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Rising threat of Hindu extremism [BOSTON GLOBE].......
by Saima Alvi
14 July 2002 13:19 UTC
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Rising threat of Hindu extremism

By H.D.S. Greenway, 7/12/2002

WHILE THE Western World worries about Islam, the
specter of Hindu nationalism carries the potential of
threatening the stability of the Indian subcontinent
and the world beyond. A bit of bad news out of New
Delhi earlier this month was that the hard-line,
Pakistan-bashing home minister, Lal Krishna Advani,
had been named the number two man in the Indian
government and a potential successor to the ailing and
aging Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. 

Whereas Vajpayee was the human face of the Hindu
nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, which has led a
coalition government for four years, Advani is more in
tune with the party's base of radical nationalists who
seek to undermine the secular India of Jawaharlal
Nehru and Mahatma Gandhi. In addition, Advani's policy
towards Pakistan is larded with nuclear threats and

With tensions between the two nuclear powers still
high, any increase in Advani's influence is a blow to
compromise with Pakistan over Kashmir and to India's
time-honored secular political institutions. 

Many Indians believed that the BJP's secular allies in
the ruling coalition would not accept such a hardliner
as Advani as Vajpayee's heir, but they have been
proved wrong. And while it seemed that Vajpayee was
willing to downplay ''Hindutva,'' a concept of
exclusive Hindu identity dear to the party's heart,
Advani can be expected to emphasize it.

Like their Muslim extremist counterparts, Hindu
nationalists seek to expel Western secularism from
their midst, persecuting non-Hindus, trashing hotels
that celebrate Valentine's Day or Christmas, and
demanding that cities with Islamic names, such as
Allahabad, be changed. Other religions - and there are
more Muslims in India than there are in Pakistan - are
considered offshoots of a basic Hindu entity that
should submit to Hindutva. Hindu nationalists rant
that Hindi should be the national language, even
though millions of Indians speak other native

The crowning moment of Advani's brand of Hindutva came
exactly 10 years ago when an ancient mosque believed
to have been built on a Hindu site was torn down by a
howling Hindu mob egged on by BJP leaders including
Advani. Militants shouting ''Hindustan is for the
Hindus'' and ''Death to Muslims'' rioted, and more
than 1,000 people were slaughtered, most of them

The recent rioting in Gujarat, in which hundreds of
Muslims were killed while the police looked on, came
as result of the controversy surrounding the Hindu
nationalist demand that a Hindu temple be built where
the mosque stood. In a country riven with communal
violence, Advani is unusually provocative.

Most disturbing is Advani's advocacy of nuclear
threat. He once said that India's nuclear bomb would
ensure that India would triumph in Kashmir. India's
much bigger conventional army could have prevailed in
any war with Pakistan, but ironically, India's bomb
brought forth a Pakistani bomb, and now India's
numerical advantage in conventional weapons and troops
counts for less. 

Indians have said that their nuclear bomb was as
necessary to counterbalance China as Pakistan, but to
men like Advani having a nuclear bomb is part of
Hindutva and the greater glory of Indian culture and
destiny that lost out to the West during colonialism.
The feeling of grievance and greatness deprived is as
much a part of militant Hindu culture as it is among

When India brought forth its bomb to become a nuclear
power, Hindu nationalists talked of it as a Hindu
bomb, and they spoke of building a Hindu temple on the
desert test site. Many quoted the lines from the Hindu
epic, the Bhagavad Gita, that Robert Oppenheimer
uttered in Alamogordo at the dawn of the atomic age:
''I have become Death/ The destroyer of worlds.'' 

India will not be a safer or a more secular place if
Advani comes to rule. 

H.D.S. Greenway's column appears regularly in the

This story ran on page A15 of the Boston Globe on
 Copyright 2002 Globe Newspaper Company. 

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