March 20, 2018

India: Cow Vigilantism - Crime, Community and Livelihood - Press Conference and Release of PUDR Report (22 March 2018)


Press Conference and Release of Report

Cow Vigilantism: Crime, Community and Livelihood
January 2016 to March 2018 

Between January 2016 and March 2018, PUDR documented 136 incidents of violence and intimidation around issues of cow slaughter and beef across 22 states, based on media reporting as well as fact-finding reports. In the course of documentation, we came across a wide array of incidents where the forms of targeting ranged from murder, assault,sexual violence, stripping, arson, vandalism, to interception, seizure of animals and vehicles, harassment, humiliation, forced closure of meat shops and eateries, extortion and civilians acting as an extra-judicial arm of the police, all in the name of ‘cow protection’. We have documented 20 instances of reported deaths in which 29 persons died and 13 cases of attacks on Dalits, overwhelmingly in Gujarat. 75 % of attacks in incidents where the identities of the victims could be ascertained, were against Muslims. Our report maps the patterns of cow vigilantism emerging from our data and the conclusions arrived at by PUDR

Please join us for a press conference and discussion at:

Date: 22 March 2018, Thursday
Time: 4 pm - 5.30 pm

Shahana, Shashi
Secretaries, PUDR

India: The Communal Politics of Eviction Drives in Assam

Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 53, Issue No. 8, 24 Feb, 2018

Pinku Muktiar (pinkumuktiar99[at]gmail.com) is at the Department of Sociology, Tezpur University, Assam. Prafulla Nath (khar1khuwa[at]gmail.com) is at the Tribal Studies Centre, Assam University, Diphu Campus, Diphu. Mahesh Deka (maheshdk3[at]gmail.com) is a journalist based in Guwahati.

 o o o

Over the years, in Assam, there has been a disturbing denial of citizenship rights of Muslims, who are branded as Bangladeshis. In the aftermath of an eviction drive conducted by the government in Kaziranga National Park, the article focuses on the narrative that the villagers have to offer, while interrogating the nature of Assamese nationalism.

The Kaziranga National Park, a world heritage site which is home to the world famous one-horned rhinos, grabbed media headlines in September 2016. Unlike previous occasions, the park did not draw media attention due to unabated rhino poaching, but because of an eviction drive carried out by the Assam government in fringe villages of the national park.

Following the order of the Gauhati High Court, the eviction drive in three fringe villages—Banderdubi, Deosursang and Palkhowa—of the Kaziranga National Park, was carried out on 19 September 2016 by the Government of Assam. Two persons including a 12-year-old girl student, were killed in police firing during the massive protest against the eviction. This subsequently sparked off a heated debate in the print, electronic, and social media. Those evicted were mostly Muslim peasants of East Bengal origin. The supporters of the eviction drive directed suspicion to the identity of these people by using phrases like “illegal Bangladeshis,” “rhino poachers,” and “suspected citizens.” Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS), an influential peasants’ organisation in the state, opposed the eviction without releasing compensation to the people of the villages, drawing flak from different quarters. The KMSS chief Akhil Gogoi was mocked on social media for his stand on the issue.

This article focuses on the narrative that the Banderdubi villagers have to offer against the administration’s eviction drive. We made an attempt to understand the anguish of the evicted people, their deplorable state in makeshift dwellings, and the justification of their rights of rehabilitation and resettlement.

After the eviction, people’s entitlement to democratic and human rights, rehabilitation, and resettlement was overlooked. We argue that the narrow, communal, divisive and myopic approach adopted by a section of the upper-caste Assamese Hindus to categorically exclude the migrant communities from Bangladesh, is a whip to the Assamese nationality.[1] Moreover, the eviction drive was communalised for vested political interest and along with the "caste Hindu" Assamese,[2] different tribal elites actively fuelled the communal agenda.

One of the evicted house by NH-37. 

Dubious Discourse 

In Assam, the dubious trend of branding Muslim religious minorities as “illegal Bangladeshi” is not new (Chakraborty 2012). Interestingly, the educated mainstream Assamese society and different ethnic groups of the state are following this discourse and blurring the difference between the identities of the old and the new settlers. The media’s simplistic and unidirectional portrayal of these settlers as “Bangladeshi” creates hostility towards those of a different faith and identity.

