Rampant ad hominem and dogmatic warriors

December 20, 2019

Rohit Dhankar

Currently India is going thought a particularly difficult phase in its constitutional history. In the particularly vicious struggle between political ideologies, the society is in a turmoil and citizenry is getting polarised day by day. One hears every day that the very democracy is at stake. Or that secularism is in danger.

Secularism is an essential principle in a democracy. No democracy can ever be non-secular; or no non-secular state can ever be a democracy. Simply because democracy is premised on the worth of individual, freedom of individuals and wellbeing of each citizen is equally important in it. Discrimination by the state on the basis of religion of its citizens contradicts the above-mentioned principle; namely, wellbeing of each citizen is equally important.

The quality of democracy depends heavily on the quality of its citizens. “The first requisite in this connection is … the capacity for clear thinking and a receptivity to new ideas. …. which is the distinguishing mark of an educated mind. A democracy of people who can think only confusedly can neither make progress, nor even maintain itself, because it will always be open to the risk of being misled and exploited by demagogues who have within their reach today unprecedentedly powerful media of mass communication and propaganda. To be effective, a democratic citizen should have the understanding and the intellectual integrity to sift truth from falsehood, facts from propaganda and to reject the dangerous appeal of fanaticism and prejudice.”

Together with clear and independent thinking; democracy necessarily requires freedom of expression. Without freedom of expression a fair dialogue is not possible. Because rational persuasion is the only legitimate way to achieve agreement in a democracy when faced with divergent view points and conflicting interests. Without freedom of speech free and genuine dialogue is impossible, and thus rational persuasion does not get a chance.

A concerned citizen in democracy does not only speak his/her mind truly, clearly and fearlessly; but also listens to opposite views calmly, carefully and responds rationally. One who does not have a capability to listen to and understand the views of his/her opponent objectively can never be a critical and clear thinker, and his/her voluble spouting of views does not help democracy, nor saves any of the democratic values.

Usually, the people who can not listen to an argument against their views and become angry when faced with opposition have imbibed ideas without properly understanding and/or without having proper arguments to support them. They usually are aping some guru, ideologue, intellectual icon, or even vacuous celebrity. The lack of properly understood justification of their dearly and dogmatically held position makes them feel internally vulnerable when faced with well argued opposition. Since they are incapable of countering the argument, they become angry and attack the person who had committed the sin of presenting opposite idea, with arguments beyond their intellectual capability. This attack on the person, rather than countering the argument is a very wide spread logical fallacy, and is called ad hominem.

Some blatant examples of ad hominem can be as follows:

“Some people were talking. Ram and his friends believed very strongly that the earth is cuboid shaped. Krishna was surprised and said: “Well, if earth is cuboid then how come we see the mast of approaching ships from sea shore first, and the rest of the ship appears later? How come the shadow of the earth on the moon in lunar eclipse is round? It seems the earth is round in shape.”

Ram: You don’t know language. You pronounced “letter” for “later”.

Krishna: Ok. But you understood what I am saying. So, what is wrong with my argument?

Ram: And you don’t like cuboids, that’s why you are saying this.

Krishna: Fine, but what is wrong with my argument, as such?

Ram2: we have to look into your history, you also said moon is round.

Krishna: Ok, but what is wrong with my argument about the earth?

Ram3: You have a sick mind.

Krishna: Thanks. But what is wrong with what I am saying?

Ram4: Oh my God, he says earth is round. What abomination.

In the present-day CAA and NRC debate too many people are talking like this. That does not mean that there is no serious and genuine discussion going on. Yes, there is good and genuine debate as well. And that is helping the democratic processes. Layers of the issues and argumentation are being continuously unravelled.

On the other hand, people like illustrated above are also masquerading as defenders of democracy and secularism. Most such people cannot read properly, cannot understand an argument, are completely closed minded on important issues. Spout out what have listened from their masters, and think that they are doing great job. Initially, such mindless shouters were only with the Sangh Parivar. Now, both sides have such armies.

