By N S Rajaram

  From Khilafat to Godhra

Godhra and the Gujarat explosion are the culmination of appeasement policies rooted in dhimmitude. ‘Secularism’ is an illusion that has collapsed.

Godhra and the Nation

            Future historians may see Godhra and its aftermath as a watershed in the history of modern India. The Hindu reaction to the burning alive of Ram Bhaktas trapped in the Sabarmati Express has brought into focus both the unchanging mindset of the Indian Muslims and the rapidly changing ground realities in the Hindu world. It shatters several myths about the people of India, Hindus in particular, that had become part and parcel of the thinking of the so-called secular politicians and intellectuals including the media. It may represent also the collapse of ‘vote bank’ politics that has led to fragmentation of political parties. Most importantly, we may be witnessing the emergence of a concept of nationalism rooted in Indian history and tradition rather than the one based on the Constitution and the laws borrowed from the West.

This last point is worth some elaboration. When the Parliament was attacked by Pakistan sponsored terrorists on December 13, 2002, there was national outrage to be sure, but it fades into insignificance in the face of the public reaction to the Godhra massacre of Rama Bhaktas returning from Ayodhya. This suggests that for the great majority of Indians, symbols like Ayodhya, associated with their history and tradition, resonate more powerfully than constitutional symbols like the Parliament and the courts. Unlike the United States, which is defined by its Constitution, the Indian nation is defined by its history and tradition. Sri Aurobindo expressed this truth nearly a century ago in his famous Uttarapara speech:

 “It is this dharma that I am raising up before the world, it is this that I have perfected and developed through the Rishis, saints and Avatars, and is now going forth to do my work among the nations… When therefore it is said that India shall rise, it is Sanatana Dharma that shall rise. When it is said that India shall be great, it is Sanatana Dharma that shall be great. When it is said that India shall expand and extend itself, it is Sanatana Dharma that shall expand and extend itself all over the world. It is for the Dharma and by the Dharma that India exists… I say no longer that nationalism is a creed, a religion, a faith; I say that it is the Sanatana Dharma which for us is the nationalism.”

 The message is clear. India and Sanatana Dharma exist for each other. Sanatana Dharma is Indian nationalism and Indian nationalism is Sanatana Dharma. Any constitution or political system that ignores this basic reality is unlikely to endure. The failure of leaders and thinkers of the last half-century lies in the fact that they failed to grasp this basic truth while trying to force on the people of India a system of rules and beliefs that were hostile to this millennia old tradition. They sought to justify this by appealing to something they called ‘secularism’, which was turned into a dogma that was never defined and placed above debate. (It is a different matter that this secularism was a fraud having nothing to do with secular polity.)

Further, in order to make this alien transplant work, they sought to suppress every Hindu aspiration as anti-secular and reactionary. This gave rise to a class of politicians and intellectuals that flourished by feeding on this anti-national growth in the name of secularism. It was of course far from secular—for it was friendly to every alien import like Arab Muslim Law (Sharia) in preference to Indian Law, and Macaulayite education in opposition to education that sprang from the soil. It culminated in the import of a ‘national’ leader with no roots or any stake in the nation. The idea was that groups and individuals who felt no attachment to nationhood rooted in the soil would be made loyal by uprooting tradition, distorting history and replacing them with alien institutions that would suit these alienated souls. So, if the people could not be loyal to the nation, the nation would be erased and a new pseudo-secular pseudo-nation created for their benefit. This way, mountain would be brought to Mohammed.

Disenfranchising the Hindus

The result of this ‘secularization’ was the virtual disenfranchisement of the Hindus in their own country. The Constitution and the laws were distorted to the point that loyalty to the history and tradition was regarded as all but a crime. Anyone who demanded that the law of the land should be the same for everyone regardless of religion was denounced as a communal chauvinist, while organizations like the Muslim Personal Law Board that demanded laws created in Medieval Arabia (Shariat) were accommodated. The same people who demanded the creation of Pakistan but chose to stay in India were given concessions to make them feel they were living in a Muslim country.

In the process, a large group of politicians became prisoners of this inexorable anti-national current. Politicians of the Congress party and its offshoots soon began to feel that their very survival depended on minority appeasement in the name of secularism. Secularism, instead of being a means of achieving harmony in a multi-religious country, became the means of survival for a class of politicians and intellectuals. In the event, it is hardly surprising that the Congress and its leaders sound increasingly like the Muslim League of pre-Partition days. For example, Sonia Gandhi’s speeches are shown more on Pakistani television than on Indian television.

