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I hope the Indian authorities will give their full support to the growing campaign to phase out this system of dry sewage scavenging, carried out by dalits for a few pence a day. I note the Early Day Motion on this, now signed by many Members of the other place. It is rightly the focus of an international campaign, to which the Indian Government need to respond as a matter of urgency.
I end where I began, by emphasising that India has a wonderful constitution in which freedom of religion and equality for all are clearly set out. However, in reality, the brutal facts deny this. Hindu extremistsnot Hindusare getting away with what should have been stopped and prevented a very long time ago. Discrimination against dalits still exists in multiple forms. The Indian Government must take a significant share of the responsibility for this. It is a cultural phenomenon, but laws are not being properly applied and there are practices that the Government could change. I urge Her Majestys Government, with our European partners, to continue to do all they can to help India, not only in the struggle against terrorism but also to end what has rightly been termed as this terrible blot on humanity.
Lord Parekh: My Lords, I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, on securing the debate and I thank her for introducing it with the passion and conviction that we have come to associate with her. I should also like to welcome my noble friend Lord Paul in his new incarnation. I wish him well, and it is by serendipitous coincidence that he should be presiding over the House on a day when we are debating India.
In the past few years India has been subject to more terrorist attacks at the hands of Islamic militants than any other country, with the exception of Iraq. Terrorist targets have included the Indian Parliament, commercial centres, commuter trains, five-star hotels, crowded railway stations, airports and, even, hospitals. Methods of terrorism have been increasingly brutal. Recently, at the Taj in Mumbai a man was asked to bring water. After he had done so he was shot in his forehead. Another was asked to render a similar service and his throat was slit.
The aim was to kill. According to the Indian newspapers, the target set for the terrorists was to kill no fewer than 5,000 people. When the Indian Government wanted to negotiate and see whether hostages could be released under certain conditions, the terrorists did not want people under their control to be seen as hostages. Even grievances were not stated and were reeled off at random. No clear demands were made and, in the indiscriminate killing, many Muslims as well as Hindus became victims. This was not therefore a case of instrumental terrorismthe point of which one might under some circumstances be able to seeit was, rather, an expression of mindless hatred resulting in cold and clinical execution as part of a mission with no clear goals.
Happily, the Indian response has been most mature. There has been no Hindu backlash in any part of the country, not even in my own Gujarat. In recent state elections, the BJP, the so-called Hindu fundamentalist party, was defeated in some states. Muslims of India unanimously have condemned these attacks. They have issued fatwas saying that terrorism is incompatible with Islam. They have collectively decided that terrorists should not be allowed burials. Indians, largely, have gone about in a quiet way, asserting life and their own pride. They have confronted death with life and national humiliation with pride. The noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria, spoke about the wonderful example of Tendulkar very quietly scoring a century, knowing in his own mind that it was meant for India and to heal the process of national pain. Every nation comes to terms with its tragedies in its own way. The people of the United States responded in one way to 9/11; we responded in another way to 7/7; and Indians spontaneously drew upon their own cultural resources in order to cope with this process. Surprisingly, although perhaps not so surprising, even in Pakistan there has been some sense of outrage and criticism, in public and in private, of what happened in Mumbai.
The question before us therefore is how we respond to this litany of terrorist attacks in India. Largely, three causes are responsible for what has happened. First, there is the Jihadi mentality, which is concerned largely to restore the earlier Muslim hegemonic empire.
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The second factor that has played an important part has to do with the history of Pakistan. Unlike all other countries that defined their identity during the colonial struggle against the colonial masters, Pakistan defined its identity in relation to India. While India defined its identity in relation to Britain, Pakistan saw India as its comparator or point of reference. Large sections of the Pakistani population have never really got over this. This has been intensified by a sense of revenge after Bangladesh, for which India was held responsible, rather than Pakistans own failure to come to terms with its own diversity. Therefore, there is a certain hard core of opinion, reflected in ISI and in certain circles, that is hostile to India and wants to take advantage of every available opportunity. This is changing, but not fast enough.
A third factor has played a part in India being subject to terrorist attacks. That has to do with Indias own limitations and failings, partly in the case of Kashmir and partly in the case of a large number of disadvantaged Muslims.
