Pieter Friedrich – US Election: Why Tulsi Gabbard’s ‘Hindutva’ link deserves scrutiny

She is apparently the only candidate offering apologetics for Hindutva

Pieter Friedrich

After Tulsi Gabbard, the first Hindu to run for US president, failed to qualify for the September 2019 Democratic presidential debates, many wrote her campaign off as a lost cause.

Gabbard stuck it out. She pledged to soldier on until the Democratic Party’s National Convention in July 2020. And she started making headlines, including about her alleged support from both Putin’s Russia and India’s Hindu nationalist movement.

The news isn’t always positive but, as the saying goes, any press is good press.

“Hillary Clinton suggests Russians are ‘grooming’ Tulsi Gabbard for third-party run,” reported CNN in mid-October. Yet Gabbard shot back, calling Clinton “the queen of warmongers” and “embodiment of corruption”.

By mid-November, CNN was reporting that Gabbard actually received a boost after Clinton’s attacks raised her profile nationally.

Tulsi Gabbard on the Rise, Passing Up Kamala Harris

Gabbard is on the rise. While she is back in the debates, her poll numbers in early voting states like New Hampshire are steadily increasing, in NH, she has at times risen to fifth place out of a still-crowded Democratic primary of 18 candidates.

She has also outlasted formerly top-tier candidates like Beto O’Rourke and, in NH, is outpolling candidates who have outraised her.

For instance, Gabbard is passing up Kamala Harris, whose poll numbers crashed soon after the July debate in which Gabbard lashed out at her record as a prosecuting attorney. The Hawaiian congresswoman has only raised a quarter of the USD 36 million the Californian senator has pocketed.

Yet Harris, the only Indian-American candidate, is not only sinking in the polls but has failed to galvanise Indian diaspora support. As India Abroad reported in April, Indian-American donations to Gabbard surpassed those to Harris by a margin of more than 3 to 1.

Gabbard is making significant strides as she demonstrates a willingness to go head-to-head with her own party’s establishment.

During the 2016 presidential election, Clinton was widely perceived as “untrustworthy’ and “unethical”, a perception that Gabbard plays upon. On the eve of the 20 November Democratic debate, Gabbard’s attorneys accused Clinton of defamation, demanding she retract her 17 October description of the congresswoman as the “favourite of the Russians”.

RSS ‘Support’ of Tulsi Gabbard

Gabbard’s demand has some standing. On 24 October, Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting, a national media watch group, rubbished the allegations. “There is no evidence that Gabbard is any kind of Russian agent,” reported FAIR.

Such “silly accusations,” the group stated, are rather a nonsensical distraction from “the reality that Gabbard’s most troubling attribute is her documented connection to the far-right Hindu nationalist, or Hindutva, movement known as Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the parent organisation of India’s ruling BJP party.”

That connection traces back to 2011, a year before Gabbard was first elected to the US Congress and long before the BJP rose to power in India.

As she sought election and then re-election, Gabbard owed much of her success to support from the same leaders of overseas wings of the RSS and BJP who mobilised to get Modi into office. Even as evidence of this connection emerged over the past year, her campaign has entrenched her notoriously close relationship with Modi while reciting RSS/BJP talking points in defence of the Hindu nationalist movement.

Tulsi Gabbard ‘Justifies’ Article 370 Revocation in Kashmir

Gabbard made a name for herself among American progressives in 2016 when she resigned from her powerful position on the Democratic National Committee to endorse socialist Bernie Sanders for president, a move that put her at odds with then Democratic front-runner Clinton.

Today, however, she is at odds with Sanders not only as his opponent in the 2020 Democratic primary but on foreign policy issues. One conspicuous example is their contrasting positions on Kashmir.

“I am also deeply concerned about the situation in Kashmir,” said Sanders on 31 August 2019, just three weeks after the abrogation of Article 370. Criticising the “communications blackout” and “crackdown in the name of ‘security’,” he declared, “India’s action is unacceptable.”

“It is complex,” said Gabbard when asked about Kashmir at an 8 September campaign rally. Referring to the 1990 exodus of Kashmiri Pandits, she said, “Many families were driven from their homes there, and fled, and have not been able to return home.”

Insisting that Kashmiri women previously had no rights to own property, she added, “The previous government had policies in place that made homosexuality illegal.”

Her rhetoric directly mirrored that of India’s right-wing which, as journalist Anish Gawande explained, increasingly adopts the argument that “Article 370 was removed to protect minorities.”

The result is that LGBTQ rights are “used as bait to target every voice decrying the changes to Article 370.” This tactic was forcefully employed in October, for instance, when masked protestors, shouting “Gay for J&K,” shut down a London University panel on Kashmir.

Gabbard Absent from ‘Howdy Modi’, Indian Ambassador Comes to Her ‘Rescue’ [bold]

None of the other Democratic presidential candidates have echoed Gabbard’s BJP-esque rhetoric.

“I’m really concerned about what’s happened in Kashmir,” said O’Rourke in mid-September (before he dropped out). Elizabeth Warren, currently a front-runner, recently remarked, “The rights of the people of Kashmir must be respected.” Even Harris warned that “we are all watching” and referred to the possible need to intervene to prevent any human rights abuses.

Gabbard’s interest in swimming against the progressive current was further illustrated by her response to Modi’s recent visit to the USA.

The ‘Howdy Modi’ rockstar reception on 22 September in Houston, Texas was supposed to be a propaganda bonanza for the BJP. As ANI reported, BJP Foreign Affairs Cell In-Charge, Vijay Chauthaiwale, “spearheaded the preparations.” Over 60 “prominent US lawmakers, including Tulsi Gabbard” were slated to attend, reported India Today.

The event ended in disarray. Ultimately, only 21 US congressional representatives attended. Only one of five Indian-American lawmakers — Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi, showed up.

Even Gabbard herself was a no-show, although her exit was clouded by confusion. Reports circulated that she dropped out in solidarity with fellow Hindu-American Congressman Ro Khanna’s recent call to “reject Hindutva”, yet, reported DNA India, she “vehemently denied the claims.” India’s ambassador to the US, Harsh Shringla, rushed to her defence, calling her a “staunch supporter” of Modi.

Issuing a welcome video, she apologised for missing Modi’s rockstar reception “due to previously scheduled presidential campaign events.” She added that a strong partnership with India can “bring about the ideal of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam”, a phrase (meaning “the world is one family”) which professor Audrey Truschke noted has been adopted by Hindutva groups such as the Vishwa Hindu Parishad.

Tulsi Gabbard on Hindu Nationalism

Of the 65,000 people present at “Howdy Modi,” an estimated 15,000 were protestors outside the event. Yet Gabbard stated the event was “bringing together Indian-Americans and Hindu-Americans from across our country.” Then she met Modi on 27 September in New York City.

It was their fifth meeting in five years.

