India Farm Protests: Social Media Expose the Ugly Face of Violent Hindu Extremism

"It’s time to talk about violent Hindu extremism”, said a tweet today from Meena Harris, the niece of US Vice President Kamala Harris. Referring to a headline about "violent Christian extremism", Harris said "it's all connected". Hindu trolls have launched hateful misogynistic campaign against Harris and other western female celebrities who have recently tweeted in support of farm protesters. 

In response to a Hindu troll accusing Meena Harris of "Hinduphobia", she tweeted: "I'm a Hindu. Stop using religion as a cover for fascism".  

Rihanna, Greta Thunberg and Meena Harris

It started when singer Rihanna, who has more than 100 million Twitter followers, tweeted “why aren’t we talking about this?!”, with a link to a news story about an internet blackout at the protest camps where tens of thousands of farmers have been protesting for over two months. Teenage Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg also tweeted a story about the internet blackout, saying: “We stand in solidarity with the #FarmersProtest in India.” Both drew threats of rape and violence from hordes of Hindu trolls rampaging Twitter.  Some hailed the 2009 violent assault on Rihanna by singer  Chris Brown and said it was well-deserved. 

Meena Harris Tweet. Source: Twitter

"Is Rihanna Muslim" started to trend on Google. Many Hindu trolls talked of links between Rihanna and Muslims, Khalistan and Pakistan and even claimed  Rihanna was paid to tweet in support of farmers. 

Modi's India Leads the World in Internet Censorship

The phenomenon of Hindu trolls issuing threats of violence and rape is not new.  It has been well documented by Indian journalist Swati Chaturvedi in a book entitled "I am a Troll: Inside the Secret World of BJP's Digital Army" as far as 2017. She found that the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi follows hundreds of twitter accounts regularly tweeting abuses and threats of rape and other forms of physical violence against Indian actors, artists, politicians, journalists, minorities in India and individuals of Pakistani origin.

Until recently, the main target of violent Hindu extremists have been primarily Muslims and liberal Hindus. But now the threats of violence and rape against western celebrities are beginning to expose the ugly face of violent Hindu Nationalism. It is  now getting coverage in mainstream western media. 

Meena Harris is absolutely right in her assertion that "it's all connected". It is a historical fact that Hindu Nationalist ideology draws its inspiration from violent European movements like Fascism and Nazism. B.S. Monnje was the first Hindu nationalist who met Mussolini in 1931. 

Hindu nationalists, now led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in India, have a long history of admiration for Nazi leader Adolf Hitler, including his "Final Solution". In his book "We" (1939), Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar, the leader of the Hindu Nationalist RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) wrote, "To keep up the purity of the Race and its culture, Germany shocked the world by her purging the country of the Semitic races -- the Jews. Race pride at its highest has been manifested here. Germany has also shown how well-nigh impossible it is for races and cultures, having differences going to the root, to be assimilated into one united whole, a good lesson for us in Hindusthan to learn and profit by."  

It is important to note that the vast majority of Indian-Americans vote for Democrats but most still support India's Hindu Nationalist Prime Minister Modi who endorsed former President Trump in 2020 presidential elections. In December 2020, the Carnegie Endowment published a study detailing the political attitudes of Indian Americans: 56 percent of Indian Americans self-identified as Democrats, 22 percent as independents, and 15 percent as Republicans; 72 percent of Indian Americans planned on voting for Biden this election, while 22 percent responded with support for Trump. The same survey found that while Indian American Trump voters and Republicans were much more enthusiastic about Modi, a majority of all Indian Americans supported Modi

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Mansoor K. said…
Add to this august list another name - Susan Sarandon, she's also lending support to India's farmers
Riaz Haq said…
In an apparent reference to international celebrity tweets in support of #India #FarmersProtests, #Modi says ‘India needs to be saved from new FDI or Foreign Destructive Ideology‘ @GretaThunberg @rihanna @meenaharris

While tweets posted by Rihanna and Greta Thunberg gave a boost of confidence to the farmers protesting at the borders of the national capital for more than two months, they also provided fuel to the already sizzling fire between the Central Government and the Opposition over the agricultural laws.


There is also a new FDI which is seen today, that is foreign destructive ideology we need to be aware of this,' PM Narendra Modi said in his address to the Rajya Sabha

The farmers' protest against the government's newly-enacted farm laws has gone international. Tweets by renowned pop-star Rihanna and Swedish climate-activist Greta Thunberg favouring the agitating farmers have stirred up a hornet's nest with the opposition parties calling it a hit at India's reputation.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his address to the Rajya Sabha on Monday, played on the term "Foreign Direct Investment or FDI".

"There is also a new FDI which is seen today, that is foreign destructive ideology we need to be aware of this," PM Modi said.

The PM said that India needs to be cautioned against deleterious influences from abroad that he referred to as "foreign destructive ideology".

PM Modi used the term in the context of the ongoing farmers' protest in the country that has, of late, received support from several global celebrities.

PM Modi also said, "In the last few years, we have witnessed a new category of protesters, 'Andolan jeevi', who one can witness in every agitation. We need to protect this country from these Andolan Jeevi, who are actually 'parjeevi'. They don't have their own strength, but they join all agitations."

Riaz Haq said…
Cyberspace Plus Trump Almost Killed Our Democracy. Can Europe Save Us?

by Tom Friedman

Cyberspace is starting to resemble a sovereign nation-state, but without borders or governance. It has its own encrypted communications systems, like Telegram, outside the earshot of terrestrial governments. It has its own global news gathering and sharing platforms, like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. It even has its own currencies — Bitcoin and others — that no sovereign state has minted.

In recent years, all these platforms have mushroomed. They can elevate important voices that were never heard before. But they can also enable a believer in Jewish-run space laser


Donald Trump has been impeached for trying to kill the results of our last election, but we should have no illusions that whatever happens at his trial, the weapon he used is still freely available for others to deploy. It’s a realm called “cyberspace” — where we’re all connected but no one is in charge.

Trump, like no leader before, took advantage of that realm to spread a Big Lie, undermine trust in our electoral system and inspire an attack on our Capitol. We need a democratic fix for cyberspace fast.

China has figured out how to project its autocratic system and Communist values into cyberspace, to enhance its growth and stability, better than we’ve figured out how to project our democratic values into cyberspace to enhance our growth and stability. And we invented the damn thing!

If we don’t figure this out fast, we’re going to fall behind China economically, because the pandemic has dramatically accelerated the digitization of everything, making cyberspace bigger and more important than ever.
Riaz Haq said…
The #Farmersprotests Are a Turning Point for #India’s #democracy but #US sees India as an important counterweight to #China . | Time

For decades, the world has turned a blind eye to India’s abysmal human rights record. This approach draws from a broad perception of India as a strategic ally.

For one, the United States, like much of the global community, sees India as an important counterweight to China. They are the two most populous nations and the fastest growing trillion-dollar economies in the world. Global powers tend to prefer India because of its standing as the world’s largest democracy. At the same time, India’s adversarial relationship with neighboring Pakistan, as well as its increasingly anti-Muslim policies, position it as a bulwark against “Islamic terrorism.”

These two bogeymen—Chinese imperialism and Islamic terrorism—are the specters that have given India a free pass.

Over the past few years, however, the rise of right-wing authoritarianism has brought India’s democratic standing into question. India has plummeted in democracy metrics across the board, including the Press Freedom Index, where it now ranks 142 of 180 countries, four spots behind South Sudan and three behind Myanmar. The Human Freedom Index ranks India at 111 of 162 countries, just four ahead of Russia. This past September human rights group Amnesty International ceased operations in India following sustained assaults from the Indian government.

The full force and authoritarian tactics of the Indian government have been showcased as they respond to the largest protest in their history. Since September, tens of thousands of Indian have gathered in New Delhi to protest three new agricultural laws that aim to deregulate India’s agricultural industry and open it up to free-market forces. While the need for reforms is urgent, farmers are concerned that the new legislation privileges corporations and harms the everyday farmer. Finally, on Feb. 2, after months of protests, the world’s eyes started to focus on the Indian government’s undemocratic measures, including press censorship, journalist detention, internet shutdowns, and violent crackdowns against the non-violent protestors.

Hindu nationalists have used the occasion to call for genocidal violence against protestors. Twitter removed a tweet from Indian actress Kangana Ranaut that advocated ethnic cleansing of the protestors. Twitter also suspended 500 accounts that called for a repeat of the 1984 pogroms, a dark moment in India’s history.

