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Social Profiling – Indian Style

June 13, 2010

“The Muslim is not wanted in the armed forces because he is always suspect – whether we want to admit it or not, most Indians consider Muslims a fifth column for Pakistan” [Vengeance! India after the assassination of Indira Gandhi (New Delhi, Norton, 1985), pp. 1995-96]
-George Fernandes

Amnesty International  defines racial profiling as the targeting of individuals and groups by law enforcement officials, even partially, on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, or religion, except when there is trustworthy information, relevant to the locality and timeframe, that links persons belonging to one of the aforementioned groups to an identified criminal incident or scheme.


Is racial/social profiling practised in India?

If one were to pose the question before the powers that be then we would encounter a strict ‘no’. Tonnes of statistics would be put before us to ‘prove’ that our sixty plus year experience in democracy is a living proof that  such things do not happen here. Interestingly barring exceptions the articulate sections of our society would also be found singing paens to this biggest democracy in the world and would rather shy away from accepting the simple fact that the ‘bigness’ of this democracy has not stopped it from practising different types of ‘apartheids’ against its own people.

It is a different matter that there arise occasions when neither the representatives of government nor that of the civil society are able to deny the discrimination on similar markers to the ones identified by Amnesty International.

Few weeks back newspaper were agog with the case of Maulvi Noor Ul Huda, who runs a Madarassa in Faizabad, who was forcibly alighted from an international flight and put in detention by the Delhi police because a lady co-passenger complained about his ‘suspicious behaviour.’ It was told that his talk on his mobile informing his relatives about the expected take off of the plane (‘jahaz udane wala hai) aroused suspicion in the minds of his co-passenger. We were also told that it required the Home Minister’s intervention to free him from detention without any false charges slapped against him. In fact, few enthusiasts in the police department wanted him booked under some pretext or other to save their face. It was disturbing to note that the lady co-passenger who had lodged a false complaint against him and made him as well as his family members suffer many agonising moments, was allowed to go scotfree..

Can one say that the case was an exception ( as a section of the media wants us to believe) or it is a reflection of the ongoing institutional discrimination against religious minorities especially Muslims of our society which has got societal sanction and legitimacy as well ?


Close on the heels of this piece of news came an important announcement from one of the premier agencies of the government which was a indirect acceptance of the fact that religious minorities as well as other deprived sections of our society have faced unfair treatment in terrorism related incidents at the hands of the investigating agencies?

Reports which have appeared in a section of the media ( viz. Jagran Rashtriya, 3 rd June 2010, ‘Alpasankhyakon se poochtach mein satark rahegi NIA) tells us that the said directive issued by its Director General Mr S.C Sinha – which discusses the planning and the priorities of the agency – asks the investigating officers to be ‘extracareful and sensitive towards the emotions of the minority communities as well as other oppressed and deprived sections of our society’ and ‘respect the rights of the accused during investigations’.s that the agency is committed to complete the investigations in any particular case within a year and if for any reason it is not completed then the investigating officer will have to seek permission directly from the Director General.

For any close watcher of the ‘terrorism related investigations’ the context of the said directive was very clear. It was the same period during which the investigations into the Ajmer bomb blast had unearthed the connections of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). The exposures in this case had revealed that members of RSS executed this plan and one key member of this terrorist module worked as a whole timer/Pracharak for the whole of Jharkhand.It had also come to light that a team of Rajasthan police personnel had in fact revealed theses links way back in 2008 only but the then dispensation in power in the state namely the BJP did not exhibit keenness to follow the case.

The manner in which biases and prejudices entertained by the police and the officials of the investigating agencies affect the outcome of the probe were thus on full display in this case which had seen deaths of two innocents. As of now the Rajasthan Police is said to be trying to unearth the linkages of these Hindutva terror modules which was earlier blamed on fanatic Muslims despite clear evidence about involvement of Hindutva organisations. It is also learnt that Central Bureau of Investigation will soon take into custody two people, who had been arrested by the Rajasthan police in connection with the Ajmer blast, to probe their role in the Mecca Masjid blast in Hyderabad following evidence of links between the two incidents.

One can thus look at the history of any terrorism related incident in recent times and the manner in which investigation proceeded to study the pattern of the response by the law and order machinery. Barring exceptions, one would find that it has not been balanced and has unnecessarily stigmatised the minority community.


Of course, not only during such investigations but it is also observed that there are occasions to demonstrate how those in power as well as the agencies systematically target the minority community as a whole. Few months back the news magazine ‘Outlook’ had made revelations that Muslim-dominated areas of two important Indian cities were targeted for telephone tapping at the behest of then National Security Advisory M K Narayanan. (Phone tapping: Why target us, ask Muslims, April 25, 2010 19:45 IST, Mohammed Siddique in Hyderabad, under Congress led UPA regime disregarding the fact that telephone tapping is a serious violation of the right to privacy, guaranteed by the constitution,

According to a newsitem which appeared in a section of the media told us :

Muslims in Hyderabad have expressed their unhappiness over reports that they were target of a sophisticated telephone tapping operation by Intelligence Bureau.

Reacting sharply to the revelations made by news magazine Outlook that Muslim-dominated areas of Hyderabad and Lucknow [ Images ] were targeted for telephone tapping at the behest of then National Security Advisory M K Narayanan, community leaders said that this was yet another proof of how Muslims were being eyed with suspicions by those in power as well as the agencies.

