Pride in a democracy lies not being largest but in its creditable functioning.

Garbage Is An Escalating World Problem

by Promod Puri

Countries worldwide seem to be facing an escalating problem as to where to dump their daily accumulation of non-composite garbage.

Shiploads of containers carrying all kinds of waste from electronic to plastics and even household garbage are floating the world seas finding their final resting or burial place.

After China changed its policy not to accept electronic and plastic waste anymore, and other countries like Malaysia and the Philippines, refusing to be dumping places either, the developed countries are stranded with their garbage.

Recently, Philippines “threatened” Canada to take back its garbage sitting on the former’s shores for the last over 10 years. That made-in-Canada garbage is finally returning home.

Malaysia, where some clandestine garbage contractors have been importing garbage, the government has cracked down on them under its strict policy that the country “will not be a dumping ground to the world.”

Dumping of garbage in poor and developing countries is as much an environmental concern as from the exporting rich and developed nations.

It is a world problem, where each country must seek its own environmental solutions to handle its garbage, whether it is plastic, electronics, or household.

PM Modi Pursues Politics Of Hindu Nationalism- What Does That Mean

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is garlanded after winning the elections.
AP Photo/Manish Swarup

Sumit Ganguly, Indiana University

Almost immediately after winning a second term in office on May 23, India’s Prime Minister Modi gave a speech making light of parties and individuals who had espoused secularism over the past five years.

During the five years while the Indian government has been led by Modi and the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party – or BJP – several Muslims were lynched on allegations of eating beef or even just transporting cattle for slaughter. As the number of attacks on Muslims grew, Modi mostly remained silent.

The consumption of beef in India has long been a divisive issue because many Hindus believe that the cow is a sacred animal. Cow slaughter and consumption of beef have long been banned in 24 out of 29 states across India.

Despite this concession to orthodox Hindu sentiments, India has a constitutional commitment to secularism. Unlike in the West, where secularism calls for a strict separation of church and state, Indian secularism is based on the premise of respect toward all faiths.

However, Modi and the political party he represents are adherents of Hindutva. What exactly is Hindutva and how is it different from the beliefs and practices of Hinduism?

Colonial roots

Hindutva is an ideology that states that India is the homeland of the Hindus. According to believers, those who profess other faiths can live in the country only at the sufferance of Hindus.

As a scholar of contemporary Indian politics, I find this proposition to be profoundly disturbing and deeply antithetical to the the central tenets of Hinduism.

The roots of this ideology can, in considerable part, be traced to the growth of Hindu anxieties in colonial India. In 1906, a Muslim political party – the All-India Muslim League – was created. Later, a charismatic politician, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, became its standard-bearer and subsequently the first governor-general of the state of Pakistan following the British partition of India in 1947. Partition led to the division of the former British India into the two independent states of India and Pakistan.

The creation of the All-India Muslim League caused some serious misgivings on the part of some segments of the Hindu population, leading to their political mobilization along religious lines, pitting Hindus against Muslims. In 1921, an organization emerged in northern India called the Hindu Mahasabha.

It brought together people who opposed the secular outlook of the major political party at the time, the Indian National Congress, led by Mahatma Gandhi and others. The Mahasabha’s ideology espoused the education and uplift of Hindus and also the conversion of Muslims to Hinduism.

The ideology has its roots in the ideas of an important but controversial Indian nationalist, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, who was not only ardently opposed to British rule in India, but advocated violence to end colonial domination and argued that India was the sole preserve of Hindus.

His ideas were fundamentally at odds with the principals of the Indian nationalist movement, Mahatma Gandhi and his disciple Jawaharlal Nehru, who would become the first prime minister of a free India. Gandhi, though deeply religious, had advocated Hindu-Muslim amity. Nehru, a staunch secularist, had supported religious pluralism. He died at the hands of a fanatic, Nathuram Godse, a member of the Hindu Mahasabha, in 1948.

Growth of the BJP

The Hindu nationalists sought to make Hinduism, an ancient religion which has no common holy text, no overarching set of beliefs and no single place of pilgrimage, into a homogeneous, organized faith based upon a set of common religious tenets.

During the early years of the Indian republic, following its independence from British colonial rule in 1947, the ideology of Hindutva and its adherents found little appeal among the Indian electorate.

BJP gained in strength since the 1990s.
AP Photo/Mahesh Kumar A.

However, since the 1990s the BJP has gathered strength in both the electoral and social arenas. Electorally, it was in power as the dominant partner in a coalition regime from 1998 to 2004. Later, in 2014, it emerged as a majority party in Parliament.

It has also attracted substantial numbers of followers. In considerable part their disaffection stems from the willingness of secular governments to pander to the Muslim minority.

The Indian National Congress, on a number of occasions, especially in the 1980s, made a series of concessions to orthodox Muslim sentiment in its quest for their votes. Among other matters, a Congress government banned Salman Rushdie’s “The Satanic Verses,” even before Iran had issued the fatwa against Rushdie. On another occasion, it overturned an Indian Supreme Court judgment that had granted alimony to a Muslim woman. Members of the Muslims orthodoxy were outraged with the decision, as they deemed it to be an affront to their religious beliefs.

The BJP deftly dealt with the myriad concessions made to sectarian Muslim demands. They argued that the majority Hindu community was being short-changed and that only the BJP would adequately protect the interests of the majority Hindu population.

These sentiments, it appears, struck a resonant chord with significant segments of the electorate and played a not inconsiderable role in propelling the BJP to victory.The Conversation

Sumit Ganguly, Distinguished Professor of Political and the Tagore Chair in Indian Cultures and Civilizations., Indiana University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

BEAUTIFUL PUNJABI SONG

Kachi kali si nazuk dil mera ….koi sungh ke ainwen marhorh giya..jeeonda rave oh ji sadke ve jehrha laake mohabattan torh giya.download (12)

This super hit Punjabi song from film Koday Shah (1953) has been one of my most favorites for a long time. The music by talented Sardul Kwatra is superb. I met Mr. Kwatra many years ago during one of his musical shows in Vancouver. When I praised him for his excellence in composing the music for Koday Shah, he humbly accepted the compliments. The song brilliantly sung by Shamshad Begum was also his favorite. Penned by Verma Malik, the lyrics’ beauty lies in its blessing expression from a deserted lover. She expresses her innocence,” kachi kali si nazuk dil mera” as well as a soft complaint, “koi sungh ke ainwen marhorh giya”, and despite her hurt feelings she voiced her grace “jeeonda rave oh ji sadke ve jehrha laake mohabattan torh giya.” Enjoy the song, you will love it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1lRhv3VbBSU

-Promod Puri

WHEN I WORKED AT 7-ELEVEN STORE:

Recently I read an interesting article on 7-Eleven stores and their worldwide growth in 17 countries besides the ones in the USA where the company was founded in 1927.
Around the world, 7-Eleven has 68,236 stores, and the largest presence is in Asia. The new owners are a Japanese holding company who bought 7-Eleven from the Texas-based The Southern Corporation indownload (10) 2005.
My only interest in reading the long article was back in the ‘70s when I migrated to Canada. 7-Eleven was one of the places where I had my initial jobs.
The job interview was quick, and I was hired right away without any previous experience selling Slurpees, cigarettes, candies, etc.
After a few days of working at the store, my manager asked me “if you don’t mind, can we call you Peter,” as my first name was “little hard to pronounce.” “No problem” was my instant response.
The name change, however, got a further adjustment, when the manager, followed by other staff, started calling me “Pete.” But for me switching names from Promod to Peter and then Pete was complimentary designations.
The experience at the 7-Eleven was quite interesting meeting customers and enthusiastically handling money, a first in my life.
My uniform over my shirt was the jacket with printed 7-Eleven logo all over the fabric. The outfit reminded me of those shawls wrapped by Sadhus in India with omnipresent “Ram, Ram…” prints.
According to the article, the Japanese company has announced its plan to start opening 7-Eleven stores in India starting this year.
In that case, it would be interesting to watch a Sadhu walking in the store with Ram, Ram….print shawl meeting a guy with 7-Eleven, 7-Eleven jacket.
And that reminds of the “Modi, Modi…” suit which did not hit the fashion among his “bhagats”. Otherwise, it would have been another catchy scene at 7-Elevens in India.

