OPED

We are living in times where the social norms, the values of Constitution have been violated times and over again. The increasing atrocities on dalits, the lynchings of minorities in the name of Cow-Beef have changed the social equations in a drastic way during last few years. This in a way is part of the ascendance of a politics of communalism which believes in narrow, sectarian religious identity as its defining point. This may get further worsened with the big mandate for Modi in 2019 elections. In the aftermath of elections leading to his return to power, Modi in his victory speech made certain observations which are very disturbing on one hand and also give an idea of shape of things to come.

He stated that this election campaign has unmasked the deceitful claims of secularists and that said that now they can’t mislead the country. As per him secularism as a mask has been destroyed in these elections and that secularism was a cover for minority appeasement. He states that minorities have been deceived and cheated by the parties claiming to be secular.

This statement is not just in the euphoria of victory. For communalism it has been a deeper agenda to do away with the practice of secularism. It is true that there had been aberrations and weaknesses in the practice of this concept, with fallacies like the reversal of Shah Bano judgment or opening the gates of Babri mosque for Shilanyas. The assertion that minorities have been appeased is a total lie. The reports of Gopal Singh Commission, Rangnath Mishra Commission and Sachar Committee tell us about the worsening plight of the Muslim minorities. Some fundamentalist elements within Muslim community have been promoted but the Muslim community as a whole has on one hand been economically marginalized and on the other been subjected to social insecurity. Going beyond the obvious one need to understand as to why the shortfalls in the practice of secularism have dogged our nation?

Secularism has been defined and interpreted a various ways. In Indian context ‘Sarva Dharma Sambhave’ has been the major interpretation. Also that state will not interfere in the maters of religion and religion (clergy) will not dictate and state policy has been the major understanding of this concept, secularism, which is core and integral part of the concept of democracy. Some examples of this are in order. In the wake of demand for renovation of Somnath Temple, Gandhi said that Hindu community is capable of building its own temple. While his disciple Nehru did follow Gandhi’s path in times to come. Same Nehru later called the dams, industries and universities as temples of Modern India.

Gandhi in his own way puts it up brilliantly when he says, “Religion and state will be separate. I swear by my religion, I will die for it. But it is my personal affair. The state has nothing to with it. The state will look after your secular welfare…”

Social scientist Rajiv Bhargava points out that secularism “…combats not just discrimination and other worse forms of inter-religious domination such as exclusion, oppression and humiliation. It is equally opposed to intra-religious domination, i.e the domination (of women, Dalits, dissenters) within every religious community”

Secularism did not have smooth march in India. It came up with the rising classes during colonial period. The classes which came up with the changes like industrialization, communication and modern education. They called the process of comprehensive change as ‘India as a nation in the making’. The streams like those represented by Bhagat Singh, Ambedkar and Gandhi made it the foundation of their political ideology and struggle for better society. They stood for Indian nationalism. While the declining classes of Landlords and kings shaken by the changes in social fabric and loss of their earlier hegemony came up with communal politics. This communal politics in turn had a bifurcation, Muslim communalism and Hindu communalism. They dreamt of Muslim Nation and Hindu nation respectively. As Professor Bipan Chandra points out Communalism regards a community of one religion as a nation. In India it went through different phases of mild, moderate and extreme communalism. Its understanding is that people of one religion have similar interests, which in turn are different from those of other religion, and so the religious communities are made to pitch against each other. This politics regards the ‘other’ community as a threat to its’ own self. At the same time the intra societal hierarchies are put under the carpet, as the deeper agenda of these groups is to maintain those hierarchies of caste and gender.

One of the weaknesses of practice of secularism in India has been the tremendous opposition from communalism which has been on a rise. While in Pakistan, Muslim communalism was strong right from the beginning; in India it has become stronger during last four decades or so. Its strength has been founded on the polarization, which is an outcome of communal violence. Its issues are those of identity issues like Ram Temple, Love Jihad, Ghar wapsi and Holy cow-beef. It is this communalism which has stood as a counter to the secular ethos of the country; it is this which is the major obstacle for secularism being properly implemented. There are many factors which have been conducive to and helping in the promotion of divisive politics of communalism, one of them being the non completion of secularization process, the process whereby the power of landlord-clergy duo is abolished in a society marching towards democracy

In India, due to colonial rule, the national movement had to direct its energy primarily against the colonial rulers, while the landlords-kings, to be later joined by some elite-middle classes, continued on the margins, giving the life breath to communalism, leading to partition of the country among other negative phenomenon in the society. Surely India’s plurality and diversity, though currently under cloud, will not let the secular values being eclipsed by the sectarian politics, which is currently on the prowl.

