Dissensions in Hindutva

Novelist Chimamanda Adichie once said, “The problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but they are incomplete; they make one story and become the only story.” The quote cements the very idea with which we treat Hindutva, which is as a totalitarian concept of rabid Hindu nationalism. The problem with other side of the fence exists in not understanding this Hindutva force in different forms and thoughts, rather as a homogeneous ideology. The views of Trotsky, Luxemburg, Marx, Engels, and Stalin exists in the bigger tree of leftism, having conflicts but still have resemblances that join them as one force. In the same manner, hindutva too has differences in opinions, and views with some common grounds.

These divisions mainly are driven by two constraints – region and language. Now one may ask why this discussion is suddenly necessary, and the answer would be the mistake of understanding the whole image of Yogi Adityanath who has been termed as the choice of RSS. The question lies, is Yogi a Sanghi?  The answer is a simple NO.  Does he enjoy a good rapport with RSS? The answer will be yes. Yogi’s constituency Gorakhpur is the key to answer all the questions. If after Nagpur, there would be another power centre for hindutva movement, then it would be Gorakhpur. Gorakhpur is famous for its Gorakhnath temple and for the puritanical Gita Press. We are acquainted to the fact that the hindu texts were restricted to a few and were largely inaccessible to the common masses. Therefore gita press actually played an important role in breaking this convention and made its books available to every North Indian’s temple. Though this publication house talks about Santana dharma but still derives its principles from old patriarchal traditions making it redundant for the younger generation. The gita press changed the very outlook of hindu societies in north india and made the Hindus conscious of their religion which lead to the rise of hindu nationalism in North India. The Gita press blended with the Marwari community of Gorakhpur and the temple which helped Gita express to propagate its views. Gorakhpur’s hindutva has nothing in common with the hindutva of RSS as Gorakhpur represents the likes of Hindu Mahasabha and Vishwa Hindu Parishad who are more extreme in their portrayal of their ideology. VHP and its affiliates always had a north Indian style of functioning in their organisation.

But there were always stark differences in what we call as the RSS. In spite of an all India image, RSS still has its Peshwaite Maharashtrian identity imbibed in it. That’s why one can understand how late Pramod Mahajan (Former NDA Minister and BJP Maharashtra leader) and Nitin Gadkari( MP of Nagpur) influenced Delhi politics as most importantly they had the backing of Nagpur. RSS has always been seen as an organisation which forms its structure by the likelihoods of Nazi party of Germany. But on the other hand, other Hindu organisations seem to be more unorganised and more swadeshi than RSS (as they don’t have any dress code, daily schedules and others). But the relevant situation is to consider that the bridge between these hindu organisations over past decades have reduced and they have come on board with RSS to present a united face to the masses. They have different objectives but their goal is the same which is the Hindu Rashtra.  So the only message it today resonates is that of unity for common cause which hints to the left to overcome their disputes to counter the narratives presented by the sangh parivar. .

The author, Aditya Poddar, is a student of B.Com (Honours) at St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata.

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What the RSS Has Given India

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, aka the Sangh, is world’s largest non-governmental voluntary organization directed at serving the Indian nation. Though it regards itself as an association of patriots, the Sangh and its ideals are practically different from any other social group. It has been, in the past, allegedly involved in indulging and at times intervening in framing government policies. The Sangh works in a division of labour mode: dealing with socio-cultural issues itself, the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) identifies itself as parliamentary wing of the Sangh, the Viswa Hindu Parisad (alongwith its youth cadres in Bajrang Dal and female cadres in Durgavahini) as Dharmic wing, and the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parisad as its students’ wing.

Starting from scratch, the Liberals argue that the Sangh did not participate in the Indian freedom struggle. The counter to that would be the Sangh was never created to end British Raj nor to achieve ‘political’ independence from the Raj. Dr. Keshav Baliram Hedgewar, Sangh founder, never wanted the Sangh to get involved in the independence struggle otherwise being booked for sedition and get banned. The Sangh was directed at social objectives like removal of untouchability and caste system and opposition to divide and rule policy of the British by which Islamist tendencies (since Khilafat agitation) were gaining impetus. Hedgewar directed the swayamsevaks to first resign from their positions and then participate in the freedom struggle. Hedgewar himself resigned as Sarsanghchalak (RSS Supreme Leader) to participate in the movement and was jailed for a year. When M. K. Gandhi visited the RSS camp at Wardha in 1934 he said, “When I visited the RSS camp, I was very much surprised by your discipline and absence of untouchability”.

The majority of the Sangh volunteers were drawn from the Hindu revivalist and reformist schools like Arya Samaj, Prarthana Samaj, and the former swayamsevaks and Sangh ideologues also joined ultranationalist clandestine secret groups like Hindusthan Republican Association, Jugantar Dal, Abhinav Bharat and Free India. Though founded in 1925, its ideals and principles were followed by the patriots who participated in independence. Bal Gangadhar Tilak, a Hindu nationalist became the Leader of the Congress Extremists. Savarkar, the one who coined the term Hindutva was arrested for his involvement in revolutionary activities and deported to Cellular Jail in Andaman. Savarkar was an atheist and called the Hindus for rationalist reform within Hinduism.

