Friday, 28 February 2014

Press Release – Mr. Modi stop playing with the sentiment of Gujaratis and misguiding them. Posted by :kamayani bali mahabal On : February 27, 2014

DATE: 27 February 2014...

I request Mr. Modi to stop playing with the sentiment of Gujaratis and misguiding them about GATE on Sardar Sarovar Dam and instead  read the Supreme Court order dated 18 October 2000 in Narmada Bachao Andolan Vs. Union of India carefully. – Rohit Prajapati..

શ્રી નરેન્દ્રભાઈ મોદી સરદાર સરોવર ડેમ ઉપર ગેટ લગાડવાના મુદ્દે ગુજરાતનાં લોકોની લાગણીઓ સાથે
ખીલવાડ કરવાનું બંધ કરે. – રોહિત પ્રજાપતિ

Mr. Modi repeatedly raises the issue of gate installation on Sardar Sarovar Dam and accuses the Prime Minister of India, Government of India for the alleged delay.

For a man who aspires to the next Prime Minister, Mr. Modi should stop speaking irresponsibly and misguiding the people of Gujarat. The Congress party is no less culprit as it also plays to the gallery.
Why is Mr. Modi not clearly representing the Supreme Court ruling before the people of Gujarat and trying to misguide the people?

It is the Relief and Rehabilitation Sub-Group of Narmada Control Authority which is not giving permission to install the GATE because the villagers whose land will be submerged are still not resettled and rehabilitated as per Supreme Court Order.
Narmada Control Authority is an expert body constituted by the Supreme Court and not a political body.

The main reasons behind the GATE issue is the Supreme Court order dated 18 October 2000 in Narmada Bachao Andolan v/s Union of India. (AIR 2000 SC 3751)

In order dated 18 October 2000 in Narmada Bachao Andolan Vs. Union of India and others the then Chief Justice B. N. Kirpal, Justice Dr. A. S. Anand clearly stated :
“23. Narmada Control Authority was empowered to constitute one or more sub-committees and assign to them such of the functions and delegate such of its powers as it thought fit. Accordingly, the Narmada Control Authority constituted the following discipline based sub-groups:
(i) Resettlement and Rehabilitation sub-group under the Chairmanship of Secretary, Ministry of Welfare;
(ii) Rehabilitation Committee under Secretary, Minister of Welfare to supervise the rehabilitation process by undertaking visits to R & R sites and submergence villages.
(iii) Environment Sub-group under the Chairmanship of Secretary, Ministry of Environment and Forests;
132. It is also contended that before embarking on the Sardar Sarovar Project it was necessary that the Master Plan for rehabilitation of the families to be affected is completed.
155. On 13th November, 1996, a meeting of the Review Committee of the Narmada Control Authority chaired by the Union Minister of Water Resources was held. This meeting was attended by the Chief Ministers of all the States including Rajasthan and representatives of Ministry of Environment and Forests, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Government of India. In the meeting it was unanimously decided that the reviews of the implementation of re-settlement and rehabilitation measures will be undertaken for every five meter height of the dam jointly by the concerned R & R Sub-group and Environmental Sub-group so that work could progress pari passu with the implementation measurers.”

As the order clearly states that the reviews of the implementation of re-settlement and rehabilitation measures will be undertaken for every five meter height of the dam jointly by the concerned R & R Sub-group and Environmental Sub-group so that work could progress pari passu with the implementation measurers.

People of Gujarat should note that this “pari passu” clause is preventing the GATE installation on Sardar Sarovar Dam and the concerned authority is the Narmada Control Authority. ‘Pari Passu’ is a Latin term which roughly translated means “at an equal pace.”
I advise Mr. Modi to read this order afresh and understand it.

The Supreme Court Order further states that
“166. … The R & R Sub-group and Rehabilitation Committee of Narmada Control Authority are responsible for applying its independent mind on R & R. The Sub-group convenes its meeting regularly to monitor and review the progress of R & R while Rehabilitation Committee visits the submergence areas/relocation sites to see whether the rehabilitation is taking place physically and to hear the individual problems of the PAPs. The R & R group, keeping in view the progress of relief and rehabilitation, has not permitted the height to be raised, until and unless it is satisfied that adequate satisfactory progress has been made with regard to R & R.”

The order further clearly states that the R & R group, keeping in view the progress of relief and rehabilitation, has not permitted the height to be raised, until and unless it is satisfied that adequate satisfactory progress has been made with regard to R & R.

The order further states and clarify that
“174. … In the Narmada Control Authority, Re-settlement & Rehabilitation (R & R) Sub-group has been created for closely monitoring the R & R progress. This Sub-group is headed by the Secretary, Government of India, Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment and is represented by Members/Invitees of participating States, academic institutions having expertise in R & R, independent socio- anthropological experts and non-Governmental Organisations. The functions of this Sub-group are as follows:
1.      To monitor the progress of land acquisition in respect of submergence land of Sardar Sarovar Project and Indira (Narmada) Sagar Project (ISP).
2.      To monitor the progress of implementation of the action plan of rehabilitation of project affected families in the affected villages of SSP and ISP in concerned states.
3.      To review the R & R action plan from time to time in the light of results of the implementation.
4.      To review the reports of the agencies entrusted by each of the State in respect of monitoring and evaluation of the progress in the matter of re-settlement and rehabilitation.
5.      To monitor and review implementation of re-settlement and rehabilitation programmes pari passu with the raising of the dam height, keeping in view the clearance granted to ISP and SSP from environmental angle by the Government of India and the Ministry of Environment and Forests.
6.      To coordinate states/agencies involved in the R & R programmes of SSP and ISP.
7.      To undertake any or all activities in the matter of re-settlement and rehabilitation pertaining to SSP and ISP.”
At the end of the order Supreme Court clearly states that
250. … (ii) ensuring compliance with conditions on which clearance of the project was given including completion of relief and rehabilitation work and taking of ameliorative and compensatory measures for environmental protection in compliance with the scheme framed by the Government thereby protecting the rights under Article 21 of the Constitution. Keeping these principles in view, we issue the following directions.
1)     Construction of the dam will continue as per the Award of the Tribunal.
2)     As the Relief and Rehabilitation Sub-group has cleared the construction up to 90 meters, the same can be undertaken immediately. Further raising of the height will be only pari passu with the implementation of the relief and rehabilitation and on the clearance by the Relief and Rehabilitation Sub-group. The Relief and Rehabilitation Sub-Group will give clearance of further construction after consulting the three Grievances Redressal Authorities.
3)     The Environment Sub-group under the Secretary, Ministry of Environment & Forests, Government of India will consider and give, at each stage of the construction of the dam, environment clearance before further construction beyond 90 meters can be undertaken.
4)     The permission to raise the dam height beyond 90 meters will be given by the Narmada Control Authority, from time to time, after it obtains the above-mentioned clearances from the Relief and Rehabilitation Sub-group and the Environment Sub-group.
5)     The reports of the Grievances Redressal Authorities, and of Madhya Pradesh in particular, shows that there is a considerable slackness in the work of identification of land, acquisition of suitable land and the consequent steps necessary to be taken to rehabilitate the project oustees. We direct the States of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat to implement the Award and give relief and rehabilitation to the oustees in terms of the packages offered by them and these States shall comply with any direction in this regard which is given either by the NCA or the Review Committee or the Grievances Redressal Authorities.
6)     Even though there has been substantial compliance with the conditions imposed under the environment clearance the NCA and the Environment Sub-group will continue to monitor and ensure that all steps are taken not only to protect but to restore and improve the environment.
7)     The NCA will within four weeks from today draw up an Action Plan in relation to further construction and the relief and rehabilitation work to be undertaken. Such an Action Plan will fix a time frame so as to ensure relief and rehabilitation pari passu with the increase in the height of the dam. Each State shall abide by the terms of the action plan so prepared by the NCA and in the event of any dispute or difficulty arising, representation may be made to the Review Committee. However, each State shall be bound to comply with the directions of the NCA with regard to the acquisition of land for the purpose of relief and rehabilitation to the extent and within the period specified by the NCA.”
Narmada has always been used for political expediency by both the political parties in Gujarat.
The NCA has recently clarified its position the SSP status report on its website. After 2006. several NCA meetings took place, but in none decision was taken to give go ahead for gate installation. The Gujarat government had at one state as a last attempt tried to get the permission to build pillars for the gate but that too was denied, as the rehabilitation compliance has not taken place.
What Gujarat government markets as a holiday package in monsoon with an overflowing dam, actually causes devastating effect when the backwaters of this overflowing dam submerges several villages in neighboring Madhya Pradesh. It was last year that Madhya Pradesh villages suffered unprecedented submergence in the Narmada Valley.
Presently the reservoir waters at the present 122 meters height are not being even fully used as the several CAG reports have pointed.

