A bigoted fight with unfair means

April 7, 2016

Rohit Dhankar


“There are three elements necessary to correct reasoning, first, the correctness of the facts or conclusions I start from, secondly, the completeness as well as accuracy of the data I start from, thirdly, the elimination of other possible or impossible conclusions from the same facts. The fallibility of the logical reason is due partly to avoidable negligence and looseness in securing these conditions, partly to the difficulty of getting all the facts correct, still more to the difficulty of getting all the facts complete, most of all, to the extreme difficulty of eliminating all possible conclusions except the one which happens to be right.”[1]

This is Aurobindo’s diagnosis of untenable conclusions. These untenable conclusions lead to unwarranted public posturing and action. We can add a fourth source of problem in correct reasoning which Aurobindo mentions in the same article, he says, “the mind must have some development of the faculty of dealing with words before it can deal successfully with ideas.” If we leave out the chronological part, that of order of acquiring facility in words and ideas, the claim that “words” (read language) plays the most fundamental part in reasoning can hardly be doubted.

Therefore, the education that wants to help people develop into independent minded citizens, so essential for a democracy, has to teach them to be respectful to: 1. Accuracy and clarity of language, 2. Correctness of facts, 3. Completeness of data (facts), 4. Logical correctness of conclusions, and 5. Elimination of other possible conclusions.


If one goes by Dewey all social groups want to continue their existence. In brief this continuation is in terms of shared meaning of experience and interaction of mutual interests. The conservative societies maintained this shared meaning of experience through the force of custom reinforced by some custodian class. But “social groups which are intentionally progressive, and which aim at a greater variety of mutually shared interests in distinction from those which aim simply at the preservation of established customs. Such societies were found to be democratic in quality, because of the greater freedom allowed the constituent members, and the conscious need of securing in individuals a consciously socialized interest, instead of trusting mainly to the force of customs operating under the control of superior class.”[2]

A democratic society, therefore, is vulnerable to fragmentation of meaning of experience if the mutual interests of its members do not interact on a fair and sympathetic manner. Indian society has been trying to format itself on the democratic lines in terms of creating shared meaning of experience and fair interaction of mutual interests for last at least 125 years. We have achieved a measure of success in this direction but we have also very disturbing and significant failures.

When the shared meaning gets fragmented in a society one has to go a level up in developing a social philosophy which accommodates all competing interests and recreates the shared meaning and shared commitment in all its members.


This is where the Aurobindo quote in the beginning of this article comes into play. The people engaged in highlighting the fragmented meaning of experience and unfair emphasis on interests of the some may take a position where their aim seems to be only pointing out the fragmentation and consequent injustice. Or, alternatively, they can take a position where highlighting the injustice and inequality is part of the project where the ultimate aims is to arrive at a more shared meaning, greater possibility of justice and equality. When one emphasises only the earlier one is aiding in making the problem more intractable; and finally pushing towards a breakdown of the social and political order. When one is also considering the latter without diluting the first one is striving to achieve a more just and equitable order. The so-called left intellectual at the moment are engaged in the first.

The other side of the coin is represented by the BJP-forces. They want to preserve the order through imposed traditional meaning, completely ignoring the fragmented meaning of the very symbols they want to use for this; Ex. Bharat Mata and cow. Their ideal is not freedom to each individual to create his/her own meaning which also aligns with the creation of shared interests taking into account all perceptions and aspirations. Their project seems to be to bulldoze everyone into an imagination of society and state which they have formed, based on particularly unpalatable aspects of a single culture.

Both are intent on their own little victories. In this process they are distorting the meaning of words (Exs. nationalism, patriotism, institutional murder, etc.). Both parties are suppressing, distorting, and manufacturing ‘facts’ (see the media reposts); jeopardising completeness and veracity of the facts. Both are using untenable logical inferences and indulging in fallacies. Both are picking up the kind of conclusions that suit their purposes and without properly eliminating the other possible conclusions. Thus, failing on all the criteria of sound reasoning listed by Aurobindo.

As result, the language has become ambiguous; the reliability of information providing systems (media) has plunged very low. The people are becoming more and more unsure of their own minds and are depending on chosen leaders for opinion.

This is very beneficial for both the warring formations. As the success of their purposes depends not on factually informed, capable in proper reasoning and fair minded public. It rather depends on feeding distorted information, blurred reasoning, and indoctrinated public. The numerous left formations of students and ABVP both are very good prototypes of uninformed, very zealous, indoctrinated brigades ready to attack whomsoever their masters command. In the process a whole generation of bigoted (be that to the right or to the left) population in capable of reasoned judgment.

In this little piece I have stated only the general argument and have not given expels to instantiate each conclusion in the chain. Partly because of lack of time and partly because examples are plenty in the media and will come to the minds of the readers automatically.


[1] Aurobindo, A system of national education (page 408) in Complete Works of Sri Aurobindo, Vol 1, (2003),

Sri Aurobindo Ashram Publication Department, Pondicherry

[2] Dewey, (1916, 1948 reprint), Democracy and Education, pages 375-6, The Macmillan Company, New York.

BJP versus JNU: A quick assessment

March 1, 2016

Rohit Dhankar

This is a very quick assessment of the situation created and continuously developing in the JNU-BJP row. Quick assessments always have a serious problem of being somewhat under analyzed and may suffer from lack of information. And therefore, they may be wrong. However, in the day-to-day action when one has to make a judgment it is the quick assessment which becomes basis of such judgment and action. Therefore, one who wants to keep independence of one’s mind always takes an epistemic risk which has a significant potential for a moral risk. In short, a quick assessment is a necessary tool which is also necessarily imperfect. And that is the predicament of being human. This quick assessment is not free of all these defects; but it is also necessary, if one does not want to be a mute spectator, or a bind follower.