Minority appeasement

A single statistic will suffice to show how far the country has traveled in its course of minority appeasement and Hindu disenfranchisement. Under Article 30 of the Constitution, the state has control of Hindu institutions while Muslim and Christian institutions are free to function without government interference. In practice, this has gone much further, to the point of looting Hindu institutions to fund Islamic ones. As Sri Sri Ravishankar pointed out in a recent interview, in the state of Karnataka alone, the Government takes Rs 40 crores from the temples, while only 50 lakhs are returned to them. On the other hand, mosques generate about 40 lakhs but receive 8 crores from the Government. This means that money taken from temples is used to subsidize mosques and madrasas, many of which are engaged in anti-national activity!

Nationwide this kind of cross subsidizing—by taking money from temples to fund mosques and madrasas—must run into hundreds of crores. In addition, under the Haj Bill introduced by Jawaharlal Nehru in 1959, the Government of India spent Rs 125 crores in 2001 alone in the form of subsidies to Haj pilgrims. No such help is available for other religious groups even for pilgrimages within India. So why blame Pakistan or Saudi Arabia for fomenting Islamic extremism in India when the ‘secular’ governments in India are doing the same, with a substantial part of the money coming from the temples? The Governments have been able to get away with this patent fraud only because the public was kept in the dark. With increasing awareness among the Hindus, it is no longer possible to hide these.

Is it any wonder that the Hindus feel discriminated against and even disenfranchised in their own country?

Ignoring history

In the face of all this, it would be a serious error to look at Godhra in isolation as a ‘communal riot’. To understand Godhra and its bloody aftermath, we need to go back to 1920, when the Swadeshi Movement of Sri Aurobindo and Tilak was abandoned for the theocratic aims of the Khilafat. The facts are well known to historians, though history books tend to gloss over the unpleasant reality of the Moplah Rebellion. Soon after Tilak’s death, Mahatma Gandhi launched the Non-Cooperation Movement in support of the Indian Muslims’ demand for the Khilafat, or the restoration of the Sultan of Turkey as the head of the Islamic Ottoman Empire, which had been defeated in the Great War (1914-1918). In launching it, Gandhi proclaimed that the Khilafat was more important than Swaraj, which had been the prior goal of the Congress under Tilak. (He also diverted a large sum of money from the Tilak Swaraj Fund to the Khilafat Committee.)

The Khilafat Non-Cooperation Movement was an unmitigated disaster. The Khilafat Movement, whose goal was to replace the British Raj with ‘Khilafat Raj’ failed to achieve its goal of “Swaraj within the year” promised by Gandhi. The resulting Muslim anger was now turned from the British towards innocent Hindus. There were riots all over India. It was particularly violent in Kerala where a full-scale rebellion called the Moplah Rebellion erupted, which took the British several months to crush. Thousands of Hindus were massacred, women outraged and many forcibly converted. But still Gandhi, who had a good deal to answer for, claimed that the Moplahs were only doing what their religion taught them and should be regarded as god-fearing and devout! What is important to note is that investigations made it clear that the Moplah Rebellion, like the recent Godhra Massacre, was a carefully planned campaign and by no means a spontaneous uprising.

An immediate consequence of the Khilafat and the Moplah Rebellion was a belief among Muslim leaders that Hindu leaders would buckle under the threat of violence. This was to have catastrophic consequences at the time of Independence. Feeling that the Congress had no stomach for facing any threat of violence, M.A. Jinnah and the Muslim League let loose an orgy of street violence in August 1946 under the name of ‘Direct Action’ to press their demand for Pakistan. It took particularly virulent form in the Calcutta Killings, which stopped only when the Hindus began to retaliate. But Jinnah’s assessment of the Congress leaders was vindicated when they readily agreed to his Pakistan demand though they had come to power in the election promising that they would not allow India to be partitioned.


            The effect of Muslim violence, first during the Khilafat and then the Direct Action went beyond partitioning the country. It has left a permanent mark on the psyche of a large section of the Indian political establishment and the intelligentsia, especially the media. The result has been a state of mind that is oversensitive to the potential of violence in the name of any Muslim cause, leading ‘secular’ leaders to concede demands even before they are made. The Haj Bill introduced by the super secular Nehru in 1959 is a prime example. Nehru opposed also the rebuilding of the Somnath Temple for fear that it might enrage the Muslims. It reached its climax in Rajiv Gandhi’s ignoble surrender to Muslim fundamentalist threats in denying support to a poor Muslim woman—Shah Bano—divorced by her husband supposedly according to Islamic Law (Shariat).

