CIOG must explain to the Guyanese public why the conflict in Assam has “ramifications” for Guyana

Dear Editor,

It was with great interest and concern that I have read two letters by CIOG, the first under a somewhat melodramatic caption, `The well-being of India is close to the heart of Guyana,’ in Guyana Times (5/7/2014), in connection with the recent violence in Assam in which 30 persons including women and children were killed, and the second entitled, `CIOG denounces kidnapping in Nigeria,’ in Kaieteur News (5/9/2014).

I can’t remember the Assam killings making it in our local media but from other sources I discovered that the deaths stemmed from the ongoing conflict between the indigenous Bodo tribals and Bangladeshi Muslims infiltrating the porous northeastern borders. In this case, the majority of the victims were Muslims. Hence, one understands and appreciates CIOG’s concern for fellow Muslims.

The letter goes on to say that India’s well-being is close to the heart of Guyana, and ominously proclaimed that “communal violence” in India, “has ramifications for the well-being and stability of our multi-cultural, multi-religious democracy here in Guyana.”

For most of the 20th century, and even beyond, there have been numerous incidents of Hindu-Muslim conflict, the most severe of which was the carnage accompanying the partition of India. But never once in all these years has anyone hinted at the even remotest possibility of the conflict in India being imported into Guyana, or anywhere in the world where the diaspora population resides, nor has it been known to have actually occurred. However, times are changing and with the explosion of terrorism around the globe, who can say what’s in store for Guyana?

In trying to understand the context that may have prompted the CIOG’s portentous statement, one cannot fail to have noticed the Reuters report in Stabroek News of May 6, mildly headlined, “Pakistan’s Hindus, other minorities face surge of violence.” Could the CIOG letter on the Assam killings have been an attempt to distract from and neutralize the Reuters story?

Now that the CIOG has come out in the broad daylight to warn us of unwelcome consequences of the Assam scenario erupting in Guyana, does one have to guess what might be going on behind closed doors? But whatever may be going on, it is incumbent on the CIOG to explain to the Guyanese public, and Hindus in particular, what they mean when they say that the conflict in Assam has “ramifications” for Guyana. What sort of “ramifications” do they mean?

While the CIOG’s response to the Assam killings came within days of the incident, in the case of the abducted Nigerian girls it would require them an inexplicable more than three weeks of soul searching before they could summon the courage to join the “International Community” in denouncing the “extremist” Boko Haram, especially bearing in mind that the well documented bloodbath unleashed by this outfit has been going on for well over a decade with thousands dead.

The CIOG assures us that the well-being of “India is close to the heart of Guyana,” because about 50% of Guyana’s population is of Indian descent, Hindus and Muslims. But shouldn’t Africa also be close to the heart of Guyana as around 40% of our population is of African descent? As a matter of fact, the case for Africa should be even stronger since it is widely held that there were more Muslims in the slave population than there were among the indentures from India.

Further, if, as the CIOG predicts, the Hindu-Muslim conflict in India has ramifications for Guyana, shouldn’t the same conclusion be drawn from the African conflict between Christianity and Islam? After all, the Christian-Muslim conflict is even more deadly and pervasive stretching across the entire sub-Saharan belt from west to east.

But the conclusions are different. Why?

There are dozens of Muslim states in the world today that will stand for the protection and well-being of fellow Muslims wherever they are found in the world.

The same can be said of Christianity. Look at the howl of protest across the Christian world and in Christian countries that we hear whenever Christians are perceived to be persecuted. Even as we write Christian nations are in unison in their protest against the death sentence that has been handed down to a pregnant Sudanese woman found “guilty” by an Islamic court for changing her religion, abandoning Islam and embracing Christianity.

There is no country in the world today that considers itself Hindu and there is no country that will defend Hindus as such. Observe how spectacularly silent India has been over the genocide of Bangladeshi Hindus and over the extinction of the remnant Hindu population of Pakistan. At the most India speaks of human rights violations and has never dared to use the dreaded “H” word.

Whenever we are faced with the species of Islamic violence that is afflicting Nigeria today, we are generally treated to a well-rehearsed response by Islamic organisations. How often have we not seen the same verse pulled out of the Quran which according to CIOG tells us, “He who takes a life is as though he takes the life of all humanity, and he who saves a life is as though he saves the life of all humanity,” but which in fact tells a lot more?

Apart from the fact that this conveniently truncates verse 5:32 of the Quran, the context tells us that it was an admonition addressed only to Jews and was not meant to constrain the actions of Muslims. Those who quote it know this truth.

We are further told that such terrorists that make up Boko Haram are not true Muslims and that they misinterpret Islam when they claim that their actions are consistent with Islamic teachings.   My only question is that how can a religion be so uniquely, consistently and universally misunderstood by millions of its own followers stretching from Indonesia to Morocco, including America and Europe where we have seen such splendid demonstrations of this lack of understanding and deliberate misinterpretation?

Yours faithfully,
Swami Aksharananda

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