The title of this little piece is deliberately reductionist. The opinions on the events in JNU on 9th February and their aftermath is not neatly dividable into two camps. There is a range; but both sides are making all out efforts to make it completely two-sided. Both have their allies which might have somewhat different opinions from those held by the central antagonists. This is a limitation of a quick assessment that it has to make things simple; therefore, by BJP is meant all the Sangh Parivar outfits and their stable supporters. And by JNU I am indicating various left outfits and intellectuals who have expressly come out to support its cause in the current row. There might—hopefully there are—be intellectuals who support the JNU’s resistance to the BJP attack on the universities but do not share their views on the slogan shouting and making it a version of freedom of speech in the universities. I know that no group is homogenous in such maters; but I am talking of an aggregate general impression they create.

I will state my assessment in the form of simple, as simple as I can make them, statements. Will try to make them as unambiguous as possible.  I believe that I have enough evidence and arguments to justify each one of these statements; but all said and done, they are part of a quick assessment, and therefore may be challenged. Stating my justification of each of these statements will make it a book.  If I come across counter evidence or argument, would be open to reconsider. (It is interesting that those who want a daily plebiscite on the existence of nation are least open to subject their own rigid positions to scrutiny!)

Of BJP and its allies:

  1. BJP is communal at the core. But its communalism stems out of perceived injustice to Hindus and Hinduism.
  2. They want to force the Muslims (particularly) and other minorities to take a particular attitude to the Indian culture and Indian nation. If the Muslims and other minorities accept that attitude they will come out of communalism but will always remain sectarian. That of course is no reason for Muslims and others to fit their demand.
  3. I am making a distinction between being communal and sectarian in this piece. I am using “sectarian” in a milder sense here where it indicates “favoring one’s own sect (religion) without antagonism and animosity to other sects”. Communalism is “sectarianism armed with antagonism and animosity:”.
  4. BJP’s politics (if one discounts corruption and power struggle within the formation itself; which are necessary characteristics of all political formations) flows out of the premise that India can become stable, strong, just and economically strong only if it’s politics is dominated by Hindu ethos, as they understand the term ‘Hindu’.
  5. They are deliberately creating situations where their support base can become strong and can take on the counter view of India and its politics. So are doing other political parties; so they are not unique in this.
  6. The attempts to capture universities is part of this plan. But they also believe that the universities in India have been under the stifling influence of certain ways of thinking and scholarship which is anti-Hindu, lacks the vigor of patriotism, and unfairly maintained through favoritism and patronage. (Which has more than a grain of truth.)
  7. BJP’s current attempts in the universities are part of their scheme of installing their own academics in the place of the left leaning intelligentsia with, in their view, right attitude to the country’s past, culture and ethos.
  8. In the society as well as in the universities the BJP is encouraging a mob mentality and rubble rousers who can counter what they consider anti-Hindu and anti-nation voices when they become loud and stringent. The Patiala house lawyers and other incidents like that are certainly sympathized by BJP and its allies; even if not directly instigated. The biased BCI report (if one goes by The Hindu news report on this) is both an expression of support to such goondaism as well as of their large base in the Indian middle class.
  9. The government has proved itself incompetent in creating a dialogue with dissent and various kinds of unrest in the society, which might stem from their policies.
  10. Some of the incidents like Delhi police’s handling of the JNU slogan shouting is designed to fail; it is not for the consumption of the intelligentsia but for the masses which have a certain attitude to the nation and see this failure as a result of power and villainy of the intellectuals.
  11. This whole politics and mindset is harmful to the Indian nation.
  12. The current appeal to Rohan Murthy from some ‘intellectuals’ is part of the larger scheme of challenging the left-leaning intelligentsia.

Of JNU and its supporters

  1. The majority teachers in JNU (it seems) and the dominant intelligentsia in India have a certain attitude to Hinduism, Indian culture and ethos that is largely indifferent (some even antagonistic) to their achievements and positive aspects and over emphasize their shortcomings. They are generally fair in explaining (and explaining way) the achievements as outcomes of socio-historical processes without attaching any moral angle; but always attach a moral angle to the short-comings, and do not explain them as outcomes of the same socio-historical processes. Therefore, they are tilted.
  2. This attitude partly (in some of them) is because many of them are Brahmins and appropriate appreciation of Indianness in anything is likely to attract charge of favoring the social order which privileged them in the past. They have created this theoretical mess themselves.
  3. They believe that excesses committed by the minority are less condemnable than the excesses committed by the majority. This attitude of theirs stems from the belief that minorities need protection and majority is always unfair to them. This is logically flawed view. And this feeds the ‘victimhood’ mentality of the BJP and its supporters.
  4. Their concern for the oppressed, deprived and underprivileged is often genuine and they fight for justice to all, but only as long as their own positions are secure. But many of them (not all) play to their own gallery and see injustice where it actually might not be there.
  5. They have built a formidable array of theoretical arguments and international network that helps maintain their position of power. Many of their theoretical formulations might not pass the test of a strict rational scrutiny; but BJP does not have intellectuals to challenge their formulations. That is why they have made a caricature of the genuine and legitimate concerns on slogans in JNU.
  6. Their commitment to the national integrity and social harmony is much lower than their expressed rhetoric for justice.
  7. Because of their lifelong investment in networking and sharpening ‘intellectual skills’—a dexterity devoid of inconvenience of normative positions—they have been very successful in the current matter to deflect attention from the space they create for disaffection with the country and its democratic process to stupidity and excesses committed by the BJP and its supporters.
  8. They are just incapable of taking a robust stand in which both ‘justice to all’ and ‘integrity of the democratic nation’ become non-negotiable values. The latter in negotiable for them. They don’t think that it is theoretically possible to hold both these values as non-negotiable simultaneously, this shows poverty of their imagination. This makes them vulnerable to be used by people who actually may have intentions to harm Indian democracy and Indian nation.
  9. But they are always ready to appropriate the benefits of Indian democracy and Indian nationhood. In a certain sense some of them are actually free-riders.
  10. They are not antinational; they are imply unconcerned and disdainful to the idea of nation; at the least in the positions they take when push comes to the shove.
  11. But they also contribute handsomely to make Indian state and democracy more sensitive to the deprived and oppressed; in maintaining multicultural ethos, and in exposing hardliner Hindutva agenda.
  12. Their current fight is partly to retain their dominant position in the academia. That does not necessarily mean retaining personal benefits but only a tilted ideology. However, personal patronage and benefits cannot be completely discounted.
  13. The same injustice committed by some parties (say Congress) is more acceptable to them than committed by BJP. In this sense they are unfair.
  14. Their record of use of freedom of speech in the past is biased and one sided.

