New Year Day violence in Bhima Koregaon

Koregaon Bhima, 30 kilometres north east of Pune

Attacks on Dalits who had gathered on January 1 (Monday) to commemorate battle of Bhima Koregaon in 1818. British army with Mahar (Dalit) soldiers defeated Peshwa.

Peshwa hereditary prime ministers were notorious for their rigid enforcement of caste segregation.

Video footage shows people with saffron flags and shirts attacking people with blue flags and cars with blue signs.

But on Tuesday afternoon, the Maratha residents of Koregaon Bhima held a counter rally. They claimed that it was Dalits who had come from outside the village who had attacked them.

The police too said that the violence had been conducted by parties on “both sides”.

On Tuesday, hundreds of Maratha women sat in protest at a chowk in Koregaon Bhima. They said that permission should be denied for the commemoration next year unless the village is given military protection.

A group of Maratha men further down the road set fire to a biryani stall owned by a member of the Dalit community. The dhaba was right next to another eatery that had been vandalised the previous day.

Many of the houses and shops vandalised along the main road belong to Marathas. A small Ganesha temple near the bridge at the end of the village was also damaged.

Ganesh Dherange, 26, who runs a kirana shop, said that every year his family sets up a stall on the main road of Koregaon Bhima to sell water to those visiting a memorial pillar that is the focus of the celebrations. Outsiders holding blue flags broke the car and hit his father when he tried to stop them. His father, Bhausaheb Dherange, had a visible head injury.

Ashok Dherange, president of the Shiv Sena in Shirur block of Pune district, claimed that even his wife was attacked by people with blue flags. “I am so angry, no matter what happens, I am going to burn down a Dalit house tonight.”

Battle for history

As it turns out, Monday’s trouble was sparked not in Koregaon Bhima, but in another clash over history in Wadu Budruk, a village a few kilometers to its west.

Sambhaji and Shivaji are both highly regarded by Dalits for their progressive views. Sambhaji was murdered in 1689. Govind Gaikwad, a Mahar resident of Wadu, conducted his last rites. There is now a memorial to Gaikwad at Wadu.

Many people who visit Bhima Koregaon also head to Wadu Budruk to pay their respects to Gaikwad.

In preparation for the bicentennial at Koregaon Bhima, Buddhists at Wadu Budruk had put up a sign outside Govind Gaikwad’s tomb highlighting his role in conducting Sambhaji’s last rites.

On December 28, Wadu Budruk village organized meeting to discuss how to manage the new year’s weekend, when presumably thousands of people would come to visit. The meeting turned violent and a crowd vandalized not only the signboard but also Govind Gaikwad’s tomb. They also threatened people of the Mahar caste in the village. Mahars are vastly outnumbered in Wadu Budruk village, with only around 100 people, against the approximately 7,000 Marathas there, Gaikwad said.

Planned for months?

The starting point of the violence was not even in Wadu Budruk, but in Whatsapp forwards they have been seeing for two months now complaining about the Dalit celebration of Bhima Koregaon.

Sambhaji Bhide and Milind Ekbote have been names as the instigators of the trouble at Bhima Koregaon on Monday.

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Shankar Lal, RSS’s Gau Sewa Pramukh

Article in the Indian Express.

Why do you have gobar on your phone?

“It is fresh cow dung. I have put it to save myself from the harmful radiations of the cellphone.”

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Dinanath Batra

RSS-affiliated Shiksha Sanskriti Utthan Nyas.

Headed by Dinanath Batra.

  • The removal of a poem by Punjabi poet Pash
  • a couplet by Mirza Ghalib
  • extracts from M.F. Husain’s autobiography
  • thoughts of Rabindranath Tagore
  • no reference to an apology rendered by former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the Sikh riots of 1984
  • removing mentions of the BJP as a ‘Hindu’ party and the National Conference as ‘secular’
  • a paragraph that links the Ram temple debate with the rise of the BJP and Hindutva politics
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Swadeshi Jagran Manch

“The Swadeshi Jagran Manch (SJM) is an integral part of the Sangh parivar. It is primarily known for its principled stands on several economic issues, which have provided it a certain moral strength in no small part because it has avoided cheap communal and divisive statements in its widely circulated publications”.

Ashwani Mahajan is the all-India co-convener of SJM and a professor of economics at Delhi University.

The SJM has been opposing the GST. One line summary of this article: “Although big companies are a happier lot with GST taking over, small enterprises feel that GST may cause huge loss to them”.


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Pro Khalistan speech to school kids in India

Link to speech.

I am a bit surprised at this speech, especially by the fact that it is being delivered to little kids in a village in Punjab.

