From Independence to Indifference

Two hundred years of British dominion in Bharatavarsha was a chapter of maturation of the country. The test of  forbearance from the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre to the Partition of India was instrumental in strengthening unity amidst diversity of the Indian culture. It was a transfiguration of the Indian struggle for Independence into a Revolution emanating from the transformation of the Indian citizens into experienced leaders. There was no prospect of any prolongation of the British rule as their crookedness was forced to succumb to the strong foundation of this Country. Out of this Havoc was born the Indian democracy with the largest written constitution in the world.

However, this was only a momentary subjugation of injustice and corruption. A battle that had been fought unitedly  parted ways, the repercussions of which are still being faced by the Indians. The preamble of the Constitution reads ‘India is a sovereign, socialist , secular and democratic republic’. However, it’s realisation is only a dream of every Indian.It seems that the spirit of nationalism witnessed a demise with the termination of the British colonisation. The democracy, which was supposed to be ‘by the people, of the people and for the people’ became only ‘of the self’. Consequently, the representatives of the natives became flag bearers of fraud and corruption. The curse of poverty and communalism began to take roots in the country because the battle for leadership had changed its form into a battle for authority. When cries of inequality and indifference fell into deaf ears, there began a crusade against crime. Consequently, the homeland of the natives has now taken the form of a battlefield.

Since corruption does not confine itself to any religion or community, the movements for reform are also incentives of integrity. The struggle of Irom Sharmila in Manipur bears a testimony of this fact.Change does not happen by itself nor can it be inflicted upon. A complaint without an action is as meaningless as a life without equality. This is reflected from the conflict of ideas and viewpoints that is inclusive of people from all the strands of the society. The heated debates in the media to the physical protests on roads are clear indications of the fact that corruption stands abated in front of integrity.Even religion cannot be its weapon of mass destruction. The discriminatory practices of both the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and the All India Muslim Personal Law Board are equally criticised by all groups of the society. The joint struggle for the upliftment of the condition of dalits and the venture of combating the gau-rakshaks are all exemplary embodiments of nationalism and humanity. Resignation of the chairperson of the SUM Hospital in Odissa after the fire mishap and the cancellation of the order of bail of Rocky Yadav by the Supreme Court are products of the participation of the public in an effort to wipe out duplicity and Sham.

However, there has been a deep seated skeptimism about this internal skirmish between the ‘good’ and the ‘evil’. Some argue that the so called ‘victims’ of corruption are actually traitors with an ambition to incite disregard for the nation and tear it apart. Moreover, such acts of ‘sedition’ are clear evidences of the fact that corruption has dismantled not only the Political regime of the country but also the foundation of the country as a whole. The notion of integrity has blotted out because egoism and indifference have achieved eminence.

A Mantra from the Upanishads reads ‘Tamasoma Jyotirgamaya’ which means leading from darkness to light. Nepotism has taken such deep roots in the Society that it has apparently expelled the very idea of an egalitarian society. Freedom from  ideological fundamentalism prevailing in the Society is a need of the hour. Failure to enlighten parochial mindsets with righteous and patriotic ideas can both be catastrophic and detrimental to the Society.

The author, Aastha Agarwal, is a student of Political Science at Loreto College, Kolkata.

The Murder of Creativity

‘Censorship’, is not just a word in India. For some fringe groups, in general, and the infamous Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) in particular, it is more of an emotion. The unrestricted use of the tool in the recent times by the CBFC, for the sole purpose of being politically correct, is something that has clamped down on people’s creativity.

It is beyond question that checks and balances (read censorship) are vital when we talk about something as influential as films. The problem however arises when such checks and balances overshadow rationality and deliberately infringe upon the freedom of speech and expression that a democratic state like ours guarantees. The question, thus, is: Is censorship, in the form it is presently practiced, acceptable in a mature democracy like ours?