These calls refer to a period of Indian history reminiscent of what’s happening today. In the 1970s and 1980s, Punjabi Sikhs led similar agitations that called for better government support of agriculture. Their sustained protests along with a self-determination movement drew the ire of the Indian government, which painted the efforts as anti-national. Following a disinformation campaign, the government launched a series of attacks that resulted in mass atrocities and egregious human rights abuses: the military assault on Darbar Sahib (Golden Temple) of Amritsar in June of 1984, the state-sponsored pogroms in November of 1984 following the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by two of her Sikh bodyguards, and, in the decade that followed, a campaign of extra-judicial killings that resulted in tens of thousands of civilian deaths. The government of India has never acknowledged or apologized for this spree of violence, and it remains a visceral memory for many Indians, especially Punjabi Sikhs today.

Understanding the state violence in Punjab during the 1980s helps us see the grievances that Punjabi farmers have with the central government. It also shows how the Indian state deploys and enacts violence against its own citizens, and, perhaps most crucially, anticipates what might happen in India today if the Indian government is not held accountable for its current undemocratic actions.

Riaz Haq said…
#Rape-#Murder of Teenage Cousins in a Village in #India. #NYTimes' reporter Sonia Faleiro set out to examine India’s rape culture. #Misogyny is so deep that Lalli’s grieving mother is not invited to go to the #Hindu burial. She doesn't even ask.

In 2012, a gang of men set upon and horrifically raped a female student on a bus in New Delhi. The crime made international news and provoked national protests that led to some changes in the laws. But Indian women with big dreams were on notice anyway. Seven years on, the Indian National Crime Records Bureau logged an average 88 rape charges a day.

Sonia Faleiro set out to examine India’s rape culture, but what she ended up revealing was something even more mundane and terrifying.

In May 2014, photographs of two teenage girls hanging from a tree in a mango orchard landed in Indian headlines and on social media. The girls’ deaths were quickly assumed to have had something to do with sexual assault.

Faleiro, who was born in India and lives in London, drove more than six hours from the nearest airport to the village of Katra in Uttar Pradesh, an agricultural region of India that abuts Nepal, to find out what happened.

The story she weaves in exquisite language is as tragic and ugly as it is engrossing.

In life, the tiny girls hanging from the tree by their colorful scarves had been so inseparable that their families and tiny community elided their names and called them as one. Because of India’s rape laws, their names can’t be published, so Faleiro uses the pseudonyms Padma and Lalli. “Padma Lalli,” as she calls them, were cousins, “alike as two grains of rice,” who spent all day in the fields before coming home to sleep in the compound of their extended family.

Their grandmother is “whispers and bones in a widow’s white sari.”

The girls are hard workers. Every morning, as the sun climbs in the sky, they rise to a day of chores: tending the family hearths, lighting dung cakes. They heat oil and knead dough and cook rotis, then trudge in noonday heat into the mint fields to feed family members. They come home and scrub dishes with soap made of wood ash. They go off with the goats and return to milk the buffalo. They pump water to fill buckets. They sweep the dusty courtyard over and over and over again.

Their mothers are also tireless laborers, caring for small children and the needs of men. “The women sweated over fires and labored over small errands,” Faleiro writes. “There was a button to thread, a broken slipper to twist into a knot, nits to comb out, wicker fans to wipe clean. The men were out, smoking beedis and talking among themselves.” The women pick up the slack. At night, they sleep on dirt while the men lounge in hammocks.

The MacGuffin in this mystery is the iPhone that one of the girls — an orphan living with relatives — has received as a gift. They hover over its alluring light in stolen moments between chores, using it to make plans for after dark, when they sneak off, with the excuse of having to relieve themselves (there are no toilets, so everyone squats in the fields). There in the mango orchard, the older one starts having sex with a lower-caste boy from a town across the field. These assignations are arranged by cellphone — including a cellphone that unbeknown to either of them is surreptitiously recording everything, per the orders of the younger girl’s father.

This story is at heart a Southern Gothic — a Southern Hemisphere Gothic — a tale of stymied sexuality and buried secrets. It will surprise no one that honor matters among this impoverished caste; nor will it surprise that there were watchers.

“They shouldn’t be out in public with a mobile phone,” one of the watchers, a government teacher and farmer, observes to one of the girls’ relatives. “Who knows who they’re talking to?”

Riaz Haq said…
Hate factory: Inside #BJP leader Kapil Mishra’s ‘Hindu Ecosystem’. Mishra is leading a network of over 20,000 people who are working in an organized fashion to create and spread hatred against #Muslims. #Hindu #Modi #Hindutva #Islamophobia #India

All the ecosystem members need to do is hit “Tweet” and, boom, Twitter spammed! If enough people spam it at the right time, the hashtag starts trending. Just scroll down this trend and you can spot the pattern easily.


If the ever-growing reality of Hindu Rashtra were one big Christmas, Kapil Mishra would be Santa Claus, and the members of his “Hindu Ecosystem” hardworking elves delivering the gift of religious hatred and bigotry, packaged in the seductive wrapping of Hindutva, to the masses, secretly but methodically.

On November 16 last year, Mishra, a former Aam Aadmi Party minister who is now with the BJP and has been accused of inciting the February 2020 Delhi carnage by the victims and activists, posted a tweet asking whoever was interested to fill in a form and join what he described as the “Hindu Ecosystem” team.

The form is straightforward – seeking such details as name, cellphone number, state and country of residence – but for one standout question. It asks the prospective footsoldier of the Hindu Ecosystem to state their “special area of interest” and, lest it wasn’t clear what that meant, gives a set of examples.

It also asks them to make a “declaration” about joining the group online and/or on the ground. Our curiosity was heightened and, of course, we had to join. We filled in the form and became members of the Telegram group. We were later added to other associated groups.

Thus we came to have a fly-on-the-wall view of how this ecosystem operates, how it creates propaganda material, how it comes up with toxic narratives, and how it manufactures trends across social media platforms to whip up communal hatred and bigotry, and, of course, support for Hindutva. Oh, they also share toolkits, like the one put out by the climate advocate Greta Thunberg to support the farmer protests over which the Delhi police have lodged an FIR, and arrested a young activist named Disha Ravi.

This is the sum of what we found: Kapil Mishra is leading a network of over 20,000 people who are working in an organised fashion to create and spread communal hatred.

Welcome to hate factory

On November 27, Misra posted a video for members of his network announcing that their first campaign would begin at 10 am that day, using the hashtag #JoinHinduEcosystem.

He said about 27,000 people had filled in the form and nearly 15,000 people had joined the Telegram group. Additionally, 5,000 people had signed up with the Hindu Ecosystem’s “Twitter team”. No points for guessing what social and gender groups the members came from: going by the usernames they were mostly upper caste Hindu men.

Riaz Haq said…
by Bridge Initiative Team
Published on 18 May 2021

In recent years, the RSS has been at the forefront of promoting Hindu-nationalism in India, with the Sangh accused of inciting violence against India’s Dalit-Bahujan community, including hate crimes against Muslims, lynchings of Dalits, and pogroms against religious minorities.

In 1992, RSS had campaigned for the destruction of Babri Masjid in Ayodhya, arguing the Mughal era structure was built on top of the birthplace of the Hindu God, Ram. Following the BJP’s landslide electoral victory in May 2019, Mohan Bhagwat reaffirmed the Sangh’s commitment to the masjid-mandir (mosque-temple) debate at an RSS-education camp, saying, “Ram’s work will be done.” In December 2019, after the Supreme Court of India ruled in favor of the destruction in November 2019, three RSS leaders were charged with “commuting a deliberate and malicious act intended to outrage religious feelings and uttering words with deliberate intent to wound the religious feelings of a person” in Karnataka, India, for reenacting the demolition of the mosque.

In April 2019, The Caravan reported a new initiative by the RSS to bring “true nationalist narrative” to Indian academia. Since BJP came to power in 2014, prominent historians such as Romila Thapar have argued that the Sangh is “attempting to foreground revisionist histories with a glorified view of a Hindu past” by rewriting school textbooks, setting up “RSS-model schools”, and lobbying streaming platforms to remove “anti-nationalist” content. Balmukund Pandey, the head of the historical research wing of the RSS, is on record asserting: “The time is now to restore India’s past glory by establishing that ancient Hindu texts are fact not myth.”

