The Telegraph – How Hindu nationalism is changing India

Book excerpt: Majoritarian State: How Hindu Nationalism Is Changing India, Edited by Angana P Chatterji, Thomas Blom Hansen, Christophe Jaffrelot

Kolkata – West Bengal – India, 22 April 2019. Over the past five years, India has moved further away from the multicultural model set forth in its secular constitution.

While its prescriptions have never been followed to the letter, as seen in the underrepresentation of minorities, Muslims in particular, in the administration, the police and the military, as of 2014, Muslims also began to vanish from elected assemblies, where this minority is hardly represented anymore.

Not only are Muslims marginalised in major institutions and the public sphere, but they are targeted by Hindu nationalist militias as well. These groups are trying to rid the public space of this minority by (re)converting its members to the dominant religion, preventing them from praying in the open and prohibiting them from acquiring real estate in mixed residential areas.

They are also trying to cut the majority community off from the Muslim minority by preventing interfaith marriages. Over and beyond this, the vigilantes attack Muslims, accusing them of eating beef or taking cows to slaughter, which is against the law.

Not only do these accusations sometimes result in perfectly illegal lynchings, but in many cases vigilantes also enjoy police protection.

The fact that vigilantes and police work hand in glove has several explanations. Firstly, not only is Muslim presence in the police very weak, but also, Hindu nationalists endeavour to infiltrate this pillar of law enforcement.

A BJP Member of the Legislative Council (upper house of a state legislature) from Karnataka interviewed by Cobrapost and journalists at party headquarters in Mangalore thus explained, ‘We have tried to send some of our boys into police.

When I talk to students I tell them to join the police. So, when we need help there are a lot of karyakartas [militants of the] [RSS]. Sixty percent of the young constables are our students.’

Secondly, while the conduct of Hindu militias is illegal, they enjoy a degree of legitimacy in the eyes of the majority because they claim that they are acting in defence of the dominant religion.

Thirdly, and correlatively, vigilantes enjoy popular support and neutralise opponents, not only because they promote Hinduism, but also because of their sense of organisation, their penetration of society and the weapons they carry.

Sangeet Som, mentioned above, thus explains:

This is Hindustan and it does not matter which party is running the government. In a democratic country like this, there are many other ways to get things done. The police know it well that we will do picketing, hold demonstration and all this will lead to rioting. So, they perforce co-operate with us.

This ability to enforce its version of the law no matter what party is in power, and thus independently from the state, demonstrates the success of the RSS project, which since 1925, has endeavoured to win Hindu society over to its cause rather than to conquer political power directly.

The attitude of those in government is of course important, but more than anything else, the RSS expects them not to interfere with its work and even to facilitate it. It does not expect the state to operate in its stead, as no state can transform minds from above.

That is a long-term task that can only be accomplished through action at the grassroots level, and which is compatible with a certain form of democracy.

In Som’s above-quoted remarks, he indeed speaks of India’s democratic nature as a good thing. The country can thus continue to enjoy a positive image abroad, and majority rule, at the heart of the democratic system, is naturally appreciated by proponents of Hindu majoritarianism.

Once the majority is won over to Hindutva, its champions are bound to benefit from this regime. This is indeed the position of proponents of an ethnic democracy, a concept I will return to in closing this chapter.

This notion is a contradiction in terms because it divides the ‘demos’ into two categories: some citizens do not have the same rights as others simply because of their faith. But majority communities living in ethnic democracies do not see things this way.

Israeli Jews, for instance, claim to support the principles of democracy, as the supreme court moreover stated in a 1988 decision denying the right of the Progressive List for Peace to participate in elections because the party refused to recognise Israel as a Jewish state in essence: ‘there is no contradiction whatsoever between these two things: The state is the state of the Jews, while its regime is an enlightened democratic regime that accords rights to all citizens, Jews and non-Jews.’

The judges even went so far as to consider that ‘the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish state does not negate its democratic nature, any more than the Frenchness of France contradicts its democratic nature.’

This approach does not pertain only to institutions, as, according to Smooha, ‘Jewish public opinion not only condones constraints imposed on Arabs, but also endorses preferential treatment of Jews.’

An opinion poll taken in 1995 among Israeli Jews showed that 74.1 per cent of them expected the state to give Jews preferential treatment over Arabs, who, for 30.9 per cent of the respondents, should not even have the right to vote, or be hired in civil service jobs according to 32.2 per cent.

Smooha adds, underscoring the scope of the problem: ‘Most Jews do not even perceive the above differential practices as discriminatory against Arabs, but consider them rather as preferences rightfully accorded to them as Jews in a Jewish state.’

Paradoxically, Smooha concludes, ‘The Israeli case demonstrates the viability of an ethnic democracy as a distinct type of democracy in deeply divided societies.’ He considers on the whole that, ‘As a mode of conflict regulation, it is superior to genocide, ethnic cleansing, involuntary population transfer and systems of non-democratic domination.’