They may have imbibed some ideas, formed some beliefs which are widely appreciated in the society. But have imbibed them without rational analysis and understanding their true meaning and proper justification. Now, the views happen to be so wide spread in the society and the icons are so vehement on these ideas for their own agendas, these foot-soldiers who do not know how to argue feel virtuous and self-important in getting angry and attacking people who happen to question such them.

This brigade does not understand that in a liberal democracy defending your opponent’s freedom of expression is an important value. You allow, and even defend you opponents right to speak, and then critique it in civilised language. When we start attacking and attempting to shame people for their ideas we already have lost the ground.

Moral decisions are not about applying a principle dogmatically. There is no real moral dilemma that does not involve at the least two conflicting values in the same situation. Therefore, moral decision is about carefully arriving at a judgment regarding which value should get precedence. This is different from always following a rut. A moral judgment may demand abandoning the well-trodden path and creating a new trail.

Those who genuinely believe in democracy, secularism, freedom of speech and equality can not afford to attack people for their ideas however wrong they may be. Wrong ideas necessarily require analysis, resistance and should be discarded. But all through a civilised discussion. Those who can not criticise and discard an idea without attacking the person who expressed it, do not know even the first principle of public dialogue.

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19th December 2019

 

 

 

 

 


On community identities: sundry thoughts

November 13, 2016

Rohit Dhankar

The very idea of a community is premised on relatively greater affinity and acceptance among a set of people. It necessarily requires another set of people with whom the affinity and acceptance is seen to be relatively of a lesser degree. That much is a conceptual requirement of the very idea of community, and one can do nothing about that unless is ready to completely junk this very idea.

So far this idea cannot support universal democracy at the national level. To be a democrat one has to recognise the rights and ways of living of people not belonging to one’s own community. On the basis of just being human. This requires recognition of areas of social and political behaviour where affinity and community based acceptance are not only invalid criteria for decision making; but are positively harmful and morally wrong. That means going beyond the bounds of one’s community, and creating an identity which is not circumscribed or limited by one’s own community ethics.

Human affairs are not neat and clean, ideas are not accepted and understood uniformly by all members of a nation or a community. Even when an idea or principle is understood and accepted acting according to it may not be equally possible for all and in all circumstances. Therefore, the principles of justice, equality and public space for every one and for all communities may not always operate in an ideal manner. Because of the sheer numerical weight of majority community minorities and less privileged communities may actually face discrimination or develop a perception of discrimination. It may or may not involve any active effort and conspiracy from the majority and more privileged communities; still the discrimination remains equally real and perception remains equally distressing.

In any case this is something undesirable and a way has to be found out to do away with discrimination as well as the perception of discrimination. When an aggressive identity politics is used to fight against this real and perceived discrimination the fundamental principle of democracy “operating without one’s community identity” is violated. Then in reality there is a demand on the majority to weaken their community identity while at the same time there is a process of strengthening community identities of the minority and less privileged sections. In other words it is demanded from the majority to ‘de-comminitize’ itself; while simultaneously support aggressive ‘communitization’ (deliberately not using the term “communalize” in both cases 🙂 ) of the minorities and less privileged communities.

To deal with this democratisation process the majority community has to grow mentally in order to understand the demands of democracy. This is the job of the ‘intellectuals’ in the society to help the majority understand this process. The minorities and less privileged also have to understand the mental and moral limits of their communitarian demands. This moderation is also the job of the intellectuals in the society.

When the very same intellectuals start weaving theories where all community-based thinking and action of the majority is derided, discarded and attacked without intellectual engagement at the level of the masses it’s logic escapes the massage in majority. At the same time if spacious theories are spun to obfuscate and support each thought and action of the less privileged and minority by the voluble cacophony through various captured means of communication the majority starts feeling marginalised, right or wrong. This brings about an anxiety in the majority and a backlash starts.

When these concerns are not addressed the political and thought leadership in the society leaves the ground open for the rogue elements to capitalise on the slow festering unaddressed discontent of the majority. That is what is happening in India for a long time by now. An is the main strength of BJP, it is a ‘negative strength’ curtsy thought leaders of our country.

