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Archive for the ‘Hinduism’ Category

Hinduism, like many great religions, is about feasting and fasting, praying and eating prasadam – Cond Nast Traveller India

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In no other culture does faith play out in as colourful and traditional a fashion as in India. In our countrys places of worship, we find rich myths, ancient traditions, cultural touchstones and delicious food that are offered to the Gods and to humans. According to award-winning author and columnist Shoba Narayan, her newest book, Food and Faith: A Pilgrims Journey Through India (HarperCollins Publishers India) began as a food book before it morphed into one on faith.

Food & Faith explores this rich tapestry that is the hallmark of Indian culture. I was humbled and privileged to visit many temples and talk to priests and scholars. Through their stories and through my visits, I discovered how food and faith form a timeless and profound connection.

Hopping across the length and breadth of Indias many places of worship, Narayans new tome delves into the many ways food and belief are intertwined with our identities.

It is 11 am, and the granite floors and pillars offer cool respite from the heat outside. Devotees line up quietly, muttering prayers, hands clasped together fervently. It is a scene familiar to anyone who has visited a temple in India. Swishing saris, the smell of sandal and incense, topless Brahmin priests hurrying between idol and devotee, clanging bells, chanting men and women. For the faithful, Hindu temples inspire devotion, hope and a preternatural peace that descends in spite of the surrounding chaos, as if generations of muttered prayers have muted the soul into peaceful surrender.

The Krishna temple in Udupi is no different. It isnt very crowded on that June morning. My mother and I are pretty much left alone to pray in peace. We walk around the sanctum sanctorum many times and peer at the idol. No hustling priests, no crushing crowds, no furtive glances suggesting a small donation for closer access to the deity. It is just us in quiet communion with the lord.

In one corner, a group of ladies sit in a circle, singing Krishna songs and stringing garlands with lightning fingers. They have separated yellow marigolds from green tulsi leaves, jasmine from tuberose and each woman takes a flower or leaf to string together or alternately. Several string fragrant jasmine flowersJasminum sambac or what we call gundu-malli in South Indiain garlands. In the opposite corner, a visiting group spreads out their tanpuras and dholaks before commencing a spirited Krishna bhajan.

Near the temple tank, one of the hubs of activity, there are men in dhotis bathing, praying and performing rituals. One monk, clad in saffron robes, sits by himself, singing a bhajan that is remarkably soothing.

My mother and I sit leaning against the pillars, listening to bhajan mixing with folk song, breathing in incense mixing with the smells of jasmine and coconut, watching idly the run-off stream of milk and honey and holy water that is used to bathe the idol every morning. After a while, my mother repeats the phrase that countless others say after their communion with God.

Lets go eat.

Hinduism, like many great religions, is about feasting and fasting, praying and, it must be said, eating prasadam. The Udupi temple is part of the famed pilgrims triumvirate of Udupi-Sringeri- Dharmasthala, all of which serve very good food to thronging devotees. Udupis temple food is the best, the faithful tell me. We walk out and turn left to the feeding halls, my mother leading me with the expertise of having spent a lifetime visiting temples.

Indians are funny that way. The elderly in China play mah-jong. American senior citizens go on cruises and play golf. Europeans visit museums, tour wineries and dine at Michelin-star restaurants. Indian elders visit temples. Pilgrimages are a big part of their lives, as I see daily with my septuagenarian aunts and uncles, not to mention my mother. For her latest birthday, I offered my mother the choice between a two-week trip through Europe or a week through interior Maharashtra to visit one of the twelve jyotirlingam shrines to Lord Shiva. She chose Shiva over the Sistine Chapel.

Udupi is part of my mothers regular beat since the Mookambika Temple of Kollur (which happens to be our family deity) is in the same area. She has been visiting the temple twice annually for the past twenty years. En route to her devi, she usually stops to see Krishna.

So we hurry, mom and I, down the corridor, to the feeding area. The Brahmins are fed separately. Upstairs, my mother says.

I wince.

Let me just come right out and say it. Although I grew up in a devout Hindu family, I am uneasy about my religionabout all religions for that matterfor all the usual reasons. Faith gives solace, for sure, but it also inspires guilt. Religion brings people together, but also divides them. It gives peace and causes war; it hurts and heals. Since I come from a fairly traditional, devout, Tamil Brahmin family, I dont express my antipathy very much. Instead I disengage, to the extent that it is possible, in a religious family such as mine.

I follow my mother up the stairs to the separate area where we, as Brahmins, will be fed. What about in the eyes of God, all are equal?, I feel like asking my mother, but she is racing up the stairs.

The hall is huge, and people are sitting cross-legged on the floor. Young, good-looking boys exuding what my mother calls tejas, or radiance, stride through the hall carrying giant containers holding rice, rasam, vegetables, sweets and ghee. We take our places. Banana leaves are placed before us. Then a veritable feast with all the regional delicacies appears. There are spicy pakoras, sweet payasams, brinjal gojjus, jackfruit curry, several chutneys, kosambari salads and a mound of rice in the centre.

A priest walks down the corridor. With his fair skin and a bright red vermilion dot in the centre of his forehead, he looks resplendent in a purple silk dhoti. Behind him are a line of young ascetics. I stretch my upturned palm like the rest of the congregation. The chief priest pours a little holy water into my palm, which I assume is to wash my hand.

Drink it, my mother hisses.

So I do, wondering if the water is safe.

Govinda, says my neighbour, uttering one of the many names of Krishna, this one meaning the one who protects cows. Govinda, I repeat obediently.

Govinda is one of the names of Vishnu. The Vishnu names I know by heart are the twelve that my grandfather used to recite while doing his sandhya vandanam or evening prayer. They are: 1. Keshava: The one with long, matted locks. 2. Narayana: The one who gives refuge. 3. Madhava: The one who gives knowledge. 4. Govinda: The one who knows and cares for cows. 5. Vishnave: The protector in the Divine Trinity. 6. Madhusudhana: The killer of the demon Madhu.

