Not every Hindu or Muslim is an extremist, Mr Nayyar

Published: May 14, 2014
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Muslims chant slogans near a mosque to condemn the 20th anniversary of the Babri Masjid demolition in Ayodhya. PHOTO: AFP

This piece has been written with reference to senior Indian journalist Mr Kuldip Nayar’s article ‘Communal Politics and India’s election’ in this newspaper. As a humanist, I genuinely wish Pakistan the very best in the context of development and I have cited some pieces by liberal Pakistani intellectuals and made some statements about Pakistan in this article only in the spirit of constructive criticism.

While I deeply respect Mr Nayar and share his commitment to India’s pluralistic ethos, and I have written a book aimed at addressing and dispelling anti-Muslim prejudices in the Indian context, and have written articles critical of Narendra Modi and the BJP, I do feel that Mr Nayar’s article, while supposedly dealing with “communal politics” in the context of the current election taking place in India, fails to deal with the issue holistically.

For one, as an article of mine points out, it is totally wrong to suggest that only communities qualifying as the religious minorities on the national scale have been victims of communal violence in India (many Hindus also lost their lives in the riots in Muzaffarnagar in 2013 and Gujarat in 2002) or that communally divisive speeches in this country have been a Hindu rightist monopoly (surprisingly, communal remarks by Muslim politicians in India like Azam Khan and Shazia Ilmi during this election campaign found no mention in Mr Nayar’s article). Indeed, it is also true that many of India’s ‘secular’ political parties have appeased the religious minorities, and I am indeed glad that this did find a passing mention in Mr Nayar’s piece. However, on the whole, Muslims and other minorities have made their mark in all walks of life in India, including and not only, politics, cinema, sports, journalism and the academia but even in the security forces and intelligence agencies.

Also, while crimes, even hate crimes, take place in many societies, it is important, that the victims should get justice. In India, not only laypersons but even political leaders like Maya Kodnani, Manoj Pradhan and Ashok Sahu have been convicted for involvement in communal violence, and speaking specifically of the carnage in Gujarat in 2002, more than a 100 Hindus involved in anti-Muslim violence have been convicted.

Moreover, while it is true that Narendra Modi has been acquitted, that acquittal has come from a district court based on a non-binding report of a Special Investigation Team appointed by the Supreme Court, and a court of law operates on the basis of evidence. Perhaps, there genuinely wasn’t enough evidence to prove Modi’s guilt beyond reasonable doubt in the eyes of the district court, but in any case, there are higher courts where this matter will be tried in appeal.

Mr Nayar has delved into the history of the demolition of the Babri Masjid back in 1992 in some depth, referring to a recent sting operation on the same. While I strongly condemn the demolition of the mosque, I do disagree with several assertions made by him.

For one, he stated that the demolition of the mosque sparked off the tilt towards extremism among Indian Muslims. While I agree that there was no instance of terrorism by non-Kashmiri Indian Muslims before the campaign for demolishing the mosque started (except possibly the bombings in Bhagalpur in 1989), extremism doesn’t only manifest itself in the form of terrorism or rioting; else, even the demolition of the Babri Masjid was just an instance of vandalism, not terrorism, and wouldn’t qualify as Hindu extremism.

So, on what basis do I assert that Muslim extremism in India predates the demolition of the Babri Masjid?

The most significant example would be the law and order problems created by a very large number of Muslims in response to the Shah Bano verdict, which was a factor contributing to the demolition of the Babri Masjid. Mr Nayar has stated that successive governments have not paid any heed to his idea of having a Hindu temple and mosque side-by-side in Ayodhya, but it is surprising that a journalist of his calibre fails to realise that the matter was sub-judice. In fact, the judgment given by the Allahabad High Court (against which an appeal is pending with the Supreme Court), endorses Mr Nayar’s suggestion.

And while I am far from being a camp-follower of the BJP, I strongly disagree with Mr Nayar when he assertively says that in the current elections, the BJP has not explicitly spelt out its commitment to respecting religious pluralism, and in this context, this article may provide the required background.

