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The Hadiya case has quickly turned into a war of political interests between Hindutva and Islamists. Prima facie, the issue is simple. A woman choses to convert to another religion and marry a man of her choice from that religion. Enter evil parents. The marriage is anulled. Hadiya is becomes a prisoner. Clamour grows with the Hindutva pride seeing exploitation, while the anti-Hindutva prejudice seeing nothing but a matter of choice. I don't see the issue as that simple, and for once, I agree with all parties. I definitely applaud the courage of Hadiya in sticking to her choice and taking it all the way. While I restricted myself to stating this, all was well. The problem arose when I also understand the perspective of the father as well as the courts. In my view, this is a complex issue with several factors that need considering. The high voltage drama around the issue has ensured it is largely reduced to accusations of love jihad and scoffing at the accusations with complete inability of both extreme stands to actually understand the issue beyond the lens they are habituated to.

For me, this is not a religious issue in the sense of Islam or Hinduism or whatever, but it is similar to countless instances of women (and men too) being infatuated with a belief system to the point of cutting off their previous life. It isn't a matter of choice of religion or choice of husband, but a matter of a series of choices that literally amount to abdicating her entire family, name, identity, residence, marital status and more. It is a series of extreme and life changing decisions in rapid succession. This is where the case is a cause for concern. She is literally abdicating the person she used to be in order to embrace a completely new way of life. It is clear that she is convinced about this. It is equally clear that those cheering for her are convinced that it is the right thing. But if you take off the lens of specific religions, where have we seen similar behavior?

Well, we have seen women leave their families and join the Sanatan Sanstha (a Hindu extremist organization). When their concerned parents tried legal means to get them back, the girls informed them that they had joined the Sanatan Sanstha by choice. They accused their parents of abuse. A more recent example would be when the parents of two sisters in Bombay filed a complaint against Sunil Kulkarni who ran an "organization" called Shifu Sankriti for entraping their daughters who.... found his cult and left their parental home. They accused Sunil Kulkarni of entraping their daughters, giving them drugs, sexual exploitation and what not. The daughters rubbished their claims in court and accused the parents of domestic violence. Other parents too have made similar complaints, but those who followed him have not spoken against him. Sunil Kulkarni is not Muslim, none of those accusations were proved. He was arrested anywayand is still being denied bail. The girls of the college in Dera Sacha Sauda had released videos endorsing Ram Rahim and angry with the state over his arrest. I'd post a link, but that is one sad video I wish I could unsee.

While it is tempting to see this as an issue of religious choice or prejudice against minorities or love jihad, the fact is that there are patterns to people suddenly immersing themselves in a new faith they find. And sometimes the patterns are suspicious enough to raise serious questions on whether the person is acting of their own will. This is not limited to any specific religion or cult. However, it usually happens when there is some kind of fundamentalism or cult going on. Merely being interested in and following religion does not lead to an abdication of family and loved ones, home and routine life and a complete immersion in the new lifestyle. Hadiya didn't just embrace Islam, she changed her name, her dress, her educational goals, she got involved in an Islamist organization, and she quit her family, stayed with several new acquaintances in quick succession. When legally challenged, with the assistance of her new associates, she came up with another Islamist to marry! A parent who wouldn't be alarmed by something like this is hard to find. This is not merely a change of faith or interreligious marriage. For something like this to happen, the mind is completely captivated by the promise of the new faith and completely disinterested in existing life and loved ones to the point of losing all realistic view. In that sense, the NIA is not altogether wrong when it speaks of indoctrination subverting consent. The bigger problem is that the NIA seeing it as happening only as the pet bogey of love jihad, when, in fact it happens across religions, cults, politics and even love marriages with gullible minds absorbing visions of utopia and giving up anythign that would deter from chasing that infatuation. Anything that drastically changes life while looking at limited aspects of a situation based on information promoted is suspect.

