Archive for August, 2012

Why the Indian Left fails to understand religious extremism

Posted on August 25, 2012. Filed under: Ayodhya, Bangladesh, Christians, Communist, Hindu, Historians with political agenda, History, India, Islam, Islamic propaganda, Jihad, Kashmir, Kashmiri Pundit, Left, Macaulay, Maoism, Marxism, Muslims, neoimperialism, Pakistan, Politics, religion, terrorism, Uncategorized |

For some time now, the Indian state of Assam has been on the news due to its large-scale civilian strife and internal displacement of communities. But even more spectacularly, the internet and the media to an extent – has been ablaze with the issue of alleged threat mails and texts that perhaps forced a lot of migrant labour and students from the North Eastern ends of India. Following up, the government of India apparently has moved on in its bid to control the net, just like almost any other government on the planet, on the formal platform of protecting vulnerable people.

I will not go into the details of the Assam ethnicity, migration, religious divide problem that is essential to get a perspective of what is happening there and why. But in this Kafkaesque world of interest groups, doublespeak, hidden motivations shaped in their outward expression by complicated legacies of history and concocted morality, what is much more revealing is what the intellectuals and the self-acknowledged voices of nations and communities say on the issue.

I will pick on a very interesting voice pointed out to me by a friend, that of Amaresh Mishra in his timesofIndia blog. Mishra gives a good clue to his ideological lens in the very beginning lines

Before joining the Times of India in 1993 as a roving correspondent, I was part of the radical Left movement led then by the CPI-ML (Liberation). However, sufferings of dalits, adivasis and the working classes—natural Left constituencies—did not contribute to my early, personal radicalization. Still a student leader in the Allahabad University, I took active part in debates, discussions concerning national-international topics—and agitations mainly—on student issues.

In 1984, the day our Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated, I was in Calcutta. I had gone there to take part in the national conference of the Indian Peoples Front—the only attempt of its kind—of a Communist Party sponsoring  a democratic-peoples party in India—made under the leadership of late comrade Vinod Mishra—the then general secretary of the CPI-ML (Liberation).

Mishra, says much more about where his mindset comes from – that of the Maoist strand within Indian communism, which typically frantically tries to distinguish itself from the second attempt at puritanism within Indian Marxism – that of CPI(M=Marxist), by adding the claim to be closer to Lenin in the L of its CPI(ML). In so many ways, the communists seem to uncannily reflect the classical search for ever more purity and a return to the golden mythical pure origins of all totalitarian and monoiconic ideologies including totalitarian religions – through evermore stringent factional and sectarian schisms.

Eric Hoffer writes : “Whence comes the impulse to proselytize? Intensity of conviction is not the main factor which impels a movement to spread its faith to the four corners of the earth. …Nor is the impulse to proselytize an expression of an overabundance of power. …The missionary zeal seems rather an expression of some deep misgiving, some pressing feeling of insufficiency at the center. Proselytizing is more a passionate search for something not yet found than a desire to bestow upon the world something we already have. It is a search for a final and irrefutable demonstration that our absolute truth is indeed the one and only truth. The proselytizing fanatic strengthens his own faith by converting others. …It is also plausible that those movements with the greatest inner contradiction between profession and practice – that is to say with a strong feeling of guilt – are likely to be the most fervent in imposing their faith on others.”  (The True Believer, Psychology of Mass Movements, 1948, p. 110-111)

This sense of inadequacy and insufficiency, minus the humility of spirituality, leads to a constant instability and inequilibrium that leads the communist radical as much as a religious one, into a permanent search for something to feel guilty about and atone for that guilt by extreme action on a focused enemy, the “other”, the devil of his instantaneous ideology. Note that Mishra is perhaps subconsciously aware of this – in that he claims that his radicalism did not stem from communism per se but had existed even before – that his innate fanaticism and radicalism perhaps only found an appropriate vehicle to express itself.

Mishra explains his “anti-right wing” radical thoughts based on his glimpse of communal violence in 1984, when according to him he witnesses an atrocity:

Back then, I was only 18 years of age; the incident traumatized me so deeply that after I got back to Allahabad I fought with everyone—including my close relatives—who—as per the norm those days—were abusing Sikhs incessantly.

For several days, I was unable to sleep; I was full of rage; it was good that I did not have access to a gun those days—I would certainly have used it on some right-wing, communal/anti-Sikh element in Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh.

I am expressing my inner most urges to make a point—that during desperate/unjust times—a sensitive human being—belonging to the majority community—can be driven to anti right-wing violence. Being a ruling class  brahmin—whose family had protected Muslims during the 1947 riots—and who took any violence against minorities as a challenge to his sense of honour directly—also must have contributed  a lot to my aggressive stance.     

So, imagine the plight/mindset of minority communities who saw unspeakable crimes—raping of daughters and mauling of children—being committed on their kith and kin.

