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The making of a Hindu India | India

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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.



Source – www.aljazeera.com

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Year of the Overcomer-Prophet Elvis Mbonye

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The eagerly awaited first fellowship of controversial Prophet Elvis Mbonye left viewers shocked as he declined to issue his now famous prophecies citing a refusal to settle for the new normal. In an on online service watched by thousands, the Prophet said him prophesying would “ be a concession to gathering online, rather than physically” further stating that it is not the will of God that church should meet online!

The Covid-19 SOPs given by the government and Ministry of Health have heavily impacted gatherings and as a result, ministries with large congregations have resorted to online services. The prophet however insists that this is a ploy to diminish the influence of the Kingdom of God.

He however proceeded to give the Prophetic Word of the year , saying “This is the year of the Overcomers” amidst cheers from those present. He also stated that this would not be a “gloomy” year, probably meaning that this would be a good year. Given that many of his prophecies have actually come to pass, should we pay more attention to him? We eagerly await the prophecies this year.

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Kabuleta blasts Media over “COFIT” reporting in new rant.

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Presidential hopeful Joseph Kiiza Kabuleta has expressed dissatisfaction with the media over what he says was”alarmist reporting” over the Covid-19 pandemic which he calls “COFIT” a term we believe is a wordplay between covid and profit, a view held by many that claims that the disease was exaggerated to maximize funding and corruption. Kabuleta has come to be known for his straight shooting style and admirable command of facts and policy, even being touted as the “smartest candidate” in the race.here is the full statement:

MEDIA AND THE COFIT ENTERPRISE

By Joseph Kabuleta

“Don’t look at where you fell, but where you slipped”
AFRICAN PROVERB

We know where the media fell. They fell when they were caught in the crossfire between opposition politicians and trigger-happy security hitmen; when they were unfairly targeted as they went about their noble duty of covering this explosive elective season. Sadly, some journalists are nursing wounds; others weren’t so lucky.
But it’s important for us to understand where they slipped.

If someone is sitting by the roadside sipping on his brew and he sees a gang of people sprinting past him, as if for their lives, it’s understandable if he impulsively joins without asking questions. But if after nine months he is still sprinting, and has still not asked any questions, then there’s something terribly wrong with him.

When we first went into lockdown in March, it was probably the best course of action because we didn’t know the full extent of the Cofit threat. But in the first 90 days, it was clear to all and sundry that it was never going to rank among Uganda’s top health challenges. And that’s not my opinion.

The Daily Monitor on July 15th quoted Dr Baterana Byarugaba, the Mulago Hospital Executive Director, describing the Cofit strain in the country as a mild form of flu which does not require hospital admission since it can be treated at home or in lower health facilities.
“l told Ugandans right from the beginning that the type of coronavirus we expect in Uganda is the mild one. It can be treated at health centre II, III, IV or the district hospital,” the top Medic said.

I read the story with glorious delight supposing that finally common sense, (or should I say science sense) would inform our decisions as a nation. But it’s difficult to know where science stops and politics starts. It’s become clear over the months that Cofit is not just a virus that causes respiratory problems, it’s a lot more than that; it’s a weapon in the hands of politicians that gives them power beyond their wildest dreams. In America, for instance, Democrat Congressman Jim Clyburn said Cofit is a “tremendous opportunity to restructure things to fit our (leftist) vision” while actress and activist Jane Fonda said that Cofit was “God’s gift to the left.”

Our media could have taken the side of poor Ugandans by showing the immense suffering and death from preventable sicknesses that resulted from the harsh Cofit measures; they could have highlighted the plight of businesses permanently closed and workers rendered redundant and sent back to villages. They could have wondered why truck drivers were testing negative in Kenya and positive in Uganda, or wondered why Cofit deaths only started after Prophet Museveni showed us a macabre lineup of coffins in his address, or why every celebrity who dies since then is ruled as Cofit (no autopsy required)

They could have told us that according to Worldometer, Cofit has a 0.28% mortality rate (or a 99.72 survival rate) and that it doesn’t rank anywhere in the Top 10 of Uganda’s health challenges; they could have told us that a child dies of malaria every two minutes (and Uganda accounts for 3% of the world’s malaria fatalities), which means that more Ugandans die from mosquitoes in ten days than Cofit has (allegedly) killed in the nine months it’s been on our lips.

Ugandans (especially of my age) have lived through real pandemics. As a young man growing up in the early 90s, nobody had to remind me that AIDS was real. Goodness me, I knew it was! And I didn’t need police to force me to wear protection, I knew the consequences. The fact that we are constantly being reminded that ‘Cofit is real’ tells a story of its own.

The media could have asked why Uganda, with one of the lowest Cofit cases or deaths, still holds on to a 9:00pm curfew when Kenya moved to 11:00pm in September, as did South Africa and several countries. The media could have told us that Malawi, Burundi, Tanzania and, recently, Ghana all held successful elections with full blown campaigns in 2020, and we aren’t hearing people dropping dead from Cofit in any of those countries. May be they should have tried to find out if people are dropping dead in Tanzania which altogether ignored all Cofit measures and went on to acquire middle-income status while Ugandans were still in lockdown.

They could have told us about the asymptomatic Cofit patients who were filmed dancing the night away in hospital wards, or of people suffering from other diseases who dare not go to hospital because they fear to be given a fake Cofit label and held for two weeks against their will.

The media could have told us that Cofit deaths across the world have been grossly inflated. Minnesota lawmakers say Cofit deaths could have been inflated by 40% after examining death certificates (according to The Washington Examiner) while Fox News reported that in Colorado 45% of Cofit corpses “were also found to have bullet wounds”.

