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May 29, 2002

India/Pakistan: Mourning This Time

By Angana Chatterji

As India and Pakistan face each other in a grave confrontation, the
mainstream US media continues to be largely inattentive to, and uninformed
about, the serious situation in the subcontinent. As 1.4 million Indian and
Pakistani troops and nuclear arsenals are on high alert, as leaders and
generals play political games over divided Kashmir, as Pakistan conducts its
third missile test in three days, the sun sets on the Pacific Ocean. South
Asians in the United States remain terrified that India and Pakistan stand on
the verge of a dangerous war over Kashmir.

The Indian central government, dominated by Hindu nationalists, continues to
prioritize sectarian and non secular agendas. India pledges that it will go
to war with Pakistan unless Islamic separatists stop their attacks on Indian
Kashmir. India continues to insist that the situation in Kashmir, in which
thousands have died, is entirely the responsibility of Pakistan and Muslim
separatist groups. India's persistent refusal to address the Kashmir issue
might well leave the fate of the Kashmiris in the hands of Islamic
fundamentalists. India is yet to take responsibility for its systematic
violation of the rights and lives of Kashmiris, while Pakistan continues to
use terrorism as state policy. India and Pakistan must understand that war
will not resolve the injustices of history, it will only condemn our nations
further and exacerbate the very tensions that are sought to be resolved
through war.

In addition, in the recent carnage of Muslim minorities in Gujarat in
February and March this year, the saffronized central and state government
demonstrated an abysmal display of militant Hindu dominance. The police and
government in Gujarat perpetrated violence against Muslims in the State.
Police mistreatment in India of 'lower' caste and class peoples, minority
religious groups, women, tribals, intellectuals, activists, political groups
and others bears evidence to the unstable and insecure conditions in which
non dominant and disenfranchised communities in India continue to live. All
that is sacred in the Constitution, all that our ancestors struggled for, all
that remains of the memory of M. K. Gandhi, is being desecrated.

In the midst of this, the majority of the Hindu Indian business community in
the US maintain a complicitious silence, refusing to accept the vicious
consequences of Hindu nationalism. They continue to actively fund
fundamentalist Hindu organizations that are registered as charities in the
US, ostensibly working to promote and protect Indian heritage and culture.
Such organizations utilize funds raised in the name of 'culture' to foment
social division, intolerance and brutalization of minorities in India. Groups
across the US, such as the Coalition Against Communalism and other
progressive organizations, meet and struggle to build a political culture
where Hindu xenophobia can be confronted. Hinduism, unlike Islam, has a
benevolent image in the West/North as a religion of peace. Hinduism in the
West is often held and peddled as an abstract textual entity, vacant of the
radical inequities that make up its cultural and historical reality. Hardline
Hindu organizations maintain that Hindu culture and Hindus in India are being
marginalized, that there is an Islamist plan for the genocide of Hindus, and
that Hindu fundamentalism is a fiction conjured by the secular left.

As an Indian I struggle against the failures of India's democracy, and I am
horrified at who we have become as a nation and as a people. I ask myself how
India might commit to a secular and democratic society that addresses its
injustices and entrenched oppressions. Violence in the name of religion has
to stop and as a nation India must accord full and executable rights to
minority groups. We must defy Hindu nationalism and its systematic use of
violence against minorities. We must insist on examining the present
political climate in which relations between India and Pakistan continue to
deteriorate, and the crimes committed by both states in the name of freedom.
We must not support the fabric of resistance connected to the use of terror
on the part of states and groups. We must take responsibility for the unjust
histories through which our nations were conceived. It will require
extraordinary courage and commitment of us all.

Angana Chatterji is a professor of Social and Cultural Anthropology at the
California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco.

Published in:

Dawn, Pakistan, June 02, 2002.
Titled: 'A Grave Confrontation'

Dissident Voice, US, June 2002.
Titled: 'India/Pakistan: Mourning This Time.'

Frontline, India, Volume 19, Issue 12, June 8-21, 2002.

Economic and Political Weekly, India, Volume 37, No 22, June 01, 2002.

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