South Asia Citizens Wire #1 | 8-9 October, 2004
 Bangladesh: Bigots out to mine secular space
- Women's soccer (Editorial, Daily Star)
- Fanatics, civil society face off today
- Human rights activists march against honour killings
- NWFP Mullahs wants cinemas and cable TV to be shut down during Ramzaan
 India: Open Letter to the Media by feminists, rights activists &
 India: Hindutva Mayhem in Karnataka | secular protest planned
(Bangalore 9th October)
 India: Hindutvaisation of a Gorakhnath Mutt -The Yogi and The
Fanatic (Subhash Gatade)
 India: The Squabble that Never Ends - Religion and Fertility (Alaka M Basu)
 India: RSS and Johns Hopkins University (I.K.Shukla)
 India: No ideological lines drawn - The issues Maharashtra
manifestos don't mention
(J. Sri Raman)
 India: Remembering Muk Raj Anand: Salute to a Mentor (V.B.Rawat)
The Daily Star - October 8, 2004 | Editorial
The threat must be dealt with an iron hand
An Islamist party, raring to exploit people's religious sentiments,
has announced a three-day agitation programme to stop an on-going
women's football tournament in the city. Playing football has somehow
been viewed by the party as something objectionable. It seems the
obscurantists' list of objections is getting longer day by day.
The women's football tournament is being organised by the Bangladesh
Football Federation with the permission of the government. It is part
of the activities that the Federation has to undertake as the highest
regulating body for football in the country and as a member of the
FIFA. The resistance coming from a party, known for its
ultra-conservative views, is neither acceptable, nor tenable. Playing
football cannot have anything indecorous or indecent about it. One
must take note of the fact that the local girls are using costumes
that conform to our tradition of not wearing anything bordering on
indecency or sartorial brevity. So, what do the bigots find in it
that upset their sensibilities? Second, we are part of a global
sporting family, each member of which has endorsed the idea of
bringing more and more women to the sporting arena. Women are playing
football in most of the countries. So, it doesn't stand to reason
that we will lag behind others only because some religious fanatics
don't want women to take part in outdoor sports. We cannot afford to
remain isolated, nor can we break with our tradition as a
sports-loving nation. The obscurantists are also planning to prevent
women from swimming, and it is not known what will be their next
It is a clear case of politics and religion being mixed up with
sports, which is highly undesirable and thoroughly unacceptable.
Women are supposed to have their due place in sports and games, and
it would be a meek capitulation to the agitators if the government
and others concerned do not take a firm position to neutralise the
threat to women's sports.
o o o
The Daily Star- October 8, 2004
FANATICS, CIVIL SOCIETY FACE OFF TODAY
Tension reigns in Narayanganj as religious fanatics and the civil
society members stand fiercely opposed to each other on the former's
programme to capture the Ahmadiyya mosque in the city today.
Anti-Ahmadiyya outfits Khatme Nabuwat Committee Bangladesh and Aamra
Dhakabashi yesterday reiterated that they will continue with the
They called on their adherents to gather and hold a demonstration at
DIT Mosque after the Juma prayers and march towards Missionpara
"The Kadianis (Ahmadiyyas) are misleading the 'real Muslims' by
calling their place of worship mosques," read an Aamra Dhakabashi
press release yesterday.
"We don't want to capture anyone's property, but as Muslims, we have
the religious obligation to save the fellow Muslims from being
deceived by the Kadiyanis," the press release added referring to the
prospective capture of the Ahmadiyya mosque.
Meanwhile, a number of socio-cultural and political organisations and
professional bodies have declared to resist the capture programme.
Led by Narayanganj Sangskritik Jote, the South Asian People's Union
against Fundamentalism and Communalism (SAPUFC), and Ekattorer Ghatak
Dalal Nirmul Committee, these organisations have asked the people to
assemble at the mosque in the morning to foil the bigots' capture
Superintendent of Police in Narayanganj Ibrahim Fatemi said yesterday
they had taken necessary preparations to stop the anti-Ahmadiyya
Police remained posted at different points of the town yesterday.
Paramilitary Bangladesh Rifles might also join them today, said
Police picked up two operatives of Khatme Nabuwat while they were
making announcement in loudspeakers Wednesday noon to let them off an
The Daily Times - October 09, 2004
HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVISTS MARCH AGAINST HONOUR KILLINGS
* Call government bill a 'fraud'
* Want better legislation, implementation
ISLAMABAD: Hundreds of human rights activists and civil society
representatives marched against honour killings, rejected the
proposed government bill against honour crimes and demanded that the
government pass effective legislation.
Friday's march from China Chowk to Parliament House was organised by
the Citizen's Action Group. Leading human rights activists including
Asma Jehangir, Afrasiab Khattak, MNA Chaudhry Aitizaz Ahsan and
former federal law minister Syed Iqbal Haider led the march. MNA
Mehnaz Rafi also joined in.
Protesters carried placards demanding effective legislation against
honour killings and shouted slogans against what they said was the
government's inability to respond to the challenge posed by the
growing number of honour killings.
