Thinking about CAA and Intentions

January 14, 2020

Rohit Dhankar

The country is on the boil on the issues of Citizenship (Amendment) Act 2019 (CAA), possible National Register of Citizens (NRC) and National Population Register (NPR). We need to think carefully in forming our judgment on these issues. The current protesters certainly do not seem to be thinking either clearly or consistently.

Clear thinking demands looking carefully at your facts, assumptions, moral principles and constitutional provisions. If our assumptions happen to be factually wrong and/or morally unacceptable and/or unconstitutional; obviously whenever we use such premises in arguments the conclusions are likely to be unsound. Another possibility of conclusions becoming unsound is that they are logically invalid.

I make a distinction between sound/unsound arguments on one hand and valid/invalid on the other. Validity of an argument is a purely logical matter; and an argument which involves false premises can be logically valid. However, being sound requires that all the premises used should also be true, or at the least accepted as true in the context.

I also make a distinction between logical necessity and contingent factors. Contextual impact and intentions I consider contingent factors. It might be wrong but I first want to decide acceptability/unacceptability based on purely logical/rational grounds. If something fails at that level, one does need to go to the level of context, intentions and impact. If something passes the test of logic and reason; the second necessary part before accepting the conclusion is testing it for intentions, impact and context. If it fails in the second test then in spite of passing the logical test it cannot be accepted. But talking of intentions and impact first and coming to logical/rational correctness later is certainly putting the cart before the horse, an admittedly foolish act. To my mind that is wrong order if one really wants to understand things. This wrong order also opens up possibility of imputing motives and spreading lies; in other words gives full scope to demagoguery. Thus, I find it necessary to examine intentions and impact but am not in favor of mixing the two.

This is the bare minimum and broadest characterization of the style of thinking which is necessary, as far as I can understand. Those who are shouting slogans and repeating others judgments without this minimum work are running the risk of being misled by people with vested interest.

Rational thinking operates on some content—facts, assumptions, principles etc.—all of them cannot be generated by logic or reason alone. They come from various sources of our experience, history, previously agreed upon principles and so on. Below I will try to list the premises relevant in this context, i.e. thinking about CAA, NRC and NPR; and base my conclusions on them. There is a possibility of human error in listing as well as arguments, if that is pointed out and proved one must be ready to correct. I would do the same.

This article begins with CAA. As said above; first on rational grounds and then I will try to look into intentions. But we should not forget that while BJP and RSS may have nefarious intentions that can be understood from their pronouncements and actions; the so-called[1] liberals themselves have to be subjected to the same criteria of looking into intentions. No one can be placed above nefarious intentions; and yes, nefarious.

My premises and arguments

Part One: Moral obligation

  1. All thinking on these two issues should first happen in the framework if Indian Constitution. The values listed in the Preamble and Parts I, II, and III should be taken as primary guiding principles. However, the whole of constitution with all so far made laws under it through due process have to be taken in to accounts. Violation of these is not admissible. (Preamble state the values and vision of a democratic society very clearly, Part one defines India, its territory and importance of integrity, part two talk of citizenship and part three defines fundamental rights.)
  2. We may have humanitarian moral consideration which go beyond the constitutional obligation. While considering them we have to make a difference. Not accepting the humanitarian moral obligation which are not demanded by the constitution may make us “lessor moral beings” but does not make our acts unconstitutional. We are not bound to accept such considerations. Therefore, we are not obliged to accept every illegal migrant or refugee who comes to India. We have the right to decide whom to allow and whom not to allow. Allowing one does not grants the same right to other foreigners.
  3. India was divided on the basis of religion, a separate nation explicitly for Muslims. Finally, that itself divided into two Islamic republics. A religious state is by nature discriminatory, constitutionally discriminatory.
  4. The demand was raised, pushed and finally brought to fruition primarily by Muslims under the leadership of Muslim League. (The idea of two nation theory was first expressed by Sir Syed Ahmad Khan in his lecture at Lucknow and then in another Lecture at Meerut. He also claimed that two nations cannot live on terms of equality in one country. One of them should necessarily dominate the other as Muslims dominated Hindus for more than seven hundred years. He used this argument to convince Muslims that it is better for them that they serve under the English rather than under the Hindus, as the English are at the least people of the Book. In the Lucknow lecture he argues against the Congress demand of competitive examination for jobs so that British and Indians can come to some government jobs on the basis of merit. His argument is that since the Muslims are not ready to compete at that time, therefor no Indian should be allowed. The demand for merit-based appointments was clearly in the national interest, but for Sir Syed national interest was subordinate to Muslim interest. These two things, two nation theory and national interest is subordinate to Muslim internist[2] set the tone of Muslim politics in India and elements of this thinking still persists in Muslims and so-called liberals.)
  5. The Hindus who believed that Hindus and Muslims cannot live together peacefully with equal rights were marginalized and rejected by the Hindu masses. One can count Savarkar and Golwalkar etc. among them.
  6. The Muslims who believed that Hindus and Muslims cannot live together peacefully with equal rights were overwhelmingly supported by Muslim massed and made their leaders. The overwhelming majority of Muslims voted for Muslim League in 1945-46 elections is a clear proof of this. The partition of India was a major election issue in those elections.
  7. After migration from both sides and some going-and-coming back on both sides; by 1951 almost everything was settles regarding citizenship issues.
  8. In the light of points 3, 4 and 7 above, the Muslim population of Pakistan became as good foreigners to India, as any other foreigners, say, Chines Americans, French or Saudi Arabian. India had no legal or moral obligation for their protection or wellbeing. They achieved what they wanted and were a free nation on which India had no claim or command.
  9. The case of minorities in Pakistan was different. They were assured (by the leaders who later formed government of free India) that India will not be divided, so they need not migrate. Later when partition was inevitable, they were assured by the same leaders that they will be safe in Pakistan.
  10. The Nehru-Liaqat Pact is formal recognition of the historical moral obligation of Indian state in 1950 towards the safety and persecution free life of minorities in Pakistan.
  11. Bangladesh separated from Pakistan in 1971. The Indo-Bangladesh Friendship treaty does not specifically mention protection of minorities in respective countries, but does mention adherence to principles of equality between people. However, the historical moral obligation recognized in Nehru-Liaqat Pact remains to Bangladeshi minorities, as far as I can think.
  12. Pakistan and Bangladesh both are constitutionally Islamic states. In both these countries minorities have faced persecution based on religion[3]. Most of the people belonging to minorities in these countries who have come to India came to avoid persecution. Thus, India has failed in fulfilling its historical moral obligation to minorities in these two countries.
  13. The illegal migrants belonging to minorities in Bangladesh and Pakistan are thus due to result of this failure mention in 12 above.
  14. Indian even now is in no position to ensure the safety of minorities in these countries; thus, they cannot go back. Therefore, India is under moral obligation to provide citizenship to these people, though not under constitutional obligation.
  15. Due to premise 8 India is under no moral, historical or constitutional obligation to provide whatever support to Muslims illegally coming to India from Pakistan and Bangladesh. The obligation is only as much as to any other person from anywhere in the world coming to India illegally. Therefore, they have to follow the same path to citizenship in case they want it.
  16. Thus, Rohingyas, illegal Muslim migrants from Bangladesh and Pakistan, Shias and Ahmadis from Pakistan, Hindus from Sri Lanka, all are in the same class as far as India’s obligation is concerned.
  17. Minorities in Pakistan and Bangladesh constitute a class for which India has a historical moral obligation. India has no such moral obligation to others mentioned above.
  18. As far as I can think the moral obligation of India to minorities who came from Afghanistan is only as much as to any other refugee fleeing persecution, they are not at par with the people coming from Pakistan and Bangladesh. The government argument is that people from Afghanistan came when there was Taliban regime there, and the Taliban was installed by Pakistan; therefore, they are also part of the Pakistani persecution. The argument is clearly weak and cannot be accepted.
  19. That however, does not make the whole of CAA obnoxious to me. One, because it includes someone who we do not have a moral obligation but needs the protection, it does not take away anything from any one else. Two, see point 2 above. and three, if one want to oppose CAA in this basis, one should not call it all bad and against secularism; one should demand correction.

