The Shock of Recognition
"underlying these religions were a common set of beliefs about how you treat other people and how you aspire to act, not just for yourself but also for the greater good"
(Obama in his interview about Religion given to Cathleen Falsani, March,27,2004; cf. to his mother's teaching about the validity of diverse faiths and the value of tolerance.)
So, now, India is home to "Hindu" terrorism.
Departing from the more usual banner-appelation, "Saffron Terror", I wish the fact to be registered that saffron is drawn from the stamin of a delicate and indescribably pretty mauve flower grown exclusively in my home valley of Kashmir, and exclusively by Muslims. My inherited memories of it are thereby sweet and secular to the core.
Also, saffron when used to grace milk products, Biryani, or to brew the heavenly Kehwa is a thing of the gods truly.
It is only when it is coerced against the use of nature to colour politics that it rages against the sin. Then, don't we know, what gruesome consequences begin.
I think it proper, therefore, to stick with the more direct and honest description "Hindu" terrorism, since, much against their grain, even India's premier TV channels are now bringing us news of "Hindu" terrorism, so compelling the materials gathered by the investigating agencies thus far.
This despite the fact that in my view the term "Hindu" trerrorism is as erroneous as the term "Muslim" terrorism. Even though not a religious man myself, I am able to see that being Hindu or Muslim by accident of birth has no necessary connect with how one's politics turn out to be in adult life. A plethora of specific contexts and shaping histories are here provenly more to the point.
It was way back in 1923 that Savarkar, never a practicing Hindu (indeed a self-confessed atheist) had first understood that from this benign term, "Hindu," could be drawn the toxic racial concept Hindutva, and made to serve a forthrightly fascist purpose. That Brahminism had always been a socially toxic form of Hinduism was of course an enabling prehistory to the new project.
He it was who established Abhinav Bharat in Pune (1904), that theoretical hotbed of twice-born Brahminical casteism against which low-caste social reformers such as Phule, Periyar, and Ambedkar were to struggle their whole lives long.
Such casteism was made the instrument of communalist politics to serve two major objectives: one, to overwhelm and negate the specific cultural and material oppressions of the low-caste within the Hindu Varna system , and two, to elevate the low-caste as a warrior of a common "Hindutva" army against the chief common "enemy," the Muslim.
Such an army has been seen to be needed to salvage the "real" nation from this so-called common enemy who continues to be represented to this day by the RSS and its hydra-headed "educational" front organizations as an "invader" still bent on seeking to convert India into an Islamic theocratic state.
Aided in these mythical fears and constructions by the British during the crucial decades leading upto Independence, India's majoritarian fascists continue thus to keep at bay all consideration of secular oppressions based entirely in the brutal social order of Capitalist expropriation.
Savarkar thus counseled how a resurgent nation could result only if "Hinduism was militarized, and the military Hinduised."
Clearly enough, the serving army Colonel, S.P. Purohit and the other retired Major, one Upadhyay, who the Mumbai ATS (Anti-Terrorist Squad) tells us, are at the centre of the Malegaon terrorist blasts of September 29, 2008, alongwith Sadhvi Pragya and the rogue-sadhu, Amreetanand—and very possibly complicit in half a dozen other blasts as well—seem to have heeded Savarkar's advice to the hilt.
Indeed, in his Narco-test confessions, Colonel Purohit, sources have told some TV channels (Times Now), admits to his guilt and justifies his actions as retribution for what he thinks SIMI (Student's Islamic Movement of India) have been doing. He is understood to have further indicated that the rogue sadhu, Amreetanand, nee Dayanand etc., has been the kingpin and chief coordinator and devisor of several other blasts carried out by this cell, including the blasts at the revered Ajmer Dargah (Mausoleum of the 12th century Sufi saint, Chisti, which to this day draws devotees across faiths the world-over), and at Kanpur.
The ATS are now busy exploring the routes through which huge sums of money have been brought into the country for such terrorist activity as Hawala transactions, and whether the RDX, suspected to be used in the Malegaon blast, was procured by Colonel Purohit through army connections. It is to be noted that Purohit has been in Military Intelligence, and serving in Jammu & Kashmir, where it is thought he made contact with the rogue sadhu, Amreetanand.
