Thursday, July 18, 2002

There is no such thing as Hindu fundamentalism

In response to attacks from Greenway comparing Hindu self-defence with Islamic fundamentalism, Francois Gautier defends Hinduism and convincingly argues that there is no such thing as a Hindu fundamentalist, because hinduism by its very nature is tolerant and universal.

Francois Gautier writes on Rediff:
Dear Mr Greenway,

To equate Hindu extremism with Muslim fundamentalism, as you do in your column published in the Opinion page of The Boston Globe on July 12, is highly unfair. There is no such thing as 'Hindu nationalists,' or 'Hindu fundamentalists,' since in the whole history of India, Hindus -- who let me remind you are 850 million in India today and constitute the overwhelming cultural and political majority of this country -- have not only shown that they are extremely tolerant of others, but Hinduism is probably the only religion in the world which never tried to convert others, or conquer other countries to propagate their own religion. The same is not true of Islam and Christianity.

Again, equating Pakistan with India is an old British colonial policy, which helped them to divide and rule. By going to Islamabad, before reaching Delhi, visiting American and European officials are demeaning India. Would they dare first go to Taiwan, then travel to Beijing? The Chinese government would never allow it! We are putting on the same footing two nations which are entirely different: the first one, India, whatever its shortcomings and I am aware there are many -- is a superpower in the making, a vast country with a billion people and a democracy for more than fifty years. The other, Pakistan, whatever its own merits -- and it has many -- has little more than one tenth the population of India, is nearly bankrupt and has been under military dictators for half of its independence.

You speak of a Hindu genocide on the Muslims in Gujarat, but you forget to mention that the rioting in Gujarat against Muslims was in reaction against the murder of 58 innocent people, 30 of them being women and children, who were burnt alive in a train by a Muslim mob, only because they were Hindus. In fact, Hindus have been for centuries at the receiving hand of Muslim extremism: some historians put at 25 millions the number of Hindus killed during 10 centuries of bloody Muslim invasions in India, a genocide probably unparalleled in world history. Today this persecution goes on: there were 400,000 Hindus in 1947 in the valley of Kashmir and barely a few hundred today. Thousands were killed in the late eighties by Islamic fundamentalists, trained, armed and financed by Pakistan and the rest fled the valley. Today Hindus have become refugees in their own country, a first on this planet.

You also talk about the 'Hindu bomb.' But you should know that it is was Mr Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Benazir's father, who in 1971, after Pakistan lost the second war it initiated against India, realised that they could not win a conventional war against the Indian giant. He thus decided that Pakistan should have the nuclear bomb, which it did in the course of time, with the active help of China and North Korea, a fact which has been well documented by the CIA, but which is generally ignored by the American public. India was thus forced to acquire nuclear weapons, with a certain reluctance, as Indians have generally had a nonviolent bend of mind -- some have even termed it cowardly -- inherited from Buddhism and Gandhian philosophy.

Today, President Pervez Musharraf, whatever his obsession about Kashmir, which is basically a revenge for the loss of Eastern Pakistan, now Bangladesh, thanks to India's support, is an intelligent man: he knows that if he does manage to drop one nuclear bomb on Delhi or Mumbai, there will be no more Pakistan worth the name, as all major Pakistani cities will be wiped off the face of the earth. Islam, which has made use of violence a near religious practice, understands the language of violence: see how it kept quiet when America showed its muscle after the September 11 attack, or when the Allies invaded Iraq. Thus Musharraf is doing a nuclear blackmail on the world, which is unfortunately working, as so many nations have evacuated their nationals and so much pressure is brought upon on India by the US and the EC to negotiate on Kashmir.

You must doubtlessly know that historically and geographically, Kashmir has always been part of India and that the calling of a referendum there would be a suicide for any Indian government, because the Muslim majority of the valley would automatically vote for a union with Pakistan. That in turn, would not only mean that Pakistan would have an immense strategic advantage on India, because of overlooking the Indian plains, but also that other Indian states, who are in a secessionist mood, might follow suit. Bear in mind also, that Indians do not understand why the West is giving lessons to India about Kashmir, when England battled thousands of miles away from their home soil to keep the Falkland islands -- which geographically belong more to the Argentineans than to the British -- or as France uses its armed might to retain Corsica, an island which has mixed French and Italian roots, or when your own country intervenes militarily in parts of the globe where you feel your interests are endangered!

Finally, you show a lot of sympathy for Pakistan, which I understand, as the Pakistanis are very engaging and friendly people specially when you meet them in the United States. Nevertheless, you must be aware that not only has Pakistan sponsored bombings, murders and terror in India, but that it has exported terrorism all over the world: in Bosnia, Chechnya and even towards America, as the September 11 attacks have a Pakistan connection. By making Pakistan its frontline state, America is trying to fight terrorism with terrorism, which might not be such a good idea, given the problems encountered by the US in Pakistan, as well as the blank that American forces are drawing in Afghanistan. It is also a sign that India, a democratic, pro-Western nation, would be a much better bet for the US in its war on terrorism. Unfortunately, your article will certainly not help US policymakers to see the light.

Yours sincerely,

Fran├žois Gautier

The author, a French journalist based in New Delhi, is the South Asia correspondent for Ouest-France, the largest circulation French daily (1 million copies) and LCI, France's 24 hour television news channel.


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