Tag Archives: Hindi News

After Religious Clash in India, Rumors Create a False ‘Martyr’

Candlelight vigils paying respect to Mr. Upadhyay, who is Hindu, lit up the streets of seven districts, some with the participation of local politicians.

By the time Mr. Upadhyay found out, there was little he could do: The riots had become so bad in Kasganj that the authorities shut down the internet.

âNo media house or politician bothered to visit my place or call me first to confirm that I was indeed dead,” he said. “The marketplace of rumors had heated up beyond control.”

Kasganj was not always like this. For much of its history, Muslims and Hindus coexisted peacefully in this dusty city about 100 miles east of New Delhi. As the price of land shot up in the area, the city prospered. Now, rows of mustard-colored crops, markers of the region’s agrarian roots, frame Honda dealerships catering to a population eager to trade bicycles for motorbikes.

In the years since Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party rose to power in 2014, violent outbreaks between Hindus and Muslims have become more common in some pockets of India.

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But locals said the energy did not change in Kasganj until last year, when Yogi Adityanath, a firebrand politician with ties to far-right Hindu nationalist groups, was chosen as chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, home to over 200 million people.

The clashes began with a flag. On Jan. 26, a group of Muslims gathered in an open square in Kasganj, unstacking rows of red plastic chairs and preparing to hoist a flag into the air to celebrate Republic Day, which marks the enactment of India’s constitution in 1950.

Around the same time, dozens of men on motorbikes affiliated with a far-right Hindu student group approached the assembly, asking that the Muslims move the chairs so they could pass. Accounts of what happened next vary.

According to a police report filed by Sushil Gupta, the father of Abhishek Gupta, the man who was actually killed, a group of Muslims began taunting the Hindus, shouting “Long Live Pakistan,” and telling them that they would have to chant â€Hail Pakistan” if they wanted to pass.

Shamsul Arafeen, 70, a Muslim tailor who was part of the crowd, remembered the encounter differently, describing a â€big mob” of Hindus who demanded that the Muslims move the chairs before boiling the argument down to religion. Others said the Hindus told the Muslims to go back to Pakistan.

“They started abusing us, saying, ‘If you want to live in Hindustan, you must chant ‘Hail Sita and Ram,’” Mr. Arafeen said, using another name for India and referring to two Hindu gods.

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The confrontation became physical soon afterward, with rioters from both sides throwing stones at each other and burning shops to the ground. Videos of the confrontations spread rapidly. The authorities shut down internet service in the area for hours.

By the end of the clashes, which stretched over a week, over 100 people had been arrested, both Hindu and Muslim. Mohar Singh Tomar, an investigating officer with Kasganj’s police force, said it was unclear who started the clashes, brushing aside suggestions that either religious group had received unfair treatment.

Purnendra Pratap Singh Solanki, the district president of the Bharatiya Janata Party, took a harder line, characterizing the confrontation as a “preplanned conspiracy” by a growing Muslim population to target Hindus.

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“What is very problematic for us is that Muslims are ruled by their religion first,” he said. “They consider themselves Muslims before Indians, whereas the Hindus consider themselves Indians first and then Hindus.”

€œThe solution to such problems is to control their population,” Mr. Solanki added. “Their religious education at the madrassas must be combined with nationalism, peppered with nationalism. The problem is they don’t want to get educated at all.”

Reacting to the violence in Kasganj, R. V. Singh, the district magistrate in Bareilly, also in Uttar Pradesh, described a recent episode involving a Hindu march in a village in his district.

“A strange trend has started of carrying out processions through Muslim localities and raising anti-Pakistan slogans,” he wrote in a Facebook post that was subsequently deleted after he faced pressure from the state government. “Why? Are these people from Pakistan?”

At the same time, the always rocky relationship between Hindu-majority India and Muslim-majority Pakistan has notably worsened in recent months.

Around Kasganj, many people said they were terrified to leave their homes and return to work.

