The rise of Hindu Nationalism, Gita Sahgal (Bradlaugh Lecture 2018 Part 4 – Q&A)

The rise of Hindu Nationalism, Gita Sahgal (Bradlaugh Lecture 2018 Part 4 – Q&A)


you mentioned briefly efforts in the UK
to bring caste discrimination within the remit of the Equality Act something that
we’ve been campaigning for to ensure that Dalits have some sort of legal
protection against this form of prejudice which is very real research
has shown that caste discrimination is happening in the UK I just wanted say a
word about the we’ve recently found out the government don’t intend to provide
that level of protection that we think it’s necessary they’re not going to
amend the Equality Act to bring caste as a protected character characteristic
what role do you think Hindu nationalists have had in that decision
okay I think they’ve had a crucial role because they have a lot of meetings with
government they’re close to government I mean there as I said there’s cross-party
support so the lame part is also vying for this support not as it happens
Corbin has clean hands on this one he’s been actually quite protective of that
it’s rights his chair the the lid solidarity committee campaign I think
for three years but other members of the Labour Party
are embedded with them and and definitely they are very close to the
Tories they have many meetings a Hindu forum has had many many meetings over
the years when the only time they’ve come across is somewhat extremists in in
Britain not the only time but what is it one of the times is around these issues
where I went for instance to an all faiths Network it was a new network
designed to bring moderates together because there’s so many extremists
basically in interfaith groups I mean there’s certainly many Muslim extremists
in interfaith groups so there was a wonderful speech from a very progressive
Muslim Imam for instance but then a hidden the most folks Minh got up to
speak and he started talking I at first I really didn’t know what he was talking
about was his own word cultural genocide and I didn’t know what he was talking
about I couldn’t understand it but he was talking about the caste
discrimination issue and he was talking about the
bishops who had supported protections on caste so he was basically against this
sort of what he saw as a Christian Lobby that was going after the Hindus and the
issue of cultural genocide was about the right to choice in marriage I think it
was about you know if you don’t if you have to have this protection for Dalits
then they can come in marry hard otters and what will happen then I mean this is
you know this is will be destroyed so this whole issue of population and and
Hindus being dying out because they get converted to other religions or they
drift off in in ways they’re not you know but then so that’s one set of
things which which they talked about that the closeness to government is
absolutely there and I think the stories have been really few synonymous about
this because they talk tough on extremism but this is an extreme ism
that they absolutely seen as allies and it is so cynical and self-defeating it’s
funny we actually lodged a Freedom of Information request with the government
find out what meetings they had had with him doing organizations in the build-up
to the decision not to legislate against caste there were no meetings not sure
where they are meeting there it’s an academic good Edward Anderson who looked
at the whole issue of mf4 said who was hounded out of India is a Indian Muslim
artist by his name and there were so many cases against him I mean there
isn’t an official blasphemy law in India but their old offense laws which are
very similar and he was like there’s so many cases against him that he actually
had to leave India and go and live in the Middle East was not exactly a
bastion of freedom either but he was safer there and when his paintings were
shown here at Asia house they were vandalized
and that’s one of the times when this Hindu forum became prominent because it
was advocating against her sin for painting naked goddesses which which are
absolutely central to to Hindu traditions
so several times and last 10 years when Congress was in government Sita further
stories is taken as goddess Sita Martha I don’t like her to be addressed as
sexism the book is now mine what you were referring there was a person of
rama and rama new drama introduced in 2011-12 in JNU University and the book
teaches the Hindus that the ROM used to lead Lakshman and Sita alone because
they were having extramarital affair that hurt me and who is the am I’m a
spiritual person I don’t think that is right lawyers went to the code and
finally Monica Aruna was the lawyer who let the group of lawyers and finally
this university course was withdrawn from jail because that was absolutely
blasphemous for the Hindus if you write something like this for any other reason
that Sita and Lakshman were having an extramarital affair I can tell you he
will be heated if you write anything about him any other thing isn’t like
that that is my second question my third question is the slide behind you see
handsome Mehta was supporting uniform Civil Code
the BJP the RSS the vhp so much they are supporting uniform
Civil Code determine if a life providing support immediately because which we are
fighting for this informal civil court for last what 16 years 17 years and they
are opposing it and when we talk about minorities please talk I am abundant 5
million customer defendants have been butchered in Kashmir no one talks about
them I evaluated from games that it is a very prestigious institution I have
dealt with my all Connick jr. doctors who came showing in a letter they had
weapons dropped through their post box saying either convert or leave the city
and if you are leaving the city please leave your women for behind and there