As Gabbard met Modi, Truschke and others were outside protesting. “Modi and his political party, the BJP, openly adhere to Hindutva,” declared Truschke at the protest. “The Modi sarkar [government] has made it very clear that all who oppose Hindutva are enemies.

Really, anyone who merely accurately describes Hindutva is an enemy in the eyes of the Modi government. As a result, the BJP and associated groups have ruthlessly attacked the media, academics, and any other dissenters in India.”

Yet Gabbard was unfazed.

That weekend, her campaign launched a new fundraiser, a raffle for a free trip to India.

Featuring a photo of her garlanding Modi, the fundraiser was hosted at the (now defunct) URL: Tulsi2020.com/Howdy.

In a 13 October interview with Gabbard, The Times of India, noting that she had missed ‘Howdy Modi’, asked, “How do you view such rallies and the expression of what some people see as an upsurge of Hindu nationalism and Hindu pride?”

She responded: “Hindu nationalism is a term that many people are using frequently without being specific about what they mean by that. Why is expressing pride in one’s religion a bad thing?”

Gabbard further asked, “If you take out the word Hindu and you replace it with Muslim or Catholic or Jewish, then what do you end up with?” The answer is, of course, you end up with religious nationalism no matter which religious label precedes the “nationalism” term.

Gabbard Not the Only US Congressional Rep With RSS Links

Tulsi Gabbard is not the only Democratic presidential candidate with links to India’s far-right, though she is apparently the only one offering apologetics for Hindutva and its alleged atrocities.

“Links to Modi and Hindu nationalism can even be found in at least three Democratic presidential campaigns,” wrote journalist Rashmee Kumar. She cited frontrunner Joe Biden, whose campaign recently hired the son of the Overseas Friends of the BJP (OFBJP) co-founder and Pete Buttigieg, whose campaign policy director is the former national coordinator of VHP-America and daughter of a former OFBJP vice-president.

Nor is Gabbard the only US congressional representative associated with the RSS.

Raja Krishnamoorthi joined RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat at last year’s World Hindu Congress in Chicago, an event Gabbard, after months of pressure, eventually publicly dropped out of, and recently headlined a celebration of the RSS’s founding organised by the group’s international wing, the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh.

FAIR reported, Gabbard has “received crucial financial support from the Indian-American far right.” Her funding from RSS-affiliated donors traces back to before she was first elected in November 2012. In 2013, approximately 21 percent of her donations came from members and executives of Hindutva groups, rising to approximately 24 percent in her second year in office.

While Clinton levels allegations that incite American political commentators to rant about Gabbard’s perceived support from Russia, they overlook the real hard evidence that her actual support comes from, and goes to India’s Hindu nationalist movement.

Gabbard Has Found Her Niche As ‘Anti-Establishment’, ‘Anti-War’ Candidate

In late October 2019, Gabbard announced that she won’t seek re-election to US Congress. “I’ve always done my best to serve where I felt I could make the most impact,” she declared. “I believe I can best serve the people of Hawaii and our country as your President.”

“I’m running for president to rebuild our Democratic party, take it out of the hands of the foreign policy establishment in Washington, the military industrial complex, and greedy corporate interests and truly put it in the hands of the people,” she declared at the 20 November debate.

Cashing in on her military service, she added, “I volunteered to deploy to Iraq where every single day I saw the terribly high human cost of war. No, I’m not going to put party interest first. I will put the interest of the American people above all else.”

Gabbard’s Rhetoric Echoes Trump’s ‘Drain the Swamp’ Slogan

Her rhetoric is reminiscent of Donald Trump’s “drain the swamp” slogan. It’s a populist, anti-corruption, proletariat vs bourgeoisie message.

Perhaps then it’s not surprising that Gabbard’s support base overlaps with Trump’s, as one analysis of poll respondents revealed, her supporters “are more likely to have backed President Trump in 2016, hold conservative views or identify as Republican compared to voters backing the other candidates.”

Her no-holds-barred brawl with Clinton, who, as the 2016 Democratic nominee, was the subject of “lock her up” chants at Trump campaign rallies, has certainly won her fans on the Right. Even Trump’s campaign has applauded her criticism of her own party.

Tulsi Gabbard is in an all-or-nothing campaign for president.

She is rising in the polls and remains standing as others who once appeared strong fall by the wayside. She faces long odds to secure the nomination, but that was also once true of Donald Trump.

Whatever comes to pass, since she appears certain to stay in the presidential race at least until July 2020, her association with the international Hindutva movement deserves deeper scrutiny.

Published by The Quint

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

www.pieterfriedrich.net

Pieter Friedrich – Ayodhya: A symbol of rule of lawlessness

The verdict set a precedent for legitimizing a Mafia-style approach

I

“If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face, forever,” wrote George Orwell.

Published by The Polis Project, 14 November 2019. Nineteen Eighty-Four is not only the title of Orwell’s dystopian novel, but also the year that the future changed forever for the Republic of India. The events of that year reverberated around the world once again on 9 November 2019 when the Supreme Court of India issued a judgment in a land dispute.

For decades, India’s courts kicked around various lawsuits filed by plaintiffs asserting their right of ownership to a disputed property in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh.

The Supreme Court’s final ruling came thirty years after the Hindu nationalist Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), categorized by the USA Central Intelligence Agency as a “religious militant organization”, laid at the site a foundation-stone for a temple [mandir] to the Hindu deity, Ram. The land belonged, the court ruled, to the infant god Ram.

Since the infant did not appear in court to take possession of his property, control passed into the hands of the Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas, a VHP-controlled trust.

Yet rather than entrusting the Nyas with building a Ram Mandir (temple), the court ordered the Central Government to create a new trust to ensure construction. Thus, India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) apparently entered the temple-building business.

Because what began in 1984 is of monumental consequence to the present, we must peer back into the past.

In October 1984, as the ruling party in New Delhi organized a massacre of Sikhs that shook the nation to the core, the communal fuse lit by the VHP was already burning.

In April 1984, the Hindu nationalist group launched a campaign which would eventually fundamentally alter the political landscape of India. The VHP set out to gain control of the alleged birthplace of Ram, which they claimed was located in Ayodhya. They wanted to build a Ram Mandir, but faced one key challenge.

The Babri Masjid, a mosque, had stood on that location for nearly 500 years.

Before they could build, the VHP had first to destroy. So they started laying the groundwork.

In October 1984, they founded a youth wing called Bajrang Dal (also now categorized by the CIA as a “religious militant organization”) and began drumming up public awareness and support for the campaign by organizing rath yatras (chariot processions) to Ram janmabhoomi (Ram’s birthplace) in Ayodhya.

Meanwhile, Ram Lalla, the infant deity, filed a lawsuit demanding the title to the land where the mosque stood. In July 1989, an Uttar Pradesh High Court recognized Ram Lalla as a legal entity and approved a former judge turned VHP executive to represent the deity. The god himself was, in the eyes of the courts, laying claim to the site.

By October 1989, the movement had generated riots in Meerut, Uttar Pradesh, and Bhagalpur, Bihar, that claimed the lives of well over a thousand people, mostly Muslims.

