A few days ago, when five Muslim soldiers were killed during an attack in Sunjuwan, a remark of Assauddin Owaisi, the Hyderabad MP of the AIMIM, created a furore. In his statement, Owaisi asked why the Indian mainstream media and the Hindutva rabble-rouser brigade are quiet on the “sacrifice of the Muslims for the nation”, as displayed by the valour of the soldiers who “martyred” in Sunjuwan. The Indian Army’s General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Northern Command, Lt. General Devraj Anbu came out in defence of the Modi government, “We do not communalise martyrs, those making statements don’t know the Army well,” he said to counter the criticism by Owaisi.
This statement of Lt. General Devraj Anbu was hyped by the Indian mainstream corporate-controlled media and the advocates of the militarist Hindutva camp to show how “secular” and “unbiased” the Indian Army is as an institution. However, they didn’t utter the whole truth – The Indian Army doesn’t communalise its martyrs, to ensure that the Muslims get no credit of patriotism when they fight and die fighting for the largely Hindu army. But the same Indian Army unofficially, yet very expressly, treats the Muslim community as a threat to national security on the lines of the Hindutva terror mongers like the RSS or the VHP.
This similarity in their mental wavelength is probably a reason why Army Chief General Bipin Rawat, who is eyeing a BJP ticket in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, recently sparked a controversy by subtly linking the growth of the AIUDF in Assam with the Hindutva camp’s hysteric claim of rising Muslim population due to illegal immigration from neighbouring Bangladesh. By claiming that the AIUDF has been growing faster than the BJP, Bipin Rawat wanted to reinforce the xenophobic propaganda of the Sangh Parivar that blames an imaginary and fabricated influx of Muslim immigrants from Bangladesh to spread the fear of an Islamic takeover to 86 per cent of the Hindus in India.
These xenophobic campaigns have led to the victory of the divisive and communal fascist forces under the leadership of the BJP in Assam and the state is now preparing to purge the Muslim population and consolidate the Hindutva hegemony by using the state power at its disposal. By using an official podium to spread hatred against the Muslim community in Assam, especially the Bengali-speaking oppressed Muslims, Bipin Rawat showed that he is acting as a loyal representative of the Modi government on its ideological front as well, and is taking over the charge to divert the attention of the Indian people from the Rafale Jet scam, the mother of all defence scams and also from the PNB scam, in which the close supporters of the RSS, Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi are allegedly involved.
This isn’t the first time we have found that an Indian military official speaking on the same lines that the RSS men parrot every day. The BSF and Army officials joined a border security discussion organised by the RSS recently in Kolkata, in which the RSS volunteers and present governors of Tripura and West Bengal, Tathagata Roy and Keshri Nath Tripathi participated in their official avatar. The BSF DG K.K. Sharma attended the aforesaid meeting in his official capacity and thereby showed towards which organisation the Indian military and paramilitary organisations are leaning towards, if not towards a fanatic Muslim organisation like the AIUDF. It’s a known fact that Colonel Purohit helped the RSS-affiliate terror organisation Abhinav Bharat with military expertise and the Bajrang Dal is able to organise terrorist camps with the tactic help of the Hindutva fanatics at the higher echelon of the military establishment, who leaves no chance to cosy up with those in power and pave way for self-elevation.
If we ponder over the claims of the former, well-paid and well-oiled Army personnel, as well as the present officers – that the Indian Army is absolutely secular and holds no religious bias, then we will find what a big fallacy such claims build in public perception and how the claim face the charade in places like Kashmir, where the majority of the people are humiliated and persecuted in a sadistic manner by the military and paramilitary only because of their Muslim identity.
The mockery of secularism exists in the naming of the battalions, in the nomenclature of weapons and gadgets, in the slogans and taglines of the battalions formed on the caste and communal lineage of the soldiers. No other country on earth, except for the theocratic dictatorships prevailing in the Gulf and elsewhere, links their Army with religion and theology in such a shameless fashion. The Indian Muslims are not allowed to enrol themselves in the Army unless they belong to some troubled parts, where the Army hires local people to kill local resistance. Forget about becoming a general or reaching any senior rank in the Army or other branches of the military like the Air Force or the Navy, the entrance of Muslims even to the rank of Junior Commissioned Officer(JCO) is marred with several unsurmountable resistances, which are there to prevent their military career even if they display utmost loyalty to the Indian ruling classes and their vision of a fascist-militarist dictatorship in place of the present pseudo-democratic system.
Under-representation of Muslims in the Indian Army since the partition of the country is an undeniable fact that even the military veterans would agree to, however, most would blame the “lower-level of education” among the Muslims for the lack of their presence in the Army or other military and paramilitary forces. They blame the Muslims for the misfortune of the community without agreeing that this backwardness is actually the result of a deliberate discrimination that the minority community faces in the country where all institutions are openly Brahminical and profess faith in the Hindutva ideology of V.D. Savarkar & Co. No schools are opened in the Muslim-majority areas and the poor Muslims are left with no choice but to send their children to religious seminaries to get their basic education and something to eat. The door of entrepreneurship, bank loans, government jobs and even schemes meant for the minority communities is closed before the poor Muslims. What can they do to have “higher-level” of education in a country where education is monopolised for the upper-caste Hindus? Where can they find jobs if they are restricted to live their lives in “Muslim-dominant” ghettos on the outskirts of big cities?
