– The Daily Fix: BJP’s NRC threats could endanger census and data collection by all Indian agencies

Panic related to citizenship means even routine data collection by government agencies is now in peril.

Shoaib Daniyal

Op/Ed, 13 February 2020. As part of its Hindutva ideology, the Bharatiya Janata Party has energetically pushed two polices that seek to fundamentally change the nature of Indian citizenship. The party has repeatedly announced that it will institute a National Register of Citizens, an unprecedented measure that seeks to get every citizen to prove their citizenship.

In December, it also passed the Citizenship Amendment Act, which for the first time, brings in a religious element to India’s citizenship law.

Even more troublingly, the party has reiterated that the two initiatives are linked. Union Home Minister Amit Shah has implied on several occasions that with the Citizenship Amendment Act being implemented before the National Register of Citizens, only Muslims will have to prove their citizenship.

The Union government has also begun work on the National Population Register, the first step on the road to an NRC.

This attempt to institute a communal citizenship verification drive has set off alarm bells across India. Many Muslims now fear any attempt at data collection, seeing in it a drive towards an NRC. The result of this panic has been a widespread refusal to submit data to any agency suspected of being sent on behalf of the Indian state.

In just one district of West Bengal, for example, at least six incidents of NGO worker being accosted based on rumours that they were collecting NPR data have emerged after the Citizenship Amendment Act was passed in December.

In another instance in Uttar Pradesh, state government employees collecting health data were held hostage by a mob. In Rajasthan, two women collecting data for the Economic Census were attacked on suspicion of collecting NPR data. In Kerala, a state government official conducting an agricultural census was forced to call the police after a mob accosted him.

This panic has meant that multiple state government attempts at data collection as well as the Union government’s National Sample Survey are now facing enormous roadblocks. A report found that for the first time in 148 years, the Census is also in danger, given that door-to-door data collection for the NPR and Census are scheduled to be conducted simultaneously.

Pronab Sen, former Chief Statistician of India and head of the Modi’s government’s Standing Committee on Economic Statistics explained how dire the situation would be if the Census were to collapse:

“So, you may well have a situation where you are unable to do the Census properly and if the Census is not done properly, then for the next 10 years, no household survey would be reliable because all household surveys rely on the Census as the frame.”

Without data, India will be unable to frame developmental policies. Even more alarmingly, no country can afford a situation where widespread panic means even a government act as simple as a survey is not possible.

The cause for this panic is clear: the BJP’s attempts to force through an NRC has set off an destabilising chain of events. The party must now immediately fix the problem it has created.

Given that the National Popular Register is the first step to the National Register of Citizens, two states, West Bengal and Kerala, have already suspended it. However, this is not enough. Both states are still seeing continuous public alarm over the NPR.

It is clear that the Modi government itself needs to suspend the National Population Register and repeal the 2003 Citizenship Rules, which create the legal framework for a National Register of Citizens.

The Print – Modi wrongly quoted Mahatma Gandhi on Pakistan’s Hindu & Sikh refugees to defend CAA

Modi has always tried to appropriate Gandhi. The latest addition to this was the PM quoting Gandhi to taunt Congress on CAA.

Urvish Kothari

New Delhi – India, 25 December 2019. It is widely known that the Bharatiya Janata Party and its ideological parent Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh don’t share the same views as Mahatma Gandhi on India’s Partition. So, it came as a surprise when Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently cited one of Mahatma Gandhi’s Partition-related quotes to defend his government’s amendment to the Citizenship Act.

Always eager to appropriate Gandhi, PM Modi taunted the Congress Sunday during his rally at Ramlila Maidan in Delhi, “Gandhiji had said that Sikhs and Hindus living in Pakistan will always be welcomed in India. This Act is in line with the promise the Government of India made in 1947. You believe me or not but at least believe Gandhiji.”

It hardly matters to the BJP’s propaganda machinery that it’s been 72 years since Gandhi made the remark and 48 years have passed since the collapse of ‘the two-nation theory’ with the formation of Bangladesh from erstwhile East Pakistan.

