January 12, 2004

In India, 'the Unthinkable' Is Printed at One's Peril by James W. Laine

(Los Angeles Times - January 12, 2004)

In India, 'the Unthinkable' Is Printed at One's Peril

By James W. Laine
James W. Laine, a professor of religious studies at Macalester College in Minnesota, is the author of "Shivaji: Hindu King in Islamic India" (Oxford University Press, 2003).

Growing up in Texas in the 1950s, I spent many days roaming my neighborhood wearing a coonskin cap, carrying a toy rifle and singing "Davy, Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier." I was always drawn to stories of heroes.

In western India, not just kids have heroes. In recent years, the figure of Shivaji, a 17th century Hindu king, has attained almost divine status among the Hindu population. He had long been a regional favorite, for he founded an independent kingdom against all odds in the face of the Mughal Empire to the south and other sultans in the north. There is a way to read his story as the first chapter in a tale of Indian independence — first from Muslim rule and then from British. His portrait is everywhere and his name is always invoked with reverence, especially among Hindu fundamentalists, in a time of polarized religious politics in India.

In 1985, I began to translate the Shivabharata, "The Epic of Shivaji." It contained a great story about Shivaji: How, as a young prince, he was attacked in a diplomatic meeting by an arrogant general but, forewarned by a goddess to wear chain mail, he instead fatally stabbed his attacker and led his troops to victory over a much larger force. I was hooked.

I began to realize that everyone knew these tales. Some were historical, some fictive, but they fell into a neat and commonly accepted narrative, reproduced in popular histories, school textbooks and comics. I decided to write about that narrative process, an account of three centuries of storytelling that produced a tale that lived in the minds of people celebrating Shivaji's legacy today. The book came out this summer, and even ranked up with Hillary Rodham Clinton's in the local list of English-language bestsellers in Pune, the city south of Bombay where these cultural traditions are most in evidence and where I had spent months in the library at the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute. Back in Pune this summer, I saw a couple of bland but positive reviews in the Indian papers. I thought, "As long as they don't get to the last chapter."

And then someone did. The last chapter is where I entertained what I called "unthinkable thoughts" — questioning "cracks" in the Shivaji narrative. I wondered, for example, why no one considered the possibility that Shivaji's parents were estranged, given that they never lived together during the period the three were alive (1630-1664), and that the tale provided "father substitutes" for the king-to-be. Why not entertain such an idea? What made it unthinkable?

As it turned out, the "owners" of Shivaji's story had their own set of questions, delivered with a punch: Who should be allowed to portray this history? Should an outsider, working with Brahmin English-speaking elites, have a greater say in Shivaji's story than Shivaji's own community?

In November, in response to protests over the book, Oxford University Press stopped distributing it in India. With the book unavailable, rumors piled on rumors. Misreadings lapped the globe by e-mail. A colleague, a man mentioned in the book's preface, distanced himself by condemning its contents but was still roughed up by zealots, who smeared tar on his face. Another Pune scholar tore up his manuscript of a biography of Shivaji, proclaiming scholarship an impossibility in such a context. Horrified, I faxed letters to Indian newspapers, taking full responsibility for my book and apologizing for causing offense.

The furor seemed to die down, but then last week a mob stormed the Bhandarkar research institute, destroying ancient manuscripts and artifacts, reportedly numbering into the thousands. "Not a sapling was spared," one shaken researcher said. The culprits claimed they "did it for Shivaji."

On the other hand, I have also received many letters of support and read many condemnations of these acts. The vast majority of Indians are appalled at what happened in Pune. And yet no one has stepped forward to defend my book and no one has called for it to be distributed again. Few will read it for themselves. Instead, many will live with the knowledge that India is a country where many thoughts are unthinkable or, if thought, best kept quiet.

January 03, 2004


South Asia Citizens Wire | 03 January, 2004

Asghar Ali Engineer

Communal riots have become the fate of this country thanks to our politicians and their selfish interests. And ironically most of the riots are engineered by those politicians who claim to be most patriotic. Their patriotism is designed to win power by propagating hate politics against minority communities. The year 2003 too, like previous years, saw its own quota of communal violence.

The communal violence began in Gujarat in the New Year. Gujarat, ruled by Narendra Modi, a hard core RSS man who was responsible for Gujarat carnage of 2002. Gujarat witnessed series of communal clashes on 2nd January 2003. Most of these incidents occurred in Central Gujarat, the region from where the BJP won maximum number of seats. And no wonder most of the victims were from minority community. The police officials admit that stray cases of communal violence have not stopped since the Gujarat carnage. After the election results, more than dozen cases of violence, including murders, stone pelting and arson, occurred in 10 different places, most of them in Central Gujarat.

On 2nd January Darbhanga, Bihar witnessed communal riot in Lalbagh area in which 8 persons were injured including two policemen and police had to impose curfew. And on 2nd January communal violence took place in Ahmad Nagar, Maharashtra, in which 5 persons were injured including one 70 year old woman. The violence broke out on the question of burial ground land (qabrastan). Police bandobast was tightened after these clashes between the two communities.

The hate propagandists have created such polarisation between Hindus and Muslims that any small incident like scooterists knocking down member of another community or cricket game involving two communities results in communal clashes. In Vidarbha towns of Akot and Risod cricket resulted in communal clashes on 9th January in which 1 person was stabbed and six injured and in Risod 150 shops were gutted resulting in loss of crores of rupees. Risod is a sleepy town in Washim district. Both the towns are in communally sensitive district and have mixed population. In Akot a trader called Sadarani was grievously stabbed during the game.

It was again a Gujarat that communal violence broke out on 15th January on the occasion of Uttarayan festival in several towns like Ahmedabad, Godhra and Navsari. At least 15 persons were injured in these clashes. Stone throwing and mob clashes took place in Dariyaganj and Gomtipura areas which are communally most sensitive in Ahmedabad.