Then, on 9 November 1989, the VHP escalated the issue by laying a foundation-stone for the proposed temple on a plot of land just opposite the mosque. “To the fundamentalists, the communal bloodbath of the last few months matters little,” wrote journalist Pankaj Pachauri a few weeks later.

“Ashok Singhal, general secretary of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), makes it clear that no amount of blood-letting will stop his cadres from constructing the Ram temple at the controversial site which includes a 16th century mosque.”

II

The religious demand had already become a political one.

The BJP was formed in 1980 by pracharaks (full-time workers) of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) paramilitary as a political arm to advance the RSS’s Hindu supremacist agenda. In June 1989, the BJP formally joined the VHP’s campaign. Religion and politics are always a volatile and inevitably explosive mix, this time was no different.

BJP President L K Advani led the charge in 1990.

Setting out from Gujarat on a Ram rath yatra, Advani rode in a minibus mocked up as Ram’s chariot. Heading for Ayodhya, he plotted a circuitous 10,000 kilometer route across the heartland of the Indian subcontinent.

Flanked at times by Atal Bihari Vajpayee, a member of parliament, and Narendra Modi, a RSS pracharak, he was trailed by thousands of kar sevaks (activists) from the RSS, VHP, Bajrang Dal, and other groups.

As reported by News18, “Modi was the architect of Advani’s yatra plans.”

The procession halted in multiple cities per day so Advani could deliver rousing speeches. His remarks were apparently over-stimulating, his swelling body of itinerant followers killed scores of Muslims along the way.

The day before he was scheduled to enter Uttar Pradesh, Advani was arrested. With the icon of the movement behind bars, anti-Muslim riots erupted in several states, leaving hundreds dead.

In Ayodhya, VHP activists surrounded and surged towards the Babri Masjid, attempting to demolish it as they erected a saffron flag atop its dome. Police intervention left approximately 20 people dead. “This episode reinforced the champion-of-Hinduism image that the BJP had been trying to acquire,” wrote political scientist Christophe Jaffrelot.

It also set the stage for the drama to be fully played out.

In 1991, the BJP campaigned on a pledge to build a Ram Mandir in Ayodhya, calling it “a symbol of the vindication of our cultural heritage and national self-respect.” They fell short nationally but rose to power in Uttar Pradesh. With the state government in the BJP’s hands, the Babri Masjid soon came tumbling down.

On 6 December 1992, hundreds of thousands rallied around the mosque to listen to speeches by the then BJP President Murli Manohar Joshi, MP Uma Bharti and Advani. Sparked by their fiery rhetoric, an activist or two burst past police, climbed up the mosque, and once again planted a saffron flag atop it. A firestorm ensued.

“We saw them break through the first police barrier,” said journalist Mark Tully, who was an eyewitness. “The police did not seem to resist them at all, I saw this sight of a police officer pushing his way through his men so that he could run away faster than the men. And the police just deserted.”

Given free rein, activists swarmed the mosque. Armed with crowbars, pickaxes, sledgehammers and their bare hands, they tore apart the structure in a matter of hours, subsequently erecting a makeshift temple in its place and installing a statue of Ram Lalla.

Then came the pogroms.

Witnesses told Human Rights Watch (HRW) that the police in Ayodhya were either absent or participating when mobs of hundreds roamed the streets in the pre-dawn hours of 7 December, beating, sometimes lynching, Muslims and burning their homes and businesses.

“This was not just some mindless and wanton destruction of human life and property by the kar sevaks in order to sustain the high they had achieved only a few hours ago by razing the Babri Masjid to the ground,” one eyewitness stated. “On the contrary, they worked to a carefully crafted plan.”

The flames of violence fanned across the land and were still burning bright when the new year dawned.

“The violence of the 1992-93 riots following the demolition of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya on 6 December 1992 exceeded anything India had yet experienced since Partition,” wrote Jaffrelot. Thousands, perhaps up to 3,000, died. Most were Muslims.

In the wake of the violence, the RSS, VHP and Bajrang Dal, collectively known as the Sangh Parivar (family of organizations), were all briefly banned, but their willingness to embrace brutality as the means to the end they desired had already set the tone for the anthem the Hindu nationalist movement continues to sing.

For Muslims, the destruction represented what international relations expert Dibyesh Anand called a “poetics of fear” where “minority Muslims have no option but to accept their subjugation or face further violence from the awakened Hindu nation.”

For Hindu extremists, however, it was what sociologist Prema Kurien defined as “a watershed event in the history of the Hindu nationalist movement” which “propelled the BJP and its Sangh Parivar affiliates into the limelight.”

As HRW reported: “The campaign to build a Ram temple at the site of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya, which was hugely successful in cultivating a national Hindu vote bank, helped catapult the BJP into power in the early 1990s.”

III

During the 1998 national elections, the BJP declared its commitment to facilitating construction of a “magnificent” Ram Mandir in Ayodhya. The party emerged victorious with Vajpayee as Prime Minister. Advani was tapped not only as deputy prime minister but also as Home Minister (tasked with law and order) while MM Joshi was made minister of Human Resource Development (tasked with education).

All three were RSS men.

Vajpayee was 15 years old when he joined the RSS in 1939, a year before M S Golwalkar took over as the second and longest-serving leader of the paramilitary.

It was the same year that Golwalkar published his infamous manifesto, We or Our Nationhood Defined, in which he proclaimed: “Ever since that evil day, when Moslems first landed in Hindustan, right up to the present moment, the Hindu Nation has been gallantly fighting on to shake off the despoilers.”

He declared that “we, Hindus, are at war at once with the Moslems” who “take themselves to be the conquering invaders and grasp for power.” The “cause of our ills,” he insisted, was the day that “the Moslems first tread upon this land.”

Yet Golwalkar saw a glimmer of hope, claiming that the Hindu “is rousing himself up again and the world has to see the might of the regenerated Hindu Nation strike down the enemy’s hosts with its mighty arm.”

In 1947, as India was about to become independent from the British Empire, Golwalkar visited the maharajah of the Princely State of Jammu and Kashmir to pressure him to expand his militia.

His visit came within weeks of a pogrom against Muslims in Jammu in which the maharajah and the RSS collaborated to wipe out tens of thousands, or more. That was the year that Vajpayee became an RSS pracharak.

Despite growing up immersed in the Islamophobia of the RSS, Vajpayee’s administration was generally moderate.

The BJP, unable to win an absolute majority in the 1998 elections, was forced to form a coalition with other parties. Consequently, Jaffrelot explains that it “reverted to its moderate line, discarding the manipulation of religious symbols for political purposes in favor of touting more legitimate issues such as national unity and economic independence.”

The party “put on the backburner contentious issues” such as the pledge to construct Ram Mandir, as well as its promise to abolish Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, which provided special status to Jammu and Kashmir.

Everything changed with the advent of Modi.

