Sunday, July 07, 2019

The myth of Nehru and the IITs!

The projection of Nehru as a visionary statesman was a carefully crafted enterprise and incorporated into it were many orchestrated myths. These include the establishment of institutions of excellence (officially Institutions of National Importance or INIs) like the IITs and IIMs. It is another matter though that by the time the first IIM was established in November 1961 Nehru had a job explaining about blades of grass and barren lands in the parliament and exactly a year before the Chinese ended his misery — of having to explain about blades of grass and barren lands in the parliament

Were there no institutions of excellence in ‘India that is Bharat’ (as the Constitution describes it) before the scientific-tempered Nehru waved his magic wand to fill the void? It would not please the secular historians if you said there were. But first let us look at what the scientific-tempered Nehru did to the ‘Ministry of Education’ itself, as the ‘Ministry of Human Resources Development’ was known then. 

A look at the range and sweep of functions that the Ministry handles is mind-boggling. To put it succinctly, it determines what we learn about our past; what we do with our present and how we shape our future. The Ministry has two broad divisions, the ‘Department of School Education and Literacy’ and the ‘Department of Higher Education’. The latter superintends a number of institutions which include the University Grants Commission (UGC), the All India Council of Technical Education (AICTE), the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT), the Central Universities, the IITs the IIMs, the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) et al. 

In 2014 Abhishek Manu Singhvi was ‘astonished’ to learn that the newly appointed HRD minister was “not [even] a graduate”. Have you ever wondered about the educational qualifications of India’s first Education Minister, chosen by Nehru to superintend a ministry that was to superintend the institutions of excellence and, research and development in science, engineering, technology, not to speak of humanities and social sciences? 

Nehru’s chosen Education Minister was Maulana Sayyid Abul Kalam Ghulam Muhiyuddin Ahmed bin Khairuddin Al-Hussaini Azad! That was a mouthful; wasn’t it? He was born in Mecca but relocated to Calcutta in 1890. What were his qualifications for supervising the crucial ministry of education? Maulana Abul Kalam Azad was ‘home-schooled and self-taught’! There need be no objection on that count. A ‘home-schooled and self-taught’ person could turn out to be a genius. But would Nehru have appointed a ‘home-schooled and self-taught’ ‘Shankaracharya’ as India’s education minister? 

Azad’s activities during and after the freedom movement should leave no one in doubt about his inclinations. He inveigled Gandhi and other Congress leaders into supporting the Khilafat movement in far away Turkey, with which India had nothing to do. It was an ill-advised quid pro quo by the Congress leaders for co-opting influential Muslim leaders into the freedom movement; a quid pro quo the nation would live down to regret. Azad and fellow Khilafat leaders Mukhtar Ahmad Ansari, Hakim Ajmal Khan along with others founded the Jamia Millia Islamia in Lucknow in 1920. It was later shifted to Delhi. The Mohammedan Anglo-Oriental College, the precursor of the Aligarh Muslim University had already been in existence since 1875. In another of those secular anomalies of ‘India that is Bharat’, these two institutions of higher learning, funded by the people of India, cater exclusively to the Muslim community. Azad proposed reserving houses vacated by Muslims displaced during partition for Muslims in India. He was in favour of Muslim personal laws as opposed to a uniform civil code (UCC).

Azad helped Nehru in 1936 in the espousal of socialism as party philosophy in the face of opposition from Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Babu Rajendra Prasad and C. Rajagopalachari and in his re-election as Congress president in 1937. He resigned as Congress president in 1946 to make way for Nehru to become president. It was then known that the Congress president would become the prime minister as soon as India attained independence. All in all Azad was Nehru’s ‘twin-soul’ and a confidante; worth rewarding with a key portfolio. 

Coming back to the institutions of excellence, were the IITs the first institutions of excellence, established by a visionary Nehru as his sycophants would have us believe?  The history of the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) does not fit into the Indian Left Illiberals’ fictitious ‘India’s founding fathers’ narrative with Nehru as its over-arching visionary. 

During a voyage from Yokohama to Vancouver in 1893, Swami Vivekananda impressed the philanthropist-businessman Jamsetji Nusserwanji Tata with his views on science:

“How wonderful it would be if we could combine the scientific and technological achievements of the West with the asceticism and humanism of India!”

Jamsetji Tata wrote to Swami Vivekananda five years later in 1898 about his idea of establishing an institution to promote research in science and technology and seeking his co-operation for it.  

