The Shadow

Image

With increasing communal hostilities in the Indian society, this article tries to explain the drivers and the related consequences.  

The Solemn Promise

This year the world marked the twentieth anniversary of the Rwandan Genocide. Addressing a ceremony to mark the occasion, United Nations Chief Ban Ki Moon said that the world would never again allow genocide to tear apart a nation. Describing it as one of the darkest chapters in human history he acknowledged that the world could have done much more to save the lives of nearly 800,000 Tutsis and politically moderate Hutus who were mass slaughtered by the extremist Hutu majority.

Academics who have carefully studied the anatomy of genocide have concluded that genocide is a process which develops in multiple stages and can be prevented if early signs are detected and preventative measures applied. The international community has made a solemn promise that it will “never again” allow genocide like Rwanda. The international community must remain vigilant.

Early Signs

While each ethnic conflict is different to the other there are common conditions necessary for an ethnic conflict to occur. In his book ‘Modern Hatreds: The Symbolic Politics of Ethnic War’, Stuart J. Kaufman has described three necessary conditions of ethnic war; Myths justifying ethnic hostility, fear and opportunity. According to Kaufman, myths and their incorporation in every sphere of Hutu society laid the seeds of hate against Tutsi minority. These myths led to collective fear psychosis which eventually led to the Rwandan genocide.

In this article I will explain how these necessary conditions of ethnic war are being met in India and what can be done to avoid a potential conflict.

Structural communal prejudice fuelled by myths

Just like Pre-Genocide Rwanda, communal prejudice against religious minorities has now become a structural feature of Indian society. This state sponsored and institutionalized prejudice helps the elites to fulfil their political aims and gives a sense of collective identity to the masses. The origin of this prejudice lies in the myths which have been carefully nurtured by the majoritarian forces in India over decades. Myths fuel prejudice and prejudice gives rise to new myths.

The myth of origin and ancestry

The majoritarian forces in India believe that Indian Christians and Muslims do not naturally belong to India in spite of centuries of common history and co-existence. Rwandan Hutus who formed 85% of the population believed that the minority Tutsis were foreigners who had no right to be in Rwanda even after centuries of co-existence.

“The artificial attempt to create a homogeneous society unfolds as a consequence of the acceptance of genocidal intent” ~ Jason J Campbell

The myth of the sacred homeland

The majoritarian forces in India believe in the sacredness of homeland. Any citizen who doesn’t attach divinity to the homeland is considered as the “enemy within”. A Muslim refusing to sing songs that attribute divinity to the homeland is portrayed as a traitor who would betray the nation for the sake of religion. In Pre Genocide Rwanda there were many Hutus in the Government and in the general population who strongly believed that Tutsi minority was the “enemy within”.

The myth of the golden age

Majoritarian forces in India believe that ancient Indian civilization was a world leader in cultural and scientific advancements and this golden age came to an end when barbarians from the west invaded India and forcefully converted Hindus to Islam. For a thousand years they say they were enslaved and now the time to reclaim lost glory has arrived. They hold the present day Indian Muslims responsible for the events of medieval era.

The myth of suffering

This is the most potent of all myths. The idea that the majority is suffering due a small minority evokes powerful emotional response. Since Rwandan independence in 1962 the Tutsi minority was made the scapegoat for every crisis that was faced by the country. In India the Hindutva forces claim that Muslim minority is appeased at the expense of Hindus because 13% Muslims decide the winner in India’s elections. They see this as continuance of centuries of subjugation by the foreign forces. This suffering can only end when a Government representing Hindu interests takes over and the minority Muslims are shown their place.

Social and political exclusion

Helen Fein is a historical sociologist who has written extensively on genocide and collective violence. She says:

 “One condition that may predict genocide in the making is the practice of denying groups access to political and/or economic positions. In Germany prior to Nazi rule, the Jews were only marginally integrated politically. Economically Jews were overrepresented in the professions, but traditionally had been excluded from the guilds and civil service. The anti-Semitism that denied Jews access to political office, education and the professions eroded slowly during the 19thcentury, only to remerge at the end of the century; Prior discrimination and prejudice made the Jews a convenient target for Nazi ideologues”.

A survey conducted by the Government of India found that the presence of Muslims in top government jobs was minuscule, 3% in the Indian Administrative Service, 4% in the Indian Police Service and 1.8% in the Indian Foreign Service.

Even in the private sector there is an active effort to push Muslims towards causal labour jobs. In 2004-05 around 41% Muslims in Gujarat were involved in service sector which came down to 31.7% in 2009-10. In 2004-05, 59% Muslims were self-employed which came down to 53% while in case of salaried services the proportion of Muslims come down from 17.5% to 14% during the same period. It is also to be noted that Muslim share in causal labour increased from 23% to 32% during the same period (Source: CounterCurrengs.org)

The situation has become so bad that many Indian Muslims have to pretend to be Hindus to find employment.  Housing discrimination has also become common. A Muslim is not allowed to buy or rent a property in a Hindu majority area. In a rare case a Muslim family was allowed to live with Hindus only when they agreed to change their names and get their house “cleansed” through a Hindu religious ritual.

