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.

The Story of a Yogi?

As I present to you this article, it would be safe to provide a disclaimer before I end up being a controversy’s child analogous to the very subject of my discussion today. I, through this article of mine, do not intend to hurt any one person, group or religion’s sentiments.

As the timeworn saying goes, and I quote Sherlock Holmes,

“Sentiment is a chemical defect found on the losing side.”

However, it is quite ironic how sentiments are stirred within the gullible population of the nation by our ingenious polity. With respect to this statement, which many might consider to be superfluous, clarity of thoughts and expression (which is clearly absent in our political system today) is required. But my writing shall not disappoint you.  I cannot possibly pen down my intellect without being politically incorrect, because that would be HYPOCRISY, which is something I am yet to major at. So, I hope you shall pardon my callous use of language and a naïve approach towards the harsh realities we are bordering towards in the literary format that I present to you.

***

Once upon a time, INDIA- my BHARATA MATA, your HINDUSTAN, and our BHARATA DESH was a golden bird whose wings were clasped to the ground by the British Raj. They robbed us of our glory, they plundered us of our wealth and treasury, and they ransacked us of our faith from fraternity. It is easy to shrug off a matter by saying “let bygones be bygones”, but it is these past horrors that come to haunt us. Here, I mention the ‘Divide and Rule’ policy as formulated by the British which has blemished the very sense of solidarity among us. The ending of British rule in India was to be the advent of a new era, but who knew that old grievances would tailgate further coherence of independent India.

We are no longer bound by a foreign force, but are fettered by the distinct ideologies of ‘dharma’ and ‘jaati’, the seeds of which are deep rooted and watered in the many political parties  that have varied political prejudices which further determine the fate of our polity. BJP adheres to the very ideology of Hindutva and Hindu Nationalism. Thus, the very façade of loathing the CM of Uttar Pradesh should be ruled out if at all we have voted for Bhartiya Janata Party in the first place, and thus, I skip right to the man of the hour- Yogi Adityanath. However stern and focused a politician he may be, there is a huge miss in this influential CM.

A YOGI or A DHONGI

This saffron-clad sadhu turned politician appears and claims to be the flag bearer of Hindutva. With his razor sharp tongue, Yogi Adityanath has a strong foothold over Uttar Pradesh, which has already led to a hue and cry among the Muslims with the bizarre comments that have been made by him attacking the Muslims.  A strong mascot of the Ram Mandir issue, his influential and robust leadership will lead to a deepening of the crack between the Hindus and the Muslims into an abyss, after which, there will be no turning back. His vigorous speeches are fanning the fire of communalism, keeping it alive among the myriad of other problems our country is facing. We call ourselves a SECULAR state, however, the government, or to be precise, this particular leader is swaying the whole crux of his substance on a theocratic basis, instinctively libeling Islam or Pakistan.

In one of his recent speeches in Lucknow, he made a hostile remark which raises a very prominent question on how such a type of leader will lead India’s most populous state with such venomous intolerance and biased prejudices that the state of Uttar Pradesh has ever seen-

“Akbar, Aurangzeb and Babar were invaders. The sooner we accept the truth; all the problems of our country will vanish.”

Such judgements have been passed by this man who is entrusted with the precarious future of the many citizens the state contains. To further analyse his statement, it ridiculously means that by demeaning one caste, we all can fight poverty, violence against women, religious conflicts, and the varied troubles our country is foisted with.

Having mentioned ‘violence against women’, this saint of a person once commented –

“If they take one Hindu girl, we will take 100 Muslim girls”,

Justifying even further how violence against women is inevitable where the leaders harbour such opinions.

Another arguable sin which a high priest like him committed was to incapacitate our belief in the phrase – ‘sab moh maya hai’, because when he went to give his condolences to the family of the Border Security Force soldier who was mutilated by the Pakistan army, he brought with himself an air-conditioner, a sofa and carpet which were conveniently and immediately removed from the house after his departure. This shows a sheer lack of humanity, but a serious penchant for materialism which takes precedence over the jawan’s precious life. Here, on one hand, where yogis are supposed to shun power and worldly pleasures for a life of meditation and spiritual quest, this man has preached and invoked violence.

Thus, to dream of a utopian country where our leaders avoid the power politics and begin to sincerely preach Hindu-Muslim harmony is to live in a bubble, but I guess, it is in this bubble where we are safe, where we have the sensible notion of Right and Wrong, where we are united towards our outlook for a peaceful nation.

For the dearth of words, I would like to add to my article a minute variation of the classic combination of words that has, of late, caused a phenomenon on social media (Thanks to Dr. Shashi Tharoor).

Exasperating farrago of distortions, misrepresentations and outright lies being broadcast by a votary priest masquerading as an abhorrent meteoric hypnotic.

There cannot possibly be a happy ending to this, because the situation is only to worsen. The irrational need to indoctrinate their particular ideologies among others does not stand a strong ground and is not acceptable in a country where we are promised the freedom of thought and the freedom to practice, preach and perform different religions.