Historically, various religious, linguistic, and cultural groups who had migrated to this region at different junctures contributed in different ways to enrich the fabric of Assamese society (Gohain 1989, Guha 1993, Sharma 2012, Sharma 2006). Cultural tolerance and secularism is thus a distinct trait of this society. The Assamese middle class being a part of the ruling class has largely been successful in projecting its own class and factional interests as the interest of Assamese nationality or the people of Assam. Because of its weak position in the production process, this class is not sure about its destiny or its future. It has been portraying its own identity crisis and apprehensions as the crisis of the Assamese nationality or of Assam. In fact, this class has become the “de facto spokesperson” of Assamese nationality during the post colonial period (Hussain 1993:93). Though the contributions of exploited and marginalised peasants have been significant in the process of Assamese nationality formation, their voices have been stifled and suppressed. The narratives of deep anguish and discrimination faced by these Bengali Muslim settlers from East Bengal continue to be excluded by the mainstream society. This trend of ostracisation by the caste Hindu Assamese in the formation of Assamese nationality is not new.

The horrors of suspicion and bloodshed such as the Nellie massacre[3] in 1983 are testimony to the atrocities inflicted on Muslims of East Bengal origin and the hostility towards them (Kimura 2013). However, there also exists a small trend of progressive nationalism. Unfortunately, the narrow, communal and divisive prism of Assamese caste Hindus is prominent in the political and social sphere of Assam.

Report from the Field

We reached Banderdubi on 2 October, 2016 to collect first-hand data and know the experience of the evicted masses. The outrage on television and in print media merged with misguided public opinion moulded by social media which brands Bengali Muslims as illegal Bangladeshi.[4] This also encourages the erroneous notion that the illegal infiltrators are appropriating “our lands.”

According to oral history sources, the Karbi and the Assamese people used to inhabit the Banderdubi area before the Muslim settlement started. In the 1950s, Bengali Muslims from the neighbouring Nagaon district migrated to Banderdubi. The annual flood of Brahmaputra deposits silt, making the land highly fertile for agriculture. The original dwellers of the village later migrated to Kaliabor, Nagaon, Bokakhat and nearby hills after selling off their land to the agrarian Muslim community. The cultivation of paddy and cash crops yielded profit to the Bengali-speaking Muslims of Banderdubi. These people who are now above 60 years of age, in fact belong to the second generation and in some cases to the third generation. The mosque in Banderdubi was built in 1951 and the primary school was provincialised in 1966.[5] There were 205 families (including 7 caste Hindu Assamese families) in Banderdubi when the eviction was carried out. The Bengali Muslim families of this village claimed to have government documents, land records, land patta,[6] and voter identity cards, which meant that terming them as “illegal infiltrators” was fallacious.

Khagen Kalita, an evicted victim belonging to the caste Hindu Assamese community, said that his forefathers had resided in this village for over 100 years. He claimed that each person residing in Banderdubi is a legal Indian citizen. Another person, Idrish Ali (aged 54), lamented, “everyone labels us as Bangladeshi. Yes, we are Bangladeshis.” He then handed us a land revenue receipt from 1929 and the land ownership records of his forefathers. It was disheartening to see legal citizens called illegal infiltrators by misguided populism. If the evicted masses were Bangladeshis or suspected citizens, then why were they not sent to detention camps? Why did the government announce a compensation of Rs 5 lakh to the families of the two persons killed in the police firing during eviction?

Nabir Hussain (aged 37) owned around 12 bighas[7] of myadi patta[8] land and occupied a few patches of government land and sustained his family through agriculture. His face was wrenched in anguish which later gave way to tears. On being asked he shared,
“We are not humans. If we were, then the democratic government would not have done this against us. We are now camping on roads. The people were also unaware about whether their compensation would be in terms of cash or land. Social organisations like All Assam Muslim Student Union (AAMSU) and All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) have been providing us relief, but for how long?”

Temporary camp by the National highway. 

Afazuddin, a panchayat member of Banderdubi village, maintained that the sentiment of "jati, mati, bheti"[9] (community, land and existence) is being manipulated for political gains. He says,
“The brutality of the government in Banderdubi eviction was mainly because of two reasons—firstly, we are poor and uneducated and secondly, we are Muslims.”

A map of Banderdubi village prepared by the revenue department in 1964 was shown to us. The voters list of 1965 is already doing the rounds on social media.
Kaziranga was declared a National Park in 1974.[10] The arbitrary demarcation and inclusion of areas into the Park did not take into cognisance the human settlements that existed in the area prior to the creation of the Park. Banderdubi was one such village. It has been a revenue village of the Assam government for the last 50–60 years and the land revenue receipts available with the villagers bear testimony to this fact. The village has a total of about 2,245 bighas of land. Around 500 bighas are myadi, some eksoniya and some are tarju land. They pay regular land revenue to the government. However, there are instances of eviction of people from the eksoniya and tarju land by the government from time to time.

