Pew Research: Two-thirds of Hindus Say Only Hindus "Truly Indian"
A recent Pew survey in India has found that 64% of Hindus see their religious identity and Indian national identity as closely intertwined. Most Hindus (59%) also link Indian identity with being able to speak Hindi language. The survey was conducted over two years in 2019 and 2020 by Pew Research Center. It included 29,000 Indians.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu Nationalist BJP party's appeal is the greatest among Hindus who closely associate their religious identity and the Hindi language with being “truly Indian.” The Pew survey found that less than half of Indians (46%) favored democracy as best suited to solve the country’s problems. Two percent more (48%) preferred a strong leader.
|Most Hindus Link Hindu Religion and Hindi Language With Indian National Identity. Source: Pew|
The majority of Hindus see themselves as very different from Muslims (66%), and most Muslims return the sentiment, saying they are very different from Hindus (64%). Most Muslims across the country (65%), along with an identical share of Hindus (65%), see communal violence in India as a very big national problem. Like Hindus, Muslims prefer to live religiously segregated lives – not just when it comes to marriage and friendships, but also in some elements of public life. In particular, three-quarters of Muslims in India (74%) support having access to the existing system of Islamic courts, which handle family disputes (such as inheritance or divorce cases), in addition to the secular court system.
Most Hindus (59%) also link Indian identity with being able to speak Hindi – one of dozens of languages that are widely spoken in India. And these two dimensions of national identity – being able to speak Hindi and being a Hindu – are closely connected. Among Hindus who say it is very important to be Hindu to be truly Indian, fully 80% also say it is very important to speak Hindi to be truly Indian.Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu Nationalist BJP party's appeal is the greatest among Hindus who closely associate their religious identity and the Hindi language with being “truly Indian.” In the 2019 national elections, 60% of Hindu voters who think it is very important to be Hindu and to speak Hindi to be truly Indian cast their vote for the BJP, compared with only a third among Hindu voters who feel less strongly about both these aspects of national identity.
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Last Sunday, dozens of Muslim women in India found they had been put up for sale online.
Hana Khan, a commercial pilot whose name was on the list, told the BBC she was alerted to it when a friend sent her a tweet.
The tweet took her to "Sulli Deals", an app and website that had taken publicly available pictures of women and created profiles, describing the women as "deals of the day".
The app's landing page had a photo of an unknown woman. On the next two pages Ms Khan saw photos of her friends. On the page after that she saw herself.
"I counted 83 names. There could be more," she told the BBC. "They'd taken my photo from Twitter and it had my user name. This app was running for 20 days and we didn't even know about it. It sent chills down my spine."
The app pretended to offer users the chance to buy a "Sulli" - a derogatory slang term used by right-wing Hindu trolls for Muslim women. There was no real auction of any kind - the purpose of the app was just to degrade and humiliate.
Ms Khan said she had been targeted was because of her religion. "I'm a Muslim woman who's seen and heard," she said. "And they want to silence us."
GitHub - the web platform that hosted the open source app - shut it down quickly following complaints. "We suspended user accounts following the investigation of reports of such activity, all of which violate our policies," the company said in a statement.
But the experience has left women scarred. Those who featured on the app were all vocal Muslims, including journalists, activists, artists or researchers. A few have since deleted their social media accounts and many others said they were afraid of further harassment.
"No matter how strong you are, but if your picture and other personal information is made public, it scares you, it disturbs you," another woman told the BBC Hindi service.
But several of the women whose details were shared on the app have taken to social media to call out the "perverts", and vowed to fight. A dozen have formed a WhatsApp group to seek - and offer - support and some of them, including Ms Khan, have lodged complaints with the police.
Indian Christians disproportionally identify with lower castes (74%), including 57% with Scheduled Castes (SC) or Scheduled Tribes (ST). India’s caste system is a social hierarchy that can dictate class and social life, including whom a person can marry. Today, regardless of their religion, Indians nearly universally identify with a caste category. Among Christians, 33% identify as SC, while 24% identify as ST. And Christians are somewhat more likely than the Indian population overall to say there is widespread caste discrimination in India. For example, among Indians overall, 20% say there is widespread discrimination against SCs in India, compared with 31% among Christians who say the same. A smaller share of Christians (18%) say there is a lot of discrimination against Christians in India, and even fewer say they have personally faced recent discrimination based on their caste (11%) or religion (10%).
Lower-caste Indian Christians are much more likely than upper-caste (also called General Category) Christians to hold both Christian and non-Christian beliefs. Indian Christians who belong to SCs, STs and other lower castes tend to believe in angels and demons at significantly higher rates than upper-caste Christians. For example, roughly half of lower-caste Christians (51%) believe in demons or evil spirits, while just 12% of higher-caste Christians hold this belief. Lower-caste Christians also are more likely than General Category Christians to believe in spiritual forces not generally associated with Christianity, like karma (58% vs. 44%) and the evil eye (33% vs. 12%).
Overall, Indian Christians are less prone toward religious segregation than some other groups. For instance, Christians are less likely than other religious groups to say that stopping interreligious marriage is “very important.”Among Christians, 37% say stopping the interreligious marriage of Christian women is very important, while 35% say the same about Christian men. In contrast, roughly two-thirds of Hindus and an even greater share of Muslims say it is crucial to stop such marriages by men and women in their respective communities. In addition, fewer Christians (22%) than Hindus (47%) and Muslims (45%) say all of their close friends share their religion. In part, these attitudes may reflect Christians’ regional concentration in the South, where opposition to interreligious marriage is generally less widespread and religious segregation overall is less pronounced.
Politically, Christians favor the opposing Indian National Congress (INC) over the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and is often described as promoting a Hindu nationalist ideology. A plurality of Christian voters (30%) say they voted for the INC in the 2019 parliamentary elections, which roughly matches the shares of Muslims and Sikhs who voted for the INC. Just one-in-ten Indian Christian voters say they voted for the BJP in 2019, the lowest share among all of India’s major religious groups. Once again, the voting patterns of Christians in India mirror the political preferences of Southern Indians more generally. In the 2019 parliamentary elections, the BJP received its lowest vote share in the South, including among Hindus; many people in the South, including Christians, voted for regional parties.
Hindutva is an ideology. And if you want an ethnic religious ideology that will emphasize a dimension of Hinduism that was not very much referred to in the past. The Hindus as a people, as a community, as the descendants of, as they said, the Vedic fathers. This definition of the Hindus as a people has many affinities with Zionism and I would say Hindutva is to Hinduism what Zionism is to Judaism. in many ways the emphasis is on ethnic characteristics rather than belief. So, this idea that you define the citizenship, the nationality, by ethnic characterization and language, that’s a new definition of the identity in India. And that’s largely because of the impact of this ideology.
we need to go back to Hinduism as a civilization. it’s more than a religion. It’s a full-fledged civilization and it is traditionally admitted that this civilization does not rely on any orthodoxy, but on a strong orthopraxy. And the orthopraxy is enshrined in the caste system, a very rigid and hierarchical social order. That’s one dimension. And the other dimension is this absence of orthodoxy that finds expression in the fact that there is no book, no dogma, no clergy in Hinduism and a great sense of religious liberty. Many different kinds of beliefs co-exist in Hinduism. Gurus were very creative and constantly invented new ways to reach God.
That’s what Hinduism was in terms of spirituality and this is something Hindutva has tried to erase. The sense of spiritual diversity has been certainly the first causality of the rise of Hindutva. One example to illustrate this. Hindus used to worship Sufis, Islamic figures, and therefore, went to pray on their tombs in large numbers. This is what I call the Dargah culture. Dargha is the name we give to these mausoleums of Sufi saints. Well, Hindu nationalists tended to consider that such cults were not recommended. So Hindu nationalists have influenced the Hindu community in different ways. They have codified the Hindu identity along Brahmanical lines mostly, and they have tended to reduce the diversity of Hinduism. So, the difference, if you want, between Hinduism and Hindutva is enshrined in these tendencies.
In 2018, Indian police claimed to have uncovered a shocking plan to bring down the government. But there is mounting evidence that the initial conspiracy was a fiction – and the accused are victims of an elaborate plot
by Siddhartha Deb
Wilson, who appeared in press photographs with flowing, shoulder-length hair, squeezed between two plainclothes policemen on the backseat of an unmarked van, seems an unlikely candidate for violent conspiracy. A Malayalam-speaking Christian who grew up in the southern state of Kerala, Wilson’s life in Delhi had been wholly devoted to campaigning on behalf of political prisoners. He made visits to inmates in Tihar jail, India’s largest prison, to lawyers’ offices to help with campaigns for their release, and to dozens of media organisations in the centre of New Delhi to raise awareness of the plight of those he believed had been falsely incarcerated.
