By Dhurjati Mukherjee
The recentlyconcluded Assembly elections have once again confirmed the play of appeasement politics and the polarisation of Hindu-Muslim votes in the battle of the ballot. This round too, the wooing of the minority community, particularly the Muslim votes, comes to the fore in the background of the Hindutva politics of the BJP. Such votes go a long way in building the fortunes of a political party, as has been the case with West Bengal, where minority votes swept the TMC to power for a third term.
While there is a crying need to shun such politics, it remains a fact that this community, which constitutes the largest number of minorities in India, have been at the receiving end for years together and specially in thesepast since the BJP came to power at the Centre. There has been a hue and cry against the majoritarianism of the BJP and its apathy and hatred towards Muslims. Thus we saw in Bengal elections that Mamata got a 100 per cent of Muslim votes. The Muslim voter abandoned the CPM and Congress even in their strongholds. And the community came out to vote in higher numbers.
The BJP would need to rethink its agenda. It is rather unfortunate that it has tried to inject a version of history that was marinated in hatred of Muslims by depicting them as invaders who had violated that glorious ancient history by diminishing the Hindus. Neither Savarkar nor Golwalkar quite explained why the Muslims alone and not the British deserved this distinction.
Since its ascendancy to power, the BJP has been emphasising that the Hindu Rashtra in the making need to be protected against Muslims in particular and other religions also. However, meeting the challenge required that no fine distinction be made between government and country. In the process, all kinds of dissent are being abrogated with the view that the country‘s interests have to be defended at any cost.
Thus, ruthlessly the sedition law is being implemented, thereby cleverly dividing people between those who support the party and government – the so-called nationalist patriots – and the treacherous anti-nationalists who are out to divide the country. Charges of a conspiracy to wage war against the State have been lodged mainly against Muslims but also against writers, lawyers, intellectuals and human rights activists. They were deemed anti-nationals for speaking against the establishment.
But unfortunately the strategy is not working at the ground levels. Dalits and lower castes are questioning the myth and philosophy of Hindu Rashtra. Moreover, the poor and neglected sections are also questioning what benefit such Rashtra will bring to them. Political analysts feel that the strategy may not work in the long run as common people at grass-root levels are not quite bothered about attempts to divide society on communal lines.
One may refer here to a recent bookUndercover: My Journey into the Darkness of Hindutva, by Ashish Khetan, who stated that Gujarat under Modi “no government institution, no organ of the state was untouched by communal bias…The communalism of state agencies at the Central level has intensified since 2014 and so have bribery and coercion in politics. Money and control of the State apparatus have always had a role in Indian politics but never before 2014, such a defining and determining role. The misuse of CBI and the Enforcement Directorate to harass political opponents was not unknown in Congress times but the BJP has taken this to a different level”.
Further Khetan rightly pointed out: “Majoritarian rule untrammelled by law, the veneer of democracy minus the substance of constitutionalism…the constant undermining of minorities, particularly Muslims,; the impunity for Hindu right-wing rioters as opposed to harsh treatment, including unjustified arrests and imprisonment, meted out to those on the opposite ideological ide; the persecution of activists and human rights organizations; the misuse and abuse of institutional and judicial processes to target political opponents and dissidents…is without precedent in India”.
All this has led to a society in which one lacks trust in police force, where one cannot always expect judges to act fearlessly, where media is purchased and one’s innocence or guilt can be determined by what religion he belongs to is doomed to aggravate crisis future. Moreover, with the deteriorating relationship with Pakistan as also the prevailing majoritarian attitude in the country, the good relationship between Hindus and Muslims has been eroded over time.
It needs to be pointed out here that a significant section of the Muslim community is backward, specially due to lack of education and awareness as also high levels of conservatism. The political leaders as also those at the helm of the community have not taken the initiative to impart education properly so that they could compete in state and national levels. The whole approach of the community, specially of women members, has been embedded in deep conservatism, arising out of superstition attitudes.
The undermining of Indian Muslims, under the Citizenship Amendment Act has not only been criticised in the country with 2000 academics and scholars signing a statement in this regard but also been condemned globally. The actions in Kashmir as also the CAA have provoked the UN Human Rights office to describe these laws as “fundamentally discriminatory” and UN Secretary General expressed concerns as it could render people stateless. Even the UN Commission on International Religious Freedom classified India as a “country of particular concern”, its lowest rating.
However, politicians have to accept the fact that Muslims are part of Indian culture and cannot be pushed back. On the other hand, they have to be given educational facilities and made aware of social realities such as the need to abolish polygamy, giving them all types of rights and allow women freedom and access to education. This work has to be undertaken by the government and integrate the community into mainstream Indian culture. Unless this is done, disintegration of society may have adverse consequences.
The present attitude of the government at the Centre is harmful for the country and is leading it towards social disintegration. The judiciary must ensure that Constitutional values are defended and upheld. The mixing of religion with politics is ever increasing purely for partisan interests and diving the community. The state of affairs can only improve if the ruling dispensation has a broader and humane outlook towards men and matters and is not just interested in grabbing and/or retaining power by putting one community against the other. Have we not deviated greatly from Gandhi’s views on religion and community and ways and means to bond them together and that too during his 150th birth anniversary? — INFA