In the light of above understanding CAA makes sense and is a necessity for India if it has spine as a nation and moral fiber to fulfil its own admitted obligation to the persecuted minorities of Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Part Two: Constitutional Possibility for special treatment for persecuted minorities of Pakistan and Bangladesh

But this could be done only if the spirit of constitution allows it. If the law made to fulfil this moral obligation goes against the spirit of Indian constitution (of which secularism is a central principle) it should be opposed, repealed. Therefore, we will try to see the constitutional position on this issue. Once we are through with the constitutional position will start looking at the issue of intentions.

Two values of constitution most relevant in this discussion are secularism and equality, which are inseparably connected with each other. Secularism as a state doctrine means separation of state policy and functioning from religious considerations. This directly implies equality of all citizens irrespective of their religion. Therefore, rights, entitlements and protection of low accorded to citizens are not affected by religion of citizens. In other words, a secular state does not discriminate on the basis of religion in any manner.

India as per the constitution is a secular democratic republic. In connection with the CAA debate articles 14 and 15 are most often quoted to establish that CAA is discriminatory against Muslims (a religious minority) and therefore, is against secularism and violates the constitution. Clause 1 of Article 15 states “15. (1) The State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them.” Note that it is about Indian “citizens” and that it prohibits discrimination on “grounds only of religion …”. Why is there this word “only” in this article? I am not a legal expert, but as a citizen it seems to indicate to me that there could be other grounds and the totality of grounds may include religion. Though, the basis of discrimination will not be a citizen’s religion alone. (I may be wrong here.) But reading the clause 2(5) of the same article with clause (1) of article 30 one comes to the conclusion that minority institutions established by religious minorities are granted exception from making rules regarding admission of students of educationally backwards communities in them. As we all know, several exceptions are granted to religious minority educational institutions in management, appointment of staff and religious instructions even when the institutions receive grant from the government.

Minorities also have their separate civil laws concerning marriage, divorce, inheritance of property etc. Such laws for Muslim community are: the Shariat Application Act, the Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act, the Massalman Wakf Validating Act, the Wakf Act, and the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act.

All these are examples of provisions in Indian constitution and law of differential treatment on the basis of religion. And they are not considered as violation of the principles of secularism or violation of equality. This is because the principles of secularism and equality are not understood in a dogmatic or absolute sense. It is recognised that special provisions may have to be made for classes of citizens for their upliftment or protection or advancement. The same idea of positive discrimination is used in reservations for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. In conclusion then, the idea of positive discrimination used for the benefit of a deprived or otherwise disadvantaged class of citizens which gives them benefits over and above others is considered neither against the ideal of equality nor against the ideal of secularism. This is the position with regard to the citizens of India. But the CAA is not about citizens of India, it is about illegal migrants coming from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. Now we shall consider their case in the light of admissibility of positive discrimination in case of Indian citizens.

For this we turn to article 14 which states: “The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India.” This article is about persons, that is all who are within territory of India, be they citizens or not citizens of India. The illegal migrants from the three mentioned countries are “within the territory of India”. The first part of the act states that “the State shall not deny to any person equality before the law”, and it may look as if the Muslims are denied equality before the law through CAA. This is the version most people are getting agitated about. But the second part says that the “State shall not deny to any person … the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India”.

