|

December 02, 2016

From Kam Bakhts To Star Bhakts


India: Rejoinder to Gujarat Police Affidavit alleging embezzlement of trust funds by Teesta, Javed

December 2, 2016

Press Release

Gujarat police recycling spiced-up allegations without a shred of evidence

We refer to reports appearing in a section of the media today about the Gujarat police having filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court alleging that Teesta Setalvad and Javed Anand have embezzled nearly Rs 3.85 crore out of the Rs. 9.75 crore trust funds meant for the welfare of the victims-survivors of the 2002 communal carnage in Gujarat.

The Trustees of Citizens for Justice and Peace and Sabrang Trust, as also Teesta and Javed (both of whom are part of the Board of Trustees of the two independent trusts) have repeatedly and emphatically denied the charges against the two of them as baseless and politically motivated. We reiterate the same now.

While regurgitating its allegation that Teesta Setalvad and Javed Anand have embezzled nearly Rs 3.85 crore out of the Rs. 9.75 crore trust funds meant for welfare of the victims-survivors of the 2002 communal carnage in Gujarat, the state police has chosen to completely ignore the over 20,000 pages of documentary evidence submitted to them in refutation of the charges and simply recycled old allegations without a shred of evidence in support.

Among the over voluminous documentary evidence submitted to the Gujarat police and in the courts are copies of grant agreements with donor organisations from which it is evident that during the relevant period neither CJP nor Sabrang Trust ever applied/ appealed for or received grants/donations intended for the financial assistance of any kind to the victims-survivors of the 2002 communal carnage in Gujarat.

CJP did apply/appeal for grants/donations to provide Free Legal Aid to the survivors/eye-witnesses in their search for justice and punishment to the perpetrators of the mass crimes in 2002. CJP’s Trustees are fully satisfied with the role the organisation was able to play in securing unprecedented, even historic, verdicts in favour of the survivors in the Trial Courts in Mumbai (Best Bakery Case) and Gujarat, Gujarat High Court and the Supreme Court.

In 2008, with the concurrence of the Members of the Gulberg Housing Society, Ahmedabad, Sabrang Trust did try to raise funds for building a ‘Gulberg Resistance Memorial’ but the project had to be abandoned in 2012 due to insufficient funds. The total amount of about Rs. 4.6 lakh received as donation for the Memorial is still reflected in the Trust’s audited balance sheet as earmarked, unutilised fund.

Thus, there is absolutely no basis to the allegation that the two trusts raised “huge funds” in the name of the victims of 2002 but the victims received nothing while Teesta and Javed swallowed a large chunk of the funds collected. 

On a notice from the Gujarat police, in April 2014 the auditors of the two independent trusts filed reports and subsequently gave statements to the Gujarat police categorically stating that they had found no financial irregularities whatsoever either during the annual audits or during their “re-verification” of the accounts and related documents of the respective trusts following the police notice.

The present affidavit has been filed by the Gujarat police in the Supreme Court in response to the separate petitions filed by CJP, Sabrang Trust, Teesta and Javed for the de-freezing of the accounts of two trusts, and also the personal accounts of Teesta and Javed, through an illegal order of Gujarat police in January 2014.

The only new element in the current affidavit is this. The Gujarat police are now also alleging embezzlement of amounts from the grant Sabrang Trust received from the HRD Ministry. We categorically deny the new and equally baseless allegation. To the best of our knowledge, the HRD ministry itself has made no such claim, at least till date. 

Teesta Setalvad, Javed Anand and the two trusts are in the process of preparing a detailed response to and rebuttal of each and every allegation made by the Gujarat police. The same will be submitted in the Supreme Court in the coming days. 

Attached with this statement is a chart prepared by us showing the receipt of funds by the two trusts and their utilisation during the relevant period.

