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Archives for : Religion

India – Republics for Kshatriyas

Ancient regimes in India were far from democratic, had little place for other castes

Republics For KshatriyasThe strict control exercised by the ‘republican’ states through executive edicts and legislation exposes their undemocratic character.In his article, ‘Denying Nehru his due,’ Ashutosh Varshney (IE, February 14) has rightly contested the assertion of Prime Minister Narendra Modi that democracy is integral to the Indian nation and that there are many examples of its rich democratic traditions dating back to centuries. Modi’s braggadocio is inspired by the obsolete ideas of the historians who frequently spoke of ancient Indian “republican” polities before Independence as part of their project to unduly glorify ancient India and to explode the colonial myth of Indian despotism.

These polities existed in the Indus basin where they were survivors of the early Vedic tribes, and in the Himalayan foothills in eastern Uttar Pradesh or Bihar, where, inspired by the tradition of a varna-less egalitarian society un-oppressed by the hereditary monarchies in the remote past, they emerged as a reaction to the steadily growing Vedic orthodoxy.

This is borne out by the legendary account of the origin of the Shakyas, the tribe to which Gautama Buddha belonged. They are said to have descended from the Koshalan royal family which expelled its members — four brothers and four sisters — who went to the sub-Himalayan region where they married among themselves so as to maintain their purity of blood. The founders of the so-called republics broke away from their parent stock and moved to new areas. This may have been the case with Videha and Vaishali, which were monarchies transformed into “republics”.

The chief feature of the “republican” governments was their public assembly (santhagara) attended by the representatives of the tribes and the heads of the families and presided over by one of the representatives called the raja or senapati. All important issues were placed before and discussed by the assembly where decisions were taken unanimously. This has given rise to the much trumpeted notion of a republican tradition of ancient India and may have been the basis of PM Modi’s boastful statement.

But knowledge of history has never been a strong point of the RSS from whose ranks Modi has risen to become the prime minister. Had he any familiarity with ancient Indian history he would have known that the tribal assembly (santhagara) was dominated by oligarchs and that non-Kshatriyas, slaves and wage earners had no place in it. Members of the assembly bore the title raja or king; in the case of the Licchavis 7,707 rajas, all Kshatriyas, sat in the assembly and the head of their state was a senapati, the term denoting commander in a monarchy. Far from being a democracy, the Licchavi state was an oligarchy.

Further, the strict control exercised by the “republican” states through executive edicts and legislation exposes their undemocratic character. When, for instance, the Buddha visited the city of Pava, the Mallas, another contemporary “republican” tribe issued a decree that a general welcome should be accorded to him and any defaulter would have to pay a heavy fine. According to a Buddhist Jataka story there was a ban among the Shakyas on the marriage of girls even with a king of supposedly low status.

The gana of Vaishali formulated a rule which related to the marriage of girls in different wards of the city. Similarly, inter-dining among the people of unequal birth was also prohibited. Rules such as these were no better than those evolved by the Brahmin authors of the Dharmasutras. A closer scrutiny, for which there is no space here, would show that the governments of the Licchavis, Shakyas and Mallas possessed all the paraphernalia of a monarchical state. One would expect that the prime minister of the largest democracy in the world is better informed about the country’s past before articulating his effete and obsolete ideas and misleading the people of the country.

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Shambhu Lal Raigar makes videos from jail #WTFnews

Jodhpur, Feb 19 Two videos purportedly shot by Shambhu Lal Raigar, an accused in a murder case, from inside a jail here have gone viral, wherein he claims threat to his life from an inmate and justifies his killing of a labourer from West Bengal over “love jihad“.


Raigar, who is lodged in the Central Jail here after he hacked and burnt to death Mohammad Afrazul from West Bengal in December last year, named the inmate as Vasudev, an accused in the NDPS Act.


Vasudev hails from West Bengal, claimed Raigar.

In one of the videos, Raigar claims that the issue of “love jihad” has become “serious” and accuses the West Bengal government of not doing enough about it.

Rajasthan Home Minister Gulab Chand Kataria said they were investigating how Raigar got access to a mobile phone inside the jail.

“It would be looked into how Raigar got access to a mobile phone and how he made the videos. We have lodged an FIR and are investigating the matter,” he said.

Raigar had killed Afrazul while, in a video, ranting against “love jihad”, a term used by sections of Hindu activists to describe marriages between Hindu women and Muslim men.

In the latest video, Raigar said he was “infuriated” over a “jihadist comment”, targeting Hindu women, and that was why he had killed Afrazul.

The Jodhpur Central Jail administration said it had launched an “intense search operation” to find out how Raigar was able to make the videos using a cell phone.According to a preliminary investigation, Raigar could have used the cell phone of another inmate, but the jail authorities have failed to recover a mobile from the said inmate.

Jail Superintendent Vikram Singh said they were investigating the matter and had also reviewed the security of Raigar.

Singh said the presence of mobile phones inside the jail was a “serious matter” and added that the prison authorities were trying to find out how the phones were making their way into the prison.