(Indeed, as I write, news comes of the ATS claiming that Purohit actually stole some 60 kilos of RDX which was in his custody while doing duty at Deolali, and that in his Narco-test confession he admits to passing it on to one "Bhagwan" for use in the blast on the Samjhauta Express train in Feb.,2007.)
Needless to say, that alongwith the courts, we will also require that the ATS is actually able to obtain convictions rather than merely pile on evidence which may not be admissible in law.
To return to the argument:
As I suggested in my last column, "Notions of the Nation" (Znet, Nov.,4), Hindutva militarism since the establishment of the Hindu Mahasabha and the RSS has been inspired by the desire to emulate and then better Muslim "aggressiveness" seen as a racial characteristic that defined "Muslim" rule in India, and rendered Hindus "limp" and "cowardly."
Thus, if Savarkar established Ahninav Bharat, Dr.Moonje, an avowed Mussolini admirer who in turn inspired Dr.Hedgewar to establish the RSS on Vijay Dashmi of 1924 (victory day, denoting the liquidation of the Dravidian Ravana by the Aryan Kshatriya warrior, Ram) established the Bhondsala Military Academy at Indore (1937). It now transpires that this academy has been playing host to the Bajrang Dal for militarist training routines etc., and its director, one Raikar, has put in his papers.
Unsurprisingly enough, both these institutions are now under the scanner.
Over the last decade, terrorist blasts have occurred in India across a wide variety of sites and in major cities and towns.
Many of these blasts have taken place outside mosques and known Muslim- majority locations, as well outside cinema halls that were thought to be showing movies inimical to Hindu glory.
Briefly, these sites are: cinemas in Thane and Vashi in Maharashtra, Jalna, Purna, Parbhani, and Malegaon towns, again all in Maharashtra—and all areas of high Muslim density, in Hyderabad outside a famous old mosque, and in Ahmedabad and Surat in Gujarat.
Curiously, in the Surat episode, some sixteen odd bombs were found placed along the main thoroughfare in tree branches, on house-tops, on electric poles and so forth. Not one of them however exploded. This was thought to be the result of defective switches. Curious circumstance that; besides the wonder that Ahmedabad's Muslims could find such sprawling access to such strategic locations without Modi knowing a thing.
Yet, regardless of where the blasts have taken place, almost without exception the Pavlovian response of state agencies as well as, sad to say, media channels has been invariably to point fingers of suspicion and culpability towards one or the other "Islamic" outfit.
Often, young Muslims men have been rounded up in the scores and held for days of brutal questioning without the least prima facie evidence. Nearly in all such cases, however reluctantly, they have had to be let off.
The most recent case is that of some fifteen young Muslims picked up after the Hyderabad blasts. Tortured with electric shocks, they have nevertheless been found to be innocent and let go.
Indeed, after the gruesome blasts in the Samjhauta Express—a train service of reconciliation and confidence-building between India and Pakistan—in which some 68 people were burnt to cinders, 45 of them Pakistani citizens, fingers were immediately pointed towards the SIMI.
Yet, the ATS of Mumbai now suspects that this may also be the doing of the "Hindu" terrorists in custody. These speculations have been raised by the circumstance that the suitcases that held the bombs had Indore labels on them.
Just as the ATS now suspects that more than half a dozen blasts (the two at Malegaon, in 2006 and 2008, at the cinemas in Thane and Vashi, at Jalna, at Purna, at Parbhani, provenly at Nanded and Kanpur) have all been the handiwork of "Hindu" terror groups.
For some years, reputed civil and human rights organizations, and individual members of civil society that have included journalists, judges, lawyers, writers, artists, teachers, students, and labour organizations, besides organized Muslim fora and Left parties, have been cautioning both state agencies and media conglomerates to:
-- desist from the Pavlovian haste with which some one or other Muslim group is immediately named and labeled literally within an hour of the occurrence of a blast, thus contributing to the maligning of the entire Muslim community;
--to consider the possibility that groups other than those involving Muslims could be involved;
--to refrain from covering up prima facie evidence which points to such possibilities; indeed, where such evidence seems conclusive, as the complicity of the Bajrang Dal at Nanded and Kanpur;
--to ponder the question as to why Muslims should effect blasts within their own localities or outside their mosques;
--to weigh the consequences for the Muslim psyche of the failure of the state to prevent repeated pogroms against them, and to find or punish the guilty; not to speak of active state connivance in those pogroms (Moradabad, 198o; Nellie, 1983; Hashimpura, 1987; Bhagalpur, 1989; Mumbai, 1992-93; Gujarat, 2002, to cite just the more recent ones);
--to permit transparency in the matter of police investigations with due regard for the Constitutional rights of those held in custody—such as visitation, access to legal defence, norms of the recording of confession and other evidence etc.,
--to respect the obligatory presumption of innocence until anyone is juridically found guilty;
Time and again these cautions and rightful prerogatives have been trampled under foot.
