The Telegraph – Galwan Clash: Turns out, nothing happened

And yet there seemed to be a lot of sound and flurry over the nothing that happened

Upala Sen

Galwan Valley – Ladakh – India, 21 June 2020. Addressing an all-party meet against the backdrop of the India-China face-off and killings of Indian soldiers in Ladakh’s Galwan Valley, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Friday, “Nobody has intruded into our border, neither is anybody there now, nor have our posts been captured.”

Nothing happened and yet 20 Indian soldiers died?

Sunil Kumar, Chandan Kumar, Kundan Kumar, Aman Kumar, Jai Kishore Singh, Satnam Singh, Mandeep Singh, Gurbinder Singh, Gurtej Singh, Ganesh Handsa, Kundan Kumar Ojha, Chandrakanta Pradhan, Nuduram Soren, B. Santosh Babu, K Palani, Bipul Roy, Deepak Kumar, Rajesh Orang, Ganesh Ram, Ankush.

Now, the air in Ladakh is paper thin, and who knows someone might suggest that they vanished into thin air. Except that they didn’t.

The recovered bodies had grievous injuries, mutilations. There were reports that the Chinese attacked them with iron rods studded with nails and rocks.

And the PM himself said, “Twenty of our jawans were killed but not before they taught a lesson to those who had dared to raise an eye towards Bharat Mata.” But a lesson taught for what, if what happened was nothing?

Line of actual control

A day later, the PIB issued a statement clarifying that the “Prime Minister’s observations that there was no Chinese presence on our side of the LAC pertained to the situation as a consequence of the bravery of our armed forces.”

But “nothing happened” seems to be the line of actual control peddled by the Chinese as well. Ten Indian soldiers were held captive by the Chinese and released three days later.

But according to China, nothing happened. Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said, “As far as I know China hasn’t seized any Indian personnel.”

A news producer from CGTN (China Ghobal Television Network) tweeted: “No outsider was inside #Indian territory in #Ladakh said Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The statement illustrates that the incidents happened in Chinese territory (sic).” The Chinese President Xi Jingping’s birthday came and went, but no greetings were conveyed from the Indian side.

Nothing happened. In Asansol, BJP workers registered their protest by burning effigies of North Korea’s Kim Jong-un. What goes of Xi? Nothing.

Good fences make good neighbours

Nothing happened. And yet there seemed to be a lot of sound and flurry over the nothing that happened. The USA has called China a “rogue actor” since. Moscow has assured India of support.

Air Chief Marshal R K S Bhadauria has visited Ladakh more than once to review preparations of the IAF and assured the nation that India’s armed forces are determined to deliver.

Much Ado over nothing! In the meantime, India is reverberating with calls to boycott Chinese products.

According to China’s Global Times, by the end of 2019, “roughly 1,000 Chinese firms invested in India or opened facilities in the country, involving investment of over $8 billion”.

The buzz is that what nothing couldn’t do, this might have done, made China uneasy. That would be something.

The Telegraph – All slam media policy, except media

Crackdown effect tells on Valley journalists

Muzaffar Raina

Srinagar – Jammu & Kashmir – India, 15 June 2020. The Jammu and Kashmir administration’s new media policy, which empowers the State to tell between fake news and authentic news and take action, has been criticised by almost all but one group: journalists’ associations in the Valley.

The silence has prompted suggestions that the strong tactics used by the administration, now headed by lieutenant governor G C Murmu, are working.

On 02 June the Union Territory’s administration had unveiled “Media Policy-2020” to examine what it called the content of print, electronic and other forms of media for “fake news, plagiarism and unethical or anti-national activities”.

The issue has repercussions outside Kashmir, too. “Fake news” is being used increasingly by oppressive regimes to not just spread lies but also give unpalatable reports a bad name and punish journalists.

When the phrase “fake news” began gaining currency, it was meant to describe deliberately fabricated reports that create an impression that the content is genuine, are usually spread over the Internet and are created to influence political views or to be treated as a joke.

However, of late, several governments have been construing honest mistakes as “fake news” and getting police to register FIRs and act against the journalist or media organisation concerned.

Earlier, legal proceedings such as defamation cases used to be filed but only after the media outlet was given a chance to explain itself or correct its mistake if an error had been made.

The view from two sides of the spectrum in the US illustrates how the definition of “fake news” has been twisted out of shape.

