September 11, 2020
A correspondent wrote to Norman Finkelstein, who forwarded it to a friend of his.
I would first and foremost like to thank you for all the work you’ve done; it’s had a great effect on the lives of both myself and my friends.
I am a second generation Canadian of Indian ethnicity. I walked around three major states in India with a tape recorder in my hand prior to the most recent election last summer. The sense of repulsion and hatred that the Hindu majority holds pertaining to our Muslim brothers very much mimics what one hears on behalf of Zionists when discussing the rights of Palestinians, or even America’s rhetoric against Muslims during the Iraq war (two very different situations, I know, but I believe the rhetoric is at the very least comparable). My question is a simple one you yourself have most likely pondered repeatedly. What is the reason for different cultures to repeatedly use Muslims as targets for their hate? I know you mainly deal with Israel-Palestine, however, could this situation be a part of a larger scale (almost communal) hatred that the rest of humanity has on this specific demographic? I know I’m ranting here, I’m just so perplexed. I am a Hindu. I read the Gita, I pray everyday. Nowhere does it say in our religious texts that we should kill, rape or discriminate. Yet we seem to have indulged in all of this and more as if we are merely doing our part to feed the inertia of humanity’s mania regarding Muslims. I wonder what your thoughts are regarding this, and I thank you for your work.
God bless, stay safe
Sanjeev Mahajan repliesI do not have anything illuminating to say regarding your observation that Muslims seem to be reviled and brutally oppressed not only in the West, but also in countries like India, Burma, and China. But the reasons for this hatred against Muslims in India are clear if multifarious and complicated, foremost of which is the almost total hegemony of the upper Caste Hindu elite on the Indian national movement. I will write about it in detail later if you like, but for now I am sending you a letter I sent to my German in laws who were interested in my views on the partition ‘holocaust’. The letter echoes your observation that of late, the hatred against Muslims has intensified, and has become deadlier. Here it is.
The immediate aftermath of the insanity that engulfed the Indian subcontinent during the partition years, resulted in a postmortem which became a treasure trove for the post-independence poets and writers. That generation produced some of the most formidable names in South Asian literature. Their elegiac novels and stories pondered over the question of “man’s inhumanity to man” without descending into lachrymose sentimentality. “How does a loving neighbor become a murderous psychopath?” Almost Freudian in their diagnosis, they explored the dark underbelly of the human psyche.
What is however remarkable, and what makes this literature truly immortal, is that, instead of Emile Zola’s j’accuse, it points the finger inwards. The Hindu writers do not blame Muslims or vice versa, they blame themselves. The immediate post-independence generation had learnt its lessons, and the more enlightened members of the Indian ruling elite realized that they had to forge an ideology which could not allow such hatreds to fester again. Because of the moral force of communism at the time and the success of anti-colonial movements, that ideology had three pillars on which it stood: socialism, secularism, and democracy.
Since the nineteen eighties, all three of these pillars have come under relentless attack from the same forces who were responsible for the madness that resulted in countless deaths during the partition. These Fascist forces had been banished into the wilderness and banned from entering politics (primarily because one of their number had killed Gandhi) immediately after Independence. However, many underestimated their iron will and infinite patience. They slowly injected their toxic ideology into the Indian polity, first by the means of countless schools they started. They knew that the immediate post-independence generation was a ‘lost cause’. Instead, they set out to mold the coming generations in their own image. By the early nineties, this strategy was beginning to pay off. On 6th Dec 1992, these Fascist forces demolished an ancient mosque, while at the same time leaving a trail of blood wherever they went. This was one of the watershed events in modern Indian History, as it earned these forces rich political dividends.
In 1998, the BJP (the political wing of these forces) was catapulted into power, and these forces have, since then, not looked back. In fact, even when they were briefly out of power (2004-2014), their ideology still ruled the roost. Even the effete Congress party, which was in power during this brief period, pandered, albeit opportunistically, to this toxic ideology. The fascist forces made a stunning comeback in 2014, when Narendra Modi who is an ultra-Fascist leader of this party became the Prime Minister of India. Prior to becoming the leader of the second most populous country in the world, he was the Chief Minister (equivalent of a German Ministerpraesident) of the Indian State of Gujarat. Modi was complicit in the 2002 genocide of Muslims in his home state, but now he is feted all over the world.
With the advent of Modi, the “gentle” Fascism of the nineties is now passe. What we now have can only be characterized as Fascism on steroids. Like his doppelgaenger in the USA (Donald Trump), he has deliberately chosen the most incompetent, and vilest people imaginable to head the various Indian ministries. Respectable institutions suffer the same fate. Indian Council of Historical Research is headed by someone who believes that the fantastical and mythological tales that make up the two canonical Hindu texts ‘The Ramayana’ and ‘The Mahabharata’ are literally true.
Meanwhile, the culture in India has become increasingly toxic. The Indian middle class (the milieu I am most familiar with) is unabashedly and virulently anti-Muslim. Not a day passes when there is not some atrocity against Muslims, but most people simply rationalize it away either by claiming that they deserve their fate, or that the victims are themselves responsible. People always find some excuse to beat up or lynch Muslims. If yesterday it was ‘love jihad’ (a not so quaint term to suggest that young Muslim men seduce Hindu women, and lead them astray), today it is the ‘sin’ of ‘selling beef’. A typical lynching begins with a rumor that some poor Muslim is going to skin a cow. The rumor spreads like wildfire, and several lumpen youth gather with various assortments of weapons, surround the house of their intended victim, torch the house, and either beat the hapless man to pulp, or hack him into pieces.
When I think about all this, I cannot help but despair. I feel quite guilty that I am not out there fighting and struggling against such injustice, when there are so many wonderful people who, at a great personal cost to them, are trying their level best to fight for the cause of justice.