The Supreme Court clearly states in conclusion that the Relief and Rehabilitation Sub-Group will give clearance of further construction after consulting the three Grievances Redressal Authorities and permission to raise the dam height beyond 90 meters will be given by the Narmada Control Authority, from time to time, after it obtains the above-mentioned clearances from the Relief and Rehabilitation Sub-group and the Environment Sub-group and each State shall be bound to comply with the directions of the NCA with regard to the acquisition of land for the purpose of relief and rehabilitation to the extent and within the period specified by the NCA.

Rohit Prajapati
Social Activist of Gujarat

Thursday, 27 February 2014

नैतिकता की अपेक्षा भी अब केवल सैनिकों से ही ?

नौवहन की एक गौरवपूर्ण परम्परा रही है.  जब भी कोई  पोत सागर में डूबने लगता था तो पोत का  कमांडर सबसे अंत में पोत से उतरता था. सबसे पहले बचाव कार्य में बच्चे , महिलायें वृद्ध आदि और अंत में क्रू तथा सबसे अंत में कमांडर बचने के लिए उतरता था. अगर किन्ही कारणों से वह बच नहीं पाता था तो वह भी उस जल पोत के साथ डूब जाता था. एडमिरल जोशी का त्यागपत्र इस परम्परा को याद दिलाता है।  " शं नौ वरुणः " वरुण तो शांत हैं पर असमंजस , अशांति , ढुलमुलपन कहीं और है यह त्यागपत्र उसी सड़ांध को बताता है

नौसेना की पनडुब्बी हादसे की नैतिक जिम्मेदारी लेते हुए, नौ सेना प्रमुख ने त्याग पत्र दे दिया है. पर नौ सेना में संसाधन नहीं बढ़ रहे थे क्या इस की जिम्मेदारी रक्षा सचिव और रक्षा मंत्री पर नहीं है ? अगर इस की पड़ताल की जाय तो यही तथ्य सामने आयेगा कि आधुनिकीकरण के अनेक प्रस्ताव सचियावालय की फाइलों में धूल खा रहे हैं. लेकिन हर सचिवालय की अपनी ही गति है. एक अत्यंत सम्मानित वरिष्ठ पुलिस अधिकारी ने एक बार एक गोष्ठी को संबोधित करते हुए कहा था कि, " वह एक बार गृह सचिव के यहाँ उनके कार्यालय में गए थे. गृह सचिव के कार्यालय में उनकी मेज़ पर एक ऐश ट्रे रखा था. उस ऐश ट्रे का आकार एक कछुए के समान था. उक्त पुलिस अधिकारी ने मजाक में कहा कि सरकार की गति कछुए की तरह है. वह हर प्रस्ताव पर इसी गति से चलती है. " बात व्यंग्य  और हलके फुल्के वातावरण में कही गयी थी. पर इसके निहितार्थ स्पष्ट है. सेना का कोई अंग हो, अर्ध सैनिक बल हों, या राज्य पुलिस हों सबके प्रमुखों को सरकार के इस विलंबित गति से रू ब रू होना पड़ता है.

दो महायुद्धों के बाद और उसमें हुए महा विनाश के वाद, दुनिया की मानसिकता बदल गयी थी  . साम्राज्यवाद का चेहरा और उसकी प्रकृति बदल गयी थी  मध्य युग तक, सेनायें विजय अभियान चलाती थी, और निरंतर एक न एक युद्धों में शामिल रहती थी. सेनापति महामंत्री के बाद राज्य का सर्वाधिक महत्वपूर्ण अधिकारी होता था. फिर साम्राज्यवाद का चेहरा बदला. बाज़ार की खोज में यूरोप के कई देश अपने अभियान पर निकले. उन्होंने व्यापारिक कंपनिया बनायी, और व्यापारी चोले में एशिया की और आयें. इंग्लैंड , पुर्तगाल,हालेंड , फ़्रांस सब ने अपने व्यापारिक हित के लिए अभियान चलाये. ईस्ट इंडिया कंपनी जिस ने सिर्फ व्यापार की इच्छा से देश में अपना मायाजाल फैलाया. और सौ साल में  ही झूठ , षड्यंत्र , फरेब और जालसाजी से कंपनी का शासन सीधे ब्रिटिश राज के अंतर्गत आ गया. यह साम्राज्य का एक बेहद बदला हुआ और शातिर चेहरा था. सेना तब से उतनी महत्वपूर्ण नहीं रही. उसका प्रयोग सीधे नहीं होता था जैसा कि मध्य युग में हुआ था.

