What is wrong with Gujarat?

It is not merely Narendrabhai. Ashish Khetan, the man behind the Tehelka expose, now fears for his life and explains what really is wrong with Gujarat.

“There was this sense of gloating, boasting at their sense of achievement at what they had managed to accomplish.”

More shocking, he said, was the attitude of ordinary Gujaratis.

“There was no remorse, no shame – just the view that the Muslims had it coming. It shows how much the mind of an average Gujarati has been poisoned,” Khetan said.

Technorati Tags: , , ,


It is still 6 December 1992

Narendra Modi’s speech yesterday in Godhra is a reminder, if one was needed, that the great setback to Indian secularism that was unleashed by razing to ground the Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992, continues unabated. There is still celebration in Mr Modi’s stable regarding the Gujarat pogrom of 2002. A lesson that the Hindutva family learned soon after 06 December was that feeling apologetic about brazen attacks on minorities in general and Muslims in particular is uncalled for. There is enough support among the middle classes for this kind of politics for them to rejoice and take pride in such demolitions.

The Janus faced Vajpayee had proclaimed on the eve of the demolition that zameen ko samthal karna padega (literally- the ground has to be evened out, in other words, the Masjid has to be razed to the level of the ground). Narendra Modi yesterday called for meting out street smart justice a la Bal Thackeray, to anyone that he considers to be a guilty.

Here is the video from 5 December, 1992 instigating the kar sewaks.

and here is Modi speaking in Godhra yesterday, justifying the killing of Sohrabbudin.

‘The Centre talks of imposing Article 356 in Gujarat but the Gujaratis will give me AK-56 to fight it,” he said. (link)

During the days of terrorism in Punjab in the 1980s, year after year the people were denied elections in the name of disturbed conditions in the state. Ditto for Kashmir. But in Gujarat, the country not only has a ‘vibrant’ state but tolerates an unrepentant fascist regime to continue to make a mockery of law and constitution day in and day out. The only time now that the ruling elites make noises over democracy is when it becomes a ‘hindrance’ to neo- liberal ‘reforms’, like when Manmohan Singh expresses his frustrations while releasing a book by his commerce minister, Kamal Nath, and praises the Chinese:

I sincerely pray and hope that we remain a functional democracy. But democracy has certain disadvantages….Now consider this in our system. Time is not valued, whether dealing with government files or applications for doing business, doing this, doing that, our system doesn’t value time and that’s one weakness of the Indian system that worries me a great deal….

I think the best that we can do is to help transform the mindsets and this is where people like Kamal Nath, Sharad Pawar, Chidambaram, Montek have been a great help to me.

But no one even in his party, except the admirably courageous Mrs Sonia Gandhi, is worried about the BJP and its unrelenting assault since the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992!

It is no wonder then, that it is Jawaharlal Nehru, the man who cautioned us against equating minority and majority communalism and stood for a secular and democratic India has been much attacked and reviled all these years by the left, right and center.

But the question is whether, in the midst of all this, he will outlive the current breed of Hindutva politicians? I would have liked to answer this with a resounding ‘yes’ but find myself shuddering. I remind myself of Antonio Gramsci’s statement that there may be a pessimism of the mind, but there is an optimism of the will.

But sometimes the will is only as good as the mind. Today, yet another 6 December, is one of those days.

Listen to this post

Related Posts:

Technorati Tags: , , , , ,

Ramar Sethu and Common Sense

One does not have to be a Marxist to see common sense.

Romila Thapar writes on the Ramar Sethu controversy.

Some detailed discussion is necessary as to what would be the economic benefits of such a scheme in enhancing communication and exchange. Such benefits should also be seen in terms of the future of local livelihoods in case they are negatively affected. Are there plans for the occupational relocation of local communities that may at the end be at a disadvantage?  We have become a society so impressed with figures and graphs that we tend to forget that each number is actually a human being.

