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1

There seems to be a fringe theory floating around about a larger international conspiracy (CIA etc) influencing Indian politics using the Ford Foundation (among other things). The Great Game India blog (linking to blog because too many interlinked posts to link individually) has been with this train of thought for a few years now. That the RSS creation VIF is manipulating Indian politics and that they started the India Against Corruption movement and so on. They link the Aam Aadmi Party with this larger political conspiracy.

Some of it is verifiably true. The Vivekananda International Foundation was indeed formed in the year after the Vivekananda Kendra got a grant from the Ford Foundation. Manish Sisodia, Kejriwal and others have got grants before the IAC movement and so on.

Some of it is only to be expected and verifiable through sources outside the country for example the US and CIA specifically not being interested in manipulating  a country the size of India makes no sense given their actions world over. There are leaks involving spying. The Great Game India Blog itself has provided considerable evidence of Mossad activity in India based on reports in Indian media including diamond mafia links and raising questions about Israeli role in the 26/11 attacks.

While there are many gaps in the logic that don't allow me to agree with many questions they make, the sheer effort they put into to reference their claims makes it important to at least consider the question with an open mind when they ask "Was AAP victory in Delhi Elections Planned?". The claim being that it was a larger part of a game plan all through to have Narendra Modi as the Prime Minister and Arvind Kejriwal as the Chief Minister.

My views on this are mixed.

Observations that point to the possibility of scripted wins in Lok Sabha Elections for Modi and in Delhi Elections for Arvind Kejriwal

Both these results would not have been possible without the self-destruction of the other just prior to the polls.

It is likely they would still have formed governments, but If the Aam Aadmi Party had not collapsed so thoroughly after discrediting the Congress, the landslide win for Modi would not be possible. The run up to the Lok Sabha Election saw the Aam Aadmi Party pretty much drop everything to find God and criticize Modi.

And the BJP returned the favor for the Delhi Elections. We saw Narendra Modi and Amit Shah go out of their way to "snatch defeat from the jaws of victory" as a disgusted supporter put it. Would the Aam Aadmi Party have won anyway? Probably, but 67 seats out of 70? Highly unlikely.

Is there any advantage to these sweeping wins in terms of manipulating India? Definitely. Complete lack of opposition leaves one entity controlling what is done without question.

"Kejriwal for CM, Modi for PM" slogan

This slogan is fascinating, because BJP supporters had used it to woo AAP supporters during the Lok Sabha Elections, and AAP supporters almost used it to woo BJP supporters in the Delhi Assembly elections. The Aam Aadmi Party actually put it up on their website before outraged volunteers made them take it down again.

Kiran Bedi as CM candidate

While many paint this as a move to get some credibility to a discredited BJP, it is impossible that those who crafted the IAC had no idea just how absurd and damaging to credibility Kiran Bedi can be. This was a calculated move to demoralize the Delhi BJP leaders. Dr Harshvardhan, who had been a face of credibility was available and unused, so to say, while Satish Upadhyay did not even get a ticket.

BJP's "abandonment" of the Sikhs

Arvind Kejriwal had reopened investigations into the 1984 ant-Sikh riots. The BJP had made vague and unc0nvincing comments. This definitely lost them Sikh votes. Yet yesterday, a day after the results of Delhi election, the BJP government in the Center announced another SIT (Special Investigating Team) to probe the 1984 anti-Sikh riots. If this was their intention, it is rather astonishing that they did not do it before the Delhi Elections.

Religious alienation

There seemed to be a checklist of religions to alienate. Muslims were easy, with the "Ramzadon and Haramzadon" stuff. Churches were vandalized. Sikhs were ignored and BJP's most dependable vote bank - Hindus were achieved with absurd dictates to Hindu women to produce 4, 5 or upto 10 children (depending on which idiot you happened to hear). It was almost the exact reverse of BJP's calculated propaganda to target identities to con into supporting.

Why BJP may want to lose Delhi Assembly Elections 2015

There is an article by this name circulating. This article is fascinating, because of several reasons. It outlines a diabolical game plan to make Aam Aadmi Party responsible for its own failure and eventual decimation by making delivering of promises difficult from the Center. The intent being "The media spotlight on Kejriwal government will allow Jaitley to quietly to push through unpopular reforms — disinvestment of PSUs, budget cuts in health, education in his attempt to cut budget deficit." among other things. Do read. A fascinating article. Also probably untrue for the Delhi BJP and supporters at the very least - the Modi cartels in the center apart.

My guess is BJP Delhi is discovering what Nitish Kumar, Shiv Sena, Swabhimani Shetkari Sangathan, Telangana and many others discovered after raising Modi to his lofty Lok Sabha victory. What Vidarbha is discovering after bringing BJP to power in Maharashtra. The goals and agenda of those "driving" the BJP have little to do with those of supporters or even their expectations when they supported.

There are other smaller pieces of information from news reports and more that fit into these patterns. Like information for exposes on Delhi BJP leaders coming from leaders within the BJP itself.

What do I think?

In my view, politics is rarely so black and white with a single agenda playing out. Where there is power, there are grabs. Is there a longer game plan involving the VIF? I believe so. Is Aam Aadmi Party a part of the plan? Not so sure.

The Aam Aadmi Party, in my observation was formed when BJP tried to bottle the IAC genie before it got too inconvenient and expected them to not be corrupt as well. Till then, the IAC had the strong backing of the RSS and BJP. For all its claims of being an apolitical movement and it probably was, in terms of the leadership of the movement, the amount of support on the ground it got from the RSS and BJP cannot be denied. In many places, "IAC" protests were organized by BJP offices, often right outside the office, where most of the speeches made a point of praising the BJP while criticizing UPA corruption.

Was Anna Hazare complicit? Many in the Congress claim so. Particularly after he praised Modi before hastily withdrawing his statements. He may have been influenced by the support rather than doing the influencing.

