Selective Outrage, Suspect Ethics
When in the August 2003 issue of Dissent magazine Prof. Nussbaum of the University of Chicago accused the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in Gujarat, India and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (National Volunteer Corps) and its affiliates of carrying out a genocide in Gujarat last year, I realized once again how effective the Left/Marxist groups in the world are in spreading lies and disinformation. Networked as they are to spread disinformation through dyspeptic theorization they know that when data fails to support their theses, they always have theory to obfuscate data.
Immediately following Nussbaum’s essay, in the Fall 2003 issue of Dissent, Rajeev Bhargava of the University of Delhi went hammer and tongs at “Hindu nationalists, ” warning ominously that they and their supporters or anyone who even tried to know and understand them should be shunned. Yes, “shunned, ” Not surprisingly, in Bhargava’s essay, he shuns Ram Swarup, Sita Ram Goel and Koenraad Elst, three of the best minds that have written sympathetically yet critically of the “Hindu nationalists.” Not surprisingly, we find in India and among Indian-American Left/Marxist academics barely a mention of the Islamic jihadists who have waged war in Kashmir, leading to the death of more than 60, 000 people in the past ten to fifteen years, of the terrorist training camps in Pakistan, which supply the Islamic world’s hunger for civilian targets and of the ethnic cleansing of Hindus and other minorities from Pakistan and Bangladesh.
For the Left/Marxist brigade chafing at the longevity of the Vajpayee government, the Gujarat mayhem was a godsend. They were back in business again, enthusiastically accepting invitations for lecture tours in the US and Europe, writing their cut and paste parodies in the Guardian, the Nation and in journals like Dissent and petitioning everyone and sundry to look into the affairs of the Indian government. American academics had a new enemy to focus on since their concerted defense of Islamic fundamentalists was beginning to rankle even the most moderate of Americans.
Hindus and Hindu organizations are easy targets because they are not organized, there is enough internal dissension and because the Hindu philosophy of “live and let live” enables committed ideologues to hound, harass and demonize these heathen “idolators”.
If indeed there was genocide in Gujarat, if indeed a government was complicit and if indeed Indian-Americans funneled money to extremist organizations, we should be concerned. No doubt nearly a thousand people died (about 750 Muslims and 250 Hindus) in the rioting last year in Gujarat when a train carrying Hindu pilgrims was set on fire by Muslims in the town of Godhra and 58 Hindus were burned alive. It led to widespread riots in the State and the bulk of the mayhem occurred in the first 72 hours after the train was burned down. But was the state complicit in the mayhem and did Indian-Americans send money to fund hate in India?
Nussbaum makes such a convincing case for an organized, pre-meditated campaign of terror and genocide and about millions of dollars sent through one Indian-American charitable organization (IDRF -- India Development and Relief Fund) to fund terror in Gujarat that any reader unfamiliar with Indian events and history would have little doubt about the “extremism” of “Hindu nationalists, ” and the cold calculations of its supporters in the US
Nussbaum takes her role of activist more seriously than her role as a professor of ethics. It is not the first time that she has stretched the truth. National Review recently described her as a "general-purpose academic celebrity...who lied under oath" during a Colorado court battle over gay rights some years ago. In a review of her book, Cultivating Humanity: A Classical Defense of Reform in Liberal Education (Harvard University Press, 1997), the libertarian philosopher David Gordon of the Ludwig von Mises Institute characterized her as "an unscrupulous propagandist, avid to defend her opinions by fair means or foul." Gayatri Spivak, Nancy Fraser and Seyla Benhabib, have denounced Nussbaum for "moralizing" and for her "rhetoric of overkill."
It comes as no surprise therefore that after alleging that India’s Prime Minister Vajpayee and his Law Minister Arun Jaitley had rationalized the Gujarat violence, she accepted an award from the same Indian government on August 16, 2003 for her support of India! Nussbaum should not be singled out for seeking feathers to put in her cap. What is incredulous, however, is that she did not inform the Consul General of India in Chicago of her essay in Dissent before accepting the award and worse yet, she did not inform readers of Dissent of her hypocritical behavior.
