Skip to content

1

 

Gauri Lankesh was murdered

She was a target of Hindutva forces. She had spoken about this before. Yet, supporters of the government would like us to believe anything except the obvious suspects could be responsible.

dabholkar-pansare-kalburgi-lankesh
gauri-lankesh-relatives-mourn
gauri-lankesh-senior-journalist
gauri-lankesh-rationalist
iamgauri
gauri-lankesh-funeral
students arts crafts college patna gauri lankesh memory
ideas-bulletproof-delhi-press-club
pfi-mangalore-gauri-lankesh

Let us say it loud and clear. Hindu terror units killed Gauri Lankesh. She opposed the RSS, the BJP and these hindutva forces and this killing is the silencing of that voice against hate politics.
B T Venkatesh
Gauri's lawyer

She was the fourth rationalist to be murdered in this manner

She was murdered at point blank range by two assassins who came on a motorcycle in a style similar to other rationalists before her. A professional hit by masked men who knew her routine enough to intercept it, came on motorcycles and fired shots and left.

The killers skills and weapon were good enough to shoot her 4 times in 15 seconds. Like the others, assassins aimed for her chest and head (Govind Pansare was hit in the chest and neck). Like the others before her, she didn't stand a chance. They were stalking her and it was a matter of time before they found her.

Additional striking similarities with murder of Prof Kalburgi

In addition to the similarties in the murders of all four rationalists, there are even more similarities between the murder of Gauri Lankesh and Prof. Kalburgi.

They were both attacked by assassins who came to their homes and attacked them there. (Dabholkar and Pansare were attacked on morning walks).

Like Kalburgi, Gauri Lankesh also was of the view that the Lingayat community was distinct from Hinduism and merited a minority status and was vocal about it. She had also written about the Lingayats in English media.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PgaQv3Jmt-Yhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FF_Vx3mAFQM

So far, there is no clearly referenced Naxal threat to Gauri described other than the BJP troll factory's accusations, which are now being published in their echo chambers waiting for mainstream media to treat it "equally" with known facts.

Death threats have become a common factor

Gauri Lankesh had described the communalised atmosphere of Karnataka and threats and attacks by Hindutva forces, compared it with her father criticizing Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi.

She had come up with a list of who likely Hindutva targets were based on threats and put her own name as fourth on the list. Gauri's lawyer is categorical that she was killed by Hindutva forces.

BJP MLA Jeevaraj openly said in public that Gauri Lankesh would be alive if she hadn't written about the RSS.

What dweshbhakts want you to believe

The troll factory wants you to ignore everything above and believe that Naxals are "equally" suspect. Why? No one has an answer. No doubt, this is laying the groundwork for producing a "Naxal" somewhere. Who just happened to attack Gauri in the same manner as other rationalists.

This is a strategy they have performed successfully before too, when they trolled and bombarded a lazy media with enough invented facts that convinced them to look at the Gujarat riots in a "neutral" manner - as in, ignore direct testimonies and facts on record, BJP or Modi is no more responsible than anyone else.

The goal of dweshbhakts is to either discredit Gauri Lankesh to the point where people will not make too much noise about justice for her or to discredit those deamnding justice in order to create a perception that their demand is inconsequential and should be ignored.

Accordingly, they have come up with a lot of bullshit that is being propagated through usual troll networks

Gauri Lankesh was a "criminal"

The party that specializes in slander and organized slander as a method of attacking dissent now sees defamation - something journalists routinely get sued with - as a statement of her character as a "Criminal" - why? Probably because they already have a script for shooting criminals dead being a good thing.
She was already a target of Hindutva's favorite tactic of filing cases in various places to punish the target by being forced to travel constantly to attend them. The one case she lost, she was out on bail under appeal.

Gauri Lankesh's last name was Patrick

This, of course is an out and out justification of killing Christians as "deceptive". Minor problem with that. Either through sheer illiteracy or malice, the name of her newspaper - Gauri Lankesh Patrike, meaning Gauri Lankesh's journal has been misrepresented as "Gauri Lankesh Patrick" being her full name that she concealed in order to appear Hindu. Actually she is from the Lingayat community and BJP only is desperate to claim them as Hindus - they want minority religion status distinct from Hindus.

