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  • Harsh Kapoor
    South Asia Citizens Web - Dispatch 28 Feb 2000 [ India under the Hindu Right] __________________________________________ #1. Lucknow university to allow RSS to
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      South Asia Citizens Web - Dispatch
      28 Feb 2000
      [ India under the Hindu Right]
      __________________________________________
      #1. Lucknow university to allow RSS to operate on Campus
      #2. A convent faces demolition for refusing entry to UP governor's
      grandchild
      #3. Ayodhya: Half the work on Ram temple is expected to be over by year
      end
      #4. History - made to order
      __________________________________________

      #1. Lucknow university to allow RSS branches (shakhas) to operate on
      Campus. from 1st of March 2000 onwards. The current vice chancellor has
      alos issued statement defending the decision by RSS. This has shocked
      large numbers of citizens of Lucknow.
      (source: Harsh Kapoor in Lucknow)
      _______________
      #2.
      Outlook
      February 28, 2000

      SCANDAL
      Illiberal Lessons
      A convent faces demolition for refusing entry to UP governor Suraj
      Bhan's grandchild, reviving the Hindu vs Christian debate

      by Priya Sahgal in Ambala


      It's more than a simple case of being denied admission. Rather, it
      could be seen as an instance of an affronted big-wig exercising his
      privilege of wrath. Last year, when UP Governor Suraj Bhan's
      four-year-old grand-daughter applied to the Convent of Jesus and Mary
      in Ambala, she was told she was under-age. This year, when Aparajita
      Dhir applied again, she was refused admission on grounds that she'd
      overshot the age limit by 27 days. That was when the administration
      stepped in. School authorities say the district commissioner called
      Sister Tara, the principal, and asked her to admit the child. "She
      replied that rules didn't permit this," says Dinesh Gupta, the school's
      lawyer. The furious DC, states a petition filed by Gupta in the
      sessions court, threatened to "take action against the school
      authorities".

      Two days later, on February 4, Haryana Roadways stopped plying special
      buses for the school. "The service was restored a day later, but only
      after parents complained to the DC," says Gupta. Then, on February 8,
      local municipal officials visited the convent. The petition says they
      "threatened the principal, asking that the child be admitted or the
      building would be demolished and heavy taxes imposed on the school." In
      fact, executive officer S.K. Goel handed over a notice to the principal
      asking her to supply proof of `ownership' and the building sanctions.
      Another notice from the building inspector followed-a bill for Rs
      1,05,000 as house tax for `98-99 and `99-2000. At a level, it's a case
      of harried parents. But the irony too is striking: a saffron family
      seeks entry to a Christian school.

      The school has filed a case against the Municipal Council and has
      managed to procure a stay order against the demolition-on charge of an
      unauthorised construction-until March 14. The petition links the
      harassment by the civic authorities to the denial of admission to
      Bhan's grand-daughter. "There is no link at all," says B.C. Dhir, the
      child's father and Suraj Bhan's son-in-law. "I didn't ask the DC to
      call the school." According to Dhir, it's part of a larger plan to
      defame his father-in-law. "When I met the principal, she asked me only
      two questions: How're you related to Suraj Bhan? and Wasn't he the
      deputy speaker in `96?" Bhan's family claims it's a case of the
      infamous Hindu versus Christian angle at work. "If you remember, at
      that time the Congress had moved a bill asking that scheduled caste
      (SC) Hindus who'd converted to Christianity also be provided the same
      reservations as Hindu SCs," explains Bhan's son, Arun Kumar. "My father
      mobilised MPs and it was because of him that the Congress could not
      pass the bill," he added.

      But, says a school teacher, "If Sister Tara knew the child was Bhan's
      grand-daughter she'd have given her admission regardless of the
      age-limit," she says. According to the teacher, the admission form only
      had the girl's father's name. "Dhir's an upper-caste. Had the principal
      known the child's grandfather himself belonged to a backward caste,
      she'd have taken the child as the school essentially looks after the
      minorities," she claims. But Dhir says when he pleaded with the
      principal to make an exception for Aparajita as she was a Governor's
      grand-daughter, he was told rules could only be relaxed for Christians.