It was about fifty years ago that there was a major challenge to the constitutional validity of ‘Censorship’. The Supreme Court, in its historic judgment to the case of S. Rangarajan vs P. Jagjivan Ram, talked about the major impact cinema has on people’s minds. The apex court, in its judgment, also established the validity of ‘censorship’ (even pre-censorship) as a tool used by the state to check ‘objectionable’ material from reaching the public. It however failed to ensure that the tool, in the days to come, would be used in a responsible manner.

The Cinematograph Act, 1952 was nothing but a continuation of the colonial era censorship laws which were created for the sole purpose of curbing the freedom of speech and expression of the people. This continuation was made possible because the leaders then believed that the people were ‘very gullible’ (as pointed out by B.V. Keskar, the Union Minister of Information and Broadcasting at that time). To some extent, his argument is valid, because the consolidation of a newly independent country required such measures. Provided that more than 75% of the Indian population was illiterate during the 1950s and 60s, the people were indeed ‘very gullible’. But times have changed, and there has been a steep increase in what we call the ‘visual literacy level’. People today understand the difference between the real and the unreal, and the same logic that was used way back in the 1950s cannot possibly be used in the 21st century as well. So, the necessity of using the instrument of ‘censorship’ frequently, which undoubtedly existed in the initial years of our democracy, ceases to perpetuate in the present scenario.

Having said that, should I not call it an act of grave hypocrisy when the state allows every adult to make a decision as important as voting, but continues to choose for them what to see and what not to? If the people are considered capable of choosing their government, they are definitely capable of selecting which film to watch and which film to avoid watching. Thus, the very idea of censorship in a democracy is paradoxical.

The second question is about the lack of rationality shown by the CBFC in the recent times. The case of ‘Phillauri’, a film starring Anushka Sharma, shows the incoherent nature of the CBFC. Apparently, a scene with ‘Hanuman Challisa’ had to be muted because it ‘failed to scare away the ghost’. During its establishment, one of the principal objectives of the body was to restrict superstitious material from reaching the public. Now, with the ‘Phillauri’ incident, it has transformed into a body promoting superstition. The theatrical release of ‘Lipstick Under My Burkha’ was banned on grounds that “the story is lady-oriented, their fantasy above life.” If the Board is actually so serious about morality, it should also have banned films like ‘Kya Cool Hai Hum’ which objectify women, and undermine the concepts of morality and decency to a far greater extent. These unfortunate incidents manifesting ambivalence and apparent double-standards bring about the inevitable question: Is the CBFC competent to censor our films?

The problem of unnecessary censorship can only be eradicated if the powers of the Board get restricted to Certification, just the way it is in the United States. The responsibility of the Government should only be to ensure that the people understand very clearly the nature of film they are about to watch. Strict certification and regulation of the audience can solve most of the problems faced as a result of irresponsible film-making. Censorship, on the other hand, should be used only under exceptional circumstances and must be looked after by a more capable, reasoned and responsible body, like the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal (FCAT) that comprises retired judges and people with special knowledge in the field of cinema. Until then, creativity of the individual shall continue to be compromised.

Freedom of speech and expression is something that strengthens the base of a vibrant democracy. Be it painters, poets, film-makers or comedians; unless they can speak their minds without fear, our democracy will not be complete. Limiting people’s right to imagine and create, the way it is being presently done, will only weaken it.

The writer, Pranjal Mondal, is a student of Political Science at St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata.

What now, UP?

Swapan Dasgupta, a right-leaning commentator, while being interviewed by a journalist from ‘the Guardian’, commented, “He (Yogi Adityanath) has made provocative statements in the past and the question is whether he continues that style of politics as Chief Minister because the new job entails new responsibilities.”

And this question of situational transmogrification keeps Uttar Pradesh’s boiling cauldron coolly interesting!

But this is the guy, whose decisions after assuming power have been no less stirring than his political image –the only point of difference being the degree of sanity.

