By Daniel Firoozi
Contributing Writer
Reducing Open Defecation in Rural, Northern India

Executive Summary:
Open defecation poses one of the single most significant health and safety challenges to the people of the provinces of rural, Northern India. Eliminating the practice could save thousands of lives per year through reduced infant mortality, improve early childhood development and curb both malnutrition and the spread of disease. Existing policy options have succeeded at expanding access to improved sanitation, but have failed at making comparable reductions in the rate of open defecation, due largely to individual preferences. Policymakers must overhaul the Total Sanitation Campaign and Nirmal Gram Puraskar to focus on latrine usage, local leadership, long-term goals and accountability to build on the progress made in latrine access.

Statement of Problem
As India continues along its path of long-run economic growth, it grapples with an array of health crises ranging from malnutrition, to elevated rates of infant mortality and widespread instances of diarrheal disease, even when compared to countries with lower per capita incomes, because of open defecation. Despite representing only one sixth of the world’s population, at 597 million people, Indians are the majority of the world’s remaining practitioners of open defecation (Progress 2014, p 21-22). Although 291 million Indians have gained access to improved sanitation since 1990, 792 million continue to lack access to latrines and other forms of improved sanitation facilities, concentrated largely in Northern and rural provinces (Progress, 19-20 & 60). For key demographic groups, particularly Hindus, Dalits, the rural poor, women, children and the elderly, open defecation contributes to a broad degree of disparities in outcomes for healthcare, education, economic opportunity and even personal safety. In the enclosed report, we will (1) explore the origins of the continuing open defecation crisis in India, (2) analyze and critique the Total Sanitation Campaign (TSC), a recently implemented broad-based program aimed at expanding access to latrines and the Nirmal Gram Puraskar (NGP), a financial incentive to promote latrine use, (3) issue a revised plan for phase two of the Total Sanitation Campaign built on demand stimulation, more funding for NGPs and a set of local sanitation divisions administered at the Gram Panchayat (GP) level which will compete for long term financial awards for latrine use and maintenance and (4) conclude with a summary of these findings and rationale for renewal of the TSC with amendments.

On balance, the evidence suggests that while traditional approaches to moving toward an open defecation free (ODF) India have emphasized and been successful in boosting construction of and access to latrines, they have not succeeded at achieving corresponding gains in the reduction of open defecation due to engrained group preferences for the practice. While expanding access to improved sanitation facilities continues to be of great importance, a substantially larger degree of focus should be placed on stimulating demand for latrine use via educational campaigns and future policy approaches must factor in long-term GP, district and block oriented sanitation strategies to build a culture of use and maintenance for existing latrines. By taking large strides towards ODF communities, India may dramatically reduce incidence of diarrheal disease, malnutrition, sexual assault, parasitic infection and infant mortality, as well as promote better outcomes for early childhood development and educational attainment in the long run.

Origin of Problem and Current Context
Open defecation has been a longstanding problem on the Indian subcontinent, tracing its historical roots to a period long before British colonization and has been engrained in the lifestyles of most rural Indians. Many households display a strong preference for open defecation over latrine use, often citing pleasurability and a belief in the health benefits of the practice as primary motivators (Coffey 2014, p 1). However, the data from healthcare outcomes robustly suggest that the ubiquity of open defecation in rural, Northern India poses strains on the indigenous population and entails severe negative consequences. One half of all Indians regularly practice open defecation (Lamba 2013, p 1593), including nearly two thirds of rural households and a majority ofpeople living in households with a government provided toilet (Coffey, p 1). Open defecation is more common in India than many countries with lower indicators for per capita income and approximately one third of the global population of open defecators live in just five Indian provinces: Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Haryana (Coffey, p 5). For key demographic groups rates of open defecation can be even higher and pose additional risks to individual health and safety. Indians from scheduled castes (Lamba, p 1593), men (Coffey, p 13), children (Child Feces 2015, p 1) and Hindus (Geruso 2015, p 2) are more likely to engage in open defecation than their demographic counterparts. Often the subgroups most in need of latrines, women with safety concerns, the disabled and the elderly, are precisely the groups with the least amount of economic clout within their household (Coffey, p 13).

Because of the extraordinarily low rates of access to and use of latrines and improved sanitation, the population of India faces severe negative health effects. India alone accounts for approximately one third of all deaths from diarrheal disease (Patil 2014, p 3), driven largely by the relatively high population density of Northern villages which can often multiply the negative externalities of open defecation (Coffey, p 24). The outlook is particularly bleak for children. Poor sanitation access among children in rural, Northern India has been linked to the prevalence of enteropathy, stunted growth, malnutrition and intestinal worm infections, which can cost on average three and three quarters IQ points worth of brain development during every infestation (Child Feces, p 3). The long term consequences caused by repeated fecal-oral transmission of parasites have even been traced to poor cognitive development, lower school attendance, reduced educational attainment, reduced literacy and higher risk of chronic disease in adulthood (Andres 2014, p 6) (Spears 2013, p 3,17-18, & 28). The gaps between ODF and non-ODF communities come into full clarity when one considers that the children of Muslim Indians, despite lower household incomes, lower consumption levels, worse educational attainment and worse access to piped water, have a lower overall infant mortality rate than their Hindu counterparts primarily because of resistance to latrine use among Hindu fundamentalists (Geruso, p 3).

