Centre to RBI: The Rs 11,400 crore fraud is a “supervisory failure” at the central bank

Mumbai/New Delhi: The Centre is finally taking a call on the PNB fraud in a letter to the RBI, it has been conveyed that the Rs 11,400 crore fraud smacks of ‘‘supervisory failure” at the central bank. The RBI has been further asked to explain why the alleged scam discovered by the PNB went undetected in its systems. It has also been told to check the efficacy of its fraud-detecting procedures and systems.

A Reuters report says that in the letter, the government has raised questions about the central bank’s “efficacy of supervision to detect and check systemic failure.” “Either the framework designed by the RBI to prevent and detect such frauds is inadequate or the RBI is unable to ensure its effective implementation,” the letter says.

Your actions destroyed my brand and business: Nirav Modi to PNB
The RBI did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the wire service, since it was a holiday in Mumbai. A finance ministry spokesman also declined to comment. Meanwhile, the CBI gave the CVC a presentation on the alleged fraud. The CBI has told the commission that a system failure took place at several levels.  The CVC, in turn, has issued instructions that officials involved in the fraud, as well as those who could have taken action and prevented the fraud, be identified.

In another development, the CBI has sealed Punjab National Bank’s MCB Brady House branch in Mumbai. It is at this branch that the fraud was carried out. A source at the CBI said the branch was likely to resume operations on Tuesday.


Hit hard by the country’s biggest bank fraud, the government is looking at tightening the norms for appointment of statutory auditors at public sector banks to help detect any irregularities early and take corrective actions, according to a government official. At present, PSBs appoint their own auditors and questions have been raised about how the fraud could have remained undetected for seven long years.

Battle of divergent ideologies in Tripura

Of the three states, Tripura is the most crucial election and its outcome will be keenly watched on March 3. Meghalaya has been with the Congress and it is to be seen whether the party which has been fighting internal troubles will retain power in the state. The Naga People’s Front is in power in Nagaland where the BJP has been a partner

in the ruling Democratic Alliance of Nagaland for the last 15 years. Barring Tripura, the north-eastern region has been a stronghold of the Congress. But in the last few years, the Congress has gradually lost its grip on the region, while the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) has expanded its political footprint. Having formed governments in Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh, the BJP is now eyeing Tripura, Nagaland and Meghalaya where assembly elections are scheduled to take place between February 18 and 27. Tripura went to the polls on Sunday. Nagaland and Meghalaya will vote on February 27.

In terms of their representation in Lok Sabha (25 seats), the north-eastern states are small. But elections to their legislative assemblies are significant for the north-east politics as a whole. Lately, these elections have become even more interesting because now there is a new national party, BJP, which has made significant inroads in the region where the party has been on a winning spree. With the BJP aiming to get a firm foothold in the region, assembly elections in these states have started gaining political significance. It is therefore not surprising that attention has once again shifted to the north-east.

Of the three states, Tripura is the most crucial election and its outcome will be keenly watched on March 3. Meghalaya has been with the Congress and it is to be seen whether the party which has been fighting internal troubles will retain power in the state. The Naga People’s Front is in power in Nagaland where the BJP has been a partner in the ruling Democratic Alliance of Nagaland for the last 15 years. With political scene in both states still fluid, all eyes are focused on Tripura where, for the first time in the state’s electoral history, the stage is set for a battle between two divergent ideologies: the Left and the Right.

Tripura is India’s third smallest state. It has been the CPM’s strong bastion for the last 25 years. Forced to share power alternately with the Congress in Kerala and having lost West Bengal to Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress (TMC) in successive elections in 2011 and 2016, Tripura is the Left’s last remaining bastion. And it is here that the BJP has emerged as the main challenger. It is for this reason that the election in Tripura has assumed far greater significance than it usually merits.

In all elections since 1993, the contest in Tripura has always been between the Congress and the Communists. The Congress has never been a serious threat to the Left. Both parties are political adversaries, but ideologically they walk more or less the same path. But this time around, the challenger is a party that is the Left’s ideological adversary. Both the CPM and BJP are organisationally strong and have the support of well-oiled election machinery. The CPM’s major hope to swing the election in its favour is its four-time chief minister Manik Sarkar, though Sarkar is said to be fighting one of the toughest elections in the last 20 years.

