Hindu dharma is implicitly at odds with monotheistic intolerance. What is happening in India is a new historical awakening... Indian intellectuals, who want to be secure in their liberal beliefs, may not understand what is going on. But every other Indian knows precisely what is happening: deep down he knows that a larger response is emerging even if at times this response appears in his eyes to be threatening.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Whither, ‘secularists’?

The Asian Age India | Balbir K. Punj

The same day Begum Zareen, Pervez Musharraf's mother visited her alma mater Aligarh Muslim University, Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi was denied a diplomatic visa (and deprived of his business/tourist visas) by the United States. This, of course, was plain coincidence, but the historic irony could not be greater. Modi's tourist/business visa was revoked under Section 212(a)(2)(G) of the Immigration and Nationality Act of the US which makes any government official who was responsible for, or directly carried out at any time, particularly severe violations of religious freedom, ineligible for visa. Begum Zareen, on the other hand, was given a red carpet welcome at the AMU, which was the epicentre of the Pakistan movement in pre-Partition India.

M.J. Akbar in his book Nehru: The Making of India, said: "His (Sir Syed Ahmed Khan's) vision was controlled and conditioned by the religious divide, the only relieving feature being that he was utterly sincere and dedicated to the Muslim cause. Consciously or unconsciously, he created the groundwork for community-based politics, with all its attendant consequences. It is no surprise that his college at Aligarh became the intellectual cauldron for the ideas which later created Pakistan" (P.17).

Hasn't somewhere the circle turned full as the mother of a Pakistani head of state is being hosted by the Aligarh Muslim University and the media is waxing eloquent about it?

The creation of Pakistan was accompanied by the ethnic cleansing of the Hindus and the Sikhs, who, as per the 1941 Census, made up one-fifth of its demography. Yet, its Premier, Liaquat Ali Khan, was given a gala welcome in the US in April, 1950. His visit was more successful than that of Nehru in October, 1949, and became the cornerstone of lasting US-Pak relations throughout the Cold War. Unlike in West Pakistan, a substantial population of Hindus was left in East Pakistan. The Pakistani establishment continually abetted their purge. It was with this objective in mind that the severe genocides of 1950 and 1964 were engineered.

In 1971, the Pakistani Army began a crackdown on a nascent Bangladeshi uprising at midnight March 25-26. One of its first descriptions incidentally came from a US diplomat: "Consul-general Archer Blood, senior US diplomat in Dacca, cabled Washington at the time to report the ‘mass killing of unarmed civilians, the systematic elimination of the intelligentsia, and the annihilation of the Hindu population'" (P. 156 Zulfi Bhutto of Pakistan, His Life and Times by Stanley Wolpert). The pogrom unleashed at the instance of Pakistani President Yayha Khan lasted until December when Bangladesh was liberated with the help of Indian Army. Three million people perished in it, out of which, 2.5 million were Hindus, who were a minority of around 15 per cent; 80 per cent of the 10 million who took refuge in India, were also Hindus. Yet the Nixon administration condoned this massive human tragedy and maintained a pro-Pakistani stance.

The best unofficial estimate put the death toll in the Gujarat riots at 2,000. Armchair aficionados of world peace term it as "genocide" (even "Holocaust"), link Modi with Hitler, and the RSS with the Nazi party. They conveniently hide the fact that one-fourth of those who perished in the post-Godhra riots were Hindus, and so were 40 per cent of those displaced. First, why is this fact being concealed? But more importantly, can the killing of 2,000 people be equated with the killing of reportedly six million people in the Nazi extermination camps?

The Jews comprised a mere 1 per cent of Germany during the Holocaust. Muslims are not so insubstantial a minority in Gujarat, let alone in the entire India. Jewish children did not study in madrasas where concepts of jihad and kafir were ingrained in young minds. Physical violence (let alone with religious overtones) was not something associated with Jews. In the Gujarat riots, like in most other previous riots of India, the first provocative act of violence came from the Muslim minority, and not the Hindu majority. A peaceful or scarred minority is not expected to mobilise an armed mob of 1,500 plus people to torch a train.

Caches of illegal arms and ammunition were recovered from Muslim houses (but not Hindu houses) during the riots. The Gujarat police recovered caches of arms from Muslim localities during the Jagannath rathyatra in 2002. But no rocket launchers, mortar shells, or guns were there with Hindus. Is this genocide?

Six thousand Sikhs were massacred all over India by the "secularists," half of them in Delhi, in 1984. This is a huge figure when compared against the total Sikh population. But no "secularist" cried genocide. Then Union home minister Narasimha Rao twiddled his thumbs. Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi rationalised the killings with his infamous quote "when a big tree falls, the ground around it shakes." A Sikh President, Giani Zail Singh was helplessly telephoning local BJP leaders to save his beleaguered community. It was the RSS swayamsevaks who did their level best to rescue Sikh families. Atal Behari Vajpayee risked his life to save Sikh taxi drivers in front of his residence. Rajiv Gandhi later paid his memorable visit to the US in 1986.

But visit the website of Coalition against Genocide (CAG), the organisation that is behind the cancellation of the visa to Modi. It is claimed to be an umbrella forum of 38 organisations. Of course, four Leftists are enough to float six letter-head organisations under different names. It will be interesting to ask if 2,000 deaths had attracted 38 organisations, how many would it take for 2.5 million Bangladeshi Hindus?

Liberated as a secular country in 1971, Bangladesh in 1988 became an avowedly Islamic country. The fundamentalists started openly declaring that either everybody will have to accept Islam or leave Bangladesh. During Gen. Ershad's reign, between 1981 and 1989, 3.6 million Hindus left Bangladesh. A large number of Buddhist Chakmas (and their sister tribes, collectively called Jumma) had to take refuge in India. Where was the CAG then?

The CAG has charged Modi with the cliché of "Final Solution," a phrase borrowed from the Nazi lexicon. But they are completely silent where the "Final Solution" has actually taken place: Pakistan and the Kashmir Valley which have been cleansed of Hindus. Bangladesh will be cleansed of its non-Muslim population by 2020. On the one hand there is merely accusation, but no evidence, but on the other, there is fait accompli, but yet no accusation by the "secularists." This is really strange.

The Gujarat riots were neither the first, nor the worst, nor will prove to be the last riots in India. Given India's 1,000 years of experience of Islam, it will be puerile to conclude otherwise. India, at the time of partition, gave away 30 per cent of its territory to Muslims who comprised around 25 per cent of the population. Had the Muslims migrated to Pakistan, as envisaged by the leaders of the Muslim League, there would have been mutual peace. In fact, all Muslim League leaders had envisaged "exchange of population" as means for the "Final Solution" and lasting communal peace. But the overwhelming majority of Muslims from residual India stayed back to multiply at a faster rate than the non-Hindu population. Today, we are arguably worse off than in pre-partition times. India is arguably inching towards a civil war situation. The US based CAG should take cognisance of the ground reality in India by standing at the flashpoints.

The US' own track record of respecting "human rights" outside the US is also horrible. But the US denying Modi visa will only fortify the morale of the pan-Islamic Jihadis. It will pander to the likes of those who carried out 9/11.

Balbir K. Punj is a Rajya Sabha MP and convener of the BJP's think tank. He can be contacted at
© 2005 The Asian Age


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