Tavleen Singh

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Tavleen Singh

Tavleen Singh (born 1950) is an Indian columnist, political reporter and writer.

Quotes[edit]

  • “the word Hindutva is being used as a term of abuse […] it is used mostly in pejorative terms […] the debate appears no longer confined to the cloistered world of priests, or even the self-serving one of politics, it has expanded into a challenge to Hindu civilisation […] the wider attack on Indian civilisation that this pejorative use of the word Hindu represents. It bothers me that I went to school and college in this country without any idea of the enormous contribution of Hindu civilisation to the history of the world. It bothers me that even today our children, whether they go to state schools or expensive private ones, come out without any knowledge of their own culture or civilisation […] You cannot be proud of a heritage you know nothing about, and in the name of secularism, we have spent 50 years in total denial of the Hindu roots of this civilisation. We have done nothing to change a colonial system of mass education founded on the principle that Indian civilisation had nothing to offer […] our contempt for our culture and civilisation […] evidence of a country that continues to be colonised to the core? Our contempt for who we are gets picked up these days by the Western press […] racism [is] equated with Hindu Nationalism. For countries that gave us slavery and apartheid that really is rich, but who can blame them when we think so badly of ourselves. As for me I would like to state clearly that I believe that the Indic religions have made much less trouble for the world than the Semitic ones and that Hindu civilisation is something I am very proud of. If that is evidence of my being ‘communal’, then, so my inner voice tells me, so be it.”
    • Indian Express (Sunday 13/6/2004) by Tavleen Singh, quoted in article by Talageri in Goel, S. R., & Elst, K. (2005). India's only communalist: In commemoration of Sita Ram Goel.
  • Are there no limits to what Muslims can demand, and get away with, in the imagined cause of their religion? ... There is no reason why our political leaders should have to start kowtowing and running scared everytime a bunch of semi-literate mullahs gets up and starts making a noise. ... We have just seen Shiv-Sena government in Maharashtra buckle under Muslim pressure and suspend the release of Mani Rattnam’s Bombay. It is a film about inter-religious marriage and the triumph of peace over communal hatred. ... After seeing the film they came up with a list of objections so absurd that they should have been considered ludicrous in our secular land but they have been taken seriously. They object, we are told, to the last shot. The Muslim girl while eloping with her Hindu husband carried the Koran in her hand. This was bad, they said, because it seemed to imply that her marriage had Islamic sanction. ... Nor did they approve of the film’s first scene which shows a woman lifting her burqa off her face.... Offence was taken, we are told, because a Hindu family was shown being burned alive. A Muslim family is also shown being similarly murdered, because this also happened in the terrible riots of 1992, but our Muslim objectors are selective in their disapproval.
    • Tavleen Singh: Indian Express, New Delhi, 16 April 1995 Pampering the minority ego, quoted from (1997). Time for stock taking, whither Sangh Parivar? Edited by Goel, S. R.
  • This is why it has been so astonishingly easy for the Gandhi dynasty to turn India’s oldest political party into a family firm. And once dynastic succession became acceptable at the highest levels of political power, it became impossible to prevent dynastic democracy spreading like a slow poison into the very soul of India. It spread horizontally at higher levels of leadership in every political party and vertically down to the lowest levels of grassroots democracy. It has now become almost impossible to find a village council that is free of this debilitating disease. ... India’s ‘tryst with destiny’ could more appropriately have been called India’s tryst with dynasty.
    • Singh, T. (2016). India's broken tryst. Noida, Uttar Pradesh, India : HarperCollins Publishers India, 2016.
  • There was disappointment in Nehru’s leadership, but it never took away from the deep regard in which he was held for decades after he died. He was credited with bequeathing to India democracy and pluralism, and if anyone challenged the achievements of Nehruvian socialism, as V.S. Naipaul did in An Area of Darkness, he was reviled.
    • Singh, T. (2016). India's broken tryst. Noida, Uttar Pradesh, India : HarperCollins Publishers India, 2016.
  • It was the first time an Indian prime minister had been so open about his religion and a tremor of fear went up the ‘secular’ spine of Lutyens’ Delhi. Friends who had never see the Ganga puja or Benares said that they loved the ceremony but they were worried about the message this would send to Muslims and Christians. So they readied their ammunition for the attack on Modi’s secular credentials that began within months of his becoming prime minister.
    • Singh, T. (2016). India's broken tryst. Noida, Uttar Pradesh, India : HarperCollins Publishers India, 2016.
  • The reason I quote this sycophantic comment is because it reflects perfectly the consensus in smoke-filled newspaper offices and in Delhi’s television studios. And Sonia, reserved to the point of being uneasy with conversation of any kind, used this to her advantage when it came to handling the media. She evolved a policy whereby she refused to talk to journalists except those who were carefully vetted as supportive and obedient. The kind that may have asked her questions about India’s stand on important international issues or big political and economic problems were never allowed near her. The media was most helpful in this exercise. In newsrooms and TV studios I seemed always to run into some editor or columnist who had just come from 10 Janpath. You could tell that they had almost before they said anything in her support. No sooner did they get that invitation to tea in 10 Janpath than hard-boiled reporters would acquire so changed an expression on their faces that jokes began to be made about how ‘one cup of tea with Sonia Gandhi could change the DNA of a journalist’.
    • Singh, T. (2016). India's broken tryst. Noida, Uttar Pradesh, India : HarperCollins Publishers India, 2016.
  • The English-language media is a powerful pillar in the structure that makes up that most privileged enclave called Lutyens’ Delhi. Like the bureaucrats who constitute a much more powerful pillar, most journalists had traditionally been from English-speaking, upper class India. They saw the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty as representing their class interests as much as it represented the colonized officials who inherited India from the British. The very idea of Modi was terrifying because what language would they interview him in? Would he give them interviews at all or choose Hindi journalists instead? Would the cosy relationship they had with power remain? Would their ‘idea of India’ remain intact?
    • Singh, T. (2016). India's broken tryst. Noida, Uttar Pradesh, India : HarperCollins Publishers India, 2016.
  • If there is a single reason why Narendra Modi became the first prime minister in more than thirty years to get a full mandate from the people of India it was because he was the only one who understood how urgently people wanted change. The word he used most in his election speeches was the word for change in Hindi. And every time he said parivartan his audience would roar its approval. During the election campaign I came to understand that it was more important than anything else he could promise on a hot, stifling evening in Pappu’s chai shop in Benares.
    • Singh, T. (2016). India's broken tryst. Noida, Uttar Pradesh, India : HarperCollins Publishers India, 2016.
  • “When I go to the Vishwanath Mandir in Benares and listen to the most powerful, magical aarti I hear from the priests that the knowledge of it will probably die because the temple is now controlled by secular bureaucrats”.
    • Tavleen Singh, quoted in [1] [This article is a major extract from the article "Sita Ram Goel, memories and ideas" by S. Talageri, written for the Sita Ram Goel Commemoration Volume, entitled "India's Only Communalist", edited by Koenraad Elst, published in 2005.

