Saffron terror

In South Asia on 8. January 2011 at 16:16

Samjhauta, which means compromise, is the name of a railway express that runs between Delhi in India and Lahore in Pakistan. The express became active after the 1972 Shimla agreement between the two nations after the bloody war of 1971. Thus the Samjhauta Express became a symbol of peace which was and still is highly valued by the citizens of both sister nations. Such symbols are on the other hand easy targets for groups and interests who do not favor dialogue but rather want a full escalated war. In 2007 two improvised explosives devises was detonated and killed nearly 70 persons, most of whom were Pakistani citizens on their way back to Pakistan.

Pakistani authorities reacted surprisingly mature and made it clear not to let such events destroy a peace effort. The immediate reaction of the Indian conservative (and part time right-wing) opposition party BJP was that terrorist groupings operating in Kashmir and with backing and training on Pakistani soil were behind the attacks. With the attack on Indian Parliament just some weeks earlier by militants operating in Kashmir it was not difficult to convince the public about such a scenario. But there were also indications of a local Indian element involved in the whole bombing which made the investigation of high importance for Indian and Pakistani media.

Recently a planner of the attack confessed to the crime. Swami Aseemanand a extremist Hindu affiliated with the Hindu nationalist (to some degree fascist) Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) said that the Hindu nationalist organization Abihnav Bharat was behind the attack and that he was the mastermind of the attack with the help of some radical supporters. Radical Hindu organizations screamed right away after the confessions that it was a deep conspiracy led by the governmental Congress Party, a typical knee-jerk reaction by extremists and their supporters which are quite popular across the border in Pakistan as well. This could be a bell to the Pakistani authorities to do something in order to put their homegrown terror organizations on trial and behind bars. One start could be the Jamaat-Ud-Daawa (alias of Lashkar-e-Tayyaba) which is supposedly behind the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks.

How on earth could the pacifist Hindu message manage to create terrorists one would ask? Answer is simple, terrorism has no faith. The political specter of India is dominated by the Indian National Congress (INC) a centre-left party which has been in government most of the time since India’s independence. Its main rival is the centre-right Bharat Janata Party (BJP) a revival of earlier conservative parties and groupings. BJP and likeminded parties have support among the social conservative masses. Hindu nationalist organizations united under the banner of Sangh Parivar (Family of associations) do have a big chunk by these masses. The Sangh Parivar is led by RSS and have the aim to reduce western influence as a result of globalization. In addition it wants to assimilate the Indian Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Sikhs and other minor religions to a Hindufied version so as to revive an ancient almost Vedic world where Hinduism is the sole culture and influence in the society.

Such an origin is not rear. Muslim extremist and reactionary organizations too grew up as a result of their fear of losing the faith due to increased western influence in their societies. And as is normal in human nature, some do not find popular movements to be enough, they want immediate action and therefore tend to support violence as a means to support the goal. Indian Hindu revivalist movements have grown so strong that their political wing the BJP has been in government several times, last time led by the government of Atal Bihari Vajpayee who left the office to current Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in 2004. One should be careful with comparing a national political party with a terrorist organization. But just as radical leftist groupings in India and earlier in Europe the right-wing groupings have been a springboard for extremists to launch their own terror organizations. In addition, it is a political reluctance among the right-wing parties and groupings to accept that there is such a problem within the Hindu camp as well. This surely encourages the growth of militant attitude and gives confidence and support to its members in the society. It should be noted that BJP do have some elements of the Hindu nationalist party Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha which was linked to the assassin of the symbol of non-violence Mohandas Ghandi.

BJP have produced a good administration, at least during their last stint when INC had become too much of an arrogant party which have since independence been pushed into one corruption scandal after the other. Smaller regional political allies have during the years started to drop off and some have even splinted the party to form their own factions. The culture of nepotism is also much widespread and the Nehru-Ghandi Dynasty is a clear symbol for the critics on this. BJP on the other hand became a clear cleaner alternative, at least as long as it was not in any governmental position. Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Lal Kishenchand Advani and Jaswanth Singh are all able politicians who probably were more eager for peace with Pakistan than their opponents during the late 90s. In addition, Mr. Vajpayee won great support among India’s Sikh community following his belief that Congress Party was partly responsible for pogroms on the Sikhs following the assassination of Indira Ghandi by here Sikh bodyguard. Yet, the premise of the BJP to come in a governmental position is the support of Hindu revivalist organizations of which some had elements of being fascists.