If you see yourself as a thought leader in the political arena you have the responsibility to deal with the unsophisticated crudely expressed bigoted and self-centred concerns of the people who did not have the opportunity to learn your obfuscating language. If your theories did not prepare you to engage with that person without quoting ten irrelevant books and without using rarefied terminology which you yourself do not understand, you are spewing crammed junk and the people at the ground level engaged in menial tasks know intuitively when you are talking nonsense.

Those who are interested in democracy in the country have to engage with those crudely expressed ideas and concerns at the level of the people who are effected by them. Deriding them as fools and misguided by some army of the devil is not going to help.

More evolved and sophisticated your understanding is better equipped it should become to communicate with the genuine and simply expressed fears and anxieties. If it does not happen you are mistaken in seeing yourself as a sophisticated thinker and an intellectual; you are only re-producer of crammed junk.

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Threats to Democracy and Secularism: Part 3/4—Ideological 2

August 24, 2014

Part 3: Ideological basis for direct threat-2
Rohit Dhankar

Part 4: Ideological tools to counter the treat

Mohan Bhagwat continues …

But ‘unity of India’ is a difficult idea to grasp. Bhagwat obviously is not talking of the geographical India of today; what he has in mind if more likely to be akhanda Bharat, which is roughly the Indian sub-continent. In what sense the sub-continent has been ‘united’ since ancient times? Three candidates come to mind immediately: united as a geographical area (whatever that might mean), as a cultural entity, and as a political entity.

Geographically the sub-continent has been somewhat demarcated, if not isolated, from the rest of the world due to the Himalayas, Hindukush range and the sea. The area has a range of climatic conditions, flora and fauna. Still perhaps Indians are prone to see a continuity from proverbial Kashmir to Kanya Kumari and now from Baluchistan to Myanmar border. It could of course be debated. But in any case human belief systems, be they religious or otherwise, could have had no impact on the climate etc., this geographical demarcated-ness, then, cannot be attributed to Hinduism or any other faith.

As a political entity one wonders when has India—in the sense of sub-continuant—been united before the Britishers ruled it? Nation states as we know them today are a comparatively modern phenomena. India became an independent nation state only in 1947, and that covers only part of the sub-continent. Whether we realise or not the project of building a nation state of India is still incomplete. The debate Sangha parivar is raising is actually part of that process. More precisely speaking, whether this nation of ours should remain secular democracy or convert into a Hindu Rashtra is one of the main issues today. If the Sangh Parivar wants to give credit to Hindus for keeping India as secular state after Independence, it seems to me, it is not entirely true, even if may have a grain of interpretative truth. Of course all Indians—Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, and Parsis—wanted a secular democratic state and so they created it. But one has to give credit to the majority of Hindus and Sikhs on one side and Muslims on the other, as they were actively fighting each other during the partition. And the partition itself came about on religious basis. Denying the contribution of sanity of majority Hindu population in crafting a secular state immediately after partition would be erring on the other side. Also explaining it away purely in terms of political and economic necessity as if there was no other way available would be rather stretched. This certainly constitutes at least the part of Bhagwat’s intent in the unity statement. Even if the secular intelligentsia of the country does not like it, or even if this is not a politically correct position, it is debatable without calling names to parties on either sides of the debate.

Beyond this what could be called ‘unity of the sub-continent’ politically? The region has been governed by different kingdoms and empires throughout the history. The only two empires that came close to covering the whole of the geographic region were Mauryan Empire under Ashok and Mughal Empire after Akbar. Ashok became a Buddhist, and so one has to accept Buddhist contribution to that empire; Mughal Empire clearly was a creation of Muslim rulers, even if some of them were remarkably secular for their historical age. Most of the time in the history, then, the region has been divided into various kingdoms and empires and political unity of the whole region has been a rare phenomenon.

That leaves us with the third candidate: cultural unity. We have already mentioned above that the sub-continent has been a cauldron of ethnicity, social and cultural practices, and religious beliefs. So if one has to seek cultural unity, it has to be sought more in the family resemblances rather than strictly defined cultural practices. If one considers Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism as one, intermingling of practices and knowledge sharing across the region, then perhaps one can imagine the sub-continent as one cultural region. But then one has to share the claim for keeping it united with various ethnic groups and faiths. Hinduism as we use the term today cannot claim this credit alone.

