Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Secular or fascist India?

Secular or Fascist India?

by Adnan Gill

Talk to an Indian, or listen to any Indian official, especially the Indian politicians, they would make you believe India is a secular state. If you were to look at the Indian Constitution, again you would think India is a secular state. However, on a closer scrutiny of Indian politics, the myth of secularism crumbles faster than Bal Thackeray’s tolerance for the Muslims and Pakistanis.

Just like 60 years ago, when most of the Hindu extremists were pursuing the creed of Hindutva, today even more Indians are embracing this intolerant dream.

Today, there is even a larger percentage of Indian populace that are embracing fascist, or at least, pseudo-fascist ideologies, like Hindutva; consequently, there are far more Hindu extremist parties dominating the Indian political landscape than ever before. Thanks to these believers of Hindutva, religious intolerance has become the main theme of the Indian politics. The hunger for ‘Akhand Bharat’ (a united Hindu state that spreads from the borderlands of Persia to Tibet and western China) is stronger than ever before; which also explains, why more and more Indians are crossing their fingers in a hope, that one day Pakistan will become a failed state, and annexed into the ‘Akhand Bharat’. In short, the ideologies of Hindutva and ‘Akhand Bharat’ go hand in hand.

A cursory look at some of the largest Indian political parties will establish, if not already, how India is rapidly turning into a Hindu state.

A Hindu umbrella group, called ‘Sangh Parivar’ (Family of Associations), derived out of ‘Hindu Mahasabha’ group, is an extremist organization that is based on the core ideology of Hindutva, and is built around an extremist Hindu party, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). Sangh Parivar’s membership includes, parties known to harbor fascist ideals, like the RSS, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Vishwa Hindu Parishad, and Bajrang Dal (also known as Monkey Brigade).

The poster boy of the Hindutva believers, Bal Thackeray, is the founder of an extremist Hindu party ‘Shiv Sena’, and an admirer of Adolf Hitler and Nazism. In an interview with the Indian Express, Thackeray professed his love for Hitler. He proudly proclaimed, “I love [Hitler]”. Only his hate for Muslims surpasses his love for Hitler. He holds the most-extreme views against the non-Hindus (especially Muslims), and the Pakistanis. In 1984, in an interview with the ‘India Today’, Thackeray made his hate for Muslims known with these words, "They [Muslims] were spreading like a cancer and should be operated on like a cancer. The...country should be saved from the Muslims and the police should support them". On numerous occasions, Thackeray has reiterated his fascist desire to establish a Hindu state. As late as 2007, Press Trust of India quoted Thackeray insisting on "Hindustan for Hindus" and an appeal to Hindus to "bring Islam in this country down to its knees".

The Asia Times reported that Thackeray called on Hindus to form suicide squads “to take the Muslims head on. Trouble-making Muslims should be wiped out from the country ... kick out the four crore [40 million] Bangladeshi Muslims and then the country will be secure". At least two organizations founded and managed by the retired Indian Army officers namely Lt Col (retired) Jayant Rao Chitale and Lt Gen. P.N. Hoon (former commander-in-chief of the Western Command), answered Bal Thackeray’s call to set up the Suicide Squads in India. Lt Gen. Hoon claimed, Thackeray instructed him to set up the training camps.

A witness, in his deposition before the Srikrishna Commission said, Thackeray coordinated much of the January 1993 Mumbai carnage. Yuvraj Mohite claimed, “Balasaheb was sitting and he was getting calls from various places. He would ask what was happening at that particular place (from where he got the call) and then he would say, 'Kill them. Send them to Allah'”.

The ‘Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’ (also known as the Sangh) is another Indian extremist party. It is also active abroad as the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS). Due to its fascists activities RSS was thrice banned in India. Because of its involvement in Mahatma Gandhi's assassination, it was banned in 1948. It was again banned during the 1975 Emergency, and then in 1992 for its leading-role in the Babri Masjid demolition. Its numbers have been bolstered by the rise of its associated Sangh Parivar members, especially by the BJP. The RSS has an estimated 4.5 million active members. It attracts new membership through its Hindutva and ‘Akhand Bharat’ slogans.

An offshoot of the RSS, the ‘Vishwa Hindu Parishad’ (VHP) is the most intolerant Hindu extremist party in India that thrives on hatemongering, Hindutva and ‘Akhand Bharat’ slogans. Its stated objective is to protect the ‘Hindu world’ from other religions. It was formed by Swami Chinmayananda and by a former RSS member S.S. Apte. Apte declared, “The world has been divided to Christian, Islam and Communist. All of them view Hindu society as very fine rich food on which to feast and fatten themselves. It is necessary in this age of conflict to think of and organize the Hindu world to save it from the evils of all the three.”

Human Rights Watch reported, the members of the VHP were part of Hindu mobs who demolished the Babri Masjid. VHP demands a legislation authorizing the construction of a temple on the Babri Masjid site. It has many active branches in North America. According to Human Rights Watch, the VHP along with other Hindutva organizations was also deeply involved in the 2002 Gujarat riots. In a prime example of bigotry, its leader Ashok Singhal justified the riots, saying the massacres "had the blessings of lord Rama". The VHP claims, India has been a Hindu nation, in culture, heritage and history, therefore it demands a proclamation of ‘Hindu Rashtra’ (Hindu Nation).

‘Bajrang Dal’ is the youth and armed wing of the VHP. The group claims to have 1,300,000 active members. It runs terrorist training camps called ‘Shakhas’ in many Indian states where thousands of young Hindu men train in using weapons. Its members lead the demolition of Babri Masjid. In another instance of its terrorist activities, in January 1999, its men killed a missionary and his two sons for allegedly converting Hindus to Christians. In 2006, while making a bomb, two Bajrang Dal activists were killed in a premature explosion. Bajrang Dal activists were also involved in the 2003 Parbhani Musjid blasts.

Since the inception of modern India, BJP is the first religiously motivated Hindu political party that came into power in the center and in large number of states. Amongst other Hindu fundamentalist parties, it has the largest following of the mainstream Indians and Indians living abroad. It is the largest member of Sangh Parivar. In their stated vision, BJP reiterates its “Commitment to construction of a magnificent Ram Mandir at Ayodhya.” In another place it mentions the "Hindu Rashtra” (a nationalist ideology that sees the modern state of India as a Hindu polity, and seeks to preserve the Hindu heritage). BJP’s rallying cry and stated philosophies are also enshrined in Hindutva.

Contrary to its public claims, in an anti-Muslim and bigoted statement, BJP’s official Internet site states, “Thus, the seeds of today's Hindu Jagriti (awakening) were created the very instance that an invader threatened the fabric of Hindu society which was religious tolerance. The vibrancy of Hindu society was noticeable at all times in that despite such barbarism from the Islamic hordes of central Asia and Turkey, Hindus never played with the same rules that Muslims did... The destruction of the structure at Ayodhya was the release of the history that Indians had not fully come to terms with. Thousands of years of anger and shame, so diligently bottled up by these same interests, was released when the first piece of the so-called Babri Masjid was torn down... The future of Bharat is set. Hindutva is here to stay... [Hindutva] will mean that the guiding principles of Bharat will come from two of the great teachings of the Vedas, the ancient Hindu and Indian scriptures.” This statement hardly leaves any doubt that BJP is a Hindu fundamentalist party, that despises Islam and hates Muslims, and more importantly, strives to establish a Hindu state or ‘Akhand Bharat’.

One of BJP's coalition partners in National Democratic Alliance (NDA) was Shiv Sena (meaning Army of Shiva). Shiv Sena is widely believed to be a Fascist political party. Its ideology is based on the concepts of 'Bhumiputra' (Maharashtrians deserve more rights than others) and Hindutva. The Shiv Sena is one of the most influential Hindutva parties in the region. Sena’s senior member Manohar Joshi was the Speaker of Lok Sabha (2002-2004). Shiv Sena often orchestrates violence against Muslims. In 1993, Justice B.N. Srikrishna commission accused its leader Bal Thackeray of "commanding his loyal Shiv Sainiks to retaliate by organized attacks against Muslims."