The Sangh, during the pre-independence years, believed Swaraj to be social, cultural and not just political. The Sangh believed that independence by the force of Political Archimedian cannot eradicate the socio-cultural defects and counter-culture of India. The Sangh was involved in social activities like revival of several forgotten Indian figures and sentiments of braveries surrounded by them; like in Maharashtra it revived the memories of Shivaji and Baji Rao; Rana Pratap, Rani Padmavati, Prithviraj Chauhan in Rajputana, Adi Shankaracharya in the Southern presidencies, Malharrao-Ahilyabai Holkar in Central Provinces. The Sangh proclaimed war over forced conversion of Hindus, child marriage, Sati, asprishyata (untouchability), purdah and polygamy. The Sangh volunteers worked in close association with the grassroot masses applying conviction, persuasion and dialogue.

The Sangh received a popular appeal after the institutionalization of two-nation theory. It opposed the idea of a separate Muslim nation (Pakistan) and professed for unity what it regarded as ‘Akhand Bharat’ (United India). When the Muslim League offered to merge the whole of Bengal, Punjab and Sindh into proposed Pakistan, the Sangh opposed the move. It was unsuccessful at bringing Sindh into the Indian Union, however it became successful in merging the Hindu-majority districts of Bengal and Assam; and Sikh and Hindu -majority districts of Punjab into the Union of India.

When Maharaja Hari Singh chose to remain independent, the then Union minister of princely states, Vallabhbhai Patel urged the 2nd Sarsanghchalak M.S. Golwalkar to meet Hari Singh to persuade him to merge with India. Finally, the Raja merged Kashmir to India in October 1947. It campaigned for decolonization of the Portuguese-ruled Dadra and Nagar Haveli. In 1954, the Sangh allied with the National Movement Liberation Organization and Azad Gomantak Dal for annexation of Dadra and Nagar Haveli into Indian Union. In 1955, the Sangh demanded the merger of Portuguese-ruled Goa into India. The then Premier Nehru having refused to intervene by force, the Sangh engaged in Satyagraha and the police opened fire on the unarmed Satyagrahis. Goa was finally liberated in 1960.

Following the assassination of M. K. Gandhi by ex-swayamsevak and leader of the ultra-rightist Hinduu Mahasabha, many Sangh leaders were arrested for hatching conspiracy. The RSS was banned as an organization in 1948, but the Justice Kapur Commission inquired into the case and found no proof of the Sangh involved in assassination of Mr Gandhi. The Supreme Court acquitted all the Sangh leaders. In 1949, the Union lifted the ban on the RSS.

During the outbreak of the Sino-Indian War, 1962, the Sangh, through its labour wing, the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, gave a call to the workers to increase defence production. It assisted in ambulance and first-aid services. It worked hard to restore defence supplies to borders. The Prime minister Nehru was so impressed with the activities of the Sangh that he invited Sangh to next Republic Day parade of January 1963 where nearly 3000 swayamsevaks took part (‘RSS-Vision in Action’, Sheshadri, H.V., Chapter 1, Page 30). In 1965 Indo-Pakistan War, the Sangh was requested by then Prime minister Lalbahadur Shastri in controlling road traffic in Delhi when policemen were recruited for defence activities. In 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War, the Sangh cadres offered their services to maintain law and order in the country and were one of the first organizations to donate blood to the ailing soldiers at the borders. 

The Sangh has a membership of nearly 8 million (except the BJP) working through social-service organizations. The Siksha Bharati, Vidya Bharati have been associated with management of schools and Saraswati Shishu Mandirs impart Hindu cultural knowledge through Indian scriptures. The Swadeshi Jagaran Manch is the wing of RSS involved in promotion of indigenous industries towing on Deendayal Upadhyay’s ideology of Integral humanism (Ekatma Manavdarshan). The Vanavasi Kalyan Ashram and the Friends of Tribals Society is a volunteer organization formed by the Sangh with the goal of improving literacy and health among the Adivasi, rural tribal people in India. The Ekal Vidyalaya is a project of the Sangh where it imparts formal and cultural education through a local person who is trained as a teacher. The one-teacher schools are 34,000 in number with more than 1 million students.   

The Sangh was involved in providing relief and rehabilitational services to the people through the Seva Bharati, a wing for the needy. It was involved during the 1971 Orissa Cyclone, 1977 Andhra Cyclone, 1984 Bhopal disaster and 2001 Gujarat earthquake, and helped rebuild villages. It also conducted relief operations to the victims of 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and Sumatra-Andaman Tsunami. The Seva Bharati also adopted 57 children from militancy affected areas of Kashmir and provided assistance to the 1999 martyrs’ families of Kargil War. Also, its involvement in 2013 Uttarakhand floods have been commendable.

The Sangh also perpetrates itself in the political sphere, as is the ambition of every social organization. The Bharatiya Jan Sangh, founded by Dr Shyama Prasad Mookherjee identified itself as the politico-parliamentary wing of the RSS, in 1951. The Jan Sangh opposed the imposition of Article 370 in Kashmir and called for its abrogation. The Sangh was involved in 1966 Anti-Cow slaughter agitation in Delhi where thousands of Hindu seers met police firing. Ramachandra Veera, an Advaita monk, sat in hunger strike in protest for 166 days.

During the Emergency dictatorship (1975-77), the Sangh was banned by Indira Gandhi for carrying out revolutionary activities against the government. The Bharatiya Jan Sangh, along with several other parties, carried out a defiant campaign against the Emergency. Many of its leaders were imprisoned for 21 months, and many fled to foreign countries and some took to disguise or went underground to escape the dictatorial persecution of the Congress Party. The Jan Sangh merged with the Janata Party and defeated the Congress party in 1977 elections. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was formed by Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Lalkrishna Advani in 1980 which became a successor to the Jan Sangh. The BJP is world’s largest functioning democratic organization with a primary membership of nearly 90 million.

