Sunday, November 22, 2015

How Bombay’s businessmen and the Congress helped create the Shiv Sena - Book Excerpt from 'Hindu Hriday Samrat' by Sujata Anandan

How Bombay’s businessmen and the Congress helped create the Shiv Sena

Shiv Sena was founded on 19 June 1966. In this extract from 'Hindu Hriday Samrat', the author describes how disparate groups got together to free Bombay from the grip of ‘the communists’.
Sujata Anandan  · Jun 19, 2015 · 07:00 pm
How Bombay’s businessmen and the Congress helped create the Shiv Sena
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Madhav Deshpande... an architect by profession...[was] in many ways, the real architect of the Shiv Sena – or, at least, of the concept of a regional force to oppose the then all-powerful Congress for its perceived neglect of the Marathi people, their culture and ethos...

The Shiv Sena was formed in 1966 but it took Thackeray another decade to register his organization as a political party. ‘It was the fear of the Emergency (in 1975) that prompted him to declare a party hierarchy,’ Deshpande had told me then. ‘And nowhere in the party document that they drummed up at the time does Bal Thackeray figure as any functionary. In fact, from president down to secretary and even treasurer, everyone is a non- entity. Thackeray was afraid of being arrested for political activity and so he thought up this brilliant move – to hold power without any responsibility – to escape the consequences.’...

'The communists'

‘All the powerful Congress leaders from the state like SK Patil – the city’s uncrowned king at the time – looked to Delhi to promote themselves and their careers and no one really cared for Maharashtra except to use it to gain a foothold at the Centre,’ says Deshpande. He and many others like him also discovered that the Maharashtrian people and their culture were being subsumed by the larger Indian one and that it did not really show up in the big picture. Bombay’s was just a business community and while the Congress looked towards it to fund its programmes, politically the city was in the grip of ‘the communists’, who, of course, cared neither for Bombay nor for Maharashtra, nor even for New Delhi. Rather, as goes the well- known accusation against them, ‘they unfurled their umbrellas when it rained in the Soviet Union and all their agenda was set by Moscow’.

However, while most Congressmen might indeed have been looking towards New Delhi, there were still a handful of influential ones who did care for the local ethos. In the typical fashion of Congressmen even today, they decided to do something about it – but without really making it official. So did Deshpande. So did Bal Thackeray. And so also did the businessmen of Bombay, who shared the Congress leaders’ paranoia about the communists-led trade unions in this industrial hub of India which had most workers in their grip. Each went about it in their own way but somewhere – and soon – these streams did meet.

'Rise and unite'

So, along with three other friends – Padmakar Adhikari, an architect like himself as also his business partner, Shyam Deshmukh, who worked with a large industrial house in the suburbs and so could be depended upon to muster the labour force together, and Vasant Pradhan, a railway employee who later trained to be a lawyer to help fight the cases of workers – he set up an organization called ‘Ooth ani Ekjut Ho’ or ‘Rise and Unite’. They would visit the community centres and gyms every evening and talk to the workers about their rights and the need to build a parallel regional force that would challenge and take on not just the Congress but also the communists....

Once Thackeray had decided to set up the Shiv Sena, he lost no time in making the announcement in an issue of the Marmik – it appeared as a small notice at the bottom of the centre-spread. The party’s formal launch went almost unnoticed at first (just a coconut cracked at the doorstep of the Thackerays’ home at Kadam Mansion, off Ranade Road in Dadar, marked it). Deshpande and his friends, who were leaving no stone unturned to raise awareness among Maharashtrians and unite them under one banner, did not miss the small print. ‘We realized here was another man like us, fired by the need to do justice to the aspirations of the locals, and we decided that we must not divide the efforts.’ They merged their ‘Ooth ani Ekjuth Ho’ into the Shiv Sena.

‘One man and one magazine'

Marmik’s circulation was then growing by leaps and bounds (around 50,000 at the time with a readership of nearly two lakh, if not more) and people were responding in good measure to Thackeray’s ideas. But when Deshpande met him after seeing the notice in the magazine to ask what the structure of his organization was like, Thackeray was surprised. ‘Structure? There’s no structure. There’s just me, some friends and that announcement so far,’ he said.

‘That will not do,’ said Deshpande. ‘One man and one magazine are just not enough.’ And the architect that he was, he drew up an elaborate ‘structure’ – a hierarchy of what is now called shakha pramukhs (branch heads) and vibhag pramukhs (division heads), drawing upon both the mandals and the Bombay Municipal Corporation’s own division of the city into wards. It is the cadre structure that has stood the Shiv Sena in good stead till today – and saved the party from near-certain decimation at the 2012 municipal elections in Mumbai.

Deshpande also made two discoveries: that Thackeray was rather ‘piddi’ (cowardly) and that he had a great way with words. ‘His turn of phrase was such that he could enthrall the crowds and hypnotize the audiences – provided we could persuade or drag him out of his comfort zone and get him to the dais.’ Since none of the four founders of the Shiv Sena’s precursor – the Rise and Unite movement – had had as much success at holding the attention of their listeners, they decided to push Thackeray to the forefront and declare him the face of their regional movement. Both the Congress and the Communist Party of India (CPI) had split by then and were speaking in two voices for each ideology.

‘That is why we merged our movement into the Shiv Sena and we decided we would have just one voice and that that voice would be Bal Thackeray’s. The Shiv Sena was never meant to be owned by Thackeray or his offspring. Sadly, that is what the movement has been reduced to today,’ rues Deshpande. But before its decline, there was the rise and rise of the Sena, and Bombay’s businessmen and the Congress party had as much to do with its creation and nurture as had Deshpande and his friends. Though ‘Mumbai’ is seen as a city owned by Shiv Sainiks today, it had belonged to the communist parties in the 1960s and the frequent strikes and demands by workers had tired Bombay’s entrepreneurs to the core. At the time, the left parties were the only political challenge to the Congress and both its leaders and the businessmen who funded the Congress wished to see the back of the communist trade unions whose domination even the Congress-sponsored trade unions had failed to break.

