Eminent Cartoonist RK Laxman Dies at 94 in Pune

R K Laxman, one of India’s most eminent cartoonists, has died at 94. He had been in a hospital in Pune for several days.

Mr Laxman was hospitalized earlier this month for a urinary infection. He was put on  ventilator support after multi-organ failure. He had reportedly suffered multiple strokes since 2010.

Through his iconic character of “The Common Man”, Mr Laxman targeted politicians with sly humour.


bismillah ar rahman ihr raheem,

There is a message being forwarded by email, Whatsapp, and other forms of social media. This is roughly what it says:

Ladies wing of BJP were making protest against BURQA, they climb up water tank tower to show burning of burqa but instead she her self cought fire, incident happened in punjab..India [typos left intact]

It is accompanied with a video that shows four women, one of whom is dousing a liquid onto a black garment and then setting it alight, and the woman standing to her left catches on fire. It is very convincing.

I saw the video that had downloaded on my phone and immediately went to Google to find the YouTube version, only to see a lot of comments saying “this has nothing to do with Islam” etc.

So then I googled “punjab women protest fire” and found this article which matched the date the videos I found were uploaded on YouTube:

A 27-year-old teacher, who set herself on fire in this Punjab town during a protest, died in a private hospital in Ludhiana early on Monday, doctors said. The state government has announced a grant of Rs.5 lakh for the family of the teacher. 
Kiranjit Kaur of Faridkot district died of critical burn wounds on Monday, doctors at Ludhiana’s D.M.C. Hospital said. 
Kaur had received nearly 90 per cent burn injuries during her self-immolation attempt on Sunday evening. She was taken to a civil hospital here from where she was rushed to the D.M.C. Hospital in Ludhiana, 80 km from here.
Expressing his “pain and shock” at the incident, Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal announced an ex-gratia grant of Rs.5 lakh for the family of the teacher.
"I have been deeply pained and shocked by the tragic incident. This is all the more painful as the whole sequence of events is the result of a tragic misunderstanding. All the demands for which the teachers were agitating on Sunday had already been met and the decision put on record after a Cabinet meeting."

HERE are the full 3 videos (and not the excerpt used to make it look like it is women burning a burqa):

Part 1 (shows two women dousing themselves with what I assume is Kerosene)

Part 2 (WARNING: Shows the woman actually running around, on fire. Also shows the second woman from the left removing her DUPATTA - not a burqa - that she was wearing with her shalwar kameez, placing it on the railing, dousing it with kerosene, and then setting it alight.)

Part 3

Please remember this ayah. Many things that get forwarded with social media aren’t checked, so don’t feel bad if you have to verify things your Aunt or Uncle or whoever sent you. Most of the time, they’re not the disobedient one who set up the original falsehood.

O you who have believed, if there comes to you a disobedient one with information, investigate, lest you harm a people out of ignorance and become, over what you have done, regretful.

When Jayanthi Natarajan met Amit Shah: The chain of events

When Jayanthi Natarajan met Amit Shah: The chain of events

This morning, I woke up to a serious Twitter brouhaha which emanated from The Hindu carrying a letterby former Min. for Environment & Forests Jayanthi Natarajan to Congress President Sonia Gandhi. The letter was originally dated November 5, 2014, which made me wonder why it was being leaked at this later date. However, as the day progressed, and more news links from the past floated on Twitter,…

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Here are the 10 latest developments:

  1. Militants last evening killed 62 people in an hour in a series of coordinated attacks in four places. The militants are a faction of the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB).
  2. They targeted Adivasis or tribal settlers who work largely on tea plantations. In retaliation, they attacked a Bodo village this morning with spears and rods, killing three people.
  3. The police fired on Wednesday on demonstrators, killing five people. The police claim hundreds of plantation workers armed with bows and arrows defied a curfew to surround police stations in Sonitpur district, the area worst hit by the militant violence.
  4. Some protesters set fire to shops and others blocked a railway line and roads. Police said they had to disperse the crowds.
  5. Parts of northern Assam are under curfew. The army is on stand-by.
  6. 18 children and 21 women were among those killed on Tuesday evening. “This is one of the most barbaric attacks in recent times with the militants not even sparing infants,” said state Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi.
  7. Last evening’s killing are being seen as revenge for an offensive by security troops against the militants.
  8. Adivasis, who migrated to Assam more than 100 years ago, have been targeted by Bodo rebels in the past along with Muslim settlers in the state. The Bodos are an indigenous tribe in Assam, making up 10 per cent of the state’s 33 million people.
  9. Adivasis oppose the Bodo claim for an independent homeland, arguing that in many areas of the state, their ethnic group is in the majority.
  10. At least 10,000 people, most of them civilians, have been killed in Assam in the last three decades. In May, rebels from the same group shot and killed more than 30 Muslim settlers in the region.