The magnitude of the Gujarat violence: According to newspaper reports, at least a thousand people died in the rioting in Gujarat last year. Nussbaum claims that at least 2, 000 people were killed, mostly Muslims. Instead of newspaper reports, she prefers to rely on partisan sources: sources that have publicly vowed to bring down the BJP government in New Delhi.
In reports as recently as in the August 27, 2003, issue of the New York Times the number of people killed in Gujarat last year is pegged at 1, 000. In a Times of India report, the toll, one week after the riots erupted on February 28, 2002 was 677. The riots were controlled within 72 hours. (“Toll now 677 due to recovery of more bodies”, Bharat Desai, The Times of India, March 7, 2002). The report says that nearly a hundred people were killed by the police trying to control the mobs. In a report dated April 28, 2002, (“More fall prey to police firings in Gujarat, ” Sanjay Pandey, The Times of India) we get more figures of dead and injured. Of the 726 people killed, 552 were Muslims and 168 Hindus, including the 58 on the Sabarmati Express. Of the people killed in the first month of police firings, 60 were Hindus and 40 Muslims. In the second month, when 70 more succumbed to police firings, 53 were Muslims and 17 Hindus. In a July 28, 2002 report in the India Times, the chief rehabilitation office of the Gujarat government, a Muslim official, says that he has disbursed compensation to the kin of all 925 victims (including Hindus) in the riots.
When such precise figures are available, why does Nussbaum seek to inflate the horror? If not for the good sense and the goodwill of other Americans, including Bush administration officials, we would be overwhelmed by the litany of false accusations and complaints by the likes of Nussbaum.
Nussbaum claims that the Sabarmati Express train which was burned down by the Muslim mob carried “a large group of Hindu pilgrims who were returning from the alleged birthplace of the god Rama at Ayodhya.” Babies charred to death in their mothers’ arms and five year-old children curled up in death become mere “Hindu pilgrims” for this professor of ethics, whose cold and calculated attempt at rationalizing the massacre of the “Hindu pilgrims” is far worse than the immediate reaction attributed to the Chief Minister of Gujarat, who allegedly said that the Newtonian law of action and reaction is applicable to societal events too.
Nussbaum asserts that the Ayodhya pilgrims -- men, women and children – were “angrily emotional” and that when the train stopped at Godhra, the “passengers got into arguments with Muslim vendors and passengers” and that at least one Muslim vendor was beaten up when he refused to say “Jai Sri Ram” (“praise be to Lord Ram”) and that a young Muslim girl narrowly escaped forcible abduction. Nussbaum’s account of what happened at the Godhra station that morning parrots the version spread by the Indian Muslim Council through their website www.Imannet.org. Not one reporter has been able to confirm Nussbaum’s account. The Imannet.Org website, which peddled the rumor initially, also contains such gems as the following: “September 15, 2001: Who would really stand to gain the most from such an attack (on the World Trade Center)? The country best enable to carry out such a humonguous (sic) feat is not an Arab or a Muslim one, but Israel”. And, “September 28, 2001: Alex Diamandis, vice-president of sales and marketing, confirmed that workers in Odigo’s…sales office in Israel received a warning from another Odigo user approximately two hours prior to the first attack (on the WTC).”
Nussbaum even alleges that the train may have been set on fire by the Hindus themselves traveling on the train! She ignores what newspapers have been reporting about the town of Godhra and the radical/fundamentalist Islamic schools proliferating in the region. Heading the list of Muslim religious orders in India is the ultra-orthodox Ahl-e-Hadis in Moradabad, North India, whose followers dominate the ranks of the LeT (Lashkar-e-Toiba) and following them is the Tabligh Jamaat whose followers in Godhra are the ones now arrested for plotting and carrying out the attack on the Sabarmati Express. Nussbaum’s assertion that “no evidence has been found linking alleged Muslim perpetrators to any organized movement or group” therefore is not only an example of shoddy research but dangerous demagoguery. Intelligence reports also point out that the Student Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) has collaborated with a number of Pakistani Muslim extremist organizations and the Inter Services Intelligence of Pakistan to destabilize India at that time.
