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March 4, 2002

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Varsha Bhosle

Without tinder, sparks are useless

Friday: In Mumbai, 7 buses have been damaged, 8 BEST staffers injured, and trains blocked by stone-throwing mobs during the strike called by the VHP. In neighbouring Thane, 6 shops belonging to "a minority community" have been set ablaze; a "100-strong mob moved around in the town... appealing to shopkeepers to down shutters and at some place forcibly pulling them down" (The Indian Express).

Question: Why did the shopkeepers ignore the VHP's call for a bandh? Like agents provocateurs, were they looking for trouble...?

A-ha, you're thinking, this dame's accusing the victims for the crimes committed by the Hindu mob! And you'd be right. But I'm simply following our "secular" tradition: When news spread that 59 "Hindu activists" were killed by "miscreants" at Godhra, "the entire Opposition expressed disappointment over the government's response to their demand for stern action against the VHP for continuing with its mass mobilisation programme in a bid to build a temple at the disputed site in Ayodhya" (The Newspaper Today, February 28).

That's right. Unarmed men, women and children are massacred by a Muslim mob -- and the "secularists" suggest that the Hindus brought it upon themselves by going to Ayodhya.

What really happened at Godhra? According to The Asian Age of February 28, "A mob of 1,500, reportedly belonging to a minority community, attacked a bogie of the Sabarmati Express ferrying VHP activists... using iron rods and swords, and hacked to death over 50 passengers... Inflammable substances were also thrown into the coach, which led to a fire in a portion of the bogie, and several passengers were charred to death."

Hacked to death with swords before being burnt.

Could the Age be wrong? But the Ahmedabad edition of The Times of India also carried this bit: "'In our culture, women are respected and not attacked with swords and acid. We should not take this lying down,' thundered [karsevika] Sushma Shukla."

While stuff like "frenzied young men brandishing swords, tridents and iron rods have taken over the streets" occupies the front pages today, silence reigns over the swords, rods and acid used by "unidentified persons" or "miscreants" in the attack on "Ram sevaks" or "Hindu activists".

The man in charge of the Hindu entourage on the train also told the Age, "There were many girls travelling along with the karsevaks and about 10 have been abducted by miscreants belonging to the minority community." The reporter quizzed District Collector Jayanti Ravi about the abductions, which she did not deny: "The reported abduction of the girls is a subject of investigation, which would be done later."

Ten girls stated to have been abducted. Have you read about this in our largest-selling newspapers amidst all the details of the carnage that Hindu hordes have wrought? Has anybody inquired about the FIRs...?

On the evening of the attack on the Sabarmati Express, a STAR News anchor admonished a fellow anchor for saying that a Muslim mass assaulted the Hindus: "Please don't jump to conclusions. As journalists, we have a responsible role to play," he said. The attack occurred around 8am, and even after 7pm, the newsman wanted to project doubts about the religious identity of the assailants...

How do you think the abducted girls' brothers must have felt about the news blackout? How do you think the men who collected the shapeless bundles of charred flesh must have felt when the Communists and the Congress stuck to the supposed legitimacy of the Babri Masjid instead of sympathising with the distraught families? Could they have felt that India is their country, too? Wouldn't they direct their rage at the first Muslim they saw? Then, does this "responsible" press, do these "secular" politicians, have any right to comment on the fury driving the rampaging Hindus? NOT!

Why am I not spewing bile at the Muslims, you ask? I won't; I feel they're little at fault. A spoilt child is created when the parents, fearing the tantrums he throws, accede to his every demand. He invariably becomes a bully, unwilling to share his possessions with his siblings, who then wait for a chance to get even. However, the error is the parents', who shouldn't have indulged him and driven a stake between the siblings. Whether the gruesome acts of the Muslim mobs or the Hindu hordes, none of it would have happened if someone had stuffed all our Nehruvian secularists and pinkos -- politician, press and commoner -- into a giant box and drowned it at sea in 1947. Then, Muslims would have learnt to live in parity with Hindus, and there'd be no Hindu backlash. Indeed, there would be no VHP.

*****

Saturday: The death toll has risen to 375. In Ahmedabad, even after the army being deployed, Hindu hordes armed with petrol bombs, swords and guns continue to hunt prey. In Bapunagar, where Hindus and Muslims clashed, rocket launchers, automatic guns and bombs were used. Six mosques have been razed in Ahmedabad, Surat and Bharuch. In Naroda-Patia, an entire slum was torched within minutes. The stories coming out are as bloodcurdling as that of the Sabarmati 59 -- of entire Muslim families being lynched and set ablaze. In Pandarvada village, 30 were burnt alive. In Ahmedabad's Gulmarg Housing Society, 35 Muslims were butchered, and similar massacres occurred in Saraspur and Shahwadi colonies...