Sahir Ludhianvi’s Romantic Poetry…pyar par bas to nahin hai—

Sahir Ludhianvi in his romantic mood penned this beautiful composition adorned with equal passion by Talat Mehmood and Asha Bhonsle in the film Sone Ki Chidiyya (1958). Asha Bhonsle did not say a word in the Song, but Music director O.P. Nayyar used her voice as soft ‘alaap’ enhancing the feelings of the poet.

Pyaar par bas to nahin hai mera lekin fir bhi
Tu bata de ki tujhe pyaar karun ya na karun

Mere khwaabon ke jharokon ko sajaanewaali
Tere khwaabon men kahin mera guzar hai ke nahin
Puchhakar apani nigaahon se bata de mujhako
Meri raaton ke mukddar men sahar hai ke nahin

Kahin aisa n ho paanw mere tharra jaaen
Aur teri maramari baanhon ka sahaara n mile
Ashk bahate rahen khaamosh siyaah raaton men
Aur tere reshami anchal ka kinaara n mile.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0_yn4FxxTEU

Monkey Show of Goswami

Image may contain: 1 person, eyeglasses and closeup

The picture is deceiving, but this guy, with his glasses and intellectual look, was the most aggressive host I have ever seen on TV. The name I was told while watching the India election coverage with friends, is Arnab Goswami of Republic TV. I could digest the outpouring of results in favor of Modi and his party, but Goswami was totally barbaric in his language and actions. It was a monkey show with verbal diarrhea, Goswami was clapping, raising arms, jumping off and walking away from his seat. First, I took it as side entertainment, but later it became totally disgusting. Many times, I felt as he would break the TV screen and jump straight on me if any comment which did not please him. We could change the channel, but it seemed our host had little choice.

-Promod Puri

 

”WIN GUARANTEED”: Worldwide Demand for India’s EVMs!😊😊

WAR BLAMES

Do we have to blame a nation or nations in their respective share of initiating a war rather than the individuals responsible for their calling to strike the fire? Historically, we blame the nations and forget the leaders or rulers in their war orders.

Sahir Ludhianvi in a different mood

Sahir Ludhianvi in his romantic mood penned this beautiful composition adorned with equal passion by Talat Mehmood and Asha Bhonsle in the film Sone Ki Chidiyya (1958). Asha Bhonsle did not say a word in the Song, but Music director O.P. Nayyar used her voice as soft ‘alaap’ enhancing the feelings of the poet.

Pyaar par bas to nahin hai mera lekin fir bhi
Tu bata de ki tujhe pyaar karun ya na karun

Mere khwaabon ke jharokon ko sajaanewaali
Tere khwaabon men kahin mera guzar hai ke nahin
Puchhakar apani nigaahon se bata de mujhako
Meri raaton ke mukddar men sahar hai ke nahin

Kahin aisa n ho paanw mere tharra jaaen
Aur teri maramari baanhon ka sahaara n mile
Ashk bahate rahen khaamosh siyaah raaton men
Aur tere reshami anchal ka kinaara n mile.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0_yn4FxxTEU

Intellectual humility helps to explore wrongs in mindset views.

THE MODI WAVE CONTINUES

A  juggernaut of all the resources and forces, while crushing the opposition, pulled the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) under prime minister Narendra Modi’s command to another massive victory in the just concluded India election.

An army of hard-core members of the Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP), the leading partner in the alliance, disciplined media, unlimited funds, absolute and effective use of social media, plus the disunited Left and Centre opposition all contributed to Modi’s and party for another five year of running the largest but blighted democracy in the world.

In this juggernaut which continues with promises of more development and economic wellness, there is going to be a further rise of Hindu fanaticism. And that could be the chilling wave for the minorities, Dalits and lowest of lowest under dreadful casteism of India.

