November 17, 2017

India: The film Padmavati should not be allowed to become a victim to violent vigilantes - Editorial in The Hindu

The Hindu

An absurd canvas: on Padmavati

November 18, 2017 00:02 IST

Padmavati should not be allowed to become a victim to violent vigilantes

The coalition ranged against the screening of Padmavati, a big-budget period drama, is growing more violent and absurd by the day. The Uttar Pradesh government has joined the ranks of the Karni Sena, a self-styled Rajput organisation that uses vigilante methods to uphold its notion of caste honour, to raise anxiety about the film’s scheduled release on December 1. Lucknow has written to the Union Information and Broadcasting Ministry requesting that the Central Board of Film Certification be alerted of the “public sentiment” about distortion of “facts” in the film. Its release, the U.P. government has said, could disrupt law and order in the State, especially with the administration’s energies focussed on the municipal elections in end-November. Governments are expected to enforce law and order, not buckle down in the face of threats — whether perceived or real. As the Supreme Court observed in S. Rangarajan vs. Jagjivan Ram, a mere threat to public order cannot be a ground to suppress freedom of expression. By harping on the question of “historical facts” in connection with a film based on a work of fiction, the government is tacitly endorsing random groups and persons using Padmavati to delineate their notions of Rajput honour and Hindu-Muslim enmity. Over in Rajasthan, a Minister, Kiran Maheshwari, has intemperately railed against the film. And the Karni Sena, which vandalised the sets on location in Rajasthan earlier this year and on Friday blocked entry into the Chittorgarh fort where the story is set, freely hands out threats to the life and well-being of those associated with Padmavati, especially Deepika Padukone, its lead actor. Even Congress politicians are counselling that “sentiments” must be heeded.

Sanjay Leela Bhansali, the film’s director who is known for his lush sets and high emotion, has been at pains to give an assurance that he has not distorted history. Leave aside the fact that the story draws from a 16th century Sufi poem, ‘Padmavat’, and has over the centuries been retold across north India, and that there is no historical record of Padmavati’s existence, the insistence on demanding accuracy in period dramas is anyway an infringement on creativity. Fictionalising the past is a longstanding way of understanding it, from K. Asif’s Mughal-e-Azam to Oliver Stone’s JFK. But the anxieties that are driving the Karni Sena and members of the Sangh Parivar are evident. That Alauddin Khilji, the Delhi Sultan who wages war in the story to try to win the beautiful Padmavati, could be humanised obviously disturbs the Hindutva narrative about ‘evil invaders’. The visuals of the heroine singing and dancing evidently militate against the latter-day patriarchal telling of Padmavati’s story, in which she is shorn of agency and is dutifully circumscribed by notions of purity and honour. In this, it is not just that the film is fuelling such worries: the film is being used to heighten such anxieties and consolidate a regressive and intolerant world view.

India: Due to Pressure from Akhil Bhartiya Brahmin Mahasabha Pune cinema cancels screening of award-winning movie 'Dashakriya'

The Hindu

Pune cinema cancels screening of award-winning movie 'Dashakriya'
Shoumojit Banerjee
Pune, November 16, 2017 23:03 IST

The Citypride theatre in Pune, which has decided to not screen Dashkriya. | Photo Credit: Mandar Tannu

Pressure from Brahmin outfit behind decision to not show award-winning film

Protests by right-wing groups, led by the Akhil Bhartiya Brahmin Mahasabha, has led the City Pride Multiplex in Pune’s Kothrud area to cancel screening of the award-winning Marathi film Dashakriya.

The mahasabha wants theatres to not show the film as it allegedly depicts the Brahmin community in a “highly objectionable manner”, showing them as individuals driven solely by love of lucre. The film is scheduled to release on Friday, November 17.

No advance booking

Confirming the development, Govind Kulkarni of the ABBM said: “We met with a number of theatre owners across the State and many, including City Pride and Mangala Talkies, have accepted to our request and cancelled advance bookings of the film.”

Speaking to The Hindu, Mr. Kulkarni claimed that some theatres in Jalgaon and Aurangabad districts, as well as in parts of Mumbai, like Virar and Nala Sopara, had accepted their demand.

