Another example of how religion corrupts politics.
The right wing faction of the ruling nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party ("BJP") in India has won state-wide elections by campaigning on an extreme right wing Hindu fundamentalist platform. The election comes after months of rioting in India's industrializing Gujarat State in which 58 Hindus, mostly associated with Hindu parties, were killed in a train attack ostensibly by Muslims, leading in turn to months of retributive attacks in which between 1500 - 2000 Muslims were massacred by right wing Hindu fundamentalists. In some instances, young Muslim women were raped in public, then brutally slaughtered. Some disturbing film footage chronicling the attacks shows the hacked bodies of young women, including a pregnant office worker whose 7-month old unborn child was carved out of her body and then set ablaze as she bled to death. That this should occur in a relatively modern citiy in India, is all the more disturbing.
The Chief minister of Gujarat, Mr. Modi, who won his own seat is accused by human rights groups of deliberately failing to protect Muslims during the rioting, a charge he denies. As he campaigned to be re-elected, his speeches made much of the train burning but no mention of the violence that followed. However, under his watch, few if any charges have been brought against perpetrators of the Muslim massacres while numerous leaders of the anti-Muslim pogroms have been feted and re-elected. Furthermore, even as the BJP railed against Islamic fundamentalits, no valid evidence has been brought forward of Muslim involvement in the train burnings. Monetary reparations for the survivors of the thousands of killed Muslims lags behind in amount as well as degree of enforcement in comparison with that granted to survivors of the 58 Hindu victims. Through all of this, Mr. modi has never once visited survivor camps for Muslims, and has continued to make comments in which he stated that the pogroms against Muslims was a natural and expected event.
The anti-Muslim pogroms of Gujarat are India's modern day version of kristallnacht. If left unchecked, it could spill over to the rest of India's Hindu belt, an over-populated region wracked by poverty, ignorance, corruption, political toady-ism and fomenting religious tensions. The Hindu right wing uses statements made by right wing Muslim fundamentalists in India to further their own agenda, which is a tawdry exercise in hatred against innocent Muslims. Unsubstantiated accusations incriminating Pakistan further fuel Hindu fear - and retribution. Sadly, this has occured in the state of Gujarat, a relatively modern state, which is home to some of India's most enterprising industrialists and entrepreneurs, as well as the birthplace of Mahatma Gandhi, India's "Father of the Nation" who inspired the political tradition of non-violence all over the world.
The Gujarat elections represent the use of democratic institutions to achieve a rule by the majority based on fear and religious intolerance. This is a crying shame for a country that constantly trots out its purported democratic values and is second to none in playing the game of diplomatic hypocrisy when it comes to human rights abuses in other countries.