The Indian Express | 1 week ago | 23-05-2023 | 11:45 am
A series of far-reaching events are shaping the 21st century. The current conflict in Ukraine, while grabbing headlines and engrossing the G7 summit in Hiroshima, may not seem as pivotal if one is situated in a different part of the world. To most, this is still a festering neighbourhood conflict that Europe must manage. It does not animate lives everywhere; neither does it shape anxieties or future partnerships.India, Africa and Latin America are not indifferent to the crisis in Europe. They simply have more pressing matters to attend to — the imperatives of nation building being the most urgent. That they now also must navigate the collateral impact of the war makes them all but an interested party.The first lesson from global reactions to the war is geography still matters. East-West and North-South binaries may be captivating, but proximity and the neighbourhood are considerably more important. We may be hyper-globalised, but we are also more local than ever before. Social media, trends in technology and politics, and a host of other factors have bracketed us into narrow spheres of interest. Thus, while India respects Europe’s difficulties, for it the 2020s began not with Ukraine but with Chinese aggression, the virus from Wuhan and the surrender of Kabul.The second lesson pertains to the UN vote condemning the Ukraine war. Of the 140 countries that voted and condemned Russia, only a fraction sanctioned Russia. Studying the list of countries that were the earliest to receive vaccines in the pandemic could prove to be productive. It might explain which countries have sanctioned Russia. It will also offer valuable lessons about globalisation, its hierarchy and therefore, its discontents. Those sanctioning Russia today are not merely the victors of World War II, but also of globalisation and development. Others are well within their rights to challenge the status quo.It is often stated, unthinkingly, that India is on the fence. India is not on the fence — it is only standing its ground. It will choose its priorities just as every other country has done. The recent spate of visits by European leaders to China shows that value-based frameworks are untenable. Nations are driven by self-interest and in this case, the need to maintain lucrative economic relations. India is no different. Even as it confronts the Chinese on the Himalayan heights, trade continues where the economy needs it. Distance matters; interest matters even more.The third lesson derives cumulatively from four recent events: The pandemic; the fallout of the Doha Agreement and the abandoning of Afghanistan; the Chinese aggression on India’s borders; and new sanction regimes and their impact on the loosely termed “Global South”. The Covid-19 outbreak saw the overt hijack of medical equipment and access to vaccines, and growing gaps in treatment capabilities.Indeed, when the pandemic struck, there was no superpower, there was no great power, and there was no big power. There were only selfish powers. Similarly, the Afghan people were betrayed and abandoned because it was expedient for higher powers to flee the country at a particular moment. And Chinese territorial incursions have provoked a range of self-serving responses from different actors otherwise keen to defend democracy.Put bluntly, there is no moral high ground. All that remains is the ruthless pursuit of national self-interest. Two actors epitomised this approach in the 1960s and 1970s, one actor in the 1980s and 1990s, and several new voices have joined the fray in this century.If meaningful international dialogue is to be conducted, nations must right-size some of their perceptions about each other and themselves. In this context, the tendency to frame the Global South as a possible bridge actor between competing positions has its merits. But the “Global South” is itself a deeply reductive term, which elides the group’s innate heterogeneity. Very few countries would like to be categorised as “southern” as they continue to rise and shape global systems. Five years from now, Brazil and India might bristle at such a label themselves.The neatly packaged idea of the Global South fails to recognise that there will soon be far more decisive swings within the group than outside it. How the countries of the South organise themselves over the next decade will have a far more profound impact than the West on the global balance of power, and on the contours of the new world order. As this century progresses, an East and West will emerge within the Global North and South.Concomitantly, international engagements of the future will organise themselves around the standard operating principle of law firms — as limited liability partnerships (LLPs). LLPs will come to constitute the geometry of politics, and countries will work together on specific issues, for specific purposes, and for specific outcomes. With the transition to the new LLP ethos of geopolitics, we will not be burdened by the need to focus on anything other than the narrowly defined collaborative interest at hand, and can build relationships that are more strategic, if also more transactional. This is a gritty, realist world. We may not like it, but it’s here — and here to stay.The writer is President, Observer Research Foundation