“Our children are sleeping on hungry stomachs,” said Mohammad Shadab, 24, who works in a soap factory. “The kind of fear in the community has never been felt before.”

As for Mr. Upadhyay, he still has not figured out who first reported his death or why he had been singled out. Over the last weekend in January, he fielded over 400 calls from people asking if he had died. “My mother had to serve endless cups of tea to visitors and convince them that I was alive,â he said.

Eventually, Mr. Upadhyay figured that if he could not control social media, he might as well participate.

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“I am Rahul Upadhyay,” he said in a recorded message sent out into cyberspace. “I am well and I have not even received a scratch.

Still, he said, the damage was done. Hundreds of miles away, in the city of Gorakhpur, posters with his photograph had already been distributed.

Near his face was a warning: “We will take revenge for the death of martyr Rahul Upadhyay.”


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Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/05/world/asia/india-kasganj-hindu-muslim.html

A Film Has Inflamed Indians. But Moviegoers Mostly Say It’s Fine.

The controversy goes back to the 14th century — orಐth century, depending on who you ask. In 1540, the Sufi poet Malik Muhammad Jayasi wrote the epic “Padmavat” about a Hindu queen, Padmavati, so beautiful that a Muslim ruler besieges her entire kingdom to have her. Instead of submitting, Padmavati kills herself.

The story was set in a Rajput kingdom in Rajasthan, in northwestern India, around 1302. But whether Padmavati actually existed is a big question.

Scholars who have studied that era say they have found historical references to the Muslim ruler and the Hindu king in Jayasi’s epic — but no mention of Padmavati or a queen so beautiful that her looks started a war.

That hasn’t stopped Rajput and Hindu extremists from turning “Padmaavat” into a rallying cry. Without even seeing the film, several Rajput activists complained that Padmavati’s clothes were too skimpy; a dream sequence between her and the Muslim invader was inappropriate; and the heroism of their revered queen had been cheapened.

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They attacked the crew of the film while it was in production and offered a bounty to behead the lead actress and director. They also threatened to cut off the actress’s nose.

For weeks, anxiety over the film and a debate on artistic license has dominated Indian headlines and put the public on edge. Police officials around the country have been busing in reinforcements, and on Thursday, many cinemas were ringed by packs of officers wielding long wooden sticks, just in case there was trouble.

Several schools closed on Thursday as a precaution. The day before, an angry mob of “Padmaavat” protesters, one of many across northern India, stoned a school bus full of children near New Delhi. No one was seriously hurt but video of the episode went viral, adding to the fears.

On Thursday, the worst movie-related violence seemed to have erupted in Bihar, a poor state in northern India, where bands of angry young men attacked a theater, tore up posters and vandalized vehicles.

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Indian film critics weren’t much kinder. One called it “so superficial” and a œslog,” giving it two stars out of five.

Still, “Padmaavat” had “taken an excellent opening,” according to a website that tracks box-office sales.

In fact, in some places, the controversy might have even helped it gain an audience.

“I was curious to see the movie because it was making lots of noise,” said K. C. Sharma, a retired army officer, who saw the movie at a theater in a shopping mall near New Delhi.

He said he didn’t find anything offensive and that â€all those people objecting to the film should see it.”

Jeffrey Gettleman and Suhasini Raj reported from Jaipur, and Kai Schultz from New Delhi. Hari Kumar contributed reporting from New Delhi.


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Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/25/world/asia/india-film-padmaavat-hindus.html

India Braces for Opening of Film That Has Hindu Extremists Enraged

Protests are already erupting in many places and rowdy mobs have vandalized movie theaters, tollbooths, road dividers, buses and cars.

An Indian TV station reported Wednesday night that a mob had attacked a school bus, pelting it with stones as children and teachers took cover in the aisle.

Indian intellectuals watching the hysteria have been perplexed by two issues.

First, few people have actually seen the film. The most strident protesters admit that they have not watched “Padmaavat” and that their objections rely on hearsay. The source of the rumors is unclear. The filmmakers have been careful about leaks of advance copies.