Teesta Setalvad                                Javed Anand

December 01, 2016

India: A Secular Case for Common Civil Code | Abdul Rahman

A Secular Case for Common Civil Code

Abdul Rahman

The news regarding Muslim Personal Law Board and other Muslim organisations’ adamant stand on the issue of tripal talaq and BJP led union government’s attempt to push for Universal Civil Code (hereafter UCC)[1] has energised the debate on reforms in Muslim Personal laws verses UCC. A section of Muslim women along with Bhartiye Muslim Mahila Andolan (a secular organisation established by Muslim women in 2007) have decided to take the issue to the Supreme Court in the form of PIL. The government is in favour of abolishing the practice of tripal talaq too. However, RSS-BJP sees this opportunity to polarize the Hindus raising the issue of UCC. Secular left-liberal sections are divided on the issue as always. Present article tries to introduce secularist debates on the need and nature of UCC. 

The focus here is to establish that why reform in Muslim personal laws alone is not enough and why UCC should not be seen from a communal point of view but a secular attempt to fight against patriarchy and create equality. The first part deals with the history of the debates on UCC and the second part tries to highlight the central points.      

II
Article 44 of the Indian constitution says “the state shall endeavour to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India.”[2] At the time of the writing of the constitution secular universalism was the basis of nation making process adopted by our law makers and hence it was no surprise that Indian constituent assembly adopted such aims. All the progressive forces were firmly behind the idea of uniform laws. This zeal was derived from liberal influences of English tradition, namely the “rule of law”. Mino Masani, one of the liberal members of the constituent assembly pointed out the danger of community based laws. There were also women members in the Constituent Assembly such as Hansha Mehta and Amrit Kaur who demanded a universal civil code as a protection of women rights.[3]  As a first step to that uniform civil code Ambedkar as law minister of India produced Hindu Code Bill in the parliament. This bill was a comprehensive attempt to ‘modernise’ and codify the Hindu traditions of marriage, family and inheritance. In 1947 when this bill was first proposed in the parliament a substantial number of legislatures, however opposed it. This was the first sign of problems which UCC was to face in the future.

The President of India at the time, Dr. Rajendra Prasad was vehemently opposed to any idea of state intervention in the so called Hindu traditions.[4] When Hindu Code Bill was finally introduced after four years of debate in 1951 the number of people who opposed it increased. Nehru, as Prime Minister of India proposed caution and waited for the 1952 elections to get a mandate from the people for such reforms. Ambedkar resigned from the cabinet due to reluctance of Nehru to push the bill at one go. Finally, the laws which came from the original Hindu Code Bill in 1955 and 1956 modified and codified the Hindu traditions of marriage, family and inheritance. The Hindu Right was furious despite the fact that Nehru’s cabinet had mellowed down the original bill in their favour. Once the laws were enacted Hindu Right used it as a tool of mobilization and polarization vis-à-vis minorities which still retained their personal laws. Nonetheless, the demands for universal personal laws were still raised by the left and liberal groups. The women movement in India fought for equal rights and forced the state to make secular interventions in the form of Dowry Prohibition Act of 1961 and Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971. All such laws were opposed by the religious groups including Hindus, Muslims and Christians. 

In the 1980s a new turn of global and domestic events turned the debates of UCC upside down within the left and liberal circles including the women movement. The rise of multiculturism and post-modernism in social sciences along with the rise of neo-liberalism influenced the policy approaches of states in the post-colonial societies too. The centrality of individual as a subject of universal laws is ‘modernist telo’ hence outdated and ‘regressive’ was a common refrain by enthusiasts of post-modernism and multiculturalism. For them left-liberal emphasis on universal individual rights is based on “wrong” notions of their autonomy. Individuals are ‘embedded’ in “particular social roles and relationships” and “such embedded selves do not form and revise their own conception of the good life; instead they inherit a way of life which defines their good for them”.[5] Hence, in the eyes of cultural relativism and multiculturalism, standing with the minority rights meant “defending cohesive and communally minded minority groups against the encroachment of liberal individualism.”[6] The process of ‘national building’ too moved significantly away from notions of universalism. Though extremist multicultural positions were later rejected by the left-liberal sections a more tolerant view of cultural differences was gradually being adopted throughout the globe. The democratic state need not impose one version of law on everyone and let the cultural differences be particularly when it belongs to the minorities. There are many unresolved debates among the left and liberal circles about the extent of specificity and universalism. However, it was obvious that the fight for universal individual rights and equality was on the back foot at the time.   

