Anarchists stoking campus unrest – K. G. Suresh

AISA at JNU

K. G. SureshPseudo intellectuals who have made a fortune through the liberal largesse of successive governments in the past, are finding themselves cornered today with the new regime strictly implementing academic discipline and norms. – K. G. Suresh

A planned, deliberate exercise is being undertaken by sections of frustrated, desperate and ideologically isolated faculty and students to denigrate and destabilise prestigious educational institutions, including universities, across the country. That these anarchist elements, who have enjoyed the fruits of power over the last several decades at the cost of academic discipline, accountability and standards, are becoming unnerved by the loss of their empire, is evident from the artificial protests and propaganda being unleashed from time to time ever since a new dispensation has taken over the reins at the Raisina Hill.

From Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in the north and Film and Television Institute of India in the west, to Hyderabad University in the south and Jadavpur University in the east, these elements have been trying to foment trouble and orchestrate campaigns over flimsy issues to project the government and its appointees as anti-Dalit, anti-women and anti-minorities, in connivance with fellow travellers in the media.

The pattern is the same. The foot soldiers of an ideology, which carried out the inhuman purge in Russia, the ruthless cultural revolution in China, the ethnic cleansing in Tibet, the gross human rights violations in Siberia and Xinjiang, the suppression of democracy by crushing students under military tanks in Tiananmen Square, have become ironically the self-proclaimed champions of democracy and human rights in India.

From Gajendra Chauhan to Pahlaj Nihalani and B. B. Kumar, among others, all appointees of the present regime are portrayed as ‘mediocre’, agents of the RSS and accused of saffronisation. The spit-and-run tactics of these foreign-funded activists in the garb of academics and students include making wild, sweeping, unsubstantiated allegations the moment any effort is made to make them accountable or disciplined.

They are trying to build a new narrative—that students should be consulted before the appointment of any head of the institution, and administration should not take any decision without taking faculty into confidence, even on non-academic matters. Any effort to make them accountable, including insistence on biometric attendance, is outrightly rejected. Any attempt to get vacated their long-held positions or ineligible occupation of hostels are construed as undemocratic acts, and licence to abuse is touted as freedom of speech and expression.

These pseudo intellectuals, who have made a fortune through the liberal largesse of successive governments in the past, are finding themselves cornered today with the new regime strictly implementing academic discipline and norms.

Over the years, they had penetrated every institution thanks to undeserving patronage extended to them by their godfathers. In the process, they also ensured that those who disagreed with their world view were denied their due. Being a nationalist became the albatross around the neck of many deserving academics. Nobody talked about their freedom of thought and expression—their academic freedom. They were at the receiving end in academic appointments and promotions. The nation’s academia was dominated by a mafia, which determined their fate and pushed them into the netherworld with contempt and ruthlessness.

The current protests and propaganda are only acts of desperation by these so-called scholars who have realised that their time is over, their game is up and the golden days of their dominance over national institutions are no more. The crusade undertaken by institutions such as JNU to remove the scourge of political untouchability, discrimination and apartheid that have been pursued over the last several decades, must be appreciated by all right-thinking people and supported by the government. Only then can Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s dream of a New India be fully realised. – The New Indian Express, 16 July 2017

» K. G. Suresh is the Director General of the Indian Institute of Mass Communication in New Delhi.

AISA anti-national protest at JNU

Compradors out to destabilise India – Anirban Ganguly

Protesters in New Delhi (2017)

Dr Anirban GangulyThe efforts of these academic and political conglomerates have been directed at trying to stymie India’s growth. These compradors especially become active when a sturdy and accepted nationalist dispensation takes position in India. – Dr Anirban Ganguly

In his discussion on cultural self-alienation among a section of present-day Indians, social and political philosopher Ram Swarup makes an interesting description. He talks of a satellite ideology, a local satellite ideology that is derived from a dominant imperialist ideology, and then works through its advocates and mouthpieces in its own country and among its own people to undermine any effort that leads towards national consolidation. Such a satellite ideology, argues Swarup, shapes and gives birth to “not only economic and political compradors, but also to intellectual compradors” whose sole objective is to retard any forward march and confuse our discourse and direction.

