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LK Advani gets a taste of his own bitter medicine

Deputy prime minister LK Advani is known as a hardline Hindu nationalist who has been attacking secular political leaders as "pseudo-secularists," guilty of "appeasement" of minorities. He is the architect of the BJP journey from two seats in Parliament to ruling India, through a clever maneuvering of the Hindu votebank by raising non-issues like Ram Temple on the Babri Mosque site.

Advani's strident anti-Muslim posture mobilised majority Hindus to vote his party Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which promised to end the "appeasement" of Muslims. His fierce anti-Muslim rhetoric not only led to the demolition of the historic Babri Masjid in December 1992, but to significant undermining of secular values and fabric in Indian politics.

Little did he knew that the anti-Muslim hate wave which he had created, and riding which he had come to power, would spawn even far more venomous strains of anti-Muslim ideology that would make his own rhetoric sound bland like nursery rhyme.

Almost a decade after he coined words like "minorityism," "appeasement of Muslims," and "pseudo-secularism" to malign India’s secular polity, his ideological progeny have started using the same words against him. To them Advani is the 'pseudo-secularist now…

Of course, Advani has not suddenly become secular, or even pseudo-secular. He remains the Hindu ultra rightist he ever was. He has not started appeasing Muslims either. Yet, earlier this week, two of the seniormost Hindu rightist leaders, Ashok Singhal and Vishnu Hari Dalmia, accused him of being "pseudo-secular" and appeasing Muslims.

Being the deputy prime minister, Advani has to look as if he intends to defend the secular constitution of the country without actually doing so. As the federal home minister for the last three years, he has consistently allowed lawless Hindu rightists to break the law. However, when he publicly stated a fact of life — that India’s Constitution was secular and that India will never become "Hindu state" — his Hindu nationalist fellow travellers began to bay for his blood.

The chorus of Advani’s condemnation was joined in by more leaders of the Hindu Right, including Prakash Sharma of the militant, anti-minorities Hindu Right organisation, Bajrang Dal. Sharma said Advani had insulted Hindus by referring to secularism.

These rabid elements on whose support Advani and others had swept to power are now demanding their pound of flesh. They don’t like to be interrupted in their violent anti-minorities crusade. But the irony is that even though Advani wants to allow them to have their way, as one of the two top men running the state, he cannot be seen to be encouraging lawlessness. That irks his fellow travellers.

The situation of the prime minister is even more miserable. He has virtually been declared an apostate by the more strident Hindu nationalists because as a prime minister he cannot allow them to do as they wish.

Vajpayee did back Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi with all the might at his command. The entire media, the political opposition and a sizable part of the civil society was demanding Modi’s dismissal for his role in Gujarat pogroms, but Vajpayee and Advani stood by him, and he did retain his chief ministerial job with the help of these people.

However, even Prime Minister Vajpayee cannot shelter the Hindu fascists when the Supreme Court or the Election Commission of India wants him to reign them. When Vajpayee prevented them from violating court orders on the Babri Masjid site, they started slandering him in public.

Publicly criticising Advani, one of the most rabidly anti-Muslim leaders, Ashok Singhal, said Monday, November 17, that his statement was at variance with Hindu nationalist ideology. Dalmia, president of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council) said Advani had poor understanding of "Hindu-related matters."

Advani has sown the wind of anti-Muslim hate and now he reaping a whirlwind.

¯ Mohd Zeyaul Haque

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