Aided by the loud biases of the corporate media which have tended to reflect the predilections both of free-market imperialism and comprador urban middle class sentiments in India's metropolitan towns, India's state agencies and that "all-knowing" species, the Intellegence expert, who seems ever present to reinforce anti-Muslim prejudice, have tended to feed massively into the politics of the Hindu right-wing.
For years on end, India's chief malady has been sought to be seen to reside in "Islamic" terrorism, and in the complicit refusal of the secularists to allow draconian preventive laws to be brought back on the books. Not in poverty, malnutrition, disease, absence of health care or clean drinking water, or lack of steady work among the urban poor, or the ousted tribals, disenfranchised farmers, chronic failure of primary schooling and so forth among some 75% of Indians. And most of them belonging to the Muslim, Dalit, and Tribal communities.
And to repeat for the nth time, this three-fourths of Indians able to spend just or under Rupees Twenty a day, all according to the governments' own Arjun Sengupta Committee Report.
Not to speak of the venomous communalization of the polity, the alienation and ghettoisation of the minorities, and the state's failure or unwillingness to carry through schemes that could redress these maladies.
As to new terror laws, the government of the day may protest that it has all the laws it wants, and more; as well as the fact that the worst terrorist attacks took place when laws like the dreaded POTA (Prevention of Terrorism Act) was on the books during the tenure of the NDA regime led by the ultra-"nationalist", BJP. Small dent is made by any regime of empirically-founded facts, or fair-minded arguments on the right-wing fascists and their fattened constituency.
Now, of course, a radically transformed milieu is unraveling.
Photos and Videos are doing the rounds that show the "Hindu" terrorists currently under investigation in close and intimate proximity to top leaders of the RSS, the VHP, and the BJP as well.
Had POTA indeed been on the books today, such evidence would have authorized the police to put them all behind bars on the charge of associating with those under investigation for "terrorism." And all that without any recourse to bail either.
Predictably, nonetheless, after some days of dumbfounded crestfallenness (remember that the main electoral plank of the BJP in the elections now under way in several states and in the soon-to-be-held parliamentary polls is the failure of the Congress to eradicate "terrorism" because of its "minority appeasement" policies), the right-wing fascists are back to brazen form.
Even as the projected Prime Ministerial candidate, Advani (the high-point of whose career remains the successful demolition of the Babri mosque) seeks to strike a stance of caution, party hard-liners have taken to peddling outrageous theories.
As a complement to the well-known Pavlovian hunch that "all terrorists are Muslims," we are now told by the likes of Rajnath Singh, the party President, that "no Hindu can be a terrorist," that is to say even when he or she is found to be one.
This for the reason that what the ordinary man calls "terrorism" is infact "nationalism" where any Hindu be involved. Live and learn.
Other than that, it is both interesting and laughable that spokesmen and women of the BJP are today reduced to gurgitating every single argument that Muslims and civil rights organizations have to this day voiced:
--presume innocence until found guilty;
--desist from the "political conspiracy" to malign a whole community;
--do not let enemies of the Hindu -right propagate fake evidence against them, since all evidence against them must be fake in principle;
--and most outlandishly, do not communalise terrorism; that from India's rank communalists who have done nothing but communalise terrorism ever since we remember!
Even as these new developments point to a potentially mortal combat among "Hindu" and "Muslim" terror groups, I venture to think that the situation also offers opportunities of far-reaching redressal for all three axes that matter: the state and its agencies, the party-political system, and the polity generally.
First off, if, as has been the case, the Congress's secular credentials have consistently been vitiated by, willy nilly, playing second-fiddle to Hindu-communalist appeasement, the denuding of the Hindu- right offers it the opportunity of a lifetime to assert the supremacy of the Constitutional scheme of things, without fear or favour.
