Saturday, April 25, 2009

A Sense of National Pride

A/N: I was a little worried about posting this essay. For one, most of you will probably find the subject matter uninteresting and skip over this post like it doesn't exist. Secondly, I felt very insecure about it. I was writing about a subject matter with which I felt unfamiliar and I worried about getting all of the facts right. My instructor gave me a 94% on it though, so I suppose I pulled it off.

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"A Sense of National Pride"

The Situation

India is still a young child in the face of independence. As the largest democratic nations, it faces a difficult task: pleasing all of its citizens, while upholding the beliefs that have shaped its culture for centuries. The history of India is crowded with oppression and hostility. From the years 1000 to 1757 the nation was under Islamic rule until the British colonization from 1757 to 1947. While under the tyranny of third-party rule, two main factions of religious affiliations arose from disaccord: Hinduism and Islam. In fact, there have been clashes between Hindus and Muslims since the 12th century. The Muslims had always been a minority, and thus naturally heedful of Hindu rule. But when, in 1915, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi called on the people of India to unite in the face of British rule, the two groups joined together. Under a united front, India secured its independence.

However, the unity did not last long. Gandhi was assassinated because of his Muslim-friendly views and the two groups settled once again into the comfort of dissent. Since India’s independence, the tension between the groups continues to erupt periodically in bloody, atrocious acts. In the late 1980s, the concept of Hindu fundamentalism (also called Hindu nationalism) began to take hold of India’s political system and has since perpetrated these acts. Though the ideology has existed since the early 20th century, within recent years it has permeated into a sense of national pride that the average Indian citizen can display, like a badge pinned to one’s chest, or even an avatar to save the Hindu people from foreign (Islamic) invaders. As a nation and a religion that has been largely controlled and formed by foreign forces (the word “Hindu” is even a Persian mispronunciation of the word “Indus”), they are searching to take control and exert a national authority that has hitherto been underestimated.

The Reasoning

Hindu fundamentalism is a nationalist ideology that seeks to preserve Hindu heritage by converting the Republic of India into a strictly Hindu polity. However, the Hindu principles they seem to promote are influenced more by nationalism than by religion, in part because Hinduism does not have a specific sacred text to which to conform. Hinduism becomes a national identity rather than a set of rules to be obeyed. Even Buddhism and Jainism—separate religions in their own right—are seen merely as variations of Hinduism. In this manner, the presumptuous addition of the word “fundamentalism” only helps to serve their justifications, as opposed to their cause. The phrase “Hindu Fundamentalism” (or even “Hindu Nationalism”) can more accurately be replaced with “Hindu Fascism.” The tactics they employ and seem to condone are usually tinged with terrorism. Indeed, allegiance to a religious code has never been of particular importance to Hindu groups.

One such group is the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), or Indian People's Party. It was founded in 1980 and is one of India major political parties. They are often associated with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a non-political cultural organization founded in 1925 (in fact, a former member of the RSS was responsible for Gandhi’s assassination in 1948).

The Tactics

The BJP and its members have been suspected of being involved in a number of questionable activities; the most significant was a movement that culminated in the destruction of Babri Masjid, a mosque that they claimed was built on the birthplace of the Hindu god Rama. The established Muslim structure was demolished at the hands of a Hindu mob and the subsequent riots—some of the worst inter-communal violence since 1947--led to more than 2,000 deaths. Although there was certainly religious fervor behind the destruction of the Babri Mosque, the attack was, above all, fueled by the Hindu fundamentalists’ belief of the essential Hindu identity of India and their concept of Muslims as inherently foreign.

In February of 2002, hundreds of volunteers returned to Ayodhya to begin construction of the Ram Janmabhoomi temple. A train carrying activists returning from Ayodhya got into an argument with a Muslim selling tea on the Godhra station platform. The carriage was set on fire and the 58 people inside were killed. Though this was not the first incident between Hindu pilgrims and Godhra Muslims, forensic evidence indicates that the fire was started from inside the carriage. This suggests that the Hindus had started the fires themselves, knowing that the incident would provoke riots and increase the BJP’s support. And indeed: rioting began the next morning. The violence led to nearly a thousand deaths, most of which were Muslims. The police either did nothing or even joined in on the attacks. The result was a doubling of support for the BJP.

However, that is not to say that Muslims have not retaliated. A clear example of Islamic extremism can be seen in the recent bombings in Mumbai, which took place November 26-29 of 2008. There were more than ten coordinated shooting and bombing attacks across India's largest city. At least 137 people were killed and at least 308 were wounded. Among the locations that were targeted was the Taj Mahal Palace & Tower, as well as a number of popular and highly-populated establishments. Only one of the attackers was captured alive: Ajmal Amir Kasab. He disclosed that the attackers were members of a Pakistan-based militant organization considered to be a terrorist organization by India, the United States, and the United Kindgdom. The Pakistani Government originally denied any citizen involvement in the attacks. However, in January 2009 Pakistan’s Information Minister Sherry Rehman officially accepted Ajmal Amir’s nationality as Pakistani. A month later, Pakistan’s Interior Minister confirmed that parts of the attack had been planed in Pakistan and that six people were currently being held in connection to the attacks.

The Future?

As the tension between Muslims and Hindus continues to push against the fabric of India’s culture, when will the fabric be ripped to shreds, completely beyond any type of repair? The timeline remains unseen in the volatile, unpredictability of human nature. One thing can be seen though: India’s attempt to circumnavigate terrorist threats to its people. A recent indication of this is the announcement that the Board of Control for Cricket in India has decided to move the second season of the Indian Premier League (IPL) outside of India. The dates of IPL are in concordance with a major upcoming election and some fear an attack by political, pseudo-religious extremists. Negotiations led to South Africa as the chosen location. Though the full consequences of this decision remain to be seen, some would say that the IPL is giving into terrorism. However, this decision shows political maturity; it shows a knowledge and understanding of the threat at hand. Above all, it shows a desire to preserve the Hindu way of life in a seemingly more stable maneuver than what has been previously executed.

1 comment:

संदीप said...


I'm surprised to see a good understanding of Hindu fascist. Hats off!