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Can we halt the march of religious fascism?
By Ram Puniyani

The Gujarat carnage has shaken us to no end. The events of Godhra were followed by the violence in Gujarat. More than two thousand lives and close to two thousand crores of social wealth has gone down the gullet of the communal demon. The condition in Gujarat is hardly moving towards recovery, thanks to the motivated political leadership, coming from Sangh Parivar stable, for which the whole thing was an upsurge of Hindus and for whom it was passé due to various reasons. Tragically, mainstream Gujarati society has not shown any remorse for this and that partly gets reflected in the attitude displayed towards relief efforts and also in the silent and subtle message that 'they deserve it'! Can Gujarat repeat itself? Can our civic and political structure ensure that such a ghastly event does not repeat itself? Can the political force behind the implementation of the Gujarat genocide be contained? Can the Indian electorate learn from the French to boot out the Fascist forces? Can the social and political formations stand up to dangers, which the Sangh Parivar has erected during last eight decades? Can we as citizens care to see the difference between the secular democratic principles and the religion-based nationalism (Hindu Rashtra)? 

Too many questions accompany the agitated mind of society. Too many challenges are staring into the face of those who will like to preserve the gains of freedom struggle, the principles of Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, and the Indian Constitution. The backdrop of Gujarat carnage is very revealing. Post-Babri Masjid demolition, the parivar got the shot in the arm and the marginal outfit, its political wing BJP, started inching towards political power. It is not that the parivar depends on political power alone to flourish. Its work, which has intruded most of the aspects of our social life goes on irrespective of being in political power or out of power. But being in power does help. Every stint of political power makes its social institutions more powerful. Every occupation of seats of political power gives it the opportunity to plant its swayamsevaks in the crucial and strategic seats of influence in society. 

The 'effect' of Babri demolition lasted for close to a decade and lately it was becoming obvious that the communal polarisation brought in by Babri and post-Babri violence was declining. The polarisation levels were dropping and so were the electoral fortunes of BJP. All attempts were made to keep the communal fire burning; Shila pujans, yagnas, and more events around the Ram Temple issue etc. But nothing worked. Then Godhra came in as a 'Ram sent' opportunity. It is said that there were some other cards also up the sleeves of the parivar (like the video cassette of cow slaughter) but nothing could have been better than the act of some insane Muslims who burnt the coach of Sabarmati train. Our "leaders", more so from the parivar or those close to it are experts in 'instant investigation'. One does recall the 'brilliance' exhibited by the 'Loyally Yours' of Parivar, George Fernandes, who along with two of his ministerial colleagues, could investigate Stains brutal burning just by sniffing the area for a little while, to declare that the burring of pastor with his innocent sons was a part of international conspiracy to destabilise his master, Vajpayee's government In similar vein swayamsevak Modi could immediately discover the link between the local Muslim criminals, who burnt the train, with ISI and international terrorists, who attacked the WTC. And the rest is horrific history, part of which is still going on. The ongoing cycle of 'retaliation' under the able leadership of the bright boy of the parivar, the 'Chhote Sardar' has brought immense shame to the land of Buddha, Kabir, Nanak and Gandhi. 

The ghastly events have awakened a large section of concerned individuals to stand up for defending secular democracy. The non BJP-Shiv Sena, Non-NDA parties have firmed up their resolve to stand for secular values. Some of the sensitive individuals around this time felt that Godhra-Gujarat is the reaction of a frustrated parivar and that the communal fire is on the verge of getting extinguished, and this is the heightened flame before it is extinguished. It was part optimism and part a commentary on the electoral defeats of BJP in Gujarat panchayat elections and the state assembly elections in the four northern states. 

In the aftermath of riots there are conflicting assessments and the assessment of Chhote Sardar based on the feedback from BJP local units indicates that BJP will be winning elections hands down in the wake of carnage. The blood of innocents, stench of dead bodies and smoke of burning houses is the 'offering', which the demon of communal politics needs from time to time. And once the level of 'these offerings' becomes less in the system of this demon, communal parties start loosing out. And BJP and Parivar pundits know it too well. It is not for nothing that Godhras and Gujarats are planned or happen at regular intervals, of course with increasing ferocity every time. The deeper mechanisms, human and organisational, are well entrenched to ensure that parivar's electoral calculations are translated on the streets and into the ballot boxes.

The present impasse has also aroused a deep dislike for the politics being manipulated and imposed on the society. What is desirable is that we learn the lessons from the recent French elections in which fascism has got a nice beating. 

Just to recall, the Parivar clone in France came very close to the Presidency due to voter apathy and due to the dislike for the non-performing Chirac, in the first round. The French electorate immediately realized its folly and a fortnight later rallied around Chirac to ensure that Le Pen does not come anywhere close to power. The electorate and the other political parties did not use their rhetoric power against each other and instead concentrated to ensure that country does not fall in the hands of an avowed non-democrat. Is such a thing possible here? The Mulayamsinghs, Sonias, and Sharad Pawars are ever keen to fight amongst each other even if that means that Advanis and Vajpaeyees of the Parivar appropriate the political power despite being in minority. 

In a scenario where the Dalit leadership like Mayawati is ever willing to ally with the modern Manus of BJP can one hope that in the next elections round our Le Pen does not occupy the seats of power? Can there be alliances, which ensure that only those committed to democratic values, pluralism and Indian constitution are voted for. On this count BJP, the political son of RSS, the Parivar, can 'cleverly' talk in a democratic language while subtly talking of Hindu Rashtra. With forked tongue it can spell to contrary concepts in the same breath, democracy and Religious Fascist state. Unfortunately we do not have much choice of a 'good' secular democratic party. We do not have the luxury of selecting from the assortment of Good, Better and Best. We are doomed to identify just the bad, worse and the worst. And reconcile to bad and reject the worse/worst. To the writer of these lines Parivar and its affiliates should not qualify even for the worst category. As they are not having faith and commitment to secular plural values and Indian constitution they should not be considered at all as far as the choice for electoral purpose is concerned. Those, who belong to the Parivar for whom Indian constitution should be replaced and the one based on Hindu Holy books (! read Manusmsriti) should be brought in (a la K S Sudarshan) the patriarch of Parivar) do not qualify for consideration as the electoral oufits worth voting for under any circumstances.

But that's just one part of the total spectrum of Parivar's exploits. We need to look at its schools, propaganda machinery, its cultural fronts, and its communalization of society as a whole. Even without electoral success Parivar can sustain itself for a long time. And that's where the 'real challenge' lies. Its a marathon task. Communalization of polity through rumors, myths and cultural fronts cannot be easily combated. New mechanism for secular culture, democratic values, syncretic practices are to be brought to the forefront. The version of Hinduism, which is currently being propagated by Parivar, is antithetical to the subaltern streams of Hinduism. The Shramanic Hindu traditions of Charvak, Tantra, Shaiva, Kabir, Tukaram have to be given their due. The Hindutva's Hinduism is based on Hate for other religions. The Hinduism of Shramanic traditions are based on the respect for Humanistic aspects of other's faiths. The new practices and Brahminization of subaltern practices, the Brahminiasation of Saints has to be recognized and fought against. The 'community' has to be at the center of the programmes taken up by the social groups committed to social, economic and gender justice. The cultural space left unattended by progressive forces has to be appropriated back to ensure any meaningful building up of a society based on plural ethos and democratic values. 

Writer works for EKTA, Committee for Communal Amity) Mumbai

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