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South Asia: On The Time Bomb Of Majoritarian Nationalism

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By Vidya Bhushan Rawat *

The two articles that I recently posted on Bangladesh and Sri Lanka got me some curious personal mails from the natives of those countries. Some Srilankan friends had complained that how can I call myself as a human rights activist when I cannot support the cause of Tamils in Srilanka who have been victimized for the past 40 years by the majority Sinhala community. One brother wrote that I am an apologetic and supporting a government which has blood in its hand.

Friends from Pakistan were offended on my Bangladesh article which they felt was a diatribe by Indians or Hindus against Pakistanis supporting the division of Pakistan. A Jamaat supporter from Bangladesh wrote me that Bangladesh is an Islamic country and Hindus are its problem. The day Hindus are thrown out of Bangladesh, all its problems would be resolved. He cited example of Israel suggesting that once the Jews are exterminated from the world, all our problems would get resolved.

In India the Sangh sympathizers feel that we are siding with Muslims and supporting the Islamic fanaticism particularly those who are ‘anti-national’ and are inimical to the interest of our country. They feel that Gujarat happened because Muslims ‘burnt’ a train and killed innocent people and hence Hindus have a right to retaliate later on. The similar arguments were given when the Sikhs were butchered in Delhi in 1984 suggesting that they were celebrating the death of Indira Gandhi. ‘I saw them distributing Laddoos, went the rumors that time. Similarly, rumor mill works overnight everywhere to malign the minorities everywhere. ‘Muslims clap for Pakistan’ and celebrate when Pakistan defeat India, is another big rumour.

One friend wrote to me as why I was concerned about Pakistan, Bangladesh, Srilanka and Nepal when India has huge problems. She meant to say, why you should think of those countries when you are yourself in trouble. The fact of the matter is that South Asia has lot of similarities and at least together in its political struggle against British Empire before 1947. Hindus, Muslims, Dalits, Christians, Sikhs, all fought their battle for the freedom of their respective countries.

Untouchability and caste systems are hugely present in each of these societies. Women face the trauma of being minorities and Dalit women in our society. Minorities in each country are looked with great suspicion and their condition is absolutely pathetic and painful. The conditions in our society affect the people elsewhere hence the issues at South Asia are closely interlinked and influence our system. Therefore, it is important to support the rights of minorities and campaign for secular constitution in our countries.

Let us examine how the minorities influence situation in our country. Muslims are a minority in India and their loyalty to the nation was always questioned by the Hindutva outfits. Muslims were directly linked to terrorism and media played a dubious role in doing so and expressing the ‘feelings’ of the ‘majority’ community. Even when it is proved beyond doubt that many of the blasts were the handiwork of those who were influenced with ideological framework of Hindutva yet the popular perception of terrorism in India is always built around Muslims.

In Bangladesh the political situation is really uncertain despite a sound majority being enjoyed by Awami League government lead by Sheikh Hasina Wazid and Hindus are at the receiving end. Their loyalty is questioned and their property is always grabbed whenever they are away from their homes for a longer period. Communal riots target them. In Pakistan, the condition of Hindus and Christians is a matter of grave concern. Both the communities are victim of the infamous blasphemy law. Pakistani Hindus bear the brunt of being leveled as agent of RAW. Whenever, any bomb blast happens or any incident occurs, Hindus are blamed for that and a sinister campaign is launched. Pakistani fundamentalist groups make Kashmir issue as Hindu annexation of Muslim territory. But Pakistan condition is not confined to the worsening situation of Hindus in that country but the very unfortunate circumstances being built up around Shias. They too are blamed for being anti-Islamic and their Islam is being challenged by the right wingers who have no shame in persistent ethnic cleansing of the Shias in that country.

We thought that if Pakistan is bad in its attitude towards minorities, Sri Lanka could have been better but shockingly it surpasses all other countries in brutally suppressing the voices of dissent in its society. We all felt that Sri Lanka was a better society in South Asia and Buddhism was religion of ‘peace’ and ethics but the Sri Lanakan conditions defy those notions. Here Buddhism is vigorously and violently promoted by the state to counter the assertion by Tamil minorities, a majority of who practice Hinduism. The brutality of the Sri Lankan army in Jaffna against Tamils is well known to be informed here and it has got wider support with the establishment and the so-called majority people.

The painful reality of South Asia is that the states have become prisoner of past appeasing the majority communities everywhere. In the din of Parliamentary system that the British introduced in our political maps, the democracy is limited to winning elections which is nothing but ‘adjustment’ and political maneuvering. Minority voices matters also in an ordinary day when there is no chaos but off late the right wing majoritarianism is fast growing in the subcontinent to deny minorities a space in power structure which they would get any ordinary day. Hence because of the threat of losing the ‘majority’ votes, states are become the apparatus of majority community, vilifying the minorities and media playing a very important role in it, as an extended arms of the state. Not only that media has carefully snatched the opportunity from the opposition parties and is playing the role of ‘opposition’ as well as compelling them to speak on their agenda. It is a politics dirtier than the mainstream politics which ultimately depend on the acceptance of the people.

Hence the issues before the South Asian people are much larger and can only be addressed if we have larger vision. The governments have played their role in using the ‘popular’ sentiments and have rarely stopped violence against the marginalized. How can India support a resolution against Sri Lanka in the UN? What will it get? At the World Congress against Xenophobia and racism in Durban, the summit collapsed as USA was not ready to get anything passed against Israel?

What have the Indians done on its own front in Gujarat. Is it not a shame that the Rajiv Gandhi became the most powerful prime minister after the murder of his mother Indira Gandhi and Narendra Modi is getting more powerful after the heinous crime in Gujarat was committed?

The Sri Lankan president also became a powerful one after his exterminated Tamil separatism and in Pakistan Asif Ali Zardari gained to presidency on the demise of his wife Benzir Bhutto. The history of Indian subcontinent is of political manoeuvring and therefore it is important that civil society organisations stand up for the rights of the minorities as well as marginalized. It would be absurd to think that one government is better than the others when their own hands are soaked in blood in their respective countries.

It is not the issue of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh or Sri Lanka but the issues of the most marginalized in our society who are being slaughtered to satisfy the ego of ‘nationalist’ right wingers everywhere. This right wing nationalism of majority community need to be challenged everywhere.

South Asian countries need to open its border to everyone, change its political system to ensure free and fair participation of the minorities and marginalized including women, change the school text books to ensure that there is no hatred in them and that their minorities and marginalized are not being villainised for the wrongs committed by their forefathers in history.

Attempts should be made to bring people together and for that it is essential that both the so called minorities and majorities must shed their prejudices of the past and built a relationship for future. It is futile to think that creation of new states and new government of their ‘own’ will finish the crisis of our society which is essentially based on our political structure. Our boundaries are created on artificial line and we need to erase these political boundaries to enjoy our great shared history and culture so that the conflict created by political interests are buried forever and we all feel proud of our togetherness.

* Vidya Bhushan Rawat is a social and human rights activist. He blogs at www.manukhsi.blogspot.com twitter : freetohumanity skype : vbrawat Facebook : Vidya Bhushan Rawat This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

[Source: Countercurrents.org]

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