Sanghi Hindutva state would mark end of Indian idea: Shashi Tharoor

Agencies
October 31, 2020

New Delhi, Oct 31: The Hindutva movement is the "mirror image" of the Muslim communalism of 1947 and its triumph would mark the end of the Indian idea, says senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor, asserting that Hindutva is a political doctrine, not a religious one.

A 'Hindu India' would not be Hindu at all, but a "Sanghi Hindutva state", which is a different country altogether, says Tharoor in his new book 'The Battle of Belonging' that was released on Saturday.

"People like me want to preserve the India we love, and not turn our beloved nation into the kind of religious state we were brought up to detest," he said.

Tharoor also asserted that Hindutva movement rhetoric echoes the bigotry that India was constructed to reject.

In the book published by Aleph Book Company, Tharoor makes a stinging critique of the Hindutva doctrine and the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, which he says is a challenge to, arguably, the most fundamental aspect of Indianness.

Devoting a chapter to the 'Hindu Pakistan' controversy in the book, the former Union minister writes: "I had inveighed against the ruling party’s attempts to create a Hindutva version of Pakistan, since that was not what our freedom movement fought for, nor was it the idea of India enshrined in our Constitution."

"This is not just about the minorities, as the BJP would have us believe. Many proud Hindus like myself cherish the inclusive nature of our faith and have no desire to live, as our Pakistani neighbours are forced to, in an intolerant mono-religious state," he writes.

Tharoor's reported comment last year that the BJP will pave the way for creation of a "Hindu Pakistan" had sparked a controversy with the party demanding his apology over the remarks.

Hinduism, as Swami Vivekananda asserted, teaches the acceptance of difference as a basic credo, Tharoor said in the book.

"Hindutva is not Hinduism; it is a political doctrine, not a religious one," he said.

"What is bizarre about the media drama over my remarks is that no one who was giving airtime to multiple BJP voices, frothing at the mouth about my words, actually asked them one simple question: 'Is the BJP giving up its dream of a Hindu rashtra?'" Tharoor said.

BJP apologists point out that the government has done nothing to amend the Constitution, and others have suggested that the Supreme Court's ruling that secularism is part of the 'basic structure' of the Constitution makes the idea of a 'Hindutva Pakistan' impossible, he said.

"But the fact is that both have only been held at bay by the simple fact that the BJP has not had the numbers required to achieve their goal -- two-thirds of both Houses of Parliament and half the states," he said.

Their overwhelming victory in the Lok Sabha elections in 2019 and winning a plurality of seats in the Rajya Sabha in June 2020 has ensured that they finally have all the elements needed to fulfil their "project", he said, adding that the nation has been "warned".

Tharoor argues in the book that the battle is between two opposing ideas of India or what might be described as ethno-religious nationalism versus civic nationalism.

In a sharp criticism of the CAA, Tharoor said it is the first law to question a basic building block of the nation -- that religion is not the determinant of our nationhood and, therefore, of our citizenship.

At a time when India's major national priority ought to have been its flailing economy, whose plummeting growth rate had already aroused widespread alarm even before the coronavirus struck, the Modi government plunged the country into an unwanted political crisis of its own making with the CAA, he said.

"With its penchant for shock-and-awe, the government pushed through Parliament legislation that fast-tracks citizenship for people fleeing persecution in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh -- provided they are not Muslim. By excluding members of just one community, the new law is antithetical to India's secular and pluralist traditions," writes Tharoor.

"The religious bigotry that partitioned the country with the founding of Pakistan has now been mirrored in pluralist India. As I told my fellow parliamentarians, that was a partition in the Indian soil; this is now a partition in the Indian soul," he said.

The Hindutva movement is the mirror image of the Muslim communalism of 1947; its rhetoric echoes the bigotry that India was constructed to reject, Tharoor said.

Its triumph would mark the end of the Indian idea, the Congress leader added.

In the book, Tharoor also delves into the issue of the slogan 'Bharat Mata Ki Jai' allegedly becoming an "acid test of Indian nationalism" and reiterated his stance that no Indian should be compelled to mouth a phrase that is nationalistic in the eyes of some, but not in his own.

Revisiting the 2016 controversy involving Muslim legislator Waris Pathan, who was suspended from the Maharashtra Assembly soon after for refusing to utter the slogan, Tharoor noted that some Muslims say, "'Tell us to say Jai Hind, Hindustan Zindabad, Jai Bharat, we'll do it -- but do not ask us to say Bharat Mata ki Jai'."

