SACW - 20 Sept 2018 | Afghanistan: Civilians losing the war / Bangladesh: Digital Jail / Pakistan: Religious Bias Okayed / India: Maoist Violence; Talking Equality / Crime, Class, Masculinity, and Fascism in 1930s

Harsh Kapoor aiindex at
Wed Sep 19 16:08:01 EDT 2018

South Asia Citizens Wire - 20 Sept 2018 - No. 3001 
[via South Asia Citizens Web - since 1996]

1. Pakistan: Religious Bias Okayed | Pervez Hoodbhoy
2. India: Beating of civilians by Maoists in Phulpad - statement of Bela Bhatia and Soni Sori
3. 9 Members of the European Parliament say Suspend Agreements with India Until the Human Rights Activists are Released
4. Talking Equality, To a Conservative Society | Harsh Kapoor
5. Patriarchy and Structural Violence - Decoding Protection and Safety of Women | Shilpa Phadke
6. Recent on Communalism Watch:
 - India: An account of everyday lives of the Bajrang Dal boys in Ahmedabad
 - Need to Combat Emerging Global Sectarianism
 - India: Sangh plans to push the content of the its sept 2018 meeting in Delhi on to social media
 - Day to mark Mahatma Gandhi’s return from South Africa is now a Hindutva pageant
 - India: Congress Party Again playing Soft Hindutva Politics  
 - India: When the Vishwa Hindu Parishad begins talking about lawfulness, it is time to worry
 - India - Tamil Nadu: Communal clashes in Tirunelveli district over Vinayaka Chathurthi procession

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7. Bangladesh: From Digital Highway to Digital Jail | Selim Ahmad
8. Civilians Are Losing the War in Afghanistan | Patricia Gossman
9. Pakistan's Imran Khan pledges citizenship for 1.5m Afghan refugees
10. Why a 4,500-year-old skull is key to the politics of India’s Hindu-Muslim divide | Vir Sanghvi
11. Creative protection - Editorial, The Telegraph
12. India: Punjab Sacrilege Bill Is a Vigilante Legislation - Edit, EPW
13. No, Mr Kadam - Women cannot be kidnapped at will - Editorial (Sep 8, 2018, Times of India)
14. India’s shrinking democratic space | Malini Parthasarathy
15. Indian government websites ‘hacked’ to mine crypto currencies
16. India - Bhima Koregaon case: Liberty cannot be sacrificed at the altar of conjecture, says Supreme Court 
17. Bebber on McLaren's 'Playboys and Mayfair Men: Crime, Class, Masculinity, and Fascism in 1930s'

by Pervez Hoodbhoy
It’s always been easy for power-seeking Pakistani clerics and politicians to set our simple-minded religious masses on fire. But, as Prime Minister Imran Khan just discovered, jumping on to a man-eating tiger’s back is one thing; getting off is another. The saga of the Economic Advisory Committee appointment of Prof Atif Mian, a distinguished economist at Princeton University, tells of this.

2. INDIA: BEATING OF CIVILIANS BY MAOISTS IN PHULPAD - statement of Bela Bhatia and Soni Sori
We learnt that on the night of 5 September, around 3 am, a large group of Maoist cadre went to two paras of Phulpad (Koyalanpara and Markampara) and woke people up saying that “sab ko jama hona hai”. Men, women and children all gathered at one place. Meanwhile the Maoists caught nine persons, including one woman who had tried to interpose when they caught her son. Some were beaten in front of the crowd, others some distance away. Many had their hands tied behind their back.

Letter signed by the MEPs Lídia Senra, Ángela Vallina, Paloma López, Merja Killonen, Ana Gomes, Clara Aguilera, Ciprian Tănăsescu, Claude Moraes and Julie Ward condemning the raids on homes and arbitrary arrest of human and democratic rights activists across India on August 28, already sent again today to the EU HR/VP.

by Harsh Kapoor
This court verdict recognises homosexuality, the right freely conduct one’s sexual life and stands up for equality of all citizens as enshrined in the constitution and gives hope for new jurisprudence challenging the thousand and one discriminations and exclusions that shape the realities of everyday life in India.

In her TEDx talk, Phadke as a sociologist carefully dissects the intertwining of gender in urban spaces. Through this, she pursues the concepts of safety and risk, particularly how these concepts have evolved to frame our disposition towards women and loitering in public spaces. Risk and safety need not be absolutely distinct; instead, they can only be assessed in accordance with the societal norms governing them.

 - India: An account of everyday lives of the Bajrang Dal boys in Ahmedabad
 - Need to Combat Emerging Global Sectarianism
 - India: Sangh plans to push the content of the its sept 2018 meeting in Delhi on to social media
 - Day to mark Mahatma Gandhi’s return from South Africa is now a Hindutva pageant
 - India: God in the Gym in Calcutta [Kolkata] - a photo from Twitter
 - India: Congress promises gaushalas, a boost to religious tourism to out-Hindu the BJP in MP elections
 - India: Congress Party Again playing Soft Hindutva Politics  
 - USA: Protesters Attacked After Disrupting Hindu Nationalist Conference
 - USA: Indian-American politician ‘ashamed’ of the 2018 World Hindu Congress held in Chicago
 - India: When the Vishwa Hindu Parishad begins talking about lawfulness, it is time to worry
 - India - Tamil Nadu: Communal clashes in Tirunelveli district over Vinayaka Chathurthi procession

 -> available via:
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Selim Ahmad
The Daily Star
September 14, 2018

After 47 years of independence, Bangladesh is yet to embrace freedom of expression in the real sense. Free speech, under Article 39 of its Constitution, remains a highly qualified right and is subjected to restrictions.  Although the current government won the 2008 election on the popular pledge to build “Digital Bangladesh,” in the last few years, draconian laws, and its selective application, have made digital speech a heavily policed and punished arena. This is particularly manifested in Section 57 of the Information and Communication Technology Act (2006, amended in 2013), and the wider provisions in the forthcoming Digital Security Act (2018).

According to Human Rights Watch, between 2013 and April 2018, the police submitted 1,271 charge sheets against journalists and private citizens, most of them under section 57 of the Act and with many of the cases involving multiple accused.  In July 2017, a Bangladesh Public Prosecutor told journalists that trials in 400 cases filed under Section 57 had begun. 

Human Rights Watch also published a list of recent cases filed under Section 57, which highlights the rise in digital prosecution, which corresponds with the increase in the use of internet in the country.  Bangladesh has one of the highest rates of internet usage, and Dhaka, with its 22 million active Facebook users, is the second highest Facebooking city in the world.  Digital literacy in Bangladesh has unfortunately led to increasing digital prosecution, and the information highway's productive potential is getting derailed as it becomes a surveillance and prison grid.

Even prior to the full expansion of Section 57, Bangladesh's court systems were frequently used to curb speech and traditional journalism. In a two-week period in 2016, 67 criminal defamation cases and 16 sedition cases were filed by private citizens against Mahfuz Anam, editor of The Daily Star.  Prothom Alo, has faced more than 100 criminal cases against its staff since 2013, half of them still waiting resolution in the court system.