In the current fight between the BJP-group and JNU-group the win of BJP will be disastrous for the country. But the win of the JNU-group will also harm the country in the future no end. It will slowly prepare the ground for balkanization of India. Simply because they are more interested in scoring the points in more and more radical ideologies and anti-Hinduism than in actual solutions. As an example, one can see how they have made ‘nationalism’ and ‘patriotism’ dirty words in the recent debate for the current political gain. First they have equated the concerns for the nation to the acts of idiots and goons. They have created a situation in which if one raises concern for the anti-India slogans s/he is promptly equated with the Patiala house like goons. And have made it a fashion to declare “I am antinational”. They have used their intellectual skills to make nationalism disrespectful, rather than to make it a robust concept where the goons can be opposed without questioning people’s respect and genuine concern for the nation.

They either do not know or do not care that if one takes away the belongingness to the nation civic care for other citizens actually has no ground to stand on. At the present juncture of development of humanity universal humanistic concerns can work only through nations. And therefore, fight for justice and equality becomes even more difficult if you discredit the idea of nation.

A simple definition of patriotism, without too much nuance in it, can be paraphrased from Mudaliar Commission report as follows:

“True patriotism involves three things—

  1. a sincere appreciation of the social and cultural achievements of one’s country,
  2. a readiness to recognize its weaknesses frankly and to work for their eradication, and
  3. an earnest resolve to serve it to the best of one’s ability, harmonizing and subordinating individual interests to broader national interests.”

In understand this definition I interpret “social and cultural achievements” as past as well as present. Therefore, readiness to recognize weaknesses also apply to the present day social and political order.

If one scrutinize their pronouncements and actions both the BJP-group and the JNU-group fail on this criteria. The BJP-group does not want to recognize the injustice to many sections of the population today; and the JNU-group over emphasizes the injustices and does not recognize what might be positive in the nation. Neither have the requisite amount of love for all citizens, their love is narrow and divided. They are totally deaf to what might be a genuine concern in the others mind; even if unjustified but still a tormenting concern for the part of the nation. They do not have respect for each other to engage.

It seems to me it is time for the silent majority to wake up and let both of them know their respective places.


BJP’s communal agenda: a quick examination

May 25, 2014

Rohit Dhankar

From the manifesto:

Ram Mandir

BJP in its manifesto (page 41) declares “BJP reiterates its stand to explore all possibilities within the framework of the constitution to facilitate the construction of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya.” (Emphasis added)

This is a pledge for “exploring” possibilities and “within the constitutional framework”, and not a commitment. And still it is communal in nature and goes against secularism. The issue is that the state has got nothing to do with the construction of temples or mosques. A political party when mentions this in its election manifesto is trying to garner votes in the name of religion and a government when tries to explore possibilities for construction of a temple is favouring a particular religion.

This is a divisive issue in Indian politics, BJP has used it before and still keeps using it.

Ram Setu

On the same page BJP declares “Ram Setu is a part of our cultural heritage and also of strategic importance due to its vast thorium deposits. These facts will be taken into consideration while taking any decision on ‘Sethu-Samudram Channel’ project.” (Emphasis added)

There is no evidence of what is called Ram Setu being a creation of humans. All evidence shows it is a natural formation. The connection with Rama and his Lanka Vijay is purely mythological, as most probably Ram himself is. Again, this is a communal agenda in favour of one religion (Hinduism). Arguments in connection with Ram Mandir apply here as well.


The BJP says “River Ganga is a symbol of faith in India, and has a special place in the Indian psyche. It is Mukti dayini. …Pure water of the Ganga are thus essential for the spiritual as well as physical wellbeing of India.”

Cleaning Ganga is a laudable project. No one can fight with that. But it is laudable for economic and environmental reason. Connecting it with faith, mukti and spirituality in a manifesto is a communal move. The way Modi has talked of Ganga mata in the campaign and has participated in the Ganga Aarti after electoral victory certainly is a communal move to send signals to a certain section of Hindu community.

Cow and its Progeny

The manifesto declares that “Necessary legal framework will be created to protect and promote cow and its progeny.” All reasons given in the manifesto are economic. But the history of BJP and its handling of cow protection makes it plain that it is the “holy cow” that is being protected, not the useful animal that is important in the agricultural activities, for its milk, for its hide and for its meat. It is a not-so-cleverly disguised communal agenda.

Uniform Civil Code

BJP’s declared stand: “Article 44 of the constitution of India lists Uniform Civil Code as one of the Directive Principles of state policy. BJP believes that there cannot be gender equality till such time India adopts a Uniform Civil Code, which protects the rights of all women, and the BJP reiterates its stand to draft a Uniform Civil Code, drawing upon the best traditions and harmonizing them with the modern times.”

