In November alone, the Allahabad High Court issued orders providing relief to couples in more than 125 cases, web journal livelaw.in reported on Dec.1. They were involved in inter-caste and inter-faith marriages. But UP’s CM, his colleagues in power, and UP police have no fear indeed…they uphold rabid hindutva.

PM Narendra Modi quoted Subramanya Bharathi, Tamilnadu’s  great poet, in his address at International Bharati Festival 2020, 11 December 2020. His collected works have been published in 16 volumes, in 39 years he wrote so much, in so diverse forms, said Modi: “Bharati also had a close link with Varanasi”, his constituency. Modi’s lofty words need to be contextualized.

Tamilians must be happy as Modi quotes Bharati. He is found in recent years quoting often Tamil lines, even from Tirukkural. But they must be wary too: Now Modi and BJP want to bring Tamilnadu closer , as elections there are nearing, due in May next .

“ Mahakavi  Bharathiyar’s    definition of progress  had a central role for  women .  One of the most important vision  was that of independent  and empowered women.  Bharatiyaar wrote  that women should walk  with their head  held high,  while looking people  in the eye…,” said Modi: “Today, over 15 crore women entrepreneurs are funded by schemes like MUDRA Yojana.   They are walking with their head held high, looking us in the eye and telling us how they are becoming self-reliant.”

“Today, women   are becoming part of our armed forces with permanent commissioning.  They are walking with their head held high and looking us in the eye and filling us with confidence that the country is in safe hands,” Modi said… of Modi and Shah ?

Enterprise and boldness of women which Modi praised did not, perhaps should not,  include personal lives, nor choice in marriage.  And Yogi Adityanath appears to emulate Modi’s quote: “Fear I have not, fear I have not, Even if all the world opposes me.” He led, and at least 8 states, all BJP ruled, are engaged in legislating against love jihad. He issued an ordinance for the purpose, and within days action began:

In UP an inter-faith couple engaged for marriage  were recently picked up in Lucknow  on December 2 at the marriage  site by police based on the new law, soon after the law was made. They were midway through a preparations of a hindu marriage. It was by consent, mutual as well as by parents. They were held and stopped upon a complaint made by Hindu Yuva Vahini, not anyone related to the couple, as required by even by the lawless UP law.

Trouble was… the Hindu-born Lucknow bride (aged 22)  from UP looked into the eyes of a muslim man (aged 24). She believed in UP’s Allahabad High Court orders which very recently said the state should not interfere in such matters of marital choice…But Rule of Law as practised  nowadays led the couple into police station. They must get prior approval of the district Magistrate to get into such marriage which may involve religious conversion, they were officially  told, even as they insisted it was a union by mutual consent.

The above was not an isolated incident. Next day in Aligarh court premises another couple who came to register their marriage were stopped, Times of India Dec 4 reported. The Muslim young man (aged 21) was thrashed and taken to an Aligarh police station. The girl was whisked away by women police even as she shouted she (aged 21) was not a minor, and they were marrying by mutual consent.

In November alone, the Allahabad High Court issued orders providing relief to couples in more than 125 cases, web journal livelaw.in reported on Dec1. They were involved in inter-caste and inter-faith marriages.  

“Fear I have not, fear I have not, Even if all the world opposes me,” believes Yogi Adityanath, CM of UP, emulating Modi. He does not fear Courts too. Nor do UP police fear courts, even High Court.

Former IPS officer NC Asthana had said : “ The UP law is teeming with blunders that strongly indicate the real intent of the law is to harass people so much that conversion per se is discouraged.” Incidentally, this Lucknow marriage did not involve conversion. The Muslim groom was following Hindu rituals  of marriage.