All India Muslim Personal Law Board secretary Abdul Raheem Qureshi has urged the Centre and the state to immediately put an end to the abominable practices of targeting of Muslims for telephone tapping and other espionage operations in the name of fight against terrorism.


One can go on enumerating instances where minorities have got a rough deal at the hands of the powers that be or how the articulate sections not bothered to ensure building of a more inclusive, non-discriminatory atmosphere at every pores of our society.

An outcome of this situation is very much visible on the educational front. A recent report by the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO), a central government body, tends to confirm this. Its surveys show that Muslims, India’s largest religious minority is the most backward community on the educational front. According to it Muslims ratio in higher education is lower than even Scheduled Tribes (STs), who are considered to be the most backward community.

A letter circulated by Mr Faisal Khan, an activist of the National Alliance of People’s Movements provides vivid details of the unfolding situation.

..[A]ttached to the Union Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, NSSO, in its report titled Education in India, 2007-08: Participation and Expenditure, says that of 100 Muslims in the education system, just 10 are enrolled in high school and above. Similar ratio for STs is 11, Scheduled Castes (SCs) 12 and Other Backward Classes (OBCs) 14.

The report also says that higher education among urban Muslims is lower than their counterparts in rural areas. This despite the fact that urban areas have better educational facilities. According to the NSSO report published on May 19, just seven out of 100 urban Muslims in the education system were enrolled in high school or above as compared to 12 in rural areas.

This   is because poor Muslims in urban areas do not have easy access to education as they have in rural areas. The landless poor “labourers, rickshaw pullers etc” are hardly able to make both their ends meet, leave alone education for their children.

The report is based on the household survey on participation and expenditure in education conducted in its 64th round. The field work of the nationwide survey was carried out during July 2007 to June 2008. The survey covered a random sample of 4,45,960 persons, from 63,318 rural households and 37,263 urban households spread over 7953 villages and 4682 urban blocks, covering the entire geographical area of the country.


If one were to come back to the issue of racial/social profiling then another simple query would be whether it is possible for us to quantify it or would it be possible for us to know its effectiveness/ineffectiveness as a crime prevention strategy. In the absence of similar available data the task seems difficult but possibly one can look at figures collated by US and Britain to know its impact.

Studies by Amnetsy International USA tell us that a staggering number of people in the United States are subjected to racial profiling. Approximately 32 million people, a number approximately equivalent to the population of Canada, report they have already been victims of racial profiling. Victims of racial profiling include Native Americans, Asian Americans, Hispanic Americans, African Americans, Arab Americans, Iranian Americans, American Muslims, many immigrants and visitors, and under certain circumstances, white Americans.

Interestingly racial profiling is not officially used in the UK but the statistics do show otherwise. According to section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000, police officers are permitted to stop and search individuals with justifiable cause. The statistics provided by the Ministry of Justice tell us that some police do seem to be using racial profiling. Asian people were over five times more likely to be stopped and searched than white people. Black people were seven times more likely to be stopped and searched than white people. Only 0.6% of the searches ended in arrests for terrorism offences.

Human rights organisations such as Liberty active in UK have stated that racial profiling is not as effective as rational police methods. The manner in which racial profiling undermines law enforcement efforts is evident from the classic Oklahoma city bombing case from US. Facts tell us that the white male assailant, Timothy McVeigh, was able to flee while officers reportedly operated on the theory that “Arab terrorists” had committed the act.

40 Comments leave one →
  1. somnath permalink
    June 14, 2010 8:04 AM

    “The Muslim is not wanted in the armed forces because he is always suspect – whether we want to admit it or not, most Indians consider Muslims a fifth column for Pakistan”

    Oh really?! George Fernandes was Defence Minister in the Vajpayee cabinet, did he see “active dsicrimination” against muslims in the Armed Forces? If he did, surprisingly he didnt make a fuss of it then….Maybe he changed his mind when he saw the name of Air Chief Marshal Idris Latif in the “Air Chiefs” board in the South Block? Or when the person he dealt with at the very apex of the strategic weapons programme happened to be a certain APJ Abdul Kalam? Or when Lt Gen Zamiruddin (incidentally actor Naseeruddin Shah’s brother) was appointed the Deputy Chief of Army Staff (the third highest staff officer in the Army)?

    Of course these might be brushed away as are “anecdotal”, worse “tokenistic” excpetions (though I fail to see how these positions can be tokenistic, but lets let that pass)…Look at data, from that tome of evidence of muslim discrimination, the Sachar committee report…The percentage of muslims succeeding in various top public services exams (including the UPSC) is no different from any other category, indeed is exctly the same as the “success-ratio” of the exam in general…The problem is that a far lower number of muslims take these exams – about 5% of the examinees as opposed to a 13% share of muslims in the population….So the cat has to be skinned elsehwere, not lamenting “official apartheid”..

    Coming to the airlines incident referred to above…In this day and age, it is but natural to be paranoid about these things…someone hears “jahaz udane wala hai”, it does not require any biased mindset for a panic-stricken reaction…And contrary to what the post above says, the person involved was treated with all courtesy by the airport security, and it didnt need any ministerial intervention for his release…Bizarrely, the post above looks to penalise the lady for raising a stink!

