The Telegraph – Bring Ambedkar & Gandhi together

‘To overcome the massed, malign, forces of Hindutva, we need them on the same side’

Ramachandra Guha

Op/Ed, 01 February 2020. In an interview that he gave last year, the Kannada writer (and activist), Devanur Mahadeva, urged democrats not to view Ambedkar and Gandhi as rivals and adversaries. In the journey towards true equality, he said, they should rather be seen as colleagues and co-workers. Thus, as Mahadeva remarked: “Ambedkar had to awaken the sleeping Dalits and then make the journey.

Gandhi had to make the immense effort of uplifting, correcting, changing those who were drowned in Hindu caste religion, in caste wells, to take a step forward. When you see all this, maybe Gandhi would not have traversed far without the presence of Ambedkar.

Similarly, I feel that without the liberal tolerant atmosphere created by Gandhi in the wells of Hindu caste religion, then this cruel Savarna society may not have tolerated Ambedkar as much as it did then.”

Mahadeva continued: “If it is our understanding that it is the Savarnas who need to change if India has to liberate itself from caste, then Gandhi is necessary. In the fight for Dalit civil rights, Ambedkar is absolutely necessary. Hence, I say that both should be brought together.”

Mahadeva further observed: “Gandhi calls untouchability a ‘sin’. Ambedkar calls it a ‘crime’. Why are we seeing these as opposites? It is wise to understand both of these as necessary.” (Mahadeva’s words have been translated into English by Rashmi Munikempanna).

I recalled Devanur Mahadeva’s remarks when seeing posters of Ambedkar and Gandhi being displayed together at student protests in Delhi. This was rare, if not unprecedented. For it is much more common to see Gandhi and Ambedkar being celebrated separately. Indeed quite often they are placed in opposition to one another.

In the past, it was usually admirers of Gandhi who saw these two great Indians in adversarial terms. In the 1930s and 1940s, Ambedkar had often used polemical language to attack Gandhi and his ideas.

This outraged Congressmen, who could not countenance any criticism of their beloved Bapu. They responded by characterizing Ambedkar as an apologist for British rule, damned him for serving on the Viceroy’s Executive Council during the Quit India movement of 1942 and so on.

In recent decades, it has more often been Ambedkarites who have critiqued Gandhi. They have seen his attempts at reforming the caste system as weak-kneed and half-hearted.

They have charged him with patronizing their hero (during the Poona Pact and after), and criticized Gandhi‘s political heir, Jawaharlal Nehru, for not using Ambedkar’s talents and abilities adequately in the years that the two served together in the first cabinet of free India.

In states such as Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra, attacks on Gandhi by Dalit intellectuals have been intense and unrelenting. In Karnataka, however, subaltern writers have taken a broader view. In his superb book, The Flaming Feet, the late D R Nagaraj urged us to see the work of Ambedkar and Gandhi as complementary.

The work of undermining the caste system and of delegitimizing untouchability required both pressure from Dalits themselves, which Ambedkar provided, and from upper-caste reformers, which is what Gandhi represented. Nagaraj was a friend of Devanur Mahadeva’s, and the two must surely have exercised a reciprocal influence on one another.

Whether or not they know of their work, the students of Jamia and the women of Shaheen Bagh substantiate the large-hearted analysis of Nagaraj and Devanur Mahadeva. Like those two thinkers of Karnataka, these brave protesters of Delhi admirably urge us not to posit Ambedkar and Gandhi as rivals.

Rather, they urge us to view them instead as colleagues, whose legacies need to be brought together in the struggle for democracy and pluralism.

After a recent visit to Shaheen Bagh, the Delhi-based writer, Omair Ahmad, noted, in a long and most interesting Twitter thread, that among the reasons that there were more posters of Ambedkar than Gandhi on display was that, as he put it, “people have moved from thanking a leader for winning freedom, to thanking a leader who gave them tools to assert their own rights as free citizens”.

On reading this, I wrote to Omair Ahmad saying: “I agree (and retweeted) but with one caveat, that when it came to the promotion of Hindu-Muslim harmony, no Indian (not even Nehru) matched Gandhi. But that is a point of detail. More broadly, it is wonderful to see Ambedkar and Gandhi invoked together, rather (as we have become accustomed to seeing) than being placed in opposition.”

