The Struggle for India's Soul
A reply to Mira KAMDAR by Dr. Koenraad ELST

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The article "The struggle for India's soul" by Mira Kamdar (World Policy Journal, fall 2002) exemplifies the confusions bedevilling the communalism debate, especially among avowed secularists and their NRI friends. In the present paper, I will not posit any new thesis but merely draw attention to the logical fallacies and factual mistakes so typical of secularist polemic against Hindu nationalism.

1. "Hindu fascism"

Mira Kamdar tells us about a paradoxical combination of opinions in her father: "My immigrant Gujarati father is both a liberal Democrat and a supporter of Hindu fascism. This is not as unusual as one might think."

Before discussing this paradox, we need to focus on the use of a single word which does more in conditioning the mind of the non-specialist reader than any thesis developed at length in her paper: "fascism". If the Hindu ideology under consideration were really "fascism", then its combination with liberal anti-racism would be highly unusual and problematic, requiring a thorough explanation which Mira Kamdar's paper fails to offer. Of course, if some of the groups concerned were to call themselves "fascists", it would be normal if we were to do likewise. But that is not the case at all: they describe themselves as "Hindu nationalists", "Hindu revivalists" or "genuine secularists". So, in a scholarly paper, as opposed to a partisan political pamphlet, the decision to describe them as "fascists" can come only at the end of an analysis showing how in spite of their own self-description they really do satisfy the definition of "fascism". But no such analysis has been given here. The term "fascism" is thrown in at the outset without any justification, in an obvious attempt to condition the unwitting reader into a mood of hatred against the targeted Hindu activists.

I have analysed the discourse on "Hindu fascism" in detail in my book The Saffron Swastika (Voice of India, Delhi 2001), and will offer a few arguments against the notion below. For now, I may limit the explanation of my skepticism about it to the following observation. The Hindu nationalists, presently in power in Delhi, are not "fascists", and the best proof is the very fact that this allegation is made so routinely. In an age in which this is the ultimate insult and the most terrible allegation, no authoritarian government would let opposition voices get away with uttering it day in and day out. Yet, for today's Indian intellectuals, levelling grim allegations against the Hindu nationalists, including that of "fascism", does not entail a risk of landing in prison or in a torture chamber, not even of being censored or fired. On the contrary, it is a very smart career move. It can get you a job with prestigious media and institutions, and it will earn you invitations to the American lecture circuit. Get rich quick!

Farther down in her paper, Mira Kamdar continues in the same vein: "The president should condemn strongly the genocide in Gujarat and attacks elsewhere against India's Muslims". (emphasis added) Killing 2000 people is terrible, but in a population of millions, can you seriously call it "genocide"? This kind of hyperbole betrays a purely polemical rather than scholarly purpose behind her paper. Or the prevalence of the polemical mode against Hindutva to such an overwhelming extent that scholars sheepishly adopt it even without having the intention of straying from scholarly deontology.

She also writes the following line about Ashutosh Varshney's latest book: "Varshney presents, almost sotto voce, a secondary line of argument where, I believe, he more accurately nails the beast of Hindutva to the wall." Another brief remark on terminology is in order here. Communism killed over 100 million people, yet, what academic journal would accept a paper describing Communism as a "beast"? Anyone using such terminology would at once be derided as "McCarthyist" and worse. But in writing on Hindutva, the normal rules are suspended.

2. Inequality, racism and Islam

Mira Kamdar doesn't seem to realize that she is providing a good entry point into a justification of the "anti-Muslim anti-racism" paradox where she details her own family's anti-racist commitment: "Even our parents' 'mixed marriage'—my mother is Danish American—was to be understood not so much as a love affair as a salvo in the war on racism."

Well, there you have an excellent starting-point for a little meditation on the similarities between racism and Islam. If Mira Kamdar's father was in favour of mixed marriages, he had necessarily to be an opponent of Islam. For, Islam forbids mixed marriages, viz. between a Muslim and a non-Muslim. Such marriages are only allowed if the non-Muslim partner first converts, so that it is no longer a mixed marriage but a purely inter-Muslim one. This rule is strictly enforced (and even in Western countries, Muslim social pressure to this effect is very strong) in case of a union between a Muslim woman and a man of non-Muslim origin: Islam as a system of domination does not tolerate a Muslim partner submitting to the authority of a non-Muslim pater familias. In the reverse case, there is more scope for accommodation: care must be taken that the resulting children are raised as Muslims, but in specific social circumstances the non-Muslim identity of the wife may be respected. This asymmetry is exactly like in the racist equation in the American Old South: no white father would ever allow his daughter to go with a black man, but he might allow himself to have a black mistress. The idea is that the natural order is respected as long as the dominant male partner belongs to the dominant class. To be sure, this attitude is not exclusive to Islam or to racism, it appears in most groups pretending to some kind of collective superiority. But at any rate, it helps explain why an anti-racist could logically also be an anti-Islamist.

The combination of liberalism and anti-Islamism has recently been illustrated by the case of the Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn, murdered during his spectacular election campaign in May 2002 by a Dutch leftist. This ultra-liberal sociology professor and avowed homosexual had criticized the illiberal elements in Islam, particularly regarding women, homosexuals and non-Muslims. He was not against Muslim immigration per se ("I have nothing against Muslims, I go to bed with them") but he favoured a controlled slowing of immigration in order to facilitate the full assimilation of the Muslim immigrants, away from their physical and mental ghettoes. When he turned this position into a political programme and stood for elections, he rapidly gained the support of a veritable rainbow of different opinion segments, including emancipated ex-Muslims, native critics of immigration or of Islam, and most remarkably, some of the non-Muslim immigrant groups, especially the Hindu community immigrated from Surinam in the 1970s. There has never been anything particularly right-wing in the voting behaviour of these Hindus, and Fortuyn was not really a rightist anyway, but they certainly were ready to sympathize with the first politician to speak out against the more unpleasant aspects of Islam.

Another groups that combines liberalism and anti-Islamism is the growing circle of enlightened apostate Muslims. Unlike in India, in Muslim countries it takes a lot of courage to be a secularist. It is these brave champions of freedom and humanist values who are shot in the back by the slanderous identification of anti-Islamic positions with "fascism". To be sure, these Muslim-born liberals probably don't hate their compatriots who have not yet outgrown Islam (though in many cases, it is painful personal experiences with true Muslims that made them question the faith in the first place), but that makes little difference. Indian "secularists" treat any and every criticism of Islam, no matter how experience-based, no matter how factual or scholarly, no matter how humanist and liberal, as "hate" and "fascism".

3. The perennial Aryans

The following sentences appear to be an attempt by Mira Kamdar to reinterpret her father's anti-racist sarcasms as actually an expression of secret Nazi sympathies, which in turn are implicitly linked to his anti-Muslim feelings: "More boldly, and more rarely, he would allude to the Nazis' linkage of Indians with Germans in one vast Aryan family. I always took these remarks to be tongue-in-cheek observations that no one, least of all my father, really believed, remarks designed more to provoke than to express his true views."

The key phrase concerns Whites and Indians jointly being "Aryans". Since the mere mention of the term "Aryan" tends to cause hysteria in the general public, and utter confusion among Indian secularists, a little explanation is in order. According to the Aryan Invasion Theory (AIT), cherished by British colonialists, Nazis and Indian secularists alike, and questioned by a variety of scholars as well as by the present generation of Hindutva activists, much of the Indian population is of "Aryan" or effectively of European origin, immigrated through Central Asia into India in the 2nd millennium BC. In the early 20th century, this theory was used by some Indian emigrants in demanding equal rights with Europeans on grounds of common ancestry or racial identity, both in South Africa and in the United States. While racial equality for all was still considered a long shot, the more limited goal of lifting Indians out of the "coloured" and into the "Aryan" or "White" category did seem feasible, at least rhetorically if not legally. That is why Mira's father had a point in turning the concept "Aryan" against its White originators by using it to claim equality.

