political instruments” rather than “usable tools of war”, argues Mr Tellis. Both China and India, for instance, pledge that they would not use nuclear weapons unless an adversary had used weapons of mass destruction first, a commitment known as “no first use”. America disbelieves China’s promise, much as Pakistan doubts India’s. But the Chinese and Indian arsenals are consistent with the pledges, insists Mr Tellis.

He calculates that if India wanted to use a tactical (or low-yield) nuclear weapon to take out a Pakistani missile on the ground, it would have to do so within a few minutes of the Pakistani launcher leaving its storage site. That is implausible. India does not have missiles that can launch within minutes of an order, nor those accurate to within tens of metres of their target. And, for now, China’s rocketeers also train and operate on the assumption that their forces would be used in retaliation. The result is that things are more stable than the swelling arsenals suggest.

Riaz Haq said...

Finance Ministry launches ’75 Years Economic Journey of Pakistan’

He (Finance Minister Miftah Ismail) said that a country with 30 million population in 1947 could not feed its population and had to import most of its food requirements from abroad, adding that today, local agriculture production has risen significantly and Pakistan was producing over 26.4 million metric tons of wheat annually as compared the total output of 3.4 million tonnes in 1948, besides cotton attaining a level of more than 8.3 million bales in 2022 compared to 1.2 million bales in 1948.

The sugarcane production, he said has reached to 88.7 million tonnes in 2022 as compared to 5.5 million tonnes in 1948 and rice output was recorded at 9.3 million tonnes during 2022 as against the total production of 0.7 million tonnes in 1948, the minister added.

Finance Minister said that Pakistan constructed both large and small dams like Tarbela Dam and Mangla Dam, which increased the water storage and availability to 131.0 MAF in 2022 from 63.9 MAF in 1965-66, adding that it helped in achieving sustain agriculture sector growth in the country.

He said that Pakistan emerged as one of the leading world exporter of textiles, pharmaceutical goods and food related items and economic policies of the successive governments have promoted industry, agriculture and services sectors.

The perseverance of its people made Pakistan the world’s 24th largest economy in terms of purchasing power parity and 44th in terms of Nominal GDP, he said adding that in fiscal year 1950, the Nominal GDP was Rs10.1 billion about $3.0 billion whereas, GDP per-capita was Rs286 with a population of 35.3 million.

In Fiscal Year 2022, Nominal GDP stands at Rs66,950 billion or $383 billion whereas, per-capita income has reached at $1,798 in 2022, he said adding that the country successfully established its trade and economic ties with different countries and entered into several global trading arrangements like WTO, SCO, WCO, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, China Pakistan Economic Corridor, bilateral and multilateral agreements including EU-GSP Plus scheme.

Miftah Ismail said that all these successes were possible due to dedication, hard work and resilience of people of Pakistan, adding that enhanced economic governance have paved the way for a prosperous and strong Pakistan.

He further said that given the current economic fundamentals and sound economic policies being adopted by the present government, country was all set to become an economic power house of the world.

Meanwhile, Federal Secretary Ministry of Finance Hamed Yaqoob Sheikh said that the 75 years journey of Pakistan was a story of economic, political, social and regional events that has shaped the country that we live today.

He said that several boom-bust cycle, political crises and myriad geo-strategic challenges have guided our policies and program.

Today, he said Pakistan was ranked among 50 leading economies of the world with GDP amounting $383 billion, adding that it also established its vibrant banking system that supported economic development over the years .

Riaz Haq said...

Bilal I Gilani
Power woes of Pak have two different lenses

One is of disaster

The other is if hope

The issue of electricity is of shortage

Which means demand outpaced supply


Bilal I Gilani

Wheat 🌾 yield saw exponential improvement for over multiple decades

Providing food security to Pakistan

Pakistan rising ! No need to despair


Bilal I Gilani
Remittances to Pakistan over past 40 years

We could see a similar jump like we saw in year 2000

No reason to despair !

Riaz Haq said...

Ministry of Finance
Finance Division launches " 75 years Economic Journey of Pakistan" to commemorate 75th Independance day of Pakistan.


Ministry of Finance
Nominal GDP rose from $3bn to $383bn from 1950-2022.
GDP growth (%) in 1950 (1.8%) and in 2022 (5.97%).
Per Capita Income rose from $86 to $1,798 from 1950-2022.
Exports rose from $163.9 mn to $32.5 bn from 1950-2022.
Tax Revenues rose from Rs. 0.31 bn to Rs. 6,126.1 bn.


Ministry of Finance
Agriculture accounted for 59.9% of the total GDP in 1949-50.
Green Revolution started during the early 1960s.
At the time of independence, Pakistan inherited only 34 industrial units out of 921 industrial units.
Six-lane Lahore to Islamabad Motorway (M-2) was completed in 1999.


Ministry of Finance
Pakistan recently began to increase the mobility, connectivity, and versatility of its digital services.
There was a 15% increase in internet usage after the lockdown was imposed.

Riaz Haq said...

75 Years

Economic Journey of Pakistan

Toward a Vibrant Pakistan

Government of Pakistan

Ministry of Finance

August 13, 2022

Zen, Germany said...

Actually it was corporations like Google which benefitted from Nehru's secular humanism, because it produced people like Sundar Pichai in a certain sense. However, the caste problem in US big techs seem to be much worse than previously uncovered. I wouldn't be surprised that same people will also shamelessly discriminate against Muslims.

But what actions are being taken? At a minimum, they should not let interview or perf. review panels to be comprised of upper caste Hindus alone. There is nothing wrong in saying this because we talk about gender diversity in interview panel, then why not caste and religious diversity too?

Ahmed said...


To some extent I might agree with this but not completely . Sir I have given reference of a book titled “ ALBIRUNI’S INDIA” written by Dr.Edward .

And I can also give you reference of a book written by a great and well known scholar of Indian subcontinent who was actually one of the great advocates of 2 nation theory and he even admitted that creation of Pakistan was a mercy for Muslims of India.

Sir according to my teacher of Pakistan studies who taught us history at school level , Indian national congress party was formed way before Muslim League came into existance . Although the purpose and intention of forming Indian national congress was to provide justice and rights to Indian citizens irrespective of their faith, caste and background and their were many non-Hindus who were members of Indian National Congress , but later Hindu politicians started dominating the political party . Even founding father of Pakistan realised this and he himself was a member of Indian national congress but he also joined Muslim League soon after its formation and later resigned from Indian national congress . Why did he resign from Indian national congress ? I am sorry to say but did British force him to resign ? We’re British responsible for this ?

Don’t you think India is in a big mess and problems now after partition when it was before partition ?

Their is huge violence which is taking place in India between religious minorities . Are British responsible for this ?

Riaz Haq said...

#IndiaAt75: #Modi is Proving #Pakistan's Case For #Partition1947. 75 years after #India split apart, the nation’s beleaguered #Muslims increasingly face the marginalization and brutal prejudice that Pakistan’s founder #QuaideAzam predicted. #PakistanAt75

Opinion by Nisid Hajari

Jinnah’s main fear was how little power Muslims would wield in a united India. That’s what drove the initial break with his former allies in the Indian National Congress party — including Mohandas K. “Mahatma” Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first prime minister— a decade before independence. And it’s why Jinnah retracted his support for a last-minute compromise brokered by the British in 1946, after Nehru intimated that the Congress would not honor the agreement once the British were gone.

Partition very nearly proved Jinnah’s case. Somewhere between 200,000 and two million Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs were killed within a few short weeks of independence; 14 million were uprooted from their homes. The biggest massacres arguably began with attacks on Muslim villages on the Indian side of the new border.

India’s founding fathers, however, risked their lives to undercut Jinnah’s argument. When riots spread to the Indian capital Delhi and police and petty government officials joined in pogroms targeting Muslims, Nehru took to the streets, remonstrating with mobs and giving public speeches promoting communal harmony while only lightly guarded. He insisted the government machinery exert itself to protect Muslims as well as Hindus.

With even members of his cabinet convinced that India would be better off without tens of millions of citizens suspected of split loyalties, Nehru barely prevailed. The pressure to expel Muslims only really subsided months later after a Hindu fanatic assassinated the revered Gandhi, shocking the cabinet into unity and prompting public revulsion against Hindu bigotry.

That consensus and the rights enshrined in India’s secular constitution largely preserved religious harmony in India for more than seven decades. Al-Qaeda and other transnational terrorist groups made few inroads among Indian Muslims, even as jihadists flourished in nearby countries. While sectarian riots have repeatedly broken out, especially after provocations such as the 1992 demolition of a mosque in Ayodhya to make way for a Hindu temple, tensions have for the most part remained local and limited. And even if Indian Muslims faced discrimination and were on average poorer and less well-educated than Hindus, few doubted that they were full citizens — especially when their votes were needed at election time.

What makes the changes that have proliferated under Modi so dispiriting and dangerous is their corrosive impact on those feelings of belonging. The problem isn’t even so much the most horrific cases of bigotry, including dozens of lynchings of Muslims around the country. Those at least still draw outrage in some quarters, as well as international attention.

What’s worse is the steady and widely accepted marginalization of India’s nearly 200 million Muslims. An overheated and jingoistic media portrays them as potential fifth columnists, who should “go back” to a Pakistan most have never visited if they don’t like the new India. (Pakistani sponsorship of extremist groups that have carried out brutal attacks in India has exacerbated fears of an internal threat.) There’s widespread acceptance of hate speech, including open calls to exterminate Muslims. Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party has pursued laws that threaten to disenfranchise millions of them.

Riaz Haq said...

#IndiaAt75: #Tech giants confront rampant #caste discrimination among #SiliconValley #Indians. They're taking a modern-day crash course in #India’s ancient caste system. #Casteism #casteisminindia #Modi #Hindutva #Islamophobia #Apple #Cisco #Google #IBM

Caste in California: Tech giants confront ancient Indian hierarchy By Paresh Dave

Apple, the world’s largest listed company, updated its General Employee Conduct Policy nearly two years ago to explicitly prohibit discrimination based on race, which it defined as existing categories such as race, religion, gender, age and ancestry. joined together.

The inclusion of the new category, which was not previously reported, goes beyond US discrimination laws, which do not explicitly ban racism.

The update came after the tech sector – which counts India as its top source of skilled foreign workers – received a wake-up call in June 2020 when California’s employment regulator asked Cisco on behalf of a lower-caste engineer. Systems, which accused the two upper-castes. Bosses blocking his career.

Cisco, which denies wrongdoing, says an internal investigation found no evidence of discrimination and that some allegations are unfounded because race is not a legally “protected class” in California. An appeals panel this month rejected the networking company’s bid to push the matter to private arbitration, meaning a public court case could come as early as next year.

The controversy – the first US employment lawsuit about alleged racism – has forced Big Tech to confront a millennium-old hierarchy where the social status of Indians has been based on family lineage, from the top Brahmin “priest” class to Dalits. Until, the “untouchables” and were sent to slave labor.

Since the lawsuit was filed, several activist and employee groups have begun calling for updated US discrimination legislation — and also calling on tech companies to change their policies to help fill the void and stop racism. Is.

Their efforts have produced poor results, according to a Reuters review of policy in US industry, which employs hundreds of thousands of workers in India.

“I’m not surprised that the policies would be inconsistent because that’s almost what you would expect if the law isn’t clear,” said Kevin Brown, a law professor at the University of South Carolina who studies race issues. Include it in US laws.

“I can imagine that … (a) some parts of the organization are saying it makes sense, and other parts are saying that we don’t think it makes sense to take a stance.”

Apple’s core internal policy on workplace conduct, which was spotted by Reuters, added references to equal employment opportunity and race in anti-harassment sections after September 2020.

Apple confirmed that it “updated the language a few years ago to ensure that we prohibit discrimination or harassment based on race.” It states that the training given to the employees also explicitly mentions caste.

“Our teams assess our policies, training, processes and resources on an ongoing basis to ensure they are comprehensive,” it said. “We have a diverse and global team, and we are proud that our policies and actions reflect this.”

Elsewhere in tech, IBM told Reuters that it added race, which already had India-specific policies, to its global discrimination rules after it filed a Cisco lawsuit, though it declined to give a specific date or reasoning. Gave.

The company said that IBM’s only training in which caste is mentioned is for managers in India.

Many companies do not specifically mention race in their core global policy, including Amazon, Dell, Facebook owner Meta, Microsoft and Google. Reuters reviewed each policy, some of which are published internally for employees only.

Riaz Haq said...

Pieter Friedrich
On 14 April, in
, supporters of India’s Hindu nationalist movement paraded through town on bulldozers, the latest symbol of the #Modi regime’s genocidal, Islamophobic agenda. Mayor
, will you condemn this fascist display in your town?

Riaz Haq said...

The Hinduization of India Is Nearly Complete
Narendra Modi’s ethnonationalist rule is unraveling the country’s constitutional commitment to its Muslim and Christian minorities.

By Yasmeen Serhan

For Shah Alam Khan, whose great-grandparents were among the roughly 35 million Muslims who opted to live on the Indian side of the Radcliffe Line in the aftermath of Partition, his family’s decision was in many ways a political gamble. “They didn’t want to go to a theocratic state,” Khan told me from his home in Delhi. Indeed, when Pakistan finally adopted a constitution, nine years after Partition, it enshrined Islam as the state religion. For his family, the promise of a pluralist India, as envisaged by the country’s founders, trumped the warnings of the pro-Partition Muslim League (which went on to become the party of Pakistan’s founders) that a Muslim minority would inevitably be subordinate to the Hindu majority.

Seventy-five years later, those warnings have gained a new prescience. Nominally, India remains a secular state and a multifaith democracy. Religious minorities account for roughly 20 percent of the country’s 1.4 billion people, who include about 200 million Muslims and 28 million Christians. But beneath the country’s ostensible inclusivity runs an undercurrent of Hindu nationalism that has gained strength during the eight-year rule of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The concern shared by many among the country’s religious minorities, as well as by more secular-minded liberals within the Hindu majority, is that the country’s secular and inclusive ethos is already beyond repair.

Muslims and Christians alike have faced a surge in communal violence in recent years. A raft of new laws has reached into their daily lives to interfere with the religious garments they wear, the food they eat, where and how they worship, and even whom they marry. Many of the Indian journalists, lawyers, activists, and religious leaders I’ve spoken with for this article say that the institutions on which the country once relied to keep this kind of ethnic supremacism in check—the courts, opposition parties, and independent media—have buckled.

To Khan, it feels as though the India he has inherited is gradually becoming another version of the theocratic state his family turned away from all those years ago. “They were promised a secular nation,” he said. For them, and for the country’s religious minorities today, “the unmaking of secular India is a betrayal.”

Riaz Haq said...

The Hinduization of India Is Nearly Complete
Narendra Modi’s ethnonationalist rule is unraveling the country’s constitutional commitment to its Muslim and Christian minorities.

By Yasmeen Serhan

Many Hindu Indians also appear comfortable with Modi’s ethnonationalist aims, despite the outbreaks of communal violence. “The whole religious agenda is not seen as something radical because, at the end of the day, something like 80 percent of India’s population is Hindu,” Marwaha said. “People just believe, ‘Well, why can’t they just live with our rules? Why can’t they not eat beef? Why does the azaan need to be played in public places?’ Things like that.”

If no check to the Hinduization of state and society comes from within India, then what about from without? So far, India’s international allies have shown little inclination to call Delhi out over the treatment of its religious minorities, largely because they see India as too important a partner to alienate. This is especially true of the Biden administration, which counts its relationship with India as a strategic asset in its Indo-Pacific strategy.

When Washington has voiced concern about the treatment of religious minorities in India, it has done so in private. That could be starting to change. In April, at a joint press conference with the Indian foreign and defense ministers, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken noted that the United States is monitoring the rise of human-rights abuses in the country. That same month, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, a federal body created by Congress in 1998, designated India as a country of “particular concern” for the third year in a row in its annual religious-freedom report, placing India alongside countries such as Afghanistan, China, Iran, Russia, and Pakistan. In India’s case, the commission recommended imposing targeted sanctions against those responsible for severe religious-freedom violations.

Although the commission has no power to enforce such measures, its condemnations may have some cumulative effect. “When your own agency is recommending a policy move for three years in a row, it becomes harder to ignore with each passing year,” Pranay Somayajula, an advocacy and outreach coordinator at Hindus for Human Rights, a group based in Washington, D.C., told me.

As menacing as the persecution of religious minorities has become, for most Indians, emigrating is not an option. Only about 5 percent of citizens have a passport, and those who leave the country tend to be among the wealthiest. “If we decide to abandon the ship, what will happen to people who do not have the resources to go out? That is a very big concern,” Akif told me. As the last of his siblings still living in India, he can’t bring himself to leave his parents behind.

For Shah Alam Khan, remaining is a point of principle too. Because he spent several years working as a doctor for the National Health Service in Britain, he could emigrate there. But doing so would hand the nationalists who don’t see him as a true Indian a win. “It’s like running away. I won’t do that,” he said. “This is my country at the end of the day.”

Ali K. said...

On Salman Rushdie's parents migration in 1961 to Karachi, Pakistan

In his lavish autobiography, Joseph Anton, Salman Rushdie expresses bewilderment at the decision of his father Anis to choose Pakistan over India late in his life. We are not provided the precise year in which Anis and his family took residence in Karachi. We are told only this much — at the time of their departure Rushdie was studying in a British school, which he had joined as a 13-year-old in 1961. But we know the year of their shift because of the disclosure made to an Indian magazine by Rushdie’s lawyer, Vijay Shankardass, who claimed Anis left India in 1963, flying to England first and then to Karachi.

Anis’s decision was inexplicable to Rushdie, for his father was “a godless man who knew and thought a great deal about God” and whom Islam fascinated because it was the “only one of the great world religions to be born within recorded history.” He particularly found inspiring the 12th century philosopher, Ibn Rushd, who was “at the forefront of the rationalist argument against Islamic literalism in his time”, and adopted his name — therefore, the title Rushdie. Anis believed the sequence of verses in the Qur’an were jumbled up, occasionally visited the Idgah for the “ritual up-and-down of prayers”, and loved his liquor, under the influence of which he often behaved intemperately.

How could Anis then opt for Pakistan, thereby tacitly accepting the two-nation theory, which claimed Hindus and Muslims constituted two separate nations? Rushdie writes, palpably bewildered: “They didn’t enjoy living in Karachi…Nor did their reasons for moving ring true. They felt, they said, increasingly alien in India as Muslims. They wanted, they said, to find good Muslims for their daughters. It was bewildering. After a lifetime of happy irreligion they were using religious rationales.” Not persuaded, Rushdie suspects there must have been a business and tax problems, or “other real-world problems that had driven them to sell the home to which they were devoted and abandon the city they loved. Something was fishy here.”

Rushdie smells something fishy because he erroneously believes the embracing of Pakistan necessarily reflects the person’s religiosity. Rushdie does not say this explicitly, but it is a conclusion you draw as he refuses to accept they could feel alienated as Muslims because of their “happy irreligion.” Yet the reasons for Indian Muslims to migrate to Pakistan were manifold, ranging from their faith in the idea of Pakistan to their fear of Hindu-Muslims riots to the possibility of securing greater pecuniary gains in a new nation-state. The issue of language too was a factor. Litterateurs such as Niaz Fatehpuri and Josh Malihabadi opted for Pakistan because they were sceptical about the future of Urdu in India, believing its government would show preference for Hindi, as it eventually did.

It is astonishing that Rushdie should have perceived a direct co-relation between Pakistan and religiosity, and in the process misreading the history of the subcontinent. Doesn’t Rushdie know that the idea of Pakistan was a modernist project, mooted and fought by those who too, like his father, lived a life of happy irreligion? Indeed, among the most delicious ironies underlying the demand for Pakistan was the robust opposition it encountered from ulema, or Islamic scholars, those who were the very antithesis of Anis

Zen, Germany said...

Riaz, on the topic of religious persecution in india: western democracies are in a dilemma. India is a flawed democracy, but still ideologically more aligned with west than China or Pakistan. Even the persecution of Muslims in India, Modi probably knows that so long as there are less number of Muslims killed in India that the number of Muslims killed in sectarian violence in AfPak, probably noone would fault India.

Riaz Haq said...

Zen: "Modi probably knows that so long as there are less number of Muslims killed in India that the number of Muslims killed in sectarian violence in AfPak, probably noone would fault India"

India is unique in the widespread genocidal rhetoric by ruling party leaders. Once unleashed, these forces are to control. Top Indian economists like Amartya Sen and Raghu Rajan are already sounding the alarm.

Riaz Haq said...

There is little to celebrate for #IndiaAt75. #India’s #economy is in #crisis and has been since long before the beginning of the #COVID19 pandemic but #Modi gov't has run a successful marketing campaign that has struck a chord with citizens. via @AJEnglish

By Somdeep Sen
Associate Professor of International Development Studies at Roskilde University

Indeed, on the eve of the first COVID-19 lockdown India’s nominal gross domestic product (GDP) growth was the lowest it has been since 1975-76. Exports and investments were also on a downward trend.

As was the case the world over, the Indian economy witnessed a sharp downturn during the pandemic. GDP growth declined by 23.9 percent and, in 2020-21, the GDP shrank by 7.3 percent. The effect of this downturn was felt most severely by the country’s poorest. In 2021, a study by the Pew Research Center showed that the number of people in India living on $2 or less a day increased by 75 million due to the recession during the pandemic. This increase accounted for 60 percent of the “global increase in poverty”. The study also found that the size of the Indian middle class shrunk by 32 million in 2020. This also accounted for 60 percent of the “global retreat” from the middle class.

At present, India’s economy now seems to be somewhat on the mend. Nonetheless, the current spike in global energy and food prices due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine has had a significant effect on post-pandemic economic recovery. Food and beverage inflation has been eating the already squeezed household budgets of the poor and middle class. In June 2022, the unemployment rate was 7.8 percent – a 0.7 percent increase from May. In the 20-24 age group, the unemployment rate was at 43.7 percent. The Indian rupee has also been losing value against the dollar and this will have a detrimental effect on import-heavy sectors.

National policymaking has not been a testament to good governance either. This was all the more evident during the pandemic. While India was classified as a country at “high risk” of a devastating COVID-19 outbreak soon after the virus was first identified in China, the government has been slow in putting in place preventive measures. The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the COVID-19 outbreak a global public health emergency on January 30, 2020. However, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s first statement on the pandemic, in the form of a tweet did not come until March 3. The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare launched its COVID-19 awareness campaign on March 6. Until then, the only public health advice on the matter was coming from the Ministry of AYUSH (Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy). And the AYUSH advisory on COVID included little more than a list of ayurvedic and homoeopathic preventive measures and remedies.

Eventually, a national lockdown – with only four-hour notice – was announced on March 24. The way the world’s biggest lockdown was instituted itself was a testament to bad governance and misplaced political priorities. The four hours’ notice was meant to represent resolute leadership in the face of a global crisis. However, with little information on whether there would be access to vital commodities during the lockdown, panicked citizens ignored all social distancing guidelines and rushed to the stores to stock up on essentials just before locking down to prevent transmission.

Riaz Haq said...

#IndiaAt75 OpEd by #Indian-#American Prof Akhila Ananth: "As a Hindu, I can’t stay silent about injustices committed in India — in the name of our faith" #secularism #HindutvaTerror #Hindutva #Islamophobia #casteism #Modi #India - Los Angeles Times

Modi has waged a political war against poor people, farmers, Indigenous and caste-oppressed groups and Muslims, and because of that, Hindu nationalists now feel free to brutalize those communities. In 2019, he abrogated the semi-sovereign status of Kashmir, the territory trapped between Indian and Pakistani military rule. Thousands of people protested when Modi’s government approved a bill that set religion as a condition for citizenship by only granting citizenship to non-Muslims fleeing neighboring countries.


We in the diaspora have a role to play against Hindu fundamentalism. The California State University system, where I work, now includes caste as a protected category, which means that students, staff or faculty can report caste-based discrimination they face on campuses to university administrators for internal investigations. That was a result of years of activism from Dalit students, who are from historically oppressed communities of the caste system, and their supporters. Just like the millions of activists in India, there is also a growing movement of progressive South Asian Americans, including Indians, Bangladeshis, Pakistanis, Sri Lankans and Nepalis in the U.S. forming coalitions across religious and ethnic lines to advocate for better living conditions in the U.S. and to resist conservative policies in our homelands.

Last month, a group of us walked through the Lotus Festival honoring India at Echo Park with signs protesting Modi’s rule. We were met with many curious and supportive Angelenos, but also with Hindu conservatives, invited guests of the festival, aggressively calling us liars. One Indian woman lunged toward us before her friend pulled her back. This time, I did not smile politely. I yelled back.

On the 75th anniversary of India’s independence from Britain, I am as inspired by my progressive South Asian community as I am by the words of India’s constitution. The preamble, written by B.R. Ambedkar, the Dalit scholar and freedom fighter, proclaims that the people of India will create a secular democratic republic that secures for all its citizens: “JUSTICE, social, economic and political; LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship; EQUALITY of status and of opportunity.” These are the ideals that I’ll be celebrating and that I’ll continue building toward, even if they feel out of reach right now.

Zen, Germany said...

"India is unique in the widespread genocidal rhetoric by ruling party leaders. Once unleashed, these forces are to control. Top Indian economists like Amartya Sen and Raghu Rajan are already sounding the alarm."


Agreed, but sadly this is not unique to India. Elections in western democracies - notably France and USA - are no better. Given the emotional temperament in India it achieves a different magnitude. But white supremacist attacks in USA should be seen in similar light as well.

What we have been seeing is structural changes in constitutions and judiciary making it more acceptable to make (muslim)minorities second class citizens. In India, this has already happened.

Riaz Haq said...

Zen: "sadly this is not unique to India"

I think it is.

The ruling party is promoting impunity when it comes to raping and killing Muslims by Hindutva terrorists.

Recently, 11 men convicted of gang rape of Bilkis Bano and killing her family were released from prison and greeted with sweets in Gujarat. Bulkis was pregnant at the time in 2002. Her 6 year old daughter was murdered in front of her eyes by these men smashing her head against the rocks.

Pragya Singh Thakur was involved in a number of blasts (Malegaon blast) with the intent of framing Muslims. She was acquitted and elected to Indian parliament on ruling BJP ticket.

Earlier, a number of Hindutva terrorists were acquitted in Samjhota Express bombing in February 2007 that claimed 68 lives, including lives of 43 Pakistan citizens.

Riaz Haq said...

‘Hindu Rashtra’ draft proposes Varanasi as capital instead of Delhi
India News
Updated on Aug 13, 2022 10:52 AM IST
Elaborating on the document, president of the Varanasi-based Shankaracharya Parishad said people of every caste will have the facility and security to live in the nation and that people of other religious faiths will not be allowed to vote

According to Swaroop, the right to vote will be attained by citizens after completing 16 years of age while the age of contesting elections has been fixed at 25 years. A total 543 members will be elected for the ‘Parliament of Religions’, the seer said, adding that the new system will abolish the rules and regulations of the British era and everything will be conducted on the basis of the ‘Varna’ system.

The judicial system of punishment would be based on that of the Treta and Dvapara yugas, he said.

“The Gurukul system will be revived and education in Ayurveda, mathematics, nakshatra, Bhu-garbha, astrology etc. would be imparted,” he added.

Moreover, every citizen will get compulsory military training and agriculture would be made completely tax free, he added.

Riaz Haq said...

Confidence and Nationalism in Modi’s India
A survey of Indian public opinion finds overwhelming nationalism, confidence in military prowess, and support for a large nuclear arsenal

Political Support and Partisan Leanings
Prime Minister Modi received support from a large majority in our survey, with 71% either somewhat or strongly supporting him.5 This confirms a notable positive shift from last year when Modi’s approval levels were dampened by the COVID-19 crisis and challenged later in 2021 due to his government’s controversial farm laws.6 Support for his party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), was also high at 61%. Hindu respondents were significantly more likely to support Modi and the BJP relative to non-Hindu respondents in the sample (see Figure 1).

Worryingly, supporters of Modi or the BJP were more likely to express discriminatory attitudes toward Muslims, such as stating they did not want to have a Muslim as a neighbor or that they believed India’s Muslim population was growing too fast.7 It is worth stating, however, that among all non-Muslim respondents, including both Modi supporters and skeptics, such discriminatory attitudes were widespread. An overwhelming majority of 78 percent of respondents stated that they believed India’s Muslim population was growing too fast. Such attitudes may explain why the historically secular Indian National Congress has publicly sought to disassociate itself from any “branding… as a Muslim party”8 and why other parties with nationwide aspirations, such as the Aam Aadmi Party, have also been accused of embracing a softer version of Hindu nationalist politics.9 Such anti-Muslim sentiments could generate meaningful international repercussions if they influence national policy or political statements, a tendency which may be reflected in recent controversies. For example, India received considerable criticism from Muslim-majority countries following derogatory statements about the Prophet Mohammad made by BJP spokespersons.10 The U.S. government too has expressed concern about restrictions against and violence targeted at Indian religious minorities.11

Respondents were overwhelmingly nationalistic in their responses. 90% strongly or somewhat agreed with the statement that “India is a better country than most other countries.” This number, large in absolute terms, is also large when compared to other contexts.12 U.S. citizens, for example, are typically viewed as more nationalist than average, but in 2014 only 70 percent of respondents strongly or somewhat agreed that the U.S. is a better country than most.13 While American exceptionalism is a well-understood domain of study, self-perceptions of Indian exceptionalism are relatively underexplored.

Nationalist sentiment dovetailed with negative opinions of neighboring countries. When asked about Pakistan, 67% of respondents expressed their “dislike to a great extent” and a nearly equivalent 65% “disliked” China to “a great extent.” These views covaried in intuitive ways, such that respondents with greater levels of baseline support for Modi were more likely to hold negative opinions of Pakistan and China, and more nationalistic individuals were also more likely to believe India could defeat China and Pakistan militarily.

Riaz Haq said...

Confidence and Nationalism in Modi’s India
A survey of Indian public opinion finds overwhelming nationalism, confidence in military prowess, and support for a large nuclear arsenal

The nature of Indian public opinion on national security issues and the effect of mass views on elite decision-making—which together determine the foreign policy “accountability environment”—remains remarkably understudied.20 Yet our survey identifies several areas where public views may shape Indian government preferences in ways that will be important for India’s diplomatic partners to understand. Several implications appear most prominent from our analysis.

No signs of erosion of Modi’s domestic political support: Our findings reaffirm other polls that show Modi is one of the most popular leaders—and perhaps the most popular leader—of any democratic country.21 This is true despite seeming missteps his government made in the face of the pandemic and associated economic travails.
India’s extraordinary nationalism may prove challenging for Indian diplomatic partners to navigate: Status concerns are common in global politics, but the Indian polity appears to hold broadly a belief that India is better than most other countries. India’s Minister of External Affairs has popularized the idea that India will go “the India way.”22 Our findings indicate Indian citizens may perceive few reasons to compromise on issues like relations with Russia or its domestic institutions given India’s position in world politics.
Widespread support for anti-Muslim attitudes may create domestic political incentives for anti-Muslim policies: Modi’s government has faced sustained allegations of anti-Muslim animus. Our survey results suggest that popular attitudes toward Muslims may encourage rather than halt any anti-Muslim impulses of the BJP-led government. Such sentiment could stoke friction between New Delhi and its neighbors and regional partners, a danger highlighted following recent anti-Muslim remarks expressed by members of the ruling party.23
Indian self-confidence may lead to mistaken popular views of Indian military prowess: India has considerable military capabilities against its most likely regional opponents.24 Yet Indian confidence that India would likely defeat China or Pakistan may exceed what a careful net assessment might warrant. This in turn might make it challenging for Indian leaders to back down in crises, since their publics may view such conflicts as winnable even if the military balance is not in their favor.25

Riaz Haq said...

Confidence and Nationalism in Modi’s India
A survey of Indian public opinion finds overwhelming nationalism, confidence in military prowess, and support for a large nuclear arsenal

U.S. officials may seek to signal their willingness to aid India in the event of conflict with China to correct widespread popular doubts: A majority of Indians believe the U.S. would assist it in the event of a conflict with China or Pakistan. The United States likely could do more to publicly signal its reliability regarding a China contingency. The United States offered considerable material support to India in past crises with China (in 1962 and 2020) but both times cloaked some of that assistance in secrecy based on the requests of New Delhi.26 At the same time, U.S. officials likely do not foresee significant material support in the event of an India-Pakistan conflict and instead seek to retain a viable third-party crisis management role. U.S. officials should be aware that they may struggle to fulfill Indian public expectations in such circumstances.
Public opinion may encourage rather than restrain any contemplated future Indian nuclear force buildup. Our poll finds an Indian public that prefers Indian numerical nuclear superiority against its adversaries by large margins. It is consistent with earlier public opinion research that suggested that the Indian public was comfortable with nuclear weapons as tools of statecraft in specific, plausible scenarios.27 Such views help provide context to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision to emphasize on the campaign trail in 2019 that Indian nuclear weapons were not kept as mere showpieces.28 Based on limited inquiries to date, further research is needed to untangle public understanding of nuclear weapons and their salience in contemporary debates.

Riaz Haq said...

Modi Is Rewriting India’s National Narrative
The prime minister’s annual Independence Day speech reflected how far political discourse has fallen in New Delhi.
By Dinsha Mistree, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution and Stanford Law School, and Sumit Ganguly, a columnist at Foreign Policy and a professor of political science at Indiana University Bloomington.

In his speech, Modi ticked the boxes by mentioning Gandhi and his commitment to inclusion, but he also departed from convention in important ways. First, he celebrated more than a dozen freedom fighters who had adopted a violent approach to independence. These freedom fighters operated independently of Gandhi and the Indian National Congress, undermining Gandhi and nonviolence within India’s independence movement. By highlighting them in the speech, Modi subtly pushed back against the conventional narrative and Gandhi’s central role in it.

Second, although Modi touched on inclusion when it comes to geography and gender, he avoided mentioning secularism or religious tolerance. Instead, he sought to define Indians as Hindus: “This is our legacy. How can we not be proud of this heritage? We are those people who see Shiva [a main Hindu deity] in every living being,” he said. “We are people who see the divine in the plants. We are the people who consider the rivers as mother. We are those people who see Shankar [another form of Shiva] in every stone.” For India, a country with 280 million non-Hindu citizens that has struggled with religious tensions since its founding, Modi’s religious interjections clearly signal a break from the past.

Finally, Modi used the occasion to launch familiar jabs against the opposition Indian National Congress party while overlooking critical challenges facing the Indian state—including religious intolerance. He concluded his speech by slamming people who defend corruption and by condemning nepotism. But this was coded language that may sound like a threat to some Indian citizens: Modi and his ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have weaponized charges of corruption and nepotism to go after political opponents and dissidents. Just days after Modi’s speech, his government conducted an anticorruption raid against Manish Sisodia, one of the main leaders of the opposition Aam Aadmi Party.

Modi’s Independence Day speech is emblematic of a larger change taking place under his rule, which has faced criticism for democratic backsliding—moving away from the very constitution that came shortly after its independence. The prime minister and the BJP are working to unshackle India from its liberal and secular moorings, advancing a new national identity that champions Hindu supremacy. This enterprise is in fact antithetical to the very foundations of Hinduism, which is an inherently pluralistic faith.

Riaz Haq said...

Dr. Audrey Truschke
Even the BJP-appointed VC of JNU isn't willing to whitewash Manu's misogyny.


‘No god is a Brahmin’, says JNU Vice Chancellor, flags ‘gender bias’ in Manusmriti | Cities News,The Indian Express

“All women, according to the “Manusmriti”, are shudras. So, no woman can claim she is a Brahmin or anything else. I believe it is only by marriage you get the husband’s or the father’s caste on to you. I think this is something extraordinarily regressive,” she said.

Hindu Gods do not anthropologically come from the upper caste, said JNU Vice Chancellor Santishree Dhulipudi Pandit while delivering the keynote address at the B R Ambedkar Lecture Series organised by the Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.

Speaking on the topic “Dr B.R. Ambedkar’s Thought on Gender Justice: Decoding the Uniform Civil Code”, Pandit said, “Anthropologically, scientifically… please look at the origins of our gods. No god is a Brahmin. The highest is a Kshatriya. Lord Shiva must be a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe. Because he sits in a cemetery with a snake… they have given him very little clothes also to wear. I don’t think Brahmins can sit in the cemetery. So if you see, clearly, the gods anthropologically do not come from the upper caste. Including Lakshmi, Shakti, all the gods. Or if you take Jagannath, very much a tribal. So, why are we still continuing with this discrimination, which is very, very unhuman.”

The JNU VC also said that the “Manusmriti” has categorised all women as “shudras”, which is “extraordinarily regressive”.

“All women, according to the “Manusmriti”, are shudras. So, no woman can claim she is a Brahmin or anything else. I believe it is only by marriage you get the husband’s or the father’s caste on to you. I think this is something extraordinarily regressive,” she said.

In her speech on Monday, Pandit referred to the recent death of a nine-year-old Dalit boy in Rajasthan after he was allegedly assaulted by his upper-caste teacher.

“Unfortunately, there are many people who say caste was not based on birth, but today it is based on birth. If a Brahmin or any other caste is a cobbler, does he immediately become a Dalit? He doesn’t…. I’m saying this because recently in Rajasthan, a young Dalit boy was beaten to death just because he touched the water, didn’t even drink, touched the water of an upper caste. Please understand, this is a question of human rights. How can we treat a fellow human being in such a way?” she said.

Referring to Ambedkar’s landmark “Annihilation of Caste”, she said, “If Indian society wants to do well, annihilation of caste is extraordinarily important… I don’t understand why we are so emotional of this identity that is very discriminatory, very unequal. And we are ready even to kill somebody to protect this so-called artificially constructed identity.”

Speaking about the intersection of caste and gender, she said, “If you are a woman and you come from the reserved categories, you are doubly marginalised. First, you are marginalised because you are a woman, then you are marginalised because you come from a so-called caste, which is given all kinds of stereotypes.”
According to her, Buddhism proves the acceptance of dissent in “Indic civilisation”.

“I think Buddhism is one of the greatest religions because it proves that the Indic civilisation accepts dissent, diversity and difference. Gautama the Buddha was the first dissenter against what we call Brahminical Hinduism. Please understand he was also the first rationalist in history… we have a tradition revived by Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar,” Pandit said.

Riaz Haq said...

The Edison bulldozer scandal is a wake-up call for people to learn about Hindutva hate | Opinion by Audrey Truschke

A bulldozer — celebrating far-right Hindu nationalist violence against Muslims — drove through the streets of Edison, last month at an Indian Independence Day parade. Many New Jersey politicians were present and claim to have been unaware of the bulldozer’s appalling symbolism of praising, even encouraging, the violent oppression of Indian religious minorities.

The backlash is continuing to grow, including calls for the organizers to be held accountable (they have since apologized) and for more people to learn about Hindutva hate.

For many New Jerseyans, the Edison bulldozer scandal is the first time that they have heard about the intolerant ideology of Hindu nationalism, also known as Hindutva or Hindu supremacy. But it is unlikely to be the last time.

I have been studying global Hindu nationalism for years, including a recent focus on Hindu Right goals and tactics in the United States. America, especially New Jersey, is a stronghold for Hindu nationalist groups who provide financial support and ideological guidance for the larger global movement. This extremist ideology — which has roots in early 20th-century European fascism — has flourished for decades, largely unchecked, in our state and has had many harmful consequences.

Hindu nationalists propagate their intolerant ideas in the United States through a network of organizations. Some of the most common include the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS), the Vishwa Hindu Parishad-America (VHPA), and the Hindu Students Council (HSC). Sometimes a Hindu nationalist group registers as a foreign agent, such as Overseas Friends of BJP, which promotes the interests of India’s far-right ruling party. More commonly, Hindu nationalist groups try to spread and normalize their extremist ideas under the ruse of promoting Indian culture, such as at the Edison parade.

In the recent parade, the celebration of human rights violations was merely symbolic, but it is sometimes far more visceral for New Jersey communities. In 2021, federal agents raided a Hindu temple in Robbinsville, New Jersey and found Dalit men—who are at the bottom of a hierarchy of social oppression known as the caste system—held in bonded labor. Governor Murphy joined the many who condemned the “horrific, unfathomable” conditions of modern-day slavery. What he did not note is that the Hindu temple, part of the BAPS denomination, has strong ties with India’s Hindu nationalist BJP government. As of now, a case is pending in federal court in New Jersey that accuses BAPS of human trafficking in multiple states.

Hindu nationalists regularly attack lots of people—including Dalits, Christians, and the many Hindus who oppose Hindutva—but Muslims are their most common targets. In India, Muslims are subjected to daily violence and harassment, an abysmal situation documented by human rights groups such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the United States International Commission on Religious Freedom (USCIRF). In 2022, USCIRF recommended India for sanctions for the third year in a row due to rapidly worsening conditions in the country, especially attacks on Muslims.

Riaz Haq said...

The Edison bulldozer scandal is a wake-up call for people to learn about Hindutva hate | Opinion by Audrey Truschke

Here in New Jersey, Indian Muslims are mainly safe from Hindu nationalist violence, although not always. In 2019, the Rutgers-New Brunswick Hindu Students Council — a Hindu nationalist group — invited a Hindutva demagogue from India to speak. The off-campus event featured Islamophobic hate speech. It also involved a recent Rutgers-Newark alum — and Kashmiri Muslim — being heckled and physically assaulted by others present. At the time, few noticed beyond the South Asian American community, but it is one brick in a larger edifice of anti-minority, Hindu nationalist hate.

At a meeting of the Edison city council on Aug. 22, a councilmember applauded the activists who had called out the parade bulldozer as a hate symbol: “By you bringing this to our attention, it stops it from going forward... what you’re doing today by bringing awareness is the first step, and that’s the strong step that needs to be done. You’re educating us.” I appreciate his words. But I wonder if he and the other councilmembers have any idea what that education often costs those brave enough to speak.

U.S.-based Hindu nationalists regularly attack South Asian community groups, such as the Indian American Muslim Council, which has been active on the bulldozer issue. They smear individual members and spread Islamophobic rumors about entire organizations, such as when the far-right Hindu American Foundation and its allies attacked IAMC last year. Hindu Right attacks in the United States can put one’s family at risk and even require the use of safe houses.

As a professor who works on Hindu nationalism, I am also subjected to regular Hindu nationalist attacks. I often require armed protection when I speak publicly in America, due to the threat of Hindu supremacist violence. While law enforcement has kept me safe thus far, it has not stemmed the waves of hate unleashed against me and Rutgers, my employer. Hindu nationalists are part of the Global Far Right, and so we sometimes see bleed-over ideas, such as the anti-Black racism lobbed against Rutgers administrators, including President Jonathan Holloway, in a recent propaganda piece by a Hindu nationalist.

