Nehru's Secularism Was An Aberration; Modi's Islamophobia is the Norm For India

As India and Pakistan turn 75, there are many secular intellectuals on both sides of the border who question the wisdom of "the Partition" in 1947. They dismiss what is happening in India today under Hindu Nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi's leadership as a temporary aberration, not the norm. They long for a return to "Indian liberalism" which according to anthropologist Sanjay Srivastava "did not exist". 

India Pakistan Border Ceremony at Wagah-Attari Crossing

American historian Audrey Truschke who studies India traces the early origins of Hindu Nationalism to the British colonial project to "divide and rule" the South Asian subcontinent. She says colonial-era British historians deliberately distorted the history of Indian Muslim rule to vilify Muslim rulers as part of the British policy to divide and conquer India. These misrepresentations of Muslim rule made during the British Raj appear to have been accepted as fact not just by Islamophobic Hindu Nationalists but also by at least some of the secular Hindus in India and Muslim intellectuals in present day Pakistan, says the author of "Aurangzeb: The Life and Legacy of India's Most Controversial King".  Aurangzeb was neither a saint nor a villain; he was a man of his time who should be judged by the norms of his times and compared with his contemporaries, the author adds.

After nearly a century of direct rule, the British largely succeeded in dividing South Asians along religious and sectarian lines. The majoritarian tyranny of the "secular"  Hindu-dominated Indian National Congress after 1937 elections in India became very apparent to  Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the leader of All India Muslim League. Speaking in Lucknow in October 1937,  he said the following: 

"The present leadership of the Congress, especially during the last ten years, has been responsible for alienating the Musalmans of lndia more and more, by pursuing a policy which is exclusively Hindu; and since they have formed the Governments in six provinces where they are in a majority they have by their words, deeds, and programme shown more and more that the Musalmans cannot expect any justice or fair play at their hands. Whenever they are in majority and wherever it suited them, they refused to co-operate with the Muslim League Parties and demanded unconditional surrender and signing of their pledges."

Fast forward to 2021, a Pew survey in India found that 64% of Hindus see their religious identity and Indian national identity as closely intertwined. Most Hindus (59%) also link Indian identity with being able to speak Hindi language. The survey was conducted over two years in 2019 and 2020 by Pew Research Center. It included 29,000 Indians.  

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu Nationalist BJP party's appeal is the greatest among Hindus who closely associate their religious identity and the Hindi language with being “truly Indian.” The Pew survey found that less than half of Indians (46%) favored democracy as best suited to solve the country’s problems. Two percent more (48%) preferred a strong leader. 

Indian anthropologist Sanjay Srivastava sums up the current situation as follows: 

"Our parents practiced bigotry of a quiet sort, one that did not require the loud proclamations that are the norm now. Muslims and the lower castes knew their place and the structures of social and economic authority were not under threat. This does not necessarily translate into a tolerant generation. Rather, it was a generation whose attitudes towards religion and caste was never really tested. The loud bigotry of our times is no great break from the past in terms of a dramatic change in attitudes – is it really possible that such changes can take place in such few years? Rather, it is the crumbling of the veneer of tolerance against those who once knew their place but no longer wish to accept that position. The great problem with all this is that we continue to believe that what is happening today is simply an aberration and that we will, when the nightmare is over, return to the Utopia that was once ours. However, it isn’t possible to return to the past that was never there. It will only lead to an even darker future. And, filial affection is no antidote for it".

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Comment by Riaz Haq on August 15, 2022 at 7:24pm

There is little to celebrate for #IndiaAt75. #India’s #economy is in #crisis and has been since long before the beginning of the #COVID19 pandemic but #Modi gov't has run a successful marketing campaign that has struck a chord with citizens.https://aje.io/sczqr3 via @AJEnglish


By Somdeep Sen
Associate Professor of International Development Studies at Roskilde University


Beyond its efforts to intimidate and subdue India’s Muslims, the government has also been engaged in a wider campaign to silence all dissenting voices. In 2021, for example, it was revealed that Israeli spyware Pegasus was used to surveil opposition politicians, journalists, and activists in India.