7. Trivikrama: The one who lifted his legs so he could conquerthe three worldsheaven, earth and the underworld. 8. Vamana: An avatar of Vishnu. 9. Shridhara: The beautiful lord of love. 10. Rishikesha: The master of senses. 11. Padmanabha: The one whose navel is shaped like a lotus. 12. Damodhara: The one who had a cord tied around his waist as a child.

Each name has a story behind itof battles fought, demons subdued, benediction given, wisdom dispensed, compassion offered and devotees charmed.

The food is delicious. Barring the jackfruit curry, which must be an acquired taste, I polish it all up. Udupi is justly famous for its rasam, and this one doesnt disappointpiquant with a lovely spicy, lemony flavour. I take a second serving of the rasam, then a third.

A young boy comes and distributes Rs10 bills to all of us as dakshina or fee for eating the meal.

We end the meal as we began it: with holy water poured on our upturned palms.

After I returned from Udupi, I decided to do two things. Both involved denial. Once a fortnight, on Ekadashi (the eleventh day of the waxing and waning fortnight), I would fast. This meant not eating anything and drinking just water through the day. Oh, and napping a lot. I did this for a year regularly, and continue to do it intermittently.

The trick is to make religion an ally instead of rebelling against it. If fasting on Ekadashi gave me good karma, fine. But shedding a few pounds was a more immediate goal.

The second was to eat seasonally, which in todays world meant not eating certain foods, even though they were available in the supermarket because they were wrapped in polythene and were clearly imported from Thailand. Frankly, I am not sure of the benefits of seasonal eating. I am not even sure that the seasonal fruits and vegetables that I consciously choose taste better than the dragon fruit imported from Thailand, the New Zealand apples, Malta oranges or Washington cherries. But if such a practice is good enough for a community that gave rise to one of Hinduisms greatest philosophers and the creators of the iconic masala dosa, it is good enough for me.

So I persistedand still dowith my banana stems, young jackfruit, seasonal greens and tender peas, but only when they are in season, cheaply and abundantly available.

Let me see if this turns me into an enlightened soul. For now, Ill simply settle for a lightened body.

Extracted with permission from Food and Faith: A Pilgrims Journey Through India by Shoba Narayan published by HarperCollins Publishers India.

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Hinduism, like many great religions, is about feasting and fasting, praying and eating prasadam - Cond Nast Traveller India

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November 25th, 2020 at 9:51 pm

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KTR should also question Akbar on his hatred towards Hindus: Vijayashanti – The Hindu

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Former MP and Congress leader Vijayashanti, who is all set to join the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), questioned the selective silence of TRS on its friendship with MIM, particularly about MIM legislator Akbaruddin Owaisis comments on the Hindu community.

Municipal Minister K.T. Rama Rao has questioned why such hatred towards Muslims, referring to a party, but why is he not questioning his MIM friends on the unpalatable remarks made against Hindus by Mr. Owaisi, she asked in a statement here.

Why didnt Mr. KTR ask Mr. Owaisi why he hates Hindus so much, Ms. Vijayashanti asked while recalling Mr. Owaisis widely circulated statement that Muslims would bring Hindus to their population strength if they were given 15 minutes of freedom in the country. He made similar ridiculous comments on the Bhagyalakshmi temple under Charminar apart from insulting Hindus respect towards cows, she said.

The former MP pointed out that TRS leaders were very vocal about their friendship with the MIM but are now, trying to distance themselves from it for votes in the GHMC elections.

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KTR should also question Akbar on his hatred towards Hindus: Vijayashanti - The Hindu

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November 25th, 2020 at 9:51 pm

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Not Ram Mandir, the love jihad laws are the foundation of Hindu Rashtra – ThePrint

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Love jihad is a figment of political imagination, but the power of its politics cant be underestimated. You thought Ram Rajya was the foundation stone of the Hindu Rashtra? Think again. It is actually the bending of Hindu minds around the ghosts of love jihad that will ultimately create the Hindu Rashtra.

Love jihad is slowly and steadily turning into the carrot that is leading the donkey towards the formation of a state where politics and religion merge, and the Hindu Rashtra will finally become a reality. Of course, those with even basic common sense can foresee that this will spell disaster for India. With popular acceptance of the concept, legitimised by discussions on television debates and social media, love jihad has turned into a Loch Ness monster that people are convinced exists but has rarely ever seen, which makes it all the more dreadful.

Also read: India needs more and more inter-faith marriages, and laws need to facilitate that

The anatomy of love jihad is fascinating. Since time immemorial, lands have been fought over, conquered, and won for the pride of a kingdom, community, or tribe. One piece of land has recently been won in our very own country from the Mughals the Ram Janmabhoomi. Thus, reinstating the pride and honour of Hindus of India. But there is apparently a new conquest taking place in the 21st century in Narendra Modis New India that most Right-wing Hindus have taken note of. The conquest of the Muslim man over the Hindu woman. And the man who cant stop noticing it is Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.

Muslim men are being accused of running a foreign funded jihadist ploy for a while now, where much like guerrilla warfare, charming Muslim men ambush and lure innocent Hindu women to fall in love with them. These men then, apparently, smooth talk women into converting to Islam for the sake of love. This phenomenon of a Hindu woman marrying a Muslim man has been coined as love jihad because consensual interfaith marriage cant be a reality in new India.

Yogi Adityanath has openly declared that any Muslim man indulging in love jihad will be inviting death.

His government, along with the Bharatiya Janata Party governed states of Haryana and Madhya Pradesh, have decided to enact laws against love jihad. These are three states of a secular nation unabashedly endorsing religious diktats. In Kerala, too, the concept has found support from Catholic bishops, with former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy claiming that 2,667 young women had converted to Islam in the state since 2006. Last year, the National Commission for Minorities vice-chairman George Kurian wrote to Home Minister Amit Shah saying that Keralas Christian community was a soft target for Islamic radicals who were trapping women through love jihad.

How is this fear and paranoia any different from the Wahabi policing in Saudi Arabia, where women are told how to dress, how to behave, or who to be accompanied within a public place? We are also now dictating who to fall in love with with state sanction.

