Category Archives: religious nationalism

Kill Any Sikh: The Anti-Sikh Pogrom of 1984 in Delhi in Bhawan Singh’s IMAGES

1= agitated Indians try to scale gates of the All-India Medical Institute, 31 October 1984

@= Deep Anguish etched in every face

Michael Roberts on Bhawan Singh’s Pictorial Images

The first two images reveal the agitation and anguish of Indian citizens in Delhi who had rushed to the entrance of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences on the 31st October where Indira Gandhi had been rushed to in hopes of her resuscitation after she was shot by her own Sikh bodyguards. Two more pictures below underline the emotions coursing through the minds and bodies of these patriot citizens of India who were so moved by the prospect of her death that they rushed to her side so to speak. Continue reading

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Anguish as Empowerment … and A Path to Retribution

Michael Roberts, courtesy of Colombo Telegraph where it is presented with a different title ….

Anguish and grief are powerful emotions that can contort and wrack a body. While ‘suggesting’ helplessness, the anguish that engulfs a person can also empower that person … and others connected to that person by commonalities of interest/emotion. In this manner anguish can transcend obstacles, generate waves of bitterness and swell into paths of retributory hate and punishment. The ‘little’ drops of tears can swell metaphorically into ‘waves’ – and even inspire enraged mobs (mostly male) bent on punishing the purported root of the tears, a recalcitrant Other, an enemy family or “community” deemed to be the cause of that expressive anguish or deemed to have transcended local norms. In southern Lanka that community can be a neighbouring caste grouping or ethnic group or religious group (Muslim Moor,[1] Hindu, Buddhist, Christian).

Let me highlight the argument by presenting an unusual juxtaposition.

  1. Expressive Grief displayed by a Sri Lankan Tamil woman at a protest demonstration before David Cameron by persons whose kin have been missing in the course of Eelam War IV

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An Egyptian Journalist’s Introduction to Jailhouse Jihadism and Al Jazeera’s Partisan Activities

Robert Fisk, in The Island, 2 January 2017, where the title is “Living among Jihadis in an Egyptian prison” … with emphasis in highlights being The Editor, Thuppahi’s imposition


To interview a jihadi is one thing, to live among jihadis quite another. To share their prison cells and their jail trucks on the way to a dictatorship’s trials is both a journalist’s dream and a journalist’s nightmare. Which makes Mohamed Fahmy a unique figure: in a prison bus, he hears his fellow inmates rejoicing at the beheading of a captured journalist in Syria. “They won’t let us out,” a voice shouts at Fahmy in Egypt’s ghastly Tora prison complex. “We haven’t seen the sun for weeks.” And he hears the rhythmic voices of prisoners reciting the Koran.

Fahmy, who is an Egyptian with Canadian citizenship, is the Al Jazeera English channel reporter who spent almost two years in his native country’s ferocious prison system, as a guest of President al-Sisi, locked up with two colleagues for being a pro-Muslim Brotherhood “terrorist”, fabricating news and endangering the “security” of the state. Continue reading

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Cinematic Hindutva: “Mohendajāro” monkeys with history

Ajoy Ashirwad Mahaprashasta, on 28 June 2016 with title “Ashutosh Gowariker’s ‘Mohenjo Daro’ Falls Prey to Hindutva Horseplay”… and the pointed note: “The Hindu right’s worn-out, archaeologically-baseless argument that the Harappan civilisation and Rig Vedic age coincided, may get a new lease of life through the film’s poor depiction of history.”

MOHNEDAJAROA still from the trailer of Ashutosh Gowariker’s Mohenjo Daro, featuring lead actor Hrithik Roshan and showing the horse seal.
It seems that Ashutosh Gowariker’s quest for good cinema ends with humongous sets and big stars. While there seems to be a sudden – and welcome – urge among Hindi filmmakers to make historical epics, their lack of attention to historical facts leaves the discerning audience with a bad taste in the mouth. Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Bajirao Mastani recently portrayed Bajirao as an indefatigable Hindu warrior, one whose only mission was to hoist the saffron flag in India by defeating his Muslim opponents, the Mughals. That the modern Indian state was yet to be born and that the Mughal empire was no caliphate, are facts disregarded by him.Ashutosh Gowariker’s ‘Mohenjo Daro’ Falls Prey to Hindutva Horseplay

