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Had meant to link it last week, but somehow forgot. The Economist on how the recent intervention by RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat is proof for many Indians that:
BJP is enslaved to bare-legged zealots obsessed with the idea that Hindu India is under attack: from Muslims, Chinese communists and American capitalists abroad and Muslims, Maoists and industrial developers at home...
It goes on to wonder whether the BJP can become a mellower yellow:
...The problem is the ideology and attendant nuttiness: Islamophobia, callisthenics, shorts and all. To lead its coalition government, the BJP had actually to forswear core Hindutva demands: for a new temple on the site of a demolished mosque at Ayodhya; for a federal ban on cow-slaughter; and for an end to Muslims’ enjoyment of their own family law.
This alienated party activists, who questioned the point of an ideology that has to be abandoned when it wins power. But to rule again, the BJP may have to distance itself even further from the RSS and find a more clubable leader.
Read the full piece: Shorts and all
Writing on the poverty of the Indian liberal response to the ban on Jaswant Singh's book, Prithviraj Datta says that "this reactive defence of free speech is problematic, because it makes the right to speak one’s mind dependent on empirical factors, like the possibility of riots, not on normative considerations":
The freedom of expression is not a constitutional guarantee which exists solely for the purpose of ensuring that citizens are kept informed about the activities of their government. Like the right to equal protection of the laws, expression deserves heightened protection because the espousal of one’s views and beliefs is regarded as being fundamental to one’s identity. Since human beings rarely exist in a social vacuum, our ability to communicate to others, and be receptive of their responses, is an important determinant of who we are. Much like one’s sexual orientation, therefore, one’s ability to disseminate one’s views should not be subject to censorship where it contradicts the views of others, and causes them offence. In such a case, the constitutional mandate of equal protection will be violated, for one’s ability to express one’s identity will be made entirely subservient to the demands and feelings of one’s community. A state which permits individual freedoms to be restricted in this manner is not a state which respects liberty. Such a state is also incapable of respecting equality.
Read the full piece at the Indian Express
CM Naim in the Indian Express on Jaswant Singh's Jinnah: India – Partition – Independence:
I have found several cases in the footnotes and endnotes where huge chunks have been copied word-for-word from some source available on the web, with absolutely no acknowledgment of the source:
- On pages 481-2, there is a long (19 lines) ...note -- a verbatim copy of a note that is available on the web
- On page 588, the long (34 lines), equally erudite note ... a meticulous copy of what is available on the web
- Page 623 contains a note (20 lines) on the Muddiman Committe ... stolen it word for word from the “Banglapedia” on the web.
- On page 633, the author has included a note on Ramsay Macdonald; it runs to 25 lines, and faithfully copies what the Indian National Congress has placed on the web
- On pages 634-5, a long note on A K Fazlul Haq: one can find it on the web
Read the full piece at the Indian Express
If Major Jaswant Singh (retd), the old conservative with truth, can sing hosannas to Mohammed Ali Jinnah, surely some Pakistanis might want to literally sing out in fulsome praise?
Courtesy Pakistan's Express News channel
Bankay mian ki qawaalii sab se niraalii
koii sun-e yaa Naa sun-e ham to gaayeN ge qawaalii
koii to hai jo wahaaN hamaare taraane gaa riyaa hai
hamaare baRoN ko wahaaN yaad kiyaa jaa riyaa hai
naam hai uskaa Jaswant Singh
aur fan hai wo Quaid-e-Azam kaa
Quaid-e-Azam ke piichhe
usne wahaaN phatta bol le liya hai
isii chakkar main uskii party ke thekedaaroN ne
use ghar jaane kaa nyotaa de diyaa hai
to Jassu bhaiyya zaraa Bankay miaan ki aap sun leN
mere Quaid ke mazaar pe aaiyeN
aur apne apne naam kii 21 topoN kii salaami sun leN
R. Jagannathan in the DNA argues it was:
...despite frequent lip-service to the idea of an undivided India by the Sangh Parivar and even secularists, the bitter truth is that it was the best thing to happen to us. An undivided India on Jinnah's terms would have reduced the whole of the region to Pakistan-like chaos. We would have had not just three countries, but more than 20 of them, allowing none to survive as secular nations. By agreeing to Partition, Nehru and Patel saved the rest of the nation from the mess Jinnah created. They did the right thing.
The real tragedy is not that Indians have been unable to see Jinnah differently, as some secular historians would have us believe, but that we still hold rose-tinted notions about undivided India. It is time to abandon the idea.
Read the full piece: Partition was good
Sugata Bose in the Indian Express
I am not in agreement with those who say that the parties are obsessed with a non-issue, 62 years out of date. The issue which revisiting partition brings to the fore is full of contemporary relevance. It is the search for a substantive rather than procedural democracy that protects citizens from majoritarian arrogance and ensures justice in a subcontinent where people have multiple identities.
Majoritarianism, whether in secular or saffron garb, continues to be a potential threat to Indian democracy. Regional rights were once thought to be a counterpoise to the anti-democratic tendencies of an over-centralised state. Regional parties run by petty and insecure dictators are proving to be as ruthless as the all-India partiepression of internal dissent. In such a scenario freedom of speech and expression remains the best guarantee of the future of Indian democracy.