Arun Janardhanan: There was a story that when you decided to resign as an IPS officer, the original plan was to join Rajinikanth’s party, which was to launch in 2019-20. Because Rajnikanth cancelled the plan, you joined the BJP. Is that true?I did not resign to join any political party. I was very allergic to politicians. Being a cop for nine-and-a-half years, I was at the other end of the political spectrum. Joining politics immediately after quitting is something I was not very comfortable with, but I wanted to go back to my grassroots. In the spirit of service, I started a foundation called We The Leaders Foundation. The idea of joining the BJP came after I met some leaders and they convinced me that the foundation can have a life of its own, but through politics I can achieve certain goals and objectives very fast, especially for Tamil Nadu.I have met Rajinikanth sir a couple of times and he’s a great person but I never met him to join his party. Our conversation was about issues of common interest and even now we maintain a good friendship.Arun Janardhanan: When you look at yourself as an ex-IPS officer, how does your past influence your present?After losing my first assembly election in Aravakurichi, I spoke to a lot of people and asked them what I did wrong? Many felt that my journey as a police officer, who directly entered politics, was an impediment. People don’t want the same force of a policeman in politics because you’re always ramrod straight. Politics is much deeper. They also want to test whether you will stay in politics for five-10-15 years, or is it a passing thought for you. Even now, if anybody wants to criticise me, they say, ‘Oh, he’s behaving like a policeman… for Annamalai there’s always black and white’. On the positive side, being in the police for about nine-and-a-half years has given me a good insight into human behaviour.I would like to be in Tamil Nadu. I don’t personally want to contest the Lok Sabha elections because I don’t want to be a leader in Tamil Nadu who will go to Delhi and then come backArun Janardhanan: When we look at Tamil Nadu, the BJP is seen as a North Indian party, an upper caste party. In Tamil Nadu, there is Dravidianism, Tamil nationalism, too. How do you plan to make the BJP popular in Tamil Nadu?In Tamil Nadu, the national party always had a role to play. When Modiji was coming to power for the first time as the PM in 2014, we got 19 per cent votes. DMK was as low as 23 per cent. In Tamil Nadu, a national party should have a face, as people here look for a face. It’s a very peculiar political model because people want to travel with the leader for a long time. We have to create leaders in Tamil Nadu who stick with people for 20-30 years. After some time, if the party gives me some other assignment, I would like to be in Tamil Nadu. I personally don’t want to contest the Lok Sabha elections because I don’t want to be a leader in Tamil Nadu who will go to Delhi and then come back.Liz Mathew: The BJP’s disappointing Karnataka election results were attributed to excessive Delhi influence in campaigning. What was the reason for the debacle? Was it the local or national leadership that worked on the party’s election strategies?Karnataka’s political landscape is intricate. In 2013, BJP faced challenges due to Yediyurappa’s separate party, KJP (Karnataka Janata Paksha), and vote cutters like JD(S), resulting in Congress taking power. In 2018, despite Congress leading by 2.5 per cent in vote share, BJP outperformed in 24 seats, marking a shift.Each of the six regions of Karnataka has a distinct voting pattern. In south Karnataka, with 64 seats from Mysore to Ramanagara, JD(S) is a key player. BJP’s influence is growing in north Karnataka, and they dominated central Karnataka in 2018. Bellary, a strong area for BJP in the past two elections, saw a downturn this time. Coastal Karnataka usually favours the BJP, but the recent election was tougher.Any government that releases the caste census will be in trouble. In a democracy like ours, with so many caste and social groups, nobody is going to agree with the numbersA surprise was JD(S)’s unexpected five per cent vote share drop, despite an aggressive campaign. BJP’s vote share in south Karnataka increased from 16 per cent in 2018 to 23 per cent, but Congress came out victorious, gaining 18-20 seats in the region. Despite the increase in ST reservation from three per cent to seven per cent, BJP underperformed in Bellary, calling for introspection. In Bangalore, BJP saw an improvement, winning 17 seats compared to 11 in 2018.Overall, the BJP remains unperturbed after the Karnataka elections, as its vote share held steady. While Congress retained its candidates, BJP took risks, including a generational shift with Yediyurappa not contesting. The continuous change of three chief ministers in five years — HD Kumaraswamy, BS Yediyurappa, Basavaraj Bommai — also unsettled the