Listen to this article Listen to this post

Technorati Tags: , , , ,

Confessions of a Swadeshi Reformer

Harish Khare reviews Yashwant Sinha’s book “Confessions of a Swadeshi Reformer”, that despite being “patchy” does give an idea about the policy debates during the NDA years and how a party of swadeshis continued the “reform” policies of its predecessor, the Narasimha Rao government.

Sinha talks how he repeatedly ran into difficulties with some of his own colleagues in the sangh parivar. On opening up the insurance sector: “My proposal, however, met with severe opposition from many of my colleagues. They felt that we were going back on all that we had stood for in the past, that the proposal involved a major departure from our philosophy and that it was anti-swedeshi. There was hardly any support for my proposal”

…The problem is that he glosses over the political economy of the Vajpayee phenomenon. He proceeds on a somewhat naive assumption as if vested economic interests and corporate houses had no role in sponsoring the Vajpayee premiership from 1998 onwards. Vajpayee could not be allowed to move away from the “economic reforms” course and it was Sinha’s job to deliver. But the BJP crowd refused to move away from the anti-reform, anti-globalisation slogans of the early 1990s.

…Sinha himself believed that he could easily switch from being a swadeshi pamphleteer to a servant of global corporate interests and would not attract any opposition: “Unfortunately, my views were not appreciated by many other proponents of swadeshi, despite my repeated efforts to explain it to them. An impression gathered ground that, while I started as a staunch supporter of swadeshi, I changed course and became an advocate of liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation.”

…Sinha himself believed that he could easily switch from being a swadeshi pamphleteer to a servant of global corporate interests and would not attract any opposition: “Unfortunately, my views were not appreciated by many other proponents of swadeshi, despite my repeated efforts to explain it to them. An impression gathered ground that, while I started as a staunch supporter of swadeshi, I changed course and became an advocate of liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation.”

Sinha recounts many frustrating moments as Vajpayee’s Finance Minister. He chafes at being nicknamed “roll-back Sinha”. However, he does not draw the simple lesson: good intentions and even self-proclaimed patriotic commitments are not enough. A self-advertised ‘deshbhakt’ does not ipso facto become an achiever or doer; nor does RSS orientation equip an administrator with a magic wand that would make disappear entrenched bureaucratic habits and aberrations.

However, to his credit Sinha gives the impression of remaining his own man, not easily troubled by the critics, in and out of the party. He does see through the so-called civil society’s deceit: “People who belong to the tax-paying class, like the middle class, industrialists, journalists and high net worth individuals — those who are the opinion makers in our society — praise a finance minister who gives them concessions, and criticises the one who imposes a burden on them. It is as simple as that.” His party continues to refuse to see the class and elitist biases at work in the dominant sections of the Indian media.

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Watching Parzania

I have to admit that the first time I tried to watch Parzania a month or so back, I had to switch off the movie after less than midway- as saffron flags wave and Hindutva mobs start attacking the building where little Parzan lives with his parents and sister.

Today, I did not have the heart to watch from the beginning and began from where I had left off- the scene where Asif’s 75- year old father is butchered to death by the mob.

One cannot but feel utterly helpless while watching the movie- and realizing that it tells of an event that has occurred in so recent memory makes one shudder.

The scenes showing the mobs going on rampage, and the one later when the National Human Rights Commission team listens to one person after the other narrate how “helpful” and “active” the police had been are particularly nauseating and make one lose faith in the reality around us. Only the middle section where the parents frenziedly search for their son are, surprisingly, less tension ridden, at least for the viewer.

It is ironical that the first person who speaks up against the inaction of the police during the proceedings of the Commission is a bootlegger in Gandhi’s dry state.

Earlier there is a shot where Naseeruddin Shah’s face is juxtaposed against Gandhi’s picture on the wall of the police station where he goes for help in finding Parzan.

The picture in the police station of Gandhi with his toothless smile looked out of place.

Gandhi could not have been born in Gujarat.