    To look for biases and grievances where there are none makes no sense….There are issues on higher education enrolment – is there any evidence that DU or IIT or IIM refuses a muslim admission on grounds of his religion? Where should the angst be directed at? Some mythical discrimination by society or creating awareness in the community for higher education? there are issues on public sector employment – does the solution lie in crying “bias” or to get more muslim boys appear for the competitive exams? There is an issue with private sector employment – is the solution with crying “discrimination” or to get more muslim boys graduating out of elite universities?

    this sort of self pity does not lead aboslutely anywhere, it simply reinforces existing prejudices and causes absolutely no forward movement at all…

  2. shama zaidi permalink
    June 14, 2010 9:49 AM

    this is nothing new. for a long time now most muslims consider all hindus as hopelessly and congenitally anti-muslim unless proved otherwise. you just have to look at the response section of any news item on whatever issue becomes an excuse for filthy vituperative anti-muslim tirades.

  3. somnath permalink
    June 14, 2010 11:05 AM

    Shama, India is not a secular republic because its muslim citizens desire it to be, but because its hindu majority will it to be (nothing original, first stated I think by Indira Gandhi)…About hindus being “congenitally anti-muslim” (its now in their genes is it?), if they really isnt too much standing between India and a hindu theocracy – the numbers are too lopsided you see…

  4. Aditya Nigam permalink*
    June 14, 2010 11:55 AM

    Yes, and Shama, it is really a sure shot pointer to the smugness of the upper caste (usually brahmin) male mindset that it will inevitably meet all the coordinates of the Somnaths of this world. You can actually track, point by point every single point that Somnath makes on a chart and compare it with any other – amazing how what Subhash Gatade calls social profiling here is underwritten by such stereotypical views. Sunalini once referred to him as the neo-liberal that Kafila did not have, but I think it goes far beyond economic neoliberalism – a deep seated conservatism that is always afraid of its privileged position being displaced.

  5. Aditya Nigam permalink*
    June 14, 2010 11:59 AM

    There you go, Somnath Mukherjee back at it once again. Actually social prejudices and consciousness of social privilege work exactly like genetic coding. And by the way, one more simple sociology of the upper caste, brahmin, especially north Indian hindu male: he just can’t let go; he has to have the last word even when he knows he has nothing to say.

  6. somnath permalink
    June 14, 2010 1:49 PM

    This is turning out to be a “genetic” discussion…Aditya, are you a geneticist by training, given how sure you are about genetic coding? Given your penchant for “labels”, stereotyping would better describe your approach..hindu, upper caste, brahmin, male, north Indian, conservative – disrgarding the laughably wrong “north indian” bit, its a bit ironic where the stereotyping that you accuse me of is coming from..In everyday urban life, most people are not even aware of any of these variables…Maybe grievance-focused intellectualisation does? I focus on facts and data -the Sachar committee report therefore is a great effort, it tries to distil facts from the rhetoric…If you speak to (or read) Abusaleh Sharif (the “brains” behind the report), his take on the issues are very different from grievance-peddling, reservation-seeking slogans – he has a very analytical approach to the issues and the solutions..

    As they say, when you run out of data and logic, you take recourse to rhetoric and stereotyping!

    • Aditya Nigam permalink*
      June 14, 2010 3:44 PM

      As I said, Somnath, ‘he’ never gives up the temptation to have the last word. May you have it!

  7. Nandini permalink
    June 14, 2010 6:20 PM

    I definitely agree with the post that yes, minorities are discriminated against here in India. It is a sad yet truthful part of our 60+-year democratic sovereignty.
    Although , in the past, and in the present they still give us reason to be suspicious, cautious and perhaps slightly uneasy around them, it doesn’t mean that all of them are like that. And under no condition, are all Hindu’s ‘anti-Muslim’.

    In a certain edition of the ‘Time’ Magazine (if my memory does me well – perhaps post the 9/11 tragedy), the front page read – “All terrorists are Muslims, but not ALL Muslims are terrorists”
    I have to say, I disagree with the first part, especially at present, when terrorism has no religion and extremists continue to kill innocent people of all religions including their own.

    And be there, or be there not any ‘bias’. But it is this point that the post is trying to prove – that although any IITs or IIMS have not (maybe, who knows) barred minority students from studying in their institutions – the fact is that why are they so less?! The root of the cause lies in the issue that there are so few of them taking the exam in the first place. What the Governments and Education-policy makers of our country need to address is what has caused these people to be left behind? Why have the rest of the country moved on, and these people left behind?

    Another aspect in relation to social profiling – India as a country wills to maintain a dignified position globally in terms of Law, Economy and of course Education. However, has anyone ever looked into the matter of – why do we have so few foreign students in our Universities when our Education system is ranked amongst the top? President Obama has expressed much respect and awe for Indian education and is making an attempt to embrace and incorporate the ways of the Indian education system. Despite many of our leaders such as APJ Abdul Kalam and Dr. Manmohan system being very much interested in the education of the youths – the sad fact is that –
    1) Our admission systems are a total MAZE to foreign students – which intimidates them and puts them off.
    2) Also, it is cyclic – because they see that there are so few, they fear discrimination (indeed I’ve seen it first-hand) and hence don’t wish to apply.

    In conclusion, I do believe that minorities are discriminated against.
    P.S. Sometimes it is inevitable and the scars of war re-surface – that woman on the plane.

  8. somnath permalink
    June 15, 2010 8:49 AM

    “why do we have so few foreign students in our Universities when our Education system is ranked amongst the top?”