It is indeed a circumstance that can now help the Congress and other secular parties to come down like a ton on communalism of all shades that underpin the fatal subversion of the secular republic without the need for apology.
In this endeavour, its greatest inspiration must come from two factors on the Muslim side of the issue:
one, that over the last year every single major and influential Muslim cultural and religious organization has publicly, and repeatedly, denounced through speech, act, and fatwa "terrorism" as un-Islamic and a rightful candidate for punishment under law;
and, two, that without exception they have pleaded only and ever for fair and just treatment at the hands of the authorized instruments of state, both when victimized by pogroms and suspected as culprits; and for credible pursuit of those that persecute them.
Not once has any Muslim organization worth the name suggested that Muslims have any claims that override the Cosntitutional regime of laws and procedures pertaining to all citizens of the Republic.
All that in stark contrast to the refusal, however camouflaged or strategised, of the RSS and its affiliates to accept either the secular Constitution or the notion of secular citizenship.
It is to be recalled that the RSS tactically acquiesced to acknowledging the primacy of the national flag over its own saffron one in 1949 as a quid pro quo to its release from the ban imposed on it after Gandhi's murder.
To this day it seeks to overthrow the Republic as Constituted by law and to replace it by a theocratic Hindu Rashtra wherein the prerogatives of citizenship will be determined not by secular, democratic equality but racial difference among Indians (all that brutally codified in Golwalker's two books, We, Our Ntionhood Defined; and, the later Bunch of Thoughts which explicitly designates Muslims as the nations's "Enemy Number One" in an exclusive chapter.)
However Hindu cultural politics may have come to infect sections of the fattened urbanites, the Congress must show the conviction that none of these in this day and age would be willing to back what is explicitly "terrorist" activity, indistinguishable from any other, once the matter is proven.
This then is a fine moment to release a new energetic politics that recharges the conviction and inspiration of the non-discriminatory humanism that informed the leaders of the freedom movement, and thus to disengage whatever popular base the Hindu- right has built over the years since the demolition of the Babri mosque from its fascist leaderships and cadres.
Just as, infact, many BJP supporters are busy thinking whether they are indeed willing to carry their love of Muslim-haters quite to the point where those other dreams of Indian super-powerdom are seriously jeopardized by a war of competing terrorisms.
It is also a golden opportunity for the Congress-led UPA, should it come back to power, to take a hard look at the communalist virus that has infected law-enforcement agencies over the decades, and to make bold to effect reforms of a far-reaching character, such as include the recruitment of Muslims and other "minorities" in due proportion to the forces, and not just among the lower ranks.
Speaking of the army, some 3% Muslims are today among its ranks—some sixty years after Independence. And I won't make a guess as to how abysmal might infact be its share among the officer core, colonel and above. And wouldn't I dearly like to take a peek into what sort of Indian History is taught India's future officers at Khadakvasla and Dehradun. Truly; and who does the teaching as well.
As to the BJP: it has another opportunity as well; namely to reconstitute itself as a secular party on the right, bearing full allegiance to the Constitution in letter and spirit (remember now that among other things on the street-level, the NDA regime led by the BJP did constitute a Constitution Review Committee—an ominous enough move that, thankfully, was duly aborted in course), and shunning once and for all its enslavement to the RSS and its fascist vision of India, its history, culture and state.
Failing to do so, the BJP may succeed in causing further mayhem; but it is highly unlikely now to attain the sort of ascendance it seeks through fair means and foul.
Most of all, the BJP must understand that the Muslims of India, and Christians as well, have the inalienable right to live and work in the country on the terms set by the Constitution, not by the RSS or the Sangh Parivar.
And, conversely, that the BJP itself is as subject to those Constitutional stipulations as any another collective of Indians who practice their beliefs and politics.
Let the BJP notice the epigraph chosen for this column; it comes from the new President-Elect of the one country that the BJP adores. Or will it now, with a black man at the helm?
A different voice floats from there.
Time for the BJP to change its langoti, and say "yes we can" also be peaceable and law-abiding citizens of the Republic of India. And to prize and protect its magnificent plurality like all sensible and humane Indians.