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The News International, Tuesday, March 05, 2002
Unbridled juggernaut of Hindu terrorism


The Hindu on March 2 minced no words when in its editorial it roundly condemned the BJP state administration of Gujarat and the government of India for the way they handled the communal carnage still raging in Ahmedabad and other cities and villages. It even highlighted the element of complicity of the governments in failing "to come to grips with the situation .....leaving the field absolutely free for rampaging mobs to go about their "business" -- looting, pillaging and setting blocks of houses afire at will and there appeared to be a clear design behind all the senseless violence, going by the targets they had chosen -- shops and houses owned by the minority community in revenge for the Godhra incident ... shocking was the police personnel's blatant failure to intervene even in cases where such outrageous attacks were taking place in their very presence -- there also has been an inexplicable delay in calling in the army for containing the orgy of violence".

There is, according to this newspaper, a real danger of the country being plunged into a communal holocaust of the kind that followed the demolition of the Babri mosque in 1992. The Hindu newspaper finds the support extended by the BJP at the Centre to Vishwa Hindu Parishad's call for a Bandh most "disturbing" raising as it does serious misgivings about the BJP government's readiness to take necessary action. No wonder the New York Times could report that even when belatedly the army was called in "the soldiers sitting in trucks were (only) watching while Hindus were hurling threats against the helpless Muslims". Reports of Muslim families and groups of men, women and children forced to stay inside and then burnt in a number of villages and shanty towns are no exaggeration. The repeated telephone calls by Ehsan Jaffrey an ex-member of the Indian Parliament were of no avail. He and all the 18 house inmates were burnt alive. So were dozens of others in villages like Sardarpur, Mehsana and Vadadara.

Vajpayee has called these horrific happenings a national disgrace but what has he done about it all? The communal Gujarat government is still there. The Home Minister who is a rabid communalist and who indeed spearheaded the Yath Rathra and was at the root of the movement which led to the demolition of the Babri Mosque against the directive of the Supreme Court has not even visited the scene of the carnage perpetrated by the fanatical Hindus. The handy Mr George Fernandes alone was sent to make the perfunctory calls. Why has the Prime Minister not visited the scene of the horrendous disaster? If he could cancel his tour to Australia for the Commonwealth meeting, surely he might have found time for seeing things for himself on the spot. This despite continuing stinging criticism by the Indian and international press and civil society organisations.

The Indian Express for instance in its editorial called for stopping this "madness" and this "hurtling back to barbarism". Shekhar Gupta in an article titled Backfires Burning Question while not resisting the temptation like Advani to point a finger at Pakistan for a possible involvement, has castigated the Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi for his "non-existent government -- for at least 48 bloody hours". Ridiculing Modi's statement that he was "absolutely satisfied with how the police and government handled the backlash" and "I am happy that violence has been largely contained", he has compared it to what Rajiv Gandhi said in 1984: "when a tree falls, the earth shakes" after his mother's assassination that according to him provided instant moral justification to the lynching of thousands of Sikhs by the furious Hindu mobs.

Hindu terror as exhibited in Gujarat and other places and the highly questionable conduct of the central government has unmasked the true character of the Hindu fundamentalists in power. The facade of secularism has been torn away. The world needs to take serious notice of the Indian version of terrorism which expresses itself at both the levels, of the people and the government. The hapless Kashmiris have been victims of state terrorism for more than a decade while it is Pakistan which is targeted all the time. If even a fraction of the terrible communal killings and burnings had taken place in Pakistan one wonders what would India had done by way of tarnishing Pakistan's image worldwide! It is good that the reaction of Pakistan government has been restrained and it has rightly reminded Delhi of the obligations of the Nehru-Liaquat Pact of the '50s for the protection of the minorities.

It is important that the Pakistan government takes effective preventive measures to ward off any untoward incidents as a part of reaction to the horror let loose by violent Hindus in India. Mr Vajpayee, given to introspection as he is, may seriously examine the anti-Pakistan policies his government has been following, must restrain the wildly hawkish elements of his party, review the causes of the recent electoral debacle and come to terms with the dictates of a secular polity. As a part of the revised approach to national affairs, he should immediately demobilise the armed forces from the borders with Pakistan and earnestly enter into a dialogue with Islamabad to settle the issues which have bedevilled the relations between the two nuclear states in South Asia. Let him use his dormant potential to rise to the occasion and open a new chapter in India-Pakistan relationship. A mindset anchored on hatred and hostility needs to be replaced by new thinking and a positive approach, in the interests of more than one billion people eking out a miserable existence in this part of the world.

The international community too can help a great deal in bringing about this much deserved change by actively involving itself in nudging and prodding the two parties to come to the table and thrash out their differences in a spirit of give and take. Peace and normalisation of conditions in this vital but troubled region will certainly contribute towards achievement of the economic goals of the developed world, as other wise international investment and trade in South Asia will remain a hostage to the fractured relations between India and Pakistan. Peace in this region will be in everybody's larger interests.

The writer is a Lahore-based columnist


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