Yet again, a historical film seems to be catching public attention, but for all the wrong reasons. Gowariker, of Lagaan (2001) and Jodhaa Akbar (2008) fame, recently released the trailer of his much-awaited Mohenjo Daro, which is being touted as not just his magnum opus but the greatest film ever made in India. Unfortunately, the trailer gives us nothing but a twisted idea of a civilisation that seems far from real. Mohenjo Daro, which was the name of one of the biggest urban townships of the Harappan or Indus Valley civilisation, is the story of one of the first cities of the world. Gowariker gets the date right – 2016 BCE, which the trailer announces – but apart from this, he gets almost every other aspect of the ancient civilisation grossly wrong. Continue reading

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Danno Budunge: “Goodness Gracious Me!”

sasanka pereraSasanka Perera, courtesy of Groundviews where the title runs thus: Shrillness of Nonsensical Cultural Politics and the Social History of a Song” … see

About a week back in an email exchange I was prompted by ethnographic anecdotes sent by Arun Dias Bandaranaike in Colombo to suggest to him that we should collaborate on an article on the topics of “Insularity” and “Parochiality.” I see those concepts as inter-related and overlapping. My suggestion was/is that the foundation provided by insularity enables and inspires eruptions of chauvinism (in this focus among the Sinhalese peoples but  the reasoning could be extended to other contexts and socio-political settings – for example, among the redneck and hill-billy locales in USA). So, this thoughtful essay from Sasanka Perera is serendipitous. We are on the same song-sheet. I have taken the liberty of highlighting portions of his essay in colour. Michael Roberts

kishani_jayasinghe-soprano Kishani Jayasinghe

The latest news from Sri Lanka’s often bizarre domains of cultural politics is that Buddhism is under threat along with Sinhala culture. This however, is not due to the corrupt and violent politics that still remain the hallmark of the country’s mainstream politics or because of the unethical and anti-doctrinal work of marauding Buddhist monks who have become storm troopers causing bodily harm to people, disrupting court proceedings and vehicular traffic in the country putting Hitler’s dreaded Brown-shirts to shame. Continue reading


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Theatre of the Dangerous and Crazy in Lanka

Jayatilleke de Silva, in The Daily News, 29 January 2016, where the title is  Theatre of the absurd in local politics”

A section of the members of the Sinha Le organisation that gathered opposite the Dalada Maligawa in Kandy last Saturday to give a special pledge.  Picture by Asela Kuruluwansa

Adolf Hitler claimed that Germans are of Aryan stock and that they are superior to other races. That is why he wanted to purify Germany by destroying the Jews. The world knows how this doctrine of racial superiority ended. It developed into the dangerous doctrine of fascism. In his crusade for world supremacy hundreds of Jews and others were put in concentration camps and executed. Of course Hitler appealed to the people in the name of patriotism and socialism to grab power “democratically”. The most deplorable factor in that situation was not the acquiescence of the ignorant but the silence of those who knew where Hitler was heading.

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Reading (the) Late Chris Bayly: A Personal Tribute

Dipesh Chakrabarty,* courtesy of South Asian History and Culture, vol.  7, no. 1, Jan. 2016

bayly 22Everything seemed normal about the weekend of April 18-19, 2015 in Chicago until it ended with a very cruel blow to many around the world. Without any warning or early signs that could have prepared anybody for what was to come, it took Chris Bayly – Professor Sir Christopher Alan Bayly (1945-2015) – who was then visiting us at the University of Chicago, away. This tribute is in part a statement of my admiration for Bayly’s evolving academic personality; it is also an attempt to understand the shifting terrains of academic historiography that brought us together. Beginning from very different academic and social positions, following pathways that intersected as often as they diverged, we had come to a point, late in our careers, where I felt privileged enough to think of Bayly, an infinitely more accomplished person than I, as a “friend.” Not a close friend by any means, but we bore each other much good will and warm feelings of friendship. I had a role to play in Bayly becoming a visitor to the University of Chicago. Age-wise, Bayly was my senior by only a few years, but the gap between our careers was substantial. He was already a published scholar when I had just begun to dabble in historical research in Calcutta in the early 1970s. Bayly finished his Oxford DPhil in 1970. I finished my ANU Ph.D in 1983. His academic life spanned some forty-five years. From his first book, The Local Roots of Indian Politics: Allahabad, 1880-1920 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1975), to the book he was working on till that fateful weekend last April, a history of the world in the twentieth century, it was a long and rich journey that included some significant, and sometimes collaborative, forays into South East Asian and other histories as well. Moved along by the sheer force of his erudition and research, and that of his intelligence that could connect events across very large gaps of geography, I also, like many others in my position, learned to evolve as a reader of Bayly. Continue reading

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