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The making of a Hindu India | India



On August 5, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation stone for a Hindu temple in the northern city of Ayodhya. This fulfilled the orders of India’s Supreme Court, which last November awarded a victory to those who have long been campaigning to build a temple there, in place of a Mughal-era mosque that was demolished by a right-wing Hindu mob in 1992. The speculation that the mosque was built on the ruins of an ancient temple marking the mythological birthplace of the epic hero Ram remains unproven.

The groundbreaking ceremony for the temple was set on that particular date to commemorate the altering of the country’s constitution to justify a shift from indirect to direct colonialism in the disputed Muslim-majority region of Jammu and Kashmir exactly a year ago. 

The temple construction in Ayodhya, just like the constitutional amendment that revoked the Indian-administered Kashmir’s limited autonomy, is a calculated move by the Modi government to consolidate the new majoritarian polity in India. 

Today, we are witnessing the final stages of the project to remake India into a Hindu nation, but little is being said about the fabulous falsehoods and cunning sleights of hand that this ambitious project was built upon. 

Colonial origins

The word “Hindu” is a Persianate derivative of “Sindhu”, Sanskrit for the Indus River. Only during India’s colonial encounter in the 19th century did “Hindu” become an ascriptive label for a wide range of practices and ideas across South Asia that do not fall within the three world religions labelled “Islam”, “Christianity”, and “Buddhism”. But this term defined by negation did not mean much to those located within a mosaic of Indic ritual and philosophical traditions that lacked a holy book based on divine revelation.

Scholars have attributed the invention of “Hinduism” as much to men from dominant castes who sought to reform and remake a colonised society as to colonial missionaries. These 19th-century reformers sought to go back to ancient texts such as the Vedas or the Upanishads to propose a de-ritualised, quasi-monotheistic creed for a modern India. Such a move mimicked the textualist methods of the Protestant Reformation, and the then fashionable European efforts to appropriate ancient Sanskrit spiritual texts to construct an “Aryan” race identity.

The reformers were answering British criticisms of Indic polytheisms as “beastly” and “superstitious”. They enthusiastically embraced the colonial view of Muslims being wholly separate from Hindus, ignoring the accommodations and intermixing over centuries that had produced shared ritual, intellectual, sartorial, culinary, and musical traditions between the two groups.

As the reforming Hindu men worked to draw sharp lines between “Hindus” and “Muslims”, the newly emerging print media became their accomplice. The adoption of the Nagri script by reformist groups such as the Arya Samaj contrasted with the shared orality of a public sphere defined by the Hindustani language. Devanagari, the divine Nagri as it became known, also started to be used alongside Urdu and English in the new world of print technology, helping reformists in their efforts to create a distinct Hindu identity. 

Then, as it is now, the chief obstacle to transforming India into a Hindu nation was the caste system which divided society into strict hierarchical groups. To accommodate the lower orders of society, the conservatism of the Brahmins, the traditional priestly class who sit atop the rigid caste hierarchy, had to be diluted. But to de-brahminise Hinduism would have dissolved the abstract new polity of the reformers’ imagination into a melange of lived traditions across the localities and regions of India. 

From the colonial to the post-colonial

A century ago, the arrival of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi on the political scene provided a solution to the reformers’ dilemma. Gandhi claimed that his religion as much as that of most “Hindus” was Sanatan Dharma, the perennial faith, not the new-fangled textual abstractions put forward by the reformers. Caste, he argued, was a necessary evil in the subcontinental life. It could neither be wished away nor reformed out of existence. 

A hierarchical society, suggested Gandhi, could learn to be humane and to avoid excesses. Vertical hierarchies could be held together by horizontal alliances between those of similar rank, whether at the top or the bottom. Hindu and Muslim elites could be tied together by common interests of peace and prosperity just as the Hindu and Muslim masses were held together by shared solidarities of class and occupation. 

