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22

We, the undersigned, are shocked by the serial raids across the country on the homes of activists and public intellectuals who are critical of the government and the ruling party at the Centre. The arrests of prominent activists and intellectuals Sudha Bharadwaj, Vernon Gonsalves, Gautam Navlakha, Varavara Rao, Arun Ferreira, Kranthi Tekula and others, are nothing but an attempt by the government to strike terror among those who are fighting for justice for the marginalised. This is also an attempt by the BJP to invent a false enemy and engage in scaremongering in order to polarise the 2019 elections in its favour. Already, the government and the media houses close to the BJP have been trying to spin a false narrative of a Maoist conspiracy since June, 2018. Terms like “urban naxals” are invented in order to stifle any criticism of the government. We have learnt that the Delhi Police, after having arrested Sudha Bharadwaj, waited for Republic TV to arrive before taking her to the court. This simply shows that the arrests are incomplete without the accompanying sensationalist media propaganda to demonise activists, human rights defenders and intellectuals.

The so-called raids carried out on the houses of these activists are aimed at creating a spectacle, as the writings and views of these intellectuals are already publicly known and are well documented. This seems like a conspiracy to divert attention from the gravity of the Sanatan Sanstha conspiracy to carry out serial bomb attacks on Eid and Ganesh Chaturthi! The same Sanatan Sanstha was also involved in the murder of Gauri Lankesh, as per the ongoing investigations by Karnataka police. Today’s arrests have been carried out in order to give cover to the murderers of Gauri Lankesh. People like Sudha Bharadwaj, Gautam Navlakha and others who have been arrested are friends of the people who have dedicated their entire lives to the betterment of the Indian public. By arresting them, the BJP is only exposing its insecurities and its intolerance to any dissent or criticism of its policies.

The arrests should be seen in continuation with the recent attacks on pro-justice voices such as Swami Agnivesh, Umar Khalid and many other student activists from Delhi to Lucknow. A BJP lawmaker from Karnataka even advocated the murder of “intellectuals.” Both the arrests and the physical attacks on justice loving people must be seen in a series of attempts to stifle dissent and deny social justice.

We demand immediate release of the arrested individuals, dropping of all false and malicious charges, as these arrests are politically motivated and unjustified.

Shehla Rashid Shora, former Vice-President, JNU Students’ Union.

Mohit Pandey, former President, JNU Students’ Union.

Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, Author, Journalist, Publisher.

Neha Dixit, Journalist.

Jignesh Mevani, MLA Vadgam, Gujarat.

Sanam Sutirath Wazir, Human Rights Activist.

Nakul Singh Sawhney, Documentary Filmmaker.

Teesta Setalvad, Journalist and Social Activist.

Harish Iyer, Equal Rights Activist.

Swami Agnivesh, Arya Samaj, Social Activist.

Admiral L Ramdas

Lalita Ramdas

Shabnam Hashmi

Vidyut, blogger.

Ashok Bharati, Dalit Leader

Maj Priyadarshi Chowdhury, SC, ESM Activist & Coordinator Joint Agitation of Farmers, Dalits & ESMs

Shri VM Singh, Rashtriya Kisan Mazdoor Sanghatan

Kumar Prashant, Chairman, Gandhi Peace Foundation to the statement

If you agree with the above statement, please add your name in the comments and I will periodically add names to the post.

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.

1

Once Maharashtra was the land of progressive thought. Now it is the land where progressive thought is killed. After Narendra Dabholkar's murder in Pune, Comrade Govind Pansare was shot in Kolhapur. He has succumbed to his injuries.

This is the man who hosted events asking dangerous questions like "Who killed Karkare?" or protested the powerful IRB Infrastructure Developers. Over decades of service, he has stood up for all kinds of rights of people. He faced virulent hate propaganda from fans of Nathuram Godse more recently (Nathuram godse is Mahatma Gandhi's murderer) from Sanatan Sanstha and others.

[tweetthis twitter_handles="@Vidyut, @_AamJanata"]Govind Pansare is dead. Murdered brutally to silence. His killers roam free. Where is justice?[/tweetthis]

In a state where the supporters of the ruling parties are the most venomous haters of progressive thinking activists, there appears to be no point expecting justice. In a country where the state machinery works to free killers and frame activists, there appears to be no point expecting rule of law. What is justice anyway? Two or ten worthless souls put behind bars cannot compensate the social loss of progressive thoughts being proliferated time and again.

Justice for the murder of a thinker can only come from the proliferation of their thoughts. Voices that resonate with ethics become louder because they speak the hearts of many, address the needs of many. They can be silenced by guns, but they cannot be refuted. Thoughts let lose in the world cannot be reeled back in.

