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End Bullying and Shaming Tactics in ‘Sawachh Bharat ‘ campaign


Salute The Memory Of Comrade Zafar


Comrade Zafar gave his life defending the dignity of the poor and of women – in the process exposing the ugly face of Prime Minister Modi’s Swachh Bharat campaign.

Universally liked and respected by everyone in the Bagwasa Kachchi Basti, Comrade Zafar had for a couple of decades been spearheading efforts to get the basti regularized, to achieve basic sanitation and water facilities for the basti, and to prevent eviction from the basti.

The Swachh Bharat campaign claims to encourage people in rural and urban India to give up the widespread practice of open defecation (which has serious public health consequences) and switch to toilet use.

But the Pratapgarh episode culminating in the lynching of Comrade Zafar highlights the Government-led campaign’s callousness, cruelty and contempt towards the poor.

Comrade Zafar and the people of the Bagwasa basti were not among those resisting toilet use – on the contrary Comrade Zafar and the colony’s women had submitted memorandums and led delegations seeking funds from the Government to build individual and community toilets and ensure proper water and cleaning facilities for such toilets. Instead of welcoming their demand and acceding to it, the elected Chairman of the municipality – a BJP leader Kamlesh Dosi – tore up their memorandum and mockingly told them to get rid of eviction of the entire colony instead of trying to provide toilets for it.

Meanwhile, every morning, in the absence of proper toilets, the colony’s residents had no option but to defecate in the open: and the municipality personnel would harass, bully, and shame them for so doing! Comrade Zafar and the colony’s women had specifically demanded in their memorandum (submitted to the offices of the municipality and the Collector days before Comrade Zafar was killed) that the coercive tactics be suspended at least until funds be provided so that toilets can be built and functional. But funds were denied, the colony lacked both toilets and water, and yet the poor were shamed and bullied and the women sexually harassed for being ‘dirty’ and uncouth enough to defecate in the open! Not only are the poor condemned to live in the most appalling and inhuman conditions – they are mocked, bullied and shamed for those conditions.

A story in (‘Dirty Backstory to ‘Swachh Bharat’ Lynching: No Toilets, No Water and the Threat of Eviction’ by Shruti Jain, 22/06/2017) tells how there is one single community toilet with ten commodes in the Bagwasa basti which houses 3000 residents – and that toilet has no water, the flushes do not work and consequently the toilets are clogged and unusable. (Whenever these toilets are ever cleaned, it will be a job of manual scavenging which is supposed to be illegal but which continues to widespread. The Swachh Bharat campaign claims eradication of manual scavenging as one of its goals: but makes zero effort in this direction.)

The Rajasthan Chief Minister, police and Government are trying to claim, based on the post mortem report, that Zafar just happened to die of a heart attack and that he was not attacked by government personnel at all. But it is clear from eyewitness accounts and even from the selective, short video clips released by the government personnel themselves, that Zafar did not just happen to drop dead and suffer a ‘demise’ on a morning walk. He had no history of heart problems or hypertension. He was undoubtedly in an altercation and scuffle with Government personnel minutes before his death in an attempt to prevent the personnel from photographing and videographing women of the basti while they were defecating. Multiple eyewitnesses from amongst the women bear witness to the fact that he was beaten to death by the personnel for offering resistance to their bullying and sexual harassment of women.

The killing of Comrade Zafar by Government personnel in the name of the Swacch Bharat campaign has brought a host of issues about the draconian and undemocratic character of the campaign to a head. Liberation takes a closer look at the stated aims and goals of the campaign, its methods and its performance.


Zafar’s lynching should come as no surprise, given the tactics adopted by the Swacch Bharat Abhiyan (henceforth SBA) as well as by government campaigns against open defecation predating SBA. Under the SBA, police are government personnel instructed to form vigilante mobs to patrol villages at dawn and dusk to harass and bully people defecating in the open, with a view to shaming them. These vigilante mobs are instructed to whistle, cat-call, clap; groups of women follow men and groups of men follow women and photograph/videograph them when they are defecating. These mobs grab the lotas (mugs of water) and shout slogans. These are the tactics to which Zafar objected.

Such tactics have resulted in dehumanising violence and have sparked social conflict and sharpened social divisions all over the country. One elderly man in Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh in December 2016, for example, was beaten and forced to clean his feces with his hands by civic body authorities – and a video of the whole degrading scene was uploaded by Ujjain Municipal Corporation (UMC) deputy commissioner Sunil Shah in a WhatsApp group. (‘Villager forced to clean his feces with hands in Ujjain as part of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’, Salil Mekaad, Times News Network, December 29, 2016)

In Maharajpur village in Rajnandgaon district of Chhattisgarh in October 2016, Vipin Sahu was dragged out of his home, beaten and stabbed to death by a mob in front of the whole village because he had delayed construction of a toilet in his home and has sought more time till Diwali to do so. (‘Man killed for buying time to build toilet’, Rashmi Drolia, TNN, October 8, 2016)

Such tactics predate the SBA of the Modi Government. A report by Liz Chatterjee in the Guardian (‘Time to acknowledge the dirty truth behind community-led sanitation’, The Guardian, 9 June 2011) details the coercive tactics adopted by government officials in Karnataka to deter open defecation: “A local official proudly testified to the extremes of the coercion. He had personally locked up houses when people were out defecating, forcing them to come to his office and sign a contract to build a toilet before he would give them the keys. Another time, he had collected a woman’s faeces and dumped them on her kitchen table.”


Government campaigns against open defecation, including SBA, openly instigate and encourage violence against women. The Madhya Pradesh Government in 2013 titled its campaign to end open defecation, ‘Maryada Abhiyan’. The word ‘Maryada’ in Hindi signifies women’s sense of dignity and/or womanly shame, and a campaign booklet issued by the MP Government harps on the theme of how open defecation threatens women’s dignity and puts women in danger of sexual harassment. In the process, however, the booklet itself openly instigates sexual harassment of women!

The booklet (found at this link asks people to imagine a young woman defecating in the open and being watched by voyeuristic men. It even carries a voyeuristic drawing to this effect. It does not ask why any men watching should not be punished for voyeurism – a crime under Section 354 C of the Indian Penal Code!

Instead the booklet itself prescribes such voyeurism and sexual harassment, by asking ‘Sanitation monitoring committees’ (basically vigilante mobs) to patrol villages, whistle at people defecating in the open, and take photographs and videos of open defecators ‘with the threat and possibility that the photos might be displayed or the videos shown.’ The district administration of Rajasthan CM Vasundhara Raje’s own constituency of Jhalawar in June 2016 asked teachers to conduct similar patrols and take photos and videos of open defecators (‘Rajasthan Wants Teachers To Make Early Morning Rounds, Click Pics To Check Open Defecation’, Huffington Post, 06/06/2016).

Do PM Modi and the various State Governments not know that taking or showing photos or videos, or even ordering such photos or videos to be taken, is a crime of voyeurism under Section 354 C of the IPC (see box)? Chief Ministers, Sanitation Ministers, as well as local administrators could and should be booked under Section 354 C for ordering and approving voyeurism in the name of SBA. The SBA tries to create fear in women that open defecation will expose them to voyeurism and sexual violence – and then unleashes government-sponsored voyeurism and violence on them!

The booklet harps on patriarchal notions of ‘maryada’ as meaning the enforced imprisonment of women behind veils and inside four walls of the home. It suggests that in meetings of groups of villagers, mothers-in-law be asked why their daughter-in-law covers her head while sending her out to bare her bottom. An advertisement by one of the celebrity ambassadors of SBA, actress Vidya Balan, also raises the same question. One of the most common SBA slogans is Bahu-betiyan door na jayen, ghar par hi shauchalay banvayen “Daughters-in-law, daughters should not go far, construct a toilet in your house.” In the process, the campaign endorses, invokes and reinforces the notion that young women and daughters-in-law should be made to wear the veil and prevented from going outdoors to maintain ‘maryada.’ Instead of emphasizing that open defecation harms health of people, especially children, it is more obsessed with suggesting that open defecation harms patriarchy!