Raigar was arrested from Rajsamand district of Rajasthan.

His act of killing Afrazul and latter filming the act with the help of his teenage nephew had created a nationwide outrage.

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BAVRA MAAN DEKHNE CHALA EK SAPNA: Karenge Politics, Karenge Pyaar!

by- Pinjra Tod

This update comes somewhat late, but it took us time to recover from the exhaustion of the last 2 weeks and to absorb the beautiful experience that was the public meeting on the afternoon of 15th February, as we together sought to deconstruct dominant ideas of what it means to love, towards building an imagination of what radical love and politics has been and could be about, a love that challenges, a love that demands a fundamental political and ideological engagement with the self and with processes of collectivisation. All the speeches last Thursday were tremendously powerful and moving, as the speakers wove together in an amazing manner, the complexities, challenges and struggles of what it means to love in our times.

Akhil Katyal, the ‘shayar’, disrupted with humour and irony the seriousness with which we tend to build our fantasies of love and desire, challenging with lightness and irreverence the masculinity and violence that marks our encounters of love. Ranu Kulshrestha and Asif Iqbal shared with us the beautiful story of their love that defied the diktats of religion, to talk about how through the struggle and power of their love, they arrived at their politics, which led them to start DHANAK, an organisation that provides support to inter-caste and inter-religious couple. As they said in the end of their speech, “pyaar kiya toh darna kya, jaat dharm ka karna kya?’.

We were also joined in the meeting by Ankit Saxena’s cousin, Ashish Duggal (R.I.P Ankit SaxeNa) and his friends, “the Awara Boys”. Responding to our slogans of ‘Ankit tere sapno ko hum manzil tak pohchayenge’, he urged us to fight not just for Ankit, but for every person who has dared to break free of the many pinjras that are imposed on us by society to restrict who we can and cannot love. He urged us to ‘act’, to not make the ‘mistake’ that he made of waiting for a ‘personal tragedy’ to find the resolve to fight against the politics of hate, so that we can together build a nation ‘jaha pyaar par bandisheh nahi hogi”, where those like Ankit, Manoj, Babli, Shankar and many others will live, and not be ‘punished’ with death.

Comrade Urmila’s speech was a powerful declaration of a transgressive love, a moment of intimate sharing and joy. She also talked about her journey of finding non-normative communities and friendships, her journey of ‘coming to’ politics — ending her speech with a call to support the campaign for release of her comrades, two Pricol workers who have been unjustly sentenced to ‘double’ life imprisonment by the courts.

Comrade Ramniwas Kush shared stories from the Maruti workers’ struggle, poignantly illustrating how our desires are so embedded in the ‘bazaar’, in the aspirations and imaginations that capitalism produces in us–“kyun tumhare sapno meh rajkumar toh aata hai, par kabhi koi mazdoor nahin aaega?”. He spoke of how capitalism fundamentally builds mistrust, and it is this mistrust that marks institutions such as marriage, that are considered to be epitome of the fulfilment of love — love is about trust, if there is trust, what is the need to marry? It is capitalism that destroys love and builds envy and competition, and whether our practice of love reinforces or challenges capitalist structures, has to be a political choice for us. As a worker, it is in his experiences of collectively fighting and organising with other workers against the oppression and exploitation that marks their everyday lives, it is in his experiences of building systems of care and support beyond the family, it is in the experiences of the workers movement taking responsibility for the loved ones of the workers who languish in jail on false charges — that Ramniwas has found the radical potential of love, a love that is collective, a love that is revolutionary.

Finally, it was to the fading light of dusk, that Dhiren Borisa opened himself to us, and in the process, opened us all to memories of our deepest vulnerabilities and fears, our insecurities and yearnings, our anger and desperation, the ‘mazburis’ and the ‘pachida-pan’ that marks our experiences of love and pain, so structured by our locations and histories of marginalisation, even as we seek everyday to escape, forget and fight against them. From stories of his grandmother’s imagination of the sea beside Delhi to her fear of loved ones ‘leaving’ for the city and not coming back ‘alive’, from stories of who the city nurtures with fulfilment, possibility and love and who it disappoints and rejects, to our universities where those who do not ‘belong’ fight an everyday battle for survival and dignity, Dhiren’s poetic verse unmasked the many wounds that we carry within us in the quest for love and stardust, wounds that are marked by the violence of caste, class, gender, race, sexuality and much more — wounds whose healing we must together seek.

Due to certain other commitments, Grace Banu and members of Ektara Collective were unable to make it to the meeting and we terribly missed their presence. We will be uploading the videos of all the speeches, songs, slogans and poetry over the coming week, as its impossible to do justice in words to what transpired in the gathering 

anarkali tere sapno ko hum manzil tak pohchayenge
tum kitno ko chunwaogey ge, hum har diwar girayenge!



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#SundayReading- 3 Seconds Divorce – Compelling insight into triple talaq and Muslim women


My job was to amplify their voice, give them a platform: Shazia Javed on 3 Seconds Divorce

Speaking at the world premiere of her documentary, the filmmaker spoke about why she was compelled to focus on subject of triple talaq and the importance of letting the women’s voices speak for themselves.

