Posts Tagged ‘Dalits’

A Future India Must Do Without

January 4, 2010

By Badri Raina, ZNet, Jan 3, 2010

Badri Raina’s ZSpace Page

“Genius: a person who has a strong influence upon one for good or ill.”

(Advanced Oxford Dictionary)

I

All of the year gone by, India’s corporate classes—in sundry areas of material control, including the media—have been pushing and prodding the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) to return from the dumps to health and vigour. Editorially this Hindu right-wing formation has been reminded how the nation cannot do without them.

Alas, at the end of it all, its unedifying, even if highly diverting, internal squabbles have been for now set to right, not by its own autonomous political exertions, but per diktat of the RSS—a fascist outfit wholly extraneous to the Constitutional scheme of the Republic.

Brushing aside the many hopefuls within the BJP, Nitin Gadkari, a self-confessed RSS devotee who has never yet won an election to an assembly, not to speak of the parliament, has been installed as President of the BJP vide explicit decree of the RSS.

Continues >>

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India’s Ugly Underbelly

September 19, 2009

By Badri Raina, ZNet, Sep 19, 2009

Badri Raina’s ZSpace Page

He that will not reason is a bigot; he that cannot reason is a fool; he that dare not reason is a slave.”

(H. Drummond)

I

India’s Tamilians have always considered themselves a distinct race. Distinct from the Aryans who, history tells us, displaced their Dravidian ancestors after the conquest of the Indus-Valley civilizations. The Tamil language and script are perhaps of greater antiquity than Sanskrit and have remained largely free of its influence. Not to speak of Tamil literature which may be the richest India has to offer, both in depth and scope.

Which is why Tamilians break into passionate protest when any Tamilian anywhere be perceived as being under siege. Sri Lanka offering a prime example, as well as the situation of Tamilians in Malysia.

So, would it be right to infer that Tamilian civilizational homogeneity brooks no breach?

Wrong.

In the Peraiyur taluk of Madurai district in Chennai is a place called Uthapuram. And there, for the last two decades a ten foot high wall segregates Tamilians from other Tamilians, namely, caste Tamils from those without caste (“untouchabes”).

This wall was built to deny access to casteless Tamils of Uthapuram to public places and facilities frequented by caste Tamils on the other side.

Continues >>

India: Violent Gods

August 2, 2009

A ZNet Book Interview

By Angana Chatterji | ZNet,  July 31, 2009

Angana Chatterji’s  ZSpace Page

A Book Interview on Violent Gods: Hindu Nationalism in India’s Present; Narratives from Orissa

Can you tell ZNet, please, what your new book, “Violent Gods: Hindu Nationalism in India’s Present; Narratives from Orissa” is about? What is it trying to communicate?

Violent Gods’is an exploration of Hindu nationalism in India today. It details the mobilization of Hindu militant organizations as an authoritarian movement manifest throughout culture, polity, state, and economy, in religion and law, and class and caste, on gender, body, land, and memory… across the nation. The book explores that ways in which Hindu cultural dominance is manufacturing India, an emergent empire, as a ‘Hindu-secular’/Hindu majoritarian state.

As a woman of postcolonial India, of Hindu descent, ‘mixed’ caste heritage, the book is a journey in speaking with history. In freeing itself from British dominion in 1947, the Indian nation was shaped, in great part, by the will of the Hindu majority. Hindu cultural dominance has substantially defined what constitutes the ‘secular’ and ‘democratic’ in India today. Accountability demands that those of us with privilege in relation to ‘nation’ speak up, intervene. Telling a story of Hindu dominance in India is an intervention, ‘telling’ is a call to action.

Can you tell ZNet something about writing the book? Where does the content come from? What went into making the book what it is?

This book maps what I have witnessed — the architecture of civic and despotic governmentality contouring Hindu majoritarianism and nationalism in public, domestic, and everyday life. It chronicles the sustained and unchecked violences against minority Christian and Muslim communities, Adivasis (tribals) and Dalits (former ‘untouchable’ groups), and women, as well as sexual identity groups and children.