The exponential growth of the BJP in the north-east has come about by acquiring local talent, mainly disgruntled Congress leaders, and teaming up with indigenous parties. BJP’s growth in Tripura is no different: six Congress MLAs who had quit the party to join the TMC in 2015 joined the BJP in 2017. Politics in Tripura is dictated by the fault lines between the Bengali-speaking majority and the 31 per cent indigenous people. Though peace, however fragile, has been restored in Tripura after the removal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act in 2015, politics in the state still thrives on majority-minority fault lines.

In 2013 assembly election, the CPM won 49 seats, the Congress 10 and the CPI 1 in the 60-member House. Of the 60 constituencies, at least 20 are dominated by tribals who have been strong supporters of the Marxist parties in the past. The BJP’s support base comes primarily from urban areas and among the Bengali-speaking majority. Its local ally in the state is the People’s Front of Tripura. The tribal vote, which is expected to split in the wake of promise made by the BJP on establishing an autonomous state council by enlarging the existing Tribal Autonomous District Council, will be a deciding factor in this election. The BJP has also promised to give recognition to the cultural identities of the tribes and allocate a large share of the state budget for tribal welfare.

However, the BJP is not without problems: its old guard and the acquired former Congress MLAs have been at loggerheads for greater control of the party. Whatever the problems, the party hopes that it is in a strong position to win the election, though reports suggest that Tripura may not be an easy election to win for the BJP.  Like elections in other states earlier, the BJP is banking on Modi’s popularity to swing Tripura voters in the party’s favour. The party has also invested a lot of energy and resources to win the political-ideological battle.

The BJP’s strategy to woo the youth by focusing on the Left’s poor development record in the last 25 years may yield some result. Unemployment is a big problem in Tripura. The jobless constitute about 19 per cent of the state’s 37 lakh population. Poor infrastructure is another key problem. But what the BJP fears most is Tripura’s immensely popular chief minister. His simplicity, mass appeal and corruption-free record – he is called India’s poorest CM – have given him an aura that’s going to be hard to match. To his credit, the chief minister has been successful in battling and later ending militancy and extremism in the state. Sarkar has also taken some decisive steps towards economic development. But lack of investment has affected faster development and employment creation.

It’s not that the Left is not worried, particularly because it’s not going to be easy for the Marxists to counter 25 years of anti-incumbency sentiment. But more than the electoral battle, the bigger battle in Tripura is the battle of two opposite ideologies. For the Left, it’s a battle of survival: both political and ideological. Defeat in Tripura could easily mean slow death of Left politics in the country. As for the BJP, the Left is an anathema to its far-right Hindutva agenda.

The author is an independent senior journalist.

— By A L I Chougule  FPJ

Loya case: 4 judges’ statements “unimpeachable”, Maharashtra government tells Supreme Court

New Delhi: The Maharashtra government today told the Supreme Court the statements of four judges, who were with special CBI judge B H Loya on the last day of his life, and had termed his death as “natural”, were “unimpeachable”. Loya, who was hearing the high-profile Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case, had died allegedly of cardiac arrest in Nagpur on December 1, 2014 when he had gone to attend the wedding of a colleague’s daughter.

“According to me, statements of four judges (J Kulkarni, J Barde, J Modak and J R R Rathi) are unimpeachable that the death of Loya was natural and unfortunate. “The judges were with Loya since November 29 to December 1, 2014. The statements were signed by the judges. Are not they trustworthy?” senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Maharashtra, told a bench headed by Chief Justice
Dipak Misra.

“If you (the court) want to reject the statements of the judges who said that Loya’s death was natural, then it has to be prima facie accepted that they were co-conspirators…,” he told the bench, also comprising Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud.
Referring to judgements on public interest litigations (PILs), he said the apex court amended its rules and laid down guidelines as to who can file PILs to ensure that motivated petitions are discouraged and not entertained. Alleging that petitioners were “creating castle in the air”, Rohatgi said the PILs cannot be based on unconfirmed and “hearsay” media reports solely, and the courts should verify the credentials of such petitioners.

Referring to contents of petitions, including those filed by Congress leader Tehseen Poonawala and journalist B S Lone, Rohatgi said they had only relied upon unconfirmed news reports, published November last year onwards, and filed PILs without any further detail and they “are now arguing as if these are murder appeals”.

