Bihar shows India’s intolerance against Hindutva forces

The elections in Bihar once again signalled at the electoral rejection of emotive Hindutva issues as RJD-JD(U)-Congress combine emerged victorious despite intense campaigning by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. (Image: PTI)

The elections in Bihar once again signalled at the electoral rejection of emotive Hindutva issues as RJD-JD(U)-Congress combine emerged victorious despite intense campaigning by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. (Image: PTI)

The electoral victory of the mahagathbandhan in Bihar has come as a big boost for Lalu Prasad Yadav who was on the verge of political extinction. By emerging as the single largest party, Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) has successfully exhibited its popularity among Biharis. What is astonishing is that Lalu’s popularity has risen despite his conviction by a CBI court in the fodder scam.

On the other hand, Nitish Kumar of Janata Dal United or JD (U) has won for himself a third term as Chief Minister of Bihar. Along with the likes of Arvind Kejriwal, Mulayam Singh Yadav, Mamata Banerjee, Jayalalitha and Naveen Patnaik, Nitish Kumar is sure to be touted as the one of ablest men to lead a third front assault on the two national parties, particularly the BJP, in the times to come.

However, the most interesting take away from the landslide victory of RJD-JD(U)-Congress combine is the continuing trend of decisive mandates. Post 2012, states like Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kolkata, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Maharashtra, and now Bihar, have overwhelmingly voted in favour of a particular party or coalition. The general elections in 2014 too exhibited a similar pattern. The notable exceptions to this phenomenon were Delhi and Jammu & Kashmir.

In 2013, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) fought elections for the first time turning battlefield Delhi into a triangular contest between BJP, Congress and AAP. This led to AAP and BJP narrowly missing out on the magic number and what followed next was a short lived Congress supported AAP government. Thereafter, when elections were held again in early 2015, the verdict of Delhi-walas was entirely one sided and brought AAP absolute majority.

As far as Jammu and Kashmir elections of 2014 are concerned, though the verdict was split, it was clear that the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) was the chosen one in the valley while the BJP comfortably led in the region of Jammu. That way the election result was again decisive in nature and led to the formation of a coalition government comprising of PDP and BJP. Despite the confusion in the minds of pollsters and psephologists, the voter is acting very cleverly. The exit polls might predict a khichdi verdict or neck to neck competition but the voters are throwing up a clear mandate.

Secondly, the elections in Bihar once again signalled at the electoral rejection of emotive Hindutva issues. The voters in Uttar Pradesh rejected the false bogey of live jihad during the by-elections held in the state last year. The national capital voted against ghar wapsi and attacks on churches in February this year. Finally Bihar has voted against beef politics and fear mongering in the name of carving a religion based minority sub quota out of the reservation pie of Other Backward Castes or OBCs.

The writing on the wall is becoming increasingly clear for the BJP. It is time to perform or perish. The Prime Minister can manage any number of events, undertake as many foreign trips as he wishes to and campaign as vigorously as possible but if his government doesn’t deliver in terms of poverty alleviation, job creation and income equality, the electorate is going to show his party the door. The voter cannot be fooled simply on the basis of Hindutva and rhetoric.

When BJP lost in Delhi, the blame was shifted towards Kiran Bedi as she happened to be the party’s chief ministerial candidate. The same cannot be done in the case of Bihar as the BJP fielded no chief ministerial candidate with Modi being the outright leader. Even in Delhi, it was Modi who led the campaign all through but his failure was conveniently set aside. Modi is based out of Delhi. He along with his entire cabinet campaigned in Delhi yet they lost.

Prime Minister Modi left African leaders in Delhi to campaign in Bihar yet BJP lost. The lesson which is to be learnt is that Modi can be overcome electorally with the help of strong local leaders like Kejriwal, Nitish and Lalu. BJP must realize that it cannot always piggybank on Modi’s supposed PAN-India popularity. There is a dire need for cultivation of popular local leaders like Shivraj Singh Chauhan in Madhya Pradesh, Raman Singh in Chhattisgarh and Vasundhara Raje in Rajasthan.