Second, Queen Padmavati might never have existed. Although Alauddin Khilji, the leader of the Muslim invasion depicted in the film, and the Hindu king at the time, Ratnasimha, known as Ratan Sen in the film, were historical figures of the 14th century, several scholars said they could find no mentions of Queen Padmavati in sources from that era.

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Motorcycles were burned in Ahmedabad during protests against the film, which was scheduled to be released on Thursday.

Credit
Sam Panthaky/Agence France-Presse €” Getty Images

“We are living in strange times,” said Manish Tewari, an official with India’s leading opposition party, the Indian National Congress, who supported the release of the film.

The Indian police services are taking no chances, busing reinforcements into place on Wednesday.

“We have geared up our local intelligence machinery, said Anand Kumar, a police chief in Lucknow, in northern India. “We have also told them to deploy policemen at sensitive points. We have asked the cinema owners also to deploy their own private security.”

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Directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali, one of India’s most acclaimed, “Padmaavat” was believed to have cost around $30 million.

But many cinema owners are refusing to show it. They are frightened for their own safety, they say.

This is especially true in Gujarat and Rajasthan, two states in northern India with large populations from the Rajput caste, historically associated with warriors. The Padmavati legend, rooted in a poem written in the 16th century, is set in a Rajput kingdom. The first — and loudest — voices against the film have been Rajputs.

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The chief ministers of several states controlled by India’s ruling party, the Bharatiya Janata Party, tried to block the film’s release, on the grounds it could stir violence. But India’s Supreme Court last week overturned all bans and ordered the film’s release.

A state-level Bharatiya Janata Party official even offered a bounty to behead the lead actress and the director. There seems no end to the threats, some clearly pitched to stir up the masses.

Earlier this week, a Hindu extremist with hundreds of thousands of Facebook followers threatened to kill himself on Facebook Live if the film was released ” but first he wanted to see how much money it made.

The group of 300 women threatening mass suicide said they were still awaiting a response from the government — and ready to take their own lives.

News about the film has dominated television coverage and the front pages of the biggest publications. Some schools said they would be closed on Thursday over fears of violence.

“We behave rather strangely for a country acclaimed as the world’s largest democracy,” wrote Aroon Purie, editor in chief of one of India’s leading newsmagazines. “In a country beset with such serious problems as a slowing economy, crumbling infrastructure, suffocating pollution, ailing health care and a pathetic education system, the national conversation is dominated by a mythical character.”


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Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/24/world/asia/india-hindu-muslim-padmavati-movie.html

Indians Are Convulsed by Anger Over Film About a Legendary Hindu Queen

Protests are already erupting in many places and rowdy mobs have vandalized movie theaters, tollbooths, road dividers, buses and cars.

An Indian TV station reported Wednesday night that a mob had attacked a school bus, pelting it with stones as children and teachers took cover in the aisle.

Indian intellectuals watching the hysteria have been perplexed by two issues.

First, few people have actually seen the film. The most strident protesters admit that they have not watched “Padmaavat” and that their objections rely on hearsay. The source of the rumors is unclear. The filmmakers have been careful about leaks of advance copies.

Second, Queen Padmavati might never have existed. Although Alauddin Khilji, the leader of the Muslim invasion depicted in the film, and the Hindu king at the time, Ratnasimha, known as Ratan Sen in the film, were historical figures of the 14th century, several scholars said they could find no mentions of Queen Padmavati in sources from that era.

Photo

Motorcycles were burned during the protests against the film, which was scheduled for Thursday release.

Credit
Sam Panthaky/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“We are living in strange times,” said Manish Tewari, an official with India’s leading opposition party, the Indian National Congress, who supported the release of the film.

The Indian police services are taking no chances, busing reinforcements into place on Wednesday.

We have geared up our local intelligence machinery,” said Anand Kumar, a police chief in Lucknow, in northern India. œWe have also told them to deploy policemen at sensitive points. We have asked the cinema owners also to deploy their own private security.”