He banned the illegal abattoirs—this is actually along the National Green Tribunal directives. Uttar Pradesh Police had to form ‘Anti-Romeo Squad’ (although, its way of functioning is as disgusting as dubious its guidelines are!), acid-attack victims are being taken care of- legally, socially and monetarily, stress has been given on sanitation in 30 districts of the state, pan and tobacco have been banned in government offices (will UP lose its desiness?), vigilance has been hiked onto food-grain mafia, attention has been given to speedy construction of roads. To the relief of nearly 2 crore 15 lakh farmers, Rs 30,729 crore worth of farmer loan has been waived off. Interestingly enough, he has shifted the burden of responsibility of some key areas, like illegal mining, ration card distribution, directly on public servants—the list of daddying up is impressive.

But the fact of Adityanath being Adityanath is something which cannot be ditched. The fiery Hindu priest, who praised Donald Trump’s Muslim ban and once likened Shah Rukh Khan for speaking the same language to Hafiz Saeed, was chosen to run India’s most populous and (parliamentarily) most instrumental state, by BJP, which spearheaded by PM Modi, emphasized economic development over communal agenda to win this election. The 44-year old MP Yogi, also known as, Ajay Singh Negi, is the poster-boy of demagogical Hindu assertion. He is facing criminal charges of attempted murder, defiling religious place of worship, instigating riots in Uttar Pradesh, where the Muzaffarnagar Riots and lynching of Akhlaq Ahmed had triggered a quagmire of lawlessness. He had to spend 11 days in jail in 2007 for violating public restrictions imposed in an area at risk of erupting into communal violence. His senses perceive Mother Teresa as a ‘part of the conspiracy to Christianise India.’ His followers get indoctrinated by the discredited idea of ‘love-jihad’—simply, a man of travesty.

So BJP’s decision to make Adityanath queu-jump to the post of UP CM was thought of to be an assault on secularism in India- because he seems to be a confused soul with psychic penury in interpreting ‘Hindutva’ into ‘Hinduism’ (rather, militant Hinduism). BJP’s chest of strategies was pried open. The decision seemed to mock ‘sabka saath, sabka vikas.’

For long he was identified as a vermin of the fringes who didn’t really come in the way of Modi’s policy of inclusivenss. It looked veritable that BJP would form its government on the agenda of governance. But then, in electoral politics victory is the ultimate desire- no matter what comes in its way.

But, brilliant raconteurs like Trump happens in this funny world. So happen Adityanaths.

But this doesn’t ensure irreversible despair. Despite his communal and biased background, Adityanath has neither perpetrated any act of repulsion nor spoken carelessly, after becoming the CM. Despite the recrudescence of fake-Hindutva, he has been able to calm himself down to act like a man of rectitude. And we do not know what is coming. This is not to exonerate this monk and waffle into pugnacious polemics, but to glance with inquisition and speculation at the present state of affairs.

Nothing can be of such sensory pleasure to know the replacement of ‘Mandir Wahi Banayenge’ by ‘Vikaas Wahi Karenge.’

But will it happen?

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

The (mis)interpretation of Hindutva

The ‘sacred’ in the body politic is a blessing. The ‘profane’ in the body spiritual is a curse. Times millennial the great ‘Aryavarta’ of ours had been subjected to invasions by foreign races, be it Ionians, Turks, Pashtuns, Mughals or the West Europeans. In the initial sense, cultural invasion results in a healthy diffusion of cultural traits and is desirable. However, if a political invasion takes place and, in that case, if the political element is stronger than the civilizational one, then there is a speculation arising from the very fact that a counter-culture seems to have amassed its specter and it can at any time engulf the traditional culture of the land and replace it. ‘Hindutva’, as the name suggests and as orthodoxically theorized, is that stream of consciousness that makes the ‘Bharatiya’ culture rejuvenated. Also, how Hindutva should be differentiated from Hinduism and saffron radicalism in clear terms.

