This week India saw a strange spectacle of some women’s rights activists protesting against telecasting of a documentary film “India’s Daughter” based on the case of rape and murder of Jyothi Singh in December 2012 in Delhi. Though the film maker Leslee Udwin was projecting the film as a part of campaign against gender oppression, some prominent feminists of India, including Kavita Krishnan and Vrinda Grover was of the opinion that the film was anti-women.
Later the Indian Government unwisely prohibited the telecast of the film in India , both on TV and Internet. BBC did telecast it few days ahead of schedule in UK. Before the ban in India could be effectively implemented I could watch it and was surprised why there was a protest.
Those who opposed the telecast had send a letter to NDTV, the
Indian channel which was supposed to telecast it on March 8th, the International Women’s day.
Let me try to reply to the points raised by them in that letter.
First they have raised two legal points.
A. The interview with Mukesh Singh, which is replete with explicit derogatory statements, falls within Section 153A (1) (a) of IPC which reads:
Whoever—(a) by words, either spoken or written, or by signs or by visible representations or otherwise, promotes or attempts to promote, on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, caste or community or any other ground whatsoever, disharmony or feelings of enmity, hatred or ill-will between different religious, racial, language or regional groups or castes or communities
The activists are claiming the convict’s statement is promoting enmity against women and so it is hate speech.
We have seen a lot of great documentaries which has included hate speech to convey its negativity and vulgarity. Should we ban all such documentaries ?
B. The right to freedom of speech and expression is not absolute. It is subject to the restrictions contained in Article 19 (2) of the Constitution, namely decency, morality and contempt of Court. At present, the defendant’s appeal against conviction and death sentence is pending before the Supreme Court, therefore, airing the documentary would amount to gross contempt of Court.
Why these activists are so much worried about contempt of court ? Actually some of them have actively campaigned against archaic contempt of court laws.
Media all over the world have all ways covered crimes exhaustingly and such coverage are usually never considered as contempt of court. If this documentary is contempt of court then each and every news show in our channels are also contempt of court.
There are another 14 points enumerated by the activists. Let us look at them one by one.
1. After viewing the film we are of the considered view that the film infringes upon and compromises the rights of the rape victim and the accused men.It must be underlined that the appeal in the case of 16 December 2012 gang rape and murder is still pending before the Supreme Court of India. This film clearly constitutes an obstruction in the administration of justice, and therefore violates the law. The film carries the potential to prejudice the outcome of the legal proceedings. Our objection to it being telecast during this period stems from our deep commitment to defending the human rights of all and upholding the rule of law.
Are they really saying that in a murder/rape cases interviews of the accused or victim’s family should not be telecast till all legal proceedings are completed ?
Then why they did not oppose the publishing of Babu Bajrangi interview by Tehelka in 2007? Babu Bajrangi was then the prime accused in Naroda Patiya carnage. He was out in bail when Tehelka using hidden camera recorded him boasting of murder. It was only in 2012 verdict of Gujarat court came in that case.
2. This film thwarts the sanctity of the evidence recorded in the trial thereby threatening to jeopardise the rights of the victim and the accused.
No evidence have been shown to the above claim. Also Sanctity of evidence is the botheration of prosecution and Defence legal teams , not of the film maker.
3. The film maker has in an interview on your channel on 4 March 2015, argued strenuously that she has diligently complied with all the conditions laid down by the prison authorities. The relevant question is, does the film infringe the rights of the rape victim, the accused and women against whom the hate speech is being targeted. Simply because the prison authorities and the state has been derelict does it give the film maker license to violate Indian law and constitutional rights.
The film shows one of the convict and parents of the victim speaking freely and airing their opinions. How can such a film infringe the rights of that convict and victim? If the point is right to reply of other convicts are not entertained , I have to point out that a film is not a court. A film maker can make a film as per her wishes.
More over the film itself answers the hate speech by taking a gender sensitive position. The hate speeches only make the film more pro-women.
4. The centerpiece of the film is an extensive interview with Mukesh Singh, one of the convicted accused in the crime of gang rape and murder on 16December 2012. It is necessary to find out how Mukesh Singh’s“informed consent” was sought and given for this interview, as claimed by the film. You would appreciate the vexed nature of assuming free, informed and voluntary consent of a man who is in custody in a jail, convicted of death sentence.
Till now the convict, through his lawyer has not accused the film maker of any wrong doing? Then why these activists are so worried about how his consent was obtained ?
