SACW | Sept. 16-17, 2008 / Pakistan's Survival / Sri Lanka Crisis / India: Phoney Jihadis, Real Culprits !
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Tue Sep 16 18:09:09 CDT 2008
South Asia Citizens Wire | September 16-17, 2008 | Dispatch No. 2568
- Year 11 running
 Can Pakistan Survive? Yes, if… (I. A. Rehman)
 Sri Lanka: Humanitarian crisis has larger implications (Jehan
 'Real' terrorists remain invisible to India's secular state
(i) Open letter to India's Prime Minister after Delhi Blasts (Shabnam
Hashmi and Ram Puniyani)
(ii) Sahmat statement condemning violence in Delhi, Orissa and Karnataka
(ii) Attacks on chruches and christians in Karnataka: A statement by
(iv) In search of an enemy (Editorial, The Hindu)
(v) Return of Hindutva (Editorial, Deccan Herald)
(vi) BJP's Bangalore conclave an exercise in beating old war drums
(Editorial, Kashmir Times)
 India: A House for Shabana Azmi (Ram Puniyani)
 India: Faith accompli (Soumitro Das)
 India: Phoney Jihadis, Real Culprits ! (Subhash Gatade)
 India: No mumbaikar is an island (Debashish Mukerji)
CAN PAKISTAN SURVIVE? YES, IF…
Taming the military, the feudal elite and Islamic militancy is
essential to keep the country together.
by I. A. Rehman
Tariq Ali was not the first one to pose the question, “Can Pakistan
survive?” when he chose it as the title of his study more than 35
years ago. Since Pakistan came into being after a non-traditional
process, fears of its mortality have been a part of its people’s
psyche. Successive governments have kept this fear alive by using it
to blackmail the people into surrendering to their inefficient and
oppressive rule. However, anxieties about Pakistan’s life have never
been so severe and widespread as they are today because ordinary
citizens can see their country being caught in a battle that could
The question of survival is not equally relevant to all the
three components of Pakistan’s identity – the land, the people, and
the state. There can be no fear of the demise of the land of
Pakistan. It has survived the ravages of time since antiquity and it
will survive whatever may befall the state of Pakistan. Even if some
parts of this land, or even the whole of it, get covered by water, it
will only be submerged but will not disappear. Similarly, the people
will survive as they have survived countless convulsions over
thousands of years. It is only the state of Pakistan that can be
subject to the laws of life and death.
The Pakistan state has been vulnerable all along because
it was born with several serious internal contradictions that
required extraordinary political engineering. First, it adopted the
ideal of a modern, democratic and apparently secular polity, although
the demand for its creation had been based on the religious identity
of the subcontinent’s Muslims. Secondly, it upheld a federal
structure in theory and followed the colonial model of a unitary
state in practice. Thirdly, it assumed that a democratic system could
flourish in a society steeped in feudal culture. Fourthly, a larger
part of its population was in the disadvantaged eastern wing while
the mantle of power was assumed by the privileged western wing with a
smaller population. And, fifthly, the events attending the birth of
Pakistan and the global environment during its formative years led it
to develop an obsession with security to the neglect of many other
requisites of a democratic state of contented citizens.
The accumulated failures of the controllers of Pakistan’s
destiny in the different phases of its life have generated an
unprecedented sense of despair among the people today. But before
trying to figure out what the future holds for Pakistan it may be
useful to examine how grave and complex the challenges stemming from
the contradictions mentioned have become.
The first critical issue faced by Pakistan, even before
the clerics’ volte face in claiming parentage of the state whose idea
they had maliciously denounced and stubbornly opposed, was the
Bengali citizens’ assertion of their linguistic and cultural
identity. The matter was messed up thoroughly and one thing led to
another. The gulf between the two wings grew wider as the state’s
federal premises were consistently repudiated and the democratic
rights of the majority population were arrogantly rejected.
Eventually East Bengal was forced out of the Pakistan state, but the
contradiction between the imperatives of the federation and the
rulers’ preference for despotic centralism (not even benevolent
centralism) has remained unresolved.
No lesson has been learnt from the follies that caused
Pakistan’s break-up in 1971; indeed the state’s attitude toward less
powerful units has become haughtier and even more irrational. Today,
three out of the four units of the federation of Pakistan are more
alienated from the centre than ever before. The institutions that
could have cemented the bonds of federal unity – the parliament, the
Council of Common Interest, the National Finance Commission and the
defence forces – have all become sources of cleavage and conflict.
Nobody can be blamed for declining to accept bets on the survival of
a federal state whose constituents keep pulling in different directions.
However, the issue of the federating units’ rights has
been superseded in seriousness by the rise of religious pretenders to
power. While the founding father did argue that Pakistan was not
meant to be a laboratory of faith, they undermined, wittingly or
unwittingly, every secular strand of national unity. Their successors
rose to power by flouting democratic authority and relied on
religious rhetoric to legitimise their regimes. Being unfamiliar
themselves with the liberal tradition of Islam, they allowed the
conservative clerics to dominate the religious discourse. Each new
constitutional text enlarged the political space for the forces of
General Zia-ul-Haq’s decision to pervert the concept of
jihad and install the conservative tribals as dispensers of sovereign
rights made it possible for them to first claim a right to impose
their writ in their mountainous hideouts and finally to seize
Pakistan or a part of it for themselves. At the moment, Pakistan’s
armed forces alone appear to have the capacity to thwart them but no
one can say as to how long this cover will be available to the
The state’s weakness in facing the threat from the north,
which ironically used to be invoked for quite a long time, by Muslims
and non-Muslims alike, to frighten the rulers of the sub-continent,
has been compounded by its failure to resolve the democratic forces’
contradiction with the feudal social structures on the one hand and
the praetorian adventurers on the other.
The political actors responsible for guiding the short
and largely painless struggle for Pakistan had extremely limited
exposure to democratic ideas. Many of them viewed the creation of a
new state through democratic-sounding devices as a means of
perpetuating their feudal privileges. The feudals that had been
trained as the colonial power’s auxiliary force had little difficulty
in guaranteeing their victories in electoral contests. So useful was
feudal culture in depriving the masses of their right to power that
even non-feudals that were catapulted into seats of power ran the
state and its economy in the style of feudals. Pakistan remains a
feudal state which is prepared to compromise with any claimant to
share in power except the disadvantaged citizenry. By refusing to
liquidate feudalism, Pakistan has condemned itself to the status of
At the same time, the security apparatus created and
maintained by the people by sacrificing their rights to education,
health and material well-being became autonomous within a few years
of independence. By the end of the fifties it had not only become
free of the government’s administrative and financial controls, it
moved into the state’s driving seat and has refused to leave it
except for short vacations. The repeated assaults by the armed forces
have made it impossible for political parties to acquire maturity of
mind or become proficient in statecraft. This deficiency of the
civilian establishment has reinforced the military camp’s belief in
its monopoly over wisdom and patriotism. It always considered itself
independent of the state in defence matters, now it chooses to help
the civil government beat off threats to national integrity only on
its own terms and in a manner of its own choosing.
