March 21, 2018

India: ‘Hindu liberalism shouldn’t need the crutches of Muslim liberalism’ Asghar Ali Engineer 2004 response to Ramachandra Guha


A (2004) response to Ram Guha: ‘Hindu liberalism shouldn’t need the crutches of Muslim liberalism’

The reasons for it should be sought elsewhere, particularly in the politics of the Sangh Parivar.

Responding to Harsh Mander’s article lamenting that Muslims have been “rendered politically irrelevant”, even “untouchable”, in India today, the historian Ramachandra Guha, writing in The Indian Express on Tuesday, rooted the community’s marginalisation in the absence of a liberal elite that could lead it “out of a medievalist ghetto into a full engagement with the modern world”. To make his point, Guha quoted the late activist and writer Hamid Dalwai, whom he also held up as one of the three “secularising modernists”, alongside Sheikh Abdullah and Arif Mohammad Khan, who could have rid the Muslims of their illiberal condition.
Guha previously engaged with this subject in an article in The Times of India in March 2004. In that piece, too, he quoted Dalwai. It drew a response from the activist and writer Asghar Ali Engineer, which is reproduced below:

There is lot of debate about the role of Muslim intelligentsia in India.

It is contented that Muslim intelligentsia tends to be illiberal with a few honourable exceptions and that it is the illiberality of Muslim intelligentsia that has produced a reaction among the Hindus and, as a result, we see illiberal Hindu intelligentsia today.
Ramchandra Guha, in an edit page article in The Times of India, dated March 23, 2004, writes, “Nearly 40 years ago, Marathi writer Hamid Dalwai wrote a fascinating series of essays on the lack of a liberal movement among Indian Muslims. The leaders of the community, he argued, were incapable of critical introspection.” He goes on to quote Dalwai, “When they find faults, the faults are invariably of other people. They do not have the capacity to understand their own mistakes…” Dalwai also maintained that “the moment they became liberals they lost the confidence of their backward and orthodox community”.
What Dalwai says is hardly a revelation. It is well-known. Besides it applies to many other communities. It is true that many Muslim intellectuals have been reluctant to attempt critical introspection. But it is hardly peculiar to Muslims as such. If one seeks its social explanation, one would understand its underlying causes.

The trouble with Dalwai, and with Guha who quotes him approvingly, is that they do not try to understand underlying causes.

First, it is necessary to state that Muslims produced eminent intellectuals in the 19th century and the 20th century before Partition such as Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, Maulavi Mumtaz Ali Khan, Maulavi Chiragh Ali, Justice Ameer Ali and several others who were highly critical of community traditions, practices and religious orthodoxy. They not only developed critical insights but had great courage to criticise these practices openly. Their Muslimness did not deter them from attempting critical reflections and blaming the community for what they saw as wrong.
And it was not only among such scholars but also great litterateurs (writers, poets and others) who were highly critical of orthodoxy and orthodox practices. Of course, in the latter case, they used poetry and fiction to attack orthodox practices. The progressive literary movement has a glorious history of its own. The problem with the likes of Dalwai is that they take a very static and superficial view of the problem. Dalwai had very limited knowledge of Muslim affairs. His entire knowledge about Islam and Muslims was based on secondary sources. What he read was mostly in Marathi and very little authentic information on Islam and North Indian Muslim movements was available in Marathi then. Now, of course, more and more information is being made available.
Guha unfortunately and uncritically buys Dalwai’s argument that the lack of a liberal intelligentsia among Muslims will create strong reaction among the Hindus and will produce illiberal intelligentsia among them, too. Thus, Guha quotes Dalwai, “Unless a Muslim liberal intellectual class emerges, Indian Muslims will continue to cling to obscurantist medievalism, communalism and will eventually perish both socially and culturally. A worst possibility is that of Hindu revivalism destroying even Hindu liberalism, for the latter can succeed only with the support of Muslim liberals who would modernise Muslim and try to impress upon these secular democratic ideals.”
Then Guha says that Dalwai’s “prediction has come chillingly true”. Hindu illiberalism has emerged with a vengeance. I do not think it is Dalwai’s prediction which has come true. The causes of the emergence of Hindu revivalism do not lie in the absence of Muslim liberalism but should be sought in the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s unceasing efforts to bring about this revivalism and the Bharatiya Janata Party leaders’ ambition to come to power on the “rath”, or chariot, of Hindu revivalism.

It is a strange argument that Hindu liberalism will survive only on Muslim liberalism and will collapse if Muslim liberalism does not materialise.

It seems to be quite an erratic view of social movements. This is not to say that Muslim liberalism should not be strong and that Muslim intellectuals should not be self-critical. But Hindu liberalism should not be expected to walk on the crutches of Muslim liberalism.
There are very good reasons for weak liberal movements among Muslims in India. Firstly, there never was a strong capitalist class among Indian Muslims. The Muslim ruling class was basically feudal and that was either ruined by the anti-zamindari laws passed by the Congress government or because many of the zamindars migrated to Pakistan. Muslims left in India were mostly from artisan classes and most of them were poor, backward and even illiterate.
A new middle class began to emerge again after Partition from among the low caste artisan classes, then referred to as “ajlaf”. The middle class that migrated to Pakistan mostly came from among the upper classes known as “ashraf”, who were highly educated and cultured. The new Muslim middle class emerging in India has seen much insecurity due to frequent occurrence of communal riots since the early 1960s, besides the rough and tumble of economic uncertainties.
This new middle class has been much less sophisticated for lack of traditional culture and liberal values. The Hindu middle and upper classes, on the other hand, suffered no such loss because of migration. On the other hand, it drew all the benefits of capitalist development after independence and had the best available education. Also, Hindu upper classes did not have to suffer any sense of insecurity because of communal riots. There is no reason their liberalism should be weakened and that such weakening should be blamed on a lack of Muslim liberalism. It seems strange logic by any account.
The reasons for the weakening of Hindu liberalism and the emergence of revivalist movements should be sought elsewhere, particularly in the politics of the Sangh Parivar. If at all the “weak Muslim liberalism” argument is to be applied, it could be applied (with little justification) to North India. What about Gujarat, where the Muslim presence has never been strong historically and Muslims have never been competitors either in political or cultural fields. Yet, the Hindu revivalist movement today is the strongest in Gujarat.
Also, as pointed out earlier, one should not take a static view of social and cultural movements. The Muslim scenario is also changing, particularly after the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992. New awareness has emerged among Muslims in general and Muslim intelligentsia in particular. The trend towards gaining education is growing and liberalism and secularism are much more acceptable to Muslim intelligentsia today. Shah Bano-like movements are history now.
But I do not think the Sangh Parivar’s revivalist ideology will be influenced much by this positive development among Muslims in general and Muslim intelligentsia in particular. Again, it was the Sangh’s politicians who challenged the Nehruvian concept of secularism and dubbed it “pseudo-secularism”. Even orthodox Indian Muslim ulama, or religious leaders, never challenged Nehruvian secularism despite their illiberalism. One can argue that Muslims accepted Nehruvian secularism because it guaranteed their security in India. But this argument is not historically correct. Members of Jamiat-ul-Ulama, including Maulana Husain Ahmed Madani, accepted the concept of secular nationalism much before Partition and never deviated from that line.