In 2017, Michael Radutzky, the producer of CBS’s 60 Minutes, said: “We’re using the term ‘fake news’ to describe stories that are provably false, have enormous traction in the culture, and are consumed by millions of people.”

But President Donald Trump has broadened the meaning of “fake news” to include news that he finds hard to digest.

In Kashmir, politicians have described the new media policy as “undemocratic” and “colonial-era censorship” but no prominent journalists’ association in the Valley has so far protested in public.

The new media policy has been announced amid a relentless clampdown that began with last year’s scrapping of Article 370.

The administration intensified its crackdown against journalists by booking or summoning several of them to police stations.

Two journalists, Masrat Zahra and Gowher Geelani, were booked under the draconian anti-terrorism act, UAPA, but were not arrested.

An editor with an English newspaper said the silence was deliberate and showed people were “scared” even months after the ball was set rolling on 05 August last year to scrap the then state’s special status.

Fearing retribution from the State or the freezing of government ads, many newspapers here have become the voice of the administration and resemble government bulletins.

“Some people did make efforts to oppose the new policy but later chose to be silent.

Some people joke that if the J&K constitution was (not) given a damn, how does freedom of speech matter?” the editor told The Telegraph, requesting anonymity.

“That said, the new media policy will literally give a cop or a clerk in the information department the authority to decide what constitutes fake news,” he said.

Jammu and Kashmir had its own constitution under Article 370.

While the Valley-based media largely fell in line after the 05 August 5 clampdown, many local journalists working for national or international media organisations defied the odds and refused to budge.

The Valley’s biggest media body is the Kashmir Press Club.

Its general secretary, Ishfaq Tantray, said the club had an online meeting on the subject where members felt that all media organisations, including journalists’ associations and editors in Jammu and Kashmir, should come together and “devise a joint mechanism to deal with the issue”.

He, however, conceded that no journalists’ body has so far formally reacted to the move.

Tantray said he personally felt the policy was a “serious threat to press freedom in Jammu and Kashmir” and gave “unbridled powers to the director, information, to decide what is news and what is fake news and sit on judgement”.

“A reading of the policy further reveals the government will decide what is fake, antisocial or anti-national news.

But the most important part is that journalists would be prosecuted under the IPC and cyber laws. That means if the government is not happy with your story, it will term it ‘fake’ and register a case against you,” he said.

The 50-page policy says that any individual or group indulging in “fake news, unethical or anti-national activities or plagiarism” shall be “de-empanelled, besides being proceeded against under the law”.

“There shall be no release of advertisements to any media which incite or tends to incite violence, question sovereignty and the integrity of India or violate the accepted norms of public decency and behaviour,” the policy adds.

It also makes background checks on newspaper publishers, editors and key staff members mandatory before empanelling the media outlet for government advertisements.

Security clearance has been made mandatory for a journalist before the award of the accreditation.

Political parties have expressed outrage at the policy although many of their leaders, who were arrested during the clampdown, were released after signing bonds that they would not question the scrapping of Article 370 and other decisions.

Former chief minister Omar Abdullah said the truth would be the biggest casualty of this “Orwellian order”, referring to the media policy.

“The policy seems to be a remnant of colonial-era censorship.

It was that colonial experience of the founding fathers of the country that made them realise the crucial significance of the freedom of press,” Omar’s spokesperson Imran Nabi said in a statement.

PDP leader and former journalist Suhail Bukhari said the new media policy was a step towards demolishing democratic institutions.

The Telegraph – A mouthful of hate

A pregnant elephant in Kerala ventured out of Palakkad’s Silent Valley into a nearby village and consumed a pineapple laden with firecrackers.
Hate exploded miles away in Delhi.

Upala Sen

Silent Valley National Park – Kerala – India, 07 June 2020. A pregnant elephant in Kerala ventured out of Palakkad’s Silent Valley into a nearby village and consumed a pineapple laden with firecrackers, some reports claim it was a coconut. A mouthful of hate exploded miles away in Delhi.

The specifics of what BJP MP Maneka Gandhi said are not worth repeating. Suffice to say that after days of writhing in pain, Soumya the elephant died, but politicians continued to bicker over geography and demography and would have the rest of India and the world believe that empathy and compassion are in such limited supply that they cannot extend to man and beast at the same time.


The elephant’s tongue and mouth would have been on fire, for she went up to the Velliyur River and stood with her trunk in water. Her jaw must have been blown away speculated those in the know, making it impossible for her to eat for the length of time she survived.