Does the foregoing narrative of the Pakistan state’s plight
leave any room for hope of its survival? Yes, it is possible to
sustain hope for two reasons.
First, states are known to survive for long even when
afflicted with dreaded diseases, only they become irrelevant to their
hapless citizens until external or internal forces, or a combination
of both, appear on the scene to save the state for a particular
interest or replace it with a new state or with more than one state.
Fortunately, that moment does not seem to have arrived as yet. One of
the reasons is the discovery by powerful neighbours of their stake in
the integrity of the Pakistan state. Except for some purblind
tacticians masquerading as military strategists, Iran, India, Central
Asia and China have ample reason to be wary of the rise of an
aggressively Sunni, tribal jihadi state over Pakhtun territories in
Afghanistan and Pakistan. Even the Pakhtuns, except perhaps for the
mercenaries among them, may not wish to be thrown back more than a
Secondly, the state of disarray and anarchy that is causing
people acute distress is not due to lack of the Pakistan state’s
potential for survival. It is largely due to non-utilisation of the
national resources and instruments of recovery, and the possibility
of their proper employment cannot be ruled out.
A dispassionate analysis of the problems Pakistan is facing
will show that all of them, except for the siege by the jihadis, can
be resolved if the various parties involved can convince themselves
that it will be impossible to protect their group interests in the
event of the state’s getting weaker or completely dysfunctional.
A serious and sincerely mounted effort to remove the
federating units’ grievances can still restore the federation to
health. What needs to be done is largely known. The provinces deserve
maximum autonomy, a fair NFC award, an effective Council of Common
Interest, stoppage of all military operations that are objected to by
the populations concerned, and abandonment of what are perceived as
plans and measures to grab land and other natural resources. The
federation will become stronger and more viable if the provinces are
allowed due freedom to develop themselves and to enjoy their due
share in the running of the centre as well.
Once it is realised that the state cannot overcome the
diverse challenges confronting it without the trust and active
support of the people, it may not be impossible to bridge the many
intra-state divisions. At the moment, there is a sharp division
within the ruling coalition – the coalition parties and the rest of
the political actors cannot see a common national goal, and the chasm
between the civilian horde and the military establishment is posing
the single greatest threat to national security. Whatever it may
take, the ongoing fight between the various elements of the state
must be stopped. Success in this endeavour will enable the state to
harness its potential for rejuvenation.
However, unity of purpose among its organs alone will not
enable the state to win public backing. That will be possible only
through the mobilisation of the masses by the political parties. At
the moment, the political parties are totally out of action. Meetings
of parliamentary parties, if held at all, are meaningless get-
togethers and there is little communication and consultation with the
rank and file. An open and continuous dialogue between the state and
the people is one of the foremost requisites for the state’s survival
An effective mobilisation of the people is also necessary to
end the confusion in the ruling elite on the most effective response
to tribal militancy operating under the cover of faith. A greater
part of the population rejects the militants’ thesis and is convinced
that their accession to power will entail indescribable misery to the
people, generation after generation. But those holding this view are
doing nothing to avert disaster. Those on the other side seem to
believe that the militants are not in the wrong and that they can
ride the tiger. Unless these people can amend their thinking, they
are only arranging a feast for the tiger. The state’s survival hinges
on evolving a rational response to the tribal onslaught.
All this may invite a comment that what has been offered is
a wish list and not a practical way to salvation. This will not be
wholly true because no situation is ever beyond correction if people
take matters into their hands. Pakistan can survive if there are
enough people around who decide to ensure that it does survive.
September 17, 2008
HUMANITARIAN CRISIS HAS LARGER IMPLICATIONS
What Sri Lanka faces today is an internal conflict. It is not
relevant to point to other wars against terrorism, such as the US war
in Iraq and Afghanistan and say worse things are done there… Sri
Lanka’s ethnic conflict is being fought in our own country. Internal
conflicts are not one-off affairs, where the victors can just pick
themselves up and walk off the field of battle. If an internal war is
to end on a sustainable basis, there must be reconciliation,
writes Jehan Perera from Colombo
A HUMANITARIAN crisis is looming over the northern Vanni region under
LTTE control. The prospects of escalated warfare and the government’s
order to all international humanitarian organisations in the area to
withdraw from there with immediate effect signals a war without
limits and without witnesses. However, protests by civilians have led
the international humanitarian organisations to temporarily halt the
withdrawal of their staff from those areas. The UN has requested an
extra three weeks to complete its withdrawal. The government has also
demonstrated a measure of flexibility and permitted the ICRC to
remain in Kilinochchi indefinitely.
The humanitarian crisis in Sri Lanka has gained international
attention with the UN secretary general’s office making a statement
regarding the issue. Government spokespersons have responded
critically to this statement, pointing out that the situation in
other countries with similar problems is much worse and that Sri
Lanka should not be compared to them. On the other hand, objective
statistics show that the Sri Lankan conflict is one of the very worst
in the world in terms of deaths, including battlefield deaths.
The Uppsala Conflict Data Programme on Uppsala University in
Sweden has shown that 2007 there were four wars in the world with
more than 1,000 battle related deaths. ‘The Iraq conflict had the
highest number of battle related deaths, followed by the ones in
Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and Somalia.’ (Journal of Peace Research, Vol.
45, No 51, September 2008). It is, therefore, no surprise that the
country’s international image is getting increasingly negative.
However, so far the government has not shown willingness to
compromise on its decision with regard to the eviction of
humanitarian agencies from the Vanni region. The Sri Lankan army has
now advanced sufficiently deep within LTTE controlled territory to
bring the LTTE’s administrative centres within firing range of long
distance artillery. On the other hand, the advance of the government
troops has been accompanied by civilian displacement, with most of
the civilian population falling back along with the LTTE. The
prospect of a final victory may induce the government to seek the
war’s end at any cost.