5. While interviewing Mukesh,the film maker also pans the camera to show all the other convicted co-accused lodged in Tihar Jail. It would be pertinent to ask if their informed and voluntary consent has been obtained, and are they aware of the detailing of the crime by Mukesh Singh in this film, where he exculpates himself while making incriminatory statements against the other accused.
Are these activists claiming that media persons should take consent of all persons who are shown in a frame? Then it’s better we shut down all news channels.
6. The film also carries an extensive interview with the lawyer M. L.Sharma, the defence counsel for Mukesh who is heard, again and again, advocating a misogynist perspective,that treats women not as rights bearing persons or equal citizens, but as objects deserving of sexual assault if they transgress patriarchal norms and rules. Advocate M.L. Sharma, wearing the lawyer’s black coat, likens women to flowers and diamond, and asserts that if the diamond is out on the street, then the dogs will get hold of the diamond. Another defense lawyer asserts that women should not step out of the house after 6.30pm, and further, that if his daughter were to exercise sexual autonomy outside the bounds of marriage he would himself drag her to his farmhouse and set fire to her. While it is true that many men across the world hold such regressive views, the amplification of the same by this film also serves to push back the work of the women’s movement in India, which is engaged in contesting and challenging this mindset. We cannot lose sight of the fact that these unlawful and reprehensible statements voiced by two male lawyers are dangerous, inasmuch as they can be received by people as being the opinion not only of lay persons, but informed by law. Such misogynist statements surround us and we constantly refute them; do we then need this film to add to the cacophony of hate speech spewed against women. By foregrounding these voices the film serves to amplify views that encourage and justify brutal sexual violence against women.
All women rights activists use stupid misogynist rants by both lay men and people in power and authority to highlight gender oppression. Many documentary and feature films made in India has included such dialogues. Why can’t you understand that this film maker is doing the same ?
7. The graphic description of the physical harm and injuries caused to the victim is horrific and unnecessary. We are concerned to find that the film maker wishes to show this film to children, and we learn from press reports that it has already been shown to many students in Maharashtra.Our view is that this kind of focus on violence, the lack of regret on the part of the perpetrator, and the detailed description of the torture the victim was subjected to, is actually harmful for young children. The egregious impact of descriptions of violence, verbally or through images, cannot be discounted.
Our children are already exposed to detailed graphic violence through our visual media and feature films. Comparing to that this film do not contain anything that children should not see. Showing this film to high school children with a good explanation of context will only help the feminist movement.
8. Further the film makes a disturbing and direct incitement to violence, by once again focusing on accused Mukesh who states that, “The death penalty will make things even more dangerous for girls. Now when they rape, they won’t leave the girl like we did. They will kill her. Before, they would rape and say, “Leave her, she won’t tell anyone.” Now when they rape, especially the criminal types, they will just kill the girl. Death.” We do not subscribe to the view that death sentence should be awarded for the crime of rape, but it is shocking that the film maker does not see the danger inherent in this kind of incitement to violence and hate speech.
It’s not the convict who had said this first. When ever there was a discussion on making death sentence the punishment for rape, many critics have said that in media and in public meetings. Are such opinions a direct incitement to violence ?
9. Also, in spending so much time on interviewing the rapist Mukesh, and in giving so much attention to the remarks of the lawyer, the film maker seems to be building a narrative of a lack of remorse which, according to her, characterizes ‘the rapist’ in India. The issue of rape is complex and this singular case does not exemplify the psychological or mental make- up of a rapist.
Now this is a point of view. Film maker may have another point of view. Let all point of views come out in a healthy debate. Why this attempt to stifle an opposing point of view ?
10. The focusing on poverty and repeatedly showing clips of the slum to which the rapists of the December 16, 2012 belonged, she is strengthening the very harmful stereotype, that rape is only perpetrated by poor men.This kind of profiling is misleading and unhelpful for advancing women’s rights.
Same reply as to point number 9.
11. We are also concerned with a larger, and to us, very important question. The unfortunate death of the young rape victim in December 2012, resulted in opening up a major discussion and a serious societal conversation and reflections on ending violence against women, and particularly sexual violence, in Indian society. This film, purporting to contribute to this discussion, in fact does not in any way advance the dialogue and indeed, by focusing on the perpetrator of rape, and a lawyer who advocates violence, it makes a mockery of the International Women’s Day marker, on which this film is to be launched. How shocking that on Women’s Day, instead of talking about the serious issues of ending all forms of violence against women, we should be listening to hate speech and incitement to violence against women.
