SACW #1 (26 Sept. 01)
- South Asia Citizens Wire | Dispatch #1
26 September 2001
[ Apologies to all for having sent the SACW #2 Sept 25, 2001 with out
its table of contents]
#1. Responding to the terror (Rajmohan Gandhi)
#2. Women For Peace [In Pakistan] (Rizwan Atta)
#3. After U.S. Attacks, India, Pakistan Lock Horns Again (Praful Bidwai)
#4. The pursuit of Bin Laden could soon be a sideshow
- This crisis could turn into a disaster for the people of Pakistan
#5. Another victory for free circulation of information across South Asia:
Ban on Indian TV channels in Pakistan (B. Muralidhar Reddy)
#6. India: VHP's temple tactics: Creating bonfires in times of
conflagration is dangerous
Source: The Hindu (http://www.hinduonnet.com)
Responding to the terror
By Rajmohan Gandhi
SOME REFLECTIONS may have a place even, or especially, when war-
drums begin to sound. From his all-seeing (and sometimes
unfeeling?) perch, the Almighty no doubt gets the complete
picture, but the rest of us see through a glass darkly. Moreover,
our glass is slanted. Our reactions to Terror Tuesday, and to the
speculation it triggered, were influenced by who we were, by
where our loved ones were, by what we had just gone through, by
the leanings, for and against, of our hearts.
In my case, emotions of horror, disbelief, pity, and the futility
of pity were interrupted early on by a prayer that nothing should
have taken my loved ones studying elsewhere in the U.S. to New
York. And by a sudden realisation that the towers crumbling on TV
surely contained numerous Indians and other South Asians. Osama
bin Laden's name was being pronounced, and my mind returned at
once to Charsadda, close to the Pakistan-Afghan border, where I
had been only two days previously. I thought of retaliatory bombs
raining on Afghanistan. I had gone to Charsadda to meet the
descendants of Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, Badshah Khan or Baba as
he is lovingly remembered in the NWFP, or the Frontier Gandhi, as
some call him, one of the tallest figures in the modern story of
the subcontinent, who had opposed Partition and championed Hindu-
Muslim unity until the end.
In Charsadda I had met two of Badshah Khan's grandsons, Khan
Asfandiyar Khan, president of Pakistan's Awami National Party,
and his brother, Khan Sangeen Khan, sons of the party's ailing
founder, Khan Wali Khan. If Afghanistan is bombed, I said to
myself, it is the Pakhtuns who will get the medicine. The Khans
are Pakhtuns. So are a great many Afghans and most inhabitants of
Pakistan's Frontier province. If the Americans are clever and
lucky, they will get Osama, but American bombs are unlikely to be
confined to him and his collaborators. Thousands of innocent
Pakhtuns may be killed. Let me be honest. I hated Tuesday Terror,
pitied its victims and felt America's grief. But I did not want
and do not want thousands of Pakhtuns to be killed.
As for the perpetrators of that terror, I felt they were image-
worshippers - they worshipped the image of destruction. They
probably sought revenge but yearned even more for pictures of
horror on hundreds of millions of TV sets. Terrorism has its
pleasures, for which some of its devotees plan, work and wait for
years. While spelling instant death for victims and for some
participants, terrorism's fulfilment may offer ecstasy for some
moments to surviving participants and their sympathisers. But its
consequences last a lifetime, spent by the survivers in darkness
Worse, some consequences - bombs, sanctions, deprivations, slurs
- fall on individuals and groups who have nothing to do with
terrorism's perpetrators. Their crime is proximity. Or a shared
religion, ethnicity or appearance. Though proximity or
association is not complicity, it incurs punishment. For this
punishment of his innocent neighbours and associates, the
terrorist bears primary responsibility.
In an ideal world, the retaliator would ensure that no innocent
associate of a terrorist is hurt, but our world is not there yet.
Along with other nations, India has learnt that the terrorist
puts neighbours and associates in jeopardy, yet we in India also
know, as do others, that administrations can either wink at
damage to innocents or minimise if not eliminate such damage.
