PENSIEVE: Roots of Indian rage —Farrukh Khan Pitafi - Thursday, October 28, 2010

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Bush was not only popular because he was friendly towards India and signed a nuclear deal, but also because his government ended Pakistan’s flawed policy in Afghanistan. While the policy was flawed, the reason for jubilation was clearly imperial in nature: India wanted its own footprint in Afghanistan

It is clear that in his upcoming itinerary to our region President Obama will not come to Pakistan. Evidently our country is in a league of its own, not a place where you pay surprise visits like Afghanistan, nor a country where you feel comfortable enough to take out time for an elaborate scheduled visit. But for a moment let me focus on his chosen people — the Indians. It is astounding that when the then Senator Barack Hussein Obama was running for the presidency with statements bashing Pakistan and supporting India, his Indian colleagues were rooting for the Republicans. Intriguingly, when he was elected to the presidency his transition choice for intelligence was Bruce Riedel, someone with such clear sympathies with the Indians that during the Blair House meeting following the Kargil crisis, President Clinton did not want to lose sight of him while meeting Nawaz Sharif. I think it can be clearly deduced from the current state of affairs that his contribution actually thwarted the efforts in Afghanistan. And how much will be visible in the following lines.

Currently I am reading a book from the New York Times’ bestseller list called The Roots of Obama’s Rage by Dinesh D’Souza. As evident from his name the author is of Indian origin. I am still not finished with the book hence will reserve my final judgement until the end, yet it cannot be denied that the author or the tome do not harbour any malice against Obama. Reading between the lines and often perverting their meaning, D’Souza, while using Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance, wants us to believe that the US president’s upbringing and worldview are to blame for the present mess we all are in. Why would he not say that for he is the one who tried his level best to ruin the prospects of the then presidential nominee Obama by dragging the issue of his impoverished half-brother George Obama’s hut into the media coverage of the campaign.

The choice of the book’s title is curious too because it has an uncanny resemblance with Bernard Lewis’s article ‘The Roots of Muslim Rage’ that appeared in The Atlantic magazine’s September 1990 issue. While Lewis is known for his intellectual hostility towards Muslims, this article of his is known for its role in building a case for the clash of civilisations and identifying the Muslim world as the next enemy after the Soviet Union. Not only did he coin and use the phrase ‘clash of civilisations’ before Samuel Huntington, the article’s subtitle reads, ‘Why so many Muslims deeply resent the West, and why their bitterness will not easily be mollified’. Guess what. I am a Muslim and I do not resent the west. In contrast actually, like my uncountable peers, I believe that if we want to progress we will have to follow the west’s example. But that is beside the point. Samuel Huntington further developed the thesis into a full-fledged argument in support of a clash. Ironically after building his thesis on Toynbee’s definition of western civilisation, Huntington died after writing a book called Who Are We? The Challenges to America’s National Identity, in which he reduced the national identity of the US to the White Anglo-Saxon Protestants (WASPs).

D’Souza’s book, like Lewis’ article, smacks of racism. While identifying with Obama’s origins at the outset to show he is not racist, D’Souza bulldozes the president’s worldview with the typical racist approach of calling it anti-imperialist. Yet the author is of course a known conservative and despite third world origins is entitled to his share of hostility towards the US president. But if looked at closely, this seems an outcome of D’Souza’s country of origin. After all, George W Bush invoked India’s example; where in his own words he was popular. In my humble view, quite contrary to all known laws of physics, if Bush was popular there then Obama is unpopular. What does this explain? A bonding with the neoconservatives? It seems that somehow during the Bush era and especially the days spent under the BJP rule, India lost touch with Gandhi and Nehru’s secularism. Bush, it must be pointed out, was not only popular because he was friendly towards India, and signed a nuclear deal, but also because his government ended Pakistan’s flawed policy in Afghanistan. While the policy was flawed, the reason for jubilation was clearly imperial in nature: India wanted its own footprint in Afghanistan. And from there the admiration grew into the typical Muslim-bashing and support for Bush.

Of course it did not help that the country was under the BJP’s rule at that time. During the BJP’s time, an extremist monster was unleashed — that of racism. Consider this quote from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) bible, We or Our Nationhood Defined by M S Golwalkar: “To keep up the purity of its race and culture, Germany shocked the world by her purging the country of the Semitic races — the Jews. Race pride at its highest has been manifested here...a good lesson for us in Hindustan to learn and profit by.” What do you say to that, eh? So D’Souza’s belligerence is a product of the phenomenon of radicalisation taking place in his country. Today even the seculars in India are held hostage by the radicals and Muslims who do not marry in Hindu families have a lesser chance of upward mobility.

Obama of course is not very popular in Pakistan either. One of the reasons is that the Laal Mosque brigade kept alleging that he had proposed bombing of the holy shrines at Makkah and Medina. Nonsense of course, even though effective. But slowly the propaganda is bound to grow weak. And of course I do not condone the hypocrisy of the US-bashers in this country. If we seek aid we should be thankful too. But the focus of this piece is India, not Pakistan, and I want to emphasise a few crucial points here.

I have been repeatedly asking myself why India is not ready to talk to Pakistan and why the Indian establishment appears so wary of the Obama administration. And also the moment I write a note even in praise of India I am inundated in minutes with hate mail from Indians. I think you will find some explanations in this piece. If Indians do not want to correct their direction, it is their lookout.

The writer is an independent columnist and a talk show host. He can be reached at

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