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Sense of fear, insecurity growing among Muslims in India

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Outgoing Vice President of India and outstanding Indian educationalist Hamid Ansari has rightly said that India is fast moving toward  a terrocracy as Muslims are being targeted a section of  majority Hindus and  there is a feeling of unease and a sense of insecurity among the Muslims in the country, asserting the “ambience of acceptance” is now under threat. 

Dr. Ansari said a sense of insecurity is creeping in as a result of the dominant mood created by some and the resultant intolerance and vigilantism he shared the view of many that intolerance was growing. In hard-hitting remarks during an interview he ascribed the spate of vigilante violence, mob lynchings, beef bans and “Ghar Wapsi” campaigns to a “breakdown of Indian values” and to the “breakdown of the ability of the authorities” to enforce the law. “…and overall, the very fact that the Indianness of any citizen (is) being questioned is a disturbing thought,” Ansari said.

By targeting Muslims the Constitutional guarantees for the protection of minorities are being violated by the ruling classes and judiciary has no role in protecting the Muslims from majority attacks, either.

Emotional outbursts

A feeling of unease and insecurity is creeping in among Muslims in India, , Vice President Hamid Ansari said in his parting interview to Rajya Sabha TV joining a growing number of leaders who have expressed concerns over attacks on minorities.

Professor Hamid Ansari, whose second five-year term as the Vice-President ended on August 10, made these remarks in the backdrop of incidents of “intolerance” and cow vigilantism. Stating that he had flagged the issue of “intolerance” with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his cabinet colleagues, Ansari, 80, also described the questioning of citizens over their love for India as a “disturbing thought”.

Ansari, who completed two terms as vice president on August 10, said that there is a breakdown of Indian values and of the abilities among authorities at different levels in different places to be able to enforce what should be normal law enforcing work. “Overall, the very fact that Indianness of any citizen being questioned is a disturbing thought,” he said in his parting interview to Rajya Sabha TV.  Congress president Sonia Gandhi MP raised similar concerns during a speech in Parliament where she urged people to not let “dark forces” diminish India’s core values. Neither Ansari nor Gandhi named any party or individual in particular, but their statements can be seen to allude to the leadership of the Bharatiya Janata Party, which the Congress party and other opposition outfits often accuse of pandering to right-wing Hindu ideologies.

On the August 10 Ansari demitted his Vice Presidential office at Hyderabad House in New Delhi that only Philosopher S Radhakrishnan had occupied as long as 10 years. The BJP government, for obvious political reasons, did not want to elevate him to be the president nor was given another term. He ruled out possibilities of Indian Muslims getting influenced by ISI and such other elements but mentioned that it would be a correct assessment to say that the Muslim community is feeling insecure.

Ansari, the only two-term vice president after S Radhakrishnan, also voice advice for Muslim community. “Do not create for one self or one’s fellow beings an imaginary situation which is centuries back, when things were very different. The challenges today are challenges of development, what are the requirements for development; you keep up with the times, educate yourself, and compete…”

To a poser on the situation in Jammu Kashmir, Ansari said, “the problem has always primarily been a political problem. And it has to be addressed politically.”

He agreed to a suggestion that politicians are ducking the problem. “That’s my impression. And I m not the only one in the country…when young boys and girls come out on to the streets and throw stones day after day, week after week, month after month, it’s something to worry about because they are our children, they are our citizens.” “Something is obviously going wrong. What exactly, I am not the final word on it, but I think there are enough people in the country who are worried about it. Eminent people belonging to different political persuasions and their worry must be taken on board,” the Vice President said. 

Muslim community terrorized, alienated

In the interview, Vice President Ansari referred to incidents of lynching and ‘ghar wapsi’ and alleged killings of rationalists as a “breakdown of Indian values, breakdown of the ability of the authorities at different levels in different places to be able to enforce what should be normal law enforcing work and over all the very fact that Indianness of any citizen being questioned is a disturbing thought.” “Yes it is a correct assessment,” Ansari said agreed with the assessment that the Muslim community is apprehensive and that it was feeling insecure as a result of the kind of comments made against them. “Yes it is a correct assessment, from all I hear from different quarters, the country; I heard the same thing in Bangalore, I have heard from other parts of the country, I hear more about it in north India, there is a feeling of unease, a sense of insecurity is creeping in,” he said.

Ansari was of the view that while tolerance is a good virtue, it is not a sufficient virtue. “…therefore you have to take the next step and go from tolerance to acceptance,” he said. Asked whether he felt that the Muslims are “beginning to feel that they are not wanted”, Ansari said, “I would not go that far, there is a sense of insecurity.” Attacks on Muslims and lynching of Muslims directly say that. He said India is a plural society that has for centuries, not just seventy years, has lived in a certain “ambience of acceptance” which is now “under threat”. He was of the view that the propensity to be able to assert your nationalism day-in and day-out is “unnecessary”. “I am an Indian and that is it,” he said.