A booklet in circulation highlights Gandhi’s quote in a more asserting form, with a reference date and a photo of Gandhi to support the claim. The quote says, “Mahatma Gandhi announced openly in a prayer meeting that Hindus and Sikhs staying in Pakistan can come to India by all means if they do not wish to stay there.

In that case, it is primary duty of Indian Government to provide them employment and make their lives normal.” [Naagrikata (Sanshodhan) Adhiniyam-2019, Ek Parichay Kamal Sandesh, Dr. Mukerji Smriti Nyas, New Delhi, December 2019, page 9]

Gandhi on Pakistani refugees

Before we go ahead, it is imperative to note what Gandhi actually said about the treatment of minorities after Partition. He mentioned Hindus and Sikhs a couple of times in his post-prayer speech on 26 September 1947.

He talked about Pandit Thakur Datt who had to flee Lahore, and said that “he (Gandhi) wanted him and all the other Hindu and Sikh friends to help him in restoring real peace in Delhi. Then he would proceed to Western Pakistan with fresh strength.” (Delhi Diary, M.K.Gandhi, 26-9-1947, Page 38, Navjivan Publication, Ahmedabad, 1948)

On the role of the Indian government, Gandhi said, “To secure justice for the Hindus and Sikhs was the function of the Government.” (Delhi Diary, M. K. Gandhi, 26-9-1947, Page 39) This quote has been deliberately dug up and spiced up to buttress Modi government’s arguments in the CAA debate.

It is a travesty of truth to quote Gandhi falsely and that too in support of a law that discriminates against refugees from neighbouring countries on the basis of religion.

If one is really interested in knowing what Gandhi said during testing times, then his post-prayer speeches from September 1947 to January 1948 serve as a better guide. Just a day before the speech mentioned above, Gandhi dealt with the subject of ill-treatment of minorities with more force.

In reply to a question, he said he did not propose that the Indian government should ignore the mistreatment of Hindus and Sikhs in Pakistan. The government was bound to do its utmost to save them. But his answer most certainly did not tell Indian authorities to drive away Muslims and copy Pakistan’s methods. (Delhi Diary, M. K. Gandhi, 25-9-1947, Page 35).

As a staunch optimist, Gandhi hoped that wiser counsel would prevail and Muslims, many of whom had possibly not migrated to Pakistan out of their own free will, should be asked to return to their homes in India with a sense of safety. (Delhi Diary, M. K. Gandhi, 17-9-1947, Page 18). He would express such a hope almost as an inevitable condition for peace in the future.

In reply to another question, Gandhi said that “his Hinduism taught him to respect all religions. In that lay the secret of Rama Raj.” Gandhi added: “If Pandit Jawaharlal, the Sardar and people with their ideas had forfeited their respect and confidence, they (people) could replace them by another team that had their confidence.

But they could not and should not expect them to act against their conscience and regard that India belonged only to the Hindus. That way lay destruction.” (Delhi Diary, M. K. Gandhi,7-10-1947, Page 69).

Unlike the popular perception that Gandhi appeased Muslims and Pakistan, he spoke frequently against Pakistan’s ill-treatment of its minorities. He said, “Pakistan has to bear the burden of its sins, which I know are terrible enough.

It should be enough for everybody to know my opinion (in so far as it has any value) that the beginning was made by Muslim League long before 15th of August…we of the union copied the sins and thus became fellow sinners. Odds became even. Shall we now awake from the trance, repent and change or must we fall?” (Delhi Diary, M. K. Gandhi, 24-11-1947, Page 202).

It would be interesting to note what ‘unfinished agenda of Partition’, a rhetoric common on both sides of the border, meant for Gandhi. He could never bring himself to accept the proposition of a permanent exchange of population. Even if the refugees were well settled, they would return to their old homes.

Therefore, Gandhi could not envisage real peace without the parties returning to their homes. (Delhi Diary, M.K. Gandhi, 31-12-1947, Page 296). He expressed this sentiment repeatedly during the last phase of his life in personal conversations as well as in public speeches.

The Modi government would do well to revisit the history before it thinks of incorrectly using Gandhi’s words to justify its divisive policies.

