In her latest book, Political Violence in Ancient India, the historian Upinder Singh traces the subject of “violence” and how it came to be viewed and implemented in ancient India. Singh looks closely at the manner in which kings such as Ashoka and Chandragupta Maurya viewed political violence, as well as the ideas espoused on the subject in ancient texts such as the Arthashatra, and the epics, Ramayana and Mahabharata. She discusses the various approaches to understanding the concepts of “dharma” and “ahimsa,” and why these must be viewed in the specific context of ancient Indian history. In her introduction to the book, Singh notes that “rather than essentializing, simplifying and comparing ‘Indian’ and ‘western’ perspectives,” she argues that “the long and intense intellectual engagement with the problem of political violence in ancient India demands attention and needs to be understood in all its diversity and nuances … as it unfolded in its changing historical contexts.”
At around 6 am on 12 October, Ravinder Singh, a 56-year-old former employee of the Hindustan Times Limited, was found dead in a small tent outside the newspaper’s office building in Connaught Place, in Delhi. Singh was a former printing press worker at the Hindustan Times, whose services, along with those of 361 others
, were terminated on 3 October 2004. Since then, Singh and other former workers—who are members of the Hindustan Times Employees Union—have been protesting their termination outside the office building. Members of the union told me that Singh worked at the Hindustan Times from 1980 till 2004.
In early August, in his last speech
as vice president, Hamid Ansari noted that in contrast to a “pluralist view of nationalism” that prevailed for decades after Independence, “an alternative viewpoint of ‘purifying exclusivism’” had recently assumed dominance. Later that month, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh ideologue Rakesh Sinha responded to the speech
in the Indian Express. In what was essentially a diatribe against Ansari, Sinha argued that the “cultural nationalism” of the Bharatiya Janata Party and the RSS, was based on a “spiritual democracy which promotes pluralism, not obstructs it.” He noted that the ideology of cultural nationalism had “votaries,” such as the nationalist leaders Lala Lajpat Rai, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, and Bipin Chandra Pal, whose views preceded the formation of the RSS. However, Sinha does not appear to take into consideration that the nationalist ideals of the individuals he identifies in his column were far more inclusive than the nationalism of the BJP and RSS.
On 12 October, Zulaikha Khatoon, the wife of the only eyewitness in the case of the lynching of Alimuddin Ansari, died in an alleged road accident barely a kilometer away from a Ramgarh district court. Zulaikha was on her way to fetch a photo identification card that would allow her husband, Jaleel Ansari, to appear before the court that day. He was ultimately unable to depose.
The newspaper Mint reported yesterday that the US-based agriculture giant Monsanto has settled its disputes
with three prominent Indian seed companies. The companies were battling Monsanto over royalties owed for the use of the seed giant’s gene-based technology to modify cotton seeds. In 1996, Monsanto introduced the Bollgard technology, which modified cotton seeds to be resistant to the feared crop-eating bollworms. In 1998, Monsanto tied up with the India-based Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company (Mahyco) to launch Bollgard seeds in India.
On 8 October, the news website The Wire published a report
on the financial growth of Temple Enterprise Private Limited, a company owned by Jay Shah, the son of the national president of the Bharatiya Janata Party, Amit Shah. The report stated that, according to its filings with the registrar of companies, the turnover of Jay’s company “increased 16,000 times over in the year following the election of Narendra Modi as prime minister and the elevation of his father to the post of party president.”
In mid September, members of the Arya Vysya community in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh began holding protests against the work of the academic and writer Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd. The community, which is also referred to as Kommatis, and is understood to be an upper-caste Vaishya group, had taken grave offence to the contents of a short Telugu-language book, Samajika Smugglerlu: Kommatullu, or “Social Smugglers: Kommatis.” The Telugu book is an adapted extract from Shepherd’s book Post-Hindu India, which was published in 2009. Samijika Smugglerlu argues that the Baniya community—often referred to as Vaishya, the term from which the Arya Vysyas derive their name—has maintained a monopoly over business in India, and excluded Shudra, Dalit and Bahujan groups from the benefits of capital growth in the country.
In mid September, members of the Arya Vysya community in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh began holding protests against the work of the academic and writer Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd. The nature of the protests was vigorous: while some Arya Vysyas ambushed Shepherd’s car and pelted stones at it, others burnt effigies in his likeness. On 18 September, during a meeting of an Arya Vysya organisation, TG Venkatesh, a member of parliament from the Telegu Desam Party, said that
Shepherd was a “traitor” who deserved to be “hanged.” Shepherd registered a complaint with the police, saying that he feared for his life, and confined himself to house arrest until early October.
On 25 September, the Delhi High Court acquitted
Mahmood Farooqui of the charge of rape. Farooqui, a popular writer, director and dastangoi artist, was convicted last year, after a trial court found him guilty of raping a woman in March 2015. His acquittal has been controversial, to say the least: while some have stood the ground that Farooqui’s guilt cannot be established beyond doubt, many—if not most—have condemned the high court judgment acquitting him. The latter group has good reason: the judgment acquitting Farooqui is deeply flawed, especially on the standard of consent articulated by the court. It is wrong in law, based on gender stereotypes, and ignores decades of rape-law reform.
Last year, India witnessed more internet shutdowns—where the central or state governments temporarily suspend internet access in a particular region citing law and order problems—than any other country in the world. According to the Software Freedom Law Centre (SFLC), a legal services organisation that is involved in a global campaign against internet shutdowns, 31 such instances
were reported in 2016. These cost the Indian economy around Rs 6,000 crore. This year, with three months still remaining, 55 shutdowns
have already been reported. The frequency of shutdowns has become alarming—on 25 September, internet services resumed
in the state of Darjeeling after over three months; the same day, services also resumed in Tripura after a four-day suspension
. In Bihar’s Nawada district, an internet blackout began
on 28 September.