When a state starts policing its citizens based on religion, it turns from a democracy to a theocracy. Europe has struggled with this for long. And the very suggestion of such a law by Indias ruling political partys state governments is, in fact, laying the first foundation stone of the Hindu Rashtra, which so far was only rhetoric a concept of a Hindu country (as opposed to a secular one) endorsed by the BJP and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in their gatherings. Now we have the legal basis for it.

Also read: We should be free to live, free to love & free to marry that is the real idea of India

The concept of a Hindu Rashtra, at first, seems simplistic a country whose official state religion is Hinduism. But if you were to scratch the surface, the concept has overtones of patriarchy and a totalitarian state where even someone you marry has to be approved by the state that is quite clearly being ruled by men.

Lets understand the patriarchy. The very concept of love jihad is based on the premise that Hindu women are incapable of thinking for themselves and that theyre gullible enough to fall for potential terrorists who just want to marry them for the sake of religious conversions. They have no agency or choice. Often, it is the parents or family of the woman who files complaints alleging love jihad. Only because their daughters choice goes against theirs.

Many Right-wing Hindu men have also reduced Hindu women to just their wombs, because they claim that Muslims are marrying Hindu women only to produce Muslim children, thereby pandering to the fake narrative that Muslims are going to overtake the Hindu population in India. Lesser Hindu wombs, lesser Hindu children.

In fact, if you think that love jihad is a modern concept, youll be surprised to know that Right-wing Hindus were stricken by the same paranoia in the 1920s. Back then, riots took place over the alleged abduction of Hindu women and their forced conversions to Islam in Kanpur in June 1924 and Mathura in March 1928, according to history professor Charu Gupta.

And the story is not very different today. Without any confirmed fact, there is still a big show of the number of Hindu women who have been forcefully converted to Islam by nefarious and seductive Muslim men masquerading as lovers. In 2009, pamphlets distributed in Jawaharlal Nehru University claimed that 4,000 girls had been converted to Islam under love jihad in Delhi and Maharashtra. This number, whose source is unknown, was circulated by the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad or ABVP the student wing of the RSS.

But there are new figures of the number of cases of love jihad being put forth in Uttar Pradesh, with the police actually investigating such cases. And this is how we understand the manner in which totalitarianism is embedded in the very concept of the Hindu Rashtra. Under Yogi Adityanaths very own administration, 14 cases were being investigated for love jihad in August this year. But half of those cases have been found to be consensual marriages between Hindu women and Muslim men, and closure reports have been filed for them. The remaining seven cases are still under investigation. Yet, the myth of love jihad is still considered real enough for Yogi Adityanath and other chief ministers wanting to enact a law on it.

The author is a political observer and writer. Views are personal.

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Not Ram Mandir, the love jihad laws are the foundation of Hindu Rashtra - ThePrint

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November 25th, 2020 at 9:51 pm

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UP Police Investigation of ‘Love Jihad’ Concludes What We Already Know — It Doesn’t Exist – The Swaddle

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Update: Since publication, the Uttar Pradesh government approved a draft ordinance to curb forcible or dishonest religious conversions. Under the new law, a marriage will be declared void if a woman converts to another religion in order to marry a man of her new faith. Women will be able to change their religion only after theyre married and must inform the district magistrate two months in advance so as to obtain permission to convert. Those in violation of the law will face a jail term of up to 10 years.

The Uttar Pradesh polices investigation of Love Jihad has revealed its not quite the problem its made out to be by right-wing ideologues and the media. Love jihad is an offensive term to describe the made-up phenomenon of Muslim men seducing and marrying Hindu women by subterfuge and coercion in order to increase the countrys Muslim population. The investigation, carried out at the behest of right-wing organizations including the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), involved a review of cases involving Hindu woman-Muslim man marriages submitted by all 22 police stations in Kanpur. Of these, The Wire reports that eight out of 14 cases involved consensual marriages. Another report by the Indian Express states that the police also ruled out any deliberate conspiracies and online funding set up to mass-convert Hindu women to Islam.

These reports stand in direct contrast to the necessity of a love jihad law, proposed by politicians and ministers of many states, who want to criminalize the non-existent practice. They also rubbish the love jihad-related outrage over Netflixs A Suitable Boy, featuring an inter-religious couple kissing with a temple in the backdrop, and Tanishqs wedding advertisement, featuring a young Hindu bride welcomed into a new home by her Muslim mother-in-law.

Love jihad, though a modern term, has been an unproven but unshakeable bogey since the 1920s. According to historian Charu Gupta, organizations like the Arya Samaj spread pamphlets full of propaganda regarding the Hindu woman victim and the Muslim man perpetrator. This was to further the notion of shuddhi, or re-converting Hindus who had chosen other religions back to Hinduism. Arya Samaj members believed it necessary to undertake shuddhi as a means for Hindus self-respect and determination because of the rapid increase in conversions from Hinduism to Islam/Christianity in pre-Independence India. This flurry of propaganda coincided with communal clashes in areas like Uttar Pradesh. In Muzaffarnagar in 1927, a mob gathered around a girls house after rumors spread regarding her marriage to a Muslim man and forced conversion to Islam. However, after the mob marched into the house to ensure justice, it learned the girl in question had always been Muslim.

Related on The Swaddle:

Tell Me More: Talking Caste and Marriage With Jyotsna Siddarth, Founder of Project AntiCaste Love

In modern times, though right-wing idealogues stick to utilizing the Hindu womans body as their main battleground, the presence of Internet-influenced outrage culture and supplemental conspiracies like foreign funds make love jihad a stronger-than-ever bogey. Plus, the States and politicians tolerance and even encouragement for fake news and propaganda surrounding love jihad make it harder for the average individual to discern between fact and fiction. As Gupta writes in Hindu Women, Muslim Men: Love Jihad and Conversions, the fact that such generalizations about Hindu womens conversions due to false love and marriages can now be made openly often legitimizes their public expressions and increases the threshold of public acceptance for them; this also makes them true. Propagating such stories through pamphlets, meetings, rumors, and everyday conversations fed by them sustains this as an active cultural, and therefore, political issue.

