Ramachandra Guha: Hollow cry of the dispossessed elite – Sandhya Jain

Ramachandra Guha

Sandhya Jain is the editor of Vijayvaani.Ramachandra Guha’s blaming the Sangh Parivar for Gauri Lankesh’s murder suggests that the run-up to the 2019 elections is going to be vicious, perhaps even bloody. – Sandhya Jain

Blessed with an inflated sense of impunity, the all-India Lutyens brigade’s oracular intellectual, Ramachandra Guha, pompously declared after Kannada journalist Gauri Lankesh was shot that, “It is very likely that her murderers came from the same Sangh Parivar from which the murderers of Dabholkar, Pansare and Kalburgi came”. Guha imparted this deep wisdom in an interview to the website, Scroll.in, on 6 September 2017, the day after Lankesh’s death.

The statement is clearly defamatory. Guha’s contention is that the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and its affiliates (Sangh Parivar) indulge in serial killings of persons who differ with their nationalist ideology, and that the Parivar is behind the premeditated murder of Gauri Lankesh, Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare and M.M. Kalburgi.

All these persons shot to national fame only after they were murdered by unknown assailants for unknown reasons. It is said that they were “rationalists” (whatever that means) who virulently opposed the RSS. If so, the grassroots impact of their ideological affiliation seems to have been negligible on the growth of the RSS and its associated Bharatiya Janata Party; there seems no reason for the Parivar to connive to eliminate them. Murders generally have more personal motives.

What is notable is that their ideological fellow travellers have tried to derive political mileage from the tragedies. Guha’s blaming the Sangh Parivar suggests that the run-up to the 2019 elections is going to be vicious, perhaps even bloody.

Karunakar Khasale, secretary of the BJP Yuva Morcha, Karnataka, has rightly sent Guha a legal notice asking him to apologise or face defamation proceedings. As the deadline for the apology expired without response, Guha has obviously decided to take his chances in court. But he runs the danger of meeting the same fate as ideological comrade Gauri Lankesh, who could not substantiate the allegations she made against BJP MLA, Prahlad Joshi, and was sentenced to six months imprisonment. She was out on bail at the time of her murder.

Yet it is impressive that following the murder, the Left-dominated Lutyens elite, displaced and dispossessed after the verdict of May 2014, instantly composed a narrative of hate and used its media dominance to blame its ideological opponents for the crime. That too, when the police had barely processed the crime scene or examined the footage from the CCTV cameras at Lankesh’s residence. To neutral observers, this smacks of a classic red herring.

Undeterred by such niceties, Guha continued to develop his plot (The Hindustan Times, Sept. 9, 2017) and observed that Gauri Lankesh was unhappy that her home town, Bengaluru, was losing “its progressive and emancipatory ethos”, as women could no longer move freely in “public spaces without fear of lecherous goons, fundamentalist fanatics and brainless men in power.…” Surely she knew that Congress was ruling the State since 2013?

Guha argued that Lankesh was murdered six months after writing these views, because “fundamentalist fanatics had long targeted her for her fearless criticisms of the hateful and divisive politics that were threatening to tear her state and her country apart”.

He applauded Lankesh for writing fearlessly in Kannada, but did not mention the minuscule circulation of her weekly tabloid, nor the fact that she seemed to be having serious financial difficulties in running it. He said “right-wing politicians brought an array of cases against her in the lower courts”, but conspicuously failed to mention that she lost the defamation suit filed against her (mentioned earlier). Instead, he posed the rhetorical question, “So she had to be killed?”, and linked her death with the murders of independent-minded writers “detested by right-wing Hindu fundamentalists”.

Guha lambasted Union Minister Nitin Gadkari for denying any BJP-Parivar link with Lankesh’s murder, “How, so soon after the event, can he be so sure?” Surely the question applies equally to Guha who explicitly accused the Sangh of not one, but four, murders. In fact, he went further, “Even if the BJP or the RSS is not directly involved in this and similar murders, there is little question that the ruling dispensation has enabled a climate of hate and suspicion that makes such targeted killings of writers and scholars possible”.

The same day, senior advocate Soli J. Sorabjee (Indian Express, Sept. 9) deplored Lankesh’s murder, “apparently not for any personal enmity or monetary gain”. However, Karnataka police are reportedly investigating her provocative articles (not just against the RSS-BJP), personal issues, property and sibling issues (including division of father P. Lankesh’s estate and magazine), and Naxalite and right-wing angles.

Sorabjee asserted that dissenters must be free to express their views vigorously, without any lurking fear of incarceration, provided only that there is “no incitement to violence”. This is odd coming from a former Attorney General of India (Atal Bihari Vajpayee regime), as Gauri Lankesh was sentenced to six months imprisonment by a court of law, for willful defamation of an elected representative. As for her views, social media has highlighted some of her tweets, which are crude and uncultured, to say the least. Significantly, one of her last tweets bemoaned the infighting amongst fellow travellers.

Like Guha, Sorabjee vented his bias that the fact that the killers of Lankesh, Dabholkar, Pansare and Kalburgi were unknown, “points to a war between fundamentalism and rationalism, with the former showing its virulence”. The question may legitimately be asked, how in the absence of any corroborative evidence, did the legal luminary come to this conclusion? Why did he point fingers in one direction only?

Sorabjee concluded with the homily, “Let politics not be injected into the matter”. It’s too late for that. The morning after Lankesh’s murder (Sept. 6), journalists who gathered for a condolence meet at the capital’s Press Club of India, were shocked to find the dais occupied by Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary, Sitaram Yechury; D Raja of the Communist Party of India; CPI poster boy Kanhaiya Kumar, all of whom addressed the gathering even as many senior journalists could not speak. Fledgling leader Umar Khalid was firmly dissuaded from speaking as tempers rose.