Gauri was a Naxal sympathizer - they kill their own

Objective of this is easy. They already have followers well trained in making accusations of being Naxal sympathizers. If this one sticks, they are on the home stretch of the propaganda war.
Well, decide. Was she a Naxal sympathizer and useful for their cause or a Naxal target? There is considerable evidence of her being a Hindu target,This appears to be copied accusations from the recent murder of an RSS activist where RSS-BJP held statewide strikes and then one of them was found to be the murderer.

Gauri Lankesh had a feud with her brother

The implication being that he must have killed her. This, to the best of anyone's knowledge is a longstanding ideological difference. Incidentally, her brother is joining BJP. So how does this rumor even let the Hindutva criminals off the hook if she was killed due to ideological differences with a brother with Hindutva leanings?
This brother is now parroting everything BJP prompts - give case to CBI, Naxal threat after saying no Naxal threat and what not.

Gauri was buried, not cremated

The fault for this actually lies solidly with the RSS and its Hindutva brainwashing that their followers have so little knowledge of Indian religions and traditions, that they don't know there are many Hindu communities that bury their dead. This would include Lingayats - the religion Gauri belonged to. But this is deliberate malicious propaganda aimed at exploiting the ignorance they nurture to trigger instant hate for her. Unless of course BJP wants to ask for Lingayat votes after saying those who bury their deads are Christians/Muslims.

Journalists didn't protest for other slain reporters

The objective is so transparent. You don't ask for justice every single time, therefore you can't expect justice in this murder. This piece of bullshit is actually from an alleged journalist examining five handles and deciding that they did not demand justice for previous cases.This is basically gibberish in the name of statistics.This was immediately and abundantly debunked using everything from proofs to education on statistics. No point adding a few hundred words here.

So, dweshbhakts, what is your damage?

How is it that unknown assailants have at their disposal the entire BJP propaganda machinery? Claims of innocence would have been so much easier to prove with simply demanding an investigation and asking killers to be punished. So why not?


What do you know that we only suspect?

2

It is rare that one needs to speak up as an atheist and disown the speech or behavior of other atheists as communal hatred. Atheists are usually the smallest minority anywhere and where there is communal violence, they are usually on the receiving end, so the question of atheists being perpetrators of communal hatred rarely arises. There is the occasional Dawkins outrage, but it is not so relevant to India. However, there is extremism among atheists as well and today seems to be a good occasion to condemn and disown it as well.

Atheists often argue that there is no collective belief system called atheism. It is merely a lack of belief in God. It is true as far as it is a question of extrapolating the actions of one to others. However, the label itself confers a certain amount of shared traits - notably a stated disbelief in god. And while disbelief is an absence, the issue in extremism is rarely the belief or lack of it, it is the fervor in making the statement and imposing views on others. Atheists can cross the line between stating disbelief in god and religion to attacking a community based on their beliefs.

Like the beliefs of two atheists may have nothing in common, the beliefs of ISIS may have little in common with other Muslims as well. All atheists believe there is no God. That word play on disbelief being a lack of belief is well and good, it is also a belief about that lack. We aren't merely considering that there may be no God given the lack of evidence or that God is an unproven claim. We are certain that there isn't any God. We are not open to the possibility that there may be one (those are the agnostics). We aren't interested in exploring the possibility and potentially invalidating our claims. We define God by what we reject and ignore any interpretations of God that are saner. We are certain and see no need to contemplate alternatives as potentially viable.

Muslims believe there is one God and it is Allah and Mohammed is his messenger. Hindus have a diverse array of beliefs that can encompass countless gods or none. Christians believe there is one God and Jesus Christ is his son and so on. As an atheist, I must say there being no god is the logical conclusion of a contemplation of God as a sentient, omnipotent being. Belief in imaginary friends is not necessarily a bad thing, as long as it doesn't lead to denial that prevents well being. One simply projects what one believes is the best onto an imaginary external figure and gives it the authority we don't feel confident claiming as ourselves. I know there are lots that define God in a manner that makes sense to them and stay away from intentions and super powers. Indeed, a vivid imagination is necessary to creativity. I am sure, there are benefits. To others. I don't see the value.