Officials in Gujarat have identified at least 107 Islamic preachers from as far as Indonesia, Sudan and Saudi Arabia active in Gujarat. A medical doctor in Mumbai was said to be involved with the Lashkar-e-Toiba. Nussbaum, like her Left/Socialist informants in India and in the American academe, “willfully skirt(s) a grim phenomenon -- the expansion of Islamist terror networks into the heart of India” and that the terror networks has expanded from the underworld to embrace a section of the Muslim middle class.
Nussbaum claims that a Muslim mob had gathered to protest the treatment meted out by the Hindus on the train to Muslim vendors at the Godhra railway station. The train stops in Godhra for three minutes, at around 7:30 a.m. How could a mob of more than 1, 500 (see Asian Age, February 28, 2002, for the estimated strength of the mob) gather so early in the morning and so quickly? Or, as she imputes, if the Hindus themselves had conspired to burn down the train, what could be the motive? Would it be to win an election? Elections in Gujarat were not scheduled till February 2003, a year from the day the train was set on fire. It was a BJP government in power in Gujarat with a novice Chief Minister who had been in office only five months. Why would they want to visit more horror on Gujarat which had just the previous year been devastated by a massive earthquake that killed nearly 20, 000 people and left 600, 000 homeless? Were they so deranged and obsessed that they would go the limit of burning their own children and women? Yes, implies Prof. Nussbaum.
What she deliberately ignores is that the US had launched its campaign against the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan was under tremendous pressure to cooperate. Daniel Pearl had been kidnapped and murdered in Pakistan (see Bernard Levy’s “Who Killed Daniel Pearl?” in which he implicates the Pakistan government and its intelligence service for masterminding Pearl’s dismemberment). Pakistani trained terrorists had attacked the Indian Parliament in December 2001 and India had massed up nearly a half million troops on the Pakistani border. India was willing to cooperate with the US in hunting down terrorists in the region. There is little doubt that Pakistan-based agents decided that an effective strategy to ease the pressure on Pakistan would be to have the world’s attention turn to India.
Women raped and murdered: In her litany of accusations against the BJP and Hindu nationalist, Nussbaum says that Muslim women were raped and brutally murdered and that these acts were indicative of Hindu men’s anxiety about their virility. That she has to resort to pop psychology for understanding the Hindu-Muslim conflict that has spanned centuries is another indication of the crude and simplistic nature of Left/Marxist analyses. Freud serves the Left well, as we have all come to know by now.
No doubt, the perpetrators of ghastly crimes, whether Muslim or Hindu, should be identified and punished. In India, the courts are however slow, inept, inefficient or victims of political and criminal machinations. But one should also be careful about the spread of wild rumors about ghastly murders and rapes.
In a report submitted to the Gujarat government an investigation team visiting the Daryakhan Ghumat, the largest camp for Muslims displaced after the riots, claims that some of the women complainants seemed to be coached to say certain things. When they were quizzed more carefully they became evasive and were even chided by fellow Muslim women for lying. Arundhati Roy (the Left’s poster girl worldwide) wrote an inflammatory essay in Outlook India claiming that two daughters of a Muslim Member of Parliament, Ehsan Jaffri, were raped and murdered. Roy had to recant later and apologize for spreading that rumor since Jaffri’s daughters were not even in India at that time. In the same essay Roy wrote: “Last night a friend from Baroda called. Weeping. It took her fifteen minutes to tell me what the matter was. It wasn't very complicated. Only that Sayeeda, a friend of hers, had been caught by a mob. Only that her stomach had been ripped open and stuffed with burning rags. Only that after she died, someone carved ‘OM’ on her forehead.”
