The Telegraph – The way ahead for traditional progressive forces is along the Green path

Political triumphs have no meaning if life and its diverse forms are threatened

G N Devy

Op/Ed, 04 July 2019. I became interested in the phenomenon of increasing violence during the 1990s. The demolition of the Babri Masjid was only the tipping point for my interest. It had started interesting me much earlier.

A mix of episodes such as the Ananda Marga cult, Naxalism, the Bhagalpur blindings, the massacre of Sikhs in 1984, and the emergence of mafia dons in large cities, all of these and many more such terrifying happenings contributed to that interest.

When I started looking at the phenomenon of rising violence in and outside India, I began with a false academic pride that one could indeed make sense of this turn in the history of an apparently civilized, democratic, liberal world. However, I started feeling a bit shaky and began losing my confidence when terrorism became the news of the day and nationalism started becoming the prevalent political order.

The 21st century in its first two decades has brought to us an unexpected decline of democracy, a rejection of social liberalism and contempt for non-violence. One feels compelled to ask in utter disbelief, “Is this long-lasting? Will nations have to live with semi-despotic political regimes based on intimidation of citizens ?”

The reasons probably go deeper in history than one is willing to acknowledge.

I quote the opening statements from my recent book, Countering Violence. The centuries during which the world moved towards a pervasive dependence on machine production have arguably also been the centuries that generated a tendency towards violence on a scale unmatched in human history.

Mechanized wars, beginning with firearms and moving on to nuclear weapons and chemical arsenals, form but a small portion of the violence generated during these centuries.

There was also colonization, which led to the deportation, displacement, and genocide of indigenous populations; an excessive dependence on Reason, wiping out space for Imagination; recourse to writing and printing, negating all that was sacred and authentic in oral traditions; ‘development’, which acquired the form of majoritarian projects, annihilating minorities, and globalization, which made the State incapable of compassion for the deprived communities.

These centuries have unfolded a theatre of worrisome decline, or even the demise, of rationality, faith, voice, language, difference, and diversity.

In the wake of this multiple assault on human communities, thought, culture, and the symbiotic connect with nature, the very ‘nature’ of humans appears to have undergone a fundamental transformation, giving violence and what Gandhi would have termed its synonym, greed, a primacy in the ecology of thought.

The transformation appears to have been so fundamental that what was considered ghastly violent action or thought just a few decades ago has now been normalized, and reappears in every decade.

Thus, the unimaginable horror invoked by the very idea of a nuclear conflict made traditional wars look like manageable episodes of arms-clash, the subject of a half-semester case study project at a business school; and the rise of non-State party terrorism made the Cold War seem like mere propaganda, part of a semester course at a media school.

State surveillance of its own citizens, with the help of artificial intelligence and the associated power of intimidation that these mindless-yet-thinking machines possess, often makes the victim societies look back at history with longing and nostalgia, even for the medieval feudal anarchy. In short, the ever-increasing violence has been the backbone of human history over the past half-a-millennium.

It is difficult to decide if this has been the case forever in known history; indeed, if being human has perhaps also meant internalizing this ever-growing scale of violence.

Yet, it cannot be denied that the tendency towards violence has increased enormously through the eras in which rationality, knowledge, capital, and machine, together, and contrary to the rhetoric justifying their emergence, have gained a stranglehold over human society.

Predictably, just as industrial capitalism produced its critique in Karl Marx’s utopian ideas, violence aggravated by modernity found its critique in Gandhi’s utopian idealism. Not surprisingly, therefore, non-violence became for Gandhi a non-negotiable element of his idea of freedom.

Just as various shades of Marxism can be detected in every struggle for equality in modern times, and how seamlessly they can be applied to such struggles before Marx as well, it is also possible to attribute Gandhi’s notion of non-violence to all struggles for freedom, including those that preceded him.

The logical fallacy and anachronism involved in such attempts notwithstanding, it must be admitted that Gandhi, like Marx, was pointing to something truly fundamental about what has been happening to humans over the past half-a-millennium.

Curiously enough, both Marx and Gandhi held the rather simplistic belief that human greed can be contained, if not eliminated altogether, by bringing in, at least as an interim measure, the agency of the State (for Marx) and the conscience or the inner voice (for Gandhi).

