Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Ban the Bajrang Dal

Ban the Bajrang Dal
By Susenjit Guha

Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik's past association with Rolling Stones' Mick Jagger may have contributed to his verbal rock n' roll. First he brusquely dismissed members of the Bajrang Dal as extremists during an interview to NDTV only to correct moments later that they were fundamentalists, not extremists.

M K Narayan, the National Security Adviser thought a ban was not necessary on this outfit but better policing was required instead. A ban on the Dal was not sustainable in the courts of law.

Any nationalistic organization--- even if it resorts to violence and terrorises a particular Indian community---gets temporary immunity under 'fundamentalism' and evades being branded an extremist. Only a terrorist can be an extremist and he is naturally anti-national. Logically deduced, an extremist is a terrorist. And who is a terrorist? Certainly not a Hindu or any organization belonging to them, but others read non-Hindus.

Now what is going on? Is terrorism up for re-definition in India?

Does it mean a non-Hindu Indian has to pass the nationalism test at every step? A Hindu terrorist or extremist can ply his trade in Sri Lanka, but not in India. In India, he is part of the majority community and if he chooses to terrorise any minority community, he is absolved of any extremist or terrorist trait. He can only be a fundamentalist on that score.

According the Bajrang Dal's website:

"The Bajrang Dal is not against any religion. It acknowledges respecting the faith of other people, but expects and asserts for a similar respect of the Hindu Sentiments. Being Hindu, the Bajrang Dal believes in validity of All Religions and Respect for all human beings, irrespective of caste, color, and religion (Aatmasvat Sarva Bhuteshu). It is for this purpose that the Bajrang Dal has undertaken various public-awakening campaigns. It does not believe in violence or any unlawful activity."

It is clear they are not what they claim to be.

Human Rights Watch blamed them for the pogrom in Gujarat in 2002 where nearly 2000 Muslims lost their lives.Frontline reported in 2004 how even after 2 years of the Gujarat riots, Bajrangis were resorting to organized intolerance in towns and villages of Gujarat, proudly proclaiming that they were made Muslim free.' It led to ghetto-isation of a community.

Bajrang Dal activists were earlier caught making crude bombs in 2006 and also this year to avenge the bomb blasts that had taken place.

Recently their attention focused on the Christian community in Karnataka. Prayer halls and churches were vandalized while the police beat up protesting Christian men and women--- some of whom wondered if the law enforcement agencies doubted their Indian nationality. Recent violence against Christians in Orissa was alleged to have been perpetrated by the Bajrang Dal activists. It seems the UPA government is divided over the exact definition of Bajrangis and at odds to club them with terrorists who commit crimes against fellow Indians in the name of Islam.
Our Prime Minister, busy steering a fleet of Greyhound buses all by himself to the White House since India missed the bus several times earlier, went into action after concerns were voiced in Europe during the last leg of his heady victory lap.

We cannot have two sets of rules for terror attacks. Failing to club all terror attacks under acts of terrorism and not treating terrorists equally under the eyes of the law will only lead to a polarisation of communities. India cannot afford to allow lumpen elements to masquerade as nationalists and attack the very essence of our Constitution.

There are civil ways of protesting against any slur on any religious group or symbol which the Bajrangis alleged to have happened.

When Prof. Paul Brass of the University of Washington compared the outfit with Nazi storm-troopers, he wasn't far from the truth. They too professed extreme nationalism while cleansing a fellow German community.

If history books are still considered worth dusting up and taking lessons from, all Indian political parties should rise above their differences and come down strongly on the Bajrang Dal.
And Mr.Patnaik's knowledge of history---he holds a post-graduate degree---is deep enough to spot extremist acts and narrow the difference between what he calls fundamentalism and extremism when talking about the Bajrang Dal.

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