      Ram Niwas, the DC, denies making any phone call to the principal and
      says the school buses were withheld due to the heavy rains. As for the
      demolition threat and the huge house tax, Niwas claims it's all
      routine, "As many as 20 educational institutions have been served
      notice during the last year for non-payment of the house tax." But Dhir
      says he's lost interest, "I'll send my daughter to another school.
      Anyway, she'll never be eligible for admission here." His frustration
      seems to be similar to that faced by harried parents all over the
      country. But Aparajita's family thinks it's more than just a case of
      routine harassment by school authorities. "We've lost out as we're
      related to Suraj Bhan," says Dhir.

      "It wasn't us but the school which dragged in his name," says Shalini
      Dhir, Bhan's daughter. "My father didn't even know we had applied to
      this school," she adds. But the irony of the situation is lost on no
      one. A family with members in the same Sangh parivar that specialises
      in vandalising Christian institutions now wants to avail the advantages
      of a similar set-up. "I wanted to send my daughter there as it has a
      good reputation and it's an all-girls school," says Dhir, sounding like
      an average middle-class father. But he's much more than that. Whether
      this is a case of a VIP flexing political muscle or an instance of a
      minority institution hitting back at a member of the saffron
      brigade-the situation has fast developed into something slightly more
      complex than just a question of school admissions.
      _______________

      #3.

      The Week
      Mar 5, 2000

      Crafty creations
      Ayodhya: Half the work on Ram Mandir is expected to be over by year end


      By Debashish Mukerji/Karsevapuram

      Inexorably, relentlessly, the work goes on. Angry noises are
      periodically
      made elsewhere in Parliament, in the media; angry noises subside. They
      barely reach the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) karyalaya (workshop) at
      Karsevapuram in Ayodhya. And even if they do, they make not a whit of
      difference. A giant stone cutter has been whirring, chisel and hammer
      have
      been striking sandstone continually for nearly ten years. Less than
      two
      kilometres away stands the heavily guarded "makeshift temple" of Ram
      Lalla,
      upon the most controversy-ridden piece of land in the country. It is
      the
      spot where the chiselled stones are finally headed. The workshop is
      crowded
      with huge blocks of pink sandstone, plinth slabs and
      intricately-carved
      pillars. These are the pieces the VHP and its sister organisation, the
      Ram
      Janmabhoomi Nyas, will use to build the much-talked-of "glorious
      temple to
      Lord Rama" on the spot where the Babri Masjid stood until December 6,
      1992,
      and which the makeshift temple now occupies. "Top people from the
      district
      administration, including several district magistrates, have visited
      us,"
      confirmed Anubhai Sompura, the supervisor. "But never have we been
      asked to
      stop work."
      Added Champak Rai, key VHP functionary in charge of temple
      construction:
      "The intermittent furore raised in Parliament are really quite
      meaningless.
      If the opposition parties are so concerned about the work going on
      here, why
      did they not try to stop us when they were in power? We continued our
      work
      through all the years of the Narasimha Rao regime, as well as through
      the
      United Front rule which followed."
      Contentious construction: Portions of pillars stacked at the VHP's
      workshop
      at Karsevapuram (above left); the dwarpalika that will be part of the
      pillar
      at the gateway
      Certainly they did. Those who assumed that with the BJP putting aside
      its
      three 'contentious issues', including the construction of the Ram
      Mandir,
      the Ayodhya chapter had been brought to a close, could not have been
      more
      mistaken. The BJP may have sent Rama into permanent banwas (as a
      recent
      Organiser article commented) but not the VHP.
      Right from September 1990, when the workshop started, the building
      blocks of
      the proposed Ram temple have been prepared in deadly earnestness.
      Certainly,
      there may have been lulls and spurts in the activity. "We began with
      40
      workers all brought here from Sirohi in Rajasthan, which has a
      tradition for
      intricate stone masonry," recalled Anubhai Sompura. "Later we got 60
      more
      from Mirzapur. But after the December 6 demolition, and the
      disturbances
      that followed, more than half of them got scared and ran away."
      With the VHP briefly banned, the workshop stood idle, but not for
      long. By
      mid-1993 fresh workers were recruited, from Sirohi, Mirzapur and
      Dangadra in
      Saurashtra and the task restarted, though the number of workers since
      then
      has been restricted to 60.
      In February 1996, to speed up the pace, part of the work was
      contracted out
      to three stone chiselling units in Pindwara, Sirohi district of
      Rajasthan:
      Sompura Marble Works, Bharat Shilp Kala Kendra and Mahadev Shilp Kala
      Kendra. And all that slow, steady yet unrelenting decade-long
      activity, is
      finally showing considerable progress. "The Ram mandir will be a
      two-tier
      structure, and nearly half the work, almost the entire ground floor,
      should
      be over before the year end," maintained Anubhai.
      A miniature model of the proposed Ram temple stands enclosed in a
      glass case
      near the entrance to the workshop. Champak Rai helpfully pointed out
      its
      different sections. "At one extreme corner is the Singh Dwar, the
      entrance,"
      he said. "Next to it is the Nritya Mandap which will remain completely
      open,
      without doors or walls, supported only by pillars. The walls start
      with the
      third section, the Rang Mandap." Most of the walls, or mandover, are
      being
      built at Pindwara. The walls in turn will have doors, with frames of
      pure
      marble: these frames are being manufactured at yet another Rajasthan
      workshop in Makrana. Deft designs: A craftsman at work on a pillar

