Maharashtra Politics News

How 'shaktishaali' Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh has ducked mud so far
The Indian Express | 1 week ago | |
The Indian Express
1 week ago | |

In the wrestling arena or out of it, fighting as a candidate of the BJP or the Samajwadi Party, in the contest as candidate or with his wife as proxy, Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh has rarely lost a bout. But that streak might end now, with the growing allegations of sexual harassment against him by women wrestlers, who are demanding Singh’s resignation as the president of the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI).A wrestler who tumbled into politics via the Ram Janmabhoomi movement, and who continues to face a case in the Babri Masjid demolition, Singh, 66, has kept his feet planted on the ground courtesy the image of a “dabangg” leader – or a “shaktishaali (powerful)” one, as he likes calling himself — who doesn’t need the BJP as much as the BJP needs him in at least half-a-dozen districts around his native Gonda in Uttar Pradesh.Singh is six-term MP (once from the SP), who has represented Gonda, Balrampur and now moved onto Kaiserganj, while his son Prateek Bhushan is into his second term as MLA from Gonda Sadar.This formidable record also explains why despite several scraps with the party, including the government of UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, there has been no attempt to touch his 10-year tenure as the WFI president and as vice-president of the United World Wrestling-Asia.Local leaders talk about the grand celebrations he holds every year on his birthday on January 8, where students shortlisted via a talent search examination are rewarded with motorcycles, Scooty and cash. This year, the event in Gonda and adjoining districts such as Lucknow, Ayodhya, Bahraich, Shrawasti, Balrampur and Barabanki saw the participation of Union Minister of State for Finance Pankaj Chaudhary.BJP leaders also mention the goodwill Brij Bhushan Singh has earned due to his active association with more than 50 educational institutions, including engineering, pharmacy, education and law, that that he helped set up in Bahraich, Gonda, Balrampur, Ayodhya and Shrawasti districts.“He has developed an empire in these districts through his clout. He gives a fee waiver to those students who are unable to pay. So, if he wins elections, it is both because of his clout and goodwill,” says a BJP leader from Gonda.At the same time, BJP leaders say, the party has kept its distance by not giving him any position within the organisation and Union government despite his repeated poll wins. His own team of workers look after his constituency including day-to-day issues that might come up.“Singh only takes the symbol of the party. He wins elections on his own,” says another party leader.The confidence means Singh has got away with incidents such as his criticism of the Adityanath government during the floods in the state in October last year. He accused the administration of being ill-prepared, not doing enough for relief, and said people had been left “bhagwan bharose (to the mercy of god)”. Singh also said that the existing government did not tolerate criticism and took it personally.While the Opposition raised the remarks to attack the Adityanath government, Singh did not earn any rebuke from the BJP.He has praised SP leader Azam Khan, one of the BJP’s biggest bugbears in the state, as “a mass leader”, and threatened Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray against visiting Ayodhya till he had apologised publicly for “humiliating” north Indians in Mumbai. The BJP had been courting the MNS leader as an ally at the time of topsy-turvy politics in Maharashtra.In private, the BJP had dismissed Singh’s remarks as publicity stunts.It was due to his association with the Ram Janmabhoomi movement and his influence in the areas around Ayodhya that Singh initially came to the notice of the BJP. The party first fielded him from the Gonda Lok Sabha seat in 1991. He won, and never looked back. In 1996, when he did not contest, the party gave a ticket to his wife Ketaki Devi Singh, and she too won.A constant presence at wrestling tournaments, be it national or international, senior or junior, Singh can be spotted with a microphone in hand, overseeing bouts, often shouting out instructions to referees, stopping and starting bouts and, at times, even throwing the rule book at judges. When he can’t be there, he is known to “monitor the proceedings virtually”.Whatever comes of the serious allegations Singh is now facing, that is almost certain to change.

How 'shaktishaali' Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh has ducked mud so far
In PM Modi’s message to BJP, the subtext: To find another gear, create soft power and goodwillPremium Story
The Indian Express | 1 week ago | |
The Indian Express
1 week ago | |

BJP leaders have said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s address at the concluding session of the party’s national executive meeting had a clear message — focus on creating a “soft power” and “goodwill” to expand the party and increase its tally in the 2024 general elections to take the BJP’s journey of electoral victories to the next level.In the address, which emphasised on reaching out to more of the marginalised, minorities and small communities, Modi urged the BJP cadre to embrace the fact that the BJP is the ruling party at the Centre and many key states, and “think beyond conventional politics and electoral politics”.“To me, Prime Minister Modi was saying that the BJP should adopt a new style of politics to create soft power and goodwill among all sections of the people. He wants the BJP to create a positive atmosphere. The goodwill and soft power should help increase the BJP’s tally in the next Lok Sabha elections,” said a senior BJP leader.Modi’s reference to the age group of 18-25 in his speech also indicated that the party would also focus on that age group — youths in that age group are keen on development and a corruption-free government, according to Modi — to turn it into a strong loyal BJP support base.Party sources said the prime minister’s speech had given a clear signal that both the government and the party would take several initiatives in the coming days to see that the BJP gets more seats in the Lok Sabha elections. “Every step in the coming days, including the Budget, would keep that in mind,” said a party MP.In his speech to the national executive, Modi asked party members to reach out to every section of society, including the marginalised and minority communities, “without electoral considerations”. He wants BJP workers to reach out to Pasmandas, Bohras, Muslim professionals, and educated Muslims as a confidence-building measure and without expecting votes in return.Modi, who had a notebook with points scribbled on it while speaking, reiterated his message of reaching out to marginalised groups among the minorities at the Hyderbad National Executive meeting too. He also spoke about the Sikh community that, according to him, has a positive feeling about the BJP. He pointed out that the Sikh community is present in many districts outside Punjab too and the BJP cadre “should not ignore them” thinking they are too small to make any electoral difference.Recalling what the PM spoke about, a BJP leader said, “He said don’t always think about votes only. He also mentioned the small groups of backward communities and said they always stood by the BJP since the Jana Sangh days. He said there are small communities like Bohras, among whom there are several educated Muslims. They do not vote for the BJP but cooperate with the party in many activities. The Prime Minister specifically said Muslims would not vote for the BJP, but that should not stop us from reaching out to them.”A party leader said, “The target is to increase the BJP’s tally from 303 and return to power with more glory. Because the positive atmosphere will create a favourable situation for us — to talk about development work and to expand our base.”Another significant point the Prime Minister harped on was India’s global positioning. According to Modi, the global situation post Covid has a “lot of prospects and chances” and India should let them pass by. Even the national executive statement on the G-20 presidency mentioned the changed world order in the last nine years. According to BJP vice president Baijayant Panda who briefed the media on the statement, the G-20 and, in general, the world is “full of admiration” as India not only dealt with the Covid crisis but also reached out with help to other countries.Panda said BJP workers, in their individual capacity, would work to connect society as the country hosts over 200 G20-related events in more than 50 places. He added it was an opportunity to connect the society and showcase India’s progress and its rich heritage as delegates from not only the elite bloc of 20 leading economies but also many multilateral bodies such as the International Monetary Fund would visit India.

In PM Modi’s message to BJP, the subtext: To find another gear, create soft power and goodwillPremium Story
How Covid’s bitter divisions tarnished a liberal icon- Jacinda Ardern
The Indian Express | 1 week ago | |
The Indian Express
1 week ago | |

Written by Damien CaveJacinda Ardern explained her decision to step down as New Zealand’s prime minister Thursday with a plea for understanding and rare political directness — the same attributes that helped make her a global emblem of anti-Trump liberalism, then a target of the toxic divisions amplified by the coronavirus pandemic.Ardern, 42, fought back tears as she announced at a news conference that she would resign in early February before New Zealand’s election in October.“I know what this job takes, and I know that I no longer have enough in the tank to do it justice,” she said. “It is that simple.”Ardern’s sudden departure before the end of her second term came as a surprise to the country and the world. New Zealand’s youngest prime minister in 150 years, she was a leader of a small nation who reached celebrity status with the speed of a pop star.Her youth, pronounced feminism and emphasis on a “politics of kindness” made her look to many like a welcome alternative to bombastic male leaders, creating a phenomenon known as “Jacindamania.”Her time in office, however, was mostly shaped by crisis management, including the 2019 terrorist attack in Christchurch, the deadly White Island volcanic eruption a few months later and COVID-19 soon after that.The pandemic in particular seemed to play to her strengths as a clear and unifying communicator — until extended lockdowns and vaccine mandates hurt the economy, fueled conspiracy theories and spurred a backlash. In a part of the world where COVID restrictions lingered, Ardern has struggled to get beyond her association with pandemic policy.“People personally invested in her; that has always been a part of her appeal,” said Richard Shaw, a politics professor at Massey University in Palmerston North, New Zealand.“She became a totem,” he added. “She became the personification of a particular response to the pandemic, which people in the far-flung margins of the internet and the not so far-flung margins used against her.”The country’s initial goal was audacious: Ardern and a handful of prominent public health researchers who were advising the government held out hope for eliminating the virus and keeping it entirely out of New Zealand. In early 2020, she helped coax the country — “our team of 5 million,” she said — to go along with shuttered international borders and a lockdown so severe that even retrieving a lost cricket ball from a neighbor’s yard was banned.When new, more transmissible variants made that impossible, Ardern’s team pivoted but struggled to get vaccines quickly. Strict vaccination mandates then kept people from activities like work, eating out and getting haircuts.Dr. Simon Thornley, a public health researcher at the University of Auckland and a frequent and controversial critic of the government’s COVID response, said many New Zealanders were surprised by what they saw as her willingness to pit the vaccinated against the unvaccinated.“The disillusionment around the vaccine mandates was important,” Thornley said. “The creation of a two-class society and that predictions didn’t come out as they were meant to be, or as they were forecast to be in terms of elimination — that was a turning point.”Ardern became a target, internally and abroad, for those who saw vaccine mandates as a violation of individual rights. Online, conspiracy theories, misinformation and personal attacks bloomed. Threats against Ardern have increased greatly over the past few years, especially from anti-vaccination groups.The tension escalated in February. Inspired in part by protests in the United States and Canada, a crowd of protesters camped on the Parliament grounds in Wellington for more than three weeks, pitching tents and using parked cars to block traffic.The police eventually forced out the demonstrators, clashing violently with many of them, leading to more than 120 arrests.The scenes shocked a nation unaccustomed to such violence. Some blamed demonstrators, others the police and the government.“It certainly was a dark day in New Zealand history,” Thornley said.Dylan Reeve, a New Zealand author and journalist who wrote a book on the spread of misinformation in the country, said the prime minister’s international profile probably played a role in the conspiracist narratives about her.“The fact that she suddenly had such a large international profile and was widely hailed for her reaction really seemed to provide a boost for local conspiracy theorists,” he said. “They found support for the anti-Ardern ideas from like-minded individuals globally at a level that was probably out of scale with New Zealand’s typical prominence internationally.”The attacks did not cease even as the worst of the pandemic receded. This month, Roger Stone, the former Trump adviser, condemned Ardern for her COVID approach, which he described as “the jackboot of authoritarianism.”In her speech Thursday, Ardern did not mention any particular group of critics, nor did she name a replacement, but she did acknowledge that she could not help but be affected by the strain of her job and the difficult era when she governed.“I know there will be much discussion in the aftermath of this decision as to what the so-called real reason was,” she said, adding: “The only interesting angle you will find is that after going on six years of some big challenges, that I am human. Politicians are human. We give all that we can, for as long as we can, and then it’s time. And for me, it’s time.”Suze Wilson, a leadership scholar at Massey University in New Zealand, said Ardern should be taken at her word. She said that the abuse could not and should not be separated from her gender.“She’s talking about not really having anything left in the tank, and I think part of what’s probably contributed to that is just the disgusting level of sexist and misogynistic abuse to what she has been subjected,” Wilson said.In the pubs and parks of Christchurch on Thursday, New Zealanders seemed divided. In a city where Ardern was widely praised for her unifying response to the mass murder of 51 people at two mosques by a white supremacist, there were complaints about unfulfilled promises around nuts-and-bolts issues such as the cost of housing.Tony McPherson, 72, who lives near one of the mosques that was attacked nearly four years ago, described the departing prime minister as someone who had “a very good talk, but not enough walk.”He said she fell short on “housing, health care” and had “made an absolute hash on immigration,” arguing that many businesses had large staff shortages because of a delayed reopening of borders after the lockdowns.Economic issues are front and center for many voters. Polls show that Ardern’s Labour Party has been trailing the center-right National Party, led by Christopher Luxon, a former aviation executive.On the deck of Wilson’s Sports Bar, a Christchurch pub, Shelley Smith, 52, a motel manager, said she was “surprised” at the news of Ardern’s resignation. She praised her for suppressing the community spread of the coronavirus in 2020, despite the effects on the New Zealand economy. Asked how she would remember Ardern, she replied: “As a person’s person.”That appeal may have faded, but many New Zealanders do not expect Ardern to disappear for long. Helen Clark, a former prime minister who was a mentor to Ardern, followed up her time in office by focusing on international issues with many global organizations.“I don’t know she’ll be lost to the world,” Shaw said of Ardern. “She may get a bigger platform.”

