Friday, October 31, 2008

The BJP and the ‘Hindu Terrorist’

It is not surprising to see the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in dispute with the term ‘Hindu Terrorist’. The term has been introduced by the Indian media after the recent arrest of five activists of the Hindu Jagaran Manch (HJM), an Indore-based Hindu extremist group and Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, a former national executive member of BJP’s students wing Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP). The arrested persons were allegedly part of the September 29 bomb blasts in the Muslim localities of Malegaon in Maharashtra and Modasa in Gujarat. In an obvious attempt to mislead the investigation, the perpetrators in Malegaon had placed bombs in a motorcycle and parked it below the now-defunct first floor office of Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) while the motorcycle used in Modasa had Islamic stickers on its seat. The terror attack is still under investigation by the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS).

The arrest of the Sadhvi has particularly embarrassed the parent body Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and its political wing BJP. Photos and video clips of the Sadhvi, seen with prominent BJP leaders including party president Rajnath Singh are widely circulated in the media. As a damage control measure, the RSS and BJP have started to blame the arrests as an ‘ultra-secularists’ ploy, voraciously defending the ‘malicious’ attempt to ‘assail the majority community’ with the terrorist tag. At the same time they have neatly washed off there hands by denying any link with the Sadhvi. However, expelled BJP heavyweight leader Uma Bharati has sprung to the Sadhvi’s defense saying she was shocked to see the BJP disown the Sadhvi and quipped: “they had no problems in using her when they wanted to”.


One of the most virulent forms of terrorism in our times seeks the cover of Islam. It calls its murderous campaign ‘jihad’, thereby trying to justify itself in the eyes of pious God-fearing Muslims. – L. K. Advani, My Country, My Life

The biggest threat the country is facing today is ‘jihadi terrorism’ – Rajnath Singh

It is our adversaries, and not us, who are misrepresenting that the fight against terrorism is fight against Islam and the Muslim community. – L. K. Advani

I want to assure the people that if they vote the BJP led NDA to power at the centre then we will bring a strong law against terrorism to crush the morale of the terrorists who seek to operate in India. – Rajnath Singh


Relating to the choice of words, the BJP has started blaming the media for ‘double standard’. However, along with ‘Hindu Terrorist’ the media is also frequently using the term ‘Islamic Terrorist’ and ‘Islamic Terrorism’. The internet space is flooded with this term, prominently in the pro-Hindutva websites and blogs, even in the ‘reader’s forum’ pages of RSS mouthpiece Organiser. The conscience of the BJP leaders never felt the obligation to openly register a protest against it and was more than happy to relish this media service as it was creating a negative public opinion concerning the Muslim community. How come the media is blamed now for ‘double standard’? Is it not in fact the BJP’s ‘double standard’ tactic to remain mute about ‘Islamic Terrorist’ and proactively oppose the term ‘Hindu Terrorist’?

Why are the BJP so upset by the development?

The first reason is purely ideological. As per their core RSS teaching, the BJP believes that the word ‘Hindu’ is synonymous with the nation. Therefore, the use of the term ‘Hindu Terrorist’ is a direct ‘insult and abuse’ to the Indian Nation and therefore anti-national. This view is best reflected when the BJP spokespersons say that no Hindu can ever be an extremist.

Secondly, the BJP predicts that the development might hinder their meticulously crafted grassroot propaganda (with the muscle of RSS machinery) that all Muslims are potential terrorists – the party blueprint to incite Hindu sentiments on the eve of the next Lok Sabha polls. They are worried that their political opponents now have got a potent weapon against them. Also, in the minds of a vast majority of India’s plural society, the development has reconfirmed their assertion that one of the major cause of terror attacks which has sprung up in different parts of the country is the reaction to a malicious brand of politics practiced in India in the name of ‘nationalism’– the politics of hate.

BJP leaders are therefore proactive to voice their pristine view on terrorism and terrorists. According to them, irrespective of his/her religion or cast, a terrorist is simply a terrorist. Then why link terror with a particular religion? As always, the BJP is emulating their characteristic rhetoric of a calculated ambiguity. They are intensely opposing the ‘Hindu’ tag but not explicitly opposing the words ‘Muslim’ or ‘Islamic’ tagged with terrorism. Not a single statement issued by the party has specifically said that they are also against the term ‘Muslim Terrorist’.

BJP’s five point defense strategy is simple:

1. Not to use the term ‘Muslim Terrorism’ directly from public platforms. Instead, use ‘Jihadi Terrorism’ or ‘Islamic Jihadi’.

2. To proclaim with determination that no Hindu can ever be an extremist.

3. To intensely counter the term ‘Hindu Terrorist’ from all forums with the pretext that BJP have always believed that terror has no religion.

