Tag Archives: portuguese

India should pause and act

François Gautier

Source: Expressbuzz
First Published : 30 Jan 2009 02:01:00 AM IST
Last Updated : 30 Jan 2009 08:45:50 AM IST

How many of us remember the young Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam cadres in the mid-Eighties, when they walked freely in the streets of what was known as Madras: young, nice Tamils, who looked more like students than militants? There is no doubt that over the years the LTTE has become a deadly terrorist outfit, eliminating in cold blood anyone it felt was in the way of its aspirations, including other Sri Lankan Tamil leaders.

The assassination of Rajiv Gandhi was symbolic of that ruthlessness: he was murdered on the assumption that he would then follow an anti- LTTE policy once back in power after the experience of the IPKF.

Today the Tamils of Sri Lanka are paying a heavy price for the assassination: they are losing the war with the Sri Lankan army, mostly because the Congress of Sonia Gandhi, who has never forgiven them for her husband’s murder, is backing the Sinhalese leadership.

But before the LTTE is wiped out, India would do well to think whether it would serve its geopolitical purposes to have a triumphant Sinhala neighbour. For this, one has to first look at the history of Sri Lanka.

There seems little doubt that a few thousand years ago, India and Sri Lanka were linked by a small strip of land, which can still be seen today from the air: Adam’s Bridge, or Ram Setu. This is how the first Tamils, those who settled in the North, came to Sri Lanka. One has to go back a long time to understand what factors shaped the psyche of the island’s two communities. The decisive factor bears the names of two of the world’s greatest religions: Buddhism and Hinduism.

The first is a gentle, peaceful creed that teaches non-violence and brotherhood, even to enemies. Unfortunately, Ceylon, the “isle of beauty”, has always been a tempting prey for sea-faring invaders.

Successive colonisers, from Arabs to Africans, from Portuguese to Dutch and finally, British, preyed on the tiny, defenceless island.

In the name of Buddhism and because the Sinhalese are by nature a fun-loving people, not only did they hardly resist these invasions, but often their women mingled freely with the invaders. The result can be seen today in the faces of many Sinhalese women folk, with their kinky hair or Arabic features.

As a result, the Sinhalese slowly lost their sense of identity, their feeling of collective being, to the point that when the British came, they collaborated wholeheartedly and had to be handed back their independence on a platter, for want of a real freedom movement.

Today, democracy and western institutions are just a cloak that the Sinhalese wear. Lurking underneath is a sense of hopelessness and a terrible violence. Its politicians have been among the least farsighted of the entire subcontinent: nothing is made in Sri Lanka. Only tea, tourism and Western grants help it survive. On the other hand Hinduism, with its strict caste hierarchy, protected the Tamils from mingling with their invaders. They preserved their identity and culture. The Sinhalese live an easier life in the South, always more fertile than the arid North. As a result, Tamils are often better at studies and more hard working, (although one should not generalise). The British noticed it and often gave Tamils preference for jobs and university grants, angering the Sinhalese, who after all were the majority community.

It is this deep-rooted resentment that is in greater part the cause of the present troubles. When the British left, the Sinhalese quickly moved to correct what they saw as an imbalance, depriving Tamils of most of the rights they had acquired under the British and proceeded to establish a Sinhalese-dominated Ceylon. Every time a Sinhalese politician tried to give the Tamils their just share of power, he was forced to backtrack for fear of Sinhalese resentment.

For years, Tamils bore the brunt of Sinhalese persecution. But one day, too much became too much and Tamil armed groups started springing up to defend their people. To cut short a long story, the LTTE finally emerged as the most ruthless and sole militant organisation.

Yet, in 1988, Rajiv stepped in to mediate between the warring Sinhalese and Tamils. All kinds of insulting epithets have been used to describe the Jayewardene-Rajiv Gandhi peace plan and the IPKF’s role in Sri Lanka, but these are unfair.

The plan was the best that could be done in the circumstances, and the IPKF did not come to conquer, but to help. All the same, India got bogged down in a guerrilla war, with one hand tied behind the back to avoid killing civilians. Ultimately, it had to leave because of pressure at home and Premadasa’s intense dislike of Indians.

Today Tamils are on the verge of being completely overrun. And this raises the question of India’s security.