            This attitude of conceding Muslim demands to the point of abusing Hindu beliefs and aspirations is of course not limited to politicians. The intelligentsia, the media in particular, is especially sensitive to Muslim threats. For example, an English language newspaper in Bangalore was vandalized by a Muslim mob for publishing a perfectly innocent cartoon of the Prophet. It immediately came out with an apology for “hurting minority sentiments.” Other English papers in Bangalore (and other cities) have been vandalized on similar pretexts and have reacted in similar fashion. But the same papers vociferously upheld the ‘artistic right’ of M.F. Husain to paint nude portraits of Hindu goddesses. This blatant double standard, rooted in cowardice, is not lost on the Hindu community.

            At the heart of this behavior is a state of mind that the great Egyptian-born Islamic scholar Bat Ye’or calls Dhimmitude (called Dhimmitva in India). It is the outgrowth of centuries of Islamic imperialism, which, though oppressive, provided a measure of protection to non-Muslim subjects as long as they were willing to accept their status as second-class citizens and live by the rules of the Shariat (Islamic Law). This was enforced through terror. As the Pakistani writer Brigadier S.K Malik wrote in his seminal The Quranic Concept of War, “Once a condition of terror into the opponent’s heart is obtained, hardly anything is left to be achieved… Terror is not a means of imposing decision upon the enemy; it is the decision we wish to impose upon him.” This has clearly worked in the case of Indian politicians and the intelligentsia.

            We may therefore say that the root cause of this perversion, of using an anti-Hindu posture to protect against possible Muslim retaliation, is this state of mind of Dhimmitude. Politicians try to justify this by appealing to secularism, but most of them are not anti-Hindu when it comes to personal beliefs. In fact, a secularist former prime minister that is a devout Hindu, still opposed building the Rama Temple at Ayodhya because he felt it would lead to street violence. This is a typical manifestation of dhimmitude.

            In the intelligentsia, dhimmitude is often compounded by hatred of Hinduism and opportunism arising from Macaulayite education. It has assumed extraordinary proportions in the English language media with each publication and reporter trying to outdo all others with sensational stories. In this game of one-upmanship, the truth was all but lost in the media’s coverage of the recent Gujarat riots. Some reporters went to the point of fabricating stories simply to get headlines. As this is getting exposed, part of the media has been forced to justify its coverage instead of reporting the news. This has led to still more absurd ‘reports’ being foisted on the public. This kind of damage control exercise is unlikely to help what is left of its credibility.

From Khilafat to Gujarat

The Gujarat violence following the Godhra massacre is eerily like a mirror image of the Moplah Rebellion: then it was the Muslim Moplahs who rebelled, while in Gujarat it was the Hindus from all segments of society. But the causes were different. The Muslims Moplahs were rebelling in the cause of a foreign theocratic symbol—the defunct Caliphate—while the Hindus of Gujarat were reacting to an assault on a deeply held national symbol, their devotion to Rama. This is neither theocratic nor anti-national, though the secularist intellectuals and the media have spared no efforts to portray it as such by reversing the truth. More significantly, the continuing course of minority appeasement has led to a stage when the Hindus no longer believe that the Constitution and the courts can protect them. Many now feel that the government will not protect them, and they must rise up to protect their own interests.

This is the real significance of Godhra: the disenfranchised majority community is rejecting national institutions like the Constitution and the courts as pandering to anti-national forces. The suspicions in the minds of the Hindus seem confirmed by the fact that each amendment of the Constitution and several religious laws passed—as in the Shah Bano case—as well as several court rulings appear to be taking the country further away from them and further down the road of appeasement. And all this is supposedly needed to safeguard secularism. And now the Hindus are saying—enough is enough.