      The fourth section is a short passage, or Koli, leading into the heart
      of
      the temple, the Garb Griha, where, on the ground floor, the idol of
      Ram
      Lalla will be installed. Above the Garb Griha will rise the towering
      temple
      spire to a height of 128 feet. Surrounding the entire structure, for
      circumambulation, will be the 10 feet wide parikrama, the entire area
      being
      268.5 feet long, and 140 feet wide. "It will be a massive structure, a
      temple of the kind modern India has hardly seen," averred Champak Rai.
      The
      craftsmen work to detailed drawings and plans sent periodically by
      Chandrakant Sompura, noted Ahmedabad-based architect specialising in
      the
      Nagri style of temple architecture.
      Understandably, the VHP is not too forthcoming about the costs
      incurred. "I
      really don't know how much has been spent," maintained Champak Rai.
      "We had
      estimated that the temple would cost around Rs 30 crore, and we still
      have
      Rs 11 crore left in our account. The rest must have been spent." The
      workers
      are paid between Rs 80 and Rs 175 daily, while the contracts given out
      are
      being paid for at regular commercial rates.
      "We want to speed up the work from April. We'll have 200 workers on
      the job
      once their accommodation needs are met." Champak Rai, in charge of
      temple
      construction
      "Money has never been a problem," said Anubhai Sompura. Indeed, with
      the
      workshop having grown extremely crowded with the growing number of
      blocks
      and pillars, the VHP has purchased 22 acres near by, to which its
      workshop
      will be extended. More living quarters for workers are also being
      built on
      the new site. "We want to speed up the work from April," said Rai.
      "We'll
      have 200 workers on the job once their accommodation needs are met."
      But it is not enough to merely prepare the building blocks. The
      all-important site, too, has to be prepared for construction. Not
      surprisingly, the architectural and structural engineering aspects
      have all
      been closely looked into. "First we shall fill up the pits and
      depressions
      in the area with stones and level the land with bulldozers," said
      Champak
      Rai. "Then we shall build a 'raft foundation'Ña six-foot-thick
      concrete
      layer over the entire area. Along the boundary of this concrete slab
      we will
      erect a ten foot high wall, and enclose the space it surrounds with
      stones
      and earth. On top of this, 16 feet above road level, will start the
      base of
      the temple."
      "The day they start anything at the disputed site, the country will
      break
      into 50 pieces," warned Mohammed Hashim, chief of the Babri Masjid
      Reconstruction Committee in Ayodhya
      Yet can the VHP ever hope to gain possession of the disputed spot?
      Although
      the Central government has acquired the entire area, the last Supreme
      Court
      judgment ruled that the state could only act as a custodian, to hand
      the
      area over to its rightful owner once the title suit pending in the
      Lucknow
      bench of the Allahabad High Court is disposed of. It cannot use the
      land as
      it likes or allot it to any party. But a judicial decision on the
      title
      suit, already pending for 50 years, is unlikely to be ever reached.
      Agreed
      Champak Rai: "There are over 300 witnesses to be examined, of whom
      only 12
      have been questioned so far."
      Until the court reaches a decision, or some other 'solution' is found,
      the
      near impregnable security at the disputed site, with its maze-like
      metal
      barricading, its watchtowers and searchlights and policemen, will
      remain.
      Devotees are not even allowed to carry pens or matches with them as
      they
      come single file for their darshan, with policemen watching their
      every
