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FTR #1015 Update on Hindutva Fascism

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This broadcast was recorded in one, 60-minute segment.

Introduction: In numerous programs, we have highlighted the Nazi tract Serpent’s Walk, which deals, in part, with the rehabilitation of the Third Reich’s reputation and the transformation of Hitler into a hero.

In FTR #’s 988 and 989990, 991, and 992, we detailed the Hindutva fascism of Narendra Modi, his BJP Party and supportive elements, tracing the evolution of Hindutva fascism through the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi to the present time.

Modi’s BJP is a political cat’s paw for the RSS, the Hindutva fascist organization that murdered Gandhi.

It appears that a Serpent’s Walk scenario is indeed unfolding in India.

As the saying goes, you can’t judge a book by its cover. There are exceptions: When a children’s book is entitled “Great Leaders” and has a picture of Adolf Hitler standing next to Barack Obama, Mahatma Gandhi, and Nelson Mandela, that’s a book cover that suggests this book should be skipped.

Key points of analysis and discussion include:

  1. Narendra Modi’s presence on the same book cove(along with Gandhi, Mandela, Obama and Hitler.)
  2. Modi himself has his own political history with children’s books that promote Hitler as a great leader: ” . . . . In 2004, reports surfaced of high-school textbooks in the state of Gujarat, which was then led by Mr. Modi, that spoke glowingly of Nazism and fascism. According to ‘The Times of India,’ in a section called ‘Ideology of Nazism,’ the textbook said Hitler had ‘lent dignity and prestige to the German government,’ ‘made untiring efforts to make Germany self-reliant’ and ‘instilled the spirit of adventure in the common people.’  . . . .”
  3. In India, many have a favorable view of Hitler: ” . . . . as far back as 2002, the Times of India reported a survey that found that 17 percent of students in elite Indian colleges ‘favored Adolf Hitler as the kind of leader India ought to have.’ . . . . Consider Mein Kampf, Hitler’s autobiography. Reviled it might be in the much of the world, but Indians buy thousands of copies of it every month. As a recent paper in the journal EPW tells us (PDF), there are over a dozen Indian publishers who have editions of the book on the market. Jaico, for example, printed its 55th edition in 2010, claiming to have sold 100,000 copies in the previous seven years. (Contrast this to the 3,000 copies my own 2009 book, Roadrunner, has sold). In a country where 10,000 copies sold makes a book a bestseller, these are significant numbers. . . .”
  4. A classroom of school children filled with fans of Hitler had a very different sentiment about Gandhi. ” . . . . ‘He’s a coward!’ That’s the obvious flip side of this love of Hitler in India. It’s an implicit rejection of Gandhi. . . .”
  5. Apparently, Mein Kampf has achieved gravitas among business students in India” . . . . What’s more, there’s a steady trickle of reports that say it has become a must-read for business-school students; a management guide much like Spencer Johnson’s Who Moved My Cheese or Edward de Bono’s Lateral Thinking. If this undistinguished artist could take an entire country with him, I imagine the reasoning goes, surely his book has some lessons for future captains of industry? . . . .”
  6. Hitler’s shockingly popular reputation in India, is due, in part, to the efforts of Bal Thackeray, the now deceased chief of the Shiv Sena party which is a long-standing BJP ally. ” . . . .Thackeray freely, openly, and often admitted his admiration for Hitler, his book, the Nazis, and their methods. In 1993, for example, he gave an interview to Time magazine. ‘There is nothing wrong,’ he said then, ‘if [Indian] Muslims are treated as Jews were in Nazi Germany.’ This interview came only months after the December 1992 and January 1993 riots in Mumbai, which left about a thousand Indians slaughtered, the majority of them Muslim. Thackeray was active right through those weeks, writing editorial after editorial in his party mouthpiece, ‘Saamna’ (‘Confrontation’) about how to ‘treat’ Muslims. . . .”
  7. Again, Thackeray felt that the treatment Hitler meted out to the Jews should be meted out to Muslims” . . . . Thackeray said this about the führer’s famous autobiography: ‘If you take Mein Kampf and if you remove the word Jew and put in the word Muslim, that is what I believe in.’ . . . .”

Next, we further develop the operational link between Pierre Omidyar (of EBay and Intercept fame) and Narendra Modi’s BJP (a political front for the Hindutva fascist RSS. (We covered this in–among other programs–FTR #889.)

Jayant Sinha, the lead advisor for the Omidyar Network in India became Narendra Modi’s finance minister and is now a member of parliament. Sinha garlanded (adorned with flowers) eight men convicted of killing a meat trader last year as part of a far right Hindu national “cow vigilantism” campaign. The killing was caught on video. One of the killers was a local BJP leader.

The killing  of Alimuddin Ansari took place a day after Modi belatedly proclaimed that “killing people in the name of cow protection unacceptable.”

Prior to Modi’s statement, cow vigilantism had been going on for years with a muted response from Modi’s government.

As a result of Modi’s statement, the eleven people involved with the killing were sent to a fast track court and given life sentences in March, making it the FIRST successful conviction over an act of cow vigilantism.

Sinha protested that conviction, claiming that he was convinced that justice was not done. He then demanded that the case be probed again, but by the Central Bureau of Investigation this time.

Fast forward to today: eight of the convicted were released on bail, while they appeal their conviction. They then traveled to Sinha’s residence where they were feted.

The symbolic importance of cow vigilantism isn’t simply a demonstration of the BJP’s willingness to cater to Hindutva fascist ideology. The focus on the cow is part of the atavistic, anti-modernist, anti-pluralist narrative the BJP and its ideological RSS parent have been promoting.

Cow vigilantism is central to a narrative that exalts a mythical time of Brahmanic purity that allegedly existed before the arrival of the British and Muslims on the Indian subcontinent.

Because lower caste Hindus and Muslims who consume beef in India, the cow vigilantism provides a convenient proxy issue to excuse attacks on those seen as ‘other’ by the Hindu nationalists.

As the article puts it, a crucial ingredient to Modi’s political success has been tapping into a nostalgic impulse for a purer past. The sacredness of the cow has come to symbolize that Hindu nationalist drive for national renewal.

” . . . . Under this worldview, the golden age of Hindu rule in the Vedic period, subsequently sullied by foreign pollutants—the British, yes, but the rapacious Muslim in particular—is to be channeled into twenty-first-century renewal, piloted by an arbitrary set of “Hindu values.” And foremost among these is the inviolability of the cow. . . .

. . . . The BJP, as well as its ideological parent organization the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, peddle a version of nationalism that prioritizes exclusivity, in which Indians are rigidly defined by ethnicity and religion. The trope of the cow is thus a convenient instrument, measuring the allegiance to the nation along gastronomical—and thereby spiritual—lines. Non-Hindus are deemed a surplus population, and violence against them is sanctioned in an attempt to cleanse the true body politic. . . .”

In our discussions with Peter Levenda, we have set forth the manner in which fascism mobilizes xenophobic, eugenicist longing for a mythical “purer past” to gain and rally adherents.

” . . . . But the crucial ingredient is the way Modi has tapped into the nostalgic impulse. Svetlana Boym, a Russian-American philologist, has described this as the ‘historical emotion’ of modernity, and argued that attempts to create a ‘phantom homeland’ through ahistorical restoration would only breed monstrous consequences. As she writes in The Future of Nostalgia, it is a ‘restorative nostalgia’ that ‘is at the core of recent national and religious revivals. It knows two main plots—the return to origins and the conspiracy.’

And so we inhabit a landscape where MAGA caps, Little England, the Hindu Rashtra, and the Islamic Caliphate have arrested the imagination of millions. These are all overtures to an Edenic past, promising an order that preserves tradition by purifying society of contagion. . . .”

With 2017 now in the rear view mirror, we conclude the program by capping our revulsion at the Bay Area’s 50th anniversary celebrations of the Summer of Love (1967.) In FTR #991, we detailed the Hindutva fascist/Nazi philosophy of Hare Krishna cult founder and head guru A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.

On 1/29/1967, Prabhupada and his cult were the beneficiaries of monies generated by a concert and dance featuring the leading San Francisco psychedelic-era rock bands. The event also featured participation by LSD guru Timothy Leary, whose activities and career are inextricably linked with the CIA.

Program Highlights:

  1. Hare Krishna cult founder Bhaktivedanta Swami’s fundamental opposition to democracy. “So monarchy or dictatorship is welcome. . . . Personally, I like this position, dictatorship. Personally, I like this.”
  2. Bhaktivedanta Swami’s teachings dovetail superbly with Nazi occult philosophy. ” . . . . Bhaktivedanta Swami, however, speaks extensively about ‘the Aryans’–at least twenty-five of his purports and over a hundred lectures and conversations contain lengthy elaborations on the topic. He places all those whom he calls ‘non-Aryan’ in a category similar to his ‘unwanted population,’ thus dividing humans into two groups: a large group of varna sankara  and non-Aryans on one side, and a small group of Aryans,  ie those who follow varnashram, on the other: ‘Those who traditionally follow these principles are called Aryans, or progressive human beings.’ ‘The Vedic way of life,’ he writes, ‘is the progressive march of civilization of the Aryans.’ ‘In the history of the human race, the Aryan family is considered to be the most elevated community in the world.’ . . . . In more than one fifth of his statements he clearly describes or defines them in racial terms: The Aryan family is distributed all over the world and is known as Indo-Aryan. The Aryans are white. But here, this side, due to climatic influence, they are a little tan. Indians are tan but they are not black. But Aryans are all white. And the non-Aryans, they are called black. Yes . . .”
  3. Bhaktivedanta Swami’s philosophy saw Europeans and Americans as part of, and extensions of, the Aryan race. Note that he, also, invokes the mythical lost past, in which Aryan/Brahmanic culture became degraded. In an address to a French audience, he intoned as follows: ” . . . . So we all belong to the Aryan family. Historical reference is there, Indo-European family. So Aryan stock was on the central Asia. Some of them migrated to India. Some of them migrated to Europe. And from Europe you have come. So we belong to the Aryan family, but we have lost our knowledge. So we have become non-Aryan, practically. You French people, you are also Aryan family, but the culture is lost now. So this Krishna consciousness movement is actually reviving the original Aryan culture. Bharata. We are all inhabitants of Bharatavarsha, but as we lost our culture, it became divided.  So on the whole, the conclusion is that the Aryans spread in Europe also, and the Americans, they also spread from Europe. So the intelligent class of human being, they belong to the Aryans. Aryan family. Just like Hitler claimed that he belonged to the Aryan family. Of course, they belonged to the Aryan families. . . .”
  4. It should  come as  no surprise that Bhaktivedanta was pro-Hitler, viewing the Fuehrer as “a gentleman,” who had to kill the Jews because they were “financing” against him. “. . . . So these English people, they were very expert in making propaganda. They killed Hitler by propaganda. I don’t think Hitler was so bad [a] man. Hitler knew it [the atomic bomb] . . . .  He was gentleman. He said that ‘I can smash the whole world, but I do not use that weapon.’ The Germans already discovered. But out of humanity they did not use it. . . . The activities of such men are certainly very great . . . Therefore Hitler killed these Jews. They were financing against Germany. Otherwise he had no enmity with the Jews. . . . Therefore Hitler decided, ‘Kill all the Jews.’ . . . .”
  5.  An in-depth view of Bhaktivedanta Swami’s view of “shudras” reveals the deep racist/fascistic views of social class/caste. Described variously as “black” or “common,” shudras are the focus of deep ideological contempt. This should be seen against the background of the Aryan racial philosophy of Bhaktivedanta Swami. “. . . . ordinary people; the laborer class; once-born; the lowest class of men; non-Aryan; worker; the black man; he must find out a master; one who has no education; almost animal; just like a dog; he becomes disturbed; one who is dependent on others; they are ignorant rascals; unclean; equal to the animal; no training; fools, rascals. . .  According to his understanding, people of black or dark skin color, as well as native Americans, are shudras, are third-class, degraded, and less intelligent: ‘Shudras have no brain. In America also, the whole America once belonged to the Red Indians. Why they could not improve? The land was there. Why these foreigners, the Europeans, came and improved? So Shudras cannot do this. They cannot make any correction. . . . A first-class Rolls Royce car, and who is sitting there? A third class negro. This is going on. You’ll find these things in Europe and America. This is going on. A first-class car and a third-class negro. . . .”
  6. Bhaktivedanta Swami did not feel that the black American slaves should be freed. ” . . . . Just like in America. The blacks were slaves. They were under control. And since you have given them equal rights they are disturbing, most disturbing, always creating a fearful situation, uncultured  and drunkards. What training they have got? . . .  That is best, to keep them under control as slaves but give them sufficient food, sufficient cloth, not more than that. Then they will be satisfied. . . . ‘So the Kiratas, they  were always slaves of the Aryans. The Aryan people used to keep slaves, but they were treating slaves very nicely.’ And that the Kiratas were Africans, he had explained many times: ‘Kirata means the black, the Africans.’ . . . .”
  7. Bhaktivedanta Swami had some “choice” things to say about women: ” . . . . Generally all women desire material enjoyment.Women in general should not be trusted. Women are generally not very intelligent. It appears that women is a stumbling block [sic] for self-realization. . . . Although rape is not legally allowed, it is a fact that a woman likes a man who is very expert at rape. When a husbandless woman is attacked by an aggressive man, she takes his action to be mercy. Generally when a woman is attacked by a man—whether her husband or some other man—she enjoys the attack, being too lusty. . . .”

1a. We begin by referencing the Nazi tract Serpent’s Walk. Like The Turner Diaries (also published by National Vanguard Books), the book seems to be a blueprint for a Nazi takeover of the United States (rather than a novel), set to take place in the middle of the 21st century. The book describes the Third Reich going underground, buying into the American media, and taking over the country.

Serpent’s Walk by “Randolph D. Calverhall;” Copyright 1991 [SC]; National Vanguard Books; 0-937944-05-X; Back Cover.

It assumes that Hitler’s warrior elite – the SS – didn’t give up their struggle for a White world when they lost the Second World War. Instead their survivors went underground and adopted some of the tactics of their enemies: they began building their economic muscle and buying into the opinion-forming media. A century after the war they are ready to challenge the democrats and Jews for the hearts and minds of White Americans, who have begun to have their fill of government-enforced multi-culturalism and ‘equality.’

1b. This process is described in more detail in a passage of text, consisting of a discussion between Wrench (a member of this Underground Reich) and a mercenary named Lessing.

Serpent’s Walk by “Randolph D. Calverhall;” Copyright 1991 [SC]; National Vanguard Books; 0-937944-05-X; pp. 42-43.

. . . . The SS . . . what was left of it . . . had business objectives before and during World War II. When the war was lost they just kept on, but from other places: Bogota, Asuncion, Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro, Mexico City, Colombo, Damascus, Dacca . . . you name it. They realized that the world is heading towards a ‘corporacracy;’ five or ten international super-companies that will run everything worth running by the year 2100. Those super-corporations exist now, and they’re already dividing up the production and marketing of food, transport, steel and heavy industry, oil, the media, and other commodities. They’re mostly conglomerates, with fingers in more than one pie . . . . We, the SS, have the say in four or five. We’ve been competing for the past sixty years or so, and we’re slowly gaining . . . . About ten years ago, we swung a merger, a takeover, and got voting control of a supercorp that runs a small but significant chunk of the American media. Not openly, not with bands and trumpets or swastikas flying, but quietly: one huge corporation cuddling up to another one and gently munching it up, like a great, gubbing amoeba. Since then we’ve been replacing executives, pushing somebody out here, bringing somebody else in there. We’ve swing program content around, too. Not much, but a little, so it won’t show. We’ve cut down on ‘nasty-Nazi’ movies . . . good guys in white hats and bad guys in black SS hats . . . lovable Jews versus fiendish Germans . . . and we have media psychologists, ad agencies, and behavior modification specialists working on image changes. . . .

1c. Before turning directly to the subject of music, the broadcast addresses the gradual remaking of the image of the Third Reich that is represented in Serpent’s Walk. In the discussion excerpted above, this process is further described.

Serpent’s Walk by “Randolph D. Calverhall;” Copyright 1991 [SC]; National Vanguard Books; 0-937944-05-X; pp. 42-44.

. . . . Hell, if you can con granny into buying Sugar Turds instead of Bran Farts, then why can’t you swing public opinion over to a cause as vital and important as ours?’ . . . In any case, we’re slowly replacing those negative images with others: the ‘Good Bad Guy’ routine’ . . . ‘What do you think of Jesse James? John Dillinger? Julius Caesar? Genghis Khan?’ . . . The reality may have been rough, but there’s a sort of glitter about most of those dudes: mean honchos but respectable. It’s all how you package it. Opinion is a godamned commodity!’ . . . It works with anybody . . . Give it time. Aside from the media, we’ve been buying up private schools . . . and helping some public ones through philanthropic foundations . . .and working on the churches and the Born Agains. . . .

1d.  In numerous programs, we have highlighted the Nazi tract Serpent’s Walk, which deals, in part, with the rehabilitation of the Third Reich’s reputation and the transformation of Hitler into a hero.

In FTR #’s 988 and 989990, 991, and 992, we detailed the Hindutva fascism of Narendra Modi, his BJP Party and supportive elements, tracing the evolution of Hindutva fascism through the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi to the present time.

Modi’s BJP is a political cat’s paw for the RSS, the Hindutva fascist organization that murdered Gandhi.

It appears that a Serpent’s Walk scenario is indeed unfolding in India.

As the saying goes, you can’t judge a book by its cover. There are exceptions: When a children’s book is entitled “Great Leaders” and has a picture of Adolf Hitler standing next to Barack Obama, Mahatma Gandhi, and Nelson Mandela, that’s a book cover that suggests this book should be skipped.

Key points of analysis and discussion include:

  • Narendra Modi’s presence on the same book cover.
  • Modi himself has his own political history with children’s books that promote Hitler as a great leader: ” . . . . In 2004, reports surfaced of high-school textbooks in the state of Gujarat, which was then led by Mr. Modi, that spoke glowingly of Nazism and fascism. According to ‘The Times of India,’ in a section called ‘Ideology of Nazism,’ the textbook said Hitler had ‘lent dignity and prestige to the German government,’ ‘made untiring efforts to make Germany self-reliant’ and ‘instilled the spirit of adventure in the common people.’  . . . .”
  • In India, many have a favorable view of Hitler: ” . . . . as far back as 2002, the Times of India reported a survey that found that 17 percent of students in elite Indian colleges ‘favored Adolf Hitler as the kind of leader India ought to have.’ . . . . Consider Mein Kampf, Hitler’s autobiography. Reviled it might be in the much of the world, but Indians buy thousands of copies of it every month. As a recent paper in the journal EPW tells us (PDF), there are over a dozen Indian publishers who have editions of the book on the market. Jaico, for example, printed its 55th edition in 2010, claiming to have sold 100,000 copies in the previous seven years. (Contrast this to the 3,000 copies my own 2009 book, Roadrunner, has sold). In a country where 10,000 copies sold makes a book a bestseller, these are significant numbers. . . .”
  • A classroom of school children filled with fans of Hitler had a very different sentiment about Gandhi. ” . . . . ‘He’s a coward!’ That’s the obvious flip side of this love of Hitler in India. It’s an implicit rejection of Gandhi. . . .”
  • Hitler’s shockingly popular reputation in India, is due, in part, to the efforts of Bal Thackeray, the now deceased chief of the Shiv Sena party which is a long-standing BJP ally. ” . . . .Thackeray freely, openly, and often admitted his admiration for Hitler, his book, the Nazis, and their methods. In 1993, for example, he gave an interview to Time magazine. ‘There is nothing wrong,’ he said then, ‘if [Indian] Muslims are treated as Jews were in Nazi Germany.’ This interview came only months after the December 1992 and January 1993 riots in Mumbai, which left about a thousand Indians slaughtered, the majority of them Muslim. Thackeray was active right through those weeks, writing editorial after editorial in his party mouthpiece, ‘Saamna’ (‘Confrontation’) about how to ‘treat’ Muslims. . . .”

“Indian Children’s Book Lists Hitler as Leader ‘Who Will Inspire You’” by Kai Schultz; The New York Times; 03/17/2018

An Indian publisher came under fire this weekfor including Hitler in a children’s book about world leaders who have “devoted their lives for the betterment of their country and people.”

“Dedicated to the betterment of countries and people? Adolf Hitler? This description would bring tears of joy to the Nazis and their racist neo-Nazi heirs,” Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, an international Jewish human rights organization, said in a statement.

Published by the Pegasus imprint of India’s B. Jain Publishing Group, the book, called “Leaders” — but listed on the publisher’s website as “Great Leaders” — spotlights 11 leaders “who will inspire you,” according to a product description on the publisher’s website.

On the book’s cover, a stony-faced Hitler is featured alongside Barack Obama, Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi. . . .

“Placing Hitler alongside truly great political and humanitarian leaders is an abomination that is made worse as it targets young people with little or no knowledge of world history and ethics,” Rabbi Cooper [of the Simon Wiesenthal Center] said in the statement.

Annshu Juneja, a publishing manager at the imprint, said by email that Hitler was featured because, like Barack Obama, Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi, “his leadership skills and speeches influenced masses.”

We are not talking about his way of conduct or his views or whether he was a good leader or a bad leader but simply portraying how powerful he was as a leader,” he said. . . .

. . . . In parts of Asia, atrocities committed in Nazi Germany are poorly understood and Hitler is sometimes glorified as a strong, effective leader.

In 2004, reports surfaced of high-school textbooks in the state of Gujarat, which was then led by Mr. Modi, thatspoke glowingly of Nazism and fascism.

According to “The Times of India,” in a section called “Ideology of Nazism,” the textbook said Hitler had “lent dignity and prestige to the German government,” “made untiring efforts to make Germany self-reliant” and “instilled the spirit of adventure in the common people.” Only briefly does the book mention the extermination of millions of Jews and others by the end of World War II.

Dilip D’Souza, an Indian journalist, wrote in a 2012 editorial that when 25 mostly upper-middle-class students taught by his wife at a private French school in Mumbai were asked to name the historical figure they most admired, nine of them picked Hitler.

“ ‘And what about the millions he murdered?’ asked my wife. ‘Oh, yes, that was bad,’ said the kids. ‘But you know what, some of them were traitors.’ ” . . .

2.  Hitler has had a positive impact on many students in India, whereas Gandhi’s image has been tarnished. Much of the posthumous popularity of Hitler comes from Bal Thackeray and his Shiv Shena Party.

“Hitler’s Strange Afterlife in India” by Dilip D’Souza; The Daily Beast; 11/30/2012

Hated and mocked in much of the world, the Nazi leader has developed a strange following among schoolchildren and readers of Mein Kampf in India. Dilip D’Souza on how political leader Bal Thackeray influenced Indians to admire Hitler and despise Gandhi. My wife teaches French to tenth-grade students at a private school here in Mumbai. During one recent class, she asked these mostly upper-middle-class kids to complete the sentence “J’admire …” with the name of the historical figure they most admired.