अचानक 1914 और 1939 में प्रथम और द्वितीय महा युद्ध क्रमशः शुरू हुए. महा विनाश हुआ. लेकिन, दुनिया में अनेक वैचारिक परिवर्तन भी हुए. कई देश आज़ाद हुए. ब्रिटिश साम्राज्ञी के मुकुट का सबसे चमकदार हीरा भी अंग्रेजों से छिन गया. आज़ादी के बाद जवाहर लाल नेहरू पञ्च शील से प्रभावित थे. वह सैन्य अभियान और सेना को फ़िज़ूल समझते थे.  वह विश्व में भारत की क्षवि एक शान्ति दूत के रूप में स्थापित करना चाहते हैं।  राजनीति, स्वार्थ ,विस्तारवाद की दुनिया में यह एक प्रकार का काल्पनिक आदर्शवाद था और अब भी है। जिन आदर्शों को लेकर आज़ादी की लड़ाई लड़ी गयी थी उसी आदर्शों के हैंगओवर में उस समय हमारे नेतागण थे. इसी कमजोरी को भांपते हुए, तिब्बत और दलाई लामा के मुद्दे पर खार खाए चीन ने अक्टूबर 1962 में भारत पर हमला कर दिया. देश को करारी हार से भुगतना पडा. नेहरू इसे समझ नहीं पाए. और इस सदमे से वे उबर भी नहीं पाए. इस के पश्चात  सेना और सैन्य आधुनिकीकरण देश के एजेंडे में ऊपर आ गया. इसी का परिणाम था कि 1965 के भारत पाकिस्तान युद्ध में सेना से अत्यंत गौरव पूर्ण प्रदर्शन  किया और भारत जीता. यह अभियान यहीं नहीं थमा. 1971 के भारत पाकिस्तान युद्ध , और बाद में कारगिल युद्ध में सेना अपराजेय रही.

युद्ध में सैनिकों का मनोबल, रणनीति, और उनका धैर्य महत्वपूर्ण होता है. पर अश्त्र शस्त्र की भी कम भूमिका नहीं होती है. आज कल हथियारों के क्षेत्र में रोज़ नयी नयी खोजें हो रही हैं. सेना को भी उन्ही खोजों के साथ कदम मिला कर कदम ताल करना पडेगा. सेना प्रमुखों को इन हथियारों और आधुनिकीकरण के सम्बन्ध में बहुत अधिक अधिकार नहीं है. यह अधिकार रक्षा मंत्री और मंत्री मंडल को है. रक्षा सचिव जो सरकार के सचिव हैं वह भी इस के लिए जिम्मेदार हैं. जहां तक तकनीकी सलाह और जांच का प्रश्न है, सेना प्रमुख की राय ली जाती है. लेकिन अंतिम निर्णय सरकार का ही होता है. एन डी ए के कार्यकाल जब जॉर्ज फर्नांडिस देश के रक्षा मंत्री थे तो सियाचिन में आइस स्कूटर, और उस भीषण शीत में पहनने वाले वर्दी की आपूर्ति का मामला सचिवालय में लंबित था. जॉर्ज ने सचिवालय के कुछ अधिकारियों को सियाचिन भेजा ताकि वह उन परिथितियों को भोगें और उन मुसीबतों का सामना करें जो हमारे जवान झेल रहे थे. जॉर्ज अकेले रक्षा मंत्री थे, जिन्होंने अत्यंत दुर्गम स्थानों का दौरा किया और जवानों का मनोबल ही नहीं बढाया, बल्कि सैन्य  आधुनिकीकरण को गति भी प्रदान की.

आज एडमिरल जोशी का जो त्यागपत्र है वह शासन के कच्छप गति और मूंदहु आँख कतहु कुछ नाहीं  की मानसिकता का एक उदाहरण है. युद्ध अब आमने सामने नहीं बाज़ार और प्रचार में लड़े जाते हैं. अगर आमने सामने का युद्ध भी होता है तो उसका भी कारण आर्थिक ही है. अमेरिका ने दूसरे विश्वयुद्ध के बाद, जहां जहां भी सैन्य अभियान किया वहाँ उसका मक़सद बाज़ारवाद और आर्थिक ही रहा चाहे वह युद्ध वियतनाम , से हुआ हो, या इराक से या अफगानिस्तान में या जिसकी  भूमिका वह ईरान में बना रहा था.  भारत में  सैन्य तैयारियों को तभी प्राथमिकता से लिया जाता है जब सीमा पर कुछ हलचल होती है. 1962 के बाद हमने कोई युद्ध नहीं हारा है. और हम चाहेंगे कि हारें भी नहीं लेकिन नारों, और प्रशंसा से हम युद्ध जीतें या न जीतें शहीद ज़रूर बढ़ा देंगे. ऐसा इस लिए नहीं की बहादुरी के जज्बे की कमी है. यही सेना 1962 में अत्यंत साधनहीनता के बीच लड़ी थी . लेकिन हारी तो कमज़ोर तैयारियों से.

नौ सेना प्रमुख का इस्तीफा एक समाधान नहीं है, यह एक चेतावनी है, देश के लिए. इस इस्तीफे के लिए जो  परिस्थितियाँ  जिम्मेदार हैं उन परिस्थितियों के लिए रक्षा मंत्रालय जिम्मेदार है. इन परिस्थितियों के लिए जो जिम्मेदार हैं अगर उनकी नैतिकता मर गयी है तो उन्हें उनके पद से हटा देना चाहिए. राष्ट्रपति महोदय सशत्र सेनाओं के सर्वोच्च कमांडर भी है. उन्हें इन परिस्थितियों में कुछ करना चाहिए.

- विजय शंकर सिंह.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

What if Modi becomes Indian premier ? by Cedric Prakash, Ahmedabad

 ( इस चुनाव में ऐसा माहौल बनाया जा रहा है कि , पिछले ६५ सालों में देश में कुछ हुआ ही नहीं है और देश एक गर्त में पड़ा हुआ है।  सम्भवामि युगे युगे की तर्ज़ पर एक अवतार की आवश्यकता भी महसूस की जा रही है।  अवतार हाज़िर भी है। जनता और ईश्वर ही बता पायेगा कि देश का अगला प्रधान मंत्री कौन बनेगा।  अब अधिक दिन शेष नहीं हैं।  इम्तेहान जल्दी ही होने वाले हैं।  मुख्य दौड़ में नरेंद्र मोदी आगे हैं और प्रयास भी कर रहे हैं।  अगर फेसबुक जैसी सोशल साइट्स देखी जाय तो लगेगा कि मोदी को सिर्फ शपथ ग्रहण ही करना है।
लेकिन चाय के प्रेमी इस नेता की चाय और चुस्की के बीच अभी बहुत पेंच है।

