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Why brand Modi is bad news for India, the nation?

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Not long ago, Narendra Damodardas Modi, the Prime Minister led BJP to a historic win in the Parliamentary elections of 2014. Despite the waning popularity of BJP’s supreme leader, the Hindu right wing majoritarian agenda has invariably come to the fore in popular discourse. Only last year we saw that idea being consolidated by the saffron party with its aggressive propagation.

The public debate on beef and the ban on the meat were tantamount to how the Hindu way of life was being promote by the ruling establishment at the cost of pluralism. The romote of yoga on a national and international level was another example of how the Modi regime favored one side of India’s syncretic and cosmopolitan heritage over others.

The BJP government under Mr Vajpayee which ruled the country between 1998 and 2004 also tried to propagate the Hindu nationalist agenda, but then they did it so cautiously. This changed since Modi came to power as an aggressive push to this Hindutva agenda was made. The rewriting of history textbooks also demonstrated how fiercely the BJP govt was moving towards its cultural agenda.

The govt made a concerted effort to alter the history text books in order to become the sole spokesperson for Hindus and promote a skewed majoritarian history and in process also discarding the long legacy of Islamic influence and presence in country.

The BJP leaders failed to condemn the killing of rationalists like Govind Pansare, MM Kalburgi and Narendra Dhabolkar and it never condemned the lynching of Mohammad Akhlaq in Dadri who was suspected of keeping beef at his house. Last year, it also failed to respond when prominent writers, artistes and historians returned their national awards in protest over the increasing intolerance in the country.

Amir Khan, the Bollywood superstar had to face the ire of Modi bhakts when during an award function in the national capital he said that he was alarmed by a number of incidents and his wife Kiran Rao even suggested that they should probably leave the country. This clearly demonstrated that Modi’s sole interest lies in advancing his own distorted image of India as the predominant narrative at the expense of one which respects the age-old multiculturalism and promotes secularism. Mr Modi meanwhile keeps on talking about development and economic well-being of the country but the party which he heads talks in disparate voices and indulges into sectarian politics. The central leadership was silent on most of contentious issues which also became a standard political strategy.

Renowned historian and biographer Ramchandra Guha said that Indian pluralism is facing one of its greatest threats from religious chauvinists who were bent upon to undermine it. While speaking on the launch of his book, Guha said India’s adoption of entirely different model of nationalism saved it from its imminent disintegration as had been predicted by many eminent intellectuals.

Guha said a true nationalist must possess a sense of shame for the crimes committed by his govt and should also accept the fact that his country is not perfect rather than worshipping a symbol and remaining committed only to hoisting of flags. Indian nationalism is not adversarial like our neighbor Pakistan but unfortunately BJP’s nationalism is the mirror image of Pakistani nationalism. An Indian nationalist will be someone who cherishes the value of the Indian constitution and should also be the critique of the failures of his govt.

The development and Gujarat model employed as election mascots were only meant to conceal the ground reality of the campaign which primarily focused on the communal polarization. It was, therefore, natural that the landslide BJP’s victory would lead to the aggressive pursuit of the RSS pet project of converting the secular democratic Indian republic into their own version of a rabidly intolerant Hindu Rashtra. The RSS, which always stood against the very idea of India as a pluralistic society of rich diversity, is seeking to nullify the vibrancy of the mosaic that distinguishes our country.

Within a few weeks of the new Modi govt coming to power, those who argued during the election campaign that BJP is downplaying its communal agenda, were feeling deceived and, thus, silenced. The thrust of BJP’s Hindutva agenda was the abrogation of article 370,Union Civil Code, building of Ram temple at Ayodhya have all been articulated by various cabinet rank ministers and RSS leaders.

A minister from Goa also said that with the BJP’s victory, the process of establishing a Hindu Rashtra has begun. At the ground level, this was clearly reflected in the sharpening of communal tensions across the country which lead to brutal riots in some places taking the life of innocent citizens. Only time will tell as how far divisionary politics of Modi will pan out in long run but the year ahead will see a bitter struggle for the soul of India.

Chandrakent

Chanderkent

DISCLAIMER: Views expressed above are the author’s own.

 

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Meaning of latest turn in Kashmir lies outside the state

This is where the new turn in Kashmir comes in. Polarization on a massive scale is the electoral requirement now that 2019 looms. This polarization would have been implausible with the BJP in chummy proximity to the PDP’s Mehbooba Mufti in Kashmir.

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Modi Amit Shah

Two policemen leading the mob which ultimately lynched a Muslim in Hapur is, of course, part of familiar communalism which has to be revved upon to a higher pitch in order to prepare the ground for the General Elections in 2019. The animal to be protected is not the cow, but power.