Further, Mr Nayar laments that the Babri Masjid was demolished despite the secular Indian constitution (which is true, and it is also equally true that innocent Hindus have been targeted by Muslim extremists in India despite the constitution), but then, don’t crimes take place in every country despite the constitution? However, it is the Indian constitutional setup that ensured the convictions of hundreds of Hindu rioters, and, for example, the repair of mosques and Sufi shrines in Gujarat following the carnage in 2002.

Also, I fail to understand how and why securing the life and property of religious minorities is linked to secularism, as though theocratic states are not obliged to do the same, which would erroneously suggest that the state religions in theocracies permit violence against innocent people following other religions. Secularism is about being governed by non-religious laws, and in that context, ironically, the supposedly non-secular BJP is among the few political parties that pitches for the fulfilment of the obligation of a uniform civil code under Article 44 of the Indian constitution.

Mr Nayar critiques the BJP for its stand on the abrogation of Article 370 of the Indian constitution, saying that the said provision is,

“An integral part of the process of Jammu and Kashmir’s accession to India.”

Keeping my personal views on the issue (I do not see a problem with the Kashmiris enjoying a degree of autonomy within the Indian Union) aside, I would like to ask as to how can an article titled ‘Temporary provisions with respect to the State of Jammu and Kashmir’ with ‘temporary’ in its name be integral to the accession.

Mr Nayar, I am quite sure unintentionally, has also made generalised remarks about Indian-Hindus when he says that the demolition of the Babri Masjid showed that the majority community would have its way by force if necessary (though he ironically mentions that the vandals had attacked Gandhians coming in their way, who were Hindus). And even about Indian Muslims (again, unintentionally) when he says that they got radicalised to the extent of not protesting against terrorism, even though they have organised many protests against terrorism and also refused to bury the corpses of nine terrorists among the perpetrators of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks. I am sure he only intended to refer to certain radicalised sections of Hindus and Muslims in India.

Left-liberal intellectuals like Mr Nayar apart, many Indians and Pakistanis validate their deep-rooted nationalist prejudices by exaggerating the problems of the religious minorities on the other side of the border.

However, it cannot be denied that Pakistan, in spite of its overwhelming Muslim majority, is grappling with intra-Muslim sectarian clashes, ultra-theocratic terrorists bombing their own people, ethno-linguistic violence and last but not the least, Muslim extremists targeting the tiny non-Muslim minorities. It is indeed high time that South Asia enters a phase of its history wherein articles on topics such as these seldom need to be written in the context of contemporary developments.

Karmanye Thadani

Karmanye Thadani

A lawyer by qualification, he is a freelance writer based in New Delhi, India. He formerly worked as a research associate in a leading Delhi-based public policy think-tank, the Centre for Civil Society (CCS), where he did research on primary education in India. While in high school, with a friend, he invented an eco-friendly, medically safe cleansing agent that was selected to be presented at the national level in the Intel Science Fair. He tweets as @KarmanyeThadan1 (twitter.com/KarmanyeThadan1)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • abhi098

    kuldip should migrate to pakistan if he thinks hindus are extremists. Hindus are going to react whether muslims like it or not. Every indian muslim should go back to pakistan just like 5000 pakistan hindus who are migrating to india every year because of religious persecution.Recommend

  • Adpran

    “Every indian muslim should go back to pakistan”

    How can you say “go back to Pakistan” if those Indian Muslims were not coming from the land that now known as Pakistan?. They are Indian people that their ancestors converted to Islam on the land that now known as modern India.Recommend

  • IHateDisqus

    This article is a welcome respite from the drivel that passes on as ET blogs.

    One key difference between India and Pakistan is that in India usually it is mob violence, but in Pakistan it is targeted attacks. Not to condone either, but the difference between the two is that in the case of the former usually both sides end up with casualties, whereas in the case of the latter only those targeted are killed or maimed.Recommend

  • AnonPak

    Firstly bro there are no Indian Kashmiri Muslims. Kashmir is a disputed territory and the people of Kashmir are decisively against being a part of India. That is why you have a huge military presence in IOK. Secondly it is due time that Indians accept their reality and stop believing in the delusion of shinning India. Communalism is part of the Indian psyche and it has lead to discrimination and violence against minorities especially Muslims.
    Saying that Hindus also died in Gujarat riots and so Hindus are also victims of communalism does not make any sense, what do you expect when a group of people are attacked they are going to defend themselves. Don’t put blame on the victims for defending themselves.
    A majority which does not recognize its ills and feels threatened by minorities can not bode well for any nation and its minorities. All successful nations accept their flaws and try to correct them. Indians should do the same and one of their biggest problems is their attitude towards Muslims of India and their plight.Recommend