Both argued against the arrogance of the State, hubris, and left it to individuals to strengthen society through action. It is not my intention to argue that the two were alike in their thought, they certainly were not. I invoke them here to point out that the moral and political responsibility that they place upon individuals is not yet a dated idea and deserves a serious consideration.

The current majoritarian disdain towards Gandhi and Marx is to a large extent a joint product of the unprecedented growth of the economic middle class and the neo-liberal economic response to its aspirations. Put in simple words, liberal economic thought, not to be confused with liberal social thought, took away the State’s direct responsibility towards the poorer sections of the society.

It promoted the idea that the State’s job is to provide ‘space’ and ‘ecology’ for unfettered aspirations. This idea, as an idea, does not look faulty or unjust, on its face. However, it led to the emptying the Left-progressive ideas of the clash between the economic classes of the political box.

Besides, this shift also created space for over-nationalistic regimes to take on the mantle of fighting globalization, the word that the progressive social actors are so fond of using as their favourite target.

Thus, today the Right has taken on the role of championing the poor against globalization; and when it adds the nationalism bit, the aspiring classes easily believe that pride is the new face of progress, never mind if violence, hatred, intimidation are used as the means to that end.

In 2000, the world started imagining itself as being on the verge of a ‘knowledge century’. By 2019, it has arrived on the verge of becoming a violence century. The acceptance by so many scientists that the Anthropocene has started is an admission that the humans have come close to a diminishing of diversity and life.

I think, the Left, progressive, socially liberal, gender-activist, ecologically sensitive sections all need to counter violence as a method for achieving any goal by reminding all of us that if life and the vast diversity of species come under threat, political triumphs have no meaning.

In other words, the way ahead for the traditional progressive forces is along the Green path. The recent elections to the European Parliament point to this in no uncertain way.

The author is a literary critic and a cultural activist

The Tribune – Fresh 30-day notice to Shillong Sikhs

Kolkata – West Bengal – India, 04 July 2019. The Shillong Municipal Board would soon issue a fresh public notice to Sikh residents of Punjabi Lane area, giving them 30 days to provide proof regarding possession of land or buildings in the area.

Meghalaya Deputy CM Prestone Tynsong disclosed this after a meeting of the high-level committee, constituted in June last year after violent clashes between Sikhs and local Khasis.

The deadline of an earlier notice expired on Wednesday. Tynsong said none of the residents complied and not paying heed to the new notice would amount to contempt of court.

Oostende: De Lijn Kusttram – Coastal Tram – White Flowers & Gentbrugge De Naeyerdreef

Kusttram – Coastal Tram
22 June 2019

Tram 0 to De Panne

Koninginnelaan, platform for trams to De Panne

Ticket office

White Flowers
22 June 2019

Can someone tell me which flowers these are ?

Port of Oostende
22 June 2019

A motor-yacht entering the port

Gentbrugge De Naeyerdreef
24 June 2019

What secrets are being hidden from us ?

More Belgian pictures to be published
Harjinder Singh
Man in Blue

Caravan – The BJP and the Sangh’s Sikh appeasement is electoral hypocrisy

Shiv Inder Singh

Op/Ed, 05 July 2019. On 8 May, during this year’s Lok Sabha elections, the prime minister Narendra Modi addressed a rally in the Fatehabad town in Haryana. The town borders the state of Punjab and has a significant Sikh population. “This chowkidar of yours promised the Sikh society and the country that he will punish the perpetrators of the 1984 riots,” Modi told the crowd.

“I am confident that the process of giving life sentences or death sentences to the guilty has been started.” Modi also referred to the Congress leader Sam Pitroda’s remark, “1984 happened, so what?”, to label the party as an “enemy” of the Sikh community.

It should be noted that Pitroda had apologised for his remark and the Congress president Rahul Gandhi also criticised Pitroda for the comment.

In another rally, in Punjab, the Bharatiya Janata Party national president Amit Shah asserted that the BJP and Narendra Modi were well-wishers of the Sikh community. “In 1984, thousands of Sikhs were killed and none of the accused were punished,” Shah said.

“But after the Modi government came to power, families of the victims finally got justice.” Shah asserted that Sajjan Kumar, a three-time member of parliament from the Congress, was convicted for killing five members of a Sikh family and sent to jail by the special investigation team constituted by the Modi government.