are 5 million cash many pundits who are my brothers they have been in talks
about it there are five thousand six butchered in Delhi alone in 1984 when
you talk about minority 6rn minority Christians are a minority in India both
fists are in minority Jan’s are in minority why don’t you talk about them
no one wants to talk about it this room is full of people give me five minutes I
haven’t met any speech or any slight I haven’t heard anything I’m a heart
surgeon I do my job I was on emergency call yesterday I get but I can’t stand
this and tell you please believe in him the truth is this is a way of life it’s
not a fire when it when I want accomplish worship or immediately
personal harm our SS person I’m a spiritual person
I believe ma’am even though Jen asked me was a few days back yeah and I
celebrated and masked me suppose on the day of John mast me you come or anybody
else comes and tells me that look if you believe in Krishna I start saying this
Nikita Mahmoud Abbas Dronacharya mérida body
aha well I regret that I actually there are
lot of things I had to drop that I wanted to say and on the issue of the
Kashmiri pundits it is a huge stain on the conscience of India and the
conscience of the human rights communities both in India and abroad
because you’re absolutely right the things that happen to Kashmiri
pundits were exactly what was happening a similar to the things that I described
in other atrocities that have happened and yet oh sorry the the Hindu Kush Mir
is a majority Muslim state I mean they’re Buddhists and there are the
people living there but there was there were Hindus were called pundits over
there there they they they that was that cause background and they they they were
driven out in the 90s during the course of a Pakistan backed insurgency I mean
it there has been a lot of violence in Kashmir
the army is violent against you know some of the citizens of Kashmir it’s a
it’s a you know I I don’t want to defend everything that the army does in Kashmir
but on the other hand what is very difficult for people in the civil
liberties movement to acknowledge is that there has been what is clearly a
foreign backed insurgency I mean it says that the evidence is absolutely clear
and as the gentleman said Kashmiris were driven out I mean I have you know
acquaintances and relatives and friends who would were driven out of Kashmir
during the 1990s largely and who became internal refugees displaced people
internally this was an issue that was taken up as a BJP issue and it became a
central you know one or one of their central issues and was therefore not
taken up which was wrong by other organizations so for instance when
amnesty or Human Rights wha whatever they’ve done reports on state
violations and Kashmir of which there are but they haven’t really examined the
cross-border violations they haven’t examined what happened to people who
were murdered coerced driven out so I absolutely agree that that that was a
horror and it is one on the uniform Civil Code I tried to indicate that this
is something that is in the Constitution as an idea and has never been
implemented and that the BJP did take it up and that made it difficult actually
for feminists to take it up because they didn’t know whether because you see what
hon Samantha wanted was a whole lot of other things that go with the unifor
just something uniform but something that gives women a lot of rights and
even now where in fact even within the BJP Monica Gandhi wants to develop she’s
a minister in the government she wants to develop what’s called a prenuptial
agreement you know to give you know women rights in marriage and a lot of
the Orthodox people are saying no we don’t want that because you know it
undermines Kenyatta and it undermines the sacramental nature of the Hindu
ceremony so there’s an argument inside that so I did try and indicate some of
that in the talk what you’re saying about hurt feelings I think speaks to
absolutely centrally the issue of whether people’s hurt feelings or to
stop discussions or challenges to religion
now the BJP now claims the figure of Ambedkar as somebody that they embrace
that he was a great ballad leader they say they respect him and they’ve
actually you know put garlands on his statues and so on but Ambedkar burnt the
municipality yeah he burnt the book of Hindu law you know which which is a
sacred text of Hindu law and he talked about the an halation of caste and he
was anti Hindu in a very profound way I mean he led his people into he said I
don’t want to die a Hindu or an untouchable so he led them into
converting to Buddhism that was one of these
solutions so I think you know I understand that your feelings may be
hurt the Ramanujan case I mean to my shame I haven’t read Ramanujan myself so
I don’t know exactly what you know there are lot of allegations made about things
so having not read I don’t know if the allegations are making it true I think
it wasn’t genu it was dead University JNU has become a focus because it’s a
known left-wing University and this juvies there have been attacked they’ve
been they’ve been fake videos distributed about them in fact precisely
on the Kashmir issue there was a young man only a few days ago who was shot at
in the centre delhi and this young man is called umar khalid he is by
background a Kashmiri Muslim but he is an atheist and a leftist and a student
leader and so he’s not for walking trigger warning and actually right in
the heart of her security area somebody tried to to kill him you know that’s
pretty serious I mean the MP is there there’s you know heavy security around
there and these killers got away they’ve have somebody’s been arrested for that
now then they they put up a video saying that they thought it would be an
Independence Day gift to the nation so the students of JNU have been demonized
