HOME | ABOUT US | Speaker | Americans Together | Videos | www.CenterforPluralism.com | Please note that the blog posts include my own articles plus selected articles critical to India's cohesive functioning. My articles are exclusively published at www.TheGhouseDiary.com You can send an email to: MikeGhouseforIndia@gmail.com

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Nupur Sharma with the Wire on #Metoo Movement in India


Video: https://www.facebook.com/TheWireUrdu/videos/181885542723321/

Nupur, God bless you for talking about this topic. For thousands of years, women have endured this pain and lived in anguish. There was no one to listen to them and their anxiety, except maybe the mother. 

As a supporter of the #Metoo movement, and deeply involved in the Kavanaugh hearings and protests at the Supreme Court, and relentlessly pursuing on the topic. I was concerned about my motherland, how a majority of Indian women who spoke nothing but Urdu/Hindi were deprived of the new hope, how do we communicate this to them, that a movement has started and there is hope to restore their dignity of women.  I am proud of my homeland, America, where continuous efforts are being made to think, act and believe that men and women are equal in the eyes of God. 

 A new milestone is achieved in 2018 in how women are treated, for the first time in the human history, the men in the Senate are showing their true colors of misogyny by reluctantly agreeing to listen to the testimony of Dr. Christine Ford.   Right off the bat, they do not want to believe Her but believe their man. This attitude of discounting women's evidence has got to end.   

“A woman should behave like a woman” “Her place is home."  They may not say it, but that is what the Conservative religious men from Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist and other traditions secretly want.

First for someone to listen to a woman’s story, believe in it and act upon it. Javed Akhtar Saheb has shared his wisdom on Rekhta, that woman does not need to be worshipped, but respected. 

Years ago, when I saw the series for the shows Satayameva Jayate, I was moved by it and was hopeful for the change it brought to our thinking and ultimate relief on a variety of issues. I had called Amir Khan an Avatar of Krishna for emerging among us to restore the righteousness in the society. This issue you have taken up needs to be listened to, and as you concluded, more complete. It needs to reach out to the Urdu/Hindi speaking masses.  

http://mikeghouseforindia.blogspot.com/search?q=avatar+of+krishna (an article about you is also in the search)

I have just completed writing my book, the Muslim Agenda, to empower Muslims to become contributing members of the society and restore cohesiveness in the community. One of the chapters is “Gender Equality.” The book is under revision and hopes to get that translated in Urdu/Hindi to reach out to my fellow Indians. 

Gender Equality is one of the most important values in society, it affects almost half of the human race. If we can fix this, most of our issues will be resolved, and we can see a lot more joy in the world, instead of battling who gets paid more for the same work or who controls the household. Indeed, misogyny is the mother of all sickness.  

I will be happy to join you in India for townhall discussions to communicate this message. 
The Sense of entitlement and patriarchy needs to be phased. 

Thoroughly researched piece! But requires a few more conversations. It is a full-time topic.

We are going through the season of Navaratri.   Navaratri is rich in meaning. At one level, Navaratri signifies the progress of a spiritual aspirant. During this spiritual journey, the aspirant has to pass three stages personified by Durga, Lakshmi, and Saraswathi. 

Your piece is timely, we need to connect the Yashoda ki hamjins and the hawwa ki beti.  My hats off to you to drive people to consider the issue and put blinders on them to focus on the topic.  God bless you Nupur! 