The idea of equal protection of law depends of equal treatment of equals, but allows differential treatment to unequals in terms of their circumstances. “The varying needs of different classes of persons require different treatment. In order to pass the test for permissible classification two conditions must be fulfilled, namely: (1) the classification must be founded on an intelligible differentia which distinguishes persons or things that are grouped together from others left out of the group, and (2) the differentia must have a rational nexus with the object sought to be achieved by the statute in question.”

The intelligible differentia demanded in the first criteria can be formulated as thus: Those to whom India has a historical moral obligation and who are a persecuted minority in Bangladesh and Pakistan. To my mind it is difficult to justify Afghanistan. Criteria two: the nexus with the objective is obvious—equal protection of law to those who pass criteria one.

Therefore, as far as I can think the CAA is all about providing protection to those for whom India has a moral obligation and there is no violation of the principles of secularism and equality in this. This brings us to the issue of intentions.

Part three: Issue of intentions of the BJP government

A fuller discussion on intentions will require lot of space and therefore will have to wait. This article is already longer than most people read. Therefore, here I will just raise a few questions to understand the issue of supposed to be evil intentions:

  1. If the government is within the bounds of constitution why should it not try to find out how many and who are the foreigners living in this country? There must be an intelligible reason given by the protesters.
  2. If there is some supposed to be legitimate objection to 1 above—is it in principle or dues to practical difficulties or due to intentions? It must be clearly spelt out.
  3. Suppose the government goes ahead with CAA, NRC and NPR, and with very bad intentions for Muslims; what can it do? Try to imagine.
  4. Presently we don’t even know who will be asked to show documentary evidence of citizenship and who will not be asked. Nor do we know what kind of documentary evidence will be demanded. Most of it is imagination of some people. But suppose three crore people living in this country are found to be without any evidence of citizenship of this country on yet to be defined documents. What do you think the government will or can do with them? Try to imagine the worst-case scenario. Can it send them back? Where? Can it eliminate them? Those who say yes to such an horrendous thought should think again. It is possible in todays world? Can it keep them in detention centres? How long?
  5. When I think about it, I am incapable to think anything very bad. It seems to me that the government will be forced to come up with some scheme of citizenship for them.

The key in this kind of thought experiment is precision. One has to think in terms of actual acts of injustice rather than in nebulous terms like ‘they will be persecuted’. Try to think actual acts of persecution. If one cannot, then there is a possibility of being victim of some demagoguery.

*******

14th January 2020

[1] In last about 10 years the liberals have proved to be the most intolerant to difference of opinion in India. Their proves in language cannot hide their intolerance of counter views. The people who talk the most about freedom of expression, right to dissent and questioning have been the most prompt in attacking and stifling dissenting voices. Since, the very first principles of liberalism is recognizes the freedom of every citizen to order his/her own life as s/he thinks fit, and which includes freedom of speech. Therefore, I will consistently refer to the this particular group of Indian liberals as ‘so-called liberals’.

[2] Those who want to understand this mindset in greater detail should refer to the following:

  1. Speech of Sir Syed Ahmad at Lucknow (1887), http://www.columbia.edu/itc/mealac/pritchett/00islamlinks/txt_sir_sayyid_lucknow_1887.html
  2. Speech of Sir Syed Ahmad at Meerut (1988), http://www.columbia.edu/itc/mealac/pritchett/00islamlinks/txt_sir_sayyid_meerut_1888.html
  3. Presidential address of Rahimatulla Sayani to the Indian National Congress, 1896, particularly section 15 on Alleged Mohamedan Objections to the Congress
  4. Sir Muhammad Iqbal’s 1930 Presidential Address (Muslim League), http://www.columbia.edu/itc/mealac/pritchett/00islamlinks/txt_iqbal_1930.html
  5. Tiderbox: The Past and Future of Pakistan by MJ Akbar

[3] Those who doubt this can look at the population figures of Bangladesh and almost continuously coming reports of persecution of minorities in Pakistan. This persecution is very often with the tacit support of the state.


Reflection on some slogans-2

January 10, 2020

Rohit Dhankar

[Before I go to the next set of slogans, it has become necessary to note that this writing is somewhat behind the changing character of the protests, the protests seem to have developed a positive character as well.

Let me explain: I am firmly for CAA, NRC and NPR, with the condition that NRC and NPR are carried out in an absolutely just and transparent manner. And I believe that is possible. I also believe that whether BJP wants or not the government can be forced to conduct this exercise in a fair and transparent manner.

The protests against CAA, NRC and NPR are becoming a movement. Strangely, in spite of this movement being AGAINST my own stand, it makes me happy. BECAUSE it is learning how to distinguish between the present-day government and the nation. Because it is discovering that tricolor is something to be respected, rather than a symbol of hated nationalism. Because it is discovering that singing national anthem is a powerful means of declaring allegiance to the country while simultaneously fighting against government decisions which we don’t agree with. Because this movement is discovering that it is the constitution which binds us together, it is the constitution which confers sovereignty of will on each of us, which becomes the corner stone in fight for justice. Because this movement is learning to see that India is something to be proud of. Because this movement is slowly but surely discarding the India bashing rhetoric and learning to fight with the present government while declaring firm ownership and allegiance to India that is Bharat.

I am for the CAA, I am AGAINST the movement opposing CAA; BUT the positive affirmation of India by my CAA-opposing compatriots also brings joy to heart. We will fight out our differences, but will swim or sink together. This is a democratic fight amongst us, not between ‘us’ and ‘them’. This is a nation making up its mind, not enemies fighting to vanquish each other. We are one people and are very lucky to have diversity of opinions, cultures and faiths. We all have equal right to try to shape India the way we wish, as long as we feel, believe and say it is “My India”.]

As a response to part 1 of this piece some friends have suggested a critique of right-wing slogans as well. I will come to that in the third part, if find some worth analyzing right wing slogans. Many right-wing slogans are clearly communal and are recognize as such by all. Some others are abusive: desh ke gaddaron ko, goli maro salon ko. Some are stupid: Dilli police tum lath bajao, ham tumhare saath hain. There is nothing to write about them. They simply express opposition and hatred. I am writing about so-called liberal slogans because they are seen as secular and not communal.

