Two days after BJP’s Lotus bloomed in the north-eastern state of Tripura, a statue of Lenin was taken down allegedly by the BJP workers. A day after the incident, a similar act was reported from Tamil Nadu. This time the statue of Periyar was vandalised.
For Tamil Nadu, Periyar is more than just a social reformer; he is a Thanthai Periyar(Respected Father). Periyar has widespread influence on the state of Tamil Nadu- a state where the Dravidian movement was started and strengthened by Periyar. Periyar’s ideology runs so deep in the veins of Tamilians that even after 45 years of his death, he continues to dominate not only social, cultural but also the political sphere of Tamil Nadu. One of the reasons for this is the self-respect and Tamil Nationalist movement started by Periyar which touched people from all walks of life invoking Tamilian Pride in them.
Who was Periyar?
Erode Venkata Ramasamy also known as Thanthai Periyar (Father Periyar) even today continues to inspire the rationalists across the country. In the Tamil heartland, Periyar is considered no less than a God, criticizing whom would be inviting a lot of wrath upon oneself.
Periyar’s hatred towards Hinduism and Brahminism, in particular, was too radical but his rationale and logic found some admirers, even when they rejected his radical Anti-Hindu propositions. He took pride in his Dravidian ancestry and rejected the dominance of Northern Aryans on Southern Dravidians in its entirety. He considered Brahminism, Vedas and Caste system laid down by Manu a tool of oppression by the Aryans. Therefore, for his entire life, he batted for the abolition of castes and equality among genders, classes and self-respect amongst Dravidians.
The seeds of even prevalent Anti-Hindi notion in south India were sown during Periyar’s 1938 Anti-Hindi agitation when Chakravarthi Rajagopalachari became the Chief Minister of Madras Presidency and introduced Hindi as a compulsory language of study in schools.
Early years of Periyar:
Born into a rich and wealthy family, Periyar was inquisitive from childhood. He questioned the mythologies, pointed out contradictions and countered ideologies. In 1929, he even deleted his surname which he thought indicates towards his caste at the First Provincial Self-Respect Conference.
Growing up Periyar developed abhorrence towards religion as a concept to deceive people from the truth and considered it is his duty to make people aware of it. Though he also fought for allowing Harijans to enter the temple during Vaikom Satyagraha, he himself remained an atheist.
Periyar during his lifetime gained a huge number of followers. They consistently campaigned to pressurize the government to abolish social inequality and thereby removing untouchability the manual scavenging system, etc. The Self-Respect Movement was described from the beginning as “dedicated to the goal of giving non-Brahmins a sense of pride based on their Dravidian past”.
Periyar and politics:
He was a member of Indian National Congress in his early years. However, the dominance of upper caste brahminical leaders in the party led to his decision of quitting the party. He joined the justice Party later on. However, it was until only 1944 he served in Justice Party. At a rally in 1944, he in his capacity as the leader of the Justice Party declared that the party would henceforth be known as the Dravidar Kazhagam. A party that took social reform not as a political motive but as a social motive to root out the inequality prevalent in the society.
Periyar mostly stayed away from parliamentary politics as he felt the only way to achieve his aim of social equality was through masses and not parliament. However, many leaders who didn’t agree with his stance split from Dravidar Kazhagam and formed their own party Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) under the leadership of C N Annadurai in 1949. Even though the split was due to the method adopted to achieve social equality, the main aim of both the party remained same.
In post-independence era, DMK rose to new heights following the mass mobilization for the Dravidian cause. Even the most powerful leaders like Karunanidhi, MGR and J Jayalalitha and now the new entrant like Kamal Haasan swear by his ideology.
Periyar on Women Empowerment:
Remarkably, Periyar advocated liberation of women from the chains of customs and superstitions that he felt were the reasons of degenerating Dravidian community. The Dravidar Kazhagam vehemently fought for the abolition of untouchability amongst the Dalits. It also focused its attention on the liberation of women, women’s education, willing marriage, widow marriage, orphanages and mercy homes.