जैसे जैसे राजनीतिक माहौल गरमाएगा, चुनाव नज़दीक आयेगा, आरोप प्रत्यारोप लगाए ही जायेंगे।  लोकतंत्र की यह अनिवार्य परम्परा है।  मैं आप से एक लेख शेयर कर रहा यह लेख, सेड्रिक प्रकाश, जो अहमदाबाद स्थित प्रशांत  नामक एक मानवाधिकार संगठन से जुड़े हैं ने लिखा है।  मोदी की सभी रैलियों में, गुजरात के विकास, गोधरा बाद 2002 के साम्प्रदायिक दंगों में अदालत द्वारा दी गयी कथित क्लीन चिट , अल्पसंख्यकों का अब मोदी से कोई  नहीं गिला  है, मोदी भ्रष्ट नहीं हैं, आदि आदि विन्दु अक्सर उठाये जाते रहे हैं और आगे भी उठाये जाते रहेंगे, विरोधी और अन्य लोग इन दावों की पड़ताल भी करते हैं।  यह लेख उन्ही दावों की एक पड़ताल है।  प्रकाश की  पड़ताल कितनी सच है इस पर भी आलोचना आमंत्रित है।

जनता के सामने सारी बातें राखी जानी चाहिए।  अक्सर आरोप और बचाव के बीच सत्य कहीं गड्ड मदद हो जाता है।  कृपया यह लेख पधेन। )

As a Christian and particularly a Jesuit priest, I take stands and believe that while being open to dialogue and reason, one has to be unequivocal about what one stands for.  So, I take a stand against politicians or political parties that are sectarian, corrupt, casteist and above all those who indulge in the criminalization of society.

I do not espouse any political party. All have their own drawbacks. A reality check would show that each one has failed the people of India in some way or another, especially the poor and the marginalized, either because of their particular ideology or because they have catered to a particular class or caste.
All this brings to mind the powerful words of Pope Francis in his Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel) in which he condemns “the economy of exclusion and inequality and “a financial system which rules rather than serves”.

We have to accept that genuine fears and anxieties exist about Narendra Modi, the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) prime ministerial candidate and three-time chief minister of Gujarat becoming prime minister, after the general election due in May. However let me clarify some matters about Modi and his rule in Gujarat. 

Myth 1: Modi is a development man..

This cannot be further from the truth. Gujarat has always been a developed state from the time it was carved out of Bombay state in 1960. Economic indicators clearly show that Gujarat under Modi has been ‘worse off’ than under previous governments (even the BJP one before him). The fact is that foreign direct investment in Gujarat has taken a severe beating in the last few years and even local investment is far below what is being flaunted. Regarding social indicators, Gujarat fares poorly.

A UNICEF report published in 2013 says social development in the state has not kept pace with economic development; almost every second child in Gujarat under five years old is undernourished, while three quarters are anemic.

Myth 2: The Gujarat carnage is a thing of the past and Modi has been given a “clean chit”

Many believe the courts exonerated Modi of involvement in the Gujarat anti-Muslim riots in 2002. The hard facts are, however, very different. First of all, no court has given Modi a clean chit. True, there is a Special Investigation Team (SIT) report that says there is not enough evidence against Modi.  But this has been challenged, with the petitioner Zakhia Jafri being given leave by Ahmadabad magistrates to question  the merits of the SIT report in a higher court. Raju Ramchandran, appointed by the Supreme Court as amicus curiae for many of the Gujarat riot cases, asserts that there is enough evidence to prosecute Modi on several counts with regard to the violence in 2002, in which more than 1,000 people died.

Modi has neither shown any remorse nor taken responsibility for the killing of innocent people under his watch. The least a chief minister could have been expected to do was to enforce law and order and protect the life and property of every citizen in his state. That he ignored this responsibility, there is no doubt among many. That he has denigrated minorities has been documented by the print and the electronic media.  

Myth 3: Modi has “made up” with the minorities

There are some claiming to be representatives of minority Christian and Muslim communities who sing Modi’s praises. A careful analysis indicates these people have vested interests, especially in business, and are not really interested in their community or what is happening to minorities in the country. In 2003 Modi introduced an anti-conversion law and established rules to govern the implementation of this law in 2008. 
It is perhaps one of the most draconian laws in the history of democratic India. It forbids a citizen from converting to another faith unless she/he has permission from civil authorities. Even now, police and intelligence officers constantly visit Christian institutions and Christians in general, making all kinds of inquiries and demanding to check baptism registers and other records.

Myth 4: Modi is not corrupt
In May 2012, anti-corruption campaigners Anna Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal visited Gujarat. They came away declaring it the most corrupt state in the country. Why they have not continued to highlight corruption in Gujarat is anyone’s guess. Several years ago, the Tata Motor Company was allowed to establish a plant to build the “world's cheapest car” in Gujarat with surprising ease, flouting every rule in the book and even the state's industrial policy. It is alleged that the Adani Company controls the price of compressed natural gas, amassing huge profits. In addition, the role of the Ambanis in mega projects in Gujarat is being questioned. The way environmental laws are flouted and the terrible ecological degradation that is taking place all over the state, all point to the fact that corruption is alive and kicking in Gujarat.

Another indicator is the way land has been handed to big corporations, displacing thousands of small farmers across the state. There have been huge protest rallies, but they were not covered by a media, which by and large seems to have been muzzled in Gujarat.

These four myths provide an insight into the grim reality in Gujarat under the leadership of Modi. No one really knows if he will become prime minister.  But India deserves better leaders. Indian politics revolves around regional parties. As of now, the BJP has practically no allies from several states. Most regional parties are obviously waiting to see which party will emerge as the single largest party in the 2014 elections.

Fr Cedric Prakash SJ is the director of PRASHANT, the Ahmedabad-based Jesuit Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace. 

Sunday, 23 February 2014

The forgotten inheritance of Azad - By Prof Irfan Habib

( मौलाना आजाद भारत के उन महान नेताओं में से थे, जिन्होंने घोर साम्प्रदायिक वैमनस्य के युग और अत्यंत अविश्वास के माहौल में भी अपनी उदारवादी क्षवि बनाए रखी . वह कांग्रेस के अध्यक्ष रहे. देश के प्रथम शिक्षा मंत्री रहे. भारत विभाजन के अन्तरंग प्रसंगों के वे गवाह भी रहे. इंडिया विन्स फ्रीडम उनकी बेहद चर्चित पुस्तक है. अक्सर जब भी भारत विभाजन का ज़िक्र होता है, इस पुस्त्स्क से अनेक उद्धरण दिए जाते हैं. वह इस किताब में महात्मा गांधी को विभाजन और आज़ादी के सवाल पर अप्रासंगिक होते हुए, नेहरु जिन्ना को आपस में झगड़ते हुए, अंग्रेजों को शातिराना चाल चलते हुए देखते हैं. इस किताब के 30 पृष्ठ उनके देहांत के 20 साल बाद दूसरे संस्करण में जोड़े गए. 