Another observation is that no matter what is proclaimed from 24 Akbar Road, Congress is on the decline. They drew a blank in Delhi but have performed reasonably well in Bihar. However, their vote share remains in single digit and the party is far from being the nationwide force it once used to be. If INC has chosen to eternally play second fiddle to the likes of JD(U), RJD and AAP then its altogether an entirely different story.

Politics in the country is becoming all the more BJP-centric. The vote in Bihar was against the BJP government at the centre as also against Hindutva. Those who are rushing and labelling the verdict as a victory of development oriented politics need to do a rethink. Lalu’s campaign rhetoric was less about development and more about a “battle between forward and backward castes.” Nitish’s masterstroke was in aligning with his bête noire Lalu to oust the BJP instead of holding a referendum on his ten year rule by going solo.

If Kejriwal won Delhi on the basis of populist politics, Lalu and Nitish have won Bihar by carving an alliance which none saw coming. It’s a triumph of complex caste arithmetic over Hindutva superimposition. The much talked about development politics had little relevance with both sides banking heavily on identity politics. The blunders committed in Bihar by the BJP should be carefully scrutinized but Lalu’s comeback in Bihar exemplifies that caste still lords over Bihar’s election castle. Modi sarkaar has indeed failed in fulfilling its tall promises but where was the vision of “maha gathbandhan” during Bihar elections? The people seem to have chosen the one whom they viewed as the “lesser evil”.

http://www.dailyo.in/politics/bihar-polls-narendra-modi-nitish-kumar-lalu-prasad-hindutva-rss-jdu/story/1/7240.html

(This article was originally published in DailyO.)  

Scrap religion-based Scheduled Caste reservations, Mr Modi

Will Modi do justice to Dalit Muslims and Dalit Christians by acting on the recommendations of Sachar Committee Report concerning Constitution (Scheduled Castes Order), 1950? (Image: Flickr)

Will Modi do justice to Dalit Muslims and Dalit Christians by acting on the recommendations of Sachar Committee Report concerning Constitution (Scheduled Castes Order), 1950? (Image: Flickr)

While addressing an election rally in Bihar, Prime Minister Narendra Modi took a dig at the grand alliance of Congress, JD(U) and RJD by raking up the issue of religion-based reservations. Modi said, “The leaders of this ‘Mahaswarth’ alliance are trying to mislead the people on the issue of reservation. It is clear through the discussion of our Constitution makers that reservation cannot be given on the basis of religion.” He added that “these leaders are making a devious plan. They are conspiring to take away 5 per cent reservation of Dalits, Maha Dalits, backwards and extremely backwards and give it to a particular community”.

Though Modi did not particularly name any community, it was apparent that he was referring to Muslims. What Modi was attempting to do was consolidation of Hindu votes by tacitly asking them to rise above caste and vote in unison to outdo “Muslims” who were portrayed as a group which was out to swallow the “Hindu” pie of reservation benefits. Such remarks are a reflection of the BJP’s nervousness in Bihar where they might suffer a setback due to the polarising remarks of their ministers and legislators both at the central and state level following the Dadri lynching episode which occurred last month.

Interestingly, Prime Minister Modi added, “I come from an extremely backward class and understand the pain of having been born to a poor woman. I will not allow this to happen. I pledge to protect the rights of Dalits, Maha Dalits and backwards.” If Modi truly believes in what he says then he should immediately initiate steps to outlaw religion-based reservations which have been in existence in our country since 1950.

Yes, you heard it right. The Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950 pertaining to Article 341 has been providing religion-based reservations for more than 60 years now. The controversial 1950 order whose legality has been repeatedly questioned states, “No person who professes a religion different from the Hindu, the Sikh or the Buddhist religion shall be deemed to be a member of a Scheduled Caste.”

Initially, the order only recognised Scheduled Castes from the Hindu religion. Thereafter, it was amended twice in 1956 and 1990 to include Sikhs and Buddhists, respectively. The question to be asked is: Can’t a Muslim, Christian, Jain or Parsi be a Scheduled Caste? Do Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists have a monopoly over being Scheduled Castes?