"Despite statements of concern for women's rights at home and abroad
by government leaders, ministers and others in authority, and despite
tall claims about defending women's rights by parliamentarians, no
action has been taken to prevent the murder and maiming of thousands
of women in the name of honour," said a statement distributed by the
"The official bill against honour killings passed by the NA Standing
Committee on Thursday is a fraud, as are the commitments made by
General Musharraf on the BBC," said Asma Jehangir while addressing
marchers outside Parliament House. She said human rights activists
would wait six months for the legislation and enforcement of an
effective law against honour killings. "If nothing changes at the
ground level, we will come again after six months," she said.
Mr Aitzaz Ahsan said that honour killings must be stopped. "We need
not just legislation, but enforcement," he added.
He said Friday's protest and march were against the lack of
legislation, its enforcement and the attitude toward this practice.
Mr Iqbal Haider told Daily Times that the government was being
hypocritical. On one hand, it condemned honour killings, and on the
other its ministers opposed moves to curb honour killings, he said.
"The speaker of the National Assembly should be dismissed because he
blocked a resolution in the National Assembly against honour killings
in November 2003," he said. The president of the Supreme Court Bar
Association, Justice (r) Tariq Mahmood, said Gen Musharraf had
promised in 2000 to curb honour killings.
"Since then, Gen Musharraf has monopolised power, but no law has been
made so far against honour killings. Gen Musharraf has made an
alliance with the mullahs and does not seem to be honouring the
commitment he made against honour killings," he added.
Protesters observed one minute of silence for all those women who
have been killed so far in the name of honour.
o o o o
BBC News - 7 October, 2004, 18:20 GMT 19:20 UK
PARTIES SEEK MEDIA BAN AT RAMADAN
By Haroon Rashid
BBC correspondent in Peshawar
The government in Pakistan's North West Frontier Province (NWFP)
wants cinemas and cable TV to be shut down during the Muslim holy
month of Ramadan.
www.sacw.net | October 8, 2004
OPEN LETTER TO THE MEDIA
[September 30, 2004]
We are appalled by at the media's (especially television) coverage of
the 'Gudiya-Taufiq-Arif' case. We strongly resent the growing
instances of trial by media, the media's self-appointed role as
resolvers of conflict, and the use of people's personal tragedies to
increase network ratings. Headlines like 'Kiski Gudiya?'also
symbolised the regressive image of women as property that informed
the media's coverage.
Zee's advertisement for its show said, "A man gets his life
back....... a family gets its future: A soldier at Kargil spends 5
years as POW. His newly wed wife waits in futility and then
re-marries. The soldier returns to find his life turned upside down.
... At Zee news we are happy to be the forum where the issue was
resolved. As India's largest media house, its our duty to the
nation". This is particularly tasteless and disturbing, but the other
channels like NDTV and Aaj Tak fared little better. It is bad enough
having village panchayats and religious representatives enforcing
particular decisions, without having the media act as an alternative
The terms of the 'debate' were backward to say the least. Television
anchors repeatedly asked Arif and Taufiq what they wanted, while
Gudiya was rarely given a chance. The 'public' at large, which has no
locus standi in the case, was asked for their opinion, and again the
terms of the debate were set as a choice of which of the two men
should get her. The media thus repeatedly reinforced the idea of a
woman as an object to be handed around between various men.
One of the questions concerned the status of the child - i.e. whether
Arif should keep the child or if Taufiq should take it back once it
is born. The decision of the Deoband Ulema that Arif should keep the
child, but Taufiq should pay for its upkeep also reduces parenting to
a question of money and 'ownership'. But most of all, one got no
sense in all this, that it is Gudiya's child as well, or rather,
Gudiya's child most of all. Far from displaying any sense of social
responsibility, the media have reinforced the idea that women should
have no control over their fertility, bodies and lives- and that
these should be controlled by the husband, family, panchayat and now
The media claims in its defense that noone forced the parties to come
to the media. However, there is a fine line between choice and
coercion when the media decides to take over an issue like this.
Besides, in complex situations of this kind, people may use any
avenue to get their point of view across. Rather than resolving
conflict, as Zee and others claimed to be doing, the media enhanced
conflict in this case by forcing relatives to give public statements
against one another. Gudiya and other family members have since
complained of the media's violation of their privacy (HT, 26.9.04).
We also note a communal subtext to the coverage. Even as the media
reduced Gudiya to silence, they kept focusing on how the decisions
were being made for her by the Ulema and the village panchayat, the
underlying message being that Muslim women have no choice and that
the community is ruled by fatwas. We wish to point out that
retrogressive caste or religious panchayats are a common feature of
both Hindu and Muslim life.
While one may have every sympathy for Arif's trauma as a Kargil POW,
this does not mean that 'the nation' owes him a wife. Nor does Taufiq
become a hero because he 'accepted soiled goods' as one interviewee
graciously informed us on television. If anyone is the real heroine,
it is Gudiya, who has endured both her village panchayat, clerics and
Arif's unreasonable demands that she abandon her child.