After assisting Advani’s Ram rath yatra, Modi swiftly advanced up the BJP hierarchy. In 1998, he was rewarded with a national position as organizing secretary of the BJP. By October 2001, political wrangling in Gujarat ended in his appointment as the state’s Chief Minister.

Almost immediately, the Ayodhya conflict engulfed Gujarat. Ten years after the Babri Masjid was destroyed, Modi earned the ignominious appellation of Butcher of Gujarat.

On 27 February 2002, a train filled with VHP activists was returning from Ayodhya to Gujarat when someone pulled the emergency cord. The train stopped, it was allegedly set upon by a mob of Muslims, and several coaches caught fire. Fifty-nine Hindus, mostly women and children, died in the blaze.

Modi responded by immediately (and without evidence) declaring it an act of terrorism perpetrated by the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. In a televised event, the dead were removed from the train as Modi ordered their charred corpses to be transported, uncovered, for 100 kilometers from Godhra to Ahmedabad. The dead were handed over to the VHP, which then paraded the bodies through the streets.

On 28 February, the Sangh Parivar initiated a statewide pogrom against Muslims.

As reported by HRW, the attacks “were planned, well in advance of the Godhra incident, and organized with extensive police participation.” Over three days, the Sangh slaughtered thousands.

“The groups most directly responsible for violence against Muslims in Gujarat include the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, the Bajrang Dal, the ruling BJP, and the umbrella organization Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh,” reported HRW. Leaflets distributed by the VHP vowed to kill Muslims in the same way as the Babri Masjid was destroyed.

Overseeing it all was Modi, a fact repeatedly revealed by whistleblowers like BJP State Minister Haren Pandya and Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence Sanjiv Bhatt as well as participants in the pogrom who were caught fingering the chief minister on camera in a 2007 sting conducted by an Indian magazine.

VHP chief Ashok Singhal, the architect of the Ram Janmabhoomi movement, reportedly described the Gujarat pogrom as a “successful experiment which will be repeated all over the country.” He lauded entire villages “emptied of Islam” as a “victory for Hindu society.”

Then, in 2003, Singhal denounced Prime Minister Vajpayee for supposedly being “the only person in the BJP and Sangh Parivar opposed to the Ram temple movement.”

“The destruction of the Babri Mosque in Ayodhya on December 6, 1992, and the anti-Muslim riots in Gujarat in 2002 are two spectacular events that have been etched into the memory of Hindu nationalists as symbols of the awakened Hindu nation,” wrote Anand. “These are held out as the prime illustrations of the Hindu nationalist awakening.” The election of Modi was the culmination of that awakening.

IV

The BJP was voted out of power in 2004, but returned with a roar in 2014 after Modi campaigned on his identity as a Hindutvavadi, an adherent of Hindutva, the religious nationalist political ideology of Hindu supremacy which guides the Sangh.

Modi’s first term as prime minister was marked by a sharp rise in anti-minority violence but little in terms of advancing the Sangh’s political goals on a national level. Rather, he focused on consolidating his power and stacking his cabinet with RSS men.

Within six months of his reelection in May 2019, however, his government achieved the top two most controversial items on the BJP’s religious nationalist agenda.

In August, the Modi regime scrapped Article 370 and stripped Jammu and Kashmir, the only Muslim majority state in India, of statehood. Boosting its troop presence by tens of thousands, instituting a communications blackout and mass-arresting the entire civil society, the BJP accomplished a full annexation of the previously mostly autonomous region.

Then, three months later, came the Ayodhya verdict.

Welcoming the verdict, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat declared: “The building of Ram Mandir will end a major issue of friction between Hindus and Muslims.” Top VHP executive Alok Kumar called it “one of the greatest judicial verdicts in the world.” Yet, implying continued friction, Kumar insisted that the “judgement is not the end of the story, it is the beginning.”

Friction remains over the impunity enjoyed by the Sangh after the devastation it wrought in Ayodhya.

Advani, Joshi, Bharti, and several others (including Mahant Nrityagopal Das, head of the Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas) are still facing criminal conspiracy charges for the role they played in instigating, perhaps even organizing, the destruction of the Babri Masjid and the pogroms that followed it. Yet no sentence was ever passed on anyone involved in the bloodshed of 1992-1993.

The Supreme Court’s verdict acknowledged that “the destruction of the mosque and the obliteration of the Islamic structure was an egregious violation of the rule of law.”

In 2003, however, journalist Saba Naqvi wrote: “No court can possibly give a verdict that hands over the disputed land to the very people who wantonly destroyed the Babri Masjid.” Yet the Supreme Court’s Ayodhya verdict did just that.

The verdict set a precedent for legitimizing a Mafia-style approach. If someone has built a house on land you want, first destroy their house. Then stage a massacre. Then ask the courts for a stamp of approval on the land-ownership demand.

The verdict represents that vision of the future in which a boot is forever stamping on a human face. “Always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler,” wrote Orwell.

“Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless.” The verdict sanctions those boot-wearers who exult in crushing the downtrodden. It codifies injustice.

Ayodhya is a symbol of rule of lawlessness.

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

www.pieterfriedrich.net

Pieter Friedrich – Modi-Merkel meet: German chancellor prioritised profit over people

Merkel calls Kashmir situation “unsustainable” but actions speak louder than words

New Delhi – India, 02 November 2019. October 31 was an eventful Halloween in India. German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrived in New Delhi with an entourage of 12 of Germany’s 16 cabinet ministers.

On the same day a fact finding report was released on Kashmir: just a day after the touring MEPs expressed support for Modi’s scrapping of Article 370, which granted Kashmir semi-autonomous status, calling it India’s “internal matter.”

The majority of the two dozen visiting MEPs had hailed from extreme right-wing political parties, including Germany’s neo-Nazi Alternative für Deutschland, a party which will likely soon be headed by Björn Höcke, who has criticized Germany’s Holocaust commemoration policies and declared as his platform: “We want Germany to remain German.”

Facts that the EU delegation may have ignored

This other, not much publicised fact-finding team, one composed not of politicians from Europe but of attorneys and human rights activists from India, released a report which starkly contradicted the EU delegation’s conclusions.

Terrorism, concluded this report, has indeed found a foothold in Kashmir. State-sponsored terrorism, that is. Among the facts about the suspension of public transportation, absence of adequate medical care, surveillance of local media, and illegal detentions, one detail stood out.

“There are numerous cases of torture by the armed forces. In some instances, the tortures are made audible through loudspeakers so that other people can hear the victim’s screams,” stated the report.

The horrifying allegation that India’s military is psychologically terrorizing Kashmiris by broadcasting the sounds of torture victims was, however, swiftly overshadowed by geo-political developments.

What Merkel could have focused on

Merkel’s talks with Modi could have focused on atrocities in Kashmir. She might also have made mention of the massive detention centers currently being constructed in Assam to house the approximately two million people recently disenfranchised by India’s National Register of Citizens, — and how Germany knows, from personal experience, that building concentration camps never ends well.