मौलाना अरबी और फारसी के प्रकांड विद्वान् थे. उन्हें अपने सहधर्मी कट्टर नेताओं के कटाक्ष का सामना भी करना पड़ता था. जिन्ना ने एक बैठक में सिर्फ इस लिए शामिल होने से मना कर दिया कि उस बैठक में मौलाना आज़ाद कांग्रेस की तरफ से शिरकत कर रहे थे. 

फरवरी को उनका निधन हुआ था. यह लेख प्रोफेसर इरफ़ान हबीब द्वारा लिखा गया है. प्रोफेसर हबीब अलीगढ मुस्लिम विश्वविद्यालय के मध्ययुगीन इतिहास के प्रोफेसर रहे हैं. अभी भी वह प्रोफेसर एमेरिटस हैं. देश के अत्यंत सम्मानित इतिहासविद प्रोफेसर हबीब ने इस लेख में आजाद के इस्लाम की अवधारना को स्पष्ट किया है. 

देश इस समय स्वार्थी नेताओं जो धर्म और जाति की रतौंधी से पीड़ित है, ऐसे धुआँसे वातावरण में मौलाना को याद करना एक सुखद बयार की तरह है. सन 37 से 47 का समय भारत के इतिहास में अत्यंत उथल पुथल भरा रहा. कभी कभी लगता है. वह एक अंधा दशक था. चारों तरफ भ्रम, और विचार धुन्धता की स्थिति थी. धर्म का सबसे घृणित पक्ष उजागर हो रहा था. लोग ही नहीं हवा बयार भी लगता था धर्म के आधार पर बह रही है. मुस्लिम एलीट तबका मुस्लिम लीग की माया से ग्रस्त था. पर उसे यह भी स्पष्ट नहीं था कि वह कौन सा पाकिस्तान चाहता है. कांग्रेस भ्रम की शिकार थी. गांधी अपनी चमक खोने के बावजूद भी शिखर पर थे. दुनिया में दूसरा महा समर शुरू हो चुका था. जर्मनी, इटली. जापान की तिकड़ी ने मित्र राष्ट्रों की हवा खराब कर रखी थी. और जब महासमर समाप्त हुआ तो दुनिया ने युद्ध का वह पैशाचिक चेहरा देखा जो ज्ञात इतिहास में कभी देखा नहीं गया था. अणु बम के महा विनाश से दुनिया का परिचय ही चुका था. 

अँगरेज़ कमज़ोर हो रहे थे. दुनिया में जागृति आ रही थी. साम्राज्यवाद अतीत बन रहा था. ऐसे में भारत की आज़ादी और अंग भंग की बात चली. आज़ाद उस समय चट्टान की तरह देश के साथ थे. उन्हें कितना लांछन भरी यातना से , जो उनके कुछ कट्टर सह धर्मियों द्वारा बराबर उठायी जाती थी से गुज़रना पडा होगा. इस की कल्पना की जा सकती है. 
मौलाना आज़ाद के बारे में यह लेख पढ़ें... यह एक विद्वान् द्वारा विद्वान् का मूल्यांकन है.. )

Maulana Azad made extensive observations on the education system and syllabi in the context of his own education in the late 19th Century. Picture shows Azad (centre) with Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, Sayed Mahmud, and Kailash Nath Katju in 1955.

Maulana Azad’s Islam was much more accommodative than the contemporary rigid and combative Islam
It was on this day in 1958 that Maulana Abul Kalam Azad passed away. It was not merely the death of an extraordinary human being but also the death of an idea that sparkled for a few decades — the idea of an undivided India where Muslims could live happily with the Hindu majority. Muslims made India their home centuries ago, and according to Azad, they had a huge stake in the idea of India. However, Azad’s idea received a jolt in 1947 as the violence of partition ravaged India. Azad went on to live for another ten years, helping in healing and rebuilding the scarred and bruised new India.
Azad lived many lives. Some of them are well known, yet some have remained mysteriously unknown. Not much is known or written about them in public. There was a decade in his early days when he was disenchanted with the inherited faith and had to brazen out some difficult and uncomfortable questions about Islam.
Even before arriving at this situation, he was a rebel as a child who disagreed with his father’s faith, got enamoured of Sir Syed’s modernism that his father Maulvi Khairuddin hated, and decided to learn sitar on the quiet though his father did not approve of music. His dissent against the inherited belief went even further — he became an atheist (dehri) and reposed faith only in materialism and rationalism. Religion was reduced merely to a superstition. From the age of 14 to the mid-20s, he just put up a facade of belief in public but inwardly remained completely without faith.
A different Islam
This short phase in his life was ephemeral as he soon got back to Islam, yet his Islam remained qualitatively different. And it is on this count that Azad stands distinctly apart from everyone else. He was himself conscious of the fact that not many people went along with him when he said: “In religion, in literature, in politics, on the paths of philosophy, wherever I went, I went alone. The caravans of the times did not support me on any of my journeys.”
Azad emphasised all his life on the original spirit of engagement with the Quranic text, which was available to all believers of Islam. He refused to accept the canonised Islam; instead he called for independent reasoning or ijtihad to interpret the faith. He also warned against reading more than what was intended to be conveyed in the Quran. This sounds so prophetic in the contemporary context where Islam is invoked by many to speak what they want the Book to speak.
Ghubar-i-Khatir is a collection of letters written in the Ahmednagar Fort prison during three years of incarceration between 1942-45, where Maulana Azad opens his mind to some very unconventional and mundane issues. For example, one of the letters deals with his lifelong passion for tea. He began his day, he writes, with a freshly brewed cup of white Chinese jasmine tea that he consumed mostly alone as no one else could appreciate its taste. Most others were addicted to a concoction mixed with milk and sugar which the British had told them was tea. Only Jawaharlal Nehru, he wrote, used to have black tea, but not the real Chinese tea. In another letter he writes about happiness. He cites a Chinese person saying: “Who is the wisest man? The answer is: He who is the happiest.” Interestingly, he derides those who believe that men of religion and philosophy need to look serious and morose. This, he says, cannot be a pre-condition for respectability and learning.
Reforms in education
Azad also comments upon the education system and syllabi in the context of his own education in late 19th Century India, particularly the Islamic madrasas. He wrote: “It was an outdated system of education which had become barren from every point of view — teaching methods defective, worthless subjects of study, deficient in the selection of books, defective way of reading and calligraphy.” If this is what Azad felt about the Islamic madrasas more than hundred years ago, we can well imagine the urgency and necessity of radical reform in the contemporary system of education.
He is critical of even Al-Azhar University and calls its syllabus poor. Expressing a sense of relief at the fact that he did not have to depend on these madrasas for his early education, he writes: “Just imagine if I had stopped there and had not gone in search of new knowledge with a new curiosity, what would be my plight! Obviously my early education would not have given me anything except a stagnant mind, a total stranger to reality.”
The present day Islamic enthusiasts need to learn a lesson or two from the insights of a scholar like Azad — both from his writings against conformism and conservatism and his questioning of his own family’s intellectual and religious inheritance. He writes further in another letter: “Nothing is greater hindrance to the growth of a mind than its conservative beliefs. No other power binds it as do the shackles of conformity…At times so strong is the grip of inherited beliefs that education and environment also cannot loosen it. Education would give it a new paint but never enter the inner belief structure where the influence of race, family and centuries old traditions continue to operate.”
We need to reflect upon and recall Maulana Azad’s precious and mostly forgotten inheritance, which was based on free thinking and pluralism. In particular, Azad’s Islam was much more accommodative than the contemporary rigid and combative Islam.
That is why, at times like these, when religious fault lines threaten the very idea of India, we must pay heed to Azad’s inheritance.
(S. Irfan Habib holds the Maulana Abul Kalam Azad chair at Delhi’s National University of Educational Planning and Administration.)