For AAP and Kiran Bedi - Its "Do or Die”!

For AAP and Kiran Bedi – Its “Do or Die”!

Amidst BJP’s marketing fanfare, AAP’s grassroots connect, Congress’s submission and Issue-bereft personality-led Delhi elections, I find majority of voters undecided! Nevertheless whosoever wins, I find these Delhi elections “Do or Die” for “Kiran Bedi” and “Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)”! If it would have been any other election, the losing parties always have an opportunity to rebuild their party using…

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Not Release Manifesto For Delhi Polls : BJP

Not Release Manifesto For Delhi Polls : BJP

As all eyes will be in the upcoming Delhi polls, BJP has alter its strategy to reprisal the Aam Aadmi Party.

BJP chief Amit Shah held a review meeting on Thursday with senior party members, including cabinet ministers, at the party’s headquarters here.

The party announced that Instead of a manifesto for Delhi polls, BJPhas decided to release a vision document. It will feature a roadmap for…

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I pour the paint and dip my fingers in. They are blue now and my heart is pounding. I squeeze it in my fist. This is me. This is joy. And I want more.  Every time I paint on a body, it feels like the beginning. Like I’m barely breaking the surface of something infinite. Sticking my toe in the ocean. Catching a glimpse of the possibilities and then getting knocked on my butt by a wave of ideas. I can’t sleep without dreaming of painting on my body and others. My dreams are swimming in colors. I am fulfilled and overflowing and greedy for more. More flesh to paint and grab and transform. My inner beast is awake. I’m like the Hulk, but with paint.

-Charlotte Dean

Body Joy Project

A teenage boy’s death at the hands of a vicious lynch mob was just another atrocity meted out to India’s poorest and most vulnerable people.

According to India’s National Crime Records Bureau, a crime is committed against a Dalit by a higher-caste Hindu every 16 minutes. Every day about four Dalit women are raped by higher-caste men. Every week about 13 Dalits are murdered.

"That’s just the rape and butchery," wrote the Booker-prize winning author Arundhati Roy in an essay published earlier this year that boils with rage at India’s institutionalised system of social stratification. "Not the stripping and parading naked, the forced shit-eating [literally], the seizing of land, the social boycotts, the restriction of access to drinking water."

The essay forms the introduction to a new edition of Annihilation of Caste, a scathing demolition of Hindu customs published in 1936 by Dr B. R. Ambedkar, the brilliant founder of India’s civil rights movement who broke free of his “untouchable” upbringing to help author India’s constitution.

Roy’s use of the word butchery is neither careless nor exaggerated.

When Priyadarshini Telang, the Dalit activist, spoke to Fairfax Media in Pune on Tuesday, it was after he had attended a meeting on how to move a stalled investigation into the murder of a Dalit family of three on October 20 in a district near Kharda.

"The people they are consulting to rewrite the school curriculums are not secular groups, but very ideological, religious Hindu groups. That will only strengthen the caste system."

The biggest obstacle preventing change, argues Telang, is that governments of all persuasion in India, be they Congress or the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, are embarrassed by caste atrocities and do everything they can to pretend they are not happening.

"The Congress Party preaches a secular message, but their participation within the caste system gives them little reason to change it. For the 60 years they have governed India, the Congress has always put caste first. The Congress is a green snake in the green grass."

At least you know what the BJP really stands for, says Telang. They are like a white snake in the green grass.