The RSS, Hindu Mahasabha and related organisations never accepted secular nationalism, before or after Partition.

They consistently opposed it. The only thing is that before Partition and after until the late 1970s, they did not succeed in widening their social base. They succeeded in doing so only in the early 1980s, when the Indian politics took a new turn in post-Emergency and Indira Gandhi also played the Hindu card. In the Rajiv Gandhi period, the Shah Bano movement, corruption scandals such as the Bofors and the Ram Temple controversy were cleverly exploited by the Sangh Parivar to win over Hindu middle class intelligentsia, which was tired of the Congress rule and was seeking political change.
There is another important reason for the emergence of the revivalist movement among Hindus. The BJP, in order to widen its political base, tried to win over backward class Hindus from all over India; this class among Hindus had been neglected and was seeking to fulfill its political aspirations. The BJP gave it the ideology of Hindutva through which it could seek its political aspirations. This is one of the very important causes for the strengthening of revivalist movements in contemporary India. Its cause should not be sought in weak Muslim liberalism as Guha does. Socially and politically, it would not be correct.
Backward caste Hindu leaders such as Vinay Katiyar, Uma Bharti, Pravin Togadia are the most vocal revivalists and supporters of the Sangh Parivar, and they have become high achievers, holding high positions in the Sangh Parivar hierarchy as well as in the political field. Thus, one has to survey the entire socio-political panorama to understand the causes of Hindu revivalism rather than simplistically blame it on a lack of Muslim liberalism.
This article was originally published by the Centre for Study of Society and Secularism.

India: Why Political Parties Play Upon Fears of Muslims - Political opportunism requires a consolidated community, living in perpetual fear

The Wire

by Mohammad Sajjad

On April 15, the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) and the Imarat Shariah will hold a ‘Deen Bachao, Desh Bachao’ conference in Patna’s Gandhi Maidan. This is a clarion call to save Islam. Quite misleadingly, a political ‘rally’ is being called a ‘conference’. In Jaipur, Malegaon, Godda, Darbhanga and various other places, such mobilisations have already been done.

Sumanta Banerjee, a Left historian, in a recent interview to Scroll.in said, “When we raise questions about Hindu fundamentalism, we need to do the same regarding Islamic fundamentalism. There are reformist movements among the Muslims, but, sorry to say, the Congress compromised with the mullacracy.”

This move of the clergy, therefore, needs to be resisted strongly – by not just Muslims but also by all those political parties which stand for secularism, as well as by all civil rights groups.

Here is why.

In 1986, having denied maintenance to 70-year-old Shah Bano (1916-92), bodies akin to the AIMPLB never looked back to find out ways of taking care of such deserted, divorced women. Since the board argued that the state cannot interfere, it became absolutely incumbent upon the board to build an endowment, or a similar welfare mechanism, to take care of such women. For three decades between 1986 and 2017, the clergy did not feel any such moral responsibility.

Three decades have passed since the Shah Bano case, but the Muslim clergy has done nothing to create an endowment or support mechanism for many deserted women. Credit: Wikimedia

Unlike in the Shah Bano case, this time, in the Shayara Bano case, the AIMPLB was a respondent in the Supreme Court. It took a stand that “it was not for the judiciary to decide matters of religious practices such as talaq-e-biddat, but for the legislature to make any law on the same”.

On August 22, the apex court set aside talaq-e-biddat (instant triple talaq) as unconstitutional, which the board sheepishly welcomed. Since the AIMPLB had taken a stand that such issues had to be resolved through legislation, they should have issued a draft Bill for public debate – which they failed to do.

For nearly four months, between August 22 and December 15, when the Bill was proposed in the Lok Sabha, the board did not organise any awareness campaigns or mass mobilisation. When the Bill criminalising talaq-e-biddat was proposed, these forces suddenly became hyperactive. Even now, a highly uninformed, in fact misleading, emotive mobilisation is underway.

Rather than publicising the lacunae of intents and implications – whatever they see in it – in the proposed Bill, and rather than coming out unambiguously against the un-Quranic talaq-e-biddat, they are defending and safeguarding it shamelessly.

The proposed Bill provides for “matters such as subsistence allowance from the husband for the livelihood and daily supporting needs of the wife… and of the dependent children”. The board, while rejecting this Bill, is not proposing how to address these pertinent issues.

Here it needs to be added that under the old provision about ‘vagrants’ in the 1898 code, courts had time and again held Muslims to be liable for their pauper wives/ex-wives who were abandoned or divorced for the simple reason that the provision in question was one of criminal and not civil law.

This was reiterated in the 1974 Code of Criminal Procedure as well. The Muslim leadership may have been justified in 1986 had they led a protest against disparaging, sweeping remarks (in the judgement) about the obscurantist Muslim law without questioning the relief given to Shah Bano and other similarly situated women, which basically reiterated the position that held the field at least since 1898.

Quite importantly, talaq-e-biddat is prohibited in many Muslim-majority countries as well, and most of the Muslim sects disapprove of it. Yet, this regressive practice is sought to be perpetuated by the clergy. This is certainly a serious assault against the cause of secularism. Something they inflicted in 1986 as well, with a cry of Islam being in danger, and the secular parties were complicit in it.

A closer look at the political history of the Indian republic clearly suggests that every political formation and its leadership need frightened Muslims.

The political formations, pursuing politics in the name of secularism, secured Muslim votes en bloc by frightening them with communal violence. Providing protection from such violence was demonstrated to be a special favour to the religious minorities. This went almost without any judicial trial against the rioters, politicians and the partisan police officers.