Congress bags of cash

By Deshpande’s own admission, Congress leaders then sent him bags of cash to take care of meetings that the Sena might hold or to put up candidates against those of the communist parties to cut into their vote bank by raising the regional sentiment against that of workers’ unity. That’s how they defeated former Union defence minister VK Krishna Menon who had contested from Bombay North with communist support after he was denied a ticket by the Congress on account of his role in India’s debacle in the 1962 war with China. The Sena was also encouraged to form its own workers’ union (the Kamgar Sena, as it is called today) to bring the Marathi and the workers’ sentiments together. The organization (it was not yet a political party) was also covertly protected by the then ruling party in the state, the Congress, then headed by Vasantrao Naik whose record as Maharashtra’s longest-serving chief minister for eleven years remains unbroken. The government clearly looked the other way when one Kamgar Sena leader (who later ended up as a minister in the only Shiv Sena government in Maharashtra so far) was accused of killing a legislator, Krishna Desai, belonging to the Communist Party of India (Marxist) or the CPI(M). Four decades later, though sixteen of Thackeray’s ‘boys’ were convicted for the murder, the case against the mastermind and the Sena tiger who had then congratulated those ‘boys’ for killing Desai by stating that ‘we must not miss a single opportunity to massacre communists,’ is still meandering through the courts. No government has made any effort to bring them to justice. In the subsequent by-election in 1970, the Sena wrested that seat from the CPI(M) with covert Congress support, marking its maiden entry into the state legislature.

Stunning response

Thackeray had not expected a good response to his call to rally when he published a notice for one in the Marmik. He had wanted a small town hall or a school ground as the venue of the first Shiv Sena meeting, just to test the waters. But Deshpande says he overruled the objections of all others and persuaded Thackeray to go for Shivaji Park, Bombay’s best known and, perhaps, the largest open space, a rallying ground for all political parties. (An earlier meeting of the Sena had already been held in a closed hall.)

‘Thackeray was not so sure about the regional sentiment then but I had gauged the response at our meetings at the mandals and the vyayamshalas. Even the policemen who were on bundobast duty that day in 1966 when the first real public meeting was held had been sceptical and mocked me at the start of the meeting. But the response stunned everybody, including Thackeray. There had been no posters, no mobilization, only that notice in Marmik. And yet Shivaji Park was overflowing that day. I knew that we had arrived.’

The bulk of that crowd was drawn from the working classes, and from the ranks of the unemployed and even uneducated people with idle minds. Not surprisingly, the Shiv Sena gathered enough muscle power in no time at all. With the combination of moneybags and political patronage extended to the Shiv Sena by the Congress to do its dirty work, it is no wonder that the Sena became an irresistible force that met, on its own terms, the Communist Party of India (which too packed a few dirty tricks, like murder of opponents, up its sleeves), and eventually broke its back.

Little surprise then, says Deshpande, that they uncovered a conspiracy by the left (for which there is no police record) to assassinate Bal Thackeray. And even less of a surprise, therefore, that whoever Thackeray might have loved or hated (enemies today, friends tomorrow), he abhorred communists the most. Even more than the Congress, Muslims or even more than the south Indians and north Indians, all of whom he has hated at times and befriended at others, he hated the left: he had a constant paranoia of the left. They were his enemies and he would not be persuaded otherwise. That, in a sense, was truly his only ideology.

Congress  backing

The Shiv Sena always had the backing of the Congress, which had an unbroken stint as the ruling party from Independence up until 1995... Through the years of the Shiv Sena’s growth though, the authorities always looked the other way: the Congress had set up Thackeray in business for its own purposes and had to allow the Sena chief some room to secure his own gains. So Shiv Sainiks could get away with much lawlessness with impunity. Moreover, even if successive Congress governments had cracked the whip, they were soon handicapped by the fact that many lower-rung policemen had become Sena sympathizers and closet supporters of Thackeray, a fact that emerged in the open and proved very detrimental to everybody’s interests during the 1992-93 riots in Bombay following the demolition of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya.


WHEN THE SHIV SENA supported the candidature of Pratibha Patil of the Congress for presidency in 2007, Bal Thackeray could pass it off as a move in keeping with the Sena’s raison d’être, the Marathi manoos. The Shiv Sena was, after all, a nativist party and it had always fought for the rights of local Maharashtrians who many, including those in the Congress, thought were being treated as outsiders in their own homeland. The BJP, with whom the Sena has had an alliance now for nearly three decades, could do little to persuade Thackeray otherwise. But they could do even less when, inexplicably, Thackeray decided to once again support the candidature of a Congressman, Pranab Mukherjee, at the subsequent presidential election in 2012, even without any overt appeal from the Congress to his party to do so.

But Thackeray was only going back to his roots in facilitating a Congress victory in those elections. After all, it was this party which had not only helped establish the Shiv Sena in 1966 but had also, both covertly and overtly, flagged its agenda from time to time with some clever and well-thought-out moves of its own. In 1969, when the Shiv Sena decided to block the entry of Morarji Desai, a former chief minister of the undivided Bombay state, into the city, the then chief minister, Vasantrao Naik, decided to look the other way at first. By most accounts, the police were asked to ignore the troublemakers on the streets. Action was taken against the rioters and Bal Thackeray only when things went completely out of hand and it was well-nigh impossible to ignore the growing mayhem across the metropolis.

The Shiv Sena, at that point of time, was proving to be a handy tool in destroying the communist parties which, in some ways, ruled Bombay without quite being in power, much like the Shiv Sena did in later years. Thackeray had also helped the Congress defeat the Communist Party candidates in the legislative assembly and parliamentary elections in those early years. And with the then Maharashtra home minister Balasaheb Desai proving a powerful ally in his pursuit of the Marathi agenda, the Sena grew by leaps and bounds, even winning about forty of the 140 seats in the Bombay Municipal Corporation in 1968 on the Marathi card, just two years after blazing into existence.

Seamless integration

Before Independence, which brought with it universal adult franchise to India without any of the struggles that European nations and even the US had to witness even as late as the twentieth century, only taxpayers could vote or stand for civic elections under the British regime. Not surprisingly then, most of these eligible people were Parsis, Bohra Muslims, Hindu Gujaratis and the British themselves. You could count local Maharashtrians among the voters on the fingers of just one hand. This skewed composition continued well into the years after Independence. The non-Maharashtrians dominated the municipal corporation, despite universal adult franchise, simply because of the headstart that some other groups had had in these matters in the preceding years.

