With Enemies Like Advani



Believe it or not, it is increasingly becoming a fact that India’s Home Minister L K Advani is Pakistan’s biggest asset in the struggle to counter India’s motivated propaganda to declare Pakistan “a terrorist State”. His place on this pedestal would be a dead heat with George Fernandes but Fernandes is a Christian and despite his best efforts to sound like a Hindu revivalist, he lacks the venom that Advani generates inherently due to the basic character quirk in the conservative Hindu psyche bedeviling Hindu-Muslim relationship in the South Asian sub-continent. It is no coincidence that Sindhi Advani feels that his ancestors let the side down by allowing Muhammad Bin Qasim establish a foothold for Islam in the sub-continent in the first place. He has made eradication of muslim rule anywhere in the regional hemisphere his personal war to wage, there being no comparable word in the Hindu religion for “Jehad” or “crusade”.

According to Advani’s daughter-in-law, Gaura Advani, his Special Assistant for two years before she married his son, Jayant, Advani is not the devout Hindu we see in public, she alleges that the family practices Sikhism. She has claimed on oath that he is a dual personality, the Hindu chauvinism on display is faked for political purpose, the Advani family in private being quite contemptuous of Hindu beliefs and practices. Her affidavit asserts that having won only a couple of Lok Sabha (Indian Parliament) seats in the 80s, Advani (and the inner circle of BJP) decided in 1990 that the only way to come to power was to stoke Hindu nationalism. As the political arm of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Singh (RSS), the Bharitya Janata Party (BJP) follows closely the dictates of the Hindu nationalist movement and their policies are hardly secular. In fact no sect in Islam is more fundamentalist than the militant Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) or the Shiv Sina. They do not spare any religion, Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, etc. As far back as 1990 or so, the Hindu fundamentalists united to pursue a cynical course of muslim-baiting, focussing on Babri Masjid as a viable agenda. Advani tasked the BJP’s leaders fundamentalist partners to tear down the Babri Masjid as a starting point for reviving Hindu nationalism. He himself physically led a well publicized Hindu religious procession through India, duly decked out in saffron-covered conservative religious attire, to Ayodhya, the site of Babri Masjid. The conservative Hindu element rallied in city after city, ultimately this led to the razing down of the Babri Masjid by frenzied thousands and the first attempt to establish a Ram Temple there. This made a large segment of secular Hindus very uneasy but the political fallout was spectacular, the BJP became the hub of the Hindu revivalist campaign, with no apologies to India’s secular trappings. The already weakened, virtually leaderless Indian Congress Party, was virtually destroyed. Regional parties, many having antipathy to religious affiliations, came into power in their respective States but looked to the strongest Party in the Center. The BJP-led coalition is a contradiction of sorts, almost all the regional parties without exception do not subscribe to the extreme religious ideology practiced by their BJP partner as State policy. The Indian Congress did not have any viable leader after the BJP had successfully orchestrated a bumi-putra (son of the soil) political insurrection within the party against Italian born Mrs Sonia Gandhi. Thus was born the rather unlikely BJP-led “Coalition of opportunity”.

In a recent speech to RSS to commemorate the “martyrdom” of 429 volunteers over the last three decades at the hands of their communist rivals, mainly in West Bengal and Kerala, Advani made some very telling points that need to be publicized for a world audience, viz (1) it was the group’s (RSS) ideal of national unity that kept India welded together over the last 50 years (2) losing Kashmir to Pakistan or giving it independence through a plebiscite would almost certainly break-up India, to quote “it would have a domino effect on the whole country” and (3) truly friendly ties with Pakistan and the resolution of the Kashmir issue was possible only if a BJP government (as distinct from a BJP-led coalition) came to power in New Delhi.

While para 3 of Advani’s statement is debatable given the BJP’s anti-muslim thrust, paras 1 and 2 are remarkable from Pakistan’s point of view. For the first time in recent memory a very senior Indian leader acknowledges publicly that (1) gauging the aspirations of the Kashmiri people through plebiscite will almost certainly result in either Kashmiris electing to join Pakistan or seeking independence for the State (2) if such a situation should arise that Kashmiris opt out from the Indian federation, this would result in other States following suit, including those who are not already fighting for their independence eg. Nagaland, Mizoram, Manipur, Assam, Bodoland, etc (3) to ward off the disintegration of the Indian Union it was necessary to keep Kashmir within the Union by force (4) use of force was necessary, even amounting to State terrorism against those citizens it nominally calls its own and lastly and not the least it explains the reason why India must (5) go to war with Pakistan if necessary (even with resulting nuclear holocaust as a distinct possibly). The Indians may have had short term success in getting world attention to focus on “terrorism” in Kashmir, as opposed to what is in fact a homegrown indigenous liberation struggle against Indian occupation. India is prepared to risk nuclear war to maintain its “unity”.

There is a conspiracy of silence in the international media about the horror in Kashmir. The UN Security Council resolution is unambiguous that the dispute in Kashmir between India and Pakistan can only be resolved by ascertaining the wishes of the Kashmiri people. Over the last decade as much as 75000 Kashmiris have lost their lives in encounters with Indian military, para-military and police force. While India claims they were all Pakistani infiltrators, a ground survey by neutral observers within Kashmir of the graveyards adjacent to towns and villages will confirm that most of these who died were inhabitants living in close proximity. India does not allow foreign media free access to Kashmir, moreover it does not allow any international human rights body to enquire into abuses by Indian occupation forces, atrocities are continuing on Kashmiris to stamp out any attempt at independence of any kind.

We should not condemn the Indians en bloc for the present state of religious confrontation between India and Pakistan. In Pakistan religious activism was stoked on the basis of nationalism, similarly this was done in a very studied, calculated manner in India. The manifestation of that extremism is in the persecution of muslims, not so apparent in the urban areas, but a way of life in the urban-rural and rural areas. The silver lining in all this is the rise of regional parties in India. Unlike Advani’s assertion of lasting peace with Pakistan if BJP is itself in power (more of a “final solution”), the real insurance for Pakistan are BJP’s regional coalition parties-and in a future Congress-led government alongwith regional allies. As their driving force, regional parties have poverty, hunger, disease, lack of education, etc. On the other hand, the two major parties see India as an emerging power on the world stage and Pakistan as the main stumbling block, BJP being the more virulent of the two.

As the senior ideologue of BJP (other than being its President during the destruction of Babri Masjid), L K Advani should be taken seriously and his views disseminated “as is” to the world. As the largest democracy in the world, India should be able to explain to the world why it is keeping majority population of other religions in many States in bondage virtually under police and military rule. In many States of democratic India, foreigners are not allowed, the few permitted occasionally cannot travel freely. The world today being media-sensitive, we must invite their attention to Advani’s recent statements. Commemorating the “murder of RSS volunteers at the hands of “communists”, the BJP may care to count how many more communists it has killed over the years, if not the multiple more muslims in every State of the Union in Hindu-Muslim riots inspired by RSS and other extreme Hindu organizations? Pakistan should encourage international media focus on the likes of Advani, Thackeray and party. With enemies like Advani, who needs friends?

Mr. Ikram Sehgal is Publisher and Managing Editor of Defence Journal (Pakistan).