During the heyday of communism, these intellectual compradors spoke for world communism, decried India as a whole, denigrated her past, heaped calumny on her society and people, and carried on a relentless campaign against the tenets of Hinduism, against Hindus as a whole and in general against anyone who spoke for India. The staple fare that they dished out and which earned them resources and recognition was “that India was not a nation but only a name for a geographical region occupied by successive waves of invaders, that its past was dark, its religion degraded and superstitious, and that its social system was a tyranny of castes and creeds.” As Swarup noted, “Started by the British, this intellectual programming received powerful reinforcement from Marxism, a new ideology arising in the West. In fact, it was old imperialism, establishing itself under new slogans. It was a new name for old facts. In the new dress it became even more effective, it remained about the same in its larger aims, yet it acquired a radical look into the bargain.”

Over the years, these intellectual compradors have managed to keep themselves afloat by aligning with certain political interests and by being the mouthpieces and advocates of certain political and academic conglomerates across the globe, especially in the West. The efforts of these academic and political conglomerates have been directed at trying to stymie India’s growth. These compradors especially become active when a sturdy and accepted nationalist dispensation takes position in India. Such a dispensation invariably faces their wrath, more so if it happens to be one led by the likes of PM Narendra Modi, who has, in no uncertain terms, made it clear that India’s national interest is paramount to his political worldview and that it is ‘India first’ which propels his actions.

Those who had gathered last week [July 2–8] in Delhi’s Jantar Mantar in someone’s name were in fact members of that class of intellectual compradors, whose sole objective, since May 2014 had been to hurl invectives on the choice that people made, in terms of electoral mandate, that summer. These intellectual compradors—all advocates and carriers of a satellite ideology, which has reshaped itself in the present times but with its core philosophy of seeing India degraded and depleted intact—have in the last three odd years not been able to come to terms with this decisive mandate that was given to and earned by Modi. Their sole objective and relentless pursuit, therefore, has been to project India, like their ideological ancestors did in the past, as a country in an advance stage of decay and degradation. Their outrages are selective, and it is this which gives away the plot and exposes the deeper conspiracy behind their acts—a conspiracy whose sole objective is to see India destabilised. – The New Indian Express, 8 July 2017

» Dr Anirban Ganguly is with the Vivekananda International Foundation. His areas of expertise include Civilisational and Cultural Studies, Indian Political Thought, Contemporary Indian Political History, and the Philosophy of Education.

Delhi Police Protest Ad

Communists see politics in everything – Anirban Ganguly

Brinda Karat (CPI-M)

Dr Anirban GangulyIt is the essential refusal of the Left to acknowledge the right to disagree—in the political and intellectual sphere—that has vitiated India’s political atmosphere since many decades. – Dr Anirban Ganguly

When asked what advice would he give the Left-wing writers, leading British conservative philosopher and writer Roger Scruton replied “acknowledge the legitimacy of disagreement”. Scruton’s description of the Left and Communist intelligentsia, and his analysis of their methods of political and intellectual impositions are applicable in the Indian context as well. It is the essential refusal of theirs to acknowledge the right to disagree—in the political and intellectual sphere—that has vitiated India’s political atmosphere since many decades.

Unable to generate any new thinking, incapable of political expansion or of self-renewal and having failed to ideologically evolve and restate themselves, the Left in India is not only stagnating but increasingly taking recourse to intellectual and political thuggery and charlatanism. Their counterparts in the West also work in close coordination and disrupt, hiss and boo anyone who has an alternate view-point or espouses a world view which is not in consonance or opposed to theirs. They refuse to seriously engage in an argument or in articulating counter-points, as Scruton observes, “People on the left don’t, on the whole, engage with their opponents. They dismiss and sneer at them, and, if they can, they will accuse them of things like racism or whatever the evil of the day might be.” It is always a concocted and conjured evil that these come up with it, so that they can continue with perpetuating their false positions.

The other obsession that the Left has is to politicise and to think that ‘everything is political’. The latest expression of this reductionist mindset is reflected in Sitaram Yechury’s observation on PM Narendra Modi’s repeated appeal to not politicise the triple talaq discussion. Modi had called for a serious and dispassionate discussion on the issue. In his meeting with leading maulanas on May 9, he appealed to them to see the issue in terms of ending discrimination against women, and asked them to initiate this reform from within their society and desist from seeing it in political terms.