The SBA’s assumption that women do not like to go outside the house to defecate is misplaced anyway. The Sanitation Quality Use Access and Trends (or SQUAT) survey 2014 found that many women in fact cherished open defecation because it offered an opportunity to go out of the house: “A young daughter-in-law in Haryana, whose household owns a latrine, explained that: The reason that [I and my sisters-in-law] go outside [to defecate] is that we get to wander a bit…you know, we live cooped up inside.”

Moreover the survey found that it was a myth that open defecation increases the danger of sexual violence, noting that: “Of 1,046 women interviewed by the SQUAT survey, 4.3% told us that while going to defecate, they had been the victim of someone attempting to molest them. Of the same group, 7.6% reported that this had happened to them while going to the market. …The point is that it is not a serious policy response to these facts to suggest that women should stop going to markets.”

Instead of appealing to patriarchy and using patriarchal violence and shaming to deter open defecation, campaigns should aim to raise consciousness about the dangers of open defecation to public health. As the SQUAT survey notes, patriarchal messages “give villagers the impression that latrine use is for women, but the message that the government should be sending is that latrine use is for everyone. Men’s faeces as well as women’s faeces spread germs that make other people sick.”


The public shaming tactics of the SBA and of other government campaigns too reek of contempt for the poor and expose the attitude of governments towards the poor. The latest example is the Rajasthan Government order instructing local administrations to paint a bright yellow sign on their homes stating “I am poor and I receive food from National Food Security Act” on the homes of BPL families. Like the SBA tactics, such tactics too amount to shaming the poor for their poverty.

In many states, rations are withheld until families construct toilets. Madhya Pradesh enacted a law barring those not having a flush toilet in their homes from contesting in Panchayat elections. Such coercive tactics withholding basic facilities and rights amount to grave human rights violations.

The SBA has neither succeeded in ending open defecation nor has it achieved its other stated goals such as ending manual scavenging. It has not even made any serious effort to ensure the rights and dignity of sanitation workers – instead practices amounting to manual scavenging continue to thrive all over India, tacitly endorsed and enforced by governments.

Bezwada Wilson of the Safai Karmachari Andolan asks, “Why does this government and Modi not make investments in cleaning technology?” and fears that the SBA’s focus on toilet construction minus structural changes to tackle and end manual scavenging will “simply create more unsanitary latrines that will require more manual scavengers to clean them.” (‘Down the Drain: How the Swachh Bharat Mission is heading for failure’, Sagar, 1 May 2017, The Caravan)


Understanding the answer to this question is essential if we want to persuade people to make any lasting change in this practice.

The SQUAT survey found that while poverty and resulting lack of land or money for constructing toilets, as well as lack of water for maintenance of toilets are no doubt factors, they are still not the main factors responsible for open defecation in India. Its researchers observe that 70% of rural households in India do not have a toilet or latrine, while “in rural sub-Saharan Africa, where people are, on average, poorer, less educated, and less likely to have access to an improved water source than people in rural India, only about 35% of people defecate in the open without a toilet or latrine. In rural Bangladesh, only 5% of people defecate in the open.” (‘Understanding open defecation in rural India: Untouchability, pollution, and latrine pits,’ EPW January 7, 2017, by Diane Coffey, Aashish Gupta, Payal Hathi, Dean Spears, Nikhil Srivastav, and Sangita Vyas)


The survey found that Indians across social sections do not prefer to use the small twin-pit latrines (for which Governments give a Rs 12000 subsidy to rural Indians), even if these are constructed. The reason is that these latrines require periodic manual pit emptying – a practice associated with manual scavenging, associated with Dalits and consequently considered degrading and polluting. Non-Dalits will not empty the pits, and Dalits no longer want to be employed to do such labour. If affordable twin pit latrines are constructed, one of the pits can be allowed to decompose into compost while the other is in use – emptying decomposed waste is not manual scavenging. But it still carries the social stigma associated with degrading labour, and is thus shunned.

People are willing to use the larger and more expensive latrines with septic tanks – or the ones that use bio-digester gas technology to ensure that no residue is left in the pits. Since the Government does not fund such latrines which are relatively more expensive than small-pit latrines, people much prefer open defecation – even considering it to be healthier and more dignified than using small-pit latrines.

To this, add the fact that most poor people have experienced public latrines at bus stops – where they tend to be overflowing with faeces, stinking and lacking in water. Naturally, they tend to associate latrines with dirt and open defecation with fresh air and health – all the more so if their homes or colonies lack proper water, sewage and sanitation facilities.

We must remember here that caste prejudices relating to sanitation are by no means limited to Indians of the underprivileged classes. People who are privileged enough to have flush toilets in their homes also share those prejudices, as displayed in the fact that most of them would not allow workers from oppressed castes who clean their toilets to eat or drink out of their utensils. (‘Survey finds practice of untouchability’, Rukmini S, The Hindu, November 13, 2014).

So, we have to remember that the poor prefer open defecation over small-pit latrines – they would probably not prefer open defecation over fully functional, modern flush latrines. Similarly in urban areas people defecate in the open when the community toilets provided are clogged with faeces and ill-maintained. The big, unspoken question with regard to community toilets and individual pit-latrines alike is – who will clean the toilets. Campaigns like SBA do not address this question because the answer would require them to confront the reality of manual scavenging done by Dalits.

Moreover, we must remember that those who can afford large-pit latrines with septic tanks in villages and flush latrines in towns and cities are those from more privileged classes and dominant castes. It is these relatively more privileged people who tend to be tasked with shaming the poorer and more underprivileged people for defecating in the open.


Internationally, Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) is recognized as having achieved results in ending open defecation. CLTS involves educating communities to recognize the health hazards of open defecation, through campaigns that teach people to recognize that through open defecation “we are eating each other’s shit.” People from the communities are then mobilized to persuade others in the community to adopt toilet use. In its spirit CLTS is meant to be persuasive rather than coercive.

In India, CLTS practices have never seriously been adopted except in small pockets. However, it is a fact that even in other countries, CLTS campaigns too have been criticized for using tactics of public shaming and coercion.

It is high time that Indian people rose up against the tactics of vigilantism, public shaming, bullying and sexual harassment unleashed in the name of SBA. We have to recognize that a campaign to end open defecation can succeed only if it is able to convince and persuade people to voluntarily use toilets and shun open defecation. This calls for a multi-pronged approach in which shaming and coercion can have no part.

    • 1) Governments must educate about the health consequences of open defecation. Campaigns must focus on health rather than on notions of social shame, status, or patriarchal culture.

2) Government officials, elected representatives, and so on must lead by example in having, using and popularizing the kind of toilets they expect people to use. Using Amitabh Bachchan who has palatial toilets to shame the poor for open defecation must stop. Let the government officials, MLAs, MPs, etc use twin-pit latrines in their own homes and regularly clean these out themselves to show people that no stigma should be associated with the use and cleaning of such latrines. Such practices would truly be in the spirit of Gandhi who emphasized the need for people to clean their own toilets. And adopting and popularising such practices would be far more meaningful and effective than the photo-ops of politicians posing with brooms as part of SBA.

3) Governments must provide toilets that people are willing to use. This means that the campaigns must engage with people. If Governments find that people are simply not ready to use twin-pit latrines, they must then fund either bio-digester toilets (which are also quite cheap and cost-effective) or latrines with larger pits and septic tanks.

