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India divided

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By: Swati Gauri Sharma

A powerful Hindu extremist party has held a firm grip on Maharashtra. But the people are starting to fight back.

ANTI-IMMIGRANT and anti-Muslim sentiment is spreading fast in Europe and the United States. In India, these sentiments aren’t new, and have long been a tactic used by Hindu extremists to retain power in the western state of Maharashtra. Their party, the Shiv Sena, also opposes the influence of Western culture, putting it at sword’s point not just with Muslims but with the growing cosmopolitan community in India as well. How this conflict plays out will be a test of India’s democracy.

Last month, the Shiv Sena, which means “God’s army” in Hindi, initiated aggressive protests and book burnings against a novel, Rohinton Mishtry’s “Such a Long Journey,” because the Sena claimed it made derogatory remarks about the party and its constituents. In a surprise response to the protests, the University of Mumbai has banned the book, which had been short-listed for the Booker Prize.

The Sena also recently protested against the two Pakistani participants of a popular reality show, “Big Boss,” which is India’s version of “Big Brother.” The protests resulted in many cable operators banning the channel that aired the show.

Now, the party has decided it would like to ban the burqa, a troubling issue for a secular country with at least 100 million Muslims.

Although the power of Shiv Sena and other Hindu fundamentalist groups throughout the country has dwindled over the years as India has prospered, the Sena always held on to their base by insisting on government jobs for natives of Maharashtra and denying them to immigrants from other parts of India.

Because of the Sena’s strong hold on Maharashtra and its largest city, Mumbai, the entertainment and financial hub of India, few have successfully spoken out against the party. But the country’s new urban and intellectual class became concerned that that the university and cable operators’ concessions to Sena pressure would institutionalize the party’s regressive and racist platform.

The secular community’s most recent successful push-back against the Hindu fundamentalists involved Shahrukh Khan, one of the most popular stars of the Mumbai-based film industry in India, known as Bollywood. Khan, a Muslim from North India, was demonized by the Sena for his comments supporting the inclusion of Pakistan’s cricket team in India’s Premier League and rejecting the party’s anti-immigrant rhetoric. In response to Khan’s statements, the Sena protested and threatened to use violence and political will to limit Khan’s latest Bollywood release, which was one of the most anticipated films of the year.

In previous such showdowns, Bollywood stars and filmmakers have often ended up apologizing to the Sena in fear of financial and social repercussions. But in a surprise move, Khan stood firmly against the party. Opposed by much of the film fraternity and the business community, the Sena lost this battle, and the film went on to be one of the largest box-office hits in Bollywood history.

In the wake of the devastating terrorist attacks in Mumbai in November of 2008, India showed the world that Hindus and Muslims can live peacefully together. Peace marches took the place of the communal violence that had been a usual aftermath to terrorist attacks. Today, while the Sena objects to Pakistani participants in the reality TV show, there are other musical shows dedicated to promoting peace between India and Pakistan by having Pakistani and Indian judges and contestants.

As other nations around the world are struggling with a growing vocal and often institutionalized intolerance of Muslims, Indians are beginning to stand up against religious extremists’ regressive campaigns. With luck, India’s economy will continue to flourish, and Hindu extremism will wane.

Indian attitude damaging for peace in the Sub-Continent

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Hindu-Muslim antagonism

Brig Asif Haroon Raja

The first brick of Hindu-Muslim antagonism was laid when Muhammad Bin Qasim raised the banner of Islam in Sindh in 712 AD and tens of thousands of lower caste Hindus and Buddhists suffering under the tyrannical yoke of Raja Dahir embraced Islam. Throughout 1000 years rule of India by the Muslims, Hindu cultural values and religious sentiments were respected and preserved. Benevolence of Muslim rulers of India and their patronage to high caste Hindus resulted in failure to assimilate Hinduism into fold of Islam. This can be gauged from the fact that at the time of partition of India, Muslim strength in the Indian subcontinent was mere 22%.

Hindus never reconciled to any meaningful integration with generous Muslim culture. Behind apparent public cordiality, there was deep-seated antagonism in private. Muslims were always looked down upon as defiled and polluted and treated as intruders. Hinduism reluctantly submitted to Muslim rule, but all the time it strived to weaken Islamic society by corroding it from within.

When the British captured power in India, Hindus became natural allies of the British and both went all out to destroy social, educational, cultural and religious heritage of Muslims. Hindus deep-rooted hatred got accentuated when the Muslims opted for a separate homeland.

Notwithstanding the aspirations of the Muslims of India, the idea of a separate Muslim state was repugnant to Indian Congress and hence unacceptable to them. This led to a bitter and prolonged quarrel between the two communities. While it was a question of survival for the Muslims, for Hindus it was the matter of preventing vivisection of so-called Mahabharata.

Despite many hurdles created by Hindu leaders, upsurge for gaining independence was too great and beyond human control. In spite of MA Jinnah’s loud protestations, provinces of Bengal and Punjab were deliberately partitioned while Kashmir was allowed to accede to India to make him change his mind. These callous acts failed to deter him but sowed seeds of permanent discord between Pakistan and India. When the Kashmiris rose up in revolt, over two-third of Kashmir was forcibly annexed by Indian forces.

