Humility is not a peculiar habit of self-effacement...it is self-less respect for reality, and one of the most difficult and central of all virtues - Iris Murdoch in The Sovereignty of Good (1970) ///
Pain make man think. Thought make man wise. Wisdom make life endurable - Sakini, in The Tea House of the August Moon (John Patrick (1953)
Thursday, 15 August 2019
HARTOSH SINGH BAL - For Modi and RSS, Kashmir is a tool to consolidate their hold over the twice-born castes
Adivasis who enjoy paying no taxes, Kashmiris who enjoy special status, Muslims who enjoy four wives, the Khan Market Gang who enjoy everything - it’s an endless list. It is a list that is not really about the group being singled out, but about the group for whom the pantomime is being played out.
On 31 July, I spoke at
an event titled, “An Enigma called Nation & the Question of Identity,”
organised in Delhi by the Hindi literary publication Hans to mark the birth
anniversary of the writer Premchand. Among my fellow speakers was Makarand
Paranjape, the director of the Indian Institute of Advanced Studies, in Shimla.
In the course of his lecture, Paranjape referred to various inequities created
by provisions of the Indian constitution and invoked Adivasis who do not have
to pay taxes.
When the time for
questions came, an irate member of the audience asked what taxes he expected
from those who did not have an income. Paranjape clarified that he was only
referring to tribal government servants in the Northeast. When the audience
member confronted him with the enabling provisions of the Sixth Schedule of the
Constitution, which give a special status to the northeastern states, Paranjape
said that it was precisely such legal distinctions among citizens, as enabled
by the schedule, which were the problem.
I was staggered by the
absurdity of such a formulation. But as it would turn out, the stupidity was
mine—and that of the many in the audience who did not take Paranjape seriously.
Less than a week later, Article 370, the basis of Kashmir’s special status in
India, was rendered ineffective with the same casual disregard for
constitutional provisions that Paranjape had displayed on stage.
Adivasis who enjoy
paying no taxes, Kashmiris who enjoy special status, Muslims who enjoy four
wives, the Khan Market Gang who enjoy everything - it’s an endless list. It is a
list that is not really about the group being singled out, but about the group
for whom the pantomime is being played out. Narendra Modi won four assembly
elections in a row appealing to Gujarati asmita,
or pride, and he has now won two Lok Sabha elections appealing - in covert but
rather evident ways—to Hindu pride.
Why does this appeal
work? What is it about this Hindu pride that is so fragile?
When you look around
the country, there is little reason for this fragility. The “twice-born” Hindu
castes—a term used to denote caste groups that are permitted to undergo the
sacred thread ceremony, which they consider a second birth—such as the Brahmin
and the Bania communities, dominate any list that one could examine. For
instance, Banias constitute 24 of
the 50 richest billionaires in India, and the
heads of most of our top companies as well as the faculty of Indian
universities comprise almost entirely of Brahmins and Banias. In liberal and
right-wing news organisations, too, the top leadership is entirely
made up of the twice-born.
Even the debate about
the idea of India is largely a debate between twice-born elites. Its
participants have been the older, “secular” elite, who did nothing to change
this twice-born domination—some hiding behind the Constitution, others behind
the mythic tolerance of Hinduism—and those who subscribe to the new, more
honestly bigoted Hindutva, who do not disguise their exaltation of the
twice-born. This continuing and disproportionate influence—both in terms of
wealth and intellectual capital—of a demographic that comprises less than 20
percent of the population has no equivalent in a free society anywhere in the
world. In fact, it is more in keeping with the situation in South Africa during
the apartheid era... read more: