Assalamu alaikum wrb.
In France, on Feb 12-14, 2020, there was an international conference arranged by Paris University and University of Le Havre of Normandy. The theme was “Rising Asia”. I was invited to present a paper. My paper is as follows:
Firoz Mahboob Kamal
Political, religious & demographic dynamics in South Asia & threatened co-existence of people with pluralities
Dr. Firoz Mahboob Kamal
The myth of rising Asia and the reality
‘Rising Asia’ now runs like a myth in many Asian and non-Asian countries. But such a myth hides many awful realities. The case of ‘rising Europe’ in the past with its mighty economy, military, and technology provides valuable insights to analyse the so-called myth of ‘rising Asia’. While Europe showed its fastest economic growth, it also showed its fastest morale down-turn. Because of such moral down-turn, Europe could become the fertile breeding ground for ideologies like colonialism, imperialism, white supremacism, nationalism, racism and fascism that could cause disaster for the mankind. In fact, genocidal wars, colonial wars, World Wars and ethnic cleansing indeed owe to such a moral downturn. In those rising days of the west, the moral down-turn went so low that it couldn’t find any wrong in the elimination of Red Indians from Americas, aborigines from Australia and Maoris from New Zealand. And, killings could be done on an industrial scale. As a result, about 75 million people could be killed only in the two World Wars. This is why the worst catastrophe in the whole history is not caused by earthquakes, epidemics, cyclones or tsunamis but by humans.
The same myth of economic development now dominates the socio-political spectrum of South Asia. The economic development has overruled the importance of moral development. And moral ill-health or moral death now shows its own ugly expression. In India, Muslims are being lynched to death on the alleged accusations that they eat beef. In such a pretext, 25 Muslims are killed by the Hindu radicals in a period from 2015 to the middle of 2017. (Ananda Bazar Patrika, 2020). In 1992, more than 500-year-old historical Babri Mosque in Ayodhya was razed to the ground on a mythological assumption that Ram –a Hindu deity was born there. The Supreme Court of India declared in its recent judgment that there exists no evidence that the mosque was built on a Hindu temple. Surprisingly, the absence of evidence couldn’t prohibit the Supreme Court judges from incorporating the Hindutva motive in their judgment. Therefore, the judges gave the dismantled mosque site to the perpetrators of the crime to build a temple there! Whereas in a previous ruling, the same judiciary condemned the destruction of the mosque as a heinous crime. Therefore, with the Hindutva fascists in power, everything looks changed. The police, the prosecution, the Hindutva politician, the judiciary, the media and the executive branch of the government now work together to promote the same Hindutva objective. Now, the appeasement of the ruling Hindutva forces overrules the delivery of fair justice.
The toxic ideologies & the politics of exclusion
The worst calamities in human history like racism, fascism, colonialism, ethnic cleansing, occupational wars, and World Wars do not owe to economic or scientific failures. These are the outcome of ideological failure. To avoid such failure, understanding of ideological ills and consequent socio-political dynamics is crucial. But acquiring such understanding received little priority in education and social science research. Although humans’ success in controlling the infectious bugs is remarkable but looks alarmingly poor in controlling the infectious ideologies. Moreover, failure to develop moral and conceptual immunity against such toxic ideologies is also phenomenal. As a result, ideologies like racism, fascism, nationalism, imperialism loom everywhere. And in South Asian context, such ideological failures show serious consequences. Because of that, in some of the South Asian countries like India, Myanmar and Sri Lanka, minorities face marginalisation, deprivation, public lynching, and even death.