The highlight of the event was Shehla Rashid of Jawaharlal Nehru University berating a journalist from a television channel and not allowing him to enter the Press Club premises to cover the event. This leftist hijack exposed the politicisation of the event. The media fraternity was outraged, but a card-holding comrade applauded Rashid, which proves that the lamentations were part of a carefully choreographed political narrative. Truth and facts are for bourgeois fixations. – Vijayvaani, 19 September 2017

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

The body of senior journalist Gauri Lankesh, who was shot dead by unidentified men at her residence, Rajarajeshwari Nagar in Bengaluru on Sept 5, 2017. (Photo: IANS)

Advertisements

Vijayadashami Speech: Mohan Bhagwat crosses a political frontier – Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay

Mohan Bhagwat

Nilanjan MukhopadhyayBhagwat’s predicament is [that] despite public perception of being the elder brother in RSS’ intricate relationship with BJP, the association has been quietly reconfigured since Modi took charge. – Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay

Simollanghan, or crossing the frontier, is a celebratory ritual followed on Dussehra or Vijay Dashami by Hindus in several parts of the country, especially Maharashtra. With his most political Dussehra speech since the Modi government assumed office, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat could be said to have performed this rite. Saturday’s speech underscores that uneasy lies the head that wears a crown. Bhagwat’s predicament is graver for despite public perception of being the elder brother in RSS’ intricate relationship with BJP, the association has been quietly reconfigured since Modi took charge.

It is not that Bhagwat has not spoken on the J&K situation, or on matters of cow vigilantism, government policies and its shortfalls.

Previously, he has also asserted that India’s international clout has risen since Modi assumed office. In fact, Bhagwat’s Dussehra speeches in 2014 and 2015 appeared as if victory celebrations were continuing. But last year, a veiled message was sent to the government and BJP: do not sit on your laurels because there is much to be done. This sense has deepened a year later as RSS is worried that the twin economic initiatives of demonetisation and GST are hurting its core constituency—lower middle classes, traders, SMEs and others in the informal sector.

Bhagwat referred to these groups as “our security net during the ups and downs in the global trade and economic earthquakes” and, against the official discourse, argued that corruption was low in this sector. In an unmistakable effort to placate economic hardliners within the Sangh Parivar, he said Niti Aayog was adhering to old “economic isms” and contended that economic planning must draw from “ground reality of our nation”. Though not named, his frown was also due to the recently formed Economic Advisory Council. Probably, in a first, Bhagwat accepted that he understood government’s compulsions but counterbalanced that “global policies and standards” invariably lead to “erosion of morality, environment, employment and self-reliance”.

The response of economic nationalists within the Parivar to “insist on buying swadeshi products while fulfilling their day-to-day needs and doing other purchases” will have to be tracked. Bhagwat also expressed worry over rural distress, noting loan waivers are “temporary measures and not solution”. But much of this was previously communicated to government, albeit not so emphatically.

Sections within the Parivar are bound to wonder if these will remain mere platitudes meant to strike a balance between party leaders and affiliates who are increasingly turning restive over worries about losing support to rivals in their spheres of activity.

Within the Parivar whenever disunity over economic issues rocked the boat, commonality on political issues, especially cultural nationalism, ironed creases. Bhagwat’s declaration on J&K provides such an opportunity.

His unambiguous statement that “necessary constitutional amendments will have to be made” is aimed at giving moral strength to government on its handling of the situation.

Bhagwat’s declaration that those who crossed over into India were “driven out of Myanmar mainly due to their continuous violent and criminal separatist activities and linkages with the terrorist groups”, is open to question but not within the Parivar.

On the heady issue of cow vigilantism too, Bhagwat made no departure from what he and Modi have said at different points of time. In a nutshell, RSS is not putting gau seva programmes on hold. Bhagwat said criminals were solely responsible for all violent incidents, previous or in future, and there was no need for those “piously involved” in cow protection to worry and “get distracted” with statements of people in government or the Supreme Court.

Bhagwat’s is not the easiest position. On the one hand, he presides over an edifice which staged a comeback after a decade and this cannot be jeopardised by political and economic adventurism as during Vajpayee’s tenure. On the other hand, the Parivar has diversified not just in terms of sectors of engagement but also in priorities of different groups.

This calls for collective functioning, but several affiliates, especially BJP, have witnessed a return to the ethos of ek chalak anuvartitva (follow one leader) as practised initially by RSS.

Though not stated directly, the undertone of Bhagwat’s speech was evident: hurdles can be overcome by being more inclusive, by following Balasaheb Deoras’ approach—sah chalak anuvartitva (follow many leaders) and sarva samaveshak (inclusive leadership). Internal dynamics within the Parivar will be crucial in the run up to the next polls. – The Economic Times, 2 October 2017

» Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay is an Indian author and journalist based in New Delhi.

 

What about Hindu nationalism? – Koenraad Elst

BJP Election Billboard Mumbai

Dr Koenraad Elst“Nationalism” has gotten absolutized at the expense of Dharma, and now serves the Sangh and especially the BJP as a conduit towards secular nationalism, dropping any Hindu concerns altogether. – Dr Koenraad Elst

Down with “nationalism”

For once, the secularists have it right. The nationalism by which the Hindutva crowd swears, is a Western invention. Feelings for your home country are universal, and natives of India will need no prodding nor any foreign or native ideology to defend their country when necessary. Nationalism is just there, as a gut feeling, not in need of any promotion or defence. But as an ideology, it is the creation of the modern West, hardened in the fires of World War I. Of the secularists, we already knew that they always ape the West (or what they assume to be Western), but for champions of native civilization, it is worth noticing.

