Spitfire List Web site and blog of anti-fascist researcher and radio personality Dave Emory.

For The Record  

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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