Neighbourhood Watch

From Indian to Hindu nationalism: Why the Modi government commented on a communal riot in Bangladesh

Hindus, even if not born or living within India, now have a claim on the country.

On November 10, a Hindu village was attacked in Bangladesh over a rumoured Facebook post, with more than 30 homes destroyed. The Bangladesh police reacted to the attack by opening fire on the mob, shooting dead one attacker. In addition, 53 people were arrested for the violence.

Yet, Bangladeshi authorities aren’t the only ones reacting to the attack. On November 12, the Indian Union minister for external affairs said Bangladesh had assured India that the victims of the attack would be compensated. On November 13, the Indian assistant high commissioner even visited the village that was attacked.

India has long been a close ally of Bangladesh. Yet, this is unprecedented given that the attack occurred on Bangladeshi soil and both the attackers as well as the victims were Bangladeshi citizens. Why then did the Indian government choose to involve itself in an affair that did not concern India?

Blood or soil

An explanation of the Indian government’s concern for Bangladeshi citizens might lie in how the conception of Indian citizenship is itself changing. Broadly, there are two sorts of citizenship active in the world. Jus soli – literally, the right of the soil – awards a country’s citizenship to anyone born within its borders. The United States is the most famous example of such a country and its laws have even given rise to “birth tourism”, with heavily pregnant Chinese women visiting the US in the hope that they would give birth in the country and their child would be eligible for American citizenship.

The other sort of citizenship is jus sanguinis – literally, right of blood – which places emphasis on the identity of the parents. Jus sanguinis citizenship requires either the parents to be citizens or for the child to belong to a certain ethnic group. Till 1999, for example, Germany relied purely on jus sanguinis to award citizenship. So a person of German ethnicity born outside Germany would still be eligible for citizenship.

India has seen a move from jus soli to jus sanguinis. Formerly, it meant that anyone born within the borders of British India would automatically be Indian. Yet, with the rise of Hindutva and a shift towards Hindu nationalism, jus sanguinis gained favour.

Changing norms

Till 1986, India recognised jus soli citizenship. Anyone born in India was Indian. Since 1986, however, as per new laws framed by Parliament, jus soli would not only apply to children born in India. After 1986, a new principle would apply: jus sanguinis, right of blood. One needed to have Indian parents to be Indian. Simply being born within the borders of India would not do.

The year 2003 saw this principle strengthened: an amendment in the Citizenship Act created the concept of an “overseas citizen”. From now on, a person born in India might not qualify to be an Indian citizen, but a person who was born outside, might. It all depended on whom you were descended from, not where you were born.

In September 2015, the principle of jus sanguinis was strengthened even further. In September 2015, the Modi government made asylum in India contingent on religion. Unless the asylum seekers happened to be Muslim he or she would effectively be allowed shelter in India even if they had entered the country illegally.

Hindu homeland

The shift towards jus sanguinis does not arise from a vacuum. This is the legal outcome around the politics that seeks to paint India as a country of Hindus underpinned by Hindu nationalism or Hindutva. The clearest example of this politics is the fact that Narendra Modi, after assuming office as prime minister, went on a tour where he specifically reached out to the Indian diaspora. This was a remarkable sight given that the Indian prime minister was taking time out to create a media spectacle addressing crowds of foreign citizens, who, however, happened to be mostly Hindu by faith.

This is, of course, exactly the same phenomenon driving the Modi government’s unprecedented step of sending an official to check on violence within Bangladesh (even while the Indian government would, for instance, bristle at the United States commenting on communal violence within India).

Since the victims in the Friday attack were Hindu, there were, by the standards of Hindutva, de facto Indians. This was a significant escalation in the evolution of the principle of jus sanguinis and of India’s increasing identification with a nationalism based not on land but on Hindu identity.

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Changing the conversation around mental health in rural India

Insights that emerged from discussions around mental health at a village this World Mental Health Day.

Questioning is the art of learning. For an illness as debilitating as depression, asking the right questions is an important step in social acceptance and understanding. How do I open-up about my depression to my parents? Can meditation be counted as a treatment for depression? Should heartbreak be considered as a trigger for deep depression? These were some of the questions addressed by a panel consisting of the trustees and the founder of The Live Love Lough Foundation (TLLLF), a platform that seeks to champion the cause of mental health. The panel discussion was a part of an event organised by TLLLF to commemorate World Mental Health Day.

According to a National Mental Health Survey of India 2015-16, conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS), common mental disorders including depression, anxiety disorders and substance use disorders affect nearly 10% of the population, with 1 in 20 people in India suffering from depression. The survey reported a huge treatment gap, a problem that is spread far and wide across urban and rural parts of the country.

On 10th of October, trustees of the foundation, Anna Chandy, Dr. Shyam Bhat and Nina Nair, along with its founder, Deepika Padukone, made a visit to a community health project centre in Devangere, Karnataka. The project, started by The Association of People with Disability (APD) in 2010, got a much-needed boost after partnering with TLLLF 2 years ago, helping them reach 819 people suffering from mental illnesses and spreading its program to 6 Taluks, making a difference at a larger scale.


During the visit, the TLLLF team met patients and their families to gain insights into the program’s effectiveness and impact. Basavaraja, a beneficiary of the program, spoke about the issues he faced because of his illness. He shared how people used to call him mad and would threaten to beat him up. Other patients expressed their difficulty in getting access to medical aid for which they had to travel to the next biggest city, Shivmoga which is about 2 hours away from Davangere. A marked difference from when TLLLF joined the project two years ago was the level of openness and awareness present amongst the villagers. Individuals and families were more expressive about their issues and challenges leading to a more evolved and helpful conversation.

The process of de-stigmatizing mental illnesses in a community and providing treatment to those who are suffering requires a strong nexus of partners to make progress in a holistic manner. Initially, getting different stakeholders together was difficult because of the lack of awareness and resources in the field of mental healthcare. But the project found its footing once it established a network of support from NIMHANS doctors who treated the patients at health camps, Primary Healthcare Centre doctors and the ASHA workers. On their visit, the TLLLF team along with APD and the project partners discussed the impact that was made by the program. Were beneficiaries able to access the free psychiatric drugs? Did the program help in reducing the distance patients had to travel to get treatment? During these discussions, the TLLLF team observed that even amongst the partners, there was an increased sense of support and responsiveness towards mental health aid.

The next leg of the visit took the TLLLF team to the village of Bilichodu where they met a support group that included 15 patients and caregivers. Ujjala Padukone, Deepika Padukone’s mother, being a caregiver herself, was also present in the discussion to share her experiences with the group and encouraged others to share their stories and concerns about their family members. While the discussion revolved around the importance of opening up and seeking help, the team brought about a forward-looking attitude within the group by discussing future possibilities in employment and livelihood options available for the patients.

As the TLLLF team honoured World Mental Health day, 2017 by visiting families, engaging with support groups and reviewing the successes and the challenges in rural mental healthcare, they noticed how the conversation, that was once difficult to start, now had characteristics of support, openness and a positive outlook towards the future. To continue this momentum, the organisation charted out the next steps that will further enrich the dialogue surrounding mental health, in both urban and rural areas. The steps include increasing research on mental health, enhancing the role of social media to drive awareness and decrease stigma and expanding their current programs. To know more, see here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of The Live Love Laugh Foundation and not by the Scroll editorial team.