Asked in an interview why he thought Indian values were “suddenly” breaking down, Vice-President Hamid Ansari answered: “Because we are a plural society that for centuries, not for 70 years, has lived in a certain ambience of acceptance.” He said this acceptance was “under threat”. “This propensity to be able to assert your nationalism day in and day out is unnecessary. I am an Indian and that is it,” he told Rajya Sabha TV.

Referring to the incidents of lynching and ‘ghar wapsi’ and killings of rationalists as a “breakdown of Indian values”, Ansari said, “breakdown of the ability of the authorities at different levels in different places to be able to enforce what should be normal law enforcing work and over all the very fact that Indianness of any citizen being questioned is a disturbing thought.”

On being asked if he agreed with the assessment that the Muslim community is apprehensive and that it was feeling insecure as a result of the kind of comments made against them, Ansari said, “Yes it is a correct assessment, from all I hear from different quarters, the country; I heard the same thing in Bangalore, I have heard from other parts of the country, I hear more about in north India, there is a feeling of unease, a sense of insecurity is creeping in,”  “There is a sense of insecurity,” said Ansari, adding that India is a plural society that for centuries, not for seventy years, has lived in a certain “ambience of acceptance” which is now under threat. The Vice President viewed that the propensity to be able to assert your nationalism day in and day out is “unnecessary”. “I am an Indian and that is it.”

Regarding the issues of tolerance, he mentioned that while tolerance is a good virtue, it is not a sufficient virtue. “…therefore you have to take the next step and go from tolerance to acceptance,” he said. At an event in Bengaluru on Sunday, Ansari said the “version of nationalism” that places cultural commitments at its core promotes intolerance and arrogant patriotism.

He said the issue of Triple Talaq is a social aberration and the reform, if any at all, has to come from within the community leaders of political other parties and religions need not interfere in the personal matters of Muslims. “The religious requirement is crystal clear, emphatic, there are no two views about it but patriarchy, social customs has all crept into it to create a situation which is highly undesirable.”

Threat to nationalism and unity

RSS-BJP duo employs the “patriotism” to insult Muslims as if Hindus are extra patriots. They want Hindu votes to come to power. They don’t mind another division of the nation to make India a “pure” Hindu nation. . At an event in Bengaluru in the South, Vice President Ansari said that the “version of nationalism” that places cultural commitments at its core “promotes intolerance” and arrogant patriotism. Responding to a question on comments made by some BJP leaders related to minorities, he said he would not talk about people in politics or about political parties. “But to me, every time such a comment appeared or came to my knowledge; I mean my first reaction was that the person is ignorant and  that he is prejudiced and he does not fit into the framework that India has always prided to itself on, which is to be an accommodative society,” he said.

Ansari was asked a question on his lecture at the National Law School in Bengaluru earlier this month where he said rejuvenating secularism’s basic principles was becoming a challenge. There is a feeling of unease, a sense of insecurity is creeping in,” he told journalist Karan Thapar during the interview after being asked to reflect on his statement in Bengaluru.

Asked specifically about his speech in which he spoke about a nationalism with cultural commitments at its core being perceived as the most conservative and illiberal form of nationalism, and whether the remark was about the mood of the country in 2017, he replied: “Oh, absolutely.” And he agreed he had felt a personal need to underline that this need to keep proving one’s patriotism, and the intolerance it made for, was unhealthy: “Yes. And I am not the only one in the country; a great many people feel the same way.” Asked if he had shared these apprehensions with the PM or the government, he replied: “Yes… But what passes between the Vice-President and the PM in the nature of things must remain in the domain of privileged information.”

The outgoing vice president also ruled out the possibility of Indian Muslims being influenced by militant outfits.

Political reactions

Ansari said that he shared his apprehensions to the Prime Minister and other cabinet ministers, but refused to divulge details of their interaction on the plank that “what passes between the vice president and the Prime Minister in the nature of things must remain in the domain of privileged conversation.”  Asked in an interview on Rajya Sabha TV whether he shared his concerns with the prime minister, Ansari, who is also the Rajya Sabha Chairman, said that he had. “Yes…yes. But what passes between the Vice President and the Prime Minister in the nature of things must remain in the domain of privileged conversation,” said. He said that he has also flagged the issue with other union ministers. “Well, there is always an explanation and there is always a reason. Now it is a matter of judgment, whether you accept the explanation, you accept the reasoning and its rationale,” he said when asked about the response of the government.

Anti-Muslim forces like BJP-RSS cannot digest plain criticism of Hindutva  mischief  and never admit that they have created a dirty sense of uneasy and insecurity  of for Indian Muslims, His comments drew criticism from the BJP, with party general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya questioning if Ansari was looking for “political shelter” after retirement. In fact, that is how the BJP and RSS add members into their fold who speak against Islam and Muslims or for a Hindutva nation, and promote them for big positions.

