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Hinduphobia of The Caravan

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Hinduphobia of The Caravan

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This is the third part of the series on anti-Hinduism as an industry written by Pankaj Saxena.

As the previous essay in this series noted, the editors of The Caravan are leftists, specializing in anti-Hinduism. Not just the editors, but the writers that grace the space of the magazine are also anti-Hindus, suffering from acute Hinduphobia.

Apart from the editors, some of the most prominent names that write for the magazine are: Ramachandra Guha, Pankaj Mishra, William Dalrymple, Basharat Peer, Praful Bidwai, Girish Karnad, and Ananya Vajpayee. All are well-known Hindu baiters.

Let us analyze what this eminent array of leftist scholars and writers have to say about India, Hindus and Hinduism.

Portrayal of the UPA vs Portrayal of the BJP and Modi

The general assessment of the UPA government, both in public and among scholars was that of an extremely ill-managed, dysfunctional and corrupt government. It was this assessment that led to the near-total decimation of the Congress in 2014.

However, The Caravan, which prides itself upon frank journalism, is all praises for Sonia Gandhi and her regime.

Shiv Vishvanathan, in his May 2014 article, “Decadence And Decline: An obituary for ten years of the United Progressive Alliance” gives a glowing tribute to the UPA government:

“To me, the Congress and the United Progressive Alliance were legendary. The alliance was a microcosm of Indian society and reflected the interests of all minorities, marginal groups and castes. It was like a giant family, and absorbed all the strains and stresses of political life.”

upaFrom this, can we reasonably conclude that Shiv Vishwanathan regards the UPA’s decade-long corruption legendary as well? Also, that the hodge-podge motley group that the Congress managed to patch up after the shocking election results was like a ‘giant family’ for Shiv. Can sycophancy be more pronounced? He goes on to exonerate the UPA from almost every crime it committed:

“The decline of the UPA can be read as three concentric dramas. In the first, the UPA flattered as an act of social imagination, only to deceive as an act of politics. This failure was thickened by the drama of the second circle—serial waves of conspicuous corruption. The third circle was the UPA’s manner of self-projection: its spinelessness, its failure to defend its social activists, and its inability to look allies in the eye and say no to corruption.”

The impression given here is that the UPA was a great social experiment which then became ‘just politics’. The corruption, the scandals, the blatant anti-Hinduism, the neglect of India’s internal and external security, all of this, was ‘just politics’? Only the Congress’s allies, Vishvanathan asserts were the culprits. The only fault of Congress was that it was not able to rein them in.

Next, Santosh Desai terms UPA’s failures as ‘modest’ (July 2013).Magazines like The Caravan were launched during the regime of the UPA with an anti-Hindu goal, propping up state-sponsored hacks like Ramachandra Guha, a cricket commentator turned self-styled historian.

Magazines like The Caravan depend on a regime like the UPA for their ideological and financial survival and hence have a direct stake in propping up corrupt and deadly anti-Hindu regimes.

It was natural that such a magazine would find no traction with the BJP government led by someone like Narendra Modi. And so, as it started becoming clear that Modi would be BJP’s candidate for the post of the Prime Minister and that the BJP could win, The Caravan fast-tracked its efforts to denigrate Modi, the BJP and the RSS.

Vinod K Jose, the editor of The Caravan, in a 18,000-word long story on Modi, “The Emperor Uncrowned” (May 2012) manages to repeat all the familiar secular clichés about Modi: that he considered himself above the Party; that Gujarat is not developed; that children in the state are malnourished; that Modi’s success is just a public relations matter; and that he orchestrated Gujarat riots.

While Vinod K Jose dismisses the mass murder of Hindus in Godhra train massacre as an accident, he describes in graphic and lurid detail, (mostly imagined and unsubstantiated), how Hindus ‘massacred’ Muslims. And this is the least vicious attack on Modi and the BJP. Other articles in The Caravan far surpass in their partisanship towards Congress and against the BJP.