Face-to-face fighting will be extremely costly to the advancing
Sri Lankan army. Long-range artillery fire is the means by which the
government can safeguard the lives of its own troops. Accordingly the
government has dropped leaflets and made announcements. Those
remaining in the Vanni are likely to become cannon fodder in the face
of long-range artillery duels between the government and the LTTE. In
fact, the government has explained its order to withdraw humanitarian
workers from the Vanni on the grounds that it is necessary to ensure
their safety. This being so, it does not need much imagination to
guess the plight of the civilian population who will be left in the
The situation of the civilians trapped in the war zones can be
understood to be terrible in these circumstances. While some of the
civilian population, especially those whose family members are
combatants with the LTTE, may voluntarily be accompanying the LTTE,
the others are not being permitted to leave by the LTTE. The
advantage in long-distance combat lies with the government, whose
firepower has been bolstered by recent arms purchases. But as the
civilian population goes deeper into LTTE controlled territory it
becomes more difficult for the army to fire on even LTTE gun
positions without endangering the civilian population who become the
LTTE’s human shields.
It is unwise and unethical for a democratic government that seeks
reconciliation with all sections of its people for sustainable peace
to give military imperatives priority over the lives and security of
the country’s people whether they are living under government control
or rebel control. In this context there are three challenges for the
government. The first is to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the
civilian population trapped in the Vani. They are all citizens
entitled to equal rights and equal protection of the law. The
government must ensure their equality in practice by giving priority
to their concerns.
The proposed departure of the humanitarian organisations from the
Vanni will lead to bleak prospects for the displaced and local
civilians who are either voluntarily and involuntarily staying back
in the Wanni. The organisations asked to leave include specialist
humanitarian organisations such as UNHCR and the World Food
Programme. If these organisations are prepared to take the risk of
continuing to work in war zones, they need to be supported and
encouraged in this action.
The government may claim that it has done its duty by the people
by dropping leaflets and informing them to leave the Vanni. However,
it is not reasonable to expect the civilians to spontaneously move
out of the LTTE controlled area in the absence of an organised
movement of people that is supervised by reputed humanitarian
organisations. People would be fearful to leave on their own in
disregard of the LTTE’s order that they remain in the Vanni. The
people would also be fearful of leaving in small and unorganised
groups towards army lines, as they would not be sure about the
reception they would get from troops who are on high alert against
surprise LTTE attacks.
This is why an organised movement of people is necessary if they
are to be evacuated from the Vanni, and such a movement requires the
presence and mediation of international humanitarian organisations.
In the absence of this humanitarian option, it is possible that
desperate civilians may even resort to the old practice of fleeing to
India by boat. If this happens there is the prospect of the
government’s conduct of humanitarian matters coming under further
international scrutiny. The movement of refugees to India will
provide anti Sri Lanka forces in India further cause to mobilise
against the Sri Lankan government to its detriment.
During previous phases of the armed conflict successive
governments have obtained the assistance of both local and
international humanitarian organisations to ensure that essential
supplies reach the affected people. The government needs to treat
international humanitarian organisations as its partners who fill a
void it cannot at this time. Their work needs to be facilitated and
not curtailed at this time when the worst phase of war is about to
occur. Not even the excuse of the so-called last battle towards which
both government and the LTTE seem to be heading can be an excuse for
being irresponsible and callous towards the civilian population.
What Sri Lanka faces today is an internal conflict. It is not
relevant to point to other wars against terrorism, such as the US war
in Iraq and Afghanistan and say worse things are done there. Those
are wars being fought by a superpower in other people’s countries.
Sri Lanka’s ethnic conflict is being fought in our own country.
Internal conflicts are not one-off affairs, where the victors can
just pick themselves up and walk off the field of battle. If an
internal war is to end on a sustainable basis, there must be
reconciliation. The government needs to be mindful of what the people
in the Vanni region want. The provision of access to war zones to
international humanitarian agencies is a basic requirement in
international law that the government needs to honour.
Jehan Perera is media director of the National Peace Council in
Colombo, Sri Lanka
 India's Secular State Fiddles on the Roof - The Hindutva project
is making deep inroads by the day
AN OPEN LETTER TO THE PRIME MINISTER OF INDIA
September 15, 2008
Dear Dr. Manmohan Singh,
The blasts in Delhi (September 12, 2008) are another in the series of
tragic blasts in which scores of people have been killed. We strongly
condemn the blasts and demand a proper, unbiased investigation into
the same. We demand that the guilty be punished. At the same time it
seems that our investigating agencies are ignoring some thing very
crucial in the matters of investigating the acts of terror.
The acts of terror have been occurring and Home Ministry is watching
helplessly. While the current investigation is totally focused around
SIMI, many an alleged culprits have been put behind the bars, despite
which now some unknown entity Indian Mujahideen seems to have been
projected as being responsible for the current ones. At the same time
another stark truth is being deliberately sidelined and undermined.
And that relates to the blasts done by Bajrang Dal and Hindu Jagran
Samiti. We fail to understand as to why the investigation authorities
are turning a blind eye to some of the well established facts.
1. In a serious case of blasts in Nanded in April 2006 two Bajarang
Dal workers died when making bombs. Similar incidents of bomb blasts
were witnessed in many places around that time, Parabhani, Jalna and
Aurangabad in Maharashtra. Most of these were in front of the
mosques. The Nanded investigation 'leads' were not followed. On the
contrary the investigation in that direction was not pursued at all.
The attitude of police in this investigation has been totally lax.
Social activists made the complaint about this to Human Rights
commission. The commission summoned the Superintendent of police,
Nanded, in its hearing held on 17th June. The SP failed to turn up
for hearing! There seems to be a deliberate cover up of this
important finding of Maharashtra Anti terrorist Squad. ATS did
investigate the links of the dead with Bajrang Dal, an RSS affiliate.
At the same time the injured were visited in the hospital by the top
brass of local BJP and associates. Local BJP MP told the police not
to harass those related to the culprits in the wake of the Bajrang
Dal involvement in the bomb making. In Nanded, ATS also found fake
moustache and pajama kurta, the idea being that the culprits will
dress like a Muslim while doing these black deeds.
2. A bomb blast took place at the RSS office at Tenkasi, in the
Tirunelveli District of Tamil Nadu on January 24. After a thorough
investigation, the Tamilnadu Police had arrested 7 persons belonging
to Sangh Parivar outfits. They had confessed that they indulged in
this terror act to instigate the local Hindu population against the
On further investigation, the Tamilnadu Police arrested Siva Alias
Sivanandam, who is the General Secretary of Hindu Munnani at
Kadayanallur, a neighbouring town of Tenkasi. Formed in 1980, Hindu
Munnani is a frontal organisation of Sangh Parivar operating in
Siva, who has earlier worked in quarries in the neighboring state of
Kerala had supplied the ammonium nitrate and other raw materials for
preparing the bombs.