Modi and his government have also spearheaded a crackdown on human rights organisations. In 2020, Amnesty International had to shut down its operations in India after its bank accounts were frozen and office premises raided. While the government insisted that Amnesty had violated regulations for receiving donations from abroad, the NGO itself – just like most of the international community – interpreted it as a response to its criticism of India’s human rights record.

In recent years, the government also prevented several activists and journalists critical of its policies from travelling abroad. Many government critics have also been spied on, arrested on terror-related charges, and then held without trial. Police have been accused of planting incriminating evidence on the computers of activists and arresting them on bogus charges.

As a result of all this, India went down eight places compared with 2019 and ranked 150 among 180 nations in Reporters Without Borders’ 2022 Press Freedom Index. It also scored just 66 out of 100 in this year’s Freedom House Democracy Index and has been placed in the category of “partially free”.

Admittedly, as this “report card” demonstrates, there is not much for India to celebrate on its 75th birthday. If the country wants to have something real to celebrate at its next milestone birthday in 2047, it needs to start acknowledging its many failings and working towards building a more free, equal and democratic society and state.

Comment by Riaz Haq on August 16, 2022 at 6:57am

#IndiaAt75 OpEd by #Indian-#American Prof Akhila Ananth: "As a Hindu, I can’t stay silent about injustices committed in India — in the name of our faith" #secularism #HindutvaTerror #Hindutva #Islamophobia #casteism #Modi #India - Los Angeles Times https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2022-08-15/indian-independenc...

Modi has waged a political war against poor people, farmers, Indigenous and caste-oppressed groups and Muslims, and because of that, Hindu nationalists now feel free to brutalize those communities. In 2019, he abrogated the semi-sovereign status of Kashmir, the territory trapped between Indian and Pakistani military rule. Thousands of people protested when Modi’s government approved a bill that set religion as a condition for citizenship by only granting citizenship to non-Muslims fleeing neighboring countries.


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We in the diaspora have a role to play against Hindu fundamentalism. The California State University system, where I work, now includes caste as a protected category, which means that students, staff or faculty can report caste-based discrimination they face on campuses to university administrators for internal investigations. That was a result of years of activism from Dalit students, who are from historically oppressed communities of the caste system, and their supporters. Just like the millions of activists in India, there is also a growing movement of progressive South Asian Americans, including Indians, Bangladeshis, Pakistanis, Sri Lankans and Nepalis in the U.S. forming coalitions across religious and ethnic lines to advocate for better living conditions in the U.S. and to resist conservative policies in our homelands.

Last month, a group of us walked through the Lotus Festival honoring India at Echo Park with signs protesting Modi’s rule. We were met with many curious and supportive Angelenos, but also with Hindu conservatives, invited guests of the festival, aggressively calling us liars. One Indian woman lunged toward us before her friend pulled her back. This time, I did not smile politely. I yelled back.

On the 75th anniversary of India’s independence from Britain, I am as inspired by my progressive South Asian community as I am by the words of India’s constitution. The preamble, written by B.R. Ambedkar, the Dalit scholar and freedom fighter, proclaims that the people of India will create a secular democratic republic that secures for all its citizens: “JUSTICE, social, economic and political; LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship; EQUALITY of status and of opportunity.” These are the ideals that I’ll be celebrating and that I’ll continue building toward, even if they feel out of reach right now.

Comment by Riaz Haq on August 16, 2022 at 7:17am

#India-#Pakistan nuclear war would kill 2 billion. #US-#China, 5 billion. Even a limited-scale exchange between India & Pakistan could have catastrophic consequences for global food supplies and trigger mass death worldwide. #IndiaAt75 #PakistanAt75 https://sc.mp/dkza?utm_source=Twitter&utm_medium=share_widget&a...

 
  • The researchers mostly considered a hypothetical nuclear conflict between India and Pakistan as they believed such a conflict was the most likely
  • Tens of millions of immediate fatalities in the war zone would be followed by hundreds of millions of starvation deaths around the globe, they found

As escalating tensions among the United StatesRussia and China revive old fears of nuclear war, some researchers are warning that even a limited-scale exchange between such nations as India and Pakistan could have catastrophic consequences for global food supplies and trigger mass death worldwide.

A nuclear conflict involving less than 3 per cent of the world’s stockpiles could kill one-third of the world’s population within two years, according to a new international study led by scientists at Rutgers University. A larger nuclear conflict between Russia and the US could kill three-fourths of the world’s population in the same time frame, according to the research published on Monday in Nature Food.--
Comment by Riaz Haq on August 17, 2022 at 8:49pm

Dr. Audrey Truschke
@AudreyTruschke
What might India look like under a #Hindutva constitution?

Christians and Muslims not allowed to vote
Gruesome physical punishments
Caste as the law of the land
Arms training for all citizens
Attacks on multiple other South Asia nations

https://twitter.com/AudreyTruschke/status/1560046552193941506?s=20&...

-------------------

‘Hindu Rashtra’ draft proposes Varanasi as capital instead of Delhi
India News
Updated on Aug 13, 2022 10:52 AM IST
Elaborating on the document, president of the Varanasi-based Shankaracharya Parishad said people of every caste will have the facility and security to live in the nation and that people of other religious faiths will not be allowed to vote

https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/seers-prepare-constitutio...

A section of seers and scholars are preparing a draft of the ‘Constitution of India as a Hindu nation’, said people familiar with the matter, adding that the document is scheduled to be presented at the ‘Dharam Sansad’ that will be organised during Magh Mela 2023.

During this year’s Magh Mela, held in February, a resolution was passed in the ‘Dharam Sansad’ to make India a ‘Hindu Rashtra’ with its own “constitution”.

Now, a draft of this “constitution” is being prepared by a group of 30 people under the patronage of Shambhavi Peethadheeshwar, said Swami Anand Swaroop, president of the Varanasi-based Shankaracharya Parishad.

“The constitution will be of 750 pages and its format will be discussed extensively now. Discussions and debates will be held with religious scholars and experts of different fields. On this basis, half the constitution (around 300 pages) will be released in the Magh Mela-2023, to be held in Prayagraj, for which a ‘Dharam Sansad’ will be held,” added Swaroop.

He said 32 pages have been prepared so far spelling out aspects related to education, defence, law and order, system of voting, among other topics.

“As per this Hindu Rashtra Constitution, Varanasi will be the capital of the country, instead of Delhi. Besides, there is also a proposal to build a ‘Parliament of Religions’ in Kashi (Varanasi),” added Swaroop.

The group preparing the draft comprises of Swaroop; Hindu Rashtra Nirman Samiti chief Kamleshwar Upadhyay; senior Supreme Court lawyer BN Reddy; defence expert Anand Vardhan; Sanatan Dharma scholar Chandramani Mishra and World Hindu Federation president Ajay Singh, among others.

The document, reviewed by HT, features a map of ‘Akhand Bharat’ on the cover page. “An attempt has been made to show that the countries which have been separated from India like Bangladesh, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and Myanmar, among others, will be merged one day,” said Swaroop.

Elaborating on the document, Swaroop said people of every caste will have the facility and security to live in the nation and that people of other religious faiths will not be allowed to vote.

“According to the draft of the constitution of the Hindu Rashtra, Muslims and Christians will also enjoy all the rights of a common citizen, barring the right to vote. They would be welcome in the country to do their businesses, get employed, education and all the facilities that are enjoyed by any common citizen, but they won’t be allowed to use their franchise”, said Swaroop.

Comment by Riaz Haq on August 17, 2022 at 8:53pm

‘Hindu Rashtra’ draft proposes Varanasi as capital instead of Delhi
India News
Updated on Aug 13, 2022 10:52 AM IST
Elaborating on the document, president of the Varanasi-based Shankaracharya Parishad said people of every caste will have the facility and security to live in the nation and that people of other religious faiths will not be allowed to vote

https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/seers-prepare-constitutio...



