Diane Coffey and Dean Spears are visiting researchers at the Indian Statistical Institute in Delhi. In their book, Where India Goes: Abandoned Toilets, Stunted Development and the Costs of Caste, Coffey and Spears investigate why more than half the Indian population defecates in the open in India, and why, despite schemes such as the Swachh Bharat Mission
—the central government’s flagship sanitation project—the use of latrines in rural India remains low. As part of the research for the book, the writers, along with a research team, traveled to various parts of rural Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Bihar and Tamil Nadu. They found that the primary reason for poor sanitation in rural areas is the persistence of caste prejudices—most Indians, especially upper-caste Hindus, continue to associate defecation with impurity or “dirty” practices, and are often unwilling to have latrines constructed in their otherwise “pure” homes. This prejudice is a by-product of caste hierarchies, which relegate any work involving proximity to human waste to those considered lower-caste, and perpetuate practices such as manual scavenging. “Open defecation in rural India is a globally special case that helps us understand how social inequality constrains human development,” Coffey and Spears write in their introduction to the book. “It may not be possible to accelerate India’s future without engaging with the illiberal forces of caste and untouchability that are still part of India’s present.”
Seema Mustafa is a senior journalist who has reported for papers such The Pioneer, the Indian Express, the Telegraph, and Asian Age, and is currently the editor of The Citizen, which she founded. Mustafa’s grandfather, Shafi Ahmed Kidwai, was a freedom fighter, and her grandmother, Begum Anis Kidwai, served as a member of parliament in the Rajya Sabha from the Congress party for 12 years. Her father, Lt Col Syed Mustafa, served in the Indian Army, and her mother, Rafia Kidwai, was an editor, one of the first Muslim women to be employed at the National Herald. In her memoir Azadi’s Daughter, she writes about her experiences as an Indian Muslim: from her childhood in Delhi and Lucknow; to reporting on the ground in Assam, Uttar Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir; as well as living through the communal tensions in 1984 and the early 1990s. “I am a Muslim, culturally but not religiously,” Mustafa writes in the preface to her book. “It is an identity that I decided, very consciously, to adopt along the way to help counter the stereotype of the Muslim that was being created by the political parties, and even governments, in India.” “I find all my identities under threat today,” she adds. “As a woman, as a journalist, as a Muslim, as a secularist, as a liberal and even as an Indian, because the Idea of India … is under threat.”
On 19 July, Ghulam Nabi Azad, the leader of the opposition in the Rajya Sabha, caused a stir in the upper house. Azad said that
the recent spate of lynchings in the country was “not religious,” but was the “[Sangh] Parivar’s battle against everybody.” “In all the cases of lynching now, someone or the other belonging to the ruling party and the Sangh Parivar is involved,” Azad said. He further alleged that “there was an understanding” between the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and the central government, to allow such lynchings to continue.
The Hindu Janajagruti Samiti, or HJS, was established on 7 October 2002
for the “Education of Dharma, Awakening of Dharma, Protection of Dharma, Protection of the Nation and Uniting Hindus.” The group is known to be associated with the Goa-based Sanatan Sanstha, which was founded by Jayant Athavale in 1999. The Sanstha’s website states
that it was established to “present Spirituality in a scientific language to those curious about Spirituality.” After the murders of the rationalists Narendra Dabholkar and Govind Pansare—on 20 August 2013 and 16 February 2015, respectively—both these organisations and their rhetoric in support of Hindutva came under public scrutiny because of the alleged roles that their members had played
in the killings. On the day Dabholkar was murdered, after the news had broken, the HJS uploaded a photograph of the activist with a red “X” over his face onto its website—it later took down the image on the direction of the Pune police. In a statement that was published on the Sanstha’s website the next day, Athavale wrote that “such a death for Dabholkar is a blessing of the Almighty.”
A sheet of tin that served as the gate to a makeshift colony of domestic workers, daily-wage labourers, and other workers, in Sector 78 in Noida, was bent and broken in half. The colony is adjacent to Mahagun Moderne, a sprawling residential complex spread over 25 acres, around 50 kilometers from the national capital. It is one among several such workers’ settlements in the area. The houses inside the colony were single-room constructions, made of similar tin sheets. On 13 July, when I visited the colony, it appeared deserted—most of the houses were bolted from the outside. I approached a group of young women and men who were standing at one end of the quarters, huddled around a man speaking on the phone.
On 17 July, the election to the office of the president of India shall be held. A total of 4,896 representatives
—the elected members of parliament and legislative assemblies in India—will elect the person who, for the next five years, shall be under an oath to
“preserve, protect and defend the Constitution and the law.” On 20 July, we citizens will learn the name of the person who will be charged with this task. But what we will not know is the why: on what basis did the electors choose one candidate over the other?
Vehicles passed hurriedly, crushing the broken green glass that littered the part of a national highway leading to Anantnag town. The road is flanked by Batengoo village on one side, while the Jhelum river flows on the other. A crowd comprising paramilitary and military personnel, as well as media persons, had gathered on the side on which the village is located. Voices of journalists speaking into microphones could be heard, mixed with the sounds of the generators in the outside-broadcasting vans belonging to various news channels. On 10 July, at this spot, a group of armed militants opened fire on a police bunker and a passing bus that was transporting pilgrims on the Amarnath Yatra. As a result of the firing, seven pilgrims were killed, and close to 30 people were injured. The spot, which is located on the Srinagar-Jammu highway, is nearly 50 kilometers from Srinagar city. Several residents of Batengoo witnessed the firing.
In 2005, Samuel Lalhruaizela, an 18-year-old resident of Aizawl, in Mizoram, secured admission to the Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences at Sevagram village in the Wardha district of Maharashtra. At the time, he told me, he had neither heard of the medical college where he had been admitted, nor the area in which it was situated. Lalhruaizela recalled what the dean told his father and him when they visited the university: “You’ve come a very long way.” Indeed, they had. The state of Mizoram does not have a medical college—all aspiring medical practitioners from the state are compelled to travel outside their home state to study.
When The Division of Heaven and Earth: On Tibet’s Peaceful Revolution was first published in Tibet in 2010, the Chinese authorities arrested its author, Shokdung, and banned the book immediately. The writer was imprisoned for six months. Gradually, copies of the book began to circulate underground in Tibet.
In a piece
published in the Deccan Chronicle in February 2016, KN Bhat, the former additional solicitor general of India, writes: “In criminal cases when police resort to lie-detector tests it should be concluded that the investigation has reached a dead-end and other methods of discovering evidence or eliciting information, including procuring a confession, have failed.”