Sunday, 9 October 2011

India: Land Of Paradoxes.

In June this year, a Brahmin priest trying to return to India from Chicago, was taken into custody for committing visa fraud. It is alleged that he charged $30,000 to assist at least 33 Indians enter the US on an illegal basis as religious workers. It was news that did not make any headlines anywhere, even though stories circulating in Indian circles claim that visa fraud in temples is quite common. Fraud, bribery, corruption, money laundering and gambling seem to be a common occurrence in the country that may very well become one of the leading economies in the year 2011. With GDP growing at a rate of almost 9 per cent a year, a work force 467 million strong and a stable democracy, India is hailed as a beacon of hope for emerging economies all over the world.
Yet, the country that exports 12.3 per cent of its products to the USA, hides behind its robust economy, a dark reality that not many like to talk about, not even those who stand for human rights and dignity. With 37 percent of India's population living below the poverty line earning less than one dollar a day, and the other 38 per cent earning slightly over $2 a day, the country is also the murder capital of the world. In 2008 Indians killed 32,719 fellow citizens, more than any other place on the planet. On an average 1.75 million crimes are committed in India every year with some 80 percent remaining unsolved.
Despite the fact that India is considered an IT capital, more than a million girls are killed before or after birth as they are considered a divine curse on the family. Some 47 percent of Indian girls are married before their legal age, and the world is baffled at this mass pedophilia in the name of tradition. The National Human Rights commission reported that, two out of three married women suffer regular domestic violence with no recourse to justice. Dowry deaths are common with as many as five married women burned or killed each day, some 60 cases of rape take place daily and some 45 per cent women are slapped, kicked and sexually molested in public places or in families annually. Even Brahmin (upper caste of India) dominated religious institutions are not free from degrading women. The Devdasi system (female religious servants) is legally banned in India. Yet Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, two of India's southern states practice it forcing some 45 percent of girls to work as prostitutes with reportedly free services to religious leadership. Honor killings are on the rise even in large metropolitan cities such as Delhi, where a young adult girl was proudly beaten to death by her relatives because she had a romantic relationship with a boy outside her caste.
In the country that hails constitutional equality as its hallmark, some 160 million people are considered untouchables, no matter what title is given to them. In scriptures they were called untouchables. In the 19th century when many of them started changing their castes by accepting Buddhism, Christianity or Islam, they were called children of god and now Dalit. For almost 5,000 years, they have lived a life of institutional inequality being treated worse than animals. A cow draws much more respect in the streets of India than a Dalit, who is forced to live at the periphery of civilization. Regardless of the labels, they remain at the lowest rung of Indian society with an average of two Dalits assaulted daily; three of their women raped every day, 14 of them murdered weekly and 60 of their houses torched monthly.
Exploitation of the tribals that constitute seven percent of the Indian population is even worse. No amount of constitutional guaranteed has restored their dignity to them. Some 52 per cent of Indians are considered as belonging to backward castes with little resources to live a decent life.
Despite the fact that India is changing dramatically, corruption is rampant in all walks of life. It is said that corruption is a billion dollar strong industry in India with everyone from the top to the bottom trying to make money for legitimate work. The worst environmental disaster in India that took place in Bhopal in which thousands of people were killed and millions still suffer the consequences, the owner was absolved of his murderous act because the politicians and bureaucracy reportedly greased their palms with millions of dollars. Had this incident taken place in any European country, the world would have come upside down. Yet, not many world leaders talked about it.
Religious violence that once witnessed the destruction of a Masjid in the early 1990s is a scar that India can never erase. It is now being revealed that one of the prime ministers of India and several cabinet level ministers were involved in the mass frenzy against the Masjid. Despite the fact that Gandhi, India's best known world leader sacrificed his life for non-violence, violence is rampant in every walk of life. Some 80,000 Kashmiris have been killed in the Indian side of Kashmir since 1981. Despite the talk of tolerance, the intolerance towards Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Sikhs, Animists, and people of so called lower caste is evident. There is not a religious minority that does not have a story of discrimination and injustice to tell. Several Christian workers were burned alive by Brahmin led groups who forced several state governments to pass legislation against religious freedom. The rate of return for world’s leading bankers is so high that it makes no difference to them if the cost is human life or human misery. Capitalism in its brutal force is shaping the future India.
India, the land of growth is also the land of regression. Illiteracy, injustice, inequality, crimes, murder, caste and religious violence and corruption are so rampant that no one can escape it.
Why is there so much paradox? Why is it that in Bombay, the financial capital of India, the world's largest slum exists in front of a religious leadership that sings praises of gods 24 hours? The corruption of religious leadership is so widespread that rituals, even those involving death, the Brahmin religious hierarchy charges hundreds of thousands of rupees. Many places of worship are oozing money and gold, while outside the temples thousands sit hungry. They are not even allowed to come inside as they belong to a lower caste.
Why is it that a Dalit boy's eyes were plucked because he drew water from a well reserved for higher caste Brahmins? Why is it that the secular democratic India has failed to take care of its poor, neglected, marginalized people?