The Sachar Committee Report, whose findings suggested that the Muslims of Gujarat are among the most prosperous in the country (and was effectively utilised by BJP spokespersons to build on Mr Modi’s vikaas purush image), had the following to say about Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950: “Dalit (SC) Muslims are not allowed the benefits of Scheduled Caste quota, while their counterparts in Sikh community (Mazhabi Sikhs) and Buddhist community (Neo Buddhist) are allowed the benefits of reservation quota for SC.”

It further added, “It is recommended that Para 3 of the Constitution (Scheduled Castes Order), 1950 – which originally restricted the Scheduled Caste net to the Hindus and later opened it to the Sikhs and Buddhists, thus still excluding from its purview the Muslims, Christians, Jains and Parsis, etc – should be wholly deleted by appropriate action so as to completely delink the Scheduled Caste status from religion and make the Scheduled Caste net religiously-neutral like that of the Scheduled Tribes.”

Will Modi do justice to Dalit Muslims and Dalit Christians by acting on the recommendations of Sachar Committee Report concerning Constitution (Scheduled Castes Order), 1950? He won’t because the talk of protecting the rights of Dalits and Mahadalits is hollow rhetoric and electorally motivated. Moreover, Modi’s party is ideologically opposed to granting of SC quota benefits to Dalit Muslims and Dalit Christians.

In a speech delivered on August 14, 2004 in Mumbai, BJP patriarch LK Advani said, “For a long time, there have been demands for extending reservations to so-called ‘Dalit’ Christians and ‘Dalit’ Muslims. However, successive governments have not paid heed to these demands. Why? This is because the framers of the Indian Constitution were very clear in their minds that caste is a feature of the Hindu society. If some lower caste Hindus converted to Islam or Christianity in the past, it was because of the claim and the promise of these religions that they were casteless and hence offered an equal station to the converts vis-a-vis original Muslims or Christians.”

There can’t be a more preposterous assertion. Sikhism and Buddhism are also casteless religions in the sense that they do not advocate the division of society on caste lines. Yet Dalit converts to Buddhism and Sikhism are provided with reservation under SC quota. Then why the same privilege can’t be extended to Dalits who converted to other religions including Islam and Christianity? Caste, unfortunately is no longer a problem of the Hindu society as LK Advani opines. It is a problem of the Indian society. Though caste doesn’t exist in Islam or Christianity per se but caste system exists among Muslims and Christians living in India. Therefore, it is wrong to state that Dalits can’t be Muslims or Christians.

The communal Constitution order of 1950 won’t go away anytime soon because no one has the courage to do what justice demands. The Indian National Congress was the party responsible for enacting this provision. It was in power during the last ten years from 2004-2014. Despite repeated pleas from civil society it never bothered to amend the 1950 order. Instead it introduced a minority sub quota of 4.5 per cent in the lead up to the 2012 Uttar Pradesh Assembly Elections. It was touted as “Muslim quota” and floated by the then minority affairs minister Salman Khurshid.

Though it was for all minorities yet the tag “Muslim” became synonymous with it simply because the Congress was desperate to encash on the votes of Muslims in the Uttar Pradesh elections. Competitive politics demanded that Mulayam Singh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party dismissed 4.5 per cent quota for minorities as too less and promised even more. In its blind pursuit of the Muslim vote, the Congress forgot to follow the correct procedure leading the Andhra Pradesh High Court to strike down the 4.5 per cent sub quota for religious minorities in May 2012.

The court said, “No evidence has been shown to us by the learned assistant solicitor general to justify the classification of these religious minorities as a homogenous group or as more backward classes deserving some special treatment.” It went on to state, “We must, therefore, hold that Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Zoroastrians do not form a homogenous group but a heterogeneous group.”

Have you ever wondered why do politicians reignite the debate on reservations only before elections? Congress and SP remembered Muslims before Uttar Pradesh elections, Modi remembered Dalits before Bihar elections and the inimitable Lalu Prasad recently described the upcoming elections as a “fight between backward and forward castes”.

