Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Indo-Pak Attitudes, 60 Years Later

by Adnan Gill

On August 14 and August 15, in an unprecedented collaborative effort of Pakistan’s GeoTV and India’s NDTV, a political talk show ‘Hamaray Mutabiq’ was broadcasted. The show hosted some of the most respected cultural and political icons from both Indian and Pakistani sides. It presented an excellent opportunity to reflect on what had been changed in the last 60 years: physically, economically, ideologically, and more importantly philosophically. It also provided an interesting sample of attitudes and moods of the citizens of the two countries.

In the decades following the partition both countries went at each other's throats, at least four times. By any standard, these conflicts physically changed the maps, i.e. out of the British India now we have Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, and the disputed Kashmir.

Materially, in last decade or so, India improved quite a bit in technologically and economically whereas Pakistan showed intermittent spurts of improvement, but not enough. Overall, both countries lag far behind the developed nations in the social uplift of their citizens. The majority of Indians and Pakistanis are still barely surviving on less than $2 per day. To put this in perspective, according to UNDP’s 2006 Human Development Index (HDI), out of 177 countries, India was ranked at a shameful 126th place and Pakistan took an even worst 134th place. Even the so-called banana-republics like Honduras and Guatemala were ranked higher than India and Pakistan.

On philosophical and ideological levels, while much has changed on Pakistani side, unfortunately, hardly anything changed on the Indian side of the divide.

Pakistani side has repeatedly gone through political evolutions and devolutions which has over time softened the attitudes of its citizens towards their neighbors in the East. Pakistanis have matured philosophically, and are mentally exhausted from decades of political instability, ultra-conservatism, and the fruitless struggle of fighting for the rights of the Kashmiris. They have realized that decades of political instability and leading Jihads, one after other, for the liberty of others has only left them socially exhausted, diplomatically isolated, and financially drained. With the decent of umpteen political talk-shows of new and independent TV channels, this exhaustion was filled by the heightened social and political awareness, and to some extent, by the religious extremists who played the role of catalyst for even newer mini-Jihads.

As highlighted in the Hamaray Mutabiq show, the attitudes of majority of Pakistanis from all walks of life have transformed from individualist to righteous, into compromising and conciliatory. Yes, even in the case of disputed Kashmir too. Ironically, at the same time, the attitudes on Indian side have become even more self-righteous, arrogant, and condescending as displayed by the Indian Gen. (Retd) Shanker Roy Choudhary.

In last six decades, the attitudes of the general populace on the Indian side have regrettably only hardened. Just like 60 years ago when most of the Hindu extremists were pursuing the creed of Hindutva, today a growing number of even mainstream Indians are pursuing this intolerant theological dream, only with even hardened resolve. Hindutva is an intolerant and fascist ideology that negates the teachings and ideals of Mahatma Gandhi and is closer to the teachings of Bal Thackeray.

Throughout his life, Mahatma Gandhi remained committed to non-violence and truth even in the face of most extreme circumstances. But on January 30, 1948, his messages of nonviolence and truth were deemed unpatriotic and unbecoming of a Hindu, so he was shot and killed in New Delhi by a Hindu extremist. In their mad pursuits, the forces of Hindutva didn't spare even the most cherished and beloved Indian leader. Gandhi’s assassin, Nathuram Godse, was a Hindu radical with links to the Hindu Mahasabha (a Hindu extremist organization). If you think, Gandhi’s assassination gave a backlash to the Hindu extremists, think again! Even a higher percentage of Indians elect and support the Hindu extremist parties now.

Ironically, even though Pakistan is viewed as the country in the clutches of religious extremists, but in reality, to this day, its citizens have never elected any religious party in the center. While in the stark contrast, India has twice sent a Hindu nationalist party to the center, the BJP which twice formed a coalition government with the other Hindu extremist parties. In fact, it was the BJP Chief Minister ‘Narendra Modi’ who sat over the massacre of 2,000 Muslims.

Sadly, today there are more followers of Mahatma Gandhi’s nemeses, Bal Thackeray. Thackeray is an admirer of Adolf Hitler and Nazism. He is a Hindu fundamentalist and a poster boy of the Hindutva believers. He formed the Shiv Sena (widely known to be a Fascist party), an ally of the BJP. He holds the most extreme views against non-Hindus (especially Muslims), and the Pakistanis.

