Last weekend, I was flipping through movies on an OTT platform and came across a title ‘Shikara’. I survived the movie till end but rather than entertainment, I got interested in exploring limits of cringeworthy crash course on dhimmitude and proto-Stockholm syndrome presented as ‘Syncretism and Ganga-Janumi Tehzeeb’. That movie was set in background of forced Kashmiri Pandit exodus in 1990. Superhuman efforts were put in the movie narrative to give a free pass to Muslim population on the tragedy and blame was equally and squarely attributed to Pakistani actors, Indian Army and Hindu organizations based in Jammu, who are inciting mutual hatred among Kashmiri brothers tied by ‘bonds of culture, language and blood’. Though, in present circumstances, makers of movie make a minuscule minority among Kashmiri Hindus, but were makers of movie actually a minority in late 1980s ? Were not Kashmiri Hindu one of most staunch supporters of article 370 and was it not the case that most of them wanted to be known as ‘Kashmiris’ rather than Indians while travelling abroad ? Why Hindus are so obsessed with regional romanticism ?
As written by Dr. B.R. Ambedkar in ‘Pakistan and Partition’, linguistic sub-nationalism was actively promoted by Congress leadership in early 1930s to counter Pakistan movement of Muslim League. General idea behind linguistic sub-nationalism was the flawed premise that a Gujrati Muslim is more close to a Gujrati Hindu as compared to Bengali Muslim. This idea was embraced wholesale by influential sections of Hindu and cause irreparable damage to nation post-independence. Dravidian movement is one of the examples. In a shocker, in 2009 LS election campaign, Raj Thackery claimed that he felt more affinity towards 26/11 attacker Ajmal Kasab as he is learning Marathi than North Indians who don’t want to learn Marathi. However, as Dr. Ambedkar explained, Muslims across the regions were part of a Global Islamic brotherhood and take more pride in fall of Constantinople in 1453 by Turks rather than memories of joint revolt of 1857 against British rule. It was true in 1930s (and definitely more true today) that despite shared sufferings of over 100 years under British rule, Gujrati Muslim would prefer even an Afghan Muslim as ruler as compared to fellow Gujrati Hindu. Hindus and Muslims had different sense of historical past and linguistic sub-nationalism failed spectacularly in covering that bridge. some boneheads keep pointing at large Muslim population in India keep forgetting that across the provinces, Muslim League swept seats reserved for Muslims in all provincial elections held after 1940. There was a widespread support among Indian Muslims for demand of Pakistan and Gujrati Muslim was celebrating freedom of Punjabi Muslim from supposed Hindu hegemony. The key achievement of linguistic sub-nationalism was introduction of a new dimension causing division among Hindus which keep playing out even today. That is also true to some extent in case of Pakistan. Regional sub-nationalism rose its head among Muslims when Hindu foe was decimated or pose no danger as reflected in separation of Bangladesh in 1971 and concerns regarding Baluchistan in present times. However, unlike Hindus, religious wars were fought in unison before fighting among themselves for spoilts of war. All social and cultural questions are subservient to Islamic hegemony. For example, no one should be in any delusion that independent Baluchistan and Bangladesh would welcome their Hindu brothers with shared cultural affinity because regionalism is basis of their existence. A Punjabi Muslim would always have more political right than a Bengali Hindu in Bangladesh.
Biggest damage of emotional sub-nationalism was reserved for Hindu culture. Emergence of Bengali romanticism with sub-nationalism is stuff of legends and one threatening Hindu Bengali way of life. In 1940s, with the great Bengal famine, Calcutta riots and Noakhali riots exposing limits of regional fraternity, majority of Hindu Bengalis were part of national mainstream. However, in 1960s with emergence of Bengali-Punjabi fissures in Pakistan coinciding with rise of left in West Bengal saw strong stirring of regional romanticism. Old tropes of Bihari and UP Mussalmaans creating fissures among Bengali Twins gained strong momentum. Independence of Bangladesh in 1971 gave Bengali Hindus a sense of vindication and hopes were nurtured for a grand nation of Bangla-speaking region. Hate reserved for Punjabi, Bihar and UP Mussalmaans was extended to respective Hindu denizens by Bengali Hindus as an act of delicate monkey-balancing and proof of loyalty of Bengali Hindus towards the cause of ‘Greater Bangladesh’. Indo-Bangladesh border remained extremely porous for 4 decades after 1971 war with free movement of illegal Bangladeshi immigrants Bangla-speaking regions in India. While there were open heart for Bangladeshi Muslims, Marwaris and Poorvanchalis were denigrated as aliens. However, did Bengali Muslims reciprocated to affection of their Bengali Hindu brothers?
One has to understand that Islam is more like a global political organization than a religion as indicated by Dr. B.R. Ambedkar with a cadre-like discipline and any act of indiscipline would be punished by either death or ostracization depending on numerical strength. Whatever you say about left front, one cannot deny that left was fanatically secular in West Bengal and its violent cadre was largely Hindu in character. Muslims always were more wary of mass-deracination project of left and remained solidly behind Congress in Muslim strongholds like Murshidabad and Malda during years of left hegemony. During period 1974-2011, population of Hindus in Bangladesh came down from 14.9% to 9% which clearly belied the fact that Bengali Muslims had any special love for their their Hindu brethren. Nevertheless, Hindu Bengalis, solidly behind left never gave up on their efforts of applying a band-aid on religious decide through secular project of social and economic reform. Then came, tipping point in 2011, in form of victory of Trinamool Congress in West Bengal. With Mamata Banerjee attributing it to Bengali Muslims, carefully constructed project of Bengali nationalism was broken brick-by-brick. Violent cadre was now largely Muslim which had no compunction in turning into religious mobs and in terrorizing Hindu masses in poorly-policed rural hinterlands (legacy of left rule). There were restrictions on celebration of Hindu festivals and special allowances for Muslim religious leaders. These events shook Bengali Hindus to the core and woke them up to realities of world around them. They were reduced to dhimmi and second-grade citizen in the very hand which was won with hardwork of their forefathers in 1940s to ensure dignified existence of Hindu Bengali community. ‘Greater Bangladesh’ project never existed and it was a charade. Today, these Bangla Hindus looking at same much-derided Delhi and UP wallahs to protect them from complete annihilation. Support for NRC and CAA among Bangla Hindus reflects that Bengali nationalism is practically dead and now, it is restricted to some posh Victorian clubs in Kolkata or few campus warriors writing pamphlets in canteens.
Whenever Hindus have sought alliance outside Indic fold against fellow Hindus, they have paved way for their genocide and cultural annihilation. Story played out in 1940s when a Jogendranath Mondol thought that Dalit-Muslim alliance is a ray of hope for subalterns and he was a strong proponent of Pakistan. You just need to do a Google Search to see what happened with him. Had Kashmiri Hindus not supported article 370, Kashmiri Hindus would had numerical strength to counter Islamic iconoclasm unleashed in winter of 1990. Biggest strength of Hindus lies in their numerical strength and whenever they undermine this strength of favor of an ideal, they are playing with a weak hand and setting up themselves for mass extinction of their cultural and regional identity. Regional sub-nationalism is just a stepping stone for Ghazwa-e-Hind and Hindus subscribing to this poisonous ideology are willing accomplice in their cultural and physical annihilation.
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