Section 2.10 Indian Independence – Hegemonic Vision of National Community

On August 15, 1997, India celebrated 50 years independence.  The year was marked with huge celebrations and joyous out pours from all around the world, including of course, India.  India received the notes from almost all the countries in the world and from major leaders, spiritual personalities, media and film personalities, industrial icons, etc.

However, FOIL was not in the same mood.  In an article entitled 50 Years?, FOIL felt that the parades and celebrations were “attempts to attempts to suture hegemonic visions of national community”[1] and “it is crucial to underscore the limits of national identification in the varied and particular forms of violence and deprivation inflicted on bodies named South Asian”[2]  In other words, is FOIL implying that vision of India is that of hegemony?  Is FOIL saying that the “hegemonic majority of India” is suppressing some poor minority population?  Some answers are provided in the article. It mentions: “…the equation of nation and community with the state can make us less mindful of state violence against South Asians”[3].  Yet, the focus is India.  FOIL spotlights the ‘atrocities’ of the Indian armed forces in Kashmir.  It elaborates: “In Kashmir, the Indian government’s arming of paramilitary groups is responsible for summary executions and torture of its subject(ed) peoples, as well election-related intimidation of voters, contributing to the militarization of life in that region”[4].  One would expect that if talk is of military oppression should include both India and Pakistan, since both are part of South Asia.  Sadly, the bias is strong against India.  In the same article, FOIL continues to highlight ‘undemocratic measures’ of the government.  The economic reforms of 1990 are also denounced in typical Communist dislike of capitalism.  FOIL asserts: “Economic liberalization with the interests of capital at the center and the concomitant erosion of labor rights indicate the state’s complicity in furthering human bondage and exploitation”.[5]

In other sections of the article, FOIL refers to many ‘evils’ of independent India, such as the rights for Gays and Lesbians, Babri Masjid Riots, the Bombay communal riots of 1993 (after the embassy bombings by terrorists) and of ‘good Hindu wives’ being burnt for dowry.  And, when it discusses the formation of a Uniform Civil Code in India it cautions against “insidiously [reasserting] Hindu Brahminical hegemony”.  Thus, time and again, the negatives of India are only slapped onto Hinduism and the problems of South Asia only occur in India. When discussing the Uniform Civil Code, FOIL deliberately ignores the Muslim Personal Shariah Law and bodies such as the All India Muslim Personal Law Board that work to administer a separate personal law for Muslims in India.  One of the objectives of the Board is “[to] constitute a permanent standing committee comprising Ulema and legal experts to study laws, rules, regulations and circulars issued by the central and state governments and other governmental and semi-governmental agencies or the Bills introduced in the Parliament and state legislation from the point of view of their impact on the Muslim Personal Law.”[6]  In other words, the Board aims to review laws set by the government and see whether they are in line with Muslim Shariah Law or not.  Such ‘reviews’ by a particular religious community should not be favored in a truly secular and pluralistic country.   One should not be surprised if FOIL and other leftist/communist organizations are outraged if a ‘Hindu Personal Law Board’ was formed to do the same.

FOIL seems to forget that 1997 also marked the 50th Anniversary of Pakistan’s independence.  Since Pakistan declared itself an Islamic nation and pursued a decidedly Islamic course in its political and social life since the 1980s, Hindus as a minority in Pakistan have had considerably fewer privileges, rights and protections in comparison to minorities in India, which constitutionally avows itself secular and giving of equal rights to its religious minorities including the Muslim, Christian and Sikh communities.[7] Cultural marginalization, discrimination, economic hardships and religious persecution have resulted in many Hindus converting to other religions (Islam, Christianity).[8] Because Hindus are not ‘People of the Book’ like Christians, they have generally been given fewer rights informally (de facto) by the Muslim majority than the country’s Christians…even if de jure Hindus have equal rights under the law.[9] In 2008, Ali Eteraz, writing for the Guardian in an article entitled Protecting Pakistan’s Hindus, gives some disturbing statistics.  “According to some sources, at the founding of Pakistan, Hindus comprised nearly 15% of the country’s population and now number barely 2%. Many have left, many have been killed, and many have converted to other religions to protect themselves.”[10]  In July 2010, around 60 members of the minority Hindus in Karachi were attacked and ethnically cleansed following an incident when a Hindu youth drank from a water tap near an Islamic mosque.[11]  In 2011, an article in India Today magazine provided gory details of the situation of Hindus in Pakistan, from kidnapping, gang raping and forced conversions of young girls, to state sanctioned revisions of Pakistani history to killings of Hindus under ‘blasphemy laws’.  Qaswar Abbas, writing in India Today, shares that “in one incident, a 17-year-old girl was gangraped (sic) in Nagarparker area while in another incident, a 15-year-old girl was allegedly abducted from Aaklee village and forced to convert. The Aaklee incident prompted an instant migration of about 71 Hindu families to Rajasthan. Members of the Hindu community in Kotri town in Sindh province recently protested against the kidnapping of four teenagers, Anita, Kishni, Ajay and Sagar.”[12]

Marvi Memon of the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) and one of the only lawmakers to stand up for Hindus, describes the situation in her own words:

The tragedy is that as a result of these kidnappings, many Hindu families have migrated to India. After all, it is better to live in another country than in perpetual fear in Pakistan. It has become routine for Hindus to be humiliated at the hands of the influential Muslim community in Pakistan…Years of keeping a low profile have affected the sense of identity of the Hindus. They have become a people without a true identity…if there is no awareness and concern for the Hindus of Pakistan, they will remain a voiceless people and eventually cease to exist.[13]

Hindus, Christians, Buddhists and other minorities have been targets of numerous rapes, killings, abductions, etc. in Bangladesh as well.

Anyone who points to the atrocities of Hindus is automatically labeled as ‘Hindu Chauvinist’ or ‘Hindu Extremist’ by FOIL.  Do Hindus not matter?  If India was founded on a hegemonic vision of nationalism, Pakistan and Bangladesh are shining examples of religious and cultural hegemony at its worst.


[1] Biju Mathew et al, “50 Years?”, Ghadar, a publication of the forum of indian leftists, Vol. 1, No. 2, November 26, 1997, http://www.proxsa.org/resources/ghadar/v1n2/edit.html, accessed July 21, 2011

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.[1]

[4] Ibid.[1]

[5] Ibid.[1]

[6] See the entry on the Muslim Personal Law Board in Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/All_India_Muslim_Personal_Law_Board, accessed July 21, 2011

[7] See the entry on Hindus in Pakistan in Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hinduism_in_Pakistan, accessed July 21, 2011

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.[7]

[10] Ali Eteraz, “Protecting Pakistan’s Hindus”, April 11, 2008,  http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/apr/11/protectingpakistanshindus, accessed July 21, 2011

[11] Ibid.[7]

[12] Qaswar Abbas, “Soft Target in Pakistan: Abduction, oppression and forced conversion is fate of Hindus in Pak”, May 30, 2011, Indian Today,  accessed online on July 15, 2011

[13] Ibid.

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