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Union Minister Kiren Rijiju today said Hindu population was reducing in India as they "never convert people", while minori
Firebrand BJP leader Yogi Adityanath today said "Ram Bhakts did whatever happened in Ayodhya" and whatever happens in the
Terming B R Ambedkar a "bigger leader" than Mahatma Gandhi, AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi has said it was because of the se
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan today hit out at the BJP-led NDA government for replacing the photo of Mahatma Gand
Bangladesh police have arrested the main suspect in the murders of a gay magazine editor and a secular blogger who were br
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been the victim of "secular syndicate" and "intolerance" for the last 20 year but that wi
Bangladeshi secular bloggers should "control" their writings, the country's home minister said today even as he asserted t
A Bangladeshi law student, who posted comments against radical Islamists on Facebook, was hacked by machete-wielding milit
Union Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi today said harmony is an indispensable part of secularism in India and should be used a
Goa is plunging into a "new and ever-greater form of intolerance" which includes crime against women and childre
Some days back, Mukul Kesavan had a column in the Telegraph, with an interesting discussion on Indian 'secularism' in which he argued that the ideologues of Hindutva want to reconstrue the secularism of the Indian Constitution in an Israeli frame of reference:
...the only way of achieving Israeli-style pre-eminence for a religious majority in India lies either through violent mobilization, which might change the facts on the ground and achieve such irresistible momentum that the supremacy envisaged by Hindutvavadi organizations is established de facto (and this is the case in Gujarat, where the pogrom has consolidated an electoral Hindu majority and segregated a subordinate Muslim minority), or through judgments that strengthen the assimilative aspect of Indian secularism and create precedents for a ‘creatively’ majoritarian jurisprudence. This is why the imminent high-court verdict isn’t just another judgment about a land dispute; it’s an episode in an argument about the constitutional ground on which our republic is built. [Read on at the Telegraph]
And then today, again, in the same paper, he takes the debate forward, arguing that the Allahabad High Court's judgment will show whether the Constitution has teeth, offering a good summary of constitutional scholar Gary Jeffrey Jacobsohn's analysis of Justice J.S. Verma's reasoning not only in acquiring the land in Ayodhya but also in defining Hindutva, concluding with:
Given that traffic has only flowed one way in the Babri Masjid dispute for the last 60 years, it’s hard to see what is left for the Muslim parties to this dispute to concede, short of accepting the status quo where an extemporized temple has replaced the mosque. To accept that arrangement would be to concede that majoritarian grievance backed by massive, illegal violence is above the laws of the republic.
There’s another possibility. The Allahabad High Court might rule in favour of the Muslim parties to that dispute, redressing decades of injustice, and should the matter be appealed, the Supreme Court might uphold that verdict. Such a resolution would make the point that no one, not even self-styled proxies for Ram, can violently change facts on the ground and then expect to have their goonery legitimized by the courts.
Read on at the Telegraph
Going beyond the constitutional position, Pratap Bhanu Mehta offers an insightful analysis in the Indian Express:
All parties are reading, correctly, that the electorate does not at this juncture want polarising politics of any sort. So the political incentives are, ex ante, aligned to defuse violence. So the political incentives are, ex ante, aligned to defuse violence.
But the question to ask is this. Is the absence of violence an indicator of genuine peace with the subject? Does the absence of political mobilisation indicate the absence of sentiment? Under what circumstances could this equipoise be derailed? A good deal depends on the quality of the final judgment itself, the care and credibility with which it is argued, and the artfulness with which it handles sensitivities. Shah Bano was the last judgment that occasioned significant political mobilisation. But in that case the trigger was not the substance of the ruling itself, but the casualness with which interpretive matters pertaining to the authority of the Koran were handled. Even a stray observation about the claims of faith and history has the potential of derailing a technical land dispute.
Read on at the Indian Express
In the last two weeks or so, Swapan Dasgupta has had a number of columns and TV appearances, some of which may be useful to get a context of the politics and the political aspects of the dispute, addressing whether or not India has moved on from the early 1990s.
For a Times Now discussion with Vinod Mehta, see here (it picks up from IV below, which also has Prasoon Joshi reciting his poem on Ayodhya):
R. Jagannathan in the DNA argues that in our blind efforts to demonise the Sangh parivar, we have ignored the real gains made by our polity:
Every society learns by making mistakes. It is one of the big ironies of life that we learn only after societies and individuals sometimes pay a horrendous price for it, but there's no getting away from it...
Hindus have realised the follies of narrow Hindutva only after 1992 and 2002; they know that it diminishes Hinduism and is something the country cannot afford. Through a painful process, Muslims have made their own discoveries: that sham secularism and placing trust in rabble-rousers can land them in the ditch...
Babri also served as a wakeup call for Muslims, who were till then willing to let obscurantist leaders and phony secularists lead them to a dead end
Read more at the DNA
Would that it were so!