Since its early days, RSS has been linked to white supremacist organizations in Europe and North America. In 2011, Anders Breivik— the Norwegian mass murderer— hailed India’s Hindu nationalist movement as a “key ally in a global struggle to bring down democratic regimes across the world”, listing the websites of the Bharatiya Janata Party, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the National Volunteers’ Organisation, the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad as resources.

The Sangh has also been linked with Hindu-American advocacy groups in the U.S, chief among them the Hindu American Foundation (HAF) in Washington, D.C. Mihir Meghani, co-founder of HAF, is a long time member of Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh, and has spoken at conferences organized by Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America, the international religious branch of the RSS. Meghani is also the author of Hindutva: The Great Nationalist Ideology where he writes, “The future of Bharat is set. Hindutva is here to stay. It is up to the Muslims whether they will be included in the new nationalistic spirit of Bharat. It is up to the government and the Muslim leadership whether they wish to increase Hindu furor or work with the Hindu leadership.”

In 2005, the Hindu America Foundation (HAF) partnered with the Vedic Foundation and the Hindu Education Foundation, to push the state of California to change passages on Hinduism in official school textbooks. In a February 2006 cover story, Siliconeer, a monthly magazine for south Asians on the west coast, said the changes in curriculum that HAF was pushing for reflected “chauvinistic political agendas” seeking to equate the history of India with the history of Hinduism. Recently, HAF board member Rishi Bhutada served as the official spokesperson of “Howdy Modi,” the RSS backed rally for India’s BJP prime minister held in Houston, Texas on September 22, 2020.
Riaz Haq said…
by Bridge Initiative Team
Published on 18 May 2021

In October 2019, HAF invited Aarti Tikoo Singh, who claimed, in a Twitter exchange with Tarek Fatah, that “Islamophobia is a bullsh*t word thrown in as a slur by those who have irrational fear (phobia) of any criticism of Islamic extremism [and] regressive Muslims.” In April 2019, after city councils across Canada voted to allow the Islamic call to prayer (adhan) to be broadcasted for a few minutes a day during the holy month of Ramadan, Fatah claimed that the Muslims wanted the public adhan to become a “permanent feature”, and that Greek Town (as the neighbourhood of the mosque is known) might soon become “Islamabad.” Fatah was retweeted by Ravi Hooda, who commented that the decision— to broadcast the adhan— opened the door for “separate lanes for camel & goat riders” or laws “requiring all women to cover themselves from head to toe in tents.” Writing for Foreign Policy, Steven Zhou identified Hooda as a volunteer for the local branch of the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh, which represents the overseas interests of the RSS.

In February 2020, following anti-Muslim pogroms in Delhi, 16 RSS cadres were arrested and charged with murder and rioting. At least 53 people were killed during the violence, almost three quarter of whom were Muslims. According to The Guardian, the catalyst for the pogrom is widely acknowledged to have been a comment by Kapil Mishra, a BJP leader, who issued a public ultimatum declaring that if the police did not clear the streets of a protest against a new citizenship law seen as anti-Muslim, his supporters would be “forced to hit the streets”.

Today’s RSS tries to distance itself from its past. But according to Arundhati Roy, “its underlying ideology, in which Muslims are cast as treacherous permanent ‘outsiders,’ is a constant refrain in the public speeches of BJP politicians, and finds utterance in chilling slogans raised by rampaging mobs. For example: ‘Mussalman ka ek hi sthan—Kabristan ya Pakistan’ (Only one place for the Muslim—the graveyard, or Pakistan). In October this year, Mohan Bhagwat, the supreme leader of the RSS, said, ‘India is a Hindu Rashtra’—a Hindu nation. ‘This is non-negotiable.’”

Riaz Haq said…
Meena Harris, #US VP Kamala Harris’ niece says those who are neutral on #Israel-#Gaza have ‘chosen the side of the oppressor'. The evictions in #shaikhjarrah are emblematic of an #Israeli government that is trying to push #Palestinians out of #Jerusalem.

(Meena) Harris, a 36-year-old lawyer and businesswoman shared a statement seen across Instagram, along with the caption "If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. I stand in solidarity with the residents of Sheikh Jarrah."

Sheikh Jarrah is a neighborhood in East Jerusalem where six Palestinian families are facing eviction in favor of Jewish settlers. The evictions have led to violent clashes in the streets. The Israeli government has said the matter is a real estate dispute that Hamas is using to stoke tensions, but some Palestinians say the evictions are emblematic of an Israeli government they say is trying to push them out of Jerusalem.

The post she shared read, "One cannot advocate for racial equality, LGBT & women’s rights, condemn corrupt and abusive regimes & other injustices yet choose to ignore the Palestinian oppression. It does not add up. You cannot pick & choose whose human rights matter more."

Hamas, the Palestinian terror group that controls Gaza, is no champion of LGBT rights - being gay is punishable by 10 years in prison, and in 2016, Hamas executed one of its own fighters for same-sex relations.

The post had also been shared by model Gigi Hadid, who is of Palestinian and Dutch descent.

In a subsequent post, Meena Harris shared a statement that described Israel as an "apartheid state."

Meena Harris’ take on the Middle East violence seemingly puts her at odds with President Biden. Biden said Thursday he had not seen a "significant overreaction" from Israel in response to Hamas’ rocket attacks, and said that they had been "indiscriminately fired into population centers."

Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken also spoke with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Biden in the call asserted Israel’s "right to defend itself." White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the Biden team had had "dozens of calls" with Israeli and Palestinian leaders focused on de-escalating the crisis over the past week.

But earlier this week Psaki said the U.S. had expressed concerns that Israeli evictions in East Jerusalem worked "against our common interests" in finding a solution to the conflict.
Riaz Haq said…
WikiLeaks cables: Rahul Gandhi warned US of Hindu extremist threat
This article is more than 10 years old
Scion of India's leading political family told ambassador radicalised Hindu groups could create religious tension and political confrontation

Rahul Gandhi, the "crown prince" of Indian politics, told the US ambassador at a lunch last year that Hindu extremist groups could pose a greater threat to his country than Muslim militants.

In controversial comments likely to cause a storm in India, Gandhi – considered a likely prime ministerial candidate and a scion of the country's leading political family – warned Timothy Roemer that although "there was evidence of some support for [Islamic terrorist group Laskar-e-Taiba] among certain elements in India's indigenous Muslim community, the bigger threat may be the growth of radicalised Hindu groups, which create religious tensions and political confrontations with the Muslim community".

The 40-year-old politician, the son of the Congress party president, Sonia Gandhi, told the ambassador that "the risk of a "homegrown" extremist front, reacting to terror attacks coming from Pakistan or from Islamist groups in India, was a growing concern and one that demanded constant attention".

The US view of him has evolved. In late 2007, US diplomats described the young politician, recently appointed to lead the Congress youth wing, as "widely viewed as an empty suit and will have to prove wrong those who dismiss him as a lightweight".

"To do so he will have to demonstrate determination, depth, savvy and stamina. He will need to get his hands dirty in the untidy and ruthless business that is Indian politics," one said in a cable entitled The son also rises: Rahul Gandhi takes another step towards top job.

Other cables talk of Gandhi's political inexperience and repeated gaffes. They also repeat cutting criticism from political analysts and journalists.

However as Gandhi warmed to the US, the US warmed to him. In a meeting with another American official last summer, he explained his strategy of targeting rural populations and small towns, impressing his interlocutor.

"[Gandhi] came off as a practiced politician who knew how to get his message across, was precise and articulate and demonstrated a mastery that belied the image some have of [him] as a dilettante," the official said.

In November last year, after a meeting with the US ambassador, a cable to Washington described Gandhi as "an elusive contact in the past" but now "clearly interested in reaching out to the USG [United States government]".

A cable from February this year describes him as "increasingly sure-footed".

For Roemer, writing after the lunch during which Gandhi had commented on extremism, "the rising profile of young leaders like Rahul Gandhi provides [the USA with] an opening to expand the constituency in support of the strategic partnership with a long term horizon".
Riaz Haq said…
Explainer: How #Indian #FarmersProtest turned into a country-wide movement. Farm union leaders now plan to step up protests in #UttarPradesh ahead of the state assembly election next year. #Modi #BJP #YogiAdityanath via @YahooNews

A group of influential farmer leaders ratcheted up pressure on Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government to roll back three new farm laws by organising a mammoth rally in India's most populous state Uttar Pradesh last week.

After the successful mass meeting - the biggest rally yet in a months-long series of demonstrations to press for repeal of the laws - farm union leaders now plan to step up protests in Uttar Pradesh ahead of the state assembly election next year.