The book is a genealogical exploration of Hindu nationalism in India, with an ethnographic focus on Orissa, in eastern India, where Hindu nationalism’s terror has been prevalent since the 1990s, and where planned riots against minority peoples were carried out in 2007 and 2008. The research was conducted between 2002-2008 in urban and rural settings across Orissa in 66 villages, 11 towns, and four cities. The book records spectacles, events, public executions, the riots in Kandhamal of December 2007 and August-September 2008, as we witness the planned, methodical politics of terror unfold in its multiple registers.

In writing the book, I have made eighteen research trips to Orissa, and engaged in advocacy work on the issue. In 2005-2006, I convened the Orissa People’s Tribunal on Communalism, which was targeted, and its women members threatened with violence, by Hindu militant groups. See Human Rights Watch:

http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2005/07/12/does-rss-have-any-moral-standards

The book is situated at the intersections of Anthropology, Postcolonial, Subaltern, and South Asia Studies, and asks questions of nation making, cultural nationalism, and subaltern disenfranchisement. As a Foucauldian history of the present, this text asserts the role of ethical knowledge production as counter-memory. Through situated reflection, experimental storytelling, and ethnographic accounts, it excavates Hindutva/Hindu supremacist proliferations in manufacturing imaginative and identitarian agency for violent nationalism.

What are your hopes for “Violent Gods”? What do you hope it will contribute or achieve, politically? Given the effort and aspirations you have for the book, what will you deem to be a success? What would leave you happy about the whole undertaking? What would leave you wondering if it was worth all the time and effort?

At the release of the book in Orissa in April 2009, I was asked if the book would provide solutions for undoing Hindu militancy and dominance in India. Books, if we are so fortunate, complicate matters further. I remain hopeful that “Violent Gods” will energize discussion, debate, contemplation about India’s present and future, the role and violence of majoritarian states and groups globally, about privilege and subalternity, security, rights, and entitlements, about freedom and dissent. I remain hopeful that the many and powerful subaltern voices and narratives in the text will compel reflection.

The learning and advocacy that led to the book has engulfed and motivated me since 2002, and facilitated shifts in my thinking, empowered me to act, to take risks as an intellectual and activist. And, for people with prolific courage that supported its writing, with their stories, their lives, at risk of reprisal — I am grateful.

In India, we witnessed the ethnic cleansing of Sikhs in Delhi and elsewhere in 1984, genocidal violence against Muslims in Gujarat in 2002, calculated and sustained brutality against Christians in Orissa in 2007 and 2008, and the continued subjugation of Indian-administered Kashmir. On and on… We need to think, act, change. NOW.

“Violent Gods: Hindu Nationalism in India’s Present” by Angana P. Chatterji, from Three Essays Collective, released March 2009. More information at:

http://www.threeessays.com/titles.php?id=40

To look inside the book:

http://www.amazon.com/Violent-Gods-Nationalism-PresentNarratives/dp/8188789453/ref=ed_oe_h

India’s right-wing Bhartiya Janata Party: searching a new subterfuge?

June 30, 2009

By Badri Raina | ZNet, June 30, 2009

Badri Raina’s ZSpace Page

I

Wasn’t there a playwright who penned Six Characters in Search of an Author?

Well, India has a “major” political party that seems forever in search of a programme.

It is called the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP).

But, hang on; unlike the famous play cited above, the BJP’s interminable project is, in fact, not to find the author/programme but to constantly hide the one and only it has.

That author of its unreal being is the RSS, the so-called cultural organization that was established by India’s right-wing, Brahmanism in 1924 in order to direct the anti-colonial freedom movement towards the formulation of a majoritarian Hindu Rashtra, in opposition to the secular and pluralist ideals of the then Congress-led national movement.

Staunch adherent to that time-tested instrument of social and every other oppression in India, the caste hierarchy or varna vyavastha,  three dominant principles have constituted its raison d’ etre:

–an unrelenting hegemony of the upper castes over Hindu thought and practice;

–an unrelenting crusade against the Muslims whom it regards as alien to the land, and chief enemies of India’s “cultural essence”;

–a close embrace with militarist imperialism and with the systemic economic underpinnings that make such militarism and imperialism possible and necessary.

Not till 1949 did this organization declare its allegiance to the Indian Tricolour as comprising the undisputed icon of the new nation, and then too under duress and as a quid pro quo to the Nehru government’s willingness to release from prison its big chief or sarsangchalak who had been locked up as a consequence of the banning of the RSS after the Gandhi murder in 1948.