On 14th January violence erupted in Ganjbasoda town in Vidisha district of M.P. due to alleged case of cow slaughter. Cow slaughter is another issue on which violence erupts time and again. On hearing about cow slaughter the mob went on rampage setting 60 shops belonging to Muslims were set on fire. Members of Bajrang Dal are alleged to be behind these communal disturbances. These Bajrang Dals were encouraged by the success of BJP in Gujarat. Some houses and vehicles were also set on fire. 22 persons were arrested. All this happened even though the culprit and his family members were arrested. Night curfew and section 144 were imposed and situation was stated to be under control.

There was communal riot in Mungir town in Bihar on 16th January in which two persons including an Imam of the mosque were killed. The violence erupted after one Umakant Yadav was killed. Umakant was killed by some goondas belonging to minority community. This news spread like wild fire in the city and members of both the communities came out on the streets with dangerous weapons. They fought against each other and apart from the Imam another person Muhammad Shamu also was killed and two more persons were injured in firing. Laloo Prasad Yadav, President of RJD said in a statement that these clashes in Mongir is result of clashes between criminal elements. Six persons were arrested and FIR was filed against twenty persons.

On 22nd January a dispute between doctor and patient took full-fledged communal eruption in Warud in Amravati District of Maharashtra. Asif Pathan whose wife got blinded due to wrong treatment by an Ayurvedic doctor attacked him. Pathan was then beaten up by two Bajrang Dal activists who were protecting the doctor in anticipation of attack. Though Aisfkhan surrendered himself to the police 3,000 strong mob protested the attack and some Bajrang Dals started attacking properties belonging to Muslims. Police brought the situation under control and some Bajrang Dals were arrested. Dr. Lokhande was also a VHP activist and it is alleged that he was receiving threats from SIMI activists.

Bhivandi is another communally sensitive town where communal situation worsened two days before Bakri Eid on February 9 when some Bajrang Dals attacked cows being brought by Muslims. The police took 9 cows in custody and police-Muslim clashes flared up in which 34 persons were injured including 26 policemen. The Rapid Action Force was immediately brought to control the situation. The communal cauldron in Bhivandi was first stirred by Bajrang Dals and incitement by some Muslims leaders added to the gravity of the situation.

For Gujarat communal violence has become so common that if it does not take place it becomes a news. Communal violence took place in Mehsana district on the occasion of Bakri Eid on 12th February in which at least eight persons including a police constable received stab and sword injuries in Takodi village of Mehsana district. It all started with some Muslims allegedly bringing calves for slaughter. When the police tried to stop they were greeted by volley of stones. It is interesting to note that some sources said that the real cause of trouble was Panchayat election in which a Hindu was elected Sarpanch with the help of some Muslims and the other group of Muslims opposing the Hindu Sarpanch did not allow these Muslims to enter the mosque.

On 19th February there was trouble in Dhar, M.P. when some Bajrang Dal members tried to enter the Kamalmoula mosque forcibly. When the police did not allow them there was call for bandh and violence erupted. There were incidents of violence and some one threw petrol bomb on police and police fired back in which two persons were injured. Another police station was gheraoed and some motor vehicles were set afire. One police van was also set on fire. The RPF was brought in. Fifteen policemen were also injured. A BJP MLA alleged that two persons died in police firing. However, police denied any person was killed in firing. It maintained no one was even injured. Thirty- five persons were arrested in the whole district and more than 25 persons were injured during the disturbances which included 15 policemen.

On 26th February clashes broke out between Hindus and Muslims in Banglore while a Hindu religious procession was passing from near a mosque. There was stone throwing from both sides in Vedika and Ashok Nagar areas. Many shops and vehicles were damaged and when police tried to intervene its vehicles were also damaged. The mob set fire to one wine shop also. Many people were injured including 12 policemen.

Again on 1st March one riot erupted in Banglore D.J. Halli area after the India-Pakistan cricket match. Some 500 persons entered the area shouting slogans and stone pelting started. The police resorted to lathi charge and fired in the air to disperse the mob. More than 8 persons including four policemen were injured.

Ahmedabad and Baroda also witnessed communal clashes on 2nd March after Indo-Pak cricket match. The police fired in which one Muslim youth was killed in Shahpur area. More than 12 persons were injured including one Assistant police commissioner. Same day stray incidents were also reported from Baroda and a group of Hindus celebrating India’s victory over Pakistan clashed with group of Muslims also celebrating India’s victory.

During Moharram procession in Bareilly on 7th March communal violence broke out in which 4 persons were seriously injured one of which died subsequently. The police arrested 163 persons.

Near Bahraich in Saravasti district in U.P. village Barga-bargi dispute broke out on hunting wild bore and people of one community attacked people of another community in which 30 houses were set afire and two children were burnt alive. Twelve persons were injured. Many persons fled from their houses out of fear.

On 18th March Hindus and Muslims clashed in Indore, an important trading city of M.P. when a Muslim fired on a Hindu in a state of inebriation. The mob then set fire to vehicles and two houses. However, the police brought situation under control.

The next round of communal flare up was reported from Gorakhpur in U.P. on 20th March a highly sensitive town where Gorakhnath temple is situated and Mahant Adityanath of BJP contests election from there. Adityanath is known for his militancy and extremism. He is a BJP M.P. from this area. The clashes took place on the occasion of Holi when a procession of Holi revellers led by Mahant Aditynath was going through Zafra locality. An argument broke out with some members of minority community and the Holi revellers in a fit of anger broke down the wall of Kerbala. The two groups began to throw brickbats at each other and some people started firing. The Imam of Ghazi Rauza mosque was hit in the cross -fire and died. More than a dozen scooters and vehicles were burnt and shops looted. Two more persons were killed and thus in all three persons died during the disturbances. Mayawati, the then Chief Minister removed Director General of Police for his failure to control communal violence.

