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‘Sant Rampal’ – Farmer’s Son Challenges Hegemony of Arya Samaj, A RSS Ally In Haryana : Jaspal Singh Sidhu

November 21, 2014

Jaspal Singh Sidhu looks at the genesis of Sant Rampal and ‘Satlok Ashram’ the religious centre he established.

The arrest of former public servant -turned-godman 63-year-old Rampal from his Barwala (Hissar) ashram seems to have ended the two-week long much publicized drama enacted by the Haryana police, but it has, rather, widened social and religious gulf among the people of the area . The police operation took life of five women and a child, injuring of many others including two dozen media persons covering the event. Technically, Rampal’s arrest was sought by the Punjab and Haryana high court in a case of ‘criminal contempt of court’ following his persistent in refusal to appear before the court.

The Barwala event signals much more than what one gathers from the media. Rampal’s abortive defiance appears to be (consciously or unconsciously) challenging the hegemony of the Sangh Privar ideology based on Aryans and non- Aryans divide which uses the Vedic literature as manifestation of the Aryan race. The media story, invariably, only covers the present happenings. And, it is meant for the consumption of general public only interested in the day-to-day developments. For obvious reasons, such reporting suits both the government of the day and the media outlets. By and large, the media (newspapers and TV channels) reels out largely that information (official version) which police and official machinery serves them with punctuation of a little-bit material on the root cause of the controversy which has climaxed to the dramatic custody of Rampal by the police.

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We, or our Nationhood, Redefined.

November 20, 2014

A couple of weeks ago, filmmaker Anand Patwardhan was invited by the Editors’ Guild to deliver its annual lecture. Patwardhan’s speech, titled We or our Nationhood Redefined, was marked by his characteristically cool tone, systematically reassembling facts that have a tricky habit of leaking from national memory. Facts like the twentieth century’s worst genocidal dictator Adolf Hitler and his programme of racial cleansing has a respectable and massive following in India in the form of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh. That the RSS has at least 50,000 branches across the country with over 40 million members, and runs a network of 18,000 schools across India. That one such child, recruited from the age of 8 from a relatively poor family, is Prime Minister Modi; and another is Party Chief Amit Shah. That just before the recent reshuffle, 5 Chief Ministers and 17 of the 23 Cabinet-level senior ministers were current or former RSS members. That the assassins of Gandhi are really the RSS, not the lone lunatic Godse who merely carried out what others dreamed about. That RSS’s poisonous communal agenda was roundly condemned by Sardar Patel, of whom PM Modi has promised to build the world’s tallest statue. Or more obscure but equally revealing facts, like the letter written by RSS chief Balasaheb Deoras from jail during Emergency, praising Indira Gandhi and especially her programme of sterilisation of Muslims. And those truly mind-boggling-in-their-irony facts, like the widespread involvement of the RSS in the 1984 anti-Sikh pogrom, when the BJP cynically says “1984″ every time somebody says “2002″.

On a day when the Nanavati Commission has termed the 2002 anti-Muslim pogrom in Gujarat as a purely communal reaction to Godhra, and cleared then Chief Minister Modi’s government of any wrongdoing, or even inaction, it is critical we re-read Patwardhan’s speech, to remind ourselves exactly what we are up against if we believe in a non-communal, non-divided, heterogenous India. As Patwardhan put it, given the history of the RSS in this subcontinent, if a Modi didn’t exist, he would have to be invented. Read more.

The end of an era – Mohammedan Sporting, Ambedkar Stadium and Football in Delhi: Jamal Kidwai

November 18, 2014

Guest Post by JAMAL KIDWAI

Caught up in the launch of the Indian Soccer League (ISL) and its promotion by television and big Bollywood stars, very few noticed that the Kolkata based 123-yr-old Mohameddan Sporting, has effectively decided to close down due to a financial crisis. According to its management, they will stop playing for a year outside Kolkata and have disbanded the senior team.

The historic Mohammedan Sporting won the Calcutta league 11 times, the IFA Shield five times,  the Rovers Cup six times, the DCM tournament four times and the Federation Cup and the Durand Cup twice each.

