Deaths, foretold

News, now:

Two Muslim men herding eight buffaloes on their way to a local Friday market were bashed up and hanged to death from a tree by unknown assailants at Balumath forests in Latehar district, 100km from here, in the wee hours on Friday. The buffaloes were freed by the men and locals claimed the assailants were Hindu radicals.

The deceased Muhammad Majloom, 35, was a relative of Azad Khan alias Ibrahim who is around 15-years-old. The two had their hands tied together behind and their mouth was closed with a cloth. “The sight suggested that the two of them were subjected to extreme levels of brutality. It means that the assailants were moved by extreme hatred,” a police officer said.

In Jhabbar village of Balumath the sight of the hanging men engaged in cattle trade, sparked protests by locals. The protests turned violent when police tried to take down the bodies. SDO Kamleshwar Narayan and six cops were injured when locals pelted stones at officials who arrived in the morning to manage the situation and ensure that it does not take communal turn.

This is what happens when you inflame passions for your own narrow political ends. When you indulge in the politics of cheap populism. When you play the “religious sentiment” card to disguise the fact that you have nothing of substance to hang your politics, your appeal, on.

This is what happens when you let the genie out of the bottle. People die.

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Trump, Modi and the “preference cascade”

If this is true, then in both America and India, beneath the veneer of sophisticated political discourse, there lies a primal core that cares about more basic things, like race and identity and so on. In fact, maybe the exact same impulse explains both Trump and Modi: the instinctive attraction for a strong leader who will lead our tribe well and shit on all others.

That clip from a beautifully articulated Amit Varma piece on the “preference cascade” as it plays out in realpolitik.

Flip Flop on Ford Foundation

As recently as April 2015, it was deemed that the activities of the Ford Foundation were a threat to national security, fomenting communalism, and a host of other crimes. This, on the testimony of no less than the government of Gujarat: (Emphasis mine)

…the Gujarat government has trained its guns on her main funding source, the US-based NGO, Ford Foundation, for “direct interference … in the internal affairs of the country and also of abetting communal disharmony in India“.

The state home department has also accused the Ford Foundation of interfering with the judicial system, defaming the Indian military, and acting against the stated goal of promoting communal harmony. It has accused the funding agency of encouraging Setalvad’s NGOs to advocate “a religion specific and Muslim supportive criminal code and also keep the 2002 riots incident alive”.

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Essential reading: Shame Culture

Via Arati Kumar-Rao, this piece on the rise of the tribe on social media, and the related cultures of belonging and shaming the other. See if this seems familiar — and read the piece in full:

This creates a set of common behavior patterns. First, members of a group lavish one another with praise so that they themselves might be accepted and praised in turn.

Second, there are nonetheless enforcers within the group who build their personal power and reputation by policing the group and condemning those who break the group code. Social media can be vicious to those who don’t fit in. Twitter can erupt in instant ridicule for anyone who stumbles.

Third, people are extremely anxious that their group might be condemned or denigrated. They demand instant respect and recognition for their group. They feel some moral wrong has been perpetrated when their group has been disrespected, and react with the most violent intensity.

History as villain

News report from Rajasthan:

Rajasthan Minister Vasudev Devnani on Thursday said major changes are being made in school curriculum and biographies of freedom fighters will be included so as to ensure “no one like Kanhaiya Kumar is born” in the state.

“To inculcate the feeling of patriotism in students, major changes are being made in the curriculum,” the Rajasthan Minister of State for Education (primary and secondary) said in the assembly.

Bingo. For every problem, every societal ill, the BJP has one solution: rewrite history. Unwittingly, the minister puts his finger on the problem — and it is not what he thinks it is.

Unwittingly, the minister puts his finger on the problem — and it is not what he thinks it is.

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True lies

At the ongoing India Today conclave Pratap Bhanu Mehta, president of the Center for Policy Research, on why the battle being fought today is not between the ideas of the right versus the left, but between truth and propaganda.