“A dhoti clad priest
In the garb of an inexorable beast;
The vast shaved head
Many evils which it’d embed;
Wisdom which the saffron tilak exudes
Crimson which his brainchild may produce;
Enthralling mantras his tongue rolled
Caste-based differences which he evoked;
‘Dharma’ and ‘Jaat’ as we all smear,
The inevitable end is near.”

 

***

The author, Mahima Maniar, is a student of Political Science at Loreto College, Kolkata.

How Feminine is Feminism?

What began as a social theory or rather, a political movement arguing that legal and social restrictions on females must be removed in order to bring about equality of both sexes in all aspects of public and private life, is now quite a celebrated topic for numerous debates and discussions which marks the rise of a different form of nouveau, enlightenment in the development of human understanding and widening of human thoughts and actions.
There have been numerous claims and counter-claims of what is “true feminism” and what should be the scope of its matter. I will, however, present my own interpretation of feminism and try to distinguish between the different parts of this topic.
In order to attain a “true” understanding of feminism, we have to delve deep into its matter and observe its beginning, in the 18th and the 19th century, marked as the “First wave” of Feminism.
The growth of logical thinking, scientific ideas and the enlightenment period, fall of the Church, the Industrial Revolution, the French Revolution and the rise of the Nation State and democracy in the Western European countries signalled a new development in the socio-political aspect of human history and modern civilization. Men were given the right to vote their leaders, who will lead their country. Leaders, who were elected by the people, of the people and for the people and hence, represented the ‘public’ opinion.
The irony lies in the fact that, the word “public” which was coined in the 14th and the 15th century, necessarily referred to the views of the ‘general masses’ and that of ‘everyone’ and stood opposite to the word “private” and at the same time, women, who formed half of the population, were deprived  of the membership of this “public” sphere. Women were denied the right to vote, voice their opinions, or the opportunity to understand the working of this nouveau enlightened, democratic era, which ironically stood for “everyone”, “public” and the “people”. It was the MEN who formed the rights, laws and rules which would not only guide their welfare, but also that of the “lesser humans”, the “other sex”, the women, whose welfare was thought to be “naturally” placed at a position lower to that of men. It was as if women were different creatures or sub-humans. This struck many enigmatic women like Mary Wollstonecraft.
This led to the successful first wave of Feminism or the Suffragette movement, which took up the issue of Democracy, for ALL, and protested against the male domination, leading to the granting of voting rights to women.
The second wave of Feminism was simultaneously carried out along with the Civil Rights Movement. Betty Friedan, in her book, ‘The Feminine Mystique’ has elucidated how educated women were growing sick of their daily chores. It was as if their destiny to give birth to children, take them to school, take care of her husband, and stay in the kitchen for the rest of the day, even after a sufficient education, which made them elligible for jobs. Friedan also mentions how the working ladies were made fun of being “unable to produce babies” in the workplace and were hardly given any promotion. The movement led to the passage of ‘The Equal Pay for Equal Work Act’ and many such other Laws, throughout the globe, which called for women’s empowerment. Mention must also be made of the women in music, who were encouraged by the movement, such as Laura Nyro.
The third wave had a wider scope and aimed to recognise the various identities that is inherent among humans and accommodate all these in the society. Third-wave feminists had a more broad goal, focusing on ideas like queer theory, and abolishing gender role expectations and stereotypes, that is supported by the patriarchal society and hetero-normativity.
The thing is, ‘modernity’ is thought to be a harbinger of equality among the sexes. It is thought that modernity has brought about women’s empowerment and it is sufficient to bring about an upliftment of women’s position in the society. However, the present situation is not as heavenly or romantic as socialism or capitalism thought modernity would be.
There is inherent a sense of oppression, which deprives women of several opportunities and the whole sex is socially tagged as something very weak, dependent and lacking confidence. It is a fact that the modern society is a patriarchal society where families still prefer a male child and though property seems to be equally divided among the male and the female child, it is the former who gets the most of it.
There is a reason why even after the three waves of feminism, there is necessary a fourth wave, which aims to charge at the present oppression that hinders not only the opportunities of the female sex, but also that of the minorities, the LGBTQIA+ groups and several oppressed classes and castes.
It is a fact that till date, doing something “like a woman” is considered to be negative. It is as if someone is making fun of the individual if he/she is doing something “like a woman”. This is quite a sad occuring and I believe, that the presence of this fact itself is a proof that oppression of women is inherently present and women’s empowerment needs to be emphasized upon.
The complexity of inter-sectionalism lies in the fact that, where some feminists argue that the ‘Burkha’ and the ‘Hijaab’ is disgraceful for women and imposes male dominance on them, some Muslim Feminists argue that it is quite empowering as they can look at a man’s skin, or gaze at their faces but the man cannot do so. However, not going into such complexities, it can be said that Feminism is a necessity in bringing about a humanitarian development of the society as a whole. It is a necessity to recognise and give place to the various identities and diverse human beings that are present in the society who need to be given equal rights irrespective of any of their identities.
Moreover, many men just assume that the maintenance of a household is a woman’s job. This is an extremely selfish claim which arises due to them, being born in a society which programs them to think in that way. There are men who say things like, “I am busy babysitting my kid tonight”, when actually he is caring for his own child, because it is his offspring too! It’s not his wife’s job and he isn’t babysitting when he is doing it… it’s both their jobs!
Then, is feminism a completely feminine theory? Is it different for different people? What is the role of men in Feminism?
In order to answer these questions we need to delve deep into the liberal understanding of Feminism and observe how intersectional feminism talks about equality of all the sexes and genders and looks at them as an inevitable part of humanity and societal reality.
Feminism transgresses its feminine boundaries and steadily creeps into the realm of gender, sexuality and asserts their multiplicity. It points out to the quiet mass of people who do not identify them either as male or female, or pose a behaviour, different to the normative behaviour assigned to the sex they are born into.
Feminism also stands strong while questioning the official notions of masculinity which vehemently rejects and denies the identity of a ‘Man’ to any male individual who does not adhear to the official notions of hetero-normativity.
Feminism also questions, with the help of social evidences, ‘logic’ and ‘scientific claims’ which have historically brought about women’s oppression and has given women a weak and dependent position.
There is a preconceived notion that feminism is essentially a feminine ideology, that women use to empower themselves in various walks of their lives. However, it should be stressed, how feminism has transgressed it’s feminine boundaries, into that of masculinity and a transition area between the two conditions. A movement that had begun for the granting of certain civil rights and legal rights for women for their opportunitues, has now evolved to question the official notions of what is masculinity and has given a strong voice to many men, who have been discriminated, socially disregared and rejected by the larger group of not only, the “masculine” men but also women, who have been socialised into believing the patriarchal norms and it’s dominance.
Feminism gives a voice to those men who do not fall into the celebrated category of “masculine” men who project a certain behaviour, not similar to that of a woman, who possesses neither emotions or sensitivity. Feminism claims that there is present not one, but various forms of masculinity. Only one form of typical male behaviour is thought to be masculine, male-like, in the patriarchal society  Coincidentally, the word ‘masculine’ was itself coined around the 15th-16th Century, and it related to only a typical form of behaviour professed by the heterosexual, white, English educated, European men, who set the limits and standards for men to be identified as behaviourally masculine. Hence, the word masculine is actually quite restricting and does not have a space for all those men who do not toe the lines of the “normal, masculine, men” and are tagged as “queers”, or even “homosexuals”. Mention should be made of the oppression that this form of masculinity caused all around the world. The Britishers tagged the Bengali, young men or the ‘Babu’ as effeminate and undeserving of the ‘masculine’ tag since they were earned their income through the Zamindari system and were generally, pot-bellied. Even among various African and North American tribes, the men were tagged as effeminate since they lived in a matriarchal society, or had a queen as their tribal leader. Even in the modern era, men who don’t behave in certain ways, or don’t watch sports or are not into sports, who don’t educate themselves in the scientific subjects are treated as effeminate and are socially disregarded during socialization. This had led many men to grow to be un-social individuals and some have grown to hate their own sex.
As a concluding note, it can be stressed that the various parameters that are set in the society should not affect an individual’s life if she/he fails to meet them. Differences and uniqueness should be accepted and regarded in the society and I believe, feminism strives to achieve such a society where humans will be accepted for who they are, what they believe and their liberty should be regarded as a norm. It should also be said that one’s liberty should not hinder another’s opportunity or the right to yield her/his liberty. True feminism believes in inter-sectionality, humanism, liberalism, egalitarianism and has been a product of a several decades of struggle and I believe, it is necessary to facilitate the process of reaching that stage where human nature will be more accepting, open minded and will not disregard uniqueness or difference of the human race.
The author, Meghjit Sengupta, is a student of Sociology at St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata.

