Hugh Fitzgerald: The Hindu Response To Muslim Aggression: Is There A Lesson For The West?

Previously I discussed the thesis of Ding Gang, a well-connected Chinese writer on geopolitics, who wrote last fall that he believed that Indian Muslims, unlike their counterparts elsewhere, were less extreme, less violent, less prone to engaging in terrorist acts, and that he attributed this to the “moderate” side of Hinduism, which kept Muslims to a large extent satisfied, and certainly not eager to take part in terrorism.

By way of response, I gave a list of many serious terrorist attacks carried out by Indian Muslims. I also noted that the most devastating attacks by Indian Muslims took place in Kashmir, and that much of the news from that region has not always penetrated into the Western consciousness. One reason is that the government, and media, of India may not wish it to be known how poorly they have defended their own — that is, Hindus — in Kashmir. For the killings of the Pandits have been particularly gruesome.

Here is what the Pandits endured in the pogrom of 1990:

The days that followed the night of January 19, 1990 saw Kashmiri Pandits being killed in scores every day. Atrocities against KPs had become the order of the day. Everywhere in Kashmir, from Budgam to Brijbehara, from Kupwara to Kanikadal, there was hardly a day when Kashmiri Pandits were not being tortured and killed. The forms of torture ranged from the gouging out of eyes, to cutting off of genitals, to burning bodies with cigarette butts and even chopping off body parts — all were used by Muslims killing Pandits. Sarwanand Kaul Premi, a noted  Brahmin scholar, had nails hammered into his forehead.. BK Ganjoo was killed in his home and his wife was asked to eat the rice soaked in his blood. Sarla Bhat, a nurse, was gang-raped before being killed and her naked body was thrown on the street. The killers of Ravinder Pandita of Mattan danced over his body. The bodies of two Pandits, Brijlal and Choti, were tied to a jeep in Shopian and dragged for 10 km.

Girja Tikoo, a school teacher in Bandipora, was gang-raped before being killed. There are hundreds of such stories. Meanwhile, the meek and feeble Indian state looked the other way. A notorious terrorist named Bitta Karate alone killed more than 20 Pandits and had no shame accepting the same. …More than a thousand Pandits were killed, tortured and raped within a few days.

Ding Gang appears to have completely overlooked this long-drawn-out act of mass sadism by Indian Muslims in his desire to see India’s Muslims as exceptions to the “radicalism” he finds elsewhere. He appears not to realize, either, how many bicycle, bus, train bombings (and deliberate derailings, by tampering with the tracks) in India have been the result of homegrown Muslim terrorism, that is, members of the Indian Mujahideen and other domestic terrorists. At Jaipur, in Varanasi, at the German bakery in Pune, in the series of bombings in Ahmedabad, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Bangalore, these acts of terrorism by Muslims in India are given very little attention in the Western media unless foreigners are among the victims. This may have misled Ding Gang into thinking India is largely free of domestic Muslim terrorism. Terrorism in India just doesn’t get the coverage that attacks by Muslims in Europe routinely receive.

And there is one other countervailing force holding Indian Muslims in partial check: Fear. Unlike in Europe, Muslims in India have a healthy fear of violent retaliation for any acts of terrorism. There are a few hundred million Hindus who do not work in offices; many of them are poor laborers, or peasant farmers, easy to whip up into a mob. Hindu nationalism has been on the rise, as the victory of the BJP in 2014 testifies. It’s not hard to arouse anti-Muslim sentiment; it’s never far from the surface. Hindus in the “Hindutva” movement, or in the BJP, are ready to remind the Hindu masses of what happened during the several hundred years of Muslim rule. According to the Indian historian K. S. Lal, between 70 and 80 million Hindus may have been killed during that period, while millions of others, of course, converted to Islam to avoid having to pay, as dhimmis, the Jizyah and submit to other onerous conditions. Many of the Hindus are ready to retaliate with tit-for-tat violence, or often, in retaliating, with even greater violence. In 2002, after a train carrying Hindu pilgrims was set on fire by Muslims, killing 68 Hindus, the Hindus in Gujarat erupted, and the resulting inter-communal riots led to 790 Muslims and 254 Hindus being killed. Many Muslim properties were destroyed. These “Gujarat riots,” as they became known, were a lesson for Muslims. It was not the government they had to fear, but Hindus acting out their rage and resentment, and their historic memories of the brutality of Muslim rulers. “Why does it seem that Muslims in India have remained largely apart from the radicalization that has happened to Muslim groups in other parts of the world

Ding Gang fails to realize that in India proper, Muslims have not been nearly as quiescent as he seems to think. Though two of the most important acts of terrorism — those in Mumbai in 2008 and at the Parliament Building in Delhi — were conducted by Pakistan-based groups, there has certainly been plenty of  terrorism by Indian Muslims, including attacks by members of the group Indian Mujahideen. The 1993 bombings in Mumbai, with 257 dead, and 717 wounded, making it still the deadliest of any terrorist attack in India, were carried out by Indian Muslims controlled by the famous gangster Dawood Ibrahim. The 1998 series of bombings at Coimbatore Junction Railway Station, with 12 separate bombings, killing 58 and wounding more than 200, were part of a plot by local Muslims to kill L. K. Advani, a leader in the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party, or Hindu Nationalists). The ten major attacks by the Indian Mujahideen, right up to the present, about which Ding Gang ought to, but may not, know, are listed above. That those attacks are not more numerous testifies not so much to the meek-and-mildness of Indian jihadists, as to their incapacity, as compared to the terrorists who prepare their attacks, undisturbed, in Pakistan, and also to the efficient monitoring of the Indian Muhajideen by the Indian security services.

Since 1970, there have been 9,982 separate incidents in India of violent attacks, by both Muslims (Indian and Pakistani) and by Hindus. The Indian Muslims have been especially active in Kashmir and Mumbai, but elsewhere the number of attacks by them has been relatively stable. As for Hindu attacks on Muslims, they have been steadily increasing. As noted previously, Hindus have been emboldened by the political rise of the Hindu Nationalist Party, the BJP (the Bharatiya Janata Party), and the victory of its candidate, Narendra Modi, in the 2014 election. Since then, the numbers of attacks by Hindus on individual Muslims have gone up markedly, and in the last few years groups of Hindu “cow vigilantes,” easily whipped up by rumors about Muslims who have supposedly ill-treated a cow (sacred to Hindus), or even eaten beef, have lynched a dozen victims. This brand of Hindu hysteria should be, and has been, deplored by Hindu leaders, and has nothing do with the retaliatory attacks by Hindus after being attacked by Muslims.

Ding Gang may think that Muslims in India have rejected “radical Islam” and have not been involved in terrorism, but the record does not bear him out. It is true that the world media pay far less attention to such attacks in India, compared to that given to terrorism in Europe, and then do so only if those attacks are truly spectacular, as were the 2008 attacks in Mumbai carried out by Lashkar-e-Taiba, a Pakistani group. That attack contained all the elements of high drama: the terrified guests barricaded at the Taj, a luxury hotel, the young Jewish couple at Nariman House, a Chabad center, who were killed with unusual cruelty, while an Indian nanny saved the life of their baby; a half-dozen other sites where murder most foul was committed. By comparison, the Indian Mujahideen have struck mainly targets — buses or trains load with Hindu pilgrims — that offer little to capture the imagination of foreign journalists. Ding Gang explains what he sees as the paucity of attacks by Indian Muslims by reference to soothing aspects of the ‘“moderate” side of Hinduism. It’s not Hinduism, as Ding Gang maintains, but the behavior of Hindus, which is a different thing, and is most definitely not “moderate,” that helps explain the relatively subdued behavior of Indian Muslims.

Muslims in India, to the extent that they are committing fewer terrorist acts than they might, are doing so not because they reject “radical Islam,” but because they recognize the dangers at this point of attacking Hindus. The are outnumbered more than 8 to 1 by Hindus, and many of those Hindus can easily be roused to a fever pitch of anti-Muslim feeling. After all, they are well aware of how their ancestors were treated during the centuries of Muslim oppression, subject to every sort of brutality including mass murder. Ding Gang thinks that India has found a way to keep its Muslims from being “radicalized” — that is, from engaging in terrorism. He asks: “Why does it seem that Muslims in India have remained largely apart from the radicalization that has happened to Muslim groups in other parts of the world?” His answer is that Hinduism, because of its tolerance, seems to dampen Muslim extremism. I think he has it exactly backwards. To the extent that Muslim extremism is less evident in India than in many countries, it is because, after Partition, the Hindus became numerically so much more powerful than the Muslims who remained in India, and ideologically became steadily more supportive of the idea of Hindutva (an ideology that seeks to establish the hegemony of the Hindus and the Hindu way of life), and more resentful of what Hindus endured under centuries of Muslim rule, that they became more willing to fight physically, to retaliate quickly for any Muslim attacks, and even to suppress the Muslims, to make clear, and to remind them, who’s boss (as, of course, the Muslims do to Hindus in Pakistan and Bangladesh). The evidence suggests that: first, Pakistani Muslims commit much of the terrorism in India because they are freer to prepare such attacks inside Pakistan, in a sense relieving Indian Muslims of the duty; second, Indian Muslims are not as peaceful as Ding Gang seems to think, but have committed a considerable number of terrorist attacks, especially in Kashmir; third, and most important, if Indian Muslims are not as involved quite as much in terrorism as are Muslims elsewhere, it’s only because they know that the Hindus in India have repeatedly shown that they are ready to retaliate with ferocity. There’s a lesson in that third point for the West, but it’s not one that, given its present course of appeasement, it’s likely to learn.