Anti-Asian hate crimes are growing in New Jersey. By targeting South Asian Muslims and Dalits, as well as Hindus who disagree with them, Hindu nationalists in the United States are contributing to that alarming trend. If we are to confront and begin to counter such hateful assaults, we must recognize Hindutva’s deep roots and long-standing harms in New Jersey.

A hard truth is that while many New Jerseyans are only now learning the basics of Hindu nationalism, many of our state’s minority communities — especially South Asian Muslims — have lived for decades with the spectre of fear and intimidation imposed by purveyors of this intolerant ideology. It is time for that era to end, and for us to say together — Hindutva hate has no home in New Jersey.

Riaz Haq said...

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senators Bob Menendez and Cory Booker (both D-N.J.) today released the following statement condemning the use of a bulldozer at the India Day Parade in Edison last month:

“This week, our offices met with leaders and members of New Jersey’s South Asian community who were angered and deeply hurt by the inclusion of a bulldozer in the India Day Parade in Edison last month. The bulldozer has come to be a symbol of intimidation against Muslims and other religious minorities in India, and its inclusion in this event was wrong. New Jersey is proudly home to some of the most diverse communities in the nation, including one of the largest South Asian communities, and all ethnic and religious groups have a right to live without intimidation or fear.”

Riaz Haq said...

Ex #RSS Worker Says Top #Hindutva Leaders Involved in Nanded Blast. Yashwant Shinde also claimed that he was told by a senior VHP leader about a #terror training camp that was underway to “carry out blasts across the country”. #Modi #India via @thewire_in

Shinde is not a prosecution witness in the case. But he claims to have come forward finally because he “couldn’t stay silent anymore”. He told The Wire, “I spent the past 16 years convincing every RSS leader, including Mohan Bhagwat, to take action against those involved in the terror activities. No one paid heed to my pleas. So here I am, before the court, willing to depose everything that I have known for so long.”


Mumbai: Sixteen years after a bomb exploded at a residence of a Nanded-based Rashtriya Swayansevak Sangh (RSS) worker, a former senior functionary of the organisation has moved an application before a special CBI court claiming that several senior right-wing leaders were directly involved in the incident.

The applicant, Yashwant Shinde, was an RSS worker for close to 25 years and also had associations with other ultra-right-wing groups like the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Bajrang Dal. He has claimed that over three years before the blast, a senior VHP worker had informed him about a terror training camp that was underway to “carry out blasts across the country”.

The Nanded bomb explosion that occurred on the intervening night of April 4 and 5, 2006, was one of the three explosions that occurred in the Marathwada region of Maharashtra in the span of a few years. In the other two blasts – in Parbhani (2003) and Purna (2004) – the courts have already acquitted all the persons, who were accused of hurlings bombs at mosques.

The CBI, which took over the case from the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad, has claimed that the blast occurred accidentally at the residence of one Laxman Rajkondwar, allegedly an RSS worker. Rajkondwar’s son Naresh and Himanshu Panse, a VHP activist, were killed while assembling the bomb. The investigating agencies believe that the bomb would have been used to target a mosque in Aurangabad.

Shinde claims to have known Panse since 1999, when the latter was working as a full-time VHP worker in Goa. At a meeting in 1999, Shinde claimed that Panse and seven of his friends had agreed to undergo weapons training in Jammu. This training, Shinde alleges, was imparted by “Indian Army jawans”.


Advocate Sangameshwar Delmade, who represents Shinde in the Nanded court, told The Wire that he was also initially skeptical about why Shinde is coming forward now. “I had in fact even posed this question to him. He told me that there was a threat to his life all along. And now he has reached a point where his conscience doesn’t allow him to stay quiet,” the lawyer said.

Shinde, according to his affidavit, joined the RSS when he was 18. He is 49 now. “I have had to distance myself from all these Hindu organisations now. They are no longer working for the ‘Hindu cause’. They are mere puppets in the hands of the ruling party,” he claimed.

As a way of establishing his “credentials”, Shinde’s affidavit lists out events he had participated in during his youth. In 1995, Shinde was arrested under the Public Safety Act for allegedly attacking Farooq Abdullah during his visit to Rajouri in Jammu. Although the court later acquitted Shinde, he interestingly takes responsibility for the attack in this application before the Nanded CBI court. Following this act, Shinde underwent training to be a “pracharak” and was eventually made the head of Bajrang Dal’s Mumbai unit in 1999.

Riaz Haq said...

With India being the world's fastest growing major economy, its lead over the U.K. will widen in the next few years

India has overtaken the U.K. to become the world's fifth-largest economy and is now behind only the US, China, Japan and Germany, according to IMF projections.

A decade back, India was ranked 11th among the large economies while the U.K. was at the fifth position.

With record beating expansion in the April-June quarter, the Indian economy has now overtaken the U.K., which has slipped to the sixth spot.

The assumption of India overtaking the U.K. is based on calculations by Bloomberg using the IMF database and historic exchange rates on its terminal.

"On an adjusted basis and using the dollar exchange rate on the last day of the relevant quarter, the size of the Indian economy in 'nominal' cash terms in the quarter through March was $854.7 billion. On the same basis, the U.K. was $816 billion," stated a Bloomberg report.

With India being the world's fastest growing major economy, its lead over the U.K. will widen in the next few years.

"Proud moment for India to pip the U.K., our colonial ruler, as the 5th largest economy: India $3.5 trillion vs UK $3.2 trillion. But a reality check of population denominator: India: 1.4 billion vs UK 0.068 billion. Hence, per capita GDP we at $2,500 vs $47,000. We have miles to go... Let's be at it!," Uday Kotak, CEO of Kotak Mahindra Bank, said in a tweet.

India has a population 20 times that of the U.K. and so its GDP per capita is lower.

"We just became the 5th largest #economy in the world, surpassing the U.K.!," tweeted Anil Agarwal, chairman of mining giant Vedanta group. "What an impressive milestone for our rapidly growing Indian economy... In a few years, we will be in Top 3!"

India's GDP expanded 13.5% in the April-June quarter, the quickest pace in a year, to retain the world's fastest growing economy tag but rising interest costs and the looming threat of a recession in major world economies could slow the momentum in the coming quarters.

Gross domestic product (GDP) growth of 13.5% year-on-year compares to a 20.1% expansion a year back and 4.09% growth in the previous three months to March, according to official data released earlier this week.

The growth, though lower than the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) estimate of 16.2%, was fuelled by consumption and signalled a revival of domestic demand, particularly in the services sector.

Pent-up demand is driving consumption as consumers, after two years of pandemic restrictions, are stepping out and spending. The services sector has seen a strong bounce back that will get a boost from the festival season next month.

But the slowing growth of the manufacturing sector at 4.8% is an area of worry. Also, imports being higher than exports is a matter of concern.

Additionally, an uneven monsoon is likely to weigh upon agriculture growth and rural demand.

The GDP print will, however, allow the RBI to focus on controlling inflation, which has stayed above the comfort zone of 6% for seven straight months.

The central bank has raised the benchmark policy rate by 140 basis points in three installments since May and has vowed to do more to bring inflation under control.

Besides tighter monetary conditions, Asia's third-largest economy faces headwinds from higher energy and commodity prices that are likely to weigh on consumer demand and companies' investment plans.

Also, consumer spending, which accounts for nearly 55% of economic activity, has been hit hard by soaring food and fuel prices.

The GDP growth in the first quarter of the current fiscal was higher than China's 0.4% expansion in April-June.

Riaz Haq said...

India arrests dozens after nationwide raids on Muslim group PFI (Popular Front of India)

India’s top investigation agencies arrest 45 Popular Front of India members for alleged terror links after simultaneous raids in 15 states.

Officials at India’s top investigation agencies say they have conducted nationwide raids and arrested 45 people associated with a prominent Muslim organisation for alleged terror links.

The simultaneous raids on the offices of the Popular Front of India (PFI) and homes of its members were conducted by the federally controlled National Investigation Agency (NIA) and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) at 93 locations in 15 Indian states, the NIA said in a statement on Thursday evening.

NIA said the searches were conducted at the houses and offices of top PFI leaders and members in connection with five cases related to “funding of terrorism and terrorist activities, organising training camps for providing armed training and radicalising people to join banned organisations”.

“As on date, the NIA is investigating a total of 19 PFI-related cases,” said the statement.

Most of the arrests were made in the southern states. In Kerala, where PFI enjoys considerable influence in Muslim-majority areas, 19 people were arrested, the NIA said in its statement.

Arrests were also made in Tamil Nadu (11), Karnataka (7), Andhra Pradesh (4), Rajasthan (2) and one each from Uttar Pradesh and Telangana, according to the statement.

Earlier, Indian media reports said more than 100 PFI leaders and members were arrested in the raids.

The PFI was established in 2007 after the merger of three Muslim groups – the National Democratic Front in Kerala, the Karnataka Forum for Dignity in Karnataka, and the Manitha Neethi Pasarai in Tamil Nadu.

In 2009, the organisation formed its political wing, the Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI), to contest elections.

PFI says it works for the rights of Muslims and other marginalised communities in India. But right-wing Hindu groups, including the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) accuses the group of violent attacks on its members.

‘Totalitarian regime using agencies as puppets’
Federal minister Giriraj Singh accused PFI of “working against India” and his counterpart Ramdas Athawale said the group was “linked to terror organisations”.

“We don’t have problems with running an organisation or bringing together Muslim community. But taking the name of this country and spreading terrorism, then there is a need to take action. I welcome the NIA and ED raids,” Athawale told reporters.

“PFI should change itself if they want to live in India … They should stand with India.”

But the PFI called the NIA and ED raids a “witch hunt” by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist government.

“Popular Front will never ever surrender on any scary action by a totalitarian regime using the central agencies as its puppets and will stand firm on its will for recovering the democratic system and spirit of the constitution of our beloved country,” it said in the statement shared with Al Jazeera.

The raids sparked protests in several parts of Kerala, where the PFI has called for a strike on Friday. Similar protests were also reported from Tamil Nadu and Karnataka states.

Rights activists have accused the government of using investigative agencies to harass and intimidate groups critical of its policies. Muslim organisations have particularly come under attack and are often accused of terror links, they said.

“There are Hindu supremacist organisations and their leaders who are regularly giving calls of violence against Muslims. How come their organisations face no scrutiny whatsoever, let alone raids and all? Those people are allowed to go free, they are not punished,” activist Kavita Krishnan told Al Jazeera.

Riaz Haq said...

"It is India’s credentials as the world’s largest democracy that Mr. Modi rides on the global stage. But at home, diplomats, analysts and activists say, Mr. Modi’s government is.. stifling dissent, sidelining civilian institutions and making minorities second-class citizens."

The New India: Expanding Influence Abroad, Straining Democracy at Home
As India rises, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has faced little pushback as he weaponizes institutions to consolidate power and entrench his Hindu nationalist vision.

On the margins of a summit meant as a show of force for a Russian leader seeking a turnaround on the battlefield, Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India leaned in with a different message.

“Democracy, diplomacy and dialogue” — not war — is the answer, he told Vladimir V. Putin as the cameras rolled this month, before declaring that the two would speak more about how to bring peace in Ukraine.

That assured interaction in Uzbekistan was the latest display of India’s rise under Mr. Modi. An ambitious and assertive power, India has become increasingly indispensable in the search for answers to some of the world’s most pressing challenges, from diplomacy to climate change to technology and trade to efforts at diversifying supply chains to counter China.

It is India’s credentials as the world’s largest democracy that Mr. Modi rides on the global stage. But at home, diplomats, analysts and activists say, Mr. Modi’s government is undertaking a project to remake India’s democracy unlike any in its 75 years of independence — stifling dissent, sidelining civilian institutions and making minorities second-class citizens.

While past Indian leaders exploited religious divisions and weaponized institutions to stay in power, Mr. Modi’s focus has been more fundamental: a systematic consolidation of power, achieved not through dramatic power grabs but through more subtle and lasting means, aimed at imprinting a majoritarian Hindu ideology on India’s constitutionally secular democracy.

Mr. Modi has bent to his will the courts, the news media, the legislature and civil society — “referee” institutions that guarded India’s democracy in a region of military coups and entrenched dictatorships. As he has done so, the country’s indispensability on major global issues, coupled with challenges to democracy in both the United States and Europe, has ensured little pushback from Western allies.

The question now for both India and the world is whether the country can remain an engine for growth and a viable partner even as its heavy-handed marginalization of minorities, particularly its 200 million Muslims, stokes cycles of extremism and perpetual volatility at home.

Riaz Haq said...

Crackdowns, lawsuits and intimidation: the threat to freedom of expression in India
A clamorous public square has long been a point of national pride. But the pressure on unfettered speech is palpable.

“Fewer and fewer people want to speak, and for good reason: there are consequences,” says Vrinda Grover, a human rights lawyer practising in India’s Supreme Court. Grover serves as defence counsel for the journalist Mohammed Zubair, co-founder of the non-profit fact checking website Alt News. His arrest by police in June over a 2018 tweet “hurting religious beliefs” — and subsequent multiple charges including criminal conspiracy, destroying evidence and receiving foreign funds — made headlines around the world.


“We know this from history: that the people who led inventions and innovation were immigrants, minorities, kids with curiosity,” says Jose. “What we are now doing as a country to our own people is killing all the opportunities for people of very diverse backgrounds to emerge and excel.”

Several of those ensnared in legal cases in recent years have been Muslims. In a country where the BJP’s majoritarian Hindu nationalism has widespread support, public anger whipped up by online commentators has played a role in punishing outspoken minority voices.

When Zubair was arrested in June, the journalist and fact checker was charged with “hurting religious sentiments and inciting riots”. The arrest, which followed a sustained online campaign, was made in connection with a 2018 tweet in which he had posted a still from a 1983 Bollywood film, which was interpreted by some as insulting to Hindus. A widely shared tweet offered cash rewards to anyone who could file police complaints against Zubair and Alt News, arrest him, or convict him to a jail sentence.

Police seized Zubair’s laptop, mobile phone, a hard drive and tax invoices during a search of his house, although his lawyers pointed out that the devices were not needed to investigate tweets. He was released on bail after several days in detention. He still faces multiple outstanding legal cases in Delhi and Uttar Pradesh.

But Zubair’s lawyers believe the real reason for his arrest was another tweet in May in which the journalist published offensive remarks about the Prophet Mohammed made by a then-BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma. The remarks created a furore in some Muslim-majority countries and Sharma was suspended from the ruling party, which denounced her comments.