4) Governments must also ensure the availability of water in individual and community toilets alike. They must provide proper facilities for cleaning community toilets in both rural and urban India – facilities that provide the best and safest hygienic equipment for sanitation workers and do not in any way allow manual scavenging.

5) Governments must immediately declare a no-tolerance policy for any kind of naming-and-shaming, public humiliation, bullying, harassment, sexual harassment or coercion in the name of deterring open defecation. Defecation must be recognised as a human need – and people’s right to defecate with dignity, without fear or shame must be recognized as a human right. Any person or public official violating this right must face punishment.
Zafar’s lynching must serve as a wake-up call. No more bullying and coercion in the name of Swacch Bharat Abhiyan! Persuasion not coercion must be the rule for any campaign against open defecation.



The India Today channel conducted a sting operation

in which BJP leader and municipality Chairman Kamlesh Dosi boasted of releasing selective video clips to suggest that Zafar was the aggressor. The sting also showed doctors in the government hospital giving evasive responses to questions.

Kamlesh Dosi said in the sting operation that he was informed by his municipality officials at 7 am on 16 June that one of the municipality workers was bleeding due to an attack on the workers by Zafar. He said that he immediately instructed the officials to file an FIR against Zafar. He said that it was only after this that he heard that Zafar had fallen ill and needed to be taken to hospital.

But the FIRs filed by Zafar’s family and by the Government against Zafar tell a different story and belie Dosi’s version. The FIR filed by Zafar’s family shows that it was filed at 11.30 am on 16 June 2017, while the one filed by the Government against Zafar is clearly an afterthought, filed at 22.51 pm late at night on 16 June! It is quite obvious that the Government decided to file an FIR against Zafar only when they realized that national media was picking up the story of Zafar’s lynching and they needed to try and protect the accused Municipality Commissioner Ashok Jain and others by painting the victim, Zafar, as the aggressor!



(Here is what Section 354 C of IPC states about voyeurism)

Section 354C IPC: Any man who watches, or captures the image of a woman engaging in a private act in circumstances where she would usually have the expectation of not being observed either by the perpetrator or by any other person at the behest of the perpetrator or disseminates such image shall be punished on first conviction with imprisonment of either description for a term which shall not be less than one year, but which may extend to three years, and shall also be liable to fine, and be punished on a second or subsequent conviction, with imprisonment of either description for a term which shall not be less than three years, but which may extend to seven years, and shall also be liable to fine.

Explanation I.— For the purpose of this section, “private act” includes an act of watching carried out in a place which, in the circumstances, would reasonably be expected to provide privacy and where the victim’s genitals, posterior or breasts are exposed or covered only in underwear; or the victim is using a lavatory; or the victim is doing a sexual act that is not of a kind ordinarily done in public.

Explanation 2.— Where the victim consents to the capture of the images or any act, but not to their dissemination to third persons and where such image or act is disseminated, such dissemination shall be considered an offence under this section.



As you know, CPI(ML) and AICCTU activist Comrade Zafar (55) was lynched to death on 16 June 2017 for defending poor women from attempts by Rajasthan government officials to take photos and videos of them in a state of undress. The women were forced to defecate in the open because the government had refused funds to construct toilets in their colony.

Comrade Zafar is survived by his wife Comrade Rashida, and daughters Rukhsar (who is married) and Sabaz (who is in Class X in high school). Comrade Rashida and even his young daughters are boldly fighting for justice. Comrade Rashida has refused a cheque of Rs 2 lakh as ‘compensation’ from the government officials who are covering up Zafar’s lynching and are using various threats to get Rashida to withdraw her police complaint. She is determined not to be silenced by such offers, and is demanding justice instead.

We appeal to you to contribute generously to Comrade Rashida to help her support herself and her family. Contributions can be sent directly to Comrade Rashida’s bank account:

Name- Rasida Bee w/o Zafar Khan

A/c No- 42310100020101

Name of Bank- Baroda Rajasthan Kshetriya Grameen Bank

Branch- Pratapgarh


The article orginally appeared

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10 Facts About Lt Col Purohit, Main Accused In 2008 Malegaon Blast Case

The Supreme Court has today granted bail to Lt Col Prasad Shrikant Purohit in the 2008 Malegaon blast case

10 Facts About Lt Col Purohit, Main Accused In 2008 Malegaon Blast Case

Lt Col Prasad Shrikant Purohit has served in counter-terrorism operations unit in Jammu and Kashmir.

NEW DELHI On September 29, 2008, two bombs fitted on a motorcycle exploded, killing seven people and injuring over 100 in Maharashtra’s Malegaon, around 270 km from Mumbai. Initial investigations brought a hardline pro-Hindu group, Abhinav Bharat, under the scanner and led to several arrests. Among them were Sadhvi Pragya Thakur and Army officer Lt Col Prasad Srikant Purohit who were arrested that year, and charged with plotting the blasts. The Bombay High Court had granted bail to Sadhvi Pragya in April this year, but rejected Lt Col Purohit’s plea, saying the charges against him were of “grave nature”. Three days later, he moved the Supreme Court which today granted him bail.
Here is a 10-point low-down on the case against him:
  1. Lt Col Purohit is accused of floating Abhinav Bharat, collecting huge funds to procure arms and explosives and also organising meetings where the Malegaon attack was planned.
  2. Appearing for Lt Col Purohit in the Supreme Court, senior lawyer Harish Salve argued that the Army officer had been in jail for the past nine years but charges had still not been framed against him.
  3. The investigation was initially conducted by the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad led by its chief Hemant Karkare. Mr Karkare was killed in the terror attacks in Mumbai on November 26, 2008. The probe was then handed over to the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in 2011.
  4. Since his arrest, Lt Col Purohit has maintained that he was assigned by military intelligence to infiltrate various terror organisations and that his superiors were constantly in the loop about his actions and associations with Abhinav Bharat.
  5. The NIA maintained that there was evidence in the form of audio and video recordings, call data records and the statements of the witnesses which prove his involvement in the case.
  6. The NIA recommended prosecuting Lt Col Purohit for conspiracy and under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, though it had dropped charges under the stringent anti-terror law, the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act or MCOCA, against him and nine others.
  7. While rejecting his petition earlier, the Bombay High Court had referred to the report filed by the NIA, and said, “Purohit was the one who prepared a separate ‘Constitution’ for ‘Hindu Rashtra’ with a separate saffron colour flag. He also discussed about taking revenge for the (alleged) atrocities committed by the Muslims on Hindus.” The court also refused to accept Lt Col Purohit’s contention that he had attended the meetings as part of a “covert military intelligence operation”.
  8. The Army officer, however, argued that the NIA was “selective” in exonerating some of the accused, adding that he was made a “scapegoat” in the case. He also said that the statements of witnesses against him were fabricated.
  9. Last year, Lt Col Purohit wrote to then Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, claiming he had been falsely implicated in the case. “I have been robbed of honour, dignity and rank and punished for serving the nation,” the letter read.
  10. Lt Col Purohit was commissioned into Maratha Light Infantry in 1994. Between 2002-2005, he served in the counter-terrorism operations unit in Jammu and Kashmir before being shifted to Military Intelligence

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The Poison of White Supremacist Masculinity

Like our first president—not our current one—I cannot tell a lie: We must chop down the poisonous tree of white supremacist masculinity.

I felt tears well up when I heard about the alt-right violence unleashed in Charlottesville, Va. on August 12th.  Some of my tears, though, were in frustration. How is it possible after all the years colleagues and I have been writing and speaking about the gender of the killers—from Columbine to Orlando—that coverage of murder suspect James Fields. Jr. failed to point out the obvious. He was a disaffected, alienated 20 year-old male.  Sound familiar? Recognize the profile?