If we recognise that these three factors have played a part in terrorist attacks, then the response has to be at all these three levels. Terrorists obviously must be fought and subdued, and India needs all the help that we can give it in the form of shared intelligence, pressure on Pakistan, helping with tracking down terrorists and training counterterrorist forces in India. India also has to learn to handle the whole thing professionally, rather than in a lackadaisical way, as it did in Mumbai.
India needs to make sure that its 150 million Muslims are not deeply alienated. As I argued in a couple of articles recently, if even 1 per cent of Indias Muslim population felt that it had no stake in the country and resorted to terrorism, the number involved would be as high as 1.5 million.
As of now, despite all that has been said, Indias record has been much better than expected, or than that of most other countries that I can think of, in integrating its minorities, including dalits. Dalits constitute about 14.5 per cent of the population. I cannot think of any other country that has embarked on a programme of massive affirmative action, as India did, long before the Americans, back in 1949. I ran one of Indias largest universities several years ago and was responsible for implementing the programme of affirmative action for the ex-untouchables, now called dalits, tribals and other minorities. In sports, in films, in Bollywood, in the economy, Muslims and other minorities occupy important positions. It is also worth remembering that India had a dalit president long before the United States had a black president. Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar, a dalit, was the founding father and the architect of Indias constitution.
Sadly, what has happened in India is that Muslims have increasingly come to be seen either as a vote bank
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Here I should like to say something about what has happened in Orissa and parts of south India, where I come from, in relation to Christians. India has a long tradition of showing enormous respect for Christianity. It is striking that the founding father of India, Mahatma Gandhi, was more Christian than Hindu. In his ashram there was only one image, Jesus on the Cross, and none of the Hindu gods and goddesses. It is also striking that modern-day Hinduism, which claims to be anti-Christian, is profoundly shaped by Christian ideas of social service and homogeneity. Lots of Christian influences have permeated modern-day Hinduism. Why is it, therefore, that during the past 10 years and not before, a country with a strong commitment to Christianity should have increasingly feltthis does not apply to all parts of the countryanti-Christian?
It is also striking that, as in 1947 and 1948, the constitution of India protects the right to convert. Why, after 60 years, should the country want to limit the right to convert? Unless you understand the politics and, sadly, the economics and commerce of conversion, you will never understand what is going on in India. As somebody who has made an academic study of this, I can tell noble Lords that things are not as simple as they are sometimes made out to be.
Evangelical Christians in the United States have a budget of $2.6 billion in order to bring as many Hindus as possible into the Christian fold. Some of the others have not been lagging behind either, with the result that a large number of Hindus feel besieged and insecure. Many of them are blackmailed, bought, or tempted in all kinds of ways, into changing religion. I am all for the right to convert and I deeply deplore what has happened in Orissa. However, I do not wish just to condemn; I am concerned to trace the causes of that. We must understand that while Hindu fundamentalists are to blame for what has happened, other groups are not entirely innocent. Unless profound changes take place, so that religion is not seen simply as a commodity to be bought and sold, we will not understand what is happening. Why do we want to convert people anyway? That debate took place in India in the 1930s and 1940s. Unless one bears in mind the kind of debate that has taken place, one will not understand why these things are happening 60 years after independence.
The other point to bear in mind is that, as I said earlier, India has not been entirely innocent. Kashmir is one issue. Again, India began well. It gave considerable constitutional autonomy to Kashmir so that no Indian from the rest of India is allowed to buy land or settle in Kashmir. If a Kashmiri were to marry a woman or man from the rest of India, he or she would lose some of his or her social security rights. So India has gone a considerable distance towards accommodating Kashmir, unlike Pakistan in relation to its part of Kashmir. But things began to go wrong in the 1980s when elections were rigged. The army was increased so that today
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A similar change is needed in Pakistan. The people of Pakistan need to reclaim their country from the hands of the military and the mullahs. Thanks to what has happened in Mumbai, there is a sense of shame. There is also an increasing brain drain in Pakistan. More and more talented people are leaving the country. If one watches Pakistani television and reads the Pakistani press, one sees some very important debates taking place. One hopes that eventually there will be a very powerful coalition of progressive forces, something like the rose revolution or the pink revolution in other parts of the world. One hopes that there will be a huge peaceful movement in Pakistan wanting to bypass the mullahs and the military. I had hoped, and had suggested to various friends in Pakistan, that it would be wonderful if important groups were to take to the streets and say to the terrorists, Not in our name. If they had been able to do that, it would have had a wonderful impact on India.