Secularism: shattered illusions

The reaction to Godhra has shattered several illusions, notably the belief that Hindu tolerance and patience can be taken for granted, while Muslim sensibilities have to be handled with care. (This is the central principal of dhimmitva followed by Indian intellectuals and the media.) The folly of this belief was exposed in the Babri Masjid demolition in 1992, but the secularists were not willing to learn the lesson. Actually the late K.M. Munshi warned against it more than fifty years ago. In a letter he wrote to the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, Munshi observed:

“In its (i.e., secularism’s) name, politicians again adopt a strange attitude which, while it condones the susceptibilities, religious and social of the minorities, it is too ready to brand similar susceptibilities in the majority community as communalistic and reactionary. How secularism sometimes becomes allergic to Hinduism will be apparent from certain episodes relating to the reconstruction of the Somnath Temple. …These unfortunate postures have been creating a sense of frustration in the majority community. If, however, the misuse of the term ‘secularism’ continues, …if every time there is an inter-community conflict, the majority is blamed regardless of the merits of the question, the springs of traditional tolerance will dry up. …While the majority exercises patience and tolerance, the minorities should adjust themselves to the majority. Otherwise the future is uncertain and an explosion cannot be avoided.”

            This has now come to pass. Another shattered illusion is the idea of the class conflict that is implicit in the Indian intelligentsia. Both academics and non-academics have long proclaimed that the lower castes and the tribals together with the Muslims are in a perpetual state of struggle against the ‘Brahminical’ oppression by upper caste Hindus. The Gujarat riots have shown the opposite to be true. The most violent reaction against the Muslims came from the dalits, the depressed classes and the tribals. It appears the worst oppressors of these people were not the caste Hindus, but Muslim moneylenders and contractors, who in many instances did not scruple to take advantage of the vulnerability of the women belonging to these classes. The backlash to Godhra has come mainly from these people, in rural and tribal areas.

            In spite of this catastrophic failure, there are no indications of the secularists coming out of their self-made web of delusions. This is not surprising, for intellectuals rarely re-examine the foundations of their belief and convert. As Max Planck, one of the founders of Quantum Physics observed in 1936:

            “An important scientific innovation rarely makes its way by gradually winning over and converting its opponents: it rarely happens that Saul becomes Paul. What does happen is that its opponents gradually die out and that the growing generation is familiarized with the idea from the beginning.”

             This will be the fate also of the secularists and their ideology: both will become irrelevant and extinct through the passage of time, and the succeeding generations will grasp the lessons of their failure right from the start. In the meantime, in the few years of active life still left for them, the secularists are likely to cause considerable damage to society. The Hindus today are in an enraged state, feeling that they have been disenfranchised in their own country while the groups that have openly expressed their hostility to their homeland have been continually appeased with nothing to show in return. At a time like this, what is needed is a healing touch, not more abuse heaped on the Hindus and their beliefs, adding fuel to the fire. But this is precisely what the secularists are engaged in: their concern now is not society but salvaging their own shattered reputations. They are engaged in a massive face-saving campaign in which truth has no place and logic has given way to sophistry. It will get them nowhere, for they cannot fool everyone forever and they will sink deeper into self-deception.

The greatest mistake that any minority group can make is to place their trust in these defeated souls. A drowning man doesn’t save others— he will only take others down with him. This is what is likely to happen to those who are taken in by their bluff, “sound and fury signifying nothing,” as Shakespeare put it.

This has a special lesson for Christians whose leaders seem to be acting under the combination of an atavistic anti-Hinduism and unseemly opportunism. As during the staged ‘Church bombings’ a couple of years ago, some Christian leaders are trying to discredit Hinduism and the Indian Government by indulging in an international propaganda campaign on the issue of the Gujarat carnage. It has now come to light that a leading Indian Christian propagandist—one Father Cederick Prakash—was behind the recent European Union report that gave wildly exaggerated stories about the atrocities simply to discredit the Gujarat Government. He may feel clever for having scored some propaganda points, but he has hardly helped fellow Christians with his cleverness. Christians should understand that their best safeguard is the goodwill of the majority. It is a carefully nurtured illusion that European countries and America will come to their rescue in times of trouble. This shows that they have still not come out of their colonial mindset. But fools rush in where angels fear to tread.

Europe following India?

            In analyzing the current world situation, one basic fact stands out: the world is terrified of Islam and the violence that it brings. If this fear is a recent phenomenon, which did not come to the surface during the era of European imperialism, it is only because the means of destruction now available are far more lethal and extensive. Also, the European military superiority, which was a major source of power in colonization, has not been of much help in combating terrorism today. It should be an object of humility to the West that both the means of massive destruction—if not mass destruction—and the training necessary for it were provided by the Western countries themselves in pursuit of nebulous goals.

