India: Amit Shah; Write History From An India Point Of View



Union home minister Amit Shah on Thursday said there was a need to rewrite history from the Indian point of view.(PTI Photo)

Union home minister Amit Shah on Thursday said there was a need to rewrite history from the Indian point of view.

He also said the First War of Independence in 1857 would have been regarded as a revolt had it not been for Veer Savarkar, who called it the first freedom struggle. The BJP leader’s remarks about the Hindutva icon came two days after the Maharashtra BJP unit said in its election manifesto that the party would ask the Center to confer the Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian award, on Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, popularly known as Veer Savarkar.

“Had it not been for Veer Savarkar, the 1857 ‘kranti’ (revolt) would not have become history and we would have been seeing it from the British point of view,” the home minister said.

“It was Savarkar who gave the name First War of Independence to the 1857 ‘kranti’, otherwise, our children would have known it as a revolt,” he said, inaugurating a two-day international seminar on ‘Guptvanshak-Veer: Skandgupta Vikramaditya’ at Banaras Hindu University (BHU) in Varanasi. Bharat Adhyayan Kendra of BHU organised the event.

Shah appealed to Indian academics to stop blaming British historians and Leftists for writing the ‘wrong history of India’.

“How long you will keep criticising the British and the Leftists for injustice to Indian history? Who stopped you from writing history based on truth,” Shah said, adding that there was a need to write India’s glorious history, which had suffered injustice, based on facts and truth.

He asked the historians to write the history of 25 such kingdoms and 200 such great personalities who were overlooked by historians. “Forget who wrote what. Don’t get into controversy. Write history from the Indian point of view,” Shah said.

Discussing the Maurya and Gupta dynasties, Shah said both took Indian culture to the great heights across the world. He said the Indian boundary extended up to Afghanistan during the reign of Skandagupta, which he described as a golden era. There were world class facilities in various fields, including military, literature and history, in the Gupta ruler’s time, the home minister said.

Congress district unit chief Prajanath Sharma said that the BJP was trying to tear the pages of history. “Everyone knows about Vinayak Damodar Savarkar. They are trying to saffronize the whole of Indian history,” he said.

Prof Rajiv Kumar Srivastava, who teaches History at BHU, said, “Recognition of 1857 mutiny as the first war of Independence changed the direction of the freedom movement.”

First Published: Oct 18, 2019 03:03 IST

India: In Assam, uncertainty over citizenship status grips Bengali colonies



In Assam, uncertainty over citizenship status grips Bengali colonies

This year, Bikash Saha and Dilip Kumar Basak were planning to celebrate the 50th anniversary of their neighbourhood puja with a Rs 10 lakh replica of Gujarat’s imposing Somnath temple as the pandal.

INDIA Updated: Sep 02, 2019 06:02 IST

Dhrubo Jyoti and Sadiq Naqvi
Dhrubo Jyoti and Sadiq Naqvi

Several members of the Arja family have been excluded from NRC.
Several members of the Arja family have been excluded from NRC.(HT Photo)

Durga Puja is barely a month away, but the festive mood has been punctured by the final National Register of Citizens (NRC) in the Bengali-dominated village of Khairabari in lower Assam’s Barpeta district.

This year, Bikash Saha and Dilip Kumar Basak were planning to celebrate the 50th anniversary of their neighbourhood puja with a Rs 10 lakh replica of Gujarat’s imposing Somnath temple as the pandal. The families of neither have made it to the final citizen’s register.

“It seems like they are determined to not accept many of us Bengalis,” said Basak, who runs an iron welding shop. He had submitted his father Narayan Chandra Basak’s citizenship certificate given at a refugee camp in Coochbehar in 1956.

Watch| Day after final Assam NRC list, Center says excluded people ‘not state-less’


Day after final Assam NRC list, Center says excluded people ‘not state-less’
A day after publication of the final list of the National Register of Citizens, the Ministry of External Affairs issued a clarification.


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Saha, who lives in a small two-bedroom house inside a slum, has bigger problems. He was dubbed a D or doubtful voter five years back. Border police and election officials can mark anyone a D voter if they suspect he or she to be an illegal migrant.

Saha has since been fighting a case against his designation as D voter in the Barpeta foreigners tribunal. His dubious citizenship status has meant that his two children have also been struck off the citizenship rolls.

“We are not sure what to do now,” said Saha’s wife, Padma. “What do we have to fear? We have papers. We will appeal,” she said, waving a sheaf of photocopied documents.

Not everyone is as upbeat. Across Khairabari, where many Hindu Bengali-speaking families settled down after fleeing riots and religious persecution in erstwhile East Pakistan, the exclusion from the NRC has fomented resentment and suffering. Planning finances for trips to the foreigner tribunal for appeals have replaced holiday plan buzz at neighborhood pan shops.

Hari Arja, for example, had to pawn his wife’s gold earrings for Rs 7,000 to attend a hearing on his NRC status in August. He had submitted documents that showed his grandfather Mahadev Das, who fled to India from then East Pakistan, was on the 1970 voter list, but failed to finally prove that he was indeed the grandson – a consequence of the family taking to the Arya Samaj faith and changing their surname.

“We gave our refugee card, our voter ID and our PAN card. We do not know if they want to throw out all Bengalis. Maybe they do not want us here,” he said. His neighbours, all Bengali-speaking Hindus and supporters of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), nodded.

HT found similar expressions of exclusion and worry throughout Bengali Hindu settlements in Barpeta, Guwahati, Hojai, and Silchar. “We have lived through worse times but now this is a new devil,” said Arja’s neighbour, Biswanath Das.

Guwahati’s Panbazar area is a world away from the slushy mud roads of Khairabari, but surgeon Paromita Chakraborty is as worried as Saha.

Chakraborty hails from a respected caste Hindu family. But on the draft list released in June last year, she found that she and her sisters’ names were missing. In addition, her husband, Pinaki Bhattacharjee, and their son were also out of the NRC.

“We thought it was a clerical error. My husband’s grandfather sold land to the then chief minister Gopinath Bordoloi in 1951, and their family draws lineage from the chief priests of the Kamakhya temple. I utterly fail to understand what happened,” she said.

On Saturday, she was relieved to see that she, her husband and son had made it. But her elderly mother, 75-year-old Sulekha Chakraborty, had not. Sulekha, who hails from Tezpur, had submitted her matriculation certificate from 1962 and her a document showing her father’s name on the 1971 voter roll.

“She went for a hearing three times. We are not worried about the appeal because we have the documents but this is humiliating, and nothing but harassment,” she added.

Harassment is also how Sanjay Sammanit, a resident of Salmara-Dumuria in Assam’s Baksa district, described the process that excluded his family from the NRC. Sammanit’s father, Satyendra, had left then East Pakistan in 1964 and possessed a so-called citizenship card, which Sammanit submitted. But to his dismay, he realised that his father’s name is spelled slightly differently, without the Y, in his school-leaving certificate, which he had submitted to prove his lineage.

“They want to throw us out. I do not trust these tribunals for appeal. I have heard they are biased,” he added.

Four hundred kilometres away in Hailakandi, pan shop owner Raghunath Das would have nodded in agreement. The 55-year-old was born to parents, who fled violence in East Pakistan and was the fourth of five brothers and a sister. His parents spent most of their life travelling across the state with the eldest brother, Chunilal, who was in the border force. As a result, they never got any documents made or stayed at a place for long enough to be included on the voter rolls.

“I do not think they ever thought we will need documents this badly. When the NRC process began in 2015, I had no papers of my own,” said Das. He ultimately submitted his school-admission certificate from 1969 and his brother’s service record certificate, but still found himself out of the NRC. “I do not know how to appeal or what more I can get,” he said.

Bengali-speaking Hindu communities comprise over 6 million people across Assam. They dominate the Barak Valley and many of them carry the scars of violence from East Pakistan towns and villages where clashes erupted even before Partition.

The University of Delhi sociologist Nabanipa Bhattacharjee said the migration into Assam was spurred on by the inclusion of Sylhet in East Pakistan and further ballooned in the aftermath of communal riots in 1950.

“Particularly in erstwhile Cachar, the refugee relief and rehabilitation measures were shoddy and dismal, to say the least,” she said.

The Barak Valley – comprising the Muslim-majority districts of Hailakandi and Karimganj and the Hindu-majority district of Cachar – was an early hunting ground for the BJP. An overwhelming majority of the seats it won in the state in the early 90s came from the region.

Political commentator Sushanta Talukdar said the refusal of mainstream parties to deal with the citizenship anxieties of the local population in Barak left an opening for the BJP. Over time, the party expanded its base to other pockets in the state. Though Talukdar is careful to mention that this support may be temporary and that other parties such as the Congress continue to have some traction among Bengali speakers.

“These communities were suffering on the question of voting rights or citizenship. In this context, the BJP brought up the citizenship amendment bill and found takers especially among those who migrated because of religious persecution,” he added. The bill promises citizenship to non-Muslim refugees, who have come to India from Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.

But after Saturday’s final NRC list, a perception has taken hold that large numbers of Bengali-speaking Hindu people have been excluded. This perception has been fuelled by comments made by senior BJP leaders themselves, such as state unit chief Ranjeet Kumar Dass. Dass said many refugees, who came to India before 1971, were not included and people with surnames such as “names like Saha, Ganguly, Biswas etc. were intentionally excluded”.

There appeared to be three big reasons for the exclusion. One, that many such families only had their so-called citizenship cards, issued at refugee camps, to show as proof of their presence in Assam before March 25, 1971 – the cutoff date for citizenship.

“But the authorities did not accept the citizenship certificates and the refugee cards in many places,” said Santanu Naik, advisor to the North East Linguistic and Ethnic Coordination Committee.

In a report to the Supreme Court in 2016, state NRC coordinator Prateek Hajela cited many reasons for not accepting citizenship certificates and refugee registration certificates, key among them being that the issuing authority’s offices had closed down, making verification impossible. These documents were also found prone to forgery. The top court allowed the certificate to be used, but after greater scrutiny.

“The claims made on the basis of Refugee Ration Cards, Migration Document or Citizenship Registration Certificates were mostly rejected. This is the reason behind the large exclusion of Bengali Hindu people from NRC this time,” said Taniya Laskar, a Silchar-based activist.

Many Bengali speaking women from West Bengal and Tripura, who live in Assam, also complained that their documents from the two states were not accepted. Bengali-speaking Hindus also form a sizeable number of the three categories of people who were automatically excluded: declared foreigners, those marked doubtful voters and those with cases pending before a foreigners tribunal.

“Based on perception, it seems like a large section of Bengali Hindus may have been excluded. The BJP may be worried because of its electoral support base among them,” said Talukdar.

The BJP appears to be aware of this. Dilip Paul, a BJP legislator from Silchar said the NRC final list was a “flop show” and admitted that the party was under some pressure after many Bengali Hindus found themselves excluded from the NRC. “We will bring the CAB. Just wait and watch. It is a matter of time,” added Rajdeep Ray, the Silchar MP.

“Since the beginning, the BJP has been promising to protect the interests of Bengali-speaking Hindus and bring the citizenship amendment bill but it has betrayed these people. They used the bill only for polarisation and votes,” said Ripun Bora, state Congress chief.

First Published: Sep 01, 2019 23:45 IST

India: Sushma Swaraj, BJP stalwart dies at 67



Sushma Swaraj, BJP stalwart and former external affairs minister, dies at 67

Sushma Swaraj died of cardiac arrest at the age of 67 in New Delhi.

