Same hate, different measures: Weaponising ‘Jai Shri Ram’ is wrong. In North India and in West Bengal

Preeminent personalities have objected to hate crimes using 'Jai Shri Ram'. But where were they when non-Muslims were lynched or the same words punished in Bengal?

 |  4-minute read |   25-07-2019
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'Selective' is a tricky word. More so when prefixed with words like amnesia, intolerance, tolerance, or ideals like sympathy, empathy, humanity.

From time to time, we have seen the 'intellectuals' and 'eminent(s)' of the land penning their sincere and secular angst against social evils. One common refrain, particularly since 2014, when the BJP-led NDA came to power, is that 'desh khatre mei hai' — suggesting that the essential moral fabric of the country has somehow degenerated during the NDA era. Suggesting that hate was having an open run across the country and almost everyone from the majority community was baying for the blood of the minorities.

Recently, another hallowed narrative has begun suggesting that India was a country of haters. Tolerance levels have somehow magically been re-set to zero — and India is burning.

It is not as if violence and discrimination against Dalits is a post-2014 phenomenon or, for that matter, communal violence and killings in the name of religion.

The benchmark for judging pre- and post-2014 incidents should, ideally, be the same — but then, when did anybody tell you that politicising will always be fair?

inside_072519010725.jpgFountainhead? Are we suggesting that people who chant 'Jai Shri Ram' are the source of all communal hate? (Photo: Reuters)

Weaponising 'Jai Shri Ram' is an interesting aside to the running clash of ideas. There had been unfortunate incidents of mob violence where the victim was forced to chant 'Jai Shri Ram'. The very idea is abhorrent and the perpetrators must be punished for their deeds. Weaponising the chant — using it as an excuse or affixing it to incidents with an entirely different background — is wrong.

On a day the Home Ministry told Parliament that communal violence is declining, some 49 eminent personalities wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to highlight "a number of tragic events in recent times", particularly incidents of lynching and the usage of the slogan 'Jai Shri Ram' as a "war cry". Was there a tacit suggestion somewhere that people who chant 'Jai Shri Ram' are the fountainhead of all hate crimes in the country?

Noble feelings indeed — just wondering though where these 'enlightened' minds were when Kashmiri Pandits became the largest community of internally displaced people due to religious persecution? Or, when another minority community was chopped down in 1984? Maybe it was just normal for the ground to shake when big trees fell. In the later cases, finally, some punishments are being dished out and the political affiliation of a few of the notables is not exactly a national secret.

Now, there goes my 'secular' tag for a toss.

Supposed communalism of the presumed communal is as unquestionable as the hallowed secularism of the seculars!

The Prime Minister has time and again decried communal violence in all and every form. He will continue to do so. However, for the situation to change on the ground, law enforcement has to step in — decisively and without prejudice. Law and order is a state subject and intervention from the central government is not always viewed very kindly, and rightly so.

And no, left-wing sympathisers and activists were not 'picked on' for their dissent to the government. They are where they are because a court of law saw enough merit in the arguments presented by the prosecution. A court of law denied them bail, repeatedly. The highest court of the land found no fault with the charge sheet filed by the state police. Where is the subversion of the due process?

Of course, it's an entirely different matter if you are suggesting something more sinister about the judiciary.

rts2jr20_072519011338.jpgGood move: But given a backdrop of Kashmiri Pandits and 1984's Sikhs, this isn't enough. (Photo: Reuters)

India needs a new law. Not an anti-lynching law — an anti-hate crime law. A stringent one, well-defined and enforced. Hate has no place in a civilised society and hate crimes by one community against another are just as abhorrent as intra-community hate crimes. In a country whose Constitution grants the right to equality, even casteist slurs should be treated as a hate crime.

And with all due respect to the unnamed author of the editorial from The Guardian who said Modi's landslide is 'bad for India's soul' — let me assure you, dear madam/sir, nothing is wrong with either the soul or the idea of India. It stands strong and will endure far beyond 2024. It is always nice to see eminent(s) from Bengal taking the lead in forming public opinion — just hope their yardstick for judgement remains the same when it comes to Bengal and the situation prevailing there.

Probably they will write another letter...

Also read: A Very Deep Cut: Why Mamata Banerjee asking TMC party men to stop taking 'cut money' is just too little, too late


Arindam De Arindam De @arindamde01

The writer is journalist working with India Today.

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