Only then was the RSS literally coerced into framing its constitution and putting on record its allegiance to the flag.

The fact that it still remains unreconciled to the Indian Constitution was borne out when the Vajpayee-led NDA regime (1999-2004) constituted a Constitution Review Committee, designed to alter some of the basic features of the Republic.

Continued >>

The Pakistan Problem

April 8, 2009

By Badri Raina | ZNet April 8, 2009

I

Now suppose that the post-Independence Indian State had been constituted as Savarkar and the Hindu Mahasabha, Gowalkar and the RSS had wished it to be constituted—a theocratic Hindu one.

Clearly, secularism would not have been enshrined as one of its “basic principles”; nor would cultural pluralism have been its endorsed social feature.

Indeed, as had been stipulated by these Hindutva ideologues, Muslims and Christians may have been granted citizenship only if they first abandoned their allegiance to Mecca and Jerusalem, accepting Hinduism as the “national” faith.

Concomitantly, and crucially, Hindu rituals and “time-honoured” religious practices would verily have received the sanction of the State.

Sati (widow burning after the death of the husband), child marriages in many parts of India, tantric sacrifices and other forms of voodoo, Hindu religious ceremonies mandated at official functions and in educational institutions, atrocities against Dalits (christened the “untouchables”, or those without caste) and much more could all have found an endorsed place within the theocratic Constitution, deriving their legitimacy from a diverse slew of Hindu-religious texts. The killing of a cow may have been inscribed as a more heinous crime than the killing of a Dalit (as per, for example, the injunctions of the Manusmriti).

And much more, especially in the matter of the entitlement to property as between the genders.

In such an eventuality, however secularists and rationalists might have argued, the “cultural nationalists” would have pointed them to the nature of the state and the provisions of the theorcratic Constitution as by law established, and put them in the dock as being subversive of the ordained features of the new nation-state.

As it is, if the secularists and rationalists in India have any chance of beating back the Hindutva fascists, it is because they have behind them the authority of the secular state and India’s secular-democratic Constitution.

Which is far from saying that the state in India has practiced the stipulations of that Constitution with any great conviction. It is saying, though, that the legitimacy of any governmental dispensation has had to reside in the secular Constitution as upheld by law and the courts.

II

Here is the problem with Pakistan, and it is just as well to face the fact as that unfortunate country is poised to come apart, having already lost its erstwhile eastern wing, now Bangladesh. A stark example that states based on religious principles need not be the most cohesive or lasting ones.

Carved on the grounds of religion, and christened The Islamic Republic of Pakistan, the legitimacy of the argument lies with those who insist that the Republic is not sufficiently Islamic.

That Jinnah, secularist par-excellence, who fathered the theocratic nation had foreseen this possibility and wanted to alter the grounds on which he had successfully persuaded the British to partition India was to become apparent in the very first speech he made to the Assembly of the new nation.

Alas, he died soon after. And Pakistan’s first prime minister, Liaqat Ali Khan, who might have effected that sort of transformation was duly assassinated.

So that, ever since, the feudals who were the material force behind the creation of Pakistan, aided by Hindutva “nationalists” and the British alike, and who have since also included the bulk of its military top brass, were to find in the marriage of theocracy and feudalism an instrument perfectly suited to their purposes.

Even as they did not turn away from the hedonisms that western life-styles had to offer, or from running business establishments and commercial ventures in city and hinterland. A unique army indeed.

Over the last sixty years, a miniscule, English-using middle class has indeed emerged—one that seeks to liberalise the state and polity. And those of them who are now in the forefront of battling obscurantism and orthodoxy are the most grievously trapped. Perhaps even dangerously so. Notice the sacrifices already made by many of Pakistan’s enlightened media hands, and the opprobrium suffered by some outstanding human rights activists.

The problem remains that not many are also able to say that so long as the Republic remains “Islamic” their strivings for a rational modernity stand constantly to lose for want of any endorsed legitimacy on behalf of the state.

And the hope that sections like the Taliban can be brought around to some middle course of a soft-Islamism regardless of the logic of Pakistan’s birth as a new nation constantly flounders in the face of their insistence that the “Islamic” Republic fulfil the full promise of its originations.