administration. Furthermore, ex-Congress members contested under BJP, adding to the dynamism. Yet, the BJP is optimistic about sweeping the 2024 Parliament election.I can tell you, 100 per cent, that the Delhi leadership never drove this election. The election was completely driven by the local leadership. Modiji attended more rallies because the local leadership wanted him to attend more rallies. The programme was made by them — the election co-convener Shobha Karandlaje, state President Nalin Kumar Kateel, the former CM Yediyurappa, the then CM Basavaraj Bommai. The “Ee baari nirdhara, bahumatada BJP” (This time, BJP majority government) slogan was made by the local leadership. People want Amit Shah and Yogi Adityanath to come for campaigning. We acted as a facilitator: Dharmendra Pradhan as election in-charge, Mansukh Mandaviya and myself.Liz Mathew: Were the leaders united? Was the decision on a generational shift taken on time? How will you address these issues?There were issues but whenever you make a shift, it is always an issue. You have seen Jagadish Shettar. The party has collective wisdom. The senior five-six leaders of Karnataka felt a generational change was needed. The way the BJP works for me, as a karyakarta, is that after a certain point of time they believe that you are not fighting elections but you’re important to the party — we will take care of you. The party will not reject any single person. I can give severalexamples from Tamil Nadu of people sitting in different positions, and for many of them it was a surprise. I have taken the resignation letters of two BJP karyakartas from Tamil Nadu who have become governors. In case of Jagadish Shettar also, the party didn’t sideline him. Seniors have to make way, but in some places they have to still be there. For instance, in Chitradurga we have a 74-year-old fighting the election on a BJP ticket because the next level of leadership is developing. Each seat will go through a different module. No two individuals can be equated. In the case of Laxman Savadiji, he was given a seat to contest but not the seat he wanted. He was also assured of something else once the government comes to power. These are all micro issues.Liz Mathew: Given BJP’s limited success in Tamil Nadu, have you felt frustrated or considered quitting due to its slow progress?I have no intention of quitting; I never publicly declared such a thing. A party’s growth depends on its members’ election competency. I was pleased when, in the recent urban local body elections, around 5,900 BJP candidates stood independently across all bodies. Many were successful, others weren’t, but now they are effectively working on the ground. Constant alliances can weaken a party’s ability to contest elections independently and fearlessly.Each state’s political environment varies, and what transpires in Tamil Nadu affects Delhi, considering its 39 Lok Sabha MPs. While BJP’s independent fight might be beneficial for us, it may not be advantageous for the overall Delhi numbers due to vote division.To establish roots in Tamil Nadu, BJP needs the ethos of a regional party. Consider DMK or AIADMK; they always prioritise Tamil Nadu. Since the inception of BJP state leadership, we resolved to champion Tamil Nadu’s cause, even if it occasionally inconveniences the party. For instance, when Karnataka, governed by the BJP, planned to build the Mekedatu dam, Tamil Nadu BJP observed a one-day fast in Thanjavur to express local sentiments. National leadership can then address these concerns.Modiji gave Tamilians a great honour by placing our Sengol sceptre, symbolising Chola power transfer, in the new Parliament, continually reminding the Speaker of its significance.P Vaidyanathan Iyer: What were the BJP’s apprehensions about the recent labour law amendments in Tamil Nadu, given that similar changes were made nationally?BJP is in support of bringing in a new labour code that is realistic and (in line) with the market sentiment, new era of technology. We had a problem with the way it was communicated by the Tamil Nadu government. It seemed they were trying to squeeze the workers’ rights by trying to put them in a room. Second, we asked for certain safety mechanisms, a welfare board to take care of it. Even if there was a labour union, we wanted them to go one level up in terms of setting a proper communication channel which was not addressed in the Tamil Nadu order. We are there for increased working hours, flexible working hours, but with certain conditions that make sure that everybody is heard. We are not blanketly opposing anything, like other parties. In the new era, a lot of changes have to come, but I feel the central government order was more practical and communicative.P Vaidyanathan Iyer: What is the local BJP’s position on Tamil Nadu’s decision to stick with the New Pension System?The local BJP strongly supports the New Pension System over reverting to the old model, citing concerns over escalating government expenses. I was one of the earliest people who entered the New Pension Scheme and the model is fairly good. I found it beneficial, offering