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Mohammedan Sporting team that won the Calcutta League in 1940

Mohameddan Sporting, along with Mohun Bagan (established 1889) and East Bengal (established 1924) were the most popular clubs of India for over a century. Mohun Bagan drew its fan-following from the elite and the aristocracy of Bengal and its aim was to inspire young people to lead a principled life: for example, those who failed in school and college were not allowed to play and smoking and drinking in the club premises were prohibited. East Bengal, on the other hand, represented the working class and the lower-middle classes who came to stay in Kolkata from east Bengal, which later became Bangladesh.

Given the pan-Indian religious character of Mohd Sporting, it had easily the largest fan following across India. All the big tournaments patronized Mohd Sporting as it drew the largest crowds. The other major clubs like Dempo and Salgaocar came from Goa with a very limited support base outside Goa and Mumbai.  Read more…

The voices we didn’t hear: K.S. Narendran

November 18, 2014

Guest Post by K.S. NARENDRAN

As I write this, we are entering the ninth month after the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370. I would not want it to be forgotten soon. My wife Chandrika Sharma was on that flight.

Over the past few months, as public attention has shifted to other issues, the long-drawn search for MH370 has seen many developments, ranging from the disturbing to the outrageous. The ineptitude of the Malaysian authorities was on public display, particularly in the early weeks of March 2014, and so merits no further comment. What is intriguing, even worrisome, though is that relevant institutions have been inaccessible or indifferent, be it in terms of pushing for the truth and seeking accountability, or in responding to the affected families’ needs. What follows is my own experience, my take.

The Indian Government: Mute and invisible

In the first week following the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines’ Flight 370, I had asked whether our government had any view on the incident, and any role in responding to it. After all, Indian citizens were involved. This evoked an interesting, if not distressing, set of responses. Indian Minister of State for External Affairs, E Ahmed, deemed the election campaign a higher priority, and opined that the Indian Embassy (at Kuala Lumpur) ought to have stepped in. In informal conversation, many were sympathetic with this view. The Ministry of Civil Aviation and the DGCA seemed similarly indifferent, or saw no role for themselves in responding to the incident or in assisting the affected families. Even the state governments, otherwise quick to take offence at any perceived slight or injury to sons and daughters of their ‘soil’, remained untouched, conspicuous by their silence. The only face of the government that I saw were the CB-CID Special Branch of the Police, the Indian arm of the Interpol and the Intelligence Bureau.  Each asked the same set of questions, suggesting that they work in silos,  that they don’t trust each other. Read more…

A kiss for your thoughts, University of Hyderabad: Anu K Antony, Mohan K Pillai, Sinjini Bhattacharya and Vaikhari Aryat

November 17, 2014



The protest meeting organised by the students of the University of Hyderabad on the university campus

‘That is knowledge which liberates’, proudly proclaims the crest of University of Hyderabad, a prominent central university in our country. A University space has been traditionally seen as the vanguard of socio-cultural critique and change. Universities pride themselves in upholding the values of freedom of thought, expression and debate. And yet, the reaction of the administration of the University of Hyderabad (UoH) to a recent event, in an otherwise liberal-tolerant and progressive-leaning campus, leaves much space for thought.

On November 2nd, a group of students organised an event on campus in solidarity with the much discussed “Kiss of Love” protest in Kerala. Titled “UoH Against Moral Policing”, the on-campus event, publicised solely on online social media, was supposed to create a space to discuss issues surrounding moral policing and the chain of Kerala incidents, bring out narratives of moral policing, talk about morality and Indian culture, and recite poetry. Also planned was a symbolic act of kissing on a chart paper, with the slogan “Our lips don’t char”. However, some ABVP and BJYM activists, with the aim of saving the students and the Indian culture from Western “immorality”, barged into campus and tried to attack the student protesters. The Telangana Police and campus security, who had failed to stop the intruders, did later succeed in cordoning them off from the protesting crowd, while insisting that the students call off the protest and disperse.

Unaccustomed to Police chauvinism and empowered enough to insist on their rights, the students managed to continue with their planned activities, although once in a while some right-wing activists managed to break ranks and tried to incite violence. The campus community however showed great restraint and continued protesting peacefully.  In response to such moral policing inside campus, the 250-plus students spontaneously started hugging and kissing each other, before dispersing.  Read more…

Debating Muslim Law after Shah Bano – the Model Nikahnama Initiative: A Suneetha

November 17, 2014

Guest Post by A SUNEETHA continuing the discussion on Uniform Civil Code on Kafila.