One line message: “We are not free in this country”.

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Subhash Palekar

  1. Padma Shri awardee
  2. Developer of a farming technique he calls Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF)
  3. Jiwamrita – a compound of water, cow dung and urine, jaggery, legume flour and local soil
  4. Chandrababu Naidu has appointed him as an adviser, allocating Rs 100 crore to promote ZBNF in Andhra
  5. He has been going around giving talks at agriculture research universities and institutes
  6. Quasi-spiritual approach to agriculture
  7. Ambiguous position on cow vigilantism and Hindutva. The cow is central to his system of farming. He even calls it Zero Budget Spiritual Farming. “Before listening to my lecture, farmers were selling their cows. But now, after participating in the workshop, they are searching for cows”. “No farmer is willing to sell his cows. He says that it is his mother”.
  8. I asked them (scientists at PAU Ludhiana) about Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s two targets for agricultural universities. Number one, double the production. And second, double the income of farmers. Do the universities have any solution? They clearly said no. “If we want to double the production and income, cow-based natural farming is the only alternative”.
  9. Do you think there is any need for a law against cattle slaughter in India? “A hundred percent, yes”.
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Commencement Speech

This is the speech I gave on 2017-06-18 at the Commencement ceremony of the Stanford Physics Department. Special thanks to Priyanka Raina for help with phrasing and editing.

To Fellow students, undergraduates and graduates: Congratulations on getting your degree. The sweat and tears of the past few years are culminating in some more sweat on this hot, yet beautiful summer day.

To Parents: thank you for your love and sacrifices and for making us what we are today. It is also Father’s day today, so a special shout out to all the Dads in the audience.

To Faculty: thank you for teaching and mentoring us, and for making us into mature physicists.

To the entire physics community at Stanford: thank you to Maria Frank and the entire staff for taking care of us and making this place a home away from home.

The first thing I want to touch upon in this graduation speech is why do we do physics?
I am sure every one of you has a great answer to this question, here’s mine.

We do physics because there are deep, serious questions about nature that we do not yet know the answers to. To pick one example out of many, we know that 23% of the universe is made up of dark matter, and we have no idea what dark matter actually is. That is a big chunk of the universe we are missing.

Secondly, there are questions and problems which are worth pursuing just because of their richness, and the beauty of the multiple ideas they touch upon. Slightly more than a year ago, we finally detected gravitational waves, that were predicted by Einstein a hundred years ago. A hundred years is a long time, and it must be a very beautiful, robust edifice of physics that can predict the motions of nature with such accuracy.

Thirdly, by virtue of their training, physicists can also contribute immensely to topical issues like energy, global warming and climate change, exemplified by some of the classes taught by the physics faculty here. I hope the funding agencies are listening, and I encourage all of you, no matter which profession you might take up in the future, to fight for increased funding to fundamental research.

Finally, there are more personal reasons why we do physics. We do it because we love it. And we all know that love isn’t all sweet. What I am going to say now applies essentially to any career in adult human life. We must learn to enjoy our vocation while consciously keeping in mind the daily “grind”.
Like everything in adult life, research involves brutal mundane days. On those days, we need friends and loved ones. But then, after weeks or months of confusion and hard work of trying out various things, the nut finally cracks. That moment is exhilarating. You feel true ownership of your result. What you just accomplished has a certain character of permanence, and I find that to be a very satisfying feeling. And slowly but surely, one begins to see beauty even in the daily routine.

So, those were my reasons for why we do physics.

I feel compelled to add a word on politics. Just like serious research is slow and painful, understanding politically divisive topics well requires effort. Serious decisions about society shouldn’t be made on frivolous premises. Even in this age of 140 twitter characters, click-baity headlines, in this frenzied fanatic world, it still may be that reading an extremely unsexy-looking long-form article, a detailed report or a book is the best way to learn about an issue. So, let us all strive to form opinions based on solid facts and good reason.

I would like to add a word about Stanford itself. My physics experience at Stanford was very special. In addition, Stanford was even more special to me because it is where I took a break from spending all my life getting A’s, and put to action the advice of an early teacher: “Raghu, apart from your job, try to learn well one physical sport that you can play routinely, and one art-form that you can make a part of your life”. The physics, the weather, the grass, the sky, the physical spaces on campus, and the people, I am going to miss everything so much.

As we move into adult lives, let us pledge to be ambitious and intellectually curious.
Let us strive to make ourselves better all the time. Let us choose wisely in what we do and think about, in accord with our personality and values. And equally important, let us invest time and energy into building meaningful connections with people around us.

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