Saffron Dollar July-August 2005
September 4, 2005
This issue of Saffron Dollar focuses on the activities of the Sangh Parivar, both here in the US and in India. In the last few issues of Saffron Dollar, we have chronicled the bizarre power plays that have unfolded in the higher echelons of the Sangh Parivar in India. Beginning
with the BJP party president Advani's visit to Pakistan, the past couple of months have seen him fighting for his position within the power structure of the parivar. In addition, we also focus on the recent Nanavati commision report on the 1984 violence against the Sikh community in north India. As always, we welcome your comments and suggestions.
1) Sangh Watch India - real crisis or just another drama?
2) Sangh Watch U.S.A. - Hindu American Foundation's "report."
3) 1984 genocide - are we any closer to justice?
I. SANGH WATCH INDIA- REAL CRISIS OR JUST ANOTHER DRAMA?
The Sangh chariot seems to be teetering on the verge of a collapse, or so it seems from the outside. The celebrated son of the parivar, LK Advani, found himself fighting for his position within the higher rungs of the parivar. In the past two months, since his visit to Pakistan where he made uncharacteristically favorable comments about Jinnah, Advani has seen his own followers within the BJP steer clear of him. In the past month, the drama continued as Advani first found himself without much support from junior members of his party, then decided to step down from the party presidency in an effort to placate the RSS chief Sudarshan. Just before the meeting of the national executive of the BJP at Chennai in mid July, Advani was reported to have met senior RSS officials to communicate his decision to step down from the party presidency. Perhaps the decision came in order to prevent yet another public humiliation in front of his own party. For more on this story please see
Members of the BJP were perhaps relieved at this decision because Advani's image tool a serious beating, specially in the past couple of months. To add to the drama, at around the same time as news of his resignation hit the press, members of the BJP rallied behind their hawkish leader and made a statement that he was to remain the party president
The epilogue to this sordid drama, perhaps the best news of this month for the secular, progressive community was the news that Advani was to appear in court for his role in the demolition of the Babri Mosque in 1992 that incited communal riots nationwide
While few believe that the courts will actually end up charging Advani or any of his motley crew for this role in inciting violence against the Muslim community back in 1992, Advani's appearance in court comes at an opportune moment when the Sangh chariot has already begun losing its wheels.
II. SANGH WATCH USA - HINDU AMERICAN FOUNDATION'S REPORT ON "HINDU HUMAN RIGHTS"
Not too long ago, Giriraj Kishore of the VHP thundered that the abolition of the caste system called for by Dalit human rights activists was a violation of human rights. According to this logic, the rights of human beings trampled upon by those invoking caste laws and strictures are subordinate to the rights of the latter to trample on their victims! Imagine the votaries of Jim Crow Laws in the 1960s United States crowing for the "civil rights" of white supremacists! Bizarre as this appears to any thinking person, the Hindutva movement has been pushing energetically for a version of 'human rights' built on such an inversion. Recently, the "Hindu-American Foundation," a recently concocted political lobby group affiliated to the Sangh Parivar's U.S. followers, announced the release of what it called "the first-ever annual survey of Hindu Human Rights."
It is true that minority Hindu communities in several countries are targeted by majoritarian movements often in collusion with governments and powerful chauvinist organizations. That such assaults are to be condemned unequivocally is hardly a controversial issue. Yet when an avowedly pro-majoritarian Hindutvadi inspired organization sheds crocodile tears for the rights of minorities in neighbouring countries while pretending that the plight of non-Hindu minorities in India is irrelevant, one has to question the logic and motivation behind such a display. HAF has nothing to say about the human rights of Dalits in India. Either they are contradicting their ideological mentors (who insist that Dalits are "Hindus"), or as may be more likely the case, deliberately excluding Dalits as Dalit human rights cannot be advanced by the proponents and supporters of Giriraj Kishore's notion of human rights.