No matter what a religious book says, the extent to which it is complied to by people always varies and the extent to which atheists engage with their disbelief also varies. For many, like me, it is a non-issue. God is absent. It doesn't take any space in daily life unless there is a requirement to analyze or discuss or state. Encountering someone expressing belief creates no urge to validate my own belief through convincing them into disbelief - a very similar process as seen in believers who tend to get you to believe in their Gods. It is no concern of mine whether you prefer God to Mickey Mouse. There are atheists who are more radical. They will not tolerate you being irrational and will strive to get you to .... um... see the light. Heck, there are atheist fundamentalists who won't tolerate "moderates" like me and expect us to do more to counter claims of God. To what end, I have no idea. Waste time over a non-existing creature even when fully aware it doesn't exist? What for?

Free Speech is a fundamental right. It is a bit dinged in India legally, and further butchered in practice. There are limitations by law or processes of engaging with the state. But apart from larger processes that are a part of belonging to an organized country, state, city, locality, home, etc that are established and a consequence of our social contract, while we do no harm to another, the assumption is that we have a legal right to speak, act and behave as we wish without being subject to impositions, limitations or harm. The rules are the same for all. Even when the laws have flaws and restrictions - typically those covering blasphemy - the understanding is that they are known to people up front and they apply to all (needless to say they get enforced with religious bias almost everywhere they exist). These are usually always facing a challenge, and rightfully so because they infringe on the right of disbelievers and critics to state their own views.

Free speech for atheists and in congruence with their "beliefs" typically ignores prohibitions on blasphemy where they exist and naturally includes the right to disagree about religion and God, to state their disbelief, to criticize the beliefs of other religions, including revered figures. We gleefully say, we are ok with you doing the same. Quite liberating, it is, to have nothing to defend. Turns out, the larger problem with religion - fundamentalist and communal violence - is a human trait and atheists are not immune to it either.

Communal hatred is not about our views or opinions - which in my view are acceptable regardless of being offensive. It is about people. It is the tantrum of the child being told there is no Santa. It is the tantrum of the child who proves Santa is better by calling Spiderman stupid, except these are adults with real power to inflict harm and when at the end of their ability to convince someone that Santa is better, are perfectly capable of harming someone for thinking Spiderman is better. Harm is not always physical. It can be emotional, social, economic. And when it targets the socially vulnerable and allies with others attacking them, it threatens to splinter social coherence for all.

There isn't any rational critique of religion when you comment on brutal ISIS beheadings that Muslims are taught to slaughter at an early age. You are simply letting your hatred for the Muslim community blind you into thinking of them as a monolith that acts in a manner you have associated in your mind with the worst of Muslims you hate. It isn't a rational critique of Hinduism to say Hindus burn their wives on funeral pyres or stigmatize widows. It is stereotyping of an entire community and reducing them to nothing but the nasty attributes you give them. It is not recognizing them as individuals, not even recognizing a diversity of compliance with your arbitrarily assigned trait.

And this is where atheism has its own brand of extremism and communal hate. It is a matter of rationality, whether our criticism is a logical evaluation of something or a statement of own belief or a statement of unfounded beliefs about other people (also known as fake news, if media does it). The last is not a fundamental right. I don't actually have a right to call you a scammer and hound you, taking every opportunity to discredit you and cause you emotional and possibly professional and economic harm from the consequences of my selectively interpreting your actions to fit my projection of you as a scam artist. That is stalking and harassment.

Just like knowing one atheist doesn't mean you know what all atheists do, selectively picking one Muslim or Hindu fanatic and calling all Muslims or Hindus fanatics based on that is the sign of an irrational mind that speaks more about paranoid delusions than skepticism or disbelief. Where does this hate come from?

Well, a lot of it from human nature. Unlike most identities associated with belief or a lack of belief, atheists are unique in the sense of their lack of belief having originated from different places and as a result of different circumstances. Some born to non-religious families are too.... vacant on the subject of belief to even qualify as atheists - they are more in the zone of that measuring scale not being relevant to them. Many others are a product of losing belief in a specific religion and its Gods and then learning to apply it to other gods. The religion of their origin can have a lot of anger or trauma attached to it, because they have suffered the disillusionment from it. In many cases, they may have suffered persecution as a result of it. Additionally, they may have stopped believing, but their experience as an insider gives them a unique insight into that religion and culture which allows them to make a more vigorous criticism of that religion more than others.

