Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

SACW | 01 March 2004

Expand Messages
  • Harsh Kapoor
    South Asia Citizens Wire | 01 March, 2004 via: www.sacw.net [ANNOUNCEMENT: SACW dispatches are now resuming after a prolonged break . Various technical
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 29, 2004
      South Asia Citizens Wire | 01 March, 2004
      via: www.sacw.net

      [ANNOUNCEMENT: SACW dispatches are now resuming
      after a prolonged break . Various technical
      glitches that had impeded the scheduled
      resumption (around 21 February ) are being slowly
      resolved; People wishing to communicate with SACW
      are advised to use the following e-mail:
      sacw@... ]

      [1] Bangladesh: Fundamentalists attack on a
      leading writer (AJ Jaffor Ullah + reports)
      [2] UK / India: In Bad Faith: British Charity and
      Hindu Extremism (a report by Awaaz South Asia
      [3] Beyond Gujarat (Beena Sarwar)
      [4] India: Gujarat -- Denial of Justice for Victims (Amnesty International)
      [5] Future of Indian past (Romila Thapar)



      The Daily Star (Bangladesh)
      March 01, 2004

      Humayun Azad: The marked man

      A H Jaffor Ullah

      Only few days ago a nervous but determined
      writer, Prof. Humayun Azad, sent e-mail to the
      moderator of a forum for freethinkers by the name
      Mukto-Mona. Prof. Azad is a member of the forum.
      He wrote, "Dear Rahul, The Ittefaq published a
      novel by me named Pak Sar Jamin Sad Bad in the
      Eid Issue in December 03. It deals with the
      condition of Bangladesh for the last two years.
      Now the fundamentalists are bringing out regular
      processions against me, demanding exemplary
      punishment. Attached two files with this letter
      will help you understand." Dr. Azad enclosed to
      JPG files that contained news items including a
      photo of fundamentalists protesting against him
      outside the national mosque in downtown Dhaka.

      Prof. Azad's premonition came true. The goons
      perhaps hired by the bunch that hates Prof. Azad
      struck outside Boi Mela (Book Exhibition Center).
      Hours after a bunch of assailants descended on
      Prof. Humayun Azad's body to silence his voice
      for ever, I received an e-mail from news forum
      "Future of Bangladesh." A kind member from Dhaka
      frantically wrote, "A little while back (Dhaka,
      February 27, 2004 at 9:30) eminent writer Humayun
      Azad was attacked in front of Bangla Academy by a
      group of unknown assailants with chopping knives
      and has been grievously injured. Channel I has
      just now showed a completely blood drenched Azad
      being brought by the police to Dhaka Medical
      College Hospital and given primary treatment. His
      face, hands, T-shirt, trouser everything was
      soaked in blood. His condition is serious."

      An hour later, the same person from Dhaka who
      sent earlier an e-mail sent a grim message:
      "Humayun Azad has been shifted to CMH as his
      condition turned worse." My telephone started to
      ring immediately. My friends who write
      passionately on liberal issues pertaining to
      Bangladesh were very much perturbed hearing the
      sad news of an attempt on Prof. Azad's life.

      Unless you are out of sync with news from
      Bangladesh, you perhaps are well acquainted with
      the fact that the tiny country of 140 million has
      become very intolerant as of late. Only years
      ago, another Bangalee writer, Poet Shamsur
      Rahman, was attacked by some goons in the privacy
      of his own house. The attackers could not do more
      harm then because of the immediate action by the
      poet's neighbors. The Mullahs in Bangladesh have
      also given threats to Taslima Nasrin. Mind you,
      these are not idle threats.

      This time the goons have targeted Prof. Azad. It
      is worth mentioning here that Prof. Azad's recent
      writings included in his book "Pak Sar Zamin Saad
      Baad" have drawn attention from Jamaat leaders.
      Maulana Delwar Hossain Saidee, one of the most
      garrulous Jamaat MP, and his followers have asked
      the Khaleda Zia Administration to ban Prof.
      Azad's book. On February 28, 2004, the Daily Star
      reporting on attempted assassination of Prof.
      Azad wrote, "Addressing a demonstration at Baitul
      Mukarram National Mosque on December 12, leaders
      of an anti-Ahmadiyya outfit demanded arrest and
      trial of Prof Azad for the novel."