4. To be clamorous about homegrown jihadi cells; ‘terrorist factories’ of Azamgarh and SIMI. Link all terror attacks with Pakistan (which the Parivar considers to be a terrorist state) and Bangladesh, and constantly harp on about Bangladeshi infiltration. Talk about bringing a robust law (even stronger than POTA) against terrorism to crush the morale of the terrorists if BJP led NDA is voted back in power.

5. Diminish all secular voices by calling them ‘pseudo secular’ or ‘ultra-secular’. In response to all political adversaries, constantly go on saying that they are all ‘appeasing’ the minority community just to gain the minority votes.

The BJP leadership has strategized that persisting on these five points will facilitate a duel purpose. In one way it will help the party to craft a pan-Indian image, comfortable to various political partners and the section of the Hindu public who are not yet prepared to sanction a militant Hindu programme. Simultaneously it will also keep its cadres assured that the core Hindutva schema – building the Hindu Rashtra, is preserved as a hidden agenda which will be exposed in proper time.

This moderation to channelize its core Hindu nationalist and anti-Muslim position through a more agreeable ‘patriotic’ and ‘anti-foreign enemy’ (Pakistan, Bangladesh and jihadi terrorism) approach is largely due to the BJP’s coalition building compulsion. In his detailed study 'The BJP at the Centre', the French scholar Christophe Jaffrelot has noted that, “The moderation of BJP does not follow a linear trend but represents merely a phase reflecting its capacity to alternate moderation and extremism”. (Emphasis added) Party strategists think it to be a more pragmatic approach by which the party will build an acceptable mask in front of the public at the eve of the 2009 Lok Sabha elections. As famously disclosed by the former BJP theoretician K.N. Govindacharya that Atal Bihari Vajpayee was presented as a mukota (mask), today, the whole party is in the finishing stage of a process to conceal behind a mask covering its Hindutva face.

One thing is for sure – this strategy is not to persuade the Muslims of India. It is actually intended for a different audience – the millions of (pseudo!) secular minded Hindus of India who still condemn the hateful ideology and agenda of the BJP. To bring them into their fold through its coalition allies, the BJP with the approval of RSS had already dropped contentious issues like Ram temple construction, abolition of Article 370 and imposition of a uniform civil code from its ‘national agenda’. This is why the 1999 election manifesto of BJP led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) promised a ‘moratorium on contentious issues’. While justifying this new discourse and change of their political line, the top leaders of BJP had brought into play big words like ‘commitment to good governance’, ‘responsible party, alive to the interests of all section or society’ and ‘no place for an ideological party in India today’. A steady supply of skillfully practiced ambiguous words and more words has become a definite characteristic of the party.

The BJP leaders and spokespersons have mastered the art of twisting political jargon according to the demand of the situation and blending them in an ambiguous manner into their rhetoric. The one word ‘pseudo’ is a most endearing word in the Sangh lexicon and the users have almost turned the word into a cliché. It is been freely used against any person who disagrees to the ideology or opinion. The hydra-headed Parivar affiliates are even using the word within the brotherhood to tweak each other. The great Atal Bihari Vajpayee was also not spared and called a ‘pseudo Hindu’ by Acharya Giriraj Kishor, the senior vice-president of the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) the religious and proselytization wing of RSS, when the Vajpayee led NDA government did not give priority to facilitate building the Ram temple in Ayodhya. BJP’s cerebral makeup has been perfectly exposed by the lawyer and constitutional expert A.G. Noorani: “Deceit and deception are integral to the RSS-BJP strategy”.

The leadership of BJP considers the Indian public as fools.

This blogger in a previous post has argued that terrorism primarily emerges from socio-economic reasons that create a feeling of frustration and grievances within a section of the society. This frustration and grievances lead towards aggression and is modified into a political tactic when the section starts believing that no other means will affect the kind of change they desire. Its method and strategy generally follows a similar line of committing acts of violence but with variable causes and targets that depends on whose point of view is being represented.

Terrorism is a deeply complex subject and cannot be connected with religion alone. The BJP is deceitful while propagating the same thing today. It remains as a fact that equating Muslims with terrorism is totally a RSS-BJP making – an integral part of their wider Hindutva agenda.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Crisis of Capitalism

America is the anchor of global economy in the era of globalization. The American financial collapse has therefore spread like a thermonuclear chain reaction throughout the globe with far-reaching implications. Government experts of the effected countries are sitting together and scratching their worthy heads to bail out the crisis. To calm down the turmoil, the United States Federal Reserve and Treasury Department has declared to pump as much as $1.3 trillion into the system which is nothing but just a tactical response; a desperate effort to shore up confidence in the system. While the investment bankers and their executives have made massive profits out of their speculative operations over the past few years, when they have suffered losses, governments are feeling obliged to bail out these companies using taxpayer’s money. The greatest irony is, after vociferously advocating for a deregulated, liberalized financial system and encouraging removal of government constrains on use and flow of capital, the same advocates of the international economic order are asking for government intervention with regulatory measures today. Some of them like David Macke, the economist for J.P. Morgan Chase has even gone one step ahead to say that “At the end of the day, if you socialize enough of the financial system, it has to work.” Counterparts in India is also toeing the similar line and advocating for ‘national policies’ to survive the crisis but with a caution – don’t allow the Left forces, the commies, to take advantage of the situation.