It is most illuminating that Mishra always thinks of the “majority” in the context of the “Hindu”, and never ever expresses similar thoughts about the plight of the “minority” Hindu or Buddhist in Muslim majority areas or societies. In his memory and narrative, the “majority” member Hindu-Brahmin ancestor of his, is and does what is expected of the “majority” in any society. However, he conspicuously avoids the issue of duty of similar muslim majorities to protect the humanity and dignity of minorities in Muslim majority countries – even on the subcontinent and as neighbours, as in Pakistan and Bangladesh, where minorities have been systematically targeted for elimination and have been constantly dwindling from the time of Partition. Mishra of course needs to be completely silent about similar trauma and reaction in the “Hindus” seeing similar action during the Partition – when a future luminary of Pakistan, and icon of Bangladesh , Hussein Suhrawardy allowed a planned pogrom of Hindus to go through in Noakhali and Calcutta. Mishra cannot cite Liaqat Khan’s role in organizing a pogrom of Sindhi Hindus and what effect such memories should have had on Hindu survivors!

Amaresh Mishra then goes on to list the long tale of alleged woes of Muslims in India and allegations of state connivance in supposed “right-wing” torture. For Mishra’s deracinated guilt-ridden conscience, however, it does not pay to remember the case of the Kashmir Valley and the state sponsored “Muslim” “right-wing” atrocity on the Kashmir Valley Hindus from as early as late 60’s and early 70’s.  Mishra has never heard of a certain Kashmiri Pundit girl who was abducted and the consequences thereof – long, long before the destruction of the disputed structure at Ayodhya.

Mishra accepts that in India, it was possible to flourish as an “upper-caste” “ex-Naxalite”. He fails to realize, that in his clever self-pity, he shows that even after passing through “Naxalism”, it was impossible for someone to leave behind his awareness of privileged birth. Or therein lies the tragedy and the real failure of the Indian leftist, the failure to realize that his leftist radicalism often has its roots in an imperfect digestion of his Hindu cultural roots. The reason that the ranks of leftism are dominated by “upper castes” and Hindus, but not Muslims or Christians – who only make rare appearances, lie in Hindu threads of a pervasive universal humanism that has remained alive through texts and folk belief in spite of the louder voices of so-called elitism of caste or jaati-varna hierarchies. Islamic culture theologically endorses property, and the imperialism shaped later Christianity similarly endorses authoritarianism and property, and discourage rebellions against the theologically approved regimes which protect those very things that the Left seeks to destroy.

The remainder of Mishras’ article goes on to repeat the allegations in the current Congress led Indian regime’s attempts at sticking the blame for almost each and every terrorist atrocity on Indian soil at the door of Congress’s hated “other”, the apotheosis, the “devil” – of the saffron, or the “Hindu”. Mishra’s political project therefore does not wait to mention the fact that many of these alleged cases against the so-called saffron terror themselves suffer from allegations of torture, political witchhunts, use of state machinery to serve electoral calculations, and that some of the accused could very well be agents provocateurs sent deliberately by the state – like a certain Col Purohit.

Is it so that Mishra perhaps needs a devil, a satan, on whom he can put the sense of all his inadequacies, and transfer all his guilt to? The underlying Hindu memes of equality of all mankind – amritasya putra of the Upanishads, the persistent and recurring post-Vedic Indian thinkers who repeatedly fought with the elite against claims of hierarchy and superiority, prepare him to expect social justice for all humanity- something a predominantly Muslim society never, ever feels towards the non-Muslims. But the established social hierarchy that gave birth to him practices differently from the underlying memes, and this contributes part of the guilt.

But the major part of the guilt comes from the colonial project of Macaulay, prompted by his dear friend Sir William Jones, and other missionaries aligned to the imperialist project on British India. Jones’s favourite textual representation of “Hinduism” was the work attributed to Manu, even though at the time, there was ample evidence that in India, various other Hindu texts were actually followed – like the various grihya sutras of Apastambha, Baudhayana, or Gautama – many far more liberal than that of Manu. In fact modern scholarship excavates increasingly the reality of 18th and 19th century Indian “Hindu”legal practice as far more heterodox and non-Manu like than the British colonial project wanted it to be. For the British empire, demonizing the “Brahmin” was a primary necessity – just as it was for the centuries of Muslim invaders before them. The cultural and intellectual legitimacy of the “Hindu” needed to be undermined and associated with guilt before the colonial project could succeed fully. The source of Mishraic guilt lies in that colonial project. Even the very fact of his “Brahmin” upper-caste ancestor behaving very un-Brahmin-like during 1947 fails to stir him to question the Islamist and British colonial stereotype of the evil caste-repressive “Brahmin” exploiter.

The intellectual limitations that lead to Mishra’s feverish imagination of conspiracy theories could have been overcome had he allowed himself to look at news items like the following:

Hindu Bengali Muslim refugees in Myanmar moved for protection away from Bengali Muslim refugees in Myanmar.

Khine Myo Min: Myanmar government authority in Sittwe evacuated ninety eight Hindu refugees from Bengali Muslim dominated refugee camps to downtown Sittwe on Wednesday.

98 people from 18 Hindu families were moved from their current shelter of Thae Chaung and Thak Kay Pron camps to Sittwe city due to increased threats by Bengali Muslim extremists after many reported rapes and attempted rapes and tortures committed by the Bengali Muslims who are majority in the camp.