In the last part we had a brief look at a set of slogans used in protests against CAA etc. In this part trying to understand some more slogans used in the same protests. They are:

  1. “Allahu Akbar”
  2. “……. Insha Allah, Insha Allah”
  3. “Tera mera rishta kya? La ilaha illallah”

What do these slogans mean?

Allahu akbar: also written as “Allah hu akbar” and “Allah akbar”. The simple meaning is “God is the greatest”. Muslims use this daily in their prayers and, many other occasions, in a peaceful manner. But it is also a war cry, used my Muhammad himself. Terrorists use it regularly in their attacks. Even in its simple and peaceful meaning Muslims use it to remind themselves the most important belief of their faith: Allah is the greatest.

People who do not know Quran may easily accept the translation “The God is the greatest” and have no problem with it. Because atheists generally don’t mind people’s proclamation of their religious beliefs and believers in all religions have no problem with God being the greatest, when “God” is understood as the ultimate divinity not connected with any particular religion. But Allah of Quran is not that God. Allah expressly forbids setting up equals to Him. Sure 98:6 warns “Verily, those who disbelieve (in the religion of Islam, the Qur’in and Prophet Muhammad) from among the people of the Scripture (Jews and Christians) and Al-Mushrikun will abide in the Fire of Hell. They are the worst of creatures.” Al-Mushrikun mains “idolaters”, worshippers of idols. One can multiply such examples from Quran in dozens where Allah warns that all those who believe in any god other than Allah will burn in hell fire for eternity.

The people who translate “Allah” as ‘the God’ in general without associating it with any particular God, be that of Bible or Gita; are admirable and have good intention of harmony. The believers in Quran when understand Allah as God in general, they are also trying for harmony being and being open minded. But at the same time Allah himself does not like being worshipped as Shiva, Vishnu, Krishna or Rama. They all are lesser and false Gods according to Quran and have no intersession power. Worshippers of all these gods will go to hell fire. Therefore, shouting of “Allahhu akbar” is a proclamation of supremacy of Allah, nay, rather a proclamation of only divine existence and of falsity of all other god.

In a protest to save secularism of the country, to establish equality of all religions, this is rather a strange way of being secular. “Har Har Mahadeva”, a Hindu war cry, will be equally objectionable in a protest for secularism. “Jai Shri Ram”, which is graduating into a war cry from a simple greeting, will also be equally objectionable.

“Insha Allah”: in its simple meaning is “God willing”. Many people say “Bhagwan ne chaha to” or “Ishwar ki kripa se”. I don’t see any thing objectionable about it, even when Allah happens to be a very stern and jealous god. This is only a way of making a wish. However, it depends what the wish is. The first time I heard this slogan was in 1916 JNU episode “Bharat tere tukde honge … Insha Allah, Insha Allah”. This certainly is objectionable. But in the current protests, as far as I know, this slogan is not used in this manner. Therefore, nothing the issue with it.

“Tera mera rishta kya? La ilaha illallah”: This is part of declaration of faith in Islamic monotheism. The full version being “laa ilaaha illa Allah Muhammadun rasool ullah”. Which means “There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.” Also translated as “Nothing worshipped is worthy of worship but Allah, and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.” Thus “La ilaha illallah” means “There is no god but Allah”. The full slogan would been “What is the relationship between you and me? There is no god but Allah”. In other words: only relationship between us is that of faith in Allah as the only God.

In secular India, one would assume, the most important relationship between citizens is acceptance of and commitment to the constitution; in addition to our shared past and culture of thousands of years. This slogan means rejecting all other relationships but that of faith in Islam. This clearly separates Muslim population or declares that ‘if you do not believe in one God, Allah, then I have no relationship with you.’ I have unconfirmed information that the slogan was used by Muslim League in this later meaning while raising demand for Pakistan.

To my mind this slogan is clearly divisive, Islamic supremacist and seriously objectionable.

Some icons of secularism

In recent protests the so-called liberals (SCLs) have projected some people as icons of secularism. It would be instructive in understanding their thinking to have a look at proclamations of these icons.

One of two icons of secularism is created out of Jamia protests is Ladeeda Sakhaloon. Together with Aysha Renna N her pictures are splashed everywhere in media, including an article written by a very reputed intellectual regarding learning democracy from youth. These two icons were interviewed by another so-called secular Barkha Datt, and their zeal is praised by SCLs no end. What Ms. Sakhaloon has to say about secularism is quoted below.

During the protest gathering happened yesterday. Some liberals dictated us to refrain from chanting “Insha Allah” and “Allahu Akbar”. We have only submitted completely towards Almighty. We have abandoned you secular slogans long before. Those slogans will be raised loudly again and again. Those slogans are our spirit, our imagination and the one which refines our existence. You might be in a hurry to prove your secular loyalty, but we are not. We are and will exist in every space as sons, daughters, grandsons and granddaughters of Malcolm X, Ali Musliyar and Variamkunnath. Those slogans are our spirit and we have derived our imagination of being political from our forefathers. For you people this might be mere slogans, for us this is the one which liberate ourselves. At this point we are clear, we don’t hold any burden of chanting secular slogans and may not fit your secular vocabulary. Our engagement and approach altogether is different from you and is the fundamental difference. So, please don’t dictate us.”

I have quoted this declaration of Ms. Sakhaloon in full and unedited. Because I do not take it to be a childish or youthful boast. To me it is a declaration of Islamic supremacy and jihadist attitude. Raising such people to the status of defenders of democracy and icons of secularism is dangerous for India and an insult to the intelligence of genuinely secular citizens who believe in harmony and diversity.