Another Muslim journalist, Siddique Kappan, was arrested in 2020 while travelling in Uttar Pradesh to cover the rape and murder of a Dalit woman. India’s Enforcement Directorate, an agency under the purview of the ministry of finance that is responsible for investigating economic crimes, filed a case against him and four others last year; police accused him of seeking to incite religious hatred and of having links to the Popular Front of India, a Muslim group that India outlawed in September after accusing it of having links to terrorism. Earlier this month, the Supreme Court granted Kappan bail after almost two years’ of detention, but he remains in jail on a separate charge.


Jaswal says the legal threat is only one aspect of her ordeal. She adds that the space for free expression is increasingly being policed, not only by the government itself, but also by an army of supporters of its ideology who are using “extremely sophisticated software” to abuse journalists online. After the tweet was highlighted, she says she was hounded by thousands of strangers online, including in the form of “rape threats, death threats and pornographic content”.

“I was in the middle of the worst abuse,” she adds.

Jaswal says she is now undergoing a digital security course in an attempt to safeguard herself against such attacks “because I am scared . . . I am scared of what’s to come.”

Riaz Haq said...

India At 75: Hindu Faith Bottled And Home-delivered

High in the Himalayas, where the mighty Ganges is still a frigid glacial stream, labourers fill jerry cans with its holy waters to be distributed to Hindus all over India.

Buyers sparingly use the precious liquid to bless important occasions, from births, weddings, and funerals to festivals such as Diwali or the purchase of a new car.

"This is for every faithful Hindu who can't get here personally," said one of the workers in the pilgrimage town of Gangotri, giving his name as Ramesh.

"It feels blessed to be part of a project that reaffirms our Hindu faith and delivers this divine water to all corners of the country," he told AFP.

The scheme is run by the Indian postal service and is one example of a raft of initiatives, from the symbolic to the gargantuan, launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi promoting Hinduism in the country 75 years after independence.

The water is considered purest closest to its source so is collected in Gangotri, where the Ganges starts its roughly 2,500-kilometre (1,550-mile) journey across India, and trucked to a bottling plant 100 kilometres downstream.

After being left to settle for three or four days, it is filtered in tanks before workers decant it by hand into 250-millilitre plastic bottles.

Bought over the counter at post offices around India, they cost just 30 rupees ($0.37) each -- customers can also order them online for home delivery at 321 rupees for a pack of four.

Millions of the little containers have been sold since the scheme launched six years ago.

Since winning elections in 2014, Modi has put Hinduism front and centre of his government in the officially secular nation of 1.4 billion.

The core tenet of Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and its militaristic ideological parent the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, is that Hinduism is India's original religion.

This worries India's 210 million Muslims and other minorities. Social media is rife with hate speech and attacks on Muslims and Christians have risen, activists say.

Modi's biggest religious construction project is a grand temple being built in the ancient city of Ayodhya.

Hindu zealots destroyed a centuries-old mosque there three decades ago, triggering sectarian violence that killed more than 1,000 people -- most of them Muslims.

The government has also pushed a $1.5-billion highway project in the northern state of Uttarakhand, which will make it easier for Hindu pilgrims to reach Gangotri and three other Himalayan temples.

Riaz Haq said...

India At 75: Hindu Faith Bottled And Home-delivered

The sites already receive hundreds of thousands of devotees each year, and environmental activists are concerned about building grand highways and tunnels in the ecologically sensitive region.

Modi's government has made clear it will not let up on its vision, however, channelling money into researching the properties of cow urine -- a sacred animal in Hinduism -- and finding "proof" of legends in Hindu scriptures.

Some school textbooks have been rewritten to airbrush the role played by Muslims in Indian history, while Islamic-sounding names of cities have been changed.

These "dramatic initiatives... create an ethos of a majoritarian nation and sublimely reinforce the feeling that we now see ourselves as a de-facto Hindu country," said Hartosh Singh Bal, political editor of The Caravan, an Indian English-language magazine.

"Modi knows exactly what he's doing," he added.

"If critics now raise concerns about minorities or injustice, they can be labelled as someone who's against such schemes delivering holy Ganges water -- and shut them up."

Recipients of the precious liquid, though, have no such concerns.

New Delhi postman Rupesh Kumar, 23, has made several deliveries of the holy water, including during the current auspicious festive period.

He feels "additional responsibility" whenever he is carrying it to a customer for their ritual needs, he told AFP.

"We also used Ganges water in the family for all special and religious occasions," he said.

"People are often very thankful and polite after I deliver these bottles to their homes."

Riaz Haq said...

Assassination of Gandhi and Rise of Hindu Supremacy in India

Mahatma Gandhi's assassin and some of India's current leaders are influenced by a similar ideology. This is how Hindutva became a thing in India 96 years ago.

Hindutva: The idea that the character and culture of India is exclusively Hindu, and that India should be a great Hindu nation.

Riaz Haq said...

Three decades ago, the razing by a Hindu mob of a 16th-century mosque in the northern Indian city of Ayodhya, which Hindus believe is the birthplace of the god Ram, led to the death of 2,000 people and propelled the rise of Mr. Modi’s party.

A temple is now being built there. Mr. Modi, who presided over the groundbreaking in 2020, has called it “the modern symbol of our traditions.”

Faced by such moves, Ms. Roy, the novelist, voiced a common concern. “You know, the Varanasi sari, worn by Hindus, woven by Muslims, was a symbol of everything that was so interwoven and is now being ripped apart,” she said. “A threat of violence hangs over the city.”

I found Syed Mohammed Yaseen, a leader of the Varanasi Muslim community, which makes up close to a third of the city’s population of roughly 1.2 million, at his timber store. “The situation is not good,” Mr. Yaseen, 75, said. “We are dealing with 18 lawsuits relating to the old mosque. The Hindus want to demolish it indirectly by starting their own worship there.” Increasingly, he said, Muslims felt like second-class citizens.

“Every day, we are feeling all kinds of attacks, and our identity is being diminished,” he said. “India’s secular character is being dented. It still exists in our Constitution, but in practice, it is dented, and the government is silent.”

This denting has taken several forms under Mr. Modi. Shashi Tharoor, a leading member of the opposition Congress Party that ruled India for most of the time since independence, suggested to me that “institutionalized bigotry” had taken hold.

A number of lynchings and demolitions of Muslim homes, the imprisonment of Muslim and other journalists critical of Mr. Modi, and the emasculation of independent courts have fanned fears of what Mr. Raghavan, the historian, called “a truly discriminatory regime, with its risk of radicalization.”


With inequality worsening, food security worsening, energy security worsening, and climate change accelerating, more countries are asking what answers the post-1945 Western-dominated order can provide. India, it seems, believes it can be a broker, bridging East-West and North-South divisions.


At the end of my stay, I traveled down to Chennai on the southeastern coast.

The atmosphere is softer there. The economy is booming. The electronics manufacturer Foxconn is rapidly expanding production capacity for Apple devices, building a hostel for 60,000 workers on a 20-acre site near the city.

“The great mass of Indians are awakening to the fact that they don’t need the ideology of the West and that we can set our own path — and Modi deserves credit for that,” Venky Naik, a retired businessman, said.

I went to a concert where a musician played haunting songs and spoke of “renewing your auspiciousness every day.” There I ran into Mukund Padmanabhan, a former editor of The Hindu newspaper and now a professor of public practice at the newly established Krea University, north of Chennai.

“I do not believe Modi can marshal Hinduism into a monolithic nationalist force,” he said. “There are thousands of Gods, and you don’t have to believe in any of them. There is no single or unique way.”

He gestured toward the mixed crowd of Hindus and Muslims at the concert. “People don’t like to talk about the project of Gandhi and Nehru, which was to bring everyone along and go forward, but it happened, and it is part of our truth, part of the indelible Indian palimpsest.”

Riaz Haq said...

Did you know that the composition of Mahmood Ghaznavi's army when he raided the Somnath temple in 1025 was, solely not a Muslim Army. Out of 12 Generals, 5 were Hindus. Their names are:1. Tilak2. Rai3. Sondhi4. Hazran5. Not knownAfter the battle, Mahmood issued coins in his name with inscriptions in Sanskrit. He appointed a Hindu Raja as his representative in Somnath. Arab traders who had settled in Gujarat during the 8th and 9th century died to protect the Somnath temple against Ghaznavi's Army.

Just three years before Ghaznavi's raid on Somnath in 1022, a general acting on the authority of Rajendra I, Maharaja of the Chola empire (848–1279) had marched 1,600 kilometres north from the Cholas’ royal capital of Tanjavur. After subduing kings in Orissa, Chola warriors defeated Mahipala, maharaja of the Pala empire (c.750–1161), who was the dominant power in India’s easternmost region of Bengal. The Chola's crowned their victory by carrying off a bronze image of the deity Śiva, which they seized from a royal temple that Mahipala had patronized. In the course of this long campaign, the invaders also took from the Kalinga Raja of Orissa images of Bhairava, Bhairavi and Kali. These, together with precious gems looted from the Pala king, were taken down to the Chola capital as war booty.
The question arises why is Mahmud Ghaznavi demonized but not Rajendra Chola's plunder of Hindu temples?In fact, the demonization of Mahmud and the portrayal of his raid on Somnath as an assault on Hinduism by Muslim invaders dates only from the early 1840s.

In 1842, the British East India Company suffered the annihilation of an entire army of some 16,000 in the First Afghan War (1839–42). Seeking to regain face among their Hindu subjects after this humiliating defeat, the British contrived a bit of self-serving fiction, namely...that Mahmud, after sacking the temple of Somnath, carried off a pair of the temple’s gates on his way back to Afghanistan.
By ‘discovering’ these fictitious gates in Mahmud’s former capital of Ghazni, and by ‘restoring’ them to their rightful owners in India, British officials hoped to be admired for heroically rectifying what they construed heinous wrongs that had caused centuries of distress among Hindus. Though intended to win the letters' gratitude while distracting the locals from Britain’s catastrophic defeat just beyond the Khyber, this bit of colonial mischief has stoked Hindus’ ill-feeling towards Muslims ever since.By contrast, Rajendra Chola’s raid on Bengal remained largely forgotten outside the Chola country.12 years after the attack, a king from the Goa region recorded performing a pilgrimage to the temple, but he failed to mention Mahmud’s raid. Another inscription dated 1169 mentioned repairs made to the temple owing to normal deterioration, but again without mentioning Mahmud’s raid. In 1216 Somnath’s overlords fortified the temple to protect it not from attacks by invaders from beyond the Khyber Pass, but from those by Hindu rulers in neighbouring Malwa; apparently, such attacks were so frequent as to require precautionary measures; apparently, such attacks were so frequent as to require precautionary measures.
The silence of contemporary Hindu sources regarding Mahmud’s raid suggests that in Somnath itself it was either forgotten altogether or viewed as just another unfortunate attack by an outsider, and hence unremarkable.

1. “India in the Persianate Age: 1000-1765” by Richard M. Eaton2. “Somanatha: The Many Voices of a History” by Romila Thapar

Riaz Haq said...

Secularism: Why Nehru dropped and Indira inserted the S-word in the Constitution

Ironically though, it was Nehru along with the chairman of the drafting committee of the constitution, B R Ambedkar, who were also most opposed to the idea of including the word ‘secular’ in the preamble of the constitution.

On November 15, 1948, when the newly independent dominion of India was in the midst of a heated debate in the Constituent Assembly, on the nature of the Constitution, Prof K T Shah made an intervention demanding the inclusion of the word ‘secular’ in the preamble. “Sir, I beg to move, that in clause (1) of article 1, after the words ‘shall be a’ the words ‘Secular, Federalist, Socialist’ be included. The amended article or clause shall read as follows: ‘India shall be a Secular, Federalist, Socialist, Union of States’,” he said. In the ensuing discourse, while the members agreed on the nature of the Indian state adhering to secular principles, the word ‘secular’ was dropped from the preamble. It made an appearance though, about three decades later, when the Indira Gandhi led government included it in the document, as part of the 42nd Amendment of the Constitution.

Riaz Haq said...

Ex British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw's Interview with Karan Thapar on The Wire

Topic: BBC's Modi Documentary

“I have long been very familiar with the history of India and independence in 1947 and communal violence that ensued. I was there when there were demonstrations against Ayodhya mosque”

“There are thousands of Gujaratis in my constituency (in England), mainly Muslims”

After Godhra incident or accident (in Gujarat in 2002) there was a need for effective policing that did not happen”

“There’s a colonial history of the East India Company and the British government playing one community against the other (Hindu vs Muslim) during the Raj”

“The United Kingdom was a colonial master of India until 1947. So we felt a moral responsibility and a long term bond. …the constituency of Lancashire I represented is 40% non white… I had a concern for our Gujarati Muslim constituents”

Riaz Haq said...

India against Gandhi: Gandhi is now a major hate figure in Modi's India

by Ramachandra Guha

Gandhi is the major hate figure (in Modi's India). He is blamed for emasculating Indians by preaching non-violence; blamed for choosing the modernising Jawaharlal Nehru as his political heir instead of a more authentically “Hindu” figure; blamed for not stopping the creation of Pakistan; blamed for insisting that Muslims who stayed behind in India be given the rights of equal citizenship. BJP members of parliament hail Gandhi’s assassin Godse as a true “deshbhakt” (patriot); praise for him trends on Twitter every January 30; there are periodic plans to erect statues to him and temples in his memory. YouTube videos mocking Gandhi and charging him with betraying Hindus garner millions of views.

Seventy-five years after his assassination, the ‘father of the nation’ is a problem for Narendra Modi — but the country still needs his ideas


Born in 1958, a decade after Gandhi’s death, I grew up in an atmosphere of veneration towards the Mahatma. One of my great-uncles helped to edit Gandhi’s Collected Works; another founded a pioneering initiative in community health inspired by Gandhi. These familial influences were consolidated and deepened by the public culture of the time. Gandhi was the father of the nation, the leader of the struggle for freedom against British rule, whose techniques of non-violent resistance had won admirers and imitators across the world. It was largely because of him that we were free and proudly independent, and it was largely because of him that — unlike neighbouring Pakistan — we gloried in the religious and linguistic diversity of our land. In our school assembly we sang a 17th-century hymn that Gandhi was particularly fond of, which he had rewritten to reflect his vision of the India he wished to leave behind. Hindus saw God as Ishwar; Gandhi’s adaptation asked us to see him as Allah too. And it was to these lines that our teachers drew our particular attention. The first criticisms of Gandhi that I remember encountering were in a book I read as a student at Delhi University. This was the autobiography of Verrier Elwin, an Oxford scholar who became a leading ethnographer of the tribes of central India. Elwin knew Gandhi well, and at one time considered himself a disciple. In later years, while he retained his admiration for the Mahatma’s moral courage and religious pluralism, Elwin became sharply critical of Gandhi’s advocacy of prohibition, which he thought damaging to tribal culture (where home-brewed alcohol was both a source of nutrition and an aid to dance and music), and of his exaltation of celibacy, which Elwin thought damaging to everyone.