Protesting farmers say the laws, introduced in September last year, would erode a longstanding mechanism that ensures farmers a minimum guaranteed price for their rice and wheat, but the government says this will help growers get better prices.


Almost immediately after parliament cleared the farm laws late last year, tens of thousands of farmers from grain-growing Punjab and Haryana states trudged towards the capital New Delhi. Stopped by authorities from entering India's capital, growers have camped on highways to New Delhi, in India's longest-running farmers' protest against the government.

Several rounds of talks between the government and farm union leaders failed to break the deadlock. Some government ministers and leaders from Modi's ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) initially dismissed farmers' protests as demonstrations by a handful of rice and wheat growers only from Punjab and Haryana.

As the days went on, farmers from other parts of the country galvanized into action by either joining the protest near New Delhi or organising a series of demonstrations in different states.

Other than calling for the withdrawal of the laws, farm union leaders put forth another demand - a law that would force the government to buy every farm produce at a state-set guaranteed price. The new demand gained traction among farmers from across the country, beyond Punjab and Haryana - known as India's grain belt.
Riaz Haq said…
Deadly #rape of #Mumbai woman has 'shaken the nation once again'. The case bears a striking similarity to the brutal 2012 gang-rape and murder of a student in #Delhi that prompted millions of women to push for tougher sexual assault laws in #India. #crime

An Indian woman allegedly assaulted and raped in Mumbai on Friday has died of her injuries, in a case activists say bears a striking similarity to the brutal 2012 gang-rape and murder of a student that prompted millions of women to push for tougher sexual assault laws in the country.

The woman, 34, was found lying unconscious inside an open mini bus in the suburban neighborhood of Sakinaka, Mumbai Police Commissioner Hemant Nagrale said at a news conference Saturday.
She was allegedly raped and assaulted with an iron rod, according to CNN affiliate News-18, who cited a local official. The woman was admitted to Rajawadi Hospital and initially responded to treatment, but died from her injures on Saturday, Nagrale said.
Police arrested a man on suspicion of rape and murder, after allegedly identifying him from CCTV footage, Nagrale added. He is yet to be formally charged and will remain in police custody until September 21.
Balwant Deshmukh, senior police inspector at Sakinaka police station, told CNN the victim and alleged perpetrator were both homeless. If charged and found guilty, the suspect could face the death penalty.

Anti-rape and women's rights activist Yogita Bhayana said Friday's case in Mumbai had "shaken the nation once again" because it was "incredibly similar" to the notorious rape and murder of 23-year-old student Nirbhaya in New Delhi in 2012.

Nirbhaya -- a pseudonym given to the victim, meaning "fearless" -- was raped and assaulted with iron rods, according to court documents, and suffered horrific injuries. She died two weeks after the attack in a Singapore hospital.
Her death cast a spotlight on sexual assault in India, and increased scrutiny on crimes against women. The case marked a turning point in the country, and galvanized millions of women to protest for tougher laws on sexual assault.
"After Nirbhaya, we thought things would change but we keep hearing of (rape) cases every single day. Not a single day goes by where we don't hear of one," Bhayana said. "As activists, we push and probe the government and nation so much, but when we hear of such brutality, we really feel so helpless. I have no words to describe it."
Uddhav Thackeray, the Chief Minister of Maharashtra, of which Mumbai is the capital city, expressed his shock at the "dreadful" incident.
"The heinous crime that took place in Saki Naka is a disgrace to humanity," Thackeray tweeted Saturday, adding that the case will be fast-tracked, and the culprit will be "severely punished."
Riaz Haq said…
It Is No Longer ‘Incredible India’ But ‘Intolerant India’
Hindutva activists are seeking to enforce rigid codes of normative Hindu culture and Islamophobia by forcing the withdrawal of progressive advertisements.

Kavita Chowdhury

The online abuse and trolling are not isolated or spontaneous acts but have the political backing of the powerful BJP IT cell.

Last year too, during the festive season, jewelry brand Tanishq faced the ire of Hindu right-wing. The jewelry brand in its advertisement “Ekatvam” (unity in oneness) depicted a pregnant Hindu woman being lovingly given a baby shower by her Muslim in-laws. The advertisement text read: “She is married into a family that loves her like their own child. Only for her, they go out of their way to celebrate an occasion that they usually don’t. A beautiful confluence of two different religions, traditions and cultures.”

Accusing Tanishq of promoting “Love Jihad” (a conspiracy theory claiming that Hindu women are being forcibly converted by Muslims through marriage), the Hindutva activists called for a boycott of the brand. #BoycottTanishq trended. The outrage spilled over offline as well with a Tanishq jewelry showroom in Gujarat being threatened and forced to display an apology at its store. They were reports of Muslim Tanishq store managers’ contact details being made public online.

Tanishq ultimately pulled out the advertisement stating, “We are deeply saddened with the inadvertent stirring of emotions and withdraw this film keeping in mind the hurt sentiments and well-being of our employees, partners and store staff.”

Tanishq’s capitulation to right-wing trolls was strongly criticized, with a section of Twitterati labelling it “spineless corporate India.” Many pointed out that when corporations make bold advertisements, they should not get brow-beaten by trolls but stand up for their values — as did the American footwear brand Nike, which despite severe backlash, boldly made National Football League (NFL) star Colin Kaepernick its brand ambassador. Kaepernick had “taken the knee” i.e. kneeled during the United States national anthem to protest against racial injustice.

Last year, soon after the Tanishq advertisement backlash, advertising bodies in India urged the government to act against intimidation by Hindutva trolls. But India’s ruling BJP is not inclined to fight hate. Rather, it is encouraging unbridled Hindutva for electoral gains. As intolerance gallops, vitriolic attacks against advertisements continue unabated.
Riaz Haq said…
#India using cyber-volunteers (#trolls) to silence critical voices. "Hindutva Watch" #Twitter account with nearly 26,000 followers was abruptly suspended in April this year with no reason given. #Modi #BJP #censorship #SocialMedia via @AJEnglish

Government invites citizen volunteers to flag ‘unlawful’, ‘anti-national’ content as activists fear the creation of a surveillance state.

The group that ran the Hindutva Watch handle on Twitter – which flagged instances of violence and bigotry from Hindu nationalist groups – had long been accustomed to being abused and trolled for content critical of the Indian government.

But even they were stunned when the account, with nearly 26,000 followers, was abruptly suspended in April this year with no reason given.

The suspension of that, and dozens of accounts deemed to be critical of the government, came shortly after the launch of a cybercrime volunteers programme by India’s Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) to report illegal or unlawful online content, Reuters news agency reported on Monday.

Citizen volunteers, or “good Samaritans”, are required to maintain “strict confidentiality”, and report child sex abuse material, as well as online content “disturbing public order” or religious harmony, and against India’s integrity, the MHA said, according to the report.

For activists, journalists and others critical of the government, it has become harder to distinguish between trolls, the governing Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) information technology cell and the cyber-volunteers – estimated to number in the hundreds.

“For us, Twitter was important to expose communalism, hate speech, fake news and pseudoscience spread by right-wing forces,” said a spokesperson for Hindutva Watch who asked not to be named for safety reasons.

“For this, we have been trolled, abused, threatened. The online vigilante machinery stalks accounts that are critical of the BJP or the RSS, labels them as anti-national, and lobbies to get them suspended,” the spokesperson said.

RSS refers to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the far-right ideological mentor of the BJP.

Complaints about posts are assessed under Twitter’s terms of service and Twitter rules, and “any content that is determined to be in violation is actioned in line with our range of enforcement options”, a spokesperson for Twitter said.

The MHA did not respond to calls and emails requesting comment.

Digital warriors
The BJP swept into power in India in 2014 and won by an even bigger margin in 2019, its victories credited to a large extent to its savvy IT cell and social media prowess, fuelled by thousands of supporters it calls digital “yodhas” or warriors.

Modi, 71, is known to be tech-savvy, with 73 million followers on his personal Twitter account, and follows several individuals who are known to harass those critical of his government, and who often say in their profile that they are “proud to be followed by Modi”.

“The cyber-volunteers programme goes beyond just silencing people,” said Swati Chaturvedi, an independent journalist who has written a book on the BJP’s social media strategy and her experience of being trolled.

“But it is actually a very smart move, as they can carry on browbeating dissent online without coming under more scrutiny themselves,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

More than half of India’s 1.3 billion population has access to the internet. The country has more than 300 million Facebook users and 200 million on Facebook’s WhatsApp messaging service – more than any other democracy in the world.