Dr. Mike Ghouse is a public speaker and the Executive Director of the Center for Pluralism in Washington, DC. He is  committed to building cohesive societies and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day.  More about him at https://www.linkedin.com/in/mikeghouse/

Monday, September 24, 2018

Manto Is Not Only Worth Watching, It Is Also Worth Remembering

Kudos to Dr. Shah Alam Khan for such a beautiful review of the film. It one of the best literary pieces on films I have read and wanted to preserve it here at the Center for Pluralism and the blog https://MikeghouseforIndia.blogspot.com.
He watches the movie with people of different faiths and social background, and It is a delight to read this. I am pleased to quote a few of the many great lines from his essay:
“Manto is as beautiful and as poignant as a sunset.”
“it not only a movie worth watching but also one worth remembering, like the scented memory of your first love.”
“Watching Manto was like sitting under that dark sky of a moonless night where every whisper becomes precious.”
“The prejudices of our past have started to rule our present with a deadly assault on our liberal thoughts,”
“his savage narration of post-Partition violence with no holds barred is what was unacceptable to the people of his time, including the so-called progressive writers, as the movie depicts at multiple points. ”
“A good movie is one which can present its characters in a polychrome, with each shade revealing every aspect of the imagined. ”
“We are lucky to have filmmakers like Das and actors like Siddiqui, not because they can write good stories or act well but because they can make movies which leave us provoked and hence vulnerable. 
Published at the wire, https://thewire.in/film/manto-movie-review-nawazuddin-siddiqui-nandita-das
The cozy and comfortable chairs were a delightful respite from the humid heat outside. Radha sat next to me in that dark hall as Saadat Hasan Manto emphatically reverberated, “My stories are a mirror for the society to see!” And next to Radha sat Saugandhi, the prostitute (from Scorned) who loved her job. The Pathan saheb who looted the red thermos sat in the front row; Mozel, the Jewish girl who rented a flat in the Advani Chambers was sitting next to him and so was Ishar Singh, who sat clutching his neck exactly where a neat line of blood had clotted. A peeved Khaled miyan sat restlessly in Mumtaz’s lap.
There was Babu Gopinath and yes Sirajuddin too, (of course minus his Sakina). The post office clerk and the short story writer Joginder Singh sat in a lonely corner with his wife Amrit Kaur; Toba Tek Singh refused to sit and stood in front of others. And there were many more who had sprung out of Manto’s pages of ravishing creativity of angst. They all sat with me as I watched Manto in a posh Delhi multiplex.
What do you expect when you go to watch a movie based on the life of your favourite author? A delightful story with intricate details of his life? Or perhaps the revelation of secrets of his life we never knew – that clandestine affair, that one fetish, that missed opportunity. Fortunately, this is what Manto is not at all about. Director Nandita Das has neither spilt any beans, nor are there any moments of truth which we didn’t know about this great writer, but yet Manto is as beautiful and as poignant as a sunset. There are no conformities to the essentialities which are required in film-making and the narrative has been kept simple yet powerful. Das has bracketed the story of the great writer within two of his stories, one each at the beginning and the end. The absolutely beguiling acting by Nawazuddin Siddiqui makes it not only a movie worth watching but also one worth remembering, like the scented memory of your first love.
Watching Manto was like sitting under that dark sky of a moonless night where every whisper becomes precious. It was as if each story of the great master of realism tumbled out of the cupboard of history, allowing the viewers to pick it up, hold it in their hands and pass it on to the next generation to store in their hearts with care – because when all will be said and done and when we have all perished, only stories shall remain. How apt when in one shot Manto says, “Aakhir mein sirf afsane hee reh jayenge (In the end only stories shall remain).”
