March 5, 2002


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Arvind Lavakare

Why 'secular' history repeats itself

All of a sudden, Jayalalithaa has emerged as the secular politician with a difference -- a whole world of a difference. In a public statement from Chennai on February 28, the AIADMK goddess incarnate used the ghastly Godhra tragedy to lambaste all major political parties in the country for their 'anti-majority and pro-minority approach'.

'It is very strange and saddening,' said she, 'to see that when such acts are perpetrated against the minority people in the country, all political party leaders rush to condemn them, but when the majority people are subjected to similar perpetration of heinous crime, not a single political leader has so far issued a statement condemning this barbaric crime.' (Writing this three days after her statement, Jayalalithaa's comment still holds good, with not even that 'secularist' publicist, Shabana Azmi, having uttered a word of disapproval at what the mob did at Godhra railway station.)

Jayalalithaa dubbed that deed at Godhra as a 'barbaric act against the majority at a time when our country is engaged in containing terrorism and tension along the border'.

She added, 'It is not as though a crime is a crime only if it committed against the minority community people and not so if it is committed against the majority community.' Describing the Godhra killings as a crime against humanity, she said the horror of what had happened in Gujarat 'should compel all those who believe in fairness, justice and equity to condemn this ghastly and senseless violence in the strongest possible manner'.

Jayalalithaa's last blow was a knockout reminder to those whose vote-bank politics have made them believe that in secular India, the Hindus must necessarily live for the exclusive convenience of the Muslims, the Christians and other minorities. She reminded political leaders that it was not only the minorities who enjoy 'all sorts of rights' under the Constitution, but the majority too have their rights to live in this country.

However, it was so characteristic of those wretched 'secularists' of ours that Jayalalithaa's statement was ignored by all major media organisations, including The Hindu of Tamil Nadu, where Jayalalithaa is chief minister. Instead, these folks who believe that 'secularism' is 'minorityism' cunningly diverted the whole public focus from the Godhra massacre to the reprisals in Gujarat's cities.

A corollary of this scheming cussedness was their demand that the BJP state government in Gujarat should quit over its inability to stop/control the vendetta on the Muslims of that state; and if the BJP-led government of Vajpayee would quit simultaneously for its 'failure' to deploy the army in time to control/stop that communal load of body bags, these shameless secularists would be even more happy.

Spokespersons of the leading opposition party, the Indian National Congress, have been in the forefront of this devious digression from Godhra, the original sin, to the recriminating bloodletting in urban Gujarat. It is therefore revealing to see how 'secular' history has repeated itself in our country.

In August 1921, the Muslim Moplahs in Malabar pronounced jihad against the Hindus there. The Hindus had been lulled into a false sense of security by the slogans of Hindu-Muslim unity raised by Mahatma Gandhi and the Congress in their support of the Khilafat movement started by Muslims in 1919 with the dual objective of restoring the liquidated Khilafat and the Turkish empire after the British had won the First World War with Muslim co-operation, but broken its reciprocal promise of protecting the seat of the caliph and the Turkish empire, notwithstanding the latter's defeat.

Thousands of these misled and beguiled Hindus were massacred by the Moplahs; thousands of their houses burned for days together and the number of forced circumcisions defied enumeration. The whole savagery was so pronounced that even the British government, which normally sided with the Muslims, had to resort to its army to end the four-month genocide (Threat of Islam: Indian Dimensions, Unnati Prakashan, 1994, by B N Jog, pg 155).

And what was the reaction of the Congress that laid claim to being the nation's voice? See it in the party's working committee resolution. Among other inanities, that resolution said, 'Whilst condemning violence on the part of the Moplahs, the Working Committee desires it to be known that provocation beyond endurance was given to the Moplahs and that the reports published by and on behalf of the Government have given a one-sided and highly exaggerated account of the needless destruction of life resorted to by the Government in the name of peace and order...The Working Committee regrets to find that there have been instances of so-called forcible conversions by some fanatics among Moplahs, but warns the public against believing the Government and inspired versions' (ibid pg 159-160).

The above text may well become the kernel of a likely CWC resolution on Godhra and its aftermath. The Congress is, after all, 'secular'; and it is supported to the hilt by the Communists of various hues as well as by the likes of Mulayam Singh.

The word 'provocation' in the above resolution needs comment.

Even as the Godhra tragedy news broke out on television, the 'secular' anchors of the various channels tied it up with the 'provocation' of the Hindu karsevaks on the ill-fated train returning them from Ayodhya. Those karsevaks had altercations with Muslim vendors on the station, we were told; they shouted 'Jai Sri Ram' slogans that 'provoked' the Muslims at the station, we were told.

But how were firebombs thrown in a jiffy into the compartment of those Hindus? How was a barrage of stones hurled at them out of the blue? How did a mob of 1,500 to 2,000 indulge in all that all of a sudden? The 'secularist' newscasters were not bothered about going into that.

This 'secularist' viewpoint was best exemplified by the comment Teesta Setalvad made to The Washington Post of February 28. She said, 'Let us not forget the provocation. These people were not going for a benign assembly. They were indulging in blatant and unlawful mobilisation to build a temple and deliberately provoke the Muslims in India.' Setalvad must be perverse to label karsevaks returning from Ayodhya as those 'indulging in blatant and unlawful mobilisation'. But that is all one has come to expect from the likes of such women and men.

Ashok Chowgule, president of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Maharashtra region, counters in an email statement that 'if this provocation argument has to be accepted, then we have to accept that the terrorist attacks of September 11 on the USA was entirely justified because the terrorists have said that they have been provoked by the policy of the USA'. Do you buy that, Ms Setalvad?

Chowgule also faults the prime minister and home minister for asking the VHP to scale down its plans for constructing the temple and asks them to read the White Paper on the Sri Rama Janmabhoomi movement prepared by their party itself some 10 years ago.

As for the PM asking the VHP to negotiate, Chowgule reminds him that the 'VHP has gone through three rounds of such negotiations, with three PMs -- V P Singh, Chandra Shekhar and P V Narasimha Rao... The VHP has given proof of the antiquity of the belief of the site being the Ram Janmabhoomi for more than 3,000 years. And the belief is a continuous one."

Chowgule ends his statement with a covert threat. 'For far too long,' he says, 'it is the Hindus who are being asked to make compromises. Those who are in the forefront of creating problems for the nation are appeased and their actions rationalised. Such a situation cannot be allowed to continue for long.'

Chowgule errs. That 'situation' he talks about has persisted since August 1921 -- at least. And it will continue until the Hindus start a nationwide movement to demand a definition of 'secular' and incorporate it in our Constitution. Morarji Desai's government got a sensible definition ('equal respect for all religions') passed in the Lok Sabha, but the sheer Congress numbers in the Rajya Sabha prevented that historic amendment from becoming a reality.

Arvind Lavakare

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