It remains the State and the judiciarys responsibility to quell communal tensions spread by rumors. While progress on that front remains dim, considering many Indian lawmakers public attempts to legitimize love jihad by banning it, there is hope. The Allahabad High Court recently struck down an old judgment that said religious conversions for marriage were unacceptable, calling the same bad in law.

The judges involved noted, We fail to understand that if the law permits two persons even of the same sex to live together peacefully then neither any individual nor a family nor even the state can have an objection to the relationship of two major individuals who out of their own free will are living together.

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UP Police Investigation of 'Love Jihad' Concludes What We Already Know -- It Doesn't Exist - The Swaddle

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November 25th, 2020 at 9:51 pm

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Biased Media Reporting in India Helps Fuel the Persecution of Christians – International Christian Concern

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11/24/2020 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) A few years ago, a local Telugu newspaper called Andhra Jyothi published a story about my churchs pastor. I was shocked to see how the storys facts, which I was aware of first-hand, were twisted by the newspaper to fit an anti-Christian narrative. However, what is more, disturbing is the ongoing consequences my pastor and others continue to face as a result of that article.

According to Andhra Jyothi, my pastor was caught red-handed and punished for converting Hindus to the Christian faith. In reality, my pastor merely attended a birthday celebration with a member of my church.

The church member was having a birthday celebration in his village and invited my pastor and several other Christians to join him. After they gathered, a mob of more than 100 radical Hindu nationalists attacked. To justify their assault, they falsely accusing my pastor of being involved in converting Hindus to Christianity.

Instead of reporting what happened, Andhra Jyothi published the nationalists narrative as fact. On its face, this narrative is easily disproven. Christians only were invited to the birthday celebration. How then was the pastor involved in any conversion activity?

Unfortunately, the police based much of their investigation on the article in Andhra Jyothi. As a consequence, my pastor was banned from entering the village where the attack took place. Local Christians have also reported enduring increased pressure from nationalists who were emboldened by the entire incident. The host of the birthday party was eventually forced to relocate.

In India, biased media reports, particularly targeting Christians and other religious minorities, are common and have real-world consequences. Biased reports reinforce false narratives used by nationalists to promote hate, justify physical violence, and pass policies that curtail Christians and other minorities rights.

Recently, Pastor Vinod Nayak, a pastor from the Shivmoga district of Karnataka, reported an incident in which an anti-Christian media report led to an attack.

On November 4, radical nationalists attacked Pastor Nayak and falsely accused him of committing blasphemy against Hinduism. After the attack, Pastor Nayak fled the village, leaving behind his wife and children. He did this because he feared being arrested by police acting upon the false blasphemy allegation.

On November 3, the day before the attack, a local daily publication in Kannada published an article that blatantly called for people to punish individuals who convert Hindus to other religions. Pastor Nayak believes there is a direct connection between the article and the November 4 attack.

This has been the pattern of the radicals, another pastor from Karnataka explained. There have been numerous media reports regarding religious conversions across the country. These reports have pushed Christians into a more vulnerable situation.

These false narratives, reinforced by biased media reports, have also been used to justify legislation that would curtail Christians religious freedom rights.

Last year, a legal panel in Uttar Pradesh submitted a draft bill for the state government to regulate religious conversions and criminalize fraudulent religious conversions. These laws are commonly referred to as anti-conversion laws and have a history of being overwhelmingly used to target and persecute Indias Christian community.

While addressing the media, Sapna Tripathi said, There is no data as such to say how many forced conversions have taken place. However, in 2014, CM Yogi Adityanath himself raised the matter, and we gave him a set of news clippings of the past six months to prove our point.

As can be seen, by this statement, news clippings, not data, were used to justify the curtailment of religious freedom in Indias most populated state. Although Uttar Pradeshs Legislative Assembly has not passed the proposed anti-conversion law, the legal panel report did incite more anti-Christian violence.

Across India, media reports, particularly regarding religious freedom, continue to be published with a distinctly anti-minority narrative. This has empowered the agenda of Indias nationalists. It has also led to bitter consequences for the countrys Christians and other religious minorities.

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Biased Media Reporting in India Helps Fuel the Persecution of Christians - International Christian Concern

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November 25th, 2020 at 9:51 pm

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Banning Fireworks on Diwali: A Window Into Money and Politics in India – The Diplomat

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Magazine November 2020 The State of Democracy in Asia The Pulse|Environment|Politics|Society|South Asia

What looks like an eminently sensible decision, given the extremely polluting effects of fireworks, has become a politically contentious issue.

Diwali is among the most important Hindu festivals in India. In the last four years or so, however, celebrations have become politically contentious. The National Green Tribunal (NGT), a body empowered to fast-track cases concerning environmental issues, has announced a mix of bans and restrictions on the use of fireworks in cities deemed to have poor air quality. Fireworks are a staple in Diwali celebrations.

Each year, burning fireworks contribute a small fraction of air pollution. However, millions are set off during festivities. This can spike pollution levels just a day later. In New Delhi, for instance, the Air Quality Index (AQI) shot up to 454 on November 14 this year well past the measure for severe pollution. While the health and environmental effects are fairly evident, the politics of fireworks are volatile. The annual episode offers a peek into the quagmire of Hindu nationalism, business interests, and regionalism in India.

This is Nothing But Cultural Genocide

The Hindu nationalist movements central contention is that, for far too long, the countrys billion or so Hindus have been suffering from religious inequality. The Bharatiya Janata Partys (BJPs) majoritarian impulses have contributed to formidable back-to-back election wins in 2014 and 2019. While Hindu nationalism was a growing feature of Indian politics for decades, it has entrenched itself in the political mainstream over the last six years. Among the more revolutionary characteristics of the BJP and the broader Hindu nationalist movement has been their ability to dominate political discourse online.