 

Vinayak Damodar Savarkar coined the term Hindutva during the national movement. Despite being staunch Atheist, he gave the Indian politics an idea of exclusive indigenous political thought when the whole world politics was revolving around Western liberalism and Soviet socialism. According to Savarkar, the word ‘Hindutva’ denotes two elements: ‘Hindu’ as Indian and ‘-tva’ meaning likeness. The very fact that Hindu is equivalent to Indian is derived from the theory that the whole landmass stretching between the Hindukush and Hindu Sagar (Indian Ocean) is known as Hindustan (or in ancient terms, Jambudweep, Aryavarta, Hind, etc.). Any living being born in this landmass is a ‘Hindu’ in the liberal sense. Furthermore, anyone who considers India to be his or her ‘Punyabhoomi’ (Holyland), ‘Pitrubhumi’ (Fatherland) is a Hindu. By this very notion, the Aryans of Persia were the first-generation Hindus by the fact that they were not born in Hindustan and yet became bearers of the great civilization.

 

Thus, the Hindu culture does not refer to the culture followed by the followers of ‘Hindu dharma’. ‘Hinduism’ on the other hand is a set of coherent belief systems, monotheistic, pantheistic, polytheistic, henotheistic, agnostic, atheistic that conforms to the traditional way of life practised individually or collectively conforming to the laws of Purusharthas (Dharma, Artha, Kama, Moksha) and may regard the Vedas to be the highest spiritual authority. Therefore, it includes other Indian religions i.e, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism into the Hindu fold although they oppose the Vedic authority. Hindutva, on the other hand is a political philosophy and has very little or no connection with Hinduism. Hindutva takes into account the historical and civilizational aspect of the word ‘Hindu’ and not religious one. 


Since Hindutva is a political philosophy and theory, it leaves upon the so-called supporters of this principle to interpret in their own ways and means. This creates confusion when parties confuse the culture with the religion. This gives rise to the ‘saffron radicalism’; why I call them saffron and not Hindu is because of the fact that Hinduism never promotes violence and that this violence is justified under the garb of a saffron flag that mistakenly represents Hinduism. Large-scale genocide of Muslims is not Hindutva, violent activism through cow protection squads is not Hindutva, tumultuous physical attack on any mosque or church is not Hindutva, attacking the intimate couples on 14th February is not Hindutva, coercing people to hail the Bharatmata is not Hindutva. This has been possible only because the body spiritual has been unknowingly paired up with the body politic.

 

On the other hand, Hindutva professes a separation of the religious element from the State superstructure. This is a reaction to the widespread appeasement of the minorities in India by the left-liberal political parties. The very fact that India has a minority bias is proved from the fact that Muslim personal laws derived from Sharia is still functioning and this is the reason why asserting for a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India has become so indeed vocal. Vices like the triple talaq (which is itself un-Islamic and has been abolished in twenty Islamic nations) or unilateral divorce among the Muslim community still persists. Today if there would have been misogynistic, anti-Sudra laws of Manusmriti functioning among the Hindus, would that have been justifiable? Certainly not.

 

A nation in order to sustain its cultural identity should necessarily be protective from not only socio-cultural but also political and economic forces. Hindutva, in the theoretical sense at least, provides a remedy to the counter culture prevailing in the subcontinent. Due to its present dogmatic misinterpretation and lack of a clear doctrinal cohesion, it has bound to fail in certain aspect. But our knowledge of Hindutva should not be confused because the truth prevails over the myth and the myth is what we perceive through our eyes and not what is in-depth the real theory behind its foundation. We all are a part of the Cultural War be it in this subcontinent or in Israel or Americas, and it is this cultural nationalism that is the inherent instinct of human nature that needs to be ignited and churned so that we head towards a cultural revolution.

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

License to Kill

A nation known for its democracy in its truest sense, a government which indeed is ‘of the people, by the people, for the people’ and a country which gives due importance to the liberties of its citizens, it is very difficult to imagine a situation where a mockery of basic human rights is made. Initially introduced in the states of Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, and Tripura, The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act popularly known as AFSPA recently triggered off a public debate due to the violence in Kashmir. It is a draconian law which gives unbridled powers to the armed forces which includes the right to shoot to kill based on mere suspicion that it is necessary to do so in order to “maintain the public order” in a “disturbed area”.

