Saturday, July 18, 2009

Why China has to crush ethnic minorities and their culture

Why China has to crush ethnic minorities and their culture
By Susenjit Guha

As official Chinese reports continue to paint the Uighur Muslim minority as the villains in the recent rioting in Urumqi city in the backward Xinjiang province---the worst in decades---the world wonders whether a communist government or the majority Han Chinese, or both are intolerant of ethnicity among them.

While human right violations, as the world terms them, are continuously debunked by China as an internal matter, moral and ethical accountability is something that the country cannot avoid as the Asian tiger prowls around the global space that is under-girded by conscience. Communist China considers ethnic minority culture and religion as circumspect and a threat to the closed society that it is. It was evident from the heavy handed crackdown on Uighurs as well as its past record with the people of Tibet .

Communist China shuts out ‘negative’ information on ground realities that flies around and is available at the click of a mouse, keeps foreign journalists away from conflict and disaster zones to keep the official take on the situation ‘sacrosanct’. Mainland Chinese are fed information that always shows the outside as the ‘big bad world’. But there are few buyers in the world outside as they have seen human rights continuously violated and tamped down with brutal state power.

That is why China feels threatened when documentaries on Uighurs are shown in democracies like Australia and does all it can to stop them from being aired. Death figures of the Han Chinese population in the riots were ratcheted up and that of the Uighurs scaled down.

Tracing their roots to Turkey , the minority Uighurs follow Islam that has made it convenient for China to also link their deep rooted dissent to the call for a holy war and al Qaeda to make it resonate with the west. And the terror group had in their own way also bolstered the Chinese argument by threatening revenge for the killing of Uighurs in the riots.

Any analogy is fine as long as does not morally rub communist China the wrong way. Beijing’s version by Xinjiang's governor, Nur Bekri, in a televised address, dismissed Rebiya Kadeer, in exile in the US and ‘mother’ to all Uighurs---as the vamp who incited the violence over long distance telephone. Some time back China also made a mockery of analogies by calling Dalai Lama, the exiled leader of the Tibetans, a terrorist.

But why did the Uighurs flare up and invite a backlash from the majority Han community as well as the state?

Although development is taking place in oil rich Xingjiang, there has been a furious demographic change with the Han Chinese coming in and filling up jobs. Gwynne Dyer writes in The Korea Times, “The development creates an economy that the local people are not qualified to work in, and Chinese immigrants come in to fill those jobs instead.” While the Chinese authorities feel that the Muslim ethnic minorities never had it so good with so much progress taking place, the Uighurs feel threatened by the filling up by the Hans. Uighur population has fallen to 45% while the Han Chinese population is up to 40%. It irked the Uighurs as they formed nearly 90% of the population six decades ago.

But why does China continue to crush down on ethnicity and sort of sell the logic that the population is benefiting from developmental projects with such pomposity?

It has a lot to do with Communism as a state policy where a monolithic population is easy to control rather than minorities with a popular and traditional culture in their midst. Cultures that are several centuries old can be a threat to a society where the majority of the population are kept cerebrally closeted and make to think, breathe and believe in tandem with the state.
Among the fiercest critics of China are the expatriates while the rabid supporters are among those from the mainland Chinese population. They use the internet to launch counter attacks on the critics of Chinese policies. India ’s sympathy for Tibetans attracts reminders of the presence of troops in Indian Kashmir to keep the place under control without appreciating that the largest democracy is also a place where multiple cultures and religions flourish and does not get repressed.

Chinese state propaganda on TV, trucks and banners are kicking up a storm about the evils of extremism, terrorism and separatism in Xinjiang and in predominantly Muslim, Hotan, close to Urumqi .

If exclusive nationalism gets so fierce with state pomposity and media support, then global apprehension of a link to marauding Nazism on the same grounds 70 years ago cannot be faulted. It has all the makings of a threat as free speech and thinking and protests are not what the mainland Chinese are expected to do.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Liberhan Commission, Babri Masjid: A Historical Perspective

Liberhan Commission, Babri Masjid: A Historical Perspective
By Mubasshir Mushtaq

Had Zahiruddin Mohammed Badshah Ghazi, popularly known as Babar, been alive today, he would be certainly ashamed of modern India. A mosque built in his name razed by Hindu fundamentalists has become a functioning temple but yet it is termed as a “disputed structure.” Babar would have certainly argued with the present rulers that his medieval India was far better than the modern India in terms of justice. In Babar’s India, there was no such thing called as “delayed justice” or “judicial delay.” Justice Manmohan Singh Liberhan Commission of Inquiry has taken 17 long years just to ascertain events leading to the demolition of Babri Masjid. Babar would have decided the fate of the so-called “disputed structure” in 17 minutes! Politicians, judges, bureaucrats, journalists all love to use the “disputed structure” tag; it in fact gives them a legitimate right to feel ‘secular.’ Their “secularism” will pale when one compares Babar’s conception of secularism. For Babar, secularism did not mean separation of religion from the state but rather equal respect for all religions.