Professor Ansari’s comments about the  feeling of unease and a sense of insecurity creeping in among the Muslims in the country against the current backdrop of intolerance and vigilante violence drew criticism from the BJP, with party general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya questioning if Ansari was looking for “political shelter” after retirement.

Ansari’s successor Venkaiah Naidu, who was sworn in on Friday also criticized Ansari, seemingly responded to the comments, dismissing them as “political propaganda”. “Some people are saying minorities are insecure… Compared to the entire world, minorities are safer and secure in India and they get their due,” Naidu said.

A day after outgoing vice president Hamid Ansari said Muslims were feeling insecure, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he (Ansari) will be free to pursue his “core thinking” once he demits office. In the Rajya Sabha, where Ansari was given a farewell on his last day in office, Modi hailed his role in the past 10 years and said Ansari had tried his best to live up to it.

Meanwhile, former union minister Venkaiah Naidu has been elected as his successor and Ansari thinks that the nature of the job of chairman of Rajya Sabha will dictate the response and there is no reason why the Opposition will not get a fair deal under Naidu’s chairmanship

Ansari’s successor an RSS operative Venkaiah Naidu, who was sworn in on Friday, seemingly responded to the comments, dismissing them as “political propaganda”.  “Some people are saying minorities are insecure… Compared to the entire world, minorities are safer and secure in India and they get their due,” Naidu said.

Ghar wapsi, anti-beef and cow worshiping for Hindu votes, lynching of Muslims in the streets by Hindutva criminals – are not propaganda!

PM Modi praised outgoing Vice-President Hamid Ansari for his track record in public service. With Ansari chairing his last session in the Rajya Sabha, Modi led the tributes as Upper House members expressed their heartfelt gratitude and congratulated the political veteran on his efficient contributions. 

A day after outgoing vice president Hamid Ansari said Muslims were feeling insecure, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he (Ansari) will be free to pursue his “core thinking” once he demits office. In his remarks in the Rajya Sabha, where Ansari was given a farewell on his last day in office, Modi hailed his role in the past 10 years and said Ansari had tried his best to live up to it.

Prime Minister Modi referred to the 100 years of public life of Ansari’s forefathers and said they were aligned with the Congress and Khilafat Movement. The Khilafat Movement, launched by Muslim clergy in India to protest against the threat to Islamic Caliphate following the defeat of Turkey at the hands of Britain in World War I, was supported by Mahatma Gandhi and has been seen as among the factors which contributed to the growth of separatist consciousness among the community which led to the country’s partition in 1947. In an interview to Rajya Sabha TV, Ansari struck a note of caution, warning that Muslims in the country are feeling insecure amid a sense of growing intolerance – “the ambience of acceptance” is at risk

Modi recalled Ansari’s diplomatic career during which he spent many years in West Asia and his role on retirement as the Vice Chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University and as the Chairman of Minorities Commission. “Many years of your life were spent in that circle. You stayed in that atmosphere, with that thinking and debating with those people. After retirement your engagement mostly remained the same. “…But in the last 10 years, you had a different responsibility. Every moment was spent in the ambit of Constitution and running  Rajya Sabha. You tried your best to run it. “Maybe there was some uneasiness within you. But from now onwards, you will not face that difficulty. You will also feel free and work, think and speak according to your core thinking.”

Responding to a question on comments made by some BJP leaders related to minorities, he said he would not talk about political people or political parties. “But to me, every time such a comment appeared or came to my knowledge; I mean my first reaction was that, A: the person is ignorant, B: that he is prejudiced and C: he does not fit into the framework that India has always prided to itself on, which is to be accommodative society,” he said.

Replying to a question on some BJP leaders comments related to minorities, he aid he would not talk about political people or political parties. “But to me, every time such a comment appeared or came to my knowledge; I mean my first reaction was that, A: the person is ignorant, B: that he is prejudiced and C: he does not fit into the framework that India has always prided to itself on, which is to be accommodative society,” he said.

Ansari also described the questioning of Indianness of citizens as a “disturbing thought.”Asked in an interview to Karan Thapar on Rajya Sabha TV whether he shared his concerns with the prime minister, Ansari replied in the affirmative. “Yes…yes. But what passes between the Vice President and the Prime Minister in the nature of things must remain in the domain of privileged conversation,” the ex officio chairman of Rajya Sabha said. Regarding the government’s response, he said, “Well, there is always an explanation and there is always a reason. Now it is a matter of judgment, whether you accept the explanation, you accept the reasoning and its rationale,” he said.

Profile

Hamid Ansari was born to Mohammad Abdul Aziz Ansari and Aasiya Begum in Calcutta (now Kolkata), West Bengal, India on 1 April 1937 though his family belongs to Ghazipur in Uttar Pradesh. Ansari is the grandson of a brother of former Congress President Mukhtar Ahmad Ansari, a leader of the Indian independence movement. He is the grand nephew of Dr. Mukhtar Ahmad Ansari, the former President of the INC (Indian National Congress) and also the founder of Jamia Millia Islamia- now federal university.