This is often attacked by liberals and so-called secularists and seen as something against Muslims. It seems to me that it is a good step and there is nothing communal about it. Having the same code for all citizens of a country is a laudable aim.

Civil codes of communities and religions which go against the rights of a democratic citizen will have to give way. Democracy is not a federation of religions; it is premised on the autonomy of individual in her personal life and setting one’s own life goals. Taking this right away from citizens in the name of religion or communitarian ethics abandons the very principle on with democracy rests.

Article 370

BJP’s stand on article 370 is seen as a communal move against Kashmiri Muslims. What BJP says is “BJP reiterates its stand on the Article 370, and will discuss this with all stakeholders and remains committed to the abrogation of this article.”

This is a complex affair. What exactly are the provisions of the said article is a matter of some exploration for me. The article refers back to other articles and without a study of all the references what exact impact it has on the state and its relationship with the rest of the country if not clear; that is: to me, as it is now.

However, it is clear from reading of the article 370 itself that it (i) gives a special status to J & K; (ii) it is considered temporary; (iii) can be abrogated though a specified constitutional process. Regarding the abrogation the article itself states: “(3) Notwithstanding anything in the foregoing provisions of this article, the President may, by public notification, declare that this article shall cease to be operative or shall be operative only with such exceptions and modifications and from such date as he may specify: Provided that the recommendation of the Constituent Assembly of the State referred to in clause (2) shall be necessary before the President issues such a notification.”

So where is the problem if BJP is trying to discuss with all stake holders and attempting to abrogate the article? Why should it be considered objectionable and communal in a democracy? In my view BJP is on the right track on this issue.

Natural home for persecuted Hindus from other countries

The manifesto states “India shall remain a natural home for persecuted Hindus and they shall be welcome to seek refuge here.”

As it stand it clearly privileges Hindus and that is not secular, is clearly communal in this sense.

Pranav Goswami asked Modi in one of his interviews why only “persecuted Hindus” not persecuted Jains, Buddhists, Sikhs, Christians and Muslims? Modi obfuscated on the question and said that his party uses the term “Hindu” as the Supreme Court defined it, ‘a way of life, and not as a religion’. Thus, according to him all ‘Indian origin” people who went or were taken to other countries and are being persecuted there now can come back and India will remain their natural home. If BJP modifies it in this sense, it ceases to privileged Hindus and becomes a secular principle of Indian state.

Then Modi further clarified that it does not apply to Muslims from Pakistan and Bangladesh; however, Hindus from these two countries are welcome. He did not clarify if Christians, Jains, Sikhs and Buddhists from these counties can also find India their natural home if they are persecuted? If BJP accepts this position then I believe it could be justified. Pakistan was created in the name of Islam and Muslims who remained there at the time of partition or went there at that time consciously forfeited their Indian citizenship and their claim to it. I see no reason to extend this privilege to them now. He also said that at the time of partitions there were 31% Hindus in Bangladesh, but now there are about 7%; this indicated persecution. If his data are correct (I am not sure of that) and there is no other explanation, it points to persecution of Hindus in Bangladesh. Persecution of Hindus, Sikhs and Christians in Pakistan is no secret.

Therefore, BJP’s stand that (i) it will welcome all Indian origin people (replace “Hindu” in current version with “Indian origin”) if they are persecuted in their countries and seek asylum, (ii) they will welcome all Indian origin people but Muslims from Pakistan and Bangladesh, if they are persecuted. This makes sense to me. Point two above is considered very controversial and Indian intellectuals consider it non-secular and communal; I personally believe they are wrong and do not have good arguments to support their opinion.

But as the pledge in the manifesto stands today it is only for Hindus and therefore is not secular and is communal in nature.

From Modi’s campaign and speeches and acts

Bangladeshi’s will have to go

Modi declared in Assam and Bengal that Bangladeshi ‘infiltrators’ have to go back.

The Hindu on 9th May 14 published a condemnation of these remarks sent by SEHMAT and sighed by the who’s-who of Indian intelligentsia. They state “We the undersigned, are deeply disturbed by the reported remarks of the Prime Ministerial candidate of the NDA at an election rally in West Bengal that “infiltrators” from Bangladesh, belonging to a particular religious community, must be sent back. Apart from the sheer inhumanity of the remark, we fear that in a country in which every citizen does not possess documentary proof of citizenship, such a move would simply cause a general victimization of persons belonging to that particular religious community.”

Their reasons for condemnation seem to be three: (i) it is inhuman to send back people coming from other countries to seek livelihood, (ii) every Indian citizen does not possess proper identification papers and therefore such move will victimize Muslims, and (iii) that Indians are seeking to stay in various countries and we oppose political and other formations in those countries who want to send illegal immigrates back to India.

I find it very difficult to accept the argument that anyone seeking livelihood can enter a country of his/her choice without papers and illegally; and gains the right to live in that country by sheer force of his/her illegal entry. If it would not have come from such august body of intellectuals I would have called it plain silly. But authority itself is no argument and I know no justification for such a stand. If I accept this then I have to accept that Indians who enter other countries illegally have no right to stay there and the people of those counties are right when they want to send them back. We must accept this.

That leaves us with the point (ii) in the paragraph above. That every Indian citizen does not possess proper identification papers and therefore such move will victimise Muslims. This is difficult to deny given the present political and social climate of the country. But we must note two things; (1) this is a practical difficulty in implementation of the move and not an objection directly based on any ethical principle, and (2) acceptance of this practical problem as ‘unsolvable’ puts India in a very vulnerable position. This acceptance means that Muslims from Bangladesh can keep on coming in India and they will just remain here, as it is difficult to identify them. I wonder how the intellectuals can be so insensitive to the majority worry that this stand has changed demography of many border regions of the country. The suspicion of the majority community that some (not all) Muslims and some politicians make this identification difficult and arrange documents like ration cards etc. for some Bangladeshis can hardly be called unfounded. This is actually happening, and by denying such things intellectuals and opinion makers simply push people towards BJP mind-set.