About 22 million Indians use Twitter, according to Statista.

India, like other countries, has recently introduced laws to limit so-called misinformation and to censor content that is deemed to be critical of the government’s management of the coronavirus pandemic.
Riaz Haq said…
#Google picks former #Modi think-tank official as #India policy head. Last year, #Meta Platforms Inc (#Facebook) hired Rajiv Aggarwal - who spent years working in India's federal and state governments. #BJP #Hindutva #SocialMedia

NEW DELHI, May 4 (Reuters) - Alphabet Inc's (GOOGL.O) Google has hired a new public policy head in India, Archana Gulati, who previously worked at Prime Minister Narendra Modi's federal think-tank and the country's antitrust watchdog, a source with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters.

A number of Indian government officials have been hired by Big Tech companies which are battling tighter data and privacy regulation, as well as competition law scrutiny, under Modi's federal government.

Gulati is a long-term Indian government employee, having worked until March 2021 as a joint secretary for digital communications at Modi's federal think tank, Niti Aayog, a body that is critical to government's policy making across sectors.

Before that, between 2014 and 2016, she worked as a senior official at India's antitrust body, the Competition Commission of India, according to her LinkedIn profile.

A Google India spokesperson confirmed the development to Reuters, but did not elaborate. Gulati did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The source declined to be named as the hiring decision was not public.

India's antitrust watchdog is currently looking into Google's business conduct in the market of smart TVs, its Android operating system as well as its in-app payments system.

Last year, Meta Platforms Inc (FB.O) hired Rajiv Aggarwal - who spent years working in India's federal and state governments - as its head of policy.

Another former Indian antitrust and federal government official, Anand Jha, in 2019 joined Walmart (WMT.N) as India public policy officer. He currently manages government relations for Blackstone in India.

Riaz Haq said…
India: Twitter, Facebook and the appeasement of Hindu extremists
Arif Rafiq
5 September 2022 10:23 UTC | Last update: 7 hours 59 mins ago
Whistleblower case highlights the dangers of allowing the Indian government to get too close to social media providers

Awhistleblower complaint by ex-Twitter security chief Peiter Zatko, revealed last week, includes alarming allegations that the Indian government forced the social media platform to hire government agents who had access to sensitive user data because of Twitter’s weak security structure.

Twitter, which did not respond to Middle East Eye’s request for comment, has publicly rejected Zatko’s complaint as a "false narrative", but has yet to explicitly address the allegations about the hiring of Indian government agents.

While Zatko’s allegations have not yet been verified, the reference to "government agents could be related to the draconian internet regulations enacted by the Indian government in February 2021.

These rules - triggered partly by Twitter’s clash with New Delhi over demands that it remove accounts in support of anti-government protesters - require large social media companies to employ Indian citizens in three government-mandated positions, including a law enforcement liaison.

The new rules make one of those officials - the chief compliance officer - criminally liable if he or she, for example, does not follow a court order to identify the “first originator” of messages that undermine the “sovereignty” of the Indian state.

That these employees must be Indian citizens who physically reside in the country and face the possibility of arrest is why critics have dubbed such rules "hostage-taking laws". They compel local employees to partake in the censorship of voices hostile to those in power.

But Zatko’s allegations go beyond the very public attempts at censorship by India, which led the world in internet shutdowns in 2020. India’s Hindu nationalist government has been clamping down on public expression, especially by Muslim minorities and dissident voices.

In recent years, India has intensified the use of colonial-era sedition laws and newer counterterrorism powers to charge or arrest activists and journalists, such as Asif Sultan, Fahad Shah and Masrat Zahra. The allegations made by Zatko raise serious questions about whether New Delhi has inside access within Twitter - and potentially other social media platforms - through these mandated officers or other employees, enabling the surveillance of dissidents in India and Kashmir, as well as critics abroad.

If that is indeed the case, and if the Indian government has access to sensitive user data such as phone numbers, IP addresses and direct messages, it could use Twitter as a surveillance tool to target dissidents and other vulnerable groups.

For foreign companies seeking access to India’s massive consumer market, appeasement of the country’s Hindu nationalist networks is now part of the cost of doing business. While Twitter has pushed back against many of New Delhi’s demands, Facebook has been more brazen, with some of its staff allegedly colluding with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government long before the 2021 internet rules.

In 2020, a Wall Street Journal investigation revealed that Facebook executives in India rejected banning Hindu nationalist politicians who use the platform to make explicit calls for violence, fearing that it would jeopardise the company’s business prospects. India has the world’s largest number of Facebook users, and its platforms, including WhatsApp, have been deployed by Hindu nationalist extremist networks for mob violence.

Riaz Haq said…
India: Twitter, Facebook and the appeasement of Hindu extremists
Arif Rafiq
Whistleblower case highlights the dangers of allowing the Indian government to get too close to social media providers

India is a glaring example of the spread of digital authoritarianism, the retreat of democracy, and the rise of leaders with a cult of personality - the very global issues that feature in the foreign policy discourse found in Washington. And yet, India is left out of congressional hearings or think-tank studies on these topics.

New Delhi also avoids official censure in Washington on growing threats to religious freedom. And it remains closely allied with Russia, ramping up oil imports from Moscow this year.

Because of its perceived geopolitical importance and the size of its consumer market, India avoids the treatment that a country like China or Russia would get. The grim reality for vulnerable communities in India is this: foreign entities that claim to stand up for universal values end up compromising on them in India, putting their commercial or strategic interests first.
Riaz Haq said…
12-year-old boy in ‘critical condition’ following alleged gang-#rape in #NewDelhi. Protests in #India against the high incidence of sexual assault, typically against women and girls, have become commonplace in recent years. #crime #BJP #Modi

A 12-year-old boy is in “critical condition” after he was allegedly gang-raped and beaten in India’s capital New Delhi, according to a statement from the city’s police and a complaint lodged by the boy’s family to the Delhi Commission for Women (DCW).

Delhi Police Deputy Commissioner Sanjay Sain said in a video statement the alleged assault was carried out by three males – all minors known to the victim – including a family relative.

The alleged assault was said to have taken place in the northeastern neighborhood of Seelampur on September 18, but was not reported until September 22, according to both the police and DCW statements.

The DCW is a statutory authority appointed to investigate matters concerning the security and safety of women under Delhi law.

The case is under investigation, and two of the accused have been arrested, Sain said in the video statement. “The three accused are from the same community, they were neighbors,” Sain said, adding that one of the men was related to the victim.

They have not yet been charged.

According to a statement from the DCW on Sunday, the boy’s parents said their son was in “critical condition” after allegedly being assaulted with a rod and “brutally” beaten with bricks.

“The boy is not in a good state and may not make it,” DCW chairperson Swati Maliwal told CNN by phone when asked about his current condition.

Protests in India against the high incidence of sexual assault, typically against women and girls, have become commonplace in recent years.

In 2012, the gang-rape and murder of medical student Nirbhaya – a pseudonym given to the victim, meaning “fearless” – in Delhi galvanized millions of women to call for tougher penalties for perpetrators.

Nirbhaya suffered horrific injuries after being raped and assaulted with iron rods, according to court documents. She died two weeks after the attack in a Singapore hospital.

Nirbhaya’s death cast a spotlight on sexual assault in India and marked a turning point in the country, with the introduction of new laws including the fast-tracking of rape cases through the justice system and an amended definition of rape to include anal and oral penetration.

Riaz Haq said…
#India #Rape: Alleged rapist and his mother set teenage girl on fire after learning she was pregnant. India has long grappled with an epidemic of #violence against #women and #girls in the deeply patriarchal country. #Hindutva #BJP #Modi #Misogynist

A 15-year-old girl is being treated at a hospital in northern India after she was allegedly set on fire by a man accused of raping and impregnating her in the latest case of violence against women to shock the country.

Kamlesh Kumar Dixit, a senior police official in Uttar Pradesh state, told CNN the man, 18, and his mother were arrested on Monday on suspicion of attempted murder after they allegedly poured kerosene on the girl and set her ablaze on October 6.

Police also accuse the man – who is a cousin of the alleged victim – of raping her about three months ago after which she became pregnant, Dixit said.

Upon learning of the girl’s pregnancy, her family and the family of the alleged rapist had discussed whether the two should get married, Dixit added.

Citing police, the Press Trust of India – the country’s largest news agency – reported the girl was lured to the alleged rapist’s home on the pretext of getting married to him when she was allegedly set alight. However, Dixit declined to comment when asked about this detail.