Local governments, organized into districts, blocks and Gram Panchayats (GPs) led by Sarpanches, local elected leaders, are the most critical stakeholders in sanitation policy. Since villages are the core political unit across the rural region of Northern India, they are primary stakeholders in the struggle to construct more latrines and combat the prevalence of open defecation (Lamba, p 1594). Traditionally, administration of sanitation policy has been conducted at the local level, because of the need for political autonomy and flexibility to address the wide variation in climate, water access and cultural differences across the subcontinent. Both rural families and government institutions have a vested interest in improving sanitation access, but the federal government has been slow to act and unresponsive to the unique challenges facing the GPs. Local administrators are also on the frontline of contacting and working with individual households, which often have latrines but may have individual family members who refuse to use them, giving them a unique opportunity to educate and motivate on a personal level.

Critique of Policy Options
In 1999, the federal government of India launched the Total Sanitation Campaign, with the stated goal of achieving universal latrine use and the elimination of open defecation by 2012, but the project failed to achieve a dramatic reduction of open defecation despite contributing to a 19% increase in the availability of improved sanitation (Patil, p 1). An accompanying program, the Nirmal Gram Puraskar, was established to provide funding to Gram Panchayats and households, particularly those below the poverty level, upon the construction and verification of the use of latrines (Lamba, p 1594). Taken in total, the Indian government allocated the equivalent of $1.4 billion for the Total Sanitation Campaign and $1.5 billion for the NGP, providing approximately Rs 820 per household for the construction of a latrine, Rs 30 Lakh for the NGP grant to each Gram Panchayat achieving ODF status and Rs 8,000 for NGP grants to each household in Gram Panchayats that successfully achieved ODF status (Robinson 2008, p 20 & 38-40). While these policies were effective in contributing to a nineteen percentage point increase in latrine coverage in participating villages relative to control villages, the evidence seems to suggest that the policy intervention resulted in latrine construction but fell well short of achieving total sanitation due to the low rates of latrine use (Patil, p 5). According to one analysis, if the Total Sanitation Campaign and NGP awards were extended to cover every village in the rural, Northern provinces, open defecation in the region would only fall from sixty four percent to forty six percent, because the marginal rate of latrine use among latrine owners remains low (Coffey, p 18).

The wedge between latrine ownership and latrine use, which proves the biggest obstacle to the elimination of open defecation, can be traced to social, political, economic and religious factors. Among households with a government constructed latrine, one third of such latrines are not used by anyone at all and rates of open defecation were twice as high as rates for households that constructed latrines without government assistance (Coffey, p 3 & 14). Likewise for Gram Panchayats with Sarpanches from scheduled castes, like Dalits, figures point to high rates of toilet construction on par with that of other participating Gram Panchayats, but the frequency of receiving the NGP proved far lower because of lower rates of latrine use conditional on latrine construction (Lamba, p 1602-1604). In fact, a contributor to both the dearth of households constructing affordable latrines and the use of affordable government sponsored latrines seems to be that many rural Indians in the Northern provinces have an expensive concept of what an acceptable latrine looks like and thus are less likely to build or use facilities that do not meet their personal standards (Coffey, p 7-8). The TSC and NGP programs have both neglected to consider reaching out to local religious institutions and leaders who often give guidance to their worshippers regarding the practice of open defecation (Geruso, p 5-7). Finally, it seems that in spite of the companion programs’ noticeable impact on latrine construction household surveys reflect similar rates of awareness of the programs between villages receiving the policy intervention and control villages (Patil, p 14).

Policy Recommendations
The Indian Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation should recommit itself to a substantial reduction of open defecation in the rural, Northern provinces and launch a second phase of the Total Sanitation Campaign and Nirmal Gram Puraskar by (1) setting up latrine demand stimulation campaigns and triggers, (2) increasing NGP awards by 25% across the board and (3) setting up a system of local sanitation organizations, administered at the Gram Panchayat level, which will compete for new long-term NGP block grants awarded for latrine use, reduction of open defecation and latrine maintenance. As the TSC and NGP have already demonstrated, the larger the financial incentive for latrine construction, the greater the rate of expanded access to improved sanitation, but such plans alone are insufficient for guaranteed latrine use and curtailing open defecation (Patil, p 21).

