Archive for ‘Hindu’


Narendra Modi: Is hardline Hindu politics failing India’s PM?

Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressing the election campaign rally ahead the state assembly polls , in Jaipur , Rajasthan, India , Dec 04,2018.Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES

Last week’s electoral losses in five states for India’s ruling party has led to speculation that its agenda of promoting hardline Hindu politics has backfired. The BBC’s Priyanka Pathak reports.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) lost to the main opposition Congress party in the Hindi-speaking heartland states of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, all of which they previously governed. Local parties swept up the other two states – Telangana and Mizoram – putting the BJP in a tough place ahead of general elections next year.

It appears that after winning no less than 13 state elections since coming to power in 2014, the BJP’s seemingly invincible electoral juggernaut is losing steam.

There is a great deal of introspection within and outside the party. And the main question is: has the BJP’s recent pursuit of a hardline Hindu agenda – known locally as Hindutva – backfired? Will a departure from an inclusive, development agenda to a polarising, communal one cost the BJP general election too?

These are legitimate questions because the party deployed the chief minister of the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, Yogi Adityanath, as its star campaigner in the five states that went to polls.

Mr Adityanath is widely considered a controversial figure because of his well-publicised anti-Muslim comments.

He addressed 74 election rallies while Mr Modi, who is usually his party’s star campaigner, addressed just 31.

Adityanath victoryImage copyrightAFP
Image captionYogi Adityanath is seen as a “poster child” for a hardline Hindu agenda

Mr Adityanath also spent the past few months courting the Sangh Parivar – a “family” of Hindu nationalist organisations including the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a hardline Hindu organisation with umbilical ties to the BJP.

The Sangh Parivar also includes the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), which has been at the forefront of a movement demanding the construction of a Hindu temple on the site of a 16th Century mosque that was torn down by Hindu mobs in 1992, provoking widespread riots that left thousands dead.

Hindus believe Ayodhya, situated in Mr Adityanath’s Uttar Pradesh state, is the birthplace of their revered deity Lord Ram, and say an older temple existed at the site before the mosque was constructed.

Mr Adityanath has announced the construction of a giant statue of Ram in the state, and changed the name of the historical city of Allahabad to the more “Hindu” sounding Prayagraj ahead of the forthcoming Ardh Kumbh Mela, one of the world’s largest religious gatherings.

But if Mr Adityanath was hoping to prove to the VHP leadership that he is a more willing pursuer of the Hindutva agenda and, therefore, a potential alternative to Mr Modi, the recent electoral defeats do not advance his case.

Many observers believe that the BJP’s defeats are because the party deviated from the development agenda that swept them to power in 2014. The pursuit of Hindutva has backfired, they say.

Supporters of the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP), a Hindu nationalist organisation, shout religious slogansImage copyrightREUTERS
Image captionHindus believe the disputed religious site of Ayodhya is the birthplace of one of their most revered deities

But some in the Sangh Parivar disagree, insisting that it is actually the opposite that is true. “Just the way people feel disenchanted with the economic policies of the government, the people have also lost faith in this government’s commitment to build the Ram temple. If the VHP and RSS have to come to the street to warn the government about it, what does it tell you? What does it tell the electorate?” one of them said.

Last week, tens of thousands of Hindus gathered in the capital, Delhi, to demand the expedited construction of the temple and criticised the government for failing to do so.

They chanted a striking slogan directly targeting Mr Modi’s stated development-first agenda: “Pehle Ram ko aasan do, phir humko sushasan do (First give Ram a throne, then give us good governance)”.

But it must be noted that while Mr Modi has never openly supported these hardline elements, his silence on issues such as an increasing number of attacks on Muslims over various issues like eating beef – cows are considered sacred in Hinduism and their slaughter is banned in many Indian states – is interpreted as a tacit approval for muscular Hindu politics.

But he now faces pressure to do more.

His government already leads a lacklustre economy. And this renewed pressure to recommit to Hindutva, despite its apparent failure as an electoral agenda, puts Mr Modi’s government in a difficult place.

There is also the fact that the RSS played a vital role in the BJP’s 2014 election victory by mobilising and galvanising voters. They are also credited for Mr Modi’s rise from state chief minister to a national figure. Apart from spearheading a sophisticated online and digital campaign in his favour, cadres also held 600 district-level meetings across the country to make Mr Modi a familiar name among the rural population.