They could have told us that 22 European countries, all of which had tens of thousands of Cofit deaths, opened their schools in the fall, and there has not been any reported spikes in cases as a result. They could have told us that more people have been killed by security men enforcing Cofit measures than by the virus itself.

Well, they could have…but they didn’t. And that’s where they slipped.

Instead they chose to go down the path of alarmist reporting and in so doing became, inadvertently or otherwise, enablers of Uganda’s trillion-shilling Cofit enterprise. Like Squealer in George Orwell’s Animal Farm, the media used flowery language to drum up fear by keeping people’s eyes transfixed on swelling numbers while the thieves carried their loot and stashed it away, and loan money was distributed among family members or used in regime prolongation.

The recent joint television news bulletin, and the adverts that followed, were the peak of hysterical reporting. “Zuukuka Tusaanawo” (wake up, we are perishing) screamed an advert featuring top media personalities. What a load of……(fill in appropriate word).

Remember, all the tyranny we have witnessed in this season has been done in the name of Cofit, and such sensationalist reporting justifies it; it gives dictators like Museveni the perfect pseudo-moralistic cover to unleash their most despotic fantasies while actually pretending that it’s for the good of the people. Unfortunately, the terror has now spread to the very media people whose hyperbole enabled it in the first place. There is such a thing as the law of cause and consequence, after all.

Instead of the media walking out of pressers and threatening to boycott government functions, let them threaten to stop all Cofit reporting. Museveni himself would come running with chocolate in hand.

If the president extended curfew by just two hours, for instance, he will have put as many as 200,000 Ugandans back to work especially in the hotel, restaurant and entertainment industries; but he doesn’t care, and sadly neither do many middleclass Ugandans who suppose that it’s their moral obligation as responsible citizens of the Global Village to fret over Cofit just because their ‘fellow citizens’ in Europe and America are doing so. Of course they can afford to do that because their corporate jobs have, for the most part, insulated them from the devastation of the government-instituted Cofit measures. They can enjoy working at home, beer in hand, as they listen to CNN and BBC and still expect the full complement of their salaries at the month end, and that makes them feel every bit like ‘their brothers’ overseas.

Such aspirational conformists are more likely to be offended by my stance on Cofit because they haven’t traversed crook and creek of this country and seen the damage reigned on this fragile society; not by the virus, but by the measures supposedly instituted to mitigate it.

You see, perhaps the most enduring damage this regime has done to our society is creating a three-part hierarchy of class and needs. At the zenith are a handful of connected ‘1986 generation’ and their families who feel entitled to all power and wealth. Beneath is a small (and shrinking) middleclass, and at the bottom of the pyramid is a mass of peasants. Every society, to various degrees, is ordered in the same fashion, but what makes Uganda unique is that the megalomaniacs at the top don’t give a nickel about the plight of the middleclass and the middleclass in turn don’t care a bit about the quandary of the peasant. The charlatans at the top will impose punitive taxes on the middleclass, then dip into NSSF coffers at a whim to share out their savings, and no one can stop them.

And the middleclass Ugandan, armed with his medical insurance, and safe in the knowledge that his wife is unlikely to die in child birth (20 Ugandans do EVERY DAY), and his children are very unlikely to die of malaria (20 do EVERY DAY), or from malnutrition (thousands do every year), will go around trumpeting Cofit because it’s more relevant to his status than malnutrition or malaria.

I could just as easily go down that path. I could also close my eyes to mothers failing to get breast milk because they can only afford half a meal a day (black tea with a piece of cassava), and the malnourished babies that emerge as a result; I could close my eyes to the teenage girls that were given out in marriage because schools closed, or those given out to meet family needs; I could ignore the fact that our president is opening 5-star markets in cities which have 1-star referral hospitals; I could also choose to look the other way and enjoy my middleclass lifestyle, but as an aspiring leader, I cannot.

As a leader, my aspiration is to remove the privileged/entitled class, to expand the middleclass (and their income), and to shrink the peasantry; but mostly to blur the lines that separate each category.
It doesn’t bode well for our country if the average Corporate Ugandan knows more about racism in America than about extreme poverty in Teso or Busoga because that disqualifies him/her from the solution to those local problems.

And finally, I have come to the realization that the biggest pandemic afflicting our country is poverty and the virus that causes it is called M7-1986. Vaccination against it is January 14

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Muntu Blocked in Kamwenge

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Alliance for National Transformation presidential candidate Gen. Mugisha Muntu has been blocked from campaigning in Kamwenge according to a statement he released earlier today.Below is the full statement:

STATEMENT
Today in Kamwenge, as we have done since the start of the campaign season, we headed out to speak with the people. We had earlier in the week agreed on the venue with security agencies. No one had anticipated that it would rain as much as it did, making it impossible for us or the people to access.

After identifying an alternative place only 100m away from the original venue, negotiating with the owner and communicating the same to the public, we headed to the second venue only to be stopped by police.

Our policy has always been to do all we can to be reasonable, even in the face of unreasonable action on the part of the state. We engaged the police leadership in a civilized, respectable manner well knowing that they intended to not only frustrate us, but cause us to act in ways that would give them an excuse to cause chaos. This was on top of their intimidating the radio we had booked and duly paid to appear on.

While we are confident that we are on the right side of both the law and reason, we have chosen not to endanger the lives of our supporters or the general public by escalating the situation. We will do everything humanly possible to avoid a single life being lost or blood being shed on account of our campaign.

And yet this truth remains: the regime’s days are numbered.

ChangeYouCanTrust

CountryBeforeSelf

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