INDIA Updated: Aug 07, 2019 08:42 IST

HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent

Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Sushma Swaraj was external affairs minister in Narendra Modi’s first government
Sushma Swaraj was external affairs minister in Narendra Modi’s first government(Arvind Yadav (HT FILE Photo))

Former external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, who extended a helping hand to many Indians in distress abroad and acquired a reputation as one of the most accessible ministers in the first term of the Narendra Modi government, died suddenly on Tuesday night after a cardiac arrest. She was 67.

Swaraj, who was India’s first full-time woman foreign minister (Indira Gandhi held additional charge of the ministry when she was prime minister) suffered the cardiac arrest late in the evening and was immediately taken to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS). She died after efforts to revive her failed.

“She was brought to the hospital after she had collapsed at home. She reached AIIMS emergency at about 09:35 pm,” said a hospital spokesperson.

WATCH | Remembering Sushma Swaraj: Fiery Opposition leader, transformative foreign minister

Remembering Sushma Swaraj: Fiery Opposition leader, transformative foreign minister
Bharatiya Janata Party stalwart and former Union Minister Sushma Swaraj breathed her last in Delhi on August 6, 2019.


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A team of doctors attempted cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) to revive her, but she couldn’t make it. “All resuscitative measures were taken but she could not be revived,” the spokesperson added.

Union health minister Harsh Vardhan, who was at the hospital, confirmed her death.

In her last tweet, at 7:23 pm, Swaraj posted: “Thank you Prime Minister. Thank you very much. I was waiting to see this day in my lifetime.” It was a reference to the Lok Sabha effectively abrogating Article 370 of the Constitution that gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir and converting the state into two Union territories — J&K and Ladakh — realising what had always been a key objective of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its members.

Prime Minister Narenda Modi said Swaraj’s passing was a personal loss for him.

“She will be remembered fondly for everything that she’s done for India. My thoughts are with her family, supporters and admirers in this very unfortunate hour. Om Shanti,” he wrote on Twitter.

Swaraj is survived by her husband, Swaraj Kaushal, and their daughter Bansuri, who are both lawyers by training, like the minister too was.

Swaraj, a nine-time member of Parliament, opted out of contesting the April-May general elections, making the announcement as early as November last year. To be sure, that Swaraj may not fight a direct election after undergoing a kidney transplant in December 2016 and been suffering from diabetes had been an open secret within the BJP.

“It is the party which decides, but I have made up my mind not to contest the next [Lok Sabha] elections,” Swaraj said in Indore in the middle of the election campaign in Madhya Pradesh, adding that she had conveyed her decision to the party leadership because of health reasons. She did say that she wasn’t quitting politics, only not contesting the election.

“Madam [Sushma Swaraj] – Thank you very much for your decision not to contest any more elections. I remember there came a time when even Milkha Singh stopped running,” her husband Swaraj Kaushal, a former governor of Mizoram, said in a series of tweets after her announcement.

Also read: ‘Come tomorrow for Re 1 fee’: Swaraj told Harish Salve; died an hour later

Swaraj was replaced as external affairs minister in the second term of the Narendra Modi government by former diplomat S Jaishankar, who said after his appointment that he was proud to follow in the footsteps of Swaraj.

Modi praised her performance in the ministry. “I can’t forget the manner in which Sushma Ji worked tirelessly as EAM in the last 5 years. Even when her health was not good, she would do everything possible to do justice to her work and remain up to date with matters of her Ministry. The spirit and commitment was unparalleled,” he wrote on Twitter.

Swaraj entered the Haryana assembly in 1977, and became a minister in the state cabinet at the age of 25. She was a former chief minister of Delhi and has been part of every BJP government at the Centre except the current one. Her electoral challenge to then Congress president Sonia Gandhi from Bellary, Karnataka, in 1999 was one of the most discussed electoral battles of the 1990s. Gandhi won the election by 56,000 votes.

She served as minister for information and broadcasting as well as health minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led BJP government from 1998 to 2004. She won the 2009 election to the 15th Lok Sabha from the Vidisha Lok Sabha constituency in Madhya Pradesh and became Leader of Opposition

“We are saddened to hear about the untimely demise of Smt Sushma Swaraj. Our condolences to her family and loved ones,” the principal opposition party, the Congress, which was among the first to express condolences over the death of Swaraj, wrote in a tweet.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said he was shocked, describing her as an “extraordinary political leader, a gifted orator & an exceptional Parliamentarian, with friendships across party lines.”

The fact that her popularity cut across political lines was clear from the reactions of Congress leaders such as Shashi Tharoor and P Chidambaram to her decision not to contest the elections.

“For all our political differences, I am sorry that Sushma Swaraj will leave Parliament,” Tharoor said.

“Braving illness, Smt Sushma Swaraj has served the country with great dignity. We wish Smt Sushma Swaraj good health and a long life,” Chidambaram tweeted at the time.

n her stint as external affairs minister, Swaraj was recognised as perhaps the minister most accessible to ordinary people, who actively sought her out for help when they found themselves in a crisis, whether it was someone who had lost a passport while abroad or offering a visa to someone who found the red tape involved in getting one too much to handle. She did so with gentle humour. One Twitter user, software engineer Samit Padhy wondered whether it was indeed Swaraj who was responding to the tweets or “some PR guy” “doing his/her duty for what they are being paid for.” Swaraj replied in March: “Rest assured – it’s me, not my ghost.”

First Published: Aug 06, 2019 23:27 IST

India: 36 calls from family for help to the police for protection, now they are dead



Before car crash, Unnao rape survivor’s family sent 36 SOS messages in 15 months

Family members claim they approached the police and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) but were forced to finally write to the Chief Justice of India on July 12, demanding action ‘against people who were threatening the victim’s family.”