To this Ahmad responded: “I very much agree, and deliberately phrased it in that way not only to contrast the contributions, but also to show that they were complementary.”

Ahmad further observed: “The leaders of that time had their differences (and failings), and it’s okay for people to choose which appeals more to them personally, but this necessity to pull down one in order to praise another doesn’t appeal to me very much.”

The countrywide protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act have been impressive in many ways, not least in the mass participation and leadership role of women. In this respect, too, the invocation of both Ambedkar and Gandhi, together, is apposite. Ambedkar in particular had a thoroughgoing commitment to gender equality, as reflected not just in the Constitution whose drafting he oversaw, but also in the reform of Hindu personal laws that he pursued so vigorously.

While in private life, as in the treatment of his wife, Gandhi could be a traditional Indian patriarch, in the public sphere he contributed substantially to the emancipation of women. Thus Gandhi was instrumental in Sarojini Naidu being made president of the Indian National Congress in 1925, at a time when it was not remotely conceivable that a major political party in the supposedly advanced democracies of the West could have a female leader.

And among the women activists inspired by Gandhi were such exemplary figures as Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay, Usha Mehta, Mridula Sarabhai, Anis Kidwai, Subhadra Joshi, Aruna Asaf Ali, and Hansa Mehta.

Ambedkar famously asked oppressed Indians to “educate, organize, and agitate”. The agency and courage which students and women have displayed in the protests against the CAA is entirely in the spirit of Ambedkar’s call. Meanwhile, the defence of democracy and pluralism against Hindu majoritarianism resonates strongly with Gandhi’s lifelong struggle for inter-religious harmony.

That the threat posed by Hindutva compels us to bring Ambedkar and Gandhi together is also underlined by Devanur Mahadeva. Thus, in his interview Mahadeva had remarked: “We should also listen to the words of Varanasi’s 16-year-old boy: ‘I will stand with Gandhi in Godse’s country.’ Otherwise, any kind of fundamentalism will first pluck out the eyes of one’s own, making them blind.

After that, brains are ripped out depriving one of any rationality. Later, the heart is taken out making one monstrous. And then a sacrifice will be asked for. This is increasing today. We have to save our children’s eyes, their hearts and their brains from the jaws of fundamentalism immediately.

It is better if young Dalit women take Gandhi to task after the wandering Gandhi-killer Godse’s ghost has achieved moksha. If this awareness is not there, I worry that the danger will hit at the very roots of the Dalits.”

To be sure, neither Ambedkar nor Gandhi were infallible. They made mistakes, harboured animosities and prejudices. One must not invoke them mechanically, nor follow them blindly. We live in a radically different world from the one they inhabited.

The political and technological challenges of the third decade of the 21st century are very different from the political and technological challenges of the middle decades of the 20th century. However, the moral and social challenges remain broadly the same.

The battle for caste and gender equality is unfinished. The struggle for inter-faith harmony remains vital and urgent. To overcome the massed, malign, forces of Hindutva, we need Ambedkar and Gandhi on the same side.

The Tribune – A dangerous madness

The fight for Delhi is turning into a no-holds-barred campaign

Rajesh Ramachandran

Suddenly, the Delhi Assembly polls have assumed a certain criticality in the current discourse on majoritarian politics, as if these elections hold the key to the final validation of the theory of the Hindu vote bank.

The firing in the Jamia Millia Islamia neighbourhood at a peaceful protester by a right-wing agent provocateur, with the Delhi Police watching, has conclusively turned the Muslim unrest against the CAA and the fear of the NRC into the focal point of the poll campaign.

The BJP’s final dash to the polling booth is fuelled solely by the politics of exclusivist Hindutva aimed at making the electorate choose the self-proclaimed protector of Hinduism.

Militant Hindutva is the only poll issue for the ruling party, which hopes to trigger a complete polarisation over the CAA-NRC debate.

Even senior, sober leaders and ministers are participating in sloganeering that urges mobs to kill, ‘goli maaro saalon ko’ while some others are reported to have demonised Muslims in poll speeches, claiming that Muslims would rape and kill Hindus.

Those who script and articulate this sort of a campaign know only too well that every incident that occurs in Delhi gets amplified and reported across the country. The portrayal of Muslims and the rivals of BJP as traitors of the nation has only one blatant aim, to forge the Hindu vote bank.