There is still an unwillingness to face the truth of the Islamist threat—resulting in policies of appeasement and craven opportunism. To take an example: by any logic, India should be an invaluable ally in the fight against terrorism. But western countries never miss an opportunity to condemn India for real or imagined persecution of Muslims in the hope of gaining some Muslim goodwill, which of course will never be forthcoming. On the other hand, the West will continue to be the target of Islamic hatred, while simultaneously losing the trust and goodwill of India. This is exactly what happened soon after the sanctimonious utterances of the European Union (led by Britain and France) over Gujarat— a car bomb exploded in Karachi killing a dozen Frenchmen. The West should learn a basic lesson: it cannot divert Muslim anger to India by taking an anti-Hindu stand. It is both craven and unsound.

            Recent developments suggest that politically and intellectually Europeans are falling into the same trap of appeasement and self-delusion that India is coming out of. As Bat Ye’or pointed out: “Today, the United States and Europe compete for the favor of the Muslim world by once again abandoning the victimized peoples to its mercies. The Gulf War against Saddam Hussein on the question of oil interests (1991) was redeemed by the destruction of Yugoslavia and the creation of new centers of Islamist influence in the heart of the Balkans… The war to annihilate Serbia was intended to punish the crimes of Milosevic and his regime, but the media campaigns endeavored to calm the anti-Westernism in the Muslim world and of Muslim immigrants in Europe. It also helped to gain forgiveness for the war on Iraq by a strong pro-Muslim counterbalancing policy in the Balkans.”

            But this appeasement—sacrificing innocent victims of Islamic imperialism to save themselves—is unlikely to work. There is no sign of a corresponding response of gratitude from the Muslim world. Appeasement is a one-way street. The French have probably been the leaders in this appeasement race, but they were themselves victims of terrorist bombings in Karachi. European Christian organizations in particular, beleaguered by declining fortunes in the ‘Christian’ West, are prepared to go to any length just to survive. The Church lives in constant fear of losing Rome to Islam as it lost Jerusalem to the Arabs in the first millennium and Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks in the second. This existential fear is not helped by the presence of Islamic armies in Kosovo, a hundred miles from Trieste on the Italian border, aided and abetted by NATO and the US with their lopsided priorities in the Balkans.

(This shows the utter folly of Indian Christians antagonizing the Hindus in the fantastic hope that the ‘Christian’ West will come to their rescue! Neither Europe nor America has come to the rescue of Christians in Pakistan and Indonesia.)

Conclusion: Look beyond Godhra

            We may now sum up: Godhra is a symptom, not a culmination. It is a sign that the Hindus have had enough of ‘secularism’. It is also a sign that a significant section of Muslims—or at least its leadership—believes that threat of violence always works. Any debate now must look beyond the immediate events to search for the causes that led to the bloodbath. And this debate must be directly between the participants, the Hindus and Muslims, without ‘secular’ intermediaries who have a stake in keeping alive old antagonisms. The facts however are simple: the majority community has been made the scapegoat by an opportunist group of appeasing politicians and self-serving alienated intelligentsia. In the name of secularism, these products of dhimmitude have sought to treat the Hindus as contented slaves who should cooperate in their self-aggrandizement. The Hindus are rejecting both their labels and their ‘secularism’, which they have seen through as nothing but minority appeasement plus dhimmitva.

            What the reaction to Godhra suggests is that the ancient civilization of India is recovering its historical sense and begun to throw off the remnants of Islamic imperialism. Secularist historians have been telling us that India was under imperial rule for only two hundred years or so. The truth is that a large part of India, especially North India was under Islamic rule for nearly five hundred years, until it was replaced by the British rule. The imperial mindset of Muslims however continues to this day. This can be seen in their insistence on being ruled according to Arab Law (Shariat), their insistence on the sacredness of imperial symbols like the Babri Masjid among others. Many Muslim leaders still believe that India should be run as an Islamic state, with Shariat as the law of the land and Hindus as dhimmis. This is essentially the attitude of the secularists also, superficially Westernized, but who vociferously argue for special treatment for Muslims. This is driven by fear of losing their privileged status among the dhimmis. This is what makes them see rising Hindu nationalism as the enemy— for Hindutva and dhimmitva are opposite in vision.

            Godhra is the beginning of the end of dhimmitva. The first to disappear will be the secularists. Then it will be a struggle for nationhood, of true nationalism based on the vision of ancient sages down to modern ones like Sri Aurobindo and Swami Vivekananda, against dhimmitva and its beneficiaries.



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