Who are we dying to please? - Jawed Naqvi - January 6, 2011

Source : www.dawn.com

THE condolence message from Hillary Clinton notwithstanding, did Salman Taseer go down fighting a good fight against Muslim fanatics to win applause from the Americans or did he die for the survival of Pakistan?

The question should be posed to Rahul Gandhi in the neighbourhood. India`s Congress party scion had made a valid point about the threat to his country from Hindu extremists — just as Pakistan is being wrecked by Muslim bigots — but instead of telling his countrymen about it, he whispered his worry into the ears of the American ambassador in Delhi. Nothing could be as self-defeating as not trusting your very own in the battle to defend your core ideals.

In a curious way, the fact that the young Gandhi mentioned the Hindutva threat to US ambassador Tim Roemer, in fact, added to his credibility. A public statement would in most likelihood be pounced upon by his detractors as a populist and a potentially communal ploy to curry favour with Muslims and so forth. That particular worry should, of course, be no reason to keep the nation oblivious of an ominous possibility.

Right-wing Hindus expectedly pooh-poohed Gandhi`s remarks to Roemer, which would probably never have surfaced but for the WikiLeaks` revelations. He contended that the Hindutva upsurge posed a greater threat to India than did Muslim extremism. The view appeared to be based on a simple and compelling logic. Muslim extremists threaten Pakistan because they are or were part of the state structures thanks to Gen Zia`s policies. Likewise, Hindutva and not so much Muslim bigots challenge Indian secularism.

The reason is not difficult to comprehend. Although homegrown Muslim fanatics in India, even those having links with Lashkar-i-Taiba from across the border, have a stake in destroying India`s secularism, they remain handicapped in their mission because of their total absence from the levers of state power.

Hindutva forces, on the other hand, like their counterparts in Pakistan, have penetrated nearly all the sectors of state that matter. Parliament is the only place where so far they cannot carry out subversion. Of course, it may not take long before they are emboldened to contemplate doing just that. Hindustan Times

Even as I write, a front-page report in the says that investigators are probing the proximity between the Hindu revivalist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Swami Aseemanand, the main suspect in the bombing of the Samjhota Express and a clutch of other outrages for which Muslims were blamed.

Also, Digvijay Singh, a close advisor to Rahul Gandhi, has been in the news for suggesting that the anti-terror police chief of Mumbai, Hemant Karkare, faced a threat from Hindutva groups before he was killed in an ambush during the November 2008 attack on Mumbai by Pakistani terrorists.

This week Singh produced telephone records of his conversation with Karkare hours before he was killed in which he had expressed apprehension about Hindu extremists. There has been speculation that Hindutva groups may have used the chaos unleashed by the terrorists to settle scores with Karkare as he was closing in on their own terror links across the country.

The fact that Punjab Governor Salman Taseer had opposed Pakistan`s notorious blasphemy laws has emerged as a key factor in his murder by a religiously driven security guard. This poses a huge but not insurmountable challenge to a bill moved by former information minister Sherry Rehman to repeal the mediaeval law. It is in any case a fight that India can do well to learn from and Rahul Gandhi has done well to grasp the point. But what can he do to avert a situation that Pakistan`s poet Fahmida Riaz had noted a while ago? Tum bilkul hum jaise nikle ab tak kahaa`n chhupe thay bhai? Wo ghaamadpan, wo jaahilpan jisme humney sadi ga`nwaaee — ab pahonchi hai dwaar tumharey? Aray badhaee, bahot badhaee

Fahmida Riaz recited her poem in Delhi when the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was in power and wreaking havoc in Gujarat. “!” (And so you too turned out like us, brother? How well you masked your bigotry. The easy ignorance, the rabid delinquency we nurtured for decades [in Pakistan], is knocking on your doors. Well done my friend, what else can I say?)

Of course, any claim such as the one made by Rahul Gandhi (and played down by his party not the least because it is crawling with closet Hindutva acolytes) would not be taken too seriously by India`s mainstream media. In any case, goes the argument, the BJP, which is the most likely political vehicle to usher full-blooded religious fascism in India has never secured more than a third of the active votes. This is a fallacy. The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich

The story of how Hitler became a dictator — , by William Shirer, gives a good account of it — may hold a lesson.

In the presidential election held on March 13, 1932, there were four candidates: the incumbent, Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg, Hitler and two minor candidates, Ernst Thaelmann and Theodore Duesterberg. The results were: Hindenburg 49.6 per cent; Hitler 30.1 per cent; Thaelmann 13.2 per cent; Duesterberg 6.8 per cent. In other words, almost 70 per cent of the German people voted against Hitler, causing his supporter Joseph Goebbels, who would later become Hitler`s minister of propaganda, to lament in his journal, “We`re beaten; terrible outlook. Party circles badly depressed and dejected.”

How it turned into an overwhelming majority for Hitler, not without deft manoeuvres to eliminate key opponents, are elements that Indian polity is only too easily exposed to.

The other route to power, which is being attempted in Pakistan, is through religious terrorism. That is what the remaining 70 per cent Indians have to be inoculated against. And that particular vaccine will come from India`s native strength, not from the American embassy in Delhi. Ditto for Pakistan.

Moreover, Rahul Gandhi should realise that his chosen interlocutors have a dubious history of courting rather than challenging religious bigotry, be it in India or Pakistan and practically everywhere in the world.

The writer is `s correspondent in Delhi.

Dawn jawednaqvi@gmail.com

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