If this understanding is acceptable then a factual analysis of Bhagwat’s statement shows it to be false. But perhaps the real purpose of the statement is not to state a truth at all. The real purpose might be to create a certain emotional impact among the Hindus to give them confidence and prominence in the Indian nation today. This might be a statement designed for hegemonic purposes rather than to establish truth. We should remember that partially true statements serve such purposes better than plain lies. Simply because when opponents summarily reject such statements without shifting truth from falsehood the small grain of truth in them gets magnified and those who reject summarily are seen as biased. It becomes easy to label these people as anti-Hindu.

Another statement, as reported in The Hindu, by Bhagwat is designed to achieve the same purpose through it ambiguity, he says “[A]s long as dharma exists in India, the world will continue to respect this country. But once dharma is gone, no force on earth can stop the country from crumbling”. What does ‘dharma’ mean here? The term in Sanskrit is used for meanings as diverse as physical properties to moral duty taking in its stride true-nature and even coming close to religion. Modern use mostly connotes religion. So is he saying that as long as the ‘Hindu-dharma’ exist India will continue, but if Hindu-dharma is gone the country will crumble? The context seems to suggest this interpretation unmistakably.

One simple truism is that if there is a large scale change in the belief systems of a population the country does not remain the same, one can say that it ‘crumbles’ in the sense that even if exists as a political entity it becomes a different country. Hindus now comprise slightly above 80% of the Indian population. The present character of the Indian society and democracy certainly will change if Hinduism disappears from India. But that, as mentioned above, is simply a truism. Why mention it? The purpose seem to be to indicate that Hinduism is actually under threat, an old claim of the Sangh Parivar. And the second purpose seems to be that if no Hinduism in India, no secular democratic India. This second claim also has a hint that if Hinduism goes, the second largest minority in the country, Islam, will become a majority. Therefore, it seems there are at the least four claims packed in this statement: one, Hinduism is under threat; two, it is under threat mainly from Islam; three, if Hinduism goes it will be Islam which will come to majority; and four, the secularism and democracy will not survive in a Muslim majority country. These are standard Sangh Parivar ideas being used for creating a political Hindu identity; other name for Hindu consolidation. The standard secularist response to these ideas is that they are paranoid imagination of a lunatic fringe in Hindu population and are patently false. This standard response is not serving the purpose; actually, right or wrong, it is discredited in the minds of now sizable Hindu population and secularists are considered either anti-Hindu or, more charitably, unconcerned morons who can’t even see their own interest. So if the secularists are concerned with the democracy and secularism in the country they have to change the discourse and take on the Hindutva brigade with more vigour and better tools. A victory of Hindutva will be certainly fatal to democracy as well as secularism, as we know it today.

This provides the ideological basis to Singhal’s statement. Without challenging this ideological basis simple condemnation of statements like Singhal’s will not work

What could be a set of better intellectual and ideological tools to counter Hindutva then? I believe Hamid Dalwai’s writings have more than a hint at how to fashion such tools.


Threats to Democracy and Secularism: Part 2/4—Ideological 1

August 19, 2014

Rohit Dhankar

Part 2: Ideological basis for direct threat-1

Mohan Bhagwat

Bhagwat, as is expected of RSS chief, is providing the ideological basis for Singhal’s Hindu belligerence. His statement, as in the news report in The Hindu on 10th August 2014, is based on a carefully created logical confusion in the meanings of terms “Hindu”, “Hindutva”, “Hindustan” and “Hinduism”.