How Covid’s bitter divisions tarnished a liberal icon- Jacinda Ardern
Uddhav Thackeray likely to skip Balasaheb portrait unveiling in Maharashtra assembly
Times of India | 1 week ago | |
Times of India
1 week ago | |

MUMBAI: Shiv Sena (UBT) president Uddhav Thackeray may skip the unveiling of Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray’s oil portrait in the central hall of the legislature on his birth anniversary on Monday.The Shiv Sena (UBT) on Thursday declared that Uddhav would take part in a programme to pay tribute to his father at 7pm at Regal Circle in Colaba, where Bal Thackeray’s life-size statue is installed. The event is scheduled around the same time as the portrait unveiling in the legislature . Shiv Sena (UBT) functionaries said that since the party has announced its ownevent, Uddhav may have to skip the legislature event.The portrait will be unveiled by chief minister Eknath Shinde and deputy chief minister Devendra Fadnavis. The entire Thackeray clan, including various estranged members of the family such as MNS chief Raj Thackeray and nephew Nihar Thackeray, who had extended support to Shinde, has been invited.Central ministers from the state, cabinet ministers, state MLAs and MPs, and eminent personalities from the sports and cultural arena have also been extended invitations.Ahead of civic polls, Uddhav’s Shiv Sena appoints 3 new vibhag pramukhs in cityMumbai : Assembly speaker Rahul Narwekar said four oil paintings of Shiv Sena founder Balasaheb Thackeray had been commissioned and he would choose the one which would be hung in the central hall. “This will be an apolitical programme, one where we will pay tributes to Balasaheb and his service to the state and the country,” he said.According to the scheduleannounced by the Shiv Sena (UBT), Uddhav will visit the Tha ckeray statue in Colaba at 7pm and then head to Sion to address a meeting of party functionaries. “Since the timings of the two events clash, it is unlikely that Uddhavji will attend the even t at the legislature. But since the site is very close to Vidhan Bhavan, he just might attend too,” a Sena (UBT) functionary said.The Shiv Sena (UBT) faction has already criticised the Vidhan Bhavan event, sayingthere is politics behindit.Shiv Sena (UBT) leader Sanjay Raut hit out at the Shinde government over the portrait. “They are playing politics. Our leader Uddhav Thackeray has already called them a ‘father-stealing gang’ and there is truth in it. There is no n eed to explain who Balasaheb was to the public of Maharashtra, just as there is no need to explai n the politics behind this decision,” he said.The Sena (UBT) on Thursday appointed three new vibhag pramukhs ahead of the BMC polls. Udesh Patekar was appointed head of zone 1, which includes Borivli, Dahisar and Magathane. Patekar replaced MLC Vilas Potnis. Ajit Bhandari will be the new head for zone 2, which consists of Kandivli (East), Charkop and Malad (West). He replaced Sudhakar Su rve. Pramod Shinde will lead zone 9, which comprises Anushaktinagar, Chembur and Sion-Koliwada. Shinde replaced former corporator Mangesh Satamkar.

Uddhav Thackeray likely to skip Balasaheb portrait unveiling in Maharashtra assembly
Will unveil Bal Thackeray’s portrait in House: Maharashtra assembly speaker Rahul Narwekar
Times of India | 1 week ago | |
Times of India
1 week ago | |

MUMBAI: Amid the battle for legacy of Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray, state assembly speaker Rahul Narwekar announced a programme on his birth anniversary-January 23-to unveil the Hindutva icon's oil portrait in the central hall of the assembly.Shiv Sena (UBT) faction criticised the event, saying there is politics behind the decision and the Shinde government is a "father-stealing gang". The faction pays homage to Bal Thackeray at Shivaji Park on his birth anniversary, raising questions on whether its top leadership will attend the event.The portrait will be unveiled by CM Shinde and deputy CM Devendra Fadnavis. The entire Thackeray family, including Uddhav and various estranged members of the family, have been invited. Govt is playing politics: Raut on Bal Thackeray portrait unveiling eventFor the special event to unveil the portrait of Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray in the state assembly on his birth anniversary on January 23, apart from the Thackeray family, estranged members such as MNS chief Raj Thackeray and nephew Nihar Thackeray, who had extended support to Shinde, have been invited. Central ministers from Maharashtra, cabinet ministers, state MLAs and MPs and eminent personalities from the sports and cultural arena have also been extended invitations.State assembly speaker Rahul Narwekar said four oil paintings had been commissioned and he would choose the one which would be hung in the central hall. "This will be an apolitical programme, where we will pay tributes to Balasaheb and his service to the state and the country," he said.Shiv Sena (UBT) leader Sanjay Raut hit out at the Shinde government over the portrait. "They are playing politics. Our leader Uddhav Thackeray has already called them a 'father-stealing gang' and there is truth behind it," he said. "There is no need to explain who Balasaheb was to the public of Maharashtra, just as there is no need to explain the politics behind this decision."Speaking about the disqualification petitions of 14 Sena (UBT) MLAs initiated by him, which are pending before Supreme Court, Narwekar said, "The law is clear. The final decision on disqualification is taken by the speaker. Only if the decision goes against the law or is unconstitutional, can the court interfere."

Will unveil Bal Thackeray’s portrait in House: Maharashtra assembly speaker Rahul Narwekar
Why separatist politics has plagued Pakistan since its inceptionPremium Story
The Indian Express | 1 week ago | |
The Indian Express
1 week ago | |

In 1933, Rahmat Ali, a student at Cambridge University envisioned the birth of Pakistan. Its name was an acronym representing the areas that Ali believed should secede from British India – Punjab, Afghania, Kashmir, Sindh, and Baluchistan. The state of Bengal, then home to more Muslims than any other province of the British Raj, was not part of this plan. The omission of Bengal would prove to be symbolic of Pakistan’s political trajectory, but, even without it, the name would constitute not one unified nation but rather a sum of its parts.Today, Pakistan comprises four administrative units (Punjab, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and Baluchistan,) one federal territory (the Islamabad Capital Territory,) and two occupied territories (Pakistan Occupied Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan.) The country follows a federal structure, which, in theory, divides power between the centre and the provinces. However, conflicts between the provinces have dominated Pakistan politics since the country’s inception in 1947, with several regions demanding autonomy or independence. Author Smruti Pattanaik describes Pakistan’s quest for federalism in damning terms, noting that “the ruling elites in Pakistan in their quest for nationalism and national unity have always tried to suppress any spirit of genuine federalism perceiving it as a prelude to separatism.” However, in their attempt to quash separatism, these elites may have inadvertently catalysed it instead.As historian Saman Zulfqar notes in the Politics of New Provinces in Pakistan, even though Pakistan is a federal country, the concept of federation has not been fully defined with demands for regional economic autonomy and conflicts between the federal government and the units increasing over time. Different regions have different rationales for separatism with perhaps the most compelling coming from the dominant province of Punjab. According to the 2017 Census of Pakistan, Punjab accounts for 110 million of Pakistan’s 243 million strong population. The notion of breaking up the province is rooted in the argument that it is impossible to have effective administrative structures to deliver services to such a vast population.That problem is exacerbated by the disparities between different regions within Punjab. For example, the poverty rate of South Punjab is 43 per cent, compared to 27 per cent in the rest of the province. According to Dawn, out of the 12 industrialised districts in Pakistan’s east, 10 are in Southern Punjab.In Balochistan, separatist tendencies date back to the pre-independence era. Nationalist leaders in Balochistan campaigned for an independent state during the last decades of the Raj and one day after the creation of Pakistan, declared Balochistan as an independent nation. Pakistani leadership rejected this declaration and forcibly annexed the region nine months later. Subsequently, there have been a series of conflicts between the state and Baloch nationalists.The occupied region of Gilgit Baltistan (G-B) seeks to change its administrative status. G-B was granted provisional status by then Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan in 2020 after a series of protests demanding more constitutional rights for its people. But that status has not yet been conferred.Calls for separatism have also been echoed in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, a semi-autonomous tribal region in north-western Pakistan, and in Bahawalpur, a city in central Punjab. The current debate over federalism was fuelled by the passage of the 18th Constitutional Amendment in 2010, which saw an unprecedented transfer of power from the centre to the provinces, but in truth, the seeds of conflict have existed since 1947.Though Pakistan was conceived as an Islamic homeland by its founders in the days of the Independence movement, the idea carried little traction with India’s Muslims. The All-India Muslim League formally demanded the creation of Pakistan in 1940, asserting that Indian Muslims were a nation and not a minority. By doing so, the Muslim League, and its leader, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, hoped to position themselves as the spokespeople for India’s Muslims. However, the League drew most of its support from Muslim minority areas, having suffered a serious rejection from Muslim voters in the majority provinces in the 1937 general elections.Consequently, as the Asia Society writes, “the League had no real control over either the politicians or the populace at the base that was mobilized in the name of Islam.” In the end, Jinnah was able to get a Pakistan consisting of two Muslim majority areas of the North West and North East of British India, a compromise that he famously rejected, calling the newly formed state “a shadow and a husk- a maimed, mutilated, and moth-eaten Pakistan.”Adding to his dismay, the Congress refused to accept the Partition as a division of India between Pakistan and Hindustan. Instead, it asserted that the Partition meant that certain areas with Muslim majorities were ‘splitting off’ from the Indian Union. The implication, according to the Asia Society, was that if Pakistan disintegrated, the Muslim areas would have to return to India. Therefore, with this agreement, only a central authority could stand in the way of the reincorporation of these areas into India.Islam, while proving to be a formidable rallying cry, was not enough to unite Pakistan’s provinces, each with their own cultural associations and linguistic traditions. Moreover, as the Asia Society underlines, the diversity of Pakistan’s provinces “was a potential threat to central authority,” with each, in their individualism, representing the dichotomy of support the League had across the country.The early days of Pakistan’s formation were marred by constitutional crises fuelled by debates over the role of Islam, the status of provincial representation, and the distribution of power. Pakistan would formulate its first constitution only in 1956 and just two years later, would suffer its first military coup.This instability was compounded by the refugee crisis derived from Partition. In her book, Life after Partition, historian Sarah Ansari argues that the massive influx of refugees from India and subsequently Afghanistan, radically altered the demographics and socio-political composition of Pakistan. The change, she writes, was most acutely felt in Sindh, which saw its traditionally Sindhi population overrun by “well organised colonies” of refugees who were apathetic towards the local culture and language.Between 1901 and 1951, the rural population of Sindh increased by 40 per cent, and the urban population by 120 per cent. Furthermore, as Sushant Sareen writes for the non-profit Observer Research Foundation, while the Punjabi migrants were able to assimilate with the dominant groups, what the migrants to Sindh had in common was “their physical and psychological separation from the host population of Sindh”.Despite these initial challenges, the Pakistani state could still claim to be the representative of South Asia’s Muslim population. However, that would change with the loss of East Pakistan in 1971.As per the 1951 census, the Dominion of Pakistan had a population of 75 million, of which, 33.7 million resided in West Pakistan, and 42 million in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh,) with the two halves of the country divided by almost 2000 kilometres. This unique situation would serve as the basis of a brutal power struggle between East and West.According to Gulawar Khan, in a paper for the University of Westminster, Punjab, which dominated the military and bureaucracy during the colonial period, did not want to lose its supremacy in Pakistan under the majority of Bengal. Maintaining its control would only be possible with the merger of smaller provinces into one large province dominated by Punjab.Consequently, in 1955, the Pakistan government introduced the controversial One Unit scheme that amalgamated Sindh, Punjab, the North West Frontier Province and Baluchistan into a single province called West Pakistan. The remainder of the country, comprising the populous province Bengal, was named East Pakistan.One Unit pitted East Pakistan against West, with issues from the division presenting themselves from the very beginning. The first conflict between the two stemmed from language. While Urdu was deemed to be the sole national language of Pakistan, the population of East Pakistan demanded that Bengali, spoken by the majority, also be included. When the West refused, protests broke out, causing Jinnah, by then in failing health, to visit Dhaka to try and calm the situation.Although Bengali was recognised as a national language in the constitution of 1965, by then, more serious problems had begun to emerge. According to a report published by the Brookings Institute, the country’s Punjabi dominated government prioritised development in the West, recruited for the army and the bureaucracy primarily from the West, and treated the East “like a colony separated from its motherland by India.”The report notes that at the time, Pakistan was already suffering from a weak economy, inexperience in governance, tribal tensions and an increasingly tense conflict with India. Against that volatile backdrop, the battle between East and West would prove “fatal” for Pakistani democracy.The situation would only get worse after the 1958 military coup led by Ayub Khan, the chief of army staff. Khan planned to infiltrate Jammu & Kashmir with Pakistanis who would then foment an uprising to prompt a Pak intervention. However, Khan’s plan failed to achieve its desired results, ending in a stalemate that led Khan to recognise the vulnerabilities posed by East Pakistan to a country at war.According to the Brookings report, Khan publicly conceded that East Pakistan, surrounded on three sides by India, was “virtually indefensible.” His statements further convinced the aggrieved East Pakistanis that the central government didn’t care about their interests, and were prepared to lose the region in order to gain Kashmir.Khan resigned in 1969 and was replaced by Yahya Khan, who attempted to appease the Bengalis by promising free elections. In 1970, the Awami League, an independence-leaning Bengali party, swept the polls, winning 160 out of 162 seats in East Pakistan and consequently gaining a majority in Pakistan’s National Assembly. Yahya refused to accept the results of the election, instead enforcing a brutal crackdown on the East, resulting in an estimated three million deaths. New Delhi soon intervened and in 1971, Pakistan surrendered to Indian forces and the country of Bangladesh was formed.According to Mansoor Akbar Kundi, a researcher at Istanbul University, the loss of East Pakistan undermined the notion of Pakistan as a Muslim Homeland, paving the way for even more regional conflicts between different ethnic groups. Kundi writes that ultimately “the creation of Bangladesh on the world map was the result of the power distribution over the issues of the Federal-Units relationship.”While the One Unit scheme was abandoned a year after the war, creating the four provinces that exist today, its legacy continues to live on.From the beginning, West Pakistan was dominated by Punjab, which had the largest population, best farmlands, and most representation in the military. However, as RSN Singh, a former military intelligence officer, writes for the Indian Defence Review, Punjab, like Sindh and Balochistan, was not initially enthusiastic about the concept of Pakistan.In the 1936-37 elections, the Muslim League had won only one seat out of 84 Muslim reserved seats in Punjab. Recognising the importance of the state, Jinnah entered into a pact with the ruling Unionist Party leader Sikander Hyat Khan, under which Sikander conceded to Jinnah’s claim of being the sole spokesperson for the region’s Muslims in exchange for Jinnah promising not to interfere in the politics of Punjab. However, with Sikander’s death in 1942, the Unionist Party’s dominance was eroded, its influence ceded to Jinnah, who would go on to describe Punjab as the “cornerstone” of Pakistan.From the onset, Punjab was integral to the conceptualisation of Pakistan, a fact enshrined by its political importance under One Unit. In One Unit Scheme in the Federation of Pakistan, Abdul Shakoor Chandio claims that the One Unit scheme not only created antipathy between East and West, but also between Punjab and the other provinces. Writing that the merging of all territorial units “invariably created centre-province tension,” Chandio argues that the disconnect was most notably felt in Sindh.Despite One Unit’s promise to create uniformity, Punjab was favoured by the central government, given preference in terms of taxation, salaries and recruitment. Many vocal Sindhi politicians such as G.M Syed opposed the scheme but were eventually overruled.Even after the scheme was abolished, Punjab continued to dominate national politics. Under the Pakistani system, federal institutions are structured around population size, giving Punjab 148 seats in the 336 seat Pakistani National Assembly. As a result, according to the Asia Society, “political developments in Pakistan continue to be marred by provincial jealousies and, in particular, by the deep resentments in the smaller provinces of Sindh, Balochistan, and the North-West Frontier Province against what is seen to be a monopoly by the Punjabi majority of the benefits of power, profit, and patronage”.Singh goes one step further, writing that “the Punjabi domination of Pakistan has been the biggest obstacle in nation building”.However, it is worth noting that Punjab’s influence, while significant, is not all-encompassing. In an article for The Indian Express, Sameer Arshad Khatlani points out that as of 2016, Punjabis have occupied the top army post for only 28 of 69 years. Moreover, non-Punjabi dictators have ruled Pakistan for 25 of its 34 years of military rule. Nonetheless, perceived or actual overrepresentation of the province continues to impediment the federal structure of the country.As Chanzeb Awan, a researcher at the University of Karachi notes for the Journal of South Asian Studies, “the demands for new provinces have their roots in the historic, ethnic and demographic makeup of Pakistan which were intoned intermittently ever since Independence from the British Empire in 1947. Domination of particular ethnic groups, sense of alienation, lack of justice, huge size of existing federating units in terms of population, area and inability of the successive governments have been the intrinsic factors giving periodic impetus to these demands.”

Why separatist politics has plagued Pakistan since its inceptionPremium Story
Oppn leaders hit out at Tejasvi for 'compromising passengers' safety'
The Indian Express | 1 week ago | |
The Indian Express
1 week ago | |

Opposition party leaders came down heavily on the BJP after the incident of its Bengaluru South MP Tejasvi Surya allegedly trying to open the emergency exit door of the Indigo Flight was reported. Tejasvi Surya, national president of the BJP Yuva Morcha and the party’s MP from Bengaluru South, allegedly opened the emergency exit door of an IndiGo aircraft before takeoff, at the Chennai airport on December 10 last year.Calling out the BJP VIP ‘Brats’, Congress MP Randeep Singh Surjewala tweeted: “The BJP VIP Brats ! How dare the airline complain? Is it the norm for the BJP power elite? Did it compromise passenger safety? Ohhh! U can’t ask questions about BJP’s entitled VIP’s !”The BJP VIP Brats !How dare the airline complain?Is it the norm for the BJP power elite?Did it compromise passenger safety?Ohhh!U can’t ask questions about BJP’s entitled VIP’s !https://t.co/BbyJ0oEcN6— Randeep Singh Surjewala (@rssurjewala) January 17, 2023Sharing a picture of Surya and Indigo jet, Congress leader Abhishek Singhvi, without naming the BJP MP, tweeted, “Seems someone is too eager to achieve big in political life. It doesn’t happen this way. Success in politics is a factor of humility and perseverance, not volatility and arrogance.”Seems someone is too eager to achieve big in political life. It doesn't happen this way. Success in politics is a factor of humility and perseverance, not volatility and arrogance.#Indigohttps://t.co/hj5wVS57Ro— Abhishek Singhvi (@DrAMSinghvi) January 18, 2023Asking for strict action, Shiv Sena MP Priyanka Chaturvedi tweeted. “Has ? Indigo reported this incident to DGCA? Shouldn’t one? take suo moto cognisance of this incident? What if this happened once the aircraft had taken off rather than when it was taxiing on the runway, should an apology suffice?”Has ⁦@IndiGo6E⁩ reported this incident to ⁦@DGCAIndia⁩ ? Shouldn’t one⁩ take suo moto cognisance of this incident?What if this happened once the aircraft had taken off rather than when it was taxiing on the runway,should an apology suffice? https://t.co/vWQ91e94mm— Priyanka Chaturvedi🇮🇳 (@priyankac19) January 17, 2023Supriya Shrinate, the chairperson social media and digital platforms, demanded a lesson be taught to the BJP MP. She tweeted: A mischievous man opens the emergency exit door on a flight, causing the flight to be delayed by 3 hours, the name of the person who put people at risk and inconvenience was not revealed for a month Drunk on power – that MP spreads hatred everyday This spoiled Tejasvi Surya needs to be taught a lesson.एक बददिमाग़ आदमी फ़्लाइट में इमर्जेन्सी exit door खोल देता है जिससे फ़्लाइट 3 घंटे देर से उड़ी, लोगों को असुविधा और जोखिम में लाने वाले का नाम 1 महीने तक सामने नहीं आयासत्ता के नशे में चूर – वो सांसद रोज़ नफ़रत फैलाता हैThis spoilt Tejasvi Surya needs to be taught a lesson.— Supriya Shrinate (@SupriyaShrinate) January 17, 2023Tamil Nadu DMK MLA T R B Rajaa criticised Tejasvi Surya and said: “A passenger who witnessed what happened onboard told TNM that the passengers panicked when the door was opened. “Thankfully it happened when the flight was on the ground.” It would have been really bad if something like this had happened mid-air!”"A passenger who witnessed what happened onboard told TNM that the passengers panicked when the door was opened. “Thankfully it happened when the flight was on the ground." It would have been really bad if something like this had happened mid-air !https://t.co/WNjhgmgZ1N— Dr. T R B Rajaa (@TRBRajaa) January 17, 2023The airline released a statement on Tuesday, over a month after the incident, following some media reports on it. While the reports named Surya, IndiGo, however, did not name anyone in its statement.“A passenger travelling on Flight 6E 7339 from Chennai to Tiruchirapalli on Dec 10, 2022, accidentally opened the emergency exit during the boarding process. The passenger immediately apologised for the action. As per SOPs, the incident was logged and the aircraft underwent mandatory engineering checks, which led to a delay in the flight’s departure,” the airline said.But sources at the airline confirmed that it was Surya, who was traveling with the BJP’s Tamil Nadu president K Annamalai.

Oppn leaders hit out at Tejasvi for 'compromising passengers' safety'
Détente over, Sachin Pilot back on the road, Ashok Gehlot again in his sights
The Indian Express | 2 weeks ago | |
The Indian Express
2 weeks ago | |

With the Congress high command unable to resolve the differences between Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and his former deputy Sachin Pilot so far, the truce between the two is now seemingly over. As the promised change has not been delivered by the high command, Pilot has returned to the tried-and-tested method of hitting the road and addressing public rallies to throw around his weight and show that he is second to none. At one on Monday, he even targeted the Gehlot government.Pilot addressed a rally in Nagaur on Monday and more are scheduled till January 20. The former Deputy CM is scheduled to address rallies in Hanumangarh, Jhunjhunu, Pali, and Jaipur.In his public address and even interactions with journalists, Pilot has brought up the familiar point about how the party was reduced to 21 out of 200 seats in 2013 and the hard work that was required to bring it back on track. As the state Congress president, Pilot had led this turnaround. At the first rally in Parbatsar, on Monday, the former Deputy CM’s words indicated that he was not going to relent and targeted the Gehlot government, saying that the big fish behind the recent paper leaks should be arrested instead of small-time middlemen. In response, the CM said on Tuesday, “It is the sargana (kingpin) indeed against whom we have acted. And if leaders tell us more names, we will act against them too.”His address also indicated how he is still smarting from his unsuccessful rebellion in 2020, saying that “There are many types of leaders in politics … but we have to identify the leader, the public representative jo apni zabaan ka pakka ho (a man of their word), one who doesn’t lie to you.”At the meeting, Pilot was flanked by Parbatsar MLA Ramniwas Gawriya and Ladnun legislator Mukesh Bhakar, both considered his staunch loyalists.Following the political crisis in the party in September — when legislators allied to Gehlot boycotted a Congress Legislature Party (CLP) meeting to stall any attempt to make Pilot the CM — the party sent show-cause notices to Gehlot loyalists Shanti Dhariwal, Mahesh Joshi, and Dharmendra Rathore. But despite the Pilot camp’s insistence, no action has been taken against the three and leadership issues remain pending. Ahead of the Bharat Jodo Yatra’s entry into Rajasthan in December, the fight between the two camps threatened to spill over in public yet again but the high command stepped in to ensure the march went off smoothly. In November and before the Yatra, the two flanked party leader K C Venugopal and addressed a press conference jointly to imply that all is well.But, with the central leadership content with maintaining the status quo, Pilot is back trying to reach out to people. The strategy had worked for the Tonk MLA and the Congress in 2017, too, when he undertook a 100-km padayatra in then CM Vasundhara Raje’s backyard Hadauti. While Raje is one of the MLAs from the region (Jhalrapatan), her son Dushyant Singh continues to be the Lok Sabha MP from there (Jhalawar-Baran).By mobilising his supporters and regular outreach initiatives, Pilot was instrumental in the party’s return to power in 2018. If the Congress remains in power in the coming elections, Pilot will look to make a stronger claim for the top job but Gehlot will still stand in his way.At present, the CM is handling things and stitching up his electoral plans the way he probably knows best — through administration, at least for now. On Monday and Tuesday, he chaired a Chintan Shivir with his ministers and top bureaucrats but the factional feud cast its shadow on this too. Cabinet Minister Hemaram Choudhary skipped the Chintan Shivir on Monday and spoke at Pilot’s Nagaur rally.Choudhary, who turns 75 on Wednesday, appeared to make a case for Pilot and said, “Even at 75, if I stay on in politics for a post and don’t give opportunities to others, how far is this justified? The youth have hopes that they will get a chance too. We are in power, we are sitting in the organisation. So we should think it over. If we will not think, then the youths will push us aside and take over. Then what pride will there be? Pride will remain if we give them the chance.”The six-time MLA from Gudamalani in Barmer district targeted the state government over power shortage. “We cannot say as we are in power but what is the electricity situation? People tell me over the phone that they are not getting electricity. Crops of farmers are getting damaged. Who will make the arrangement for this?”He said the farmers should have been told that electricity would not be made available. “The farmers sowed the crops. They made the entire expenditure and now they are not getting electricity. For this, the farmers will have to be united,” Choudhary added.