One special aspect of prosecutions under Section 57 is that in addition to the state and the police, it also allows charges to be filed by private citizens. This last aspect is vulnerable to wide abuse, as personal grudges can be settled under this loophole. Cases have been filed by private citizens under Section 57 against academics such as Professor Afsan Chowdhury, co-editor of an eleven-volume history of the Bangladesh liberation war, for alleged remarks on Facebook.  Section 57 was also invoked in the case of actress Nawshaba, and the arrest of photographer Shahidul Alam, for making online comments on the “Safe Roads” student protests that began towards the end of July. 

Intolerance for diverse political views and opinions by a ruling party is not a new phenomenon in Bangladesh. Successive administrations have had antagonistic relationships with the media, journalists, civil society actors and even private citizens critical of the government. This was evident when the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) coalition was in power between 2001 and 2006, with journalists being charged with criminal defamation and sedition cases filed against civil society members.

Similarly, under a military-backed caretaker government (CTG) in 2006-2008, the Emergency Powers Rules allowed legal action to be taken against media critics, and the military's intelligence wing, the Directorate General of Forces Intelligence (DGFI), was known to have used threats and intimidation against journalists critical of the administration.

The end of military rule, and the electoral victory, that brought the Awami League to office in 2008 did not bring a change in this antagonistic landscape. Instead, by 2009, especially after the brutal bloodshed of the Bangladesh Rifles mutiny, the space for criticism and dissent shrank.

The Information and Communication Technology Act (ICT) of 2006 has been part of the current administration's policy to integrate digital communication and technology at the national and local levels with its admirable, and essential, goal of advancing development. This digital strategy has already seen dramatic progress in several socio-economic sectors including education, health, poverty reduction, women's empowerment, food security and export-oriented garments.

But beyond the development objective, the Act was also drafted to serve as the primary legal reference for matters related to internet access, to define freedom of expression online, cover crimes committed through electronic means that do not come under the Penal Code and other legislations, and to regulate digital communications.

For instance, by defining hacking as a crime punishable by up to three years in prison or a fine of Tk 1 crore or both, the Act recognised the rights of citizens whose rights to communicate electronically have been violated by others.  Despite this, the possible role of the Act in undermining freedom of expression and speech has been the source of notable concern, particularly Section 57 of the law.

Section 57 “authorises the prosecution of any person who publishes, in electronic form, material that is fake and obscene; defamatory; 'tends to deprave and corrupt' its audience; causes, or may cause, 'deterioration in law and order'; prejudices the image of the state or a person; or 'causes or may cause hurt to religious belief.'”
Photo courtesy: DRIK

The vagueness of the premises of violations outlined here are disconcerting enough, but the use of Section 57 by state and non-state actors has been even more troubling. In 2012, gangs of men organised via social networks attacked the Buddhist minority community and destroyed their temples in Ramu village, following false accusations against a Buddhist man of defamation of Prophet Mohammed on Facebook.  Similar attacks against Hindu minorities took place in 2013 in the town of Santhia following the use of a fake Facebook account to create the pretext for premeditated attacks.

Against this turbulent backdrop where misinformation and unverified images were spread through social media, the government amended the Information and Communication Technology Act, eliminating the need for arrest warrants and official permission to prosecute, restricting bail, and increasing prison terms to 14 years. Under the 2013 amendment, a person could be arrested on the basis of a complaint to the police, regardless of whether the person filing it had themselves been prejudiced, defamed or otherwise “injured” by the offending material. The Act also instituted a Cyber Tribunal to solely deal with offences under the law. This opened the door for arrests to be made for any statement that could be interpreted by any citizen as harmful.

The biggest irony is that the amendment to the ICT Act was initially inspired by communal riots and targeted violence against Indigenous Buddhist Jumma people (Ramu, 2012) and the Hindu community (Santhia, 2013). Yet, since its passage, the amendment has rarely, if ever, been used against forms of hate speech and violence directed against minority Hindu, Christian, Buddhist, or Adivasi communities. Instead, it has most been used against secular activists, bloggers, journalists, photographers, and academics.

Other detentions and arrests of bloggers, Facebook users, journalists and civil society activists who had criticised the government on social media or in the press followed. The majority of the charges involved criticism of the government, defamation, or offending religious sentiments, while the rest were allegations against men publishing intimate photographs of women without their consent.

In addition to the frequent invocation of Section 57, which has resulted in the suppression of diverse opinions in the digital space, authorities in Bangladesh have also blocked Facebook, YouTube and other social network platforms without prior notification on multiple occasions.

The frequent use of Section 57 underscores several realities:

1.            The use of social media has too often led to unverified allegations and news spreading across the political landscape, exacerbating political tensions. This, in turn, has led, in some cases, to violence and human rights violations.

2.            The authorities are ill-prepared to deal with online activism and hence resort to the draconian implementation of Section 57 to quell all forms of speech and freedom of expression, including political dissent and criticism of the administration.

3.            The civilian population and media remain extremely vulnerable to the oppressive measures of the government legitimised by a problematic law.

There has been severe criticism of the Information and Communication Technology Act, and Sections 56 and 57 in particular, on the grounds that they challenge Article 39 of the Constitution, which guarantees freedom of expression. In 2015, prominent members of civil society filed a High Court petition against Section 57 alleging that it violated freedom of expression and had created a hostile environment that promoted self-censorship among bloggers, journalists and citizens.

In 2017, following public protest at the arrest of a reporter for a Facebook post in Khulna district, the Bangladesh government proposed replacing the Information and Communication Technology Act with the Digital Security Act, which it argued would include checks and balances on arrests over speech while being a timely response to cyber crimes.

Comprising 36 sections, the new Act has not yet been passed by Parliament although it has been approved by cabinet. If it becomes law, it would mean that Sections 54, 55, 56, 57 and 66 of the Information and Communication Technology Act would be technically “repealed.” But critics have expressed alarm about the draft law, claiming it is simply a redistribution of the disturbing provisions of Section 57 into four sections (21, 25, 28 and 29) and is in fact more far-reaching and draconian than its predecessor.  In January 2018, the cabinet secretary stated that the Digital Security Act was not designed to target journalists.  But journalists have argued that the provisions that treat “the use of secret recordings to expose corruption and other crimes as espionage” would “restrict investigative journalism and muzzle media freedom”.

There are concerns about other provisions too. For instance, Section 21 of the new bill proposes a 14-year jail term for anyone convicted of “negative propaganda and campaign against liberation war of Bangladesh or spirit of the liberation war or Father of the Nation”. Section 25 (a) says publishing information that is “aggressive or frightening” is punishable by up to three years in prison, without defining how such determinations would be made. Section 28, which deals with speech that would be considered to “injure religious feelings” and carries a prison term of up to five years, requires proof of intent. The abuse of such a provision to target citizens in the context of Bangladesh raises significant concern. Section 29 focuses on online defamation but, unlike the Information and Communication Technology Act, limits such charges to those that meet the requirements of the criminal defamation provisions of the Penal Code. But this still runs contrary to a growing argument in the country that defamation should be treated as a civil matter and not as a crime carrying a prison sentence.  Section 31 says posting information that “ruins communal harmony or creates instability or disorder or disturbs or is about to disturb the law and order situation”, and speech that “creates animosity, hatred or antipathy among the various classes and communities”, would carry a prison term of up to 10 years.  But it does not clearly define what kind of speech would be considered a threat to “communal harmony” or one that would “create instability”. Given past experience, we can expect that speech aimed toward minority populations would not be the main focus.