Just before his arrest, Wilson had applied to the PhD programme in political science at Surrey University, and was hoping to leave for the UK if he managed to get a scholarship. The documentary film-maker Sanjay Kak, who has known Wilson for nearly two decades and worked with him on campaigns for the release of political prisoners, described him as completely devoted to the cause. “Rona in many ways exemplifies an Indian kind of activist – quiet, self-effacing and yet deeply committed to what they do,” he said. “The tragedy of what has happened to him is that he has been drawn in by the very machine he worked so hard to dismantle all his life.”
Wilson is one of 16 people arrested since June 2018 for their part in an alleged Maoist conspiracy to foment an uprising against Modi’s government. The origin of this so-called conspiracy was traced to a festival called the Elgaar Parishad (meaning “loud assembly”) held in Pune on 31 December 2017. Organised by two progressive retired judges, the festival was looking ahead to the 200th anniversary of a famous Dalit victory in the nearby village of Bhima Koregaon in 1818, when historically oppressed Dalit soldiers serving in a British regiment defeated an upper-caste Hindu army.
Major opposition and regional leaders have met India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi to argue in favour of counting caste in the country's census.
"A caste census will be a historic, pro-poor measure," Tejashwi Yadav, a leader of the regional Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), was quoted as saying by the Press Trust of India.
Mr Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party's decision not to do so has sparked a political maelstrom.
Hinduism's deeply hierarchical and oppressive caste system, which dates back some 2,000 years, puts Brahmins or priests at the top, and Dalits (formerly untouchables) and Adivasis (tribespeople) at the bottom.
In between are a multitude of castes - it's hard to even say how many because there is no list that has enumerated them all.
But there is a swathe of lower and intermediate castes, which are roughly believed to constitute about 52% of the population, that are recognised as Other Backward Classes or OBCs.
While India's census, which happens every 10 years, has always recorded the population of Dalits and Adivasis, it has never counted OBCs.
Now, several political parties, including BJP's allies, are demanding a caste census - essentially a count of OBCs. However, the government has refused.
Caste is a crucial factor in every Indian election, from the village council to the parliament. More so in Uttar Pradesh, where the BJP's power and popularity rest on a delicately forged alliance of castes, and especially those in the OBC category.
A caste count could cause fissures in the Hindu vote, which the BJP has managed to consolidate in recent years, despite deep divisions that underpin the party's plank of Hindu unity.
The government has also argued that it would lead to the perpetuation of caste identities - but lower castes say that identity is a reality they grapple with everyday and only the privileged can afford to overlook caste.
Critics say there's another reason for the BJP's reluctance. Counting OBCs would reveal what a large proportion of the population they make up, but how little of it comprises upper castes, who nevertheless dominate politics and bureaucracy, because of centuries of privilege afforded by wealth and education.
Hindutva, as described by Vinayak Damodar Savarkar in a publication in 1923, is an ethno-nationalist majoritarian ideological project. The ideology of Hindutva proposes that India is essentially a Hindu country defined by a Hindu cultural ethos, Hindus are the true and authentic inhabitants of the land and religious minorities, especially Muslims and Christians, are outsiders who are allowed to live in the country by the grace and willingness of the Hindu majority.
The organisers of the conference are understandably keeping their identities private for reasons of safety and security, given the long history of the global Hindu Right of threatening scholars, whether Romila Thapar, Wendy Doniger, Paul Courtright or Audrey Truschke. By way of disclosure, I should mention that my institution is not involved in any way in organising the event.
The event seeks to bring a long-delayed global awareness about the operations of an exclusionary and discriminatory ideology.
The Dismantling Global Hindutva Conference – scheduled for September 10 and featuring a number of reputed scholars, activists and journalists who are intimately acquainted with different aspects of Hindu nationalism – is a long overdue, important and necessary initiative.
The conference is jointly sponsored by over 40 departments in major American universities and colleges.
Hindutva versus Hinduism
Predictably, the global Hindu Right, in a near-perfect illustration of some of the themes of the conference, has its knickers in a twist and is trying its best to shut down the event through an arsenal of desperate tactics. A somewhat hysterical petition on Change.org accuses the conference of promoting “genocide” against Hindus.
A range of Hindu-American organisations, like the Hindu American Foundation, for all their rhetoric of supporting liberal values, have written to participating academic institutions urging them to withdraw their support for the conference. Aside from an utter lack of understanding of how academia works and of the concept of academic autonomy, Hindu American Foundation’s stance also reveals a bewildering ignorance of the principles of freedom of speech and inquiry.
Cynically and mendaciously, the individuals and organisations that are opposing the conference are conflating Hinduism and Hindutva, although the title and focus of the conference make it amply clear that the conference is centred on the latter.
This fact has also been reiterated by Hindu groups, like Hindus for Human Rights, which support the conference. It may be an innocent coincidence, but a few days ago, Taranjit Singh Sandhu, the Indian ambassador to the US, organised an event with the heads of US universities, many (if not all) of whom appear to be of Indian origin.
Perhaps, this was intended as a subtle message to them to abstain from supporting the conference. In any case, given the timing, it is hard not to see the event as an attempt at damage control by the Bharatiya Janata Party government.
As the formal political wing of the Hindu Right, the BJP, it is worth stressing here, endorses the ideology of Hindutva and has left no stone unturned in the last few years to realise its agenda of reshaping India as a Hindu religious state.
The suspension of Kashmiri autonomy, the endorsement for building the Ram Janmabhoomi temple, the Citizenship Amendment Act and the green signal to vigilante and militant Hindu groups to take the law into their hands are all manifestations of this goal.
Six minor girls in central India were stripped and paraded naked as part of a village ritual to summon rains.
The incident took place in a drought-parched village in the Bundelkhand region of Madhya Pradesh state.
Videos that went viral on social media reportedly showed young girls walking naked with a wooden shaft on their shoulders which had a frog tied to it.
Locals believe the ritual will appease the rain god and bring rainfall to the region.
India's National Commission for Protection of Child Rights has sought a report from the administration of Damoh district, where the village is located.
The Madhya Pradesh police said they had not received any formal complaint against the event, but added that they had opened an investigation.
"Action will be taken if we find the girls were forced to walk naked," Damoh superintendent of police DR Teniwar told news agency Press Trust of India.
The video shows the girls, some of them reported to be as young as five, walking together in a procession, followed by a group of women singing hymns.
The procession stopped at every house in the village and the children collected foodgrains, which were later donated to the community kitchen of a local temple.
"We believe that this will bring rains," PTI quoted a women in the procession as saying.
Damoh district collector S Krishna Chaitanya said the girls' parents had consented to the ritual and had even participated in it.
"In such cases, the administration can only make the villagers aware about the futility of such superstition and make them understand that such practices don't yield desired results," he added.
Indian agriculture largely depends on monsoon rains and in many regions, there are rituals devoted to rain gods depending upon local customs and traditions.
Some communities hold yagnas (Hindu fire rituals), others marry frogs or donkeys or take out processions singing songs in praise of the rain gods.
Cynics say the rituals merely distract ordinary people from hardship, but cultural experts say the practices are a measure of desperation in those who believe there is nowhere else to turn for help.
The fact that 14% minority Muslims dominate the mindset & are an object of awe, fear, hatred and obsession of so called great civilization and culture is itself an example of the hollowness and insecurity of the (Hindu) majority.
https://news.yahoo.com/pew-study-little-change-indias-140230204.html?soc_src=social-sh&soc_trk=tw&tsrc=twtr via @YahooNews
All religious groups in India have shown major declines in fertility rates, a study from Pew Research Center has found.
As a result there have been only "modest changes" in the religious make-up of the people since 1951.
The two largest groups, Hindus and Muslims, make up 94% of India's 1.2 billion people.
Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains together make up the remaining 6% of the population.
Based on data available in India's decennial census and the National Family Health Survey (NFHS), the Pew study examines how the country's religious composition has changed, and the main reasons behind the changes.
India is neither a melting pot nor a salad bowl
India's population has more than trebled following the 1947 division of a colonial state into Hindu-majority India and Muslim-majority Pakistan - from 361 million people in 1951, to more than 1.2 billion people in 2011. (Independent India held its first census in 1951, and the last one was conducted in 2011.)
During this period, every major religion in India saw its numbers rise, the study found.
The number of Hindus increased from 304 million to 966 million; Muslims grew from 35 million to 172 million; and the number of Indians who say they are Christian rose from 8 million to 28 million.