Politics of exclusion rules in India since its independence in 1947. Its Muslim population is about 200 million –larger than the combined population of France, Germany, and the UK. The development of a state is indeed the aggregate development of all people of all denominations. Hence unhindered access to education and training, unbiased employment opportunities for everyone and optimum utilization of every skill available in the country are vital. Any obstruction or exclusion of anyone restricts development. The GDP of the country is indeed the summation of added values not only on land and materials but also on every individual. Therefore, if 200 the million-strong Muslim minority are kept out of the value-adding process and employment, how can a country progress? Awfully such a basic rule of development is ignored only to harm Muslims. They also ignore understanding that such a policy immensely harms the economy and the wellbeing of the Indians as a whole. In fact, the impact of such an exclusive policy reflects on India’s economic indicators. In terms of per capita income and hunger index, India stands lower than even Bangladesh –the bottomless basket case of the early seventies.
About 15 percent of the Indian population is Muslim. But only 4 percent of them are graduate and only 5 percent are in government jobs. (Sachar Committee Report, 2006). The maximization of the economic wellbeing of the Hindus and their access to the government jobs are being achieved and sustained by maximum deprivation or exclusion of the Muslims. Such a discriminatory and restrictive policy was first initiated by the British colonial occupiers since they snatched power from the Muslim rulers. But it hasn’t been changed by the subsequent Indian governments. Now, with the Hindutva forces in power, the exclusion of the Muslims has become overt government policy. More than 40 million Muslims live in Uttar Pradesh, but in the 2014 election, not a single Muslim was allowed to sit in the parliament. It is worth noting that the ruling Hindutva forces are not happy with the current level of exclusion, they want to put more restrictions. In order to put permanent prohibition, they want to deprive Muslims of their citizenship rights. So, tools like National Citizenship Registrar (NCR) and the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) are introduced. Millions of Muslims are targeted to make them stateless on the accusation that they have illegally infiltrated from Bangladesh. Bangladesh has already labeled it baseless and has expressed its refusal to take any stateless people from India. Hence such stateless Muslims face no option but to stand de-enfranchised and dumped in concentration camps. Already such concentration camps are being constructed in the state of Assam where 1.9 million people stand stateless because of exclusion from NRC. Such an inhuman act stands unique in the whole human history.
The Hindutva fascists want to make India a Hindu state –as envisioned by their guru Savarkar. Muslims and other minorities will survive only as second class citizens without any social, political and economic participation. This is why even the publication of the Sachar Committee Report that exposed sheer deprivation of the Muslims is so unwelcome in the Hindutva circle. Their argument is clear. While they do not bother to alleviate the deprivation, why do they need its publication? The Muslim rule in India in the past is being used to ignite the politics of revengeful anguish against the present days’ Muslims. In fact, the resurgence of such Hindu vengeance forms the foundation of Hindutva politics in India and gave birth to the world’s largest NGO called Rashtriya Shevok Sangha (RSS). The sole objective of RSS is to make India a Hindu state. (Andersen, Walter; Damla, Shridhar, 1987). In the early days of independent India, RSS leaders opposed the Indian constitution for three main reasons. These are 1). Its secular character, 2). Non-inclusion of the ancient law of Manu, 3). Equal rights for people of all clasts and religions. (Hadiz, Vedi). They also opposed the tricolour Indian national flag. Instead, they wanted a saffron flag as an icon of ancient Hindu identity. For 52 years since independence, they didn’t hoist tri-color Indian national flag in RSS headquarter; for the first time, they did it in 2002. (The Times of India, 2002).