The author is a senior columnist and writer based in Ahmedabad. Views are personal.[centre/italics]

Modi wrongly quoted Mahatma Gandhi on Pakistan’s Hindu & Sikh refugees to defend CAA

The Telegraph – Mob murders by any name

Bhagwat’s focus on the Western origin of the concept of lynching deftly skirts the fact of growing hate crimes in recent times

By the Editorial Board

Op/Ed, 12 October 2019. Naming is blaming, or even shaming, according to the chief of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, Mohan Bhagwat.

Speaking on the RSS’s foundation day in Nagpur, Mr Bhagwat deplored the grafting of Western concepts onto the expanding Indian practice of mob-killing. It is unacceptable to use the word, ‘lynching’, for what he sees from his cloudy heights of morality just as ‘isolated incidents of violence’.

This suggests that the RSS and its ideological cohorts are not yet satisfied with the growth in the number of mob-murders of members of the minority community, underprivileged castes and other vulnerable, solitary beings perceived as deviant, whether in gender orientation or mental stability.

These killings become branded by the Western word, ‘lynching’, so that they can be wielded to shame India and Hindu society, and cause divisions in the diverse society that the RSS loves.

Mr Bhagwat’s point is well taken. Had the convicted mob-killers of Alimuddin Ansari ‘lynched’ the coal trader last year under the alibi that Ansari was transporting beef, the Union minister of state for civil aviation would not have garlanded them. That he did garland them proves the unmistakable Indian flavour of their killing.

The minister reportedly also told the BBC that he and the Bharatiya Janata Party were paying for their legal expenses.

Given the practised deftness of such incidents, there is no need to defame Hindu society with Western nomenclatures: lynching is the name of things that happen in other countries, or among other religions, as Mr Bhagwat proclaimed, they are not part of this country’s traditions.

Instead, it is important to get the name right for the killings being made traditional in recent times. Should these just be called hate crimes? Or would that make Mr Bhagwat anxious to protest his love for the diverse populations of this country?

Love must be clouding his vision, rose-tinted glasses are a Western notion too, more’s the pity, for the ‘isolated’ incidents of violence he has deigned to notice amount to the steepest rise in mob-killings since 2016.

According to Amnesty International India’s interactive tracker, from January to June this year, 181 incidents of alleged hate crimes have been recorded, with the greatest number of mob-killings presumably being caused by the fact that the victims were Dalit, with the second highest number of victims being from the largest minority community.

Members of other minority groups, of caste, community, and gender, make up the rest of the targets. Mr Bhagwat is so upset about improper naming that the fact that innocent individuals are being killed by mobs who have nothing to do with the dispensation of justice in court seems to have escaped him.

He is busy blaming those who shame Hindu society by using Western names for Indian killings, yet he cannot acknowledge that mob-killing is the most damning attribute of any society. He can barely see it, after all.

Dawn – Post-370 options?

Riaz Mohammad Khan

Op/Ed, 11 August 2019. The Modi government’s move to scuttle Article 370 and 35A was anticipated. Yet when it happened, it came as a shock.

Reaction by Pakistan has been sharp while response internationally is so far predictably muted. This reaction and response will evolve with time especially as the Kashmiri voices currently stifled are heard and the youth uprising griping the Kashmir Valley revives with the weakening of the unsustainable Draconian military clampdown in India-held Kashmir.

So what are the implications of the move and what are the challenges and options for Pakistan?

The immediate and far-reaching consequence of the Indian move is the rapture of diplomatic and political interaction between Pakistan and India.

With formal Indian annexation of held Kashmir, from Pakistan’s point of view, the heart of any dialogue process for normalisation has been removed. The faint hope for a reasonable settlement based on optimum self-governance for Kashmiris and protection of vital interests of the two countries is extinguished.

And so is gone the possibility of any workable joint arrangement for Siachen and Sir Creek to underpin a new cooperative paradigm for bilateral relations. Prime Minister Imran Khan’s offer “you move one step, we will move two” is rendered meaningless. Ahead lies a path fraught with tension, risks and dangers.