Therefore, acceptance of the problem as unsolvable cannot be a permanent solution. We must find fool-proof methods of identifying infiltrator Bangladeshis and should not make the difficulty in identifying them a plea for letting them live in India. The so-called secular intellectuals are plain wrong here and lose their credibility by taking such positions.

Vishwanath darshan and Ganga Aarati after electoral victory

I have argued in one of my initial blog posts that an individual can be a deeply religious person and can discharge his duties as a judge, politician, bureaucrat or police officer without prejudice, upholding the state policy of secularism. So Modi if goes to thank Vishwanath or offer aarati to Ganga as an individual, it should be no concern of a citizen.

But Modi did not go there an individual. He went there as a Prime Ministerial candidate of a political formation and the political formation supported his visit by making arrangements and so on. If a Prime Minister of a country uses party or state resources and his visibility as a political leader to emphases rituals of any particular religion it is difficult to pass that act as his personal matter and having nothing to do with the secular nature of the state. In this sense Modi did not behave as a secular leader and is unlikely to do so in future.

The religious bias in BJP as per this analysis is clear; and as citizens we have to be vigilant about how it plays out in future. One hopes that the pressure of active citizenship will force BJP and Modi to shun these biases. But that could happen only if the intelligentsia and opinion makers themselves shed their biases against some and in favour of some other religious communities; so far their record has been really bad. Actually, hardly better than BJP but in the opposite direction. Hope they will see the light now as the BJP victory is at the least partly a result of their biased analysis.


Between the devil and the deep sea: what a choice?

April 16, 2014

Rohit Dhankar

Few days back I was in my village in rural Rajasthan. Four youngsters of our family and one cousin gheraod me and pelted me with questions regarding whom to vote for. The youngsters were highly educated—a engineer, working as assistant Bank Manager, a dentist waiting to setup practice, an MBA struggling businessman – and all supporters of Modi. The 40+ years old cousin working in the gulf is also a Modi supporter. I could not convince them that Modi is a bad omen for the country, mainly because I could not provide them with an alternative.

I said that I will vote for no one, which seriously damaged my reputation among them as having a strong commitment to democracy. They charged me with not being a responsible citizen of democratic India.

This set me thinking. I don’t understand development and economics very well. So my considerations turned to wellbeing of India as a democracy. In a very quick analysis I decided to think over ‘in my mind’ about BJP, Congress and AAP on the basis of three cardinal values of democracy in India: equality, secularism and freedom. I did not consider justice because it seems to me that consideration of justice will refer back to equality and in a short piece I can afford to limit myself to equality. I also ignored ‘fraternity’ or concern for others’ wellbeing because it will make me repeat what I say on secularism and equality. This being tentative thinking I can afford to temporarily leave it out.

The following is the result of my tentative personal thinking. May not be very rigorous and all encompassing, it is more at the level of musings.


I am taking BJP under Narendra Modi first because all serves predict them to be the single biggest party.

Their history

Torch bearers of Janasangha and Hindu Mahasabha, and guided (controlled, some say) by RSS. This trio certainly is divisive and wants Hindus to dominate Indian politics, and every aspect of national life. They are particularly inimical to Muslims. They have been giving calls of “Bharateeya karan” and then in the name of opposing appeasement been attacking Muslims. Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajarang Dal are certainly fundamentalist organisations and creations of the RSS.

Equality of status and opportunity

The whole Sangha Parivar wants India to run on Hindu ethos and want others to accept their secondary status as far as ‘foundational’, ‘cultural’ ethos of India go. However, as citizens they are ambivalent and willy-nilly accept equal status and rights for all.

But their ‘equality’ has several problems. They are against all affirmative action that goes in favour of status quo where higher caste Hindus dominate the scene. They are not really concerned about righting the historical wrong visited on Dalits for centuries. Deep down they seem to be governed by caste stereotypes and want everyone to accept the supremacy of brahminical values where kshatriyas have a status equal to Brahmins but the rest have to be ‘sankritised’.

Women are not ‘equal’ in their equality; they need to be safeguarded, guided, controlled, if need be by force. They may not say all this in words, but they certainly show it in their deeds. The Bharatiya Nari still seems to be their preferred ideal, though they do not say that openly and often.

I personally do not think they really want to dominate Muslims in stark terms. But they want to Hinduise their ethos, they want them to have their punyabhoomi in India, which is historically impossible. They suspect Muslims’ loyalty to the country; and are actually scared of them. They have deep down animosity for Muslims, and often blame what they call eight hundred years of “Muslim rule” for many of the ills in Hinduism.


No they are not secular by any stretch of imagination. Secularism has to do with the attitude of the state to religions. The BJP and Sangha Parivar certainly wants Hindu ethos to dominate every sphere of life. So they cannot be secular in the ‘equal distance from all religions’ sense of the term. Their manifesto proves that without a shred of doubt. Ram mandir, Ram Setu, Ganga as spiritual lifeline, and cow as a holy animal nail it.

I have mentioned their attitude to Islam and Muslims above and that certainly is not secular. Their imagination of India is an upper caste Hindu imagination.

Freedom of speech and expression

They are departing from Hindu ethos in this respect. It seems to me that the Hindus traditionally have been tolerant to expression of ideas they did not agree with. But only tolerant. Hindus – upper caste – have never considered others as good as themselves; the other often was ‘mlachchhya’. But speaking against orthodoxy from within as well as from without was tolerated. This perhaps came from the idea that ‘the truth is one but wise-ones express it in many ways’. BJP and Sangha are now becoming more and more intolerant to that. One cannot any longer speak against their dharma, gods and even leaders. Actually, in this respect they are eroding traditional Hindu ethos.