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In the lead up to this years Diwali, popular social media profiles and blogs linked to the Hindu right-wing proliferated claims against restrictions placed on the sale and use of fireworks. Twitter handles such as True Indology drew on Hindu nationalist interpretations of religious texts to argue that Hindus have used fireworks for millennia.

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Hindu nationalism is wired toward literalism. While gunpowder was invented in the 9th century CE or so, the movement believes that fireworks were used to celebrate the victorious return of the God-King Ram to Ayodhya in the ancient Hindu epic, the Ramayana. To them, it therefore stands to reason that fireworks have always been essential to the cultural practice of Diwali.

Adding to their fury is their belief that the NGT has come down hard against Hinduism but not Islamic or Christian practices deemed to be environmentally problematic. For this reason, they consider the NGT to be run by secular anti-Hindu liberals. This is why cyber-Hindu nationalists have claimed that the double-standard is a conspiracy against Hinduism quite literally a cultural genocide.

Business Meets Politics

Roughly 90 percent of Indias fireworks are manufactured in Virudhunagar district, Tamil Nadu. Most manufacturers are based out of Sivakasi, a town in that district. Before the restrictions, estimates put the industrys annual value at 50 billion Indian rupees. Roughly 800,000 people are either directly or indirectly employed by the industry. Diwalis synonymity with fireworks has rendered the festival critical to the industry. Unsurprisingly, lobby groups representing the interests of manufacturers, such as the Tamil Nadu Fireworks and Amorces Manufacturers Association (TANFAMA), have petitioned courts across the country to overturn the bans. These have generally failed.

However, the industry appears to have found a useful ally in Hindu nationalists. They have been fairly successful at galvanizing Hindus to create a groundswell of pressure. For instance, on November 8 the BJP-run Karnataka state government backed away from an initial ban to then say that people could use green fireworks a reference to crackers that are 30 percent or so less polluting, but still toxic. The BJP-led Haryana state government similarly eased off strict restrictions it had initially announced. The BJP Madhya Pradesh state government distanced itself from restrictions altogether and instead encouraged residents to celebrate with fervor.

Relatedly, it is also notable that the firebrand BJP chief minister of Uttar Pradesh (UP), Yogi Adithyanath, ordered the release of a trader who sold fireworks even though he had imposed a ban across much of UP. A video of the traders arrest had gone viral and there was considerable backlash against the UP police. Evidently, Adityanath found it imperative to play to his base and undermine the legitimacy of his own governments restrictions.

To be clear, this has hardly been utopian for manufacturers. The reality is that sales have come down considerably generally by 30 to 35 percent. Yet, the episode indicates that Hindu nationalist pressure can compel governments to ease off industries considered foundational to Hinduism.

#NorthIndiaBanCrackers

In the last 70 years, Sivakasi has become a cultural landmark for fireworks. Its importance to the local economy forced political parties in Tamil Nadu to the industrys defense. Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami, member of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), sent letters to his counterparts in Odisha and Rajasthan urging them to reconsider their bans on fireworks. The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) president, M.K. Stalin, similarly urged Rajasthan to ease restrictions. On the one hand, the statements by the AIADMK and the DMK appear to be little more than a hard-nosed response to economic, employment, and big business considerations. Yet, it is just as important to appreciate how regionalism and Tamil nationalism underpinned their actions.

Perhaps the one cleavage with priceless political value in Tamil Nadu is the divide between Tamil identity and Northern Indian identity. The fact that restrictions on fireworks in many parts of North India had a palpable impact on Tamil Nadu gave the issue an ideological flavor. It was seen as a North Indian assault on the economy of Tamil Nadu. Even though states such as Odisha, Karnataka, and Telangana had various permutations of restrictions, the enemy in the North became the discourse of choice for parties competing to defend the industry. Indeed, all states north of Tamil Nadu were equated with North India. This was perhaps best personified by how Jaya TV, a popular news network in Tamil Nadu, covered the issue. Clips of the bans impact on Sivakasi were frequently accompanied with the hashtag: #NorthIndiaBanCrackers.

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The fact is fireworks are extremely hazardous. Studies suggest that emissions from fireworks are the equivalent of smoking 34 to 464 cigarettes at a go. The detrimental effect they have on the environment is clear as well. However, the politics of fireworks in India is a complex web of interests and ideologies. All groups opposing the restrictions insist that fireworks have been conveniently scapegoated. These have created conditions in which restrictions are routinely ignored. Coming to a consensus between different interest groups is going to be a herculean task. The #RightToBreathe movement has been extremely partisan, while attempts to transition the industry to green crackers looks unlikely to be the panacea. But unless regulators can figure a way to address different sets of concerns adequately, Diwali may well continue to be a politically contentious affair for years to come.

Prashant Waikar is a senior analyst in the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University (NTU).

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Banning Fireworks on Diwali: A Window Into Money and Politics in India - The Diplomat

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November 25th, 2020 at 9:51 pm

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Lawyer writes to PM, urging the addition of Section 493A in IPC to stop conversion and love jihad – India Legal

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New Delhi (ILNS):A letter has been sent to Prime Minister Narendra Modi with a request to add Section 493A in the Indian Penal Code (IPC) to stop Conversion and Love Jihad.

The letter has been written by Advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay. He wrote: Many Individuals and Organizations have started mass conversions of SC-STs in rural areas and situation is very alarming. The mass religious conversion of the socially and economically downtrodden men, women and children, and, in particular, from the Scheduled Caste and the Scheduled Tribe community, is on the rise in past 20 years, though India is a victim of the religious conversions for many centuries. The Organizations operate very smoothly, targeting socially economically downtrodden men, women and children, and in particular, from Schedule Caste and Schedule Tribe community, with fraudulent tricks such as mass prayers of miracle healing and marketing campaigns of black magic.