“We are determined to not permit screening of the film as it has hurt sentiments of the Brahmin community. It wrongly depicts Hindu traditions by portraying Brahmins as those who perform the last rites solely for commercial gains,” said Anand Dave, president of the Akhil Bharatiya Brahmin Mahasabha. Mr. Dave said they have written to the Pune Police Commissioner and warned that their members would launch a state-wide agitation to halt screenings of the film.

Based on a 1994 novel by Baba Bhand, the film has been passed by the censors with a ‘U’ certificate. Dashakriya follows a family’s journey as they go through the final rites and rituals of a loved one, as per the instructions of Kirvants (members of the Brahmin community) whose sole intention is shown as to acquire money.

Curiously, the mahasabha or any other Brahmin group has not protested against the novel since its publication. The film has won three awards at the 64th National Film Awards. The director, Sandip Patil had earlier invited mahasabha’s members to watch the film, but it was turned down.

Meanwhile, the anti-Brahmin, pro-Maratha Sambhaji Brigade has dubbed the mahasabha’s attitude as “regressive”. “We urge the State government to show it [Dashakriya] tax free,” said Santosh Shinde of Sambhaji Brigade.

India: Row over the film Padmavati ... people who threaten violence and to burn theatres, . are patronised by leaders of the BJP

Padmati Goons threaten to burn theatres, kill people, cut off noses of actors  . . . such people are encouraged & patronised by Ministers, and senior leaders of the BJP

Statement by Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind chief Madani from the floor of a press briefing leading to secular seminar on Assam spells trouble

Assam cops to quiz Jamiat chief Madani for ‘provocative’ statement

Assam has been witnessing loud protests against the Jamait chief for allegedly making a highly provocative statement in a seminar in the Constitution Club in New Delhi on Monday.

India: Stories of a Rajput queen - Harbans Mukhia / The many Padmavatis - Divya Cherian

[two opeds on the history of Padmavati and also the noise over Bombay film Padmavati ]

Stories of a Rajput queen

The Padmavati story, like many others, has undergone several mutations. Ramya Sreenivasan has traced the wide circulation and mutation of the story from North India and Rajasthan to Bengal from the 16th to the 20th century in her magnificent book, The Many Lives of a Rajput Queen.

Written by Harbans Mukhia

Published:November 17, 2017 12:00 am

To begin with, in Jayasi’s version and its several Urdu and Persian translations between the 16th and 20th centuries, Khalji was courting Padmini with a view to marrying her. File photo

The Mewar royal descendant Vishwajeet Singh’s recent differentiation, in a newspaper article, between history and fiction with regard to the film Padmavati, came as a refreshing surprise. I recount here the historical facts and the popular versions of the story.

Sultan Alauddin Khalji had earned a reputation among contemporary and modern historians for several achievements: Successfully thwarting Mongol invasions of India, conquest of large territories, strictly enforcing low prices of commodities in the markets for the common people’s daily purchases, declared defiance of the Shariat in matters of governance etc, but not for lustful pursuit of women. So how does he get tied up with Padmavati?

Khalji defeated the Rana of Chittor in 1303 and died in 1316. No one by the name of Padmini or Padmavati existed then — or at any time — in flesh and blood resembling the story. She was born in 1540, 224 years after Khalji’s death, in the pages of a book of poetry by Malik Muhammad Jayasi, resident of Jayas in Awadh, a very long way from Chittor. Jayasi was a Sufi poet and followed the poetic format where God is the beloved and man is the lover who overcomes hurdles to unite with the beloved. Khalji embodied the many hurdles. There are just two historical facts relevant to the story: Khalji’s attack on Chittor and Rana Ratan Singh’s defeat.

But then, besides recorded and verifiable historical facts, there is another set of facts too, culturally constructed and embodied in popular memory, told, retold and retold yet again. Untrained to distinguish historical facts from cultural memory, these acquire the status of history for common people. Jawaharlal Nehru was particularly sensitive to this blurring in people’s minds. As memory does not follow the norm of verifiability, it is subject to quick metamorphoses.