For that matter, even if an atheist were to suddenly turn hostile with family over suddenly discoverign that there is no God, it would still be a suspect state of mind during which they probably should not take life altering decisions. One of the wisest pieces of relationship advice comes from the polyamory community, to enjoy a new relationship, but to not make any life altering decisions while under the influence of NRE (New Relationship Energy). Something like this applied to matters of changes in beliefs - whether political or religious would mean to learn more, engage, enjoy more, but not burn bridges with existing life in rapid succession to rely solely on new choice for all matters - even those unrelated to it.

That said, what should be done about such subversion of free choice is anyone's guess. Many people indoctrinated continue to live what is to them a normal life. Many times indoctrination can be inadvertent rather than deliberate (happens in most homes where kids learn to think in black and white prejudice). While being indoctrinated may be unfortunate, there is no objective way to assess it and thus acting on such an evaluation always runs the risk of violating rights. Even if it is a mistake, it is that person's mistake to make, after a point. Also given how highly charged these kind of situations can be, there is great potential to both frame people as well as get away with indoctrination if it is the "right" kind of indoctrination.

But I am glad this case hit the courts. Hadiya must indeed have the right to choose her way - even if it is wrong (which in my belief it is - drowning in religion/religious politics, in my view is always suspect). But I am glad that the process kept the space open for her to pause for breath and think things through very seriously. At the end of the day, it is her life, her choice.

It would, however be useful if people who claim to endorse human rights contributed to creating a larger picture instead of abdicating all responsibility to prevent exploitation (that is what brainwashing is, fundamentally) in their eagerness to present an unambiguous and ringing endorsement of whatever the cause they are showing off. Whether minorities or women's right to choose or opposing Hindutva propaganda, or whatever. Because at the center of such situations are very vulnerable people living in a virtual reality. It may be their right to live in that reality, but well wishers watching their six wouldn't hurt.

Finally, Hadiya's father is not a Hindutva activist but an atheist. The court gave her into his custody with guard and restrictions. Nor was his case against Hadiya's husband - he really doesn't have the power to order NIA investigations. It may be worth looking at what actions are being attributed to him just because he dared question the holy cow of free choice. He can approach the courts, but the judges do have minds of their own and are not obliged to obey.

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A guest post by Hari Prasad on the propaganda prevailing in India, the nature of it and the implications it has for the country and its ability to understand its government.

India. It was May, 26th 2014. There was a coronation in front of an historic building to an undisputed emperor of the purportedly new dawn, the king of good days (not times). There was hope, expectation, (misplaced) rejuvenation among many and there was anxiety, curiosity, worry and suspense among another lot. What one thinks and feels (or felt of thought) is not relevant when it comes to judge what has happened since.

There have been seemingly unconnected statements made by various ‘fringes’ – a term which is mostly an excuse by the present ruling dispensation in India and its larger family the RSS. It is important to see why these statements and certain actions are to be seen in cohesion and not as so called ‘isolated’ anomalies.

But how are things handled these days in India? How is criticism taken these days in India? How is opposite point of view is viewed in India? All of these not by Indians but by the present ruling dispensation and its cohorts in India.

I have kept the prose very rudimentary, less grammatical and only in hints or examples (not explanations) and there is a reason to it.

Ad hominem:

You place an argument and instead of responding to that argument, we are called names. I will let you assume what those names have been and how many people have been victims of those. To electoral opponents in Delhi to an economist.

Ad nauseum:

How many times have we heard a single or very limited ideas being repeated – like ‘Love jihad’ or ‘us vs them’ or ‘appeasement of past’?

Appeal to authority:

How many seemingly unconnected and extremely opposite national icons have been appropriated by this group? Bhagat Singh was a completely left. Ambedkar called Hinduism “a veritable chamber of horrors.” Netaji had nothing to do with RSS. Patel was opposed to RSS. Yet, and that’s where the beauty lies, they are being appropriated.

Appeal to Prejudice:

How many loaded and emotive election campaigns have we seen during 2014 and two years after that? Whether it is 15lakh per person to Muslim across the border in Assam to crackers across the border in Bihar, to the latest Kairana, we have come a long way in just appealing to only emotions.

