Bangladesh Temple Attacks, Hostage Population Theory And Hindu-Muslim Power Asymmetry

  • The asymmetry of power lies in this reality: secular India cannot arbitrarily threaten Muslims in India, and Hindu society does not have the capacity to take action independent of the state.
  • R JagannathanFriday, October 15, 2021 2:44 pm IST
    A temple attack in Cumilla.
    A temple attack in Cumilla.

    The attack on temples by Muslim fanatics during the Durga Puja festival in Bangladesh’s Cumilla district demonstrates once again the asymmetry of power between the Hindu and Muslim communities in the Indian sub-continent. This asymmetry implies that the Muslim willingness to intimidate non-Muslims and resort to violence will ultimately push Hindus out of all Muslim-dominated areas.

    The fact that most Indian newspapers are willing to call Muslim bigots as mere “goons” and “miscreants” indicates clear unwillingness to name the culprits and what motivates them: they are self-declared Muslims and their religion is Islam. For others to call them anything else is sheer cowardice and hypocrisy.

    The power asymmetry relates to two core issues that Hindus have refused to confront: one is the collective ambivalence of the community to organise Hindu society where it can defend its interests. The other is the impotency of the state to defend secularism even if it is threatened by Islamists or Muslim bigots. Dhimmitude is the hallmark of phony one-sided secularism.

    Consider just the headlines we saw all over. Many headlines featured a false equivalence between the vandalisation of Hindu temples and the alleged dishonour of the Quran in one Puja pandal. The headlines included the following:

    The Quint: “3 killed after alleged desecration of Quran in Durga Puja pandal.”

    The Print: “Puja pandals, temples Attacked in Bangladesh over besmirching of Quran, govt promises action”

    The New Indian Express: “Protestors shot dead in Bangladesh after claims of desecration of Koran in Hindu temple” (AFP report)

    Firstpost: “Bangladesh: Goons attack Hindu temples during Durga Puja celebrations, three killed, paramilitary deployed”

    The Hindu: “Miscreants attack Hindu temples in Bangladesh”

    The dhimmi international media has done worse, even dispensing with words like “alleged” or “claimed” on desecration.

    The Jakarta Post: “Four dead in Bangladesh over Koran desecration”

    New Straits Times: Protestors shot dead in Bangladesh after Koran desecration

    Barrons: “Deadly violence in Bangladesh over Koran desecration”

    If one were to summarise these headlines, clearly there is false equivalence between the attacks on a minority community’s religious festival and the alleged desecration of Islam’s holy book, when there is no such proof that this actually happened. In south-east Asian media, the desecration is more or less accepted as fact in the headlines. And every attempt has been made to shield the religious affiliations of the vandals by calling them “goons” or “miscreants”, especially by Indian media.

    This is dhimmitude raised to the power of ‘n’. A dhimmi is a second-class citizen in an Islamic state, whose life and limited liberties depend on the condescension of the majority community. In states with a Muslim minority population, the willingness of politicians and media to shield the community from any criticism is intellectual dhimmitude of the worst kind. Bending over backwards to protect the aggressor from the consequences of his violence is dhimmitude nevertheless.

    Leaving aside the question of whether a Puja pandal did something objectionable with the Quran or not, the reality is that Islamic bigots in Bangladesh were already building up an atmosphere for violence long before the alleged desecration happened. In the two months preceding the Durga Puja, both in August and September, violent Muslim mobs attacked temples in Bangladesh. Clearly, some elements want to intimidate the remaining Hindus in Bangladesh, using any pretext whatsoever.

    The choice of Durga Puja for these attacks is significant. Durga represents Shakti, power, and by attacking the Durga Puja, whether in Bangladesh or even in parts of West Bengal, Islamists are trying to reduce the worshippers of even Shakti to dhimmitude. The only way to worship Durga and Kali is to imbibe the shakti they represent against the forces of evil, not dhimmitude.

    But let us not assume that only non-Muslims are dhimmies. A statement by Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of Bangladesh, on the anti-Hindu violence this week, is worrisome. After saying that the incidents in Cumilla will be put down and the vandals punished no matter which community they belong to, she added: “We expect that nothing happens there (in India) which could influence any situation in Bangladesh affecting our Hindu community here.”

    Did Sheikh Hasina, widely regarded as a friend in India, just reiterate the “hostage population” theory in an indirect way, which implies that the well-being of Hindus in Bangladesh depends on how Muslims are treated in India in the current context? Is it not the duty of any government to protect all its citizens, never mind what some other country does in this regard?

    In the years leading up to the partition of India, the Muslim League, which advocated the separation for the Muslim majority areas of undivided India, reassured the Muslims left behind in India that if they were attacked, Hindus would be attacked in Pakistan.

    But secular India never threatened its Muslims just because Hindus were attacked and abducted in Pakistan (or Bangladesh). As a pluralist and tolerant country, Muslims were not held hostage here, but Hindus were in Muslim-majority areas, not just in Pakistan and Bangladesh, but also in Indian states (Kashmir, etc). In the one instance in which India actually decided to do something about Hindu persecution in Bangladesh, secularists and Islamists ganged up in India to make the law effectively unimplementable.

    The asymmetry of power lies in this reality: secular India cannot arbitrarily threaten Muslims in India, and Hindu society does not have the capacity to take action independent of the state. It is possible to point out some lynchings of cow smugglers as evidence to the contrary, but these stray incidents are always followed by retaliatory action by the other side. A Kamlesh Tiwari who allegedly defamed the Prophet is assassinated. A Ramalingam challenging Muslims to adopt syncretic practices and be secular is immediately killed. But Sangh workers and sadhus lynched by fanatics hardly face any social retaliation. Not that this should happen, but we must point out this power asymmetry leaves only Hindus as losers.

    Effectively, both state and society are impotent to act against Islamic fanaticism and bigotry.

    It is this asymmetry that Hindus need to address if they are to safeguard their interests. Society has to have the ability to act, and not just hope that the “secular” state will protect its interests. There is absolutely no evidence that the secular state will protect Hindu interests. It won’t. It can’t. It is impotent.

    Get Swarajya in your inbox.


    Swarajya Magazine Cover Image