However, it cannot be denied that there was an abundance of VIF-RSS-BJP support, which eventually led to an ideological clash. Those in the IAC who were not willing to exempt the BJP would have to find other means of going about their agenda, because they could very likely no longer count on the support of the BJP machinery to hold nationwide protests (which took Anna and Kejriwal by surprise initially).

Thus, the Aam Aadmi Party being a VIF-RSS-BJP creation sounds a bit outside the realm of probability. However, it is almost guaranteed that there were people planted in the party right from the start. It is simply how the RSS operates. These people may have been able to influence the actions of the party to a greater or lesser degree or simply attack from within at inopportune times. So AAP actions could have played into a larger game plan UNKNOWINGLY - for example during the aftermath of the Ambani FIR and subsequent resignation of the Arvind Kejriwal government or the Lok Sabha Election.

We saw AAP leaders and volunteers "defect" for no apparent reason. The stated reasons of a lack of internal democracy or whatever the accusations were, were hardly something to have cropped up at specific times - they would be a part of the party culture that they didn't appear to have a problem with till the time to leave - within days of each other. So it looks more than a coincidence. Given the complicit media promoting all and sundry quitters as "ex-AAP leaders" and in one instance calling an "ex-AAP leader" a representative of AAP in a programme that had no one from AAP on the panel, it seems to be organized and given visibility in a time when media was openly called "Modified".

Also, AAP being a US-Israel conspiracy seems a little more improbable, because I cannot recollect offhand the last time these forces empowered "communist" ideology to empower their agendas. It is counterproductive to the US-Israel agenda for people who don't like "imperialists" to get too much voice - which is a sentiment often shared by Aam Aadmi Party supporters - while they are not actively against, they have a perception of being unwilling to bow to imposed interests or disproportionate or unjust appropriation of national resources by big business.

Thirdly, the US-Israel lobby almost always rattles up countries by empowering the right wing. We also see this in action with the occasional comments of right wing leaders that are in agreement with these two countries as well as the larger tendency - for example being fine with attacks on Hindus by the right wing Buddhists in Sri Lanka or on Rohingya Muslims in Burma or even a VIF member meeting the top right wing terrorist influencer in Pakistan and endorsing him on Indian television channels. A lot of the anti-Muslim propaganda arguments and methods used by the Hindutva brigade are extremely similar to Israeli propaganda. Right from selective history to demonize, to organized social media propaganda.

There are no such "behavioral" corelations with the Aam Aadmi Party that I have noticed so far. There is disproportionate weightage to Ford Foundation as funding anti-national interest. While it would hardly be surprising that the CIA uses front organizations or makes opportunistic use of genuine organizations, it is a little extreme to imagine that all its funding is proof of destabilization. The same with the Magsaysay awards. Only a complete idiot would imagine that P. Sainath is somehow working to further US imperial capitalist interest in India given how much time he has devoted to deconstructing such influences.

Of course, it could "all" be astroturfing. But it isn't useful intellectually to believe something that goes contrary to observable dynamics just because it is possible.

This of course does not exclude the possibility of influencing or otherwise manipulating.

Role of Shanti Bhushan

Shanti Bhushan is a respected lawyer and ex politician of BJP and close to Jaitley as well as one of the founders of the Aam Aadmi Party. He made a donation of one crore rupees to the Aam Aadmi Party, but almost every time he has come to attention since then, it has been for damaging the interest of AAP. Just before the Lok Sabha Election, an article "by Shanti Bhushan" was published in India Today, which he claimed to not have written and it was subsequently taken down. Many of the things said in that article continue to be attributed to him in recent interviews, though he denies writing it.

A "breakaway faction" or "collective of ex-supporters" of Aam Aadmi Party, the AVAM, which has made news with absurd allegations against the AAP appear to enjoy his support. More recently, in answer to some questions I asked after a stray remark by an AAP supporter caught my eye, several AAP volunteers shared privately (since they cannot provide proofs and he's a respected and senior member) that he had been in favor of AAP's overreach in contesting in the Lok Sabha polls, which was possibly the single biggest factor in AAP's defeat.

Whether Shanti Bhushan has an ulterior motive or whether he was simply easily influenced by inconvenient narratives is difficult to say and irrelevant at this point, but he does appear to be a consistent source of damage for AAP, including often reported disapproval of Arvind Kejriwal as the leader.

The curious case of Shazia Ilmi

If there is anyone who topped Shanti Bhushan in damage to AAP, it is Shazia Ilmi. The only two "sting" videos to do real damage to AAP credibility involve her. The first appears to show her providing methods to make donations to AAP off the record. The second is where she supposedly asks Muslims to be communal. Whether these were genuine mistakes and she was targeted for stings because she was observed to be careless with words or if she was corrupt or if she was setting AAP up cannot be said. But other common factors seems to be an inopportune exit, affiliation with the "apolitical" AVAM (the RSS is apolitical as well, for a benchmark), new affiliation with the BJP - incidentally a party she leveled outrageous insults at, including personal insults aimed at Modi - some of which even me, an open Modi critic would cringe at.

Binny seems to be more of an opportunist who wanted a way to easy power and got his hopes dashed, who later found enough "appreciation" from BJP. BJP is unlikely to ever give him a cabinet seat either.

All this is water under the bridge. merely stating as an example of how while the AAP as a party may not be "in" on any conspiracy agendas, there is no telling how many people committed to other agendas are embedded inside, who influence or sabotage the actions of the party to suit.

The RSS machine is an expert at subversive strategy and poor at accountability. Sooner or later, disillusionment was inevitable, because there is only so much you can tell people that Acche Din are here, if their lives don't get easier or actually get more expensive. They are smart enough to deploy propaganda at key times and let disillusionment happen in the interim.