Hopefully, Modi will grow up from a shrewd politician to a true statesman. That is the Modi India needs to govern the diverse nature of the country’s population.

-by Promod Puri

WHY MODI AND HIS PARTY SHOULD NOT WIN AGAIN

By Promod Puri

It is the institutional damage which is a primary cause of concern for the survival and functioning of democracy in India.

The plummet of the Congress paved the way for the BJP to capture the power four years ago primarily by nurturing and exploiting its inherent strength in Hindu nationalism. It is under this ideological guideline that the BJP has got an opportunity to reshape the very character of India’s democratic institutions.

Judiciary, election commission, media, and statistics are some of the most operative integrals of democracy which keep it authoritative, functional, dynamic, and accountable. If any or all these systems are damaged, corrupted, compromised or abused, democracy becomes meaningless or even collapses.

Allegedly, all the democratic fundamentals have been brazenly as well as subtly fiddled with shrewd politics of religious fanaticism, fear, threats, murders, fake police raids, intrusions and influences in the media, obstructions, and interference in the bureaucracy, and deceptive claims of accomplishments.

The autonomous, independent and credible status of the democratic establishments has been defaced and undermined.

The seventy-three years of the solid foundation of Indian democracy after the Independence in 1947 suddenly became fragile in just four years of the BJP rule.

It has been almost a Machiavellian leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi assisted and ideologically maneuvered by his trusted and crafty lieutenant Amit Shah.

To cash out the desired outcomes, crony appointments have been made. Suitability and competence criteria along with academic and professional credentials have been secondary or trivial in this politically-infused drafting.

Examples being in the choice of supreme court judges, the governorship of states, Reserve Bank governorship, university vice chancellorships, Election Commission chief, Chief of the Indian Army and film censure board. Recently, a bureaucrat with only a masters’ degree in history got the Reserve Bank governorship position.

As far as the constitution of the country is concerned, it carries only ceremonial value. Seeking direction from the prime minister rather than the constitution is the loyalty which is supreme under the BJP regime.

Most media, with due respect for some fearless and vigorous journalism, are the cheerleaders who are spun to report, misreport or ignore the news. Rather false news and biased views are manufactured in the party’s publicity machinery and delivered thru paid press and social media. Also, are tasked an army of loyal soldiers (known as Bhagats) for country-wide and world-wide spread of the fake commodity.

Cracking down on free speech, threats, murders of writers, dissident lawyers, and judges constitute the new and dreadful feeling of the current political climate in the country.

Along with that lynching of minorities followed by blessed and garlanded welcome support with job offers for those accused of these heinous crimes have happened quite frequently. Rallies, organized in support of rapists affiliated to the party, rather than consoling the victims, have taken place in the recent past. Example being the Kathua rape case of an 11-year-old nomad girl.

It is the institutional chiseling which has been purposely done to carve out a non-secular nation based on narrow confines of Hindutva agenda.

This is an agenda which is fundamentally anti-Hindu. The identity of Hinduism lies in its wide open structure where liberal, secular and diverse customs and traditions co-exist and flourish.

Pursuing the Hindutva agenda also goes against the very spirit of democratic India in which its national institutions play non-religious, non-political, professional and bureaucratic roles crucial for unbiased, audited and scrutinized direction to the governing party in the conduct of nation’s business.

But when these institutions are politically fixed, controlled and manipulated by the governing party to uphold its power base just for electoral gains then the damage is done to them.

(Promod Puri is a journalist, writer, and author of Hinduism Beyond Rituals, Customs, And Traditions). Websites: promodpuri.com,progressivehindudialogue.com, and progressivehindudialogue.com)

In Contemporary Meditation Mantra Can Be In Any Language

By Promod Puri

One of the most ingrained and perhaps efficacious features of Hinduism is the mantra.

A mantra inherently is the delivery of sacred word(s) or a sound with literal meaning or without meaning, but capable of inducing an environment of divinity.

Despite their antiquated origin during Vedic period of Hindu history, mantras in verses offer contemporary interpretations of intellectual spirituality, mystic expressions, scriptural usage, and ritualistic incantations.