The secularism of Babar is hidden in a forgotten document. It could be a commandment of good governance for leaders like L.K. Advani.

Babar had drafted a secret will much before his death for his son Prince Nasiruddin Muhammad Humayun. In this will, there is a lesson for each politician father and a politician son. An extract of the will reads:

“Oh son! The Kingdom of India is full of different religions. Praised be to God that He bestowed upon you its sovereignty. It is incumbent on you to wipe all religious prejudices off the tablet of your heart, administer justice according to the ways every religion. Avoid especially the sacrifice of the cow by which you can capture the hearts of the people of India and subjects of this country may be bound up with royal obligations. Do not ruin temples and shrines of any community which is obeying the laws of Government. Administer justice in such a manner that the King be pleased with the subjects and the subjects with the King. The cause of Islam can be promoted more by the sword of obligation than by the sword of tyranny.” (A copy of this will used to be in the possession of the late Dr. Balkrishna, Principal, Rajaram College , Kolhapur).

Can a father who abhors ruining temples and shrines of other religions build a mosque in his name after demolishing a temple?

Babri Masjid was possibly built by a courtesan Mir Baqi on the instructions of Babar in the 1528 at Ayodhya. There is historical evidence in the form of inscriptions inside the mosque to support the assumption that it was constructed on the order of Babar. Also there is nothing in history that suggests that Babar ever visited Ayodhya. A complete and close reading of Babarnama shows that Babar was encamped north of Aud on March 28 1528. According to one historian Babar was encamped at the junction of the rivers Sirda and Gagra. On April 2, Babar went out to hunt in the area north of the camp. Babar must have left the encampment, as he records on March 28, 1528 that he had asked to find ways to cross the river. We are forced to doubt if Babar ever went to Ayodhya. So the question of demolishing a temple at Ayodhya does not arise.

So with Liberhan Commission, Indian Muslims have been awarded with one more inquiry report. Will it suffer the fate of Sri Krishna Commission report? Going by the history of promise and subsequent betrayals by the government, the four-volume report will gather dust in the dustbin of history. First government needs to clear speck of dust from earlier inquiry commissions and reports concerning Indian Muslims. Successive Congress governments have been extremely good in documenting Muslim issues but the true intent of any government is measured by the pace of implementation. Congress will once again show Indian Muslims bubbles of hope but alas bubbles don’t last a lifetime. For last 60 years, Indian Muslims have been appeased with bubbles.

The role of the judiciary in Babri Masjid episode has come under sharp criticism. Strangely enough, Pakistan has done better than India on this front. The story of Lahore’s Shahidganj Masjid is Ayodhya in reverse. All the elements of Ayodhya case were present. A mosque in adverse possession of Sikhs was demolished. Muslims agitated and there was involvement of religious figures. Muslims were frustrated by the court decision. It upheld that the title of ownership was no longer in Muslim hands and therefore Sikhs were entitled to whatever they liked to do with the structure. Muslims decided to move in the Punjab Assembly to enact legislation for the takeover of the site. They all failed. But the situation was not reversed even after the establishment of Pakistan. To this day, when there is hardly anyone to visit it, the Gurdwara Shahidganj stands in Lahore as it did before August 15 1947.

In Babri Masjid case, the ownership of the land was in Muslim hands. It is a wakf property and according to section 51 of Wakf Act 1995, wakf property cannot be transferred to ‘Nyas’ (Shri Ramjanambhumi Nyas) for Ram temple construction.

In the Shahidganj case the judiciary acted impartially and speedily. In the Ayodhya case, Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer had angrily remarked: “The judiciary will be described as villain of the piece.”
According to Ms. Anju Gupta, the then superintendent of the police, Faizabad, Police had foreknowledge of the Babri Masjid demolition. Deposing before the Liberhan Commission in May 1994, she told that on December 5, 1992, the then inspector general of police, Faizabad zone, had warned officers of his department that there was clear indication from intelligence agencies that the disputed shrine would be attacked on December 6. She had told the commission that L.K. Advani expressed his desire to go to the area to stop the Kar Sevaks but she was discouraged by SP of Intelligence, PAC (Provincial Armed Constabulary). Ms. Gupta told the commission that Advani had in her presence said that temple would be constructed at the very spot and the same was repeated by Murli Manohar Joshi, accepting that they were pleased with the actions of Kar Sevaks. The Bajrang Dal leader, Vinay Katiyar, had mocked Mulayam Singh Yadav by saying over the public speaking system ‘Yahan parinda par nahi maar sakta.’

Will Manmohan Singh speak with clarity of thought over Ayodhya issue? One is reminded of what Jyoti Basu had said on December 9, 1992 regarding the makeshift construction by kar sevaks. “It is an illegal construction and government has every right to demolish it.” When he was asked about the possible Hindu backlash, Basu was honest and blunt, “Let there be repercussions from the Hindu fundamentalists. My party will support any government willing to bring down the structure erected by demolishing the shrine.”

Men like Basu are becoming a rare breed in Indian politics.

Can Prime Minister Manmohan Singh do a Jyoti Basu in 2009?