Long before I learned about India, I already knew that national provenance is not very useful as an explanation of anything in politics. I remember the TV news report ca. 1970 of a public speech by Canadian PM Pierre Trudeau. Suddenly he was interrupted by a bearded young man loudly scolding him. Trudeau singled him out for an improvised reply: “You have been swayed by those bogus progressist ideas from the US, from Chicago and Los Angeles. Get Canadian, man!” Similarly, the Flemish politician Eric Van Rompuy (younger brother of the later EU President, Herman Van Rompuy) criticized Leftist-inspired innovations as “counter to the Flemish national soul”. As if there can be anything Canadian or non-Canadian, anything Flemish or non-Flemish, about ideas.

Nationalism in a changing world

In the 1920s, because of the Freedom Struggle, loyalty to some form of Indian nationalism was the obvious choice for self-respecting people in India. And because of the British presence and influence on the curriculum, European ideological influence was larger than life. Just at that time, after World War I, nationalism was at its peak. When theorizing the national struggle, Hindu activists had little choice but to take inspiration from European thinkers like Giuseppe Mazzini, mastermind of Italian reunification and translated by Vinayak Damodar Savarkar.

The construction of Hindu concerns in terms of “Hindu nationalism” (effective meaning of “Hindutva”, a term launched by Savarkar) was understandable. So, it is not our aim to berate freedom fighters like Hindutva author Savarkar, Hindu Mahasabha co-founder Swami Shraddhananda or RSS founder Keshav Baliram Hedgewar.

However, they could have looked to Hindu history to see that one of the central concerns of all nationalists was completely lacking there: homogenization. India was the champion of diversity. States were rarely linguistically homogenous and rulers didn’t care to make them so. Loyalty was less to one’s state (which could easily change) but to a more lasting and more intimate identity: one’s caste. As B. R. Ambedkar’s grandson, Prakash Ambedkar, said: “Every caste a nation.” States had only limited power and were hardly present in the lives of their citizens. By contrast, modern nation-states sought to involve its citizens in the state project, e.g. by conscription, and to insinuate itself in their lives, see e.g. Otto von Bismarck’s creation of social security to cement Germany’s newfound unity.

If the Hindutva stalwarts per se wanted to look to “civilized” Europe, they could have taken inspiration from a number of multinational empires there. In Savarkar’s student days in London, the Russian and Austro-Hungarian empires still flourished and were characterized by a state religion (Orthodoxy c.q. Roman Catholicism), just as Hindutva stalwarts had in mind, whereas ethnic nationalism favoured secularism, e.g. German unification deliberately downplayed the Catholic/Lutheran dichotomy. Another example of how nationalism and religiosity are naturally antagonistic, was provided by Turkey: while Atatürk abolished the Ottoman empire’s religious bias, his secular-nationalist republic created the Turkish-Kurdish conflict. The old empires had a dominant language (Russian c.q. German), but along with a certain unequal tolerance to minority religions, they also left room for minority languages and made no attempt to impose a single language. This could be contrasted with the then purest example of nationalism, the French Third Republic (1871-1940) where the minority languages, still spoken by half the French population in the 19th century, were being destroyed and the state “religion” of secularism was aggressively promoted.

True, with World War I, the aforementioned empires disappeared, but another example even closer at hand survived: the United Kingdom. Few people realize how the specific status of each part of the UK differed: the Isle of Man, the Channel Islands, Wales etc., all had and still have a different relation with the British Crown. The Welsh and Gaelic languages were not supported by the state, but there was no active campaign to weed them out either. In spite of a rising level of tolerance, there was a state religion and all traditional customs and institutions were upheld. All while struggling for their sovereignty, perhaps Hindus could have learned something from their colonizers? (For starters, they could have realized that Britain was named after Brigid, the fire-clad goddess whose name is related to Bhrgu, the Vedic seer who introduced the fire sacrifice.)

Back to reality. The Hindutva pioneers opted for the then-prestigious model of the nation-state and tried to cram Hindu political aspirations into it. Rightly or wrongly, this is what happened, so let us start from there. The normal course for a political doctrine is to take in feedback from evolving reality, and to improve with the times. A speech by a Marxist leader today will sound very different from one by his predecessor a century ago. But in the case of Hindutva, the reverse development took place. It froze in its tracks.

This way, important international developments passed without registering on the RSS radar. Nationalism lost its lustre and even became a term of abuse. First there was the circumstance that the German and Japanese imperialists of World War II had sworn by stalwart nationalism (many of the Resistance fighters too, e.g. Charles de Gaulle, but that has been forgotten), whereas their Soviet enemies called themselves internationalists. This way, nationalism came to connote both evil and defeat. Secondly, the more recent wave of globalization turned nationalism into a nostalgic past-oriented attitude, something for village bumpkins who had missed the latest train of progress.

Yet, the Sangh Parivar remained blind to these developments and kept on swearing by interbellum nationalism. It continued to take inspiration from its first leaders, Hedgewar and his successor Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar. If you don’t know their voices and you listen to a tape-recorded speech by Hedgewar and one from his current successor Mohan Bhagwat nine decades later, you wouldn’t know who is who: the thoughts they express are interchangeable. That does not reflect on Hedgewar, who was a child of his time and contributed the best he could to the Hindu cause. But it reflects quite negatively on the course the Sangh Parivar has taken since then.

“Nationalism is Hinduism”

In one sense, the word “nationalism” is defensible from a Hindu viewpoint. For the overseeable past, Hinduism has been native to India, whereas Christianity and Islam are irrevocably of foreign origin, with their founding histories and sacred places located outside India. Other factors remaining the same, Hindus will always identify with India in a way that Christians and Muslims cannot.

On this reality, V. D. Savarkar based his definition of Hindu as “one who has India as both his Fatherland and his Holyland”. Applying this insight, M. S. Golwalkar came up with his oft-quoted suggestion that, if India was to be a Hindu state, Christians and Muslims could only stay there as guests, not as citizens. This deduction followed logically from the premise that India would be a state of the Hindus.