The religious make-up of Indians
Hindus make up 79.8% of India's 1.2 billion people in the 2021 census. 94% of the world's Hindus live in India
Muslims comprise 14.2% of Indians. India is home to one of the world's largest Muslim populations, surpassed only by Indonesia
Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains together make up 6% of the population
Only about 30,000 Indians described themselves as atheists in 2011
Around 8 million people said that they did not belong to any of the six largest groups
There were 83 smaller religious groups and each had at least 100 adherents
India gains roughly 1 million inhabitants every month, putting it on course to overtake China as the world's most populous country by 2030
(Source: 2011 census, Pew Research Center)
Vice President Kamala Harris invoked her familial ties to India as she gently pressed Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on human rights during a history-making meeting Thursday between America’s first vice president of Indian descent and the leader of a country that has become an increasingly close ally.
Harris, during public remarks at her ceremonial office before the closed-door session, told Modi that as democracies around the world are under threat “it is imperative that we defend democratic principles and institutions within our respective countries.”
“I know from personal experience and from my family of the commitment of the Indian people to democracy,” she said, “and the work that needs to be done [so that] we can begin to imagine, and then actually achieve, our vision for democratic principles and institutions.”
The remarks marked a subtle change from the Trump administration’s unquestioned fidelity to the populist Modi, who has presided over an increase in religious polarization in his country, with more laws targeting religious minorities, including its large Muslim population, as well as attacks on non-Hindus.
Despite the mild pressure, the two leaders shared warm words, including praise from Harris for India’s role in producing COVID-19 vaccines for the world. Modi thanked Harris for offering a “sense of kinship” in a phone call during his country’s deadly coronavirus surge this spring.
He invited Harris to visit his country, telling her that Indians “are waiting to welcome you” and calling her “the source of inspiration for so many people across the world.” Harris, who visited Southeast Asia last month, did not immediately commit to a trip.
The public discussion of about 15 minutes attracted more attention, including a large press contingent from India, than typical meetings between heads of state and vice presidents. Harris’ mother was born in India, and Indian Americans are one of the fastest growing groups in the United States, with a population of more than 4 million.
Modi did not speak publicly about his desire to increase U.S. work visas for Indians, but it is part of his agenda. Harris and Modi also talked about their goals to combat COVID-19 and climate change, and to strengthen the strategic alliance.
India has become a closer ally in recent years as American presidents from both parties have recognized the country’s strategic importance in countering China’s growing military and financial power.
Modi is scheduled to meet with President Biden on Friday and then separately again with Harris and Biden in meetings of the so-called Quad, which also includes Japan and Australia.
so complete was the communal association of Hindi and Urdu by that time, Rai recounts that “a Hindi friend” asked Nehru whose language Urdu was. “Yeh meri aur mere bap-dada’on ki bhasha hai,” Nehru replied. This is my language, the language of my ancestors. Thereupon the “Hindi friend” retorted: Brahman hote hue Urdu ko apni bhasha kehte ho, sharam nahin ati? (Aren’t you ashamed, being a Brahmin, to claim Urdu as your language?)
Uttar Pradesh, the heartland of the Hindi-Urdu fight, went even further, banning Urdu-medium schooling altogether. As Urdu writer and critic Shamsur Rahman Faruqi put it, there was an effort to “wipe out Urdu” in Uttar Pradesh after independence.
Sanskritised Hindi—which Alok Rai pointedly calls “Hindi” in scare quotes to differentiate it from its spoken forms—has a fairly restricted life outside government and is practically absent from Bollywood, by some distance the largest producer of Hindi-Urdu content in the world.
Of course, Hindutva is ascendantly militant right now and is unafraid to use intimidation to try and resurrect colonial-era Hindi-Urdu debates. However, even as these political controversies break, one must keep in mind that changing language habits— especially the natural spoken tongue—of millions is a tough feat to pull off.
In fact, ironically, the Bharatiya Janata Party uses what could be called “Urdu” too in slogans such as “Modi hai to mumkin hai” (mumkin is from Arabic via Persian) or “azadi kā amrit mahotsav” (azadi is a Persian loan). Even words as basic as “Hindu” and “Hindi” are loans from Persian, being taken up by Indian languages in the medieval period. Hence, in the reductive lens of (Sanskritised) Hindi versus (Persianised) Urdu, they fit into the latter silo.
This, of course, does not mean language change cannot occur. In fact, like medieval Khari Boli absorbed Persian words as part of its everyday lexicon, much the same is happening with English today, which given its linguistic prestige and power exerts a significant influence even on non-Anglophones. Open any Hindi newspaper, for example, and it is suffused with English loan words. Informal, spoken speech will probably have even more.
Last week, Hindu right-wing forces in India forced a leading firm to withdraw its festive season advertisement after it featured a couple of words from the Urdu language, which in the popular imagination in the country is a “Muslim language”.
The company, FabIndia, issued an advertisement for Diwali – a significant Hindu festival that falls next month – showcasing its latest collection of clothes. The text at the top read: “Jashn-e-Rivaaz”.
“Jashn” in Urdu means a celebration while “Riwaaz”, which is actually “Riwaaj”, means tradition. The title translated to “A Celebration of Tradition”.
But a young parliamentarian belonging to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), who often makes headlines for his Islamophobic remarks, was not happy.
“Deepavali is not Jashn-e-Riwaaz,” 30-year-old Tejasvi Surya posted on Twitter, calling Diwali by its more traditional name.
“This deliberate attempt of Abrahamisation of Hindu festivals, depicting models without traditional Hindu attires, must be called out.”
FabIndia is a household name in India and sells clothes, furniture, home furnishings and food items. It has hundreds of showrooms across the vast country and abroad.
Surya said the company “must face economic costs for such deliberate misadventures”.
Soon, other members of the BJP and other Hindu nationalist groups started attacking FabIndia on social media, accusing the brand of “hurting” the religious sentiments of Hindus.
“The Hindutva project sees Urdu as a ‘Muslim’ language. And invisibilising Urdu is part of the larger project of marginalising the Muslim community, in fact, physically eliminating it,” Nivedita Menon, professor at the Centre for Political Studies at New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University, told Al Jazeera.
“Hindutva” refers to a century-old Hindu supremacist movement which seeks to convert India into an ethnic Hindu state.
The Urdu language was born in northern India during the Mughal rule. Linguists and historians say Urdu and Hindi originally developed from Khadi Boli, a dialect of the Delhi region, and Prakrit. It also borrowed heavily from Persian, Turkish and Arabic languages.
Until the British colonised the subcontinent, Urdu and Hindu languages were collectively referred to as Hindustani. It was British linguist John Gilchrist who for the first time classified and defined Hindustani into two broad categories – words inspired largely by Persian and Arabic were identified as Urdu, and those inspired by Sanskrit became Hindi.
However, spoken Urdu is similar to Hindi and the two share a common grammar and a large percentage of their vocabulary.
And if the BJP wins the crucial state elections that are just four months away, Yogi, who is universally addressed (according to his own request) as Maharaj (King) will be the front runner to be the heir and successor to Narendra Modi, the hardline Hindutva prime minister of India.
Yogi Adityanath is sui generis in the Hindu nationalist ecosystem, known as the Sangh, as unlike the Modi and other current BJP government ministers, he has no current connection to or background in the secretive and militant Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the mothership of the BJP and source of its Hindus First vision for India. The RSS has been banned multiple times, most notoriously for its involvement in Gandhi's assassination. And yet Yogi is today a contender for the party's top job.
So what explains the rise and rise of Yogi as the new Hindu Hriday Samrat (Emperor of Hindu Hearts), an obsequious piece of puffery over which, until recently, was Modi's favored epithet? In two words: Muslim hate.
The RSS and its creature, the BJP, are excited by the idea that Yogi gives voice to a brand of maximalist majoritarian politics without the filters to which Modi is subjected and thus does not dare to say, hemmed in as he is (so far) by India's Constitution and the office of the prime minister.
Yogi Adityanath, originally called Ajay Mohan Bhist, was born into the family of a forest ranger. Having obtained a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, he apparently became disenchanted with routine life and first joined the same temple movement in Goraknath Mutt that eventually led Hindu nationalist mobs in 1992 to tear down the Babri Masjid, an act that triggered nationwide intercommunal violence and which Yogi has publicly praised. He took diksha, or ordination, as a monk disciple of his spiritual father Mahant Avaidyanth and was named his successor.
Yogi has always mixed realpolitik with Hindutva. He has won five parliamentary elections, representing the constituency of Gorakhpur. From the start, he's recognized the power of a cult of personality, absolute loyalty backed up by physical coercion.