According to Swaroop, the right to vote will be attained by citizens after completing 16 years of age while the age of contesting elections has been fixed at 25 years. A total 543 members will be elected for the ‘Parliament of Religions’, the seer said, adding that the new system will abolish the rules and regulations of the British era and everything will be conducted on the basis of the ‘Varna’ system.

The judicial system of punishment would be based on that of the Treta and Dvapara yugas, he said.

“The Gurukul system will be revived and education in Ayurveda, mathematics, nakshatra, Bhu-garbha, astrology etc. would be imparted,” he added.

Moreover, every citizen will get compulsory military training and agriculture would be made completely tax free, he added.

Comment by Riaz Haq on August 18, 2022 at 7:35am

Confidence and Nationalism in Modi’s India
A survey of Indian public opinion finds overwhelming nationalism, confidence in military prowess, and support for a large nuclear arsenal

https://www.stimson.org/2022/confidence-and-nationalism-in-modis-in...


A new survey in India examines public opinion on domestic politics and national security issues to understand the political incentives leaders face during interstate crises in Southern Asia. This survey reveals how public attitudes could shape Indian diplomacy, crisis escalation, and nuclear force development. The nature of popular views on these topics and their effects on elite decision-making are understudied. Understanding those incentives would help the United States and other diplomatic partners of India clarify mutual expectations and promote regional stability.

A new 7000-person survey conducted by phone in India between April 13 and May 14, 2022, finds:

high levels of support for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who likely remains among the most popular national leaders in the world today;

extraordinary nationalist sentiment among Indians, at high levels compared to prior cross-national surveys using identical question wording;

troubling signs of intolerance toward India’s large Muslim minority, which helps provide context to recent controversies;

strong confidence in the Indian government’s ability to defend India against potential domestic and foreign threats;

expectations among a majority of Indian respondents that the U.S. military would support India in the event of a war with China or Pakistan;

and large majorities in favor of Indian numerical nuclear superiority against its adversaries.

The survey was intended to measure Indian attitudes towards the current government, India’s domestic challenges, and inter-state disputes as part of a broader Stimson Center initiative to understand the political incentives leaders face during interstate crises in southern Asia.1 This nationally representative survey was translated and fielded in 12 languages for respondents in all 28 Indian states and 6 of India’s 8 union territories by the Centre for Voting Opinion & Trends in Election Research (CVoter).2 CVoter is a widely used public opinion firm that regularly partners with Indian newspapers, magazines, television news channels, as well as academic researchers.3 This project note outlines the key descriptive findings from the survey.4

Comment by Riaz Haq on August 18, 2022 at 7:35am

Confidence and Nationalism in Modi’s India
A survey of Indian public opinion finds overwhelming nationalism, confidence in military prowess, and support for a large nuclear arsenal

https://www.stimson.org/2022/confidence-and-nationalism-in-modis-in...


Political Support and Partisan Leanings
Prime Minister Modi received support from a large majority in our survey, with 71% either somewhat or strongly supporting him.5 This confirms a notable positive shift from last year when Modi’s approval levels were dampened by the COVID-19 crisis and challenged later in 2021 due to his government’s controversial farm laws.6 Support for his party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), was also high at 61%. Hindu respondents were significantly more likely to support Modi and the BJP relative to non-Hindu respondents in the sample (see Figure 1).