It is very important that we in Britain keep a watchful eye on what is happening in India and Pakistan. We have a role to play, partly due to our historical legacy. We can play the role in two important ways: by encouraging the two countries to control terrorists and, equally importantly, by entering into a dialogue with journalists, trade unionists, politicians, academics and others in places such as Ditchley Park. There people from the two countries drawn from different walks of life can get together, talk and try to work out a common agenda. We cannot wash our hands of what is happening. We must help India to fight terrorists and we must help both countries to stay together in fighting a common enemy.
The Earl of Sandwich: My Lords, the title of the noble Baronesss debate was prompted by the recent horrific attacks in Mumbai, but noble Lords have rightly ranged well beyond that. I was in Nairobi with the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, at the time and was remindedas I am sure he wasof the very close ties between families on both sides of the Indian Ocean. These atrocities have affected us all, but they are not
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I agree with my noble friend Lord Bilimoria that we should congratulate both the England and the India cricket teams on going ahead with the test match in Chennai and on producing such an outstanding performance on both sides so soon after these events. The local police must also be commended. We can imagine what was on the minds of those players during the preceding fortnight and we can be certain that it was not cricket. But cricket must be one of the most convincing demonstrations of the victory of the human spirit over violence and terrorism. As my noble friend and the noble Lord, Lord Parekh, said, in India, Sachin Tendulkar has personified this.
Meanwhile, it is to Indias credit that collaboration with the Pakistani authorities over terrorist suspects already shows promise of more reconciliation between those two countries in future. This was immediately demonstrated by the raid on the main Lashkar-e-Taiba camp last week. This co-operation, if it holds, may be a positive outcome, much as we deplore the cost to all the families affected in Mumbai and beyond.
As my noble friend Lady Cox said, India has seen violence in a variety of forms. There are many areas of non-Islamic terrorism in India, whether from Maoists, Nepalis, Naxalites or others in the south. I was surprised that, after an all-too-brief visit, our Prime Ministers Statement on Monday made almost no reference to the work that the police, courts and politicians have to do all the time in India to combat terrorism, crime and human rights abuse.
The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Rochester said this week in an interview that during his time at Karachi University you had to choose between three faiths: Christianity, radical Islam and Marxism. When the bishop sent him to work in the Karachi slums, he says, the people were so poor that he had to bury their dead children in fruit crates. Seen from the shanty towns of Mumbai and Karachi, the world has not moved on a great deal from that time, except for mobile phones, which serve every community and cross every divide. Where there is acute poverty and child labour, gangs will always rule and radical Islamists will recruit new suicidal teenagers.
Does the Minister accept the analysis of another cricketer, Imran Khan, that the aerial war on terror in the North West Frontier Province is, and has always been, counterproductive? Does he appreciate that even where intelligence about the location of terrorists is correct, the collateral damage from the air is bound to turn the population against foreign interference? This is not to deny that co-operation with the Pakistan army and intelligence services on the ground must continue and can only improve, as the noble Lord, Lord Parekh, said. India will be furious at todays news that Pakistan has lost Masood Azhar, founder of Jaish-e-Mohammad, one of those who attacked the Lok Sabha in that terrible event in 2001.
Another large community in India is exposed to attacks every day of the year; namely, the dalits. I declare an interest as a patron of the Dalit Solidarity Network in the UK. To give one illustration, I was in a village in Rajasthan a year ago, where a shepherd boy had simply spilled water from a hand pump over a bucket belonging to a Rajput merchant family. The boy was thrashed, and when his mother ran to help she was beaten so badly that her clothes were torn and she was taken to hospital. When a bystander later tried to bring charges for this straightforward event, the Rajputs shot his son dead in front of him.
This vendetta against anyone who defends dalits is quite common. The chances of dalits ultimately receiving justice are extremely thin. Even when a case comes to the local courts, the victim is unlikely to win. Out of 297 cases followed by one local NGO in Hyderabad, 287 were acquittals, making an average conviction rate of only 4.7 per cent. In cases lasting more than three years, the rate fell to 3 per cent.