      step. And even if, as on December 6,1992, with the covert backing of
      the BJP
      governmentÑwhich rules both in Lucknow and in DelhiÑthe VHP is able to
      defy
      court orders and storm the premises, the social and political fall out
      is
      bound to be catastrophic.
      "The day they start anything at the disputed site, the country will
      break
      into 50 pieces," warned Mohammed Hashim, the most widely known of
      Ayodhya's
      4,500 Muslim residents. Though not involved with the title suit,
      Hashim is
      among the petitioners in most of the other cases the Muslims have
      filed in
      the dispute, starting with the one challenging the opening of the
      locks in
      February 1986. He is also the chief of the Babri Masjid Reconstruction
      Committee in Ayodhya, which hopes to rebuild the demolished mosque at
      the
      same spot where it stood. "It is no use going to court against the
      work
      being done at the karyalaya," he said. "I have gone to court on so
      many
      occasionsÑhas even one suit been decided? But if the VHP does
      something on
      that spot again, the country will pay dearly for it."
      But Champak Rai remained unperturbed. "Having started we are going to
      carry
      on," he said. "We are not the sort of people who give up. When we
      start will
      be decided by the Dharam Sansad." Are the VHP and the Nyas prepared to
      defy
      the court orders in force? Rai quoted Ramachandra Paramhans, mahant of
      the
      Digambar Akhada in Ayodhya, and one of the most vocal of the sants
      involved
      in the temple agitation. "Paramhansji said he would obey court orders
      only
      if they were in consonance with dharma. My view is the same," he said.
      "Is
      every verdict of the court sacrosanct? It was a court which called
      Bhagat
      Singh a terrorist and sentenced him to death. Should we abide by the
      court's
      verdict and stop honouring Bhagat Singh?"
      The tantalising question then arises: will the country soon see a
      sequel to
      the great Ayodhya drama, the first part having ended on December
      6,1992? "In
      every major movement, there are lulls and peaks," VHP leader Ashok
      Singhal
      has said. "The freedom movement was not one continuous spell of
      agitation.
      There was the non-cooperation movement of 1921, the Dandi march of
      1930, the
      Quit India movement of 1942: each phase separated by nearly ten years
      of
      very little activity. So will it be with the Ayodhya movement."
      More than seven years have gone by: when will the next phase begin?
      Ayodhya
      is rife with stories of how the VHP intends to build a mass movement
      again
      on the issue of temple construction, just as it had done on the matter
      of
      demolition. However much it may embarrass the ruling BJP, VHP sources
      feel,
      the Central government is unlikely to take repressive measures against
      a
      member of its own RSS parivar. The state government's attitude, as
      Chief
      Minister Ram Prakash Gupta has blurted out, is likely to be much more
      conciliatory.
      The first step for the VHP, sources aver, will be to set up the ground
      floor
      of the temple, initially not at the disputed site, but upon the land
      recently purchased by the VHP. "We want to test out whether the temple
      is
      structurally all right," maintained the VHP source. But the real
      purpose, it
      is claimed, is to use the standing, half-built temple to rouse popular
      feeling in favour of temple construction. "We know there is not as
      much
      popular enthusiasm for temple construction, as there was for the Babri
      Masjid's demolition," said the source. "We hope the interim structure
      will
      mobilise the masses again, after which we will make our assault on the
      disputed site."
      _______________
      #4.
      The Hindu
      27 Feb. 2000
      Op-Ed.