Given the lack of robust definitions of what would constitute violations of such provisions, it is possible to extrapolate that similar to Section 57, the door to misuse of the Digital Security Act to target journalists, academics, and private citizens remains open. Combined with the harshness of the potential penalty laid out for each violation and the established record of the number of journalists, bloggers and civil society actors who have been arrested, detained and even jailed under Section 57; it is quite conceivable that the proposed law would increase the possibility of self-censorship and further curtail the right to freedom of speech and expression as guaranteed in the Constitution.

As the space for dissent narrows in neighbouring India and Pakistan, Bangladesh, in its efforts to remain a democracy too should be vigilant of the slippery slope of gagging fundamental rights and freedoms in the name of “law and order” using draconian legislation. Repealing Section 57 would be a step in the right direction, but implementing the Digital Security Act with its even wider powers would usher in fresh crises. The current trend of silencing citizens through legal intimidation does not bode well for the country's democracy. It remains to be seen whether the government can step back from the temptations of narrowing the space for public discourse, and instead step forward to harness digital technology to advance the achievements, economic growth, and promote social stability in Bangladesh in the ongoing effort to strengthen its democracy.

Selim Ahmad is a member of a group of Bangladeshi technologists and academics called Katatare Prajapati.

Unprecedented Violence and Failed Reforms Signal Dangerous Political Crisis
Patricia Gossman
Human Rights Watch

Who’s winning in Afghanistan?

That’s not the right question. The important one is who’s losing.

The answer: Ordinary people trying to get to work, kids in school, worshippers in their neighborhood mosque.

Thousands of Afghan civilians are losing their lives, their loved ones, or suffering devastating injuries in bombings, gunbattles, and other violence. Since January, the United Nations documented the highest number of civilian deaths in Afghanistan since it started keeping track in 2009. At least 1,692 civilians died in the first six month of 2018 and over 3,400 were injured. A quarter of these were children. Given the difficulties of collecting information from remote areas of conflict, the number is likely higher.

Suicide bombings and other insurgent attacks caused most of these deaths and injuries. The Islamic State of Khorasan Province (ISKP), the Afghan branch of the Islamic State, has targeted voter registration centers, public gatherings, and schools, singling out Afghanistan’s Shia community for attack. At the same time, people living in areas where these groups hold sway have experienced airstrikes by US and Afghan government forces that killed and injured more than 350 civilians between January and June.

Donors who appropriately condemn insurgent attacks seldom raise any concerns about the 7 percent of civilian casualties caused by airstrikes by Afghan or US government forces. These donors are preparing for a ministerial meeting in Geneva in November that the UN has called “a crucial moment for the government and international community to demonstrate progress.”

What progress will they point to? Parliamentary elections should have taken place by then, and donors who footed the bill may say that while the elections were “flawed,” maybe the presidential ones next April will be better. Don’t count on it. With highly suspicious voter registration numbers, a flood of fake ID cards, and infighting among political elites over the spoils of power, contested elections are one symptom of Afghanistan’s governance crisis.

Here are some others: the government’s failure to prosecute violence against women and torture, and the fact that long-touted gains in terms of girls’ education and media freedom are slipping away.

Between parliamentary elections this year and the upcoming presidential vote, Afghanistan is facing not just an escalating war, but also an unprecedented political crisis, though one long foreseen. Donors need to stop checking boxes blindly and hold the government to account.

PM’s offer reverses decades of hostility in official policy but analysts question motives
Memphis Barker in Islamabad
The Guardian
17 September 2018

Imran Khan has pledged to grant citizenship to 1.5 million Afghan refugees who have lived on the margins of Pakistan’s society for decades.

According to the UN, Pakistan has the largest refugee population in the world, mostly made up of 2.7 million refugees from Afghanistan. Many fled the Soviet invasion in 1979, while others came across the border due to violence and economic turmoil.

In a surprise announcement on Sunday at a public event in Karachi, the Pakistani prime minister said: “Afghans whose children have been raised and born in Pakistan will be granted citizenship inshallah (God willing) because this is the established practice in countries around the world.

“They are humans. How come we have deprived them and have not arranged for offering them national identification card and passport for 30 years, 40 years?”

According to UN surveys, about 60% of the Afghan refugee population was born in Pakistan, meaning almost 1.5 million people stand to benefit. Khan also promised the same treatment for Bengali refugees, which would include the Rohingya minority.

Pakistan’s citizenship act of 1951 guarantees citizenship to anyone born in the country. However, bureaucratic hurdles, ethnic rivalries and the exception against children whose parents come from “alien” or enemy nations has made it close to impossible for Afghan and Bengali refugees to secure their rights, along with the Pakistani passport they would bring.

Khan noted in his speech, broadcast on national television, that a lack of official documentation pushed many refugees towards black-market labour or crime.

Human rights groups and commentators across the political spectrum welcomed the announcement as the first real sign of Khan’s promise to shake up the status quo and bring in a new, progressive Pakistan. He swept to victory in elections in July as the candidate for the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party.

The pledge marks a reversal of decades of hostility towards Afghan refugees in particular, who are often blamed for producing or shielding terrorists. The official government policy has long been to promote “voluntary” repatriation. In 2016, about 600,000 Afghans were sent back, in a process criticised as abusive by Human Rights Watch (HRW).

Questions were being asked in Pakistan about whether Khan had cleared his proposal with the powerful military, which has traditionally held sway over refugee policy.

The day before the prime minister’s speech, the foreign minister, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, who is seen as close to the army, returned from a visit to Kabul stressing the need for “dignified, sustainable repatriation”.

Sources within the UN were pleased at the initiative, but expressed some scepticism as to how fully it would be carried out.

Some analysts posited a political incentive for Khan. Afghan refugees belong to the Pashtun ethnicity and Pashtuns, thousands of whom live in Karachi, overwhelmingly “voted for PTI” two months ago, said Saroop Ijaz of HRW. Offering more Pashtuns citizenship could cement the party’s hold on the crucial megalopolis, he added.

o o o

Dawn, September 18, 2018



It has come as a bolt from the blue, but if executed with care and by taking all communities along, it could alleviate the suffering and uncertainty of many.

In his maiden visit to Karachi on Sunday, Prime Minister Imran Khan unexpectedly unannounced that Afghans and Bengalis living in the country for many decades would be issued CNICs and passports, which would effectively make them formal citizens of Pakistan.

At this stage, it is unclear which categories of those residents will be considered for citizenship. Mr Khan mentioned both individuals who are living in Pakistan for more than four decades (presumably the first wave of Afghan refugees and Bengalis who remained in Pakistan after the separation of its eastern wing) and those who have been born and raised in Pakistan.

