One of the significant attributes of the computer mediated communication is the way in which it has altered our traditional ways of negotiating with the world. Many scholars of hyppereality associate this computer generated universe with the declining ability of the human perception to distinguish between real and the simulation of the real. It is under the premises of such context that we are at present witnessing a ‘virtual war’ in India fought on the terrain of cyberspace. This war is the manifestation of clash between multitudes of ideologies constituting the character of public opinion in hyper diverse Indian society. The access of media literate Indians to social media platforms, video sharing sites, and online news has provided a foundation for the formation of new virtual communities. Through internet these virtual communities unite with their ideological comrades and pontificate certain version of beliefs. These beliefs however often contradict and clash with the inimical beliefs of virtual other and create a content dominated by hatred, abuse, bullying, incitement, chauvinism and other forms of virtual violence. What is strikingly important on these virtual battlefields is the way in which the construction of facts becomes the function of the will or the entitlements of the participants. The recent clampdown on the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) students by the incumbent Hindu nationalist government in India led by Narendra Modi raises essential questions concerning this newly developed hypermediatic manifestation of societal, political and cultural affairs. With the ongoing countrywide politically charged ambiance created in India after JNU sedition controversy, we see the emergence of a pattern bearing striking resonance with concepts used by scholars, writers in their explanations of the societies and polities in the post truth and hypermediatic era.

In the dominant imagery Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) symbolizes a bastion of left-wing political spectrum. The vibrant culture of student politics can be termed as one of the indispensable facet of JNU. With students from assorted backgrounds of India and outside, JNU continues to hold the reputation for providing a congenial setting for mushrooming of multitude of ideologies. The ubiquitous graffiti and posters on the walls of the buildings inside the campus communicate volumes about the world around us. While India as a society largely continues to adhere to its traditional customs and moral values, certain aspects of left-wing brand of politics of JNU attempts to challenge such norms. This conflicting character of left wing JNU politics and the society that inhabits it sometimes create an atmosphere of fissure. However despite its dominating left character, JNU has also in the past invited war mongers, hate preachers, Islamophobes like Daniel Pipes, Tarek Fatah to speak on global politics and so called Muslim rage. Many Hindu festivals like Holi, Diwali are celebrated fervently with the institutional approval. It is the existence of this contradictory nature of norms and ideologies that makes the essence of JNU multivocal. In the backdrop of multivocality, it is largely the accommodation of dissent that gives university its distinctive character.

In no time after the event organized in JNU on 9th February, the electronic media in India seized upon the incident and framed the event as an attack on the mother India.  Since the formation of the government by the BJP, nationalism in India has come to mean consenting to the ideology of Hindu nationalism. Any opposition to the ideology of Hindu nationalism also known as Hindutva has been bracketed as treason or anti-national or Pakistani. Since the allegations involved sympathies shown for Kashmir and Pakistan in the heart of India, few nationalistic private media news channel anchors left no stone unturned to showcase their jingoism and apathy for student politics in JNU.

Zee News, an Indian News channel, was one of first to report the incident. The chairman and the channel head of Zee News are known for their support for Hindu nationalist politics in India. To showcase its support for the BJP government, the channel supported the claims of the ABVP in JNU. The channel without any delay played the video clips as a proof to indicate the raising of anti-national slogans in the JNU campus. One of the clips also showed the president of student union addressing the gathering of students and chanting of anti-national slogans.  The video clips shown on TV straight away caused frenzy on the cyberspace. The video clip began to be circulated across the digital sphere in India. Zee TV and other new channel named Times Now (referred by some as Fox News on steroids for its sensational journalism) immediately summoned the main organizers of the event and the president of JNUSU on their channels for the clarification.  During the live debate the news-anchors of Zee TV and Times Now openly branded the invited student guests on their respective news programmes as treacherous and anti-national. The moral diatribe of news-anchors against these students fuelled national outrage against JNU. The anger orchestrated by student bashing news-anchors began to be articulated on social media with hashtags such #ShutdownJNU, #JNUantinational. The stance on the JNU students by the popular and controversial news-anchor of Times Now named Arnab Goswami was seen as an act of courageous journalism by the majority. The name of news-anchor Arnab Goswami as a symbol of true nationalist trended on twitter for days.

The ruling government instantaneously seized upon the political atmosphere in the country and condemned the slogans in the JNU. To maneuver anger and discredit JNU for political benefits the Home Minster of the country by citing later to be found fake tweet claimed said that JNU students received support from Hafiz Saeed, of Lashkar e Taiba from Pakistan. Without allowing the JNU administration to settle the affairs, the government ordered the police to crackdown the university. The Police filed First information report on the basis on the video clip footage made available by Zee TV. The president of the students union Kanahiaya Kumar was arrested for sedition charges. The police also issued look out circulars for the arrest of organizers of the event. One of the student organizers of the event with a Muslim name was without any evidence reported by few media outlets as the sympathizer of the terrorist organizations in Pakistan. There is very generally little need for the evidence in India in order to frame any Indian Muslim as   Pakistani or anti-national. Muslims in India are often questioned over their loyalty and patriotism in India. Being Muslims they are repeatedly linked to their co-religionists across the globe and particularly to Pakistan. In the past several years many Muslim youth have been illegally detained by the Indian police by linking these later to be found not guilty Muslim youth with terrorist activities. The involvement of the Muslim name in the entire JNU controversy provided a captivating opportunity for suspecting the protesters and believing the narrative of those championing the nationalistic cause.  The name of the Muslim student trended the social media sites and led to vigilantist death threats against his father and threats of sexual violence against his sister on social media.

The relentless covering of the incident by the media took a new turn when a news channel came to establish that Zee TV video clips showing students chanting anti-national slogans were doctored. According to this report, the clip especially of the president Kanhaiya Kumar which led to his arrest had been inserted with words such as (bandook) gun. Despite these turns and twists, the resentment against JNU has continued to persist. The explosion of interactive nature digital communications in India have encouraged the media literate Indians to lay claims over the public discourse in unprecedented manner.  According to the latest 11th annual report 2014-15 of Internet and mobile Association of India (IAMAI) there are more than 300 million internet users in India. Of these internet users, nearly 72% belong to urban India. One of the major reasons for the rise of right wing politics in India has been connected to rapidly growing middle class in India. It is this middle class that is currently dominating the comment sections of open ended social media platforms. By randomly classifying the nature of this content produced by middle class via internet, there is a typical right wing pattern of thought process dominating the cyber discourse. This is also for the first time that those who access information through internet are coming into contact with knowledge which used to be domain of experts. In the Giddenian sense this intrusion of expert knowledge into the day to day affairs of the lay people gets routinely interpreted and acted on by lay individuals in the course of their everyday actions.

