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Wednesday, January 17, 2018

On Lt Col Purohit..

Five months ago Lt. Col. Purohit was granted bail by the Supreme Court after 9 years in jail. 

In 2008, two bombs fitted on a motorcycle exploded, killing seven people and injuring nearly 100 in Maharashtra's Malegaon. Initial investigations brought a hardline pro-Hindu group, Abhinav Bharat, under the scanner and led to several arrests. Among them were Sadhvi Pragya Thakur and Army officer Lt Col Purohit who were arrested that year, and charged with plotting the blasts. 

The investigation was initially conducted by the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad led by its chief Hemant Karkare. Mr Karkare was killed in the terror attacks in Mumbai in 2008. The probe was then handed over to the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in 2011. In Dec 2017, the NIA court dropped the charges under the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) against eight accused in the 2008 Malegaon blasts case.

Purohit was represented in his bail hearing at the Supreme Court by Salve who reportedly charges Rs. 30 lakhs a day. The same Mr. Salve had 'earlier represented the State during the hearing of the Malegaon blasts case before the Bombay High Court during an appeal against the trial court’s decision to revoke stringent MCOCA against the blasts accused.' Thus Mr. Salve was able to argue FOR retaining MCOCA against Mr. Purohit in one hearing, and for his bail in the next hearing, he said that 'Lieutenant Colonel Purohit was allegedly caught in the political crossfire and was falsely implicated in the case'.

How very rubber-man like and flexible of Mr. Salve ! It is not known who paid Mr. Salve for appearing for Lt. Col Purohit (Salve did recently fight Jadhav's case for the Govt. of India and has high approval ratings from the top echelons of the Govt.). In any case, Purohit appears to have very long arms himself that reached all the way to Israel and the King of Nepal as per the chargesheet filed in his case. 

It is strange that charges as severe as diverting RDX from the army, planning a Govt. in exile in Israel, writing a constitution based on a Hindu Rashtra, procuring arms and training for waging war, still were finally not thought worthy of MCOCA ! 

But sedition charges could be slapped on students and a professor merely for protesting the hanging of Afzal Guru !

Discovering Teesta Setalvad..

We have been hearing the name Teesta Setalvad atleast from the days of the Gujarat riots of 2002 when she fought countless cases on behalf of victims. A very brave woman, we thought.. A seemingly vengeful Gujarat Government then began piling irrelevant case upon case on her.. 

But this is the first time I read her own words.. A year ago, she said that : 'The RSS is in power in India today. RSS is a proto-facist force and it does not believe in the Indian constitution.. We are dealing with forces that cannot tolerate dissent of any kind, particularly political dissent," Setalvad had told PTI. '

And a month ago, she writes : 'I am often accused by proponents of militarised and political faith, of being “anti-Hindu” or a “Hindu-hater”. This is then propagated by certain sections of the media. However, I have deep respect for all faiths including Hinduism. So here are 11 Hindus who inspire me.'

She then goes on to describe the inspiration she draws from Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Gandhi, and many ordinary Hindus who in the last few years stood up to stop bloodshed.

Two months ago, Teesta said : “We have in place, in about eight states, including Maharashtra, certain cow protection laws, that actually privilege the gau rakshaks. So, laws are being passed to allow gau rakshaks the power to be vigilantes.. These (laws) are all being passed under the current dispensation.. citizens will have to raise this in a rational way, saying that the cow may be a very precious animal for certain sections of Indians, but you cannot privilege lynching and killing of human beings over this issue.'

Setalvad said that there are police personnel, people in high offices, in the state executive and judiciary, who actually believe that India should be a religion-based nation.

In the end I read a piece she wrote just a week ago : it chronicles the Mumbai violence of 1992-'93 and the State's response to it. It is just a straightforward re-telling, but searing in its impact - I have read just one-third of the way down so far..

She writes : 'The build-up to these orchestrated convulsions had been systematic, from the speech and utterances by leaders of right wing supremacist organisations, well documented by Justice BN Srikrishna in the official judicial commission report into the violence.'

'The motivated campaign for the construction of the Ram temple at Ayodhya had never been just about the demolition of a place of worship, though that criminal act was bad enough; it had been successfully and cleverly shaped to  unleash a hitherto cloaked hatred of the “Muslim other”;  now blamed and victimised for a litany of historical wrongs, who, in a medieval and macabre dance of revenge, was being made to pay.'