Besides its literate depths, mantra’s pervasiveness and absorption in the conscious mind are the essentials of its numinous integrity.

Melodic and metrical compositions draw out coherent and thematic features of mantras in verse.

Mantra is a combination of two words, man-tra. Man, pronounced as mon like in Monday, means mind or it can also mean a thought. Tra means a dedicated tool or instrument. ‘Tra’ as an instrument producing a sound or vibration, in tandem with ‘man,’ makes the word mantra meaning voice of mind or thought.

From this simple structure, mantra has attained the status of devotional expression and as a meditative tool. Recitation of mantra, termed japa, is the key to invoke its spiritual presence. The latter comes when it is constantly being heard in our minds and cohering with our cognitive faculties. It is in this frame a mantra resonates in human consciousness with its numinous nature.

In its simplest presentation, a mantra can be just one single word like ‘Om.’ Or it could be several words long in verse carrying philosophical and meaningful themes of universal values.

Even the recitation of His name, Parmatma, can be a mantra in itself. It makes the duality of the word ‘parm’ meaning supreme, and ‘Atma’ meaning an individual soul, into a single sound of His realization. The japa of this mantra is perhaps the simplest and most informal connection between the self and Him for the ultimate feel of One.

Mantra as a meditative tool has attained significant importance in contemporary society worldwide. And for that reason, it has adapted itself to change. No longer, Sanskrit is the base in its composition. It can be in any language.

Meditation practitioners are discovering mantras in their own language instead of the classic versions. A recitation of a mantra, after all, is a repetitive, prolonged verbal utterance.

The most popular “modern mantra,” perhaps introduced by a Buddhist monk, is in English. The repetitive wordings are: Right now, it’s like this”. The phrase just resonates acknowledging the present, and the contemplation leads into the situation of calmness.

Mantra, as said earlier does not have to carry any significance meaning, and it could be in any language. In a recent study, the word “echad” meaning one in Hebrew was selected for repetitive utterance as a mantra. The result showed that the one-word non-Sanskrit mantra had the same calming effect in a meditative stage.

(Promod Puri is a journalist, writer, and author of Hinduism beyond rituals, customs, and traditions.Websites: promodpuri.comprogressivehindudialogue.com,and promodpuri.blogspot.com)

Sikhism Dwells In Its Saint-soldier Philosophy

via Sikhism Dwells In Its Saint-soldier Philosophy

Sikhism Dwells In Its Saint-soldier Philosophy

By Promod Puriguru-nanak-dev-ji-230x300

Guru Nanak Dev and Guru Gobind Singh represent two distinct aspects of Sikhism. In the evolution of Sikhism, together these significant facets symbolize the Khalsa, a saint-soldier designation which is pure, clean, and free.

The saint-soldier image of the Khalsa was initiated by Guru Nanak and got concluded by Guru Gobind Singh,gobind according to historian Gokul Chand Narang in his book “Transformation of Sikhism.”

He writes: the sword which carved the Khalsa way to glory was undoubtedly forged by Guru Gobind Singh. But the steel had been provided by Guru Nanak, who had obtained it by smelting the Hindu ore and burning out the dross of indifference and superstition of the masses, and hypocrisy and pharisaism (rigid observation of external forms of religion) of the priests.”

It is in the saint-soldier context that if we view serenity and warrior aspects in the Sikh psyche, then we can learn Sikhism in a more discerning manner.

Sikh historian and popular columnist late Khushwant Singh wrote in one of his columns:

“Perhaps the most important issue to be considered by scholars of Sikh theology will be to convince people that there is a continuous and unbroken line between the teachings of Guru Nanak and the first five gurus enshrined in the Adi Granth. And the militant tradition began by the sixth Guru and brought to culmination by the 10th and the last Guru Gobind Singh with the establishment of the Khalsa Panth.”

Whereas, the popular belief that Guru Nanak was a pure saint and Guru Gobind Singh more as a combating fighter, the fact is that both were saints, and both were soldiers. It is a matter of ascertaining them in their own different circumstances and respective periods, which had a gap of 200 years.