Reservations have become a political tool in the hands of our corrupt leaders. In the midst of political mudslinging, the core issue concerning an objective analysis of the prevailing reservation policy is being overlooked. Should 21st century India adopt a reservation policy? If yes, then what should be the criteria for granting reservation in educational institutes and jobs? How should it be implemented? These are the questions which our leaders should have addressed clearly but they never did so.

Millions of Indians still find themselves trapped in the vicious cycle of poverty. Several others are educationally backward and belong to communities that are actively discriminated against and grossly under-represented in government sector jobs. Therefore, it is incumbent upon the State to help such individuals by means of affirmative action. One cannot shrug off the need for reservation by citing simplistic arguments of merit. The bigger picture needs to be taken into consideration. Hence, it is essential to have reservations in place for disadvantaged sections of society.

The second point is in relation to the basis on which reservation is to be granted. This is a subject on which the Central and state governments must necessarily revisit their policies. BJP’s Subramanian Swamy maintains that reservations should apply to those who have historically been discriminated against (Dalits, Mahadalits and the likes) and not the erstwhile ruling class like Brahmins, Muslims and Christians. This is a flawed proposition.

I’ve studied along with reserved category students who belonged to a historically disadvantaged group but made use of Apple iPhones. Such individuals are not disadvantaged and shouldn’t be reaping the benefits of reservation. We have a lot of people from the so-called forward castes who are struggling financially and need state support.

The only way out is to make the economic status of an individual the foremost criterion while granting reservation. Secondly, a sub quota needs to be drawn out of the entire reservation pool to exclusively cater to those people who are economically backward and also belong to communities that are educationally backward, under-represented in government jobs and services and victims of social discrimination. We need to adopt an evidence-based approach instead of an electoral or agitation-based approach while identifying such communities.

Backwardness would have to be proven on the basis of data and not perception. No community should be declared as being backward by the government because the party in power intends to reap their votes in the coming elections. Neither should governments give in to pressure from groups who organise bandhs and paralyse state machinery including railways to acquire reservation status. This sounds good on paper but the governments are obviously incapable of doing so because of their overt political agenda. We can only hope that good sense prevails and political parties start thinking along these lines else law courts might have to step in.

Lastly, we need to be absolutely mindful of certain rules while implementing the reservation policy. Reservations have to be time bound. They need to be reviewed and reformed from time and time. As per Supreme Court, reservation cannot extend to more than 50 per cent of the total seats. All institutions should abide by the said rules. While implementing reservation policy, additional seats or vacancies need to be created. For instance, if there are 20 seats in an educational institution for a particular course or 20 vacancies in a government office, reservation of  50 per cent should mean 20 general seats + 50 per cent reserved seats, instead of 20 – 50 per cent reserved seats.

Most importantly, it has to be ensured that reservations don’t compromise on quality and are provided only to those who truly deserve it. The maximum relaxation lent to applicants from reserved category shouldn’t go below 10 per cent of the general category cut-off in any case. If it happens then even people from the unreserved category will learn to appreciate the utility of reservations. This is because they will be sharing their classrooms and offices with people from the reserved category who are deserving and have achieved a certain level in the merit list despite the economic and social handicap that they have suffered from. This will eventually lead to the fading away of resentment regarding reservation among the unreserved people which currently exists in gigantic proportions.

http://www.dailyo.in/politics/bihar-polls-narendra-modi-reservation-muslims-christians-parsis-jains-scheduled-castes/story/1/7032.html

(This article was originally published in DailyO.)

We don’t need a Modi bhakt like Tarun Vijay

An article penned by BJP Rajya Sabha MP Tarun Vijay in the aftermath of the lynching incident in Dadri has stirred a controversy attracting furious rebuttals from Prem Shankar Jha and Ajaz Ashraf. (Image: AFP)

An article penned by BJP Rajya Sabha MP Tarun Vijay in the aftermath of the murder of Muhammad Akhlaq on the suspicion of beef consumption in Dadri has stirred a controversy attracting furious rebuttals from Prem Shankar Jha and Ajaz Ashraf. (Image: AFP)

“Why have you not written anything about the Dadri killing? Why are you silent on the murder of Muhammad Akhlaq?” That’s the question which I’ve been encountering from my colleagues since the past few days. So far I had replied to it by stating, “The world has written about it. Writers who are far superior to me have expressed their disgust at what happened in Dadri. I don’t think that I have anything more to add.”