      Freedom loving Bangalees from all walks of life
      should denounce this heinous attack on one of the
      luminaries of Bangladesh's literati, Prof.
      Humayun Azad. Intolerance against liberal writers
      is on the rise in Bangladesh, which is
      symptomatic of a wholesale Islamisation of
      Bangladesh. I am confident other freethinkers and
      secularists would pen protest notes against this
      barbaric attack on Professor Azad. The government
      should apprehend the perpetrators of this crime
      and bring an end to this kind of attack on
      intelligentsia and freethinkers.

      Free speech is a hallmark of liberal democracy
      and Bangladesh society should go an extra mile to
      foster free speech everywhere in our ancestral
      land. Prof. Humayun Azad has many followers in
      expatriate communities who would express their
      anger through posting in myriad Internet forums.
      I urge the Bangladesh government to investigate
      the matter thoroughly and see what role avowed
      detractors of liberal writers have played in this
      barbaric attack.

      Dr. A.H. Jaffor Ullah, a research scientist and
      columnist, writes from New Orleans, USA

      o o o

      [Background news report]

      BBC News
      Friday, 27 February, 2004, 17:23 GMT

      Leading Bangladesh author stabbed
      Waliur Rahman
      BBC correspondent in Dhaka

      A leading and controversial author in Bangladesh
      has been stabbed and critically wounded on the
      University of Dhaka campus.

      Police said three youths stabbed Dr Humayun Azad
      and exploded two bombs to make their escape on
      Friday night.

      Dr Azad, a professor in the Bengali department,
      is being treated in Dhaka's Combined Military

      He recently wrote a book critical of some
      Pakistanis for their role before Bangladeshi
      independence in 1971.

      Doctors said Dr Azad had lost a huge amount of
      blood due to deep injuries in his neck.

      No one has said they carried out the attack and
      police could not say anything about a motive.

      Dr Azad recently wrote Pak Sar Jamin Sad Bad (the
      first line of the Pakistani national anthem)
      which was critical about the role of Pakistanis
      and their Bangladeshi collaborators before the
      independence of Bangladesh in 1971.

      Several Islamist party activists denounced the book when it was published.

      o o o

      [Related reports]

      The Daily Star
      March 01, 2004

      Protest rages, writers hold programme today
      Protestors want govt's resignation on Azad attack

      Staff Correspondent
      The wave of protest continued to swell across the
      country yesterday against Friday's gory attack on
      writer Humayun Azad, with demonstrators voicing
      demand for the government and the home minister
      to step down accepting the responsibility.

      At the strike-bound Dhaka University (DU),
      thousands of students, teachers and civil society
      members, wearing black badges, their faces and
      eyes covered with black cloth, took out protest
      processions and vented their outrage at rallies.

      Political parties, cultural and human rights
      activists, civil society and professional bodies,
      eminent personalities and conscious citizens all
      closed ranks in condemning the atrocity through
      various programmes.

      Writers, littérateurs and cultural activists, in
      conjunction with several left-leaning parties,
      have also called a countrywide protest programme
      today including a large rally in front of the
      Central Shaheed Minar at 3pm.

      Addressing a rally organised by Dhaka University
      (DU) Bangla department on the varsity campus
      yesterday noon, former president AQM Badruddoza
      Chowdhury said there was no need for bringing a
      no-confidence motion in parliament. "The people
      themselves have brought no-confidence against
      you. If you have morality, then resign," he
      advised the BNP-led coalition government.

      "The people of the country won't pardon you if
      anything happened to Humayun Azad. This
      government will be held responsible," warned the

      Condemning the attack, he said, "Dr Azad was
      attacked in the month of February. This
      government is cruel, undemocratic and barbaric.
      It came clear after the attack on Prof Azad."

      Left-leaning 11-party alliance held a protest
      rally at Purana Paltan in the afternoon. Speaking
      at the meeting, alliance leaders including
      Mujahidul Islam Selim, Rashed Khan Menon and
      Khaliquzzaman blasted the government for trying
      to extract political benefit out of the atrocity
      by blaming the opposition for it, instead of
      taking adequate steps to bring the attackers to

      At a protest rally on Bangabandhu Avenue
      following a procession yesterday afternoon,
      leaders of Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal (JSD-Inu) said
      the attack was not a detached episode. They
      accused some specific members of the ruling
      coalition of being complicit in the crime.