So can the Aam Aadmi Party government be trusted?

It would be the height of gullibility to blindly trust ANY political party. Whether the AAP has an ulterior motive or not is irrelevant. It has abundant gaps where more refinement of policy is needed in order for their actions to not harm people's interest. The bottom line always ought to be whether the ACTIONS are helping people or not - regardless of motives or intent.

The AAP has some protection from outright damaging citizen's interests simply because it cannot stand without its volunteer base, and it is impossible to have a conspiracy large enough to include thousands of volunteers and still keep it secret. So even if there are foul agendas at play, implementing them would be an uphill task. That said, it wouldn't be impossible, and only the foolish would believe that all that it takes to receive good governance is casting a vote.

The Aam Aadmi Party government has been entrusted with making Delhi a happier, safer place where all its citizens can thrive. This is a tall order. And if the AAP is honest, spotting mistakes and objecting on time will HELP their objectives. If it is not honest, spotting mistakes on time and objecting may improve chances to prevent them.

Regardless, citizens should not trust governments, but hold them accountable, relentlessly.

Hyderabad based AIMIM led by MP and leader Assaduddin Owaisi after the recent success in Maharashtra elections had announced a rally in Pune Maharashtra to demand implementation of 5% Reservations from the Maharashtra Government which had been struck down by the courts.

Crowd at AIMIM rally in Pune
Crowd at AIMIM rally in Pune

The rally was already marred by controversy when Pune police denied Mr. Assaduddin Owaisi permission to hold rally at the much larger Golibar Maidan Pune as requested by the AIMIM leader.  Mr. Owaisi had cried foul and alleged police bias in regard to denying of the permission to hold the rally at the desired venue.

After the venue was rejected AIMIM leader settled for a much smaller ground in Kauser baug a Muslim dominated area of Kondhwa Pune. The rally was scheduled for 5.pm. All the roads leading to the venue were blocked and traffic diverted for law and order and crowd control. Just before the rally started there was a demonstration by right wing Hindu Shiv Sena activists at some distance from the rally venue adding to woes of the already worsened traffic condition.

Crowd at AIMIM rally in Pune
Crowd at AIMIM rally in Pune

Unlike most political partiesMr. Asaduddin Owaisi rally started on time exactly. The venue was already packed with a large number of Muslims most of whom were youngsters and more people continued to stream towards the ground. Mr. Asaduddin Owaisi is no doubt one of the better orators not only among the Muslim community but among all the political leaders in India. He surely knows the pulse of the community and it was evident from the huge roar and applause he got from the crowd that consisted mainly of young Muslim men.

The Hyderabad based MP spoke about hate speech charges leveled against him and his younger brother MLA Akbaruddin Owaisi but did not use any words that amounted to be called provocative in his speech. He mentioned issues like Muslim backwardness and recommendations of Sachar Committee report and requested Maharashtra government of Fadnavis to implement 5 % reservation for Muslims that was brought in by the previous government. He refuted the charges against him and his party of being communal and went to tell the crowd that he was the first one in parliament to address Pakistan based JUD leader Hafiz Saeed as an old man in the parliament

Crowd amassed at AIMIM rally in Pune
Crowd amassed at AIMIM rally in Pune

The crowd which according to my estimate should be anything between fifteen to twenty thousand people cheered the leader at his jibes against the opposition parties and the largest roar came when Mr. Assaduddin Owaisi declared that there would be another rally in Pune in future that would be addressed by his younger brother the firebrand Akbaruddin Owaisi

All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen clearly appears to have caught the fancy and imagination of the younger generation of Muslims and one should not be surprised if AIMIM a fairly new party in Maharashtra starts winning local council seats in Muslim dominated pockets in the state.

AIMIM rally audience
AIMIM rally audience

The rise of parties like BJP and AIMIM means marginalization of parties like congress and NCP from the political scenario and only future will tell whether Indian political scene has taken a road towards right or will go back to its secular politics

4

Vidarbha is the latest to fall to BJP's "con for vote" schemes.

BJP Maharashtra has been campaigning with a promise of a separate state for Vidarbha if it comes to power. Given a decimated Congress and Shiv Sena and NCP both adamantly opposed to any division of Maharashtra, there were no points for guessing who would get votes with such a statement in a place where the feeling of being wronged by the state government is very strong with the ongoing farmer suicides and irrigation scam and complete disinterest in fixing either beyond lip service.

While people of Vidarbha may have wanted a separate state, and while that is not necessarily a bad idea; BJP's voters in Maharshtra have a strong regional pride and would not appreciate division of the state. Enter the King of Spin. Narendra Modi very conveniently made a strong and categoric statement of an undivided Maharashtra with regard to separating Mumbai from Maharashtra - which no one was actually saying anything about.

“As long as I am sitting in Delhi, I assure you that no power can divide Maharashtra. Some people are spreading rumors that BJP will sever Mumbai from Maharashtra. It’s a lie. Maharashtra is incomplete without Mumbai.”

Within hours of Modi providing this reassurance to the whole of Maharashtra (so that they could safely vote for BJP - which they wouldn't, if BJP was out to break Maharashtra), local BJP leaders in Vidarbha pretend to be appropriately upset and assure their voters that Modi did not mean Vidarbha - he was speaking about Mumbai (with no mention of who actually was claiming to separate Mumbai) and that he remained committed to Vidarbha as a separate state.