With Narendra Modi about to become the first Indian prime minister to visit Australia in 28 years, Telang says his major concern about Modi’s first few months in government are his plans to focus India’s education system even more on reinforcing Hindu values.

In Nitin Aage’s case, Telang explains, a special prosecutor probably will be appointed when the case comes to trial, but that will be too late to have a role in collecting evidence and strengthening the case.

"There are only one or two Dalit witnesses. Everyone else is from the higher caste. There will be enormous community pressure on the witnesses at the trial. The facts of the case are clear, but the chances of a conviction are low."

"What most people do not know is that the Indian village is a deadly place."

INTERVIEW / Lenka Rayn H. - Portraiture

Images by Lenka Rayn H.
Interview by Elizabeth Breiner

One of your portraits was recently shortlisted and selected for exhibition as part of the 2014 Taylor Wessing Portrait Prize, with this same image chosen for the front cover of next month’s British Journal of Photography. Can you provide some background for this striking and soon-to-be widely-circulated image?

Firstly I have to say that I am really proud that the image has been selected for the exhibition, but it wasn’t one of the 4 shortlisted for the main prize.

I was commissioned by the parent of the sitter to take a portrait of his two daughters, because they missed their school photo. It was a dark December day and the girls were not really looking forward to the session. I expected two giggling girls, but to my total surprise they where both really serious and great at following my directions. I did a few versions that I thought were good and would be nice for the parents. I also photographed some options for myself and was able to get something that was totally unexpected and got me really excited. I would not have been able to achieve this if their father didn’t give me total creative freedom and fully trusted me.

You have experimented considerably in your approach to portraiture throughout your career thus far, from Czech Pensioners and Family Document to Artists Lives and Dark Series. Do you see this as an evolutionary process or a multidimensional one? Is there a consistent thread that runs throughout?

Definitely a multidimensional one. I see myself as someone who has many ways expressing one self. My first love was documentary style portraiture and I still treasure it as a great privilege to be let into other people’s lives and being able to capture some of it. I am a very curious individual.

My other portraits come from a love of art and wanting to produce an image that I personally find appealing and strong. The way I capture people is very personal and the atmosphere in each image is something that I enjoy to look at and find peaceful or intriguing.

The images that form one of my favourite of your series, Family Document, show a wary intimacy between your family members and yourself as photographer — there is a tough beauty to these images that successfully circumvents sentimentality. What prompted you to undertake this project? Did you find it difficult to navigate such personal subject matter?

I started this documentary after I moved to London. When I went back home I felt this need to document what was once familiar and now became more special and interesting. For example the interior of my childhood flat once uninteresting and boring was now full fascinating little details. My father’s face and his daily habits became captivating to watch and I wanted to have a record of it for purely personal reasons. Suddenly everything became this huge visual feast that I had a need to capture.

Compared to many other artists who work in the field of portraiture, you seem less concerned with revealing something ‘essential’ about your subjects than you do with capturing them in an interesting manner or according to a preconceived style. To what extent do you see your portraits as a reflection of yourself – or your artistic intentions – and to what extent as a reflection of your subjects?

My portraits are all about my artistic intentions and not really about the subjects at all. I would say I treat them as objects that I find for whatever reasons fascinating and transform them into my body of work. However I never really know what the final image will be. It’s all a combination of the light that day, the subject’s ability to let go of their own guards and our interaction with each other during the session, but I remain in charge through out the whole time. I like to think it’s a very calm peaceful process that we both enjoy.

Ideas for The Copy - Anna Orlowska and Mateusz Chorobski

BJP April 2014 - Anna Orlowska and Mateusz Chorobski

Orlowska and Chorobski’s work was made from objects found at at a street fair in Radomsko when working to the theme of an ‘art market’. The pair had two weeks for the project, in which they made multiple visits to the market buying different objects that they would then arrange in different ways creating sculptures in the studio to photograph. The idea being to explore where the line is for something being market kitsch or an object of aesthetic value, however, when removed from the market and rearranged out of context in the studio the objects normal associations are less important.

This work appealed to me to explore for the project due to the sculptural ideas that it presents and also experimenting with the idea of an object’s context and associated connotations. The idea of context being vitally important within photography itself as well. 