BJP National Secretary H. Raja’s comment against Periyar, calling for breaking his statue after similar was done to Lenin, was the biggest mistake the BJP hoped not to commit. At a time when allies are on the verge of abandoning BJP ahead of 2019 Lok Sabha elections, BJP is seeking to make a stronger alternative to these allies in the south. Periyar’s ideology runs deep in the blood of Tamilian and he is one of the sources of Tamizhan pride. At such a crucial time, H. raja’s act is nothing less than suicidal for the party.
Cambridge Analytica row: “The foreign hand” had blessed BJP, JD(U) too
Cambridge Analytica website even claimed to have helped its client (BJP-JDU alliance) to win Bihar Assembly elections in 2010.
With each passing day, the new revelations regarding the Facebook data theft are making the matter even murkier. Days after the Cambridge Analytica election rigging scam hit the Western world, back in India, the two national parties resorted to blame-game accusing each other of hiring the firm for their election campaign.
Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari yesterday in a press conference said that the Election Commission should look into the matter and conduct investigations whether any Indian political party has links with the firm. Hitting back at him, BJP fielded Union IT and Law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad who asked Rahul Gandhi to clarify whether his increased social media activity is due to the interference of Cambridge Analytica.
#CambridgeAnalytica “successfully managed four election campaigns for BJP” including @narendramodi’s 2014 win. BBC quotes a Himanshu Sharma as India vice-president. His longest stints were at Airtel and “Ovleno”, a B2B “intelligence” firm that provides telecom “consultancy”. pic.twitter.com/yb165L9FbE
— churumuri (@churumuri) March 21, 2018
However, now new details have emerged that prove that BJP too might have had links with the infamous firm. Reportedly, Cambridge Analytica has an Indian Business arm called Ovelina Business Intelligence. The Indian firm is owned by JD(U) leader KC Tyagi’s son Amrish Tyagi.
The company which boasted of undertaking “election campaign management” had set up a firm named SCL India. This firm was set up with the parent company of Cambridge Analytica-SCL group.
However, hours after the row hit India, OBI pulled down its website. The Client section of the website though boasted of helping the campaigns of JD(U) and BJP during the Delhi Assembly elections and Bihar Assembly elections. Cambridge Analytica website even claimed to have helped its client to win Bihar Assembly elections in 2010. It further mentioned, “Our client achieved a landslide victory, with over 90 percent of total seats targeted by CA being won.”
Here are screenshots of LinkedIn page of Director of Cambridge Analytica's Indian arm, saying "managed 4 elections successfully for BJP", "helped achieve mission 272." @BJP4India: response please? pic.twitter.com/NaxNJJdzzb
— Sreenivasan Jain (@SreenivasanJain) March 21, 2018
Himanshu Sharma of Ovleno which is a sister concern of Cambridge Analytica is scrubbing his profile of links with BJP's Mission 272 but Internet doesn't forget. pic.twitter.com/IzzUqDoqwA
— Pratik Sinha (@free_thinker) March 21, 2018
As the news spread across Indian media like a wildfire, many of them dig out some information regarding the firm. NDTV journalist Sreenivasan Jain shared the picture of OBI director Himanshu Sharma’s LinkedIn profile. The profile boasts of “successfully managing four election campaign for the BJP in Maharashtra, Haryana, Jharkhand and Delhi.” The profile further adds, “Achieved target of mission 272+ by managing Call Centre management, project profiling of each and every volunteer and supporter who had extended their support to get involved in the mission 272+ by giving a missed call, SMS or WhatsApp to our single nation-wide toll-free number.” It also notes that the data was provided to each BJP candidate constituency-wise.
However, a screenshot of the client listed on the OBI website has emerged which shows Congress, JD(U) and BJP as their clients.
While the entire Cambridge Analytica incident has made us raise the question on the electoral process and intervention of the “election campaign managing” firms, the larger question still remains is our data even safe?
40 years ago, Karnataka revived Indira Gandhi, will it be same for Rahul Gandhi?
After the humiliating defeat, Indira Gandhi moved to Karnataka as it was the only hope left for the party which was then on the edge of becoming irrelevant.
As the Congress’ future hangs in the balance with the Grand Old Party being seized in only three states in the Country, the party President Rahul Gandhi is on his visit to Karnataka today. Gandhi, whose only hope of revival depends upon Karnataka has put all his strength into the state.