In the freedom, equality, opportunity and the rule of law that it
offers, the U.S. is unlike any other country. The distressing
attacks in some American cities on individuals thought to
resemble suspects do not alter its basic character, which is
multi-ethnic and multi-religious. America's stability and
prestige matter to all. At this testing moment, America's friends
watch that extraordinary country going about its task of
capturing those who so pitilessly and shamelessly caused Terror
Tuesday. In India and outside, these friends hope that the
perpetrators are caught and punished, and also that in the
process America does not make new enemies or new terrorists.
It is good though not enough that leading Americans (and
Europeans and Indians) have publicly acknowledged a difference
between terrorism and Islam. The difference between Afghans and
terrorists, and between Arabs and terrorists, also requires
underlining, and not merely in the U.S. If this is not done
clearly and persistently enough, racial and religious
discrimination will stand legitimised, and that evil, recently on
the defensive after having disfigured societies and nations for
centuries, will be given a new burst of life. The result could be
a widespread and long-lasting chain of death and destruction.
In that talk on September 9 with Asfandiyar Khan, I had asked him
about the Taliban and its religious fanaticism. He told me that
Pakhtun nationalism, not Islam, was the real religion of a
majority of Afghans. Some of them, now in ascendancy, had sought
to intertwine religion with this nationalism, but the latter was
the stronger driving force. It had been so even during the
struggle, energetically backed by America, against Soviet
occupation. At that time Afghans, Americans and Osama were on the
same side. Any attack by the U.S. on Afghanistan will perhaps run
into this nationalism.
At Wali Bagh in Charsadda, where I talked with Badshah Khan's
grandsons, and in the days since Terror Tuesday, I have reflected
on Badshah Khan's commitment to non-violence in a region steeped
in revenge, and on the bloodshed that for decades the Pakhtuns
have nonetheless seen or been part of. It seems to me, and the
thought applies to India too, that a commitment to reconciliation
across ethnic and religious barriers has to accompany any
doctrine of non-violence or minimal violence.
The sharp, bitter cleavages often witnessed between, on the one
hand, the Pakhtuns and, on the other, the Tajiks and Uzbeks of
Afghanistan, or the Punjabis and Mohajirs of Pakistan, or the
Shi-ite Iranian and the White Westerner, call for bold schemes of
reconciliation. I think Badshah Khan's spirit would bless any
such schemes. But I pray that impulsive U.S. acts do not blow up
the divides. It is clear that the U.S. must do something. But
something is not anything.
I am not enthused by claims that India has joined a principled
global fight against terrorism. Not everyone has forgotten that
the principled global struggle against communism left room for
plenty of opportunism and oppression. India had felt disinclined
to enroll in that alliance. Today a great deal of care is needed
to ensure that uncompromising opposition to terrorism is not
hijacked into a battle against Arabs, Afghans or Muslims. I am
troubled in particular by an apparent willingness in some Indians
to embrace all of Israel's policies. I yield to no one in
supporting Israel's right to exist and flourish, or in
recognising Jewish pain down the ages, but I cannot accept that
Palestinians should be denied their birthrights, or forced out of
their land. I know that principles and national interests are
different things, but does anyone claim that India's interests
will be served by abandoning long-held positions and incurring
the enmity of all the Muslims of the world, including on the
subcontinent, as well as alienating millions of non-Muslims who
sympathise with the Palestinians?
The TV clips we saw of a few Palestinians celebrating the
terrorist attack on the U.S. misrepresented general Arab feeling.
In any case instant reactions, set off by subjective factors, do
not reflect a person's considered opinion. The Arab-Americans who
have donated blood for the victims of the attack but who continue
to ask for justice for Palestine may be truer representatives of
the Arab point of view. Terrorism has hurt India, and a wish to
learn from Israel in combating it may be defended, but aligning
with Israel against the Arabs is unsound from every angle. The
Government must clarify that it has no intention of doing so.