Photo: Shazia Javed


The 54-minute documentary 3 Seconds Divorce began its festival journey at the 15th Mumbai International Film Festival in the International Competition section. It was important for filmmaker Shazia Javed for the film to get its start here in the presence of women who gave their voices to the film. 3 Seconds Divorce speaks out on the issue of triple talaq (obtaining divorce by saying ‘talaq’ thrice) in the Muslim community.

Javed and her co-producer and cinematographer, Babita Ashiwal, beamed after the film’s world premiere on 1 February 2018. The housefull screening was attended by many of the women who are featured in the documentary.


The filmmaker, who lives in Canada, spoke with about how she wanted to address the issue of triple talaq and give those affected a chance to raise their voice.

Triple talaq was a subject that I wanted to explore ever since I was a young girl going to school, growing up in Delhi. It used to bother me that something like this existed and it had so much power to just make a woman homeless in seconds. As a Muslim woman growing up, I questioned it even more,” Javed said.

She recalled reading an article in a newspaper by Asghar Ali Engineer. “He gave these arguments about alternate interpretations and how you can do a general interpretation of the text,” she read and found an alternate way of looking at the issue.

As a student, there wasn’t much she could do then, but she wrote a letter to the editor.

By 2014, as a filmmaker, she had made a few films including the short documentary, Namrata (2009), which was produced by the National Film Board of Canada. Namrata was the story of an Indian woman who migrated to Canada from India and found herself in an abusive marriage. She gained the courage to leave the wedlock and became a police officer.


Javed decided to make her next documentary on triple talaq and began shooting in 2014. The Supreme Court declared triple talaq unconstitutional in August 2017. “Interestingly, at that time, there wasn’t much information out there and as we kept shooting, it kept picking up steam. (3 Seconds Divorce) is able to capture that movement,” she said.

Initially, Javed and her team, talked to academics and scholars to understand the subject and later began speaking with women divorced through triple talaq. She found that triple talaq “was far more common, or the threat of it, was far more common.”

“Every time I heard someone talk about halala, I would cringe. This is something I just couldn’t process. But one thing I knew for sure, as I spoke to these women, they were all articulate, courageous and willing to come in front of the camera. They all wanted justice,” Javed added.

She didn’t want to portray them as victims or pitiable and stressed she didn’t come in with a saviour complex mostly associated with filmmakers. “My job was to amplify their voice, give them a platform and deal with it within that framework. My own background as an Indian Muslim woman did help with that. I’m not a stranger,” she said.


3 Seconds Divorce highlights one brave woman, Lubna, who is a survivor in the truest sense for Javed. Speaking about Lubna’s fascinating transformation, Javed said, “She juggles motherhood, a job and activism. Some days she’s happy and she’s confident. The other days she’s bogged down. To me, that’s a very human story. We all need to know that activism doesn’t come easy. People who actually fight these battles pay a price in their personal lives.”

The documentary also features several members of the Bhartiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA) who did the groundwork — doing research and undertaking surveys as well as drafting alternate laws. Javed said BMMA were able to articulate what the need was.

She called the nationwide rallying against triple talaq as “one of the biggest revolutions led by Muslim women in the history of India”. The movement had several allies (women from all religions and walks of life) who volunteered to help them out. Javed feels proud that her documentary was able to capture a slice of this history.

“I want young women to look back and see this is how it was done. And you don’t take it for granted,” she stressed. I think, even now, I derive a lot of inspiration from women who have come before me and who have fought for basic rights, (like) the right to vote and simple things. I feel like I need to continue the fight and not let it go waste.”

She added the Supreme Court ruling validated the long fight for justice for women like Lubna and the other activists. “It gives you the strength that what I did was worth it. There’s a lot of validation that they’re feeling at this moment,” Javed said.

For now, 3 Seconds Divorce begins its festival rounds and has already secured a television broadcaster. Javed also hopes, like her earlier films, the film will lead to a broader discussion at community screenings.

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Hyderabad: Republic TV’s ‘fake news’ led to torture for 3 youths, freed without charge

Hyderabad: Intense police interrogation and months in prison, the three Hyderabad youth finally gets relief as the Special Investigation Team (SIT) is all set to shut the sedition case against the three youth arrested for being the sympathizers of Islamic State.

Special Investigation Team of Central Crime Station, Hyderabad arrested three youths for alleged contacts with ISIS. It was the result of the news telecast on Republic TV channel.

According to reports, there was a special telecast on Republic TV channel in which it was claimed that Hyderabad is the center for ISIS activities. It was also shown that the youths of the city have contacts with this organization.Abdullah Basith, Salman Mohiuddin Qadri and Hannan Qureshi. were continuously projected as agents of ISIS. After this Hyderabad police arrested them.

A higher police official confirmed that these youths have been arrested but surprisingly no case has been registered against them. Still they are under investigation.