What the humans chewed on, however, were the minutiae, did Soumya accidentally eat the cracker or was it fed it, after all blame had to be apportioned and attached.

The hidden crackers were meant to chase away wild boars, clarified some, as if to say it is okay to injure them thus. The crackers were jaggery-coated, pointed out others, and though it is a bitter reality animal-loving legislators showed little interest in such nitty gritty.

Not in Indian culture

The explosion and death elicited blame, more blame, FIRs to counter the blame. Then came the hackers, followed by the who’s who, avenging spirits all. The spins continued and fake news of other holier and equally injured animals was shared many times over.

Hate sputtered and social media crackled. The air swirled with words like “nab”, “punish”, “arrest”, and the Union environment minister Prakash Javadekar insisted that it is not in Indian culture to feed firecrackers and kill.

The forest officer Mohan Krishnan, who was part of the Rapid Response Team that rescued the elephant, wrote in a social media post how the injured Soumya didn’t harm a single human being even when she ran in searing pain down the streets of the village. He wrote, “She didn’t crush a single home.”

The Telegraph – Kejriwal taps public on exit from lock-down

Delhi CM has been demanding that curfew-like restrictions be enforced only in the 81 containment areas

Pheroze L Vincent

New Delhi – India, 13 May 2020. Chief minister Arvind Kejriwal on Tuesday sought public sanction for his demand for more relaxations to the lock-down in the capital, entirely a red zone now, appealing to people to come up with suggestions while underscoring the need for restarting economic activities.

“I want to reach out to the people of Delhi and I want your suggestions regarding the removal of the lockdown. The Covid-19 infection is indeed spreading and full removal of the lock-down would not be a good idea,” the Aam Aadmi Party leader said in a webcast.

“But I want your suggestions on the relaxation of the lock-down, about the tenure and gravity of the relaxation, on the sectors that should get the relaxation and whether buses, autos and metros should ply,” Kejriwal said.

“I also want your suggestions on whether markets and industrial areas should reopen. If the relaxations come into play, we have to maintain social distancing, wear masks and follow all the other norms. This is the time to stop the spread of Covid-19 but there is also a need for starting economic activities.”

Kejriwal has been demanding, without success, that the curfew-like restrictions be enforced only in 81 containment areas and the other parts of the capital allowed to function like infection-free green zones.

Delhi recorded 5,041 positive cases till Monday midnight, including 86 deaths, 13 of them on Monday.

Kejriwal’s appeal comes at a time the Delhi government’s revenue collection in April has been only Rs 323 crore, a fraction of the Rs 3,566 crore it had collected in April last year.

At the same time food subsidies have been enhanced and the number of beneficiaries expanded from 71 lakh to nearly a crore.

Kejriwal asked people to call in, WhatsApp or email their suggestions by 5 pm on Wednesday. “Based on the suggestions received from the people and opinions of experts, the Delhi government will prepare a set of recommendations and send it to the Centre by 15 May,” he said.

An AAP functionary said economic imperatives were behind Kejriwal’s appeal. “The push for this is economic. Politicians seek public opinion when they know the public is in favour of their policies. In this case it will put pressure on the Centre to relent, as the AAP is not keen on directly criticising (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi during this crisis,” the source said.

“We are at a stage where people need to go out and earn. Despite the government’s best efforts, food relief isn’t reaching many due to bureaucratic carelessness. The chief minister is clear that we can’t continue this level of economic paralysis beyond May. Else, we won’t be able to pay for subsidies and remain out of debt. It will lead to malnutrition-related diseases and deaths.”

After it returned to power in 2015, the AAP had institutionalised mohalla sabhas, or community forums, empowered to allocate resources for local civic works and identify beneficiaries for government schemes.

The scheme, which gave the government the discretion to nominate the coordinators of these sabhas, fizzled out within a couple of years.

Kejriwal on Tuesday tweeted about e-mohalla sabhas being conducted by MLA Somnath Bharti during the lockdown.

A government source cautioned that too many relaxations might jeopardise the situation further. “Hospitals are functioning at full capacity and patients under 102 degree Fahrenheit temperature are being asked to be treated at home.

Any move to run trains or buses would lead to a surge in infections that no public health system can handle,” the source said.

“But there seems to be a missionary zeal in getting people back to work. Officials are coming to the secretariat and staff are being asked to build immunity and do their duty, which shows a lack of understanding of how contagious Covid-19 is.”