This discrimination of the Muslims in the Army is well narrated in “Khaki and Ethnic Violence in India”, which is an excellent research work by an MIT scholar Omar Khalidi. In his research, Khalidi points out how the Muslims are not only under-represented in the fourth largest army on earth, but there are some minority communities who are actually over-represented in the military establishment. The Muslims and Sikhs were earlier considered “martial races” by the British colonial rulers and the Army built by them had been following the same doctrine until the 1857 revolt, in which the Muslims played a crucial role and hence came under the suspicion radar of the colonial rulers as a community. Though the British colonialists opened the gate of the Army for the Muslims during the two World Wars, the post-colonial government, which inherited the anti-people colonial Army from the British, shut the doors completely by reinforcing the RSS-spewed venom against the Muslim community that the latter will eventually help Pakistan, if in case a conflict breaks between the two neighbours. The Indian Army’s tribute to secularism has been confined within the narrow walls of the Sarva Dharma Prarthana Sthala, or the all community prayer halls, built in Anantnag of Kashmir and in Pune where all community members can pray. There is nothing else except these but tall talks.
When Bipin Rawat worried about the growth of the AIUDF, which is, of course, a communal organisation, but lesser evil than the RSS and the BJP, he actually manifested the fact that as the Indian Army personnel, especially its top leadership (which incidentally had eight Major General rank Muslims until now), are drawn principally from the upper-caste North Indian Hindus, they carry with them the prejudice, communal bias and bigotry that they have towards the Muslim community and the Dalits, Adivasis and Christians. It’s a reason that most of the retired military men would associate with the RSS or the BJP and ensure its communal propaganda gets an endorsement of the olive green. Lack of political education, social awareness and the dominance of feudal bigotry in their lives make most of the military men live their lives as the Hindutva camp would want them to.
The training and education programme of the Indian military establishment focus mainly on turning human beings into killing beasts with no empathy towards human life, rights and values. The colonial mindset, which is blended at the military institutions with the predominant feudal mindset, manufactures a toxic product that considers the military superior to the civilians who pay for their upkeep and subsidised ration. The hatred infused towards the opponents of the government, the minority communities and the xenophobia and jingoism with which the military personnel are tempered with, helps them to kill when ordered to kill, without asking questions or desiring to know why they are working as mercenaries of the ruling class.
The communal bias is more visible when the Indian paramilitary forces come into the picture. The atrocities that the Kashmiri people have been exposed to by the Indian Army and paramilitary can be linked to the Hindutva-fascism inclined mindset of the military and paramilitary personnel who represent Indian rulers in the valley. It wouldn’t have been possible for the BSF or any other organs of the Indian armed forces to execute a gruesome gender-violence like the one in Kunan-Poshpora, at any upper-caste Hindu locality of Mumbai or Delhi. It wouldn’t be possible for the paramilitary forces to kill the dominant Jats or Rajputs in Haryana or Rajasthan like they shoot the tribals in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Odisha. Yet we are told that the Indian Army neither communalise an incident nor has a bias against any community. It indeed is the instrument of class rule of a very biased and bigot state machine owned by the rich and super-rich zealots from upper-caste Hindu strata.
Bipin Rawat will be rewarded by the BJP, like it rewarded the former Delhi Police chief B.S. Bassi, the former Bastar Police IG SRP Kalluri and the former General V.K. Singh. They all proved their loyalty towards the cause of consolidating the Hindutva fascist empire and they received their share of the pie, while the Muslims, the Dalits and the tribal people continue to perish in the ghettos and hinterland of India, in the civil war zones and in the places where they are reduced to their immediate identity and cannot fight back. They are lynched, rebuked or are thrown behind the bars on false accusations due to their identity.
The majority of the Muslims, Dalits, tribals and backward caste Hindus perish because they have no ownership or access to the resources that are monopolised by the rich and the super-rich, who are not-accidentally the upper-caste Hindus who would leave no opportunity to amplify their patent propaganda that India gives equal opportunity to all. While, like the Army officer of Northern Command, they hide the fact that the equal opportunity is provided to the unequal people, in whom some excel in the ownership of resources and the rest not only lacks ownership but are barred from even approaching the resources by regressive feudal theologies. In such circumstances, it’s not abnormal to see an Army chief criticising a political outfit of the Muslims while his Lt. General singing hymns of secularism. Hypocrisy and absolute uncritical obeisance before the seat of power are two key features of the state machinery that advertises itself as impartial and unbiased. A military and a government that work incessantly to consolidate, strengthen and promote the growth of a reactionary feudal-colonial system cannot be expected to bring forth anything worthy for the people, except for more death, destruction and repression.
Nabeel Anwer is a Delhi-based journalist who writes on issues related to the minority communities and marginalised people. His harsh criticism of the system got Facebook to censor him repeatedly.