To say she was disturbed by the results would be to understate her reaction. Of 25 students in the class, 9 picked Adolf Hitler, making him easily the highest vote-getter in this particular exercise; a certain Mohandas Gandhi was the choice of precisely one student. Discussing the idea of courage with other students once, my wife was startled by the contempt they had for Gandhi. “He was a coward!” they said. And as far back as 2002, the Times of India reported a survey that found that 17 percent of students in elite Indian colleges “favored Adolf Hitler as the kind of leader India ought to have.”

In a place where Gandhi becomes a coward, perhaps Hitler becomes a hero.

Still, why Hitler? “He was a fantastic orator,” said the 10th-grade kids. “He loved his country; he was a great patriot. He gave back to Germany a sense of pride they had lost after the Treaty of Versailles,” they said.

“And what about the millions he murdered?” asked my wife. “Oh, yes, that was bad,” said the kids. “But you know what, some of them were traitors.” . . . .

. . . . Except this is no easily written-off experience. The evidence is that Hitler has plenty of admirers in India, plenty of whom are by no means kids.

Consider Mein Kampf, Hitler’s autobiography. Reviled it might be in the much of the world, but Indians buy thousands of copies of it every month. As a recent paper in the journal EPW tells us (PDF), there are over a dozen Indian publishers who have editions of the book on the market. Jaico, for example, printed its 55th edition in 2010, claiming to have sold 100,000 copies in the previous seven years. (Contrast this to the 3,000 copies my own 2009 book, Roadrunner, has sold). In a country where 10,000 copies sold makes a book a bestseller, these are significant numbers.

And the approval goes beyond just sales. Mein Kampf is available for sale on flipkart.com, India’s Amazon. As I write this, 51 customers have rated the book; 35 of those gave it a five-star rating. What’s more, there’s a steady trickle of reports that say it has become a must-read for business-school students; a management guide much like Spencer Johnson’s Who Moved My Cheese or Edward de Bono’s Lateral Thinking. If this undistinguished artist could take an entire country with him, I imagine the reasoning goes, surely his book has some lessons for future captains of industry?

Much of Hitler’s Indian afterlife is the legacy of Bal Thackeray, chief of the Shiv Sena party who died on Nov. 17 [of 2012–D.E.] .

Thackeray freely, openly, and often admitted his admiration for Hitler, his book, the Nazis, and their methods. In 1993, for example, he gave an interview to Time magazine. “There is nothing wrong,” he said then, “if [Indian] Muslims are treated as Jews were in Nazi Germany.”

This interview came only months after the December 1992 and January 1993 riots in Mumbai, which left about a thousand Indians slaughtered, the majority of them Muslim. Thackeray was active right through those weeks, writing editorial after editorial in his party mouthpiece, “Saamna” (“Confrontation”) about how to “treat” Muslims.

On Dec. 9, 1992, for example, his editorial contained these lines: “Pakistan need not cross the borders and attack India. 250 million Muslims in India will stage an armed insurrection. They form one of Pakistan’s seven atomic bombs.”

A month later, on Jan. 8, 1993, there was this: “Muslims of Bhendi Bazar, Null Bazar, Dongri and Pydhonie, the areas [of Mumbai] we call Mini Pakistan … must be shot on the spot.”

There was plenty more too: much of it inspired by the failed artist who became Germany’s führer. After all, only weeks before the riots erupted, Thackeray said this about the führer’s famous autobiography: “If you take Mein Kampf and if you remove the word Jew and put in the word Muslim, that is what I believe in.”

With rhetoric like that, it’s no wonder the streets of my city saw the slaughter of 1992-93. It’s no wonder kids come to admire a mass-murderer, to rationalize away his massacres. It’s no wonder they cling to almost comically superficial ideas of courage and patriotism, in which a megalomaniac’s every ghastly crime is forgotten so long as we can pretend that he “loved” his country. . . . 

3. It should come as no surprise that Bal Thackeray’s Shiv Sena party was an ally of Modi’s BJP.

“Shiv Sena;” Wikipedia.com

 . . .The party has a powerful hold over the Bollywood film industry.[13] It has been referred to as an “extremist”,[14][15] “chauvinist”,[16][17] as well as a “fascist party“.[18][19] Shiv Sena has been blamed for the 1970 communal violence in Bhiwandi, the 1984 Bhiwandi riot and violence in the 1992-1993 Bombay riots . . .

. . . . The party has been in coalition with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for Lok Sabha as well as Maharashtra Assembly since 1989. The two formed a government in Maharashtra between 1995-1999.[23] The Sena was the opposition party in the state along with the BJP from 1999 to 2014. . . .

4. Jayant Sinha, the lead advisor for the Omidyar Network in India became Narendra Modi’s finance minister and is now a member of parliament. Sinha garlanded (adorned with flowers) eight men convicted of killing a meat trader last year as part of a far right Hindu national “cow vigilantism” campaign. The killing was caught on video. One of the killers was a local BJP leader.

“Minister Jayant Sinha Garlands 8 Men Who Killed Meat Trader In Jharkhand” by Manish Kumar; NDTV; 07/06/2018.

Jayant Sinha, the union minister from Jharkhand has landed himself in the middle of a rowafter the minister felicitated eight men convicted for killing a meat trader last year.

The controversy erupted after photographs emerged showing the minister welcoming them at his residence. In some, the union minister of state for civil aviation is also seen garlanding the eight convicts at his residence on the outskirts of Hazaribagh.

“This is despicable,” Jharkhand’s leader of opposition Hemant Soren tweeted in a stinging swipe at the union minister, tagging the minister’s alma mater, the prestigious Harvard University of the US.

“Your alumnus @jayantsinha felicitating the accused in cow related lynching death in India. Is this what @Harvard stands for?” Mr Soren tweeted about Mr Sinha, the BJP’s Lok Sabha member from Hazaribagh. Ramgarh town is also a part of his constituency.

A total of 11 men, including a local BJP leader, were sentenced to a life term for beating Alimuddin to death on 30 June last year.

The meat trader in Jharkhand was dragged out of his car and beaten to death by a mob that suspected he was carrying beef. As Alimuddin Ansari, 55, lay dying on a road in Ramgarh town, his car was also set on fire.

The deadly attack by the self-styled cow vigilantes had come just a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi had called “killing people in the name of cow protection unacceptable”. . . .

The Raghubar Das government in Jharkhand decided to send a strong message, ordered the police to quickly probe the case and sent it to a fast track court.

The court verdict came nine months later, in March this year.

They were convicted on the basis of a statement by Alimuddin’s wife Mariam Khatoon.

The police also came across a video that it said showed Nityanand Mahto, 45, the district BJP’s media in-charge dragging Alimuddin Ansari out of the car that a group of cow vigilantes had forced to stop near Ranchi. The mob took over from there and mercilessly thrashed him.

Ajoy Kumar of the Congress too expressed his shock at Mr Sinha, who he said was considered “among the most educated minister in PM Modi’s cabinet, “openly” supporting people convicted for killing an innocent. “Do they have no work to show except playing politics on dead bodies and dividing society?” he said in an attack on the BJP. . . .

5.The killing  of Alimuddin Ansari took place a day after Modi belatedly proclaimed that “killing people in the name of cow protection unacceptable.”

Prior to Modi’s statement, cow vigilantism had been going on for years with a muted response from Modi’s government.

As a result of Modi’s statement, the eleven people involved with the killing were sent to a fast track court and given life sentences in March, making it the FIRST successful conviction over an act of cow vigilantism.

Sinha protested that conviction, claiming that he was convinced that justice was not done. He then demanded that the case be probed again, but by the Central Bureau of Investigation this time.

Fast forward to today: eight of the convicted were released on bail, while they appeal their conviction. They then traveled to Sinha’s residence where they were feted.

“Jayant Sinha Wants CBI Probe in Ramgarh Lynching Case in Which 11 Were Convicted” by Vishal Kant; Hindustan Times; 04/07/2018.

On March 21, the court had awarded life imprisonment to 11 cow vigilantes, including a local BJP leader, for lynching 55-year old Alimuddin alias Asgar Ali for carrying what they claimed was beef in his vehicle last year.

Union minister Jayant Sinha on Saturday demanded a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into the Ramgarh lynching case of a Muslim trader, raising doubts over the police investigation, in which a local court convicted and awarded life sentence to 11 people last month. . . .

. . . . “We respect the judicial process. But from whatever I have gathered after consultations and studying the various facets (of the case), I firmly believe that complete justice has not been done. I am not a police officer, and I have not done a detailed inquiry, but as per my understanding, complete justice has not been done. I consulted senior lawyers and also took advice from the party (BJP) on the matter. I have decided to write to the (Jharkhand) chief minister (Raghubar Das), requesting him to recommend a CBI probe,” the minister said.

The court of additional district judge Om Prakash held guilty all the accused under Section 302 (murder) and other offences of the IPC, making it the first case in the country in connection with cow vigilantism and related violence in which the accused were convicted. The BJP-ruled Jharkhand witnessed a series of lynching of Muslim cattle traders in the months of May and June in 2017. . . .

6. The symbolic importance of cow vigilantism isn’t simply a demonstration of the BJP’s willingness to cater to Hindutva fascist ideology. The focus on the cow is part of the atavistic, anti-modernist, anti-pluralist narrative the BJP and its ideological RSS parent have been promoting.

Cow vigilantism is central to a narrative that exalts a mythical time of Brahmanic purity that allegedly existed before the arrival of the British and Muslims on the Indian subcontinent.

Because lower caste Hindus and Muslims who consume beef in India, the cow vigilantism provides a convenient proxy issue to excuse attacks on those seen as ‘other’ by the Hindu nationalists.

As the article puts it, a crucial ingredient to Modi’s political success has been tapping into a nostalgic impulse for a purer past. The sacredness of the cow has come to symbolize that Hindu nationalist drive for national renewal.

In our discussions with Peter Levenda, we have set forth the manner in which fascism mobilizes xenophobic, eugenicist longing for a mythical “purer past” to gain and rally adherents.

In past programs, we have noted that former Trump campaign manager and aide Steve Bannon was a big supporter of Modi. Key Trump business partners in India are members of the BJP which, again, is a political front for the Hindutva fascist party RSS.

“How “Cow Vigilantes” Launched India’s Lynching Epidemic” by Amar Diwakar; The New Republic; 07/26/2017.

India has been beset by a wave of gruesome lynchings. And at the epicenter of the country’s violent upheaval is the indolent cow. Emboldened by an ascendant Hindu nationalist movement, coupled with a controversial government ban on cattle slaughter, so-called cow-vigilante groups have been carrying out a ruthless form of mob justice, summarily executing those suspected of killing, trading, or consuming beef. India’s embattled minorities, particularly Muslims, have borne the brunt of the violence, confirming the worst suspicions about what Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his brand of Hindu chauvinism would unleash on the country.

The atrocities have steadily been mounting. In September 2015, Mohammad Akhlaq was hanged over rumors that he killed a cow and refrigerated its meat. A month later, 16-year-old Zahid Rasool Bhaat was slain by vigilante groups. In March of this year, suspected cattle traders Muhammed Majloom and Azad Khan were lynched. In April, 55-year old dairy farmer Pehlu Khan was accused of smuggling cows and was brutally beaten to death. In May, traders were assaulted for alleged beef storage, and Abu Hanifa and Riazuddin Ali were killed for purportedly stealing cattle. In June, Ainul Ansari was attacked on suspicion of transporting beef, while 15-year-old Junaid Khan was stabbed to death by a mob after being branded a beef eater.

Since September of last year, there have been more than a dozen lynchings across the country. Modi, who was feted by Donald Trump at the White House in June, has been ominously quiet on the issue. 

Two cases in particular—of Pehlu Khan and Junaid Khan—offer the starkest evidence to date that an indelible rot is growing in the Indian Republic. Pehlu Khan’s death at the hands of cow vigilantes in Rajasthan occurred with the complicity of the crowd, who collectively bayed for his execution. It was also captured on camera, and subsequently watched by millions on social media. Just as chilling was the muted response that followed, as Aatish Taseer argued in a column for The New York Times:

Like all forms of theater, a lynching depends on what is left unsaid; it creates a mood, an atmosphere. The silence that settles in after the euphoric act of violence, which all have witnessed, tells a minority group that it has been forsaken. It is this element of a suggestive and creeping threat, in which the state apparatus and a silent majority are complicit, that has the power to demoralize a community as much as the physical acts of violence.

In the case of Junaid Khan, police were unable to produce a witness for the grim spectacle of his stabbing death, despite the fact that some 200 people had been assembled on the railway platform in Haryana where the killing took place. This kind of “unseeing” has become common—as Aarti Sethi writes, lynchings are a “social non-event in contemporary India.” This is an extreme form of alienation, in which Hindus have chosen to disregard the dead body of a Muslim child. In doing so, they symbolically withdrew Junaid’s membership from the socio-political order.

The country’s ruling right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), under the stewardship of Modi and his openly Hindutva (“Hindu-first”) platform, have done little to stem the rise in communal tensions. They have not denounced this barbarism with conviction, only paying reluctant lip service in the face of incessant public pressure.

In fact, much of the hysteria over the cow, a sacred animal in Hinduism, was shrewdly engineered. During Modi’s election campaign in 2014, he railed against a “pink revolution,” a euphemism for India’s $5 billion-a-year meat export industry (the color pink is a reference to the color of beef), which was flourishing under Congress Party rule. The industry is concentrated in Uttar Pradesh, providing direct or indirect employment to around 2.5 million people. The sector is dominated by Muslims but also provides work to low-caste Hindus, which means the surge in cow protectionism has had a disproportionate impact on those communities. [Yogi Adyinath was appointed chief minister of the province by Modi–D.E.]

“Do you want to support people who want to bring about a Pink Revolution?” Modi bellowed on the campaign trail.

It should come as no surprise that, in the three years since the BJP took the reins of power, India has witnessed a growing climate of intolerance against minorities. Whipping up communal strife is a necessary part of the Hindu nationalist playbook. But the roots of the current crisis, in which the life of a cow is considered more sacred than that of a teenaged boy, go much deeper than Modi, reaching into the fundamental battle for modern India’s soul, between illiberal Hindutva forces and a pluralistic tradition that has rarely looked so vulnerable.

This is why Modi’s adherents have constructed a grand monolithic narrative to justify their actions, one that proclaims cultural continuity of tradition and that pivots upon a retrograde Brahmanical core. The complex history of the priestly caste is papered over with strident assertions of Brahmanical purity, of which vegetarianism and the sanctity of the cow are indispensable components.

Under this worldview, the golden age of Hindu rule in the Vedic period, subsequently sullied by foreign pollutants—the British, yes, but the rapacious Muslim in particular—is to be channeled into twenty-first-century renewal, piloted by an arbitrary set of “Hindu values.” And foremost among these is the inviolability of the cow.

However, this schema suffers from a significant flaw: A pristine and contiguous Hindu civilization in which the cow’s sanctity was upheld is disputed by the historical record. It is little more than embellished mythmaking. Much like other appeals to a bygone era of civilizational supremacy and homogeneity, it is thoroughly a product of modernity. . . .

. . . . The BJP, as well as its ideological parent organization the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, peddle a version of nationalism that prioritizes exclusivity, in which Indians are rigidly defined by ethnicity and religion. The trope of the cow is thus a convenient instrument, measuring the allegiance to the nation along gastronomical—and thereby spiritual—lines. Non-Hindus are deemed a surplus population, and violence against them is sanctioned in an attempt to cleanse the true body politic.

We have seen versions of this story play out across the world, in response to the failures of technocratic elites and the supposed champions of pluralistic democracy. In India’s case, the Congress Party became mired in corruption scandals, paving the way for Modi and the BJP to present themselves as pragmatic reformers. And indeed, that is how Modi is generally conveyed in the international press, with a focus on his attempts to overhaul India’s sclerotic tax system and to root out endemic corruption.

But the crucial ingredient is the way Modi has tapped into the nostalgic impulse. Svetlana Boym, a Russian-American philologist, has described this as the “historical emotion” of modernity, and argued that attempts to create a “phantom homeland” through ahistorical restoration would only breed monstrous consequences. As she writes in The Future of Nostalgia, it is a “restorative nostalgia” that “is at the core of recent national and religious revivals. It knows two main plots—the return to origins and the conspiracy.”

And so we inhabit a landscape where MAGA caps, Little England, the Hindu Rashtra, and the Islamic Caliphate have arrested the imagination of millions. These are all overtures to an Edenic past, promising an order that preserves tradition by purifying society of contagion. . . .

Modi’s two central agendas—economic development and Hindu cultural revival— compete with one another for headlines. Yet his commitment to pandering to the far right has never truly been in question. The creation of communal discord crystallizes the BJP’s ambition to alter history and hegemonize “Indian values” as exclusively Hindu values. The party has eagerly deployed Hindu symbols and myths to convert nostalgia into electoral support. So far this approach has been extremely successful: Close to half of Indians now dwell in BJP-controlled states, devoid of an effective opposition.

7. Yogi Adityanath is the Modi-appointed RSS governor of Uttar Praddesh, known for encouraging vigilante death squads against Muslims. A week of riots broke out in the city of Kasganj in the state of Uttar Pradesh on Jan. 26, India’s Republic Day. The accounts of how the riots started are in dispute.

It is clear is that Modi’s appointment of Adityanath as chief minister of Uttar Pradesh greatly exacerbated the Hindu-Muslim tensions in that city.

“After Religious Clash in India, Rumors Create a False ‘Martyr’” by Suhasini Raj and Kai Schultz; The New York Times; 02/05/2018.

Rahul Upadhyay, a wiry journalist with a shock of black hair, was at home when he received news of his death.

During celebrations on India’s Republic Day, Jan. 26, a clash broke out between Hindus and Muslims in the city of Kasganj. Schools, shops and a mosque were damaged. One person was killed; another nearly had his eye gouged out.

Mr. Upadhyay, 24, stayed away from the violence, bunkering down inside his home in a nearby village. But the following evening, a friend called to share a peculiar bit of news: “You have been elevated to being a martyr.”

In the span of a few hours, messages on WhatsApp and Facebook mourning “martyr Rahul,” and saying he had been killed in clashes, went viral across Uttar Pradesh State, which includes Kasganj.

Candlelight vigils paying respect to Mr. Upadhyay, who is Hindu, lit up the streets of seven districts, some with the participation of local politicians.

By the time Mr. Upadhyay found out, there was little he could do: The riots had become so bad in Kasganj that the authorities shut down the internet.

“No media house or politician bothered to visit my place or call me first to confirm that I was indeed dead,” he said. “The marketplace of rumors had heated up beyond control.”

Kasganj was not always like this. For much of its history, Muslims and Hindus coexisted peacefully in this dusty city about 100 miles east of New Delhi. As the price of land shot up in the area, the city prospered. Now, rows of mustard-colored crops, markers of the region’s agrarian roots, frame Honda dealerships catering to a population eager to trade bicycles for motorbikes.

In the years since Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party rose to power in 2014, violent outbreaks between Hindus and Muslims have become more common in some pockets of India.

But locals said the energy did not change in Kasganj until last year, when Yogi Adityanath, a firebrand politician with ties to far-right Hindu nationalist groups, was chosen as chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, home to over 200 million people.

The clashes began with a flag. On Jan. 26, a group of Muslims gathered in an open square in Kasganj, unstacking rows of red plastic chairs and preparing to hoist a flag into the air to celebrate Republic Day, which marks the enactment of India’s constitution in 1950.

Around the same time, dozens of men on motorbikes affiliated with a far-right Hindu student group approached the assembly, asking that the Muslims move the chairs so they could pass. Accounts of what happened next vary.

According to a police report filed by Sushil Gupta, the father of Abhishek Gupta, the man who was actually killed, a group of Muslims began taunting the Hindus, shouting “Long Live Pakistan,” and telling them that they would have to chant “Hail Pakistan” if they wanted to pass.

Shamsul Arafeen, 70, a Muslim tailor who was part of the crowd, remembered the encounter differently, describing a “big mob” of Hindus who demanded that the Muslims move the chairs before boiling the argument down to religion. Others said the Hindus told the Muslims to go back to Pakistan.

“They started abusing us, saying, ‘If you want to live in Hindustan, you must chant ‘Hail Sita and Ram,’” Mr. Arafeen said, using another name for India and referring to two Hindu gods.

The confrontation became physical soon afterward, with rioters from both sides throwing stones at each other and burning shops to the ground. Videos of the confrontations spread rapidly. The authorities shut down internet service in the area for hours.

By the end of the clashes, which stretched over a week, over 100 people had been arrested, both Hindu and Muslim. Mohar Singh Tomar, an investigating officer with Kasganj’s police force, said it was unclear who started the clashes, brushing aside suggestions that either religious group had received unfair treatment.

Purnendra Pratap Singh Solanki, the district president of the Bharatiya Janata Party, took a harder line, characterizing the confrontation as a “preplanned conspiracy” by a growing Muslim population to target Hindus.

“What is very problematic for us is that Muslims are ruled by their religion first,” he said. “They consider themselves Muslims before Indians, whereas the Hindus consider themselves Indians first and then Hindus.”

“The solution to such problems is to control their population,” Mr. Solanki added. “Their religious education at the madrassas must be combined with nationalism, peppered with nationalism. The problem is they don’t want to get educated at all.”

Reacting to the violence in Kasganj, R. V. Singh, the district magistrate in Bareilly, also in Uttar Pradesh, described a recent episode involving a Hindu march in a village in his district.

“A strange trend has started of carrying out processions through Muslim localities and raising anti-Pakistan slogans,” he wrote in a Facebook post that was subsequently deleted after he faced pressure from the state government. “Why? Are these people from Pakistan?”

At the same time, the always rocky relationship between Hindu-majority India and Muslim-majority Pakistan has notably worsened in recent months.

Around Kasganj, many people said they were terrified to leave their homes and return to work. . . .

. . . . As for Mr. Upadhyay, he still has not figured out who first reported his death or why he had been singled out. Over the last weekend in January, he fielded over 400 calls from people asking if he had died. “My mother had to serve endless cups of tea to visitors and convince them that I was alive,” he said.

Eventually, Mr. Upadhyay figured that if he could not control social media, he might as well participate.

“I am Rahul Upadhyay,” he said in a recorded message sent out into cyberspace. “I am well and I have not even received a scratch.”

Still, he said, the damage was done. Hundreds of miles away, in the city of Gorakhpur, posters with his photograph had already been distributed.

Near his face was a warning: “We will take revenge for the death of martyr Rahul Upadhyay.”

Around the same time, dozens of men on motorbikes affiliated with a far-right Hindu student group approached the assembly, asking that the Muslims move the chairs so they could pass. Accounts of what happened next vary.

According to a police report filed by Sushil Gupta, the father of Abhishek Gupta, the man who was actually killed, a group of Muslims began taunting the Hindus, shouting “Long Live Pakistan,” and telling them that they would have to chant “Hail Pakistan” if they wanted to pass.

Shamsul Arafeen, 70, a Muslim tailor who was part of the crowd, remembered the encounter differently, describing a “big mob” of Hindus who demanded that the Muslims move the chairs before boiling the argument down to religion. Others said the Hindus told the Muslims to go back to Pakistan.