“Nobody, including PIL petitioners, did anything for last three years and now they have come out of slumber. They are saying that they want to protect the judiciary. However, they are standing for scandalising the judiciary,” Rohatgi said. “All the petitioners did not do anything on their own. This is just ‘cut-and-paste’ job. There was nothing amiss. The state is fully satisfied. It would be appropriate to bring the curtains down,” he said.

Attributing motive on the petitioners, Rohatgi said press conferences are being held because the judge concerned was hearing a criminal matter in which a political figure was then accused. “None of them (petitioners) had the courage to read the statements of judges who were with the judge (Loya) like shadow and are the eyewitness of the events,” he said, seeking the case to be closed, unless “the court holds the judges co- conspirators”.

The judges had given the statements after Police Commissioner (Intelligence) sought permission from the High Court Chief Justice, he said. Some High Court judges, including the then chief justice, had also reached the hospital, he said. About the petition of the Bombay Lawyers Association seeking an independent probe in Loya’s death, he said that the list of its members, bye laws and registration number were not attached.

“These things are not required in a PIL,” senior advocate Dushyant Dave, appearing for the bar body, said. “You have argued Mr Dave. Let me argue… I am not here to have a conversation with you (Dave),” Rohatgi said, adding that the judge had died in their state (Maharashtra). If they had so much information, why no petition was filed in the last three years.

On the statement of one of the four judges Rathi that ECG was not done on Loya, Rohatgi said judges are laymen so far as medical issues are concerned and reiterated that the ECG was done on the judge at Dande hospital on December 1. As the Judge was declared “dead on arrival”, the doctors at Meditrina Hospital referred the body for post mortem and there was nothing amiss, he said.

Dave informed the bench that his application, seeking examination of 11 people, including two judges and four family members of Loya, has not been accepted by the apex court registry. Rohatgi would resume arguments on February 16. Earlier, the state government had opposed the pleas for an independent probe into Loya’s death, terming them as “motivated” and based on “yellow journalism”.

Senior adovate Indira Jaising, appearing for an intervenor, had referred to sequence of events to highlight her submission that a probe was needed to rule out any foul play and alleged a trial court judge in the Sohrabuddin case was transferred in a “tearing hurry”. The bench is hearing pleas including those filed by Congress leader Tehseen Poonawala and Maharashtra-based B S Lone seeking an independent probe into Loya’s death in 2014. Current BJP president Amit Shah was an accused in the Soharabuddin Shaikh case, but was later discharged.

Ayodhya dispute: Our priority is to join hearts of people, says AIMPLB

Bengaluru: The All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) on Friday, in regard to Ayodhya dispute, said that our priority is to join hearts of people. Executive member of AIMPLB Maulana Salman Husaini Nadvi talked to ANI here on his meeting with the Art of Living founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. “We held meeting so that all issues around the matter especially that of Ram Temple and Babri Masjid are discussed and we look for a solution which sends message across the nation. Our priority is to join hearts of people,” Nadvi said.

Hinting at out of the court settlement, Nadvi said the courts do not join people’s heart as the verdict is always in favour of one and against the other. “When court’s verdict comes, it will be constitutional move but court does not join people’s hearts. Decision is always in favour of one and against the other. We want that when both parties come out of Court they must be happy,” the AIMPLB executive member said. The AIMPLB renewed its effort to find an amicable solution to the Ayodhya dispute on Thursday when the Supreme Court started hearing the case.

Last year in November, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar grabbed headlines when he visited Lucknow and Ayodhya to mediate between Muslim and Hindu stakeholders in the long-pending dispute. The six-member AIMPLB delegation —Maulana Salman Husaini Nadvi, UP Sunni Central Waqf Board chairperson Zufar Farooqui, former IAS officer Anis Ansari, advocate Imran Ahmed, Maulana Wasif Hasan Waizi of Teeli Wali Masjid and director of Objective Research and Development Athar Husain — had a three-hour meeting with the Art of Living founder on Thursday here in Bengaluru.

On Thursday, the three-judge Supreme Court bench fixed March 14 as the next date of hearing in Ayodhya case as some of the documents and translations were yet to be filed before the apex court. The Supreme Court was likely to start ‘final hearings’ on a bunch of 13 petitions over the 2.7 acre disputed Ayodhya site that is claimed by both Hindus and Muslims.