So Thackeray’s ‘Bombay for Maharashtrians’ agenda found great resonance across the board, even among traditional Congress politicians. It is not surprising then that there was, and still continues to be, an almost seamless integration between Congress ideologues and the Marathi agenda of the Shiv Sena.


Excerpted with permission from Hindu Hriday Samrat by Sujata Anandan, published by HarperCollins India
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Thursday, November 19, 2015

Radical West much more dangerous than Radical Islam: Dr. Javed Jamil --- Speech delivered at Mathura International Conference

I just came back after delivering a talk followed by a much heated discussion in the international seminar on “How to understand and co-exist with Radical Islam” organised at Mathura. It was inaugurated by Dr Farooq Abdullah and the speakers included Mr Zafar Islam Khan and Mr. Zafar Sareshwala. Below is the text of my paper.
Radical West much more dangerous than Radical Islam
Dr. Javed Jamil

I am sorry to say that the very title “How to understand and co-exist with Radical Islam” is the result of a pre-conceived mindset born out of the incessant propaganda in the international as well as national media. The greatest truth of the modern times however is that it is almost the total radicalization of West and Westernism rather than that of Islam which has become the biggest foe of peace in every dimension of individual and organized human existence in recent times.
The current conference is being held almost immediately after Paris attacks. Naturally, with the kind of media coverage presenting partial and partisan truths, it becomes even more difficult to understand the whole truth. Let me declare at the outset that I condemn every single act of violence, whatever the identity of the perpetrators, whatever the identity of the victims, whatever the ideology or motive of the perpetrators, religious, non-religious, atheistic or nationalistic, whatever the methodology used, whatever the place and whatever the time. In my view every single death of an innocent is equally condemnable, and the condemnation of every category of violence has to be proportionate to the magnitude of violence. I am with all those who are ready to accept this, but if people insist only on selective condemnation based on political considerations, I am not going to support it. And if the magnitude of violence is made the criterion, I assure you that West at the global level and certain non-Muslim elements in India will have to be condemned hundreds, even thousands of times more than Muslims. Al-Qaeda allegedly killed around 6000 people including 3000 in New York. Other terror groups may have killed at the most tens of thousands. America and its Western allies have killed at least 2 million innocent Muslims in wars against Iraq and Afghanistan and in exported insurgencies in Libya, Syria and Egypt. Do the Muslim innocents deserve lesser sympathy than Western? Are they any less human? And if we examine the role of Big Powers in the wars and civil wars in the last century, these consumed 180 million lives, an overwhelming majority being at the hands of these very big powers who claim to be the champions of peace.
The war between ISIS and West is not a war between a hero on one side and a villain on the other. It is simply a war between two dreadful villains who were each other’s friends till recently. Both of them are killing innocents and whoever wins will be a loss of humanity unless both nullify each other.

India too uses its own terminologies in describing various forms of violence. While any terrorism related to Muslims is highlighted, the terrorism related to other ideologies is hardly discussed. Only a couple of days earlier, a BJP leader said that “99 pc terrorists are Muslims”. I had heard a similar remark in a TV debate with Mr Sonkar Shastri. And I told him that the truth is that the overwhelming majority of Indian terrorism over the years has been linked to non-Muslims. As I have quoted statistics in several articles, more than 95 pc of terrorism related deaths in India in recent years have been caused by Hindu terrorists, not Muslim terrorists. Out of more than 35000 terrorist related deaths in India in last 30 years, more than 33000 are by Hindu terrorists (Naxalites, Ulfa, Bodo, Maoists, and Sikhs). Those allegedly by Muslims relate to not more than 1500. They will always talk of the deaths of few Brahmins in Kashmir (which was rightly condemned by all Muslim organisations) but not about 40000 Kashmiri innocents killed by the armed forces.  I condemn the killing of Kashmiri Pandits -- their number varies from 30-300, according to different official and unofficial estimates -- but I cannot do justice if at the same time I do not condemn the killers of innocent Kashmiri (Muslims).

I must clarify here that when I use “Hindu Terrorism”, it means a link with the Hindu community, not Hindu religion. I firmly believe that terrorism cannot be acceptable to any religion. Even if certain terrorists start describing their acts as religious in hope of attracting more people, it does not prove their case. To call ISIS Islamic is an insult to Islam, a religion that provides the most comprehensive framework of “peace” including all its aspects.
Radicalisation of West is visible in every single institution, every single practice and every single war or civil war the world has been witnessing in the last century. West believes that its set of political, social and economic ideologies, what I call Westernism, is the only correct ideology for the world, and it alone has the right to define various concepts and parameters, and it alone has the right to endeavour through all possible ways, for the propagation and implementation of its ideology. Of course, they have made the world believe, even against their inner beliefs, that religion, individually or collectively, has no role to play in the modern “civilized” world. If the proponents of any other ideology, religious or non-religious, challenge the concepts of Westernism and try to prove the superiority of their ideas, they are mocked, ridiculed and rejected. They are described as “uncivilized”, “radicalized” and “extremist” forces. It is therefore no surprise that even “radicalization” has been given a definition, which suits their ends. So, according to Wikipedia:

“Radicalization (or radicalization) is a process by which an individual or group comes to adopt increasingly extreme political, social, or religious ideals and aspirations that (1) reject or undermine the status quo or (2) reject and/or undermine contemporary ideas and expressions of freedom of choice.”

“Status quo”, of course here means the dominance of Westernism, which should therefore not be challenged. Further, “Freedom of Choice” too does not mean absolute freedom of choice but only freedom of choices determined by the ideologues of Westernism
. As part of the status quo, the world cannot be given any other choice except to endorse the Western model of democracy, Western paradigm of secularism, and Western definitions of “Human Rights”, free market, freedom of expression and “freedom of choice”, Western concepts of Society, West-dominated international organisations, West-sponsored treaties and Western principles of armed interventions.
Moreover, Western leaders and analysts alone have the right to interpret their own ideas, concepts, treaties and agreements in their own ways, even if their interpretations continue to change from time to time, and from country to country.

It is no surprise therefore that West alone (except a few others who have become powerful enough not to accept their monopoly) has the right to amass all kinds of weapons and use them wherever they want for the “protection” of their “interests”.

Again, it is only their interests that matter, and others have absolutely no right to work in accordance with their interests.
Categorization of violence

The most notable form of radicalization of West is its theory of violence and its involvement in violent conflicts. It is working on a well-planned categorization of violence to suit its political and economic ends. Instead of reacting on the basis of the magnitude of violence, its reaction is based on the political considerations. Any violence, which is linked or can be made to appear linked to religion, especially Islam, is worthy of highest condemnation, but any violence, which is related to the effects of West’s ideological or political positions is either not talked about or becomes “collateral damage”.

Look at the American interventions in the Middle East. The latest round of extreme radicalization of America began with 9/11 attacks. Those, whoever they were, who executed the plan perished with the planes. The accused mastermind --- a formal enquiry was not even required for the American administration to act on its assumptions – was killed in an isolated attack about 11 years later in Pakistan. In between, the coalition led by the US devastated two countries and killed 2 million innocents who had nothing to do with 9/11. But the international media did never allow the role of West on Terrorism to be debated, and whenever terrorists’ attacks occur, there is a repeated focus on the radicalization of Islam and Muslims. Nobody dares to ask the Western powers why they killed 2 million innocents, and how they should be made to compensate for this colossal loss of lives.

In recent years, Western role has been prominently there in all the conflicts in the Middle East. But again, it can be seen that their weapons go to the side, which toes their lines, and against those which have refused to surrender to their diktats. And always, the media would blame the loss of lives on the forces that are not pro-West.

In Syria and Libya, they supported the rebels, supplying huge weaponry and all the intelligence required for their operations and held the governments responsible for the bloodshed. In Libya, they succeeded in toppling Gaddafi, in Syria they failed to defeat Assad.

In Yemen, they are supporting the President, who has fled to Saudi Arab, an American ally, against rebels who have already taken over the Palace as well as major areas of the country.

In Egypt, they helped the military stage a coup against an elected President. They were the major suppliers of manpower and weaponry to ISIS when it was battling Assad but are now bombarding them, as they now threaten American allies in the region. ISIS was allowed to prosper in Syria through all kinds of support in the hope that they will topple Assad, and West calculated that once ISIS topples Assad, they would move in to topple ISIS. Now their worry is that Russia has put an end to their plan by swiftly moving in Syria and severely crippling ISIS within two months. ISIS was the creation of West and its fighters were mainly from Europe who were allowed to travel to Syria just because West wanted to change the regime there. Now on the verge of defeat, ISIS fighters are hitting back at the countries which sent them.

Coming back to violence, the categorization of violence has been on political rather than humanitarian lines. If magnitude of the loss of lives due to man-made causes is taken as the criterion of categorization, the following categories will emerge: 
1. Violence caused by human actions: abortions killing more than 50 million humans before birth every year;
2. Diseases like AIDS which has consumed 40 millions in last 2 decades (owing to uninhibited sexuality);
3. Alcohol related deaths: around 3 million every year;
4. Murders: again around 20 million every year;
5. Wars which have consumed 180 million lives in last century and about 2 million since the beginning of this century;
6. Civil wars which might have consumed around 0.3-0.5 million since the year 2000
7. Terrorism, which may have killed around 0.3 million in last 25 years (including Al-Qaeda, LTTE, Indian terrorist organisations like Naxalites)(These are broad estimates only.)