In popular imagination Muslim women’s unequal position in marriage is symbolized by cases such as Shah Bano or Imrana. It is understood this is the result of the religion-based Muslim personal law and the rigid control of women by the community in general and ulema in particular. Not many are aware that the same religion-based marriage law also offers tools for changing Muslim women’s position in marriage. In the last ten years, an ordinary document that every Muslim couple signs at the time of marriage – nikahnama or marriage contract – has assumed such a role. It has been innovatively used to initiate discussions and push for changes in the community’s thinking about the Muslim women’s position in marriage. In these efforts, a large number of “religious” and “non-religious” Muslim groups got into a conversation and set off a consensus-building process on the issue of a Muslim woman’s “entitlements”.

This discussion assumes importance in the context of the ongoing debate on UCC.  The debate on the UCC entered a new phase when, unhappy with the removal of Muslim women from the ambit of S 125 Crpc that guarantees all divorced women a minimum maintenance and the promulgation of a separate provision for divorced Muslim women called Muslim Women’s Maintenance Act 1986, many women’s groups renewed their demand for a UCC in 1990. Such a Code, it was hoped, would bring marital equality to women of all religions. When the Bharatiya Janata Party hijacked this demand to castigate Muslim men, (as if Hindu men were free of misogynist and patriarchal behaviour), such a hope was irretrievably lost. In the post-Babri Masjid demolition period, when there were pogroms against the Muslim communities, such a law would have found it impossible to garner support from the Muslims, especially if it were made by the BJP dominated Parliament. As anyone familiar with law knows, a consensus is important for law-making so that it is accepted and followed. But the changed situation of unparalleled parliamentary dominance of BJP brings newer challenges to all those working on issues of gender justice in all communities.

Muslim women were caught in this unenviable position since the 1990s – of having to address their own situation - under-age marriages, non-payment of mehr, arbitrary talaq, cruelty in marriage, maintenance after talaq, multiple marriages of men, resistance to women’s employment etc. while taking care that the Muslim men are not vilified further. Read more…

Concerns on proposed meetings of Intellectual Property Owners Association with IPAB and the Delhi High Court: Campaign for Affordable Trastuzumab

November 17, 2014

The Campaign for Affordable Trastuzumab was launched in November 2012 and has been endorsed by over 200 Indian and global patient associations, cancer survivors, health movements, women’s rights activists and eminent jurists.

Kalyani Menon-Sen, Leena Menghaney and KM Gopakumar from this campaign express serious concerns about  the intent and purpose of the “Innovation Dialog” being organised in India from November 16-22, 2014 by the Intellectual Property Owners Association (IPOA).

To: Hon’ble Justice Mr. H.L. Dattu (Hon’ble Chief Justice of India); Hon’ble Justice Smt. G. Rohini, (Chief Justice, Delhi High Court); Hon’ble Justice K.N. Basha (Chair, Intellectual Property Appellate Board)

Dear Hon’ble Justice Dattu, Hon’ble Justice Rohini and Hon’ble Justice K.N. Basha,

We write to you on behalf of the Campaign for Affordable Trastuzumab, a network of treatment activists, patients and public interest lawyers committed to making the breast cancer drug – trastuzumab – affordable in India. We have closely followed the misuse of patent rights and more recently the vexatious litigation of the Swiss pharmaceutical company Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd in India to maintain control over the market for the life-saving drug (trastuzumab), thus blocking access to treatment for thousands of women with HER2+ breast cancer.

This letter is to express our grave concern about the intent and purpose of the “Innovation Dialog” being organised in India from November 16-22, 2014 by the Intellectual Property Owners Association (IPOA).

The IPOA is a US-based group consisting of large corporations and law firms which has been aggressively lobbying on issues of intellectual property standards and enforcement in India and pushing a pro-corporate agenda. The biased and unbalanced position taken by the IPOA is especially troubling when it concerns medicines, where the use of intellectual property protections have restricted access to affordable treatment and blocked competition.
Read more…


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