Anand Patwardhan | 18 NOVEMBER, 2014
We or Our Nationhood Re-defined: Part Two
Partition of India
Hindutva violence against Christians in India began slowly. In the drive to proselytize amongst adivasis and win them over to Hinduism, or rather in Hindutva terminology, to “bring them back to the Hindu fold from where they had strayed” they targeted Christians who had opened schools and brought economic and medical benefits to adivasi and dalit areas neglected by the State.
To cite just one case, for want of time, Dara Singh a Bajrang Dal activist was sentenced to death for leading a mob that murdered Australian Christian missionary Graham Staines and his sons, Philip (aged 10) and Timothy (aged 6). Staines had been working with leprosy patients in the Keonjhar district of Orissa. In January 1999 while the Staines were sleeping in their station wagon, the mob set their vehicle on fire, preventing even the children from escaping.
Clip shot by AP in 1999: Protest against the Staines murder
The Wadhwa Commission appointed by a BJP led central government, stated that the Bajrang Dal was not involved in the murder of Staines, justifying their non examination of the role of the Bajrang Dal on the grounds that the Dal was a peaceful and legal organisation.
Dara Singh, who was also implicated in the killing of Muslim trader Shaikh Rehman and the murder of a Christian cleric, Arul Das, killed by an arrow as he was escaping after his church was set on fire, was sentenced to death. Dara Singh is still lauded on Hindutva websites as a Hindu Dharma Rakshak (Defender of the Hindu faith).
On appeal his death sentence was commuted. The Supreme Court upheld a life sentence commenting that in killing Staines and his two young children, “the intention was to teach Graham Staines a lesson for his religious activities, and not to kill him.”
From the 1990’s on, the murder of Christians, rapes and the destruction of Church property increased. In 2008 in Orissa’s Kandhamal about a 100 Christians were killed, with mobs torching 300 churches and 6,000 houses forcing over 60,000 to flee into the forests to save their lives. Police and administrative impunity is compounded by the lack of justice in the courts. The violence escalates in States where the BJP is in power by itself or in a coalition government and is often justified as a retaliation to Christian “conversions”. The simple truth is that since Independence, the percentage of Christians in India has reduced from 2.6 % to 2.3 % so all accusations of large scale conversions are blatantly false.
Attacks on Muslims
The population of Muslims has marginally increased since Independence to the present 13.4 % but the cause is not conversion or “love jihad” or because Muslim men are allowed 4 wives, as Hindutva would like us to believe. The fact is that the Muslim by every conceivable yardstick is impoverished. The Sachar Committee report makes it clear that Muslims in India are less educated, poorer and fewer of them can be found in the national and State legislatures and in the bureaucracy, leave alone in the military and para military. With BJP occupying the centre and many States, Muslims in government have become even more scarce.
The routine demonization of the Muslim remains the very raison d’etre of Hindutva. Historic myths of their cruelty, of temple destruction and rape is a steady diet fed since childhood. The Muslim’s allegiance to a foreign God and foreign holy shrine and the barbaric practice of eating beef is a source of unmitigated rage in the hearts of those indoctrinated by Hindutva. Onto this tinderbox if you throw a match by starting a rumour that a Muslim male has abducted or raped a Hindu female, no one will wait to ascertain if the rumour is true. Deadly pogroms are that easy to ignite.
And then there is the international corroboration, both the fact and the myth of Islamic jihad. So the popular saying “Not all Muslims are terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslims.” If you add the paranoia of the USA and Israel to the mindset of Hindutva you have the makings and justifications of the counter terrorist.
Saffron terror disguised as Muslim terror
In 2006 and 2008 Muslims in Malegaon were accused of bombing their own graveyard and mosque. After 7 years of blaming Pakistan and arresting and torturing Muslim suspects, in May 2013 the National Investigation Agency (NIA), India’s leading anti-terror agency filed charges against 4 Hindu radicals, all former RSS workers.
Aseemanand’s confession before a magistrate
From The Times of India, Jan 8, 2011
Swami Aseemanand an RSS activist confessed to his involvement in the terror attack on Hyderabad’s Mecca Masjid, while confirming that bomb attacks on the mosques in Malegaon (in 2006 and 2008) as well as the Samjhauta Express were carried out by Hindu radicals and he knew about it.