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Directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali, one of India’s most acclaimed, “Padmaavat†was believed to have cost around $30 million.

But many cinema owners are refusing to show it. They are frightened for their own safety, they say.

This is especially true in Gujarat and Rajasthan, two states in northern India with large populations from the Rajput caste, historically associated with warriors. The Padmavati legend, rooted in a poem written in the 16th century, is set in a Rajput kingdom. The first — and loudest — voices against the film have been Rajputs.

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The chief ministers of several states controlled by India’s ruling party, the Bharatiya Janata Party, tried to block the film’s release, on the grounds it could stir violence. But India’s Supreme Court last week overturned all bans and ordered the films release.

A state-level Bharatiya Janata Party official even offered a bounty to behead the lead actress and the director. There seems no end to the threats, some clearly pitched to stir up the masses.

Earlier this week, a Hindu extremist with hundreds of thousands of Facebook followers threatened to kill himself on Facebook Live if the film was released — but first he wanted to see how much money it made.

The group of 300 women threatening mass suicide said they were still awaiting a response from the government — and ready to take their own lives.

News about the film has dominated television coverage and the front pages of the biggest publications. Some schools said they would be closed on Thursday over fears of violence.

“We behave rather strangely for a country acclaimed as the world’s largest democracy,” wrote Aroon Purie, editor in chief of one of India’s leading newsmagazines. “In a country beset with such serious problems as a slowing economy, crumbling infrastructure, suffocating pollution, ailing health care and a pathetic education system, the national conversation is dominated by a mythical character.”

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Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/24/world/asia/india-hindu-muslim-padmavati-movie.html

Learning to Love Nehru

His ease with Western mores and society is a liability, for it implies an apparent contempt for Hindu culture and religion. Nehru comes to seem almost like a symbol of a country looking at itself through foreign eyes, and in a newly assertive India, his legacy is being dismantled. In at least one B.J.P.-controlled state he is being completely written out of textbooks he is maligned daily on social media, with hashtags like #knowyournehru.

Which brings me to an embarrassing confession: Nehru is one of those people I thought I knew without ever feeling the need to read. He was among the great literary statesmen, and his output was prodigious: letters, speeches, famous books like “The Discovery of India” and “Glimpses of World History.” And there is his autobiography, “Toward Freedom,†in which he truly comes alive.

I have at last been reading Nehru, now at this hour when his stock is at an all-time low. And I have yet another embarrassing confession to make: He’s wonderful. It is not just a question of the peerless prose — the American journalist John Gunther was quite right to say that €œhardly a dozen men alive write English as well as Nehru.” Nor is it simply that he is a man of astonishing reading, intellect and sensitivity. What makes Nehru so compelling is his acute self-knowledge. There is practically nothing you can say against him that he is not prepared to say himself.

Consider him on the subject of his own deracination. In “Toward Freedom,” he writes: “I have become a queer mixture of the East and the West, out of place everywhere, at home nowhere. Perhaps my thoughts and approach to life are more akin to what is called Western than Eastern, but India clings to me, as she does to all her children, in innumerable ways.” He continues: “I am a stranger and alien in the West. I cannot be of it. But in my own country also, sometimes I have an exile€™s feeling.

Nehru, unlike Mr. Modi — who is decidedly not a reader and who has an almost childish regard for the Indian past — can look hard at himself and his country. “A country under foreign domination seeks escape from the present in dreams of a vanished age, and finds consolation in visions of past greatness,” he writes in “The Discovery of India.”

Nehru is never more prescient, seeming truly to speak across the decades, than when he addresses the nationalism that will one day endanger his vision of India. “Nationalism,” he writes in “Toward Freedom,” “is essentially an anti-feeling, and it feeds and fattens on hatred against other national groups, and especially against the foreign rulers of a subject country.”

I was stunned, reading these lines at a moment when Mr. Modi’s Hindu Renaissance has proved to be precisely the “anti-feeling” Nehru described: a culture war against two enemies, Westernized Indians and the country’s approximately 170 million Muslims.