She clearly declares that she, and her ilk, do not care for secularism. They derive their inspiration from the slogans I have analysed above. The three names she mentions as her ideals are very instructive. Malcolm X was an Islamist who considered white race as devil, thought its demise is imminent. Wished for white genocide. Other two, Ali Musliyar and Variamkunnath were leaders of Mappila riots (Malabar Rebellion) which though was also against British rule but indulged in Hindu genocide through forced conversions and mass killing. I can not understand what secularism means for SCLs if Ms. Sakhaloon is their secular icon. If you do, please explain to me. This person is clearly an Islamic supremacist jihadi as far as I can understand.

Another secular icon SCLs discovered during 2016 JNU episode is Shehla Rashid. Let’s see what she has to say about these slogans. Ms. Rashid twitted her views in a series of messages directed at SCLs on 30th December 2020. Let’s have a look at some of them.

“If you say ‘Hey Bhagwan’ in mixed gatherings, if you light lamps at public functions, if you use religious metaphors from the Mahabharat and Ramayana in political speeches, if your mythological works support your political work, you can’t oppose only ‘Muslim’ identity assertion!She considers use of religio-cultural metaphors as ‘identity assertion’. And forgets that no one ever objects to “ya Allah” and “ya khuda” in common conversation; they are like “He Bhagwan”. The objection was to something much more threatening than that. However, lighting lamps in public functions is an issue which, in my view is difficult to justify. I am not sure whether it is a religious symbol or cultural without any association with religion.

“If you are embarrassed by Muslims’ cultural clarion calls, then you’re not an ally. If you are ashamed of us, then you’re part of the problem. If you are an ally, please understand that our religious, cultural and human rights are as non-negotiable as are yours.” She is asserting that Muslim clarion call will come in the form of Islamic supremacy (Allahu Akbar) and declaration of believers’ brotherhood (La ilaha illallah) and also declaration that this is the only relationship they are ready to accept. Also, note the belligerence “you are not an ally. … you are part of the problem”.

After a series of such belligerent tweets she gives a manual to SCLs: “A manual for allies: If you are opposed to Muslim identity politics, why do you want leadership of a movement that is being led and sustained by Muslims, for which Muslims are paying with their blood?

You want to be an ally? Sure! Please start by demanding that Dalit Muslims get reservation under the SC category – an instance of faith-based discrimination against Muslims by the Indian state.

Let’s try this one more time: 1) This fight is about Muslims, not about Islam. 2) Muslims are asserting their identity because the attack is based on their identity. 3) #La_ilaha_illALLAH is a cultural clarion call like ‘Hellalujah!’ or ‘Jesus!’ or ‘Hey Ram!’ or ‘Wahe Guru!’”

Now, she forgets that no one shouts “Hey Ram” or “Wahe Guru” in a protest against CAA on the ground that it is against secularism. She does not admit the clear contradiction. Second, Hey Ram and Wahe Guru are neither declaration of supremacy nor declaration of only basis of relationship.

These two icons of SCLs make a few things clear:

  1. They don’t care about your secularism. That is your fad, they are not fighting for it.
  2. They will fight their battel with Islamic supremacist slogans, if you don’t like it, leave them alone.
  3. Together with this they will also wish digging grave of Hindutva, Brahmanism, Manuvad, etc. Therefore, Islamic supremacy is fine, but Hindutva and Brahmanism are not.

This is not an argument in defence of Hindutva or Bharmanism, what ever they might mean; this is an argument against all religious assertions in a protest that is supposed to be to protect secularism. “Jai Shri Ram” and “Har Har Mahadev” will be as objectionable in such protests as “Allah hu Akbar” and “La ilaha illallah”.

And those who want to chant slogans against ills in the Hinduism should imagine chanting the parallel slogans replacing “Hindutva” etc. with “Islamism”, “Mullavad”, “Tushtikaran”, etc. All hell will break loose.

Let’s understand that tilted secularism is weak secularism, and will never be able to stand on its feet. Hindu-fundamentalism is increasing and needs to be defeated. But Islamic fundamentalism also needs to be defeated. SCLs acceptance of Islamic fundamentalism (in the form of Islamic Exceptionalism) will feed Hindu-fundamentalism, and both will grow.

********

10th January 2020

 


Reflection on some slogans-1

January 8, 2020

Rohit Dhankar

Protests against Citizenship (Amendment) Act 2019 (CAA) and possibility of National Register of Citizens (NRC) are wide spread across the nation. The CAA has passed through a democratic procedure by a democratically elected government. NRC at the moment is ambiguously understood issue with claims and counter claims regarding it being already initiated and not initiated as well as its criteria. The people of a democracy always have a right to peaceful protest, and Indian citizens are using that with vigor. All mass protests use variety of slogans to express their core concerns and ideas. The current protests also use many slogans. In this piece I am trying to reflect on a few of such slogans.

In the current protests two general formats of slogans are very popular. They can be named as “azadi” format and “kabr khudegi” format. The azadi format has two sub-formats: one, azadi (freedom) from format. This runs like “X se azadi”. A lead protester should “X se” and the body of protesters shout “azadi”. Examples; Lead: “Manu-vad se”, Protesters: “azadi”. Another sub-format of the azadi slogans spells who wants azadi. The lead shouts “X mange”, supporters should “azadi”. Example; Lead: “Dalit mange”, Supporters: “azadi”. Here we will discuss only the first sub-format. That is: “X se”, “azadi”.

Second popular format is “X ki kabr khudegi, Y ki dharti par”. Here the lead shouts “X ki kabr khudegi”, Supporters shout “Y ki dharti/chhaati par”. Example; Lead: “Jati-vad ki kabr khudegi”, Supporters: “Rajasthan ki dharti par”.

