Sunday, September 21, 2014

Gandhi and Ambedkar, when strongly espousing their views on the political economy would be dubbed left wing loonies today - P Sainath

Gandhi and Ambedkar,  when strongly espousing their views on the political economy would be dubbed left wing loonies today - P Sainath

Catch P Sainath in conversation with Teesta Setalvad in Communalism Combat’s Second Interview, only on HILLELE TV
Rural affairs editor of the Hindu until July 31, 2014 and well acclaimed for his book, ‘Everybody Loves a Good Drought’, P Sainath speaks to activist and journalist Teesta Setalvad on the massive corporate subsidies to India Inc in each year’s budget even as India as a country becomes tight fisted about feeding, clothing and immunizing its poor. A skewed ethic among India’s ruling elite combined with the shrinking space within a media that is today representative of a combination of business interests that in turn dominates electoral politics forces strong, independent voices of dissent to seek an alternative. Where and how the alternate will emerge is the creative challenge before all of us, explains Sainath.

This Interview is available in over 14 individual parts and will be also available in a complete format soon. Facets from this conversation:-

Corporate subsidies: The high corporate subsidies of Rs 571,000 crores exempted in the 2013-2014 budget are a steady and disturbing trend. It is included as annexure to the annual budget and rarely discussed in the media especially by hard rightwing economists who keep writing on ‘wasteful subsidies.’  These direct subsidies to a hugely pampered sector include direct corporate income tax that amounts to Rs 71,000 crores which is twice the amount that India is putting into the MNREGA (rural employment guarantee scheme) this year. (Sainath to Setalvad)
Even if one excludes the Rs 40,000 crore foregone on personal income tax, within the overall subsidy --  since that write-off benefits a wider group of people -- the write-offs are shocking and include customs duty exemptions for gold and diamond jewellery that total a staggering Rs 46,000 crores! The amount we’ve written off for corporate big business since 2005-06 is well over Rs. 36.5 lakh crores. This Rs 36.5 lakh crores, Sainath explains, could fund MNREGS for around 105 years, at present levels. You could, in fact, run the MNREGS on that sum, across the working lives of two generations of such labourers. The current allocation for the rural employment guarantee scheme is around Rs 34,000 crore. As for the public distribution system [PDS], the amount could fund it for 31 years, says Sainath, adding, that, current allocation is Rs. 1,15,000 crores. The amount written off in 2013-14 shows an increase of 132 per cent compared to the same concessions in 2005-06. Corporate karza maafi is a growth industry, and an efficient one.
This interview is the second of the series of audio-visual interviews, launched on 6.9.2014 available for viewing on the internet on the joint You Tube video channel by Communalism Combat (  and

Convergence between Parliament, Big Business and Media: The interview also explores the complete domination of Indian Parliament by “more than millionaires” [the 2014 Indian Parliament has 353 of the 545 Members of Parliament worth Rs 10 million; when the last Parliament – 2009—had only 145 MPs worth Rs 10 million] and in turn these very individuals ( and their corporate business interests owning controlling shares in media). This enjoys a rare convergence, hitherto unparalleled that was witnessed in the brazen corporate campaign to spearhead Modi to power in 2014. (Sainath to Setalvad)
Working Journalists Act: Reminding us that the detailed work undertaken by India’s independent Press Commissions foresaw this danger and threat, P Sainath urges that the movement for implementation of secure jobs for journalists (Working Journalists law) that has been subverted by the Contract system be undertaken. Just as the gains of the organized labour movement (barely 7 per cent of the workforce is in the organized sector, 93 per cent work in sub-human conditions in the unorganized sector) are sought to be snatched away so another 7 per cent of our population becomes vulnerable and pliant, working journalists though driven by ideals are being forced into composed compliance by contractual employment that makes them completely vulnerable. (Sainath to Setalvad)
PARI [People’s Archive for Rural India]: Announcing the launch of this unique project that will bring us in print, audio and video form, the everyday stories of ordinary Indians, Sainath explains how he and his team hope to bring in all India’s 780 plus languages and dialects, bring the urban to the internet surfing Indian and show how the labours of the ordinary working Indian and his and her immense contribution is visibilised so we see our cities and growth as built on that immense everyday toil.