For this ultimate goal, incidents like the one in Hapur and the more ghoulish ones before it, hundreds of them, are all essential to maintain conditions of edgy, combustible intolerance. Nothing else seems to be working. Why not continue playing the game one knows best?

An accumulation of such incidents, even their simultaneous eruption on a large scale, amplified by the media, can whip up majoritarianism wherever Muslims are visible and where the majoritarian current has not been weakened by caste polarization. This applies much more to what the British called the “cow belt” but which is more accurately described as the “Hindi belt” – UP, Bihar, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh plus Maharashtra and Gujarat.

The 2019 Kurukshetra has to be organized, mobilized, galvanized, whipped up (with the media in tow) only by anchoring communalism to a higher purpose. In other words, “nationalism” has to be invoked. Cow and Love Jihad cannot be given the elevation of nationalism. Mere communalism results in finger pointing at the state apparatus; nationalism justifies the deployment of this apparatus. Whether this deployment is for a national or the nationalist’s cause is open to question.

Cow and Love Jihad cannot be posited as harbingers of national danger. They are not issues endangering national security.

This is where the new turn in Kashmir comes in. Polarization on a massive scale is the electoral requirement now that 2019 looms. This polarization would have been implausible with the BJP in chummy proximity to the PDP’s Mehbooba Mufti in Kashmir.

By sliding away from Mehbooba in the state Assembly, the BJP has turned its back on the Muslims of the Valley, of course. It has also, in effect, freed millions of Hindutva cadres across Bharat Varsha to blow conch shells heralding the great 2019 epic.

The tearing hurry in which the Partition of India was affected may have been one reason why our founding fathers were unable to visualize what we face today. Progressive intellectuals may dismiss “The Guilty Men of India’s Partition” by Ram Manohar Lohia and “The Tragic Story of India’s Partition” by the late H.V. Sheshadri, General Secretary of the RSS until 2000. But would they dismiss with equal contempt Maulana Abul Kalam Azad’s “India Wins Freedom”, particularly the crucial 30 pages which were kept in the custody of the National Archives until 1988? The Maulana is worthy of being read again today.

By the act of Partition and the sleight of hand in Kashmir, India trapped itself into a triangle. This truth has to be continuously repeated because the Indian mind is in the drill to chant a mantra faster than it is to understand a shloka. The three sides of this triangle are actually three axes which are New Delhi-Kashmir; India-Pakistan; Hindu-Muslim. These three axes are, in effect, one comprehensive complex of issues. As in a geometrical theorem, the triangle has to be addressed as a whole. It cannot be sorted out axis by axis, one side after another.

If Ram Madhav, the BJP’s point man for Kashmir, marches off to Srinagar with a carte blanche from the High Command to solve the problem at any cost, there is nothing he can achieve without bringing Pakistan into the bargain. Activation of these two axes will have an impact on the third, Hindu-Muslim axis. This would entail the communal temperature coming down considerably. Will that serve the electoral aims of the party in power in New Delhi?

Of course, it will not, and here, to complicate matters, another triangle comes into play. Since the 80s and 90s the primary triangle has become entangled with a very durable caste triangle. The caste pyramid or triangle instead of being left to social forces, time and attrition to equalize at its own pace was aggravated by the sudden eruption of caste politics in North India in the wake of the Mandal Commission. Communal politics is the upper caste strategy to manage the caste upheaval from below. The upper caste or the ruling class formations project Muslims and other minorities as the “other” to keep the Hindu flock together, the Pyramid in some state of repair. The lower castes, likewise, would like to co opt the Muslim as an enabler in their bid for power and equality.

The Hindu ruling class in its Hindutva Avatar is averse to vertical or horizontal fragmentation. A federal India, corresponding to its regional diversity is anathema to the votaries of Hindu Rashtra. The preservation of this unitary Bharat is an article of faith with those controlling the Delhi Durbar. To mobilize masses towards this end requires a constant harping on an external enemy in cahoots with the enemy within.

The enemy within can be manipulated along the two internal axes of the triangle: New Delhi-Kashmir and Hindu-Muslim. The India-Pakistan axis, essential to complete the triangle cannot be played according to New Delhi’s will alone. External stakeholders include China, Russia, Central Asia and the US. As Charlie Chaplin, having fallen into a drum, his feet and neck protruding in an awkward loop, takes his hat off in an attempted bow, and announces: “Ladies and gentlemen, we are stuck!”

(A senior commentator on political and diplomatic affairs, Saeed Naqvi can be reached on [email protected] The views expressed are personal.)