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If Mr. Modi stands for authenticity, Nehru forces us to question the premium we place on it. He forces us to ask ourselves if purity is even desirable, and whether India’s true genius does not lie in its ability to throw up dazzling hybrids, like Nehru, who seem, in intellect and sophistication, vision and worldliness, to be every bit Mr. Modi’s superior.

Mr. Modi has certainly ushered in an age when the “Indian soul” — like the German and Russian soul before it †is finding utterance. But what is it saying? Last month, in Rajasthan, a state whose government is run by the B.J.P., we were given yet another sampling of what Mr. Modi’s brand of authenticity looks like: a Hindu man axed to death a Muslim man, then set the body alight, while asking his nephew to film the murder.

The killer posted the video on Facebook. He wanted to send a message that the “Love Jihad” — a baseless B.J.P.-promulgated conspiracy theory in which Muslim men lure unsuspecting Hindu women into marriage and conversion — would not be tolerated. The response of the B.J.P. leadership was, as it usually is after such killings, strategic silence.

Rajasthan, in recent months, has become a byword for this kind of religious murder. It also happens to be one of those states where last year Nehru was erased from school textbooks. Otherwise the eighth graders there might have grown up with these words of his, which the historian Ram Guha quoted last month in an essay for The Hindustan Times: “If any person raises his hand to strike down another on the ground of religion,” Nehru said on Gandhi’s birthday in 1952, “I shall fight him till the last breath of my life, both at the head of government and from outside.”

Time may have trifled with Nehru. But time will also reveal him to be the giant that he was.


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Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2018ቝ/04/opinion/jawaharlal-nehru-india-love.html

The Hindu Bagpipers of Secaucus

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Like their kilted counterparts in England, Kenya and India, they will, they will rock you.

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Ajay Patel

Photographs by

Written by

Dec. 21, 2017

In Secaucus, N.J., if you want to hear Queen’s song “We Will Rock You” performed by three dozen bagpipers and marching drummers in Scottish kilts, the place to go is the Shree Swaminarayan Temple. Ditto for bagpipe renditions of songs from Bollywood soundtracks or traditional Hindu religious music. The Shree Muktajeevan Swamibapa Pipe Band USA, which formed there in 2003, is a younger sibling to pipe bands in England, Kenya and India, where the tradition goes back to the 1950s.

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Vijay Patel

The Secaucus group also performs at parades and charity events. “It gives us something to distinguish ourselves, and to spread our message of unity through music,” said the band’s pipe major, Tushar Patel, 24, a medical student, who was one of the founding members. “And also it connects young people to the temple.”

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Chirag Patel, Paras Patel, Tarkesh Patel

In the beginning, the musicians learned to play the pipes by watching videos on the internet, Mr. Patel said. Now he and other experienced members teach newcomers, some as young as 8. â€As long as they’re big enough to hold the bagpipe,” Mr. Patel said. “We actually start them off with recorders and build up little by little.”

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Jitendra Patel

The photographer Ashok Sinha, 42, said that when he met the group, he was fascinated by “how identity gets defined not only by birth but by cultural affiliations. In this case, music, religion and this foreign culture are all meshed into one. It’s a very American story. These are regular suburban kids. Youd see a kid basically coming from lacrosse practice, changing into his bagpipe outfit.”

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Chirag Patel

The bagpipe lends itself nicely to the drones used in some Indian music, connecting American marching band anthems to more spiritual compositions. “Music is a way to get closer to God,” said Kanu Patel, the band’s manager (and uncle of Tushar Patel). “They’re all songs. Once you get them on the bagpipe, it doesn’t matter what kind of song it is or what language. And the uniforms keep the spirit of where the bagpipe came from.”

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Nirav Patel

John Leland, a Metro reporter, joined The Times in񎧐. His most recent book, “Happiness Is a Choice You Make: Lessons From a Year Among the Oldest Old,†based on a Times series, is due out in January 2018.