Most of these are the results of the concepts of “freedom” promoted by West and political ideologies aimed at maintaining the hegemony of the world by West, which they have pursued throughout the modern history. Here are a few examples that sum up the radicalization in social, ideological, political and economic arena:
1.    The United Nations is not an organization where all countries have equal status. Five big powers hold the veto power, and nothing can happen in the world without their approval;
2.    While these 5 and a few more can amass nuclear arsenals, others are bound by Non-Proliferation treaty. Anyone trying to acquire nuclear technology, especially if it is not a Western ally, will have to face toughest sanctions and threats of war;
3.    The Big Powers can always invade other countries on one pretext or the other; but they cannot be made accountable for their actions;
4.    Western ideological positions are allowing, in fact promoting, massive commercialisation of human susceptibilities at colossal cost of human lives and health problems.
5.    Their concept of “Freedom of Choice” only means “Freedoms” that suit their economic designs. They can put ban, restrictions and sanctions on anyone or any practice, which does not suit them. So, promiscuity is permitted (with men and women having an option of having as many partners as they like) but polygamy is banned. Marriage before a specified age is punishable under law, but young boys and girls are always free to have sex despite the fact that such relationships lead to huge numbers of foeticide and mortality and morbidity due to sex related diseases. Abortions are permitted but there have been severe restrictions in most countries on multiple children.
6.     When they speak against religious morality, they use “Freedom of expression” as the cover to do it, but when somebody speaks against dangerous practices, he is hounded as an enemy of freedom.
7.    When some rapists or murderers are given death sentences, the Human Rights Activists call for an end to death sentence on the ground of “Right to life” but they forget the same right when it comes to abortions by choice, as if the aborted foetuses are not humans. Human rights activists also never call for laws that can minimize murderous assaults. “Human Rights” in modern world have been reduced to saving criminals from gallows, protecting homosexuality as right (a right which reduces life expectancy of the population by a substantial margin) and protecting the rights of women to kill their foetuses. Obviously, “Human Rights” is a concept designed under the patronage of market forces.
8.    The champions of “Women’s Rights” forget that there cannot be a bigger blot on the face of mankind than the truth that women sell their sexual services, through compulsion or choice, endangering the lives of prostitutes themselves, their clients as well as all those who come into contact with their clients. In the name of “Equality of Women”, men have transferred a lot of their burden to women, while women continue to suffer on account of the new sex and sexuality. It is they who have to take precautions against pregnancy, it is they who become pregnant even when they do not want, it is they who have to abort killing their own children, it is they who have to look after their children if they decide to take birth and in large number of cases, they have to share the burden alone.
It is clear that radical Western ideologies and radical Western powers have disturbed the whole equilibrium and harmony in society. They first commercialise problems and then they commercialise solutions.And they think they alone have the right to invade and bombard countries, they alone have the right to decide all the major policies of the world; they alone have the right to decide the course the countries want to pursue and they alone have the right to teach lessons to others. They have forced the sciences to abandon any discussion on the role of God, they have devised all indices and parameters in a way that suits them; and they do manoeuvre statistics the way they like.
West thinks that West alone knows what is best; and West alone knows how to act or react. What else can be a more extreme form of radicalization? All others forms of Radicalization in the current world including “Radical” Islam are the product, direct or indirect, of Western radicalism. If the world is to be saved from chaos and devastation, the only solution is to abandon all forms of radicalization. And before asking others, West being the leader will have to abandon it, not in parts but in totality. Others will automatically fall in line.
If I wanted, I would have replaced “Radical West” with “Radical Christianity”. West have an overwhelming majority of Christians, and most of the Western political leaders and army men are Christians, at least in theory if not practice. It is also well-known that many Western leaders including George Bush have had deep religious commitments. But I purposely avoided it because it is not the religion but their political and economic ambitions that give rise to radicalism.
Similarly, if a few Muslims fall to radicalism, it is their reaction to West’s political designs and not their (West’s) religious beliefs, which drive them to react in a violent way. Even otherwise, it is nonsense to describe violence more worthy of condemnation if it has any direct or indirect relation with religion than if is related to any secular ideology. The magnitude and not the identity of the perpetrators and victims nor the motive and the method should be more important in planning the solution.
If anyone has the misconception that we are living in a world of science, he is wrong. If anyone thinks ethics have any role, he too is wrong, Religion of course has little role to play in the current world order. Today’s world is solely a world of economics with economic fundamentalism virtually ruling the world. Thanks to the think-tank of the economic fundamentalism, we are living in a world where justice has been sacrificed before the eyes of the Statue of Liberty They have transformed through political manoeuvres the state into their estate. They have incessantly and relentlessly been trying to organise a grand farewell for religion. They have captivated the imagination of the people through the media. They have got the attire of society redesigned so that it looks gorgeous and inviting to their eyes. They have industrialised sex, in which they have discovered the hen that always lays golden eggs. They have relocated the entire educational set-up on the Wall Street.  They have monopolised the tree of economy whose fruits and shadows are only theirs; others can only admire its beauty from a safe distance. They have taken science and technology as their mistresses who are always keen to offer their glorious best to them. They have nipped all the challenges in the buds by masterminding popular movements. They have lynched ‘civilisation’, which has been given a new incarnation; and now Bohemians are called civilised. Last but not the least, they have been busy colonising the good earth in the name of globalisation.
Out of more than 50 Muslim countries, “terrorism”, the kind of violence West loathes, has affected less than a dozen countries, 5-6 in a major way. Indonesia, Malaysia, the erstwhile Soviet Union countries like Azerbaijan, and Uzbekistan, Turkey, Bangladesh, Indonesia, and many other countries have none or a few incidents of terrorism. Much bigger kinds of terrorism has been witnessed by Sri Lanka in the last 3 decades (resulting in death of more than one hundred thousand), and Indian terrorism is mainly a non-Muslim phenomenon involving Naxalites, Ulfa, Bodos, Sikhs, Tamils and Maoists, most of them being born as Hindus.
It can be easily seen that terrorism in Muslim countries is born out of anger against the West, which has continuously tried to keep its puppets in power in those countries against the wishes of the people. Terrorism has obviously been directly proportional to the Western involvement. This is true for Afghanistan, Pakistan and Most Arab countries. Moreover, all the major “terrorist outfits” have been the friends of the West in the past. Al-Qaedah was a close friend when it was fighting the Russians along with Talibans. ISIS too was a friend till it was fighting the Syrian government. Where from did ISIS get its heavy weaponry? Of course, most of it came from West or Western allies in the region. If even now, America is not launching a full-fledged onslaught on ISIS, it is simply because ISIS is expected to put pressure on Syrian regime. Till Syrian regime does not wilt under ISIS pressure, ISIS will remain a friendly enemy.
If Indian Muslims have not radicalised, it is chiefly because India has remained free of Western intervention, and Indian polity, despite its recurrent communal ups and downs, has largely remained plural in nature. If Indian Muslims ever get radicalised, it will be due to Indian issues and not the ones that interest West. If however, West succeeds in pulling India into its own wars, which Obama tried during his talks with the Indian Premier; India may also go the Pakistan, Afghanistan or Iraq way. But Indian Muslims are confident that sanity will continue to prevail in Indian polity, and India will not join the Western aggression against Muslim countries. India recognises it well that, in the longer run, Muslim countries, with their enormous wealth and population, can be of great economic value to India.  
For well over a decade, the global media has been busy discussing the role of Islam and Muslims in violence. But nobody questions the role of West and its ideologies. People blame “Jihad” or “Jihadism,” for violence, but nobody bothers to challenge the military ideology of West, its use of violence to perpetuate its hegemony, its readiness to wage wars on the slightest pretext, its continuous arming of the rebel groups, its sordid machination in the Muslim countries, and its own record in all kinds of violence. Nobody asks them “How come West killed 2 million innocent Muslims when al-Qaeda did not kill even 6000 Western innocents?” Nobody asks them about their own ever-rising crime rates, killing of millions of foetuses, their own statistics of suicides and their own wars against other countries and instigation of rebellions against the regimes they do not like. Nobody questions their resolve to support Israel even if it is killing women and children in thousands.
The time has come now when all the right-thinking intellectuals must ask the West to stop talking about Islam’s and Muslims’ role, and instead focus on its own role. Let the global media discuss Western military ideologies in details and their roles in the destruction of human lives! Before studying Islamic Jihad, let Western philosophies of confrontation, combat and wars be discussed in all its minute details. Let this continue for at least one year before debating the Muslim factor again! Instead of criticising the others, let the West learn to face criticism! Let the West allow their own people to know the whole truth, rather than the truncated truth. Violence cannot be minimised unless every single factor responsible is discussed and effectively addressed.
Radicalisation is a universal phenomenon these days, but it is the radicalisation of West, not Muslims, which is the biggest breeder of the global violence. Radicalisation is bad –Western, Hindutva or Islamic. And it is bad in proportion to the amount of fire power each possesses. The powerful indulges in wars and instigates civil wars and riots. The weak indulges in terrorism and guerrilla wars. 
Let me make it clear that this paper may appear to be a statement against West, but it is not against Western people or Western nations; it is at the most a commentary on the socioeconomic and political system that prevails in West and has become rapidly globalised. However, it is not the common Western people who are primarily responsible for it. They are as good and as bad as any people can be on the surface of the earth. I have great respect for their scientists and many thinkers who have given comforts to mankind through their inventions and discoveries. But like all people, they too become the victims of the designs of the few who tend to reign and rule the countries, societies and communities.  Like all the people most of the time they have failed to realise what their masters are up to. Like all the people though, one day will come, hopefully sooner than later, when they will realize the vices of the system that has brought havoc in their lives and the lives of their brothers and sisters in rest of the humankind. Hopefully they will rise to the occasion and challenge the system that has claimed to give them certain prosperity but has ravished peace, has claimed to give them freedom but through this freedom has made them addicts of dangerous practices and attitudes and has made them perpetual captives of their ever increasing material needs.
If the so-called Islamic radicalisation has to be controlled, following steps will have to be taken:
1.    Total disengagement of Western and other foreign powers from Muslim lands;
2.    Full stop to attempts to change regimes;
3.    Respect to Islam and its role in international system;
4.    Equal powers to all countries in the UN;
5.    Full stop to Islamophobic campaigns in the media.
Lastly, a word about India. Time has now come when the religionists belonging to all religions need to be emphatic about the true aims of religion. They must recognize the fact that the anti-religion economic forces have successfully turned one religion against another.Religions seem to be fighting one another instead of fighting their common enemy: Irreligion and the dominance of the ideology of economic fundamentalism in the affairs of life. The people today are merely interested in the rituals of the religion without inculcating the morality, honesty, integrity, perseverance, patience, purity and God’s fear and love in their minds; they are not interested in waging a campaign against the social vices. The market forces are commercializing human susceptibilities in a big way. Beaches, Casinos, Bars, Nightclubs, nude shows, prostitution, etc have become symbols of freedom. Foetuses are being killed in the name of Women’s rights; criminals are being protected in the name of human rights. Everybody talks of Rights. Nobody talks of Duties and Fundamental Prohibitions, without which a peaceful society cannot develop. While all religions are to unite, the primary duty lies with four big religions: Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity and Islam. Christianity, Judaism and Islam need to work together in West, and Hinduism and Islam need to initiate the movement in India taking Christians, Buddhists, Sikhs and Jainis along with them.
But if any two communities can be the true leaders in the revival of true religion, it is Muslims and Hindus of India. India is a deeply religious country where 95 pc of the people believe in God and the importance of the religion. Hindus and Muslims together form more than 90 pc of the population. If they come together, they can become a role model for the whole world. Their views regarding the integrity of family system, sanctity of marriage and against prostitution, pornography, alcohol, gambling, economic disparity, corruption and inflation are almost the same. Why can they not come together on these issues and work for a cleaner, purer, healthier, more peaceful and more prosperous society? The only condition is that they have to see religion in terms of religious morality and not in terms of the identity of the communities. Communalism has nothing to do with religion, and is in fact the product of political and economic fundamentalism. Religion teaches love for all; communalism teaches hatred for other communities. Let us kill communalism and revive religion!
         Dr Javed Jamil is India based thinker and writer with over a dozen books including his latest, “Qur’anic Paradigms of Sciences & Society” (First Vol: Health), “Muslims Most Civilised, Yet Not Enough” and “Muslim Vision of Secular India: Destination & Road-map”. Other works include “The Devil of Economic Fundamentalism”, “The Essence of the Divine Verses”, “The Killer Sex”, “Islam means Peace” and “Rediscovering the Universe”. Read more about him at Facebook page: He can be contacted at or 91-8130340339.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Our terrorism double standard: After Paris, let’s stop blaming Muslims and take a hard look at ourselves - By Ben Norton - SALON