  • Parvez

    What Pakistan is doing is wrong……but your solution for India to do the same many times magnified, is certainly worse.Recommend

  • Sid

    Brilliant article. Much needed for Kuldip Nayyar, Aakar Patel, Seema Mustafa and likes for deeper introspection and understanding the responsibility of fair and unbiased articles on a volatile public forum such as here. Instead of mending ways and providing solution to end the communal problems plaguing India and Pakistan these reckless people only add fuel to the fire by self proclaiming themselves as subject expert. There is not much difference between Zaid Hamid and them. Ofcourse Zaid is leagues ahead, but slowly Aakar is catching up.
    I am by no means asking to mask the gravity of the crime, but then please be fair in assessment of the actions taken against such crimes. when u make a statement at least have something to back it up. I have never got any reply to my questions to either of the three author whenever I offer rebuttal to their articles. They just want to take out their bile and hide away to write next meaningless article.
    And of course some and not all of ET’s moderator have never published my comments when I provide reference to support my rebuttal. But I hope ET will be kind enough to publish this.Recommend

  • anil

    Then what will be the difference between Hindus and Muslims ? World suffers from Islamophobia , not Hindu-Phobia . For us our respect in world and culture is more important .We will give fitting reply to terrorists and terrorism , be it muslims or christains or Hindus . Those muslims who want peace and harmony can stay in India , others will be kicked back . Recommend

  • abhi098

    if muslism are suffering in india you can ask them to go to ur country.We dont need them.Recommend

  • Rakib

    Unmeant sentiments should be left unuttered. There is no point in saying:”While I deeply respect Mr Nayar” and choosing a header that implies that Nayar thinks “every Hindu or Muslim is an extremist”. Every one of them? Did Nayar ever say that? Man pours scorn made of syrupy sweet hemlock on Nayar by spewing out an epithet in the style of a Hindutva Heckler:”Left-liberal intellectual”!! Undoubtedly Shah Bano case & Rajiv’s conduct of pandering to Muslim obscurantists are shameful episodes but the Author disingenuously links up 1981 SC judgement & reaction (appeal dismissed by full bench in ’85) with Babri demolition of 1992!! And all the while we were told that it was a Mandir-Masjid dispute! Now poor Shah Bano (died ’92-few months before the vandalism) is responsible for it! Author waxes eloquent about justice in India. So how many terrorists are convicted for Babri demolition (which started it all) & how many more for terrorising & slaughtering Sikhs in 1984? One such vandal of Ayodhya became a Dy.PM of India, yet another leader of ’84 became a PM with highest ever majority .And Gujarat’s Nero will now do one better! Why so? India assassinates its heroes & rewards its villains, silly.Recommend

  • Karmanye Thadani

    I agree, Anil. We should have nothing against those of our countrymen, irrespective of religion, who are peace-loving.Recommend

  • Karmanye Thadani

    Thanks for the appreciation. I agree that non-Muslims in Pakistan have seldom resorted to violence against innocent Muslims, but clashes between Shi’ites and Sunnis or between Sindhis and Mohajirs often end up having casualties on both sides.Recommend

  • Karmanye Thadani

    Thanks for the appreciation.Recommend

  • Karmanye Thadani

    I totally disagree with you. Would request you to download this book (it’s free) and read it carefully and with an open mind-

    http://www.free-ebooks.net/ebook/Anti-Muslim-Prejudices-in-the-Indian-Context-Addressing-and-Dispelling-themRecommend

  • Karmanye Thadani

    I agree with you. India belongs to all its citizens equally, irrespective of religion.Recommend