A committee was constituted to prepare a blueprint for setting up the institution. Tata bequeathed a substantial part of his own wealth for funding it. Sadly Tata did not live to realise his dream project. He died in 1904. The Queen Regent Vani Vilasa Sannidhana of Mysore (who ruled the princely state on behalf of her minor son Krishna Raja Wadiyar - IV) donated 371 acres of land for the institute and the IISc was inaugurated on May 27, 1909. Nehru was all of twenty years when the IISc was born. Ironically, the only linkage of Nehru with the IISc was that he died on the same day in 1964!

And now about the IITs! According to the website of the IIT, Kharagpur (the first IIT), the Honourable Sir Jogendra Singh (member of the Viceroy’s Executive Council, Department of Education, Health and Agriculture) set up a committee in 1946 to “consider the setting up of Higher Technical Institutions for post war industrial development in India.” The twenty-two member committee headed by Nalini Ranjan Sarkar recommended the setting up of four Higher Technical Institutions  in the Eastern, Western, Northern and Southern parts of India. They were to be modelled on the lines of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign. Thus was born the first IIT in May 1950 which initially functioned from Calcutta and later shifted to Kharagpur in September 1950. 

The IIT, Kharagpur began functioning in the Hijli detention camp (renamed Hijli Shaheed Bhavan) where many of our great freedom fighters were detained and some sacrificed their lives for the independence of the country. The British shot dead two freedom fighters, Santosh Kumar Mitra and Tarakeswar Sengupta on September 16, 1931. Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose came to Hijli to collect their bodies. The most sordid twist in the saga of the Hijli Shaheed Bhavan was that a part of the Shaheed Bhavan was converted into the “Nehru Museum of Science and Technology” in 1990! The martyrs were dumped on the wayside of history.   

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Indian Media’s Deus Ex Machina

This piece was written as the 2014 general election campaign was drawing to a close, and in a way predictive of which way the wind was blowing.

Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.
-  Tennyson, Alfred. In Memoriam [Ring Out Wild Bells].