INDIA Updated: Aug 01, 2019 09:45 IST

Chandan Kumar
Chandan Kumar

Hindustan Times, Lucknow
On Sunday, the Unnao rape survivor , her family and lawyer were travelling in a car which was hit by an overspeeding truck in Raebareli, killing two members and leaving the survivor and the advocate critically injured.
On Sunday, the Unnao rape survivor , her family and lawyer were travelling in a car which was hit by an overspeeding truck in Raebareli, killing two members and leaving the survivor and the advocate critically injured. (PTI file photo)

Over the past year, family members of the 19-year-old rape survivor from Unnao, Uttar Pradesh, wrote letters to top government officials, politicians and police officers seeking protection and help.

A majority of these missives — 36 since April 2018– were pleas for protection against four-time Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) legislator, Kuldeep Singh Sengar, who is accused of raping the teenager. But the family says that most of the letters elicited no response from any of the authorities addressed.

“No one helped us. Police turned down our requests to take action against the MLA’s henchmen who had been harassing and threatening us,” said the woman’s maternal uncle.

Family members claim they approached the police and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) but were forced to finally write to the Chief Justice of India on July 12, demanding action ‘against people who were threatening the victim’s family.”

Also read: What Unnao rape survivor has been through since June 2017

Watch | CJI to take up Unnao rape survivor’s letter on threats; CBI books accused MLA

CJI to take up Unnao rape survivor’s letter on threats; CBI books accused MLA
The Supreme Court took cognizance of a letter written by Unnao rape survivor alleging threat to her life. CJI Ranjan Gogoi said that he would take up the letter on Thursday.


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In August 2018, the family wrote to the CBI, which was probing the rape case, saying they were getting threats from Sengar’s associates. After receiving the letter, the CBI shifted Senger from Unnao jail to Sitapur jail.

In a letter to then principal secretary (home) of Uttar Pradesh Arvind Kumar on July 12 , the victim’s mother said the family was receiving threats from a man called as Manoj Singh, who is Sengar’s brother.

Also read: From village chief to MLA, Unnao rape accused Sengar’s clout grew quickly

“Manoj with one Kannu Singh and two other unidentified men drove down to my house and said that they have fixed the judge and arranged for release of Kuldeep Singh,” she wrote.

In another letter to the director general police (DGP) OP Singh on July 11, the mother claimed a threat by Haripal Singh, husband of Sashi Singh, one of the accused in the rape case. Sashi Singh is currently lodged in Unnao district jail.

Madhaw Prasad Verma, the Unnao superintendent of police, acknowledged that ”several” letters were written to the SP’s office by the family. “Most of the letter was about threat for which security was already provided to the victim. Officers here tell me that the security details of the victim were alerted on many occasions in response to these letters.”

Also read: Unnao rape survivor is critical but stable, continues to battle for life

First Published: Jul 31, 2019 23:51 IST

India: ‘Will Bengal shun all central funds?’



‘Will Bengal shun all central funds?’ BJP’s Narendra Singh Tomar slams TMC

In an interview with Hindustan Times, Tomar talked about working with states to address issues in the agrarian economy and was critical of West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s refusal to implement the flagship scheme of the government.

INDIA Updated: Jul 27, 2019 08:33 IST

Sunetra Choudhury and Zia Haq
Sunetra Choudhury and Zia Haq
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Narendra Singh Tomar,Bharatiya Janata Party,BJP
Union minister for agriculture and rural development Narendra Singh Tomar.(Hindustan Times photo)

If the West Bengal government doesn’t want to implement PM Kisan Yojana, the National Democratic Alliance’s (NDA) flagship scheme to tackle the agrarian crisis — it promises ~6,000 a year to farmers in three instalments — then it should consider returning all Central funds, Union minister for agriculture and rural development Narendra Singh Tomar said on Friday.

In an interview with Hindustan Times, Tomar talked about working with states to address issues in the agrarian economy and was critical of West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s refusal to implement the flagship scheme of the government.

Read Narendra Singh Tomar’s full interview here.

“This is cheap politics. West Bengal is using all other funds. Will she return funds for Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana or MGNREGA funds or Aajivika funds?” he asked.

Also Watch: ‘Will handle drought situation if it arises’: Union Minister Tomar

‘Will handle drought situation if it arises’: Union Minister Tomar
In an exclusive conversation with Hindustan Times, Union Minister Narendra Singh Tomar spoke on the weak monsoon and fears of a drought like situation in the country.


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Tomar, who is from Morena in Madhya Pradesh, also to hit out at the state’s Congress chief minister, Kamal Nath. Commenting on two Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MLAs voting for a bill along with the Congress in the state assembly even as BJP leaders were claiming that the Nath government would fall in much the same way the Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) coalition in Karnataka did on Tuesday, he said that the two were still with the saffron party.

“The two BJP legislators have not resigned from the BJP. Nor have they written to the Speaker saying they are not in the BJP anymore. (The Kamal Nath) government isn’t functioning well. That much I can say. Corruption has peaked, things are going out of control and there is chaos in the state.”

First Published: Jul 27, 2019 07:00 IST

India: Anger in South over draft policy’s Hindi ideas



Anger in South over draft policy’s Hindi ideas

Although the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), an ally of the Bharatiya Janata Party, was muted in its response, the Tamil Nadu government maintained that the state will persist with a two-language formula – Tamil and English.

INDIA Updated: Jun 01, 2019 23:54 IST

MC Rajan
MC Rajan
Hindustan Times, Chennai
Hindi imposition,three-language formula,languages in school
According to the draft National Education Policy that was made public by the new government, the three-language formula should be introduced at an earlier stage in schools.(Ministry of HRD/Twitter )

In Tamil Nadu, where language is an extremely sensitive issue and an old slogan, “English Ever, Hindi Never,” still holds resonance, the draft national policy on education has incensed political parties by calling for the adoption of a three-language formula in schools — Hindi, English and the local mother tongue in non-Hindi states.