    Nandini, first up, while some of our institutions are perceived to be amongst the very best in the world, most of the “system” is decrepit – IITs and IIMs are exceptions, not the rule in quality…About foreign students, or the lack of them, I would say two reasons:

    1. The standards of our elite institutions are tougher than the best Amercian unis – the 1-year PG programme for executives in IIM (A and C) have a median GMAT score of 720 for admission, at par with Harvard, Stanford etc. the flagship 2-year PG programme would have a GMAT equivalent score that is much higher than that – most “foreign” students would simply not qualify.

    2. When the “demand” from Indian students is so high (apparently every year Indian parents spend 8 billion in educating their wards in unis, many of them third grade, abroad), why should we even attempt to bring in foreigners in large numbers?

  9. K M Venugopalan permalink
    June 15, 2010 9:45 AM

    ‘We’ have to have the last word as we are the Nation and all the others are just ‘Others’ who at best have to live at the mercy of us. We believe not just what we like to and what we want to believe, but also in ****ing on Others’ heads!

    Whatever the Sachar Report and the NSSO might say,
    the mood of triumphalism in the minds of upwardly mobile educated Hindus remains unchanged thanks to the neo-liberal and militaristic propaganda at the global level ( caste no bar here please, except in demanding closing the doors of quota to all converted people including dalits ).

    This will not perhaps just go away by merely publishing a thousand Sachar/NSSO reports and debating on their basis. Rather, this could be corrected only by pro- active remedial steps on ‘ war footing’, fired by the political will to deprive the bigots of their
    social legitimacy; this legitimacy in turn, seems to be a consequence of global equations and the system of hegemonies operating generally against the wills of people at large, but unfortunately succeeding in promoting internecine wars everywhere.
    For example, talk dalit politics & reservation in isolation with the related issue of communal/social profiling, your upwardly mobile ‘Hindu sarvajan’ face overrides that of the Dalit. Likewise,when you refuse to listen to the demands by poor for comprehensive land reforms, increased educational facilities, cessation of creation of SEZ at the expense of displacement of poor farmers,etc and go on shouting cheers at those building parks, statues and busts, your neo-liberal face betrays rather more than that of dalit.

  10. Aman Sethi permalink
    June 15, 2010 12:23 PM

    Re: the case of the gentlemen being forced off the plane for saying “jahaz udne wala hai”; and Somnath’s observation that “it does not require any biased mindset for a panic-stricken reaction” suggests an unsurprisingly naive understanding of how power and paranoia work in a society.

    The point is precisely that a carefully cultivated atmosphere of fear makes even the most hysterical actions (like that of the lady) appear completely natural and normal.

    Every single flight/bus/train I have traveled in, has a number of passengers making last minute calls that are hurriedly terminated with “Jahaz udne wala hai,” “Bus Chalne lagi hai”, “Train platform se nikal rahi” [the plane is taking off, the bus has started, the train is leaving the station].

    Chhattishgarh, where I now live, is in the midst of a similar upheaval where nobody talks business on the phone because they fear that their conversations may be tapped and used against them at a later date.

    Everyone (this includes, doctors, policemen, journalists and NGO workers) merely calls to say “lets meet soon, I have something to tell you.”

    Of course, according to Somnath, you dont need to “a biased mindset” to conclude that the fear of being tapped itself is a sign of guilt; but as we well know – everyone has very legitimate reasons to be fearful in a climate where anti-terror legislation can rob of you three years of your life merely for appearing suspicious in the eyes of the state.

    But as the SAR Geelani case illustrated, a random phone intercept is enough to sentence an innocent man to death!

    I think Subhash’s post is pointing to the very real fear of imprisonment and vicitimization that exists among large sections of our polity.

    At such a point it is interesting to look at the Maoist issue where the “orbit” of people who can be implicated as Maoist supporters is gradually increasing to include a socially and culturally powerful elite in Delhi, Calcutta and Mumbai.

    While the orbits of earlier upheavals like Kashmir, Khalistan, the North East and now “Terror” have been restricted geographically and in terms of class and religion, the current crisis is far more widespread.

    Post 9/11 it was enough to say “He prayed at the same mosque as the perpetrators of X terrorist attack”; now you have the State of Chhattisgarh labeling various people as Maoist sympathizers and threatening legal action.

    Soon it will be enough to say, “She spoke at the same seminar as X, Y and Z where P,Q, and R made anti-state and pro-Maoist statements.”

    The point, Somnath, is not to react reflexively by choosing the weakest link in every argument and subsequently tom-tomming the resilience of the Indian state. It would be far more interesting to see how a particular framework is changing the way people live their lives.

    To come back to the case of the unfortunate man on the plane – should we think before we put the phone down on someone?

  11. ravi permalink
    June 15, 2010 4:54 PM

    Muslims may be facing some problems here and there but their position is much better than Ahamdiya muslims in Pakistan. More number of muslims have been killed in Pakistan last year in bomb blasts and by Talibans than in communal riots in India last year. (This is my giess).

    I think muslims in this country will be better off without support from Adiya Nigams and subhash gatades. If mulsim enrolment in higher education is low there could be many reasons for that. Access to higher education is an issue for poor hindus too. Christians fare better in this than Hindus. Muslims enjoy rights as minorities.Christians established so many institutions post-1947 also and they are just 2% of the population. Did Hindus prevent muslims from establishing colleges and institutions.
    Did RSS prevent muslims from sending the girls to schools and colleges. There is so much conservatism among muslims and who is to be blamed for it.Minority institutions can reserve upto 50% of seats for students from their communities even when they receive 100% state aid. Christians use this and they are adept in it. Muslims too could have used and that would have enhanced muslim enrolment in higher education
    RSS had not condoned the violence and had argued that it would not support any member indulging in violence or conspiracies to plant for this story in the hindu by neena vyas to know the official position.