Guru Nanak’s teachings were based on the belief in one God, concisely and prudently described in the mool-mantra: He who is undefinable, unborn, immortal, omniscient, all-pervading, and the epitome of truth.

Guru Nanak also spoke against the division of mankind in terms of caste and class. He ridiculed meaningless rituals and customs. In seeking equality, he established the sanctity of the Sangat, a religious meet of devotees. And for the same reason, Guru Nanak instituted the tradition of langar, community eating together without distinction of religion, caste, gender, economic status or ethnicity.

An outstanding feature of Guru Nanak’s philosophy is to realize God while fulfilling domestic obligations. He emphasized work as a moral duty.

His message is simple: “kirt karo, vand chhako, naam japo.” Translation: work, share what one earns, and take the name of God.

When Guru Nanak emphasized that God’s realization can be obtained not by running away from worldly and domestic problems, rather by facing and tackling them in righteous and honest ways, then that is the real challenge and real struggle.

In this battle, a soldier is born within.

Guru Nanak certainly sowed the seed to fightback life’s continuous hardships, struggles, injustices, immoral rituals, inequality, and racism. Sikhism upholds the dignity of man and labor.

Guru Nanak believed in practical religion which involves work and spirituality going not at separate times, but together all the time.

Sikhism does not believe in the practice of religion in isolation from the worldly pursuits.

Ninth Guru Teg Bahadur says:

Kahe re ban khojan jayee,

Sarab niwasi sada alaipa

Tahi sang samayie

Pope madh jyo baas bast hai

Mukr main jaisse chayee

Taise hi har basse nirantar

Ghut hi khojo bhai.

(Oh man why go to the forest

In search of god,

A family man is always pure,

And the God dwells in him

Just like fragrance stays in flower,

Reflections appear in the mirror.

Similarly, God prevails in the heart

Of family man.

Therefore, find God within yourself.)

In the confronting history of Sikhism, its followers and subsequent Gurus faced extreme challenges not only to survive but upkeep the spirit and message of their founder, Guru Nanak Dev.

Khushwant Singh writes:

“There can be little doubt that the martyrdom of Guru Arjun in 1606 resulted in a radical change in the community outlook. Though its creed remained wedded to the Adi Granth, it was ready to defend itself by use of arms. Guru Arjun’s son, the sixth Guru, Har Gobind, raised a cavalry of horsemen. He built the Akal Takht facing the Harmandir as the seat of temporal power and came to be designated Miri Piri Da Malik (Lord of temporal and spiritual power). For some years he was imprisoned in Gwalior fort. The final transition came after the execution of the ninth Guru, Tegh Bahadur, in 1675. His son, Guru Gobind, justified the transition in a letter, Zafarnamah, said to have been addressed to Emperor Aurangzeb: When all other means have failed, it is righteous to draw the sword’. Guru Gobind’s concept of God underwent a martial metamorphosis.”

When Guru Gobind Singh came on the horizon which was in the climax of the militant struggles of the preceding Gurus, including the martyrdom of Guru Arjun Dev and execution of Guru Teg Bahadur, it was a noticeable emergence of the saint-soldier ideology in Sikhism.

The 10th Guru Gobind Singh inherited this ideology from Guru Nanak’s emancipation from superstition and hypocrisy. Guru Angad’s campaign against drifting into asceticism and aimlessness in life. Guru Ram Das’ extension of the power and influence of the sect. Guru Arjan’s transformation of the community into a theocratic society by giving it a code, a capital, a treasury, and a chief in the person of the Guru. Guru Har Gobind gave it an organized army, finally the traumatic sacrifice in the execution of Guru Teg Bahadur.

All these phases fall into a continuous line to create the image of saint-soldier Khalsa in Sikhism.

(Promod Puri is a journalist, writer, and author of Hinduism beyond rituals, customs, and traditions. Websites: promodpuri.com, progressivehindudialogue.com,and promodpuri.blogspot.com)

Why India elections are more about Modi than anything else

Britta Ohm, Université de Berne

India votes until May 19, and Western media and opinion seem to be slowly waking up to the dangers faced by what is often hailed as “the world’s largest democracy” to constitutional guarantees.