As the long-drawn election season winds down to choose a new government, two distinct aspects of it are discernible. The first is the agenda of development and its architect, Narendra Modi that dominated this election and the second, the increasingly distortive role played by the Indian media as it reported (or misreported) the election campaign. 
The outcome of the election has been clear since Narendra Modi opened his campaign with a rally in Hyderabad on a hot Sunday afternoon in August last year. The opinion polls, grudgingly reported by a biased English language media have made it increasingly clear that ‘the nation is yearning for a change’, as BJP’s Ravi Sankar Prasad had repeatedly tried to din into the collective thick skull of the media. Only the purblind or the myopic had any doubts about the steadily surging possibility of the next government being formed by the NDA headed by the BJP and Narendra Modi. There may be a tsunami rumbling under, ready to break the surface and change Indian politics forever, but it is safe to assume that the next government will be formed by a party formation led by Narendra Modi. 
From the beginning Narendra Modi tried to steer the election away from the divisive politics of caste and creed, and election-eve largesse that came to dominate Indian elections from its inception. He did not woo this or that caste; did not placate this or that creed nor did he announce reservations and more reservations for this or that section of the electorate. He sought the people’s mandate purely on his projected development agenda. He promised the youth a golden future that is their due. What were his credentials? His development record in Gujarat! What did the media do? It ignored all that. It set out to pick and choose bits and bobs from his speeches, stripped them all out of context and wilfully distorted them. 
The media’s ‘agenda of distortion’ did not begin with its reportage of Narendra Modi’s October 27, 2013 ‘Hunkar rally’ in Patna. It has been doing it since 2002, as detailed in many articles in VOXNDICA. The distortion has only sharpened in shrillness and perhaps in silliness. The rally at Gandhi Maidan was attended by a record number of 300,000 people, not seen since Jaya Pakash Narain.* It was marred by a series of blasts in Patna, intended to subvert it. Modi came to know of the blasts as soon as he arrived in Patna. Had he panicked and cancelled the meeting the inevitable stampede would have killed hundreds of people, many more than the blasts could. Modi retained his composure and addressed the crowd in Bhojpuri and Maithili, two local dialects and in Hindi in his oratorical style. The crowd lapped up every word. He asked the Hindus, whether they would rather fight poverty and backwardness than they did the Muslims. He asked the Muslims whether they would rather fight poverty and backwardness than they did the Hindus
An objective media would have highlighted his composure in the face of an obvious terror attack which saved many lives and the progressive vision which he tried to project while addressing the gathering. Instead, it chose to dissect whether or not Modi was accurate in his historical references, taking a cue from either misunderstood, or malicious tweets from some foot soldiers of the Congress dynasty. As he was addressing a rally in Bihar it was but natural for him to invoke the pride of Bihar, the Nalanda University and as a comparison invoke the name of Takshila the way people speak of Oxford and Cambridge. When people speak of Oxford and Cambridge they do not mean that the two universities are in the same place. Similarly when people speak of India’s two ancient universities Nalanda and Takshila they do not mean that they are in the same place. Yet this was the nitpicking that the media resorted to ignoring the central idea of the speech. The media dissected every word Modi and his lieutenant, Amit Shah uttered. It analysed every gesture and utterance of his other party colleagues to find dissonance. If there were none they simply invented and substituted it. It analysed their opponents too, but always gave them the benefit of the doubt. Sometimes in order to balance their opponents’ misdemeanours they had to read meanings into Modi’s and Shah’s utterances. Thus was ‘revenge’ read into Amit Shah’s speech in Muzaffarnagar. He and the BJP tried their best to explain, what he sought was ‘electoral’ and not ‘physical’ revenge but the media simply turned a deaf ear. It had to balance Azam Khan’s seditious speech and it would simply not budge. 
On the other side are ranged the Congress party and the so- called Aam Admi Party, a phantom created by the media because it did not want the BJP to walk away with the honours without a challenge. Sonia and Rahul led the Congress party campaign for a large part of it. In spite of reading written speeches scarcely looking at the herded, unenthused audience, Sonia evoked a lot of media hoopla. As for Rahul he shot his mouth off as much as he shot his cuffs. ‘Gujarat has 27 crore unfilled jobs!’ This meant every man, woman and child in the state could take up four-and- a-half jobs, which the wicked Narendra Modi was denying them! 
The media realized to its dismay that the mother and son duo was not getting enough traction to head off the challenger, Modi. It needed a deus ex machina. The French phrase, deus ex machina (pronounced əs ĕks mäkə-nə) means ‘an unexpected, artificial or improbable character introduced suddenly to resolve a situation’. The media therefore ‘invented’ Priyanka Vadra. Anchors on NDTV and CNNIBN gushed that she was ‘coming’ as if they were announcing the advent of the next prophet
She was never known to address large gatherings or displayed any kind of vision but she would suffice. She had 
confined herself to family boroughs of Amethi and Rae Bareilly and interacted with rather than addressed small, ogling groups. But going by the press she was getting, you would think she was going to be next prime minister! Several months ago there was an engineered leak that she was going to contest this election and probably would take on Modi himself! 
The media conditioned itself to interviewing Sonia and Priyanka like royalty, by asking leading questions, which included intended or expected answers. A grunt is taken as affirmation. It makes ‘breaking news’ or a banner headline. Thus when a journalist proffers a mike at Sonia and asks, ‘do you think the BJP is polarising the election’ and she says ‘yes’, that is breaking news. Would you expect her to say no? A paper like The Times of India headlines it the next day as, ‘Sonia says BJP communally polarising the election’! 
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*Kanwal, Rahul. (2013). “Narendra Modi rocks Patna, record crowd at Hunkar rally”. India Today. October 27, 2013. Accessible from http://goo.gl/GYAAZc 

Reproduced from ‘TWISTING FACTS TO SUIT THEORIES' & OTHER SELECTIONS VOXINDICA (2016. Authors Press, New Delhi), pp 146-148

Friday, January 11, 2019

Hinduism (Sanātana Dharma) In Peril?

This is the English translation of the Editorial of Ṛṣipīṭham, Telugu magazine, published in its December 2018 issue. The magazine is edited and published by Brahmasri Sāmavēdam Ṣanmukha Śarma. Brahmasri Śarma is the foremost exponent of our Sanātana Dhārmic lore. His encyclopaedic knowledge and felicity of expression that makes complex tātvic principles intelligible to common people attract large audiences to his discourses in India and many other nations. Apart from public meetings he appears on several television channels to give discourses on our ancient wisdom. He is a prolific writer and produced many books on Sanātana Dhārmic literature. The translated version of the editorial is published with permission.  

“This is the twenty-first century. We have been progressing technologically and scientifically. Globalization has erased national boundaries. Is it necessary in this day and age to harbor religious chauvinism? Does religion really matter? Let us eschew narrow-minded religiosity.  What the country needs is development. Basic necessities like food, water and infrastructure facilities like roads … these should get our attention rather than religion.” 

These are lofty ideals. As the poet said they are “Good sentences and well pronounced!” But they are preached only to Hindus. Or are only uttered by Hindus! There may be broadminded people in other faiths too but they remain mute. And remain faithful to their religious institutions.

How ideal would it be if everyone practiced their religion in individual or family settings without disturbing social harmony! But do we see such an atmosphere in India? The intolerance of non-Hindu religions towards Hinduism is a fact of everyday life that cannot be concealed. It is a perilous reality that the Indian polity has been ignoring.