Copyrights: 1995 - 2001 The Hindu
[25 September 2001]
Women For Peace [In Pakistan]
A large number of women activists took out a peace rally at Lahore today on
25th September. They chanted slogan against terrorism and religious
fundamentalism and warned America not to bomb the Afghan cities. The rally was
organized by Women Workers Help Line in collaboration with Labour
Party Pakistan and
Joint Action Committee for Peoples Rights. Many activists from several civil
society organizations also participated in the rally. Before the rally, over
500 working class women gathered at Press Club building to participated in a
Women Convention to discuss the problems facing working women. This was one
of the largest mobilizations of working class women by any organization in
Speaking at the Women Convention, Asma Jahangir, the former chairperson of
Human Rights Commission of Pakistan termed this large mobilization of women as
the new movement to fight a case in a country dominated by religious
fundamentalism. She said that women are seen shoes of men, which he
will wear at his
will. We are not shoes of the men; we are equal citizen of this country and
will fight for equality. The women are normally told not to go our, not to
work, and to fight for equal rights. We will challenge all these reactionary
phrases of the Mullahs.
Commenting on the present situation, she said we do not need an advice from
US to fight against terrorism. As victims of terrorism for long time, we know
it very well what does it mean to humanity. We have all the sympathies with
the victims of the September 11th victims. But we do not want more bloodshed
of innocent people. We do not want Afghan and Pakistan innocent people to be
victim of another war on the name of curbing terrorism. No terrorism against
terrorism. It solves nothing, she declared.
Speaking on the occasion, Farooq Tariq, general secretary Labour Party
Pakistan congratulated the WWHL for organizing such a massive mobilization of
working class women. He said that working class women are looking for
organization where they could fight for their right. Here is WWHL,
which has become the
pole of attraction for many such persons. He said we are very well aware of
the backward cultural traditions on the name of religion, which prohibit women
to go to jobs. The working women face much harassment at the jobs. They are
not paid equal wages. He gave the example of a factory in his area where
women workers are paid only Rupees 1000 ($15) a month. While the
at private schools are paid even less than this. His is a slave labor and we
must fight against it.
He told the charged audience that it was Talbaan regime, which has banned
the women to go the jobs. Religious fanaticism is an enemy and we must fight
together as a movement. He said that we have always opposed the regime
of Talbaan but the military regime, which has been funding this brutal regime
recently, found out that they must oppose it as well. This was the result of
the American pressure on the military regime. He condemned the Bush statement
that either you are with us or with terrorist. We are opposing the both.
They both are representing terrorism in one way or other. We are against
terrorism any kind. We are building a new movement, A movement of peace and
equality. He told the Women Convention do sit back, join the LPP
alongside with WWHL.
On the occasion, Azra Shad, the convener of WWHL, Romana Shabnam, a city
counselor, Nazli Javed and Balaghat Batool, union counselors, Shahtaj Qazalbash
of Joint Action Committee for Peoples Rights Asim Akhtar of Federation of
kachi Abadies spoke as well and explained the different angels of the struggle
of working class women.
After the meeting, several more representatives of the civil societies
organization including South Asia Partnership, SEMORG, Shirkat Ghah, Women
Foundation, Lok Rehs, AGHS and several more joined the meeting to
take out the peace
The peace rally participants were carrying the placards with the slogan of
NO to Terrorism and NO to War. They were raising slogans against the religious
fanatics and against the possible bombing of Afghanistan. It was
predominantly women participating in the rally. There were all the national and
international media to cover this first rally by the progressive
forces against the
war and terrorism.
A lot of police was present but did not intervene to stop the rally.
Although the rally was in violation of section 144 which has banned
all rallies by
the military regime of Pakistan. At the end of rally Asma Jahangir and Farooq
Tariq spoke again to explain their views and thanked the participants.
It was announced at the time that there would be a five-day peace camping at
the main Mall Road of Lahore at Charring Cross from 26th September from 5 to
8pm every day.
