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Analysis

Renaming spree: Erasing Muslim heritage

Encouraged by Adityanath, Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani has suggested the name of Karnavati for Ahmedabad. Not to be left behind, the BJP’s ally, the Shiv Sena, has sought a time-frame for renaming Aurangabad and Osmanabad.

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Yogi Adityanth

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has lived up to his reputation as a Hindutva hawk. There has been no mellowing of his attitude as is common in the cases of other hardliners ascending to the seat of power. Instead, he has taken the opportunity of the authority provided by political power to tell the province and the country that Hindu symbols and signs are of overriding importance.

Hence, the concept of a huge statue of Lord Ram on the banks of the Saryu, whole-hearted support to the Ram temple movement and the erasure of Muslim names of towns.

Starting with the renaming the Mughal Sarai railway junction, familiar to countless travellers, after a person who is little known outside the Hindutva camp — Deen Dayal Upadhyay — the Adityanath government has been energetically engaged in changing the names of other places as well.

These include Allahabad, which has become Prayagraj, Faizabad, now Ayodhya, and Muzaffarnagar, which may soon be called Laxmi Nagar if the government accepts the suggestion to this effect by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MLA Sangeet Som, who had called the Taj Mahal a “blot” on Indian culture.

Encouraged by Adityanath, Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani has suggested the name of Karnavati for Ahmedabad. Not to be left behind, the BJP’s ally, the Shiv Sena, has sought a time-frame for renaming Aurangabad and Osmanabad.

Hyderabad, too, is under the Hindutva scanner, for the BJP has said that if it won the assembly elections in Telangana, it will name the city as Bhagyanagar.

Although cities have been renamed in the past — Chennai for Madras, Mumbai for Bombay, Kolkata for Calcutta — the idea was generally to revive an old name such as the association of Madras/Chennai with a 16th century ruler, Chennappa Naicker.

Or to pay homage to a local deity, Mumbadevi, as in the case of Bombay. Or to bring a name phonetically close to the way it is locally pronounced like Kolkata.

But rarely has been a city renamed with the sole purpose of highlighting a Hindu name and snubbing Muslims.

True, the names of roads and localities (such as Clive Street or Connaught Place) associated with the British rulers were changed. But these steps were taken to do away with a colonial connection although the names of “friendly” foreigners were retained, as in the case of the Corbett National Park.

But the saffron brotherhood’s present drive is motivated solely by a desire to erase all signs of Muslim heritage, presumably because of the belief that the community does not — or at least should not — have any place in the country.

Hence, BJP MP Vinay Katiyar’s advice to Muslims living in India to go to Pakistan or Bangladesh.

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the BJP apparently hold the view that the Mughals and the Muslim rulers before them as well as their co-religionists today are basically aliens although the Mughals and the others made India their home unlike the British.

Although the RSS chief, Mohan Bhagwat, argued at a three-day conclave in Delhi that Hindutva is incomplete without Muslims — thereby acknowledging the country’s multi-religious identity, which is the secular camp’s view — Adityanath’s acts show that the case for accommodation is not accepted by the Hindutva hawks.

To them, the replacement of the signs of Muslim presence in the country is an expression of Hindu pride just as the demolition of the Babri masjid in 1992 and the Gujarat riots of 2002 were cited as instances of Hindu “awakening”.

Obviously, multicultural tenets are anathema to the Hindutva brigade as they militate against the “one nation, one people, one culture” ideals of a Hindu rashtra, where the minorities will be second class citizens.

The Hindus-only tunnel-vision of the hardliners ignores the fact that India is the birthplace of four religions — Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism and Jainism — and the home of the followers of three other faiths — Islam, Christianity and Zoroastrianism, not to mention the animism of the tribals.

Even if the urgency of the present erasing of Muslim signs in the twilight years of Narendra Modi’s government is due to the apprehension in ruling circles that the inadequacies of the government have left it with no option but to play the Hindu card with greater fervour, it is clear that the tactic has only brought to the fore the long-standing anti-minority outlook of the Sangh Parivar.

It is also self-evident that the occasional homilies of the RSS bigwigs in favour of accommodating Muslims and the lectures favouring pluralism given by prominent guest speakers before RSS cadres have little practical effect.

In contrast, the humiliating wiping out of little bits of India’s past with their Muslim associations can only widen the gulf between the Hindus and the country’s largest minority community even if the latter understands the crass political intent of the provocative acts, which have the support of only the BJP and other saffron outfits, and not of the Hindus in general.