Credit expansion and the subsequent credit crunch is the prime reason behind the current turmoil in financial markets. By creating new and additional money, the American banking system started lending out at artificially low interest rates to borrowers whose ability to repay the loans were in doubt. This process has distorted the spending pattern of the society as a whole and in turn led to a large scale waste of capital. To understand the current financial crisis we have to go to America – the paradise of capitalism, from where the crisis originated.

After the stock market crash and the bursting of the dot-com bubble in 1999-2000, American economy ran into a recession and caused a global slowdown in the following year. In June 2003, in an effort to stimulate the present economy and to avoid deflationary consequences of the previous poor years of economic performance, the United States Federal Reserve cut interest rates to a 45 year low, all the way down to slight more than 1 per cent. Taking advantage of the low interest rate, American banks started to borrow billions of dollars from the Federal Reserve and then spread the funds in the credit system, primarily in the mortgages market, providing easy housing loans. Banking business became simple: borrow at a lower rate from the Federal Reserve and lend at a higher rate to creditors. The effect of this additional money flow with minimal interest rates helped the American economy to recover momentarily but at the same time was silently encouraging another bubble – this time in the housing sector.

After been aggressively provoked by banks and financial institutions with attractive credit terms, millions of middle class Americans, who in a normal state of affair could not afford or even think of borrowing, started to take out huge amount of credit money to realize their ‘American dream’. The estimate of United States Federal Reserve shows that, in 2005 homeowners extracted $750 billion from equity of their homes (up from $106 billion in 1996), spending two thirds of it on personal consumption, home improvements, and credit card debt. Through housing loans (mortgages), a solid flow of large scale capital investment poured into the housing market. As a consequence of this loose money policy, the housing sector boomed.

Purchase of housing property by massive borrowing was not necessarily done to live in but as an investment venture to cash-in from the rising real estate market. Expectations was that the purchased property could be re-sold with higher profits in future. A largely fabricated demand based on speculation of greater profits created a euphoria among common people. The increased money flow had also temporarily helped the stock markets to stabilize and grow. Its rising index boosted the financial wealth of many upper and middle class households, made them feel richer. In addition, consumer loans (credit cards) provided them the necessary fodder to fly into rampant consumerism with easy available credit money and drove them into the labyrinth of greater borrowing and spending.

Home prices were rising and most people seemed to prosper as long as the new and additional money kept pouring into the housing market at an accelerating rate. But the ecstasy didn’t last longer. From 2004 to the first half of 2006, to prevent the inflationary consequences of its policy, the Federal Reserve began to gradually normalize interest rates. Borrowing became costlier now and as a result the additional money flow in housing market started to decelerate. The housing boom was not founded on a real demand for housing and the drastic price rise of property was far beyond its real value. Growing unemployment and slow down of the economic growth rate of American economy exacerbated the situation towards a crisis.

The demand for houses started to drop fast. Suddenly there were only sellers and no buyers left in the housing market. As a consequence, the real estate value started to fall – up to 30 per cent in some areas effecting 12 million households. Owners were left with a mortgage debt higher than the value of the property. Many creditors turned into credit defaulters as they cannot afford to pay back the amount higher than what they borrowed. At this instant, the police on behalf of the multi-billion-dollar banks and mortgage industries, started to carry out mortgage foreclosure eviction, throwing out millions of American families, landlord and tenant both, from their homes.

Banks and financial institutes lost billions of dollars due to vast amount of outstanding mortgage debt. Over $5 trillion in total market capitalization has been evaporated into air. With empty coffers, banks cannot lend anymore now. They no longer could borrow cheap money from the Federal Reserve for their survival and started declaring bankruptcy. A reduction in the supply of loanable funds and an increase in the demand for more loans created a unique situation that is described as ‘credit crunch’. Alan Greenspan, the former Federal Reserve boss has called the crisis that happens once in a century. In August 2007 the United States treasury department announced the housing bubble as "the most significant risk to our economy.”

This ‘most significant risk’ is derived from a basic contradiction of the capitalist economic system. With its fantastic productive capacity, capitalism generates overproduction that exceeds the population's consuming capacity. Long before, Karl Marx had defined capital as “dead labor”, which is “vampire-like, lives only by sucking living labor, and lives the more, the more labor it sucks.” Capitalism is basically built on wage exploitation where the wage earners can never earn adequate money to buy back their own produce. Uneven distribution of wealth leads to social inequalities and limits the purchasing power of common people.