Rahul Gandhi, yesterday, began his two-day visit to the coastal Karnataka and Dakshin Kannada where the BJP has quite a significant presence. The region, after the recent series of killing of RSS workers, has also become communally charged. Visiting the Dakshin Kannada region in such a time and convincing voters is a tough task for Rahul.
Rahul also paid a visit to a temple in Sringeri. While this may seem as a part of Congress strategy to reach out to the community, the visit to the Sharada Peeth holds a significance for the Congress party. The Sharadamba Temple and met the members of the Sringeri mutt too might not have forgotten the history scripted at the very place almost 40 years ago.
The dark period of Congress:
The then Prime minister Indira Gandhi’s reputation had taken a hit with the imposition of Emergency in 1975. There was a widespread anger among the people of the country against Indira Gandhi and her prodigy son Sanjay Gandhi. In 1977 when she lifted the emergency after two years, Indira Gandhi overestimated her acceptance among the people. In the same year, she called for an election in which the Congress had to take a severe beating. The Janata Alliance bagged the one-sided victory forming the first non-Congress government in the nation. They named Morarji Desai, Indira Gandhi’s political opponent as the Prime Minister of India. Indira Gandhi herself lost the Rae Bareli seat while Sanjay Gandhi lost his from Amethi.
Indira’s journey to the South:
The Congress’ performance in the elections was so poor that the Party lost most of the seats from the northern states- a Hindi belt which has been the Congress bastion for several years. After Independence, it was for the first time that no one from the Gandhi family was representing the party in parliament. However, the party fared well in the southern states, especially Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. Thus, Indira Gandhi decided to move South as it was the only hope left for the party which was then on the edge of becoming bygone.
The Chikmagalur by-polls:
It would not be an overstatement if one says that it was the Chikmagalur by-polls that again opened the doors of party revival. Chikmagalur which means the “The little daughter’s village” gave Indira Gandhi the much-needed opportunity to rise in her political career again.
The absence of both the Gandhis in Parliament presented a weakened image of the party. Thus, it was the common feeling among the rank and files of the party that to make the party stronger in Parliament, Indira Gandhi is needed to bring back. The Congress loyalist and an MP from Chikamaglur D.B. Chandre Gowda understood the situation and voluntarily vacated the seat which necessitated the by-polls. Before filing her nomination for the by-polls, she drove to Sringeri, performed a pooja at the famous Sharada Mutt and invoked the blessings of the Sankaracharya.
From Sringeri, she drove to Dharamshala, another pilgrim centre and then she launched her election campaign in the Chikmagalur constituency. The Janata Alliance had fielded Veerendra Patil as their candidate. Stalwarts like Industrial minister George Fernandes had camped in the constituency to campaign for their candidate. However, it could not help the candidate who lost to Indira Gandhi.
The rest is History! Indira Gandhi completely swept the next Lok Sabha election steering the masses with her famous “Gareebi Hatao” slogan.
Why it matters now?
Just like Indira Gandhi, for Rahul Gandhi, Southern states are the only hopes remaining to revive the party. With the Congress losing its clout in all the states in northern India except Punjab, South can provide the necessary panacea to the party trying to regain the ground.
Now, will Karnataka be able to give another revival for the Congress? Will it give the another Indira Gandhi moment, this time for Rahul Gandhi is for everyone to wait and watch?
Inefficient opposition is as bad as an inefficient government
The opposition in India fails to brandish their aggression at essential times when the same is most sought after. Many of the times they are found wanting or their offensive is not vociferous enough to warrant adequate justification.
The bulk of their battles are fought in the newsrooms while the opposition finds shelter in the comforts of their own citadel.
The lynching of beef eating Muslims found favour in the corridors of power. The act continued in gay abandon in northern India without a murmur of protest from within the administration. Transportation of beef carried out clandestinely were interrupted midway by the moral police and the people involved were brutally assaulted. The assailants were unperturbed about the source of their supply nor did they make an effort to identify the type of meat that was in transit.
Meanwhile, the farmers are unable to sell their ageing cattle (cows) to slaughterhouses and instead are being directed to sell it only for agricultural purposes. Consequently, they prefer to leave them on their own as age catches up and they grow feeble.
