Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Camaraderie in the Time of Saffron: We are Shaheen Bagh

Arpita Biswas
For the past one month, India has been witnessing relentless protest demonstrations against the anti-secular Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). Historic spaces in cities – from Jantar Mantar of Delhi to Indira Park of Hyderabad, from Azad Maidan of Bombay to Shahid Minar of Calcutta – have been reclaimed by protesters coming from various walks of life, but most notably, students. Amidst these, there is this neighbourhood in South-East Delhi that has risen to prominence by (re)defining resistance as everyone’s right and duty in its truest sense. It is, as we all know by now, our Shaheen Bagh. Started in the immediate aftermath of State-led police violence against students of Jamia Milia Islamia University, the site has now experienced 28 days of valiant sit-in protests by its Muslim women, a majority of whom had only engaged with chores in the confines of their homes until date. They say it is their doubtless understanding of the “kala kanoon” of CAA as a savage attack on the Constitution of this country that has led them take to the streets today. Accompanying them on a daily basis are their children, the menfolk from the locality and students of Jamia, and from time to time, students from other universities, some social workers and activists. And, with their movement shooting to national consciousness, others from all parts of Delhi as well as many from elsewhere have started coming to Shaheen Bagh, slowly turning it into a microcosm of the diversity that your and my India is. 

Thursday, December 26, 2019

CAA-NRC: Hindutva’s sinister plot

Ashmita Sharma and Saqib Khan
The Parliamentary debate on the passing of the recent Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) showed that the current BJP government does not have enough statistics on immigrants from neighbouring countries or the number of persecuted people seeking citizenship in India. There was no perceptible movement on the demand of granting citizenship to such people either. Then what possibly explains the urgency behind this Act? This article argues that first, it was the result of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam, and second, it is the long term agenda of Hindu Rashtra by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)/Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). It has its linkages with European fascism and Zionist movement of Israel. While NRC updation has its roots in the Assam Movement and subsequent Assam Accord, its experience in the state has given us a glimpse as to what would entail in the wake of pan-India NRC. The CAA completely ignores the concerns of the northeast states and does little to address the complex issues of migration and citizenship. With the CAA-NRC combine, a deeper problem of citizenship would follow wherein not only Muslims but also large sections of the country’s population would face the burden of proving their citizenship and risk disruption in their lives and statelessness.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

On ‘Strategic Sale’ of the PSUs

Surajit Das
The honourable finance minister has reportedly said that the Air-India, Bharat Petroleum, North-Eastern Electric Power Corporation Limited (NEEPCO), Tehri Hydro Development Corporation India Limited (THDCIL) etc. will be sold within March 2020. In fact, the governments take pride now-a-days in disinvestment of the public sector units (PSUs) rather than feeling proud in increasing the public investment particularly in infrastructure and in other strategic sectors. These are being called ‘strategic sales’ in order to generate larger non-debt capital receipts (NDCRs). What is the ‘strategy’? The ‘strategy’ is nothing but to keep the fiscal deficit to GDP ratio within bounds in a situation of lower tax-revenue.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Babri Masjid exists

Malini Bhattacharya
The Nirmohi Akhara of Ayodhya was one of the plaintiffs in the court cases related to Babri Masjid. The Ram Chabutra (platform) erected in the yard of the Mosque was under their control from 1856-57. This was propagated by them as the site of Ram’s physical origin. As worshippers they claimed the chabutra had been Ram’s birthplace since eternity and no Mosque ever existed there; the Muslims simply took control of the land and changed the original structure. A few days ago, the Supreme Court has pronounced its judgment. Even after this, some people are joyously claiming it is now possible to build a Ram Temple there because the Mosque no longer exists. In this context, we must clearly state that Babri Masjid was in existence, exists in the land of our thoughts and will exist there forever. This is not the opinion of a particular religious community. After this judgment, those of us who are atheists are also being forced to say this. We can never consign it to oblivion.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

The Ruins of Babri Masjid

Satyaki Roy and Suchetana Chattopadhyay

Revisiting History
On 6 December 1992, the Hindu fundamentalist forces in India destroyed Babri Masjid, an Islamic monument built in 1528 at Ayodhya. The Hindu communal forces claimed a Ram temple constructed on the holy site of Ram’s birth-place (janmbhoomi) had been destroyed by Babur to build a mosque. This ‘historic hurt’ had to be corrected by destroying the medieval mosque and building a modern temple in its place. The claim was reinforced with spurious archaeological pseudo-evidence. The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), a body over which Hindu communal bias exercises significant dominance, along with the Hindu fundamentalist groups, have argued that the existence of the temple can be proved on the basis of certain ‘pillar bases’. B.B. Lal, the ex-director-general of the ASI, who first excavated the Ayodhya site, in his first report did not even mention them. Soon after the shilanyas for the proposed temple in November 1989 by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), Lal published a paper in 1990 in an RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) mouthpiece. This was almost 15 years after his excavation. He suddenly referred to a pillared structure adjoining the mosque. The 14 black stone pillars with non-Islamic motifs which four senior secular historians and archaeologists found embedded at the arched entrances of the mosque turned out to be decorative pieces incapable of bearing loads. When the four historians wanted to examine them and other features further, the ASI withheld the site notebook from them. All credible archaeological digging pointed at older mosque-like structures under the Babri Masjid. The UP government led by the BJP presided over the destruction of the mosque and the pogroms against Muslims that immediately followed. The central government led by the Indian National Congress did nothing to stop the planned demolition of the mosque. As communal polarisation gripped the country, an orgy of violence was unleashed on Muslims. While the flames of anti-minority hatred spread from Bombay to Surat, the BJP emerged as a national party for the first time. The BJP made communalism respectable in post-Independence India at a crucial moment. This was systematically undertaken at a time when the older Nehruvian institutions were on the eve of being dismantled by the Indian National Congress. The moment was not without irony. A convergence of neoliberal and hindu majoritarian affinities could be witnessed during 1990 in BJP’s rathyatra (country-wide campaign to build a Ram temple at the site of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya) when senior BJP leader and old RSS hand L. K. Advani went around riding a make-shift DCM-Toyota van masquerading as a Chariot. Among the many RSS pracharaks (campaigners) accompanying him were two unknown faces from Gujarat-Narendra Damodardas Modi and Amit Shah who have now displaced the old guard, including Advani.  The BJP’s main plank was to devise a scheme whereby religious minorities could be disenfranchised and stripped of citizenship. While Muslims had been subjected to repeated pogroms since Independence and Partition (1947) and projected as ‘outsiders’, the Ram temple issue, for the first time turned the latent communal hatred towards them into a mainstream scapegoating campaign.