She need have no doubts that his use of the expression was indeed "tongue-in-cheek", for he clearly didn't seriously accept the notion of "Aryan" as a racial concept. It had nothing to do with any secret Nazi convictions, much less with his opinion about Muslims.

4. Hate, the concept

That opinion, we are told, amounts to nothing less than hate: "So it has been a great and sad shock to me to realize that my father, who loved Martin Luther King, hates Muslims. He hates them blindly, viscerally, categorically. (*) in any discussion where Muslims, the Middle East, Bosnia (not to mention Pakistan) comes up, he is wont to fly into an apoplectic rage, turn red in the face, shout until spit begins to pool at the sides of his mouth, shake his fists. The culmination of these fits is always the same. He bends over, seizes the cuff of the right leg of his pants, and pulls it up to show off a series of diagonal dents marching up his shin, scars from a back-alley encounter decades ago with a gang of bicycle-chain-wielding Muslim youths. 'This is what Muslims did to me! This is what Muslims do!'"

Here it is said without ambiguity: this man hates Muslims because he personally suffered under Muslim aggression. No Hindutva indoctrination needed, just a lesson from reality. This is not to say that hatred, even if based in real experience, should be condoned. But hatred is an emotional category, not a political one. I hope we won't deny a rape victim the right to hate her rapist. It might be desirable if she managed to rise above this emotional reaction, forgiveness being the cardinal Christian virtue, but it is not something we can demand of her. It would have been magnanimous of Mr. Kamdar to rise above his vengeful feelings against his Muslim assailants, but his daughter is in no position to condemn him for failing to do so. As long as his hatred doesn't lead him to violence or other illegal behaviour, his hatred is purely a matter of freedom of opinion.

Likewise, most Hindus have generally restrained the expression of their indignation and even of their hatred to verbal utterances between relatives and neighbours, or in letters to the editor, rather than physically taking it out on Muslims. What is always overlooked in a discussion of the Gujarat carnage, is how exceptional this type of Hindu retaliation to a Muslim act of aggression (the Godhra pogrom, cfr. infra) turns out to be once we take a larger perspective. There was no Hindu retaliation to the Mumbai bomb blasts of March 1993; to the numerous group killings of Hindus in Jammu and Kashmir; to the mass killing of Hindu activists in Coimbatore in February 1998; to the frequent reports of pogroms on Hindus in Bangladesh; or to the attacks on the Parliament buildings in Srinagar and Delhi in the autumn of 2001. Even the Gujarat carnage remained confined to a few cities in one state, and when Islamic terrorists killed more than thirty Gujarati Hindu worshippers in the Akshardham temple in Gandhinagar only a few months later, there was no Hindu retaliation, in accordance with the old pattern. By and large, Hindus have shown remarkable self-restraint in the face of violent provocation, a fact for which they are given insufficient credit. Likewise, even Mira Kamdar's father, for all the intense resentment attributed to him by his daughter, is not reported to have taken any kind of revenge upon the community he is said to hate so much.

However, one intellectual failing in Mr. Kamdar's opinion as conveyed by his daughter is the sweeping generalization implicit in it. From what a handful of Muslims did to him, he deduced that "this is what Muslims do", i.e. Muslims in general, all Muslims. This is an unwarranted leap of logic, and a dangerous one too. In his case, it apparently hasn't led him to taking out his anger on other Muslims, but in many other cases, that is precisely what happens: numerous communal riots in India start with Muslim goondas attacking Hindus, followed by (the affected as well as other) Hindus retaliating not against the original aggressors but against any Muslim in sight.

But Mira Kamdar thinks there is more to the latest rioting than an expression of pent-up resentment finally boiling over: "Until quite recently, I believed my father's hatred of Muslims to be a particular affliction, the result of an attack whose emotional scars go far deeper than the physical ones. I realized in 1992-93, when Hindu-Muslim riots raged throughout India in the wake of the destruction of the Babri Masjid (mosque) in Ayodhya by Hindu militants, that my father's views were, if not a universal plague, at least a widespread distemper. A decade later in 2002, it has become chillingly clear that Hindu-Muslim conflict in India is no longer — if it ever was — a natural malady, the unfortunate inheritance of an ancient people beset by too much history and too many conquerors: it has become a weapon of political engineering wielded by Hindu militant leaders bent on transforming India from the secular democracy its founders envisioned 55 years ago into a Hindu religious state, sanitized of Muslims and other minority groups."

This is a fashionable view, but it is given here without any evidence. It is quite unclear how in the past decade, something has happened to disprove the impression created by Mira Kamdar's father, viz. that Hindu hatred of Muslims is the reaction to a deep scar based in real experiences of Muslim violence. The causes of communal feelings haven't really changed since 1992. Talk to the average Bajrang Dal activist or Shiv Sena voter, and you will verify that the hatred is real, but that it is most certainly "the unfortunate inheritance of an ancient people beset by too much history and too many conquerors". Even a more restrained observer like V.S. Naipaul gives precisely that reason for his view that India is a "wounded civilization" and for his concomitant criticism of Islam as an alienating and destructive force. In very many cases, Hindus also have personal experiences which directly explain their hatred of Muslims,-- which admittedly is true of many Muslims vis-à-vis Hindus as well. I have interacted with and taken interviews of numerous Hindutva activists and leaders in the past fifteen years, and one constant among those who expressed anti-Muslim views (by no means all of them) was the reference to actual Muslim aggression, whether during Partition or in Kashmir or in local communal confrontations.

This is not to deny that some politicians, by no means only of Hindutva parties, may have whipped up these pre-existing emotions in specific contexts where communal polarization seemed useful to them. But to explain the widespread negative feelings of Hindus about Muslims as the effect of politicians' propaganda amounts to a far-fetched conspiracy theory.

5. The Hindutva programme

Hindu nationalism is accused of aiming at "transforming India from the secular democracy its founders envisioned 55 years ago into a Hindu religious state, sanitized of Muslims and other minority groups." But in fact, the BJP has never included anything of this kind in any of its programmatic statements, quite the reverse. Its 5-year performance in government confirms the truth of its statements: it has not even expelled any of the millions of illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, something which is perfectly within its legal power to do (every sovereign state by definition reserves itself the right to control the access to its territory); let alone the legitimate Muslim citizens of India.

But a polemicist can always circumvent such refutation by the facts: "The BJP plays the role of the moderate, mainstream entity, friendly to multinational capital and mature enough to lead India onto the global stage of the great powers, against the RSS's frankly fascist youth corps activities, the VHP's worldwide propaganda machine, and the Bajrang Dal's street-level enforcement and terror gangs."

So now the BJP is no longer accused of Muslim-cleansing, but the party is part of a broader network with a division of labour, so that it can leave the truly dirty jobs to other affiliates of the network. However, even "the Bajrang Dal terror-gangs" haven't expelled any Muslims from India. Of course, the secularists can then fall back on their next line, which is that of a "threat", a prediction that after further radicalization, this is what the Hindutva forces will do. If today the facts stand in the way of their alarmist thesis, tomorrow will prove them right, mañana mañana* But meanwhile, the stark fact is that the continuous trickle of Hindu refugees from Pakistan and Bangladesh is not reciprocated by a symmetrical phenomenon of Muslim flight from India. On the contrary, even in BJP-ruled India, even in Mumbai a.k.a. Shiv Sena City, there is a continuous influx of Bangladeshi Muslim fortune-seekers. They vote with their feet to refute Mira Kamdar's alarmist stories.

