| 4 March, 2003 The Asymmetries of Communalism. Is the Campaign 'selectively targeting' majority communalism? This issue is addressed in three parts: Hindu majoritarian communalism poses the greatest threat to pluralism and secularism in India, functions through and with the apparatus of the state, and expresses itself in terms of 'Hindu nationalism' with an organizational reach and political ambition that are of an entirely different magnitude compared to minority communal movements.
The Asymmetries of Communalism
One of the criticisms our Campaign has repeatedly faced is that it is 'selectively' targeting Hindutva funding while ignoring funding of other religious hate groups which are equally 'divisive and violent'. This criticism originates from two distinct and separate positions. One claims that India is (or ought to be) a Hindu nation where minorities should be relegated to second-class citizenship (if that), and that the funding of Hindutva by Indians is legitimate while the funding of minority communal institutions is illegitimate. The second position contends that a fair critique should envelop all forms of hate funding and not focus on only one. In this response, we wish to address the latter (we do not see the possibility of seeking common ground with the former).
We wish to go on record and state that our position has nothing to do with any specific religion, but is based on a set of principles. We are of the opinion that ALL funding that supports hateful and divisive politics is wrong, regardless of where this money comes from or where it goes. We are opposed to all forms of support to propaganda or activities that spread hate, whether it be of the Hindu, Muslim, Christian or any other variety.
Why then does our Campaign focus on Hindutva funding alone? We would like to make three points in this regard.
1) Simply put, we believe that Hindu fundamentalism poses the greatest danger to a pluralist and secular society in India. As the events following December 1992 have demonstrated, majority communalism has taken on an entirely new form of expression. Increasingly, "communal riots" has become a euphemism for pogroms against the minority communities. Gujarat is only its most recent and most virulent manifestation. The intemperate statements of the leaders of Hindutva make no attempt to disguise their agenda. They seek to establish a Hindu state where the minorities will have to live as subjugated citizens and objects of suspicion. As Pandit Nehru foresaw many years ago, majority communalism, if allowed to foster, invariably leads to fascism. Much of the hate rhetoric that went on in Nazi Germany against Jews was really aimed at establishing that Jews were not good Germans. Similarly, minorities in India today have to constantly prove their Indian-ness over and over again, in face of a constantly changing set of arbitrary criteria established by the Sangh.
2) Hindu fundamentalism functions with and through the apparatus of the state. As the violence in Gujarat and its aftermath have demonstrated, majority communalism is not merely the expression of the rage of some members of the majority community. It has been established beyond doubt that the ghastly violence enacted against the Muslim community in Gujarat was planned, carried out and sustained with the connivance and participation of the state machinery. As the Human Rights Watch report (titled "We Have No Orders to Save You") and other fact finding documents (such as the Citizens' Initiative report) have detailed, the bureaucracy and the police not only failed to carry out their constitutional duty of safeguarding Indian citizens, but actually aided and abetted in several massacres. A full year after the horrific events of Gujarat, while the state has used the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) to arrest over 130 Muslims in the case of the Sabarmati Express (in which 59 Hindu pilgrims were burnt to death), it has failed (or refused) to use the same legislation against a single Hindu offender in the cases of the violence which followed (in which 2000 Muslims were killed, hundreds of women raped and 150,000 Muslims rendered homeless). As a matter of fact, the track record of the government in terms of relief and rehabilitation for members of the minority communities and in terms of bringing the perpetrators of this violence to justice, has been abysmal (see http://www.indianexpress.com/full_story.php?content_id=19402). If left unchecked, majority communalism is likely to result in a scenario where millions of Indian citizens (who have the right to demand equal treatment from the state) will be deprived of their fundamental rights and will have to live their lives in fear.
3) The problem with Hindu fundamentalism in India is that it expresses itself as Hindu nationalism. Its institutional scope, organizational reach and political ambition within India are of an entirely different magnitude than those of the Islamic and the Christian groups. Not only does Hindu nationalism operate at the level of the Indian State, it also strikes at the roots of the idea of India that was shaped by the struggles of millions of people of all communities. We hold no brief for minority communalism, nor do we suggest that it is benign. But we do believe that fundamentalism that presents itself as nationalism is significantly more dangerous than other forms of assertion of communal identities. Had we been citizens of, say, Pakistan or Bangladesh, our critique would have been directed at the Pakistani and Bangladeshi States and their contemptible brand of Islamic fundamentalism.
In sum then, we are opposed to all forms of communalism, whether it emanates from the majority or the minority communities. We condemn Hindu fundamentalism, Islamic fundamentalism and Christian fundamentalism equally. But as this statement makes clear, we do believe that the greatest challenge to a tolerant and pluralist society in India, that treats ALL its citizens equally and confers on them the rights they have been guaranteed by the constitution, comes primarily from the brand of Hindu fundamentalism that has taken such a stranglehold on civic society.
We cherish the ideals of secularism and democracy and wish to see an India that remains true to its commitment to a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, diverse and peaceful society. Our Campaign is based on these principles and our opposition to Hindu fundamentalism represents our effort to stand up and be counted.