Skip to main content

Stoking religious divisions is something Modi "still needs to do" in future: Pulitzer Prize winning journo

Counterview Desk
A New York Times feature (July 5) has said Prime Minister Narendra Modi as a campaigner during the elections may have “assiduously avoided religious issues, hewing to the economic growth platform that carried him to a landslide victory”, and he may have "tried to set a conciliatory, centrist tone, and some of his decisions since taking power have disappointed his far-right backers”. But the presence of Sanjeev Balyan in his council of ministers is “a reminder that stoking (religious) divisions remains a way to win votes, something that Modi still needs to do in order to build up a team of regional allies in the coming months and years.”
Minister of state for agriculture, Balyan holds a “high-profile post”, the NYT feature says, adding, “On the heels of an ugly episode of religious polarization, Balyan won election to Parliament in a landslide, delivering this sugarcane-producing region in the politically vital state of Uttar Pradesh into the hands of Modi’s center-right BJP for the first time in 15 years.” The feature has been authored by Ellen Barry as the main writer, who won Pulitzer Prize for international reporting in 2010 for "Above the Law," a series about corruption and abuse of power in Russia two decades after the end of communism.
What makes the choice of Balyan, a veterinarian, curious is that he “is a first-time officeholder famous for precisely one thing: After two Hindu men were killed in an altercation with Muslims in his district last summer, he rallied crowds of angry young men from his caste, urging them to protect their own kind”. Here, Berry quotes reports to say that Balyan, before the riots in Muzaffarnagar, would address crowds to say, “Wherever we will find people belonging to the Muslim community, by killing them, we will get our revenge”
“A week later, mobs of armed Hindu men descended on local villages, leaving around 60 people, mostly Muslims, dead and prompting tens of thousands of Muslims to flee their homes”, Berry says, drawing a parallel with Gujarat riots: “It was an echo of the episode that has haunted Modi’s political career for more than a decade. In 2002, not long after Modi had taken office as chief minister of Gujarat, riots broke out after Hindu pilgrims burned to death in a train.”
Berry recalls, how during the 2002 riots, “some Hindus blamed Muslims for setting a coach of a train on blaze, and “weeks of bloodletting followed. More than 1,200 people died, most of them Muslims. Modi, who has close ties to right-wing Hindu organizations, was long blamed for failing to stop the killing.” She quotes Neerja Chowdhury, a political analyst, to say, “It is one ballgame to win an election and an entirely different ballgame to run a country like India.”
Balyan taking oath to be minister
While the violence that tore through the Muzaffarnagar district last August “began with an ordinary quarrel”, and “some sharp words were exchanged” after the incident brawl, the riots shook following several developments. Thus, though the BJP “was not traditionally strong in the region, high-ranking officials became regular visitors to the Jat areas, making the three-hour journey from New Delhi”, and Balyan became the “true local champion”.
“Balyan and other leaders were detained several days later in what the police described as a preventive measure. In June, investigators submitted charges against them for ‘promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion’, and disobeying and obstructing public servants,” Berry says, yet adding, “In an interview “Balyan played down the importance of the charges, which he described as ‘the kind of case which can be slapped against anyone for political reasons’.”
Describing the riots, Berry says, “The weekend after the gathering brought another huge meeting of Hindu men — and a burst of violence. Groups of men armed with machetes and clubs coursed through the streets of Kutba Kutbi, Balyan’s home village, some chanting ‘Go to Pakistan, or go to the graveyard’, said Muslims who fled the village that day… They set fire to the mosque and Muslims scattered, some taking shelter on their roofs and others plunging into sugarcane fields.”
Berry quotes a Muslims who fled the village as saying, “We saw body parts lying about”. Eight men and one woman were killed in that one village, residents said, listing out the names. She quotes Indramani Tripathi, a top civil official in Muzaffarnagar, as saying, “I have never seen anything like it, and I hope and pray I never see such a situation again.”
Even today, “none of the village’s Muslims have returned to their homes”, Berry says, adding, “Though Hindus from Qutba occasionally pass through the new Muslim settlement, they do not stop, and the two groups regard each other with cold distrust, braced for new violence. Mohammad Jafar Siddiqui, 32, grimaced when asked about Balyan’s new post: ‘For his role in shedding the blood of innocentshe was rewarded with a ministership’.”
Pointing to how September’s riots were, to a great extent, “eclipsed by the seismic political events of the spring, when the BJP made a stunning showing in Uttar Pradesh, winning 71 out of 80 parliamentary seats”, in Berry’s view, “Voters in Uttar Pradesh were not exactly swept up in the Modi wave, with 62 per cent of them saying they would have voted for the BJP regardless of its leader, according to the Center for the Study of Developing Societies. Indeed, in his campaigning Balyan often explicitly departed from Modi’s centrist message.”