It is indeed a low-stake experiment, as the BJP anyway was not expected to win the Delhi elections. But if it does win, it could be termed a referendum on all contentious policies unleashed by the government after returning to power in 2019, an endorsement of the Hindutva agenda by a Hindu vote bank. Will it work?

Well, the ruling party at the Centre, with its immense resources and official and unofficial feedback dipsticks, believes that its campaign is succeeding. Otherwise, it would not have ventured to push the electorate into religious brackets.

But if it succeeds, it would not be the spectacular success of Hindutva politics but the magnificent failure of inclusive politics, for the Delhi election has exposed the hollowness of the centrist formations in national politics.

The Congress is almost non-existent in the battle, without a chief ministerial candidate, an emotive or engaging campaign platform, or a determined organisational machinery, merely hoping that the Muslims would drift towards the party because of the stand taken by its leadership on the CAA-NRC issue.

But the party made no attempt to forge a positive agenda to lure the Muslims (nearly 13% of Delhi’s population) or Scheduled Castes (17%), who together had formed the backbone of the Congress in the past and had the potential to launch it back into the reckoning. These polls are just a wasted opportunity for the Congress.

The AAP, on the other hand, was poised to win the elections comfortably with over 40 seats in the 70-seat Assembly before BJP launched its high-decibel war cry against ‘traitors’. The AAP had cleverly devised a strategy to underplay the CAA-NRC issue, to be not seen at Jamia or JNU or any other protest site or the AIIMS emergency ward, where the protesters with broken skulls were wheeled in.

CM Arvind Kejriwal’s act of seeking endorsement from the BJP and Congress voters was aimed at projecting a non-political, non-ideological, utilitarian platform. He talks only about his performance in delivering water, electricity, education and healthcare, primarily to the poor.

Sure, he has made the supply of water and power cheaper and reliable. But the claims of better education and healthcare facilities ring hollow when Cabinet ministers and bureaucrats of Delhi do not opt for them and instead consider them an improved dole for the poorer sections.

The Delhi Government had a great opportunity to revolutionise the Capital’s education system by creating model schools that were good enough for the children of ministers, MLAs and bureaucrats. But Delhi’s tom-tommed schools remain the preserve of the poor with, of course, colourful furniture and highly-paid teachers.

If these schools were so good, why did Kejriwal send his children elsewhere? This question pops up regularly on Internet discussion forums. Similar is the case with the mohalla clinics and the government healthcare system, which is a better and more responsive system for the working classes, but not good enough for the middle and upper middle classes.

A caste audit of the Kejriwal Cabinet also exposes the lack of real representation, beyond tokenism, for the S Cs, Muslims and women. Even when he had to choose the Rajya Sabha nominees for his party, two of the chosen three were from his own community (and of indifferent antecedents).

Its apathy towards strong ideological positions and its attempt to skirt the debate over majoritarian politics is a passive admission and endorsement of the Hindu vote bank, which is actually becoming a Hindutva vote bank.

The AAP, the supposedly idealistic and newest centrist formation, is ignoring the biggest debate of our times; it is cynically exploiting the inherent limitations of the first-past-the-post system in a multipolar contest.

Since it is expected to defeat the BJP, it knows that all those opposed to the BJP will vote for it without the AAP having to engage with or counter Hindutva politics. The AAP has taken the minority votes for granted as a desperate inevitability and is bothered only about the Hindu voters getting swayed by hard Hindutva.

This is a dangerous moment in our democracy. First, thugs trooped out of JNU after their act of vandalism and violence, with streetlights switched off and the Delhi Police watching. The slogan then was ‘shoot the traitors’.

Now a union minister is repeating one half of that slogan. A few days later, a juvenile pulls out a gun and shoots at a peaceful protester in daylight, again with the Delhi Police watching. Hope the Delhi poll outcome will cure this madness.

