A Thinly Veiled Attack

published on April 14, 2010

By Dr.Vijaya Rajiva

In the last few days India has been shocked by the Maoist-Naxalite attack on the jawans in  Dantewada. In the middle of all the discussions and arguments concerning the tragic death of 76 jawans, the real issue of the capture of state power by the insurgents has taken a back seat, though most people are half aware of this danger. Neverthless, the attack was open, bold and left no doubt about the aims of the Naxalite movement. From the details of their atrocities against the tribals and villagers and their  policy of allowing various exploiters in the region to flourish, so that they could freely extort large sums of money from them, it is clear to any reasonable person that the Naxalite movement is not about the welfare of the tribals, but has morphed into a Maoist movement aimed at overthrowing the Indian state.

What is less obvious and is also an ongoing process is the assault on the Indian State and the Indian Constitution by individuals and groups  under the guise of academic discussions and workshops.In the opinion of this writer, one such attack took place at MIT (Massachussetts Institute of Technology) in the U.S. at a workshop between April 9-10, 2010. The participants are known critics of the Indian state, even when they claim that they are only interested in reform, in issues of social justice and human rights. Presentations were made on various issues ranging from the Gujarat riots, the Kandamahal  assassinations and aftermath, police reform etc.

The topic of the Workshop was : ‘Group Violence, Terrorism and Impunity-Challenges to Secularism and Rule of Law in India: Workshop’.

For  further details  the reader is directed to the website :

In the present article the role of one of the organizers of this Workshop, one Omar Khalidi will be looked at. It is believed that he is the lead organizer of the Workshop.

Who is Omar Khalidi and what is the nature of his writings ? Omar Khalidi was born and raised in Hyderabad (India) and in 1977 moved to the U.S. where he is head of the Library staff at MIT. His writings reflect his interests which are broadly speaking about Islam and the question of Muslims in independent India. His early works are about the position of Muslims in the Indian economy and it is widely believed that his views influenced the recommendations of the Sachar Committee. He has also written about the Indian army.

While contradictory in his early interviews about the Indian State ,Khalidi’s views were still relatively muted in their attack. It was in 2009 that they became full blown attacks in his article ‘India is not a secular state ‘ (Outlookindia,  Jan .29, 2009) where he launches a direct attack on the Indian Constitution, which he alleges is not secular but is concerned with protecting Hindu Dharma. Needless to say, this attack is half baked and does not understand either the historical context of the Indian Constitution and the reasons for it by the founding fathers
of the Constitution.  It may also be pointed out that one of the major architects of the Indian Constitution was Dr. Ambedkar, a Dalit,whose sole aim was the establishment of a secular Indian state.

Partly because of the objections of many NRIs in the U.S., Mr.Khalidi did not present this aspect of his views in his paper at the MIT Workshop. Instead he went into great detail about the Hinduisation of the Indian polity. The paper is an astonishing read , presenting a point of view that is quite bizarre, to say the least. One example will suffice. Khalidi is concerned about the importance given to Yoga, especially the Surya Namaskar exercise (Salutation to the Sun exercise), simply because it is Hindu !

If one were to cite this as an example of cutting your nose to spite your face this would come under that category ! Yoga is practiced by millions of people around the world because of its health benefits.  In Britain some schools have started children in this health routine. True, Yoga was invented in Hindu India by Hindus.But does it make any sense to complain about that fact ? Surely, Mr. Khalidi will not boycott the concept of zero because it was discovered by a Hindu mathematician?

It would seem that Omar Khalidi has moved from a position of being an advocate of Muslim rights to an opponent of Hinduism per se. BUT THAT IS ONLY HALF THE STORY.

His real agenda, in the opinion of this writer, is similar to that of the Maoist-Naxalite agenda : the destruction of the Indian State. Hinduism is merely a stick with which to beat the Indian State.

Why is this so ? The reason is that Khalidi is a follower and admirer of Abu Ala Maududi, the founder of the Jamaat-e-Islami, the organization he founded in 1941. Maududi was born in the vicinity of Hyderabad, India, but after Partition moved to Pakistan, where he continued with the parent organization, and with a branch called Jamaat-e-Islami Hind, in India. Maududi propagated the view that the Islamisation of the world, and ofcourse India, was the solemn duty of every sincere Muslim.

This process could take place with one of three methods:

Forceful seizure of state power.
Establishing dominance in civil society(with the goal of eventually capturing State power).
Non cooperation with the existing state power.

This broad spectrum of methods could be used interchangeably and depending on the given situation. The Jamaat-e-Islami has actively participated in the militancy in Jammu and Kashmir since 1989. That is the view expressed by Pakistani scholar Husain Haqqani in The Ideology of South Asian Jihadi Groups.

See http://www.carnegieendowment.org/publications/index.cfm?fa=view&id=16922

The present writer is of the opinion that Khalidi’s writings and interviews show that his aims and goals are that of Political Islam, to which Abu Ala Maududi is one important contributor. Khalidi has written extensively and admiringly of Maududi. Hence, in combination with his own writings, Omar Khalidi’s most recent effort at the MIT Workshop must  be seen in light of the above.

(Dr. Rajiva  is a Political Scientist who taught at a Canadian university).

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