SV: SV: SV: ICHR controversey

Lars Martin Fosse lmfosse at ONLINE.NO
Mon Mar 6 10:01:00 UTC 2000

Rajarshi Banerjee [SMTP:rajarshi.banerjee at SMGINC.COM] skrev 05. mars 2000
> But you seem to be implying that europe has a social conscience and well
> established checks against bigotry/racism while India is just on the verge
> of discovering/losing them.

I think I have answered this already, but to be on the safe side:
racism/bigotry/prejudice is NOT an Indian prerogative. As everybody knows,
including myself,  Europe has one of the most bigoted and racist histories of
the world. When I contrast the politics of the Sangh combine versus the
politics expressed by the European Union and the Council of Europe, it is
because I want to stress the point that Indians seem to be on the verge of
walking directly into the same ideological and political traps that Europe with
a lot of bloodshed has managed to extricate itself from. (Those of you are
interested in more data on this might want to check out the web page of the
Council of Europe, where a number of documents are available for downloading).

> As a resident of India I have seen enough evidence of balanced broad minded
> thinking in India.

Again, I don't doubt that.

> I have nothing against israel and its existance but would like to illustrate
> a point. A whole nation was founded on the basis of ancient history by
> reclaiming palestine, for the sake of essentialy a european population.

I think this is an interesting point. There are historical reasons for Israel
coming into existence, but when Israel was founded, this history was only part
of the moral justification. The rest of the justification - and an ongoing part
of it - is theological. As a secular person (although I am not a Marxist), I do
not accept theological justifications for creating a state. Israel has
prevailed and cannot be undone, and all parties in the Middle East would
probably be better served by a just peace, but originally Europe's persecuted
Jews simply did what many other persecuted people have done in the past: they
migrated to another territory and took it by force. They had no "right" to do
so, they simply had the determination and the weapons.

> There was a vast disconnect between mordern arab palestine and its jewish
> past but that and the rights of the residents was never made an issue.

You seem to forget that the Brits made an effort to stop the creation of a
Jewish state. But after Israel was created, there was a very long period of
acquiescence where Israelis could get away with murder. Today, the situation is
different. Israel certainly meets with criticism in quarters that used to be

> I have met basques and macedonians who have been forced to give up their
> language. Such policies are unthinkable in India.

Basques are today not forced to give up their language. But Franco's Spain
certainly tried very hard to "Spanify" them. Comparable policies were used in
France against people who spoke Breton (France's Celtic language). These are
the policies that the Council of Europe decry and want to replace with policies
that support and accept minority rights and minority languages.

> There is a kind of racism in the assumption that whatever is done by
> europeans or americans is moral.

Who made such an assumption?

> You should meet some Indian muslims and ask them if they think that the
> Indian govt policies are becoming progressively  fascist or anti-muslim or
> whether their dignity is threatened, For eg my ex-room mate is a muslim from
> India.he would think such views are silly..  Compare with the attitudes of
> serb muslims.  There are muslims in the indian army who died fightning the
> enemy in kasmir. Abdul kalaam is called the father of the Indian missile
> program. Do any gypsies, serb muslims ever enroll in the yugoslav army.
> India has a rather stable society pehaps due its long convoluted history.
> Maybe europe has more unification pangs to go through compared to INdia.

I also subscribe to other lists than Indology, where the picture presented is
not quite so idyllic as the one you give here. But I will readily grant you
that the situation in India is not uniform. In some places, Muslims have a
tough time, elsewhere there life is easier. People like Abdul Kalaam are
special cases. I will bet that noone, particularly not the BJP, would aggravate
a man of such obvious usefulness to India.

> I sometimes wonder how tolerant US society would be if people were
> illiterate and had poverty levels like India.

Now, that is a very apt remark! One of the ongoing mysteries about India, seen
from my point of view, is this: Why isn't India MORE violent? Seen from a
European point of view, the social situation with which Indians have to live
would seem to be excellent reasons for revolutions. The poverty and complexity
of India do not really invite tolerance, rather cut-throat competition. But as
for US society: is it really all that tolerant? I seem to remember endless
struggles for "people of colour" to acquire elementary rights. Today, many
people will probably still complain about intolerance, although the situation
seems to be much better than it was in the fifties.

What worries me about India is that it seems to be giving up its traditional
tolerance and to be heading for an ideology of uniformity with a repressive
streak. Which brings us back to the origin of this discussion: Should India
spend a lot of energy debating past Muslim atrocities, or should it, as I would
suggest, rather focus on the matter of religious tolerance and try to make a
distinction between civic, public life on the one hand and religious life on
the other the way we have ended up doing in the West. It took us about 350
years. I don't expect India to make the same journey in a jiffy.

Best regards,

Lars Martin Fosse

Dr. art. Lars Martin Fosse
Haugerudvn. 76, Leil. 114,
0674 Oslo
Phone/Fax: +47 22 32 12 19
Email: lmfosse at

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