Parties of every political shade — from the opposition Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) to the Left and actor Kamal Haasan’s fledgeling Makkal Needhi Maiam — slammed the report, which they saw as a precursor to the imposition of Hindi. Pro-Tamil parties projected it as a Dravidian versus Aryan fight.

“The DMK will never allow imposition of Hindi. It will raise its voice in Parliament and outside and strive to stall it,” DMK’s newly elected Lok Sabha MP Kanimozhi Karunandhi said.

Although the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), an ally of the Bharatiya Janata Party, was muted in its response, the Tamil Nadu government maintained that the state will persist with a two-language formula – Tamil and English.

“Tamil Nadu will continue to have the two-language formula and there is no move to either change it or dilute it,” AIADMK veteran and education minister KA Sengottaiyan said.

According to the draft National Education Policy that was made public by the new government, the three-language formula should be introduced at an earlier stage in schools.

“Since children learn languages most quickly between 2-8 years, and multilingualism has great cognitive benefits for students, children will be immersed in three languages early on, from the foundational stage,” the policy said. Suggestions of Hindi’s domination like a reference to the 54% of Indians who speak Hindi didn’t go down well in Tamil Nadu.

“In keeping with the principle of flexibility, students who wish to change one of the three languages they are studying may do so in Grade 6, so long as the study of three languages by students in the Hindi-speaking states would continue to include Hindi and English and one of the modern Indian languages from other parts of India, while the study of languages by students in the non-Hindi-speaking states would include the regional language, Hindi and English.”

In response to the outcry in Tamil Nadu, a senior human resource development ministry official said: “If anyone has any difficulty, they should express (it). We take all views into account when the policy is taken to the cabinet. 30th June is the date before which they can give views on the policy.’’

Information and broadcasting minister Prakash Javadekar wrote in a Twitter post: “There is no intention of imposing any language on anybody, we want to promote all Indian languages. It’s a draft prepared by committee, which will be decided by govt after getting public feedback “

Linguistic politics has been a feature of Tamil sub-nationalism since 1938, when protests erupted against a move by then premier of the Madras Presidency, C Rajagopalachari, to make Hindi compulsory in schools. Two men who were arrested for participating in the protests, Natarajan and Thalamuthu, and died in police custody were deified as martyrs to the cause of Tamil.

Rajagopalachari, known as Rajaji, himself became a convert and opposed the imposition of Hindi.

Massive protests erupted against Hindi again in 1965 and pro-Tamil activists committed suicide by self immolation and consuming poison. And riding on this wave of protests, the DMK rose to power in the 1967 assembly elections. No national political party has since emerged as an alternative to the Dravidian parties of Tamil Nadu.

Even now, the slogans of those days, “English Ever, Hindi Never”, “Let the body go to the grave, giving life to Tamil,” find occasional resonance.

Conscious of the political overtones of language pride in the Dravidian land, MNM founder and actor, Kamal Hassan, who has also acted in HIndi-language movies, made it clear that the language shouldn’t be imposed.

“Imposing a language is wrong. The option should be left to the people and facilities should be provided to learn any language {they want to}. Imposition would be counterproductive,” he told journalists.

Going a step further, Marumalarchi DMK (MDMK) leader Vaiko warned that Hindi imposition would lead to another language war.

“If the Centre is bent upon imposing Hindi upon us, another language war would erupt in Tamil Nadu as it happened in 1965,” he warned.

Incidentally, Tamil Nadu is the lone state in India where Navodaya Vidyalayas, residential schools meant for gifted students, haven’t been allowed on grounds that it would encourage the backdoor entry of Hindi. Both the DMK and AIADMK are on the same page on this issue.

Political parties in the state harp on late first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s assurance that Hindi would never be imposed on non-Hindi speaking states unless they accepted the language. They also invoke a similar assurance by late Prime Minister Lal Bhadur Shastri.

“Widely spoken in the country, Hindi is one among the keys to political power at the Centre. But instead of thrusting it, the BJP government should facilitate its learning,” reasoned C Lakshmanan, associate professor at the Madras Institute of Development Studies.

First Published: Jun 01, 2019 23:54 IST

2 TMC legislators, 56 councillors in Bengal quit party to join BJP



2 TMC legislators, 56 councillors in Bengal quit party to join BJP

BJP leader Mukul Roy’s legislator son, Subhrangshu Roy, was among the three legislators who crossed over. TMC’s Tusharkanti Bhattacharya and CPM’s Debendra Nath Roy were two others.

INDIA Updated: May 29, 2019 00:17 IST

HT Correspondents
HT Correspondents
Hindustan Times, New Delhi/Kolkata
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said at an election rally in Hooghly last month that 40 MLAs from the TMC would join the BJP after the elections. (RAJ K Raj/ HT Photo)

A mass defection of elected representatives from West Bengal’s ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) took place five days after the results of the Lok Sabha elections were declared, with two MLAs, 56 municipal councillors and three rural body representatives switching camps. A Left legislator, too, joined the BJP in the same event.

The BJP won 18 and the Trinamool 22 of the state’s 42 Lok Sabha seats. The BJP won two and the TMC, 34, in 2014.

BJP leader Mukul Roy’s legislator son, Subhrangshu Roy, was among the three legislators who crossed over. TMC’s Tusharkanti Bhattacharya and CPM’s Debendra Nath Roy were two others.

With most of the councillors switching their political affiliation, three municipalities — Kanchrapara, Halishahar, and Naihati — will be now be controlled by the BJP. Currently, TMC controls these urban bodies.

The party has also gained the support of the majority of the corporators at Bhatpara municipality, where a no-confidence motion will be brought in soon, BJP MP Arjun Singh said.

Until now, not a single civic body was under the control of the BJP.

“People are fleeing the TMC to join the BJP. Many more will join in the coming weeks,” Mukul Roy said at a press conference at the BJP headquarters in New Delhi. A BJP leader who asked not to be named claimed at least six more TMC MLAs would switch to the BJP next week.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said at an election rally in Hooghly last month that 40 MLAs from the TMC would join the BJP after the elections.