Report by Rizwan Atta
Sat, 22 Sep 2001
After U.S. Attacks, India, Pakistan Lock Horns Again
By Praful Bidwai
NEW DELHI, Sep 21 (IPS) - U.S. President George W Bush may sincerely
believe, as he told congressional leaders in Washington Wednesday,
that the "anti-terrorist" mobilisation underway would provide "an
opportunity to refashion the thinking between Pakistan and India".
But as Operation 'Infinite Justice' gathers momentum, India and
Pakistan are locking horns and returning to the mutual hostility that
has marked their relations for over half a century.
This hostility may acquire nasty and dangerous proportions in the
coming weeks, wiping out all the gains of the process of dialogue
launched in an uncertain manner at the Agra summit between the
hostile neighbours in July.
During much of the Cold War, New Delhi and Islamabad were on
different sides of the East-West divide. While Islamabad was more or
less a U.S. ally, India espoused non-alignment from the 1950s
onwards, and in 1971 signed a treaty of friendship and cooperation
with the former Soviet Union.
Today, in an ironic twist of history, the two rivals are clashing
although they are both on the same side -- with the Western alliance
being put together under U.S. leadership to launch a war against
Remarkably, this has come about because India and Pakistan have been
vying with each other to become America's 'frontline' partner in the
impending large-scale attack against the Saudi fugitive Osama bin
Laden in Afghanistan.
India reacted quickly to the Sep. 11 terrorist attacks in New York
It offered full military cooperation to the United States -- even
before U.S. agencies had collected significant evidence on
responsibility for the attacks. Many Indian policymakers and shapers
could barely hide their glee at the "historic" possibility of a new
Indo-U.S. "strategic partnership" opened by the attacks.
However, Pakistan has beaten India at this. It has cashed in on its
obvious locational advantage, its logistical edge, and its leverage
over the Taliban that rules Afghanistan.
This has produced resentment and rancour within New Delhi's ruling
establishment and resulted in both ruling establishments abusing,
maligning and parodying each other's intentions and plans.
Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee now says neither he nor
his foreign minister will visit Pakistan "in the foreseeable future",
although they had agreed at Agra to do so.
The familiar rhetoric of hostile verbal exchanges, or war of words,
is back in the subcontinent.
In his Sep. 19 address to the Pakistani nation, General Pervez
Musharraf announced a momentous policy decision: to withdraw from
Pakistan's seven-year-long involvement with the Taliban and join the
U.S.-led camp that aims to destroy that militia and its training
Among the four reasons Musharraf cited for this highly contentious
decision to switch sides, three pertain directly or indirectly to
India or India-Pakistan relations.
Two of them, namely Kashmir and the "safeguarding" of nuclear weapons
capability and other strategic "assets", have direct implications for
the strategic hostility between the two states.
In his speech, Musharraf directly named India and accused it of
hatching a "grand game plan" to "win over America on to its side" and
harm Pakistan's vital interests.
He said: "They want Pakistan to be declared a terrorist state to
damage our Kashmir cause I want to tell them, 'Lay off'." Musharraf
also referred to the 1971 Bangladesh war that broke up Pakistan, and
questioned India's interest in Afghanistan.
This sharp attack drew an immediate rebuke from New Delhi, which
termed it "most regrettable" and said the issue "confronting the
international community" is terrorism and not India-Pakistan
The next day, Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh attributed Musharraf's
tirade to his "domestic compulsions" and wondered what was meant by
the "flamboyant" remark, "Lay off". He attacked Pakistan for
"indulging in compulsive and perpetual hostility" and patronisingly
added: "I do not want to further compound the difficulties
(Musharraf) faces domestically."
Indian officials, including Singh, have returned to harping on their
favourite theme: namely, Pakistan's support for "cross-border
terrorism" in Jammu and Kashmir and its strong linkages with the
Taliban in Afghanistan. Singh held Pakistan responsible for the
Taliban's "birth, growth and nurturing".
But to New Delhi's discomfiture and resentment, Musharraf has used
this very factor -- and Pakistan's intimate knowledge of the
Taliban's military machine, storage facilities, supply lines and
leadership structure -- to his advantage in driving a bargain with
the United States.