3. The bombs which exploded in Gadkari Rangayatan on 4th June 2008
injured seven people. Again Maharashtra Anti Terrorist Squad
succeeded in nabbing the culprits. The culprits were part of Hindu
Janjagaran Samiti (HJS), an outfit of Sanatana Ashram in Panvel.
These culprits were also involved in other blasts, in Vashi, Panvel
and Ratnagiri. We have not heard anything about the further tracing
of this very important lead.
4. On 24th August, in Kanpur two Bajrang Dal workers died while
making bombs. Rajiv alias Piyush Mishra and Bhupinder Singh were
killed while making crude bombs on Sunday afternoon.
On 25th August, Monday, police recovered some crude hand grenades,
lead oxide, red lead, potassium nitrate, bomb pins, timers and
batteries from the spot, inside a hostel in Kalyanpur area of Kanpur,
about 80 km from Lucknow. No further investigation, why?
Every time there is a bomb blast immediately the agencies and the
media declare that it is done by some Muslim organization without any
proof. Hundreds of innocent young boys are picked up, what follows
are illegal detentions, torture, arrests, harassment of families,
forcing the families and victims to sign blank papers. For years
these helpless victims are tortured in jails, denied legal aid, even
lawyers who try and fight their cases are attacked openly in courts.
Their images tarnished for life time. If they are lucky they get let
off after years as neither the agencies or the police have any proof
against them. The cacophony of stricter laws rises so that a police
can extract a confession by third degree torture and present that as
evidence. Through this systematic vilification campaign the process
of demonization of minorities continued unabated.
If we look at the timing of the terror attacks it is very clear that
one and only one political outfit is gaining from it and that is
Sangh. With their eyes on the central government their agenda of
polarizing the voter is going ahead successfully.
On the other hand there are constant attacks on minorities on one
pretext or another. Orissa thousands of Christians have been
attacked, rendered homeless, their homes ransacked and looted and
burnt down, churches attacked and even orphanages are not left alone.
Karnataka a similar picture is emerging. We have personally briefed
very senior people in the government and the Congress party about the
Karnataka situation and that it might explode but nothing was done
and we have seen what has happened yesterday.
While we write to you now, the police are firing at Muslims in
Yakutpura in Vadodara. Yesterday during the Ganpati procession a
local dargah was broken down and shops of Muslims looted and
ransacked. Already one boy has died and many are injured.
Last few days the only Muslim village Nandepeda in the Dangs, Gujarat
has been attacked, ransacked. Villagers have been beaten up brutally
including women and children. All men have fled to the jungles. The
police not only took away all the goods but before going they poured
kerosene into the eatable good so that they could not eat anything
too. A proposed VHP rally today was stopped after spending 4 hours on
the phone and pressuring various police departments.
UPA had formed the National Integration Council under tremendous
pressure. The first agenda papers which were prepared, if you
remember, were highly communal and objectionable. A number of us had
raised it during the meeting and the Home Minister had replied' treat
them as scrap' in your presence. Probably the Home Minister realized
that people like us were too uncomfortable to have in the NIC, who
would raise these questions. The NIC was never convened again. It was
supposed to meet every six months.
The country unfortunately has been given on a platter to the Sangh
and the government looks helplessly in providing security to ordinary
citizens whether they are victims of terror attacks or victims of the
constant attacks by the Sangh Parivar's various outfits.
We hope you will intervene and question why are such clear cases of
involvement of RSS affiliates in terror attacks being ignored. It
seems the investigating authorities deliberately want to cover up the
role of RSS affiliates in these acts of terror. Can the real truth
behind the dastardly acts come out without properly investigating
these incidents, where the culprits' involvement is very clear? We
urge upon you to instruct the investigating authorities to pursue the
investigation in an unbiased, honest and professional manner. The
life of innocent citizens is at stake and such irresponsible cover
will definitely prevent the real truth from coming out. For the sake
of fairness, honesty and the values of our constitution, we need to
pursue these cases in their logical direction.
Can we look forward to you, Mr. Prime Minister to make your
Government to rise above partisan attitude and unravel the truth
behind the blasts which are rocking the country in a painful way?
Shabnam Hashmi, Member, National Integration Council
Ram Puniyani, Social Activist, and writer
o o o
8, Vithalbhai Patel House, Rafi Marg
e-mail-sahmat at vsnl.com
With the shock and trauma of the serial bombings in Delhi yet to wear
off, we are distressed to see the manner in which elements of the
saffron brigade are seeking to make political capital out of a
national tragedy by pushing for a special law on terrorism. We are
struck by the irony that the saffron brigade is concurrently
orchestrating a mass campaign of bigotry and lawlessness that began
in Orissa and has now spread to Karnataka and even threatens hitherto
tolerant and peaceful Kerala.
We are convinced that the people and the state authorities in Kerala
will swiftly contain the threat to the peace in their state. But with
the mob frenzy in Orissa and Karnataka being abetted by conniving
state governments, we fear that the turmoil and suffering inflicted
on the Christian communities may yet escalate.
We are convinced that the approach to terrorism that the Hindutva
parties have been advocating is wrong-headed and susceptible to gross
abuses. At the same time, we believe that the lawlessness the
Hindutva formations foment and the impunity they enjoy in their
campaign of violence against religious minorities, creates fertile
breeding grounds for terrorism. We condemn the terrorism of the mob
just as strongly as we condemn the terrorism of the bomb.
Before making the case for a new law on terrorism, the BJP and its
friends need to learn respect for the law as it now stands. Since the
governments in Orissa and Karnataka have shown that they are on the
side of lawlessness, we urge civil society in these states to stand
firm against the outbreak of religious bigotry and where necessary,
impart the necessary lessons to the Hindutva forces in honouring the
law of the land.
Ram Rahman, Vivan Sundaram, M.K.Raina, Madan Gopal Singh, Sohail
Hashmi and Indira Chandrasekhar
o o o
Post Box No.4050, Navrangpura, Ahmedabad 380 009, Gujarat,India
STATEMENT CONDEMNING THE ATTACKS ON CHRISTIANS AND CHURCHES IN KARNATAKA
We strongly condemn the brutal attacks in Mangalore and surrounding
areas, on Christians and their institutions (specially places of
worship) by the goons of the Sangh Parivar
They have assaulted innocent and peace-loving people, vandalized
property, desecrated places of worship and created terror everywhere.
Such behaviour is totally unacceptable in civil society and all of us
need to hang our heads down in shame.
Above all, we condemn the partisan role played by the police and the
District Administration there.