      The JSD will bring out a black-flag procession
      and hold a rally to protest the attack at
      Muktangon at 3pm today.

      At the DU speakers at different rallies demanded
      immediate resignation of Home Minister Altaf
      Hossain for his failure to nab the culprits in
      the three days after the crime. They also
      demanded an hourly news bulletin on Azad's
      condition at the Combined Military Hospital.

      The DU Teachers Association (DUTA) took out a
      silent procession that ended at the Central
      Shaheed Minar and held there a public meeting.
      The DUTA leaders and DU teachers, who have been
      refraining from taking classes since Saturday,
      also demanded immediate resignation of the home

      The DUTA will stage a token sit in today on the campus.

      Among others, Awami League's student wing
      Bangladesh Chhatra League (BCL), Bangladesh
      Chhatra Union, Bangladesh Chhatra Moitry (BCM),
      JSD-backed BCL, Samajtantrik Chhatra Front,
      Progatishil Chhatra Jote (PCJ), DU Sangskritik
      Oikya, Jatiya Chhatra Samaj, Progressive
      Teachers' Forum, Humayun Azad Mancha, DU
      Officers' Association, BUET Teachers' Association
      and students of the Fine Arts Institute staged

      The JSD-backed BCL has called strike at all
      educational institutions in the country on March
      3. It will bring out a black-flag procession

      The BCM will also stage countrywide demonstration
      today and will bring out black-flag processions
      at all educational institutions on March 3.

      The PCJ will bring out protest processions and
      hold rallies at all the educational institutions
      in every district today.

      Political and other organisations who issued
      statements yesterday condemning the attack and
      demanding speedy punishment of the attackers
      include Bangladesh Society for the Enforcement of
      Human Rights, Muslim League of Bangladesh,
      Bangladesh Medical Association, Association of
      Development Agencies in Bangladesh, Federation of
      NGOs in Bangladesh, Bangladesh Ainjibi Sammanay
      Parishad, Bangladesh Sampradayik Samprity
      Parishad, Oikyabaddha Nagorik Andalan, South
      Asian People's Union against Fundamentalism and
      Communalism, Bangladesh Ganotantrik Ainjibi
      Samity, Teacher's Association of Jahangirnagar
      University, Centre for Women Journalists
      Bangladesh and Bangladesh Charushilpi Sangsad.



      In Bad Faith: British Charity and Hindu Extremism
      Published by Awaaz South Asia Watch Limited (London) 2004
      ISBN 0 9547174 0 6

      In the name of charity, British public is funding Hindutva extremism

      A report [...] launched on the second anniversary
      of the horrific Gujarat carnage in 2002 presents
      alarming new evidence that under the cloak of
      humanitarian charity, massive donations from the
      British public were sent to Fascist-inspired
      Hindu extremist groups involved or directly
      implicated in serious, large-scale violence or
      hatred in India.

      Prepared by Awaaz - South Asia Watch Ltd, a
      London-based secular network, the report In Bad
      Faith? British Charity and Hindu Extremism, says
      UK organisations have been raising funds in the
      name of charity for natural disasters like
      earthquakes, and giving them to extremist
      organisations that preach hatred against Muslims
      and Christians.

      The report, which is available now, demonstrates
      that the UK-based Sewa International sent £2
      million for the devastating earthquake in the
      Indian state of Gujarat in 2001, to its Indian
      counterpart Sewa Bharati, a front for the
      secretive, violent Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh
      (RSS). Money from the UK was given to RSS front
      organisations that are involved or implicated in
      serious violence or hate politics in India. Much
      of the money was spent on schools that promote
      hatred and fanaticism.

      "Gandhi's murderer was an RSS activist. Most
      British donors would be horrified if they knew
      the nature, history and ideas of the RSS.
      Individuals raised funds and donated in good
      faith to Sewa International's Gujarat earthquake
      appeals but would not have done so had they known
      that the organisation raising the money was
      closely linked to the Fascist-inspired and
      secretive Indian RSS", says Awaaz.