Members of several Hindu outfits vandalized Quila police station in Bareilly town, UP, IANS reported Oct 21, as the police failed to trace a girl who allegedly “eloped” with a boy. She claimed she was a major, married by mutual consent, there was no complaint of coercion, and asked police not to harass the family of the boy, of a different community. DIG and ADG of police rushed with additional forces and saved the situation. There was no love jihad issue the ADG said. The Hindutva vigilants may not know Modi’s quote but had no fear,  emboldened by the Yogi.

Subramanian swamy, of the Sangh parivar, and a BJP leader, pointed out Congress govt of Himachal in 2010 passed a similar law, and it was upheld by HP High Court. Last year, when Himachal passed a more draconian Bill, it was unanimously passed, Congress too co-operated, pointed out Swaminathan Aiyar (Times of India  Dec 6, 2020), who desired the Court  must strike down all such laws. Modi and Rahul Gandhi speak lofty things, while their state units shift the polity to the Right. Kerala’s congress unit did a similar thing in relation to Sabarimala’s restrictions on women.

With Modi and Amit Shah at the helm, aided by Tamil some leaders and film stars   (a woman included),  Tamil nadu is being drawn nearer. “Fear I have not, Even if all the world opposes me,” believes  PMK’s Dr. Ramdas who has launched his own version of love jihad: he openly campaigns against vanniyar community girls’ marriages with dalit men. PMK  despite such chauvinism in action, had no trouble in allying with Periyarist “self respect”  parties DMK and AIADMK and throughout them, with both UPA and NDA.

“I begin by paying tributes to the great Bharathiyar   on his Jayanti… Bharathiyar  believed in a healthy mix between the ancient and  the modern….He considered Tamil Language and motherland India as his two eyes…  He sang the greatness of the Vedas   and  Upanishads…  our culture,  tradition  and  our glorious past.   But at the same time, he also warned us that simply living in the past glory is not enough.”

Yes, healthy mix for Modi’s India between the ancient and  the modern means combining Chanakya and Machiavelli, sedition and UAPA laws.

“Mahakavi Bharatiyaar    understood that any society which is divided will not be able to succeed.   At the same time, he wrote about the emptiness of political freedom which does not address the social inequities    and does not address  social ills.  We need to develop a scientific temper, a spirit of enquiry and march towards progress.”

“…any society which is divided will not be able to succeed.” But it is found that BJP will succeed with every kind of division, between not only religious communities and castes , but also between sunnis and shias, and between sub-castes. (Modi’s speech extracts are based on PMO/PIB Text. ).

Only the day before, December 10, 2020, “scientific temper, a spirit of enquiry” was displayed in another function addressed by Modi, and that spirit can be seen in the photo below.

Speaking at the foundation-laying ceremony of new Parliament building, the Prime Minister said that inauguration of the construction work of the new Parliament House of India is one of the most important stages of our democratic tradition.  What is new of this? We shall see.

Amidst Sanskrit chants  by priests from the Sringeri Mutt in Karnataka, PM Modi performed rituals around a holy pyre. Priests from other religious faiths also offered prayers and blessing as the foundation stone was layer . This mutt was actively engaged for years  in BJP’s Ayodhya project.(DD photo)  

The new parliament building is the key piece of the Rs. 20,000-crore Central Vista project, which aims to build and refurbish the government buildings on part of the 3 km Rajpath that stretches from the presidential palace Rashtrapati Bhavan to the iconic war memorial India Gate.

The construction cannot begin for now with the Supreme Court hearing many many petitions challenging the project. But the Court gave a green signal for the function, even before the petitions are disposed of. After all, it involved the Prime Minister.

And the top Court nowadays is known not to create any problems for the establishment. Like in Indira Gandhi’s days, it is a committed judiciary. Cases are filed, heard, and disposed of. It is inevitable. These are vagaries of Indian democracy and rule of Law.  It heard the Rafael case, had initially expressed some doubts, but finally fell in line. The Union Govt submitted that there was a typo or grammar mistake in the affidavit it filed. The court listened and heeded.  