For example, I am no fan of Islam, but I can take it or leave it unless someone harms another. When they do act like absolute idiots, it still hurts me less than when Hindus do it. Because as someone born a Hindu Brahmin and who lacked belief in both religion and caste, but grew immersed in the culture, my own identity is mired in it. I know enough of the religion to hold a visceral anger against fundamentalists as those who enact the worst characteristics of the religion - that anger is a result of the betrayal of my painstakingly adopted values at the hands of the religion, not my lack of belief, which in itself is no reason for any particular emotion. That anger is because the acts of that brand of extremism caused me to have to reinvent my core identity as distinct from my roots. To consciously distance myself from aspects that I learned to feel ashamed of when I examined what the things I unthinkingly assumed to be "truth". In contrast, I don't feel anything about Islam. I haven't invested anything in it to feel cheated. I feel some for Buddhism because I spent half a decade as a part of a Buddhist family, so again, that feels like home culture and any wrong perpetrated in its name would make me feel violated. This will continue till I make my peace with it mentally. It is part of being human. Learning to recognize these influences rather than being an unthinking slave to them is a part of our philosophical evolution.

Similarly, Taslima Nasreen or Tarek Fatah (two ex-Muslim atheists) are vicious in their attacks on Islam and Muslims. I can understand that. They have had their trust broken by Islam. Taslima has been exiled from the country of her birth (and I think Tarek moved away on his own before they decided they didn't want him back). Needless to say, both have got plenty to be angry about on a personal level.

The problems arise when you believe your "insider" status as someone who was once a Muslim or Hindu gives you a unique insight into the case, but it actually isn't so and it is your hostility with the religion preventing you from seeing the observable reality. For example, like many upper caste Hindu men too fought for the rights of women and caste equality and widow remarriage, many Muslims are non-violent (to the point of being vegans), gentle, insightful souls. The vast majority of any identity is rarely acting in any manner similar to the extremist stereotype. In fact, extremists of all sorts have more in common with each other than the various identities they hijack. This is actually a no-brainer. if you take any diverse collective, the minute you stray the slightest from the definition of that collective, you stop being able to accurately describe its constituents. If an accurate description were possible, it would have already been included in the meaning of the word. And often, even the actual definition doesn't really fit.

Most people are born into their religion and had to do nothing, in particular, to "accept" it. So even core beliefs like "all Muslims believe in one God who is Allah" are actually up for debate depending on their conditioning. Most people aren't excessively religious and often kids grow up without any major belief and they are of the religion simply because that is part of the traditions of the family they belong to. Such a person may actually spend less part of their day thinking of their religion and what some holy book teaches than an atheist from it with a grudge or a zealous follower of another religion, who seeks validation of his beliefs being "right" by somehow proving others "wrong".

Regardless, there is a line. Atheism or rationalism cannot be the shoulder to fire guns of communal hatred from. Unlike religion, rationalism is not an identity, but a trait. If you make an irrational argument, sorry, you aren't being "a rationalist" no matter what you claim. Atheism is a lack of belief in God, not a set of beliefs about people who believe in that god.

Exploiting atheism and rationalism to conceal deep rooted hatred of specific communities is living in denial. There are terms - Islamophobia. Hindutvawadis recently helpfully invented "Hinduphobia". Use them.

Not atheism. Not rationalism. Not in my name.

A garbha sanskar event organized in Kolkata got challenged in the High Court by doctors over its claims to create super babies. This is a most welcome development in a country fast drowning in superstition.

There is a trend these days to sell superstition in the name of science. As though faith is not enough to do the absurd, there are claims of scientific evidence backing absurdities. But they use a very basic model of fooling people. I've started calling it the "Emperor's new clothes" business model in honor of the Emperor. If you can claim that some nonsense is backed by science confidently enough, few people take the time to examine it, and instead have blind faith in the claim (ironic, no?).

The latest such confidence trick to make news is when "Garbha Sanskar" program of Arogya Bharti ran into trouble in Kolkata when their event was challenged in court based on the claims they had made. While the court did not find enough evidence to ban the programme alotgether (because it does little more than mumbo jumbo to begin with), it specified that specialists could lecture but not treat anyone there (no problem, no one is treated there) and attendees couldn't be charged. Note, the "Garbha Sanskar" programme is basically a collection of ritualized superstitions that claim to create "super babies" - their basic claim is that while genetic engineering is done "in vitro" garbha sanskar is the "in vivo" method already given to mankind through vedic knowledge.

