Tuesday, October 12, 2004

India: Re-Unity with Pakistan

[Thousands of Hindus regard the 100-year-old party, the Hindu Mahasabha, as the legacy of a patriot who fought for freedom from British colonial rule and was determined until the day he died to reunite the two nations.“Some may call this madness. But who knows ... it may come true,” said Himani Savarkar, daughter-in-law of the party’s founder, Vinayak Savarkar. She will fight the polls from Pune, southeast of Bombay, India’s financial hub.“India has always been a Hindu country and Pakistan was part of it. Some day they have to become one nation,” she told Reuters, sitting in an old office surrounded by dog-eared files and a huge photo of Savarkar, also known as ’Veer’, or “brave”.]


Small Hindu party seeks to reunite India, Pakistan

PUNE, India - Tucked away in a narrow lane in a sleepy Indian city, a small right-wing party inspired by its Hindu hero dreams of a future in which rivals India and Pakistan are reunited.

Thousands of Hindus regard the 100-year-old party, the Hindu Mahasabha, as the legacy of a patriot who fought for freedom from British colonial rule and was determined until the day he died to reunite the two nations.

Many people consider the union of India and Pakistan a far-fetched idea, but more than 50 years after the countries were formed in 1947, their union is the key aim of the party as it readies for polls in the state of Maharashtra on Oct. 13.

“Some may call this madness. But who knows ... it may come true,” said Himani Savarkar, daughter-in-law of the party’s founder, Vinayak Savarkar. She will fight the polls from Pune, southeast of Bombay, India’s financial hub.

“India has always been a Hindu country and Pakistan was part of it. Some day they have to become one nation,” she told Reuters, sitting in an old office surrounded by dog-eared files and a huge photo of Savarkar, also known as ’Veer’, or “brave”.

The assembly poll in the western state is the first critical electoral test since the Hindu nationalists lost national polls in May and the winner in the state will get a strong morale boost ahead of more state polls over the next year or so.

But Savarkar’s party has slim appeal for voters in the face of other groups in the electoral fray, who range from lower-caste contenders to other Hindu outfits.

Savarkar’s party has been in the limelight recently after an uproar by Hindus objecting to the removal of a plaque to her father-in-law in a jail in the remote islands of Andaman and Nicobar, where he was once confined for 11 years.

Condemns the Congress

Set up in 1914 to fight British rule, the Hindu Mahasabha condemns the Congress party, once led by apostle of non-violence Mahatma Gandhi, for letting Pakistan be carved out of Britain’s former colony in what it calls a bid to appease Muslims.

“We oppose Muslim theocracy,” said Himani Savarkar’s father, Gopal Godse, one of the last survivors of the group of men brought to justice for the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi.

“If Hindus decide, they can reunite the nations,” said Godse, 85, who still hopes to one day follow ancient custom by immersing the ashes of his brother Nathuram—hanged for shooting Gandhi—in the river Indus that runs through what is now Pakistan.

One survey ahead of the Maharashtra election has forecast a hung house with no party winning a majority of 145 seats in the 288-member assembly.

Analysts say small parties could help to split the vote, making it tougher for the main ruling Congress and the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, defeated in federal polls in May, to win with a clear majority.

But Savarkar’s party is undeterred by the history of the two nations or the fact that they nearly came to the brink of a fourth war in 2002.

Analysts say the Hindu Mahasabha’s ideas are totally out of sync with reality.

“A slogan like ’undivided India’ is unacceptable,” said political analyst Kumar Ketkar, pointing out that issues like water scarcity, power cuts and the deaths of hungry children dominate the poll campaign.

“The issue is unrealistic and impossible. The world has changed. Maybe 40 years ago it was acceptable when India was a new nation.”

Reuters 10/10/2004