Détente over, Sachin Pilot back on the road, Ashok Gehlot again in his sights
Can Uddhav Thackeray’s Shiv Sena give Hindutva a new meaning?
The Indian Express | 2 weeks ago | |
The Indian Express
2 weeks ago | |

The new Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has adopted calculated cultural strategies to mobilise the lower strata of the society and has projected itself as a platform that offers inclusive participation to various marginalised social groups. With the politics of aggressive Hindutva nationalism under a maverick leadership and smartly packaged with social engineering, the BJP has emerged as a powerful political force against which the Opposition lacks strategic and ideological alternatives. However, in Maharashtra, the Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena is trying to advance a parallel version of Hindutva politics, distinct from the BJP’s model. It appears that the Sena is trying to rejuvenate Hindutva by adopting progressive religious-cultural ideas that endorse reformist-socialist values and challenge the hegemony of social elites.During the Independence struggle, Gandhi’s leadership over Congress was often criticised by Ambedkar for being pro-Hindu and for having compromising positions on caste inequalities. Gandhi neglected this criticism and used many motifs from religious and cultural traditions to build a strong ideological challenge to the colonial power. Importantly, Gandhi also stood firmly for the protection of the Muslim minority and distanced himself from the aggressive and violent methods that the right-wing political outfits, especially the Hindu Mahasabha, and later the RSS, were propagating. Often, the Gandhian method of using religion in politics is seen as ethical posturing to make power more responsible towards social duties and spiritual values.The right wing, on the other hand, has strong political motives and built its ideological position against Muslims, Western colonial culture and socialism. It was motivated to retain Brahmanical cultural and social values, while endorsing hyper-collectivist nationalism. Though it occasionally flagged reformist slogans against “untouchability” and caste-based discrimination, it never identified the upper caste domination of all the institutions of power as a problem. Instead, the right wing often showed uneasiness about the protective constitutional measures that the state offered for the empowerment of socially marginalised communities, especially the reservation policy.Both Gandhi and the RSS used Hindu religious identity and cultural symbols to mobilise the general masses. However, in post-Independence India, Nehruvian secularism emerged as the guiding principle of the new nation-state and relegated Hindutva to the margins and neglected Gandhian moral teachings. Till the late 1990s, the politics of secularism and social justice dominated the democratic sphere and the right-wing agenda remained a negligible third force in electoral battles. It was only after the demolition of the Babri Masjid that the BJP emerged as a significant political force, challenging secular social justice politics with its aggressive communal polarisation. Post-2014, with the arrival of Narendra Modi at the helm of power, the BJP has become an almost invincible force, especially in the north Indian states.The Shiv Sena under Bal Thackeray emerged as a regional, parochial and chauvinist outfit that would even resort to public hooliganism in order to create a political voice for the Marathi people. Thackeray’s militant strategies worked well and by the late-1990s, the Sena became the largest party in the state, while the BJP remained its deputy. In association with the BJP, the Sena detached itself from the progressive-reformist social movements (especially the powerful anti-Brahmanical traditions and the Dalit social movement) and continued harbouring hyper-communal politics besides projecting itself as the chief protector of the region’s dignity (Marathi Asmita).Today, the politics in the state revolves around multiple right-wing regional outfits (including the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena). They have similar political slogans and identical ideological orientations. It appears that Uddhav Thackeray has identified the problem of “excessive Hindutva” in the state and therefore was willing to bring a newer ideological orientation to his political party. Many have identified his change with his grandfather Prabodhankar Thackeray’s legacy, who was one of the important figures in the anti-caste, non-Brahmanical movement in the 1960s. The current rupture between the BJP and the Sena is also a battle to propose another popular meaning of Hindutva.Maharashtra has been the bête-noir of right-wing politics from the beginning. Although the state produced prominent figures of Hindutva politics like Tilak, Savarkar and Golwalkar, it remained distanced from communal polarisation for a long time. Importantly, on the cultural and social fronts, Dalit politics, farmers’ issues and social reformist movements dominated the intellectual and political domains and disallowed right-wing politics a recognisable space. Even Bal Thackeray often associated Hindutva with poor marginalised communities, especially the working classes of Mumbai and with the aspiring farming communities.It appears that Uddhav Thackeray wants to build Hindutva as a progressive, reformist force that would also adopt a socialist agenda to connect with the poor and the marginalised communities and challenge the traditional social and political elites. In the current context, the socially marginalised communities, working-class population and farmers are struggling as no political party has provided them with meaningful leadership. The Sena in its new avatar can emerge as a powerful platform.Political mobilisation on religious and caste identities has been a hallmark of Indian democracy. Gandhi and Ambedkar endorsed the use of religion and caste for humanist and revolutionary goals. The politics of religion will serve the social group that is the worst off and create an ethical unity. The Sena of Uddhav Thackeray, though not completely cut off from its earlier communal avatar, has shown the promise of being indifferent to communalism and connecting more to substantive issues of social justice, farmers’ questions and the rising difficulties of the working-class population. Such engagement can provide an ethical outlook to right-wing politics and make it more popular, maybe even surpassing the appeal of the existing versions of Hindutva.The writer is assistant Professor, Center for Political Studies, School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi

Can Uddhav Thackeray’s Shiv Sena give Hindutva a new meaning?
At BJP National Executive, a new slogan: 'Governance of saturation'
The Indian Express | 2 weeks ago | |
The Indian Express
2 weeks ago | |

The policies and the initiatives taken by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi government has taken the he country to “a politics of saturation and governance of saturation” and transformed Indian from “one among the fragile five economies to the fifth largest economy”, the BJP said in its socio economic resolution adopted in the national executive meeting.The resolution moved by Maharashtra deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and seconded by union minister V Muraleedharan and party MP from Haryana Sunita Duggal, lauded Modi for his achievements and for the G 20 presidency.The resolution also praised Modi’s efforts for the fast construction of Ram Temple in Ayodhya. “The opposition was trying to ridicule the BJP asking for the time schedule for the Ram Temple construction. Now the Temple is being made and now the dates are also announced,” said Union Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan who was briefing the media on the socio economic resolution.Pradhan listed the government’s welfare initiatives which included free ration to poor, direct benefit transfer of Rs 22.6 lakh crore for the beneficiaries in order to check leakages and the increase in the fund for PM housing schemes (from RS 75 000 per unit to 1.5 lakh per unit ). “India is fast becoming the leader in the digital transaction and Joe 40/100 digital transactions happen in India,” he saidPradhan said the unicorns and start ups have made the Indian youth from job seekers to job providers. “The government’s initiatives have not only strengthened the economy and made it Atmanirbhar (self reliant), an awareness also has been created about India’s position,” the minister said.The minister said India’s contribution in global GDP has gone up from 2.6 percent 3.5 percent.According to Pradhan, the Modi government has led to the country to a “politics of saturation and governance of saturation” Explaining it, he said that the government has made its promise of Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas a reality by reaching the benefits of its programs to every common citizen irrespective of religious or caste or region. “The vyavasta is for everyone. The bottom of the pyramid people get the delivery at their doorstep. That’s what we meant by governance of saturation,” Pradhan said.

At BJP National Executive, a new slogan: 'Governance of saturation'
Lessons on nationalism, globalism – and Hinduism – from RRRSign In to read
The Indian Express | 2 weeks ago | |
The Indian Express
2 weeks ago | |

Many in India and the diaspora are rightly feeling cheerful about the success of RRR at the Golden Globe Awards.Some critics, of course, are concerned about identity and appropriation issues in and around the movie. In parts of the US media that hold a rather monolithic view of South Asian politics, critics warned RRR’s Western fans that the movie had some “regressive” politics and themes (“because Ram” as one might put it these days). In India, some critics have said that the movie fails to do justice to subaltern viewpoints, portraying Bhim as subservient to Ram, for example.These academic debates are well-known, but there is a broader lesson from RRR’s growing global profile that is both practically useful – and urgently relevant – for everyone confused and confounded by questions of identity in a world that is both intensely global, and yet deeply nationalistic, at political, cultural, and existential levels.Indians, and by extension, India, I believe face a crisis of lack of understanding and competence in international communication, which might have been less alarming in a less interconnected time in the past, but is proving disastrously divisive and self-defeating for us at this time — whether this “us” is what these days is called “Left” or “Right”. After colonialism, after the declining Nehruvian experiment, after Mandal and Mandir and Masjid and all that has come, we are more confused than ever, in my view, about what it means to invoke a sense of togetherness in the name of the nation, in the name, specifically, of India.How do we communicate, as Indians and as all the multiple identities that often go alongside being Indian, in regional, local, religious or cultural terms? Is there a lesson from RRR’s global appeal, which might be nationalism, or might be despite nationalism?There are two examples from the past few days we could consider here.The first of these was about RRR. Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy tweeted that RRR had made Telugus proud only to be rebuked by singer Adnan Sami who insisted that the Telugu evocation would stoke separatism just like Partition had once done.Was it a case of cultural misunderstanding by Sami, or just social media fingers? I do not know, but this incident was a stark reminder of how ludicrous the obsession with policing “anti-nationals” has become in some circles.As a Telugu person myself, and one who saw the division of our state into Andhra Pradesh and Telangana unfold in my own life, I thought that the chief minister’s comment about the “Telugu flag” flying high (and RRR’s own rather explicit Telangana-Andhra brotherhood themes), was a welcome gesture in celebrating our own historical “unity in diversity” as it were. Suggesting that a “Telugu flag” might be hostile to the “Indian flag” as Sami did, seemed bizarrely misplaced (and I hope he realises that we Telugus actually have a bit of a friendly claim on being able to call the Indian flag itself a “Telugu flag” because of Pingali Venkayya!)The second example of “anti-national” invocations that misfired is not about RRR though and is actually a bit more disturbing.A Hindu temple of the Swaminarayan tradition in Australia was desecrated recently with graffiti praising Sikh militant leader Jarnail Bhindranwale and condemning Prime Minister Narendra Modi.What is peculiar about the reactions to this incident is that the temple management condemned the incident on social media not for being “anti-Hindu”, but rather explicitly for being “anti-India”.Although some anti-Hinduphobia activists clearly saw the vandalism as anti-Hindu in nature (after all, if the grievance of the perpetrators was with “India”, why did they not protest at the Indian mission, why did they pick on a Hindu temple?), it is a telling comment on the naivety or complicity of many in the Indian diaspora with a dated conception of nationalism in a global age.Simply put, the phrase “anti-national” or “anti-India” does not mean anything negative at all in a global context today where there are people, not only non-Indians but even fellow South Asians, who do not see being “anti-India” as a sin, crime, or problem in any way.To an average Australian or Canadian or American, someone of South Asian descent claiming to be a proud Indian or proud Tamil or Kashmiri or Punjabi does not really make a difference. The diaspora can’t simply expect a phrase that might have some currency in India to have the same persuasive effect in a global context, unlike say, a universal, human rights concept that highlights something far more fundamental, like religious hatred.If a Hindu temple is attacked, the word for it is “Hinduphobic”, not “anti-India.”Yet, this is where much of the diaspora and the patriotic Indian’s conversation is stuck these days, a result perhaps of too much state and social media indoctrination at near-religious levels around the label of the nation.To conclude on a less pessimistic note though, I believe RRR is still more evocative of a harmony between the universal, national and local than critics would admit.Some in the West might fault the movie for its monolithic depiction of the British as cruel racist colonisers, but the fact remains that this did not prevent a lot of Western viewers from being entertained, and charmed, by RRR’s unique mix of Telugu-nativity and pan-Indian diversity.At the end of the day, we humans probably want stories where the underdog rises again from defeat and pain to win, and where a man seemingly on the wrong side of the story actually turns out to be not quite so at all.And we humans, most of all, perhaps want to see movies in which as heroic, strong, and decent as our heroes are, they are only human, and our planet, with its forests, animals, goddesses, and gods is more than human — Anthropocene and anthropocentricity notwithstanding.RRR roared for the gods; not “my gods” or “your gods”, but just “the gods”, and it showed.The writer is professor of media studies at the University of San Francisco