India is increasingly turning into a culture of nationalists and Hindu fundamentalists. This is also true for Indian ex-patriots who use their positions and money to support and lobby for the Hindutva cause. They are extremely passionate for Hindutva and vicious against anyone who they perceive to be a hurdle. Among many, India's one of most renowned and respected columnist, Praful Bidwai had also been one of their targets. In one of his columns, Mr. Bidwai wrote, “Pro-Hindutva non-resident Indians in North America are among those spearheading this campaign of intolerance, especially on email circuits. Driven by their long-distance or 'Green Card' hyper-nationalism, they take extremely illiberal positions. They target individuals and assassinate their character, abuse them, and try to intimidate them. Among their targets are journalists, including myself.”

Indian entertainment industry and news media are not improving the ultra-conservative pro-Hindutva culture either. With increasing frequency, Bollywood is churning out movies in which villains are either Muslims or Pakistanis. Every time a violent act takes place in India, immediately, without presenting even circumstantial evidence, the media joins the government’s chorus of Muslim or Pakistani involvement. For example, within hours of Samjhota Express blast (in which the victims were overwhelmingly Pakistanis and their Muslim relatives) the Indian media joined government’s line that the so-called Muslim fundamentalists were behind the blast. Conspicuously, Indian establishment have yet to find and arrest the bombers.

In the Gujarati riots at least 2000 Muslims were massacred by the Hindu mobs. The violence was instigated, and endorsed by a senior VHP leader, who initiated a rumor, that the Muslims had kidnapped three Hindu girls during the Godhra train incident. British newspaper ‘The Guardian’ reported that besides the massacres, "two hundred and thirty different Islamic monuments... were [also] destroyed or vandalized". Right-wing Hindus justified the demolition by alleging that the Hindu marauders were only "redeeming the past". Witnesses testified before the Nanavati commission that the BJP leader Maya Kodnani, Bajrang Dal leader Babu Bajrangi, and others led the Hindu marauders during the pogrom. According to another Human Rights Watch report, mobs of thousands dressed in RSS uniforms of saffron scarves and khaki shorts and "armed with swords, sophisticated explosives, and gas cylinders" were guided by voter lists and printouts provided by the local municipal administration of addresses of Muslim-owned properties.

According to a New York Times report, the police "watched the events taking place and took no action against the attacks on Muslims and their property". Gujarati government’s complicity in the pogrom was also reported by the US Department of State. It reported, “The Gujarat state government and the police were criticized for failing to stop the violence, and in some cases participating in or encouraging it. NGOs report that police were implicated directly in nearly all the attacks against Muslims in Gujarat, and in some cases, NGOs contend, police officials encouraged the mob.” The central government of BJP was equally involved in the pogrom. The Telegraph reported, the Indian “Intelligence officials admitted, however, that there had been a deliberate delay by federal and state governments in deploying the army to give Hindu militants a free hand [to kill Muslims].” Instead of showing any remorse or regret, the Gujarati Chief Minister Narendra Modi (BJP), in a cynical justification, shamelessly said, “Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.”

In an indirect admission of Modi’s direct roll in the massacres, in 2005, the United States denied to grant him diplomatic and tourist visas, citing, “a comprehensive failure on the part of the State Government of Gujarat to control persistent violations of [human] rights”.

In any respectable secular state the architect and overseer of a well-orchestrated massacre would have been prosecuted and hung, but to put salt on wounds, Narendra Modi was reelected as the chief Minister in the very next elections; which is yet another clear indication that the Hindu extremism is on the rise among the Indian populace.

Sadly, none of the Hindu fascist leaders, including Bal Thackeray and Narendra Modi, who planned and led the massacres were arrested or convicted for the crimes of ethnic-cleansing. Even more sadly, neither the United Nations, nor Western nations have even dared to call these Hindu fascist parties (BJP, VHP, RSS, HSS, Bajrang Dal, and Shiv Sena) for what they are, terrorist parties. They grow on hate and thrive on the blood of non-Hindus, especially the Muslims.

No matter how one looks at it, no longer, India can be viewed as a secular state. In last 60 years, the Hindu fascist parties have succeeded in convincing its general populace that non-Hindus are the enemy who should be purged in order to establish a Hindu theocratic state. Its borders will span from Persia to Tibet and western China. It will be a home for the Hindus where the Hindu culture and the Hindu values will dictate its history and charter its future.

The Frontier Post


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