Friday, 21 February 2014

Fascism by Sheldon Richman

As an economic system, fascism is socialism with a capitalist veneer. The word derives from fasces, the Roman symbol of collectivism and power: a tied bundle of rods with a protruding ax. In its day (the 1920s and 1930s), fascism was seen as the happy medium between boom-and-bust-prone liberal capitalism, with its alleged class conflict, wasteful competition, and profit-oriented egoism, and revolutionary Marxism, with its violent and socially divisive persecution of the bourgeoisie. Fascism substituted the particularity of nationalism and racialism—“blood and soil”—for the internationalism of both classical liberalism and Marxism.

Where socialism sought totalitarian control of a society’s economic processes through direct state operation of the means of production, fascism sought that control indirectly, through domination of nominally private owners. Where socialism nationalized property explicitly, fascism did so implicitly, by requiring owners to use their property in the “national interest”—that is, as the autocratic authority conceived it. (Nevertheless, a few industries were operated by the state.) Where socialism abolished all market relations outright, fascism left the appearance of market relations while planning all economic activities. Where socialism abolished money and prices, fascism controlled the monetary system and set all prices and wages politically. In doing all this, fascism denatured the marketplace. Entrepreneurship was abolished. State ministries, rather than consumers, determined what was produced and under what conditions.

Fascism is to be distinguished from interventionism, or the mixed economy. Interventionism seeks to guide the market process, not eliminate it, as fascism did. Minimum-wage and antitrust laws, though they regulate the free market, are a far cry from multiyear plans from the Ministry of Economics.
Under fascism, the state, through official cartels, controlled all aspects of manufacturing, commerce, finance, and agriculture. Planning boards set product lines, production levels, prices, wages, working conditions, and the size of firms. Licensing was ubiquitous; no economic activity could be undertaken without government permission. Levels of consumption were dictated by the state, and “excess” incomes had to be surrendered as taxes or “loans.” The consequent burdening of manufacturers gave advantages to foreign firms wishing to export. But since government policy aimed at autarky, or national self-sufficiency, protectionism was necessary: imports were barred or strictly controlled, leaving foreign conquest as the only avenue for access to resources unavailable domestically. Fascism was thus incompatible with peace and the international division of labor—hallmarks of liberalism.
Fascism embodied corporatism, in which political representation was based on trade and industry rather than on geography. In this, fascism revealed its roots in syndicalism, a form of socialism originating on the left. The government cartelized firms of the same industry, with representatives of labor and management serving on myriad local, regional, and national boards—subject always to the final authority of the dictator’s economic plan. Corporatism was intended to avert unsettling divisions within the nation, such as lockouts and union strikes. The price of such forced “harmony” was the loss of the ability to bargain and move about freely.

To maintain high employment and minimize popular discontent, fascist governments also undertook massive public-works projects financed by steep taxes, borrowing, and fiat money creation. While many of these projects were domestic—roads, buildings, stadiums—the largest project of all was militarism, with huge armies and arms production.

The fascist leaders’ antagonism to communism has been misinterpreted as an affinity for capitalism. In fact, fascists’ anticommunism was motivated by a belief that in the collectivist milieu of early-twentieth-century Europe, communism was its closest rival for people’s allegiance. As with communism, under fascism, every citizen was regarded as an employee and tenant of the totalitarian, party-dominated state. Consequently, it was the state’s prerogative to use force, or the threat of it, to suppress even peaceful opposition.
If a formal architect of fascism can be identified, it is Benito Mussolini, the onetime Marxist editor who, caught up in nationalist fervor, broke with the left as World War I approached and became Italy’s leader in 1922. Mussolini distinguished fascism from liberal capitalism in his 1928 autobiography:
The citizen in the Fascist State is no longer a selfish individual who has the anti-social right of rebelling against any law of the Collectivity. The Fascist State with its corporative conception puts men and their possibilities into productive work and interprets for them the duties they have to fulfill. (p. 280)
Before his foray into imperialism in 1935, Mussolini was often praised by prominent Americans and Britons, including Winston Churchill, for his economic program.

Similarly, Adolf Hitler, whose National Socialist (Nazi) Party adapted fascism to Germany beginning in 1933, said:
The state should retain supervision and each property owner should consider himself appointed by the state. It is his duty not to use his property against the interests of others among his own people. This is the crucial matter. The Third Reich will always retain its right to control the owners of property. (Barkai 1990, pp. 26–27)

Both nations exhibited elaborate planning schemes for their economies in order to carry out the state’s objectives. Mussolini’s corporate state “consider[ed] private initiative in production the most effective instrument to protect national interests” (Basch 1937, p. 97). But the meaning of “initiative” differed significantly from its meaning in a market economy. Labor and management were organized into twenty-two industry and trade “corporations,” each with Fascist Party members as senior participants. The corporations were consolidated into a National Council of Corporations; however, the real decisions were made by state agencies such as the Instituto per la Ricosstruzione Industriale, which held shares in industrial, agricultural, and real estate enterprises, and the Instituto Mobiliare, which controlled the nation’s credit.