The Sangh has been engaged in improving the unity of the Hindu society and eradicate untouchability and hereditary caste system. It believes that caste system led to the disunity among Hindus and this led to foreign invaders getting upper-hand in dividing the Hindus and gaining power. It believes that any Hindu though born into a lower-caste can become a Kshatriya, by protecting the Dharma, and Brahmin, by mastering the scriptures. The Sangh has been advocate of opening the positions of Temple priests to the non-Brahmins including the Shudras and, wants the temples to be opened for all Hindus irrespective of hereditary caste and biological sex. The Sangh believes that, ‘Even God will desert the temple in which the Dalits cannot enter’. The Sangh is a vociferous advocate of national unity and integrity and has its ideological stand diluted since independence. The Sangh, through its activities of social welfare and aid has been able to win the confidence of the Hindus and Muslims alike in this nation.

The author, Avik Sarkar, is a student of Political Science at St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata.

Unravelling the ‘Right’ Feminine Worship

India was recognised as one of the first countries to have granted Universal Adult Franchise to its citizens irrespective of sex or any other social differences which was prevalent within it’s society, immediately after its independence. Modern Indian History also saw India grow out as a ‘Secular’ nation, which incorporated the various religions and communities into the larger Indian society. It did away with a lot of inequalities which was prevalent in India’s ‘dark’ past, but I wonder exactly, to what extent was it successful to allow enlightenment seep into her social sphere. At a time when Goddesses were being worshipped among the Hindus, in India, Sati and marginalization of the widows were still practiced. Goddesses and their male counterparts were immortal, and hence they were never pushed into widowhood. Things were not quite the same for Hindu women. A man was allowed to marry another woman if his wife passed away, however, a woman was cremated alive, along with her dead husband or was abandoned in a secluded part of the house, with her hair chopped off and her jewelleries taken away, with nothing, but misfortune to celebrate throughout her existence.
Modern India has seen many changes. Marginalised groups and Women are given adequate education and opportunities to build themselves as self-dependent and self-suffucient individuals. In order to rise above the position they were pushed into in the past, for centuries, women and the lower castes and classes have been granted reservations in various economic, political and social spheres. However, was reservation, or even, the increase in literacy and job opportunities, a perfect answer to the existing inequalities which indirectly affected their position in the patriarchal society?
Right-wing (Hindu) communal groups, have celebrated “Nari-shakti” and female worship for a long time. Indian feminism has represented brown women as different Goddesses. Many feminist artists have given a more “modern” touch to the Indian Goddess, by embellishing her with tattoos or even allowing her to wear Westernized clothes. However, is it enough to affect and change a mindset, which has been fed, over centuries by patriarchy and is now a part of essentially Hindu ‘customs and traditions’?
“…Durga puja does carry one important message for young girls. This puja is supposedly in celebration of the goddess’ return to her natal home. The fact that it lasts for five days in the whole year forcefully suggests to the girl that, once married, she too cannot expect to visit her family very often”(Mazumdar 1981: 34). In India, elders bless young girls and women by wishing them a large number of sons (and just one daughter), something which is now, unfortunately, a custom. It is not to say that a girl is always made to feel unwanted all the time. There are sayings in Marathi that ‘the father of a girl will never remain hungry’. Moreover, there is much celebration for the achievements of the daughter of the house. However, the message that gets communicated, is invariably that of the immutability of the social system and that the daughter’s stay in her parental home is not only short-lived, but is unnatural, and poses much danger and risk to the reputation of the family.
 Preoccupation with the desirability of marriage for girls is expressed through practices such as ‘vratas’ for getting a husband like Shiva or Vishnu. The purpose of certain popular festivals, specially meant for little girls- Bhulabai in parts of Maharashtra, Gangaur in parts of Gujarat and Shivratri in parts of Bengal- which are characterized by collective worship, singing and playing, is to obtain a good husband. Moreover, marriage is something which adds a sense of auspiciousness to the woman’s presence and worth. She, who is married, will be referred to as ‘Saubhagyavati’, or the ‘fortunate one’. Whereas, the unmarried women are often excluded from the ‘auspicious’ activities of the ‘fortunate’ women and are made to feel that there is something wrong with them (Leela Dube, pp.102-107). Thus, it is forcefully transmitted that the ultimate destiny for every woman is to achieve this fortune, after marriage. 
Girls are encouraged to speak softly and avoid abrasive, ‘male’ language. Boys, of course, learn all kinds of abuses, but even the milder abuses are frowned upon, if used by young girls. In India, a girl is often referred to as the goddess of wealth, Lakshmi, latently hinting at the institution of dowry. When a woman is married into a family, the whole process is referred to as the entry of Lakshmi into the groom’s family (along with wealth, in the form of dowry). Natural and biological processes such as the menstrual cycle is referred to as impure. Moreover, a woman who goes through this biological cycle is expected not to visit temples, or attend religious ceremonies even of the goddesses, who are, in fact, women. 
“A girl has to be carefully guarded against even a remote semblance to a woman of loose character, a woman of the street, a prostitute, or someone who uses charm to attract men. Smiling without purpose, glancing ‘furtively’, looking through the corners of one’s eyes do not become a well-bred girl. Shyness and modesty are approved of and considered ‘natural’ feminine qualities.”(Dube, Leela). Patriarchy has normalised a marginal position for girls and for women, which is being latently bred in the Indian society and is well portrayed in Krishna Kumar’s words:”…We boys used the street for so many different things-as a place to stand around watching, to run around and play, try out the manoeuvrability of our bikes. Not so for girls. As we noticed all the time, for girls the street was simply a means to get straight home from school. And even for this limited use of the street they always went in clusters, perhaps because behind their purposeful demeanour they carried the worst fears of being assaulted… Watching these silent clusters for years eroded my basic sense of endowing individuality to every human being. I got used to believing that girls are not individuals”(1986). 
It should also be mentioned that The brand of ‘Hindutva feminism’ has been normalised through popular art forms and literature. In the 1970s the image of these select goddesses were often used in movements meant to mobilise women. If critically examined, one would stand to observe that the upper-caste Hindu populace worships the goddesses popularly invoked in these contexts. There have been many observations about how goddess-inspired feminism grew among the upper-caste women in Indian society as a response to the Mandal reforms in the 1990s.
 
