Massive protests are being witnessed in many countries, Bangla Desh, Pakistan, India among others against the persecution of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar (September 2017). This time around violence seems to have been triggered due to the attack by militants (Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army) on police and military posts. As per UN estimates nearly 1000 Rohingyas have been killed and over 2.5 lakh Muslims have fled to Bangla Desh to escape the violence. UN has said that the extent of violence indicates that it is crime against humanity. His Holiness Pope Francis said that he is following the “sad news of the religious persecution of Rohingya community… he asked that the members of the ethnic group be given full rights.”

The suppression of the Muslims of Rakhine province of Myanmar has created grave situation. What seems to be going on is a sort of slow genocide, ethnic cleansing. India has also witnessed the protests against this suppression in many cities in India. Here in India there is an added problem as there are thousands of Rohingya Muslims living in different parts of the country and there is a demand from the Hindu right wingers to expel them from the country.

These Rohingya Muslims are mainly concentrated in the Rakhine Province of Myanmar. The Government says that they are illegal immigrants while their history in Mynmar is very old. As such the Muslims in Myanmar are very diverse as most of them have come from different parts of India, when Myanmar was part of India. In particular Rakhine province earlier had a Muslim ruler, which fact attracted many Muslims to settle there. As such it is after the military dictatorship that they have been deprived of their citizenship rights and have been the target of persecution and atrocities, particular after 1982 Law, which does not recognize their citizenship rights. Earlier they even had a minister at the Cabinet level apart from many elected representatives.

The problems related to communalism have so many parallels in different South Asian Countries. We see in South Asia, Pakistan, Bangla Desh, India that religious minorities are subject to persecution and the pretexts are very similar. After the military dictatorship came to Myanmar, the fleeing of Muslims went up in large numbers and many of them came to India also. These reasons are purely humanitarian, but here in India it is being presented as if it is a security threat. Indian laws permit giving shelter to persecuted communities. As per that Tamils from Sri Lanka, Buddhists from Tibet and Hindus from Pakistan have been given shelter here. Since Rohingya’s happen to be Muslims the Hindu right wing is opposing them and has stepped up campaigns through media to expel them. As such in India the communalists have been harping on Bangla Deshi immigrants, while the fact is that most of the Muslims being accused of being Bangla Deshis have migrated earlier through Human plantation policy of British, which encouraged Bangla Deshis (then Bengal) to settle in Assam. In the aftermath of 1971 war also many Hindus and Muslims fled Bangla Desh to settle in different parts of India, depending on where they can get some opportunities to survive.

In the aftermath of 1992-92 violence, the campaign to step up the expelling of Bangldeshis from Mumbai and other cities picked up. In one of the studies done in Mumbai by Shama Dalwai and Irfan Engineer, it was found that most of the immigrants (Bengali speaking Muslims) have been engaged in low end employment, as maid servants, as jari workers(artisans) etc., who had been putting long hours for mere survival. In popular perceptions the issue is presented as nationalist one related to security and this has been one of the major propaganda plank around which BJP has been making inroads in the North Eastern states, particularly Assam.

In Myanmar, the process of democratization is very slow and painful. The military takeover in 1962 worsened the process. The military had the strong backing of feudal elements and the many Buddhist sanghas (organized priesthood). The hold of feudal powers in Myanmar is a great obstacle for democracy to deepen itself. As in Pakistan (Military-Mullah), the hold of Sanghas and military is strong here also. In Pakistan we witness that irrespective of democratically elected Prime Minister the military wields great power and Military-Mullah complex keeps asserting itself, affecting the policies even of the elected representatives. In Myanmar while the major Buddhist organization ‘Sangha Maha Nayaka Committee’, has called for humane approach; Buddhist monks like Ashin Wirathu, very much like Sadhvis and Sakshi Maharaj’s in India, is the major figure spreading hate against the Muslims.

In Myanmar, the battle between these two tendencies, (military and section of Buddhist Sangha) is strong and Prime Minister, Suu Kyi is forced to yield to the military bosses and is part of the decision of supporting the inhuman military action, which is like the genocide there. Suu Kyi is hankering for power rather than upholding principles of human rights which a Nobel laureate should do. At places campaigns are on to take back her Nobel Prize, as Nobel should stand for defense of human rights.

In India, with the high communal polarization, Rohigya's being Muslims is the reason enough to attribute to them the motives of militancy, and to try to link them with terrorism. These scum of the earth need a soothing touch as major humanitarian agencies are asking for justice for these persecuted people in Myanmar. In India, this is a ‘add on’ issue for Hindu communalists who have been baking their political bread in the name of illegal immigrants from Bangla Desh. The latest in this is to try to formulate the law where the Hindu immigrants will be granted shelter while Muslim immigrants will be expelled by the state. Narendra Modi in his visit to Myanmar has been silent on this crucial issue of violation of human rights for tactical and ideological reasons i.e. due to his political ideology.


Category :- English Bazaar Patrika / OPED

Freedom movement was an all inclusive movement with the participation of people of all religions and regions. Its underlying premise was pluralism and the concept of Secular Democratic India, which bound all the people in the bonds of fraternity. Those who were for Muslim and Hindu nationalism kept aloof from this movement for ideological and political reasons.

