It was a liberating feeling taking part in the “Not In My Name” protest at Jantar Mantar, my first physical participation in any such event. My service in an armed force of the Union and obligation of adherence to strict discipline precluded me from doing so thus far, even though I had felt strongly on several issues.
Now that I am free of those encumbrances, I decided to do my bidding because I strongly felt that if the Indians remain silent now, the persecution of minorities will further increase and a day is not far when India will turn into a Hindu Pakistan.
The protests, which saw a spontaneous collection of like-minded people in 12 major cities in India and four abroad in a short period, is a landmark event and a reminder to the government that things were going beyond limit and the rational people of this great country will not watch as silent spectators.
These protests may not have witnessed the kind of crowd politicians are able to manage through money power, but “the silent voices” were strong enough for the Prime Minister to finally awake from his reverie and denounce violence (even though mildly) being perpetuated on the minorities in the name of gau raksha, etc.
Whether the words of the PM will be taken seriously is a moot point, because the hoodlums trying to communalise the society have been given too long a rope for them to be reined in easily.
In any case, the Prime Minister has no time or inclination to comment on such important issues even though he loves to tweet inanities. In fact, the Twitter handle of the Prime Minister appears to follow some of the social media goons (trolls). The goons, knowing fully well that they have a benign eye looking over them, have got indirect encouragement to carry on with their activities with impunity.
Aggressive Hindutva has always been the USP of the BJP and also that of its predecessor, the Jan Sangh and the parent body RSS. However, this Hindutva has very quickly turned into an aggressive anti-minoritism, especially anti-Muslim.
It is surprising to find many apparently educated rational people turning stridently communal and alleging atrocities on Hindus by Muslims right from the time Muhammad Bin Qasim set foot on this land in 7th century AD.
Even though Christians are not considered above suspicion, anti-Muslim feelings are more strident and have become all pervasive.
The general perception that the UPA government was indecisive and corruption-ridden coupled with the perception of PM Modi as a good administrator helped the NDA seize power with a decisive majority, albeit with only about 31 per cent of popular votes.
The election campaign of the BJP in 2014 had refrained from a communal agenda and talked mainly about corruption, black money and the development deficit. It was expected that the government will deliver on the promises made and the fringe elements advocating anti-Muslim stance will be kept under check.
Not able to deliver on the unrealistic promises made in 2014, the panicked leadership of the BJP has quickly abandoned the development agenda and adopted aggressive Hindutva. Photo: Reuters
The burden of expectation on the government is heavy because these have been raised through election rhetoric to an extent that the public at large expected an overnight transformation. Unrealistic promises like crediting Rs 15 lakh in each bank account, rooting out corruption overnight and creation of a certain million jobs every year etc, were extremely difficult to fulfil and the government is seen by many to be falling woefully short on delivering on those promises. The extended honeymoon of the Modi government appears to be over.
Unexpected election losses in Bihar and Delhi in 2015 after the spectacular victory of 2014 further put the NDA government on the backfoot and the panicked leadership of the BJP quickly abandoned the development agenda.
The Uttar Pradesh Assembly election of March 2017 is an example where, in-spite of the assured victory due to the divided opposition and other factors, the PM chose to initiate and raise the communal pitch by invoking “shamshan vs kabristan” and “electricity supply during Eid vs Diwali”!
The imposition of Yogi Adityanath - an avid anti-Muslim face of the BJP as chief minister of Uttar Pradesh - has further emboldened the communal elements among rightists, resulting in the rise of intimidation and violent acts against the Muslim minorities.
Lynching in the name of beef appears to have become commonplace especially in the northern states ruled by the BJP and its allies. A lot of physical and social media violence unrelated to beef is directed simply at Muslim identity and all Muslims are now treated as suspects and anti-national.
Repeated assertions of some saffron leaders for Muslims to go to Pakistan don’t help matters and a feeling of alienation is fast setting into the minds of minorities. The information about any violent activity becomes viral in quick time through social and visual media.
Repeated incidents of assault and lynching are leading to deep alienation which may be reaching the breaking point. This is not good for peace and harmony in civil society.
The situation is precarious and urgent action is needed to reverse the trend. Politicians have to send a strong message to their followers by condemning such acts. Political patronage to such hoodlums should not be extended.
However, the reverse seems to be happening.
It is seen that the spokespersons of the ruling BJP indirectly appear to encourage the hoodlums by quoting past incidents. The politicians must realise that two wrongs do not make a right.
The law-enforcing authorities have also been given a free hand in tackling such situations. Unfortunately, the ruling dispensation, by acts like the recent transfers of two young police officer (one of them a woman) in Uttar Pradesh, doesn’t inspire such confidence.
Indian has always been a society which has assimilated all invaders within its cultural fold. The society has also been resilient enough to adopt from the good practices of the invading people. I have many Muslim friends and I find their manner of greeting is the traditional namaste.
The Muslims assimilated and other religious minorities have mostly an Indian way of life, traditions and culture and it is difficult to generally distinguish a person of one community from the other. However, the strident anti-Muslim stance of the majority is slowly but steadily leading them to adopt a hardcore religious identity.
I am reminded of a warning contained in a poem written by the Pakistani poet Fehmida Riyaz about India and Indians. The poem says we are fast moving towards a fragmented and violent society like Pakistan:
“Tum bilkul ham jaise nikle, ab tak kahan chupe the bhai… tum bhi samay nikalte rahna, ab jis nark mein jaao wahan se, chitthi vitthi daalte rehna, tum ham jaise nikle, chhoti soch wale.”
It has to be realised that the event of Partition is long over and those of the Muslims who remained in India have stayed by choice and are equally nationalistic. If the Hindu fringe elements feel they will be able to deport all Muslims to Pakistan, they are clearly blinded by their communal hatred towards them.
In fact, what they will end up doing is spreading large scale violence and long term unrest in society. They will end up ensuring that we will not even have the alibi of blaming Pakistan for our dismemberment.