For those too young to remember, the Samjhauta Express was a train between India and Pakistan connecting thousands of relatives who had been separated for generations. The 2007 attack that killed 68 Pakistani passengers and Indian security guards achieved for saffron terror exactly what was achieved by Islamic terror in Mumbai one year later, the derailment of cross-border friendship.
In jail an ageing and ailing Aseemanand was looked after by a young Muslim prisoner. Before making his confession, Aseemanand reportedly told the magistrate that he knew he could be sentenced to death but still wanted to make the confession because of the arrest of the boy Kaleem, wrongly it now transpires, for the Mecca Masjid blast. Kaleem’s plight motivated Aseemanand to think of “atonement” so that innocents don’t suffer. ”
Aseemanand also linked Hindu radicals to the blast in Gujarat’s minority-dominated Modasa town. RSS pracharak Indresh, Aseemanand claimed, helped enlist members of the saffron terror plot, including Sunil Joshi.
From The Times Of India, Sept 17, 2014
RSS activist Sunil Joshi, a suspect in the Samjhauta Express blast case, was shot dead in Dewas in Madhya Pradesh on December 29, 2007. NIA charged Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur and three others for the murder of Sunil Joshi.
According to NIA chargesheet Pragya Singh Thakur, who is also a key accused in the 2008 Malegaon blast, got Joshi eliminated as she was wary of Joshi’s sexual advances and also scared that the plan for Malegaon blasts might leak.
Mumbai Police deployed Anti Terrorism Squad to assist the local investigating authorities in Malegaon. Police say that unsophisticated, crude bombs, identical to those that detonated in Delhi 3 days before, were used.
The investigation was led by Mumbai Anti Terrorism Squad chief Hemant Karkare, who was later killed in the 2008 Mumbai Attacks.
The arrests of ex-army personnel by the ATS, brought to light the workings of two groups, Rashtriya Jagran Manch and Abhinav Bharat. Abhinav Bharat derives its name from Savarkar’s Abhinav Bharat created in 1905. The president of Abhinav Bharat is the niece of Nathuram Godse, married to Savarkar’s nephew.
Uma Bharti, currently the Union Minister for Water Resources, and the Shiv Sena, publicly defended the accused. BJP parliamentary leader L. K. Advani alleged that “It has become clear that the ATS is acting in a politically-motivated and unprofessional manner. I demand a change in the present ATS team.”
When serving Lieutenant Colonel Prasad Shrikant Purohit was arrested in Pachmarhi, learning Arabic, call records between him and Major Upadhyaya around the time of the Malegaon blasts were said to be incriminating. It later emerged that he, along with the sadhvi, may be connected to the Samjhauta Express bombings. Facing reports of at least three more Army men under scrutiny, Purohit’s counsel claimed that the ATS was acting in “utter haste” and alleging that Purohit could even be eliminated by the ATS.
Late Hemant Karkare, then chief of ATS investigating the blasts came under severe attack from the Sangh Parivar. After Karkare fell to terrorist bullets in 2008 his wife, Kavita Karkare, refused to receive her portion of the Rs.1 crore reward announced by Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi. The reason was stark. Modi along with other leaders of the BJP including prime ministerial candidate L. K. Advani and the Shiv Sena had been baying for Karkare’s blood for his investigations into terrorist activities by the saffron brigade.
The Global Context
From Independence till the 70’s, India was at the forefront of the non-aligned movement, equidistant from the USA and the Soviet Union. Internally the economy followed a Nehruvian mix of public and private sectors.
The Bangladesh War of 1971 pushed India closer to the Soviets with the USA supporting Pakistan and threatening India with its 7th fleet. Indira Gandhi’s Emergency nationalized banks and favored the public sector. After Indira’s assassination the Congress under Rajiv Gandhi inched back towards the USA, ushering liberalization as per the orders of the IMF and the World Bank.
In the neighborhood, since 1947, Afghanistan had been under the influence of the Soviet government and received large amounts of aid, economic assistance, military equipment and training. The pro-poor government is fondly remembered by many, specially women, who later in the name of Islam, came under the harshest of restrictive and punitive laws.
In 1979 United States President Jimmy Carter signed the first directive for covert financial aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul. As Soviet troops entered to defend the Afghan government under rebel attack what followed was a proxy war between the USSR and Islamic militants promoted by the USA.