One of the major trends to be experienced is the unbending online support for Prime Minster Narendra Modi. The massive and fervent armies of online Modi supporters post their comments across the cyberspace to defend every action by Modi and his government. The beef ban, egg ban, censorship, curtailment of dissent, Islamophobia, murder of rationalists, cultural supremacy and many such features characterizing ruling government are unequivocally defended. While at the same time intellectualism, Dalit resistance, opposition to Hinduization of the education, anti-neoliberal stance, and questioning role of Indian army in Kashmir are aggressively targeted by these cyber Hindutva. These online supporters of the ruling government with brazen disregard for anything associated with social sciences have turned the terms such secular, liberal, intellectual into ‘sickular’, ‘libtard’ and ‘pseudo-intellectual’ respectively. This bears resemble to what Susan Jacoby observes in her celebrated book The Age of American Unreason. Susan Jacoby argues that the emergence of modern media platforms coincided with the ascendance of culture which promoted an attitude denigrating the importance of tradition, history and knowledge.  The access to prosthetic knowledge made possible through internet allows these online supporters of the government as experts. The media technologies have come to inform these right wing cyborgs as never before.

The justification of beliefs irrespective of facts available is one of the dominant trademarks of the content generated by the online supporters of the present government in India. In the age of the infoglut, the cyber Hindutva communities only allow themselves to be associated with the content which conforms to their pre-existing beliefs. Any content that produces a cognitive discomfort is immediately deemed as irrelevant or a conspiracy to malign the present government. Scientific facts are criticized, interrogated and appropriated with the existing thought process.  In the events which followed JNU clampdown by the ruling government, even when the evidence do not favor the hysteria which the media channels such Zee TV and Times Now spawned, the belief that JNU is the hub of anti-national activities  continues to dominate the comments sections of any news about JNU. The use of information for ideological predispositions by the cyber Hindutva groups makes digital spaces largely as platforms for breeding delirium, misspeak, falsehood.  Ralph Keyes in the ‘Post Truth Era: Dishonesty and Deception in Contemporary Life’ argues that in contemporary eras, lying has been raised to a highest platform. Keyes attributes this breeding of dishonesty in contemporary life to social dislocation and disconnectedness. In India in the recent past there have various cases where the government representatives holding public positions have lied about their qualifications. The significant example is the controversy over the educational qualifications of the Human Resource Development Minster, Smriti Irani and also the Prime Minster Narendra Modi. The inflation of resumes has been termed as a characteristic of the post-truth era where digital media revolution has come to a significant role.


Earlier published by http://www.foreignpolicyjournal.com/2014/04/23/decoding-modi-of-indias-ambitious-desires/

Narendra-Modi-600x350

Narendra Modi, Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Prime ministerial candidate for the 2014 general elections in India is indubitably one of the most popular yet controversial and polarizing figures in the history of Indian politics. To those who deify Modi, he is looked upon a messiah or an incarnation of God and, more specifically, a demonstrator of Hindu masculinity to save their nation in times of war, chaos, and economic and societal collapse. These partisans of Modi can comprise their rational faculties to any extent in justifying their Messiah and his sacrosanctity. Modi, looked upon as a champion of development and Hindutva by his supporters, is also the darling of crony capitalism in India.

Then there are detractors of Modi, who view him as a personification of a Modern day Nero, a megalomaniacal tyrant responsible for masterminding the 2002 Gujrat pogrom, which was aimed at ethnic cleansing of Muslims in Gujarat. There is a virtual denatured and sublimated civil war between these two segments of the people concerning 2014 election where ballot is acting as a civilized substitute for bullet. The electoral discourse currently dominating the overall public discourses across India has in it Modi as a central figure. It is utterly impossible for one living in India to circumvent Modi and his face which looms from front pages of newspapers, television channels, billboards and toilet complexes. In the midst of such milieu, as a detractor of Modi, in the following lines, I will be trying to reason out my hostile reading of Modi.

Modi: The Ambitious India’s Dream

The emergence of Modi as a cult figure in India is not to be misconstrued as phenomenon resulting out of nowhere. The rise of Modi in India is a manifestation of the deepest desires of all those who advocate the celebration and affirmation of ‘Hindu’ Self created through the negation of the Other (Communists, Muslims, Christians, and West). One of the tallest exponents of this Hindu nationalist thought, proponent of Hindutva ideology, venerated by Modi, is VD Savarkar. For Savarkar, the most disturbing concern to be dealt by Hindus is the encroachment of India by the Muslims. To avenge this menace, Savarkar advocates the “breaking of the hundred thousand skulls of the enemy, powdering of it and its application as a balm”. The only truer form of Independence for Savarkar is “a festival of enemy’s blood”. It is the celebration of this bloodbath which gives Savarkar “great happiness”. The enemy here is not only Muslims but all those coming in the way of the celebration of this bloodbath. On Savarkar’s 130th Birth anniversary on 28th May, 2013, Modi paid tributes to Savarkar by referring him a ‘Veer purush (Chevalier) who was not scared of death’. In India there is huge section of population who admire the likes of Savarkar and see Modi as an archetypal envoy to translate the idealized dream of the Hindu nationalists and their own wishes into practice.

The expedition of Modi from a tea seller to Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) pracharak, to Chief Minister of Gujarat, to BJP’s Prime Minsterial Candidate, has elements of a fairytale. This journey of one ordinary individual to extraordinary fame is appealing to ambitious Indians, particularly middle-classes wanting to see their country in a different light on the map of the world. However, in the realization of this objective, these ambitious supporters of Modi place greater emphasis on ends over means. Modi for his supporters is a game changer who can tackle any criticism, defy any rule, and emerge victorious. They see in him an unrivalled personality, with an ability to translate their dream of developed India into practice. The desperation for this development is so high that it may be justified even at the cost of any destruction to humanity.