As for the political saffronites, it has been a step by step process from the rewriting of history when Murli Manohar Joshi was the human resource development minister in order to present the Middle Ages as a time of constant conflict between Hindus and the “invaders”, to the latest attempt to obliterate the concept of a composite culture or the Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb (culture), as it is known in Uttar Pradesh.

(Amulya Ganguli is a political analyst. The views expressed are personal. He can be reached at [email protected])

Analysis

All options under study: Imran’s advisor on India’s MFN move

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Protest against CRPF Attack

Islamabad, Feb 16 (IANS) Pakistan will consider all available options to retaliate for the Indian governments decision to withdraw the Most Favo­ured Nation (MFN) status, Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Advisor on Commerce Razak Dawood has said.

India withdrew the MFN status it gave to Pakistan in 1996 following the February 14 terror attack in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama district that has till now claimed the lives of 49 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) troopers.

Dawood said on Friday that Pakistan might take unilateral measures against India or revoke concessions under the South Asia Preferential Trade Agreement (Sapta) and might take up the issue in the Geneva-based World Trade Organisation, Dawn online reported on Saturday.

“We would not overreact… We would take action with great care,” he added while addressing the media at the office of board of investment on Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman’s visit.

A Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terrorist crashed a car bomb into a CRPF convoy in Pulwama district on the Srinagar-Jammu Highway on Thursday, making it the worst ever attack on security forces on any single day since a separatist campaign broke out in Jammu and Kashmir in 1989. It drew international condemnation.

The attack further damaged the already tense India-Pakistan diplomatic relations, with New Delhi saying it had evidence of Islamabad’s involvement in the carnage. Pakistan, however, dismissed accusations that it had links with the militants behind the attack.

Pakistan Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua met the envoys of the five Permanent Members of the UN Security Council – US, Russia, China, France and UK – on Friday and denied her country’s role in the dastardly strike.

India, however, rejected Janjua’s claims and said the “links are clear and evident and for all to see”, noting that JeM was based in Pakistan.

A spokesperson of the External Affairs Ministry termed as “preposterous” demands for an investigation saying there was a video of the suicide bomber declaring himself a member of the JeM.

India also demanded that Pakistan take immediate and verifiable action against terrorists and terror groups operating from territories under its control.

Meanwhile, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, who is currently in Munich, slammed India, saying that New Delhi should have acted more responsibly and engaged themselves with Pakistan by sharing evidence.

“Accusing Pakistan is very easy, you pass the buck,” he said.

“Pakistan has been very clear, our viewpoint is clear, and, specifically, the stance of this government has been plain and simple: we desire peace,” Qureshi said.

“We desire good relations with our neighbours, we neither wish to opt for the path of violence nor has this ever been part of our intentions,” he added.

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Analysis

Deep State-II: The European angle to Rafale

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Rafale deal scam

New Delhi, Feb 15 (IANS) It is no surprise that Europe becomes a fiery battleground every time a big aerospace deal is floated — as happened when the Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) competition was announced by the Indian Air Force in 2007. The French company Dassault Aviation is to deliver 36 fully-loaded Rafale fighters to India. However, Airbus Industrie, which manufactures the Eurofighter, has pitched itself in the game and wants to have a share of the pie through the ‘Make in India’ programme.

Meanwhile, Sweden’s Saab, which manufactures the Gripen and had been an initial favourite before being edged out by the French companies, believes it can still stay in the hunt if it finds an entry through the ‘Make in India’ programme. And then there are the Russians. It is a high-stakes game that is also complicated.

For some, there is also an interest in keeping things complicated. Mahmut Turker, a Turkish-origin former German politician and a member of Germany’s Freedom Democratic Party, has met Congress President Rahul Gandhi and other critics of the Narendra Modi government in New Delhi to make out a case for Airbus — he is now its sales director, Combat Aircraft Campaigns.

Turker provided the raw material to prepare Rahul Gandhi for the charge against the Modi government. He first met the Congress President in Hamburg in September last year. Then, in tandem with controversial arms dealer Sanjay Bhandari, he helped to prepare the strategy for the attack on the government for the Rafale purchases. Congress leaders evidently believe they are onto something, which is why they have gone beyond characteristic political bluster to directly target the Prime Minister.