Ansari studied at St. Edward’s School, Shimla, St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata and Aligarh Muslim University where he completed an MA in Political Science in 1959. He started his career as Officer in the Indian Foreign Service in 1961. He was Permanent Representative of India to the United Nations, Indian High Commissioner to Australia and Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, Afghanistan, Iran and Saudi Arabia. He was awarded the Padma Shree in 1984. He was also Professor  & Vice-Chancellor of the Aligarh Muslim University from May 2000 to March 2002. He is known for his role in ensuring compensation to the victims of the Gujarat riots and pushing for a complete re-look into the relief and rehabilitation for riot victims since 1984.

Ansari was the first person to be re-elected as Indian VP after Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan in 1957. He also presently serves as President of the Indian Institute of Public Administration, Chancellor of Pondicherry University and the President of the Indian Council of World Affairs. Ansari worked as an ambassador and served as the Vice-Chancellor of the Aligarh Muslim University from 2000 to 2002.[2] Later he was Chairman of the National Commission for Minorities from 2006 to 2007. He was elected as the Vice-President of India on 10 August 2007 and took office on 11 August 2007. He was reelected on 7 August 2012   His second term ended in August 2017 since he decided not to run for a third term in the 2017 vice-presidential election. Upon the inauguration of Ram Nath Kovind as President of India in 2017, Ansari became the first Indian Vice-President to serve during the terms of three presidents. Longest served Indian vice president

Ansari became the chairman of India’s National Commission for Minorities (NCM) on 6 March 2006.  In June 2007, Ansari, in his capacity as NCM chairman, upheld the decision of St. Stephens College to earmark a small percentage of seats for Dalit Christians. He resigned as NCM chairman soon after his nomination for the post of India’s Vice-President.

On 20 July 2007, Ansari was named by the UPA-Left, the ruling coalition in India, as its candidate for the post of Vice-President for the upcoming election. Ansari secured 455 votes, and won the election by a margin of 233 votes against his nearest rival Najma Heptullah of BJP who is now Governor of Manipur state. Hamid Ansari was re-elected for the second term on 7 August 2012, defeating the NDA’s nominee Jaswant Singh former Finance, External Affairs and Defence minister as well as former Leader of Opposition by a margin of 252 votes. According to the Constitution of India, Ansari, as Vice-President of the Republic, also serves ex officio as Chairman of the Rajya Sabha. Ansari was a member of the Congress before being nominated Vice President in 2007.

Career After completing his Master’s degree from the Aligarh Muslim University, Ansari worked as a lecturer in AMU for two years. He then wrote a UPSC exam and secured the 4th rank. He joined the Indian Foreign Service as a diplomat in 1961. He served the country as an IFS officer in various countries. He served as ambassador to United Arab Emirates from 1976 to 1980 and as Chief of Protocol, Government of India from 1980-1985.

Scholar

Ansari is a West Asia scholar and has written on the Palestinian issue and taken positions inconvenient to the Indian official line on Iraq and Iran. He questioned India’s vote in the International Atomic Energy Agency on Iran’s nuclear programme where India voted against Iran. He said that though the Indian Government claimed to have acted on “its own judgment,” this was not borne out by facts Ansari feels that there is a sense of unease among Indian Muslims. He said this on the last day of his tenure as the Vice President of India, one of the highest constitutional posts in the country. [ Ansari quoted, “The language used by the Pope sounds like that of his 12th-Century counterpart who ordered the crusades… It surprises me because the Vatican has a very comprehensive relationship with the Muslim world.” – 15 September 2006, as Chairman of the Minorities Commission of India, on the Pope Benedict XVI Islam controversy

In his illustrious career that spun over forty-five years, Mohammad Hamid Ansari has worked in various disciplines in the offices of the Government of India. He is a seasoned writer in various news dailies and other print media. He is also a Padma Shri awardee. Read on to know more about the life and accomplishments of Mohammad Hamid Ansari.

Later, he rendered his services in Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia and Iran. He also served as the Vice Chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University from 2000 to 2002. He was also a writer in different news papers on various issues. In 2006, he was appointed the Chairman of the National Commission for Minorities. He was also appointed the Chairman of the Petroleum Ministry’s Advisory Committee on Oil Diplomacy for Energy Security. He also served as Chairman of the “Confidence Building Measures across Segments of Society in the State”. This was group a created to focus on issues in Jammu and Kashmir.

Ansari served as a co-chairman of the India-U.K. Round Table Conference and also as a member of the National Security Advisory Board. Ansari is a permanent representative to the United Nations (UN) and is also a trustee of the Bapu Sadbhavana and Shiksha Trust. On March 2007, he surrendered the charge of Vice-Chancellorship of the Aligarh Muslim University and went back to New Delhi to lead a life of retirement.