Some of Musharraf's conditions for joining the United States as an
ally were leaked (although subsequently, not convincingly, denied).
These included U.S. help in resolving the Kashmir dispute, and the
demand that India and Israel be kept out of any military operation in
Musharraf may be taking a myopic policy course by collaborating with
the United States in massive (and probably brutal) military
operations in the region -- with likely high civilian casualties,
which can only breed enormous resentment and discontent.
But Indian leaders are being no less short-sighted in assessing the
positive and negative impact.
On the positive side, the emerging U.S.-Pakistan collaboration will
mean a crackdown on Islamic extremist guerrilla groups active in
Kashmir, such as the Harakat ul-Ansar (Volunteers' Movement) and
Jaish-e- Mohammed (Army of Mohammed), which are listed by Washington
as "terrorist organisations".
The largest such guerrilla group in Kashmir, Lashkar-e-Toiba (Army of
the Pure), is on the U.S. terrorist watch list. Their training camps
and supply lines are located in Pakistan. Their destruction will
relieve some of the pressure that New Delhi experiences in Kashmir.
More important, India has shed its traditional stand on conflicts and
means of resolving them -- always through multilateral bodies like
the United Nations Security Council.
India has conventionally opposed unilateral action by states or
groupings such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and insisted
that any use of military force by them be properly authorised by the
Security Council under Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter.
This time around, India has not even requested the United States to
seek such a mandate. This is largely explained by its preoccupation
with "cross-border terrorism" in Kashmir, and the urge to isolate and
Musharraf may have his "domestic compulsions". But so does the
leading component of New Delhi's 24-party ruling coalition, the
Hindu- chauvinist Bharatiya Janata Party.
Its agenda, closely linked to official approach, is to paint all
Muslim organisations, societies and states with the 'jehadi' or
terrorist brush and present Muslims as a threat to India as well as
to other "civilised" countries such as the United States.
This sectarian view is deeply ingrained in the BJP's politics and is
crucial to its strategy to win votes by making India's Hindu majority
feel insecure. The party faces elections to the legislature of
India's bigges -- and the world's six most populous -- state, Uttar
Indian leaders are disappointed at the emerging U.S.-Pakistan
compact. They too want a piece of the action. To this end, Jaswant
Singh has made a rather unusual proposal. He says a "concert of
democracies", rather than a broad international coalition, should
fight the coming war against global terrorism, under America's
India, being the world's largest democracy, will naturally have a
role in this concert. This is a crude tactic to exclude and isolate
Pakistan. It is unlikely to find many takers.
What Indian (and Pakistani) leaders are losing sight of, as they
pursue their Kashmir obsession and agenda of mutual rivalry, is the
likely impact of a large-scale military operation in South Asia.
This could create enormous turmoil and disaffection in Pakistan and
lead to the destruction of its already fragile institutions.
The extreme stresses could well produce social implosion and collapse
-- with serious consequences for India too: A destabilised nuclear
power on India's borders is surely a nightmarish prospect.
© 2001, InterPress Third World News Agency (IPS)
All rights reserved
Monday September 24, 2001
The pursuit of Bin Laden could soon be a sideshow
This crisis could turn into a disaster for the people of Pakistan.
Stand at the top of the Khyber Pass and look down to the parking lot
of a border post and the arid desolation of Afghanistan beyond. Then,
more crucially, turn and scan the hillsides to left and right; think
of the Peshawar you've just left. This crisis isn't just about
bringing some power-sharing nirvana to Kabul, Belfast-style. Nor
about sorting out a network of serially deranged criminal gangs. It
is also, one small step away, about the future of the Indian
subcontinent and its 1.4bn or more souls. It is already about
Pakistan. The question of what Pakistan is and what it may become
Western assumptions go through the shredder day by day. Yesterday the
assumption of wrath over nuclear proliferation vanished with the
economic sanctions imposed on New Delhi and Islamabad when they
tested their bombs tit for tat. The west's supposed love for
democracy, manifest when more sanctions greeted General Pervez
Musharraf's military coup, is also declared null and void. Needs must
when the devil called Bin Laden drives.
