The Asian Age – Romila Thapar and JNU: Can India’s Left go to the rescue?

The octogenarian opposed narrow Muslim demands in the 1970s to change the secular character of AMU.

Jawed Naqvi – Dawn’s correspondent in New Delhi

New Delhi – India, 05 September 2019. Najman Bua’s story about the defiant tamarind leaf resurfaced in one’s thoughts the other day. We learnt last week of a malodorous decision taken by Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), currently run by right-wing obscurantists, handpicked by the Modi government.

They have asked eminent historian Romila Thapar, 87, for her CV to see if she could continue as professor emerita at the history faculty where she is revered as a teacher and scholar of amazing intellectual prowess. As enormities of academic and intellectual outrage go, which Hindu fascists are capable of inflicting at will now, this was at best an irritating indiscretion.

Thapar is not expected to yield an inch, as she and her fellow scholars have endured the slings and arrows of the growing intellectual intolerance in India for decades. She is a key target, yes, but not alone.

Scholars like Professor Irfan Habib have fought their battles for democratic principles on several fronts, occasionally simultaneously. As the lodestar of the formidable history department he helped develop in Aligarh Muslim University, Habib, now a professor emeritus, has confronted Muslim bigotry, Hindu fanaticism and even rebukes from his chosen party, the CPI(M), often all together.

The octogenarian opposed narrow Muslim demands in the 1970s to change the secular character of AMU. And we still remember the dark day when Habib was in tears, pleading with the media not to give credence to the canard that Hindu victims of communal riots were being poisoned at the varsity medical college.

If anything, their lives were saved. Most demeaning of all, perhaps, as he continued to battle Muslim revivalism and Hindutva fascism, was that Habib found himself in the party doghouse for speaking out. On one occasion he was “isolated” for asking that West Bengal chief minister Jyoti Basu be allowed by the CPI(M)’s central committee to become Prime Minister.

Early signs of right-wing intolerance surfaced in academia when, within months of the Janata Party coming to power in 1977, history textbooks of great merit were banned, including those written by Professor Thapar. Indira Gandhi to her credit had presciently described the anti-Congress JP Movement, packed with the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) activists, as fascist.

Aware of the truer political reality, the pro-Soviet communists supported her assessment, and they were proved right when pro-Moscow Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was assassinated on Aug 15, 1975, three months into the Indian emergency, by right-wing military coup leaders in Dhaka.

The post-Vietnam cat-and-mouse game of the superpowers had shifted to South Asia, and it was not too long before Z A Bhutto fell victim to another right-wing military coup.

To her “fascist” barb, Mrs Gandhi’s bête noire Jayaprakash Narayan retorted that if the RSS was fascist, then he too was one. The pro-China leftists led by the CPI(M) supported the JP Movement and saw their own chance in it. They began their record rule of West Bengal in the wake of the Janata Party victory.

They unwittingly again helped the RSS in 1989 by joining hands with the Hindu right to shore up V P Singh’s short-lived premiership. The blunders may have something to do with today’s disturbing reality that the CPI(M) leadership is still not united in describing the Modi regime as fascist. Perhaps Mrs Gandhi was more far-sighted than them.

That the RSS rose from having two dismal BJP MPs in 1984 to 85 seats in the 1989 elections, not without the direct or indirect help of the CPI(M), is important to understanding the bind that India’s public intellectuals are in today.

History students at JNU during and just after the emergency would remember how CPI(M) cadres hounded Marxist historian Bipan Chandra because he shared a worldview with comrades in the pro-Soviet camp.

The party’s history of as yet unacknowledged blunders, a rankling one being the veto against Basu becoming PM, has played a hand in the rise of the Hindu right, and its concomitant anti-intellectualism.

It is a saving grace that the CPI(M) supported the anti-lynching bill passed by the West Bengal Assembly and backed chief minister Mamata Banerjee for it. It may yet not be too late for the left to help Romila Thapar and her valiant colleagues to fight for India’s promised freedoms.

In the story of Premrani that Najman Bua told us several times many years ago, there was a tamarind tree that protected the princess when her seven brothers went hunting. The tree with magical powers towered over the mansion where the happy siblings lived. One day, evil bandits feigning to be her seven guardians knocked on her door.

The tamarind tree alerted the princess with a song that the visitors were not her friends. As was the norm in Najman’s stories from Rudauli, located on a detour between Lucknow and Ayodhya, the tree would invariably sing its advice in Awadhi. “Premrani, Premrani khol de kewaarh, tohrey saaton bhaiyya aai gae bhorai dwaar.”

The frustrated bandits directed their anger at the interfering tree and chopped off one branch at a time. Finally, they killed the entire tree, but a tamarind leaf still survived and thwarted the bandits with her warning song.

At the end of the story, the brothers arrived in time and overwhelmed the bandits. Had she been around, Najman Bua would have perhaps likened the tree to Nehru and Romila Thapar to the defiant tamarind leaf.

By arrangement with Dawn – Supreme Court refuses to hear petition seeking justice in extra-judicial killings of more than 8000 youths

Sikh24 Editors

New Delhi – India, 02 September 2019. Quashing the Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by a human rights group named Punjab Documentation and Advocacy Project (PDAP) on behalf of more than eight thousand victim families, the SC bench of Justices Arun Mishra and MR Shah asked the petitioners to approach the Punjab & Haryana High Court.

The PIL pertains to the enforced disappearances, extra-judicial killings, and mass cremations of over 8,000 persons who were either killed using extra-judicial means or abducted by security forces in Punjab during the period post 1984.

It is pertinent to note here that the PDAP has conducted a decade long investigation to identify victims of extra-judicial killings in 14 districts of Punjab. During this investigation, the PDAP identified 8257 victims who disappeared after being picked up by cops between 1984 and 1995.

PDAP member Advocate Satnam Singh Bains had informed that proper evidences were also enclosed with this PIL moved in the Supreme Court. “Not only Sikhs, but the families of other communities have been also covered who lost their loved ones in fake encounters,” he added.

“For the past three decades, the victim families were struggling for justice and accountability,” he said while adding that the PDAP uncovered compelling evidence of 6,140 illegal cremations by the Punjab police.

It also provided evidence of 1,400 encounter FIRs claiming that the victims were unidentified militants.

Gent: Zuiderlaan – Watersportbaan – Lippensplein – Gentbrugse Meersen

19 August 2019

Fuut – Great crested grebe

Bus 39 to Oostakker Dorp – Achtendries

19 August 2019

De Lijn Tram 2 to Zwijnaarde

Turning left into Brabantdam

Gentbrugge – Gentbrugse Meersen
20 August 2019

Bare feet path

Rietsigaar – Reedmace

More Belgian pictures to be published
Harjinder Singh
Man in Blue

OFMI – India West Diaspora Newspaper Sells Out to RSS Paramilitary

San Leandro, California – USA, 12 August 2019. One of the US’s oldest Indian diaspora newspapers, India West, has angered segments of the Indian-American community after publishing a front-page ad featuring the founding fathers of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, including MS Golwalkar, who praised Nazi Germany’s racial policies.

The full-page ad celebrates the Indian government’s controversial decision to scrap Jammu and Kashmir’s autonomous status and strip the region of statehood. The add states that “Akhand Bharat”, a Hindu nationalist demand for an “Undivided India,” is “finally a reality.” Showing a saffron flag planted in J&K, the ad features images of Golwalkar and RSS founder KB Hedgewar.

“India West has sold out to the RSS, a fascist paramilitary responsible for pogroms and lynchings of India’s minorities,” states Arvin Valmuci of Organization for Minorities of India. “The publishers of this newspaper are a disgrace to journalism.

They have showered contempt on the millions of Indians who are persecuted by the RSS. Does India West stand by Golwalkar’s praise for the Nazi purge of the Jews? We demand a retraction of the paper and a sincere apology from the publishers.”

Golwalkar, who led the RSS from 1940 to 1973, infamously wrote in 1939: “To keep up the purity of the race and its culture, Germany shocked the world by her purging the country of the Semitic races, the Jews. Race pride at its highest has been manifested here.

Germany has also shown how well-nigh impossible it is for races and cultures, having differences going to the root, to be assimilated into one united whole, a good lesson for us in Hindustan to learn and profit by.”

Subsequently, in 1966, Golwalkar endorsed annexation of Pakistan, calling for “the hoisting of our flag in Lahore and other parts of Pakistan.” The long-standing demand of Hindu nationalist outfits like the RSS includes establishment of a mythical “Akhand Bharat.” Such a nation might include every South Asian country from Afghanistan to Sri Lanka to Myanmar.

“We’re shocked at India West’s complete lack of judgement in approving advertisers,” says Balbir Singh Dhillon, the president of West Sacramento Sikh Gurdwara.

“The RSS wants to purge India of Sikhs, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, and anyone else who isn’t Hindu. Fascists like the RSS are celebrating Modi’s tyranny in Kashmir, but Sikhs here in California are standing shoulder-to-shoulder with our oppressed Kashmiri brothers and sisters. The publishers of India West should be ashamed of themselves.”

Dhillon, who spent months in jail in India in the 1990s on false charges, adds that the torture he experienced is a regular feature of life in Kashmir. “So many Kashmiris have been tortured like I was,” he says. “Tens and tens of thousands of Kashmiris have been simply murdered. The Sikhs in Punjab suffered the same thing.”

Last week, the Bharatiya Janata Party ruled Indian government passed a bill stripping J&K of statehood. The move was preceded by a presidential order abrogating Articles 370 and 35A of the Indian Constitution, which had officially granted J&K autonomy in most of its domestic affairs.

Kashmiris generally considered the article as the primary legal justification for their state’s alignment with India. The BJP’s actions prompted international outcry.