Like in other cases of today’s right-wing and populist authoritarianisms around the world, these dangers are not completely new, even if they are rising in a particular fashion.

“Good days are coming”

The currently held general elections in India are seen by many as a watershed. Narendra Modi of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has made his way over the past two decades from being the chief minister of the State of Gujarat, where the anti-Muslim pogrom of 2002 happened under his responsibility, to the prime minister’s office in New Delhi.

His first incumbency 2014-19 was won with an absolute majority of seats for the BJP coalition but only 31% of the actual vote (due to India’s first-past-the-post election system) and carried the slogan Achhe din aane waale hain (“Good days are coming”).

From a gigantic political exercise, Indian elections are now a purely managerial exercise (P. Sainath and Teesta Setalvad).

Modi’s supporters and the members of his government are now disputing in all available media whether the “good days” have arrived more for big industrialists rather than for starving farmers, oppressed Dalits and terrorised minorities, as the opposition tries to point out.

But these elections are not really about policy issues. Instead, they have zeroed in on the person and leadership of Narendra Modi, and with him on the legitimacy of Hindutva (Hindu-ness) as India’s new dominant ideology.




Read more:
Politics of Hindu nationalism: India Tomorrow part 2 podcast transcript


Identification with the country

Narendra Modi’s trajectory from “good days for all” into an extremely personalised election campaign has palpable parallels in the path that Indira Gandhi of the Congress Party travelled in the 1970s. Her famous call Garibi Hatao! (“Erase poverty!”) soon became reduced to her very identification with the country in the slogan “India is Indira, Indira is India”.

In both cases, the initial, apparently democratic promise carried within it the future damage to democracy, because its utopianism barely concealed the priority of claiming power.

In Gandhi’s case, democracy was eventually suspended during “the emergency”, the phase of open authoritarianism 1975-77, with which she hoped to consolidate her rule but which propelled her out of power when she finally held elections.

In Modi’s case, one could ask – as critical activists have done – if an “emergency” is yet to come or if it is already taking place in other forms.

Indira Gandhi’s speech during “the emergency” (1975).

Shifting modes of controlling the media

Rather than simply censoring and shutting down media and jailing journalists, as Mrs. Gandhi did, Modi performs a three-dimensional dance with different media, so to speak.

First, he disables uncontrollable questions and unpleasant images of himself by outright refusing to speak to the press or by demanding the questions ahead. Press conferences with the prime minister, once a norm, were terminated immediately when Modi took power in 2014.

A video from The Print.

Second, he maintains a pronounced silence not only on vigilante, social media–circulated violence, particularly against Muslims, but also on organised hate campaigns and physical attacks against journalists. Among many others, the most prominent example was the murder of Gauri Lankesh in Bangalore.

Consequently, Modi’s ever-growing media presence has been shifted into the sphere of mass-event management and image production, supportive TV networks and personalised platform media, including Modi’s own Internet stream and the controversial NaMo TV, which was launched ahead of the current elections, apparently without any licence.

Newslaundry analyses the new channel NaMo TV.

In a dual mode of immediacy – through online addressability and especially though his mediated presence at countless mass rallies all over India – Modi ensures a direct and unfiltered contact with “the people” that has largely replaced representative mechanisms of government.

On the other hand, his main institutional reference is the non-mandated Hindu-nationalist core organisation Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), which shapes and connects countless affiliated outfits – the so-called Sangh Parivar (‘family of organisations’) – across India and also well beyond.

This indicates a dimension of organisation beyond established state structures that Indira Gandhi never quite commanded.

What we mean by democracy

It would thus be misleading, as is common in the media coverage of various right-wing populisms, to merely focus on Modi as a direct threat to democracy. Instead, it has become important to ask what we mean by democracy, not only in post-colonial countries such as India.

It is crucial to remember that since the 1980s, the Hindutva movement rode on a wave of evolving media and technology as much as of democratic criticism against a liberal democracy that acted in the interests of privileged elites (chiefly embodied by the Nehru-Gandhi family).

