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Inconsistency in Canadian Foreign Policy


Commentary

Feroz Mehdi


The ruling party in India, the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), is part of a larger ‘family’ of organizations called the ‘Sangh Parivar’. These include, apart from many smaller outfits in different provinces, the Shiv Sena, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the Bajrang Dal. The main ideological organization which decides the orientation of all these parties is the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).

It is claimed by the supporters of the RSS that it is a ‘social outfit’ and not a political party. Latest to assert this was none other than the Prime Minister of India Mr. Atal Behari Vajpayee. Archival evidence, published in the journal Economic and Political Weekly of January 22, 2000 clearly shows the political orientation of the RSS. The founder and leader of the RSS in 1938 says: "The very fact that Germany or Italy so wonderfully recovered and grown so powerful as never before at the touch of Nazi or Fascist magical wand is enough to prove that those political ‘isms’ were the most congenial tonics their health demanded". This is not just the thing of the past. Sarvarkar still inspires and is considered as the leader by the people of the Sangh Parivar. This can be seen from the social studies textbook for the students of Grade 10 prescribed by the government of Gujarat. (See last page for details) Also, the leader of the Shiv Sena, Mr. Bal Thackery, has openly praised Hitler and his policies in several interviews given to national and international media including the Time magazine.

The outfits associated with the Sangh Parivar have started spreading terror in all walks of life. The latest was an attack on the renowned Canadian filmmaker, Ms Deepa Mehta in India. The film, an Indo-Canadian venture, was being made in India with all due government permission. Yet, the sets of the film were demolished and the artists had to run for their life. This is not an isolated incident. Many artists have been threatened and attacked on the grounds that they are ‘hurting the Hindu sentiments’. This is very much reminiscent of Germany of 1930s.

The attack on religious minorities by the RSS and allies has been well documented by various newspapers and other media. When last year the Sangh Parivar outfits destroyed churches in the province of Gujarat and many people got attacked and killed, the sitting Prime Minister proposed to hold a national debate on religious conversions! This was in the background of brutal murder of Graham Stein, a missionary working with the lepers in the tribal area.

School curricula and teachers who stand up against the Hindutva vision of history are threatened and beaten up. The Guardian Weekly of February 3-9-, 2000 reports "Concerns that India’s increasingly nationalistic government is rewriting school text books to depict Muslims and Christians as alien villains was made public last week as history teachers launched a protest against a creeping bias in their curriculum". Teesta Setalvad, a prominent human rights activist said " Prejudice is being bred among children. Some texts heighten irrational thinking and glorify upper caste Hindu symbols. The education minister has made his intentions amply clear.".

While the Canadian government’s concerns for the inclusion of Mr. Haider’s Freedom Party in the government in Austria is very much appreciated by us, the complete silence on the developments in India is alarming.

We urge the Canadian government to take a stern position on the fascist tendencies in India today headed by the BJP and guided by the RSS and its constituent parts. This will be an appropriate gesture towards the well being of the democratic minded people of India who are struggling for harmony and peace in India and the entire region.
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