For half a century, all official statements of the BJP and its predecessor Jana Sangh have emphasized that the party does not want to "transform India from the secular democracy its founders envisioned 55 years ago into a Hindu religious state", but that, on the contrary, it wants genuine secularism. Rather than being a hollow slogan, this position is articulated in the form of precise proposals for reform of an impeccably and undeniably secularist nature. Thus, the proposed abolition of the special status of Kashmir (Art. 370 of the Constitution) is nothing but the abolition of a religion-based privilege: no Hindu-majority state enjoys the special privileges accorded to Muslim-majority Kashmir. Likewise, any genuine secularist would abolish the existing anti-Hindu legal discriminations in matters of temple and school management and the subsidizing or taxing of pilgrimages.

The BJP proposal to enact a Common Civil Code in replacement of the existing religion-based Personal Law systems is the very quintessence of secularism. Today, contrary to Mira Kamdar's claim, India is not a secular state, for unlike genuinely secular states, India has no equality before the law regardless of religion. Thus, getting a divorce is extremely difficult for a Christian, is a matter fr judicial proceedings in the case of Hindus or of Muslim women, and is the unilateral exercise of an unfettered right of repudiation in the case of a Muslim man. What the BJP wants is to bring India in line with the secular states of the world by enacting a common law equally applying to all citizens. The qualification of the self-styled secularists as "pseudo-secularists" is definitely justified by the fact that they support the continuation of legal religion-based discrimination all while vilifying the only political force willing to secularize Personal Law.

6. The Godhra carnage

In her paper, Mira Kamdar defends the well-known position of a fraction in India's ideological landscape which calls itself "secularist". It will be clear by now that this so-called "secularism" is a deeply flawed political identity, but I will give Ms. Kamdar credit for being rather more even-handed in her presentation than is common in secularist sources. Thus, she writes:

"On February 27, a train carrying Hindu militants back from a trip to Ayodhya, where they had gone to press anew for the construction of a temple on the site of the razed Babri mosque, stopped in the small town of Godhra, near Ahmedabad, in Gujarat. What happened next is not entirely clear, except for the fact that a Muslim mob set fire to the train, killing 58 people, mostly women and children."

Most Hindutva sources, searchable on the internet but otherwise quite unreported in the Western media, have emphasized that most victims were "women and children", implying a big question-mark over the description of the Godhra victims as "militants". Because of this inconvenient implication, most authors propagating the "secularist" viewpoint before ignorant Western audiences have simply left out the detail that the victims were "mostly women and children", so as to make the allegation of "militancy" more credible, along with the justifying suggestion that those fanatics had it coming to them. Well, it is to Ms. Kamdar's credit that she didn't play this game of deception. But it weakens her plea against Hindutva, for it amounts to an admission that the whole Gujarat carnage started with innocent Hindus being victimized. And in the blame game, it remains crucial which side is in a position to say: "You started it!"

Just how crucial, is illustrated by Mira Kamdar's attempt, later on, to depict the Muslim participation in the subsequent riots as "retaliatory", a characterization withheld from the Hindu retaliation: "Once the violence got underway, there were retaliatory attacks by Muslims on Hindus." (emphasis added) It all depends at what moment you start counting. That is why many "secularist" references to the Gujarat riots now simply leave the initial Godhra episode unmentioned, just as most secularist accounts of the Mumbai riots of January 1993 pass over the initial Muslim attacks in silence. This is like letting World War II start with the Allied "aggression" in Normandy in 1944, opposed by German "defenders of Europe".

But if in the case of Gujarat the Muslim initiative cannot be denied, it can at least be minimized and even, to some extent, justified: "Conspiracy theories aside, when a trainload of Hindu militants stops in a Muslim area, when taunts and insults begin to fly, it doesn't take much to imagine how the situation can get badly out of control." While this sentence deals with an attack of Muslims on Hindus, note how the author manages to describe the Hindus, and only the Hindus, as "fanatics". And note that whereas the subsequent Hindu violence is attributed to the VHP, the Bajrang Dal, Chief Minister Narendra Modi and other named agents, the initial Muslim attack is not ascribed to conscious agents but reduced to an impersonal fact of life: "insults begin to fly", "the situation gets out of control". It seems that jihad really is the work of Heaven, not of man.

7. A pre-planned butchery?

"Everyone expected some kind of act of revenge. Attacks and counterattacks between Hindus and Muslims are nothing new in Gujarat. No one doubted that some Muslims were going to pay with their lives for the Hindu lives lost. But few anticipated what happened next. (*) Truckloads of Hindus, mostly young men — many sporting headbands in saffron, the Hindu sacred color — headed for Muslim neighbourhoods. They were armed not only with homemade gasoline bombs, trishuls (the trident-shaped weapon associated with the god Shiva), and knives but also, in some cases, with printouts from government computer databases listing the names and addresses of Muslims and Muslim-owned businesses. (*) Muslim homes and businesses were looted, and then the buildings and often the dismembered bodies of the former occupants were set on fire. Neighboring Hindu homes and businesses were spared. (*) It was evident that state and local authorities not only did nothing to stop the violence but were actually complicit in orchestrating the attacks. (*) This was no spontaneous eruption of Hindu righteous outrage too deep to be suppressed, as the VHP would have it. (*) This was ethnic cleansing, designed by Hindu extremists to purge Gujarat of Muslims."

Assuming that the claim of rioters using governmental population data is correct, there is no reason to deduce that the riots were organized by a government agency, much less that they were "pre-planned" in the sense of having been planned in advance of the Godhra pogrom. It suffices that one government employee, in defiance of the rules, sent an e-mail divulging governmental data to some militant friends, and the same evening riot parties could take to the streets with weapons in one hand and the printout in the other.

But we may agree that there was planning involved, in this sense that the violence was not inflicted blindly but was carefully aimed at Muslims and Muslim property. At this point, we must agree with Mira Kamdar, both in acknowledging the capacity for violence in some Hindutva circles and in unreservedly condemning the initiative to riot. I have often listened with amazement and disgust to your typical Gujarati Bania (trader) who, after affirming Gandhian platitudes about the "equal truth of all religions", waxes eloquent on how "Muslims should be taught a lesson". It is hardly surprising that their unreflected and simplistic anger would at some point boil over into an actual carnage.

In my opinion, part of the reason for this is the total rejection, both by secularists and Hindutva organizations, of any critical study of religions. The superficial approach, typical of secularism and equally practised by the would-be secularists of the BJP, merely sees Muslims staging a pogrom in Godhra. The more sophisticated approach makes the distinction between the Indians who commit the carnage and the ideology which has estranged them from and turned them against their fellow-countrymen, viz. Islam. Either you realize that the problem is not Muslims but Islam and you subject that doctrine to the appropriate critique (criticism of religion being the very start of any criticism, according to Karl Marx), or you shield Islam from criticism and remain stuck with the naked fact that the perpetrators of the Godhra pogrom were Muslims. The superficial flattering blather about Islam being a "noble faith" and "a path leading to the same goal" as Hinduism (Gandhi), about "genuine Islam" being a "religion of peace" (secularism) or a respectable form of "Arab nationalism" later unfortunately "distorted by the Mullahs" (Hindutva), paradoxically leads to the non-comprehension of the Islamic phenomenon and hence to unreflected irrational attitudes and possibly to violent outbursts against Muslims.