The effect of the present turmoil is similar to all periodic boom-bust cycles of capitalist economy where credit expansion in the financial market creates an expanded but fabricated demand for a particular sector and most of the additional capital funds created by the credit expansion are also invested in the same sector. It temporarily raise wages and the prices of raw materials. Buying and selling sharply increases paralleling with the rise in asset prices. But at the same time money gets cheaper, loses its buying power and leads the economy towards inflation. Once the system slows down, stock markets decline due to a reduction in the money flow and assets available to fund business activities.

Business houses badly needs available fund to repay their debts. But now they can neither borrow from banks anymore as a consequence of the credit crunch. Nor can they raise funds by liquidating the securities they hold as share prices have fallen. They try to accumulate funds from their last option – the option of reducing expenditures or cost-cutting. Pink slips are handed over to workers and staff members; cost-cutting in production and sales activity reduces revenues. It subsequently diminish profits and their ability to repay their debts reduces further. Of course no one expects them to spend from the enormous surplus accumulated in their private vaults to stimulate the crisis. Thus, when the value and quantity of money reduces, it results in more bankruptcies.

For the moment, India has remained partly immune to the high magnitude global financial crises because the Indian financial sector has remained somewhat regulated and less liberalized compared to most capitalist economies. But there is nothing to rejoice as the worst is yet to come. We can be assured that if situation ‘demands’, the Government of India will also not hesitate to use taxpayer’s hard earned money to bail out business houses. In a capitalist economic system this merry-go-round of the unending ups and downs of boom and bust cannot be permanently eroded. Though capitalism is held up as the best model to emulate but far from being efficient, it has only promoted reckless speculation and greed. Time and again it has not only been proved to be a dangerous system to depend upon, the validity of the entire system is in danger today.

Over the past few years global economy has mainly been following and driven by the American neoliberal economic model. Developing countries like India is no exception as its political and apolitical bosses are trying hard to fit in with the international financial markets by emulating this model which they continue to believe as the best. Their apologists are bravely hoping that “in a few months capitalism will revive itself with some corrections because whatever its flaws, it remains the best way for countries and people to become rich and prosperous.” (Emphasis added) This is the true essence of capitalism – to become rich and prosperous, to become greedy. Capitalism is a vulgar system that teaches every individual that avarice, envy, gluttony and heartlessness are the essential attitudes to achieve self-progression.

The Indian upper and middle class have tasted blood. Who cares to look into the 2008 Global Hunger Index report which has exposed that 12 Indian states are suffering from ‘alarming’ levels of hunger? Who cares to know that more than 10 million children in India are malnourished and over 200 million people are insecure about their daily bread. They have learned to pretend that they ‘just doesn’t see’ and have devoted all their energy to be rich and prosperous. 33 to 50 per cent of the country's wealth is possessed by the top 10 per cent of India's population whereas an estimated 800 million of India's billion-plus people live on 50 US cents a day. Who cares to eradicate social inequalities and uneven wealth distribution? After all, what is the fun to be rich and prosperous if there are no poor around?

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Indian Muslims and terrorism: a short discourse

The majority section of Indian society, the ‘concerned’ Hindu citizens are demanding that the Indian Muslims must immediately start to speak out and take counteractive steps against the terrorist attacks instigated by fundamentalist and anti-national Muslim groups. They are outright critical about the attitude of common Muslims and Muslim organizations of the country for not doing enough to voice their protest and instead preferring to remain mere spectators of the spiteful events. They have raised a ‘valid’ question: is this not the ideal time for Indian Muslims to prove their loyalty to the Indian state? If they are honestly against these felonious acts of homegrown terrorists, if they genuinely feel that terrorists are demeaning the entire Muslim population and in the name of Islam destabilizing the Indian society, then why are they not coming out in flocks to express their concern? A lot of voices have been built up in favor of the above view. Therefore, it is worth probing the elements of this complicated topic in detail.

During the Partition of India in 1947, a substantial number of Muslim families decided to live in secular India instead of migrating to Islamic Pakistan. It was a difficult but cognizant decision, based largely on the official stand of the new Indian Government which wanted to be recognized as a secular state. The important part played by a significant section of their Hindu neighbors and friends must also be mentioned, those Hindus who did provide the required confidence and solace to their Muslim brothers and sisters to reside beside them. At that time it was not an easy decision for the compassionate Hindus either in front of large-scale killing and violence. Communal elements were present in both communities, feeding each other on an agenda of hatred and intolerance. The Partition dusts settled down in time but left a deep scar on the face of the newborn nation. Today’s younger generation of Muslims were born and brought up in a secular-democratic India and has little or no mental connection with the Partition period’s assault of communal violence on their ancestors. They live and share the democratic milieu of this country equally with their Hindu counterparts.

Is it then beyond question that by having an equal stake in the system with their Hindu counterparts, the present day Indian Muslims should have no basis to be apathetic to the country’s democratic values? To find an answer to that we should look into the actual conditions wherein majority of the Indian Muslims live.