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Bank with Amit Shah as a director collected highest amount of banned notes among DCCBs: RTI reply

The Ahmedabad District Cooperative Bank (ADCB) secured deposits of Rs 745.59 crore of the spiked notes — in just five days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi made the demonetisation announcement. All the district cooperative banks were banned from accepting deposits of the banned currency notes from the public after November 14, 2016, — five days after demonetisation — on fears that black money would be laundered through this route.

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Mumbai, June 21 (IANS) A district cooperative bank, which has Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) President Amit Shah as a director, netted the highest deposits among such banks of old Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes that were abruptly demonetised on November 8, 2016, according to RTI replies received by a Mumbai activist.

The Ahmedabad District Cooperative Bank (ADCB) secured deposits of Rs 745.59 crore of the spiked notes — in just five days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi made the demonetisation announcement. All the district cooperative banks were banned from accepting deposits of the banned currency notes from the public after November 14, 2016, — five days after demonetisation — on fears that black money would be laundered through this route.

According to the bank’s website, Shah continues to be a director with the bank and has been in that position for several years. He was also the bank’s chairman in 2000. ADCB’s total deposits on March 31, 2017, were Rs 5,050 crore and its net profit for 2016-17 was Rs 14.31 crore.

Right behind ADCB, is the Rajkot District Cooperative Bank, whose chairman Jayeshbhai Vitthalbhai Radadiya is a cabinet minister in Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani’s government. It got deposits of old currencies worth Rs 693.19 crore.

Interestingly, Rajkot is the hub of Gujarat BJP politics — Prime Minister Modi was first elected from there as a legislator in 2001.

Incidentally, the figures of Ahmedabad-Rajkot DCCBs are much higher than the apex Gujarat State Cooperative Bank Ltd, which got deposits of a mere Rs 1.11 crore.

“The amount of deposits made in the State Cooperative Banks (SCBs) and District Central Cooperative Banks (DCCBs) — revealed under RTI for first time since demonetisation — are astounding,” Manoranjan S. Roy, the RTI activist who made the effort to get the information, told IANS.

The RTI information was given by the Chief General Manager and Appellate Authority, S. Saravanavel, of the National Bank for Agriculture & Rural Development (NABARD).

It has also come to light, through the RTI queries, that only seven public sector banks (PSBs), 32 SCBs, 370 DCCBs, and a little over three-dozen post offices across India collected Rs 7.91 lakh crore — more than half (52 per cent) of the total amount of old currencies of Rs 15.28 lakh crore deposited with the RBI.

The break-up of Rs 7.91 lakh crore mentioned in the RTI replies shows that the value of spiked notes deposited with the RBI by the seven PSBs was Rs 7.57 lakh crore, the 32 SCBs gave in Rs 6,407 crore and the 370 DCCBs brought in Rs 22,271 crore. Old notes deposited by 39 post offices were worth Rs 4,408 crore.

Information from all the SCBs and DCCBs across India were received through the replies. The seven PSBs account for around 29,000 branches — out of the over 92,500 branches of the 21 PSBs in India — according to data published by the RBI. The 14 other PSBs declined to gave information on one ground or the other. There are around 155,000 post offices in the country.

Fifteen months after demonetisation, the government had announced that Rs 15.28 Lakh crore — or 99 per cent of the cancelled notes worth Rs 15.44 lakh crore — were returned to the RBI treasury.

Roy said it was a serious matter if only a few banks and their branches and a handful post offices, apart from SCBs and DCCBs, accounted for over half the old currency notes.

“At this rate, serious questions arise about the actual collection of spiked notes through the remaining 14 mega-PSBs, besides rural-urban banks, private banks (like ICICI, HDFC and others), local cooperatives, Jankalyan Banks and credit cooperatives and other entities with banking licenses, the figures of which are not made available under RTI,” he said.

The SCBs were allowed to exchange or take deposits of banned notes till December 30, 2016 — for a little over seven weeks, in contrast to district cooperative banks which were allowed only five days of transactions.

The prime minister during his demonetisation speech had said that Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes could be deposited in bank or post office accounts from November 10 till close of banking hours on December 30, 2016, without any limit. “Thus you will have 50 days to deposit your notes and there is no need for panic,” he had said.

After an uproar, mostly from BJP allies, the government also opened a small window in mid-2017, during the presidential elections, allowing the 32 SCBs and 370 DCCBs — largely owned, managed or controlled by politicians of various parties — to deposit their stocks of the spiked notes with the RBI. The move was strongly criticised by the Congress and other major Opposition parties.

Among the SCBs, the Maharashtra State Cooperative Bank topped the list of depositors with Rs 1,128 crore from 55 branches and the smallest share of Rs 5.94 crore came from just five branches of Jharkhand State Cooperative Bank, according to the replies.