The response to Modi’s appeal on the issue has been heartening and is coming in from across the country, especially from the community to which his appeal is addressed. While a positive atmosphere of debate and discussion is being generated across a cross-section, the communists, under direction from the puny leadership, are seeing politics and communal angle in it. Sans seriously engaging, they are displaying how out of tune they have become with the realities of India and with the dimensions of her collective thought.

Sir Roger ScrutonTheir receiving a microscopic and disgustingly paltry share of votes in recent Delhi civic polls has not shaken them out of their intellectual arrogance-induced stupor. Scruton explains it best, “People on the left think that everything (sic) is political. Even if you are discussing the foundations of arithmetic they will look for the hidden political agenda. Every question and every answer, when you are fully immersed in the left-wing way of thinking, is part of a political posture. Indeed, to suppose that there are purely impartial and objective questions is itself to be guilty of ‘right-wing’ deviationism. Against that way of arguing you cannot possibly win, and that, I came to realise, is its point.”

This refusal to ‘acknowledge the legitimacy of disagreement’, both politically and intellectually, is seen latest in the intellectual intolerance displayed against Professor Makarand Paranjape who is on a lecture of the West and politically seen in the manner in which veteran BJP leader and MLA O. Rajagopal in Kerala was attacked and scores of BJP and RSS workers killed by leftist cadres.

» Anirban Ganguly is the Director of the Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee Research Foundation, New Delhi. Follow him on Twitter @anirbanganguly

BJPs Amit Shah exposes Kerala's Leftist violence

Communist Holocaust

The Left and academic freedom – Balbir Punj

Marxist Flag

Balbir PunjThe bogey of free speech in danger is in fact a ruse to camouflage the real agenda to break India. The Communists had actively conspired with the departing British and Muslim League to vivisect the country and create a theocratic Pakistan. The Left has no faith in India or her democratic Constitution which mirrors the pluralistic Hindu ethos of this ancient land. – Balbur Punj

In the context of what is happening in many universities across the country, let the true upholders of academic freedom come forward to separate the wheat from the chaff.

The first thing is that violence has no place in academia. Issues have to be debated, sometimes with lot of passion. Ideological positions are quite natural, but the right to have a strong ideological stand cannot be exclusive.

The word “democratic” is being used in our country (and elsewhere too) with abundance. Our self-styled Leftist professors are seen to be admirers of such “people’s democratic” regimes like North Korea. This is simply misteaching because instead of teaching using established facts, they seek to substitute ideology for facts.

Tons of events are held in our colleges to unleash this pollution.

The problem in our academia is when someone questions this misteaching, the Left lets lose goonda raj on the honest enquirer and silences him. When increasingly large numbers of students (and teachers) begin to question substitution of facts with ideological views, left-wing goondaism claims it is being subjected to violence.

Take Delhi University itself for instance. Was it a mere coincidence that, say in the Economics Department, in the 60s, 70s and 80s, most of the leading teaching staff were of a Left-socialist ideology that eulogised planned economy, public sector ownership of most resources and industries and all other Marxist viewpoints?

There was hardly anyone who questioned basic Marxian thinking because all other viewpoints were suppressed. This despite the fact that Communist China under Deng Xiaoping had begun to eagerly turn to capitalism, even allowing Western capitalist enterprises on its soil, to lift Mao’s country from the mess left by the Cultural Revolution of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism.

Much the same story is seen in history teaching across the country. The lineup of Leftist professors like Irfan Habib at AMU and Romila Thapar in Delhi ensured that any learned man with a different view of history was debarred.  Doctoral theses were scanned to ensure that no other approach to Indian history prevailed in the Indian academia.

For 35 years, West Bengal was under a Marxist regime.  The academic freedom people enjoyed there is well known. Those Congress leaders who are so eager to support the Left in JNU, in Hyderabad, Jadavpur and elsewhere should recall how Naxalite student leaders had established a goonda rule in Kolkata. It was Congress leader Siddhartha Shankar Ray who sought to break this circle of violence with a counter violence under the leadership of the Congress organisation Chhatra Parishad. This is not to suggest that violence against the Left-Marxist combine is justified.

Unlike others, Marxists and Communists are committed to violence as their theory urges a proletarian dictatorship.  Marx, Lenin, Mao, Che Guevara and all other stars of the Left led through violence and the ultras who have set up their own regimes in parts of Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Jharkhand  as well as in Andhra Pradesh are seeking to overthrow elected governments across the country through armed violence.