Big Lie:

The big lie was economy was absolutely down. Nothing moved. Policy paralysis. Based on the new series (or magic series, if you are one of the critics), in fact the economy didn’t do as bad in numbers published by the finance ministry in final years of UPA. But in meetings after meetings, in interviews after interviews we heard the word “revival” used sparingly and without any inherent meaning. There was no concrete proof provided on what that word meant. There was neither concrete proof provided for the word “in shambles.”

And oh, the global economy was blamed. And what did the world see after 2008? A high growth and high demand period? (more on specifics in another post)

Black and white fallacy:

Sometime back, I wrote on ‘is and the ought.’ Apart from those, we have been provided with few false choices during these two years. A shining example – “have four kids or else…”

Cherry Picking:

Savarkar sympathizers quoting Gandhi, to their own convenience. The irony died multiple times in the past two years.

Classical Conditioning:

If you are against this government or its policies, you are termed you know what by you know who. What happened and is happening to the NGOs and the activists in Chatisgarh is beyond comprehension.

Common Man:

Remember the photo ops – worshipping parliament, crying in central hall, posing with broom. These appeal to the common folks, just like you and me. And by the way what is wrong with it? Nothing, if they are true and honest and we know now those are not. When you work actively to topple elected government, your empty symbolism is sheer waste.

Cult personality:

My favourite. There is nothing wrong in personality but everything wrong with Cult personality. Name a person in India who has used mass (and social) media to have cultivated idealized, heroic and worshipful image? The never-wrong image fuels the followers and in turn feeds the person as well.

Demonizing the enemy:

Remember the Hitler and Akbar comparison by a dimwit? Libtards sounding bastards to refer liberals. Presstitute sounding prostitute or press? These are sub-human and at once demonizes all opponents.

Dictat:

Indian Prime Ministership is supposed to be first among equals. There has never been a PM apart from Nehru who personified this. However, there was nothing called as Dictat from the last PM. But now, there are Diktats – Yoga Day on Ramzan, Good Governance day on Christmas etc. With short term memory, we forget the burqa diktat in one Jaipur rally of BJP and yea, asking colleges to send pupils to its Mhow rally.

Disinformation:

Dadri. JNU and Hyderabad University. Created false records, forged video to convince us of some untruth. This also has extended to conceal truths by censorship. Udta Punjab is a case in point and not the end of it. Kerala – somlia comment. Amit Shah showing a Sri Lanka kid’s pic with the words “God’s own curse”

Euphoria:

Circa 2014. Need say more? Or all the NRI meets.

Exaggeration:

Modi lied about paying off Gujarat’s debt before and he lied about 15 lakh per person on black money. And I am waiting and so are crores. These are all classic case of exaggeration which are allowed only to poets and if politicians use this licence they have one word for it – LIARS!

Fear, uncertainty and doubt:

With demonization and name calling, few sections of society are left in fear. They have to prove everytime that they are innocent and the starting point of any debate is under the assumption that they are guilty.

Flag-waving:

After 6 decades of independence we are left with a debate on nationalism and patriotism. Now, we are expected to prove our patriotism first when we debate the idiots and foxes in power. To provoke nationalism is one thing, it can harness good in a society but the flag waving group is certainly not doing for it.

Guilt by association:

You are associated with congress, yes you are guilty and anti-national. Well, when they cross the river and come over to BJP, their sins are cleansed by Ganga jal and are reborn. Assam to Uttarakhand to Arunachal we have seen it all.

Half truth:

“Despite being Muslim….” That’s how a minister referred to Late APJ Abdul Kalam. He was a Muslim, yes, no denying that but ‘despite’?

Intentional Vagueness:

This government is a master in not disclosing facts and trumpeting on motherhood statements. Take for example BJP-PDP alliance. Or for example the Naga accord. What are the specifics? What have we conceded or accepted to? Bharat Mata is worshipped but “afforestation commitment” and “Forests Rights Act” certificate have been removed for miners!

Labelling:

Aadarsh Liberals. Libtards. Sicklar. Presstitutes. Barmaid.

These are easy, simple, deceptive, meaning less but enchants the crowd. (Bhakt is a praise and cannot be called as pejorative.)

Managing the news:

As Arun Shourie said, this government is managing the news and not the economy. What we are given now are recurrent themes – “under threat,” “love jihad,” “illegal migration,” “fastest growing” and acronyms and abbreviations for endless recycled policies and schemes. But actions on those? Never mind.