Bhagwat’s rhetorical poser “[I]f inhabitants of England are English, Germany are Germans and USA are Americans then why all inhabitants of Hindustan are not known as Hindus?” uses the terms “Hindustan” and “Hindu” as geographical terms. And that is how these terms are believed to have been originated. They were a reference to a river, and the land ‘beyond’ that river seen from the west to east. It is not necessary that any cultural essentialism or religious significance was part of this early use of the terms. Bhagwat should also remember that these terms were given to us by foreigners who knew very little about the people living on this side of the river. Another point he should pay attention to is that the terms ‘India’ and ‘Indians’ are also connected with the same river, given by foreigners and no one objects to their use today. Because India and Indian were never associated with a particular religious or cultural essentialism. The issue is: why Bhagwat is asking this question regarding ‘Hindustan’ and ‘Hindu’ instead of his beloved Bharat and Bharatiya or ‘India’ and ‘Indian’? The reason becomes clear in what he says further down.

What he wishes to rub in is “[T]he cultural identity of all Indians is Hindutva and the present inhabitants of the country are descendants of this great culture”. In this statement obscurantism and lies make their appearance with full force.

“Hindutva” is a term more recently invented to essentialize Indianness and equate it with Hinduism. The most commonly known definition of ‘Hindutva’ is a mix of geographical and cultural elements. According to Hindutva ideology anyone who is: 1. an Indian national (the geographical element); 2. considers India as his ‘pitribhoomi’, that is land of forefathers; and 3. also considers India as his ‘poonyabhoomi’, that is the holy land; is a Hindu. So if someone thinks that his/her forefathers came from some other part of the world or if his/her holy land or pilgrimage land lies outside what Sangh Parivar consideres ‘akhanda Bharat’ is not a Hindu. This cultural identity fits the Hindus, Jains, Buddhists and Sikhs quite well. But the believers of Islam, Christianity, Judaism and Zoroastrianism. Many of them consider themselves descendants of people who came from outside and have their pilgrimage places outside imaginary akhanda Bharat.

In today’s situation the proclamation that cultural identity of all Indians is Hindutva might mean one of the two things only. One, those who consider themselves descendants of outsiders and have their pilgrimages outside akhand Bharat are not true Indians, this is insinuation of disloyalty. Or alternatively, they should start believing that their forefathers were inhabitants of akhanda Bharat and stop their pilgrimage outside that geographical area. Both alternatives are obnoxiously hegemonic and divisive. Go against people’s freedom of belief systems and faiths. If accepted will destroy secularism and democracy.

The second half of his statement that “the present inhabitants of the country are descendants of this great culture” squarely jumps into the cultural identity. The recently invented term ‘Hindutva’ has become an ancient culture and it is claimed that Indian subcontinent had only this culture in the ancient times. Anyone with a smattering of historical knowledge understands that: one, ‘Hinduism’ itself is a term of relatively recent origin. Two, there was no time in Indian history when any one culture was the only culture.
Whether Indus valley culture was the same as Vedic culture is still being debated. The subcontinent always has had the Dravidian culture, and various other indigenous cultures. India was always a cauldron of ethnicity and cultural ideas; and that is its beauty. The jump Bhagwat makes from a geographical claim to cultural claim is patently false.

The next claim is a good example of deliberate obfuscation. He claims “that Hindutva is a way of life and Hindus could be of any religion worshipping any God or not worshipping at all”. First, he is replacing ‘Hinduism’ with ‘Hindutva’. Hinduism is a relatively open term; Hindutva a more closed and harder version of Hinduism, an ideological term. Hindutva is a politico-religious ideology, adopted by fundamentalist Hindus. Hinduism is an umbrella term that includes several religious sects and can plausibly be considered a way of life.

If one claims that “Hinduism is a way of life” then it can be defended. There are Hindus who worship various gods, have a variety of religious beliefs, a plethora of rituals, idol worshippers and considering idolatry unacceptable; and even atheists. They call themselves Hindus, and beyond that there is nothing which can pin point anything common in their belief systems. Most of them throughout the history have been quite eclectic regarding their belief systems and what the others believed did not bother them much. But they also have had their fanatics and indulged in wars with other religious faiths. Still the claim that Hinduism is a way of life and not a religion at the least is debatable; personally I think defendable. But not so ‘Hindutva’.