Just when you start feeling that way, one comes across an opinion piece in The Indian Express written by BJP Rajya Sabha MP Tarun Vijay in which he says, “The violent reactions of the Dadri kind must remain an aberration. They raise a question for so-called liberal Muslims: Have you done anything to show Hindus that you stand with them when they are assaulted by the Andrabis? Muslim silence on Hindu woes is often taken as support for intolerant Islamists.”

It’s hard to decipher whether the statement quoted above was written by a Twitter troll or a Rajya Sabha MP. When will we learn to not politicise communal riots and hate crimes? We cannot justify violence by citing another incident of violence. What happened in Gujarat in 2002 under the BJP government in the state was a national disgrace. Equally shameful were the 1984 anti-Sikh riots when the Congress was in command at the Centre. The BJP and Congress can score political brownie points over one another by pitching one riot against the other, but the fact of the matter is that there can be no justification for either of them.

What does Mr Vijay exactly mean when he talks about “Hindu woes”? Does he mean to say that Muslims have never stood up for their Hindu brothers? We don’t need religion to stand up against the injustices in our society. As someone who feels deeply ashamed of the everyday violence which our society unleashes, as an Indian, and as a Muslim, I have tried to write against every atrocity which I’ve come across.

Mr Vijay, I have written about the ethnic cleansing which forced the Kashmiri Pandits out of their homes in the Valley. I hold the Islamist terrorists responsible for killing the Pandits and burning their homes. I realise the need for bringing the Pandits back to the Valley and providing them a sense of justice by prosecuting all those who were responsible for forcing them into exile.

Not only Hindus, I have tried to speak up for everyone who, I feel, has been wronged and discriminated against, be it Coptic Christians in Egypt or minorities in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Saudi Arabia. I have criticised the anti-Semitic Arab discourse and the ludicrous conspiracy theories associated with 9/11. I won’t even hesitate for a second before condemning terrorist outfits like the Al Qaeda, Islamic State (ISIS), Taliban and Boko Haram because no sane person can ever justify the killing of innocent men, women and children.

I recognise the fact that many Muslim emperors destroyed Hindu temples and forcefully converted many non-Muslims to Islam. But I also know what is being done to Muslims in Myanmar and I won’t remain quiet about it just like I didn’t about the Hashimpura massacre, Babri Masjid demolition or misogynist personal laws. Injustice is injustice no matter it’s done when, where or to whom.

Mr Vijay, kindly do not behave like a Twitter troll who absconds from the core of the debate whenever one writes about right-wing Hindu extremism and challenges one to instead write about despotic Muslim emperors, ISIS or Kashmiri Pandits. I don’t need Modi bhakts to tell me what objectivity is. I try to live by it. But then so many bhakts write to me telling me they know exactly what I am going to write after reading my byline.

But that doesn’t dishearten me. It only gives me an insight into their sickening mindset. My name doesn’t make me different. Your mindset does. Your communal attitude towards every human tragedy is the problem. Not me, nor my religion! Mr Vijay, I daresay, beef eating shouldn’t be a crime. Mr Vijay, I won’t force you to have beef but I don’t expect you to tacitly justify the killing of someone, allegedly because he consumed beef or because the community he belonged to wasn’t responding to “Hindu woes”.

http://www.dailyo.in/politics/tarun-vijay-modi-bhakt-beef-dadri-muhammad-akhlaq-secularism-muslims/story/1/6596.html

(This article was originally published in DailyO.) 