We also object to the way in which a woman who is eight months
pregnant and reportedly ill due to the pressure of decision-making
was virtually 'kidnapped' and subjected to long hours in the studio.
Finally, we believe that Gudiya should have been given the space to
make her decision, away from the media and the contending families,
village panchayats, clerics etc.
Many organisations and individuals, some of whom are listed below,
have endorsed this letter:
Organisations: PUDR, Saheli, Nirantar, Lok Raj Sanghatan, Sama, CREA,
Tarshi, Centre for Development and Human Rights, PRISM, Sahrwaru,
Delhi University GCash, Purogami Mahila Sanghatan, Akshara, Awaz - e-
Niswan, Vacha, Forum Against Oppression of Women, Ashray Adhikar
Manch, Rahi, Jagori, Mati Munsiari, Ankur, Anandi, Olakh, Sanlaap,
Swayam, Gramya Resource Centre, Majlis, Labia
Individuals: Sujata Patel, Prabha Nagaraj, Neha Sood, Nivedita Menon,
Aditya Nigam, Rakhee Timothy, K. Johnson, Malini Ghose, Farah Naqvi,
Laxmi Murthy, Ujjwal Singh, Anupama Roy, Vineeta Bal, Paramjeet
Singh, Prateeksha Baxi, Vikram Vyas, Janaki Abraham, Nandini Sundar,
Dipta Bhog, Shahana Bhattacharya, Sharmila Purkayastha, Jaya Sharma,
Mosuhumi Basu, Sucharita, Manjeer, Poornima Gupta, Shalini Joshi,
Deepika Tandon, Sarojini, Sonal, Nischint, Kumud, Yasmeen, Nandita
Gandhi, Shivanand Kanvi, Kalyani Menon, Bina Srinivas, Veenu, Malika
Virdi, Soma KP, Ammu Joseph, Priyanka Trehan, Sunita Menon & Others.
HINDUTVA MAYHEM IN KARNATAKA
Now the criminal groups of Sangaparivar VHP and Bajarangdal are using
the Ganesha festivals for impose their agenda of Hidutva through
genocide. One of such development took place in outskirts of
Bangalore city India a week back. The local criminals of Yelahanka
and surrounding area are in settled in the criminal groups of the
Sangaparivar. They all joining together organized the Ganesha
festival in the surrounding villages. The leader of VHP Mr. Promodh
Muthalik Desai addressed the public in vidyaranya pura on the
occasion of the Ganesha festival. He openly asked the youth to attach
on Muslims. The local leaders of the Sangaparivar organized a rally
on 26th of September 2004 Sunday evening at the end of the Ganesha
festival. The tragedy is that the procession is planned to pass
Chikka bettahally a poor Muslim dominated area. Around 600 youth
belongs to the VHP and Bajarangdal was prepared for create violence.
Chikka bettahally is a Muslim dominated area with the population of
4,000. 90% of the population is poor Muslims who workers has daily
Above 600 youths attacked the poor Muslim houses in Chikka
bettahally. Many people injured. Many feared families migrated with
their children and valuables. Social action committee and other
organizations able to prevent a planned genocide by pressurizing the
state to organize maximum police force in the spot.
Social action committee has planned to do a fact finding on 3rd October 2004.
Social action committee with support of many other organizations and
individuals organizing a huge public gathering to protest the
genocide plans of the Sangaparivar.
Date of the protest: 9th October 2004 Saturday.
Venue: Town hall Bangalore.
Time: 4 PM.
Swami Agnivesh, Ms. Teesta setlwad, Dr. U R Anathamurthy, Agni
Sridhar, Prof. Raviverma Kumar, DSS, KJS, KVR, PVC, SSD, KRRS,
General and Garment workers union, Sangama, Samvada, Bahumukhi,
Janamatha, Karnataka komu souhardha vedike, PDF, MRHS and many others.
Social action committee.
sacw.net | October 8, 2004
HINDUTVAISATION OF A GORAKHNATH MUTT
THE YOGI AND THE FANATIC
by Subhash Gatade
The last two decades of the 20 th century have been witness to the
coming to the fore of the careful and planned unfolding of what one
sociologist calls 'spatial strategies of Hindutva'. Ranging from the
then obscure looking Ayodhya focussed place / site based strategy in
the early 80s to the shameful use of many religious Yatras or the n
number of Political Yatras it undertook, it has thus taken under its
ambit places / sites, areas as well as routes to spread the
homogenising and hegemonic agenda of Hindu Rashtra . No doubt barring
a few disasters ( like the recent 'India Shining' Yatra) this
strategy has paid rich dividends to the saffron combine.
What can be considered the key elements of this strategy. The
'success' of such a 'place /area / route' centred strategy hinges
around basically two things : one the particular site / place should
be 'invested with a unique particularity' and two, the 'other' should
be implicated in it.