‘Hindutwa Feminism’ has, for a long time, glorified the victory of Goddesses Kali and Durga against the “asuras” and have immortalised them as manifestations of ‘Nari Shakti’. However, these “asuras or danavas” she slays are mostly dalit or adivasi people, that Brahmanical Hinduism portrays as perpetrators of crime and violence. Goddess worship can thus, be held as a silent manifestation of casteism and patriarchy, in the garb of worshipping female deities. 
The growth of Indian Feminism in conformance with Hindutwa and “Hinduised Feminism”, is extremely hazardous as it reinforces patriarchy, majoritarianism and ignores those who subscribe to any other religion. Moreover, the latent patriarchal notions which are related to the practice of Goddess worship actually get reinforced and normalised if it is accepted as a part of modern-day feminism in India. It can only be hoped that with the upcoming generations and through Western education, Indian minds will open up and accept things which were previously unacceptable. It is not impossible to make and accept such changes but it sure, will come about with time. 
 
The author, Meghjit Sengupta, is a student of Sociology at St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata.

How to Elect your Next College Parliament?

The new guidelines for the elections to students’ bodies in various campuses in Bengal has raised a new topic of debate. The Government of Bengal is set to implement some tough changes to ways the ‘political unions’ operate in the Universities and colleges. There can be two ways to discuss at this so-called ‘Xavier’s Model’ of students’ bodies – political and strictly academic. While the academic (read politically correct) points are highlighted here, nevertheless, the political ramifications cannot be swept under the carpet.

The new regulation says that the President of the union would be a faculty member and would be responsible for managing the funds of the union. The student leaders with less than sixty percent attendance and who have academic arrears will not be eligible to contest for the posts of General secretary and Assistant General secretary. A person can hold these offices only for two terms. The electoral college for the election would comprise of all the bona fide students of the colleges or Universities. And the most importantly, the practice of electing class representatives (CRs) will be done away with.

First things first, new rules set forth by the State Government are anything but a ‘Xavier’s Model’ of Students’ body. The practice of elections that is followed in the St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata, is totally different from what has been prescribed in the regulations. The students’ council elections in St. Xavier’s are held indirectly, i.e. the students elect their class representatives, who in turn elect the strictly apolitical Working Committee of the council, headed by the Principal (who is the ex-officio President), a General secretary and an Assistant General secretary. Secondly, the requirements also include that the candidates of CR-elections are recommended by two classmates, and their nomination papers get endorsed by at least two Professors-in-charge for active participation in co-curricular activities. And the candidates must also have at least seventy-five percent attendance with no academic arrears.

It is therefore only an adoption of the ‘apolitical’ nature of Xavier’s Students’ council, and not the procedure of elections per se. And hence, like students of all other campuses, Xaverians will be concerned too as to how to elect their next council!

The political voices were definitely not silent on this issue. The leaders of the three major political parties, viz.  Students’ Federation of India, Trinamool Chhatra Parishad and Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, were quick to respond. While the TMCP has expectedly ‘welcomed’ the move, they are not sure whether to dissolve their units in the various campuses across the state. The SFI is opposed to these new rules of elections and see politics in the decision to appoint a professor in the proposed unions. The ABVP, on the other hand has refused to accept any sort of ‘Xavier’s model’ and demanded the implementation of the recommendations of the Lyngdoh commission.

In this connection, it is justified to note the basic tenets of recommendations of the commission headed by James M. Lyngdoh, former Chief Election Commissioner. The most important recommendation for the structure of the college parliaments was — “disassociation of student elections and student representation from political parties”. They also suggested that unions should comprise of only the students and no faculty member, nor any member of the administration, would be allowed to be a member. The colleges would be at freedom to select a mode of election – either by indirect elections of the office bearers through Class representatives (which is the Xavier’s system actually) or by an electoral college which consists of all students.

In conclusion, it can be said that the recommendations given by the State Government are more of a realistic version of the Lyngdoh commission report, rather than a perceived ‘Xavier’s model’, and it will be interesting to see how the process of the democratic exercise is carried out in the various campuses of the state, in the next few months.

The author, Nilanjan Das, is a student of Biotechnology at St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata.

Is Religion the biggest impediment to progress in the modern world ?