In recently held Assembly elections only 8 Muslim candidates were elected from the 589 seats that went for election. That is less than 2% representation. Major political parties avoid Muslim candidates because they know that people won’t vote for a Muslim.

 Development as legitimization

The fundamental assumption of the Development ideology is that the state’s sole objective is the pursuit of economic development. The Habyarimana regime masterfully played the Development card in Rwanda. He even changed the name of his party to National Republican Movement for Democracy and Development. While the Habyarimana regime kept selling the myth of Development, the pogroms against minority Tutsis continued. Those involved in the pogroms were never brought to justice. Today in India this model is popularly known as the Gujarat Model.

Mass media as tool of mobilization

In Africa of the1990s, radio was the most popular form of mass communication. A radio station named ‘Television Libre des Mille Collines’ (RTLM) was setup to broadcast hate messages against the Tutsi minority. Many observers now hold the opinion that this Radio station played a vital role in the Rwandan genocide. Ironically the stated aim of this radio station was to “to create harmonious development in Rwandese society”. This radio station was funded by wealthy Hutu businessmen, Hutu extremists and some members of the Government. Today in India the role of RTLM is being fulfilled by social media. Secular Hindus and minorities face a barrage of abuse and threats from Hindutva extremists. Journalists are threatened with rape. Mass murder is celebrated. During pogroms hateful messages and rumors are propagated. This is what a senior journalist affiliated with the Hindutva ideology tweeted during communal violence in Assam.

Image

Rewarding Pogroms

Anti-Tutsi pogroms in Rwanda started years before the genocide. Every pogrom was explained as a spontaneous and uncontrollable reaction. After every Anti-Tutsi pogrom the perpetrators went back to live their normal lives. There was no accountability. This led Hutu extremists to expect that they can keep killing large number of Tutsis without any consequence. Today in India mass violence against minorities is not only being ignored but it is being rewarded by major political parties. The Indian police force has often been accused of being biased against minorities. The courts have failed to bring the perpetrators of violence to justice. This has created a culture of impunity.

Role of mainstream media

The international community failed to understand that Rwandan conflict because journalists in their attempt to appear “balanced” presented it as an equal racial conflict between Hutus and Tutsis. In reality the Tutsi minority was facing massacre after massacre. Similarly the Indian mainstream media in its attempt to appear “balanced” presents the communal conflict of India as an equal conflict. Hundreds of Muslims were killed and thousands displaced during the Muzafarnagar violence yet in its attempt to appear balanced the media condemns one extreme statement from Amit Shah along side one extreme statement from Azam Khan creating a false equivalence.

Resolution

According to Kaufman ethnic war can be prevented by changing hostile myths. The Government has to take proactive measures to recast nationalist myths. The extremists should be given a clear message that they will face the full force of the law if they indulge in distribution of hateful propaganda or violence. This is unlikely to happen if the far right extremists come to power in India. In such conditions the international community must closely observe the situation in India. The world simply cannot afford to sit idle as a genocide unfolds.

Advertisements

25 comments

  1. Thoughtful article with good amount of research and facts! I see one more thing in all this that no religion based party is given to rule in any country like Bangladesh or Egypt and they are being sidelined by secular parties because religion based parties involve in genocides for political gains.

  2. Thank you for writing this. In these times of despair, with my misanthropy levels at an all time high, it is people like you who make me believe that the fight is not yet lost.

  3. Any thoughts on the slow elimination of Hindus from Bangladesh and Pakistan? Hindu temple destruction in both countries this year? Hindu young girl forced marriages and conversions in Pakistan every year? Murder and displacement of Kashmiri Hindu pandits?

  4. Continuing with the comparison the fate of India could well be that of Rwanda if the government fails to be proactive in countering this myth.

  5. I personally have known about 50 muslims since childhood, a lot of them having been neighbors and family friends. For me, there was no difference between Sharma uncle and Farookhi uncle. Muslims and Christians have been part of same neiguborhood, getting same salaries and living in same government quarters. Even today, I never came across a case where someone was denied a house because he is not a Hindu.

    There would always be zealots in all the religions, but the prevalent reality is far far away from the picture you have tried to paint.

  6. 1. Hindus r liberal and secular – and never forcing conversion. While muslims and christians are targeting dalits and other sections for conversion actively even today.
    2. You missed an important driver: The neighboring country’s muslim identity and terrorism excites the hindu nationalist identity and fuels hatred.
    3. Also you r wrong when you say “The myth of origin and ancestry: The majoritarian forces in India believe that Indian Christians and Muslims do not naturally belong to India in spite of centuries of common history and co-existence.”. When in fact, Indian hindus want to believe that they share same ancestry with muslims, christians – and muslims and christians deny that by considering themselves progeny of invaders and not native Indians

    As an individual I am non violent, peace loving secular person. But the thought scares me that if Indian hindus will not be assertive and cases like boko haram and terrorism will not be vehemently opposed by main stream muslim majority, and conversions will keep happening – what will become of the culture i so passionately love.

