Letter 13: Indian state's continuing assault on Hindu festivals, language wars in Tamil Nadu temples, temple demolitions and secularism of Jharkhand assembly – Letters from the basement
- Letter 13: Indian state's continuing assault on Hindu festivals, language wars in Tamil Nadu temples, temple demolitions and secularism of Jharkhand assembly
- Letter 12: Partition horrors remembrance day, Periyarist government's assault on temples in Tamil Nadu, a deep-dive into Malabar Hindu Genocide
- Letter 11: August 15, is it really Independence Day for Hindus in India?
- Letter 10: Right-wing, left-wing and Hindus in India
- Letter 9: The Hindu rate of growth
This episode is published on August 15th. We have been celebrating this day as our country’s independence day for the last 75 years. There is no doubt that we have come a long way as a country in these 74 years. It could have been much better. Like I discussed in the episode on Hindu rate of growth, many countries that became independent around the same time as us have traveled much further, in terms of their economy, social security, education, sports etc. But that is not the topic of this episode. In this letter, I ask the following question. Is 15th August a day that deserves to be celebrated by Hindus in India as Independence day? By the end of this letter, I hope to be able to answer that.
Let’s start this letter with some good news. This week saw the end of 32nd summer Olympic games in Tokyo. India had the best ever medal tally this edition of the Olympics. Our athletes got 4 bronze medals, 2 silver and the 1st ever track and field gold medal from Neeraj Chopra’s javelin throw. The bronze medal that our men’s hockey team got was the 1st medal after more than 4 decades. Some more athletes narrowly missed a medal. So overall a great performance by our sports men and women. Hearty congratulations to all the medal winners, their trainers and coaches. Congratulations are also due to all other athletes who represented India. After all they are the best in the country in their respective fields.
While the Olympics was going on, the government decided to rename the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award to Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna award. For those who may not know, Khel Ratna is the highest award in India given to a sports person. And Major Dhyan Chand is considered one of the best hockey players ever, not just in India but the world. That Khel Ratna was not named after a sports person in the 1st place but after a politician, that too some one so bad at his job that he went from three fourth’s majority in the parliament to getting voted out in just 5 years, that shows the tragedy of our country in the last 75 years. Any way, better late than never. Prime Minister Modi and his government deserve to be commended for doing the right thing. 7 years late, but never mind the delay.
Talking of PM Modi, he’s been facing some heat in the parliament since the monsoon session began because of the alleged Pegasus spyware issue. Opposition has stalled the parliament over this non-issue from day 1 and there were several shameful scenes, like snatching away papers from minister’s hands, tearing legislative documents and throwing them around like confetti and breaking of glass doors of Rajya Sabha hall. Worst part of this is that several important bills have been passed through without any discussion or debate. Some of the bills passed in this monsoon session of parliament are:
- Taxation laws (amendment) bill 2021: The Bill amends the Income Tax Act, 1961 (IT Act) and the Finance Act, 2012. The 2012 Act had amended the IT Act to impose tax liability on the income earned from the sale of shares of a foreign company on a retrospective basis (i.e., also applicable to the transactions done before May 28, 2012). The Bill proposes to nullify this retrospective basis for taxation. Introduced Aug 05, passed Aug 09. 4 days.
- The Commission for Air Quality Management in National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas Bill, 2021: Constitutes a commission for better coordination, research, identification, and resolution of problems related to air quality in the National Capital Region (NCR) and adjoining areas. The Bill also dissolves the Environment Pollution Prevention and Control Authority established in the NCR. Introduced Jul 30, passed Aug 05. 5 days.
- The National Bank for Financing Infrastructure and Development Bill, 2021: National Bank for Financing Infrastructure and Development (NBFID) will be set up as a corporate body with authorized share capital of one Lakh crore rupees. Will directly or indirectly lend, invest, or attract investments for infrastructure projects located entirely or partly in India. facilitating the development of the market for bonds, loans, and derivatives for infrastructure financing.