The movement for the 'liberation of Ram Janam Bhoomi' which
ultimately led to the demolition of a four century old year mosque
and the biggest communal conflagaration in postinependent India to
the periodic raising of tempers at Mathura / 'Krishnajanambhoomi' or
Kashi Vishwanath Temple / Gyanvapi mosque in Varanasi can be called
the centrepiece of their activities in the 90s. But apart from
focussing themselves on these 'sacred places' and further staking
claim to 30,000 more similar shrines / mosques / mazars spread all
over the country one was also witness to the playing out of the
another type of 'place centred interventions' by the Hindutva forces
which apparently had 'secular ' overtones. The controversy over the
Hubli Idgah Maidan and the attempts to unfurl Tricolour over it had
been a case in point.
Another type of such interventions can be categorised by looking at
the changes wrought in at places / sites which claim a syncretic
tradition. The homogenising / hegemonising project of Hindutva has
continued with its feverish attempts to destroy the composite
character of such places. Baba Buddhan Giri is a case in point. While
a few such places have really succumbed to the 'hinduisation' drive
but at many places it has been difficult for them to break the
communal unity of the broad masses of the people.
A third category of 'place centred' interventions has involved the
gradual Brahminisation / Hindutvisation of temples, mutts which had
remained outside the Brahminical fold and had their genesis in the
revolts of the subalterns in the medieval times against the
stranglehold of Brahminism. The way the historic Veershaiva movement
started by the great Basava as a cultural rebellion is being slowly
coopted in the Hindutva fold or the way a section of the famous Nath
movement is being coopted in the overall gameplan of the Hindutva
forces is for everyone to see.
Definitely the efforts of the Hindutva brigade which has cleverly
made plans, provided space, built networks or started agitations
supposedly to involve them in their grand project have played an
important stimulating/ catalytic role in their metamorphosis but
these type of 'external' interventions cannot be said to be solely
responsible for the ensuing changes. At times one has also been
witness to the way the 'internal' dynamic also plays a role in their
transformations. Apart from the rising political ambitions of the
chief Guru whose influence is widespread, the internal squabbles
among the mutts have also played a role in their transformations. At
times the growing 'Sanskritisation' of the followers of a particular
mutt has also rather forced the chieftains of the mutts to shed a few
of its overtly nonBrahminical rituals or introduce a few Brahminical
This brief writeup focusses on the hinduisation / hindutvaisation of
a famous mutt in Eastern Uttar Pradesh which has the potential of
impacting the regional politics in a big way.
Full Text at:
The Economic and Political Weekly
Census 2001 and religion data
September 25, 2004
THE SQUABBLE THAT NEVER ENDS
Religion and Fertility
An impartial examination of the complexities underlying simple
measures of fertility and population growth will reveal that we are
all - Hindu, Muslim and Christian - driven by the same basic
quotidian needs and constraints, and that our reproductive behaviour
is one important way of reflecting these desires and dilemmas. These
conclusions are not exciting, but they need to be publicised in the
same way that the raw religious differences have been. This is the
joint social responsibility of academia, the press, and political and
religious 'leaders'. Such personal exercise of responsibility is
essential because demonising the 'other' is easy, but it is also
dishonest and it is often brutally consequential for all sides.
by Alaka M Basu
Most of the time, I think of my discipline, demography, as too dry to
be of interest to the kind-hearted friends and relatives who ask me
what I do. I give them as brief a synopsis as possible and run before
I can see their yawns. But then, every now and then, someone throws a
match into this dry tinderbox and suddenly everyone, it turns out,
has been a closet demographer all his life - the politician, the
journalist, the fish seller, my uncle, his third cousin and the third
The fish seller, my uncle, and his cousin and spouse used to be, in
the past, of little consequence. They could spout demography till the
cows came home, but all they would enjoy would be the sounds of their
own voices. Suddenly, in recent years, this is no longer the case.
Joined and egged on by the politician and the journalist, these
mini-demographers now have 'agency', a word that is much lauded in
the current NGO literature, but one that can take ominous form when
it comes with the misinformation, misunderstanding and moral
righteousness that seems to drive this new nationalistic agency.
The uproar over the recently released religion tables from the 2001
Census illustrates this excellently. After the inexplicable and
expensive mistake in which the Registrar General's Office press
release put out all-India growth rates for the different religious
groups of India without adjusting for the absence of Assam in the
1981 Census and Jammu and Kashmir in the 1991 Census, the public
fallout was inevitable and predictable. From each comment, with no
other knowledge, one could identify the religion as well as the
ideological leanings of the commentator. The high command of the
Sangh parivar was as predictable and monotonous as the Imam of
Fatehpuri Jama Masjid Delhi.
What one could not so easily anticipate were the garbled journalistic
reports on the subject, not just in the popular Indian press, but
even in usually more thoughtful outlets like the BBC and Outlook
online pages. I am not referring here to all the armchair analysis on
the 'unacceptably' high Muslim fertility that opinion pages have been
spewing out. Whether these pieces are antagonistic or sympathetic to
the Muslim population of India, they often do a kind of analysis that
would be rejected outright by any scientific review process.