Watch and Listen at

P. Sainath Corporate Subsidies
Part I

 P. Sainath on Ruling Elite
Part II

 P. Sainath on Convergance of Media, Business and Politics
Part III

 P. Sainath on Corporate Media
Part IV

 P. Sainath on Media’s Private Treaties
Part V

P.Sainath on 2014 Elections
Part VI

P.Sainath on Media Alternatives
Part VII

P.Sainath on the Idealist Journalist

P.Sainath on Paid News
Part IX

P.Sainath on Contract Journalism
Part X

P.Sainath on Public Action and the Media
Part XI

P.Sainath on New Project [PARI-People’s Archive for Rural India]
Part XII

P.Sainath on the Hard Economic Rightwing

P.Sainath on the Internet and the Media
Part XIV

(Hillele Combat Bureau) 

Monday, September 8, 2014

अब आरएसएस का विभाजनकारी एजेंडा घोषित है - हंसल मेहता

Subject: अब आरएसएस का विभाजनकारी एजेंडा घोषित है - हंसल मेहता (प्रेस विज्ञप्ति)

अब आरएसएस का विभाजनकारी एजेंडा घोषित है - हंसल मेहता 
06-09-2014, मुंबई। 
फिल्म निर्देशक हंसल मेहता ने एक विस्तृत साक्षात्कार में मौजूदा सरकार के सत्ता में आने के बाद से आरएसएस और उनके अनुषांगिक संगठनों के क्रियाकलापों और बयानों पर चिंता जताते हुए कहा है कि अपनी स्थापना की एक सदी पूरी करने जा रहे राष्ट्रीय स्वय़ंसेवक संघ का साम्प्रदायिक और विभाजनकारी एजेंडा अब घोषित रूप से सामने है। इस साक्षात्कार के साथ ही कम्युनलिज़्म कॉम्बैट और के साझा प्रयासों के फलस्वरूप धर्मनिरपेक्षता के प्रसार और साम्प्रदायिक ताकतों का मुक़ाबला करने के लिए एक यू ट्यूब चैनल और मशहूर हस्तियों के साक्षात्कार के सिलसिले की पहली कड़ी सार्वजनिक हो गई।
सामाजिक कार्यकर्त्री तीस्ता सीतलवाड़ द्वारा लिए गए इस साक्षात्कार में दिल पर मत ले यार मं विस्थापितों और शाहिद में साम्प्रदायिकता-अल्पसंख्यकों के हालातों की कहानी कहने वाले फिल्म निर्दशक हंसल मेहता ने धार्मिक कट्टरपंथ और विभाजन की राजनीति स लकर फिल्मों और पाक कला तक पर सवालों का बेबाकी से जवाब दिया।
हंसल मेहता अपनी फिल्म शाहिद के लिए सर्वश्रेष्ठ निर्देशन का राष्ट्रीय पुरस्कार भी जीत चुके हैं। हंसल मेहता ने साक्षात्कार में यह भी शंका जताई कि नई सरकार आने के बाद उनकी फिल्म शाहिद को अल्पसंख्यकों पर होने वाले अत्याचार पर बनी होने के कारण राष्ट्रीय फिल्म महोत्सव की उद्घाटन फिल्म के तौर पर आखिरी वक़्त में हटा दिया गया। हंसल मेहता ने आरएसएस की राजनीति को विभाजनकारी बताते हुए कहा कि इसके खिलाफ लड़ने और बोलने के अपने ख़तरे हैं लेकिन ये ख़तरे हर वक़्त मं रहे हैं। 
हंसल मेहता ने पुरानी सरकारों पर भी निशाना साधा और कहा कि सिर्फ अभी ही नहीं, पहले भी आपातकाल जैसे विषयों पर गंभीर और सच्ची फिल्में बनाना असंभव रहा है, जबकि पड़ोसी मुल्क पाकिस्तान में भी ये आसान है। समकालीन और पुराने सिनेमा की तुलना करते हुए मेहता ने कहा कि पहले 50 के दशक की फिल्मों में ज़रूरी मुद्दों को ज़्यादा गंभीरता से उठाया जाता था। विस्थापन, जातिवाद, महिलाओं की स्थिति और साम्प्रदायिकता पर 50 के दशक की फिल्में सबसे ज़्यादा संवेदनशील और गंभीर हैं, जबकि 70 के दशक से धर्म से लेकर सामाजिक मुद्दों तक को भुना कर फिल्में हिट करवाने की जुगत चालू हो गई। 
हंसल मेहता ने अपने पाक कला के शौक पर भी बात की और कहा कि वो इस वक्त भी कुकरी के शौकीन हैं और अवधी व्यंजनों पर काम कर रहे हैं। ज्ञात हो कि 90 के दशक से 2000 तक लोकप्रिय शेफ संजीव कपूर द्वारा संचालित कुकरी शो खाना ख़ज़ाना भी हंसल ही बनाते थे। 
हंसल मेहता ने साफ किया कि वो आगे भी शाहिद जैसी फिल्में बनाते रहेंगे और असली कहानियों के सामने आते ही वो उन पर फिल्म बनाएंगे, वो चाहें हास्य-व्यंग्य हो या फिर सीधी सामाजिक कहानियां। 
हंसल का ये साक्षात्कार कम्युनलिज़्म कॉम्बेट और हिलेले डॉट कॉम की साक्षात्कार श्रृंखला का पहला साक्षात्कार है, जिसमें आगे कई फिल्मी अभिनेता, निर्देशक, लेखक, सामाजिक कार्यकर्ताओं और साहित्यकारों के साक्षात्कार शामिल रहेंगे, जो इनके यूट्यूब चैनल Hillele TV ( पर जारी और उपलब्ध रहेंगे। हालिया साक्षात्कार को देखने के लिए आप सीधे पर जा सकते हैं।