Clearly, they cannot be ignored or offended.

So even as the liberals suggest that Hindutva has backfired and demand that the government refocus on the economy, there are voices within the BJP which are demanding a more strident return to the party’s “core” agenda – including the construction of the Ram temple and renewed focus on efforts to protect cows – to reassure their base that the BJP has not abandoned them.

The less-than-satisfactory economic performance will also make the Hindutva agenda more important, they say.


The partition of India: “Viceroy’s House” is an antidote to colonial triumphalism | The Economist

THE fetishisation of British Imperialism is inescapable. Last December, Theresa May cited the East India Company as an example of Britain’s historical trading prowess. Contestants on a recent season of “The Apprentice”, an entrepreneurial reality show, created batches of “Colony Gin”; Marks & Spencer, a retailer, included an “Empire Pie” as part of its Gastropub collection. This nostalgia is borne out by a YouGov poll from 2016, which found that 44% of respondents are proud of Britain’s colonial history.

Those colonised, though, see the empire rather differently. A charge sheet of Britain’s efforts in India—and every territory colonised can produce an equivalent—might list partition, the man-made Bengal famine in 1943 (which resulted in an estimated 3m deaths), the wretched labour system of indenture and the looting of state wealth. Partition alone resulted in 1m deaths and created 15m refugees in a matter of weeks; Hindus and Sikhs fled their homes in what was the become the Muslim state of Pakistan, while Muslims in India took flight in the opposite direction.

“Viceroy’s House”, a new film written and directed by Gurinder Chadha, seeks to document Britain’s role in partition and the cleaving of the Punjab region. In the final months of the Raj, Lord Mountbatten (Hugh Bonneville) arrives to oversee the transfer of power to Hind Swaraj (Indian Home Rule), and reconcile the demands of independence leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru with those of Muhammad Ali Jinnah. Sir Cyril Radcliffe (Simon Callow)—who had never set foot in India before—is drafted in to assess how 175,000 square miles, home to 88m people, should be split. Ms Chadha carefully balances high politics with its impact on ordinary citizens; relations between Hindu, Sikh and Muslim staff become tense as the prospect of annexing India’s Muslim-majority regions emerges.

The film is good in exposing the Machiavellian motives behind this rushed decision, as well as the gut-wrenching suffering that followed (the house, which “makes Buckingham Palace look like a bungalow”, becomes a camp for the displaced). It is not perfect, however. “Viceroy’s House” absolves everyone—Lord Mountbatten, the British, Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims—of blame for the suffering. Some critics have complained that it does not give any attention to the Indian independence struggle, or catalogue the horrors of British rule. These are deserving of films in their own right; Ms Chadha’s decision to focus her lens solely on how partition unfolded is a wise one.

With millions of people involved in the story of partition, “Viceroy’s House” was always going to be a tricky undertaking, likely to be deemed unsatisfactory by many. Ms Chadha tells the story of this multifaceted moment in the region’s history through the lens of one building, framing it as the tale of “the people’s partition” rather than dealing in factionalism and blame. She has subverted the period-drama genre—how many period dramas close on a shot of a desperate refugee camp?—to produce something akin to a “Dummy’s Guide to partition”.

Yet even as a superficial primer, “Viceroy’s House” fills a gap in Britain’s collective consciousness and cultural memory. In the canon of modern British films about India, partition features in “Gandhi” (1982) and “Midnight’s Children” (2012) but gets scant treatment elsewhere. “Viceroy’s House” stands out from these offerings as a British film narrated with heart, soul and profound sadness by a Punjabi film-maker with a personal investment in the story: the closing credits reveal that Ms Chadha’s grandmother lost a child to starvation while fleeing to India.

It will be hard for some to maintain a sense of nostalgia and triumphalism for Britain’s empire after watching “Viceroy’s House”: Ms Chadha intersperses the drama with Pathé news footage of communal violence and Churchill’s dejected newscasts explaining the collapse of law and order. The film has ensured that partition, which is rarely taught in British high schools, has a place in the nation’s shared public culture again. Too right. Partition is as much a part of modern Britain—home to 700,000 Indian and Pakistani Punjabis, many of whom are the children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of partition—as butter chicken, saag paneer, naan, bhangra and Bollywood.

Source: The partition of India: “Viceroy’s House” is an antidote to colonial triumphalism | The Economist

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