- The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Amendment Bill, 2021: Provides for inquiry by Juvenile Justice Board in case of serious offenses and amends the appeals process to strengthen the child protection setup. Expedites adoption proceedings and increases the maximum permissible punishment for serious offenses committed by a juvenile to more than 7 years.
- The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (Amendment) Bill,2021
- The Essential Defence Services Bill, 2021
- The Coconut Development Board (Amendment) Bill, 2021
- The Airports Economic Regulatory Authority of India (Amendment) Bill, 2021.
For those who may not know, a little bit about the Pegasus spyware controversy. Pegasus is a software developed by an Israeli company called NSO group. It is a spyware, meaning it can be secretly installed on computers, smartphones etc to collect data without the owner of that computer or smartphone knowing about it. It can collect passwords, location data, messages or emails you send from phone, contact lists, if you have bank apps installed or use the phone to make payments, then that kind of information. If you think about it, Google can do many of these things in android phones. So this is not something strange. But what high end tools like Pegasus can do is it can even activate the camera or microphone in the phone so those can be used to monitor the targeted person. Pegasus is classified as a weapon by the Israeli government and is sold only to other governments around the world exclusively for spying on criminals, terrorists, etc. Recently a list of about 50 thousand phone numbers of people who could be potential targets of the Pegasus were leaked by Amnesty International. Mind you, these 50 thousand are not phone numbers in which Pegasus software was found or confirmed to be targeted. These are only potential targets. That is these are people who may be targeted by the clients of NSO group. Even from this list, when journalists physically accessed a few of the phones and conducted forensic examination to determine if Pegasus was installed, they couldn’t find it in even 30, 40% of the samples they looked at. Even if there was a confirmed installation of Pegasus in someone’s phone, there is no way to determine who or which country’s government is responsible for the attack. For example, in India, Rahul Gandhi is apparently a target. Considering his close collaborations with Chinese government, even during the peak of tensions between that country and India at Galwan valley, I would think it is a genuine national security concern for Indian government to keep a tab on him. But it is not necessary that only Indian government is interested in his activities. Even the Chinese might want to know what their assets in India are up to. So, the point I am trying to make is that there is a lot of uncertainty in this entire matter and if Rahul Gandhi and his friends are really concerned about Pegasus being used against them, it is really easy for them to prove that. Just conduct a forensic investigation of your phone, make the results public and use that to target the government. That they haven’t done that till now only shows there is no real concern in all the noise that they are making. They just want to use this issue as another stick to beat Narendra Modi with and continue their propaganda in international media that there is some imaginary fascism in India. That is all fine. If Modi is being targeted, it is up to him to counter that. And this kind of political games will keep going on in a democracy. But what is concerning is that this non-issue is being used to disrupt and stall the parliament. That is not good for democracy. Why do I say this is a non-issue? Because, like I said earlier, if you are using an Android phone or have Facebook installed, Google and Facebook already know all that is there to know about you. It doesn’t require a specialized, high-tech, weapons grade software for that. And the government is also happy to let the opposition disrupt the parliament. Then they can ram through their agenda without any scrutiny or resistance. In all this, opposition is fine, ruling party is fine. Rahul Gandhi is fine, Modi is fine but it is we, the people of this country will be the losers.