Despite this, I know that a lot of local NGOs in the dalit network are working overtime to prepare cases for court and in the mean time to support families directly affected by these atrocities. I am glad to say that DfID is currently engaged with some of these NGOs through the international aid agencies, and I hope that it will continue this support.
I have also seen how effectively NGOs in Orissa are working with the poorest sections of society. I was especially impressed a few years ago by a CARE International project which demonstrated how young women, given loans and basic literacy, can start small businesses and completely transform their family life and the local economy. My noble and right reverend friend Lord Harries is right to highlight the crucial importance of education in that context. The potential for aid and development is very strong in India, and this can extend to human rights work. I am sure that the Minister will have taken up my noble friends important point about internal trade in South Asia. I am sure that we can help there.
However, I should tell the Minister that like the noble Baroness I am not satisfied by the FCO's participation in the human rights dialogue with India. Part of this is bilateral and part of it is through the EU, and the EU commissioner is personally committed to it. But we are old friends of India, and many of us would like to see a much more active role for the FCO, not just through dialogue at a high and occasional level, but through engagement with some of the organisations experienced in human rights in India and, in that way, through the political process in India.
As we have heard, in Orissa last August a Hindu swami and four assistants were shot dead by unknown gunmen. As these men were known to have converted tribals and dalits to Hinduism, Christians were immediately blamed. In the reprisals, more than 200 churches and hundreds of houses were destroyed in Kandhamal; violence in which dozens of Christians lost their lives and thousands became homeless. A nun and a Hindu girl were raped: the girl was murdered, it was said, because her grandparents were converted
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Christmas Day has apparently been chosen for another showdown between the two religious camps in Orissa. The Hindu authorities, backed by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, VHP, have ordered a sit-down strikeor a bandhon that day if the swamis killers are not arrested. In response, the National Council of Churches and the Catholic Bishops Conference have united to resist all threats to Christians during their most important festival. Violence erupted when a similar strike was called around Christmas last year, and we must hope that there will not be violence this time.
This conflict, like others in the sub-continent, cannot simply be explained by religion, as is usually suggested, especially in popular newspaper headlines. While dalits have generally been the poorest and most neglected in society, many have undeniably improved their socio-economic status through conversion. In itself, that may be a cause of envy and resentment. Yet again, victimisation of Christians and their loss of scheduled status recently led some of them to question whether the churchs protection has in fact led them into violence and homelessness, when they would have preferred to be left alone.
The Chief Minister of Orissa, Mr Naveen Patnaik, is a personal friend of mine from Delhi in the 1960s, when his father was the Chief Minister before him. I know his family well. I was encouraged to hear from the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, of his assurances about security at Christmas. But I have to tell Naveen that, from what I have read, neither his Government nor the Union Government in Delhi have taken sufficient action to find the perpetrators of this massacre or to protect its victims still in camps. The state police are inadequate to prevent further violence: some say that they cannot even defend themselves. Is it not time for both central and state governments together to take more initiative? My noble friend has already made suggestions about the intelligence services, which the Minister will have noted.
As a result of the terrorist outrage in Mumbai, there is already a lot of heart-searching in India. There will, I hope, be, alongside the pursuit of criminals, an international recognition of its underlying causes. Further, there must be a renewed determination by the Indian Government, with outside help, to deal with the countrys own major challenge, the eradication of poverty and human rights abuse in all forms.
Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, not for the first time, the House owes a considerable debt to my noble friend Lady Cox, both for facilitating this debate and for her powerful report on recent events in Orissa. She is often called a voice for the voiceless, which is an epithet that she has more than justified again today.
At times, Britain and India have had a turbulent relationship; but what is often called the idea of India is one that continues to captivate and enthral anyone who has been fortunate enough to travel there.
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Britain and India are democratic nations with many shared values as well as significant common economic and security interests. Bilateral trade is worth around £6 billion annually. Our cultural, sporting, linguistic and historic linkssome of which have required colonial ghosts to be laid to restunderline the values that bind us together.
In 1949, India and Britain were founding members of the Commonwealth, which exists to promote democracy, human rights, good governance, the rule of law, individual liberty, egalitarianism, free trade, multiculturalism and world peaceideals that, as the events of 26 November illustrate, have been undermined and are under siege in many parts of the world today. I join other noble Lords in expressing condolences to and sympathy with the families of the 173 people who died, to the hundreds left injured and to the Government of India.
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