And do you think that unto such as you

A maggot minded, starved , fanatic crew

God gave a secret, and denied it to me?

Well, well — what matters it? Believe that too!

-THE RUBAIYAT OF OMAR KHAYAM

(RICHARD LE GALLIENNE TRANSLATION)

The young man boards the bus as it leaves the station. He wears an overcoat. Beneath an overcoat, he is wearing a bomb. His pockets are filled with nails, ball bearings, and rat poison. The man’s parents soon learn of his fate. Although saddened to have lost a son, they feel tremendous pride at his accomplishment. These are facts. These are what we know for certain about the man. Is there anything else we can infer about him on the basis of these facts? Was he popular is school? Was he rich or poor? Was he intelligent or not? Did he have a college education? His actions are simply mute on questions of this sort. Why is it , then, not so difficult  to guess this man’s religion?

One does not have to strive to look very hard to find examples of Religious violence and the misusing of Religious ideologies for political purposes. Even today, in 2017, politics is rife with religious rhetoric, sometimes feeding off the hatred that these ideologies evoke. Some critics have even said that India’s Secular tradition has slumped and that the state is tilting towards fascism with the rise of Hindu Nationalism. The Partition in 1947 which led to the formation of the Dominions of India and Pakistan resulted in a conflict that has not been resolved even after 70 years. One cannot downplay the significance and role of religion in the Partition. Ambedkar, in his speech, “One country, two nations’ made a distinction between the “Hindu Nation” and the “Mohammedan Nation.” Religious-based violence and militarism has been present as early as the 11th century during the The Crusades which  were a series of religious wars sanctioned by the Latin Church in the medieval period, especially the campaigns in the Eastern Mediterranean aimed at recovering the Holy Land from Islamic rule. Max Weber was the first to predict that there would be a “clash of civilizations” between Islamic Fundamentalism and the West in late 20th century. This “clash” is evident with the formation of various extremist groups like Al-Qaeda, Boko Haram, Hizbullah and the Islamic State. The Islamic State is more than a terrorist group. Their numerous Human Rights abuses like Religious and minority group persecution, Treatment of civilians, Child soldier, Sexual violence and slavery, Attacks on members of the press,  Beheadings and mass execution, Destruction of cultural and religious heritage clearly represent a 7th century ideology. Couple this with a 21st century apocalyptic weapon, and you have a recipe for the destruction of civilization.

Why is it so easy so politically instrumentalize Religion and why do conflicts between and because of Religion persist even in today’s day and age ? Almost all conflict today is because of or in some way related to Religion. Dogmatic belief in any ideology is dangerous. But unlike Religion other ideologies are subjected to criticism and can be discussed and debated on. Both Religious extremists and moderates demand that faith be respected and this has put Religion outside the ambit of rational debate. It has somehow immunized itself overtime to the kind of scrutiny and criticism that we apply to every other area of human discourse. Further, unlike doctrines of other ideologies that constantly improved upon and changed, Religious texts are static. It can be argued that the contents of these texts are purely metaphysical. However, belief in these doctrines have real world consequences.

A belief is a lever that, once pulled, moves almost everything else in a person’s life. Your beliefs determine your vision of the world; they dictate your behaviour; they determine your emotional responses to other human beings. Consider how a you would behave if you came to believe one of the following propositions

  1. You have only two weeks to live.
  2. You’ve just won a lottery prize of a hundred crore rupees.
  3. Aliens have implanted a receiver in your skull and are manipulating your thoughts

These are mere words—until you believe them. Once believed, they become part of the very apparatus of your mind, determining your desires, fears, expectations, and subsequent behaviour. There seems, however, to be a problem with some of our most cherished beliefs about the world. They are leading us, inexorably, to kill one another. The link between belief and behaviour raises the stakes considerably.  Subscribing to the kind of beliefs that religion prescribes can be dangerous because it is a totalitarian solution to everything, or at least claims to be. Religion’s essential fanaticism, consideration of the human being as raw material and its fantasy of purity is what makes it a problem in the contemporary world. Once you assume a creator and a plan (as monotheism does explicitly) it makes us objects in a cruel experiment whereby we are created sick and ordered to be well. And over us to supervise this is installed a celestial dictatorship, exigent for uncritical praise and swift to punish the sins with which it so tenderly gifted us in the very first place. Salvation or redemption is promised at the price of the surrender of our critical faculties. Is it good for the world to appeal to our credulity and not to our scepticism? If someone were to seriously represent their belief that the Earth was as big as the Sun,  he/she would immediately be ridiculed and branded as a lunatic.  However, Jesus Christ—who, as it turns out, was born of a virgin, cheated death, and rose bodily into the heavens—can now be eaten in the form of a cracker. You are just a Catholic if you believe in this proposition. Is there any doubt that a lone subscriber to these beliefs would be considered mad? I would maintain that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. However, religion does not provide even a shred of ordinary evidence for its supernatural claims. The danger of religious faith is that each new generation of children is taught that religious propositions need not be justified in the way that all others must.

