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Indian nationalism cannot be anti-Hindu

Indian nationalism cannot be anti-Hindu

Rediff on Net
April 10, 2000
Title: Indian nationalism cannot be anti-Hindu
Author: Sandhya Jain
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: April 11, 2000.

Even as the Centre dithers over whether or not to bring out a White Paper on ISI activities in India and whether or not to call a halt to the Samjhauta Express and Lahore bus service which have seriously compromised the country's security and the integrity of its currency, Congress president Sonia Gandhi has once again displayed a painful insensitivity to the nation' s travails. At a public meeting in Rai Bareilly last week, organized to refurbish her image in the aftermath of a serious setback in the recent Rajya Sabha elections, Ms. Gandhi needlessly upped the ante on the Uttar Pradesh government's Religious Places Bill which requires the prior permission of the district collector before constructing mosques, particularly along the state's long and sensitive border.

Claiming that the bill was aimed at curbing the religious freedom of the minorities, she censoriously intoned "I had written to the President not to give his assent to the Bill" (The Pioneer, 9 April 2000). I may be prejudiced, but she certainly made it sound as though the President, having received his instructions, would lamely comply with her directive, ignoring the innocent lives lost daily to terrorist activities and giving short shrift to the serious concerns of the security agencies that are struggling to grapple with the ISI menace. What is worse, Ms. Gandhi has revealed that she has instructed the Congress governments in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, which had previously enacted identical legislations under similar compulsions, to "amend the laws suitably if they are creating any hindrances in the religious practices of the minorities."

It is, of course, too much to expect Sonia Gandhi, with her poor grip over affairs in her own party, to understand the severity of the threat from Pak-sponsored terrorism. But given her slavish commitment to the politics of her communist friends, she could at least have taken a leaf from the book of the ruling Left Front in West Bengal. The Jyoti Basu government has recently reacted with alarm to a secret survey that reports an "unreasonably high" proliferation of mosques and seminaries along the huge Indo-Bangladesh border.

The Border Security Forces are said to have recorded the existence of an astonishing four hundred and four seminaries and three hundred and sixty-eight mosques in one small town in Nadia district alone (The Pioneer, 1 April 2000). Islamic fundamentalist groups setting up bases in the border areas reportedly use these buildings for shelter, and the West Bengal government has felt sufficiently concerned to decide to implement a fifteen-year-old law that forbids the unauthorized construction of places of worship. This is a wise decision and needs to be commended. Indeed, the state would do well to seriously investigate the sources of the finances used for such an amazing number of structures to come up in the first place. The services of the income tax authorities could also be profitably utilized in this respect.

Perhaps out of deference to Jyoti Basu's susceptibilities, Signora Gandhi has maintained silence on his government's compulsions. But she has delivered a body blow to the polity at large by projecting the proliferation of mosques and seminaries intended as sanctuaries for ISI's nefarious activities against the Indian State and people, as an issue of the religious freedom of one community. This horribly warped definition of secularism will needlessly provoke minority communities into believing that their religious freedom is co-terminus with virulently anti-Hindu postures and activities, when there is no legitimate basis for such a futile confrontation between the communities. This is an issue on which all citizens and political parties need to introspect with honesty and sincerity.

First and foremost, we need to face the fact that the territory of Kashmir is not the crux of our problem with Pakistan. It is only Pakistan's excuse for intervention in our internal affairs. Secondly, we must admit that though the massacre of Hindus in the valley leaves us unmoved, the recent butchery of Sikhs has left no scope for doubt that what is happening in Kashmir is at par with what the Dalai Lama (referring to events in Tibet) calls "cultural genocide."

My point is that if the territory of Kashmir were the only dispute between India and Pakistan there would not be any need for the ISI to establish such a formidable presence in virtually every Indian state. Yet it is nobody's case that the ISI operates only in Kashmir. Its presence is agitating the state governments of West Bengal, Assam, the entire north-east, Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Bihar, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and distant Kerala. Even the Nepalese government has woken up to its menacing presence along the Indo-Nepal border in the wake of last year's hijacking of the Indian Airlines IC-814, which led to the savage murder of a young man on his honeymoon, and the abject surrender of three dreaded terrorists in lieu of the hostages' lives.

Can any right-minded citizen say that India is not horrendously encircled and infiltrated by this menace? And can anyone honestly deny that we are under attack because the culture and civilization we represent is anathema to those across the border? Contrast our own somnolescence with the attitude of the Chinese government. According to uncontradicted reports in the press, Chinese Muslims receiving training in terrorist camps run by Pakistan were gunned down in cold blood by soldiers of the Pakistan government, at the instance of their Chinese counterparts. Obviously, for strategic reasons, the Pakistan government has preferred to humour that Government of non-believers (in any God), but India has no such leverage with the Pakistanis.

We are fighting a war in which the bugles do not blow, but nevertheless the blood runs. And more and more blood is being shed each day. We cannot expect to turn the tide if we do not put our own house in order. There is a need for all political parties to rise above petty vote bank politics, and rather, to educate their Muslim constituents to have no truck with anti-social elements across the border. At a time when the nation is in such grave peril, the least that mature politicians can do is to eschew a definition of secularism that is obscene and narrow, and encourages communities to view the nation in terms of 'us' and 'them.' Each political party owes it to the nation to enunciate clearly its stand on the issue of ISI infiltration. Indeed, it would be wonderful if an all-party consensus could be worked out, but I would hesitate to recommend that the Vajpayee government initiative a move in this direction, given the propensity of some politicians to abuse the issue for petty gains.

Political commentators have performed as badly as politicians in this regard, mindlessly raising the discredited bogey of the enforcement of cultural uniformity on the minorities. The truth is that the Hindu community has never imposed its way of life on any community or people at any time in its history, and is not doing so even today. It is true that a growing number of citizens feel, quite legitimately in my view, that the nation's foundational ethos should derive from its ancient and living civilization. Perhaps this is not the time to settle this issue. One thing, however, is certain. And that is that if India is to survive as a nation, we can no longer endorse a definition of nationalism that is constructed in anti-Hindu terms.
 



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