As per 2001 census estimates, India has roughly 150 million Muslims, constituting 13.43 per cent of the Indian population. They represent the second largest Muslim population in the world, behind Indonesia (190 million) and just ahead of Pakistan (about 140 million). The Indian Muslim community is larger than the entire population of Arab Muslims (about 140 million). Despite such a huge presence, Indian Muslims by and large are living in appalling socio-economic conditions. All post-independence commissions set up by the Indian government in an effort to find out the social, economic and educational status of Muslims – from the 1983 Dr Gopal Singh Commission to the 2006 Rajinder Sachar Commission have shown a dismaying portrayal of the community. The latest report by Rajinder Sachar Commission has established the following disturbing statistics:

1. 48 per cent of Muslims older than 46 years age can't read or write. In the age group of 6 to 14 years, 25 per cent of Muslim children are either dropouts or have never attended school. As far as enrolment ratio in schools are concerned, the share of Muslim children is lower compared to the schedule caste and schedule tribes.

2. Primary, secondary and higher secondary – at every level the dropout ratio is the highest among Muslims. Only 3 per cent of Muslim children attend the madrasa. Out of the total Muslim population of around 14 crore, only about 4 crore Muslims have received some education — 192 lakh are educated till primary level, 105 lakh till secondary, 73 lakh till higher secondary and 24 lakh till graduate level. A large section among the Muslims is Urdu speaking, but the infrastructure to teach Urdu is miserable.

3. 52 per cent of Muslim men and 91 per cent Muslim women are unemployed. Representation of Muslims in government jobs is far below their proportion in total population. They hold only 7.2 per cent of government jobs and only 3.2 per cent of the jobs in the country's security agencies (namely, CRPF, CISF, BSF, SSB etc). In some states like Delhi, Tamilnadu, Bengal, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh, the percentage is even lower.

4. In towns that range in population between 50 thousand and 2 lakhs, Muslim per capita expenditure is less than that of scheduled castes and scheduled tribes.

5. Although they make up only 13.43 per cent of the total population, 40 per cent of the prison populations in India are Muslim.

Except if one utterly believes the Hindutva apologist’s propaganda that the Sachar Commission report is ‘full of prejudices’ and ‘politically motivated’, there should be little doubt from the above data, that the condition of common Muslims in India is not at all promising and needs a drastic change. Muslims in India have fallen behind the rest of the population, especially in employment opportunities and education. Large section of this Muslim populace is living under extreme poverty. In urban areas most of them are raised in ghettos near to posh neighborhoods, lacking the basic infrastructural facilities like clean water supply, sewage or sanitation system, banks and schools. In almost every three Muslim dominated villages, one does not have a school. Nearly 40 per cent of the Muslim dominated villages do not have proper roads, drinking water and health facility. A large section of ordinary Muslims are low status or downtrodden. A sizable section among them is former dalits, converted to Islam. Their conversion over the centuries has not helped them to realize any noticeable socio-economic uplift.

The Hindutva apologists obviously have very strong disagreement to this report as it has bluntly shatter their circulated myth about Muslim ‘appeasement’ by the ‘pseudo secular’ political class of this country. On the other hand, the report has also exposed that since independence, the main political parties have mostly ignored elevating the community in socio-economic terms. Time and again these political parties and leaders shed crocodile tears and in the excuse of ‘helping’ Muslims, compromise with the most reactionary elements among them. Time and again it was observed that these leaders and political parties erase out the community from their mind without actually carrying out any enduring benefit to them once their political goals are achieved.

From the education perspective, the situation of Muslims in India is rather depressing. From a very young age, Muslims who attend the madrasas (although only 3 per cent as per the Sachar report) receive orthodox religious teachings and throughout their lives earnestly follow it. The normal teaching trend in the madrasas is to minimize the intellectual and rational sciences and stress on purely religious orthodox disciplines, the dos and don’ts of Shariati laws and so on. The conditions of the dropouts or those who have never attended school (25 per cent as per the Sachar report) are even pathetic. They are the most wretched and deprived in the community, their outlook and values of life develop straight from their downcast and conventional social upbringing. The psyche of a larger section of young Muslims are shaped by these conventional and orthodox lessons of Islam, most of the time interpreted by the ulemas in such a way that learners are bound to incline towards a dogmatic approach in life, always suspicious to modern liberal values. The religious beliefs and practices form a blind faith on religion and thus it becomes easy for conservative minded religious Muslim leadership to draw the community's agenda in strictly religious terms, neglecting the importance of socio-economic empowerment of the community. Modern rationalistic approach towards life is absent in this rigid religious atmosphere. As a result, it becomes obligatory for the inhabitants to learn Urdu, the women to adopt veil, children to receive Islamic orthodox teachings and to grow up with all sorts of conservative values.