  @johnleland

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Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/21/nyregion/the-hindu-bagpipers-of-secaucus.html

Rahul Gandhi Takes Leadership of Indian Opposition Party

In his speech, Mr. Gandhi described himself as an “idealist” and said the Indian people were disillusioned by the policies pursued by the Modi government.

He said the Congress party, which had ruled India for decades, took the country into the 21st century through modernization and development. He accused Mr. Modi of taking India “to a medieval path where people are butchered because of who they are, beaten for what they believe in and killed for what they eat.”

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“The Congress will take on this challenge and will never back down,” he said.

Mr. Gandhi was referring to killings and attacks on minority groups, especially Muslims, since the Bharatiya Janata Party swept national elections in 2014. Most of the violence against Muslims has involved fringe Hindu vigilante groups that have become active in small towns and cities across India. Muslims make up about 14 percent of India’s 1.3 billion people and Hindus about 80 percent.

Mr. Gandhi is the sixth member of the Nehru-Gandhi family to lead the Congress party. His father, Rajiv Gandhi, grandmother Indira Gandhi, and great-grandfather Jawaharlal Nehru have all served as prime minister since Indiaâ€s independence from British colonialists in 1947. Rahul Gandhi entered politics in 2004.

Mr. Gandhi was elevated to party vice president in January 2013, serving as his mother’s No. 2. Mrs. Gandhi, 71, was the party’s longest-serving chief, leading it for 19 years. She has been unwell in recent years and has been pushing her son to the fore.

Asked what role she would play after her son’s elevation, Mrs. Gandhi told New Delhi Television on Friday, “My role is to retire.”

Randeep Surejewala, a party spokesman, said later that Mrs. Gandhi had retired as party president but not from politics. “Her blessings, wisdom and innate commitment to Congress ideology shall always be our guiding light,” he wrote on Twitter.

The Gandhi family and the Congress party have released little information about Mrs. Gandhi’s health problems. She had surgery in the United States for an undisclosed reason in 2011, and has returned to the United States for regular checkups since then.

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Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/16/world/asia/rahul-gandhi-leads-opposition-india.html

The Troubled Rise of Rahul Gandhi

Before he became prime minister in 2014, Mr. Modi led his Bharatiya Janata Party to three consecutive and comfortable victories in Gujarat. His move to New Delhi left the B.J.P. in Gujarat with a weak leadership, and the election in Gujarat came as Mr. Modi was facing popular criticism over the state of India’s economy and, for the first time, seemed nervous.

Mr. Gandhi, who entered politics by winning a seat in the Indian Parliament in 2004, once came across as a reluctant politician and faltered when faced with aggressive challenges by journalists or political opponents. But he has reinvented himself as a more decisive politician in recent months, on occasion deploying acerbic wit to tear into Mr. Modi.

Mr. Gandhi led his partyâs vigorous campaign in Gujarat. The results will be announced on Monday, but even if the Congress party doesn’t win the election, it is expected to gain seats and improve its standing.

The B.J.P. campaign, marked by Islamophobic speeches, was aimed at intensifying Hindu majoritarian impulses. Mr. Modi even accused several leaders of the Congress party, including former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, of working with Pakistan to defeat his party in Gujarat.

To counter Mr. Modi’s portrayal of the Congress party as overly sympathetic to India’s Muslims, Mr. Gandhi visited over 25 temples and made it a point to speak at rallies with tilak, the vermilion paste placed on the forehead by the temple priest, prominently displayed. His temple stops were publicized as much as his election meetings and speeches in Gujarat.

The Constitution of India, adopted in 1950, envisaged a state that remained equidistant from all religions while protecting the rights of minorities. In practice this meant that most political leaders visited temples, mosques, gurudwaras and churches with equal ease.

Mr. Modi was the first prominent Indian politician to breach this equivalence. In 2001, he was appointed chief minister of Gujarat. In 2002, his administration largely stood aside as Hindu mobs attacked Muslims after the deaths of 58 Hindu pilgrims in a train fire allegedly set by Muslims. The riots cemented Mr. Modis position as the foremost Hindu nationalist politician, and the state’s Muslims increasingly sought safety in ghettos.