A few months ago the pontiff of a non-Hindu religion clearly and unambiguously pronounced “We should elect a leader who accords precedence to our religion. Only our religion should rule the nation.” Another non-Hindu religion has been giving a similar call for long. It must be noted that no Hindu pontiff resorted to such pronouncements.

Does any public or media ‘intellectual’ ask “Should such calls be permitted in a nation that is constitutionally secular?” Neither do our political leaders condemn such demands. On the other hand they lose no opportunity to propitiate the proponents of non-Hindu religions. They offer to construct monumental places of worship for them and allot hundreds of acres of public land although such deeds are ultra vires of the Indian Constitution. They are allotting hundreds of crores for their religious festivals. While the Hindu places of worship are state-controlled and income from them expropriated, places of worship of non-Hindu religions are beyond the ken of common law. Governments cannot demand that income from their places of worship be used for ‘secular’, even developmental purposes. On the one hand Indian states grapple with deficit budgets and on the other they shower largesse on non-Hindu religious institutions.

The actions of some state governments and pronouncements of the highest judiciary have the effect of undermining ancient temple practices and traditions that stood the test of time for thousands of years. Even state governments led by parties that are ideologically atheist have succumbed to the diktats of non-Hindu religious interests to coerce Hindu organizations. Statutes are amended to appoint non-Hindus to temple management boards.[1] In the national congregation of a non-Hindu religion recently organized in Secunderabad, a resolution was passed to the effect that its adherents should work collectively to bring to power a government in which their religion has a veto.

In a recent bizarre incident, adherents of a non-Hindu religion who went to ‘bless’ a Hindu Chief Minister signaled that he should erase the tilak on his forehead, and he meekly obliged! Incidents such as these should have raised the hackles of Hindus but lamentably it did not happen.

A slogan painted in large letters on a sacred hillside on the way to a famous Siva shrine in Andhra Pradesh declared that the ‘god’s messenger’ of a non-Hindu religion was the ‘Lord of all’. When a few Hindu devotees sought to erase it, they were arrested by the police and cases booked against them as ‘rowdy sheeters’. The charge against them was that they were disturbing communal harmony! What did the original slogan-painters do? This incident shows not just the state government’s anti-Hindu approach but how it accords preferential treatment to non-Hindu religions.  

Curiously the two non-Hindu religions don’t take on each other. Their collective target is Hinduism. It is only hapless Hindus who convert to other religions. Forgetting that their ancestors were Hindus, adherents of these non-Hindu religions openly keep abusing Hindu gods and goddesses. In many organizations adherents of the non-Hindu religions coerce their Hindu subordinates to convert. If they do not obey they are penalized. Their career progression is hampered.

In organizations in which non-Hindus rule the roost, applications submitted by Hindus are often binned or action on them inordinately delayed. The situation prevails even in security and law enforcement departments. The oppressed Hindus are afraid of bringing the realities out into the open. Many of them quietly convert succumbing to allurements or coercion. This is not to say that non-Hindus should not occupy superior positions. All citizens of this country should enjoy equal rights and have equal opportunities. But shouldn’t people in positions of power discharge their duties justly instead of using their positions and powers as coercive weapons for spreading their religion? It is time Hindus woke up and refused to tolerate political leaders of whichever hue, who pander to other religions and coerce Hindus. It is due to corruption in the Hindu religious and endowments departments and aggression of other religions that the Hindu temples are in a pitiable state.

A religion based political party which committed atrocities against Hindus before independence (but for Sardar Patel they would have ‘ruled’ the erstwhile princely State) has been indulged by all political parties in power in ‘secular India! It continues to spew venom against Hindus. If anyone points this out they are labelled ‘Hindu chauvinist’. Those who call for ‘one nation, one community, one law’ are labelled ‘religious bigots’.

All in all it is a scary scenario for the Hindus. They should wake up; be aware of the impending danger and get ready for self-protection. If not their apathy would undermine the nation’s progress. If the Hindus do not act, they will be reduced to the status of second class citizens as in Kashmir and North Eastern states. They should remember that even if they decide to run away, there is no other nation in the world to give them asylum!
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[1] In a landmark judgement, the move to appoint non-Hindus to Hindu temple management boards has been struck down by the Kerala High Court. SeeDevaswom Commissioner of Travancore/Cochin Devaswom Board Will Always Be A Hindu, Declares Kerala HC”. 2018. LiveLaw.in. November 25, 2018. Accessible from https://goo.gl/SGcCmG