The petitions before the judges relate to the 2010 verdict of the Allahabad High Court in the title suit that had been pending for nearly six decades. The dispute before the court was whether the 2.7 acres of disputed land on which the Babri Masjid stood before it was demolished on December 6, 1992, belongs to the Sunni Central Waqf Board or to the Akhil Bharat Hindu Mahasabha.

Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi dispute- Sri Sri Ravi Shankar meets Muslim leaders
Ram Janambhoomi- Babri Masjid dispute is century old point of tussle between Hindus and Muslims. The mosque was demolished by Hindu Karsevaks on December 6, 1992 in Ayodhya. The country witnessed massive riots in which over 2000 people were killed.

The Hindus claim that it is the birthplace of Lord Rama where a mosque was built in 1528–29 CE (935 AH) by Mir Baqi. Since the mosque was built on orders of the Mughal emperor Babur, it was named Babri Masjid. Two FIRs were filed after the disputed structure was demolished- Crime no. 197 deals with actual “demolition of the mosque by karsevaks.” Crime no. 198 named senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders L.K. Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and others for ‘communal’ speeches before the demolition.

In May last year, a Special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court in Lucknow charged senior BJP leaders L.K Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and Union Minister Uma Bharti with criminal conspiracy in Babri Masjid demolition case. They are facing trial in the conspiracy case almost 25 years after the Mughal-era mosque was demolished by kar sevaks. All the accused were granted bail by the Court but it rejected the discharge petition and said charges would be framed against them.

India test fires nuclear capable Agni-I ballistic missile off Odisha coast

Bhubaneswar: India on Tuesday test-fired its indigenously developed nuclear capable Agni-I ballistic missile as part of a user trial by the Army from a test range off the Odisha coast.  The Strategic Forces Command of the Indian Army conducted the user trial of the 700 km range missile from launch pad-4 of the Integrated Test Range (ITR) at Abdul Kalam Island in Balasore.

It was 18th version of Agni-I, which could achieve all parameters within the stipulated time period, said defence sources.  The missile was inducted into service in 2004, the sources added.  The surface-to-surface, single-stage missile, powered by solid propellants, was launched as part of a regular training exercise by the armed forces, said the defence sources.

The trial reconfirms the Army’s readiness to fire it at short notice, the sources added.  The Agni-I missile has a specialised navigation system which ensures it reaches the target with a high degree of accuracy and precision.  It has proved its excellent performance in terms of range and accuracy.  The 15-metre-long Agni-I weighing 12 tonne can carry payloads up to 1,000 kg.  The last trial was successfully conducted on November 22, 2016, from the same base.

West Bengal: Death toll rises to 38 after a horrific bus accident in Murshidabad

Kolkata: With the recovery of two more bodies by rescue workers on Tuesday, the death toll in the Murshidabad bus accident in Bengal rose to 38, an official said.

On Monday, 36 bodies were recovered from the Gobra canal in which the bus had plunged after crashing through the Nalini Buske bridge railing in Balirghat area. Both the bodies were being sent to the Baharampur Medical College and Hospital (BMCH) for post mortem, the official said.

The Malda-bound public transport bus fell into the canal around 6 a.m. on Monday.

After hours of intense effort, the bus was fully fished out of the canal with the help of four cranes. Hundreds of villagers and anxious relatives of the passengers had gathered on the canal banks. Nine injured passengers were admitted to BMCH.

Police were yet to confirm the number of passengers who were in the bus at the time of the accident. But an injured had said close to 50 people were in it when they started the journey from Shikarpur in Nadia district.

Watch: Malala Yousafzai sends out a strong message to Donald Trump at World Economic Forum in Davos

Malala Yousafzai, the youngest winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, used the stage at the World Economic Forum to send a strong message to US President Donald Trump and other powerful men on the state of gender equality in today’s world. Malala’s interview at the WEF Forum was live streamed on Facebook and went viral in just few hours. Malala spoke about causes that she supported and the ongoing #MeToo and Time’s Up movement that have got women’s from across the world come together.

She said she was disappointed to see that people at powerful positions of authority would do “shameful things” to women and that they should try and imagine if they will be able to see their daughters, mothers and sisters going through similarly testing situations. “I think it is time for women to raise their voices, so their voices are hardened and it reaches those ears.”