After his first win, he established a vigilante force called the Hindu Yuva Vahini, which was often accused of violence and extortion. His vigilantes would roar around in cars and motorbikes with only Yogi’s image emblazoned where the license plates were supposed to be. A popular slogan in his state amongst his supporters goes: UP mein rehna hoga Yogi Yogi kehna hoga, if you want to live in UP, chant Yogi’s name.
Till Modi and the RSS gave him his dream job ruling Uttar Pradesh, Yogi Adityanath was, together with his band of vigilantes, set on an adversarial course against them. The Sangh, though, sensed his potential as the ultimate instrument of Hindutva, finally gave him the prize in 2017.
Yogi Adityanath has singlehandedly brought the term "love jihad" into both common use and has even criminalized it in Uttar Pradesh (a move several other BJP-ruled states then followed). "Love jihad" is a baseless conspiracy theory attacking interfaith relationships by accusing Muslim men of seducing and Hindu women and then forcing them to convert to Islam.
He has closed down slaughterhouses and abattoirs using cows which were mainly run by poor Muslims and Dalits, and has banned the sale of beef: killing a cow or its progeny now incurs a ten-year jail sentence.
If this legislative agenda wasn’t bad enough, Yogi Adityanath routinely incites against Muslims and other non-Hindus. He declares his state government is focusing on building (Hindu) temples while non-Hindus are focused on filling burial grounds. In the run up to the UP elections he has oddly promised a "surgical strike" against the Taliban. He once launched series of attacks on Mother Teresa, accusing her of being part of a conspiracy to Christianize India.
He has compared Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan to the Pakistani arch-terrorist Hafiz Sayeed, mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai attacks that killed 166 civilians, and after Khan spoke about growing intolerance in India, proposed he go live in Pakistan. He told Indian Muslims suspicious of increasingly coercive efforts to institute yoga in schools they should either leave the country or drown themselves in the sea.
Women are not spared Yogi Adityanath’s Stone Age views. On his website, the monk writes that, "Women always need to be protected lest their energy go waste." He adds that the patriarchal protection accorded to a woman by her father, husband and brother is only to "channel" her energy and her power – for the good of perfect procreation.
It is only a "controlled woman" who will give birth to mahapurush (great men). Yogi Adityanath warns that women who acquire "masculine traits" turn into demons and need to controlled for the good of society.
He once sat silent on the stage during an election rally when a fellow speaker called for Muslim women’s bodies to be dragged out of their graves and raped. Yogi did not utter a word of condemnation.
Yogi’s government routinely files cases against journalists for simply doing their job under a terror law called the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act and the Sedition Act. In one case, the journalist Siddique Kappan was on his way to report a rape case and was booked before he even filed a single report. Because of the stringent provisions of the Act, Kappan is still in jail for an imaginary crime.
The idea is to sufficiently intimate the independent press that they give up trying to cover his tenure as chief minister, and any future national-level campaigns, leaving the field to obedient pro-Hindutva shills.
Parts of India’s cheerleader media love to gush about Yogi Adityanath’s love for animals. The dairy he maintains, his loving dogs and pet monkeys, are all parts of a deliberate makeover to present India with an image of a kindler, gentler Yogi.
Soft-focus snaps of him sitting with his monkey on his lap are duly circulated in the mainstream media, but in that same media safe space, no one dares question his divisive and bigoted takes.
Despite lethal missteps in the handling of the vicious second wave of COVID which saw bodies floating on the sacred Ganges river, Yogi Adityanath has nonetheless managed to move political debate in UP back to the usual polarizing issues of Hindus versus Muslims, where he is most comfortable. A lacklustre opposition has not been able to pin down his terrible governance record.
India’s population growth is losing steam as the average number of children born crossed below a key threshold, according to newly released data from a government survey.
India’s most recent National Family Health Survey, which is conducted every five years by the Health Ministry, was released Wednesday and showed the total fertility rate (TFR) across India dropping to 2.0 in 2019-2021, compared with 2.2 in 2015-2016. A country with a TFR of 2.1, known as the replacement rate, would maintain a stable population over time; a lower TFR means the population would decrease in the absence of other factors, such as immigration.
The figures were hailed as a heartening signal by government officials and researchers in a country that is expected to overtake China to become the world’s most populous sometime this decade. Since the mid-20th century, Indian leaders have tried to curb high birthrates, which are often reversely correlated with women’s welfare metrics and economic progress. A burgeoning population is seen, in the longer term, as a hurdle to development and a driver of environmental degradation and greenhouse gas emissions.
Heartland misery: Four states hosting 30% of Lok Sabha seats are among the poorest. That’s a message for India
The South appears better placed. In 1991, on economic reform-eve, Bihar and Tamil Nadu were nearly at par in per capita GDP. Three decades later, TN has whittled down its multidimensionally poor to 4.9% of population while Bihar languishes at 51.9%. Jharkhand follows with 42%, UP 38% and MP 37%. The cruel governance irony of these numbers is that the four laggard states cumulatively account for 30% of seats in Lok Sabha and their electoral outcomes play a decisive role in national government formation. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/blogs/toi-editorials/heartland-misery-four-states-hosting-30-of-lok-sabha-seats-are-among-the-poorest-thats-a-message-for-india/
The heavy poverty burden, despite tremendous political heft and massive welfare funding, indicts heartland netas. Poor states cannot afford their enduring obsession with identity politics, but a shift in discourse towards economic development looks unlikely. Meanwhile, farm laws’ reversal makes poverty eradication in villages harder. Accounting for nearly 5 crore of India’s 12.5 crore unviable agricultural land holdings under 2 hectares, the failure of these four states to call out the subsidised big farmers and lead the clarion call for agri-reforms was another missed opportunity for their political economy.
The multidimensional poverty index constructed on health, education, and standard of living indicators like nutrition, years of schooling, and amenities like cooking fuel, electricity, pucca housing, sanitation, household assets etc, claims to better the erstwhile methodology of pegging a poverty baseline in monetary terms. Performance here depends to an extent on India’s sprawling welfare state, which has admittedly gained more mastery in delivering household amenities to the poor. But NFHS-5 findings of 60% women and young children facing malnutrition uncovers the limitations of welfarism, and conversely, the importance of economic growth to create enough jobs. Over to Nitish, Soren, Yogi, Shivraj, Akhilesh, Tejashwi and Kamal Nath.
Christophe Jaffrelot, who has caught every wave in India, says the country has changed, perhaps irreversibly, from a liberal secular polity a decade ago to a majoritarian ‘ethnic democracy’ today
Jaffrelot tracks the continually expanding catalogue of body blows that have assailed the founding ideals of the Indian republic from the time Modi announced his candidature in the fall of 2013. Those of us who have lived through the lynching of Muslims and Dalits, the assassination of rationalist intellectuals, the trolling of scholars, the detention of activists, the harassment of movie stars, the evisceration of the media, universities and courts, the decimation of the opposition, the destruction of the economy, the persecution of the minorities, the erosion of fundamental rights, the gutting of the public sector, the targeting of NGOs, the silencing of civil society, the distortion of history, the usurpation of social media by hate speech, fake news and propaganda, the defiance and denigration of Parliamentary procedure by the ruling party, the demonisation of dissent, the encouragement of vigilantism, the garrisoning of the Kashmir Valley, the battering of the Constitution, and the forsaking of truth — having borne witness, we understand why compiling this gruesome list requires nearly 700 pages.
But the book is not just an act of meticulous, unsparing documentation, though it is that too. It will prove an invaluable record of our time when future generations struggle to explain the swift collapse of Indian democracy. Once the world’s largest, liveliest and most interesting experiment in equal citizenship, universal adult franchise, regular elections, representative government, minority protection, a free press, and popular self-rule, India always had problematic enclaves of exception like Kashmir and the Northeast. But before Modi, its basic commitment to diversity and pluralism seemed genuine.
Jaffrelot doesn’t just remind us of what has been happening to unravel the liberal consensus in the past 7-8 years. He also brings to bear on these data an enormous scholarly literature and theoretical toolkit about ethnic democracy, populist strongmen, rightwing nationalism, charismatic leadership, the deinstitutionalisation of the state, creeping authoritarianism that appears electorally mandated, the relentless reduction of minorities to second-class citizenship, and the mobilisation of identities in new patterns of conflict, domination and exclusion, jettisoning tolerance, equality and inclusion.
He examines how Yogi Adityanath communalises governance, runs a militia State, and makes Islamophobia an item of official policy. Campaigns of “gauraksha”, “love jihad” and “gharwapsi” make for a deadly cocktail of privileged caste orthopraxy and social conservatism, reinforce patriarchy, and continually bully, shame and terrorise Muslims and Christians. The cow belt and Hindi heartland, including Rajasthan, Haryana and Madhya Pradesh along with Uttar Pradesh, spilling south into Karnataka and east into Assam, are now thoroughly saffronised.
