Gujarat: Symptoms of Hindu NationRam PuniyaniChandra Mohan, a gifted art student of the faculty of arts of Sayajirao Giakwad University,Baroda had to be in jail for five days (May 2007) for the crime of painting an assignment for hisdegree. The problem was that the painting he made was not to the liking of the BJP camp. Whenthe display of the paintings was going on for assessment by the teachers, BJP leader, Neeraj Jainattacked the exhibition with his band of supporters. The police put Chandra Mohan behind thebars, Neeraj Jain, who had violated the law by entering the university came out with a sense ofpride for saving, protecting the honor of his religion or a religion, which is the base of his party.As the matters unfolded the students of the University peacefully protested against this breach oftheir right to learn and against the false implication of one of their fellow students by thebarbarians in the garb of religion. The Vice Chancellor of Baroda university, Manoj Soni who iswedded to the politics of the ruling BJP and more particularly to Narendra Modi, gave ordersthat the demonstration by students should not be permitted. The Dean of Arts faculty, arenowned art historian felt it is too much to stifle the students right for peaceful protest,permitted them the protest, and he was suspended. To add salt to the injury the pro-ViceChancellor got the display of students paintings removed from the spot where they wereprotesting.In the bizarre happenings at one of the most prestigious Universities of the state of Gujarat, theculprit was projected as the hero by the ruling BJP, while those who were merely doing theiracademic explorations, something for which universities are meant for, found themselves eitherbehind the bars or suspended from their job. Interestingly Neeraj Jain of BJP is one of theaccused in the Gujarat carnage of 2002 and Soni, VC is one of the Modi acolytes, a symptom ofrot which has set in to the educational system of Gujarat. A small but dominant section ofpopulation in Gujarat upholds the actions of VC and arrest of student artist and suspension ofDean of arts faculty.In another incident, in order to prevent the CBI inquiry into the cold blooded murder ofSoharabuddin, by a team of police officials led by the Modi favorite Vanzara, the murder ofSoharabuddins wife Kausar Bano and Tulsiram Prajapati, the police informer, the GujaratGovernment admitted that its police officials have committed the crime. Vanzara, who todayowns the properties running into millions, was showered with rose petals by the section of peoplewhen he was being taken to be produced in the court.Just a moth ago the, the film which sensitively portrays the Gujarat carnage, Perzania, whichwas duly cleared by the censor board, was not screened by the owners of cine theaters because ofthe fear that their theaters may be damaged by the goons, wearing saffron clothes. Similarlyanother film Faana was not released in Gujarat on similar grounds as the theater owners fearedthat people are opposed to Aamir Khan, who had openly sympathized with Narmada BachaoAndolan and the cause of those displaced by the dam. It is interesting that in most of theincidents there is a blatant tendency to suppress the basic democratic norm and the level ofapparent acceptance for such acts from the dominant section of society is very high.It is not that Gujarat is the only state with such violations of democratic and civic norms. Thereare gradations of these patterns, from the mild violations to the severe ones like those citedabove. And surely as far as the gross violations and that too the ones related to minoritycommunity are concerned, Gujarat is the worst state without any shadow of doubt. In other BJPruled states like MP, Rajasthan and Chattisgarhg also, the violations are of severe degree, stillthey do not match with the ones in Gujarat. In Gujarat, at all the levels from top to bottom andin most of the arenas of social and political life one can see the intense aggression of oppressive
religion based ideology, opposing the little and big issues where the freedom of ex-pression ordemocratic rights of people are concerned.From these instances various things become more than clear. To begin with the state machinery,the educational institutions are heavily communalized. This Vice Chancellor, who normallyshould have protected the student of his University for fulfilling the academic obligation, butchose to let the police arrest his own student, is a comparatively young faculty who has beenelevated to the highest level of the academic prestige because he wrote a book in defense of Modiin Gujarat genocide. The rot in the educational system, the infiltration of communal elements inthe positions of power is more than obvious from the case of Mr. Soni.Police acting as an onlooker and arresting the student, the victim, and letting the culprits take thelaw in their hands is reflective of the communal mind set and the type of instructions they mustbe getting from the top leadership. The attack by these goons and their defense by a section onthe ground that our sentiments are hurt show the type of communal common sense prevalent inthe state.What is new about Soharabuddins killing? So many fake encounters, so many high handed actsof law breaking by those supposed to be upholders of law. So many such incidents in so manyother states. The striking features of this encounter killing are that, one, not only the criminal buthis wife was also killed in cold blood. Secondly, the