National TV channels have extensively covered the brutal manner in
which the police have beaten up citizens in the Sacred Precincts of
Churches. It is also understood that in some places, police refused
to file FIRs or to register complaints. These are totally
reprehensible acts and are not expected from those who are supposed
to protect the lives and property of citizens.
The attacks in Karnataka by these fascist, fundamentalist and anti-
national forces, follow exactly the same pattern as that of Orissa,
Chattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Gujarat. These affiliates
of the BJP take law and order into their own hands in total
connivance with the State Administration. In fact, the Chief Minister
and Home Minister of Karnataka have gone on record to give their
followers a clean chit inspite of documentary evidence to prove
The Sangh Parivar affiliates are terrorist groups and they should be
The Central Government should monitor the Karnataka situation very
closely and if the situation does not improve immediately, it would
definitely warrant the dismissal of the Government and the imposition
of President’s Rule.
People from all walks of life must come out in large numbers in
Karnataka and in other parts of the country, to protest the heinous
acts of such terrorist outfits who are out to destroy the diversity
and secular fabric of the country.
It is imperative that we make our voices heard to protect and
safeguard the freedoms and guarantees of the Indian Constitution.
- Fr. Cedric Prakash sj
o o o
September 17, 2008
IN SEARCH OF AN ENEMY
The attacks on Christian prayer halls in Karnataka, following close
on the heels of attacks on churches and Christian institutions in
Orissa, reveal the hand of organised groups operating with a sinister
political agenda. While the violent incidents in Orissa were
triggered by the murder of an anti-conversion Hindu activist, Swami
Lakshmanananda, and in at least some cases passed off as spontaneous,
the attacks in Karnataka have all the markings of a systematic,
planned as sault on the minority community. The coordinated violence,
spread across several districts, could not have been the handiwork of
stray elements working in isolation. Even in Orissa, organised
Hindutva groups were quick to hijack the agitation protesting the
killing of the swami; for days together, they terrorised the minority
community in the communally sensitive district of Kandhamal. The
circumstances of the swami’s killing, as also the identity and
motives of the killers, are far from clear even now: indeed
preliminary investigations point to the hand of a Maoist fringe
group, calling itself the People’s Liberation Revolutionary Group.
However, for the Hindutva elements in Orissa or in Karnataka, a
little-known, mostly invisible fringe group is a worthless target. In
keeping with their own communal politics, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad
and the Bajrang Dal, which have a history of confrontation with
Christian missionary groups in Orissa, have sought to blame Christian
community leaders for the killing, and held up the subsequent
violence as retribution.
Why Karnataka should feel the heat of a communal flare-up now is not
difficult to fathom. With a government led by the Bharatiya Janata
Party assuming office in May, communal politics acquired a new
dimension in the South. Even in the absence of provocation, communal
outfits need to create objects of hate and spew venom merely to
survive. After riding to power on the back of the failings of
successive governments, the BJP appears to be looking for communal
polarisation of vote banks to consolidate its electoral hold.
Building up support among the people on the basis of good governance
is a far more arduous task than carving out electoral bases on the
basis of divisive politics. With the Lok Sabha general election just
months away, the BJP might be tempted to take recourse to the
politics of hate in order to make short-term electoral gains in
Karnataka. In the long-term, however, such politics offer limited
purchase. Thuggish behaviour by the extremist fringe of the saffron
brigade undermines national unity and constitutes a grave affront to
the values of India’s historical civilisation.
o o o
September 17, 2008
RETURN OF HINDUTVA
The BJP is reasserting its old electoral planks.
The most important message that has emerged from the Bharatiya Janata
Party’s national executive meeting in Bangalore is that the party is
getting ready for the elections at the state and national levels. It
has an important stake in the assembly elections to be held this year
in five states — Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Delhi and
Jammu and Kashmir. It is the ruling party in three of them and has to
come back to power fighting anti-incumbency sentiments and internal
dissensions. The Lok Sabha elections which may be held in the early
part of next year will be the big test for the party under the new
leadership. For the first time the BJP is going to the polls without
A B Vajpayee at the helm and with L K Advani as its presumptive prime
Therefore it was natural that the party launched its poll campaign
from Bangalore with the Vijay Sankalp Yatra and has identified the
main themes of the campaign. It has reasserted its old political
planks like appeasement of minorities and the UPA government’s soft
policy on terror, with even the issue of Article 370 taken out from
under the carpet by party president Rajnath Singh in his inaugural
address. Even outlandish ideas like nationalisation of the Amarnath
yatra route and creating a special enclave for Pandits in Kashmir
were thrown up. It seems the party is building up a poll platform
with issues revolving around Hindutva taking the centre-stage and
price rise and the nuclear deal bringing up the rear.
The focus on Hindutva is clear from the importance given to Gujarat
chief minister Narendra Modi in the deliberations and decision-
making. The political resolution bears the stamp of Modi and he has
emerged as the mascot of the party, next only to Advani. It is
clear that though Advani has been projected as the candidate for
prime ministership, the party will give Modi a key role in the
campaign in the coming months. It is too early to say whether this
means a settlement of the issue of leadership after Advani. There is
also uncertainty over whether the party’s alliance partners, such as
whoever remains in the NDA, will be comfortable with the thrust of
the party’s campaign plan and with Modi’s elevated role. The
alliances are in fact still in the making, not only in the BJP camp
but elsewhere too, and therefore it will still be some time before
the line-up is clear.
o o o
September 5, 2008
THRIVING UPON WEAKNESSES IN SECULAR POLITY
BJP's Bangalore conclave an exercise in beating old war drums
The BJP's Bangalore conclave has produced nothing really new apart,
of course, from accentuating the virulence of its sectarian agenda.
The pattern of such gatherings organised primarily to queer the pitch
for elections has remained substantially unchanged since early 1990s
when the BJP first harvested the political gains of its agenda in the
wake of LK Advani's 'rathyatra' leading to demolition of Babri Masjid
in 1992. The country had had to pay a heavy price, indeed the price
continues to be paid even today and with 'interest', for BJP's
electoral gains. Recent communal violence in the tribal belt of
Orissa is a case in the point. The trouble there fuelled by the VHP
has widened the schism between the Hindu and Christian communities
which is fraught with still more serious consequences. Orissa
incidents are echoing in Madhya Pradesh which happens to be under the
BJP rule. These disturbing developments reveal a scary familiar
pattern. The BJP's brazen duplicity in swooping to exploit communally
charged fear psychosis for electoral gains and then wearing a fake
secularist label to forge opportunistic power-capturing combinations
has remained unexposed because of the ideological insincerity of its
rivals in the field. Lack of commitment to pluralistic secular
ideology runs through the expedient politics prevailing in the
country today. The biggest gainer of this duplicity has been the
Sangh Parivar of whose political prop the BJP is.