The Right moved opposite to that of the Left-liberal view once again. It did reject the whole idea of relativism and instead, became rigid Universalist albeit from a majoritarian point of view. The world witnessed rise of popular movements rejecting any project of tolerance propounded by multiculturists in the western societies. The Right in these societies based its campaign on fear mongering about minorities; internal as well as migrant. This deepened the crisis among the left further. Popularity of such rightwing rejection throughout the globe at the time forced more pragmatics among the left to either lie low or play with the gallery. This is not to suggest that the Right was ever tolerant. However, conservativism has always talked about ‘the respect of traditions’ and so on in the past. This particular stance changed in the 1980s as far as the Right is concerned. The Right was globally gripped in cultural paranoia and the left and liberal forces were ineffective if not invisible.  

1980s was an era of turmoil both economically and politically in India. The initiation of economic reforms was coincided by the aggressive rightwing assertion. The issues of Babri Masjid-Ram Madir agitation, rise of militancy in both Kashmir and Punjab, and the Shah Bano case etc were symbolic of the turmoil of the era.
      
1980s is hence the period in which the communal polarisation became severe due to rising inability or rather reluctance of the state to intervene. The concurrent events of Shah Bano and Ayodhya were classic turning points in Indian politics vis-à-vis the issue of universal personal laws. The polarization was complete between the Hindu and the Muslim rightwing. The RSS-BJP, more stronger and more articulate movements of the right than its predecessor Jansangh of the 1950s, led the Hindu attack with slogans of ‘minority appeasement’ and ‘pseudo-secularism’ with three fold demands of Ram Mandir, abolition of article 370 and UCC. It is very clear that the failure of the state in 1980s in maintaining the secular credentials in law provided solid ground to RSS-BJP politics. If we see carefully none of the issues raised by Hindu Right is related to political economy on the surface. Here the concerns of the liberal and the rights merged. May be, that was the first assertion of a kind of ‘Washington Consensus’ among Indian politicians.

The Muslim and Sikh rightwing too had a role to play in 1980s. The rise of Khalistan movement is well known and we need not to go into the details of it here as this had noting much to do with the UCC debate. Suffice is to say that, Sikhs were made part of the Hindu personal laws emerging from Hindu Code Bill in the 1950s and hence their grievances were similar to the Hindu Right. The Muslim Right, led by various ulemas and organisations including Muslim Personal Law Board and Jamat-i-Islami etc reacted to Shah Bano judgment more furiously than the Hindu Right in 1950s and 1960s when the Hindu personal laws were codified and somewhat modernised. This reaction, though limited to urban and so called educated sections among the Muslims was portrayed as universal Muslim rejection. It forced the government to intervene and nullify the Supreme Court Judgement in Shah Bano case. The government instead enacted Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act in 1986.

This state intervention under pressure from Muslim Right strengthened the arguments of “minority” rather “muslin appeasement” by the Hindu rightwing. The demands of UCC hence became a tool for further polarization of the Hindus against the Muslims in late 1980s and early 1990s. The left and liberal forces both, due to acceptance of the ideas of multiculturalism and due to realpolitik considerations gradually desisted itself from raising the demand of UCC. During the first NDA regime 1998-2004 BJP did not have absolute majority and hence the UCC was never made a significant issue. However, today when BJP is in power with absolute majority in the Lok Sabha it is under pressure from the Hindu Right to push for UCC. The desperation shown by the BJP is also due to its failures to deliver on its main election agenda of development. There are no substantial achievements on the economic front in the last two years. It is but obvious that issues like UCC and ‘Pakistan sponsored terrorism’ are seen as saving grace by the pundits sitting in Jhandewalan and Nagpur. But is it that simple? Is the demand of common civil code has no merit for left, liberal and feminist movements? Are demands of common civil code and reforms in the Muslim personal laws same?   
    
