Deep Divisions Mark India's Independence Day 2018

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

Chart Courtesy of Bloomberg
Will India Break Up? 

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

The Raisina Model:

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

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

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

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

Hindutva vs Hinduism:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Summary:

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

Comments

Riaz Haq said…
India's Wrong Step
The death of a former prime minister highlights the moment when the country lost its race with China.


https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2018-08-18/atal-bihari-vajpayee-lost-india-s-race-with-china

India’s political divides increasingly look unbridgeable. Yet, when former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee died last Thursday, he was mourned even by those who had been his opponents in life, whether within or outside his Bharatiya Janata Party. His successor, Manmohan Singh, compared his vision to that of India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru – the highest compliment a member of the Congress Party can give. And Narendra Modi, whom Vajpayee tried to sack in 2002 as chief minister of Gujarat after thousands died in riots there, walked behind his cortege as it rolled through quiet Delhi streets.

As the first Indian prime minister not from the Congress Party to complete a full term, Vajpayee’s place in history is assured. Behind the mourning was a certain nostalgia; many remember his time in office as an enchanted moment, the high-water mark of confidence in India’s future. The country declared itself a nuclear power and survived the sanctions that followed. It was opening itself to investment and seemed to have weathered the Asian crisis of the late 1990s. It seemed reasonable, then, to put India and China in the same basket as rising powers.

Today, a decade and a half after Vajpayee was voted out, that optimism is a thing of the past. India has moved too slowly and let too many people down too often; many here now wonder if it has missed its moment entirely. You could blame Modi for this situation, or Singh. But, in fact, the foundations for this failure were laid during Vajpayee’s administration – and by his defeat in the polls.

This isn’t to say that Vajpayee’s government wasn’t reformist: It had more market-friendly ministers than any government since. It opened up the telecommunications sector, invested in roads and highways, and defused the fiscal time bomb that India’s state pensions were becoming.

But, the one moment you can point to as emblematic of the opportunities that India missed came in early 2001. Vajpayee’s finance minister, Yashwant Sinha – now a trenchant critic of Modi – had proposed that India’s draconian labor laws be relaxed. Criticism was widespread, including from within his own party. Eventually, Vajpayee backed off and the promise to amend labor law went unkept.

Vajpayee’s decisive turn away from reform of the world’s most restrictive market for labor – not to mention land and capital – is the biggest reason India went on to lose to China the race to become the world’s manufacturing hub. In the years since 2001, world trade in goods exploded, even as India continued to de-industrialize. It was just too difficult to run a decent-sized factory in India.

Larger companies needed government permission to fire even one worker. India became an IT services superpower; trade and telecom fired up its growth rate. But the country signally failed to create the manufacturing jobs that became the foundation of the Chinese miracle. Under Vajpayee, India backed away from the only path that leads to prosperity.

At the time, this was hard to see: As I said, we all felt optimistic. Vajpayee tried to distill that energy into a single two-word slogan in his 2004 reelection campaign: “India Shining.” When he lost, many assumed it was because of a backlash to that reform-friendly rhetoric.


That was never really an accurate explanation; indeed, Vajpayee himself said after the loss that the Gujarat riots were responsible. Yet the fear that economic reforms would be electoral poison has haunted Indian politicians ever since. Even Modi, with more political capital than Vajpayee ever had, has been overly cautious. One crack from his opponents that he was running a “suit-boot” government, too close to rich businessmen, was enough for him to turn into a red-blooded economic populist.
Riaz Haq said…
Muslims in Sanskrit texts
Kuldeep Kumar


https://www.thehindu.com/books/books-authors/muslims-in-sanskrit-texts/article24763856.ece/amp/?__twitter_impression=true

A study of the works of historians Brajadulal Chattopadhyaya and Audrey Trushke suggests that the Muslim ‘other’ was really not so much ‘other’


Romila Thapar, the pre-eminent historian of early India, drew attention in her various lectures and articles to the schema of periodisation suggested by James Mill in the early nineteenth century that saw Indian society emerging out of three periods –Hindu, Muslim and British. While he divided the pre-British history on the basis of religion, he did not term the British period as Christian and set the colonial paradigm of viewing the period of Muslim’s arrival in India as one of permanent struggle between the native Hindus and the invader Muslims. Unfortunately, this colonial paradigm continues to be followed by the Hindu nationalists even till this day.

Seminal research

While acknowledging the pioneering work done by Thapar, who wrote in 1971 on the image of barbarian in early India, and by Aloka Parasher who wrote on a monograph on the category of people called Mlechchhas and about the way Indians looked at the outsiders up to 600 AD, Chattopadhyaya devotes his research to the period that falls between the eighth and the fourteenth centuries.

It is a noteworthy fact that the Sanskrit texts and inscriptions of these six centuries rarely referred to the Muslims in religious terms. Instead, ethnic or regional terms were generally employed to refer to them.

They included terms such as Turushka, Tajika, Mlechchha, Parasika, Yavana, Hammira, Gori, Turaka, Matanga and Garjanaka. Only in Veraval inscription of the time of Vaghela Arjunadeva, issued in the year 1264, one finds the term Musalmaana used to denote the Muslims.

Between fifteenth and seventeenth centuries too, Yavana, Shaka and Turushka were used but new words like Pathana, Mugil, Sultana and Patrishaha also made their appearance. Interestingly, Allavadina (Alauddin Khilji) was referred to as Dillishwar and Yavana and his soldiers were called Turushka. There are ample references in the Sanskrit texts of this period to the forging of political alliances between Yavana rulers and local or regional rulers who too were described not as Hindus but by their family names like Kakatiyas or Pandyas.

In fact, in the circa 1330 AD inscription of Vilasa (Pithapuram, East Godavari district) grant of Prolaya Nayaka, the Delhi Sultan – often Sultan was Sanskritised as Suratran – who brought calamity to the Andhradesha, was viewed as somebody who was carrying on the tradition of Parashurama in his role as the destroyer of the kshatriyas!

A meticulous and erudite scholar, Chattopadhyaya after discussing a great many Sanskrit sources in detail arrives at the conclusion that they “do not project the image of the Muslims as an undifferentiated ‘other’.” It is also significant that they do not represent them as a religious group and choose to identify them on the basis of their ethnic or spatial origins. Indian society was not unfamiliar with ‘otherness’ as there were so many ‘others’ like the tribals and lower castes that were outside the pale of the Brahmanical order and whose moral world was incompatible with the caste-based varnashrama dharma. Therefore, if one believes the contemporary Sanskrit sources, the engagement between the Muslims and the indigenous people took place at various levels. “A situation of unmitigated hostility and conflict through centuries would not have produced the kind of evidence that we have cited,” writes Chattopadhyaya.
Riaz Haq said…
#Hindu lynch mobs killing #Muslims without fear in #Modi’s #India


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Kumar said that as a boy he was shy, but after joining the Hindu nationalist movement, “I have a strange sense of confidence now. The group has taught us what is right, what we need to do for society.”
Riaz Haq said…
Indian constitution framer Ambedkar: “Democracy in #India is only a top dressing in an Indian soil which is essentially undemocratic.” It is a sham #democracy unless it wages war on #caste and #gender discrimination that is rampant. https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/when-ambedkar-and-lohia-meet-samajwad-akhilesh-yadav-5312503/

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

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

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

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