Much will depend on the details of the citizenship schemes, but it is clearly welcome that a prime minister has turned his attention to the plight of marginalised and forgotten communities. As Mr Khan noted, the failure of Pakistan to provide effective rights to Afghan and Bengali communities with a long-term presence in the country often results in pushing individuals towards desperation and crime. All those who dwell in this country should have a life of respect and dignity.
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Nevertheless, it is important that the PTI government not act unilaterally in the matter. Parliament should be consulted, as should the provinces and the communities in which the Afghans and Bengalis reside. While humanity and the state’s moral responsibilities demand that the lives of non-citizens living in Pakistan for decades or born and raised here be improved, there are significant electoral and political dimensions to the issue that will also need to be considered.

For example, the granting of voting rights to large new groups in Karachi or Quetta could significantly alter the electoral dynamics of the provincial capitals and introduce shifts at the provincial level. Moreover, there could be concerns about ineligible individuals, such as those who have recently arrived in Pakistan, attempting to benefit from a citizenship drive.

None of these issues are insurmountable or should stand in the way of giving long-term residents of this country their due rights. But it is important at the outset to recognise potential challenges to the scheme lest the government’s good intentions quickly be overwhelmed by both legitimate and cynical political opposition.

Mr Khan’s idea to grant citizenship to long-term ‘refugees’ is significant and has the potential to positively transform the lives of many residents of this country. Yet, unilateralism at this stage by the federal government could sharpen political opposition to the PTI and mire a good idea in deep controversy.

Parliament, the provinces and local communities should all be consulted and their input taken seriously. All sides should remember that the current state of affairs is dismal and unacceptable.

by Vir Sanghvi
South China Morning Post
4 Sep 2018 / UPDATED ON 5 Sep 2018

Archaeological and historical theories surrounding an ancient civilisation in the Indus valley have been hijacked by political agendas

It is a measure of the mood in today’s India that archaeology, genetics and racial purity have now been co-opted in a debate about current politics. Not since the middle of the 20th Century has racial purity been as important in the politics of a major nation. And yes, the term ‘Aryan’ is being bandied about with a worryingly familiar ease.

The debate is centred on a genuine historical puzzle. In the early 20th Century, archaeologists discovered two ancient urban centres in the Indus Valley region (now part of Pakistan). These discoveries led to a rewriting of Indian history. They suggested that long before the dawn of recorded history (as far back as 3500BC perhaps, or even before), there was a highly developed urban civilisation in India.
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Later, archaeologists found more sites leading them to conclude that the civilisation was not focused only around the Indus river but stretched all the way south to the Indian state of Gujarat. New sites keep being discovered and it is now clear that the cities of the so-called Indus Valley Civilization extended all over North and Western India.

The British archaeologists and historians who made the initial discoveries tried to reconcile them with their traditional view of ancient India. Their theory was that a race called the Aryans lived in Central Asia and then migrated around the world taking their advanced civilisation with them.

One group went to Europe. Another went to Iran. Some came to India and so on. In this version, the Aryans vanquished the original inhabitants of the countries they went to and imposed their ‘civilised’ values. Adolf Hitler seized on this theory, appropriated the Hindu Swastika Symbol and based his politics on the racial purity of Aryan-Germans, treating non-Aryans (such as the Jews) as inferior beings. In Iran, the Shah called himself Aryamehr (or Light of The Aryans) and believed that Aryan-Iranians were more advanced than the Semitic Arabs of neighbouring countries.

[A wall covered with swastikas, a symbol of Hinduism, in Ayodhya. Photo: AFP] A wall covered with swastikas, a symbol of Hinduism, in Ayodhya. Photo: AFP

The main evidence for this theory was linguistic. There are many similarities between Latin and Sanskrit suggesting a common origin. But there were other parallels too, among them, the gods of early religions: you can equate Greek and Roman gods with ancient Hindu gods.

But how did the people of the Indus Valley fit into this scheme? The British quoted ancient Hindu texts which suggested that the ‘Arya’ had defeated the ‘dasa’. The British view was that the ‘dasa’ were Dravidians or early settlers in India who were pushed south by invading Aryans. The Indus Valley population was probably a Dravidian civilisation.

Over the years, there have been many problems with this view. The Indus Valley language is still to be deciphered but there is no proof that it bears any relation to a South Indian (or ‘Dravidian’) language. Nor do excavations reveal any sign of cities destroyed in battle. Whatever killed off the Indus Valley Civilisation, it wasn’t an Aryan invasion.

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But even as archaeologists were coming to grips with these mysteries, the Hindu right came up with its own theories. There was no Aryan invasion or even a migration, it said. In fact, there was no Aryan-Dravidian divide. And there was no difference between the people of the Indus Valley and the so-called Aryans. They were all the original inhabitants of India.

Were these theories derived from archaeology and history? Or was there a political agenda?

The answer lay in the issue that sat squarely at the centre of Hindu right-wing ideology: the Hindu-Muslim divide.

According to the right, the Hindus were the original inhabitants of India. Muslims were invaders. Nobody questioned the right of Muslims to live in India but they needed to accept that they had come to a Hindu county from elsewhere. They could stay on as long as they accepted that India always was – and would remain – a Hindu nation.

[A replica of a statue discovered at an archeological site of Mohenjo Daro, 425km north of the Pakistani city of Karachi. Archaeologists believe the ruins could unlock the secrets of the Indus Valley people, who flourished around 3,000BC in what is now India and Pakistan before mysteriously disappearing. Photo: AFP] A replica of a statue discovered at an archeological site of Mohenjo Daro, 425km north of the Pakistani city of Karachi. Archaeologists believe the ruins could unlock the secrets of the Indus Valley people, who flourished around 3,000BC in what is now India and Pakistan before mysteriously disappearing. Photo: AFP

This position collapsed if it could be shown that the Aryans were also invaders or, at the very least, migrants. And as there was little evidence to suggest that the Indus Valley Civilisation was Hindu, then even Hinduism was a religion that had come to India from elsewhere.

So the Hindu Right has struggled to prove that the people of the Indus Valley were Hindus and that today’s Indians are directly descended from them.

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This position has had its successes and failures. Some images of a God-like figure found in Indus Valley excavations have been compared to the Hindu god Shiva. On the other hand, there is a very little evidence to suggest that there were horses in the Indus Valley while early Hindu texts mention the Arya riding in horse-drawn chariots.

But what has more or less settled the issue is the recent development of DNA technology. Scientists have now established that most Indians are a mixture of two different DNAs called Ancestral North Indian (ANI) and Ancestral South Indian (ASI). Though nobody uses the terms, the distinctions coincide pretty clearly with Aryan and Dravidian. Moreover the ANI DNA shares characteristics with Central Asian DNA, while ASI DNA is uniquely Indian.

[A two-storey well at the archaeological site of Mohenjo Daro, thought to have been home to the Indus Valley people. Photo: AFP] A two-storey well at the archaeological site of Mohenjo Daro, thought to have been home to the Indus Valley people. Photo: AFP

In some ways, this suggests the view that the Dravidians (ASI) were indigenously Indian while the Aryans (ANI) came from the Steppes, as the old theory had it, was not wrong. Perhaps there was no Aryan invasion, just a gradual migration. Naturally, the Hindu right has rejected this view, rubbished the evidence and launched a counter attack.