ਕਿਰਨ ਬੇਦੀ ਨੂੰ ਬਣਾਇਆ ਜਾ ਰਿਹਾ ਹੈ ਬਲੀ ਦਾ ਬੱਕਰਾ: ਕੇਜਰੀਵਾਲ

ਪੂਰੀ ਖਬਰ/ਲਿਖਤ ਪੜ੍ਹੋ: @

ਅੱਜ ਅਰਵਿੰਦ ਕੇਜਰੀਵਾਲ ਨੇ ਦਾਅਵਾ ਕੀਤਾ ਹੈ ਕਿ ਭਾਜਪਾ ਨੇਤਾਵਾਂ ਨੇ ਉਨ੍ਹਾਂ ਨੂੰ ਕਿਹਾ ਹੈ ਕਿ ਦਿੱਲੀ ਚੋਣ ‘ਚ ਪਾਰਟੀ ਦੀ ਉਮੀਦਵਾਰ ਕਿਰਨ ਬੇਦੀ ‘ਬਲੀ ਦਾ ਬੱਕਰਾ’ ਹੈ। ਉਨ੍ਹਾਂ ਨੇ ਦੋਸ਼ ਲਗਾਇਆ ਕਿ ਭਾਜਪਾ ਦੇ ਕਈ ਉੱਘੇ ਨੇਤਾ ਕਦੀ ਉਨ੍ਹਾਂ ਦੀ ਸਹਿਯੋਗੀ ਰਹੀ ਕਿਰਨ ਬੇਦੀ ਦੇ ਖਿਲਾਫ ਸਾਜ਼ਸ਼ ਰਚ ਰਹੇ ਹਨ।

ਪੂਰੀ ਖਬਰ/ਲਿਖਤ ਪੜ੍ਹੋ: @

Books by Hindu nationalists merging myth with reality proliferate in PM Modi’s home state of Gujarat.

You cannot blame Bhavana Vaja, 12, for telling you that the first aeroplane was invented during the mythical Dvapara Yuga, when the Hindu God Ram flew from Sri Lanka to Ayodhya in India with his wife Sita and brother Laxman in a Pushpaka Vimana - a swan­-shaped chariot of flowers.

By claiming that they familiarise students with India’s ancient heritage, some books printed by the education department of western Gujarat state teach children that aeroplanes existed in India since Lord Ram’s era. And that is just a sample of how religious content is included in science, history, environment, and mathematics books.

"Every week we are asked to do projects in our science and social studies classes. We refer to these books then," says Saras Solanki, age 9.

The Gujarat government has introduced nine new books this academic year for classes 1 to 12. These books, written by Hindu nationalist ideologues, have been delivered to 42,000 elementary schools across the state free of cost.

Eight out of the nine books have been penned by Dina Nath Batra, founder of the Hindu nationalist organisation, Shiksha Bachao Andolan Samiti. Batra was responsible for forcing Pengiun India Publishers to withdraw all copies of Wendy Doniger’s book The Hindus in February this year.

Enthused by its success, Batra went on to force two other publishers - Aleph and Orient Blackswan - to withdraw books that he deemed “hurtful to Hindu religious sentiments”.

'Supplementary reading'

Taking a leaf from Batra’s book, India’s prime minister and former chief minister of Gujarat state, Narendra Modi, last week said that genetic science existed in ancient India.

In fact, Modi wrote a foreword in Batra’s books saying his “inspirational literature will inspire students and teachers”.

Education in India is the responsibility of both the state governments and the federal government. A state textbook board formulates curriculum based on the guidelines specified by the National Council of Education Research and Training (NCERT). However, these nine books deviate vastly from those guidelines by relying heavily on religious subjects and mythology.

Hence, they have been introduced as “supplementary reading” for the students. These books are stored in the libraries and are made available to students any time they want. Use of these books for extracurricular projects and presentations are encouraged.

"I find that children want to show off their knowledge. More often than not, they are averse to textbooks. Though, they are happy to sit in the library and leaf through other books so their presentation can be better than others in the class," said Jayashree Ben Solanki, a 6th grade teacher at a municipality school in Ahmedabad, the capital city of Gujarat state. "Therefore, these books end up being read more widely than textbooks."

