(With God hijacked by the reactionary rabble, the only hope is Left)
Friedrich Nietzsche’s declaration of God’s death was highly premature. Were He dead for good, so many innocents would not continue to kill and die in His name. Death ruled South Asia in March, and the fury enveloped more than one point of the compass.
After enduring the curse of Taliban and the death and destruction wroughtby Enduring Freedom, Afghans had to cope with the divine tremors of 26 March, which left thousands dead under the rubble. What has Al-Qaeda’s Allah done to His people wishing only peace in the lap of Hindukush?
It is not certain whether those who hurled grenades at a church in Islamabad on 17 March were Mullah Omar’s followers, but there is little doubt that they were fanatics of one faith attacking the followers of another. If faith in God teaches human beings to kill one another, perhaps it’s time for Him to take a vacation.
Mercifully, He does seem to have taken time off in Sri Lanka. Helped by the Norwegians, the Sinhalas and Tamils finally seem to have come to their senses. The fragile truce between the Colombo Government and the Tigers of Prabhakaran continues to hold, even though there is no telling for how long, now that the US has put itself firmly behind Ranil Wickremesinghe. Saarcy says this because history is replete with instances of ceasefires ending as soon as Uncle Sam chooses a side – and the resulting conflict merely becoming fiercer. Whatever her good intentions, Assistant Secretary of State Christina Rocca must be dissuaded from starting a process that would transform the Indian Ocean into a giant lake meant for the US naval forces’ aquatic games. Indeed, with the Indian foreign policy establishment completely backbone-bereft in the face of that fire-breathing anti-terrorist George W, it rests on South Asian media and civil society to warn off the Superpower from the Indian Ocean.
North and east of the Bay of Bengal, the ruling party and the opposition in Dhaka are baying for each other’s blood over a pointless controversy: whose photographs should watch the inefficiency of Bangladeshi baboos led to the absence of the Awami League from the official Independence Day celebrations on 27 March. There is no saying what the clerics and the armed forces will do to this country if the political forces remain at loggerheads for much longer. Everywhere, they have begun to see the Pakistani General as a kind of precedent-setter, only they do not realise how much they lack. As it is, hardcore Islamists have been burning temples and taking potshots at Bangladeshi Buddhists, Christians and Hindus. One shudders to think of the fate of the minorities if the institutions of governance were to weaken further in a society where national solidarity is still rather fragile, despite the shared heritage of a common Bengali literature and culture.
Up north across the Brahmaputra /Padma in the Himalaya, Bhutan is the only South Asian country that has so far succeeded in its undeclared drive of “ethnic cleansing” by driving a good proportion (one-seventh by a credible count) of its Nepali-speakers to the refugee camps of eastern Nepal. But such a “success” has irreparably damaged the ‘Buddhist’ image of the country, just as has been done by the fire-breathing reactionary monks of Serendib. Better late than never, King Jigme Singye Wangchuk seems to want at least some of his former subjects back to salvage his reputation.
When Chakra Prasad Banstola (former Nepali foreign minister and senior Congress party man) arrived in Thimpu on a mission of quiet diplomacy, he not only met the prime ministerial equivalent Khandu Wangchuk and foreign minister Jigmi Y Thinley, but King Jigme himself. Something is brewing, and Saarcy thinks this can only be for the better. For, the two Himalayans, Nepal and Bhutan, can hardly afford to be at loggerheads. Besides, for all the hi-fi diplomacy and genuine development Thimphu has to its credit, which regime would want history to judge it as having depopulated a seventh of its population? That, after all, would probably be the highest proportion in world history. The curse upon the Lhotsampa highlander refugees as the summer loos begin to hit them tenth year running can only be rescinded by the deity in Thimpu, and thus he will be judged by posteriety.
West of Thimphu, and over across Sikkim-Darjeeling, an unseasonal downpour lashed Nepal and raised the hopes of a better spring crop. The God of Hate in this multiethnic country is a class icon, and his wrath has been devastating. Since the believers of the Maoist faith commenced their class war seven years ago, thousands have died on the altar of that fallen Chinese God. Even then, his Nepali followers and detractors alike refuse to realise that the salvation doesn’t lie in killing each other. Rebels have called for a five-day bandh without sparing a thought for the effect such an extended forced closure would have on an already tottering economy – or the thousands of students sitting for the School Leaving Certificate examination in the middle of it all. Clearly, Lord Pashupatinath has lapsed into a hashish-induced trance, and He is incapable of responding to the cries of help from his people.
The situation is uniformly grim almost everywhere else in South Asia, including in Burma, where the junta refuses to budge despite relentless pressure from the international human rights and democracy constituency. But it is Bharat that makes Saarcy despair for the future of South Asia. The Bhartiya Janata Party’s debacle at the polls in several states, one had thought, would lead to the decline of communal politics. Hope, however, has an extremely short life-span in the Almighty’s scheme of things. A Hindu backlash added fuel to the raging Ayodhya fire when nearly a hundred of trishul-weilding karsevaks were burnt to death in a dastardly attack on the Sabarmati Express at Godhra, Gujarat. The diabolical act of burning people alive in the name of one God led to others using the name of another God to kill many times that number. The killings in the name of Ram in Ahmedabad were of pogrom proportions.