Why We Don’t Want To Sound Too ‘Political’

‘I don’t want to sound too political.

Having grown up hearing this sentence thrown around, I’ve used it many times myself, even as a (rather ignorant) student of political science in the twelfth grade. I’ve heard teachers, friends, and people around me use it, as though issuing this disclaimer would really separate them from the innately political subjects they follow that sentence up with. But, instead of pointing this out, I would be better advised to uncover the roots of why ‘politics’ or ‘being political’ is so repulsive- repulsive enough to warrant such disclaimers.

This inability to acknowledge politics and its effects manifests itself every single time someone’s beaten up in a university for voicing their opinions, every silent glare or click of the dislike button at the outspoken ‘activist type’ at the table or in the online forum, and the very tense hush that sweeps across the room when a ‘sensitive’ subject is brought up. Political differences are characterised as ‘mood-killers’ and of course, every person who takes an active interest in politics is subject to a variety of (rather unflattering) labels. The perceived discomfort with politics permeates every level of society, even among people who confess not knowing very much about politics. To know why exactly this happens, is not very difficult. Two very pertinent reasons come to mind- the fact that we don’t know how much politics involves itself in our daily lives (and refuse to learn), and the fact that we, collectively, really can’t discuss anything.

Addressing reason number one is easy, because this can be blamed on the system. We’re made to believe that politics isn’t something basic, ordinary and everyday, but something that only stays with politicians and governments, something that is out-of-reach and difficult. In reality, the very premise of living in a democracy makes the ‘political’ accessible to every citizen. With the right to vote, the easier access to information and the improved infrastructure in the twenty-first century, politics should be easier to digest. Granted, democracy is not implemented very well- but it is the closest we have ever come to playing an active role in the future of society. Moreover, politics has so many other forms- the hierarchy at workplaces, the power structure at colleges and schools, and even families. This crucial point is overlooked by how our society, through education, defines politics.