Therefore, BJP under Modi certainly does not fare well in the light of values like equality, secularism and freedom of expression; and one cannot vote for them.


As BJP has declared itself under Modi, Congress has been an unambiguous fiefdom of the Nehru-Gandhi family. So one has to consider it that way.

Their history

The Congress of today is a continuation in some ways and is very different in some others from the Congress that fought and won the freedom struggle for India. But since 1920 congress has been under dictatorship of people at the helm. Its ethos was not of open discussion and democratic decision making. Gandhi completely destroyed that and then handed it over to Nehru. Nehru had an historic opportunity to work for dismantling the feudal and totalitarian character of the party. He did build institutions and infuse democratic decision making in the nation, but was always very careful about his own power and did not believe that others can be as good democrats as he considered himself. The Congress remained a dictatorship under him. After Nehru and a brief struggle of power it completely went into Indira Gandhi’s hands; who destroyed all democratic institutions and became a virtual dictator. Since then it is nothing more than a family fiefdom populated by power hungry, dishonest sycophants.

Equality of status and opportunity

Certainly not. The Gandhis are ‘more equal than others’. Even a nincompoop born in Gandhi family is considered as natural leader by all spineless Congressis. This is the height of hypocrisy when congress leaders like Rahul and Sonia Gandhi talk of power sharing and not being concentrated in a few hands. One wonders how they can make such proclamations! The only explanation seems to be that they think people are really stupid. Congress is a feudal party with mindless loyalty (Manmohan Singh being the paragon) as its strength. They seem to genuinely believe that the Gandhi family has some sort of divine right. This dynastic politics has a good understanding of mentality of Indian masses, who are actually feudal in thinking.

Congress is the reason why we have so many political dynasties today. They showed the way, and made it acceptable under a democratic constitution. Their ‘equality’ is very nuanced. Gandhis are the ‘most equal’, and that cannot be questioned; as we know even Priyanka Gandhi is a more important leader than their biggest political stalwarts. Other political dynasties (be they Sindhias, Yadava, or what ever) are ‘more equal’ than the commoners without a dynasty to flaunt. The commoners are ‘equal’ among themselves of course; but: one, they all are to be ‘ruled’, and two, their respective value (equality?) depends upon how they can be used at any given time for consolidating the power for Gandhis. Gandhis are the masters, rest are the subjects.

Their proclamations for benefit of dalits, Muslims and tribals are directed at keeping the flock together, and not for any love for equality.

I am surprised that people fail to notice that Modi as the mascot of BJP is modelled on the Congress. Congress does not proclaim a Prime Ministerial candidate, its Prime Ministerial candidate has always been known to all, since Nehru era. When was there any doubt that a scion of Nehru-Gandhi family, chosen by the family itself, will be the prime minister? They did not need to declare it. BJP learnt that this clarity gives dividends, so they adopted it from Congress. The BJP could not perform the trick of ‘declaring without declaring’; so they had to openly declare.


They do not seem to have any overt animosity to any particular religious group. But their politics is far from being secular, it always has been sectarian and casteist. They are the most adept at playing religious communities against each other. Actually, to my mind, if the congress did not play the politics of religion, BJP would have been a dismal failure. Congress policies and hypocrisy have nurtured the BJP and Sangh parivar. Congress has been historically adept at using religion for political gains. Gandhi’s use of Muslim sentiment against abolition of Caliphate is the biggest example of non-secular religious politics. And it came from a man who preached sanctity of means nd ends both! In the Khilafat movement both Hindus and Muslims were cheated. The failure of Khilafat movement in its proclaimed objectives (swarajya and reinstating the Caliphate) created a backlash. The Muslims saw Gandhi’s (the original one) withdrawal of the movement as a betrayal, not only by Gandhi himself but by Hindus in large. The RSS came into being in the aftermath of this failure.

Congress’s stand on Shah Bano case, opening the doors of Babri Masjid, and numerous other issues can hardly be called secular, they are example of sectarian politics. They were designed to appease one community at one time and another at another time, and, therefore, playing communities against each other. This certainly is not secularism.

People fail to notice that today Congress is talking of communal and divisive language more than BJP, though to proclaim that they are the guardians of unity and minorities. The real point in their talk is creating distrust and fear. BJP is talking development. Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and all of Congress is talking actually communalism, and its fear. BJP can afford not to talk of Hindutva for a while, because it has established its credentials of Hindu communalism where it matters, among middle class Hindu population, they need not always talk about it. Now they can afford to talk development. This has forced Congress to come in the open.

Freedom of speech and expression

Congress has never came out as a protector of citizens’ right to free speech. India was the first country to ban Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses, their record of protecting Taslima Nasreen has been dismal. In the case of Danish cartoons of Muhammad was even worse. They are also very touchy about the Gandhi family, no adverse comment on any family member is tolerated.

Therefore, as far as the issue of these three values go, one cannot vote for Congress either.


Kejriwal is the undisputed leader, nay icon, of AAP.

Well, they have been in the arena for a very short time. One does not really have enough information on their position on equality, secularism and freedom of speech. They seem to be similar to the Congress on secularism, if one goes by Kejriwal’s overtures to Muslim clerics. But their position on equality and freedom of speech is not clear.