III

Equality is one of the most celebrated values of enlightenment. Both the liberal and the left, despite their disagreements over the form and extent, agree that a modern society without equality is impossible. Indian constitution, a classic liberal text, recognises this beyond any doubt and makes several provisions for it most explicitly in part III. Feminists of all hues, if we agree to exclude the so called feminism of the religious right (both Islamic or Christian and Hindu in the present case), struggle for equality. Among many ways, universal personal law is also seen by many as an attempt to create the same equality. Perhaps that was the reason that the left and the liberal forces supported the demands for common civil code very early in post-independent India. One of the largest women groups in the country, All India Democratic Women Association (AIDWA) has supported the idea of universal secular laws for women across the religious divides. The internal left debate about multiculturism and cultural relativism is unsettling however. The arguments in favour of cultural relativism put forward by the pundits of multiculturism, if accepted, will do much harm to the projects of equality. It will be like accepting the demands of Khap panchayats to kill girls if they marry out of choice or let some burn their women in the name of Sati. Respecting differences cannot be an absolute in all circumstances. There must be ‘minimums’ defined through a democratic process for any society. If equality remains the universal value there can be no denial of the need of massive reforms in the respective personal laws on the secular lines or even on the lines of a common civil code.

It is often pointed out and rightly so that historically Muslim and Christian personal laws have been more progressive than the Hindu personal law which were only codified and modernised in 1950s. Some intellectuals of the left are fearful of the attempts to ‘Hinduise’ UCC in case it is adopted today when BJP is in power. This is a genuine concern. However, the point it not to create a UCC overnight but to agree in principle whether we want it or not? If we start debating its possibility and there is consensus we can always fight against any ‘cultural imperialism’. We can’t be postponing the debate forever.

It is a fact that Sharia had more provisions for the rights of women than any tradition or codes of Manu in terms of marriage, divorce and share in the ancestral property. However, post the reforms in the Hindu personal laws this ‘advantage’ is history. Thanks to interventions of secular judiciary from time to time, Hindu women have moved from no share to equal share in the ancestral property in 2005. They are now much ahead of a Muslim woman who still has right to one third share. Their share in the property of their parents has not moved since the seventh century.

However, a UCC is not specific to one community and if there are progressive elements in a community’s personal laws there should be attempts to retain it as a common law. The case for UCC is not for regression rather for progression. UCC would be an attempt to secularise the laws and see the women as women and not whether she is a Muslim woman or a Hindu woman. They both suffer if divorced without any means of subsistence. A Muslim woman should have the right to claim, if she wants to, an equal share in their ancestral property as any Hindu woman. She needs same rights to abortion as woman whether she is a Muslim, a Hindu or a Christian. She cannot be punished because she was born in a particular community. This is common sense. Of course there should be flexibility and space for the peculiarities of the individual cases. But, the need of equal justice is beyond any doubt and hence demands for secular universal laws or common civil code despite of the fact that rightwing is leading it, remains an important demand for Indian women movement.

Now the question arises, and this is a very significant question, ‘what would be the basis of universality’ in the common code? Some liberal and left intellectuals have an apprehension, as mentioned above, that since a rightwing government is in power they might try to ‘hinduise’ the common provisions of the code. This is a possibility but one should not throw the baby with the bath water. The common personal law, if at all actualised must be based on a democratic process in which the culturally harmless practices of marriage rituals of each community should be allowed to be. The main concerns of equality in marriage, family and inheritance must be based on the model of existing secular laws which are in turn based on the principle of rule of law where they are already available, as in the case of divorce and inheritance under Special Marriage Act of 1954. Where it is not available, it should be created with care and consensus. The possibility of hegemonic cultural influences on the common civil code can be minimised or eradicated if secular principles are adopted. For example, provision of polygamy in Islam is not a ‘harmless cultural practice.’ In fact it is not even a common practice among the Muslims. One can quote shuras from the Quran about the restrictions imposed on men to marry more than one wife but that does not theoretically eradicate the possibility. Again, one can debate whether we want universal ‘gender neutral polygamy’ or abolish the institution of marriage altogether. These are possibilities, if we agree that religion should not be the restricting element for either men or women. As far as divorce (Talaq) is concerned, there is a secular procedure available and all the culturally regressive and obscurantist practices including the practice of triple talaq need to go. No religious community can claim to have a superior personal law. Even the Hindu personal laws have problems of inequality and untoward benefits in the name of Hindu undivided family. There are shortcomings and patriarchal biases inherent in all of them. Common civil Code should be seen as addressing those lacunas from a secular women right’s perspective.     