Category :- English Bazaar Patrika / OPED

After 2014 victory Modi, Prime Minister of India had promised that he will implement Sabka Sath; Sabka Vikas (Taking everybody along, development for all). To this slogan he has now added Sabka Vishwas (Every body’s Trust) Many prominent writers and activists from Muslim community in particular are trying to reassure themselves that he will keep his promise and not intimidate or oppress, religious minorities, Muslims and Christians. It’s always good to be optimistic and keep the hope alive, but the nagging experience in the recent past of Sabka Vikas raises many questions. The ideology of Hindu nationalism to which Modi belongs also gives rise to the doubts about such a promise. The goal of Hindu rashtra, the agenda of Hindu right pursued by Modi further dampens the chances of hopeful vision of inclusive peaceful India.

During last five years of Modi regime what was witnessed was the increasing sense of insecurity among the minorities. On the top of divisive campaigns like Ram Temple, Ghar Wapasi and love jihad was added the issue of ‘holy cow’-beef eating which took the identity related hysteria to the sky. This brought to the forefront the phenomenon of lynching of Muslims and beatings of dalits. The atrocities heaped on these two communities in particular were frightening. What is called ‘fringe laments’, which are the core part of ‘division of labor’ of Hindu nationalist politics, became more aggressive during this period. Those in power not only turned a blind eye to doings of these aggressive elements but also gave the hints of appreciation of these cruel acts done by saffron robed, ‘Jai Shri Ram’ chanting crowds. These elements were given the signals, that with this government in power, such acts are a new normal. The example of Mahesh Sharma, the Union minster draping the body of lynching accused with tri color and Jayant Sinha another minister honoring the lynching accused, which got bail, were the permanent approval certificates to those who were to indulge in such barbarian acts. These acts intimidated and marginalized the Muslims to no end. While not to this horrible extent, even Christians had their own share of the woes, as their prayer meetings and Carol singing teams were attacked in the name of ‘attempts for conversion’.

With this background of ‘Sabka saath Sabka Vikas’, Mr. Modi has now come to power with increased vote share and more seats for BJP. The cause of this massive mandate are being debated, the failure of opposition to unite, the ultra nationalism created around the Pulwama attack and the role of EVM machines with partisan election commission are disturbing enough. Meanwhile what is being witnessed in the society during last few days of Modi-BJP victory is frightening enough.

Right during this little time space we painfully witnessed 

·         In Begusarai Bihar a Muslim youth Mohammad Qasim was shot at Bihar on Sunday (May 26).  Previous morning he was asked his name.

·         Four unidentified youths assaulted a Muslim youth wearing traditional skull cap on May 26.

·         An Adivasi professor was arrested over a Face book post (May 25). In the post he had mentioned the right to eat beef.

·         In Raipur Chhattisgarh a group of self-styled gau rakshaks entered a dairy (May 26), and accused people in the shop of cow slaughter and the sale of beef. They vandalized the shop and assaulted them.

·         In Mahuvad, Vadodara,  village (Gujarat), a house of dalit couple was allegedly attacked by a mob of 200-300 upper caste people, His crimes was that the husband had put up a face book post  saying that the government does not permit the village temple to be used for Dalit wedding ceremonies.

·         As per Janata Ka Reporter in Assam a Muslim man, Ashraf Ali, believed to be in his early 90s, ended his life. He was fearful of the possibility of his being declared a foreigner and these by being sent to detention centre.  The victim’s body was found from a school campus, close to his hut in Sontoli in Boko, 70 kms west of Guwahati,

So many incidents in such a short duration of time just indicate as to how the atmosphere is being vitiated due to Modi coming to power again. On one hand the so called fringe is emboldened more than before and this is the signal of their unrestrained behavior. On the other the people do know the portents of the policies which Modi pursued during last five years and may be pursued with intense vigor now. The BJP President called the Muslim refugees as termites. That in a way sums up what Muslims mean to the ruling dispensation.

Interestingly of the 303 MPs elected on the BJP ticket not a single one is from Muslim community. The overall representation of Muslims in Lok Sabha has come down and remains so. Muslim community has weathered many a storms in the past. Its’ reflection came in the Rangnath Mishra and Sachar commission reports. While the Congress and other semi secular parties have been blamed for Muslim appeasement, the socio economic and political conditions of Muslim community have worsened over a period of time. Many committed leaders from Muslim community are feeling totally left out in the democratic processes, which anyway are being undermined more so from last decade or so.

The core reason of violence being witnessed is the frightening rise of Hindu nationalist politics, the Hidnutva. Earlier RSS gave rise to different progenies, what they call collectively as Sangh Parivar. Now with the trappings of power, BJP being in majority in Center, the major expansion of RSS shakhas has taken place, which is further strengthening different offshoots of this organization.

One understands that the security of minorities is the reflection of strength of democracy. On that count also the index of democratic values in our country is something to be worried about! 

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Category :- English Bazaar Patrika / OPED