But, in the first days of reporting, even the very statement of the
'problem' was framed in meaningless language in the press. Concepts
of rates, proportions, absolute numbers, were all misinterpreted and
tossed into the hyped-up reporting on the demographic state of the
nation. Take the very first sentence from the September 6 report in
OutlookIndia.com: 'The first-ever census report on religion today
showed a 'high growth' of Muslims at 36 per cent in sharp contrast to
the 'decline' in the Hindu population to 23 per cent in the country'.
What on earth does this sentence mean? It is full of misconceptions.
In particular, is it is the population growth rate of the Hindus that
has 'declined', not the population of Hindus. That is, there is
absolutely no fear of the absolute numbers of Hindus having come down
a jot regardless of BJP president Venkaiah Naidu's remark that he was
'disturbed' by the "decline in the Hindu population" (report in
OutlookIndia.com, September 7). And what does it mean for the Hindu
population to have declined to "23.0 per cent in the country"? That
wording implies that Hindus now constitute 23 per cent of Indians, a
factual distortion of the highest order.
Such basic misrepresentations (and there are scores more, in the
press as well as from the mouths of political heavyweights) would be
amusing if they were not also chilling, leading as they do with
strident calls for punitive action against a community that must be
sick to death of these constant demands to demonstrate its
patriotism. To that extent, we are fortunate that some of the media
outlets have, in subsequent reports, at least got their definitions
more correct, even if one wonders who is going to bother to
understand these clarifications.
Quite apart from the mass media gymnastics, there are a few other
lessons that standard demography teaches that are worth repeating to
place these popular hysterics in context. The first of these is that
the population growth rate is not simply a synonym for the population
birth rate. Population growth is the outcome of the net balance of
births, deaths and migration, with migration, in this case, being
both territorial as well as religious - that is the Muslim population
of India can in principle rise or fall due to movements of Muslims
across Indian borders as well as a rise in conversions to and from
Islam within India.
So many sweeping statements have been made about both these kinds of
migration, and especially about the Bangladeshi migrants flocking to
India, that addressing them in this paper will take me too far
outside the word limit that this note has been allotted. The only
point worth making quickly one more time is that if Bangladesh was
ever the basket case that Kissinger claimed it was, that epithet can
only sound silly today. The remarkable social progress made by that
country can be ignored only by a stubborn Indian nationalism that
sees only what it wants to see. On all social indicators - birth
rates, death rates, school enrolments, female labour force
participation - Bangladesh is today very close to, if not often
better than, India. And given that the Indian data include 'star'
performers like Kerala, Punjab and Tamil Nadu, it follows that many
other parts of the country must often be much worse than Bangladesh;
hardly a reason for impoverished Bangladeshis to keep coming to our
benevolent land forever.
But there is another important determinant of population growth that
has been completely missing from the popular analyses I have seen.
The common tendency for those reports that do not rage about
Bangladeshi migration is to attribute the higher growth rates of
Indian Muslims to their uncontrolled fertility. But population growth
is a function of births as well as deaths. So if two populations have
the same birth rates, the one with a lower death rate will show a
higher rate of growth. And at least a part of the higher growth rate
of Muslims in India can be attributed to their lower morality rates.
We are strangely tightlipped about 'this' particular 'religious'
difference. Naturally, because acknowledging it would require
acknowledging that a higher Muslim growth rate doesn't automatically
imply unbridled Muslim fertility. Worse, it would also require an
acknowledgement that the Muslims in India seem to be better than the
Hindus are at ensuring the health and survival of their children in
general and their daughters in particular.
The National Family Health Survey of 1998-99 has some readily
available statistics on this subject. In this survey, infant
mortality rates (or the IMR - the number of babies per thousand
births dying within a year of birth) were 58.8 and 77.1 for Muslims
and Hindus respectively - a difference that is consequential for
inter-religious population growth rates of course, but is also
telling given the generally lower socio-economic conditions of
Muslims. This difference is repeated for children between the ages of
one and five, so that overall child mortality (the numbers of
children per thousand births that die before their fifth birthday)
was 82.7 for Muslims, but 107.0 for Hindus. That is, even today, more
than 10 per cent of Hindu children die by the age of five.
It would be as foolish to attribute the higher Hindu infant and child
mortality entirely to something inherently 'Hindu' as it is to insist
that the higher birth rates of Muslims primarily represent something
inherently 'Muslim' and we need much more academic understanding of
both these differences so that both religious groups can learn from
one another. That is, if we are into teaching lessons, then perhaps
we ought to be more amenable to taking lessons as well. And while I
am at it, I may as well add that the IMR for Christians is 49 per
thousand births, for Jains it is 47 and for Sikhs it is 53 - all well
below the figure for Hindus.