Even as the much-criticised ABVP is not willing to take the Leftist dictatorship over the Indian academia lying down and is trying to break the Left stranglehold in Delhi, a continuing battle is being fought elsewhere too. As in Bengal, in Kerala, the Leftist students union, the SFI, recently displayed its brutal intolerance against the Kerala Students Union in Law College, Trichur.  SFI activists came in a large group, got into the college classrooms even as teaching was in progress. Reports say that even teachers who sought to intervene to prevent this attack were injured. They further say the police, though immediately informed, deliberately took their own time to intervene. Kerala has a Marxist-led State government now.

There could also be intense debate whether Delhi’s policies in militancy and terror-ridden Kashmir or Manipur are right or not. But that is not the issue here. There is the foreign angle here as militancy and terror are being openly sponsored and funded with weapons supplied by a third party—Pakistan.

Can any country allow domestic groups to endorse and even hero-worship such foreign-funded and armed militants and expect to survive as a nation?  The battle is surely not for “freedom of expression”. India has a long tradition of free debate. Barring the dark period of Indira Gandhi’s emergency, Indians have enjoyed uninterrupted freedom of expression since Independence.

The bogey of free speech in danger is in fact a ruse to camouflage the real agenda to break India. The Communists had actively conspired with the departing British and Muslim League to vivisect the country and create a theocratic Pakistan. The Left has no faith in India or her democratic Constitution which mirrors the pluralistic Hindu ethos of this ancient land.

During the Second World War, the Communists collaborated with the British against freedom fighters and spied on them. After they left, the Communists waged an armed war against the newly-born Indian Republic.

When China attacked India in 1962, the Communists sided with the enemy, their ideological kin, and tried to sabotage the internal security of the country. In contrast, RSS volunteers rendered yeoman service at that time of national crisis. The then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru had invited the RSS to join the 1963 Republic Day Parade in Delhi to recognise its contribution.

India has since come a long way. And with time, the Left has also changed its slogans and strategies. But its divisive agenda remains unchanged. – The New Indian Express, 4 March 2017

» Balbir Punj is a former Rajya Sabha member and Delhi-based commentator on social and political issues. Email: punjbalbir@gmail.com

Marxist Intellectuals

Jallikattu: The law is an ass – Sanjay Pinto

Jallikattu BullSanjay Pinto

Courtesy Deccan Chronicle, 24 January 2017 & The New Indian Express, 23 January 2017.

The Jallikattu Effect – Cheena Kapoor

Jallikattu

Cheena KapoorWhile activists continue to fight for animal rights and the government bans certain traditions like Jallikattu that involve animal torture, believers continue to do what they always have—firm in their belief that religion and tradition back them. The right education and empathy is what is required to help people understand that God does not demand the killing of animals, activists point out. – Cheena Kapoor

For reasons of religion, tradition or just plain sport, festivals and other celebrations can often be bloodthirsty carnivals with animals being tortured or slaughtered. The age-old issue—of the conflict between tradition and humaneness, animal suffering and vested interests—is back in the spotlight with the Supreme Court rejecting a plea to allow Jallikattu, Tamil Nadu’s bull-taming sport it had banned in 2014.

The ruling has led to uproar in the state, with thousands courting arrest and asking for revocation of the ban, politicians and celebrities offering their support to the event, and animal rights activists saying that the ‘sport’ epitomises cruelty and must be stopped.

Traditionally held during the four-day Pongal festival (celebrated last week), Jallikattu, where the ‘player’ hangs on to the hump of the bull, began as a way to stop the animals from ruining their fields. Over time, it became a way to demonstrate bravery (and getting tagged as such in the marriage market); prize money was introduced and the gladiatorial sport got commercialised.

In a video, animal rights group PETA showed how bulls are tortured. Their tails are cut, the animals are stabbed with sharp objects, and sometimes even given alcohol to blunt their senses. Between 2010 and 2014, 17 people were killed and 1,100 injured.

“Jallikattu exploits the bulls’ natural nervousness as prey animals by deliberately placing them in a terrifying situation in which they’re forced to run away from those they perceive as predators. Countless Tamil PETA India supporters are against Jallikattu and are saddened by those who call harming bulls Tamil ‘culture’. India’s culture is one of kindness, not cruelty,” says PETA’s Nikunj Sharma.