Both these formats are very powerful and versatile. Versatility comes from naming all the ills that one wants to oppose or remove one by one in the same format. Power comes from the speed and vigor with which these slogans are shouted. An experienced lead-protester (we have even professionals) can slowly raise the emotions and can take it to a frenzy leaving mind far behind. The supporters become simple followers without thinking and feel a swell of emotions which gives a high of feeling virtuous. The slogans are not only used to raise temporary frenzy, but also create permanent indoctrination when someone is subjected to this treatment repeatedly.

In this background, we will examine some of the slogans used in these and many other protests these days. We will not discuss the formats anymore, but the content of slogans. A tentative list of slogans to be examined:

  1. Hindutva ki kabr khudegi, Dilli ki dharti par”. (“Dilli” is just a place-holder, one can change it with AMU, JNU, or any other place.)
  2. Brahmanism ki kabr khudegi, Dilli ki dharti par”
  3. Manu-vad ki kabr khudegi, Dilli ki dharti par”
  4. Jati-vad ki kabr khudegi, Dilli ki dharti par”
  5. Sangh-vad ki kabr khudegi, Dilli ki dharti par”
  6. RSS ki kabr khudegi, Dilli ki dharti par”
  7. Bahusankhya-vad ki kabr khudegi, Dilli ki dharti par”

Of course, there are many more slogans, some of them are used only in the ‘azadi-format’, some used in both formats. But we will focus only on the above listed ones.

First, let’s note that all these slogans mention something that is associated with Hinduism. Not necessarily with the philosophy and ideals of Hinduism, but as practice of Hinduism is perceived by the so-called-liberals (SCLs).

Second, all that is mentioned in the slogans are supposed to be the evils of Hinduism. Therefore, it is assumed that no sane democrat may have any objection in digging the graves of these evils of Hinduism. Actually, this can be seen as retrieving a more benevolent form of Hinduism by purifying it of these ills. Therefore, before going any further let’s have a look at the meaning of the terms used here.

Hindutva: everyone considers Savarkar as the inventor of Hindutva, which is considered a political ideology. But this idea and ideology is also articulated and rearticulated by others. Particularly RSS leaders. Right from Golwalkar to Mohan Bhagawat. Savarkar, Golwalkar and Bhagwat (and others) all deny that “Hindu” means a religion, according to all of them the term Hindu has got nothing to do with what God or gods you worship and how you worship them. What your imagination of the fruits of that worship has no connection with being Hindu. To Savarkar anyone who is born in India, who considers India as the land of her/his forefathers (matri-bhoomi), and who considers India as the land of his/her heroes and holy people and respects its culture (punya-bhoomi) is a Hindu. Irrespective of what and how s/he worships for what purposes. But all said and done, Savarkar definitely does not consider Muslims as Hindus and Savarkar’s Hindutva is divisive as well as very suspicious of Muslims. Golwalker to me seems to be a step ahead and thinks of them as divisive force in the country and often loyal to Pakistan. In a more recent articulation Bhagwat seems to be attempting to be more inclusive; as reported by The Economic Times, 18th September 2018, he says: ‘Hindu Rashtra’ does not mean it has no place for Muslims as this concept is inclusive of all faiths and religions. “The Sangh works towards universal brotherhood and the cardinal principle of this brotherhood is unity in diversity. This thought comes from our culture, which the world calls Hindutva. That’s why we call it a Hindu Rashtra,” he said. Asserting that the RSS’ philosophy is to take everyone along, he said, “Hindu Rashtra doesn’t mean there’s no place for Muslims. The day it is said so, it won’t be Hindutva any more. Hindutva talks about Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam.”

But yes, there could be, and is, a justified suspicion of this ideology. Therefore, one may consider a wish to dig Hindutva’s grave a progressive and secular slogan. But why in a protest against CAA and NRC? We will come to this question a little later.

Brahmanism: Encyclopedia Britannica defines Brahmanism as an “ancient Indian religious tradition that emerged from the earlier Vedic religion. In the early 1st millennium bce, Brahmanism emphasized the rites performed by, and the status of, the Brahman, or priestly, class as well as speculation about brahman (the Absolute reality) as theorized in the Upanishads (speculative philosophical texts that are considered to be part of the Vedas, or scriptures). In contrast, the form of Hinduism that emerged after the mid-1st millennium bce stressed devotion (bhakti) to particular deities such as Shiva and Vishnu.

During the 19th century, the first Western scholars of religion to study Brahmanism employed the term in reference to both the predominant position of the Brahmans and the importance given to brahman (the Sanskrit terms corresponding to Brahman and brahman are etymologically linked). Those and subsequent scholars depicted Brahmanism either as a historical stage in Hinduism’s evolution or as a distinct religious tradition. However, among practicing Hindus, especially within India, Brahmanism is generally viewed as a part of their tradition rather than as a separate religion.”

To me it sounds like faith of many Hindus today. The distinction between Brahmanism and Hinduism does not seem to be very clear. Kancha Ilahiya declares on the authority of Dr. Ambedkar that “Hindutva is nothing but Brahmanism. And whether you call it Hindutva or Arya Dharma or Sanatan Dharma or Hinduism, Brahmanism has no organic link with Dalit-Bahujan life, world-views, rituals and even politics”. Thus, Brahmanism starts looking like a term devised to deride Hinduism; to be used as a fig-leaf of defence when someone objects for insult to majority religion. The most of the slogan shouting protesters will easily accept Ilahiya’s authority I think.

Which means that digging grave for Hinduism is fine. Since Hinduism does have so many evils in it, let’s accept this premise for the sake of argument.

Manu-vad: Manu-vad is even more deserving of pushing into grave than Brahmanism and Hindutva. It directly preaches lower position of women and shudras in the society. Completely against equality. Therefore, a perfectly deserving candidate to push into the grave.

Jati-vad: no need to discuss. We don’t need casteism, therefore, fine to dig its grave. Though many Hindus may still be clinging to some or other form of Jati-vad. Often, I think the Dalits and OBCs are more attached to jati-vad in present day India than the higher castes. But let that be as it is.

