Wednesday, 18 September 2013

This prophetic piece was written by Binu Mathew on 16 December 2002. The Fuhrer Is Here

A few months back, a German friend of mine was here to visit me. His name was Martin D'costa. He was a 27 year old documentary film maker. He was here to document the life of young Indians. By the time he came down to Trivandrum, he had travelled across the country meeting and interviewing young people. One common refrain, he said, he heard from the youngsters he talked to, cutting across cultural, class, caste and linguistic barriers was that India need a 'STRONG LEADER', some one who can lead the country with iron hand. He was surprised and shocked too as he was from Germany, descendent of a people who dreamed likewise of having a 'STRONG LEADER'. He knew all too well the hidden meaning of that desire. India is ready to welcome fascism in a big way. India is waiting for its 'Fuhrer'. Yesterday, as i was watching on TV the jubilant and arrogant face of Narendra Modi celebrating his victory in the gujarat assembly election I knew India had found what it was looking for. Hindutwa had found its Messiah. India had found its 'Fuhrer'. And he is coming on a wave of hatred.

There was another man in history who rode high on a wave of hatred and who swept away the lives of millions as he came crashing down. History is never learnt in class rooms ! If jews, gypsies, communists, trade unionists etc were the objects of Hitler's hatred, here in India it is the Muslims and the Christians at present and to find out whose fate is next we will have to wait and see.

In Gujarat the hate wave was unleashed by the Godhra train burning. Though many pointers directed otherwise, without making sufficient enquiry into the disaster Narendra Modi took the blame on Muslims and in a chilling reminder to the November 9–10, 1938 Nazi pogrom against Jews,known as Kristallnacht (night of broken glass), masterminded a genocide in which more than thousand lives were lost and crores of rupees worth muslim property were looted or burnt.

That caught the imagination of the population which was well conditioned by the propaganda machinery of Hindutwa and was looking on the horizon for the arrival of the man with the iron hand, someone who payed back an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. For the people of Gujarat disillusioned by years of congress rule and then followed by the inefficient BJP rule, economically destroyed by one of the worst earthquakes in the history of India and starved by frequent droughts, Modi was their salvation. He told them a simple reason for their misery, a reason that all could understand. He told them MUSLIMS are the reason why they do not have enough to eat, enough to drink and do not have a roof over their head.

That did the trick. Godhra was just a spark. People rioted. Just like the Nazi Kristallnacht Muslim establishments were pinpointed, destroyed and then boycotted. The aim was to destroy them economically and politically. Independent fact finding reports reveal that like the Nazi experiment the Gujarat pogrom also was planned well in advance.

With the successful completion of the pogrom, for the hard core hindutwa section Modi became their champion and for the sympathising bystanders he became a hero. During the election campaign he was appealing to the masses to vote for the "Gujarati Pride". Only he knew what was the problem with the Gujarati pride. He told them this election was fought against Parvez Musharraf, the president of Pakistan, and almost all Muslims were in "Mian" Musharraff's corner. He seethed with communal venom. " Godhra" would be avenged only in one way: vote him and his party back to power. People were ready to believe anything their champion had to say.

In his election rallies national leaders like Prime Minister Vajpayee and Deputy Prime Minister Advani were reduced to mere shadows of Modi. In some election meetings people were seen walking out on these leaders. People were clearly disillusioned by the NDA kind of Hindutwa. They wanted something stronger and Modi was there to 
provide them. As Harish Khare of The Hindu wrote " At least in Gujarat, Modi has become larger than the BJP. And the likes of Advani are reduced to rationalising this profile."

VHP leadership were saying that Gujarat is going to be an experiment for Hindutwa and it has proved that the experiment was a resounding success. And with it a new brand of Hindutwa is born. If the Advani brand of Hindutwa was cunning, treacherous and covert the Modi brand of Hindutwa is open, aggressive, and murderously violent. With the resounding victory in Gujarat Modi has stolen a march on the Advani brand of Hindutwa. Death bells are already ringing for NDA. Modi has taken BJP by the scruff of the neck and he is going to lead it wherever he want to. It wont be long that Modi is going to eye for the Prime Minister's chair, or even, like every dictator would like to, the President's chair.

The Sangh Parivar is jubilant. It has shed its modesty and is coming out with venomous public utterances. It is only with a chill running down our spine that we can listen to Praveen Thogadia of VHP as he says, "Hindu Rashtra could be expected in next two years.... We will change Indian history and Pakistan's geography by then. Today, it is Gujarat, tomorrow it will be Delhi and also all other states. We will not leave any corner of the country untouched."

Are they really going to make India a Hindu Rashtra? Are they really going to alter the borders? Only with tears in our eyes can we ask these questions. What concentration camps are they preparing for us and for our children? Will they lead the Indian subcontinent to a nuclear war? Will we survive if it happens? I really dont know.

But I know one thing, if the concerned citizens of India do not come out and fight this dragon of hatred we will be forced to say like 
Pastor Martin Niemoeller as he said about his Nazi experience

"First they came for the Communists,
And I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist. 
Then they came for the Jews, 
And I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew. 
Then they came for the trade unionists,
And I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist. 
Then they came for the Catholics,
And I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant. 
Then they came for me,
And by that time no one was left to speak up."