When I tell this to you like this, it is easy to see the absurdity of it. If vedic knowldge didn't give superbabies in so many thousands of years, the chance of a superman flying out of your loins within a few months is negligible. But when you are surrounded by the gullible hopeful in a room where the authority figure tells you this, it sounds like some secret key to the universe is handed exclusively into your hands. And no one pauses to ask why of all the people in the world, fate would choose such a lazy custodian who did little more than pay Rs. 500 to deserve such a potent miracle. Because our conceit enjoys hearing that we are special. And we don't mind playing a few dozen harmless games to enjoy the illusion for longer.

Here are some quotes from various garbh sanksar claims, teachings and so on.

Garbh sanskar can produce genius babies.

This is usually accompanied by some tall anecdotal "evidence" of what is possible "if you do it correctly" - so if you have an ordinary adorable baby waving arms wildly and blinking unfocused eyes on birth, you must have missed adding the superhero cape somehow.

60% of the brain development is complete in the womb (or some variation of it)

60% of a chicken's formation is completed in the egg. This doesn't mean you pay 60% of the price of an adult chicken for an egg, right?

But this is actually a very popular line to convince parents that they need to act urgently if they want a super baby. But here is the thing. 60% of brain development doesn't mean 60% of lifetime intelligence. These are biological processes and the foetus in the womb does all the "learning" it needs to do by figuring out how to move limbs and so on. It doesn't need to understand language since the most important sounds around it are generated by biological processes. It may recognize the mother's voice as it vibrates through her own body as well, but it doesn't understand meaning. Nor is the brain developed enough to link sounds together and make sense of them - even newborns don't figure it out for quite a few months after birth. That is simply how the brain creates connections and develops more complex functionality. the 60% is about the brain's ability to function and not intelligence.

Looking at art or listening to music is no more likely to make your child the next art world celebrity than driving all through pregnancy is likely to make him a driver or eating several meals a day during pregnancy is going to make him prone to overeating (or able to eat at birth). This is nonsense and I have met several garbh sanskar children and found them no more or less remarkable than other children - their parents are another story.

 

Will add more of the absurd claims here when I get time, but frankly it isn't rocket science. It is pure mythology applied to life and if you have the slightest ability for critical thinking, seeing through this rubbish is a breeze.

Basically what happens here is an authority figure makes claims of religious mythology being backed by science without providing robust evidence. But because we are conditioned to not question "scientific proof", we decide to believe it - this is the opposite of science. When you cannot verify something, it is called "unverified" not "probably they are right and let me obey to be safe". There is no such thing as science that cannot be questioned.

The Emperor's New Clothes business model is an old brainwashing tactic and it is refreshing to see doctors challenge it in courts instead of merely allowing it to proliferate stupidity in the guise of "harmless belief".

1

Why is it becoming more and more uncomfortable to live within one’s own country, among people that we took for granted shared our view of the world? 2014 marked the year in which family and friends turned into aliens and opponents. Conversations invariably broke down at the point where Narendra Modi was seen as the great white hope for India. No logic worked against a recitation of the wrongs of UPA 2, plus AAP not being mature enough or ready, plus the magic word – ‘Development’ that a likely BJP government was going to deliver. One’s misgivings about Hindutva had to remain as mere mutterings, among the pitying looks of cousins and siblings.

Now 2017 has arrived as the year in which it is impossible to be in a crowded airport or railway station without wondering how many of the people around you will look on with interest at a mob lynching some innocent, and perhaps even justify the act  with arguments if you dare to protest.  After all, on social media, it is educated and articulate people who are trolling any criticism of hyper-nationalism or Gauraksha. The deep discomfort in crowds of any sort makes me wonder if I am having a serious mid-life crisis, or my country has changed into something so unrecognizable that I have begun to believe the worst of my neighbours  and acquaintances.

My being a believer has fed much of my work, producing books on pilgrims and seekers, and finding faith resilient in the poorest toymakers and street vendors. Yet, today, I have also become uncomfortable with the religion I was born into because I feel no identification whatsoever with those who are making loud claims in the name of that religion with no regard for facts, truth, or the feelings of their fellow citizens. And, although this is a mere blip in our ongoing relationship, I have also begun to express increasing discontent and despair to my personal God in the face of what I perceive to be evil getting increasingly rewarded around me.

So many questions confront me on any given day.  Was a bottomless reservoir of hate and bigotry always present amidst our people? How do today’s lynch mob leaders tap into this with a single WhatsApp message and collect an instant crowd? How many who go by the label ‘Hindu’ actually rejoice at the wounding or death of a Muslim fellow citizen in our country? Visceral questions, with no easy answers.