SIT had reportedly served a notice twice to the channel, asking the management to submit original tapes of the interview for forensic analysis and asked their reporter to appear for a probe.

The purported interviews were recorded with spy cameras. Although the management of the channel sent a CD of the interviews, police wanted original unedited videos, a top SIT official said. A SIT team also went to Mumbai to record the statement of the correspondent, but he was not available.

It may be noted that Hyderabad and Cyberabad police had earlier arrested these youth and sent them to prison. Later, they were released on bail.

It is reported that TV Channel showed the statements of these youths as a result of which police came into action and registered a suo moto case under IPC sections 121 (A) (waging war against the state) 124 (A) (sedition) and Unlawful Activities Prevention Act against the alleged IS sympathisers.

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Rape As Genocide: ‘Born Together’ On Children Born of Rape in 1971 War

“Who am I? I do not exist because I was never born.”

 During the 1971 Bangladesh war for independence, members of the Pakistani military and supporting Islamist militias from Jamaat e Islami raped between two and four hundred thousand Bangladeshi women in a systematic campaign of genocidal rape. Children were born of these deliberate rapes used as part of the war strategy.

What happened to these children? Were they killed soon after they were born? Were they given up to orphanages or did they lead the lives of social outcasts as their birth was never legitimised and never would? Since the Pakistani military force were all Muslim and the raped young women came from both Hindu and Muslim backgrounds, what religion could they be said to belong to? What nationality?

All these questions are raised very pertinently in a film called Born Together which was screened in the International Competition section of the Mumbai International Film Festival of Documentary, Short and Animation Films and has been produced by Ekattor Media Ltd and Liberation War Museum.

Much-awarded Bangladeshi filmmaker Shabnam Ferdousi has made a very unique documentary on three children born in the same nursing home where she was, on January 14, 1972. She walked on different paths of life before settling down in audio-visual media.

The question that constantly worried her was that around a dozen or so kids born of rape on the same day in the same nursing home. “I was born at Holy Family Hospital, and 12 more babies were born in that hospital on that very day. Later, I came to know five of them were war babies. Then an idea stuck me that I could have been one of the war babies. I got obsessed with the idea and began a new journey … a journey in search of my birth-mates.” The journey was far from simple and straightforward. It was riddled with blocks along the way as more than four decades had passed and records, specially of illegitimate births of babies born of rape were hardly taken care of.

She visited some offices and people who were involved in recording the data of births during that time and even visited the nursing home she was born in. She got to know that among the 13 babies delivered that day, around five werechildren of war.

The film maps her journey and her discovery of three of them scattered across different parts of the world, now grown up and bitter. If the present of Shabnam throughout the film seem narcissistic, you begin to understand why she made her presence so strongly felt. Juxtaposed against the three young men and women she encounters along the journey and interacts with on an intimate level, her very sophisticated, elite and modern presence offers a tragic and dramatic contrast to those three which make the film more telling than it would have been if she would have remained away from the screen.

“In my journey, I found two, a man and a woman within Bangladesh. One is Monwara Clarke, reared in the furthest corner of the globe by Canadian parents. She came to Dhaka looking for a birth certificate. The other is Shudhir, ashamed of being a “bastard” child in the community, grew up in a remote corner in the country avoiding public eyes. His mother is a “Birangana”, a woman who was raped by men of the Pakistani army in 1971.” The word “Birangana” translates into “brave female soldier” in English.

Why call a forced victim of rape a ‘soldier” at all”? Did she choose to become one or want to become one? She was forced into this life of ignominy and ostraciszation which also affected her child born of the rape? What is the use of a title that does not take care of the social and financial problems the woman has to face all her life? The title does not mean anything except a living irony of the tragic life she is forced to lead.

Shabnam also managed to trace another “Birangana” mother and her daughter. This brave daughter gave testimony in the War Crimes Tribunal. All three children have born the brunt of the Bangladesh Liberation War though they were not even born then. Shudhir could never go to school because of the family lived as social outcasts in a remote area. He is married and lives with his mother and wife. He manages to eke out a bare existence by driving a van rickshaw while his wife manages the home. “I consider myself a Hindu because my mother is Hindu and I have no clue who my father is or was.” He had a love marriage and that is why he has a family life. His mother, the so-called “Birangana” looks expressionlessly at the world outside not exactly what she is looking out or looking for.

She tells Shabnam, “I was married when the soldiers took me to their tents to rape me for several days and would drop me back home. This happened several times. So, my husband left me with my son and we just managed to exist. Now, all that seems to have happened in the distant past. The so-called ‘compensation’ is something I am not aware of and life goes on….” Son Sudhir is a handsome young man, in both body and looks. But he is very shy and an introvert who refused to open up easily. When probed a bit, he admits that his life has been a cursed one. He had to leave school for two reasons, his mother could not afford the fees and the children in school ragged him with his illegitimate status.