The Padmavati story, like many others, has undergone several mutations. Ramya Sreenivasan has traced the wide circulation and mutation of the story from North India and Rajasthan to Bengal from the 16th to the 20th century in her magnificent book, The Many Lives of a Rajput Queen. To begin with, in Jayasi’s version and its several Urdu and Persian translations between the 16th and 20th centuries, Khalji was courting Padmini with a view to marrying her. In Rajasthan, during the same period, the emphasis changed to the defence of Rajput honour which had come to be invested in Padmini’s body. It was in Bengal in the 19th century that Padmini acquired the persona of a heroic queen committing jauhar in order to save her honour against a lusty Muslim invader. Concealed in it was a vicarious patriotic resistance to colonial dominance which also characterised other literary productions in the region such as Bankim Chandra’s celebrated Anand Math.
It is this memory in Rajasthan that has been turned into a hard, unambiguous historical fact which brooks no disputation. The inversion of a character imagined by a Muslim poet into the defender of Hindu honour can pass quietly unnoticed.

This brings us to the present-day political context. While communal conflict is not a late entry into the Indian social and political scenario, for it has often been used as a form of electoral mobilisation, what is new is its propagation with the use of state power almost as an inalienable attribute. If the Congress tactically flirted with the communal card at times to corner the minority vote and at others to win the majority support, as Indira Gandhi did in Kashmir in 1983, for the Sangh Parivar this lies at the very heart of its ideology and is now flaunted openly as Hindutva.

The Parivar has long envisioned a consolidated Hindu vote bank. M S Golwalkar had sought to accomplish this by restricting the franchise to the Hindus alone. That is also the target of the present regime, by implicitly disenfranchising the largest minority, the Muslims — to begin with, by making its vote irrelevant to their electoral strategy. Social acceptance of this irrelevance is promoted by a demonisation of Muslims, past and present, in which each individual, and by extension, the community, is projected as cruel, lusty, and above all, an enemy of the Hindus.

It is strategic for it to create the image of the 80 plus per cent Hindu community under siege by the Muslims and to create a long “history” to back it up. If historical facts point to a more mixed picture of interaction, one where Hindus and Muslims do not stand in exclusive, opposing camps, manufacture a dispute, change the text books and let MLAs and ministers have the final word on what constitutes true history. There is the popular memory to be mobilised as its authentic version.

It is notable that no professional historian of the Parivar, if there is one, has come forward to engage in a discussion of what the Parivar claims is the wrong, left-liberal history, whatever it means. No serious book, or even an article, has been written on this theme so far. All we have are loud screams on TV channels and periodic declarations by non-historians that all history has so far been a single distorted version; no one has taken note of the fact that there is not one but innumerable “left-liberal” and other versions of history and that often “left-liberals” have been sharply critical of one another; nor has anyone unearthed any new facts hitherto ignored or proposed a clear new nationalist version of how history should be written.

There is much to be gained by the Sangh Parivar from this strategy. Whether the BJP wins or loses the next election, the social discourse will remain fixated on the Hindu-Muslim question, from Akbar and Aurangzeb to Taj Mahal and Padmavati, and the questions of economy, development, equality, Dalits, caste oppression, cleavages within communities etc will remain on the sidelines — the very colonial strategy of divide and rule.

The writer taught medieval history in JNU

o o o


The many Padmavatis

There is no historical record that she existed — and her story has been reshaped in diverse ways over time

As the release of the Bollywood film Padmavati draws near, protests against it are reaching a fever pitch. Claiming to speak on behalf of all Rajputs, several political figures have objected to the portrayal of the title character of the film for two reasons — that it is a distortion of history and that it is disrespectful towards Queen Padmini (appearing in some texts as Padmavati), who is deeply revered by the Rajput community. Recent scholarly work on the Padmavat, such as that of Thomas de Bruijn, Shantanu Phukan and especially Ramya Sreenivasan, makes possible an informed engagement with these claims.

