Dangers of Divisive Speeches
By Poonam I Kaushish
Democracy is a conflict of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. A maxim which aptly shows how our polity is sinking into the cesspool of religious intolerance. All depending on which side of the secular-communal coin one is. Clearly, hate speech is once again the cause celebre this week.
Undeniably, the derogatory speech against Prophet Mohammad that two BJP spokespersons peddled on TV and Twitter last week was reprehensible resulting in several Gulf countries Qatar, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Iran not only condemning it, demanding a public apology, summoning Indian envoys amid widespread calls for boycott of Indian goods in the Gulf. The Qatar Dy Amir cancelled lunch with Vice-President Venkaiah Naidu in Doha ostensibly for “medical reasons.”
The BJP profusely apologized stating it “respects all religions” and “strongly denounces insults of any religious personality,” suspending one and expelling the other spokesperson. However, even as the Middle East angst quelled, violence broke out in Kanpur leaving over 17 injured. The tone had already been calibrated earlier by RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat who exhorted “it is not necessary to look for Shivlings in every mosque,” even as he talked of Hindus devotion to the Gyanvapi Mosque- Kashi Vishwanath Temple and Mathura . Adding, it was for courts to decide and both communities should settle it amicably.
Therein Congress accused BJP for engineering Hindu majoritarian communal style of politics by using tactics like attempting to electorally marginalise Muslims to patronising communal violence, especially around the emotive issue of cow protection and love jihad and bringing anti-conversion laws in States ruled by it.
The BJP countered by blaming Congress and other opposition Parties of doing “vulture politics” over dead bodies, interested only in harming harmony in society. Questioning Gandhis’ silence over Rajasthan’s Karauli violence and failing to take action against rioters, slamming it as a ‘Muslim Party’ part of the “tukde-tukde gang” which protects terrorists and follows politics of appeasement “working on Pakistan’s agenda.”
Who does one fault? Given our netas have perfected intemperate language to inject poison in society over the years. Alas, politics has meandered into narrow confines of polarisation and appeasement rhetoric, rabble rousing abusive, devoid of any substance, spreading hatred but also tilted towards widening the communal divide pitting Hindus against Muslims.
All to sway sentiments before any election in all religions whereby every Party is stoking the fire, hoping it would gain dividends as the BJP did post the Babri Masjid demolition underscores the games politicians play at the altar of political expediency.
Undeniably, we are watching cut-throat communalism at work. Whereby, our polity has 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.
Alongside religious festivals have a brash aggressiveness. They are loud with people chanting provocative slogans and abusing those from other religions as if to make a point along-with followers freely brandishing leading to them being often pockmarked with clashes, bloodshed and waves of hatred that continue much after the festival ends. All clear cut deliberate ploys to polarise and create a divide between Hindus and Muslims.
Raising more questions: How does one control the hate mongers and blunt them? 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.
Certainly, there are people who are looking for trouble all times and they are there in all communities everywhere, but this senseless hatred across religions that our lives are getting drenched in, is not helping us see or worry about real pressing issues: rising poverty, unemployment, health and bettering lives.
Asserted a senior leader “there is a lot of heat generated on TV and social media which is exaggerated suggesting there is rising religious intolerance but in the last decade there has been no major communal violence. In fact hate speeches and hate crimes existed before Modi came to power. People should stop bickering and quarrelling, respect all beliefs and religions. Let laws contain fringe elements and those stoking communal fires.
Added another, “Why has no Muslim leader or clergy denounced killing of non-Kashmiris in the Valley or riots which flared up as Ram Navami processions snaked through various States? The skullduggery of conciliation given the political worth of 20% Muslim electorate, leaders go on an overdrive, encouraging Maulvis like the one who offered a prize to anyone who blackened Modi’s face or turn a blind eye to Maulanas who ban TV, music, photography and interaction with Kaffirs.
Obversely, there are Hindu fringe elements who recently called for banning Muslim vendors around temple festivals in Karnataka, prohibited school and college girls from wearing hijab and lynching a person because he looked Muslim and for eating beef.
Certainly, warped religious nationalism spun by self-styled religious-political authorities and their cheerleaders who consider members of a certain community as pariahs and who spread fear and hate amongst the minority community need to be taught a lesson. Else, who will be safe in this country?
Importantly, no quarter should be given to those who fan hatred among people and communities. Be it a Hindu fundamentalist or Muslim militant. Both are destroyers of the State, which has no religious entity. They need to understand that by playing Hindus-Muslims against each other they are only serving their vested interests.
Communalism thrives on one community’s hate for the other along-with playing up the psychosis of retaliation. Thus, our moral angst cannot be selective but should be just, honourable and equal. Also, no licence should be given to anyone from any background to spread hatred or ill-feeling towards any community or against atheists who do not see themselves as Ram-Rahim-Jesus children.
Clearly, our leaders should adopt zero-tolerance on offensive and divisive language. The message has to go out that no leader belonging to community, caste or group can spew hatred, and if they do, they lose their democratic right to be heard. Such rhetoric has no place in a civilised polity.
If they love India one cannot weaponise religion to ascend political goals. Innocent people cannot be hurt because they belong to a particular religion. We must say an absolute no to hate politics. India is a big country with enough room for all to live in peace, work together to build a strong country.
Remember, a nation is primarily a fusion of minds and hearts and secondarily a geographical entitThe aim should be to raise the bar on public discourse, not lower it any more than has been done. India could do without netas who distort politics and in turn destroy democracy.
Time now for our leaders to delink religion from politics. Neither Lord Ram nor will Allah forgive the polity for playing havoc in its name. Parties and fringe elements need to realize the collateral damage it causes will be permanent. Wounds do not heal for ages. Will they heed? — INFA