Den Haag: Loosduinseweg – Lijnbaan

Loosduinseweg – Lijnbaan
31 December 2019

Tram 2 to Leidschendam

Tram 2 to Leidschendam

RandstadRail Tram 4 to De Uithof

RandstadRail Tram 4 to De Uithof

Tram 2 to Kraayenstein

RandstadRail Tram 4 to Lansingerland-Zoetermeer

More Netherlands pictures to be published
Harjinder Singh
Man in Blue

Pieter Friedrich – Over 3000 sign petition for US to declare RSS a terrorist organization

Calls US State Department to add RSS to “Foreign Terrorist Organization” list

A petition, started by author Pieter Friedrich on 30 January 2020, has gathered over 3,000 signatures from people requesting the US State Department to add India’s Rashtriya Swyamsevak Sangh (RSS) paramilitary to its “Foreign Terrorist Organization” list. The petition reads:

Founded in 1925, the RSS took direct inspiration from the European fascist movements of the 1920s-1940s, including the Nazi Party. Today, it has metastasized into a 6 million + member uniformed and armed paramilitary.

The RSS is responsible for acts of gross violence, including participating in every major pogrom in independent India. We are calling on the US State Department to declare the RSS a terrorist organization.

The RSS is infamous for its members dressing in uniforms which strongly resemble those worn by members of the Hitler Youth. It was founded in 1925, the same year that the Nazi party was reformulated with Hitler as its leader. In addition to drawing inspiration from the Nazis, the RSS modeled itself after Mussolini’s fascist movement in Italy.

In 1931, RSS co-founder B S Moonje met Mussolini in Rome. After praising the dictator’s fascist youth group, ONB, for its “military regeneration” of Italian youth, Moonje wrote, “India and particularly Hindu India need some such institution for the military regeneration of the Hindus.”

He claimed that “the idea of fascism vividly brings out the conception of unity amongst people” and declared: “Our institution of Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh of Nagpur under Dr Hedgewar is of this kind.”

The longest-serving RSS chief, M S Golwalkar, called it treason for an Indian to convert away from Hinduism or refuse to “glorify the Hindu Race and Nation.”

In 1939, he also wrote glowingly in support of Nazi racial policy: “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.” He called this “a good lesson for us in Hindustan to learn and profit by.”

In its June 2019 report, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom warned that the RSS’s agenda “to alienate non-Hindus or lower-caste Hindus is a significant contributor to the rise of religious violence and persecution.”

The RSS has been repeatedly accused of instigating violence. It has been banned several times, the first time following the assassination of M K Gandhi by a former RSS member.

In 2002, Human Rights Watch named the RSS and its subsidiaries as the groups responsible for an anti-Muslim pogrom that killed 2,000 in the Indian state of Gujarat.

In 2012, Swami Aseemanand, a full-time RSS worker, confessed to orchestrating several terrorist bombings which claimed hundreds of lives from 2006 to 2008. Many other instances of bombings, assassinations, and pogroms have been laid at the feet of the RSS.

The RSS (including its many subsidiaries) has been linked to many other major incidents of anti-minority violence all across India. These include the 1947 Jammu Massacre (20,000+ Muslims killed) and the 1969 Gujarat Riots (400+ Muslims killed), both of which occurred shortly after visit by Golwalkar.

Later came the 1970 Bhiwandi Riots in Maharashtra (190+ Muslims killed), the 1983 Nellie Massacre in Assam (2,200+ Bengali Muslims killed), the 1984 Sikh Genocide in Delhi (3,000+ Sikhs killed), the 1985 Gujarat Riots (hundreds of Muslims killed), the 1987 Meerut Riots in Uttar Pradesh (hundreds of Muslims killed), the 1989 Bhagalpur Riots in Bihar (900+ Muslims killed), the 1992 nationwide riots following the Babri Mosque destruction (2,000+ Muslims killed), the 2002 Gujarat Pogrom (2,000+ Muslims killed), the 2008 Odisha Pogrom (100+ Christians killed), and countless other smaller-scale incidents.

Pieter Friedrich is a South Asian Affairs Analyst who resides in California. He is the co-author of Captivating the Simple-Hearted: A Struggle for Human Dignity in the Indian Subcontinent. Discover more by him at

To sign the petition go to: – The BJP’s perilous descent from Hindu appeasement to incitement

Ministers deliver hate speech, police take their cues and goons are empowered to transition from social-media rage to street violence.

Samar Halarnkar

New Delhi – India, 01 February 2020. This week, India heard a Union minister rouse a Delhi crowd to scream “shoot the bloody traitors”, and two days later, a young man tried to do exactly that as the police looked on.