In the post-Congress era, the single caste/dynasty-based regional formations did the same. Muslims were not allowed to concern themselves beyond protection from communal violence. To sustain and perpetuate this politics, the Muslim leadership counselled its constituency to remain concerned solely to the religio-cultural and emotive issues, through which, regressive patriarchy also perpetuated.

In the name of plural-secularism, the kind of politics that was pursued, over a period of time, revealed to many that it was basically a favour to Muslim conservatism and communalism – a politics of minorityism, rather than of secularism per se. This is how, significant sections of Hindus have been made to loathe the very idea of Indian secularism. This partly explains why and how the BJP and its affiliates have now become a hegemonic political force.
All India Muslim Personal Law Board spokesman Maulana Khalil-ur-Rehman Sajjad Nomani along with AIMIM president Asaduddin Owaisi addresses a press conference on 'triple talaq' in Hyderabad on Thursday. Credit: PTI

Has any big rally by the Muslim clergy or by Asaduddin Owaisi been organised against lynching? Credit: PTI

Backed with state power, the Hindutva rabble rousers now openly lynch Muslims, and then mocking at every rule of law, they video it, circulate it, and even then the lower judiciary, in certain cases, lets off the perpetrators. This demonstrative lynching and other victimisation is also a kind of statement, throwing a challenge to the political formations thriving on Muslim votes, by saying, “Look! This is what we are doing to your consistently loyal voters, and if you have the political guts then come out to act and save your support base”.

Silence and inaction, not even tokenism of statements, are the responses of most of such political parties and leaders, these days. Gone are the days of politics of minorityism, as Muslims are now being projected to be an electoral liability. The party talking of Muslims stands to lose Hindu votes.

In such a dismal scenario, when even these ‘secular’ political formations are looking the other way (could be termed as, wilful failure of the secular parties), and of the state machineries, there arises (Asaduddin) Owaisi kind of politics, trying to spread beyond a pocket of Hyderabad, to parts of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Maharashtra, etc. With his training in law from the West, the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen leader articulates the grievances of minorities, cleverly couched in constitutional language. This is at a time when the hegemonic political force, armed with state power, disdains all such provisions of the Constitution as an undue favour to the minorities (what they call appeasement), and as victimisation of the majority.

But the Owaisi brand of politics, too, ironically, thrives on fearful minorities. How does he articulate his politics? That Muslim issues cannot be addressed by any such party, howsoever pretending to be secular, implying that a ‘Muslim’ party alone can take care of Muslim concerns. Since Owaisi kind of politics also needs a scared minority, he, too would align with all the regressive forces and tendencies within the community, just as the Congress and the post-Congress regional forces did, and Owaisi did it a few weeks ago by hijacking the AIMPLB. He, therefore, refuses to raise the issue of gender and caste-based justices.

Political opportunism requires a consolidated community, living in perpetual fear. Hence, it helps Owaisi downplay heterogeneities within the community. All Right Wing politics needs a consolidated community. Fear takes away reason.

Pushing politics beyond the logic of mere protection, and thereby raising the issues of gender and various layers of social justice, will require more complex skills of management and mobilisation. This will also require broad-basing and democratisation of the political party he runs as his personal fiefdom. Why should Owaisi then shun the convenience of opaque deals with a handful of representatives and demagogues! Recall the recent expose of such a deal by Salman Nadvi, a cleric on the executive of the MPLB.

Thus, mere hospitality to the MPLB has fetched Owaisi too many supporters across the country to the extent that thousands and lakhs of Muslim women are out on streets demanding the perpetuation of their own subjugation. On the command of the clergy, now supported by Owaisi, the un-Quranic, instant triple divorce (talaq-e-biddat), is being demanded by them to be safeguarded in the name of Shariat, which was enacted only in 1937, but is being paraded as divine. Something which most Muslim majority countries have done away with! The West-educated barrister is shamelessly championing this regression. Just as many modern-educated liberal Muslims in 1986 either sided with the Congress or kept mum on the regressiveness that was demonstrated in case of the legislation against the pyrrhic judicial victory of Shah Bano.

Cynical exploitation of the idea of secularism and the wilful failure of secular parties in the past decades has eventually shifted the Indian polity Rightward. Credit: PTI

Owaisi’s crafty silence on the unscrupulous underhand deal made by Nadvi in itself testifies something significant about his politics. Notably, no big rally by the clergy or by Owaisi has been organised against lynching. They won’t ever bring out such big rallies on the issues of artisans, farm distress, education, healthcare, employment, etc.

The saffron forces would then tell their constituency: “Look here, despite our hegemony, these Muslims are not prepared to be stationed in their place; that they are still craving for political power as equal citizens, rather than being contented to live with whatever little we would be offering to them”. The BJP gets yet another testimony to convince its constituency that the majority is in perpetual threat of the minority. Thus, an Owaisi is too useful for the BJP. Both fatten each other; each derives sustenance from the other.

Yet, the liberal-pluralists across the communities and groups seem to stay contented with one thing: failure of the incumbent Right Wing regime on agro-economic fronts will eventually bring back centrist forces to power. They may well be grossly mistaken with this smug understanding. Cynical exploitation of the idea of secularism during these many decades has eventually shifted the Indian polity Rightward. In the distant future, even if an election throws them out of power, their presence in the legislative houses would probably remain quite significant.

So, is there any way out? One of the ways is: both the Muslim liberals as well as the other liberal, progressive, Left voices shall have to admit their past follies. They should, therefore, launch a massive campaign against the misadventure of the extremely dangerous mass mobilisation of the MPLB to perpetuate misogynist practices like talaq-e-biddat. Quite clearly, pandering to or tolerating minority communalism/conservatism, cannot help them fight majority communalism. Will they wake up? Well, at the moment, this seems least likely.

Mohammad Sajjad is a professor in the Centre of Advanced Study in History, Aligarh Muslim University.

India: Lingayat leadership is under an erroneous belief that recognition of a religious community depends on law

The Indian Express, March 21, 2018

One nation, many religions
Lingayat leadership is under an erroneous belief that recognition of a religious community depends on law

Written by Faizan Mustafa | Published: 12:00 am

“It was not in contemplation of the framers of the constitution to add to the list of religious minorities,” said the Supreme Court in the Bal Patil case (2003) refusing recognition of the Jains as a religious minority. In one of the most regressive judgments, the court, following the oft-repeated rightist argument, went on to observe that the “ideal of a democratic society, which has adopted right of equality as its fundamental creed, should be the elimination of majority and minority and so-called forward and backward classes.”

