Modi, like a colossus, straddles India. His triumphant ride from Gujarat to Delhi supersedes the Rath Yatra of Advani – he seized the throne, while all Advani could do was leave blood in his wake. Modi has vanquished India. His acolytes say that whatever happened in 2002 in Gujarat is in the past. The future is in Development.
What is meant by Modi’s Development? There are two ways to gauge this. First, one can look at Gujarat – where Business has indeed thrived, but the livelihood of the ordinary people remains mediocre, where labor conditions are abysmal and environmental protections withdrawn. Second, one can go and find the theory of Modi’s Development. This is easily found in the writings of the head of his new Niti Aayog – Columbia University Professor Arvind Panagariya. The most important suggestions are for what Panagariya calls Track 1 reforms. Let us look at three points:
(1)Eviscerate labor laws. “Track 1 reforms require, first and foremost, the reform of India’s labor laws,” writes Panagariya. “Highly rigid labor laws have made entrepreneurs terrified of hiring workers.” Since the 1990s, the courts have whittled down the right to strike and other protections given to workers. But Modi’s Development requires more. It requires freedom for capital to fire labor as well as freedom for capital to declare bankruptcy and liquidate its labor force.
(2)Expand Privatization. The BJP’s Vajpayee government had set up a Ministry for Disinvestment, with the great warrior of the Right Arun Shourie in the minister’s seat. He went a long way toward the asset stripping of Indian industry. The Congress-led UPA was too embarrassed to do the job with such brazenness. It chose more refined ways to do the same kind of thing. Panagariya thinks the Congress simply didn’t go fast enough (besides in 2006, the UPA had to shelve its disinvestment program after the DMK felt smarted by the Neyveli Lignite deal). He wants more. “The government must restart efforts to privatize public-sector enterprises, especially those engaged in such activities as manufacturing fertilizers, chemicals and electronic and engineering goods.” Little divides the UPA’s Montek Singh Ahluwalia from Panagariya. It is merely that the BJP government is not hamstrung by the wiles of the regional parties or the ideological opposition from the Left.
(3)Privatize Education. One of the most serious gestures made by Panagariya has been his call for the privatization of higher education. In June 2014, he wrote that the government “should abolish such government bodies as the University Grants Commission, which set and enforce standards for all Indian universities.” There is a need, he wrote, for the government to “end its own bureaucratic stranglehold on the university system.” What would replace it? Some modest regulation of a largely fee-for-service educational industry.
In essence, the mechanism to end poverty – which Modi has said is his major goal – is by freeing up the private sector to create jobs. The policies that Modi wants to install in India are precisely what have created a drought in global employment, according to the International Labour Organisation and the UN Conference on Trade and Development.
Modi has said that it is poverty that he wants to fight, that social suffocation of India’s diversity is not his goal. Nonetheless, Modi’s election has strengthened the forces of suffocation, who now give full vent to their ludicrous yet dangerous ideology. There is always a whiff of fascism that hangs over the BJP’s allies. From Muzaffarnagar to Muzaffarpur, from the rhetoric of Varun Gandhi to Niranjan Jyoti, the evidence of this intolerance is evident. But these epigones of Modi are not new to the Indian stage. Advani would froth from the mouth during his Ramjanambhoomi campaign, as would Vajpayee in his Goa speech in 2002 (“Wherever there are Muslims, they do not want to live with others. Instead of living peacefully, they want to preach and propagate their religion by creating fear and terror in the minds of others”). The emotional register of the BJP and its Sangh Parivar is viciousness – it cannot speak without bearing its fangs.
Reading about the BJP can be monotonous. Most of the literature concentrates on the biliousness of its leadership – the kind of statements made by them, the awful positions they take on social and economic issues. There is a tendency to believe that if one merely exposes the kind of views of the BJP and the Sangh Parivar, the population will come to its senses, abandon them and flee to more liberal political parties. Such a view asserts that the people are deluded. But is this a sufficient analysis of the current situation, particularly when the BJP and the Sangh Parivar are quite willing to broadcast their most offensive ideology to the widest audience? Shouldn’t we have a deeper sense of the social processes at play that attract the forces of neo-liberal Hindutva? What are the classes that are drawn to the BJP, which caste fragments find their politics appealing? What are the ruling class sections that have given themselves over to the BJP, and not just those who are with the BJP now and would – opportunistically – be with the Congress later? More research is needed, surveys of the mohallas of UP where the BJP has been able to establish itself, surveys of the provincial college campuses where its student wing has been able to secure a base. Such work is essential. It would teach us how to better confront the Sangh Parivar.