Why can’t these activists understand that highlighting misogynic rants underlines the need for International Women’s day ? Actually the film is 100 times more powerful in strengthening the movement against gender based violence than those made to order speeches we listen to on that day.
12. Hate speech and incitement to violence against any person or class of persons is restricted, and this constitutes a reasonable restriction on the freedom of speech and expression, under the Indian Constitution. Would any right thinking person or responsible channel provide a platform to hate speech that sanctions or condones violence against say Dalits, religious or ethnic minorities? This film gives disproportionate attention and significance to hate speech against women and here lie our deep concerns.
Film makers routinely use hate speech in their films to expose its vulgarity. Should we complain about including hate speeches of Hindutva leaders in documentaries condemning the Hindutva ?
13. Having viewed the film, we are of the opinion that not only does it not meet the objective that it purportedly seeks to advance, in fact to the contrary it gives a platform to canvas misogynist views and hate speech. NDTV has through the evening of 4 March 2015,sought to canvass through its channel, that the film puts the spotlight on the delay and other dysfunctionalities of the Indian criminal justice system, that aid and abet injustice for sexual violence. Having seen the film we can say with responsibility that the film does not deal with the systemic problems that plague the criminal justice system. Rather we have through our work been highlighting and seeking reform in the legal system for the systemic impunity for violence against women.
Should a film have all the answers to the systemic problems that plague criminal justice system ? Should that be a valid reason for stifling it ?
14. We also want to make it clear that our concerns do not emanate from the view that the film hurts the image of India. The pervasive violence against women is what tarnishes India. We distance ourselves from the grounds cited by the government for stopping the broadcast of the film.
See what one of the activist Kavita Krishnan has written here.
…...have tried to convey that while we in India are in fact engaged in confronting the violence and discrimination against women here, it does not help for people in other countries to imagine that such brutality is India’s “cultural” problem; that India’s “backwardness” is the problem; or that gender violence is “worse out there in India”…
……But the danger is that what gets disproportionately amplified instead, is the voice and image of the “Indian man” with the “brutal mindset”……
Those statements do convey the impression that they are worried about “bad” image India and its men gets through this film.
Actually the film do use the opinions of gender sensitive men and women of India to negate misogynist views of the convict and his lawyers. I do not know how these activists saw only one side.
India’s daughter may not be a classic feminist documentary film. It’s only about a gender based crime that some how captured the attention of the World. But it does strengthen the movement against misogyny and gender based violence. By finding imaginary faults with it , these activists have sadly tarnished their own image as valiant fighters for gender justice. Let us hope both the Government and the activists see reason and withdraw their objections to the film so that it is seen widely.
Avijit Roy , an atheist writer and blogger of Bangladeshi origin, residing in USA was brutally hacked to death yesterday night in Dhaka.
This is an old post written by him in the website founded by him Mukto Mona
The answer of religion to criticism has always been violence.
Today is September 30th, also known as Blasphemy Rights day. This day is dedicated to those who are systematically being persecuted, harassed, or killed for their simple expression of Freethought (more precisely, for their ‘blasphemous’ views towards religion).
In medieval ages “blasphemy” was equated with sin, as it was considered an insult to a deity or Holy Scripture. But as time progressed, we apparently became more civilized by promoting the idea that any belief should be open to examination and taboo-free. In most progressive parts of today’s world, particularly in Europe and North America, the old blasphemy laws have been overturned. However, few other parts of the world have retained social ideas that are reminiscent of the mediaeval age. Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Bangladesh are some prime examples. In Bangladesh, as we already know, several bloggers were recently put behind bars on the sole basis that they were openly atheist (Pls. refer to my write up published in current issue of Free Inquiry Magazine on this topic). In Pakistan (as from the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom report), at least 203 incidents of violence in the name of religion have resulted in some 1,800 casualties and more than 700 deaths in just the last 18 months. These Islamic countries, based on their religious legal code known as Sharia, are deeply anti-woman as well. Recently, a 19-year-old gang rape victim (yes, you read right – rape victim, not the rapist) was sentenced to 200 lashes and to six months in jail for the crime of indecency and speaking to the press in Saudi Arabia (read here). In another incident, Raif Badawi, a blogger in Saudi Arabia has been sentenced to seven years in prison and 600 lashes on charges of blasphemy (here). The nonbelievers in these Islamic countries face the most severe treatment at the hands of both mullahs and the state.