Ramachandra Guha in the Telegraph says that an excess of secularism may be as problematic as bigotry:
In Calicut, the headscarf is acceptable, but a few hundred miles up the west coast of India, it apparently is not. Thus, in recent months, some colleges in the district of Mangalore have forbidden its use. Mangalore is a stronghold of Hindutva organizations, which have been emboldened by the coming to power in Karnataka of the Bharatiya Janata Party. Earlier in the year, they attacked girls for going to pubs; now, they seek to prevent girls who wear headscarves from attending college. In the first case, they protested against an alleged scantiness of clothing; in the second case, against an alleged excess of clothing. Any stick is apparently good enough, so long as it can be used to intimidate the minorities.
...For me, the ubiquity of the headscarf in Calicut University is a perfect illustration of what Mahatma Gandhi liked to call “the beauty of compromise”. The pragmatism of the Malayali stands in salutary contrast both to the thoroughgoing secularism of the French and to the narrow bigotry of the Hindutva-wadis.
In his valedictory address delivered at the Silver Jubilee celebration of the Department of Christian Studies, University of Madras, K.N. Panikkar quoted Jurgen Habermas to argue that “the secularist certainty that religion will disappear worldwide in the course of modernisation is losing ground":
A national survey conducted by the Centre for Developing Societies, New Delhi, testifies to the growing influence of religion in Indian society. According to this survey, four out of 10 people are very religious and five out of 10 are religious. That is to say that 90 per cent of the respondents claimed to be religious — performing rituals, visiting places of worship and undertaking pilgrimages. Among them, 30 per cent claimed to have become more religious during the last five years. An increase in the number of religious institutions is also an indication of the greater hold of religion on society. Enlightenment and modernity in India have not led to the decline of the influence of religiosity. If anything, it has only increased.
Of course, the key word here is 'claimed' - 'claimed to be religious'. But, as he argues:
...Religion remains a powerful force in civil society. Secondly, the use of religion for political ends has substantially increased during the last few decades. Such a development has serious implications for a secular state and society. Retrieving the secular character of the public sphere is therefore imperative; otherwise its religious character is likely to impinge upon the functions of the state.
Read the extracts at the Hindu
Hitch too isn't too thrilled with Obama's Cairo speech ("some of what he said was well-intentioned if ill-informed"):
Take the single case in which our president touched upon the best-known fact about the Islamic "world": its tendency to make women second-class citizens. He mentioned this only to say that "Western countries" were discriminating against Muslim women! And how is this discrimination imposed? By limiting the wearing of the head scarf or hijab.... The clear implication was an attack on the French law that prohibits the display of religious garb or symbols in state schools.
He goes on to quote "from an excellent commentary by an Algerian-American visiting professor at the University of Michigan Law School, Karima Bennoune who says:
I have just published research conducted among the many people of Muslim, Arab and North African descent in France who support that country's 2004 law banning religious symbols in public schools which they see as a necessary deployment of the "law of the republic" to counter the "law of the Brothers," an informal rule imposed undemocratically on many women and girls in neighborhoods and at home and by fundamentalists.
Mukul Kesavan in the Telegraph:
The main reason why Patnaik’s declared revulsion at the BJP’s communal politicking during and after the violence in Kandhamal is met with scepticism is that his pluralist, secular conscience seemed to have been hibernating during the Gujarat pogrom in 2002. And this is reasonable: horrible though Kandhamal was, it was, at best, Gujarat in miniature. So why was Patnaik straining at a gnat, having swallowed the camel?
There’s a straightforward answer to that question. For Patnaik, the pogrom of 2002 happened elsewhere. Any taint by association on account of the BJD’s membership of the NDA could be explained away by saying that the agenda and the doings of BJP satraps were the responsibility of that party alone. This was the position taken by Chandrababu Naidu, by Mayavati and by Patnaik.
Very rarely do I find myself disagreeing with Mukul Kesavan's well-thought out, nuanced arguments, but the following just doesn't add up:
...he is the son of Biju Patnaik, a buccaneering cosmopolitan whose single greatest act of derring-do was air-lifting nationalists in Muslim majority Indonesia out of Dutch captivity. He’s also the writer Gita Mehta’s brother. It’s hard to fit the ethnic cleansing of Christians into this family profile.
Sounds suspiciously like a PLU rationalisation to me. They said pretty much the same about many things that Nehru's daughter and grandsons did -- or the great grandson said recently, for example.
But despite the above reservations, it does make a nuanced argument and is right in suggesting that, yes, Kandhamal did perhaps play a part in Patnaik's decision. But it obviously was not so much to bring about a parting of the ways immediately. For Pataniak himself did engage in long, tortuous negotiations over seat-sharings with the BJP much after Kandhamal. It is an interesting thought experiment to ponder over just how many seats more would have ensured he stayed with the BJP.
Read the full article: A Matter of New Scruples
Lalita Panicker in The Hindustan Times:
The communal vs secular issue has never been far from the surface, though today the CPM has forced the issue into the open. No, not by putting communal forces in their place but by joining hands with rabid parties like the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) led by the incendiary Abdul Nasser Madani, believed to be prime mover of the Coimbatore bomb blasts. How does the CPM, notably the faction led by state chief Pinarayi Vijayan, explain how he has cosied up to the likes of Madani when the chief minister V.S. Achuthanandan has openly come out against this?