Next communal riot was reported from industrial town of Rajgangpur 400 km. from Bhubneshwar in Orissa on 11th April. Two persons were killed in the clashes. Violence erupted when procession of Lord Hanuman was being taken on the occasion of Ramnavmi. Some unidentified persons pelted stones on the procession and hell broke loose. The district administration had made strict police arrangements but it could not prevent communal violence. When the situation was getting out of control the police fired killing two persons. The deceased were identified as Manik Kumar Sahu (28) and J.J.Nag. Additional forces were rushed to control the situation.

On 16th April Panki Block of Palamu in Jharkhand State saw communal clashes between the two communities in which one person died. Some people burned the flag of a religious place. Then the persons belonging to other community started stoning from shops and from a religious place. Then others also retaliated and next day a dead body was found from a nearby well but it is not certainly known who killed him.

Gulbahar Pathan was killed in Baroda, Gujarat and his body with severed head was found with deep wounds and violence broke out on 1st May between Hindus and Muslims. Similarly on 10th May violence was reported from Bhavnagar, Gujarat clashes broke out on minor road accident and situation got out of control and one person was killed and seven others – policemen and journalists were injured. The clashes erupted in Ranika area of Bhavnagar. The person was killed in police firing.

Though Kerala is comparatively free from communal clashes but for last two years there have been clashes between Muslims and RSS activists. In January 2002 also some 5 persons were killed when the Hindus attacked Muslim fishermen. The Muslims retaliated this time and on May 2, 7 persons were killed in Marad beach area under Beypore police station in Kerala. Last year RSS had killed Muslims and this year brother of one of the deceased took revenge by killing seven persons. The Muslims had used a nearby mosque for hiding weapons and so the mosque was taken over by the Government. The Muslims fled from the village in fear and Sangh Parivar was not allowing them to return. They could return only after few months when the chief minister intervened.

Hyderabad witnessed communal violence in Melapalli and Nampalli areas on 6th June. The clashes went on whole night and next day too stone pelting and incidents of setting fire continued. About 10 motor vehicles were set afire. One person had died in clashes on 5th June night and this further provoked violence.

Jamner of Jalgaon district in Maharashtra experienced communal clashes on 18th June when brother of Ramesh Mali who was killed last year on the same day attacked one Muinuddin Sheikh and seriously injured him. Last year on 18th June 5 persons were killed in communal riots. However, the police and local political leaders intervened and controlled the situation.

Normally Jammu and Kashmir has been free from communal violence despite repeated attempts by militants to cause communal violence. However, a small communal incident occurred on 1st July between Hindus and Muslims and shops were burnt and looted in Jammu. The trouble started when 150 Hindus who had fled from Kullar area due to threats from militants were sitting on dharna. They started pelting stones on the shops belonging to Muslims as they objected to blocking the road. The authorities rushed to the trouble spot. Sub-divisional magistrate of Kishtwar was roughed up by the demonstrators. Four shops and three small structures were set ablaze. Police fired to disperse the mob. Four civilians and seven policemen were injured.

Twenty four shops were burnt and three persons were injured in Mehkar town of Buldhana district in Maharashtra when quarrel over money matter between two youths of different communities took place. Soon it developed in serious communal clashes. The police fired injuring three persons. An indefinite curfew was imposed. The police authorities said 20 others including 13 police persons were injured. The police rounded up 47 persons in all.

Baroda and Junagadh saw communal clashes on the occasion of Ganesh Chaturthi in which one woman was killed and 10 people were injured on 1st September. Godhra also witnessed violence on 5th September when Ganesh idols were being taken for immersion. In these clashes 25 persons were injured including one DSP. The procession was stoned when passing through minority area and many shops were set ablaze. The immediate provocation came from objectionable slogans written on walls of masjid. The role of BJP MLA came to be criticised by both communities. His supporters in the procession shouted derogatory slogans.

There was serious communal trouble in Kodinar town of Junagarh district in Gujarat. The VHP and Bajrang Dal people looted and burnt 26 shops belonging to Muslims. The police arrested 53 persons, which included one Bajrang Dal leader. The police seized one car, one tractor, swords, gas cutter, tins of kerosene and gas cylinders from the rioters. According to the police there was short circuit in one Hindu shop and it was burnt. But the VHP and Bajrang Dal leaders without verifying set rumour afloat that Muslims have burnt the shop. The VHP organised bandh in protest against the arrest of 53 persons.

About hundred families from tribal dominated villages of Jhalawar district after Bajrang Dal activists destroyed a mosque with bombs and subjected Muslims to series of attacks over three consecutive days from 22-25 September. Police have arrested 30 people in this connection but the RSS Iklera Tehsil Karyawahak Kanwarlal Meena and his accomplice Devi Lal who masterminded the operation were absconding.

Bihar experiences not much communal violence thanks to Laloo Prasad’s efforts. But that does not mean there is no communalism and RSS is sleeping. RSS-VHP are quite active spreading communal feelings. In Ara, Bihar, communal violence broke out on 5th October on the occasion of Durga Puja. The RSS controls some puja samitis. According to eye -witnesses there was a garbage dump near the pooja pandal and people used it as open urinal also. On that day a Muslim youth was urinating. The youth was criminal minded. Members of pooja samiti tried to stop him and there was argument. The RSS gave it a communal colour. Some RSS youth went round on motor cycles spreading the rumour that the Muslim youth not only urinated on the Durga idol but broke the kalash also. Some miscreants gathered and started burning and looting Muslim shops. When the situation became out of control the police opened fire killing two Hindu youths. Some 70 shops were burnt and 48 cars set ablaze. It is obvious that it was conspiracy by the RSS to spread communal violence in Bihar and try to seize power from Laloo Prasad Yadav. Laloo knows this well and he not only took immediate step to curb the violence but also denounced it as RSS conspiracy.

