Guest Column By Gautam Sen
The hammer blow of Partition to the integrity of the Indian State has been followed by remorseless external pressure from Pakistan and its American and Chinese allies. The role of Pakistan and China has remained pretty much unchanged?a coincidence of neighbourhood geopolitical interests, ideological fervour and, most of all, the tempting feebleness of the Indian State and porosity of its society. India seemed to gain brief respite in the 1970s owing to Pakistani errors of judgement and venal arrogance, which led to Bangladeshi secession. But it turned out to be a temporary reversal. Indeed, Bangladesh'ssubsequent self-willed Islamic militancy and implacable hostility towards India are more than any Islamabad administration, perennially alienated from its eastern region, could have anticipated within an undivided Pakistan. What alone now stands between India and its external enemies are economic growth and military modernization and the resultant ability to give a good account of itself in the battlefield.
Thus, it is India'sdomestic, political, social and demographic transformation that holds the key to its potential disintegration as the truncated State that achieved sovereign independence in 1947. More importantly, the deterrence its economic progress and military resilience has dictated on its neighbourhood enemies is vulnerable to the same domestic political strife that is resulting in the peaceful de facto Islamization of India. The magic number seems to be a fifth of the vote, which enables an Islamic bloc vote to exercise a veto over the political system, as evident in Bihar and West Bengal since the late 1970s. It seems to be the crucial pre-condition for attaining durable influence, though in legitimate conformity with the democratic electoral process. And disciplined strategic voting has already yielded startling dividends at the federal level itself because an Islamic bloc vote of only 14 per cent has already rendered opponents politically impotent.
So impressive is this emerging political scenario that it simultaneously demonstrated its potency in two related opposite developments of political hemorrhage and human tragedy. The first was the now apparent fissure within the Sangh Parivar as it led a governing coalition comprising partners partially, but crucially, beholden to Muslim votes. One important group within the Parivar wished to accommodate the disparate voting constituency necessary to the survival of the coalition, the other deemed it appeasement and betrayal of the majority Hindu community. The second event was the rage of mobs in Gujarat in 2002, who had concluded that the Indian State apparatus was unable or unwilling to deliver justice to Hindus.
The overawing of India'sentire political elite by the murderous Jihadi General, Musharraf is a potent symbol whose meaning will not be lost to Muslim strategists across the entire region.
The latter event has strengthened both the resolve and self-justification of geographically dispersed Islamic communities in India to pursue their strategy to vote as a bloc. The resulting electoral outcome in May 2004 has thrown into relief its success in achieving the fundamental underlying purpose of restoring the historic dominance of Islam in India and neutering its opponents. Muslims have turned their real or imagined (in most of India) sense of insecurity into virtual political impregnability in a matter of months. It is also in the process of humbling its opponents on a grand scale. The demand for the arrest of the former deputy Prime Minister, Shri L. K. Advani, the most successful Hindu political leader of the 20th century is truly a study in ambition and boldness. The end of the Ayodhya campaign in a whimper, apparently once-and-for-all, must also be a vindication of the strategy of steadfast electoral unity.
The ongoing exclusion of virtually all individuals judged Hindu nationalists from even minor public appointments, directly or indirectly controlled by the State, is noteworthy for the speed with which it is being accomplished. The Indian media is also routinely censoring the news and actively promoting political causes to conform to the dictates of the new configuration of political power in India. The Islamic campaign to remove from the public realm any text remotely skeptical of Islam, which usually means ousting it from the school and college curriculum, must surely now threaten the foremost Hindu intellectuals of the past millennium, Bankim Chandra Chatterjee and Sir V. S Naipaul. They are rightly or wrongly critical of Islam and that seems to be the sole criterion for judging the veracity and suitability of a text. Luckily, the sublime Italian, Alighieri Dante, one of Europe'sgreatest writers, is unknown in India because his purple prose on the Prophet Mohammed would pose an extraordinary ideological test for the present dispensation.
Already, crucial areas of public policy, like the detention of suspected terrorists, have had to resort to subterfuges in order to retain essential formulations legislated by earlier governments. These are getting short shrift because leaders of the Islamic bloc vote are determined to have them removed from the statute comprehensively. Their demand for ?due process? and constitutionality will be supported by many, provided outrages committed by released detainees do not trouble them directly. Other important policy issues relate to the non-implementation of the deportation of illegal aliens and the end to censuses that identify them until it is meaningless to engage in either, because their second and third generation progeny are too deeply rooted to dislodge. Their electoral clout, in turn, must then be reckoned in the calculus of politics and on a far greater scale than the prior impact of the first generation of illegal aliens.
The overawing of India'sentire political elite by the murderous Jihadi General, Musharraf is a potent symbol whose meaning will not be lost to Muslim strategists across the entire region. The worthy heirs of the Hindu-baiting late Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Generals Yahya, Tikka Khan, Farman Ali and Niazi (the latter rapist and murderer lionized by the Indian media) have good cause to hope for final triumph against shameless Hindus, without political acumen in the bargain. In this context, the contemporary demand of Wakf status for the Taj Mahal highlights a potent realization among Islamic strategists that unimaginable resources are available to the Ummah in India if Wakf incomes can be re-appropriated for political purposes instead of private benefit. They also correctly judge that regardless of the outcome vis-?-vis the Taj Mahal, it'sthe appropriate moment politically to wield Wakfs in India for purposes originally intended by their great Caliphs, which is to advance the cause of Islam.
Whether this broad political electoral strategy will eventually allow far-reaching constitutional amendments to consolidate the place of Islam in Indian society, with appropriately quiescent majorities in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, remains to be seen.
Whether this broad political electoral strategy will eventually allow far-reaching constitutional amendments to consolidate the place of Islam in Indian society, with appropriately quiescent majorities in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, remains to be seen. India'sdemocratic constitutional process would permit a place of permanent privilege for Islam and the Sharia to be enshrined, just as it has enabled the imposition of unfair discriminatory provisions that ignore legitimate alternative criterion for equal and just treatment. But politically dominant groups in India have carte blanche and can legislate what others may rightly judge unreasonable.
The fate of the latter can be inferred from earlier sub-continental experience. The highly educated will flee unlamented because they will be remembered as irredeemable upper caste exploiters. The detested bhadrolok, who incubated the bourgeois romance of Rabindranath Tagore, the pretensions of Satyajit Ray and the incomparable Vivekananda, slyly denounced by secular Bengalis as communal, will be gone. They will be exiled again, as they have been repeatedly in two generations. The ingenious Tamil Brahmins, who fled their home state in large numbers from a mindless totalitarianism that knows no decency, all the while holding aloft Indian science, will go too. Their hated fellow Brahmins in rest of the South and East, the sponsors of India'sIT revolution, will be extinguished as well. A land of the pure, uncorrupted by human imagination and curiosity, will surely replace it. An austere Talibanized India will rise to haunt the world. The Ummah'sreach will be complete and its ire invincible.
(The writer is Director, Gandhi-Einstein Foundation, London and New Delhi and Lecturer at London School of Economics.)