Modi and His Inspiration

The label of game changer attributed to Modi by his supporters is perfectly reflected by Modi as an RSS man and his ascent as a ‘rabid face’ of the organization. Modi derives his inspiration from RSS, a far right-wing, fascist organization, whose founders sometimes admired Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler and sometimes likened Muslims to ‘poisonous hissing snakes’. Irrespective of conservative ideological foundation, RSS, Modi, and his followers dominate the question of what secular ought to mean in India by targeting all those arguing against them by plainly bracketing them as pseudo secular, anti-national, and Muslim appeasers. The members of RSS and its supporters see themselves as sole authorities with deep historical understanding of the universe and debate with opponents by basing their arguments on divine knowledge and divine mission! Historians of Oxford or Cambridge make no sense to their understanding of History.

The ascent of Modi as a game changer can be looked as a beginning of the end to long-established rule of RSS. The rise of Modi contradicts with the ideas of MS Golwalkar, the second prominent paramount leader (Sarsanghchalak), chief ideologue of RSS, who always bemoaned individuality in the framework of the organization. Golwalkar likened the erasure of individuality to a “piece of salt dissolved in water”. According to Golwalkar the individual should cease to exist like salt, while only the taste should remain. Flouting Golwalker in this regard, RSS and Modi have instituted a new paradigm for individual-organization relationship in the history of RSS. After Modi was nominated BJP’s Prime Minsterial candidate by the end of 2013, the branches of RSS started multiplying at an unprecedented level across India.

Modi and Gujarat

Modi was elected as the Chief Minister of Gujarat in 2001 and continues to be the longest serving Chief Minister of the state by winning four legislative assembly elections in a row. In the 14 years of his rule, Modi effectively caught the national attention in the form of extremely divided opinions on his role as a Chief Minsiter of Gujarat. Modi is castigated by his opponents who see him as religious bigot, who remorselessly maneuvered ‘spontaneous reaction of Hindus’ in the slaughtering of thousands of Muslims during 2002 Gujarat riots. Gujarat riots involved rampaging, raping, killing, looting of Muslims of Gujarat by Hindu mobs on the pretext of Muslims causing the death of 58 Hindus in the Godhra train burning incident. This assault on Muslims by Hindu mobs was aided and abetted by the Gujarat state police. Modi, who deliberately allowed this anti-Muslim pogrom, defends himself against the accusations. Modi has categorically maintained that he has no guilty feeling for Gujarat violence. For him, this massacre of Muslims is just the “venting out of the anger of Hindus against Muslims”. Muslims of Gujarat continue to be the most socially and economically backward community vulnerable to the unethical manipulative machinations of the politicians and administrative hierarchy in the Gujarat state.

Modi admirers unabashedly, however, eulogize Modi for the role he played in development of Gujarat. In their admiration for Modi, they deliberately disregard the burning and butchering of Muslims. They see Gujarat as a laboratory, results of which ought to be replicated across India.

Modi and His Vibrant India

The rise of Modi in Indian politics is best encapsulated by Edward Bernays, the Father of Public Relations, who argued in his influential book Propaganda that “The voice of the people expresses the mind of the people, and that mind is made up for it by the group leaders in whom it believes and by those persons who understand the manipulation of public opinion”. Modi as a crowd manipulator has perfectly blended his image as a conservative to the fundamentally religious character of capitalism. Modi as the Prime of India is the dream of the business class. This economical angle to Modi has brought the business community across religious all affiliations together to define the future political economy of the country. The testimony to this is the delegation of Muslim businessman from Jammu and Kashmir intending to visit Gujarat meet Modi and explore possible linkages with state. Like other businessman lobbying for Modi, these Muslim businessmen also weigh ‘growth’ over humanity. Modi is the ideal contender for the private players because of his ability to push their interests of the business community at the cost of any devastation to human interests.

Those impressed by his persona see him as an efficient manager, a champion of development with an instinctive capability to build roads, improve transport system, and create industries with great speed. In Straussian terms, to make this dream look convincing to the public, Modi has successfully capitalized on the power of nightmares by inventing the feeling of a threatening enemy as the best way to ward off any criticism. This invention of a threatening enemy in India for Modi was never a difficult task. Given the issues in the form of naxalism, poverty, and terrorism confronting India in its path to becoming a powerful country, Modi effectively presents his image as an iron man with an ability to ‘cope with’ these obstacles that come in the way of envisaged vibrant India.


Published also at

http://kafila.org/2015/09/14/an-attempt-to-make-sense-of-culture-in-islam-raoof-mir/

Purity and corruption has remained one of the recurrent themes in the entire history of Islam. The arrival of Islam in Arabia did not mean a radical departure from the past. Wael B. Hallaq, a noted scholar on Islamic law and Islamic intellectual history establishes through his commendable work that “much of Arabian law continued to occupy a place in the Shari’ah, but not without modification.” Prophet Mohammed, who founded this new faith by introducing new nomos, also let several old customs and institutions to remain unchallenged. Despite his critical attitude toward the local social and moral environment, Prophet Muhammad was very much part of this environment and was deeply rooted in the traditions of Arabia.

Though the new converts to Islam entered into a new cosmological order, they at the same time, continued to adhere to the practices of old pagan culture. Since the arrival of Islam many individual reformists or reform movements have intended to reform Islam and decontaminate it from its ‘accretional’ aspects. These reformative endeavours envisaged a Muslim community that is not only socially distinct but also repudiates the pre-existing cosmological order. However, so far, there has been no end to this conflict. This conflict between the formal ideology of reformists (Textual Islam) and functional behaviour of the majority of the Muslims (Lived Islam) continues till today.

Well known anthropologist, Clifford Geertz through his works on Muslim cultures delineated how Islam succeeded in adapting to different contexts and how comfortably Islam blended with local customs and practices. This adapting to local conditions of a given place has been the one of significant strengths of Islam. Islam no doubt is characterized by its literate aspects, however the foundations of its success in winning new adherents lay in its making sense to those who could not read or who depended on oral modes of thought. At the same time, many attempts have been made to develop a normative paradigm of Islamic faith that could remove multiple variants of Islam and wipe out the differences. However, the openness of interpretation and plurality of sources in Islam has always made it impossible to determine a single authority on Islam which can determine finality of Islamic law.