flexibility in investment choices. It’s crucial to communicate to Civil servants that they can influence where their pension contributions are invested.P Vaidyanathan Iyer: Regarding the temple management dispute in Tamil Nadu between BJP-RSS, spiritual leaders and the government, what’s your stance?The Tamil Nadu Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Act (TN HR&CE) faced initial opposition in the 1950s,assuaged by promises of undisturbed temple rituals, operations and properties. However, the Act’s execution is criticised today. Many temples lack Arukala puja and are deteriorating due to discord among stakeholders. Also, administrative costs exceed the stipulated 12 per cent of hundi collections, misappropriating funds meant for temple activities.The opposition to the current management is both ideological and administrative, with poor coordination adversely impacting temple operations.The BJP believes the TN HR&CE has outlived its usefulness and supports a new management method.For example, in the Kalikambal temple, trustees are publicly elected by the community. We propose a model where the temple community elects a board supervised by a reputable private individual. An overarching government authority should intervene only when norms are violated. This approach ensures community involvement while maintaining regulatory oversight.SHYAMLAL YADAV: Tamil Nadu has played a key role in the social justice movement and some parties in the state are demanding a nationwide caste census. In Karnataka, one reason for the BJP’s defeat is that the Congress very aggressively demanded a caste census. Shouldn’t there be a caste census?When there was the Congress government in Karnataka and Siddaramaiahji was the Chief Minister, from 2013-18, they conducted a caste census. That report never saw the light of the day. In several judgments, especially when the issues of caste and reservation came up, the Supreme Court has demanded for an empirical proof for giving data. The Karnataka Congress demanding for a caste census is like a kettle calling the pot black. They themselves are not releasing what they did. Any government that releases the caste census will be in trouble. In a democracy like ours, with so many caste and social groups, nobody is going to agree with the numbers. Let all the political parties fall in line. I’m not saying it won’t happen, it has to happen. But how it has to happen, what methodology, let us defer it to the wisdom of the senior political leadership.AMRITH LAL: How does BJP’s one India, one language and, to some extent, one faith agenda, work with the very strong regional linguistic nationalism of Tamil Nadu? Also, as early as 1982-1983 Hindu Munnani won a seat on its own in Padmanabhapuram, an assembly constituency. What is it that prevented the BJP from growing into a party that can win at least one seat in Tamil Nadu on its own?Our PM and the senior leadership, none of them believes in one country, one language. The new National Education Policy very clearly laid down the mandate saying it is not going to work.Let us have three languages. One is your mother tongue, one is English, one could be a regional language of your choice.You are right about the seat in Padmanabhapuram, Kanyakumari. Tomorrow if the BJP is standing alone, if it is a three-way division in Tamil Nadu, BJP will start with 40 seats. It is my strong answer to you as BJP State President. In 2016 we stood alone, but unfortunately there were some issues like lack of leadership, somebody went out, somebody came in, but post the assembly elections we are in a very good position in Kanyakumari, which you will also see in Lok Sabha.
Self-styled spiritual guru Dhirendra Krishna Shastri said Saturday he would not forgo ‘spirituality worth crores’ to make a ‘Rs 10 worth’ political career. He was in Vadodara for the grand Divya Darbar organised at the Navlakhi Ground in the city.Shastri , also known as ‘Bageshwar Baba’, who was speaking at a media interaction at the Laxmi Narayan resort, where he was put up ahead of the event, was fielding questions about his life and politics when he responded to a question on his political ambitions. Denying that he was looking at joining active politics, Shastri, who was constantly accompanied by BJP city unit President Vijay Shah, said, “Who would quit this adhyatma (spirituality) worth crores of rupees for politics that is worth only Rs 10…”Shastri also reiterated his stand on the creation of ‘Hindu Rashtra’, advocating for an amendment of the Constitution of India. He also explained that the controversy over his remark calling people of Gujarat ‘pagal’ had been “misunderstood”.“To my mind, the meaning of ‘pagal’ is not someone with ‘mental illness’. It is someone who is passionate about something… So, if the people of Gujarat are passionate about spirituality, I can call them pagal. Those who have a problem with the word can assume its meaning to be mental, too,” Shastri said.Later in the day, Shastri arrived at a packed Navlakhi Ground and addressed a gathering with several BJP leaders and prominent personalities of Vadodara in attendance.