'The BJP-Shiv Sena official announcement of a politically motivated  Mahaarti  programme in the third week of December, strangely permitted by the police and government, saw the stage being set for provocations and attacks on Muslim life and property across the length and breadth of the city...Despite these facts, to date, proponents of outfits that thrive on a manipulation of facts and through these, the narrative of history continue to speak of the Bombay communal violence as a response to the bomb blasts instead of vice versa.'

Would you deny that we exclude minorities from our lives ?

The signs that we are alienating minorities more and more are all around us.. or that we make little effort to embrace them.. same thing, isn’t it ? 

See this article in yesterday’s paper : Raising a Muslim child in India: A recently published book presents an unsettling narrative.

Christians were alienated some years ago by attacks on churches widely reported to be by Hindu right groups. Now it is Muslims, as well as Dalits..

Ofcourse Tribals and Dalits in rural areas have always been badly exploited in our country, constitutional protections and positive discrimination, notwithstanding..

What we forget is that we are ALL minorities in one context or the other .. North Indians in Maharashtra for instance.. People from any part of India in other countries.. 

The oft-heard poem below comes to mind again.. From Wikipedia"First they came ..." is a poem written by German Lutheran pastor Martin Niemöller (1892–1984). It is about the cowardice of German intellectuals following the Nazis' rise to power and subsequent purging of their chosen targets, group after group. 

First they came for the Communists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
Ofcourse we hear news of how ultra conservative Muslims don’t let others of their community breathe freely either. But we – the majority community, certainly need to do more to have normal relationships with Muslims.

A friend in Chennai shared that earlier they had a festive spirit around Christmas as around other religious festivals.. but now it is felt to be a crime to bring a small tree home to decorate around Christmas.. and her children dared not wear the red santa caps they had bought at a fair..

I am ashamed we have allowed the Hindu right to do this to our people.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Support to Trump by Indian Americans..

All Indian political parties these days woo support from the Indian diaspora abroad particularly in the US. We are familiar with stories of their fund raisers, and even visits to India to support the political party in Q. In this context, it was interesting to read this article which looked at support of American Indians to Trump during and after the US Elections.

The article is entitled 'WANNABE ARYAN BRIGADE' and says : 'I argue here that the small segments who support Trump, particularly Hindu fundamentalists and nationalists, seek wages from that relationship that will not secure rights for the rest of south Asian America, especially Muslim Americans.'

' the post-9/11 racial hysteria has shown us, regardless of one’s respective background, south Asian Americans were/are targeted as “terrorists” and perceived as a “danger” to the country. Organisations like Desis Rising Up and Moving (in New York City) and Raksha (out of Atlanta) stand as examples of groups that work across the ethnic, class, sexual, and religious spectrum to advocate for social justice.'

'In contrast, Hindu fundamentalists and Hindu nationalists present a starkly different political position and alliance. As a result of their financial clout and representational power in government and business, they have monopolised the conversation about south Asia by conflating south Asia, India, and Hindu.'

'With a Hindu fundamentalist party in power in India, the wave of such conservatism and violence washes up easily onto the shores of the United States through transnational connections. The same fundamentalism shaping Indian politics finds a home with the Hindu Indian American community with their anti-Muslim rhetoric.'

'We can glean from this Hindu American support of Trump that it is more about entrenching a solid, powerful, transnational class of Hindu elites, which does nothing to provide support or protection to working-class Hindu Americans who face the wrath of anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim hysteria.'

The RSS and Nazi ideology..

I became aware of the Hindu Right wing's fascination for Hitler when i saw the Hindi version of 'Mein Kampf', Hitler's autobiography prominently displayed in a Hindi language bookshop in Connaught Place in the late 1980s. On enquiry, the person manning the shop said those sympathetic to the Hindu Right bought the book in large numbers. 

Over the years,  the utterances of the hydra headed organizations of the Hindu Right periodically reminded me of how close they seemed to Hitler's exhortations.. But I did not have time to investigate further on this.. Today however I chanced upon this 2012 article in the International Business Times : Hindu Nationalist’s Historical Links to Nazism and Fascism ... Very revealing.. It characterizes the 'Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) (as) a group that espoused openly militant Hindu activism and the suppression of minorities in India.