But what are the contours of the debate on purity and corruption in Islam in the age of globalization? Has globalization changed the nature of age old debate on purity and corruption in Islam? Some scholars in the West have argued that there exists a deep connection between religious rationalization and globalization. Some of these scholars also go to the extent of stating that globalization and religious puritanism perform the functions of each other. One noted scholar, who has produced abundant literature on the Muslim societies in post-globalization scenario, is Olivier Roy. The literalist movements like Salafism in Islam according to Roy leads to “de-culturation of Islamic society”. According to Roy, whether it is Taliban in Afghanistan forbidding kite-flying, animal fights or the destruction of historical sites by ISIS or destruction of the old city of Mecca Saudi Wahhabis, all signify the attempts of the de-culturation process. This “de-culturation” is at the same time vital part of globalization according to Olvier Roy.

However the theories on multiple modernities easily dismantle this notion of globalization as homogenization process. The local social, economic, political and cultural conditions have been significant in shaping modernity to its plural form. In addition, there is always an underlying danger to define what culture is and what it is not. The definition of religion as culture by Geertz does not merely see religion a subset of symbols but also as a force that persuades people to fit between the nature of world reality and the way people live. The process of ‘de-culturation’ spearheaded by puritanical agents consequently creates a new set of nomos, which in turn leads to creation of a new culture. Therefore any attempt to categorize the religious reformation as ‘de-culturation” not only leads to the postulation of sweeping generalizations but also ignores the context and the importance of history.

Unfortunately, the actual lived history of Islam has now been largely forgotten – both by ‘Islamists’ as well as by Islam-baiters. The beauty of early Islam lay in its inclusiveness. The Muslims in Andalusia did not contribute merely to the development of their own religion but also contributed to the expansion of a wide range of fields of knowledge, from the sciences to philosophy. In that sense, their contributions also contributed to the emancipation of humanity at a larger level. Most of the important thinkers from Andalusia were polymaths.

Just as modern science excludes every form of knowledge that does not stand the test of rationality, so does the literalist insistence in the religion of Islam in modern times. With the purging of the Dionysian elements from religion, religion loses its basic function. In a manner of speaking, it begins to mimic the instrumental rationality and individualization characteristic of modern forms of knowledge.

The debate on the puritanical Islam and Lived Islam can be best exemplified by taking the example of Prophet Muhammad. To build a new community Prophet Muhammad did not reject the past but incorporated many founders of other faiths of the past as an essential element of his message. In propounding his message, Prophet Muhammad plainly wished to break away from pre-Islamic values and institutions, but only insofar as he needed to establish once and for all the fundamental tenets of the new religion. Being a pragmatic individual, he could not have done away with all the social practices and institutions that prevailed in his time and win new adherents to his, what at that time was fledgling faith. This shows that foundationally Islam has been accommodative to customary laws and local traditions. Even the foundation myths and historical evidence of Islam makes it compatible with plurality.


http://twocircles.net/2014nov16/1416109376.html#.Vtn3Ln0rLIU

 

The All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul Muslimeen (AIMIM) registered its first impressive debut performance in a region outside its area of influence i.e. Hyderabad by bagging two seats in the recently held Maharashtra state legislative elections. It has stirred up a contentious debate across various circles in the country.

The representatives of the right and far right organizations currently dominating the social, cultural and political scene in the country are demanding an outright ban on the Hyderbad-based political organization. These groups compare the agenda of AIMIM with the Muslim League of Jinnah and therefore consider the success of the party pernicious to the idea of Akhand Bharat (undivided India). Given by the standards of the current polarization of politics on sectarian lines, this demand emanating from those who see in Muslims a challenge to the fascist project of envisaged Hindu self is plausible.

But what, in fact, is more puzzling is that the success of AIMIM has raised few eyebrows in the secular, liberal circles of the Indian public sphere which considers the rise of AIMIM as an unhealthy sign for democracy in India.

The deep sense of fear attributed to the burgeoning AIMIM springs from that party’s burden of being a casualty rooted in the history of partition and integration of Indian states into Indian Union. AIMIM is historically linked to Razakars, “the private militia that resisted the integration of Hyderabad state into the dominion of India”. The debate on the question of Razakar movement and its aftermath in the form of “Police Action” continues to remain the most unresolved issues for the historians dealing with it.

Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM), which was founded in 1927, is seen by some historians as a socio-religious organization aiming for the educational and social upliftment of Muslims in the state. For this group of historians, MIM symbolises a movement that stood for cultural and political rights of the Muslim community. For other historians, predominantly favouring the nationalistic paradigm of history, the current AIMIM continues to seen as an offshoot of infamous Razakar legacy that terrorized many Hindu villagers. Due to the complexity of issues hidden in the pages of history, the integration of Hyderabad state into the Indian Union of India on September 17, 1948 is simultaneously termed as a Liberation Day by some and Black Day by others. What is common to all narratives is that the period of 13 months preceding the Liberation or Black Day of Hyderabad was exceedingly violent.

In the post independent India MIM was banned while its leader Kasim Rizvi was imprisoned in 1948. It was only in 1957 Rizvi was released on the pretext that he would leave for Pakistan in 48 hours. While leaving for Pakistan, Kasim Rizvi passed on the mantle of the president of MIM to Abdul Wahab Owaisi. It is Abdul Wahab Owaisi who is credited with re-writing the new constitution of the party according to the provisions of the Indian constitution. The MIM was thus renamed as AIMIM in 1958 and made its first electoral debut in 1959. From here onwards the party has always attempted to reinvent and reassess itself on the lines of linguistics of parliamentary democracy in India. Therefore any attempt to see AIMIM as a manifestation of its past will not only be hollow reductionism but also misleading.

The Razakars who are seen as the predecessors of the modern AIMIM were situated in a context where the aim was to wrestle for the state power. The current AIMIM does not in any way hold such illusions. The upswing in the fortunes of the AIMIM politics since 1970s therefore makes it imperative to see the rise of AIMIM in the present context of the larger political scene in the country.

AIMIM being a Muslim party aiming to represent the rights of Muslims bears the burden of operating in a milieu where it is daunting to be secular, democratic and Muslim in chorus. Many sections in the society see combination of Muslim political party and secular politics mutually exclusive to each other. Therefore a single political error committed by the party is susceptible to be seen as an imminent threat.