Why Subramanian Swamy doesn’t deserve to be JNU vice-chancellor

No university in this country can afford to have a hatemonger as its vice-chancellor who is best known for spewing venom and stoking rumours. (Image: Wikipedia)

No university in this country can afford to have a hatemonger as its vice-chancellor who is best known for spewing venom and stoking rumours. (Image: Wikipedia)

In an article titled “The RSS game plan” published in Frontline magazine (Volume 17 – Issue 02, Jan 22 – Feb 04, 2000) a Harvard-educated economist wrote, “Today the creeping fascism of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) is coming upon us.” He mentioned that the RSS leaders were frustrated at the fact that “symbolically, the bhagwa dhwaj (saffron double triangle flag) does not yet flutter from the Red Fort; but the hated tricolour which no RSS office can hoist even on August 15, still does.”

He accused the RSS of conniving to convert India into a Hindu Rashtra and stated that the saffron organisation had also prepared a rough draft on the lines of which the new Indian Constitution would be framed. He wrote that as per this draft, “The present bicameral Parliament would be replaced by a three-tier structure. At the apex will be a Guru Sabha of sadhus and sanyasis (read the VHP activists)…. All legislation and money bills will have to originate in the Guru Sabha and be passed by it before being sent to the Lok Sabha. The Guru Sabha will also be the judicial commission to nominate the Supreme Court judges, and impeach them.”

He mentioned that “Christians are being targeted by the front organisations of the RSS in order to terrorise and ghetto-ise all minorities” and that Hindutva justice meant “minorities can best look forward to liberation through mercy killing.” Who was the author of this piece? The answer (much to the surprise of many Hindutva maniacs) is Dr Subramanian Swamy!

Hindutva heart-throb, 2G scam whistle-blower and modern India’s biggest conspiracy theorist Dr Subramanian Swamy has a political history worth reading. Not only did Dr Swamy oppose the Emergency imposed in 1975 by Indira Gandhi-led Congress party, he was also responsible for bringing down Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s Bharatiya Janata Party government in 1999. As is visible from the extracts of the article Dr Swamy wrote several years back for Frontline magazine, he did not have much admiration for the kind of politics which was being played by the Sangh Parivar. In fact it appears that Dr Swamy detested Hindutva’s hate politics.

But things have changed now. After having spent many years in a state of political oblivion, Dr Swamy returned to the fore of Indian politics by blowing the lid off the 2G spectrum scam and advocating an extreme form of Hindutva. In the lead up to the 2014 General Elections, Dr Swamy officially merged his Janata Party with the BJP and formally became part of the Sangh Parivar.

This is nothing but a clear case of political opportunism. A person who vociferously criticised Hindutva politics in the past now happens to be one of its biggest advocates. News reports have suggested that Dr Subramanian Swamy has been offered the position of vice-chancellor of Jawaharlal Nehru University by the Union HRD ministry. People supporting his candidature might claim that he is a suitable candidate for the job as he possesses a PhD from the prestigious Harvard University and also attended the Hindu College at the Delhi University and Indian Statistical Institute in Kolkata while pursuing graduation and post graduation, respectively.

As far as his administrative accomplishments are concerned, Swamy is a five-time member of Parliament and has served as the Union law minister. He surely isn’t like Gajendra Chauhan who has been accused of being under qualified for the chairmanship of Film & Television Institute of India in Pune. Dr Swamy is a well-educated individual having substantial administrative experience but he certainly isn’t the right man to lead a university like JNU.

No university in this country can afford to have a hatemonger as its vice-chancellor who is best known for spewing venom and stoking rumours. Let us not forget that Dr Subramanian Swamy was expelled from Harvard University on account of his extremist views which became public following the publication of a bizarre article. Shortly after a terrorist attack in Mumbai on July 13, 2011, Dr Swamy wrote an article in DNA newspaper titled “How to wipe out Islamic terror” (July 16, 2011). This article became the reason behind the booting out of Dr Swamy from Harvard.

Dr Swamy who had earlier lambasted the RSS for aspiring to turn India into a Hindu Rashtra wrote, “Declare India a Hindu Rashtra in which non-Hindus can vote only if they proudly acknowledge that their ancestors were Hindus. Rename India Hindustan as a nation of Hindus and those whose ancestors were Hindus.” Does such a man deserve to be the vice-chancellor of a central university? In fact does he even deserve to be in public life? The founding fathers of the Indian Constitution rejected the notion of a Hindu Rashtra and established India as a secular state. They granted every Indian citizen universal adult suffrage.