The apex court further directed the Minority Commission to eliminate minorities when it shockingly said that “commissions set up for minorities have to direct their activities to maintain integrity and unity of India by gradually eliminating the minority and majority classes”. Through these kinds of judgments, the highest court of India has given legitimacy to those who believe in the “one nation, one religion” slogan.

Religion is an indispensable part of human existence. Indians are essentially religious. Religion is still the alpha and omega of Indian life. The recommendation of the Karnataka government to the central government for the recognition of the Lingayats as non-Hindus and as a distinct religious minority has once again revived this debate. Though the Congress may win the small battle in Karnataka with this controversial decision, it is bound to lose the war in the Hindi belt. No one will remember that this demand is more than a hundred years old and that the Lingayats are distinct from Hindus in several fundamental beliefs.

But then, does the Indian Constitution really prohibit the addition of any new religion? Does freedom of religion mean following only existing religions? Does freedom of religion not include freedom within religions and freedom to establish a new religion? Is recognition by law necessary before a new religion is born?

Article 25 gives freedom to every individual to profess any religion of her choice. Freedom of religion includes freedom from religion as well. Thus there is no bar in the establishing or forming of new sects within a religious denomination. When the Constitution was drafted, Indic religions were included within the definition of Hindu and thus the Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists were considered as Hindus. The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, too, gave a negative definition to the term Hindu by saying that anyone who is not a Muslim, Christian, Jew, Parsi etc will be considered Hindu.

The Lingayats are explicitly included as Hindus. The Jains protested immediately after the commencement of the Constitution on January 26, 1950, and Nehru on January 31, 1950, clarified in writing that the Jains were a distinct religious minority. The Sikhs under Parkash Singh Badal have been burning copies of Article 25 opposing inclusion of the Sikhs as Hindus. Freedom within religions will include freedom to go out of that particular religion and establish new religions.

Every individual, as part of her right to dignity, is free to pursue her own conscience and truth. Religion is basically what an individual does with her loneliness. Thus religious experience is a personal experience for those who want to believe in it. In Ratilal Panachand Gandhi v. State of Bombay (1954), the Supreme Court admitted that “every person has fundamental right. to entertain such religious beliefs as may be approved by his judgment or conscience.” Thus, the Indian Constitution gives full autonomy to each individual to have a belief system or religion of her choice. If some others follow a similar belief system, they may assert it as a right of a new sect or distinct religion. No state or law can interfere with this individual freedom. Fundamental rights are not dependent on constitutional recognition.

This writer has been opposing even the court’s power to decide essential or non-essential features of any religion. It is the right of the individual to decide what she considers essential and in the US it is called the “assertion test”. As Justice Hugo Black of the US Supreme Court rightly held in Engel v. Vitale, “religion is too personal, too sacred, too holy to permit its ‘unhallowed perversion’ by a civil magistrate.” Thus, if the Lingayats think that they are distinct from Hindus, they are entitled to believe that they are a different religious community in their own right. No one has the right to force a Hindu identity on them. In fact, generally such groups continue to assert membership of the original religion and followers of the original religion consider them as apostates.

The Lingayat leadership is under an erroneous belief that the status of a religious community is dependent on its recognition by law. As early as 1930, the Permanent Court of International Justice, in an advisory opinion in the Graeco-Bulgarian community case, defined community not in terms of numbers, but in terms of shared religious, racial and linguistic traditions, traditions that the group wished to preserve and perpetuate through rituals, education and socialisation of the young.

The existence of a community, ruled the court, is not dependent upon recognition by law. If a community exists in the shape of a group of members united by a host of cultural factors that are distinctive to them, and if this community is intent on maintaining these cultural markers, this is more than enough reason to regard that group as a distinct community.

In fact, in N. Ammad vs The Manager, Emjay High School & Ors (1998), even our Supreme Court had held that minority status is a matter of fact and does not require state recognition. In fact, the Centre has no role in defining minorities, which are to be defined at the level of the state.
The writer is vice-chancellor, NALSAR university of law, Hyderabad

March 20, 2018

India: Cow Vigilantism - Crime, Community and Livelihood - Press Conference and Release of PUDR Report (22 March 2018)


Press Conference and Release of Report

Cow Vigilantism: Crime, Community and Livelihood
January 2016 to March 2018 

Between January 2016 and March 2018, PUDR documented 136 incidents of violence and intimidation around issues of cow slaughter and beef across 22 states, based on media reporting as well as fact-finding reports. In the course of documentation, we came across a wide array of incidents where the forms of targeting ranged from murder, assault,sexual violence, stripping, arson, vandalism, to interception, seizure of animals and vehicles, harassment, humiliation, forced closure of meat shops and eateries, extortion and civilians acting as an extra-judicial arm of the police, all in the name of ‘cow protection’. We have documented 20 instances of reported deaths in which 29 persons died and 13 cases of attacks on Dalits, overwhelmingly in Gujarat. 75 % of attacks in incidents where the identities of the victims could be ascertained, were against Muslims. Our report maps the patterns of cow vigilantism emerging from our data and the conclusions arrived at by PUDR

Please join us for a press conference and discussion at:

Date: 22 March 2018, Thursday
Time: 4 pm - 5.30 pm

Shahana, Shashi
Secretaries, PUDR

India: The Communal Politics of Eviction Drives in Assam

Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 53, Issue No. 8, 24 Feb, 2018

Pinku Muktiar (pinkumuktiar99[at]gmail.com) is at the Department of Sociology, Tezpur University, Assam. Prafulla Nath (khar1khuwa[at]gmail.com) is at the Tribal Studies Centre, Assam University, Diphu Campus, Diphu. Mahesh Deka (maheshdk3[at]gmail.com) is a journalist based in Guwahati.

 o o o

Over the years, in Assam, there has been a disturbing denial of citizenship rights of Muslims, who are branded as Bangladeshis. In the aftermath of an eviction drive conducted by the government in Kaziranga National Park, the article focuses on the narrative that the villagers have to offer, while interrogating the nature of Assamese nationalism.

The Kaziranga National Park, a world heritage site which is home to the world famous one-horned rhinos, grabbed media headlines in September 2016. Unlike previous occasions, the park did not draw media attention due to unabated rhino poaching, but because of an eviction drive carried out by the Assam government in fringe villages of the national park.