Sangh-vad and RSS: They are the same thing. Rashtriya Swayam Sevaksangh (RSS) is seen as a Hindu nationalist body which is against Muslims and secularism. It is also considered the parent body of BJP which is directing its politics. Therefore, lets accept the wish to dig its grave a legitimate wish in a protest that is ostensibly to protect secularism and equality of Indian citizens.

On the basis of very scanty indications above, one may understand Hindutva, Sangh-vad and RSS as political ideology guiding BJP’s push for CAA and NRC. And therefore, it may be considered legitimate to raise slogans against them in protest against the same. But why include Brahmanism, jati-vad and Manu-vad? What these three have to do with CAA and NRC?

The clue may be found in the 7th slogan listed above. That is “Bahusankhya-vad ki kabr …”. The whole agenda is seen as majoritarianism. The majority community has put the BJP in power. Majority community is Hindu. Hinduism in practice has been characterised by Brahmanism, jati-vad and Manu-vad. Therefore, through these slogans some recognised evils of Hinduism are recounted, even if they are not directly involved in the present context. This is to create atmosphere against those who put such a divisive party in power.

These slogans were shouted in many large gatherings in the course of current protests with the kind of frenzy I have claimed above, to take supporters on an emotional and virtuous high, leaving their reason far behind. And therefore, may be used as a device for mass indoctrination against the target ideology and community supporting it. Above I have argued that all these are political and social evils of the majority religion in the country. Since they are ‘evils’, wishing to dig their grave even if not directly relevant to the issue should be fine. That seems to be the argument.

I hope readers of this long and dry piece agree with the above argument. Still request all to express their opinion.

Part 2 of this article will be posted tomorrow (as this has become too long) with reflection on some more slogans.

*******

8th January 2020

 

 

 

 

 


Masked Goons in JNU

January 6, 2020

Rohit Dhankar

Students and teachers were attacked on 5th January 2020 in JNU by masked goons armed with sticks, iron rods and stones. The violence is condemnable in the strongest possible terms and is completely unacceptable. The ABVP and Left Groups of JNU are blaming each other for the violence. Reposts in three national newspapers (The Hindu, The Indian Express and The Pioneer) indicate clearly that the goons most probably belonged to ABVP and the police if not in connivance was certainly soft on them. The police can hardly afford to be soft on violence of this scale and intensity without some kind of indication from the government.

If the government and police cannot nab the goons and place credible evidence of their identity and involvement before the nation soon enough then either the state is dangerously incompetent or it is all its own doing. In both the cases India has elected a very bad lot to govern itself. The statements from police that some miscreants were involved, of whose identity they don’t know is not satisfactory. It is not reasonable to assume that the Indian state can not find out who these people were. Therefore, if no one is caught for this act of violence then it would be very reasonable to assume that it was with government and police encouragement.

A government—in case it is true—which can use goons to break protests, be they justified or unjustified, be they peaceful or violent; will spell disaster for the country and can not be tolerated. Therefore, it is imperative for the government to catch the culprits if it wants to absolve itself of the charges levelled at it.

The second point in this episode is something that did not attract much attention. The Pioneer notes that “[M]inor clashes were reported on Friday when in an attempt to restrict students from getting registered for new semester, some students allegedly barged into the room used to provide power to Wi-Fi connection to entire campus and shut it down. The protesting students claimed that stopping the registration process was essential as the registration was being done as per hiked fee structure.” The registrar also claims in his press note: “From 1 January 2020, the Winter semester registration was going on smoothly. However, on 3rd January, a group of students opposing the registration process entered the Communication and Information Services (CIS) premises, covering their faces with masks and forcibly evicted the technical staff and made the servers disfunctional. This led to the discontinuation of the registration process on 3rd January. A police complaint was filed immediately identifying the students. However, on 4th January morning, the technical staff again made the CIS functional. Immediately, thousands of students started registering by paying the new hostel room rent. A group of students who are bent upon stopping the registration process, again entered the CIS premises with a criminal intent to make the servers disfunclional. They damaged the power supplies, broke the optical fibres and made the servers disfunctional again on 4th January around 1 PM disrupting the registration process. A police complaint was again filed against the miscreants. For the past few days, the group of agitating students also closed the buildings of some Schools preventing the non-agitating students, staff and the faculty members. On 5th January, when the students who have registered in the winter semester wanted to enter these school buildings, they were physically prevented by the agitating students. Since the 5th January afternoon, the campus has witnessed scuffles at the Schools as well as inside the hostel premises between the groups of students who wanted to stop the registration and those who wanted to register and continue their studies. Around 4.30 PM, a group of students, who are against the registration process moved aggressively from the front of the admin block and reached the hostels. The administration immediatedly contacted the Police to come quickly and maintain law and order on the campus. However, by the time police came, the students who are for the registration were beaten up by a group of agitating students opposting the registration. Some masked miscreants also entered the Periyar hostel rooms and attacked the students with sticks and rods. Some of the security guards doing duties at these places were also badly injured. During the last couple of weeks, these agitating students also vandalized the admin block and ransacked the office of the Vice Chancellor for which a few police complaints were filed. It is unfortunate that a group of students with their violent means of protests are preventing thousands of non-agitating students from pursuing their academic activities.”

If what The Pioneer and the JNU Registrar write be true then the acts of agitating students are also seriously condemnable. They certainly have the right to agitate and not to register for next semester at hiked fees; but have no right to forcibly stop those who want to pay the fee and want to register. Agitations and protests are to communicate their dissatisfaction and reasons thereof to the government and the larger public. Through these means one wants to persuade and convince others; it is not a license to force others to do what protesters want. Therefore, forcibly stopping others is not acceptable. How ever this unacceptable act of protesting students—in case it is true—does not justify the attack on them.