But Dr Swamy does not agree with us. His contempt for the Constitution is visible from his own writings as he wants India to be converted into a Hindu Rashtra wherein non-Hindus will lose their right to vote and be elected as public representatives if they do not acknowledge their Hindu ancestry. Other unconstitutional suggestions of Dr Swamy included enacting “a national law prohibiting conversion from Hinduism to any other religion. Re-conversion (to Hinduism) will not be banned.” He also wanted to “remove the masjid in Kashi Vishwanath temple and the 300 masjids at other temple sites.”

That’s the kind of India that Dr Swamy envisions. Dreadful, isn’t it? A person who does not acknowledge India’s secular character and vouches for the creation of a Hindu Rashtra wherein Hindus and non-Hindus will not be equal citizens should never have been considered for any high office leave alone the office of the vice-chancellor of Jawaharlal Nehru University.

The students of JNU can never be expected to respect a person like Dr Swamy who has turned himself into a butt of jokes owing to his conspiracy theories which somehow tend to hint at the Hindu origins of every great innovation or invention that the world has witnessed. Dr Swamy belongs to that rare variety of political hypocrites who sometimes simultaneously espouse Hindutva chauvinism and minority politics. On one hand he stated, “If half the Hindus voted together, rising above caste and language, a genuine Hindu party would have a two-thirds majority in Parliament and the Assemblies” but he did not miss out on an opportunity to play the minority card while accusing the Congress of opposing Purno Sangma’s presidential candidacy in 2012 simply because he was a “Christian” and “tribal.”

There can be no defence for Dr Swamy’s irrational antics. Even Union HRD minister Smriti Irani cannot come out to justify Dr Swamy’s conception of India which is fascist, racist and discriminatory. Nor can she standby even one of Dr Swamy’s ridiculous conspiracy theories pertaining to the murder of Sanjay, Indira or Rajiv Gandhi. But then she might just do it as one does not expect much from an education, minister who stands accused of having lied about her own educational qualification.

The FTII row has failed to teach Modi sarkar a lesson. If there is even an iota of truth concerning Dr Swamy’s appointment as JNU VC then the BJP government should get prepared for a vicious backlash from academics and students who will not allow the communalisation of the country’s universities at the hands of individuals like Dr Swamy.

http://www.dailyo.in/politics/subramanian-swamy-vc-jnu-delhi-rss-hindutva-hindu-rashtra-minority-politics-communalism/story/1/6409.html

(This article was originally published in DailyO.) 

Meat ban obviously doesn’t curry favour with Hindutva forces

India of the 21st century is sensible and mature enough to realise that the state does not need to police an individual's diet in order to ensure that the religious sensibilities of a micro-minority are not offended. (Image: Wikipedia)

India of the 21st century is sensible and mature enough to realise that the state does not need to police an individual’s diet in order to ensure that the religious sensibilities of a micro-minority are not offended. (Image: Wikipedia)

The contrarian approach of the saffron parties towards the meat ban in Maharashtra during the Jain fasting period of Paryushan reveals that the Sangh Parivar is a divided lot instead of being one united family. Before addressing the issue of disunity among the BJP, Shiv Sena and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, let us make one thing aptly clear: the ban on meat is utterly foolish.

Right-wingers are trying to justify it by suggesting that the ban has been in place since a long time; to be precise, since 1964. But merely because a retrograde practice has been carrying on since decades, does it mean that it should be tolerated? Racism, no matter how minute it might be, is a threat and so is food fascism. It cannot be tolerated even if it is for a short period of time. The ban may have gone unnoticed during the 1960s when India was a relatively nascent nation but India of the 21st century is sensible and mature enough to realise that the state does not need to police an individual’s diet in order to ensure that the religious sensibilities of a micro-minority are not offended. Both meat eaters and non-meat eaters have a right to choose what they wish to eat. Let them make the choice instead of the state telling them.

