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Destroying Pluralism

Destroying Pluralism

It has been the season of hate and venom in the run-up and during the election campaigns. The votaries of Hindutva have left no stone unturned to vilify the minorities, particularly the Muslims and Christians and in their desperate attempt to seize power at any cost and move towards their one ambition of establishing a ‘Hindu Rashtra’. They will certainly not succeed in their game-plan; but the damage has been done: they have polarised people on religious lines as never; minorities are being treated like second-class citizens and regarded as ‘unpatriotic’ because they apparently do not vote for the BJP; the party in power forgets however a crucial fact: it is most Indians who do not vote for them and most of them are Hindus!

 Just a few days ago the BJP MLA Prasanta Phukan who represents the Dibrugarh Assembly constituency said, “it is common knowledge that 90% of Muslims did not vote for us in the Lok Sabha election. There is no point in providing fodder to a cow that does not produce milk.” A few weeks earlier Maneka Gandhi, a Union Minister said that she might not be inclined to work for Muslims who do not vote for her. Sadhvi Deva Thakur went a step further when she categorically stated that Muslims and Christians should be forcibly sterilised. Another venomous so-called Sadhvi, Pragya Thakur, an accused in the Malegaon blast case of September 2008, is a BJP candidate inspite of spewing venom and being responsible for a terrorist act. Another BJP MLA Sanjay Patil, a few weeks ago said that the current elections were not about roads or water but about Hindus versus Muslims. The list is endless. A comprehensive report by the ‘Association for Democratic Reforms’(ADR) state that most of the hate speeches in the recent past were made by those belonging to the BJP.

This has been taking place in an unprecedented manner ever since they came to power in May 2014. In October 2015, India was startled by some weird yet significant news that a “purification” ceremony would soon be conducted in the Dadri village to apparently atone for the slaughter of a cow by a Muslim named Mohammad Akhlaq a few weeks earlier. Media reports state that “ to atone for the “cow slaughter” through an expression of collective regret, the residents of the village in Dadri will undertake a “purification” of the village by sprinkling gau mutra (cow urine) all over. The villagers believe that a cow was indeed killed by Akhlaq even though prima facie there was no evidence to back their claims. The first veterinary doctor’s report had declared that the meat seized from Akhlaq’s house by the police on the fateful night was mutton. Most of the villagers, however, allege the connivance of the local administration in hiding the “fact” of cow slaughter.   The ‘shuddhikaran’ ceremony will be performed by Sadhvi Harshita Giri, the new priest of the temple which was allegedly used by the BJP leader Sanjay Rana’s son Vishal Rana to announce and spread rumours about the alleged cow slaughter by Akhlaq, leading to his public lynching”.

 The District administration and the Government of the Uttar Pradesh State (where this village is situated) took a stern view of the matter. That was good; however, the fact that a group in the country has the audacity to think on the lines of a “purification” ceremony because of an animal, with total disregard for the value of a human being who has been lynched, speaks volumes for the way a feeling of ‘majoritarianism’ and the abuse of the religions of minorities has gripped India.   If this was a one-off, whilst not condoning the seriousness of this act, one could have in some ways addressed it or put it in perspective of the ‘ignorance’ of a superstitious community. Unfortunately, this is not the case as the ruling Federal Government of    the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party(BJP) by its silence and even connivance seem to provide an aura of legitimacy to words and deeds of sadhus , sadhvis and their ilk, which systematically target the minorities of India today.

Fali Nariman, one of India’s most eminent jurists and Constitutional experts, was invited to deliver the Seventh Annual Lecture of the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) on 12 September 2014. The lecture was presided over by the then Minister for Minority Affairs Najma Heptulla. Speaking on theme ‘ Minorities at Crossroads: Comments on Judicial Pronouncements’, he lambasted the newly-elected NDA Government for doing nothing to stop the attacks and tirades by right-wing Hindu groups and individuals against minority communities in different parts of the country!