Abdul Hasim (aged 55) added,
“Shoot us, if you find a single Bangladeshi in Banderdubi. I was born here.”

He earns his livelihood by cultivating paddy and mustard. But, for the sake of Kaziranga and its pride—the one–horned rhinoceros—he was willing to let go of his land. In return, he wanted an assurance of compensation and rehabilitation from the government.
“We wanted compensation prior to the eviction drive. Is not it my right? We are now staying in the camps, but for how long? Where do we go from here?”


High Court Order and Banderdubi’s Opinion

Following the Gauhati High Court’s order, the state government carried out the eviction drive. One such notice for eviction was issued last year as well. This time also, they anticipated eviction only from the government land. But their nightmare came true when it dawned on them that all of Banderdubi was to be evicted.

Irrespective of religious faith, the Hindus and Muslims of the village stood together and protested against the high court’s order. Later, Akhil Gogoi was called upon to give a face and course to the protest. Prior to the eviction, on 15 September 2016, the villagers (both men and women) marched to the Kaliabor Circuit House, overcoming the scorching heat. They went with the hope that Himanta Biswa Sarma (a cabinet minister in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led state government) and the state Water Resource Keshab Mahanta would understand their deplorable state. Few representatives from among the villagers were called for discussion, and verbal promise of compensation within 40 days was made to the bearers of patta land.

Interestingly, the Hindu families were called for discussion separately and compensation that was four times the value of their land was promised, because their land was on the side of the national highway. It was outrageous to see democratic politics dividing people on communal grounds for vested political interest. The evicted people who were taking shelter in four camps said in unison that KMSS leader Akhil Gogoi requested the people to go in a for non-violent protest. Gogoi had said that non-violent protest would compel the government to withdraw the decision of the eviction drive.

Camp of the villagers after eviction. 


Rhino Poachers and Animal Corridor

There was noise about two other things after the Kaziranga evictions—first that the rhino poachers belonged to the Bengali Muslim community, and second that Banderdubi was nestled in the animal corridor. The villagers had their explanations. There were also instances of two or three youths from the village being arrested and sent to jail for their alleged involvement in rhino poaching. But without credible evidence, it is fatuous to claim the entire village as rhino poachers. The villagers complained that there is a tacit nexus between the forest officials and poachers. Gopal Konwar, a youth from another village nearby, further added that during the last annual floods the villagers had rescued wild animals and handed them over to the forest department.

Technically, from Jakhalabandha to Bokakhat, the entire area is an animal corridor. In that sense, Banderdubi too falls within the animal corridor. During the annual floods the wild animals move up to the hills, but this was not possible in Banderdubi since it is mostly inundated during the floods. So Banderdubi, being a refuge for the wild animals does not arise.

“The Kanchanjuri tea estate in the Kuthori range of Kaziranga is within the animal corridor as it is situated on the hills,” explains Khagen Kalita. Interestingly, a signboard signifying animal corridor also stands in front of the Kanchanjuri tea garden. The people of the village told us that the tea estate belongs to a powerful and affluent minister of the state government.

Education, Health, and Food in the Camps

Children in the camp.

Banderdubi primary school had a total of 160 students. Two days prior to the eviction, the furniture was removed from the school and the students were meant to be shifted to the nearby schools. But the reality was gloomy. When these students from Banderdubi went to the nearby schools for enrollment in the aftermath of eviction, they were denied admission. The reason cited was the lack of teachers and infrastructure. It became arduous for the students to seek admission in the middle of the year which essentially meant the loss of the academic year. The education minister, who is otherwise credited for bringing about a revolutionary change in education through Teacher Eligibility Test (TET), has not paid attention to the murky future of these innocent children.

Women and children in the camp. 

“We didn’t receive any relief from the government since 19 September, even a glass of water,” claims a woman in the camp. During the eviction drive, security personnel and police included both the male and female force, but male personnel were deployed to evict the women from their village. An anganwadi worker revealed that the camps—now home to 12 pregnant women, 15 lactating mothers and 20 teenage girls—lack even basic access to safe drinking water and food. The condition of these women is pitiable.

Osman Ali (13) wounded by bullet during police firing. 
Osman Ali (13) recalled the dreadful eviction and said, “I was with my mother. Suddenly we heard bullets being fired and we ran for our lives. One bullet hit my thigh. After that, I didn’t remember anything.” On being asked about his school, he replied passionately, “I will study hard and realise my dream.” We were short of words to console Ali.