We all die one day. The fearless die once.

When Narendra Dabholkar was murdered, I was overwhelmed with shame for having agreed with his views, but never taken the effort to add my voice. From that day, I remain committed to speaking out against superstition.

[tweetthis twitter_handles="@Vidyut, @_AamJanata"]We all die one day. The fearless die once. One dead Pansare spawns many more.[/tweetthis]

Today, it seems the commitment needs to be wider. There are so many things that need voices speaking truth to power. So many voices that going around with a gun becomes unfeasible. In the absence of deterrent for criminals from the state, the strategy of minds insisting on progressive thought must evolve to build in deterrents. This is one.

I promise to continue speaking. Loud and clear. Against superstition. Against corruption. Against exploitation and inequality. Against communal hate.

It is but one voice and the task is huge, there is no alternative but to grow to meet it.

Walk along. Let not voices of reason be a few heads sticking out in a crowd that can be shot out of the picture.

5

If there is anything and anyone the Hindu fanatics in India owes allegiance to, it is a fantasy nation that Hindutva wants to build on the carcass of a diverse and vibrant India. That Hindu Rashtra, the Utopia where every human failing ceases to exist right along with diversity, which embarrasses supremacists. In the meanwhile, they will settle for attacking anything that goes against what they perceive to be "against" this Utopia - be it gender equality or the very existence of minorities. In a country that exists in perceptions, it is damage done to perception that is the cardinal sin. Flaws are to be concealed and not addressed. And then of course, many flaws are actually features and not bugs in a country bent on reducing its entire existence to a mythically uniform religious identity. In a country where masses thrive on superstition and arbitrarily defined morality as exhibition of virtue, it is rather easy to herd minds into a pen of thoughts using carrot and stick.

In the high altitude deserts in extreme North India, where barren expanses of Ladakh, Spiti, Zanskar and Changthang are interspersed with very scarce grazing, goatherds herd their flock into small stone compounds that are rather like a large room without a roof. The idea is to keep the flock warm and safe and easy to guard during the night, in a land where dissatisfaction with grazing or even getting spooked (very easy there) can have your livestock covering tens of kilometers overnight to feed or flee. And with nightfall, the flock does stay contented, warmed by the shared body heat, unable to see temptations beyond their prison given the high walls and the dark.

And every once in a while, a snow leopard gets around the guard of the ever watchful goatherds and flees taking a hapless goat by its throat and scaling the high wall easily with its burden. The wall was never impossible for the snow leopard and nor would you want it to be impossible for the snow leopard, leaving him trapped all night with the entire livestock instead of making off with one. The wall is merely to keep your goats in one place, so that they are easy for you to retain possession and control of.

And it is indeed a superior method of keeping your livestock safe. They stay warm through the night in some of the most extreme places on the planet. They do not lose weight or suffer the stress of fleeing predators. It is perfect for that place.... unless you start asking absurd questions like what the goats really want. Do the goats want to spend their nights in prison? What if they want the right to choose to life free and die at the hands of a predator as is the nature of life?

It is about utility. The goat is a possession. Livestock. Living, but property. No one is asking the goat if it wants the right to free bleat or health services. It is put in a place where its bleating doesn't matter, and health is more about not losing numbers to deaths without profit than saving the goats.

This isn't unlike the Hindutva movement being peddled by the RSS-BJP machine and its affiliates (or indeed any other con based on nationalist identity - be it the Nazis or Islamists either). The method is simple. The idea is to harness the unquestioning endorsement of a majority of the population for profit. The profit isn't intended to go to the "property" - the masses that get herded into a pen of thoughts in the dark, safe and comfortable in their make believe "protection", that is more about control. The profits will go to those who herd the goats into the pens daily.

The methods of nationalist fanatism of any hue are the same. Convince the majority population that the largest minority is a problem (too small and the profit is also too small). Also the target population must ideally have some kind of xenophobic process too, so you can show evidence of it as proof of a conspiracy and justification that the hate mongering is actually necessary to survive. Build the idea of threat, instill a strong sense of victimhood. Use every justification available however farfetched. For example, Christians in Pakistan (and sometimes India) suffer the punishment for the colonizing British atrocities in our past and the imperial America in the present. Never mind that Christians in India and Pakistan are such a small number that them being an overpowering influence on anything has to be a joke. Christian missionaries being a threat to the majority religion is also a popular theme. Never mind the utter absurdity of either country emerging from decades of British Colonization without still having any significant number of Christians. If the allegedly forceful missionary conversions didn't succeed in denting major religious populations in either country when natives had little more power than slaves, what in the world are missionaries going to do with zealot riddled majorities in power? Ironically, both the Indian and Pakistani zealots use many Christian concepts as a mark of their virtue too.