The Bangalore conclave spent quite a lot of time on venting the BJP's
extremist line on Jammu and Kashmir. Its concern for rehabilitation
of displaced community of Kashmiri Pandits would have carried weight
if the record of the BJP's own NDA government at the centre from 1999
to 2004 had anything to show by way of implementation of its old
promises. The NDA government's track record is no different from its
successor whom the BJP is seeking to put in the dock. The election-
oriented old agenda has only been dusted off. The new point added to
it is the demand for 'nationalisation' of the Amarnath yatra route.
What that means in actual terms has not been spelt out, obviously
because the father of the idea, Rajnath Singh, himself has no clear
idea of what he was talking about. At this point of time the only
conclusion one can draw from articulation of such a vague proposition
is that the BJP is seeking to keep the pot of controversy boiling. It
is not difficult to understand as to why the party is seeking to fish
in the troubled waters of J&K. The BJP tried hard to prolong the just
concluded Jammu agitation, not out of concern for the demands of the
agitating population, but to prolong it and exploit the polarised
situation in the coming elections. The BJP's track record shows that
its position on pure merit in J&K is pretty low, hence resort to
habitual gimmickry. Politicking apart, the party would do service to
this state and its people if only it refrains from igniting the fire
again. The issue is best left to be sorted out between the people and
local authorities who have just concluded an agreement. BJP's yet-
again revived concern for Kashmiri Pandits' rehabilitation lacks
conviction in the face of the party's track record.
The party's line of action on the issue of terrorism also suffers
from the same lacuna. With POTA in place and all the security and
intelligence apparatus at its direct command, the NDA government led
by the BJP could not prevent or curb serious incidents of terrorist
violence across the country, from Jammu to Gujarat. So long as the
BJP's political agenda remains clouded by its narrow communal vision
the party is unlikely to prove its credentials if and when it comes
to power. The party would render a great service to its followers if
it realises the ultimate folly of hawking its petty interests as
'national interests'. If anything, the two are in direct conflict in
several ways. Till this difference prevails the Indian nation would
continue to be a loser whenever the BJP happens to be a gainer, and
A HOUSE FOR SHABANA AZMI
by Ram Puniyani
One of the major contributions of Shabana Azmi in the arena of human
rights was to work for the housing rights. It was ironical that the
actor of such exceptional talents and the social activist with such
dedication and commitment was denied the purchase of house, not once
but twice in the locality of her choice. Voicing her pain she did
comment in a TV show that Indian democracy is being unfair to the
Muslims and recounted her experience. (August 2008). Apart from other
people, a few from film community swooped on her, criticizing her
statement as false, irresponsible, communal and what not! Even the
actor of stature of Shatrughan Sinha criticized and admonished her.
One journalist from a prominent newspaper wanted to prove her wrong;
he rang up few builders from his plush office and came to the
conclusion that there is no discrimination in the selling of houses.
One of the film persons stooped to the level of counting Azmi’s
houses, and said that if Muslims are denied they should be living on
the streets! Such ‘brilliant’ logic in a sensitive socio political
issue can only be expected from those who live in the ivory towers
unaware of the social realities.
To begin with, it is a not an issue as to how many houses Azmi owns.
The point is that she wished to buy a particular house and the broker
told her she cannot get it as she is a Muslim. Muslims are not living
on streets, but a large section of them has to live in ghettos, is
known to all and sundry barring the one’s wearing saffron glasses.
There are colonies of Parsis and Jains and vegetarians who do not let
those not belonging to their ilk to buy the flats in their colonies.
This trend can neither be idolized nor be compared to the large
social phenomenon of Muslims being denied housing, as these
communities (Jains, Parsis) themselves are too tiny, their reasons
and their inward looking tendencies are retrograde but having
different socio-psychological reasons. The case of Muslims came more
to the fore from the decades of Nineties, after the communal politics
has started threatening the democratic polity in a serious way,
resulting in increase in the intensity of communal violence.
The Mumbai violence of 92-93 was followed by the internal migration
of the battered minority. Many from minority were displaced or chose
to shift to areas, which may be safer for them, Mumbra, Jogeshwari,
Bhendi Bazar being the foremost. Incidentally the population of
Mumbra before the violence was less than a lakh; today it is more
than 7 Lakhs! Similarly many a friends from minority community sold
their houses in the mixed areas to shift to the Muslim majority
areas, increasing the pressure on civic amenities in those areas.
In Gujarat also ‘borders’, ‘Gaza Strips’ have come up to supplement
the ‘mini Pakistans’. As the extent of myths, biases, stereotypes
against minorities are going through the roof, the mental partitions
are created and these partitions get converted in to the ones of
brick and mortar. The communal partitions are the definite aftermath
of the communal violence. In Gujarat, the victims of violence were
not permitted to return into their own houses, even the written
undertakings were demanded from the victims that they will not seek
legal justice for whatever happened to them during the violence.
Today, six years after the Gujarat carnage, nearly five lakhs Muslims
have to live in isolated ghettoes, and that too in abysmal
situations. The extension of civic and other amenities to these areas
is conspicuous by its absence. Water, sanitation, health, education,
banking and other amenities and facilities are not reaching these
areas. These internally displaced people are being helped only by
conservative Muslim groups, who are competing with each other in
increasing their area of influence amongst them. This is also
becoming the zone with poverty, illiteracy, hunger, disease and
misery. These conditions are worst in the whole of state. Since the
state is shirking from its basic responsibilities of provision of
infrastructure for social life, the Muslim fundamentalist groups are
providing the same and are also having a field day in these areas.
Who is to blame for this, a particular religion or the communal
politics which not only resulted in the massive genocide but even now
is dictating the state policies by abandoning the responsibilities of
the victims of violence and others from minorities who have felt
insecure and shifted or were made to shift in these areas!
The message of communal agenda manifested through violence and
through creating difficult situation for minorities is now isolating
them in most parts of India. So one can see the trajectory of
violence as follows, it begins with pre violence biases, stereotypes,
then violence, post violence neglect, isolation, ghettoization and
finally leads to partitioning of the national community at emotional
and physical level.
The communal violence always polarizes the communities. In the
initial phase till, say the seventies, the ghettoisation was minimal.
From the decade of nineties, on one hand the communal violence has
gone into higher gear, ‘hate other’ sentiments have worsened and this
‘non sale of housing units to the Muslim minority’ started becoming
unwritten norm. What can be more ironical than the fact that a
housing rights activist herself is denied the house, just because she
carries a Muslim name!
