Karnataka Collecting Data on Muslim School Students; Rise of Modi is Revenge of Elites
BJP Manipur ducks AFSPA, MEA as rebuttal-issuing office, HC restrains plagiarism charge against Savarkar biographer, 47% central DIG-rank posts vacant and the myriad mundane things that kill in India
A newsletter from The Wire & Galileo Ideas | Contributors: MK Venu, Seema Chishti, Siddharth Varadarajan, Sidharth Bhatia, Sushant Singh and Tanweer Alam | Editor: Pratik Kanjilal
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Snapshot of the day
February 18, 2022
After fuelling the headscarf row, the Karnataka state government is quietly collecting data of Muslim students from educational institutions, especially those enrolled in classes 1-10, reports Deccan Herald. Education Minister BC Nagesh said that it is to counter media reports with misleading numbers. According to data of the Department of Public Instruction, there are 17,39,742 Muslim students in the state’s government-run schools. Bengaluru South reported the highest number of minority students at 1,55,104, followed by Kalaburagi with 1,31,802 and Bengaluru North with 1,22,993. Chamarajanagar district reported the lowest number: 9,603.
The Department of Minority Welfare in Karnataka has issued a circular to schools under it to implement the Karnataka High Court’s interim order on the hijab issue. Earlier, there was confusion about the applicability of the order to its Morarji Desai Residential Schools, and Maulana Azad Model Schools under it, where the maximum number of students are from the minority community.
While Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai has clarified that there is no ban on wearing the hijab in degree colleges across the state, many Muslim students are being denied permission. The Karnataka High Court’s interim order, itself questionable, has been cited to refuse entry of Muslim girls wearing headscarves to schools and degree colleges as well, though the ruling does not apply to them at all, explains The Quint.
Washington-based Pew Research Centre’s ‘Religion in India: Tolerance and Segregation’ report finds that 89% Indian Muslim women cover their heads outside their home. But so do 86% Sikh women, 59% Hindu women and 21% Christian women. Moreover, 18% Hindus (mostly Brahmins) wear a janeu, while 53% Hindu men wear the tilak; 69% Sikhs wear a turban; and 51% of all people surveyed (including 51% Hindus and 50% Muslims) across religions generally wear “a religious pendant, such as an amulet, cross, image or symbol of god.”
It is 39 years today since a mob of caste Hindu Assamese, Tiwa (or Lalung), Mikir and other communities slaughtered over 2,000 Bengal-origin Muslims in and around Nellie in Assam in just six hours. The horrifying carnage, one of the biggest instances of sectarian mass violence in post-Independence India, happened at the peak of the Assam Movement (1979-85), which sought to cleanse Assam of “foreigners” or “illegal Bangladeshis”. It remains one of the least discussed communal massacres in India, says Mint Lounge.
The mobile user count in India fell by 12.8 million in December 2021 compared to the previous month, with Reliance Jio and Vodafone Idea suffering subscriber losses though Bharti Airtel added customers, TRAI data showed. The consumer durable industry suffered a volume contraction of 25-30% in the third quarter, before the Omicron wave hit. Price hikes provided some respite in value terms as the fall was capped.
After waiting for more than six years, the family of Tapor Pullom has appealed to PM Narendra Modi to bring back an Arunachal Pradesh man who was allegedly captured by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA). The recent release of Miram Taron by the PLA has rekindled the hopes of Pullom’s family.
China’s Ministry of Commerce has asked India “to improve its business environment” and to ensure “non-discriminatory” treatment of its firms, following a fresh ban on Chinese apps and tax probes on Chinese firms Huawei and Xiaomi. He said “relevant Indian authorities have taken a series of measures to suppress Chinese companies and their products in India, which have seriously damaged [their] legitimate rights and interests.”
As India reduces its Ministry of External Affairs into a rebuttal-issuing office, former PM Dr Manmohan Singh yesterday put the knife into the Modi government for its foreign policy failure: “China is sitting at our border and efforts are being made to suppress it. Relationships do not improve by giving hugs to politicians, or by going to eat biryani without invitation.” That refers to Modi’s unscheduled trip to meet the Pakistan PM in Lahore.