Kashmiris have remained under martial law for over a week. Phone and internet service is blocked. A few images obtained by international outlets like The New York Times show furious Kashmiris clashing with Indian security forces. Reports from the BBC show security forces using tear gas to disperse a protest rally. India denies the protest occurred.

“The growing instability in this nuclear region presents a global threat,” concludes Dhillon. “By placing this ad, India West is openly intimidating minorities of Indian origin who are living in the US.

India West’s publishers are sending a chilling message that they endorse the lynchings, torture, killings, and forced assimilation of India’s minorities under the saffron flag of Hindu supremacists.”

India West, a weekly print newspaper based in California, was founded in 1975 by Ramesh and Bina Murarka.

Dawn – Divide and bleed

F S Aijazuddin

Op/Ed, 05 September 2019. King Solomon has just reason for regret. His humane decision has been perverted by two modern mothers, India and Pakistan, each claiming the same child. Both countries are witnessing it being torn asunder. Jammu & Kashmir deserved a better parent.

By revoking Article 370 and Article 35A of its constitution, India had hoped to resolve the issue of held Kashmir decisively. It has done so instead ruthlessly and callously. Prime Minister Modi’s government and Indian parliamentarians decided that half a carcass was better than a whole one.

That decision was taken a month ago, on 05 August. Despite India’s attempts to embalm it in the formaldehyde of cosmetic diplomacy, that half-carcass (much to India’s discomfort) has begun to decompose.

Many nations, more for their own interests than India’s ignore the reek. They have accepted against their conscience that the action taken by India should be regarded as its ‘internal matter’. Who among them can resist the power of 21st century politico-economics?

India has claimed victory internally but faces defeat internationally. The United Nations and now the European Union have cleared their tables to make room for a discussion on Jammu & Kashmir. India tried but has failed to sweep human rights abuses in held Kashmir under a bloodied Kashmiri shawl.

Many nations, more for their own interests than India’s, ignore the reek

Force of habit has made Pakistan regard every Indian setback as an advantage. Such ‘successes’ are Pyrrhic in nature. Foreign policy expects stronger foundations. Recent pronouncements by the Pakistan government, while dramatic in their declarations, need to be tempered with tact.

The use of the words ‘Nazism’ and ‘Holocaust’ arouse memories that lie too deep for tears among nations which suffered both. The darker connotations of Nazism were accentuated particularly after the defeat of Hitler’s Germany.

The word ‘Holocaust’ predates World War II. It has roots in the mass murder of Protestants in 16th century Netherlands, and in atrocities committed by Turks in the 1920s. However, time has not diluted their potency. They should be uncorked carefully.

In the past few weeks, there has been a curious inversion of postures in New Delhi and in Islamabad. Indian defence minister Rajnath Singh hinted broadly (the breadth of a nuclear warhead) that India will reconsider its nuclear strike option.

It is prepared to strike first. Prime Minister Imran Khan has said that Pakistan won’t initiate a military conflict. The common man is finding it hard to distinguish between peaceable hawks and aggressive doves.

This sort of shadow-boxing was a feature of US-Soviet relations until the collapse of the Soviet Union under the weight of its military pretensions. US president Ronald Reagan upped the ante by elevating the debate into the cosmos with his Star Wars doctrine.

The Soviet Union had managed to launch the first dog, the first man and then the first woman into space. It could not afford to combat the United States in outer space.

India has the same advantage that the US did. Its economy has the resources and the resilience to arm itself without having to examine the bill. For India, Pakistan is an irritant, a nuisance, but not a competitor. Its true rival, economically, diplomatically, strategically, is a militarised China.

In the Eurasian zone, three countries are determined to retrieve territory history forced them to forfeit, Russia, its satellite states; China, the island of Formosa; and India, the Indus plateau from which it derived its name.

Interestingly, of late, PM Modi has changed tack in his recent speeches. In them, he addresses the people of Pakistan. He exhorts them to question their leaders and to demand explanations from them why India is progressing so rapidly and Pakistan is palpably not.

Insidiously, he is inserting a stiletto between the Pakistani public and its leadership. He is attempting to extract a dividend from the dissatisfaction Pakistanis are feeling (and expressing) at the failure of the PTI government to govern.

Anyone with sense knows that India and Pakistan are not equals. They also admit the truth that India cannot annex Pakistan. It does not need over 200 million more ungovernable Muslims. That is why in 1971 it preferred the creation of Bangladesh rather than have a reunified Bengal.

And it cannot incinerate Pakistan in a nuclear conflict without singeing itself. Pakistan cannot compete indefinitely with India’s plans to improve its defence superiority. At best, Pakistan can use, as it has done in the past, operational expertise to correct the technical imbalance.

What should both countries do? The only answer is a mature, reasoned and arms-less dialogue without preconditions from either side. The mothers must talk. Even King Solomon would find no cause to regret such a judgement.

The writer is an author.