Tuesday, September 24, 2002

The Growing Tide of Hindu Fundamentalism
I was reading today many articles about the attack on Akshardham in Gandhinagar, India--the capital of Gujarat. I found it quite odd, that the Times of India, on their webpage, had listed a warning of sorts to the citizens fo Gujarat. In a separate box, entitled TOI COMMENT the editors, I assume, of the TOI advise the people of Gujarat to "Stay calm and be alert. That is the only suggestion that could be given to the people of Gujarat at this point in time. Given Gujarat’s recent tendency of flaring up on communal lines, maintaining one’s sanity and not getting provoked are of paramount importance. The attack is definitely a body blow for the government, which has been focussing on combating terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir. The condemnable attack is perhaps timed to US diplomat Christina Rocca’s visit to New Delhi."

I am sure they, much like the rest of India fears the revival of communal violence that marred Gujarat and India from February through June of 2002. This box attached to the story, and more so this article by Arundhati Roy in the Nation magazine has made me think of the current religio-political climate that has erupted in India in recent years. It seems that Hinduism is beginning to go the way of the Abrahamic traditions and begin to prosthelytize to others on the merits of Hinduism. To me, one of the most interesting things about this religion, is that Hindus did not push their religion on others, or try and convert others to join this faith. Slowly this is changing and one must ask the question why.

It seems that this rise is happening to counter the growing tide of both Islamic and Christian fundamentalist movements (more so, I would say Islam than Christianity), has contributed to the increasing militantcy of the Hindu's in India and around the world. I guess if one wanted to, they could make a jihadi comparison to the Bhagavad Gita--Arjuna, at the behest of Lord Krishna fighting against even his guru. Despite this, one of modern HInduism's greatest assets was its ability to be tolerant. What saddens me is that many of India's Hindu's have lost this vision. This not only saddens me, it scares me.

As Roy writes in her article,

"As many as 100,000 people, driven from their homes, now live in refugee camps. Women were stripped and gang-raped, and parents were bludgeoned to death in front of their children. In Ahmedabad, the former capital of Gujarat and the second-largest industrial city in the state, the tomb of Wali Gujarati, the founder of the modern Urdu poem, was demolished and paved over in the course of a night. The tomb of the musician Ustad Faiyaz Khan was desecrated. Arsonists burned and looted shops, homes, hotels, textile mills, buses and cars. Hundreds of thousands have lost their jobs.
Across Gujarat, thousands of people made up the mobs. They were armed with petrol bombs, guns, knives and swords. Apart from the VHP and Bajrang Dal's usual lumpen constituency, there were Dalits (untouchables) and Adivasis (indigenous peoples), who were brought in on buses and trucks. Middle-class people participated in the looting. (On one memorable occasion, a family arrived in a Mitsubishi Lancer.) The leaders of the mob had computer-generated lists marking out Muslim homes, shops and businesses. They used mobile phones to coordinate the action. They had not just police protection and police connivance, but also covering fire. The cooking-gas cylinders they used to burn Muslim homes and establishments had been hoarded weeks in advance, causing a severe gas shortage in Ahmedabad.

Like her, I am a secularist, and yes, I condemn the burning of the train compartments at Godhra. But, I condemn even more, the massive violence perpetrated in REVENGE by Hindu mobs against their fellow Indians. I condemn the inaction of the Indian government in allowing the violence to occur. I condemn L.K. Advani and the RSS and the rest of the Sangh Parivar for attempting to excuse the mobs' actions. There is a climate of hate growing in India, a climate that needs to cool, or else, the secularism that has grown to be a pillar of Indian democracy, will turn into the intolerance that was seen in Afghanistan.


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