Even as reports of hunger and death come in from Afghanistan, and the people of south Asia steel themselves to bear the brunt of US led NATO’s imperialist war against the third world, the governments and media in the region continue to present this offensive as the ‘civilised’ world’s fight to surmount terrorism. In Pakistan, General Musharraf seems delighted he can combine his service to ‘civilisation’ with postponing elections and return to democracy, and in the bargain also earn the reputation of saviour of stability and defender of the anti-fundamentalist intelligentsia against the fundamentalist (and other) opposition to the US attacks against Afghanistan. In Bangladesh the new regime of Begum Khaleda Zia thinks it can kneel before the US if in balance it can sanction the sectarian attacks on the Hindu minority. The BJP led Indian government has shown utmost servility and facility. It has simply incorporated imperialism’s war into its own diabolical agenda against the country’s Muslim and Christian minorities. It is a situation fraught with great danger for the people of south Asia.
Whatever the end to this war and whatever the new government installed in Afghanistan, it is going to be a government installed by the US. Moreover, the US is not likely to vacate the bases it is using in Pakistan to fight the Afghan people. The formal hostilities over, the US will be a huge presence in South Asia, right on our heads. This is the real outcome of this war for south Asia, which can well be envisaged even in the midst of all the confusing rhetoric emanating from the so called coalition against terrorism and from the mainstream media in both the western world and our own region.
Genocide of the innocent in Afghanistan
Mainstream media refuses to feel for Afghanistan. The deaths, pictures of wounded children and thousands killed in cluster-carpet bombing, the stories of hunger and millions rendered homeless and forced to leave their country as refugees, for no fault of theirs does not seem to count. And all because George Bush and his men can neither figure out who bombed their WTC and Pentagon nor where bin Laden is hiding? Figures of those killed will soon equal those killed in the September 11 tragedy. As winter sets in millions could face starvation deaths.
Already, tragedy is looming large also in the form of a comeback of the Northern Alliance. It appears the Afghan people are left with little choice between the fundamentalist Taliban that closed down the schools, and the Northern Alliance guilty of mass rapes and massacres in the past. The Revolutionary Afghan Women's Association (RAWA) has protested their return and appealed to the UN and the world community against them. There are news agency reports that these foot soldiers of imperialism have already killed hundreds of surrendering Taliban supporters and some 300 Arabs and Pakistanis, are hunting out people with long beards and there have been mass rapes of Afghan women and minor girls in Kabul, and general looting.
The Americans and the south Asian governments, like the BJP in India, should think twice about whether it is fair to foist on the Afghan people a government that neither represents their major ethnic community (Pashtuns), nor majority political opinion. Would they sanction such an eventuality in their own countries? It appears everybody ‘fighting terror’, except the Afghan people, who have been fighting oppression and terror for decades, are to have a say in who forms their government, and this tragedy is being forced on them by the ‘civilised’ world.
This is a tragedy unfolding in the full gaze of the media and might as well not be occurring, if one goes by the dominant media. Its citizens have been redrawn as terrorists in the image of the hated beards, turbans and Laden. An entire religion, and a whole spectrum of cultures have been caricatured to the extreme to fit into the imperialist-conceived image of the terrorist and barbarian. The media plays on the image of beards, turbans and Laden, while the facts given out show clean-shaven, English educated men as suspects. The media shows images of ‘terrorist’ look alikes of caricatures created by itself, while the bombed constitute children, women and poor and destitute innocents.
This casualty of truth may well outlast the bombings in Afghanistan, and the brave new media of the braver new world may well carry a good share of the ‘white man’s burden’, busy as it is giving new images and forms to the good old ‘civilising’ mission against the world’s ‘barbarians’. No holds barred-you can bombard entire countries, smoke them out, poison them, shoot them between their eyes, starve them with sanctions and blockades- when you are dealing with ‘them’ and not ‘us’. These are quotes from the officialdom and media, not just derivatives from their attitudes, being spewed day in and day out in the ‘civilised’ world.
