Mr. Omer Aziz’s recent article entitled “Book banning brings India’s Hindu extremism into plain view” is in my respectful submission misleading and deceptive.
The central premise from which Mr. Aziz argues is the withdrawal of a badly written book on Hinduism published by Penguin India. From this premise, Mr. Aziz jumps from one tangent to another attacking Indian freedom fighters, a legitimate political movement and glosses over the atrocities committed against Indians by Islam (calling the latter crimes “medieval”).
Firstly, the idea of banning any book is repugnant. Penguin India did an ethical wrong by doing so. However, Penguin India did so voluntarily for its own undisclosed private reasons. It had nothing to do with the state nor any violation of a law. The book was never banned by the government or the courts. Quoting “18th Century” penal law had nothing to do with this act. I further note that Mr. Aziz is quiet about the banning of the Satanic Verses in India in 1988 by a so called “secular” Indian government. Is he prepared to state this was pandering to right wing Islam? Where is Mr. Aziz on the death threats to Taslima Nasrin by the same extreme forces?
Secondly, Mr. Narendra Modi’s name was then inserted from this false premise to attack his reputation and to undermine a political moment, despite the fact that Mr. Aziz rightly concedes that Mr. Modi was cleared of any wrong doing. What sparked the riot in 2002 was the undisputed fact that 58 innocent Hindu pilgrims were burned alive in a train compartment by a Muslim mob. The suffering of those innocent 58 souls who died must have been extraordinary as the fire slowly and painfully melted their bodies in a manner not even contemplated in anyone’s conception of hell.
The result is that innocent Hindus and Muslims were killed in riots. Subsequent to this, hundreds of people have been convicted under Mr. Narendra Modi’s government from both religions. Since communities from both sides were convicted, it is factually incorrect to label this anything but secular.
Lastly, Mr. Aziz attacks Hindutva. He clearly lacks an understanding of this movement and the history of India. India was under the rule of Islam for 800 years. India defeated Islam. India was under the rule of the British for 200 years. India defeated the British. Hindutva was key to these triumphs and also its consequence.
Veer Sakarvar said is best: “Hindutva is not a word, it is a history. Not only the spiritual or religious history of our people…but a history in full. Hinduism is only a derivative, a fraction, a part of Hindutva”. The collective culture and history of a people defines its nation. Every nation has a narrative. Every nation has a common history. India is no different.
India has only been free only since 1947. It is righting the wrongs of a 1000 years. Mr. Narendra Modi is not a representation of extremism as Mr. Aziz would like to the readers to believe, but a representation of the aspirations of a billion Indians who want to have freedom, security and prosperity within a culture that is uniquely Indian. This is Hindutva.