We cannot defeat the Right by being horrified by it. Patient assessment of its strength and patient work to build our own ranks are both essential. Unities of the popular classes have to be built as the only antidote against the Right. But these unities cannot be built on wishful thinking alone. They require hard work and hard thought. They require the kind of labor unity that could be glimpsed in the nation-wide coal strike and the local stoppages in different sectors; the kind of alignment of women’s groups and agricultural workers’ groups against the destruction of rural employment. These are bold maneuvers to build popular confidence and a popular will against neo-liberalism and Hindutva. The only real alternative vests in the growth of a united and bold Left. Anything else is palliative.
Vijay Prashad is the Chief Editor at LeftWord Books. He is the author, most recently, of No Free Left: The Futures of Indian Communism (LeftWord, 2015) and a columnist for Frontline, al-Araby al-Jadeed and BirGün.
IT was a scenario of great zeal and enthusiasm when a procession of shouting slogan students, with flags in their hands, hit the busiest roads of the historic city of Aurangabad in Maharashtra. They all were assembled here for the open session of the 15th Maharashtra state conference of Students Federation of India (SFI), which took place from January 3 to 6. The public meeting that followed in Tapadiya Natya Mandir was addressed by former SFI general secretary Nilotpal Basu, former SFI vice president Dr Ashok Dhawale, former state joint secretary Dr D L Karad, SFI president Dr V Shivdasan and SFI state secretary Vinod Govindwar. State SFI president Bhausaheb Zirpe presided.
While addressing the public meeting, Nilotpal Basu described how the ruling class parties are fighting on who will be the next prime minister while the actual need today is to change the policies. Dr Ashok Dhawale, at present the secretary of Maharashtra state unit of the CPI(M), dwelt on the destructive role of the Congress led government at the centre as well as in Maharashtra. He spoke about the increasing unemployment and the growing inaccessibility of education for the poor. He sharply criticised the communal and sectarian forces too in the state. He stressed the need to unite against all such forces. Dr D L Karad spoke about why the students movement should move hand in hand the with the working people’s movement for a change of policies. Bhausaheb Zirpe, in his presidential speech, described the SFI as a university where one gets a degree in struggles. We must continue our struggle by taking this degree, he added.
On the next day, the inaugural session was held at Govindbhai Shroff Hall where the state SFI president Bhausaheb Zirpe hoisted the organisation’s flag. Amid loud slogans, the delegates and leaders saluted the flag and paid homage at the Martyrs Column, before entering the hall. The hall was named after Dr Narendra Dabholkar, a martyr, and the stage was named after martyred SFI comrade, Sudipto Gupta.
Reception committee chairman and well known political analyst Jaydev Dole welcomed the delegates to the historic city of Aurangabad and thanked the state SFI unit for organising the conference in the city. Former police commissioner of Aurangabad city, Uddhav Kamble, inaugurated the conference. The session concluded with the address by Bhausaheb Zirpe.
A presidium comprising Bhausaheb Zirpe, Mohan Jadhav, Balaji Kaletwad and Manjushri Kabade was elected to conduct the proceedings of the conference. The steering committee comprised Vinod Govindwar, Datta Chavan and Shrikant Bhosale. A resolutions committee, a minutes committee and a credentials committee were also elected. State secretary Vinod Govindwar placed the condolence resolution, whereafter the delegates paid homage by observing two minute silence.
State secretary Vinod Govindwar placed the draft political and organisational report which, after dealing with the ongoing international and national developments, pointed to the poor status of education and its availability in the state and the apathy of the state government to release the funds for education. He also mentioned the major activities taken up by the organisation since the previous conference. These included activities to oppose the private universities act and the holding of a large rally of students and youth on November 29, in cooperation with the DYFI, on the issues of education and employment. This year saw a big success in mobilisation of students. The report also discussed the recommendations of the Lingdoh committee for student union elections. In its organisational part the report noted that though there were signs of improvement in some districts, shortcomings still persisted. Regular attendance, participation of members in deliberations, regular check-up and criticism as well as self criticism will ensure the proper functioning of the state unit, the report asserted.
Delegates from all the districts spoke on the report for about four hours. Apart from sharing their experiences gained while doing work in their respective areas, they mentioned the problems they are facing and various ways they adopted to deal with them. The delegates resolved to build up struggle against the current policies by taking up the local issues and to consolidate the organisation.
A special session was conducted after that. Dr Ashok Dhawale spoke about the qualities required in an organisation leader --- that he needs to be soft-spoken, clear, cool-headed and inclusive. He also spoke about Shahid Bhagat Singh’s passion for books and his consistent effort to gain knowledge. These are the qualities that leaders should imbibe. This will strengthen the organisation and help us in facing the opposition.