The new battle is over Indus Valley DNA. Scientists have extracted the DNA from a human skull found during excavations at a site in Rakhigarhi. The skull is 4,500 years old and does not contain traces of ANI (or the so-called Aryan) DNA.

These finds are bound to be contested but so far, at least, the bulk of DNA evidence suggests that there was an indigenous population in India, long before people with ANI DNA arrived. The people of the Indus Valley have more DNA in common with South Indians than North Indians.
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It is not hard to see why this would upset those who believe that the so-called Aryan-Dravidian divide does not exist and that Hinduism is an entirely indigenous religion.

If the Aryans came from the Steppes and brought an early version of Hinduism with them, then how were they so different from the Muslims who came much later?

At one level, the debate is silly. All nations are comprised of a mix of peoples who migrated over the centuries. Nobody in the UK for instance, bothers about Normans and Saxons. But once you base your ideology on racial and religious purity, then you commit yourself to a different kind of politics where the battles of thousands of years ago resurface in a modern contest and where research is not a scientific tool but a weapon in political skirmishes.

Something like that is happening in India today.

A former editor, Vir Sanghvi is a columnist and TV presenter

The Telegraph
September 15, 2018

When the Vishwa Hindu Parishad begins talking about lawfulness, it is time to worry about aural health. Earlier this month, the VHP announced that it would give the Bajrang Dal lessons in law - not so that it stops pouncing on people in mobs to denude them of rights and lives, but instead 'acts' with a knowledge of the law so that it can be 'enforced'. Force is fundamental to the world view of the VHP, the Bajrang Dal and all similarly coloured offspring of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. So even in this case, once the Bajrang Dal has learnt, say, the laws regarding trafficking of cows of each state, and has found a violation, its members should draft a complaint - an art yet to be taught, it seems, the acme of optimism - and approach the 'appropriate authority' and "mount pressure by citing rules and laws". Why would pressure be needed if the demand is lawful?

But the mention of the law is suggestive, if not of change, then of a slight shift in emphasis, maybe temporary. Evidently, mob violence was getting too much even for hesitant law-enforcers to cover up. Could the growing pile of murders, although of minorities and underprivileged persons, matter a little in the 2019 elections? An appearance of reining in righteous passion could help. Besides, Praveen Togadia, the former international chief of the VHP, was a surgeon who went straight for the jugular. The cases against him ranged from the illicit distribution of trishuls to regular incitement of hatred and violence against a minority community. But the defeat of his protégé in the VHP organizational elections in April led to the anointing of V.S. Kokje, formerly the governor of Himachal Pradesh and high court judge in two states. No wonder the VHP's vocabulary now includes law.

Not that there is any other change. The VHP's focus is precise: protection of cows and women. Cows and women arouse the holiest of the RSS-VHP-Bajrang Dal's protective instincts: these females are equally helpless, equally incapable of thinking for themselves, equally productive of good, enjoyable things, equally worthy of possession and control. On both groups of females devolve the honour of the religion, although in two completely different ways. That is indicated by the two approaches to protection. Cows should be protected from slaughter and trafficking, and women from marriage into the minority community through the trumped-up evil called 'love jihad'. Trafficking of women, their rapes, murder and torture are really not part of the syllabus. Extending protection there would be foolishly self-defeating. Strangely, though, as the lawman chief would know, India has laws against such violence, and not against marrying outside the community. So what law would the Bajrang Dal learn on this score? Perhaps something is to be evolved soon. As the Bharatiya Janata Party cabinet minister from Uttar Pradesh said - in the name of the people of course - the Supreme Court is 'theirs'.

Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 53, Issue No. 37, 15 Sep, 2018

Progressive subordination of the domain of the sacred is the cornerstone of secularism.

The Indian Penal Code (Punjab Amendment) Bill, 2018, mooted by the Congress-led Government of Punjab and subsequently passed by the Punjab assembly, seeks to amend Article 295-A to make the sacrilege of the Guru Granth Sahib, Koran, Bible and Bhagavad Gita a punishable offence attracting life imprisonment. The immediate political context of the bill is the contestation between the Congress and Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD). Interestingly, on an earlier occasion, the SAD-led state government had passed a bill making sacrilege of the Guru Granth Sahib punishable. However, it was sent back in 2017 by the union government on the grounds that the proposed amendments would violate the principle of secularism enshrined in the Constitution. The current Punjab government seeks to justify its bill because it has included the sacred books of other religions as well. This is an instance of how its understanding as “sarva dharma sam bhaav” (equal treatment to all religions) turns the principle of secularism on its head. Commitment to the principle of secularism entails a progressive subordination of the sacred and continuous transition from the holy to the profane. 

Even though the bill does not invoke the term blasphemy, its inner logic aligns it with anti-blasphemy laws. However, some of the mainstream arguments against the potential threat of blasphemy laws to a liberal democracy seem to be operating within a minimalist understanding of secularism. One line of criticism faults the bill for defiling the sacred or the transcendental character of holy texts by using this-worldly state power to protect it. This attempt to expose the apparent irony underlying the bill is inadequate, for it misses the very political purpose of blasphemy laws. To deem certain ideas/thoughts/norms/values to be out of bounds for criticism or contestation is to argue that certain forms of power are beyond criticism or contestation. The creation, delimitation and expansion of the domain of the sacred is always a political (and not merely theological) exercise to create barriers of defiance for entrenched power. There is no irony involved in using this-worldly state power to protect the sacred, as the authority of the sacred is invariably invoked to strengthen this-worldly power structures. 

A second line of criticism faults the bill for importing the “Judaeo-Christian” concept of blasphemy into Hinduism by including the Bhagavad Gita among the holy books. This is taken as a violation of traditions of pluralism and tolerance. However, this view ignores the historical fact of persecution, social boycott, outcasting of nastika/non-vedic/pakhandi heterodox streams, and the individuals and groups associated with these. Whatever apparent tolerance there is for the deviance from sacred texts is overshadowed by the fierce/violent opposition to the deviance in practice, particularly the practice of caste-based norms. Thus, this second view fails to see the sources of social sanction that blasphemy laws can receive in Indian society and thereby polity. What is common to these two critiques of the bill in question is the hesitation to subject the domain of the sacred itself to criticism. Such criticism, which is deemed blasphemous, is essential to nurture the principle of secularism. These hesitant critiques thus prove inadequate to explain the political implications of such legislation in the state of affairs marked by the erosion of the commitment to this principle. 

In recent times, there have been increasing demands for banning plays, books, and works of art on the grounds of insult to religious belief or identity of a particular community. In more recent times, attempts to insulate religious texts from fair criticism have become quite vicious. This was evident from the two cases of bomb blasts that were engineered by Hindutva groups outside theatres in Mumbai. These blasts were executed when a popular Marathi play, drawing on the rich folk traditions of irreverence to sacred authority and playful mockery of gods, was being staged. The self-styled custodians of tradition were outraged by this popularisation of heterodoxy. The Punjab legislation can lead to other states similarly pandering to the demands of different communities and groups. Such legislation would hinder the possibility of the immanent critique of religious/community practices, beliefs, and norms, as blasphemy laws strengthen the position of the dominant within the community by accepting their interpretation as authoritative. But, even more serious is the danger of such legislation indicating to the extremist and vigilante groups that their actions have the overt or tacit backing of state power. Therefore, the bill needs to be seen as a vigilante legislation that could potentially legalise vigilantism. We have seen the horrific consequences of such a symbiotic process in the case of the anti-cow slaughter legislation and gau-rakshak violence. Legal protection for the text in the domain of the sacred, even as hate speech and hate crimes against human individuals and collectives go unabated and unpunished, is a definite indicator of the extent of erosion of the secular principle in our polity and society. 