The earliest tale

The earliest known composition of the Padmini tale is Sufi poet Malik Muhammad Jayasi’s Padmavat, dating to 1540. This tale is part of a new genre, the Sufi premakhyan (‘love story’), that flowered from the 14th to 16th centuries in north India. Most of these tales feature a hero-king’s quest for union with supreme truth and transcendent beauty — embodied in the texts by a woman of unparalleled physical beauty — and the difficulty of navigating the contradictory pulls of the spiritual and worldly domains. The Padmavat is perhaps the only one of these texts to be grafted upon a historical event, Delhi Sultan Alauddin Khilji’s siege of Chittor in 1303. Writing more than 200 years after the event, Jayasi’s tale bears little resemblance to surviving historical accounts of the siege and instead appears to draw in details from contemporaneous events and places.
 In Jayasi’s composition, a parrot, Hiraman, tells the king of Chittor, Ratansen, of the unequalled beauty of the princess of Sinhal, Padmavati. Hiraman’s description is enough to trigger in Ratansen the desire to attain Padmavati. He leaves behind his wife, Nagmati, becomes a yogi, and heads out, along with his men who also become yogis, on the arduous quest to the faraway Sinhal. With great difficulty, and only after he is ready to give up his life for the quest, Ratansen is united with Padmavati and marries her. Due to the pulls of his natal home and the suffering of his first wife, he returns to Chittor, bringing Padmavati along with him. While Ratansen works on building peace between Padmavati and Nagmati, a deceitful brahman, expelled from Ratansen’s court, seeks revenge by going to Delhi and informing Khilji of Padmavati’s stunning beauty. Piqued, Khilji decides to march upon Chittor to demand Padmavati. Ratansen refuses to part with her. With the Sultan’s forces closing in, Ratansen dies of injuries sustained in a fight with a Rajput rival. Padmavati and Nagmati commit sati on Ratansen’s funeral pyre while the remaining Rajput men go into the battlefield to be martyred. When Khilji manages to finally conquer the fortress, all that remains of Padmavati are her ashes. His victory is thus rendered hollow.
Some manuscript copies explain the Sufi import of the tale by referring to Chittor as the body, Ratansen the spirit, Padmini the mind, Hiraman the spiritual guide, and Khilji as illusion (‘maya’). Literary representations of Khilji in a polyvalent text such as the Padmavat and in future iterations of the tale then should not be taken as historical. The historical Sultan Alauddin Khilji, as we know him from accounts of his time, was a gifted statesman who strengthened the fisc of the Delhi Sultanate, expanded the frontiers of his kingdom, and capably protected north India from the expanding Mongol domain, a feat that many of his contemporaries could not accomplish.
As for Padmavati, there is no historical evidence that there was such a figure in Chittor when it was besieged, or that desire for a woman played any role in Khilji’s interest in conquering the fortress. Padmavati/Padmini, then, is a literary artefact, as is the entire story of love and sacrifice at whose heart she is placed. Any depiction of Padmavati thus cannot be a distortion of history since, in our current state of knowledge, she never existed. Born as a figment of poetic imagination, she is free to be reshaped in the hands of a different creator.

Padmini, recast

And indeed, the Padmavat was told and retold over the centuries and across the land. As the historian Ramya Sreenivasan has carefully shown in her book, The Many Lives of a Rajput Queen, in each retelling, the contours of the story and the key characters within it, including Padmini, changed. Starting a few decades after the original composition, the Padmavat was adapted into Persian forms in north India and Gujarat, and Jain literati and bardic groups composed versions of it for Rajasthani courtly elites. In the 17th century, professional genealogists wove the Guhila house of Ratansen into the genealogy of their patrons, the Sisodia rulers of Mewar. By the 18th century, after the decline of the Mughal empire but before colonial conquest, the tale of Padmini was refashioned in Mewar to demonise Alauddin Khilji, also emphasising his Muslim identity and presenting the clash between the Rajputs of Chittor and the Sultan of Delhi as the resistance of Hindus against an encroaching, ‘impure’ Islam.
 In the 19th century, Colonel James Tod, Political Agent in Rajputana of the English East India Company, was guided in his attempt to write the first authoritative history (by contemporary European standards) of the region by the philological, historiographical, and intellectual frameworks of his age, as well as by the political goal of stabilising the region by strengthening the hands of kings against rebellious chiefs. He selectively chose information from the range of pre-colonial sources at his disposal. He incorporated the courtly Rajasthani Padmini narrative into his early 19th century history of Rajasthan, using it, along with other material, to cast Rajputs as a valiant, pure fighting race of Hindus that resisted Islamic conquest, just as Christians had done in the West. Bengali intellectuals of the nascent bhadralok were deeply impressed with the figure of the Rajput as presented in his account, not just for his selfless bravery but also for his resistance against a Muslim conqueror. As the earliest imaginings of an Indian nation — and a Hindu nation — began to take shape, Padmini became a token of the self-sacrificing, virtuous, and chaste Hindu woman that was to be at its heart. In this idealised form, her decision to annihilate her own body was celebrated for the preservation of her ‘honour’ (read ‘chastity’) through which was indexed the honour of her husband, her family, her community, and now, her nation.
In her journey from the 16th to the 21st century, Padmavati appears to have become increasingly shackled in the confines of patriarchy. In Rajasthani versions, Padmavati lost her autonomous voice, reduced to a prop on the edges of a scene largely occupied by the king and his courtiers. It was this Rajasthani Padmavati who was celebrated in 19th century bhadralok plays beginning to imagine a Hindu nation and who is today deified as the apotheosis of Rajput, and even Hindu, valour, purity, and sovereignty. Padmavati has been recast as adhering strictly to codes of conduct applied to elite Rajput women. Allegations of disrespect and inaccuracy being levelled against the film are thus rooted in the expectation, by those familiar only with the Rajput or early Hindu nationalist adaptations, of a silver-screen Padmavati who observes the purdah and does not display any trace of sexuality. The current row over Padmini’s portrayal only underscores that in the long arc of its history, the imagined Hindu nation holds in its heart the dutiful, chaste Hindu woman, who acquiesces to patriarchal controls and only exercises her agency within their bounds.