      History - made to order

      The more the BJP and its thinktanks try to put an academic veneer on
      the controversy, the more they end up confirming that the issue is
      actually about settling scores with their ideological adversaries.
      HASAN SUROOR on the ICHR row.

      SHORN OF sophistry and obfuscation, there is really only one way of
      looking at the row over the ``Towards Freedom'' volumes which the
      Indian Council for Historical Research (ICHR) has recalled from the
      press for ``review''- and that is as the BJP's bid to scuttle what
      it perceives as a left-wing project, and to replace it with its own
      version of the independence movement.
      The rest - the ``adverse'' reaction to an earlier volume, the charge
      that manuscripts were sent to the Oxford University Press
      ``bypassing'' the review committee, etc. - is no more than a
      pretext; and as the debate unfolds even Government spokesmen are not
      pretending that there is anything altruistic about it. Mr. Arun
      Shourie, defending the ICHR's action in a TV debate, has admitted
      that if the Congress(I) and left historians could call the shots
      when they were in a position to do so, it is perfectly legitimate
      for the present dispensation to give them ``a dose of their own
      medicine.''
      The ICHR, however, has been less candid and has come up with some
      extremely facetious arguments, including selectively quoting a
      review of the late Prof. Partha Sarathi Gupta's volume by Prof.
      Sabyasachi Bhattacharya to justify the recall of Professors Sumit
      Sarkar and K. N. Panikkar's works. Prof. Bhattacharya has charged
      the ICHR with ``misusing'' the review and said that an individual
      book reviewer's assessment cannot become the basis for suspending
      publication of the work two of the country's leading historians.
      ``The reviewer's freedom and the author's freedom to express opinion
      are at stake if the professional judgments are used for purposes of
      politicking in the realm of academic research,'' Prof. Bhattacharya
      said in a stinging rejoinder to the ICHR's persistent use of his
      review to back its own actions.
      Similarly, Prof. S. Gopal, general editor of the ``Towards Freedom''
      project, has rebutted the charge that the Sarkar- Panikkar volumes
      were sent to the OUP without the Council's authorisation. In a
      strongly-worded statement, he has reminded the ICHR that no less a
      person than its own chairman had ``forwarded'' these to the OUP.
      He has also questioned the ICHR's authority to withdraw the volumes
      ``unilaterally'' and subject them to another review without
      consulting him as the general editor or the volume editors,
      Professors Sarkar and Panikkar. This, he has said, is a
      ``violation'' of the terms under which the project was conceived and
      executed. The ICHR has not responded to Prof. Gopal's point and has
      instead gone on a fishing expedition. It has blamed the then ICHR
      chairman, Prof. S. Settar, for scuttling a three-member review
      committee which the Council had set up in 1998 and to which the
      ``aborted'' volumes should have been referred, according to the
      ICHR's present chairman, Mr. B. R. Grover. He has raised doubts
      about Prof. Settar's motives, saying:``Strangely, a meeting of this
      committee was never convened by the then chairman, Prof. S.
      Settar.'' He has also accused Prof. Settar of being economical with
      the truth while recording the minutes of the meeting at which the
      committee was set up, and suggested an oblique nexus between Prof
      Settar and Prof Gopal on ensuring that these volumes did not go to
      the review committee.
      All this is a red herring; the real motive behind the so-called
      review is to purge the ``Towards Freedom'' project of ideas which do
      not conform to the tendencies represented by the BJP; and to recast
      it to fit in with its own perceptions of the independence movement.
      There is talk of marxists' ``hegemony'' of the history
      ``establishment,'' and the ``need'' to break it. The BJP and its
      supporters say that they want to ``rectify'' what the ``left''
      historians have done. As everyone knows, ``rectification'' in the
      context of history means only one thing: rewriting or doctoring it.
      What makes it ominous is that this is the view not of just some
      fringe elements in the Sangh Parivar, whom the BJP is known in the
      past to have quickly disowned when they became an embarrassment, but
      of some very responsible persons in the Government. It is a sign of
      the times that what was once regarded as a hush-hush occupation
      (even Stalin did not openly declare that he was rewriting history)
      has now become a respectable Government policy with school textbooks
      being ``rewritten'' to give them a certain slant; names of towns and
      streets being changed in the name of national ``sentiment''; and