Watch video here:



Malala Yousafzai first came to international prominence after being shot in the head in 2012 for defying a Taliban ban on girls attending school in her native Pakistan. She has since used her platform to advocate for women and girls and their right to education, especially in parts of the world where access to those basic rights have traditionally been denied to them.

Malala also revealed that Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist has been her favourite, along with the many books on girls and women fighting and finding their ways out when the odds are against them that she likes reading.

Focus on agriculture, farm income in budget?

THE steep fall in farm sector growth this year not only highlights the disconnect between policies and ground reality, but also calls for short term and long-term measures as a response to the distress.

Growth can be just a number if it does not benefit all sections of population. It also becomes meaningless if, in a growing economy, the gains of growth do not reach 47 per cent of the workforce engaged in agriculture. This is precisely the case with agriculture in India and those dependent on it for their livelihood. Acknowledging farm distress, Prime Minister Narendra Modi in an interview with a broadcast news channel on Sunday, said it was the responsibility of the centre and the state governments to identify and address farmers’ issues. That something is wrong with the rural sector which should be accorded top priority was also admitted by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley last week.

Speaking at an event ahead of the budget, Jaitley said that India is one of the fastest growing economies in the world and the growth is benefiting people in different sectors. “But maximum population is dependent on agriculture sector and unless the gains are clear and evident, the growth is not justifiable and equitable,” he added. He also indicated that his government’s concern over stress in the farm sector will find reflection in his budget on February 1. Jaitely’s fifth budget – before the upcoming seven state elections this year and general elections in the first half of 2019, therefore, assumes significance – is expected to have a rural focus with over-spending on rural infrastructure, agriculture and job schemes to boost rural income. The point that distress in farm sector needs urgent attention has been driven home by several rounds of agitations by farmers across several states demanding farm loan waiver, lower input costs and fair price for agriculture produce in the last few years.

Low growth, high input costs, poor returns and distress behaviour such as disproportionally high rate of suicides by farmers are definite signs of things going wrong for India’s agriculture economy. Apart from their immediate demands, what the farmers have essentially been questioning is the government’s policies underlying the neglect of the farm sector. It goes without saying that, apart from natural factors, viability of crop production is also eroded by policies. This has been the case, according to experts, in the post-reform era, as policy shifts have not been in favour of agriculture, while liberalisation and deregulation of economy has unleashed growth in many other sectors.

A look at data on growth in the farm sector over the last four years suggests that agriculture has not been a priority sector for the government. According to advance estimates of GDP growth for 2017-18 by the Central Statistics Office (CSO), economic growth is expected to hit a four-year low of 6.5 per cent – the lowest under the Modi government – mainly due to poor performance of agriculture and manufacturing.  The CSO’s estimate of the agriculture and allied sector growth for the current fiscal is pegged at 2.1 per cent, against 4.9 per cent in the last fiscal year.

The steep fall in farm sector growth this year not only highlights the disconnect between policies and ground reality, but also calls for short term and long-term measures as a response to the distress. In the four years of Modi government (based on CSO’s advance estimates for the current fiscal), the agricultural GDP growth has been 1.9 per cent against the overall GDP growth of 7.2 per cent. Both are significantly below when compared with the first four-year performance of UPA-1: 3.8 per cent and 8.9 per cent, respectively. In the 10 years of UPA rule between 2004-05 and 2013-14, agriculture growth was registered at the rate of 3.7 per cent, while the overall GDP growth rate was 7.9 per cent.

Going back to 1991-92 when the economic reforms began, agriculture GDP grew at the rate of 2.4 per cent, against the overall GDP growth of 5.2 per cent during the Congress rule under P V Narasimha Rao from 1991 to 1995-96. Under the Vajpayee period from 1998-99 to 2003-04, the overall GDP growth recorded was 6 per cent, while farm GDP was 2.9 per cent. Clearly, performance of the Modi government is not only lagging behind all previous governments since 1991, but agriculture has taken a big hit, leading to suicides and sporadic farmer agitations. With one more year to go for the next general elections, it is unlikely that agriculture growth will register a significant improvement to finish at a decent five-year average.