Hitler’s regime eliminated small corporations and made membership in cartels mandatory.1 The Reich Economic Chamber was at the top of a complicated bureaucracy comprising nearly two hundred organizations organized along industry, commercial, and craft lines, as well as several national councils. The Labor Front, an extension of the Nazi Party, directed all labor matters, including wages and assignment of workers to particular jobs. Labor conscription was inaugurated in 1938. Two years earlier, Hitler had imposed a four-year plan to shift the nation’s economy to a war footing. In Europe during this era, Spain, Portugal, and Greece also instituted fascist economies.
In the United States, beginning in 1933, the constellation of government interventions known as the New Deal had features suggestive of the corporate state. The National Industrial Recovery Act created code authorities and codes of practice that governed all aspects of manufacturing and commerce. The National Labor Relations Act made the federal government the final arbiter in labor issues. The Agricultural Adjustment Act introduced central planning to farming. The object was to reduce competition and output in order to keep prices and incomes of particular groups from falling during the Great Depression.

It is a matter of controversy whether President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal was directly influenced by fascist economic policies. Mussolini praised the New Deal as “boldly . . . interventionist in the field of economics,” and Roosevelt complimented Mussolini for his “honest purpose of restoring Italy” and acknowledged that he kept “in fairly close touch with that admirable Italian gentleman.” Also, Hugh Johnson, head of the National Recovery Administration, was known to carry a copy of Raffaello Viglione’s pro-Mussolini book, The Corporate State, with him, presented a copy to Labor Secretary Frances Perkins, and, on retirement, paid tribute to the Italian dictator.

About the Author
Sheldon Richman is the editor of The Freeman: Ideas on Liberty at the Foundation for Economic Education in Irvingtonon-Hudson, N.Y.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Free speech loses in India. By Jonathan Shainin.

The news from India these days is rarely cheery. The country’s long-overdue winning streak in the international press, which saw old clichés upgraded to shiny new high-tech models, ended around 2010. Since then, the headlines have been relentlessly grim: corruption, poverty, political dysfunction, violence against women, mistreatment of maids, and the criminalization of homosexuality. On Thursday morning, the big story was a brawl inside the Indian Parliament, during which a lawmaker used a can of pepper spray against his colleagues.

This week the picture dimmed a little further, with the news that “The Hindus: An Alternative History,” an eight-hundred-page book by Wendy Doniger, an eminent professor of religion at the University of Chicago, would be removed from Indian book shops. Penguin Books India, which first published the book, in 2009, signed an out-of-court settlement with an advocacy group, the Shiksha Bachao Andolan Samiti (“Movement to Save Education”), who claim to be defending “the sentiments of Hindus all over the world.” The group had filed a civil suit and multiple criminal complaints against Doniger and her publisher; under the terms of the agreement, which includes a bizarre clause requiring Penguin to affirm “that it respects all religions worldwide,” the publisher will cease to sell “The Hindus” in India, and pulp its remaining inventory.

The original legal notice in the case, sent to Penguin in 2010, alleged that the book “is a shallow, distorted, and non-serious presentation of Hinduism … written with a Christian Missionary Zeal and hidden agenda to denigrate Hindus and show their religion in a poor light … The intent is clearly to ridicule, humiliate, and defame the Hindus and denigrate the Hindu traditions.” Citing a passage in which Doniger refers to Sanskrit texts written “at a time of glorious sexual openness and insight,” the complaint declares that her “approach is of a woman hungry of sex.”
Conservative Hindu groups have been campaigning against Doniger for more than a decade, contending that she misunderstands and deliberately misrepresents Hindu texts and practices, insults Hindu gods in her readings of myth, and crudely focusses, through a psychoanalytic lens and above all else, on sex. To her detractors, what look at first like impressive scholarly credentials—the long list of publications, the endowed chair at Chicago, past presidencies of the American Academy of Religion and the Association for Asian Studies—are, in fact, evidence of a sinister colonialist conspiracy dominating the study of Hinduism in the West.

Rajiv Malhotra, an Indian-American businessman and philanthropist, has been Doniger’s most persistent and vocal antagonist. “India is now newly resurgent in business, geopolitics, and culture,” he has written. “However, a powerful counterforce within the American academy is systematically undermining core icons and ideals of Indic culture and thought.” Many of Malhotra’s arguments are risible, but he has deftly turned the rhetoric of post-colonialist academia back against the academy: his essays read like right-wing parodies of Michel Foucault and Edward Said. (“The Eurocentric superiority complex, so blatant among many aggressive [academics], is a reaction and Freudian cover for their deeply-rooted inferiority complexes and insecurities.”)
These disputes—about the quality of Doniger’s scholarship and the biases of Western scholars of Hinduism—should not be summarily dismissed, but they are irrelevant to the legal case against the book. To debate them is to concede that only meritorious works are deserving of the right to publication. (And who shall determine their merit?) The underlying problem for free speech in India today is not simply religious intolerance but weak institutions that are incapable of upholding liberal values. Doniger’s book is the third in as many months to be effectively censored through private means, by using legal threats. The other two cases are no less appalling for lacking any element of religious or cultural offense.

In January, Bloomsbury India announced that it would voluntarily withdraw copies of “The Descent of Air India,” a book about the failing state-owned airline, written by Jitender Bhargava, who is one of its former executive directors. The cause was a criminal-defamation suit filed by Praful Patel, a minister in the current Congress Party-led government, who is widely blamed for wrecking the national carrier during his earlier tenure as India’s aviation minister. Bloomsbury declined to fight the case, and instead tendered an apology to Patel. Their surrender was lamentable, but, if they concluded that their chances of prevailing against a powerful minister in a trial court were minimal, they were surely not wrong.

The Indian legal system is not only favorable to plaintiffs alleging offense or defamation; it also grants powerful litigants the ability to suppress books before they are even published. In December, the Indian finance conglomerate Sahara—whose founder, Subrata Roy, is barred from leaving the country while courts resolve a series of legal and regulatory challenges against his firm—obtained an order from the Calcutta High Court blocking the publication of a book about the company. Sahara had filed a thirty-million-dollar defamation suit against the book’s author, Tamal Bandyopadhyay, the deputy managing editor of Mint, India’s most respected business newspaper.

None of these cases involve the “banning” of a book by government action. Instead, they represent a kind of private censorship, in which interested parties find it easy to manipulate a rotten system and silence inconvenient opinions. Governments at the state and national level have never hesitated to ban books—and there is little practical distinction between the major political parties in this regard—but these days there is no need for them to do so.

Free speech has innumerable enemies in India, and comparably few principled defenders—against whom vast legal, political, and social obstacles are arrayed. A writer, publisher, or newspaper editor can fight a case in court, provided he has the patience to endure the interminable delays of the legal system. In the end, he may even win, though the relevant laws have been interpreted, over the decades, to carve out larger and larger exceptions to the right of free expression enshrined in India’s Constitution. No political leader will dare speak in defense of a text under attack unless the book in question targets his enemies; supporting the freedom of unpopular speech only costs votes and never wins them. And the state does not offer much protection from physical harm. When death threats are phoned to your home, or a mob comes to vandalize your office, you’re on your own.