Staying with the topic of elected representatives behaving poorly in the legislatures, Supreme Court of India recently dismissed an appeal by the government of Kerala asking for permission to withdraw cases registered against MLAs belonging to the ruling party, CPIM. The cases in question were registered in relation to the ruckus and unruly behavior of the MLAs in the state assembly in 2015. It was such a shameful incident unlike anything seen before in the history of Kerala. On that day, MLAs belonging to CPIM and it’s partner parties, destroyed the assembly hall. Just search on YouTube and you’ll find so many videos of that shameful day. In an attempt to stop the state finance minister from presenting the annual budget, they broke the mikes, computers, desks in the assembly. MLAs were seen dancing on Speaker’s desk and later overturned the desk and Speaker’s chair. It was a scene really. Ironically, one of the MLAs who was involved in throwing out Speaker’s chair was himself elected as the assembly speaker when CPIM came to power a year later. That’s the tragedy of democracy in India. Ideally, every one of those involved in destruction of assembly on that day should have been barred from participating in any election or taking up any government position for the rest of their lives. Instead, they were all elected to power in a year’s time. One of the rowdy MLAs was made finance minister, another one became number 2 in government and industries minister. Another one, like I just said, became speaker. But karma doesn’t leave anyone without paying for their deeds. This speaker later got accused in the infamous gold smuggling case. Do you know what all this ruckus was about? The state finance minister at that time, KM Mani of Kerala Congress M, was accused of taking bribes for issuing bar licenses. CPIM went around saying that Mani even had a money counting machine in his house to count all the bribe money he got. They were calling him Kozha Mani, meaning bribe Mani. When Mani died in 2019, CPIM was in power in the state. Like I said a little earlier, one of the MLAs involved in the assembly ruckus in 2015 had by then become the finance minister. In the next state budget, this person who was so outraged by Mani’s corruption that he participated in breaking the mikes and computers and chairs in the assembly, that same person announced allocation of 5 crore rupees for construction of a memorial for the supposedly corrupt Mani. Later on Mani’s party joined the CPIM-led Left Democratic Front and fought assembly elections together.
Coming back to Supreme court’s rejection of CPIM’s appeal for taking back cases. It’s not the 1st time something like this has happened; this has become a sort of standard practice of the CPIM government during the Pinarayi era. They break some law or other constitutional provision in pursuit of their corrupt and violent politics. When that is challenged by someone in a court, they spend crores of rupees from the public exchequer to fight these cases. And often, they don’t use any of the government lawyers to fight these cases; crores are paid in sitting fees to hire high flying lawyers from Delhi. And because the government’s case is so weak, no one can save them from getting thrown out by the High court or supreme court. For example, when Pinarayi Vijayan came to power in May 2016, the head of state police was an IPS officer named TP Senkumar. He had over an year of service left before retirement and was generally considered an upright, honest officer. But since that’s problem, Pinarayi shunted him out of office and appointed someone more suited to implementing his agenda. Senkumar then dragged Kerala government to supreme court and got the decision overturned. In its judgement, Supreme court highlighted that Senkumar was unfairly treated and reinstated him as state police chief. But that was not to be the end of that case. Despite Supreme Court’s order, Pinarayi government thought it could brazen out and did not restore Senkumar to state police chief’s office. Because of which they were fined 25 thousand rupees by supreme court. When I say they were fined, it was not Pinarayi or his family or his party that had to pay the fine. It was the people of Kerala. The state was fined. The money came out of Kerala Tax payers pockets. This is just one example. Since 2016, there have been several such where LDF government threw Kerala tax payers money in the drain in the name of fighting court battles. Mind you this is a state government that is literally on the verge of going bankrupt. They have no money to pay salaries. Even the salary that is paid, they snatch it back in the name of salary challenge. They are committing financial fraud in the name of KIIFB to raise funds. Yet, they just can’t stop breaking the law and getting smacked in the behind by the highest court of the country.
Supreme Court of India recently passed judgement in another interesting case. This case is interesting not because it has some path breaking, precedence setting judgement or because it deals with some tricky constitutional question. It’s interesting because it tells us about the nature of the Indian state. Again, I am not saying this is some new revelation or something we didn’t know already. All of us who have had the misfortune to interact with the Indian state machinery have experienced this in some form or the other. In this judgement, the court reminded the state that it has a responsibility to ensure that no work goes unpaid. The case in question is related to denial of New Delhi Municipal Corporation to pay salaries to Ayurvedic doctors for 5 years after the Central government decided to increase the retirement age of doctors under central health scheme from 60 to 65 years. While the corporation agreed to pay the salaries of allopathic doctors, it was not ready to do the same for Ayurvedic doctors. One of the observations court made in its judgement,
These doctors have been providing service to countless patients, without remuneration or benefits. Their services are utilized by the employer in government establishments, without demur… The State cannot be allowed to plead financial burden to deny salary for the legally serving doctors.