In Karnataka, the police interrogated Class Four students, arrested a mother and schoolteacher on charges of sedition for a school play on the controversial citizenship law, as the tourism minister of Karnataka ranted about “anti-nationals” deserving “bullets not biryani”.

These are only the latest examples of incitement from India’s ruling dispensation. Those being incited are the Hindu majority and those being incited against are students, Muslims, liberals, other minorities and anyone opposed to government policies.

Ministers, leading lights of the government and the Bharatiya Janata Party and their media cheerleaders have directly taken charge of a task formerly reserved for what was once regarded as the lunatic fringe of Hindutva.

Triumphant majoritarianism

With unemployment rising, the economy collapsing and propaganda about rising India hard even for BJP supporters to swallow, it has been a hop, skip and jump from Hindu appeasement, previously given cover with the secular slogan “sabka saath, sabka vikas”, everyone will progress, to incitement.

All the government’s efforts to make Hindus feel triumphant, such as criminalising triple talaq, dismembering Jammu and Kashmir and paving the way for a Ram temple, have failed to divert attention from a nation in economic decline.

When there is nothing of substance to offer, the easy but irresponsible, and potentially calamitous, way to ensure the faithful keep the faith is to exploit and excite their base emotions and feelings about imaginary enemies. It does not, as we have seen with cattle-related lynching, take time for hate speech to morph into hate crime.

The modus operandi is apparent: incite the majority, draw forth their inner resentment, encourage hate speech and when foot-soldiers are primed for action, encourage and weaponise the process by getting the police to step aside or look away.

If arrests must be made, handle with kid gloves. Soon, Hindutva has new heroes, to be feted, glamourised and mainstreamed.

Incitement works best when dissenters are kept in check, and the incited know that the government has their back. The police have a particularly important role in enabling this process, evident in the gentle way police handle goons of Hindutva persuasion, in sharp contrast to violent and often brutal action against students and other protestors.

There is also clear evidence that many police forces are as radicalised as the people they are meant to restrain, falling victim to the mass incitement flowing from the top.

That the police are intrinsically associated with the government and majoritarianism and idolised for the wrong reasons is evident in a video of a brainwashed, radicalised little girl who chants into a mike: “Lal chowk main goli maaron, desh ke gaddaron ko, bahut ho gaya bhaichara, lathon maaron saalon ko (Shoot the traitors in [Srinagar’s] Lal Chowk, enough brotherhood, kick them).”

This is, sadly, unexceptional. What she says next is revealing: “When I grow up, I want to become an IPS officer, so I can pick out and shoot traitors.”

Flood of hate speech

There are so many threats to shoot, kill and otherwise do away with dissenters that a large number are ignored. Only the most egregious ones make it to national debate. But the relentless flood of hate speech slowly corrodes minds, removing all that is good and hopeful. It leaves behind a shell of the basest passions, denying those so affected of restraint, logic and compassion.

History indicates that this phase of denial has a disquieting prognosis. If appeasement to incitement was a skip away, mass violence or even genocide is a bit of a leap, but it is a leap India has previously made in fits and starts.

History and a growing body of literature documents how mass human-rights violations and genocide occur with the knowledge of or by order of the highest authorities of a country. They also argue that physical extermination is not the only form of genocide.

“Recent genocide studies have begun to embrace a wider variety of genocidal acts than mass murder and acknowledges new dynamics and meanings in such acts,” says a 2018 paper by US and Canadian researchers in Genocide Studies and Prevention, an international journal.

Another paper from 2015 warns of “cold genocides”, which “can take place through subtle forms of structural violence that destroy the group through gradual measures”, such as gradual disappearances or denying access to daily necessities, such as work, housing, schooling, food and health services, or gradual. Some of these indicators are already evident in India’s minority communities.

The deliberate and violent harnessing of majority resentment by the state in India could lead the county into known or unknown escalation, however defined or categorised. The form does not matter as much as a recognition that if the ruling party itself incites Hindus to violence, the consequences may be too terrible to contemplate.

In the past, India has usually pulled back from the brink because one or more of its institutions, political, judicial, media or administrative, took the tough decision, went against the grain and did the right thing. There is, currently, no sign of that.