 (courtsy Sanjeev bhatt)

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

The prevalence of rape in Asia.....(from The Economist)

LAST year a brutal gang-rape on a bus in Delhi caused outrage in India. On September 10th the woman’s attackers were convicted of rape and murder. The case has brought new attention to violence against women in India. Unfortunately, the situation in neighbouring countries is none too bright, according to new research in the Lancet Global Health, a medical journal. More than one in ten men surveyed in six Asian countries said they had raped a woman who was not their partner—and that figure rose to nearly one in four when wives and girlfriends were included among victims. The study, part of a United Nations project, is the first to give a comprehensive tally of rape in several Asian countries. The researchers surveyed more than 10,000 men in Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Sri Lanka. The men, aged 18-49, met male interviewers. They were never asked about “rape” explicitly; instead they were asked if they had “forced a woman who was not your wife or girlfriend at the time to have sex”. The answer varied from 4% in Bangladesh to a staggering 41% in Papua New Guinea. Shockingly, more than one in seven rapists committed their first rape when they were younger than 15. More than half did so before the age of 20. Only 55% reported feeling guilty, and less than one-quarter were sent to prison.

In Muzaffarnagar, back to the future - The Hindu

In Muzaffarnagar, back to the future - The Hindu

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Communal riots have now made big inroads into rural India By DIPANKAR GUPTA

After the recent Muzaffarnagar riots we must accept that what began in the economy has now spread to politics too. The distance between town and country is narrowing, and narrowing fast. There was a time when rural India was almost entirely agricultural, but today more than half the households in villages work in non-farm occupations. In the past, riots only happened in cities, but now they swing in with equal ferocity, blood for blood, in the countryside as well.

Of course, none of this would have been possible if the earth had not literally moved from under the feet of the village. This changed its economy forever as the urban wave now charged in from all sides. At Independence, agriculture contributed about 60% of our GDP, but it is barely 14% now.

Not surprising then that more than 58% of rural net domestic product is not agricultural today and many village enterprises could have easily been in urban India; there is nothing distinctively rural about them. As a consequence, old village ties have snapped and the new age villager thinks much like urban people do. This explains why the village umbrella is no longer riot-proof.

We got a strong message along these lines in the 2002 Gujarat massacres, but many of us mistakenly put it down to Narendra Modi's exceptionalism. If in the past community and ethnic violence was rare in villages it was because rural social ties, even those of superiority and inferiority, were as if graven in stone. Unjust and unfair though the old villages were, they remained free of ethnic wars. But today's fast changing rural economy has brought these hidden tensions out in the open. The mute mud walls are still standing, but everything within has changed.

In 1990, when sanctified bricks for the shilanyas project went through rural Muzaffarnagar and Shamli, the late Mahender Singh Tikait, then leader of the
 Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU), was both upset and unimpressed. In this he was not alone, but it was the next generation of scattily urbanised Jats who were the most ardent votaries of the build-the-temple project. Two decades later, members of that generation have now come of age to become opinion makers in Jat mahapanchayats. Not surprising then that bugles should sound from these forums exhorting Hindus to go to war.

In 1988, Meerut city was paralysed by ethnic riots and for months few dared to venture out after dark or away from home. But after Muzaffarnagar-born Tikait and his merry men from the BKU came to town to protest against the levying of electricity charges, the foul air lifted. In the end the farmers did not succeed, but something else did. After a long, fearful spell, the people of Meerut could breathe easy again. Not once during those Meerut days did Tikait address his followers, drawn largely from villages in Muzaffarnagar and Shamli, without an ostensibly dressed Muslim by his side.

Such were the rustics of Muzaffarnagar then and such are the urban types of Muzaffarnagar now!

Given this new reality, is it wise for any political party to address rural voters independent of their almost urban contexts and their full-blown urban dreams? Will the right to food and land acquisition Act address these aspirations well enough? You can leave the villager in the village but, in all likelihood, the city will still reach him. If coherent economic programmes don't make this link, ethnic riots will, and that will always remain the default urban option. To keep peace in what is still called "rural", political parties must read the demographic trends and plan in advance.

Our last census shows that between 2001 and 2011, population grew at a much faster rate in cities and towns than in villages. While urban numbers increased by 31%, in rural India the figure went up by only 13%. The same inter-censal period also saw the emergence of 18 new million-plus cities and 2,774 new towns.

These facts are also reflected in the growing number of urban parliamentary constituencies. From a mere 70 around Independence, there are close to 170 today. If we were to add semi-urban constituencies, where the population is on the verge of becoming non-rural, the number would easily cross 200.

Satisfying urban impulses has a multiplier effect as most villagers are a short step away from being in the city. This can also be assessed from the fact that almost 21% of rural kids, many very poor, go to private schools even if it hurts their stomachs to do so. Yet, political parties, of all hues, hardly ever reflect this urban drive and longing in their programmes. Ironically, in 2009, had the Congress-powered UPA not taken all major metropolises (except Bangalore), 34 of 57 big cities and 81 of the 144 urban areas its members contested in, it would never have been in power.

Now the big surprise! In percentage terms, even though the UPA did better in urban than in rural India, yet its flagship MGNREGA was meant primarily for destitute villagers. So did the UPA win in 2009 in spite of doing its best to lose the plot? Can it bank on lightning
 striking the same spot twice?

It is time now for politicians to think "India", and not "Bharat versus India"!

The writer is a social scientist.