Reason number two is a lot more difficult to grapple with, because we have nobody else to blame for the fact that we cannot discuss anything. We view discussion as something that can only take place between equals- the rather Confucian notion of obeying seniors and respecting ‘values’ passed down to us is the largest impediment to discussion. This is something inherent in us, due to social conditioning, and isn’t something easy to remedy. However, the more confounding reason is our inability to accept new concepts because of how different they are. This is a problem with both the right and the left- the inability to accept alien concepts, or even any form of nuanced debate. It is very convenient to create a narrative- a rather divisive narrative, vilifying the other side. But what is easy isn’t always necessarily what’s right.

Politics isn’t simply the study of power relations or resource allocation, but an evolving entity that evolves only with genuine, well-placed debate. Debates about feminism, environmental causes, the issue of caste and poverty are the reason they’re acknowledged today. What we simply refuse to understand is that discussing something need not devolve into a battle of superiority or acceptance. FOX News, NDTV and Aaj Tak don’t really represent nuanced political debate- and simply contribute more to the collective apathy and borderline dislike that surrounds the word ‘politics’.

The very fact that people talk about their jobs, their bosses, their schools, families, countries- all indicate their involvement in some form of politics or the other. Keeping this basic assumption aside, even if we belong to opposite ends of the political spectrum, politics shouldn’t be the sensitive subject that it is, simply because politics implies the ability to debate rationally (emphasis on ‘rationally’).

 

 

Equality or Justice?

Would you choose justice or equality? Let’s see this through. Equality. Whenever this word comes up, I am immediately taken back to ‘Animal farm’ by George Orwell, one of my favourites. He so wonderfully stated that some animals are more equal than others. Equality as an idea is quite far fetched for a country like India that is laden with casteism, hierarchies and undertones in everyday life that don’t make equality a distant future, it sure hurts me to say that. Here, in this majestic country which we belong to, ‘we’ believe that the privileges that we enjoy as individuals because we were born in a particular section is our birth right, that these are quite inalienable much like our fundamental rights. Quite in contrast, we spot a lovely dichotomy. We fail to acknowledge the beauty of chance. How could it be our birth right when it was solely because you were lucky enough to be born in the family that you were, it entitles you to their property and share and all those materialistic things that one craves for. It doesn’t entitle you to superimpose your standing in the society.

A by-product of equality is reservation in India as of now. Now hundreds of people like me, who aren’t looking for a vote bank, would say that this concept ruins that of equality. Keeping in mind that yes, upliftment of the downtrodden is of utmost importance. Without it, we wouldn’t reach anywhere. But my proposition would be to enrich people and provide them with sincere educational facilities during primary and secondary stages. By reserving seats per se, we tend to send out the message that one is weak, that one needs such supplements to stand somewhere in the society, leave a mark on society, to achieve whatever one might want to. If the base level is clear then one would fight on the basis of merit, fight and prove that reservation doesn’t have to be. Reserving seats, moreover, serves as a discouraging factor for all the others who, after having met with reservation, now start to believe that hard-work doesn’t necessarily mean success. That ‘some are more equal than others’, that the way is paved up for a few. Feelings of inequality stem up in the society and somewhere justice lacks. Here’s when justice comes to play. Where ever there is inequality, injustice would be a given.

The human mind that is always in a state of chaos crops up to be in two frames of mind. I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t break in too. Hence, the contradictory statements follow. This would also be the leftist in me that pours. If equality in a society means having a classless society where socialism prevails, everyone gets their fair share and none go home disappointed or deprived or discriminated, it would be the most ideal form of society. Then you have justice as well as equality sitting on a bench, hand in hand, being the best of friends. The rich would understandably have issues, their argument being that it is their hard earned money, totally valid. But what about the greater good? What about getting rid of the evil of inequality that is so deeply rooted and so prevalent? What then would you do? Would you rather have 10,000 men equivalent to one, or would you have everyone at par? My answer is pretty clear in which I see justice and equality, both.

I’m sorry to have asked such a trick question, the ‘e’ with which justice ends is the same ‘e’ with which equality begins, there is no separating both.

The author, Ahana Singh Rathore, is pursuing BA at Sophia College, Mumbai.

Hindutva: A Ghost Story

 

It’s easier battling the living. You can be sure where your weapon falls. The cut it makes. The blood that spills.

But, fighting a ghost is another thing.1 You can’t just begin right away. In order for the fight to be possible, you got to create the ghost. You got to work really hard.

Because, creating a ghost, is a huge issue. After you’ve done your bit, jotted the details, joined the dots, and can almost see the shape emerging before you, there are high chances of your discovering just another dot you’d completely overlooked, a little detail you’d previously missed.

And dots are generally too many. And they are all over the place. And the crazy thing about them is that you can join them to make whatever you wish. The ghost of a pumpkin. The ghost of a cactus. Anything.

And when that ghost is the ghost of Hindutva, things (usually) take a wrong turn. The cactus becomes the pumpkin. The pumpkin then becomes the pie. So, what was in the beginning a thorny plant, is gradually made to appear as a sweet-dish.