The other young woman she met could meet her only in the farms and fields because she had no permanent shelter to live in. She was married once but her husband left her when he came to know the truth of her birth. Her other legally produced brothers do not wish to have anything to do with her and her mother is in no position to offer her even hope. But she is used to this wandering existence, the poverty, the social ignominy and the anonymity of her life. She smiles shyly and confesses that all this humiliation does not shake her anymore because she is quite used to it. “I used to feel very pained in the beginning but then, I knew this was a part of my life,” she says. Shabnam offers to take her into her family but she refuses, knowing that it might at best, be only a temporary solution because the baggage of illegitimacy added to lack of a proper family will travel with her wherever she goes.

Monwara Clarke offers another tragic story. She is a child born of rape who fell within the then-Independent Bangladesh’s programme of giving some hundreds of children up for adoption to other countries and she happens to one among them taken in for adoption by a Canadian couple. She does not know a word of Bengali and converses only in English. Shabnam happened to meet her in Dhaka when she had come down to get her birth certificate.

“Who am I? I do not exist because I was never born,” she says her anger so palpable that you can almost reach out and touch it. She laments that her own country denied her not only legitimacy but also her birth, her nationhood and her language and culture. “My husband left me when he knew who I really was. Am I responsible for being born? Is my country not liable to look after me when everything happened there? I do not even have a birth certificate and have to come down here to fetch it,” she says.

It is a touching film and you get so sucked into the narrative and these tragic stories that you hardly notice the aesthetics of the film. The cinematographic space moves along with the director from one place to another, from Shudhir’s ramshackle hut to the fields to meet the other woman again and again and again and then dash into Monwara when she comes to Dhaka. The film did not win any prize but the film will surely win the hearts of those who watched it from beginning to end.

It would be in the fitness of things to sum up with what Lisa Sharlach writes about rape in “Rape as Genocide: Bangladesh, the Former Yugoslavia, and Rwanda”. New Political Science. 1 (22): 89. “It is also rape unto death, rape as massacre, rape to kill and to make the victims wish they were dead. It is rape as an instrument of forced exile, rape to make you leave your home and never want to go back. It is rape to be seen and heard and watched and told to others: rape as spectacle. It is rape to drive a wedge through a community, to shatter a society, to destroy a people. It is rape as genocide–1971-War

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Noida cow vigilantes find a new role, go moral policing on Valentine’s Day

NOIDA: Members of a so-called ‘Gau Raksha Dal’ kept aside their cow vigilante boots and turned moral police on Valentine’s Day, harassing couples at various malls and parks in Noida and Greater Noida throughout the day. Couples seen together were also branded “anti-national” by the group.
At a park in Greater Noida, they forced a Nepali couple to crush roses under their feet and made them promise not to mark Valentine’s Day in future. They also filmed the episode and shared it on YouTube. Police, however, said they had not received any complaint in this regard.At other spots, they created panic. Men and women were seen scurrying off to avoid them. In some cases, couples pretended not to know each other so that they are not harassed.

The ‘Gau Raksha Dal’ had a free run despite past precedence of outfits taking to moral policing in the name of Indian culture on Valentine’s Day.

At Samrat Mihir Bhoj Park in Greater Noida, the vigilantes “advised” couples against “celebrating Valentine’s Day”, said Ved Nagar, who described himself as president of the Gau Raksha Dal. Nagar also said he told couples that on February 14, three Indian freedom fightersBhagat Singh, Raj Guru and Sukhdev — were awarded death sentence by the British government. “We should remember the freedom fighters and their supreme sacrifices. Valentine’s Day has no place in Indian culture and tradition. People celebrating this can’t be nationalist,” Nagar said.

This isn’t true. What Nagar was doing was merely repeating what the propaganda mills had churned out.

The death warrant for the three of them was issued on October 7, 1930 and they were hanged on March 23, 1931. When this was pointed out to them, Nagar and his men refused to accept the fact.

The Nepali man who was forced to crush roses was left flustered by the whole episode. “I am a Nepali citizen and not fully aware of Indian history,” he said, adding though Valentine’s Day should be marked, “you have to give priority to freedom fighters”.

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In Condemnation of Rape Threats issued to Shehla Rashid #Vaw


Shehla Come back on Facebook


By – Rahman Abbas

Former JNUSU vice-president and well-known student activist Shehla Rashid was reportedly forced to deactivate her Facebook account , as some Muslim youths issued multiple rape threats and hate messages to her. Shehla’s crime was to speak in support of freedom of interfaith marriages and to raise the issue of the right of Muslim women to choose a partner.  Shehla had raised this issue in the backdrop of the recent murder of Ankit Saxena in Delhi allegedly by the Muslim girlfriend’s family. In addition, Shehla had referred to the Hadiya case and stated that if Muslim girls are not allowed to marry a non-Muslim of her choice, then they lose the moral authority to fight the ruckus created by RSS over so-called love-jihad.

In another post, Shehla had stated that when we insist that Hadiya be treated as an adult, as an individual who has constitutional rights, let’s uphold the same standard for all adult Muslim women regardless of who they love or marry.

