My Response

Bhima Koregaon Search For Democracy in India.

This book written by Alpa Shah has just been published. Alpa Shah was born in Kenya and moved to the UK at the age of 15. She is a Professor of Anthropology at the London School of Economics.
The book is described as exposing the life stories and shocking truth behind the Bhima Koregaon 16. Bhima Koregaon16 is made up of professors, lawyers, journalists, poets who it is claimed fought for Adivasis, Dalits and Muslims in India. They are in jail for anti- National activities and terrorism. Alpa has lived amongst the Adivasis for four and half years.

Bhima Koregaon is a small village located in present-day Pune District of Maharashtra. The Battle of Bhima Koregaon has an important place in the history of India. In 1818 a battle took place between the Peshwas and the British East India Company. It was part of the third Anglo Maratha War. The Dalits had joined with the British against the upper caste Peshwas. The Peshwas lost that battle. In 2018 during the bicentennial celebrations of the defeat of Peshwas in Bhima Koregaon violence broke out. According to Alpa Shah this was because Hindu nationalist mobs ‘ orchestrated an international Maoist conspiracy’. The Koregan16 have been imprisoned on charges of being Maoists and Naxalites.
According to Alpa Shah the Modi government is repressive and targeting anyone it considers a threat. She says that Maoist thought and some Naxalite parties have been part of mainstream political thinking and praxis in India for decades. That is a lie. Maoists ideology can never be mainstream. Here is a definition of Maoism: ‘It is a doctrine to capture State power through a combination of armed insurgency, mass mobilization and strategic alliances. The Maoists also use propaganda and disinformation against State institutions as other components of their insurgency doctrine. Chairman Mao of China on whose ideology Maoists swear killed 60 million Chinese in his cultural revolution. To Alpa Maoists are cuddly, harmless creatures. Her support for them means she supports Maoist terrorism and repression. Under Maoism there are no individual rights. Their modus operandi is violence. In 2018, 61 civilians were executed by maoist/naxalites. They have turned their terror tactics against the very people they claim to be fighting for. Their funding comes from extortion, organised crime and drugs. The local population lives in great fear of these revolutionaries. They commit gross human rights violations. Alpa’s support for these Maoists means she is an apologist for them and supports these anti-India activities. According to Alpa the Indian government now uses the ‘urban Naxal’ or ‘urban Maoist’ label to tarnish anyone as “anti-national”, and allows the application of anti-terror laws that enable incarceration without trial. She claims to have met one of the BK16 by the name of Father Stan Swamy, a Jesuit priest. According to Alpa he stood up for the dispossessed tribal, primitives’ and the untouchable Pariyars. She claims to have seen, “soft kindness and bright intelligence of Swamy’s eyes’. Swami died in prison.
Alpa contends that there have been plenty of comparisons made between Modi, a plebeian upstart with a disdain for elites, and reactionary strongmen around the world – characterised by majoritarianism, cocksmanship and brute manliness (Modi boasts of his 56-inch chest), thuggery and the demotic appeal to violence against minorities. These adjectives for a head of State of the world’s largest democracy exposes Alpa’s extreme hatred of PM Modi. A plebeian upstart who has disdain for elites, a reactionary, cocksmanship, brut manliness, thuggery and panache for violence against minorities. These allegations are completely false. A plebeian means a common man. So for Alpa PM Modi is a commoner who is tackling something way beyond his abilities. It betrays Alpa’s disdain for the common man. She is a professor after all. So much for helping the tribals and Adivasis. Left wing pseudo liberals love using the word Majoritarianism to accuse the Modi government. If by Majoritarianism they mean that the ethos and values of the majority will prevail then that is how it should be. Alpa will have to tackle Majoritarianism in the UK also because it exists here too. A lot of Indian origin academics sold to left wing ideologies will never ruffle any feathers in the countries they have moved to.
Another lie Alpa utters is that the Modi regime has, since it came to power in 2014, captured the major institutions of state – the courts, the legislature, the media, the corporations, and civil society – as part of a plan to transform India into an ethno-religious nation known as the Hindu Rashtra. These charges are a great insult to these fiercely independent institutions. This shows you can be a professor but completely blinkered and an embarrassment to your profession. For Alpa, India is not a safe place anymore. She calls RSS the ‘multi armed Octopus’ of which the Modi led BJP is a part. They are everywhere she says, even in Nairobi where she was born. Her other gripe is that Modi advocates crony Capitalism. I suppose while enjoying all the perks of crony Capitalism in the UK, Alpa wants a Maoist revolution in India. For her Bhima Koregaon is a bellwether for collapse of democracy in India.
The Book has been reviewed by Pratinav Anil, a lecturer in History at University of Oxford. However as a fellow traveller of Alpa Shah, Pratinav excels in demonising Hindus and PM Modi.
His first salvo is that hardly a day goes by without PM Modi taking pot shots at Jawaharlal Nehru, the first PM of India. This is a blatant lie. In fact PM Modi recently praised Nehru’s speech on the eve of Independence.
The second lie he tells is that Hindu nationalists ‘levelled’ Babur’s 16th Century mosque in Ayodhya. The Mosque was actually built after a Rama temple was levelled by Babur.
His third lie is that Bollywood keeps churning out pseudo historical melodramas depicting the horrors of colonial rule. But he says the untouchables looked favourably on the British Empire. Pratinav goes on to claim that British victory against the Peshwas held the possibility of social mobility which duly arrived through schools and jobs. The British did nothing of the sort. On the contrary, according to anthropologist Susan Bayley, ‘it is doubtful that caste had much significance or virulence in society before the British made it India’s defining social feature’. It was Dr Ambedkar a Dalit who wrote the constitution of India and abolished Caste discrimination. Pratinav goes on to call PM Modi a dictator who has frozen bank accounts of the opposition coalition and sent Kejriwal to jail. Such an absurd claim exposes the extreme prejudice of this History lecturer. According to Pratinav, ‘Reporters Without Borders ‘ ranks India 161st. out of 180 countries in its Press Freedom Index. That is even behind Taliban-run Afghanistan! Reporters Without Borders is a laughing stock and agenda driven. They should set up an office in Afghanistan.
Finally Pratinav mentions one of the other 16 Bhima Koregaon, Sudha Bhardwaj, a lawyer. She spent three years in Jail. According to Pratinav in a bid to ‘Declass’ herself Bhardwaj joined the Chhattisgarh’s Barefoot Miners. Bhardwaj found going to the toilet in the open fields challenging especially when the pigs were around. Pratinav concludes by making a crude, deeply offensive remark that the one sitting in the PM’s office (the pig) is likely to win the upcoming elections but he has nothing on these indomitable spirits, meaning the BK16.
Nitin Mehta
15 April 2024

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