In this essay, I would like to un-do the picture a little. Un-join the dots. And then join them once again. To present the cactus as the cactus. The pumpkin as the pumpkin. And the sweet pie as a lie.

Here follows a set of three myths, which combine to create the pumpkin pie, the ghost, the giant myth of Hindutva.  The worshippers of the ghost—they who fly by night, they who chant its name, they who offer up flesh and blood to slake its monstrous thirst—they want us to believe in these myths. I argue against ‘them’. I argue against ‘their’ politics. I go like this—

            Myth Number One: ‘Hindu’ just means ‘Indian’, so chill !

This is kind of cute. Like Juliet calling the rose in ‘any other name.’

Well, to establish that ‘Hindu’ is not just ‘Indian’, but also the chauvinist, patriarchal, masculine Hindu, one must begin etymologically. Arguably, the earliest traceable use of the word ‘Hindu’ appears in Zend Avesta—

The first chapter of the Avestan Vendidad contains an allusion to a portion of Northern India in a list which it gives of sixteen lands or regions…The fifteenth of these domains, was Hapta Hindu, ‘Seven Rivers’, a region of ‘abnormal heat’, probably identical with the territory of Sapta Sindhavas, ‘Seven Rivers’, in the Veda.2

It is interesting that even in this very first instance (possibly) of the use of the word, the religious is not separate from the territorial. It is probably anticipatory of how the word eventually came to bear connotations both regional and communal.

The semantic bifurcation of the word established itself clearly for the first time, as the word travelled to the west and the east.3 In its Persian and Greek acceptation, the word became a signifier of region—‘the-whole-landmass-stretching-between-the-Hindukush-and-the-Hindu Sagar’ (yes, you’re right)—and, in its Chinese acceptation, it possessed a religious dimension—the followers of a religion, Hinduism.

For a considerable time in history, true, that ‘Hindu’ meant Indian. Yet, gradually by and by, the word came to be used (prominently, at least since the sixteenth century) in its religious sense. Ekanath (1548-1600) writes: ‘If I call myself a Hindu I will be beaten up, and Muslim I am not’ (Hindu kahan ta mariya, muslaman bhee nahe).

However, despite its lack of clarity (or because of it) the word Hindu, after a brief period of flirtation with other words, was ‘adopted by the British to characterise all things in India (specially elements and features found in the cultures and religions of India) which were not Muslim, not Christian, not Jewish, or, hence, not Western’, as affirmed by Frykenberg.4 Thus, came about the idea of pan-Indian Hinduism.

Now, the rise of this idea of pan-Indian Hinduism, coincided with the emergence of Indian nationalism. Hence, inevitable questions began to be raised about the relationship between the two: will Indian nationalism (or nationalisms) be territorial or religious in nature?  This issue, which remains unresolved to this day, went back to the ambiguity inherent in the word ‘Hindu’—does it stand for a country or a religion? The fact that both the words: India as well as Hindu, etymologically go back to the same word (Sindhu) dramatised this issue of ambiguity.

One can thus visualise two channels along which the energies released by the emerging nationalist forces in India could play themselves out. One channel was that of territorial nationalism—an aspiration represented by the Indian National Congress. Another was represented by the All-India Muslim League, formed in 1906, more in line with the optional channel of religious nationalism. Although there was an initial Hindu reaction also to move in that direction, it was basically checked by the rise of Gandhian influence in Indian politics from 1920 onwards and the primacy which the Indian National Congress began to enjoy thereafter. However, Indian and Hindu nationalisms did finally begin to diverge. This happened after the collapse of the Khilafat movement of 1919, which ended in a series of communal riots by mid-1920s. The founding of the RSS in 1925 clearly symbolised this vicious breach.5

It was during these times that neo-Hinduism began to emerge, as distinct from the other reformist Hindu movements as the Arya Samaj,6 Brahmo Samaj, and the Ramakrishna Mission. Neo-Hinduism began to display a distinctly ethnic streak and evolved a word to go with it—Hindutva.

The word was first popularised as the title of a book by Vinayak Damodar Savarkar. Hindutva: Who is a Hindu? The book is the real charter of the neo-Hindu ethic, and was written in prison, after he had come in contact with Khilafatists whose attitude apparently convinced him—a revolutionary till then—that Muslims were the real enemies, not the British.7

Savarkar’s stand is very close to the British stance of pan-Indian Hinduism. If you read carefully between the lines of Savarkar’s text, he is talking about an ethnic standardisation. National identity rests for him on three pillars: geographical unity, racial uniformity, and a common culture. Commonness, standardisation and adjustment are the watchwords. There is no place for diversity, difference or multifariousness.

Though in his text he affirms again and again, that ‘we have all along referred to the progress of the Hindu movement as a whole and not to any particular creed or religious section thereof’—never does he show whole-hearted acceptance of Islam or Christianity as valid ways of living. Rather, they are ‘others’ who must be ‘brought in’ and standardised, that is made to shed all differences of culture or community.