The policy intervention outlined in this report will tackle current problems and context by challenging existing notions surrounding open defecation, promoting demand for latrine use, targeting relief and demand stimulation to key groups and engaging local policymakers as stakeholders in the process. With fifty one percent of people without latrines believing that open defecation is at least as beneficial to health as latrine use, any proposal geared at curbing open defecation must begin with latrine demand stimulation and program triggers (Coffey, p 21). A revamped TSC must tout not only the health benefits of ODF communities, but must recognize existing social roles and make targeted appeals to personal safety of children and adolescents, personal privacy for women and low costs for men (What Works 2014, p 5). Local leaders and households should indicate a desire for behavioral change prior to the disbursement of funds for latrine construction and the allotment of construction grants should be tied to a participatory rural appraisal process that would gauge the fraction of people in a Gram Panchayat interested in pursuing to an ODF community, ask for a reasonable target date for ODF status and target funds at the GPs with the strongest commitments (What Works, p 6 & 9). Rather than emphasizing disgust and shame in the context of open defecation, the initial educational campaign should rely on the pride, dignity and security associated with latrine use as well as the most effective messaging surrounding convenience, children’s safety from insects and animals, reductions of sexual assault and safety from the rains to appeal to middle age fathers, the holders of most economic clout in the rural provinces (What Works, p 10-11). Lastly, the educational program must be administered at the local level, with Sarpanches indicating a firm commitment to participation, setting up a sub-GP governing structure and drafting a time table for policy implementation, before a village is deemed eligible for participation in the renewed TSC and NGP programs.

Phase two of the Total Sanitation Campaign and Nirmal Gram Puraskar should strike at the heart of past policy failures by emphasizing latrine use rather than construction, creating safeguards against caste-based discrimination, challenging perceptions about latrines and raising awareness about the program itself. Apart from the financial incentives to build latrines, the bulk of the NGPs for ODF Gram Panchayats and households in ODF GPs should be disbursed only after independent auditors evaluate a GP for latrine use in one, two, three, five and eight year intervals after a GP enters the program (Robinson, p 49). Moreover, a financial incentive for workers in the locally-administered sanitation organizations should be tied to these evaluations as a means of incentivizing community engagement and education in the period between evaluations. This will shift the incentive away from construction and toward fostering a culture that makes ODF communities a priority, while improving baseline statistics, allowing for decentralized management and providing independent accountability (Monitoring Systems 2010, p 4 & 12). Independent auditors will schedule evaluations without proactive warnings for GPs, will be randomized among the GPs and will meet with the members of the local sanitation organizations and Sarpanch only after submitting an initial report, to curtail possibilities for corruption and eliminate the potential for biased reporting linked to the caste of a Sarpanch. Coupled with this new focus on external verification, local sanitation organizations must work hard to relay the message that the low-cost latrines funded by the TSC are a transitory step along the path to the high quality latrines many Indians envision and underscore that successful achievement and maintenance of ODF status in a GP will lead to financial grants that may be used to upgrade latrine quality (Patil, p 9). By framing the move to latrine use as a step in a process yielding larger and larger payoffs over time and by incorporating local sanitation organizations, the new TSC and NGP will foster a culture of latrine use over the long-run and become more familiar to targeted villages than their predecessor programs.

In keeping with the overall plan of taking a bold step toward eliminating open defecation, the policy goal will be to cut open defecation in half by the eighth year of the revised programs and will be evaluated through a series of benchmark checks with accompanying performance grants for post-NGP outcomes (Robinson, p 49). While local sanitation organizations governed by Gram Panchayats can effectively act to provide timely monitoring at block, district and GP levels they will be financially compensated for providing regular updates on sanitation information and for successful implementation of strategies to promote latrine use after one year, two years, three years, five years and eight years (What Works, p 5). Financial incentives from the NGP will be broken up to reward communities at each time interval for retaining ODF status and reimbursements will be provided to cover the recurrent costs of maintenance of latrines to sustain sanitation outcomes, extending the effectiveness of the plan well into the time horizon (Robinson, p 49).


To achieve dramatic improvement in health, educational and life outcomes India’s federal government must overhaul its rural sanitation policies to prioritize latrine use, rather than latrine access as a means of combating open defecation. Despite measurable progress in latrine construction in rural, Northern India, the country has not achieved parity declines in open defecation, making it a laggard among its non- industrialized peers on a variety of health indicators. Without substantial reform of the TSC and NGP, India will continue to subsidize construction of improved sanitation facilities rather than stimulate their demand, fail to address systemic inequalities on the basis of gender, caste, religion and age and will continue to face stubbornly high rates of preventable illness and infant mortality. With the population burgeoning and growing increasingly mobile, the federal government must prioritize slashing rates of open defecation to hedge against the growing threat of communicable disease. Local governments and families should commit themselves to better sanitation practices to not only raise their standards of living, but improve childhood development and save young lives.

The most achievable and pragmatic approach to curbing open defecation involves launching a second phase of both the TSC and NGP programs, while making a clear break with their previous top-down, near term, construction-focused approach. By allocating funds for the establishment of a network locally administered sanitation organizations, shifting focus to latrine demand stimulation and providing a new set of

long term grants for achieving non-construction goals, policymakers may best address the factors which limited the success of past initiatives. These clean breaks with the structure of past policies prove necessary because of the high rates of disuse of existing sanitation infrastructure, the disparities between demographic groupings and the political realities of rural village life in each of the provinces. The revamped proposal for the implementation the Total Sanitation Campaign and Nirmal Gram Puraskar ought to receive the full support of the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation to improve the efficiency of the existing programs and the Minister Chaudhry Birender Singh should propose an increase in the allocation for these programs in the annual federal budget to cover the higher expenditures associated with a restructured grant system and new public worker salaries.