Maybe she could have also discussed the controversy that arose this summer when Germany’s ambassador to India, Walter Lindner, visited the RSS headquarters in Nagpur to lay flowers at the feet of the paramilitary’s founder, an action that prompted nearly 4,500 people to sign a petition demanding his resignation.

Instead, Merkel’s office announced (as reported by NDTV), “The focus will be economic and trade relations, innovation and digitalization, and climate protection and sustainable development.”

Profits over people took precedence. On 01 November Merkel inked over 20 memorandums of understanding intended to intensify economic relations between Germany and India. No doubt she is blinded by the billions, of which there were over $24 in bilateral trade between the two countries in the last fiscal year.

Merkel’s disappointing statement on Kashmir

Aside from economic cooperation, Merkel and Modi shook hands on another major agreement. “We will strengthen bilateral and multilateral cooperation to deal with dangers such as terrorism and extremism,” announced Modi.

A joint statement issued by the two leaders pledged to work towards a “stronger international partnership in countering terrorism and preventing violent extremism.”

The state-sponsored terror in Kashmir and the atrocities in the rest of the country in the name of Hindu supremacy apparently do not fall under the purview of their agreement.

Merkel, who certainly understands that actions speak louder than words, offered only the briefest of remarks on Kashmir when probed by German journalists. “The situation now for the people (in Kashmir) is not good and not sustainable,” she said. “This has to be improved for sure.”

Why the situation is not good or who is responsible for it was not something Merkel bothered to address.

How Much is Merkel Willing to Ignore?

Acting as Merkel’s mouthpiece on the eve before her trip, however, Ambassador Lindner more explicitly described Germany’s position on Kashmir. It mirrors that of the far-right EU delegation. “Our position remains that Article 370 is an internal matter for India,” said Lindner.

In the face of massive profits, it seems virtually anything and everything that Modi does will fall under the category of an “internal matter for India.”

Modi’s actions in Kashmir and Assam are not enough to cause her to turn up her nose at him.

Nor, indeed, does Merkel appear bothered that RSS (with the BJP as its front) rules India, despite the fact that the fascist paramilitary was founded in 1925, the same year that Hitler published Mein Kampf, reformulated the Nazi party, and founded the Schutzstaffel, and developed with direct inspiration from the Nazis.

Today, supremacist violence is on the rise in Germany. The victims there are of the same category as the victims in India, minorities (often, but not always, Muslims) and immigrants. Just last month, on October 9, a gunman stormed a German synagogue, killing two people.

In June, a neo-Nazi assassinated Walter Luebcke, a member of Merkel’s own party. It marked the first right-wing political murder of a German politician since the end of the Second World War.

Will Merkel Also Embrace the AfD?

Meanwhile, the AfD is overtaking Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, knocking the CDU into a third-place showing in elections in the state of Thuringia. Höcke, the AfD’s rising star, heads the party’s Thuringia branch.

His “Germany for the Germans” platform directly mirrors the platform of the BJP and RSS, who proclaim that India is a Hindu nation.

Notably, white supremacist terrorist Anders Breivik of Norway, who massacred 77 people in 2011, praised the RSS, and its “political arm,” the BJP, for how they “dominate the streets and often riot and attack Muslims.”

Affirming the BJP/RSS agenda to “make the Indian state into a ‘Hindu nation’,” Breivik declared, “It is essential that the European and Indian resistance movements learn from each other and cooperate as much as possible.”

If Merkel isn’t picky about who she works with, as long as they have deep pockets, then one wonders where she will draw the line. Will she also embrace the AfD — or worse — if there’s a chance to put profits over people?

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. [centre/italics]

Discover more by him at:

www.pieterfriedrich.net

Pieter Friedrich – Howdy Modi: shameful for American politicians to participate

Speaking at “Adios Modi” protest announcement at CAIR-Houston

On 21 September 2019, I joined a diverse coalition gathered under the banner of Alliance for Justice and Accountability for a press conference at the CAIR-Houston office to announce an #AdiosModi protest of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s 22 September #HowdyModi pep rally at the NRG Stadium in Houston, TX, USA.

Participants included myself, as well as the Indian American Muslim Council, Hindus for Human Rights, Black Lives Matter Houston, St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, Indivisible Houston, AZAAD Austin, and a number of other activists.

“The ‘Howdy Modi,’ event is intended as a propaganda bonanza for an authoritarian ruler,” I stated during my remarks. “The event’s main organizers and promoters are leaders within the international wings of the RSS and the BJP. It’s shameful for any American politician to participate in a self-promotional event hosted by a pogrom-tainted foreign leader on US soil.”

My full remarks were as follows:

Yesterday evening, Congressman Brad Sherman confirmed that he was dropping out of “Howdy Modi.” His decision was especially shocking considering not only that he is co-chair of the India Caucus but also that he recently wrote to his colleagues in US Congress to urge them to join the event.

Also yesterday evening, Houston-based Congressman Pete Olson doubled-down on his commitment to attending the event, writing, “Howdy Modi is about unity, not division.”

Congressman Olson’s short-sighted remarks overlook that, while a shared commitment to the values of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness do have the potential to bring the United States, India, and Texas closer together, what we are currently seeing Mr. Modi inflict upon Kashmir is occupation, torture, and death.

Modi’s actions in Kashmir are merely one of many examples of how and why “Howdy Modi” is a divisive event which is driving a wedge between the incredibly diverse South Asian communities of Houston, of Texas, and of America.

“Howdy Modi” is a partisan Indian political event designed to promote Modi abroad in order to distract attention from the atrocities of his totalitarian regime in India.

Most recently, Modi annexed Kashmir. His regime has mass arrested the entire civil society of Kashmir. The region remains under a communications blackout.

In Assam, Modi has made nearly 2 million Indians, primarily Muslims, stateless after stripping them of citizenship. He is currently constructing massive detention camps for these newly-declared “foreigners.”

Since 2014, and especially since Modi’s reelection in 2019, India has suffered a wave of lynchings of minorities, mostly Muslim and Dalits, in the name of “cow protection” and, more recently, in the name of the Hindu deity Ram.

Furthermore, Modi’s regime recently announced plans to introduce a national law to criminalize religious freedom.

Meanwhile, in the United States, just last month, a white supremacist terrorist murdered 22 people in El Paso, Texas.

His evil act was inspired by the murder of 51 people at mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand.

That man’s evil act was inspired by the murder of 77 people in Norway in 2011.

In Norway, terrorist Anders Breivik left a manifesto that describes how he was inspired by other extremist and nationalist groups around the globe. Breivik pointed to the RSS in India.

He praised the “right wing Hindu nationalism” of the RSS and its goal of making India into a “Hindu nation.” He praised the RSS for how “they dominate the streets and often riot and attack Muslims.” He said that the goals of white supremacists and the RSS are “identical” and that they should “learn from each other and cooperate as much as possible.”