There is another argument put forward by some scholars that due to gradual secularisation of laws and progressive interpretations by the courts from time to time most of community based personal laws are anyway universalised and hence there is no real need for a UCC. Rohit De argues that,

Legislative reforms in Hindu and Christian laws and the increasing juridification of the Muslim law have created a greater degree of uniformity among different personal laws. Secondly, there is more debate and dissent within communities and a concerted attempt to reform family law from within. Thirdly, new evidence suggests that gender inequality within the family bears a greater correlation to socio-economic conditions than the form of religious law. But perhaps, most importantly, the new areas of emphasis on family law reform address questions such as domestic violence which cut across community identities and concerns.[7]

The most popular example of such development is The Domestic Violence Act of 2005 and Dowry Prohibition Act 1961. Examples of how courts have interpreted the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986 in favour of women without any resistance from the Muslim men is also given. But the question remains, why should we leave it on the subjectivity or lawyers and judges to decide what should be an objective right of a woman?   

The question of pluralism and multiculturism is also raised. Let Muslim women decide if there should be reforms in their personal laws or not. Why should we impose it from outside? Then there is another question about who decides what is good and bad? Nivedita Menon argues, for example, that there are much ‘better’ provisions of Mehr and protection of second wife in Sharia than Hindu acts though Hindu right makes these provisions looks regressive. She argues that gender justice is not necessarily based on universal laws.[8] These are difficult issues to decide. However, we should not forget that pluralism and cultural relativism is two edged sword as pointed above. Mr. Wali Madani general secretary of All India Muslim Personal Law Board defends Tripal Talaq on the basis of pluralism.[9] The heads of Khap, when they expressed their opposition to the attempts by the Supreme Court to make them illegal by law, quoted similar grounds. There are multiple examples where the Hindu rightwing defends caste and gender oppression in the name of ‘pluralism’. On the similar basis Shah Bano was denied the allowance and often Child Marriage, Female Circumcision and even Sati has been justified. As argued above we need to see culture in a different light and pluralism should be no excuse to regression. This is not to argue that pluralism per se is unacceptable. But, as stated above, it cannot be an absolute. The reforms from within can take millennia. It all depends on circumstances. We should not forget the history of women right movement in India both during the colonial and post-colonial phases. All the struggles for gender justice had to face similar arguments and in all cases women movement has rejected them.  If a section of women from the Muslim community want their freedom and rights now can we ask them to fight within their community first? Did we do that in case of Sati, child marriage, widow remarriage etc in the past? There are many Muslim societies in the world who have modernised their personal laws by state intervention. In most of these societies the community did not take initiatives to change such laws. 

In the present case the demand for the reforms in coming from within the Muslim community. All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) is not giving even a sympathetic hearing to the demands. Instead there is a contemptuous rejection. It seems they are playing with the genuine insecurities, among the progressive sections within the community and that from the outside of it, emanating from the fact that BJP is in power to safeguard the interest of men. Is this not patriarchal arrogance?     

The achievement of common civil code is still far and it would not be simple either. The obscurantism in all religious groups is guided by patriarchy and not religion. Culture and religion are masks which patriarchy wears all the time. Cultural relativism is yet another sophisticated tool used by patriarchy against the movements for equality. One should be careful of not playing in the hands of one rightwing or the other particularly at the time in which we are living in India now. However, no fear should stop us from fighting and demanding what is just.