13. INDIA: NO, MR KADAM - WOMEN CANNOT BE KIDNAPPED AT WILL - Editorial (Sep 8, 2018, Times of India)

Ram Kadam, a BJP spokesperson and MLA from Maharashtra, undermined his party's Beti Bachao slogan when he offered to kidnap girls for the boys in his constituency. But the friendly MLA said he would disregard the girl's will only if the boy's family was on board.

"If the parents of the boy like the girl, I will 100% help the boy in abducting the girl," he promised, even handing out his phone number. Of course, opposition parties pounced on him, with Congress politician Subodh Saoji revealing his own illiberal colours by offering a bounty to chop Kadam's tongue.…

Kadam fails to see the women he promised to potentially kidnap are his constituents too, independent of the parents who want to protect them or the men who want to marry them. This is the crux of the issue. So it's not enough to mock Kadam and his party with ‘Beti Uthao, Beti Bhagao' or ‘Ravan Kadam' inversions, we must first acknowledge that women are not just betis or treasures or future nurturers of families, they are their own persons. Their security being threatened by their own MLA would then be the clear outrage it is.

by Malini Parthasarathy
The Hindu
September 15, 2018

The BJP’s dystopic national vision jeopardises the future of our republic

With less than a year to go before we head into general elections in the summer of 2019, it is becoming evident that this will be no ordinary electoral contest between the BJP and the rest because what is at stake is the future of our democratic republic.

It seems that a pivotal moment in our political life is approaching, with the BJP and its allied organisations embarking on a strategic course that is far more ambitious and combative than in 2014, seeking as it does to alter the fundamental postulates of the democratic framework of the Indian nation.

As Indians, we are justly proud of the structure of our governance and our Constitution which has ensured that India is both a democracy and a republic. This powerful and well-articulated constitutional link between democracy and republic has entrenched all citizens as equal stakeholders in this nation state.

The Constitution, which came into force in 1950, had ensured that Indian citizens were given a set of inviolable freedoms, including equality before the law and freedom of expression.
An inheritance in peril

It is this democratic inheritance which is now in peril, with the BJP signalling a willingness to depart from the traditional moorings of governance. The ruling party and its Hindu nationalist affiliates are becoming increasingly vocal in the public sphere in their questioning of the foundational principles of our democratic framework, airing afresh pre-Independence Hindu nationalist doctrines that question the basis of India’s composite nationhood.

Meanwhile, the trend of the Modi administration’s policy responses and actions in recent months suggests a stronger tilt towards implementing the original agenda of Hindu nationalism, by making policy moves that seek to unsettle the governing consensus on nationhood and citizenship.

The edgier tone of the policy statements emanating from the party’s top leadership, particularly its president, Amit Shah, indicate that the BJP is preparing for a more combative political strategy. In the recent meeting of the BJP National Executive, Mr. Shah asserted the party’s determination to not only win 2019 but rule “for the next 50 years”.

The purpose of the BJP’s recent political moves on the Citizenship Act, on the controversial concept of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and on the special status of Jammu and Kashmir is to challenge the prevailing governing consensus on key issues such as citizenship and the relationship of various States to the Union. All these moves would add up to a fundamental rewriting of the rules of engagement between the Indian nation and all other players, be it citizens, constituent States, or communities.

Under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the government is taking decisive steps on fulfilling several of its core Hindu nationalist doctrinal commitments. Its policy articulations on citizenship, on the status of J&K, and its strident public campaign against intellectuals and civil society activists, branding them as “urban Naxals”, are all signposts of a new political culture that is sought to be forcibly entrenched in our public space.

Yet, neither the Congress nor other opposition parties acknowledge emphatically that what is really unfolding in the political arena is a fundamental contest between the original pluralist vision of Indian democracy and the monocultural and exclusivist view of the Hindu nationalists. These parties do not seem to have grasped the deeper pattern of interconnected trends unfolding behind the policy steps taken by the Modi administration with the encouragement of the ruling party.

When the Modi-led National Democratic Alliance government assumed power in 2014, its initial approach to historically sensitive issues such as Kashmir and minority groups was cautious. It also appeared eager to prove its governing capability and demonstrate a willingness to adhere to the Constitution. Mr. Modi was quick to show his disapproval of the mob violence and the cow vigilantism of right-wing groups that erupted brazenly after its assumption of power.
The gloves are off

But now the BJP appears determined to take its gloves off, eager to wade into controversial issues such as the status of J&K and the Citizenship Act. By explicitly placing these issues that relate to citizenship and community rights at the top of the party’s national political agenda, it is clearly readying for elections.

Government officials and party spokespersons are becoming explicitly combative on the concept of special rights for Kashmir. They are unapologetic on the controversy in Assam over the agony of genuine citizens who find their names missing in the new NRC. Undeterred by the strong public criticism, party and government leaders continue to affirm enthusiastically their commitment to the government’s proposed Citizenship (Amendment) Bill of 2016.

This proposal, which blatantly omits Muslims from the list of communities in the South Asian neighbourhood who are invited to take Indian citizenship, has been widely condemned as unconstitutional because of its exclusivist intent, violating Article 14 mandating equality before the law.

In recent months, the situation in the Kashmir Valley is at its inflamed worst, with the political process having collapsed as Governor’s Rule has been imposed. After the breakdown of the alliance with the PDP in June, the BJP has reverted to its traditionally hard-line position on the status of J&K, questioning the special provisions designed to protect its conditional accession to the Union.

Article 370 of the Indian Constitution as also Article 35A were historical commitments to the State of Jammu and Kashmir based on the conditional terms of the Instrument of Accession in October 1947. Given that J&K’s adherence to the Indian Union remains vulnerable to external challenge, it is evidently bad strategy to embark on a confrontational course in respect of the special provisions designed to protect its status in the Union.

Therefore, inexplicable are the loud musings from senior officials in the Modi government such as the National Security Adviser, Ajit Doval, reportedly calling the idea of a separate Constitution for J&K an “aberration”. Also provocative was a BJP-sponsored challenge in the Supreme Court to the validity of Article 35A. Such a stand-off, while it possibly thwarts the prospect of a revival of a peace process in the State, benefits the BJP politically, as the hard-line stance is bound to appeal to its hard-core Hindu nationalist supporters.

Likewise, the pronouncements of Mr. Shah at the recent BJP National Executive meeting on Assam, the issue of illegal migrants, the NRC controversy and the Citizenship Amendment Bill underlined the party’s determination to press ahead with its polarising strategy. The political resolution adopted at the meeting echoed Mr. Shah’s assertions.