Following the order of the Gauhati High Court, the eviction drive in three fringe villages—Banderdubi, Deosursang and Palkhowa—of the Kaziranga National Park, was carried out on 19 September 2016 by the Government of Assam. Two persons including a 12-year-old girl student, were killed in police firing during the massive protest against the eviction. This subsequently sparked off a heated debate in the print, electronic, and social media. Those evicted were mostly Muslim peasants of East Bengal origin. The supporters of the eviction drive directed suspicion to the identity of these people by using phrases like “illegal Bangladeshis,” “rhino poachers,” and “suspected citizens.” Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS), an influential peasants’ organisation in the state, opposed the eviction without releasing compensation to the people of the villages, drawing flak from different quarters. The KMSS chief Akhil Gogoi was mocked on social media for his stand on the issue.

This article focuses on the narrative that the Banderdubi villagers have to offer against the administration’s eviction drive. We made an attempt to understand the anguish of the evicted people, their deplorable state in makeshift dwellings, and the justification of their rights of rehabilitation and resettlement.

After the eviction, people’s entitlement to democratic and human rights, rehabilitation, and resettlement was overlooked. We argue that the narrow, communal, divisive and myopic approach adopted by a section of the upper-caste Assamese Hindus to categorically exclude the migrant communities from Bangladesh, is a whip to the Assamese nationality.[1] Moreover, the eviction drive was communalised for vested political interest and along with the "caste Hindu" Assamese,[2] different tribal elites actively fuelled the communal agenda.

One of the evicted house by NH-37. 

Dubious Discourse 

In Assam, the dubious trend of branding Muslim religious minorities as “illegal Bangladeshi” is not new (Chakraborty 2012). Interestingly, the educated mainstream Assamese society and different ethnic groups of the state are following this discourse and blurring the difference between the identities of the old and the new settlers. The media’s simplistic and unidirectional portrayal of these settlers as “Bangladeshi” creates hostility towards those of a different faith and identity.

Historically, various religious, linguistic, and cultural groups who had migrated to this region at different junctures contributed in different ways to enrich the fabric of Assamese society (Gohain 1989, Guha 1993, Sharma 2012, Sharma 2006). Cultural tolerance and secularism is thus a distinct trait of this society. The Assamese middle class being a part of the ruling class has largely been successful in projecting its own class and factional interests as the interest of Assamese nationality or the people of Assam. Because of its weak position in the production process, this class is not sure about its destiny or its future. It has been portraying its own identity crisis and apprehensions as the crisis of the Assamese nationality or of Assam. In fact, this class has become the “de facto spokesperson” of Assamese nationality during the post colonial period (Hussain 1993:93). Though the contributions of exploited and marginalised peasants have been significant in the process of Assamese nationality formation, their voices have been stifled and suppressed. The narratives of deep anguish and discrimination faced by these Bengali Muslim settlers from East Bengal continue to be excluded by the mainstream society. This trend of ostracisation by the caste Hindu Assamese in the formation of Assamese nationality is not new.

The horrors of suspicion and bloodshed such as the Nellie massacre[3] in 1983 are testimony to the atrocities inflicted on Muslims of East Bengal origin and the hostility towards them (Kimura 2013). However, there also exists a small trend of progressive nationalism. Unfortunately, the narrow, communal and divisive prism of Assamese caste Hindus is prominent in the political and social sphere of Assam.

Report from the Field

We reached Banderdubi on 2 October, 2016 to collect first-hand data and know the experience of the evicted masses. The outrage on television and in print media merged with misguided public opinion moulded by social media which brands Bengali Muslims as illegal Bangladeshi.[4] This also encourages the erroneous notion that the illegal infiltrators are appropriating “our lands.”

According to oral history sources, the Karbi and the Assamese people used to inhabit the Banderdubi area before the Muslim settlement started. In the 1950s, Bengali Muslims from the neighbouring Nagaon district migrated to Banderdubi. The annual flood of Brahmaputra deposits silt, making the land highly fertile for agriculture. The original dwellers of the village later migrated to Kaliabor, Nagaon, Bokakhat and nearby hills after selling off their land to the agrarian Muslim community. The cultivation of paddy and cash crops yielded profit to the Bengali-speaking Muslims of Banderdubi. These people who are now above 60 years of age, in fact belong to the second generation and in some cases to the third generation. The mosque in Banderdubi was built in 1951 and the primary school was provincialised in 1966.[5] There were 205 families (including 7 caste Hindu Assamese families) in Banderdubi when the eviction was carried out. The Bengali Muslim families of this village claimed to have government documents, land records, land patta,[6] and voter identity cards, which meant that terming them as “illegal infiltrators” was fallacious.

Khagen Kalita, an evicted victim belonging to the caste Hindu Assamese community, said that his forefathers had resided in this village for over 100 years. He claimed that each person residing in Banderdubi is a legal Indian citizen. Another person, Idrish Ali (aged 54), lamented, “everyone labels us as Bangladeshi. Yes, we are Bangladeshis.” He then handed us a land revenue receipt from 1929 and the land ownership records of his forefathers. It was disheartening to see legal citizens called illegal infiltrators by misguided populism. If the evicted masses were Bangladeshis or suspected citizens, then why were they not sent to detention camps? Why did the government announce a compensation of Rs 5 lakh to the families of the two persons killed in the police firing during eviction?

Nabir Hussain (aged 37) owned around 12 bighas[7] of myadi patta[8] land and occupied a few patches of government land and sustained his family through agriculture. His face was wrenched in anguish which later gave way to tears. On being asked he shared,
“We are not humans. If we were, then the democratic government would not have done this against us. We are now camping on roads. The people were also unaware about whether their compensation would be in terms of cash or land. Social organisations like All Assam Muslim Student Union (AAMSU) and All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) have been providing us relief, but for how long?”

Temporary camp by the National highway. 

Afazuddin, a panchayat member of Banderdubi village, maintained that the sentiment of "jati, mati, bheti"[9] (community, land and existence) is being manipulated for political gains. He says,
“The brutality of the government in Banderdubi eviction was mainly because of two reasons—firstly, we are poor and uneducated and secondly, we are Muslims.”

A map of Banderdubi village prepared by the revenue department in 1964 was shown to us. The voters list of 1965 is already doing the rounds on social media.
Kaziranga was declared a National Park in 1974.[10] The arbitrary demarcation and inclusion of areas into the Park did not take into cognisance the human settlements that existed in the area prior to the creation of the Park. Banderdubi was one such village. It has been a revenue village of the Assam government for the last 50–60 years and the land revenue receipts available with the villagers bear testimony to this fact. The village has a total of about 2,245 bighas of land. Around 500 bighas are myadi, some eksoniya and some are tarju land. They pay regular land revenue to the government. However, there are instances of eviction of people from the eksoniya and tarju land by the government from time to time.