“Prime Minister did not rule out Vidarbha state. He was only countering the propaganda of severing Mumbai from Maharashtra. No one can snatch Mumbai from Maharashtra but he knows our stand on small states. He has always favored it and it will come in front of everyone at an appropriate time,”

The very first sentence from this quote by Dev Fadnavis - BJP Maharashtra leader and contesting from Vidarbha himself - is a flat out lie. "I assure you that no power can divide Maharashtra" is fairly categoric in ruling out any division including Vidarbha. Regardless, this was the con sold to the people of Vidarbha, which got challenged by other political parties, but by and large ignored by most of the Maharashtrian population. I asked half a dozen people on whim, and they were categoric that they would NOT vote for BJP at the cost of Vidarbha. And BJP knows this. This clarification of Vidarbha being the exception to an undivided Maharashtra (pretty massive exception, yes?) was not made outside Vidarbha in any prominent manner.

Still, a generous person could explain this away as a communication gap. We could believe that BJP Maharashtra leader actually had no idea of what Modi was going to say in Maharashtra in their support. Regardless, BJP is extremely unlikely to create Vidarbha and the mathematics of it cannot have been unknown to anyone promising Vidarbha a separate statehood. Here is why.

  1. BJP does not have a simple majority, and any ally they find is unlikey to support a separate Vidarbha.
  2. With 44 out of 62 seats in Vidarbha, a Maharashtra without Vidarbha would leave BJP very far away from the numbers to make a government.

The second could be called BJP's helplessness in spite of its intention, except - BJP would be unlikely to get numbers allowing them to split Maharashtra promising to separate Vidarbha anyway - UNLESS THIS DECEPTION WAS WELL PLANNED.

BJP is unlikely to give up control over Maharashtra just to keep an election promise (they have broken promises for far less stakes). BJP is also unlikely to win any election if they collapse for lack of numbers because they split the state. Maharashtra and its money would be out of reach till people drifted into memory loss.

So this cannot be an accidental thing.

Wait. It gets worse. It can be argued that as long as Vidarbha does well, whether it is a separate state is not such an issue.  Fix Irrigation scam, develop irrigation so that people thrive, answer their serious problems around GM seeds and health and they won't need a separate state to be heard. Except on the other side of the politician-business cartel across from NCP were BJP's cronies. So yeah, it is going to be a long wait before BJP stops making an inconclusive drama over NCP corruption and moves to actually getting everyone involved in that racket punished.

And you can't fool the people all the time. When allowing GM food trials, BJP had not cared about the support of SSS that it has exploited on the way to power, but people see how decisions are made and in whose interest. Of the 122 seats BJP has in Maharashtra, 44 are from Vidarbha which was promised separate statehood BJP would not deliver, 26 are poached candidates belonging to other parties with strong bases they hadn't built by acting like BJP. Mumbai and Thane account for 24 seats and Pune accounts for 8. How much exactly did the Modi wave sweep non-metro, non-poached, non-conned Maharashtra? 20 seats?

Now that BJP has Vidarbha's votes, how many of you readers think it is going to make the separate state and collapse its numbers for the Maharashtra government?

And thus, the suicide capital of the country was exploited for its frustration as well and all that it is going to get now that elections are over is THENGA.

Or in other words, the next entity BJP is going to stab in the back after courting for votes or power is Vidarbha.

Note: Bhakts, it is easy to prove me wrong. I'll be wrong automatically when you create the Vidarbha state or punish not just your political rivals in scams, but the whole cartels (who are also your cronies) bleeding those voters you conned into voting for you. No further trolling needed, if the party is honest about its promises, it will deliver and I will be proved to be wrong.

This old piece remains among the best on the organized right wing takeover of Indian media.

***

What have been the inroads made by the RSS into the media over the years?

It is not just the RSS, but the entire Sangh Parivar. That includes frontal organizations like the Swadeshi Jagran Manch and also the BJP. I make this distinction because there are a number of people who are currently with the BJP or the NDA, but they don’t have a RSS background. Over the years, there have been many journalists who have been sympathetic towards the Sangh Parivar; some were open supporters and others were not so open supporters of the Hindutva ideology. Such individuals have for many years supported the BJPand its earlier incarnation – the Bharatiya Jan Sangh. I will give you an example. The late Girilal Jain, former editor of The Times of India, was a very sophisticated proponent of Hindutva. He was not a crass fanatic who would say that all Hindus are good and all Muslims are bad. He was far, far more sophisticated in his arguments. The essence of his views was similar to what the BJP and RSS propagate, namely, that the Hindu tradition has somehow been neglected by successive Congress governments, that successive governments had appeased the Muslims and thereby discriminated against the majority community or the Hindus. Mr Jain was, however, never a member of the Jan Sangh or the BJP There are other senior journalists who have been far more overt and open in their support for the BJP, individuals like M.V. Kamath and Dr Swapan Dasgupta.

Were these only a few individual supporters or was there a Sangh Parivar plan to garner support in the media?

There were individuals who were ideologically sympathetic towards the Parivar, people like Manoj Raghuvanshi or Rajat Sharma. Rajat had an RSS background and he had been attending shakhas from his childhood. As a student he was a leading functionary of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad. He was jailed during the Emergency while he was a student of the Shri Ram College of Commerce in Delhi University. These were individuals who were very clearly aligned, first with the RSS, then with the Bharatiya Jan Sangh and the BJP. These individuals never formed any association, but they were known to be sympathetic to the BJP and the ideology of the RSS. They were often formally and informally briefed by leaders of theSangh Parivar.

So the Sangh Parivar, years ago, had a plan or a strategy of entering the media?