Not just Jallikattu

As protests in Tamil Nadu over ‘tradition and pride’ spiral and thousands gather at various places, including in Chennai’s Marina Beach, activists point out that Jallikattu is not the only such sport. And it’s not about a specific region or religion either. Be it Hindus, Muslims, Christians or tribals, in Himachal Pradesh or Odisha, Tamil Nadu or Maharashtra, all are known to indulge in such rituals.

If animals are sacrificed during Bakr Eid, they are also slaughtered during Durga Pooja and Dussehra celebrations in several parts of India. Besides, buffaloes, cocks, goats, and sheep are ritually sacrificed in the hundreds, and their flesh consumed as prasad.

“Religion should be a force teaching people to remain calm and show kindness towards other living beings, but has instead become a way to justify killing them brutally,” says animal rights activist Navamita Mukherjee. And sometimes, it’s about plain fun.

Like a cock-fight where razor-sharp blades are tied to the legs of roosters that are made to fight while bets are placed. Bred for fighting, these birds are grievously wounded and left untreated after a fight or thrown away as garbage.

In the villages of Andhra Pradesh, however, cock-fight are considered a part of the Makar Sankranti festivities.

Divine sacrifice

Animal sacrifices are performed in many cultures mainly to please the divine. From Greeks to Romans, all have been known to practice it.

In Uttarakhand’s Garhwal region, buffaloes are killed in honour of the goddess Manju Bhog. The animals are bathed and made to run in panic as village youth make them stumble midway. On the main day, they are made to run towards the temple and many die on the steep slopes. Those that manage to reach the top are sacrificed by the villagers.

The Kandha people of Odisha believe that the deity Kandhan Budhi grants them every wish. So, every year during the Kandhan Budhi Yatra (September-October), many animals are ritually sacrificed before the deity. The main crowd pleaser of this yatra, however, is the ‘Ghusuri (pig) uuja’. A young pig is smeared in oil and turmeric after which its ears and tail are chopped off. The pig is killed three years later in the temple.

At the Kedu (buffalo) festival, also in Odisha, the Kondhs similarly anoint a buffalo and tether it to a tree. It is brutally attacked with sharp instruments to the chant of mantras and beating of drums. The animal squeals in agony, its eyes bulging, but is unable to flee. There is a mad rush to hack off pieces of its flesh.

Animals are not the only beings with a such a fate. Bird slaughter is equally rampant. All 32 species of Indian owls are protected under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. Nonetheless, there have been numerous instances of birds, which are closely related to goddess Lakshmi according to mythology, being sacrificed on the eve of Diwali, said a doctor at a charity bird hospital in Delhi.

Bulbul fights are also common in Assam during Makar Sakranti. The bird is mutilated after the fight.

The law

According to law, animals can only be slaughtered at a slaughter-house. The only exception is the ritual slaughter during Bakr Eid, which should only involve goats or sheep. However, it is increasingly common to see animals like camels and buffaloes being slaughtered during the festival.

In 2011, a video showing camel slaughter inside Delhi’s Jama Masjid drew the attention of activists. Camels are mostly sourced from Rajasthan, where the animal was granted ‘heritage’ status in 2014. But the animal is sent to places as far as Karnataka and Tamil Nadu for slaughter. In September 2016, the Madras High Court passed an interim order just before Bakr Eid to ban camel slaughter for religious purposes.

Suffering not tradition

“Our nation is built on the principle of constitutional morality and thus the constitution comes first. I am glad that animals are finding place in this and slowly and steadily sapient traditions that abuse these innocent beings are getting phased out,” says Jayasimha, lawyer and managing director of Humane Society International, India.

There are eight states in India where strict laws have been passed against animal sacrifice. Though illegal killings have not stopped, they have definitely come down.

While activists continue to fight for animal rights and the government bans certain traditions like Jallikattu that involve animal torture, believers continue to do what they always have—firm in their belief that religion and tradition back them.

The right education and empathy is what is required to help people understand that God does not demand the killing of animals, activists point out.

As Jayasimha put it, “It is hypocrisy to demand human rights for ourselves while refusing to give a basic right of life to other beings.”

Mapping animal cruelty

1. During the Ooru Habba festival in Karnataka, two buffaloes and two goats are sacrificed outside the Bannerghatta National Park near Bengaluru. The animals are pierced with a trident and their blood drunk.