The role of Islamic organizations in India is also not beyond criticism. These organizations are less concerned about social and educational reforms but instead spend most of their energy and resources to organize the community in religious lines. By stressing on an identity related threat, they try to segregate the minds of common Muslims from secular lenience to religious fanaticism.

The increasing communal polarization of the Muslims has aggravated after the speedy growth of Hindutva ideology in Indian society following the Babri Masjid demolition on 6 December, 1992. This event and the subsequent communal propaganda set off by the hydra headed Sangh Parivar was responsible for strengthening the anti minority bias in all sections of Indian society and was successful to manage a parliamentary victory in the national elections for its political wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Upbeat after the electoral victory, the Parivar and its offshoots started to systemically unleash sporadic attacks on the minorities in many parts of the country and forced them to gradually segregate from the mainstream. While under direct or indirect communal attacks, the socially alienated ordinary Muslims cling more towards religion for comfort and support. Communal elements among the Muslim community have also added fuel to the fire. These elements equally contributed the increasing communal polarization and have stirred up a widely shared perception among the community that their identity is being undermined by the systemic propaganda and actions of Hindu communal forces. The degraded conditions of the ordinary Muslims were bit by bit gathering all the right ingredients for extremist Islamic ideology to spread its root among them.

Just when the Gujarat riots happened.

Immediately after the terrible incidence of Godhra train burning on 27 February 2002, Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi called it “a one-sided collective terrorist attack by one community”. The following day, his speech was broadcasted on Ahmedabad Doordarshan where he remarked, “…we will set an example that nobody, not even in his dreams, thinks of committing a heinous crime like this.” From 28 February onwards, in the pretext of the ‘terrorist’ label, Hindutva communal fanatics with the active support of the state police unleashed an unprecedented collective violence upon the entire Muslims in the state. The pogrom was like a moral compulsion to the perpetrators that their robust action was the right reaction to Godhra train burning and was essential to cleanse the Indian society from the evils of radical Islam – to ‘defend the Hindu religion’. Numerous Muslim houses, shops along with people were gutted; mosques and shrines were damaged or destroyed and in the place makeshift Hindu temples were built. The largescale violence did not spare women and children; wealth and status could not shield the victims. The chief minister, instead of controlling the situation justified the pogrom by saying “it was a spontaneous reaction of the people against the terrible events of Godhra”. According to official estimate, 1044 people were killed in the violence – 790 Muslims and 254 Hindus (including 58 victims of the Godhra train fire). 1,50,000 were left homeless.

Who were beside the victimized Muslims when Gujarat was burning? It was some Muslim voluntary groups and few social activists. On ground, not a single political party dared to confront the killers or has protected the traumatized Muslims. Literary critic and activist Ganesh Devy at that time had bitterly remarked, “There is no political or ideological divide in Gujarat on the Muslim question; even the Congress hates Muslims.” The government looked the other way when its healing touch was required the most. Under brutal attack perpetrated by the religious majority, the hapless Muslims cocooned into grungy relief camps for years and were fixed more ardently to their faith. This is a perfect time for fanatic ideas to creep in. There is always an immense possibility that extremist radical thought could infiltrate and influence the victims and their kith and kin, mostly youths, when they find their whole surroundings including the civil society, government agencies and the hate factories of vernacular media are totally against them only because they belong to a particular religion. A compassionate social attitude and a concerned government could have arrested this risk but it was an absurd expectation from a society completely polarized on religious line, where a mere 9.1 per cent are Muslims. Gujarat riots of 2002 were a slap in the face of a country which proclaims to be the biggest secular-democratic state of the world.

Gujarati Hindus are arrogantly proud for what they have done in the post Godhra days. ‘Gujarati Asmita' (Gujarati pride) was finally been legalized when the first part of justice G T Nanavati Commission report was made public recently. The report supported the chief minister’s claim that Godhra was a ‘terrorist conspiracy’. It also hinted to give a clean chit to the Gujarat government when it says that there was no evidence of any lapse on the state government’s part, “in providing protection, relief and rehabilitation to the victims of communal riots or in complying with the directions given by the National Human Rights Commission.” The Nanavati Commission exclusively adopted the version of the Gujarat government’s investigating officer Noel Parmar’s report in the Godhra train burning case. Interestingly, Parmar’s same report was earlier not accepted by the Supreme Court which on March, 2008 has ordered a fresh investigation of the post-Godhra violence. Earlier, two riot cases were transferred outside Gujarat to Maharashtra by the Supreme Court because the court understood that it is impossible for Muslim riot victims to get justice from the judiciary of Narendra Modi’s Gujarat.

No one in Gujarat now talks about or recalls the 2002 riots as if nothing of that sort has ever happened there. The events are supposed to be too ‘sensitive’ to talk about. The collective Gujarati mind has been shaped so perfectly by the Sangh Parivar’s systemic propaganda that even a mention about the riots is confronted with stiff resistance from the common people of Gujarat today. Even the most effected Muslims have adjusted with the situation and try hard to ‘forget’ about the carnage they faced. Instead, their keen effort now is to motivate themselves by the vibrant Gujarat dream.