Kashmir

The Caravan’s position on Kashmir is that it is an independent entity which Indian government has forcibly occupied and that the “Hindu” Indian Army commits unimaginable atrocities on Kashmiri Muslims, the least of which is cannibalism. The only writers that The Caravan entertains on the Kashmir issue are either Kashmiri separatists or virulent anti-Hindus.

j&kThus, Basharat Peer, Wazahat Ahmed and Mehboob Jelani are its choices. All of these are separatists and demand that Kashmir should at least become independent if not a part of Pakistan. On the other hand, there is not a word on the ethnic cleansing of Kashmir Pandits.

Randeep Ramesh in his July 2011 article, “Chhoti Azadi” on Kashmir calls it a ‘disputed area’ and calls its inhabitants to directly demand freedom from India.

“Kashmir’s new public intellectuals must work towards freedom, not just seek redress for murderous acts of state extremism. Although information technology lent an emotional intensity to the protests that had been missing in recent years, what was familiar were the killings. Beneath snowy peaks that sawtooth the cobalt blue skies of Kashmir, English-speaking youth took to the streets with little more than stones in their hands and slogans on their lips. Last summer, 120 died in largely peaceful protests. But unlike in the Middle East, where dreams of liberty were realised this year, Kashmir remains a hellish place of torture, gun battles and rape. Described by a Mughal emperor as paradise, today it is a nightmare from which its population never wakes.”

Remember that there is nothing about the ongoing genocide of the Balochs or the anti-Shia massacres in Pakistan. There is nothing about gross violations of human rights in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

Mehboob Jelani calls Islamic terrorists ‘disillusioned Kashmiri militants’ and glorifies their ‘homecoming’. (September 2012) Basharat Peer and Wazahat Ahmed argue on similar lines.

But it is Sanjay Kak who crosses into the realm of absolute fantasy. In a March 2013 article, The Apparatus: Laying bare the State’s terrifying impunity in Kashmir, he rakes up fantastic and ridiculous charges against Indian Army and Indian State. The article is full of such imagined rubbish, but one example will be enough to portray the kind of writing on Kashmir that The Caravan entertains.

He narrates how the Hindu soldiers of Indian Army prowl the Kashmiri countryside, catch young, strong and apparently bare-chested Muslim males, kill them, cut them into little pieces, cook them and then eat their human flesh with relish!

Kashmiri Muslim women offer to get raped by these Hindu soldiers so they would spare their husbands and sons, but these Hindu soldiers are from Hell and do not spare anyone.

Kak even acknowledges that this story is apocryphal but he continues to treat it is truth!

The description of bare-chested handsome Muslim males, working in the valley with sweat glistening on their naked bodies, who are then caught and eaten by Hindu soldiers, borders on homoerotica.

Sanjay Kak is not the first one to depict Hindus in racist terms, but his unique blend of Hinduphobia and homo-erotica is something truly ingenious.

Gujarat Violence

The burning alive of Hindus in a train coach at Godhra that led to the subsequent violence in Gujarat and related issues are also treated by The Caravan in the typical anti-Hindu tenor.

Thus Hindus were the sole culprits and killed Muslims in droves; the BJP government and Narendra Modi preplanned the massacres; and that the Godhra train burning was a sabotage by the BJP and the VHP.

Aakar Patel in his April 2013 article, “Riot Act” on the movie Kai Po Che’s depiction of the Gujarat violence, lays the blame squarely on the Hindus, Modi and the BJP:

“…that the violence in Gujarat was one-sided. It was Hindus slaughtering Muslims in their neighbourhoods. …this violence was not discouraged by the state in the years that the Hindu right has ruled it.”

Ayodhya

The Caravan writer on the issue of Ayodhya and the Rama Janmabhoomi dispute is Christophe Jaffrelot.

He repeats all the secularist clichés of the debate, holding the majority Hindus to be culprits of vandalism while whitewashing the history of the destruction of thousands of Hindu temples (October, 2010).

He steers the discussion towards the RSS, the VHP, Bajrang Dal and the wider politics related to the issue. And these forces are of course held to be the culprits.

babriWhat is surprising is that there is no mention of Koenraad Elst and his seminal works on Ayodhya and Ram Janmabhoomi dispute.