The divisive agenda of RSS is now Public - Hansal Mehta directly.

The divisive agenda of RSS is now Public - Hansal Mehta 
06-09-2014, Mumbai.

Film Director Hansal Mehta in an interview has expressed serious concerns over the overt activities and statements of the RSS and allied organizations, after the recent central government's victory in the general elections of 2014. He has stated that the "Communal and divisive Agenda of the century old rightist organization RSS is now open and public." This interview is the launching video of a series of audio-visual interviews, available for viewing on the internet on the joint You Tube video channel by Communalism Combat and

Hansal Mehta, the director of films Dil pe Mat le Yaar (Story of migrants) and Shahid (Minority Rights) was forthright  in his assessment of the present scenario while talking about the threat of hate-driven divisive politics to journalist, educationist and humanist, Teesta Setalvad, who conducted the first interview of the series. 
Mehta has won the National Film Award for best director for Shahid (2014). A marked shift in priorities of the government at the centre, was one reason that Shahid was unceremoniously replaced from being the inaugural film of the National Film Festival in May 2014, soon after election results, due to the crucial issues it raises. A fear of challenging the ideology of the ruling dispensation governs this mood of self-censorship, according to Hansal Mehta while emphasizing that there have been such threats before, even during moments of our own authoritarian past.
 "Even during and after emergency, it was impossible or difficult to make serious and honest films over the period of emergency or about Indira Gandhi. While it has been easier (to make critical films) in neighbouring Pakistan."  Talking about Hindi Cinema-Then and Now, Mehta assessment of the 1950s and bollywood ran thus, “"Films in 50's were more serious and sensitive towards society, raising several questions, tackling even the gender question. “After the angry man of the 1970's it was tokenism that replaced a more thematic understanding of issues."
 He also talked cheerfully about his hobby, specifically about his first venture into television with a highly popular food show. A lover of good cuisine and passionate about its creation, Hansal Mehta is today learning the nuances of Awadhi Cuisine. It was Hansal, who produced the the famous Sanjiv Kapur’s show 'Khana Khazana'. Dedicated to creating more films like Shahid , that turn the mirror of society within, Mehta spoke honestly about also creating a sex comedy with the same brutal dedication.