Perhaps it was not a coherent game-plan or a well-defined strategy. You must remember, if you exclude the period when Morarji Desai was in power in1977-78 and all the way through till February 1998, barring the 13 day period in May 1996, the BJP was always in the Opposition. So it did not think in terms of developing a group of sympathizers in the media. It was only in the mid-1990s that ideologues of the Sangh Parivar thought of developing a more coherent strategy which was part of their overall game-plan. This wasthe plan to woo all the influential sections and organs of Indian society, be it the judiciary, the defence services, the bureaucracy, or the police. There was already in the media, an informal club of sympathetic individuals who kept saying: “Give the BJP a chance”. Only when the BJP sensed that the party would come to power that a strategy developed. Throught he informal club of sympathizers more journalists were picked up. Then there were the opportunists who joined in. You must remember that the Sangh Parivar is not monolithic, there are factions within it. When in the Opposition they spoke in different voices – liberal Vajpayee, moderate Jaswant, hardliner Advani. In the media too, among the sympathizers of the BJP, there were hardliners and moderates. After the core group, came the hangers-on. There were very definite gains to be accrued from those close to power. They became beneficiaries of government patronage and such journalists were included in the Prime Minister’s entourage, they travelled in style and comfort at the expense of the taxpayer. I have been on some of these junkets and I know what happens. There are drinks, lavish gifts, five-star hotel rooms with a hamper of goodies waiting, royal treatment. And at the end of the day, there is a small story to file. There are hundreds of accredited, bona-fide journalists, but only a limited number can travel with the Prime Minister. The way they are picked and chosen makes the difference. There’s tremendous scope for discretion. If fifty journalists are to chosen, about ten or fifteen would be from the top papers or television channels while the selection of the rest is determined by the Prime Minister’s Media Advisor Ashok Tandon or his officer on special duty Sudheendra Kulkarni. Even if the selection of journalists is supposed to be made by the Press Information Bureau, officials in the PMO often decide who is included and who is left out. The bureaucrats are invariably subservient to the political appointees.

What kinds of favours have been given by the government to journalists?

Very concrete, material favors. The Unit Trust of India is the repository of the savings of 20 million Indians. Since the BJP and the NDA has been in power, the UTI has sanctioned loans to at least four media companies headed by sympathizers. These direct beneficiaries include Jain Studios headed by Dr J. K. Jain, who was a former BJP MP and member of the party’s national executive; Pritish Nandy Communications promoted by Pritish Nandy, Shiv Sena MP; BAG Films led by Anuradha Prasad (wife of Rajiv Shukla, Rajya Sabha MP belonging to the Loktantrik Congress); CMYK Printech Limited, publisher of the Pioneer newspaper, edited by Chandan Mitra.

If you speak to Pritish Nandy, Chandan Mitra, Dr Jain or Rajiv Shukla, they will all tell you – so what’s wrong if the UTI has sanctioned loans to our companies. These are credit-worthy projects, they would contend and hence, there is nothing wrong if a government-controlled financial institution like the UTI loans money to projects which are bankable. After all, a loan is a loan and it will be repaid as per certain terms and conditions. This may be factually correct but what is not said is the following: the UTI might have hundreds and thousands of applications for loans, but it often chooses to extend loans to specific organizations and not others. It is hardly a coincidence that these organizations happen to beheaded by or associated with individuals whose sympathies for the Sangh Parivar are well known.

Is there a similar trend in the language press or TV channels?

In large sections of the Hindi-speaking belt, there are innumerable journalists as well as newspaper and magazine owners who have been very blatant in their support for the Sangh Parivar. To some extent their support may be guided by their own personal ideological inclinations, but I suspect that many of them currently support the BJP because it happens to be in power. There are some like the owners of the Dainik Jagaran chain of newspapers who never disguised their sympathy for the BJP.

You have talked of the opportunists who want to be close to the power- that-be. Would that not be true for any government? What is the special danger at present that there is such a swing to the right?

You are right. To some extent, this is true of all governments. Earlier it was the Congress. Even during the United Front government, I K Gujral appointed those who were close to him. As far as the Sangh Parivar is concerned, they have tasted power for the first time. So in a sense the BJP is incorporating some of the worst aspects of previous regimes. It took many decades for the Congress governments to become thoroughly corrupt. But it took the BJP just a few years. Earlier governments too would shower favors and patronage on sympathetic journalists by taking them on foreign trips, by giving them land at throwaway prices, by giving them access to government accommodation at highly subsidized rates. The BJP and Sangh Parivar learnt this game faster and to an extent, did it more efficiently. Their ideology is a divisive ideology and is against democratic norms, against the very essence of democracy, and to that extent against minorities. They may claim they are in favor of secularism but we know they are not. To that extent, once these individuals are at the helms of important organs of society they do considerable damage to the entire Indian society. So just as the Hindutva ideology is damaging the legal system, the defence services, the bureaucracy, so also the media is getting damaged.

So it’s not just a matter of corruption or doling favours; it is basically the question of ideology?

Absolutely. There is no doubt about that.

You would remember that even during the massacre of Sikhs in 1984, there was an upsurge of communal feelings. The minorities, especially the Muslims, though not under direct attack, felt insecure and threatened. How do you explain that? As I mentioned earlier, the seeds of what you see today, were sown earlier. The group of journalists sympathetic to the Sangh Parivar has been around for along time in the profession. They were ideologically oriented. Some claim they were independent but others like Rajat Sharma had very strong roots in the RSS from childhood, adolescence and youth. They were not very organized because they were not in power. The club was a very informal grouping. Even the BJP’s strategy was not very coherent. It existed in the past but it was not so coherent, not as articulate as it became around the time the BJP and the Sangh Parivar sensed that they were going to be in power in New Delhi. After they came to power, the strategy became clearer and better defined. Once in power, they were able to expand and extent their influence because they were able to bestow favours. The patronage element came in.

Is patronage only favours and junkets?