The resolution called the publication of the NRC “a monumental work in securing the cultural, economic and demographic interests of the state as well as the national security interests of India”. Further, militating against the global trend of humanitarian sympathy for the plight of the Rohingya, the resolution says the BJP National Executive “compliments the Modi government for its determination in weeding out the infiltrators, whether Bangladeshi or Rohingya”.

Alarming too is the BJP National Executive’s welcome of the proposal in the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill of 2016 to grant citizenship in a shortened time frame to Hindu minorities from the South Asian neighbourhood. In effect, what emerges from the BJP’s recent conclave is an insular and rejectionist perspective sharply at odds with India’s hitherto strong humanitarian traditions.
Unabated repression

Meanwhile, in the public sphere, the repression of critical voices and dissent continues unabated. There is a vitriolic narrative being fed into the public discourse, aided by an incendiary social media campaign, against journalists and activists, painting them as “urban Naxals”, peddling unsubstantiated allegations of links between these critics of the government and the Maoist insurgency. This McCarthyist campaign is intended to discredit the public resistance steadily building up against the government’s efforts to curtail democratic freedoms.

If not for the Supreme Court, which is proving to be the last bastion in the defence of basic rights, India’s democratic governing framework would be under greater challenge. Political scientist Robert Paxton defined fascism in his seminal study in 2004, The Anatomy of Fascism, as “a form of political behaviour marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation or victimhood” and in which a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants “abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion”.

This could well be a description of the BJP’s mobilisation strategies and its political perspective. It is time for those of us invested in keeping India’s democratic imagination vibrant and expansive to resist such an exclusivist political vision.

Malini Parthasarathy is Director, Editorial Strategy and former Editor of The Hindu
The Indian government has tried to ban crypto, but hundreds of state-managed websites have allegedly been hacked to illicitly mine digital currencies
by Luke Thompson 
Asia Times
September 19, 2018

India’s crypto industry is currently in a state of limbo, awaiting the green light, or perhaps another clampdown, when the Supreme Court case involving the Reserve Bank of India is finally resolved. Yet, allegedly this has not deterred cyber criminals of helping themselves to low-hanging crypto fruit on government websites.

Indian media are reporting that state-built websites are usually knocked up on a budget using dated code and poor security practices. This makes them soft targets for hackers looking to exploit those vulnerabilities for their own gain. According to the media reports, there have been hundreds of government websites compromised in order to mine crypto-currencies, including those for the director of municipal administration of Andhra Pradesh, Tirupati Municipal Corporation and Macherla municipality.
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By using malware, known as cryptojacking, the attacker harnesses the computing power of the compromised machine via a security flaw in the website. This CPU power is then used to mine crypto currency and secretly send it to the hackers’ wallets.

Security researcher Indrajeet Bhuyan told Economic Times that “hackers target government websites for mining cryptocurrency because those websites get high traffic and mostly people trust them. Earlier, we saw a lot of government websites getting defaced (hacked). Now, injecting cryptojackers is more fashionable as the hacker can make money.”

Security researchers notified IT staff at Pradesh’s offices but it appears that the malware is still in operation and the websites are still compromised and were offline at the time of writing.

In addition to this incident an estimated 119 prominent Indian websites still run the Coinhive mining script which has been widely used to fraudulently mine the anonymous crypto Monero. Earlier this year the same script had infected over 200,000 ISP routers globally and continues to cause havoc to hardware and websites across the web. The official website of Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad was affected by the same vulnerability in March, when it was discovered to be hosting malware.

Cryptojacking is rapidly surpassing ransomware as an easier way to generate illicit income. “Cryptojackers who manage to develop and maintain a network of hijacked computer systems are able to generate revenue with a fraction of the effort and attention (required by) ransomware,” said Rajesh Maurya, regional vice president of cyber security firm Fortinet.

He added that Internet of Things (IoT) devices are likely to be the next targets after computers as they operate autonomously and are relatively easy to hack. Fortinet reported that cryptojacking malware increased from affecting 13% of all organizations globally in Q4 of 2017 to 28% in Q1 of 2018, more than doubling its impact. 

======================================== 19 sept 2018

The house arrests of five activists detained in August will continue till Thursday, when the top court resumes hearing the case. 

The Supreme Court on Wednesday said liberty cannot be sacrificed at the altar of conjectures and that it would look at the submissions of the central and Maharashtra government with a “hawk’s eye” while deciding on the arrests of activists in connection with the Bhima Koregaon violence in January.

The activists were arrested as part of the Pune Police’s investigation into the violence during the Bhima Koregaon event in January. While one petition was filed by five citizens a day after the arrests in August, an intervention application was also filed on behalf of five activists arrested in June.

Activists Vernon Gonsalves, Arun Ferreira, Gautam Navlakha, Sudha Bharadwaj and Varavara Rao, who were held in August, are currently under house arrest. The house arrest will continue till Thursday, when the top court resumes hearing the case. Activists Shoma Sen, Surendra Gadling, Mahesh Raut, Rona Wilson and Sudhir Dhawale were arrested in June.

On Wednesday, Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta disputed claims made on behalf of the ten activists and said procedures were followed in the case. Taking the court through the material related to the first five people arrested in June, Mehta said the relevant court was informed of the actions initiated at every step. “It was based on concrete material that we arrested the persons,” he said.

Mehta produced both the case diary and the evidence collected so far before the court. However, the evidence was not read out loud. Only the relevant page numbers and paragraphs were pointed out to the bench led by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, which read the paragraphs as and when they were cited by Mehta.

Mehta also said that there were photographs of the activists with Milind Teltumbde, on whom there is a bounty of Rs 50 lakh announced by the Maharashtra government. Teltumbde, a central committee member of Communist Party of India (Maoist), is the brother of management professor and intellectual Anand Teltumbde, whose home in Goa was raided by the police in August.

Earlier, appearing for the five eminent persons who had moved the public interest litigation against the arrests, senior lawyer Abhishek Manu Singhvi claimed that the letters purportedly written by the activists to members of the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist) were “cooked up”.

In particular, Singhvi said Maharashtra has cited letters written to and received from one Prakash of the CPI (Maoist). Citing a lower court order that had convicted alleged CPI (Maoist) member GN Saibaba, he said the court concluded that this Prakash was indeed Saibaba’s false named used for communications. Singhvi said Saibaba was convicted much before the letters produced were written. “How did someone serving in jail write these letters?” he questioned.

The lawyer said witnesses for the arrest of activists in June were brought from Pune. “They were stock witnesses. This is a grave violation of procedure.”

Singhvi also sought to know why a first information report was not registered on a grave charge that there was a plot to kill Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Replying to these points later, Mehta argued that the same lower court which convicted Saibaba had also found that he had changed his fake name from Prakash to Chetan in 2012. The Prakash in the letters was a member of the CPI (Maoist) central committee. Mehta did not read out the name but produced it before the bench.

Mehta also claimed that there were dire references in some communications before 2014 to former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and former Union Home Minister P Chidambaram as well.

When Mehta said some of these activists were sent into Maoist region in the garb of fact finding, Justice DY Chandrachud intervened and said someone going into a particular region for the sake of finding something out or for research cannot be deemed to be part of a banned organisation. At this point, Justice Misra asked Mehta to show his documents first.

