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Ethics & Ethnicity…

What connects two thousand years of genocide? Too much power in too few hands.” – Simon Wiesenthal.

Rwanda had experienced a tragic genocide for exactly 100 days, from April 7 to July 15, 25 years ago! At least 80,000 people were killed in the landlocked East African country and most of them belonged to the Tutsi or Abatutsi ethnic group. They were brutally attacked by the Hutu or Abahutu people. The Tutsis also launched counterattacks in some areas, but failed to resist the Hutus… The massacre helped the global community realise the cruelty and hatred that existed in the minds of Hutu people! However, we should not forget that the Hutus had triggered the genocide, only after making a long and intensive preparation… This sort of hatred had been influencing the Rwandan Society and Politics for long… It, in a way, destroyed Rwanda in the cruel April of 1994.

There was a long and complicated history behind this genocide. The root cause was a sort of disorder… In the words of Indian economist and philosopher Dr Amartya Sen, it was a ‘Single Identity Disorder’! In his publication ‘Identity and Violence’ (Penguin Books, 2006), Dr Sen had mentioned that when men deny their ‘multidimensional’ (stereophonic?) identity and start trying to judge everything on the basis of a particular identity… and in some time, intolerance is given birth to! According to the Nobel laureate economist, intolerance is an inevitable by-product of narrow-mindedness! The concept of ‘He Is Not Like Me’ encourages a person (or a community) to dominate another person (or another community)! Dr Sen mentioned the Rwandan genocide as an example of this ‘monistic grudge’ in his book. He also explained how the people of Rwanda restricted themselves to a single identity – Hutu versus Tutsi – and forgot everything else! As a result, they invited an ultimate disaster… Most importantly, it was a violence triggered by the majority! The historic feeling of deprivation prompted the Hutus to attack the Tutsis. More than 80% people in Rwanda belong to the Hutu community… However, the power centres were largely occupied by the minority Tutsi community in the 1960s. A comprehensive ‘lack of opportunity/ies’ and ‘social inequality’, in a way, frustrated the Hutu people, who decided to declare a war against the Tutsis…


Murambi Technical School, where many victims were killed, is now a genocide museum

Despite the absence of social media in the 1960s, the Hutus explored various ways to carry out well-planned campaigns against the Tutsis. The anti-Tutsi campaigns through community radio had a great impact on the Rwandan society. The appeal to ‘Kill Cockroaches’ or to ‘Cut Down the Tall Trees’ (as Tutsis are usually structurally larger/bigger than the Hutus) was a fine example of making an attempt to show the people, with a different identity, as inferior! Germany had gone through a similar phase in the 1930s, and India in the 1990s!

A quarter century ago, the Rwandan genocide had taught the global community how the Single Identity Disorder could destroy a Nation! Whether we are yet to learn a lesson from that event is quite a different issue…

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