What will be the consequences of a triumphant Sinhalese majority? Are not Sri Lankan Tamils closer to Indians, culturally, socially and spiritually, than the Sinhalese? Will Sri Lanka, like Bangladesh before it, turn on India once it has achieved, with India’s help, its goals? The Government of India should think twice and remember Rama and Ravana before it allows the Sri Lankan army totally to subdue the north.

fgautier@rediffmail.com

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The Hindu Rate Of Wrath

Illustration by Sorit
OPINION
The Hindu Rate Of Wrath
When the Mahatma’s cowards erupt in fury, it hurts. It isn’t terror. ......

Is there such a thing as ‘Hindu terrorism’, as the arrest of Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur for the recent Malegaon blasts may tend to prove? Well, I guess I was asked to write this column because I am one of that rare breed of foreign correspondents—a lover of Hindus! A born Frenchman, Catholic-educated and non-Hindu, I do hope I’ll be given some credit for my opinions, which are not the product of my parents’ ideas, my education or my atavism, but garnered from 25 years of reporting in South Asia (for Le Journal de Geneve and Le Figaro).

In the early 1980s, when I started freelancing in south India, doing photo features on kalaripayattu, the Ayyappa festival, or the Ayyanars, I slowly realised that the genius of this country lies in its Hindu ethos, in the true spirituality behind Hinduism. The average Hindu you meet in a million villages possesses this simple, innate spirituality and accepts your diversity, whether you are Christian or Muslim, Jain or Arab, French or Chinese. It is this Hinduness that makes the Indian Christian different from, say, a French Christian, or the Indian Muslim unlike a Saudi Muslim. I also learnt that Hindus not only believed that the divine could manifest itself at different times, under different names, using different scriptures (not to mention the wonderful avatar concept, the perfect answer to 21st century religious strife) but that they had also given refuge to persecuted minorities from across the world—Syrian Christians, Parsis, Jews, Armenians, and today, Tibetans. In 3,500 years of existence, Hindus have never militarily invaded another country, never tried to impose their religion on others by force or induced conversions.

You cannot find anybody less fundamentalist than a Hindu in the world and it saddens me when I see the Indian and western press equating terrorist groups like simi, which blow up innocent civilians, with ordinary, angry Hindus who burn churches without killing anybody. We know also that most of these communal incidents often involve persons from the same groups—often Dalits and tribals—some of who have converted to Christianity and others not.

However reprehensible the destruction of Babri Masjid, no Muslim was killed in the process; compare this to the ‘vengeance’ bombings of 1993 in Bombay, which wiped out hundreds of innocents, mostly Hindus. Yet the Babri Masjid destruction is often described by journalists as the more horrible act of the two. We also remember how Sharad Pawar, when he was chief minister of Maharashtra in 1993, lied about a bomb that was supposed to have gone off in a Muslim locality of Bombay.

I have never been politically correct, but have always written what I have discovered while reporting. Let me then be straightforward about this so-called Hindu terror. Hindus, since the first Arab invasions, have been at the receiving end of terrorism, whether it was by Timur, who killed 1,00,000 Hindus in a single day in 1399, or by the Portuguese Inquisition which crucified Brahmins in Goa. Today, Hindus are still being targeted: there were one million Hindus in the Kashmir valley in 1900; only a few hundred remain, the rest having fled in terror. Blasts after blasts have killed hundreds of innocent Hindus all over India in the last four years. Hindus, the overwhelming majority community of this country, are being made fun of, are despised, are deprived of the most basic facilities for one of their most sacred pilgrimages in Amarnath while their government heavily sponsors the Haj. They see their brothers and sisters converted to Christianity through inducements and financial traps, see a harmless 84-year-old swami and a sadhvi brutally murdered. Their gods are blasphemed.

So sometimes, enough is enough.At some point, after years or even centuries of submitting like sheep to slaughter, Hindus—whom the Mahatma once gently called cowards—erupt in uncontrolled fury. And it hurts badly. It happened in Gujarat. It happened in Jammu, then in Kandhamal, Mangalore, and Malegaon. It may happen again elsewhere. What should be understood is that this is a spontaneous revolution on the ground, by ordinary Hindus, without any planning from the political leadership. Therefore, the BJP, instead of acting embarrassed, should not disown those who choose other means to let their anguished voices be heard.

There are about a billion Hindus, one in every six persons on this planet. They form one of the most successful, law-abiding and integrated communities in the world today. Can you call them terrorists?