Golwalkar’s rhetoric was notoriously clumsy, but the point to retain is that he made a distinction between Hindus, howsoever broadly defined, and non-Hindus. Whether or not that distinction should have any juridical consequences, fact is that Hindus and non-Hindus were deemed different in respect of nationhood. That was a non-secular vision. In a secular state, religion wouldn’t matter, but Golwalkar opted for a state in which religion would determine citizenship.

A comparison with Israel comes to mind, where any Jew worldwide can claim citizenship. Some non-Jews are citizens because they already lived there before the creation of the Zionist state or because they are spouses of Jewish immigrants, but as a class they cannot claim citizenship. And indeed, both Savarkar and Golwalkar did invoke Zionism as an inspiring example.

To sum up, nationalism can be loaded differently from the religiously neutral meaning given to it by the Nehruvians. For now we should make abstraction of the anti-Hindu discriminations instituted by Jawaharlal Nehru and his partisans, and merely take them at their word when they dishonestly pontificate that in India, secularism means religious neutrality. That neutrality, at any rate, is not what Savarkar and Golwalkar had in mind.

Partition

As the decades went by, the Hindutva movement kept calling itself “nationalist”. In the 1940s, the emphasis came to lie on the unity and territorial integrity of India, against the Partition project designed by the MA Jinnah’s Muslim League. Advocates of the Partition were also called nationalists: “Muslim separatists”, in Congress parlance, but they saw themselves as “Muslim nationalists”. One man’s separatism is another man’s nationalism, and these men argued that the Indian Muslims had every attribute of a nation. They gave in somewhat to the then-fashionable trends of democracy (hence the importance of numbers, so that rule by 24% Muslims would not be legitimate) and nationalism. In this case, modern nationhood thinking could be made to continue seamlessly where Muslim theology had spoken of umma and recent Muslim (particularly Ottoman) history had thrown up millat, meaning “religious community”, as an equivalent of “nation”.

Lined up against them within the Muslim community were the so-called “nationalist Muslims”, meaning that minority among Muslims who rejected Partition because they wanted to gobble up the whole of India, not just a part of it. They were not impressed with the nationalist idea that the world should be divided in sovereign territorial units belonging to nations. At most these could be administrative units within the really sovereign unit, the caliphate, intended to comprise the whole world. Nor were they impressed with the modern fad of democracy. As Pakistan’s spiritual father Mohammed Iqbal said: “Democracy is a system in which heads are counted but not weighed.” So, like in the Middle Ages, Muslims should just emulate Mohammed and grab power any which way. Later, Muslim power could always see to it that Muslims become the majority. Since Gandhi and Nehru had always been called nationalists, Muslims who sided with them against Partition in order to keep their option of all-India conquest open, were also called nationalists, though what they really hoped for, was a reunification of the Muslims in a new caliphate where they would lord it over the unbelievers.

Do keep in mind that both parties had the same goal: Islamic world conquest. The wrongly called “nationalist Muslims” went straight for it, largely because the modern world was unfamiliar to them, while the separatists made temporary concessions to the new circumstances and first wanted to consolidate Muslim power in Pakistan. Initially they were even willing to settle for Dr. B. R. Ambedkar’s proposal to exchange populations, so that no Muslim would stay behind in remainder-India. They couldn’t believe their luck when on this score, India’s hands were tied by Gandhi and Nehru, so that while the Paki Hindus had to flee, the Indian Muslims could stay where they were, thus forming a fifth column for the next phase of Islamic expansion.

Integral Hinduism

Forty years later, ca. 1965, Deendayal Upadhyaya adopted the promising term “Integral Humanism“, in Hindi Ekatmata Manavavad or Ekatma Manavadarshan. This seemed to transcend the division of mankind in box-type nations. Moreover, unlike nationalism, it did not seem to have been borrowed from the West, in spite of appearances. In the 1930s, the French Catholic political thinker Jacques Maritain had launched the notion of “humanisme intégral”, the ideological core of what was to become the dominant post-war movement of Christian Democracy. But it is unlikely that that is where Upadhyaya had the term from: at that time, there was still a large barrier between the French and Indian public spheres, and the term had been used cursorily by Indian writers as well, being a rather evident concept.

Let us nonetheless note the parallel: in 1930s’ France, there was a militantly secular regime, the Third Republic, and an advancing threat of Communism, exactly like in 1960s’ India. Both were effectively atheist but called themselves “humanist”, which had the effective meaning of “non-theist”. Against these two arms of atheism, the core counter-insight from the religiously committed side was that “a humanism which denies man’s religious dimension, is not an integral humanism”. Materialism amputates the natural religious dimension from man, and this has to be restored.

So, in name, “integral humanism” had a touch of genius. It sounds so innocent and positive, something that nobody can object to. That is why, in spite of being the official ideology of RSS and BJP, in which every member is trained, it is never mentioned in textbooks by “experts” on Hindutva. Out of an unscholarly political activism, these “experts” prefer to push more negatively-sounding terms, of which “Hindu nationalist” is still the kindest. It is unthinkable to read a textbook on the Labour Party without coming across the word “socialism”, yet so noxious is the intellectual climate in both India and India-watching, that it is entirely the done thing to write expert introductions on the RSS-BJP without mentioning its actual ideology.

Alas, once Upadhyaya went beyond the basics, he relapsed into talk that can only be explained as nationalistic. The central concept in his system is chiti, the “national soul”. This notion had been dear to Johann Herder, the Romantic theorist of nationalism ca. 1780. Last winter in Pune and Mumbai, the heartland of Hindu nationalism, during Upadhyaya’s centenary, I noticed that this rather simplistic ideology went through a revival, with some convivial symposiums but few new ideas. It was again around this nationalist notion of chiti that the main churning took place.