Abdul Hasim (aged 55) added,
“Shoot us, if you find a single Bangladeshi in Banderdubi. I was born here.”

He earns his livelihood by cultivating paddy and mustard. But, for the sake of Kaziranga and its pride—the one–horned rhinoceros—he was willing to let go of his land. In return, he wanted an assurance of compensation and rehabilitation from the government.
“We wanted compensation prior to the eviction drive. Is not it my right? We are now staying in the camps, but for how long? Where do we go from here?”


High Court Order and Banderdubi’s Opinion

Following the Gauhati High Court’s order, the state government carried out the eviction drive. One such notice for eviction was issued last year as well. This time also, they anticipated eviction only from the government land. But their nightmare came true when it dawned on them that all of Banderdubi was to be evicted.

Irrespective of religious faith, the Hindus and Muslims of the village stood together and protested against the high court’s order. Later, Akhil Gogoi was called upon to give a face and course to the protest. Prior to the eviction, on 15 September 2016, the villagers (both men and women) marched to the Kaliabor Circuit House, overcoming the scorching heat. They went with the hope that Himanta Biswa Sarma (a cabinet minister in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led state government) and the state Water Resource Keshab Mahanta would understand their deplorable state. Few representatives from among the villagers were called for discussion, and verbal promise of compensation within 40 days was made to the bearers of patta land.

Interestingly, the Hindu families were called for discussion separately and compensation that was four times the value of their land was promised, because their land was on the side of the national highway. It was outrageous to see democratic politics dividing people on communal grounds for vested political interest. The evicted people who were taking shelter in four camps said in unison that KMSS leader Akhil Gogoi requested the people to go in a for non-violent protest. Gogoi had said that non-violent protest would compel the government to withdraw the decision of the eviction drive.

Camp of the villagers after eviction. 


Rhino Poachers and Animal Corridor

There was noise about two other things after the Kaziranga evictions—first that the rhino poachers belonged to the Bengali Muslim community, and second that Banderdubi was nestled in the animal corridor. The villagers had their explanations. There were also instances of two or three youths from the village being arrested and sent to jail for their alleged involvement in rhino poaching. But without credible evidence, it is fatuous to claim the entire village as rhino poachers. The villagers complained that there is a tacit nexus between the forest officials and poachers. Gopal Konwar, a youth from another village nearby, further added that during the last annual floods the villagers had rescued wild animals and handed them over to the forest department.

Technically, from Jakhalabandha to Bokakhat, the entire area is an animal corridor. In that sense, Banderdubi too falls within the animal corridor. During the annual floods the wild animals move up to the hills, but this was not possible in Banderdubi since it is mostly inundated during the floods. So Banderdubi, being a refuge for the wild animals does not arise.

“The Kanchanjuri tea estate in the Kuthori range of Kaziranga is within the animal corridor as it is situated on the hills,” explains Khagen Kalita. Interestingly, a signboard signifying animal corridor also stands in front of the Kanchanjuri tea garden. The people of the village told us that the tea estate belongs to a powerful and affluent minister of the state government.

Education, Health, and Food in the Camps

Children in the camp.

Banderdubi primary school had a total of 160 students. Two days prior to the eviction, the furniture was removed from the school and the students were meant to be shifted to the nearby schools. But the reality was gloomy. When these students from Banderdubi went to the nearby schools for enrollment in the aftermath of eviction, they were denied admission. The reason cited was the lack of teachers and infrastructure. It became arduous for the students to seek admission in the middle of the year which essentially meant the loss of the academic year. The education minister, who is otherwise credited for bringing about a revolutionary change in education through Teacher Eligibility Test (TET), has not paid attention to the murky future of these innocent children.

Women and children in the camp. 

“We didn’t receive any relief from the government since 19 September, even a glass of water,” claims a woman in the camp. During the eviction drive, security personnel and police included both the male and female force, but male personnel were deployed to evict the women from their village. An anganwadi worker revealed that the camps—now home to 12 pregnant women, 15 lactating mothers and 20 teenage girls—lack even basic access to safe drinking water and food. The condition of these women is pitiable.

Osman Ali (13) wounded by bullet during police firing. 
Osman Ali (13) recalled the dreadful eviction and said, “I was with my mother. Suddenly we heard bullets being fired and we ran for our lives. One bullet hit my thigh. After that, I didn’t remember anything.” On being asked about his school, he replied passionately, “I will study hard and realise my dream.” We were short of words to console Ali.

In Conclusion

  This field study gave us credible evidence to be convinced that the Banderdubi villagers are bona fide citizens of this country. At the ground level, however, the Kaziranga eviction exemplified a grave truth. The BJP-led coalition state government is riding on the sentiments of “jati, mati, bheti” and creating a wedge among the people on communal lines. Being citizens of an independent nation, these evicted masses were denied basic democratic and human rights. Interestingly, though the state government announced compensation for the evicted lands within 40 days, people are yet to receive compensation in any form. The muteness of social and nationalistic organisations like Asom Sahitya Sabha (a literary organisation of Assam), ASU and the Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuba Chaatra Parishad (AJYCP) which boast of Assamese nationalism, is quite disturbing. Branding a particular community as Bangladeshi without veridical facts is deeply problematic and antithetical to the concept of Assamese nationalism which is characterised by humane, democratic and secular society.

After the Kaziranga eviction, the government continued evictions in different places specially in various Bengali Muslim dominated areas like Mayong, Sipajhar, Barduwa, and Manas National Park. There was a constant effort through popular media campaigns to establish the evicted masses as “illegal Bangladeshis” and encroachers. These evictions were spearheaded by the BJP after coming to power in the state and a serious repercussion was the construction of a binary on religious grounds. This policy of the government is not only communally divisive, but also an attempt to gain political mileage in the name of evicting Bangladeshis.

In various news reports, it is seen that erosion and flood have already washed away lands of most of the peasants in Assam irrespective of caste, creed, and religion.  As a result, the peasants have no option left but to either encroach on government land and grazing reserves or to live life in char (sandbars or mid channels bars in a river) areas. However, given the history of recurring flood and erosion in the state, such evictions posit some serious questions—firstly, the state government does not have a proper land policy for its people, and secondly, there is no uniform land allotment policy in practice for those who have lost their lands due to erosion.

