Weekly Letter to the President
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ofthisandthat.org. All rights
INAUGURATION, January 20, 2009
Drunk in its stale air
For two hundred years.
Fettered in mind and body,
The soul, the safe escape
To let me breathe the cries
Of my heart singing
Tears of mel-an-choly.
The tears flow free today
Washing the stains of blood
And sweat in brotherhood.
Raise the curtain then an'
Let the world look in
On this promised land --
We breathe free today.... almost.
--- Arshad M. Khan
We will be known forever by the tracks we leave.
--- Native American proverb
June 15, 2018 (posted June 19, 2018)
Mr. President: The prominent journalist and editor, Shujaat Bukhari was leaving work
when he and his two bodyguards were shot and killed. Suffice to say newspapers are
the lifeblood of democracy and Indian administered Kashmir under the decades-long
grip of a half-million strong security force has a questionable claim. Yet brave
journalists, unafraid, write and sometimes pay the consequences.
Following Mr. Bukhari's murder and the thousands attending his funeral, the security
services have raided presses shutting down newspapers. The internet is not quite as
easily controlled, so some have been busy updating their sites.
Since Gauari Lankesh was brutally murdered at her doorstep in September 2017,
another four journalists have lost their lives. She, too, espoused views contrary to the
ruling party's current philosophy of an India aligned only with the mores of
Jawaharlal Nehru and Gandhi, the principal Indian leaders who fought many decades
for independence would have been appalled. Gandhi protected low caste
untouchables referring to them as the 'children of god'; they are now known as Dalits.
Nehru, a Brahmin by birth, was a socialist in belief. His dream was of a secular,
socialist India. The latter is long over, the former under vicious attack as Muslim and
Christian minorities are marginalized. In addition to journalists, three heavyweight
intellectuals have been killed. All were rationalists, the Indian word for atheists.
Gandhi was assassinated less than six months after independence by a right-wing
Hindu nationalist who was angry at Gandhi's moderate attitude toward Muslims. The
assassin Nathuram Godse was a member of the extreme-right Hindu Mahasabha
political party, and had his roots in the paramilitary, Hindutva-promoting Rashtriya
Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). Its militancy has led to its being banned three times:
after the Gandhi assassination, during the Indira Gandhi emergency rule in the
mid-1970s, and for its role in the Babri Mosque demolition. The British also found its
beliefs beyond the pale and banned it during their rule.
Not only is the RSS flourishing now but it serves openly as the ideological mentor of
the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Together they continue to push their agenda
for a Hindu India tolerating only Hindu culture or beliefs, in other words, Hindutva or
Hindutva scholar Shridhar D. Damle confirms what is quite well known, that the RSS is
now exerting its influence in academia, government and cultural organizations. The
laws restricting cow slaughter are not a Narendra Modi whim. Mr. Modi joined the
RSS at the age of eight, was nurtured and nourished by it, the philosophy seeping
into his bones like mother's milk; any moderation necessitated only by political
The RSS infiltration of academia is pervasive. Last year, its think tank, Prajnah
Pravah, summoned 700 academics including 51 university vice-chancellors
(presidents) to Delhi to attend a workshop on the importance of a Hindu narrative in
higher education; just one example of influencing what can be taught. A gradual loss
of academic freedom has been the frightening consequence of constant interference
backed up by its militancy -- frightening because dying with intellectual freedom,
journalists, writers and thinkers is also Indian democracy ... slowly but surely, unless
the voters stand up to the RSS sharkhas (volunteers) at the next election.
Nobody knows who killed Mr. Bukhari. But when the standards have been set and a
certain climate prevails, does it mean much?