Today, we state clearly that considering apostasy to be a criminal offense in state level in fact is an inexcusable offense. If being religious is someone’s right, then being critical to religion is also one’s right. There is nothing wrong to be critical to any idea or ideology, as CFI aptly put on its Blasphemy day banner – ‘Ideas do not need rights, People do’!
I wished I would write more on this year’s celebration of blasphemy day, but one unexpected email changed the entire theme of my planned write-up. The email arrived from Patuakhali, one of the remote districts in South-western Bangladesh:
“Every human being wants to be happy; but if we don’t know how to find a way to walk the road of happiness then we will just grow up naturally and die someday without getting the taste of real happiness.
Few years ago, I was desperately looking for a way to find the path of happiness. I guess I have found it at last. Now I know the real happiness is reading “Mukto-Mona [Freethinker] blog” every day. The real feeling is to know the truth and all I have got from you. I’m really thankful to you for showing the right path. I wish your happiness and bright future always”.
However, it was the last paragraph of the email that really touched my heart. It says:
I have a daughter. As a mark of respect to you and your creation – Mukto-Mona blog, I call her ‘Muktomona’ [freethinker is Bengali] as well. She is two years old now. I will try my best to make her real muktomona I look forward to my daughter growing up and one day asking me, among the millions of names, why did I pick and choose her name ‘muktomona’. That day I would tell her about you and show her your site and explain -‘That’s why’!
This was a wonderful gift for me on ‘Blasphemy day’. I founded this ‘blasphemous site’ Mukto-Mona (www.mukto-mona.com) in the year of 2001, with a singular intention: to debate and discuss on controversial, but utterly important issues. Only with this principle, I thought, can the construction of a progressive, rational and secular society be possible in mainstream Bangladesh and South Asia. I was proud of MM’s growing popularity in the progressive community over the years, but I never imagined that a person from remote Pauakhali would one day inspired one day so much that he would name his little girl ‘Mukto-Mona’.
What a pleasant surprise! I hope just as her name suggests, the little girl will one day grow up to be a ‘blasphemous’ freethinker. I hope she maintains an inquisitive mind throughout her life, and will be a wonderful person and that she will enhance her life with an ethical, scientific, and philosophical outlook. I wish her all the best.
Happy blasphemy day 2013. We will celebrate the day as ‘Mukto-Mona Day’ from now on.
Founding Moderator, Mukto-Mona
Blasphemy Day, 2013
(September 30, 2013)
Dr. Avijit Roy is a Bangladeshi-American blogger, published author, and prominent defender of the free thought movement. He is an engineer by profession, but well-known for his writings in his self-founded site, Mukto-Mona—an Internet congregation of freethinkers, rationalists, skeptics, atheists, and humanists of mainly Bengali and South Asian descent. As an advocate of atheism, science, and metaphysical naturalism, he has published seven Bangla books, and many of his articles have been published in magazines and journals. His latest book, Obisshahser Dorshon (The Philosophy of Disbelief), has been critically well-received and is a popular Bengali book on science, skepticism, and rationalism. He writes from Atlanta, Georgia. He can be reached through twitter (@avijit_roy_MM) and Facebook.
3rd Swathanthra Lokam National Freethinking and Science Seminar is going to be held in Municipal Town hall, Palakkad, Kerala on December 27 and 28th 2014. It’s being jointly organised by Yukthivadi Sangham, Science Trust Calicut, Freethinkers (Facebook group) , Nirmukta and Kerala Freethinkers Forum.
Swathanthra Lokam 2014 is promising a grand intellectual feast for those who dare to think freely and independently. It will also be an opportunity to meet fellow atheist-freethinkers and exchange pleasantries and ideas.
The seminar will be inaugurated by Shri Babu Gogineni, the former executive director of International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU).