On 13th October Agra in U.P. was involved in communal vortex when U.P. minister of state for science and technology visited Agra. There were widespread clashes between two communities and curfew had to be imposed in two police circles of Agra. The main reason was that Chowdhury Bashir had defected from BSP and joined the Samajwadi Party of Mulayamsingh Yadav. The Jatavs who are supporters of BSP protested against Bashir and it took communal turn. Fire arms and petrol bombs were pelted back and forth and several houses and vehicles were set on fire. Arson and looting continued till late in the night. The mob tried to forcibly enter the house in which Basheer had taken refuge and tried to set it on fire. The timely arrival of the police, however, saved Bashir’s life.

Agra again erupted on 2nd day despite heavy police bandobast and violence spread in the city in which one person was killed. He was beaten to death. The U.P. Government transferred district collector and SSP for their failure to control communal violence. At least at seven places houses and shops were set ablaze. Two godowns of leather were also set afire. Agra is main centre of leather goods.

On October 15 Kurla, an eastern suburb of Mumbai went up in flames when a Muslim girl was teased by some Hindu youth at night between 10.30 and 11 p.m. There was argument between members of two communities and then violence began. Kurla has large Muslim population and is highly communally sensitive. Police was rushed and Jt. Commissioner of Police Javed Ahmed also visited the area. Tough temporarily situation calmed down but erupted next morning again. Some miscreants pelted stones at Jama Masjid on New Mill road. In retaliation petrol bombs and soda water bottles were thrown at Hanuman Mandir. Several persons were injured grievously. State Reserve police, Rapid Action Force and Riot Police were rushed.

Aligarh, a communally quite sensitive area in Uttar Pradesh, saw communal strife again on 1st November when an Arthi (dead body of a Hindu) was passing through the passage lying through a Muslim cemetery. The Muslims tried to stop the passage of the body and dispute broke out and both sides started firing on each other. Several people were injured. They also indulged in arson and heavy brickbatting. Two scooters and some road - side kiosks were burnt. Police resorted to heavy lathi charge and fired rubber bullets to disperse the clashing groups. The administration had to employ para-military forces like PAC and RPF. Curfew had to be clamped in Delhi Gate, Kotwali and Sasni Gate police station areas.

Gujarat cauldron continues to boil since the post-Godhra carnage and communal incidents keep on taking place every few days. Communal violence revisited on 2nd November leaving three persons dead and 45 injured. This time it occurred in Viramgam, 65 kms. from Ahmedabad. There was heavy stone pelting, arson and firing. One person was killed when police fired 15 rounds and two persons fell to bullets from private arms. Trouble broke out when a cricket ball landed in the nearby temple. This was enough provocation for communal violence. Marauding began and at least 30 shops were looted and burnt. Curfew was imposed at 12.40 p.m. In all twenty five persons were arrested including the BJP councillor Puroshottambhai Vasrambhai Jadav who fired from his gun killing one person. His gun was also seized. Those killed were identified as Zakir Allah Rakkha Multani (30), Zakir Yousuf Multani (35) and Sharif Shafibhai (25).

Ahmedabad once again erupted on November 9 when rumours spread that a person of minority community was stabbed in Juhapura area. Communal violence spread in Kalupur area in which two persons lost their lives. One was burnt to death and another was stoned to death. Besides this 5 persons were stabbed. Police had to lob several tear gas shells and have imposed strict ban on persons pouring out on streets.

In Hyderabad Talaguda area violence erupted between Hindus and Muslims on the question of constructing a wall for a place of worship. Police resorted to firing and 5 persons were injured in firing. However, the police frustrated the attempt to attack the houses of one community.

On 17th November violence broke out in Vai in Satara district of Maharashtra. Vai is a sacred town for Hindus. The violence broke out when some members of Pratabgadh Utsav Samiti forcibly tried to stop a truck taking some cattle. More than 500 persons collected near a place of worship and stone pelting and arson began. The Hindutvawadis spread rumour in the town which intensified violence. Varsha Deshpande of Yuva Kranti Dal who toured the area along with the police said how these Hindutvawadis discovered any cows. The fact is, she said, there was a dead calf of she buffalo, which was skinned by some dalits. The mob set one tempo, two jeeps, a motor cycle and several cycles ablaze. Members of minority community were feeling highly insecure.

On 21st November violence broke out in Parbhani in Marathwada area when a bomb exploded near Jama Masjid after last Juma prayer of Ramadan in which 35 Muslims were injured and curfew was imposed in Parbhani district. According to the police two motorcycle riders threw the bomb when prayers was going on in Rahmatnagar mosque. The explosion took place at 1.50 p.m. After the bomb explosion two shops were set ablaze in Gujri Sarafa and Shivajinagar areas. It is said that Shiv Sena-BJP workers are involved in the explosion.

Hyderabad again erupted on 4th December and surprisingly this time it was between Sikhs and Muslims. It is alleged that some Muslim youth damaged a gurdwara in Kishanbagh area. One person was killed and four were injured in stabbing incidents. When news about attack on gurdwara spread Sikhs collected near it and began to attack Muslims. Muslims also retaliated and some Sikhs were injured.

Hyderabad again witnessed communal violence on 6th December when Muslims were mourning on demolition of Babri Masjid on that day in 1992 and Hindus were celebrating Shaurya Divas (day of courage). Police resorted to firing in Sultan Shahi and Gowlipura areas late in the night to stop mobs resorting to looting and arson targeting the opposite community. Three persons died due to bullet injuries and two died in stabbing incidents thus taking the toll to five dead.

The victims alleged that role of police worsened the situation. Chief minister Chandrababu Naidu visited the victims who complained to him. He ordered strict action against guilty police officers. An indefinite curfew had to be clamped in eight police station areas in the walled city and 21 plattons of paramilitary forces had to be deployed.

Thus the year 2003 also witnessed number of communal riots throughout India in which several lives were lost and hundreds were injured and properties worth crores of rupees were damaged. Most of the major states both in north and south were affected by communal violence. It is in smaller states with small Muslim population like Haryana, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh etc., which did not witness incidents of violence. Assam and other North Eastern states generally experience ethnic violence but not so much communal violence. This year there were hardly any incidents of communal violence in this zone. Also, West Bengal was free of major communal incidents. Since the left Front Government has taken over West Bengal has been free of communal violence, though not of communalism. Bihar too, since Laloo Prasad Yadav has been in command has not seen major riots. Thus it is clear that if governments are determined to curb communal violence it can be effectively checked.

Centre for Study of Society and Secularism, Mumbai.

Postmodernism, Hindu nationalism and `Vedic science' [Part 2]

Frontline, January 03 - 16, 2004

Postmodernism, Hindu nationalism and `Vedic science' [Part 2]
URL: www.flonnet.com/fl2101/stories/20040116001408700.htm

January 01, 2004

India: Intimidating Trident - Communalism in 2003

SACW, January 1, 2003

Intimidating Trident
Communalism 2003

Ram Puniyani

The year 2003 had many a disturbing events. These are
portents for the polity of India as a secular
democracy. The backdrop of Gujarat carnage was too
heavy in the social conscience to be overcome. The
tragedy of Gujarat violence was followed by the
massive victory of the 'butcher of Gujarat', due to
whose acts of commission and omission the carnage took
the honorific scale unprecedented in the post
independence India. The nation was stunned to watch
the gross abuse of the human and democratic values,
with the active connivance of the state machinery. The
connivance of state apparatus was so gross that it
will be better to call it a state sponsored anti
Muslim pogrom. Apart from its many firsts, the
violation of the women of minority community, the
state hostility to those who tried to provide some
relief to the riot victims was unimaginable in any
society in the current times. The face of a frightened
Muslim pleading for mercy stated the nature of
violence and the state of mind of minorities in
Gujarat. The slitting open the womb of Kausar Bano to
burn her unborn baby underlined the scale of hatred,
which by now has become the part of social psyche all
over and more so in Gujarat.

Muslims in Godhra were presented as the culprits and
the whole genocide was presented as a reaction to the
burning of the train. Interestingly the Godhra tragedy
again highlights the state of the affairs and the
manipulation of events. There was no room to question
the Modiís spot investigation that Muslims have burnt
the train, there was no place for introspecting the
reasons for the train burning, who did it, as the
aggressive propaganda dished out the theory that
ëtheyí have burnt the train in collaboration with the
ISI and international terrorism, ëweí the Hindus are
under threat and so lets retaliate. By a sleight of
hand the active violence was presented as a reaction
of the unfortunate event, which could have been
investigated properly and guilty of the crime punished
in an impartial manner. This bogus theory exposed
itself, but not in the popular psyche, and the
well-planned pogrom unleashed itself. The question was
that if it was a reaction, than why the neighboring
Hindu of Madhya Pradesh or Rajasthan are not taking
revenge? The questions it raised were innumerable. But
the popular psyche did accept the Modi thesis and a
section of people unleashed the first major
anti-Minority pogrom of 21st century, well coordinated
by different wings of RSS and its affiliates, Sangh
Parivar (SP).

How come that the one who presided over the biggest
genocide, of course with due protection from the
fellow swaymsevaks in the central govt., the Prime
minister and Home minister, could come back to power
in such a massive majority? This was simple enough to
explain as the polarization brought about due to
pogrom was highlighted continuously and majority
community was given the signal that defeat of Mr. Modi
is equivalent to victory of Pakistan, the country with
our permanent enemy status, and of international
terrorism. Also the inroads which BJPs affiliate,
Vanvasi Kalyan Ashsram (VKA) has made in the adivisi
areas did the rest, by winning over a large to section
of Adiviais to the politics of Hate.

Emerging as a Hero from the electoral battles, Mr.
Modiís arrogance reached sky high. The process of
giving justice to the Gujarat victims is being
obstructed in all possible ways. To begin with Justice
Shah-Nanvati commission, which has been appointed to
investigate the Gujarat riots, has been giving the
signals that it is going to play to the tunes of RSS
and its affiliates. Mr. Shah is a known RSS
sympathizer. Supreme Court had quashed his judgments
in TADA cases against Muslims. Mr. Nanavati also once
a while drops a line, which shows as do where do his
sympathies lie. The FIRís have not been filed in
innumerable cases and in few cases, which have come
up, the witnesses have been intimidated by the state
authorities and the sundry politicians who were
involved in the riots. The case of Best Bakery said it
all. Zahira Sheikh, whose twelve relatives were burnt
alive, initially gave the evidence against the
culprits. Later under the threats and pressures, most
of the witnesses along with her turned hostile and
retracted their statements and in the court denied
that she had seen any of the accused. Many a civil
liberties groups helped her and in the case filed in
the Supreme court, the court reprimanded Modi for his
governments failure to book the culprits of the riots
and to provide due protection to the victims and those
deposing in the courts. Since it is perceived that
situation in Gujarat is totally hostile to the
minorities and those seeking justice, it is being
argued that hearing of riot related cases be shifted
out of Gujarat since the atmosphere there is not
conducive to the proper conduct of the riot related
cases so they should be shifted out.

Many a social activists have started perceiving that
the menacing grip of the state is strangulating the
civil liberties in general and those of minorities in
particular. the same is exemplified times and over
again. Mallika Sarabhai, one of the most respected
names in Gujarat is being hounded for raising her
voice against the atrocities of the state. She has
been one of petitioners in the public interest
litigation in the case file in the Supreme Court. She
had also raised her voice against the carnage in
Gujarat. The state Govt. managed to put up one of the
ex-applicants to Sarabhaiís dance troupe, and cooked
up a false case. The matter went to the extent of
putting hear behind bars, for trafficking, violation
of visa laws and for fraud. Sarabhaiís Darshana
Academy had duly returned the deposit to the
applicant, there was no violation of any of the norms
of the land. She had to appeal to courts to avoid her
arrest and to ensure that the Modi Govt. does not
victimize her. After the genocide, it is a different
Gujarat, one feel the Big Brother Modi breathing down
oneís neck all the time. A prelude to a Fascist state?

In one of the other ongoing court cases, Dara Singh
the culprit involved in the murder of Pastor Graham
Stains was sentenced to death. One recalls here that
Dara Singh has nebulous links with different wings of
Sangh Parivar. After he committed this crime, the Home
minister, Advani, went on to exonerate his links with
Bajrang Dal. M.M.Joshi and others went into assert
that the murder of Pastor stains is part of an
international conspiracy to destabilize the BJP led
coalition. Also Dilp Sing Judeo who is the champion of
Gharvapasi, reconversion of Adivasis to Hinduism,
vowed to fight Dara Singhís case in the courts. On
having been reprimanded by the RSS-BJP top brass for
this, he retracted. Incidentally, Judeoís brother took
the brief for Dara Singh.

The NRI funding of RSS and its progeny has been
brought to the surface by the human rights groups
based in US. The web site SACW and Sabrang prepared a
report on this expose. RSS sympathizers have set up
IDRF, and have been projecting it as a charity
organization supporting the work in India. The report
points out that most of its funds go to the RSS
affiliates and a large chunk of this is used in the
hate propaganda and in Hindutvasing the Adivasis.
Those NRIís looking for an avenue to do charity are
presented with IDRF as a non-sectarian charity
organization. These funds have played a major role in
doctoring the psyche of the masses leading to various
acts of violence against minorities.

As per the order of Allahabad High Court,
Archeological Survey of India (ASI) undertook the
excavation at the site where Babri mosque was
demolished. The report goes on to say that a massive
structure of 10 century, the one like the temple
existed at the site. This conclusion of ASI totally
goes against its own findings. It has conveniently
ignored uncomfortable findings in order to forcibly
prove the existence of temple. While the Sangh Parivar
has quietly picked up on this and is going around
saying that a massive Ram Temple existed and was
demolished, the discerning archeologists have quashed
the ASI thesis in a very convincing manner.
The report has not "taken into account" certain
features of the western -wall of the pre-Babri Masjid
chamber. The burnt brick wall of the pre-Babri Masjid
structure had a carved stone laid in the foundation.
If this finding is analyzed it precluded the
possibility of the structure being associated with
Hindus, since they never used carved stone in
foundation. Many an outstanding
archeologists-historians have refuted the possibility
of the temple being there on the ground of the same
The project undertaken by the MHRD to saffronise the
school textbooks reached it culmination in the release
of new textbooks. These new lots are a blot on the
academic standards so far achieved by Indian
historiography. Not only is there a heavy Hindutva
slant in these, they are also blatant in their
anti-Minorityism, anti-weaker sections of society and
these books eulogize the fascist type of Nationalism.
What shows the caliber of the writers of the books is
that have lifted paragraphs and pages from the US
books in the matters of World affairs. And on the top
of this, the naked plagiarism is being defended by the
MHRD minister. One is sure that these books will
create a havoc in the times to come as the central
core of these is paying blind obeisance to the
traditions, glorification of all the obscurantist
values and to spread hate against the Muslims and
Christians in blatant and subtle way.

The fact that communalization process is not just
restricted to North Indian states became clear in
various incidents in other states. In Madhya Pardesh
Uma Bharati tried to kick start her election campaign
with by making an issue around Bhojshala/mosque issue.
Fortunately her ploy did not work. The Baba Budan giri
dargah in Karnatkak has been repeatedly brought to
fore and the Sangh brigade aims to convert it into
Ayodhya of South. Every year they are holding a rally
to declare that it is Datta Pitham, which has been
converted by Muslims rulers into a Dargahg. In current
yearís function, the peace protesters were arrested in
large number while the state Govt. silently watched
the rally by Sangh Parivar, which spewed poison
against minorities. Kerala is another state giving the
danger signals. This state has large number of RSS
shakhas. The Marad incident of clash between two
groups of fishermen was communalized and the Muslim
residents of the village had to flee and take shelter
in a refugee camp. The subtle undercurrents of RSS
work are getting visible in most of the states. With
BJP led coalition coming to power at the center this
has got a boost and lot of official patronage is being
showered on the organizations related to RSS, which
primarily aim at its usual agenda, which spread myths
against minorities which in turn form a fertile ground
for the riots and other processes in due course of
time. Also the flood of dollars in the RSS affiliates
is another worrisome problem, adding grist to the
already existing threats posed by their activities.

The results of the assembly elections (MP, Rajasthan,
Chattisgargh) are the major worrisome factor. Every
victory of BJP leads it further to its tightening grip
on the civil and democratic institutions. By now the
other opportunist political formations have started
lending a ladder to the BJPís rise to power. The ilk
of George Fernandez, who is a symbol of the
opportunist politics to the core, is rising and BJP is
able to use such people to the hilt for its agenda and
the dirty work. In order to retain their privileges
and power this type of leaders are the oneís to defend
the rape of women in Gujarat or to put a cover to the
acts like ghastly burning of Pastor Stains. This
victory of BJP gives another signal and that pertains
to its ësuccessí in social engineering. By now the
affiliates of BJP have infiltrated in the remote areas
through Vanvasi kalyan Ahsrams which are not only
Hinduisng Adivasis but also Hidnutvaising them.
Gujarat showed as to how cleverly RSS can use Dalits
and Adivasis as its foot soldiers in conducting the
anti minority pogroms. These elections are showing
that RSS grip on Adivasi areas is risesing and now
through the medium of identity politics it can draw
the adivasis to its electoral fold. In a way BJP seems
to be emerging as a core pole in the electoral arena.
One, it is able to negotiate coalitions, taking
advantage of the power hunger of the opportunist
electoral formations. Two, it is able to give them the
RSS-Hindu identity through VKA etc. Three, by
providing upwardly mobile channels to a section of
them they are able to increase their base. And lastly,
the Sanskritisation process, which ensures that this
semi affluent section of Adiviasis falls in the lap of
SP, also grips a very small section of Adivasis.