The timing of Manto couldn’t have been better. We are living in interesting times (I consciously refrain from using the word “dangerous” instead of “interesting”). In these interesting times of collective amnesia, it is important that we are shaken up now and then. We need to be jolted to breathe, else the festering wounds over our bodies will rot further. The prejudices of our past have started to rule our present with a deadly assault on our liberal thoughts, and who better could Das have selected to make a movie on but the man who is not only a master of realism but also a gifted rebel, the antithesis of the very society he lived in.
I doubt whether Manto can be conveniently called a liberal – he was much more than that. Calling him ‘liberal’ would be insulting his legacy. He was like his stories – truthful, simple and brutal. Strangely enough, he wasn’t a Sartre, neither a Marx and nor a Spencer. It’s equally cruel to compare him with other greats of short story writing like Nikolai Gogol. He was just Manto.
His oblique descriptions of sexuality, his love for the wretched of the land, his derision of collective morality, and his savage narration of post-Partition violence with no holds barred is what was unacceptable to the people of his time, including the so-called progressive writers, as the movie depicts at multiple points. Of particular note in this respect are the court scenes where the author defends himself against the charges of obscenity for his story Thanda Gosht (Cold Meat).
In fact, there are points in the movie when you, the Manto admirer, hallucinate that Nawazuddin Siddiqui is Manto. A feeling when you transcend with Das’s story and direction into a time zone which surely does not belong to this era. To enter into the mind of the great writer and to make the audience travel with you through the alleys of his thoughts is something which is commendable, and which Das and Nawazuddin have done with the patience of a skilled craftsman.
They have explored the reality of fiction like few others have. Fiction is made from the clay of reality and reality is made of layers of truth and untruth. Good writers pick both truth and untruth to weave a story, but great writers like Saadat Hasan Manto pick the threads of truth from reality and weave stories and this quality of the great man has been sacredly preserved and beautifully painted in Manto. No wonder the wordsmith feels offended by the testimony of Faiz Ahmed Faiz refusing to accept Thanda Ghost as a worthy piece of literature during his trial.
Credit also goes to the other members of the team who made this movie possible, in particular, Rasika Dugal, who charms in her role as Safia, the caring and at times cavil wife of Manto. Her frames with Siddiqui were a treat to watch. The brisk character of the great Ismat Chugtai and her relationship with Manto was something which stood out as a happy celebration of two of the subcontinent’s greatest writers. Her addressing him as ‘Manto, my friend and my enemy’ in a letter was a moment of literary history for me.
A good movie is one which can present its characters in a polychrome, with each shade revealing every aspect of the imagined. In the case of Saadat Hasan Manto, it was essential to maintain this sensitivity of shades. Das’s ability to narrate the sensitivity of Manto, the human being, separately from Manto, the writer, is something which is worth a mention. Him narrating a story to his younger daughter and his arrogance at the office of a magazine are the two poles which Das has wonderfully justified. In fact, the movie reconciles both aspects of Manto, something akin to the Fritz Perls’ concept of ‘gestalt’ – when an individual has the capability to acquire meaningful perceptions in an otherwise chaotic world. It seems that Das and her team had that ability even when they were surrounded by the chaos of Manto’s disruptive stories.
We are lucky to have filmmakers like Das and actors like Siddiqui, not because they can write good stories or act well but because they can make movies which leave us provoked and hence vulnerable. Proponents of existentialism say that there are constructive means against fear, but no such means exist against angst. Manto, in my opinion, is a means against angst. Let’s put our hands together to compliment the team of Manto and to compliment the king of words Saadat Hasan Manto himself. It took 63 years for someone to consider Manto as a subject worth making a movie on; we never know if there would be a chance in future for another movie on Manto in this sub-continent because as Jean-Paul Sartre has once said, we are the future to ourselves. And we, unfortunately, know what future we are becoming.
Shah Alam Khan is a professor of orthopaedics, AIIMS, New Delhi, and the author of Man With the White Beard. Views expressed are personal.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Arfa Khanum, India's star Journalist visits Washington, DC