1) Sneha Lamba & Dean Spears (2013) Caste, ‘Cleanliness’ and Cash: Effects of Caste-Based Political Reservations in Rajasthan on a Sanitation Prize, The Journal of Development Studies, 49:11, 1592-1606, DOI: 10.1080/00220388.2013.828835

2a) Patil SR, Arnold BF, Salvatore AL, Briceno B, Ganguly S, et al. (2014) The Effect of India’s Total Sanitation Campaign on Defecation Behaviors and Child Health in Rural Madhya Pradesh: A Cluster Randomized Controlled Trial. PLoS Med 11(8): e1001709. DOI:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001709. < handle/10986/23197/journal.pmed.1001709.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y>.

2b) Patil, Sumeet R., Benjamin F. Arnold, Alicia Salvatore, Bertha Briceno, John M. Colford, and Paul J. Gertler. “A Randomized, Controlled Study of a Rural Sanitation Behavior Change Program in Madhya Pradesh, India.” Policy Research Working Papers (2013): n. pag. The World Bank, Nov. 2013. Web. 20 Jan. 2016. <http:// 2013/11/14/000158349_20131114094224/Rendered/PDF/WPS6702.pdf>.

3) Progress on Drinking-water and Sanitation 2014 Update. Geneva: World Health Organization, 2014. World Health Organization, 2014. Web. 20 Jan. 2016. < water-2014(9789241507240_eng).pdf>

4) Coffey, Diane, Aashish Gupta, Payal Hathi, Nidhi Khurana, Dean Spears, Nikhil Srivastav, and Sangita Vyas. Revealed Preference for Open Defecation: Evidence from a New Survey in Rural North India. Working paper no. 1. Research Institute for Compassionate Economics, 26 June 2014. Web. 16 Feb. 2016. < wp-content/uploads/2014/06/SQUAT-research-paper.pdf>.

5) Child Feces Disposal in INDIA. Issue brief. UNICEF, Mar. 2015. Web. 16 Feb. 2016. <;.

6) Andres, Luis A., Bertha Briceno, Claire Chase, and Juan A. Echenique. Sanitation and Externalities: Evidence from Early Childhood Health in Rural India: Policy Research Working Papers. Working paper no. 6737. World Bank, Jan. 2014. Web. 16 Feb. 2016. <;.

7) Geruso, Michael, and Dean Spears. NEIGHBORHOOD SANITATION AND INFANT MORTALITY. Working paper no. 21184. National Bureau of Economic Research, May 2015. Web. 16 Feb. 2016. <;.

8) Spears, Dean, and Sneha Lamba. E Ects of Early-Life Exposure to Sanitation on Childhood Cognitive Skills. Working paper no. 6659. The World Bank, Oct. 2013. Web. 16 Feb. 2016. < WPS6659.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y>.

9) Monitoring Systems for Incentive Programs: Learning from Large-Scale Rural Sanitation Initiatives in India. Guidance Notice. World Bank Water and Sanitation Program, Nov. 2010. Web. 16 Feb. 2016. < bitstream/handle/10986/17275/593350WP0WSP1m10Box358367B01PUBLIC1.pdf? sequence=1&isAllowed=y>.

10) What Works at Scale? Distilling the Critical Success Factors for Scaling up Rural Sanitation. Working paper no. ACS8929. The World Bank, 27 May 2014. Web. 16 Feb. 2016. < ACS89290WP0P1319160Box385252B00PUBLIC0.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y>.

11) Robinson, Andy, and Rajiv Raman. Enabling Environment Assessment for Scaling Up Sanitation Programs: Himachal Pradesh, India. Working paper no. 72176. Water and Sanitation Program, Jan. 2008. Web. 16 Feb. 2016. <https:// 10986/17390/721760WSP0Box370108B00PUBLIC00EEHP0TSSM.pdf? sequence=1&isAllowed=y>.

Photo by Meena Kadri


By Omkar Mahajan

On July 8, 2016, Burhaan Muzaffar Wani, along with two accomplices, was killed by Special Operations Forces of the Indian Police and Military in a standoff that lasted for nearly two hours.
Wani was the 21 year old “poster boy” of the Kashmiri separatist movement and the commander of the Kashmiri militant group, Hizbul Mujahideen. The Hizbul Mujahideen has been designated as a terrorist organization by India, the United States, and the European Union. Shortly after Wani’s death, ensuing mobocracy and mass ataxia erupted. Some saw his death as a triumph and were glad that a top terrorist leader was killed. Others viewed him as a misguided youth who traversed down the wrong path to terrorism. Regardless of whether it was a tragedy or a triumph, Wani’s death will do little to ensure peace in Kashmir and is instead more likely to cause instability, turmoil, and prolonged violence both in the near future and long term. Furthermore, it’s expected that many people in Kashmir will view Wani as a martyr and a freedom fighter.

