Muslims are not the only one in the gun sights of the Hindu Right, Dalits and Christians have also been the target of Hindutva extremists. In the picture above, a hapless Christian victim of Hindu violence looks on at a relief camp in Bhubaneshwar, India
TERRORISTS, THEIRS AND OURS
by Arundhati Roy
Side B believes that though nothing can ever excuse or justify terrorism, it exists in a particular time, place and political context, and to refuse to see that will only aggravate the problem and put more and more people in harm’s way. Which is a crime in itself.
The sayings of Hafiz Saeed, who founded the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (Army of the Pure) in 1990 and who belongs to the hardline Salafi tradition of Islam, certainly bolster the case of Side A. Hafiz Saeed approves of suicide bombing, hates Jews, Shias and Democracy, and believes that jehad should be waged until Islam, his Islam, rules the world.
Among the things he has said are:
“There cannot be any peace while India remains intact. Cut them, cut them so much that they kneel before you and ask for mercy.”
And, “India has shown us this path. We would like to give India a tit-for-tat response and reciprocate in the same way by killing the Hindus, just like it is killing the Muslims in Kashmir.”
But where would Side A accommodate the sayings of Babu Bajrangi of Ahmedabad, India, who sees himself as a democrat, not a terrorist? He was one of the major lynchpins of the 2002 Gujarat genocide and has said (on camera):
“We didn’t spare a single Muslim shop, we set everything on fire…we hacked, burned, set on fire…we believe in setting them on fire because these bastards don’t want to be cremated, they’re afraid of it…. I have just one last wish…let me be sentenced to death…. I don’t care if I’m hanged…just give me two days before my hanging and I will go and have a field day in Juhapura where seven or eight lakhs of these people stay…. I will finish them off…let a few more of them die…at least twenty-five thousand to fifty thousand should die.”
And where, in Side A’s scheme of things, would we place the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh bible, We, or Our Nationhood Defined by M.S. Golwalkar ‘Guruji’, who became head of the RSS in 1944. It says:
“Ever since that evil day, when Moslems first landed in Hindustan, right up to the present moment, the Hindu Nation has been gallantly fighting on to take on these despoilers. The Race Spirit has been awakening.”
“To keep up the purity of its race and culture, Germany shocked the world by her purging the country of the Semitic races—the Jews. Race pride at its highest has been manifested here…a good lesson for us in Hindustan to learn and profit by.”
Of course, Muslims are not the only people in the gun sights of the Hindu Right. Dalits have been consistently targeted. Recently in Kandhamal in Orissa, Christians were the target of two-and-a-half months of violence which left more than 40 dead. Forty thousand people have been driven from their homes, half of whom now live in refugee camps.
All these years, Hafiz Saeed has lived the life of a respectable man in Lahore as the head of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa, which many believe is a front organisation for the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba. He continued to recruit young boys for his own bigoted jehad with his twisted, fiery sermons. On December 11, the UN imposed sanctions on the Jamaat-ud-Dawa and the Pakistani government succumbed to international pressure, putting Hafiz Saeed under house arrest. Babu Bajrangi, however, is out on bail and continues to live the life of a respectable man in Gujarat.
A couple of years after the genocide, he left the VHP to join the Shiv Sena. Narendra Modi, Bajrangi’s former mentor, is still the chief minister of Gujarat. So the man who presided over the Gujarat genocide was re-elected twice, and is deeply respected by India’s biggest corporate houses, Reliance and Tata. Suhel Seth, a TV impresario and corporate spokesperson, has recently said, “Modi is God.” The policemen who supervised and sometimes even assisted the rampaging Hindu mobs in Gujarat have been rewarded and promoted.
A young activist of one of the many Hindu militant outfits in India
The RSS has 45,000 branches, its own range of charities and seven million volunteers preaching its doctrine of hate across India. They include Narendra Modi, but also former prime minister A.B. Vajpayee, current Leader of the Opposition L.K. Advani, and a host of other senior politicians, bureaucrats and police and intelligence officers.
And if that’s not enough to complicate our picture of secular democracy, we should place on record that there are plenty of Muslim organisations within India preaching their own narrow bigotry.
So, on balance, if I had to choose between Side A and Side B, I’d pick Side B. We need context. Always.
In this nuclear subcontinent, that context is Partition. The Radcliffe Line which separated India and Pakistan and tore through states, districts, villages, fields, communities, water systems, homes and families, was drawn virtually overnight. It was Britain’s final, parting kick to us.
Partition triggered the massacre of more than a million people and the largest migration of a human population in contemporary history. Eight million people—Hindus fleeing the new Pakistan, Muslims fleeing the new kind of India—left their homes with nothing but the clothes on their backs.
Each of those people carries and passes down a story of unimaginable pain, hate, horror, but yearning too. That wound, those torn but still unsevered muscles, that blood and those splintered bones still lock us together in a close embrace of hatred, terrifying familiarity but also love. It has left Kashmir trapped in a nightmare from which it can’t seem to emerge, a nightmare that has claimed more than 60,000 lives.
Pakistan, the Land of the Pure, became an Islamic republic, and then, very quickly a corrupt, violent military state, openly intolerant of other faiths.
India on the other hand declared herself an inclusive, secular democracy. It was a magnificent undertaking, but Babu Bajrangi’s predecessors had been hard at work since the 1920s, dripping poison into India’s bloodstream, undermining that idea of India even before it was born.
By 1990, they were ready to make a bid for power. In 1992, Hindu mobs exhorted by L.K. Advani stormed the Babri Masjid and demolished it.
By 1998, the BJP was in power at the the Centre.
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