    Muslims in Kerala are better in terms of socio-economic indicators than muslims in Bihar because Kerala has fared better in that. This is what Sachar Commission report says. It is not as if Hindus are uniformly doing well in all parts in india while muslims are
    doing uniformly bad in all parts of india in terms of indicators. Both Mishra and Sachar commission have recorded that in terms of many indicators christians and sikhs are ahead of hindus. This itself shows that despite all problems minorities in India are not systematically discriminated against.

    The secular-leftist idiots in this country dont even read these reports fully and always cry about discrimination. One can often spot them in Kafila.
    Hindus constitute about 80% of population even one fourth of that is more than muslim
    population. The number of very poor Hindus may be as big as whole of muslim population in India.
    The problem is lack of development and lack of access to education.Those who dont even understand this resort to the ‘logic’ putforth by Venugopalans and Nigams.

    Rightly or wrongly globalization has helped Hinduism and a section of the Hindus whom you hate. They make use of the opportunities.You folks are capable of turning your symapthisers and supporters into enemies by indulging in cheap talk and stereotyping.

    Nigam should read Richard Levins and of course should start with Not in Our Genes. Perhaps he secretly loves the Bell Curve thesis but is afraid to reveal that in public :).

    Nigams and venugopalans please note: i am a south indian brahmin male by birth and have no regrets about it. I am a Hindu too, and have no regrets about being born as a Hindu.

    So please use your stereotypes against me too but try to invent new ones :).

  12. Aditya Nigam permalink*
    June 15, 2010 5:26 PM

    Ravi, I simply rest my case. Why, every single word and syllable in your comment simply proves what I said about the upper caste, brahimin, Hindu male: that he is the most privileged entity in this country whose politics and political allegiances are simply an outcome of a desperate attempt at securing a long-term preservation of his privileges; That you can plot all their coordinates on a paper and join the dots and you will exactly the same map. Boringly, with the same regularity, the same positions, the same stock phrases and the same allegiances of power and privilege. Why indeed, would you ‘regret’ being what you are – a brahmin male? You are the cream with thousands of years of privilege to back you. You would regret only if you were a Dalit (or may be even an OBC) or a Muslim.
    And one more thing, I don’t hate Hindus – i hate those who have taken upon themselves the business of ‘representing’ Hindus. You and your ilk have neither have any understanding of Hinduism’s strengths nor of its very very depraved history and continuing present. And you want to talk of Muslim backwardness? You who carry the banner of untouchability, of inventing and sustaining the most degrading system of human oppression on earth;you upholders of khap panchayats who kill, day in and day out, in the name of family honour? you supposedly progressive people who think they are superior to Muslims but who have the worst record of female foeticide? This is why I said, this attitude represents the smugness of the most privileged brahminical male and has nothing to do with ‘facts’ and ‘reality’ however much you may try to produce bogus evidence in support of your arguments.
    Finally, let me also state here that I think Muslims who indulge in honour killings and other such depravities are as disgusting in my opinion as are you. And in both cases, there is some imagined threat to self and privilege that motivates their disgusting behaviour.
    And just as I distinguish between ordinary, believing Hindus and the RSS/Hindutva brigade, so do I distinguish between the ordinary Muslim and the Taliban – distinctions you clearly don’t want to understand.

  13. somnath permalink
    June 15, 2010 6:50 PM

    Aman, language, especially the beautifully nuanced Indian ones, have a funny way of presenting different meanings through simple turn of syllables…the reason for this preamble is that what the lady in the plane reportedly heard was not “jahaz udne wala hai”, but “jahaz udane wala hai”….

    about the societal “context”, in fact there is enough in the context today for people to feel paranoid about air travel – 9/11, multiple “boot bombing” attempts in the US, the recent case of an aborted bombing on a US airliner – the context is actually quite apt for most ordinary people to be jumpy about these things..Its not unique, its not for the first time – I still remember how streets of Delhi used to be deserted by 7 in the evening in the early ’90s – when the scars of the Kahlistani terror were still fresh….To ascribe “congenital muslim hatred” to explain this (and then stretch it to ascribe low muslim representation in govt jobs) infact displays the sort of generalism that stands no scrutiny – logical or empirical…

    The context in which we live our lives is changing..But by most indicators, the context is changing for the better, giving more people a better quality of life…For both “upper caste, hindu, males” as well as for muslims…No amount of rhetorical sophistry can deny that from an empirical standpoint….

    About the rest (Chattisgarh and Maoists), I would substantially agree with you on most points…Though the discussion on solutions would be pointing in different directions – that is another discussion though…

  14. Nandini permalink
    June 15, 2010 6:58 PM

    Aman, I couldn’t agree with you more!

  15. Prashant permalink
    June 16, 2010 9:49 AM

    What I see is open hatred expressed against certain persons just because they belong to a certian caste (brahmins) by this Nigam character. Had one targeted muslims (say) this way, one would be accused of being a bigot, a communalist, a fascist. But expressing open hatred and steriotyping a certain section of the people just because they happen to belong to a certain caste and religion ( brahmin and hindu in this case) is perfectly acceptable to the self proclaimed secularists of Kafila like Nigam. Who are these people fooling ?