  7. The point s that Christian Muslims and other Minorities are in a dilemma. On the one side they have been accused or branded by the extremeists elements that they are being appeased by the governments.
    The other side they are always been denied social justice from all concerned.
    Commissions after commisssions recorded these pathetic conditions especially about Muslims.

    Despite all our odds we should have a feeling that we are all Indians and Indians should progress with social equality and justices.

  8. Is it not true that invaders belonfing to a particular community destroyed several thousand Hindu temples snd killed innocent Hindu men and women, in order to propogate their religion? Is it not true that most sacred hindu temples at Somnath, Varanasi, Ayodhya and Mathura were destroyed by people from the same community? The gyanvyapi mosque in varanasi still has the remains of the earlier temple, and the inscriptions qutab minar in Delhi proudly proclaims that it was created after destrying 28 hindu and jain temples. No one talks about 700 years of injustice met upon us. However, destruction of a mosque built on a temple, creates auch hue and cry.

    Is it not true that members of the same minority, when in majority are the worst offenders of the human rights? See kashmir, pakistan and bangladesh

    Is it not true that the population of the same community has increased from 8% to 13% in the last 60 years? And our previous govt. left no stone unturned to appease this particular community – be it special scholarships, trying to push for reservations, special grants to madrassas and our ‘secular’ ex prime minister went on record to say that minorities have the first right on the resources if the country. Do we bot even have the right on the resources of our own country? Should we depend on what whatever is left after our beloved brothers from the minority community have been satisfied? Shuld we be proud if such secularism?

    1. You are factually incorrect. No Hindu would destroy a temple. Period. Only Islamic barbarians did that. Attack on India was ISIS like. Similar in ferocity, barbarity, sex slavery, brutal killings. Majority of Muslims are either progeny of rape campaigns or converted by sword- as per Islamic sources.

  9. In India, mass murders against minorities have happened and Proper justice
    Denied. But it is followed by locals boys being radicalised and forced into Terrorism. Hence mass murder of minorities is not just bad for minorities but for the whole of India. This is realized by large number of Indians including large number of liberal Hindus. Indian Extremist Hindutva will never succeed in its evil design and also the extremism element in minorities will never succeed. I am highly optimistic for all Indians.

  10. Hey Brumby, you’ve presented your study very well, backed with some facts & figures.
    Sadly this is the state we are heading towards. The resolution….well, cannot expect it from the ruling Government. And until the international community intervenes, let’s hope it is not too late.

  11. I wonder why the author made the comparison to Rwanda? I mean – there is an example – at home itself. 80 million Hindus (non-combatants – men, women and children) were killed by Muslim invaders in a span of 500 years – the worst example of genocide ever in world history. Rwanda and Hitler pale in comparison. Countless temples were destroyed striking at the culture and religion of Hindus of which only 60000 known ones exist as mosques today. If there was ever a yardstick for ethnic genocide, this is it. This is no myth, no mythology.

  12. Self satisfying information without facts and figures is akin to masturbation…. Good effort whoever has written this “The Shadow”…. If you can’t have sex, better to masturbate …. Satisfaction guaranteed

  13. Your comments on the situation in India are spot on but your comments on Rwanda are absolutely not. The Tutsi massacre of Hutus,led by the Uganda-based, trained, and armed RPF, began well in advance of the Hutu genocide everyone talks about. Habariyamana was compelled to sign the Arusha Accord in Tanzania which handed over the National Assembly in Kigali to an RPF force – this would be like giving control of the Lok Sabha to Lashkar-e-Taiba – and announce negotiations. On the way back from the conference his plane was shot down, almost certainly by the RPF, and of course this led to the civil war restarting. Two militias – the Interahamwe and the Impuzamugambi – led the Hutu right wing reaction to the RPF attacks; the Rwandan army and gendarmerie were far weaker than the RPF and in no shape to start fighting again, which is why the RPF ultimately took power. Even the extremely pro-Tutsi Romeo Dallaire in “Shake Hands With The Devil” says that the RPF could have taken Kigali sooner (and already had a very strong force right in the capital) but chose not to in order to let massacres continue in order to harden international support behind it. And one the RPF took power, it began another round of massacres nobody talks about – that of the Hutu and also the Twa. Why do you suppose Hutu in such huge numbers fled to Congo?

    In a classic case of the cure being worse than the disease, Rwanda is now a Tutsi dictatorship under which Hutus have been systematically removed from power and Paul Kagame’s own erstwhile Tutsi RPF cronies have been murdered and exiled.

    The comparison between Rwanda and India is facile. A far more intelligent comparison would be between the situation of the Jews in Germany in the early years of Hitler’s rule – circa 1933-6.

  14. 3rd rated blog. All I see and read is – Hindus are idiots, Hindus are fools to be conned, minorities are in real trouble. Same old boring liberal idiot ranting and showing his secular credentials.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s