Comments

ALSO READ

India failing to dictate diplomatic preferences of Nepal, Bhutan, is unfairly blaming Beijing: Chinese daily

By Our Representative
In a sharply-worded editorial, a top Chinese media outfit, described by BBC as state-run, has said, commenting on India's foreign relations with its neighbours, that "speculation and suspicion" is "certainly not diplomacy". Published in "China Daily", the largest circulating English Monday-to-Saturday newspaper with branches across the world, the editorial notes (September 20) that "several recent events" in Nepal and Bhutan, are "gnawing worrywarts in New Delhi".
The editorial -- which comes close on the heels of a sharp critique of India's foreign policy in a state-supported Russian media outfit, Sputnik International, calling India's anti-Pak diplomacy as having "gone awry" following Prime Minister Narendra Modi's "half-baked" push for anti-terror drill down "others' throat" -- says, the " worrywarts" include "Nepalese troops taking part in a joint…

Ahmedabad, GIFT, Adani city get 1.68 lakh acre ft Narmada water; Gujarat's rural areas just 4.27 AF: Letter to CM

Counterview Desk
Well-known farmer rights leader Sagar Rabari, in an open letter to Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani, has demanded a transparent account of Narmada water, saying, while he has received a "routine reply" from him to his earlier, the data emerging from his RTI application show huge quantity of water being directed to Ahmedabad, the 10 km stretch of Sabarmati for the Ahmedabad riverfront, and nearby elite urban areas, including the Adanis' Shantigram township and GIFT City.

Accused of being RSS plant, Modi man, Hyderabad Urdu varsity chancellor asks President to probe "irregularities"

Counterview Desk
Refused entry in the Maulana Azad National Urdu University (MANUU), the central university's newly appointed chancellor Firoz Bakht Ahmed, who claims to be grand nephew of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, has, in a letter to the President of India, said that MANUU vice-chancellor (V-C) Dr Aslam Parvaiz has accused him of being an RSS plant and a Modi man, whose sole aim is to "interfere in the working of the university".

17 lakh Jharkhand elderly, widows, differently abled do not receive pension: Public hearing told, aadhaar is a hurdle

By Our Representative
Hundreds of elderly, widows, single women and differently-abled persons from different districts of Jharkhand gathered near the Raj Bhavan in Ranchi for a public hearing organized by the Jharkhand Right to Food Campaign and Pension Parishad demanding the right to universal social security pensions ahead of World Elderly Day on October 1.

Ethnocide in Caribbean island filmed following award winning docufilm on Jamaica's anti-colonial Indian roots

International awards winner for Best Feature Documentary Linda Aïnouche for “Dreadlocks Story” (2014), which shows how Indians are entangled in the Jamaican society, and how Hinduism was a source of inspiration for the Rastafari movement, is all set to release her new documentary, “Marooned in the Caribbean”, which aims at documenting the awful desolating living conditions that Raizal people, the native inhabitants of San Andres Archipelago, endure.
Sons of slaves, these islanders have fallen prey to what the Colombian government calls Colombianization. “It’s a process”, according to her, “which kills the Raizal culture; it’s the killing of the Raizal soul. Colombianization subjugates Afro-descendants of San Andres to an ethnocide.”

Explorer, director and producer, Linda Aïnouche writes exclusively for Counterview: ***
Nobody escapes from blood and thunder in Colombia, and definitely not in the archipelago of San Andres, situated closer to Managua and Kingston than Bogota. The Raizal p…

India to deport Rohingya refugees, as the world moves towards prosecuting Myanmar for genocide

By Tapan Bose*
Seven Rohingya Muslims refugees who were held at a detention centre in Assam since 2012 will be handed over to Myanmar. The Supreme Court of India has refused to stop their deportation. The new Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gagoi said, "We are not inclined to interfere on the decision taken".

An elite Kutir set up by Modi far from the "madding" crowd: This Gandhi museum is formal, unapproachable

By Rajiv Shah
Have you ever heard of a Gandhi museum, sough to be projected as the “largest” on the Mahatma, yet totally inaccessible, in sharp contrast to Ahmedabad’s humble, approachable and unassuming Gandhi Ashram on the banks of Sabarmati, set up by the Mahatma during the heydays of the freedom movement? It exists about 30 kilometres away, its idea was conceived by none other than a person who has today become even more inaccessible than he ever was: Narendra Modi, India's Prime Minister.

History less known: Kasturba's role as an independent woman and a freedom fighter in her own right

By Nandini Oza*
Even the most deserving of women do not find a place that equals their worth in history. Kasturba is one such woman whose contribution to India’s struggle for freedom has been exemplary, and yet, it has not received the recognition it deserves. Kastur Makhanji Kapadia was born in the year 1869, the same year and in the same town of Porbandar in Gujarat as Gandhiji. In fact she was older than Gandhiji by a few months.

Poor response to tenders for Gujarat's bid for the world's tallest statue, no international firm shows interest

By Our Representative
The Gujarat government’s claim that its decision to build the world’s highest statue in the world, in the memory of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, would attract “tremendous” response top international construction companies, has gone phut. The state government floated international tenders in August to build the statue, which is slated to be 182-metres high. Despite the “international” character of the tenders and big claims, well-informed Sachivalaya sources close to Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi say, “not one international firm has come up to offer to carry out the construction activity.”

Hyderabad-based Urdu university "bars" entry of its new chancellor, who had "initiated" reforms in institute

Counterview Desk
In an unusual controversy, Aslam Parvaiz, vice-chancellor of of the Hyderabad-based Maulana Azad National Urdu University (MANUU) has restricted the entry of its newly appointed Chancellor, Firoz Bakht Ahmed, allegedly because he was trying to initiate reforms, including setting up of a Maulana Azad Center for Composite Culture and Progressive Studies, Model Madrasa, Center for Empowerment of Muslim Women, Course for the Development of Legal Vocabulary and Legal Consciousness in Urdu, and so on.