While M.S Golwalker became the RSS President in 1940, he set it a goal not to fight against the colonial British occupation. (M.S Golwalker, 1974). Muslims were stipulated as the number one enemy and not the British occupation. Hence, from day one of its inception in 1925, RSS was focussed on mobilizing and strengthening the Hindutva recruits to fight against the Muslims. In 1927, within two years of its creation, the RSS launched its first Muslim cleansing operation in its birthplace in Nagpur in Maharashtra. Its militants launched an organized attack against the local Muslims, and the campaign went on for 3 days and forced the Muslims to leave the city. The creation of Pakistan in 1947 infuriated the RSS cadres; as if Pakistan has cut into pieces their mother India. Now they take the revenge from the captivated Muslims who didn’t migrate to Pakistan. They consider every Indian Muslim a traitor cum termite and a Pakistani insider. (Ashish Nandi, 2002). For its terrorist activities, the RSS was banned 4 times in the past: in 1947, in 1948, in 1975 and in 1992. During British raj, it was banned for its communal terrorism by the provincial government of Punjab in 1947. In 1948, it was banned for killing Gandhi. In 1992, it was banned for destroying the historic Babri Mosque. Since Narendra Modi -a lifelong member of RSS, became the Prime Minister, everything changed. The RSS is no more alone in its mission; the whole state apparatus, the media, the police, and the army are now working hand in hand to attain the Hindutva objective. The policy of political and economic exclusivity and even cleansing operations against the religious minorities gets sanitized in the name of the democratic rights of the majority. Thus, the Hindutva majority has established marginalization of the minorities and deprivation of their basic rights as the new normal.
The NRC project was first started in the north-eastern state of Assam. Because of it, 1.9 million people became stateless. Contrary to the Hindutva expectation, more than 70% of the victims turned out to be Hindus. Since exclusion of Hindus has never been the agenda of the ruling Hindutva extremists, the Citizenship Act was quickly amended to award them citizenship. But the door is kept closed for the stateless Muslims. A Hindu –even if born outside India, can get citizenship because of his religious identity, but a Muslim born in India needs to submit documents for that legal entitlement. Thus, NRC and CAA are being used as the discriminatory instruments against Muslims either to evict them as foreign intruders or dump them in newly built concentration camps as de-enfranchised and de-humanized alien creatures.
The cross-party epidemic
Like a virus, toxic ideologies never stay confined within the premise of a single political, religious or terrorist outfit. It shows a cross-party, cross-country and cross-border epidemic. Hence, what is happening in India, Myanmar and Sri Lanka against the Muslims shows the same confluent symptoms and signs. This is why the anti-Muslim hatred in Indian politics is not a monopoly of the RSS-BJP axis. The parties like the Indian National Congress and many others also exhibit the influence of the same toxic ideology. The spell of the Hindutva venom over the politics of the Indian National Congress was visibly exposed during the election campaign of 1989. To appease the Hindu voters, Rajiv Gandhi –the Congress Party’s incumbent Prime Minister attempted to snatch the Hindutva mantra from the RSS-BJP family by outplaying the issue. He started his campaign from the district of Faizabad –known for its historic Babri Mosque. Dispelling the previous secular stand of the Congress, Rajiv Gandhi took the banner of the Hindutva agenda in his own hand. He promised inauguration of Rama Rajya –the rule and the kingdom of Rama, in India.-(Pradeep Nayak, 1993). It was a clear departure from the declared secular ideology of the Congress. He even opened the door of the Babri Mosque for the Hindu worshippers –which was strategically avoided by every Congress and non-Congress government in the past. By adopting such a communal agenda, Rajiv Gandhi enhanced Hindutva radicalization of his own party the Indian National Congress. He preferred getting more votes over higher human values, secular ideology, justice and respect for the minority rights. Such a policy of sliding towards the Hindu majority vote bank and turning a blind eye towards the Muslim minority prompted the Muslims –the party’s traditional vote bank to quickly leave Congress. Along with the loss of Muslim votes, his hoax to amass Hindu votes didn’t work either. He failed to defeat the old and original vanguards of the Hindutva outfit like BJP. As a result of losing Muslim votes, the Congress Party ceased to exist as an electable contender of power in Indian national politics. It could show up only as a partner of regional parties to share power in some smaller states.
However, Rajiv Gandhi is not the only Congress leader to embrace the Hindutva ideology. Even, Mr. Nehru -the first Prime Minister of independent India didn’t prove different either. Nehru couldn’t hide his affinity towards Hindutva extremism while he embraced Shamya Prasad Mukherjee as his first post-independence cabinet colleague. Incorporating a leader in the cabinet doesn’t go alone, it needs to accommodate his ideologies, too. Mr. Mukherjee is known as one of the most original gurus of Hindutva radicalization of Indian politics. He was the former President of Hindu Mahashava and the founder of Jana Sangha –the parental organizations of today’s BJP.