Later, when Turker met Arun Shourie, Yashwant Sinha, lawyer Prashant Bhushan — who are behind the PIL in the Rafale case — and Congressman Ranjeet Surjewala, he brought his savvy political skills along to drive holes into the Rafale deal and suggest that it be scrapped. He is believed to have supplied them with dossiers on Rafale to burnish his argument.

There is a back story to this. During the MMRCA negotiations, Airbus/BAE which makes the Eurofighter had lost out to Rafale. The government has said that the earlier deal with Rafale during UPA rule was based on L1 or lowest bidder criterion and the new one for 36 fully-loaded fighters has different specs and there can be no equivalence between them. However, it considers itself to be still in the race for a fighter jet contract, which is why, apart from trying to getting Turker to use the more circuitous route to scupper the deal by providing cue notes to well-placed dissidents, Airbus/BAE sent proposals to the government highlighting why the Rafale deal is bad.

Meanwhile, Turker decided to cast the net wider. He met retired Indian Air Force officials, people with credibility in the system who could help his company, or failing that at least beat down Dassault’s case. He is also believed to have met IAS officer Rajeev Verma, who wrote a dissenting note on the Rafale deal as a member of the contract negotiation committee. There is no evidence that the note helped Airbus/BAE but it certainly did not help Verma. His career took a tumble thereafter.

Could the Congress party be pinning its entire strategy on the basis of inputs from a recently-met aerospace company official and a controversial arms dealer? The game gets bigger, more complicated, as it progresses. Indeed, it mirrors Indian politics where there are no permanent enemies. Enter, the son-in-law of a Modi acolyte who is with BAE.

Using old connections with the Gandhis, this man with deep links in the government has reportedly been able to provide a gist of what the naysayers in officialdom have to say of the Rafale purchase. That has added to the Congress party’s ammo against the government.

Then, the head of a private bank, who is also a key figure in BAE, is working in tandem with a prominent Congress politician in Mumbai. This too is about providing documents and information on the fighter jet deal. For the record, the Congress politician who is known to accompany the Congress President on foreign trips, had earlier been a key figure in an all-party young MPs forum that would meet regularly to identify issues on which they could work together beyond partisan divisions.

The Congress is playing the perception game and believes that the pushback on corruption is happening and the wheels of fortune have altered since 2014.

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Analysis

IED blasts signal new terror strategy in Kashmir

Terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammad claimed responsibility for the attack, said to be the deadliest in the last two decades. It is being termed as second only to the car bombing in 2001 which killed 38 persons. The Scorpio being driven by local Kashmiri Adil Ahmed from Kakpora in Pulwama was said to be carrying 350 kg of explosives.

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suicide attack in Kashmir

New Delhi, Feb 14 (IANS) The ghastly attack on a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) convoy in Jammu and Kashmir on Thursday killing 43 personnel indicates a significant tactical shift in the strategy of terrorists as security agencies fear that the vehicle-ramming assaults, last seen in 2001 Jammu and Kashmir Assembly car bombing, could become a new norm.

The agencies were already devising plans to deal with rising incidents of Improvised Explosive Device (IED) blasts which had returned to the state recently after a gap.

Terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammad claimed responsibility for the attack, said to be the deadliest in the last two decades. It is being termed as second only to the car bombing in 2001 which killed 38 persons. The Scorpio being driven by local Kashmiri Adil Ahmed from Kakpora in Pulwama was said to be carrying 350 kg of explosives.

Two Army personnel, including a Major, were killed in what was described as the deadliest IED attack in the Nowshera sector along the Line of Control (LoC) on January 11.

The return of IED blasts in Jammu and Kashmir after a gap of three years was first noticed in Sopore in Baramulla district last January when four policemen were killed in the attack. The incident had forced the Jammu and Kashmir police to work out a strategy to deal with IED blasts.

The CRPF has been battling such attacks in Chhattisgarh where Naxals have mastered the craft of using IEDs to an effect. The terror groups in the North-East have also used IEDs to attack security forces.

The tactics in Jammu and Kashmir, however, was different as the terrorists, generally small in numbers, would break into a military installation inflicting heavy casualties in the initial breakthrough and engaging the forces as long as possible.

The officials said the use of IEDs also indicates that there is desperation among terrorist groups after security forces have been able to eliminate top terrorists in a massive crackdown. The security forces killed 223 terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir in 2018, the highest in eight years.

The boots-on-the-ground strategy has forced the terror groups to change tactics as India has blunted Pakistan’s move to engage directly with separatists. Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi spoke to Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Syed Ali Shah Geelanit forcing India to warn of consequences.

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