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said he tries not to “do politics abroad” while on international trips, in an apparent reference to Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s remarks on foreign soil. Speaking in South Africa’s Cape Town, the minister was responding to a query on how he would react to “what some people who go to the US say”.“There are sometimes things bigger than politics. And when you step outside the country, I think that’s important to remember,” he said, without naming Rahul Gandhi. “So I may differ strongly with someone, but how I counter it, I would like to go back home and do it, and watch me when I get back.”#WATCH | …”There are sometimes, things bigger than politics & when you step outside the country, that is important to remember…I differ with them but how I counter it, I would like to go home and do it. Watch me when I get back”: EAM S Jaishankar when asked about Congress… pic.twitter.com/7h0YutokpH— ANI (@ANI) June 3, 2023“I am perfectly prepared to argue very vigorously at home, so you will never find me wanting in that regard. But even a democratic culture has a certain collective responsibility… There is a national interest, there is a collective image,” Jaishankar added.Since last year, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been attacking Rahul Gandhi’s speeches and interactions abroad which they claim are harmful to the country’s reputation. Most recently, the senior Congress leader’s remarks during his ongoing US tour drew the party’s ire, when he said that the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the BJP are controlling all instruments of politics in India.Union Minister Anurag Thakur, while speaking to news agency ANI, said earlier, “Rahul Gandhi on his foreign trips wants to insult the Prime Minister but ends up insulting the country. He doesn’t even consider India as a nation and calls it a Union of states. He raises questions over India’s progress. What does he want to achieve on his foreign visits? Is mud-slinging all that he has left to do?”
“2023 BC” said the front page of a newspaper, with a picture of the saints of the Adheenams from Tamil Nadu standing in the well of the Parliament while Prime Minister Narendra Modi was installing the Sengol near the Speaker’s podium.Many other commentaries followed, discussing the significance or otherwise of the new Parliament building and the Sengol. While supporters elatedly declared the arrival of Hindu Rashtra, critics bemoaned the death of the spirit of free India as envisioned by leaders like Jawaharlal Nehru.In the hyper-animated debate, too little attention was paid to what the prime minister, the prime mover of the project, had said at the inauguration. He did not dismiss the important contributions after Independence, nor did he proclaim that India was being taken back to any bygone era. He acknowledged that after losing so much during colonial rule, India began its new journey after Independence and that “journey has gone through many ups and downs, overcoming many challenges”, and now entered the “Amrit Kaal”. “Preserving the heritage and forging new dimensions of development” will be the leitmotif of Amrit Kaal, Modi said.People plunged into the last 25 years of the freedom struggle with the aspiration of building a developed India. Modi surmised that the new Parliament will be the place to realise those aspirations in the next 25 years towards the centenary of Independence.Seventy-five years ago, it was Jawaharlal Nehru who was at the wheels of independent India’s government. He led the country through the first 17 years, or “Six Thousand Days” as Amiya Rao and B G Rao, bureaucrats who served under him, called it. He too had a vision for building a developed India. Socialism was the path chosen by him to achieve that.At the stroke of midnight on August 14-15 1947, standing in the Parliament building built by British architects Edwin Lutyens and Herbert Baker in 1927, Nehru delivered his historic address to the just-independent nation. He called the moment rare in history when the soul of a nation, “long suppressed, finds utterance”. He called it the end of an age and a nation stepping out “from the old to the new”.Interestingly, Modi, too, called the moment of inauguration of the new Parliament a moment that was “immortal forever” and one that will “etch an indelible signature on the forehead of history”. If Nehru believed in democracy and constitutionalism, Modi too insisted that “democracy is our inspiration, our Constitution is our resolve”.But Modi’s vision, irrespective of the idiomatic approximation with some Nehruvian ideals, markedly differs from that of Nehru. Many rightly see it as the demise of that Nehruvian vision. Some revel in it while others lament.Nehru appreciated India’s age-old civilisation but abhorred its manifestation in its religion and culture. In objecting to the participation of President Rajendra Prasad in the consecration ceremony of the Somnath temple in 1951, Nehru insisted that