No, patronage also comes in the form of employment. Former journalists are serving as personal secretaries and assistants. A former journalist is on the personal staff of Dr. Murli Manohar Joshi, Union Minister for Human Resources Development. And perhaps it is no coincidence that the same individual used to once work for the Panchajanya. Similarly, other journalists were employed by the party and the PMO. Kanchan Gupta is a classic example. He worked in The Statesman, The Telegraph, and The Pioneer. Then he joined the BJP, then the PMO and now he has left the government and joined a private television firm headed by Ramesh Gandhi. Then there are the opportunists. Take the case of Subhash Chandra who heads the Zee group of companies. One bright day, he was seen addressing a public rally of Swayamsevaks at Agra. Subsequently, when the Zee group’s affairs were being investigated by government agencies, he began to adopt a critical stand vis-a-vis the government. A classic case of opportunism. It cuts both ways. The same person who never flaunted his RSS links suddenly chose to address a rally of Swayamsevaks to underline his Hindutva credentials and when all this did not help him expand his business empire, he apparently started singing a different tune. The problem with opportunists is that they will help you when it suits them and ditch you when the going gets tough. The other thing, as stated earlier, is that the Sangh Parivar is not a monolithic organization. Dr. J. K. Jain, who would swear his loyalty to the bosses at Jhandewalan (where the New Delhi offices of the RSS are located), carried out a campaign against Brajesh Mishra, the principal secretary to the Prime Minister and national security advisor. So secular-minded people should realize how to utilize the divisions within the Sangh Parivar. There are the hardliners, the moderates, the opportunists and the downright corrupt.

Is not this notion of hardliners and moderates really false?

Yes, but only up to a point. Because if it did not exist, this government would have been running quite smoothly. The fact of the matter is that Mr. Vajpayee currently finds that the enemy within is creating more headaches for him than the enemy without.

Is this not merely a strategy?

Yes. It was a very good strategy when they were in the Opposition. You confuse your opponent when you speaking many voices. But when you are in power, you have to show unity. You cannot afford to be seen to be a divided family. Then your credibility gets negatively affected. This is the weakness of the BJP. Secular forces have to realize this weakness and exploit it.

So ideologically there is no difference between Vajpayee and Advani?

There is no difference. But the BJP and the Sangh Parivar have been able to effectively exploit the division in the ranks of those opposed to them. The secular forces have to take a leaf from their book and learn how to exploit the Sangh Parivar’s internal differences.

What is the economics of the various religious channels? They don’t appear to have advertisements. How do they survive?

Unlike countries like the USA where there is a long tradition of religious channels, in India, they run on donations. They have no advertising support. They are not commercial organizations. They are run ostensibly by those who are donating money for these religious bodies.

Why have these channels proliferated?

One, because of the general attempt by the ruling party and the ruling elite to emphasize the so-called ‘Hindu’ tradition and to create an overall ambience, an atmosphere of religiosity, where to be religious is ‘in’ and irreligious ‘out’. The other aspect has something to do with technology. It is that much easier to start a channel today. It costs less money. You will see that most of these channels are very boring. It has one talking head who will talk for hours on end and give you long sermons. The cost of production of television programmes has come down drastically in recent times. The cost of leasing a transponder on a satellite has come down. Another aspect is related to the fact that large sections of non-resident Indians (NRIs) have become supportive of the BJP. If you put yourself in the shoes of an average NRI, who, being located outside his country of origin, feels the need to assert his or her identity much more than the average Indian. You are in a foreign land, in a society in which you represent a minority. You need to assert your Hindu identity more than many Hindus who live in India. This was realized very early by the Sangh Parivar and they tapped resources from them not only for the BJP but also for television channels. Though I have no evidence, I think such channels could be beneficiaries of some of the hard currency that has been donated to organizations sympathetic to the BJP. Just as this money has been used to fund various activities like the Rath Yatra and the whole Ram Mandir business, I will not be surprised if some of the money has been used to fund television channels and media activities.

What are your comments about Hindutva on the net?

There is a group of NRIs based in the USA. These people are very active, they scour various sources for any news that fits their ideological purpose. So if a brick of any temple is damaged anywhere in the world and is reported even in an obscure publication, it will surely be on that website. They are today talking about the “genocide” of Hindus. They are going into detailed discourses of genocides of various communities, like the Jews by Hitler. They are trying to draw parallels to the alleged genocide of Hindus. I find that a lot of this information is circulating on the web. There is a lot of provocative and fanatical information on the web. They use language that hard-core racists and fascists use to preach hatred. I notice that it is often very difficult to trace and track down those responsible for spreading hatred. These people would encourage anti-Islamic and anti-Christianity propagandists. Odd bits of information that can be construed to be against the tenets of Islam or against Christianity will be very prominently displayed. According to an article in a June issue of The New York Times , a particular website called hinduunity.org has been set up by a 30-year-old Indian who is getting support from a right-wing Jewish organization (Rabbi Kaha) which openly espouses violence against Palestinians. The following are some quotes from this website –

“We are fighting the same war. Whether you call them Palestinians, Afghanis or Pakistanis, the root of the problem for Hindus and Jews is Islam. ”

“Secularism is not an option. ”

“The loot, plunder and mass Hindu genocide that occurred in the 1, 400 years of Islamic rule in India cannot be forgotten. Hindu militancy is the only solution. ”

This website provides links to other websites set up by supporters of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, the RSS, the BJP and the Bajrang Dal. It also gives a hit-list of the enemies of Hindutva. The internet is a relatively recent phenomenon so these websites are also recent. Some of these are very active. Many are based in the USA. Not only are they praising Hindus but they are also denigrating other religions. It is very interesting when they repeatedly talk of genocide of Hindus in Kashmir, in Bangladesh and in Afghanistan. The websites played up stories of Hindus being asked to wear a certain dress in Afghanistan. They would deliberately play up these stories and ignore many other aspects. Though the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes are the most economically backward classes in Indian society, it is also true that tribes in India have not been exterminated like they have been in the USA and Australia. They remain economically very backward and exploited. But there has never been the kind of genocide in this part of the world as there has been in Africa, North America, Latin America (in the Amazon) and in Australia. Facts like these would never be highlighted in the websites run by Hindu fanatics.

What should be the strategy of the secular media in countering fundamentalism?