A review of the movie

Technorati Tags: , ,

“I am a Hindu”

Indscribe has a post on the controversy in the Hindi blogosphere on the collection of short stories Main Hindu Hoon (I am a Hindu) by Asghar Wajahat. Shah Alam Camp ki ruhain (The Spirits of Shah Alam Camp, pdf) is a collection of mini stories about the Shah Alam Camp set up in Ahmedabad after the Gujarat pogrom in 2002. Asghar Wajahat’s play directed by Habib Tanvir Jis Lahore Nahin Vekhiya, o jamiya nahin (One that has not seen the grand city of Lahore, is not yet born) was a scathing indictment of the the partition and the frenzy that followed it.

One of the mini stories from The Spirits of Shah Alam Camp:

A political leader asks a spirit who has come to visit Shah Alam Camp: “Do you have a father and mother?”

“No, they were both killed.”

“What about brothers and sisters?”


“Any other relatives alive?’

“No, they’re all dead.”

“Are you comfortable here?”

“Yes, I am.”

“Do you get enough to eat?”

“Yes, I do.”

“Do you have clothes on your back?”

“I do.”

“Do you need anything else?”

“No, nothing.”



The leader is pleased. He says to himself, “The lad is bright. Not like other Muslims.”

Translated by Rakshanda Jalil at The Little Magazine

Another short story from a different collection by Wajahat:

Hariram: Gurudev, is Pakistan our enemy?

Gurudev: Yes, child, it is our enemy.

Hariram: What does Pakistan want?

Gurudev: It wants to destroy us.

Hariram: And what do we want?

Gurudev: We want to destroy Pakistan.

Hariram: Then we are friends, not enemies.

Gurudev: How Hariram?

Hariram: We have the same intentions.

Lies Half Told

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , ,

Dalits and Hindutva

At EPW Pralay Kanungo reviews Hindutva and Dalits: Perspectives for Understanding Communal Praxis edited by Anand Teltumbde.

Gopal Guru makes an insightful observation on Hindutva’s penetration into the dalit bastion. As Guru explains, the public sector not only provided material security to many dalits, but also gave them psychological confidence to resist upper caste domination; with its dismantling, employment is rapidly shrinking and the expanding private sector is unwilling to open its doors to them. Hence, they fall back upon Hindutva primarily for material gains. However, their material objective is very much intertwined with a cultural quest as well. When dalit youths take part in Hindu religious festivals it is not just for a little pocket money, but also for glamour, public visibility, and some kind of cultural satisfaction. The glamour of Hindutva’s culture industry with electronic and digital spectacle overshadows the philosophical, rational and moral rigour of Ambedkarism.Hindutva’s cultural domination gets further reinforced as globalisation fails to provide any meaningful cultural alternative to the dalit youths, thereby compelling them to go for “subsidised satisfaction”. Hence, they fall prey to the promising cultural universe of Hindutva, which is more of a pragmatic choice rather than a substantive one. Hindutva conveniently transmutes the caste into the communal category where dalits become Hindus, forgetting their caste antagonism and adversarial identities.

In the context of Mayawati’s so- called “social engineering” (when it is little more than political opportunism), the following observation by Suhas Paliskar is relevant.

Palsikar concludes that in Maharashtra due to the political and ideological weakness of dalit politics Hindutva has made inroads into the space once occupied by the progressive forces. He rightly suggests that the issue of dalit-Hindutva alliance needs to be examined beyond the realm of electoral politics; it involves larger questions of hegemony and fascism which threaten to obliterate democracy and justice. Dalit politics in Maharashtra might have failed to checkmate Hindutva, but unlike Uttar Pradesh it certainly did not become Hindutva’s partner. Gatade accuses the BSP for subverting the dalit agenda by making an alliance with Hindutva purely for the sake of political power. Analysing the three spells of cohabitation that Mayawati had with the BJP, Gatade argues that Mayawati, who was firm and confident to start with, finally gave in to the communal politics of the Sangh parivar. The worst happened when she gave a clean chit to Narendra Modi and even campaigned for him in the Gujarat elections. Ramesh Kamble mentions that reckless pursuit of political power ironically compelled her to ally with the very Hindu upper caste forces whose hegemony the BSP wanted to demolish.