Unfortunately, the Indian news media and entertainment industry are also hammering the ultra-conservative pro-Hindutva beliefs into the impressionable minds of younger Indians, already high on ‘Shining India’ mantra. With increasing frequency, Bollywood is churning out movies in which villains are either Muslims or Pakistanis. Not to be beaten by Bollywood, the Indian news media bolsters its rating by hyping the government’s favorite bogyman, the infamous Pakistani ISI. Every time a violent act takes place in India, immediately, without even any circumstantial evidence, the media joins the government’s favorite chorus of Muslim or Pakistan bashing.

In last 60 years, barring notable exceptions, while Pakistani attitudes have transformed into humbleness and conciliation; regrettably, the same cannot be said about the Indian attitudes which have only hardened in their yearning for the extremist philosophy of Hindutva whose cardinal objective is establish ‘Akhand Bharat’.

PakTribune http://paktribune.com/news/index.shtml?189339
Attock News http://www.attocknews.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=344&Itemid=168
The Statesman http://statesman.com.pk/opinion/op7.htm
The Frontier Post http://www.thefrontierpost.com/News.aspx?ncat=le&nid=554
The Defence Journal (October)

Monday, September 10, 2007

Shaheed vs. Shaheed

by Adnan Gill

Muslims have a long history of backstabbing and killing each other, but the authority and conviction they kill one another these days is outright astonishing. In the old days when a Muslim was killed while fighting the nonbelievers there was no confusion as to who the ‘Shaheed’/Martyr was. Regrettably, the distinction is not that obvious when one Muslim kills another. Regardless of the circumstances under which one dies, it seems, these days whenever a Muslim loses his life to another Muslim in a fight, fashionably we tend to bestow the honor and title of Shaheed upon the dead. For people, like me, with a very basic knowledge of practices and principles of Islam such a scenario is nothing short of paradoxical. The paradox becomes even more complex when two Muslims effectively kill each other and we hastily title both of them as Shaheeds.

In Islam, ’shahadat’/ martyrdom is one of the most revered ambition and honor that true believer can hold. This is because shahadat entitles the Shaheed with one of the highest rewards possible for such persons in the hereafter. Abdullah-Ibn-Umar quoted the Prophet Muhammad (Peace and Blessings be Upon Him/PBUH) as saying, "Martyrs are forgiven their sins, except debts”. Muslim scholars opine, the phrase “except debts” also relates implicitly to the abuse of people’s rights, unjustified killing, and so on.

It suffices here to quote the ultimate stature Allah has promised for the martyrs. Almighty Allah says: “Think not of those, who are slain in the way of Allah, as dead. Nay, they are living. With their Lord they have provision. Jubilant (are they) because of that which Allah hath bestowed upon them of His bounty, rejoicing for the sake of those who have not joined them but are left behind: that there shall no fear come upon them neither shall they grieve. They rejoice because of favor from Allah and kindness, and that Allah wasteth not the wage of the believers.” (Al-Imran 3: 169-71)

The magnanimity of the rewards for a Shaheed is very obvious, but what is not so obvious is who deserves to be called a Shaheed? Similarly we do not want to disgrace and disrespect a worthy titleholder by ignoring to remember him as a Shaheed.

Deeds are judged according to one's intention. We can only judge them according to what is apparent to us, but only Allah can judge their intentions. It may happen that sometimes we may regard someone a Shaheed while Allah knows that he is otherwise.

Common sense dictates when two Muslims reach a point of conflict where they end up using deadly force against each other one has to be on the right side, and the other on the weaker or wrong side. In this life there is no way for us to know for sure who will be awarded the shahadat, so all we can do is go over the teachings of Quran, and Sunnah to educate ourselves, to the best of our abilities, so we could come up with an educated guess as to who may quantify as a Shaheed.

The Quran and the Sunnah are abundant with provisions that crystallize and emphasize one of the important objectives of Islam of safeguarding people's life, property and honor. In light of this objective Islam prohibits aggression against innocent people. Al-Bukhari reported "A woman (was made to) enter (Hell) Fire because of a cat which she tied, neither giving it food nor setting it free to eat from the vermin of the earth." If we risk entering the hellfire for the cruelty to animals then imagine, what will be the fate of the suicide-bombers who often shed innocent's blood and violate their rights?

When a suicide-bomber kills himself in the process of taking lives of other Muslims, oddly the Muslim group which sent him calls the bomber a Shaheed; despite the fact, majority of times the victims of these bombers happens to be unsuspected Muslim civilians, including women and children. Ordinary Muslims often find themselves at loss as to how a suicide-bomber whose victims are also Muslims could be called a Shaheed?

However, in Islamic jurisprudence self-defense is legal, even if it leads to manslaughter, as it would then be forced, not optional. For example, unlike a suicide-bomber whose intention is to kill as many people as he can, a policeman could shoot to kill a suicide-bomber in an attempt to defend himself and the innocent people he has sworn to protect. Muslim scholars suggest that not everyone who is killed in this disorder of fighting between the two Muslim parties will be destined to the hellfire. Surely, there is a difference between a person who is killed when illegally attacking another, and a person who kills his attacker in self-defense or in the defense of innocent. Jurists are of the opinion that people should defend themselves with the lightest possible means, but if these means fall short of repelling the danger, stronger force can be used, even if it leads to the death of the assailant(s).

Recently, in a standoff between the Pakistani military and Islamic militants holed up in the ‘Lal Masjid’ dozens of lives were wasted on both sides. Lo and behold! Both sides conferred their fallen ones with the ultimate title of Shaheed. Most distinguished examples are of Lt. Col Haroon Islam and Maulana Abdul Aziz Ghazi. To an ordinary Muslim it has to be the most paradoxical riddle that how could a Muslim responsible for the deliberate death of another Muslim could enjoy this ultimate honor? In order to solve this riddle first we need to make a distinction between the offender and the defender.

The Holy Quran says, “O you who believe! Obey Allah and obey the Messenger, and those of you (Muslims) who are in authority. (And) if you differ in anything amongst yourselves, refer it to Allah and His Messenger, if you believe in Allah and in the Last Day. That is better and more suitable for final determination.” (An-Nisa: 59) This verse hardly leaves any doubt that Muslims are instructed to obey the state's authority. Following hadith reinforces this principle: “It is your duty to listen and obey your rulers whether you are in difficulty or at ease, whether willingly or unwillingly and even when you do not receive what is your right.” (Muslim: No. 1836)

Some may argue, what if the rulers have questionable character? If faced with such a scenario prophet Muhammad (PBUH) has advised, “He who sees something despicable in his ruler should bear it, for he who even slightly disassociates himself from the state system and dies in this condition shall die the death of ignorance.” (Bukhari: No. 7054)

Allah and his messenger (PBUH) have ordered us to respect and obey even our questionable Muslim rulers and have strongly advised us not to undermine state's authority. Forcibly interfering in the government's business can break our collectivity apart, and can disrupt the governance, which can result in the break up of a Muslim state. Cognizant to the fact that Islam entrusts the state with the duties of policing, it can very well be argued that those who may lose their lives while assisting the state in dispensing its policing duties holds a special stature, perhaps of a Shaheed.

Allah says: “Allah commands justice, the doing of good, and liberality to kith and kin, and He forbids all shameful deeds, and injustice and rebellion: He instructs you, that ye may receive admonition.” (An-Nahl 16: 90) An eminent Muslim scholar Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi further elaborated these instructions of Allah: “No doubt, aggression against innocent people is a grave sin and a heinous crime, irrespective of the victim's religion, country, or race. No one is permitted to commit such crime, for Allah, Most High, abhors aggression. Unlike Judaism, Islam does not hold a double-standard policy in safeguarding human rights.”

Unity among Muslims holds a paramount status in Islam. Islamic principles are crystal clear about how the Muslims are obligated to obey the orders of their rulers, because Islam understands and emphasizes in the concept of collectivity which naturally gets undermined and compromised when certain group(s) disrupt this concept by spreading violence through fiery sermons calling to pick up arms against the government. Only exception for taking down a government is provided if the ruler orders Muslims to commit a sin. There are no other exceptions to this rule even if we don't agree with our government’s domestic or foreign policies. Allah’s messenger Muhammad (PBUH) said, “Whether they like it or not, it is obligatory on the faithful to listen and to obey their rulers except when they be ordered to commit a sin. If they are ordered so, they should neither listen nor obey.” (Muslim: No. 1839)

Henceforth, it is difficult to imagine how a Muslim who intended to harm the interests of the state through injustice and/or rebellion could be the viewed as a Shaheed vs. a government official who lost his life in the process of executing his duties of defending the state and its citizens.

When certain elements challenge state’s authority by taking it upon themselves to set the world straight through their own vision they commit a grave sin. In fact, anyone who tries to undermine the principle of collectivity has been ordered to be killed by Allah’s messenger (PBUH), “You are organized under the rule of a person and someone tries to break your collectivity apart or disrupt your government, kill him.” (Muslim: No. 1852)

Only Allah knows the best, but if we are to look at the recent examples of suicide-bombings and attacks on the government forces, in the light of the Quranic verses and ahhadith quoted above, we could dare to come up with an educated conclusion, that people who spread indiscriminate violence and mischief/shur in an Islamic state stand guilty of committing grave sins.