The Bharatiya Janata Party move is likely to be challenged in the Indian Supreme Court, but chances of a reversal or a remedy are next to nothing. What can force the Indian government to eventually take a step back will be the determination of the Kashmiri people to thwart Indian designs, especially demographic change.

They will need to be steadfast in the face of every possible BJP tactic, massive use of brute force, massacres, political manipulation and economic incentives. Today Kashmiri leaders in the Valley, including the veteran pro-India personalities, display a rare unity in rejecting the Indian move.

They need to convert this unity into a strong coalition for non-cooperation and resistance. The Kashmiri diaspora in the UK and the US has a critical role to play, and herein lies one of the challenges for Pakistani politics and diplomacy.

Pakistan has vowed to go to any extent in support of the Kashmiris. War is no option, but if imposed it may become unavoidable. Barring that apocalyptic scenario, arguably, Pakistani options appear to be limited but they must be put into play in a sustained manner.

We must continue to agitate about the situation as it develops at all international forums including the UN Security Council regardless of whether or not the UNSC is able to give it consideration.

Such support, even if lacking in the desired results, will be necessary for the Kashmiri morale. We must take the Kashmir case to every human rights forum. Our initiatives should be well considered but undeterred by possible setbacks; we are in for a long haul. If the situation worsens, the international community will have to take notice.

Pakistan will come under pressure to extend material help beyond diplomatic support if the Kashmiris face genocide. The Kashmiri struggle for self-determination has echoes of the past anti-colonial struggles which for success often depended on outside help.

However, we have the experience of the 1990s when infiltration of Jihadi elements was used by India to effectively malign and distort the indigenous Kashmiri uprising.

Since then, India keeps justifying its repressive measures in Kashmir as counter-terrorism. This poses inevitable dilemma, but Pakistan must not allow India this pretext to misrepresent the Kashmiri struggle internationally. This is irrespective of our own counter-terrorism commitments including those in the context of Financial Action Task Force.

No amount of Delhi’s contrived explanations for the abrogation of the special status of the occupied Valley can conceal the fact that it is a step towards the implementation of BJP’s aggressive and sinister Hindutva ideology with neo-fascist undertones. BJP stalwarts make no bones about their intentions.

This poses an almost existential challenge to not just the Kashmiri Muslims but also to the Muslims and other religious minorities in India. Pakistan also faces a grave threat. Kashmiris have a protracted struggle before them for preserving their identity and achieving self-determination.

Indian Muslims have to address the challenge within the context of their own political circumstances and in step with segments of the Indian population whose future depends on the espousal of values of secularism and a pluralistic society.

Besides the responsibilities that the Kashmiri struggle will place on it, Pakistan faces two distinct dangers: direct intervention in Azad Jammu and Kashmir or Gilgit and Baltistan or subversion in these territories and inside Pakistan. Direct intervention would mean war with incalculable consequences.

Subversion is a real possibility that may warrant preemptive political and administrative measures besides vigilance.

We are not handicapped to take any advisable measures in consultation with the people, government and administration in these territories, if necessary with the proviso similar to that adopted in the case of Pakistan-China boundary agreement that any agreed arrangement would be subject to a review in the remote eventuality of a Kashmir settlement.

Hindutva raises larger questions for South Asia and the Indian Ocean region. India is seen as a major power, but, under Modi, it is actively seeking the status of a regional hegemon. However, no nuclear power has accepted another power’s hegemony, and Pakistan is not and cannot be an exception to this reality.

On the other hand, the aspiring hegemon will be encouraged by the dismal predicament evident in our frail economy, political dysfunction, narrow technological and knowledge base. This state of affairs will also be dispiriting for the Kashmiris and for South Asian Muslims with whom we have shared history of the freedom struggle.

Our strength will help equanimity in South Asia. Therein lies the greatest challenge we face as a society, as a nation and as a country.

The writer is an author and former foreign secretary

The Hindu – Foreign governments have no right to question India on religious freedom: MEA

India is proud of its ‘secular credentials’, says spokesperson Raveesh Kumar

Kallol Bhattacherjee

New Delhi – India, 23 June 2019. Foreign governments do not have the right to criticise India’s vibrant democracy and dedication to rule of law, said the Ministry of External Affairs on June 23 after the USA State Department’s annual report on religious freedom pointed out India’s failure to protect minority communities.