Until Meenakshi Jain’s brilliant work on the issue, Rama and Ayodhya, was published last year, Elst’s four works on the issue were the only comprehensive summaries of the entire controversy.

The fact that The Caravan entirely skips these comprehensive works on the Ayodhya controversy and instead pedals the lies of a declared enemy of the Hindus shows where it stands.

Hinduphobia

The Caravan suffers from an ailment common in the Indian political space: Hinduphobia.

Indeed, one can cite several examples of Hinduphobia in the articles carried by The Caravan. In the interests of space, we can quote a few here.

Rahul Bhatia in a September 2012 article on Baba Ramdev claims:

“In time, he (Swami Ramdev) leaped effortlessly from prescribing healthy living to encouraging the abdication of science: Breathing, Ramdev has said, “is the perfect nanomedicine”.

Yoga is internationally recognized for its all-round health benefits, which positively both impacts our minds and bodies. The UN recognized its value in its first-ever International Yoga Day on 21 June 2015.

However, for Rahul Bhatia, suggesting alternative medicine of Ayurveda and the practice of Yoga, is the ‘abdication of science’.

He dubs Baba Ramdev political. But does he mention about the political nature of the Shahi Imam of Delhi? Or the Mullahs and Maulvis who issue all sorts of regressive and morbid fatwas on a daily basis?

“Hindu terror” too, is a favourite theme with The Caravan writers.

Christophe Jaffrelot and Leena Reghunath are regularly concerned about ‘Hindu terrorists’. They make unverifiable claims about the connection of the accused in the Malegaon blasts case with senior RSS and BJP leaders (September 2014).

Aileen Blainey goes to a Durga Vahini camp, which trains Hindu women in self-defense and calls that an exercise of Hindu patriarchy! (August 2013)

The Caravan’s Beef with Beef

Given its Hinduphobia, it is not a surprise that The Caravan unequivocally supports and promotes beef-eating. However, it crosses a line when it promotes lies, claiming that every Hindu eats beef, that everyone in India, except few hundreds of RSS-wallahs is a beef-eater.

The Caravan’s promotion of beef-eating has been ongoing since its inception.

The Karnataka Assembly Bill against beef-eating in 2010 was the first instance when Caravan voiced its opinion on beef-eating.

Vinod K Jose in his article “The Beef Over Buff: Why Karnataka’s Cattle Slaughter Bill is Simply Ridiculous” (September 2010) posits the major tenets of The Caravan’s beef-promotion campaign.

cowHe starts by a racist value-judgment that Hindus don’t care at all for animals or cows:

“give a token roti to a wandering city cow, and leave them to survive on rotten vegetables from garbage heaps, which include toilet litter, construction debris, and medical waste.”

Then he claims that beef ban does not make economic sense. And what about ecological sense?

Ecologically speaking, beef is one of the costliest animal proteins. It has the highest imprint on the environment.Hindus are sermonized on every one of their festivals that they should care about ecology: thus the “instructions” for water-less Holi and eco-Ganesha. Given this, shouldn’t ecology come into the calculation when beef-eating is under question?

Apparently not. For The Caravan, even ecology matters only when Hindus’ beliefs are in question. Against Islamic beliefs of course, ecology is not even a factor.

Vinod K Jose goes on to repeat the same unsubstantiated lies that were peddled by the state-sponsored ‘authors’ and “historians” such as R S Sharma and D N Jha that the Vedas contain references of eating beef. Proof? Not needed.

Then an obscure, long-forgotten work is dredged out of the libraries. It is an excerpt, titled “What is the Taste of the Meat of the Dead Cattle?” (27 June 2015) out of the book, Baluta, an autobiography of a Dalit, published in 1978.

It describes scenes of eating dead cattle by the Mahar caste. So out of millions and millions upon cases of castes from all rungs of social hierarchy in India who don’t eat beef, the editors of The Caravan dive deep into the forgotten annals and fish out one account which does describe beef eating.