From the Islamic point of view, it is haram (forbidden) to kill civilians and innocent souls or to destroy or burn plants, trees, etc. The Qur’an says, “…Take not life, which Allah hath made sacred, except by way of justice and law: thus does He command you, that ye may learn wisdom.” (Al-Anam: 151)

The mischievous elements who had been dividing Muslims at the barrel of gun also try to undermine the state by assassinating the foreigners who are supposed to be the guests of the Muslim state. Clearly, the intent is not only to harm the government domestically, but also to put it at odds with other nations too. Islamic jurisprudence known as Ahd al-Aman is very clear about providing protection of life and safety to non-Muslim civilians and the foreigners in Muslim countries. Hence any attacks against their life or property are forbidden in Islam.

For those who engineer conflicts to take shortcuts to the heavens through shahadat are advised to read Quran, which says, “Nor take life, which Allah has made sacred, except for just cause. And if anyone is slain wrongfully, We have given his heir authority (to demand Qisas or to forgive): but let him not exceed bounds in the matter of taking life; for he is helped (by the law).” (Al-Isra: 33)

Instead of resorting to violence Muslims are instructed to resolve their differences through peaceful means. Quran is quite clear about how Muslims should resolve their differences. It says, “And if two parties of believers fall to fighting, then make peace between them” (Al-Hujurat 49:9) Then Allah further elaborates in the next verse, “The believers are naught else than brothers. Therefore make peace between your brethren” (Al-Hujurat 49:10).

In light of Allah’s commands, it becomes incumbent upon each and every Muslim to shun the extremists who try to divide Muslims and impose their views through fear and bloodshed, we need to counsel them by showing them how Allah has ordered us to resolve our differences through peaceful means and certainly not through violence.

Finally, for our benefit, Allah commands us not to let the mischievous ones force us to depart from the path of brotherhood, “Do not let your hatred of people who would debar you from the Sacred Mosque lead you into aggression; but rather help one another in furthering righteousness and piety, and do not help one another in furthering evil and aggression. Have fear of God, for God is severe in retribution.” (Al-Maidah 5:2)

Verily, Allah sees and knows all. He will certainly distinguish the true Shaheed from the wannabe.

Pakistan Link

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Pakistaniat and Commonsense

Pakistaniat and Commonsense

by Adnan Gill

They say, once a month a metamorphosis takes place which turns a man into a werewolf. In a similar metamorphosis, once a year around 14 August, the blood of Pakistani-Americans turns green and we return to the grounds of University of Southern California to celebrate the birth of Pakistan. It is a unique experience that freshens the memories of the country we grew up in. The people you meet there and their behavior could fool you into thinking that we are back in Pakistan. Just like every year, this year too the experiences of Pakistaniat were not much different either.

As soon as we got closer to the fair venue the traffic turned from bad to ugly. As if ‘Stop’ signs didn't matter and driving on both sides of road became legal, the race to enter the parking lot got so competitive that people started to ignore the traffic rules altogether. Commonsense says, obeying the traffic rules would get everyone in faster and nobody would get a traffic ticket. But then what do we know; maybe in our hearts Pakistanis like to donate money to the city officials through their traffic tickets and strive to get their insurance rates higher. Others decided to save the $10 parking fee by parking on the streets. It didn't matter whether they were parking on the yellow or the red lines. Commonsense says it's cheaper to pay the $10 parking fee than paying $60 in fines. But then what do we know; maybe Pakistanis were trying to increase the city's revenues by paying through the parking tickets.

No sooner had we entered the parking lot a raging mad Pakistani captured our attention through his yelling and cursing at a female parking worker. Apparently, he was unhappy about how much time it took him to reach the parking lot as compared to others. Maybe, all he wanted to do was to inform her that she was racially profiling him against rest of the Pakistanis, but she called the police instead. Almost immediately, Police sirens could be heard. I could swear I have never seen anyone disappearing in the darkness of night as fast as our Pakistani brother did. Commonsense says, when treated unfairly, one should sue the discriminator and become rich. But then what do we know; perhaps all he wanted to do was to educate her in the art of fairness.

We got into the parking lot, but were held up for another 10 minutes; because another Pakistani brother wanted to squeeze in his van in a space big enough for a bicycle. When he failed to get in head first, he decided to back into it. Low and behold, the space refused to widen even though he was desperately trying to reverse into it. Commonsense says, it's faster, safer, and more convenient to park 10 spaces farther than parking in a tight spot that will cause him to put dents in his and other people's cars. But then what do we know; maybe he had a shrinking-ray gun that could have shrunk other peoples cars.

Since there were no signs or anyone pointing towards the main entrance, we decided to try our luck by walking in the same direction as the others were. It turned out people had found a hole in the fence, with a red sign that read ‘do not enter’ next to it, to enter the fair. Commonsense says, the organizers must have put signs to guide the masses towards the official entrance. But then what do we know; the organizers were probably trying to increase our IQ through the process of trial and error.

A dirty little secret is, most of the Pakistani women are lured to the 14 August Fair to check out the latest fashions, and most of the men are lured to it in a pursuit of the wide variety of desi gourmets available. Therefore, like most, our first order of business was also to throng the food stalls. Organizers were kind enough to provide folks with long sheets of paper so that they could sit on the ground and feast on their favorite dishes. After devouring their food most of people simply got up and left the paper sheets in the middle of the grounds. Commonsense says it's considered common courtesy to clean up after oneself. But then what do we know; people probably thought since organizers were naive enough to arrange for the paper sheets, perhaps it was their duty to clean up after them too; or at minimum, sooner or later, the paper sheets would decompose and provide nourishment for the grass.

Everywhere one could see green balloons and Pakistani flags proudly flying in the wind. But not a single American flag was in sight. Commonsense says, it's good etiquettes and appropriate, while celebrating the birth of Pakistan, not to forget the country that is graciously hosting us; as well as the chance that it can give Pakistanis a big backlash for appearing to be unpatriotic Americans. Not long ago the Latino population in Los Angeles learned a hard lesson when they flew and waved only Mexican flags during the protests against the immigration policies of the United States. Their PR blunder only resulted in hardening of the prevailing negative impression (illegal immigrants being a burden on society) the rest of Americans had against them. But what do we know; organizers probably believed Pakistanis didn't have to prove their patriotism to the Americans, because the Pakistani President Musharraf believes he has trusting friends and allies in the White House in the shape of the President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. Who cares what rest of the Americans think?

To the credit of organizers, for the entertainment purposes, they collected a host of renowned Pakistani singers. To name a few Alamgir, Ali Haider, and Najam Shiraz were there. The rising Pakistani stars were also quite impressive. Between all of them, they managed to keep young Pakistani-Americans on their feet and dancing. There is no doubt that most of the people were having a good time and enjoying the concert with their families. Unfortunately, at least one of the singers (without naming) was clearly drunk and shouldn't have come on the stage. Commonsense says when drunk, don't come on the stage, because drinking liquor is still a sin in Islam, and Muslims certainly don't believe drunks can be good role models for the impressionable children. But then what do we know; he probably believes liquor squeezes better performance out of him and Muslims prefer performance over a sin.

Just like in any other concert, a crowd of people gathered behind the stage, not accessible to the general public. Some of them were the artists; others were staff-members and organizers, while others were special guests wearing red wristbands who probably considered themselves to be superior and above the rest of the mortals. One such middle-aged guest, high and mighty, with a receding hairline, probably imagining himself to be the gift from God to women, decided to descend upon the sidelines to showoff his cigar-lighting skills. If he wasn't rude enough to block the view and to blow the smoke in the faces of handicaps and elders sitting in the wheelchairs and chairs, he invited three other friends to join him by lighting their cigarettes too. Some elderly women politely requested them to move away and to the side, which they did. But as if the cigar-smoker regretted easily succumbing to the request of ordinary elderly women, he stepped back, once again blowing vile smoke and blocked their view. When they asked him again to move, he smirked and stood his ground by widening his stance and asked another friend to join him in putting down the rebellion. To us, his rude behavior suggested he wanted to teach a lesson to ordinary elderly women for daring to interrupt his corralling of younger women. As it so happened, some of the gentlemen who were observing his rude behavior decided enough was enough, and they told them to move away and not in a so polite manner. To that the crowd cheered and applauded the intervention of the gentlemen, and our once high and mighty Don Juan had to move with his pride wounded and trampled upon. Commonsense says don't embarrass yourself needlessly. But then what do we know; he probably believed the cigar-smoke had therapeutic effects on the elderly and ill.

All in all, despite certain aberrations, it was a good experience and a nostalgic reminder of our good old country. Children got the opportunity to experience Pakistani culture firsthand, women folk caught up with the latest fashions, and men doused fires in their bellies with Pakistani cuisines. Most of us will certainly return to the Pakistaniat and same fair grounds in the years to come. May Allah bless Pakistan!

Courtesy: PakTribune.com

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