“We want her [Mamata Banerjee] government to continue till 2021, but if it falls due to her doings, then we cannot help it,” BJP general secretary in charge of West Bengal Kailash Vijayvargiya said.

Of Tuesday’s defectors, while Subhranshu continued in TMC despite his father joining BJP in November 2017, Bhattacharya won in 2016 on a Congress ticket but joined the TMC last year.

“TMC leader Derek [O’Brien] said that not a single corporator would desert TMC for BJP. Today, there are more than 50. There are three MLAs. Just like we had a seven-phase elections, there will be a seven-phase joining from TMC in the coming months,” added Vijayvargiya.

Vijayvargiya said that he could not rule out the Mamata Banerjee government losing majority in the state assembly before the scheduled elections in 2021.

“We want to win Bengal through the 2021 assembly elections. Our best wishes are with Mamata Banerjee till then. But if her MLAs start deserting the party in such numbers, we should not be blamed [for early fall of the government].”

State food minister Jyoti Priya Mullick, who is also the party’s North 24-Parganas district unit chief, tried to put up a brave face. “We were once reduced to a party of one MP [in 2004], from where we rose to a 19-MP strong party [in 2009]. We are Mamata Banerjee’s army and under her leadership all damages will be reversed.”

Refuting allegations that the party was indulging in horse trading, BJP leader Roy, who was the convener of the party’s Bengal Lok Sabha election management committee, said, “If anybody indulged in horse trading, it is Mamata Banerjee. How else did the MLAs, who won on Congress tickets, become TMC’s?”

Elections in more than half of Bengal’s civic bodies are due in 2020.

A total of eight leaders from other parties joined the BJP in the run up to the LS polls in Bengal. They were Anupam Hazra and Saumitra Khan (MPs from TMC), TMC MLA Arjun Singh and TMC youth wing leaders Nishith Pramanik and Sankudeb Panda, CPI(M) MLA Khagen Murmu, Congress MLAs Dulal Bar and Sudip Mukherjee.

Of these, the party nominated Hazra, Khan, Singh, Pramanik and Murmu for the elections.

Saumitra Khan, Arjun Singh, Nishith Pramanik and Khagen Murmu won from Bishnupur, Barrackpore, Cooch Behar and Malda North LS constituencies respectively.

Three other leaders who had joined BJP from other parties in 2018 — Humanyun Kabir, Mafuza Khatun and Nilanjan Roy — were also given Lok Sabha tickets but they lost.

First Published: May 29, 2019 00:16 IST

India Elections: For Karnataka coalition, a year of living dangerously



Lok Sabha elections 2019: For Karnataka coalition, a year of living dangerously

The alliance was forged in the confusion that surrounded the results of last year’s state elections.

LOK SABHA ELECTIONS Updated: May 23, 2019 07:51 IST

Vikram Gopal
Vikram Gopal
Hindustan Times, Bengaluru
Karnataka legislature,Lok Sabha elections,Lok Sabha elections 2019
The BJP had come closest to a majority, winning 104 of the 224 seats to emerge as the largest single party in the assembly.(HT Photo)

Exactly a year ago to the day, leaders of opposition parties from across the country sat on a platform in front of the majestic Vidhana Soudha , the seat of the Karnataka legislature, in a show of solidarity to mark the swearing-in of a new coalition government in the state.

Chief minister HD Kumaraswamy of the Janata Dal (Secular), or JD (S), and deputy chief minister G Parameshwara of the Congress took the oaths of office and secrecy that day following days of intrigue over government formation.

The alliance was forged in the confusion that surrounded the results of last year’s state elections. The BJP had come closest to a majority, winning 104 of the 224 seats to emerge as the largest single party in the assembly. The Congress had been reduced from a majority to 80 seats, after providing the first government in over two decades to complete a full term in Karnataka. With the support of the 37 MLAs of the JD(S), and the lone Bahujan Samaj Party legislator, the coalition cobbled together a majority of 118.

And although it began with promise, the coalition has spent a tenuous year in power, fretful about legislators switching allegiance to the BJP and bickering among themselves.

Matters reached a head in January when the coalition appeared to be teetering on the brink after four Congress legislators went missing. The four rebels had been expected to defect to the BJP; only one, Umesh Jadhav, eventually did so. Another MLA, Ramesh Jarkiholi, has stated publicly that he would quit the party at a suitable time.

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These issues have continued unabated, as was seen again on Wednesday. JD(S) state president AH Vishwanath, a long-time foe of former Congress chief minister Siddaramaiah, once again rebuked him for failing in his duty as the chief of the coalition’s coordination committee.

“Siddaramaiah, as chief of the coordination committee, should ensure we work together and also draw up a common minimum programme. However, there are no such guidelines for this government,” Vishwanath said.

One key factor in these internecine quarrels has been the overhanging shadow of the Siddaramaiah government. And Siddaramaiah’s influence over the government has been such that even Congress leaders have lashed out at him. On Monday, Congress MLA Roshan Baig accused Siddaramaiah of being arrogant.

The Lok Sabha seat division and subsequent election campaign, too, turned into a flash point as first the parties took a long time on settling on a seat-sharing formula. The Mandya Lok Sabha seat became the focal point for dissenting leaders from both sides. Independent candidate Sumalatha, wife of the late film star and former union minister MH Ambareesh, received the tacit backing of Congress leaders from the constituency. As a result, what had once seemed to be a cakewalk for Kumaraswamy’s son Nikhil turned into one of the most bitterly fought contests. These infractions from the Congress were serious enough for party president Rahul Gandhi to instruct state leaders at a meeting in New Delhi on Sunday to make sure the coalition did not collapse. Privately, several leaders of the coalition admitted to HT that the arrangement was fraying fast, with both parties daring the other to pull the plug.