After all, they argue, you cannot have a theocracy run on the principles of modern jurisprudence or egalitarian social ideas. Doing any such thing seems to them to make Pakistan indistinguishable from the arch-enemy, India, obliterating the very coordinates of the Partition.

Precisely as would have been the case had the new Indian state become a theocratic Hindu Rashtra.

III

When one considers what an uphill task it still is in India to ensure the unfettered implementation of secular laws and other ” basic features” of the Constitution in the face of centuries of accumulated habits of inegalitarian thought which permeate the lawmaker and the administrator as much as they do elements in society, all despite the authority and the injunctions of state ideology, the task that faces secular-democratic civil society groups in Pakistan must seem stupendously daunting, since their efforts run counter not merely to the order of society but to the stipulations of the theocratic state as well.

The harsh question that democratic Pakistanis, individuals, groups, and political parties alike, must ask themselves is whether it will do simply to defeat obscurantist forces in democratic elections.

Or, whether, however devoted Pakistanis be to Islam, the principles of state ideology require to be rethought and reconstituted. And faith returned to its proper sphere, namely the private spaces of personal and social existence.

Indeed, the landmark elections there wherein the obscurantists were by and large defeated in all four provinces might be construed to offer the opportune moment to remodel the state along lines that the founder, Jinnah, had voiced in that speech to the first session of the new Assembly.

Can liberal and modernizing sections of Pakistanis hope to win the war against the “Islamists” by simply continuing to fight it within the terms both they and the state stipulate, or is a paradigm shift now an imperative? Do they now need a state ideology that can lend formal legitimacy to the resistance they seek to put up?

To many worldwide, especially to those who wish Pakistan well, it does seem that soon things could go so out of hand that any such retrieval becomes foreclosed.

Is Pakistan’s current parliament upto such a task? And does its army have the will to back the shift from “Islamic Republic” to “Republic”?

It seems obvious that Pakistan’s democracy, such as it is, cannot hope to put the Taliban in the wrong so long as Pakistan’s state ideology remains on their side.

And the current effort to marry Republican citizenship and the broad order of things to a continued adherence to theocratic nationhood seems destined to come a cropper.

IV

It would be dishonest not to allude to what seems to remain a profounder problem, one that may be called an intellectual closure.

As has been seen in recent years in India, especially since the demolition of the Babri mosque, a new species of intolerance in matters of debate about religion has come to afflict many Hindus. Violently so.

Yet, if this occurrence remains less than lethal (although the Malegaon event was lethal enough), or this side of overtaking the state, it must be due to the fact that traditions of “higher criticism” with respect to religious texts in Hinduism have a long history, and can be adduced in support of refutation and critique. Many social movements that have taken place in India, and are taking place now, could not be thought of without those traditions having existed, priestly oppressions notwithstanding.

This seems equally true of Christianity. Consider, after all, that there are Christian denominations that do not still accept the divinity of Christ, but rather see in him “man -made- divine” The Methodists, for example. Just as some denominations accept the authenticity of the Book of Revelation, and others consider the same as apocryphal. Not to speak of controversies as radical as those that concern the Gnostic gospels (Da Vinci Code).

All of those things without fear of losing life or limb, primarily because from the times of Wycliff, Copernicus, Galileo, Luther, and others, a heavy enough price was paid centuries ago to breach intellectual closure.

Perhaps those impulses are now beginning to stir within the world of Islam, but scantily and at great peril. Salman Rushdi and Tasleema Nasreen will know something of what is said here, no doubt.

Considering that Islam within the Indian subcontinent has had an extraordinary preponderance of the Sufi, the sceptic, the downright irreverent, including kings and princes, and fine traditions of Ijtihad (religious argumentation) it should not be such a task to plough those traditions back into the contemporary moment in Pakistan as well, and to put the reconstituted “Republic” on the footing of a new humanist renaissance.

After all, it is education of the widest sort of latitude that alone, in the end, ensures the deepening of democratic traditions and practices and the strength to meet bigotry with resolve and informed intellectual toughness.