In Conclusion

  This field study gave us credible evidence to be convinced that the Banderdubi villagers are bona fide citizens of this country. At the ground level, however, the Kaziranga eviction exemplified a grave truth. The BJP-led coalition state government is riding on the sentiments of “jati, mati, bheti” and creating a wedge among the people on communal lines. Being citizens of an independent nation, these evicted masses were denied basic democratic and human rights. Interestingly, though the state government announced compensation for the evicted lands within 40 days, people are yet to receive compensation in any form. The muteness of social and nationalistic organisations like Asom Sahitya Sabha (a literary organisation of Assam), ASU and the Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuba Chaatra Parishad (AJYCP) which boast of Assamese nationalism, is quite disturbing. Branding a particular community as Bangladeshi without veridical facts is deeply problematic and antithetical to the concept of Assamese nationalism which is characterised by humane, democratic and secular society.

After the Kaziranga eviction, the government continued evictions in different places specially in various Bengali Muslim dominated areas like Mayong, Sipajhar, Barduwa, and Manas National Park. There was a constant effort through popular media campaigns to establish the evicted masses as “illegal Bangladeshis” and encroachers. These evictions were spearheaded by the BJP after coming to power in the state and a serious repercussion was the construction of a binary on religious grounds. This policy of the government is not only communally divisive, but also an attempt to gain political mileage in the name of evicting Bangladeshis.

In various news reports, it is seen that erosion and flood have already washed away lands of most of the peasants in Assam irrespective of caste, creed, and religion.  As a result, the peasants have no option left but to either encroach on government land and grazing reserves or to live life in char (sandbars or mid channels bars in a river) areas. However, given the history of recurring flood and erosion in the state, such evictions posit some serious questions—firstly, the state government does not have a proper land policy for its people, and secondly, there is no uniform land allotment policy in practice for those who have lost their lands due to erosion.

If the state and the non-state actors jump into the manufactured discourse of “jati, mati, bheti,” all the good things of Assamese nationalism in terms of cultural tolerance and secularism would perish.

Case Cited

Kaziranga National Park v Union of India and others (2015): Public Interest Litigation (suo motu) No 66 of 2012, Gauhati High Court judgment dated 9 October. (http://ghconline.gov.in/Judgment/PIL662012.pdf)


[1] The Assamese nationality is a multi-caste, multi-racial, multi-religious and a multi-class category. All the groups that entered into the region at different period of the history have become a part of the Assamese nationality which includes the non-caste Assamese Hindus like Ahoms, Koch-Rajbonshis, Morans, Motaks, Chutiyas, Deuris, Kocharis; Muslims, comprising of Syeds, Shaikhs, Morias and Julahas; caste Hindu Assamese composed of Brahmins, Gonaks, Kayasthas, and Kalitas; and other lower caste people such as Kaibartas, Malis, Hiras, Bonias, Sutradhars, and Kumars. It also subsumes the Muslim peasants of east Bengal origin as well the tea plantation tribes who migrated to Assam under the colonial regime in the first half of the twentieth century. Similarly, Nepali people who had migrated to the region in the colonial and post-colonial period also enter the fold of Assamese nationality. Even a small portion of Bengali (Hindu Bengali) and Marwari population has become a part and parcel of Assamese nationality.

[2] The term “caste Hindu” is used in academic scholarship on Assam. Caste Hindu is not an official category and it is not a distinction made by government records.  In this article, the term refers to the different caste groups such as Brahmins, Keot, Kalita, Kayastha, Nath Yogi, Kaibartaya in Assam.
All the groups that entered the region at different periods in history have become a part of the Assamese identity which includes the non-caste Assamese Hindus like Ahoms, Koch-Rajbonshis, Morans, Motaks, Chutias, Deuris, Kocharis; Muslims, comprising of Syeds, Shaikhs, Morias and Julahas; caste Hindu Assamese composed of Brahmins, Gonaks, Kayasthas, and Kalitas; and lower caste people such as Kaibartas, Malis, Hiras, Bonias, Sutradhars, and Kumars. The Assamese identity also subsumes the Muslim peasants of east Bengal origin, tea plantation tribes who migrated to Assam under the colonial regime, Nepalese people who had migrated to the region in the colonial and post-colonial period, as well as small portions of the Bengali (Hindus) and Marwari population. It is important to note that though these tribal and non-tribal groups identified with the Assamese identity, there has been always a domination of the caste Hindu Assamese leadership in terms of political and other interests of the state.
Scholars like Gohain (1989, 2002), Guha (1993), Hussain (1993:22-30), Sharma (2006) have discussed the formation of Asssamese identity in historical context. They have shown that the Neo-Vaishnavite movement in medieval Assam propagated by Sankardeva (1449-1569) accelerated the process of hinduising the tribal masses—a process that was initiated by the Brahmins (Gohain 1989; Guha 1993) much before Sankardeva. These scholars have mentioned that tribal masses were easily attracted to the Sankardeva’s model of hinduisation due to a number of reasons. Sankardeva and his disciples used easily intelligible language in their texts to propagate Neo-Vaishnavism. The practice of worshipping several deities prevalent in traditional Hinduism was replaced with simpler monotheism. The complex and authoritative rituals (often involving sacrifice of animals) of the Brahmanical tradition were abandoned for simpler ritual practices. This simplicity and ease of Neo-Vaishnavism was responsible for its popularity among the tribal populace who embraced Hinduism.
The pace of the Neo-Vaishnavite movement was not similar in every corner of the state. In upper Assam, it was quite popular and tribal groups such as Thengal Kacharis, Sonowal Kacharis, Marans, Motaks, Ahoms, Chutias, Deuris, a section of the Mishing were converted to Hinduism and many of them entered the caste fold. The tribal neophytes were given the lowest status in the caste hierarchy and it became possible for the lower new caste group to attain even the highest status in the caste hierarchy by emulating the practices of the higher castes in the order.