This conditioning is also the toughest phase, because this is where most of the work is needed to achieve a complete overpowering of perception over verifiable reality so that the perception seems fact and the reality invisible, or at best the exception to the reality. Naturally, it is not easy to convince people that even if they have never been threatened by a Muslim, nor anyone they know in real life has been threatened, Hindus are, in fact at the brink of extinction because of them. It helps if you can find someone who has had a grudge with a Muslim. Be it a rude rickshaw driver or a murderer to show them the "reality" of Muslims. If you cannot find such links, then you must look at a vividly reported dramatic injustice against Hindus and get other Hindus to feel a kinship with the victims on the basis of religion instead of "OMG how awful" alone. Of course, in the "post truth" world, it is more efficient to simply invent outrages triggered by Muslims with false, selected or manipulated reporting. It is fairly easy to get pliable media to make entire careers out of discussing the injustice of triple talak to Muslim women with Muslims being less than 20% of the population, women being half of that, women who are married being fewer, those who'd want a divorce being still fewer and those who find the divorce done through triple talak to be unjust to them being a further smaller fraction of the whole. Our eagerness to save Muslim women from their men is outstripped only by our willingness to excuse our proud tradition of marital rape from being threatened by law. It is easy to unleash anonymous trolls commenting on the age of Ayesha when she married Mohammed in a country where 84% Of 12 Million Married Children Under 10 Are Hindus, right now. Living. Not in some ancient past which had its own life expectancy and morals and rights.

It helps if you can promote the Hindu religion and get people doing rituals and talking about it, so any Hindu wrongly killed is easier to connect with a common factor (Muslim for Islamic countries). It helps to have polarized and seggregated environments where the majority religion rarely has meaningful interactions with minorities, so anything said about them cannot be easily verified through actual interaction before repetition turns the disinformation into a concrete perception of reality. Naturally, all this is not easy and it fails for a large many people and only a few are successfully conned. So, for any nationalist con, propagating this sense of injustice and continuously recruiting more minds to replace those that question and realize they are being gaslighted being no longer being susceptible. Which is how you will ALWAYS find a constant narrative of victimhood in public space reaching out to people, offering sympathy for all their suffering and telling them who is the real cause and how this one entity is working hard to end the problem they are facing. With skill, you can point out any sin of any symbol of your "oppressing minority" anywhere in the world to remind about the existential threat. For example, the juvenile rape accused in the Delhi Gang Rape is a .... you guessed it! MUSLIM!!! Never mind that he was accompanied by 5 ADULT Hindus. He was "most brutal". And the others were praying for her well being? But there you have it. Muslim found. Talk about it enough, and it is human nature to associate rapist with Muslim.

India completed this phase with the election of Narendra Modi as the Prime Minister of India. We are now in maintenance mode, with daily lessons on how Muslims in particular are a problem, but it no longer is absurd to level illogical accusations based on identity. It is the Muslims who will have to fight them off and explain how they are innocent. Watch TV. I actually heard Sambit Patra (I think) say on some TV channel "Does the Quran say loudspeakers must be used?" as though the vedas have written that garba nights must have loudspeakers. It is absurd and illogical, but the masses are now convinced that everything Muslim needs to be questioned for national well being.

Once your majority population is successfully fooled into being threatened into extinction at the hands of the minority, the rest is simple. Correct the imbalance. "Survival" becomes about exterminating that dangerous oppressor. Aggression against them is necessary defense. The RSS once called for Hindus to keep weapons in their home to "defend" themselves against "jihadis". We now have school books showing a picture of a Muslim as a terrorist in schools. Any crime against them is gleeful collateral damange - if they prove that the person killed couldn't be termed guilty of anything that could cause outrage - otherwise it is just plain deserved. Sympathy for them is a sign of treachery to the innocent and oppressed victim majority. Sanatan Sanstha, a Hindu supremacist organization with an agenda of turning India into a Hindu country published a press release by Hindu Jagruti Samiti, an extremist propaganda outfit and affiliate calling for the death penalty to anyone who objected to the death penalty for "terrorist" Yakub Memon. A conviction and hanging that had been highly controversial including questions raised by ex judges and former head of the R&AW, now departed, that was published after his death. So essentially, this amounts to violent lunatics making open calls for the deaths of some of the most imminent people in the country for criticizing lack of rigorous process of justice.

Once a significant part of the population is conned into believing the tale, or at least believing that the zealots are making a "genuine" effort for "good" and merely "wrong methods" or "misguided" that can be overlooked (read "not punished") in the interest of the larger problem in the larger picture of them actually being victims, you can cash that in with "correcting wrongs". Riots, massacres, demolitions, persecution through policy, discrimination in public space.... you create a permanent "second class citizen", who can be exploited at will. And twice per whim in the run up to elections.