So, the corporation was more than happy to use the services of these Ayurvedic doctors, but when it came to paying them salaries, it said no money. But, like the case of Kerala government we talked about earlier, it had all the money to defend its illegal actions in a lower court to high court and all the way up to Supreme court.
In this week’s deep dive, let’s examine if 15th of August is really a day deserving of being called the Independence day for Hindus living in India. To be able to answer that question, we need answer to another question. What did we gain independence from on 15th August 1947? The immediate response that comes to mind is, from the colonial rule of the British. An ability to make laws and rules for ourselves. An end to being treated as 2nd class people in our own country. So, the question really is, have Hindus in India experienced any of these in the last 74 years. Let’s find an answer to this question.
When the British established their colonial rule over India, in addition to exploiting the wealth and natural resources of our country, one of the ideas they pursued was to civilize the natives. This was not just in India. They did that in every place they colonized in the world. You probably heard of a recent news from Canada, they discovered hundreds of graves of children belonging to the indigenous communities. These children were forcibly taken away from their parents and their communities to residential schools as part of a mission to assimilate them into the Christian Canadian society. They were alienated from their native language and culture. The objective of these residential schools, which were officially called Indian residential schools, the objective of these schools was to take the Indian out of the child as the Canadian politicians at that time openly declared that.
The same strategy was also used by the British in India, only at a much larger scale. Our native educational system which was oriented towards serving the varied economic requirements of a society was disbanded and outlawed and in its place the Macaulayan education system was introduced to create clerks and peons for the British administration. Our traditional world view that prayed Sarve bhavantu sukhinaha sarve santu niramaya – may everyone be happy, may everyone be free of illness – that world view was declared regressive and in need of reform. Our traditional medical system which gave birth to the field of surgery, that emphasized coexistence with nature was declared unscientific. But the failure of our country, especially Hindus living here, is that the same kind of attitude has continued even after the British left. Is still continuing after 74 years. Whether the secularists have been in power or the self-proclaimed nationalists, the Indian state’s attitude towards Hindus, our traditions, our world view has remained indistinguishable from what it was under the British. We are yet to get freedom, yet to have independence. I’ll put forward a few examples to prove this and convince you.
Let’s start with the most basic identification of independent India, our constitution. Several provisions of our current constitution are direct continuation of the Government of India Act of 1935 which was enacted by the British Parliament. There are several other parts of that document which have inspiration from America, France or Germany. But even if you search with a microscope, there is not a single sentence influenced by the thousands of years of knowledge and learnings of the Hindu civilization. Those who headed our government in the first couple of decades were enamored by the colonial rulers. They shared the colonial mindset of treating the Hindu way of life as regressive and inferior to that of Europe and the West. So their governance program was a continuation of the colonial agenda of civilizing the natives. So they continued the colonial provisions of separate personal laws covering matters like marriage, inheritance, adoption, etc. for the different religious groups. But with a small twist. Something called the Hindu Code bill was brought in. The stated intention of this was to codify and modernize the Hindu family practices and traditions but what it ended up accomplishing in effect was to destroy the diversity of practices followed by different sects and groups of Hindus in different parts of the country. Of course, it goes without saying that family practices of no other religious group were considered to be in need of reformation.
In past episodes of this podcast I have highlighted some provisions and rights in the constitution that are particularly denied to only Hindus as a group in India. Like the rights to manage our religious places, to preserve our cultural practices or to run schools without government interference. While some of these, like government controlling the temples, started during the British rule, others are the contributions of the makers of our secular constitution. Talking of government control of temples reminds me of a recent incident from the Madras High Court. The current chief minister of Tamizh Nadu is from a political party that subscribes to Periyarist ideology whose only defining feature is the hatred for everything Hindu. Nothing else. That is their only ideology. Since the temples in Tamizh Nadu are controlled by the state government, Chief minister is the head of that department also. Recently some one filed a public interest litigation in the Madras high court requesting to restrain the chief minister from chairing an advisory committee of Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR&CE) department that controls the temples unless he professes the Hindu faith. And this is a requirement as per law for all the employees of the HR&CE department. Don’t you think this is a reasonable expectation, that only Hindus are involved in making decisions related to our places of worship? But the court did not even admit the petition saying “this is a secular country”. I don’t even know how to react to something like that. Leave alone the absurdity of government of a secular country running temples, we have given up on even the pretense of a separation between the state and the religion. Remember, this is the same judiciary that has held it legal for girls as young as 12 years from one religious group to be forced into marriage because that’s what’s prescribed in their holy book. Just think about it. On a social matter like marriage, our judiciary decides the legality based on religious instruction, but when it comes to Hindus, even on a purely religious matter like managing the temples, it brings in secularism.