Arfa is one of the star journalists of India visiting the United States for professional meetings as well as sharing her story with fellow Indians across the country. The meet & greet luncheon in Washington, DC was organized by Kaleem and Tahoora Khawaja of the Association of Indian Muslims of America.

Image may contain: 11 people, including Arfa Khanum, Meena Diwan and Saleem Kidwai, people smiling, people standing, suit and outdoor

Ms. Arfa Khanum Sherwani is one of the Indian journalists who is deeply committed to your freedom. Indeed, if you recall the 70’s, it's the journalists who saved India from fascism, some of them even went to Jail to protect our freedoms.
Right now, the Indian public is looking for a few more saviors who can speak boldly against the dictatorial tendencies. Thank God, a new breed of freedom fighters are emerging from the wire and other online news portals.

Democracy, that is your right to elect the representatives from among you to protect your interests- that is your life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The strength of Democracy hinges on four important legs: press, legislature, judiciary, and administration.

Arfa is fulfilling her dharma dutifully. The more critical you are of the government, the more patriotic you are. If you resort to chamchagiri, you are encouraging the politicians to keep doing the same thing and sink the nation. You've got to keep them on their toes; they work for us.
She urged Muslims to integrate into the society fully, and be a part of the Indian story and not apart from it. Here is an article I wrote several years ago, that reflects some of the conversations and a panacea to the current situation the Muslims are struggling with.

Are Muslims a part of the society? The same story holds good for India  http://worldmuslimcongress.org/are-muslims-a-part-of-the-american-story/

She articulated a few bold points; not only the education of girls is the key to bringing a positive change, but giving her the freedom to pursue her career is important, a woman should not be taught to be a gold digger and a submissive wife, but an independent woman who chooses how she lives her life and live her full potential.

Of course, many good ideas were floated about adopting a school in your hometown, establishing a scholarship and mentoring programs for at least a few journalists each year.
A weak Modi will be re-elected in 2019, allaying the fears about changing the constitution and pulling the right to be free. If freedom is not preserved, it will lead to the collapse of the social structure causing chaos.

RSS and Congress are two mindsets rather than two parties.

One ideology is based on the perceived fear that their way of life will be lost with freedom in the society, hence the need to dictate others how to live, what they eat, wear, believe and whom they marry - all to have a false sense of security.

Whereas, the other mindset is tethered to a firm belief in Vasudhaiva kutumbukum and accepting the God-given uniqueness of each Indian. They are secure under their skin.

So, what are our choices? Who do we support? Voting is a personal choice, an individual votes out of his or her own free will. All we can do is offer the knowledge - which party will bring peace to the communities, removes the fear of each other and brings people together for the common good.

Goodness is inherent in human, each one of us wants to get along with others, and we are the happiest, that is the natural state of mind when all of us help each other and get along. A few among us lose track of it, and resort to doing things that go against their nature, we have a responsibility to spread the knowledge of goodness.

Mike Ghouse is the founder and executive director of the Center for Pluralism committed to building cohesive societies, where no fellow human has to live in apprehension or fear of the other.

Ashamed of Gujarat's Extremists - A personal story


The Daughter of Ehsan and Zakiya Jafri Writes: My Mother, My Motherland

I hope this story shames us, all of us including the extremist elements among us. This is not who we are!

I also hope more stories like Nishrin come to the fore, so we can feel the agony, anguish her family and others have gone through, it will make us better humans.

The men like Rajiv Malhotra advocates Hindus to help Hindus of Kerala disaster and not Muslims and Christians. The dumb guy fools a few Hindus to believe in his false narratives. If it were not the Christian Charities, India would have faced massive death during the famine in the late sixties. They sent the food to non-Christians. Likewise, Hindus and Muslims have always been at the forefront of Humanitarian efforts regardless of the religion of the people suffering.

Indian's need to demand the Indian Government to wake up and issue visas to the USCRIF commissioners to give us an accurate report of sufferings of Kashmiri Pandits, Khandmal, Delhi Genocide, and Gujarat Massacres. If we are wrong, we need to fix them.

If India gets the labeling of particular concern on religious freedom, all the foreign direct investment will stop flowing and will hurt all Indians businesses. The IT guys who are doing well will also suffer. We have to save India and curb extremism.

Nishrin has given a moving account of the tragedy her family has faced in the article published at the wire https://thewire.in/communalism/the-daughter-of-ehsan-and-zakiya-jafri-writes-my-mother-my-motherland https://thewire.in/communalism/the-daughter-of-ehsan-and-zakiya-jafri-writes-my-mother-my-motherland

Mike Ghouse

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Happy Independence Day to my fellow Indians

Tiranga does it you,
Happy independence day! 

The strongest bond you have is with the maa that gave you janam, and the maa whose mitti is embedded in your ung, and every ung. Whose mitti gave you food, water, air, and nourishment. No matter who it is, apni mitti sub ko pyari hoti hai, us may jo kashish hai o beyond description hai. Hum sab pay us maa ka udhaar hai. Isi liye, no matter where we go or where we live, we always want to add to her well being. 

I grew up attending and leading the marches on Independence Day and Republic Day, and every time I see the Tiranga, it brings peace to me and one of the renditions that I hear again and again is this one - it gives me goosebumps and my eyes well up. 


It has an unbelievable calming effect on you. Let me know if you feel the same.  

Here is my message on this Independence day 

Jai Hind

Mike Ghouse


Together as Indians, we are Hindus, Dalits, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Jains, Atheists, Nastiks, Buddhists, Bahá'í, Adivasis, Tribals, Jews, Bo’s, Qandharis, Bakarwals, and others. Anyone who breathes the air off the land; drinks the water, eats the food and or chooses to be an Indian is an Indian. We are all Indians and are created equal, no one is more privileged than the other. 

Our freedom is precious, and we are born to be free. We have to ask ourselves on a daily basis, are we doing our share of work in keeping ourselves free from hate, anger, ill-will, jealousy, revenge, and arrogance? 

Dharma; that is the righteousness in us and needs daily dressing, we should not allow any evil force, particularly the political parties to pit one Indian against the other. 

Each one of should speak out whenever some of us resort to killing, lynching, harassing, or threatening any one of us. 

Each one of us should make an effort to build a cohesive India, where we get along with each other, live our lives and let others live theirs. This is the key to building safe societies for every resident of the nation. 

The real heroes of India are those who relentlessly “criticize” their government because they do not want their government to falter and make decisions that will mess up the social structure of the nation. They keep the government on their toes. After all, they are elected to serve us not the other way around. The real heroes rise the nation for the common good of all. Their work brings people together, and their effort is to restore harmony among Indians.

The following abstract is a part of the speech by Ethiopia's Prime Miniter, and it has relevance to India where criticism of Government is immediately labeled as anti-Indian by the right-leaning political parties. "What we all need to understand is that building democratic system demands to listen to each other. The people have the full right to criticize its servants, to elect them, and to interrogate them. Government is a servant of the people. This is because our governing principle is popular sovereignty. In a democratic system, the first and last principle ought to be that of striking differences of opinion by listening to each other."

It reminds me of a part of our immortal declaration of independence.  "That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government."

American Democracy is our model, it is one of the most stable systems in the world. Criticism of our government is one of the reasons for our stability. If Indians can understand this, we have strengthened the Indian Democracy forever.  

Patriotism is not the destruction of others.
Patriotism is not standing by the government.
Patriotism is criticising the government. 
Patriotism is doing your share of work for the common good of fellow countrymen. 

Each one of us should do our share of work to build a cohesive India where authentic sab ka saath, sab ka vikaas ho. Sab ka Samman ho, aur sab ko Nyay Miley.

Articles worth reading

Visit and enjoy the "Patriotic Songs" on the right column at http://mikeghouseforindia.blogspot.com

Dr. Ghouse is a community consultant, social scientist, thinker, writer, newsmaker, and a speaker on Pluralism, Interfaith, Islam, politics, terrorism, human rights, India, Israel-Palestine and foreign policy. Mike is committed to building cohesive societies and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day.  