2. Myoko, the monsoon festival, is celebrated by Apatanis—a major tribe of Arunachal Pradesh’s Ziro valley—with a mithun (an important bovine species) being ritually sacrificed on sacred ground by a priest.

3. At the annual Mailapur village fair in Karnataka’s Yadgir district, worshippers throw live lambs at the palanquin of Mailareshwara. In the melee, hundreds of devotees trample and kill the young animals.

4. During the annual rath yatra, about 1,500 goats are sacrificed at the Shree Yedumata Temple in Pimpledari village in Ahmednagar district in Maharashtra. The sacrifice takes place every year, despite protests.

5. In 2012, on Day 17 of the Chithirai month according to the Tamil calendar, 5,000 baby goats were sacrificed during a temple festival at Poosariyur, near Anthiyur in Tamil Nadu. The blood was consumed by the priests and devotees.

6. At the shrine dedicated to the tribal idol Baba Dongar in Ranapur of Madhya Pradesh’s Jhabua district, around 500 animals, typically goats and chicken are illegally slaughtered by priests on devotees’ requests.

7. In 2015, animal rights activist and Union Minister Maneka Gandhi wrote to the Defence Ministry against live animals being air-dropped so troops posted in remote areas were able to get fresh meat.

8. Festivals like Shand and Bhunda involve a huge number of animals being killed using a knife by a man known as Beda to please goddess Kali and to ward off evil spirits, at the entrance of temples near Shimla.

9. In regions around Pune, goats and fowls are sacrificed to the God Vetala. In western Maharashtra, animal sacrifice is practiced to pacify female deities that are supposed to rule the sacred groves.

10. In West Bengal’s Kalighat, thousands of sheep are sacrificed every year. In other parts too, a priest recites the Gayatri Mantra in the ear of the animal to be sacrificed in order to free the animal from the cycle of life and death.

11. Nihangs and Hazuri Sikhs sacrifice goats during the festivals of Diwali and Hola Mohalla and distribute it as mahaprashad among the congregates. Anyone converting to a Nihang Sikh has to sacrifice an animal.

12. In Terekol of Goa, the barbaric custom of teenage boys biting a piglet to death in celebration of St John’s baptism ended in 1989 following protests by animal rights activists, charitable trusts and NGOs. – DNA, 19 January 2016

» Cheena Kapoor is a senior photo journalist for DNA and Zee in New Delhi.

Caste is a socio-political institution – Sandhya Jain

Mayawati's one crore rupee garland

Sandhya Jain is the editor of Vijayvaani.Caste is too complex to be tackled by simple bans. Also, blatant appeals to religion, caste and other parochial loyalties have always been prohibited and there is no dispute regarding the Supreme Court’s attempt to lift politics above narrow identities. However, … not one word of criticism has been ever uttered when the Catholic Church repeatedly exhorts citizens to vote in a particular way in States where the community has a substantial presence. – Sandhya Jain

Almost coinciding with the Election Commission of India’s announcement of dates for elections to five State Assemblies, the Supreme Court’s interpretation of Section 123(3) of the Representation of People’s Act (RPA) in Abhiram Singh v/s C.D. Comachen (dead) by Lrs and Ors. (Civil Appeal No. 37/1992) seems destined to be honoured more in the breach. The Supreme Court ruled that politicians cannot invoke religion, race, caste, community or language to seek a mandate from voters, and that such practice would result in annulment of the election.

The day after the ruling and before the ECI announcement of dates, which kicks in the model code of conduct, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) leader Mayawati addressed a press conference wherein she advised Muslims not to split their votes (between non-BJP parties) and added that her Scheduled Caste vote-bank would not be swayed by hollow promises (from rival parties).

In this manner, caste and religion, the cornerstones of our electoral politics since 1947, were matter-of-factly invoked by India’s most openly caste-based political party (BSP was founded by late Kanshi Ram to consolidate lower caste votes). The party is struggling to stay in the reckoning in the critical state of Uttar Pradesh, where elections are due next month.

Mayawati helpfully explained her political sums: The Samajwadi Party is on the verge of a split, so Muslims should not divide and waste their vote on either segment. Despite making such explicit statements, she denied Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s charge that she believes in caste-based politics and claimed that the BSP has distributed tickets to all castes based on the concept of Sarvjan Hitaya (well-being of all). Thus, Muslims have been allotted 97 tickets, Scheduled Castes 87, OBCs 106, and Upper Castes 113. Mayawati added that the BSP has supported finance-based reservations for upper castes, Muslims, and other religious minorities in Parliament.