  16. Abhishek Taneja permalink
    June 16, 2010 6:38 PM


    This is the only forum on the internet on which I leave comments, the reason is that this forum is the antithesis of rediff comments section.

    People generally don’t tend to indulge in ad hominem attacks, which as all educated people know is a fallacy of logic, and before you say ‘not always’, i’d say in this case it seem to me be the case.

    You might disagree with what Somnath has to say, but to reduce North India Brahmin males into a singularity with no nuance really is as big a mistake as lumping all JNU students as marxist pinko’s.

    But i’m happy to notice that in your response to ravi, you seem to get hold of your logical abilities at least in the last sentence, but generally when you dismiss somebody’s arguement based on the demography that he or she represents, you actually don’t want to have dialogue, isn’t it, so lets have more dialectic and less of rhetoric, for that we have rediff.

    • Aditya Nigam permalink*
      June 17, 2010 12:05 PM

      Thanks for this response. I must say that I no longer believe in the ‘pure argument’ that speaks from nowhere. I used to do so passionately but have over the years realized that the privilege of making the most ‘universalist’ argument – that is to say unmarked, reasonable etc – is always that of the powerful. That is why, it is always the Dalit, the Muslim, the woman, the ‘lower caste’, who will sound unreasonable and always only be doing ‘identity politics’ while the brahminical, upper caste hindus will speak in the name of the nation.
      My research over the last fifteen years, convinces me that for example the most reasonable arguments – whether in the constituent assembly or in parliamentary debates – were all made by the upper caste (mainly brahmin) leaders who could occupy the ground of the nation, of humanity and what have you with ease; on the other hand, people like Ambedkar, despite his calling his first organization the Independent Labour Party, and the later one the Republican party, had to, in the end be leaders of the ‘Scheduled Caste Federation’, fighting for reservations and safeguards for Dalits. Exactly the same can be said of all other backward caste leaders – Periyar started of as a Congress activist could not continue to occupy the nationalist ground for very long. I am giving Indian examples but it is a story that can be told of anywhere in the world.
      Women everywhere in the world have had to make this repeatedly clear that any argument that speaks on behalf of ‘humanity’ or nation’ necessarily speaks for the powerful male. The claim of feminists, therefore, has always had to be articulated in terms of a woman’s experience. And so on and so on.

      It is not an accident that the argument in defense of powerful, brahminical hindu interests in the context of reservations invariably comes dressed up in immaculately secular and universalist terms like ‘merit’ ‘efficiency’ etc, while it is the lot of those excluded to be always speaking for their own specific interests.
      So with the Muslim. A Muslim can only and always will only be a Muslim – always denied the ground of unversality that is forever the privilege of the upper caste, brahminical male.

    • suresh permalink
      June 17, 2010 2:34 PM


      You overstate the case. Taken to its logical conclusion, it amounts to saying that there are no “universals” and there can’t be any such universals. By [your] definition, anything claiming to be a “universal” is nothing more than the interests of the strong — or to be more precise, the interests of the powerful, brahminical Hindu in the current context.

      But suppose you get rid of all the brahminical male Hindus — let us say through a Hitler-like solution. Presumably we would then be in paradise, but let’s ask the important question: Would we then have “universals? By your logic, no: any such universal is nothing more than the interests of the “strong”, whoever they happen to be in that society. I am not sure your line of argument leads anywhere.

      I do think you have a point, though. Most heterogeneous societies – India, the USA for instance – have groups which have faced historical and continue to face discrimination. In such cases, there is a tension between the claims of “universality” on the one hand and the need for “special dispensation” for the discriminated groups. Resolving this tension is not easy. You are right in noting that many Brahmin males speak the language of universality while, for the most part, ignoring the historical and current discrimination. Even when they do recognize it, they typically address it in a perfunctory manner: “the government should focus on elementary education” and so on. (Note: No specifics!) You are right in bringing this to our notice but it does not follow that there are no, and never can be, “universals.” I suspect we will agree to disagree on this point.

      I know you don’t like economists — we are all “neo-liberals” aren’t we — but that is your right. However, you might be interested in reading the following article by Paul Krugman on his fellow MIT graduate student, the black economist Glenn Loury. It was written in 1998 but I think substantially true even now notwithstanding Barack Obama. It is a thoughtful article on the travails of a black intellectual facing the dilemma that I alluded to above:

  17. shama zaidi permalink
    June 16, 2010 7:29 PM

    brahmin bashing is berry berry bad thing especially of good south indian brahmin boys. tsk tsk musn’t do that.

  18. Abhishek Taneja permalink
    June 17, 2010 2:27 PM


    I agree with everything you have said, and although I’m not a social scientist, I know from my experience that people tend to perpetuate the power configuration if it is in their favour.

    But my post was not in disagreement with you, its just that as a researcher you should be the one to understand the complexity of individuals and their motivations. My argument is against generalizations.

    As i have already implied in post on the article on the Mohammed cartoon controversy, why would a disadvantaged group help to solidify the prejudiced notions of the dominant group by indulging in irrational activities, for example when Mayawati calls all upper caste hindu’s as manuwadi, doesn’t this exaggeration (one can argue it is not, though) drains out the truth from her argument.

    Or do we think that a common man has no capacity to understand a nuanced argument. And this really is aquestion for you, what do you think?