SUNDAY, NOV 15, 2015 01:18 AM IST

Our terrorism double standard: After Paris, let’s stop blaming Muslims and take a hard look at ourselves

We must mourn all victims. But until we look honestly at the violence we export, nothing will ever change

Our terrorism double standard: After Paris, let's stop blaming Muslims and take a hard look at ourselvesAn Indian child pays floral tribute at a sand sculpture created in remembrance of victims of Friday's attacks in Paris, in Bhubaneswar, India.(Credit: AP)
Any time there is an attack on civilians in the post-9/11 West, demagogues immediately blame it on Muslims. They frequently lack evidence, but depend on the blunt force of anti-Muslim bigotry to bolster their accusations.
Actual evidence, on the other hand, shows that less than two percent of terrorist attacks from 2009 to 2013 in the E.U. were religiously motivated. In 2013, just one percent of the 152 terrorist attacks were religious in nature; in 2012, less than three percent of the 219 terrorist attacks were inspired by religion.
The vast majority of terrorist attacks in these years were motivated by ethno-nationalism or separatism. In 2013, 55 percent of terrorist attacks were ethno-nationalist or separatist in nature; in 2012, more than three-quarters (76 percent) of terrorist attacks were inspired by ethno-nationalism or separatism.
These facts, nonetheless, have never stopped the prejudiced pundits from insisting otherwise.
On Friday the 13th of November, militants massacred at least 127 people in Paris in a series of heinous attacks.
There are many layers of hypocrisy in the public reaction to the tragedy that must be sorted through in order to understand the larger context in which these horrific attacks are situated — and, ultimately, to prevent such attacks from happening in the future.