Who is Burhaan Muzaffar Wani?
Wani was born in the city of Tral, Kashmir where he enjoyed a privileged childhood. His father, Muzaffar Ahmed Wani, was the principal of a local high school and a member of the notorious extremist group, Jamaat-i-Islami. In 2010, Burhaan Muzaffar Wani dropped out of school and joined the Hizbul Mujahideen after being allegedly harassed by police. He quickly rose through the ranks due to his leadership skills and savvy use of social media. He was also popular with the locals. In 2015, Wani became the top commander and leader of the Hizbul Mujahideen due to the deaths of many senior officials above him. During that same year, his older brother Khalid Muzaffar Wani was killed by the Indian Security Forces. The Wani family claims that Khalid Muzaffar Wani was not a terrorist and was killed because he was the brother of the top militant commander. According to the father, the body of Khalid Muzaffar Wani did not have any bullet wounds but rather looked as if it had been heavily tortured. On the other hand, the Indian Security forces report that Khalid Muzaffar Wani was recruiting youth to join Burhaan Muzaffar Wani’s extremist organization. Nonetheless, to many people of Kashmir, Khalid Muzaffar Wani’s death represents one of a multitudinous number of civilians eradicated at the hands of the police force.

Following the death of his older brother, Burhaan Muzaffar Wani utilized social media sites and apps such as Facebook and Whatsapp to disperse his videos urging others to join the separatist organizations. His vast presence on Facebook enabled him to recruit dozens of teenagers from various villages each. The Indian state classified him as a terrorist and placed a 1 million Rupee bounty on his head and even attempted several assassination plots. After all, in several of his videos, he announced plans to decimate Sainik colonies in Kashmir because he felt that they were altering the natural demographics of Kashmir. In another video, he expressed disapproval of Kashmiri Pandit relocation settlements and threatened to bombard the Pandit community and juxtaposed it to the situation of Israel. In several of his videos, he advocated attacks on the police and military. Many scholars state that his videos had a considerable following and heavily appealed to the youth of Kashmir.

In contrast to the labels of being a terrorist and a peril to society, the local populace elucidated quite a different picture of Wani. The fact that he was able to defy all odds and expectations and survive previous assassination attempts turned him into a legend. There were stories that he sometimes visited home dressed as a girl and left money behind for those that needed it. There were rumors that local girls from Kanpur desired to marry him and wrote his name in their blood. He was frequently discussed over cups of chai and the stories, myths and legends surrounding him immortalized him as somewhat of a folk hero and local celebrity with parallels to Robin Hood. Moreover, his young age set him apart from others and thus, he was seen as a champion to the youth of Kashmir. It’s rare to see someone at his age in a high position of power with significant influence over people. Despite many in the local community being sympathetic towards him, it should be noted that he was an extremist and the commander of the Hizbul Mujahideen, which is a designated terrorist organization responsible for dozens of attacks claiming the lives of thousands over the years. The Hizbul Mujahideen also has more than 10,000 fighters and has massacred non-Muslims and people not supportive of it. In order to fully understand Wani’s role and the political situation in Kashmir, it is important to examine the history of Kashmir.

A Brief History of Kashmir
For numerous centuries, Kashmir was an independent state in South Asia. The present day state of modern Kashmir is landlocked in South Asia and is surrounded by India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, China, and Tajikistan. Even when Kashmir was ruled under various kingdoms and empires such as the Mauryan Empire, the Kushan Empire, the Ghandaran Kingdom, the Durrani Kingdom, the Mughals, and later Sikh Rule, Kashmir maintained its autonomy due to isolation in the north and the mountainous terrain that surrounded it. In other words, it recognized the authority of larger empires, but was practically an independent state since it exercised almost complete control over its own affairs and was relatively self-autonomous.

Additionally, rulers of Kashmir were of differing faiths and backgrounds throughout the years. Kashmir has been ruled by Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims, and others. Thus, it is not a surprise that people of various faiths were able to live peacefully together and intermarriage between different faiths was not uncommon. Due to this isolation from the rest of South Asia, Kashmir developed a culture distinct from the rest of South Asia. For instance, while much of South Asia had a relatively intransigent caste system and a patriarchal society, Kashmir did not have a rigid caste system and was relatively egalitarian with equal rights granted to even women. Furthermore, the language in Kashmir, Koshur, differed markedly from those spoken in South Asia and had more in common with Dari and Farsi. The cuisine, customs, and clothing were also dissimilar and antithetical from those of South Asia. The people of Kashmir developed a distinct culture and identity of their own and some saw themselves as their own independent state.