But the capacity for violence dormant in the silly chattering of the Indian bourgeoisie is by no means confined to Hindutva or Islamist circles. Mira Kamdar herself reminds us of a secularist instance: "The attacks in Gujarat recalled quite starkly the state-facilitated, retributive attacks on Sikhs in New Delhi following the assassination of former prime minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards in 1984." While Hindutva activists (including the later Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee in person) tried to save the Sikhs, the pogrom was conducted by the youth wing of the Congress Party, secularist par excellence. Three thousand Sikhs killed, that was secularism in action.

Contrary to a very common recent claim, the Gujarat carnage was by no means the biggest-ever since Partition. In death toll it was rivalled, for example, by the Bhagalpur riots of 1989. Yet, there was a new element this time around: "Certainly, the Hindu victims in the train at Godhra and those who perished or lost their homes in the subsequent violence suffered no less horrible fates than Muslim victims. These attacks are as indefensible as any other, and are to be condemned. The critical difference, however, is that there was no state complicity in Muslim attacks on Hindus."

But this remains an open question. A number of private agencies, mostly foreign-based and foreign-funded, have made and propagated the allegation of "state complicity", and I don't want to rule out that they may be right. However, India happens to be a democracy with separation of powers, with a judiciary that has often proven its independence from the government of the day. As an elitist and essentially despotic movement (claiming to know better than the backward masses what is good for them), Indian secularism is naturally ill at ease with democracy, which it decries as "populism", "demagoguery" or "majoritarianism" when convenient. But much as secularist polemicists would like to privatize justice and bypass the official judiciary, only the existing courts are empowered to pass judgment on whether or not the Gujarat state government was an accomplice in the riots. In the Ayodhya temple/mosque affair, where the courts have been dragging the case for more than fifty years now, the secularists have always told the Hindus to be patient and abide by the court verdict. In the present case, there is no dearth of agencies willing to take the Modi government to court, and then it is up to them to exercise patience and wait for the judicial verdict.

8. Adivasi participation

The "tribal" question is another reality check for the intellectual grip of the secularists on the communal problem: "For the first time as well, large numbers of Adivasi tribals participated in the attacks. (India terms indigenous ethnic groups who do not traditionally practice Hinduism or any other of the country's main religions and who have no place in the Hindu caste hierarchy 'tribals'.) They were trucked into target areas and plied with liquor to put them in the right ransacking mood. For some years, the VHP and other allied groups of the Sangh Parivar have been working to convert the tribals, who have their own animistic beliefs, to Hinduism and enlist them in anti-Muslim efforts. In Gujarat, Adivasis were reportedly used against the Muslim moneylenders to whom they were indebted, in order to eliminate the competition for local Hindu moneylenders."

A series of allegations is made here which are all in need of proof. Clearly, secularists doubt the capacity of tribals to make their own decisions, even consequential decisions such as participating in pitched battles with Muslims. While Hindus are wily manipulators with an agenda of their own, tribals have to be "plied with liquor" before acting. In reality, enmity between tribals and Muslims is a long-standing sociological phenomenon, based on deep cultural differences (including a propensity among tribals to eat pork and drink the liquor already mentioned, unclean practices from a Muslim viewpoint) and de facto conflicts of interests, including the said problems with moneylenders. One such objective conflict of interests is the settlement of illegal Bangladeshi immigrants on tribal lands, which in 1983 in the Northeastern district of Nellie led to clashes between native tribals (many of them Christians) and Muslim settlers, exacting a death toll of thousands. In 2002, Christian tribals in Nagaland organized in the National Socialist Council of Nagalim have decreed that no further Muslim encroachment on their land, nor attempts by Muslims to marry tribal women, will be tolerated, the penalty being death. So, tribal-Muslim clashes are nothing new and don't necessarily require the intervention of Hindutva agitators.

At some point in most debates on Indian religions, secularists with Hindu names will claim the right to speak as Hindus and to be judges of what "real" Hinduism is, as against the Hindutva fanatics who have "hijacked Hinduism for their own un-Hindu purposes". But let them continue, and you will find that they are unable to pass even the simplest test of knowledge of Indian religions. Typically, they will display all the misunderstandings which people from a Christian background bring to the debate, projecting categories from Western religious history onto the Indian situation. Case in point: Mira Kamdar claims that the VHP is "working to convert the tribals, who have their own animistic beliefs, to Hinduism" (emphases added). This is purely a projection onto the Indian socio-religious continuum of the typically Christian division of mankind into box-like groupings defined by separate belief systems, with one trying to swallow or destroy the other through conversion of its adherents.

India never had the notion that "tribal animism" and "Hinduism" were separate religions. Hinduism itself has been described (e.g. in the preamble to the 1901 Census Report) as "animism refined by metaphysics". To Muslims and Christians, even the most isolated and least "sanskritized" Indian tribals are Heathens of the same hell-bound kind as Hindus: idol-worshipping polytheists unfamiliar with Mohammed c.q. Jesus. When the Muslim invaders introduced the Persian term Hindu (originally a purely geographical term, "Indian"), they applied it to all native religionists, to all Indian Pagans, from Brahmins and Buddhists to tribal "animists", precisely because the most important religious trait was one which they had all in common, viz. their unbelief in prophetic monotheism. The relevant definition of "tribal" is not by belief system but by sociological and geographical position.

Even then, it is not true that the tribals, or rather Atavika-s, "forest-dwellers" (modern Vanavasi-s, "forest-dwellers", or in Gandhi-speak Girijan-s, "hill people"), "have no place in the Hindu caste hierarchy". Traditional Hindu society was conceived as a number of concentric circles, with the narrowest circles comprising the Vedic specialists, the next one the higher castes collectively, then the whole population in so far as it abided by basic Vedic norms such as the taboo on cow-slaughter, and finally the whole of India including marginal groups not observing Vedic purity rules: people performing unclean professions or suspected of having loose sexual morals, eating beef etc. Even at worst, the tribals at least fall within the last circle, peripheral but certainly part of Hindu society. In particular, the institution of caste, which secularists obsessively identify with Hinduism, is an essential feature of Indian tribal life. A tribe is an endogamous group, the very definition of caste. Indeed, it has been observed (by Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar among many others) that caste is nothing but the continuation in literate Hindu society of tribal identities: as tribes all over India got integrated into the expanding Vedic civilization originating in India's Northwest, they retained their collective identities as endogamous groups. The traditional Hindu term for both castes and tribes is jati, "birthgroup", while the first British colonizers used the term "tribe" for both tribes and castes, e.g. the "Brahmin tribe".

What VHP workers perform in tribal communities is not "conversion", meaning the abandonment of one religion for another, but that which sociologists have called "sanskritization". The basic structure of existing tribal religiosity is left intact: ritualism, respect for the sacred, the enacted concentration of the sacred into specific objects (sacred trees, stones, idols) for worshipping purposes, these are all practices familiar to tribals as much as to Sanskritic Hindus. Into this basic religiosity, more advanced philosophical notions and values, such as meditation and non-attachment, are infused, just as they once had to be injected into the more naturalistic culture of the Vedic kings by the first seers and renunciates. The ritual and doctrinal continuity between tribal "animism" and Vedic tradition is given a practical application by the conjunction of tribal tradition with Sanskritic culture in the schools which Hindu organizations have opened in tribal areas. "Conversion" in the real sense of the term is only performed as the undoing of a previous conversion from tribal Hinduism to Christianity. These much-publicized cases of conversion are called "home-coming" (ghar-wapasi), because unlike in conversions to Christianity, the people concerned are not abandoning their native religion but are returning to it.