We live in the crucial times in the history of postcolonial India. For the first time in the post-independent India, a right wing Hindu political formation called BJP has secured a political majority of its own in the 2014 parliamentary elections. This has raised several questions concerning the plight of Muslims in India comprising a significant proportion of the minority populations. The near annihilation of the oppositional parties from the national political scene which could in the past claim to represent the case of Indian Muslims has amounted to manifold increase in the already prevalent fear psychosis among the Muslims. This existential dilemma posed to Muslim communities in India by the rise of Hindu wave politics has to do a lot in relation to the success of AIMIM in Maharashtra.

As per the Sachar and Post-Sachar studies on Indian Muslims, it is evident to conclude that the Indian Muslims have so far benefitted very less by taking refuge in the comparatively secular outlook of Congress or other such political formations. Majority of the Muslims in India continue to live in ghettoes across the country. Muslims are perpetually branded as anti-national and forced to prove themselves as true Indians. In this context, coupled with the absence of representative Muslim leadership until this day, Muslims can be expected to pin their hopes on the AIMIM strand of politics.

However, there are many nuances and caveats appended before jumping to conclusions.
First of all, it would be a brazen travesty of truth by assuming that the Muslims of India are going to wholeheartedly accept the politics of AIMIM. This can be clearly understood by the way in which Muslim population of Hyderabad negotiate their relationship with AIMIM.

Despite its strong hold over the Muslim votes in Hyderabad, the Muslims in Hyderabad have an ambivalent relationship with the party. Majority of the Muslims in Hyderabad are skeptical about AIMIM when it comes to the question of socio-economic development of the community in Hyderabad. Majority of the Muslims in Hyderabad, very much like the other Muslim communities in other states of India, continue to be abysmally poor and live in the ghettoes of old city of Hyderabad. The strong voice of certain section of unemployed educated Muslim youth and other members from the community in the form of Siasat group till today remain the unforgiving critics of AIMIM politics.

Then, what actually works for AIMIM is nothing but the language which provides shelter to the concerns over the rising insecurity of Muslim community in the country. In addition, what phenomenally works for AIMIM is the easy accessibility of its top leadership to all sections from the Muslims community in Hyderabad.

The role of AIMIM in representing the case of illegally detained Muslim youth of Hyderabad is a perfect example of this politics. The erratic politics of AIMIM therefore for all right or wrong reasons poses a concern for varied sections of population across the country. The vitriolic speeches of Akbaruddin Owaisi, the second in command of the organization, have done a catastrophic damage to the party in the imagination of mainstream Indian public. This has allowed some to compare the politics of AIMIM with the politics of Shiv Sena in Maharashtra. However this pairing of AIMIM with Shiv Sena by those who see these two parties as mirror images of each other is fallacious. The ideology of Shiv Sena theoretically represents an ideology which has fascist leanings and therefore essentially dangerous. But the ideology of the AIMIM represents the case of social and cultural interests of the most vulnerable community in the country and hence in essence is essentially democratic.

The fate of AIMIM as a democratic, secular party lies in the hands of its leaders. The more the focus remains on polarization, the more detrimental will be its consequences for the Muslim community. The agenda to be set by AIMIM should focus more on the recommendations of the Sachar committee than resorting to the speeches of vitriolic type.

In the recent past, the extension of the party to accommodate other deprived communities of India to its fold is a welcome step. This extension to other groups would be decisive to strengthen its secular base.


By Raoof Mir, Idris Bhat

 

downloadThe film Haider pacifies dissent into a fashionable commodity, to be sold and consumed

Kashmir is a beautiful place beset by misfortune (violence, presence of malevolent bearded men and their nemesis called brave Indian army) in the Indian public imagination. One of the key apparatuses that have constructed such an imagination has been Bollywood. Bollywood through its representations of Kashmir has had a phenomenal role in creating and sustaining imagery, myths and legends about Kashmir in the popular imagination of Indians. Until the late 1980’s, Kashmir largely was advertised as a tourist location; a place of romance, music, drama, where in the words of India’s first Prime Minster Jawaharlal Nehru “Loveliness reigns and enchantment steals the senses.”

Indians living in harsh geographical conditions would elate and fantasize while watching their heroes and heroines dancing and singing in beautiful locations like Dal Lake, Pahalgam or Gulmarg. All these years Bollywood films deliberately and consciously ignored the political machinations of Indian state in silencing and repressing the demand for self-determination by Kashmiris. People of Jammu and Kashmir got used to such misrepresentations while Indian public consciousness increasingly became fond of Kashmir, the so called beautiful crown of the Indian state.

In 1987 when Kashmiris took arms to challenge Indian state and demanded their right to self determination, Indian military responded with systematic and atrocious repression. Kashmir became a prison and every prisoner was subjected to draconian laws and rules. New forms of representation emerged in the form of movies, documentaries, books, news reporting, and columns and so on to legitimize the use of repression and violence by the Indian state in order to discipline the ugly minds of the beautiful land. Bollywood helped to a large extent in extending such legitimization business. Now Kashmir mockingly became a beautiful land threatened by its own people. This coincided with the emergence of Hindu fascist forces at the larger Indian political scene. It was in this period when Bollywood began to cash on the new changing circumstances by exposing Kashmir as a land contaminated with terrorists.  A splurge of patriotic movies in the form of Roja, Kargil, Pukar, Mission Kashmir etc began to come out with the core centric theme of presenting Kashmir as atoot ang (integral part) of India.

These movies propagated the jingoistic message by painting Kashmir as beautiful land corroded by ugly men thereby demonizing the place as well as its people. The spate of movies in this period quite like the movies of the former decades was quite oblivious of the common people of Kashmir and mostly linked the freedom struggle of Kashmir with Islamic resurgence. This representation of Kashmir by Bollywood mindfully never caught the serious attention of Kashmiris. This was because of being aware of the fact of not expecting from the soft power of the state that kills and maims them indiscriminately. They would not care because they have had seen decades of repression and misrepresentation. They had seen rigged elections, jailing of popular leaders and most importantly unmet promise of Nehru in UNO of holding a plebiscite.

Such cynicism and apathy however was not there when people heard about Haider, an adaptation of Shakespearean tragedy titled Hamlet. It generated hope as for the first time Kashmiris expected a representation that could do justice to their right to be or not to be. The raison d’être of the hope culminated from the association of celebrated Kashmiri journalist Basharat Peer and other Kashmiri actors with the movie Haider. In fact in the past one decade people of Jammu and Kashmir have started representing themselves. The natives have begun to tell their own stories. They have started writing memoirs, poems, novels and academic books (though mainly dominated by upper caste Muslims of Kashmir known as peers, Sayids, Geelanis). The alliance of the natives with the movie makes Haider important as it is also written and acted by those who themselves have lived the period of violence.