The BJP’s two-page manifesto for Manipur offers 20 promises to voters ahead of polls, but it is silent about repealing the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, which gives powers to search, arrest without warrant and shoot to kill in ‘disturbed areas’. The people of Manipur have sought repeal for over two decades. Several of the BJP’s ruling partners in the Northeast ― the National Peoples’ Party, Naga Peoples’ Front, Nationalist Democratic Political Party ― have demanded repeal and are raising the issue in the Manipur polls. BJP’s Manipur CM N Biren Singh also wants the Act repealed, but his party manifesto skirts the issue.
The longstanding Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund (PMNRF) received only Rs 321 crore in contributions in 2020-21, but it ended the year with its reserves at an all-time high of Rs 4,926 crore. Contributions declined from Rs 481 crore in 2019-20, largely on account of PM-CARES, the private fund created by PM Modi in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, which received Rs 3,076 crore in 2019-20.
A Delhi court has asked the Delhi Police Commissioner to ﬁle an inquiry report after noting that former JNU student leader Umar Khalid was produced in court in the alleged Delhi riots ‘larger conspiracy’ case in handcuffs, despite two previous orders against it.
Congress MP Rahul Gandhi is likely to release the first part of the autobiography of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin, Ungalil Oruvan (One Among You) at a gala event in Chennai on February 28. The event will be a show of strength by Opposition leaders with Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav and National Conference leader Omar Abdullah in attendance.
Savarkar biographer gets restraining order against historians charging plagiarism
A single judge bench of the Delhi High Court granted Vikram Sampath, author of a 2-volume biography of Hindutva ideologue V.D. Savarkar, temporary relief by restraining three United States-based historians from publishing their letter detailing extensive plagiarism charges against him on Twitter or elsewhere in India. In a letter to the Royal Historical Society last week, Audrey Truschke, Rohit Chopra and Ananya Chakravarti had provided several “preliminary” instances of alleged plagiarism, mainly in a paper Sampath published in the India Foundation Journal. The scholars whose research and writing he improperly cited or passed off as his own are Vinayak D. Chaturvedi and Janaki Bakhle. The restraining order will be in place till the date of next hearing, which is April 1.
In a Rs 2 crore defamation suit against the three historians, Sampath told the high court that “in all the instances of plagiarism that are being cited here there is not one wherein the Plaintiff is not guilty of attributing the source material to the original author.’
This claim is highly questionable. And in at least one paragraph where his words are strikingly similar to Chaturvedi’s, the references Sampath provides to “the original author” also appear to have been copied from Chaturvedi, something that the academic world considers plagiarism:
India remains in denial of Covid toll
The Indian government has belatedly and unconvincingly denounced a serious academic report on the massive undercounting of Covid deaths in India. It terms the report “ill informed and speculative”, and says that “India has a robust system of recording Covid-19 deaths based on a statutory framework.” Good time to replug the report in Science on the massive undercounting, which estimates that nearly 3 million have died.
GoNews reports that the red herring prospectus filed by LIC for its IPO shows spikes in claims serviced coinciding with the pandemic. Since life insurance coverage is low in India, the figures indirectly indicate that the toll was much higher than official figures.
India discussed unfavourably in parliaments overseas
Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s praiseful invocation in their parliament of India’s first PM Jawaharlal Nehru, and his references to present Indian MPs having “criminal, rape and murder charges”, resulted in a prickly Modi government summoning High Commissioner Simon Wong yesterday, and calling the remarks “uncalled for, unnecessary and unacceptable”. Lee, who has been in office for 18 years, had said, “Nehru’s India has become one where, according to media reports, almost half the MPs in the Lok Sabha have criminal charges pending against them, including charges of rape and murder. Though it is also said that many of these allegations are politically motivated.”
In the Australian parliament, Foreign Minister Marise Payne told Greens Senator Janet Rice on Wednesday of human rights abuses with India. The Senator had asked if there was a point when democratic decay/sectarianism in India would push Australia to reconsider engagement through Quad? The Indian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson said: “We have close relations with Australia. Quad was the main focus of the Foreign Minister’s visit. She may have chosen to highlight certain aspects in parliament. These are useful occasions to exchange perspectives.”
Kashmiri journalist arrested to keep ‘public tranquillity’
A court in South Kashmir’s Shopian district ordered police to arrest journalist and columnist Gowhar Geelani to ensure his appearance before it on Saturday in “order to maintain peace and public tranquillity”. “In view of non-appearance of Gowhar Nazir Geelani after serving notice upon him under Section 107/151 CrPC … you are directed to arrest and produce the above said person before this court on 19/02/2022, in order to maintain peace and public tranquillity in the jurisdiction of this court,” reads the order issued by Shopian executive magistrate 1st class.