Police investigations revealed that no such case, involving someone called Sayeeda, had been reported either in urban or rural Baroda. Subsequently, the police sought Roy's help to identify the victim and seek access to witnesses who could lead them to those guilty of this crime. But the police got no cooperation. Instead, Roy, through her lawyer, replied that the police had no power to issue summons.
Finally, there is no need to accuse just Hindu men of ghastly crimes against women. The world over, in times of war and strife, men have abused women. There are daily reports of Hindu women being raped and brutalized in Bangladesh. Or we can also read Indian history, reaching back a thousand years to understand the ravages of medieval Muslim kings raiding India, slaughtering hundreds of thousands men and carting off even more women and children as slaves.
It is reported about the Mopla riots of 1921 in South India that “massacres, forcible conversions, desecration of temples, foul outrages upon women, such as ripping open pregnant women, pillage, arson and destruction – in short, all the accompaniments of brutal and unrestrained barbarism, were perpetrated freely by the Moplas upon the Hindus until such time as troops could be hurried to the task of restoring order….” (Ambedkar, “Pakistan or the Partition of India, ” p. 163). Another describes the violence just before India was partitioned in 1947: “The ‘Noakhali Riot’ followed the Calcutta carnage in October 1946. There, Hindus including Scheduled Castes were killed and hundreds were converted to Islam. Hindu women were raped and abducted. Members of my community also suffered loss of life and property. Immediately after these happenings, I visited Tipperah and Feni and saw some riot-affected areas. The terrible sufferings of Hindus overwhelmed me with grief, but still I continued the policy of co-operation with the Muslim League. (Excerpted from the resignation letter of J. N. Mandal, Minister for Law and Labour, Government of Pakistan, October 8, 1950. Click here for the full text.)
It is therefore simplistic, if not ludicrous, for Nussbaum to invoke the ranting of shrill Marxist historians to understand the murderous attacks on Muslim women by Hindu men. It seems as if Nussbaum is not just content blaming “Hindu nationalists” of being anti-Muslim, but that she has also to make Hindus evil in every other way.
Police and Politician complicity: Nussbaum claims that police received orders not to intervene in the carnage and that those who disobeyed orders were punished by demotions and transfers. However, the judicial enquiry commission set up by the Central Government that is still conducting hearings, has already published a preliminary report indicating the partisan nature of some newspaper reporting on these matters.
If indeed the police were so lax how could tens of thousands be arrested and a hundred and seventy killed in police firings? The police arrested 9, 954 Hindus and 4, 035 Muslims, made further preventive arrests of 17, 947 Hindus and 3, 616 Muslims (see Times of India, April 28, 2002, “More fall prey to police firings in Gujarat”). For example, in the first month of conflict following the Godhra massacre, 60 Hindus and 40 Muslims were killed in police firings, whereas in the second month it was 53 Muslims and only 17 Hindus.
The Ideology of the “Hindu Nationalist” organizations: Nussbaum alleges that Gujarat has been subjected to the ideology of the “Sangh Parivar” (the family of Hindu organizations headed by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh – the “national volunteer corps”). She says that Golwalkar, the second president of the RSS was influenced by Hitler and that he advocated a second class citizenship to Muslims and other minorities in India. Koenraad Elst’s essay available online, titled “Was Guru Golwalkar a Nazi?” puts this matter in the correct perspective.
Elst says that the meaning of Golwalkar’s assertion is not terrifying or inhuman as the critics insinuate. It has nothing to do with genocide or ethnic cleansing, for Golwalkar explicitly states that non-Hindus “may stay in the country.” Further, he argues that religious minorities must “not claim any privileges”, a stance that jives with the equality principle fundamental to the legal system of any modern, democratic state. Before India gained independence, the British had concocted separate electorates with highly disproportionate privileges conceded to Anglo-Indians and other Christians and to the Muslim community. Elst argues that it was “perfectly legitimate for Golwalkar in 1938 to champion the cause of genuine secularism by denouncing the system of privileges on the basis of religion”.