The article goes on to say : 'Perhaps there was no greater admirer of Hitler and Mussolini in India than Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, another leading member of RSS. In a speech delivered in 1940 (after the Second World War had commenced), Savarkar said: 'There is no reason to suppose that Hitler must be a human monster because he passes off as a Nazi or Churchill is a demigod because he calls himself a Democrat. Nazism proved undeniably the savior of Germany under the set of circumstances Germany was placed in.' Savarkar criticized Nehru for his staunch opposition to fascism.'

The record of the Modi Govt. in Gujarat till 2013..

A friend wrote back : ‘The fact is the dynastic rule of Nehru/Gandhi’s which is the cause of our ills . It will take years to correct the course provided we have a strong person like Mr Modi continue to lead the country.’

In Aug 2013 I had investigated Modi’s track record of 11 years rule of Gujarat by wide readings on the net. I found then that the annual jumborees of Vibrant Gujarat were a propaganda exercise. Few of the announcements of FDI investment were realized, less than even in neighbouring Maharashtra !

The big investments by the Adanis and others in Gujarat had displaced lakhs of fishermen, farmers and artisans when their lands were forcibly taken by the Gujarat Government, while giving only a few jobs as the industries had a high degree of automation.

Investments in education had been tom-tommed – but the school education budget had actually shrunk over the years. A smaller proportion of children were in school than before, and the proportion of scheduled castes and tribes had fallen even more.

The shrill campaign on Narmada waters had benefited industry with availability of water .. farmers were still waiting for naramada waters after all these years.. many villages were dependent on tankers even for drinking water. Gujarat’s agricultural output on many crops had shrunk.

I had at that time been mailed photos of gleaming highways in Gujarat then being widely circulated by the right wingers – on closer look the signs on bus stops were in Korean ! The same pattern of lies and misrepresentation continues and many gullible people are taken in..

Now, whenever I investigate an achievement of the Modi Government, I find it is merely a continuation of policies of the Congress Government, but blared through the loudspeakers more loudly. The only two exceptions so far in my readings have been the Swachch Bharat Abhiyan and the firing of 300 employees of the central government for reported non-performance. On the other hand, there have been continuous mis-steps and disasters by the Modi Government in every area one can think of.. 

Commentary on a noble song..

This song was sent over whatsapp :

Hamne Suna tha Ek hai Bharat - DIDI 1959

It’s a noble song that puts most india’s ills to having been under foreign domination. i dont agree though.. this is the misinformation I have heard from elders all my life. I don’t think all the distortions in india can be traced to british rule or muslim rule. Muslim rule lasted over parts of india for 600 years (till the middle of the 18th century) and company / british rule for 200 years. But caste inequalities are millenia old.

Muslim rule over Spain and Portugal also persisted for over 700 years until the end of the 15th century – but they have taken their own future in their hands since, have they not ? I think our country suffers as we have made (and continue to) too little effort to include all Indians in our effort to develop. We have continued to encourage income inequality which remains the HIGHEST in the world save the middle east. The top 10 % of the Indian population earned 55 % of the income in 2016. In Europe the share of the top 10 % was 37 %. After world war 2, the Governments in Europe built big welfare states, with generous jobless benefits, child subsidies and income support. Such benefits became the most important instruments for reducing inequality there.

The song also says it will take time for india to develop.. The WW2 ended just 2 years before india got her freedom. Europe suffered far more war, deaths, destruction of cities and countryside alike, and continuing occupation by a foreign power (USSR) of a large part of europe.. yet what have they built and achieved since then, and what have we ?

The achievements of europe are not just material – though ofcourse those are there to see. Germany had killed, ravaged, pillaged, large swathes of Europe. In return she and her allies had suffered extensive destruction. But after the war, Governments worked to encourage emotional healing between countries and communities, as did the Church and NGOs. They succeeded and the result of that was the European Union. In our country though we are following the opposite path – we are increasing divides between religions and communities. 

Monday, January 15, 2018

A Great TV Series..

From the National Geographic link on the right
I have been watching this delicious series on youtube.. Engineering an Empire.. There are episodes on Rome, Carthage, Byzantine, Britain… I highly recommend this series.. 

I just finised watching this episode.. Da Vincis World: Engineering an Empire

And followed up with this article on how the unparalleled dome of the Florence cathedral got built.. So amazing is the article, that I wrote to the author Tom Meuller that the great builders past and present, deserve to be chronicled similarly..