A total of 12 resolutions were moved at the conference. These were on opposing the opening of private universities and on strengthening the government universities, on the recommendation by the Lingdoh committee, on the need to fight for various facilities in tribal students’ hostels and schools, on taking the organisation to private and professional education institutions, on the need to oppose the communal and sectarian forces, on the need to oppose social injustice in the form of caste panchayats and honour killing, on strengthening the struggle against gender based violence, on the demand for increases in scholarships and freeships for EBC students. All these resolutions were adopted unanimously.
Balaji Kaletwad put forth the credentials report which stated that a total of 185 delegates came from 17 districts; among that 44 were girls. About 10 delegates were attending the conference for the first time that indicated that a new team is getting ready to take the struggle forward.
The conference unanimously elected a 31 member state committee which in turn elected a 10 member secretariat, with Mohan Jadhav as president and Datta Chavan as secretary. A passionate felicitation programme was held for the outgoing state SFI leaders that included Bhausaheb Zirpe, Vinod Govindwar, Shrikant Bhosale, Seema Jivrag, Sarita Sharma and Prashant Vidhate.
The newly elected state president, Mohan Jadhav, expressed gratitude for the Aurangabad district units of the SDI and other mass organisations for the all-out efforts they made for the success of the state SFI conference. The conference concluded with a rendering of the Hindi version of “We Shall Overcome,” which all the delegates sang in unison before leaving with a determination to strengthen the organisation and forging more struggles in the coming days.
Dr Bhausaheb Zirpe, Dr Ravindra Madne
IT is well known that the present government has converted almost every national level education and academic body into an instrument for implementing the communal agenda of the Sangh Parivar. The impact of this takeover is now being felt in the changed priorities of these institutions, and the diversion of taxpayers’ money to fulfill an essentially anti-people agenda.
It is not merely a question of assigning some funds for Sanskrit, opening a few courses in astrology and karmakand; there is an attack on reason itself and the rational-secular basis of knowledge as evident from the academic schedules and subject matter of seminars and syposiums held at these institutions, the research projects initiated and got underway, and the output in terms of publications and reports emanating from these institutions since the changed composition of these bodies at the behest of this government.
The Indian Council For Historical Research (ICHR) has been much in the news for the withdrawal of the two Towards Freedom volumes edited by KN Panikkar and Sumit Sarkar from Press. These remain withdrawn and unpublished, despite being complete. The reasons are not difficult to guess. Both volumes contain sufficient documentation for the crucial years before Independence to expose the real character of the Hindutva forces, i.e., their role in dividing people rather than fighting the British.
Not everything can be managed for the Sangh Parivar by the ICHR, because secular scholarship has been predominant in history all over the country, and a lot of Phds get produced on a variety of themes in a routine fashion, and these continue, as do some of the earlier ongoing projects. Some of these projects were threatened but now continue due to pressure from secular historians. A great number of seminars and syposiums, funded by ICHR, get organised by history departments of various state universities, where Hindutva linked academics are not the organisers, or where secular historians are able to make their presentations. These involve many, but small funds.
BIG FUNDS FOR HINDUTVA AGENDA
But big funds for institution building and large projects that impinge on the culture, religion and society, and are known as ICHR projects, are now firmly geared to fulfilling the Hindutva agenda. Significant among these have been the grants to Indian Archaeological Society set up by SP Gupta, an archaeologist famous for ‘proving’ the existence of the Ram mandir under the Babri masjid on the side of the Ramjanambhoomi Trust than for anything else. This society has received funds for building its infrastructure, and for projects such as Atlas of Indus-Saraswati Civilisation, Growth of Cities During the Second Urbanisation in India (1000BC-100AD), Archaeological Research Methodology, Salvaging and Conserving the Damaged Source Material of History and Archaeology, all crucial for the communal perspectives on history and the ongoing secular critiques of the Hindutva campaigns. A project entitled Archaeology and Tradition has been given to DN Tripathi of Indian Institute of Advanced Studies, Simla, another Hindutva inspired academic. The ICHR itself, in its Newsletter, claims these as the major new projects.
What else is happening to Archaeology by way of projects underway through government grants is quite obvious from the excavations at the site of the destroyed Babri masjid in Ayodhya. In time for the coming elections not only has the digging been arranged so to bring out a ‘report’ within a time frame crucial for the electoral campaigns, trumped up ‘evidence’ for the ‘temple’ under the destroyed masjid has also been arranged for by the Sangh Parivar and its sponsored archaeologists, to add fire to the already hate ridden campaign against the minorities and the political parties arrained against the BJP.