Worryingly, supporters of Modi or the BJP were more likely to express discriminatory attitudes toward Muslims, such as stating they did not want to have a Muslim as a neighbor or that they believed India’s Muslim population was growing too fast.7 It is worth stating, however, that among all non-Muslim respondents, including both Modi supporters and skeptics, such discriminatory attitudes were widespread. An overwhelming majority of 78 percent of respondents stated that they believed India’s Muslim population was growing too fast. Such attitudes may explain why the historically secular Indian National Congress has publicly sought to disassociate itself from any “branding… as a Muslim party”8 and why other parties with nationwide aspirations, such as the Aam Aadmi Party, have also been accused of embracing a softer version of Hindu nationalist politics.9 Such anti-Muslim sentiments could generate meaningful international repercussions if they influence national policy or political statements, a tendency which may be reflected in recent controversies. For example, India received considerable criticism from Muslim-majority countries following derogatory statements about the Prophet Mohammad made by BJP spokespersons.10 The U.S. government too has expressed concern about restrictions against and violence targeted at Indian religious minorities.11

Nationalism
Respondents were overwhelmingly nationalistic in their responses. 90% strongly or somewhat agreed with the statement that “India is a better country than most other countries.” This number, large in absolute terms, is also large when compared to other contexts.12 U.S. citizens, for example, are typically viewed as more nationalist than average, but in 2014 only 70 percent of respondents strongly or somewhat agreed that the U.S. is a better country than most.13 While American exceptionalism is a well-understood domain of study, self-perceptions of Indian exceptionalism are relatively underexplored.

Nationalist sentiment dovetailed with negative opinions of neighboring countries. When asked about Pakistan, 67% of respondents expressed their “dislike to a great extent” and a nearly equivalent 65% “disliked” China to “a great extent.” These views covaried in intuitive ways, such that respondents with greater levels of baseline support for Modi were more likely to hold negative opinions of Pakistan and China, and more nationalistic individuals were also more likely to believe India could defeat China and Pakistan militarily.

Comment by Riaz Haq on August 18, 2022 at 7:43am

Confidence and Nationalism in Modi’s India
A survey of Indian public opinion finds overwhelming nationalism, confidence in military prowess, and support for a large nuclear arsenal

https://www.stimson.org/2022/confidence-and-nationalism-in-modis-in...


Respondents in India’s south tended to have somewhat more favorable—though still overwhelmingly negative—views of China, but this north-south distinction was less evident in attitudes toward Pakistan. We find little evidence that unfavorable opinions toward China or Pakistan vary substantively by respondent age.

Nationalist sentiment also manifested as confidence in India’s military prowess and state strength. 90% of respondents said that India would probably or definitely defeat Pakistan in case of a war between the two hostile neighbors. A smaller, but still sizeable, percentage (72%) believed that India would probably or definitely defeat China in the event of a war. This may mirror confident public statements by Indian military officials,14 but deviates from some expert analysis which suggests that India is likely at a disadvantage in a military contest with China.15 Modi supporters were modestly more likely to assess that India could defeat China or Pakistan than non-supporters.

Views of Indian Conflict Scenarios and Nuclear Weapons Needs
Respondents were divided about whether other countries would come to India’s defense in the event of an international conflict. A majority of respondents said that the United States would “definitely” or “probably” help in the event of an Indian war with China (56 percent) or Pakistan (59 percent), with a remaining large minority skeptical of U.S. aid in such scenarios. In contrast, surveys of U.S. respondents have found sizeable majorities might prefer to avoid entanglement in a Sino-Indian military conflict.16 For their part, Indian military leaders and strategists have stressed that India will have to fight its own wars alone without counting on others.17
A similar majority of Indian respondents assessed China would come to Pakistan’s aid in the event of an Indo-Pakistani war (56 percent) and that Pakistan would come to China’s aid in the event of a Sino-Indian war (59 percent) consistent with Indian strategists’ fears of a “two-front war.” Combining these results shows that a large minority of respondents, roughly 4 in 10, foresee a scenario where India might have to fight both China and Pakistan simultaneously without U.S. help.