Monday, August 13, 2018

Saffron terrorism on the prowl in India

By Syed Ali Mujtaba,
The ugly face of Hindutva terrorism has once again come to limelight with the arrest of three persons in Maharashtra for conspiring to carry out “terror activities” in several of places of the state.
According to Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS), it has recovered 22 items from the accused home in Pune. These include; 20 crude bombs, two gelatine sheets, a note on how to prepare bombs, one six-volt battery, a few loose wires, transistors, glue etc. The bombs recovered were all active and ready to be used.
It is apparent that the suspects were up to do something sinister because such a huge cache of dangerous items points that they were meant to launch a coordinated attack at several targets. The suspected targets could have been in Mumbai, Pune, Satara, Solapur and Nallasopara.
Muslim’s ‘Bakrid’ festival that falls on August 22, 2018, could have been the day of attack as that day animal sacrifice is being done as part religious obligation. This can be inferred because all those arrested in this case belong to one or other Hindu radical group.
Those arrested are Vaibhav Raut (40), Sharad Kasalkar (25). Raut is a sympathiser of the Hindu right wing organization Sanatan Sanstha. He is also a member of the Hindu Govansh Raksha Samiti and active in carrying out raids against beef traders for allegedly ferrying banned meat in the locality. Raut was under police watch and was arrested from his two-storey bungalow in Nallasopara along with another accused, Sharad Kasalkar.
The third accused, Sudhanwa Gondhalekar from Satara, is a member of the Shri Shivapratishthan Hindustan whose chief Sambhaji Bhide was booked by Pune Police in two criminal cases related to violence near Bhima Koregaon on January 1, 2018.
A note recovered from Sharad Kasalkar house mentions the procedure to make a bomb and also had the phone number of the third accused, Sudhanwa Gondhalekar. The ATS had found that the duo was in constant touch with each other and had the knowledge of handling explosive. They were also training other members to make bombs.
The ATS is also probing links between these three accused with the murders of Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare and MM Kalburgi and Gauri Lankesh that took place in recent past. The ATS sources said; the three accused frequently visited Sanatan Sanstha offices, whose members are the prime suspects in some of these murders.
The origin of Hindu terror activity can be traced to the rise of Hindutva politics in India that fanged since 1990. The collective Hindutva masculinity manifested itself in the demolition of the Babari mosque in 1992. In its aftermath, the Mumbai communal riots that took place, was an organized terror act orchestrated by Hindu groups.
The foremost name among all such group is that of Bajrang Dal whose activist burnt alive, an Australian missionary, Graham Staines, along with his two young sons in Orissa in 1999. This heart rendering event is cited as early example of Saffron terror in India.
The post Godhra train tragedy that triggered communal riots in Gujarat in 2002 is another example of organized crime carried out by armed Hindutva cadre. A carnage of communal mayhem was launched on the helpless Muslims to show force and instil terror in their hearts.
Ever since Hindu terror is on rise in India. Sanatan Sanstha, Hindu Janajagruti Samiti, Hindu Yuva Sena, Abhinav Bharat, and Shri Shivapratishthan Hindustan are some of the Hindu terror outfits, whose names are surfacing regularly in the media.
They are operating from Maharashtra, Karnataka and Goa and their violent attacks are sheer terrorism. They are per-meditated, politically motivated, and carried out by non-state actors against unarmed civilians. Their targets are not the immediate victim but the larger community whom they want to terrorize.
In 2007, Abhinav Bharat, a Hindu fundamentalist group, was reported to have carried out twin blasts in the Samjhauta Express train killing sixty-eight people mostly Muslims.
In the same year, Ajmer blast took place outside the holy shrine of Sufi saint Moinuddin Chishti that killed many devotes and alleged to be the handiwork of Hindu terror group.
Again in 2007, the Mecca Masjid bomb blast took place in Hyderabad that killed 14 people. The prime suspect of this blast was Swami Aseemanand.
Then the Malegaon bomb blasts took place at a Muslim burial ground in 2008, killing 8 and injuring 80. An Army officer, Prasad Shrikant Purohit, Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, Shiv Narayan Gopal Singh Kalsanghra and Shyam Bhawarlal Sahu were all accused in this case.
The Malegaon bomb blasts, Mecca Masjid blast, Samjhauta Express blast, Ajmer Dargah blast all have one thing in common; all were carried out by one or other Hindu terrorist group.
In more recent years, the name of Bhartiya Gau Raksha Dal (BGRD), a non-profit organization registered in 2012 is surfacing as a part of saffron terror group. In the name of protecting cows, the BGRD is ‘lynching’ Muslims and so far have killed 28 such people. Their operational base is in Haryana, Western UP and Rajasthan.
These inchoate images of changing India are a very alarming trend. Has anyone thought out where the saffron terrorism is taking India? The Hindutva terror modules on prowl are actually targeting India, and a section of its citizen. The consequence of such terror act is beyond anyone’s comprehension.
The violent acts by the Hindu terror groups is creating deep communal divide in the country. The failure of the government to bring to justice the perpetrators of such crime has emboldened the Hindutva terror outfits.
At the same time its backlash is casing huge unrest among the Muslim community. If this phenomenon goes unchecked, may surely alienate the Muslim youth and force them to turn to militancy, as we saw in post Ayodhya phase. It will see another round of Muslim terror crimes in India.
(Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at syedalimujtaba@yahoo.com )