      Sewa International is not registered as a British
      charity, but is the fundraising arm of the
      registered charity Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS),
      the UK branch of the RSS. The report exposes the
      connections of the HSS, Sewa International and
      the Kalyan Ashram Trust (another registered
      charity) to violent and extremist groups in
      India. The RSS, its closely allied family of
      organisations and their followers have been
      involved in the persecution or killing of
      thousands of Muslims and Christians in India over
      the past fifteen years. They are known to have
      planned and executed anti-Muslim pogroms in the
      Indian state of Gujarat in 2002, in which 2,000
      people were killed and 200,000 displaced. An
      independent investigation headed by a former
      Chief Justice of India called the Gujarat
      violence a "genocide". Victims included British
      citizens. The RSS family considers religious
      minorities especially Muslims and Christians to
      be foreigners, aliens and polluters who have no
      right be treated as equal citizens of India.

      "Sewa International has tried to dupe
      politicians, donors and the general public. Its
      main purpose is to fund, expand and glorify
      hate-driven RSS organisations, several of which
      have been at the forefront of large scale
      violence, pogroms or hate campaigns in India. Its
      claim to be a non-sectarian, non-political,
      non-religious humanitarian charity is a sham,"
      said Awaaz spokesperson Suresh Grover.

      In the thoroughly documented report, Awaaz
      clearly establishes the strong ties between
      British charities and extremist organisations in
      India. It has called for the Charity Commissioner
      to withdraw the charity status of three British
      charities: Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS) UK, the
      Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) UK, and the Kalyan
      Ashram Trust. The Leicester-based Hindu
      Swayamsevak Sangh and Sewa International are
      currently being investigated by the UK Charity

      FOR MORE INFORMATION email contact@....

      The full report is available at



      The News International (Pakistan)
      February 29, 2004

      Beyond Gujarat

      Beena Sarwar

      The worst of the violence that took place in
      Gujarat, India, two years ago may be over. But
      the horror lingers, and along with that, the
      implications of what various fact-finding groups
      in India have labelled as genocide - and what
      others insist on referring to as 'communal
      riots', which by definition would mean that what
      happened was nothing more than spontaneous,
      violent clashes between two communities, in this
      case, Hindus and Muslims.

      It is these two perceptions that lie at the basis
      of the clash between the ideologies of the
      militant, religious right and the secular
      progressive forces pitted against them - and not
      just in India.

      The violence against, and the continuing
      intimidation of the Muslims of Gujarat are
      disturbing enough - equally alarming are the
      "open subversion of justice and the failure of
      democratic movements, as the courageous activist
      Harsh Mander puts it, "to resist extremist
      forces". This is true not just for India, but
      also for Pakistan, and any number of countries
      particularly in the post-September 11 2001 world.

      More than forty independent citizens' reports on
      Gujarat have gathered "overwhelming evidence of
      the enormity of the brutality, state complicity,
      long, advance preparations for the carnage and
      the deliberate abdication of responsibilities for
      relief and rehabilitation," Mander notes in the
      introduction to his book 'Cry, My Beloved

      Even those who tried to help were targeted.
      Unlike previous times when victims of communal
      riots in India could find refuge with friends and
      neighbours from the majority
      community, "this time, people were scared to say
      who saved them - and there were many - or to be
      identified as saviours," says Delhi-based
      scientist and poet Gauhar Raza, who has been
      working in Gujarat. "This time, they were killed."

      Particularly alarming is how deeply the rot has
      set, how many Indians are willing to believe that
      the Muslims of Gujarat deserved what they got. As
      a student of an elite school in New Delhi wrote
      in an essay, says Mander, Muslims are "cruel
      people from Afghanistan who break Hindu temples
      to make them into Muslim temples". Such skewed
      perceptions have been formed over years of
      doctoring history in school textbooks, and a
      political discourse over the last two decades
      dominated not by issues of social justice, but on
      the politics of religion.

      The political rhetoric spun by Washington after
      the 9-11 attacks upped the ante around the world,
      as it was echoed by governments grappling with
      'terrorist' issues of their own. If Moscow seized
      the moment to step up its actions against the
      Chechen rebels, Tel Aviv similarly escalated
      operations against the Palestinians, to the
      extent that even international volunteers
      assisting the Palestinians were now targeted
      (Rachel Corrie, Tom Hurndall and others); it was
      also a good moment to begin work on a 'security
      wall' that has been condemned the world over for
      its encroachment into Palestinian territory.

      Closer to home, the anti-Pakistan rhetoric from
      New Delhi escalated, leading to an almost total
      snapping of ties between these two nuclear-armed
      nations, particularly following the December 2001
      attack on the Indian Parliament for which New
      Delhi was quick to blame Islamabad.