According to the World Development Report of 2008, growth in agriculture is at least two to three times more efficient in reducing poverty than the same quantum of growth in non-agricultural sectors. Over the last six decades, agricultural production has increased at an average annual rate of 2.5 to 3 per cent. Till the 80s, India’s mixed economy delivered GDP growth rate between 3 and 4 per cent.  Liberalisation of economy led to doubling of GDP growth; between 2006 and 2008, growth had even accelerated to over 9 per cent mark annually. Until 2015, India was the second fastest growing economy in the world; currently it is being billed as the fastest growing major economy. However, much of this growth is not reflected in agriculture which remains the main livelihood for more than 50 per cent of the population.

Much of India’s growth in the post-reform period has come from the service sector, which contributes 53 per cent to the national economy.  While the industrial sector has recorded marginal growth of around 5 per cent in 25 years, agriculture currently contributes only 15 per cent to the GDP, down from 29 per cent in 1991. As the economy matures, the share of agriculture is bound to come down gradually, but growth in agriculture has lagged behind many other sectors of the economy. Barring a few exceptional years, growth in agriculture and allied sector in the post-reform period from 1990-91 to 2013-14 has been recorded at 3.2 per cent, lower than the 4 per cent target set by the government. As a result, farmers’ real income has remained stagnant.

The current government’s oft-repeated goal in the last few years has been doubling of farmers’ income by 2022-23. That’s an ambitious target which requires massive public investment in agriculture to raise productivity, as doubling farm output is equally important to increase farmers’ income. It also requires political will to reform land policies and raise remunerative prices, a major demand of agitating farmers in the last few years. If agriculture is not accorded a top priority both by the central and state governments through a mixture of policy action and investment, it will continue to stagnate at the base of the pyramid of Indian economy.

The writer is an independent senior journalist.

Haj pilgrims should be given liberty to choose airline: AIMPLB

Lucknow (Uttar Pradesh): The All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) claimed that while scrapping Haj subsidy is not an issue; pilgrims must be given the liberty to choose any airline of their choice.

“We are not rejecting the government’s proposal to scrap subsidy for Haj pilgrims, we, along with several other Muslim organisations, will demand that pilgrims be allowed to fly with any airline of their choice. It has been observed that fares of Air India are double that of other carriers. The government must permit Haj pilgrims to choose an airline of their choice,” AIMPLB’s Zafaryab Jilani told ANI.

Centre ends subsidy to Haj pilgrims
The Union government on Tuesday scrapped the Haj subsidy for pilgrims as the fund will instead be used for the empowerment of minorities from this year. Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said that the Haj subsidy funds will now be used for the education of girls and women of the minority community.

“When we say development with dignity, then we must also say Haj with Dignity. Around 1.75 lakh people will go to Haj this year. We are in support of strengthening the minority. Haj subsidy funds will be used for educational empowerment of girls and women of the minority community,” he told the media. However, there is an exception to the rules for the poor and people over 70 years of age.

Multiple fault lines in Indian society

The founding fathers of our Republic handed over to us a liberal and secular constitution that visualised making India a progressive democratic country, though they were aware of the inherent contradictions in a diverse, backward and traditionally unequal society, hoping that this ancient land would emerge as a modern state, serving as a model on governance for the rest of the world, neutralising the barriers of birth, caste and religion. And, after seventy years of constitutional democracy and the rules of law, India is nowhere close to realising that dream. Instead, we find many fault lines surfacing.

The Indian society is polarised on caste and religion. The Hinduism – a noble faith that drew sustenance from truth, non-violence and tolerance from the dawn of civilisation – is riddled with prejudices of caste system and distortion by self-appointed spokesmen. The Sangh Parivar is trying to consolidate the Hindu base, without addressing the inherent contradictions in Hindu Society, based on birth and gender. It is an illusion that thousands of castes and sub-caste, which mutually negate each other, could be brought under one monolithic religion and culture. An attempt is made to convert India into a Hindu Pakistan.