And the ruling party does nothing to stop them
“All Hindus must pick up weapons and conduct a cleanliness drive,” bellowed a Hindu priest at a three-day “religious parliament” in north India last month. Another speaker fired up the large crowd even more crudely: “If a hundred of us become soldiers and kill two million of them, we will be victorious.” By “them”, she meant India’s 200m Muslims.
Those priests baying for blood are not isolated bigots. Under the Hindu-nationalist government of Narendra Modi, the world’s most populous democracy has seen a growing wave of intolerance. In Gurgaon, a satellite city of Delhi, Muslims have been denied the use of open space to pray because it “offends sentiments”. They have also been denied permission to build mosques. Elsewhere Muslims accused of transporting cattle for slaughter, or of being in possession of beef, are sometimes lynched. Muslim businesses are boycotted. In recent months young Hindu radicals have persecuted high-profile Muslim women by creating apps to “auction” them off.
Muslims are not the only target of Hindu chauvinism. In Varanasi, a Hindu temple town, posters warn non-Hindus to stay away. Attacks on Christians, a tiny minority, have risen in recent years. Last week, after Mr Modi, the prime minister, was briefly delayed on an overpass in Sikh-majority Punjab, people associated with his ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (bjp) warned darkly of a repeat of 1984, when thousands of Sikhs were killed in pogroms after the assassination of Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards. In an index of societal discrimination against minorities compiled by Bar Ilan University in Israel, India scores worse than Saudi Arabia and no better than Iran. It is impossible to know the number of hate crimes in the country: independent trackers were shut down in 2017 and 2019, and the government stopped collecting data in 2017.
Another reason to worry is the silence of the government. From the prime minister downwards, no senior figure has condemned the drumbeat of incitement. When asked about it by the bbc, one bjp politician ripped off his microphone and stomped off. Academics, bureaucrats and retired army officers have sent anxious pleas to Mr Modi to appeal for calm. Yet only one unimportant official—the vice-president—has spoken up.
With big elections due next month, the mood could grow even more fissile. Senior bjp officials stop short of urging people to kill minorities, but they do incite hatred. Yogi Adityanath, the Hindu-nationalist chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, India’s biggest state, declared that the vote was about the 80% against the 20%—that is, Hindus against Muslims.
Some pundits fear the bjp is resorting to divisive rhetoric because it can no longer rely on divisive promises, such as stripping the Muslim-majority former state of Jammu and Kashmir of its special status and starting work on a temple where a mosque once stood in the holy city of Ayodhya. Having honoured those commitments, it needs something new. And with the economy battered by the pandemic, a hostile China poking at the border and slim prospects for the millions who join the labour force every year, it is succumbing to its worst instincts.
And the ruling party does nothing to stop them
The Indian government should realise that by pumping up the ridiculous notion that India’s 300m or so non-Hindus represent a threat to the 1.1bn majority, it is unleashing forces that may become uncontrollable. Sectarian bloodshed can generate a momentum of its own. India has suffered enough in the past for the risks to be obvious: hundreds of thousands died during its post-colonial partition, possibly more. Subsequent decades have seen episodic pogroms. But until recently, although rogue politicians often stirred up hatred for electoral advantage, the secular state mostly acted as a restraint. No longer.
The West, distracted by Russia and China, has paid little attention. Yet a stable, democratic India would be a counterweight to authoritarian China. A Hindu chauvinist India would not only be nastier for its inhabitants; it could also spread instability, prone to even worse relations with its Muslim neighbours. India’s friends, starting with America, should use their influence to persuade Mr Modi and his acolytes to check the spread of hate before it explodes into widespread violence. Mr Modi should want to prevent such a calamity, too. Does he? ■
S Ramadoss, chief of the NDA ally Pattali Makkal Katchi, says English should remain as the link language and all the 22 languages in the Constitution’s eighth schedule should be declared official languages.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s statement that people of different states should communicate with each other in Hindi was strongly condemned by political parties in Tamil Nadu on Friday. DMK MP Kanimozhi and S Ramadoss, founder of the NDA ally Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK), were among those who took exception to the BJP leader’s remark.
At the 37th meeting of the Committee of Parliament on Official Language on Thursday, Shah said Prime Minister Narendra Modi had decided that the medium of running the government should be the official language, and that this would increase the importance of Hindi. “Now the time has come to make the official language an important part of the unity of the country. When citizens of states who speak other languages communicate with each other, it should be in the language of India,” Shah was quoted by the Ministry of Home Affairs as having said.
Reacting to Shah’s statement, Kanimozhi, Lok Sabha MP from Thoothukudi, said, “Bringing the idea of one language will not help unite the nation but to split it. The Union government and ministers should be aware of the history of anti-Hindi agitations and the sacrifices made for that,” she said.
PMK leader Ramadoss said Shah’s statement was “shocking.” “It means nothing but Hindi imposition,” Ramadoss said. “Even as Hindi may be the language of majority states, Jawaharlal Nehru accepted the demands of the non-Hindi speaking states and allowed English to continue as the link language.”
If an Indian language should be the country’s official language, Tamil may be qualified for that position as it is the oldest language, he said. “However, Tamils do not believe in the imposition of one language, so political parties here demand all languages listed under the eighth schedule of the Constitution be declared official languages,” Ramadoss said. “English should remain as the link language, 22 languages including Tamil should be declared official languages, and people speaking different languages and their sentiments should be respected,” he said.
Who deserves the credit? Chance has played a big role: India did not create the Sino-American split or the cloud, but benefits from both. So has the steady accumulation of piecemeal reform over many governments. The digital-identity scheme and new national tax system were dreamed up a decade or more ago.
Mr Modi’s government has also got a lot right. It has backed the tech stack and direct welfare, and persevered with the painful task of shrinking the informal economy. It has found pragmatic fixes. Central-government purchases of solar power have kick-started renewables. Financial reforms have made it easier to float young firms and bankrupt bad ones. Mr Modi’s electoral prowess provides economic continuity. Even the opposition expects him to be in power well after the election in 2024.
The danger is that over the next decade this dominance hardens into autocracy. One risk is the bjp’s abhorrent hostility towards Muslims, which it uses to rally its political base. Companies tend to shrug this off, judging that Mr Modi can keep tensions under control and that capital flight will be limited. Yet violence and deteriorating human rights could lead to stigma that impairs India’s access to Western markets. The bjp’s desire for religious and linguistic conformity in a huge, diverse country could be destabilising. Were the party to impose Hindi as the national language, secessionist pressures would grow in some wealthy states that pay much of the taxes.
The quality of decision-making could also deteriorate. Prickly and vindictive, the government has co-opted the bureaucracy to bully the press and the courts. A botched decision to abolish bank notes in 2016 showed Mr Modi’s impulsive side. A strongman lacking checks and balances can eventually endanger not just demo cracy, but also the economy: think of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey, whose bizarre views on inflation have caused a currency crisis. And, given the bjp’s ambivalence towards foreign capital, the campaign for national renewal risks regressing into protectionism. The party loves blank cheques from Silicon Valley but is wary of foreign firms competing in India. Today’s targeted subsidies could degenerate into autarky and cronyism—the tendencies that have long held India back.
Seizing the moment
For India to grow at 7% or 8% for years to come would be momentous. It would lift huge numbers of people out of poverty. It would generate a vast new market and manufacturing base for global business, and it would change the global balance of power by creating a bigger counterweight to China in Asia. Fate, inheritance and pragmatic decisions have created a new opportunity in the next decade. It is India’s and Mr Modi’s to squander. ■
Hindu nationalist ideologues in New Delhi are flirting with a dangerous revisionist history of South Asia.
By Sushant Singh, a senior fellow with the Centre for Policy Research in India.
Leaders have long relied on manufactured history to justify invasions. Russian President Vladimir Putin has denied the existence of an independent Ukrainian state in his bid to take over the country and restore Russia’s perceived greatness. Chinese President Xi Jinping argues that the state must recover what his party sees as historical territory to overcome its so-called century of humiliation. Neither leader seems to care that Russia and China were never previously politically contiguous states.
Others around the world harbor similar irredentist dreams that are sometimes mocked by observers. We ignore these ambitions at our own peril. For decades, India’s Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)—the Hindu nationalist organization with close links to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)—has put forward the idea of Akhand Bharat or an “unbroken India.” The proposed entity stretches from Afghanistan on India’s western flank all the way to Myanmar to the east of India as well as encompassing all of Pakistan, Bangladesh, Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself has mentioned the idea: In a 2012 interview, when he was still the chief minister of Gujarat, he argued that Akhand Bharat referred to cultural unity.