Failing to reconcile to the existence of Pakistan and cherishing the fond hope of its re-absorption into Indian dominion, Indian leaders worked hard for the dismemberment of Pakistan soon after its inception. Many Indians regarded the creation of Pakistan as a tragic mistake that could still be corrected. Break up of Pakistan and its absorption within the fold of Indian Union had become the national goal of Congress leaders. To consolidate the Indian dominion, by March 1949, India had absorbed 538 princely states out of a total of 565. India’s insatiable greed to gorge as many states and her menacing attitude towards Pakistan made the latter wary and worried.

Pakistan’s geographical frontiers had yet to be determined. It was without a seat of government or an administrative structure to enable it to exercise its’ sovereignty. It was without a constitution; its’ armed forces were scattered; civil servants and other administrative and technical hands were in the midst of migrating from India; its political and economic system was completely disrupted and the communication system had broken down.

As if these settling problems and the hanging evil shadow of Mountbatten and Radcliffe were not enough, Pakistan’s horizons clouded with hostile acts of its neighbors in the east and the northwest. Their hostility cast perverse shadows across its path. Hindu leaders in their quest to re-unite India continued to hurl threats and saddle Pakistan with knotty problems to prevent the toddling state from standing on its own feet. They refused to accept the creation of Pakistan with good grace, and to settle all outstanding differences on the basis of justice and fair play. They regarded Pakistan as a transient euphoria of Muslims.

Sir Claude Auchinleck, Commander-in-Chief of the Pakistan Army having read the intentions of the Indians opined, “I have no hesitation in affirming that the present Indian Cabinet are implacably determined to do all in their power to prevent the establishment of the dominion of Pakistan on a firm basis”.

According to Brecher, “Most of Congress leaders and Nehru among them, subscribed to the view that Pakistan was not a viable state-politically, economically, geographically or militarily and that sooner or later the areas which had ceded would be compelled by force of circumstances to return to the fold”.

In struggling to create a state structure in the chaotic environments of partition and an early war with India over Kashmir, our managers remained tied down fighting the battle of survival and identity. There was no certainty that Pakistan would survive its traumatic birth. “Very few states in the world started with greater handicaps than Pakistan did on August 14, 1947”.

After a lapse of over six decades, it is rather not possible for the present younger generation to perceive the complexities faced by the pioneers of Pakistan at the time of independence. For those who lived through that trying period of history and personally experienced the turmoil, human tragedies, mass carnage of the Muslims by the Hindu-Sikh combine, and the Hindus abominable Bania mentality, it was a nightmare.

Given their common past spread over centuries it was hoped that the two countries after having won their independence from the seductive tentacles of the British Raj would close the chapter of suspicion and aversion and instead strive to live as peaceful neighbors. It was expected that rather than beating war drums and sinking into the bottomless ocean of arms race, leaders of the two countries would concentrate on well being of the people through mutual cooperation. Unfortunately, those hopes remained an elusive dream.

Adversarial history of sixty-two years covering the whole existence of the two nations has in fact made the minds captive of a hate each other syndrome. Jingoistic statements are often hurled at each other to play with the emotions of the people or to satisfy sadistic instincts. After tearing Pakistan into two in 1971, Indian hawkish leaders keep scheming to fragment rest of Pakistan. 1980s saw rise of Hindu fundamentalism in India. Militant BJP government in India that captured power twice repeatedly voiced its wish to reunite the subcontinent and to annex Azad Kashmir by force and vowed to establish Hindutva. Indian Congress is no less antagonistic towards Pakistan and has taken no steps to control growth of Hindu fundamentalism which is intolerant towards all other minorities in India.

Hate phobia and age-old prejudices in the two neighboring countries have not died down. Hindus continue to view the Muslims as destroyers of Hindus culture and for mutilating mother India. Their pent-up anger and hatred against Indian Muslims was physically demonstrated in 1992, when Ayodhya mosque was pulled down and it was demanded that a temple be erected at the same site. Large scale state sponsored massacre of Muslims in Gujarat took place in 2003. Muslims in occupied Kashmir are killed like stray dogs and women brazenly raped. Indian Muslims are eyed with suspicion and treated shabbily. Shiv Sena Chief Bal Thackeray stated on 12 January that Indian Muslims are untrustworthy since they are loyal to Pakistan. On the slightest pretext Hindu scalawags fan communal riots and kill tens of Muslims. These riots in India have increased rather than lessened with the passage of time. 13% Muslim minority in India feels marooned and fearfully watch the growing Hindu fanaticism which finds no place for the Indian Muslims unless they adhere to Hindutva and agree to join the ranks of Sudras (untouchables).

Glimpse of Indian deep-seated antagonism was seen on the occasion of a terrorist attack on Indian parliament on 13 December 2001 in which not a single parliamentarian was killed, injured or even abused. While the whole nation bayed for blood of Pakistan on mere suspicion, Indian armed forces rushed towards their western border and remained in a menacing mode for ten months. This kind of frenetic fury and war mongering was again seen in the aftermath of 26/11. Over one year has lapsed but Indian leaders have not forgotten the incident and refuse to recommence composite dialogue. They do not recall the deep wounds they have consistently inflicted upon Pakistan without any sense of remorse. They ignore that thousands of innocent Pakistanis have died as a result of ongoing RAW sponsored acts of terror. As long as India is ruled by self serving vicious Brahmans, antagonism will prevail and hope for peaceful co-existence will remain elusive.

Brig Asif Haroon is a Member Board of Advisors, Opinion Maker. He writes on geo-politics and is a defence and political analyst. He has been Defence Attache to Cairo, Instructor, Command and Staff College Queta besides authoring 5 books.

Written by rohitkumarsviews

January 15, 2010 at 7:46 am