The concept of a “national soul” could make sense as a purely descriptive attempt at encapsulating the statistical tendency of a “nation” towards a certain mentality. But even as a statistical average, it is susceptible to serious evolution.

One example. The ancient Romans were known for their organizing power, and this is what allowed them to defeat the fearless but less organized Gauls and Germans. But then Arminius, a German mercenary in the Roman army, learnt about these organizing skills, returned to his country, organized a German army, and defeated the Romans. It was the first time the Germans got associated with organizing skills, a great tradition of theirs ever since. By contrast, after holding out as great organizers for several more centuries, the Italians became proverbially chaotic, great artists but lousy strategists or politicians. The “national soul” is an entity subject to change. They know all about cuisine and amore, but you wouldn’t entrust any organizational task to them.

While not very precise as a descriptive term, chiti is even worse as a normative concept. The stereotype of “the drunken Irish” may have a grain of truth in it, but for Irish nationalists, it is hardly a value worth defending. I don’t know what the Hindu/Indian national soul is (the first European travellers in Asia, not colonialists yet, had stereotypes of “the violent Muslims”, “the indolent Buddhists”, “the perverse Chinese”, and yes, “the deceitful Hindus”), but I imagine it may also have some less desirable traits, not really worth upholding. In Upadhyaya’s day, Communism was a major concern, but it was not wrong because it failed to accord with the Indian chiti—it did not accord with the Russian or Chinese chiti either. Any serious critique of Communism or other challenging ideologies can perfectly be made without reference to the “National Soul”.

Here again, chiti serves as a secular-sounding escape route from a religious category. That, after all, was part of Upadhyaya’s agenda. Alright, his term “Integral Humanism” was bright, and the best possible secular-sounding approximation to a perfect translation of the Hindu term Dharma. What Upadhyaya was really getting at, was that Indians have a mentality in common that oozes out from Hinduism. The “idea of India” that secularists like Shashi Tharoor or Ramachandra Guha like to preach about, is but a secular nod to the unmentionable term Hinduism. However, rather than being proud of his Hinduism as the source of integral-humanist values, Upadhyaya, like most Sanghi ideologues ever since, was in the business of downplaying and hiding this Hinduism behind secular terms. His “integral humanism” ended up as the equivalent of the secularists’ “idea of India”. He pioneered what was to become “BJP secularism”.

Ayodhya

During the Ayodhya controversy around 1990, the RSS-BJP professed loyalty to the “Indian hero” Rama and indignation about the “foreign invader” Babar. In reality, his geographical provenance had nothing to do with demolition of temples. The Greeks, Scythians, Kushanas and Huns had been foreign too, as were the British, yet they had not been in the business of temple-destruction. By contrast, Malik Kafur had been a native but as much of a temple-destroyer as Babar, after he had converted to Islam. So in reality, there had been a religious conflict between Hinduism and Islam, the religions of the “Hindu hero” Rama and the “Muslim invader” Babar, but Sangh Parivar escapists had tried to clothe it in nationalist language of “Indian” vs. “foreign”.

When Mohammed and Ali entered the Pagan pilgrimage site, the Ka’ba in Mecca, they were not foreign invaders. They were of the same gene pool, skin colour, language, food habits, literary tastes, and anything else that may define a nation, as the people from whom they were about to rob the temple. And then they broke the idols, just as the Muslim invaders did in Ayodhya and everywhere else in India—as well as in West and Central Asia and in the Mediterranean.

Conceptualizing Islamic iconoclasm in terms of “national” vs. “foreign” is completely mistaken. In the case of the contemporary Sangh Parivar, it has moreover become a wilful mistake, an act of escapism. It thinks it can escape the label of “religious fanaticism” and earn the hoped-for pat on the shoulder from the secularists by swearing it is not Hindu. It now claims to be wedded to secular “nationalism”, not realizing that this term also invites contempt, at least in the West and therefore also among the Westernized intelligentsia.

However, its continued loyalty to “nationalism” could be dismissed as only a publicity mistake. It seems to me that its ever more pronounced shame about its historical sobriquet “Hindu” is more serious. Though once calling themselves “Hindu nationalists”, and still called that by all media, they are now only nationalists, and they repeat this over and over again to secularist interviewers, thinking this will earn them their approval. “Nationalism” has gotten absolutized at the expense of Dharma, and now serves the Sangh and esp. the BJP as a conduit towards secular nationalism, dropping any Hindu concerns altogether.

BJP secularism

We are currently witnessing the incumbency of “BJP secularism”. This non-ideology was already taking shape with the Nehru imitator A. B. Vajpayee’s increasing dominance in the later Jana Sangh and early BJP. It became evident in the Ayodhya events, which the BJP leadership eagerly distanced itself from after reaping the rewards in the 1991 elections. When Hindu activists defied the BJP leadership to demolish the disputed structure on 6 December 1992, BJP leader L. K. Advani called it “the blackest day in my life”, though in the larger scheme of things, this act greatly expedited a solution to the controversy, thus saving thousands of lives.

The Vajpayee government of 1998-2004 did strictly nothing about the list of Hindu priorities, not even the version laid down in the 40-point Hindu Agenda of another Sangh branch, the VHP. The late Pramod Mahajan realized (possibly purely as matter of electoral calculus) the untenability of the contrast between BJP programme and BJP performance: he wanted the BJP to raise certain of these demands. It they were to be vetoed by the allies, or defeated in the Lok Sabha, then they would form excellent stakes in the election debates; and if they were to pass, the BJP could take them as trophies to the campaign. But Vajpayee was adamant about going to the voters with a purely economic programme, and though India’s growth figures were then at its peak, he got soundly defeated.