The second irony is that the RSS politics, which is based on
Brahminical values, codes of Manu in a modern form, the caste system
in a subtle form, which disguises it by coining the term ‘integral
nationalism’ is creating new ghettoes. The traditional Varna system
created the ghettoes for untouchables. This social thinking, finding
place in Brahiminical tomes justified the exclusion of dalits from
the villages. So separate housing for them. Typically Maharwadas
(dalit ghettoes outside villages) in Maharashtra were the norm. Now
the same thinking is creating new untouchables, and so barring few
exceptions the average and even middle class Muslims have to look for
housing in ‘special areas’.
Critics of Azmi deliberately overlook the social reality being
created due to the politics of communalism. Due to the rise of
communal violence, due to the social common thinking which is
becoming worse by the day, its worst culmination goes on to equate
terrorism with Islam and Muslims.
Most of those involved with social work do come across such cases of
discrimination times and over again. No builder in majority, mixed
area is going to put the hoarding that Muslims are not acceptable, it
operates subtly. There have been sting operations also where this
fact has been brought to light. Surely going by Azmi’s experience,
one only feels that now even a person totally seeped in Indian-ness,
upholding human ethos with utmost sincerity, can also be denied house
because of her Muslim name! Normally it should be a matter of honor
that such an accomplished actor and committed rights activist lives
in one’s neighbouhood. If she is denied the house the only inference
is that the communal partitions are near total.
Where is national integration? During freedom movement, the major
task of father of the nation was to cultivate and highlight the
national Indian community. That’s how people of different religions
joined the movement, shoulder to shoulder to build Indian nation,
Indian community. What is going on with the rise of communalism is
not merely the violence against this or that community; it is an
assault on the values of Indian nationhood, on the values emerging
from freedom movement. We do need a second freedom movement, freedom
from communal mindset, freedom from the divisive politics in the name
September 15, 2008
by Soumitro Das
The violence against Christians in Orissa, Madhya Pradesh and now in
Karnataka should be seen at various levels .
First, funding. Nobody seems to know exactly how much money the VHP
receives from abroad. The only figure we have is $1.7 million from
the India Development and Relief Fund (IDRF) that raises money from
individuals and corporations in the United States (including Cisco
and Sun Microsystems) to distribute them among a plethora of Sangh
parivar agencies, some of whom work for ‘tribal welfare’.
On the Christian side, thanks to the Foreign Contributions Regulation
Act, the Home Ministry is in possession of the Annual Report on
Foreign Contributions for 2005-06. It lays out in minute detail the
funds received by churches and Christian organisations in India. We
know, for example, that the top donors are church-based or Christian-
inspired organisations from the US, Britain, Germany, the Netherlands
and Italy. We also know that a greater part of the funds — Rs 7,785
crore — goes to mainly Christian and church-based organisations in
India. According to the Home Ministry’s analysis, the major part of
the fund is spent on disaster relief and establishment costs. Welfare
of scheduled tribes get only Rs 25 crore and welfare of scheduled
Castes only Rs 9 crore. The rest of the money goes into social work —
building of schools, colleges, hospitals, etc. Nowhere is the word
proselytisation mentioned. There are also no records of mass
Hence, the Sangh parivar’s argument that Christian charitable and
social work is a disguise to convert ‘innocent, illiterate’ tribals
and Dalits is a lie — at least as far as the records go. The Home
Ministry report also tells us that the bulk of the money is spent in
Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Delhi — not in Orissa or Gujarat.
Now to come to the violence at Kandhmal in Orissa. The man,
Laxmananda Saraswati, whose murder had sparked off the latest round
of violence, was a VHP sant who was at the forefront of the VHP’s
ghar wapasi (‘home coming’) movement that consisted of reconverting
tribals and Dalits who had been converted by the Christian missionaries.
At one level, the violence that followed Saraswati’s death was a
result of a century-old conflict between the tribal Kandhs and the
Dalit Pano. The former accuse the latter of stealing their land,
aided by missionaries who, on their part, continue to occupy land
that belongs to the state. The Panos who have converted to
Christianity in large numbers are clamouring for Scheduled Tribe
status because their conversion has not mitigated the effects of
caste prejudice against them. .
Conversion has two dimensions to it. In the first place, it is an
intensely personal affair. This individual repudiation of Hinduism
rattles the VHP beyond measure. It means that the tribal or the Dalit
is no longer bound by any fate or destiny, but is, a free agent who
can transform his life by changing his value and belief system.
The second dimension of conversion is that it is a political act.
When an entire community is converted, it has revolutionary
implications. What does it mean for a Dalit to convert to
Christianity? To know that, one has to understand where the Dalit is
coming from. He lives beyond the pale of ‘caste Hindu’ society the
jobs that he does are considered the most filthy . He does not have
the right to use a mechanised transport, wear nice clothes, or
jewellery. His house is frequently burned, his women are routinely
Then, he finds a God who, like him, suffered excruciating pain, who
chose his disciples among the poor and the wretched and gave his own
life so that others could find salvation through his suffering.
The Dalit also understands that, in the light of Jesus’ story, the
Hindus do not seem to have a moral order instead of good and evil,
Hinduism deals in the categories of ritual cleanliness and
uncleanliness. The community, fortified by its realisation that the
Hindu world view is only one among many others and not even of the
most superior kind, gradually revolts and crosses over to Christianity.
Thus what began as a conversion of an individual ends as a collective
revolt against the oppression,and the inhuman humiliations of caste
society. That is what the VHP and the Sangh parivar do not want. They
want to crush this revolt.
PHONEY JIHADIS, REAL CULPRITS !
by Subhash Gatade
Ramvilas Vedanti, a senior leader of the VHP, refuses to remain out
of controversies for very long.
If last year he was caught in a sting operation by CNN-IBN alongwith
many leading stalwarts of the spiritual world 'explaining how he
changes black money into white albeit with little bit of commission',
this year he reached headlines when he issued 'death sentence to Mr
Karunanidhi supposedly for 'insulting Lord Ram'. One still remembers
how he asked Muslims to 'vacate' the Parikrama area of Ayodhya after
the 'terrorist attack in Ayodhya' with a specious argument that their
presence in the area creates a feeling of insecurity. It is true that
if one were to create a rating for making provocative statements
then there would not be much controversy over the fact that Vedanti
like his more famous colleagues in VHP is not very far behind.
But the latest controvery is a bizarre one.
On 30 th August he lodged a complaint with the Faizabad police
alleging that he is receiving death threats from SIMI and Al-Qaeda .