That the veracity of the account cannot be proved does not inconvenience The Caravan. That thousands of other literary works describe a typical Indian village where beef-eating is the greatest taboo does not affect them.

In another ‘beef-eating’ article by Bijoy Venugopal, “A Beef-Eater Locks Horns with the Bans” (March 27, 2015), the author prides himself upon his diet which includes pretty much everything that walks on this earth from beef to even fruit bats! Then he tries hard to impress that everyone in India, wherever you go, eats beef.

Claims like these are unsubstantiated and so do not need a rebuttal. It further illustrates the parochial understanding of the author who is a Malayali.

In Kerala, beef-eating is of course prevalent, mainly because of the high Muslim and Christian populations. But juxtaposing that as a trend for the entire country is both wrong and dishonest.

What is important here is The Caravans support of beef-eating is in the name of ‘freedom of food’, ‘economy in food’ and ‘beef as a nutritious choice’.

One would accept The Caravan’s motives if it would run stories encouraging Muslims to eat pork; where it would condemn Maulvis and Mullahs who issue fatwas against eating haram food; where it would stress the easy availability and the nutritious value of pork to the Muslims.

Does it run such stories? No.

All the sermonizing is reserved only for the Hindus. Religious sensibilities can be harmed only when they are Hindu. Muslim and Christian sensibilities are sacrosanct for The Caravan.

Islamophilia

The anti-Hinduism industry is incomplete without Islamic apologetics, or Islamophilia, the love of anything Islamic. The Caravan excels in Islamophilia.

While it bashes each and every aspect of Hinduism, Hindu culture and society, it excuses the worst of the Islamic crimes and even manages to glorify them as ‘humanitarian initiatives’.

Thus Ferzina Banaji in her December 2010 article declares burqa as a secular revolutionary symbol!

The burqa, the very sign of oppression of women, a device to ‘prevent women from sexually arousing men’ becomes a symbol of rebellion, and revolution.

In a November 2014 article, madrassa education is justified on the basis that they linguistically empower the students. That they preach fundamentalist Islam; that they churn out potential terrorists; that they encourage misogyny, homophobia, xenophobia and many other kinds of discrimination is not an issue for The Caravan.

Any crime done in the name of Islam is excused, even celebrated. On the other hand, Sanskrit institutions are attacked for their ‘majoritarianism’ and ‘Brahamanical value system’.

The magazine also glorifies ‘Islamic entrepreneurship’, and condemns Israel for its ‘lack of freedom of expression’.

A typical narrative of the Hindu-Muslim riots runs like this:

“On 27 August, in nearby Kawal village, two young Jat men, Sachin and Gaurav, had allegedly been murdered in retaliation for killing a Muslim youth, Shahnawaz.”

Note that Hindus are always ‘allegedly murdered’, while Muslims are always killed by Hindus without any doubt.

On every single issue significant from the socio-cultural, political and religious point of view, The Caravan is a Hinduphobic magazine.

Neither is it not alone in this path. The next part of this series will explore another such magazine which was established for the sole purpose of churning out a Hinduphobic agenda.

References

[1] From this point on, most of The Caravan articles that are under discussion here are referred in the brackets with the date of publication.

[2] (Refer to March 2011 by Jaffrelot; and February 2014 article by Leena Reghunath)

[3] Banaji, Ferzina. “The Autumn Issue: Has the burqa become a Che Guevara-like symbol: separated from its religious meaning and co-opted into a popular cultural narrative?” The Caravan Magazine. 1 December 2010.

[4] Kaur, Gagandeep. “Divine Tongues: Madrasa students find a niche in the job market.” The Caravan Magazine. 1 November 2014.

[5] Sonya Fatah (August 2012)

[6] Maya Guarnieri (December 2012)

[7] March 2014, – Anjali Mody –

Pankaj Saxena

Pankaj Saxena is a scholar of History, Hindu Architecture and Literature. He has visited more than 400 sites of ancient Hindu temples and has photographed the evidence. He's also writes articles, research papers and reviews in various print and online newspapers and magazines and is the author of three books.