Another point in this episode is the statements of political leaders. Particularly Rahul Gandhi and D Raja. They are absolutely right in condemning the act of violence and also in suspecting the police and the government connivance in this. But they said not a word about the condemnable behaviour of agitating students in vandalising the communication system and forcibly stopping other students from registering. One may argue that they did not believe that the agitating students indulged in aforementioned acts. In that case they should at least have denied such false allegation coming from the registrar.

The language Mr. Rahul Gandhi and Mr. D. Raja use is completely non-communicative to the large sections of Indian public and is completely stultified. If they want to defeat BJP by their slogan of fascism then they will have to wait for 50 years. Their stock characterisation of anything wrong happening which they want to blame on the government is “fascism”. How many Indians who may read their statements are likely to understand what they are saying? How many of their own followers can actually distinguish Fascism from Communism (which have so much in common) and Fascism from Indira Gandhi’s congress? To me their pronouncements seem completely worn out clichés. In comparison Prinyanka Gandhi Wadra seems to be learning a language which may be able to communicate some meaning to people someday.

*******

6th January 2020


Wishing Happy New Year to all

January 1, 2020

सभी को नव वर्ष की शुभ कामनाएँ

रोहित धनकर

[This is written in both Hindi and English. No attention is paid to accurate translation. Roughly the same ideas are expressed. Written in a hurry, pay attention to ideas and ignore language and grammar.]

इस नए साल में हम बेहद ऊग्र वैचारिक खींचातान के  साथ प्रवेश कर रहे हैं। लोक के दिमाग में उतनी ही धुन्ध है जितनी उत्तर भारत के बड़े इलाकों में। तीन कट्टर विचार-धाराएँ देश को दो अशुभ दिशाओं में खींच रही हैं। एक विचार धारा इस देश को पांथिक-राष्ट्र नहीं तो पंथ विशेष को अधिक महत्व देने वाला राष्ट्र जरूर बनाना चाहती है। बाकी दो एक साथ मिलकर देश में व्यवस्था के हर प्रयत्न को एक समुदाय विशेष के साथ अन्याय के रूप में प्रस्तुत करके अव्यवस्था और गैर-बराबरी को दूसरी दिशा में मोड़ना चाहती हैं। तीनों कट्टर विचार-धाराओं के और दोनों धड़ों के अपने-अपने निहित स्वार्थ और अपने-अपने अजेंडा हैं। पर साथ ही बहुत बड़ा तबका दोनों के नेताओं द्वारा प्रसारित गलत-तथ्यों और गलत व्याख्याओं पर विश्वास भी करता है।

We are entering this new year with violent ideological struggle. The large areas of north India are under dense fog, with very limited visibility; which seems to symbolise the state of mind of the Indian citizenry at the moment. Presently three bigoted ideologies are pulling India in two wrong direction. One of these ideologies wants to make India into a country which gives more importance to one particular religion; even if it does not go as fat as to make it a theological state. The remaining too are cooperating to misinterpret every step taken to solve problems long standing problems to prove that a particular community is targeted. This creates a different kind of inequality in the opposite direction of the first one. All three bigoted ideologies and both the groups have their own vested interests and agendas. But at the same time a large number of citizens also believe in the propaganda spearheaded by the leaders of the three ideologies. This propaganda involves falsehood and deliberately wrong interpretations as well.

ऐसी स्थिति में नए साल में इस देश को सौहार्द्र की जरूरत है, जो सब की बात को शांति से सुनने-समझने की मति देता है। और निहित स्वार्थों की घोषणा से पहले अभिव्यक्त मत के अर्थ और तर्क को समझने की कोशिश करता है।

In such a situation this country needs good-wishes for all in every single heart, because good-wishes for all may help in listening to all with calmness and pay attention required to understand their worries and arguments. This also helps in attempting to understand the meaning and arguments of opponents before jumping onto their vested interests.

निष्पक्षता की जरूरत है जो पक्ष-विपक्ष को दोस्ती-दुश्मनी नहीं विवेक के आधार पर जाँचने की क्षमता देती है।

We need fairness which gives us capability to examine all views on the basis of religion and not on the basis of friendship and animosity.

विवेक की जरूरत है जो करुणा और क्रोध दोनों के पार जा कर केवल सत्य और नैतिक दृष्टि से उचित को स्वीकार करने की हिम्मत दिखा सके।

We need reason which has the capability to beyond compassion and anger; which is capable of showing courage to accept only the truth and morally good.

दृढ़ता की जरूरत है जो व्यक्तिगत आक्रमण की परवाह किए बिना काले को काला और सफ़ेद के सफ़ेद कहने का साहस देती है।

We need strength which helps in disregarding personal attacks and always call a spade a spade.

सूक्ष्म दृष्टि की जरूरत है जो लोकतन्त्र और धर्म-निरपेक्षता का लबादा पहने कट्टर-धार्मिक उन्मादियों को पहचान सके।

We need fine judgment which may help us recognise religious bigots masquerading as supporters of democracy and secularism.

इस देश का भविष्य भली-भली बातों पर नहीं, सत्य और विवेक की आंच झेलपाने की ताकत कर निर्भर है।

The future of this country depends on capability to face the heat of truth and reason; and not on goody-goody talk.

नव वर्ष के लिए मेरी कमाना है:

हर भारतीय का स्वविवेक पूर्णतया सत्यभिमुख हो,

हर भारतीय में सत्य से बिना पलक झपकाए आँख मिलाने का साहस हो,

हर भारतीय में अपने विरोधी की बात को समझने की सद्बुद्धि हो।

Therefore, my wishes for this country are:

May every Indian have his own reason completely focused on the truth,

May every Indian have the courage direct an unblinking gaze into the eyes of the truth,

May every Indian have good sense of listening and understanding his opponent.

*******

1 जनवरी 2020