Shehla Rasheed has said what she believes in and that is the freedom one enjoys in a democratic setup. She has neither said anything unconstitutional or sacrilegious. In the Hadiya case, everybody except right-wing fanatics were speaking in support of Hadiya’s freedom to choose a partner. While a majority of Muslims remain silent in their response to the report that Ankit Saxena was allegedly killed by the family of his girlfriend, this silent majority believes exactly the way Hindu right-wing fanatics believe that a girl cannot marry outside her faith.

Right-wingers on both sides have tried to snatch the freedom of women in the name of faith and religious beliefs. Moreover, in the public domain, the issue was taken as a tussle between what fanatics want versus the Constitution of India and basic human rights. Shehla has appropriately compared both the cases and demanded equal rights and freedom for women to choose a partner or lover beside or outside the faith of her family. She has spoken in favor of the fundamental rights and about the freedom guaranteed by the Constitution of India.

Shamefully, a bunch of fanatic Muslim youths have abused her online and threatened her with rape. The filthy, uncultured and venomous language used by these youths is criminal, and not only is this, an insult to women but it’s also a blatant disrespect of the teachings of Islam. The patriarchal mindset here has loudly humiliated and attempted to affect the modesty of a girl but the system won’t take action by itself because it has been a blind and mute spectator.

As a friend, I know Shehla Rasheed cannot be dominated by these criminal threats. I can also understand her pain and distress, but again I will urge her soon to come back on Facebook as a warrior against the communal forces and the fanatics alike. The youths who have abused her have shown their ugly mindset.  We all have to fight this inhuman psyche and Shehla, you are the strongest to fight it, expose it, and defeat it.

Shehla had stressed that if we do not make room for love, we deserve to be ruled by hatred. Right now, she has been forced by the hatemongers to deactivate her Facebook account, and if she doesn’t return, it will result in the victory of hatred.

To defeat hate we all have to ask Shehla to come back to fight and reclaim the lost space of love.

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The Economist explains“Cow vigilantism” in India

Often just an excuse to exacerbate tensions between religious communities

MANY stock images of India’s cities show cows lying by the roadside or ruminating in the middle of the street as cars and bikes swerve around them. The animals, sacred to Hindus, have a licence to roam. Earlier this month the state government of Uttar Pradesh proposed making medicines with their urine, which is rumoured to cure cancer, eliminate wrinkles and prevent ageing. Their dung is believed to absorb harmful radioactivity. The animals’ status is now so high that in recent years “cow vigilantes” have taken to attacking and sometimes killing people they suspect of trafficking in cattle intended for slaughter. Thirty-seven such attacks were reported in 2017, many more than in previous years. Just last month a mob in the eastern state of Bihar beat up a truck driver whom they suspected to be carrying beef.

It was not always so. D.N. Jha, a historian, writes in “The Myth of the Holy Cow” that beef, along with other varieties of meat, was often used in the haute cuisine of early India. But sometime during the second millennium BC, with agriculture evolving, cows were increasingly considered more useful as a source of milk, manure and ploughing power than as meat. Fast-forward to the 19th century AD and for upper-caste Hindus the eating of beef had become a taboo. Cows were central to the first big riot between Hindus and Muslims, in Uttar Pradesh in 1893, which took place after Muslims had been stopped from slaughtering cows during an annual festival.

Most of India’s 29 states have either banned or restricted the killing of cows. In Gujarat it is punishable by life imprisonment. Rajasthan has a cow-welfare ministry. In the “cow belt” of Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh, “cow protectors” armed with bats, swords and guns look for vehicles that are transporting cows across state borders. They have been known to extort money from drivers without verifying whether the cows they carry are being sent to slaughter or, in the case of meat, whether it is indeed beef. In a country where relations between some Hindu and Muslim communities remain especially fraught, this behaviour does not necessarily reflect greater religiosity. But politics does seem to matter. According to IndiaSpend, a data-journalism website, 97% of all cow-vigilante attacks reported since 2010 took place after the Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power in 2014, with Narendra Modi as prime minister. Most have targeted Muslims and Dalits (formerly known as untouchables), who traditionally skin the carcasses of cows. In a report published in January, Human Rights Watch, a global campaigning group, wrote that the Indian government has failed to investigate the attacks in credible fashion, while “many senior BJP leaders publicly promoted Hindu supremacy and ultra-nationalism, which encouraged further violence.”

The costs of the attacks are high. India’s $83bn dairy industry has taken a hit. Farmers are increasingly unwilling to expand their herds, as it is hard to get rid of unproductive livestock. Shelters for old cows are often overcrowded, says Kavita Srivastava, an activist. In Rajasthan a 10% surcharge is levied on stamp duty to fund the shelters. In many states boxes outside shops encourage people to donate towards their upkeep. But the system is opaque. “No one knows where the money ends up,” says Arjun Sheoran, a lawyer. Some steps would improve the situation. Stricter laws that recognise cow vigilantism as a crime against minorities could be enacted. Victim-protection schemes and faster court rulings could be funded. And more stringent punishments could be meted out to those who use cows as a pretext to exacerbate communal tensions. But moves of this nature will be difficult in a country where a judge claimed just a few years ago that cow dung was more valuable than the Koh-i-noor diamond.