2012[edit]

  • Now that the Chief Minister of Bihar has dragged 'succularism' into the political discourse, it is time to deconstruct it so that we can end this pointless debate once and for all. I have deliberately misspelt the word because when said in Hindi that is how it is usually pronounced. It is a hard word to write in devnagri and the Hindi and Urdu equivalents do not quite mean what secularism has come to mean in the Indian political context. It is a foreign word that evolved in a European context when the powers of the church and the state were separated. In India, since none of our religions were led by pontiffs who controlled armies, or had vast temporal powers, we had no need to make this separation. But, the word secularism is used in India more than almost any other country. Why? Well, because when we entered our current era of coalition governments, political parties of leftist disposition found it convenient to keep the BJP out of power by saying they would only ally with 'succular phorces'. The BJP became a pariah after the Babri Masjid came down and so whenever someone like Nitish Kumar wants to hurl abuse at the party he is in alliance with in Bihar, or one of its leaders, the 'secularism' debate gets revived.
    • Tavleen Singh : Sun Jun 24 2012, Not ‘Secularism’ again [2]
  • When I heard Aung San Suu Kyi's address to both houses of Britian's Parliament in Westminster hall last week, what impressed me was the clarity with which she spelt out her vision for her country. But, throughout her speech, something kept bothering me and by the time she finished, I discovered what it was. What bothered me was that I could not think of a single Indian leader who could make such a speech. The Indian political landscape today has become a desert in which only the stunted progeny of stunted political leaders bloom. We need our political parties to throw up real leaders and we need a political discourse in which real political problems are discussed. So can we stop fishing 'secularism' out of the dustbin of history and holding it up as a shining ideal? Its relevance faded a long time ago.
    • Tavleen Singh : Sun Jun 24 2012, Not ‘Secularism’ again [3]

2017[edit]

  • Dynasty, a political tool in the hands of the ruling class, has become the catalyst for a new colonization of a country whose soul has already been deeply scarred by centuries of it.
    • Singh, Tavleen (2017). Durbar.