“We see no locus standi for a foreign government to pronounce on the state of our citizens’ constitutionally protected rights,” said Raveesh Kumar, spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA).

The report sets the backdrop of the visit of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that begins on June 25. The Hindu reported earlier that the report was released by Mr Pompeo himself and he referred to the issue of religious freedom as a “deeply personal” priority.

The State Department’s 2019 Report on International Freedom referred to multiple instances where the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Centre and various State governments of the Bharatiya Janata Party took steps that hurt the Muslim community.

The official spokesperson, however, maintained that India was proud of its “secular credentials”, saying, “it is widely acknowledged that India is a vibrant democracy where the Constitution provides protection of religious freedom, and where democratic governance and rule of law further promote and protect the fundamental rights.”

Protect minority rights

Apart from the murders and lynching by cow vigilante groups, the report pointed out that there were several attempts to undermine minority institutions and change names of cities that reminded of the pluralistic nature of India. In this regard, the report highlighted the change of the name of Allahabad to Prayagraj.

The MEA did not answer if the report and its observations about India’s failure to uphold and protect minority rights would feature in talks with Mr. Pompeo during his visits here between 25-27 June.

The report implicated the BJP and several of its leaders for making “inflammatory speeches against minority communities”. It made specific mention of the NRC in Assam and targeting of the Muslim community in the State.

We all know that the State Department’s report is correct, but it is somewhat strange to see such a report from a country whose president is himself in the habit of making ‘inflammatory speeches’.
The Man in Blue

Dawn – Regardless of the election result, India’s future has been decided

Repairing the damage to democracy depends on a new government rolling back the misuse of law and tech. That’s unlikely.

Samar Halarnkar

New Delhi – India, 21 May 2019. In the liberal view of things, the ongoing Lok Sabha election will decide India’s future.

It will decide whether India will become a Hindu-first state with reduced civil liberties and intolerance of minorities or be dragged back to its old state of sometimes wavering secularism but a general agreement to co-habitation and tolerance.

I want to tell my fellow liberals that it is too late. That decision has already been made.

There are three possibilities when votes are counted on May 23: another term for Narendra Modi, a fractured mandate, both distinct possibilities; or the return of the Congress and ascension of Rahul Gandhi, which in my view is a more remote prospect.

Another strong mandate for Modi would almost certainly mean an official push to declare India a Hindu rashtra, a crackdown on dissenters and independent media, the further rise of, and special favours to, select tycoons, the end of special status to Jammu and Kashmir and the prospect of an open rebellion in the crown of India.

Even if Modi fails, the Hindu view of life will predominate, civil liberties may be further eroded, and minorities will likely find themselves pushed to evolve a new contract with their country.

A new government could recover some ground here, if it is determined to, by rolling back the deliberate, institutionalised misuse of the law and technology. But even a government wedded to tolerance will find it difficult to turn back the widening electoral acceptance of sectarian hate and assaults on liberty.

A government can try to ensure the Constitution is protected, but it is bound to eventually fail or succumb if the people endorse its manipulation.

The threat to civil liberties and hostility to minorities indeed accelerated and acquired full voice during Modi’s term in office, but many precedents set before his time had widespread public approval and have been liberally used by non-BJP state governments, including, and especially, those run by the Congress.

Misuse of existing laws by state

As Thomas Blom Hansen writes in a chapter in a new book called Majoritarian State, the Bharatiya Janata Party has not passed any significant new legislation curtailing “liberal freedoms” since it came to power in 2014.

It has only rigorously applied existing legislation and established “police protocol” to act against free speech and those deemed “anti-national”.

The BJP has relied on not just legislation with colonial roots but “elements of the extensive security state that successive Congress regimes have built since the 1960s in the name of protecting national unity and sovereignty”, writes Hansen, an anthropology professor at Stanford University.

The Congress, for instance, has only committed to repealing the 159-year-old law on sedition, which it frequently deployed during its years in power.