However, the situation of Kashmir drastically changed during the British occupation of South Asia. In 1947, when the British left and granted South Asia its independence, they partitioned it into two states of a Muslim majority Pakistan and a Hindu majority India. Kashmir, being located between India and Pakistan, was expected to join the Muslim majority state of Pakistan since Kashmir had a majority Muslim population in many parts. However, the king of Kashmir, Hari Singh, desired to maintain an independent state of Kashmir. Unfortunately for him, Pathans from Pakistan who disagreed with his idea of independence invaded Kashmir. After receiving help to fight off the invaders, Kashmir was forced to make a decision of whether to join Pakistan or India. Prime Minister Mehr Chand Mahajan made the controversial decision to join India in late 1947 viewing it as the safer option. Ever since then, the conflict was never fully resolved.

Kashmir Today
Today, in some parts of Kashmir, over 95% of the people desire an independent state.[1] On the other hand, both Pakistan and India claim that Kashmir belongs to each. Border skirmishes and wars between Pakistan and India over Kashmir have been recurrent throughout the years. In fact, this remains the oldest unresolved United Nations conflict. In 1999, the conflict nearly escalated to nuclear war. Kashmir is the sole natural gas provider to Pakistan and has a huge agriculture industry that India profits from.[2] Both nations are unlikely to yield their holds over Kashmir anytime in the near future. As a result, this has inflamed numerous people living in Kashmir since they are caught between the conflict of India and Pakistan. Individual Kashmiris sometimes find themselves harassed and mistreated by the armies and police of Pakistan and India and they’ve seen their homeland transform into a warzone.

There are currently 153 militant organizations operating throughout Kashmir.[3] Kashmir’s poor and undeveloped infrastructure, along with large areas being warzones, has enabled Kashmir to turn into a hotbed and breeding ground for militant radicalism. Oppression by both sides has fueled negative sentiments towards Pakistan and India with many people resenting the police and military. History has shown us that when people are oppressed, a backlash will occur once oppression reaches a certain point. The lack of opportunities in Kashmir compels many youth to join militant organizations where sadly, many are brainwashed into not only attacking the police and military, but also performing atrocities and targeted acts of violence on innocent civilians. As troubling as this is, there isn’t anything to celebrate about the deaths of brainwashed youth.

Although the commander of the Hizbul Mujahideen is dead and his death is seen as a victory for those fighting against terrorism and militant radicals, others see it as the story of a lost child brainwashed into a killing machine. The oppression in Kashmir has led many to sympathize with militant commanders in Kashmir.  In fact, over 20,000 people attended Burhan Muzaffar Wani’s funeral and the number of youth that will now join militant organizations is expected to increase exponentially. Already, there have been mass protests regarding his death and dozens of innocent bystanders have been killed in the ensuing turmoil in the past few days. Wani is now seen as a martyr and it’s likely that the people will never forget about him.

Following these mass protests, the entire state of Kashmir was placed on lockdown and under curfew. Additionally, internet access and telephone communications were suspended. While the Chief Minister of Kashmir, Mehbooba Mufti, believes that Wani’s death will not have a long lasting impact on Kashmir, legislative assemblyman and former Chief Minister of Kashmir, Omar Abdullah disagrees. On twitter, Abdullah voiced his concerns that the intended effects and goals of the operation to kill Wani will fail in the long run. “Mark my words. Burhan’s ability to recruit in to militancy from the grave will far outstrip anything he could have done on social media,” Abdullah tweeted.

This attempt to control violence and suppress the chaos backfired and instead more protests and attacks occurred resulting in more deaths. Violence has escalated and hopes of peace reaching Kashmir now become a distant unlikely reality as brutality and pandemonium materialize. After all, violence usually does not quell down violence but in a state in which people are oppressed, a lack of resources is present, and violence is constantly occurring, it seems as though violence is indeed inevitable. Many can disagree on the significance of Wani’s death and whether it was a tragedy or triumph but many will agree that his death will lead to more violence. Perhaps Wani should have been captured alive.

[1] Robert Bradnock, “KASHMIR: Counting in Kashmir.” The World Today 66.6 (2010): 27-28. JSTOR.

[2] S.D. Surendra, “Explaining Social Mobilization in Pakistan: A Comparative Case Study of Baluchistan and Azad Kashmir.” Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East 29.2 (2009): 246-58.

[3] K. Santhanam, Jihadis in Jammu and Kashmir: A Portrait Gallery. New Delhi: Sage, 2003. Print.

Image by Kashmir Global

BJP: The reincarnation of the NSDAP in India

Image by Al Jazeera English

By Amrita Roy
Staff Writer

Indian national politics consist of two leading political parties – the Indian National Congress (referred to as Congress) and the Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP). To put it into the American context, Congress can be likened to the Democrats, and the BJP to the Republicans. The 2014 national elections placed the BJP in power for the next five years in a landslide victory. This was the first time in the last 30 years that any political party was able to occupy office without having to form coalitions with other smaller political parties. After ten years of incumbency, the loss crushed the Congress revealing much internal strife within the party and making it unable to contest recent regional state elections successfully, either.
While lack of competition is in itself a serious problem, it becomes more concerning when the political party in power and its leader share uncanny resemblances to the National Socialist German Workers’ Party, the Nazis, and its former dictatorial leader.


