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Barack Obama, terrorism and "cultural" nationalism

by Mustafa Khan, 7 November 2008

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Nationalism is and should be natural or strong devotion to your nation. But this natural tendency is warped by the clout of the dominant majority and acquires different hues like tribal nationalism of the Hutus and Tutsi in Congo and Rwanda, cultural nationalism of the right wing Hindus, religious nationalism as of Saudi Arabia, and racial and religious as of Sudan. In conflict zone the natural nationalism is stunted by the superimposed consideration of race, religion, region, culture, origin, etc. In the fight against terrorism this superimposed ideology plays havoc. In Sudan’s Dahfur region the native Muslims of African origin are suppressed and oppressed by the janjiwads or Muslims of Arab origin, the ruling elite. Overwhelming Arab nationalists do not view the terror unleashed upon the Dahfurians by the janjiwads as terror.

In India there is attempt to rationalize the ever-latent-so-far-but-newly-discovered Hindu terrorism of the ilk of Sadhvi Pragayasingh Thakur. All the Hindus like all the Muslims cannot be terrorists nor can a religion be dubbed as terrorist despite the creed of jihad or the mythical opening of the third eye of Shiva.

The compulsive competitive opposition between the right wing Hindutva and the rest representing a spectrum of views from the liberal to cautious rationalist is throwing up many grave matters that touch upon the national security of the country. Among them are: can the self-professed protestations of "cultural" nationalism be allowed vigilantism and are the recent bomb blasts in the country a matter of huge amount of funding for terror.

The right wing is in the habit of describing all terrorist acts in the country as the handiwork of the Jihad inspired Muslims. In such gory incidents only Hindus have had the pain of suffering, according to them. Therefore the insidious suggestion of the need for Hindu vigilante group to save Hindus from terrorism. Such is the false syllogism on the horns of a dilemma. To have natural or "cultural" nationalism. In all this, where does the aspiration of the Muslims for natural nationalism figure in when they sing a hymn to Allah "to decorate my nation with my life blood/ like flowers glorifying the garden"? (ho mere dum se yuhin mayre vatan ki zinat/ jis tarha hoti hai phoolon se chaman ki zinat).

As the security agencies are probing funds pouring into the country to madrasas and other organizations the need of the hour is to investigate the foreign and native (including siphoning of government funds under deceptive headings) funding of the RSS and its affiliates of all hues. In the present case of Malegaon blast of September 29 police have arrested the financier of the Malegaon blast, Ajay Eknath Rahirkar. Sameer Kulkarni was paid five thousand rupees a month. Like that how many others are on the pay sheets? The sum total would come to astronomical figures given the widespread humongous establishments of RSS. In addition Madhya Pradesh has sent a lawyer, Ganesh Savle, to fight the case of the Sadhvi and other accused. Chief Minister Narendra Modi has gifted hefty amount to the Sadhvi that has made her affluent enough to have vehicles and modern houses in different towns of different states all of a sudden, unthinkable in the case of a country girl from down trodden Chambal and Morena belt!

Where cash does not count RDX counts. How come the intelligence officer Srikant Purohit of lieutenant colonel rank having free and easy access to ordnance stocks hatch conspiracy in which RDX has played the most disastrous role and has thereby brought the enviable repute of communalism-free army to disrepute. This has serious strategic implications for our nation (nation, in the natural sense of the word). Or did he also subscribe to the nation in the warped and exclusionary sense of Hindu rashtra?

As BJP president Rajnath Singh has remarked that anyone who believes in "cultural" nationalism cannot be a terrorist. There was a moving demonstration of this as the police cavalcade bearing the accused neared the session court in Nasik where the mammoth gathering of Ahinav Bharat and Shiv Sena activists showered flowers on it with shouts of "Hinduon ka nara hai, Hindustan hamara hai."[The slogan of the Hindus is that India is theirs] "Hindustan Hinduon ka, nahi kisi ke bap ka."[India belongs to Hindus and is not the property of the father of any body’s] Hindu rashtra has virtually arrived. In such a rashtra you cannot dare to have any lawyer defend a Muslim accused in terrorism. Let alone that even a serving jawan of BSF Arif Hussain Khati of Sherud, Dhulia, on duty defending the country in a part of Kashmir, cannot claim either his national identity or his house as his own. The crowd that burnt his identity card and house along with his military uniform knew only the "cultural nationalism" to which he could not belong. As a contrast to this Lt Col Purohit and Major (retired)Upadhya and other military officers involved in Malegaon bombings have the cultural national identity. Look at the sea of afffron flags and the surge of emotion at the court scene where the accused were cheered and applauded as heroes. It bodes good for the cultural nationalism but the chanting of the discriminating slogans tolls the knell of natural nationalism, at least for the time being or till sanity prevails upon the misguided and laws of the land are allowed take the course of action.

However, in the aftermath of the President Bush and Prime Minister Manmohansigh’s meeting in October it is clear that India will be involved in fighting what is ordinarily described as Jihad terrorism as it is going on in Afghanistan but surprisingly not in Iraq, at leas not in the view of the president elect Barack Obama. This is how the nation must feel proud to have entered the nuclear club of the western nations.
Obama’s fight against terrorism poses a challenge to the artificially created hype on terrorism in India. It calls for a supra national approach to confront the menace of terrorism in our backyard. Widespread belief among the people in India is that Kashmiri terrorism is Islamic terrorism. It verges on terrorism as an alternate to Islamism. Obama would like India to settle its dispute with Pakistan over Kashmir and join the so-called ’war on terrorism’ in Afghanistan. This sounds anathema to many but it has potential for the future. After having adopted cultural nationalism (which intentionally excludes Muslims and other minorities) as Indian nationalism (love for the country of birth and residence) the right wing groups would be at pains to make out how could it be that they would be essentially helping one group against another of the same faith! One swears by Islam as much as the other. That is no man’s land to fight terrorism. Here at home the beard, the tunic and the round cap were enough to identify but over there everyone is alike. The odd man should be out.