      It is no coincidence that Gujarat went up in
      flames shortly afterwards. Barely had the ashes
      cooled in the Sabarmati Express coaches in which
      58 VHP activists, including women and children,
      were burned alive on February 27, 2002, than the
      BJP and Sangh Parivar (Hindu Right) pinned the
      blame on 'Muslims'. One gruesome massacre was
      used to perpetuate violence on a much larger
      scale against Muslims in Gujarat - some 2,000
      men, women and children were slaughtered, while
      over 2,00,000 were rendered homeless and

      "Gujarat has changed our lives forever," says
      Gauhar Raza. "We have a sense of urgency, that
      these forces must be countered." What is
      disturbing is that not all progressive forces
      feel this sense of urgency, "they are still
      caught up in a kind of complacency that this was
      a passing phase."

      It is not just in India, but here in next door
      Pakistan, and around the world, that progressive
      forces need to build on that sense of urgency and
      organise to counter those who use violence to
      settle issues, whether on the state, or the
      non-government level.




      AI Index: ASA 20/003/2004 (Public)
      News Service No: 045
      26 February 2004

      India: Gujarat -- Denial of Justice for Victims
      On the second anniversary of the massacres in
      Gujarat (27 February), Amnesty International
      expresses its solidarity with all the victims of
      the Godhra and post-Godhra violence and with
      their families.

      The organization reminds the international
      community that those crimes remain unpunished and
      appeals for sustained pressure on the Government
      of India to ensure that justice and reparation
      are eventually offered to the victims.

      "Two years after the massacres took place, most
      of the victims are still demanding justice, but
      they are not being heard," Amnesty International
      said. "Despite the efforts of the human rights
      community and the scrutiny of the Supreme Court
      on some of the trials, the Government of Gujarat
      and elements of the criminal justice system in
      the state seem to be colluding in denying justice
      to the victims. This attitude reopens the
      victims' wounds every day."

      The Gujarat police in many cases reportedly
      failed to record complaints or did it in a
      defective manner; diluted charges against the
      accused; omitted their names from complaints,
      failed to organize identification parades; record
      witnesses' statements and collect the
      corroborative evidence necessary to identify the
      perpetrators. "At the end of this doubtful
      exercise, half of the more than 4000 complaints
      filed in the aftermath of the violence had to be
      unsurprisingly closed by the courts due to lack
      of evidence presented by the police," the
      organization said.

      The Best Bakery case, first of a few key cases to
      arrive at trial stage, is a blatant example of
      how elements of the criminal justice system are
      often backing each other in the state to ensure
      impunity for the perpetrators of the violence. It
      appears that the investigation was defective, the
      public prosecutor failed to adequately represent
      the victims, the witnesses were not protected
      from threats and the judge ended up mechanically
      acquitting the accused.

      The entire trial was conducted in an atmosphere
      of hostility to the victims' family. The
      acquittal verdict was shockingly upheld by the
      High Court. On that occasion, the legitimate
      activities of human rights defenders who
      supported witnesses were termed "not permissible
      under the law". The basic principles of fair
      trial and of due process were turned upside-down
      in this case and the entire proceedings turned
      into a farcical exercise.

      The hopes that the Supreme Court would reopen
      avenues of justice by ordering the transfer of
      the investigations on the Best Bakery and other
      key cases onto the Central Bureau of
      Investigations (CBI) were again shaken in early
      February when a doubt was cast on the
      impartiality of this agency. The former
      Commissioner of Police of Ahmedabad - identified
      by eye-witnesses and by fact-finding reports for
      having failed to protect the victims from their
      attackers during the massacres - has recently
      been appointed to the post of Deputy Director of
      the CBI itself.

      "This appointment comes as a further humiliation
      for the victims and it needs to be urgently
      reviewed by the Ministry of Home Affairs, to
      ensure that the credibility of the agency is
      preserved," Amnesty International added.

      Following an attack on a train in Godhra,
      Gujarat, on 27 February 2002 in which 59 Hindus
      were killed, violence of unprecedented brutality,
      targeting the Muslim community, spread in the
      state and continued in the next three months,
      leaving more than 2,000 people killed. The state
      government and police took insufficient action to
      protect civilians and, in many cases, may have
      colluded with the attackers and actively
      participated in the violence.

      In June 2003, 21 people accused of the murder of
      14 people burned to death in the Best Bakery in
      Baroda on 1 March 2002, were acquitted. Following
      the acquittal, key witnesses indicated that they
      lied in court because they had been threatened
      with death unless they did so. Following a public
      outcry, the National Human Rights Commission
      (NHRC) carried out an investigation and
      subsequently filed a petition in the Supreme
      Court. The petition asked the court to provide
      protection to witnesses, to ensure a retrial of
      the case in a court outside Gujarat state and to
      order the transfer of other ongoing key cases to
      courts outside Gujarat to ensure fair
      proceedings. During the proceedings, the Supreme
      Court severely criticized the state government of
      Gujarat for failing to provide justice to victims
      of the communal violence and pointed to possible
      collusion between the state government and the
      prosecution in subverting the cause of justice.
      Following this criticism, the Gujarat Government
      sought a retrial of the Best Bakery case. In
      December, the Gujarat High Court dismissed the
      state government's appeal for a retrial on the
      basis that the prosecution did not produce
      sufficient evidence. While the judgement blamed
      police for failing to record complaints in the
      case, it also accused human rights defenders
      working to ensure justice of setting up a
      parallel investigative agency. On 21 February,
      the Government of Gujarat, under pressure from
      the Supreme Court itself, finally filed their
      appeal in the Supreme Court against the High
      Court judgement. The next expected date of
      hearing in the case is 27 February.

      Public Document
      For more information please call Amnesty
      International's press office in London, UK, on
      +44 20 7413 5566
      Amnesty International, 1 Easton St., London WC1X 0DW. web: www.amnesty.org



      The Hindustan Times
      Monday, March 1, 2004

      Future of Indian past
      Romila Thapar

      In recent times, there has been a substantial
      controversy over the interpretation of Indian
      history. There is a confrontation between
      historians who have been writing on various
      aspects of Indian history over the last half
      century and others who are supportive of a
      different history which validates the ideology of
      religious nationalism. The latter is being
      propagated and patronised by the current
      government at the Centre.

      The controversy began over the attempt to
      discredit the existing history textbooks for
      schools, published by the NCERT. It was argued by
      the government that the books contained
      statements that had been objected to by various
      religious organisations. For example, reference
      to the eating of beef in ancient India or the
      origins of caste in Indian society was said to be
      inappropriate. It was then decided that all such
      passages would be deleted and no discussion on
      these passages would be allowed in schools.
      Historians as well as members of the public
      protested about this, but no attention was paid
      to the protest. In 2003, the existing textbooks
      were replaced by new ones approved of by the
      government. These procedures had not been
      processed through the committees that normally
      process educational procedures and changes, since
      these committees were not called to meet and
      discuss the changes.

      An attempt was also made to introduce a uniform
      history syllabus at the level of undergraduate
      and graduate education. The suggested syllabus
      was so substandard that it has been unacceptable
      in the better departments of history. Attempts
      have also been made to virtually ban two major
      publications of documents from the National
      Archives, pertaining to the period just prior to
      1947. An atmosphere has been created where books
      on history, if disapproved by government, can be

      The question that needs to be asked is why there
      is a fear of independent history writing. One
      reason for this is that the interpretation of the
      past has to now conform to the concepts of
      religious nationalism and the identity that it
      creates, and which identity is being sought by
      sections of the middle-class supporting this
      ideology. The new middle-class emerging from
      diverse groups is searching for a bonding. This
      is also linked in part to the insecurity and
      competition emerging from globalisation. Added to
      this is what is perceived as a threat from
      underprivileged sections of society demanding
      their legitimate rights. The ideological support
      of the bonding comes from the ideology of
      Hindutva and focuses on origins and identities.
      Hindutva gives a definition to these that draws
      on history and requires changing history in order
      to legitimise religious nationalism.