Contribution

Ansari played a vital role in distributing compensation to the Gujarat riot victims. He also backed a thorough re-look into the rehabilitation of all the riot victims since 1984. He wrote numerous articles on the west Asian crises. His article named “Alternative Approaches to West Asian Crises”, (The Hindu, May 5, 2006), stressed upon the need for the progress of Iran, Iraq and Palestine. In an article named “Et EU, India,” (Outlook, October 10, 2005), Ansari was sceptical about India’s vote in the International Atomic Energy Agency on Iran’s nuclear programme. He also edited the book “Twenty Years after the Islamic Revolution”. He played a significant role in distributing compensation to the Gujarat riot victims. Even after his retirement from the IFS, he worked as a visiting professor at the Centre for West Asian and African Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University and the Academy for Third World Studies, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi. Ansari’s deep interest in west Asian affairs saw him taking positions that were inconvenient to the stands of Indian officials on matters concerning Iran and Iraq.

Timeline

1937 – Was born in Kolkata, India 1959 – M.A. (Political Science) from Aligarh Muslim University (AMU). 1959-61 – Worked as a Lecturer in the Department of Political Science, AMU. 1961 – Joined the Indian Foreign Service, by securing 4th rank. 1976-80 – Worked as an Ambassador in United Arab Emirates (UAE). 1980-85 – Worked as the Chief of Protocol Officer, Government of India. 1984 – Was awarded the Padma Shri 1985-1989 – Worked as the High Commissioner to Australia. 1989-1990 – Worked as an Ambassador to Afghanistan. 1990-1992 – Worked as an Ambassador to Iran. 1993-1995 – Was a Permanent Representative to the UN, New York. 1995-1999 – Served as an Ambassador to Saudi Arabia. 1999-2000 – Served as a visiting professor, Centre for West Asian and African Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi 2000-2002 – Served as the Vice-Chancellor, Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh 2002-2006 – Distinguished Fellow at the Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi 2003-2005 – Served as the visiting professor, Academy for Third World Studies, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi 2004-2006 – Was made Co-Chairman, India-U.K, Round Table Conference 2004-2006 – Member, National Security Advisory Board 2004-2005 – Was made Chairman, Advisory Committee for Oil Diplomacy, Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas 2006 – Chairman, Working Group on “Confidence building measures across segments of society in the State”, established by the second Round Table Conference with the Prime Minister, Jammu and Kashmir issue, held at Srinagar. 2007-Present – Becomes the Vice-President of India and ex officio Chairman, Rajya Sabha

Observation

A vicious venomous air is spread across India that makes the innocent Hindus hate Muslims, kill then to appease their masters. In fact the seeds of such anti-Muslim venom were sown by the Congress and other so-called secular parties letting the RSS-VJP to target Muslims for Hindu votes.

In fact, The Congress party which keeps the saffron on top of  its party flag, wanted to make the Hindutva parties to thrive in the country as the top political outfits and to control the government and rule the Indian society.

That has indeed happened RSS operatives are now Indian PM, President and Vice President and federal and many sate governments are now in the hands of RSS-BJP – and the credit for all this goes to Congress party.

Had Ansari seriously tried, Kashmir would have become a soverign once again to pursue its rightful interests freely. But he was supposed to uphold the status quo of the government position so that smooth relationship could be maintained between Hyderabad House and PMO. Kashmiris are not lucky enough.  Their struggle hopefully would achieve that objective. 

Ansari’s painful words certainly made a lot of people think about fate of Indian secularism as there is concern now about genuine secular principles of India. He was speaking on the issues of cow vigilante attacks, mob lynchings and people not shouting “Bharat Mata Ki Jai” being told to leave the country.

It is unfortunate and even ugly that the RSS-BJP elements foolishly question the patriotism of Indian Muslims as a cheap technique of wooing the Hindutva minded people to support the BJP and vote for the party.

It is obnoxious to see that today the Indian political parties especially the saffron wings, try to reform Islam while creating all criminal problems for them. They use prominent and “aspiring” Muslims to achieve their anti-Islamic objectives.

Above all, Ansari is a great humanist. Even as Vice President of India he could try to help the affected individuals but the system does not let the beneficiaries to get the lawful benefits as the government agencies create obstructions to his actions.  The argument only the government is supposed to decide to help anybody or deny any body justice. In Indian system President and Vice President are not above the PM and h they cannot direct the government or PM.

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Opposing Hindutava: US conference raises troubling questions

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Controversy over a recent ‘Dismantling Global Hindutava’ conference that targeted a politically charged expression of Hindu nationalism raises questions that go far beyond the anti-Muslim discriminatory policies of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government and ruling party.

The conference and responses to it highlight a debilitating deterioration in the past two decades, especially since 9/11, of the standards of civility and etiquette that jeopardize civil, intelligent, and constructive debate and allow expressions of racist, Islamophobic and anti-Semitic attitudes to become mainstream.