Nehru’s policy towards the Muslim rule in Hyderabad and the Muslim population in Kashmir –the only Muslim majority state in India, also showed his anti-Muslim bias. The first post-independence genocidal massacre of the Muslims that took place in Hyderabad in 1948 wasn’t the crime of RSS-BJP goons. It happened under the watch of Congress Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. His government didn’t bother to do a body count of the dead. The lowest estimate of Muslim death has been reported to be 40, 000 (Komireddi, 2019). In another estimate, it is 200, 000. (Noorani, 2001). Muslim houses were looted and thousands of Muslim women were raped. Thugs and rapists were let loose to commit the crime, and hardly anyone was punished for such a horrendous genocide.
Under Nehru’s rule, a massive genocide also took place in Jammu –a southern district in united Kashmir. Prior to Indian occupation in 1947, Jammu had a Muslim majority population. The cleansing of the Muslims was carried out under the direct command of Kashmir’s Dogra king Hari Singh -as a part of the desperate move in his last days of rule, to make it Hindu majority area. Since there was no body-count, there exists a gross variation on the number of death. According to one estimate, 20,000 to 100,000 Muslims were killed, and many more were evicted. (Snedden, Christopher, 2015). The RSS cadres were brought in to conduct the genocide under the direct watch of Maharaja Hari Singh. (Chattha, 2009). Although Prime Minister Nehru considered Hari Singh guilty for the massacre but didn’t do anything against his crime; rather gave him a safe sanctuary in Mumbai. (Praveen Swami, 2007). Because of signing the ‘Instrument of Accession to India’, Hari Singh has not only been exempted from legal prosecution but also his genocidal crime was airbrushed from history. (Komireddi, 2019).
Mr. Narasima Rao -Congress Party’s other former Prime Minister also showed anti-Muslim sentiment from his early career. He joined an armed group to fight against the Muslim ruler in Hyderabad. (K.S. Komireddi, 2019). While he was the Prime Minister, he allowed the destruction of the Babri Mosque by his visible inaction. His government showed utter failure to prosecute those Hindutva extremists who committed such a heinous crime. Mr. Pronab Mukherjee –a former President of India from Congress also couldn’t hide his affinity towards RSS. He visited Nagpur –the birthplace of RSS, to pay homage to the RSS founder Mr. Hedgewar in 2018. But the issue didn’t stop at his homage. Mr. Mukherjee exulted the RSS founder as “great son of Mother India” in the visitor’s book. Only a man with the full endorsement of Mr. Hedgewar’s Hindutva ideology could write such a high eulogy. On behalf of RSS, it was acknowledged that after Mr. Pronab Mukherjee’s tribute to Hedgewar, there was an upsurge in RSS’s membership. It is worth noting that Mr. Pronab Mukherjee is not alone to show such an affinity to Hindutva ideology. Congress –the so-called secularist outfit proved to be embedded with many more like Mr. Mukharjee even from its earlier days. In 1954, a Congress MP named Seth Govind Das moved a resolution in the Indian parliament for imposing a total ban on cow slaughter. Mr. Vasan Sathe -another leading Hindutva fan in Congress, threatened to resign from the party, if the party opposes the installation of a portrait of Mr. Savarkar –the original guru of Hindutva politics in India, in the parliament. (Naqvi, 2019).