Incidentally, this is not simply a matter of Hindus being less able
to look after their births. There is a more unpalatable factor
underlying these mortality differentials as well. According to the
just released census figures, the juvenile sex ratio (the number of
females per thousand males in the 0-6 year age group) of Indian
Muslims is 950 compared to 925 for Hindus; that is Hindu girls are
paying a disproportionate cost of these religious differences in
child mortality. Given that there is no reason to believe that little
Hindu girls are much weaker than their brothers, compared to Muslim
girls relative to their brothers, one must shamefacedly ask if the
gap between Hindu and Muslim population growth rates would be smaller
if Hindu female mortality was a little closer to Hindu male
mortality. At this stage, it might be only fair to also acknowledge
the greater gender egalitarianism of Indian Christians (a juvenile
sex ratio of 964) and bemoan the worse performance of Sikhs and Jains
(786 and 870 respectively) - the Sikh and Jain success at keeping
infant mortality low comes at a painfully high cost to its daughters
it seems. The tone of moral righteousness in the public debates over
these census results on growth rates compels me to raise these other
'moral' inter-religious demographic matters.
Having said all this, it is nevertheless true that Muslim fertility
is clearly higher than Hindu fertility today. But acknowledging these
differences is not the same as understanding them and the recent
politicking on the subject has not even millimetred us towards a
greater understanding of the matter. Once more, there are several
theoretical and empirical ways of increasing this understanding. Such
research would focus on religion naturally, but would also look at
the religious correlates of socio-economic factors such as income,
education and minority group status, as well as on more technically
demographic factors such as age distributions, widow remarriage and
Some of this theory and empirical analysis is already available in
the academic literature, but much more needs to be done and hopefully
there are objective researchers who will rise to do this in the
coming months. Right now, I want to point out something that the
trends in growth rates in the census hint at but do not specify
The census results suggest that once we have adjusted the absence of
Assam and Jammu and Kashmir in the Censuses of 1981 and 1991
respectively, not only have Muslim growth rates in India fallen, they
have fallen more than have Hindu growth rates. And more direct
fertility data indeed confirm that there are differential rates of
fertility decline too in the two communities, leading to a
convergence in fertility levels. The best way to demonstrate this is
to look at two different measures of fertility in the 1998-99
National Family Health Survey. In the report from this survey, if one
looks at what demographers call 'completed family size', that is, the
mean number of children ever born to ever-married women aged 40-49
years (this age group assumes, legitimately enough, that the women in
it are unlikely to bear any more children), the Hindu-Muslim
difference is as large as 1.38 births per woman (the completed family
size being 4.34 for Hindus and 5.72 for Muslims).
'Completed family size' is a measure of past fertility. But if one
looks at current fertility (which is captured by what is called the
TFR or Total Fertility Rate - the mean number of children that a
woman today will end up with if at each age she has the number of
births that women who are presently of that age are having), the
Hindu-Muslim difference collapses to 0.81 (the Muslim TFR being 3.59
and the Hindu 2.78). In other words, not only is Muslim fertility
falling in the same way as Hindu fertility (and indeed global
fertility); it is in fact falling faster than Hindu fertility.
This finding makes nonsense of those predictions that purport to tell
us how few decades or centuries it will take for Muslims to outnumber
Hindus in this country. All those predictions assume unchanging birth
and population growth rates in the different population groups,
whereas in fact what is more likely is that universal fertility
declines coupled with differential rates of decline in the two
communities will lead to eventual (and by 'eventual' I do not mean in
a few centuries) fertility levels that are very similar in all
significant sub-groups groups of the Indian population, so that the
proportional numbers of these groups also stabilise.
As for policies to further increase the pace of Indian fertility
decline, Muslim fertility is of academic and policy interest for
itself, not for what it is relative to Hindu fertility. If it is
relative positions that we are interested in, there is no reason to
treat Hindu reproductive behaviour as the gold standard. Instead,
given the 'national' goal of population stabilisation, perhaps we
should be asking why the Hindu TFR of 2.78 in 1998-99 was
significantly higher than the Christian TFR of 2.44 and the Sikh one
of 2.26. Any Christian or Sikh group that suggested that this
difference reflected a sinister Hindu plot to drive Christians or
Sikhs into oblivion would be dismissed for its impertinence; more
benign and socio-economic explanations would and should be sought.
If we apply this same kind of intellectual lens to understanding the
fertility patterns of Muslims in India, we might come to the
surprising conclusion that there is much more convergence with other
groups than the publicised differences project. A more impartial
examination of the complexities underlying simple measures of
fertility and population growth will also reveal that finally, we are
all - Hindu, Muslim and Christian - driven by the same basic
quotidian needs and constraints, and that our reproductive behaviour
is one important way of reflecting these desires and dilemmas.
Such conclusions are not exciting, but when they are thrown up, they
need to be publicised in the same way that the raw religious
differences have been. This is the joint social responsibility of
academia, the press, political and religious 'leaders', and my
uncle's third cousin's wife. Such personal exercise of responsibility
is essential because demonising the 'other' is easy, but it is
also dishonest and it is often brutally consequential for all sides.