Minimization:

Dadri. It was not a cow. No, wait. It was a cow. So killing is justified. An unjustifiable position is justified. Go online and see comments and feedback on Godhra and the answer is glaring.

Name calling:

Should it be elaborated? How many facts based arguments have we seen in the past two years? Every issue is twisted to make it emotionally suitable to a point of view, to an agenda, to a predisposed conclusion. Oh! And don’t forget a former general calling some Dog. Behold, Sickulars!

Oversimplification:

Pakistan, China and the like. We have seen and heard solutions to all. We have seen and heard the past government being (rightly) criticized for handling these issues and were offered “56 inch.” But what have we seen? ISI has visited our Air Base, China came in last week, Nepal screwed and no, we love Africans (but only one of our CMs has a reservation about Nigerians). Results? A big big zero.

Rationalization:

How many reasons have we been offered for completely indefensible acts?

Scapegoating:

Oh yea. Blame it on Nehru. Blame it on Congress. Blame it on Mughal Rule (note: not on British Rule). But I am incapable to providing solutions or answers. All I can do is blame the past. And no, don’t question me on my work. Because, I am a patriot.

Also, keeping a one arm distance, the ‘fringes’ are offered as scapegoats whereas they are perfectly in line with the mind-set and ideology of the ruling dispensation.

Stereotyping:

NGOs are foreign national plant. Christians are converting beasts. Most of the supporters actually believe this garbage. And no, I need not say anything about their thoughts on Muslims. A quick stroll through whom the PM ‘follows’ in Twitter will give a glimpse of the stereotyping.

Testimonial:

In March, 2016, BJP tweeted a purported quote of Mahatma Gandhi praising Savarkar. However, when I tried searching a lot, I couldn’t find a quote.

Third Party technique:

Another testimonial came in the form of WikiLeaks which praised Modi as corruption free. Remember? That was also a lie. An organization which is respected and hated worldwide was quoted without any authentication or permission and self-glorified itself.

Unstated Assumption:

One follower, a famous one at that said “When pest control is done at homes, cockroaches, insects etc come out. The house gets cleaned up.” What is the implication? Eradication of all who are opposing this government of us? Or even if they oppose what is the written law, so what? The unstated assumption here is that like Hitler used vermin, he had used it and threatened whoever is opposed to whatever this government thinks it as right. So did he propose a ‘final solution’ to the problem?

Virtue words:

Truth alone triumphs

The world is one single family

Non-violence is the topmost Dharma

Let good thoughts come from everywhere

All spiritual paths are treated equally

“Sahana bavathu… let there be no hostility”

These were pre-2014 words of Modi’s Idea of India.

As recently as last week, we have seen the double message – Vikas from PM and Kairana from the planner.

So why are all these necessary? What are these random phrases? These are phrases which define any propaganda machinery. Their methods, techniques and their ways. Its hard to see things in isolation but when you connect the dots, you have it all.

Without knowing and without being obvious, what we are seeing and living with is a propaganda machinery at work. We can’t search for a plan, a blueprint. What we are left with are actions on ground, inferences glaring at our face, wanting to take note and stand up and raise our voice.

Why was the prose kept very simple? Because someone in the past said that propaganda must be kept simple.

What is Propaganda?

The dictionary describes it as “information, especially of biased nature, used to promote a political cause or point of view.”

What will this trend lead to?

People who have the power also have the responsibility to do. In our case, we have the power to resist such schemes, manipulations and twisting of facts. If we stand and watch silently, if we think that this has not happened to me so it will never happen to me, I leave you with these wise words of Niemoller.

“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

Dissent, debate and disagreement are cornerstones of a vibrant democracy. By using the techniques of propaganda, the ruling party and its affiliated ‘parivar’ are undermining it. Brick by brick, the edifice of our democracy is being eroded in front of our eyes and we are remaining mute spectators.

If we think, this will not happen to India, just because this is India, we are either living in fools’ paradise or utterly stupid.

Wake up, its propaganda!

Originally published here