The HAF is not interested in a notion of human rights that calls on states to treat citizens equally under the law – they are primarily interested in collating disparate and diverse trends in several countries as instances of "anti-Hindu" violence only. The oppression of Hindus in Pakistan and Bangladesh is not significantly different from the treatment meted out to Ahmediyas and other non-mainstream religious communities in those countries. Systematic practices of discrimination (often tacitly or actively state-supported ) rest on a belief in majoritarian, cultural-purist notions of nationhood – which in all countries of South Asia contradict and conflict with the democratic aspirations of the vast majority of the people. This is what makes the discriminatory chauvinism in Pakistan, Bangladesh and India similar, something the authors of this fraudulent "report" deliberately elude. Rather than seeing the violence against Hindus in Bangladesh in the same light as the violence against Muslims in India, the "report" invites its readers to pretend that the latter does not exist. Supporters of majoritarian chauvinist agendas cannot in good faith represent the rights of those suffering from majoritarian chauvinist violence.
So what IS the HAF up to? Mihir Meghani, the founder of HAF is a product of the Hindu Students Council, an outfit started by the VHPA, the VHP's U.S. branch. The project of the HAF appears to be to initiate the political legwork in building institutional legitimacy in the U.S. for the Sangh's Hindutva project. Towards this, their strategy appears to be to push for an exclusivist "Hindu-American" identity – as distinct from Indian-American which thus far includes members of all (and no) religious persuasions. By pushing themselves as the vanguard representatives of a "Hindu-American" constituency, the HAF would like to become the self-appointed spokespersons for Indians of Hindu religious persuasion in the U.S., further fracturing the Indian American community along lines of religion in order to build a core support base to mediate between the Sangh in India and the U.S. state. This effort somewhat echoes the attempts by groups like FISI to clean up the Sangh's image in the U.S. by hobnobbing with U.S. politicians. The effort to cast this nefarious agenda in terms of "human rights" is despicable and deserves to be severely condemned. It is an insult to all those who suffer human rights violations – whether in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh or elsewhere – that the HAF is essentially exploiting their suffering in order to advance agendas that have as much to do with human rights as Giriraj Kishore's demented worldview has to do with equality and justice. Then again, what can one expect from an organization that characterized the U.S. congressional resolution against Narendra Modi as 'Hinduphobic?' Episodes like this confirm the HAF's closeness to a dangerously reactionary agenda belying all their glossy verbiage about human rights
III. 1984 GENOCIDE: ARE WE ANY CLOSER TO JUSTICE?
The People's Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR) and people's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) report of the Sikh massacre in Delhi in 1984 concluded that "…the attacks on members of the Sikh Community in Delhi and its suburbs during the period, … were the outcome of a well organised plan marked by acts of both deliberate commissions and omissions by important politicians of the Congress (I) at the top and by authorities in the administration."
Twenty years and eight reports later, the Nanavati Commission report made public on August 8th, 2005 comes to similar conclusions. While giving a clean chit to the Congress party, the report nails down senior Congress leaders like HKL Bhagat, Jagdish Tytler, Sajjan Kumar and Dharma Das Shastry. At the same time, the report comes down heavily on the inaction of the police and the bureaucracy during this period. However, like the previous reports, it has seen no follow up action on the part of the Government. The ATR (Action Taken Report) shows that no action has been taken on those identified and named in the report. The only tangible action following the report is the resignation of Mr Tytler and Mr Sajjan Kumar from the Government, after much public indignation about the ATR. This however brings us to the unanswered question of why such culprits were chosen to be part of the Government in the first place?
For three days following the assassination of then Prime Minister Mrs. Indira Gandhi, on October 31st 1984, a planned massacre of Sikhs in Delhi left around 3,000 Sikhs dead.
According to various reports and enquiries local Congress leaders actively planned and participated in the looting, massacre and sexual assaults carried out on the Sikh community. The Home Minister at the time, Mr Narasimha Rao, was busy entertaining the delegates attending Mrs Gandhi’s funeral, while PM Rajiv Gandhi seemed to be justifying the killings of the Sikhs with his statement “When a big tree falls, the earth shakes a little”. One can only wonder if Rajiv Gandhi knew that the little earth shaking he referred to would leave 3000 people dead and the survivors struggling for justice two decades later.
What makes the 1984 massacre a continuing tragedy is that like the recent 2002 Gujarat carnage, in which over 2000 Muslims were killed with state complicity, there is a complete absence of justice. And the only way to justice is to unite all progressive forces and fight for justice for all the brutalized people and not let this battle be trivialized by partisan politics.
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