Last month, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat told a public gathering that India will become Akhand Bharat in 10 to 15 years, providing the first timeline for a Hindu nationalist pipe dream. Besides heading the RSS, Bhagwat is a very powerful figure in today’s India because of his personal relationship with Modi. The BJP is one of a few dozen institutions that comes under the direct control of the RSS, which now holds the most power since it was founded in 1925. Modi was a full-time RSS campaigner before it assigned him to the BJP, and he considers Bhagwat’s late father to be a mentor. Indian corporate leaders and foreign diplomats recognize Bhagwat’s clout, visiting him at RSS headquarters in Nagpur, India. His words must be engaged with seriously, not dismissed offhand as the fantasies of an old man.
Police in the southern Indian state of Kerala have arrested three people for allegedly murdering two women in a suspected case of human sacrifice.
The remains of the women, who were allegedly murdered months apart, were found on Tuesday.
Police say the accused - a couple and another man - "severely tortured" the victims before killing them.
They say they have confessed to the crime and an investigation is under way.
The accused haven't commented yet on the allegations as they are in police custody.
The gruesome case has made national headlines and shocked the people of Kerala - considered one of India's most progressive states.
Police say the accused are Bhagaval Singh - an ayurvedic "healer" - his wife Laila, and Mohammed Shafi, an "occult practitioner" from Idukki district.
On Wednesday, a court in Cochin city (now Kochi) sent them to judicial custody for three weeks.
Cochin Police Commissioner CH Nagaraju said the murders took place over four months and were suspected to be part of a ritual done for "financial benefits".
He added that the motive behind the murder was based only on a "preliminary assumption" and that they were investigating based on the confessions.
"Black magic" is still practised in some parts of India - people believe the rituals could bring prosperity, help childless women bear children, cure illnesses and even produce more rainfall.
Who are the victims?
Police have identified the victims as Padma and Rosli.
Padmam, 52, was from Dharmapuram district in neighbouring Tamil Nadu state and lived in Cochin. Rosli, 49, was from Thrissur district and lived in the satellite town of Kalady.
Padma's son had registered a complaint in September, saying his mother was missing.
Padma had been living in a one-room dwelling in Kochi since February. "She lived alone but she would call me every night," her sister Palaniamma told the BBC.
By Nikhil Mandalaparthy and Tara Roy, Hindus for Human Rights
They wrote this column for The Dallas Morning News.
”The GHHF believes in the “othering” of Muslims and Christians and has said: “All religions are different, Hinduism is inclusive and other two major religions — Christianity and Islam — are exclusive. It is all about “We and THEY”.“If they [Christians] are coming to convert our Hindus, we should drive them away. We should not even allow them to talk about their religion,” according to a GHHF blog.
Hate has no place in Dallas. Given GHHF’s track record of discriminatory rhetoric, it’s alarming to see that it has had success raising funds here in the Dallas area, which was named America’s fourth most diverse city in 2021, according to Wallet Hub. And yet, across the country, we are seeing Hindu nationalist groups like GHHF spread hate in local communities.
In August, the annual India Day parade in Edison, N.J., featured posters of Hindu nationalist politicians along with a bulldozer, which has become a divisive symbol of hate against Indian Muslims. A month later, in September, Hindu nationalist organizations invited Hindu extremist leader Sadhvi Rithambara to deliver lectures across the country.
GHHF’s Frisco fundraiser is another grim reminder of how discriminatory attacks have become commonplace in the United States.
In September, Frisco saw a group of Indian American women verbally attacked and threatened — an incident the community is still reeling from, KTVT reported.
Beyond the Indian American community, anti-Semitic and anti-Asian hate crimes also continue to be on the rise in Dallas. While we speak out against these various forms of hate, we must also be vigilant against the rise of another violent ideology in our communities: Hindu nationalism.
Nikhil Mandalaparthy is the deputy executive director at Hindus for Human Rights where Tara Roy is the communication director. They wrote this column for The Dallas Morning News.
‘A threat to unity’: anger over push to make #Hindi national language of #India. Tensions are rising in India over prime minister Narendra #Modi’s push to make Hindi the country’s dominant language. #BJP #Hindutva | India | The Guardian
Tensions are rising in India over prime minister Narendra Modi’s push to make Hindi the country’s dominant language.
Modi’s Bharatiya Janaya party (BJP) government has been accused of an agenda of “Hindi imposition” and “Hindi imperialism” and non-Hindi speaking states in south and east India have been fighting back.
One morning in November, MV Thangavel, an 85-year-old farmer from the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, stood outside a local political party office and held a banner aloft, addressing Modi. “Modi government, central government, we don’t want Hindi … get rid of Hindi,” it read. Then he doused himself in paraffin and set himself alight. Thangavel did not survive.
“The BJP is trying to destroy other languages by trying to impose Hindi and make it one language on the basis of its ‘One Nation, One everything’ policy,” said MK Stalin, the chief minister of Tamil Nadu, in a recent speech.
In India, one of the most linguistically diverse countries in the world, language has long been a contentious issue. But under Modi, there has been a tangible push for Hindi to be the country’s dominant language, be it through an attempt to impose mandatory Hindi in schools across the country to conducting matters of government entirely in the language. Modi’s speeches are given exclusively in Hindi and over 70% of cabinet papers are now prepared in Hindi. “If there is one language that has the ability to string the nation together in unity, it is the Hindi language,” said Amit Shah, the powerful home minister and Modi’s closest ally, in 2019.
According to Ganesh Narayan Devy, one of India’s most renowned linguists who dedicated his life to recording India’s over 700 languages and thousands of dialects, the recent attempts to impose Hindi were both “laughable and dangerous”.
“It’s not one language but the multiplicity of languages that has united India throughout history. India cannot be India unless it accommodates all native languages,” said Devy.
According to the most recent census in 2011, 44% of Indians speak Hindi. However, 53 native languages, some of which are entirely distinct from Hindi and have millions of speakers, are also classed under the banner of Hindi. Removing all the other languages would shrink the number of Hindi speakers to about 27%, meaning almost three-quarters of the country is not fluent.
Devy said being multilingual was at the heart of being Indian. “You will find people use Sanskrit for their prayers, Hindi for films and affairs of the heart, their mother tongue for their families and private thoughts, and English for their careers,” he said. “It’s hard to find a monolingual Indian. That should be celebrated, not threatened.”
‘Our language is who we are’
The debate over Hindi’s prominence has raged since before India’s independence. Though there are more Hindi speakers than those of any other native language in India, they are largely concentrated in the populous, politically powerful states in the north known as the Hindi belt. Hindi traditionally has very little presence in southern states such as Tamil-speaking Tamil Nadu and Malayalam-speaking Kerala, and eastern states such as West Bengal, home to 78 million Bengali speakers.
When the constitution was drawn up in 1949 it was decided that India should have no one national language. Instead 14 languages – a list which eventually grew to 22 – were formally recognised in the constitution, though Hindi and English were declared to be the “official languages” in which matters of national government and administration would be communicated.
Attempts were made to designate Hindi the single dominant language but were all met with protest, mostly from the south. In the 1960s, after the government declared that Hindi would be the only “official language” and English phased out, there was a violent uprising in Tamil Nadu where several people set themselves on fire and dozens died in the brutal crackdown on the protests. The government backtracked. To this day, only Tamil and English are taught in state schools in Tamil Nadu.
But it was after the election of the BJP government in 2014, whose Hindu nationalist agenda has included a tangible push for the promotion of Hindi, that the issue resurfaced again, and the government was accused of imposing cultural hegemony over non-Hindi-speaking states.
“Under Modi, language has become a heavily politicised issue,” said Papia Sen Gupta, a professor in the Centre for Political Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi. “The narrative being projected is that India must be reimagined as Hindu state and that in order to be a true Hindu and a true Indian, you must speak Hindi. They are becoming more and more successful in implementing it.”
The idea of Hindi as India’s national language has its roots in the writings of VD Savarkar, the father of hardline Hindu nationalism and an icon of the BJP, who first articulated the slogan “Hindi, Hindu, Hindustan”, conflating nationalism with both religion and language, a phrase which is still commonly used by the right wing today.
There was such a backlash to the BJP’s attempts to introduce mandatory Hindi in schools nationally that they were later withdrawn. In October, Shah had non-Hindi states up in arms again, this time with a recommendation that that central universities and institutes of national importance should carry out teaching and exams only in Hindi, rather than English. The rule would only apply for institutions in Hindi-speaking states. But as many pointed out, students from across the country attend these schools, including from the south and east where Hindi is not part of the curriculum.