We also asked about respondent views on the number of nuclear weapons India needs. An overwhelming majority—68 percent—assessed India needed more than its enemies. Just 13 percent said India should have about as many nuclear weapons as its enemies, and only a handful assessed that India should only have “a few” or “not any” nuclear weapons. These public preferences may be incompatible with India’s current nuclear force structure where most non-governmental organizations assess that China has more operational nuclear weapons than India while Pakistan has the same or slightly more nuclear weapons than India. 18 If these preferences hold, they could serve as a political driver for an arms race with China, which U.S. assessments forecast could quadruple its nuclear forces to 1,000 weapons by 2030.19

Comment by Riaz Haq on August 18, 2022 at 7:44am

Confidence and Nationalism in Modi’s India
A survey of Indian public opinion finds overwhelming nationalism, confidence in military prowess, and support for a large nuclear arsenal

https://www.stimson.org/2022/confidence-and-nationalism-in-modis-in...

Implications
The nature of Indian public opinion on national security issues and the effect of mass views on elite decision-making—which together determine the foreign policy “accountability environment”—remains remarkably understudied.20 Yet our survey identifies several areas where public views may shape Indian government preferences in ways that will be important for India’s diplomatic partners to understand. Several implications appear most prominent from our analysis.

No signs of erosion of Modi’s domestic political support: Our findings reaffirm other polls that show Modi is one of the most popular leaders—and perhaps the most popular leader—of any democratic country.21 This is true despite seeming missteps his government made in the face of the pandemic and associated economic travails.
India’s extraordinary nationalism may prove challenging for Indian diplomatic partners to navigate: Status concerns are common in global politics, but the Indian polity appears to hold broadly a belief that India is better than most other countries. India’s Minister of External Affairs has popularized the idea that India will go “the India way.”22 Our findings indicate Indian citizens may perceive few reasons to compromise on issues like relations with Russia or its domestic institutions given India’s position in world politics.
Widespread support for anti-Muslim attitudes may create domestic political incentives for anti-Muslim policies: Modi’s government has faced sustained allegations of anti-Muslim animus. Our survey results suggest that popular attitudes toward Muslims may encourage rather than halt any anti-Muslim impulses of the BJP-led government. Such sentiment could stoke friction between New Delhi and its neighbors and regional partners, a danger highlighted following recent anti-Muslim remarks expressed by members of the ruling party.23
Indian self-confidence may lead to mistaken popular views of Indian military prowess: India has considerable military capabilities against its most likely regional opponents.24 Yet Indian confidence that India would likely defeat China or Pakistan may exceed what a careful net assessment might warrant. This in turn might make it challenging for Indian leaders to back down in crises, since their publics may view such conflicts as winnable even if the military balance is not in their favor.25

Comment by Riaz Haq on August 18, 2022 at 7:44am

Confidence and Nationalism in Modi’s India
A survey of Indian public opinion finds overwhelming nationalism, confidence in military prowess, and support for a large nuclear arsenal

https://www.stimson.org/2022/confidence-and-nationalism-in-modis-in...


U.S. officials may seek to signal their willingness to aid India in the event of conflict with China to correct widespread popular doubts: A majority of Indians believe the U.S. would assist it in the event of a conflict with China or Pakistan. The United States likely could do more to publicly signal its reliability regarding a China contingency. The United States offered considerable material support to India in past crises with China (in 1962 and 2020) but both times cloaked some of that assistance in secrecy based on the requests of New Delhi.26 At the same time, U.S. officials likely do not foresee significant material support in the event of an India-Pakistan conflict and instead seek to retain a viable third-party crisis management role. U.S. officials should be aware that they may struggle to fulfill Indian public expectations in such circumstances.
Public opinion may encourage rather than restrain any contemplated future Indian nuclear force buildup. Our poll finds an Indian public that prefers Indian numerical nuclear superiority against its adversaries by large margins. It is consistent with earlier public opinion research that suggested that the Indian public was comfortable with nuclear weapons as tools of statecraft in specific, plausible scenarios.27 Such views help provide context to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision to emphasize on the campaign trail in 2019 that Indian nuclear weapons were not kept as mere showpieces.28 Based on limited inquiries to date, further research is needed to untangle public understanding of nuclear weapons and their salience in contemporary debates.

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