The Gandhian solution to the problem was largely embraced by the anti-colonial movement in India led by the Congress party. Muhammad Ali Jinnah, who led the campaign for a separate state of Pakistan, had also endorsed the Gandhian solution in British India, but he was prescient to realise that its appeal would wane steadily with modernisation once the fortunes of Indian Muslims were placed at the mercy of a consolidated Hindu majority. 

The principal critics of the Gandhian solution – anti-caste thinkers such as Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar and theorists of Hindu nationalism such as Vinayak Damodar Savarkar – preferred a modern and egalitarian solution to the problem faced by the 19th-century reformers. Both Ambedkar and Savarkar sought equality in politics and society, not hierarchy. Yet Ambedkar reposed his faith in new constitutional liberalism derived from the French and American constitutions. Savarkar endeavoured, by contrast, to create a new political religion, called Hindutva (Hindu-ness) to unify India along the lines of the Italian Risorgimento. 

In the early decades after independence, the Congress governments balanced the hierarchical accommodationist view proposed by Gandhi with modernism rooted in equal citizenship regardless of caste or faith. This was an era in which all were equal citizens of India, even Kashmiris, even if long-standing social hierarchies remained intact. Elite Muslims and Christians featured prominently in public life just as they had done in the colonial era. 

With economic liberalisation and neoliberal globalisation since 1980, the old hierarchies have been shaken up. The myriad castes that constitute Indian society have been shattered into infinitesimal fragments, which have given rise to fractalised identities vying for equality at the expense of each other. The centrifugal force in pursuit of equality in public life led to dissensus, not a new national consensus.

In response, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), particularly under Modi, has revived Savarkar’s vision of Hindutva as a political religion, albeit in a distinctly populist vein. One’s religious beliefs and practices matter less in Hindutva than an absolute commitment to a Hindu “rashtra” or polity. The fractalised selves of post-liberalisation have been brought together by the centripetal force of electoral rituals, digital media, and a new Hindu state, all of which offer an insurgent sense of equality. 

Political Hinduism

Rhetorically, the Hindu rashtra is opposed to discrimination based on caste for political Hindus. Modi’s own humble origins and his rise to power are presented as clinching evidence of a new egalitarian modernism. But, in practice, Hindutva is willing to accommodate the everyday oppressions that define Indian society. In effect, some are more equal than others. Conservatism is now couched increasingly in the modern semantics of class (“rich” and “poor”) rather than in traditional caste terms. 

Those who do not identify as political Hindus – Muslims, Christians, leftists, anti-caste activists – are the new objects of discrimination and exclusion. In principle, if individuals from these groups embrace Hindutva, they, too, would be considered political Hindus. The lines are, in sum, permeable, and everything is negotiable in the new Hindu polity. 

At least for now, the Hindu rashtra is a highly personalised regime, almost a cult, in which Modi is the state and countenances no opposition, not even from the judiciary or the central bank. Civil society, the media and academia are treated with suspicion because they breed dissent. Through a mix of carrot and stick, the media have been compelled to voice propaganda, and prominent journalists, activists, and academics have been arrested or bullied into silence. 

The electoral system is now dominated by a single political party committed to Hindutva, namely, the BJP. Other parties, including the Congress, have been compelled now to speak the language of Hindutva and acquiesce in the new political religion. 

Oddly enough, we know little about the ritual lives and personal beliefs of Modi or his predecessors. The new political religion of Hindutva seems to define itself almost entirely by negation vis-a-vis the Muslim (or Christian) Other. Other Indic traditions defined traditionally in opposition to Hinduism – Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism – are simply seen as Hindu offshoots. 

The territorial boundaries of the nation are sacralised in Hindu India. Nowhere is this more apparent than in Kashmir, where long-standing legal arrangements have been forcibly undone. These violent rituals of integration are meant to build communitas among political Hindus, the true citizens of the new polity. Settler colonialism is now expected to complete this process of national integration. 

Kashmiri Muslims as colonial subjects stand metonymically for all Indian Muslims. The project of subjugating religious minorities is now regarded as a sacred duty in the service of the nation. 