I cannot of course propose that all conflict and violence stem from Religion. However,  as the Historian Steven Weinberg puts it “ In an ideal model of the world with or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.” The mildest criticism of religion is also the most devastating one. Religion is man-made. Even the men who made it cannot agree on what their prophets or redeemers or Gurus said or did. Religion was in the words of Christopher Hitchens “Our first attempt at the truth, and because it is our first, it is our worst.” The scriptures were probably beneficial to us at a time when men were ignorant about so many things. For example, micro-organism disease was explained by curses from witches or ill-wishing. We now know that diseases come from micro-organisms. Its ghastly reliance on the supernatural is what renders it immune to honest scrutiny. One encounters an ocean of liberal delusion while trying to criticize any of these faith-based ideologies. For example, any criticism of the doctrine of Islam is conflated with bigotry against Muslims as people. Islam is after all an idea and there is a big difference criticizing an idea and criticizing people. Sam Harris in his thesis of Collateral Damage imagines how our recent conflicts would look like using “perfect weapons” – which are defined as weapons that allow us either to temporarily impair or to kill a particular person, or group, at any distance without damaging anything or killing anyone else in the surroundings. How would George Bush have used perfect weapons? Would he have targeted the thousands of Iraqi civilians who were maimed and killed? There is no reason to think that he would have sanctioned the death of even one innocent person. How would Religious extremists use these weapons? Intent is the key point here. Not all cultures are at the same stage of moral development.

I would like to conclude in the words of the late Christopher Hitchens, “…we have the same job we always had, to say as thinking people and as humans that there are no final solutions, there is no absolute truth, there is no supreme leader, there is no totalitarian solution, that says that if you would just give up your freedom of inquiry, if you would simply abandon your critical faculties, a world of idiotic bliss can be yours. We have to begin by repudiating all such claims. Grand Rabbis, Chief Ayatollahs, infallible Popes, the peddlers or surrogate and mutant quasi political religion and worship, the Dear Leader, the Great Leader, we have no need for any of this.”

The author, Aditya Kumar, is an ex-student of  Political Science at St. Xavier’s college, Kolkata.

 

 

 

A Conversation With Mr. Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay

Mr. Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay has been a writer, columnist and journalist based in Delhi. He is an expert on ‘Hindu nationalistic politics’. His works include: ‘The Demolition: India at the crossroads’ (1994), ‘Narendra Modi: The Man’, ‘The Times’ (2013) and ‘Sikhs: The Untold Agony of 1984’(2015).  In this interview with Politically Correct, he talks about his personal journey, the state of Indian media and the current political status quo. Excerpts:

Q: You have been in this profession for the last three decades, covering a myriad of stories as columnist for a large array of media platforms. How do you see the changes in the Indian media from the time you started as a journalist? What has been the biggest upheaval?

A: The biggest change has been in terms of size and number. The presence of the Media has been empowered by sprouting of innumerable websites, newspapers, channels etc. Proliferation of the language media has been corresponded by higher literacy level and today not only English newspapers but also newspapers in the regional languages have gained a lot of attention. Much greater noise is being made by them than what they used to do in the 80s. Today the Media makes itself heard 24/7. I think this has been the change of foremost significance.

Q: Don’t you think the ethics of journalism has gone through changes over the years?

A: I came into this profession during the Post-emergency period when the public psyche still held the acrid memories of Emergency-days. During the Emergency, there was a clamp-down on the Media. The establishment of the Janata Government gave some sort of relief to journalism. Simultaneously, there were incidents like Bhagalpur Blinding which propelled people like me to join journalism.  Investigative Journalism became a catchphrase and the youth aspired to be journalists. We were always told about the famous quote of L.K. Advani about media during emergency, when “media was asked to bend, but it crawled”.  However, a certain section of journalists have had a legacy of being spineless in this country. They were blind. Ethics is not something, which has made Indian journalism distinct over the years. The number of people having an upright spine is still pretty less.

Q: Collusion of journalists and politicians has been a cause of worry for many. Lutyen’s Delhi circuit is generally a phrase used to reflect upon this nexus. Do you have a view on that?

As we have crony capitalism, there is crony journalism. That is not something surprising. Right from the time India became independent, there have been cases where people who were journalists went on to become prominent politicians of the time. Yes, I would say, now it is much closer and there is a greater connectivity between the two than it was in the past. I don’t feel it’s fair to say Delhi journalists are to be blamed solely for this nexus, as it happens everywhere in different states and their capitals. So, this is an ailment of the journalists across the country. There are large sections of Delhi media which is favorable to PM Modi. There are many who are neutral and are critics of the government. They don’t align themselves with the government, but that’s fine.

Q: About the book, ‘Narendra Modi: the Man, the Time’, you have said that you did not write the book in terms of binary but on neutrality. But Christiane Amanpour (senior journalist at CNN) says that writing should be truthful not neutral. Do you have a view on that?

A: Being neutral also means being truthful. They are complimentary to each other. I don’t see any contradiction between these two.

Q: Do you think that television journalism is more of sensationalism and excitement rather than giving actual content to the viewers to ponder upon?

A: Globally television is more frivolous than the print media. Television has been a means of entertainment and entertainment has its own crassness. I think it has affected Indian media also. Our cinema industry has its history of being crass and Indian media has been affected by it. Let me give you an example of crassness. Yesterday a hearing was going on in the International Court of Justice, the Hague. Mr. Harish Salve was pleading India’s case. All the English news channels were covering the proceedings live. I don’t know about a single Hindi news channel, if not other channels in regional language covering it live. So you presume that viewers of non-English news channels are stupid. They don’t need the news from The Hague. That is crassness.

Q: Of late, this has been the talk of the town that in the print media, the marketing department is taking over the editorial department. In fact, Mr. Jain of the TOI went the distance of saying he does not want to do news but sell news. How do you see it?