The secular media has to learn to use the same technology, the same weapons to counter their propaganda and hatred. Today it has become relatively easy to set up websites, relatively inexpensive to start television channels and produce TV programmes. The way to counter these people is to pay them back in the same coin. The same tools, gadgets and technology should be used to highlight their falsehoods and lies, their propaganda and to present the other side of the story. The difference, I think, should be that one should not try to match their virulence and abuse with abuse, but match it with a sober, scientific, and rational reasoning. Use their technology but don’t use their style or their content. Their style is absolutely venal, their content is lies. Countervenality by grace and magnanimity and counter lies with truth. I believe that all those individuals who are secular minded and who believe that the proponents of Hindutva are dividing the country, need to get active. I want to emphasize that those within the media who have been critical of the government’s policies, the secular elements, are not very united. They are fighting battles in isolation. They need to close their ranks and come together.

Paranjoy Guha Thakurta is a journalist with more than 24 years of experience in various media, including print, radio, television and the internet. He is currently director of the School of Convergence

This post has been republished from jananatyamanch.org

4

India stands at a crossroads. Much depends on how citizens assert themselves. The rise of the right wing in India, apart from bringing about the much hyped Modi sarkar has also emboldened aggressive entities aiming to establish religious dominance with scant regard for law, religion or history. The success of BJP in the elections has validated the methods it used that went unchallenged. The normalization of riots in particular is a matter of concern due to peril to lives and livelihoods of citizens.

The murder of the IT professional, Shaikh Mohsin Sajid in Pune is an example. Objectionable images shared on Facebook led to a rapid mobilization of right wing activists and within a few hours of them being shared, Pune descended in chaos. While media has maintained its sterile coverage, undeniable reports from the ground indicate that Muslim properties were targeted specifically. The murder of the Shaikh Mohsin Sajid by a Hindu Rashtra Sena mob appears to be a well planned act that got celebrated with the message "pahili wicket padli" circulated by activists of Hindu Rashtra Sena. "pahili wicket padli" is Marathi for the "first wicket fell".

While BJP supporters on one hand deny any affiliation with the Hindu Rashtra Sena, the protests in Pune had been called by BJP, Shiv Sena and Hindu Rashtra Sena. BJP, Shiv Sena, Bajrang Dal and other right wing leaders have held places of respect in official Hindu Rashtra Sena events and so far, no one has condemned the Hindu Rashtra Sena outright, while BJP's social media teams have been mobilized to deny affiliation with Hindu Rashtra Sena on one hand, while anonymous accounts bully anyone who condemns the attack on the other hand. And Shiv Sena with the petrol bombs are an NDA ally in the Parliament.

With the Assembly elections approaching in Maharashtra, and BJP's now predictable strategy of inciting communal hostility and leveraging criminals for political profit, how this situation evolves is anyone's guess. Twocircles.net reports:

It was only a week before that the Maharashtra CM Prithviraj Chavan was informed by the IB that there were strong chances of eruption of riots in certain cities of Maharashtra owing to the upcoming assembly elections in the state due to which the state government had issued strict orders to the police department to keep vigilance on anti social activities in the state.

...

According to BBC Hindi, at least 193 Buses in Pune City and around 200 Buses in Kolhapur have been damaged by the angry Shiv Sainiks while protesting against Photo shopped photos of Shivaji uploaded on Facebook.

There are reports that Shiv Sainiks threw petrol bombs along with stones in nearly 11 mosques situated in Pune and nearby areas due to which people in the Mosque were injured. One imam of the mosque was manhandled brutally due to which he was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of the hospital where as many students of one of the Madarsa were injured due to throwing of petrol bomb on the Madarsa by Shiv Sainiks. These students have also been admitted to city hospital. Another imam of Mosque in Kandari was beaten up badly by Shiv Sainiks, who is also undergoing treatment in the city hospital.

Bus burned at Bhosari by Shiv Sena activists
Bus burned at Bhosari by Shiv Sena activists

The areas of Pune which came under the protest of Shiv Sainiks are Landewadi, Bhosari, Nool Mohalla, Panjarpur, Fatema Nagar, Kalewadi, Dande Chauk,Pimpri Gaon, Chinchwad Gaon, Ranjewadi, Kondwa and Vagoli.

...

Speaking to TwoCircles.net, Maulana Aziz Siddiqui of the Madrassa Darl Uloom Ashrafiya said, “Three students have suffered leg injuries who were briefly admitted to the hospital, but most students have now gone home. But the madrassa has been severely damaged.” He added that situation in Pune is now calm but tense as no one is certain what may happen next.
The popular dargah of Hazrat Peer Shah Jalaluddin Shah Qadri which was situated in the same area was also vandalized. Nearly 500 Hindu radicals entered Noor Mohalla of Bhosari area with swords and petrol bombs in their hands and broke doors and windows of Muslim houses.

desecrated graves at Shahi Qabarastan Trust in Pune
The prayer hall, ablution place (wudu khana), water tank and around 10 tombs (Qabar) situated in Shahi Qabarstan Trust

The prayer hall, ablution area, water tank and around 10 graves in Shahi Qabrastan Trust, Bhosari were vandalized. Five mosques in Hinjewadi area were also damaged. The imam of Aisha Mosque was beaten up brutally who is now recuperating in Inamdar Hospital. Masjid-e-Zainab and Madrassa-e-Shabnam Garib Nawaz were also damaged badly. Three other mosques in the adjacent areas were also desecrated by the rampaging mob.

One of the petrol pumps belonging to a Muslim businessman was totally destroyed. A mosque situated in Talode basti was also damaged. Muslim houses, shops and around 20 bakeries were targeted in Karve road area, Thergaon and Wakad.
A group belonging to various Muslim organizations made an emergency visit to the affected areas to assess the overall damages suffered by the community.