Second, for heaven’s sake do not indulge in the politics of convenience by invoking the name of Akbar. This sudden admiration of the Hindu right for Akbar is most hypocritical. The Twitter trolls who label every Muslim emperor to have ruled India as a communal bigot are now citing the ban which Akbar had put on meat eating during Paryushan to justify what the BJP has done in Mumbai. It is not incumbent upon the government of India or government of Maharashtra to employ the same techniques which were utilised by a monarch centuries ago to cultivate religious harmony. Akbar tried to create a new religion called Din-e-Illahi for the sake of creating religious integration. Will the BJP-Shiv Sena government also attempt to create a new hybrid religion to resolve religious differences? The simple answer is that they won’t.

Coming back to Maharashtra politics, not long ago, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s BJP managed to take over the leadership of the saffron brigade in Maharashtra from the Shiv Sena by emerging as the single largest party during the Assembly elections held in 2014. While the BJP bagged 122 seats, Shiv Sena came in second with 63 seats. Raj Thackeray’s Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) turned out to be irrelevant as it won only one seat, lesser than debutant All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul Muslimeen (AIMIM) which won two seats. The results were a matter of deep humiliation for Bal Thackeray’s political heirs – Uddhav and Raj. Following the death of the Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray, both Uddhav and Raj had tried to replace him as the new leader of the “Marathi manoos”. But both failed the popularity contest as Modi conquered Maharashtra convincingly.

In February 2017, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), the richest municipal body in the world, will go to polls. The BMC has traditionally been controlled by the Shiv Sena but considering the political overtures made by the BJP in the past, it is very much possible that the Modi-Amit Shah combine will intend to dethrone Shiv Sena from the BMC as well. Therefore, it is natural for the Shiv Sena to oppose the BJP at this stage. The same goes for the MNS. The central force in Maharashtra politics is no longer the Congress or Shiv Sena, it’s the BJP. That’s precisely why the Shiv Sena and MNS have harped on the opportunity to oppose the meat ban.

The decision of imposing the ban was taken by the BJP. The Shiv Sena and MNS, by going all out in their opposition to the meat ban, are aligning themselves away from the BJP and trying to encash the anti-BJP sentiment which has emerged owing to this senseless decision. The Shiv Sena and MNS intend to enhance their popularity in the urban areas by speaking out against the meat ban which they hope will provide them electoral dividends in the BMC polls. Another significant reason the Shiv Sena and MNS have decided to take such a political risk is primarily because of the involvement of the Jain community instead of Hindus in the current controversy.

The Jains happen to be a micro-minority with less than limited electoral impact. The approach of the Shiv Sena and MNS would have been different had the meat ban been imposed in relation to a Hindu festival. Jains, though considered by many as a subsect of Hindus, are not Hindus at the end of the day. That’s why the MNS had the courage to roast chicken outside a hall where Jains had gathered in Thane. They would have never done so had it been Hindus instead of Jains. Though the meat ban is a thing to be abhorred, what needs to be equally abhorred are such shameless ways of protest which exemplify a naked majoritarian mindset, bent on harassing minorities by indulging in the most insensitive acts. Consuming meat during Paryushan is a matter of choice but willingly roasting chicken outside a hall full of Jains is an act of mischief.

The MNS would have certainly wanted the Jains to take objection to their crude way of protest. Thankfully, the Jains ignored the agitating political workers and did not provide them with a chance to indulge in a physical brawl. Raj Thackeray’s political ambition of turning this controversy into a “Jain vs Hindu” slugfest should never materialise. This is a question of personal liberty and it should remain that way. Political parties cannot be allowed to further communalise this issue. Uddhav Thackeray has said, “Let us bring the curtains down on the controversy over the meat ban”, but his party’s original stand against the meat ban has made two things clear: not all is fine as far as the BJP-Shiv Sena coalition is concerned. Second, after targeting Muslims, south Indians and north Indians, Jains might be the next set of people to be attacked in Maharshtra by the Shiv Sena on the presumptuous notion of “rich Jains taking away the place of the Maratha people”.

http://www.dailyo.in/politics/meat-ban-bjp-shiv-sena-paryushan-jainism-narendra-modi-bmc-muslims-hindutva/story/1/6230.html

(This article was originally published in DailyO.)