Hindutva thus appropriated popular urges for the democratisation of an often self-serving and benevolent established democracy. Especially with the neo-liberalisation of the economy came growing demands for wider political participation and access to both material and immaterial resources. It is this “democratisation of democracy” that has turned visibly toxic, along with the masculinity it celebrates, in Modi’s populism.

Other current political strongmen, from Trump to Erdoğan, feature a similar toxicity. It is important to keep in mind, however, that Modi’s variant is ideologically rooted in the history of fascism.

The long road of fascism

Modi himself comes from the fold of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the National Corps of Volunteers. The RSS was founded in 1925, at the same time as fascist organisations in Germany, Italy and Japan.

Modi is a pracharak, an unmarried full-time volunteer of the RSS. While he admitted in 2014 that he was married when he was younger, he appears today as a “bachelor” who remains faithful to his duty, “serving” the country. He swore an oath to the RSS basic ideology of a Hindu rashtra (Land of Hindus), which clearly understands “Hindu” in terms of race, blood and soil.

After BJP’s former leader A.B. Vajpayee (1998-2004), Modi was the second pracharak to become India’s prime minister, but the first with such a nominal majority of votes and such a devoted and active following.

Different from their European and Japanese equivalents, the RSS and the Sangh Parivar have now spent, largely without interruption, almost a century violently working themselves through India’s diversity and democratic structures.

A wide network of influence

On the way, they could built operative networks in both state and private institutions, ranging from the police and army to the judiciary, academia and media. Moreover, they have established their own organisations for many societal groups, including students, women, workers, peasants, Adivasis (India’s indigenous populations) and even Muslims. In addition to setting up professional, welfare and religious associations, they also run the largest private education networks in India.

‘The RSS in India’, Times of India.

Not least, they have consistently recruited large numbers especially of young unemployed or underemployed men for the “defence of Hinduism” in paramilitary groups such as the Bajrang Dal (Hanuman’s Force). They are notorious for their organised violence against minorities and dissenters. Over the past few years they have also been trained in the use of firearms.

Pracharak Modi and his professionally agitated supporters are not likely to take losses in these elections lightly. That possibility implies a threat of further violence which might already have motivated a fair number of votes in Modi’s favour. The failure of building a powerful opposing coalition, on the other hand, and the grandchildren of Indira Gandhi yet again being put up as the main alternative, have made the space for voters between a rock and a hard place narrower than ever before.The Conversation

Britta Ohm, Associate Researcher, Institute of Social Anthropology, Université de Berne

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

CONCEPTION OF GOD IN HINDUISM

via CONCEPTION OF GOD IN HINDUISM

Peepaewale Biscuits

Every time I notice these in the Indian grocery stores, even at the Walmart, my recurring memories fly me back to those teenage days in India.

We did not call them as “Peepaewale” biscuits. These were just plain cookies custom-made from a local bakery shop.

Also referred to as Punjabi biscuits, these non-smooth and little grooved on the top is triple the size of 22-karat gold biscuits.

Since they were contained in a ‘pipa,’ that is the reason they are called ‘Peepaewale’ biscuits here in Canada. Perhaps, it is a marketing approach by the manufacturers to draw the nostalgic feel and taste of the sweet goodies.

I remember enjoying the crispy delicacies with the spread of home-made butter on top and a glass of lassi as our breakfast during summer days before heading off to school.

The most blissful part of those childhood memories was when my mother assigned me the job of getting them made from our neighborhood friendly baker.

The ingredients were few. Whole wheat flour, ghee, sugar, and one or two more items, which I don’t recollect. And there was an empty ‘pipa,’ a rectangular tin container with lid and provision of locking it, to pack the baked product.

My reward for the volunteering service was that I could eat as many biscuits as I could in the 10-minute walk back home. But once at home, the pipa was locked, and the key-control was with my mother.

However, a few times, I managed to slide my slim and tender hands into the locked pipa and grab some cookies. My mother knew about it but pretended she did not. And I kept enjoying my “peepaewale” biscuits, now a part of sweet memories.

By Promod Puri