pretext of terrorists coming to kill Modi, theHindu Hriday Samrat (emperor of Hindu Hearts) has been used to eliminate people once again.And three, the honor showered on Vanzara, have we heard before that these criminal in khakihaving patronage of those in the seats of power are showered with rose petals while being takento the court? Thats what Gujarat is becoming, thoroughly communalized, the communalcommon sense being the dominant thought pattern of sections of society, and politics stronglyunder the sway of RSS ideology.While the acts of attacking cinema theaters, attacking art exhibitions, stopping musical concertshas been heard before as an occasional phenomenon, now this intolerance is becomingsystematically ingrained in Gujarat. Thats what makes Gujarat different from large parts of thecountry, some of which are definitely on pursuing what we can call as Gujarat course but thecritical limits have not been reached there.At different level, one can note two systems off law in Gujarat, minorities neither get nor canhope to get justice after violence, and relief is a distant dream. The transmigration within thecity, Hindu area, Muslim area, and the emotional and physical borders separating the differentcommunities and the communal wedge is deepening by the day. The schools are becoming setmore along religious lines than the previous mixed character where diverse children cometogether and have an inherent understanding and respect for the other. The legal system isbecoming more and more insular to the anguish of minority community. The minorities havebeen relegated to the second class status, no ban loans to them, no telephone connections at times.An analogy with Hitlers Germany has more than just the germ of truth. While at surface,Gujarat as the state seems to be focusing on development, the we have taught them a lesson isthe undercurrent thinking amongst dominant majority community.Gujarat is being ruled by the BJP Government from over a decade. The RSS combine is having afield day, using government facilities and machinery to co-opt the Adivasi, through ShabriKumbhs. Other programs, social engineering for inclusion of dalits and exclusion of Muslims andChristians are under full flow. The progressive, liberal sections of society are feeling the heat ofpolitical intimidation. While many of them are holding aloft the torch of democracy, the broadlayers of civil society has to come forward with courage and conviction for democratic values andthe principles of Indian Constitution. Though few, they are the hope for return of democracy inGujarat. Whether the electoral arithmetic will help them restore democracy are a million votequestions? Despite internal dissentions the RSS combine is clearly behind Modi/BJP as far as
electoral arithmetic goes. The terrifying vision of RSS ideologues is coming to fruition in thisHindu Rashtra in one state. The question is how fast other states, more so the BJP ruled ones orthe ones where BJP is ruling in alliances, will go in this direction? More than that the question iscan the democracy be saved in Gujarat? If some novice doubted the Fascist analogy with thecommunal politics, that should become as clear as he crystal. Politics in the name of religions orrace does lead to a fascist state, and the only difference in Hitler, Taliban and BJP is the degreeof crudeness and the use of terminology, the content remains the same.-- Gujarat : Lengthening Shadows of SwastikaRam PuniyaniPerzania, a film based on a true story in the backdrop of Gujarat violence, sensitively portrayingthe plight of a Parsi family, whose son goes missing during the carnage, was released all over thecountry barring Gujarat. Earlier to this, another film, Fanaa starring Amir Khan, whopersonally sympathized openly with the plight of those displaced due to the Narmada damproject, could also not be screened in Gujarat. What is the social and political scenario as we arejust a month away from the fifth anniversary of Godhra train accident and the Gujarat carnage?Gujarat carnage was very different from the communal violence which took place inIndependent India so far. Here one could most clearly see the well planned violence unleashed onthe pretext of Godhra train accident, duly supported by the state Government under thepatronizing eye of the central government. While every possible rule of the law was violated bythe authorities, the hapless victims were left to rot in the refugee camps with atrocious livingconditions, totally ignored by the state government. The mirror of Gujarats dominant socialthinking was to come to light soon with the winning of elections by Narendra Modi, who hadplayed central role in the violence. What has been happening in the social milieu of Gujarat isbeyond belief as far as the democratic norms and the communal amity is concerned.One has witnessed that the process of deliverance of justice, remains unexecuted. Many a peopleunder different types of pressure could not lodge their complaints, many a times it was made as acondition for their return to their homes. Many an FIRs were not filed, the victims of the riotsare gripped by the losses of lives and property in mammoth proportions, while the perpetratorsof crime are moving with great pride in having taught them a lesson. Those arrested for Godhratrain burning are rotting in jails with the POTA charges on them. Barring the cases like those ofZahira with different twists and turns, most other wronged ones are living the constant agonyand pain of what