After the release of the movie Haider, there have been series of articles opined by noted critics on the representations and misrepresentations of Kashmir in the movie. Some have celebrated the depiction of the human rights violations and some have shown obvious resentment. But the truth is that Haider succeeds as well as fails in doing justice to the people of Jammu and Kashmir. Its success lies in showing the torture meted out to people or put simply it falls within the human rights perspective about Kashmir.  Many of those who have celebrated the depiction of human rights violation by calling Haider an ‘introduction of the vocabulary of the conflict’ to the general Indian masses see in Haider a new beginning, radically different from the existing relationship of Kashmir with Bollywood. Haider is releasing at a time when India no longer can claim its secular credentials under the disguise of which it had laid its claims on Kashmir through Sheikh Abdullah.

Haider fails to represent the history of deceit and repression that forced the people to take arms and demand their rights. It fails to show what is it that provokes people there to challenge the might of Indian state. It fails to show that 1995 is only an outcome of decades of treachery and repression of Indian and Pakistan states along with the collaborators of Kashmir. In fact it disrespects and belittles the sanctity of resistance of people by locating the sources of human resistance in failed relationships and oedipal complex. It makes a disservice to people by not locating the role of structures of power in dominating and regulating the motivations and actions of the people.

Another way in which the movie makes comedy of the tragedy is by passing a remark on Kashmiri Pundits. Kashmir is complex because of the complexities of narratives, counter-narratives and meta-narratives. It is a fact that Kashmiri Pundits irrespective of their regressive politics have suffered as much as the Muslims of Kashmir. Their representation can’t by any means justified by making a passing remark by the Army officer by questions the veracity of the term ‘disappeared’.

Haider is not in any sense to be looked upon thus as a better representation of the Kashmir conflict or even a new beginning in the exploration of Kashmir in Bollywood. Haider is an extension of the cinema which simply depicts the position of India’s upper classes towards ‘other’ (Dalits, Muslims, Poor People, and Women) in the age of neo-liberalism. This leads to nothing but the objectification of the ‘other’ by aestheticising it through critical cinema in the ages of neoliberal onslaught.

Haider is important as it signals to us that the dominating ideology has learned quite well in assimilating the ideology of its critique. Haider implies that the capitalism has won the war for modern democracies in sabotaging their adversaries. It teaches a lesson of showing us how the neoliberal free market societies have successfully learned to control dissent as have been opined by Alasdair Roberts in his book “End of Protest: How Free Market Capitalism Learned to control dissent”.

Capitalism in democratic societies no longer aims to annihilate the counter-ideologies but instead tries to own and fuse theses ideologies to its grand nationalist narrative through political recuperation. Haider simply allows the overlapping of discourse and counter discourse therefore making the content redundant while at the same time retaining its form- that of a commercial product. Haider incorporates dissent into a mass culture of consumption, by pacifying the dissent into a fashionable commodity, to be sold and consumed. Haider in a sense is a clue to the oppressed by inviting them to commodify their dissent. War is and has ultimately become a commodity, to be sold from all sides.

 

 

 


Published http://kafila.org/2014/03/18/cricket-and-communal-identities-in-south-asia-raoof-mir/

In the Hindi movie Bheja Fry (2007), there is an archetypal abominably portrayed Muslim Character, Asif Merchant, the caricatured Indian Muslim who supports the Pakistan cricket team over the Indian cricket team. Asif Merchant is shown as a comical, hideous, perfidious character with loyalties to Pakistan despite living in India – taunted with Yahan ke khaate ho, aur wahan ke Gaate Ho (You eat here but sing their praises). It is a well established fact that Muslims in India have from time to time been subjected to periodic tests of loyalty.  There is a rich history of sectarian violence between Hindus and Muslim in independent India, in which it is mostly Muslims who have suffered. However, these tensions are exacerbated whenever there is a cricket match between India and Pakistan.

Emily Crick has pointed out that in the run-up to the India-Pakistan match in the 2003 World Cup in Calcutta

a discussion was held within the police force, which decided that Muslims should be prevented from supporting Pakistan during the match. While this proposal was not carried out, it suggests that the authorities were sufficiently concerned that some Muslims would support Pakistan and that this support was against the ‘national interest.’ India went on to win the match and there were wide-scale celebrations throughout the country. Indian Muslims joined in these celebrations, but were, in some areas, actively prevented from doing so. In Ahmedabad this caused rioting.

There are several instances in which this issue had sparked communal tensions, including during the 1999 World Cup (Crick 2007, op cit).

The most recent instance of course, was in a private university in Meerut where 67 Kashmiri students were suspended and also slapped with sedition charges for allegedly cheering for Pakistan against the Indian cricket team.

Why is it that an Indian Muslim is frowned upon for cheering Pakistan? Do Muslims in India really commit sedition in cheering Pakistan against India? Can Muslims in India, who already carry the double whammy of being an underdeveloped community and frequently labelled as being anti national, afford to support the Pakistan Cricket team? Of course there are some liberals who hold that it is an individual’s prerogative to express his or her choice. They see the curtailment of this choice as an oppressive aspect of the majoritarian state to subjugate or alienate the already browbeaten minority. My attempt in this essay is to move beyond these explanations and aim for a more nuanced understanding.

Cricket is South Asia’s new found religion. India’s victory in the World Cup of 1983 was a defining moment, and the intervention of private media, as well as of Bollywood, has taken cricket to new heights.  The weaving together of cricket and consumerism has further been instrumental in diffusing cricket to the corners of the Subcontinent. Today cricket is a highly mediatised sport. The mediatisation of cricket has enhanced the meanings that cricket carries in the public sphere, to an unprecedented level. Therefore there is no puzzlement in understanding why cricket (and the politics it mediates with the help of corporatized media) is the new religion in the Subcontinent.

