Sultan M Hali
A furor has been raised in India after two Hindu groups in India – Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Bajrang Dal were categorized as “militant religious outfits” while Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) was referred to as a nationalist organization by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Changes in update to the CIA World Factbook triggered widespread protests in India after the categorization of Hindu groups as militant religious outfits and showcasing a part of Indian held Kashmir (IOK) as part of Pakistan on a map. Indian saffron extremists, who are ready to tear their opponents’ eyes and hair at the drop of a hat, have castigated the CIA, calling it a terrorist organization that created and nurtured Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
The classification of the Kashmiri political party, All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) as a “separatist group” also angered protesters who said it should have been categorized as a terrorist organization. VHP leader Pravin Togadia and RSS leader Mohan Bhagwat were referred as among those who lead “numerous religious or militant/chauvinistic organization; various separatist groups seeking greater communal and/or regional autonomy.” Violent demonstrators protested that the CIA was also lenient to another Muslim group, Jamiat Ulema-i-Hind, which is led by Maulana Mahmood Madani simply as a religious organization while listing similar Hindu groups as militants.
The CIA report notes that the outlook for India’s long-term growth is moderately positive due to a young population and corresponding low dependency ratio, healthy savings and investment rates, and increasing integration into the global economy. But it also identifies long-term challenges confronting India, including: Discrimination against women and girls, an inefficient power generation and distribution system, ineffective enforcement of intellectual property rights, decades-long civil litigation dockets, inadequate transport and agricultural infrastructure, limited non-agricultural employment opportunities, high spending and poorly targeted subsidies, inadequate availability of quality basic and higher education, and accommodating rural-to-urban migration.
The report points out that despite high growth rate compared to the rest of the world, “India’s government-owned banks faced mounting bad debt in 2015 and 2016, resulting in low credit growth. The economy slowed in 2017 due to shocks of demonetization and introduction of GST.” It is heartening that the CIA has made accurate observations regarding India’s extremism and intolerance, which has led to the marginalization of its minorities along with the low caste Hindus, the Dalit. The Sangh Parivar or Family of Organizations led by RSS comprises some of the most rabid and chauvinistic extremist Hindu organizations. Although these organizations i.e. the VHP, Bajrang Dal and RSS have been vitriolic and anti Muslim for decades, since 2014 when Narendra Modi, an intransigent RSS operative became India’s Prime Minister, have targeted Indian minorities, especially the Muslims with venom.
Since 8 July 2016, when popular Kashmiri youth leader Burhan Wani was assassinated, over 200 protesting Kashmiri youth were killed while over 3,500 Kashmiri youth and children have been blinded because their face and eyes were targeted with pellet guns. This outrage has been taken notice of by sane Indians, mostly comprising highly decorated scholars, intellectuals, freedom movement veterans and members of the entertainment industry and fine arts, who returned their awards and medals and demanded that the government cease its violence. Over 1000 international scholars led by the renowned academic Noam Chomsky petitioned Narendra Modi, asking him to stop violence against the minorities in India.
So far there has been no let up. Eid-ul-Fitr which was observed in IOK on 16 June 2018 saw the worst form of barbarism by Indian troops, who opened fire on innocent and unarmed Kashmiris. The Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) gives the Indian troops unbridled power to target the minorities, arrest them, kill them, enter their houses for search without warrants and even rape their women without fear of retribution. Forced to take cognizance of the brutality, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti has submitted her resignation, setting the stage for Governor’s Rule in the chaotic state.
If the CIA Factbook has finally taken note of the three belligerent organizations in India, it was about time. Pravin Togadia, a close crony of Narendra Modi was his accomplice in the 2002 Gujarat Riots when Modi was its Chief Minister. Bajrang Dal, RSS and VHP were hand in glove in the massacre and called it the “Hindutva Laboratory” and gloating over its success had promised to replicate the mass murder at a large scale in New Delhi. Togadia was arrested in April 2003 after distributing tridents to Bajrang Dal activists in Ajmer, in a ceremony termed “Trishul Deeksha,” defying a state government ban.
As of August 2013, Togadia had faced 19 criminal cases for making hate speeches, the maximum number of such cases for anyone in India. He was arrested in August 2013 from Ayodhya along with other VHP leaders by the UP Police before the planned Chaurasi Kosi Parikrama Yatra that was banned over fears of communal flare-up. Mohan Madhukar Bhagwat is the leader of the pack, the Sarsanghchalak or the head of the RSS, the most radical and fanatic group, which does not recognize the Constitution of India. Its former activist Nathuram Godse assassinated Mahatma Gandhi because he had tried to stop the bloodshed of Muslims at the partition of India. The logical next step would be to castigate Narendra Modi, “The Butcher of Gujarat” for state terrorism. Google’s list of ten most wanted terrorists had Modi top the list till he became Prime Minister.
—The writer is retired PAF Group Captain and a TV talk show host.