However, despite anger against the incumbent Congress state government in Punjab, the Lok Sabha elections did not yield significant results for the opposition parties. The Shiromani Akali Dal, a BJP ally, did not have a good showing and the “Modi wave” failed to have any impact in the state.

During these elections, the Akali Dal and the BJP repeatedly raised the 1984 massacre with a lot of bombast. The 1984 Sikh massacre is an unforgettable tragedy in the history of the Indian republic. Several human-rights activists and intellectuals believe that if the 1984 massacre had not happened, the 1992 anti-minority riots and the 2002 anti-Muslim pogrom in Gujarat would not have occurred either.

The 1984 and 2002 massacres get raised as poll planks in every election and the BJP’s leaders have consistently used the 1984 massacre to deflect questions on the 2002 pogroms.

So, do the BJP and Modi, the 2002 massacre of Muslims occurred on his watch, have the moral right to talk about the 1984 massacre? Can the BJP and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh truly be well-wishers of the Sikh community?

The RSS’s agenda is to homogenise India into a nation with one colour, one ideology and one culture and the Sangh Parivar’s leaders, big or small, constantly spread hate against minority communities. Along with these questions, we also need to find answers to the Sangh’s role when the state of Punjab was burning in the decade of the 1980s.

In the 1950s, when state borders were being demarcated on linguistic lines, the Punjabi Suba, province, movement arose. The movement demanded a Punjabi-speaking state carved out from the pre-Partition East Punjab state. This would have created a Sikh-majority state.

It was the Bharatiya Jan Sangh, the predecessor of the BJP, which now claims to be a well-wisher of Punjab, that tried to generate support for its agenda of a “Greater Punjab” by pitting the two majority communities—Hindus and Sikhs—against each other.

In Amritsar, the Jan Sangh gave their full support to organisations that wanted to open stores selling beedis, gutkha, tobacco and tobacco products close to the Golden Temple, also known as Harmandr Sahib or Darbar Sahib.

Sikhism has a strict proscription against tobacco and tobacco products. It was also a BJP national level leader, Harbans Lal Khanna, who publicly destroyed a model of the Golden Temple close to the Amritsar railway station.

In addition, in 1984, the RSS and the BJP were first in line of those pressuring the Indira Gandhi-led Congress government at the centre to take military action in the Golden Temple, in what came to be known as Operation Blue Star. On 3 May 1984, a few weeks before Blue Star commenced on 1 June, the BJP leaders LK Advani and A B Vajpayee sat on a dharna in Delhi, demanding that the armed forces be sent into the Golden Temple.

In his memoir, My Country, My Life, Advani admitted this and even extolled the military action.

In the chapter on Punjab, titled “The Trauma and Triumph of Punjab,” Advani wrote, “One of the major mass agitations in the history of the BJP was, against what we termed as the government’s virtual surrender before Bhindranwale and his private army, who had made the Golden Temple their operational headquarters.”

After Operation Blue Star, there were several reports stating that the RSS distributed laddus in celebration of the military action.

On 8 November 1984, Nanaji Deshmukh, a Jan Sangh leader who was felicitated with the Bharat Ratna by the Modi government, published an essay, “Moment of Soul Searching,” in which he praised Indira Gandhi for Blue Star and justified the 1984 Sikh massacre by saying that it was the fault of the Sikh leaders of that time.

Similarly, in 1985, Arun Shourie, another BJP leader who served in Vajpayee’s government but is currently estranged from the party, contributed to a book titled The Punjab Story.

Shourie’s essay in the book, “Lessons from the Punjab” justified Operation Blue Star. It is also a fact that a number of present day BJP leaders, such as Subramanian Swamy, were in the Congress party during Rajiv Gandhi’s time.

Similarly, it is also true that a number of BJP and RSS leaders were involved in the 1984 massacre, a fact that the Sangh Parivar wants to forget and hide. At least 49 members of the BJP and Sangh are named in the 14 first information reports registered at the Delhi City police station after the massacre.

The maximum numbers of FIRs related to the 1984 killings were registered at the Sriniwaspuri station in south Delhi. A look at those FIRs shows that a number of BJP and Sangh leaders were booked on charges of murder, arson and rioting in the areas of Hari Nagar, Ashram, Bhagwan Nagar and Sunlight Colony.

One of the people named in the FIRs is Ram Kumar Jain, a poll agent for Vajpayee during the 1980 Lok Sabha elections.

Shamsul Islam, the writer and historian, told me, “After the massacre, the way Rajiv Gandhi rallied the majority community in the name of nationalism is proof of the fact that the radical Hindu organisations fully supported the Congress.”

Another incident that highlights the Sangh Parivar’s animosity towards the Sikh community is the killing of ten Sikh pilgrims by the police in Uttar Pradesh’s Pilibhit town in 1991. The police claimed they were terrorists. This happened under the watch of the BJP state government led by former chief minister Kalyan Singh.

The litany of the Sangh’s doublespeak on the Sikh community does not end here.

In 2010, when Modi was the chief minister of Gujarat, his government tried to invoke a circular issued by the state government in 1973, under the ambit of the Bombay Tenancy and Agricultural Lands Act 1948—to take away the land of Sikh farmers who were settled in the state’s Kutch and Bhuj regions since 1965.

The move was challenged in court and when the state government lost the case in the Gujarat high court, Modi’s government approached the Supreme Court. According to Surender Singh Bhullar, the de-facto leader of the Sikh farmers based in Gujarat, “Today, the BJP’s local leaders behave like goons with us; they want to throw us out from our lands.

In reality, Modi is against not just the Muslims but all minorities.”

A recent report by The Caravan also reveals how the Modi government’s official notifications still use the phrase “Sikh terrorism.” According to the report, the Modi government has “constituted a standing focus group on terror financing, specifically to look into terror funding for Islamist and Sikh Terrorism.”

The BJP’s leaders also routinely make controversial statements against the Sikh community. During the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP leader Varun Gandhi reportedly referred to the Sikh community as “Khalistanis.”

In May this year, Anil Vij, the health minister in the BJP government in Haryana, was caught on camera abusing the Sikh community in Ambala, a town in Haryana with a significant Sikh population, during a public meeting because the locals had raised anti-BJP slogans.

Even Modi, whom Amit Shah refers to as a well-wisher of the Sikh people, had used the former prime minister Manmohan Singh’s identity to insult the entire community. Once, he referred to Manmohan as Shikhandi, a character in the Hindu epic Mahabharatha, who manipulated events to orchestrate Bhishma’s death at the hands of his grand nephew Arjun.

Another time, he mocked Manmohan with a derogatory slur against the community. During a speech, Modi recounted a meeting he had with Manmohan, who was then the prime minister. He narrated how, much to his surprise, Manmohan was extremely cordial towards him and that he happened to look at a watch and saw “ki barah bajne wale the”, that it was going to be 12.

He was referring to a trope which implies that the Sikh community starts behaving irrationally the moment the clock strikes 12.

According to Gurpreet Singh, a Canadian journalist of Punjabi descent, the BJP is trying to display a false camaraderie with the Sikh community because they also want to make inroads in the non-resident Indian Sikh community.

The NRI Sikh community is spread across the world and wields significant influence in their respective countries. According to Gurpreet, the BJP wants to use the NRI Sikhs to elevate their image abroad.

Several intellectuals and leaders from the Sikh community believe that the RSS wants to subsume the Sikh religion within Hinduism. Numerous such incidents keep coming to light from time to time. Shree Bharati Prakashan, a publisher affiliated with the Sangh Parivar, has been accused of printing literature that distorts Sikh history to suit the RSS’s agenda.

These publications portray the Sikh gurus’ fight for humanitarian values as a fight against Islam and Muslims. Several books by this publisher have indulged in character assassination of the Sikh gurus too.

In 2006, during the commemoration of the four hundredth anniversary of the execution of the fifth Sikh guru Arjan Dev, the BJP leader Sushma Swaraj had objected to the reference to a Hindu character named Chandu associated with Arjan Dev’s killing. According to Sikh lore, Chandu wanted to marry his daughter to Arjan Dev’s son but the Sikh guru refused.

Chandu then instigated the Mughal emperor Jahangir against Arjan Dev, ultimately leading to his arrest, torture and execution. During the same event, the BJP also raised a demand for ending the boycott of the RSS’s Sikh wing, the Rashtriya Sikh Sangat, by the Akal Takht since 2004. The Akal Takht is the highest temporal seat of Sikhism.