The RSS is a fascist paramilitary founded in 1925, the same year that Hitler published Mein Kampf, reformulated the Nazi Party, and oversaw creation of the SS.

The RSS developed with inspiration from the Nazis. It modeled itself after them in appearance, adopting a uniform that closely resembles that of the Hitler Youth. It also modeled itself after them in ideology.

For instance, the RSS’s longest-serving leader wrote, “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, to learn and profit by.” He further described those who do not “glorify the Hindu Race and Nation” as “traitors” and called it treason for an Indian to not be a Hindu.

Modi, who began his public life in the RSS, calls the author of these remarks his “guru worthy of worship.”

Considering that the RSS produced Modi, it is not surprising that, in 2002, he presided as soldiers of the RSS massacred 2,000 Muslims. They gang-raped women, hacked people to death, burned people alive. Leaders of the pogrom later confessed on camera that Modi sanctioned their violence.

For this reason, Modi was banned from entering the USA for over 10 years.

Today, under Modi’s iron-fisted regime, Christians, Dalits, Muslims, Sikhs, and every Hindu who disagrees with the hate, violence, and supremacy of the RSS lives in fear of their lives.

The “Howdy Modi” event is intended as a propaganda bonanza for an authoritarian ruler. Thus, the event’s main organizers and promoters are leaders within the international wings of the RSS and the BJP.

This especially includes Vijay Chauithawale, the BJP’s Foreign Affairs Cell Chief, who has been overseeing organization of “Howdy Modi.”

It’s shameful for any American politician to participate in a self-promotional event hosted by a pogrom-tainted foreign leader on US soil. Modi’s hands are stained with blood. Those who shake his hand in welcome cannot wash their hands of complicity in his crimes.

As Bishop Desmond Tutu once said, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”

So what then do we say of those standing with the oppressor? The proper response to “Howdy Modi” is “Adios Modi.”

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

www.pieterfriedrich.net

Pieter Friedrich – Adios Modi: Urging Houston City Council to Boycott “Howdy Modi”

“Modi’s hands are stained with blood,” I stated at Houston City Council

Houston – Texas – USA, 17 September 2019. I attended the Houston City Council meeting to speak against the upcoming “Howdy Modi” event and urge city officials to decline participation.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) will be visiting Houston, Texas on 22 September for a mega-rally dubbed “Howdy Modi.” City leaders, including Mayor Sylvester Turner, plan to attend the partisan Indian political event, which some have termed a “pep rally” for Modi.

“Modi’s hands are stained with blood,” I stated at the city council meeting. “Those who shake his hand in welcome cannot wash their hands of complicity in his crimes.”

“Howdy Modi” is being organized by leaders of US branches of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). The RSS, often referred to as a paramilitary, 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.

M S Golwalkar, who headed the RSS from 1940 to 1973, wrote glowingly in support of Nazi racial policy. Golwalkar described those who refuse to “glorify the Hindu Race and Nation” as “traitors” and called it treason for an Indian to convert away from Hinduism.

In 1939, he further wrote, “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.”

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.

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.”

In my remarks protesting the City of Houston’s participation in “Howdy Modi,” I urged them to instead say “Adios Modi.” My full remarks were as follows:

  • Last month, a white supremacist terrorist murdered 22 people in El Paso, Texas.
  • His evil act was inspired by the murder of 51 people at mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand.
  • That man’s evil act was inspired by the murder of 77 people in Norway in 2011.
  • In Norway, terrorist Anders Breivik left a manifesto that describes how he was inspired by other extremist and nationalist groups around the globe.
  • Breivik pointed to the RSS in India.
  • He praised the “right wing Hindu nationalism” of the RSS and its goal of making India a “Hindu nation.” He praised the RSS for how “they dominate the streets… and often riot and attack Muslims.” He said the goals of white supremacists and the RSS are “identical” and that they should “learn from each other and cooperate as much as possible.”
  • The RSS is a fascist paramilitary founded in 1925, the same year that Hitler published Mein Kampf. The RSS developed with inspiration from the Nazis. And it produced Narendra Modi.
  • In 2002, Modi presided as soldiers of the RSS massacred 2,000 Muslims. They gang-raped women, hacked people to death, burned people alive. Leaders of the pogrom later confessed on camera that Modi sanctioned their violence.
  • For this reason, Modi was banned from entering the USA for over 10 years.
  • Today, under Modi’s iron-fisted regime, Christians, Dalits, Muslims, Sikhs, and every Hindu who disagrees with the hate, violence, and supremacy of the RSS lives in fear of their lives.
  • Modi’s hands are stained with blood. Those who shake his hand in welcome cannot wash their hands of complicity in his crimes.
  • Bishop Desmond Tutu once said, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”
  • So what then if you roll out the red carpet for the oppressor?
  • The philosopher Plato said, “Silence is consent.”
  • So what then if you raise your voice in support of the oppressor?
  • Rather than “Howdy, Modi,” the City of Houston ought to be saying, “Adios, Modi.”

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

www.pieterfriedrich.net

India’s Caravan Magazine’s Cover Story on Tulsi Gabbard & Sangh Parivar

Pieter Friedrich 02 September 2019

“All in the Family: The American Sangh’s Affair With Tulsi Gabbard”

India’s only narrative journalism magazine, The Caravan, published an August 2019 cover story by Pieter Friedrich about USA Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, a presidential candidate, and her extensive ties (financial and otherwise) to the American affiliates of the Sangh Parivar (the family of organizations springing from India’s Rashtriya Swamasevak Sangh – RSS).

Hidden behind a paywall for the month of August, the article is now free to read.

The article details how and why hundreds of Indian Americans affiliated with Sangh groups, including nearly 60 executives in organizations like Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh, Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America, and Overseas Friends of the BJP, donated extensively to Representative Tulsi Gabbard’s congressional campaign.

It documents how she received over 20% of her congressional campaign financing from these sources during 2013, her first year in office, rising to nearly 25% in 2014.

It further explains how Gabbard’s rise in US politics is inexplicable until one considers how Sangh donations gave her a leg up when she was a virtual unknown.

The first Indian-American donors to her congressional campaign are top executives in RSS affiliates in the US. Gabbard emerged on the US political scene at a pivotal moment for the Sangh’s aspiration to see Modi as the Indian prime minister.

Many of her most generous oldest and most generous Sangh-affiliated donors were the key organizers of a US campaign to assist Modi’s election, several of them even traveled to India to campaign for the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party in person.

The greatest diplomatic triumph for the Sangh was rehabilitating Modi’s reputation in the US. Gabbard played a significant part in that.