In response to Shah’s recommendation, in Tamil Nadu, MK Stalin tabled a state parliamentary resolution against any “imposition of a dominant language” and alleged that the BJP was attempting to make “Hindi the language that symbolises power”. He is also pushing for Tamil to be designated an official language, equal in status to Hindi. In Kerala and Karnataka, groups and political parties also raised concern over the “Hindi imposition”.
Some have warned of the bloody history that language imposition has triggered in the region. Sri Lanka descended into 26-year civil war after Sinhalese nationalists tried to foist their language on the island’s minority Tamils, and it was the oppression of the Bengali language in east Pakistan that led to the 1971 war and the establishment of Bangladesh.
The BJP government says it is not using Hindi to replace other native languages, but only English, the western language of India’s colonisers. But with English so deeply engrained in the Indian system, used across everything from the courts to the job market, and the proliferation of English seen to give India an advantage in a globalised world, there is little sign of it realistically being phased out in favour of Hindi.
In response to the policies seen to promote Hindi, multiple nationalist language movements have now emerged across India, from Rajasthan to West Bengal. In West Bengal, where the Bengali language is seen as a very fundamental part of people’s cultural identity, there has been a growing Bengali nationalist movement over the past two years.
In response to the policies seen to promote Hindi, multiple nationalist language movements have now emerged across India, from Rajasthan to West Bengal. In West Bengal, where the Bengali language is seen as a very fundamental part of people’s cultural identity, there has been a growing Bengali nationalist movement over the past two years.
“It’s Hindi imperialism,” said Garga Chatterjee, general secretary of Bangla Pokkho, a Bengali nationalist group established in 2018. “They want to transform India from a union of diverse states to one a nation state, where people who speak Hindi are treated as first-class citizens while we non-Hindi people, including Bengalis, are second-class citizens.”
Chatterjee said that, despite Bengali being the second most spoken language in India, he could not get a copy of the Indian constitution, open a bank account, book a railway ticket or a fill out tax return in his mother tongue.
“They are making Hindi the face of India and this is a direct threat to the unity of India,” he said. “We Bengalis are being talked down to in Hindi but now we are pushing back. Our language is who we are and we will die for it.”
A temple is now being built there. Mr. Modi, who presided over the groundbreaking in 2020, has called it “the modern symbol of our traditions.”
Faced by such moves, Ms. Roy, the novelist, voiced a common concern. “You know, the Varanasi sari, worn by Hindus, woven by Muslims, was a symbol of everything that was so interwoven and is now being ripped apart,” she said. “A threat of violence hangs over the city.”
I found Syed Mohammed Yaseen, a leader of the Varanasi Muslim community, which makes up close to a third of the city’s population of roughly 1.2 million, at his timber store. “The situation is not good,” Mr. Yaseen, 75, said. “We are dealing with 18 lawsuits relating to the old mosque. The Hindus want to demolish it indirectly by starting their own worship there.” Increasingly, he said, Muslims felt like second-class citizens.
“Every day, we are feeling all kinds of attacks, and our identity is being diminished,” he said. “India’s secular character is being dented. It still exists in our Constitution, but in practice, it is dented, and the government is silent.”
This denting has taken several forms under Mr. Modi. Shashi Tharoor, a leading member of the opposition Congress Party that ruled India for most of the time since independence, suggested to me that “institutionalized bigotry” had taken hold.
A number of lynchings and demolitions of Muslim homes, the imprisonment of Muslim and other journalists critical of Mr. Modi, and the emasculation of independent courts have fanned fears of what Mr. Raghavan, the historian, called “a truly discriminatory regime, with its risk of radicalization.”
With inequality worsening, food security worsening, energy security worsening, and climate change accelerating, more countries are asking what answers the post-1945 Western-dominated order can provide. India, it seems, believes it can be a broker, bridging East-West and North-South divisions.
At the end of my stay, I traveled down to Chennai on the southeastern coast.
The atmosphere is softer there. The economy is booming. The electronics manufacturer Foxconn is rapidly expanding production capacity for Apple devices, building a hostel for 60,000 workers on a 20-acre site near the city.
“The great mass of Indians are awakening to the fact that they don’t need the ideology of the West and that we can set our own path — and Modi deserves credit for that,” Venky Naik, a retired businessman, said.
I went to a concert where a musician played haunting songs and spoke of “renewing your auspiciousness every day.” There I ran into Mukund Padmanabhan, a former editor of The Hindu newspaper and now a professor of public practice at the newly established Krea University, north of Chennai.
“I do not believe Modi can marshal Hinduism into a monolithic nationalist force,” he said. “There are thousands of Gods, and you don’t have to believe in any of them. There is no single or unique way.”
He gestured toward the mixed crowd of Hindus and Muslims at the concert. “People don’t like to talk about the project of Gandhi and Nehru, which was to bring everyone along and go forward, but it happened, and it is part of our truth, part of the indelible Indian palimpsest.”
Chetan Kumar 'Ahimsa' slammed a series of claims made by right-wing groups as lies, adding that Hindutva "can be defeated by truth".
New Delhi: On Tuesday, March 21, Bengaluru police arrested Kannada actor Chetan Kumar for his tweet that said that Hindutva was “built on lies” and that it could be “defeated by truth”.
On March 20, the actor tweeted that Savarkar’s version that the Indian nation began when Rama defeated Ravana and returned to Ayodhya was a lie, as was the claim in 1992 that the Babri Masjid is the birthplace of Rama.
His tweet also said that the claim in 2023 that Uri Gowda and Nanje Gowda killed Tipu Sultan was a lie.
This refers to the state’s Bharatiya Janata Party’s recent claims that Uri Gowda and Nanje Gowda – whom historians consider to be fictional characters – were chieftains from the Vokkaliga community who killed Tipu Sultan. As per historians, Tipu Sultan died in 1799 while fighting the British in the Fourth Anglo-Mysore war. Historians have also questioned the portrayal of the two Vokkaliga chieftains as killers of Tipu Sultan for the first time in a play that was published last year.
However, state BJP leaders have used this fictional link in election rallies, and as per some reports, to effectively pit the Vokkaliga community against Muslims. On the other hand, Congress and Janata Dal (Secular) leaders have maintained that Uri Gowda and Nanje Gowda are fictional characters.
Both Muslims and Vokkaligas have taken exception to the introduction of these new characters into the historical narrative. For instance, the Vokkaliga Sangha on March 19 said they would launch an agitation under the leadership of local seers if the state government did not stop peddling lies.
‘Hurting religious sentiments’
Based on a complaint filed by a Bajrang Dal member on the content of the tweet by Kumar, who is also known as Chetan Ahimsa, Sheshadripuram police arrested the actor – who is also a Dalit and tribal rights activist – under IPC sections 505(2) (statements creating or promoting enmity, hatred, or ill-will between classes) and 295(A) (deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage the religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs), as per Deccan Herald.
A Bengaluru lower court remanded the actor to 14-day judicial custody.
In February 2022, Ahimsa was arrested for a tweet about Karnataka high court Justice Krishna Dixit, who was then hearing the case challenging the ban on hijab in Karnataka government schools.
He has apologised for the statement, which he made during an interview on Al Jazeera on the attacks on African nationals in Greater Noida.
Bharatiya Janata Party leader Tarun Vijay is facing criticism for responding to a question on the allegedly racist attacks on African nationals in Greater Noida by saying if India was, indeed, racist, we would not “live with” “black people around us”. “If we were racist, why would....all the entire South – you know, Kerala, Tamil, Andhra, Karnataka – why do we live with them?” He added, “We have blacks...black people around us.”
He made the statement during a discussion on TV channel Al Jazeera, while responding to another Indian panelist, Bengaluru-based photographer Mahesh Shantaram, who asked, “Why are people saying Indians are racist? Why are Indians saying Indians are racist? Why are people abroad and those who visit our beautiful nation feeling that Indians are racist?”
Vijay’s remarks triggered outrage soon after the interview was shared on social media. He took to Twitter to clarify his statement. “In many parts of the nation, we have different people, in colour and never, ever did we have any discrimination against them...My words, perhaps, were not enough to convey this,” he said, apologising to those who felt he spoke “differently from he meant”.
The BJP leader also said that Indians were the “first to oppose any racism and were, in fact, victims of the racist British”. Vijay explained that he had meant to convey how Indians did not face racism even though the country has “people with different colour and culture”. “I can die, but how can I ridicule my own culture, my own people and my own nation? Think before you misinterpret my badly-framed sentence,” he said, further claiming that he never called South Indians “black”.
With the media and judiciary already under attack, the Prime Minister’s main opponent was just banned from Parliament.