  • Karmanye Thadani
  • Rakib

    Author:-(I would like to ask as to how can an article….with ‘temporary’ in its name be integral to the accession.) You may want to have a re-look at Instrument of Accession, entire Art 370, the story of deal brokered between Shiekh Abdullah/Nehru spread over 5 months of 1949 to finalise the conditional accession, etc. Accession was temporary from J&K point of view! Don’t take the smoke & mirrors generated word “temporary” (probably coined by Gopalswami Ayyangar) literally & binding.. As a Title it was meant to reassure UN that Art370 (originally Art 306A) would die its natural death as soon as UN mandated plebiscite was over & Kashmir destiny finalised. That didn’t happen, may be due to Pak fault, but the adjective has stuck. Clause 3 of Art 370 says (I am paraphrasing): this temporary article can be abrogated by President of India by a mere public notification (BJP doesn’t have to sweat at all!) PROVIDED the Constituent Assembly of the State of J&K recommends accordingly to the President!! And will J&K Assembly EVER recommend? In all probability if another case comes up SC may declare Art370 to be part of Basic Structure of Constitution that can’t be abrogated! RJB, Art370 & UCC are phony promises of BJP/RSS.Recommend

  • Hammad Mian

    Typical Hindu MentalityRecommend

  • abhi098

    Mr karmanye, It is a pity you worked in a delhi think tank.You know why hindus are vulnerable ? Because of people like you are sitting in delhi think tanks and framing anti india policies.Recommend

  • abhi098

    did u read about the recent riots between sikhs and muslims today in hyderabad where I live? First come to my city and live here before giving lectures all over the world.Recommend

  • AnonPak

    I am pretty open minded my Friend. You are in much need of broadening your horizon. You seem to be pretty typical of your cohort which has been thoroughly brain washed by the Indian media. The attitude of Indians regarding Indian Muslims is pretty evident from the comment section. It is discriminatory, prejudiced and most importantly denies their suffering and plight. The denial is part of Indian (Hindu) nationalism. It is hypocrisy born out of the claim that India is secular while at its core it is communal. Let us not forget that the subcontinent was divided into two parts on the basis of community. Societies do not change over night and they certainly don’t become secular just because they claim they are. In annals of history if your article ever comes up it will be considered a article by a confused citizen who possesses the communal mentality of his time but is unaware of it himself and is trying to justify his communal ideas by denying the oppression of Muslims in his and their own lands. People whom you are criticizing may be harsh, critical e.t.c. but they are the forerunners of our time. In conservative and irrational societies like ours they are always persecuted.Recommend

  • AnonPak

    Hey how about you let go of Kashmir and the Kashmiri Muslims first. You have no legal right over their land and that way you will get rid of alot of Muslims.Recommend

  • amoghavarsha.ii

    my comment was not published, so the best thing to do was click appreciate to who every said nay to “your hindu” biased article. I am an Indian and Hindu too.Recommend

  • http://peddarowdy.wordpress.com/ Anoop

    I know its a bit out of topic. But…

    The blog entry by Mahwash B is not to be seen. The last time I saw her comments she said she received death threats!

    Her Twitter handle is not to be seen too, its seems to have been deactivated! I just hope she doesn’t meet the fate of Salman Rushdie or Tasleema Nasreen.

    Such brave voices should never be suppressed. Pakistanis wax eloquent about Arundati Roy and the “truth she speaks”. But, no one gives her death threats or has she felt the need run away from India.

    I hope you are safe. Always say ‘No’ to cyber bullying. Come back online!

    As Gandhi said about himself, “They can kill me, but not my spirit”.Recommend

  • http://peddarowdy.wordpress.com/ Anoop

    Don’t you think Kashmir belongs to Hindus, SIkhs and Buddhists who live there too?

    Have you bothered to ask them where they want their homeland to go – India or Pakistan?

    BJP won 2 seats in J&K, I hear this time. No Hindu, Sikh or Buddhist in J&K is foolish enough to agree to become part of Pakistan.

    Shias have now realized how a gigantic problem they would face if J&K joins Pakistan, when they read about Shias being dragged out of buses and shot!

    To be precise, you should ask India to give the right of some sort to opt for Pakistan for Kashmiri Muslims, more precisely Sunnis.