Riaz Haq said...

#Bollywood is obsessed with #Pakistan. Even though #China has taken without too much of a struggle 38,000 sq km of land in #Ladakh, on which they are building homes & bridges, you won’t find any Bollywood films with #Chinese #villains. #Modi #Islamophobia

Try as the industry might, Modi’s quasi-fascist politics cannot be set to jaunty music and helicopter stunts

Pathaan’s plot is nonsensical, and no one wears many clothes as they dance in bikinis and shorts trying to save India and therefore the world. It is naturally unconcerned with facts – article 370 was the instrument that allowed Kashmir’s ascension into the Indian union; if it is declared null and void, then so too is Kashmir’s ascension to India, but why bother with facts or what any actual Kashmiris think or feel? There aren’t any in this insipid film anyway.

I interviewed Khan, or SRK, as he is known to his hundreds of million fans around the world, for a book five years ago and noticed even then that he straddles an uncomfortable role as the ever grateful Muslim who is really, really, really Indian. As India embraces the Hindu majoritarian politics of its ruling BJP party, high-profile Muslim figures like Khan are increasingly seen as fifth columnists. Trolls and angry protesters often beseech Muslim stars to “go back to Pakistan”, though they have no roots there. Today in India, anyone who questions the government or dissents from popular discourse is slandered as “anti-national” and told to go live in Pakistan.


If recent Bollywood films are any indication, it is fair to say that India’s film industry is obsessed with Pakistan. Obsessed. Like standing outside your apartment and trying to peek through your windows at night with binoculars obsessed.

If the films were smarter or more daring, Pakistan might be flattered. Instead, we are beginning to be mildly confused by all the attention.

Even though our common neighbour China has taken – without too much of a struggle and aided by a helpful press blackout in India – 38,000 sq km of Indian land in Ladakh, on which they are building homes and bridges, you won’t find any Bollywood films with Chinese villains or bad guys.

No, all the nasties in Indian cinema are Pakistanis, usually wearing military uniforms, and always Muslim.

Bollywood has always reflected Indian political trends; the films of the 1950s mirrored the optimism and romance of the newly independent country, the 1970s hero was a proud but disenfranchised man fighting against the powerful and corrupt. In the 1990s, there were endless films about neo-liberal yuppies who worked in Dubai, danced in London discos and drove shiny Mercedes. Since Narendra Modi and his rightwing party, the Bharatiya Janata Party or BJP, came to power nearly nine years ago, Bollywood has readily embraced his menacing politics.

In 2018, the starlet Alia Bhatt headlined Raazi, a film about a woman who marries a Pakistani army officer in order to spy on the country during the 1971 war with India. In 2019, Bollywood released Uri, a military flick about Indian special forces launching a “surgical strike” on Pakistan after a supposed terror attack. Though Uri was based on a real incident that nearly brought two nuclear-armed states to war, it played fast and loose with the facts.

All this is especially unpleasant as Pakistanis have traditionally been enthusiastic audiences for Bollywood – the industry brought us songs and fun and the profound knowledge that our neighbours look and live just like us, demonstrating the incredible power of culture done right.

Riaz Haq said...

As India marks its first 75 years, Gandhi is downplayed, even derided
A more muscular, chauvinistic India is casting aside the ‘father of the nation’ for other heroes

When Indian screenwriter Vijayendra Prasad set out five years ago to write an action film, he wanted to tell a fictional story but pay tribute to the “real warriors” of India’s freedom struggle.

The result was “RRR,” a three-hour, visual-effects spectacle that was released this spring and instantly broke records at the Indian box office. In the film’s climax, a muscle-bound protagonist retrieves a bow from a shrine to the Hindu god Ram and cuts down hapless British soldiers with a hail of arrows. Then he arms Indian villagers with guns to fight their colonial oppressors before launching into a lavish song-and-dance number that eulogizes a list of real-life revolutionaries from Indian history.

Absent from the names? Mahatma Gandhi, the Indian pacifist who has been celebrated by many — including the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. — as an inspiration and an icon of nonviolent resistance.

But not by Prasad.

“The time has come to let Indians know the truth, the real warriors who should be honored,” Prasad said recently in his office in Hyderabad, a hub of the fast-growing south Indian film industry. “The real reason why we got independence was not because of Mr. Gandhi. That’s the fact.”

As India celebrates 75 years of independence on Monday, the legacy of the “father of the nation” who advocated nonviolence and secularism is being debated, downplayed and derided as never before. Instead, Indians are embracing a pantheon of other 20th century heroes, particularly leaders who favored armed struggle or overtly championed Hindus, in a reflection of the nation’s mood and its shifting politics.

Today, at rallies of Hindu nationalist hard-liners, Gandhi is routinely vilified as feeble in his tactics against the British and overly conciliatory to India’s Muslims, who broke off and formed their own state, Pakistan, on Aug. 14, 1947. On social media and online forums, exaggerations and falsehoods abound about Gandhi’s alleged betrayal of Hindus. And in popular films and the political mainstream, Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru — the first prime minister — are sidelined, while nationalists who advocated the force of arms have been elevated.

India is fundamentally rethinking whether Gandhi could have delivered freedom out of colonialism without the specter of bloodshed — which so clearly contributed to the British loss of appetite for empire — and whether his ideals should be the country’s bedrock principles.

“The current government has been trying to project itself as a government that is macho, defiant, strong, and won’t take nonsense from anybody,” said Tushar A. Gandhi, an author and the independence leader’s great-grandson. “There is an ongoing campaign to eradicate Gandhi from the psyche of the Indian people, or at least reduce his qualities to the point it is trivial and meaningless.”

Personifying the cultural shift is Narendra Modi, the popular prime minister who is portrayed by his allies as a living counterpoint to Gandhi and Nehru: tough on Islamic separatists, steeped in Hindu nationalism, formidable on the world stage and — if his campaign speeches are to be taken literally — physically imposing, with a 56-inch chest.

Riaz Haq said...

History As Politics

Links between knowledge and ideology do not justify the passing off of political agendas as knowledge as is being done in the rewriting of history by the present central government; and that too of a kind not based on the understanding of history...

The colonial interpretation was carefully developed through the nineteenth century. By 1823, the History of British India written by James Mill was available and widely read. This was the hegemonic text in which Mill periodised Indian history into three periods - Hindu civilization, Muslim civilization and the British period. These were accepted largely without question and we have lived with this periodisation for almost two hundred years. Although it was challenged in the last fifty years by various historians writing on India, it is now being reinforced again. Mill argued that the Hindu civilization was stagnant and backward, the Muslim only marginally better and the British colonial power was an agency of progress because it could legislate change for improvement in India. In the Hindutva version this periodisation remains, only the colours have changed : the Hindu period is the golden age, the Muslim period the black, dark age of tyranny and oppression, and the colonial period is a grey age almost of marginal importance compared to the earlier two. This also echoes the views of Sir William Jones and Max Mueller. It allows a focus on the Hindu and Muslim periods which as we shall see was part of the political stand of the religious nationalisms of the early twentieth century.

Anti-colonial nationalist historians, often referred to as secular nationalist historians, had initiated a critique of the colonial period, but tended to accept the notion of a Hindu ‘golden age’. They did not distance themselves to assess the validity of such descriptions. Many were upper caste Hindus, familiar with Sanskrit and sympathetic to the idea of a glorious Hindu past. This was in some ways an attempt to assuage the hurt of having been reduced to being a colony. Similarly, the argument that the Muslim period was based on Persian and Arabic sources tended to attract upper-caste Muslims to this study and they too were sympathetic to what was stated in the sources without questioning them too closely. Even those who critiqued Mill’s periodisation merely changed the nomenclature from Hindu-Muslim-British to Ancient-Medieval-Modern in imitation of the periodisation of European history. There was a debate over colonial interpretations, but with less effort to change the methods of analysis or the theories of explanation.

Mill’s projection was that the Hindus and Muslims formed two uniform, monolithic communities permanently hostile to each other because of religious differences, with the Hindus battling against Muslim tyranny and oppression. This was the view of many colonial writers on India and in terms of presenting historical sources is exemplified in Elliot and Dowson’s, History of India as Told by her Own Historians,published in the latter half of the nineteenth century. Chroniclers of the medieval courts writing in Persian and others writing in Arabic are included, the assumption being that there was no writing of Indian history prior to the coming of Islam. Nor was there concession to segmentation within the communities in terms of varying histories of castes and sects.

Riaz Haq said...

Telugu film RRR (Rise Roar Revolt)

The Beginning,” from 2015, which inspired a new wave of Indian historic epics. But he has found a new level of global success with his latest film, the joyously over-the-top action-fantasy “RRR”—short for “Rise Roar Revolt”—which is among the highest-grossing Indian movies of all time.

“RRR” was first released last March but caught on with American viewers over the summer, after an unusual U.S.-wide theatrical rerelease organized by the distributor Variance Films and the film consultant Josh Hurtado. The movie hasn’t left U.S. theatres since. A Hindi-dubbed version on Netflix has furthered its word-of-mouth reputation. For many American viewers, “RRR” has provided an introduction not only to Indian cinema but to the Telugu-language film industry sometimes referred to as Tollywood, which operates separately from its more famous Hindi-language counterpart, Bollywood. In January, Rajamouli won Best Director at the New York Film Critics Circle Awards. His film is nominated for an Oscar in the category of Best Original Song, for the international viral hit “Naatu Naatu.”

Set in pre-independence Delhi during the nineteen-twenties, “RRR” follows two characters loosely based on the real-life Telugu revolutionary leaders Komaram Bheem (N. T. Rama Rao, Jr.) and Alluri Sitarama Raju (Ram Charan), as they team up to challenge a host of ruthless British officials. Bheem and Raju exhibit superhuman abilities in the realms of fighting, taming tigers, and conducting spontaneous dance-offs. For many American viewers, their story will come across as an exuberant anti-colonialist tall tale. But some Indian critics have identified a strain of Hindu nationalism in the film’s mythologized telling of Bheem and Raju’s historic freedom fight. They point to the fact that Raju, who belongs to a privileged caste, is ultimately elevated in the narrative above Bheem, a leader of the Gond tribe, who declares himself a humble student of Raju’s teachings. They point to how this story line replicates hierarchical relationships from the Hindu epics the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, which Rajamouli has cited as sources of inspiration, and especially to the film’s patriotic final number, “Etthara Jenda” (“Raise the Flag”), which celebrates certain historic figures favored by the Hindutva movement while leaving out founding fathers such as Mahatma Gandhi. In Vox, the critic Ritesh Babu called the movie a “casteist Hindu wash of history and the independence struggle.”

There are other reasons to wonder about the movie’s political intentions. Rajamouli’s father, who co-wrote “RRR,” has been at work on a film commissioned by the R.S.S., the Hindu-nationalist extremist group, which he has called a “great organization.” Rajamouli told me that his father’s script is “very emotional and extremely good.” But, during several recent interviews over Zoom, Rajamouli denied that “RRR” had any deliberate ideological implications and was persistently evasive on the subject of the country’s politics and his own. “Entertainment is what I provide,” he said. Rajamouli is forty-nine years old, with a swoop of salt-and-pepper curls and a thick beard in a matching shade. (You can spot him in a cameo during “RRR” ’s patriotic finale.) In our conversation, which has been edited for length and clarity, he also discussed atheism, what makes a good action sequence, and some of his creative influences, including Mel Gibson and Ayn Rand.

Riaz Haq said...

Telugu film RRR (Rise Roar Revolt)

Some critics have noted that the movie’s concluding musical number highlights key historic figures like [the controversial anti-colonial freedom fighter] Subhas Chandra Bose and [the Indian-nationalist figurehead] Bhagat Singh but omits others, including Mahatma Gandhi and B. R. Ambedkar, which they interpret as a deliberate avoidance of nonviolent revolutionaries. What would you say to that?

By now, I’m tired of answering this question. There are numerous freedom fighters who laid down their lives to attain liberty for our country. I have heard many stories about these freedom fighters from childhood onward. Whichever stories touched me, made me cry, or made my heart swell with pride—those are the historic figures that I chose for that scene. I could also only highlight eight people in that musical number. I would need room for eighty in order to put all the figures that I respect in the movie. Still, I respect all of the revolutionaries that I chose, and, if I didn’t put Gandhiji’s portrait there, it doesn’t mean I disrespect him. I have huge respect for Gandhiji, no doubt about that.

My question is: If I were to replace Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose’s portrait with Gandhiji’s, would all these people ever question me, saying that I disrespected Subhas Chandra Bose by not portraying him there?

There has also been some criticism of the “Baahubali” films, and now “RRR,” for replicating what they feel is a Brahmanic view of India, particularly how the Kalakeyas are portrayed in “Baahubali 2: The Conclusion.” There’s been critique, as well, of stereotypes regarding Adivasis, particularly Bheem, who has been described as a “noble savage.” Is that just misattributed anxiety and projection?

Yes. [Laughs.] First of all, the Kalakeyas are a completely fictional people. There’s no such caste or tribe, and there are no real-world rituals like what they do in the movie. People are just projecting the Kalakeyas onto real people and then saying that I presented them in the wrong manner. It just makes me laugh. As for Bheem being a noble savage, I don’t really understand how or where I presented Bheem as savage. Noble, definitely, yes. Like when he fights a tiger, and then addresses the tiger as a brother, and even apologizes to the tiger for using him for his needs. I think Bheem is one of the noblest characters that I have written, but I don’t know where the savage part comes in. I really can’t understand that.

Does it feel like the recent rise of nationalism, as well as anti-Muslim sentiment, has affected the way that movies are made in India?

I don’t know. I don’t think in those terms. I always feel like films reflect the society that created them, whatever that society’s feelings are. Films reflect the pace of society because filmmakers have to cater to audiences. They’ll see what audiences like, what their present mood is, and make films for that. If there is a rise in that kind of sentiment in society, those kinds of films will come out. But I always stay away from that. I go a completely different route.

Right, but isn’t there a danger to freedom of expression when political groups try to affect the creative process you’re talking about?

