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The politics of Indian census data September 24, 2015

Posted by southasiamasala in : India, Kumar, Vikas , comments closed

Vikas Kumar

Indian governments spend enormous resources to collect data — including 12 billion and 22 billion rupees on decennial censuses in 2001 and 2011, respectively. Yet they appear reluctant to release it. The latest decennial census data on religion, for example, which were released on 25 August 2015, were collected almost half a decade ago in 2011.

During the past 15 years, governments of both national parties have on more than one occasion deferred to political expediency on the question of releasing demographic data disaggregated by communities. In the process governments have contributed to the politicisation of statistics. The troubled past of the census data on religion reveals systemic problems insofar as the statistical wing of the government is insufficiently insulated from politics. (more…)

The Emperor’s mangoes and horses, and his daggers and swords February 5, 2015

Posted by southasiamasala in : India, Kumar, Vikas , comments closed

Vikas Kumar

There are more than a hundred places in India named by or after Aurangzeb. The Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) has floated a petition to rename one of them, the Aurangzeb Road in Delhi, after Guru Tegh Bahadur. The petitioners argued: ‘No street is named after Hitler in the West, yet in New Delhi we have Aurangzeb Road.’ The DSGMC General Secretary added that ‘a public place named after Aurangzeb in secular India is inappropriate.’ We are obliged to confront, yet again, the matter of how to engage with our past.

Aurangzeb

Aurangzeb

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Early Masses in Malabar: the St Thomas Christians of India November 19, 2009

Posted by southasiamasala in : Guest authors, India , comments closed

Jaison Mulerikkal

Not many people know that Christianity in India is as old as Christianity itself, and older, in fact, than many of its European counterparts. Indian Christians are well-integrated in Indian society and have flourished on Indian soil.

India, along its southern Malabar Coast, developed maritime trade links with the ancient Greco-Roman world from as early as the 10th century BC. Roman coins have been unearthed in different parts of South India, providing evidence of this early contact. During this period, the ancient port of Muzaris on the Malabar Coast was a principal export hub for various spices bound for the Greco-Roman world. Muzaris is today known as Kodungallur and was a major port on the Malabar coast until a great flood in 1341, which created a new harbour called Kochi, now the economic capital of the southern Indian state of Kerala. Jewish merchants arrived in the region from the 5th century BC and built settlements in various towns along the Malabar Coast. Even today a synagogue exists in Kochi and a handful of Indian Jews can be found around Jews Street of Fort Kochi.

According to the lively traditions of the St Thomas Christians of India, St Thomas, one of the twelve apostles of Jesus, came to the port of Muzaris in AD 52. The main intention of St Thomas seemed to preach gospel to the Jewish Diaspora in Malabar Jewish settlements. However, Apostle Thomas went beyond this, preaching gospel to local Hindus and gradually forming seven and a half churches, or communities, on the Malabar Coast. Interestingly, all of them were near Jewish settlements. This marked the beginning of a church with apostolic traditions in India in the very first century of Christianity. Its followers called themselves St Thomas Christians. Later, Apostle Thomas died as a martyr in Mylapore near Chennai (Madras) and today a beautiful cathedral marks the site of his martyrdom. (more…)