It has no comment on other laws that chill free speech and liberty, including those that supposedly protect national security and those deployed against terrorism but often used against minorities and human rights activists, those that allow abuses by security forces in “disturbed areas” and even those allowing criminal defamation.

The police in India, regardless of which party is in power, have, for some time, felt emboldened enough to wrongly deploy some of these laws. The most obvious example of extra-constitutional behaviour this decade has been the frequent arrest of people who merely share memes online, using a law struck down by the Supreme Court, Section 66A of the Information Technology Act.

Reputations and lives have been ruined by the wrongful use of such laws, and a new government is unlikely to discard the latest precedents set by the Modi administration. In a democracy, laws can be misused only when there is acquiescence, when a citizenry either does not believe it is worth its while to protest or agrees with such legal and constitutional corruption.

The rising tide of opprobrium against minorities, civil rights activists and anyone not in consonance with the BJP’s majoritarian view of life clearly does not disturb enough Indians or disturb them adequately. While it is apparent that the BJP gave life to long-nurtured resentments and loathing, to give them public expression, it is clear these hostilities did not emerge overnight.

Many have been assiduously nurtured to exploit the fault lines of Indian society.

“This project of weaponising and militarising society through organisation, vigilance and a capacity for violence has been an objective of the Sangh Parivar through the many decades during which Hindu nationalists were distant from elected office,” write Angana P Chatterji, Christopher Jaffrolet and Hansen in Majoritarian State.

They argue that vigilante violence, or the threat of it, “generally reinforce already existing caste, gender, class and communal-racial attitudes prevalent among upper caste Hindus and aspirational lower caste groups”.

The weaponisation of these attitudes has been made possible by the spread of communications, especially the mobile phone and social media, which the BJP and its affiliates deployed to draw out dormant insecurities and hatreds within Hindu society.

From jobless youth to fund managers, the reach of WhatsApp university-led Hindu radicalisation is now deep and wide, and it will live on and acquire new meaning in the years to come. This genie isn’t going back into the bottle.

For now, Hindutva’s great project to recreate Indian history through fantasy and fake news rolls on. Its effects will outlive its party’s government, festering in the minds of millions even if Modi is ousted.

When lies are truth

Last week, an amiable, silver-haired Uttar Pradesh taxi driver in Mumbai was peacefully discussing old Hindi film songs with my wife when I made the mistake of asking him whom he would vote for.

“BJP BJP, BJP!” he began to chant.

When I told him we were from South India, a place with limited BJP influence, his eyes blazed, and he said, “Anyone who is a desh bhakt, a patriot, will vote for the BJP”.

How is lynching and harassment of minorities patriotic, I asked. He was beyond reason.

“There was no progress for 70 years,” he said, parroting a theme made popular by Modi and quoted as a fact on social media. “Do you know the condition this country was in when we got independence?” I asked.

He was shouting by now. “Do you know why that was?” he said. “It was because Mahatma Gandhi gave away Rs1,000 crore to the Muslims, to Pakistan. Everyone knows this.”

India has reached a point where lies are truth, and few are bothered by the fact that a BJP candidate declares Gandhi’s assassin a patriot, as terror accused Pragya Singh Thakur did on May 16, and finds immediate support.

If we still think these people represent the fringe of Indian thought, we may not know our country very well.

Perhaps, we never did.

This article originally appeared on and has been reproduced with permission.

Samar Halarnkar is editor of He also contributes to Mint, the business newspaper from Hindustan Times group.

The Telegraph – Our broken republic: Attacks on Muslims and Dalits have grown alarmingly since 2014

Caveats on the safety and the movement of a particular community on a day of national celebration are a matter of shame

The Editorial Board, 23 January 2019. Irony proliferates in the India that the Bharatiya Janata Party is striving to build earnestly. In 1950, this young republic had adopted a Constitution, the sacred foundation of the democracy, which, among other pledges, promises to uphold the principle of secularism.

Nearly seven decades later, the Darul Uloom Deoband, a seminary, has been forced to issue an advisory to its Muslim students to avoid travelling on Republic Day. In case travel is unavoidable, the advisory has asked the students to undertake such precautions as avoiding arguments, exercising restraint and immediately returning to the institution on the completion of the business at hand.

