An ex-officer explains why PM Modi should listen to armed forces veterans on lynching

An atmosphere of fear, intimidation and suspicion is prevailing which is not conducive to peace and harmony.

 |  7-minute read |   03-08-2017
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One hundred and fourteen armed forces veterans, in a letter to the prime minister protesting against mob lynchings in many parts of the country, have stated that the prevailing atmosphere in the country was violating the spirit of the Constitution, which the armed forces were duty-bound to uphold.

An atmosphere of fear, intimidation, hate and suspicion is prevailing which is not conducive to peace and harmony in the society. Condemning the violence against Dalits and Muslims, and the clampdown on free speech, the veterans have accused the state of complicity by deliberately looking away while all this is happening.

The “Not in my name” protest against violence being inflicted upon minorities appears to be slowly but steadily gaining momentum by awakening the collective conscience of several concerned citizens in the country.

Indians of all religions who had lived in peace and harmony fell prey to the British machination of “divide and rule” leading to large-scale migration and violence during Partition. India has ever since remained communally sensitive with masses prone to easy arousal of passions on religious and even caste lines.

There have been several episodes of communal violence since Independence. However, the worst cases were the 1984 riots targeting Sikh minorities that claimed over 3,000 lives, and the 2002 Gujarat riots that targetted Muslim minorities leading to the loss of over 1,000 lives. 

While giving benefit of doubt to the administration in both the riots in terms of active encouragement and perpetuating the violence, there is not an iota of doubt that the people in power were complicit in letting the situation go out of hand and allowing violence to continue for a prolonged period through abject inaction and sheer incompetence.

not_080317125055.jpgThe 'Not in my name' protest against violence being inflicted upon minorities appears to be slowly but steadily gaining momentum by awakening the collective conscience of several concerned citizens in the country.

The "Nero" of respective era kept fiddling while the innocent died en-masse.

Even though the situation has generally remained peaceful after the Gujarat riots, sporadic acts of violence against minorities have continued with the Muslim community being at the receiving end in most instances. Such instances have spiked suddenly in the past three years.

Hindutva proponents have all along struggled to attain power by propagating perceived injustice to Hindu majority by what they term appeasement of Muslims. They have repeatedly asserted on “Hindu” identity juxtaposed to the “Indian” identity.

The fissure has been deepened by politicians for electoral benefits. The sense of alienation has been heightened by repeated assertions that minorities are reproducing at a much faster rate than the Hindus, and it is being prophesied that a day will come when Hindus will be a minority in their own land.

It is a totally different matter that they fail to take notice of the fact that decadal growth rate of Muslims is falling much faster than that of the Hindus. The Hindutva fanatics also fail to highlight the fact that the yearning for a boy child is leading to much higher number of children, especially among low-income Hindu families.  

The Hindutva brigade has objections to Hindu girls marrying Muslim boys which they aggressively term as "love jihad". They assert that the Muslims of India have Hindu ancestry and they want them back by carrying out campaigns like "ghar wapsi". It is of no consequence to them that it were the high caste Hindus who drove the lower castes to convert because of the rigid social hierarchy and depravation suffered by those from lower castes.

The period coinciding with the present NDA regime has been especially vicious for minorities. Having failed to convince the electorate about its sincerity and capability to implement the development agenda, the NDA soon reverted to the easy option of communal agenda.

It intensified after the lynching of Mohammad Akhlaq in Dadri for allegedly storing beef in his refrigerator. His brother who is with the Indian Air Force was also not spared and he too suffered grievous injuries. What can be more perverse than the fact that the death of a human was of no consequence to the powers that be, but the type of meat found in his fridge was. The lynch mobs were further encouraged by the gesture of a central government minister laying wreath and draping the body of the murderer of Akhlaq with the national flag.

Inflammatory speeches by Hindutva brigands, including some members of Parliament, and deafening silence on part of the prime minister (or at best a mild rebuke by him) has emboldened the goons in the garb of self-proclaimed protectors of Hindutva and cow vigilantes. As a result, a reign of terror has been unleashed.

The fact that the prime minister chose to inflame communal passions by talking about cremation and burial ground and electricity supply during Diwali compared with Eid further indicates his own mindset and the communal agenda of the government in power.

There have been several widely reported incidents of mob lynching of people transporting cattle or suspected to be carrying beef. It cannot be a coincidence that most of these incidents have occurred in the states ruled by the BJP and its allies. It is also not a coincidence that the victims of such mob violence have invariably been Muslims.

Even the mild rebuke from the prime minister did not succeed in curbing the activities of  the gau rakshaks or to wake up the respective state governments to act.

The lynching of 16-year-old Junaid near Ballabhgarh leading to the “Not in my name protests” has even more serious implications. A minor altercation over a seat in the train led the mob to lynch him because of his Muslim identity.

The number of deaths in these incidents may not be as large as in the riots. However, the nature and spread of these incidents have sinister implications. These incidents have the potential to divide the society irrevocably. The very Muslim identity is now a cause of suspicion.

The Hindutva brigands don’t spare any occasion to spread the message that Muslims are the cause of all ills in this country. They are termed anti-national at the proverbial drop of a hat. Those trying to show a different perspective are also termed "anti-national".

The role of the Hindutva brigands in provoking violence during recent riots in Bengal is for all to see. Prominent BJP personalities posted photo-shopped images to instigate majority Hindus against the Muslims. Innumerable communally inflammatory posts on social media are there for everyone to see.

It is important for the Hindutva proponents to understand that the Muslims who stayed back in India after partition did so by choice and are as nationalistic as the Hindus.

Aggressive Hindutva is proving counterproductive by provoking the minorities to assert their identity, which is manifested in the perceptible altering of dress, head gear, manner of greeting and insistence on following dictates about the number and times of prayers. Such manifestations were not visible till a few years ago, and one could hardly distinguish a Muslim from a Hindu.

The Hindutva brigands must accept that the Muslims and other minorities are a part of this country and they have equal rights over the resources of this great nation. The Constitution provides them with guarantee to practice their religion freely as it does to practioners of all religions. Muslims are 15 per cent of the population or almost 20 crore. They can’t be sent to Pakistan or anywhere else. If we have to live in peace and if we have to progress economically, we cannot let such large part of our population to languish.

Hindutva hate-mongers seem to believe in the saying "you can get far in a democracy if you convince a majority that they are victims of a minority, and that only you can protect them". These goons are not the sole protectors of the Hindu identity and interests.

It is therefore important to speak up against the atrocities against persons of any caste or religious groups. The armed forces veterans have done a great job by flagging relevant issues through their representation.

I am reminded of a line by famous Urdu poet Faiz: "Bol ke lab azad hain tere". My humble request to fellow conscientious Indians is to follow the lead of the veterans and speak up against such communally divisive acts.

Your voice has the potential to turn into a crescendo and compel those in power to take notice and initiate remedial measures.

Also read: Armed forces veterans write to Modi against lynching: Are they also anti-national?

Writer

Sanjiv Krishan Sood Sanjiv Krishan Sood @sood_2

The writer is a retired additional director general of the Border Security Force.

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