a secular government cannot associate itself with such a ceremony, which was “revivalist in character”.Modi and the ruling establishment — for that matter, a majority of the countrymen — do not see cultural and religious symbols of India as anti-secular or revivalist. In fact, secularism draws from the ancient Indian religious and cultural traditions, which upheld pluralism and celebrated diversity. Modi presented the new Parliament building as the “ideal representation of modern and ancient coexistence”. The sacred Sengol in the epicentre of a state-of-the-art Parliament marked that “ideal representation”.Nehru called religion obsolete and saw a dichotomy in culture and modernity. Nehruvians detest the religion of the majority and endorse communalism of the minority. How else can one explain Rahul Gandhi’s ridiculing of “prostration” before the Sengol and declaration of Muslim League as secular?But there was Mahatma Gandhi, for whom politics bereft of religion was a sin. He declared that his politics and “all other activities were derived from my religion”, and admonished Nehruvians that they “do not know what religion is”.The Constituent Assembly witnessed intense debates between the so-called modernists and the Gandhians. At one point, looking at the draft Constitution, a member from south India indignantly asked, “where is Gandhi in it?”After Independence, Gandhi was installed outside the Parliament while the inside was overwhelmed by the Nehruvian vision. Gandhi continues to be there outside the new Parliament building. But the Sengol — representing Gandhi’s Ram Rajya, the “Dharma Rajya” — is inside the Parliament now.Having established post-Nehruvian symbolism, the government has to now establish those values in governance and national life. As Modi pointed out in his address, democracy is in the genes of this ancient society. It was never majoritarian. Gandhi described it as a system where “the weakest shall have as much power as the strongest”.Deendayal Upadhyaya, eminent thinker and propounder of BJP’s political philosophy of Integral Humanism, insisted that democracy “is not merely the rule of the majority. Therefore, in any form of democracy in India, election, majority and minority… all must be combined and harmonised at one place. Anyone who has a different opinion from the majority, even if he is a single individual, his viewpoint must be respected and incorporated into the governance”. That is Dharmocracy, the Indian version of democracy.The Sengol represents that Dharmocracy, or true spirit of our Constitution, where fundamentalisms of all hues are rejected and justice to every citizen and appeasement of none is the rule of law. Tolerating one form of fundamentalism, whether in the name of secularism or majoritarianism, will lead to the rise of the other.One of the several definitions of Dharma is “Dhaarayati iti Dharmah” — meaning “Dharma is one that unites”. Nehruvian politics thrived on social divisions and minority-majority syndrome. The prime minister exhorted that achieving unity with the spirit of “Nation First” would be his priority.By the way, 2023 BC was when the Indus Valley Civilisation thrived in India. It was the most advanced among its contemporaries like the Mesopotamian, Greek and Chinese civilisations.Sometimes, leaning backwards, we actually surge forward.The writer, President, India Foundation, is with the RSS
Historian Pratinav Anil’s just published book, Another India: The Making of the World’s Largest Muslim Minority, 1947-77, is sure to stir up a hornet’s nest. In itself, the mass of fresh material presented by the author is an eye-opener. Since the release of the Sachar Committee report in 2006 it is public knowledge that Indian Muslims have been the victims of institutionalised discrimination. Now, Another India challenges academics such as Mushirul Hasan, Ashutosh Varshney, Pratap Bhanu Mehta and Ramachandra Guha in whose works the Nehru years come across as a “golden age” for Indian Muslims.The book presents data to argue that the marginalisation of the minority community began under the watch of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. But this much Anil grants to India’s “secular colossus”: “True, efforts were made by Nehru to keep the barbarians at bay, but the Hindu nationalists could not be simply wished away. For, time was on their side”. He could have added that thanks to the pernicious Two-Nation Theory, Muslims who were 24.3 per cent of the total population in undivided India were reduced to just 9.8 per cent after Partition. This self-inflicted wound made the task of the Hindu nationalists easier.No doubt, the Congress must answer for the tragic tale of Indian Muslims even while Nehru was at the helm. But the problem with Anil is that he overstates his case. In so doing, he ends up being inconsistent and self-contradictory. For perspective, missing from the entire book is even a passing mention of the simple fact that no democracy is born perfect where words (Constitution) match deeds (politics) from