Elst points out that the only disputable part in Golwalkar's thesis is that Muslims must “not claim even citizen’s rights.” This would mean that Muslims would get the same status in India which Christians and Jews (and sometimes Pagans) have under the Zimma (charter of toleration) dispensation in an Islamic state, still a part of the Shari'a which prescribes, as a matter of consensus between all the Islamic schools of jurisprudence, that Jews and Christians can be tolerated by the Islamic state, on condition of the payment of a high toleration tax, the jizya, plus the observance of more than twenty humiliating restrictions. Non-Muslims are excluded from the political decision-making process and Elst purposely reminds us, this is still very much part of the political dispensation in most Muslim countries to this day.
Analyzing Golwalkar’s statements about Hitler, Elst points out that at the time Golwalkar wrote his book in 1938, Nazism had captured the imagination of people around the world. Nazism had claimed far fewer lives than Communism. Golwalkar was no different than millions of Indians, Hindus and Muslims, who were impressed by Hitler. As Elst writes, “Elderly Indians have told me that in 1938, it was common among Indian boys to describe someone brave and impressive as Hitlerwala. Both Hindus and Muslims were enthusiastic about his aura of effectiveness and both also had their own special reason for sympathizing with him. Hindus, who already had a soft corner for the German pioneers of Sanskrit studies, heard that Hitler was a vegetarian and a celibate… and that he had given a pride of place to the Indian term Arya and to the Hindu symbol, the Swastika.” Elst also points out that many in the Indian freedom movement also saw Germany as a potential ally, regardless of its regime.
IDRF and the Indian-American “funding” of Hate: Dr. Vinod Prakash is the founder of IDRF (a former World Bank official, he has a PhD in Economics from MIT). IDRF is an Indian-American charitable organization. Nussbaum claims that money collected by IDRF is largely used for “cultural activities that are highly inflammatory in character, in particular for the camps of the Bajrang Dal, where young Hindu boys are taught the ideology of Hindutva and where hatred and fear of Muslims are openly advocated.”
The activities of the IDRF are a matter of complete transparency and in complete compliance with the laws of India and the United States. IDRF has funded a variety of NGOs that are involved in disaster relief as well as social and economic development activities including running orphanages, leprosy sanatoriums, blood banks and schools for tribal children and street sweepers. Many of those NGOs are affiliated with Hindu nationalist organizations. But those Hindu nationalist organizations are not terrorist organizations! They are so merely in the eyes of Nussbaum and her Marxist confidants.
Nussbaum asserts that there was widespread opposition by Hindu organizations in the US to a congressional investigation of IDRF. Till date there has not been a single attempt by any government agency to investigate IDRF. The only “congressional” investigation about Gujarat was the hearings conducted by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) on the Gujarat riots. The USCIRF has not bothered to follow it up and as far as I know not one letter has been sent by anyone to IDRF asking for an explanation. But Nussbaum, merely relying on second hand reports, has no moral qualms smearing and demonizing the careful and disciplined work of Vinod Prakash and his volunteer group.
Genocide or Propaganda? Nussbaum ends her essay advising how concerned citizens of the world should respond to the terrible events in Gujarat last year. However, I would also suggest that while we investigate her charges, we should find out why she accepted an award by the same Indian government. Is hers ethical behavior?
Nussbaum asserts that “Vajpayee and other Hindu fundamentalist leaders tried to link the Muslims who allegedly attacked the train to both Pakistan and international terrorism”. Her assertion that “there is no evidence that either of these links has any reality” is utter nonsense. If all of the information available in both government and newspaper reports and analyses will not convince readers, one should ask: “Is the BJP and the RSS leadership so insane to not only believe that India’s 130 to 150 million Muslims can be driven away to Pakistan and Bangladesh but also to think that the world, including American leadership, will turn a blind eye to such a program?”
