January 28, 2004
By Ameena A. Saeed
“There is a systematic spread of communal hatred going on all 365 days of the year, the culmination of which we have seen in Gujarat. Rich NRI’s have provided enough funds to the RSS and its various members like the BJP, Bajrang Dal, VHP and Durga Vahini to last for another fifty years. BJP is roping in poor Dalits and tribal people under the garb of literacy and financing the killings of Muslim”.
“The going rate in Gujarat, in early 2002, was Rs.500 ($10.00) and a bottle of liquor for a Muslim head. In Gujarat most of the killing was done by Dalits and tribal people who were promised entry into the Hindutva fold”.
“A very sophisticated hate campaign has enveloped India with thousands of schools and RSS trained teachers engaged in spreading the gory message that the religion that created rivers of blood is Islam and Muslims are responsible for the partition of the country and hence destined to be killed”.
“In the Indian state of Orissa, a Muslim graveyard is now called ‘Gaochar, a place for cattle grazing”.
“Vulnerable and isolated, Tabassum, a graduate Muslim woman beats her little daughter who insists on playing with her non-Muslim neighbors. ‘She is isolated in the classroom by children and the teacher so I am forced to send her to the Islamic madrassa much against my will’, says Tabassum”.
These were the words of Dr. Asghar Ali Engineer, renowned Indian scholar and activist and Dr. Angana Chatterji, social activist and Professor of Social and Cultural Anthropology at the California Institute of Integral Studies, speaking at a luncheon discussion organized by the Indian Muslim Council (IMC) at the Santa Clara Marriott Hotel on 24 January 2004. The event was co-sponsored by a number of South-Asia focused organizations, namely, Coalition against Communalism (CAC), Friends of South Asia (FOSA), South Asian Progressive Action Collective (SAPAC), Non-resident Indian’s for a Secular & Harmonious India (NRI-SAHI) and Indian Muslim Relief Committee (IMRC).
The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), Bajrang Dal, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Dr. Engineer claimed, are slowly destroying the secular, pluralistic and composite fabric of India. He said the most alarming aspect was the attempts by these organizations to distort Indian history by engaging in a campaign to revise the school curriculum to infuse hatred against Muslims. He provided the example of “a ten year old boy in Mumbai comes home from school and tries to make a paper bomb to kill his Muslims classmates after he learns from the RSS sponsored history books that the religion that created rivers of blood is Islam”.
Dr. Engineer blamed BJP’s liberal economic opportunities to woo the Hindu middle class at the cost of poor people and the “Feel Good” factor provided by the new brand of Hindu Nationalism.
Dr. Engineer highlighted the contributions made by Indian Muslims in the freedom struggle and also expounded some of the myths and false propaganda spread by Hindutva organizations. On secularism, Dr. Engineer said “History of secularism is the history of minorities. All minorities supported the Freedom Movement. The majority of Muslims and Muslim Scholars did not support partition and the birth of Pakistan at a time when the popularity of the Muslim League was at its highest”. He narrated the grassroots outreach efforts of Maulana Hussain Ahmed Madani of Deoband and other Deoband scholars cautioning the masses against the partition.
Dr. Engineer was equally critical of the Muslim leadership and pointed to events in the 1980’s, such as the reversal of the Shahbano verdict and the Babri Mosque movement, that ultimately resulted in an electoral victory for the BJP. The Muslim Personal Law Board, he said, “has no mandate of the Indian Muslims”. Arguing that the Board did not give women the rights promised in the Holy Quran, Dr. Engineer said, “It is the Muslim men who need to reform themselves”.
“But India has not lost its soul”, said an optimistic Dr. Engineer. “It was the Hindus who stood by the Muslims and saved them during the Gujarat carnage. It is only a small percentage of Hindus who are responsible for the spread of distortion and hatred against Muslims and Christians”. He then related the account of the chief mahant of Ayodhya who said, “I am ashamed of those who split open a pregnant woman’s belly, toss the fetus in fire to the chant of