Surprisingly, the Andaman & Nicobar State Cooperative Bank’s share (from 29 branches) was Rs 85.76 crore.

While Maharashtra has a population of 12 crore, Jharkhand’s population is 3.6 crore. Andaman & Nicobar Islands have less than four lakh residents.

The poorest of all the cooperative banks in the country is Banki Central Cooperative Bank Ltd in Odisha, which admitted to receiving zero deposits of the spiked currency.

Of the total 21 PSBs, State Bank of India, Bank of Baroda, Bank of Maharashtra, Central Bank of India, Dena Bank, Indian Overseas Bank, Punjab & Sindh Bank, Vijaya Bank, Andhra Bank, Syndicate Bank, UCO Bank, United Bank of India, Oriental Bank of Commerce, and IDBI Bank (14 banks) — with over 63,500 branches amongst them — did not give any information on deposits.

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Analysis

Can yoga make the cut for Olympics?

It’s only natural that the voices for and against will get louder and more competitive. Being the unofficial benefactor of yoga, India is expected to take an unequivocal call.

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On a day when yoga is having to jostle for mind space with a hugely popular sporting event like the FIFA World Cup, many fans of the ancient regimen are seriously dreaming up for a world cup of their own. Are they getting too carried away by the euphoria around of the 4th International Day of Yoga? Or is it a case of trusting yoga’s extreme versatility to adapt itself to the demands of the time?

Will there ever be a time when a Yoga World Cup driving up a mania like the FIFA World Cup does? As yoga gets mainstreamed big time in the last four years, a debate on whether it can become a competitive sport has actually begun. The jury is still out with both sides of the divide putting out equally tenable and credible arguments.

It’s only natural that the voices for and against will get louder and more competitive. Being the unofficial benefactor of yoga, India is expected to take an unequivocal call.

Unfortunately, we have seen quite a flip-flop on this. After deciding to treat yoga as a sport in 2015, the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports (MYAS) reversed the decision in the following year.

Giving in to the Puritans who frowned at any dilution of its spiritual core, it concluded yoga has quite a many subtle elements in which competitions are not possible. Many watchers see a not-so-yogic hand in this change of heart. Some of them ascribe to it a compromised arraignment to end a tug of war between MYAS and the Ministry of AYUSH over the control of yoga.

Surely, yoga isn’t just about asanas or body postures. According to the eight-limb (Ashtanga) paradigm of yoga, the other dimensions include such subtle things as adherence to social and personal ethics, control of breathing and senses and one-pointedness and meditation. It will be next to impossible to draw up a championship format for these realms of activities. Yet, sport-yoga is not a dead dream.

While it wouldn’t be possible to adapt the whole philosophy of yoga into competitive sports, we shouldn’t underestimate yoga’s flexibility to adapt itself. From being an ancient spiritual pursuit for those seeking enlightenment and becoming a hippies’ fad, yoga has shown remarkable flexibility to become the most-chanted lifestyle mantra of today.

The point is that some kind of competitive sports based on one or more limbs of yoga is a distinct possibility. Though it may not live up to the loftier promises, yoga-based games and sports will do no harm. Instead, they will do a lot of good to the cause of yoga promotion. Yoga as a sport will comfort quite a many who see a baggage of faith and welcome the greatest number of people.

Though some fear a dilution, not all yoga protagonists are against such an innovation. Big names have openly spoken about taking yoga to the Olympics. Going by the rising global craze for yoga, mats are going to roll sooner in the sporting arena. The real challenge will be in drawing up a competitive format that not only conforms to the definition of modern sports, but also doesn’t dilute the core. I don’t see any difficulties in making yoga “amusing”, “leisurely”, or “entertaining”. When martial arts and gymnastics can qualify and even make it to Olympics, asanas, the most primed candidate for being turned into competitive sports, can definitely make the cut!

Traditional yogis who swear by the spiritual and philosophical lineage of yoga need not worry. The tradition is on their side. The eight limbs of yoga are so interconnected that even if one does asanas, and that too as an exercise or a game, the practitioner is most likely to experience other dimensions like meditation, one-pointedness and bliss.

Even asanas, the most gross form of yoga, hold out endless promises. Maharishi’s Patanjali Yoga Sutra envisions asanas as a means of attaining what’s beyond the obvious. That means that adapting them into competitive sports isn’t likely to rob them of the power to unveil the Infinity.

Is it time then to tick a Perfect 10 on that gravity-defying Sirsasana?

(A former journalist, M. Rajaque Rahman is a full-time volunteer of the Art of Living. He can be reached at [email protected])

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