Stop sweeping muck under carpet

Guillotine Hate

By Poonam I Kaushish

Democracy is a conflict of interests masquerading as a contest of principles, an adage which shows how we are sinking into the religious intolerance cesspool.  Depending on which side of the secular-communal coin one is. As leaders slug it out over Modi’s ‘friend’ industrialist Adani in Parliament over findings of the Hidenburg report, lost in the din is the growing cacophony of hate crime once again.

The latest is Supreme Court’s observation Monday, “there is no scope for hate crimes on the basis of religion in a secular country. Will you not acknowledge there is hate crime and you will sweep it under the carpet? When action is not taken against hate crimes, then an atmosphere is fostered which is very dangerous and has to be rooted out from our lives. There cannot be any compromise on hate speech at all.”

Expressing anguish, “It is the primary duty of the State to protect its citizens from any hate crimes. We have passed so many orders yet nobody is taking action. It is only if the State acknowledges the problem that a solution could be found.”

This came against the backdrop of a man’s plea that he was assaulted and abused for being Muslim on 4 July 2021, by a “screwdriver gang” of criminals when he boarded a car to Aligarh from Noida and police did not register any complaint of hate crime. Observing, “If a person comes to police and says that I was wearing a cap and my beard was pulled and abused in the name of religion and still no complaint is registered, then it is a problem,” the Court added.

It was perhaps referring to its order October last, directing UP, Delhi and Uttarakhand to come down hard on hate speeches by registering criminal cases against culprits without waiting for a complaint to be filed .Only last month a rally in Mumbai gave a call to boycott Muslims economically and socially.

Earlier, calling social media and TV a “complete menace” the Court lamented, “heat generated by news content was dividing society and had to stop” as Court has only to keep ‘rule of law’ in mind.” Right-wing elements associated with both communities organisations are ever ready to fill the gap left by vernacular media because of their silence on communal violence. Primarily, as it is difficult to stop spread of hate messages through social media on a daily basis.

It doesn’t end there. Last June a Kerala Congress leader said restaurants run by Muslims should be avoided as they serve tea with drops that causes impotency. By sterilizing men they hope to seize the country. Sic. A poster for a documentary has also drawn flak on social media for hurting religious sentiments by depicting Goddess Kali dressed in a costume smoking a cigarette with many demanding the film maker be arrested and others saying hurting Hindu sentiments is not a right given by Supreme Court.

Alas, every Party is stoking the fire to sway religious sentiments in the hope of gaining electoral dividends underscoring games politicians play at the altar of political expediency. Over the last 8 years hate cases have gone up 500% from 323 in 2014 to 2084 in 2022 in UP, MP, Bihar, Uttarakhand and Haryana.

While Congress accuses BJP for engineering Hindu majoritarian communal style of politics by using tactics like attempting to electorally marginalise Muslims to patronising communal violence, especially around emotive issues of cow protection, Ayodhya, love jihad and bringing anti-conversion laws in States ruled by it.

The BJP counters by blaming Congress and other opposition Parties of doing “vulture politics” over dead bodies, interested only in harming harmony in society. Slamming its bête noire as ‘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? It’s akin to the pot calling the kettle black. Given our netas have perfected intemperate language to inject poison in society over the years. Regrettably, politics has meandered into narrow confines of polarisation and appeasement rhetoric, rabble rousing abuse, devoid of any substance, spreading hatred and widening the communal divide pitting Hindus against Muslims.

Raising more questions: How does one control hate mongers and blunt them? Has our polity realized ramifications of their actions? Would it not only further divide people on creed lines but is also antithetical to hope of narrowing India’s burgeoning religious divide, thereby unleashing a Frankenstein.

Asserted a senior BJP leader, “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 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.

Clearly, 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. Given communalism thrives on one community’s hate for the other along-with playing up the psychosis of retaliation.

They need to understand that by playing Hindus-Muslims against each other they are only serving their vested interests. Thus, our moral angst cannot be selective but should be just, honourable and equal. No matter what the provocation, rule of law cannot be made to go for a toss.

Nothing justifies violence or the call to commit violence in direct contravention of the law. If a Hindu has anger against his Muslim brethren or vice-versa they should take up the legal battle against them. Tomorrow, anyone looking to settle a personal score could accuse someone of being a beef-eating Muslim or a Ram bhakt.

In this dog whistle politics of communalism we need to realise 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. Our leaders should adopt zero-tolerance on offensive and divisive language. If they love India one cannot weaponise religion to ascend political goals.

Innocent people cannot be hurt because they belong to a particular religion.  Say an absolute no to hate politics. 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 civilised polity. Neither Lord Ram nor Allah will forgive the polity and fundamentalists for playing havoc in its name. — INFA