Even if one replaces ‘Hindutva’ in Bhagwat’s claim with ‘Hinduism’ and says that “Hindus could be of any religion worshipping any God” it has problems. Hindus mainly have been worshippers of the gods in Vedic pantheon. But Hindu gods breed and new gods from other groups are adopted. The oldest examples of inclusion of non-Vedic gods in Vedic pantheon is supposed to be the Shiva family. The objects of veneration in other faiths are included in gods, Buddha and Mahavir are examples. Loved and respected human beings are elevated to the status of gods. This has been the historical nature of Hinduism. But we should note two things. One, that no god of non-subcontinental origin has ever had a large following as the main god for any section of Hindu people. However, they have no objection to elevating Christ and even Muhammad to the position of their gods. However, such attempts do not have a large following. Partly this could be because of the resistance from Muslims and Christians themselves, they never wanted their God and prophet to be one of many in the pantheon. But it is partly also due to the distance between the concept of godhood between the subcontinental ideas and ideas in Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The irony, however, is that the most ominous threat to this openness and eclectic nature of Hinduism is posed by the Hindutva brigade itself; and Bhagwat is the most important figure in this brigade who is now invoking this very openness. They don’t seem to realise that creating ideologically closed and divisive concepts do not go well with eclecticism and openness; and that one cannot use both strategies simultaneously.

Bhagwat also claimed that Hindutva has been the only basis to keep India united since ancient days despite having plenty of diversities. We have already talked about Hindutva and its antiquity. For the sake of arguments let us suppose that what he really means is that “Hinduism has been the only basis to keep India united since ancient days despite having plenty of diversities.” Hinduism, even if it is difficult to define precisely, can be said to be an ancient Indian family of religious sects which share a wide range of beliefs, rituals, ethical principles and ways of looking at the world; and thus a way of life. However, no single religious idea is common across all Hindus. The unity is Hindu ism is created by overlapping family resemblance. [Continues …]


Threats to Democracy and Secularism: Part 1/4—From Hindu consolidation

August 18, 2014

Rohit Dhankar

Part 1: Direct threat of Hindu Consolidation

On 17th July according to a news item in Hindustan Times Ashok Singhal issues a thinly veiled threat to Muslims, saying “[I]f they keep opposing Hindus, how long can they survive?” Less than four weeks later Mohan Bhagwat declared that “[T]he cultural identity of all Indians is Hindutva”. These kinds of statements are not sporadic, they make a thought through pattern. What has appeared in small news reports in the above mentioned two cases is worth paying attention to for their carefully crafted mix of truths, misinformation, acceptable principles and totally condemnable intentions.

Indian liberal attitude to such pronouncement is not helping. The liberals either condemn all in such statements simply on the basis of their origin or ignore them considering beneath their dignity to respond to such rubbish. Neither of these attitudes help; the first simply makes them look like totally biased anti-Hindu, and the second leaves the Hindutva forces free to manipulate public opinion. Also, both these attitudes undermine the importance of dialogue in public life; thereby destroying the only means of countering propaganda available to them.

I would like to take whatever information is available to me seriously in this article and analyse these statements in order to shift acceptable from condemnable.

Ashok Singhal

Singhal presents his analysis of Indian politics. According to him the Lok Shabha polls have proved that Hindu polarisation can win elections without Muslim support, that it is a setback to Muslim politics and that if the rift between Hindus and Muslims continues further polarisation at the level of states will happen. He also claims that Ram temple movement and Godhra incident have made this possible.

It seems to me that this understanding is earthy, simple and accurate. Those who are still denying Hindu polarisation are deluded. In spite of calling Muslim polarisation a myth the public at large believed in it. The political parties bending backwards to play vote bank politics and willing participation of Muslim religious leaders in their politics did not help dispel the myth of Muslim vote consistently going in favour of a certain brand of politics, even if not to a single party. The repeated calls for consolidation of secular votes did not help; it only aided to the call for Hindu consolidation by Sangh parivar. And Lok Sabha polls are certainly a setback to this brand of politics.
Singhal does not stop here; he also insinuates that the Muslim politics was being used by “foreign and divisive forces to destroy our identity”. This is his Hindutva card, the Sangh Parivar has created a victimhood mentality in the sizable Hnidu population. A selective use of history of what is still called Muslim era in Indian history, partition and repeated communal riots are used for this purpose. The Muslim is being painted as ‘the enemy within’ and the seculars have not been able to counter the canard.