Objective type questions asked, and to be answered, subjectively:
1. When exactly did Mr Jaswant Singh realise that the BJP is an Indian version of the KKK?
2. If BJP had come to power in 2009, would Mr Jaswant Singh have decided to remain a conservative with truth?
(b) Of course not!
(c) Well, perhaps not
(a) Rupa & Co
(b) They don't have elections coming up
(c) They are busy watching TV
4. If Congress in Gujarat feels that the book does deserve to be banned in Gujarat, why does the party not ban it throughout the country?
(a) Because of the aam aadmi
(b) They are busy watching TV
(c) To prove their liberal credentials
5. Mr Advani says that Mr Nehru got Mr Patel to ban the RSS. Does Mr Advani feel that Mr Patel was so weak-minded as to have done "anything contrary to his conscience and his views"?
(a) He doesn't know
(b) He couldn't care less
(c) We couldn't care less
6. Why did Mr Jaswant Singh stop Mr Vajpayee from resigning? Why did Mr Vajpayee actually not resign? Why did Mr Jaswant Singh not resign then? Would that not have put the party on the backfoot?
(a) Don't Know
(b) Can't Say
(c) Won't Say
7. Does Mr Arun Shourie also feel that Rajiv Gandhi's "when a big tree falls" and Narendra Modi's invocation of Newton's third law of motion were justified?
(a) Of course
(b) Perhaps yes
(c) Didn't you know?
8. Will Mr Sudheendra Kulkarni now get Mamta Bannerjee to name a train the Stalin Express?
(a) He will try
(b) The train has already left
(c) You think he is working for Mr Karunanidhi or what?
9. Who explained Mr Arun Shourie's literary references to Mr Rajnath Singh? Or is it that nobody could, since it might have required “an IQ of more than 60” as Mr Chidambaram had long ago pointed out? Is that why Mr Shourie has been asked for an explanation? Does Mr Rajnath Singh actually wish that he were in a dream --sorry, a nightmare-- like Alice that he would wake up from? Or would we soon be getting a version of the Walrus Was Paul?
(a) RSS feeds were not subscribed
(b) It is the party's prerogative
(c) Wait for Mr Arun Shourie's Gang of Six journalists to plant stories
10. Is it all just a giant conspiracy by Rupa & Co who are colluding with Congress party? Or are they trying to persuade Mr Rajnath Singh to publish the selected letters received by him from the likes of Yashwant, Jaswant, Shourie, Khanduri et al?
(c) All of the above
It was Arun Shourie's turn to have a go at BJP, in particular its President Rajnath Singh and Mr Advani. One of the highlights -- a reconfirmation of what Mr Jaswant Singh had said about how Mr Vajpayee wanted Mr Modi to resign after Gujarat riots in 2002 and it was to be done during the BJP's national executive meet at Goa in April 2002 and how there was a "coup" against him.
Expectedly, the Gujarat government's ban of the controversial book by Mr Jaswant Singh has been challenged in the High Court of Gujarat today.
On Saturday, V.Venkatesan had an excellent post at the Law and Other Things blog where he had pointed out, inter alia:
Not only the notification is silent on the grounds, but even the so-called justification for the ban as explained by the Gujarat Government's spokesperson is not legally sustainable. None of the reasons cited by the spokesperson, including the alleged attempt to defame Sardar Patel can attract Section 153A or 153B of IPC. If you use the reasoning adopted by the Bombay High Court in the Shivaji book ban case, the Gujarat Government has made its position vulnerable by claiming that all Gujaratis hold Sardar Patel in high esteem. If so, where is the question of promoting enmity between different groups on any ground, as there are no different groups on the question of holding Sardar Patel in high esteem. If the State Government thinks the book is likely to disturb the public tranquillity, it has not claimed so in the notification, let alone its obligation to explain it with some prima facie satisfaction.
However, even if the court rules favourably, it may hardly be grounds for jubilation, as I wrote in the comments section at the LAOT blog:
...even when legal redressal may be possible, publishers of books or exhibitors of films, for example, bow down to the mob pressures. For example, in the case of James Laine's book, if memory serves me right, the publisher decided not to pursue the matter even after the favourable Bombay High court verdict, which in any case was later challenged.
Frankly, looking at how often and easily various hoodlums have made life miserable for assorted groups, I have long felt that we need an Indian equivalent of ACLU:
I don't think PUCL/PUDR etc. have quite fulfilled the role they were set up for or are equipped to, or even wish to, play such a role.
I must admit, though, that I have not even followed ACLU other than very casually, but the little that I have -- in particular its famous stand, "ACLU has no love for the Ku Klux Klan, but does for the First Amendment" -- has always made me wonder why we do not have any such body of progressives in India who are willing to take a principled and uncompromising stand on free speech?
I wonder if LAOT would want to explore the possibility of a sustained campaign, looking into the constitutionality of various bans that are still in force -- I can imagine it would be quite a task to even compile a comprehensive list though we could begin with some of the high profile cases -- and at least to consider the possibilities of figuring out ways of fighting various ridiculous bans?
Or explore how publishers, editors etc could equip themselves to deal with law and order situations that are sought to be created, as the Statesman faced, for example, in Calcutta over the Johann Hari op-ed? I of course ask this as I have a vested interest in clarifying my own thinking over the many intertwined issues in such cases and would love to hear from all of you.
For more on this discussion, see the comments section in LAOT