they had to face. The role and attitude, impartiality, of sections of judiciary hasalso come under severe doubtsAdded to that is the alienation, social boycott and the ghettotisaztion of Muslim minorities, whichhas been set very deeply in the aftermath of carnage. One can see the areas marked by religiousdenominations getting converted into geographic dividing lines. Once the hatred crosses thethreshold limits it creates the wedge which becomes unbridgeable over a period of time. Andthats what one sees in the social milieu of Gujarat. The pattern of life amongst large sections haschanged, and the constant harping on identity, first that of religion and later that of caste hasbeen the logical corollary of the hate ideology which is ruling the roost.Over fifty thousand families are living in the poorly maintained rehabilitation colonies totallydeprived of the basic facilities. The subtle intimidation of Muslim majority is supplemented bythe attacks on Christian missionaries and also by the holding of events like Shabri Kumbh to co-opt the Adivasis into the Hindu fold, at the same time changing the terms of social reference,from the ones of development to the ones of identity issues is there for all to see. The socialcommon sense in Gujarat in particular, has been taken to the insane heights where every issue
becomes a ground for further intensifying the hatred against minorities.The dominant social opinion may have some dissenting voices which may feel the presentbrusque anti-minoritism will spoil the business atmosphere in Gujarat but the large sections ofmiddle class sees Modi as a protector of Hindus. Two set of laws already seem to be in operation,the ones for majority and the other for the minorities. Intolerance directed to external enemydoes not stop there. It does come back to majority as well and the sharpened religious identityleads to the caste and other narrow identities becoming stronger by the day, and thats whatGujarat is witnessing today. The very air is becoming heavy with the intolerance, which is thebasic credo of Gujarat society today. It also does manifest itself in the people like Babu Bajrangiwho are openly flaunting the laws and acting as moral police, intimidating; beating up youngcouples; with full patronage from the ruling party and associated affiliates, who emboldened bythe power and ideology of sectarianism are out to abolish the democratic and liberal space, whichis the hall mark of any open society.The image of a vibrant Gujarat is being strengthened through media, a section of which played awere compliant and supportive role to the agenda of Hindu Rashtra. The overt violence is notthere but covert violence and deepening of sectarianism is the order of the day. What is Fascism?It is not a mere academic debate. When state, in connivance with dominant sections of society, isout to bury the norms of liberal and plural values, when the dominant section of society approvethis intolerance for others and than for our dissenting people, the fascism is there. The fate ofFanaa and Perzania are the mere symptoms of the piercing trishuls of RSS ideology stalking thestreets and bastis of Gujarat. It is a state where the social activists can be beaten up right inGandhis Sabarmati Ashram, a place where non violence and dissent had been propagated as thebasic norm for creating a democratic society. While Modi has successfully deflected thecriticism of his policies as an insult of Gujarat, the matters become difficult for those who willlike to uphold the gains of our freedom movement, for those who will regard all people of Indiaas equals, irrespective of their religion.The processes going in Gujarat are a definite pointer towards "Hindu Rashtra in One state", anIndian variant of Fascism. While looking forward to the change in the turn of the tide inanticipation of the Fifth anniversary of the genocide, one hopes the worst is over and the societyat large will not only welcome Perzania with open eyes and mind but will also revive the humanespirit of the Indian nationalism. Labeling TerroristsRam Puniyani"We should not fix labels like Muslims or non-Muslims…it wont help us in understanding thesituation or dealing with it. A terrorist is a terrorist; he has no religion or community…As aSikh, I understand the trauma (of being labeled)." These words of Dr. Manmohan Singh, PrimeMinister of India, in the wake of Glasgow bombings (July 6, 2007) more than sum up the presentperceptions about the acts of terrorism and also that these acts of terror have nothing to do withones belonging to any nation or religion. Coincidentally currently in Pakistan the army iscracking down on the Lal Masjid, jihad of its leader, Maulana Abdul Aziz. The people involvedin the Glasgow bombing are doctors, who happen to be of Indian origin and who also happen tobe Muslims. This may reinforce the popular perception that all terrorists are Muslims. Currentlysome people do add to this and say that there is some thing inherent in Islam, which leads to actsof terror and which results in the terrorists coming up.Dr. Singh reminds us of the travails of Sikh community in the wake of Indira Gandhisassassination by her two Sikh bodyguards, who had links with Khalistani movement. Terrorism