Kerala temple cancels festival to mourn Muslim
A temple in Tirur in Kerala’s Malappuram district called off its festival celebrations to mourn the death of an elderly Muslim man. The Thrippangod Beeranchira Punnassery temple suspended their thalappoli celebration out of respect for Cheratil Haider Ali, a timber merchant who lived close by. Thalappoli is a ritual in temple festivals where art forms are showcased and a procession of women and children carry lighted lamps and thalam (plate) filled with rice.
In the past, Malappuram has seen other examples of communal harmony. In January 2021, a Christian woman’s last rites were held at the Ponnad Thahlimul Islam Higher Secondary Madrassa and her body was kept overnight there. In October 2020, the Parathakad Juma Masjid donated land to build a proper road to a temple in Muthuvallur Panchayat. The pathway benefited devotees and 10 families who live in a Dalit colony nearby.
The rise of Modi: Revenge of the elites
Modi’s election in 2014 and re-election in 2019 represents an elite response to democratic empowerment from below. In India, democratic deepening was led by the rise of lower castes and a range of new social movements that coalesced into a loose but effective coalition under the UPA. Class interests are not given and building electoral coalitions is a messy and indeterminate affair. When and how coalitions produce electoral majorities is highly contingent. As Gramsci (1971) emphasised, historic blocs are formed of dominant classes that can exert hegemony over allied groups by actively coordinating interests. In India the period of restricted democracy was supported by a class alliance in which the three dominant factions of the propertied classes ― business, professional and landed ― were each guaranteed a share of public resources, much to the exclusion of the masses (Bardhan 1999).
That began to change with the UPA government (2004– 2014). Though the government did continue to push the liberalisation of the economy, business interests became increasingly frustrated with the government’s determination to expand social programmes. NREGA in particular invited widespread attacks as a wasteful, anti-market policy, especially from landed elites who resented the government’s interference in local labour markets they had long dominated (Veeraraghavan 2017). But the opposition of these dominant economic interests alone was hardly enough to build an electorally viable coalition and specifically to expand support from a growing middle class.
Sociologists have long argued that material interests are intertwined with cultural practices.
The durable categories through which inequalities are reproduced are rooted in group practices that marshal cultural and social resources to protect privileges and hoard opportunities. This intertwining is sharply revealed in the ideological project of the BJP which has been framed by a new discourse of forming a reinvigorated nation based in an essentialist and singular identity, a nation of virtuous citizens standing in opposition to the undeserving poor, criminality/corruption and the coddling or “appeasement” of minorities. In this casteless meritocracy, the virtues of an achieving and aspiring middle class have displaced the language of universalism and social rights. Traditional institutions of temple, the military, the nation and the patriarchal family have been resurrected. National capital and businesses are celebrated as champions of progress and the elan vital of a renewed national spirit is held up against the corrosive effects of human rights and a vaguely defined “globalism” as a carrier of anti-cultural materialism and secularism…
The upper middle class of professionals has always had a fickle relationship to democracy, but lent significant support to the Congress in its hegemonic decades (Fernandes and Heller 2006). The professional classes had ― per Bardhan ― a clear stake in the expansion of the developmental state and secular nationalism, most notably state-funded higher education. If this class has defected, it is because the expansion of welfare policies to include the poor has threatened its privileged status position, especially with respect to educational institutions…
Though upper-caste mobilisation crystallised around opposition to affirmative action policies in the 1980s, the BJP has supported “reservations” since the 1990s as a pragmatic concession
to incorporating OBCs (Chacko 2019). But practices in institutions dominated by upper castes remain resolutely exclusionary (Vithayathil 2018). Economically, the upper middle class has grown and has come to depend less on the state than on globalisation for its economic well-being, hence the pattern of global cities supporting reaction. But the upper middle class can hardly sustain a winning electoral coalition. The pivotal shift has been the realignment of the neo-middle class.
(Excerpted with permission from Heller, Patrick (2022), ‘The social roots of the authoritarian turn in India’, in: Widmalm, Sten, Routledge Handbook of Autocratization in South Asia (Routledge 2022). Heller is Lyn Crost Professor of Social Sciences and Professor of Sociology and International Studies at Brown University, and director of the development research programme at the Watson Institute of International Studies and Public Affairs.)