The lesson needs to be imbibed that religious and scriptural texts have always been as much open and subject to interpretation and controversy as any other. And the least demur from “received” readings or official diktats need not be seen to constitute apostasy punishable with the chopping of limbs, lashing of backsides, or stoning to the death. Current day Swat in Pakistan is a telling example of what can happen when the state’s ambiguity about itself becomes its dominant feature.

This writer knows from personal experience with learned Muslim friends that various Suras of the Islamic holy book can be occasions for as much debate and disagreement as any ordinary literary work, even as the Gita and the Bible. Which is why, after all, that such a number of commentaries on the Qu’ran are in existence.

In Pakistan of now, it would seem that an old nation is in death throes, and a new too afraid to be born.

Pakistan is too pretty a place, and its people too intelligent and endowed for that birth to be allowed to be thwarted.

Speaking of which, one must also say that the success of that venture will depend a great deal on whether or not Pakistan learns to forego its claim to Kashmir– a claim that it bases on the ground that it is a Muslim-majority state. As well as to cease to view India as an adversary because it is a Hindu-majority country.

If Pakistan is to make the transition to a secular-democratic state, those grounds cannot hold. What can result from such a transition is its own lasting viability and progress as a nation-state, and the possibility that it can make crucial contributions to the stability and prosperity not only of South Asia but other regions where Muslims face similar conundrums.

___________________________________________________________

badri.raina@gmail.com

Germany, 1933 / Gujarat, 2009

January 23, 2009

the Triumph of Positivism

Badri Raina’s ZSpace Page

Epigraph:

“what matters today is to preserve and disseminate freedom rather than to accelerate . . . the advance towards the administered world”

(Adorno & Horkheimer, Dialectic of Enlightenment)

I

Just the other day, at the “Vibrant Gujarat” conclave in Ahmedabad, two of India’s leading industrialists, Anil Ambani and Mittal, speculated from public platform what a radiantly developed country India could become were Narendra Modi to be made the “next leader of India” (read Prime Minister).

At which memories of a similar conjuncture in the Germany of 1933 came rather rushingly to the fore.

Jackson J. Spielvogel tells us how Hitler “knew that to fulfill his foreign policy goals he needed the technological skills of the industrialists and capitalist industry itself.”

Thus he was to appoint Reichsbank Schacht as the new president of the Reischbank, “staunch defender of capitalism, which certainly reassured business and industrial leaders about Hitler’s economic direction. Fortunately for Hitler, Schacht was also an astute financier willing to use his many talents to benefit the Nazis” (Hitler and Nazi Germany: A History, Prentice Hall, 1988).

Sure enough, the Krupp family and a bevy of other industrialists were drafted to set Germany on the autobahn course, leading eventually within a year to a massive attention to rearming the Reich, and everything that followed, as Jews came to be seen to constitute the sinister fifth column of the Bolsheviks, threatening to capture the German economy and the state.

II

In our own Gujarat, it is not so much foreign policy that Modi has in mind as the domestic ascendance of a Fascist pattern of development that might in course of time yield him the position of the chief CEO of the country.

And, although such thinking has come to permeate the whole Indian state, what makes Gujarat stand out for the captains of industry is the social ground that Modi has prepared since the pogrom of 2002.

Briefly, a graveyard of peace where Modi’s administration faces no opposition from any quarter—other political parties, labour organizations, tribals, what-have-you; and where the least voice of dissent from within his own party, the BJP, is put down with no-nonsense repression. Add to that a totalitarian control over investigative agencies, state apparatus, and large sections of the judicial apparatus—the sort of objective conditions that have led the Supreme Court of India repeatedly to intervene in their maladroit operations and to refer both the investigation and juridical determination of cases related especially to the Muslim Gujaratis to agencies outside the state, or to special task forces directly under its own aegis.

As to the media, Gujarat is one place where the most puissant of them can be put into the doghouse: for example, when recently the Times of India did an expose on the Police Commissioner of Ahmedabad, charges of sedition—no less—were slapped on the those who ran the local edition of the newspaper.

State agencies like the Collectorate of Police, the Charity Commissioner, not to speak of party fascios, are used to terrorise individuals and groups who show the gumption to work on behalf of the poor, the minorities, or the other marginalized sections. Not to speak of the intimidation meted out with full state support to artists, film-makers, other cultural practitioners whose work is seen to transgress or question the preferences of a traditional, high-caste Hindu order of things.

