Sunday, March 8, 2009

prima facie politics.

caveat: because this is a highly contentious issue, i want to stress that i do not wish to offend anyone with my post, regardless of religion, nationality or beliefs. i am also not trying to enter a hateful discussion about controversial global issues. i am, however, curious to hear your thoughts on this topic... particularly if you disagree with me! nothing like a respectful discussion to clear up confusion :)

i have been reading a book called In Spite of the Gods by Edward Luce, a non-fictional account of Indian society in its entirety: economy, government, politics, corruption, castism... it really covers the kit and caboodle. it is one of the more unbiased books i've read, and what i am enjoying most about it is Luce offers objective (and sometimes harsh) descriptions and still somehow establishes his affection and respect for the country.

i'm roughly halfway through the book, and what is extremely disturbing are the growing similarities between the Hindu-Muslim history and the current situation in Gaza. it is far more complicated than i'm about to explain, but in a nutshell the current religious feud in India seems to stem from Indian politics:

a political party, the BJP, holds a strong Hindu nationalist stance (read: only Hindus are Indian), and gained popularity in the late 80s and early 90s on this platform. in 1992, BJP members created riots because of a mosque in a city Ayodhya, which they claim was built on a Hindu temple previously destroyed by Muslims in the 1500s. they also claim Ayodhya is the birthplace of Ram, a prominent religious figure of Hinduism. it should be noted at this point that many of the BJP's claims have never received any academic or scholarly support, nor any empirical evidence of any kind.... including the claims about Ayodhya. for reasons i still do not understand, this minor detail goes largely unacknowledged within India society -- even though most have accepted that the BJP rewrote textbooks used in the Indian education to include unsupported claims.

in response to the mosque placement where a temple was allegedly previously burned (500 years ago), the BJP burned down the mosque in 1992. riots ensued, and 3000+ Muslims were killed. a decade later, a train carrying Hindus through the state of Gujarat was burned and many Hindus were killed. in response, the BJP began the now infamous Gujarat riots of 2002, which tortured and killed numerous Muslims. just a little snippet into what i mean by response:
"Mobs gathered around and raped the women, then they poured kerosene down their throats and the throats of their children and threw lighted matches at them. Hundreds stood by and cheered these gruesome incinerations, which symbolised revenge for the burning of the train passengers in Godhra. The male family members were forced to watch their wives and children burn to death before they too were killed."

to date, the two religions are bitterly unresolved over the true rights of Ayodhya. as i mentioned before, the situation is actually far more complex than i'm making it out to be here. but the following parallels have been gnawing at me:
*both sides of the conflict use previous points of history, no matter how dated, to justify virtually any action in the present
*both sides of the conflict wholly demonize the opposing party, and refuse to acknowledge that atrocities have been carried out by BOTH parties
*the punishment rarely seems to fit the crime

while the vague similarities are disturbing enough, what has been bothering me much more is how differently this information has been relayed to me in the past. to my knowledge, my entire immediate and extended family is 100% Hindu; no other religion has yet penetrated it. we are also Brahmin, which i objectively understand creates a higher stake to support the BJP nationalist views (since we directly benefit from them). and yet, the tidbits of information i've gathered from my extended family on the Hindu-Muslim divide have very obviously been a one-sided account. and i don't expect that it's specific to my personal experiences or conversations; many others are probably receiving (and accepting) equally biased explanations for the current crises around the world.

my intent is not to anger BJP-supporters, and i'm definitely not questioning why i feel that i may have been misled in the past. yet as with the situation in Gaza, it seems so blatantly clear that innocent people need to stop being brutalized... regardless of religion or nationality. and i think it may be up to the younger generations to do our due diligence and read as many perspectives as possible before passing judgement on the history of our people.

1 comment:

Arjun said...

The Seeds of conflict were sown during the freedom movement itself with birth of groups like the Hindu Mahasabha & All India Muslim League. Eventually this led to the partition of India, in the violence that followed close to a million people perished and 10 million people were homeless.

Since independence we have fought several wars with Pakistan over Kashmir. Pakistan sponsored the separatist movement [Fight for Muslim nation/ joining Pakistan] in Kashmir.

So the mutual hate has always been there deep rooted in the society.

Since 1980s building of a RAM temple at Ayodhya and has been in the Manifesto of the BJP. They also were of the view that the J&K should be fully intergarated politically and territorially with India. The party grew from having 2 elected members of parliament to 120 members in less than a decade.

In 1989 the Kashmir separatists took up militancy.

In December of 1992 the Sangh Parivar and its members demolished the Babri Masjid at Ayodhya. Following this there was wide spread rioting around the country in which ~2000 were killed.

In early and late 1990s the Militancy in Kashmir began to target Kashmir pandits [the hindu Minority in kashmir]. Thousands of Kashmiri pandits had to migrate and leave their homeland.

In 1993 a series of thirteen bomb explosions took place in Bombay killing ~300 people, the plan was hatched by Dawood Ibrahim as a revenge attack for the demolishing Babri Masjid.

To this day the tit for tat continues and there seems to be no end in sight. My take on this is that incidents like Ayodhya were only catalysts in spreading the hatred, but the civil society has always had deep rooted differences. And parties like the BJP are trying to take advantage of this difference to win votes and come to power.