RSS AND JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY
Free Speech has suddenly found votaries among those who don't give a
tinker's damn to others' right to free speech, who have penalised and
strangled free speech times without number, and who believe in the gagging
of free speech as a categorical imperative in their totalitarian ideology.
The sophistry being adduced in favor of Free Speech, so lewdly (not just
loudly), is farthest from conceding that it is the constitutive element of a
democratic, modern, pluralistic polity and society within the larger ambit
of cilvil liberties and human rights.
That there are vulgar vigilante groups , swathed in saffron, who are the
loudest and most
apish in touting the virtues of free speech and their right to it, is no
What is a surprise is that a university has decided to host the spokesman of
a fascist party. There are serious ramifications involved, dangerous
consequences entailed in this decision of a varsity.
This amounts to conferment of legitimacy and respectability to a mafia
committed to violence, genocide of minorities and their extirpation, and
defiant suborning of the constitutional order. The university would seem to
be endorsing and encouraging a criminal outfit dedicated to disrupting the
rule of law, demolishing the nation, desecrating its heritage, destroying
its unity, devastating the lives of millions through assassinations, rapes,
torching people and properties, looting and thuggery.
This person is the representative of a party which has Gandhi's blood on its
hands, besides the blood of over 2000 Gujarat Muslims, to name just two of
its heinous, anti-national crimes.
That some of the left believe the right to free speech as an absolute,
without any context, is worrisome.
It is useful to recall how some of the left got blinkered about Kosovo and
Serbia, Afghanistan, and
Iraq, and became partisans of the empire.
Let those who oppose the JHU feting the spokesman of a fundamentalist-
terrorist gang, guilty of innumerable crimes, speak out now. The empire has
always enlisted such ones in its foreign legions for purposes that it calls
The Tribune - October 9, 2004
NO IDEOLOGICAL LINES DRAWN
The issues Maharashtra manifestos don't mention
by J. Sri Raman
WHICH has a greater bearing on the forthcoming Maharashtra Assembly
elections - Mr Bal Thackeray's beard or the Shiv Sena's ideological
baggage? By all accounts thus far, the answer is unmistakable: the
former. This may sound frivolously facetious, but it is a serious
comment on the character of the country's first major political
contest after the last Lok Sabha polls.
The two major alliances supposed to be locked in a titanic struggle -
the Congress-NCP camp and its Shiv Sena-BJP counter - have both come
out with joint manifestos. This, in theory, should have meant a
drawing of clear ideological lines on identified issues. It has, in
fact, meant quite the opposite. To a Martian visitor, the manifestos
would make no sense at all as political statements of contending
Both promise free power to farmers, both dodge the Vidarbha issue,
and both speak of a Shivaji memorial. If there are differences on
important issues, neither of the documents divulges them. Both are
silent on issues that are supposed to divide them. The silence is
eloquent, especially on the issues of so-called "Hindutva". It is
even more so on the Shiv Sena's own issues that combine religious
chauvinism with the regional variety.
The two camps are silent on these issues in different ways and for
different tactical reasons. It is not as if neither of them was going
to raise these issues. One of them was already raising them and going
to raise them, away from its manifesto. It is the Congress-NCP
alliance that has betrayed an unconcealed anxiety to keep them away
from the entire election campaign, except perhaps in pockets of
minority predominance. The alliance has adopted a tactical line of
least resistance to what, far from elections, it denounces as fascism
deserving of a mortal combat.
The "saffron" duo would seem to have two reasons for its two-track
electoral diplomacy. In the first place, it wants no encounter with
the Election Commission. Mr Thackeray himself has made a public
promise to comply with the EC's directive to keep religious issues
out of the campaign (though he has also, in all innocence, asked: "Is
Ayodhya a religious issue or not? Can someone tell me?"). The coyness
about some of the Shiv Sena causes, especially regional-chauvinist
ones like Mee Mumbaikar and virulent opposition to the idea of a
Vidarbha State, is also the outcome of its alliance with the BJP that
has to keep up its all-India appearances.
Neither of these reasons applies to the other side. The Congress and
the NCP are not going to fall foul of the EC by taking up a campaign
against communalism. On these issues, they have revealed no
differences that should restrain such a campaign. Not after Mr Sharad
Pawar's somersaults have disposed of the once allegedly fundamental
differences on the issue of "foreign origin". What restrains the
tricolour team is what restrained the Congress campaigns in the last
Assembly and Lok Sabha elections in Gujarat.
What holds the alliance back is the fear of alienating communalised
constituencies. Little wonder, no one from the alliance has answered
Mr Thackeray's question. No one has told him and, through him, the
voters that Ayodhya is not indeed a religious issue, but one of
pseudo-religious politics. The Congress is certainly not going to
draft Mr Mani Shankar Aiyar, who once called it a "real-estate
issue", for the campaign. The party can only disown this as the
Petroleum Minister's "personal view" like his recent clanger of
closer relevance on Veer Savarkar. The alliance, in other words, will
avoid a frontal clash with the "Chhatrapati" of today's Maharashtra
as the Congress did with the "Chhote Sardar" of Gujarat.