because they were what was shown later to be faked videos on TV showing that
they were shouting as Adi which is and it’s a strobe with the Kashmiri
separatist shout so they were made out to be Kashmiri separatist but actually
they were shouting anti patriarchal feminist slogans you know freedom from
cost freedom from violence freedom from this that in the other i mean feminist
friends of mine in read to those no because that’s what they were shouting
so there’s a lot of lies a lot of misinformation and I accept that you may
be very deeply hurt by some of the things that are said but Ramanujan was a
standard book on a standard text and the fact that it there was this attack on it
as there was on Wendy Doniger as there have been now on a woman called Audrey
Trish goes written on or NZ now I may not agree with everything Audrey Krishna
says but he was not controversial that’s okay
no no questions well let’s sort of spin that judgment neat check sure Indian
Constitution has settled Constitution does it have anything in it about
individual human rights and our thoughts in India capable supporting them
absolutely I mean it has very strong protections for individual human rights
and just recently we’ve had the courts standing up for human rights there has
been a major judgement it’s like it’s an it’s a leading judgement in the world on
the decriminalization of homosexuality they’re much more corruptible at lower
level they’re much more problematic but sometimes they do I mean they there are
lawyers who will fight in those courts and they will continue to fight and
these are the ones who are actually being attacked now it’s people who are
the defenders of the lawyers in the local courts who are fighting for the
rights of the most marginalized people for labor groups for tribal groups for
bandits and so on so it’s a broken system but it’s stumbling on and then
what there is is a consciousness among people which makes them stand up for
their rights and makes them feel that the Constitution is theirs and that they
that they own it and that they will speak in its name and that’s what I was
trying to convey that that Constitution came out of the anti-colonial struggle
because this colonial struggle was not about just getting rid of the invader
and the foreigner it was about saying we have to own we are responsible for our
own oppression once the British have gone we have to solve this oppression
and solve the problems of the society and of course they haven’t been solved
but that consciousness is then it’s what fuels that resistance thank you next
question well it’s it’s a very disciplined
organization so I mean I interviewed a woman who had grown up within and uh one
of those organizations she said that she changed and left you know in the late
60s I mean she she’s but but she said that they did a lot of charity work
so I mean well they have they have regular classes and sessions and we made
the generosity goes to them but they do a lot of charity work they do they they
they have their own Flags so they salute the flag they do certain exercises
they’ll maybe do some yoga they get taught about Indian history but as I
tried to indicate briefly the slightly walked away things that actually don’t
stand up to scrutiny but they they gain a pride of being Hindus living in
Britain and you know unlike some of the extremist Muslim groups in sanh I mean
they don’t dress differently or or you know have any any visible markers of
difference that way and so that they seen is perfectly integrated in fact
indeed many of them are doctors lawyers and other things so they’re both working
class people and it’s across class movements there is that they’re people
who are professionals and so on but they have been very instrumental in Princes
organizing a few jamberry for Modi when he came from minister when he came to
Wembley which actually a Cameron had a walk-on part I mean he appeared this is
the sitting Prime Minister of this country is a sidekick of you know a
foreign leader to try and get the Indian vote so and and Labour MPs were saying
they’d give them you know raising their wages to Ward’s this thing so they do
raise money for their own causes but also for charitable causes
outside but those charitable causes are also about restructuring and reordering
what what’s happening you know the villages
in India so for instance placing encouraging conversion so you get people
called na ba Hindus and new Hindus who may have been Muslims who taken on a
Hindu name and building around temple in the middle of the village and things
like that so a lot of these projects just slaps after a while given that
they’re registered charity in the UK do you think they provide any public
benefit I don’t I think no I think quite dangerous as a registered try I think
you know I’m not in favor of banning groups and things like that but I don’t
see why they’re a charity and I don’t see why half the charities or the
charities charities in deepening of a jumper don’t answer that one I love it well
it’s it’s government it’s set up by the government – it’s the charity regulator
for overage charges in the UK it’s funded by the government
it’s underfunded given the vast number of charities there are there are big
questions about just how effective it can be as a regulated with the funding
it has and vast number of charities that we have we are actually at the moment
preparing a report on charities in the UK and the role of the Charity
Commission so that will be coming out shortly so be careful that any other
questions the lady over what worries me is the perhaps the
Indians are doing the same thing if one looks at the Rigveda
it talks about people from the north the indo-european is countering that the
darker-skinned to Philippians and you talked about the the many contradictions
I mean you know where do you start the thing is those of itself is full of