If we were to speak to the 20- and 30-something men like Fields who chanted the Nazi “Blood and Soil” slogan while marching with lighted torches across the University of Virginia campus to make America hate again, we’d find many shared a similar profile. It’s outrageous that our “so called” president stands with them.

Of course we have to vigorously confront—in the strongest words and deeds—white supremacists’ vile attacks on African-Americans and other people of color, Muslims, Jews, the LGBTQ community, immigrants— and anyone targeted by neo-Nazis and white nationalists. And, we have to call out our “so called” leaders if they hesitate even for a moment (let alone days) before condemning toxic assaults on a free, inclusive society.

Hear me, please. While there are white women supremacists, the vast majority are white males. We ignore that fact at our peril. In our long-term strategy to address domestic terrorism we must make central raising emotionally literate boys, dismantling bullying masculinity, and demanding the CDC conduct a study of the mental health of boys and young men. Disconnected, rudderless young males are vulnerable prey for older, angry white men promoting ideologies of hate. We must prevent their recruitment or we will continue to experience violence, like what happened in Charlottesville, or worse.

The morning after the tainted 2016 presidential election, the KKK-inspired alt-right’s ragtag army had found its General, and they’ve been emboldened ever since. Don’t believe me? Check the uptick nationally in hate crimes in the past six months.

The warning signs about James Fields were in plain sight long before he  plowed his Dodge Challenger into a crowd, killing activist and paralegal Heather Heyer, and injuring 19 others. His family and acquaintances, and his internet posts suggest he had mostly “gone unnoticed by the authorities and researchers, even as he trafficked in radical views and unnerving behavior long before the outbreak of violence,” wrote Alan Blinder in the New York Times. In his teenage years some who knew him said, “His demeanor and opinions had troubled them for years.”

Did his family reach out to his doctor or school guidance counselor? Did they engage a therapist? Was anyone paying attention when, as a young man in Kentucky, he touted Nazi ideology? “On many occasions… he would scream obscenities, whether it be about Hitler or racial slurs,” a former middle school classmate told the New York Times. He was “exceptionally odd and an outcast to be sure.”

Who among us doesn’t remember a boy in middle and high school who was “exceptionally odd” and an “outcast?”  Such young men need to be helped instead of hounded, and supported instead of shunned.

In white America’s ongoing work to unflinchingly take responsibility for our country’s shameful slaveholding origins, we must also examine how we socialize boys to become men. The kissin’ cousin of a white supremacist history is our patriarchal legacy.

Since symbols of the Confederacy have begun to be removed, from lowering flags in southern state capitols to toppling Civil War statues, we cannot forget the role toxic masculinity plays in the national conversation about confronting white nationalism.

The George Washington cherry tree story reminds us, “I cannot tell a lie.” So, let’s not. Instead, we must chop down the tree of violent, hate-filled white masculinity to get to the root of our malaise. Then, together, we can plant seedlings for a new forest of American manhood deeply rooted in accountability, compassion and self-reflection.  We cannot afford to wait another minute.

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If Malayalam classic Chemmeen were made today, it would be banned for glorifying ‘love jihad’

By The Last Caveman   @CarDroidusMax

The 1965 film would cause the Sangh Parivar to take major umbrage at its inter-faith romance.

If Malayalam classic Chemmeen were made today, it would be banned for glorifying ‘love jihad’

Chemmeen, the 1965 Malayalam-language movie needs no introduction to any Keralite. This movie-adaptation of Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai’s eponymous novel is a Malayalam cinema classic that weaves the story of the tragic romance between Karuthamma (the daughter of a Dalit Hindu) and Pareekkutty (a Muslim trader), set in a tiny fishing village in coastal Kerala.

An article in The Hindu, published on Chemmeen’s 50th anniversary in 2015, describes the eternal and ethereal beauty of this jewel in Malayalam cinema’s crown. An excerpt:

“Set against the vast expanse of the sea, the narrative of Chemmeen offered immense visual possibilities, which the cinematographer and editor exploited creatively. In the film, the seascapes – its various moods, turbulences, ebbs and tides, and also its bounties – punctuate the narrative, virtually turning the sea into a character, raging and roaring, cheering and embracing the human drama unfolding on and before it. The legends and beliefs among the fisher-folk community are evoked time and again, through songs and dialogues, to paint the story in darker, dramatic hues.”

What if Chemmeen were to be first released in the present day?

If the recent “review” of Angamaly Diaries aired by Janam TV – a pro-Sangh Parivar Malayalam TV channel – were any indication, then Chemmeen would have been in for a rough ride. Angamaly Diaries was one of the biggest box-office successes of 2017, apart from the immense critical acclaim it received from even outside Kerala.

However, Janam TV’s film critic chose to trash the movie – and he is well within his rights to do this as a film critic. However, the review ended up being cannon-fodder for the famed Malayali social media satire, due to its blatantly communal colour.

The review, for example, criticised the movie for “showing too many visuals of churches” and even went on to ask whether there aren’t any temples in Angamaly, the real-world town the story is set in. It appeared to be lost on the reviewer that the movie IS about a group of Christian youth in Angamaly who set out to float their own pork-meat trading business.

Or perhaps it was not lost on him at all.

Kerala in 2017 stands tall like the little Gaul village of Asterix and Obelix – a perpetual thorn in the side for the rampaging legions of Caesar Amit Shah. Be it the state’s chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan or Congress politicians like Shashi Tharoor (the sitting Lok Sabha MP for Thiruvananthapuram) or Malayalam social media’s top political satirists like International Chalu Union – nobody misses an opportunity to push back and lampoon the Sangh’s attempts to impose their version of religiosity and “sanskar” on Kerala.

chemmeen-690_082017055525.jpgAre there no vegetables in Purakkad?

What would a young Sangh-supporting intellectual do in Kerala? Nothing much, other than cheer wildly about election results from faraway places like Bundelkhand and Kota. As far as career ambitions go, their best bet would be to butter up BJP’s North Indian bosses and hope to land a job in Prasar Bharati. Or maybe in CBFC, if Pahlaj Nihlani’s successor too manages to get himself fired.

If Chemmeen were to make its first appearance now, how would Janam TV see it? By the looks of it, they might jump at the opportunity to trash it, and perhaps even get it banned.

And why not? It has every ingredient that rubs a Sangh supporter the wrong way: a Hindu-Muslim love angle (“love jihad”), extra-marital love, glorification of local fables, and worst of all, fish-eating (the movie’s name itself translates to “Prawn”).

This is what they might come up with:

World cinema is dotted with works that tell the stories associated with the sea. Jaws, Titanic, Sharknado 1Sharknado 2Sharknado 3 are some of the most renowned in this category. None of these are merely sea yarns shouted from the rooftops; instead, they narrated global issues in a sea-setting. Titanic, for example, told the story of post-colonial Anglo-Irish immigration to America, couched as a love story on board an ocean liner. Jaws and all the Sharknado movies were stellar advertisements for ocean conservation and beach tourism, apart from being great action-thrillers.

However, when it comes to Chemmeen, things turn upside down. All that the Sathyan and Sheela starrer does is to glorify the lives of a bunch of fisherfolk in a tiny fishing village called Purakkad in Kerala, as if they were great seafarers from the Vedic era. Does the village of Purakkad have any historical, cultural or political significance in Kerala? One wonders whether the producer Babu Ismail Sait had any role in deciding to ignore the more historically, culturally and politically significant fishing villages in Kerala, such as Marad (communal rioting in 2003) or Poonthura (communal rioting in 1992).

What Chemmeen does is to portray such an insignificant village and its people in the mould of glorious ancient seaside towns like Rameshwaram. A small fishing community, of the kind one would find in most seaside villages, their day to day trials and tribulations, songs, dances, moral decadence — this is the gist of Chemmeen.