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Hindu Nation, Hindu Rashtra, de facto

There is nothing wrong with a Hindu Nation, and it will not be run by the principles of Hinduism but will be run by radicals who are hell-bent on killing others or forcing others in into obedience.   Nothing wrong with Islamic, Christian, Jewish or Buddhist nation either, but none of them will be ruled by their principles. Among Hindus you have RSS group, Christians you have the Neocons, You have the Settlers among the Jews, ISIS among the Muslims and the radicals among Buddhists.

Religions are beautiful and a majority in each one of them are afraid of the tiny number of radicals and have in effect allowed the radicals to be the poster boys of their respective religions. 

We should look to have democracies and the rule of law where a criminal is a criminal and you don't felicitate them with flowers ( BJP Ministers), or March in the support of rapists, or encourage them with your silence (like Mr. Modi). Religions are personal and we should respect the otherness of each faith, and knock off the arrogance that one is more privileged than the other.

Mike Ghouse

Hindu Rashtra, de facto


Hindu Rashtra, de facto
It is at once a society, civilisation, nation — and state

Written by Christophe Jaffrelot | Published: August 11, 2018 12:16:34 am
Hindu Rashtra, de facto

Most of the lynchings reported between 2015 and 2018 were perpetrated by vigilante militias or the result of the atmosphere they created, often using social media. (Illustration: Mithun Chakraborty)

The media often presents cow-related lynching cases as spontaneous reactions of the mob. Certainly, some ordinary people take part in them. But the perpetrators’ ideological orientation could be surmised from the fact that they often make their victims raise slogans such as “Gau mata ki jai (Hail the cow-mother)” or “Jai Hanuman (Hail Hanuman)”. That the choice of victims for assault had less to do with cow protection than with underlying hostility toward Muslims is clear in the way Hindu cow-breeders and transporters have been spared during attacks — Pehlu Khan’s truck driver got away with a mere slap, whereas the others, all Muslims, were beaten (one of them to death). More importantly, most of the lynchings reported between 2015 and 2018 were perpetrated by vigilante militias or the result of the atmosphere they created, often using social media.

The most visible Hindu nationalist organisation in this domain, the Gau Raksha Dal (GRD), has chapters in Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Goa, Delhi and Haryana. In Haryana, one of the movement’s strongholds, the GRD emblem is a cow’s head flanked by two AK47s. Elsewhere, daggers replace firearms on the movement’s coat of arms. In practice, its members use cruder instruments like cricket bats, hockey sticks, lathis and so on.