Such an approach resonates as an invitation to minorities to accept a status as dominated, second-class citizens, the plea of Arabs of Israel. In India, a similar evolution may one day result in constitutional amendments transforming a de facto Hindu Rashtra into a de jure one.

Excerpted with permission from Majoritarian State: How Hindu Nationalism Is Changing India, Edited by Angana P Chatterji, Thomas Blom Hansen, Christophe Jaffrelot; HarperCollins India, Rs 899

Bosnia – Sarajevo – St Antony’s Roman Catholic Church

Walkabout in Sarajevo
St Antony’s Roman Catholic Church

10 April 2019

Franciscan Church

Mother Mary with her dead son

Franjevačka Bogoslovija
Franciscan Theological School

Mother Mary with the child Jesus

Emperor Franz Joseph I

Next to the church is this brewery

More Bosnian pictures to be published
Harjinder Singh
Man in Blue

The National – Once a white supremacist, always a white supremacist?

How an unlikely friendship between a Sikh man and a skinhead sparked a battle against racism

Oak Creek – Wisconsin – USA, 27 April 2019. On 05 August 2012, a white-supremacist gunman stormed into the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin and opened fire. Satwant Singh Kaleka, the president and revered leader of the gurdwara in Milwaukee, took five bullets in his torso when he confronted the shooter and tried to stop him.

“My father died a heroic death. He died fighting against a racist gunman,” says his son Pardeep Singh Kaleka.

“He died in the place that he helped build. He might have lost that fight, but we continue on in that battle.”

After the shooting, Milwaukee’s Sikh community decided not to fix the damage done to the door-frame by one of the gunman’s bullets.

Instead, they installed a small plaque below it that reads: “We are one.”

“I think there is a beauty to our painful history,” Kaleka says. “We are going to be resilient through all of this. ‘We are one’ are also the first words in our scripture.”

In the days after the shooting, Kaleka says he did all the things he imagined his father would have done.

He helped members of the congregation with their funeral arrangements. He became a spokesperson for his community.

But above all, he tried to make sense of the events of that day. Six people were killed and four wounded before the shooter turned the gun on himself.

“We weren’t surprised that a white supremacist would do something like this,” Kaleka says. “It just hurt because people were trying so hard to become part of the American fabric, and to be told that you are not American enough hurts.

“I wanted to know why the shooter did what he did,” Kaleka adds. “Why did he come to that temple on that day, on that morning, and kill the people that he did?”

Arno Michaelis, white supremacist

What Kaleka didn’t know was that someone else in Milwaukee at that time was also desperate to find out more about the killer. On the evening of the attack, when it was announced that the shooter was a white supremacist, Arno Michaelis was ashamed and worried.

Michaelis had been a leader in the white power movement in Milwaukee.

“In so many ways this guy was exactly who I used to be,” he says.

“I lay awake that night thinking [what] if it was someone that I recruited or someone that I knew from back in the day. I had this really sinking feeling from the get-go that I had something to do with this.”

That’s because for seven years, Michaelis had lived and breathed racism. He was a founder and leader of a worldwide skinhead movement. He sang in a popular white power band.

It was music that got Michaelis involved in white supremacy when he was 16.

“The lyrics were about race and nation and blood and soil, and all these really seductive themes that Adolf Hitler used to corrupt the minds of so many Germans back in the ’30s and ’40s,” he says.

“To me, all that language resounded with me. I didn’t really care about anything up until then.”

In those days as a young man, Michaelis says he radiated hostility. He explains how he was always trying to recruit people to his movement.

Michaelis doesn’t shy away from admitting what he did. In fact, he says he wants people to know exactly what a white supremacist is capable of.

“I don’t know how many times there were 10 of us walking down a street, and if we saw one lone guy and it was a just target of opportunity, we’d just jump on him and beat the mess out of him. Leave him a bloody pulp,” Michaelis says.

“Sometimes it was because they were black, sometimes we thought they were gay, and we’d just jump on them and brutally beat them and leave them for dead.”

Michaelis adds that his white power group had plenty of guns in those days, because they were preparing for a race war they believed was imminent. If he hadn’t left the movement, Michaelis wonders if one day he might have gone into a place of worship and killed people.

“Had I continued down that path, it’s certainly within the realm of possibility that the ideology would have made me so miserable that nothing but homicide followed by suicide seemed to make sense,” he says.

Birth and re-birth

What Michaelis says saved him was the birth of his daughter.

“By that time I had lost count of how many friends had been incarcerated,” he says. “And it finally hit me that if I don’t change my ways, then death or prison is gonna take me from my daughter.”

Michaelis left the movement. He took a job as a computer programmer.

He believed he’d left the world of white supremacy behind.

But when the shooting happened at the Sikh temple, his past came back, the shooter was a member of the same racist group Michaelis helped start.

“I certainly felt a real urgent responsibility because of the actual hands-on role that I had in bringing that group to life,” Michaelis says.

Once a white supremacist always a white supremacist?

Meanwhile, Pardeep Kaleka, still trying to understand his father’s murder, did something that would change his life.