Mr. Hedgewar proclaimed that India is only for the Hindus, and consistently loathed the Muslims. He could never swallow the six hundred years’ Muslim rule in India. He considered Muslims’ rule as a disgrace for the Hindus and showed his obsession to take revenge. Like Savarkar, Golwalker and other Hindutva ideologues, he couldn’t think of Muslims as equal citizens. His obsession to take revenge prompted him to form the RSS. His successor, Golwalkar, was an admirer of Hitler and his policies towards the Jews. He even wrote that Nazi Germany provides a “good lesson for us in Hindustan (India) to learn and profit by.” In such writings, Golwalkar’s message was clear. The Germans had the Jews and the Indians have the Muslims. Hitler had nothing to teach the Indians on Hindutva ideology but had a lot to teach how to carry out genocidal cleansing of the Muslims –as he did against the Jews. Hitler could also teach how he was successful to mobilize and motivate the German people to commit one of the ugliest genocide on earth by taking Jews to the gas chambers. Mr. Golwalkar was highly impressed by Hitler’s quick success; hence asked his Hindu compatriots to learn from such methodology. How a man with an iota of morality can endorse or appreciate such a toxic ideology? But Mr. Pronab Mukherjee traveled to Nagpur to pay homage to one of the most prominent icons of such Hindutva ideology. A Muslim can easily understand how dreadful to live amidst hordes of such indoctrinated people. In a conventional war, fear of death runs only through those who are on the battlefield. But for Muslims, the whole of India had turned into a fear-mongering corrosive battlefield.
Muslims aren’t the only target
Muslims are not the only target of the Hindutva fascists. Non-Hindus like Sikhs, Christians and the untouchables also become the victims. What happened in Delhi in 1984 in the aftermath of the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi is indeed an organized slaughter of Sikh men, women, and children abetted by the state. By official estimate, 3,000 Sikhs were murdered. The unofficial figure is much higher. Surprisingly, the Government ruled by Congress didn’t intervene –as was the case in 2002 in an anti-Muslim pogrom in Gujrat under Modi’s watch. Two weeks later Rajiv Gandhi used a clarifying metaphor: when a big tree falls, the earth shakes a little. (Komireddi, 2019). The bloodbath of Sikhs appeased the Hindutva radicals so much that in the 1984 election, the Hindutva activists like RSS cadres campaigned for Rajiv Gandhi. He was elected with 416 out of 543 seats in the parliaments. It was indeed one of the greatest electoral victories in the history of the Indian National Congress. So, it ratifies the reality that if politics gets polarised with vitriolic hatred against the minorities, it brings landslide electoral victory to the extremists. In a milieu of such ideological intoxication, perpetrators of innocent men, women, and children of the minority community never get prosecuted; rather receive recognition with electoral triumph. Mr. Norendra Modi and his party BJP stand as a perfect proof for that. Because of anti-Muslim atrocities in Gujrat, Uttar Pradesh and other parts of India, Mr. Modi and his BJP could jump up in the popularity ladder. In such politics of populism, higher values or principle doesn’t work. This is why it is the political strategy of the extremist forces to invent more pretexts to scale up atrocities against the minority. Hence along with Muslims, other minorities also become the victim. In Kandhamal in Orissa, Dalit converts to Christianity faced violence for two and a half months; hundreds of houses were burnt down. At least 16 were dead and 40, 000 were driven out of the homes. (The Hindu, 2008). Christians were persecuted even by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in his early days of rule. He authorized the bombing of the north-eastern Christians majority state of Nagaland for demanding the same independence that India got from the British. (Komireddi, 2019).
Right to rule as if the right to murder
The appointment of Mr. Norendra Modi as the chief minister of Gujrat tells a lot about the political objective of the Hindutva forces in India. He was groomed as an obedient RSS cadre. To give more time and commitment to the Hindutva mission, he even left his newly married wife. In 1992, he played a key role in mobilizing the RSS cadres to destroy the Babri mosque. Such a role enhanced his credentials among the key stakeholders of the party. In early October 2001, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee summoned Narendra Modi to his residence and offered him the chief minister’s job of Gujrat.-(K.S. Komireddi, 2019).