The origin of this law was in 1958 when it was adopted by the Indian Parliament to provide legal support for the army operations against the Naga rebels. The main objective of this Act was to establish a localised form of emergency rule which would come to the aid of the people during distressed times and assist the State Governments which were incapable of maintaining any internal strife. During the 1950s and 1960s, the ASFPA-enabled counterinsurgency operations against the Nagas forced relocation of civilians in camps under close surveillance. Even to this day, the ‘search operations, the starvation periods, the regime of curfew and the loss of identity’ sends a shiver down the spine of those who remember it.

If one goes through the provisions of this act, the realisation of how the statute can wreak havoc on innocent citizens will dawn upon him and the fact that people are actually at the mercy of the armed forces and the government. One of the biggest flaws of this law is that the State can be declared as a “disturbed region” for an indefinite period of time and the armed officer need only be of the opinion that an action needs to be taken in order to maintain peace. The AFSPA also provides immunity to the forces in the sense that no legal proceedings can be carried out against them without the permission of the Central Government. In a country where reports about criminal activities precedes every other news, perpetrators of heinous crimes use this provision as a shield and move about freely in the society under the garb of their uniform. The atrocity performed by the security forces is an example of how humanity is getting lost in the world that we have built and how tainted has our soul actually become.

Three people shot by the Indian army at Machil sector in Kupwara district of Jammu and Kashmir; 110 lives of civilians lost in the whole summer unrest of the year 2010; barbarous acts committed by the army personnel to get rewards and remunerations under ‘anti-militancy operations’ and this is just the beginning of how low the officers have stooped in order to violate their rights. These incidents are not even close to the other merciless deeds that the forces have been involved in. In Kashmir, the officers used their power to carry out search operations while the men were held for identification outside their houses, near mosques or in a common ground. Even the basic safety measure of including a women officer was not followed. Similarly, the misuse of AFSPA in Manipur had prompted Ms. Irom Sharmila to go on a fast against the draconian provisions of the AFSPA.

In a country where the democratic voice of “We the People” echoes in every state and in every city, it seems to be getting suppressed under this tyrannous rule. In a land where women are worshipped as Goddesses, there can be no greater sin than exploiting their morale and dignity. In a nation, where every man sleeps soundly having the security that the army is there for protection, it is an utmost shameful act to break their trust and hope. The AFSPA was established as an indispensable tool to counter insurgency in “disturbed areas”. The entire purpose of this act was to give power in the ‘right hands of the right people’. Who would have thought that it would soon turn into a nightmare in disguise and render people absolutely helpless.

What we need is a change, an impetus to completely transform the society to make it a better place to live in. India should not allow the future to be dominated by violent paradigm such as the continuing use of AFSPA. It is time we give space for ‘Democracy’ and its cherished values to re-emerge stronger than ever before so that we can surpass all the evils that have crept into our motherland and rise above such trivialities to truly become a global leader. Quoting Swami Vivekananda, “Arise, Awake and Stop not until the goal has been reached” is the need of the hour. The duty of ever Indian citizen is to repeal acts like the AFSPA and to make sure that nothing, absolutely nothing comes in our way of climbing the ladders of success.

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

Gender (In)Equality In India

With the recent upsurge surrounding the ‘Teen Talaq’ or ‘Triple Talaq’. One is forced to review, how poorly situated women are in Indian society. In a patriarchal and misogynist society such as India’s, women are treated as second class citizens. They are thought to be thoroughly incompetent and thereby male domination is obviously justified. No amount of laws and court rulings can set this right. Despite the presence of the Hindu succession Act. Hindu women are still willed out by their parents. They have to resort to troublesome court cases to get what is rightfully theirs.

Inspite of this, Hindu and Christians have some sort of a Supreme Court-approved family law. Why is it that Muslims do not have one? The long-drawn controversy over the uniform Civil Code and the staunch opposition posed by Muslim bodies such as the All-India Muslim Law Board are proof that Muslim misogynists are unwilling to let go of the wrongfully attained power that makes them more powerful in the household. Many Muslim women activists claim and correctly so, that this unilateral and arbitrary form of divorce is actually un-Quranic. The Quran does not place women in a subservient position. It is the self-appointed Muslim ‘Holy-Men’ who have interpreted the Quran in a way that favors them.

Some of the key findings of the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan 2013 survey of 4,710 muslim women in 10 states showed that 92.1% of them wanted a total ban on oral divorce. 91.7% of the women did not want their husbands to marry another woman during the first marriage. 93% wanted an arbitration process to be mandatory before divorce. 95.6% women wanted their ex-husband to pay for the children’s maintenance even if she holds their custody lastly. 83.3% women believed codification of Muslim laws would help Muslim women to get justice.

The Muslim personal law needs to be reformed. Just like the Hindu Marriage Act, the Hindu Succession Act and the Christian Marriage and Divorce Acts, Muslim women feel they too are entitled to a codified Muslim Family Law.

Gender justice is a fundamental principle of every religion. The self appointed custodians of faith enable the tyranny over women through practices like triple talaq, halal and polygamy. Personal Law has nothing to do with religion. Customary practices have been codified to be used as tools of patriarchy. Though codified laws will help, it cannot thoroughly succeed unless the mindset of men is changed. Even women stay away from using the existing laws to their benefit. Patriarchy and misogyny are so deeply rooted in the minds of Indians, that change and reforms receive a lukewarm welcome.

The BJP- government is facing tough opposition from the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, which has the support of many Muslim organizations regarding the uniform Civil Code. However, what is most needed is a change from within. Rather than having the government forcefully make and enforce laws, people should be made to understand the importance of such laws. In the era of progress and democracy, if India lags behind on something as fundamental and crucial as gender equality and women’s empowerment, then it is truly a shame and a failure.

The writer, Srishti Negal, is a student of Honors in Political Science at St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata.

The Great Indian Alliance?

When I saw the picture of Rahul Gandhi and Akhilesh Yadav on the front page of a leading newspaper, being a student of Political Science, I was not amazed. The Indian political parties have been indulging in a marriage of convenience for a long time. The Congress had fought alone in the 2012 UP elections by claiming that Congress is there for a long haul and stated that it was there to fight caste-based regional parties such as the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party. However, the 2014 elections changed the entire game and the mighty Congress was reduced to just 44 seats in the centre. Desperate times call for desperate measures and hence, the bravado of 2012 has been replaced by pragmatism of 2017 and you can see the picture of Rahul Gandhi holding hands with Akhilesh Yadav in similar outfits and beaming smiles everywhere.

It is an old age saying that it takes two to tango; similarly, the Samajwadi party didn’t enter into an alliance to help the Congress; rather it has joined hands with the Congress to continue its reign in the Uttar Pradesh. The SP suffered from a dent in its image because of the increasing crime rates, handling of women related issues, corruption etc in its home state. In a bid to revive its victory of the earlier elections, the SP has sought to Congress to curb the claim of the Bhartiya Janta Party to come in the most populous state of the country which plays an essential role in forming the government at the centre. The menace which was created due to the personal feud between the members of the Yadav family added fuel to the fire. Rather than addressing the issues of the general importance, the SP was busy in solving its personal matters on various public forums such as rallies, conventions etc. It is imperative to say that this has largely worked against  the SP.
Needless to say, this is not the first time that the political parties who were rivals before and have no ideological similarity,  have come together to come into power. However, for a political party what should be more important is the fact that their subjects get benefited; which is often neglected. Neither of the parties who are contesting for the U.P. elections have shied away from playing the vote bank as well as caste based politics. For them, the main agenda has been to stay in the power for as long as they can. This stirs a question in my mind that if a political party which has come into the power and indulges in the development of the state, wouldn’t people elect it the next time on the basis of its achievement? However, nobody can predict the outcome of the pending U.P. elections because Indian voters vote differently every time. Who knows they just might like the ‘cycle of hope and hand of rights’.