‘Civilising’ missions south Asia style
While the secular-democratic forces and the very large number of non fundamentalist Muslims (apart from the fundamentalist organisations in Pakistan and Bangladesh) in south Asia are strongly articulating their opposition to the imperialist war offensive on the people of Afghanistan, the Sangh Parivar in India and the Muslim fundamentalist forces in Pakistan and Bangladesh have been engaged in their own private agendas of war against the minorities in their countries. Spine chilling forms of intimidation have been taking place in India, in the states of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Orissa and Rajasthan, led by the BJP affiliated Sangh Parivar groups like the Bajrang Dal and the Hindu Rakshak Manch. Malegaon in Maharashtra has seen horrendous pogroms with police as accomplice and active partner.
In Bangladesh the Hindu minority was attacked soon after the new government allied with Jamait Islami took over. Hundreds of people fled their homes in fear, temples were attacked in many towns. In Pakistan, sixteen people belonging to the Christian community were slain while at prayer in the Church.
In Pakistan, the Musharraf regime, desperate to avoid trouble issued a strict warning and stopped the trouble. In Bangladesh the government said “it would look into the matter” and that “guilty will be punished”, although nothing has been done to date. In India, the Sangh Parivar affiliated BJP government simply refuses to take cognizance of the matter, and its Home Minister is busy targeting anti- war protests while giving a clean chit to the Hindu right wing organisations.
Popular protest against the Imperialist economic offensive
People in south Asia have been quick to respond to the link between the Afghanistan bombings and imperialist economic offensive. The WTO leadership sounds much as George Bush does, with its ‘with us or against us’ threats, and there is a move to take advantage of the anti third world mood in the garb of an ‘anti-terrorist wave to push through measures that will have devastating effect on the livelihoods of people in the third world.
Thousands of people converged in new Delhi on November 6 to voice their protest ahead of the Doha meet under the leadership of the “Indian people’s campaign Against WTO’-a broad platform of political parties, trade unions, farmers bodies, organisations of Adivasis, people’s movements and mass fronts of various employees, supported by student, teachers, and youth organisations. The Left parties formed the backbone of these protests all over the country. The rally adopted a declaration, which called for rolling the WTO propelled integration of Indian agriculture and industry with the global market, which is making the lives of poor working people miserable. A similar rally of all trade unions took place on November 9 in solidarity with world trade unions.
Protests have marked all parts of the country. . In Maharashtra 50, 000 peasants lit bonfires of foreign agri products on October 2. Farmers, peasant and agricultural workers organisations also separately protested the Bt. Cotton seeds holding the government of India and the multinational company Monsanto responsible for illegally testing and disseminating these seeds. There were conventions against privatisation and job security held all over the country. Students and teachers are protesting privatisation of education and the WTO efforts to denote health and education as ‘services’ on which barriers must be lifted and withdrawal of state subsidies forced in order to facilitate foreign entry into these fields in south Asia.
People in Pakistan and Bangladesh are expressing similar concerns even as their governments are preoccupied with the current war crisis, particularly Pakistan, which is bearing the brunt of the US policies of ‘either with us or against us’. No ‘packages’ are going to bail out the mess and misery of the Pakistani people is a refrain of concerned people and organisations in Pakistan.
BJP government moving ahead on history texts
The Sangh Parivar linked BJP government is moving ahead, much as Nazi Germany had in the 30s- to wipe out the secular democratic content of education in the country. History has become a major vehicle in the political discourse of the right wing fascists in their justification of the Hindu rashtra and anti-minority pogroms.
The refashioned National Council for Educational Research and Training (NCERT) is busy getting new history texts written for schools despite strong protests in the country to the so-called National Curriculum Framework. It is a matter of ridicule, but also great concern, that the entire exercise is being treated as state secret. It is with great difficulty that the media and concerned citizens were able to obtain names of two ‘eminent’ writers’, and it is no surprise that they turn out to be mediocre, with no standing in the academic world, with no justification to their credit except that they actively supported the Sangh Parivar’s demolition of the Babri Masjid and equally actively opposed a World Archaeology Congress Resolution calling for protection of all places of religious worship and people’s heritage.
There is already a large body of such texts prescribed in the 40, 000 odd RSS linked schools where lakhs of children study, and this entry of the Sangh Parivar into the national and state academic bodies is aimed at taking over the entire educational system in the country. Poisoned young minds make sectarian future citizens, and the right wing history project is after all a battle for the minds of the Indian people. All concerned citizens of the country, and concerned bodies of intellectuals all over the world, must oppose these moves of the Indian government, aimed at preparing the ground for fascism in the country.
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