The letter further states: The evidence of the deceitful religious conversion is available in social media. Foreign funded individuals and NGOs are given a road map and monthly target of religious conversion. It is necessary to state that as per 2011 census, Hindus are 79 percent, down from 86 percent in 2001, (millions converted continue to record as Hindus to get reservation in Jobs and other benefits). Presently, Christians are majority in Mizoram (88 percent), Nagaland (88 percent) and Meghalaya (75 percent) and there is significant population in Manipur (42 percent), Arunachal (31 percent), Goa, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal. Muslims are majority in Lakshadweep (96.20 percent), Kashmir (95 percent) Laddakh (46 percent) and there is significant population in Assam (34.20 percent), West Bengal (27.5 percent), Kerala (26.60percent), UP (19.30 percent), Bihar (18 percent). At this rate, if no action will be taken, Hindus will become minority in 2050 throughout the India, which was once a complete Hindu majority country.

Upadhyay, has suggested that Government can maintain discipline and reduce forceful conversion by amending Section 493 IPC and adding Section 493A, whereby a convict found guilty would serve imprisonment of 5-10 years with fine of Rs 50,000 to 5,00,000. The letter further says that the Centre can empower the National Human Rights Commission to deal with the affairs of religious groups and analyze religious discrimination among them.

The letter addressed to PM Modi also demands enactment of a law which strictly bans or scrutinizes foreign funds which many a times operate under the hide of an NGO. The letter also says: It is necessary to state with dismay that the Government has done little or nothing to stop religious conversions by force and luring gifts/money.

Read Also: Amravati land scam: Supreme Court stays high court gag order, but case remains with HC

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Lawyer writes to PM, urging the addition of Section 493A in IPC to stop conversion and love jihad - India Legal

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10 Stereotypes Indians Are Tired Of Seeing In Western Films And TV – Screen Rant

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While brown-skinned characters from India and its neighbors have been featured in English films for a long time, they often fall prey to stereotypes.

Hollywood productions (and English films in general) have to go a long way in terms of representation of identities like the so-called 'brown identity'. While brown-skinned characters from India and its neighbors have been featured in English films for a long time, they often fall prey to stereotypes or appropriation. Even though portraying an Indian character and their struggles might seem like 'Oscar bait', some of the elements in these stories hardly feel relatable to local Indians as well as the Indian-American diaspora.

RELATED: The Simpsons: Apu's 5 Worst Scenes (& 5 Fans Actually Loved)

Actors and filmmakers like Aziz Ansari, Gurinder Chadha, Hasan Minhaj, and Dev Patel are changing the perspective to an extent, portraying characters and writing stories beyond the 'curry-eating', 'mystical and exotic' narratives. Otherwise, with popular shows and movies, some stereotypes can, unfortunately, be formed in the heads of non-Indian viewers.

In many depictions, Indians are equated to being Hindus. Surely, Hinduism is a major religion in the country but its diverse landscape also harbors Islam, Sikhism, Christianity, Buddhism, and other faiths. Hence, showing all American-Indians as worshippers of the idols of Hindu gods and goddesses, complete with Hindu-style offerings and incense sticks is just generalizing Indians under one category.

Further, even with the Hindu Indians, not all of them are intensely devout believers. Just like the generic and dominant American Christian characters in popular media, some might be of stronger faith while some might hardly worship their deities at all.

It has been automatically assumed that all Indian accents are more than often funny-sounding and grammatically incorrect. The root cause of this was racial ignorance and the earlier depictions of Indians by white actors (wearing brownface) like Peter Sellers in The Party and Fisher Stevens in Short Circuit.

Of course, the stereotypical 'Indian accent' reached disastrous heights with the character Apu in The Simpsons. Apu was so offensive to the diaspora that even a documentary called The Problem With Apu got released in 2017, dissecting the stereotypes and racial microaggressions the character presented. Actor Kal Penn even revealed how some studios wanted him to have an 'authentic Apu accent' in his roles! Recently, Apu's voice actor Hank Azaria apologized and stepped down from the role.

India has a concerning rate of social inequality and poverty. Some films like Lion have tried showing a financially-troubled protagonist in a realistic light and empathetic light. But otherwise, foreign films often tend to romanticize poverty (or show 'poverty porn' as some might say) or paint the entirety of India as a backward nation with no modern infrastructure. The Darjeeling Limited, Million Dollar Arm, and many others mock and generalize Indian cities as having nothing but shoddy shacks of buildings and half-naked children.

Indian directors frame their scenes in the backdrops of ruined buildings, crowded streets, and cows in the middle of traffic, but they paint the context as being from a particular area in India, rather than generalizing the entire country as an undeveloped urban jungle.

Movies that deal with the interaction of foreign and Indian characters evoke pity sympathy, but maybe, they can do better with a more empathetic portrayal rather than a sympathetic one. Lion and Million Dollar Arm both depict white characters turning the fates of poor Indians. Both are based on true stories and do justice to their source material to an extent.

However, Indian representation should also involve portrayals of self-independent characters who can make it on their own, rather than depending on white people all the time. Colonial cultural hegemony is unfortunately still engrained in India after two centuries of British rule. The 'fair skin' is still glorified even in Indian communities, with fair skin being equated to a very desirable quality. Hence, bolder Indian lead characters are needed not just to fight the generic white savior narrative, but the racist biases that some Indians themselves internalize in their thoughts.

Bollywood is the name largely attributed to the Hindi film industry. However, India produces films in the rest of its languages too, with some modern gems acquiring critical acclaim at international film festivals too. These languages can range from Assamese to Malayalam to Bengali, and so on. Further, not every Indian film is riddled with Bollywood cliches like musical numbers, grandiose sets, and majestic gestures of romance.

Scenes like the final dance to Jai Ho in Slumdog Millionaire and the wedding scene in The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel reinforce the notions that Indian celebrations mostly involve grand, choreographed song and dance like a typical Bollywood film.

Cults like those in Indiana Jones & The Temple Of Doom, and the spiritual journeys in India as shown in Eat, Pray, Love, paint India as a highly 'exotic' land filled with mysticism and superstitious beliefs.

RELATED: 10 Things From The Indiana Jones Franchise That Haven't Aged Well

The argument against this stereotype can again be explained as the point for India's multi-religious identity. Not all Indians are blind worshippers of bearded mystics and gurus. As of last year, about 2.9 million Indians are atheists, while some consider themselves to be rationalists despite holding onto their religious identity. Otherwise, India is a diverse land of its own, rather than an exotic, archaic, and divine fantasy-world of sorts.