Lessons on nationalism, globalism – and Hinduism – from RRRSign In to read
Mohan Bhagwat’s support for the LGBTQ+ community is conditional and exclusionary
The Indian Express | 2 weeks ago | |
The Indian Express
2 weeks ago | |

Written by Sudipta Das and Anushree SamantIn a recent interview with the magazine, Organiser, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat extended his “support” to the LGBTQI+ community in India. RSS’ “acceptance” of the queer community has put many of us in a strange position. Are we supposed to celebrate this statement or unpack it to see what it actually means for us and the movement? As queer and/or trans people ourselves, how do we make sense of the range of reactions and responses to the interview, across the community?Even the smallest snippet of the interview in question reveals that Bhagwat’s language and tone was tolerant, not accepting, and came across like a performance. RSS’s stance has been quite extreme on queer issues over the years. This sudden shift in tone also comes with caution. We must not create much hullabaloo about our lives. They accept (read: tolerate) us and that solves all our problems.“Acceptance” itself is an inherently political act that tactfully presupposes that our existence needs the consideration of other people. Throughout the interview, Mohan Bhagwat reiterates how “LGBT, Tritiya Panthi” people have always been a part of Indian culture and mythology — largely imagined to be Hindu-centric. People have, throughout history, found ways of co-existing with queer and trans people without much of a hullabaloo, which apparently is the best practice. We should continue existing the way we have in the past — “silently”.Growing up, many of us were silenced. “Be whatever you are, in private,” we were told when we tried to open up to our families. The interview, uncannily similar in tone, reminded us how silence has been a violent tool, used to dismiss our reality and deny us authenticity in our own homes. The flipside of: “Be whatever you are, in private” is: “Don’t be yourself in public spaces”. We grew up in a world where silence spoke louder than any words uttered.Taken rhetorically, the speech also perpetuates a certain idea of “acceptance” by fitting us in the same cis-het archetype of marriage and heteronormative families. It is unfortunate that many people residing outside of queer-trans realities have not only failed to but also refused to see the way we have reimagined the idea of a “family” — creating radical possibilities by centering compassion, community, care. Throughout history, queer people have thrived within hijra gharanas, chosen families, living with multiple partners, loving and letting go.At a time when the queer community itself is deliberating on the question of same-sex marriage, Bhagwat’s comments are especially important. Rajeev Anand Kushwah, a research associate at CLPR, in their paper, wrote: “Many radical queer activists are against the notion of conservation of property, continuation of bloodline and placing the nuclear and conjugal family on a pedestal … This is particularly relevant to caste endogamy. There is a fear that same-sex marriage might lead to the furtherance of savarna gays and lesbians to marry each other and would not really undermine caste hierarchies.” Marriage has historically been the institution that perpetuates caste purity, religious monogamy, class adherence, and of course, heterosexuality. How do we then position ourselves within the contours of marriage politics?There are many important issues alongside same-sex marriage that influence our day-to-day lives — housing, healthcare services, horizontal reservation, employment, to name a few. The onus of dismantling every oppressive system that has been created and perpetuated by people in positions of power should definitely not be on queer and trans people. We can and should be able to comply with systems that give us safety, access, and social recognition. But, the respect and safety we are afforded shouldn’t be contingent on how well we conform to these standards/systems.Bhagwat’s interview and politics in general is centred around the “Hindu Rashtra”. Everything said is within that context. When queerness is articulated in deep cohesion with religion, a relevant question is: What of those of us who are queer but not Hindu? India is a secular country; we have queer people with diverse religious identities. The monopolisation of the queer community by the Hindu right is not only concerning but also detrimental to the radical politics of abolishing the hierarchy of religion and caste to imagine true queer liberation. Many of us are queer and not Hindu, many of us are queer and Hindu and have a difficult relationship with our religion. Mohan Bhagwat shared some snippets from Hindu mythology, “Jarasandh had two generals – Hans and Dimbaka. When Krishna fanned a rumor that Dimbaka had died, Hans committed suicide. What does this story suggest? That the two generals were in that sort of a relationship.” This is one of many stories from mythology. The issue with one story isn’t that it’s untrue, but telling it as a standalone tale is deceptive, and paints an incomplete picture. Most Indian mythology has savarna dominance and Brahmanism built-in. We are complex beings with many identities. Co-opting one and continuing to sabotage the other doesn’t serve any real purpose. It only reflects the neglect and lack of awareness, which brings violence into our lives. Queer Liberation can’t be seen in isolation, we need to build solidarity across various movements. That is the only way to ensure that we do not leave behind people who exist on the margins, even and especially in queer and trans spaces.Again, accepting us is not even the beginning of the journey. We need to make “acceptance” the norm, regardless of religion and caste. That’s the “Queer Rashtra” we imagine.Das is a Dalit-queer feminist writer working with The YP Foundation. They write on media, caste, sexuality and queer rights.Samant is a queer-affirmative trauma-informed therapist who works independently.

Mohan Bhagwat’s support for the LGBTQ+ community is conditional and exclusionary
Beyond the ballot | Sharad Yadav and the Lohia legacy
The Indian Express | 2 weeks ago | |
The Indian Express
2 weeks ago | |

Three months after Mulayam Singh Yadav passed away, Sharad Yadav, eight years younger to him, died on January 12. Both were representatives of the Lohiaite political tradition and the Mandal upsurge that transformed the politics of northern India in the 1990s. Mulayam Singh started his political career in the 1960s when the socialist parties had significant influence in the Hindi heartland. Sharad Yadav, however, was a product of the JP movement. In fact, his entry into national imagination was dramatic: he won the Jabalpur Lok Sabha seat in a bypoll in late 1974 as the common Opposition candidate when the Congress under Indira Gandhi lorded over Parliament and the Opposition was in a shambles.In his monumental work, Birth of Non-Congressism: Opposition politics 1947-1975, socialist theoretician Madhu Limaye writes that Yadav’s victory came as a shot in the arm for the Opposition. He writes: “JP (Jayaprakash Narayan) himself hailed it as a popular victory. He warned that the success should not be regarded as a victory of a party or even of opposition parties, but as victory of the people. He wanted intensification of the people’s movement throughout the country.”In the backdrop of Mrs Gandhi turning authoritarian and her government targeting institutions such as the judiciary and curtailing civil liberties, JP called for Opposition unity and people’s struggles. Mrs Gandhi responded by imposing the Emergency. When elections were held 21 months later in March 1977, the Congress lost power at the Centre for the first time since Independence. The Janata Party that won office was a coalition of disparate parties and ideologies (for instance, the socialists, the conservative Congress O and the communal Jana Sangh) and its success had much to do with the public anger against the Congress. The towering moral presence of JP had ensured that the janata in northern India rallied behind the Janata Party.The Janata experiment collapsed because of internal contradictions and the vaulting ambitions of its leaders. But it successfully ended the monopoly of the Congress in electoral politics. In a way, the 1977 Janata win was the culmination of the anti-Congress politics that Rammanohar Lohia had launched in the 1950s. Lohia’s anti-Congressism was not merely about power politics, it was a critique of a political culture that allowed social elites to capture and monopolise office by claiming the legacy of the freedom movement. Lohia believed that the Nehruvian Congress had deviated from Gandhi’s ideals of swaraj by continuing with colonial institutions and legacies such as the English language. He sought a social revolution by facilitating the rise of the oppressed groups, including the backward and scheduled castes, Adivasis, and women. He saw the Congress as the preserve of a national caste and class elite who leaned on colonial institutions to prevent a radical democratisation of society and political power. His experiments with parties, electoral strategies, and coalition building had started to weaken the Congress in the 1960s itself and laid the ground for a new politics that emphasised the empowerment of backward classes and castes.In a way, Lohia had married Gandhi’s ideals of swaraj and sarvodaya with Ambedkar’s radical anti-caste vision. Not surprisingly, first-generation politicians such as Mulayam Singh and Sharad Yadav found in Lohia an ideological mentor. In fact, the rise of leaders such as Mulayam and Sharad Yadav was the triumph of Lohia’s political vision that imagined a shudra revolution to replace the dominance of caste elites in public life.If Lohia provided the ideological armature, the Mandal moment in 1990 provided the launch pad for the likes of Mulayam, Lalu Prasad, and Sharad Yadav to comprehensively end the Congress monopoly in UP and Bihar, which together elect 120 MPs to the Lok Sabha. The Janata Dal, itself an offshoot of the old Janata Party, and its offshoots after various splits in the 1990s — the Samajwadi Party, Rashtriya Janata Dal, Samata Party, JD(S), JD(U), Biju Janata Dal — had the potential to achieve the pole position in Indian politics but that was not to be. It was the BJP, which gained ground on the back of the Ramjanmabhoomi movement, that replaced the Congress as the pole of national politics after the 1990s.The Lohiaite politicians and the Janata Parivar ended up like Abhimanyu. They broke into the chakravyuha of electoral politics that the Congress had created but could not get out or build a new formation even as the Sangh Parivar reconstituted the chakravyuha in its own ideological terms. Sharad Yadav theorised in the 1990s that Mandal was the counter to Kamandal. By 1999, Yadav himself allied with Kamandal and became a Cabinet minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government. Even before Yadav, one of the most charismatic Lohiaites ever, George Fernandes, had joined hands with the BJP to become convenor of the NDA. The Congress, as Lohia knew it, was long dead, but non-Congressism was very much alive!Mulayam Singh Yadav and Lalu Prasad formed a bulwark against the growth of communal politics in UP and Bihar respectively. However, they can’t absolve themselves of contributing to the rise of Hindu communalism. Both held office for long years, but they preferred to consolidate their electoral gains, which were the result of a groundswell in favour of better representation for hitherto unrepresented castes, for the benefit of clan or caste members than to build political parties with a democratic culture and internal democracy. Similarly, their understanding of secularism did not envisage a politics that kept all persuasions of communalism at bay. If Lohia saw representation as a means to end the caste and class system, his followers in office manipulated it to dispense patronage and privilege. Sharad Yadav’s tirade against women’s reservation in Parliament exemplified the failure of Mandal politicians to see all women as oppressed and deserving of reservation, as Lohia had argued. Besides, Mandal failed to produce its own cultural politics, the way the Dravidian Movement did in Tamil Nadu or the communist Left in West Bengal and Kerala. The beneficiary was the Hindu right, which stepped into the ideological vacuum following the discrediting of Nehruvian socialism with Hindutva.In practice, the Janata parivar politics failed Lohia. Lohia’s social justice politics and anti-Congressism targeted an elite political culture that worked against the principles of justice and equality. His advocacy of small machines, privileging local languages over English, reservation for oppressed castes etc were meant to further the rise of an egalitarian India where all Indians irrespective of their caste, faith and gender could realise their potential. And like his mentor Mahatma Gandhi, Lohia too eschewed narrow majoritarian nationalism. His political aesthetics was neither faith-centric nor focussed on power and personal glory.Today, the spirit of Lohia lives not in the political parties that claim his legacy but more in the numerous, often localised, people’s movements that fight state or corporate appropriation of resources, bigotry and so on. The Mandal moment was successful in building a new OBC leadership, as Lohia envisaged, but the likes of Mulayam and Sharad Yadav failed to tap its energy to offer a counter-narrative of social justice politics that would stall the rise of majoritarianism in the country.amrith.lal@expressindia.com