    • Abhishek Taneja permalink
      June 17, 2010 4:50 PM

      Sorry, i meant to say Aditya, my bad…

  19. ravi permalink
    June 17, 2010 2:35 PM

    I wont be surprised if Adiya Nigam extends his faith to laws of physics and chemistry and declare that are no universal laws. He may even declare that Newtonian Physics is nothing but a version of while male colonial physics and may end up inventing muslim physics,dalit physics, not to speak of periyarist physics.
    If aditya nigam comes to some conclusions as he has mentioned after fifteen years of research, all i can say is, may god save aditya nigam from his own delusions and essentialisms.

    • Aditya Nigam permalink*
      June 17, 2010 2:58 PM

      ravi, displaying your stupidity is your right but please look up the meanings of words before you use them. might just help, who knows? i have, as i said, no desire to enter into a debate with the likes of you.

  20. somnath permalink
    June 17, 2010 6:37 PM

    Ah, so a viewpoint recognising the nuances, the complexities of the society and its struggle to move forward is “universalism”..But “north Indian hindu brahmin men” are all bigoted reactionaries, hindus are all “congenitally anti-muslim” – these are radical progressive positions!

    I made the point before – this country is a secular constitutional republic because its hindus want it to be, not because its muslims desire it to be…

    the Indian dream, as it were, is not an unmitigated success story..But it is one of hope, that there is no doubt – at least not among those who are trying..As a certain Dr Faisal testifies here..

    the politics (and intellectualism) of grievance mongering is passe – but there is a profitable industry around it, so it endures!

    • Aditya Nigam permalink*
      June 17, 2010 7:12 PM

      Was beginning to wonder where you were mate – almost like you wanted to prove my thesis wrong!

    • Afthab Ellath permalink
      June 18, 2010 11:47 PM

      >>I made the point before – this country is a secular constitutional republic >>because its hindus want it to be, not because its muslims desire it to be…

      You have been invoking this sangh thinking many times in differenet threads… It is not difficult to find out what is hidden deep inside your ‘secular’ mind…”You ****ing muslims, dont talk too muck… Accept what we hindus have given you… or go to Pakisthan..”

  21. somnath permalink
    June 18, 2010 7:01 AM

    Aditya, for a “researcher”, your lack of empiricistic basis (and a sole reliance of ideological rhetoric) is quite astonishing..But dont worry, you will get there one of these days! :) Soemtimes even the “best” of them do – Prof Bibek Debroy used to be a naxalism-inspired leftist! :)

  22. Prashant permalink
    June 18, 2010 10:39 AM

    So it took 15 years of strenuous research for Shri. Nigam to come to the conclusion that that Brahmins are despicable characters and must be eliminated. Final solution. eh ? Finish off the nasty evil crooked brahmins and suddenly everythin will be okay … poverty will be eliminated, justice for all, no more crime, everybody will be equally rich, no more hindu-muslim violence – Vishwa Shanti….. just finish off the brahmins first…. final solution….

  23. shama zaidi permalink
    June 18, 2010 12:46 PM

    we need a bit of o.b.c. bashing now because they are now the dominant entity in many states. brahmin bashing is passe south of the narmada. it’s become a loa mode in the north now it seems.

    • Aditya Nigam permalink*
      June 18, 2010 1:07 PM

      Except that, despite their (OBCs) overwhelming presence in politics, it is still the 4% odd brahmins who control almost all the top jobs in government, bureaucracy and universities. Hopefully one day they will be reduced to what they deserve to be – a four percent powerless minority. And no ‘final solution’ is required – it is democratic politics that will ensure that. As it already is doing in some sectors (Amazing this recurrent motif of the poor, hounded brahmin-as-jew in some of the above comments, considering that they still rule).

  24. Yojimbo permalink
    June 18, 2010 2:34 PM

    Well – The Comments starting with the ‘tangetial-brained Somnath’ predictably veer off the topic. The question was discrimination by the law-enforcement bodies.
    There is a great deal of evidence to show that the default suspects of any terrorism related incident are Muslims. And since our law-enforcement system believes in reverse investigations – the targeting of Muslims becomes even more intense in search of miniscule non-existent clues.

    However, since the law-enforcement bodies are also basically drawn from the larger society it is indicative of a racism within the general society as well – But then that is entirely another topic..:-)

  25. Kumarpushp permalink
    June 20, 2010 4:53 AM

    Hindus are born anti muslims and anti dalits which we had seen in India many times after India got independence from british rule.Hindu led forces never fired a single bullets to kill hindu forces who were killing muslims in Bombay and in Gujrat and same things happened in jhajjhar where five dalits men were roased alve by hindus in front of 500 police men and presence of DM,SSP what a shame on hindus and their hindu led government in india.Hindus are running medias,business and political parties where muslims and dalits representive are hindus bumm lickers and they donot have any voice ,they are his master voice so muslims and dalits masses have to constitute their own political parties to defend their properties and their abrus from barbaric hindus.