Contrary to what Mira Kamdar intimates, the term "tribal" is by no means a Hindu imposition; it is of course a Western colonial coinage, of the same vintage as "secularism" and "conversion". The same is true of the term she innocently uses to designate the tribals, viz. Adivasi, "aboriginal", a term which falsely implies that non-tribals are not indigenous, or at least less indigenous than tribals. In many cases, the implication of tribal indigenousness is also untrue, e.g. the most separatist tribes in the Northeast, the christianized Nagas and Mizos, only immigrated into their present habitat from the East in the Middle Ages, quite late by Indian standards. Even the Munda-speaking tribals in Chotanagpur are generally considered pre-Harappan-age immigrants from Indochina, still the demographic point of gravity of their Austro-Asiatic language family. And the Dravidians are traced back by various scholars to Elam, Central Asia or even Africa, immigrating into India only in the early Harappan age. If the much-maligned Aryans perforce have to be described as "invaders", they are not the only ones.

At any rate, unlike the secularists, the Christian missionaries were always very clever and well-informed in religious matters, and in order to indigenize their divisive categorization of the Indian population, they invented the pseudo-indigenous Sanskrit neologism Adivasi. All by itself, this little word became one of the most brilliantly successful disinformation campaigns in modern history, falsely planting the novel notion of an aboriginal/invader antagonism into all thinking about the tribal condition. And no one is more susceptible to lapping up such false notions, provided they serve an anti-Hindu purpose, as are the secularists with their gross illiteracy in matters religious and Indian.

9. Rape and rumours

Mira Kamdar is right in condemning the role played by ugly rumours in generating the sparks that set cities aflame: "The threat of the violation of women is a reliable way to fire up Hindu-Muslim passions. One of the reasons given for the Muslim mob attacking the train at Godhra was the rumor of the 'molestation' and 'abduction' of a girl by Hindus on board. Following the attack on the train, the vernacular press in Gujarat ran incendiary headlines, one of which accused Muslims of lopping off Hindu women's breasts."

Yes, no words are strong enough to condemn the irresponsible rumour-mongering by the media. This includes the false allegations against Hindus in the Times of India or the Washington Post as much as the cruder below-the-belt allegations against the other community in the vernacular press, whether Urdu or Gujarati.

But Mira Kamdar is not very careful in her choice of sources. She quotes someone who clearly hasn't heard of the terrible treatment of women in the Partition carnage or, during his own adult life, in the Bangladesh war: "'I have never known a riot which has used the sexual subjugation of women so widely as an instrument of violence as in the recent barbarity in Gujarat', wrote Harsh Mander, a senior Indian Civil Service Officer who resigned his post in disgust." The number of women raped by the Pakistani army and its fundamentalist collaborators in Bangladesh in 1971 is usually estimated as 250,000, of whom many were raped dozens of times. Did our expert on communalism really not know about this?

And this is not the only thing wrong with her source. For in the meantime, the truth about Harsh Mander's "resignation" is out. Rather than resigning and forfeiting his pension, he merely took early retirement, retaining his rights and pension. Not such a terrible sacrifice for a man employed by a wealthy British NGO, Action Aid, and serving its politico-communal agenda. He is a telling example of all those private judges insinuating themselves into the debates and investigations concerning the communal confrontation, such as "Human Rights Watch, the European Union, the British High Commission, the Citizens' Initiative of Ahmedabad, the Editor's Guild of India, Communalism Combat, Amnesty International, and India's own National Human Rights Commission", all those human-rights champions who never noticed the ethnic cleansing of Hindus from Kashmir but savour their testimony of Muslim suffering in Gujarat no end.

While we are on the subject of the Hindu-cleansing in Kashmir, this is how Mira Kamdar reports the matter: "In the late 1980s, Kashmiri Muslim political frustration erupted into a violent insurgency. The state's Hindus, who were the targets of Muslim anger, fled en masse." And she goes on to quote with approval: "'With the resurgence of the Kashmir crisis and the migration of Hindus, Hindu nationalism received a new political impetus', according to Varshney." (emphases added) As if the Hindus made a choice to "migrate", as if their "fleeing" was a personal decision and not the result of a concerted and deliberate Pak-backed Muslim campaign. But what is innocuously called a "migration" in the case of Kashmiri Hindus, is grimly called "genocide" in the case of Gujarati Muslims.

10. Gandhi

"Gujarat is also the birthplace of Mohandas Gandhi, the father of independent India and the founder of a powerful political movement based on ahimsa, or nonviolence. My own grandfather—like the grandfathers of many of the young men who participated in the killing and looting in Gujarat, no doubt—was a devoted follower of Gandhi. Gandhi stood resolutely for a secular India and for tolerance—even love—for upper-caste Hindu society's outcasts: untouchables, Muslims, landless peasants, dispossessed factory workers. His murder by a Hindu extremist discredited the RSS and the Hindu militant movement for decades. But, like the phoenix, the Hindu right has risen from the ashes of Hindu-Muslim conflict in Gujarat stronger than ever."

Indian "secularist" discourse frequently relapses into the premodern stage, where rational thought could be blocked with magical formulas. One very popular power mantra to switch off the critical faculty is "Gandhi". At least for use against Hindus, since nobody holds it against secularists like Nehru that they betrayed Gandhi in every respect, e.g. the Mahatma's insistence on economic and cultural Swadeshi, his opposition to industrialization and to the deployment of a combat-worthy army, his anti-secular emphasis on the role of religion in politics. But Hindus are expected to swallow their every argument once the name Gandhi is invoked against it.

In defiance of this secularist magic, I propose we use our critical faculty and investigate Gandhi's own role in the Gujarat carnage. It is very simple and clear-cut: by going to one extreme with enormous intensity and then failing miserably, he triggered a movement towards the other extreme. With all his soul-force, Gandhi could only make Hindus and British liberals desist from violence. He failed with the Moplahs (who killed or forcibly converted Hindus in Kerala during the Khilafat agitation in 1921) and with the Muslim League, or rather, he didn't even try. It is one thing to perform a "miracle" in Calcutta during Partition, making Hindus desist from killing Muslims, but it would have been quite another and much more spectacular miracle to stop the much more massive killing of Hindus and Sikhs in West Panjab. In the event, Gandhiji didn't try to stop it. Instead, he told Hindu refugees in Delhi to go back to West Panjab and voluntarily get killed there.

This extreme case of double standards, and the abdication by the Mahatma of his original commitment to stake his life in preventing Partition, is what made Nathuram Godse decide to assassinate him. Most Hindus, including the leadership of the Hindu Mahasabha and the RSS, had never considered physically punishing Gandhiji for his failure in stopping Partition and the concomitant carnage. However, they did retain a deep scar and a resolve to avoid repeating Gandhi's mistake. Though paying lip-service to Gandhi's memory and though temperamentally at home in the Gandhian spirit of compromise, even Gandhi's own community of Gujarati Bania-s has grown weary of the policy of "appeasement". Under the blows of frequent Muslim pestering, such as the petty terror which drove Hindus out of certain neighbourhoods in Ahmedabad (as attested by a state law prohibiting inter-community sales of real estate in the wake of communal riots, a law routinely circumvented by Muslim mafia dons using stooges), they developed a strong resentment which finally boiled over after the Godhra pogrom.