      Indian culture itself being redefined in such a way as to deny it
      its composite and pluralistic character.
      The BJP's line, of course, is that it was all started by the
      Congress and the left who came together in a ``self-serving''
      arrangement that saw key academic bodies being packed with left-
      wing academics. And the works they produced were written from their
      perspective, ignoring altogether the ``other'' (the non- Congress,
      non-left; in other words, right wing) viewpoint. ``Whether it was
      the ICHR or the NCERT they were all packed with marxists,'' fumed a
      BJP Union Minister.
      In the past week, passages have been pulled out of an earlier
      ``Freedom'' volume to ``show'' a pro-left bias, and senior BJP
      leaders have made for quite an amusing sight lamenting the
      ``downsizing'' of Gandhi by left historians. ``For a party which
      comes from a lineage that has had no love lost for Gandhi, crying
      foul over him is nothing but shedding crocodile tears,'' says Prof.
      Sumit Sarkar. He also denies that there is any attempt either in the
      volume which he has edited or in Partha Sarathi Gupta's volume,
      which the ICHR has been flaunting, to denigrate Gandhi or
      ``downsize'' him.
      The problem, according to him, is that the documents do not indicate
      that the Sangh Parivar played any role in the anti- colonial
      struggle. It did not participate in the 1942 Quit India movement or
      any other significant phase of the freedom struggle, but since this
      does not fit in with the ``nationalistic'' image which the Parivar
      has sought to appropriate and project, it is nervous. And hence the
      desperation to suppress the volumes.
      Meanwhile, the more the BJP and its intellectual thinktanks try to
      put an academic veneer on the controversy, the more they end up
      confirming that the issue is actually about settling scores with
      their ideological adversaries. In a sense, it is a replay of the
      Ayodhya mindset which led to the demolition of a ``disputed
      structure'' to ``set right'' a ``historical wrong.'' This time
      around, the axe is falling on academic works to ``rectify'' what the
      Parivar sees as ``distortions.'' A primitive sense of vindictiveness
      - extracting an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth - lies at
      the heart of this mindset.
      Repeatedly over the past week, the apologists for the ICHR and the
      BJP have declared that with the change of Government at the Centre,
      the ``marxists' monopoly'' of academic institutions is over, and
      that they had better adjust themselves to the change. This is an
      admission that academic institutions, until now ``monopolised'' by
      ``marxists,'' would now be ``monopolised'' by the Parivar activists,
      and confirms that the changes in the ICHR, the Indian Council for
      Social Science Research, the National Council for Educational
      Research and Training and the Institute of Advanced Studies were
      indeed motivated by extra-academic considerations.
      At another level, this winner-takes-all approach to academic issues
      has dangerous implications, and raises the spectre of a never-ending
      cycle of ideological blood-letting. Every time there is a change of
      Government, it would set about pushing its own ideas about history,
      culture and nationalism. To some extent it has already been
      happening in States which the BJP has ruled (Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat,
      Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Maharashtra), but a broad national
      consensus on India's basic pluralism (a recognition that non-Hindu
      traditions also contributed to the country's social, cultural and
      political life and more importantly a rejection of extreme
      ideological positions, particularly those rooted in denominational
      prejudices) ensured that there was no major disruption.
      The BJP is trying to break that consensus and impose, through
      academic research and school textbooks, an ``exclusivist'' agenda on
      the country. The portrayal of Muslims and Christians in some of the
      ``revised'' school textbooks in BJP-ruled States and the stress on
      aggressive Hindu nationalism militate against the liberal ideas
      which have informed the country's academia until now.
      The entire case against these volumes is built on the logic that
      since the two professors are ``leftists'' their work must
      necessarily be ``biased''. It is of a piece with the logic that
      anyone who does not wear ``saffron'' is somehow a lesser patriot,
      and therefore a lesser Indian, if not a downright traitor. It is the
      beginning of `Talibanisation'' by other means.
      To dismiss the goings-on at the ICHR as just another polemical row
      between the left and the right would be to fall into a trap.
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