He asks, ‘But can we, who here are concerned with investigating into facts as they are and not as they should be, recognize these Mohammedans as Hindus?’ His reply is, ‘they cannot be called Hindus in the sense in which that term is actually understood, because, we Hindus are bound together not only by the tie of the love we bear to a common fatherland…, but also by the tie of the common homage we pay to our great civilization—our Hindu culture…our Mohammedan or Christian countrymen…cannot be recognized as Hindus. For though Hindusthan to them is Fatherland as to any other Hindu yet it is not to them a Holyland too. Their Holyland is far off in Arabia or Palestine. Their mythology and Godmen, ideas and heroes are not the children of this soil. Consequently their names and their outlook smack of a foreign origin. Their love is divided. Nay, if some of them be really believing what they profess to do, then there can be no choice—they must, to a man, set their Holyland above their Fatherland…’8

Thus, even for Savarkar, the subtlest and the most muted of the Hindutvavadis, ‘Hindu’ and ‘Indian’ are not equal. The Hindu is whose ‘Holyland’ (whatever he meant by that) and ‘Fatherland’ (what would Freud have said about his choice of word?) are the same—India. He is the true Indian. But, oh for the ones less fortunate! They are half-Indians, however much they belong to the land, just because they are a follower of a different religion, and because their ‘holyland’ is not in India. He suggests that their only means of integration into this (now) secular democracy is to give up their religious identity. This includes, among other things, an acceptance of Hindu customs, the Hindu system of Caste, and the acceptance of Sanskrit as the one language of the nation.

Please note that this is not a call for secularism. This is not an appeal to citizens to see themselves as Indians first, and then as members of their religion. Because, simply, Savarkar’s advice is not for Hindus. He is not advising Hindus to forget that they are Hindus to qualify as Indians. This is something that the ‘other’ religions must do.

Cute. Isn’t it?

——-

Myth Number Two: Don’t worry, Hindutva is not Saffron Radicalism…

            Rubbish.

Hindutva is Saffron Radicalism. An emotion of a particularly bad sort.

Look up some excerpts from Savarkar’s book, Bhartiya Itihasatil Saha Soneri Paane (‘Six Golden Epochs in Indian History’).9 On pages 390-391 of the above-mentioned book, Savarkar takes to task the Marathas for not taking revenge on Muslims in response to the atrocities committed around the year 1757 by Abdalli. Savarkar would have liked the Marathas to not just take revenge, but to annihilate Muslim religion (Mussalmani Dharma), exterminate the Muslim people, and make India “Muslim-free”. He reports with great approval how Spain, Portugal, Greece and Bulgaria had done a similar thing in the past and ensured the safety of Christianity.

Further (page 392), Savarkar is unrelenting in his criticism of the Marathas for failing to exact revenge, not only on Abdalli and his forces for their atrocities on Hindus, but on those ordinary Muslims who continued to live in Mathura, Gokul, etc. According to Savarkar, the Maratha army should have killed ordinary Muslims (that is, not soldiers only), destroyed their mosques and raped Muslim women. The revenge was to be taken, not on the perpetrators of the earlier atrocities, but on those who had nothing to do with the earlier episodes, on those who were ordinary residents of these places and whose only crime was that they shared their religion with the perpetrators of the earlier atrocities. The above reference from Savarkar’s book indicates that he believed in the collective guilt of Muslims: they were to be punished not for what they had done, but for what their co-religionists had done.

What would you call this? Hindutva? Saffron Radicalism? Or both?

Or, would you finally say that they are the one and the same thing?

Here’s an excerpt of an interview, published on March 3, 2003, of the famous historian Bipan Chandra—

What exactly does Hindutva mean?

Hindutva is nothing but Hindu communalism. But the word ‘communalism’ is so dirty in our country that even communalists don’t call themselves communalists. The votaries of Hindutva have shifted from their initial stance on Hindu rashtra.10

Yet, the Supreme Court of India, in its Supreme Knowledge and Authority, has sought to define ‘Hindutva’: in its historic 1995 judgement, it conferred upon ‘Hindutva’ the status of a ‘way of life’. Hindutva apologists have, for long, clutched on to this piece of judicial ruling as conclusive philosophy. I will let it go by saying that whichever Hindutva the judgement talks about, it is not Savarkar’s Hindutva. In fact, the judgement doesn’t even mention Savarkar.

It is like delineating Marxism without talking about Marx, or the Gujarat of 2002 without Narendra Modi.11

———-

Myth Number Three: Join your Hands, and Close your Eyes, for Hindutva Rejuvenates Bharatiya Culture.

            Please. The only thing that Hindutva does to ‘Bharatiya’ culture is that it destroys it.

The other day, I read a sketchy post by a wannabe Hindutvavadi. In the twisted, little write-up he desperately sought to get one fact straight: Indian culture is under threat, and Hindutva is the answer.

Yes. Our culture is under threat. But Hindutva isn’t the answer. It is the threat.

Let’s get back to etymology for a while: have you noticed the tendency among Hindutvavadis and Hindutva-sympathisers to call India by the name ‘Aryavarta’? ‘Aryadesa’? ‘Aryabhoomi’?