"Gujarat is an experimental ground," said Gaurang Jani, a professor of sociology at Gujarat University. "The BJP and the RSS [Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh] will test their methods in the state and if found successful, will replicate it throughout the country," he told Al Jazeera.

"The move to infuse right-wing ideology in mainstream curriculum has been started by printing books with a religious bias using taxpayers’ money. If the books are received without major opposition in Gujarat, they will introduce such books at the national level as well," Jani said.


There is already some talk of changing the school and college curriculum at the national level.

In Indian political context, “saffronisation” is used to refer to the policies of right-wing Hindu nationalist organisations, which, according to critics, are divisive. The term refers to the saffron-coloured robes worn by Hindu sages.

Barely four days after India’s new right-wing government was sworn in this May, Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani, a former TV actress, issued her first statement saying the Vedas, the Upanishads and other ancient Hindu texts should be introduced in the classrooms.

Consequently, in July, a consultative body called The Bharatiya Shiksha Neeti Ayog (Indian Education Policy Commission) was constituted by the Hindu nationalist organisation, RSS and is mandated “to study the present education system and suggest corrective steps to make it Bharat-centric.” Bharat is the Hindi word for India.

"The problem is that they are equating India to Hindus. What about the India that houses the Muslims, Christians, Jains, Sikhs and other religions? India’s defining character is its diversity - including religious. That will be subtly and efficiently destroyed by introducing religious content in school books," said Sveta Joshi, a former professor at Delhi University who has done extensive work on the 2002 religious riots in Gujarat.

One of the nine books in question urges students to visit Hindu pilgrim places like Jagannath, Badrinath and Rameshwaram to “cleanse themselves”.

"Students who are slightly older do question the lack of any Muslim or Christian places of worship," Solanki, the elementary school teacher, said.

"Four of the nine books are titled Prerna Deep, they are meant to have short biographies of ‘inspiring Indians’." Dalit, Jain, Sikh, and Buddhist heroes are mentioned prominently. The mention of Muslim and Christian heroes is almost negligible though," said Jani of Gujarat University.

Questioning perspectives

Since 1952, when it founded the first Saraswati Shishu Mandir (nursery school) in Gorakhpur in northern Uttar Pradesh state, the RSS, the ruling party BJP’s mother organisation, has always had schools that propagate its ideology. In subsequent years, the RSS founded Vidya Bharati, an umbrella body for thousands of educational institutions based on Hindu values, from the nursery to the post-graduate levels.

"Until now, the Hindu system of education was running parallel to the regular NCERT curriculum, which was formed collectively by eminent scholars from all walks of life. But now, the danger is that they want to merge the two," said Jani. "The Sangh ideology is slowly becoming the state ideology," he adds.

"If children are taught from a young age about Hindu supremacy and glory, they will not question it at a later stage in their life," said Lila Visariya, a scholar at the Gujarat Institute of Development Research, at a conference organised in Ahmedabad last month.

Achyut Yagnik, founder of the Centre for Social Knowledge and Action, said that the “saffronisation of education” began in Gujarat slowly and subtly since the BJP established power in the late 1990s.

A report by NCERT states: “While communal perspectives have been present in textbooks in earlier periods too, studies done of textbooks rewritten from this perspective, for example in Gujarat, highlight their ready potential to contribute to a culture of divisiveness between religious communities …”

Gujarat was witness to gory religious riots in 2002, which killed about 1,000 people, mostly Muslims. Religious faultlines in the state, however, go back several centuries.

Last year, the Committee for Resisting Saffronisation of Textbooks protested against the textbooks in another Indian state, Karnataka, which, they said, strengthened stereotypes of Muslims and Christians and subdued the voices of women, Dalits and non-Vedic traditions. The textbooks remain unchanged.

"If anyone has problems with any of the books, I urge them to go to court," said Harshad Patel, the media coordinator for Gujarat BJP. "Let them do what Dinanathji did. Get the court to pass orders to withdraw the books," he told Al Jazeera.