“Hinduism is losing its traditional tolerance because some Hindus have started believing that it is their faith that has brought them political power - and because this belief is not being challenged by “ those at the top asserted Nariman in his lecture . Hinduism, he felt that over the years been tolerant of the other faiths in the country; “ but - recurrent instances of religious tension fanned by fanaticism and hate speech have shown that the Hindu tradition of tolerance is showing signs of strain. And let me say this frankly - my apprehension is that Hinduism is somehow changing its benign face because, and only because it is believed and proudly proclaimed by a few (and not contradicted by those at the top): that it is because of their faith and belief that HINDUS have been now put in the driving seat of governance,”.  He further maintained that “ we have been hearing on television and reading in newspapers almost on a daily basis a tirade by one or more individuals or groups against one or another section of citizens who belong to a religious minority and the criticism has been that the majority government at the Centre has done nothing to stop this tirade.”

Even after this warning, a few months after the BJP took the reigns of power, there have been consistent hate speeches and attacks on the minorities in several parts of the country. Mohan Bhagwat, the RSS Chief calls for the establishment of a Hindu ‘Rashtra’ (nation); a Union Minister, Niranjan Jyoti turns abusive saying that in India, one is either ‘ramzadon’ (those born of Ram) or ‘haramzadon’ (illegitimately born). On 14 September 2014, a BJP Parliamentarian Sakshi Maharaj made a strong allegation that, “ the Madrasas of the Muslims were teaching terror”. On 5 January 2015, addressing a gathering in Meerut, he boldly proclaimed, “ the concept of four wives and 40 children will not work in India and the time has come when a Hindu woman must produce at least four children to protect Hindu religion.” The same news report goes on to add, ‘Sakshi Maharaj went further to add that those involved in conversion must be punished with death though ‘ghar wapsi’ (reconversion) is not equivalent to conversion. “ Wait for some time,” he thundered, “a law will be passed in Parliament in which anyone indulging in cow slaughter and conversion will be punished with the death sentence”.

The Dadri lynching of 28 September 2015 (when Akhlaq was killed because of a rumour that ‘he ate beef’) should not be a spontaneous act of violence by a mob but a well thought of barbaric act by people who know that they can do things with impunity, because they are vested with immunity.

In Gujarat, several Muslim youths were killed by the police in what is infamously known as “encounters’. The youth were apparently innocent-and those responsible for their deaths have got away with murder. Just last week on 2 May, a special Central Bureau of Investigation(CBI) court dropped all charges against former police officers D.G. Vanzara and N.K.   Amin in the sensational fake encounter case of Ishrat Jahan and three others in Ahmedabad.

Ten years ago, in 2009, a massive rally organized by the Bharat Jagruti Morcha, brought together Hindu Sadhus and Sadhvis from all over India including Asaram Bapu and Morari Bapu of Gujarat; the gathering loudly proclaimed:  

“BHARAT VISHWA GURU ABHIYAN

·                Sant   hamare   desh   ki   shaan

Yahi   banate   desh   mahan

·                Vishwa   Guru   ho   bharat   pyara

Aiysa   hein   sankalp   hamara

·                Hindu   drama   hee   vishwako   vinash   se   bachaa   sakta hai

Bharat   Jagruti  Morcha   avaan   karta   hai

Samasth   Hindu   eek   jhoot   hogar   desh,   dharma   veh   sanskruti   ki   raksha   kare

BHARAT   JAGRUTI   MORCHA  

Which in English would be:

Movement   of   India’s   World   Gurus

·                The   saints   are   the   country’s   pride

they   make   the  country   great

·                The   world   gurus   are   beloved   of   India

this   is   our   resolve   that

·                Only   Hindu   religion   can   save   the   world   from   eternal   damnation

Bharat   Jagruti   Morcha   calls   upon   all   Hindus   to   unite   to   save   religion   and   culture

Bharat   Awareness   Campaign

That which was perhaps just sloganeering ten years ago, is slowly becoming a reality as several of them are desperately trying to destroy the pluralism of India, in their attempt to create their “Hindu Rashtra”. The juggernaut of hate and venom, divisiveness and violence are personified today by the likes of Sadhvi Deva Thakur, Sadhvi Pragya Thakur and their ilk; it is not too late to stop their chariot of destruction – but we the people of India must awake and act now!

( Cedric Prakash SJ is a human rights activist and writer. Contact: cedricprakash@gmail.com)

(Published on 06th May 2019, Volume XXXI, Issue 19)