  26. Abhishek Taneja permalink
    June 20, 2010 10:26 PM

    And Mr. Kumarpushp illustrate my point…

  27. vinita chandra permalink
    June 24, 2010 1:37 PM

    I am a Hindu; though not a brahmin but a ‘marwari baniya’ (someone who is not even using her caste title), and not a man but a ‘woman’… and still if i wish you to be a bit less hateful of Hindu brahmin males Aditya? Why do i feel you are caught in webs woven around your soul by yourself? I don’t think hatred is a constructive force. Can’t we really rise above categories…? Can’t we have the confidence that we can change things even without abusing the existent? How can you say Hindus are anti-Muslims or anti-Dalits? Some of them are, i agree. But not all. I am not, rather i somehow identify with all of them…the Muslims, the dalits, the nagas and so on. I have a question to ask… Tere is one locality of Muslims in my city. Number of times i wish to go there and educate their women… Do you think i can do that without any objections or hindrances from the Muslim males there? Or from Muslim maulvis there? Why am i afraid of doing that? Has it something to do with the fact that they do not open their doors for me the way i do for them? I think talking in the way you and few others in Kafila do would only reinforce divisions in society… I say all this as a general observer…and a non-academic middle class Indian girl.

    • Aditya Nigam permalink*
      June 24, 2010 11:23 PM

      Hatred is not in my soul. Please take some time to go through all the posts and comments by people bearing ‘Muslim’ names here on this blog: almost without fail, irrespective of whether they are people of unimpeachable secular standing – Mahmood Mamdani, Sohail Hashmi, Zainab Bawa, Shama Zaidi – they are immediately marked and referred to as ‘Muslims’ – as though they must answer for their community. And the people who do this are not Hindutvavadis – the rare exception apart. They are ‘enlightened’ souls. But the minute I identify them as Hindus, upper caste, mainly brahmin males, all hell breaks loose. So, it seems they have the privilege of being unmarked citizens while Dalits or Muslims must always be identified in terms of their community! And to raise questions of these people’s caste and community background is apparently hitting below the belt? I do not think so.
      I agree with what you say about all Hindus not being anti-Muslim and anti Dalit. I have myself said that in one of the comments above. But look at your tone and you can see how different it is from the people whom I was referring to in my comment. Yes, the question of your going into a Muslim locality and teaching their women will not be taken kindly. This could be for two reasons. First, there is no trust any longer and it holds for both sides. Second, it could be seen as condescending when someone from ‘outside’ enters to ‘educate’ their women. I am not saying it is necessarily a good or correct attitude but it is understandable.

    • Kumarpushp permalink
      June 28, 2010 2:01 AM

      95% hindus are anti muslims and anti dalits,We had seen during state sponsored genocide of muslims in gujrat and dalits killing in bombay and in jhajjhar.Hindu medias,hindus led government and their forces are hel,ping each other killing dalits and muslims in day in and day out.India is a big market for multi national that why world communities are not opening their mouth.In my openion if 95% hindus are anti dalits and anti muslims means we can say 100% hindus are anti towards the minorities and dalits.

  28. William permalink
    June 25, 2010 12:02 AM

    A question from abroad if I may please.

    I regret coming to this debate late in the day – I’ve just discovered this site – but will someone here please explain to me what is considered by Indian society to be the stock Brahmin personality/outlook? I do not mean vis a vis Mulsims/Dalits as discussed here, but generally speaking. I know this sounds like buying in to prejudice and cliche, but these too can be revealing in their own way…

    I ask both because this term has been much used in the comments here and also because I recently read a Nehru biography where the author describes Nehru as having a Brahmin outlook. The writer did not explain what this meant and I remain perplexed.


    • Abhishek Taneja permalink
      July 1, 2010 4:57 PM


      I’m not Brahmin, and I can only speak from a layman perspective. If you are from USA, you will know what a Boston Brahmin is, its roughly the same.

      Some background first, Hinduism is based on a lot of ancient scriptures or philosophical treatise, unlike Christianity or Islam which have one sacred text. Primarily it consists of Vedas (four in number) and a number of Upanishads. Ramayana and Mahabharata are epics. Brahmins were people who have studied Vedas and Upanishads and used to perform priestly duties as well were most educated and scholarly class. People outside the Brahmin community were not allowed to study the Vedas. Although initially the idea was that anybody who studies and understand can become a Brahmin, with a few exceptions, it was always a birth right of few individuals. Similarly Sanskrit also became a language of Brahmins which was not used by a vast majority of people.

      So as Aditya has mentioned Brahmins had a huge advantage over others, right from their birth, and caste system perpetuated this advantage.

      Now coming to what is stock Brahmin personality/outlook, thats hugely problematic, there are some who consider Brahmins as parasitic, especially the priestly class, you’ll find lot of extremely poor people spending money which they have borrowed for weddings and funerals etc. which is paid to priests to perform the ceremonies. Although in large parts of India priests are still venerated.

      Brahmins traditionally have been the most educated caste, they are mostly middle or upper middle class, though not rich as they consider running a business beneath their dignity (or at least till some time back that was the perception). Brahmins are typically bureaucrats, or professionals. Many of them are quite proud of their lineage and some are casually condescending towards everybody else.

      So there you have it, a traditionally privileged, educated, middle class, upwardly mobile, in his mind liberal, but condescending individual, who probably considers himself as an intellectual and thinks that his forefathers have found all the answers to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything else, its in Vedas and it is not 42.

      But mind you that’s just a caricature, of course people are different, and somebody else might have better more enlightened answer to your question.

  29. William permalink
    July 16, 2010 4:53 PM

    Dear Abhishek,

    Thank you for that. So, looking at the contemporary scene in India, would I be right in assuming that most of the senior civil servants, judiciary, lawyers and other professions of high standing, at the upper levels, are of Brahmin stock?

    Also, if I were to meet a group of people in a social setting in India, how would I detect, without being told, whether someone might or might no be a Brahmin?!

    Thank you again.


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