“The alliance was not formed to provide good governance, it was formed to show the country that we can work in a coalition. If we cannot hold on to a coalition with one party, how will we convince others nationally that they can forge a large front with us,” a senior Congress minister in the state government said.

According to the minister, it was apparent to the party that its vote base in the southern old Mysuru region was being affected by the alliance. “Politically there has been little benefit for us from this at the state level. In fact, our association with this government is hurting our image,” the minister said.

These fundamental differences have made the BJP sense that a collapse of the government may be around the corner. On Wednesday, Union minister DV Sadananda Gowda predicted that the government would fall by the evening of Thursday, when the results of the Lok Sabha elections will be declared .

First Published: May 23, 2019 06:54 IST

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Indian PM Narendra Modi and his party just swept India’s elections



Indian PM Narendra Modi and his party just swept India’s elections

It was a stunning victory for Hindu nationalism.

A supporter of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) wearing a mask of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi dances as he celebrates on the vote results day for India’s general election in Bangalore on May 23, 2019.
 Manjunath Kiran/AFP/Getty Image

The world’s largest democratic elections have concluded — and India’s pro-Hindu nationalist prime minister and his party are on pace to win by a landslide.

The early results from India’s weeks-long general election show a clear victory for incumbent Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), which has so far won 300 of a total of 543 seats in parliament. The BJP seems to have trounced its main rival, the Congress Party, led by Rahul Gandhi, the scion of a famous political dynasty.

Modi and the BJP swept into power in the 2014 elections with a majority win, the likes of which hadn’t been seen in 30 years, promising to clean up the pervasive corruption plaguing the country and improve the economy.

But once he came into office, Modi began pushing a strident form of Hindu nationalism that inflamed tensions with many of the country’s minorities, including India’s sizable Muslim population.

Media reports have noted a dramatic rise in hate crimes during the five years Modi has been in power. Vigilante groups have sprung up around the country to protect cows, which are sacred to Hindus. A report by Human Rights Watch found that at least 44 people were killedbetween May 2015 and December 2018, most of them Muslims accused of storing beef or transporting cows for slaughter. Oftentimes, the guilty were not punished, and hate crimes were encouraged by speeches from senior BJP leaders. In May 2017, the Modi government banned the sale and purchase of cows for slaughter.

Meanwhile, Modi’s grand economic promises have not been met — unemployment in the country is now the highest it’s been in 45 years, and there are growing concerns of an economic slowdown.

So when the 2019 election rolled around, Modi decided to lean into his nationalist platform, which served to divert attention from the country’s more pressing problems. And now that the results are in, it’s clear his gamble paid off.

Modi’s economic record was his biggest liability in this election — but he clearly managed to overcome it

When Modi won in the 2014 election, his party defeated the Congress Party-led government by winning 282 seats. The Congress Party, routed at the polls, managed to win only 44 seats.

Modi’s sweep in the 2014 elections was based on a platform of development. His slogan was “Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas,” or “inclusive growth through collective effort.” He promised to wipe out corruption, improve infrastructure, and boost the economy. For a citizenry and businesses tired of rampant corruption, Modi’s slogan offered a hopeful change.

But those promises have not materialized. Unemployment reportedly grew to 7.2 percent in February. And a leaked government report on unemployment revealed that the numbers were the highest in 45 years.

Some of Modi’s economic policies have also gone horribly wrong. In 2016, he introduced demonetization — in a surprise move, he pulled all 500- and 1,000-rupee currency notes out of circulation. He claimed it would get rid of corruption, as it would flush out unaccounted cash that had not been taxed.

He also claimed that the move would check the circulation of fake currency that was being used to fund terrorist activities in IndiaBut experts say it’s had no effect on this type of money. Instead, small businesses were severely hit.

There are other problems, too: Farmers in India have been distressed for years as costs have gone up several times while their incomes have stagnated or even declined. In fact, suicides by farmers because of their debt are depressingly common. Farmers played a big role in helping Modi sweep to power in 2014, as he’d promised to double their incomes.

But that hasn’t happened, either. The BJP government announced it would provide cash support of 6,000 rupees (about $86.22) for individual farmers in its February budget, one of a raft of policies aimed at securing the farmer vote before the election. Yet there was no guarantee that last-minute gambit would work, as farmers want more lasting solutions, including better prices for their crops — something Modi also promised in the last election.

Modi played to voters’ nationalist sentiments to distract from the country’s problems

When he released this year’s election manifesto, Modi announced a new slogan: “Nationalism is our inspiration.” It was a stark contrast to his previous economy-focused slogan and a clear signal of the kind of campaign he planned to run.

And sure enough, as political scientist Ashutosh Varshney, whose research focuses on India, explained in an email, Modi and his party campaigned on a “plank of nationalism and national security” rather than on their governance record.

In his campaign speeches, Modi used divisive language. At a public rally, he accused Congress of committing the “sin of defaming our more than 5,000-years-old [Hindu] culture.” And in keeping with the Hindu nationalist ideology of India’s glorious past, he promised a “new India,” and a return to its “glorious past.”

A recent conflict with neighboring Pakistan may have also helped him in this regard. In February, a group of militants launched an attack in the Indian-controlled region of Kashmir, killing dozens of soldiers. As anger mounted in India in the wake of the attack, Modi promised forceful retaliation.

His government later claimed to have struck a major terrorist training camp located in the Pakistani-controlled part of Kashmir and killed “a very large number” of militants in response. Modi’s approval rating surged to 63 percent on March 7 after this action, up from a dismal 32 percent on January 1.

“National security was one of the loudest themes of the campaign,” Varshney said. The message that Modi had “hit back [against Pakistan] strongly, was decisive, and had taught the enemy a lesson worked well.”

It also helped that Modi’s main opponent, Rahul Gandhi, failed to convince voters to support him over Modi.