IV

The article 44 is in part IV of the Indian Constitution which is called Directive Principles of State Policy which is non-justifiable in courts. In this part there are also articles 39 (Common Good and Economic Rights of people), article 41 (Right to work and education etc), article 42 (Provision for Just and Humane Condition of Work and Maternity) and article 43 (Living Wages etc). This same part also has article 48 (Organisation of agriculture and Animal Husbandry) which asks the state to protect the cows and other milch and draught animals. The part IV A is about fundamental duties which in its entries (e) asks Indian citizens “to promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood amongst all the people of India transcending religious, linguistic and regional or sectional diversities; to renounce practices derogatory to the dignity of women”. The passionate and enthusiastic call for common civil code and may be article 48 partially and none of the other issues mentioned in the same part of the constitution exposes the selective and parochial approach of both the Indian state and the citizenry like none other. The time is take them head on and not to be defensive in any manner. 
Notes and References


[1] There are some differences between the idea of a Common Civil Code and a Universal Civil Code theoretically. However, in this article it has been used interchangeably for the purpose of debate. 
[2] See A G Noorani’s (2015) excellent articles in Frontline on the debates in the constituent assembly and later court judgements related to this article. “Hindutva’s Stick”, November 24 and “Zeal and Poor Scholarship”, December 11
[3] De, Rohit (2013), “Personal Laws: A Reality Check” Frontline, September 6, 2013
[4] The Hindu Code Bill, Economic and Political Weekly, 24 December 1949, http://www.epw.in/system/files/pdf/1949_1/52/the_hindu_code_bill.pdf
[5] Kymlicka, Will (2002), Contemporary Political Philosophy: An Introduction, Oxford: Oxford University Press, P-336
[6] Ibid, P-337
[7] The Hindu Code Bill, Economic and Political Weekly, 24 December 1949.
[8] Menon, Nivedita (2016), “It Isn’t About Women”, The Hindu, July 15.
[9] Muslim Groups Reject Law Panel Move on Uniform Civil Code, The Hindu, October 14.

The Author teaches Political Science at Indraprastha College for Women, University of Delhi

India: Modi's gamble in service of fascist Hindutva (Anuradha Bhasin Jamwal)

Kashmir Times - November 26, 2016

Modi's gamble in service of fascist Hindutva
By Anuradha Bhasin Jamwal

In June, David Cameron as prime minister of Britain, waged the greatest gamble of his life by holding a referendum on Brexit and lost his chair when the Britishers voted to exit out of European Union. Five months hence, would the demonetization of higher denomination currency notes be Indian prime minister Narendra Modi's Brexit? The demonetization move was brought in by weaving a mythical spin of wiping out black money from India, making the rich less rich and the poor richer. That is hardly likely to be the end result of the chaos that the move has pushed the country into without an adequate assessment of the amount of cash that is in circulation and how it would hit various aspects of economy. Whatever be the imagined gains, the move was a political gamble waged in run up to assembly elections to several states, including the key states of Uttar Pradesh and Punjab with the explicit ambition of selling this move as a crackdown on black money. How this move plays up on the imagination of the people going to vote will ultimately depend on several factors - the prolonged impact of the crisis, the inconvenience caused to the masses who have queued up outside banks and ATMs before the crack of dawn to withdraw their own hard earned money as well as the gullibility of the people, who can sometimes be mislead by false propaganda based less on facts and more on myths.

The demonetization move that has brought the country's economy to its knees, as of now, has a strong vote bank politics whiff to it. 'Will it or wont it work' is not the only question that is nagging? The far more crucial question is how will election results impact the conduct of Modi's government and the Sangh Parivar? The Modi government is expected to use both the black money card and the case of resumption of tensions at the borders to its advantage in the coming elections in a few months, though its chances of using them with a measure of success is doubtful at the moment. If the BJP and its allies win or even bag a decent number of seats, its confidence would naturally be bolstered and there is not an iota of doubt that it will spread its wings wider and bare its fangs of lethal Hindutva even more brazenly than it is doing at the moment. In all likelihood, it may lose and lose badly. But it would be naïve to think that this would mean this would prompt it to put its Hindutva agenda on the freeze.