contradictions and is lived with those contradictions and I think the genius of
in the threads that it’s it’s taken on some of those it’s sort of internalized
some of them so it allows some of them to grow and develop and become key
mobilizing movements like the ROM Janmabhoomi movement I mean there’s a
court case due soon which may or may not settle that issue I mean the parties
have said that they will abide by it but the ram anujan case that was mentioned
earlier I mean there are numerous versions of the rama and in fact they’ve
been exhibitions attacked which showed these different versions some of them
had been written by early RSS writers so they’re parts of India where or Sri
Lanka where Rama and Sita seen as brother and sister now I mean the
dominant version that we all grew up with
obviously Sita was Rams wife and his faithful and devoted wife you know
throughout her life but that’s the point you see that there
you’re saying there’s one authentic version but then many versions of the
this this story and different groups in India have lived and worshipped
according to different versions of the story and for me I mean I’m not a
religious person but I have most of my relatives are some of my relatives are
very religious some not but the the you know then the act of being Hindu was to
be able to live with whichever stories you want and to worship how you want and
in fact we don’t see ourselves in that way of monotheistic religions that you
have one central text and one central place that’s the Holy Land and one
central way of worshipping I would say that that’s not very Hindu you know
because it is so diverse in its practice okay we’ve got time for about two more
questions I’ll take the the one on back row there and then the gentleman the
green shirt there do you think in this case no in a word
it was organized by the Commerce the the Indira Gandhi had been murdered by her
Sikh bodyguards and communist leaders and activists in very similar ways to
what later happened in goodra they got hold of petrol they got hold of rations
and so on and in a very systematic way went out to largely poor Sikh
neighborhoods and massacred people and raped them and burnt them and so there
are some allegations of the RSS may have been involved as well but actually the
primary responsibility has to be with the Communist Party and it was a
horrific set of massacres for which there still is no justice and
accountability on that I think I mean the this was raised by this gentleman
other people have said you know why you talking about 2000 – what about 1984 on
that particular issue the civil liberties community has very clean hands
in the sense that one they mobilized a lot of my friends mobilized worked in
the refugee camps and so on they also organized investigations they named the
guilty parties they named MPs and other Congress leaders who are involved and
had been you know witnesses had seen them and so on so there’s a mountain of
evidence around this and it really was I mean every party is capable of
committing atrocities and doing it for political gain and that’s what happened that’s a good one because I’ve been a
lot of changes to the textbooks I mean Hitler has been hugely popular raised
and which is why it’s quite remarkable that the the links with the Jewish right
within Israel are very very strong and because this is a party that openly
supports Nazism I think the issue of I mean the key issue for the BJP is not so
much creation theory in the Christian sense the quick its creation theory is
about the audience which is why it’s talked about that and I think you know
there is an attempt to teach that in the South you’re right it has been largely a
northern party but it’s spreading to other areas through alliances so their
key southern parties which had their origins and anti Brahminical movements
and in fact for quite a theist and and anti northern and anti many things but
some of them have been in alliance with the BJP but they also have made
alliances in some of the eastern states which are now Christian majority states
were wouldn’t have thought that they would have made much headway but they
have they have I think become very much more National Party than lay than they
were before thank you bright drinks away drinks away and before we wrap up I’ve
just got a few announcements to make about some upcoming events of the NSS
tomorrow the NSS Roadshow rose on to Leicester well there’ll be a historical
talk investor secular hall from Bob Porter on chatting Cowan who is the
longest-serving president of the NSS that sort will be repeated in London on
the 13th of September in 20 on the 27th of October we’ll be in Birmingham for a
conference on healthcare and secularism so that will look at something
the issues around the intersection of seculars and healthcare some very kind
of important issues are at infant circumcision conversion therapy and
conscience exemptions so please do join us in Birmingham for that one if you can
on the 18th of May next year and this hasn’t been released yet tickets aren’t
on sale but they will go on sale next week but I can I can announce
exclusively today that we’ll be having a major international conference in London
on religious freedom and its limits really exploring the concept of
religious freedom we’ve got a really good lineup of speakers for that so
please do join us I get your tickets early to avoid disappointment for that
conference that’s in May next year right just leads me to thank kita again for a
very stimulating and informative lecture thank you very much please do if you
wanted to speak to yourself or any of the campaign team that are here today or
some of our directors please do join us for drinks outside where we’re happy to
take questions just please show your appreciation for Geetha gum you

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