[3] The Nellie massacre took place on 18 February, 1983 at the height of the Assam Movement (1979–85). Almost 2,000 Muslim peasants of East Pakistan origin were killed in a single day because they were considered Bangladeshis. 

[4] Almost all Assamese newspapers published articles supporting the eviction and branding the evicted people as suspected citizens (Bangladeshi) and land encroachers.

[5] In Assam, schools are usually established by the local people of a particular area. These schools are known as venture schools. After a period of time, the government starts to recognise these schools as government schools and these are then known as provincialised schools.

[6] Patta is the official land holding document.

[7]  Bigha is a unit of land measurement. Three bighas is equal to one hectare.

[8]  Lands are divided into three categories as per the land revenue department of Assam—tarju, eksoniya, and myadi. Tarju lands are ones which are not surveyed. Eksoniya and myadi are surveyed lands the proper mapping of which is done by the concerned department. Eksoniya land is land leased or occupied by someone for a period of one year from the government and revenue is paid on the same. The Government can take these two types of land from anyone without paying any compensation. Myadi patta land is owned by someone with official document proof.

[9]  Jati, mati, bheti (community, land, people) was a popular slogan of the Bharatiya Janata Party in the last Assam assembly election in 2016.

[10]  From colonial times to the present day, the policy of conservation of flora and fauna in Kaziranga has gone through various phases. In 1905, E S Carr, the Conservator of Assam, submitted a proposal for a game reserve in Kaziranga with an area of 232 square kilometres. Later, an area of 152 square kilometres was added to it and in 1908, this was declared as game reserve. In 1916, the reserved was renamed as Kaziranga Game Sanctuary. In the year 1950, it was again renamed as Kaziranga Wildlife Sanctuary. (Saikia 2011: 253-293; Kaziranga National Park 2018)

  • Chakraborty, Gorki (2012): “The ‘Ubiquitous’ Bangladeshis,” Economic & Political Weekly, Vol 47, No 38, pp 21–23.

    Gohain, Hiren (1989): Axomiya Jatiyo Jiwanat Mahapurusiya Parampara, Guwahati: Lawyers Book Stall.

    — (2002): “Asomat Janajatiya Samasyar Patabhumi,” Kuwaliphali Poohar, Guwahati: Chandra Prakash.

    Guha, Amalendu (1993): Vaishnavbador pora Muwamoriya Bidruhaloi, Guwahati: Students Stores.

    History of Kaziranga National Park (2018): Webpage of Kaziranga National Park. https://www.kaziranga-national-park.com/kaziranga-history.shtml.

    Hussain, Monirul (1993): The Assam Movement: Class, Ideology and Identity, New Delhi: Manak Publications.

    Kimura, Makiko (2013): The Nellie Massacre of 1983: Agency of Rioters, New Delhi: Sage.

    Saikia, Arupjyoti (2011): Forests and Ecological History of Assam, New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1826-2000.

    Sharma, Chandan Kumar (2006): “Genealogy Contested: Oral Discourse and Bodo Identity Construction,” Folklore as Discourse, Muthukumarswamy M D (ed), Chennai: National Folklore Support Centre.