Like many other Asian societies, India has historically valued collectivism over individualism. Both have their own pros and cons, but one of the primary cons of collectivism is it forces you to take decisions that please others around you. There’s a popular phrase in Hindi which sums up this sentiment, “Log kya kahenge?” which translates to “What will people say?” You can hear this phrase being uttered anytime of the day, anywhere in the country. The concept is deeply ingrained within the people of the nation and extends its influence beyond people’s personal lives and into India’s national identity and to how its perceived worldwide. This perception took a massive hitting during the ten year Congress rule from 2004 – 2014. People were embarrassed by the slowed growth rate which beat some of the lowest predictions by leading economists, and firmly placed India second to China. The feeling of humiliation worsened as India only appeared on international news in relation to corruption charges were being imposed on top Congress bureaucrats.

There was little to no contemplation over domestic events which did not have international implications. Muzaffarnagar riots erupted in August 2013, half a year before the national elections. There’s still no substantial evidence on what started the riots, with reports varying from a traffic case to an eve-teasing (public sexual harassment) incident [1]. The only thing recently verified rape cases in India have triggered are candle light vigils. One such eve-teasing led to a riot that killed 60 people and displaced 50,000 others. You can argue that Uttar Pradesh (a north Indian state) has been plagued by communal forces and that is true. And it could be perfect coincidence that these forces chose to erupt into a massacre so close to the placement of a senior leader of a national party within the state. Amit Shah (current President of the BJP) had been posted in Uttar Pradesh for BJP’s Uttar Pradesh’s national election strategy in June 2013, just two months before the riots. There is ample evidence to suggest that certain local BJP leaders and BJP affiliated organizations fueled communal sentiments in the state which led to the massacre [1]. But people did not care too much and gave a decisive mandate to BJP for “economic growth and development.”

Something similar happened in Germany after WWI. The Treaty of Versailles imposed a wide range of rules where Germany lost territory, was forcefully demilitarized, and had to pay large amounts of reparations. The war guilt was placed squarely on Germany and the psychological effect was profound. Germans were furious at the perception of being citizens of a warmongering nation. This national sentiment reached a tipping point in 1929 when the Weimar republic signed the Young Plan to lower the reparation amount [2]. People interpreted this as the German government officially accepting “total blame” which tipped the scale in favor of the Nazis who won 18.3% of the votes in the 1930 elections, emerging as the second largest party [2]. While their anti-Jew racial policies were becoming evident, people still voted for NSDAP as it represented stability and honor with many of its leading party members being accomplished military men. Germans saw the hope of regaining their national honor through the Nazis. They felt similarly to how Indians felt during the Congress regime – hopeless and desperate for change at any cost. And by 1933, Hitler had been appointed as the Prime Minister of Germany.


Hitler never made any policy decisions himself. He had mastered the art of promoting competition among the lowers ranks to see which idea survived the hierarchy to reach him. This meant that the most radical ideas were implemented. Hitler did not speak in favor or opposition to any of the ideas in public and he never signed off on them, personally [3]. Through this method, he distanced himself from all implemented policies, many of which were very polarizing and caused outrage. But since there was no official proof of Hitler authorizing them, his cult remained unscathed.

The Modi led BJP government has functioned in a very similar manner so far. “Love Jihad”: these two words have been popularized by various BJP affiliated organizations and have received widespread coverage, and criticism, within the nation. They accuse Indian Muslims of trying to seduce unsuspecting Hindu girls into marriage, thereby converting them to Islam. Love Jihad spiraled from a case filed by a girl who alleged that she had been kidnapped, beaten up and gang-raped by men who were attempting to convert her to Islam. Within a month of investigation into her case, it was revealed that her family had received a payment of Rs. 25,000, approximately $380, from a local BJP leader.

The BJP also recently imposed a ban on beef in many parts of the nation, with anyone caught eating or serving beef having to pay a hefty fine. Even though the Hindu religion believes cows to be sacred, many Hindus eat beef, as do Muslims, Christians and people of other religions. In fact, many Hindu legends portray Hindu gods and kings also feasting on beef. On September 28, 2015, Mohammad Akhlaq was lynched in the town of Dadri by a mob on suspicion of having consumed beef. A local temple used its public announcement system to spread the rumour that Akhlaq and his family were storing and consuming beef. Soon a mob gathered, armed with sticks and swords, broke into Akhlaq’s home and killed him and injured his son. There has been nothing but silence from the Prime Minister’s Office, choosing to refuse acknowledgements of these events.


Heinrich Himmler, the head of the SS (Nazi secret police), led the extermination of Jews in the Holocaust. He was fascinated with Hindu culture and kept Walther Wüst, a leading German Sanskrit scholar, always by his side [8]. During the initial phase of the Holocaust, the SS squad was ordered to kill Jews in mass shootings which left the common people who had enlisted in the SS traumatized. To assuage the mental effect, Himmler used the concept of killing people for the greater good presented in the Bhagwad Gita (a Hindu holy text). In the Kurukshetra War as narrated in ancient Hindu texts, Krishna forced Arjuna to fight for the greater good of the land and its people, even if that meant murdering some in the war [9]. Himmler utilized the same narrative to brainwash the SS into believing that it was their duty to exterminate Jews for the greater good of creating a racially superior Aryan Germany. It then doesn’t come as a surprise as to why much of Nazi symbolism and imagery is drawn from Hindu symbols and scriptures. The infamous Nazi swastika is a Hindu symbol of strength and good fortune.