Since last few decades the Hindu nationalists have been claiming that they also participated in the freedom movement and that it’s only the Congress-left historians who are trying to paint them in a negative picture vis a vis the struggle for independence. Rakesh Sinha presents the fantasies of RSS participation in freedom movement. His major sources for this claim are from the British intelligence reports. His claims that RSS took part in Civil Disobedience movement of 1930 and that the movement got invigorated due to Hedgewars’ participation in the same are a pure figment of imagination. It is true that Mr. Hedgewar did take part in this movement and was jailed for that, but that was purely at personal level to be able to meet the people who might support his agenda of Hindu Rashtra. There is not a single writing of his or of RSS exhorting the people to participate in the same. On the contrary there are authoritative references of his discouraging those who wanted to participate in the struggle for freedom.

What was the RSS leadership attitude to events regarding freedom movement becomes clear from the quote from M.S. Golwalkar’s, the second Sarsanghchalak of RSS, says he, “There was some unrest in the mind due to the situation developing in the country from time to time. There was such unrest in 1942. Before that there was the movement of 1930-31. At that time many other people had gone to Doctorji (Hedgewar). The delegation requested Doctorji that this movement will give Independence and Sangh should not lag behind. At that time, when a gentleman told Doctorji that he was ready to go to jail, Doctorji said ‘definitely go, But who will take care of your family then? That gentleman replied , “I have sufficiently arranged resources not only to run the family expenses for two years but also to pay fines according to requirement’, then Doctorji told him ‘If you have fully arranged for the resources then come out to work for Sangh for two years.’. After returning home that gentleman neither went to jail nor came out to work for the Sangh.”

On similar lines during 1942 when the turmoil began Golwlkar issued instructions that routine work of Sangh should continue and nothing should be done to annoy the British, “In 1942 also there was a strong sentiment in the hearts of many. At that time too routine work of Sangh continued. Sangh vowed not to do anything directly.”  (Both these Quotes from Shri Guruji Samgra Darshan, Vol IV, page 39-40)This ideologue of RSS clearly spells that fighting against British has not been part of their agenda, “We should remember that in our pledge we have talked of freedom of the country through defending religion and culture, there is no mention of departure of British from here.”

The same is confirmed by C.P. Bhishikar’s biography of Golwalkar, Shri Guruji-Pioneer of a new Era, “It was with this clear understanding that the Sangh, as an organisation, decided not to plunge into the movement. Right from the beginning, the Sangh has decided to observe certain constraints in some matters.” (Page 47) “Right from the beginning, the Sangh has decided to observe certain constraints in some matters. So, when Doctorji decided to participate in the satyagraha, he directed the Swayamsevaks to keep out of it and conduct the Shakha work with regularity. He had kept the Sangh as such out of the agitation.” (page 48)”

Now Sinha wants us to believe that lakhs of volunteers of RSS participated in 1942 and many of them were punished severely by British. Sangh is known for its disciplined volunteers, so did RSS volunteers defy their SarsanghChalak to be part of the movement led by Gandhi? Even the British intelligence which was the basis of British circular warning the officers of political nature of Sangh needs to be taken with a pinch of salt as that was the interpretation of administration which was contrary to what RSS itself has always maintained that is a cultural organization and not a political organization.

Till quite late there were no claims of about participation in the struggle for India’s Independence. It is only once RSS/BJP inched closer to political power that such claims started being made. One of the earliest attempts in this direction has been that of our ex Prime Minister Vajpayee. In the wake of 1998 general elections he had issued an appeal for seeking votes, he wrote that not only was he working for RSS at shakha level, he also participated in the freedom movement! . His claim was around Bateshwar incident where he was arrested. Soon after his arrest he gave a confessional statement in the court. This statement of his helped him getting released from jail and it also named the leaders of Bateshwar campaign, which was part of Quit India Movement. In this confessional statement Vajpayee says that he had nothing to do with the damages caused to property which was done by the people who had gone to hoist the tricolor on the building. He confesses that he was not part of the procession and was a mere onlooker. Consequent to his apology he was released from the jail.

Mr. Sinha has fertile imagination and so he can claim that RSS participation in the Quit India movement was the proverbial last straw for British rulers. The fact is that that RSS routine work of Shakhas and camps continued as usual despite some people feeling uncomfortable about the same. Followers of Gandhi-Congress were on the streets and in jails.

Now RSS is trying to insert itself into the slot where it does not belong.

Ideologically Hindutva political organizations, despite their inner differences were mainly intent on undermining Muslim nationalism and for that goal had no problem in cooperating with British. All their efforts were to ignore the diversity of the nation manifested in Gandhi’s central slogan of Hindu-Muslim unity. Today a new construct is being brought to fore for electoral goals, and that is to erase the fact of their absence from the freedom struggle. At deeper level how could RSS be part of the movement for Indian nationalism, as RSS aim is totally in contravention to that as it stands for Hindu nationalism? 

Category :- English Bazaar Patrika / OPED