But can I step off the narrow road that winds through the pass and
sit on a rock 20 yards beyond? No: that is tribal territory where the
Pathans hold devolved sway. Musharraf's army and police, even in good
times, aren't welcome there, bound by treaty not to leave the tarmac
A drive against smugglers? Pathans with televisions or something far
more lethal on their backs merely jog up the hillside when authority
arrives and raise two fingers. They're untouchable. The goods they
bring in, the videos and guns and worse from the Gulf and China and
Afghanistan itself, all go for a song in the subterranean
supermarkets of Landi Kotal: another compromise in a nation built on
In one sense, it's good that the army rules Pakistan today (as it
often does). If they were, for the moment, out of power, if the
hapless politicians were taking another turn, then this would - for
sure - be the cue for the tanks to roll back. At least Musharraf is
stuck with answering the questions his very presence poses.
Some of them may not be as difficult as they seem. There are
simmering demonstrations in the big cities as 30 or so religious
parties find common cause against George W. Don't fret too much over
that. Any demo in a country of 140m can always rake in a few thousand
banner-wavers and attendant mullahs. The army is used to coping.
Noise doesn't equal seriousness.
Nor are the rumours of splits within the military, of counter-coups
within a coup, worth much frowning time. Pakistan's army - whatever
its internal religious hues - knows where its loyalty lies: to the
state first, and then to itself, its position and privileges.
Division would blow that away. Musharraf is safe - and, pavilioned in
the support of the residual mainstream political parties, can ride
out immediate storms. American dollars, flowing again, sweeten any
pill for the ruling elite.
But then the fault lines of compromise begin to heave. Some things
are impossible. Seal the border with Afghanistan? How pat it sounds
from Pentagon wizards who can't even seal off Mexico. The plain fact,
from Chitral to Taftan, is that there is no border, only thousands of
miles of mountains and desert. You can close a few crossing points
but you can't make a wilderness non-porous - especially when what
human life there is, the life of the tribe, swills back and forth,
bound together by a history and a tradition that guards its
independence against all interlopers whether they wear British,
Russian, American or Pakistani army uniforms.
General Musharraf can't risk getting drawn into what would be
essentially a civil war, which means, at root, that he has no ability
to stop the flight of Afghan refugees if it becomes a flood. See the
shanty towns on the left of the road out of Peshawar? Tin, straw and
mud city, home for some two decades to the 1m Afghans who fled the
Red Army and subsided there into grinding poverty - and Catch 22
incarnate. They can't get a house until they have money, but the only
jobs are smuggling, peddling ones. Crime is the thing that pays. It
corrodes Pakistani society. Another tidal wave of refugees might
sweep defences away.
And then, looking east, a long drive but only a couple of hundred
miles distant as the jet flies, is the biggest difficulty of all:
Kashmir, and India. The newspaper headlines in Karachi and Lahore may
all be about Afghanistan, but they will fade. Kashmir never fades, in
a way westerners can barely comprehend the one compromise Musharraf
cannot make. His army might stand up to the mullahs, but it would not
countenance a Kashmir sellout. And even if he were minded to
negotiate the bands of let us say guerrillas rather than terrorists
that fan out from Muzaffarad are zealots beyond his control.
He is their prisoner, too. When and if the Afghan crisis subsides, he
will be back to crisis as usual - but this time with some sparkling
new weaponry, courtesy of the Yanks, and his bomb internationally
sanctified. He will be back in the paradise from which the end of the
cold war expelled him: one of Washington's best beloved. The "war"
against terrorism will cement army rule for as long as it lasts.
None of this comforts. Much of it, before too long, could make the
pursuit of Bin Laden look the most trivial sideshow.
I should be clear about the Pakistan I know and, in many ways, love.
It is a curiously peaceful, kind country. You may still walk its
cities and towns without threat. The people are clever and ambitious
and warm. But there are too many of them: too many, proliferating, to
feed or to harness. And the finest minds, in despair, go overseas,
where their talent can bloom. A disaster waiting to happen - unless
it can catch its breath and find a stable governance that has the
flexibility of democracy built in as India's does.