Organizers of the conference that was co-sponsored by 53 American universities, including Harvard, Stanford, Princeton, Columbia, Berkeley, University of Chicago, University of Pennsylvania and Rutgers, insisted that they distinguish between Hinduism and Hindutava, Mr. Modi’s notion of Hindu nationalism that enables discrimination against and attacks on India’s 200 million Muslims.

The distinction failed to impress critics who accused the organizers of Hinduphobia. Some critics charged that the framing of the conference demonstrated a pervasiveness of groupthink in academia and an unwillingness to tackle similar phenomena in other major religions, particularly Islam.

The campaign against the conference appeared to have been organized predominantly by organizations in the United States with links to militant right-wing Hindu nationalist groups in India, including some with a history of violence. The conference’s most militant critics threatened violence against conference speakers and their families, prompting some participants to withdraw from the event.

Opponents of political Islam noted that Western academia has not organized a similar conference about the politicization of the faith even though powerful states like the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt have lobbied Western capitals against the Muslim Brotherhood and its Turkish and Qatari supporters with notable successes in France, Austria, Belgium and Britain.

Academia was likely to have been hesitant to tackle political Islam because Islamophobia is far more prevalent than Hinduphobia.

Moreover, perceptions of political Islam, are far more complex and convoluted. Islam is frequently conflated with political expressions and interpretations of the faith run a gamut from supremacist and conservative to more liberal and tolerant. They also lump together groups that adhere and respect the election process and ones that advocate violent jihad.

Scholars and analysts declared an end to political Islam’s heyday with the military coup in Egypt in 2013 that toppled Mohammed Morsi, a Muslim Brother, who was elected president in Egypt’s first and only free and fair poll. Political Islam’s alleged swansong loomed even larger with this year’s setbacks for two of the most moderate Islamist political parties in Tunisia and Morocco as well as hints that Turkey may restrict activities of Islamists operating in exile from Istanbul.

A more fundamental criticism of the framing of the Hindutava conference is its failure to put Hindutava in a broader context.

That context involves the undermining of the social cohesion of societies made up of collections of diverse ethnic and religious communities since Osama bin Laden’s 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington.

The attacks fueled the rise of ultra-nationalism and politicized expressions of religious ultra-conservatism not only in the Hindu world but also in the worlds of other major religions.

These include politicized ultra-conservative Islam, politicized Evangelism and Buddhist nationalism. Right-wing religious nationalism in Israel, unlike Islamism and politicized Evangelism, is shaped by ultra-nationalism rather than religious ultra-conservatism.

The worlds of religious ultra-nationalism and politicized expressions of religious ultra-conservatism are often mutually reinforcing.

Scholar Cynthia Miller-Idriss’s assessment of the impact of Al-Qaeda’s 9/11 attacks on the United States is equally true for India or Europe.

“In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, the rise of violent jihadism reshaped American politics in ways that created fertile ground for right-wing extremism. The attacks were a gift to peddlers of xenophobia, white supremacism, and Christian nationalism: as dark-skinned Muslim foreigners bent on murdering Americans, Al-Qaeda terrorists and their ilk seemed to have stepped out of a far-right fever dream,” Ms. Miller-Idriss said.

“Almost overnight, the United States and European countries abounded with precisely the fears that the far-right had been trying to stoke for decades,” she added.

The comparison of politically charged militant nationalist and ultra-conservative expressions of diverse religions takes on added significance in a world that has seen the emergence of civilizationalist leaders.

Scholar Sumantra Bose attributes the rise of religious nationalism in non-Western states like Turkey and India to the fact that they never adopted the Western principle of separation of state and church.

Instead, they based their secularism on the principle of state intervention and regulation of the religious sphere. As a result, the rejection of secularism in Turkey and India fits a global trend that conflates a dominant religious identity with national identity.

Sarah Kamali, the author of a recently published book that compares militant white nationalists to militant Islamists in the United States, notes similar patterns while drawing parallels between far-right xenophobes and militant Islamists.

Militant Islamists’ “sense of victimhood […] is similar to that of their White nationalist counterparts in that [it] is constructed and exploited to justify their violence… Both mutually – and exclusively – target America for the purpose of claiming the nation as theirs and theirs alone, either as a White ethno-state or as part of a global caliphate,” Ms. Kamali writes.

Similarly, the Taliban defeat of a superpower energized militant Islamists, as well as proponents of Hindutava, with Islamophobic narratives spun by Mr. Modi’s followers gaining new fodder with the assertion that India was being encircled by Muslim states hosting religious extremists.

Modi is essentially helping the recruitment of…jihadist groups by taking such a hard, repressive line against the Islamic community in India, who are now being forced to see themselves being repressed,” said Douglas London, the CIA’s counter-terrorism chief for South and South-West Asia until 2019.