Inauguration address: Babu Gogineni
Women and Free thinking
Dr C Viswanathan, Editor, Yukthiyugam
Ayurveda – a scientific approach
Dr P Viswanathan, Ayurvedic Physician, Hyderabad
Weird worlds of the fast and the small
Vaishakan Thampi, Physicist , CSIR, Thiruvananthapuram
Media and Free thought
Mohammed Nazeer, Sr Assistant Editor, The Hindu
‘Hotel Punyam A/C’
Prof C Ravichandran, Author, Science promoter
Open House: direct interaction with Maithreyan, the author of land mark Malayalam book ‘Manushyarariyan’
Role of hunger in the development of infant brain
Dr Vijayan A.P., Pediatrician, Calicut
Free thought Parenting
Geetha T.G , Nirmukta, Chennai
Physics and it’s spiritualistic interpretations
Prof V Vijayakumar, Physics Dept Govt Victoria College
Modern Chathans and synthetic gods
Dr Manoj Kommath, Scientist, SCTIMST, Thiruvananthapuram
Democracy and Majoritarianism
Dr Arun N.M, Palakkad.
Natural farming and Organic farming – a Scientific view
Dr K.M.Sreekumar, Professor, Kerala Agricultural University.
‘Morality’ of our Society
E.A.Jabbar, Yukthivadi Sangham, Kerala
Registration for the seminar is now open. Registration fee will be Rs 500 per person (including meals).
Please send the registration fee to the bank account of Yukthivadi Sangham, Palakkad.
SBI Current Account No: 34185267653 IFSC Code SBIN0012861. Branch Kunnathurmedu, Palakkad.
Liberal donations for the smooth conduct of the Seminar is also very welcome.
After sending your registration fee please send the details of your payment, your address, your phone number and the need if any of Hotel accommodation to email@example.com
For more information please contact any of the following numbers 09744881883 , 09744881883 or mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
Maryam Namazie’s opening remarks at the World Humanist Congress on 9 August 2014.
“In this day and age, there is most certainly something about Islam.
Not because it is any worse than other religions.
As I have said many times before, all religions are equal and equally bad.
No religion looks favourably upon women, gay and lesbians, freethinkers, dissenters, other religions or atheists, and blasphemers, heretic and apostates… Punishing freethinkers is a long-standing and fundamental feature of all major religions. But there is something about Islam primarily because it is the banner of Islamism, a far-Right political movement, spearheading what I call an Islamic inquisition.
Islamists want the far-Right restructuring of societies – concretely this means a Caliphate or Islamic state, the implementation of Sharia law, the imposition of the burka and compulsory veiling, gender segregation, defending Hududd punishments like death by stoning, and the execution of apostates to name a few.
You don’t have to look far to see what Islamism is. The Islamic regime of Iran. The Saudi government. Hamas. Boko Haram. Muslim Brotherhood, Hizb Ut Tahrir and the Taliban.
And of course the Islamic State (formerly known as ISIS) which has made tremendous advances over the past few days and months and which continues to shock and outrage humanity with its sheer terror and brutality.
ISIS is Islamism without its palatable wrappings often fed to people in Europe and the West where its manifestations like Sharia courts in Britain and the Law Society’s guidance on Sharia wills (which institutionalises Islamist values) – are portrayed as people’s “right to religion” even by some humanist groups.
Whilst there are differences in degree amongst Islamists as there are in any phenomenon, fundamentally they are all striving for the same things. Including groups like IERA in the UK which has charitable status and debates well known scientists and atheists whilst defending the Caliphate, death to apostates (they say beheading is painless) and segregating British universities.
Some keep telling us of such “moderate” or “soft” Islamists. There are none.
Fascism is fascism no matter how it is wrapped and dressed.
There is also, given the context, no moderate Islam. Even if there are a million interpretations, today, Islam is what ISIS tells you it is. It is what Khamenei in Iran says it is. It is what the Taliban says it is by sheer and brute force. In many places, you must either submit to their Islam or die.
When religion is in the state or has influence it is no longer a question of personal belief but of political power.
Of course when I talk about Islam I am not speaking of Islam as a personal belief or Muslims who are believers like my father and mother or some of yours.
People practice Islam and religion in innumerable personal ways; they pick and choose what aspects fit their lives and more often than not, people’s humanity shines through whatever their religion or belief.
Being Muslim doesn’t mean one is an Islamist anymore than being Turkish means you support Erdokan, or being Nigerian means you are with Boko Haram or being British means you are a supporter of the British National Party or Christian Right.
No group, community, society is homogeneous. As Kenan Malik says “secularism and fundamentalism are not ideas stitched into people’s DNA. They are, like all values, absorbed, accepted, rejected”.
In fact, Muslims or those perceived to be Muslims are the first victims and at the forefront of resistance against Islamism.
Karima Bennoune highlights nearly 300 such people and groups of Muslim heritage as she calls them who refuse and resist in her book called “your fatwa does not apply here”.
Also, over the past decades, many have “voted” against Islamism with their feet by fleeing Islamic states and movements in unprecedented numbers.
Right now, thousands of Yazidis considered devil worshipers by ISIS languish in the mountains of Sinjar with children dying of thirst and nowhere to go surrounded by ISIS.
Islam today isn’t a private matter, especially not during an inquisition.
Islam is not just the ‘opium’ of the masses as Marx has said but their genocidaire.
Of course, it is good to be balanced and speak of all religions as being equally problematic. Even after the enlightenment has removed much of Christianity’s power and influence, Christianity is still not a benign force; it creates misery where it can.
But you cannot look at ISIS right here and now and its beheadings and crucifixions and sexual jihad and speak of similar attitudes during Victorian England or Europe’s dark ages.
ISIS represents our dark ages today in the 21st century.
It is good to be balanced – particularly when you have a far-Right using the issue of Sharia law and Islamism to attack immigrants and Muslims and absurdly demanding a ban on the Koran as if the Bible was banned to stop the Spanish inquisition. A far-Right that feigns “crocodile tears” for those killed by Islamists yet cheers the massacre of innocent civilians in Gaza by the Israeli state.
It is important to be balanced but one must also be fair and just.
If we cannot see that there is something about Islam and Islamism, then we cannot respond as we must.
And if we don’t, who will?
Defending freethought and expression is crucial in this fight. Defending blasphemy and apostasy cases are important. Removing blasphemy laws from the legal system is key.
The Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain deals with hundreds of such cases every year. But it is not enough to defend free expression and thought within a limited human rights or legal context.
We must see blasphemy and apostasy laws and a defence of free expression within the larger context of religion in general and Islam in particular vis-a-vis the question of political power.
Islam in the state or with political power is the end of freethought and the end of free expression.
It is the end of democratic politics.
It is the end of women’s rights and gay rights and the rights of minorities. It is the end of everything worthy of a 21 century life.
It is a return to the dark ages.
A Humanist congress today can only begin and end united for Sinjar and united against ISIS.
It must stand unequivocally against Islamism, Sharia law and the Caliphate. This is not about “people’s right to religion”. It is about stopping Islamism’s right to kill and slaughter and oppress.
A humanist congress must stand for equality (of people – not religions and beliefs), for universal rights, and for secularism and the separation of religion from the state – not just for Europe but the world.
This is not a clash of civilisations. It’s a clash between the theocrats and fascists versus the rest of us – Muslim, Atheist and none.
As the late Marxist Mansoor Hekmat said:
“In Islam … the individual has no rights or dignity. In Islam, the woman is a slave. In Islam, the child is on par with animals. In Islam, freethinking is a sin deserving of punishment. Music is corrupt. Sex without permission and religious certification, is the greatest of sins. This is the religion of death. In reality, all religions are such but most religions have been restrained by freethinking and freedom-loving humanity over hundreds of years. This one was never restrained or controlled.”
Restraining it – controlling it – in this day and age – that is our task.”
Originally posted here
This directive was sent to me yesterday afternoon through Facebook, from a complete stranger. A little while later another message arrived, with an attached picture of the body of a murdered child, still lying on the floor of his bedroom – the crime scene – with blood all around. A mezuzah is fixed to the doorframe in the foreground of the photo. The picture was accompanied by the sender’s suggestion that I am in favour of the killing of Jews.
I assume the two messages were sent by the same person, as although they had different names their profile pictures (of two men standing side by side, grinning) were exactly the same. I cannot say with absolute certainty what provoked these messages, as I immediately reported and blocked the sender(s). I am confident it is not connected to the articles I write, as I go by a different name on…
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The Hindu nationalist political party, BJP has taken over the reins of government in India. Though they were in power twice before, this time they have a good majority of their own, and need not depend on non Hindutva parties for support.
Today the brand ambassador of Hindutva is Narendra Modi, the new Prime minister of India. He comes from Gujarat, from a place near the birth place of Mahatma Gandhi. Is it surprising that muscular and intolerant Hindutva’s strength is coming from land of apostle of non-violence, Gandhi? Not at all. Many facets of Hindutva are closely related to ideas of Gandhi. Hindutva also derives it strength from western and Indian post modernist ideas and post colonial philosophies. Though this electoral victory is recent, the hegemony of ideas of Hindutva on Indian social and cultural milieu is present for last 2 decades and was greatly strengthened by Gandhians and post modernist Leftists.