"The same Constitution that, in our civic nationalism, gives us the right to freedom of speech, also gives us the freedom of silence. We cannot put words in people's mouths," he asserted.

Tharoor also criticized the manner in which Article 370 was abrogated on August 5, 2019, saying Modi shocked the nation with an announcement on Kashmir that could well turn out to be the "political equivalent of demonetization"

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Agencies
February 21,2021

New Delhi, Feb 21: The Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan on Sunday directed all the states/UTs to significantly enhance the pace of COVID-19 vaccinations.

The Health Secretary in a letter to StateD said: "A large number of Health Care Workers (HCWs) and Front Line Workers (FLWs) still remain to be covered and the progress is variable across several States/UTs The pace of vaccination drive and its coverage needs to be accelerated exponentially to cover all identified beneficiaries in a minimum possible time."

The operational strategy for initiating the vaccination of the next priority group of the elderly population and persons with co-morbidities to be taken up from March 21 is also being finalized.

In view of the anticipated high number of beneficiaries to be vaccinated at a high speed in the forthcoming days, the states and UTs are advised to ensure that all the public health facilities from tertiary level medical colleges, Hospitals, and Institutes to District Hospitals, Sub-divisional Hospitals. Community Health Centres, PHCs, Health and Wellness Centres, Health Sub-Centres should be prepared for offering COVID-19 vaccination services on all designated vaccination days, beginning from 1 March 2021.

The letter said that the number of days of vaccination in a week should also be increased to a minimum of 4 days per week at the earliest to speed up the process of vaccination and gear up to take up the vaccination of the people beyond 50 years.
Bhushan said that adequate provisions have been made in the COWIN software to support such expansion of services.

"You are requested to kindly direct the concerned officials to immediately undertake the measures for expansion of COVID-19 vaccination drive your continuous guidance to the state/UT teams has been instrumental in driving the ongoing vaccination process and the same has been anticipated for the upcoming phase as well. I look forward to your continued collaboration in this critical mission of national importance," he said.

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Agencies
February 19,2021

Image result for India, China complete disengagement in Pangong lake; to hold military talks on Feb 20 on further withdrawal

New Delhi, Feb 19: After completing the withdrawal of troops and weapons from the north and south banks of Pangong lake, India and China will hold a fresh round of high-level military talks on Saturday to take forward the disengagement process in Hot Springs, Gogra and Depsang in eastern Ladakh, official sources said on Friday.

The tenth round of Corps Commander-level talks are scheduled to start at 10 am at the Moldo border point on the Chinese side of the Line of Actual Control, and will be the first engagement between the two sides at a senior level after conclusion of the disengagement process in Pangong lake areas, they said.

Sources said pulling back of troops, weapons and other military hardware as well as dismantling of bunkers, tents and temporary structures in north and south banks of Pangong lake were completed on Thursday and both sides have carried out a verification of the same.

"Both sides will also carry out a comprehensive review of the disengagement process in Pangong lake areas," said a source.

Also on Friday, China for the first time officially acknowledged that four of its e soldiers were killed in the fierce clash with the Indian Army in the Galwan Valley in eastern Ladakh in June last year. India had lost 20 soldiers in the fierce hand-to-hand combat.

Sources indicated that during Saturday's talks, India will insist on a faster disengagement process in remaining areas to bring down tension in the region, which has witnessed a tense standoff between the two militaries for over nine months.

On February 11, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh told Parliament about an agreement between India and China on disengagement in the north and south banks of Pangong lake that mandated both sides to "cease" forward deployment of troops in a "phased, coordinated and verifiable" manner.

Under the agreement, he said China will pull back its troops to east of Finger 8 areas in the northern bank of Pangong lake while the Indian personnel will be based at their permanent base at Dhan Singh Thapa Post near Finger 3 in the region. Similar action would take place on the south bank of the lake, he said.

The sources said troops of both sides have retreated to positions that were agreed to by both sides.

The disengagement process began on February 10.

The Indian delegation at Saturday's talks will be led by Lt Gen PGK Menon, the Commander of the Leh-based 14 Corps while the Chinese side is expected to be headed by Maj Gen Liu Lin, the commander of the South Xinjiang military district of the People's Liberation Army (PLA).