Comments About Caravan profile on Tulsi Gabbard

“Important article. It’s the duty of every American politician of Hindu faith to stand for pluralism, reject Hindutva, and speak for equal rights for Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhists, and Christians.” — Congressman Ro Khanna

“For anyone STILL lionizing Tulsi Gabbard, this article… detailing how US affiliates of RSS, Hindu nationalist paramilitary in India, financed her rise should disabuse you of any confusion.” — Azadeh Shahshahani, social justice attorney

“Extremely detailed piece.” — Shaukeen Phoenix, journalist

“Reminder that Tulsi Gabbard’s rise in American politics is based on a blood-stained foundation of Hindu nationalism.” — Dr. Alf Gunvald Nilsen, professor

“How (extreme) right-leaning Indian-Americans are a big financial backbone for the 2020 Presidential aspirant.” — Raju Narisetti, journalist

“Interesting – very long read.” — Harini Calamur, filmmaker

“This looks like a really fascinating long read about Tulsi Gabbard and her relationship with American Hindutva organizations.” — Hari Prasad, Middle East & South Asia researcher

“A deep probe.” — Richard Fox Young, professor

“A timely reminder of Gabbard’s deep ties to the diaspora Hindu right.” — Anjali Kamat, journalist

“Fascinating.” — Caroline Gray, policy program coordinator

“A fascinating story of how Indian Americans and Hindu nationalists in India are backing Tulsi Gabbard.” — Darryn Boodan, writer

“In the race to be the US Democratic Presidential candidate, but being promoted by India’s Hindu Supremacists.” — Ashok Swain, professor

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

www.pieterfriedrich.net.

Pieter Friedrich – Jammu and Kashmir Loses “Special Status”

Part 2 – Hindu Rulers of Muslim Subjects

Religious conflict between ruler and ruled, as well as the sense that Kashmir is an object to be haggled over, traded, and valued only for the bragging rights of ownership, has persisted since at least the mid-19th century.

Islam took root in Kashmir in 1320 when the local king converted. By the end of the 1400s, most Kashmiris were Muslims. In 1586, the Mughal Empire sent a Hindu general, Bhagwant Das, to annex the region.

He succeeded, writes 17th-century Dutch East India Company merchant Francisco Pelsaert, “by craft and subtlety, the lofty mountains and difficult roads rendering forcible conquest impossible.”

Mughal Emperors then adopted Kashmir as their summer resort. Meanwhile, Pelsaert records, Kashmiris remained “for the most part poor.” In 1751, Afghanistan invaded and conquered Kashmir.

Kashmir’s situation changed in the 1800s. As the Mughal Empire crumbled, the young Sikh community in Punjab, immediately south of J&K, asserted itself militarily. The Sikhs fought invasions of Afghanis and Persians, waged war against the Mughals, and battled local Hindu kings.

Finally, they established the Sikh Empire in 1801. In 1808, the Sikh Empire annexed Jammu and then, in 1819, attacked and overthrew the Afghani occupiers of Kashmir.

The Sikh Empire was then the only major region of the Indian subcontinent which the British had not colonized. Its downfall began when the Dogra brothers gained political control. Dhian Singh Dogra was made prime minister in 1818 and Gulab Singh Dogra was made raja of Jammu in 1822. From 1840 to 1845, they staged two coups, eventually installing a child on the throne.

In 1846, when the British invaded in 1846, Gulab, then prime minister, negotiated the Sikh Empire’s surrender. Shah Mohammad, a contemporary Punjabi poet, says Gulab “was serving none but himself” as he “paid obeisance” to the British “with all obsequiousness” and brought them in “by the arm.”

The outcome was the 1846 Treaty of Lahore. The treaty included a reward for Gulab’s assistance in bringing the Sikh Empire to its knees, kingship over J&K. “After getting Kashmir in the bargain, Gulab Singh repaired forthwith to Jammu,” writes Mohammad.

Gulab was the first Maharaja of the Dogra dynasty that controlled J&K until the last Maharaja, Hari Singh Dogra, acceded the region to independent India.

The distinguishing feature of Dogra rule was exclusive state-patronage of Hinduism and a systematic campaign to Hinduize Kashmir. In her book, Hindu Rulers, Muslim Subjects, historian Mridu Rai explains that Gulab “was careful to emphasize his standing as a Hindu ruler” and publicly “denounced Hindu-Muslim marriages and conversions from Hinduism to Islam.”

His son, Ranbir, began “construction of a Hindu state” and founded a government department “with the single aim of securing the glorification of the Hindu religion in the state.”

Ranbir further “acclaimed the importance of being Hindu in order to rule in Jammu and Kashmir.” His son, Pratap, represented “the interests of only the small Hindu segment of his Kashmiri subjects.”

The situation had not changed by the time Pratap’s son, Hari, came to the throne in 1925.

Global changes that year, however, saw the rise of ethnocentrism and fascism. In the US, over 30,000 members of the Ku Klux Klan marched on Washington, DC. In Italy, Mussolini made himself dictator. In Germany, Hitler published Mein Kampf, reformulated the Nazi Party, and founded the SS.

And in India, KB Hedgewar founded the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, a uniformed paramilitary which soon drew inspiration from both Hitler and Mussolini.

This long article will be published in five parts in the coming days
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:
www.pieterfriedrich.net

Pieter Friedrich – Jammu and Kashmir loses “Special Status”

Part 1 – The long Hindu nationalist agenda of absorption

Terror grips the most militarized zone in the world after India’s Central Government terminated Jammu and Kashmir’s 70-year-old “special status” as the first step towards stripping the disputed region of statehood entirely.

Internationally infamous as the world’s hottest potential nuclear flashpoint, J&K originally acceded to India in 1947 only on the condition that the newly-formed country be restricted from interfering in the domestic affairs of the mountainous northern region.

The agreement was sealed between the last king of J&K, Maharaja Hari Singh Dogra, and the representative of the British crown, Governor-General Lord Mountbatten. In 1949, when passage of the constitution formed the Republic of India, the Maharaja’s conditions for accession were enshrined in Article 370.

The crux of the article, in combination with Article 35A of 1954, was that, while J&K accepted India’s handling of issues like defense and foreign policy, the state otherwise reserved the right to autonomy in handling its domestic affairs. Kashmiris, thus, lived under their own distinct laws.

Notably, citizens of other parts of India were prohibited from settling permanently or owning property in Kashmir. In the eyes of many Kashmiris, this prevented settler colonialism. On August 5, 2019, the President of India abolished this “special status” by decree.

Simultaneously, Home Minister Amit Shah, charged with India’s internal security, introduced a bill in the upper house of parliament to strip J&K of statehood, downgrade it to a “Union Territory,” and partition the region.

As Shah did this, the Central Government shut down Kashmir. It imposed a virtual curfew, banning movement of the public, shuttering educational institutions, and barring all public assemblies or meetings. It severed communications, cutting off phone and internet access.

And it conducted arrests of mainstream Kashmiri political leaders, such as former chief ministers Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah, on unknown charges.

India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, which was just re-elected in May, campaigned on promises to scrap J&K’s “special status.”

The BJP’s manifesto alleged that it was “an obstacle in the development of the state,” while Shah insisted it stood in the way of of Kashmir becoming an “integral party of India permanently” and was necessary for “national security.” Indeed, the tumultuous region has suffered a significant influx in violence in recent years.