Yeah, those things will happen and they will keep happening. But, if you are clear about what you are making, and if you are clear about who your audiences are, staying true to that will help you overcome those hurdles in communication. That might not be a proper solution to the problem that you are talking about, though. There is no clear-cut solution, but, if you are true to your filmmaking, you will have a better chance of overcoming these hurdles.

Riaz Haq said...

Telugu film RRR (Rise Roar Revolt)

Is there pressure being put on you, whether anti-Muslim or pro-nationalist, from B.J.P. supporters or even the R.S.S.?

No, never directly, never. No one’s ever approached me to make an agenda film, whatever the agenda is. Still, for a long time, less prominent people sometimes found objections to my films. Sometimes Muslims have had objections, sometimes Hindus, sometimes different castes.

Your father has a story credit on “RRR.” Did he help to shape the movie’s characterizations of Bheem and the Adivasis?

The way we write, me and my father, is we write together. It is very difficult to differentiate who is the story writer and who is the screenplay writer. We split the credit as “Story by V. Vijayendra Prasad” and “Screenplay by S. S. Rajamouli,” but we essentially work together on both. It was my idea to write a fictional story about Komaram Bheem and Alluri Sitarama Raju. Once we settled on that, my father developed ideas on how to tell a story based on those characters.

Your father is working on a scripted drama about the R.S.S. He’s said that his opinion of the R.S.S. changed [favorably] once he started working on this project, after which he “understood for the first time what R.S.S. is.” Have you discussed this project with him?

I, myself, am not too aware of the R.S.S. I have obviously heard of the organization, but I don’t know how it was formed, what their exact beliefs are, how they’ve developed, all that. But I read my father’s script. It is extremely emotional. I cried many times while reading that script, many times. The script’s drama made me cry, but that reaction has got nothing to do with the history part of the story.

Is it hard for you to focus on a script like that as just a drama, and not think of its political implications or associations?

The script that I read is very emotional and extremely good, but I don’t know what it implies about society.

I’m assuming you’re asking me, Would I direct the script that is written by my father? First of all, I don’t know whether that would be possible, because I’m not sure if my father has written this script for some other organization, people, or producer. Still, as for the question, I don’t have a definite answer. I would be honored to direct that story, because it’s such a beautiful, human, emotional drama. But I’m not sure about the script’s implications. I’m not saying that it would cause either a negative or a positive impact. For the first time, I’m not sure.

It’s unusual for a Telugu filmmaker, let alone an Indian filmmaker, to have their name foregrounded. Your name is presented as a seal of quality in front of your movies. Where did that come from? Were you trying to distinguish yourself as a filmmaker in light of the star-driven nature of Telugu and Indian cinema?

[Laughs.] At first, it came from a sense of insecurity, a fear that someone would not give me credit for my films. So when I made my first film, “Student No. 1,” no one knew that I directed it. Credit went to the film’s producer, and rightfully so, because he made lots of decisions. He chose the story, the songs, and everything else. So he rightfully got the credit for my first film and I didn’t.

After that, I came up with the idea of putting a stamp on the posters—and on the film—to say, “Hey, guys, don’t ever think this film is made by someone else.” And at the end of my second film, “Simhadri,” I put a credit that says “A film by S. S. Rajamouli.” The film’s producer didn’t like that. He objected: “What does he mean by ‘A film by S. S. Rajamouli’? It should be a film by the whole unit. How can he take the entire credit for the film?”

Riaz Haq said...

#India is continuing on its path to majoritarian #chauvinism. Narendra #Modi will do everything to ensure a third term in office. #Hindutva #Fascism #Islamophobia #BJP

Varanasi, INDIA - MARCH 04: India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi greets crowds of supporters during a roadshow in support of state elections on March 04, 2022 in Varanasi, India. India's most populous state, Uttar Pradesh, is holding state elections in seven phases, as the Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of Modi looks to defend its majority in its "cow belt" heartlands. The election is expected to be a barometer for the national political mood amid deepening sectarian divisions

Narendra modi had a better 2022 than most world leaders. India’s prime minister was projected to end the year as leader of the world’s fastest-growing major economy, with growth close to 7%, in spite of multiple global crises.

Russia’s war in Ukraine plunged Europe into an energy crisis and strained relations among Western allies. In India, by contrast, it facilitated the purchase of cheap Russian oil and lifted Mr Modi’s international standing. As Western countries jostled to gain India’s support, the prime minister succeeded in styling himself as an ostensibly neutral advocate of resolving the conflict peacefully, managing to scold Vladimir Putin while simultaneously resisting Western entreaties to join the anti-Russia coalition for good.

Riaz Haq said...

Is Manusmriti Back With a Bang?
Subhash Gatade |

How to walk backwards and claim we are a world leader.

In recent weeks, a debate has raged about 17th-century poet-saint Tulsidas’s epic poem Ramcharitmanas and its’ allegedly unfair and humiliating treatment of women and so-called lower castes. Voices to edit such books and scriptures or scrap them have grown louder. Yet, the Banaras Hindu University, a premier central university in Uttar Pradesh, has proposed something that, instead of settling the controversy, muddies the waters more.

The university’s Department of Dharmashastra and Mimansa, whose curriculum already includes studying the Manusmriti among ancient Indian scriptures, has proposed researching the “applicability” of Manusmriti in Indian society. It plans to use the funds received under the Centre’s Institutes of Eminence scheme, which provides research and development grants of up to Rs 1,000 crore each to ten select public-funded institutions.

The BHU’s proposal seems anachronous—and not just because it involves spending money on an esoteric subject, while public universities face a severe fund crunch forcing them to cut down even on essential expenses.

Nearly a century ago, during the first Dalit revolt of its kind in modern times, Dr BR Ambedkar, the legendary leader of the oppressed, symbolically burnt the Manusmriti in a public programme held at Mahad. On 25 December 1927, at the Mahad Satyagraha, he said in the presence of thousands of people from different parts of the Bombay province, as it was then known, that the text was a “gospel of counter-revolution”.

The resolution read out during the symbolic public “cremation” of the Manusmriti, proposed by Ambedkar’s associate Gangadhar Neelkanth Sahasrabuddhe, emphasised the intent of the organisers of the conference. After considering the verses of the Manusmriti, it said, the conference had formed the “firm opinion” that it “undermined the Shudra caste, thwarted their progress, and made their social, political and economic slavery permanent”. The resolution said the context of the text is unworthy of a religious or sacred book. That is why participants performed the “cremation” rites of the book at the conference. The resolution even described the book as “divisive” and a “destroyer of humanity”. All these facts are recorded in public intellectual Anand Teltumbde’s book, Mahad: The Making of the First Dalit Revolt, published by Navayana in 2017.

Nearly a quarter-century later, while dedicating the Constitution to the nation, Ambedkar, who headed its drafting committee, famously declared that the Constitution had “ended the rule by Manu”.

However, the Hindu Mahasabha and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) never saw eye-to-eye with a modern Constitution for India. Their leaders made their objections to modernising Indian tradition clear as their fascination for the Manusmriti. In the late sixties, Maharashtra witnessed a massive movement of Dalits and other democratic sections to protest the RSS supremo’s comments praising the Manusmriti in an interview with the Marathi newspaper, Nava Kaal.

Yet last year, Justice Pratibha Singh of the Delhi High Court spoke of the Manusmriti in glowing terms at a programme held under the auspices of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry or FICCI. She said scriptures like Manusmriti give women “a very respectable position”, a remark that created a furore, earning her much criticism for promoting regressive ideas filled with “casteism and classism”.

Riaz Haq said...

New Indian textbooks purged of nation’s Muslim history

By Anumita Kaur

The Taj Mahal is one of India’s most iconic sites. But this year, millions of students across India won’t delve into the Mughal Empire that constructed it.

Instead, Indian students have new textbooks that have been purged of details on the nation’s Muslim history, its caste discrimination and more, in what critics say warps the country’s rich history in an attempt to further Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist agenda.

The cuts, first reported by the Indian Express, are wide-ranging. Chapters on the country’s historic Islamic rulers are either slimmed down or gone; an entire chapter in the 12th-grade history textbook, “Kings and Chronicles: The Mughal Courts" was deleted. The textbooks omit references to the 2002 riots in the Indian state of Gujarat, where hundreds of Indian-Muslims were killed while Modi was the state’s leader. Details on India’s caste system, caste discrimination and minority communities are missing.

Passages that connected Hindu extremism to independence leader Mohandas K. Gandhi’s assassination were pruned as well, such as the 12th grade political science textbook line: Gandhi’s “steadfast pursuit of Hindu-Muslim unity provoked Hindu extremists so much that they made several attempts to assassinate [him].”

The new curriculum, developed by India’s National Council of Educational Research and Training, has been in the works since last year and will serve thousands of classrooms in at least 20 states across the country. It follows long-standing efforts by Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to craft a Hindu nationalist narrative for the country — a platform that Modi ran on in 2014 and secured reelection with in 2019.

“The minds of children are now under direct onslaught in this kind of intense way, where textbooks must not ever reflect South Asia’s dynamic, complex history,” said Utathya Chattopadhyaya, a history professor at the University of California at Santa Barbara. “So you basically create a body of students who come out knowing very little about the history of social justice, the history of democracy, the history of diversity, and so on.”

India has been home to Hindu, Muslim and many other religious communities for centuries. British rule stoked tensions among communities, leading to violence in 1947 after the country was partitioned into Pakistan and modern India.

Hindu nationalism has intensified under Modi. It has led to violent clashes, bulldozing of Indian-Muslim communities and deepening polarization throughout India and its global diaspora.

The curriculum change is another step in the trend, Chattopadhyaya argued. BJP-led state governments have launched textbook revisions for years. But now it’s stretched to the national level.

“This is actually an intensification of something that’s been happening. It is a way of ‘Hindu-izing’ South Asian history and ignoring all other kinds of diverse plural histories that have existed,” he said.

Riaz Haq said...

Last chance to read Mughal-era Sanskrit literature, before it is all deleted | Deccan Herald

by Anusha Rao

The recent removal of chapters on Mughals from the NCERT syllabus presents us with an opportunity to look at the colorful history of Sanskrit during that period. The most vibrant personality of this era was perhaps the celebrity poet Jagannatha Panditaraja, who managed to sell the same praise-poem to three kings (Shah Jahan, Jagatsimha and Prananarayana), after swapping out their names. Panditaraja, i.e., the ‘king of scholars’, was a title that the Mughal king Shah Jahan bestowed on Jagannatha. Our poet clearly liked being wined and dined well. He writes: “Only two people can give me all that I want—God, or the emperor of Delhi. As for what the other kings give, well, I use that for my weekly groceries!"

Legend goes that Jagannatha fell head-over-heels in love with a Muslim woman called Lavangi and married her. This would explain the Muslim woman (“yavani”) who is the subject of so many of his verses, where he meditates on her skin smooth as butter and wants neither horses nor elephants nor money as long as he can be with her.

Aurangzeb’s uncle Shaista Khan had even learnt Sanskrit himself, and six poems written by him are preserved in the Rasakalpadruma. Dara Shikoh, the eldest son of Shah Jahan had learnt Sanskrit, too, and his project was to understand Islam and through each other. Another celebrity poet of this age was Kavindracharya, the head of the Banaras scholar community during Shah Jahan’s rule. He pleaded the case for abolishing the Hindu pilgrim tax so eloquently in front of the king that the indeed came to be abolished. Poems in praise of Kavindracharya poured in from all across the country, and they are preserved today in the form of a book, the Kavindra Chandrodaya.

South India had its fair share of Sanskrit poets who enjoyed the patronage of multiple kings of different faiths. Bhanukara, a 16th century Sanskrit poet, wrote verses that we find in many well-known verse anthologies. These anthologies attribute to Bhanukara verses in praise of various kings—hinting that among his patrons were Krishnadevaraya, Nizam Shah and Sher Shah, all ruling in the Deccan! And Bhanukara clearly enjoyed a good relationship with the Nizam, given his hyperbolic verses in praise of the king’s generosity, skill in military conquest, and even his physical appearance. Another well-known Sanskrit poet of the 16th century was Govinda Bhatta, who composed the Ramachandra-yashah-prashasti in praise of King Vaghela Ramachandra of Rewa. But Ramachandra was not Govinda Bhatta’s only patron. In fact, Govinda Bhatta called himself Akbariya Kalidasa, as a tribute to the most illustrious of his patrons, Akbar. In one his laudatory verses, he praises Akbar as being the crest jewel of Humayun’s lineage.

Not all Sanskrit poetry about the Mughals is about kings though— the 17th century poet Nilakantha Shukla, a disciple of the famous grammarian Bhattoji Dikshita, wrote an epic poem on the romance between a Brahmin tutor and a Muslim noblewoman in Mughal Banaras.

As Sanskrit poets wrote in and of Islamic rule, a large number of Sanskrit classics were translated into Persian as well—including the Ramayana, Mahabharata, and even tales such as the Shuka Saptati. The Razmnamah, a Persian translation of the Mahabharata, commissioned by Akbar in the late 16th century, manages to strike a balance between the monotheistic god of Islam and the plethora of gods in the Sanskrit epic, retaining numerous divinities while weaving in Koranic phrases, and modifying prayers to address them to Allah. But how do we know all of this? Well, nobody struck these out from the manuscripts and inscriptions...

Riaz Haq said...

The Mughals | Empire-builders of medieval India - The Hindu

Within hours of the National Council of Educational Research and Training’s (NCERT) decision to remove a chapter on the Mughals from the history textbooks for Class XII students, noted historians of the country issued a statement, denouncing the deletions. “The selective dropping of chapters which do not fit into the ideological orientation of the present dispensation exposes the partisan agenda of the regime,” a statement signed by Romila Thapar, Irfan Habib, Aditya Mukherjee, Barbara Metcalf, Dilip Simeon and Mridula Mukherjee, among others, read. “Driven by such an agenda, the chapter titled ‘Kings and Chronicles: The Mughal Courts’ has been deleted... In medieval times, the Mughal empire and the Vijayanagara Empire were two of the most important empires... In the revised version, while the chapter on the Mughals has been deleted, the chapter on the Vijayanagara Empire has been retained.”