    — (2012): “The immigration issue in Assam and Conflicts Around It,” Asian Ethnicity, Vol 13 No 3, pp 287–309.
 Image Courtesy: All images by Pinku Muktiar, Prafulla Nath, and Mahesh Deka.

Source URL: http://www.epw.in/engage/article/communal-politics-eviction-drives-assam

India: Jawaharlal Nehru’s views on religion and secularism as read by Rajeev Bhargava

EPW, Vol. 52, Issue No. 8, 25 Feb, 2017

On Religion and Secularism - Nehru against Nehruvians

Rajeev Bhargava

Jawaharlal Nehru’s views on religion and secularism, indeed even his considered political practice, were very different from the Nehruvian secularism that emerged soon after his death, a handiwork of intellectuals close to his daughter, Indira Gandhi. It is an argument of this paper that Nehruvian views on secularism must give way to Nehru’s own views on the matter which have great relevance today.

see also: http://www.epw.in/engage/article/have-nehruvians-misunderstood-Nehrus-Views-on-Religion

India: BJP’s Forays in North Eastern States and anti Minority Agenda | Ram Puniyani

From last couple of decades one is coming across the pamphlets, leaflets and other material containing the propaganda that Christian missionaries are converting the people at rapid pace; the examples mostly given have been those of the North Eastern states. This propaganda has been extensively used at pan India level, particularly before elections in most of the states. It is this propaganda which formed the base of hate against Christians and we witnessed the ghastly murder of Pastor Graham Stewart Stains, the horrific Kandhmal violence, and low intensity anti Christian violence and attacks on Churches in different parts of the country. So how come BJP, the party flaunting it Ram Temple, Mother cow and Hindu nationalism could make its inroads into an area where many states Christianity is the religion with good presence, where beef eating is part of the people’s dietary habits and where different tribes with diverse and clashing political interests articulate their aspirations by forming various groups which have been asking for separate state for their tribes.

While the situation in each state is different, there is a pattern of BJP strategy, which in a flexible manner, supplemented by massive resources, near perfect electoral machinery and the backing of its parent organization’s swayamsevaks is getting the cake in state after state. In Assam it focused mainly on the Bangladeshi immigrants, the Muslims swamping the state and threatening that Hindus will be reduced to a minority. It was clever enough to strike alliances even with separatist organizations. Most of the regional organization in the area looks at Congress as the party which has not focused on the development work, and BJP while at one level abuses those differing with its ideology as ‘anti nationals’, has no compunctions at all in allying with those who have been talking of separate state or even secession. In Tripura left government; despite its clean record; failed to fulfill the aspirations of tribal and OBCs in matters of reservation. It also failed miserably in creating employment opportunities for the youth which gave the ground to BJP to promise and create the illusion of development.

BJP here mainly harped on two major factors. One is the promise of development. As by now its claims of development all over the country stand exposed as mere vote catching slogans, in North East they still could sell Modi as a development man. Manik Sarkar’s failure to implement the new pay commissions must have hurt the large numbers as they are still stuck at fourth pay commission while talk of seventh pay commission is in the air. In Tripura, they could also harp on ‘Hindus are Refugees: Muslim is infiltrators’ to influence the Bengali Hindu votes. In tribal area, RSS swayamsevaks working consistently by organizing religious functions, opening schools etc. from long time have succeeded in turning the tables, as Manik Sarkar Government failed to address the needs of Tribal’s in matters of opportunities. In matters of beef, BJP openly took a hypocritical line that their ban on cow slaughter and eating beef, which is being imposed in different parts of country; will not be enforced in North East. As such also one knows that like most of the issues raised by RSS-BJP, holy cow is a political tool for dividing the society and when the crunch comes they manipulate the issue as they have done in Kerala and Goa on the issue of beef and cow slaughter.

In a very loud manner, towering over Christian voters, Mr. Modi talked of rescuing 46 nurses in ISIS captivity in Iraq and Father Alex Premkumar from Taliban captivity. What can one say on these issues? Were they rescued as they were Indians or were they rescued because they belong to a particular religion? As is the wont with Modi type politics, they do take advantage of these incidents in a crass political manner. Despite the fact that their ideology regards Christians and Muslims as foreigners they do at the same time manipulate these identities for electoral gains. In Tripura the majority of Congress and TMC MLAS migrated to BJP as well as the electoral support shifted to BJP. What worked for BJP here was the anti Bangladeshi sentiment along with the illusory promise of development.