The movie’s technicians have succeeded in giving a colourful facade to an inherently weak story using professional editing and decent outdoor shoots. The author Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai should give serious thought to his future as a novelist.

Chemmeen continues the un-Indian trend in Malayalam cinema of glorifying meat- and fish-eating. The last decade has seen a deluge of Malayalam movies that glamourise meat eating. Angamaly Diariesglorified pork eating to such an extent that opportunistic restaurateurs have started pairing even pure indic food items such as idly and dosha with pork varattiyathu — an abomination that was otherwise paired only with deracinated and un-indic food items like appam and pathiri.

A meat sub-culture is growing in Kerala and the prime culprit is cinema. Chemmeen is director Ramu Kariat’s contribution to this carnivore-isation of Malayali youth. The movie is littered with seafood symbology from the beginning to the very end. There is even an elaborate sequence where Karuthamma (the female lead played by Sheela) serves rice and copious quantities of fish curry to Palani (played by Sathyan). Hasn’t Thakazhi heard of more traditional Kerala food such as rice, sambar, aviyal and puzhukku?

Are there no vegetables in Purakkad?

Even the songs — couched as folk songs — are actually nothing but inane glorification of seafood. The lyrics are replete with words “karimeen”, “chakara” etc and that too set to close up visuals of fresh fish. The highly impressionable youth of the communist-ruled state cannot be blamed for flocking to seafood joints after every screening of the movie. Paragon Restaurant in Kozhikode for example, has reported a 300 per cent increase in their number of fish-mango-curry orders ever since the movie released. By the time the movie ends one begins to get alarmed, wondering if Kerala is some kind of Republic of Fish Eaters, totally disconnected from vegetarian India.

The only bit where Thakazhi and Ramu Kariat deserve praise is for their willingness to expose the menace of “love jihad” that is spreading all over Kerala. Pareekkutty’s (has to be short for Fareed Kutabbudin) character, played by Madhu, demonstrates the depth to which jihadis go to infiltrate our communities to cause wide-ranging issues ranging from marital discord to economic downturn. This is the only saving grace amongst all the cacophony about “sea”, “karimeen”, “chakara” and immorality that make up the glorified sea-trash called Chemmeen.

[The mock review – an English take on the infamous Janam TV review of Angamaly Diaries – first appeared on the author’s Facebook page. For DailyO, he has provided a preface to explain why Chemmeenwould have seen strong reactions from the ruling regime’s moral police.]

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Will you join Harsh Mander in Karawan -e -Mohabbat ?


Next month the activist will travel hundreds of kilometres to seek collective forgiveness for our sins of omission and commission. Will you be joining him?

Image result for harsh mander

– Karawan e Mohabbat – beginning with Nellie in Assam on September 2 and ending at Porbandar on Oct 2

By- Dushyant

Who are we? Are we a nation of bigots ready to murder at the slightest provocation? There is an idiom in Punjabi that roughly translates into ‘If you want to make a hundred monkeys fight, show them one banana’. Are we those monkeys? Are we at the mercy of hatred-filled WhatsApp forwards? Are we slaves to narratives such as x religion did hateful things to y religion 200 years ago, and now 200 years later you must carry the burden of this ridiculous hate? Who are we to each other? What does our patriotism mean? Is it more than territorial boundaries? Do we mean something to each other?

We are Indians. We are fellow citizens. Ham Watan. Why do we cheer an Indian victory at a sporting event? Why do our eyes light up when we see a fellow Indian in a foreign country? Is our relationship with each other so fragile that politicians with well-oiled and well-funded propaganda machineries are easily able to incite us against each other? Is it as easy to incite two Germans against each other? Is it as easy to incite fellow citizens of other countries who belong to different religions? Do we really believe that this country only belongs to one religion? What does the Indian heart look like? Are we petty and malicious? Why is it that so many of us keep looking on quietly when mobs murder innocents – sometimes on highways, sometimes inside trains, sometimes by dragging them out of their houses? Do the incidents of people driving by, ignoring cries of wounded/ raped people on the road symbolise who we are? Is religion, gender and caste-based violence an integral part of our national identity? Who are we going to become? What will honest accounts of history tell our children about us? I don’t have answers to these questions.

Harsh Mander is a sixty-two-year old man who has spent his life working with survivors of mass violence, homeless people and street children. He is going to undertake a journey starting in Assam on September 4 through Jharkhand, Karnataka, Western UP, Haryana, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Delhi. He says he wants to meet families of those who were lynched, seek collective forgiveness, and form aman-committees, which will support those families and work to generally generate a sense of fraternity and love in those neighbourhoods. He also says that this journey is a call of conscience to Indians at large. He has invited everyone to join him. Many people have committed that they will. They are calling this journey Karawan-e-Mohabbat (Caravan of Love). An appeal he has written sharing his reasons, seeking support and funds for the journey contains the following excerpt:

“We need to interrogate the reasons for our silences, for our failures to speak out, and to intervene, when murderous hate is unleashed on innocent lives. We need our conscience to ache. We need it to be burdened intolerably.”

What are the reasons for our silences? Many people believe that there is a deliberate campaign underway to frighten the minorities – caste and religious. To terrify them with lynchings, as large-scale riots gather far too much attention and institutional interference. To reduce them to secondclass citizens. When my grandchildren ask me if my conscience ached and felt an intolerable burden when innocents were being murdered, what will my answer be? If and when this climate of fear reaches its dreadful but inevitable climax, will I wonder what I was doing when this monster was slowly but surely creeping on us? Will we ask why we didn’t realise what was happening? I have asked many questions in this article. I want to find answers to some of them. I want to ensure that there doesn’t come a day when I have to ask myself – what did I do? I want to ensure I am able to say, I stood up for India and Indians. This is what my ham-watans meant to me. I want to find out who we are, who we are to each other and what we are going to become. For this reason alone I am going to join Harsh Mander on this journey. I hope to see you with us. Will you come?

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Hyper-nationalism of 2017 is Not the Nationalism of 1947

The leaders of the freedom movement were inspired by a longing, a dream, to restore the dignity of the vulnerable individual, no matter of what kind. They embraced neither Hindu nationalism nor hyper-nationalism
Way back in 1948, an American journalist, Vincent Sheean, went to a Mumbai meeting addressed by Vallabhbhai Patel and Jawaharlal Nehru and spoke to the Sardar about the immense crowd that had turned out. “They come for Jawahar, not for me,“ Patel told him.Later that year, the Sardar said: “Mahatma Gandhi named Pandit Nehru as his heir and successor. Since Gandhiji’s death we have realised that our leader’s judgment was correct“ (Patel Centenary Volumes, 2:327).

But perhaps it was not. Humans err. Gandhi may have made a mistake. Patel too may have been mistaken in saying that Gandhi was correct.

We can question our forebears’ judgments.But we cannot, from where we are, invert or flip-flop the facts of their times. In naming Nehru as India‘s “future helmsman“, which he first publicly did in 1935, Gandhi did not foist an unwanted leader on an unwilling people. He only facilitated what the people of India seemed to want. Their grandchildren may disapprove of the choice made, but in the 1930s and 1940s the people of India wanted Jawaharlal.

Looking back at August 15, 1947, that stained yet lifegiving dawn, we can only marvel at the leadership which, in partnership with thousands of the less famous, brought us to that day: Gandhi, Nehru, Patel, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Subhas Chandra Bose (whose death two years earlier was unacceptable to a loving people), C Rajagopalachari, Rajendra Prasad, others who had died, others continuing to play their part, and BR Ambedkar, for years a resolute foe of Gandhi, Nehru, Patel and company, but joining free India’s first cabinet in response to their call.