If the state and the non-state actors jump into the manufactured discourse of “jati, mati, bheti,” all the good things of Assamese nationalism in terms of cultural tolerance and secularism would perish.

Case Cited

Kaziranga National Park v Union of India and others (2015): Public Interest Litigation (suo motu) No 66 of 2012, Gauhati High Court judgment dated 9 October. (http://ghconline.gov.in/Judgment/PIL662012.pdf)


[1] The Assamese nationality is a multi-caste, multi-racial, multi-religious and a multi-class category. All the groups that entered into the region at different period of the history have become a part of the Assamese nationality which includes the non-caste Assamese Hindus like Ahoms, Koch-Rajbonshis, Morans, Motaks, Chutiyas, Deuris, Kocharis; Muslims, comprising of Syeds, Shaikhs, Morias and Julahas; caste Hindu Assamese composed of Brahmins, Gonaks, Kayasthas, and Kalitas; and other lower caste people such as Kaibartas, Malis, Hiras, Bonias, Sutradhars, and Kumars. It also subsumes the Muslim peasants of east Bengal origin as well the tea plantation tribes who migrated to Assam under the colonial regime in the first half of the twentieth century. Similarly, Nepali people who had migrated to the region in the colonial and post-colonial period also enter the fold of Assamese nationality. Even a small portion of Bengali (Hindu Bengali) and Marwari population has become a part and parcel of Assamese nationality.

[2] The term “caste Hindu” is used in academic scholarship on Assam. Caste Hindu is not an official category and it is not a distinction made by government records.  In this article, the term refers to the different caste groups such as Brahmins, Keot, Kalita, Kayastha, Nath Yogi, Kaibartaya in Assam.
All the groups that entered the region at different periods in history have become a part of the Assamese identity which includes the non-caste Assamese Hindus like Ahoms, Koch-Rajbonshis, Morans, Motaks, Chutias, Deuris, Kocharis; Muslims, comprising of Syeds, Shaikhs, Morias and Julahas; caste Hindu Assamese composed of Brahmins, Gonaks, Kayasthas, and Kalitas; and lower caste people such as Kaibartas, Malis, Hiras, Bonias, Sutradhars, and Kumars. The Assamese identity also subsumes the Muslim peasants of east Bengal origin, tea plantation tribes who migrated to Assam under the colonial regime, Nepalese people who had migrated to the region in the colonial and post-colonial period, as well as small portions of the Bengali (Hindus) and Marwari population. It is important to note that though these tribal and non-tribal groups identified with the Assamese identity, there has been always a domination of the caste Hindu Assamese leadership in terms of political and other interests of the state.
Scholars like Gohain (1989, 2002), Guha (1993), Hussain (1993:22-30), Sharma (2006) have discussed the formation of Asssamese identity in historical context. They have shown that the Neo-Vaishnavite movement in medieval Assam propagated by Sankardeva (1449-1569) accelerated the process of hinduising the tribal masses—a process that was initiated by the Brahmins (Gohain 1989; Guha 1993) much before Sankardeva. These scholars have mentioned that tribal masses were easily attracted to the Sankardeva’s model of hinduisation due to a number of reasons. Sankardeva and his disciples used easily intelligible language in their texts to propagate Neo-Vaishnavism. The practice of worshipping several deities prevalent in traditional Hinduism was replaced with simpler monotheism. The complex and authoritative rituals (often involving sacrifice of animals) of the Brahmanical tradition were abandoned for simpler ritual practices. This simplicity and ease of Neo-Vaishnavism was responsible for its popularity among the tribal populace who embraced Hinduism.
The pace of the Neo-Vaishnavite movement was not similar in every corner of the state. In upper Assam, it was quite popular and tribal groups such as Thengal Kacharis, Sonowal Kacharis, Marans, Motaks, Ahoms, Chutias, Deuris, a section of the Mishing were converted to Hinduism and many of them entered the caste fold. The tribal neophytes were given the lowest status in the caste hierarchy and it became possible for the lower new caste group to attain even the highest status in the caste hierarchy by emulating the practices of the higher castes in the order.

[3] The Nellie massacre took place on 18 February, 1983 at the height of the Assam Movement (1979–85). Almost 2,000 Muslim peasants of East Pakistan origin were killed in a single day because they were considered Bangladeshis. 

[4] Almost all Assamese newspapers published articles supporting the eviction and branding the evicted people as suspected citizens (Bangladeshi) and land encroachers.

[5] In Assam, schools are usually established by the local people of a particular area. These schools are known as venture schools. After a period of time, the government starts to recognise these schools as government schools and these are then known as provincialised schools.

[6] Patta is the official land holding document.

[7]  Bigha is a unit of land measurement. Three bighas is equal to one hectare.

[8]  Lands are divided into three categories as per the land revenue department of Assam—tarju, eksoniya, and myadi. Tarju lands are ones which are not surveyed. Eksoniya and myadi are surveyed lands the proper mapping of which is done by the concerned department. Eksoniya land is land leased or occupied by someone for a period of one year from the government and revenue is paid on the same. The Government can take these two types of land from anyone without paying any compensation. Myadi patta land is owned by someone with official document proof.

[9]  Jati, mati, bheti (community, land, people) was a popular slogan of the Bharatiya Janata Party in the last Assam assembly election in 2016.

[10]  From colonial times to the present day, the policy of conservation of flora and fauna in Kaziranga has gone through various phases. In 1905, E S Carr, the Conservator of Assam, submitted a proposal for a game reserve in Kaziranga with an area of 232 square kilometres. Later, an area of 152 square kilometres was added to it and in 1908, this was declared as game reserve. In 1916, the reserved was renamed as Kaziranga Game Sanctuary. In the year 1950, it was again renamed as Kaziranga Wildlife Sanctuary. (Saikia 2011: 253-293; Kaziranga National Park 2018)

  • Chakraborty, Gorki (2012): “The ‘Ubiquitous’ Bangladeshis,” Economic & Political Weekly, Vol 47, No 38, pp 21–23.

    Gohain, Hiren (1989): Axomiya Jatiyo Jiwanat Mahapurusiya Parampara, Guwahati: Lawyers Book Stall.

    — (2002): “Asomat Janajatiya Samasyar Patabhumi,” Kuwaliphali Poohar, Guwahati: Chandra Prakash.

    Guha, Amalendu (1993): Vaishnavbador pora Muwamoriya Bidruhaloi, Guwahati: Students Stores.