The confidence generated by the fact that Modi has been a RSS swayam sevak and that the BJP has majority on its own is belligerently expressed. Singhal expresses confidence that the Sangh Parivar agenda of Ram Temple, uniform civil code and abolition of article 370 will be implemented. Let’s note here that the latter two of these demands have their independent justification in a democracy and to support them one does not need to be a Hindu communalist. Declaring all those who consider these later demands reasonable and debatable in a democracy as communal people will help the Sangh Parivar; the mistakes which secularists have been making for last 50 years.

The majoritarianism in the statement is unmistakable. The cursory promise that “Muslims will be treated as common citizens — nothing more, nothing less” is immediately bellied by the threat that “they must learn to respect Hindu sentiments. If they keep opposing Hindus, how long can they survive?” In his thinking it is the Muslim who has to learn to respect Hindu sentiment, and not vice-versa. No such reciprocity is demanded from the majority community. The love that the Muslims will get from the Sangh Parivar is conditional in respect of their sentiments and giving up “claims over Ayodhya, Kashi and Mathura and also accept a uniform civil code”. If they do accept, no further demands on Masjids that according to Snghal are built by Muslim rulers in medieval era on Hindu temples be made. And then comes the threat: if they don’t, further consolidation of Hindus will happen. Consolidation of Hindus in the light of “[I]f they keep opposing Hindus, how long can they survive?” is as ominous a threat as could be.

Singhal here is not talking of dialogue, resolving of issues through negotiations, this is no commitment to democracy; it is a statement of terms in a belligerent manner and a direct threat.

If this cursory analysis is correct then Singhal’s statement is based on an earthy understanding of politics, contains threats, is belligerent, makes a pretention of democratic values, and has a mix of legitimate and illegitimate demands. The legitimate ones, perhaps, to serve as smoke-screen and tools of manipulation.

[next ideological threat]


AAP: Is the hope still alive?

January 25, 2014

Rohit Dhankar

This morning I received AAP’s mail, the general mail which they send to everyone in their mailing list, stating in brief their position on Barati issue and Kejriwal’s dharna. The email also had a video link. I started with that link and spent about 3 hours trying to look at several other videos, including other media reports and interviews with various AAP leaders.

I know what I say in this blog next is going to prove me jaldbaaz, impatient, biased etc. But in the interest of fairness I must admit that there are many things I did not know, may have been biased. I took a principled position, but on incomplete information. I still hold the principles: constitutionally elected people have to function within its limits. We can hope any positive changes only from those who understand the constitutional obligations and don’t play the same power games.

But in the light of the new information I gained in my careful watching of the videos shows that the absolute position I was taking about Kejriwal and Bharati was mistaken.

1. It seems that the residents of the colony Khidki had been complaining to the police for long and several FIRs are already in the police records on this issue. The police took no action to investigate into the case.

2. Bharati did aske for the raid, yes, but it seems in the case of drugs police has the power to conduct a raid on the basis of FIR and judicial warrant is not necessarily required. (I am assuming this to be true, am not sure.) Alternately the police can cordon and seal a building without entering it and can acquire the needed warrant before the raid. This is within the powers of the police on the basis of reliable information.

3. There was reasonably reliable information on the basis of the testimony of the residents, sting operation of a TV channel and actual scenes on the roads that drug abuse and flash trade (?) might be going on in the said building(s).

If 1 to 3 above is correct information my accusation of not following due procedures and becoming law unto himself on Bharati were mistaken.

Kejriwal seems to be saying that dharna became a necessity because the central government was not prepared to follow due procedure. There were complaints against the SHOs and the government took no action. The government was not prepared to conduct a time bound enquiry against them in spite of there being a prima face justification in terms of either collusion or inaction. An enquiry without removing (for the time of enquiry) the officer in question from his position is unlikely be fare. I find this reasonable. If Kejriwal had to go on dharana to challenge this inaction on the part of the government, my charge on him of breaking constitutional norms was wrong.