The BSP intends to exploit emotive caste issues such as the suicide of Hyderabad student Rohit Vemula, whose caste identity has been a matter of dispute between his biological parents; and the undeniably shameful incident of [beating] of Dalits in Una, Gujarat. The BSP supremo disparaged the Prime Minister’s launch of the Bharat Interface for Money (BHIM) App, named after Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar, to promote cashless transactions, and remains critical of the demonetisation programme.

The Bharatiya Janata Party proposes to fight the polls on the twin planks of demonetisation and the post-Uri surgical strike in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir – both emotive and highly secular subjects with no caste connotations. Its rivals are expected to be dismissive of both.

Of all political parties, the BSP is emphatic that caste is a socio-political institution with deep roots in the hoary origins of Hindu society; it admits that economic deprivation is not co-terminus with caste ranking. It is undeniable that low social ranking has caused deep scars in society; even monotheistic faiths discriminate against lower caste converts.

Beginning with untouchability, many social, economic and cultural issues have a pronounced caste angle and cannot be addressed without acknowledging caste. This is evident in recent demands for extension of Other Backward Classes (OBC) quotas to landowning, regionally-dominant castes, most notably Jats in Rajasthan and Haryana, and Patidars in Gujarat. Each agitation was deliberately violent and posed serious challenges to the respective States.

Legitimate or otherwise, the demands were framed around the issue of caste identity and deprivation, and mitigation efforts (offers of reservations within State quotas, mostly unsuccessful) have to be framed in the same language. If persons contesting elections are denied the right to address citizens’ concerns regarding perceived injustices faced by them and originating in religion, race, caste, community or language, it would “reduce democracy to an abstraction,” as Justice D. Y. Chandrachud pointed out in the dissenting judgment.

The issue of reservations in educational institutions and government employment are at the heart of the politicisation of caste but has not been touched in the Supreme Court verdict; yet it threatens to cancel elections if votes are sought in the name of caste.

Reservations in educational institutions, especially in coveted courses like medicine and engineering, include lowering qualifying standards. Students are pushed by ambitious parents to take admission but cannot manage the academic pressure; they either fail or even commit suicide. The seat for that term thus goes waste. But there is no rethinking regarding the worth of a degree (if finally secured) if the doctor or engineer it produces is not good enough.

Worse, in recent years, the Supreme Court has ruled that seats for which reservation quotas cannot be filled in a particular year are to be carried over the next year, and not released into general quota. This has intensified caste tensions in society like no other measure. The position is similar with government jobs, and these issues have made reservations a ticking time bomb.

The nomenclature of parties like the Akali Dal and All India Muslim League is possibly the least of the problems, for innocuously named parties like the Popular Front of India are far more lethal. But parties that seek to redress regional pride such as the Telugu Desam founded by cine star N. T. Rama Rao, or seek a separate state, such as K. Chandrashekar Rao’s Telangana Rashtra Samithi, also become illegitimate under this sweeping interpretation of electoral malpractice. It makes free speech virtually impossible.

This raises questions regarding the enforceability of the Supreme Court ruling. Although Mayawati’s press conference was covered live on television, neither the Supreme Court, senior lawyers, or any political party deigned to censure her breach of judicial diktat. Prime Minister Modi, at a huge rally in Lucknow, only said, “Will politics stoop so low? Why were some people troubled when we launch a mobile app after Bhimrao Ambedkar?”

Caste is too complex to be tackled by simple bans. Also, blatant appeals to religion, caste and other parochial loyalties have always been prohibited and there is no dispute regarding the Supreme Court’s attempt to lift politics above narrow identities. However, though the RPA specifically bans inducing voter(s) to choose or reject a particular candidate under spiritual or community censure, not one word of criticism has been ever uttered when the Catholic Church repeatedly exhorts citizens to vote in a particular way in States where the community has a substantial presence. Such issues raise legitimate fears that the ruling may be implemented by cherry picking rather than by a reasoned understanding of what constitutes genuine electoral malpractice. – Vijayvaani, 10 January 2017

» Sandhya Jain is an author, independent researcher, and writer of political and contemporary affairs. She contributes a fortnightly column to The Pioneer, New Delhi, and edits an online opinions forum at www.vijayvaani.com.

Reservation