In Meghalaya, the situation is different. Though Congress did emerge as the single largest party and logically is should have been given the chance to form the Government, the Hindu nationalist Governor, thought otherwise and the second largest party, in alliance with practically everybody including BJP are going to form the Government. Here the failure of BJP to win over electorate is writ large on the results, what is putting them in the camp of power, is the alliance with a regional party, which has not been having amicable attitude and relations to Congress. The role of BJP’s all round clout including money and muscle is the undercurrent of the story.

There is lot of lessons for left in Tripura to learn. Issue of addressing problems of youth, Tribal and OBC are paramount. In addition the issue of BJP manipulating in all possible ways to come to power is something, which can be ignored at the risk of severe declines in the electoral power of the left and other parties. What is being labeled as Karat line, not allying with Congress, will surely decimate the left in times to come, probably sooner than later, as this line underestimates the potential and the deeper agenda of BJP-RSS. It ignores the threat of powerful electoral machine built by BJP over a period of time and its capability to manipulate issues, like beef and conversion by Christian missionaries, is different parts of the country, taking two opposite positions and getting away with it!

The emotive politics unleashed by BJP RSS is visible again in the form of attacking Lenin’s statue and attacks on CPM workers. What is in store for future of the region if democratic forces don’t rise to the occasion is anybody’s guess!

India: The Congress in Karnataka has surrendered to identity politics this election season

In Karnataka, the Congress has waded into the murky waters of identity politics. On Monday, the Siddaramaiah-led government accepted a proposal to recognise the Lingayat commnity as a separate religion. Just how explosive this move could be became evident hours later, as clashes broke out between members of the Veerashaiva and Lingayat communities in Kalaburagi city. Given that the Karnataka assembly elections are less than two month away, it seems to be a fairly blatant move to corner an influential votebank that has traditionally gone with the Bharatiya Janata Party.
[ . . . ]


India: BJP and the RSS "signalled their cadres" to destroy statues of those who oppose their Hindutva ideology

The Times of India

'RSS signalled cadres to tear down Periyar statue', says Rahul Gandhi

TIMESOFINDIA.COM | Updated: Mar 20, 2018, 14:31 IST


A Periyar statue was found vandalised this morning in the Pudukkottai district of Tamil Nadu
Congress president Rahul Gandhi alleged that the BJP and the RSS "signalled their cadres" to destroy statues of those who oppose their Hindutva ideology

NEW DELHI: A day after a Periyar statue was vandalised in Tamil Nadu, Congress president Rahul Gandhi alleged that the BJP and the RSS "signalled their cadres" to destroy statues of those who oppose their Hindutva ideology.

"When the RSS and BJP encouraged the tearing down of Lenin statues in Tripura, they signalled their cadres to destroy statues of those who opposed their ideology, like Periyar, the great social reformer who fought for the Dalits. His statue too was destroyed today in Tamil Nadu," said Rahul in a tweet today.

The Lenin statue Rahul was referring to was one in Tripura that was razed earlier this month, two days after the results of the Assembly elections there showed that the BJP had toppled the CPM.

A statue of social reformer Periyar was found with its head cut off near Alangudi in the Pudukkottai district of Tamil Nadu on Tuesday morning. The head was found lying near the statue. Police said some miscreants damaged the statue on Monday night. Over 200 police personnel were deployed in the area to avoid any violence.

The razing of Communist hero Lenin's statue in Tripura last month - an act condoned by some BJP leaders - appears to have sparked a wave of similar actions across the country in its immediate aftermath.

In Vellore, a BJP town secretary and some of his relatives stoned a statue Periyar on March 7, after senior party leader H Raja tweeted advocating the destruction of his statues. A second statue of Lenin's was targeted around the same time, again in Tripura, by persons unknown. In West Bengal, a BJP icon was the target, as seven people vandalised a bust of Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, founder of the Jan Sangh, a party from which the BJP emerged.

In Vellore, a BJP town secretary and some of his relatives stoned a statue Periyar on March 7, after senior party leader H Raja tweeted advocating the destruction of his statues. A second statue of Lenin's was targeted around the same time, again in Tripura, by persons unknown. In West Bengal, a BJP icon was the target, as seven people vandalised a bust of Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, founder of the Jan Sangh, a party from which the BJP emerged.