Modi’s satraps routinely take recourse to the argument that having won elections, Modi has proved his legitimacy—an argument that is denied to the repeated and impressive victories scored by the Left in West Bengal, Lalu Prasad in Bihar, Shiela Dixit in Delhi, and so on, victories that have not had the underpinnings of a fascicised, majoritarian produce of hate to propel them. Yet the world knows that Modi’s electoral victories have resulted from a Hitlerite polarization of the majority Hindus against, not the Jews but the Muslims?

Nowhere in India, for these reasons, does the road to “development” and profit-maximisation seem as smooth to the industrialists as it does in Gujarat. As to the living indices of common Gujaratis, and of the relegated sections and victims of communal pogroms especially, how are they material to the story of “vibrant Gujarat”?

III

Adorno and Horkheimer, seeking in 1944 to understand what could explain the transmogrification of Europe from Enlightenment reason to Fascism, were to theorise how a “tireless self-destruction of enlightenment hypocritically celebrated by implacable fascists and implemented by pliable experts in humanity” had taken place—a process calculated to to turn “thought into commodity” and “language into a celebration of the commodity.”

Indeed, in a whole section devoted to the media. A&H were to show brilliantly, long before Marshall McLulan, how that decline of Enlightenment humanism into reified class interest was to turn the message into the substance, thus scoring a mythical and fraudulent triumph of “communicative reason” to which such votaries of that reason as Habermas have remained cruelly oblivious.

Given that the Indian bourgeoisie that supported the anti-colonial freedom movement, far from producing any European-Enlightenment moment of opposition, not to speak of sustained opposition, to the social/mythical weltanshuuang of the old feudal classes, simply incorporated the past into both their own lives and into the political manipulations of the anti-colonial movement, the Gujarat variety of fascism could the more easily marry instrumentalist positivism with social stasis and rootedness.

A structure of inherited prejudices and organized corporate religion have, thus, been brought to buttress commodified reason rather than thwart its virulently benumbing operations.

A & H were to point out that “if enlightenment does not assimilate reflection in this repressive moment, it seals its own fate,” as “motorized history” furthers the “oblivious instrumentalization of science.”

And, with uncanny pertinence to the contemporary Indian situation: “in the mysterious willingness of the technologically educated masses to fall under the spell of any despotism, in its self-destructive affinity to nationalist paranoia. . . the weakness of contemporary theoretical understanding is evident.”

This decline of the Enlightenment into an unreflective and despotic positivism ensures that “the flood of precise information and brand new amusements make people smarter and more stupid atonce.” Brilliant formulation if ever there was one.

Dialectic of Enlightenment (1944,1947,1969,2002, the last in Edmund Jephcott’s excellent translation) was thus intended as a “critique of enlightenment…to prepare a positive (rather than “positivist”) concept of enlightenment which liberates it from entanglement in blind domination.”

Put another way, this project was to liberate the enlightenment from the extensions it was to find in the work of Kant, Sade, and Nietzsche—all of that leading to Fascism and Nazism.

In our own case, the event in Gujarat suggests the long road still to be taken first to arrive at the Enlightenment moment, and then to disabuse that moment of its instrumentalist, anti-democratic hegemony, both tasks ominously coterminous rather than sequential. And all that almost exclusively the onus of a weak organized Left and civil society organizations that often find both the state and the classes that kow-tow to it in concerted antagonism.

IV

Imagine that even as India’s leading industrialists think it mouth=wateringly desirable that Modi be set-up as the Prime Minister (by which term they intend really the CEO of the state reconceived as a Corporation), here are some facts about common life in Gujarat:

–one of the lowest gender ratios in demography in terms of females to males;

–one of the highest rates of female infanticide;

–girls raped by teachers for better grades, and in govt., hostels;

–boys mysteriously murdered in religious ashrams;

–vigilante violence against young people wishing to cohabit or marry across communities or castes, all duly ignored by state agencies;

–a “freedom of religion” law that infact punishes change of religion;

–denial of ordinary civic rights to Muslims who are denied both trade rights and housing in up-market areas dominated by Hindus;