A: I understand what you are saying. There are some editors, who do guard the editorial say against marketing and there are editors, who don’t. Fortunately, I have worked with those, who guard. There are certain basic rules in all the media companies and what you require is reasonable adjustment and it is exactly 3 decades since the media promoters started to look at the newspapers not as a tool of political crusade but as a business commodity. Then happens the advent of colors, better packaging, glossy papers etc. Basically, all the big media companies are corporate-owned and you simply can’t act contrary to them. You need adjustment.

Q: So what is the future of the media?

A: Grow according to the market. Every industry has certain responsibilities. The Media should not cover only what the public wants. The Media cannot be populist. We can decide what they will read and see. So we should not take the position what Bombay film industry has taken.

Q: Some people think about some particular news channels that they are biased and inclined towards certain views. Is it true in journalism?

A: None can deny it. Every person has the freedom to think about these channels. Each and every media company has a certain orientation and that is how they function.

Q: You have had a long career in journalism and you have written a lot of editorials and columns. People say that journalists should not have opinion about everything. Is it the way to look at it?

A: We should have opinion of everything. Now it depends on what you are writing. You change your approach based on whether it’s an opinion or a film report or an analysis.

Q: Have you ever been told to write on something on which you’ve never written?

A: No. Never in my career. But still, I have written on culture, environment, law, so I’ve written on a lot of things, virtually everything.

Q: You have written the book, ‘Narendra Modi: The Man, the Times,’ from a very neutral perspective. You also said that he discontinued his help when issues like 2002 and setbacks of his Government came on the fore and he became quite reluctant to talk. How did you see it?

A: He didn’t want to talk on the topics on which he had spoken already.  I don’t want to get liable of why I’ve written what I’ve written. I’ve said what I had to say in the book.  I will repeat, whenever I asked Mr. Modi about 2002, he would say , go and check what I had said earlier. This is a very dangerous area to discuss and it certainly appeals him.

Q: You covered Modi after 2014. What has been the biggest change?

A: He definitely has grown. He has become much more capable of things at a much bigger perspective. Being a Chief Minister of a state is much smaller affair than being the Prime Minister.

Q: Modi talks about development. Modi talks about inclusive growth, ‘Sab ka Sath, Sab ka Vikas.’ He has worked to create his image of a development-man. Has this image-manufacturing process been more successful than the actual execution of Government projects?

A: Everyone works on his or her image. He has greater interest in many things those others politicians don’t have. Personality plays a role. Though one cannot fault him on his personal attire; like Sonia Gandhi is particular about her sarees, Indira Gandhi was particular about the white dye on parts of her hair, in the same way Mr. Modi has some personal flares. He is much more flamboyant. The chapter “modisutra” in my book talks about how much care he takes for his clothes, specs watches and pens, basically his whole personal look.

Q:  Your show, A Page from History, on Lok Sabha TV, was discontinued in 2015. How do you relate that to the change of regime in the central government?

A:  It was said by a large number of people that the show was discontinued because I had written a book on Mr. Modi, which did not please the political masters and bosses in the country. I was personally disappointed by that decision. In the show, I never took a line. It can possibly be the most neutral perspective on an absolutely controversial subject like history.

Q: You have done extensive coverage of RSS-VHP and Hindutvadi  ‘Kamnadal- mandal’ politics of the 90s. Do you think Hindutva has been normalized in the mainstream?

A: Yes. They have greater acceptance today than the 80s.

Q: Is it because of the marketing?

A: It is due to the adoption of several strategies: marketing, decline of the Congress, fall of the Soviet Union, relentless targeting of minorities in India. Idea of India is diversity and diversity is something seen antagonistic in India’s becoming a superpower.

Q: Should we compare Mr. Modi to Turkish president Erodgan? Is his Government Erdoganised?

A: It is too early to say whether that kind of constitutional change will happen in India or not. Let’s see. A lot of things he should not have done and there are also a lot of things he has done in his administration. Works needed to be more on ground and less on words.  I would have liked if he had become more inclusive. His greatest achievement would be further weakening of the opposition.

Q: In your article ‘Fringe is the Main-stream,’ you commented on Adityanath. Was Adityanath a strategic choice or an aadesh from Nagpur?

A: It became a convergence of interest. Nagpur agreed. Delhi agreed.  Kolkata agreed. Everybody found him suitable.

Q: RSS has created a class of ideologues to connect to the mass. People like Rakesh Sinha, Rajeev Malhotra shout their agenda. How is this tactic?

A: RSS always had people who had no intellectual potential. Now they have started to get in some people for their own good of expanding among the mass. But they need to increase the caliber of these people. They are so angry most of the times. Everybody considers them intellectual, so I also consider them ‘intellectual’. It’s a subjective assessment. Let people decide. There are people in Sangh Parivar with whom we can have some fine rational debate and discussion even while disagreeing. I do it all the time. But most of them are terrible.

Q: So is applicative Hindutva different from ideological Hindutva?

A: there is only one Hindutva. One expression of it is articulate and another is crude. RSS is the umbrella organization and the ABVP, the BJP are affiliated bodies to it.

Q: Right-wing trade unions in India have repeatedly talked of swadeshi. How is BJP’s stance with more liberalization a swadeshi step?

A: Yes. I think the basis of Make in India programme is swadeshi. He has termed Make in India as the mother of all swadeshi programmes. He has been able to convince RSS.