Mr. Vajpayee is usually projected as a moderate leader in the RSS-BJP camp. But how a moderate man can be compatible with an extremist man who could engineer the destruction of a mosque? People of opposite intentions and ideologies can never work together. They need an ideological match. Later on, Modi as a chief minister of Gujrat revealed not only his own colour but also the colour of Mr. Vajpayee. That moment came within 4 months of his appointment. In 2002, a train carrying Hindu extremists returning from the site of demolished Babri mosque caught fire. Fifty-eight people were burned to death. Mr. Norendra Modi didn’t wait for the police inquiry, rather grab it as an opportunity to do what he wanted to do. He instantly called it the work of the Muslim extremists. Modi’s announcement was enough to incite a genocidal massacre against the innocent Muslims in Gujrat. In one Muslim neighbourhood, a mob of about five-thousands Hindus made their way through a slum and hacked ninety-seven Muslims to death and a mosque was blown up with liquefied petroleum. Across the road from the scene of carnage, stood a reserve police quarters. But no one from there lifted a finger. (Human Rights Watch, 2002). In a civilized country, police reach within minutes if a house is under attack by a killer or robber. But Modi proved that India hasn’t reached that stage. Under his rule, the state of Gujrat turned into a deep and distant jungle; no police appears in the site of carnage -not in hours, and not even in days. So the killing, the mass rape, and the arson continue unabated. Thus, as a chief minister, Modi showed his own complicity in the crime. He need not kill or rape anybody himself; but his robust inaction worked as a huge encouragement for the killers, the rapists, and the arsonists to commit such crimes in thousands.
In an anti-Muslim pogrom, the social position or contribution of a Muslim makes no difference to make him the worst victim. Mr. Ehsan Jafri -a former MP of Indian Parliament, was a very prominent Muslim leader of Gujarat. He had close acquaintance with Sonia Gandhi –the leader of Congress and personally known to Prime Minister Mr. Vajpayee. Mr. Jafri was sheltering about 250 helpless Muslims in his residence. He spent hours making desperate calls to Chief Minister Modi’s office but received no help. Modi turned deaf. In the end, he urged the attackers, “Whatever you want to do with me, do it; but please don’t kill those who have taken shelter in my house.” But his appeal fell on deaf ears. Mr. Jafri was dragged out of his house by the Hindu mob, tortured with all possible cruelty and sliced open with swords. In the end, he was burnt alive. Sixty-nine people of those who were seeking refuge inside Jafri’s house were killed in broad daylight over seven hours. But during the long period of seven hours, the state police didn’t bother to show up in the scene to stop this preventable massacre. (Vinod Jose, 2012).
The fate of a people is not decided by mere economics; rather more decisively by dominant ideologies. While two World Wars caused terrible havoc on earth, the economy wasn’t bad either. The persecution of people and peace can’t go together. Therefore, toxic ideologies like fascism, racism, must nationalism, colonialism and imperialism that promote the persecution of people must not exist anywhere on earth. Such ideologies can only harm the peaceful co-existence of people with diversities. Then, the country may not have a war on the frontiers but gets war in cities, villages, and houses to kill innocent men, women, and children. Because of Hindutva fascists in India, military racists in Myanmar, power-grabbing fascists in Bangladesh and ethnoreligious opportunists in Sri Lanka such wars have already done great damage against the prospect of peace in South Asia. It is indeed a huge humanitarian as well as social science issue.
Economy or science can’t fight toxic ideologies. It needs an ideological fix. A strong economy can even strengthen the lethal power of evil ideologues –as German’s strong economy did to fascist Hitler. It is indeed the most important responsibility of the social scientists to bring social pathology to the limelight so that the political activists, the social engineers, and the reformist philosophers can take cues to make an appropriate treatment plan. Only this way the growth and sustenance of human civilization can be influenced positively. Otherwise, in this global village, the peaceful co-existence of people with pluralities will survive only as a dream.