Right wing nationalism in tune with Bush and Sharon
What has happened in Gujarat in India has its roots in the declaration of the “infinite justice” campaign by George W Bush after 9/11. The first shot in the fascist campaign of exterminating Muslims in Gujarat was fired in Washington and not in Gandhinagar by Narendra Modi. To overlook this aspect of the SanghParivar conducted ethnic cleansing would be to miss the truly global character of fascism and the process of imperialist globalisation. The utter silence of Washington, London, Berlin, Paris, Moscow, Tokyo and other such centres of the ‘civilized’ world on the state sponsored pogrom and terror in Gujarat and some other parts of India by their Hindutva foot soldiers is more than revealing.
The Sangh Parivar’s private agenda in south Asia and within the country ties up well with the current ‘civilisational wars’ of the imperialist west. Even as the Hindu right wing has unashamedly and without pretence of niceties, shown to the world the real content of the declared wars for ‘civilisation’ and ‘national security’, the World Bank has gone on to declare that investment in India remains unaffected by Gujarat. A fascism that controls its storm troopers well and pogroms that do not spill over into food riots and destruction of property of the MNCs and the ruling classes; i.e., outside the targeted minorities, suits imperialist interests as much as the right wing political leadership within India.
US imperialism’s so called fight against religious extremism has never extended to fundamentalist partners so long as they go on offering their bases and markets, and prefer to fight each other or their own people rather than MNCs and imperialist interests. The sectarian conflicts in India have so far guaranteed a truly ‘conflict free’ commitment to the World Bank-IMF dictated liberalization policies by the Sangh Parivar linked BJP government and this is what counts with them.
Emboldened by this license from the masters while Musharraf next door has had to curb fundamentalists within his country, the BJP led government has given full reign to the Hindutva storm troopers to do what they want. The same logic has worked with partners in the NDA alliance who make loud noises now and then and stop at just those noises.
There has been a virtual war against the Muslim minority in the Gujarat state of India. The Sangh Parivar mobilized mobs sporting saffron bandannas and headbands, and brandishing country-made rifles, swords, spears, and iron rods indulged in arson, looting and mass murders, and openly loaded bricks and cans of petrol on to trucks, even as the police were conspicuous by their absence or were active participants. The same can be said of the BJP leadership, while VHP and Bajrang Dal leaders incited and led mobs.
The BJP Gujarat Chief Minister has characterized this carnage as within bounds of “restraint”. It still continues even as more than a lakh homeless remain unattended by the government in relief camps, more than 40 mosques, darghas and mazars have been destroyed by bulldozers and tarred over with connivance of the municipal authorities to remove all traces of their existence, and terror rules the state. Not a single person has been seriously booked though visual evidence in the form of video coverage exists for several major mass killings.
Elsewhere too political leadership hitches its wagon to Bush’s ‘civilizational war’
Elsewhere too in the south Asian region the ruling political leadership seems to have got its act together to ‘teach lessons’ to those who dare oppose their brand of civilization. “Year 2002 will be a war year,” decided Mr. Bush, and if the speed and ferocity with which democracy, minority rights, and lives of people are being threatened and attacked all over the third world by their own political leaderships is anything to go by, South Asia is in for a bad time.
In Bangladesh, Khaleda Begum is not only sanctioning attacks on Hindu minorities in her new regime, but has made these attacks a part of the backlash on the minorities for having supported the Awami league in the elections, very much as the Sangh Parivar is doing after the defeat of the BJP in the recent state assembly elections in India. Privatisation of public assets and removal of all visual signs of Sheikh Mujibur Rehman are being systematically accomplished, while school texts are being rewritten to suits sectarian ends. Women’s rights are being seriously compromised in view of the ruling party’s alliance with fundamentalists in the new political regime. Minorities never had so bad a time in Bangladesh since its formation as independence nation. Fierce attacks on Hindu minority have gone unpunished by the Khaleda regime.
In Sri Lanka, Sinhalese dominant right wing ‘nationalism’ is already posing a threat to the newly signed peace document, and in Nepal we hear everyday of the throttling of democracy and freedom of expression in the name of curbing Maoist attacks. Similarly, the great silence on the forcible expulsion from Bhutan of people of Nepali origin is a scandal that can occur only in south Asia. The hundreds of thousands of refugees living in conditions of great neglect and suffering in Nepal seem to be nobody’s concern. These unfortunate refugees have to cross India (as Bhutan and Nepal do not share a border) and as such should have prompted India to speak up, and SAARC to take note of this multilateral issue.
It seems the ruling dispensations all over south Asia have identified their own “axis of evil” in keeping with the trend set by Mr. Bush.
Democracy and Dictatorship in Pakistan
In Pakistan, the situation is more complex than it has been for a long time, in no small measure due to the fact that the democratic intelligentsia in Pakistan has supported Musharraf first for representing an alternative to venality and institutionalized corruption that had become identified with Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto’s regimes, and then for his declared stand against fundamentalism in the country. Pakistani intelligentsia has always been more sensitive on issues of freedom of cultural expression and women’s rights—not surprising as religious fundamentalism targets women and modern culture in the name of religion and tradition—than to questions of economy and social justice in class terms. Musharraf’s regime, even given that it is military dictatorship, has been generous on counts of resisting the pull of fundamentalism with regard to women’s rights and civil rights in general. His has been the most clear cut voice among south Asian leaders in favour of modernization and a separation of religion and politics. He has actually abolished separate electorates based on religion, taken action against religious extremists, and has a much saner attitude to Indo-Pak tensions than the Indian government.
Yet he has shown that his bid to curtail fundamentalism generously accommodates a pro western stance that will enable him to bypass democracy and fair elections in his own country, much in the same way as a pro western stance allows the BJP government to get away with murder in India. His declaration that Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto will not be allowed to contest elections, or that he plans a referendum on extending his rule, have not provoked an adequate response from the wider Pakistani political spectrum or the intelligentsia. These plans in their call to ‘grassroots’ for political consent to rule represent a bypassing of established political institutions and the established electoral process in any democracy, and they can only imply the continuation of dictatorship by means that do not challenge the dominance of the military in the political life of the country.
While the attacks on Christian churches soon after Musharraf’s declarations against fundamentalists are a clear sign that minorities are free and safe only in an effective democracy, democracy will not be achieved early as long as there is little challenge to privatization of the economy and pro imperialist agricultural policies. These policies entail huge fall in standards of living, retrenchment and increased unemployment which pro-west regimes such as there are in place in south Asia, more so one like Musharraf’s, face with curtailment of democratic and trade union rights. In Pakistan as in India there are fundamentalist political forces with strong vested interests in Indo-Pak animosity, which will not automatically dissolve with curbs against religious extremism and madrarsas that grew during US’s and Pakistan’s honeymoon with the Taliban. As Musharraf begins to sound more and more like Zia in the past, the Pakistani intelligentsia will need to exercise some hard choices.
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