2014, the year India became a Hindu state

by Shivam Vij

The Preamble to the Constitution of India describes the country as a “sovereign socialist secular democratic republic”. Describing itself as socialist in the Constitution does not make India socialist, of course. What kind of a socialist country seeks Walmart? Similarly, secularism will soon be relegated to being a mere word in the pages of the Constitution.

Critics of socialism and secularism point out that these ideas were inserted in the Preamble not by the makers of India’s Constitution but by Indira Gandhi in 1976. They forget to read the rest of what the founding fathers wrote:

WE, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a SOVEREIGN SOCIALIST SECULAR DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC and to secure to all its citizens:

JUSTICE, social, economic and political;
LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship;
EQUALITY of status and of opportunity;
and to promote among them all
FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the Nation;

Much of that is under attack. When the Prime Minister of India, on a visit to a foreign country, takes a dig at “secular friends”, it is clear that he does not believe in secularism, i.e., the idea that the state has no religion. Modi said at a reception by Indians in Tokyo in September, “I brought Gita for gifting [the Japanese Emperor]. I do not know what will happen in India after this. There may be a TV debate on this. Our secular friends will create ‘toofan’ [storm].”

In doing so, the Prime Minister may himself have overlooked the message of the Gita, to do the right thing, difficult as it may be, when faced by the challenges of dharma ‒ duty, obligation, and responsibility. To say that any “secular friends” have a problem with the Bhagwad Gita is a lie. Such an attack on the founding principles of India’s Constitution by its prime minister leaves you wondering if those principles will survive in the pursuit of power, development and progress by India’s first government in 30 years with a clear majority.

'Tokenism' for Hindus only

This was perhaps the first Ramzan when Iftar parties were not patronised by politicians of the ruling party; even Atal Bihari Vajpayee did so when he was prime minister. Supporters of the Bharatiya Janata Party and its ideology would say that such tokenism for minorities is exactly what’s wrong with secularism. Yet they see nothing wrong with the tokenism of Modi donating Rs 25 crore of Indian taxpayer money to the Pashupatinath temple in Nepal.

The Modi government’s assault on Indian secularism lies more in his silence than in his statements or actions. Soon after he came to power in May, a young IT professional in Pune was lynched to death for merely being seen with a beard and a skullcap. Since then, not a week has passed without some action or statement by radical Hindutva outfits against India’s religious minorities. Churches have been mysteriously burnt, adivasis have been beaten up and others made to participate in Hindu “reconversion” ceremonies, Muslim men have been falsely accused and put in jail for “love jihad”, anti-Muslim riots have taken place in Gujarat: the list is endless. Modi did not so much as condemn any of these. In a bizarre statement from the Red Fort on India’s Independence Day, he appealed for riots to be stopped for ten years, as if to say they could resume after that.

Trying to draw a distinction between radical Hindutva outfits and the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party is meaningless, because, as everyone knows, they all belong to the same Sangh Parivar spearheaded by the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh. Modi himself is a product of the RSS.

The government is not even making an attempt to portray a distance with these groups, their ideology or actions. Instead of condemning forcible so-called reconversions, the government says India needs a law banning religious conversion. There isn’t even a lip service to the Constitution’s ideal of a country where there is “liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship”. Which side the government tilts to is clear when it seeks to hijack Christmas as “Good Governance Day”, making some school children and many government officials work on a public holiday. Can you imagine the government doing this on Diwali or Vijay Dashami? What the prime minister instead does on Vijay Dashami is that he performs “Shastra Puja’”before police and security personnel at his official residence, as if Hinduism was the state religion. Also, he lets the RSS chief use state television to address the nation.

Hindu Republic of India?

Christmas is not a public holiday in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, for instance, because it is an Islamic state that will not have a public holiday on a Christian festival. That is where Narendra Modi seemingly wants to take India: towards being a theocratic state. It has often been said that India is a secular country because of Hindus. That is true because Hindus are in such an overwhelming majority that if they want a theocratic Hindu state, they could have it any day. Is that what they have voted for? The Modi government got a majority on a 31% vote share, and even those voters were largely voting out an extremely unpopular government. The government has already done a number of U-turns on several things it promised before the elections. It is now in danger of being known only for pushing the Hindutva agenda through the back door.