Gandhi comes from a famous political dynasty: His grandmother, Indira Gandhi, was India’s first female prime minister, and his grandfather, Jawaharlal Nehru, was the first prime minister following the end of British rule. His father, Rajeev Gandhi, was also prime minister of India. Both his grandmother and his father were killed violently while still in office.

In this election, Rahul Gandhi promised a “final assault on poverty.” He said that if elected, his government would provide a minimum income for the poor and waive farmers’ debts. He also promised to increase the education budget, and, in an attempt to woo women voters, said he would reserve 33 percent of government jobs for women.

However, the Congress Party has come to be perceived as one that favors the Gandhi family — Rahul is the fourth generation to lead the party — over the country.

And Modi has used this to his advantage, taking repeated swipes at “dynasty politics” and speaking about the costs India suffered as a result of one family’s “desire of power.” He specifically pointed to the 21 months of emergency in 1975, during which then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s opponents were imprisoned, the press was censored, and civil liberties were curbed.

For many Hindus, the Congress Party was also seen as a party that “appeased” minorities for political gains, an issue that resonated strongly with Modi supporters. In what was seen as a clear attempt to counteract this perception, Gandhi and his sister Priyanka, who campaigned alongside him, were often seen frequenting Hindu temples.

But it seems that wasn’t enough to overcome the seductive power of Modi’s nationalism.

The new government will now have to address the growing economic crisis.

Modi’s party may be victorious, but that doesn’t mean its troubles are now over.

Recent media reports have pointed to worrying signs of an economic slowdown. The BBC reports that economic growth has shown a decline, and sales of cars and SUVs are at a seven-year low. Kaushik Basu, former chief economist of the World Bank, told the BBC that the slowdown is “much more serious” than he initially believed.

Another big challenge facing the new government is providing jobs to an increasing number of young Indians. Some 84 million young voters became eligible to vote this year. Additional employment opportunities are urgently needed, but the unemployment data is not promising.

A recently leaked report based on official government survey data revealed that unemployment hit a 45-year high of 6.1 percent in 2017. A 2018 International Labour Organization (ILO) report also showed that the number of unemployed people in India is projected at 18.9 million by 2019.

Even more concerning, though, is whether Modi will continue to try to distract from the country’s economic troubles with even more overt appeals to Hindu nationalism.

Experts such as Varshney told me that if Modi comes back with a strong mandate from voters, a Hindu nation is almost certain, in practice if not constitutionally. This means that India’s rich and diverse culture — as well as its very identity — may be under threat.

Kalpana Jain worked for many years at India’s leading national daily, the Times of India, and was a Nieman fellow at Harvard in 2009.

For more on India’s 2019 elections, listen to this episode of Today Explained, Vox’s daily news podcast.

India: At Bengal rally, PM Modi stings Mamata with an offer of a drawing



At Bengal rally, PM Modi stings Mamata with an offer of a drawing

Both the BJP and Trinamool have blamed each other for the violence at Amit Shah’s roadshow on Tuesday evening. A statue of renowned Bengal reformer, Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, was destroyed and a college named after him ransacked in the violence.

LOK SABHA ELECTIONS Updated: May 15, 2019 19:05 IST

HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
At a rally in Basirhat, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee appeared to have lost her mental balance when she claimed that she did not consider Modi as India’s Prime Minister.(ANI)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday stepped up his party’s attacks on Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee at a rally in Bengal’s Basirhat, accusing Trinamool Congress of letting its goons loose because the party was scared of its defeat in the national elections.

“The BJP wave in Bengal has scared Didi and look to what level she has stooped,” PM Modi said, blaming her party for the violence at his party president Amit Shah’s Kolkata roadshow. A statue of renowned Bengal reformer, Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, was destroyed and a college named after him ransacked in last evening’s violence, which the BJP and Trinamool leaders have angrily blamed on each other.

“Mamata Banerjee is high on power and wants to strangle democracy… Mamata Didi had declared publicly two days ago that she will avenge every inch of space that she loses to the BJP…. She has fulfilled her agenda within 24 hours,” he said.

Also read:Amit Shah blames Mamata for roadshow violence, holds up 3 photos as proof

PM Modi also panned the chief minister for the arrest of a youth BJP leader in Bengal for sharing Mamata Banerjee’s morphed photo on social media. Her arrest has already been criticised by the BJP which has sought to use the incident to project Mamata Banerjee as a dictator.

WATCH: Mamata meme row: BJP worker alleges delayed release, forced apology

Mamata meme row: BJP worker alleges delayed release, forced apology
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) youth wing worker Priyanka Sharma on Wednesday alleged that the West Bengal government delayed her release. She added that the police didn’t allow her to meet her advocate, family and made her sign an apology.


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The prime minister recalled Mamata Banerjee’s outburst at two students who asked her an inconvenient question at a televised interaction. Then he came up with an offer.

“You can draw my picture… make it as offensive as you want and after 23 May when I win, you can come over to gift it to me,” PM Modi said at the rally. Moments earlier, the prime minister had predicted his victory in the national elections and declared that Bengal would contribute a big share.

“I will accept the drawing and treasure it… I will not file an FIR against you,” PM Modi said.

Basirhat, which is due to vote on May 19 along with eight other Bengal Lok Sabha seats, had been a citadel of the communists for three decades before Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool breached it in 2009.

Communal violence had erupted in some parts of this constituency in July 2017 after a derogatory social media post on the Prophet Mohammad went viral. The violence was ultimately contained after a week but some of the fault lines have persisted.

The votes of the bitterly-fought seven-phase elections are due to be counted on May 23.

PM Modi, who had described Mamata Banerjee as someone who was afraid of her own shadow, said the chief minister appeared to have “crossed all limits and lost her mental balance” when she recently said that she did not consider Modi the Prime Minister.

“She is not ready to consider the Prime Minister of India as the PM… but she accepts the PM of Pakistan as Pak PM,” he said.

First Published: May 15, 2019 16:45 IST