From last three decades or so the debate comes up intermittently as to whether Congress and BJP are two sides of the same coin. Many political parties; time and over again; have been taking up this formulation as a justification for Third front, which is away from BJP and Congress both. In previous Bengal elections Congress-Left coalition did come up but could not muster a victory against Trinmool Congress. Currently such a choice is posed by many dalit parties and lately such a formulation is being proffered by AIMIM, Asaduddin Owaisi’s party.

After the Bihar Assembly elections, where the Mahagathbandhan, with RJD, Congress in the lead was defeated by a narrow margin, the analysts are trying to grapple as to how despite massive rallies of RJD and despite the horrendous suffering of average people due to the ‘four hour notice Corona lock down’, how could BJP led NDA win the elections. Most of the analysts have been pointing finger to AIMIM for the victory of NDA. Though exact analysis of seats shows that it might have directly benefitted on couple of seats for BJP, the deeper argument is that its entry into the electoral arena, polarises the Hindu votes leading to BJP’s strength. While Asaduddin Owaisi raises the issues of minority community in the language of Constitution, his younger brother and others from his party make statements, which are divisive and communal.

The infamous speech of Akbaruddin Owaisi, about the minority Muslims being able to deal with majority if the police force is removed from the scene, is one example. This speech was widely circulated through social media and RSS combine forces used it extensively to build their vote banks. This polarization supplements the polarization, which RSS combine has built up through the issues like Ram Temple, Cow Protection, Love Jihad, Corona jihad and what have you. Asaduddin Owaisi correctly laments the marginalization of Muslims in the political sphere of the country; he outlines the declining social situation of the community. In an upright manner he is able to woo over the sections of the community with these arguments supplemented by the provocative statement that even if a sword is put on his neck he will not utter ‘Bharat mata Ki Jai’. One of his MLAs refused to utter the word Hindustan.

There are three layer operations by this party. First is the significant presence in the parliament by Owassi, backed up by his media projection. He also most of the times; articulates the pain and anguish of Muslim community and his emotive responses like that on ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’. His party men, who merrily make Hate speeches, are generally not so much grilled by large section of media. And third this party is in continuous attempt, from Maharashtra (With Prakash Ambedkar), In Jharkhand, and in Bihar (With Mayawati and Kushwaha), where focus is mainly on constituencies where Congress allies can be weakened by splitting of votes.

One has to concede that the Muslims’ political and social condition has massively deteriorated. At superficial level Congress can be blamed, more riots took place in their rule, Babri mosque was demolished during their rule, they have been unable to halt the juggernaut of Modi-BJP-RSS. Shahbano verdict was overturned by Congress rule, Babri mosque locks were also opened during Congress rule is the stock criticism of Congress to assert that what BJP does during the day Congress does during the night. This is as superficial as it can get. After RSS gained legitimacy by joining JP movement, and after Advani launched Ram Temple campaign, BJP got the platform which it needed to polarise and communalise. It is the communalisation by RSS combine which surely is the dominating factor of Indian politics from last few decades. It is this pressure due to which Rahul Gandhi declares himself as a janeu wearing Shiva Bahkt etc.

The other parties have also buckled by the massive communalization created by the emotive issues created through the vast network of organizations, pracharkas and swayamasevaks placed in different locations in civil, social and political spaces. Through a well knit organizational manoeuvre it has also erected and electoral machine which can pull its victory despite the massive sufferings wrought on poor people due to the policies of ruling BJP like the demonetization, Corona lockdown, selling of public sector to its favourite corporate sector among others.

A section of Muslim community does tend to support orthodox elements due to the insecurity created by communal violence. This violence has been orchestrated due to the deliberate spread of misconceptions and hate against Muslims and lately against Christians. It is in this background of deep influence of sectarian nationalism that we need to evaluate the likes of UPA. UPA did appoint Sachar Committee but could not implement it mainly due to massive opposition to it. UPA wanted to bring in Communal violence Bill but could not succeed mainly due to it being opposed in National Integration Council and then in Parliament.

So today while blaming the formations like UPA, Congress etc., what is being put under the carpet is the rising tide of religious nationalism, which has been dividing the society along religious lines. The need is to articulate the problems of religious minorities without emotive provocations. The need is that the communal utterances from the likes of Akbarudding Owaisi and Waris Pathan stop forthwith.

Just analysing matters at obvious level is not going to change the situation. We need to see the tide of communalism which cannot be shaken easily. We need to strengthen the voices which uphold pluralism and which think of Justice Sachar Committee report. The voices which think of bill against communal violence need to be strengthened. Any step which increases the electoral strength of BJP and its allies in NDA harms the interests of democracy. If BJP cannot be defeated by party A or B, an alliance based on pluralism and democracy has the potential to do so. While strengthening one’s political hold, if BJP gets strengthened it is against the interests of democracy. 