This interview of Hansal Mehta is the first of the series of Interviews by Communalism Combat and The Series will further include interactions with various Actors, Film Makers, Artists, Academics, Writers-Poets, Activists, Politicians and Musicians, which would be launched on their You Tube Channel 'Hillele TV'( To view the recent interaction with Hansal Mehta, you may go to directly.
  (Hillele Bureau) 

Friday, August 29, 2014

A tale of 20 years ago…more than some food for thought. COLUMN FOR THE WEEK

A tale of 20 years ago…more than some food for thought.

This a story about Hatihalka, a cluster of villages in the Midnapore district of West Bengal. When you visit there, apart from the villagers and their homes, what is unusual about Hatihalka are the enchanting ruins of terracota temples, 32 of them, which we are told are 250 and 300 years old. These temples stretch over a three square kilometre area, they are the Sheetala, Navaratna and Das Mahavidya temples. Amongst them is also a stone image, built in the ninth century of Vishnu Lokeswar, a combination of the images of Vishnu and Buddha. Experts say that Buddhism once flourished in this area. On the walls of these temples, we can see depiction’s of the battle for Sri Lanka, episodes from the life of Lord Krishna and many hunting scenes.
Mohammad Yasin, a Muslim resident of this cluster of villages ruins. Through his childhood, he was haunted by them “What kind of people lived on the same soil that we tread? What were their thoughts? Their dreams? How did they live?”
Twenty-five years ago before two decades, when the frail Yasin became a school teacher in the same village, consumed with his passion to prevent the further decay of these temples, he began a one-man crusade. He started meeting local political leaders, he wrote to the Indian government alerting  them about the plight of this decaying heritage. Receiving no immediate answers, he travelled to Delhi himself to meet with archaeologists and even spent Rs. 50,000 of his own money to instigate action towards preservation of the forgotten
Even as he fought hard for his dream, he faced difficulties. because thought he passionately loved these temples, he had a Muslim name. Often , in the midst of his crusade, he despaired. part of a precious heritage of the medieval past, the impressive Navartna temple had many of its marble fittings stolen. And once, thanks to the vigilance of Yasin who had set up a committee of local villagers, a criminal spotted attempting to sell a stone image for Rs. 8,000 to a foreigner, was stopped.

Thanks to the singleminded efforts of Yasin, some grants were sanctioned by the government for the protection of the temples but much of it got diverted by the local panchayat away from the temple-restoration work. Still Yasin devotes his time and effort. writing on the subject of his temples, sometimes despairing but never giving up the cause of his beloved temples. through the Pathra Archaeological Preservation Committee of which Yasin is a member fresh steps are afoot to save the temples that are also threatened by submergence if the Kansabati river changes its course.
But today , despite these efforts, Yasin is a lonely man. Not wanting to divulge their names locals say, “If the temples are standing today, it is because of the labours of our Pathan.” But that is in private. In public, the Muslims call him a kafir and only the other day, the old temple priest took his sandle out and shook it at Yasin in anger asking, “What is your motive in meddling in the temple business?"
A question for you and me….. 
Have we built borders in our minds?