India has long grappled with an epidemic of violence against women and girls in the deeply patriarchal country. And campaigners say the alleged involvement of a woman in this latest case demonstrates the scale of internalized misogyny in society.

“I’ve become so numb to stories like this. There is a lack of empathy in our country,” said Yogita Bhayana, an anti-rape activist from New Delhi. “For years, we have been trying to change things. This case demonstrates a failure of our system. The girl should have been helped.”

The girl’s condition and the status of her pregnancy are unknown. CNN ha
Riaz Haq said…
Most #women avoid #Indian streets at night. This group strode bravely together. #rape #misogyny #Bangalore #India #safety via @scmpnews

The plans are optimistic in the face of a dismal national record: crimes against women in India have risen alarmingly in recent years, with more than 425,000 recorded by the government in 2021. India ranks 148 in a list of 170 countries in the US-based Women, Peace and Security Index.


On a warm, late March evening, in fading twilight, a dozen women gather outside the Central College metro station in the heart of the Indian city of Bangalore. Other than two pairs of friends, we are strangers.
But introductions are made and soon all is excited anticipation and a will to conquer. As pompous as that sounds, a group of women setting out for a night walk on the streets of Bangalore’s Chickpete area, a crowded, congested traditional business district, is a rare occurrence.
In general, women avoid Indian streets at night, especially if alone and in busy areas, because of the harassment they are likely to encounter: anything from being brushed against and deliberately crowded out to being purposely bumped into or grabbed.

Gully Tours is the boutique experiential tour company behind our “Pete by Night – For Women by Women” experience. “It’s not unsafe,” says Parvathi Bhat Giliyal, lead of the company’s heritage and food walking tours, to the assembled women. “Just be on your guard. Try and stay together and we will have a good time.”

We set off in twos and threes, dodging foot and vehicular traffic. As we cross into Chickpete, the chaos intensifies. The roads are filled with jostling pedestrians, bicycles, vehicles, vendors and people pushing carts of all sizes. It is noisy, dusty and humid.

By now, the group is in single file, each woman trying to keep the one in front in sight. It helps that we are carrying large, bright tote bags that are easily visible; it helps further that they are filled with goodies from women entrepreneurs, all collaborators of Gully Tours.

Parvathi breaks the group in gently. She leads us into small patches of sanity: first a deserted courtyard, to point out architectural styles that have been added over the years, and then the premises of the State Bank of India, housed in a 110-year-old stone mansion that used to be a lunatic asylum.

Back on the street and heading further into Chickpete, it feels as though we’re entering controlled bedlam. This is a traditional business district with a history going back nearly 500 years, all the way to the city’s founder, Kempegowda. Bangalore might be known as a smart tech city, but Chickpete is frozen in time.
As we head deeper into the maze, we discover alleys that are barely wide enough for a two-wheeler to pass through. Narrow buildings sit cheek by jowl, many fronted by business establishments with living quarters behind.

Riaz Haq said…
In #India’s Gang #Rape Culture, All #Women Are Victims. 2,200 gang rapes were reported in 2021. In 2011 a woman was raped every 20 minutes in India. It quickened to about every 16 minutes by 2021, with over 31,000 rapes reported, a 20% increase.

By Vidya Krishnan

It is the specific horror of gang rape that weighs most heavily on Indian women that I know. You may have heard of the many gruesome cases of women being gang-raped, disemboweled and left for dead. When an incident rises to national attention, the kettle of outrage boils over, and women sometimes stage protests, but it passes quickly. All Indian women are victims, each one traumatized, angry, betrayed, exhausted. Many of us think about gang rape more than we care to admit.

In 2011 a woman was raped every 20 minutes in India, according to government data. The pace quickened to about every 16 minutes by 2021, when more than 31,000 rapes were reported, a 20 percent increase from the previous year. In 2021, 2,200 gang rapes were reported to authorities.

But those grotesque numbers tell only part of the story: 77 percent of Indian women who have experienced physical or sexual violence never tell anyone, according to one study. Prosecutions are rare.

Indian men may face persecution because they are Muslims, Dalits (untouchables) or ethnic minorities or for daring to challenge the corrupt powers that be. Indian women suffer because they are women. Soldiers need to believe that war won’t kill them, that only bad luck will; Indian women need to believe the same about rape, to trust that we will come back to the barracks safe each night, to be able to function at all.

Reports of violence against women in India have risen steadily over the decades, with some researchers citing a growing willingness by victims to come forward. Each rape desensitizes and prepares society to accept the next one, the evil becoming banal.

Gang rape is used as a weapon, particularly against lower castes and Muslims. The first instance that women my age remember was in 1980, when Phoolan Devi, a lower-caste teenager who had fallen in with a criminal gang, said she was abducted and repeatedly raped by a group of upper-caste attackers. She later came back with members of her gang and they killed 22 mostly upper-caste men. It was a rare instance of a brutalized woman extracting revenge. Her rape might never have made headlines without that bloody retribution.

Ms. Devi threw a spotlight on caste apartheid. The suffering of Bilkis Bano — the defining gang rape survivor of my generation — highlighted the boiling hatred that Indian institutions under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a Hindu nationalist, have for Muslim women.

In 2002 brutal violence between Hindus and Muslims swept through Gujarat State. Ms. Bano, then 19 and pregnant, was gang raped by an angry Hindu mob, which also killed 14 of her relatives, including her 3-year-old daughter. Critics accuse Mr. Modi — Gujarat’s top official at the time — of turning a blind eye to the riots. He has not lost an election since.

Ms. Bano’s life took a different trajectory. She repeatedly moved houses after the assault, for her family’s safety. Last August, 11 men who were sentenced to life in prison for raping her were released — on the recommendation of a review committee stacked with members of Mr. Modi’s ruling party. After they were freed, they were greeted with flower garlands by Hindu right-wingers.

The timing was suspicious: Gujarat was to hold important elections a few months later, and Mr. Modi’s party needed votes. A member of his party explained that the accused, as upper-caste Brahmins, had “good” values and did not belong in prison. Men know these rules. They wrote the rule book. What’s most terrifying is that releasing rapists could very well be a vote-getter.
Riaz Haq said…
In #India’s Gang #Rape Culture, All #Women Are Victims. 2,200 gang rapes were reported in 2021. In 2011 a woman was raped every 20 minutes in India. It quickened to about every 16 minutes by 2021, with over 31,000 rapes reported, a 20% increase.

By Vidya Krishnan

After Ms. Bano, there was the young physiotherapy student who in 2012 was beaten and raped on a moving bus and penetrated with a metal rod that perforated her colon before her naked body was dumped on a busy road in New Delhi. She died of her injuries. Women protested for days, and even men took part, facing water cannons and tear gas. New anti-rape laws were framed. This time was different, we naïvely believed.

It wasn’t. In 2018 an 8-year-old Muslim girl was drugged and gang raped in a Hindu temple for days and then murdered. In 2020 a 19-year-old Dalit girl was gang-raped and later died of her injuries, her spinal cord broken.

The fear, particularly of gang rape, never fully leaves us. We go out in groups, cover ourselves, carry pepper spray and GPS tracking devices, avoid public spaces after sunset and remind ourselves to yell “fire,” not “help” if attacked. But we know that no amount of precaution will guarantee our safety.

I don’t understand gang rape. Is it some medieval desire to dominate and humiliate? Do these men, with little power over others, feeling inadequate and ordinary, need a rush of power for a few minutes?

What I do know is that other men share the blame, the countless brothers, fathers, sons, friends, neighbors and colleagues who have collectively created and sustain a system that exploits women. If women are afraid, it is because of these men. It is a protection racket of epic proportions.

I’m not asking merely for equality. I want retribution. Recompense. I want young girls to be taught about Ms. Bano and Ms. Devi. I want monuments built for them. But men just want us to forget. The release of Ms. Bano’s rapists was about male refusal to commemorate our trauma.

So we build monuments with words and our memories. We talk to one another about gang rape, keeping it at the center of our lives. We try to explain to our youngest, to start protecting them.

This is how the history of the defeated is recorded. That’s what it all boils down to: a fight between forgetting and remembering.

Riaz Haq said…

Prashant Bhushan
"Indian govt told Twitter to black out farmers protests&tweets by journalists critical of the govt. Threatened to shut Twitter down in India&raid the homes of Twitter employees, which they did. And India is supposed to be a democratic country!": Jack Dorsey, former CEO of Twitter
Riaz Haq said…
Speaking at an event, (Bollywood Actor) Kajol said, “…Chnage especially in a country like India is slow. It’s very very slow because for one we are steeped in our tradition, steeped in our thought process and, of course, it has to be with tradition. You have political leaders who do not have educational system background. I’m sorry I’m going to go out and say that.”