At times the leaders named, and others who could have been named along with them, fought with one another, but bonds between them did not break. Not even in 1939, when Subhas, elected Congress president earlier in the year, was in effect voted out of the Congress in a move initiated by Patel, Rajaji, Rajendra Prasad and Govind Ballabh Pant but not opposed by either Gandhi or Nehru.

A year later (six months before his escape from Kolkata), Subhas and Gandhi had a long cordial meeting, and in 1944 it was Subhas, speaking on a radio from “somewhere in southeast Asia“, who addressed Gandhi as “the father of the nation“. Was he mistaken too? And was Subhas also wrong in keeping the name `Nehru Brigade’ for a sec tion of his Indian National Army?
Apart from the Swaraj goal which the leadership team shared, and the friendships forged in bat tle and in prison, there was anoth er glue: a united resolve, repeated with regularity and put down in ink, that a freed India would as sure certain fundamental rights to all its citizens. Such as: Freedom of expression, reli gion, thought and assembly.

Equality regardless of caste, sex or creed. A minimum wage. A secular state. The abolition of untoucha bility and serfdom.

These specified pledges for independent India were made at the 1931 Karachi Congress, held within weeks of the hanging of Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev. Patel presided over the session. Gandhi, Nehru and Subhas addressed it.

The values and goals named above were the values and goals of India’s nationalism from the 1920s through and beyond 1947. Ambedkar made sure that the norms were reflected with clarity in the articles of the Indian Constitution. Until recent years, those values were upheld without ambiguity by almost all political leaders, the media and the judiciary.

We may discern that the foundation for these norms was respect for the individual, his or her freedom, his or her worth. Though flawed like all human movements, and not always remembering its source, our freedom movement sprang not from revenge or love of power or glory but from a longing, a dream if you like, to restore the dignity of the vulnerable individual, no matter of what kind.

Not every participant was conscious of this deepdown motivation, and even the finest of them would not have remembered it all the time. But it was this unselfish root, nourished by Gandhi’s astonishing personal role, that gave our varied leadership team its unity.

India, however, was larger than the freedom movement.Many an Indian felt left out of it. In 1909, Gandhi asked the elites who started it, and were overrepresented in it, to recognise the harsh truth that “those in whose name we speak we do not know, and they do not know us“. Incomplete as it was, the movement strove with fair success to include and represent an ever-expanding circle. From 1919-20, its doors were unreservedly open to all Indians and to sympathising non-Indians. No one in the movement’s leadership team ever promised that “this“ caste, class, province or religious group would dominate the nation, or that “that“ group would be shown its place.

There was no call by Gandhi, Nehru, Subhas, Patel or Ambedkar to return India to a Vedic age, or restore Hindu supremacy within India, or demonstrate to the world the glories of a Hindu Rashtra.

Some (or many) in today’s India may choose to think that these were unfortunate omissions. They are free to set fresh goals and norms for themselves. The Indian people can be invited to judge their forebears, including the leaders mentioned above, as having erred grievously.

But the people cannot be told that Nehru wanted one basic thing and Patel the opposite, or that the Sardar was for a Hindu state. That would be deceptive.

Addressing Congress workers in Bengaluru in February 1949, Sardar Patel spoke of “Hindu Raj“ as “that mad idea“ (Hindustan Times, February 26, 1949). As for Dr Ambedkar, he wrote in his famous book, Thoughts on Pakistan: “If Hindu Raj does become a fact, it will, no doubt, be the greatest calamity for this country“ (2nd edition, 1945, Part V).

One can of course insist that the Sardar and Babasaheb were both mistaken. But were they? Those who imagine that on core issues Nehru and Patel stood on opposite poles should know one more thing.

On January 29, 1948, a day before the Mahatma’s assassination, Rajendra Prasad, Gandhi’s teammate from Champaran 1917, who would go on to become India’s first president, wrote a letter to his cabinet colleague at the time, Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee of the Hindu Mahasabha. The letter drew Syamababu’s attention to a speech in which a Mahasabha leader in Bihar had said that Patel, Nehru and Azad should be hanged (Dr Rajendra Prasad‘s Correspondence, Allied, New Delhi, vol 9, p 48).

Climate of Zabardasti

Hindu nationalism and hyper-nationalism are distinct but mutually compatible attitudes. People may embrace one or the other or both. The leadership team of our national movement embraced neither. Proud and passionate Indians as they were, they were responsible world citizens too. Even as he proclaimed Quit India in August 1942, Gandhi said he wanted “this vast mass of [Indian] humanity to be aflame in the cause of worlddeliverance“.

Seventy-five years later, as the planet shrinks and humanity merges, would a call to return to the Vedic age galvanise our earth’s Africans, Japanese, Chinese, Arabs, Europeans or Americans? Hindu nationalism and hypernationalism may seem attractive to persons wishing to project a militant India on the world stage.But Hindu nationalism is not the way to defeat Islamic fundamentalism. As for hypernationalism, we should keep the fingers crossed. A contest in that sport is the last thing the people of India and China need.

Polarisation may be a global current today, and some may ride it to power, but what afterwards? We can ignore what polarisation has done to Syria and Iraq in recent years, forget what it did to our people in 1946-47, and shut our eyes to what it continues to do today to vulnerable innocents.

But currents and waves do not stop where we want them to. And hatred is a glue which for a while unites some against others (or many against some) before exploding in the faces of those we love.

The climate of zabardasti must end. It will end one day. The many who are troubled, not inspired, by the drumbeat of a polarised India, who are deeply disturbed by the reported targeting of a great minority institution like the Jamia Millia and the proven targeting of the finances of opposition parties, place their faith in the future. And in the consciences, freed from pressure, of India’s millions, whose forebears, stirred by their consciences, shouldered a path-breaking national movement.

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Liberals have misunderstood the PM Modi’s farewell tribute to Hamid Ansari

White teeth

– Service with a smile

The appointment of Prasoon Joshi, lyricist and advertising genius, as the chairman of the Central Board of Film Certification, put me in mind of a wonderful commercial he had a hand in making a decade ago. It was a commercial designed to sell chewing gum but it was so surreally subversive that every time I went to the cinema in 2007 it seemed more compelling than the main feature. (You can watch it here: )

It’s dusk. A man cycles over a bridge in a princely estate. Thin men in turbans and dhotis, palace servants, race to their stations. Cut to the palace grounds. A tennis match is in progress. The rani dives into the swimming pool. The maharaja rises for dinner.


You notice with a start that a row of starveling men are balanced atop lamp posts along the drive. Human heads and torsos flank the palace car’s radiator grille instead of headlights. On the estate’s grounds and buildings, thin, diligent bodies cling to light brackets and chandeliers.

As the maharaja sits down to dinner, a man climbs into the chandelier overhead, pops some gum and bares his teeth. Around him a floret of heads mimics his grin, thin brown faces shine down hundred-watt smiles. The motif repeats itself. Racquets swing and the tennis game is lit up by the grins of crouching men perched courtside, the maharani laps the pool and patient boys waiting underwater illumine the deep end with submarine smiles.

It’s a tour de force. I didn’t know then who had produced it and at the first time of watching I wondered how the agency had got it past the client since it was so obviously a savage send-up of the way the rich ravaged the bodies of the working poor. Except that I know now that it was made by a responsible professional. No irony was intended; we are meant to read it benignly as a commercial for teeth-whitening gum. But if we concentrate a little, and use our imaginations, we can discern in it a text for our times.

The commercial shows us a raja and his praja in perfect accord. Despite the fact that the royal family is upholstered and rich and their subjects are thin, ragged and poor, the latter, as pedants like to say, smile their hearts out for the former. If we were to reimagine those thin, willingly smiling men in the commercial as the subcontinent’s minorities and the king they serve as the subcontinent’s sovereign nations, it’s apparent what the proper relationship between certain classes of citizen and the State ought to be.