P.S. A recent book I picked up has an interesting title, Historic Temples of Pakistan – A Call to Conscience.Authored by Reema Abbasi through painstaking research and rigourous travels across Pakistan.  The author says in her Preface that this book “concentrates on Pakistan’s fraying social order and the sad prospects of its bringing about its own destruction by documenting Hindu places of worship,  major festivals, prominent orders of priesthood and the idol-crafter Fakira.”  The first five chapters deal with the life and times of antiquated temples in every region of the country that is Pakistan. For the lover of history and icononography, the majestic images of the image of the Varun Dev temple. Set on an island this tribute to the worship of the God of Water, Varuna isdeep inside Sindh and described by Abbasi, “…the ancient, elongated, pyramid-like structure of the Varun Dev Mandir comes into view, like a javelin ready to launch into the sky. As if presiding over the  Arabian Sea, the sandstone structure still courts mystery in majesty. Come to Ranchore Lines known as ‘mini-Mumbai” (a much more benign term that what we use in our cities when we dub an area ‘Mini Pakistan!) we travel, with the author into Ranchore Lines and the Narainpur Basti, that was scarred with the cries of blood and revenger post December 6 1992 as mobs rampaged Hindu areas and signs of Hindu worship and culture, (today’s Karachi’s largest depressed caste and class populations live her; a 5,000 strong grouping of Meghwar, Kolhi, Hindu, Sikh, Marwari, Gujarati, Marathi and Hare Krishna clans) a jewel stands out in the midst of the poverty and squalor. Pristine white, the Shri Naval Mandir Ashram, from 1905 has been built in intricate Jodhpur style. Legend has it that this shrine brought the dead tolife, cleansed hearts of hatred…..Abassi met Kalidas J. Khandara of the All Pakistan Maharshi Naval Samaj who told her that Muslims, Christians, Hindus all come here for the ultimate, blessings for a child (in cases of infertility) or prosperity.  The 200 square yards, pale yellow of the Naval Para that surround this im portant shrine foreground the deities in their niches and alcoves: Santoshi Maa, Kali, Vishnu, Shiva,Ganesha, Hanuman, Guru Nanak and Rama Pir with a white Nandi bull critical to the Shaivite tradition and a large brass bell in the pillar of the sanctum sanctorium.
The age old peepul tree, the red vermillion marks and the sacred orange and coloured threads are familiar, could be rooted anywhere. Oil, sugar and sindoor is kept at its base and the meticulous commitment of the author to a journey and creation of a historical record that is both a testimony and resistance to the present politics at play in Pakistan, is what makes this book special. On a visit to Delhi a few months ago, the author was accorded a few paragraphs in the print media on her recent publication. None of the television channels however thought it fit to showcase the woman, the endeavor, the courage and the commitment. I would have hoped that the Urdu media, limited as it is by resources would have picked up this story and broadcast a detailed conversation of this author’s work.
It was not to be. We have in these dark and troubled times, become victims, ourselves of super-imposed divisions, borders, identities and entities. Not only does this reality do a gross injustice to ourselves and our history, it contributes little to forging unique and unusual resistances in these dark and troubled times.