–organised lying about developmental indices: e.g concealment of the fact that it is one of the most indebted states in the country; that industrialists are attracted by government subsidies given to them; that no more than some 23% of MOUs signed with them since 2003 are actually in the pipeline; that the waters of the Narmada still do not reach the most needy regions of the state; that thousands have been displaced from the banks of the Sabarmati river to make way for the Sabarmati River Front Development Project; that fisher folk find themselves ruthlessly dispossessed without alternative recourse;

–that Dalits continue to live in inhuman conditions;

–that massive numbers of children remain enslaved in the labour force;

–that official school text books continue to be full of distortions of history and other myths and inaccuracies;

–that in contrast to a national average of 66%, only some 59% of rural children can read;

–that right-wing Hindutva groups may put up bill-boards anywhere proclaiming “Hindu Rashtra”;

And so on.

(see “Vibrant” Gujarat: Lies, Half-Truths and Illusions, The Gujarat Reality Today,” by Fr.Cedric Prakash, Director of Prashant, Ahmedabad based Jesuit Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace.)

Yet none of this figures in the calculations of the big-wigs who celebrate “vibrant” Gujarat.

V

True to this pattern of cutting-edge technological development nestling next to areas of abysmal social darkeness are neighbourhoods like Noida and Gurgaon in the National Capital Region.

These are areas that have some of the highest crime rates in the country, such as include daylight abductions, rapes, robberies, road-rage killings, honour killings of young women—and men—who dare defy the traditions laid down by caste groups and panchayats, and other forms of violence engendered by a culture of new affluence married to the prejudices of a feudal world-order.

A pattern entirely to the convenience of investors and industrialists who wish for great leaps in technological development but think any application of the scientific ways of thinking about social and cultural issues first a nuisance and then a potential threat to the flow of their operations.

As Marx had foreseen, the bourgeoisie may have, in Europe especially, made ruthless use of science in dethroning the regressive weltanshuuang of the feudal classes, but once in power, the last thing they desired was to see science carried further forward to scrutinize the weltanshuuang of their own class.

From about the end of the eighteenth century, science had to have but one use: the exploitation and mastering of natural resources for the ploughing of surpluses at whatever social cost. And the chief source of surplus being wage labour.

Gujarat under the Narendra Modi dispensation offers just about the most perfect scenario for so doing. It also boasts one of the lowest rates of wage labour!

What fitter candidate for India’s Prime Ministership?

________________________________________________________________

badri.raina@gmail.com

Holy war strikes India

October 9, 2008

35 Christians killed and 50,000 forced from their homes by Hindu mobs enraged at Swami’s murder

By Andrew Buncombe in Phulbani, Orissa | The Independent, Oct 9, 2008

A woman shows her grief at the religious violence in Orissa during a gospel hymn service

AP

A woman shows her grief at the religious violence in Orissa during a gospel hymn service

Change font size: A | A | A

As she recalled her awful story, Puspanjali Panda made no attempt to halt the tears flooding down her face.

Holding her daughter close, she told how a baying Hindu mob dragged her husband – a Christian pastor – from his bed, beat him to death with stones and iron rods and then threw him into a river. She found his corpse two days later, washed up on the bank. When she went to the police, they told her to go away.

Mrs Panda and thousands of others like her are victims of the worst communal violence between Hindus and Christians that India has seen for decades. For a country that boasts of its mutual religious tolerance, the long-simmering tension that has erupted in the Kandhamal district of the state of Orissa – a nun being raped, churches being burned, at least 35 people killed and thousands forced from their villages – is both a belated wake-up call and a mounting embarrassment. The Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, called it a “national disgrace”.

But for Mrs Panda, sheltering in a wretched relief camp in the state capital, Bhubaneswar, it is much worse than that. The 38-year-old said she had no idea what would now happen to her and her bewildered-looking child, Mona Lisa. “I do not want to go back. They have destroyed my home,” she wailed.

The journey to the heart of the violence follows a bone-shaking road east from Bhubaneswar to the district capital, Phulbani. It was here in late August that thousands of Hindus armed with swords, sticks and primitive guns began taking matters into their own hands after the murder of an elderly religious leader, Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati.