This kind of a thing happens because the judiciary of independent India is stroke to stroke, word to word continuation of the colonial judiciary. At least the constitution to some extent or the other represents the thinking of Indian people. The legislature or the executive branches are, even if notionally, accountable to the voters. But the judiciary is above any accountability and totally resistant to any change from how things were during the time of Britishers were running India. So, the language of transaction in the Supreme Court is English; judges insist on being addressed as my lord or your honor; judgements are written in a style that no one except lawyers and judges can understand; they continue to take summer holidays like school children; they just don’t care about the suffering of common people because cases take forever to conclude; we can go on and on; it’s a very long list. But you get the picture. Along with all its practices and protocols, the judiciary of independent India has also inherited the disdain for Hindus from our colonial past.
Another arm of Indian state that is as colonial in its attitude as our judiciary is the bureaucracy headed by the IAS, IPS and all other ‘S’ babudom with their lavish bungalows and orderlies and a hi-fi lifestyle, all funded with the tax paid by hard working common Indians. If there was any doubt about their colonial mindset, the ongoing pandemic and the consequent lock-downs have provided ample opportunity for them to clear those doubts. The scenes of collectors and commissioners beating up people on streets for minor lock-down violations are reminiscent of what used to happen in pre-1947 India. In a place called Munger in Bihar, just last year, there was even an incident where police opened fire on Hindus for no offence other than that they were participating in a Durga visarjan procession, and this was despite having all the required permissions. The IPS officer who ordered that firing was rewarded with a promotion by the NDA government in the state and her father was made a minister in Narendra Modi’s cabinet. Not even the colonialists were this insensitive.
Probably the biggest tool in the colonial project was the education system called the Macaulay system of education. The person instrumental in the introduction of this system to India, Thomas Babington Macaulay, was an abject racist who believed in western superiority. He lobbied with the British parliament that the native knowledge systems, especially the Hindu literature, science etc., were inferior and not worth the investment by British government. Like I said earlier, Macaulayan system was designed to produce, in Macaulay’s own words, “a class of persons, Indian in blood and color, but English in taste, in opinions, in morals and in intellect”. Since the time it was introduced in our country in the mid-19th century, this system of education has remained more or less unchanged. To this day, its objectives and outcomes remain the same as what Macaulay had proposed almost 200 years ago. If anything, things have become worse because of the intellectual corruption and ineptitude of the Indian state which has consistently used the education system as a tool to indoctrinate people and push through its Marxist, socialist agenda. And I am not holding any one party or any one person solely responsible for this. Every single dispensation in the last 74 years has been guilty in this regard.
And so I make my case. 15th August 1947 was not really a day when India truly became independent; at least not for Hindus living here. Our struggle to be free from colonialism is still going on. Only the colonial rulers have gone back to England, colonialism is still here and thriving. You see, in almost every country that freed itself from colonialism, like India, in the 20th century, those who inherited power were motivated by a love for their native land and its culture. So they created the new constitution and the governing systems in their countries as a framework to undo the damage caused by the colonial rulers. But in India, after 74 years of so-called independence, that hasn’t happened. And will not happen for as long as Hindus do not wake up to this injustice and demand an end to our discrimination.
That’s all in this letter from the basement. If you like what you heard, please share this with you family and friends. If you haven’t already, please subscribe to the podcast. Search for letters from the basement on Apple podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Amazon music, Gaana, JioSaavn or any other app where you can listen to podcasts. Till next time, stay safe and be happy.