If Lacan is right, and the unconscious is indeed structured as language, the preference for this particular term has an explanation. The Hindutvavadis often preach that this our Aryavarta has been subjected to invasions by foreign races, and their cultures have engulfed and replaced ours. Our only means of rejuvenating our great Aryavarta is through Hindutva.

This amounts to assuming that ‘Aryavarta’ is India Unadulterated. Its culture is India’s Original Culture.

Let’s begin by saying that when India was Aryavarta, there was no cricket, no chai (let alone chaiwallah), no Doordarshan (‘India ka Apna Channel’), no Tata Salt (‘Desh ka Namak’), no democracy. In other words, there was no India. It was another civilisation. It wasn’t us. Besides, if you think of it, anyway the original inhabitants of this land were not Aryas, not Hindus. Believe it or not, there was life before Hinduism. Perhaps, India’s Adivasi people have a greater claim to being indigenous to this land than anybody else.

On a graver note, this hankering after Authentic Indian Culture has tremendous connotations. Note, that this is racism at its highest worst. Note, that this authenticity was what drove Hitler to the murder of a generation of Jews. No wonder, Gowalkar, the respected RSS ideologue, its second chief after Hedgewar, and a great fan of Hitler, wrote—

In Hindustan, land of the Hindus, lives [sic.] and should live the Hindu Nation…All others are traitors and enemies to the National Cause…The foreign races in Hindustan…may stay in the country, wholly subordinated to the Hindu Nation, claiming nothing, deserving no privileges, far less any preferential treatment—not even citizen’s rights…To keep up the purity of its race and culture, Germany shocked the world by her purging the country of the Semitic races—the Jews. Race pride at its highest has been manifested here…a good lesson for us in Hindustan to learn and profit by.12

To those who say, we need Hindutva to counter cultural invasion, I have just a few questions. Are nuclear bombs Hindu (Indian)? Is corporate-globalisation particularly protective towards what you call Indian Culture? …Yet, these are measures, either taken, or supported by the BJP, a political party that has (at least, had) ‘Hindutva’ as one of its official policies, both written in its manifesto, and publicised by its cadres.13

It’s interesting that just when Manmohan Singh, then the finance minister, was preparing Indian markets for neo-liberalism, Advani went on his first Rath-Yatra.  In December 1992, the Babri Masjid was demolished. In 1993, the Congress government of Maharashtra signed a power purchase agreement with Enron—a contract, disastrous as it turned out, that kick-started the era of privatisation in India. Then, as the Congress whined from the sidelines, the BJP wrested the baton from its hands. The first act of the BJP in office was to conduct a series of nuclear tests. Across the country, sadhus and corporates alike, celebrated the Bomb. The VHP wanted to distribute radioactive sands from the Pokhran deserts as prasad to people all across India.

The BJP government conducted an extraordinary dual-orchestra. While one arm kept busy, selling off the nation’s assets in chunks, the other, to divert attention, arranged a baying, howling, deranged chorus of Hindutva. The inexorable ruthlessness of one process fed directly into the insanity of the other. Parts of the enormous profits generated by the process of indiscriminate privatisation went into financing Hindutva’s vast army—the RSS, the VHP, the Bajrang Dal, and the myriad other charities and trusts that run schools, hospitals and social services. Between them they created tens of thousands of shakhas across the country. The harted they preach, combined with the unmanageable frustration generated by the relentless impoverishment and dispossession of the corporate globalisation project, still fuels the violence of poor on poor—the perfect smoke screen to keep the structures of power intact and unchallenged.

Now talk about culture-invasion.

———-

Even as I write this, notifications pop up on my laptop screen, showing the rotund face of Uma Bharti. ‘Kuchh saazish nahi, sab khullam khulla hai, Ram Mandir banke rahega. Koi maai ka laal nahi rok sakta…14

Oh, the ghost of Hindutva!

Oh, the worshippers of that ghost!

Tell us something:

Have you heard Ghalib? Have you read the Book of Revelation? Do you know what nehari tastes like? Have you been to Kashmir?

Of course you haven’t.

Stay in your grave. RIP.

Notes—

  1. Jacques Derrida’s invocation of the spectral in Specters of Marx provides the basis for my metaphor of the ghost. In his text, Derrida introduces the figure of the spectre/ghost for its potential for deconstruction. The figure of the ghost suits Derrida’s deconstructive purpose, as well as my own essay, because, it ‘is neither substance, nor essence, nor existence, is never present as such.’
  2. See Jackson, A.V. Williams, ‘The Persian Dominions in Northern India Down to the Time of Alexander’s Invasion.’ In Ancient India, ed. E.J. Rapson. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, pp. 319-344.
  3. The findings about the etymology of the word ‘Hindu’ draw on Arvind Sharma, ‘On Hindu, Hindustan, Hinduism and Hindutva.’

The author, Suchismito Khatua, is a student of English at St. Xavier’s College, kolkata.

THE DEMAND FOR “COMMON” CIVIL CODE

“The Uniform Civil Code maybe described as controversy’s favorite child.”

Article 44 of Directive Principles of State Policy says “The State shall endeavor to secure for the citizens a Uniform Civil Code throughout the territory of India.” But it is a matter of regret that article 44 of the Constitution has remained a dead letter for the Indian judicial system. Article 44 is based on the notion that there is no viable relationship between religion and personal laws in a civilized society. In one hand, Article 25 of the Indian Constitution allows everyone the right to follow, profess and propagate his or her religion with utmost dignity, whereas Article 44 seeks to divest religion from social relations and personal law.