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Since Mr. Modi became prime minister, Muslims, who are just under 10 percent of the population in Gujarat and under 15 percent in India, have faced increased marginalization and hostility across the country.

Muslim transporters of cattle are being attacked in the name of cow protection, and Muslim men have been accused of “love jihad,” the term Hindu nationalists have given to a perceived conspiracy by Muslim men to woo, marry and convert Hindu women to Islam.

School textbooks have been amended to include glowing references to regional leaders seen as embodying Hindu resistance to the Muslim domination of the Mughal emperors.

Rather than stand against majoritarian and Islamophobic politics, Mr. Gandhi chose to fight the electoral battle on the terms set by the Hindu right. Mr. Gandhi stayed silent about the violence and hostility encountered by India’s Muslim citizens. He essentially agreed with the terms set by Hindu nationalists that to speak of equal citizenship and political rights for India’s 165 million Muslims is no longer acceptable in India.

Mr. Gandhi regularly posts on Twitter his critiques of Mr. Modi’s economic policies, but he has referred to India’s Muslims just once in over 3,000 tweets spread over two years. There is a problem with this approach: Little separates economic policy under Mr. Modi from economic policy under the Congress party.

The joblessness and lack of economic opportunities that Mr. Gandhi refers to are products of a decade of his Congress party’s rule. He has criticized the Modi government new goods and sales tax, a nationwide tax replacing the business taxes varying from state to state and aimed at converting India into a single market. But it was largely conceived under a Congress government, and its institution is very much a result of structures set up at the time.

Mr. Gandhi’s pitch to voters amounts to the claim that he not only can carry out the same economic policies better than Mr. Modi but also is as good a Hindu as Mr. Modi.

A striking illustration of Mr. Gandhi’s strategy was his much publicized visit to the Somnath temple during the Gujarat campaign. It is an important site of Hinduism, originally a ninth-century temple dedicated to Shiva, which was reduced to ruins after being vandalized by medieval Muslim kings. It was rebuilt in 1950 despite the reservations of Mr. Gandhi’s great-grandfather Nehru, who saw it as Hindu revivalism.

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Over time, the Somnath temple had become a monument to Hindu injury and rage. Its reconstruction helped inspire Mr. Modi’s mentors in the Hindu nationalist movement to demolish the medieval Babri mosque in Ayodhya and eventually replace it with a grand temple for Rama, whose birthplace they believe the mosque was built upon. The demolition of the Babri mosque in December 썈 transformed Indian politics and led to the rise of the B.J.P.

After Mr. Gandhi’s visit to Somnath, social media was abuzz with news that he had signed the temple register as a non-Hindu. The Congress party responded by stating that not only was Mr. Gandhi a Hindu but he also wore the sacred thread that only upper-caste Hindus can wear after an initiation ceremony conducted by a priest. It conveyed the casteist message that the laws of Hinduism don’t even allow Mr. Modi, who comes from a lower caste, to wear the sacred thread Mr. Gandhi wears.

Whether or not the Congress party gains electorally from this Hindu one-upmanship, it is clear that Mr. Modi, much like Margaret Thatcher claiming “New Labour” as her greatest political success, can boast of Mr. Gandhi’s not-so-secular Congress party as his lasting legacy.

Hartosh Singh Bal, the author of “Waters Close Over Us: A Journey Along the Narmada,” is the political editor of The Caravan magazine.


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Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/썡/12/15/opinion/rahul-gandhi.html

Hate Smears India’s Symbol of Love, the Taj Mahal

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Rabindranath Tagore, the Nobel Prize-winning Indian author, called the Taj Mahal œa teardrop on the cheek of time.” It is perhaps India’s greatest cultural treasure and its pre-eminent tourist attraction.

But the Hindu extremists who have become a driving force in India are so obsessed with demonizing Muslims that they are smearing it as an abomination.

