Raising South Asian Voices

Cynthia Dettman:  Author

History Repeats Itself

It is so sad to see the anti-Muslim Hindu fundamentalism that is animating the current Indian government.  What would Gandhi say?  Gandhi’s famous biographer was just arrested in a peaceful protest in India.  As I understand it, the new law helps religious minorities fleeing certain Muslim countries, but excludes Muslims.  The law leaves out many countries with Muslim minorities (like the Rohingya of Myanmar) and assumes that the government’s Muslim enemies in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh are the bad actors.  It’s just one more example of various efforts by President Modi and his government to isolate, harm and discriminate against the country’s roughly 15% Muslim population.

Did you know that India was roughly 25% Muslim when Gandhi helped to throw the British out?  Scholars disagree, but my impression is that Gandhi opposed the Partition of India that created Pakistan and Bangladesh, in the areas where India’s Muslims were concentrated.  Partition was a terrible time when thousands died in religious violence as Hindus and Muslims moved across the new borders.  Are Hindu fundamentalists ready to “cleanse” India of the Muslim faith?

Sadly, there are areas of Northeast India where people are protesting this law for a different reason:  they don’t want anyone encouraged to enter their areas as immigrants to be fast tracked to citizenship.

The other very sad point is that the government is using totalitarian tactics and violence against the many peaceful protests in India today.   I’m heading to Chennai in a week!  I hope police violence is minimal and that students and others are protected as they bravely disagree.  I am glad that South India, where I will be, has a long history of living peacefully with a variety of religions.  And Tamilians in particular don’t like the central government’s imposition of religious or cultural hegemony on Tamilnadu’s distinctive culture and history.

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A provocative and timely response to current conflicts within India and throughout the world. I believe we must think about this carefully and react accordingly. Henry David Thoreau comesto mind. Here is a quotation from his essay “Civil Disobedience”: In the essay “Civil Disobedience,”…..Citizens must disobey the rule of law if those laws prove to be unjust.” Peaceful Resistance is one mode of meaningful response, in my opinion. 

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