The discussion for having a proper Civil Code for all did take place during Constituent Assembly proceedings, where the then Law Minister of India, Mr. B.R. Ambedkar stood in favour of reforms in the society by having a proper Civil Code. But due to stiff resistance, this proposal was not allowed to be passed in the Assembly and hence was pushed to the category of “non actions” called the Directive principles of State policy. Therefore the meaning of Uniform Civil Code was articulated as a proposal to replace the personal laws based on the scriptures and customs of each major community in India with its own sets of laws governing every citizen.

When we talk about equality before the law to all in society, we cite the criminal laws of the country. But in civil matters such as marriage, adoption, succession, divorce and inheritance, the allowance of patriarchy is on a high. The dilution of gender justice done through ages has not awakened the minds of a common Indian. Therefore the idea of a “Common Civil Code” needs to be well conceptualized so that it can be understood by all. Religion cannot be used as a tool to justify acts of public immorality, public disorder or discrimination. The rightful interpretation of religious texts is essential to counter these draconian laws to the extent possible.

By setting aside the discriminatory aspects of existing personal laws and incorporating modern and progressive aspects, we can move towards a common civil code. The applicability of so many personal laws for different communities has created a deep-seated problem in the Indian judicial system. This fact has been acknowledged by the Honorable Supreme Court of India which has time and again stated that there is a “Total Confusion” when it comes to personal laws governing religious practices.

The Supreme Court of India has been very active on the issue of same Civil Code for all. It has given landmark judgments to support the cause of non biased civil laws in India whether it is in the famous cases of:

  • Shah Bano (1985), which talks about maintenance of Muslim women after divorce.
  • Sarla Mudgal vs. Union of India and Others (1995), which raised three pertinent questions for Courts; first, whether a Hindu husband married under Hindu law by embracing Islam, can solemnize a second marriage? Second, whether such a marriage, without having the first marriage dissolved, would be a valid marriage for the first wife who continues to be a Hindu? And last, whether the apostate husband would be guilty of the offence under section 494 of the Indian Penal Code?
  • Daniel Latifi vs. Union of India (2001), where the court stated that reasonable and fair provisions include provision for the future of the divorced wife with no confinement along the divorce period as stated in Muslim personal laws. This remains the final case law in this regard.
  • Shamim Ara vs. State of Uttar Pradesh (2002) ruling which supported the claim that arbitrary ‘triple talaq’ is invalid. 

These decisions support the view of Shri K. Kannan, a former judge of the Court of Punjab and Harayana that by borrowing from laws of various communities and making judicial pronouncements that assure gender equality, the nation can move towards a uniform set of civil laws in due course.

Assessing the present scenario, the government has asked the Law Commission of India headed by retired justice Balbir Singh Chauhan to formulate a report on the formulation of Common Civil Code. The Law Commission chief has said that people must be educated on this issue. People should know and understand this Civil law reforms from a humanitarian viewpoint to guarantee the equal rights of citizens, rather than from a non-moderate religious attitude. 

Till the time this matter is seen from a religious perspective, from a perspective of curtailing minority rights, then this issue will face the same resistance as other major reforms in India.

This is high time for introspection among citizens of India on whether they would like to continue to enforce principles of the 18th century that destroy the 21st century of India. Rigidity is inheritably imbibed in many of the personal laws of India. It is a fact that there remains greater rigidity in the personal laws of some communities whereas,in others, serious reforms have been introduced, that have contributed to the progress of those communities. But there is lack of comprehensive reforms even in those outdated laws.

Viewing this demand from a macro level perspective, the implementation of this matter will give a global outlook to India in terms of equal gender rights, equal minority rights and of course equal human rights. Moreover, it should not be seen as a concept presented by the Western World. Rather, it is the periphery adopted by the leftist governments in the east, where state and religion are seen differently and where state is above the question of religion.

There is hope that a call for a Common Civil Code will purge the nation of inequality by removing the evils of polygamy, child marriage, and arbitrary divorce, rigid grounds for a divorce, unjustified property rights and disparity in adoption laws. It is significant to note that the personal laws of the Hindus, such as those relating to marriage, succession and other issues, have all a sacramental origin in the same manner as in case of Muslims or Christians. The Hindus, along with Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains have forsaken the sentiments in the cause of national unity and integration; some other communities haven’t; although the constitution enjoins the establishment of a “Common Civil Code” for the whole of India.

Thus in order to generate wide consensus, any discussion on the issue of Uniform Civil Code in India must be cognizant of the undue stress given on the word “Uniform”. Uniformity in civil laws is often linked with majoritarianism  causing sections of society to resist this revolutionary reform. The very concept of complete uniformity in society is a farce and it is therefore essential that the codification of civil laws should encompass every person under its purview. It has rightly been observed by the Hon’ble Supreme Court that

“Justice to all is a far more satisfactory way of dispensing justice than justice from case to case.”

The author, Aditya Poddar, is a student of Commerce at St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata.