FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Riding the Tiger in India

With war in Iraq seeming closer each day, the trickle of North Korean nuclear revelations growing to a gush, and all the trouble with the economy, Americans can be forgiven for not noticing an event of huge portent in far-away Gujarat state in India.

Last December, in a stunning election result, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), aided by a host of extreme Hindu organizations, won a thumping two-thirds majority in state assembly elections. Its state chief minister (like a governor in the US, the highest elected state official) had conducted an openly communal campaign, concentrating his ire on the Muslim and Christian minorities, whom he castigated as anti-national, and labeling anyone emphasizing India’s secular traditions as virtual traitors.

This same chief minister, Narendra Modi, presided over the state government earlier this year when there was a huge pogrom of muslims in his state. All impartial accounts are agreed that the state government’s role in the communal riots was at best one of benign neglect, and at worst one of active connivance, abetment and encouragement.

Several hundred people died in the riots, which lasted for days across the state, and property worth hundreds of millions of dollars was destroyed. Several thousand people whose homes were burnt down are still living in refugee camps, with scarce drinking water and toilet facilities.

If he had heard the BJP’s election propaganda, an American might be led to wonder what all the fuss was over Trent Lott. The hapless Lott was hauled over the coals and had to resign for a statement which could likely be construed as racist. In India, by contrast, Mr. Modi’s party, and Mr. Modi himself, spared nothing in their open and sharp communal appeals. Painting a stark picture of Pakistani agents everywhere, hinting at their links within India’s muslim community, and making good use of the various terrorist incidents which happen periodically in India, Mr. Modi succeeded splendidly in uniting the Hindu vote, thus delivering a two-thirds majority for his party.

With results like these, India’s national leaders could care less about the means. The Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, also of the BJP, has blown hot and cold over the issue of the Gujarat riots. The immediate provocation for the riots was the burning down of a train compartment in Godhra, Gujarat, by a muslim mob, ending the death of scores of Hindu activists. The latter were returning from demonstrations to rebuild a temple over the site of a mosque, a dispute that has been simmering over the last decade. That Godhra tragedy was then compounded by retaliatory strikes by hindu mobs for several days. Mr. Modi who saw nothing more in all this than the working out of the natural law of “action and reaction”, was scarcely reprimanded by the national leadership, which did not even see fit to seek a different leader for the state.

And then, in an act of astounding insensitivity, Mr. Vajpayee, in celebrating his party’s Gujarat victory, added that muslims had not ‘sufficiently regretted’ the Godhra incident. Instead of binding the wounds, Mr. Vajpayee, under increasing pressure from his party to adopt a more ‘pro-Hindu’ stance, chose to placate the extremists.

Individuals leaders apart, communal extremism is on the rise in India. A large section of the middle class, including a goodly number of Indians outside India, has been successfully convinced that India’s future lies in a resurgent Hinduism, with muslims ‘being taught a lesson’. In this the BJP and its cohorts have successfully made common cause with the post 9-11 sentiments in the US.

The founding fathers of India, including Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, and Sardar Patel, chose to enshrine the secular principle because they saw their people as Indians, not Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs or Christians. One of the battle cries of the BJP its fellow extremists, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal, is the undoing of this consensus in order to make India a Hindu Rashtra (Hindu state). One of the VHP leaders vowed, in the aftermath of the Gujarat victory, that India would become a Hindu state in two years, and that the status of Muslims in India would be only marginally better than that of Hindus in Pakistan. This is no different from the sentiments which led the Taliban to making Hindus and Buddhists wear yellow flags.

With 10 Indian states up for elections in a year, Indians have a giant task ahead–not to let their country become a Hindu Pakistan, a hotbed of fanaticism, intolerance and obscurantism. Americans, too, have a stake–should the world’s largest democracy head towards a religio-fascist purgatory, the whole world, not just India, will poorer for the loss.

NIRANJAN RAMAKRISHNAN lives in Tigard, Oregon. He can be reached at: niranjan@pantheon.com

More articles by:

/>Niranjan Ramakrishnan is a writer living on the West Coast.  His book, “Reading Gandhi In the Twenty-First Century” was published last year by Palgrave.  He may be reached at njn_2003@yahoo.com.

Weekend Edition
December 14, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
A Tale of Two Cities
Peter Linebaugh
The Significance of The Common Wind
Bruce E. Levine
The Ketamine Chorus: NYT Trumpets New Anti-Suicide Drug
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Fathers and Sons, Bushes and Bin Ladens
Kathy Deacon
Coffee, Social Stratification and the Retail Sector in a Small Maritime Village
Nick Pemberton
Praise For America’s Second Leading Intellectual
Robert Hunziker
The Yellow Vest Insurgency – What’s Next?
Patrick Cockburn
The Yemeni Dead: Six Times Higher Than Previously Reported
Nick Alexandrov
George H. W. Bush: Another Eulogy
Brian Cloughley
Principles and Morality Versus Cash and Profit? No Contest
Michael Duggin
Climate Change and the Limits of Reason
Victor Grossman
Sighs of Relief in Germany
Ron Jacobs
A Propagandist of Privatization
Robert Fantina
What Does Beto Have Against the Palestinians?
Richard Falk – Daniel Falcone
Sartre, Said, Chomsky and the Meaning of the Public Intellectual
Andrew Glikson
Crimes Against the Earth
Robert Fisk
The Parasitic Relationship Between Power and the American Media
Stephen Cooper
When Will Journalism Grapple With the Ethics of Interviewing Mentally Ill Arrestees?
Jill Richardson
A War on Science, Morals and Law
Ron Jacobs
A Propagandist of Privatization
Evaggelos Vallianatos
It’s Not Easy Being Greek
Nomi Prins 
The Inequality Gap on a Planet Growing More Extreme
John W. Whitehead
Know Your Rights or You Will Lose Them
David Swanson
The Abolition of War Requires New Thoughts, Words, and Actions
J.P. Linstroth
Primates Are Us
Bill Willers
The War Against Cash
Jonah Raskin
Doris Lessing: What’s There to Celebrate?
Ralph Nader
Are the New Congressional Progressives Real? Use These Yardsticks to Find Out
Binoy Kampmark
William Blum: Anti-Imperial Advocate
Medea Benjamin – Alice Slater
Green New Deal Advocates Should Address Militarism
John Feffer
Review: Season 2 of Trump Presidency
Rich Whitney
General Motors’ Factories Should Not Be Closed. They Should Be Turned Over to the Workers
Christopher Brauchli
Deported for Christmas
Kerri Kennedy
This Holiday Season, I’m Standing With Migrants
Mel Gurtov
Weaponizing Humanitarian Aid
Thomas Knapp
Lame Duck Shutdown Theater Time: Pride Goeth Before a Wall?
George Wuerthner
The Thrill Bike Threat to the Elkhorn Mountains
Nyla Ali Khan
A Woman’s Selfhood and Her Ability to Act in the Public Domain: Resilience of Nadia Murad
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
On the Killing of an Ash Tree
Graham Peebles
Britain’s Homeless Crisis
Louis Proyect
America: a Breeding Ground for Maladjustment
Steve Carlson
A Hell of a Time
Dan Corjescu
America and The Last Ship
Jeffrey St. Clair
Booked Up: the 25 Best Books of 2018
David Yearsley
Bikini by Rita, Voice by Anita
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail