Outlook cover issue on terrorism and bajrang dal
Magazine| Oct 06, 2008
Some Bombs Get Defused
Just who is a terrorist? Definitions change when it comes to the Hindutva extreme.
- Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad’s (ATS) investigation revealed that Dal activists made bombs in Nanded in 2006.
- Their target was mosques. They were also involved in planting bombs in three mosques since 2003.
- But ATS & CBI watered down charges.
- In August 2008 two Dal men were killed while making bombs in Kanpur. Huge cache of explosives seized.
"...one of the two who signed the (Indian) Mujahideen e-mail signed himself as Al-Arabi; but Arabi was the name of a bridge-builder to other communities, unlike others who were aggressors. Would a terrorist have used such a ‘peace-loving’ pseudonym? Was this a mistake made by a non-Muslim mastermind?"It is no one’s case that there are no Muslim extremist groups operating in the country, merely because the recent spate of terror attacks across the country—Bangalore, Ahmedabad and Delhi—benefited the BJP. Equally, given how tricky investigations into terror attacks are, all terror organisations, regardless of affiliation and denomination, must be put under the scanner. After all, Muslim and Hindu terror organisations do coexist. Indeed, police investigations have revealed that members of organisations such as the Bajrang Dal, the militant youth wing of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), don’t just get military training, they are also keen followers of the methods of Islamist terror groups.
—from ‘Tentacles of Dread and the Terror Gameplan’, by M.J. Akbar
Take, for instance, the Maharashtra’s Anti-Terrorism Squad’s (ATS) investigation of a bomb explosion in the home of L.G. Rajkondwar, a retired PWD executive engineer and RSS member, in Nanded, Maharashtra, in April 2006. The explosion killed N. Rajkondwar and H. Panse and injured M.K. Wagh, Y. Deshpande, G.J. Tuptewar and R.M. Pande. They were all Bajrang Dal activists.
The FIR recorded the injured activists’ claim that stored firecrackers had gone off inadvertently. But the investigation nailed this lie, revealing that bombs being assembled by the Bajrang Dal activists had exploded accidentally before they could be used to damage mosques. Moreover, the entire operation was being styled in a camouflage so as to resemble a Muslim terror operation. Soon, the police arrested 16 persons. The remand application said the accused had diagrams, maps and material related to the manufacture/storage of bombs. It said they had also identified terror targets across the country.
On May 4, 2006, the case was transferred to the ATS. The ATS’s first chargesheet, filed on August 24, 2006, established a Bajrang Dal-Sangh parivar terror network. It says:
- The Nanded accused were also responsible for blasts at the Mohammadiya Masjid in Parbhani (November 2003), the Quadriya Masjid in Jalna (August 2004) and the Meraj-ul-Uloom Madrassa/Masjid in Purna in Parbhani district (August 2004).
- The target of the bombs which killed the Bajrang Dal activists was actually a mosque in Aurangabad. Both H. Panse and M. Wagh had conducted a recce of the Aurangabad mosque in May 2004.
- Panse and Pande had started a gymnasium to attract Hindu youth and organised seminars. They also gave speeches to create an anti-Muslim atmosphere, alleging acts of injustice by Muslims against Hindus, inciting the latter to do "something for Hinduism." They were also trained in bomb-making near Pune, Goa and at the Bhosla Military School at Nagpur. An RSS camp at the school trained 115 participants in karate, obstacle courses, and shooting. The trainers included two ex-servicemen and an ex-IB operative.
- Police discovered a false beard, moustache and shervani during a search of the house of H.V.Panse; a cellphone intercept revealed that Wagh was to visit Aurangabad on April 5, 2006.
Activist Teesta Setalvad, who has provided a meticulous account of the ATS investigations and what followed thereafter in a recent issue of Communalism Combat, writes, "To its credit, the ATS did a reasonable job at the level of investigation, uncovering a hitherto unknown terrorist network in Maharashtra of Hindu extremists linked to the Sangh parivar. Given the seriousness of the case, one would have expected the ATS to ensure that the guilty were brought to book and the terrorist network exposed. The two chargesheets filed by the ATS do not however reflect the gravity of its own findings. At some point the ATS took a sudden U-turn. A public outcry then forced the government to transfer the case from the ATS to the CBI. But the CBI’s conduct was questionable in the extreme; it only served to weaken the case."
The CBI chargesheet, which Setalvad procured on an RTI application, reveals that the agency simply diluted the ATS’s charges of criminal conspiracy involving terrorist acts. If the ATS investigation concluded that the accidental explosion in Nanded was only one episode in a terrorist plot involving the Bajrang Dal, supported by a network of the Sangh parivar, the CBI chargesheet treated the Nanded incident as an isolated case so that the trial does not even examine the possible existence of a terrorist network in Maharashtra. It also delinked the case from the Bajrang Dal or any other Sangh outfit.
If that was Maharashtra, in Uttar Pradesh, the original home of the Bajrang Dal, an incident uncannily similar to the one in Nanded took place. On August 24 this year, two Bajrang Dal activists, Rajeev Mishra and Bhupinder Singh, died while making explosive devices. Kanpur zone IGP S.N. Singh told journalists that the Uttar Pradesh Special Task Force’s investigations had revealed "plans for a massive explosion". Among the material seized were countrymade hand grenades similar to those used by the defence forces.
In police raids on Bhupinder Singh’s Lajpat Nagar studio and his residence, the police found a diary and a hand-drawn map of Muslim-dominated Ferozabad. The police is also exploring the possibility that the grenades and other explosives were intended for use during the month of Ramzan, as the map has markings of at least five spots, which could be of possible targets.
If in 1984 the VHP created the Bajrang Dal to protect the Ram Janaki Yatras, in 1993 it moved out of Uttar Pradesh, became a nationwide organisation and was officially designated the VHP’s youth wing. Over the years, it has shifted focus from mobilising support for the Ram temple to what its current chief Prakash Sharma describes as "problem-solving". The problems include terrorism both in Jammu & Kashmir and elsewhere in the country, the influx of refugees from Bangladesh, referred to as "infiltration’’, and conversions to Christianity. "If government agencies don’t act against those whom the Bajrang Dal has identified as an isi agent (any Muslim) or involved in the slaughter of cows, then we just uproot them from society ourselves," said Rukun Singh Payal, a VHP functionary from Uttar Pradesh.So even as the Kanpur case is being investigated, and Bajrang Dal activists continue their rampage against Christians in Orissa, Karnataka and north Kerala, clearly there is a need to study the stormtroopers of the saffron brotherhood.
magazine | Oct 06, 2008
Few Blind Men Of Hindostan
Why is the Indian State quick to nail minority offences but myopic to Sangh transgressions?
"We didn’t expect UPA to be so uncaring about our plight in Karnataka and Orissa. They don’t care because Christians do not make a votebank."
-Fr Dominic Emmanuel, Spokesman, Delhi Catholic Church
"The situation today is more lethal for Muslims because an individual can become a national hero by showing bias against them."
-Shahid Siddiqui, Editor, Nayi Duniya
"This talk of mastermind is nonsense. No mastermind is involved in planting bombs. A mastermind certainly isn’t a boy on a computer."
Ajit Doval, Former IB chief
"Some would be satisfied if there is a law offering complete immunity to a person who shot another on mere suspicion of being a terrorist."
-K.G. Kannabiran, Andhra Civil Rights Activist
"Those who took part in the ’92 riots may be respectable citizens today. Terrorists are committed to undermine the state’s sovereignty."
-Swapan Dasgupta, BJP ideologue
"State performance relates to all levels of governance, not just minorities. If the cops are ham-handed, it’s to cover their own incompetence."
-Gurcharan Das, Author
***Instruments Of Bias
- Defunct terror law used in Gujarat to target Muslims for Godhra. Hindus involved spared
- 3,000 arrests nationwide since the law’s enforcement. Most detentions in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand; also in TN against LTTE sympathisers
- Applies to declared ‘disturbed’ areas like J&K and Manipur; offers immunity to army officers from prosecution
- Five Rashtriya Rifles officers still not prosecuted for killing five in a March 2000 fake encounter in J&K
- Assam Rifles jawans accused of raping Manorama Devi in Manipur unpunished
- Allows state to persecute those seen as a "national threat"
- Widely misused to fix whistleblowers, dissenters
- Administrative Reforms Commission called for its immediate repeal
- Most above laws and state-specific security acts have been used to target Naxals, their ‘sympathisers’ and rights activists like Dr Binayak Sen
Cross Christians: Protesting the attack on this Bangalore church
In the age of terror and hate campaigns, the Indian state looks so much less than it was intended to be. Human beings are full of prejudice; the state should be seen to be above bias. In India the majority of citizens have for years seen the state as the epitome of inefficiency and corruption. But more damningly, the poor and the marginalised see it as an active instrument of injustice. And now, Muslims and Christians increasingly agree.
Consider some basic facts that have been part of the public discourse in the last few weeks. Muslim youth are picked up at random and identified as terrorists, with the police in several metros claiming they have "the mastermind". Their identities and sketches are released to the media. Christians continue to be attacked in the Indian hinterland but no serious attempt has been made to stop the hate crimes or ban the organisations engaged in assaults on the minority. A dangerous imbalance is at play. An incoherent and asymmetrical response that can only further undermine the ideals India was built on.
Today, most Christians and Muslims believe the state is biased against them.Says Father Dominic Emmanuel, spokesperson of the Delhi Catholic Church, "We did not expect the UPA at the Centre to be so ineffective and uncaring about our plight in Orissa and Karnataka. But they are callous and don’t care because Christians do not make a votebank. They don’t want to alienate Hindus and that must be why they are not coming down hard on the Bajrang Dal and other Sangh parivar outfits. We are helpless as we continue to be attacked in a country where liberty and freedom were promised to all."
We see you: Police keep strict vigil on Muslim protesters in Delhi
What about Muslims—a votebank pursued hotly by most political parties? In an instance of black humour emerging out of the community, one sms reads: "The politicians are after our vote, the police in hot pursuit of us." Says Shahid Siddiqui, editor of Urdu weekly Nayi Duniya and BSP member: "Muslims aren’t the only people the state is biased against. Many underprivileged communities and the poor have faced prejudice from society and the state. But the situation today is more lethal for Muslims because an individual can become a national hero by showing bias against them." So, if Narendra Modi can become an iconic political figure, why should an ordinary policeman care if innocent Muslims are arrested in the hunt for terrorists?
There is, however, a larger problem in the manner in which investigations into terror strikes are being conducted. Former IB chief Ajit Doval is considered a hawk on matters of national security but he tells Outlook: "The talk of getting a mastermind is nonsense—no mastermind is ever involved in planting bombs as the police tell us. If there is a mastermind, it is certainly not a boy with details on his computer." Does Doval therefore believe the state is biased? "In certain situations, government agencies behave in a way that leads certain communities and individuals to conclude that the response is biased." He explains the process: when security agencies are under political and media pressure to deliver results for public consumption, they do not count the collateral damage. "A policeman will be told nothing should happen in your area and get the terrorists quickly," says Doval.
The sequence of events could go like this: the police team starts watching Muslim hubs like madrassas and urban ghettoes in their neighbourhood. Some young men are picked up on suspicion. If they do indeed have other "suspicious" material on their person, in their homes or on their computers, they are possibly arrested as terrorists. In the case of the Delhi accused, the police procured head-scarves associated with Palestinian guerrillas, swathed three young men in them and produced them before the media as terrorists. The Christian community too is facing prejudice in a somewhat different form.
In Karnataka, for instance, Christians protesting the violence against them have been charged under non-bailable sections of the law. But the charges against Bajrang Dal state convenor Mahendra Kumar were so weak that he secured bail in a few days. Nor did the BJP government in Karnataka express any remorse about the attacks on Christians in the state.
For right-wing ideologue and journalist Swapan Dasgupta equating the Bajrang Dal with SIMI is like comparing a water pistol to an AK-47. "Rioters," he says, "cannot be equated with terrorists. An individual who took part in the Bombay riots of 1992 may be a respectable citizen today while a terrorist is committed to undermining the sovereignty of the state." Dasgupta also counters the argument about the state being prejudiced against particular communities or social groups."The Indian state is not a neutral state. It has multiple levels of biases. It is also not a very efficient state and is a source of harassment for all citizens regardless of caste and creed."
A lucid argument perhaps. But facts suggest a systematic bias against specific social groups at different times because of a perceived threat by those who constitute the state. Noted Andhra Pradesh civil rights activist and PUCL president K.G. Kannabiran says that before the serial blasts across the country, the poor were targeted in the state because of Naxalism. Now it’s the turn of Muslims to feel this heat not just in AP but across India. He also says that the political clamour for stronger laws is just eyewash. "If POTA is removed, state governments bring in other laws that are equally draconian. But there is a section in our society that would only be satisfied if a law existed that allowed complete immunity to someone who shot someone on mere suspicion of supporting terrorism!"
Cops parade 'terrorists' in Arab keffiyah head dresses
In the absence of any real political courage or coherent policy to tackle terrorism, there is competitive sloganeering about stronger laws. Serial blasts have, after all, struck India in the global context of the war against terror and the domestic backdrop of a general election. Given the way our democracy has evolved, it is the stuff of emotive politics, not sensible policy. Former Chief Justice of India, J.S. Verma, says that all this talk of new laws is rubbish as those who understand the legal system know it is adequate to tackle the problem. "You can bring in any system or law," he says, "but it is as good as the people in the system who will implement it."
The first President of India, Dr Rajendra Prasad, had once said that the "worth of the Constitution will depend on the worth of the men who work it". Justice Verma says the state is not biased, it is rotting from within. "The original sin is the pursuit of personal interest by public men. That is today the only ideology followed by those who serve the Indian State. After themselves, they serve their kith and kin. Then the caste and community." That, according to the former CJI, is how biases work in the state. Not because there is a great national conspiracy. Verma points to the fact that the last bastions of public accountability—the judiciary and media—are also getting corrupted or swayed in what passed for public hype. He says: "Dr C. Rajagopalachari had once said that national character is determined by the sum of individual character. There are many people of conviction in India but they don’t get a chance as the system is rotting from within. If you have a billion rotten apples you will have a stink."
Is the state biased by intent? Or callous by default? Management guru and columnist Gurcharan Das believes the Indian state is just incompetent and incapable of delivering on most fronts. Combine that with political interference and we have a recipe for disaster. "We know there is great institutional rot in the bureaucracy, judiciary and other institutions of the state. The issue of state performance is related to all levels of governance, not just minorities. If the police do a ham-handed investigation that terrifies minorities, it is to cover their own incompetence," he says. He does not believe there is a grand conspiracy against minorities or the poor.
To define a state as unwieldy as ours would be almost impossible. Social activists would argue that the state is an instrument of oppression used systematically against minorities and the poor. The right wing would say India is a soft state that simply cannot come down hard on terrorists and "anti-national forces".The truth probably lies somewhere in between. India is at many levels an incompetent state that can be manipulated to target certain communities. It is a state run by men who can be overcome by their own prejudices and never be held accountable for such lapses. It is a state that some would argue is biased against all citizens because it delivers nothing to anyone. It is a state where an attempt is made to cover incompetence with more incompetence. It is a state that criminally neglects its duties. Or acts in an overzealous manner that convinces many citizens that the state is indeed the enemy.
magazine | Oct 06, 2008
Trouble, Their Business
A naive, populist media leads the state in baying for terrorist blood
The good versus evil narrative has been a potent one down the ages. That is how the mainstream Indian media has decided to tell the tale of terror. So when a police officer dies in an encounter, the media goes almost hysterical hailing him as a hero. And every detail about the "dreaded terrorists" miraculously unearthed by the Indian police in a matter of days is treated like gospel truth by most TV channels and newspapers. And police officials are only too willing to share details that appear to be pure fiction. Yet there is no scrutiny or questioning of the facts. Journalists who do wish to challenge the police version are under pressure "not to go against the national mood".
The idea of the "national mood" is one that increasingly pushes out the children of a lesser god from the media frame. Christians believe Islamic terror is a more sensational story; that is why their ongoing troubles are not getting due coverage. Delhi Catholic church spokesman father Dominic Emmanuel says, "the channels don’t cover us when there is a story like terrorism, cricket or the birthday of a film star." As for the poor Indian, he only gets into the picture when he is run down under the wheels of a rich man’s car.
The media was once intended to be a watchdog. But when stories operate within the framework of national prejudice or communal and class perceptions, the media broadly appears to play to the majority view. Many TV channels whip up jingoistic hysteria under the guise of giving news. Anchors mouth nationalistic jargon. Communal stereotypes abound. Urdu editor Shahid Siddiqui says that "TV channels hunt down communal maulvis with beards in order to browbeat them. They do not want sane liberal voices because they do not make for such sensational news." In fact, there have been instances when sections of the media have gone to the religious men and extracted fatwas on Sania Mirza’s clothes and other pressing issues.
Media analyst Sevanti Ninan says that "the problem is that today there are two types of violence going on. But the media uses an entirely different language for suspected Muslim terrorists. These stories are sourced through the police and there is no hesitation at giving identities of the alleged terrorists. But when it comes to the violence on Christians by Bajrang Dal activists, we are given no information about the perpetrators."
A senior intelligence officer goes so far as to say that the ham-handed manner in which police investigations are run is now largely due to media hysteria. "Very often police officers rush through investigations to win points in the media. Their actions are now determined by what they think will make them popular with the public. The fact that this misfires has not yet registered with most policemen. This explains the increasing number of officers appearing on TV," he says.
Former CJI J.S. Verma has recently accepted responsibility of heading a regulatory authority set up by TV channels. He says he has refused an honorarium, but is doing so only because there is a desperate public need to monitor a rapidly-proliferating media. "It is determining the national agenda yet the media is getting corrupted and will soon lose credibility," he says.
magazine | Oct 06, 2008
India: A Massacre Justified By Philanthropy?
For all our denial and bluster on Kashmir, the Indian state's secular narcissism may not survive a Modi on the throne
For decades now, Kashmir has hosted a bloody stalemate, in which a powerful nation-state repeatedly tries, and fails, to impose its will on a small unyielding population. The Indian state uses political means (elections, special privileges) and financial inducements as well as military force to convince Kashmiris that they should not dream of self-determination. Still, Kashmiri defiance and harsh Indian retaliation exact a terrible human toll: tens of thousands killed, innumerable many disabled, tortured, orphaned and widowed. There is hardly a family in the Valley left untouched by the biggest military occupation in the world.
People in mass democracies are usually slow to recognise the nature of the undeclared wars conducted by their representatives. But by the late 1960s there was hardly a public figure in the United States—from J.K. Galbraith to Philip Roth—who did not feel compelled to build up a chorus of denunciation against their country’s deeply dishonourable involvement in Indochina. In comparison, the deaths, in less than two decades, of nearly 80,000 people in Kashmir have barely registered in the Indian liberal conscience.
"I cannot imagine," Pratap Bhanu Mehta wrote last month, "what it is to live like under half a million troops." Until very recently, such honest confessions of a moral impasse were rare not only in an increasingly corporatised media, which is as defiantly ignorant as it is nationalistic, but also among the people most likely to initiate national introspection on Kashmir—the impressively numerous writers and intellectuals who by training and temperament are secular and liberal.
A few Indian commentators did deplore, consistently and eloquently, India’s record of rigged elections and atrocity in the Valley, even if they spoke mainly in terms of defusing rather than heeding Kashmiri aspirations. But many more tended to become nervous at the mention of disaffection in the Kashmir Valley. "I am not taking up that thorny question here," Amartya Sen writes in a footnote devoted to Kashmir in The Argumentative Indian. In the more resonant context of a book titled Identity and Violence, Sen yet again relegates the subject to a footnote.
It is not easy for me to point to these acts of omission. Most Indian liberals have fought with admirable courage the good and necessary war to prevent Hindutva from damaging India’s multicultural ethos, and their commitment to justice for the poor and defenceless in Indian society cannot be faulted. They are right to suspect Pakistan of malicious intent in the Valley, and to fear that the four million Kashmiri Muslims demanding azadi expose 150 million Indian Muslims even further to the BJP-VHP’s bigotry.
But it makes progressively less sense why many Indian liberals should not make nuanced distinctions between Kashmiri and Indian Muslims; why they should help the fanatics of Hindutva hold Indian Muslims hostage by refusing to publicly uphold Kashmiri rights to a life of dignity.
A commonplace secular-nationalist argument is that Kashmiri Muslims, if given the slightest concessions by India, would go radically Islamist or embrace Pakistan, emboldening separatists in the Northeast. But it has never been clear that radical Islam has a sustainable appeal in Kashmir. The Kashmiri feeling for Pakistan, too, is highly capricious, almost entirely fuelled by hatred of the Indian military occupation.
For years the overtly Islamic and violent aspect of the insurgency in the Valley kept many secular Indian liberals from visibly sympathising with the plight of Kashmiri Muslims: if only the Kashmiris, I often heard, had organised a Gandhian-style political campaign.In recent weeks the Kashmiris have repeatedly staged massive non-violent protests, provoking such establishment figures as Vir Sanghvi and Swaminathan A. Aiyar into an exasperated reckoning of Kashmir’s cost to India. But Arundhati Roy’s frank analysis of the collapse of Indian legitimacy in the Valley is still rare enough to profoundly unsettle many liberal assumptions.
The commonest secularist response consists of fierce denial and bluster. Kanti Bajpai avers that since the Indian state has not committed genocide in Kashmir, the Kashmiri demand for freedom is groundless—surely by this legalistic logic Gandhi and Nehru had no right to ask the British to quit India? G. Parthasarathy at least has the hawkish virtue of clarity when he implores India to follow Russia’s example in Chechnya and strike Kashmir with an ‘iron fist’.
What’s much more disturbing, however, is when Harish Khare of The Hindu accuses separatists and the isi of stirring up trouble in the Valley and urges the government to use force to underscore "New Delhi’s will and capacity to stay put in Kashmir". Ritually denouncing the BJP, Khare also exhorts us to a "renewed fundamentalist faith in the idea of secular India".
Indeed, more than one liberal commentator reacting to the mass upsurge in Kashmir piously invoked the ‘idea of India’. This solemn liturgy makes it seem that the ‘idea of India’, like the ‘American dream’, is divinely ordained to bring happiness to anyone who subscribes to it, as though electoral democracy in a poor, multicultural country isn’t an ongoing experiment, one of the most utopian and arduous in modern history, and as such subject to rigorous scrutiny and pragmatic revision—an experiment that is, harsh though this may sound, prone to periodic malfunction, even failure.
The Indian liberal’s perennial defensiveness on the question of Indian Muslims has trapped him into a rigid fealty to the ‘idea of India’—or what is really an exaggerated faith in the Indian state’s ability to maintain India’s secular identity in Kashmir. It is true that the original conception of the Indian state contained many redemptive notions of cultural plurality, and social and economic justice. But whatever prelapsarian integrity the Indian state under Nehru may have had (Kashmiris have their own views on this), it now appears to have been deeply compromised; and if our secularist narcissism managed to survive two state-supported pogroms in 1984 and 2002, one of them by an avowedly secular political party, it is likely to be shattered by the enthronement of Narendra Modi as India’s prime minister.
During two decades of vicious anti-Muslim campaigns and terrorist retaliation, the Sangh parivar has not only given Indian nationalism a hard majoritarian cast; it has also infected India’s state and civil society with its illiberalism. Certainly, Kashmiri Muslims, who feel assaulted with an iron fist by both Hindutva-wadis and secularists, cannot be blamed for failing to spot the fine distinctions between the idea of India and the idea of Akhand Bharat.
The Kashmiris are hardly alone in failing to detect wisdom and generosity in a state that detains and tortures Muslims on the flimsiest of charges, ignores the killing of Christians, organises mercenary armies against tribals and Maoists, and helps big businessmen to fleece small farmers and uproot the landless.
Secular fundamentalists may continue to venerate the state, hoping, against all available evidence, that it would preserve the idea of secular India in Kashmir (and the Northeast, another region where faith in the idea of India needs to be propped up by the Indian state’s brutality). But in their revulsion from the inevitably ‘communal’ politics of Kashmiri Muslims they will find themselves standing with the most virulent Islamophobes among Hindu fundamentalists.
This proximity can’t be written off as an unfortunate accident of history. Fundamentalism in the cause of secular ideals has proved even more noxious than its religious counterpart, as the 20th century’s extraordinary ideological violence reminds us. The secular fundamentalists, who are determined to nail their cherished ‘idea of India’ into Kashmiri hearts and minds, seem to forget the many political leaders and intellectuals who rationalised totalitarian brutality and imperialist wars by pointing to the garishly virtuous nature of their secular ideologies (nation-building, economic prosperity, freedom, democracy). The spectacle of American liberal intellectuals cheerleading the war for ‘human rights’ in Iraq has more recently underscored the grotesque irony of what Albert Camus called ‘massacres justified by philanthropy’.
Camus knew that a secular ideology of progress, which tries to validate state violence by positing noble-sounding but purely abstract ends, had replaced traditional religion in the world-conquering nations of the West, one which, as he wrote, ‘can be used for anything, even for transforming murderers into judges’.
Having arrived late in the history of the nation-state, we are probably fated to replicate some of the West’s ideology-fuelled disasters. The fundamentalist cult of the ‘idea of India’ has already demonstrated its murderous potential in Kashmir. Is it too late to unshackle the ‘idea of India’ from a repressive Indian state and its callous elite? This is certainly necessary—for the sake of democracy and pluralism in India as well as in Kashmir. Such revisions in the political and moral imagining of nations are never easy. But until they are made, the ‘idea of India’ will increasingly risk becoming yet another one of recent history’s many beautiful abstractions stained with blood.
(Pankaj Mishra frequently writes essays on politics and literature for Outlook, Guardian and New York Times.)
magazine | Oct 06, 2008
69% People In India Think Bajrang Dal Should Be Banned
Interviews conducted in Delhi, Bombay, Calcutta, Hyderabad, Lucknow with 516 respondents on September 23 and 24
Outlook-GfK Mode Opinion Poll
69% People In India Think Bajrang Dal Should Be Banned
Should the government impose a ban on Bajrang Dal? Yes No DK/CS 69 27 4 Delhi 75 Bombay 64 Calcutta 81 Lucknow 85 Hyderabad 38 Hindu 65 Muslim 74 What was your reaction to the attacks on Christians and churches by Bajrang Dal? Yes No Unfortunate and unpardonable 86 14 Necessary due to forced conversions 61 39 Threat to India’s secular reputation 84 16 Why do you think the central government is soft on militant Hindu groups? Yes No Political agenda and lack of will 81 19 There is a fear of backlash 68 32 Majority of police is communal 55 45 Has the government taken necessary action against the fundamentalist forces? Yes No 23 77 Delhi 27 Bombay 21 Calcutta 12 Lucknow 21 Hyderabad 35 Can the activities of the BD, such as bomb-making, be called terrorist activities? Yes No DK/CS 70 27 3 Delhi 76 Bombay 80 Calcutta 73 Lucknow 84 Lucknow 35 Most of the terror/blast suspects are Muslims. Why do you think this is so? Hindu Muslim They are easy targets 61 60 64 Lack of education, economic backwardness 71 73 67 Strong influence of terrorist groups 73 78 65 Bitter experience of communal violence 63 65 61 Is growing economic divide causing communal disharmony? Yes No 79 21 Delhi 71 Bombay 91 Calcutta 75 Lucknow 74 Hyderabad 86 Hindu 82 Muslim 76 How would you rate the media coverage of the issues and problems of the minorities or the poor? Adequate 44 Poor 38 Too much coverage 18 Do you think the media sensationalises terrorism - related news? Yes 74 No 26 Why do you think the media sensationalises terrorism? Yes No It is easy to sensationalise terror 68 32 They are simply doing their job 76 24 The readers too like sensationalised news 74 26 All figures in percentage Methodology: Research Organisation GfK Mode conducted the survey in five cities namely Delhi, Bombay, Calcutta, Lucknow and Hyderabad on September 23 and 24 to understand public sentiment on the recent attacks on minority groups. In all 516 interviews were conducted, broken up into 299 Hindu and 217 Muslim respondents.