“It is an impressive project and I wish it all success. I am privileged to be invited to the foundation stone laying ceremony,” said Ratan Tata, Chairman Tata Trusts.  Tata Projects Ltd has been given contract for the construction project of the new Parliament building. He was one of the 200 dignitaries invited to the function. Why only Ambani and Adani, others too have a share in the cake, they seem to convey. .

“If the old Parliament House gave direction to post-independence India, the new building would become a witness to the creation of ”Atmanirbhar Bharat”. If work is done to fulfill the needs of the country in the old Parliament House, then the aspirations of 21st century India will be fulfilled in the new building,” Modi  said at the foundation-laying ceremony of new Parliament building. The proposed four-storied building would sprawl over an area of 64,500 sq meters and cost an estimated Rs. 971 crore. It is a part of the Central Vista project.

”Atmanirbhar Bharat” is built by more and more of FDI, including 100% in defence sector, more and more of subservience to USA, even while calling for boycotting China goods, for sometime at least. And by selling PSUs as a part of disinvestment , begun by PVN and Manmohan regimes, and hastened by Modi-led BJP.  “What they did in decades, is done in a fast pace by us”, it is asserted.

What is new? The current parliament building, built a century ago, has “served in shaping India”, PM Modi said. It was built by colonial British rulers and helped shaping a comprador India. Now it is being renovated to serve a neo-colonial era. He added, “It has undergone several renovations and security and technological upgradations, but it has reached its capacity. It is now seeking rest”.

Media Policy : “Self-censorship”  is now part of the undeclared Emergency

Modi’s is a remark not just about the building, but about the edifice of Indian democracy :  It is now seeking rest. The old model is slow, seeking rest and hence laid to rest. The mainstream media largely fell in line, followed by the Courts. It was established how several  recent CJIs served the rulers. Prasahant Bhushan had dared and alleged nearly half of the last 16-17 CJIs were corrupt and pliable .He refused to withdraw his charges.  

While Modi’s India is pursuing  an Atmanirbhar Bhjarat, on way to becoming a super power,  and  claims to be the largest democracy , many liberals are not impressed.

Many senior editors have left their jobs at various influential media outlets; rather they are eased out by the media owners. Media was part of democracy, it was being said. It is now business with all its risks. Several senior editors, including of EPW, were retired and  given rest.

“Fear I have not, fear I have not, Even if all the world opposes me,” PM Modi quoted Bharati. It applies to him and his regime, more than ever, when it comes to media policy. They do not fear but instill fear.

World Press Freedom Index: the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders said that India was 138th-ranked in the world out of 180 countries measured; that was in April 2018, down two positions since 2017; that was lower than countries like Zimbabwe, Afghanistan and Myanmar. When the index was started in 2002, India was ranked 80th out of 139 countries surveyed. As liberalization advanced under Congress and BJP, illiberal media policy was gathering pace. Then the Index gradually fell to 140 in 2019, and 142 in May 2020. This is how Modi’s india is now ranked by his ‘democracy allies’. It was a steep fall from 80 to 142. Yet India claimingly marches ahead with democracy.

Death, rape threats from Hindutva zealots

Reporters Without Borders had said in 2018  that “with Hindu nationalists trying to purge all manifestations of ‘anti-national’ thought from the national debate, self-censorship is growing in the mainstream media and journalists are increasingly the targets of online smear campaigns by the most radical nationalists, who vilify them and even threaten physical reprisals.”

Journalists say that media proprietors, who often have multiple kinds of businesses, are risk averse and can be leaned on by the government. Self-censorship is part of the undeclared Emergency, now in vogue. It is a form the ruling classes increasingly adopted ever since Indira Gandhi met her electoral waterloo in late 1970s. Modi-Shah duo perfected it; perhaps it is also a part of  their Skill India. State governments, irrespective of the party in power, are emulating it. Even the LDF in Kerala deployed UAPA, encounters, media gags. There is co-operative federalism with respect to enforcing a police state. The Centre is leading the pack of wolves. There is no censorship on trolls and threats on social media, even while critics are traced and punished. 