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Sardar VallabhBhai Patel – A Legacy appropriated and distorted

Neha Dabhade

Historical figures are complex and shaped by the context they lived out of. Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel is no exception. Vallabhbhai Patel popularly known as the “indomitable iron man” of India is credited with unifying India when India was a cluster of numerous princely states at the time of independence and Patel was the first home minister of independent India. During the tumultuous times of the partition and subsequently the assassination of Gandhi, the leadership of the country had to guide it through many ups and downs towards a secular democracy that India has evolved into and still evolving. Nehru and Patel along with the others took tough decisions to serve this end. One of them was banning of RSS. Though Patel was instrumental in this decision, he is appropriated and co-opted by the RSS and BJP as one supporting their brand of politics and ideology- Hindutva while Nehru is derided for being weak and responsible for partition. Moreover the narrative that pits Nehru against Patel has gained currency and the two unfairly compared by the right wing which completely obliterates the fact that both leaders had one vision for the country and enjoyed each other’s confidence.

Patel was again brought at the centre stage of public discourse by the Prime Minister recently. “Had Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel been India’s first Prime Minister, a part of my Kashmir would not have been with Pakistan today” (Ashok, 2018). BJP and RSS have positioned themselves lately as ideological heirs of Patel. PM Modi wants to build ‘statue of unity’ as he refers to Patel and also commemorate his birthday as national unity day. He goes on to add, “There have been attempts to run down Patel, to ensure that the contribution of Patel is forgotten. But Sardar is Sardar, whether any government or any party recognizes his contribution or not but the nation and the youth will not forget him” (Indian Express, 2017). Similarly Venkaiah Naidu also praised Patel. This appropriation is problematic. Appropriation of mass leaders has been a thrust of RSS strategy by distorting historical facts. Similar attempts have been made towards Ambedkar and Bhagat Singh. Thus it is imperative to demystify Patel.

Though a lot has been written about Patel and his equation with RSS, keeping the aggressive appropriation of icons like Patel, it is important to repeat and emphasize on the following points. One point to be noted at the very outset is that historical figures are multidimensional and it is difficult to capture them in all their complexity. However one must try to understand Patel in a more nuanced way.

  1. Patel was an admirer of Gandhi. He was pained with the assassination of Gandhi. He was all his life a staunch Congressman though sympathetic to plight of Hindus and Sikhs during the communal violence post and pre partition.
  2. Though he was distrustful towards Muslims in India as a section of the community supported the Muslim League, he as a Home Minister vowed to protect all citizens equally and certainly did not encourage communal violence against Muslims.
  3. Patel was not a supporter of the RSS or endorsed Hindutva politics which is narrow, discriminatory and exclusionist in its outlook.

The right wing is appropriating Patel for a number of reasons. It is no secret that the RSS had no role to play in the freedom struggle of India. Their members were not incarcerated in the prisons or enjoyed following amongst masses due to leaderships in any social movements- peasants, trade unions, women, reform in Hindu personal laws, eradication of caste etc. The freedom struggle represented certain ideas that of equality, pluralism, inclusion and democracy. The struggle was not just against the colonial powers for political power but also for a just and equal society ridden of hierarchies based on caste, religion and class. Patel being a tall leader of Congress can bring this legitimacy to the RSS, give them a respectable face and wider support base. Secondly with constant exaggeration and misrepresenting the differences between Nehru and Patel, the Nehruvian vision of the society and India is sought to be discredited since this vision is completely conflicting and incompatible to that of Hindutva. The Hindu supremacists want to taint this legacy and establish a new social order and deepen the existing hierarchies.

The actions of BJP leaders should be analyzed from this prism. To begin with, it would be interesting to study the views of Patel on RSS itself.

There can be no doubt that the RSS did service to the Hindu Society. In the areas where there was the need for help and organisation, the young men of the RSS protected women and children and strove much for their sake. No person of understanding could have a word of objection regarding that. But the objectionable part arose when they, burning with revenge, began attacking Mussalmans. Organising Hindus and helping them is one thing but going in for revenge for its sufferings on innocent and helpless men, women and children is quite another thing”.

On the assassination of Gandhi, he expresses his anguish in no uncertain terms.

“All their speeches were full communal poison. It was not necessary to spread poison and enthuse the Hindus and organise for their protection. As a final result of the poison, the country had to suffer the sacrifice of the valuable life of Gandhiji. Even an iota of sympathy of the Government or of the people no more remained for the RSS. In fact the opposition grew. Opposition turned more severe, when the RSS men expressed joy and distributed sweets after Gandhiji’s death. Under these conditions it became inevitable for the Government to take action against the RSS.

