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
September 21, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond
Hurricane Florence and 9.7 Million Pigs
Andrew Levine
Israel’s Anti-Semitism Smear Campaign
Paul Street
Laquan McDonald is Being Tried for His Own Racist Murder
Brad Evans
What Does It Mean to Celebrate International Peace Day?
Nick Pemberton
With or Without Kavanaugh, The United States Is Anti-Choice
Jim Kavanagh
“Taxpayer Money” Threatens Medicare-for-All (And Every Other Social Program)
Jonathan Cook
Palestine: The Testbed for Trump’s Plan to Tear up the Rules-Based International Order
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: the Chickenhawks Have Finally Come Back Home to Roost!
David Rosen
As the Capitalist World Turns: From Empire to Imperialism to Globalization?
Jonah Raskin
Green Capitalism Rears Its Head at Global Climate Action Summit
James Munson
On Climate, the Centrists are the Deplorables
Robert Hunziker
Is Paris 2015 Already Underwater?
Arshad Khan
Will Their Ever be Justice for Rohingya Muslims?
Jill Richardson
Why Women Don’t Report Sexual Assault
Dave Clennon
A Victory for Historical Accuracy and the Peace Movement: Not One Emmy for Ken Burns and “The Vietnam War”
W. T. Whitney
US Harasses Cuba Amid Mysterious Circumstances
Nathan Kalman-Lamb
Things That Make Sports Fans Uncomfortable
George Capaccio
Iran: “Snapping Back” Sanctions and the Threat of War
Kenneth Surin
Brexit is Coming, But Which Will It Be?
Louis Proyect
Moore’s “Fahrenheit 11/9”: Entertaining Film, Crappy Politics
Ramzy Baroud
Why Israel Demolishes: Khan Al-Ahmar as Representation of Greater Genocide
Ben Dangl
The Zapatistas’ Dignified Rage: Revolutionary Theories and Anticapitalist Dreams of Subcommandante Marcos
Ron Jacobs
Faith, Madness, or Death
Bill Glahn
Crime Comes Knocking
Terry Heaton
Pat Robertson’s Hurricane “Miracle”
Dave Lindorff
In Montgomery County PA, It’s Often a Jury of White People
Louis Yako
From Citizens to Customers: the Corporate Customer Service Culture in America 
William Boardman
The Shame of Dianne Feinstein, the Courage of Christine Blasey Ford 
Ernie Niemi
Logging and Climate Change: Oregon is Appalachia and Timber is Our Coal
Jessicah Pierre
Nike Says “Believe in Something,” But Can It Sacrifice Something, Too?
Paul Fitzgerald - Elizabeth Gould
Weaponized Dreams? The Curious Case of Robert Moss
Olivia Alperstein
An Environmental 9/11: the EPA’s Gutting of Methane Regulations
Ted Rall
Why Christine Ford vs. Brett Kavanaugh is a Train Wreck You Can’t Look Away From
Lauren Regan
The Day the Valves Turned: Defending the Pipeline Protesters
Ralph Nader
Questions, Questions Where are the Answers?
Binoy Kampmark
Deplatforming Germaine Greer
Raouf Halaby
It Should Not Be A He Said She Said Verdict
Robert Koehler
The Accusation That Wouldn’t Go Away
Jim Hightower
Amazon is Making Workers Tweet About How Great It is to Work There
Robby Sherwin
Rabbi, Rabbi, Where For Art Thou Rabbi?
Vern Loomis
Has Something Evil This Way Come?
Steve Baggarly
Disarm Trident Walk Ends in Georgia
Graham Peebles
Priorities of the Time: Peace
Michael Doliner
The Department of Demonization
David Yearsley
Bollocks to Brexit: the Plumber Sings
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail