I had decided that I would not be posting anything today. I had considered posting something when I finished watching the brilliant The Breakfast Club but I realized that most of you out there probably had not waited this long to see it and any kind of recommendation or praise I could muster up would be moot. So, I decided I would just go to bed and read.
What I am reading currently is the insightful collection of essays called "The Age of Kali: Indian Travels and Encounters" by the always brilliant and masterful William Dalrymple. This is Mr Dalrymple's second book about his experiences in India. The first one, one of my all time favorites, was City of Djinns: A Year in Delhi, a fascinating read about his stay in the city that I grew up in. This second one covers almost the entire subcontinent.
This might look like a post about how wonderful the book is, and I wish it was since the book is quite wonderful. However, I am a little too angry to do any such post proper justice. I am reading the chapter about Vijayaraje Scindia - the late Rajmata (Queen Mother) of the erstwhile princely state of Gwalior (now part of the state of Madhya Pradesh). She figured quite prominently in Indian politics during the 1990s. To call her a hardliner would be quite an understatement. She was one of the vice-presidents of the Bhartiya Janata Party, the political arm of the right-wing Hindu extremist group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (Association of National Volunteers).
Every year since 1989, various of the Rajmata's organizations had held an annual rally at the site of a disputed Mosque - the Babri Masjid - which, they claimed, had been built by invading Muslim rulers over the holy site of the birth of the Hindu god Rama. The purpose of such a rally was to perform sacred rites to indicate their intentions to rebuild the temple. On December 6, 1992, however, at one such rally, a vast crowd of 200,000 militant Hindus stormed the barricades and tore the entire Mosque down with ropes, pickaxes, hammers and even their own hands. They then attacked the local Muslim population and also the foreign correspondents at the scene with knives and iron bars.
This event itself is galling, but what makes be absolutely crazy is the behavior of this so called Queen. She, despite having signed a written pldege to the Indian High Court guaranteeing the safety of the mosque, was at a podium cheering and shouting encouraging words to the crowd over a microphone. Here are some other snippets from an interview taken by Dalrymple about 5 weeks later (during which the city of Bombay witnessed some of the worst acts ever performed by Indians against Indians since the partition in 1947 - 1400 Muslims died at the hands of local lynch mobs):
1) When asked whether she at least condemned the attacks on the journalists, she replied "Acha Hua" (it was a good thing that happened)
2) The Rajmata's political mentor, Sardar Angre, when asked to comment on the murders said that "The Muslims must be made to understand that they should be proud of Hindustan. Look at what happens at cricket matches: the Muslims always support Pakistan."
3) When Dalrymple mentioned that "... can hardly justify murdering people because they support the wrong cricket team", the Rajmata had the temerity to say, "Hindus are docile people. They always welcome anyone - even the Jews", and then nodded her head to emphasize that this was an act of extreme tolerance.
4) She later mentioned that "... if only the Muslims followed the Hindu ideology there would be no more trouble. They should accept our common culture and unite in the name of God."
I am literally at a loss for words. Words like these should not be uttered by any human being let alone a Queen and a servant of the people. I know I have been indignant about the state of Indian politics before and I know that it is pointless since reason is hardly a weapon that prevails when it comes to things like this. However, I cannot help being appalled that I belong to a country where such thinking is not only acceptable but also encouraged. You may tell me that people have moved on but frankly, I am not sure that things have changed. Even though the Rajmata has passed on, there is no shortage of intolerance and hate.
[ PS: I am a practicing Hindu and I do not believe that my God has or will ever ask for a drop of blood to be shed in his name. ]
[ PPS: This post borrows heavily from The Age of Kali. ]