Clip from the internet: Brezhinsky exhorting Taliban
In India the fallout was seen in rising religious strife. For the USA destabilizing a perceived pro-Soviet Indira Gandhi would have seemed attractive. Whether by design or by co-incidence, Islamic militancy grew violent in Kashmir and a Sikh separatist movement in Punjab resulted in a horrific anti-Sikh massacre in 1984. 1984 was also marked by a Sangh Parivar meet which decided that razing a 16th century Babri Mosque in Ayodhya to build a Hindu temple to Lord Ram would be the fastest method of mass Hindu mobilization. In the wake of mayhem, BJP grew from 2 to 88 seats in Parliament.
The beginning of the liberalization era thus curiously coincided with the rapid, though zigzag rise of Hindutva. The culmination of these twin trajectories is Narendra Modi, an RSS man who is also a darling of big business and the corporate media.
Modi’s ascent from a Sangh Pracharak to the PM and ‘world leader’ needs to be seen operating in two correlated ideologies. The one related with the Sangh has been elucidated sufficiently. The more recent one has emerged in the context of global environmental changes post 1985.
The evidence of rapidly decreasing natural resources led to the consolidation of business interests and their alignment with Western super powers. Oil is what drove the industrial revolution and since then the world has already consumed half the available supply on the planet. Potable water is also running out, as are other raw materials. Milton Friedman and his Chicago Boys’ ‘Trickle Down’ theory of development has been force fed into dominant economic discourse all over the world. The logic that ‘only if the rich get richer will the poor live better!’ has been popularized by an oligopolistic media enterprise. Sovereignty of nations and Citizenship rights gained by Asian, African, South American countries during the 1950s present an impediment for profit-mongering for global business. The concept of Citizenship and Sovereignty that emerged during the 17th Century have became outdated; it’s a threat in the path of wresting complete control of fast dwindling resources. The ‘New World Order’ under WTO-GATT was launched to ensure that the rich would continue to get richer even as the pie began to crumble.
It needs to be understood that the financial power of the multi-nationals’ private business is huge. For example in 2007, the total volume of trade by private corporations world over was over $1171 trillion; the sum of the earnings of all countries was a mere $66 trillion, almost twenty times less!
Modi’s “development” ideology is not an accident. Nor were Manmohan Singh, Ahluwalia and Chidambaram accidents. It is just that they could not quite keep pace with the ever-increasing demands of resource capturing corporates. So if a Modi did not exist, he would have been invented.
Handing over common resources by interlinking of rivers, mining projects and disinvestment corroborated by the stock market is not enough. The ideology must sink roots. The Gujarat State Standard VIIIth Social Science Textbook of 2013 in it’s 8th Chapter of ‘Our Economy’ is evidence of the pervasive ideas of Liberalisation, Privatisation and Globalisation as panacea for all the problems our country faces today.
Consumer rights are showcased, a few individual cases of poor girls and boys making it to an IIT are touted as victory of a just system, while on the other hand mechanisms and policies pertaining to food distribution, education, health care are deliberately downgraded and withdrawn. The idea that the Welfare State has failed its citizens is sold through the mechanism of the Public Private Partnership, to pave the way for the take over of public assets by private interests. In this scenario a rags to riches story is the icing on a cake that few will actually taste. Modi’s triumph as a chaiwala’s boy becoming the PM fits the bill.
The current regime is in place to rapidly subsume any and all citizen’s rights at a faster pace than what the UPA could manage. Assurances of rapid environmental clearances for mega projects, weakening safeguards in the Land Acquisition Act, withdrawal of the Gram Sabha’s right to decide the fate of mega-projects by the Ministry of Environment and Forests, handing over large tracts of reserved forest land to corporates like Adani, amending the Coastal Regulation Zone to allow coastal lands to fall into the hands of builders, promoting the production of petrol and diesel driven consumer cars and expanding the already vast network of expensive highways and flyovers, increasing the Foreign Direct Investment in Defense and Retail, accompanied by the dismantling of elements of welfare like the withdrawal of free medicines in Maharashtra merely two days after the new BJP government is sworn in and the alarmingly high rate of malnutrition in the model State of Gujarat – these are a few symptoms of a phenomenon reminiscent of the close embrace between Hitler’s Germany and the mega-business of his day.
TOMORROW: PART THREE