The Telegraph – Over 6.44 lakh migrants register for returning home, Captain Amarinder Singh seeks special trains

Just 6.44 lakh migrant workers have registered on the state government’s specially created portal ( for seeking details of migrants desiring to return home.

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 04 May 2020. Over 6.44 lakh migrants, stranded in Punjab due to nation-wide lockdown for preventing the spread of Covid-19, have expressed interest in returning to their native places.

These over 6.44 lakh migrant workers have registered on the state government’s specially created portal ( for seeking details of migrants desiring to return home.

As per rough estimates, Ludhiana alone had over seven lakh migrant labourers, with the whole of Punjab having over a million of them. About 70 per cent of these labourers in Punjab hail from Bihar.

Punjab Chief Minister, Amarinder Singh, on Monday, sought special trains for 10 to 15 days for these migrant workers.

In a letter to Union home minister Amit Shah, the CM sought his personal intervention to arrange special trains for the next 10-15 days, beginning 5 May, for transporting migrant labourers stranded in Punjab to their homes in other states.

He urged the Union home minister to direct the Ministry of Railways to make suitable arrangements since the migrant labourers stranded in Punjab were “understandably restless to return to their native places.”

In his letter to Shah, Amarinder said that his government would indicate its daily requirement of trains in advance to the Ministry of Railways for the next 10-15 days to transport all the people who had registered on the portal.

At the local level, the CM said Punjab officers were coordinating with the senior Railways officers and the officers of recipient states to plan the smooth movement of the migrants.

He said a large number of labourers come seasonally from UP, Bihar and other eastern states to seek temporary employment in both industrial and agricultural sector in Punjab.

These people, who were due to leave in March, normally after Holi, could not leave due to the imposition of lockdown this year, he pointed out.

Though the state government had made all possible arrangements to provide them food and shelter in the past six weeks, they were now naturally keen to get back home, said Amarinder, urging the Home Minister to immediately intervene in view of the “special exigency”.

Over 6.44 lakh migrants register for returning home, Capt seeks special trains

The Telegraph – Connect Kejri dots: Shaheen, Hanuman, Gita

The AAP convener’s advice to read the holy text came towards the end of his daily webcast briefing

Pheroze L. Vincent

New Delhi – India, 31 March 2020. Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal on Sunday asked people to read the Bhagavad Gita for half an hour every day over the remaining lockdown period, triggering fears that such advice could alienate sections of the society.

A source in the ruling Aam Aadmi Party said Kejriwal passes on to the public “whatever suggestions” could help ease their fears in this time of crisis, as a family member would.

The AAP convener’s advice to read the holy text, part of the Mahabharat, came towards the end of his daily webcast briefing. “If you feel good about doing this at home, then there are 18 chapters of the Gita and 18 days of lockdown,” he said.

“Since yesterday, my wife has started reciting the Gita in my house too. Our whole family sits together and reads a chapter. It takes only half an hour. Therefore, if you also feel like, you can… recite the Gita in your home.”

Sunday was the fifth day of the 21-day lockdown the Prime Minister had announced on March 24 as part of concerted efforts to battle the Covid-19 pandemic.

This wasn’t the first time Kejriwal had resorted to religion in recent times. Ahead of the Delhi elections last month, he had invoked Hanuman, a popular deity especially in North India, in what appeared to be an attempt to undercut the BJP’s narrative of projecting the AAP as anti-Hindu for its opposition to the Citizenship Amendment Act.

Later, after the riots broke out in the capital, the Delhi government had stood aloof. Party leaders said the government’s role as a bystander was a misguided attempt to appease Hindus that affected his credibility as an efficient and secular leader.

“No, this (invocation of the Gita) should not have been done…,” former AAP leader and journalist Ashutosh told The Telegraph.

“Is he claiming that he is only the chief minister of Hindus. I don’t know his intent, but if you connect the dots, he did not meet (the anti-CAA) protesters at Shaheen Bagh, he did not visit Northeast Delhi while the riots were happening, then one can assume that he is trying to cultivate a Hindu vote bank.

There is no problem if he recites the Gita in his personal capacity, but as a chief minister asking everyone to do so is crossing the line.” Ashutosh added: “If it is a mistake, he should correct it. If not, then it is dangerous to alienate sections of society,

This is the danger of getting caught in a narrative that is not your natural narrative. This could be explained as a strategy before elections, but there are no polls now.” The Delhi government is yet to respond to the suspension of two of its senior officers by the Centre, ostensibly for allowing buses to ferry those who wanted to leave Delhi.

Kejriwal’s private secretary Bibhav Kumar and the AAP’s chief spokesman and Delhi MLA, Saurabh Bharadwaj, did not respond to queries on the Gita pitch.

A source in the government, however, said: “It is a bit rich to talk of the Gita when one can’t summon the courage, if not common sense, to defend bureaucrats whose careers could be jeopardised for implementing orders.”

The nature of Delhi’s polity, the source added, is such that the Centre has a greater say than it has in other states.

“In such a situation, if their government does not defend their actions, there is no motivation for public servants to heed lawful directions of the elected government of Delhi rather than toe the line set by North Block (the seat of the Union home ministry).”

An AAP source said it was a “policy decision” not to get into confrontation with the BJP or the Centre at a time of crisis.

“Kejriwal made that clear too at yesterday’s briefing, MLA and senior party leader Raghav Chadha is now set to face harassment as a case has been filed against him for criticizing Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath,” the source said.

“We have taken a conscious decision of focusing on helping those in need. The time to counter the BJP is not now. Whatever suggestions can ease the fears of the public, and help them stay calm, the chief minister passes them on, as a family member would.”

The Telegraph – Home alone: The cultural anxiety about solitariness

Coronasur, Conrad and civilisation’s oldest and deepest paranoia: the fear of isolation

Uddalak Mukherjee

Op/Ed, 25 March 2020. Earlier this month, Mumbai ushered in Holi in a peculiar way. Coronasur, a symbolic effigy of Covid-19 which, the WHO says with good reason, is now a global health emergency, was consigned to the flames on the occasion of Holika Dahan in that city.

Delhi, however, chose to be different, fighting the contagion with fluid, not flames. The Hindu Mahasabha poured gaumutra down the throats of the faithful to appease the virus-demon.

The elevation of a virus to the stature of a mythical, malevolent figure in 21st-century India chimes well with a nation that has chosen for prime minister a man who has unshakeable belief in Ancient India’s monopoly on cosmetic surgery.

But the fear of Coronasur is not unwarranted; the pathogen has infected more than 383,944 people around the world, killing at least 16,595 among them. The planet, however, has survived worse.

Between 75-200 million people perished during the Bubonic plague in the Middle Ages; influenza snuffed out around 50 million lives a little over one hundred years ago; tuberculosis, diarrhoea, cardiac conditions and cancer cull great many humans even today.

What has made the coronavirus singular, though, is its ability to stoke interest, plebeian and intellectual, in one of civilization’s oldest, deepest paranoias, the fear of isolation.

The transformation of eremophobia, the fear of being alone, into a mass phenomenon has been augmented by the lockdowns, or social distancing if you will, that governments, in Italy, Spain, England, the United States of America and, now, India, have implemented as policy.

Enforced periods of isolation and restricted access to public spaces, it is being hoped, would halt the march of the infection. The consequences of this besiegement have been varied, but instructive. Bengal became the 14th state in India to invoke the Epidemic Diseases Act of 1897 to prevent patients or those under surveillance from fleeing isolation wards.

New York Magazine, meanwhile, interviewed Carlo, a Florentine, who, too, spoke of fear while looking at his deserted, lonely city as well as of the sadness that he felt when he heard, in the course of a telephone conversation with a friend, the sounds of the street, the rumble of traffic, the low hum of human voices and the melody of music, in faraway Vancouver.

There is a touch of the Conradian horror about Carlo’s dread of isolation, even though he, unlike some of Joseph Conrad’s flawed men, Almayer (Almayer’s Folly) and Kurtz (Heart of Darkness) come readily to mind, has not been banished to an outpost of civilization.

Civilization, in fact, seems to have been transformed into an isolated outpost, turning Carlo into one of Conrad’s ‘solitaries’, psychologically scarred, spiritually wounded beings, consumed slowly by the terror of the unfamiliar, the unknown.

But eremophobia has not been the only consequence of our fallibility in our confrontations with incognita. The moral quandaries of isolation-estrangement-loneliness and its impact on the body politic of a nation have led to cerebral pursuits that have often yielded remarkable inferences.