Right-wing exploitation

As soon as the news of the attacks broke, even though there was no evidence and practically nothing was known about the attackers, a Who’s Who of right-wing pundits immediately latched on to the violence as an opportunity to demonize Muslims and refugees from Muslim-majority countries.
In a disgrace to the victims, a shout chorus of reactionary demagogues exploited the horrific attacks to distract from and even deny domestic problems. They flatly told Black Lives Matter activists fighting for basic civil and human rights, fast-food workers seeking liveable wages and union rights, and students challenging crippling debts that their problems are insignificant because they are not being held hostage at gunpoint.
More insidiously, when evidence began to suggest that extremists were responsible for the attacks, and when ISIS eventually claimed responsibility, the demagogues implied or even downright insisted that Islam — the religion of 1.6 billion people — was to blame, and that the predominately (although not entirely) Muslim refugees entering the West are only going to carry out more of such attacks.

Clampdown on Muslims and refugees

Every time Islamic extremists carry out an attack, the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims are expected to collectively apologize; it has become a cold cliché at this point.
Who benefits from such clampdown on Muslims and refugees?
Two primary groups: One, Islamic extremist groups themselves, who use the clampdown as “evidence” that there is supposedly no room for Muslims in the secular West that has declared war on Islam; and two, Europe’s growing far-right, who will use the attacks as “evidence” that there is supposedly no room for Muslims in the secular West that should declare war on Islam.
Although enemies, both groups share a congruence of interests. The far-right wants Muslims and refugees from Muslim-majority countries (even if they are not Muslim) to leave because it sees them as innately violent terrorists. Islamic extremists want Muslim refugees to leave so they can be radicalized and join their caliphate.
More specifically, to name names, ISIS and al-Qaeda will benefit from the clampdown on Muslims and refugees, and Europe’s growing far-right movement will continue to recruit new members with anti-Muslim and anti-refugee propaganda.
ISIS has explicitly stated that its goal is to make extinct what it calls the “grayzone” — that is to say, Western acceptance of Muslims. The “endangerment” of the grayzone “began with the blessed operations of September 11th, as those operations manifested two camps before the world for mankind to choose between, a camp of Islam … and a camp of kufr — the crusader coalition,” wrote ISIS in its own publication.
An excerpt from ISIS' own publication (Credit: Iyad El-Baghdadi)
An excerpt from ISIS’ own publication (Credit: Iyad El-Baghdadi)
Demonstrating how right-wing and Islamic extremist logic intersect, ISIS actually favorably cited the black-and-white worldview shared ironically by both former President George W. Bush and his intractable foe, al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. ISIS wrote: “As Shaykh Usamah Ibn Ladin said, ‘The world today is divided into two camps. Bush spoke the truth when he said, “Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists.” Meaning, either you are with the crusade or you are with Islam.'”
By making ISIS go viral, we are only helping them accomplish their sadistic goals.
In the meantime, France’s extreme right-wing National Front party stands to gain in particular. The party — which was founded by a neo-Nazi and is now led by his estranged daughter Marine Le Pen — constantly rails against Muslims, whom it hypocritically characterizes as Nazi occupiers. In 2014, a Paris court ruled it was fair to call the National Front “fascist.”
Before the Paris attacks, Le Pen’s extreme-right movement was France’s second-largest party. Now it may become the first.

The massacres that are ignored

There are hundreds of terrorist attacks in Europe every year. The ones that immediately fill the headlines of every news outlet, however, are the ones carried out by Muslims — not the ones carried out by ethno-nationalists or far-right extremists, which happen to be much more frequent.
Yet it is not just right-wing pundits and the media that give much more attention to attacks like those in Paris; heads of state frequently do so as well. Minutes after the Paris attacks, Presidents Hollande and Obama addressed the world, publicly lamenting the tragedy. Secretary John Kerry condemned them as “heinous, evil, vile acts.”
Notable was the official silence surrounding another horrific terrorist attack that took place only the day before. Two ISIS suicide bombers killed at least 43 people and wounded more than 230 in attacks on a heavily Shia Muslim community in Beirut on November 12. President Obama did not address the world and condemn the bombings, which comprised the worst attack in Beirut in years.
In fact, the opposite happened; the victims of the ISIS attacks were characterized in the U.S. media as Hezbollah human shields and blamed for their own deaths based on the unfortunate coincidence of their geographical location. Some right-wing pundits even went so far as to justify the ISIS attacks because they were assumed to be aimed at Hezbollah.
Nor did the White House interrupt every news broadcast to publicly condemn the ISIS massacre in Turkey in October that left approximately 128 people dead and 500 injured at a peaceful rally for a pro-Kurdish political party.
More strikingly, where were the heads of state when the Western-backed, Saudi-led coalition bombed a Yemeni wedding on September 28, killing 131 civilians, including 80 women? That massacre didn’t go viral, and Obama and Hollande did not apologize, yet alone barely even acknowledge the tragedy.
Do French lives matter more than Lebanese, Turkish, Kurdish, and Yemeni ones? Were these not, too, “heinous, evil, vile acts”?

Oddly familiar

We have seen this all before; it should be oddly familiar. The reaction to the horrific January 2015 Paris attacks was equally predictable; the knee-jerk Islamophobia ignored the crucial context for the tragic attack — namely the fact that it was was the catastrophic U.S.-led war on Iraq and torture at Abu Ghraib, not Charlie Hebdo cartoons, that radicalized the shooters. Also ignored was the fact that the extremist attackers were sons of émigrés from Algeria, a country that for decades bled profusely under barbarous French colonialism, which only ended after an even bloodier war of independence in 1962 that left hundreds of thousands of Algerians dead.
After the January Paris attacks, leaders from around the world — including officials from Western-backed extremist theocratic tyrannies like Saudi Arabia — gathered in Paris to supposedly participate in a march that turned out to actually be a carefully orchestrated and cynical photo op.
And not only are Muslims collectively blamed for such attacks; they, too, collectively bear the brunt of the backlash.
In just six days after the January attacks, the National Observatory Against Islamophobia documented 60 incidents of Islamophobic attacks and threats in France. TellMAMA, a U.K.-based organization that monitors racist anti-Muslim attacks, also reported 50-60 threats.
Once again, mere days before the January Paris attacks, the global community largely glossed over another horrific tragedy: The slaughter of more than 2,000 Nigerians by Boko Haram. The African victims didn’t get a march; only the Western victims of Islamic extremism did.