    After all the Islamic Fundamentalism in Pakistan, why do you want to support one more in your neighborhood?Recommend

  • OffThePigs

    No one gives Arundhati Roy death threats? The Bajrang Dal has threatened her numerous times.Recommend

  • G. Din

    Neither, was mine to Raqib’s pontification!Recommend

  • Ali

    You suppressed your own brave voice. You people killed your Founding father just cause he did not agree with ur extremist Hindu Mindset. Don’t lecture Pakistanis on freedom of speech when you people are the ones to elect mass murderers.Recommend

  • abhi098

    as if muslim mentality is great.Recommend

  • abhi098

    kashmir belongs to hindus not muslims.Recommend

  • abhi098

    you can ask her to come to ur country.Recommend

  • http://peddarowdy.wordpress.com/ Anoop

    Nobody takes them seriously. Otherwise she’d have run away like Malala or rasa rumi.Recommend

  • nadeem ansari

    I too hail from Hyderabad. Why are you so jumpy about a fight in Bahadurpura ? Don’t you know the history of communal tension kicked up by BJP, Congress and Majlees in the past ? Why make such hysterical remarks about a local issue ? TRS chaps will put you in mental asylum if you go around blabbering . It is not Pakistan . And India is not safe for you. I am proud to say that Recommend

  • Mir

    We’re not talking about whether the threats were “taken seriously” or not. You said there were no threats, and I called you out on that. And yes, they are serious too, if you want to argue about that. After her comments on Kashmir, dozens of activists from the Hindu right attacked her house: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/arundhati-roys-house-attacked-2121989.html

    The problem I have with you people is that you (rightly) criticize Pakistan all day, but when it comes to India, you become irrationally defensive. You know, there’s a word for that in the Gospels: a hypocrite.Recommend

  • Mir

    No, I wouldn’t, because Pakistan is also bad. That doesn’t mean, however, that India is some kind of a utopia. Why do you constantly point back to Pakistan whenever India is mentioned? Is that the best you can do? Anoop falsely states that Arundhati Roy did not get any threats, and I refuted him regarding that. That was what the argument was about. If you want to challenge me on that, go ahead, but don’t bring Pakistan into the discussion.Recommend

  • abhi098

    ooh…. people who worship laden shouldnt speak at all. Keep speaking without any evidence against modi.Recommend

  • http://peddarowdy.wordpress.com/ Anoop

    I am biased. I admit it.

    Nobody is saying India is an ideal country. But it certainly incomparably better than Pakistan.Recommend

  • http://peddarowdy.wordpress.com/ Anoop

    Atleast we do t have mass murderers on our currency. Gandhi is our icon and role model.

    Jinnahs Direct Action day call resulted in the death of thousands in Muslim majority Bengal.Recommend

  • Karmanye Thadani

    Yes, what about that riot? The next time, there is an attack on Dalits by the Ranvir Sena, will you ask all the upper-caste Hindus to leave India? I have no problem with peace-loving people, irrespective of religion, and have an issue with all rioters and terrorists, again irrespective of religion.Recommend

  • Karmanye Thadani

    This is not the “typical Hindu mentality”. There is an extremist minority in all religious groupings.Recommend

  • Karmanye Thadani

    This is not the “typical Hindu mentality”. There is an extremist minority in all religious groupings.Recommend

  • Karmanye Thadani

    Read the book and then judge me. I am not and will never be anti-India.Recommend

  • Karmanye Thadani

    I am not confused about anything. If you think my article carries an inherent contradiction, show the relevant excerpts. You have developed fixed, preconceived notions about India and consider anyone having a different point of view as not being open-minded enough.Recommend

  • Karmanye Thadani

    Please explain on what grounds you find my article biased in favour of Hindus. I am all ears. Would request the ET folks to not delete your comments.Recommend

  • vijay

    If Hindus are being killed in Pakistan then Nawaz is also murdererRecommend

  • Sudhindra

    India doesnt have a founding father … India wasnt “founded” by anybody …Recommend

  • Karmanye Thadani

    Speaking of the anti-Sikh riots in 1984, hundreds have been convicted. Want a reference? Here you go-

    http://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/newdelhi/442-convicted-in-various-anti-sikh-riots-cases-delhi-police/article1-875466.aspxRecommend

  • Karmanye Thadani

    Well, the condition of autonomy in a conceptual sense (and all those things held to be a part of the basic structure of the Indian constitution, like secularism, are concepts and not specific provisions) for J&K may be considered integral to the accession, but not Article 370 as a provision as it stands today with ‘temporary’ in its name!Recommend