Little wonder, again, that the rebellions in both the camps and
inside all the four parties have acquired almost the same relevance
as the main contest for Maharashtra. The contest between the two
alliances, to look at it another way, appears not very different from
the issueless conflicts between the official and rebel candidates of
the same party.
The media coverage of the Mahabharata in Maharashtra, too, mirrors
this situation. Because the contending camps do not talk about these
issues, much of the media also does not. Reading newspaper reports
and watching television coverage, you would hardly imagine that the
elections involve ideological issues of the haziest import.
Rebellions, caste politics, and personality factors - a combination
of these would seem to hold the key in constituencies across the
State. The media is not even asking the contenders for their views on
subjects of larger social concern.
A striking illustration is the way the war of succession in the Shiv
Sena is presented to public view. The rival claimants to Mr
Thackeray's throne - his son Uddhav Thackeray and nephew Raj
Thackeray - have both faced barrages of questions from interviewers.
No one, however, has asked either of them where he stood, for
instance, on declaring a cut-off date for Mumbai citizenship. Or on
deporting alleged Bangladeshis or beating up Bihari applicants for
railway jobs. Or queering the pitch for India-Pakistan cricket or
censoring out India-Pakistan films and even pure-Indian cinema of
impermissible themes. And a host of similar other queries on issues
closer to the Shiv Sena's heart than free power or non-returnable
loans to farmers.
The scene is distinctly reminiscent of the days of the last Lok Sabha
contest. Then, too, we were told that the BJP had decided to stop
campaigning on divisive issues and start doing so on "developmental"
ones. Later, it came to light that, even while big leaders were
talking about "bijli, pani aur sadak", common party cadre
concentrated on communal issues, like the Bhoj Shala dispute in
Madhya Pradesh and the conversions scare in Chhattisgarh, for just
Even then, after the defeat of the National Democratic Alliance in
the elections, Mr Thackeray went public with his opinion that the
BJP's soft-pedalling of "Hindutva" was responsible for the result.
The bland Shiv Sena-BJP manifesto cannot, and does not, mean that the
alliance has gone miraculously "developmental" at the grassroots.
The two parties and the rest of the "parivar", in fact, have been on
the communal offensive for quite some time in "mohallas" away from
cameras of the high-profile media. Ear-to-the-ground accounts say
that the Shiv Sena-BJP alliance has resolved, actually, to step up
this offensive in order to win the support of North Indians alienated
by the Mee Mumbaikar movement. The Bajrang Dal has chosen this time
to start a Statewide campaign against cow slaughter (besides one
against picture of Hindu deities and symbols on the covers of audio -
and video-cassettes). The Vishwa Hindu Parishad is distributing
"trishuls" (tridents) and booklets asking Hindus to give the Babri
Masjid treatment to the Afzal Khan tomb. This is an indicative, not
an exhaustive, list.
There is, obviously, more at stake in the Maharashtra elections than
Mr. Thackeray's beard, which he has reportedly vowed to shave off
only if his alliance wins. We have not been told what will happen to
it, if the results spell a hung Assembly as predicted by an opinion
poll. The more important question, however, is what the verdict will
be on issues the manifestos do not mention.
www.sacw.net | October 7, 2004
SALUTE TO A MENTOR
Dear Uncle Mulk,
I wanted to write this to greet you on your 100th birthday later this
year in December but
sadly I am writing to you when you have departed. Yet, how can a
person like you depart who has contributed so much to Indian
literature. How can I forget the nice wonderful moments with you at
'Lokayat' which has your imprint and your values even today. The
green trees of deer park, the chirping of birds and your morning walk
in the Deer Park. How can I forget the sharing of morning tea and
scanning the morning newspapers and then breaking for the breakfast.
Therefore, I am still feeling that you are there and we greet you on
Though you have gone after a well-attained life still I moan for your
incomplete hundred. I wanted to see you either in Mumbai or Delhi to
greet on your magnificient hundred though I did not meet you after
our last meeting in early 1994. I don't feel this is right time for
me to explain to you as what prompted me to see you afterwards even
when I had left Lokayat in the end of 1992.
I still remember the days as a student, when I used to write you from
the hills. Your stories became my favorite narratives. Your letter,
though small became my ray of hope for a better future at a time when
I was passing through deep desperations. I was just feeling to get
out of a hell, which I was put in. I saw a life of miseries, personal
catastrophes and really impossible. And I wanted an entirely personal
decision from you- to get me out of the hell I was. And one day, I
received a letter from you to come to Delhi for an interview. It was
a great moment of joy and even those who did not like me felt that I
have done a miracle. For them, being with Mulk Raj Anand was an
opportunity to learn, though some of them thought that it was a way
towards success and earn money through favour.
[Full Text at: http://sacw.insaf.net/free/vbrawat07102004.html
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