There is evidence to cite that such precautions are not unwarranted in New India. The seminary’s students have been assaulted in public places; on one occasion, the attack was perpetrated on Republic Day. The culprits remain at large.
Attacks on minorities, Muslims and Dalits, resulting in deaths and injuries, have grown alarmingly since 2014. The vigilantes come in various garbs: gau rakshaks, patrons of Hindutva as well as caste dispensations. A young boy, travelling to shop for Eid, had been stabbed to death in a train by goons who, reportedly, objected to skull caps.

What is common to these infractions is the pliant response of the State. No less than a Union minister had publicly felicitated a group of men who had been convicted of lynching a Muslim trader in Jharkhand.

Naturally, the men in uniform have taken a cue from their masters. Convictions in lynching cases remain sporadic, even though such deaths seem to have abated a bit. Perhaps the electoral reversals suffered by the BJP have compelled its leaders to keep these vigilantes on a tighter leash.

What the advisory reflects is the state of deep unease among India’s minorities. Caveats pertaining to the safety and the movement of a particular community on a day of national celebration are a matter of shame for an inclusive polity. This fear is worrying on another count. The sense of persecution is often instrumental in the inception of radicalism.

The solemn state of affairs in Kashmir, where the spectre of fundamentalism is said to be on the rise, is a grim reminder of the risks posed by besiegement. Can there be a bigger blot on India’s commitment to pluralism and representativeness than the hauntings suffered by its own citizens?

The Telegraph – ‘Post-ban’ in the era of post-truth: BJP would have loved it if the Congress had banned Accidental Prime Minister

Political parties are finding new ways of turning the post-truth era to their advantage

Editorial, 30 December 2018. The world knows how sensitive Indian politicians are: they keep banning works of art, entertainment and scholarship that they think can hurt the religious, regional, cultural, moral or national sentiments of a particular group of voters. Or their own, for that matter.

Right-wing mobs would ban lovers if they could; they vandalise art exhibitions and film sets, they even burnt a library with irreplaceable texts, and are endorsed by politicians who ban the films, books and artists that excite their ire. It is because of such politicians that freedom of expression is now endangered in India.

The Bharatiya Janata Party is the most skilled in identifying tender sentiments as well as in quick bans. And it seems convinced that everybody loves a ban as much as it does.

Hence the hopeful tweets of its leaders and anticipatory information to the media that the Congress would be banning the film, The Accidental Prime Minister, especially in Madhya Pradesh, for it depicts Manmohan Singh, Sonia Gandhi and the Gandhi family’s domination of the Congress in a negative light.

The Congress, in line with Rahul Gandhi’s insistence on the freedom of expression, has not only stated that there will be no call for a ban, the chief minister of Madhya Pradesh made this clear, but party leaders have also asked members in the states to refrain from asking for a preview of the film.

The BJP would have loved it if the Congress had fallen into the trap; it did its best by spreading the word that the Congress wanted the film banned. In the post-truth era, this would be a ‘post-ban’ strategy: accusations of banning when there is no intention to do so.

The BJP can then say that the Congress is guilty of the same attack on freedom of which critics accuse the BJP and, with greater elation, point out that Mr Gandhi does not practise what he preaches. By making it look as though the Congress is wielding the BJP’s quick-fix tool of repression, the BJP has underlined the advantages of a technologically enriched post-truth culture.

Even the Shiv Sena, once the BJP’s soulmate, is not keen on bans, it seems. Sanjay Raut, a Rajya Sabha member from the party, has said that nobody can ban the film on Balasaheb Thackeray scheduled for release on January 25.

The statement was made in response to the Central Board of Film Certification’s directive to make three cuts in the film of sequences and language it considered hurtful to the sentiments of particular groups.

Mr Raut believes that the uncut film presents Thackeray as he really was, together with his entire vision. Incitement, it may be recalled, was a part of Thackeray’s political vision. Mr Raut’s reasoning is impeccable; the timing of the film interesting.