Nussbaum bemoans the “silence of the world” to the Gujarat events. Is it simply because the world is more balanced and fair than blinkered ideologues, however credentialed they may be? Even the Middle East and Arab nations have not charged the Vajpayee government of conducting a witch-hunt against Muslims. Nussbaum wonders why there has been “no organized efforts by American academics to express moral outrage? Is it because they don’t have the evidence to argue their case?
Nussbaum asserts that what happened in Gujarat was “genocide.” However, on closer examination, “genocide” does not accurately describe the violence that occurred in Gujarat. Genocide is defined as “the systematic and planned extermination of an entire national, racial, political, or ethnic group.” There was no plan to exterminate Gujarat’s Muslim population. There are roughly five million Muslims in Gujarat. The official death toll is about 1, 000 and according to Nussbaum’s sources 2, 000. Most but not all of those killed were Muslims. It is clearly evident that there was no plan to eliminate Muslims from the state of Gujarat and force them to flee.
Nussbaum shows no concern for the ethnic cleansing of Hindus from the Kashmir Valley; about the flight of Hindus from Pakistan, whose Hindu population at the time of Partition was about 21 percent and is now less than one half of one percent; about the massacre and rape of Hindus in Bangladesh, not just during the time of the freedom struggle in the early 1970s but even now and the reduction of the Hindu population in Bangladesh from about 30 percent at the time of Partition to less than ten percent now; about the bleeding of India through a thousand cuts by Pakistan trained terrorists.
Nussbaum says that Muslims have been driven out of Gujarat and their businesses boycotted. S.M.F. Bukhari, Gujarat’s Chief Coordinator of Relief, a Muslim, has noted that of the 133, 000 refugees who had taken shelter in the 110 camps across the state, 12, 229 were still living in the camps in July 2002, indicating that a significant number had already been rehabilitated. He stated that 680 million rupees had been given as compensation to the kin of the dead and injured. Bukhari also stated, “We could achieve 100 per cent success in rural areas where we involved the local leaders and made them convince the refugees to return home. The state machinery behaved as a catalyst” (India Times, July 22, 2002).
Nussbaum’s solutions to resolving the religious conflict in India is regrettable. She urges the economic boycott of Gujarat, by “organizing movements to seek economic sanctions against the state of Gujarat, or even divestiture of university stockholdings in businesses that operate heavily in the state”. It is ironical that Nussbaum, in her essay, condemns Gujarati Hindus for boycotting Gujarati Muslim businesses. Who will be hurt the most if Gujarat is denied economic aid and business investment? How will the Gujarat government deal with a financial crunch already overwhelming because of the cyclone of 2000 (which killed about a 1, 000), the earthquake of 2001 (which killed another 20, 000) and the riots of 2002 that has devastated the State? The massive rebuilding that the State has undertaken after the earthquake of 2001 has put the exchequer in a very deep economic hole.
Nussbaum, if she were truly a well-wisher of India, would educate herself about Indian philosophy, religion and culture and read reports about Indian events by other than her Marxist/Socialist friends and colleagues. She should, as a rhetorician, be especially interested in the fourth-century logician Vatsyayana’s identification of the vices and virtues of speech. The vices originating from speech, according to him are mithya (falsehood), parusha (caustic talk), soochana (calumny) and asambaddha (absurd talk). The virtues of speech are satya (veracity), hitavaachana (talking with good intention), priyavaachana (gentle talk) and svaadhyaaya (recitation of scriptures). Prof. Nussbaum may want to appear on the “right side of history” but that should not be at the expense of truth.
Ramesh Rao is an associate professor of communication at Truman State University, Kirksville, Missouri. He is the author of two books, “Secular ‘Gods’ Blame Hindu ‘Demons’: The Sangh Parivar through the mirror of distortion” and “Coalition Conundrum: The BJP’s trials, tribulations and triumphs”. He has co-edited a book with Koenraad Elst titled, “Gujarat after Godhra: Real Violence, Selective Outrage”.