Had Gandhi piloted a grown-up approach to peace-keeping, including the formula of "peace through strength" implicitly applied by most democratic governments, his principles would still be used as guidelines in controlling communal conflicts. Instead, his extremism in insisting on meekness and refusing any and every application of force against bullies backfired and helped to generate an extremism in the opposite direction: a loose readiness to take to arms on slender pretexts.

11. A gift from heaven

Concerning the danger posed by Hindu nationalism, Mira Kamdar engages a rival viewpoint within her secularist spectrum of opinion: "Ashutosh Varshney, a political science professor at the University of Michigan, thinks a Hindu extremist takeover of India at the national level is highly unlikely."

What follows next is an interesting discussion of a reassuring thesis developed by Varshney in his book Ethnic Conflict and Civic Life: Hindus and Muslims in India (Yale University Press, 2002). But our attention is drawn more strongly by something truly weird in the introductory sentence just quoted. As late as 2002, Varshney wrote, in Mira Kamdar's paraphrase, that "a Hindu extremist takeover of India at the national level is highly unlikely",-- four years after a BJP-led coalition came to power. Between the BJP's electoral breakthrough in 1989 (from 2 to 86 seats in the Lok Sabha) and its coming to power in 1998, there had been no end of warnings about the terrible things which a "Hindu extremist" BJP government would do: abolish democracy, throw the Muslims into the Arabian Sea, open gas chambers, organize mass sati, restore untouchability, crucify the missionaries, what not. After all, once you called them "Hindu fascists", such predictions followed with impeccable logic.

But none of those things materialized. Consider democracy: Hitler came to power at the head of a coalition government, just like A.B. Vajpayee, and within a year he had neutralized parliament and assumed dictatorial powers. The BJP, by contrast, after losing a confidence vote in 1999 by a margin of one, submitted to the will of the people and called new elections. On the Hindu-Muslim riots front, things remained as quiet as they had been in the preceding years (from March 1993 onwards), i.e. at a much more peaceful level than in the 1980s under Congress rule. By contrast, terrorism continued unabated. But the ones lethally targeted with great frequency by terrorists were Hindus, mostly by Kashmir-related "militants" (to use the approved secularist term) and less conspicuously also by Christian separatists in the Northeast and Communist guerrilla bands in the interior. So, the facts after a few years of BJP rule were crystal-clear: the main victims of religious violence were Hindus and there were no BJP gas chambers for Muslims. The whole anti-Hindutva industry was secretly facing acute embarrassment by the utter failure of its predictions to come true.

To offset this failure, critics of the BJP tried to make the most of a supposed wave of minor incidents between Hindu tribals and Christians in 1998-2000. There were only a handful of mortal victims, far fewer than the dozens of Christians killed in Pakistan after September 11, 2001, but with the media as amplifiers, an impression of terrible oppression of a poor hapless minority was created. Unfortunately (or rather, fortunately), the key allegations made initially under the international spotlights turned out to be untrue. Yes, an Australian missionary and his two sons died in an arson incident, but neither the governmental inquiry nor the judicial investigation could confirm the eager secularist indictment of the Bajrang Dal. Yes, four nuns in Jhabua were raped, but no Hindu activists were involved: it was an inter-tribal and inter-Christian affair. Yes, a Christian teenage girl and her little brother were assaulted, but the man turned out to be a Christian himself. Indeed, this turned out to be a pattern: all inter-Christian incidents in this period, including those between the older and quieter churches (Syrian, Catholic, Anglican) and the intruding American fundamentalist sects, were suddenly blamed on the evil hand of the Hindus.

This game of blaming the Hindus for the suffering of Christians was so successful that it inspired a third party to try its own hand at it. A series of bomb attacks against churches in South India did take place, wounding some worshipers. It was duly blamed on the Hindutva forces, but the perpetrators turned out to be a Pak-based Muslim organization, the Deendar Anjuman. Please note the chain of guilt here: the Islamic terrorists are of course responsible for their own acts, but they would not have committed these but for the encouragement given to them by the secularists. After all, the latter had proven that any unpleasant incident can successfully be blamed on the Hindus, and that the blame could not be washed off by any amount of official refutation, which would remain under-reported while the original allegation would go on being repeated. This way, the secularists have blood on their hands, viz. the blood of the Christian victims of these Islamic bomb attacks.

In each of these cases, the original allegations against Hindus were splashed across the front pages in India and also reported in the world press, whereas the true story, once it came out, was reported on an inside page in India and not at all abroad. Even then, Christian spokesman John Dayal repeated the discredited allegations before the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, and they keep on reappearing in secularist sources. I am not aware of a single secularist who publicly withdrew the allegations and offered apologies for his slander to the maligned Hindus. Nor of one who has drawn attention to Christian violence against Hindus in the same period, such as the abduction of four RSS activists by Christian separatists in Tripura (the four dead bodies were found two years later) or the ethnic cleansing of the Hindu Riang tribe from Christian-majority Mizoram. Even so, the propaganda line of Hindu violence against Christians is no longer pursued with the same vigour, partly because its proponents seem to be embarrassed by their crying wolf a few times too often, and partly because it remains a relatively small affair even if all the allegations had been true.

So, when the dust had settled, it became clear that the BJP government still hadn't put any minority into gas chambers. Therefore, to the anti-Hindutva campaigners, the Gujarat carnage came as a God-sent. After four years of waiting in vain for some serious BJP atrocities, at long last they could go in to photograph charred Muslim bodies and point accusing fingers at BJP politicians. The new secularist party-line was, quite realistically, that the BJP contained a moderate faction, in power in Delhi, as well as an extremist faction, best represented by Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi. All the predictions formerly made about "the" BJP could now be revived as applying to the extremist faction within the BJP. And given Modi's landslide victory during the Gujarat state elections following the riots, it stood to reason that the Modi wing represented the wave of the future within the BJP. Whether that will mean more violence or just the opposite (e.g. a firm elimination of "militancy" in Kashmir) remains to be seen; and unlike Mira Kamdar, I will not hazard a prediction.

12. Pakistan

Though the Nehruvian state was always obsessed with the evil "foreign hand" (mostly meaning the USA), its votaries have no patience with Hindutva spokesmen raising the same bogey, especially when Pakistan is meant: "But the claim that Pakistan ordered the attack at Godhra is unproved and, in my view, has little credibility."

Along with Mira Kamdar, I am rather skeptical of allegations against a Pakistani hand behind communal riots, though it must be kept in mind that the Gujarat riots have indeed worked greatly to Pakistan's advantage. Anti-Indian and pro-Pakistani lobbyists in Washington D.C., with the help of NRI secularists, have made the most of the Gujarat affair in order to counterbalance the fact of Islamic terrorism with the notion of "Hindu terrorism", this in order to prevent the post-9/11 indignation from serving India's and hurting Pakistan's cause. Yet, it does remain unlikely that the Pakistani Inter Services Intelligence has masterminded the Godhra carnage. But that estimation is not typically secularist, nor is its opposite typically Hindutva, on the contrary.

A reasoned anti-Islamic position would consider Pakistan as merely one realization of the Indian Muslim mind, a mentality which has remained active inside India even after Partition. Hence, in this view, there is little difference between organized Indian Islam and the Pakistani state, both being inveterately anti-Hindu and quite capable of terror against Hindus. So, when a crime has been committed by a Muslim, there is no need of claiming a Pakistani (as opposed to Indian) nationality for the culprit. Likewise, the secularist position sees little difference between organized Indian Islam and the Pakistani state: both have legitimate fears about the communal designs of the Hindus and of the Indian state which Hindus dominate, and it is up to the Hindus to be tolerant of Muslim excesses just as it is up to India to accommodate Pakistani intransigence regarding Kashmir.