No exclusive legacy

It is important to bear in mind, as Ms. Sreenivasan has shown, that at the same time that the Rajputs were articulating a new claim upon the Padmavat in the 17th century, other Padmini tales continued to be composed. A Sufi migrant from Bengal to the Arakan court (in today’s Myanmar) composed his own version of the text in Bengali. In the 19th century, there were multiple Urdu adaptations of the tale printed in north India and an opera performed in 1923 in Paris. There have then been many Padmavats, just as there were many Ramayanas. The tale, and its heroine, are then not the exclusive legacy of any single community. The effort of spokespersons of a single community, one that continues to exercise tremendous sociopolitical power, to freeze the text into a single, authorised version, will rob it of the vitality that has allowed it to thrive over the ages.
Divya Cherian is an assistant professor at the Department of History, Princeton University, U.S.

India: According to Nirmohi Akhara, Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) Has 'Embezzled' Rs 1,400 crore in the name of the Ayodhya temple


VHP Has 'Embezzled' Rs 1,400 Crore in the Name of Ram Mandir, Alleges Nirmohi Akhara
Nirmohi Akhara member Sitaram alleged that the money had been collected in the garb of donation.

Qazi Faraz Ahmad | News18@qazifarazahmad
Updated:November 16, 2017, 3:03 PM IST

Lucknow: Nirmohi Akhara, a party in the Ram Mandir dispute, has accused the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) of embezzling Rs 1,400 crore in the name of the Ayodhya temple.

Nirmohi Akhara member Sitaram alleged that the money had been collected in the garb of donation. “Nirmohi Akhara has never sought any kind of money from anyone. The VHP, on the other hand, took money as donations from people for the construction of the temple. They instead used this money to construct their own buildings.”

“We are the main party in the issue and these politicians just want to hijack the entire issue for vested interests. They have even formed a government using that money. Not a single penny was used for the Ram Mandir cause. It looks like politicians have collected notes and votes in the name of Ram Mandir, but don’t want to do anything about it,” Sitaram alleged.

Refuting the allegations, VHP leader Vinod Bansal said the outfit has accounted for “every penny” since formed in 1964.

The heated exchange came amid a visit by spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar to Ayodhya to talk to all stakeholders and mediate in the dispute.

source URL http://www.news18.com/news/india/vhp-has-embezzled-rs-1400-crore-in-the-name-of-ram-mandir-alleges-nirmohi-akhara-1578935.html

November 16, 2017

India/ Hindu mahasabha sets up a temple in Gwalior for Gandhi's assassin

Sixty nine years after Father of the Nation Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated, a “shrine” dedicated to his killer Nathuram Godse was set up in Guwalior by the Hindu Mahasabha on Wednesday, kicking off a controversy.
The right wing organisation installed a bust of Godse inside its office premises amid Vedic chants to mark the anniversary of the latter’s execution. [. . .]

Full Text here: http://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/hindu-mahasabha-sets-up-godse-temple-in-mp-s-gwalior-sparks-political-controversy/story-M0ReLD49Ov5FsfdrT31J0L.html