was rampant in Punjab and parts of north India at that point of time. Just imagine had Indiangovernment taken the policy to label the Sikhs as terrorists and implemented the norm thathenceforth no Sikhs will be allowed in Indian army or in positions of responsibility, what wouldhave happened by now? There is a subtle hint in the air that the immigration checks andprofiling of Muslims will have to be resorted to more intensely to control the acts of terror. Whathas terrorism to do with religion? One knows that the values of the religions teach us love,compassion and tolerance. One also knows that terrorists have come from all the religions thoughnot due to religions. Be it the Irish Republican Army, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam, theBuddhist monks resorting to political violence in Sri Lank or Thailand or ULFA in North Eastone can easily make out that terrorists have come from all the religions.Why do some people resort to these insane acts, which lead to the death of innocent civiliansapart from other losses? Is it that they are born like that or is it due to political economic andsocial reasons that such acts are undertaken? In contemporary history various reasons haveoperated for the making of the psyche which not only kills others but is also willing to sacrificeones own life while undertaking these cruel acts. Lets imagine the psychological build up ofDhanu, who acted as a live bomb to kill Rajiv Gandhi or Laila Khalid who resorted to terror toavenge the injustices perpetrated on the Palestinians once they were forced to leave Palestinewith the formation of Israel.Broadly one can put terrorists in two categories. The first category is of those who strongly feel asense of injustice being done to them or their community and who also feel that there is no hopeof getting justice. This psychology operates at personal, family or social level. It also assumes theshape of political outfit at times, like LTTE, ULFA, and IRA. One recalls the murder ofSaunders undertaken in the aftermath of the killing of Lala Lajpat Rai, by the lathi blows ofBritish police. Such acts by Indian revolutionaries fall in this category where the personalidentity is merged with the identity of the nation or the whole community. The bomb blastscarried on in Mumbai in 1993 and than in 2002, both were preceded by the strong anti minorityviolence first in Mumbai and than in Gujarat. What happened to Muslim community in Mumbaior in Gujarat must have sown the seeds of this insanity amongst many a youth goes withoutsaying. That must have created a fertile ground because of which many an educated well to doyouth also might have volunteered to be part of these dastardly designs.The second rough category is the one where the identity of religion is invoked to play onespolitical game. And this latter was consciously executed by US in the wake of Russian armiesinvading Afghanistan. In the bipolar World during the cold war era, the equation of powershifted and US policy makers wanted to undo the same for strategic reasons. It was the timewhen the defeat of US, US army, in Vietnam was fresh in the mind of US psyche and they did notwant to send their own army to counterbalance the Russian move. The papers of CIA policiesand other documents referred to by various scholarly studies reveal as to how US through CIA,in collaboration with ISI set up Madrassas in Pakistan to indoctrinate the Muslim youth toundertake jihad, i.e. kill the communist kafirs in Afghanistan. Thats how Al Qaeda, todays mostdreaded organization, came up. Osama bin Laden came to become the leader of Al Qaeda andthis organization was given millions of dollars and tons of armaments including sophisticatedstringer missiles to attack Russian armies occupying Afghanistan.Having done their job, there was no exit as far as indoctrinated minds are concerned. The sameAl Qaeda later turned its guns on World Trade Center . Its another matter that there are variousinterpretations of the same. Those in Lal Masjid are the left over of this Al Qaeda and associatedoutfits. During Zia ul Haqs regime when Pakistan was playing the game of US in West Asia, LalMasjid was the major place for indoctrination program and was a conduit for sendingMujahidins to Afghanistan. It was being run by Maulan Abdullah, father of the present Maulan,who was close to Zia ul Haq.
Clock has tuned full circle. Today these Al Qaeda associates are not needed by Pakistaniestablishment so the whole game has changed its direction. It must be pointed out that the socalled terrorists who are smashing the jeeps or aero planes are small fries in the bigger gamewhich began with the lust of oil. The unfortunate part is that religion has been dragged into themurky world of greed by the imperialist powers and these small pawns in the big game not onlybring bad name to their religion but also to the religious community to which they belong. Theyneither represent the moral values of that religion, neither are they the representative of thatreligious community.One can understand the anguish of Dr. Man Mohan Singh as during the decade of eighties mostof the Sikhs were branded as terrorists and during the massive anti Sikh pogrom even the highand mighty Sikhs were insecure. One just hopes that the major powers of the World put an endto attacking one country after the other, Afghanistan, Iraq, and threatening Iran on permanentbasis, stop the atrocities on the people of those countries, and the sectarian violence is stoppedhere in India, so that the likes of Dr. Mohammad Haneef and Dr. Sabeel Ahmad do theirprofession of saving lives rather than undertaking the things which take the lives of innocents.( Ram Puniyani a peace activist,writer,former Prof. IIT Mumbai & Secretary of All IndiaSecular Forum )1