She added, “We are being ruled by leaders, so many of them, who do not have that viewpoint which I think education gives you.”

Kajol’s comments evoked angry reactions from BJP supporters who felt that the popular actor was taking a potshot at Prime Minister Narendra Modi whose educational qualification has been a matter of intense scrutiny for many years. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had recently accused him of being ‘uneducated’ while others raised questions on his alleged fake degree.

Modi and his administration have refused all attempts to make his degree public fearing that this could expose the Indian PM’s educational qualification.

BJP supporters launched brutal attack on Kajol for her comments. Many accused her being influenced by the thought process of Muslim actors particularly Shah Rukh Khan. The pair of Shah Rukh and Kajol ruled the box office in the late 90s and 2020s.

Facing backlash from BJP supporters, Kajol issued a clarification stating that she wasn’t pointing at anyone in particular. She wrote, “I was merely making a point about education and its importance. My intention was not to demean any political leaders, we have some great leaders who are guiding the country on the right path.”

Kajol, meanwhile, has found plenty of support from netizens, who wondered why her comments had irked only Modi supporters even though the actor did not name anyone.

Shiv Sena MP Priyanka Chaturvedi wrote, “So Kajol says we are governed by leaders who are uneducated and have no vision. Nobody outraging since its her opinion not necessarily a fact and also has named nobody but all Bhakts are outraged. Please don’t Yale your Entire Political Science knowledge.”

Comedian Kunal Kamra tweeted, “Everyone is pointing out that Actress Kajol hasn’t finished her education & I believe that’s the only reason that she feels an educated leadership can help our country.”
Riaz Haq said…
What drives Hindutva’s online supporters who defend Narendra Modi and Sangh Parivar no matter what

Every time Prime Minister Narendra Modi travels overseas, his party faithful work up a cacophony of hyperbole to present it as a diplomatic coup to the Indian public. It was no different for his recent visit to America – except, it did not go all to plan.

Their trolling of The Wall Street Journal reporter Sabrina Siddiqui for questioning Modi about his government’s treatment of India’s Muslims drew condemnation even from the White House, while their attacks on former US President Barack Obama for warning about the consequences of mistreating the nation’s minorities made more news than Modi’s visit itself.

This, of course, is not the first time the Hindutva troll army has earned international notoriety. In the past, they have gone after academics Wendy Doniger and Audrey Truschke, activist Greta Thunberg, journalists Mehdi Hasan and Mattew Yglesias.

For someone who has written about the Hindutva movement’s inferiority complex and its messianic reverence for Modi, the reaction of its trolls and even some elected leaders always throws up questions for me about their psyche.

Psyche of a troll
Modi veneration is a cultivated parasocial relationship: a deeply emotional response to his branding as the first pan-India leader who is open about his Hindu exclusionary politics – and, therefore, is the primary victim of all conspiracies against a Hindu India. A parasocial relationship is a one-way relationship, the illusion of a relationship.

As Modi rose on the national political scene, his life story appealed to many Indians who, even with socioeconomic privilege, believed themselves to be working class. The marketing blitz around the so-called Gujarat Model appealed to their material aspirations. To them, criticism of Modi for his communal politics only reinforced his aura as the strongman who had arrived to rid the country of decades of supposedly dysfunctional Congress rule.

Indeed, in the 189 constituencies where Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party went head-to-head with the Congress in the 2014 general election, it won 166. That is, nearly 60% of its total seats. In 144 constituencies outside Uttar Pradesh and Bihar where the BJP was not up directly against the Congress, it was competitive in only 56.

This trend largely continued in 2019, leading the election analyst Neelanjan Sircar to suggest that Modi’s supporters did not vote for him based on issues but rather found issues to rationalise their vote for him.

The result is a cult of Modi in which everyone from top leaders to common devotees sing from the same hymnal. At an event in America in September to celebrate India’s 75th Independence anniversary, foreign minister S Jaishankar asserted that “the fact that our opinions count, that our views matter, and we have actually today the ability to shape the big issues of our time” was because of Modi. Two years earlier, Supreme Court justice Arun Mishra had called Modi a versatile genius and an internationally acclaimed visionary who thinks globally and acts locally.

At the back of the congregation is the Modi fan who celebrates the leader’s birthday by chanting his name nonstop for 24 hours or tattoes his name or likeness on their body. Tying it all together is the mainstream media, which puts Pyongyang to shame in the way it fawns over Modi.

Riaz Haq said…
What drives Hindutva’s online supporters who defend Narendra Modi and Sangh Parivar no matter what

The online troll, then, is an extension of the Modi cult that exists in the real world.

Creating a schizophrenic republic
Fascism, the writer and philosopher Umberto Eco pointed out, “feeds on humiliation – whether economic, national, gendered, or racialised – and encourages followers to direct their frustration at enemy-others who, through some tenuous logic, turn out to be the source of all society’s problems. By a continuous shifting of rhetorical focus the enemies are at the same time too strong and too weak.”

Modi has fed the basal instincts of his supporters – and thrived on it. In 2005, when Modi was the chief minister, the Gujarat police murdered a wanted man named Sohrabuddin Sheikh and his wife in cold blood. The previous year, they had shot dead four people, including a young woman Ishrat Jahan, in a gunfight that was alleged to have been staged.

Criticised for such extrajudicial killings, Modi declared at an election rally in 2007 that Sheikh “got what he deserved”. What should be done, he asked, to a man found with illegal arms? “Kill him,” the crowd shouted, “kill him!”

Modi is also a master of casting legitimate criticism of himself and his political conduct into rousing rhetoric about humiliation and victimhood while fusing his own identity with that of the state. After the 2002 Gujarat carnage, when he was perhaps at his weakest politically, he conducted a statewide campaign called the Gujarat Gaurav Yatra to peddle victimhood.

He has perfected the script since. Whether addressing election rallies or responding to policy challenges like protests against the new citizenship law and the farmers protests, Modi invariably deploys the language of grievance. He recently counted 91 abuses that the Opposition had allegedly thrown at him, and conflated it with denigration of the OBC community, to which he belongs, and India itself.

On the flip side, the rhetoric of perpetual victimhood feeds into Hindutva’s inferiority complex. In this matrix, the Hindu Rashtra is at once a world leader and a fragile nation that everyone can destabilise or destroy at will. Personally for Modi, it chips away at his role as the Hindu Hridaysamrat, the Emperor of Hindu Hearts.

This dissonance has created a schizophrenic republic.

That is why any critical questioning of Modi’s conduct or policies or even an academic review of Hinduism or Indian history is met with ad hominem, strawman or plain abusive attacks.

Trolling as masculine posturing
Hindutva is an adopted ideology. It is founded not on a social or economic ideal like communism or capitalism but on fear and a sense of victimhood. As a consequence, when confronted with a critical argument, its online devotee resorts to a digital form of the masculine display of power. Quite like a man who will not move when walking down a street to compel you to move around them or who talks over you or whistles at you. If you do go around him or shut up or turn your head, he has his victory. That is the power trip.
Riaz Haq said…
What drives Hindutva’s online supporters who defend Narendra Modi and Sangh Parivar no matter what

Only the online warrior feels more emboldened. Psychological research shows that anonymity, asynchronous communication, and an empathy deficit contribute to online disinhibition.

The Hindutva troll is especially susceptible to empathy deficit. He cloaks the inferiority complex inherent to his ideology in victimhood. Since victimhood sells politically, the troll is convinced of his victimhood and, naturally, seeks to defend his tribe against all manner of conspiratorial enemies. Trolling then is an act of convincing himself that he can assert power over the enemy, real or imagined. If the enemy is annoyed, scared or shuts up, the troll has done his duty.

More often than not, the troll’s political positioning is an inherited tribal loyalty to ethnic, familial or religious worldviews that he fuses with his national identity. The inherited worldview could be Christian in the US and Hindu in India, but the common thread is a deep suspicion of anyone that he does not identify as his own. That is why calling the former US president Barack Hussain Obama or pointing to Siddiqui’s Muslim heritage seems an acceptable retort to him. That is simply how he sees the world.

It is also why he easily dismisses a Hindu who opposes him or his ideology as a secret Muslim or a paid Muslim agent. He simply cannot conceive of a member of his tribe coming to a different conclusion about the world. No wonder engaging with a troll often feels like talking to someone who speaks an alien tongue.