Ironically Kerala, Goa and many of the north-eastern states have no regulation as far as the slaughter of cow is concerned and hence there are no restriction for the same. Incidentally, Goa is a BJP ruled state despite a Congress majority!!
Everything is fair in love, war and politics and hence the BJP had to meekly yield to Christian pressures!!
Nevertheless, our opposition chose to stay indoors with mild undertones of protest.
Ghar Wapsi was a Hindi adaption of homecoming!!
Mass conversions had become the order of the day in UP, Gujarat and Kerala. Compelled by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and related Hindu based organizations India was led to believe that the conversions are a part of the homecoming process as the lower caste Hindus found the going tough post their embracing of another religion sic!!
Love Jihad stirred the imagination of the youth of modern times. An inter-religious marriage lends vent to the ire of our moral police who will then relentlessly pursue the matter until its final conclusion is reached. This would mean that either the couple is killed or the marriage is called off!!
Besides uproar and adjournment in parliament which led to important legislative business being cancelled, the opposition did precious little to fuel the agitation.
Urdu is considered as an official language in India but swearing in done in Urdu is unacceptable.
Christmas carol is banned in some areas of MP, a priest who dared to defy the unwritten rule was arrested and locked up. MP had designated a minister to inculcate the feeling of happiness among the masses. Currently, he is reported absconding!!
No wonder that India has been designated as the fourth worst country for religious intolerance by PEW. According to their analysis carried out, the following were targeted as potential hazards for meeting levels of intolerance:
- Hate crimes.
- Mob violence.
- Communal violence.
- Religion-related terror.
- Use of force to prevent religious practices.
- Harassment of women for non-conformance to the religious dress code.
- Violence over conversion or proselytizing.
Regrettably, such information is fed only by the media while the opposition images are blurred and indistinct.
The ill-treatment of Dalits that culminated with the molestation of their womenfolk has been in the news from time immemorial. However, the same has acquired prominence of late due to a sudden surge in the frequency of these happening. A Dalit engineer was beheaded in Chennai reportedly due to a romantic entanglement with a higher caste woman.
Four recent events can be viewed as a grievous assault on the secular character of our country. First was the brutal murder of Dr M. M. Kalburgi for voicing dissent against idol worship, the barbarous killing of Govind Pansare for questioning the demi-god status allotted to Shivaji Maharaj, an untimely end to the life of Narendra Dabholkar, a rationalist who waged a relentless war against superstition and finally the acclaimed author Perumal Murugan who had to bid adieu to writing following protest by Hindu groups who took offense to his comments on an age-old tradition that allowed the wife of a childless couple to have consensual sex with another man.
Some of the writers did object to such mindless killings and decided to part with their medals and awards, however, the award wapsi like the ghar-wapsi fizzled out with just a mild whimper!!!
The cold blooded murder of Gauri Lankesh sent shock waves across the nation. The press paid her rich tributes while demeaning her killing in the most derogatory manner!!
However, the opposition besides paying lip service to such inhuman brutality did not deem it fit to strongly condemn the same in a manner that is commensurate with the gravity of the crime committed!!
The support extended by BJP to Mehbooba Mufti of the PDP is an outfit that is totally in conflict with their ideology and religious preference. Despite the RSS backing the coalition, the alignment seems to have lost a lot of steam due to incompatibility leading to divergence in views and interest. The Kashmir discord gained voluminous proportions that induced us to mount a surgical attack on Pakistan which was combatted by consistent ceasefire violations before and after the attack.
The opposition, however, remained indifferent despite the same being talked at length in individual and panel discussions in various newsrooms!!
Religious intolerance is experienced in a lot of countries but is widely felt in India due to the secular fabric woven around us. We have been a cradle of religious pluralism for centuries, we have not only assimilated to our ethos but have also successfully managed to coexist
President Barrack Obama had once commented that religious intolerance prevailing in the country would have shocked Mahatma Gandhi. His comments were not taken kindly in India, however instead of overreacting we need to dispassionately analyse the safety concerns of the minority community.
The opposition needs to play a pivotal role and wrest power from the present ruling dispensation if found wanting in required deliverables!!!
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