Apart from the Muslims, India also comprises other minority groups like Christians, Sikhs and Zoroastrians (Parsis). In 1999, a missionary Graham Steins were burnt to death by Bajrang Dal goons along with his two minor sons in Orissa. The Christians were also targeted in Gujarat where similar incidents of church burning and brutal killing took place precisely like what is happening today in Orissa, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh. And why not? Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) Guru M. S. Golwalkar had marked out Muslims and Christians as ‘internal enemy No. 1 and 2’. Are they not ‘foreign invaders’ aimed to annihilate Hindus? The charge against Christians is for forcibly converting people. In the contrary, the census figures show that the number of Christians in India has dropped from 2.5 to 2.3 per cent. Guru Golwalkar had put in plain words that:

"The foreign races in Hindusthan must entertain no idea but those of the glorification of the Hindu race and culture, i.e. of the Hindu nation, and must lose their separate existence to merge in the Hindu race, or [they] may stay in the country, wholly subordinated to the Hindu nation, claiming nothing, deserving no privileges, far less any preferential treatment — not even citizen's rights." (M. S. Golwalkar: We, Our Nationhood Defined, 1939)

Today Guru Golwalkar’s loyal disciples, the VHP and the Bajrang Dal are just complying with this treatise. Minorities can live in India but only at the mercy of the Hindus. If they speak out about their grievances, their concerns and aspirations, they will be dubbed as ‘anti-national’ or humiliated as being ‘appeased’ too much. When Professor Mushirul Hasan, the Vice Chancellor of Jamia Millia Islamia University offers legal aid on behalf of the University to the students accused for terror acts, he is harshly blamed for ‘supporting’ terrorists. At that point the accusers completely close their eyes to the fact that it is a constitutional right of the accused students as citizens of India to be entitled for legal help until their crime is proved in a court. When the same Professor Hasan was targeted by Muslim fundamentalists when he took a stand against banning Salman Rushdie's controversial book Satanic Verses – the same people has hailed him for taking a courageous position.

Who is a terrorist? Those who meticulously plan and blast bombs in crowded public places, attack temples with automatic weapons and brutally kill innocent lives in the name of Islamic jihad or those who butcher innocent lives, violently evict the victims from their homes and turn them into refugees, rape the women, destroy mosques and burn churches in the name of Hindu nationalism? Both are dangerous, both are malicious. Both are foreign funded, both have their own versions to justify their acts. Both are terrorists.

The utter hypocrisy with a section of our so called ‘concerned’ and ‘patriotic’ middle class is that they consider all secular voices as pseudo secular and thinks that condemning both Islamic and Hindutva fanatics is like ‘falling in a trap’. They are severely critical against jihadi homegrown Muslims but covertly supportive to the fanaticism of the vicious Hindutva forces. After independence almost seven decades has passed but still they never miss a chance of Muslim bashing by relating them with the 61 years old Partition day mayhem of 1947. However, these very same people carefully ignore the 16 year old Babri Masjid demolition of 1992 and purposely forget the only 6 year old Gujarat pogrom days of 2002. It has also become their obligation to glorify the headship of Narendra Modi as the potential savior of India. Their perception of democracy is selective. Muslim terror in the name of Allah is loathsome, Hindu terror in the name of Ram is explicable.

Ordinary Muslims should realize that only a fresh liberal outlook acquired from modern education can elevate them from their misery and disorientation. The reasons behind their socio-economic backwardness in large parts of this country are primarily due to this social stagnation and educational marginalization. The Muslim youths today who have been motivated as jihadi and opts the terrorist path are truly misguided. The solution to homegrown terrorism mostly depends on how the state and society as a whole, efforts to do something about the grievances of common Muslims and thus prevent their youths to be misguided by lethal influences. The state and society should also realize that until provocation is barred and the rule of law is evenly established, the problem will persist and keep India susceptible to more serious damages in future.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

An elegy for Singur

After Mr. Ratan Tata's pullout of the Nano project from Singur was announced, the industry minister of Bengal expressed in a glum voice that he doesn’t feel like living in Bengal anymore. The chief minister is in acute pain and distress, has turned mute and preferred to stay aloof from the rest of the world. The industry bigwigs have said that the decision is the most regrettable incidence which has dampened the festive spirit of Sharodotsav, the biggest festival of Bengalis. A sizeable section of the well wishers of Bengal are deeply sad. Particularly hopeless are the ‘willing’ farmers of Singur who has given their land, received the compensation and invested the money in small business projects largely depending on the Nano factory. With heavy hearted sadness from a devastated dream, an overall bleak mood looms large over this ill-fated state. For years to come, Bengal will have very little left to pride about itself before the world.