By contrast, the would-be secularists who fill the leadership positions in the RSS and BJP make a distinction between the Indian Muslims ("Mohammedi Hindus") and the Pakistani state. In order to prove that they have nothing against Muslims, they will bend over backwards in order to formulate any Hindu-Muslim conflict in terms of a conflict between two states, India and Pakistan. In order to exonerate Indian Muslims, they put the blame on Pakistan, the foreign hand. Mind you, the reason behind this insistence on Pakistani guilt is not Hindutva or anti-Islamism, on the contrary: it is attempted secularism, trying to shield the Indian Muslims from suspicion.

13. The textbook controversy

Inevitably, Mira Kamdar brings up one of the flashpoints in the struggle between Hindutva and the Marxist-Mullah-Missionary alliance, viz. the textbook controversy: "The shaping of young minds is something the Sangh Parivar takes very seriously. Murli Manohar Joshi, an old RSS hand and India's minister for human resources, wants to 'saffronize' education in India by rewriting history textbooks to reflect Hindutva's version of India's history. Joshi has announced that all new school books will have to be cleared by religious leaders before publication."

What the BJP government claims to offer, what all scholarly historians want, and what is loathed by the Marxists who have dominated the cultural and educational establishment since decades, is glasnost: openness, an end to the dead hand of Marxist dogma in Indian history-writing. However, it is quite wrong to say that the Sangh Parivar takes this job "very seriously". It took three years before relieving leading Marxists of their influential positions (Prasar Bharati, NCERT, IHC). Most of its new nominees were not up to the job, some because of ill-health (e.g. K.S. Lal and B.R. Grover, both now deceased), some because they had never functioned in an academic setting. It should not be forgotten that for decades, at least since ca. 1970 when the Marxists led by P.N. Haksar and Nurul Hasan were given a lot of effective power in this sector in return for their support to Indira Gandhi, distinctly non-Marxist young historians found their access to an academic career blocked by the Marxist hegemons. Of the new textbooks, some are impeccable and are welcomed as undeniable improvements, e.g. Meenakshi Jain's presentation of the Muslim period, arguably the most sensitive and controversial part of the series. Some of the others, by contrast, have been criticized or ridiculed even by fair-minded observers.

So far, I am not aware of any of these textbooks having been submitted to the approval of religious leaders. M.M. Joshi's did make such a promise, but his statement to this effect has been pulled out of context. His point was not that henceforth Hindu clerics will decide on the contents of the textbooks so as to privilege the Hindu viewpoint, but precisely the opposite: after some commotion about a denial that Vedic seers ate beef, and after his concession to Sikh pressure in scrapping a negative comment on Guru Govind Singh, he tried to reassure Muslim and Christian critics that not only Hindu and Sikh sensibilities would be respected, but those of all religions. While definitely an improvement in the application of Indian "secularist" principles because of its even-handedness, this promise was scandalous from the viewpoint of historical scholarship. In a typical display of the RSS disdain for "sterile intellectualism", it not only subordinated history-writing to religious pressures but also contradicted a long-held position of the Sangh Parivar in the Ayodhya controversy, viz. that Hindus should know the truth about the thousandfold temple destructions,-- information obviously risking to "hurt the sensibilities" of the Muslim community. All in all, Hindutva historiography is not worse than the Marxist variety, the kind taken for granted for decades on end by the same people who now profess such indignation; but it isn't up to the mark either.

To pepper her story and give it a Gujarati angle, Mira Kamdar adds: "In Gujarat, the textbooks have already been rewritten to teach a Hindu-right worldview. Students in Gujarat were asked on this spring's final examination to join the following five phrases in a sentence: 'There are two solutions. One of them is Nazi solution.[sic] If you do not like people, kill them, segregate them. Then strut up and down. Proclaim that you are the salt of the earth.'"

As usual, the secularists take it for granted that once they use the term Nazi (or likewise, Aryan), hysteria will take over and the public will lose its analytical faculty. In this case, they assume that the juxtaposition of the words "Nazi" and "Hindu right" in one paragraph will convince the unattentive reader that the Hindu right is Nazi-inspired and openly acknowledges it. Whether that inference is justified, depends largely on the context of the sentence quoted from (or attributed to) the textbook in question. And since Mira Kamdar, for reasons best known to herself, has withheld that context from us, we are free to speculate about it. Moreover, upon looking more closely, we acquire the impression that we won't even need the context in order to determine the thrust of the quoted sentence. For, what it says is clearly sarcastic: if we could still be led to believe that the Hindutva author wanted to tell us how he himself believes in "killing" and "segregating" as the solution, we do notice the distinctly un-Hindu identity imputed to those who "strut up and down" and "proclaim that [they] are the salt of the earth".

Those are precisely the attitudes which Hindus attribute to the monotheistic faiths. It is Christians who claim to be "the salt of the earth", as told to the apostles by Jesus himself. In Hindutva discourse, self-righteousness is precisely the central vice imputed to the Christian and Islamic conquerors. Moreover, Hindu authors like Girilal Jain and Sita Ram Goel have often made the point that in this key respect, both Marxism and Nazism are but the secularized offspring of Christianity. So, while the quoted sentence may indeed have an anti-Muslim, anti-Christian and anti-Marxist thrust, it is not intended as pro-Nazi, on the contrary: it uses the Nazi reference as the indubitably reprehensible instance of a continuum of self-righteous doctrines which also includes Christianity, Islam and Marxism. And it is these which are deemed to offer as their solution to "kill" and "segregate" and self-righteously "strut up and down" as if being "the salt of the earth". The textbook, far from propagating this "Nazi" attitude, is actually denouncing it. It implicitly contrasts its own Hindutva with the self-righteousness of its enemies.

14. Targeted killings

Can we sense some disappointment in Mira Kamdar's finding that there are no anti-Jewish riots in India, and that the Hindu "hate" against the so-called Semitic religions does not extend to Judaism? Especially in an attempt to equate Hindutva with Nazism, this would have been very useful, but in fact: "There have been no attacks that I know of on Jews in India, a community with a wonderful history in that country going back centuries. This is probably because there are very few Jews left in India in the wake of substantial emigration to Israel. The Jewish community in India has no political clout and no presence as a voting bloc."

Actually, even before the migration to Israel in the 1950s, the Jewish community found in India the only society which never subjected it to persecution. But since the secularists have decreed that "Hindu tolerance is a myth", we had better not repeat this too loudly. India's best-known Jew is a hero to all nationalists: General J.F.R. Jacob, who played a central role in the Indian victory against Pakistan in the Bangladesh war. In 1998, he joined the BJP.

So let's get back to the more eventful Hindu-Muslim relationship. Having discussed the phenomena of street riots and mass terrorism sufficiently for now, let us focus on a third form of communal violence: targeted killings of specified individuals. Like with terrorism, the vast majority of victims in this category of violence have been Hindus. In the months and years after the Mumbai riots of January 1993, a number of Maharashtrian politicians belonging to the BJP and the Shiv Sena have been murdered, mostly by assailants who were never apprehended. In Kerala in the 1990s, dozens of ordinary Hindutva activists have been murdered by the Communists, the dominant party in that state. When I visited the Hindu Munnani office in Chennai in 1996, the building was really impressive, having just been rebuilt and redesigned after a bomb blast. Shortly after, it was destroyed once more in another bomb blast. In this series of attacks on the Hindu Munnani leadership, several activists were killed. And after the Gujarat carnage, the Gujarat Home Minister, Haren Pandya, was murdered by Muslims.