The BJP won the last Lok Sabha elections with a thumping majority on the slogan of development and 'acche din', an impressive camouflage for its hate soaked Hindutva agenda. The fists were out of the glove, not long after Modi's rise to power. His patronage to lumpen elements of the Sangh Parivar is glaring. His abject silence towards beef controversy, harassment of minorities and intolerance towards freedom of expression and persecution of intellectuals by goons of the Sangh Parivar reveal his tacit backing to such expressions of fascist Hindu power. Another electoral win would surely hasten the process. However, a loss may not cap the agenda, though it may slow it down for a while.

Clearly, the RSS inspired BJP has an agenda that goes beyond fulfilling the constitutional obligation of governing the country as per its laws and values. It is fully aware that it may not, at least in the near future, be able to repeat the magic of 2014 and it has got three years more not to perform but alter the very idea of India with its perverse and divisive ideology. It is unlikely to give it up even after a probable shocking debacle in Uttar Pradesh. It may instead pursue its agenda with far greater venom in ways that might be unthinkable. The only saving grace in case BJP loses the elections is that the march of the Hindutva ideology may be put in slow gear for a while to allow the party to consolidate itself among its die-hard supporters. That should give a breather to the country's masses and also to the secular political opponents to shun their petty politicking, gear up and unite on a common agenda. Given the interplay of massive political egos, the petty interests and the myopia of such political leaders, that may be a case of big if. If they are wiser, BJP's loss in the coming elections could be an opportunity that must be seized. Otherwise, looking at the depths to which this present Modi government can go to in its utter frustration whether it is talk about war, nuclear war and its battering of people including oppressed communities or its actions that may result in complete ruin of Indian economy, there would be nothing stopping the madness of Hindutva amid an atmosphere of complete misery, chaos and distress. It is, of course, a case of wait and watch. Fingers are crossed!

India: For a pop culture expression of resurgent Hinduism, turn to Hindi TV channels

The Indian Express

Telescope: Where the gods dazzle
For a pop culture expression of resurgent Hinduism, turn to Hindi channels.

Written by Shailaja Bajpai | Updated: December 1, 2016 12:06 am

Since everyone else is talking about demonetisation, let’s talk of other things. For instance, are you even aware of the number of new Hindi regional news channels now available on your DTH server or cable system? News channels, perhaps serving their individual regions earlier, now show up on your menu: India Watch, Janta TV, News World India, Live Today UP, KNews, JK 24×7, News 11, News State UP/UK (Uttarakhand not the United Kingdom), India News MP and Chhattisgarh, Samay Rajasthan, MP and Bihar, UP Live, etcetra, etcetra.

No wonder we have 400+ news channels in this country. And many of them belong to the same stable: ETV has a pan India footprint with news channels in different languages — something Samay, for instance, emulates. Cannot comment on the journalistic quality of these channels but they are playing, and will play, an increasingly important role in delivering news and views in the Hindi heartland — where many states are due to hold assembly elections by 2018. Watch the UP/Uttarakhand ones closely for the next few months as the two states go to the polls; they will carry more news and debates, rallies and speeches than any of the “national” news channels.

They are also devoted to non-news news: The body build-up of Aamir Khan for his latest film was the subject of intense scrutiny, Tuesday night, on several of them — for example, News India, India News. The latter looked at how Adnan Sami, Anant Ambani and Arjun Kapoor won the battle of the bulge with photographs to illustrate their bodylines. In an aside, Aamir was asked about demonetisation which he wisely ducked, saying only that he hoped it would not affect Dangal.