Category :- English Bazaar Patrika / OPED

Campaign to Curb Inter-faith marriages:

Ram Puniyani

Ruse to Restrict Women’s Freedom

Allahabad High Court in its recent judgment opposed the conversion to get married to the person of another faith. The logic is that in the Special Marriages act, interfaith marriages are totally acceptable. One Muslim woman had converted to Hinduism to get married to a Hindu man. Talking in this aftermath the UP Chief Minister launched a tirade against Muslim men. As per him many Muslim youth hide their religious identity, lure the Hindu girls and then convert them to Islam. They will be dealt with sternly and their own funeral processions (Ram Naam Satya Hai) will be taken out.

In a strict warning he said that such incidents will not be allowed, his Government will come out with a law against it. He also said that posters will be put up of those indulging in such activities. As if on the cue, Haryana Chief Minster Manohar Lal Khattar, another BJP ruled state came forward with the resolve of his Government to bring a law against such interfaith marriages, Muslim boy-Hindu girls, which are referred to by the derogatory ‘Love Jihad’, which by now has become a sort of provocation for violence., as witnessed in the case of Muzzafarnagar violence of UP in 2013.

In contrast to these hyperbole speeches by BJP leaders the number of cases of interfaith marriages is handful. There are both types of such marriages. One does recall the marriage of Trinmul Congress MP, Nusrat Jahan to a Hindu and the way she was trolled. Selectively case of Nikita Tomar, who was murdered by a Muslim man, in which case Tausif and Rehan have been arrested and hash tag #KshtriyaLivesMatter is making the rounds is also being projected as an attempted love jihad. Officially speaking  G.Kishan Reddy, Junior minister in Home Ministry had stated in Parliament that there is no such category as love jihad. He also pointed this out while replying to a question by a Kerala MP, about love Jihad cases in Kerala. As per him the cases were investigated and not found to be the one related to coercion etc.

Love Jihad had come to fore in a big way in case of Akhila. This Hindu girl had married a Muslim man; and had changed her name to Hadiya. After the long battle the Supreme Court upheld her right to her choice and overruling the Kerala High Court verdict and permitted her to stay with her husband. Again we witnessed the same in case of recently released and then withdrawn Tanishq advertisement. In this ad a Hindu bride, looking happy and cheerful is surprised that a Hindu ritual of God Bharai (Baby Shower) is being organized for her in her husband’s Muslim household. The communalists not only trolled this ad but also declared a boycott of Tanishq products. Under the threat of this the company buckled and withdrew the ad. The charge was same that such advertisements promote Love Jihad.

This time around apart from the types of steps being outlined by the UP and Haryana Chief Ministers, what is being dished out is a series of advices to the parents of Hindu girls to keep a watch on them, to whom they talk, their mobile phone messages and their movements. Clearly control mechanisms are being devised to keep a control on the lives of girls/women. Control over the lives of women is one of the agenda of the communal politics. Communal politics seems to be operating on the ground of ‘hate minorities’, Muslim and also partly Christians. Its other components are to push the caste equations to the pre-democratic times and also to intensify the patriarchal control, which has the danger of weakening in the democratic society. In the wake of rising education among girls in particular, the social interactions between opposite sex do go up.

As such this patriarchy is the integral part of the communal politics everywhere. It may be Muslim communalism or Christian fundamentalism, patriarchal control is the core of their agenda.

In case of Hindu Communalism, showing the threat of Hindu women being converted to Islam has part of communal propaganda. Hindutva ideologue Savarkar; in his writings chastises Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, a great icon for Hindu communalists, for leaving alone the daughter-in-law of Bassien’s Subhedar, a Muslim, who was brought to her as a gift by his soldiers. It is precisely for this reason that Savarkar, despite being admirer of Shivaji on other counts did not include Shivaji’s reign in his ‘Six Golden Pages of Indian History’, the major book by him.

As Hindu communalism (parallel and opposite to Muslim communalism) developed in north India, the communalists projected the threat of rising Muslim population in India, way back in 1920s. Charu Gupta in her ‘Myth of Love jihad’ makes an interesting observation “Pamphlets with provocative titles like “Hindu Auraton ki Loot”, which denounced Muslim propaganda for proselytizing female preys, and “Hindu Striyon ki Loot ke Karan”, an Arya Samajist tract showing how to save “our” ladies from becoming Muslim, appeared at this time. The love jihad campaign of today, too, is using similar tropes.”

Not to be left behind RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat reiterates that women should restricts themselves to household chores, while men should do the earning part.

In our large society multiple layers of life patterns are occurring at the same time. The interaction between people of different castes and religious communities is the natural phenomenon. It is this interaction which does bring people in close bandings, some of these leading to marital alliances. As such even inter caste marriage is not occurring in India in significant proportions. One of the prescriptions Babasaheb Ambedkar makes for ‘Annihilation of Caste’ is promotion of inter-caste marriages. We on the contrary are witnessing reverse phenomenon. In case of interfaith marriages the matters are worse. Here Hindu vigilantes and Muslim fanatics bay for the blood of those crossing the religious boundaries in matters of love and marriage.

Category :- English Bazaar Patrika / OPED