India does boast of historic classical and folk music styles, having exported maestros like sitarist Ravi Shankar to the rest of the world. Still, such forms of music hardly make way to the Indian music mainstream in today's times. Film music or independent music usually dominates the playlists of many Indian demographics. Many independent artists are experimenting or reinterpreting foreign genres too, be it hip-hop or electronica.

That's why rather than relying on a 'traditional' sound, films shot in India can feature several new-age Indian artists and their musical styles.

Indians, Arabs, Koreans, and many other immigrants get mocked for their names that are difficult to pronounce by the dominant citizen groups in the countries they settle. Some even have to Anglicize or shorten their names for the convenience of the Westerners. Instead of mispronouncing or changing the names of the people from this diaspora, maybe the Hollywood narrative can make an effort to accurately show some Indian names. It's not that difficult always.

RELATED: The Simpsons: 10 Things Fans Need To Know About Apu

Even though today, foreign productions do try to accurately portray Indian characters and their names, there used to be Indian characters with names complicated and exaggerated beyond measure. The biggest case yet again is Apu's surname, Nahasapeemapetilon. Older films were even more careless in christening their Indian characters. In Annie (1978), an Indian bodyguard was simply named Punjab (an Indian state, hardly ever used as a person's name).

Indian food might provide a spicier culinary experience to Americans or Britishers who are not used to the taste. There's an actual term 'Delhi Belly' referring to the upset stomach that foreign tourists have when they visit India.

RELATED: No Reservations And 9 Other Delicious Movies Where Food Is The Star

Western portrayals have often reduced Indian food as something heavily spicey or gooey that leads to diarrhea. Such tropes are played around with Jon Hamm and Alan Arkin's character in Million Dollar Arm. Another done-to-death stereotype is referring to Indian gravy dishes as 'curry'. There are so many diverse meat and vegetable-based dishes from all Indian states that it's hard to categorize any particular Indian dish as a curry. A good alternative to such cliches can be The Hundred-Foot Journey that normalizes the cooking habits of Indians.

Indian-Americans were often shown as shop clerks, drivers, doctors, or any other supporting character. Often reduced to caricatures with the aforementioned accents, they were hardly given any scope for character development or background stories.

However, now, with slightly higher representation, this attitude is changing. Examples like Aziz Ansari's lead role in Master of None and Rahul Kohli in The Haunting Of Bly Manor are helping in giving Indian-origin American and British actors a more nuanced and multi-layered portrayal.

NEXT:Haunting Of Bly Manor: 5 Of Owen's Funniest Puns (& 5 Most Memorable Quotes)

Next The Big Bang Theory: 10 Hidden Details About Penny That Everyone Missed

Hailing from and based in India, Shaurya Thapa harbors interests in freelance journalism, cultural diversity, and critical analyses on films and TV of varied genres.

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Muslims react with caution to UP govt’s ordinance against conversion for marriage – Mint

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LUCKNOW : With the Uttar Pradesh government clearing an ordinance to deal with religious conversion solely for marriage, Muslim leaders on Wednesday reacted with caution saying it should be ensured that it does not infringe upon the constitutional right to freedom of religion.

The state cabinet presided over by Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath had on Tuesday given its nod to the draft ordinance providing for jail up to 10 years and fine of 50,000 for those violating its clauses.

The good thing is that the new ordinance does not use the term love jihad and the forced conversion which has been termed as illegal and punishable is something that is already held as crime in the Muslim law. In the Quran also, the Allah has said force in religion is not justified and so we have no objection to punishment over it," senior member of All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) Khalid Rashid Farangimahli told PTI.

Love jihad is a term coined by a section of Hindu groups for Muslim men allegedly forcing women to convert in the guise of love and marriage.

We are of the opinion that for peace and communal harmony, it is needed that Muslims and Hindus marry in their own communities. We have no objection to whatever we have seen in the ordinance," Farangimahli said.

The AIMPLB member stressed that whenever any law is enacted, it is based on the intention that there would not be any discrimination with anyone.

We also expect that this law will not be used wrongly. The legal expert will have to see that the law does not raise a question mark on the constitutional right to freedom of religion for all Indians. Otherwise, we have no objection to this law," he said.

Shaista Amber, president, All India Muslim Women Personal Law Board, however, said there was no need for such a law.

If anyone is getting married on the basis of deceit and forcibly getting the other person converted, there should be a stringent law for it and we already have laws for it. There was no need to bring a new law," she said.

Stressing that there are laws to check deceit in marriage, Amber said if the government has decided to bring a new law, it should also be ensured that it is not misused and peoples right to freedom of expression is not harmed.

Another senior AIMPLB member Zafaryab Jilani reasoned if two adults get married, even if they belong to different castes, religions or even nations, their marriage is their private right.

The apex court has also accepted this fact, Jilani, also a senior counsel, said.

Muslim religious leader Sajid Rashidi, however, saw in it an attempt to polarise the society ahead of the West Bengal assembly elections.

Law already exists against forced conversion, but since the elections to the West Bengal assembly are due there is a need to prepare a political ground and create hatred between Hindus and Muslims," he alleged.

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Muslims react with caution to UP govt's ordinance against conversion for marriage - Mint

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Yogendra Yadav is wrong to assume Owaisis AIMIM will be a Muslim BJP – ThePrint

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I have forced myself to write a response to Yogendra Yadavs latest column in ThePrint in which he has stigmatised the rise of All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen or AIMIM as a worrisome news.

Even though the highly superficial critique of psephologist-turned-politician Yogendra Yadav does not make sense logically, it does make sense as a public display of bte noir. If we pay close attention, we will realise that what a wide range of politicians say about the success of Asaduddin Owaisis party in the Bihar assembly election comes from a sense of reluctance in accepting the fact that Muslim votes are no longer their private deposit that they can keep taking for granted.