A strong proponent of the above thesis is the scholar Meera Nanda, and this post is inspired by reading her.
Gandhism and Hindutva
Vision of Gandhi and that of Hindutva are similar in many areas.
See what Meera Nanda writes:
There is no doubt at all that Gandhi himself had no sympathy for the vicious anti-Muslim and anti-Christian sentiments that mark the muscular nationalism of Hindu nationalists. Hindu nationalists themselves recognize this difference, declaring Gandhi to be “too saintly” to fully comprehend the “evil” of Islam (Agarwal 1999).
But when it comes to the larger vision of a good society, the Hindu right wing’s relation to Gandhian philosophy is far from opportunistic. Indeed, the official philosophy of the Bharatiya Janata Party, the “integral humanism” of Deendayal Upadhyaya, is almost an exact paraphrase of Gandhi’s vision of a future India. Both seek a distinctive path for India, both reject the materialism of socialism and capitalism alike, both reject the individualism of modern society in favor of a holistic, varna-dharma based community, both insist upon an infusion of religious and moral values in politics, and both seek a culturally authentic mode of modernization that preserves Hindu values (see Fox 1987).
Gandhi was opposed to untouchability, but was not opposed to caste system per se. Modern day RSS takes the same view. Both Gandhi and RSS give importance to celibacy. Our new Prime minister, who left his wife for Hindutva work within weeks of his marriage, is an example of Hindu patriarchal thinking that women/sexual desires are an obstacle to performing useful work in society.
So it is not at all surprising that the Hindutva leader Modi is coming from near Gandhi’s home town.
Post modernism, Post Colonialism and Hindutva
It is difficult to define post modernism because it means different things to different people. Still it can be summarized as a philosophy which does not believe in single logical objective reasonable truth, but multiple subjective truths.
Post colonialism is a philosophy which tries to highlight and reinvent colonized people’s culture and portray it as opposite, equal or superior to Western culture.
Both did not believe in universal and culturally progressive nature of science. For a post modernist, science is just one of the several ways of attaining knowledge.
Thus a post colonial post modernist vision of India meant a new, non western model of development for India. They believed ‘western’ ideas like Capitalism, socialism, secularism, scientific temper, universality of scientific truth are not applicable in India. Main proponents of such a post modernist discourse included intellectuals like Ashish Nandy, Vandana Siva and Rajini Kothari. The Gandhian post modernists joined hands with ecological Marxists to fight against Nehruvian scientific temper.
Meera Nanda writes:
The critics accused the Nehruvian promoters of science of disrespecting and insulting the ordinary citizens by daring to suggest that they need to revise their ways of knowing. True equality demands that ordinary people should have as much right to question science from their perspective. The most common example cited was that of astrology. Inspired by Feyerabend, the self-proclaimed defenders of the common man argued that astrology was the myth of the weak, as much as science was the myth of the strong. Scientists and those who dare criticize astrology as a superstition must take the empirical experience of the ordinary people as evidence, and rethink their opposition to it. Astrology stood for local knowledge in general.
This strengthened the hands of Hindutva forces as they were saying the same thing. Legitimacy was given to local, not scientifically tested “knowledge”. Foolish utterances of babas and swamis should be considered seriously as they form the local knowledge, which cannot be tested or known to modern science. No local inhuman customs, especially that of minorities and tribals (weaker sections) could be criticized as Universal human rights are a Western colonial concept. Science they said was a neo-colonial tool of multinational Corporations to continue control of colonies. It rapes the holy motherland and creates natural disasters.
Thus this anti-science movement saw a strange collaboration between Gandhians, Hindutva forces and some Leftists. Such an attack on science and secular liberal thoughts resulted in Indian society losing many of the progressive gains of the 50s and 60s. Identity politics based on caste, religion, language etc gained legitimacy. Superstitions became fashionable and spurious and dangerous remedies became popular in the field of health. Unscientific health care systems like Naturopathy, Ayurveda, Unani, Sidha and Homeopathy flourished under State patronage. Anti vaccine movement gained momentum. Freedom of expression suffered as the list of holy cows that cannot be criticized increased enormously.