Beyond the ballot | Sharad Yadav and the Lohia legacy
Yet more central teams in Bengal, TMC cries foul, calls them BJP proxy
The Indian Express | 2 weeks ago | |
The Indian Express
2 weeks ago | |

For the past several months, the West Bengal government is facing a “central teams” problem. Investigative teams from the Centre have regularly been making forays into the state, following allegations of corruption made by the Centre against various departments of the state administration, often in tandem with the BJPs own “fact finding” teams, keeping the Mamata Banerjee-helmed TMC government on its toes.The TMC alleges the BJP has been using central investigators as political tools since 2019, when it won big in the Lok Sabha polls, and especially after the 2021 Assembly polls, in which it received a drubbing.In their latest foray, central teams have been inspecting allegations of “misappropriation of mid-day meal funds” in the run-up to the panchayat polls, a week after the BJP’s Leader of Opposition in the state, Suvendu Adhikari, wrote to Union Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, urging him to audit the state’s utilisation of funds for the Centre’s PM Poshan scheme.In a communication to the state government last Friday, the Union Education Ministry conveyed that a team of nutrition specialists and central government officers would be visiting the state to take stock of the implementation of the PM Poshan scheme, across 16 parameters.Earlier, on January 6-7, two central teams arrived in the state to look into allegations of irregularities in allotment of houses under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY). Discontent over PMAY allotment has been growing across West Bengal for close to a year now. The Centre has initiated action by withholding its share of funds in the scheme. The Centre and the state bear the cost of the scheme at a 60:40 ratio. As the first two central teams surveyed in East Midnapore and Malda districts, more central teams arrived in West Bengal to survey the details of PMAY lists in other districts of the state.Before that in 2021, just a week after the Assembly elections, the Centre sent teams of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and National Commission for Women (NCW) to probe post-poll violence, including alleged atrocities on women.Even during the Covid outbreak in 2020-2021, central teams visited Bengal over the TMC government’s perceived mishandling of the pandemic. And last November, the state BJP had demanded that a team of medical experts visit Bengal over a dengue outbreak.According to TMC leaders, it is a common tactic to remain relevant by the BJP as it doesn’t have a grassroots organisation in West Bengal. A senior leader of the BJP said, “It is obvious that we will try to gain political mileage from this. But you can’t deny the corruption of the TMC government at all levels of administration.”This is not the first time the Centre has been alleged to be using government investigators as proxy to influence West Bengal politics. During the Left regime, Mamata Banerjee, then the Rail Minister in the UPA 2 government, had forced the Centre to send a team to probe the violence in Nandigram and elsewhere.Expectedly, the TMC is now sharply criticising this “sending central team culture” of the BJP-led central government. TMC MP Sougata Roy said, “The idea is to irritate and vex the government and disturb its activities as much as possible. They won’t succeed in their attempt.”Another TMC leader, Kunal Ghosh, said, “The Centre can send as many teams as they want and try and spread as much disinformation they wish, but the people of Bengal would see through their motives. Their leaders, who have no connection with people and are trying to stay politically relevant by resorting to letter politics, will also be rejected.”BJP leader Rahul Sinha said, “If there was no corruption the central teams would not have come here.”Echoing his sentiments, state Congress president Adhir Chowdhury said, “TMC leaders at the helm of panchayats actually run the show on the ground. They are responsible for this corruption. What has TMC leadership done to stop it?”Senior CPM leader Sujan Chakraborty said, “It is unfortunate that the Chief Minister is trying to hide the fact that there has been a huge corruption in the implementation of the scheme.”

Yet more central teams in Bengal, TMC cries foul, calls them BJP proxy
US debate on keeping armed forces apolitical has resonance in IndiaPremium Story
The Indian Express | 2 weeks ago | |
The Indian Express
2 weeks ago | |

The events of January 6, 2021, in Washington were the first occasion in the USA, when an orderly post-election transfer of political power faced a serious threat. The underlying political environment of divisiveness and polarisation that led to these events has created serious concerns amongst American military veterans as well as politicians. They fear that the upsurge of toxic politics that looms over America, also threatens the “non-partisan” ethic of the armed forces, considered vital for the survival of its democracy.Unlike in India, the American ethos does not require the military to remain “apolitical”, but demands a commitment to being “non-partisan” in their professional conduct. While the former term suggests total non-involvement in politics, the latter implies, that regardless of personal political inclinations, military officers, while upholding the constitution, must give the elected civilian leadership their best professional advice and execute their lawful orders.Alarmed at the polarisation of American society, a vigilant media has been commenting on the increasing enlistment of military veterans by politicians for boosting personal/political electoral prospects. In a co-authored article in a recent issue of Foreign Affairs magazine, General Dunford, former Chairman, US Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), declared that maintaining a nonpartisan military is a matter of “sacred trust”; not just for military officers but also for political leaders and citizens.Dunford points to a recent “open letter” signed by 13 former US Secretaries (ministers) of Defence and Chairmen JCS, (https://warontherocks.com/2022/09/to-support-and-defend-principles-of-civilian-control-and-best-practices-of-civil-military-relations/) that outlines the rules and best practices of civil-military relations. Impressing upon serving personnel, veterans and political leaders the urgent need to counter forces that threaten the military’s nonpartisan ethos, these eminent Americans not only call upon politicians to desist from “dragging the military into partisan activity” but also urge them and the media to call out offenders who violate norms of non-partisanship.Interestingly, the Foreign Affairs article also speculates about the risks that could be posed by a president, intent on politicising the military. It asks, whether a US President, who is also the commander-in-chief (C-in-C) and approving authority for general-rank promotions, could manipulate the process to fill senior military leadership positions with party/personal loyalists.We need to pay heed to the ongoing discourse in America, because, despite the economic and technological chasm that separates them, there is an uncanny similarity in the challenges that currently face American and Indian democracies, spanning their political, societal and military domains. In India, too, active-duty military personnel are prohibited from engaging in any kind of political activity by Acts of Parliament and service rules. Moreover, their conduct is circumscribed by the solemn oath of allegiance to the Constitution that each serviceman swears on recruitment/commissioning. By tradition, India’s military veterans had also, till a few years ago, remained aloof from overt political activity.As a measure of insulation, India’s armed forces, despite occasional criticism, had persevered with the “seniority-cum-merit” principle for promotion from the pool of C-in-Cs to the post of chief. The rationale was, that every officer who reached the penultimate rank of C-in-C, after 35 odd years of unblemished service, having been filtered by three successive promotion boards — each with an attrition rate of 60 per cent to 70 per cent — was equally fit for the chief’s job. Whatever the drawbacks of this approach, promoting the “senior-most of equals” obviated the possibility of political interference or nepotism in military promotions.While this principle had been accepted and upheld, with some exceptions, in the past, the present government seems to have shrugged off the constraint of “seniority”, and has started using an alternate definition of “merit”, has promoted military officers over the head of their seniors. Since selection for senior military posts remains the prerogative of the government, one cannot take exception to its discarding the seniority principle. However, by doing so, it faces an inherent risk: A selectee who considers himself beholden or indebted to the political establishment, for his out-of-turn promotion, could become a political “echo chamber” rather than a source of sound and candid professional military advise.An even greater risk of politicisation has been created by the latest rules framed for selection of the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS). By a Gazette of India notification, the Army, Navy and Air Force Acts have been amended to open the eligibility for CDS candidature, apart from serving and retired chiefs, to serving and retired officers of 3-star (Lt. Gen/equivalent) rank, with an upper age limit of 62 years for all. The retirement age of CDS has been fixed at 65 years. Without going into an extensive critique of this amendment, which has needlessly expanded the CDS candidate-pool, a few salient issues deserve the attention of our decision-makers.In almost all countries, the CDS, as the highest-ranking military officer who presides over the chiefs of staff committee, is chosen from amongst the serving chiefs. If our government wanted to enlarge its choices, it could have included recently retired chiefs in the pool. But the age limit of 62 years (at which chiefs retire), has eliminated this option. At the same time, placing serving/retired 3-star officers (some who possibly missed promotion to C-in-C rank) in the same candidate-pool as serving chiefs, not only ignores the inherent merit and vast experience — military as well as politico-strategic — of the chiefs, but also casts into doubt, the credibility of our promotion system.Lastly, with a mixed bag of serving and retired officers to choose from, and with no methodology available for assessment of professional competence, selection will have to be on spoken reputation, political loyalty and personal preference. Such subjective and problematic criteria are an invitation to arbitrariness and politicisation.Our apolitical and non-partisan military has remained a steadfast pillar of India’s democracy, silently underpinning the peaceful transfer of power after 17 general elections. Exposure of the military to political influence risks their divergence from the normative constitutional framework within which they are duty-bound to function.Sustaining India’s democracy requires that our armed forces remain detached from politics, and the nation’s security demands that military leaders render unbiased professional advice to the government, without fear or favour.The author is a former navy chief and chairman chiefs of staff

US debate on keeping armed forces apolitical has resonance in IndiaPremium Story
Threats Made Investor Drop 6,000-Crore Maharashtra Plan: Devendra Fadnavis
Ndtv | 2 weeks ago | |
Ndtv
2 weeks ago | |

Devendra Fadnavis heads the Home Ministry in the Eknath Shinde government. (File photo)Pune: Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has said a businessman who wanted to invest Rs 6,000 crore in the state shifted his project to Karnataka after receiving threats and extortion calls last year.Mr Fadnavis, who heads the Home Ministry in the Eknath Shinde government which came to power last June, also directed the police to take strict action against those harassing industries.Speaking at an event in Pune on Saturday, the deputy CM appealed to leaders not to bring politics into the industrial sector and warned of strict action against those minting money in the garb of backing labour issues."I feel bad to say that an investor met me in the afternoon and said he wanted to invest Rs 6,000 crore here (Maharashtra) a year ago, but shifted it to Karnataka after receiving threat and extortion calls," he said."If this situation prevails, the state's youth will not get jobs. This is why such tendencies (harassment of industries, and business persons) should be crushed. I have directed police to take stringent action against such trouble-making elements without thinking about party, organisation, community, religion etc," Fadnavis said.The noose has to be tightened around such elements, and action would be taken against police if they fail to act, the senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader added."Investors are coming to Maharashtra in a big way as there is a huge pool of human resources. I would urge all leaders to not bring politics into industries. Labourers should get protection but if some political leader is trying to use the shoulders of labourers to mint money, I will not shy away from taking action," he said.PromotedListen to the latest songs, only on JioSaavn.comPune is the second growth engine of the state (after Mumbai) and the state government will pay complete attention to the region, he said.The Shinde-Fadnavis coalition took charge of the state after the Maha Vikas Aghadi government led by Uddhav Thackeray collapsed in June last year.Featured Video Of The DayDelhi Records 1.4 Degrees, Lowest This Season As Fresh Cold Wave Hits

Threats Made Investor Drop 6,000-Crore Maharashtra Plan: Devendra Fadnavis
Sanjay Raut's Jibe After Probe Agency Raids On Sharad Pawar's Party Leader
Ndtv | 2 weeks ago | |
Ndtv
2 weeks ago | |

"This action is pressure politics but Mushrif will come out of this phase," he told reporters.Mumbai: Shiv Sena (UBT) leader Sanjay Raut today dubbed "pressure politics" the Enforcement Directorate's action against former Maharashtra minister and NCP MLA, Hasan Mushrif.The Central agency conducted searches at multiple premises in Maharashtra as part of a money laundering investigation against Mushrif and others. The raids are understood to be linked to a probe related to alleged irregularities in the operations of some sugar mills based in the state that are linked to Mushrif, officials said."This action is pressure politics but Mushrif will come out of this phase," Mr Raut told reporters.He said Mushrif is a leader from the Opposition who is putting up a fight which is against a particular ideology."Be it me, Anil Deshmukh or Nawab Malik (who all were arrested by ED in separate cases)....some BJP leaders had talked about putting Hasan Mushrif behind bars. Such language was used against Bhavana Gawli (MP), Yeshwant Jadhav (both members of the Eknath Shinde faction of Shiv Sena) and many important leaders who are part of the government now."But they get relief and those in Opposition are facing pressure politics," Mr Raut said, adding Mushrif is a fighter and the entire Opposition is with him.PromotedListen to the latest songs, only on JioSaavn.comThe Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray) faction is part of the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) which also comprises the NCP and Congress.(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)Featured Video Of The DayJammu Village Defence Groups Get New Weapons After Terrorist Attacks