Day One. What of a country where democracy had such a bloody birth?Consider, for example, these propositions: “There was never a good time to be a Muslim in postcolonial India, unless one was the right kind of Muslim”; “For the qaum, to echo Dickens, it was the best of times (for the Muslim elite, the Ashraf), it was the worst of times (for the Pasmanda Muslims, the Ajlaf and the Arzal)”; “Indeed, if there is a single takeaway here, it is the simple observation that it was first and foremost class, and not confession, that counted in postcolonial India”. In fact, an entire chapter is devoted to detailing how the state took good care of the “notables” (read political and religious elite) among the Muslims. How, then, do these propositions mesh with the author’s contention that the Indian state behaved like “an Islamophobic agency”?Consider this, too. The author quotes Jinnah, writing in March 1940, following the adoption of the “Pakistan Resolution” at the Muslim League’s Lahore Conference: “It is a dream that the Hindus and Muslims can ever evolve a common nationality… They are not religions in the strict sense of the word, but are in fact different and distinct social orders … indeed they belong to two different civilisations”. Anil notes: “Throughout the forties, Jinnah talked of ‘Islamic democracy’, an oxymoronic turn of phrase whose constructive ambiguity he exploited in full measure”.Notwithstanding Jinnah’s oft quoted Pakistan-will-be-a-secular-state speech of August 11, 1947, less than two years later, the Pakistan Constituent Assembly passed the ‘Objectives Resolution’ to affirm: “Sovereignty over the entire universe belongs to Allah Almighty and the authority which He has delegated to the state of Pakistan, through its people, for being exercised within the limits prescribed by Him, is a sacred trust”. Months later, in November 1949, an overwhelmingly Hindu-dominated Constituent Assembly adopted a secular Constitution for India, guaranteeing equality, justice, liberty, fraternity to all citizens irrespective of caste, community… The religious and cultural rights of minorities were also protected. Call this Islamophobia?Anil has problems with the fact that the Indian Constitution contained no political safeguards for Indian Muslims such as separate electorates, reservation of parliamentary seats, proportional representation. For him, adoption of the first-past-the-post electoral system was nothing but “the handmaiden of majoritarianism”. Could Anil be serious: Separate electorates, religion-based political reservation, in a secular polity?Admittedly, though, the experience of parties coming to power with 32 per cent of total votes, because of a disproportionate equation between percentage of votes polled and seats won in recent decades underscores the need for revisiting the pros and cons of the first-past-the-post system vis-à-vis that of proportional representation.Anil suggests that the “essentially-Hindu” party steamrolled the first-past-the-post option in the Constituent Assembly out of devious design. This, even as he concedes that such a choice “dovetailed with contemporary political science orthodoxy, which held that assertive minorities, for they were feared, inevitably generated majoritarian backlash; better, then, to work from within larger parties and institutions”.The inconsistencies and contradictions notwithstanding, Another India lays equal emphasis on not one but the “double betrayal” of the Muslim masses. Betrayal by the Congress compounded by the betrayal from within: The “Ashraf (political and religious elite) betrayal”. The Ashraf betrayal rested on three pillars: Reposing faith in the “essentially Hindu” Congress, clinging on to an out-of-date, backward-looking sharia, and “disdain for mass politics”.The book records how, pre-Independence, the anti-colonialism of the nationalist Muslims “was not grounded in an economic critique of imperialism, as was the case with a number of other nationalists from Naoroji to Nehru… they spoke in a language of Islamic millenarianism”. To them, “Muslim India was to be an imperium in imperio (Islamic state within a secular state), with separate (sharia) courts, tax authorities (notional zakat), and rulers (amir-e-hind)”. Among the nationalist Muslims, there was little to choose between the Mr and the Maulana: “Indeed, in the thirties, it was hard to tell apart a ‘socialist’ Congress Muslim from a Maulana”.Post-independence, “So it was that from 1950 on, Muslim politics became synonymous with the defence of not one but two holy books: the Quran and the Constitution”. Ironically, what continues to be defended, till date, in the name of the Quran — the Muslim male’s right to triple talaq, polygamy and halala, unequal inheritance rights for men and women, hijab, Muslims’ right to child marriage, death for the blasphemer — has little to do with the holy text. It’s a tragic tale of wounds self-inflicted.The writer is convener, Indian Muslims for Secular Democracy and co-editor, Sabrang India online