They, however, seem to have other problems that are even more scary than the BJP and Congress. In a multicultural democracy procedural norms are absolutely essential to function properly. Ideas on justice, equality, freedom of speech, moral values, behaviour with others, boundaries of legal action, etc. all are understood in multiple ways. Many of these concepts are essentially contested; meaning that their interpretations will always remain open and a clear single accepted definition will never be available. In such a scenario, if you want to live together with harmony setting procedural norms for public behaviour is the only way. Yes, procedural norms can be manipulated, can be unjust, principles can be adhered to ‘in letter’ and be ‘violated in spirit’. And in such situations one needs to oppose the people who are violating the principles. But even that has to be done within the procedural norms. AAP in general and Kejriwal in particular does not accept that.

So what do they want to replace procedural norms with? Their own self-righteousness. They have to be accepted as just, true and absolutely reliable messiahs. This is not democracy. They are actually a ‘CULT’ with Kejriwal the originator and head.

In reality Kejriwal—in spite of his aam aadmi penchant—is behaving like a very ‘khaas aadmi’. Whatever he says is right, he does not need arguments, evidence or any other justification. His word is enough. That makes him a bold and honest person in eyes of many. But he turns out to be a joker and a self-centred egoist in many others’ eyes. I belong to the second group. I don’t consider him bold at all. Boldness involves risk taking. He has nothing to lose, so no risk.

People like Yogendra yadav and Medha Patkar have a huge reputation as upholders of democratic rights and thinking people. But they have already started looking like jokers in that AAP cap.

One can hardly contemplate voting for AAP then.


I have heard (have not read) that there will be an option of “None Of The Above” (NOTA) in the voting machines. I will go for that. It seems to me, tentatively, that if a large number of people vote for NOTA, then the message will be conveyed to all that the public is not stupid, they are thinking and something in the minds of ordinary silent Indians is brewing. This might get an expression in the coming years. Till then we have to keep our fingers crossed for the country and live with bated breath.


Congress is making a lot of noise that Modi will turn the country into a fascist one. Many Indian intellectuals are making the same point. This exaggerated paranoia is helping Modi. It cannot happen in India, at least I believe that. It cannot happen not because Indians are any more democratic people etc. or for the want of BJP and Modi. But because of the range of diversity and acceptance of multiplicity of values in India. The Gandhi family on the helms could not turn India into a monarchy, Modi cannot turn it into a fascist one. One is crediting them with too much of power when claims that the country can be turned into a fascist Hindu rashtra or a monarchy. There are several reasons to believe that it will not happen, but I cannot go into them here. Let us remember that unbelievable exaggeration obscures the genuine problems, and arguments become unacceptable. We will do much better if we keep arguments in a sane intellectual space. Then they will influence people’s thinking; fantastic claims fell on deaf years.

Modi coming to power will harm India. It will further damage equality, secularism and freedom; but he will not be able to destroy them. Congress coming to power will also further damage them, but again cannot totally destroy them. Let’s keep our fingers crossed, even if I sound superstitious.


BJP Manifesto 2014: Sundry comments

April 8, 2014

Rohit Dhankar


William James in the very beginning of his lectures on Pragmatism quotes Chesterton: “There are some people—and I am one of them—who think that the most practical and important thing about a man is still his view of the universe. … We think that for a general about to fight an enemy it is important to know the enemy’s numbers, but still more important to know the enemy’s philosophy. We think the question is not whether the theory of the cosmos affects matters, but whether in the long run anything else affects them.” [All emphases added, unless indicated otherwise.]

I was reminded of this quote while glancing through BJP Election Manifesto 2014, and decided to read some portions will greater care. I also had to make another assumption: that what the party is writing in the manifesto is an honest representation of their ideas, views, opinions and intentions. I know this second assumption is false for all political parties in India; their manifestos are instruments of deception and cheating the gullible Indian voter. But I am not socio-political analyst; only an ordinary citizen with a reasonably useful mind. So will use that to understand BJP’s philosophy; and will depend on others for a better deeper socio-political and historical analysis.

From this point of view I paid reasonable attention (cannot spend too much time on political matters ) to the preface of their manifesto and to some selected parts like education, terrorism, cultural heritage, etc. And am sharing my tentative results with friends here.

The vision and philosophy in Preface

The manifesto declare that: “BJP recognizes that no nation could chart out its domestic or foreign policies unless it has a clear understanding about itself, its history, its roots, its strengths and failings.” And yet makes many supposed to be patriotic but false claims: India being the oldest civilisation, unmatched progress in science and technology, universal prosperity, equality and care in ancient Indian society. Paints a glorious golden picture, blames all ills first to the Europeans and then to the Congress. Now, most political analysts will find this a trivial matter, as all parties praise the nation in elections, especially BJP to retain their ‘nationalist’ tag. But then it is again failing to understand the historical roots properly, and is failing to take into consideration the “failings” of Indian culture and society. This is important to understand what is the vision on which they want to build the modern India, and chart out their “domestic or foreign policies”, as per their own claims.

The second point that one sees clearly in the preface and throughout the manifesto is that the modern day Indian culture is a direct progeny of Ancient Indian Hindu, Budhhist and Jain culture. There is mention of preserving cultural heritage of all groups but in painting the heritage culture there is no direct mention of contribution of the Islamic culture. One wonders how it is possible to acquire “a clear understanding about itself, its history, its roots” if one completely leaves out contribution to present day Indian culture made by Islamic culture and even European interaction? BJP worthies cannot even explain as common a food item as halwa and the kurtas they all don without reference to Islamic culture.

They think that “Indian freedom struggle” was inspired by “a clear vision of the civilizational consciousness of India”, the leaders (Nehru not included) “had a vision to reconstruct the political and economic institutions of India as a continuum of civilizational consciousness”. BJP fails even to look properly at the preamble of Indian constitution and recognise that the values there in are learnt and imbibed in interaction with rest of the world; and that here is a clear disjunction between those values and values of caste infected Indian feudal society; the part of our cultural heritage.