A mind more used to logical dissection without ideological preoccupations, would have immediately noted the peculiarity by which even the horrors of a common refugee existence fails to suppress the Islamic urge for genocide or repression/exploitation of the non-Muslim.

In constructing grand saffron conspiracies, Mishra ignores news items that come from his trusted “secular” side of the narrative construction business :

Rogue sms’s traced to Kerala and Bangladesh

Cyber security agencies have apparently detected the hand of radical groups, such as the Popular Front of India (PFI) in Kerala and Bangladesh-based Harkat-ul-Jehad al Islami (HuJI), while tracking SMSs that led to the exodus of Northeast people[…] they have been successful in detecting forwarding of bulk messages going viral from Bangladesh groups and PFI activists. Some of the messages hold out communal threats of retribution for alleged atrocities on Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, a community in the Arakan state linked with Bangladesh, traditionally backed by Islamist and jihadist groups, such as the HuJI.

The Arakan state, in west Myanmar, lies on the route for supplying guns to Northeast insurgents through Cox’s Bazaar, in Chittagong in the past. The HuJI, formed by former Bangladeshi jihadists who took part in the Afghan civil war, was involved in the attack on Sheikh Hasina, now Bangladesh PM, in 2004.

The agencies, monitoring Facebook and Twitter, are also examining the possible role of the Hindu radical groups and the underworld.

Mishra, if he had retained his critical intellectual faculties, would have noticed that the “security” agencies could give much greater details in case of Islamist outfits, and could only add the “possibility” of “Hindu radicals” too being involved. Such equating of Islamism with saffronism seems to have become a requirement of Indian political correctness, often resulting in hilarious columns. Actually, such perspectives should have led to exploring the “possible role” of “Christian” groups in the North East too, with some prominent insurgent groups in the past having paraded their Christian identity a lot possibly in the hope attracting international sympathies from appropriate corners.

It is understandable as to why Mishra cannot quote the following items, or even dismiss them as concoctions of a right-wing state. His devil then has to be extended to icons he needs to clutch on to as the last remaining helpless wronged victims of his limitless guilt. If he has to acknowledge the reality, he loses the fulcrum of his life.

http://www.hindustantimes.com/India-news/Guwahati/Assam-refugees-head-for-West-Bengal-Meghalaya/Article1-917351.aspx

When armed communities are at each other’s throats in the three violence-hit western districts in Assam, the unarmed and unorganised are fleeing the state — mostly to West Bengal and Meghalaya. The fear factor has gripped Bengali Hindus — the softest target whenever violence takes over the state’s fragile peace — and Koch-Rajbonsi tribals are fleeing the Muslim-dominated Dhubri district over the last one month since the Bodo-Muslim clashes broke out on July 20.

 Curfew in Allahabad

Curfew was today clamped in an Allahabad locality as a precautionary measure while stray incidents took place in Lucknow during a street protest against the ongoing ethnic strife in Assam.

“The curfew was imposed in Kotwali police station area from 7 P.M. And will remain in force till midnight when further decision will be taken after reviewing the situation,” Additional District Magistrate (City), D P Giri told PTI. Trouble began this afternoon when a procession was being taken out by some members of a minority community in localities falling under Kotwali police station.

However, policemen deployed in the area objected to the procession pointing out that no prior permission had been obtained and that order had to be maintained in view of large crowds expected at places of worship on the occasion of the last Friday prayers of Ramzan.
The agitators allegedly reacted strongly and tried to proceed with the procession with some of them indulging in heavy stone-pelting which left several persons, including some policemen, injured and caused damage to a number of shops in the vicinity and vehicles parked nearby.
[…]
Earlier, the protest march in Lucknow after the Friday prayers turned violent here as a group of people, shouting slogans against alleged atrocities on minorities in Assam and Myanmar, resorted to stone pelting and vandalism. The protest march which started from near the Tile Wali Masjid created a ruckus on its way forcing business establishments to close down and vandalising parks and vehicles, a senior police official said.

When the RAF and PAC tried to stop them they indulged in brick batting damaging public properties and vehicles. The protesters also took offence to the presence of media covering the event and damaged their vehicles and equipments, police said.

Later police resorted to baton charge as the protesters tried to march towards Vidhan Sabha.

With such a single-track focus, Mishra therefore shows no grasp of the longer social processes of history and reconstruction of history by both the colonial forces as well as those to whom the colonialists handed over power. He shows in exemplary detail, why the Indian Left had long stopped thinking and questioning themselves, their very own belief systems and values – to check for how those very concepts and values were shaped. In thinking how others wanted them to think for their own geo-strategic purposes and projects, projects which themselves are now defunct – there might still have been a way out.

But indulging in such conspiracy theories actually helps the neo-imperialist strategies to succeed. Mishra will be nowhere to defend whatever is left of his society when the time comes, a society which people of his ideology have helped undo out of unthinking and politically created guilt.

Advertisements
Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )

Liked it here?
Why not try sites on the blogroll...