But Mira Kamdar's sympathies go out to someone who was not killed: the heiress and actress Mallika Sarabhai. She temporarily fled her home (or should we say: "migrated"?) when "Bajrang Dal gangs threatened to kill her and her children". But clearly, she survived these threats, just as historians Romila Thapar and D.N. Jha survived alleged death threats on which the media based grim allegations of "Hindu terrorism". You see, there is a difference between disgruntled people who write angry letters with empty "threats" and assassins who don't bother with threats because they mean business. The latter kind is apparently less interested in secularist icons.

This is what Mira Kamdar wants to share with us about BJP leader L.K. Advani: "The BJP undertook a major reshuffling of cabinet positions this past July. Most notably, Lal Kishenchand Advani, an unrepentant RSS heavyweight who personally led the effort to demolish the Babri Mosque in Ayodhya in 1992—which ignited bloody Hindu-Muslim riots across India—has been promoted to deputy prime minister."

To any sincere observer, it is obvious that Advani did not "personally lead the effort to demolish the Babri Masjid",-- he just stood there flabbergasted and with tears in his eyes when RSS discipline broke down and the crowd joined hands with a group of prepared activists who started the demolition in defiance of the gerontocrats. It is very significant that no one in the Indian English press cared to go for the scoop of the year, viz. revealing the identity of the mastermind behind the demolition. Instead, the whole media establishment abandoned the search for the facts in favour of the politically more useful stand of pinning the blame on the tallest political figure involved: L.K. Advani. But we cannot include in this paper a discussion of the awkward dishonesty evident throughout secularist reporting, denounced so often and so thoroughly by Arun Shourie and by Ramesh Rao. For now, we merely want to draw attention to what Mira Kamdar omits about L.K. Advani: that he has survived several attempts on his life. The most spectacular instance took place during an election meeting in Coimbatore in February 1998, where an Islamist bomb attack failed to kill Advani because he arrived late. It did, however, kill forty BJP activists present. Not being wealthy secularists, they were never put on alert by helpful "threats".

15. Things to do for Western governments

NRIs based in the USA can exercise a lot of influence on the Indian situation through their contacts with powerful American interest groups. Some seek to counter the dominant anti-Indian and anti-Hindu tendency in American politics and academe, while others try to strengthen them. The twin facts of Hindutva NRI loyalty to the Indian state and of NRI secularist disloyalty are confirmed off-hand by Mira Kamdar where she reports the testimony of an Indian diplomat in Washington: "One Indian diplomat has been heard to brag, 'I can count only on the BJP and RSS types to deliver on the Hill when we need support concerning some of our issues.'"

In the contemporary geopolitical configuration, the USA seems to have its reasons for humouring the Muslim world, even at the cost of estranging India, otherwise always flattered as a "natural ally" for being "the world's largest democracy". NRI secularists feel at home with this tendency. One of the allies of the secularists in their agitation against BJP-ruled India is Robert Hathaway: "As Robert M. Hathaway, director of the Asia Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars argues, 'Important American interests, including the global war against terrorism, can be directly impacted by what the U.S. says—and fails to say—about Gujarat. At this particular moment in history, the U.S. cannot allow the impression to take hold that Americans somehow value a Muslim life less than the life of a person of another religion.'"

For those who look at facts rather than at newspaper headlines, it is obvious that there is no danger whatsoever of the US giving the impression of valuing a Muslim life less than a Hindu life. Rather the reverse, and this consistently for decades. In 1971, the Pakistani Army was butchering Hindus in East Bengal by the hundreds of thousands (many times the total number of victims of Hindutva since then), yet the USA stood by Pakistan and did nothing to rein their Islamic allies in. Throughout the 1990s and till today, Pak-backed terrorists have been butchering Hindus in numerous shootings and bomb attacks and ethnically cleansing them from the Kashmir Valley, yet the USA have not used their leverage with Pakistan to stop this continuous terror wave. Dr. Hathaway's misrepresentation of this highly unbalanced American policy adds insult to injury.

Mira Kamdar wants to give more body to this unbalanced attitude by making the US and other Western authorities intervene and stop the flow of money to Hindu (but not to Muslim or Christian) organizations in India. For instance: "According to Gautam Appa of the London School of Economics, the two main right-wing Hindu 'charities' in England, the VHP(UK) and the HSS (the RSS's foreign organization) 'collected nearly one million pounds in the last financial year. It is common knowledge that a large chunk of the overt and covert collection ends up in India in the hands of the Sangh Parivar.'"

Perhaps it wasn't known yet at the time of Mira Kamdar's writing, but the VHP(UK) has cooperatively submitted to an official investigation and was cleared by the Charities Commission of these allegations. But in the USA, the struggle continues, as with the Indian leftist action against the Indian Development and Relief Fund: "Part of an appropriate response by the U.S. government should be to crack down on Hindu-right organizations operating in America that funnel money to the Sangh Parivar. According to Hathaway, 'Credible reports have recently suggested that substantial sums of money are sent from Indians resident in the U.S., and from American citizens of Indian origin, to groups and organizations* that are directly linked to the violence in Gujarat.' Testifying before the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, Hathaway urged the commission to initiate 'an official enquiry into financial transactions of this nature, to ensure that U.S. laws are not being violated'."

In democratic states under the rule of law, governments have no right to harm individuals or organizations on the basis of what interested parties like to pass off as "credible reports". If an organization has been judicially convicted as practising terrorism, then such measures as Dr. Hathaway proposes may be in order. But until then, they would only be an expression of raw political power arbitrarily cracking down on those not favoured by the hegemonic vested interests.

Meanwhile, American Christian Churches are known to fund the conversion of tribals and the subsequent maintenance of christianized communities, some of which have developed separatist and terrorist activities. Given the money power of these Churches and their links with the American political class, checking the destination of American Christian funding in India should be a top priority of US politicians who take the "war on terror" seriously. Indeed, it stands to reason that the financial dependence of outfits like the Tripura National Liberation Front and the National Socialist Council of Nagalim on American funding is near-total. The US government's power to stop Pakistani-supported terrorism is indirect though real; but its power to stop Christian terrorism in India's Northeast is direct and practically complete. However, using this real power in order to stop the real suffering of Indian terror victims doesn't seem to interest Robert Hathaway or Mira Kamdar. As for the Pakistani problem, we again see no sign of an interest on their part in pressurizing the US authorities to make Islamabad stop the jihadic proxy war against India. But at least we should be grateful to the two scholars for making it so clear on what side they are.

16. Conclusion

I would like to conclude by apologizing to Mira Kamdar for my uncharitable critique of her paper on "the struggle for India's soul". In terms of the Golden Rule, I must admit I wouldn't like to receive this treatment and am consequently hesitant about signing my name under the present treatment given to her. My only justification for doing so nonetheless is that selfsame Golden Rule. After all, she has levelled terrible allegations against a number of Hindu individuals and groups, from linking her own father with "fascism" to blaming the VHP for nothing less than a "genocide". She seems to expect us to accept such loose hyperbole effectively smearing all kinds of people and inciting hatred against them. Well, if she gives fellow human beings that kind of treatment, she should be ready for a less than flattering response. In the present paper, I myself have tried not to cross the boundaries between critical analysis and loose or exaggerated allegations. But being far from infallible, I offer my apologies in case I did Mira Kamdar and her secularist circle any injustice. At any rate, we can safely conclude in general terms that their conception of secularism, with its excess of zeal and lack of evenhandedness, is more a part of the problem than of the solution.

 

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