In his statement in Parliament, the defence minister also said that it was agreed to convene the next meeting of senior commanders of both sides within 48 hours of completion of the disengagement in the Pangong lake areas so as to resolve all other remaining issues.

Days later, the defence ministry said other outstanding "problems" including in Depsang, Hot Springs and Gogra will be taken up at the upcoming talks between military commanders of the two countries.

The border standoff between the Indian and Chinese militaries erupted on May 5 following a violent clash in the Pangong lake areas and both sides gradually enhanced their deployment by rushing in tens of thousands of soldiers as well as heavy weaponry even as the two sides continued military and diplomatic talks.

Last year, the Chinese military built several bunkers and other structures in the areas between Finger 4 and 8 and had blocked all Indian patrols beyond Finger 4, triggering strong reaction from the Indian Army.

In the nine rounds of military talks, India had specifically insisted on withdrawal of Chinese troops from Finger 4 to Finger 8 on the north bank of Pangong Lake. The mountain spurs in the area are referred to as Fingers.

On its part, the Chinese side was insisting on withdrawal of Indian troops from several strategic peaks on the southern bank of the lake.

Around five months back, Indian troops occupied a number of strategic heights in the Mukhpari, Rechin La and Magar hill areas around the southern bank after the Chinese PLA attempted to intimidate them in the area.

Both sides had rushed a large number of battle tanks, armoured vehicles and heavy equipment to the treacherous and high-altitude areas of eastern Ladakh region after tension escalated following a deadly clash in the Galwan Valley in June last.

On Tuesday, the Indian Army released short videos and photographs showing thinning down of troops and dismantling of bunkers, camps and other facilities by the Chinese military in the areas around the Pangong lake.

The visuals also showed Chinese military using a bulldozer to flatten some structures, and vehicles with troops and equipment preparing to retreat to rear bases as part of the infantry disengagement.

The photos and videos largely depicted fast-paced disengagement process in both north and south banks of Pangong lake that included withdrawal of troops, removal of machinery and dismantling of temporary structures like bunkers, posts and tents.

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Agencies
February 24,2021

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New Delhi, Feb 24: Shantanu Muluk, who is an accused in the 'Toolkit' conspiracy case related to the farmers' protest, has asserted that he merely created the document with information on the agitation, which was then edited by others without his knowledge.

Muluk, along with climate activist Disha Ravi and Nikita Jacob are facing charges of conspiracy and sedition in the case related to the farmers' protest. The police said that the 'Toolkit' was a sinister design to defame India and cause violence.

"He merely created a document containing information about the protest and it was then edited by others without the knowledge or involvement," the bail petition filed by him on Tuesday stated, adding that he did not access the document after January 20.

Muluk asserted that he helped collate information about the site of farmers' protests and formulate it in the form of a map for easy reference. "The toolkit clearly shows that there is absolutely no connection with their social media support for the farmers protests, and with any violence whatsoever."

There is absolutely nothing in the "Toolkit' that advises doing anything unlawful, he said, adding that all it talks about is social media and offline peaceful protests and contacting elected representatives.

He further emphasized that there was nothing objectionable about the content included by him in the document and had no control over the document as others were also permitted to edit the same.

He said that he has never had any contact with any person outside India in relation to the Toolkit, while clarifying the allegation put forth by the police on his links with the Canada-based Khalistani organisations 'Poetic Justice Foundation' and Sikhs for Justice.

"That there may be differing views on 'internationalising' a protest, but the same is certainly not illegal. Applicant as a climate activist perforce campaigns with activists internationally. Simply talking to persons from outside India cannot be criminalised," the petition said.

He further claimed to not know about the co-founder of Poetic Justice Foundation MO Dhaliwal and stated in the bail plea that nothing objectionable was said in the zoom call on January 11, of which they both were part of.

"There were some 70 odd persons on the call of whom the applicant did not know anybody apart from his colleague Nikita Jacob. Some people spoke there but nobody said anything that was divisive on the Zoom Call so the applicant had no reason to suspect anyone or anything," Muluk emphasized.

Fearing arrest, Muluk moved the Patiala House Court in Delhi seeking anticipatory bail on Tuesday, days before the end of ten-day transit remand granted to him by the Bombay High Court on February 16. The court will hear the arguments on this bail plea on Thursday.

Muluk and Jacob had joined the investigation at Delhi Police's Cyber Cell office in Dwarka on February 22, and were later confronted with Disha Ravi.

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