There is nothing wrong in national pride; but that pride has to be of a critical nature, recognising what strengths the heritage bestowed on us and also recognising the problems it bequeathed simultaneously. BJP leaves out the second.

The manifesto recognises the need “to arrive at a consensus about the ‘Idea’ of India and also to think and redesign our approach in consonance with the seekings and preferences of the Indian people.” And simultaneously to “[P]ick up the thread from the point where the continuum of our civilizational consciousness was lost and reorient the polity in consonance with those strong points of Indian psyche which will be the engine for our future glory.” As a citizen how do I do that? What strong points of the civilizational consciousness do they want to propose to citizens to consider? The only one that figures is “vasudhaiva kutumbakam”. Good one, but when did the Indian society and powers that controlled it actually used this principle in practice?

If they were open enough not to put all their eggs in the basket of ancient India and Hindu/Buddhist/Jain cultural heritage, if they were open enough to include contributions of Islamic and European thought, if they were open enough to see the civilisation still progressing in global interaction, if they were open enough to see that the civilizational consciousness constantly rebuilds itself; then the possibility of consensus on the ‘idea of India’ would have been much greater in modern times.

But then the manifesto forgets this penchant for civilizational consciousness right after Murali Manor Joshi’s signature at the end of the preface and only uses it where convenient. The economic policy and statecraft has almost nothing to do with the ancient Indian civilisation.

I am not here to analyse the manifesto in full, am just commenting on some of the issues that bother me and may be many other people.

Some principles

The manifesto repeats at several places ideas of inclusiveness, equality of all citizens and ‘unity in diversity’. “India constitutes of all its’ people, irrespective of caste, creed, religion or sex. It constitutes of all the communities – ethnic, social and cultural groups and also our culture, which is defined by tolerance and co-existence. The hallmark of India is “Unity in Diversity”. It constitutes of each and every inch of our land, its natural resources and mental and physical energy we possess. It constitutes of all the institutions made in the past and present.”

And then declares that “For BJP:
• the only philosophy and religion of a Government should be India First.
• the only epic of a Government should be India’s Constitution.
• the only power of a Government should be the power of the people.
• the only prayer of a Government should be the welfare of its people.
• the only way of a Government should be ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas’.”

Sounds beautiful and very just. But the relationship of a democratic national with its citizens, to many people, and definitely to me, is rather complex. Well, to name it: it is humans first. The nation (India First) is fine as long as it upholds the principles of freedom, equality of opportunity, justice and fraternity; but what makes “India First” is not some ancient loyalty: it is possibility of upholding and fighting for these principles. Therefore, the constitution first. The constitution is the only thing that builds a modern democratic nation. The manifesto gives indications at many places that the idea of India is something independent of that, rooted in ancient cultural consciousness and that the constitution is only a tool to uphold that idea of India.

Two traditional issues: Kashmir and Uniform Civil Code

On Jammu and Kashmir “BJP reiterates its stand on the Article 370, and will discuss this with all stakeholders and remains committed to the abrogation of this article.” Many people find this line objectionable. Actually, personally I find nothing objectionable in it for two reasons. One, special articles of this nature create a fracture line in a nation; and two, they are simply reiterating their commitment to abrogation in discussion “with all stakeholders”. Well, our constitution does give us a right to hold ideas and also to try to convince others to accept them. A peaceful democratic dialogue is within the limits of that.

I also find their stand on uniform civil code unobjectionable. “Article 44 of the constitution of India lists Uniform Civil Code as one of the Directive Principles of state policy. … BJP reiterates its stand to draft a Uniform Civil Code, drawing upon the best traditions and harmonizing them with the modern times.” The reasons for finding it unobjectionable are exactly the same as in case of Article 370, mentioned above.

Cultural Heritage issue

But their understanding of what they call “Cultural Heritage” as deeply divisive and disturbing. If one really believes that “the only epic of a Government should be India’s Constitution” then what business do they have “to explore all possibilities within the framework of the constitution to facilitate the construction of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya”?

Well, the promised “exploration” might be within the “framework of the constitution” but why facilitate “construction of the Ram Temple”? There is no credible evidence that the Ram as seen in Ramayana and Ramacharit Manas is a historical figure, at the best he is a mythological hero. Mythological heroes are not born in actual brick and mortar palaces. There is no evidence that there was a Ram Temple at the place where Babri Masjid stood till 1992. So why this commitment to a mythology of one religion? How does it square with the principle of “the only epic of a Government should be India’s Constitution”?

Then they have a commitment to Ram Setu, cleaning of Ganga and cow protection as well. One can understand the commitment to protect Ram Setu if there are acceptable ecological reasons; but not because it happens to be seen by some as cultural heritage. One can understand commitment to clean rivers; but not by declaring Ganga as ‘spiritual’ life line. One can understand cow protection on economic and agricultural reasons if there is evidence to that effect; but not cow as a holy animal.

If one reads this section with the preface, then the real import of the preface come through: this is the civilizational consciousness they are talking of, this is the cultural heritage they want to preserve; and that is divisive.

The Hindus

Another divisive statement is “India shall remain a natural home for persecuted Hindus and they shall be welcome to seek refuge here.” Why Hindus alone? Why not all persecuted people? Does it amount to giving special status to Hindus, which is denied to Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, Christians, Muslims, and Jews who definitely happen to be part of Indian population and proud Indian citizens?

On education

There should be a separate article on their educational vision. Here all I will say is that the school education will be dominated by shoddy ideas that played major role in NCFSE 2000 and higher education will be dominated by ‘utilitarian’ values if they come to power and try to fulfil their manifesto promises. Not encouraging at all. But as I said, am not going into details here.

In spite of so many nice promises they make one has to be prepared for resistance and keeps ones fingers crossed if they unfortunately really come to power.