There is no place other than the sub-continent, at the moment, where cricket is so successful in terms of the number of admirers as well as in commercial terms. The modern cultural constructions of cricket in Indian Subcontinent in Geertzian sense are the patterned reactions to the patterned strains of history. Cricket should not be viewed separately from the wider social context in which it is situated. The excessive hysteria generated over cricket in the subcontinent is a product of the historical disequilibrium, having its roots in the past. Cricket has played an important role in shaping political debate in the Indian subcontinent ever since the time British introduced it. They exported this imperial game to their colonies, along with its highly racial and sectarian codes, as an ingredient for their colonization process. One narrative about how the natives in India received this sport is seen in the movie Lagaan. Lagaan shows a raw team of village men playing cricket against an oppressive colonial regime in the village of Champaner in Kutch to save their lives, families and land. Taking on the white sahibs and beating them at their own game is what made Lagaan a huge discussing point for several scholars.

Cricket which was introduced in India in the middle of the nineteen century by the British saw an ardent participation from the Nawabs, Jagidars and other Princes. This benefitted both the colonizers and the princes as a method of projecting their power. One eventual consequence of the introduction of cricket in India was its transformation into a communal game. The religious group in Indian to take up the game were the Zoroastrian (Parsi) community of Bombay. The Bombay Pentagular, an influential cricket tournament held in Bombay from 1912 – 1946 became the most prestigious cricket tournament in the country, where teams were divided as European, Hindu, Muslim, Parsi and ‘the Rest’. India’s noted historian Ramchandra Guha sees this development as a means for ‘communities to showcase themselves through their cricketers and thus establish an index of a community’s strength and social cohesion’. When Gandhi started his 1930 Civil Disobedience campaign, Bombay became the epicentre of the protests.  In 1938 the Bombay Pentagular came under heavy criticism from Indian nationalists for it divisive communal orientation. Gandhi was deeply disdainful of this divisive sport and therefore commented that “I can understand matches between Colleges and Institutions. I have never understood the reason for having Hindu, Parsi, Muslim and other communal Elevens. I should have thought that such unsportsmanlike divisions would be considered taboo in sporting language and sporting manners.”

Media theorist Marshal McLuhan in a live audience Q&A session hosted by Australian Broadcasting Corporation on June 27, 1977 described cricket as a ‘very organized form of violence’. To McLuhan ‘any sport is a dramatization of the typical and accepted forms of violence in the business community.’ All these games are ways of discovering and dramatizing what the society you are in is all about.

Without an audience, these games would have no meaning at all. In the recent past, the meanings that audiences attribute to cricket in the subcontinent, have transcended patriotism and developed into jingoism. The cricket teams are seen as appropriate champions to save the valour of the motherland by defeating the opponent. The biggest exemplar of this is the way people associate meanings with the cricket matches played between ‘Hindu’ India and ‘Muslim’ Pakistan. Since the partition of British India and the creation of India and Pakistan, the two counties have been locked in an unending conflict since 1947, engaging in four wars and numerous border skirmishes. Three of these wars have been fought over the disputed territory of Kashmir.  Partition is an unending process; it is a gaping wound in the national psyches of both countries that refuses to heal.

The present Pakistan and India which were born with one of the cruellest and bloodiest migrations and ethnic cleansings in history, are still struggling to unshackle themselves from the burden of the past. The present politics, religion and culture in India and Pakistan are in a large way determined by its history. Even after partition, some thirty to thirty five million Muslims stayed on in India. Similarly in East Pakistan (Bangladesh) some 23 per cent of the population continued to be Hindu. Some half million Hindus stayed behind in Sindh in what was then West Pakistan. The Muslims in India, whose estimated population now is nearly 200 million in India, constitute approximately 14% of the total India population. Muslims in India have played a significant role and contribute remarkably to India’s flourishing democracy and perhaps provide, the finest illustration of Islam’s multivocal culture in today’s world. However, for the ultra Hindu nationalists of India, this large minority poses a significant challenge and is seen as a hurdle in realising the foreseeable fortunes and objectives for their idealized country.

For any successful democracy, the fair treatment of minorities is one of the most fundamental and vexing responsibilities. The socio-economical plight of Muslims in India remains a measuring factor for determining the functioning of democracy in India. Now when one is born as Muslim in India, how can s/he make sense of the great blooming, buzzing confusion of the outer world. Walter Lippman in his masterpiece Public Opinion remarks ‘we pick out what our culture has already defined for us, and we tend to perceive that which we have picked out in the form stereotyped for us by our culture’.

When the medium of cricket in itself has had a communal message, it can be possible to see the refractions of its shades in the present. It is irresponsible on our part to expect those shaped by history to make radical breaks from the past. Muslims in India whose voices have sought to locate themselves within the emerging discourse on the Indian nation should have the freedom to seek also their sense of cultural difference.

From this perspective, support of Indian Muslims for the Pakistani cricket team or the support of Pakistani Hindus for the Indian Cricket Team, both make perfect sense. This recognition would not only make us comfortable with accepting the communal lineages from the past, but would also solve the complex question of identity and extra territorial loyalty. India should not resort to the Tebbit Test to quantify the ‘Indianness’ of Muslims in India. Tebbit Test refers to the conservative Norman Tebbit who suggested support for the English cricket team as a loyalty calculator, with reference to the perceived lack of loyalty among South Asian and Carribean immigrants in Britian. This kind of attitude would not only alienate minorities but would in effect result in a society functioning as an utterly oppressive displinarian apparatus.

Is support for national cricket teams a litmus test for a mature South Asia? Is there a possibility to deal with this colonial leftover in a constructive way?


http://www.countercurrents.org/mir020311.htm

Currently I am working on a project related to the study of Hyderabad Muslim youth. In my experience of the interviews with more than 250 Muslim youth of Hyderabad, most of the Muslim youth see around them prevalent systemic discrimination. While reviewing the portrayal of Hyderabad Muslim youth in media and popular perceptions, I was able to locate two trends attributed to the backwardness of Muslim youth. One trend depicts Hyderabad Muslim youth as indolent, lackadaisical Nawabis without any aspirations. This trend attributes the backwardness of Muslim community to their innate denial for engagement with modernity and modern development. The other trend incessantly portrays Hyderabad as burgeoning terrorist hub with its Muslim youth as potential terrorists. It is in this second trend where gobbledygook like that of Praveen Swami (For Details, see Swami on Behind the Mecca Masjid Blast) can be situated. Both these trends have in the past collapsed the image of Hyderabad Muslim youth and have firmly fixed their place in the minds of outsiders as different, other worldly. To understand the conditions of Muslim youth in Hyderabad, one must disband the above mentioned trends and try to understand the situation in which they are living their overall life.