“They started abusing us, saying, ‘If you want to live in Hindustan, you must chant ‘Hail Sita and Ram,’” Mr. Arafeen said, using another name for India and referring to two Hindu gods.

The confrontation became physical soon afterward, with rioters from both sides throwing stones at each other and burning shops to the ground. Videos of the confrontations spread rapidly. The authorities shut down internet service in the area for hours. . . .

8. With 2017 now in the rear view mirror, we cap our revulsion at the Bay Area’s 50th anniversary celebrations of the Summer of Love (1967.) In FTR #991, we detailed the Hindutva fascist/Nazi philosophy of Hare Krishna cult founder and head guru A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.

On 1/29/1967, Prabhupada and his cult were the beneficiaries of monies generated by a concert and dance featuring the leading San Francisco psychedelic-era rock bands. The event also featured participation by LSD guru Timothy Leary, whose activities and career are inextricably linked with the CIA.

We discussed this at length in AFA #28:

AFA 28: The CIA, the Military & Drugs, Pt. 5
The CIA & LSD
Part 5a
46:15 | Part 5b 45:52 | Part 5c 42:56 | Part 5d 45:11 | Part 5e 11:25
(Recorded April 26, 1987)

 It is so very, very tragic that idealistic young people were led astray in such a fashion. It is outrageous that the process was effected by elements of CIA, employing a chemical–LSD–developed by the Nazi SS during World War II as a disabling agent. It works very well.

It is grotesque that so many of the people who lived through those events have failed to come to terms with what was done to them and the implications of that experience. The ramifications of those events are still very much with us.

   “Mantra Rock;” The Hare Krishna Movement.

Mantra Rock Concert

Sunday, January 29, 1967 marked the major spiritual event of the San Francisco hippie era, and Srila Prabhupada, who was ready to go anywhere to spread Krishna Consciousness, was there.

The Grateful Dead, Moby Grape, Janis Joplin and Big Brother and the Holding Company, Jefferson Airplane, Quicksilver Messenger Service — all the new-wave San Francisco bands — had agreed to appear with Srila Prabhupada at the Avalon Ballroom’s Mantra-Rock Dance, proceeds from which would go to the local Hare Krishna temple.

Thousands of hippies, anticipating an exciting evening, packed the hall.

At about 10 p.m., Srila Prabhupada and a small entourage of devotees arrived amid uprorious applause and cheering by a crowd that had waited weeks in great anticipation for this moment. Srila Prabhupada was given a seat of honor onstage and was introduced by Allen Ginsberg, who explained his own realizations about the Hare Krishna maha-mantra and how it had spread from the small storefront in New York to San Francisco.

The chanting started slowly but ryhthmically, and little by little it spread throughout the ballroom, enveloping everyone. Hippies got to their feet, held hands, and began to dance as enormous, pulsing pictures of Krishna were projected around the walls of the ballroom in perfect sync with the beat of the mantra.

By the time Srila Prabhupada stood and began to dance with his arms raised, the crowd was completely absorbed in chanting, dancing and playing musical instruments they had brought for the occasion.

As the tempo speeded up, the chanting and dancing became more and more intense, spurred on by a stageful of top rock musicians, who were as charmed by the magic of the maha-mantra as the amateur musicians had been at the Tompkins Square kirtanas only a few weeks before.

The chant rose; it seemed to surge and swell without limit. When it seemed it could go no further, the chanting stopped. Srila Prabhupada offered prayers to his spiritual master into the microphone and ended-by saying three times, “All glories to the assembled devotees!” The Haight-Ashbury neighborhood buzzed with talk of the mantra-Rock Dance for weeks afterward.

Allen Ginsberg later recalled, “We sang Hare Krishna all evening. It was absolutely great — an open thing. It was the height of the Haight-Ashbury spiritual enthusiasm.”

9. Timothy Leary was present at the “Mantra Rock” event.

“Mantra-Rock Dance;” Wikipedia.com.

. . . . The participation of countercultural leaders considerably boosted the event’s popularity; among them were the poet Allen Ginsberg, who led the singing of the Hare Krishna mantra onstage along with Prabhupada, and LSD promoters Timothy Leary and Augustus Owsley Stanley III.[3][10]

10. Excerpted from the description for FTR #991:   

  • Hare Krishna founder and chief guru Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada provided commentary on Hindu religious text “. . . . and often suggested that they had not actually been written by himself, but that God, Krishna, had revealed them to him. . . .” This was in order to “ . . . .underline the absolute position, superhuman qualities, and overall importance of the guru. [Basically, “guru” as “fuhrer”–D.E.] . . . .”
  •  Bhaktivedanta Swami was fundamentally opposed to democracy. “So monarchy or dictatorship is welcome. . . . Personally, I like this position, dictatorship. Personally, I like this.”
  • Bhaktivedanta Swami felt that Hinduism was in a “fallen state” and that only his discipline/teachings could restore it to its proper place. In our discussions with Peter Levenda, we have noted that fascism manifests a longing for a bygone time–one that never really existed.
  • Fascist philosophies frequently invoke a by-gone, mythical “golden age,” which the fascist cadre in question will restore, after the corrupting forces have been neutralized. ” . . . . He too believed that in bygone ages a divine and scientific social system had existed in India, and like Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati, he too founded a movement whose express mission was to reestablish what he often referred to as the “perfectional form of human civilization,” varnashram dharma. . . .” Note that “foreigners” or what would be termed in our society today “immigrants,” “migrants,” “Mexicans,”  or “Muslims” are blamed for this degeneration. ” . . . . . . . . Indian civilization on the basis of the four varnas and ashrams deteriorated because of her dependency on foreigners, or those who did not follow the civilization of varnasham. . . .”
  • Bhaktivedanta Swami valued the traditional position of the Kshatriya warrior caste, to which the Nazi SS considered themselves as successors, according to Kevin Coogan’s brilliant analysis (in Dreamer of the Day: Francis Parker Yockey and the Postwar Fascist International.) “. . . . the kshatriyas should be taught how to fight also. There will be military training. There will be  training how to kill. Kshatriya students in the ISKCON varnashram college were to practice killing: ‘Just like Kshatriyas, they have to learn how to kill.’ . . . . There is no single instance where Bhaktivedanta Swami speaks about kshatriya training without mentioning killing. . . . ‘Learn to kill. No nonviolence. Learn to kill. Here also, as soon you’ll find, the Kshatriya, a thief, a rogue, unwanted element in the society, kill him. That’s all. Finish. Kill him. Bas. Finished. . . .” It is not that because the Kshatriyas were killing by bows and arrows formerly you have to continue that. That is another foolishness. If you have got . . . If you can kill easily by guns, take that gun. All the royal princes were trained up how to kill. . . . A Kshatriya, he is expert in the military science, how to kill. So the killing art is there. You cannot make it null and void by advocating nonviolence. No, That is required. Violence is also a part of the society. . . .”
  • Tulsi Gabbard’s political vector may be evaluated against the background of Bhaktivedanta Swami’s prognostication that the Hare Krishna cult could infiltrate and take over a key political party and/or government in a democracy. Recall that he viewed democracy with utmost contempt. ” . . . . Bhaktivedanta also thought that he and his movement could take over some government and rule some part of the world: ‘However in Kali-yuga, democratic government can be captured by Krishna conscious people. If this can be done, the general populace can be made very happy.’ . . . .”
  • Bhaktivedanta Swami’s teachings dovetail superbly with Nazi occult philosophy. ” . . . . Bhaktivedanta Swami, however, speaks extensively about ‘the Aryans’–at least twenty-five of his purports and over a hundred lectures and conversations contain lengthy elaborations on the topic. He places all those whom he calls ‘non-Aryan’ in a category similar to his ‘unwanted population,’ thus dividing humans into two groups: a large group of varna sankara  and non-Aryans on one side, and a small group of Aryans,  ie those who follow varnashram, on the other: ‘Those who traditionally follow these principles are called Aryans, or progressive human beings.’ ‘The Vedic way of life,’ he writes, ‘is the progressive march of civilization of the Aryans.’ ‘In the history of the human race, the Aryan family is considered to be the most elevated community in the world.’ . . . . In more than one fifth of his statements he clearly describes or defines them in racial terms: The Aryan family is distributed all over the world and is known as Indo-Aryan. The Aryans are white. But here, this side, due to climatic influence, they are a little tan. Indians are tan but they are not black. But Aryans are all white. And the non-Aryans, they are called black. Yes . . .”
  • Bhaktivedanta Swami’s philosophy saw Europeans and Americans as part of, and extensions of, the Aryan race. In an address to a French audience, he intoned as follows: ” . . . . So we all belong to the Aryan family. Historical reference is there, Indo-European family. So Aryan stock was on the central Asia. Some of them migrated to India. Some of them migrated to Europe. And from Europe you have come. So we belong to the Aryan family, but we have lost our knowledge. So we have become non-Aryan, practically. You French people, you are also Aryan family, but the culture is lost now. So this Krishna consciousness movement is actually reviving the original Aryan culture. Bharata. We are all inhabitants of Bharatavarsha, but as we lost our culture, it became divided.  So on the whole, the conclusion is that the Aryans spread in Europe also, and the Americans, they also spread from Europe. So the intelligent class of human being, they belong to the Aryans. Aryan family. Just like Hitler claimed that he belonged to the Aryan family. Of course, they belonged to the Aryan families. . . .”
  • It should  come as  no surprise that Bhaktivedanta was pro-Hitler, viewing the Fuehrer as “a gentleman,” who had to kill the Jews because they were “financing” against him. “. . . . So these English people, they were very expert in making propaganda. They killed Hitler by propaganda. I don’t think Hitler was so bad [a] man. Hitler knew it [the atomic bomb] . . . .  He was gentleman. He said that ‘I can smash the whole world, but I do not use that weapon.’ The Germans already discovered. But out of humanity they did not use it. . . . The activities of such men are certainly very great . . . Therefore Hitler killed these Jews. They were financing against Germany. Otherwise he had no enmity with the Jews. . . . Therefore Hitler decided, ‘Kill all the Jews.’ . . . .”
  •  An in-depth view of Bhaktivedanta Swami’s view of “shudras” reveals the deep racist/fascistic views of social class/caste. Described variously as “black” or “common,” shudras are the focus of deep ideological contempt. This should be seen against the background of the Aryan racial philosophy of Bhaktivedanta Swami. “. . . . ordinary people; the laborer class; once-born; the lowest class of men; non-Aryan; worker; the black man; he must find out a master; one who has no education; almost animal; just like a dog; he becomes disturbed; one who is dependent on others; they are ignorant rascals; unclean; equal to the animal; no training; fools, rascals. . .  According to his understanding, people of black or dark skin color, as well as native Americans, are shudras, are third-class, degraded, and less intelligent: ‘Shudras have no brain. In America also, the whole America once belonged to the Red  Indians. Why they could not improve? The land was there. Why these foreigners, the Europeans, came and improved? So Shudras cannot do this. They cannot make any correction. . . . A first-class Rolls Royce car, and who is sitting there? A third class negro. This is going on. You’ll find these things in Europe and America. This is going on. A first-class car and a third-class negro. . . .”
  • Bhaktivedanta Swami did not feel that the black American slaves should be freed. ” . . . . Just like in America. The blacks were slaves. They were under control. And since you have given them equal rights they are disturbing, most disturbing, always creating a fearful situation, uncultured  and drunkards. What training they have got? . . .  That is best, to keep them under control as slaves but give them sufficient food, sufficient cloth, not more than that. Then they will be satisfied. . . . ‘So the Kiratas, they  were always slaves of the Aryans. The Aryan people used to keep slaves, but they were treating slaves very nicely.’ And that the Kiratas were Africans, he had explained many times: ‘Kirata means the black, the Africans.’ . . . .”
  • Bhaktivedanta Swami had some “choice” things to say about women: ” . . . . Generally all women desire material enjoyment.Women in general should not be trusted. Women are generally not very intelligent. It appears that women is a stumbling block [sic] for self-realization. . . . Although rape is not legally allowed, it is a fact that a woman likes a man who is very expert at rape. When a husbandless woman is attacked by an aggressive man, she takes his action to be mercy. Generally when a woman is attacked by a man—whether her husband or some other man—she enjoys the attack, being too lusty. . . .”

Discussion

6 comments for “FTR #1015 Update on Hindutva Fascism”

  1. Here’s another growing trend in India that will no doubt be exploited by India’s far right: We’ve already seen how WhatsApp, the wildly popular encrypted communications smartphone app owned by Facebook, has become a public health hazard in countries like Brazil, where fake ‘public health’ videos tell people not to get vaccinated in the face of viral outbreaks because vaccines are part of a plot an Illuminati population reduction plot. And as we should expect, something similar is happening in India, which is WhatsApp’s largest market with 200 million users. WhatsApp is apparently being used to spread fake stories about child abductions in India. And since WhatsApp is treated as a news source by large numbers of people, this rumor campaign is predictably leading to vigilante violence:

    National Public Radio

    Fake News Turns Deadly In India

    July 18, 2018 9:12 AM ET

    Iram Sabah, mother of two, is terrified by messages her family has been receiving on their smartphones.

    Her husband recently was forwarded a video that shows a child’s mutilated body. It’s unclear where or when the video is from, or whether it’s been doctored. A voice implores people to forward it to others, and to stay vigilant — that kidnappers are on the loose.

    Sabah, 27, doesn’t know if the video is fake or real. But she’s not taking any chances.

    “When my children go outside to play, I’m really scared,” she says in an interview at her home in western India. “These rumors have been spreading. I don’t let them walk to school alone anymore.”

    Such videos and messages — many of them fake or photoshopped — have gone viral across India, spread mostly on WhatsApp, a messaging tool owned by Facebook. India is its largest market, with more than 200 million users.

    The messages have driven parents like Sabah to keep their children indoors. Teachers report reduced attendance at schools. The texts have even driven some Indians to murder.

    In recent months, about two dozen people across India have been lynched — beaten to death — by mobs driven to violence by what they’ve read on social media.

    Fake news is blamed for misleading voters and possibly influencing elections in the West. But in India, it’s killing people.

    One night earlier this month, around 11 p.m., Sabah heard a commotion outside her home. She lives in a midsized town, Malegaon, in northern Maharashtra state — an area famous for its textile looms, about 170 miles northeast and inland from India’s largest city, Mumbai.

    “I saw a mob beating five people. The crowd was getting bigger and bigger. They filled up the road in front of my house,” says Sabah’s husband, Shaikh Wasim Shaikh Karim, 32. “They even attacked police vehicles.”

    The five victims at the center of the mob were a couple, their toddler and two relatives. They’d wandered into town to beg, police and witnesses said. Locals feared they were the kidnappers all these WhatsApp messages had warned of — and attacked them.

    Shaikh Karim pulled the victims to safety inside his home, as the mob shattered his windows with stones. Police finally intervened and extracted them. But they’re still in hiding, shaken.

    Not everyone has been as lucky. In the neighboring district of Dhule, five other people were beaten to death under similar circumstances on July 1, the same day Shaikh Karim rescued people from the mob in front of his house in Malegaon.

    Nationwide, Indian police have launched an anti-fake news campaign. Traffic cops hand out flyers at intersections, with information dispelling the latest smartphone rumors to go viral. Town hall meetings are being convened across the country.

    At a rural school near Malegaon, police officers huddle in a humid cinder-block classroom, showing students one such misleading video on a tablet computer. Hundreds of villagers have gathered outside to hear the local police chief speak to the crowd. He urges them to be skeptical of what they read online.

    “We made an appeal to the families, that they should not be fooled by false rumors and false pieces of news on the Internet,” says Harssh Poddar, additional superintendent of the Malegaon police. “They must use their own minds. They must use their own sense of discretion — and in any case, it is not legitimate to attack someone on the belief of any rumor, fake or true.”

    The problem of mob justice in India isn’t confined to poor people, or rural dwellers, or first-time smartphone users. One of the latest victims was an engineer for Google. In May, another man was killed under a highway flyover in Bangalore, a city of 12 million that’s become India’s high-tech hub — the local equivalent of Silicon Valley.

    Many of the rumors circulating India prey on people’s deepest fears, like having your child stolen. Some of the messages blame a rival religious, ethnic or tribal group — stirring a mistrust that already exists deep down in certain communities, Poddar says.

    “I wouldn’t say that when a mob behaves like this, that it is an incident of collective losing of mind. It isn’t,” he says. “It is an instance of knowing that you are shielded behind a crowd, that you may not be identified, and therefore you can indulge in behavior that is otherwise unacceptable in any civilized society.”

    In that way, mobs on the street could be acting similarly to trolls on the Internet — taking advantage of anonymity.

    Poddar is trying to change that. He’s used closed-circuit TV to identify attackers. He’s threatening jail time to anyone who even forwards incendiary messages.

    The Indian government has demanded that WhatsApp block such messages. The company has responded with a new feature, which labels content that has been forwarded.

    “Right now the most important point is to tell people that WhatsApp is not your news source,” says Pankaj Jain, who runs the Hoax Slayer website, devoted to debunking fake news online. “It’s not a newspaper, it’s not a news channel.”

    Jain says he receives 20 to 30 queries a day from the public, urging him to investigate rumors or suspicious videos online. He has debunked mermaid sightings,ghost cars and, increasingly in India, kidnapping videos. He traced some of the most incendiary footage to an unrelated incident in Guatemala, not India.

    With smartphones and Web service getting cheaper and more ubiquitous in India, Jain says online rumors are multiplying. He predicts it’ll grow even more next year.

    “Whenever an election comes, the fake news starts spreading a lot,” Jain says. “So obviously it’s going to increase by 2019.”

    2019 — next year – is when India holds its general elections.

    ———-

    “Fake News Turns Deadly In India”; National Public Radio; 07/18/2018

    “Her husband recently was forwarded a video that shows a child’s mutilated body. It’s unclear where or when the video is from, or whether it’s been doctored. A voice implores people to forward it to others, and to stay vigilant — that kidnappers are on the loose.

    Videos of mutilated children with warnings that the perpetrators are on the loose and calls to stay vigilant going viral over an encrypted app. It’s the perfect set up for sparking vigilante violence:


    Sabah, 27, doesn’t know if the video is fake or real. But she’s not taking any chances.

    “When my children go outside to play, I’m really scared,” she says in an interview at her home in western India. “These rumors have been spreading. I don’t let them walk to school alone anymore.”

    Such videos and messages — many of them fake or photoshopped — have gone viral across India, spread mostly on WhatsApp, a messaging tool owned by Facebook. India is its largest market, with more than 200 million users.

    The rumor campaign is so successful that school attendance has actually dropped. Far worse, it’s successfully driven people to murder, with around two dozen people lynched or beaten to death by mobs prompted by social media in just the few months:


    The messages have driven parents like Sabah to keep their children indoors. Teachers report reduced attendance at schools. The texts have even driven some Indians to murder.

    In recent months, about two dozen people across India have been lynched — beaten to death — by mobs driven to violence by what they’ve read on social media.

    Fake news is blamed for misleading voters and possibly influencing elections in the West. But in India, it’s killing people.

    The misinformation campaign appears to be so persuasive that the woman interviewed in the article, Iram Sabah, remains concerned they could be true despite the fact that he family actually had to save a family for mob violence triggered by this exact same misinformation campaign earlier this month:


    One night earlier this month, around 11 p.m., Sabah heard a commotion outside her home. She lives in a midsized town, Malegaon, in northern Maharashtra state — an area famous for its textile looms, about 170 miles northeast and inland from India’s largest city, Mumbai.

    “I saw a mob beating five people. The crowd was getting bigger and bigger. They filled up the road in front of my house,” says Sabah’s husband, Shaikh Wasim Shaikh Karim, 32. “They even attacked police vehicles.”

    The five victims at the center of the mob were a couple, their toddler and two relatives. They’d wandered into town to beg, police and witnesses said. Locals feared they were the kidnappers all these WhatsApp messages had warned of — and attacked them.

    Shaikh Karim pulled the victims to safety inside his home, as the mob shattered his windows with stones. Police finally intervened and extracted them. But they’re still in hiding, shaken.

    Not everyone has been as lucky. In the neighboring district of Dhule, five other people were beaten to death under similar circumstances on July 1, the same day Shaikh Karim rescued people from the mob in front of his house in Malegaon.

    And as we should expect, many of these viral disinformation messages spreading fears of child abduction or whatever else place the blame on rival religions and ethnic groups, highlighting how this is the perfect tool for India’s far right:


    Many of the rumors circulating India prey on people’s deepest fears, like having your child stolen. Some of the messages blame a rival religious, ethnic or tribal group — stirring a mistrust that already exists deep down in certain communities, Poddar says.

    In response, India’s police are launching an anti-fake new campaign. And in the town of Maelgaon where Iram Sabah live, the chief of police is even threatening to jail anyone who forwards such messages. Which, of course, will be very difficult to do given the fact that WhatsApp is designed to operate without anyone knowing who sent what to whom:


    Nationwide, Indian police have launched an anti-fake news campaign. Traffic cops hand out flyers at intersections, with information dispelling the latest smartphone rumors to go viral. Town hall meetings are being convened across the country.

    At a rural school near Malegaon, police officers huddle in a humid cinder-block classroom, showing students one such misleading video on a tablet computer. Hundreds of villagers have gathered outside to hear the local police chief speak to the crowd. He urges them to be skeptical of what they read online.

    “We made an appeal to the families, that they should not be fooled by false rumors and false pieces of news on the Internet,” says Harssh Poddar, additional superintendent of the Malegaon police. “They must use their own minds. They must use their own sense of discretion — and in any case, it is not legitimate to attack someone on the belief of any rumor, fake or true.”

    The problem of mob justice in India isn’t confined to poor people, or rural dwellers, or first-time smartphone users. One of the latest victims was an engineer for Google. In May, another man was killed under a highway flyover in Bangalore, a city of 12 million that’s become India’s high-tech hub — the local equivalent of Silicon Valley.

    “I wouldn’t say that when a mob behaves like this, that it is an incident of collective losing of mind. It isn’t,” he says. “It is an instance of knowing that you are shielded behind a crowd, that you may not be identified, and therefore you can indulge in behavior that is otherwise unacceptable in any civilized society.”

    In that way, mobs on the street could be acting similarly to trolls on the Internet — taking advantage of anonymity.

    Poddar is trying to change that. He’s used closed-circuit TV to identify attackers. He’s threatening jail time to anyone who even forwards incendiary messages.

    The Indian government is also demanding WhatsApp block these viral disinformation messages, which, again, is something WhatsApp is specifically designed to not allow. But WhatsApp respond with a new feature laughably intended to address this issue: when someone forwards a WhatsApp message they receive to someone else, that message will be labeled “forwarded”. That’s the ‘fix’:


    The Indian government has demanded that WhatsApp block such messages. The company has responded with a new feature, which labels content that has been forwarded.

    Adding to the alarming nature of this is that this demonstration of the effectiveness of using WhatsApp to spread misinformation, and the futile efforts to stop it, comes right before next year’s general elections. So it’s pretty much a guarantee that political misinformation is going to play a major role during Modi’s reelection bid:


    “Right now the most important point is to tell people that WhatsApp is not your news source,” says Pankaj Jain, who runs the Hoax Slayer website, devoted to debunking fake news online. “It’s not a newspaper, it’s not a news channel.”