New Yorker's Isaac Chotiner: Modi is probably the most popular leader in the world. His party has amassed incredible power to a degree not seen in India in many decades. Yet, at the state level, especially in the south, you see regional parties keeping the B.J.P. out of power. How has this been possible?
Christophe Jaffrelot: He’s not as popular as he claims. The B.J.P. never got more than thirty-seven per cent of the vote nationally. They control half a dozen big states, and most of them are in the Hindi Heartland. [These are states in the northern and central parts of the country.] If you look at the periphery, if you look at the states which are outside the Hindi Heartland—they do not control Tamil Nadu and they will never control Tamil Nadu. They do not control Kerala and they will never control Kerala. Look at West Bengal and Punjab, and even Maharashtra, which is not a finished story. There is a kind of exaggeration of the control they exert. And they exert control not because of the popularity of the B.J.P.; they exert control largely because Modi gets the B.J.P. elected every five years, which means that, after him, the B.J.P. may be in trouble. They have so much power because of their totalitarian modus vivendi, not because of their popularity.
NY: I’m looking at Morning Consult’s global approval-rating tracker for world leaders. Modi is currently at seventy-six-per-cent approval. That is fifteen percentage points higher than any other world leader.
CJ: Yeah, yeah, yeah. But if you go by the voting patterns of Indians, which is for me the real measure of popularity, Indians in more than half of the country’s states do not vote for the B.J.P. and for Modi when he is the candidate.
In that case, how do you understand this dynamic, where Modi himself is personally popular but he can’t yet lead the B.J.P. to take control of a majority of states?
There are very strong regional identities that are not represented by the B.J.P. The B.J.P. is seen as a North Indian, Hindi-speaking party. It’s also seen as an upper-caste party. So those who are not Hindus—in Kashmir, of course, and Sikh people in Punjab—do not vote for the B.J.P. And those who are not Hindi speakers in Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, and Kerala cannot share this ideology of the B.J.P.’s.
https://www.cbsnews.com/news/india-couple-behead-themselves-homemade-guillotine-hindu-ritual-human-sacrifice/ via @CBSNews
New Delhi — An Indian couple has allegedly died by suicide by using a guillotine-like mechanism to decapitate themselves in a sacrificial ritual, police said Sunday.
Hemubhai Makwana, 38, and his wife Hansaben, 35, both died by decapitation after using a homemade bladed mechanism in a hut on their farm in the western state of Gujarat, police said.
"The couple first prepared a fire altar before putting their heads under a guillotine-like mechanism held by a rope," Indrajeetsinh Jadeja, a police sub-inspector, was quoted as saying by Indian news outlets. "As soon as they released the rope, an iron blade fell on them, severing their heads, which rolled into the fire."
Fire is considered sacred in Hinduism and it plays a significant role in several worship rituals. The couple apparently designed the device used in their beheading in such a way that their heads would roll into the fire altar, completing their sacrificial ritual.
Police, who said they had found a suicide note addressed to family members, have launched an investigation. The couple is survived by two children and their parents.
The incident took place sometime between Saturday night and Sunday afternoon, when police were alerted.
Family members reportedly told police that the pair had offered prayers in the hut every day for the last year.
Ritual human sacrifices are not unknown in India, where official data show there were more than 100 reported cases between 2014 and 2021. But almost all known cases of human sacrifice involve people killing others to please gods, rather than themselves.
Earlier this month, Indian police arrested five men for murdering a woman in 2019 inside a Hindu temple in Guwahati, in what they said was a case of ritual human sacrifice.
There can be an argument that no matter what the circumstances, nothing can take on the idea of India. But the fact is no one knows what keeps India together. The quickest way to get Indian intellectuals to bloviate is to ask them what keeps India together. I have heard “English", “cricket’ and “Bollywood". I think there are no reasons. A nation is simply a habit. As time goes by, it becomes a stronger habit that is harder to break. But then South India, too, is a habit.
The political swag of the south ensures that there may be no such being as the ‘Indian nationalist’, there is only the North Indian nationalist.
The five southern states, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Karnataka, have a vague sameness about them and a clear distinction from the north. They have their own riparian, lingual and ethnic discords, and within these states, there are caste and religious divisions, but they have always had a collective grouse—the north’s political domination of India. This wariness is a reason why when Modi visits Tamil Nadu, he needs to speak in English, even to the poor who come to see him. It may sound odd for a nationalistic prime minister to speak in English to Indians, but he has to endure it. Hindi remains a symbol of the north, and the conceit of the south is that it finds English more palatable. This has no emotional basis anymore, but the south is not going to make things easy for the north.
Traditionally, South Indian politicians have disliked the powers of the central government, especially when a single party has controlled it. Like the Congress, the BJP too has harassed states. Recently, Tamil Nadu passed a resolution against its governor for stalling bills passed by the state’s legislature. The state’s chief minister, M.K. Stalin has spoken out against the BJP’s ways. A few days ago, he wrote a letter asking all states that are not governed by the BJP to pass similar resolutions against their governors, the appointees accused by BJP rivals of frustrating states that do not toe the Centre’s policies.
In 2022, when the Centre questioned the habit of some states to give away freebies to people, Tamil Nadu finance minister, Palanivel Thiagarajan told a magazine, “Either you must have a constitutional basis to say what you are saying, in which case we all listen, or you must have special expertise… or you must have a Nobel Prize or something that tells us you know better than us. Or, you must have a performance track record…"
A few days ago, when Modi visited Telangana, the state’s Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao did not attend Modi’s public events. They insulted each other. Major politicians from Kerala, Andhra and Karnataka, too, have expressed their dislike for the Centre’s muscle-flexing.
But no one of any significance in the south has, in recent times, talked of seceding from India. And that is not only because it might be a crime. There is no emotional support for the idea. But that could change if three things happen. One, the BJP grows stronger and stronger in the north, continuing to repress other political parties and the states it does not govern. The second factor is a major economic shock that could be attributed to the central government, something like ‘demonetization’ or even a major recession. The third is the rise of a South Indian strongman who could use these factors to ask a disturbing question: What does the south lose by leaving the north?
Manipur state’s chief minister, N Biren Singh, has said about 230 people were injured and 1,700 houses were burned in clashes between the majority Meitei people, who are mostly Hindus, and the mainly Christian Kuki tribe.
Thousands of troops have been deployed to restore order, while about 35,000 residents have fled their homes for the safety of ad-hoc army-run camps for the displaced.
Sanatomba’s sibling is among them. They are Kuki, and he is sure she and her family will never be able to return. “She told me to come here and look for anything I can find,” he said, his hands and feet covered in soot.
The rest of the village suffered a similar fate, its three settlements littered with broken doors, burnt-out water tanks, and forced-open metal trunks.
The towering village church, a school building and even a jackfruit tree were set on fire by the attackers.
The raiders stole residents’ cattle and poultry, Sanatomba said. “Those animals they couldn’t take alive, they killed and took away as meat. I am afraid of Meitei people.”
The far-flung states of north-east India – sandwiched between Bangladesh, China and Myanmar – have long been a tinderbox of tensions between different ethnic groups.
The spark for the latest ethnic clash was a protest about plans to give the Meitei “scheduled tribe” status. A form of affirmative action to combat structural inequality and discrimination, that classification would give them guaranteed quotas of government jobs and college admissions.
Minority hill community leaders say the Meitei community is comparatively well-off and that granting them more privileges would be unfair. The Meiteis say employment quotas and other benefits for the tribespeople would be protected.
Violence erupted in the regional capital, Imphal, and elsewhere, with protesters setting fire to vehicles and buildings. According to villagers, Meitei mobs armed with guns and petrol cans then attacked Kuki settlements in the hills.
Authorities are concerned there could be more reprisal attacks “as both communities have accumulated weapons”, according to an army officer.
“Are you sure that none of you have any weapons that you would like to surrender?” a senior officer asked a Kuki gathering at a village outside Imphal on Monday.
“The other community has promised to surrender their weapons if you do too,” he added. “I want you to consider this as it doesn’t help either community to have these weapons in circulation.”
None of the mostly male audience did so.
Thanglallem Kuki, 32, a teacher at a private school, watched from a hilltop as his village of Kamuching was attacked and burned to the ground, spending two nights in the jungle before being rescued and taken to an army camp.
He said the Meitei mob went from house to house, retrieving valuables, electronic gadgets, cooking gas cylinders, and even mattresses, loading their loot into vehicles.
“After that they burned the houses and they were burning one house to another house. For the first time when they burned the houses, they left some houses unburnt and they stormed in after two days again and they completely burnt it.”
He had been left with nothing, he said. “We were looking and crying with broken hearts and we looked down on our houses being burnt to ashes with helplessness and without hope.”