The swami, a senior member of a right-wing Hindu organisation known as the Vishswa Hindu Parishad (VHP), had reportedly been working to prevent low-caste Hindus converting to Christianity. His followers claimed he had been murdered by local Christians, though police said there was no evidence of that. Either way, in the days that followed, groups of Hindus wrought a terrible revenge on Christian families whom they had lived alongside for decades. In addition to the deaths, 140 churches and prayer halls were attacked and up to 50,000 people forced to flee. In instances the violence appears staggering in its cruelty. Rabindranath Pradhan, now a refugee, had to watch helplessly while a 300-strong mob doused his disabled brother with petrol and set him alight. “He was shouting ‘Help me, Help me.’ I could not help – there were so many of them,” he said.

Continued . . .

When faith uses force

September 30, 2008

Behind a new outbreak of violence against Christians in India lies a long-running campaign for Hindu cultural dominance

Protest in New Delhi against Hindu anti-Christian violence in India

An activist demonstrating in New Delhi against the violence of hardline Hindu groups against Christians in several Indian states, September 29 2008. Photo: Adnan Abidi/Reuters

Standing next to France’s President Sarkozy, the Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh today made a heartfelt plea over the spread of anti-Christian violence in India. The sight of Hindu mobs smashing churches and prayer halls while Christians in the country are killed or left cowering under tarpaulin sheets in refugee camps is, as Dr Singh rightly described, a “national shame”. There are calls from within the ruling Congress party, which relies on the votes of Christians and Muslims in India, to ban Hindu extremist organisations such as the Bajrang Dal, which uses force when the force of argument fails.

There has been bloodshed on both sides. One Christian priest was “cut to pieces” in front of his wife. A Hindu priest was shot dead for campaigning against religious conversions. The violence, which has left nearly two dozen dead, has spread across six states. Even after the Pope intervened, the Roman Catholic archbishop of one of the worst affected areas in eastern India said the situation was “out of control”.

What lies behind this violence is nothing less than a struggle for the soul of India. Religion is deeply rooted in this country of one billion. The divine was fundamental in the creation of post-independence India. Unlike Europe, in India the Gods will not disappear in a blaze of rational thinking.

But views of God led to a schism in Indian nationalism. One side is rooted in secular thinking: that beneath the differences among India’s religions there is a common creed, a moral order articulated in the country’s constitution. Opposing this is the Hindu right. Their philosophy aims to unify the country under the banner of the majority religion. It sees the country’s post-independence constitution as an instrument forged by “pseudo-secularists”, which now needs to be updated to reflect the Hindu character of India.

Christians in India long pre-dated the British, who sponsored missionary activity with little success. In 1947, only 3% of the country was Christian. There’s an unmistakable tint to Christianity in India: the priests are mostly upper-caste Brahmin converts and the flock is mostly drawn from the country’s untouchable communities known as Dalits. Contemporary Hindu anger centres on the idea that India’s rise will see an explosion of Christians in the country – a takeover by a foreign ideology like that experienced by South Korea in the 1960s.

The Hindu nationalist party, the Bharatiya Janata party, says it is against proselytisation through coercion, inducement, or by vilifying any faith. That conversion continues, therefore, and that it remains legal, drives Hindu groups into a bloody frenzy. By decrying the violence but remaining powerless to prevent it, the Indian prime minister exposes his strength and weakness. The Indian federal government could suspend state administrations – for failing to quell violence. This is the nuclear option of unseating a democratically elected local regime. Instead, the Indian prime minister chooses only speak up.

Martha Nussbaum, the noted American philosopher, draws a comparison with 1950s America where only a few groups such as the Ku Klux Klan would openly advocate violence, but “where the whole society was suffused with attitudes that … often condoned violence against African Americans, attitudes that clearly affected the behaviour of the police and other officers of the law”. This remark is telling because, in the southern Indian town of Mangalore, it was Christian churches that were attacked, yet the leaders of Hindu mobs walked free for days, untouched by the police.

The violence is the really about the clash within. Like the United States, India has never had a state-imposed religion. It has always had a tradition of sects and religious minorities, which coexist and compete with each other without suffering state persecution or patronage. Instead of trying to capture state power for the purpose of waging a cultural war, the Hindu right would do the country a service by reforming itself from within – promoting equality and unifying its own denominations and sects.

Religion’s role in India must be one of restraining passions, not inflaming them.

To keep up with Randeep Ramesh’s blog from India, go here.


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