The good minority citizen is the grateful subject who lives to serve. It is through unstinting smiling service that the minority citizen transcends his peripheral position in the body politic, his inherent marginality, and achieves something approaching citizenship. The opportunity to serve is his salvation and his visible gratitude for that opportunity is the grease that keeps the republic’s joints oiled and moving smoothly. Unsmiling minorities, it follows, are grit in the machine, a sign that the benevolence of the State is unreciprocated, that the political contract between the republic and its minorities is being dishonoured.

In the same way as I had misread the commercial the first time I saw it, liberals have misunderstood the prime minister’s farewell tribute to the outgoing vice-president. Narendra Modi had in the course of his speech suggested that Hamid Ansari had made a career out of working as a Muslim amongst Muslims. He had been a diplomat in Muslim countries, a vice-chancellor of the Aligarh Muslim University, and the chairperson of the National Commission for Minorities.

Then Ansari was given the opportunity to serve in a constitutional position as the vice-president of India and the chairman of the Rajya Sabha. Modi implied that Ansari might have felt restless in this broader circumstance so different from the parochial preoccupations of his working life. Now that he was free of this office, said Modi, he was free to revert to being Muslim, he could enjoy the freedom to think and speak and act as a Muslim, unconstrained by duty.

I paraphrase, of course; the prime minister, mindful of the proprieties of office, never used the word Muslim. Liberals were outraged because they made the same mistake I had made when I first saw the commercial: they read Modi’s speech as I had read the commercial, as satire. It’s undeniable that the prime minister was upset with the vice-president because Ansari had been interviewed on Rajya Sabha TV the night before, criticizing the erosion of the republic’s values and speaking of the insecurity of its Muslim and minority citizens. But to infer from this that the prime minister of India was sarcastically trolling its vice-president on this solemn valedictory occasion was unwarranted. No prime minister would do that. It wasn’t vyang that moved Modi, but afsos.

The prime minister spoke in sorrow, not in anger. It must have saddened him that Ansari had been unable to transcend his Muslimness despite the opportunity of high constitutional office. On his penultimate day in office he had chosen to harp on the plight of minorities instead of celebrating the magnanimity of a republic that gave the likes of him a decade in its second-highest office.

Priti Gandhi, of the BJP Mahila Morcha tweeted: “For 10yrs my Hindu majority nation accepted you with open arms, placed you at the pinnacle of power & you still feel uneasy?” It was this feeling that Modi channelled. Instead of abasing himself in the cause of the nation that the sangh believes had graciously fostered him and his kind, Ansari had had the gall to take India and its citizenship for granted. A mere 70 years after 1947, Ansari behaved as if Partition had never happened, as if Muslims could be equal stakeholders in India without going that extra yard to prove their patriotism, by suffering in silence, if indeed they were suffering. There are many grave connoisseurs of India’s communal temperature who don’t think that a rash of lynchings adds up to a fever.

Towards the end of the commercial, there is a long shot of a festive procession led by an elephant and revelry in a large hall lit by rows upon rows of upside-down men dangling from the ceiling like grinning bats. This closing tableau now reads like an exhortation to Muslims and other minorities in south Asia:


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Shame, shame, SHAME on PM Narendra Modi

On his last day in office, BJP attacks

Hamid Ansari for ‘minorities insecure’


In his parting interview to Rajya Sabha TV, vice president Hamid Ansari said a feeling of unease and insecurity is creeping in among Muslims in India. The comment drew reactions from many BJP leaders including the Prime Minister, who took subtle digs at the outgoing VP.

Saubhadra Chatterji
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Outgoing vice president Hamid Ansari with vice president-designate M Venkaiah Naidu, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Lok Sabha speaker Sumitra Mahajan and finance minister Arun Jaitley during his farewell function at GMC Balayogi Auditorium at Parliament in New Delhi on Thursday.
Outgoing vice president Hamid Ansari with vice president-designate M Venkaiah Naidu, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Lok Sabha speaker Sumitra Mahajan and finance minister Arun Jaitley during his farewell function at GMC Balayogi Auditorium at Parliament in New Delhi on Thursday.(PTI Photo)

India’s next vice president Venkaiah Naidu on Thursday dismissed allegations of insecurity among Muslims as a political propaganda, a day after his predecessor Hamid Ansari flagged a “growing unease” among the country’s minority community.

Though Naidu did not name anyone, his comments are being seen as a response to Ansari, who told a government-run TV channel on Thursday that insecurity was creeping in among Muslims in India and that there was a breakdown of Indian values.

“Some people are saying minorities are insecure. It is a political propaganda. Compared to the entire world, minorities are more safe and secure in India and they get their due,” Naidu said.

Naidu’s political stand left many surprised as it came a day ahead of his swearing in to the country’s second-highest constitutional position, a post neutral of party affiliations.

In his parting interview to Rajya Sabha TV, Ansari also pointed out alleged failure of law enforcing agencies, seen as a reference to growing incidents of mob lynchings over cow smuggling.

Naidu, a former BJP president, cautioned against highlighting one community as it might result in adverse reaction from other communities.

“If you single out one community, other communities will take it otherwise. That is why we say all are equal. Appeasement for none, justice for all,” 68-year-old Naidu said.

Naidu the second leader with an RSS-BJP background to be elected VP after Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, also stressed that “India is secular not because of political leaders but because of its people and civilisation.”

The BJP lashed out at Ansari and Prime Minister Narendra Modi took subtle digs at the outgoing VP.

“There might have been some uneasiness in you. But probably that worry will no longer be there for you. There will be the joy of freedom for you. You can act, think and talk according to your fundamental ideology,” Modi said during Ansari’s farewell, underlining that his ancestors were closely associated with the Congress.

“You have spent a large part of your diplomatic career in West Asia. After retirement, you worked in Minority Commission or Aligarh University, so your circle remained the same,” Modi added.

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Sense of unease among Muslims: Hamid Ansari in his last interview as vice-president


  • Ansari said he shared the view of many that intolerance was growing
  • He ascribed the spate of vigilante violence, mob lynchings, beef bans and “Ghar Wapsi” campaigns to a “breakdown of Indian values”

Stating that he had flagged the issue of “intolerance” with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his cabinet colleagues, Mr Ansari, 80, also described the questioning of citizens over their love for India as a “disturbing thought”.

Unease Among Muslims, Says Outgoing Vice President Hamid Ansari

Outgoing Vice President Hamid Ansari said that there is growing insecurity among Muslims in India



  1. Ambience of acceptance in India under threat, warns Hamid Ansari
  2. Constant questioning over proving ones Indianness disturbing, he says
  3. Have shared my concerns with Prime Minister Modi, the Vice President said

Outgoing Vice President Hamid Ansari said on Wednesday that there is a feeling of unease and a sense of insecurity among the Muslims in the country, asserting the “ambience of acceptance” is now under threat.

Mr Ansari, whose second five-year term as the Vice-President ends today, made these remarks in the backdrop of incidents of “intolerance” and cow vigilantism.

Stating that he had flagged the issue of “intolerance” with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his cabinet colleagues, Mr Ansari, 80, also described the questioning of citizens over their love for India as a “disturbing thought”.

Asked in an interview on Rajya Sabha TV whether he shared his concerns with the prime minister, Mr Ansari said that he had. “Yes…yes. But what passes between the Vice President and the Prime Minister in the nature of things must remain in the domain of privileged conversation,” Mr Ansari, who is also the Rajya Sabha Chairman, said.

He said that he has also flagged the issue with other union ministers. “Well, there is always an explanation and there is always a reason. Now it is a matter of judgement, whether you accept the explanation, you accept the reasoning and its rationale,” he said when asked about the response of the government.