This week Pakistan's unelected president will decide what compromises
he can make and where he must duck for cover. He's an intelligent and
often reasonable man. But there won't, in the end, be any compromise
unless freedom can at last take root here.
The enemy of my enemy is my temporary friend? Islamabad and New Delhi
both find themselves ranged against the enemy of terrorism. A wise
west might make something of that. A wise west would care for
Pakistan as more than a series of air bases set on the edge of the
Hindu Kush. A wise west would wonder not just what Pakistan could do
for it in the pursuit of prime suspects, but what it now, at a moment
of test, could do for Pakistan.
[ There you go ]
o o o o o o o
Wednesday, September 26, 2001
Ban on Indian TV channels
By B. Muralidhar Reddy
ISLAMABAD, SEPT. 25. All-Pakistan Cable Operators' Association has
decided to impose a countrywide `ban' on airing five Indian TV news
channels ``propagating against Islam and Pakistan'', according to the
leading Pakistani Urdu daily, Jang.
The paper quoted Mr. Tahir Ali Khan, general secretary of the
association in Karachi, as saying that that if any cable operator
violated the decision, he would be considered as ``anti- Pakistan and
The channels, which have been blacked out are Zee News, Star News,
Star Plus, Jain TV and all Doordarshan channels.
Copyright © 2001 The Hindu
The Indian Express
25 September 2001
EDITORIALS & ANALYSIS
Tuesday, September 25, 2001
VHP's temple tactics:
Creating bonfires in times of conflagration is dangerous
The Vishwa Hindu Parishad's attempts to raise the temperature over
Ayodhya, at a time when the country and the South Asian region are
facing uncertain times, is entirely in sync with its tunnel vision.
It needs an extraordinary level of irresponsibility and a limitless
capacity for mischief to think about creating a local bonfire in a
time of conflagration. But the VHP has never been found wanting in
either attribute and, therefore, it now wishes to seize the
opportunity to ''bury'' the scourge of Islamic fundamentalism in
India forever. The irony of this position would be quite lost on a
group that does little but breathe fire and brimstone and which has
shown itself to be hopelessly incapable of self-reflection. If this
were not the case, it would have long recognised that its own
motivations and agendas come from the same stable of hate politics as
that of Islamic extremist groups.
The VHP now smells opportunity in the acrid fumes of a post-September
11 world. It recently went so far as to announce that the courts have
no role in deciding ''matters of faith'' and that it would go ahead -
even if the use of force was required - with the construction of the
Ayodhya temple after the March 12 deadline. This goes not just
against the considered popular view of how the Ayodhya issue needs to
be addressed, it contravenes the declared position of the BJP, which
had long placed the issue on the back burner. While Prime Minister
A.B. Vajpayee had recently indicated that discussions on the issue
were being held so as to arrive at an amicable solution of the
problem before March, nowhere was there in his statements the
implication that his party abrogates to itself the unilateral right
to construct a temple on the disputed site. Given this fact, it is
now incumbent upon both the prime minister and the BJP to move firmly
and urgently to rein in the VHP.
But what prompts the VHP to talk temple at this juncture? It senses
that the recent unravelling of world events, from the bombing of the
twin towers in New York to the gathering of war clouds over
Afghanistan, has polarised public opinion along pro-Islamic and
anti-Islamic lines and it wishes to exploit this to promote its own
Hindutva agenda - especially in Uttar Pradesh which is to shortly
face a crucial election. But such a reading only betrays the
circuitry of a closed mind. The world over, people are scrupulously
making the distinction between terrorism and Islam. The world over,
recognition is growing that religious extremism with its volatile
political fall-out, is not the prerogative of any one community. The
world over, realisation is gaining ground that any politics based on
the hatred of the Other requires to be defeated. The VHP then had
better read the signals right: ultimately, the politics that brings
skyscrapers down in New York is no different from the kind that
destroyed an ancient mosque in Ayodhya.
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