Sanjay Raut's Jibe After Probe Agency Raids On Sharad Pawar's Party Leader
Mohan Bhagwat: Hindus awake, aggression natural in war
The Indian Express | 3 weeks ago | |
The Indian Express
3 weeks ago | |

The new-found aggression among Hindus in India and elsewhere is due to the Hindu society having been at war for over 1,000 years and finally awakened with the Sangh’s support, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat has said.“You see, Hindu society has been at war for over 1,000 years – this fight has been going on against foreign aggressions, foreign influences and foreign conspiracies. Sangh has offered its support to this cause, so have others. There are many who have spoken about it. And it is because of all these that the Hindu society has awakened. It is but natural for those at war to be aggressive,” Bhagwat has said in an interview to the RSS-affiliated magazines Organiser and Panchjanya.The interview was conducted by Organiser editor Prafulla Ketkar and Panchjanya editor Hitesh Shankar.Claiming that the Hindu society is in the midst of yet another war, Bhagwat said, “This war is not against an enemy outside, but against an enemy within. So there is a war to defend Hindu society, Hindu dharma and Hindu culture. Foreign invaders are no longer there, but foreign influences and foreign conspiracies have continued. Since this is a war, people are likely to get overzealous. Although this is not desirable, yet provocative statements will be uttered.”Bhagwat said Muslims have nothing to fear in India but they must abandon their claim of supremacy. “The simple truth is this – Hindusthan should remain Hindusthan. There is no harm to Muslims living today in Bharat. If they wish to stick to their faith, they can. If they want to return to the faith of their ancestors, they may. It is entirely their choice. There is no such stubbornness among Hindus. Islam has nothing to fear. But at the same time, Muslims must abandon their boisterous rhetoric of supremacy,” he said. “We are of an exalted race; we once ruled over this land, and shall rule it again; only our path is right, rest everyone is wrong; we are different, therefore we will continue to be so; we cannot live together – they (Muslims) must abandon this narrative.”Bhagwat also broached the issue of LGBTQ rights and reiterated the Sangh’s support for it. “These people (LGBTQ) also have a right to live. Without much hullabaloo, we have found a way, with a humane approach, to provide them social acceptance, bearing in mind they are also human beings having inalienable right to live. We have a transgender community; we did not see it as a problem. They have a sect and their own deities. Today, they have their own Mahamandaleshwar too. During Kumbh, they are accorded a special place. They are part of our everyday life,” he said.The RSS chief narrated the story of demon king Jarasandh’s generals – Hans and Dimbhaka – suggesting they were in a homosexual relationship, adding that the “problem of LGBTQ” is a similar one. “When Krishna fanned the rumour that Dimbhaka has died, Hans committed suicide. That is how Krishna got rid of those two generals. Come to think of it: what does the story suggest? This is the same thing. The two generals were in that sort of a relationship. It’s not that these people have never existed in our country. People with such proclivities have always been there for as long as humans have existed. Since I am a doctor of animals, I know that such traits are found in animals too. This is biological, a mode of life,” he said.Bhagwat said the RSS wants them (LGBTQ) to have their own private space and to feel that they, too, are a part of the society. “This is such a simple issue. We will have to promote this view because all other ways of resolving it will be futile. Therefore, on such matters, the Sangh relies on the wisdom of our traditions,” he said.On the RSS’ engagement with political issues despite being a cultural organisation, Bhagwat said the Sangh has consciously kept itself away from day-to-day politics but always engages with politics that affect “our national policies, national interest and Hindu interest”.“The only difference is, earlier our Swayamsevaks were not in positions of political power. This is the only addition in the present situation. But people forget that it is the Swayamsevaks who have reached certain political positions through a political party. Sangh continues to organise the society for the organisation’s sake. However, whatever Swayamsevaks do in politics, Sangh is held accountable for the same. Even if we are not implicated directly by others, there is certainly some accountability as ultimately it is in the Sangh where Swayamsevaks are trained. Therefore, we are forced to think – what should be our relationship, which things we should pursue (in the national interest) with due diligence,” he said.Bhagwat also said while the Sangh would continue to maintain distance from traditional politics, it would convey the concerns of the people to the powers that be, if they are Swayamsevaks.“Even when Swayamsevaks were not there in power positions, there were people who used to pay heed to the advice of others. Pranab da (Pranab Mukehrjee) was finance minister in the Congress government. He was also looking after Nepal affairs. We used to take our concerns to him. And he would listen to us too. That is all we do. Otherwise, we have no business in other spheres of active politics,” he said.On the state of the Indian economy, Bhagwat said, “Bharat’s economic logic suggests that if we have decentralised production, we will produce in abundance. It further stipulates that to sell the production, do not promote consumerism. If there is a restrained consumption, the prices will go down. Because commerce is the very basis of life in the western countries, they are votaries of price rise, for which consumerism is necessary, which is again based on individualism.”Bhagwat said being “Atmanirbhar” does not mean winning this global race. “To be Atmanirbhar implies offering a new paradigm of trade and progress that assures material comforts, security, guarantees future life and also ensures a feeling of peace and contentment,” he said.

Mohan Bhagwat: Hindus awake, aggression natural in war
  • Anjali Singh, Air India incident, ‘love jihad’ cases, police encounters: Our outrage and our blind eye
  • The Indian Express

    Before everyone with internet access had a pulpit, “outrage” did not quite mean what it does today. It was used more often as the description of an emotion, an uncountable noun – a feeling that was not really measurable. Not so in the age of social media. Now, it is a verb, a performance that news stories can often trigger. And it can be counted in likes, shares, impressions and views. In the last few days, two outrageous incidents justifiably pushed Indians to display their righteous rage. But what we choose to be angry about can often mask the things we would rather not confront — and it is in those hidden corners of our collective (lack of) conscience that we might find the answers to the culture of entitlement and brutality that is so often on display in our public life and spaces.The first of the two incidents was the brutal death of Anjali Singh on the intervening night of New Year’s Eve and January 1 in a drunk driving incident. The manner in which her body was dragged for over 10 kilometres, and the implied apathy and negligence of society and state, are perhaps why it has struck such a chord. It is also a haunting reminder of just how unsafe our streets and public spaces are for women, and the entire architecture of our social life is one in which precarity seems to be built in. While writing about the incident, many women have recalled the 2012 Delhi gangrape and murder and illustrated how the promises of policing and less violent, dangerous streets stand belied a decade later.The second incident is from November but came to light only earlier this month. An inebriated man on a flight from New Delhi to New York urinated on a woman passenger, and little was done to punish him till now. (Since his behaviour became public, he has lost his job and faces criminal charges. Air India has apologised for the incident, which has become an international news story). In this case, the entitlement of the Indian male, the constant victimisation of women even in spaces where they expect basic decency, the lack of travel etiquette and the general inability to drink responsibly (especially when the liquor is free) have all been laid at the door of one drunk, boorish man.Both incidents are clearly, and graphically, repulsive. But are they the only kind of graphic violence that Indians are exposed to? Sample the following list: Young Muslim men are publicly flogged by the police at a garba event; Dalit men are beaten in the name of cow protection for plying their trade; a young man on a train is knifed to death for refusing to give up the seat he paid for; an elderly man is forced, while being beaten and threatened, to chant a political-religious slogan; adults in love are accused of “jihad”; in one state, people are killed by the police and the “encounters” are celebrated by the chief minister; in another, the police are caught on camera seemingly shooting a prison escapee while he is already subdued; murderers and rapists are released while an old man is denied a sipping cup (he dies in prison); a man is killed for the suspected possession of beef — the police test the meat to ensure it’s beef. This list is not exhaustive. It barely scratches the surface.The purpose of this contrast is neither to engage in crude whataboutery nor is it to target those who are moved by Anjali Singh’s or Jyoti Singh’s death. It is, rather, to point out that the cries against injustice are about more than just morality. What we feel “outraged” about is mediated by several factors.The first is who we identify with – the victim or the perpetrator. At a time when the politics of identity is rampant, almost totalitarian in its reach, who the victim is matters. When the person attacked is a member of the minority community, when the chant they are forced to utter is “Jai Shri Ram”, empathy is now hard to come by for many. This is the essence and success of a now over-used term – “othering”.The second is a fear of consequences, or the lack thereof. Only a select few — often with ulterior motives — will try to blame Anjali Singh for her death. For most, standing with her and grieving her passing — especially through a social media post — is unlikely to invite retribution. It is also, unambiguously, the right thing to do. This may not be the case when the same is done for, say, someone killed in an “encounter” or jailed for being an “urban Naxal”. After all, cases are now filed because of cartoons and social media posts.Third, these cases are not “polarising”. They will not lead to fights on family WhatsApp groups or a pointless, exhausting and eventually, depressing argument at the school or college reunion. Few will say, “but these people did…” of the victims. And given how intimate politics has become, and how it has wormed its way into so many aspects of our lives, it is understandable why so many of us want to avoid those battles now.Finally, the contemporary form of “outrage” is indeed driven by social media and 24/7 news in search of TRPs and views. But equally, it provides us with something that human beings have always needed — a sense of collective action.For all the talk about “135 crore Indians”, we are — too many of us and too often — divided on too many things, even within the bubbles of class and caste. Since so much injustice is now commonplace, and so much of it acceptable in the name of politics, imagined wounds of history and religion, the few times when we can come together become all the more precious. That we can do so in grief for a fellow citizen we did not know, or a stranger on a plane and to make the case for a world that is safer and less entitled perhaps mitigates all the injustices we turn a blind eye to.Perhaps not.aakash.joshi@expressindia.com

'Muslims have nothing to fear but they must drop supremacy narrative': RSS chief
The Indian Express | 3 weeks ago | |
The Indian Express
3 weeks ago | |

The new-found aggression among Hindus in India and elsewhere is due to the Hindu society having been at war for over 1,000 years and finally awakened with the Sangh’s support, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat has said.“You see, Hindu society has been at war for over 1,000 years – this fight has been going on against foreign aggressions, foreign influences and foreign conspiracies. Sangh has offered its support to this cause, so have others. There are many who have spoken about it. And it is because of all these that the Hindu society has awakened. It is but natural for those at war to be aggressive,” Bhagwat has said in an interview to the RSS-affiliated magazines Organiser and Panchjanya.The interview was conducted by Organiser editor Prafulla Ketkar and Panchjanya editor Hitesh Shankar.Claiming that the Hindu society is in the midst of yet another war, Bhagwat said, “This war is not against an enemy outside, but against an enemy within. So there is a war to defend Hindu society, Hindu dharma and Hindu culture. Foreign invaders are no longer there, but foreign influences and foreign conspiracies have continued. Since this is a war, people are likely to get overzealous. Although this is not desirable, yet provocative statements will be uttered.”Bhagwat said Muslims have nothing to fear in India but they must abandon their claim of supremacy. “The simple truth is this – Hindusthan should remain Hindusthan. There is no harm to Muslims living today in Bharat. If they wish to stick to their faith, they can. If they want to return to the faith of their ancestors, they may. It is entirely their choice. There is no such stubbornness among Hindus. Islam has nothing to fear. But at the same time, Muslims must abandon their boisterous rhetoric of supremacy,” he said. “We are of an exalted race; we once ruled over this land, and shall rule it again; only our path is right, rest everyone is wrong; we are different, therefore we will continue to be so; we cannot live together – they (Muslims) must abandon this narrative.”Bhagwat also broached the issue of LGBTQ rights and reiterated the Sangh’s support for it. “These people (LGBTQ) also have a right to live. Without much hullabaloo, we have found a way, with a humane approach, to provide them social acceptance, bearing in mind they are also human beings having inalienable right to live. We have a transgender community; we did not see it as a problem. They have a sect and their own deities. Today, they have their own Mahamandaleshwar too. During Kumbh, they are accorded a special place. They are part of our everyday life,” he said.The RSS chief narrated the story of demon king Jarasandh’s generals – Hans and Dimbhaka – suggesting they were in a homosexual relationship, adding that the “problem of LGBTQ” is a similar one. “When Krishna fanned the rumour that Dimbhaka has died, Hans committed suicide. That is how Krishna got rid of those two generals. Come to think of it: what does the story suggest? This is the same thing. The two generals were in that sort of a relationship. It’s not that these people have never existed in our country. People with such proclivities have always been there for as long as humans have existed. Since I am a doctor of animals, I know that such traits are found in animals too. This is biological, a mode of life,” he said.Bhagwat said the RSS wants them (LGBTQ) to have their own private space and to feel that they, too, are a part of the society. “This is such a simple issue. We will have to promote this view because all other ways of resolving it will be futile. Therefore, on such matters, the Sangh relies on the wisdom of our traditions,” he said.On the RSS’ engagement with political issues despite being a cultural organisation, Bhagwat said the Sangh has consciously kept itself away from day-to-day politics but always engages with politics that affect “our national policies, national interest and Hindu interest”.“The only difference is, earlier our Swayamsevaks were not in positions of political power. This is the only addition in the present situation. But people forget that it is the Swayamsevaks who have reached certain political positions through a political party. Sangh continues to organise the society for the organisation’s sake. However, whatever Swayamsevaks do in politics, Sangh is held accountable for the same. Even if we are not implicated directly by others, there is certainly some accountability as ultimately it is in the Sangh where Swayamsevaks are trained. Therefore, we are forced to think – what should be our relationship, which things we should pursue (in the national interest) with due diligence,” he said.Bhagwat also said while the Sangh would continue to maintain distance from traditional politics, it would convey the concerns of the people to the powers that be, if they are Swayamsevaks.“Even when Swayamsevaks were not there in power positions, there were people who used to pay heed to the advice of others. Pranab da (Pranab Mukehrjee) was finance minister in the Congress government. He was also looking after Nepal affairs. We used to take our concerns to him. And he would listen to us too. That is all we do. Otherwise, we have no business in other spheres of active politics,” he said.On the state of the Indian economy, Bhagwat said, “Bharat’s economic logic suggests that if we have decentralised production, we will produce in abundance. It further stipulates that to sell the production, do not promote consumerism. If there is a restrained consumption, the prices will go down. Because commerce is the very basis of life in the western countries, they are votaries of price rise, for which consumerism is necessary, which is again based on individualism.”Bhagwat said being “Atmanirbhar” does not mean winning this global race. “To be Atmanirbhar implies offering a new paradigm of trade and progress that assures material comforts, security, guarantees future life and also ensures a feeling of peace and contentment,” he said.