RSS (a paramilitary political wing) members were known to be admirers of Hitler and Mussolini as they reorganized their respective nations from the wreckage of war to build powerful economies and militaries under the banner of patriotism and nationalism. Marzia Casolari, an Italian scholar who studied Indian politics, once wrote of RSS’ connections with European fascism: “The existence of direct contacts between the representatives of the [Italian] Fascist regime, including Mussolini, and Hindu nationalists demonstrates that Hindu nationalism had much more than an abstract interest in the ideology and practice of fascism” [9].

Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, a leading member of the RSS, in 1938 during a time of accelerating anti-Jewish legislation in Germany, suggested a similar fate for India. “A nation is formed by a majority living therein,” he declared. “What did the Jews do in Germany? They being in minority were driven out from Germany.” Another senior RSS member, Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar, wrote “There are only two courses open to the foreign elements, either to merge themselves in the national race and adopt its culture, or to live at its mercy so long as the national race may allow them to do so and to quit the country at the sweet will of the national race” [9]. Religious polarization has been an essential element in the BJP. Nathuram Godse, the assassin of Mahatma Gandhi, was a member of the RSS who believed that Gandhi made too many generous concessions to Muslims.

Unfortunately, this belief still runs deep into today’s RSS, which is often described as being BJP’s “ideological fountainhead” [11]. The RSS has adopted a modified version of the Nazi salute and perform it at all RSS gatherings. (This also begs another question, why does a national political party in 2015 have a paramilitary wing in the first place?) Every now and then, one berserk leader from the BJP releases a statement ordering all Muslims to leave India, which is again met by absolute silence from the Prime Minister of the country.


The Nazi regime published an “enemies of the Reich” list and ran Intelligenzaktion which aimed to eradicate Polish intellectuals in order to ensure a successful invasion and prevent an uprising against the Nazis in Poland. On July 1941, 25 Polish academics in the city of Lviv (now in Ukraine) were killed by Nazi German occupation forces along with their families. By targeting prominent citizens and intellectuals for elimination, the Nazis hoped to prevent anti-Nazi activity and to weaken the resolve of the Polish resistance movement.

Two intellectuals in India, Govind Pansare (shot on February 15, 2015) and M.M. Kalburgi (shot on August 30, 2015) have been murdered by unidentified men in 2015. Both stories follow similar patterns. Both men criticized certain Hindu practices. Both men were shot by unidentified men on motorcycles near their residences. And once again, there has been complicit silence from the Office of the Prime Minister. In protest, many top Indian scientists, artists, actors, directors, have returned prestigious national awards in light of the intensifying intolerance of free speech and reason.

In 1930, the Berlin premier of an American film, All Quiet on the Western Front, was disrupted by smoke bombs and members of the audience were beaten up. Ultimately, the film was banned for not being in alignment with a particular point of view. That point of view was Joseph Goebbels’, Hitler’s right-hand man in Nazi Germany. In India, a student-made film named Caste on the Menu Card was banned by the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, recently. The film dealt with the beef ban imposed by the government.


Before the 2014 general elections took place, The Economist published an article elaborating on why he is unfit to become the Prime Minister of India [10]. Modi acted as the Chief Minister of the state of Gujarat for more than a decade (2001 – 2012). Anti-Muslim riots took place in Gujarat in 2002, under his governance, which led to the death of 2000 Muslims and created small isolated communities of Muslims within the state, echoing the Jewish ghettos in Nazi occupied Europe. When asked by reporters if he regretted anything about the riots, Modi replied that he wished he had managed the media better.

Beyond these similarities, Modi shares a personality reminiscent of a variety of dictators. He wore a pinstriped name suit to meet the US President Barack Obama, who ironically gave a speech on religious tolerance on his trip to India earlier this year. Which other dictator wore clothes decorated with his own name? Hosni Mubarak. Modi does not keep in contact with his family and in order to showcase himself as celibate, he hid his wife’s name from public records until it was brought out into the open by the media. Which other dictator did all of this? Hitler.

So where does this leave the immediate political future of the world’s largest democracy?



2) Peter Fritzsche, ‘The NSDAP 1919 – 1934: From Fringe Politics to the Seizure of Power’ in Jane Caplan, Nazi Germany, (Oxford Press, 2008)

3) Kershaw, Ian. Hitler. Abridged ed. London: Penguin, 2010. Print.

4) Ian Kershaw, ‘Hitler and the Nazi Dictatorship’, in Mary Fulbrook, (ed.), Twentieth-Century Germany – Politics, Culture and Society 1918-1990, (London, 2001)








Image by: Al Jazeera America