Built in the 17th century by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan as a tomb for his beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal, the Taj Mahal is considered one of the wonders of the world and a magnificent symbol of enduring love. Millions flock to marvel at its shimmering magnificence, with intricately inlaid and carved white marble inscribed with verses from the Quran, every year. And that is exactly what the Hindu right finds so galling.

In October, it came to light that the state of Uttar Pradesh — where the Taj Mahal is located, in the city of Agra, and which is headed by the firebrand Hindu cleric Yogi Adityanath — had omitted the monument from its tourism brochure and cut its funding from the state’s tourism budget. Sangeet Som, a member of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, railed that the Taj Mahal was “a blot on Indian culture” built by “traitors. And Mr. Som’s party colleague Vinay Katiyar blustered, completely unglued from historical fact, that the Taj Mahal was actually “Tejo Mahal, Lord Shiva’s temple,” referring to the Hindu god.

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Perhaps sensing the damage such attacks could do to his state’s tourism revenue, Mr. Adityanath thought it well to visit the Taj Mahal to quell the fracas, although only grudgingly admitting the tomb was important because it “was built by the blood and sweat of Indian laborers.” The Taj Mahal has since been restored to Uttar Pradesh’s tourism brochure.

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Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/10/opinion/extremists-india-taj-mahal.html

Hindu Man in India Kills a Muslim and Posts the Video

Fears are now rising again. Extra police officers were deployed Friday in Rajasthan to discourage possible copycat killings by Hindus or revenge attacks by Muslims.

The killer’s videos have continued to circulate — he made several. And in his rants on video and to journalists he said he had killed the Muslim man for “roaming around” with a Hindu girl.

Photo

A screen grab from a video showing a Hindu man killing a Muslim man. The attacker had his nephew film the entire incident with a phone and posted the footage on social media.

œThe government of India must immediately intervene,€ said Sanjoy Sachdev, chairman of Love Commandos, an Indian volunteer organization that helps couples fight off arranged marriages and deal with harassment from their families. “The government should shut down those videos.”

Police officials have identified the killer as Shambhu Lal Raigar, an on-again, off-again marble trader in his mid-30s. He was arrested on Thursday morning hiding at a relative’s house. According to police officials, Mr. Raigar confessed to the crime. He says as much on video, appearing in front of a statue of a Hindu god. “It may be good or bad, but I’ve done it,” he says. “If I have to die, then why not kill and die?”

The victim, seen in the video as a blurry image wearing a white Muslim prayer cap, was identified as Afrajul, a 50-year-old migrant laborer from the eastern state of West Bengal. Activists in the area said they did not know how much truth there was to the accusation that Mr. Afrajul, who was married with three children, was having an affair with a Hindu woman.

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There is no doubt, however, that the subject of relations between Muslim men and Hindu women is a flash point.

Across India, Hindu supremacists have accused Muslim men of carrying out what they call “love jihad.” Hindu activists have urged young Hindu women to be on the lookout for Muslim men trying to lure them into marriage in order to convert them. Some politicians have turned “love jihad” into a rallying cry, using it to win votes — and polarize communities.

India’s Supreme Court is currently trying to untangle a messy case of a Hindu family in Kerala that said their daughter was forced to convert to Islam after being recruited by Islamist extremists. The young woman sharply disagreed, saying that she had converted voluntarily and that she wanted to live with her husband.

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Little is known about Mr. Raigar, the killer in the video, who comes across on camera as educated and calculated. He speaks at length about how black-clad jihadists want to destroy his community. He refers to the mosque demolition that happened in 1992.

He first posted his videos on a WhatsApp group, Rajasthan activists said, and people in his community began forwarding it. According to the activists, Mr. Raigar lured Mr. Afrajul to a thinly populated area outside of Rajsamand, a midsize city, by promising him work as a day laborer.

At the end of the killing video, Mr. Raigar sprinkles kerosene on Mr. Afrajul’s body, sets it on fire and calmly walks away.


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Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/08/world/asia/india-muslim-killing-video.html