The current BJP government is repeating this performance. The Supreme Court judgment against triple talaq (divorce through instant repudiation of a wife) was used as a fig-leaf somehow proving that the BJP was slowly inching towards the abolition of the separate Islamic family law system and towards a Common Civil Code, an old election promise. In reality, the case had been brought by a few Muslim women. That the BJP happened to be in power was merely a coincidence. The private bill proposing to abolish anti-Hindu discrimination in education is just that: private, emanating only from BJP MP Maheish Girri, not from party or government. Like Jawaharlal Nehru, like erstwhile RSS theorist Nana Deshmukh, like all the NGOs meddling in Indian affairs, like every capitalist or socialist materialist, the BJP swears exclusively by “development” (vikaas).

Not that it will ever receive the much hoped-for pat on the shoulder from the secularists. In their circles, the done thing is still to throw texts from the 1960s or 1920s full of Hindu rhetoric at the supposedly Hindu party, as if these could tell you what the party is about today. So long as this pat on the shoulder is an unreachable goal beckoning in the distance, the RSS-BJP will sacrifice anything including its professed ideology to get it. For in its universe, the secularists still lay down the norms that it tries to live up to.

Misconstruction

Time and again I get to see how the nationalist paradigm distorts issues. Thus, the missionary challenge is no longer a matter of Western intrusion into India. Most missionaries are now Indian, and even the Evangelical sects teleguided from America will make sure to send a native to any inter-faith meeting or TV debate. Missionaries are not CIA agents plotting against India, they have their own agenda since centuries before the CIA or the colonial entreprise even existed, and their target is not some nation or state, it is all Pagan religions, in India principally Hinduism.

Two examples from my own experience. A Hindu who used to like me, turned his back on me after I uttered my scepticism of a certain guru called Gurunath who claimed that the enigmatic character Babaji described by Lahiri Mahasaya and Swami Yogananda as a Himalaya-based yogi of indeterminate age, is the same character as Gorakhnath who lived a thousand years ago. He found that I was unimpressed by his assurance that this Gurunath is “enlightened”. I happen to have met a big handful of people deemed “enlightened”, and I have concluded that their yogic power and knowledge, in itself superior to our humdrum lives, does not magically confer on them a superior knowledge of worldly matters. At that mundane level, their knowledge and opinions are no different from those of any other man from the same background and circumstances. Therefore, if he wants to make eccentric claims such as of a man living for millennia, then he has the same burden of proof on him as any ordinary man. After that, my Hindu friend cut off the debate and decided that I was insufferably attached to a “Western” prejudice. As if numerous Hindus don’t have a similar healthy scepticism of paranormal claims; and as if conversely, there aren’t equally gullible Westerners in great number.

In another discussion, Hindus were arguing that Partition was the doing not of the poor hapless Muslims, but of the British, who had it in for the Hindus, so much so that they even committed “genocide” on them. Well, “genocide” implies murderous intention, and Hindus only flatter themselves if they attribute this to the British, who merely wanted to make money and thus instituted economic policies with an enormous collateral damage, but didn’t care one way or the other whether the natives lived or starved. When the Muslim League launched the Partition project, the Brits initially rejected it and only came around when Muslim violence had made it seem inevitable and the beginning Cold War made them see its benefits. Moreover, while no Hindu says it openly, it is so obvious to any observer that they only want to play hero against the long-departed Brits because they have interiorized the fear that they might offend the Muslims, with whom they still have to deal. What S. R. Goel called “the business of blaming the British” is a trick of misdirection, popular among stage magicians, which only a buffoon would believe.

Anyway, during the discussion, I used the Indian word “tamasic” rather than the English equivalent “deluded” and “slothful”. Immediately, one of them flared up and warned all the Indians present that I was equating “Indian” with “tamasic”. And then all through a number of altercations, he went on with this line of deluded discourse. Political delusions are as common among Westerners as among Indians, and appeasement of Islam has become just as big in Europe as in India when the Muslim percentage became similar. Conversely, people who are sceptical of the faux-heroic attitude against long-dead colonialism as a cover for cowardly Muslim appeasement exist as much in India, starting with the late S. R. Goel, an impeccable patriot.

Falling back on the nationalist paradigm makes Hindus misunderstand issues. It is of course far easier to separate people by skin colour than by ideology, very appealing to the lazy, tamasic mind. But it is sure to make you mistake enemies for friends, and friends for enemies. If you think you can afford that on a battlefield, suit yourselves.

Conclusion

When you are on a battlefield, not because you choose to but because your enemies impose this confrontation on you, it is a matter of life and death to be supremely realistic. You simply cannot afford to misconstrue the reasons and stakes for the battle, nor the nature and motives of your enemies. It is but rare that the ideological stakes coincide with national ones, as they did in the Indo-Pak confrontation during the Bangladesh war.

A Hindu yoga master whom I know once made the effort of disabusing some European yoga aspirants from their fascination with India: “India is not that important, India will disappear one day.” India is not absolute, not sanatana, “eternal”. India is relatively important as the cradle of yoga, and secondarily as the cradle of many other cultural riches. But what is important is its culture, Sanatana Dharma. If a party of Hindu travellers get stuck on an uninhabitated island without the means to escape from there, they can still set up their Ram Rajya in this new territory. Maybe they won’t have coconuts and marigolds there to reproduce their rituals, but to those circumstances too they can adapt their Sanatana Dharma.

Finally, let me state that nationalism, not as a pompous ideology but as an intimate feeling, as what a better word calls patriotism, is just natural. Certain ideologies try to estrange you from it, but Hindu Dharma accepts and nurtures it. Every penny spent on RSS propaganda for nationalism is a penny wasted. Every effort to rewrite textbooks in a nationalist sense, is an effort misdirected. A feeling for your motherland is simply normal and doesn’t need any propaganda. For the Vedic seers, the Motherland was only the Saraswati basin in Haryana, king Bharat never heard of the subcontinent named after him, but for today’s Indians, that subcontinent is a lived reality. It is that expanse to which they are attached, and that we should uphold.