Sunday, August 24, 2014

Remembering our Christian brethren Kandhamal 2008-2014 22.8.2014

Remembering our Christian brethren
Kandhamal 2008-2014

Teesta Setalvad

It is six years since nearly a 100 people were massacred because they were Christians and poor and adivasis, some Dalits. The pogrom under the BJD-BJP government in August 2008  -- the anniversary of the anti-Christian pogrom falls next week – followed the mysterious murder of Swami Lakshmananda Saraswati  on a Sunday morning (August 23 2008). Praveen Togadia led the coffin over 300 kilometres all over Orisaa in the three days that followed- a la Milosoveic—the state administration allowed him and his hate ridden agenda free access and nearly 6,000 Christian houses and 300 churches were destroyed in the unabated violence that lasted weeks (according to Initiative to Justice, Peace and Human Rights, Bhubaneswar). Though two Fast Track Courts had been set up to try the bloodshed and mayhem, only 3,181 of the over 11,300 named in 828 FIRs were brought to trial with only 477 convicted for minor offenses like arson and rioting. Recent investigations by activists have revealed that of the 27 murder trials, except two all others have ended up in acquittals on murder charge due to shoddy and poor investigation, lackluster prosecution and rampant witness intimidation. Unlike in the case of Gujarat 2002, where Survivors and Activists took great risks and ensured that the Supreme Court of India kept monitoring the massacre trials, here justice has fallen by the wayside.
Manoj Pradhan, shockingly was elected as MLA from behind bars after being put up as its candidate by the utterly shameless BJP (remember Sanjeev Baliyan from western Uttar Pradesh is a Minister in Modi’s cavbinet!!!) despite being accused in seven separate murders, had been sitting as sentry at the entrance of the Fast Track Court and threatening the witnesses even in the court premises. Despite this, mid-way through the trial of the cases committed to it, the two Fast Tract Courts were wound up in March 2013.
Genocidal crimes develop in eight stages – classification, symbolisation, dehumanisation (of the target group), organisation, polarisation, identification, extermination, denial (and destruction of the evidence of crimes) – according to Dr Gregory H. Stanton of Genocide Watch. Appropriate state intervention can arrest and reverse the process in the early stages. But where the state itself is mute witness to, complicit in or sponsor of the entire process, it becomes inevitable, progressing from one stage to the next.
Kandhamal may not compare to the 2002 genocide in Gujarat in terms of the intensity and spread of violence, the extent of bestiality involved or the level of state collusion. But it is evident from the 160 page report of the National People’s Tribunal on Kandhamal that 2011 was one of the worst years in post-independence India for this religious minority. Mercifully, there was no repeat of Kandhamal in terms of the intensity and consequences of communal violence. But the attacks were numerous and widespread across 16 states and union territories. The worst offences were committed in Karnataka, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. Included in the list of crimes were murder, grievous injuries and merciless beatings, rape and molestation of women, desecration and destruction of churches and other places of worship, illegal detention and arrests, abuse and insult of Christian clergy and the laity. While highlighting 250 criminal incidents, the report claims that there were a total of over 1,000 such incidents during 2011. The tribunal’s 160-page report that all the ingredients of genocidal intent and action were present in Kandhamal too: from the systematic dehumanisation and demonisation of Christians, to organisational preparations and planning for the carnage, to the obvious attempts at destruction of evidence. “The deliberate destruction of evidence pertaining to these crimes came to the attention of the jury,” says the report.
Here are two examples from the report of the attempts to destroy evidence:
One: “The body of Rajani Majhi, the warden of an orphanage at Padampur, was burnt and, according to Nicholas Barla, who testified before the tribunal and quoted Fr Edward Sequeira, the lower part of her body was completely burnt so as to destroy all evidence of alleged gang rape.”
Two: “The collector of Bargarh forced Fr Basil Kullu to remove all evidence of damage to and destruction of the Madhupur church and hostels and even sent some persons to clear the debris that was lying in the compound, indicating the nature and extent of the attack. (
The second instance is just one of the many examples of the gross dereliction of duty and collusion of various state actors and representatives of other democratic institutions: the police, administration and officials in charge of local bodies. The shameful conduct of the police in particular consisted in the refusal to act despite advance intimation of criminal preparations; reluctance to take cognisance of crimes through refusal to register first information reports; shoddy investigation; inaction over victim survivors’ complaints of threats and intimidation or forced conversions; or lodging of criminal complaints against witnesses in a bid to turn the victims into the accused.