The Bhima-Koregaon incident is an indication that the people are more conscious of their caste identities rather than in all embracing Hinduism as a binding force. The caste inequalities could not be brushed aside. More than 200 organisations, representing different castes, came together to celebrate 200th anniversary of Bhima-Koregaon battle that defeated the oppressive regime of Peshwa Bajirao II in 1818. As per some historical account, the Peshwa had scorned the offer of the Mahars infantry to join his army. The vandalisation of the Tomb of Govind Gaikwad – a Mahar – was a willful mischief. It is believed that when Sambhaji was captured by Aurangzeb men and his body mutilated and thrown into the river Bhima, it was Govind Gaikwad who gathered the dismembered parts of his body and performed the last rites, when the Shivaji descendents were scared. The celebration was a matter of assertion and pride since 1927 when Ambedkar visited the site.

The Maharashtra Bandh on January 3 was the biggest since 1997, when Dalit organisations protested against the Police firing in Ramabai Ambedkar Nagar, Mumbai. It was evident that the Dalit imagination of communal pride and self-respect has clashed with the Sangh Paarivar’s idea of nationalism – a symptom of larger malice. The banning of a students’ meet, organised by Chhatra Bharati on January 4, scheduled to be addressed, among others, by Jignesh Mewani, was a panic reaction by the Mumbai police.

The BJP sought to appropriate Ambedkar with the government organising Ambedkar Jayanti celebrations. It elevated Ram Nath Kovind to the highest constitutional position – a tokenism – to placate the Dalits. But, its attempts to reach out to politically excluded communities among Dalits and OBCs by offering representation and forging alliances and its overtures to such social groups got ambushed by Sangh Parivar rabblerousing outfits – cow-vigilantes and love-jihad zealots – reminding us that they cannot compromise with core ideological issues for electoral gains.

The Hindutva ideology – based on the discriminatory system of caste and religion – is a fault line in Indian society. Since the ascendency to power of Narendra Modi at the centre, the developments like unprecedented rise of Hindu extremism, persecution of minorities, discrimination and assault on Dalits, forced conversions of religious minorities, ban on beef and cow slaughter, inclusion of Hindu religious books in curriculum and creation of a war-like hysteria with Pakistan demonstrate that the fundamentalists of Sangh Parivar have been promoting jingo patriotism and religious and ethnic chauvinism.

Consider this religious fault line. Rajasthan CM Vasudhara Raje in a statement released on January 8 said she would not allow the film ‘Padmavat’ – changed from ‘Padmavati’ – to be released in the state, after it is vetted by a panel of experts and approved with several cuts by the CBFC. Her statement reads: “the movie will not be screened in any cinema hall in the state. Rani Padmini’s sacrifice is associated with honour, esteem and pride of the state. We will not allow her dignity to be hurt howsoever”. She surrendered to the hawks and fringe elements. Rajasthan goes for polls this year and the BJP government wants to keep the pot boiling to reap political dividends. The other BJP ruled, particularly the poll bound states, may follow the suit.

The polarisation of majority community by taking anti-Muslim posture is a disturbing fault line. We cannot disfranchise 14 per cent of the population by playing victimhood and distorting history. The BJP’s attempt to project as the savior of Muslim women has a political connotation. What was the haste and hurry in introducing the Triple Talaq Bill in Lok Sabha and getting it passed the same day, in spite of opposition, even from the allies, against the criminalisation of the triple talaq? The Bill has not addressed the issues such as maintenance allowance to divorced women, polygamy, practice of halala, discrimination faced by Muslim women in marriage and family, leaving many other matters untouched. What is the government trying to achieve? As Hasina Khan, one of the founders of ‘Bebaak Collective’ that petitioned to the Supreme Court against the triple talaq says, the government “is not addressing the issues faced by Muslim women. Is it trying to target the Muslim community at large and mocking at the Muslim personal law? Why is it paving the way to cirminalise a civil issue? Is this not a saffronisation policy?”

There is a dichotomy of tradition vs modernity – a deadly cocktail of caste and religion – unresolved. We have numerous fault lines that block India emerging as a modern nation. A majority of people believe dictatorship is best suited to India. The younger generation continues to confirm to the obnoxious customs and traditions. They do not subscribe to liberal values. Like the orthodox older generation, they have not overcome the caste, community, gender and religious prejudices, despite having access to modern education. It is a reflection of the darker side of Indian society. What we see is intellectual stagnation, illiberal outlook, regression and cultural degradation.

The writer is Professor of Political Science and retired Principal, who published his magnum opus ‘The Trial by Fire: Memoirs of a College Principal’.

— By FPJ Bureau 

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