By Poonam I Kaushish
It’s the silly season of appeasement politics wherein democracy is a conflict of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. An adage which nails our leaders’ diatribe depending on which side of the liberal-bigoted divide they are. Underscoring political harangue is only rabble rousing, devoid of substance, spreading hatred and widening the communal divide on religious lines to satiate their vote banks.
From Kerala to UP politics over God seems to be the order of the day. First of the mark was a revered Catholic Bishop of Kottayam district who warned Christian youth against ‘narcotics jihad’, a term to describe attempts by Muslims in Kerala to lure Christians towards Islam using drugs, borne out by a sharp rise in drug-related cases and seizures in the State. In 2018, the police seized contraband worth Rs 650 crores, in 2019 it went up to Rs 720 crores, and in 2020 Rs800 crore.
Predictably this was music to BJP’s ears as the Syro-Malabar Church, the world’s second-largest Eastern Catholic Church, has expressed Islamophobic sentiments accusing Muslims of ‘love jihad’ and been claiming dozens of Christian women were converted to Islam and taken to Syria to further the Islamic State’s ‘jihadist’ activities since 2018, drawing a parallel between ‘love jihad’ and the Islamic State’s execution of female Christian captives in Nigeria.
Naturally the Church’s dalliance with Hindutva has directly resulted in political growth for the BJP in the State. As a quid pro quo, other than Islamophobia, the church is expecting better patronage from the Centre vis-à-vis education and health. Even as continuous appeasement politics is fast turning the Kerala into a nursery of terror activities.
Not a few perceive this a demographic threat of Kerala’s Catholic community’s disaffection towards Muslims. Going by 2011 census, of the State’s 33 million people Hindus make up 54.73%, Muslims 26.56% and Christians 18.38% down from 19.02% in 2001.
Trust UP Chief Minister Yogi to stir the communal cauldron as elections near Sunday. Accusing previous State Governments for their “casteist and dynast mentality” and “politics of appeasement”, he asserted “before 2017, those saying ‘abba jaan’ used to digest ration meant for poor but now everyone benefitted equally from development under his Administration.” Sic. Earlier he had come out all guns blazing against Congress calling it “mother of terrorism” in India.
The Congress hit back at him for “blatant communalism” and “hatred” directed towards Muslims by stating “abba jaan and Kabristan” won’t work in all the elections. It was referring to Yogi’s comment in 2019, “They gave money for kabristan but not ‘shamshan ghat.”
Undeniably, we are watching cut-throat communalism at work. Whereby, our netas have made nationalism and the Hindu-Muslim vote-bank the tour de force of politics. With every leader propounding his self-serving recipe of ‘communal’ harmony harbouring the same intention: To keep their gullible vote-banks emotionally charged so that their own ulterior motives are well-served. Never mind, the nation is getting sucked into the vortex of centrifugal bickerings.
Alas, 2021 is no different from 2015. When BJP leaders and even Ministers sought to tom-tom Hindu religion, faith and worship and justified the unjustifiable following the Dadri lynching of a Muslim that he stored beef. From love jihad, anti-Pakistan cultural-sports protests, killing of rationalists, beef ban to Gau raksha and religious intolerance et al India continues to be entrapped in its moribund opaque world view.
Who does one fault? Given our netas have perfected intemperate language to inject poison in society over the years. Namely, dangerous and diabolical machinations of vote-bank politics, pitting Hindus against Muslims creating fissiparous tendencies resulting in a communal divide.
Clearly, in a milieu of competitive democracy, if caste politics ensures convergence of electoral booty, politics based on religion has better chance of polarising voters via vicious speeches inducing raw emotions of hostility and hate. Who cares if it is destructive and stokes communal violence and sows the seeds of rabid communalism.
Questionably, why are politicians’ discourses becoming venomous and toxic? By doing so does it not make a mockery of the concept of a “nation” built on the values of democracy? Is Yogi and his ilk wanting to peddle a patriotism whose condition of possibility is the wiping out of all thought? Is its concept of nationalism per se a justification to belittle followers of faith? Should this become litmus of one’s patriotism?’
Has our polity realized the ramifications of their actions? Would it not only further divide the people on creed lines but is also antithetical to hope of narrowing India’s burgeoning religious divide, thereby unleashing a Frankenstein.
India’s misfortune is that Hindu, Muslim and Christian fundamentalism is growing thanks to political and intellectual double-speak. Whereby, secularism has degenerated from its lofty ideal of equal respect for all religions to a cheap and diabolical strategy for creating captive religious vote-banks.
Sadly, the political class exploits the common man’s emotions and only looks at what will help popularize it more with its vote bank. Even if its amounts to heading towards an era of intolerant terrorism. Despite, the Government underscoring its commitment to maintain the nation’s secular foundations and communal harmony.
In a mammoth one billion plus country there would be a billion views and one cannot curtail people’s political beliefs and rights. Everyone is free not accepting another’s view as it is a matter of perception. A statement objectionable to one might be normal for another. However, no licence should be given to anyone to spread ill-feeling towards any community or against atheists who do not see themselves as Ram-Rahim-Jesus children.
Importantly, no quarter should be given to those who fan hatred among people and communities. Be it a Hindu ‘messiah’ or a Muslim ‘mullah’. Both are destroyers of the State, which has no religious entity. Thus, our moral angst cannot be selective but should be just, honourable and equal.
In this dog whistle politics wherein communal language which appeal to baser emotions and promises unapologetically sectarian and communal beliefs, the time has come for our petty-power-at-all-cost polity to think beyond vote-bank politics and look at the perilous implications of their insidious out-pourings which inject poison in society.
In the ultimate netas need to realize a nation is primarily a fusion of minds and hearts and secondarily a geographical entity. Nor is there any mysticism in the secular character of the State. It is neither anti-God nor pro-God. It is expected to treat all religions and people alike. The message has to go out clearly that no leader or priest belonging to community, caste or group can spew odium and if they do, they lose their democratic right to be heard. Such rhetoric has no place in a civilised polity.
India is a big country with enough room for all to live in peace and goodwill. The aim should be to raise the bar on public discourse, not lower it any more. We could do without leaders who churn the ‘holier-than-thou’ cauldrons in their reckless pursuit of political nirvana! Time they desist from using caste and creed as pedestals to stand on to be seen. Converting religions gush into political slush! —— INFA