Khalistan and Hindu rashtra | Jawed Naqvi

Dawn, March 20, 2018

AS liberal dreamers go on the back foot in India and Pakistan, having reneged on their promise to deliver an open, equal and just society, it may not be unwise to probe other like-minded people. The Dalits and the powerful middle- caste Yadavs have shown the way in Uttar Pradesh by abandoning their traditional aloofness to save democracy. If religion has to be an ally of a secular quest, why not Sikhism?
Sikhism, as it was conceived — and not necessarily the way it is practised — is one place where all humans are embraced equally, without fear or favour. It is perhaps the only religion where you would find a mere cobbler, the lowly chamar at the bottom of the Hindu caste heap, being revered as a saint. As such Sikhism in its original form can be a major force against the Brahminical order. And since Sikhs are strategically located in the most powerful state institutions they cannot be easily trifled with.
As school kids boarding the morning bus from Raidas Mandir in Lucknow we were hardly aware that this was the temple to someone so revered by Sikhs, or the fact that the pre-Mughal poet formed the core of northern India’s momentous Bhakti movement. It was strange to see cobblers outside and inside the temple, making and repairing shoes. But that was as far as our curiosity would go.
Raidas Mandir was once on the outer precincts of Lucknow, which is where shunned people of the erstwhile Untouchable community were allowed to build their place of worship. After a while, the temple got hidden by an ungainly flyover that came up right in front of the entrance. The new road facilitated the passage of Hindu believers to an old Hanuman mandir in Aliganj. It didn’t matter that flyover was a rude insult to Ravidas, whose temple stands obscured by milling fruit vendors, medicine shops and rickshaw pullers clamouring for their space under the bridge. I am beginning to understand why my Hindu friends would decline a cup of tea that I sometimes enjoyed brewed by the lady who ran the small food stall at the temple.
The men and women who fought and died for a homeland were also fighting to honour Bulleh Shah, Kabir, Namdev and Ravidas.
“Your lotus feet are the home of my mind. Drinking in Your Nectar, I have obtained the wealth of the Lord. Prosperity, adversity, property and wealth are just Maya, illusion.” I was not equipped to understand the lines of Ravidas leave alone divining their relevance to an Indian era. “I am worthless, and You are so benevolent. You are the white and yellow threads of silk, and I am like a poor worm.” The words are strikingly similar to Kabir’s in some ways. But Kabir was taught in the school syllabus compiled by Brahmin Hindi teachers, Ravidas was not.
Which should make one wonder why the idea of an independent Sikh homeland, comprising people of music and equality, is considered repugnant by those who had readily accepted a separate country for Muslims and are now on the verge of hijacking an eclectic way of life called Hinduism (including those who deny being Hindus!) to turn it into a rigid religion in their march towards a theocratic state.
The Ravidas lines I quoted from the Guru Granth Sahib are composed in a lilting Raga Asa. And Sikhism is the only religion in the world in which almost every wise saying is assigned a specific classical raga. People who fought for Khalistan may have resorted to brutal and unacceptable violence, but which religion has not been guilty of that.
See it another way. The men and women who fought and died for a homeland were also fighting to honour Bulleh Shah, Kabir, Namdev and Ravidas among other great mystics. Yes, there is caste-based inequality and patriarchy still prevalent against the advice of Sikh tenets. But whatever else in terms of ideas or practice the followers may have subscribed to, they were fighting to preserve the essence of their gurus’ culturally open-minded and socially inclusive thoughts in musically disseminated stanzas. Give me an equally lyrical religion.
I was at a Sikh gurdwara recently, not for the first time. And I was predictably blown off my feet by the shabad performed by the renowned exponent Bhai Baldeep Singh. Shabad are musically composed verses and sayings of Indian mystics from different eras and of varied religious backgrounds compiled in Sikhism’s holiest book. As I said, there is no other religion in which a cobbler is a revered hero side by side with others, rather inspired in a fundamental way by Buddha.
Moved by what I heard, my mind waded into the question. On the one hand, Indians are being coerced by a combination of Hindutva’s street power and a delinquent state that indulges a hard-line religion modelled on Ziaul Haq’s idea of Pakistan and underpinned by elements of Italian fascism. On the other hand, the people who overtly or covertly support Hindutva bear a disproportionate degree of hostility towards a far more inclusive proposal for a homeland. The quest is sustained by fierce aversion of Brahminism and narrow-minded Muslim rulers, primarily Emperor Aurangzeb.
Theocratic states in our age are a bad idea, not that they were any more agreeable in the past. There are also states that are founded on the principles of human equality but stray into majoritarianism of a vile order. Neither India, nor Pakistan were conceived at Partition as theocratic states by their founders, although the assertion seems to confuse and befuddle liberal opinion-makers in varying degrees on both sides of the border. It was L.K. Advani, a pontiff of Hindu rashtra, who saw a secular vision in Jinnah’s musings on Pakistan. But of Khalistan he will not hear a word, even if it’s wrapped in the magic of music that purveys a priceless message of human bonding.
The writer is Dawn’s correspondent in Delhi.