Any questioning of religion becomes fair game for organized attacks. The brainwash is so absolute, that the vilest crime will get defended without question, with deflection, comparisons and sheer hate compensating for any argument. What the debate lacks in quality it more than compensates with quantity and sheer multi-pronged intimidation. Three rationalist murders increasingly look like they will tie in with the Sanatan Sanstha, yet the ruling government cannot bring itself to act against them in any manner, with politicians being evasive or downright supportive, while supporters come all out in support of what basically amounts to a confidence trickster with a very very violent agenda. Sanatan Sanstha gives arms training to its sadhaks. No problem. There are parents whose sons and daughters got brainwashed into joining the Sanstha and have never returned. They are adults. But the adults aren't allowed to meet own parents without Sanstha officials. It does not matter. The support is absolute. Wrongs are merely the habit of one who objects to crimes - which to the brainwashed Hindutva mind are not crimes at all and are merely undue attention given to the life and limb of undeserving people.

For that matter, most right wing outfits do. Recent days even saw children on the streets carrying swords for Ramnavmi. Apparently worship of Ram is incomplete without weapons. Which is utter nonsense, and basically amounts to saying that till this procession happened, no one worshipped Ram. Never mind that Ram carried a bow and arrow and not sword. Entire new violent traditions are manifesting out of thin air as "necessary" for religion.

Now here's the catch. The goatherd being the region's biggest livestock owner doesn't mean that the goat gets to set market prices or enforce vegetarianism, or at least ban slaughter of goats. The goat still sleeps in the pen, gets butchered for meat, sold for money, sacrificed on occasion and so on. This mythical Hindu rashtra is for the rulers, not the cannon fodder that is being exploited to make it happen. In the meanwhile, for every fanatic hothead with a thirst for violence who may or may not harm Muslims some day, there is a terrorised Hindu family who must tiptoe around him or be harmed. The last year or so has been rife with murders of right wing supporters - at the hands of fellow right wing fanatics. This is no coincidence. In a society with a majority of Hindus, while the eposodic threat of radicalized Hindus may seem higher for Muslims, the people who would have to live with these Frankenstein's monsters 24/7 will largely be Hindu. Sheer exposure guarantees that they will be a bigger threat to Hindus than Muslims. But then threats to Hindus don't really matter. They are simply propaganda fodder to madden Hindus into needing revenge. It isn't like BJP has so much as warned Bajrang Dal or various other affiliates responsible for murders of BJP workers. Of course if the murderers were Muslim, and often even before the murderers are found to be Hindu, the propaganda machinery kicks into action claiming the threat to Hindus from Muslims. This vanishes without a trace or so much as an "oops" when right wing fanatics turn out to be responsible for the murder.

"Bhakts", as the blind supporters are now called were never intended to be more than cannon fodder, and the day they become inconvenient for the ruler, they will be culled as easily as the Muslims they help cull. The government will call it acting in a responsible manner and not tolerating breaking of law even by own supporters and even get a halo out of it.

This rashtra isn't going to give ruthless, hate filled leaders a personality transplant and make them believe in universal harmony and co-existence just because of a government change. Vasudhaiva kutumbakam was never supposed to be about killing people till only those you can be harmonious with are left. These leaders coming to power is not going to mean that the relentless sense of victimhood tormenting you is going to end - EVER - if that ends, the leaders end. You're in forever till you escape. If you run out of Muslims, there will be other religions, castes, political affiliations. Someone must always be the enemy or a savior is pointless. Such an existence is not designed for security of Hindus, because threat to Hindus is what keeps it alive. Pakistan got started on this easily and with less resistance due to circumstances of identity of birth and regional politics. They have run out of paranoia on India-Hindus, East Pakistan, Jews, almost done with Ahmadis and Christians, in the middle of Shias and Balochistan and getting started on liberals. There is always an enemy within. Without it, nationalist zealots of the Hindu rashtra or any rashtra cannot survive. There is no such thing as a fundamentalist state that has reached its perfect state of existence.

Your car isn't going to give more mileage on cheaper petrol and pothole free roads just because of the beliefs of leaders. they aren't going to stop profiting from whatever drives their wealth and corruption today. The world is going to be the same, the hate is going to be the same, the persecution and targeting of people is going to be the same. The people profiting from the control over power will change, but that is completely irrelevant to you - even if you support them. A bhakt is the goat to profit from, a perverted, mutated cannibal goat eating other goats even, but never the one who sets meat prices. The day a bhakt asks for all threats to Hindus to be opposed is the day he will be a target too. Goats are kept for meat, not worship.