According to soil experts, the land inside the abandon Nano site will no longer be suitable for agriculture. Even if land is returned to the unwilling farmers (which is a distant possibility), the most optimistic and diligent among them will not be able to grow crops there in near future. No one will anymore be interested to purchase this infertile land from them even for purposes other than farming as after the exit of Tata, Singur will certainly have no significant land value. The land price will drop rapidly. The large number of 10852 farmers/landowners who have accepted compensation will also not be able to repurchase their once sold land as the money they received from compensation must have been already invested or used for setting up small trades. Where will they get the extra money to repurchase? Even the prospect of a new trade will diminish. Therefore, it is amply clear that the entire economy of Singur will be ruined. The collapse of hope among the inhabitants will generate a grave socio-economic problem even more than today’s. From a land of ecstasy it will now turn into a land of despair. Also as a section of the media predicts, Singur now appears headed toward a full-scale conflict between those who had given up their land for a dream of a better tomorrow with those who believed and followed Mamata Banerjee and her friends in the hope of squeezing out more compensation from the government.

The August 2006 Planning Commission report (Report of working group on Automotive Industry, Eleventh five year plan 2007-2012) says that the automobile industry today is providing direct and indirect employment to 1.31 crore people in India. Currently the industry employs 200,000 persons in vehicle manufacturing, 250,000 in component companies and 10 million at different levels of value chain – both through backward and forward linkages. The expected growth in the investments and output of India’s automotive sector during the next 5 years will create further employment opportunities in the country. Additional 15 million jobs are likely to be created by way of both direct and indirect employment in automotive companies and in other parts of the vehicle value chain such as servicing, repairs, sales and distribution chains. The employment opportunities would be in production for both skilled and unskilled laborers.

There are around 80 lakhs registered jobless youths in Bengal today. Sixty five per cent of them are educated and a large number of them are coming from villages. What will be the number of jobless youths in 2012? If no new jobs are created in the state, the number will reach near to a crore, as the numbers of registered jobless are growing by 4 to 4.5 lakhs per year in the state. Where will these educated jobless youths earn their living from? Obviously, they will be forced to move out mostly to industrially advanced states like Gujarat, Tamilnadu, Maharashtra and Delhi. Will the economy of Bengal be able to survive only by farming and fishing? The alarming reality of uncertain job prospect for the rapidly growing number of unemployed was the basis why the Bengal government earnestly thought to give so much importance to the Nano project. The government, the chief minister, the industry minister worked overtime to obtain this project because they knew that it will open the floodgate of employment opportunities for its younger generation. Now after the exit of Tata, it is for sure, no one will even imagine putting up an automobile plant in the state. It is extremely doubtful that something like the Nano project is going to be repeated there in the near future. Investments in other projects will also get hampered as investors will not want to take the risk of investing in a state where any project could be stalled by the whims of an irresponsible opposition.

The quarrel between agriculture and industry was not the actual reason behind the Singur crisis. Neither was it about ‘forceful’ land acquisition for industry. All the ideological and ethical rhetoric instigated by professed sociologists and academics on this topic, all the crocodile tears for agriculture was simply bogus. Total land acquired for the Singur plant was 0.007 per cent of Bengal’s total agricultural land. This paltry amount of land cannot make a devastating impact on the agricultural future of Bengal. The propagators of this opinion are either idiots or deceitful. The crisis was structured by malevolent political minds, by stimulating a rotten greed to seize more money from selling farmland. There would have been no agitation or protests, no Mamata Banerjee factor, no guest appearances by Medha Patkar or Amar Singh, no revolutionary aggression staged by Anuradha Talwar or the Maoists if Tata Motors had directly bought land from the farmers. All ‘unwilling’ farmers would have at once turned ‘willing’ the moment their pockets were filled adequately. The romanticism of farming would have vanished in the blue. Post land reform Bengal, the farmers are not so stupid as many of us think they are.

Mr. Ratan Tata has said in his press conference that, “Two years ago, I said if somebody puts a gun to my head, you would either have to remove the gun or pull the trigger. I would not move my head. I think Ms Banerjee pulled the trigger.”

Mr. Tata is right. The triggered bullet has brutally killed a pulsating hope. The hope for a prosperous future of Bengal. A hope to create employment prospects for its younger generation and be proud to accommodate a unique automobile project of international importance. By pulling the trigger, Mamata Banerjee and friends has callously killed the Bengal dream for a better tomorrow.

Time has come now to firmly confront the killers. Time has come to nail each of them one by one who have destroyed the dream for a resurgence of Bengal. It could be someone within or outside Bengal. It could be a dubious central government representative temporarily stationed in Bengal. It could also be the invisible sponsor/sponsors of the agitation in Singur “from where the funds and logistic support came from''.

Whoever they may be, the time has come now for all who are still concerned for the state to look straight into their eyes and roar - enough is enough.