For instance, the purest kind of loneliness born of some forms of isolation, Hannah Arendt argued in her seminal work, The Origins of Totalitarianism, stems from the loss of the ability to empathize, to hold a dialogue with the self, a failure that led the fictional Kurtz, and could lead socially isolated Carlo, to conclude that they are outcasts from the human commonality.

This rootlessness, the persistent sense of unbelonging, Arendt argues, was complemented by the hollowness of modernity and, eventually, crystallized in a great contemporary peril, the now all-pervasive condition that has stripped societies of the energy and the imagination to reflect on, and appreciate, the ambiguities of reality.

The resultant attraction for simple, the Final? solution for complex problems, for binaries, Us versus Them, augments the genesis of the totalitarian ethic.

Public unwillingness to engage with nuanced thinking, with the complex history of the Republic, has been discernible in Narendra Modi’s India too. The consequences are revealing. Take the case of the massive endorsement of the revocation of Article 370.

That Kashmir’s ‘special’ status, apparently inimical to the spirit of national integration, is not quite an aberration, Article 371F vests Sikkim with similar special provisos; Nagaland’s customs, land and resources are inoculated against encroachment by Article 371A; the inner-line permit for the Northeast stems from the need to protect indigenous interests, eludes a nation that is being taught to hate, what Nabeelah Jaffer, writing in Aeon, says is ‘two-sided thinking’, “the kind of thought that involves weighing competing imperatives and empathising with a range of people”.

And Kashmir has been punished for its rights.

Interestingly, the punishment chosen was an extreme, unwarranted form of isolation. 05 August onwards, India put Kashmir in lockdown, almost the kind that the coronavirus has now forced upon the nation.

The heavy deployment of boots on the ground, the paralysing of communication networks and the incarceration of the state’s political leadership were some of the special provisions of the social distancing that Kashmir, unlike India, was made to endure.

The State’s weaponization of isolation, be it for Kashmiris, the Uighurs interned in China, or, earlier, for the ones who perished in the Siberian labour camps, is contingent upon the preservation of the cultural anxiety about solitariness.

Coronavirus is not merely a yet-to-be-resolved health affliction. It is also a stubborn stain, emblematic of humanity’s failure to master isolation, the kind that metastasizes within and without.

The Telegraph – Cops bow to hawks, re-arrest students

The police summoned them on Monday morning amid protests by Hindutva groups

Hubli – Karnataka – India, 18 February 2020. Three Kashmiri students of an engineering college in Hubli – Karnataka, facing sedition charges have been arrested again after being released a day earlier.

The police summoned them on Monday morning amid protests by Hindutva groups.

Members of Bajrang Dal and Vishwa Hindu Parishad staged a protest outside the Gokul police station soon after the students’ release.

Hubli police commissioner R Dilip on Monday said: “We summoned them again today (Monday) after we found incriminating evidence and subsequently arrested them.”

But he did not dwell into why they were arrested after being released just hours earlier. Police had arrested them on Saturday after a purported video clip they had recorded showed them chanting “Pakistan zindabad”.

The police released them on Sunday citing Section 169 of CrPc that permits any person to be released for want of proper evidence. They were produced before a court that remanded them for 14 days in judicial custody.

The Telegraph – Goa church appeal to government to revoke CAA

Reverend Filipe also appealed to the government not to implement the NRC and NPR

Panaji – Goa – India, 10 February 2020. The Archbishop of Goa and Daman, Reverend Filipe Neri Ferrao, has urged the Centre to “immediately and unconditionally revoke the Citizenship (Amendment) Act” and stop quashing the “right to dissent”. He also appealed to the government not to implement the proposed countrywide National Register of Citizens and the National Population Register.

Diocesan Centre for Social Communications Media, a wing of the Goa Church, in a statement on Saturday said: “The Archbishop and the Catholic community of Goa would like to appeal to the government to listen to the voice of millions in India, to stop quashing the right to dissent and, above all, to immediately and unconditionally revoke the CAA and desist from implementing the NRC and the NPR.”

The CAA, NRC and NPR are “divisive and discriminatory”, the church said. “We have always taken great pride that our beloved country is a secular, sovereign, socialist, pluralistic and democratic republic.” The fact that the CAA uses religion goes against the secular fabric, it said.

“It goes against the spirit and heritage of our land which, since times immemorial, has been a welcoming home to all, founded on the belief that the whole world is one big family,” the church said.

The Telegraph – Bring Ambedkar & Gandhi together

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

Ramachandra Guha

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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