As regards the RSS and the Hindu Maha-sabha, the case relating to Gandhiji’s murder is sub judice and I should not like to say anything about the participation of the two organisations, but our reports do confirm that, as a result of the activities of these two bodies, particularly the former, an atmosphere was created in the country in which such ghastly tragedy became possible. There is no doubt in my mind that the extreme section of the Hindu Mahasabha was involved in this conspiracy. The activities of the RSS constituted a clear threat to the existence of the government and the state. Our reports show that those activities, despite the ban, have not died down. Indeed, as time has marched on, the RSS circles are becoming more defiant and are indulging in their subversive activities in an increasing measure”(Zakaria, 2016).

It becomes clear from Patel’s words that he opposed the RSS politics of hatred and targeting of the Muslims. He condemns the assassination of Gandhi and the politics that claimed his life. This is antithetical to the stand of RSS which hasn’t condemned Gandhi’s death but gone to the extent of installing busts and building temples of Nathuram Godse, the assassin of Gandhi!

It also speaks volumes on the idea of India nurtured by Patel. Being a staunch congressman and influenced by Gandhi, he understood the contribution of different communities to India. The very fact that Patel skillfully brought as princely states onto one political platform without bloodshed and prevented balkanization gives an insight into his vision for an India which gave space to all- different languages, cultures, religions. Pluralism and democracy were hallmarks of his vision. This vision is again in contrast of a Hindu rashtra where the Hindus are rightful citizens and citizens of other religions merely second class citizens.

However this doesn’t necessarily mean that some of his views were not problematic. He had certain extent of reservations and also distrust about the Muslims. This grew out of the support of a section of Muslims that the Muslim League enjoyed. Naturally it was wrong to paint the whole community with one brush, since large sections of Muslims supported the Congress and rejected the two nation theory. Nonetheless some of his policies have attracted flak. For example the enactment of the Evacuee Property Law, which resulted in the expropriation of their businesses, industries, shops, houses, lands and all such assets, movable and immovable; even Muslims, suspected by the police of intending to go to Pakistan were covered under it. However this law was for political exigency and in response to a similar law enacted by Pakistan. Another policy was the draconian permit system where the Indian Muslims who went to visit Pakistan after 15thAugust 1947, were at a risk of losing their citizenship.

These actions, though questionable, doesn’t make Patel communal or suggests that he supported violence against Muslims or encouraged it for his own political or electoral interests. Manufacturing of violence and communal polarization is a project resorted to by the Hindu supremacists for electoral gains. This distinction is significant but often sought to be blurred by the Hindu supremacists when they co-opt Patel. As a leader who has constitutional duty he was of the opinion that India is a country for all and not a Hindu state and thus all citizens have to be protected. “I do not think it will be possible to consider India as a Hindu state with Hinduism as a state religion. We must not forget that there are other minorities whose protection is our primary responsibility” (Zakaria, Sabrang India, 2016)

This is of course a far cry from the approach of the current government which praises Patel. There is an atmosphere of impunity and encouragement given to vigilantes to target the vulnerable groups like Muslims and Dalits under the name of cow protection. Though the current political dispensation prefers to call the perpetrators of violence as ‘fringe’ elements or criminal elements thereby trivializing their acts of violence, Patel had a different approach as a statesman. There are numerous hate crimes taking place unabashedly with no justice. On the other hand, there were instances where Patel himself went to spots of trouble to quell any violence and took proactive steps to protect the Muslims and punish the criminals. The famous Dargah of Nizamuddin Auliya in South Delhi was surrounded by some miscreants. He went there himself and clearly instructed the officers to protect the Muslims and take action against the miscreants. Whenever such incidents took place where the Muslim community was harassed or instigated, he said, “If you think that you can go on constantly troubling loyal Muslims because they happen to be Muslims, then our freedom is not worthwhile.

Cow protection is linked to nationalism as is the building of Ram Mandir where the Babri Masjid was demolished. Interestingly Patel had a more balanced approach towards Babri Masjid based on inclusion and dialogue. In 1949, a mob descended upon the Babri Masjid and, after chasing away the muezzin, installed an idol of Ram Lalla in order to claim it as a temple. Within a month of the incident, Patel shot off a letter to the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, GB Pant warning that “there can be no question of resolving such disputes by force”.Differing even more starkly from the final outcome of 1992, Patel opined that “such matters can only be resolved peacefully if we take the willing consent of the Muslim community with us” (Daniyal, 2014).

The latest statement of PM on Kashmir where he again pitted Sardar Patel against Nehru is another attempt distorting the legacy which stood for unity, democracy and pluralism. Patel was a mixed bag, multifaceted, complex. He was of course different from Nehru or any other political colleague. Patel had his own temperament, resoluteness and biases. But what he was not was communal and parochial. He espoused the cause of a united India where all citizens had an equal stake.  He shared a vision of an India based on equality with Gandhi, Nehru and Ambedkar. He was a man who had fought for the rights of the farmers at Bardoli and other places. If the Hindu supremacists want to emulate Patel, their starting point should be his efforts for justice and equality. The Hindu supremacists on the other hand at ideologically at loggerheads with Patel by upholding, manipulating and further deepening of caste and religious divides.

The articl e first appeared in (Secular Perspective Feb.16-28, 2018)


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