    Jain says he receives 20 to 30 queries a day from the public, urging him to investigate rumors or suspicious videos online. He has debunked mermaid sightings,ghost cars and, increasingly in India, kidnapping videos. He traced some of the most incendiary footage to an unrelated incident in Guatemala, not India.

    With smartphones and Web service getting cheaper and more ubiquitous in India, Jain says online rumors are multiplying. He predicts it’ll grow even more next year.

    “Whenever an election comes, the fake news starts spreading a lot,” Jain says. “So obviously it’s going to increase by 2019.”

    2019 — next year – is when India holds its general elections.

    So should we expect Modi and the BJP government to take even further steps to crack down on WhatsApp? Well, it’s possible they could just try to ban WhatsApp. Although it seems more likely that they’ll focus on trying to punish the people who respond to these misinformation campaigns with violence.

    But as the following article from May of 2017 reminds us, if the Modi government does indeed decide to crack down on the perpetrators of mob violence instigated by WhatsApp, that’s probably going to include cracking down on a lot of ‘cow vigilantes’ and even some BJP officials:

    BBC
    News from Elsewhere blog

    India’s ‘cow vigilantes’ hotel in the clear

    10 May 2017

    A hotel owner in the Indian state of Rajasthan has expressed his frustration over the fact that his hotel has been closed for weeks over false accusations that it had served beef on the premises.

    Police on Tuesday said forensic tests on meat seized from the Hayat Rabbani hotel in March showed it was definitely not beef, but chicken, the Hindustan Times reported.

    “From the very first day, I have been saying that it was chicken but no one from the administration listened to me,” hotel owner Naeem Rabbani told the paper. “The report confirms all allegations levelled on us were false.”

    The hotel was closed after a group of “cow vigilantes” protested in front of it for hours in March, chanting nationalist slogans.

    The Indian Express website cited a member of the group saying they had gathered there after reading about rumours of a beef party at the hotel on WhatsApp, allegedly sent by Jaipur’s mayor.

    Such vigilante groups have been involved with several incidents of violence in India, particularly after the Hindu nationalist BJP party came to power in 2014. Last month, police investigated the death of a Muslim man who was attacked by a vigilante group while transporting cows in Rajasthan.

    Mr Rabbani said the city authorities had yet to reopen his hotel, even though he had obtained a court order at the end of April telling them to do so. He said its closure had cost him tens of thousands in earnings.

    ———-

    “India’s ‘cow vigilantes’ hotel in the clear”; BBC; 05/10/2017

    “A hotel owner in the Indian state of Rajasthan has expressed his frustration over the fact that his hotel has been closed for weeks over false accusations that it had served beef on the premises.”

    So a hotel in Rajasthan was closed for weeks over false accusation that it served beef, which is illegal there, prompting a mob of ‘cow vigilantes’ to descend on the hotel. And who sent this false rumor? Well, lots of people since it was forwarded around on WhatsApp. And one of those people happened to be the mayor of Jaipur (a BJP member):


    The hotel was closed after a group of “cow vigilantes” protested in front of it for hours in March, chanting nationalist slogans.

    The Indian Express website cited a member of the group saying they had gathered there after reading about rumours of a beef party at the hotel on WhatsApp, allegedly sent by Jaipur’s mayor.

    Such vigilante groups have been involved with several incidents of violence in India, particularly after the Hindu nationalist BJP party came to power in 2014. Last month, police investigated the death of a Muslim man who was attacked by a vigilante group while transporting cows in Rajasthan.

    And as the following article notes, the mayor of Jaipur, Ashok Lahoty, shared the rumor about beef being served on a BJP WhatsApp group. So it was literally one of the BJP’s own WhatsApp groups that was used to spread this rumor that would inevitably reach the ‘cow vigilantes’. And the message he sent was that the hotel was sealed for “feeding beef to cows”:

    Indian Express

    Beef rumours: Dadri averted, police watched mob beat us, say Jaipur hotel owner, manager
    The owner of Hotel Hayat Rabbani, Naeem Rabbani, who held a press conference with his staff here on Monday, said “a repeat of Dadri had been averted”

    Written by Hamza Khan | Jaipur | Updated: March 22, 2017 7:45:03 pm

    The manager of a Jaipur hotel that was laid siege to by cow vigilantes over rumours of serving beef on Sunday night has alleged that after taking him into custody, police brought him back among the protesters “to calm them down” and he was slapped around and manhandled in police presence.

    The owner of Hotel Hayat Rabbani, Naeem Rabbani, who held a press conference with his staff here on Monday, said “a repeat of Dadri had been averted”. Police, which reached the hotel in Sindhi Camp a few minutes after the crowd surrounded it, has said that the meat they seized appeared to be “chicken legs”, and it had been sent for testing to the forensic lab to placate tempers. However, hours after the incident, Jaipur Mayor Ashok Lahoty shared a message on a BJP media cell WhatsApp group saying the hotel had been sealed for “feeding beef to cows”.

    At the press conference, Rabbani said that on Sundays, they prepare special chicken for their nine staff members, and it was this that the crowd had mistaken for beef. He said they never serve beef.

    Kamal ‘Didi’, the national president of the ‘Rashtriya Mahila Gau Raksha Dal’, said that around 150 of them had gathered at the hotel after hearing rumours of a “beef party”. “I got a call Sunday evening of stray cows in the area, and reached there with my volunteers to send them to the government-run Hingonia cow rehabilitation centre. However, we spotted two youths throwing some garbage, which looked like beef, near the hotel,” she said. “So we caught them. Locals had also been complaining of a weekly ‘beef party’ on Sundays to us, so we suspected it to be beef.”

    Qasim, 19, a native of Bihar, who works as a cleaner at the hotel, was among the two grabbed by Kamal ‘Didi’. “There is a garbage depot near the hotel and we were throwing the remains of chicken meat when some youths approached us and accused us of throwing beef. The lady in yellow (Kamal ‘Didi’) then thrashed me and they took us to the hotel,” Qasim told The Indian Express.

    Waseem Ahmed, 30, who works as a manager and receptionist at the hotel, said, “The crowd of about three dozen then reached the hotel along with some four policemen and started chanting ‘Narendra Modi Zindabad’, ‘Hayat Rabbani Muradabad’ and ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’.”

    Yunus Khan, 32, employed in the travel section of the hotel, who was present at the time, said, “They barged in and attacked Waseem though police tried to intervene. They were demanding that the owner of the hotel be brought before them.” Abdul Lateef, 70, who is related to the owners of the hotel and runs another eatery nearby, said, “The crowd kept yelling gau-mans (cow-meat) was being consumed at the hotel, and this attracted more and more persons.”

    Officials of the Sindhi Camp police station then brought Qasim and Ahmed to the police station. “We picked them up under Section 151 of the CrPC (arrest to prevent commission of cognizable offences),” Sindhi Camp SHO Manphool Singh said, adding that “prima facie it (the sample seized) was chicken remains”.

    An unnamed FIR was also lodged at the police station under IPC Section 295 A (deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class). Later, as the crowd continued to surround the hotel, Ahmed was taken back. “There was no senior management present and since I sport a beard too, they took me to the hotel,” Ahmed says. “There, I was beaten up again by Kamal ‘Didi’ and her supporters in presence of police.”

    The SHO says they took Ahmed there to get the hotel “vacated”. Rabbani told The Indian Express, “I was away in Sikar when I got to know about the incident. The entire hotel was vacated by police and sealed. All our 28 rooms were sealed. It was around 11 pm, but without letting us take any money from the guests, they made them leave the hotel… It was similar to Dadri. Kya hota agar main wahan hota (What would have happened had I been there)? You saw how angry the mob was? And how police took Waseem back to the hotel and the people attacked him?” Naeem said.

    While DCP, West, Ashok Kumar Gupta had said on Sunday Rabbani had been arrested, this later proved to be wrong. Qasim and Ahmed were released on bail Monday afternoon. Rabbani’s nephew Mohammad Irshad, 27, said protesters, including local corporator Nirmala Sharma, kept demanding that he too come to the hotel though he had already reached the police station.

    Sharma said they wanted to talk to the management. “For several hours, the people at the hotel did not tell us who the owners were. We just wanted them to realise what they had done,” she said. Mayor Lahoty admitted he had sent the WhatsApp message saying it was beef. “Hotel Hayat dwara gaumata ko beef khilane k dus-sahas karne par… hotel ko seize kiya gaya hai (Hotel Hayat has been seized for daring to feed beef to cows),” the message said. “I received the message so I forwarded it,” he told The Indian Express.

    ———-

    “Beef rumours: Dadri averted, police watched mob beat us, say Jaipur hotel owner, manager” by Hamza Khan; Indian Express; 03/022/2017

    “The owner of Hotel Hayat Rabbani, Naeem Rabbani, who held a press conference with his staff here on Monday, said “a repeat of Dadri had been averted”. Police, which reached the hotel in Sindhi Camp a few minutes after the crowd surrounded it, has said that the meat they seized appeared to be “chicken legs”, and it had been sent for testing to the forensic lab to placate tempers. However, hours after the incident, Jaipur Mayor Ashok Lahoty shared a message on a BJP media cell WhatsApp group saying the hotel had been sealed for “feeding beef to cows”.

    So a group of ‘cow vigilantes’ descended on the hotel, police arrive explaining that the suspected meat was actually chicken, but then the mayor of Jaipur sends a message to a BJP WhatsApp group saying the hotel had bee sealed for “feeding beef to cows”. And that’s how the rumor mill works: a group of cow vigilantes charges the hotel with serving beef, and the local mayor ends up sending up a message about how the hotel was feeding beef to cows. It’s like the Telephone Game but with vigilantes who might go murder someone as the message passes around and gets increasingly inflammatory.

    And, of course, the mayor gives the an innocent sounding explanation: he was just forwarding a WhatsApp message someone sent to him:


    While DCP, West, Ashok Kumar Gupta had said on Sunday Rabbani had been arrested, this later proved to be wrong. Qasim and Ahmed were released on bail Monday afternoon. Rabbani’s nephew Mohammad Irshad, 27, said protesters, including local corporator Nirmala Sharma, kept demanding that he too come to the hotel though he had already reached the police station.

    Sharma said they wanted to talk to the management. “For several hours, the people at the hotel did not tell us who the owners were. We just wanted them to realise what they had done,” she said. Mayor Lahoty admitted he had sent the WhatsApp message saying it was beef. “Hotel Hayat dwara gaumata ko beef khilane k dus-sahas karne par… hotel ko seize kiya gaya hai (Hotel Hayat has been seized for daring to feed beef to cows),” the message said. “I received the message so I forwarded it,” he told The Indian Express.

    “I received the message so I forwarded it.” That was the explanation the mayor of Jaipur gave. And that’s probably going to the explanation for all the other outbreaks of misinformation-induced hysteria that India is experiencing. But as we saw with the WhatsApp stories about kidnappers, someone is intentionally spreading this stuff and getting the misinformation ball rolling. So if authorities, or WhatsApp, could figure out who is starting these misinformation campaigns they might actually be able to stop it, or at least punish the punish the perpetrators. But, of course, they can’t find out who started it because that’s what WhatsApp is all about.

    So will the Indian government find some sort of solution to this problem when there’s no obvious solution available? Well, as the following article makes grimly clear, there is one possible solution, although it would require India to vote in a new government because it appears that the BJP is behind much of these rumor campaigns as part of its Hindu nationalist agenda:

    Vice News

    India’s fake news epidemic is killing people, and Modi’s government has no plan to stop it

    By David Gilbert and Zeenat Saberin Jul 17, 2018

    NEW DELHI — Sukanta Chakraborty was hired in June by the Information and Culture department of the Indian state of Tripura to teach Indians how to spot fake news on apps like WhatsApp. He was dead before July.

    With a loudspeaker in hand, the 33-year-old travelled from village to village in the north eastern Indian state of Tripura state in his new job as a “rumor buster,” trying to warn people against the dangers of believing the salacious rumors about child abductors, organ thieves, or cow killers that they were reading on their cell phones.

    “Don’t believe in fake news about child abductions. Don’t take law into your own hands,” Chakraborty shouted, as he travelled from village to village.

    One recent fake news rumor Chakraborty was hired to debunk included a video claiming to show a gang of men kidnapping children in order to harvest their organs and that residents needed to be on the lookout for strangers in their neighborhood. The video turned out to be an edited version of a Pakistani child safety video.

    But villagers were on edge after the brutal murder of an 11-year-old boy in the western part of the state, and willing to believe whatever they read.

    On June 28, Chakraborty entered the tiny village of Kalacherra, less than 15 miles from the border with Bangladesh, to help defuse the situation. That’s when the mob, fearing him to be the mythic child abductor he was hired to dispel, turned on him.

    They beat him to death with stones and sticks. The two policemen who attempted to intervene didn’t fare much better — both were hospitalized from injuries suffered in the mob violence.

    On the same day in the same state, while Chakraborty was being beaten to death, a hawker and a woman were also killed because people believed they were child abductors based on WhatsApp rumors.

    So-called fake news has been blamed for stirring outrage in the U.S., distrust throughout Britain and parts of Europe, and ethnic violence in Myanmar. But in India, it’s killing people. Mob lynchings fueled by fear-mongering rumors on WhatsApp have surged across the subcontinent in recent months, sparking hysteria and violence, baffling police, and leaving a trail of 18 dead since the beginning of May, with dozens more seriously injured.

    Yet Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has largely remained silent about the problem, and analysts say there’s a reason for that: Much of the fake news now spreading like wildfire has been promoted, if not created, by some of Modi’s most fervent supporters.

    “While the media in India and elsewhere have focused on WhatsApp deaths, we have to realize that this is only a specific way in which fake news is being spread by right-wing Hindu supremacists, many of them closely linked to the ruling BJP and its parent body, the openly fascist RSS,” Amrit Wilson, a writer and activist, told VICE News.

    WhatsApp told VICE News it has offered to meet with the Indian government over the issue, but a source at the company with knowledge of its dealings said they have yet to receive a response.

    In the absence of a greater national response from the capital, local police forces are resorting to low-tech solutions like passing out flyers, using loudspeakers, and even hiring musicians to educate people about the dangers of fake news.

    “You have to understand, we are battling a technological machinery of fake news,” Jal Singh Meena, a police chief in Tripura where Chakraborty was killed, told VICE News. “I tour the interior districts of the area I am in charge of. Wherever I see groups of 10-15 people, I talk to them about fake news. Local police officials, while on their duty vigils, are constantly telling the people about this menace from social media rumors.”

    Meena’s hardly unique in this regard. VICE News spoke to multiple police chiefs in rural villages and major cities, and all of them expressed feeling overwhelmed and under-resourced to cope with the current crisis.

    Some police chiefs are even desperately turning to ancient practices and rituals to fight the increasingly fatal phenomenon.

    In Telangana State, Rema Rajeshwari, who serves as district police chief, was struggling after initial efforts to educate 400 villages under her control hit a brick wall. So she turned to the dappus, an ancient drum used mostly in Hindu religious music.

    The police chief trained drummers to use them as a way to gain trust and reach villagers most prone to believing fake news.

    “I head one of the 34 most backward districts in the country. People are very poor and most are illiterate,” Rema told VICE News. “They don’t have any means to verify the authenticity of these fake news that they are subjected to.”

    But drums, loudspeakers, and leaflets can do little to tackle a problem born on a platform with 200 million registered users. Especially when many of those toxic messages are believed to be coming from allies to the country’s prime minister and his ruling party, the BJP.

    India’s Troll Factory

    Just as the Kremlin has been linked to the Internet Research Agency in St. Petersburg, analysts in India say there is reason to believe that Modi’s BJP party is behind much of the fear-based fake news being pushed on WhatsApp and other social media platforms. Modi’s office did not respond to multiple requests for comment on this story.

    Recently, the main opposition party hit out at Modi for “aiding and abetting” the spate of lynching links to rumors spread via WhatsApp.

    “When the state gives the ‘License to Kill’ with impunity and abdicates its solemn responsibility to uphold the ‘Rule of Law,’ resulting in vigilantism, death, and merciless killings of innocent lives, then each one of us should castigate it, decry it, and question it,” Abhishek Singhvi, spokesperson for the National Congress Party, told reporters.

    Facebook’s struggles to track and effectively curb fake news are amplified on WhatsApp, where messages are encrypted so that even WhatsApp can’t see their content. While it is one of the app’s biggest selling points, the added layer of security makes it almost impossible for the company to track and remove fake news. In India, where many users are illiterate and don’t have access to the wider internet, this means WhatsApp rumors spread like wildfire.

    Fake news has been an issue in India for many decades, dating back to the 1980s when cassette recordings of fake gunfire, screams, and chants of “Allah-ho-Akbar” were played through speakers to stir up anti-Muslim hatred. In the internet era, rumors about Pepsi making Kurkure (Indian Cheetos) out of plastic were spread widely, while the makers of a popular mango drink had to give guided tours of their facilities after a rumor went viral online saying its drink contained HIV-positive blood.

    But the advent of WhatsApp, combined with increased access to the internet, means rumors and fake news in India spread to all parts of the country with a speed never before seen.

    Troll armies like those used by Modi’s BJP have taken advantage of the platform’s closed messaging to push divisive, ethnically charged content with the desire to stoke fear and discord.

    When the body of 11-year-old Purna Biswas was found near his home of Mohanpur in West Tripura last month, no one knew why he had been killed. Hours later, Ratan Lal Nath, a local BJP politician, appeared at the boy’s home and falsely claimed that his kidney had been cut from his body by organ traffickers. A day later, the police had arrested the two murderers who revealed Biswas’ death was related to a family land dispute.

    This was hardly the first time BJP attempted to use dangerous social media rumors for its political gain; it has been at the bedrock of the party’s staggering success in recent years.

    In her book, “I am a Troll: Inside the Secret World of the BJP’s Digital Army,” journalist Swati Chaturvedi explains how the party orchestrates online campaigns to intimidate perceived government critics through a network of trolls on Twitter and Facebook. And she cites multiple people who worked inside the BJP’s social media machine to make her case.

    They’re not alone. Chaturvedi’s findings were backed by another former BJP cyber-volunteer, Sadhavi Khosla, who left the party in 2015 because of the constant barrage of misogyny, Islamophobia, and hatred she was asked to disseminate online. And Prodyut Bora, one of the masterminds of the BJP’s early technology and social media strategy, recently offered a similar outlook. He described his creation as “Frankenstein’s monster,” and said that it had morphed from its original aim of better connecting with the party’s supporters. “I mean, occasionally, it’s just painful to watch what they have done with it,” he told HuffPost India last month.

    Right-wing publication Postcard News — dubbed “a mega factory of fake news” — hit the headlines in March when its founder, Mahesh Vikram Hegde, was arrested for spreading false information about a Jain monk being assaulted by a Muslim youth. The monk was in fact injured in a minor road accident, and police said Hegde was fully aware of this fact when he made his claim.

    Despite trying to incite religious conflict between two communities — or perhaps because of it — Hedge and Postcard News received robust support from the BJP’s social media network. Within hours, the #ReleaseMaheshHegde hashtag was trending on Twitter. As of this week, prominent BJP politicians were still promoting stories from Postcard News.

    We are with the team @postcard_news who are doing a fantastic job of exposing the Ecosystem of #Modihaters & when we compare with MSM on the basis of rate of #FakeNews peddled ,Mahesh Hegde & his team is far better…Much more better & trustable than #HereLiesNDTV https://t.co/0su1fGH1Eq— Shobha Karandlaje (@ShobhaBJP) July 12, 2018

    This network is an example of what Harsh Taneja, an assistant professor at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, describes as the “hierarchical tree-like structure” of the BJP’s social media machine.

    The highly structured nature of the network allows national messages to flow down to every district in the country, and conversely for a local volunteer to flag something up to the national conversation, Taneja explained.

    “It is very well-structured, it is well-funded, and they have a lot of volunteers,” Rohit Chopra, a media studies professor at Santa Clara University, told VICE News of the BJP social media machine. “There are people who see themselves as dedicated warriors.”

    While the rumors on WhatsApp warn of child abductors and cow killers, the messages often also come tinged with anti-Muslim or anti-Christian sentiment, and fit into the wider policy of Hindu nationalism that Modi’s government has been accused of promoting above all.

    “While there is no evidence of it being organized, there are all the symptoms of it being organized,” said Pratik Sinha, who runs the fact-checking website AltNews.com. He cited the fact that every time an election approaches, the level of fake news he has to deal with increases.

    Government silence

    For all the deaths, the government has said very little. A month after it held a meeting vaguely designed to discuss measures to fight malicious content appearing on social media, it suddenly issued a stinging rebuke of the messaging app, telling WhatsApp senior management “that necessary remedial measures should be taken.”

    WhatsApp responded by offering to meet with government officials to discuss the problem. Despite its efforts, the company has still not had any direct contact with the Indian government, a source familiar with the issue at WhatsApp told VICE News.

    This week the company took matters into its own hands, launching an ad campaign in India designed to educate people about how to spot fake news and bogus warnings. It also launched a feature that indicates when a message has been forwarded, versus written by a friend or relative.

    The company is also offering $50,000 grants to social scientists who want to investigate possible solutions for the spread of misinformation on its platform.

    "Question information that upsets you", says WhatsApp's full-page advertisements. Clearly the solution to declining newspaper ad revenues in India will come from how we tackle our digital fake news crisis. pic.twitter.com/3h5XyJeMIr— Anuj Srivas (@AnujSrivas) July 10, 2018

    The source at WhatsApp, who was not authorized to speak on the record, told VICE News that people within the company are especially worried about the scale of disinformation being spread on its platform in the run-up to next year’s elections and this week’s efforts are a way of starting to address those concerns.

    ———-

    “India’s fake news epidemic is killing people, and Modi’s government has no plan to stop it” by David Gilbert and Zeenat Saberin; Vice News; 07/17/2018

    “Sukanta Chakraborty was hired in June by the Information and Culture department of the Indian state of Tripura to teach Indians how to spot fake news on apps like WhatsApp. He was dead before July.

    The guy hired by the Indian government to educate people about fake news as literally killed within a month due to fake news. That actually happened:


    With a loudspeaker in hand, the 33-year-old travelled from village to village in the north eastern Indian state of Tripura state in his new job as a “rumor buster,” trying to warn people against the dangers of believing the salacious rumors about child abductors, organ thieves, or cow killers that they were reading on their cell phones.

    “Don’t believe in fake news about child abductions. Don’t take law into your own hands,” Chakraborty shouted, as he travelled from village to village.

    One recent fake news rumor Chakraborty was hired to debunk included a video claiming to show a gang of men kidnapping children in order to harvest their organs and that residents needed to be on the lookout for strangers in their neighborhood. The video turned out to be an edited version of a Pakistani child safety video.

    But villagers were on edge after the brutal murder of an 11-year-old boy in the western part of the state, and willing to believe whatever they read.

    On June 28, Chakraborty entered the tiny village of Kalacherra, less than 15 miles from the border with Bangladesh, to help defuse the situation. That’s when the mob, fearing him to be the mythic child abductor he was hired to dispel, turned on him.