By contrast, ethnic minorities in northeast India are encouraged to negotiate the terms of their political assimilation within Hindu India. In response to activists’ claims about indigenity in these regions bordering China and Myanmar, the BJP now claims that all Indigenous peoples of India are Hindu, and all Hindus are, by definition, indigenous to India. 

Hindutva is, undoubtedly, an abstract political religion, stripped of contextual or historical depth. This is precisely what the colonial-era reformers and Savarkar had dreamed of: an all-India Hinduism that reins in the problem of caste via the dazzling dream of equal citizenship. Not only is a Hindu rashtra now a reality, but the Muslim Other has been subjugated within it. The inauguration of the Ram temple in Ayodhya, much like the colonisation of Kashmir, has accomplished both tasks in the highly symbolic and theatrical world of Hindutva. 

If India is today a Hindu nation, it is also a tinderbox in which the self is defined by the perpetual hatred of others. Whenever India’s youth tire of this majoritarian politics of hate, they will reflect on the paths not taken to make their country a prosperous, equitable, and decent. 

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.

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Charles Mbire gains $1.2 million as stake in MTN Uganda rises above $51 million



Ugandan businessman and MTN Uganda Chairman Charles Mbire has seen the market value of his stake in MTN Uganda surge above $51 million in just two days, as the share price in the leading teleco company increased by a single digit.

The single-digit bump in the share price caused the market value of Mbire’s stake to gain UGX4.42 billion ($1.24 million) in less than two days.

The million-dollar increase in the value of his stake came after Uganda’s largest telecom company delivered the country’s largest-ever IPO through the listing of 22.4 billion ordinary shares on the Uganda Securities Exchange (USE).

Upon completing the largest IPO in Uganda’s history, MTN Uganda raised a record UGX535 billion ($150.4 million) from the applications that it received for a total of 2.9 billion shares, including incentive shares.

As of press time, Dec. 7, shares in the company were trading at UGX204.95 ($0.0574), down six basis points from their opening price this morning.

Data gathered by Billionaires.Africa revealed that since the telecom company registered its shares on the Ugandan bourse on Mon., Dec. 6, its share price has increased by 2.5 percent from UGX200 ($0.056) to UGX204.95 ($0.0574) as of the time of writing, as retail investors sustained buying interest long after the public offering.

The increase in the company’s share price caused the market value of Mbire’s 3.98-percent stake to rise from UGX178.45 billion ($49.96 million) to UGX182.86 billion ($51.2 million).

In less than two days, his stake gained more than UGX4.42 billion ($1.24 million).

In a statement after the successful listing of MTN Uganda’s shares, Mbire said the IPO shows the confidence that Ugandans and other investors have in the company, its brand and strategic intent.

“We commend all the regulators for their support in our work to become a USE-listed company and to comply in a timely manner with the listing provisions of the national telecommunications operators’ license,” he said.

Steady but sure-MBIRE who is the biggest investor on Ugandas Stock exchange with stocks valued at more than $55 million is laughing all the way to the bank after MTN declared the latest dividend payout.He has steadily grown his business empire which is believed to be more that $350 million (debt free).

Steady but sure-MBIRE who is the biggest investor on Ugandas Stock exchange with stocks valued at more than $55 million is laughing all the way to the bank after MTN declared the latest dividend payout.He has steadily grown his business empire which is believed to be more that $350. ( debt free).

He is into communications-revenue assurance-cement-distribution-oil services-real estate-oil exploration and logistics.

Source: Billionaires Africa

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2-year-old dies at Arua hospital as nurse demands Shs 210,000 bribe




A two-year-old child died at Arua Regional Referral hospital after a nurse, Paul Wamala demanded a bribe amounting to Shs 210,000 before carrying out an operation. 

The incident happened on Saturday, after Aron Nabil, a two-year-old child was referred to the hospital for an operation after he was diagnosed with intestinal obstruction, a medical emergency caused by a blockage that keeps food or liquid from passing through the small intestine or large intestine.