“Media proprietors are notorious for reading the tea leaves, they get a clear sense of the tolerance level of politicians in power,” said senior journalist Siddharth Varadarajan, of The Wire. “Government ministers have coined this word, presstitute, to describe journalists who are unfriendly to them or who don’t do their bidding,” he had said in 2018. (Reuters April 27, 2018.) Now he himself is in trouble.

“India is going through an aggressive variant of McCarthyism against the media,” said Prannoy Roy, co-founder of NDTV, India’s first private news channel, in 2018. He had a taste of it recently.

Bharatiyaar   wrote  that women should walk  with their head  held high,  while looking people  in the eye…,”  Modi quoted Subramanya Bharati. Sagarika Ghose, a columnist with the Times of India, was one woman journalist who dared to see in the eyes  of the regime. Her experience? She said  she is viciously trolled for any criticism of the administration  : “The minute I write something, I get droves of hate mail,” Ghose said. “I have had death threats and gang rape threats on social media and also through letters sent to my home. They know where I live.” Thousands are paid and employed for this job by many, sangh parivar topping the list.

Mediapersons , writers and Democratic and Human Rights activists are now booked under UAPA and sedition laws.

Ravish Kumar, a news anchor for NDTV’s Hindi-language channel, said he has been constantly harassed and threatened by pro-government activists. “This is very organised,” he told Reuters. “They follow me. When I go out to report, a crowd gathers in 10 minutes.”

Reporters Without Borders counted instances of Indian journalists being killed because of what they write. “At least three of the journalists murdered in 2017 were targeted in connection with their work,” it said. There were more in later years. That was the fate of many, including RTI activists.

Bobby Ghosh, the editor of the Hindustan Times, one of India’s premier newspapers, quit in 2017  September shortly after Modi met its owner. Senior journalists familiar with the situation said they were told that Modi was unhappy with Ghosh’s editorial policies. The journalists told Reuters that Ghosh fell out of favour with the government after he launched a webpage called the Hate Tracker, a database of violent crimes based on religion, race ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation. The database was taken down next month in October. Ghosh, the paper,  as well as the PMO declined to comment.

Senior editor Harish Khare resigned as editor-in-chief of the widely read Tribune newspaper the same year.  He told Reuters his relations with the Tribune’s controlling trust nosedived after the newspaper published a story exposing flaws in Aadhaar, the government’s national identity card project. The newspaper’s trust denied and claimed the reporter  was in fact rewarded. Perhaps it was a parting gift.

The parivar has no fear. It is trying all dirty tricks. Tamil people had tasted fascism, decades ago, from Dravidian parties. They did not hesitate to manhandle justice Tarkunde in public. There was Keelvelmani massacre of 1968 (44 dalit laborers killed by landlords)  haunted for decades and all culprits were finally acquitted. Dalits were hunted, dalit panchayat  presidents were not allowed to sit in office in some places, even while self-respect is mouthed.  Tamilnadu is  witness to love jihad of PMK type. Now fascism of Hindutva variety is being brewed.

Attempts are being made to form alliances of fascists, unify fascists.  Fascism is fascism secular or communal, Southern or northern. The language of fascism is the same whether in Tamil or in Hindi.  The task before Tamilians is to shed  fear and resist. That is the message of Bharati, ironically Modi reminded.

(The inputs on media are based on  a report by Reuters April 27, 2018. It was titled  Indian journalists say they are intimidated, ostracised if they criticise Modi and the BJP. https://in.reuters.com/article/india-politics-media-analysis-idINKBN1HY0AQ )

(The writer was a mediaperson.)


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2 Comments

  1. Election next year in Tamil Nadu. Appeasement politics has started. It’s a shame for Barati for his name being uttered by massmurderers like modi.

  2. Modi uttering Barati’s name is a disgrace for Barati