Like majority of the Muslim populations in India as noted by Sachar Committee, even in Hyderabad city, which was the centre of Nizam rule, Muslims are abysmally poor and backward. The Muslim community of Hyderabad has a distinct regional identity with their food, dress, aesthetic sense and even dialect, quite different from other Muslims of India. After the Bristish India was partition into India and Pakistan, and Hyderabad was annexed by India, the Muslims of this richest princely state of India lost their privileged position and a significant portion of the community migrated to other counties. Muslims trained in Nizam’s legal system began to feel the narrowing of the prospects due to change in the court language from Urdu to English. The Hyderabad city presently is generally classified into old city and the new city. Muslims in Hyderabad largely inhabit the Old city part of the Hyderabad city, which tells a story of exploitation and stands out in sharp contrast to the new city. Though the information technology and biotechnology boom has brought people from different parts of the country to the new city of Hyderabad and gives outsiders the impression of Hyderabad as a flourishing metropolis but the Muslim population largely has not been able to get benefited from the highly praised potential of their native city. Though the old city part of Hyderabad has a rich past, but, its present is murky. The old city is poor, backward, lacking in basic civic amenities and divided into areas where some pockets are entirely Muslim-dominated, others have a mixed Hindu-Muslim population. It is disputes over temples and mosques, graveyards and religious processions that determine the politics here. The discrimination is meted out to almost all public utilities like drinking water, electricity, education or other civic amenities such as parks, cinema theatres etc.

Most of the Muslim children in Hyderabad are in no position to progress in any front given the deplorable condition of schools. The unconcerned politics, bureaucratic structures has deeply infected primary education scenario of Muslims in Hyderabad. Muslim minorities are lagging even behind the weaker sections and backward classes. The presence of Muslim undergraduate and postgraduate students in reputed colleges and universities of Hyderabad is proportionately nominal. Given the widespread notion of role of Madrasas in the lives of Muslims, only a miniscule section of parents in Hyderabad prefer to send their children to Madrasas. There is dearth of facilities for teaching Urdu and other subjects through Urdu medium. The lack of proper English education system among Muslims of Hyderabad is widespread. Most of the Muslim students in Hyderabad lack access to computers.

Compared to other Socio-Religious Communities, Hyderabad Muslims have a considerably lower representation in both government as well as private sector. The level of Muslim employment compared to their proportionate population is scarce. Similarly Muslim participation in professional and management cadres is quite low. Dropouts are high among Muslims of Hyderabad. Most of the schools in Muslim areas are running in rental buildings. The encroachment of government land continues unabated. The fate of Urdu schools is much more pitiable.

Due to meagre chances of getting employed in their native place, most Muslims of Hyderabad consider working in Gulf as a preferable option. The major occupations of Muslims of Hyderabad include petty traders, artisans, small repairing centers or workshops, etc.

The current economic condition of Muslims in Hyderabad can be improved only if they can be provided legitimate support by state and private agencies. On the contrary to that, areas of Muslim concentration in Hyderabad have been marked by many banks as ‘negative’ or ‘red’ zones where giving loans is not advisable.

The high costs of health care confronts majority of poverty stricken Muslims of Hyderabad. Most of the Muslim population in Hyderabad is relatively uninsured. The areas peopled by Muslims lack proper health care facilities.

The public transport in the old city of Hyderabad is fast shrinking. Given the narrow roads in the old city of Hyderabad, there is a high increase in transport, leading to traffic problems and pollution. Only one or two bus stations are effectively operating in the old city.

The ghost of communal uprising affected Hyderabad in early 1940’s and ever since the city has encountered several clashes at regular intervals. Several times the city has been brought under curfew following large scale violence in the city. This communal milieu of the city attained new heights in 1990’s in the time of Channa Reddy government. Hundreds of people including children were butchered by rampaging mobs. After a mob of Hindu zealots destroyed the sixteenth century Babri Masjid on 6 December 1992, the incident had cataclysmic impact on the relation between Hindus- Muslims in the Hyderabad city. Thus Hyderabad, especially old city part of the city continues to be one of the tension points, with high security presence during ‘sensitive’ times like the Ganesh festival, Eid Milad, Bonalu, Ramzan, and the 6th of December.

Hyderabad Muslim youth have remained most vulnerable victims of this state of affairs in Hyderabad. This perpetual experience of communal tension has over the last decade mostly affected Muslim youth of Hyderabad and has put them in a colossal quandary. Several youth in Hyderabad have found themselves automatically and falsely accused of terrorism. Muslim youth in Hyderabad are seen with suspicion by the police and linked to almost all terror activities if any, in the city. In 2007 Mecca Masjid blast Hyderabad police launched a mop-up operation against local Muslim boys. Hundreds of Muslim youth were booked related to Mecca Masjid blast case and were tortured only for being Muslims. In a span of two weeks, over a dozen of innocent Muslim boys were picked up by the police and were subjected to third degree tortures. As now it has been established that the right wing Hindu militants were behind the Mecca Masjid blast, it has brought back into spotlight the ingrained discrimination against Muslim in the criminal justice system.

Most of the youth our team interviewed cited examples of Muslims being attacked in media and other forms of public discourse, while other religions with similar practices are not attacked or attacked with less vehemence. The common example that was given in this regard was that of Mecca Masjid blast case.

In these circumstances, most of the interviewed Hyderabad Muslim youth sees in India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) a saviour. All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) is considered to be the chief political party for Muslims in Hyderabad. The party has strong grasp over the Muslim population of Hyderabad and claims to be represent their interests. Majority of the interviewed youth have unfathomable belief in AIMIM and consider the party as a real armament of Muslims in Hyderabad. Some youth even look forward to see this regional party to flourish into a full-grown national party. Even though some youth admit the failure of AIMIM in developing the socio-economic conditions of Muslims compared but they give AIMIM the credit for their success in ensuring the safety of Muslim youth in Hyderabad.

A major issue thus afflicting Muslim youth in Hyderabad is that of enforced ghettoization. Muslim youth in Hyderabad see discrimination in social, religious, and political spheres of life. The lack of education in particular hurts these Muslims youth most. Most of these Muslim youth feel that Muslims are being singled out for discrimination and held to a different standard than other religions because of deep rooted prejudice and the growing ideology of majoritarianism.