While Mehta took the court through the letters, lawyer Prashant Bhushan appearing for the activists said their fundamental case was that the letters have been cooked up. To this, the bench collectively said the court, at this stage, cannot comment on the veracity of the evidence.

Mehta also said that except for Shoma Sen and Surendra Gadling, the others arrested have not moved for bail since they know exactly what has been recovered in the searches.

Justice Chandrachud again intervened to reiterate that there has to be a distinction made between “creating a sense of opposition” to the state and subversion of law and order through subscription to a banned organisation.

Senior lawyer Harish Salve, who is representing the complainant Tushar Damgude, said the context of the act gains importance. Giving the example of burning of the Constitution, he said a liberal person doing such a thing seeking a new Constitution was on a different plane to a member of a banned terrorist organisation doing it. “The means used should sync with the Constitution,” he said.

Senior lawyer Rajeev Dhawan said the court has to make a differentiation between “banality and complicity”.

On Monday, the Supreme Court had said it may consider ordering an inquiry by a special investigation team if it found anything gravely wrong with the material used as evidence against the 10 activists. “Every criminal investigation is based on allegations and we have to see whether there is some material,” Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud had said.

In previous hearings, the Maharashtra Police have defended the arrest on the grounds that the accused were planning large-scale violence as part of the agenda of the banned outfit Communist Party of India (Maoist). They had earlier claimed that the activists were involved in an event in Pune that was followed by caste-related violence at the nearby village of Bhima Koregaon on January 1.

The police have said the activists’ speeches at the event were meant to incite hatred and claimed to have seized thousands of letters exchanged among “underground” and “overground” Maoists. Two retired judges who organised the event have said that the arrested activists had nothing to do with the event.

 Angus McLaren. Playboys and Mayfair Men: Crime, Class, Masculinity, and Fascism in 1930s London. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2017. 272 pp. $24.95 (digital), ISBN 978-1-4214-2348-7; $24.95 (cloth), ISBN 978-1-4214-2347-0.

Reviewed by Brett Bebber (Old Dominion University)
Published on H-War (September, 2018)
Commissioned by Margaret Sankey (Air War College)

Playboys and Mayfair Men dives deep into the lives of four aristocrats tried for a brutal act of assault and robbery at the Hyde Park Hotel in 1937. Central to the book’s success is McLaren’s ability to understand the entangled webs of privilege that surrounded the four men and how it inspired an intense public interest in the case given the class and gendered social relations of the period. McLaren effectively uses the case as an aperture onto the Mayfair club scene and elite London social life, and the resentment and fear that these “playboys” inspired among other Londoners. The book is a delight to read, due largely to its effective organization, clear analysis of the playboy identity, and the timeliness of its portrayal of class and gendered entitlement.  

A tight introduction sets the historiographical foundation for McLaren’s examination of the crime and its broader meanings. Following William Meier and Lucy Bland, McLaren depicts the theatrical aspects of public trials and the ways in which court arguments reveal normative aspects of gender, class, and generation in their criticisms of the four playboys. He also situates the characterization of the interwar playboy as emblematic of the decline of the aggressive, rugged Victorian male. By the 1920s and 1930s, portrayals of the playboy represented various concerns about masculine domesticity, dilettante daintiness, and leisurely suburban life. These representations emerged a decade and a half before the 1950s, where other historians usually situate the emergence of the playboy and its attendant masculinities. For McLaren and other experts on masculinity like John Tosh, identities like the playboy existed on the margins of interwar British life, challenging and contesting dominant hegemonic middle-class masculine archetypes.

The book is divided into two halves, with the first giving a “thick description” of the crime and exploring its “micro-narratives” (p. 9). The second discusses the social and cultural contexts of 1930s London society as well as the receptions and interpretations of the event by the press and the broader public. From the first chapter forward, we learn about John Lonsdale, Peter Jenkins, David Wilmer, and Robert Harley, who not only were clumsy in staging and executing the jewel heist, but were also nearly comical in their cover-up and getaway. They invited a Parisian Cartier representative, Etienne Bellenger, to a hotel room by expressing their intention to buy. The first two chapters narrate the seedy details of how the men bludgeoned Bellenger in their hotel room and stole his diamond rings. The story is told largely through the review of Metropolitan Police records and the eyes of the chief investigator, Leonard Burt. Chapter 3 gives us the family background and social pretensions of each of the suspects, while chapter 4 walks us through the February 1938 trial. Chapter 5 provides a brief retrospective, recalling the prison sentences, reintegration, and subsequent relationships of each man. This first half reads like a solid crime chronicle, replete with key details. It only hints at how the public understood the act.

The second half of the book makes a more concerted effort to digest press sources and mine them for the multiple threads of social change that surrounded the case. It is here that McLaren’s analysis and argumentation come to the fore, and where he deftly locates the story in a variety of social and geographical environments. A chapter on pain explores the undermining of class expectations introduced when two of the men were flogged by their social inferiors. Floggings, usually reserved for working-class criminals, were part of broader political conversations about corporal punishment and its utility by the mid-1930s. The trial became a blank slate onto which both proponents and reformers could pencil their illustrations of proper criminal punishment. Chapters 7 and 8 on masculinities and crime, respectively, link most closely to the book’s exploration of shifting male identities. Here McLaren deftly explores the playboy as both a subcultural personality and as a cultural construct through which critics could debate prevalent masculinities, exposing “purported shifts in what it meant to be a man in 1930s Britain” (p. 106). McLaren’s trenchant pen exposes the playboys’ links to consumerism, gentlemanly traditions, gender and sexual relations, and the purported dangers of modern British society which might make such a man. He also explores how the playboy interacted with images of womanhood, allowing critics to chastise independent women through their readings of the playboy. These chapters are a definite highlight and reveal McLaren at his analytical best. Chapter 9 takes a closer look at the interwar social hierarchy and describes the Mayfair scene. Unsurprisingly, many readers found it difficult to sympathize with the men on trial, in large part because the press played up their public school background and extensive family connections. The last substantive chapter is less fulfilling, as the author susses out exactly how Lonsdale, Jenkins, and Hervey all attempted to defraud republican Spain in a series of fool’s errands. The men’s links to fascism were thin, largely because their awareness of either British or continental fascism was fickle at best. H-War audiences get a brief overview of Sir Oswald Mosley and his appeal to British elites, but the book is really oriented for readers of British social and cultural history. An immensely interesting epilogue confirms this, connecting the 1930s playboy to its later iterations, including James Bond and the namesake men’s magazine from 1953 onward.   

The book includes a dizzying array of court cases that McLaren sees through the eyes of either the press or the court recorder. His exploration of the relevant papers, his main source throughout the volume, is very solidly contextualized too. McLaren’s style is compact and clear throughout, and the book would be an excellent addition to readers’ lists for students interested in gender, class, and interwar Britain. On a more general level, the subject matter will appeal to anyone aware of the class privilege and playboy mentalities increasingly on display in our contemporary world.


South Asia Citizens Wire
Buzz for secularism, on the dangers of fundamentalism(s), on
matters of peace and democratisation in South
Asia. Newsletter of South Asia Citizens Web:

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