Compounding and concluding this sad narrative of our recurring national shame is the all too familiar failure of the justice delivery system after Kandhamal: shoddy charge sheets; public prosecutors biased against the victims/witnesses; threats and intimidation of victims/witnesses in the absence of any witness protection; and the insensitive and biased conduct of some judges during trials. In short, Kandhamal seems fated to remain yet another grim example of the failure of the institutions of Indian democracy to protect the life and property of a section of citizens, compounded by the lack of punishment of the perpetrators and denial of justice to the victims.
Recent investigations by Anto Ankara reveal that the suspicion that Kandhamal conflagration had a bigger agenda is reinforced by the publication of the book ‘Harvest of Hate – Kandhamal in Crossfire’, authored by Michael Parker and published by the mysterious ‘India Foundation’ from a fake address in New Delhi. The title of the book itself is a plagiarism of the title of the book by Swami Agnivesh and Rev. Valson Thampu - ‘Harvest of Hate – Gujarat under Siege’.
Contrary to the title, the 348-page book ignored the brutal hate crimes unleashed on the Christians and brazenly justified it. Even on a casual perusal, the language and the content would make anyone wonder if it was really the work of a Seattle-based US anthropologist.
Apart from spreading canards about Christianity, the ‘Harvest Hate’ has not spared even others who spoke out against the witch-hunting of Christians. Supreme Court Judge Markandey Katju - presently chairman of the Press Council of India - who had made scathing remarks during the hearing on the witch-hunting of the Christians in Kandhamal has been bluntly accused of ‘following a script written by the Congress party’.
Despite the bulky book being mailed freely by anonymous senders and ‘gifted’ to top church officials by even RSS leaders, it was not available for sale at the address nor the email address evoked any response despite carrying a ‘Foreword’ by senior BJP leader Nirmala Sitaraman, presently a minister in the cabinet of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Even the fanciful ‘India Foundation’ has no telephone number. The suspicion about the genuineness of the author behind ‘Harvest of Hate’ dubbed as ‘an honest documentation’ by the ‘Organiser’ has been confirmed with the emergence of the same book under a different name – ‘ORISSA in the CROSSFIRE – Kandhamal Burning’.
The ‘new’ book that is being e-marketed by the new publisher - - had a new author too. Thus, Michael Parker became Brannon Parker with hardly any change in the content of the book. But the most shocking element in the double Parker episode is the ‘note’ attached to the new book: “The Indian edition of the book was written under the name Michael Parker”.
Shockingly, in his preface to ‘ORISSA in the CROSSFIRE – Kandhamal Burning’, Brannon Parker admits that “In 2009, this report was presented to the US State Department by Ram Madhav, a National Executive of the Rashtriya of the Swayamsevak Sangha.” (Page three, last para). The Rama Madhav, RSS spokesperson had ‘gifted’ the earlier book by ‘Harvest of Hate’ by Michael Parker to church leaders in Kerala after seeking appointment for ‘harmony visit’ in 2012. This shows who is behind this mysterious book and ghost authors. No wonder Madhav has been recently honoured for this advocacy and deputed to the BJP as a senior leader.   
Though saffron lobby has put up a website called ‘Kandhamal Justice’ (, only ‘‘ORISSA in the CROSSFIRE – Kandhamal Burning’ by Brannon Parker was linked to it while Michael Parker’s ‘Harvest of Hate’ has been thrown to the dustbin of history. The saffron groups have also canonized the new author as ‘Vedanta Kesari Brannon Parker’.
On August 11,2014 Digvijay Singh raised this matter in the Rajya Sanha. Referring to books that were spreading communal ideology, Singh said, "There are books like 'Harvest of Hate' and 'Kandhamal in crossfire' authored by Michael Parker and another book 'Orissa in crossfire' by Brannon Parker. These books are published by India Foundation." He said there is no information about the publisher neither on the book nor on the internet. "The name of the publisher is missing...We went to the address of the publisher, but the publisher was not found. On internet, there is no information about India Foundation. Moreover, the foreword of these books is written by Cabinet Minister Nirmala Sitaraman," he said and demanded ban on these books and an enquiry into the issue.The Congress leader also warned that if government allows circulation of such books, it will lead to further spread of communal violence in the country.
With the brazen declarations of Mohan Bhagwat that this country is not 'Bharat' but 'Hindu-sthan' and already a Hindu rashtra, with the eerie silence of the pracharak-turned Prime Minister, the signs are more than ominous. Will we all and Indian democracy withstand this onlsaught?