    They beat him to death with stones and sticks. The two policemen who attempted to intervene didn’t fare much better — both were hospitalized from injuries suffered in the mob violence.

    On the same day in the same state, while Chakraborty was being beaten to death, a hawker and a woman were also killed because people believed they were child abductors based on WhatsApp rumors.

    “On June 28, Chakraborty entered the tiny village of Kalacherra, less than 15 miles from the border with Bangladesh, to help defuse the situation. That’s when the mob, fearing him to be the mythic child abductor he was hired to dispel, turned on him.”

    And as analysts of India’s fake news epidemic grimly point out, the Modi government has been largely silent on this deadly fake news epidemic because Modi’s party is behind a much larger systematic misinformation campaign designed to promote their far right agenda, of which WhatsApp is just one componennt:


    So-called fake news has been blamed for stirring outrage in the U.S., distrust throughout Britain and parts of Europe, and ethnic violence in Myanmar. But in India, it’s killing people. Mob lynchings fueled by fear-mongering rumors on WhatsApp have surged across the subcontinent in recent months, sparking hysteria and violence, baffling police, and leaving a trail of 18 dead since the beginning of May, with dozens more seriously injured.

    Yet Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has largely remained silent about the problem, and analysts say there’s a reason for that: Much of the fake news now spreading like wildfire has been promoted, if not created, by some of Modi’s most fervent supporters.

    “While the media in India and elsewhere have focused on WhatsApp deaths, we have to realize that this is only a specific way in which fake news is being spread by right-wing Hindu supremacists, many of them closely linked to the ruling BJP and its parent body, the openly fascist RSS,” Amrit Wilson, a writer and activist, told VICE News.

    “While the media in India and elsewhere have focused on WhatsApp deaths, we have to realize that this is only a specific way in which fake news is being spread by right-wing Hindu supremacists, many of them closely linked to the ruling BJP and its parent body, the openly fascist RSS.”

    And while the Indian government has recently started to openly blame WhatsApp for this mob violence, WhatsApp claims that when they offered to meeting with the Indian government over the issue they have yet to receive a response. So it doesn’t sound like Modi’s government actually wants to find a solution to this:


    WhatsApp told VICE News it has offered to meet with the Indian government over the issue, but a source at the company with knowledge of its dealings said they have yet to receive a response.

    Government silence

    For all the deaths, the government has said very little. A month after it held a meeting vaguely designed to discuss measures to fight malicious content appearing on social media, it suddenly issued a stinging rebuke of the messaging app, telling WhatsApp senior management “that necessary remedial measures should be taken.”

    WhatsApp responded by offering to meet with government officials to discuss the problem. Despite its efforts, the company has still not had any direct contact with the Indian government, a source familiar with the issue at WhatsApp told VICE News.

    Local authorities, on the other hand, are expressing severe concern. Concern and a sense of futility that presumably comes from an awareness that so much of this disinformation is coming from the fuling BJP itself:


    In the absence of a greater national response from the capital, local police forces are resorting to low-tech solutions like passing out flyers, using loudspeakers, and even hiring musicians to educate people about the dangers of fake news.

    “You have to understand, we are battling a technological machinery of fake news,” Jal Singh Meena, a police chief in Tripura where Chakraborty was killed, told VICE News. “I tour the interior districts of the area I am in charge of. Wherever I see groups of 10-15 people, I talk to them about fake news. Local police officials, while on their duty vigils, are constantly telling the people about this menace from social media rumors.”

    Meena’s hardly unique in this regard. VICE News spoke to multiple police chiefs in rural villages and major cities, and all of them expressed feeling overwhelmed and under-resourced to cope with the current crisis.

    Some police chiefs are even desperately turning to ancient practices and rituals to fight the increasingly fatal phenomenon.

    In Telangana State, Rema Rajeshwari, who serves as district police chief, was struggling after initial efforts to educate 400 villages under her control hit a brick wall. So she turned to the dappus, an ancient drum used mostly in Hindu religious music.

    The police chief trained drummers to use them as a way to gain trust and reach villagers most prone to believing fake news.

    “I head one of the 34 most backward districts in the country. People are very poor and most are illiterate,” Rema told VICE News. “They don’t have any means to verify the authenticity of these fake news that they are subjected to.”

    But drums, loudspeakers, and leaflets can do little to tackle a problem born on a platform with 200 million registered users. Especially when many of those toxic messages are believed to be coming from allies to the country’s prime minister and his ruling party, the BJP.

    And it’s not purely speculation that the BJP is behind this. As we saw above, BJP officials keep getting caught using social media and WhatsApp to spread messages that aren’t just fake but inflammatory:


    India’s Troll Factory

    Just as the Kremlin has been linked to the Internet Research Agency in St. Petersburg, analysts in India say there is reason to believe that Modi’s BJP party is behind much of the fear-based fake news being pushed on WhatsApp and other social media platforms. Modi’s office did not respond to multiple requests for comment on this story.

    Recently, the main opposition party hit out at Modi for “aiding and abetting” the spate of lynching links to rumors spread via WhatsApp.

    “When the state gives the ‘License to Kill’ with impunity and abdicates its solemn responsibility to uphold the ‘Rule of Law,’ resulting in vigilantism, death, and merciless killings of innocent lives, then each one of us should castigate it, decry it, and question it,” Abhishek Singhvi, spokesperson for the National Congress Party, told reporters.

    Troll armies like those used by Modi’s BJP have taken advantage of the platform’s closed messaging to push divisive, ethnically charged content with the desire to stoke fear and discord.

    When the body of 11-year-old Purna Biswas was found near his home of Mohanpur in West Tripura last month, no one knew why he had been killed. Hours later, Ratan Lal Nath, a local BJP politician, appeared at the boy’s home and falsely claimed that his kidney had been cut from his body by organ traffickers. A day later, the police had arrested the two murderers who revealed Biswas’ death was related to a family land dispute.

    This was hardly the first time BJP attempted to use dangerous social media rumors for its political gain; it has been at the bedrock of the party’s staggering success in recent years.

    In her book, “I am a Troll: Inside the Secret World of the BJP’s Digital Army,” journalist Swati Chaturvedi explains how the party orchestrates online campaigns to intimidate perceived government critics through a network of trolls on Twitter and Facebook. And she cites multiple people who worked inside the BJP’s social media machine to make her case.

    And then there are the former BJP member were were literally part of the BJP’s troll armies who have gone public with how they were asked to promote a constant barrage of misogyny, Islamophobia, and general hatred:


    They’re not alone.

    And Prodyut Bora, one of the masterminds of the BJP’s early technology and social media strategy, recently offered a similar outlook. He described his creation as “Frankenstein’s monster,” and said that it had morphed from its original aim of better connecting with the party’s supporters. “I mean, occasionally, it’s just painful to watch what they have done with it,” he told HuffPost India last month.

    And then there’s the BJP’s defense of “Postcard News”, known as a “mega factor of fake news”:


    Right-wing publication Postcard News — dubbed “a mega factory of fake news” — hit the headlines in March when its founder, Mahesh Vikram Hegde, was arrested for spreading false information about a Jain monk being assaulted by a Muslim youth. The monk was in fact injured in a minor road accident, and police said Hegde was fully aware of this fact when he made his claim.

    Despite trying to incite religious conflict between two communities — or perhaps because of it — Hedge and Postcard News received robust support from the BJP’s social media network. Within hours, the #ReleaseMaheshHegde hashtag was trending on Twitter. As of this week, prominent BJP politicians were still promoting stories from Postcard News.

    We are with the team @postcard_news who are doing a fantastic job of exposing the Ecosystem of #Modihaters & when we compare with MSM on the basis of rate of #FakeNews peddled ,Mahesh Hegde & his team is far better…Much more better & trustable than #HereLiesNDTV https://t.co/0su1fGH1Eq— Shobha Karandlaje (@ShobhaBJP) July 12, 2018

    And this is all part of what one academic describes as the “hierarchical tree-like structure” of the BJP’s social media machine. Large numbers of BJP local volunteers work with the central BJP leadership to unleash coordinated waves of propaganda around the the country:


    This network is an example of what Harsh Taneja, an assistant professor at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, describes as the “hierarchical tree-like structure” of the BJP’s social media machine.

    The highly structured nature of the network allows national messages to flow down to every district in the country, and conversely for a local volunteer to flag something up to the national conversation, Taneja explained.

    “It is very well-structured, it is well-funded, and they have a lot of volunteers,” Rohit Chopra, a media studies professor at Santa Clara University, told VICE News of the BJP social media machine. “There are people who see themselves as dedicated warriors.”

    While the rumors on WhatsApp warn of child abductors and cow killers, the messages often also come tinged with anti-Muslim or anti-Christian sentiment, and fit into the wider policy of Hindu nationalism that Modi’s government has been accused of promoting above all.

    “While there is no evidence of it being organized, there are all the symptoms of it being organized,” said Pratik Sinha, who runs the fact-checking website AltNews.com. He cited the fact that every time an election approaches, the level of fake news he has to deal with increases.

    And that’s all why we probably shouldn’t expect India’s WhatsApp-fueled mob violence to end any time time. It’s part of the secret to the BJP’s success. Sure, it’s an open secret at this point, but a particularly hard open secret to prove because, again, that’s what WhatsApp is all about.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | July 19, 2018, 2:35 pm
  2. Here’s an interesting development in the epidemic of using the WhatsApp end-to-end encrypted communications smartphone app to spread misinformation about child abductions and trigger lynchings: The Indian government is warning that it’s going to demand that WhatsApp give them legal access to the contents of WhatsApp messages in order to investigate the misinformation campaigns. But if WhatsApp agreed to this it would completely negate the main selling point of WhatsApp that it’s so secure no one, even WhatsApp, can read the messages other than the end users. So, quite predictably, we have a situation where encryption technology is being abused and everyone is discovering that there’s little that can be done to address the abuse.

    Now, keep in mind that there are strong indicators the ruling party of India, the BJP, is actually creating a number of these misinformation campaigns as part of a divide and conquer political strategy of fomenting ethnic and sectarian tensions. So it’s very unclear how much we should believe the Modi government actually wants to address the WhatsApp misinformation epidemic. But, at least on the surface, the Modi government is threatening legal action if WhatsApp doesn’t hack itself soon:

    Venture Beat

    WhatsApp balks at India’s demand to break encryption

    Manish Singh
    July 23, 2018 2:05 PM

    As WhatsApp scrambles to figure out technology solutions to address some of the problems its service has inadvertently caused in developing markets, India’s government has proposed one of its own: bring traceability to the platform so false information can be traced to its source. But WhatsApp indicated to VentureBeat over the weekend that complying with that request would undermine the service’s core value of protecting user privacy.

    “We remain deeply committed to people’s privacy and security, which is why we will continue to maintain end-to-end encryption for all of our users,” the company said.

    The request for traceability, which came from India’s Ministry of Electronics & IT last week, was more than a suggestion. The Ministry said Facebook-owned WhatsApp would face legal actions if it failed to deliver.

    “There is a need for bringing in traceability and accountability when a provocative/inflammatory message is detected and a request is made by law enforcement agencies,” the government said Friday. “When rumours and fake news get propagated by mischief mongers, the medium used for such propagation cannot evade responsibility and accountability. If they remain mute spectators they are liable to be treated as abettors and thereafter face consequent legal action,” it added.

    India is WhatsApp’s largest market, with more than 250 million users. The country is struggling to contain the spread of fake news on digital platforms. Hoax messages and videos on the platform have incited multiple riots, costing more than two dozen lives in the country this year alone.

    Allowing message tracing, though, would likely undo the privacy and security that WhatsApp’s one billion users worldwide expect from the service.

    Bringing traceability and accountability to WhatsApp would mean breaking end-to-end encryption on the platform, the company told VentureBeat. WhatsApp encrypts all the texts and media files that users exchange with each other. As a result, the company does not have the technical means to read the content of an exchange between two or more users.

    Moreover, privacy advocates from across the globe have long expressed the need for end-to-end encryption on instant messaging services. When WhatsApp flipped the switch to provide its billion users encryption by default, it received quite a bit of praise.

    The Indian government, parties of which themselves are big WhatsApp users, has remained vague on what sort of access it is looking for. Matthew Green, Assistant Professor of Computer Science at the Johns Hopkins Information Security Institute, told VentureBeat the traditional investigative techniques — asking individuals on the receiving end of those communications about the sender’s identity (because often there are dozens of people, if not more, in a group) — tend to work pretty well.

    “So the questions that come up from my perspective are: What exactly is law enforcement looking for here? What precisely about the current state of encryption is making this hard? Can the investigative capabilities they require be achieved without breaking encryption? Or is the goal something more powerful, like the ability to proactively filter for specific keywords? That last would be a very significant request,” Green said.

    With the violence that has resulted from the spread of fake news on the platform, however, it is clear WhatsApp needs to do more. So far the company has rolled out a feature to help users determine when a message they have received is part of a forward chain. It is now testing imposing a limit on how many times a user can forward a message.

    The criticism WhatsApp is receiving comes while its parent company, Facebook, is itself in hot water in many nations for the spread of misinformation. Earlier this month, Facebook said it would soon work with fact checkers and threat intelligence agencies in India, Myanmar, and Sri Lanka to review and delete messages disseminating false information that have the potential to cause harm in real time.

    Because of how WhatsApp is built, a similar high-scale approach cannot be replicated on WhatsApp. (On Facebook, people willfully share their updates with friends, friends of friends, and to the entire world.) In a statement, a WhatsApp spokesperson said the platform needs other parties to participate in helping it curb these problems.

    “To tackle the challenges posed by misinformation we need action by government, civil society, and technology companies. Over the last month we’ve made several changes to WhatsApp including new controls for group admins and limits on forwarded messages,” a company spokesperson said, adding that it has also launched a digital literacy campaign to educate users.

    India has over 400 million internet users and more than 300 million smartphone users, according to industry estimates. Much of these new users have come online for the first time only in the recent years. Many of these people are naive about the scope of abuse on internet services and have a tendency to believe everything they see online.

    As part of its attempt to address the problems in India, WhatsApp, which is the most popular smartphone app in India, has been running newspaper ads in India (as well as several other markets) for roughly a year to advise people that they should be thoughtful about what they choose to share with their friends and family on the platform.

    ———-

    “WhatsApp balks at India’s demand to break encryption” by Manish Singh; Venture Beat; 07/23/2018

    “The request for traceability, which came from India’s Ministry of Electronics & IT last week, was more than a suggestion. The Ministry said Facebook-owned WhatsApp would face legal actions if it failed to deliver.

    It’s not just a request for the traceability of messages. It’s a legal threat:


    “There is a need for bringing in traceability and accountability when a provocative/inflammatory message is detected and a request is made by law enforcement agencies,” the government said Friday. “When rumours and fake news get propagated by mischief mongers, the medium used for such propagation cannot evade responsibility and accountability. If they remain mute spectators they are liable to be treated as abettors and thereafter face consequent legal action,” it added.

    India is WhatsApp’s largest market, with more than 250 million users. The country is struggling to contain the spread of fake news on digital platforms. Hoax messages and videos on the platform have incited multiple riots, costing more than two dozen lives in the country this year alone.

    And it’s not like demanding the ability for law enforcement to trace the origins of messages that are analogous to shouting “fire” in a crowded theater (or, shouting “child abductors!” in this case) is some sort of egregious government overreach. This is merely exactly the kind of conflict we should have expected the when communication technology that no government can crack became popular.

    But, of course, this reasonable request cuts at the core of the service WhatsApp is providing: secure communications. Being unable to address the abuses of WhatsApp has always been WhatsApp’s selling point:


    Allowing message tracing, though, would likely undo the privacy and security that WhatsApp’s one billion users worldwide expect from the service.

    Bringing traceability and accountability to WhatsApp would mean breaking end-to-end encryption on the platform, the company told VentureBeat. WhatsApp encrypts all the texts and media files that users exchange with each other. As a result, the company does not have the technical means to read the content of an exchange between two or more users.

    So it doesn’t sound like WhatsApp has any interest in cracking itself. Which means we’re probably in store for a big public relations campaign by a slew of privacy advocates trying to explain why WhatsApp shouldn’t be expected to make the changes required to police itself.

    One privacy advocate, Matthew Green, Assistant Professor of Computer Science at the Johns Hopkins Information Security Institute, is already questioning why traditional investigative techniques – like asking the people who receive the misinformation messages to forward them to police along with the identify of the people who sent it to them – hasn’t been adequate in addressing the problem:


    Moreover, privacy advocates from across the globe have long expressed the need for end-to-end encryption on instant messaging services. When WhatsApp flipped the switch to provide its billion users encryption by default, it received quite a bit of praise.

    The Indian government, parties of which themselves are big WhatsApp users, has remained vague on what sort of access it is looking for. Matthew Green, Assistant Professor of Computer Science at the Johns Hopkins Information Security Institute, told VentureBeat the traditional investigative techniques — asking individuals on the receiving end of those communications about the sender’s identity (because often there are dozens of people, if not more, in a group) — tend to work pretty well.

    “So the questions that come up from my perspective are: What exactly is law enforcement looking for here? What precisely about the current state of encryption is making this hard? Can the investigative capabilities they require be achieved without breaking encryption? Or is the goal something more powerful, like the ability to proactively filter for specific keywords? That last would be a very significant request,” Green said.

    Keep in mind that Mathew Green is also one of the people behind Zerocoin, an extension of the of Bitcoin protocol designed to make Bitcoin transactions even more anonymous than they already were. So if you’re the type of person who doesn’t think Bitcoin transactions were anonymous enough, you’re probably not going to be very enthusiastic about government demands for the ability to trace WhatsApp messages. Also keep in mind that India isn’t the only government experiencing waves of WhatsApp-driven dangerous misinformation campaigns with no real solution.

    But Green does raise the interesting question of whether or not the Indian government have something else in mind when it makes these demands. So it’s worth noting that there is one rather ominous possible answer to that question: as a pretext for placing government spyware on Indians’ phones. After all, the one obvious means of getting around end-to-end encryption is to hack one of the ends of that communication. And when you consider the BJP’s role in promoting these misinformation campaigns along with the Modi government’s close ties to Silicon Valley, an ulterior motive seems like the kind of thing we should be watching out for.

    So does is seem far fetched to imagine the Modi government using the WhatsApps misinformation campaigns – many created by the BJP itself – as an excuse for greater surveillance of people’s smartphones? Well, when you consider that the Modi government recent request bid for companies to provide them with tools to monitory all Indians’ social media posts and even emails in order to promote nationalistic sentiments and combat fake news, it might seem less far fetched:

    Bloomberg

    India to Intensify Scrutiny of Citizens’ Social Media, Emails

    By Iain Marlow
    May 29, 2018, 6:33 AM CDT Updated on May 29, 2018, 10:15 PM CDT

    * Bid seeks software to shape positive international narrative
    * Tender calls for tool to ‘neutralize’ India’s adversaries

    India’s government is looking for a company to analyze social media posts to help boost nationalism and neutralize any “media blitzkrieg by India’s adversaries.”

    In a lengthy tender posted online, India’s Ministry of Information and Broadcasting said it wants a company to provide analytical software and a team of at least 20 professionals to “power a real time New Media Command Room.”

    They should monitor Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, Internet forums and even email in order to analyze sentiment, identify “fake news,” disseminate information on behalf of the government and inject news and social media posts with a “positive slant for India,” the tender said.

    Under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration, India’s ministries and cabinet ministers have been active on social media, tweeting new policies and interacting with citizens. But this tender suggests Modi’s government now wants more powerful social media tools to shape a positive narrative about India and encourage nationalism among its citizens in the lead up to state and national elections.

    “Essentially, the hub will be a mass surveillance tool,” said Nikita Sud, an associate professor of international development at Oxford University. “Nationalism seems to be equated with agreement with the government of the day, or even with the party in power. There are grave implications here for India’s democracy, and for the fundamental rights to free speech and expression guaranteed by the Indian constitution.”

    A spokesman in the prime minister’s office did not immediately respond to a call or text. Calls to a spokesman for the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting were not answered.

    Fake News

    India is just the latest Asian country looking more closely at “fake news” and social media. In the run up to a closely-fought election in Malaysia, the government of former prime minister Najib Razak introduced a fake news law that was used to probe his chief opponent Mahathir Mohamad, who won the election and has reportedly proposed to repeal the law. In Singapore, a parliamentary select committee recently held public hearings over the issue of imposing new restrictions on “fake news.”

    In India’s tender, the government seeks the ability to track trends, topics and Twitter hashtags relevant to government activities. But it also seeks the ability to drill down and monitor individual social media accounts, create historical archives of conversations and help shape a positive narrative about India.

    It suggests the social media tool should use “predictive modeling” and “data mining” to “make predictions about the future or unknown events,” including the impact of headlines in international publications such as the New York Times, the Economist and Time magazine.

    What “would be the global public perception due to such headlines and breaking news, how could the public perception be molded in positive manner for the country, how could nationalistic feelings be inculcated in the masses,” it continues. How “could the media blitzkrieg of India’s adversaries be predicted and replied/neutralized, how could the social media and internet news/discussions be given a positive slant for India,” the document reads.

    “This tender contains a worrying emphasis on isolating and countering individual views,” said Saksham Khosla, a research analyst at Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’s India office. “Will it collect other personal data? The line between surveillance and responsiveness is blurry, and without rigorous privacy safeguards and oversight, the potential for misuse and overreach is high.”

    ———-

    “India to Intensify Scrutiny of Citizens’ Social Media, Emails” by Iain Marlow; Bloomberg; 05/29/2018

    “They should monitor Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, Internet forums and even email in order to analyze sentiment, identify “fake news,” disseminate information on behalf of the government and inject news and social media posts with a “positive slant for India,” the tender said.”

    A system to monitoring everyone’s emails, ostensibly to to identify and combat fake news. That sure sounds like the kind of agenda that could actually benefit immensely from a WhatsApp misinformation campaign that appears to have no other solution.

    And it’s going to be about far more than just combating ‘fake news’. The vision is for a platform that will literally provide real-time surveillance of public sentiment and the tools that can be used to push those sentiments in a more nationalist direction:


    Under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration, India’s ministries and cabinet ministers have been active on social media, tweeting new policies and interacting with citizens. But this tender suggests Modi’s government now wants more powerful social media tools to shape a positive narrative about India and encourage nationalism among its citizens in the lead up to state and national elections.

    “Essentially, the hub will be a mass surveillance tool,” said Nikita Sud, an associate professor of international development at Oxford University. “Nationalism seems to be equated with agreement with the government of the day, or even with the party in power. There are grave implications here for India’s democracy, and for the fundamental rights to free speech and expression guaranteed by the Indian constitution.”

    A spokesman in the prime minister’s office did not immediately respond to a call or text. Calls to a spokesman for the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting were not answered.