According to the relatives of the child, Wamala allegedly asked them to initially give him Shs 30,000 to buy medicines to commence the procedure. He however returned shortly asking for an additional Shs 180,000 from the relatives.

Emily Adiru, a resident of Osu cell, in Bazar Ward, Central Division, and a relative of the child says although they paid money to Wamala, he abandoned the child without carrying out the operation. According to Adiru, Wamala later refunded Shs 200,000 through mobile money, after she threatened to report him to the police.

“They told us this boy needs an operation which was supposed to be done in the morning on Sunday at around 7 am. They took him inside there, some doctor came from the theatre, he called one of us and said, we should pay Shs 70,000 for buying medicine to start the operation. We paid the Shs 30,000 [but] after paying the Shs 30,000, after some minutes, the same man came and opened the door and called us again, and told us we should pay another Shs 100,000. We also paid the Shs 100,000 and we thought it is finished. We were outside there waiting for our patient to come out [but] then this man came back again and said we should pay another Shs 80,000,” said Adiru.

Although the operation was later carried out after a 7-hour delay, the child didn’t make it, and relatives attribute the death to negligence. Miria Ahmed, a concerned resident wonders why such incidents have persisted at the facility which is supposed to service the citizens.

“Is the problem the hospital, is it the management or it is the human resource that is the problem in the hospital? A small child like this you demand Shs 210,000 for the operation? Well, if the money was taken and the operation is done, I would say anything bad but this money was taken and the small boy was abandoned in the theatre,” she said. 

When contacted Wamala refused to comment on the allegations. Dr Gilbert Aniku, the acting hospital director says that the hospital will issue an official statement later since consultations about the matter are ongoing.

Arua City resident district commissioner, Alice Akello has condemned the actions of the nurse saying she has ordered his arrest so as to set an example to the rest. The case has been reported to Arua regional referral hospital police post under SD reference No:05/30/05/2022.

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Mexican president’s Mayan Train dealt new legal setback | Tourism News




Activists say the planned tourist train will harm the wildlife and natural features of the Yucatan Peninsula.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has been dealt the latest setback to an ambitious plan to create a tourist train to connect the country’s southern Yucatan Peninsula.

On Monday, a judge indefinitely suspended construction on a portion of the project, known as the Mayan Train, saying the plans currently do not comply “with the proceedings of the environmental impact evaluation”.

The ruling follows a legal challenge by activists who said they were concerned the 60km (37 mile) portion of the train that would connect the resorts of Playa del Carmen and Tulum would adversely affect the area’s wildlife, as well as its caves and water-filled sinkholes known as cenotes.

The original plan for the disputed section was for an overpass over a highway, but the route was modified early this year to go through jungle at ground level.

The federal judge cited the “imminent danger” of causing “irreversible damage” to ecosystems, according to one of the plaintiffs, the non-governmental group Defending the Right to a Healthy Environment. In a statement, the group said that authorities had failed to carry out the necessary environmental impact studies before starting construction of the section.

Lopez Obrador had announced the ambitious project in 2018, with construction beginning in 2020. The roughly 1,500km (930 mile) cargo and passenger rail loop was presented as a cornerstone of a wider plan to develop the poorer states and remote towns throughout the about 181,000sq km (70,000sq mile) Yucatan Peninsula.

The railway is set to connect Caribbean beach resorts with Mayan archaeological ruins, with authorities aiming to complete the project by the end of 2023. The plan is estimated to cost about $16bn.

The project has split communities across the region, with some welcoming the economic development and connectivity it would bring. Others, including some local Indigenous communities, have challenged the project, saying it could not only disrupt the migratory routes of endangered species, including jaguars, tapirs and ocelots, but could also potentially damage centuries-old Mayan archaeological sites.

The National Fund for the Promotion of Tourism, the government agency overseeing the project, has said that it expects to “overcome” the latest challenge and that work should continue after an environmental impact statement is finalised. It said the Environment Ministry was currently reviewing its environmental application for the project.

For his part, Lopez Obrador has insisted the railway will not have a significant environmental effect and has accused activists of being infiltrated by “impostors”.

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