The rise of AIMIM, outside Hyderabad, and more specifically in Indias Hindi heartland, has rattled most of the secular political fronts equally. When the Bihar election results were announced, giving the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) another five years despite a decent fight from Tejashwi Yadavs Rashtriya Janata Dal (RLD)-led Mahagathbandhan (MGB), many Congress leaders were unhappy. At one point, it felt as if the Congress was more dejected with the AIMIM winning five seats in what once used to be its stronghold, Seemanchal, than losing the election overall.

One of the Congress tallest Muslim leaders from Bihar, Tariq Anwar, wrote on Twitter saying NDA should thank Owaisi for helping them form government for another term in Bihar. The Youth Congress official Facebook page shared several posters and cartoons suggesting the same thing the AIMIM is the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)s B-team and that Owaisi has helped the NDA win Bihar. But the election data destroys all such claims. This is not the first time, though, that Congress leaders have made this superficial claim. During the Telangana assembly election in December 2018, Rahul Gandhi had said: TRS is BJPs B-team, AIMIM is BJPs C-team.

Also read: The BJP does not want Owaisi, the BJP does not need Owaisi

Yogendra Yadavs critique is pejoratively clever. He alleges that the AIMIM is a particularly pernicious political outfit. He explains the history of the Hyderabad-based party and tries to delegitimise it by questioning its loyalty and allegiance to India for its positioning in the India or Pakistan episode, when Hyderabad was an independent state. I am yet to see any other political partys loyalty being questioned for what its founding members did before 1947. We know about the Congress celebrating Hindu Mahasabha founder Madan Mohan Malviya, other Hindu nationalists like Lala Lajpat Rai and even V.D. Savarkar.

Even when the Congress is criticised for its past, the criticism lies around its mistakes and blunders, or at most for its Muslim appeasement. However, the AIMIM has not been labelled dubious by Yogendra Yadav for its mistakes. Instead, the partys loyalty and allegiance to India has been questioned.

Furthermore, Yogendra Yadav also alleges that the AIMIM is a communal outfit. He, however, is sincere enough to acknowledge that the AIMIM is not the only communal outfit. He writes that the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), the Milli Council, the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF), and various factions of Kerala Congress are equally communal. The AIUDF, as Yadav suggests, is different only in the sense that it does not carry communalism in its name. I wonder what stopped him from including the Indian National Congress (INC), which represents Brahmins; Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which represents Baniyas; Samajwadi Party (SP), which represents Yadavs in Uttar Pradesh; Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), which represents Yadavs in Bihar; Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), which represents Dalits in UP, Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party (SBSP), which represents Rajbhars; Apna Dal, which represents Kurmis; and Bahujan Vanchit Aghadi (VBA), which represents Dalits in Maharashtra, among others. It should be noted that Yogendra Yadav only chose to name the parties that represent three minority communities Sikhs, Christians and Muslims.

In the end, Yogendra Yadavs biggest concern is that Asaduddin Owaisis AIMIM may well be the right partner that Hindu majoritarian politics is looking for. I am afraid that he needs to be reminded that Hindutva politics has already won two Lok Sabha elections, and has seemingly compromised all the State institutions, without the help of AIMIM. The Narendra Modi government has been re-elected with a greater majority than before, and his popularity has been on rise despite everything. Hindu majoritarian politics was indeed looking for opportunities, which were served to them by the secular leaders themselves. The reception of Ram Mandir bhoomi pujan by secular parties legitimised Hindu majoritarian politics. So did the reception of the Ayodhya verdict by secular parties and the repeated silence of these parties on issues that concerned Muslims.

Also read: Why UP opposition parties are jittery after Owaisi performance in Bihar

It is easier for Yogendra Yadav to look the other way, but the reality is that since Modis second term, Hindu majoritarian politics has shifted from Hindu khatre mein hai (Hindus are in danger) to Musalmano ko darr ke jeena padega (Muslims have to live in fear). The BJP does not need Asaduddin Owaisis party to make their point. Secular parties have failed to establish social justice by failing to give Muslims their fair share of representation while taking Muslim votes for granted until now. The reports of Sachar Committee, Kundu Committee and numerous other researches clearly indicate the failure of secular parties vis--vis Muslims. These parties have paved ways for Hindu majoritarian politics to not just operate but to bloom. It is the inconsistent policies of the secular parties that must be blamed. That was the only opportunity Hindu majoritarian politics was looking for. We are past that. Yogendra Yadav and others are afraid that if Muslims start voting for a Muslim-led party, almost every secular front will have to become what they really are political outfits representing different castes. The AIMIM is not a secular party because Hindus do not vote for it. The Samajwadi Party is a secular party because Muslims also vote for it other than Yadavs.

Yogendra Yadav is getting it wrong. He is trying to shift the blame of bringing Hindu majoritarian politics from the Hindu majority to Muslims as if Hindu majoritarian politics would cease to exist had it not been for Asaduddin Owaisi or any other Muslim political outfit. It is about time that members of the Hindu community start owning their own mess instead of blaming Muslims as the BJP does.

Yogendra Yadavs secularism demands Muslims to vote for Hindu-led parties just as they have been doing almost religiously since 1947. Muslims voting for the AIMIM a Muslim-led party in his view, means Muslims are rejecting secularism. This binary is highly problematic. If Yogendra Yadav suggests that in order to save secularism, Muslims should give up their best chance of getting truly represented, this secularism must not be saved. Asaduddin Owaisis rise lies in the response (or lack of it) of secular parties to the BJPs Hindu majoritarian politics. Yogendra Yadav must not assume the AIMIM will be a Muslim BJP. Instead, for a change, the Hindu majority should, for once, rally behind a Muslim leader and save Indian secularism. After all, no politician stands as tall as Asaduddin Owaisi in countering Hindu majoritarian politics or in displaying the secular ethos of the Constitution in their public speeches. Yogendra Yadavs unwillingness to acknowledge that a Muslim leader who is not sanctioned by existing secular parties can be secular, is Islamophobia.

Sharjeel Usmani is a student leader and the National Secretary of Fraternity Movement. Views are personal.

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