The left-liberal lobby in India often draws erroneous and outlandish analogies between the Nazi Germany and the current political dispensation at the Centre. Fuelled by hatred, they seek to defame India and cast aspersions about the country turning into a totalitarian state. While the mass hysteria of Nazism is a distant reality in India, the Hindus in neighbouring Islamic Republic of Afghanistan were once subjected to the same treatment as meted out to Jews in Germany.
Afghanistan under Taliban rule
It was May 2001. The radical Islamist terror outfit, Taliban, had ordered Hindus in Afghanistan to wear yellow badges that would set them apart from the Afghan Muslims. The minority Hindu community members were told to carry a thumb-size piece of yellow cloth, every time they stepped out of their house. Hindu women were directed to cover their face in public with veils and that a mere headscarf was not enough. The rules applied to the Sikh community as well.
Afghanistan had been a home to around 500 Hindus and 2000 Sikhs, most of whom lived in Kabul. A significant number of Hindus left the Islamic Republic after the rise of the Taliban. But, for the radical Islamist outfit, the marginalisation of the Hindu community was not enough. They sought to make them stand apart in public by directing them to carry bright-coloured yellow cloth. This would help them easily identify and thus susceptible to religious persecution.
However, the Taliban had claimed then that it was being done for the supposed ‘protection’ of Hindus. The then Taliban Foreign Ministry official, Sayed Rahmatullah Hashimi, had claimed, “This is being considered because there are a number of items that are illegal for Afghan Muslims — like shaving their beards, watching TV, and having idols at home. The same things are allowed for the Hindu community. If the Taliban asks them to wear badges, it is to be on the safe side so that Hindus can be recognized. This is not discrimination against our Hindu brothers. It’s for their security.”
Separate identity for Jews in Nazi Germany
The argument was that it would protect the Hindus from ‘disturbance’ of any kind at the hands of the Taliban police. However, the idea of a separate identity marker bore an uncanny resemblance to a discriminatory practice in Nazi Germany during the reign of German dictator Adolf Hitler. During that time, it was a common practice to profile dissidents and Jews using identification marks. For instance, when the Nazis called for a boycott of Jewish shops on April 1 in 1933, they painted yellow stars of David on window panes.
In a gross display of Anti-Semitism, they would also inscribe words such as ‘Juden’ as identification marks for people. By 1941, it was mandatory for all Jews in the Reich, above the age of 6, to wear a badge that consisted of a yellow Star of David on a black field with the word “Jew” inscribed inside the star. This applied to all German Jews and Jews in Germany annexed territories. In Nazi-occupied Budapest in Hungary, the Jews were forced to have the contentious yellow stars on their house.
They lived under house arrest with few provisions. The purpose of such residences was to accommodate all Hungarian Jews in one place so as to make their deportation easier to Nazi concentration camps.
The decision by the Taliban regime drew flak from India and across the globe. While condemning the move, the then-White House spokesman Richard Boucher pointed that the yellow tags stigmatised the Hindu community and that it could not be justified.
Abraham H Foxman, the then National Director of the Anti-Defamation League, had remarked, “Oh my God, we have learned nothing from history. This is going back to the Holocaust when Jews were separated with yellow stars [of David]…That led to 6 million dead. One would hope that we had learned from history.” He added, “Back then, it was a marking for death. I hope the world will wake up. It starts with monuments (referring to Buddhas of Bamiyan), now it’s marking people, what could be next?”
While commenting on the matter, Mukund Mody said, “These are fundamentalist people, make no mistake about it. I wouldn’t call it a discrimination, I call it an atrocity. The world was slow to respond to Nazism then, it’s even slower to respond to this now because these unfortunate people are from a different hemisphere. It’s difficult to get the West to respond until the fire reaches their corridor.” He was the founder of Overseas Friends of the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party).
Under the Nazi regime, the separate identification badges eventually culminated in the Holocaust. But the practice of subjugating minorities existed since the middle ages and Jews back then in Europe had to wear mandated headgear and distinctive clothing. But, even decades later, the Hindus of Afghanistan were subjected to the same treatment. In a bid to undo years of suffering and persecution, the Indian government had issued long-term visas to 700 Hindus and Sikhs from Afghanistan in July last year. While the so-called liberal lobby cries Nazism at the drop of the hat, they have remained indifferent to the sufferings of the Hindu community in neighbouring Afghanistan.