Fountain Ink May 2016 Cover

The mob gives anonymity to its members. Like the spokes of a spinning wheel, the individual is invisible. It works for a common cause, a sum total of the lowest denominator that provokes violent action in its members. It gathers like a storm, overpowers its target, and leaves behind a shipwreck.

In Mangaluru, the Bajrang Dal and its strident Hindutva followers are the essential mob, the protectors of the holy cow, the supreme defenders of Hindu culture, and dreamers of Hindu Rashtra, the utopia at odds with the Constitution. The Dal is against Muslims and Christians, attacks couples and friends of differing sexes and religions, wants to rid culture of western trivialities like New Year’s and Valentine’s Day celebrations.

Photojournalist Harsha Vadlamani spent some time in the company of Bajrang Dal activists in Mangaluru earlier this year. They shared their worldview with him, and agreed to be photographed. His photo documentary, (“The men of the mob”), is on the cover this month. We profile 15 Bajrang Dal activists—a caterer, an auto driver, a mall supervisor and a class ten student among others—and learn about the terrifying casualness with which they endorse and condone violence. Regular, everyday folk, with businesses to run, jobs to do, dreams to fulfil, and culture to protect.

The Aam Aadmi Party’s stunning victory in Delhi last year signalled the arrival of a new politics that promised honesty and high standards in public life, and sought to make democracy a more inclusive decision-making process. In Arvind Kejriwal it had a man who made a virtue of righteousness in public life, even as he was quick to damn everyone else as unclean. Since then, AAP has been running Delhi through a quixotic cocktail of rhetoric, cheap populism, media management, high morals and low actions. Arpit Parashar’s investigation (“AAP: Just another political party”) finds that behind the façade exists a power hungry party that is aiding and abetting corruption and has enriched itself through the system that it promised to dismantle. In other words, its business as usual in Delhi and AAP is just another Indian political party.

The confirmation of the detection of gravitational waves by the LIGO detectors in America, a global project in which Indian scientists played an important role, has ushered in a whole new period of astrophysics. Govind Krishnan V tells the story (“An Indian ear to the universe”) of the Indian physicists’ role in the ambitious project to build a LIGO detector in India.

Saurav Kumar

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