    Perhaps the most disturbing part of this plan is for this system to have the ability to create historical archives of individual conversations. Everyone’s chit chat on the internet is going to archived and analyzed for appropriate levels of nationalism, and this data will be used for predictive modeling, data mining, and the creation of a positive narrative about India:


    Fake News

    India is just the latest Asian country looking more closely at “fake news” and social media. In the run up to a closely-fought election in Malaysia, the government of former prime minister Najib Razak introduced a fake news law that was used to probe his chief opponent Mahathir Mohamad, who won the election and has reportedly proposed to repeal the law. In Singapore, a parliamentary select committee recently held public hearings over the issue of imposing new restrictions on “fake news.”

    In India’s tender, the government seeks the ability to track trends, topics and Twitter hashtags relevant to government activities. But it also seeks the ability to drill down and monitor individual social media accounts, create historical archives of conversations and help shape a positive narrative about India.

    It suggests the social media tool should use “predictive modeling” and “data mining” to “make predictions about the future or unknown events,” including the impact of headlines in international publications such as the New York Times, the Economist and Time magazine.

    What “would be the global public perception due to such headlines and breaking news, how could the public perception be molded in positive manner for the country, how could nationalistic feelings be inculcated in the masses,” it continues. How “could the media blitzkrieg of India’s adversaries be predicted and replied/neutralized, how could the social media and internet news/discussions be given a positive slant for India,” the document reads.

    “This tender contains a worrying emphasis on isolating and countering individual views,” said Saksham Khosla, a research analyst at Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’s India office. “Will it collect other personal data? The line between surveillance and responsiveness is blurry, and without rigorous privacy safeguards and oversight, the potential for misuse and overreach is high.”

    So if this envisioned system is archiving individual social media content, and potentially emails too, it’s not like it’s going to be a big stretch for the Indian government to say, “oh, and you need to have this special app on your phone for monitoring your conversations over WhatsApp and any other popular chat apps too so we can combat fake news.”

    And that’s all part of what’s going to make the Modi government’s emerging showdown with Whatsapp so fascinating to play out: there really is a big misinformation problem created by WhatsApp, but the Modi government appears to be a big part of that big problem. And by creating this big problem, the Modi government may have created the kind of situation that will make it a lot easier to get public support for its mass surveillance/manipulation agenda designed to optimize the pro-BJP/Hindu nationalist messaging for maximum propagandistic effect. In other words, the answer to India’s fake news problem is probably going to be government=run curated and turbo-charged fake news developed with the use of the all the surveillance data gathered in order to combat the original fake news.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | July 24, 2018, 3:32 pm
  3. Here’s a piece that’s another reminder of how deeply the Hindu nationalist ideologies that underpin India’s ruling BJP party, and its parent RSS group, were fundamentally shaped by the Nazis. It’s also a reminder of how important mythological pasts are for these kinds of movements. Finally, it’s a reminder of the important role anti-Semitism played in both providing a model to RSS of how to successfully demonize of minority group (Muslims, in the case of the RSS) and how anti-Semitism remains a ‘go-to’ tool for Hindu nationalists today when dealing with non-Indians perceived to be enemies of the movement: Audrey Truschke, a historian of premodern India at Rutgers University, has clearly ruffled some Hindu nationalist feathers with her scholarly works on the historical legacy of Islam in India. Her research primarily deals with Muslim dynasty that ruled much of north and central South Asia in the 16th and 17th centuries. As a result of that work, Truschke has found herself under attack from Hindu nationalists upset with her work, with anti-Semitism being at the core of these attacks (despite Truschke not being Jewish):

    Scroll.in

    Hindu nationalists increasingly use anti-Semitic slurs to target me – and that isn’t surprising
    Independent India has developed a strong appetite for aspects of fascism, including Nazi ideology.

    11/12/2018 · 08:00 am
    Audrey Truschke

    Two years ago, I awoke to the following tweet, “I hope another Hitler comes back and finishes off your people”, accompanied by a picture from 1945 of the bodies of dead Jews piled outside a liberated concentration camp. Since then, I have been regularly attacked with anti-Semitic language and tropes on social media, especially on Twitter.

    I am a target for anti-Semitic insults due to my work: I am a historian of premodern India. My research primarily concerns the Mughals, a Muslim dynasty that ruled much of north and central South Asia in the 16th and 17th centuries and built the Taj Mahal. Most historians – especially those who work on non-Western, premodern topics – find their audience confined to scholars and students. But Indians have a voracious appetite for history, and the historical legacy of Islam in India has become a subject of explosive controversy in recent years. This potent combination has made my scholarship of wide interest among Indian and Indian American readers and has also made me a target of vicious personal attacks on the basis of my perceived race, gender, and religion.

    Historically, anti-Semitism was not an Indian problem. Small Jewish communities, often traders, have dotted India’s western coast for more than a millennium. Premodern Indian Jews did not suffer from the persecution and discrimination that often characterised the lives of their European counterparts. In the 20th century, many Indian institutions and independence leaders condemned rising anti-Semitism in Europe. For example, following Kristallnacht in 1938, the Indian National Congress issued a declaration against Hitler’s Germany. Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, two of India’s most famous Independence leaders, condemned the Nazi treatment of Jews.

    India’s distaste for anti-Semitism began to erode in the early 20th century, however, especially among Hindu nationalists. Hindu nationalists – who believe that India ought to be a Hindu nation in population and character – warmly embraced fascist ideas. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, a paramilitary Hindu nationalist group founded in 1925, modelled itself on contemporary European fascist movements. The Hindu Mahasabha, a Hindu nationalist organisation founded in 1915, openly supported Nazism, including “Germany’s crusade against the enemies of Aryan culture”, as a spokesman for the group put it in 1939.

    Rise of anti-Semitism in India

    A key appeal of Nazism for early Hindu nationalists was anti-Semitism, which they saw as a useful model for how to demonise India’s Muslim minority. Muslims constituted 24% of the Indian population in 1941, and they comprise 14% of Indians today (the drop is explained by the Partition of Pakistan and its large Muslim population from India in 1947). Speaking in 1939 in Calcutta, VD Savarkar, the ideological godfather of Hindu nationalism, identified Indian Muslims as a potential traitorous people not to be trusted, “like the Jews in Germany”. In the same year, MS Golwalkar, a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh leader, wrote that Germany’s “purging the country of the semitic Race – the Jews” was “a good lesson for us in Hindustan to learn and profit by”.

    For decades, Hindu nationalists constituted a set of fringe organisations whose extreme ideas were rejected by the wider Indian public. In 1948, a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh man, Nathuram Godse, assassinated Mahatma Gandhi, which sparked a brief ban on the group’s operations. The Sangh experienced a remarkable recovery in subsequent decades, however, transforming itself from an extremist association known for producing Gandhi’s killer into the leaders of independent India. Today, Narendra Modi, who has had a lifelong association with the RSS, leads India as its prime minister.

    Independent India has developed a strong appetite for aspects of fascism, including Nazi ideology. Hitler’s autobiography, Mein Kampf, has gone through countless editions in India and has been a bestseller in the country for decades. The work is especially popular among businessmen who see it as a self-help guide for how determination and strength can produce success. Indeed, I was once told by a gentleman in Bikaner, “Madam, you are a great leader like Hitler.” This was meant as a compliment.

    Growing hate and intolerance

    The Indian fascination with Hitler is often explained away as having nothing to do with anti-Semitism. Some argue that Indians hardly learn about the Holocaust in school and that they are historically and emotionally distant from the darker sides of Nazism. Others point out that the Indian state enjoys robust relations with Israel.

    In India, however, growing bigotry and close relations with Israel are hardly mutually exclusive. A prejudiced attitude against Muslims has served as a binding glue between Israel and India over the past decade or two. Hate crimes against numerous groups – including Muslims, Christians, Dalits, and anybody who eats beef – are on the rise in Modi’s India. Such trends are unsurprising given the Hindu nationalist propaganda espoused by Modi and his political party, the Bharatiya Janata Party.

    Anti-Semitic attitudes are not a central storyline in this larger flowering of prejudice, but they are a readymade playbook of virulent hate that can be unleashed against foreign scholars. Academics, such as myself, often contradict Hindu nationalist claims about a pristine Hindu past, in which Muslims are seen as barbarous invaders, by arguing that many Muslims were embedded into the fabric of premodern Indian society. By virtue of our dedication to accuracy, scholars also shed unfavourable light on the origins of groups such as the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. Hindu nationalists lack the historical evidence to counter academic claims on scholarly grounds, and so they turn to one of their most finely-tuned weapons: identity-based attacks.

    One curious aspect of this anti-Semitism directed at me is that I am not, in fact, Jewish. Perhaps my last name suggests a Jewish identity to those unfamiliar with eastern European surnames, but I suspect that darker reasons often lurk behind this mistaken identification. Several of my academic advisors are Jewish and frequently maligned as such by Hindu nationalists. As a result, I am evidently perceived as a Jew by association. More insidiously, the old anti-Semitic trope that Jews control universities still surfaces with alarming regularity. This is a sub-type of the foundational anti-Semitic trope that there is an international Jewish conspiracy to run the world. In other words, anti-Semitism blinds people into assuming that I am Jewish, and then provides them with a remarkably hateful set of tools with which to attack me.

    India has a growing problem with hate and intolerance. Alarmingly, in recent years, much of this hate has been sponsored by groups and figures that are close to the Indian government. Within India, Muslims remain the chief targets of mounting bigotry and violent assaults. When attacking non-Indians, however, Hindu nationalists increasingly resort to the virulent anti-Semitic ideas that inspired their early leaders.

    ———-
    “Hindu nationalists increasingly use anti-Semitic slurs to target me – and that isn’t surprising” by Audrey Truschke; Scroll.in; 11/12/2018

    “India has a growing problem with hate and intolerance. Alarmingly, in recent years, much of this hate has been sponsored by groups and figures that are close to the Indian government. Within India, Muslims remain the chief targets of mounting bigotry and violent assaults. When attacking non-Indians, however, Hindu nationalists increasingly resort to the virulent anti-Semitic ideas that inspired their early leaders.”

    Anti-Semitism: the default attack of Hindu nationalists when they can’t easily accuse someone of being a Muslim. And that makes it a particularly useful attack against foreign scholars who can contradict Hindu nationalist claims about a pristine Hindu past and scholars who can provide an accurate description of the dark origins of groups like the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). And that’s exactly what brought the wrath of the Hindu nationalists upon Truschke. Her work doesn’t portray the Mughals as savage barbarians who spoiled the pristine pre-Muslim past in accordance with the Hundi Nationalist mythology, and since the Hindu nationalists can’t attack her work, they hurl anti-Semitic attacks instead:


    I am a target for anti-Semitic insults due to my work: I am a historian of premodern India. My research primarily concerns the Mughals, a Muslim dynasty that ruled much of north and central South Asia in the 16th and 17th centuries and built the Taj Mahal. Most historians – especially those who work on non-Western, premodern topics – find their audience confined to scholars and students. But Indians have a voracious appetite for history, and the historical legacy of Islam in India has become a subject of explosive controversy in recent years. This potent combination has made my scholarship of wide interest among Indian and Indian American readers and has also made me a target of vicious personal attacks on the basis of my perceived race, gender, and religion.

    India’s distaste for anti-Semitism began to erode in the early 20th century, however, especially among Hindu nationalists. Hindu nationalists – who believe that India ought to be a Hindu nation in population and character – warmly embraced fascist ideas. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, a paramilitary Hindu nationalist group founded in 1925, modelled itself on contemporary European fascist movements. The Hindu Mahasabha, a Hindu nationalist organisation founded in 1915, openly supported Nazism, including “Germany’s crusade against the enemies of Aryan culture”, as a spokesman for the group put it in 1939.

    This is despite the fact that she’s not even Jewish. But as an academic, the fascist meme that ‘Jews control universities’ is part of that readymade fascist playbook, even against a non-Jew like Truschke. She’s assumed to be under the power of ‘the Jews’ running academia:


    Anti-Semitic attitudes are not a central storyline in this larger flowering of prejudice, but they are a readymade playbook of virulent hate that can be unleashed against foreign scholars. Academics, such as myself, often contradict Hindu nationalist claims about a pristine Hindu past, in which Muslims are seen as barbarous invaders, by arguing that many Muslims were embedded into the fabric of premodern Indian society. By virtue of our dedication to accuracy, scholars also shed unfavourable light on the origins of groups such as the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. Hindu nationalists lack the historical evidence to counter academic claims on scholarly grounds, and so they turn to one of their most finely-tuned weapons: identity-based attacks.

    One curious aspect of this anti-Semitism directed at me is that I am not, in fact, Jewish. Perhaps my last name suggests a Jewish identity to those unfamiliar with eastern European surnames, but I suspect that darker reasons often lurk behind this mistaken identification. Several of my academic advisors are Jewish and frequently maligned as such by Hindu nationalists. As a result, I am evidently perceived as a Jew by association. More insidiously, the old anti-Semitic trope that Jews control universities still surfaces with alarming regularity. This is a sub-type of the foundational anti-Semitic trope that there is an international Jewish conspiracy to run the world. In other words, anti-Semitism blinds people into assuming that I am Jewish, and then provides them with a remarkably hateful set of tools with which to attack me.

    It’s a readymade playbook that the early RSS and Hindu nationalist leaders were drawing from from the very beginning of the Hindu nationalist movement. The anti-Semitism of the Nazis was explicitly seen as a model the RSS could use against India’s Muslims:


    Rise of anti-Semitism in India

    A key appeal of Nazism for early Hindu nationalists was anti-Semitism, which they saw as a useful model for how to demonise India’s Muslim minority. Muslims constituted 24% of the Indian population in 1941, and they comprise 14% of Indians today (the drop is explained by the Partition of Pakistan and its large Muslim population from India in 1947). Speaking in 1939 in Calcutta, VD Savarkar, the ideological godfather of Hindu nationalism, identified Indian Muslims as a potential traitorous people not to be trusted, “like the Jews in Germany”. In the same year, MS Golwalkar, a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh leader, wrote that Germany’s “purging the country of the semitic Race – the Jews” was “a good lesson for us in Hindustan to learn and profit by”.

    And that’s all why the anti-Semitic attacks against a non-Jewish academic by Hindu nationalists is simultaneously reprehensible, absurd, and completely to be expected based on the history of Hindu nationalism. It’s also a reminder of one of the reasons anti-Semitism, and the mythologies of global Jewish dominance, is so useful for the far right: anything that challenges those far right mythologies can be blamed on ‘the Jews’. Even well documented history.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | November 15, 2018, 12:29 pm
  4. Should gravitational waves be renamed “Narendra Modi Waves”? Probably not, but that proposal, which was based on the assertion that Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein were both wrong about gravity, turned out to be just one of the many highly questionable ideas floated at the annual Indian Science Congress thanks to growing attempts to insert Hindu nationalist ideas into India’s science community:

    BBC

    India scientists dismiss Einstein theories

    7 January 2019

    Scientists in India have hit out at speakers at a major conference for making irrational claims, including that ancient Hindus invented stem cell research.

    Some academics at the annual Indian Science Congress dismissed the findings of Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein.

    Hindu mythology and religion-based theories have increasingly become part of the Indian Science Congress agenda.

    But experts said remarks at this year’s summit were especially ludicrous.

    The 106th Indian Science Congress, which was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, runs from 3-7 January.

    The head of a southern Indian university cited an old Hindu text as proof that stem cell research was discovered in India thousands of years ago.

    G Nageshwar Rao, vice chancellor of Andhra University, also said a demon king from the Hindu religious epic, Ramayana, had 24 types of aircraft and a network of landing strips in modern day Sri Lanka.

    Another scientist from a university in the southern state of Tamil Nadu told conference attendees that Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein were both wrong and that gravitational waves should be renamed “Narendra Modi Waves”.

    Dr KJ Krishnan reportedly said Newton failed to “understand gravitational repulsive forces” and Einstein’s theories were “misleading”.

    Critics said that while ancient texts should be read and enjoyed – it was nonsense to suggest they represented science.

    The Indian Scientific Congress Association expressed “serious concern” at the remarks.

    Pseudoscience moves from fringe to the mainstream

    Analysis by Soutik Biswas, BBC News, Delhi

    India has a mixed relationship with science.

    On the one hand, it has a rich tradition of outstanding scientists – the Higgs boson particle, for example, is named partly after an Indian physicist and Einstein’s contemporary, Satyendra Nath Bose. Particle physicist Ashoke Sen, meanwhile, is the recipient of Fundamental Physics Prize, the world’s most lucrative academic award.

    But it also has a long tradition of replacing science with myths, leading to a fringe culture of pseudoscience.

    Many believe under Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist BJP party, pseudoscience has moved from the fringe to the mainstream.

    Mr Modi himself set the tone in 2014 with his outlandish claim that cosmetic surgery was practised in India thousands of years ago.

    Many of his ministers followed suit with similar claims. India’s top science summit also started inviting academics with Hindu nationalist leanings who have made equally bizarre claims.

    Such claims usually hark back to an imagined glorious Hindu past to bolster religious nationalism. The BJP and its hard line allies have for a long time mixed mythology and religion to bolster political Hinduism and nationalism. Adding science to the mix, say critics, will only help propagate quack science and erode scientific temper.

    Also, as economist Kaushik Basu says: “For a nation to progress it is important for people to spend time on science, mathematics and literature instead of spending time showing that 5,000 years ago their ancestors did science, mathematics and literature.”

    Other claims made by Indian politicians and scientists:

    * India’s junior education minister Satyapal Singh in 2017 said that airplanes were first mentioned in the ancient Hindu epic, Ramayana. He added that the first working plane was invented by an Indian named Shivakar Babuji Talpade eight years before the Wright brothers
    * Also in 2017, the education minister for the western state of Rajasthan said it was important to “understand the scientific significance” of the cow, claiming it was the only animal in the world to both inhale and exhale oxygen
    * In 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi told medical staff at a Mumbai hospital that the story of the Hindu god Ganesha – whose elephant head is attached to a human body – showed cosmetic surgery existed in ancient India
    * Geologist Ashu Khosla said that Hindu god Brahma discovered dinosaurs and documented them in ancient Indian scriptures while presenting a research paper at the Indian Science Congress on Sunday
    * Lawmaker Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank prompted outrage in 2014 when he said that “science is a dwarf in front of astrology”. He added that astrology was “the biggest science” and that India conducted nuclear tests more than 100,000 years ago

    ———-

    “India scientists dismiss Einstein theories”; BBC; 01/07/2019

    “Hindu mythology and religion-based theories have increasingly become part of the Indian Science Congress agenda.”

    Just what India needs: far right religious meddling in its scientific community. While it doesn’t sound like this was new, it does sound like it’s getting worse:


    But experts said remarks at this year’s summit were especially ludicrous.

    The 106th Indian Science Congress, which was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, runs from 3-7 January.

    Another scientist from a university in the southern state of Tamil Nadu told conference attendees that Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein were both wrong and that gravitational waves should be renamed “Narendra Modi Waves”.

    Dr KJ Krishnan reportedly said Newton failed to “understand gravitational repulsive forces” and Einstein’s theories were “misleading”.
    ..

    And, of course, it appears the BJP is leading the charge in moving pseudoscience science into the mainstream, with Modi himself setting the tone:


    Many believe under Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist BJP party, pseudoscience has moved from the fringe to the mainstream.

    Mr Modi himself set the tone in 2014 with his outlandish claim that cosmetic surgery was practised in India thousands of years ago.

    Many of his ministers followed suit with similar claims. India’s top science summit also started inviting academics with Hindu nationalist leanings who have made equally bizarre claims.

    Such claims usually hark back to an imagined glorious Hindu past to bolster religious nationalism. The BJP and its hard line allies have for a long time mixed mythology and religion to bolster political Hinduism and nationalism. Adding science to the mix, say critics, will only help propagate quack science and erode scientific temper.

    And note how, in keeping with the far right tendency to create a mythical ‘perfect’ past that needs to be restored (through force), so many of these claims were based on suggesting India has some sort of advanced technology in the distant past:


    The head of a southern Indian university cited an old Hindu text as proof that stem cell research was discovered in India thousands of years ago.

    G Nageshwar Rao, vice chancellor of Andhra University, also said a demon king from the Hindu religious epic, Ramayana, had 24 types of aircraft and a network of landing strips in modern day Sri Lanka.

    Other claims made by Indian politicians and scientists:

    * India’s junior education minister Satyapal Singh in 2017 said that airplanes were first mentioned in the ancient Hindu epic, Ramayana. He added that the first working plane was invented by an Indian named Shivakar Babuji Talpade eight years before the Wright brothers

    * Also in 2017, the education minister for the western state of Rajasthan said it was important to “understand the scientific significance” of the cow, claiming it was the only animal in the world to both inhale and exhale oxygen

    * In 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi told medical staff at a Mumbai hospital that the story of the Hindu god Ganesha – whose elephant head is attached to a human body – showed cosmetic surgery existed in ancient India

    * Geologist Ashu Khosla said that Hindu god Brahma discovered dinosaurs and documented them in ancient Indian scriptures while presenting a research paper at the Indian Science Congress on Sunday

    * Lawmaker Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank prompted outrage in 2014 when he said that “science is a dwarf in front of astrology”. He added that astrology was “the biggest science” and that India conducted nuclear tests more than 100,000 years ago

    So it looks like the BJP’s quest to corrupt science doubles as a quest to corrupt India’s history too. Which is at least thematically consistent.

    That said, if a network of landing strips for the demon king’s 24 types of aircraft is ever discovered in Sri Lanka, that will be pretty cool. We still probably shouldn’t rename gravitational waves “Narendra Modi waves” at that point. Although if evidence of ancient Indian cosmetic surgery that turns your nose into an elephant trunk is discovered it would be fine to name that procedure after Modi.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | January 9, 2019, 4:15 pm
  5. Now that India has voted and it appears that Modi and the BJP won a resounding victory, one of the big questions facing India is the extent to which Modi’s reelection will turbocharge his ongoing drive towards Hindutva fascism. So here’s a look at what’s in store for India now that Modi’s political strategy of stoking far right sectarian tensions has wildly succeeded: Days before the vote, one of the BJP’s candidates suddenly created a controversy so big that even Modi had to condemn her comments. Pragya Singh Thakur, the BJP’s MP candidate for a seat in Bhopal, the capital of the state of Madhya Pradesh, was asked a question about the patriotism of Nathuram Godse, the Hindu extremist who assassinated Gandhi. In Thakur’s words, Godse, “was, is and will remain a patriot.” It’s also important to note that Thakur herself is currently out on bail as she faces trial on terrorism charges involved a 2008 explosion that killed six people and injured more than 100. Beyond getting the BJP’s backing for the seat, Thakur has has senior party leaders attend her campaign events, including Modi. During the campaign Modi has also criticized opposition parties for the use of the term “Hindu terror” by asserting that there has been not been a single single such incident in thousands of years of history terror. That’s part of the context of the selection of Thakur for this seat. A context where Modi is literally trolling the country over Hindu terrorism as the same time his government is openly supporting domestic terror campaigns targeting Muslim via the ‘cow vigilante’ movement.