The communal violence in Gujarat state where Hindus and Muslims started an evil spiral of tit-for-tat violence was a clear example of the BJPs commitment to the RSS and its likeminded VHP. The BJP led government in Gujarat at that time showed great neglect to handle the issue and security officials stood by as pacifists during the early days of the violence. The VHP demands the secular Indian state to be a declared a “Hindu” state in where local religions as Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists is considered a part of the bigger Hindu family, while Christianity and most of all Islam should and is looked upon as the arch enemy and a invading force. VHP with its militant wing Bajrang Dal have been engaged in fueling the anger during communal tensions where Muslim terrorist organizations have answered or sometimes triggered such events as well. In the middle, the poor Hindu and Muslim masses gets squeezed in their daily struggle for food and a decent life.

Ignorant masses are easy to lead. Such was the case in 1992 when hardliner Hindu leaders gathered supporters in Allahabad (City of God) to raze down the historic Babri Mosque, built by the first Mughal emperor Zahiruddin Babur as he consolidated his power in the late 15th century. As was the custom back then, the victor would eliminate previous ruler’s symbols to mark their own victory and make a symbol for themselves. The mosque was allegedly build on the razed complex of a Hindu temple built on what by some is considered the birth place of the Hindu god Krishna. Recent court verdict on this issue is quite controversial for a secular state as India. The Allahabad High Court decided to separate the Masjid/Mandir complex into three parts where one went to a Muslim trust, one to a Hindu Nationalist organization while the last part to a smaller Hindu sect. This is a clear indication that India is turning away from its secular principles on which it fought for independence from the British. Instead of punishing those behind the razing of the mosque, the court actually awards a part of the complex to those behind the acts.

Shiv Sena (Army of Shiva) is a party launched by the charismatic right-wing politician and Hindu leader Balasaheb Thackeray during the late 60s. Its main base is in Maharashtra, one of the biggest states in terms of population, size and economy. Due to high electoral representation in the Lok Sabha (National Assembly/Lower House) from Maharashtra, Shiv Sena manages to give BJP a good chunk of support for their ambitions to once again win Delhi. Despite the state being in control under INC since independence, Shiv Sena have managed to mark one period with power and have also managed to be a laudable opposition.

The party did early nurture a Marathi nationalist uprising and shunned the other ethnicities in the state. Especially was the case in the multiethnic Mumbai. In recent times, Shiv Sena have ridden the same tide as VHP and RSS and taken a nationwide approach. It has now embraced Hindu nationalism and targets Muslims and Christians as a damaging force to the “original” Hindu culture. Thackeray himself have come up with many controversial remarks, among them is his high admiration for Adolf Hitler as a great organizer. It seems like his admiration for Hitler is his ability to gather the masses, Thackeray wants himself to be in that position and have even signaled that a dictator would be better for India. Such parties have connections to political parties at national level. Such is not good for the religious and ethnic harmony at all.

The Sub continental society is a great mixture of different ethnicities and religious influences. It has great historic experience of living in harmony and has shown great tolerance to new ideas and impulses. Yet some early rulers as Maharajas and Sultans have used ethnicity and religion as ways of tools to win land and subject so the tax base is widened. This continues till date in Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and India where communal violence based on ethnicity and religion have grown by the years. The Sufi shrine of Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti in Ajmer, India is visited by both Hindus and Muslims. The Hindu deity in Sindh, Pakistan Jhulelal is both revered by Hindus and Muslims of the area. Such is the case with most of the shrines and common places where great social events and festivals take place. This historic peace between communities is under danger from the right-wing organizations that use Islam and Hinduism to make an artificial society. The average and overall Muslim and Hindu do shun terrorism, and is furious about their faith being connected with such brutal acts. One can agree that terrorism has no religion, but terrorists often have a religion which they use as a guideline and motivation.

Let it be clear that it is no wrong in being social conservative, moderate, liberal or socialist. But as one has chosen or do sympathies with one specific set of values, it is partly the individuals own responsibility that such values do not get hijacked by extreme elements. For this political parties do need to realize how they earn support and what consequences it has for the society. It is about time we free our faiths from the clutches of these hijackers. In the meantime Indian consumers (no matter what faith they belong to) are worried of the 5 rupee price hike on onions due to Pakistan’s stop in export to stabilize the price for its own domestic market.

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