Q: Yogi Adityanath is not actually from the RSS. He is from the Mahasabha. What is the difference between the two?

A: It’s a strategic convergence. Still they are people within mahasabha who don’t want to come together.

Q: Coming to the book on 1984, people often accused that 1984 is not discussed with greater detail.  Do you think 1984 investigation was not handled properly?

A: One should not compare 1984 with 2002.  These are the sinful episodes if our history. We need resolution to both of these. 1984 was investigated very well. A booklet, ‘Who Are the Guilty,’ was published.

Q: What’s the main objective of writing about this in 2015? Is it an obituary?

A: No. BJP had talked a lot about the 1984. So it’s interesting to see what they do while forming the Government.  Books on tragedies connect with me at times.

Q:    can you name your favorite book among the three you had written?

A: My first book on Babri Demolition has been my favorite. It has helped me to grow more and learn more.

Q: India has a history of attracting the youth to left-wing politics.  How do you look upon the youth, attracted to right wing policies?

A: This is due to the failure of left wing politics in India. Proper strategy was required with the change of time.

Q: Do you have any message for the new aspiring journalists and how do you reflect upon your personal journey?

A: Only one message – Read as much as u can. It should be informative as it stays with you.  My personal journey has been a never ending process. It’s been a great learning experience and I have never said that I have known everything.

The interview was carried out by Aditya Poddar, a student of Commerce  and edited by Sambuddha Bhattacharjee, a student of Political Science, St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata.

COMMUNISM IS WAY OUT OF OUR LEAGUE (OR THE OTHER WAY AROUND)

June 4th, 2017 marked the 28th anniversary of Tiananmen Square protests, a student protest in China because of the country’s degenerative economic reforms, nepotism in government, and lack in career prospects among other reasons. This protest stood out because of two reasons: it was a peeping hole into the country’s iron curtain policy; and two, the protests turned out to be gruesome when the military fired openly on civilians and ran them over with tanks, in an attempt to quell the demonstrations at the Tiananmen Square killing about a thousand people.

China became a staunch follower of the communist way in the times of Mao Zedong, known as the founding father of People’s Republic of China and the Chairman of the Communist Party of China. He launched the Great Leap Forward and Great Proletarian Cultural revolution to slowly turn China into an industrial economy from an agrarian economy, thus facilitating communism. Over time, the enforcement of communism ideals developed such loopholes that they damaged the economy to a large extent. The administrative class, which should have been free of corruption became even more so. Famines and droughts hit the country side, causing deaths in millions. The communism that was embraced by the country in an attempt to boost its economy resulted in a number of problems and the students, who saw the dark future their country was heading into, marched down the streets, presenting the government with their demands. And the government imposed a martial law.

This was the story of China, we come to India now. Most of the reasons why communism cannot survive in India may also be applicable to other modern democracies. The number one reason that communism cannot survive in India is because of the small working class. The way that our economic reforms took place, our country is making its way from an agrarian economy to a service sector dependent economy directly, without the much necessary industrial revolution. Socialism, which was supposed to bring about an industrial revolution, failed in our country, causing a number of our industrial units to turn into sick ones. Thus the working class always remained less in number to cause the revolution of the proletariat. Our government, as part of a welfare state has also ensured that the working class remains content and expressive of its demands through peace and not violence, basically, keeping them not at loggerheads with the bourgeois, through schemes and laws.

In a democracy, a classless society cannot exist. Even Mao observed this in China; new elite class arising after the old elite had been done away with, despite China not being a democracy. In a country like ours, communism can be achieved through governmental means only, which will lead to the State taking care of possession and distribution of resources. The government will thus become the elite, a small class owning the majority of resources, that communism had sought to replace. The government will thus get richer and lead to more equalities, corruption and nepotism. Furthermore due to colonialism and poor economic reforms, the country could not accumulate sufficient wealth. To become communist, first the country has to be sufficiently capitalist. Due to the economic reforms of the Nehruvian era, the capitalist class could not thrive. This coupled with the small working class, cold not create the dire conditions that could lead to overthrow of the bourgeois and revolution of the Proletariat.

To exist in a democracy, communism can take form of a party, which is what happened in India, but the two sole communist parties failed to maintain popularity throughout India. Most of the political parties in India thrive by building upon the cultural or religious differences, the Left mostly stayed out of the mess like an ideal political party. They focused entirely on economic factors for development and ignored social factors like caste, religion, etc.  Communism goes hand in hand with an iron hand policy, which means curbing certain (read most) fundamental rights the most controversial one is the right to freedom of speech and expression which already is a bone of contention in India and was one of the causes of Tiananmen protests. This is a mechanism to maintain the communist system and prevent mutiny as well as revolution of the ex-bourgeois. Due to the development of the current media and its ever growing reach, it is impossible for India to maintain a communist regime.

The general reasons are the same, when the profit motive goes away, so does productivity and the government has to give incentive again (which leads to one gaining a benefit over the other: alert, capitalism) to rejuvenate the moribund economy. It creates a cozy club or elites (small class controlling most resources: capitalism, again) through corruption and nepotism. Communism, the ideal one at least, basically, cannot be achieved in any modern democratic or intellectual society. Thus, it is no wonders that India failed to espouse communism just as communism failed to espouse the changing needs of India.

The author, Shivani Karnik, is a student of Law at HNLU,  Raipur.