    So given that Godse was a member of the RSS, BJP’s parent party, and given that Modi himself was a long-time RSS member, Thakur’s comment created an obvious political problem. Even Modi denounced her words and the BJP declared that “We strongly condemn this particular statement”. Yep, just that particular statement got a condemnation from the BJP. The rest of what Thakur stands for, like terrorism, is fine with the party. But she remained on the ballot and just might have been elected. We’ll find out soon. It’s a sign of how dominant far right politics is in contemporary India that a scandal like this could break out days before a sweeping Hindu nationalist victory:

    The Washington Post

    Indian politician calls the man who killed Mahatma Gandhi a ‘patriot’

    By Joanna Slater
    May 16, 2019

    NEW DELHI — With just days remaining in India’s mammoth national elections, the political debate has veered into an unlikely and inflammatory topic: the assassination of beloved independence leader Mahatma Gandhi.

    Gandhi, who led a nonviolent struggle to free India from British colonial rule, was fatally shot in 1947. His assassin was Nathuram Godse, a Hindu extremist who believed Gandhi had betrayed Hindus in the negotiations over Indian independence and the creation of Pakistan.

    On Thursday, Pragya Singh Thakur, a parliamentary candidate from India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, or BJP, said in response to a question from a reporter that Godse “was, is and will remain a patriot.”

    Thakur’s statement sparked a chorus of condemnation, but it accurately reflects the views of right-wing Hindu extremists. One fringe group celebrated the anniversary of Gandhi’s death earlier this year.

    Thakur is perhaps the most controversial candidate contesting the elections. She is out on bail as she faces trial on terrorism charges related to a blast in 2008 that killed six people and injured more than 100. She has denied the charges.

    Despite the charges, the BJP chose Thakur to run for a seat in Bhopal, the capital of the state of Madhya Pradesh. Senior party leaders have attended her campaign events and endorsed her run for office, which appears to be the first time a major party in India has fielded a candidate accused of involvement in a terrorist conspiracy.

    On Thursday, a spokesman for the party distanced the BJP from Thakur’s lionization of Gandhi’s assassin. “We strongly condemn this particular statement,” G.V.L Narasimha Rao told reporters. Thakur, he said, should offer a “public apology.”

    Randeep Surjewala, a spokesman for the opposition Congress party, said in a statement that Thakur’s comment “crossed all limits” and called for her withdrawal from the race. “India’s soul is again under attack,” he said.

    Godse, Gandhi’s assassin, was once a member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, or RSS, a strident Hindu nationalist organization that is the parent of the BJP. After Gandhi was killed, the group was briefly outlawed. In recent decades, it has moved from the fringes of public debate in India to the mainstream. Prime Minister Narendra Modi spent most of his career as an RSS organizer.

    During the campaign, Modi has criticized members of the opposition for using the term “Hindu terror” to describe alleged acts of violence by Hindu extremists, saying there was not a single such incident in thousands of years of history. On Sunday, Kamal Haasan, an opposition politician in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, retorted that independent India’s “first extremist was a Hindu: Nathuram Godse.”

    ———–
    “Indian politician calls the man who killed Mahatma Gandhi a ‘patriot’” by Joanna Slater; The Washington Post; 05/16/2019

    “Thakur’s statement sparked a chorus of condemnation, but it accurately reflects the views of right-wing Hindu extremists. One fringe group celebrated the anniversary of Gandhi’s death earlier this year.”

    Yep, Thakur’s endorsement of Gandhi’s assassin may have sparked condemnation, but her words merely accurately reflect the view of right-wing Hindu extremists. Hindu extremists who are now in the political mainstream and basically running the Indian government. That’s why someone like Thakur out on bail over terror charges was even nominated for this seat by the BJP and received the support of senior BJP leaders. Because Hindu extremism is how mainstream in India:


    Thakur is perhaps the most controversial candidate contesting the elections. She is out on bail as she faces trial on terrorism charges related to a blast in 2008 that killed six people and injured more than 100. She has denied the charges.

    Despite the charges, the BJP chose Thakur to run for a seat in Bhopal, the capital of the state of Madhya Pradesh. Senior party leaders have attended her campaign events and endorsed her run for office, which appears to be the first time a major party in India has fielded a candidate accused of involvement in a terrorist conspiracy.

    And note how the BJP’s statement condemning Thakur’s words ONLY condemned that particular statement by her. The rest of what Thakur stands for is in line with the party. Because, again, the BJP is now a full blown Hindu nationalist extremist party. That’s why someone like Modi, who spent most of his life in the RSS, is leading it and making trollish comments about how there’s never been a single act of Hindu terror in history:


    On Thursday, a spokesman for the party distanced the BJP from Thakur’s lionization of Gandhi’s assassin. “We strongly condemn this particular statement,” G.V.L Narasimha Rao told reporters. Thakur, he said, should offer a “public apology.”

    Godse, Gandhi’s assassin, was once a member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, or RSS, a strident Hindu nationalist organization that is the parent of the BJP. After Gandhi was killed, the group was briefly outlawed. In recent decades, it has moved from the fringes of public debate in India to the mainstream. Prime Minister Narendra Modi spent most of his career as an RSS organizer.

    During the campaign, Modi has criticized members of the opposition for using the term “Hindu terror” to describe alleged acts of violence by Hindu extremists, saying there was not a single such incident in thousands of years of history. On Sunday, Kamal Haasan, an opposition politician in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, retorted that independent India’s “first extremist was a Hindu: Nathuram Godse.”

    And that open embrace of a Hindu nationalist terrorist by Modi and BJP coupled with the trollish denials that Hindu terrorism even exists is a big reason why the reelection of Modi is so ominous for the future of India. Because as the following article notes, not only is Modi personally endorse Thakur. That endorsement is just one example of how the political slogans Modi used to get initially elected – the ‘clean and principles’ anti-corruption campaign he initially used in 2014 – have been steadily replaced with open sectarian baiting and Hindu nationalism. And that shift clearly worked, which mean India’s fascists have learned over the past five years that India’s Hindu population is psychologically ready for the dropping the mask and an open embrace of Hindu nationalism a religious hatred. Beyond that, the success of the Hindu nationalist rhetoric is required to mask the absolute disaster that Modi’s pro-big business fascist economic policies have actually had on India’s populace. India currently has the highest unemployment rate in 45 years. That’s how wildly successful the Hindu nationalism has been politically: even though a large percent of Indians were unhappy with Modi’s far right economic policies, they still supported him due to the far right sectarian hatred:

    The Nation

    A Modi Victory Puts India’s 200 Million Muslims in Danger
    The Hindu nationalist party ran a hate-filled campaign and now seems poised to return to power with a terrifying mandate.

    By Ruchira Gupta
    05/21/2019 1:07 PM

    On Thursday, India will announce election results that could put the country’s 200 million Muslims in danger. Over the last five and a half weeks, more than 500 million Indians voted in an election that will determine whether Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ultra-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party will return to power. If exit polls are to be believed, Modi and the BJP seem set to win a terrifying mandate.

    One candidate for Parliament in particular illustrates the growing extremism of the BJP. In Bhopal, a city of 1.8 million people, Modi personally endorsed Pragya Singh Thakur, who is out on bail after almost nine years in jail for alleged involvement in a terrorist bombing that killed six Muslims.

    She denies having anything to do with the 2008 attacks, but says a curse she placed on the investigating police officer resulted in his murder.

    Thakur’s main election plank appears to be revenge against Indian Muslims for 400-year-old humiliations. At her campaign launch, she boasted that 27 years ago she helped demolish a 16th-century mosque in northern India: “I climbed atop the structure and broke it, and I feel extremely proud that God gave me this opportunity.”

    Thakur, like Modi, is a proponent of a far-right militant ideology called Hindutva, which was invented in the 1920s by an all-male vigilante group called the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. Its founders corresponded with Adolf Hitler and met with Benito Mussolini in 1929 to model their party along fascist lines. A member of the group assassinated Mahatma Gandhi in 1948.

    On the campaign trail, Thakur said Gandhi’s assassin “was a patriot, is a patriot, and will remain a patriot.” While the remark provoked outrage even among the BJP members, many Indians memed and messaged on social media endorsing Thakur’s stand. Praising Gandhi’s killer may have been a step too far for the party, but if the BJP wins big, it will not be because they shied away from Hindu nationalism.

    By nominating an alleged terrorist as a lawmaker, Modi has made his party’s agenda clear. He’s shifted his rhetoric from fighting corruption to generating hate. Five years ago, the RSS helped lead the BJP to an outright majority in Parliament as a “clean and principled” alternative to the “criminal” Congress party. His promise to make India great again appealed to both big business and unemployed youth. During his tenure, Modi privatized and sold state companies to multinationals, made it easier for conglomerates to acquire cheap land in indigenous areas, cut taxes for corporations, canceled education and health subsidies for marginalized groups, and signed nearly 200 deals for the purchase of arms from different countries.

    Many ordinary Indians, however, were plunged into an economic nightmare. Under Modi, India hit its highest rate of unemployment in 45 years. Self-employment opportunities declined when Modi digitized India’s cash-based economy in an overnight move called “demonetization.” Between 2014 and 2016, 36,320 farmers killed themselves—an average of 33 suicides per day.

    A massive student and farmers movement grew, and Modi’s government retaliated. Students and professors were falsely arrested, the press was muzzled, and members of the opposition were charged with corruption. One journalist, two writers, and a dissenting judge were killed.

    To justify the state terror, Modi turned to Islamophobia with disastrous consequences across society. Mobs marched into private residences in search of young people in inter-faith relationships. These self-styled “anti-Romeo” squads terrorized Muslim and Dalit youth for befriending Hindu girls and detained hundreds of young men from minority groups. In June, a mob in Kashmir beat police officer to death after an altercation.

    Vigilantes raped Dalit, Muslim, and Adivasi girls with impunity. The lawyer representing the family of an 8-year-old Muslim girl, who was allegedly raped by the caretaker of a Hindu temple, was forced to withdraw after repeated threats and intimidation by BJP leaders. The father of a 17-year-old Dalit girl who says a BJP leader raped her was arrested on false charges and died mysteriously in a police station.

    Human Rights Watch reports that between May 2015 and December 2018, cow vigilantes lynched at least 44 people—including 36 Muslims—suspected of eating beef or trading in cattle. In one case in 2016, a group beat to death a Muslim cattle trader and a 12-year-old boy traveling to an animal fair in Jharkhand. Their badly bruised bodies were found hanging from a tree with their hands tied behind them. Instead of trying to keep Muslims safe, the government announced a national commission to protect cows in February 2019. Police often stalled prosecutions of the attackers, while several BJP politicians publicly justified the attacks. Commentators accuse Modi of normalizing bigotry by refusing to condemn such acts. The Pew Research Center has ranked India the fourth-worst country in the world for religious intolerance—after Syria, Nigeria, and Iraq.

    Modi established a massive digitized identity-card system, which links the retina scans and fingerprints of millions of citizens to basic government services. Fears that it could turn India into a surveillance state are understandable.

    Much of the Western media still downplay Modi’s assault on civil liberties. They are reluctant to state the simple truth: Modi is laying the foundation of a fascist Hindutva state, one which was first envisioned by the founders of the RSS. That shouldn’t be surprising; The RSS recruited Modi to their cause when he was just 8 years old.

    RSS workers have been appointed to high-ranking positions in crucial government institutions like the Reserve Bank, the Supreme Court, and the Election Commission. New textbooks are replacing factual history and science with Hindutva mythology and symbols.

    This election will decide whether India will continue more steeply down the path of right-wing Hindutva nationalism or return to some of its past ideals of secularism and economic policies intended to uplift the lives of poor and working people.

    For democratically minded Indians, the stakes couldn’t be higher. On one side is the legacy of Gandhi and on the other is literally the legacy of those who assassinated Gandhi. India is turning its back on nonviolence. In his final rally, Modi told his audience that when you vote for the BJP, “you are not pushing a button on a [voting] machine, but pressing a trigger to shoot terrorists in the chest.”

    Yet opinion polls suggest Thakur, an actual accused terrorist, could win a seat in Parliament with the BJP.

    ———-

    “A Modi Victory Puts India’s 200 Million Muslims in Danger” by Ruchira Gupta; The Nation; 05/21/2019

    “For democratically minded Indians, the stakes couldn’t be higher. On one side is the legacy of Gandhi and on the other is literally the legacy of those who assassinated Gandhi. India is turning its back on nonviolence. In his final rally, Modi told his audience that when you vote for the BJP, “you are not pushing a button on a [voting] machine, but pressing a trigger to shoot terrorists in the chest.””

    Yep, the 2019 Indian election turned into a kind of battle between the legacy of Gandhi and the legacy of the group that literally murdered him and the murderers won. Big.

    And in the process of winning big, the murderers of Ganhdi dropped the mask about caring about anti-corruption and just embraced full blown Hindu nationalism and it worked. India has the highest unemployment rate in 45 years under the BJP and party won big by double down on sectartian hatred. As a reult, the Pew Research Center current ranks India as the fourth-worst country for religious intolerance in the world, only followed by Syria, Nigeria, and Iraq:


    By nominating an alleged terrorist as a lawmaker, Modi has made his party’s agenda clear. He’s shifted his rhetoric from fighting corruption to generating hate. Five years ago, the RSS helped lead the BJP to an outright majority in Parliament as a “clean and principled” alternative to the “criminal” Congress party. His promise to make India great again appealed to both big business and unemployed youth. During his tenure, Modi privatized and sold state companies to multinationals, made it easier for conglomerates to acquire cheap land in indigenous areas, cut taxes for corporations, canceled education and health subsidies for marginalized groups, and signed nearly 200 deals for the purchase of arms from different countries.

    Many ordinary Indians, however, were plunged into an economic nightmare. Under Modi, India hit its highest rate of unemployment in 45 years. Self-employment opportunities declined when Modi digitized India’s cash-based economy in an overnight move called “demonetization.” Between 2014 and 2016, 36,320 farmers killed themselves—an average of 33 suicides per day.

    A massive student and farmers movement grew, and Modi’s government retaliated. Students and professors were falsely arrested, the press was muzzled, and members of the opposition were charged with corruption. One journalist, two writers, and a dissenting judge were killed.

    To justify the state terror, Modi turned to Islamophobia with disastrous consequences across society. Mobs marched into private residences in search of young people in inter-faith relationships. These self-styled “anti-Romeo” squads terrorized Muslim and Dalit youth for befriending Hindu girls and detained hundreds of young men from minority groups. In June, a mob in Kashmir beat police officer to death after an altercation.

    Vigilantes raped Dalit, Muslim, and Adivasi girls with impunity. The lawyer representing the family of an 8-year-old Muslim girl, who was allegedly raped by the caretaker of a Hindu temple, was forced to withdraw after repeated threats and intimidation by BJP leaders. The father of a 17-year-old Dalit girl who says a BJP leader raped her was arrested on false charges and died mysteriously in a police station.

    Human Rights Watch reports that between May 2015 and December 2018, cow vigilantes lynched at least 44 people—including 36 Muslims—suspected of eating beef or trading in cattle. In one case in 2016, a group beat to death a Muslim cattle trader and a 12-year-old boy traveling to an animal fair in Jharkhand. Their badly bruised bodies were found hanging from a tree with their hands tied behind them. Instead of trying to keep Muslims safe, the government announced a national commission to protect cows in February 2019. Police often stalled prosecutions of the attackers, while several BJP politicians publicly justified the attacks. Commentators accuse Modi of normalizing bigotry by refusing to condemn such acts. The Pew Research Center has ranked India the fourth-worst country in the world for religious intolerance—after Syria, Nigeria, and Iraq.

    And that’s why India appears to have an extremely dark period ahead of it. Gandhi’s assassins won Indian hearts and minds and won big.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | May 22, 2019, 11:03 am
  6. Following the sweeping victory of the BJP in India’s elections that exceeded the expectations, there’s no shortage of questions of how the BJP managed such a resounding victory despite what appeared to be growing popular frustrations with the party just six months ago. And while the embrace of nationalism and sectarianism no doubt played a major role along with the tensions with Pakistan, it’s also important to give credit to the profound role social media played in this year’s elections. Specifically, organized social media disinformation campaigns run by the BJP:

    The New York Times

    India Has a Public Health Crisis. It’s Called Fake News.

    Disinformation can be defeated by treating the crisis as we responded to infectious diseases in the past.

    By Samir Patil

    Mr. Patil is the publisher of Scroll.in, an Indian news site.

    April 29, 2019

    MUMBAI, India — In the continuing Indian elections, as 900 million people are voting to elect representatives to the lower house of the Parliament, disinformation and hate speech are drowning out truth on social media networks in the country and creating a public health crisis like the pandemics of the past century.

    This contagion of a staggering amount of morphed images, doctored videos and text messages is spreading largely through messaging services and influencing what India’s voters watch and read on their smartphones. A recent study by Microsoft found that over 64 percent Indians encountered fake news online, the highest reported among the 22 countries surveyed.

    India has the most social media users, with 300 million users on Facebook, 200 million on WhatsApp and 250 million using YouTube. TikTok, the video messaging service owned by a Chinese company, has more than 88 million users in India. And there are Indian messaging applications such as ShareChat, which claims to have 40 million users and allows them to communicate in 14 Indian languages.

    These platforms are filled with fake news and disinformation aimed at influencing political choices during the Indian elections. Some of the egregious instances are a made-up BBC survey predicting victory for the governing Bharatiya Janata Party and a fake video of the opposition Congress Party president, Rahul Gandhi, saying a machine can convert potatoes into gold.

    Fake stories are spread by legions of online trolls and unsuspecting users, with dangerous impact. A rumor spread through social media about child kidnappers arriving in various parts of India has led to 33 deaths in 69 incidents of mob violence since 2017, according to IndiaSpend, a data journalism website.

    Six months before the 2014 general elections in India, 62 people were killed in sectarian violence and 50,000 were displaced from their homes in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh. Investigations by the police found that a fake video was shared on WhatsApp to whip up sectarian passions.

    In the lead-up to the elections, the Indian government summoned the top executives of Facebook and Twitter to discuss the crisis of coordinated misinformation, fake news and political bias on their platforms. In March, Joel Kaplan, Facebook’s global vice president for public policy, was called to appear before a committee of 31 members of the Indian Parliament — who were mostly from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party — to discuss “safeguarding citizens’ rights on social/online news media platforms.”

    The hearing was an exercise in absurdist theater because the governing B.J.P. has been the chief beneficiary of divisive content that reaches millions because of the way social media algorithms, especially Facebook, amplify “engaging” articles.

    As elsewhere in the world, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are ambivalent about tackling the problem head-on for the fear of making decisions that invoke the wrath of national political forces. The tightrope walk was evident when in April, Facebook announced a ban on about 1,000 fake news pages targeting India. They included pages directly associated with political parties.

    Facebook announced that a majority of the pages were associated with the opposition Indian National Congress party, but it merely named the technology company associated with the governing B.J.P. pages. Many news reports later pointed out that the pages related to the B.J.P. that were removed were far more consequential and reached millions.

    Asking the social media platforms to fix the crisis is a deeply flawed approach because most of the disinformation is shared in a decentralized manner through messaging. Seeking to monitor those messages is a step toward accepting mass surveillance. The Indian government loves the idea and has proposed laws that, among other things, would break end-to-end encryption and obtain user data without a court order.

    The idea of more effective fact-checking has come up often in the debates around India’s disinformation contagion. But it comes with many conceptual difficulties: A large proportion of messages shared on social networks in India have little to do with verifiable facts and peddle prejudiced opinions. Facebook India has a small 11- to 22-member fact-checking team for content related to Indian elections.

    Fake news is not a technological or scientific problem with a quick fix. It should be treated as a new kind of public health crisis in all its social and human complexity. The answer might lie in looking back at how we responded to the epidemics, the infectious diseases in the 19th and early 20th centuries, which have similar characteristics.

    In response to infectious diseases, over a period of more than a century, nations created the public health infrastructure — a combination of public and private institutions that track outbreaks, fund research, develop medicines and provide health services. We need a similar response to tackle disinformation and fake news.

    Epidemics taught us that citizen education is the first and most critical step for a solution. Without the widespread knowledge that washing hands with soap can prevent infections, all other interventions would have sunk under the sheer volume of patients. No number of tweaks to the Facebook algorithm, no size of fact-checking teams, no amount of government regulations can have the same impact as a citizen who critically examines the information being circulated.

    Public education might seem a soft measure compared with regulation, but informing the people is the best investment to tackle the problem. In the long term, it will be effective because content distribution will be cheaper and the political and commercial incentives to spread lies will only grow.

    ———-

    “India Has a Public Health Crisis. It’s Called Fake News.” by Samir Patil; The New York Times; 04/29/2019

    “This contagion of a staggering amount of morphed images, doctored videos and text messages is spreading largely through messaging services and influencing what India’s voters watch and read on their smartphones. A recent study by Microsoft found that over 64 percent Indians encountered fake news online, the highest reported among the 22 countries surveyed.

    Yep, India has the worst social media disinformation problem of the 22 countries surveyed by Microsoft. It’s so bad that in the lead up to the elections the Indian parliament invited Facebook to appear before a committee to talk about what it planned to do to combat disinformation on its platforms (Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp). This was, of course, a farce of a hearing since the BJP is the primary source of social media disinformation. Also, Facebook India has a laughably small staff of 11-22 fact checkers:


    India has the most social media users, with 300 million users on Facebook, 200 million on WhatsApp and 250 million using YouTube. TikTok, the video messaging service owned by a Chinese company, has more than 88 million users in India. And there are Indian messaging applications such as ShareChat, which claims to have 40 million users and allows them to communicate in 14 Indian languages.

    In the lead-up to the elections, the Indian government summoned the top executives of Facebook and Twitter to discuss the crisis of coordinated misinformation, fake news and political bias on their platforms. In March, Joel Kaplan, Facebook’s global vice president for public policy, was called to appear before a committee of 31 members of the Indian Parliament — who were mostly from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party — to discuss “safeguarding citizens’ rights on social/online news media platforms.”

    The hearing was an exercise in absurdist theater because the governing B.J.P. has been the chief beneficiary of divisive content that reaches millions because of the way social media algorithms, especially Facebook, amplify “engaging” articles.

    The idea of more effective fact-checking has come up often in the debates around India’s disinformation contagion. But it comes with many conceptual difficulties: A large proportion of messages shared on social networks in India have little to do with verifiable facts and peddle prejudiced opinions. Facebook India has a small 11- to 22-member fact-checking team for content related to Indian elections.

    And note how Facebook appeared to almost be running cover for the BJP’s disinformation campaigns on its platform when, in April, the company deleted around 1,000 pages targeting India that were deemed fake news. When Facebook announced this purging it announced that the majority of the deleted pages were for Congress (BJP’s main opposition) but when it came to the pro-BJP pages removed Facebook only naming the technology company behind them:


    As elsewhere in the world, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are ambivalent about tackling the problem head-on for the fear of making decisions that invoke the wrath of national political forces. The tightrope walk was evident when in April, Facebook announced a ban on about 1,000 fake news pages targeting India. They included pages directly associated with political parties.

    Facebook announced that a majority of the pages were associated with the opposition Indian National Congress party, but it merely named the technology company associated with the governing B.J.P. pages. Many news reports later pointed out that the pages related to the B.J.P. that were removed were far more consequential and reached millions.