Another trend: The number of mythological, historicals across general entertainment channels. If we were looking for a pop culture expression of the rise of resurgent Hinduism with the success of the BJP, it is here, it is here. Some examples: Santoshi Ma (& TV), Chandra Nandini (Star Plus), Karmafal Daata Shani (Colors), Jai Jai Jai Bajarangbali (Big Magic), Sankat Mochan Mahabali Hanuman (Sony) and Devlok with Devdutt Pattanaik (EPIC) in which Pattanaik explains the epics — on Monday, he spoke of Karn and his mother Kunti before he goes to battle.

Forget about the content — which is quite evident from the names — and admire the sets instead. In Shani, nothing is smaller than a kingdom — or so it seems — ergo, Surya’s palace, abode, the likes of which you have never seen before — ornate, cavernous, lit up with the light of the world. And the costumes are of so much gold, they should be surrendered to the RBI forthwith. You are so bedazzled, you almost miss Shani’s stout defence of his mother and by extension, of women (Friday).

And then, of course, there are the snakes. Or series based on the supernatural inspired by myth. None more so than Naagin (Colors), currently the top-rated series. Don’t even go into the plot, it is too confusing and you’re not really meant to go there. It’s the snakes and serpents and giant flies — computer graphic wonders of the world — the extraordinary evil which resides in the human heart, plus what one of the characters defines as “overacting ki dukaan’,” that will leave you in shock and awe.

The gods are present in many other soaps too, often playing a defining role. In Yeh Vaada Raaha (Zee), as Tai mercilessly scythes Survi, Ganesha is repeatedly shown to be standing between Tai and Survi’s death. Unfortunately, Tai — the most villainous-looking female you have encountered recently on TV — succeeds and Survi dies, leaving behind her mentally-challenged husband, Kartik and daughter Kushi. But, Ganesha is still very much in the picture.

Now, if only he or the other gods could solve the currency crisis.

India: Hindu outfits protest over relaxing dress code for women

jantakareporter.com

Hindu outfits protest over relaxing dress code for women
By PTI -
November 30, 2016

Various Hindu organisations today protested in front of the Padmanabha Swamy shrine here against the decision to relax the dress code for women, permitting devotees to wear the traditional Indian salwar kameez and churidar while worshipping at the temple.

They were protesting against the decision of the Executive Officer (EO) K N Sateesh, allowing women to enter the temple wearing salwar and churidar and offer prayers.

Women devotees earlier had to wear a ‘mundu’ (dhoti) over their waist if they were attired in salwar and churidar before entering the famous shrine, considered the richest Hindu temple in the world.

Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran said he had come to know about the officer’s decision and the protests.

“Government will take an appropriate decision on the matter after looking into all aspects,” he told reporters.

Some members of the Kerala Brahamanna Sabha squatted on the road leading to the western entrance of the shrine protesting the decision. However, women wearing salwar kameez and churidar could enter through the eastern entrance.

A member of the sabha said the EO’s decision was against the temple’s centuries-old tradition. Their representatives met the administrative committee chairman on the matter.

Hindu Aikya Vedi chairperson Shashikala Teacher said the executive officer cannot take such a decision which was against the temple’s rituals and tradition.

BJP leader Sobha Surendran said though personally she was not against women wearing salwar and churidar entering the temple, the EO should have discussed the matter before all concerned before taking such a decision.

Some temple employees were seen not allowing women wearing salwar and churidar to enter.

However, the Executive Officer told PTI devotees were entering the temple wearing salwar and churidar. This was an issue before the Kerala High Court and he had to get a legal advice from his advocate on the matter.

Asked if any status quo has been directed on the matter, he said he had not received any such order as of now.

Justice Shaji P Chaly of the High Court had yesterday, while disposing of a petition by Riya Raji, directed the EO to consider her plea against forcing women in salwars and churidars to wear a dhoti before entering the shrine and take an appropriate decision after providing an opportunity of hearing to the petitioner or any other interested persons within a month.

Following the court order, the Executive officer had taken a decision to relax the age old dress code..