In the interview, Vice President Ansari referred to incidents of lynching and ‘ghar wapsi’ and alleged killings of rationalists as a “breakdown of Indian values, breakdown of the ability of the authorities at different levels in different places to be able to enforce what should be normal law enforcing work and over all the very fact that Indianness of any citizen being questioned is a disturbing thought.”

“Yes it is a correct assessment,” Mr Ansari said when asked whether he agreed with the assessment that the Muslim community is apprehensive and that it was feeling insecure as a result of the kind of comments made against them.

“Yes it is a correct assessment, from all I hear from different quarters, the country; I heard the same thing in Bangalore, I have heard from other parts of the country, I hear more about it in north India, there is a feeling of unease, a sense of insecurity is creeping in,” he said.

Asked whether he felt that the Muslims are “beginning to feel that they are not wanted”, Mr Ansari said, “I would not go that far, there is a sense of insecurity.”

He said India is a plural society that has for centuries, not just seventy years, has lived in a certain “ambience of acceptance” which is now “under threat”. He was of the view that the propensity to be able to assert your nationalism day-in and day-out is “unnecessary”.

“I am an Indian and that is it,” he said.

Mr Ansari was of the view that while tolerance is a good virtue, it is not a sufficient virtue. “…therefore you have to take the next step and go from tolerance to acceptance,” he said.

At an event in Bengaluru on Sunday, Vice President Ansari said that the “version of nationalism” that places cultural commitments at its core “promotes intolerance” and arrogant patriotism.

Responding to a question on comments made by some BJP leaders related to minorities, he said he would not talk about people in politics or about political parties. “But to me, every time such a comment appeared or came to my knowledge; I mean my first reaction was that, A: the person is ignorant, B: that he is prejudiced and C: he does not fit into the framework that India has always prided to itself on, which is to be an accommodative society,” he said.

Responding to questions on triple talaq, Mr Ansari said it is a social aberration, not a religious requirement. “Firstly, it is a social aberration, it is not a religious requirement. The religious requirement is crystal clear, emphatic, there are no two views about it, but patriarchy, social customs have all crept into it to create a situation which is highly undesirable,” he said.

He said the courts do not have to step in as the reform has to come from within the community. “The courts can say that we don’t recognise it. That’s all. I mean a marriage has to be recognised on certain occasions by the system of the state. And if a state functionary at a particular point of time refuses to recognise a happening which may be the product of a triple talaq, that s it,” he explained.

To a poser on the situation in Jammu and Kashmir, Mr Ansari said, “the problem has always primarily been a political problem. And it has to be addressed politically.”

He agreed to a suggestion that politicians are ducking the problem. “That’s my impression. And I m not the only one in the country…when young boys and girls come out on to the streets and throw stones day after day, week after week, month after month, it’s something to worry about because they are our children, they are our citizens.”

“Something is obviously going wrong. What exactly, I am not the final word on it, but I think there are enough people in the country who are worried about it. Eminent people belonging to different political persuasions and their worry must be taken on board,” the Vice President said.

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Maharashtra – Mughals are a lost chapter in state board’s textbooks

Mughals are a lost chapter in the state board's textbooks
History textbooks for Std VII and IX revised, Akbar’s reign reduced to three lines as focus is on Shivaji’s Maratha Empire

They may have given us the Taj Mahal, Urdu language, and a terrific cuisine, but the Mughals are not considered worthy enough by the Maharashtra State Education Board to be included in history textbooks for school students.
The board has, this academic year, come out with revised textbooks for Std VII and IX, focusing mainly on the Maratha Empire founded by warrior king Shivaji. The Std VII textbook has expunged chapters from the previous edition on the Mughals, and the Muslim rulers in India before the Mughals such as Razia Sultana and Muhammad bin Tuqhlaq.

The revised version makes no mention of the monuments built by these rulers, such as the Taj Mahal, the Qutub Minaar, and the Red Fort. The revised history textbook for Std IX mentions the Bofors scam and the Emergency of 1975-1977. Kolhapur-based Bapusaheb Shinde, a member of the history subject committees for both old and revised textbooks, told Mirror that last year, State Education Minister Vinod Tawde held a meeting at Rambhau Mhalgi Prabodhini, a think-tank promoted by the RSS, where the revision of the syllabus was discussed. “The need was felt to update history with modern events.The Mughal history has been reduced. Modern history needs to be incorporated,“ Shinde said.

Tawde did not respond when Mirror contacted him for his version on the matter.

In the Std VII textbook on medieval India, covering the sub-continent from the 9th Century AD to the 18th Century, Akbar’s reign as been described thus: “Akbar was the most powerful king of the Mughal dynasty. When he tried to bring India under a central authority, he had to face opposition. Maharana Pratap, Chand Bibi, and Rani Durgavati struggled against him. Their struggle is noteworthy.“

There is also no mention of the rupaya that was first introduced as currency by the Afghan invaders, and the term still continues.

Till last academic year, Akbar was introduced in the same textbook as a “liberal and tolerant administrator who was a patron of learning and art“. The emperor was also described as someone who had abolished the `jaziyah’, prohibited the practice of sati, and allowed widow remarriage. He was also called the founder of a universal religion called the Din-E-Illahi.

The other notable omissions from the previous textbook editions are paragraphs on Razia Sultana, the first woman to rule Delhi, Muhammad bin Tughluq’s decision to shift his capital city from Delhi to Daulatabad in present-day Marathwada and his demonetisation move (he had overnight replaced gold and silver coins with copper and brass ones), and the remarkable reign of Sher Shah Suri who forced Humayun to flee from India.

In the revised textbook, Shivaji has been made the focal point of medieval Indian histo ry. His role, and those of his family and the Maratha generals, have been expanded. While the old textbook titled the chapter on him as `People’s King’, the revised textbook has renamed it `An Ideal Ruler’.

Kishore Darak, the Pune-based independent researcher in curriculum and textbooks, said the cover of the new Std VII textbook was “problematic“. “It creates an image that the Hindu samrajya existed in India during that period, as the cover displays saffron flags all over the map of the country. This is factually incorrect and reeks of political agenda,“ Darak said.

Neeta Vaz from St. Anne’s School in Malad, who has been teaching history for the last 24 years, pointed out a glaring omission. “In the previous version, the first chapter titled `India and the World’ described the feudal order in Europe, role of the Arabs in the spice trade between Europe and South East Asia, the Islamic world’s contribution to arts, science, and literature, and the rise of Islam. It offered a background to the first Arab invasion into the Indian sub-continent in the 8th Century AD. All of that has been removed,“ Vaz said.

She further pointed out that chapters on architectural splendour during the Mughal era, the Mughals’ initiatives of starting postal service, building `serais’ or inns on the highway, and measuring the highways have also been removed. “Students need to know about these things,“ she said.

Sadanand More, chairman of the History subject committee of the Maharashtra State Bureau of Textbook Production and Curriculum Research, justified the revision saying it was relevant for students in Maharashtra.

“Why should we not change? We have looked at history from a Maharashtra-centric point of view. Even if it is the Delhi Sultanate or the Mughal rule and the medieval history of India, we have kept Maharashtra at the centre. It is a natural course as we are from Maharashtra.What’s wrong in that? In fact the Central board books have very little about our state,“ More said.

A nation’s history is what makes the nation that nation. It is very tempting to often recast history with a view to attaining a specific kind of national identity. This is, however, a dangerous road to go down. For the distorted view of events, cherry-picking can result in current events being greatly miscalculated. India has many sensitive problems to deal with as she rises to be a superpower. These problems need to be approached with caution, empathy and understanding. The purpose of teaching history at the school level is to give the students a lens through which they can understand their world. The revisions to the textbook grossly fail in achieving this purpose. They need to be urgently reconsidered.

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