Western culpability

A little-discussed yet crucial fact is that the vast, vast majority of the victims of Islamic extremism are themselves Muslim, and live in Muslim-majority countries. A 2012 U.S. National Counterterrorism Center report found that between 82 and 97 percent of the victims of religiously motivated terrorist attacks over the previous five years were Muslims.
The West frequently acts as though it is the principal victim, but the exact contrary is true.
Never interrogated is why exactly are so many refugees fleeing the Middle East and North Africa. It is not like millions of people want to leave their homes and families; they are fleeing violence and chaos — violence and chaos that happens to almost always be the result of Western military intervention.
Western countries, particularly the U.S., are directly responsible for the violence and destruction in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and Yemen, from which millions of refugees are fleeing:
  • The illegal U.S.-led invasion of Iraq led to the deaths of at least one million people, destabilized the entire region, and created extreme conditions in which militant groups like al-Qaeda spread like wildfire, eventually leading to the emergence of ISIS.
  • In Afghanistan, the ongoing U.S.-led war and occupation — which the Obama administration just prolonged for a second time — has led to approximately a quarter of a million deaths and has displaced millions of Afghans.
  • The disastrous U.S.-led NATO intervention in Libya destroyed the government, turning the country into a hotbed for extremism and allowing militant groups like ISIS to spread west into North Africa. Thousands of Libyans have been killed, and hundreds of thousands made refugees.
  • In Yemen, the U.S. and other Western nations are arming and backing the Saudi-led coalition that is raining down bombs, including banned cluster munitions, on civilian areas, pulverizing the poorest country in the Middle East. And, once again — the story should now be familiar — thousands have been killed and hundreds of thousands have been displaced.
Syria is a bit more complicated. Many refugees in the country, which has been torn apart by almost five years of bitter war, are fleeing the brutal repression of the Assad government. Western countries and their allies, however, share some of the blame. Allies such as Saudi Arabia and Turkey have greatly inflamed the conflict bysupporting extremist groups like al-Qaeda affiliate al-Nusra.
And it should go without saying that millions of Syrian refugees are fleeing the very same terror at the hands of ISIS that the group allegedly unleashed upon Paris. By suppressing Syrian and Iraqi refugees fleeing the ruthlessly violent extremist group, France and other Western countries will only be further adding to the already shocking number of its victims.

Dislocating the blame

When the U.S. and its allies bomb weddings and hospitals in Yemen and Afghanistan, killing hundreds of civilians, “Americans” doesn’t trend globally on Twitter. Yet when Parisians are allegedly killed by Islamic extremists, “Muslims” does.
The imperialist West always try to dislocate the blame. It’s always the foreigner’s, the non-Westerner’s, the Other’s fault; it’s never the fault of the enlightened West.
Islam is the new scapegoat. Western imperial policies of ravaging entire nations, propping up repressive dictators, and supporting extremist groups are conveniently forgotten.
The West is incapable of addressing its own imperial violence. Instead, it points its blood-stained finger accusingly at the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims and tells them they are the inherently violent ones.
Unfortunately, tragedies like the one we see in Paris are daily events in much of the Middle East, no thanks to the policies of the governments of France, the U.S., the U.K., and more. The horrific and unjustifiable yet rare terrorist attacks we in the West experience are the quotidian reality endured by those living in the region our governments brutalize.
This does not mean we should not mourn the Paris attacks; they are abominable, and the victims should and must be mourned. But we should likewise ensure that the victims of our governments’ crimes are mourned as well.
If we truly believe that all lives are equally valuable, if we truly believe that French lives matter no more than any others, we must mourn all deaths equally.

The dangers of habit

We know the responses to attacks like these. Great danger lies in them continuing on the same way.
Governments are going to call for more Western military intervention in the Middle East, more bombs, and more guns. Hard-line right-wing Senator Ted Cruz immediately demanded airstrikes with more “tolerance for civilian casualties.” Naturally, the proposed “solution” to individual acts of terror is to ramp up campaigns of state terror.
At home, they will call for more fences, more police, and more surveillance. Immediately after the Paris attacks, France closed its borders. In the U.S., as soon as the attacks were reported, the NYPD began militarizing parts of New York City.
The hegemonic “solution” is always more militarization, both abroad and here at home. Yet it is in fact militarization that is the cause of the problem in the first place.
At the time of the atrocious 9/11 attacks, al-Qaeda was a relatively small and isolated group. It was the U.S.-led war in and occupation of Iraq that created the conditions of extreme violence, desperation, and sectarianism in which al-Qaeda metastasized, spreading worldwide. The West, in its addiction to militarism, played into the hands of the extremists, and today we see the rotten fruit borne of that rotten addiction: ISIS is the Frankenstein’s monster of Western imperialism.
Moreover, Western countries’ propping up of their oil-rich allies in the Gulf, extremist theocratic monarchies like Saudi Arabia, is a principal factor in the spread of Sunni extremism. The Obama administration did more than $100 billion of arms deals with the Saudi monarchy in the past five years, and France has increasingly signed enormous military contracts with theocratic autocracies like Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Qatar.
If these are the strategies our governments continue to pursue, attacks like those in Paris will only be more frequent.
The far-right will continue to grow. Neo-fascism, the most dangerous development in the world today, will gain traction. People will radicalize.
The incidence of attacks inspired by ethno-nationalism or far-right extremism, already the leading cause of European and American terror, will increase even further.
The pundits will boost anti-Muslim bigotry and feed the anti-refugee fervor. In doing so, they will only make matters worse.
The Paris attacks, as horrific as they are, could be a moment to think critically about what our governments are doing both abroad and here at home. If we do not think critically, if we act capriciously, and violently, the wounds will only continue to fester. The bloodletting will ultimately accelerate.
In short, those who promote militarist policies and anti-Muslim and anti-refugee bigotries in response to the Paris attacks are only going to further propagate violence and hatred.
If the political cycle is not changed, the cycle of violence will continue.
Watch President Obama’s remarks on the situation in Paris
Inline image 1Inline image 3Inline image 2Ben Norton is a politics staff writer at Salon. You can find him on Twitter at@BenjaminNorton.