    History of Kaziranga National Park (2018): Webpage of Kaziranga National Park. https://www.kaziranga-national-park.com/kaziranga-history.shtml.

    Hussain, Monirul (1993): The Assam Movement: Class, Ideology and Identity, New Delhi: Manak Publications.

    Kimura, Makiko (2013): The Nellie Massacre of 1983: Agency of Rioters, New Delhi: Sage.

    Saikia, Arupjyoti (2011): Forests and Ecological History of Assam, New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1826-2000.

    Sharma, Chandan Kumar (2006): “Genealogy Contested: Oral Discourse and Bodo Identity Construction,” Folklore as Discourse, Muthukumarswamy M D (ed), Chennai: National Folklore Support Centre.

    — (2012): “The immigration issue in Assam and Conflicts Around It,” Asian Ethnicity, Vol 13 No 3, pp 287–309.
 Image Courtesy: All images by Pinku Muktiar, Prafulla Nath, and Mahesh Deka.

Source URL: http://www.epw.in/engage/article/communal-politics-eviction-drives-assam

India: Jawaharlal Nehru’s views on religion and secularism as read by Rajeev Bhargava

EPW, Vol. 52, Issue No. 8, 25 Feb, 2017

On Religion and Secularism - Nehru against Nehruvians

Rajeev Bhargava

Jawaharlal Nehru’s views on religion and secularism, indeed even his considered political practice, were very different from the Nehruvian secularism that emerged soon after his death, a handiwork of intellectuals close to his daughter, Indira Gandhi. It is an argument of this paper that Nehruvian views on secularism must give way to Nehru’s own views on the matter which have great relevance today.

see also: http://www.epw.in/engage/article/have-nehruvians-misunderstood-Nehrus-Views-on-Religion

India: BJP’s Forays in North Eastern States and anti Minority Agenda | Ram Puniyani

From last couple of decades one is coming across the pamphlets, leaflets and other material containing the propaganda that Christian missionaries are converting the people at rapid pace; the examples mostly given have been those of the North Eastern states. This propaganda has been extensively used at pan India level, particularly before elections in most of the states. It is this propaganda which formed the base of hate against Christians and we witnessed the ghastly murder of Pastor Graham Stewart Stains, the horrific Kandhmal violence, and low intensity anti Christian violence and attacks on Churches in different parts of the country. So how come BJP, the party flaunting it Ram Temple, Mother cow and Hindu nationalism could make its inroads into an area where many states Christianity is the religion with good presence, where beef eating is part of the people’s dietary habits and where different tribes with diverse and clashing political interests articulate their aspirations by forming various groups which have been asking for separate state for their tribes.

While the situation in each state is different, there is a pattern of BJP strategy, which in a flexible manner, supplemented by massive resources, near perfect electoral machinery and the backing of its parent organization’s swayamsevaks is getting the cake in state after state. In Assam it focused mainly on the Bangladeshi immigrants, the Muslims swamping the state and threatening that Hindus will be reduced to a minority. It was clever enough to strike alliances even with separatist organizations. Most of the regional organization in the area looks at Congress as the party which has not focused on the development work, and BJP while at one level abuses those differing with its ideology as ‘anti nationals’, has no compunctions at all in allying with those who have been talking of separate state or even secession. In Tripura left government; despite its clean record; failed to fulfill the aspirations of tribal and OBCs in matters of reservation. It also failed miserably in creating employment opportunities for the youth which gave the ground to BJP to promise and create the illusion of development.

BJP here mainly harped on two major factors. One is the promise of development. As by now its claims of development all over the country stand exposed as mere vote catching slogans, in North East they still could sell Modi as a development man. Manik Sarkar’s failure to implement the new pay commissions must have hurt the large numbers as they are still stuck at fourth pay commission while talk of seventh pay commission is in the air. In Tripura, they could also harp on ‘Hindus are Refugees: Muslim is infiltrators’ to influence the Bengali Hindu votes. In tribal area, RSS swayamsevaks working consistently by organizing religious functions, opening schools etc. from long time have succeeded in turning the tables, as Manik Sarkar Government failed to address the needs of Tribal’s in matters of opportunities. In matters of beef, BJP openly took a hypocritical line that their ban on cow slaughter and eating beef, which is being imposed in different parts of country; will not be enforced in North East. As such also one knows that like most of the issues raised by RSS-BJP, holy cow is a political tool for dividing the society and when the crunch comes they manipulate the issue as they have done in Kerala and Goa on the issue of beef and cow slaughter.

In a very loud manner, towering over Christian voters, Mr. Modi talked of rescuing 46 nurses in ISIS captivity in Iraq and Father Alex Premkumar from Taliban captivity. What can one say on these issues? Were they rescued as they were Indians or were they rescued because they belong to a particular religion? As is the wont with Modi type politics, they do take advantage of these incidents in a crass political manner. Despite the fact that their ideology regards Christians and Muslims as foreigners they do at the same time manipulate these identities for electoral gains. In Tripura the majority of Congress and TMC MLAS migrated to BJP as well as the electoral support shifted to BJP. What worked for BJP here was the anti Bangladeshi sentiment along with the illusory promise of development.

In Meghalaya, the situation is different. Though Congress did emerge as the single largest party and logically is should have been given the chance to form the Government, the Hindu nationalist Governor, thought otherwise and the second largest party, in alliance with practically everybody including BJP are going to form the Government. Here the failure of BJP to win over electorate is writ large on the results, what is putting them in the camp of power, is the alliance with a regional party, which has not been having amicable attitude and relations to Congress. The role of BJP’s all round clout including money and muscle is the undercurrent of the story.

There is lot of lessons for left in Tripura to learn. Issue of addressing problems of youth, Tribal and OBC are paramount. In addition the issue of BJP manipulating in all possible ways to come to power is something, which can be ignored at the risk of severe declines in the electoral power of the left and other parties. What is being labeled as Karat line, not allying with Congress, will surely decimate the left in times to come, probably sooner than later, as this line underestimates the potential and the deeper agenda of BJP-RSS. It ignores the threat of powerful electoral machine built by BJP over a period of time and its capability to manipulate issues, like beef and conversion by Christian missionaries, is different parts of the country, taking two opposite positions and getting away with it!

The emotive politics unleashed by BJP RSS is visible again in the form of attacking Lenin’s statue and attacks on CPM workers. What is in store for future of the region if democratic forces don’t rise to the occasion is anybody’s guess!