The report, under pressure from the secular archaeologists, who acted as voluntary observers, has mentioned presence of chewed bones in the very area where the temple is claimed to have stood, but has ignored them when deriving its conclusions for the existence of the temple. Nor does it specify the strata in which these have been found, because the presence of these bones in the strata in which they were actually found would go against the existence of any temple on that spot. It is similarly so with the kind of glazed ware pottery remains that have been found, which cannot for that period be identified with a temple. The famous pillars sited again and again by the Hindutva campaigners, on the basis of this report, turn out to be not pillars at all, because they are actually fillings and at that found at various levels. They could not possibly then in any case be ‘supporting’ any one ‘massive’ structure, or in fact even different structures at different levels.
Besides, in archaeology it is also possible to find out from the remains whether there are signs of any structures being deliberately destroyed. The Sangh parivar archaeologists have found no such evidence. Dating and periodisation and a concern for chronology, which are crucial to any enterprise related to history and evidence from the past, are precisely what have been given the go by in a report brought out by the premier institution for archaeology in this country. There is no doubt the fraudulent report is part of an effort to lend legitimacy to a fraudulent political campaign by the Sangh Parivar.
The mythical Saraswati is yet to be traced but, as The Indian Express reports (October 21, 2003), the union minister for tourism and culture, Jagmohan, has already announced a Rs 5-crore Saraswati Heritage Project, which aims to develop the “Saraswati river belt” as a cultural-tourist” hub with 15 centres. The aim is to establish the ‘authenticity’ of another fraudulent claim that Harappan-Indus civilisation was a Vedic civilisation, to push back the dates for the Vedic civilisation, and to establish the indigenous of the Hindus as opposed to the foreignness of Muslims and Christians. According to their claims, the Saraswati is mentioned in the Rigveda, and the effort of ‘finding’ its location in India is also to counter the fact that major sites of the earliest urban civilisation are located in what is now Pakistan. Earlier this year the minister had sanctioned Rs 8 crore to the ASI to ‘search for the river’. Programmes at government linked cultural institutions reflect similar priorities.
A year ago Jagmohan also initiated ‘Regeneration India’, a Rs 300 crore project to “boost cultural and spiritual tourism”, aimed at the domestic market (The Indian Express, October 21). While its ambit covers all significant monuments, including those built by Muslims, these are presented as ‘significant’ in terms of architectural achievements, the ‘spots’ identified with Hinduism are characterised as ‘sacred’ and representative of Indian civilisation. He wants to develop more than 50 such destinations. “Why can’t we develop our cultural centres and introduce the new generation to the profundity of ancient India?” he says.
The Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR) funds state level bodies. Some idea of what is happening with some of its grants is indicated by the example of the Chennai based social science institute, Centre for Policy Studies (CFPS), in the news recently for having published a report, brought together in a book entitled Religious Demography of India, which tries to show that Muslim population will outpace the Hindu population in another fifty years, and which according to home minister Advani (in his foreword) is a matter for concern for national security. Other publications by this institute include Timeless India: Resurgent India on the ‘re-emergence of “Hindu Rashtra”’ and Food For All on “ the Indian discipline of growing and sharing food” (The Indian Express, September 23, 2003). The Director of the Maulana Abulkalam Azad Insitute of Social Sciences in Calcutta is Devendra Kaushik, who regularly writes in the Organiser, the RSS mouthpiece.
UNDERMINING SCIENTIFIC TEMPER
The new National Curriculum Framework, despite opposition from a majority of the states, remains in force for all practical purposes because examinations will eventually incorporate the changes introduced. Although the new NCERT books have been criticised widely by scholars, and some schools, particularly the private (public) schools, have even found alternative textbooks for classroom teaching, cannot get away from the new syllabus based on the National Curriculum Framework. Therefore even as we oppose the new history textbooks, what the new National Curriculum Framework and these books represent, with all their implications for the disadvantaged --- the minorities, tribals, dalits and for women has come to stay with us as part of our educational system, with its inherent consequences of perpetuating and reinforcing inequalities, and undermining scientific temper.
After Vedic mathematics and Vedic astrology we may soon have the introduction of Hindu science as subjects in formal education! The union minister of state for education, Sanjay Paswan, as if to outdo his senior, Murli Manohar Joshi, actually made a show of ‘walking on fire’ with two cobras coiled around his neck and demonstrated before a 2000-strong crowd his ideas and intentions on science. He wants tantric practices and exorcism included in curriculum! “This is all futuristic science and needs promotion by the State, media and civil society…I am saying this with conviction …” (The Indian Express, September 24, 2003). Such are our education ministers.
The political and academic world has simply not managed to prevent such unprecedented assaults on the sensibilities of independent India. Nothing short of a popular movement in favour of secular education can now reverse the changes already in place.