The policies in external affairs are leading the
country in the lap of the US imperialism. One knows
during the colonial period of our country, RSS was not
opposed to the British rule as such but was focusing
its energies on opposing the political stream, which
trying to build India as a modern Indian Nation state,
the national stream under the leadership of Gandhi.
Even during Americaís aggression against Vietnam, RSS
might have been one of the few organizations in the
world to blatantly support the American policies.
India, which was the leader of Non Aligned movement
has been gradually shifting its stance to become the
client state of Unites states. This became very
obvious when India offered all the support to US in
its aggression against Afghanistan. The same
wavelength is continuing and US is recognizing that
India under the BJP can become another reliable ally
for its global ambitions of imposing Globalization on
his terms.

The impact of this Modi type intimidation on the
Muslim minorities is in the adverse direction. The
ghettoization of Muslim minorities, which increased in
the mid eighties, is rising further. This in turn is
leading to the further growth of Muslim fundamentalism
in the pockets of population.

Overall the scene is quiet dismal, especially after
the results of three state assemblies. If one analyses
the electoral percentage, one is clear that the total
votes polled by BJP are not significant except in
parts of the country. But combined with the different
strategies and with the coalitions, it is able to walk
away with the cake. It is a clever Machiavellian move,
which is keeping it in the center of power. Since BJP
is tied to the apron strings of RSS and is electoral
wing of Sangh Parivar, the danger becomes all the
more. If the trajectory is not checked it will aim at
a majority on its own, then subduing the allies it
will manipulate the social and political processes in
such a way that over a period of time it brings in the
agenda of Hindu Rashtra.

The response of the communities has been very divers.
A sign of hope has emerged from the Human rights
groups who have undertaken the work of spreading the
values of pluralism and harmony in the communities.
This being done through various channels, though most
welcome is too little too late. Amongst the Muslim
communities while on one hand there is rise of
obscurantist values, on the other various groups and
trusts working amongst them have been taking up the
issues related to education and self-employment in a
serious way. Again the efforts are miniscule compared
to the problem on hand.

The efforts at political level will fructify only if
the society gets a respite at electoral level and at
social level. The need is to ensure that under no
circumstance the communal powers come to power. Every
stint in power leads them to strengthening their grip
at the social level. This further erodes the
pluralistic values and its impact is on all aspects of
National life. The Nation is at the crossroads once
again. The threat of communal fascism is rising by the
day and the efforts to deal with this should aim at
forming a sort of platform for egalitarian society,
addressing the issues of people at day-to-day level.
The positive alternative of a society where the values
emerging from our freedom struggle and those enshrined
in our constitution is strengthened has to be our
priority. The fragmentation of secularists at
political and social level is most detrimental. One
can say with some degree of confidence that even now
the overall majority of society is fed up with the
impact of communal politics, the adverse effects of
the politics of Hindutva. The majority of Nation wants
the issues to be brought back to the oneís related to
bread, butter, shelter and employment. The tragedy is,
the center of gravity of our polity is gradually
shifting. The challenge is not only to hold it but
also to put forth a positive alternative of secular
democracy, the one committed to not only to the people
of one or other religion but to all Indian citizens.
The issue is that we all deserve the status of equal
citizens irrespective of our caste creed and gender.
The issue at stake is that the choice of those who
struggled for our freedom has to be brought back as
the major concern of the nation, the concerns related
to a decent social and political existence.
Communalism is rising by default, it is as much the
success of the long work of RSS and its progeny as
much it is due to the failure of the progressive
people to understand the multiple dimensions of
social, economic and cultural life of the people in
all its rich complexity.

URL: www.sacw.net/DC/CommunalismCollection/ArticlesArchive/rampuniyaniJan2004.html

India: Communalism and political issues

Deccan Herald
December 29, 2003
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Communalism and political issues [Part 1]
By K S Parthasarathy

At a recent state-level convention of the World Social Forum in Hubli, it was generally felt communalists have an agenda to try a Gujarat in Karnataka. As part of such a programme, they have laid siege to a syncretic shrine in Baba Budan Giri in Chikmagalur district, which is a symbol of communal harmony between Hindus and Muslims. The commualists have also threatened to convert it into an Ayodhya of southern India. Thus here, as, elsewhere, communal forces are getting a fresh lease of life and appear to be determined to escalate it into a destructive mode.

It is perceived that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) stands for polarisation of Hindus and Muslims. It has an aggressive agenda for capturing political power through communal propaganda. It is also observed that in the subcontinent there are some major communal outfits of fundamentalist and communal sections of Muslims. They are to some extent fed by the socio-political backwardness of the Muslim community. Together they are responsible for the competitive communal tension created in the subcontinent as a whole. In between these extremes, you find many shades of communalism practised by many political parties for getting whatever political advantage possible.
Hindu vs Muslim

This Hindu versus Muslim communal problem is a variety unique to us and is a contribution of the erstwhile imperialists in as much as they played one community against the other and ultimately succeeded in politically dividing the subcontinent. Perhaps the Congress Party was wrong in joining the Khilafat movement of the 1930s with an opportunistic calculation to get Muslim support for its movement. In actuality, for the first time, it resulted in organising the Muslims on communal lines for political purposes and autonomously on an issue which was not national. This tendency of the Muslims to function as a single entity across the borders of the nations, even though it is on religious issues, leads some people to question their patriotic allegiance to the nation where they are born.