    Also note how there’s basically no point in asking the social media giants to fix the disinformation crisis because most of the disinformation is being spread on WhatsApp and even Facebook itself can’t observe what’s being sent on WhatsApp:


    Asking the social media platforms to fix the crisis is a deeply flawed approach because most of the disinformation is shared in a decentralized manner through messaging. Seeking to monitor those messages is a step toward accepting mass surveillance. The Indian government loves the idea and has proposed laws that, among other things, would break end-to-end encryption and obtain user data without a court order.

    And as the following article notes, the farcical nature of the BJP government asking Facebook to help with the disinformation crisis is even more farcical by the fact that Facebook has previously conducting training workshops to help the BJP use Facebook more effectively. The article describes the teams of IT cells that were set up by the BJP for the 2014 election to build a larger-than-life image for Modi.
    There were four cells and for some reason they all worked largely independently and only exchanges information on a need-to-know basis.

    One of those cell was run by Modi’s right hand man Dr Hiren Joshi. Joshi has had, and continues to have, a close and long-standing association with Facebook’s senior employees in India according to the article. Hiren’s team worked closely with Facebook’s staff. Shivnath Thukral, who was hired by Facebook in 2017 to be its Public Policy Director for India & South Asia, worked with this team in 2014. And that’s just an overview of how tightly Facebook was working with the BJP in 2014:

    Scroll.in

    Meet the advisors who helped make the BJP a social media powerhouse of data and propaganda
    An excerpt from ‘The Real Face of Facebook in India’, which examines, among other things, whether social media platforms actively helped the BJP.

    Cyril Sam & Paranjoy Guha Thakurta
    May 06, 2019 · 08:30 am

    By the time Rajesh Jain was scaling up his operations in 2013, the BJP’s information technology (IT) strategists had begun interacting with social media platforms like Facebook and its partner WhatsApp. If supporters of the BJP are to be believed, the party was better than others in utilising the micro-targeting potential of the platforms. However, it is also true that Facebook’s employees in India conducted training workshops to help the members of the BJP’s IT cell.

    Helping party functionaries were advertising honchos like Sajan Raj Kurup, founder of Creativeland Asia and Prahlad Kakkar, the well-known advertising professional. Actor Anupam Kher became the public face of some of the advertising campaigns. Also assisting the social media and online teams to build a larger-than-life image for Modi before the 2014 elections was a team led by his right-hand man Dr Hiren Joshi, who (as already stated) is a very important adviser to Modi whose writ extends way beyond information technology and social media.

    Currently, Officer On Special Duty in the Prime Minister’s Office, he is assisted by two young professional “techies,” Nirav Shah and Yash Rajiv Gandhi. Joshi has had, and continues to have, a close and long-standing association with Facebook’s senior employees in India. In 2013, one of his important collaborators was Akhilesh Mishra who later went on to serve as a director of the Indian government’s website, MyGov India – which is at present led by Arvind Gupta who was earlier head of the BJP’s IT cell.

    Mishra is CEO of Bluekraft Digital Foundation. The Foundation has been linked to a disinformation website titled “The True Picture,” has published books authored by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and produces campaign videos for NaMo Television, a 24 hour cable television channel dedicated to promoting Modi.

    The 2014 Modi pre-election campaign was inspired by the 2012 campaign to elect Barack Obama as the “world’s first Facebook President.” Some of the managers of the Modi campaign like Jain were apparently inspired by Sasha Issenberg’s book on the topic, The Victory Lab: The Secret Science of Winning Campaigns. In the first data-led election in India in 2014, information was collected from every possible source to not just micro-target users but also fine-tune messages praising and “mythologising” Modi as the Great Leader who would usher in acche din for the country.

    Four teams spearheaded the campaign. The first team was led by Mumbai-based Jain who funded part of the communication campaign and also oversaw voter data analysis. He was helped by Shashi Shekhar Vempati in running NITI and “Mission 272+.” As already mentioned, Shekhar had worked in Infosys and is at present the head of Prasar Bharati Corporation which runs Doordarshan and All India Radio.

    The second team was led by political strategist Prashant Kishor and his I-PAC or Indian Political Action Committee who supervised the three-dimensional projection programme for Modi besides programmes like Run for Unity, Chai Pe Charcha (or Discussions Over Tea), Manthan (or Churning) and Citizens for Accountable Governance (CAG) that roped in management graduates to garner support for Modi at large gatherings. Having worked across the political spectrum and opportunistically switched affiliation to those who backed (and paid) him, 41-year-old Kishor is currently the second-in-command in Janata Dal (United) headed by Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.

    The third team, that was intensely focused on building Modi’s personal image, was headed by Hiren Joshi himself who worked out of the then Gujarat Chief Minister’s Office in Gandhinagar. The members of this team worked closely with staffers of Facebook in India, more than one of our sources told us. As will be detailed later, Shivnath Thukral, who is currently an important executive in Facebook, worked with this team. (We made a number of telephone calls to Joshi’s office in New Delhi’s South Block seeking a meeting with him and also sent him an e-mail message requesting an interview but he did not respond.)

    The fourth team was led by Arvind Gupta, the current CEO of MyGov.in, a social media platform run by the government of India. He ran the BJP’s campaign based out of New Delhi. When contacted, he too declined to speak on the record saying he is now with the government and not a representative of the BJP. He suggested we contact Amit Malviya who is the present head of the BJP’s IT cell. He came on the line but declined to speak specifically on the BJP’s relationship with Facebook and WhatsApp.

    The four teams worked separately. “It was (like) a relay (race),” said Vinit Goenka who was then the national co-convener of the BJP’s IT cell, adding: “The only knowledge that was shared (among the teams) was on a ‘need to know’ basis. That’s how any sensible organisation works.”

    From all accounts, Rajesh Jain worked independently from his Lower Parel office and invested his own funds to support Modi and towards executing what he described as “Project 275 for 2014” in a blog post that he wrote in June 2011, nearly three years before the elections actually took place. The BJP, of course, went on to win 282 seats in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, ten above the half-way mark, with a little over 31 per cent of the vote.

    As an aside, it may be mentioned in passing that – like certain former bhakts or followers of Modi – Jain today appears less than enthusiastic about the performance of the government over the last four and a half years. He is currently engaged in promoting a campaign called Dhan Vapasi (or “return our wealth”) which is aimed at monetising surplus land and other assets held by government bodies, including defence establishments, and public sector undertakings, for the benefit of the poor and the underprivileged. Dhan Vapasi, in his words, is all about making “every Indian rich and free.”

    In one of his recent videos that are in the public domain, Jain remarked: “For the 2014 elections, I had spent three years and my own money to build a team of 100 people to help with Modi’s campaign. Why? Because I trusted that a Modi-led BJP government could end the Congress’ anti-prosperity programmes and put India on a path to prosperity, a nayi disha (or new direction). But four years have gone by without any significant change in policy. India needed that to eliminate the big and hamesha (perennial) problems of poverty, unemployment and corruption. The Modi-led BJP government followed the same old failed policy of increasing taxes and spending. The ruler changed, but the outcomes have not.”

    As mentioned, when we contacted 51-year-old Jain, who heads the Mumbai-based Netcore group of companies, said to be India’s biggest digital media marketing corporate group, he declined to be interviewed. Incidentally, he had till October 2017 served on the boards of directors of two prominent public sector companies. One was National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) – Jain has no experience in the power sector, just as Sambit Patra, BJP spokesperson, who is an “independent” director on the board of the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation, has zero experience in the petroleum industry. Jain also served on the board of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), which runs the Aadhar programme.

    Unlike Jain who was not at all forthcoming, 44-year-old Prodyut Bora, founder of the BJP’s IT cell in 2007 (barely a year after Facebook and Twitter had been launched) was far from reticent while speaking to us. He had resigned from the party’s national executive in February 2015 after questioning Modi and Amit Shah’s “highly individualised and centralised style of decision-making” that had led to the “subversion of democratic traditions” in the government and in the party.

    Bora recalled how he was one of the first graduates from the leading business school, the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, to join the BJP because of his great admiration for the then Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee. It was at the behest of the then party president Rajnath Singh (who is now Union Home Minister) that he set up the party’s IT cell to enable its leaders to come closer to, and interact with, their supporters.

    The cell, he told us, was created not with a mandate to abuse people on social media platforms. He lamented that “madness” has now gripped the BJP and the desire to win elections at any cost has “destroyed the very ethos” of the party he was once a part of. Today, the Gurgaon-based Bora runs a firm making air purification equipment and is involved with an independent political party in his home state, Assam.

    He told us: “The process of being economical with the truth (in the BJP) began in 2014. The (election) campaign was sending out unverified facts, infomercials, memes, dodgy data and graphs. From there, fake news was one step up the curve. Leaders of political parties, including the BJP, like to outsource this work because they don’t want to leave behind digital footprints. In 2009, social media platforms like Facebook and WhatsApp had a marginal impact in India’s 20 big cities. By 2014, however, it had virtually replaced the traditional mass media. In 2019, it will be the most pervasive media in the country.

    Bora is of the view that social media will “play a perverse role” in the 2019 general elections. He went to the extent of comparing the BJP’s IT cell with SIMI or the Students’ Islamic Movement of India, which has been banned by the government for its extremist character. At the same time, the founder of the BJP’s IT cell sees a silver lining in the dark clouds of disinformation that pervades the country’s social media. “Residents in these 20 big cities are now growing suspicious of social media,” he said, adding: “They no longer blindly trust everything that is put out on WhatsApp.”

    Bora had left the IT cell and moved to Assam to work for the BJP by the time Nitin Gadkari replaced Rajnath Singh as BJP president. A Mumbai-based IT specialist, who is close to Gadkari, then played an important role in helping the party organise its internet and social media strategies. He was Vinit Goenka. Like Bora, he was loquacious in telling us how the party used Facebook and WhatsApp to spread the BJP’s agenda and boost Modi’s image.

    Unlike Bora, however, Goenka remains firmly aligned with the party and particularly with his political mentor. He is a member of a task force on IT in the Ministry of Shipping and the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, both headed by Gadkari. Goenka is also a member of the governing council of the Centre for Railway Information System (CRIS) in the Ministry of Railways headed by Piyush Goyal.

    At one stage in our interview with Goenka that lasted over two hours, we asked him a pointed question: “Who helped whom more, Facebook or the BJP?”

    He smiled and said: “That’s a difficult question. I wonder whether the BJP helped Facebook more than Facebook helped the BJP. You could say, we helped each other.”

    ———-

    “Meet the advisors who helped make the BJP a social media powerhouse of data and propaganda” by Cyril Sam & Paranjoy Guha Thakurta; Scroll.in; 05/06/2019

    “The 2014 Modi pre-election campaign was inspired by the 2012 campaign to elect Barack Obama as the “world’s first Facebook President.” Some of the managers of the Modi campaign like Jain were apparently inspired by Sasha Issenberg’s book on the topic, The Victory Lab: The Secret Science of Winning Campaigns. In the first data-led election in India in 2014, information was collected from every possible source to not just micro-target users but also fine-tune messages praising and “mythologising” Modi as the Great Leader who would usher in acche din for the country.

    2014 was the first year social media micro-targeted disinformation shaped India’s elections in a big way. And it was the BJP’s social media efforts to mythologize Modi that was leading the way. But the BJP had crucial help in this area: Facebook was conducting training workshops for the BJP’s IT cells. And one of those cell leaders, Dr. Hiren Joshi, just happens to have an ongoing close and long-standing relationship with Facebook’s senior employees in India:


    By the time Rajesh Jain was scaling up his operations in 2013, the BJP’s information technology (IT) strategists had begun interacting with social media platforms like Facebook and its partner WhatsApp. If supporters of the BJP are to be believed, the party was better than others in utilising the micro-targeting potential of the platforms. However, it is also true that Facebook’s employees in India conducted training workshops to help the members of the BJP’s IT cell.

    Helping party functionaries were advertising honchos like Sajan Raj Kurup, founder of Creativeland Asia and Prahlad Kakkar, the well-known advertising professional. Actor Anupam Kher became the public face of some of the advertising campaigns. Also assisting the social media and online teams to build a larger-than-life image for Modi before the 2014 elections was a team led by his right-hand man Dr Hiren Joshi, who (as already stated) is a very important adviser to Modi whose writ extends way beyond information technology and social media.

    Currently, Officer On Special Duty in the Prime Minister’s Office, he is assisted by two young professional “techies,” Nirav Shah and Yash Rajiv Gandhi. Joshi has had, and continues to have, a close and long-standing association with Facebook’s senior employees in India. In 2013, one of his important collaborators was Akhilesh Mishra who later went on to serve as a director of the Indian government’s website, MyGov India – which is at present led by Arvind Gupta who was earlier head of the BJP’s IT cell.

    And one of those present day senior Facebook employees, Shivnath Thukral, was a member of Joshi’s 2014 team:


    Four teams spearheaded the campaign. The first team was led by Mumbai-based Jain who funded part of the communication campaign and also oversaw voter data analysis. He was helped by Shashi Shekhar Vempati in running NITI and “Mission 272+.” As already mentioned, Shekhar had worked in Infosys and is at present the head of Prasar Bharati Corporation which runs Doordarshan and All India Radio.

    The second team was led by political strategist Prashant Kishor and his I-PAC or Indian Political Action Committee who supervised the three-dimensional projection programme for Modi besides programmes like Run for Unity, Chai Pe Charcha (or Discussions Over Tea), Manthan (or Churning) and Citizens for Accountable Governance (CAG) that roped in management graduates to garner support for Modi at large gatherings. Having worked across the political spectrum and opportunistically switched affiliation to those who backed (and paid) him, 41-year-old Kishor is currently the second-in-command in Janata Dal (United) headed by Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.

    The third team, that was intensely focused on building Modi’s personal image, was headed by Hiren Joshi himself who worked out of the then Gujarat Chief Minister’s Office in Gandhinagar. The members of this team worked closely with staffers of Facebook in India, more than one of our sources told us. As will be detailed later, Shivnath Thukral, who is currently an important executive in Facebook, worked with this team. (We made a number of telephone calls to Joshi’s office in New Delhi’s South Block seeking a meeting with him and also sent him an e-mail message requesting an interview but he did not respond.)

    The fourth team was led by Arvind Gupta, the current CEO of MyGov.in, a social media platform run by the government of India. He ran the BJP’s campaign based out of New Delhi. When contacted, he too declined to speak on the record saying he is now with the government and not a representative of the BJP. He suggested we contact Amit Malviya who is the present head of the BJP’s IT cell. He came on the line but declined to speak specifically on the BJP’s relationship with Facebook and WhatsApp.

    Keep in mind that, as Facebook’s Public Policy Director for India, Thukral is the public face of Facebook’s anti-disinformation efforts in India. Yep.

    It’s also rather interesting that these four BJP IT cells really did operate in a cell-like manner, with each cell largely working entirely separately and information only shared on a “need to know basis”. This is spun as being efficient and “how any sensible organization works”, but in terms of political messaging it seems rather odd that you wouldn’t want these teams to be coordinating with each other…unless, of course, the four teams were engaged in dirty tricks and knowledge of those dirty tricks was intentionally being compartmentalized:


    The four teams worked separately. “It was (like) a relay (race),” said Vinit Goenka who was then the national co-convener of the BJP’s IT cell, adding: “The only knowledge that was shared (among the teams) was on a ‘need to know’ basis. That’s how any sensible organisation works.”

    And note how one of the 2014 cell leaders, Prodyut Bora, left the BJP after that election in disgust with the “madness” of the disinformation that was being spread in a ‘win at any cost’ mentality:


    Unlike Jain who was not at all forthcoming, 44-year-old Prodyut Bora, founder of the BJP’s IT cell in 2007 (barely a year after Facebook and Twitter had been launched) was far from reticent while speaking to us. He had resigned from the party’s national executive in February 2015 after questioning Modi and Amit Shah’s “highly individualised and centralised style of decision-making” that had led to the “subversion of democratic traditions” in the government and in the party.

    Bora recalled how he was one of the first graduates from the leading business school, the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, to join the BJP because of his great admiration for the then Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee. It was at the behest of the then party president Rajnath Singh (who is now Union Home Minister) that he set up the party’s IT cell to enable its leaders to come closer to, and interact with, their supporters.

    The cell, he told us, was created not with a mandate to abuse people on social media platforms. He lamented that “madness” has now gripped the BJP and the desire to win elections at any cost has “destroyed the very ethos” of the party he was once a part of. Today, the Gurgaon-based Bora runs a firm making air purification equipment and is involved with an independent political party in his home state, Assam.

    He told us: “The process of being economical with the truth (in the BJP) began in 2014. The (election) campaign was sending out unverified facts, infomercials, memes, dodgy data and graphs. From there, fake news was one step up the curve. Leaders of political parties, including the BJP, like to outsource this work because they don’t want to leave behind digital footprints. In 2009, social media platforms like Facebook and WhatsApp had a marginal impact in India’s 20 big cities. By 2014, however, it had virtually replaced the traditional mass media. In 2019, it will be the most pervasive media in the country.

    So the BJP and Facebook appear to have a rather close working relationship.

    But as the following article reminds us, it’s not just the BJP Indians need to worry about. BJP’s Nazi-inspired parent movement, the RSS, was apparently a key force behind the pro-BJP WhatsApp disinformation campaigns. A pro-BJP WhatsApp campaign by RSS that was designed to seem “neutral” by never mentioning the BJP and instead just spreading propaganda again the Congress party:

    News18.com

    RSS’s Silent Social Media Campaign One of the Key Factors of BJP’s Victory in Rajasthan Lok Sabha Polls
    The campaign, brought back the BJP from its loss in the Assembly elections less than six months ago, and put it on a strong footing. It gave heft to the BJP’s push to retain electoral dominance.

    Updated:May 22, 2019, 4:35 PM IST

    Jaipur: While News18-IPSOS Lok Sabha Exit Poll gave BJP 22-23 seats, Today’s Chanakya has predicted all 25 seats to the BJP, Republic C-Voter exit poll also handed the BJP a comfortable win with a haul of 22 seats. India Today Axis exit poll also predicted a similar figure, giving BJP 23-25 seats.

    Several factors – from party infighting to its ticket distribution – will be discussed, were these numbers to hold their own on May 23, to understand why the Congress yet again failed to open its account in the state. The BJP may be credited for being able to sustain its campaign around Modi and nationalism.

    But if one were to pick a less obvious and more impactful reason for BJP’s resounding success in Rajasthan, a large credit for it will go to a parallel election campaign run on social media by the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh.

    The campaign, brought back the BJP from its loss in the Assembly elections less than six months ago, and put it on a strong footing. It gave heft to the BJP’s push to retain electoral dominance.

    The RSS tried to shape the public mood against Congress in the virtual world while posting and circulating messages that appear to be ‘neutral’ but had a distinct political sub-text. A person in charge of a ‘prant’ level WhatsApp group shared the details with News18 of how this is being done.

    “This time we don’t need a wave. We don’t need go all out to support the BJP candidates as well. In fact we don’t need BJP at all for this,” the person running the group named ‘Prant Pracharak Toli’ said. He said that the BJP supporters and leaders were strictly kept out of such groups.

    “Since it’s our maiden venture, we’re trying to keep it very organised to see which content is running where, to zero-in on content that isn’t working, and to identify areas where we need to work extra hard,” said the person who wished to remain anonymous.

    To this end, the RSS groups that work below ‘Prant’ level are code-marked with digits. The ‘Prant’ number is followed by a ‘Vibhag’ number followed by the code given to the local ‘Mahanagar’. These codes help the people running the groups fix a WhatsApp group’s geographical location.

    Content on these groups, said the person involved, is created carefully keeping in mind that ‘BJP’ is not mentioned anywhere, in an attempt to appear ‘neutral’. All that these groups do is create doubt in the minds of voters against Congress and urge people not to opt for ‘NOTA’ when they go out to vote.

    Both in MP and Rajasthan in recent assembly polls, NOTA polled more than the winning margin of the Congress over BJP in many constituencies.

    Another example on the silent RSS campaign is the widely circulated message in RSS groups across Rajasthan on Priyanka Gandhi pulling out of the battle in Varanasi. She did it, the message states, following a meticulous plan.

    “Those who remember what opinion polls, surveys, political pundits said in ‘04 would know that Vajpayee was being projected as the undisputed choice of public…this resulted in low voter turnout since middle-class voters thinking that he would win, did not vote at all…this is what Priyanka Gandhi is doing…first she hinted at fighting Modi and then Congress fielded the same old candidate which had lost last time to give an impression that there is no fight so that BJP voters don’t bother casting their ballots…”

    Two to three new messages emanate out of these WhatsApp groups. The RSS leader in-charge of one such groups illustrates how the RSS-run groups were different from those run by the BJP.

    “For instance, the BJP groups are quite political. They will focus on day to day activities and respond to current trends. We are focused on some other issues…vartamaan haalat ki chinta jiske saath saath hum Congress par sunyojit tareeke se aakraman bhi karte hain.”

    ———-

    “RSS’s Silent Social Media Campaign One of the Key Factors of BJP’s Victory in Rajasthan Lok Sabha Polls”; News18.com; 05/22/2019

    “But if one were to pick a less obvious and more impactful reason for BJP’s resounding success in Rajasthan, a large credit for it will go to a parallel election campaign run on social media by the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh.”

    The RSS secretly comes to the BJP’s rescue. That literally sort of happened because just six months ago the BJP was losing in local elections and starting to look vulnerable in the 2019 national elections. But thanks in part to the RSS’s extensive WhatsApp disinformation work of sowing the seeds of doubt about the Congress opposition party the BJP won big. And the RSS did all while ensuring that their disinformation campaign never mentioned the BJP. It was consistently just about raising doubts about Congress, presumably to ensure that the disinformation campaign wasn’t seen as a pro-BJP operation:


    The campaign, brought back the BJP from its loss in the Assembly elections less than six months ago, and put it on a strong footing. It gave heft to the BJP’s push to retain electoral dominance.

    The RSS tried to shape the public mood against Congress in the virtual world while posting and circulating messages that appear to be ‘neutral’ but had a distinct political sub-text. A person in charge of a ‘prant’ level WhatsApp group shared the details with News18 of how this is being done.

    Content on these groups, said the person involved, is created carefully keeping in mind that ‘BJP’ is not mentioned anywhere, in an attempt to appear ‘neutral’. All that these groups do is create doubt in the minds of voters against Congress and urge people not to opt for ‘NOTA’ when they go out to vote.

    Both in MP and Rajasthan in recent assembly polls, NOTA polled more than the winning margin of the Congress over BJP in many constituencies.

    And all of this is exactly what we should have expected and should continue to expect in future elections.

    So while the tensions between India and Pakistan no doubt played a major role in shoring up the BJP’s nationalist support along with the open embrace of Hindutva fascist sectarian, the fact that the BJP and its RSS allies appear to have mastered the art of social media disinformation campaigns shouldn’t be underestimated. And keep in mind that these parties are only going to get better and better at doing this with each election cycle. Thanks, in part, to help from Facebook.

    And in related news, note that Pragya Thakur, the BJP candidate who celebrated Gandhi’s assassin last week, did indeed win her race. By a very large margin.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | May 23, 2019, 2:08 pm

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