Gujarat may be the birthplace of Gandhi, but it is being ruled by communalists who subscribe more to the views of his killer Nathuram Godse. What is taking place in Gujarat even as I write this, is not the usual communal rioting that India has known for nearly 150 years. It is calculated and cold-blooded not in spite of the state, but with the active encouragement of an administration that handed over the streets to Hindu fanatics. In a civilised, truly god-fearing society, Chief Minister Narendra Modi would have been tried for aiding and abetting vigilante justice. One shudders to think of the fate of political, religious and ethnic minorities with the recently passed draconian law Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) in the hands of mobsters like Modi.
While India has seen a steady rise in Hindu fundamentalism since Independence, the influence of the Saffron Brigade has always remained limited to the trading classes of the Cow Belt of the states of BIMARU (Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajsthan and Uttar Pradesh). Its tentacles began to extend wider and dig deeper when the Centre under PV Narashimha Rao (and Rajiv Gandhi before him) failed to protect the Babri Masjid, leading to the Black Sunday of 6 December 1992. It was in Ayodhya, on that day, that the fanatical hounds tasted blood and became the Hindu Taliban that took full advantage of the BJP’s enthronement in the Delhi Darbar.
The Saffron Brigade has now completely taken over the India that is Bharat, and in a twisted kind of way its network is consonant with the Varna Vyabastha. For the Brigade’s four components function in a co-ordinated and complementary way. At the top of the pyramid is the parent organisation, the Rastriya Swayamsevak Sangh, which performs the brahminical function of manufacturing the ideology of ‘Hindu-nationalism’. This was the concept enunciated once again by the Pratinidhi Sabha of RSS in Bangalore during March – it asserted that the fate of the minority depends upon the “goodwill of the Hindus”. In the RSS worldview, non-Hindus have no right in Bharatvarsha.
The BJP is the political arm, acting as the Kshatriyas of resurgent Hinduism. Led by political leaders with the gift of doublespeak, the party swears by the secular constitution of India drafted by Dr BR Ambedkar but advances the fanatical agenda of RSS Guru MS Golwalkar. “When Parliament was attacked I felt angry. The attack on Orissa Assembly made me ashamed”, declared LK Advani, although he refused to ban Bajrang Dal, the member of the Saffron Family that was the sole cause of his ‘shame’. Messers’ Ashok Singhal and Vinay Katiyar of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad are the Vaisyas raising and managing funds for the Saffronite cause. Under the protection of Black Cat commandos provided by an indulgent state, Singhal spews venom upon minorities and milks the nominal Hindus of the NRI diaspora, separating them from their dollars.
The Saffron Shudras are to be found in the various affiliates of RSS, including the storm-troopers of Bajrang Dal that rape nuns, burns missionaries and their children, and ransack legislative assemblies without the fear of the law. The fire-breathing Mahanth of Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas (RJN) – Ramchandra Das Paramahansa of Ayodhya – is also a Saffron Shudra who leads the so-called karsevaks creating Ram Shilas, the carved rock pillars of the temple-to-be which will bring nothing but everlasting shame to the dharma.
Were Ram the benevolent and historical godking we are told he was – rather than the distanced Aryanised macho male of the Ramayana television serial which is to blame in no small measure to Hindutva as it has evolved – he would doubtless have put a stop to all this nonsense taking place in His name. He would have pulled up the likes of Advani, Singhal and Paramahamsa and roundly upbraided them. But how could he (Ram) be real when he could not even save his most ardent devotee, Mahatma Gandhi, from the devilish designs of Nathuram Godse?
Recently, one of India’s most prominent Midnight’s Child fumed from the pages of The Guardian, “What has happened in India has happened in God’s name. The problem’s name is God.” Salman Rushdie is right, but as usual, only partially. God is the problem, but the guilt of making Him the cause of our troubles rests with the Politics of the Right, a space that Rushdie himself finds comfortable in his new avatar of a loyal George W apologist.
The spectre of triumphant capitalism has heightened the siege mentality in countries that have been left behind in the race to modernity. The Therevadan monks, who march on Colombo streets opposing any accommodation with the Tamils, openly express their fears, “We are but 14 million people alone in this world. No one else speaks our language, shares our culture. Who else is the guardian of us but Buddha? And, here we stand on a small island staring north at 70 million Tamils.” The implication being that about 3 million Sri Lankan Tamils are but a part of the larger Tamil population across the narrow Palk Strait.
Similar fears energise Islamists in Bangladesh and Pakistan, the Mahayana Buddhists of Bhutan, and the Hindutva sants of India. The decline of Nehruvian Socialism has weakened secularism in India, and Hindu fanatics openly fan the fears of Islamic resurgence on the one hand and the Christian threat on the other. This is simple escapism of course – too afraid to stare the looming danger of triumphant capitalism in the face, insecure communities manufacture manageable enemies closer at hand. Thus, even as Atal Behari Vajpayee is forced to bow to the American Dollar and its agenda, he takes out his anger by getting POTO passed by a joint session. God is thus a minor problem; the major problem is the disappearance of politics of hope.
The solution is self-evident: the hope lies somewhere left of the centre in the realm of politics. Comrade Jyoti Basu may have left a lot to be desired on the development front, but his success in keeping ethnic cleansing out of politics in perennially strife-torn West Bengal is nothing less than a miracle. As Gujarat destroys itself, West Bengal shines like a crown jewel.
For the societies of South Asia, as indeed for all the countries of the South, redemption lies in the resurrection of Marxism from the debris of religious fanaticism and communal hatred. That is, if Nietzsche is right, and one hopes he is. May his soul rest in peace up there, so that we can live in peace down here.