Column for the Week 15.8.2014

Diversity, Rights and Independence Day
Teesta Setalvad

A tragic-comedy irony of sorts will be enacted this August 15, 2014 when an RSS pracharak  will stand at the wonderful historical spot of India’s Red Fort, a tribute to the rich architecture of our syncretic past as the nation’s Prime Minister.

Even if one blots the memory that immediately takes one to Nehru’s emotive “Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny, and now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially. At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom….. A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance. It is fitting that at this solemn moment, we take the pledge of dedication to the service of India and her people and to the still larger cause of humanity. ”(

Apart from the sheer eloquence of the delivery and the fact that Nehru had spent over 1,000 days in British jails fighting for azaadi, the fact is that India’s first prime minister, with Gandhi as his “Bapu” had jumped into the throes of a riotous mob to save lives during communal violence. A far cry from the man who sits in the same seat 67 years later, today (sic).

The social media, completely dominated by the right, be it of the Hindutva or any other politico-religious variety has been made to bait Nehru and Gandhi and any leader who represented composite nationhood.

The first time, ever, that the RSS, an outfit that was banned after Gandhi’s assassination (30.1.1948) unfurled the Indian tricolor was in 2002 after a saffron dominated government, NDA I snatched power in New Delhi. In 2004, ironically it was all set to launch ‘Tiranga yatras’ and Satyagrahas to defend the honour of the flag and the nation in an all out bid to opportunistically appropriate the Indian tricolor as it has tried to do with ‘deshbhakti’/patriotism.

Yet when the Indian people were involved in the decades, long struggle for freedom against British imperialisms, the RSS was conspicuous by its absence in the struggle When thousands of people faced lathis, bullets and jail sentences (including Nehru and Patel) for hoisting the Tiranga and participated all over the country in Satyagrahas during the Civil Disobedience and Quit India movements against the British Raj, the Sangh publicly took the stand that it would not take part in the movement and seldom missed the opportunity of assuring the British rulers that they would keep to  the right side of colonial law and avoid any clash with the authorities. Of course the reason given for this was that the Sangh was secretly strengthening itself and would take on British imperialism only when it was strong enough to do so!

A similar duplicity has marked the statement and actions of the RSS and its leaders throughout its almost 89-year of history. Nothing illustrates this better than the Sangh’s attitude to the national flag.

In 1930, the Congress leadership first gave the call for observing 26th January as Independence Day. Unable to resists the popular mood, the RSS instructed its shakas to hold rallies of swayamsevaks “and worship the national flag, that is, the Bhagwa Jhanda”. The flag to be honoured was not the Tiranga, which had been adopted by the whole nation as the symbol of the freedom struggle. Nor would the Sangh observe 26 January as Independence Day again, although it became a permanent feature of the national movement.

After Independence, it was again the Bhagwa Jhanda and not the Tiranga that was hoisted and honoured at the first major rally of the RSS held at Ramlila Maidan on 7th December, 1947.

The only the RSS gave any recognition at all to the tricolour was in 1949 when the Government of India made written allegiance to the Constitution and the National Flag one of the conditions for lifting the ban imposed on the Sangh after the murder of Gandhiji. Article 5 of the first written constitution of the RSS states; “While recognizing the duty of every citizen to be loyal to and to respect the State Flag, the Sangh has as its flag, the ‘Bhagwa Dhwaj’- the age-old symbol of Hindu culture.” The usual double-edged meaning of RSS statements is unmistakeable. The Tiranga is termed the State flag, not the National flag. And ‘while’ it may ‘recognize the duty of every citizen’, the Sangh still requires its members, “integral parts of Hindu Rashtra” as the shakha prayer describes them, to owe primary allegiance to the ‘Bhagwa Dhwaj’.

Better late than never, it was in 2004  that, at last the RSS and the Sangh Parivar joined the ‘national mainstream’ and salute and honour the tricolour, then may we suggest that before any of their leaders forcibly, and in violation of the law, hoist the flag in Hubli or anywhere else again, they immediately hoist it first on RSS headquarters all over the country.

Now in power with a full fledged majority it is to be seen what sort of respect the man at the helm and his MPs, many of whom are involved in UP’s communal violence, and some in hate speeches deal with the Indian Constitution the architect of which was Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar. On the issue of judicial independence NDA II has shown up to be in a desperate hurry to assert its executive superiority. This does not bode well for the balance of power. Once before during the Emergency, India had been thus tested. We emerged scarred, but stronger. What will the human and institutional costs be this time around ?


Column for the Week 8.8.2014