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Panjshir – the last stronghold of democracy in Afghanistan

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The Taliban’s rapid advance in Afghanistan has briefly stalled only in the face of strong resistance mounted by the people of the country’s recalcitrant mountainous province of Panjshir. Whoever controls the region’s passes controls the routes leading to China and Tajikistan, but to seize this mountain valley and, most importantly, to keep it permanently under control has always been a problem for all invaders. Eager to let the international community see for the first time in 40 years a united Afghanistan as a sign of their final victory, the radical Islamists were prepared to make any sacrifices, including filling the approaches to the Panjshir Valley up with dead bodies. Moreover, the Taliban’s longtime ally Pakistan, which, regardless of its status of an ally of the United States, has provided them with direct military support. In fact, Islamabad admitted its less than successful role when it proposed signing a truce to find and take out the bodies of its special Ops forces who had died during the attack on the valley. However, drones flown by Pakistani operators, professional commandos (possibly once trained by the Americans), air support and other pleasant gifts from the allies eventually bore fruit letting the Taliban be photographed in front of the mausoleum of Ahmad Shah Massoud Sr., the famous “Lion of Panjshir,” who controlled the valley from 1996 to 2001. The Islamists also took control of the province’s central city of Bazarak.

Having deprived the province much of its Internet access, the radicals, who control most of the Afghan territory, found it easier to wage an information war. Their claims of victories were now more difficult to contest, even though information about their retreat did reach the outside world. Reflective of the heavy losses suffered for the first time by the Taliban and their allies – the Haqqani Network and other remnants of al-Qaeda, as well as by the regular Pakistani army is the brief truce arranged by Islamabad. Looks like the mountain passes leading to Panjshir were literally filled up with corpses…

As for Massoud Jr., the young lion of Panjshir, and his supporters, they retreated to the mountains. In fact, they had nowhere to fall back to. The problem of Afghanistan is its ethnic diversity. Thus, the country is home to 23 percent of ethnic Tajiks, most of whom live in the Panjshir Valley. However, the Taliban rely mainly on the Pashtuns, who account for over 50 percent of the country’s population. As for the new masters of Afghanistan, they are ready to carry out ethnic cleansings and even commit outright genocide in order to bring the valley into submission. To make this happen they are going to resettle there their fellow Pashtun tribesmen. Local men aged between 12 and 50 are already being taken away and, according to the National Resistance Front, no one has seen them again. However, due to the information blockade, the Taliban will not hesitate to refute such facts. One thing is clear: Massoud’s Tajik fighters and the government troops that joined them are fighting for their lives, and there will be no honorable surrender!

The main question now is whether the young lion of Panjshir will receive the same support as his father once did, or will find himself without ammunition and food. After all, the Taliban leaders have reached certain agreements with the United States. Suffice it to mention the numerous remarks made, among others, by President Biden himself about the Taliban now being different from what they were 20 years ago.

But no, the Taliban`s remain the same – they have only hired new PR people. Meanwhile, hating to admit their defeat, Brussels and Washington will have to engage in a dialogue with those who are responsible for the tragedy of September 11, 2001, and for the numerous terrorist attacks in Europe. The Taliban are pretending to make minor cosmetic concessions. Minor indeed, since they are still depriving women of the opportunity to work and study, destroying higher and secondary education and brutally clamping down on people who simply do not want to live according to religious norms.

The United States is actually helping the “new-look” Taliban. Their potential opponents, including the famous Marshal Dostum, an ethnic Uzbek, left the country under various guarantees, and Washington is trying to keep them from any further participation in the conflict. Democratic politicians naively believe that by creating an Islamic state and ending the protracted civil war in Afghanistan the Taliban will ensure stability in the region and will not move any further. Uzbekistan and Tajikistan do not think so and are strengthening their borders and preparing to protect their Afghan compatriots, because they know full well that the Taliban`s are not a national political party; they are a radical Islamist ideology.

It knows no borders and spreads like a cancerous tumor, destroying all pockets of Western culture. It can only be stopped by force. However, the two decades of US military presence in Afghanistan showed that Washington, which quickly took control of the country in 2001, simply had no strategy to keep it. The Afghans were given nothing that would appear to them more attractive than the ideas of radical Islam. As a result, the few Afghans who embrace European values are fleeing the country, and those who, like Massoud Jr., decided to fight for their freedom, now risk being left to face their enemy all by themselves.

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South Asia

Misjudgements in India’s Afghan policy

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India’s Afghan policy has always been obsessed with the desire to deny Pakistan the “strategic depth” that Pakistan, according to India’s perception, yearns. If India had a pragmatic policy, it would not have found itself whimpering and whining like a rueful baby over spilt milk.

India supported the invasion of Afghanistan by both the former Soviet Union and the USA, both losers. President Trump mocked Modi for having built a library for the Afghan people. Trump expected India to contribute foot soldiers, and by corollary, body packs to the Afghan crisis. India played all the tricks up its sleeves to convince the USA to make India a party to the US-Taliban talks. But the USA ditched not only Modi but also Ashraf Ghani to sign the Doha peace deal with the Taliban.