In the modern age, when the state is far more important than in the past, the Indian republic is a necessity to defend Hindu civilization. In that sense, it is only right to be an Indian patriot. But that national feeling goes without saying.

» Dr Koenraad Elst is an author, historian, political analyst and orientalist. 

India

Ganga pollution load has increased four times between 2009 and 2016 – Ritwick Dutta

Ganga at Varanasi

Ritwick DuttaThe river Ganga is viewed as a sewage drain even in areas where it is regarded as the most sacred, for example in Varanasi, Haridwar, Prayag (Allahabad) and Rishikesh. – Ritwick Dutta

In 1985, the Supreme Court of India issued directions to various authorities to clean up the river Ganga. The Supreme Court’s intervention in M. C. Mehta versus the Union of India was seen as unprecedented at that time. The apex court became the epitome of judicial activism and innovation. The concept of “continuing mandamus”, the “polluter pay principle”, and “liberal locus standi”, led to judgements of the Supreme Court being quoted the world over. Environmental jurisprudence in India was born principally out of the various orders to clean the most polluted, yet, sacred river. The “Ganga Pollution Case” as it is known,  is a test case to examine the efficacy of public interest litigation (PIL) as a panacea for environmental problems.

The Supreme Court itself acknowledged the ineffectiveness of its directions in order of October 29, 2014.

“We regret to say that the intervention and sustained effort made by us over the past 30 years notwithstanding no fruitful result has been achieved so far, except shutting down of some of the polluting units. This is largely because while orders have been passed by us, the implementation remains in the hands of statutory authorities including the CPCB and the State PCBs which have done practically nothing to effectuate those orders or to take independent steps that would prevent pollution of the river. A total lack of monitoring by the statutory bodies has contributed to the current state of affairs”.

The above observation reflects the sorry state of implementation of orders and disdain for the orders of even the highest constitutional court of the country. The court felt that given the necessity of close monitoring of the cleaning of the river, the National Green Tribunal is better placed to adjudicate on the issue and in October  2014, transferred the case to the NGT.

The National Green Tribunal on July 13, 2017, delivered a 543-page judgement on the river Ganga. The Tribunal, painstakingly, went into minute details and perused report after report on a “drain to drain” basis on the stretch of the river Ganga between Haridwar to Kanpur. The Tribunal’s task was not easy: It had less to do with the actual cleaning and more to do with getting information from the agencies and balancing conflicting interests. The varied and conflicting stands of Central Pollution Control Board, the various State Pollution Control Boards as well as the Municipalities and Industry Association made the task of the Tribunal difficult.

One of the most startling facts that has come out in the judgement is that the pollution load in the river Ganga has increased by nearly four times from 2009 to 2016 in the stretch between Haridwar to Kanpur. This is the same stretch which has seen the maximum judicial orders as well as government expenditures for cleaning up of the river. The judgement refers to the challenges faced in the cleaning of the river Ganga. Firstly, there is open and indiscriminate dumping of both industrial and domestic sewage into the river with no treatment of the effluents. This is the most important reason for the pollution. Secondly, while common effluent treatment facilities/sewage treatment facilities exist, they are not equipped to treat major pollutants such as faecal coliform and finally, where the technical facilities exist with the capacity to treat pollutants, they are not operated in order to reduce the costs. How this will change with the NGT’s direction, only time will tell. We must not forget that we live in a culture of tolerance toward those who have a disdain for rule of law. Violation of the law is seen as a democratic right and the “right to pollute” is seen as a component of the fundamental right of expression.

The Supreme Court, in order to deal with the Ganga pollution case, used the legal tool of “continuing mandamus”. A mandamus is a direction (writ) issued by the Court and the government is obligated to implement it in letter and spirit. Given the complicated nature of the issues related to the cleaning of the river, the Court felt that rather than a single comprehensive direction, there is a need to issue directions on a continuing basis. “continuing mandamus” was, therefore, an innovation of the Supreme Court and is now followed by many judiciaries across the world. However, the fact that despite series of directions, the orders of the Supreme Court were not followed, raises serious questions about the efficacy of continuing mandamus as a tool for ensuring compliance. The NGT, in its latest judgement on the Ganga pollution, has taken some innovative and not so innovative steps. First, rather than an adversarial approach of litigation it has followed what it has termed as “stakeholder consultative process of adjudication” which involves judges, officers and scientific bodies sitting across the table and trying to resolve complicated issues in a more cordial atmosphere. The second is the Tribunal’s recognition that there needs to be segmental watershed based approach to rivers and that a river basin approach needs to be adopted. However, in place of a more decentralised model for treatment of effluents, the Tribunal has, in fact, approved an “end of the pipeline of each drain as a solution”.

Only time will tell how seriously the NGT’s order will be followed. History does not inspire much confidence. The Supreme Court’s orders for cleaning up the Ganga were flouted with impunity. After 30 years of effort, not a single officer was held guilty for wilful and deliberate violation of the orders of the highest constitutional court armed with powers of contempt. Sadly, river Ganga’s plight is no different from the holy cow. The sacred view towards the cow does not insulate it from the unimaginable cruelty the animal suffers throughout its life as both a dairy and draught animal. The river Ganga is viewed as a sewage drain even in areas where it is regarded as the most sacred, for example in Varanasi, Haridwar, Prayag (Allahabad) and Rishikesh. As a result, ironically, the river regarded as sacred by a large number of people in the world, is also among the worlds’ most polluted river. The latest judgement of the NGT is one more effort by the court to clean the river. Hopefully, the efforts of the court will not go down the drain. – Business Standard, 19 July 2017

» Ritwick Dutta is an environmental lawyer.