Thousands of explanations are offered to either cover up or justify the situation, yet the political and social elite of India fail to acknowledge the reality by projecting an image of the country that is far from factual. The world's leading human rights organizations are silent on the institutional degradation of dalits. The State Department turns its eyes the other way. There are two Indias. One that is for the elite, upper caste, English educated individuals. This India is insensitive to the plight of people. It bathes in corruption and cruelty and is totally indifferent to the other India. This India draws its supporters from all religions and linguistic groups. It uses  religious ritualism to purify itself from the crimes against humanity. It prefers to give part of its resources to its religious leaders than to the people who are suffering. But there is the other India that is for the poor, uneducated, lower castes, minorities and marginalized. This India has the dispersed majority and it has been exploited for centuries by the upper caste rulers.
Brahmanism, not Hinduism, is the dominant ideology that has kept the great divide and injustices alive in the name of gods and goddesses. People born with their pre-determined status; low and high, promote the Brahmin elite of India. Despite the fact that they are only three percent of India's population they have ingrained this idea of this institutional inequality in the mind of the people to such an extent that even Christianity and Islam could not escape the scourge of casteism. God is responsible for inequality and we are only the true servants of god, argue the scriptures. Based on this ideology, millions are consigned to the life of ignominy. They are forced to do menial jobs reserved for their generations.
In big cities like Delhi, the sight of Dalit women, children, men and older people carrying human waste in a basket placed on their head is common. Brahminical teachings codified in Manu Smruti clearly define rules for lower caste and untouchables demanding subjugation to higher castes. The rules are as specific as suggesting that certain parts of the body must be chopped off if a lower caste individual uses a space reserved for upper caste. Even in 2010 the untenability is prevalent to the extent that if the shadow of an untouchable is cast on the food of an upper caste, it is destroyed. Even though the urbanization has caused some changes in the attitude of the people, the situation in the rural areas and private homes in urban areas is practiced widely.
The Brahmin elite in alliance with India's merchant class have provided the resources to perpetuate inequalities under the name of gods. "It is the mind of a Brahmin politician and the money of a Baniya (the merchant caste) that is responsible of much of India's inequalities and violence," once expressed one of the prominent Indian Dalit leaders.
Violence in religious scriptures against Dalits, and people outside the caste people is abundantly reinforced by priests and so called holy men on a daily basis in the length and breadth of India. This explains the violence and injustices prevalent in all sectors of Indian society. How can one expect to respect the other when one is reminded daily that the other does not have an existence and the purpose of other's life is only to serve Brahmins as the world is created for him and him alone? Gujarat 2003 is a great example where more than 2,000 Muslims were killed under the very eyes of a political leader who reportedly remain indifferent to the life and property of its citizens.
The Brahmin ideology is preserved in politics and society through outfits that are created to defend the religion of Brahmins. The Rashtriya Swayam Sewak Sangh (RSS) whose leaders once advocated a Nazi like solution for India's minorities, who advocated caste hierarchy and whose volunteers were reportedly responsible for the assassination of Gandhi has penetrated all sectors of Indian civil society. With militancy as part of its philosophy and with support from its outfits in the USA, Europe and the Gulf, the organization has amassed enormous power in India. It is reported that the RSS supporters in the USA donated huge sums of money to the destruction of the Babri Masjid. The RSS sympathizers are present in almost all major political parties including the Communist parties. RSS has great designs to rule over India through its political outfit known as Bharatiya Janta Party, many of whose leaders presided over the demolition of the Babri Masjid.
Nevertheless, the majority of Indian voters, have rejected this racist organization. Its ideology is based on racial and religious superiority and this is perhaps the most dangerous organization that exists in our world today. It is anti-Christian, Buddhist, Jew, Sikh. Its supporters have rewritten a version of history that promotes the notion of Brahmin superiority. The organization speaks for India, yet is controlled by a specific Brahmin caste that is considered highest among the Brahmins. It openly trains its members in militancy and its members have been reportedly involved in the killing of minorities and Dalits. A careful review of its literature would reveal that everyone that does not fit into its ideological fold deserves to be eliminated but in a way that is not visible and known.
For the majority of the years since independence in 1947, India has been ruled by the Nehru dynasty and the future perhaps also belongs to the emerging young great-grandson of Nehru, India's first prime minister. Nehru's Congress party has often played the divide and rule game betraying the secular principles and often supporting the RSS ideology in secrecy.
Many Indians who understand the RSS militancy and the danger posed by its philosophy believe that the emergence of the Rahul Gandhi, son of India's former assassinated Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, brings a fresh air of hope. India's poor and marginalized people hope that Rahul will not promote the caste politics and will refrain from the divide and rule game that his party has successfully played. There are millions of Indians, educated and fair minded who are tired of the RSS and chauvinistic politics that the Brahmin leaders of India have often promoted. They want an India that respects human dignity, that respects its neighbor's right to live in peace, that does not interfere in the politics of other countries, that allows its minorities to live in peace and above all that allows its poor and marginalized to have the opportunities to come out of the circle of poverty and injustice they have been living for centuries. They are looking for a leadership that does not discriminate people in the name of caste and religion and that promotes harmony among different sections of society and that fights crimes and violence against women and minorities.
The seeds of that leadership exist in India, but who will cultivate and water those seeds is something that only time will tell.
Dr. Aslam Abdullah is editor in chief of the weekly Muslim Observer and director of the Islamic Society of Nevada.

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