The district administration promptly provided him with additional
security and his mobile phone was placed under electronic
surveillance to track down the miscreants. And lo and behold ! Forget
Al Qaeda or SIMI, to everyone's dismay the police caught Ramessh
Tiwari, city president of Bajrang Dal in Katra and Pawan Pandey, a
local convenor of Hindu Yuva Vahini from Katra in Gonda district.
The duo told the police that since their Guruji ( Ramvilas Vedanti)
was not getting Z category security as enjoyed by VHP leaders like
Ashok Singhal and Praveen Togadia, they took this step 'after Guruji
gave us the consent'. It was obvious that Vedanti did not press the
police to take any legal action against them and the duo was promptly
released. ( Indian Express, 15 th Sept 2008).
One can just imagine the mayhem followers of Vedanti could have
created and how they could have tried to polarise the whole
atmosphere on communal lines if the police had not shown alertness.
It was worth emphasising that recently a group of sadhus led by
Mahant Yugal Kishore Shastri, who is a Mahant of Saryu Kunj temple
which is adjacent to the disputed Ram temple in Ayodhya, demanded
legal action against Vedanti. A memorandum signed by 100 sadhus has
been despatched to the Chief Minister's office demanding immediate
arrest of Vedanti 'for conspiring to create communal violence in
Ayodhya and adjoining areas.' It is also learnt that since Vedanti,
an ex MP is also contemplating to contest the elections from Gonda,
he was keen to create a riot type situation there.
A look down memory lane reveals that there was nothing 'creative' in
the complaint lodged by Vedanti with the local police. In fact he was
just copying one of his own colleagues from the Ram Mandir movement
It was only last year that Anil Chamadia, a leading journalist, media
critic and social activist in his column on media affairs in the
hindi magazine 'Kathadesh' provided details of a similar case when
Mahant Nrityagopal Dal of the Ramjanambhoomi Nyas supposedly
received a threat 'at the hands of the Al-Qaeda.' The newspapers also
took up the case of the threat received by him in a big way claiming
it to be a failure on part of the government to provide security to
'patriots'.Alongwith a fourty lined newsitem about this 'threat' a
separate box item was added giving details of Ashok Singhal's and
Praveen Togadia's reaction to the whole affair.
Mr Purushottam Narayan, a leader of the VHP even claimed that a
'threat to the Mahant is a challenge thrown by Al-Qaeda before the
whole Hindu society which necessiates 'unity of Hindus at every level'.
The very next day truth about the whole affair was out. Santosh, one
of the disciples of the Mahant was arrested in Haridwar and he
revealed that he had himself written this letter as his Guruji
(Nrityagopal Das) was not getting Z category security as enjoyed by
VHP leaders like Ashok Singhal and Praveen Togadia. It was worth
noting that the newspaper which had printed the 'threat received by
Nrityagopal Das did not deem it necessary to publish the denial of
One can just go on citing examples where close associates of the
saffron brigade engage in acts which go to stigmatise particular
communities and strengthening negative attitude towards them.
While the followers of Vedanti or Nritya Gopal Das tried to utilise
and further buttress the threat posed by the likes of Al Qaeda or
SIMI their other brethren in the Hindutva brigade have no qualms in
engaging in real terrorist acts by taking up a fake identity
resembling a member of a minority community.
The Nanded bomb blast on 6 th April 2006 which killed two activists
of Bajrang Dal has demonstrated how these Hindu terrorists engage in
meticulous preparations to fake their identity. The fake beards and
clothes worn by the minority community recovered from the
perpetrators of the act demonstrated the modus operandi of these
September 16, 2008
NO MUMBAIKAR IS AN ISLAND
by Debashish Mukerji
The reluctance of Maharashtra’s leading politicians to vigorously
oppose Raj Thackeray’s poisonous agenda is not only reprehensible,
but also incomprehensible. Conventional political wisdom has it that,
with both Lok Sabha and Assembly elections due next year, they dare
not be seen supporting ‘outsiders’ in the state, for fear of
alienating Marathi-speaking voters. But is such apprehension justified?
Political pundits assume that the Shiv Sena achieved its present key
position in Maharashtra’s politics by projecting itself as a champion
of the Marathi-speaking, and targeting non-Maharashtrians in the
state. They claim that Raj Thackeray’s shenanigans are an effort to
wean away a section of that vote-bank — the bigger the better.
But the fact is that the Sena targeted outsiders — particularly,
South Indians — for only a few years after its birth in the
mid-1960s. And how far did it take the party? Through that entire
period — and many years thereafter as well — the party’s influence
extended — as the late columnist Busybee used to memorably put it —
“all the way from Lalbaug to Parel” (two adjoining working class
Mumbai localities). It remained a cipher in state politics, hardly
winning any assembly seats.
The startling rise of the Shiv Sena from the mid-1980s was due to two
reasons. The first was Sharad Pawar’s decision in 1986 to merge his
Janata Dal unit into the Congress, leaving the opposition space
empty. The Shiv Sena — and to a lesser extent, the BJP — occupied it.
The second was a calculated decision by Sena supremo Bal Thackeray to
stop targeting Southerners and demonise the religious minorities —
especially Muslims — instead. In the communally charged atmosphere of
the late 1980s and early 1990s, brought about by the Ayodhya
movement, the Sena’s vituperative anti-Muslim stance proved a poll
Even so, just how much of Maharashtra’s vote does the Sena control?
In the 1995 assembly election, the only one so far it has been able —
in alliance with the BJP — to win, it captured just 17.33 per cent of
the total votes cast, getting 73 of the 288 Assembly seats, its
highest tally so far. (In the 2004 Assembly poll, its vote share was
a tad higher at 20 per cent, though it got fewer seats.) So why on
earth is the Sena regarded as the sole thekedar of Maharashtrian
interests, when not more than a fifth of the state’s voters have
voted for it even once?
There are a few Indian states where anti-outsider sentiment is
palpable. These are usually small, far-off states with limited native
populations, which do indeed fear they may be ‘swamped’ — and their
culture and identity eroded — by the influx of people from the more
populous ones. In certain cases, where the fears were found
legitimate, laws have been passed making it difficult for outsiders
to buy property and settle. Some northeastern states have the ‘inner
line permit’ system in place, which even restricts the entry of
But Maharashtra — one of the most-advanced states in the country — is
emphatically not one of them. Once he tests electoral waters, Raj
Thackeray — unless he changes his political plank — is almost certain
to drown. The only regret is that he is giving the hapless Marathi
manoos a reputation for being rabidly xenophobic that is totally
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