Since 2014, when Prime Minister Modi’s regime first came to power, terrorist incidents in J&K have nearly tripled and security forces deaths have nearly doubled. According to a July 2019 UN report, independent bodies documented 159 security forces deaths in 2018, a figure comparable to US troop fatalities in Iraq in 2009.

The latest round of escalating tensions traces back to at least 2010, when mass protests erupted over an “encounter killing” of three civilians by Indian Army troops. Protests again erupted in 2016. During suppression efforts, security forces killed hundreds of protesters.

The Central Government has responded by flooding J&K with more and more soldiers. The small region, slightly smaller than the United Kingdom, is already occupied by a bare minimum of 500,000 troops. Since late July 2019, India has deployed nearly another 50,000.

Delhi has additionally responded by repeatedly dissolving J&K’s elected state government, imposing direct rule three times since 2015.

The last time was in June 2018, after India’s ruling BJP withdrew from a coalition with then J&K Chief Minister Mufti, apparently because she advocated “reconciliation” instead of a “muscular security policy” as the most effective solution to the Kashmir conflict. Elections have not been allowed since 2014.

The ongoing occupation as well as the long-term use of direct rule, imposed for approximately ten of the past 42 years, contribute to the perception of Kashmiris that they are nothing more than vassals within the Republic of India.

The religious dimensions of the conflict reinforce that perspective. With a 68 percent Muslim population, many residents of J&K have historically felt like Muslim subjects governed by Hindu rulers.

Their sentiments are enhanced by the authoritative agenda so abruptly implemented by the Hindu nationalist BJP, many of whose leaders have openly demanded that India be officially declared a Hindu Nation.

To understand the present situation, it is necessary to briefly examine the longer history of the region, including how it became what M K Gandhi called “a Hindu State, the majority of its people being Muslims.”

This long article will be published in five parts in the coming days
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
www.pieterfriedrich.net

The Caravan – “All in the Family: The American Sangh’s Affair With Tulsi Gabbard”

India’s Caravan Magazine’s Cover Story on Tulsi Gabbard & Sangh Parivar

India’s only narrative journalism magazine, The Caravan, has released its August 2019 issue with a cover story by Pieter Friedrich about USA Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, a presidential candidate, and her extensive ties to the American affiliates of the Sangh Parivar (the family of organizations springing from India’s Rashtriya Swamayamsevak Sangh – RSS).

The article focuses details how and why hundreds of Indian Americans affiliated with Sangh groups donated extensively to Representative Tulsi Gabbard’s congressional campaign. It further explains how Gabbard’s rise in US politics is inexplicable until one considers how Sangh donations gave her a leg up when she was a virtual unknown.

The first Indian-American donors to her congressional campaign are top executives in RSS affiliates in the USA. Gabbard emerged on the US political scene at a pivotal moment for the Sangh’s aspiration to see Modi as the Indian PM.

The greatest diplomatic triumph for the Sangh was rehabilitating Modi’s reputation in the USA. Gabbard played a significant part in that.

Twitter praise for Caravan profile on Tulsi Gabbard

“How (extreme) right-leaning Indian-Americans are a big financial backbone for the 2020 Presidential aspirant.” — Raju Narisetti, journalist

“Interesting – very long read.” — Harini Calamur, filmmaker

“This looks like a really fascinating long read about Tulsi Gabbard and her relationship with American Hindutva organizations.” — Hari Prasad, Middle East & South Asia researcher

“A deep probe.” — Richard Fox Young, professor

“A timely reminder of Gabbard’s deep ties to the diaspora Hindu right.” — Anjali Kamat, journalist

“Fascinating.” — Caroline Gray, policy program coordinator

“A fascinating story of how Indian Americans and Hindu nationalists in India are backing Tulsi Gabbard.” — Darryn Boodan, writer

“In the race to be the US Democratic Presidential candidate, but being promoted by India’s Hindu Supremacists.” — Ashok Swain, professor

The article is currently behind a paywall. You must subscribe to Caravan to read it. It will be available for the general public to read for free sometime in the near future. Please consider subscribing to Caravan to support publication of this article.

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:

www.pieterfriedrich.net

https://caravanmagazine.in/politics/american-sangh-affair-tulsi-gabbard

Disaster for Democracy: How the Modi Wave has flooded India with Fascism (Part IV)

A Dictatorship Retaining the Form of Democracy

Pieter Friedrich

On May 23, 2019, after a month-long election process, in which the OFBJP again played an instrumental role, the BJP emerged victorious with 38.5% of the total vote.

“It’s not a victory of BJP,” comments Dr Ashok Swain, professor of peace and conflict research at Uppsala University. “It’s a victory of Modi and Modi’s politics. After Modi came to power in the last five years, this has been turned into a personality cult. BJP is now a one-man party.” Swain describes Modi as “near to a god for a large number of his followers.”

The pracharak’s divine status, he asserts, was cemented by the Gujarat pogrom. “Modi became Modi because of the 2002 killing of 2,000 Muslims,” he states. “RSS realized Modi’s value to take over the leadership, to be their prime ministerial candidate, after 2002.”

Seventeen years after the pogrom, Swain believes this election was about electing a leader “for the majoritarian community to control the minority.”

Modi’s rise from obscurity was no accident. He is the result of a fifty-year project on the part of the RSS, a man who was groomed to be prime minister. He rode to victory on the backs of gangs of apparatchiks who are unmarried and completely dedicated to the party, pracharaks from the RSS, among whose ranks he got his own start in public life.

Modi’s re-election was a referendum on fascism, lynching, and the unrestrained violence against minorities, dissidents and the marginalized which has been repeatedly perpetrated with impunity by the troops of the RSS and BJP.

The 2019 Indian general election demonstrated that democracy is about more than the simple act of voting or the peaceful transfer of power from one regime to another. It illustrated the truth of the words penned by Ambedkar in 1949: “It is quite possible for this newborn democracy to retain its form but give place to dictatorship in fact.”

The essence of democracy is a free and open public forum that encourages, cultivates and protects discussion, debate and dissent. The electoral process is the least important part of a democracy. Without social democracy, political democracy is virtually irrelevant—in fact, even dangerous, because it legitimizes tyranny.

Ambedkar defined social democracy as “a way of life which recognizes liberty, equality and fraternity as the principles of life.” He warned, “Political democracy cannot last unless there lies at the base of it social democracy.” Quoting John Stuart Mill, he admonished India that maintaining democracy necessitates that the people refuse to “lay their liberties at the feet of even a great man.”

His words, written the year before Modi was born, were perhaps never more prescient than today. “In politics, bhakti or hero-worship is a sure road to degradation and to eventual dictatorship,” he declared. Modi epitomizes Ambedkar’s prophecy.

https://areomagazine.com/2019/05/28/disaster-for-democracy-how-the-modi-wave-has-flooded-india-with-fascism/