Getting away from a cult
One way to cure this malaise is to expose the would-be troll to a different social context, an out-group. That is how most people break away from a faith or a cult. The phenomenon is known as Contact Hypothesis. Sharing space with people from varied backgrounds and worldviews makes a degree of liberalism necessary just to get by.

Indian spaces, however, are deeply segregated and becoming more so, which is driving communities further apart and contributing to religious strife like the Delhi carnage of 2020.

It will do this country good to recognise that our trolls are a reflection of our society, that for an Indian to truly believe in universal brotherhood means for him to break down social, parasocial, emotional, and familial barriers. That is not easy to do. Most of us, George Orwell warned in 1984, prefer happiness over freedom. And so the trolls continue to chant war is peace, ignorance is bliss, freedom is slavery.

Raj Shekhar Sen is an Indian writer and podcaster who lives in the US. His Twitter handle is @DiscourseDancer.

Riaz Haq said…
Sex scene with Cillian Murphy and Florence Pugh in ‘Oppenheimer’ becomes latest target of India’s Hindu nationalists

New Delhi

Christopher Nolan’s latest blockbuster movie “Oppenheimer” has sparked controversy among the Hindu-right in India, with some calling for a boycott and demanding the removal of a sex scene in which the titular character utters a famous line from the religion’s holy scripture.

The film tells the story of the atomic bomb through the lens of its creator, Robert Oppenheimer, and the scene in question depicts actor Cillian Murphy, who plays the lead role, having sex with Florence Pugh, who plays his lover Jean Tatlock.

Pugh stops during intercourse and picks up a copy of the Bhagavad Gita, one of Hinduism’s holiest scriptures, and asks Murphy to read from it.

“Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds,” Oppenheimer’s character says, as they resume intercourse.

The scene has caused outrage among some right-wing groups, with a politician from India’s Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) calling the film a “disturbing attack on Hinduism” and accusing it of being “part of a larger conspiracy by anti-Hindu forces.”

In a statement Saturday, India’s Information Commissioner, Uday Mahurkar, said the scene was “a direct assault on religious beliefs of a billion tolerant Hindus,” likening it to “waging a war on the Hindu community.”

He added: “We believe that if you remove this scene and do the needful to win hearts of Hindus, it will go a long way to establish your credentials as a sensitized human being and gift you friendship of billions of nice people.”

The film has been received well in most quarters in India, which conducted its first nuclear test in 1974, with critics giving it rave reviews and people flocking to cinemas to watch it.

Ryan Gosling and Margot Robbie in "Barbie"
The 'Barbie' and 'Oppenheimer' double feature shouldn't be a one-off

“Oppenheimer” grossed more than $3 million in its opening weekend in the country, according to local reports, higher than filmmaker Greta Gerwig’s highly anticipated “Barbie,” which released on the same day and grossed just over $1 million.

India’s film board gave “Oppenheimer” a U/A rating, which is reserved for movies that contain moderate adult themes and can be watched by children under 12 with parental guidance. There are so far no bans on the film in any of the country’s states and union territories.

This isn’t the first time that the Hindu-right has taken offense to films, television shows or commercials for its portrayal of Hinduism. Some have been boycotted or even forced off air following outcry from conservative and radical groups.

In 2020, Netflix (NFLX) received significant backlash in India for a scene in the series “A Suitable Boy” that depicted a Hindu woman and Muslim man kissing at a Hindu temple. That same year, Indian jewelry brand Tanishq withdrew an advert featuring an interfaith couple following online criticism.

Meanwhile, analysts and film critics say there has been a shift in the tone of some Indian films, with nationalist and Islamophobic narratives gaining support from many within India, as well as the BJP.

Last year, filmmaker Vivek Agnihotri’s box office smash “The Kashmir Files,” based on the mass exodus of Kashmiri Hindus as they fled violent Islamic militants in the 1990s, polarized India, with some hailing the film as “gut-wrenching” and “truthful,” while others criticized it for being Islamophobic and inaccurate.

Similarly, the release this year of “The Kerala Story,” about a Hindu girl who is lured into joining ISIS, angered critics who called it a propaganda film that demonized Muslims.
Riaz Haq said…
Rana Ayyub
The whataboutery over the blood curdling sexual crimes in Manipur, releasing the rapists of Bilkis Bano on the 75th year of Indian independence, the solidarity of BJP leaders with the rapists of the eight year old girl in Kathua. A pattern.


A grisly rape case has shaken India. Modi needs to act.

by Rana Ayyub

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is once again under pressure for letting communal and ethnic violence spiral under his watch. This time, the victims are from a Christian ethnic group in the northeastern state of Manipur. At the core of the scandal is the government’s handling of a grisly rape case that has profoundly shaken Indian society.

A devastating video was published on July 19 showing two women from a Christian ethnic group in Manipur being stripped naked and paraded around by a mob. It quickly went viral. An indigenous rights group claimed the women were later gang-raped in an adjacent field. The incident occurred around May 4 but went unreported for nearly three months.

Manipur, which borders Myanmar, has been the site of ethnic strife for years, but violence has spiked recently. The predominantly Christian Kuki tribe and the majority-Hindu Meitei have engaged in violent clashes that have led to several churches being burned down, almost 60,000 people being displaced and more than 150 dead.

Details have been underreported because, once violence erupted, the Indian government suspended local access to the internet. And when the video emerged, the government’s immediate instinct was to consider suing Twitter, which has been rebranded as X, for allowing it to circulate, on the grounds that it threatened to sow chaos.

One of the two rape victims accused the police of handing them over to the mob. The woman also said that the father and the brother of the younger victim were killed trying to save them. Since the video went viral, reports of more cases of rape and murder have begun to emerge — and the details are horrifying.

Modi himself had been studiously quiet on the violence in Manipur before the video emerged. The incident “shamed India,” he said outside Parliament in New Delhi on July 20. “I assure the nation, the law will take its course with all its might,” he said. “What happened with the daughters of Manipur can never be forgiven.”

Nevertheless, Modi attempted to divert attention from the atrocity by pointing to examples of violence in provinces run by the opposition. His evasion of responsibility and brazen whataboutism have outraged India. There is a well-established record of majoritarian groups using sexual violence as a weapon in ethnic and communal conflict, and the state has almost always looked the other way.

The police have arrested seven people in connection with the incident in Manipur thus far, but only after the video became public. Chief Justice Dhananjaya Y. Chandrachud ordered the government to keep the courts apprised of the steps being taken against the accused, vowing that “we will take action if you don’t.”

On Monday, India’s Supreme Court began hearings on the alleged gang rape. Kapil Sibal, a lawyer representing the women, alleged that “police collaborated with the perpetrators of violence.” Chandrachud asked why the police had waited so long to bring charges, and demanded the government provide details on the more than 6,000 cases registered with the police since violence erupted in Manipur.
Riaz Haq said…
A grisly rape case has shaken India. Modi needs to act.

by Rana Ayyub

Modi’s government has paid lip service to condemning violence against women, but its actions say something different. Last year, the 75th year of Indian independence, while Modi spoke in front of New Delhi’s Red Fort about women’s safety, his government approved the release of the 11 rapists of Bilkis Bano, one of the rape victims in the 2002 anti-Muslim pogroms in Gujarat (which took place while Modi was governor there).

Other politicians in Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have been less subtle. In 2018, two prominent officials rallied in support of six Hindu men convicted for the brutal rape and murder of an 8-year-old Muslim girl in Kashmir on the premises of a temple.

Opposition parties have filed a no-confidence vote in Modi’s government. But since the BJP is comfortably in the majority, the government is unlikely to fall. The opposition hopes to at least force the prime minister to publicly defend his handling of the violence in Manipur.

Modi is right that the incident has shamed India. But I have lost count of the times during the past few decades that the phrase has been used. The shock and anger feel empty and performative. Those in power who enabled such crimes have repeatedly been absolved. The state continues to look the other way.

During the anti-Muslim pogroms that shook Mumbai in the early 1990s, I was staying with my family among the handful of Muslims in a Hindu-majority area. My sister and I had to get away in the middle of the night as a mob made its way to our neighborhood. Our Sikh neighbor helped us escape through a bathroom window. I remember him telling my family: “They are coming for the girls.”

That horrible night will remain with me forever. We successfully escaped, however, and survived as refugees. The women in Manipur, who were brutalized in full public view, were far less fortunate.

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