The Sangh, which wants to homogenise the entire country under the banner of one nation, one religion, and its political arm, the BJP, are completely against Muslims, Christians, Dalits and Adivasis and this is why they want to assimilate all other religions with Hinduism.

In 1984, in reference to the anti-Sikh pogrom, Rajiv Gandhi had infamously said, “When a big tree falls, the earth shakes.” He couched the majoritarian sentiment on display during those days as nationalism, which won him the 1984 Lok Sabha elections.

Thirty years later, another man became the prime minister, who compared another massacre targeted against a minority community to Newton’s third law of motion and said “every action has an equal and opposite reaction.” In his five years as the prime minister, Modi has created an atmosphere where violence against and killings of minorities have become commonplace.

The murderers of minorities are felicitated and abusing them is considered “nationalism.” In reality, Modi’s Sikh-love is another smokescreen deployed by the BJP and the Sangh Parivar to obfuscate their anti-Sikh history.

This news report first appeared in Karwan, The Caravan’s Hindi website. It has been translated and edited.

Shiv Inder Singh is a freelance journalist and the editor-in-chief of the Punjabi portal Suhi Saver.

The Hindu – Amartya Sen says ‘Jai Shri Ram’ not part of Kolkata’s culture

Slogan is a recent import and used as a pretext to beat people up, he states.

Staff Reporter

Kolkata – West Bengal – India, 06 July 2019. Economist and Nobel laureate Amartya Sen has said the affinity towards the slogan, ‘Jai Shri Ram’, was a recent development in West Bengal and not part of Kolkata’s culture.

It was not a phrase to which any consequence was attributed earlier “in my days,” he said “It, Jai Shri Ram, is a recent import used as a pretext to beat people up,” he said in an interaction with students of Jadavpur University in Kolkata, where he was a professor of economics in the mid-fifties, on Friday.

Earlier in the day, at a seminar in the city on advancement of education through teachers’ capabilities, Professor Sen said when “someone is asked to alight a rickshaw, told to repeat a particular phrase and then hit with a stick if the person refused to say so then then I am alarmed.”

At least a dozen cases had surfaced since the declaration of the recent general election results when members of a minority community were beaten up in the State allegedly even after saying ‘Jai Shri Ram.’ On Wednesday, an 11-year-old boy was thrashed in Hooghly district allegedly for refusing to say ‘Jai Shri Ram.’

Professor Sen, however, did not mention any particular incident but indicated that such incidents were growing. “We do not want to discriminate between various castes, religion or communities, but it is increasing,” he said at the seminar.

Later in the evening, in Jadavpur University, where he interacted with eminent social scientist Partha Chatterjee, Professor Sen reiterated the issue of discrimination.

“These days, when I hear that members of a particular community are scared and going out of their houses in this city with an element of fear, then I fail to recognise this city, the city of my pride. We need to ask questions now,” he said.

Professor Sen was interacting with Professor Chatterjee on ‘Kolkata after Independence: A personal memoir’ that is possibly part of his forthcoming autobiography.

‘Hindu Mahasabha introduced similar culture’

He further said in the question and answer session that Bengalis were not connected with “the culture” of ‘Jai Shri Ram’ or Ram Navami but this new culture was imported to promote divisive politics in the State.

He argued that the Hindu Mahasabha once introduced a similar culture in the State to create an atmosphere of divisive politics. “For the same reason, this ‘Jai Shri Ram’ slogan is introduced,” he said.

Professor Sen extensively discussed his student days in Presidency College [now a university], the excitement in the university area in central Kolkata or the iconic Coffee House, his years as a student with its warmth and the politics of the 1950s.

He also fondly reminisced about his early years in Jadavpur University as a teacher and his days at Cambridge University.

Gandhi Bhavan, the main auditorium of Jadavpur University, was chock-a-block and many could not enter the auditorium to listen to the interaction.

A few who came from the districts were upset and later posted on social media asking why the event could not be hosted in a bigger space.

BJP State president Dilip Ghosh, however, said that “nobody is listening to intellectuals like Amartya Sen”.

He said, “Everywhere, people are raising both their hands to say ‘Jai Shri Ram.’ Communists are finished”.