It’s hard to understand the history of modern India without the contribution of the Mughals, who, including Akbar, Jahangir, Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb, were all born in undivided India; and were buried here. None of them ever left the country, not even to go on a pilgrimage to Mecca.“Is there anything in India today which does not owe to the Mughals?” asks Syed Ali Nadeem Rezavi, secretary, Indian History Congress. “From legal system to legal jargon, we owe to the Mughal and Turkish Sultanate before them. Words like vakalatnama, kacheri, durbar, we owe them all to the Mughals. Today, when a large number of Indians consider Lord Ram as a major deity, we have to thank Tulsidas who wrote his version of Ramayana during the Mughal period. Also, Vrindavan, associated with Lord Krishna, developed thanks to Chaitanya saints who were given grants by Akbar, Jahangir and Shahjahan, and helped Vrindavan and Mathura emerge as a key centre of Krishna Bhakti.”

The richness was owed substantially to the Rajputs, who were sharers of power from the time of Akbar, who defeated Rana Pratap in the Battle of Haldighati, and co-opted them in his empire through matrimonial alliances. Most Mughal rulers after Jahangir were born to Rajput women. As a result, within the family, Hindavi was often the language of communication. Aurangzeb, incidentally, conversed in Hindi and composed in Braj bhasha.

Riaz Haq said...

A new #Modi government-approved #Indian schoolbook no longer says why Nathuram #Godse killed #Gandhi and omits references to #Hindu hard-liners affiliated with #RSS who opposed his vision of religious pluralism. #Islamophobia #Hindutva #BJP via @WSJ

NEW DELHI—For years, government-prescribed high-school textbooks in India included a few telling details about Mahatma Gandhi’s assassin: The man worked for an extremist Hindu newspaper and had denounced Gandhi, the iconic freedom fighter, as “an appeaser of Muslims.”

A revised version of the Class 12 history book, whose printed copies became available this year, no longer says that. It identifies Nathuram Godse as Gandhi’s killer, but provides no information about him or his motive. Also deleted are broader references to Hindu hard-liners who opposed Gandhi’s vision of religious pluralism for newly independent India 75 years ago.

The edits are among recent changes under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government to what students learn about their country’s past. Members of his political party—which is linked to a decades-old movement to shape India into a Hindu-dominant nation—have long criticized school curriculum as unbalanced and biased against Hindus.

It does little, they say, to instill pride in young Indians, and particularly the country’s Hindu majority, in their history and heritage.

Underlying their grievances is a broader ideological debate. Modi supporters accuse the left-leaning, liberal forces that shaped India after independence in 1947 of representing Westernized values and of pandering to Muslims, India’s largest minority. To them, Modi’s rise symbolizes Hindu revival.

Critics accuse Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party of promoting a divisive Hindu nationalist ideology that threatens India’s secular foundations.

The changes to textbooks “go against the idea that education should encourage an open mind and a liberal outlook,” said Krishna Kumar, an academic under whose leadership they were originally written. The books, he said, have been “mutilated so crudely.”

Modi’s supporters say revisions were long overdue. Teaching of India’s precolonial history overemphasized Islamic empires established on its territory and sidelined Hindu kingdoms, they say. Too much importance was given, they say, to the Mughal dynasty, a vastly wealthy empire during the 16th and 17th centuries whose Muslim rulers built the Taj Mahal and left a lasting cultural imprint on the region’s architecture, food and literature.

Hindu nationalists see the Mughal era as a period of temple destruction, religious conversion and the subjugation of Hindu customs.

A chapter on Mughal courts is gone from the Class 12 history book, though another on agrarian life during the empire remains. A two-page table on the battlefield triumphs of Mughal emperors, from Akbar to Aurangzeb, has been removed from a Class 7 book. A chapter on the 13th century Muslim conquest of northern India has also been pruned.

In a public letter, more than 250 historians and academics criticized the move.

“The selective deletion in this round of textbook revision reflects the sway of divisive politics,” they said. Indian history cannot be seen as consisting of Hindu and Muslim periods, they said, adding: “These categories are uncritically imposed on what has historically been a very diverse social fabric.”

The changes were made by the National Council of Educational Research and Training, an autonomous body whose members are mostly appointed by the government. It said it rationalized textbooks to help students catch up after the Covid-19 pandemic and to make space for critical thinking.

The books are used by schools aligned with the central government’s education board and some state-level boards.

College freshman Shivam Kumar, a Modi supporter, welcomes the changes.

Riaz Haq said...

In India and Israel, a Common Threat to Judicial Independence – and to Democracy

Both India and Israel are celebrating their 75th birthdays, amid strikingly similar conflicts about the balance of power between courts and government, fueled by an acute dissonance between each country's religious and secular populations

On March 26th, when Israel was upended by a national strike, Nageswara Rao, a former judge on India’s Supreme Court was in Jerusalem speaking at an emergency conference on threats to judicial independence.

He used the moment to speak out in support of those marching and protesting across Israel against the government’s planned judicial overhaul which, if successful would neuter Israel’s Supreme Court and grant more power to the government, which prompted the strike.

The “appointment of judges is an essential ingredient for independence of judiciary,” he told those attending the conference sponsored by the Israel Democracy Institute.

This year, both India and Israel are celebrating the milestone of 75 years of independence.

Both are multiparty parliamentary democracies that boast individual rights, a free press, and active civil society. Both have populations that span multiple faiths, cultures and modern as well as conservative outlooks. The secular-religious divide in both nations is acute.

There are some fundamental differences between the two countries’ legal systems. India, unlike Israel, has a constitution, and it defines itself as a secular, socialist democratic republic.

But interestingly, the autonomy of the judiciaries of both countries are coming under attack, as the more religious and politically conservative elements of each country push back against them.

There’s a striking similarity to the debates, issues and emotions surrounding what the role of the judiciary should be and who the judges are – and who they should be.

Looking back, western ideas of neo-liberalization of the economy transformed both nations into free-market economies even as they remained socialist-planned economies until the late 1980s.

Their founding leaders, David Ben-Gurion of Israel and Jawaharlal Nehru of India respectively, were secular, rational and liberal minds who were deeply influenced by the Western modernity.

They both thought religion and cultural traditions could and would be reformed through rational and legal tools for the sake of modern state-building.

But they both erred in underestimating the level of religiosity among some segments of their society. Although the more traditional religious communities were in the minority during their lifetimes, today those populations have ballooned, and they now enjoy more political clout and popular support for their nationalist and religious values than ever before.

As in Israel, the question of how judges are appointed has become a major issue in India.

In India, what is known as a collegium system exists, in which judges appoint other judges with limited government power over the process. At best, the government can only delay the appointment of a given judge.

Riaz Haq said...

In India and Israel, a Common Threat to Judicial Independence – and to Democracy

Currently, in Israel judges are appointed by a committee that includes equal representation for politicians, sitting judges and lawyers. While there is widespread support for reforming the committee system, there is disagreement over how it should be done. The government of Benjamin Netanyahu's proposal would give itself total control over all judicial appointments.

In striking similarity to the arguments for the judicial overhaul in Israel, Indian governments did have a direct role in the appointment of judges before 1993, but the Supreme Court decided unilaterally that from then on, judges would be chosen independently and not be appointed by the executive.

Indian politics went through a major social and cultural transformation following the period during the 1970s and 1980s when the lower castes and other less educated and marginalized sectors of society were labeled “Other Backward Classes.” In recent years they have tried to gain stature and power in the political space.

There’s a backlash by some, including from these formerly marginalized groups, against the Indian judiciary, much of it under the hegemony of upper castes, not unlike the disproportionate number of Ashkenazi Jews (Jews of European descent who, historically have held more prominent roles in the Israeli establishment) in Israel’s Supreme Court.

Although the lower castes are a majority within the Hindu population, they are vastly under-represented among Indian judges, not unlike the relative lack of representation of Jews of North African and Middle Eastern descent among judges in Israel

Modi’s government passed a bill back in 2014 that would have seen a national judicial appointments commission share the power with the judiciary in appointing judges.

But the Supreme Court of India rejected this law.

Many government officials, including Jagdeep Dhankar, the vice president of India, and a Modi appointee, have criticized them, saying the dismissal of the law that had been passed by parliament was anti-democratic. He claims the Supreme Court has “undone the power of the people.”

This issue of judicial activism is another major issue for governments in India, as it is in Israel. In Israel there has been pushback to the perception promoted by the Netanyahu government that the Supreme Court has been overly liberal and interventionist in its interpretation of the law.

Kiran Rijiju, the recently ousted law minister in India, has been vocal against what he sees as judicial overreach in his country

“Does the judiciary run the country or the elected government? If the judiciary gets into the domain of the executive, they are venturing into a sphere where they are not supposed to. We are a democracy, and our sovereignty lies with the people of India. People elect their representatives who run the country,” he said.

One contentious example in India is the legality of homosexuality. Although it was a crime on the books (a hold-over from British rule when it was passed in 1861), it had mostly been a forgotten law.

India’s Supreme Court decriminalized homosexuality in 2018. Most governments had previously ignored this issue out of fear it could stoke a backlash from the majority of Hindus, as well as the Muslim minority that tends to be socially conservative.

Riaz Haq said...

In India and Israel, a Common Threat to Judicial Independence – and to Democracy

Currently, an ongoing case related to same-sex marriage is before the Indian Supreme Court and has brought the issue back into the fore. For conservative Hindus and Muslims, the concept of same-sex marriage is an affront to their conservative values, and dismissed as an “urban elitist concept” by some government officials.

Modi’s government has requested the court dismiss this hearing and let this matter be decided in the parliament, where elected leaders could consider whether it is socially acceptable by the majority of lawmakers.

But the court has refused to drop the matter, and appears to be giving some degree of recognition to same-sex marriage. The public, however seems more supportive. According to some surveys, almost 50 percent of Indians would support same-sex marriage, with support even higher in urban areas.

The case serves a reminder of how deeply divided the people are when it comes to the role of religion in public matters and how those issues intersect with the highest courts in the land. Again, echoes of Israel.

People of traditional cultures find it difficult to accept top-down laws which do not confirm to their ideas of morality. That’s why the more liberal-minded courts are bound to clash with them again and again.

The sight of tens of thousands of Israelis filling the streets for 20 weeks straight now in mass protests, firmly standing against tampering with the independence of Israel’s courts in the name of protecting democracy is a true inspiration for the people of India and the broader region, where such peoples’ movements are extremely rare.

As an educator, I believe that critical-minded, open learning reveals to the younger generation that education does not only expand one’s horizons but reveals that it is free and fair societies which do better than undemocratic ones. For that reason the judiciary must remain independent and a key check and balance if democracy is going to be safeguarded.

Khinvraj Jangid teaches at the Jindal Center for Israel Studies at the OP Jindal Global University in Delhi. He is currently adjunct professor at The Azrieli Center for Israel Studies at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Sde Boker Campus’.

Riaz Haq said...

NCERT drops chapters on periodic table, democracy, political parties from Class 10 syllabus

The National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) has decided to omit the chapter on the periodic table from Class 10 Science textbooks as part of the “rationalisation” exercise. The council has also deleted chapters — Democracy and Diversity, Popular Struggles and Movements, Political Parties, and Challenges to Democracy — from the Political Science textbooks as part of the exercise.

According to NCERT, it has been carrying out the exercise — “rationalisation of contents in the textbooks” — across all classes to “reduce content load on students”.

“In view of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is imperative to reduce content load on students. The National Education Policy 2020, also emphasises reducing the content load and providing opportunities for experiential learning with creative mindset. In this background, NCERT has undertaken the exercise to rationalise the textbooks across all classes,” the NCERT said explaining the exercise.

Earlier this year, the council had controversially dropped Darwin’s theory of evolution from its Class 10 textbooks.

Among other controversial omissions, the NCERT had also deleted any mention of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, a freedom fighter and India’s first Education Minister, from a revised political science textbook published by the council. The authors of the revised Class 11 textbook had also deleted the fact that Jammu and Kashmir had acceded to India on the basis of a promise that the State would remain autonomous. Entire chapters on history of Mughal courts, references to the 2002 communal riots in Gujarat, the Naxalite movement, and mention of Dalit writers were also omitted from the CBSE syllabus.

Riaz Haq said...

Romila Thapar - India's Past and Present: How History Informs Contemporary Narrative (2010)

In conversation with IDRC President David M. Malone, historian Romila Thapar, widely recognized as India's foremost historian challenged the colonial interpretations of India's past, which have created an oversimplified history that has reinforced divisions of race, religion, and caste.

Riaz Haq said...

India closes school after video of teacher urging students to slap Muslim classmate goes viral

New Delhi — Authorities in central India's Uttar Pradesh state have shut down a private school after video of a teacher asking her students to slap their Muslim classmate went viral and sparked outrage. The state police registered a case against the teacher, identified as Tripta Tyagi, as the video of the August 24 incident spread online.

The scandal erupted at a time of growing tension between India's predominantly Hindu population and its large Muslim minority.

The video, which was verified by police, shows Tyagi telling her students to slap their seven-year-old Muslim classmate. At least three students come up to the Muslim classmate one by one and hit him.

"Why are you hitting him so lightly? Hit him harder," the teacher is heard telling one child as the Muslim boy stands crying.

"Hit him on the back," she tells another student.

Satyanarayan Prajapat, a senior police officer in Uttar Pradesh's Muzaffarnagar district, said the teacher told students to hit the boy "for not remembering his times tables."

But the teacher also mentioned the boy's religion, according to Prajapat.

The teacher from the Neha Public School admitted she'd made a "mistake" by asking other students to hit the boy as she is disabled and couldn't do it herself, but she also defended her actions as necessary discipline.

"This wasn't my intention. I am accepting my mistake, but this was unnecessarily turned into a big issue," Tyagi told India's NDTV news network. "I am not ashamed. I have served the people of this village as a teacher. They all are with me."

The Muslim student's parents took their son out of the school and reported the incident to the police, but they were not pressing charges against the teacher.

"My seven-year-old was tortured for an hour or two. He is scared. This is not a Hindu-Muslim issue. We want the law to take its own course," the boy's father told Indian news networks.

Several politicians accused India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of creating an atmosphere in which the incident was able to take place.

Rahul Gandhi, senior leader of the main opposition party, the Indian National Congress, accused the teacher of "sowing the poison of discrimination in the minds of innocent children."

"This is the same kerosene spread by BJP which has set every corner of India on fire," Gandhi wrote in a social media post.

The BJP, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has consistently said it does not discriminate against the country's more than 200 million Muslims.

In June, during a visit to the U.S., Modi told journalists there was "absolutely no space for discrimination" in India.

Meanwhile, Uttar Pradesh government officials said the school was being shut as it did not meet the education department's "criteria," with all students set to be transferred to other schools.