Searching for answers, he contacted Michaelis.

“I just thought he might know the shooter,” says Kaleka. “And he might be able to get into the intricacies of the day or the day before, and why he chose that place.

“I was really just looking for an explanation.”

Kaleka spoke to Michaelis a few times on the phone before they decided to meet at a nondescript Thai restaurant in downtown Milwaukee.

“There was a part of me that was like, ‘what am I doing?” Kaleka says. “Because part of you thinks ‘once a white supremacist always a white supremacist.'”

The two men sat down together. They made small talk, and then Kaleka asked Michaelis the question that had been eating at him. “When I asked Arno ‘why did the shooting happen,’ he responded quite simply: ‘hurt people hurt other people,'” says Kaleka.

“He was honest, saying he didn’t know who the shooter was, but that the shooter was very much who he used to be,” Kaleka adds.

An unlikely friendship

Against all odds, Kaleka and Michaelis formed an unlikely friendship.

“We talked a lot about our dads,” Michaelis says. “And we talked a lot about our daughters. And we found out, as we are sharing stories, about how similar not only our loved ones were, but how similar we were.”

They committed to working together to stop the racist violence that had brought them together.

“People oftentimes ask me, ‘Why did you do that?'” Kaleka says. “The main reason I did that was to understand why people do what they do, and the more important thing, what are we gonna do about it?”

“I knew right there that Pardeep was gonna be an important part of my life,” Michaelis says.

Today Kaleka and Michaelis have created an organization called Serve2Unite that works with young people and educational institutions to cultivate compassion and inclusion.

They travel the world telling their story of how friendship overcame hate, and they meet hundreds of people, students, politicians, and push them to take action against racism.

“Dad’s life was one of connection and it was one of love,” Kaleka says.

“And I look at me and Arno’s journey together as an extension of that love. The lasting message from what happened on 05 August is NOT going to be the shooter’s rampage.”

Nick Purdon and Leonardo Palleja

Dawn – Following rumours, refusals to vaccinate children against polio rise by 85pc in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

Peshawar – Khyber Pakhtunkhwa – Pakistan, 26 April 2019. Instances of parents’ refusal to allow health workers to administer anti-polio drops to their children rose by 85 per cent in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa after rumours pertaining to the authenticity of the vaccine provoked hysteria across the province, Dr Ejaz, an official of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Emergency Operation Centre (EOC) for polio said on Friday.

Across Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, more than 700,000 families refused to vaccinate children, whereas in the last anti-polio drive, which was held last month, the number of refusal cases was 57,000, Dr Ejaz said. He attributed the alarming increase in the number of refusal cases to rumours spread against the vaccine that is administered to prevent the virus.

In Peshawar alone, the number of refusal cases rose by 79pc as about 164,000 out of 800,000 families refused to allow health workers to administer anti-polio drops to their children, he said. Due to prevailing rumours against the vaccine, anti-polio campaign had to be postponed in 24 union councils of Peshawar.

“This is the highest number of refusal cases reported in an anti-polio campaign,” Dr Ejaz said.

“The propaganda against anti-polio vaccines created panic in Peshawar and other districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and has badly affected the efforts of the government to eradicate polio,” he said, adding that the EOC will come up with a new strategy before initiating another anti-polio campaign, which will be held in June.

He regretted that the rumours have exposed children to the risk of becoming victims of the crippling polio virus.

Dr Ejaz said that the EOC will take local and religious leaders, as well as members of the civil society, on board in order to allay the fear and misconceptions of parents regarding the vaccine.

Panic over rumours against anti-polio vaccine

Panic spread across Peshawar earlier this week after reports that 75 students at a school in Badhber, complaining of headaches, nausea and abdominal pain allegedly after being administered the anti-polio vaccine, were admitted to Hayatabad Medical Complex. Shortly after, doctors began releasing them, saying they were in stable condition.

Panicked parents continued taking their children to hospitals for checkups till late at night, some 300 children visited Lady Reading Hospital, and mosques added further grist to the rumours by issuing intermittent warnings over their loudspeakers to not get children vaccinated, and that those who had must reach hospitals to avoid a reaction.

Most children were released after treatment, health workers said. The doctors at LRH said it was psychological, whatever it was that was impacting the children. In Charsadda, 800 children were hospitalised.

Family members and area residents resorted to agitation in protest against the incident. They broke the doors and windows of a hospital during their protest, set a Basic Health Unit in the area on fire and held polio workers hostage for some time.

Deputy Superintendent of Police Saddar Sahibzada Sajjad told DawnNewsTV that a first information report (FIR) had been registered at the Badhber police station against identified individuals for setting fire to a Basic Health Unit and causing widespread panic by rumour-mongering.

Addressing the hysteria across the province, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Health Minister Dr Hisham Inamullah Khan held a press conference to debunk the rumours about the vaccine. “We have an inquiry report and the only thing it points towards is panic.

The school from where it all started, there should be an investigation against them. These two, three schools had also refused the anti-polio campaign earlier. They did not want drops administered to their students,” he claimed.