Alain Danielou

 

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

Sonia Gandhi and the toxicity of the Congress party – Minhaz Merchant

 

Sonia Gandhi & Rahul Gandhi

Minhaz MerchantIn 1998, when Sonia Gandhi took over the presidency of the Congress, the full toxicity of the party became evident. – Minhaz Merchant

Without quite realising it, the Congress under the leadership of Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi has become a toxic force in Indian politics.

The 1975-77 Emergency, during which more than one lakh journalists, Opposition leaders and civil society activists were jailed (including L. K. Advani and Arun Jaitley), exposed the first autocratic gene in the Congress. Indians’ fundamental rights were suspended for nearly two years. The Constitution was subverted.

The attempt by the Congress to censor Madhur Bhandarkar’s new film on the Emergency, Indu Sarkar, underscores how keenly aware the Congress is of the human rights violations it committed during the Emergency.

In 1986, Rajiv Gandhi—an essentially decent man whose career was impaled by bad advisors—planted the seed of communalism in mainstream politics by overturning through parliamentary legislation a 1985 Supreme Court order that had granted maintenance to an elderly divorced Muslim woman Shah Bano.

But it wasn’t till 1998, when Sonia Gandhi took over the presidency of the Congress, that the full toxicity of the party would become evident. The crude, thoughtless overnight eviction of then Congress president Sitaram Kesri was an early sign.

When the Congress took power at the Centre in 2004 after a hiatus of six years, it showed its true colours. While Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was the gentle, erudite face of the Congress-led UPA government for ten years, Sonia called the shots behind the scenes.

The party had four organisational layers. The first comprised senior lawyer-ministers P. Chidambaram, Kapil Sibal, Salman Khurshid and Veerappa Moily. The second was made up of senior loyalists Jairam Ramesh, Kamal Nath and Anand Sharma.

The third layer was led by ground-level operators Ahmed Patel and Ghulam Nabi Azad. The fouth layer comprised Rahul’s young turks – Jyotiraditya Scinda, Sachin Pilot, Milind Deora, Deepender Hooda and Jitin Prasada—all dynasts.

Working seamlessly, monitored closely by a stentorian Sonia, the four-tiered Congress team presided over the UPA’s two terms from 2004-14, widely regarded as India’s decade of scams and sectarian politics.

The communal seed planted after the Shah Bano case in 1985-86 had by now grown into a forest of trees with “saffron terror” carved on the bark of each tree trunk by the Congress’ slick four-layered operation.

The greatest disservice the Congress did was to set back by decades the cause of bona fide secularism. As I wrote in the article, “The Ayatollahs of Secularism”, in The Times of India: “The two real enemies of the Muslim—communal politicians masquerading as secular politicians to win votes and mullahs deliberately misinterpreting the holy book to retain power over their flock—form a natural alliance. Together they have enriched themselves but impoverished India’s Muslims, materially and intellectually, in the name of secularism. Influential sections of especially the electronic media, suffused with hearts bleeding from the wrong ventricle, are part of this great fraud played on India’s poor Muslims: communalism dressed up as secularism. The token Muslim is lionised—from business to literature—but the common Muslim languishes in his ghetto.”

Scams meanwhile profilerated. Three years after the Congress plunged from 206 MPs to 44 in May 2014, most though inexplicably remain unresolved—to the NDA government’s and the judicial system’s discredit. But each one—AgustaWestland, 2G, Scorpene, CWG, Coalgate—is a reminder of how corruption became the new normal in 2004-14.

Cut to the present. The Congress clearly hasn’t learnt its lesson. K. C. Tyagi, a Rajya Sabha MP from the JD(U), the party on whom rests the Opposition’s hope of stitching together a credible mahagathbandhan in 2019, had this to say of the Congress: “We are very upset at the behaviour of the Congress. The character assassination of our leader, Nitish Kumar, has also happened. The Congress today is not the Congress party of 1952, 1962 or 1984. It is not even a legitimate Congress party.”

When even a chronic Modi-baiter like Tyagi berates the Congress as not “legitimate”, Indian politics has clearly reached a point of inflection.

Borewell of toxicity

The Congress today is in real danger of immersing itself in a self-made borewell of toxicity. Its decision to boycott the special session of Parliament on the Goods and Services Tax (GST) is only the latest in a series of self-destructive moves.

Note the other parties which joined the Congress’ GST boycott: RJD, DMK, TMC and the Left. What do they have in common? Serious charges of corruption.

1. The RJD’s Lalu Prasad Yadav is looking at fresh jail time in the fodder scam. He is meanwhile battling charges of undeclared assets against his two sons, daughter and wife.

2. The DMK’s A. Raja, in and out of jail since the 2G scam broke, has implicated senior Congress ministers in the telecom license corruption case.

3. The TMC’s top leadership faces charges in the Saradha, Rose Valley and Narada scams which have singed Mamata Banerjee’s reputation for probity, quite apart from her inaction over communal riots in West Bengal.

4. The Left has been implicated in a slew of brutal communal killings in Kerala where its government is accused of complicity.

Virtually every other Opposition party, including the SP, BSP, JD(U), NCP and the JD(S), was represented at the special midnight GST parliamentary session. The four holdouts—RJD, DMK, TMC and the Left—who joined the Congress boycott spoke volumes for the party’s diminished reputation.

Sonia has over the 19 years of her presidency converted the Congress into a family business ruled with an iron fist. Rahul has been inheritor-in-waiting for three years. It is an indictment of Indian democracy that India’s second largest political party continues to operate like a feudal family firm.

India deserves better. – Daily-O, 7 July 2017

» Minhaz Merchant is an author and journalist in Mumbai.

UPA-2 Scams