The idea that India is a secular country only because of its Hindus, also implicitly suggests that India’s would not be a secular country if it had a Muslim majority. That is not a given. There are 20-odd Muslim-majority countries that do not have a state religion. Yet our secularism-hating friends want to see Pakistan or Saudi Arabia as a model for minority rights.

The Sangh Parivar and the BJP want to invisibilise India’s religious minorities and reduce them to second-class citizens who must be grateful to the Hindu majoritarian state to be allowed to live peacefully without “reconverting” to Hindusim. They don’t want Hindu women to marry someone of another religion, they don’t want mosques to be allowed to have loudspeakers, they don’t want non-Hindus allowed at garba events in Gujarat, they don’t want religious minorities to have the right to proselytise, and they certainly aren’t giving any election tickets to non-Hindus as they win state after state election with a generous dose of religious “polarisation” of voters.

Such are the people in power today, in the sovereign socialist secular democratic republic of India.

The Indian secularism debate ended when Narendra Modi became India’s prime minister. The big question now is how much damage this government will cause to Indian secularism. When the fringe becomes the centre, it will do its best to make sure that it redefines the centre forever.

The Indian secularism debate is over. How grave will the assault on minorities be?

दिल्ली को पूर्ण राज्य का दर्जा देने के वादे पर फांसी भाजपा

दिल्ली को पूर्ण राज्य का दर्जा देने के वादे पर फांसी भाजपा

नई दिल्ली । दिल्ली को पूर्ण राज्य का दर्जा मिल सके। इसके लिए भाजपा में ही अंदरूनी घमासान शुरू हो गया है। इस दर्जे के लिए पार्टी का नेतृत्व 15 सालों से लड़ाई लड़ रहा है और अब जब केंद्र में पूर्ण बहुमत की सरकार बनी है तो इस मुद्दे पर ठन गई है।

पार्टी के नेता अब हालत देखने के बाद ही इस पर आखिरी निर्णय लेने की बात कर रहे हैं। पार्टी के घोषणा पत्र में इसे जगह दी जाए या नहीं इस पर सवाल खड़े हो रहे हैं।…

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Religious Intolerance in India

By The Editorial Board of The New Times

Hope is in danger of crumbling that Prime Minister Narendra Modi would rein in the divisive agenda of his militant Hindu-nationalist supporters and allow India to concentrate on the important work of economic reform, and the blame lies squarely with Mr. Modi.

During the last days of its winter session ending on Tuesday, Parliament was unable to deal with important legislative business because of repeated adjournments and an uproar over attempts by Hindu groups to convert Christians and Muslims. The issue has come to a head following a “homecoming” campaign by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad — groups dedicated to transforming India’s secular democracy into a Hindu state — to “reconvert” Christians and Muslims to Hinduism.

In recent weeks, Hindu militants have engineered conversions of Muslims and Christians in Agra and in the states of Gujarat and Kerala. Police are investigating accusations that people have been induced to participate in mass conversion meetings by a combination of intimidation and bribery, including the promise of food ration cards. Attacks on Christians and their places of worship have intensified in recent weeks. One of New Delhi’s biggest churches burned down on Dec. 1 — arson is being blamed — and Christmas carolers were attacked on their way home in the city of Hyderabad on Dec. 12.

More than 80 percent of Indians are Hindus, but Muslims, Christians and Sikhs form important religious minorities with centuries of history in India. Religious pluralism and freedom are protected by India’s Constitution. The issue of religious conversion is contentious in India. Many Dalits, known formerly as untouchables, and other low-caste Hindus and Tribals admit they convert to Islam or Christianity primarily to escape crushing caste prejudice and oppression. The main architect of the Constitution, Dr. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, born a Dalit, famously converted to Buddhism to escape caste-oppression under Hinduism.

As opposition political leaders are demanding, Mr. Modi must break his silence and issue a stern warning to emboldened Hindu militants before their actions turn further progress on economic reform into a sideshow, with the politics and divisiveness occupying center stage.