I am writing this correction to my last blog in the interest of fairness. I know readers of this blog are only my friends, so it is to explain to them, nothing more. I must have collected more information before forcefully condemning AAP on these two issues.

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AAP: The death of democratic India’s newest hope

January 23, 2014

Rohit Dhankar

Many of my friends are ardent supporters of AAP. They see a hope in the meteoric rise of AAP– portrayed by likes of Arvinds, Somnaths, and Kumars—to power. I wondered right from the beginning of Hazare’s movement against corruption whether it represents any sociopolitical thought or is just an expression of collective frustration and gullibility of the propel. A relatively more self-righteous and ambitious faction of that movement formed AAP which is revealing their abysmally low level of ethical development and understanding in Delhi in the full glare of the media these days.

Democracies are supposed to run on the public will. But public will by its very nature cannot be unified and unidirectional. It necessarily involves contradictions, differences of opinions and differences of forms of good life imagined. The forms of good life a khaap member, a sophisticated university professor, a bureaucrat, a poojari and a maulvi imagines is not necessarily the same. Nor every citizen of a democratic country has the larger vision to see the contradiction between his/her own imagination of good life and the possible collective ways of living in a democracy that provide space for realizing individual/group aspirations in a regulated sociopolitical space. Therefore, all democracies require at the least three things to function properly:

1. A normative rational framework to decide acceptability and limits of public aspirations and acceptability of imagined ways of living. A moral and legal framework.
2. A procedural framework to implement that accepted legal-moral framework. (The constitution defines both these frameworks together)
3. A critical mass of people who understand and have conviction in that constitutional framework.

We as a nation do have that constitutional framework. What we lack is critical mass of people who understand this and have conviction in it. Our political parties—-Congress, BJP, various left of the center factions and regional fiefdoms, all–continuously demonstrated a lack of conviction in the democratic norms; of both procedural as well as moral nature. They have depleted the critical mass of people who have democratic convictions and understanding in any robust sense. An average Indian is a non-thinking self-seeker. The rampant corruption is only one of many manifestations of this lack of conviction and understanding.

AAP came to power in Delhi on the promise that it will remove corruption, which will lead to proper functioning of the constitutional framework, resulting in providing unbiased just space to people to realize their aspirations. The frustration of the public with political parties developed an extreme form of gullibility, and the people did not examine the capability to understand and strength of conviction of those who were promising to remove corruption and make the constitution function properly.

The AAP leaders’ limitation of understanding, lack of conviction and deep dishonesty is a matter of daily display on the roads of Delhi these days.

Many people knew that Arvind Kejriwal was never an honest person who respected any legal and procedural norms. His non-compliance to service rules in IT department and refusal to pay back to the government salary for two years leave clearly shows that he was never averse to using public funds for his personal gain—-the main form of corruption in Indian politics. So he was as corrupt in his limited capacities as any other Indian politician.

Lately he has shown his complete disregard for any legal and procedural norms by going on dharna. Somnath Bharati is declaring himself law unto himself, declaring people criminals, wants to be judge, jury, prosecutor and executioner rolled into one. Some obscure figure called Kumar Vishwas gets cheep sexual thrills when a nurse feels his pulse and therefore recommends ‘unattractive’—in his view—‘kaali peeli’ nurses, who can be seen as sisters.

All this shows the wretchedness of their ways of thinking, abysmal lack of ethical development and arrogant self-righteousness. These certainly are not the ‘new netas’ who can serve people and uphold democratic norms. They are thriving on promises and lack of critical thinking on the part of the public. This only proved that any bunch of self-seeking idiots can project themselves as saviors of the public in the present Indian political climate. And the gullible frustrated public will lap up any hope thrown at them by media mechanisms.

This is the death of democratic India’s newest hope. The nation still has to awaken and construct more robust hopes, and they can emerge only through intense churning of ideas in the masses. Can Professor Yadav pay attention on producing that churning rather than pinning his hopes on this by now notorious mindless self-righteous brigade?
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