In Haryana, the GRD and police have arrived at a division of labour. The president of the Haryana GRD, Yogendra Arya, told Ishan Marvel, the author of a remarkable piece of investigative journalism (‘In the name of the mother’, The Caravan, September 2016): “We have a huge network of volunteers and informants. […] As soon as someone sees something fishy, they call us up, and we then inform the volunteers of the relevant district, and the local police, who then set up joint nakas — checkpoints — to catch the smugglers. […] Police can’t do what we do, they have to follow the laws. They don’t have the resources and network we have.” The GRD thus acts as a community cultural police, with members closely monitoring the deeds of those who deserve not only to be reported, but also punished.

In Haryana, the convergence of two types of policing — official and unofficial — has reportedly been strengthened by the creation of a “cow task force” within the state police. An IPS officer heads this network, which has specialised officers in each district. These officials allegedly work with the GRD: In some respects, the state subcontracts policing tasks to non-state actors, turning them into a para-state force.

The other Indian state that criminalised beef consumption by law in 2015, Maharashtra, has taken similar steps. The state government appoints Honorary Animal Welfare Officers to implement this new law — former gau rakshaks have been hired for these jobs.

In Haryana, the osmosis between vigilante groups and the state goes well beyond this. Yogendra Arya, the national vice-president of the GRD, sat on the board of the Gau Seva Ayog, a Haryana government institution devoted to cow welfare, along with 10 others, who like him are longstanding members of the Sangh Parivar. The lack of distinction between non-state actors and government authorities has probably never been so great.

These developments have triggered a new dynamics of state formation, as defined by Bruce Berman and John Lonsdale. In their study The Unhappy Valley, Berman and Lonsdale distinguish the formation of the state as a social institution and state-building as an administrative process. Reasoning solely in terms of state-building tends to reduce authority only to official agents and their actions. Berman and Lonsdale take into account private actors who work their way into the process of state formation through the “vulgarisation of power”, which involves commandeering public authority to further private ends. This approach has obvious heuristic advantages for the analysis of Hindu vigilante groups and their relationship to the state.

Collusion between police and Hindu nationalist movements is indeed evidence of the start of a transition from a state-building process, in which the administrative and coercive apparatus is supposed to treat all citizens equally, to a state-formation process wherein majoritarian non-state actors impose a social and cultural order. What adds a layer of complexity to Berman and Lonsdale’s model is that in India, these non-state actors enjoy state protection. Though the authority they exercise is illegal, it is nevertheless seen as legitimate by the state in that it is inspired by the values and interests of the dominant community to which the government is accountable. In that sense, the Sangh Parivar is more of India’s deep state than a parallel government, all the more so as the BJP is part of the Parivar. This shift from a neutral state to an ideological Hindu Rashtra illustrates a form of violent majoritarianism that can be observed in all countries where vigilantes bring minorities to heel with the more or less tacit agreement of shadow forces that share their biases or ideology (the relationship between white supremacists’ militias and the police in the US could provide other examples).

In addition to the Sangh Parivar’s influence at the grass roots and within the state apparatus, another variable needs to be factored in, as evident from the way a police officer recently bowed to UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath on Guru Purnima. In that case, the authority of the saffron-clad chief minister was not only due to its temporal power but also because of his spiritual authority, a status no political leader has had in India. That is conducive to still another type of state, theocracy.

Not only has the prime minister abstained from condemning lynchings, some legislators and ministers have extended their blessings to the lynchers. Only a few of the lynchers have been convicted so far. Whenever lynchers have been arrested, the local judiciary has released them on bail. If the executive, legislature or judiciary do not effectively oppose lynchings, India may remain a rule-of-law country only on paper and, in practice, a de facto ethno-state.

The Hindu Rashtra label, in fact, perfectly describes the process at stake: It refers as much to a people united by blood ties, culture and social community codes, and a political framework. It is at once a society, civilisation, nation and state. In this way, the Sangh Parivar’s work partakes in a new formation of the state, the formation of a de facto Hindu Rashtra based on unofficial, societal regulation with the blessing of the official state. If one day the Constitution of India is amended, it may become a de jure Hindu Rashtra.