In short, Gandhians and post modernist Leftists have played an important role in elevating Hindutva forces to power in India.
A successful fight against Hindutva or any other communal forces needs a reaffirming of our faith in scientific method, as the only way to attain knowledge. We need to propagate scientific temper in our society. Democracy and Secularism are universal concepts essential for well being of human beings all over the world. Traditions, like anything else should be rigorously questioned. Instead of sitting on the fence, rational criticism of religion and religious superstitions/ common sense should come from science movements.
Secular polity should not accept religion/traditions as another method to attain knowledge. Whether it is minority or majority religion, hurt sentiments should never be accepted to absolve criticism. Caste based groups, even of the lowest caste, represents a regressive grouping and should not be encouraged.
A liberal humanist India is possible only with more science and less religion.
As expected the Hindu nationalist Bharathiya Janata Party won the Indian Parliament election. The victory was much bigger than expected and the chief architect of the victory, the controversial leader Narendra Modi will soon take charge as the next Prime minister of India. In this post I am trying to enumerate the reasons for such a verdict by World’s largest democracy.
1. The Congress party led alliance which ruled India for last 10 years was massively unpopular due to many reasons. Corruption,inflation,slow economic growth and indecisiveness in major policy matters with multiple centers of power paralyzing the Govt were the main reasons for its unpopularity.
2. The opposition party, BJP and its allies decided on Narendra Modi as their leader to fight the elections very early. This gave a head start for Modi and he utilized it properly with well organised campaign tours throughout the country.
3. Almost all the business houses backed Modi fully as they were unhappy with slow growth in infrastructure and difficulty in getting clearances for their projects. They believed Modi will be much more friendly to Corporate needs..
4. Massive propaganda directly -through mass media ads and billboards , through social media using paid workers and non paid volunteers,-and indirectly using mass media run by friendly media houses helped in projecting Modi as a man of development, eclipsing his real image as a divisive leader. It is said that BJP has spend around 1000 million US dollars in the last 3 months of election, almost double that of rival parties.
5. Last 20 years saw increasing urbanization and industrialization of India, which resulted in blurring of caste lines and backward classes, especially the OBCs, coming up socially and economically. RSS, the mother organisation of all Hindu nationalist social and political organisations including the BJP was traditionally popular only with upper caste Hindus in West and North India. With the change in the society, more and more lower castes began to join Hindu organisations. Modi could sell his development rhetoric to a large section of Hindu backward castes aspiring to climb up the social ladder. Propaganda machine of the RSS was also able to label Congress party as more friendly to Muslims than Hindus, though the truth is actually the reverse.
6. Anti Hindutva votes where divided. Although 65% of voters did not vote for BJP alliance, it was able to get 60% of Parliament seat. Lack of a credible National level opposition helped BJP. The new anti Corruption party, AAP did show some promise, but their small resources where spread too wide to have any real impact.
Thus the huge victory of Modi’s BJP need not be seen just as a victory for Hindutva revivalism. Hindutva element is there for sure, but it’s role in getting this much votes and seats is minimal. It’s more of a negative vote against corruption and utter lack of leadership of the Congress dynasty. People voted for those who displayed leadership and belief in themselves. That is why along with Modi, 3 regional leaders Jayalalitha, Biju Patnaik and Mamta Bannerjee got such a thumping victory. It’s also a vote for stable government, which people believe can give a boost to economic growth of the country and their purses.
Hindutva Government in India is a big setback to its secular polity. At the same time the people’s verdict should be respected. Let us hope the new government will not permanently scar the secular fabric of the country and at the same time improve the living conditions of millions of poor Indians regardless of their religion.
Only a die hard irrational fan of Modi can believe he is not guilty of instigating and covering up the riots
“Hitler is essentially a moderate and decent person”, “the Times” described him despite repeated attacks on his political adversaries and jews. Most newspapers were prepared to give Hitler a chance, implying that he might settle down into a strong but conventional head of the government, once the initial crisis had been overcome. Germany was seen as the best hope of preventing the spread of Bolshevism. However objectionable it might be in some respects, Nazism they claimed, was preferable to communism ……… and, the rest is history.
This is not to suggest that Modi will start waging war on other nations once he become prime minister. I do realize that we live in a different world today, and this is just to emphasize that how conviniently people can downplay the genuine concerns, completely disregarding the dangers that might be coming along their choice.
No discussion on Modi is complete without a…
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