The damaged bakeries included Ismail bakery (Karve Nagar),Citizen Bakery (Sinhgarh road), Heena Bakery, Shabnam Bakery, Moti Bakery, Shad Bakery (Dattawadi), Sun Rise Bakery, Indian Bakery (Warje), Welcome Bakery, Sahara Bakery, Patel Bakery (Hadapsar), Supreme Bakery (Malewadi) and Unicon Bakery ( Phirsangi). The visiting group of Muslims estimated the loss of damaged bakeries alone to be more than one crore (ten million) rupees.

While the murder of the "techie" is being painted as outrage of Hindus disturbed by the images, the fact remains that the techie was a victim of a hate crime completely unrelated with the images. He got assaulted mostly for wearing a skull cap and growing a beard. This has nothing to do with freedom of speech or the lack of it. It is nothing to do with objectionable content and political actors making careers out of violence. It has everything to do with a deliberate, political dismissal of the fundamental right to life enshrined in the Constitution of India on the basis of identity. It is hardly an isolated sentiment. We have an MP who openly declared that critics of Modi would have to go to Pakistan without any apology or condemnation by the party in the peak of election campaigning. It is a party that runs by its own rules and has no regard for the Constitution and citizenship of India.

There is no evidence so far that a Muslim had created or circulated those images. This is not my imagination, but the police. The images were put up in a community frequented by Hindus. The images have been uploaded to Facebook from IPs outside India, while inflammatory messages circulated that further incited mobs had been sent from Mumbai. Even as the BJP claims to not be involved in the violence, the wave of fake accounts targeting those who color outside BJP lines has been engaged once more with the clear agenda to divert the issue by comparing it with any and every wrong done by Muslims or perceived to be done by Muslims using its age old formula that Hindu violence will always be legitimate because the past cannot be erased.

It would hardly be the first time the right wingers created outrages for Hindus to fuel communal anger. Be it the Kar Sevaks killed in firing to raise fervor for the Babari Masjid demolition or other dead passengers in the Godhra train tragedy claimed as Kar Sevaks to magnify the "deliberate crime". Given that the publicity of the images happened so rapidly among the Hindutva ranks while leaving others mostly untouched, the possibility that this was a strategy to create riots must also be explored and whoever is guilty regardless of religion be brought to book.

Those seeing insult in obscene images of figures respected by Hindus see nothing wrong with murderous mobs naming themselves as the warriors of the Hindu Rashtra. Apparently, insulting images are worse than murderers when it comes to insult of Hindus. The name of Shivaji is happily being tossed around. I challenge any fan of Shivaji to stand up and tell us when Shivaji assaulted unarmed civilians. Unlike the criminals viliying his name in the name of protecting it, he was not a sadak chaap murderer. I challenge any of the jokers who proudly "avenge" Hindu pride to stand before their parents and say they are following Shivaji when they kill unarmed people. Is this not an insult to Shivaji who struggled against heavy odds to fight mighty armies, yet gave clothes to a young and beautiful MUSLIM widow and saw to her safety? Apparently pointing this out makes the speaker "anti-Hindu" because the new definition of "Hindu" by zealots is "tolerant" people who murder. Anyone remember the Muslim protests in the wake of the Danish cartoon controversy - "Kill those who say Islam is intolerant"? Yes. That. Zealot fascists resemble each other across religions more than those of their own religion.

There are several serious questions that need to be asked about the riots, vandalism and murder in Pune.

How did riots spread so rapidly from images on a community to the streets, including non-standard equipment like petrol bombs? It is hardly likely that members of the community from Pune or those of them who spread the images could result in these numbers. The numbers are a result of a well oiled machinery moving to plan rapidly on receiving a trigger. This, to me indicates an organized spreading of the images so that they reached enough people who would react with anger on the streets.

Several people active on social networks deny seeing the images "spreading" at all. The first they heard of the images was the violence "triggered" by them. Subsequent attempts to see them led to the discovery that they had already been taken offline within hours. How is it that three organizations responded with calls to protest the images within hours of the images being posted and were ready in numbers on the streets well before those active on social networks noticed them - unless this was a coordinated plan?

What was the role of political organizations? How likely is it that three organizations have the exact same reaction to images posted on some obscure community, that almost a week later are still not seen by most people? Again, Twitter is not that trigger happy to block. Where are the images? When is the last time you saw the police blocking something this efficiently? Communications of role holders and local offices of the organizations o the supposed "protests" - BJP, Shiv Sena and Hindu Rashtra Sena - must be investigated for mobilization for organized crime.

The supposed "spread" of the images must be investigated to find out how they exclusively spread among the right wing community th witout being seen by active users of the one place news going viral is instantly noticed - Twitter. Most active profiles on Twitter have not seen the images at all. I fail to understand how this is possible if images spread widely. Clearly, there were specific channels by which it spread as opposed to going viral organically. These channels are unlikely to be Muslim communities, as that wouldn't result in a massive right wing Hindu build up within hours, even if they were inclined to spread them for entertainment - of which there is little evidence in the public space at least. It was organized circulation that led to the propagation of the images among those they would infuriate and regardless of the origin of the images, such propagation is malicious as well.

The organized outrage. The question arises why "protesters" not only got outraged, but got violent, damaged property and arrived to protest "armed" with hockey sticks and petrol bombs instead of placards. To me, this indicates a right wing agenda to create unrest in Maharashtra, specifically, and the organizers of the protests as well as key leaders must be investigated to ascertain the agenda. These are political statements of supremacy and domination and them being made in places not ruled by BJP and heading for elections also indicates a motive to discredit the governments.

It is up to us as a country to decide whether we are willing for our safety to be slaughtered on the altar of deliberate violence, counter violence and more to make communal and political statements to profit fascists at the cost of bystanders.

Is this the India we want?