'Muslims have nothing to fear but they must drop supremacy narrative': RSS chief
Exiting with dignity is better than compromising on self-respect: Pankaja Munde
The Indian Express | 3 weeks ago | |
The Indian Express
3 weeks ago | |

At a function held in Nashik Monday, BJP national secretary Pankaja Munde said it is always better to exit with dignity rather than compromise one’s self-respect in politics.Although she exercised caution not to directly attack any leader, her unhappiness with the BJP was evident.Commenting on the often asked question by her supporters — why is she not getting more opportunities in politics — Munde said, “What can I say? Ask those who are giving or not giving (opportunities).”She further said, “In politics, I have always believed one should accept whatever comes his or her way with dignity. If in order to achieve something I have to give up self-respect, it is not acceptable. I would rather exit with dignity. This I have inherited from my father (late Gopinath Munde).”While stating she has displayed a lot of patience in pursuing politics, she said, “I still believe patience will pay off. I have achieved a lot in politics. I still have a lot more to attain.”The former minister was candid in stating that one has to exercise perfect balance while pursuing politics. The discontent amongst Munde’s followers resurface periodically. It also comes after her loaded statements at public forums. Munde has been vying to play an important role in Maharashtra politics.In the 2019 Assembly election, she lost from the home turf of the Parli constituency in Beed district of Maharashtra. She was then made the national secretary in BJP president J P Nadda’s team in Delhi.However, insiders in the BJP reveal that Munde was keen to continue in state politics. She wanted to become an MLC and lead the state legislative council in Maharashtra.

Exiting with dignity is better than compromising on self-respect: Pankaja Munde
SC order could enable BJP's UP government to nurture its OBC vote bloc
The Indian Express | 3 weeks ago | |
The Indian Express
3 weeks ago | |

In the digital age of data mining, Indian politics faces a great void concerning population data of the Other Backward Classes (OBCs). Since the Mandal moment in 1989, OBC politics has had a major impact on the Indian political landscape. Given the absence of OBC population data, on December 27, 2022, the Allahabad High Court asked the Uttar Pradesh government to go ahead with local body elections without the prescribed reservation for OBC seats. The High Court was merely reiterating the “triple test” criteria of 2021, ordered by the Supreme Court bench in the Vikas Kishanrao Gawali case. The judgment laid down the pre-requisite of data on OBC backwardness for political reservation in local bodies. The UP government had hurriedly created a “dedicated OBC Commission” to conduct a survey and moved the Supreme Court on January 4, which granted time till March 31 to provide the requisite data.Interestingly, neither any state government nor the Centre has released any OBC backwardness or even population data. The matter gained salience after the BJP-led Maharashtra government passed the Socially and Educationally Backward Classes Act to extend reservations to the Maratha community under the OBC category on November 30, 2018. This legislation was passed contrary to the 102nd Amendment to the Constitution passed on August 11, 2018, by the Centre. The Amendment took away states’ power to add or delete communities in the OBC category. Consequently, the Supreme Court invalidated the extension of reservation to Marathas on May 5, 2021, on two counts: First, it breached the 50 per cent limit on reservations and second, it went against the 102nd Amendment. The ensuing political pressure led to Parliament passing the 105th Amendment to the Constitution in August 2021, allowing states to create their own OBC lists.In the absence of demographic data on OBCs, the Maha Vikas Aghadi government in Maharashtra sought to go ahead with municipal elections in December 2021, with seats reserved for OBC candidates based on Socio Economic and Caste Census (SECC) data. The Supreme Court, in this case too, imposed the “triple test” criterion and the central government denied the use of SECC data citing inconsistencies. Like UP, Maharashtra is a state with no data on OBCs.The SECC is a curious case – it includes caste data to which the public has no access. The first Socio Economic Caste Census was conducted by the UPA government in 2011, which was more a survey than a census — to get the numbers of people belonging to various castes. But the data was never revealed by the Census Commissioner. By the time the data was compiled in 2014, the BJP-led NDA government chose not to make it public and also denied the use of data regarding OBCs in the Maratha reservation case of 2021.Subsequently, a data challenge was thrown at governments by successive Supreme Court judgments on OBC reservations. It was only in May 2022 that the Supreme Court allowed OBC-reserved seats in municipal and panchayat elections in the state after the Madhya Pradesh government produced evidence of data. In July 2022, the Gujarat state Election Commission ordered the conversion of 10 per cent of OBC seats to general seats, forcing the state government to announce a dedicated OBC Commission barely four months before the assembly elections. And the OBC population issue was inconclusively argued by the central government in the Maratha reservation case, leaving lawmakers without any data.The demand for the enumeration of the OBC population became a major political issue after the 103rd Amendment in 2019, under which Parliament granted 10 per cent reservation to Economically Weaker Sections (EWS). The EWS amendment breached the 50 per cent ceiling for reservation. While political parties with a strong base among OBCs initially opposed EWS reservations, they also saw an opportunity in the constitutional breach of the 50 per cent mark. But this has been easier said than done, given that the actual numbers of OBCs are nowhere to be found.The demand for OBC enumeration in the 2021 decennial Census did not find favour with the central government. Some political parties from Bihar called for a boycott of the Census if OBCs are not enumerated. Currently, Census operations, post-Covid, are at a standstill. After parting ways with the BJP, the Nitish Kumar-led state government of Bihar has pushed for a full-fledged caste census, similar to the SECC, to be completed by May 2023.The Supreme Court’s upholding of EWS reservations in Janhit Abhiyan, which breached the 50 per cent line, gave a fresh impetus to Jharkhand, Karnataka, Bihar and Chhattisgarh that have either approved or enacted laws for reservations beyond the ceiling — albeit without rigorous OBC data.The SC order could enable BJP’s UP government to nurture its OBC vote bloc. But disputes on the actual numbers of OBCs may impact upcoming assembly elections.The writer teaches political science at Allahabad University. Views are personal

SC order could enable BJP's UP government to nurture its OBC vote bloc
Kerala my karmabhoomi, want to work in the state: Shashi Tharoor
The Indian Express | 3 weeks ago | |
The Indian Express
3 weeks ago | |

Dropping strong hints about his “interest” in contesting the next Assembly elections in Kerala, Congress MP Shashi Tharoor on Monday said when “everyone wants him to work in the state he cannot resist that invitation”.Tharoor, who has shown keen interest in Kerala politics after contesting the Congress’s presidential election, revealed his intention after meeting the head of Orthodox Church, Baselios Mar Thomas Mathews III, in Kottayam. The meeting was a part of the Congress leader’s recent political outreach programme, which has created a flutter in the party.After the meeting, Tharoor told the media that the the Orthodox Church head wanted him to become more active in Kerala. “I am interested (to work in Kerala). Many have been asking me to become more active in Kerala, which is my karmabhoomi. I will not run away from here. There is time till 2026 (the next Kerala Assembly elections) and a lot of things have to be done before that,” he said.Tharoor said his exercise is not limited to meeting bishops or leaders of other religious communities. “Kerala has a very strong civic society. We should function after respecting and understanding them. I am meeting them one after another,” said Tharoor.The Orthodox Church head said Tharoor should become more active in the state. Incidentally, Congress veteran and former chief minister Oommen Chandy belongs to the Orthodox Church. It is widely believed that Tharoor has the backing of Chandy, who still enjoys the backing of Christians and upper caste Nair community in central Kerala. While Chandy has been maintaining silence on Tharoor’s entry into Kerala politics, other senior leaders like K C Venugopal, V D Satheesan and Ramesh Chennithala have made their uneasiness over emergence of another strong leader.Last week, Tharoor was the chief guest at an annual function of the Nair Service Society.

Kerala my karmabhoomi, want to work in the state: Shashi Tharoor
‘First score a few runs’: BJP takes a jibe at Rohit Pawar
The Indian Express | 3 weeks ago | |
The Indian Express
3 weeks ago | |

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) took a jibe at Rohit Pawar, the grandnephew of NCP chief Sharad Pawar, asking him to score a few runs before heading the Maharashtra Cricket Association (MCA). Rohit was elected as the MCA president, replacing Vikas Kakatkar. Rohit is the grandson of Sharad Pawar’s elder brother Appasaheb Pawar.“Has Rohit Pawar ever played cricket? Ask him to first play one match and score five to 10 runs before taking charge… This is applicable to everyone, including myself, if I intend to head a cricket body,” said BJP leader Gopichand Padalkar, a bitter critic of the Pawar family. Criticising the Pawar family’s role on the sports field, Padalkar also commented on Sharad Pawar heading the wrestling federation. “Did he ever enter the wrestling bout? Similarly, Ajit Pawar headed a cricket body, and Supriya Sule a kho kho body… Did they ever play these sports?” he asked.BJP MLA Nilesh Rane took a jibe at 37-year-old Rohit, and said, “What is Rohit Pawar’s contribution to the cricket field? His grandfather brought cheerleaders inside the cricket field. Let’s see what Rohit Pawar comes up with…”Former MP Nilesh Rane, meanwhile, said, “Sharad Pawar headed various sports bodies, but the percentage of Marathi players during his tenure kept depleting.” Reacting to BJP’s criticism, Maharashtra NCP Spokesperson Mahesh Tapase said, “When BJP’s Ashish Shelkar was elected as the Mumbai Cricket Association president, we never objected… We always believed that there should be sportsman spirit in politics, but there should be no politics in sports. This has been NCP’s stand all along. Cricket bodies should have representatives with diverse backgrounds and opinions. People who are commenting should understand what they are saying…”A first-time NCP MLA from Karjat Jamkhed constituency, Rohit was on Sunday elected as the MCA president as his panel won the elections with ease, by securing 22 of the 24 votes. Former Maharashtra Captain Shantanu Sugvekar, who was also in the race, bagged only two votes. Rohit has been elected for a three-year term, and has made it to the Apex Council after he got elected from the Affiliated Clubs category. He became the president in his maiden attempt at MCA, and is the second from the Pawar family — after Sharad Pawar, who was at the helm of the national cricket team for over a decade till 2016 — to head a cricket body.“I have been making my contribution in the sports field, but I was very keen to work for my favourite sport — cricket. I have got an opportunity to work as the MCA President because of Pawarsaheb’s blessings… I feel fortunate. I will work hard…” Rohit tweeted.

‘First score a few runs’: BJP takes a jibe at Rohit Pawar