Further, communalism as prevalent today does not have any roots in the earlier Islamic periods of the history of the Indian subcontinent. The seeds of communalism were effectively sown only during the anti-imperialist freedom struggle. We also believe that together these fundamentalist communal organisations represent only a very small minority of the population. But this does not rule out the organisation of a considerable section of the population in the subcontinent on communal lines just as a means of articulating the political dialogue on other issues rather than on communal issues as such. In other words, once these political issues, which are as much a ploy for finding space in the power structure, are resolved, this variety of communalism could also be resolved and it is essential to solve these political issues urgently. The most important political problem between India and Pakistan is Kashmir and once this is resolved, much of the base for other communal articulations will be eroded. In fact the Kashmir issue has given an unnatural extended lease to the communal problem of the subcontinent.

Rich concept
It may be observed at this stage, in passing, that it is not necessary to discuss secularism per se in order to explain communalism. Secularism is a positive rich concept and does not simply mean anti-communal, though it is no doubt so. Communalism could be present even in a theocratic state or a nation of people belonging to a single religion. Secularism and communalism as a variant of fundamentalism are basically inimical to each other. Hence it is that communalism is anti- democratic as, by definition, democracy militates against fundamentalism. In other words, existence of communalism as a problem in a society is indicative that the working of democracy is defective in that society.

The communalism we have talked of is primarily inter-religious in nature. There are intra-religious communal problems as well. For instance the Shia and Sunni sects within Islam fight at the drop of a hat. In this case it is pure fundamentalism at work. There are caste conflicts within the Hindu community which often bristle with overtones of communalism. Perhaps this could be resolved through socio- economic and political measures.

It is the inter-religious conflict between the Hindus and the Muslims that we are concerned with. While Hinduism has for the first time in a millennium come to control power throughout its area of presence and influence, and it is struggling to grapple with its own internal divisive discussions such as the problem of caste and the out-castes, it feels often threatened from well organized monolithic religions such as Islam and Christianity and by a resurgent Buddhism which was once thought to have been vanquished. Reforming and modernising itself by abolition of the caste system and abandoning various social practices that militate against modernism are some of the solutions open to Hinduism and it seems it is being seriously addressed by some sections, though not by the Sangh Parivar.

o o o

Deccan Herald
December 30, 2003

Need to unite all minorities [Part 2]
By K S Parthasarathy

The BJP seems impatient with what it feels as an attack through such developments like religious conversions striking at its very base. It also seems to arrogate to itself the role to protect Hinduism against whatever it thinks as challenges. While the political wing of the Sangh Parivar may think of it as a convenient ploy, its propagandist bandwagons seem to believe in them seriously and that is the dangerous aspect causing concern.

It is often said that the Muslims in the subcontinent harp on their earlier historic dominant status as a ruling class. This is not entirely correct as they lost power long ago and it was not to the Hindus but to the British. Most Muslims fought for freedom alongside Hindus against the British. May be a brooding on the possibility to retrieve the imperial glory of earlier Muslim rule might have affected the separatists who wanted Pakistan. They were also indoctrinated rightly or wrongly that in a nation where Hindus are in majority they would suffer. Why did they think so? When they were dominant before, did they ill-treat Hindus? Do they suffer from any guilt? This appears to be the claim of the BJP. However tenuous this position is, the fear was exploited by the British.

The Muslim Punjabi ill-treated other Muslims inside the new nation of Pakistan, both residents and migrants. Partition was not an invitation to the large-scale migration that ensued. It left a battered and wounded psyche. Today, long after the partition, there is no more justification to continue this argument. In fact the number of Muslims remaining inside India is still larger than the population of Pakistan. Newer generation of people who were not witness to the ghastly experiences of partition have come of age and they are capable of thinking anew. They are capable of casting away this historical baggage of hatred towards each other.

Political status
Yet another reason cited for communal tension is the alleged minority psychosis supposed to be prevailing among Muslims as a community inside free India. This again is not completely correct. When Muslims were rulers, they were then also in minority but still they did not suffer from this complex as they were in power then. In other words today in India they do not enjoy sufficient political power in keeping with the size of their population. It is not the number but political status and share in power that makes the difference.

There are any number of reasons for the state of political powerlessness and it is not necessarily due to the unwillingness of the so called majority community to accommodate. Those who seek a share in power must also strive to qualify themselves, train themselves and agitate democratically for that share. The Dalits are doing this and are growing in strength. The Constitutional provisions accommodate this desire for political space. The Constitution does not make any discrimination against the Muslims. It is true that the Muslim community that remained within our country suffered many socio-political disabilities as a result of the circumstances of partition. Their material basis and social spirit drained out in the process. This inhibits them from getting into the mainstream political struggle on equal terms. So some affirmative action for some time by the State in favour of them may be necessary. However very rarely does the State moves on its own. The Muslim community needs to agitate democratically on these issues.

Universal feature
Terrorism is often an outgrowth of political turmoil that cries for justice and it is buttressed by many opportunistic developments which also include religious fundamentalism. Also, there are many just political and economic struggles going on in the world and they are stigmatised as terrorism by entrenched power.
It is not easy to offer a definition for the word communalism. It is not an ism in the sense of other familiar isms such as idealism, materialism or Marxism. If anything, it is one of the ways in which fundamentalism of any sort expresses itself. And it is to be noted that fundamentalism is a category in philosophic discussions. It is not a special feature of Hinduism or Islam. It exists inside all organised religions and ideologies.

A word about minority and majority concepts appears relevant here. Unlike monolithic religions, Hinduism does not have a Hindu society which is well knit into a whole. It is split into pieces primarily on caste-outcaste basis. It has a majority of people who militate against an entrenched minority, they themselves however having been divided into many smaller groups. Thus in this subcontinent, various suppressed minorities, along with the Muslims and Christians, together constitute a majority. Hence the solution to minority complex is not taking refuge under communalism and other deviant ideologies but for all of them to gather together.