The list of the dehumanization is endless. Most of the murdered couldn't possibly have been part of the mob that burnt the Hindus. Most of them must have been innocents with no connection to any kind of violence. But that's the ugly nature of a riot -- no sanity, all fury. Whether the impetus is race, religion or poverty, riots essentially stem from extreme frustration. Communal riots will not go away unless the devout Hindus' concerns are addressed. Bhosle's "inflammatory" writing on the Web does not reach the Hindus of Godhra -- it is the "national" newspapers, filled with anti-Hindu slants, that fuel their sense of estrangement in their own country. If our "secularists" do not recognise the crime they are committing -- the position in which they are placing a minority -- such riots will continue. With or without the VHP. Why make a tinderbox in the first place and then guard against a spark?? Chuck out the tinder! The spark will be wasted.

As I hear one horror story after another, the only questions that keep ringing in my mind are: WHY did the Muslims attack the train? WHAT were they thinking?! Did they really believe that no Hindu would retaliate? Didn't they know that Gujarat is the land of *that* Mahatma Gandhi who had said, "But as a Hindu, I am more ashamed of Hindu cowardice than I am angry at the Mussalman bullying. Why did not the owners of the houses looted die in the attempt to defend their possessions? Where were the relatives of the outraged sisters at the time of outrage? My non-violence does not admit running away from danger and leaving the dear ones unprotected" (cited in The Tragic Story of Partition by H V Seshadri). WHO were these people?!

Prompt came the reply: The ISI, said BJP leader J P Mathur. Which is so much bullshit that I want to puke. Among those arrested (at the time of writing) -- on the basis of eyewitness accounts or being caught in action -- are two eminent municipal councillors of Godhra, Abdul Dhamtia and Salim Shaikh, the latter's brother Abdul Gaffar, and two petrol-pump owners who provided the fuel to burn the train. Also, the nagarpalika president, Mohammad Kalota, and councillor Bilal Haji -- both accused -- are absconding. Besides which, no sane person can believe that Pakistan would dispatch a 2,000-strong army of spooks to one place.

The Muslims who attacked the Sabarmati Express were neither ISI agents nor al-Qaeda jihadis -- they are plain old Indians. Sure, the hand of the ISI *is* deep in there -- but it's now being cited by the politicians to shirk the responsibility for their continuing with the Congress policy of indulging the minorities, to the point that Muslims began to think they are invincible. Just as Osama bin Laden thought he would get away with obliterating the WTC, so did the Muslims of Godhra think vis--vis the Hindus returning from Ayodhya.

Ayodhya... To understand where I'm coming from, I urge you to visit my column of 1997 before reading further. The razing of the Babri has become the embodiment of everything that's evil in India -- that is, practising Hindus are what's wrong with India. You see, if a Vinod Mehta or a Dilip Padgaonkar can't be bothered to wear a janoi or believe fervently in the existence of Ram, it follows that any Hindu who does can't be a sane specimen. If a Shekhar Gupta or a Kuldip Nayar feels no threat to his self-esteem from a mosque built on land traditionally revered as Ram's janmabhoomi, it follows that anyone who does is an extremist-Hindu-fundamentalist-activist.

Problem is, there are far, FAR more Hindus who want to see the Ram temple come up at Ayodhya than there are clutches of "secular" opinion makers, historians, politicians and socialites. The alumni of Cathedral School or JNU do not an India make. This country also consists of the people who burnt Bombay and are burning Bharuch.

The root of the Ayodhya issue is the sacrilege of a masjid constructed at the site of what is held as Ram's birthplace. Muslims -- who believe that the Al Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem represent Islam's third-most holy sites -- should have no difficulty in understanding the pulls of blind faith. After all, there is *no* historical evidence to suggest Mohammad ever visited Jerusalem, let alone ascended to heaven from the site on the Temple Mount. Therefore, a court order in favour of Muslims will NOT make Hindu resentment vanish. In fact, it will lead to worse.

In January 1991, when the VHP was negotiating a settlement for the return of the Ram Janmabhoomi, it gave this *written* assurance to the All-India Babri Masjid Action Committee and the government: "We do not even demand the return of the thousands of places of worship that have been forcibly replaced with mosques... We merely want three places back, three age-old sacred places. And we would prefer getting them back from the Muslim community, to getting them back by an official decree... Muslims should understand what kind of message they are sending by insisting on continuing the occupation of our sacred places, an occupation started by fanatics and mass murderers like Babar and Aurangzeb. We do not like to think of our Muslim compatriots as heirs and followers of such invaders and tyrants. It is up to them to make a gesture that will signify a formal break with this painful past." The three places are Ram Janmabhoomi, Krishna Janmabhoomi (Idgah at Mathura), and Kashi Vishwanath (part of the Gyan Vyapi mosque complex).

I propose that the "secularists", especially the leftist media, create such a climate that the Muslim leadership would freely cede these three sites to the Hindu activists. You see, there is no other solution. For, even if the "educated" bend-over-and-spread-up Hindus don't know about the VHP's affidavit and Syed Shahabuddin's obdurate inflexibility, the Hindus who can make or break a riot DO. Wait and see what happens should a mosque come up at Ram Janmabhoomi again.

The devout Hindus have already compromised by asking for just 3 sites from among thousands. It is now up to the parent to cajole or threaten the spoilt child and teach him how to share with his sibling. Otherwise, further pampering = added estrangement = more riots. QED.

Varsha Bhosle

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