Assigning blame for this deplorable state of affairs, as with so much else in India, is an exhausting exercise in circularity. In Doniger’s case, it would seem reasonable to start with the man who filed the suit, Dinanath Batra, who has waged a series of legal battles to cleanse Indian textbooks of what he deems “objectionable passages.” But Batra, who is associated with the family of Hindu nationalist organizations connected to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (R.S.S.), has many defenders, who maintain that he has simply sought recourse to which he is entitled by Indian law. (This defense has frequently been accompanied by the disingenuous claim that free speech is not at issue in this case, because the settlement was a voluntary one.)

So perhaps the law is to blame? This was the crux of Doniger’s own statement, released on Tuesday: the “true villain,” she wrote, was the section of the Indian Penal Code that criminalizes, in its words, “deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class.” The Indian Constitution lists “freedom of speech and expression” among the fundamental rights it guarantees, but the text also specifies a series of exceptions—later expanded by India’s much maligned First Amendment—that allow the government to impose “reasonable restrictions” on this freedom. Compared to those of the United States, these terms are indeed restrictive, but constitutional scholars point out that, in adopting them, India was largely taking its cue from the exceptions to absolute free speech contained in many other modern constitutions. What differed in the Indian case was the subsequent judicial interpretation, which steadily widened the state’s power to limit free expression. On this view, the fault lies with the courts.
In the present instance, however, the trial court had not yet delivered its decision in the case. Penguin, which initially declined any comment on the settlement, may have concluded that it was unlikely to prevail in court. But it is hard to see its decision as anything but a puzzling capitulation. Had the verdict in the trial court gone against Penguin, the company could have appealed the ruling to two higher courts. And so, as many have observed in the past two days, the publishers must bear considerable blame. If they do not defend their own books, then who else will do it?

In the Indian media, a flawed consensus has settled on Penguin India as the sole culprit in this case, as if its decision, however cowardly, was not set in motion by a dubious lawsuit that a judge should have swiftly dismissed. When I spoke to Doniger, on Thursday morning, she reiterated the defense of Penguin India that she had made in her original statement. “They fought the case in court for four years,” she said. “They wanted to keep the book in print as long as possible.” Doniger, like her publishers, would not divulge the logic behind the decision to drop the case. But, she added, “it is unfair to blame Penguin India, because this was beyond their control.”

On Friday, Penguin India finally released a statement, which suggested that the relevant Indian law “will make it increasingly difficult for any Indian publisher to uphold international standards of free expression.” This may be true, but it is a claim that should have been tested by seeing the case through to its conclusion.

In the absence of further clarification from Penguin, we are left with the dispiriting sight of the world’s largest trade publisher—the recently merged Penguin Random House—surrendering to a spurious legal threat from a minor advocacy group. Seen from this perspective, it seems certain that the decision to withdraw the book was not made in Delhi. It is all too easy to imagine that Bertelsmann and Pearson, the European conglomerates that share ownership of the company, concluded that a long legal struggle to defend free speech in India was not worth even a minor cost to the bottom line. It is a decision that they may come to regret. The outrage at Penguin, particularly among writers, continues to grow. The Booker Prize-winning novelist and essayist Arundhati Roy, who is published by Penguin, wrote an open letter to the company that appeared in the Times of India, among other venues, on Thursday. “Even though there was no fatwa, no ban, not even a court order, you have not only caved in, you have humiliated yourself abjectly before a fly-by-night outfit,” Roy wrote. “You must tell us what happened. What was it that terrified you? You owe us, your writers an explanation at the very least.”

Many commentators have noted, ruefully, that Penguin was the original publisher of “The Satanic Verses,” and that it refused to back down even after Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s fatwa calling for Salman Rushdie’s murder, which was issued exactly twenty-five years ago this week. What is noted less frequently, at least outside of India, is that the first country to outlaw the book was not Iran but Rushdie’s native land. India prohibited the book’s import and sale in October of 1988, only nine days after its publication in England. Muslim political leaders approached the Indian government—led by the third-generation Indian National Congress dynast Rajiv Gandhi—and urged a preëmptive ban.
Khomeini is long dead, but India’s ban on “The Satanic Verses” has never been lifted; the precedent it set remains very much in place. In 2012, Rushdie’s scheduled appearance at the Jaipur Literature Festival was scuttled by threats of violence from local Muslim leaders, after police in the state of Rajasthan, then under a Congress government, essentially signalled that they would refuse to protect the festival if Rushdie showed up. It was a depressing but instructive episode: the religious passions ranged against Rushdie were all too real, but the deciding issue was the transparent cynicism of the political response. Elections in Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, were about to begin, and the Congress Party, which had once commanded the overwhelming support of the state’s sizable minority of Muslim voters, hoped to woo them back by keeping Rushdie away from Jaipur.
The Congress Party is almost certain to be defeated in this year’s general elections, but there may be reason to believe, as some reports on the Doniger case have suggested, that the likely victory of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party will further chill free speech in India. Narendra Modi, the autocratic chief minister of the western state of Gujarat and the B.J.P.’s prime-ministerial candidate, is no friend to free expression: in 2011, Gujarat banned “Great Soul,” a biographical study of Gandhi by the former New York Times executive editor Joseph Lelyveld, allegedly on the basis of misleading newspaper reports suggesting that it depicted the Mahatma as a homosexual. Modi urged the central government to ban the book nationwide, and demanded an apology from Lelyveld.

Modi’s most fervent admirers have cheered the victory against Doniger. Subramanian Swamy, an outspoken B.J.P. leader who resembles a Hindu-nationalist hybrid of Larry Klayman and Glenn Beck—a legal gadfly who files endless cases against the government of India and circulates outlandish conspiracy theories—gloated on Twitter, “Wendy Doniger buckles before the coming Saffron wave.” Batra, who filed the case against “The Hindus,” announced that his next target would be Doniger’s most recent book, “On Hinduism,” a massive collection of essays published, in 2013, by Aleph, a smaller Indian firm. “The good times are coming,” Batra told a reporter for Mint, ominously. “Believe me.”

Indian liberals, who are already greeting the prospect of Modi’s victory with declarations of panic, believe his influence has already silenced dissenting voices in the media. The withdrawal of Doniger’s book, according to this view, is another unhappy omen of what the ascendant Hindu right has in store. But the evidence for these claims is circumstantial: the history of the Indian media is the history of attempts at its manipulation, a dirty game always played best by whichever party holds office. The suppression of free speech and the suborning of journalists are trusted means to demonstrate and wield political power in India, and there is little reason to hope that might soon change.