Till a few years back, crowds meant something else for me.  As I  walked with Varkaris to Pandharpur, joined the immense human congregation at the Mahakumbh in 2001, met kaanwariyas at the Haridwar Shravan mela and at Deoghar in Jharkhand, climbed to Tirupati and Vaishno Devi, I saw the transformative power of collective faith. Caste distinctions recede on such pilgrimages, when the fellow believer begins to be called by a generic name – ‘Mauli’ on the way to Pandharpur, or ‘Bam’ on the way to Deoghar. Sharing of resources, helping others when they are weary or tired, breaking into a song of prayer together, all this is behavior that is par for the course on such journeys. All the years when I walked alongside them, I never saw the crowds of the faithful as potential murderers.

And yet, from recent events, it is obvious that some of the killers of Akhlaq and Pehlu Khan may also have been pilgrims at some point. As I think of the kaanwariyas carrying water and walking hundreds of kilometres, I can’t help but wonder at whether the ordinarily devout, the Durga Puja attendees and katha organizers have become members of predatory mobs?

Any attempt to answer this question must undoubtedly make us reflect on why we have failed to strengthen the secular fabric of India.  Prof. Ashis Nandy, who wrote An Anti-Secularist Manifesto in 1995, and who writes in his seminal essay The Politics of Secularism and the Recovery of Religious Tolerance, “I call myself an anti-secularist because I feel that the ideology and politics of secularism have more or less exhausted their possibilities”, has unpacked the concept of secularism painstakingly in the Indian context. Pointing out that religions in our part of the world have become split into religion-as-faith versus religion-as-ideology, he describes the latter as a “subnational, national, or cross national identifier of populations contesting for or protecting non-religious, usually political or socio-economic, interests.” For me, the religion as faith that I encountered as a pilgrim was distinct from the religion as Hindutva ideology that I abhor. The fudging of both by the SC verdict in the Manohar Joshi vs. N.B. Patil case in 1995 made it appear as if Hindutva was the sum of many cultural practices and beliefs, posing no threat to non-Hindus. But as we have seen so clearly in recent years, de facto Hindutva means aggressive posturing on the ground to pursue a nationalist agenda and protect distinct political and socio-economic interests.

If secularists have been unable to make such distinctions clear in the minds of citizens and voters, it is futile to once again hold Amit Shah and Narendra Modi responsible. Instead, it is clearly a result of secularists’ refusal to engage with questions of faith and identity in any meaningful way.  To many, religion and the way it is expressed around us seems too messy or backward to bother with. When I wrote in my books about the visible expressions of faith I had experienced first-hand, I often had friends wonder why I found the melas and the kaanwariyas so fascinating. Modernity, a desire for development, and a secular outlook means for many in my social milieu a complete disregard for the inconvenient, bedraggled, jugadu hordes of poor pilgrims struggling to reach temples and deities and holding up traffic in the NCR.

Kanwariyas
Kanwariyas

For such people longing for a ‘developed’ India that will leave all such messy struggles behind, a vote for Modi in 2014 actually meant a vote for an increased role for the private sector without the ball and chain of environmental safeguards dragging down corporate India. The rights of tribals and displaced communities, the increased disparities of income and the contrasts in urban India between utter comfort and utter despair didn’t cause upper middle class urban Indians to lose much sleep. As a society we have lived for far too long with the twin evils of entitlement and deprivation, and nothing in our environment encourages us to think beyond the interests of our family, caste, or class. Protecting secular discourse was not a priority for too many, unless it represented an attack on their own personal freedom.

Today when I share with my journalist friend Rahul Pandey a frustration with the lack of any political opposition to the tactics of the BJP, he says, “Na Ram hai, na Bam, sab chhalava hai.” (There is neither Ram, nor the Left, it is all wholesale fraud and deception.) He refuses to accept that the BJP is winning elections only on the basis of their WhatsApp armies.  “Why would WhatsApp work without any real work being put in?” he asks me. “The VHP have gone door to door, in village after village in UP, and tied dharm-raksha-sutra (Save your faith bands) around the wrists of lakhs of people in their homes. Which party can claim such cover? The Sanghis have conducted Swachhata Abhiyan (Cleanliness campaigns) in village after village. Their workers and volunteers remain visible to the public at all times. This is what makes their WhatsApp mobilization work.”

