Liberhan: Rock and a hard place
by Sandhya Jain on 07 Jul 2009 11 Comments

By a curious coincidence, the Justice S.C. Mohapatra Commission probing the Kandhamal riots of 2008 submitted its interim report almost simultaneously with the final report of the Justice Liberhan Commission on the post-1992 violence following demolition of the Babri structure in Ayodhya.

The reasons for which the respective commissions were set up, viz., tensions between Hindus and Christians in one case, between Hindus and Muslims in another, sum up the psycho-political existential crisis faced by India’s native Hindu community since independence.

Hindus are caught between a rock and a hard place, squeezed between Muslim obduracy and Christian belligerence, both funded and backed by external powers, while the Indian state refuses to support the legitimate needs of its Hindu populace, and even denies Hindu religio-cultural identity in its pursuit of secularism. We thus have the bizarre asymmetry of minority rights vis-à-vis an undefined majority that is denied form and name, but blamed for resisting its own negation.

Justice (retd) Mohapatra’s interim report on the Kandhamal violence following the murder of Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati on Janmasthami, 23 August 2008, endorses the popular view that conversions were a major factor for the riots. It upholds tribal grievances that land disputes and issuance of fake caste certificates by the local administration triggered the unrest which took 40-odd lives. The judge said there was deep anguish among the Scheduled Tribes that Scheduled Caste Pano dalits were “capturing their land through fraudulent means.”

Fake certificates which enabled the Christian Panos to corner jobs from quotas meant for backward tribals were a festering sore. The judge urged the state government to end this fraud and ensure quick release of tribal land possessed by non-tribals. He recommended vigilance in the matter of conversions and re-conversions – a secular balancing act, as if the deliberate alienation of people from their natal religion and cultural traditions through questionable means is at par with the dawning of wisdom and return to ancestral paths.

Meanwhile, the UPA’s decision to defer tabling of the Liberhan Commission report, finally submitted after 48 extensions spanning 16½ years, suggests it may not yield any political mileage. While the Rs 9 crore Commission reinforced public cynicism about the farcical nature of enquiry panels, the Liberhan Commission was no ordinary body. It was tasked with arriving at the truth behind the events leading to frenzied demolition of the disputed Babri Mosque at the birthplace of Sri Rama, exemplary prince and king of Hindu tradition, and an incarnation of Vishnu.

Justice Liberhan failed to comprehend the enormity of this civilisational mandate, this magnificent opportunity to sift through history and tradition, to differentiate between the rights of natal communities and claims of latter-day iconoclasts, to wade through the debris of political negation and arrive at cultural affirmation. Liberhan’s endless extensions exhausted public interest in his conclusions. But in my view, in sharp contrast to political rhetoric following UPA’s second victory, the report has arrived at a moment when identity politics is making an honourable and spontaneous comeback.

Some immutable principles are behind this reality. First, no Abrahamic faith is prepared to mitigate its traditional creedal intolerance of other religions. The old truce whereby they refrained from poaching each other’s flock has given way to sustained Christian attempts to convert Muslims, particularly in occupied and semi-occupied lands like Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Pope Benedict XVI’s May 2009 Jerusalem pact, wherein he promised not to convert Jews, has reportedly been denied by the Vatican to devout Catholics who complained, so the last word has not been said on this issue. Jews are converting poor Christian Mizos – ostensibly a ‘lost’ tribe – for cheap labour in Israel.

Second, the rhetoric of secularism (for non-Christians only) is no longer useful in checking native assertion in former colonial or semi-colonial lands; hence a more naked religious imperialism is being unveiled. 

New forms of minority encroachments in Indian private and public life have long been perceived by the public, but are now gaining political acknowledgement. The most recent case pertains to ‘communal’ violence that flared in Mysore soon after Mr. Hansraj Bhardwaj was sworn in as Governor of BJP-ruled Karnataka.

Press reports suggest that two years ago, local Muslims tried to build an (illegal) mosque on public land in the vicinity of the Huliyamman Temple; the Temple trust to obtain a stay from the court. The Muslims did not face this legal challenge, but suddenly resumed construction, which led to a rise in tensions. Thereafter, we are told, pig flesh was found inside the disputed construction and riots broke out. 

It is now openly acknowledged that Muslims and Christians wantonly encroach public spaces in the vicinity of Hindu Temples; an audacious attempt to build a church on Tirupathi Hills some years ago was sharply resisted by locals, prompting chief minister Samuel Reddy to declare the seven hills as the body of Sri Balaji and ban other religions from the site. Moreover, these new mosques and churches are totally disproportionate to the minority population in the said districts, and are clearly an instance of externally-funded drives to boost conversions in those areas. 

Another issue causing heart-burning among Hindus, which the Congress-ruled Maharashtra government has been forced to admit, is the rising graph of love affairs resulting in marriages between Hindu girls and Muslim boys. Popularly, this has been labelled ‘love jihad;’ targets include rich families whose wealth can be used to serve the monotheistic agenda. The state CID has been asked to look into the matter.

Any honest appraisal of reality would show that faith plays a critical role in the self-image and identity of a people. This is particularly true of monotheistic creeds whose very raison d’etre is the denial of the religious merit of other faith communities and their gods.

Secularism was Christianity’s mask to continue operating in the post-Holocaust era when Jews seized the moral high ground. It proved useful in fooling Third World elites like India’s that religion had no place in public life, while quietly making inroads in the guise of education, social service, and outright intimidation in remote areas. The unrest at Amarnath and Kandhamal shows that regardless of electoral outcomes, Hindus can face both the rock and the hard place simultaneously, and will not allow monotheists to walk all over them.

The author is Editor,

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