      Both Hindu and Muslim religious nationalisms
      emerged in the early 20th century and became a
      counterpart to anti-colonial nationalism. Where
      the latter was inclusive and tried to bring
      together the segments of Indian society, the
      former divided Indian society into a supposedly
      irreconcilable dichotomy - Hindu and Muslim, and
      the one excluded the other. Pre-modern Indian
      history written from the perspective of
      anti-colonial nationalism and from religious
      nationalism overlapped at some points, but in the
      major part it differed. For anti-colonial
      nationalism the confrontation was with the
      colonial power. For the religious nationalisms,
      the confrontation was with the other religious
      community and the colonial power received pledges
      of support from them. As far as historical
      interpretation was concerned both religious
      nationalisms - Hindu and Muslim - were rooted in
      the perspective of colonial interpretations of
      Indian history.

      The two themes that are central to the current
      rewriting of history in India focus on origins
      and identity, since these were crucial to the
      definition of the Hindu according to the ideology
      of Hindutva. On the question of origins there is
      an attempt to link all Hindus to the Aryans of
      antiquity. It is argued that the Aryans were the
      earliest inhabitants of India. Therefore, there
      is an insistence on stating that the civilisation
      of the Harappan cities was authored by the Aryans.

      What is still widely known as the Indus
      civilisation is now given the name Saraswati
      civilisation, and this evokes an Aryan
      connection. Furthermore, it is argued that the
      Aryans were indigenous to India. This provides a
      lineal descent of 5,000 years to Hindus in the
      subcontinent. Sanskrit is projected not only as
      unique but ancestral to all Indo-European
      languages; thus Aryan culture went out from
      India. Other historians have argued that such
      theories are unsupported by the evidence from
      archaeology and linguistics, nor by the history
      of caste or the history of Hinduism; neither can
      the agro-pastoralism of the Rigveda be equated
      with the sophisticated urbanism of the Indus

      The second theme relates to identity and here
      again the attempt is to give primacy to the Hindu
      identity. This focuses on the question of who is
      indigenous and who is foreign. The definition of
      the Hindu as the indigenous category goes back to
      the founding ideologue of Hindutva, V.D.
      Savarkar. He argued that the claim to being
      indigenous must be based on a person locating his
      pitribhumi (land of his ancestors) and his
      punyabhumi (land of his religion) within the
      boundary of British India. The latter
      disqualifies Muslims and Christians, who were
      therefore declared foreign. Communists were later
      added to the list!

      A further disqualification was the assertion that
      they had no common culture with the Hindus. To
      emphasise this, race and language were added as
      qualifications, even if race was by now a
      spurious category. Having stated that the Muslims
      of India are all foreigners, the interpretation
      of the history of medieval India - the 2nd
      millennium AD - became the history of foreign
      rule, with Hindus being oppressed by the Muslims.
      The history of this period is seen in terms of
      Muslim conquest and Hindu resistance. To this is
      added the theory that Muslim rule led to the
      decline of Hinduism, overlooking the fact that
      the Hinduism that is practised today has evolved
      largely from this period.

      This history is now projected as new and
      indigenous and it is maintained that unlike the
      earlier history it is entirely uninfluenced by
      western ideas. In fact, the theories of origins
      and identities that are now propounded are
      derived from 19th century European thinking and
      from colonial authors. The uniqueness of Sanskrit
      goes back to Schlegel at the start of the 19th
      century and to the debate on Indo-European
      languages among the Orientalists and in German
      Romantism. The theory of the Aryans being
      indigenous was first advanced by the Theosophists
      in the late 19th century and some socio-religious

      After much debate, it was given up half a century
      later. The Aryan foundations of Indian history
      were expounded at the same time by Max Mueller,
      although he argued that they came from outside
      India. Aryan origins played a dominant and
      devastating role in European theories of the
      genesis of peoples and cultures. These ideas were
      incorporated into the wider ideology of Hindutva.

      (The writer is Emeritus Professor of History at
      Jawaharlal Nehru University. This is an edited
      extract of the D.T. Lakdawala Memorial Lecture,
      organised by the Institute of Social Sciences,
      delivered on February 21


      Buzz on the perils of fundamentalist politics, on
      matters of peace and democratisation in South
      Asia. SACW is an independent & non-profit
      citizens wire service run since 1998 by South
      Asia Citizens Web: www.sacw.net/
      The complete SACW archive is available at:

      South Asia Counter Information Project a sister
      initiative, provides a partial back -up and
      archive for SACW: snipurl.com/sacip
      See also associated site: www.s-asians-against-nukes.org

      DISCLAIMER: Opinions expressed in materials carried in the posts do not
      necessarily reflect the views of SACW compilers.

    Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.