The Sangh and its affiliates have also perfected the art of silent communication at religious events with a cultural significance.  My activist friend Arvind Murti says, of a recent event around the Thrissur temple “I was there recently on an occasion where at least fifty thousand people were present, and a host of cultural activities were being put on. Not a single political leader from either the LDF or the UDF was present. The only visible leaders were from the Sangh umbrella organizations. It made me acutely conscious of how secular parties are missing important opportunities for communication by disregarding such occasions and festivals.” I knew exactly what he was talking about because I have been at the chariot festival of Chennai’s Kapaleeswar temple, when thousands of people converge in Mylapore in a completely apolitical celebration. However, the volunteers of VHP are still milling about among the people, distributing water and butter milk sachets. Somewhere, in interpreting  secularism as a lifestyle that shuns the mention of God or religion, secular parties and leaders have distanced themselves from  cultural practices that deliver their countrymen to the Sangh without protest or effort.

For Prof. Ashis Nandy, secularism and tolerance can only be recovered by re-connecting with the ideals of faith, not by denying them. He points to Gandhi as the believer whose compassion and tolerance stemmed from his religion, not in spite of it. For millions of poor Hindus, who have felt excluded from the prosperity of their secular, modern fellow citizens, the Sangh gives honorifics and titles that bring a role of prominence as an anti-Romeo squad member or a Gau Rakshak. Such actions may actually be bringing these people a legitimacy whose importance we are unable to comprehend from a position of eternal privilege.  If secularism’s goose is not to be well and truly cooked in India we have to prepare to move once more among our people and ask them the questions that matter. For this, it seems, we can depend on no political leader or party.

So if we are to reclaim the ground we have ceded to those who always talk of ‘hurt sentiments’ and explain each violent mob attack as an expression of the people’s emotions, we need to attack the idea of Hindus as victims. We need to bring such questions as the ones below in the public domain, whether through Whatsapp, social media or conversation. The idea of the majority community being victims in their own homeland is the biggest falsehood of the Sangh, being used to perpetuate fear and hatred in equal measure. ‘Have you ever been stopped from worshipping your favourite deity, or doing pooja in your homes?’ is something we can ask fellow Hindus. ‘If not, why do you feel insecure in your own home and country?’

‘Who are the people telling you your homes are in danger, your women are in danger? Don’t you believe your God is powerful enough to protect you and your family? Why then pick up arms and who do you want to attack?’

‘When you rush to attack and kill, whether for money/recognition/reward, don’t forget that you will have to account for it before your God. Yeh kaun sa Bhagwan hai  jo kisi insaan ko maarne ke liye majboor kar raha hai?

No great knowledge of religion or scriptures is needed to counter the majoritarian poison of the Sangh. All it needs is nudging the people to tap into their own faith of God being their protector, not the other way around. After all, in the crowds of pilgrims I used to travel with, each was seeking his or her own liberation, however hard and arduous the journey was.

Unfortunately, around a bend in the path and in our nation’s history, many of these seekers met not the God who would provide ‘mukti’, but the politician who demanded eternal slavery of mind and soul.

So are we, privileged and educated Hindus, up to having these conversations among ourselves?

Originally published here.

3

This post speaks for itself. Harbir Singh is basically calling for violence against Muslims. I am writing this blog to preempt overreactions and suggest that the only correct answer to what is very wrong is doing what is right in an impeccable manner. Hate and violence is not right. Hindus should not support this, Muslims should not react to this in an inappropriate manner.

harbir Singh Muslim threats
This is a communally inflammatory and offensive post by Harbir Singh already going viral on Social Media.

The post was published here. It has since been taken down and Harbir Singh's profile unavailable (unclear whether deleted or suspended). Harbir Singh is a columnist and works at Capital One. He writes for several newspapers including Times of India, Toronto Sun, New Delhi Times and The Nation (Pakistan).

Two things I can say here:

  1. Let the law deal with him. This is definitely illegal.
  2. Insist that publications that give reach to his voice stop publishing him and evaluate existing content for communally sensitive incitement.

Because India is a highly predictable country and outrage is the default mode, I think it is important that everyone stay calm and not give an unheard of journalist the credibility of either speaking for Hindus or making Muslims speak things they will regret. Don't prove the idiot right by making threats. Don't prove the idiot right by supporting this nonsense.

Keep calm and insist on what is right. We still have the law. We have courts.