2019[edit]

  • Last week I went to see Arun Jaitley. He is one of the few politicians whom I respect. I have known him from the time I was a junior reporter and can say honestly that he is one of a handful of politicians who is not in politics for personal gain but for public service. He is in the process of moving out of the house in Lutyens’ Delhi that was allotted to him as a senior minister. While waiting to see him I noticed blank spaces on the walls where pictures have been taken down. His decision to surrender his government house as soon as he demitted office is remarkable in itself. I know millionaires and maharajahs who have to be physically evicted.
    • Tavleen Singh, It’s time opposition tried to address what actually happened this general election June 16, 2019 [4]
  • It took this election campaign for ordinary Indians to notice what was going on. They noticed because Modi told voters that they were choosing between a ‘kaamdaar’ and a ‘naamdaar’. A working man and a prince. It did not help that the ‘naamdaar’ then mocked Modi and made fun of everything about him. Modi’s ‘hugplomacy’, ‘Gabbar Singh Tax’, demonetisation. Modi’s demonetisation, he said, was done to steal their money and give it to his rich friends. The country’s Chowkidar, he said too many times, was a ‘chor’. He forgot that he was demeaning not just a political opponent but the Prime Minister of India. Ordinary voters were appalled that the heir to India’s most powerful political dynasty should talk this way. He sounded arrogant, entitled and insulting and reminded them that there were too many political heirs in Indian politics
    • Tavleen Singh. May 26, 2019 . No revival of that old order: The idea of India in which there are privileges and not rights is dead [5]
  • It is true that in the decades in which India was ruled imperiously by the Congress, the task of writing history textbooks was allotted to Leftist historians who chose to view India’s past through a distorted lens. The most celebrated of these historians, Romila Thapar, has gone so far as to deny that Muslim invaders destroyed the temples of us idolatrous infidels. Undoubtedly, if she were writing about more recent history, she would deny that the Taliban blew up the Buddhas of Bamiyan — and would say that they fell to pieces of their own accord.
  • The realms of high culture that in more civilised countries resonate with literature, music and art are occupied in India by Bollywood and trashy TV serials. Inevitable, since mass education is such a mess that most children leave school without learning to read a storybook. Reading is so out of fashion that most small towns in India have no bookshops, most villages have no libraries and, in our bigger cities, bookshops stock mostly books and magazines written in English. So when the RSS leaders turned up in Delhi last week to tell the Minister of Human Resource Development that they wanted changes in school education, they had a point. Unfortunately, because the RSS is led by doddering old bigots and provincial intellectuals, this ‘cultural’ organisation is in no position to give the HRD Minister worthwhile advice. The RSS leaders who met the minister reportedly confined their concerns to history books that they claim portray a ‘Western’ view of history. They demanded that these books be replaced by those written by historians with an Indian view of history. They have a point, but they make it badly. It is true that in the decades in which India was ruled imperiously by the Congress, the task of writing history textbooks was allotted to Leftist historians who chose to view India’s past through a distorted lens. The most celebrated of these historians, Romila Thapar, has gone so far as to deny that Muslim invaders destroyed the temples of us idolatrous infidels. Undoubtedly, if she were writing about more recent history, she would deny that the Taliban blew up the Buddhas of Bamiyan — and would say that they fell to pieces of their own accord. In the interests of ‘secularism’, most Indian schools and colleges provide only limited courses for the study of ancient India, Vedic Hinduism and Sanskrit literature. So the vast majority of Indian children grow up with a sense of being Indian that is restricted to a religious identity. When this gets infused with a toxic sort of nationalism, as happens in RSS educational institutions, the result is bigotry of a lethal kind.
  • The 2014 general election marked the beginning of the end of India’s ruling elite. The election whose results came last week marked the end. As someone born and bred in this group of privileged Indians, I speak as an insider. So believe me when I tell you that we controlled everything. Politics, government, business, foreign policy, the police, the military and the media. All this was possible because we were to some degree all courtiers in the court of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty since the British left. We knew that their ‘socialism’ and ‘secularism’ were as fake as their ‘idea of India’.... If they have spent the past five years targeting Modi, often wrongly, for what they perceive as attempts to crush democracy, it is possibly because they know how easily this can be done. The truth is that the traditional ruling elite believes in an idea of India in which there are privileges and not rights. This was always a bad idea. Now it is dead.
    • Tavleen Singh. May 26, 2019. No revival of that old order: The idea of India in which there are privileges and not rights is dead [6]
  • In 1989, Rajiv Gandhi lost the election because he was seen as corrupt by ordinary, rural Indians who made up ditties about the ‘son-in-law of Italy’. The Congress party has never explained why the best friends of Rajiv and his wife, Mr and Mrs Quattrocchi, were bribed in this deal. Nor has there been a credible explanation for why Rajiv did not make public the names of those bribed in this deal, even after Bofors officials came to Delhi and offered to give them.... whoever advised the Congress president (Rahul Gandhi) to continue charging Modi with corruption should have reminded him that the ghost of Bofors still lurks in the shadows of 10 Janpath.
    • Tavleen Singh, May 12, 2019, If Modi becomes PM again, it will have a lot to do with Congress misjudging the national mood [7]

External links[edit]

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