India’s external affairs minister still calls the Taliban government “a dispensation”. Interestingly, the USA has reluctantly accepted that the Taliban government is a de facto government.

Humanitarian crisis

The United Nations’ Development Programme has portrayed a bleak situation in Afghanistan. Afghanistan is faced with multifarious challenges. These include prolonged drought and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, upheaval caused by the current political transition: frozen foreign reserves, and rising poverty.

About 47 per cent of its people live below the dollar-a-day poverty line. If the poverty line is pushed to $2 a day, 90 per cent of Afghans would be poor. About 55 per cent of Afghans are illiterate.

Ninety seven percent of the population is at risk of sinking below the poverty line, As such, Afghanistan teeters on the brink of universal poverty. Half of the population is already in need of humanitarian support. The UNDP has proposed to access the most vulnerable nine million people by focusing on essential services, local livelihoods, basic income and small infrastructure.

Currently, the gross national product of Afghanistan is around $190 billion, just a little more than the $160 billion economy of Dhaka city. The country’s legal exports of goods and services every year account for $1 billion. It imports$6 billion worth of goods and services every year.

About 80 per cent of world production of opium comes from Afghanistan. Every year, Afghanistan produces nearly 10,000 tons of opium and the revenue generated from it amounts to $7 billion approximately. About 87 per cent of the income of opium producing farmers comes exclusively from this single product. The illicit opium export by Afghanistan is worth $2 billion every year. The role of opium is significant.

About 80 per cent of public expenditure in this country is funded by grants. Since 2002, the World Bank has provided Afghanistan with a total of $5.3 billion as development and emergency relief assistance. The IMF earmarked for Afghanistan $400 million in Special Drawing Rights (SDR) for combating the Covid-19 pandemic in the country.

The United States has frozen about $10 billion worth of Afghan assets held at various banks in Afghanistan. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has withdrawn the $400 million worth of SDRs allocated earlier to Afghanistan for addressing the Covid-19 crisis. The World Bank has not said anything as of yet, but it may also put restrictions on its funding to Afghanistan.

India’s lip service to Afghanistan

India provided around $3 billion in aid to fallen U.S.-backed Afghan government.  It trained the Afghan army and police. But now it is not willing to pay or pledge a penny to the Taliban government. Look at the following Times of India report:

“India did not pledge any money to the Taliban ruled Afghanistan probably for the first time in 20 years. That it has not done so as Jaishanker declared … (At UN, India offers support to Afghanistan but does not pledge money. The Times of India September 14, 2021).The Hindu, September 11, 2021

India’s tirade against Afghanistan

Indian policymakers and experts say they see no guarantees that Afghanistan won’t become a haven for militants. “Afghanistan may be poised to become a bottomless hole for all shades of radical, extremist and jihadi outfits somewhat similar to Iraq and Syria, only closer to India,” said Gautam Mukhopadhaya, who was India’s ambassador in Kabul between 2010 to 2013.  He added that the Taliban victory could have an “inspirational effect” not only for Kashmir’s rebels but wherever religiously-driven groups operate in the broader region… Lt. Gen Deependra Singh Hooda, former military commander for northern India between 2014-2016, said militant groups based across the border in Pakistan would “certainly try and push men” into Kashmir, following the Taliban victory in Afghanistan  (With Taliban’s rise, India sees renewed threat in Kashmir, Star Tribune September 14, 2021). “Meanwhile, Rajnath Singh conveyed to Australian Defence Minister Peter Dutton that the rise of the Taliban raises serious security concerns for India and the region. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has appealed for an injection of cash into Afghanistan to avoid an economic meltdown that would spark a “catastrophic” situation for the Afghan people and be a “gift for terrorist groups.”). Afghan economic meltdown would be ‘gift for terrorists,’ says U.N. chief” (The Hindu, September 11, 2021)

 India’s former envoy to Kabul, Ambassador Gautam Mukhopadhyay is skeptical of the conciliatory statements by the taliban government. He advises: “We should welcome recent statements by Stanekzai and Anas Haqqani that suggest some independence from the ISI. But we should also ask some hard questions and judge them by their actions and words, and not let down our guard, both with regard to our multiple security concerns such as whether they can protect us from the Ias and ISI, sever ties with other terror groups, especially those supported by the ISI against India, deny Pakistan strategic depth, and preserve and build on our historic P2P and trade ties; and a genuinely inclusive govt in Afghanistan that accommodates the majority of Afghans who want the rights and freedoms enshrined in the 2004 Afghan Constitution or at least acceptable to the Afghan people.” (Taliban move to form govt, Naya Afghanistan brings new challenge for India, September 2, 2021).

Concluding remarks

India wants a “central role’ to be given to the UN in Afghanistan. India’s mumbo jumbo implies that Afghanistan should be made a UN protectorate. Indian media is never tired of calling the Afghan government a bunch of terrorists. They have even launched video games about it.

India needs to rethink how it can mend fences with Afghanistan that it regards a hothouse of terrorists.

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