The wilfully created confusion between what is ‘free’ and what is financed by public money scaled new heights of vulgarity when a BJP MLA in Etawah, Sarita Bhadauria, complained about how people are not voting for the BJP, despite “gobbling up salt, ration and money” given for free. Earlier, vaccines were also passed off as largesse. These are paid for by the money of Indians, not the BJP, and the public distribution and health systems were in place well before the BJP was born.
Prime Number: 47% Vacancy
According to a Home Ministry report, 47% of DIG-rank posts at the Centre are vacant.
Assam cow law harming neighbours, amended
The draconian Assam Cattle Preservation Act, 2021 brought in by Himanta Biswa Sarma last December, has made it difficult for the neighbouring states of Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh to procure cattle. Short supply has pushed up the price of meat in these states, which are ruled by the BJP. The crisis has led to a change in the law and its rules by the Assam government, which will make it easier to transport cattle to these states, reports The Print.
Journalist Priya Ramani spoke up during the 2018 MeToo movement. Former Union minister and top editor, BJP’s MJ Akbar, filed a criminal defamation case against her. The consequences were severe — but Ramani’s friends and women journalists came together to question the roots of defamation in archaic English class concepts of reputation and honour. Fifty Two has the details of the seminal case.
Five breeds of dog banned from cantonment
The Army has stated that rottweilers, pit bulls, American bulldogs, bull mastiffs and German Shepherds will not be permitted as pets in the community living areas in Delhi cantonment. A circular issued by Station Headquarters, Delhi area, cited a ferocious attack by an officer’s dog on another officer’s son as the reason for the ban. The dog was being handled by a sahayak (now christened a ‘military buddy’) even though “various advisories at many stations are being promulgated that certain menial jobs should not be undertaken by military buddies.”
Op-Eds you don’t want to miss
Julio Ribeiro writes that it is noteworthy that our justice system facilitates the release of murder accused on bail if they support the ruling party and ensures that even young students criticising the government languish in jail for years.
On all counts, the government’s record on its five-year goal to build a new India by 2022 is dismal, writes Aakar Patel.
Harsh Mander asks, ‘Is India lurching towards genocide?’
Ajoy Bose writes that strenuous efforts by the BJP to woo Dalit voters in the state Assembly polls have hit a roadblock in both Punjab and UP.
Whatever the outcome of the five ongoing Assembly polls, one thing is clear: the BJP is no longer dreaded by its opponents ― no longer is it cloaked in an aura of invincibility, writes Partha S Ghosh.
Madhav Gadgil writes that revisions in the Biodiversity Act are anti-people and anti-science. To preserve biodiversity, the government must engage with grassroots conservationists.
The armed forces’ strength can be reduced by 30-40%, like in other modern militaries trying to reduce human resources costs. Lt Gen HS Panag (retd) argues that increasing retirement age and reducing pension is not the solution.
How our policymakers absorb languishing masses into a flourishing state will define our nation when we celebrate the centenary of our freedom, writes Jaideep Hardikar.
Angshuman Choudhury and Suraj Gogoi write that beneath the BJP’s seemingly secular pushback against the hijab lies a sinister single-point agenda of erasing the Muslim way of life from the public space.
If people are interested in ‘liberating’ women from the hijab, they must recognise that forcing women to do anything in the name of liberation does not achieve their goal, writes Ruha Shadab.
How can India be great when vitriolic rhetoric and fanning of communal hatred, reinforced by orchestrated social media onslaughts, create fissures in a society that had discovered an idiom to coexist for several centuries with all differences, asks K Jayakumar.
Hear Priyanka Pulla on the alarming state of drug regulation in India in recent years.
Yamini Aiyar speaks with Ashutosh Bhardwaj about the state of federalism in India.
Over and Out
Meet Ashutosh Kaushik, the Indian actor who is fighting for the right to be forgotten.
Long before Daulat ki Chaat became an Instagram favourite, it was a plain country dish. The much-photographed treat is known by many names around North India but its defining characteristic is the same: airy lightness.
From motorcyclist-manja encounters to witchcraft, lightning strikes and snakebites, The Economist records that “there remain a million more mundane ways to die in India, few of which attract the attention or resources of an exciting new disease.”
That’s it for today. We’ll be back with you on Monday, on a device near you. If The India Cable was forwarded to you by a friend (perhaps a common friend!) book your own copy by SUBSCRIBING HERE.