Can we Indian allow ourselves to become victims of communalism?
[By Sadia Dehlvi]
Each time the Hindutva genie threatens to emerge from the bottle, tormenting images of hatred, persecution and violence come to the fore. The controversial BJP election CD contains narrative and visuals of terrorism, cow slaughter, of Muslim men delighting over deceiving innocent Hindu girls into marriage and producing a litter (pillas) of thirty five from five marriages. Along with chants of Jai Sri Ram, the mission statement is to save the Hindu Dharma from the Islamisation of India with a resolve to rid the country of traitors. The kind of nationalism it perpetuates is rooted in resentment against Muslim rule and Muslims whom they view as settler colonisers. The evident goal of Hindutva is to institutionalize the notion of the Hindu Rashtra. The toxic content of the CD simultaneously seeks to induce a paranoia of insecurity amongst the majority and appeals to the most banal emotive instincts of an illiterate electorate.
In a 1961 address to the AICC, Nehru held that communalism of the majority is far more dangerous than the communalism of the minority. Not condoning the latter he stated, “ When minority communities are communal you can see that and understand it. But the communalism of a majority is apt to be taken for nationalism”. In portraying themselves as the sole nationalists, the strength of Hindutva has been effectual in sidelining the nationalism of Nehru, Gandhi and Ambedkar.
If Muslim appeasement myths were true, the social and political realities of the minority would speak differently. The painful truth is that the story of Indian Muslims has been scripted by the broader Hindutva agenda. With minority rights remaining on the outside of integrated development policies, Muslims today are sitting on the edge of the Indian frame. If communal agendas continue unchecked and secular tempers not developed, India’s largest single minority will fall out of the picture completely.
The spiritual tenets of Hinduism are peaceful and celebrate diversity and inclusion whereas Hindutva is a warped nationalist ideology rooted in the politics of intolerance. One would like to believe that brand Hindutva of the BJP has exhausted itself and the electorate has learned to choose development over the politics of intolerance. The sheer knowledge that parties flaunting divisive agendas remain a vital force striving for Central authority is terrifying.
It is equally disheartening and worrisome that instead of a renewed pledge to secularism, Rahul Gandhi testifies that his family was responsible for the break up of Pakistan. When young leaders whom you would have thought had their heart in the right place need to address jingoistic national chauvinism one must acknowledge the deep rot in our political system and raise serious questions. Whatever the political necessity of the moment we can not allow space for the creation of Muslim demons or Hindu triumphs. Hindu Muslim unity, the defining factor of Indian secularism is under grave threat. Constant vigilance is required if we are genuine about putting brakes on the acceleration of religious divides.
Does the Congress need the malice of the BJP to hand out its own ideas of secularism? Is the prescription of banning political parties good enough or will they emerge stronger with new identities? Narsimha Rao dismissed four state governments after the Babri Masjid tragedy that eventually led the perpetuators of the crime to victory at the Centre.
The privileged positions of power were exploited in the frenzied and psychopathic violence of the Gujrat riots of 2002. The savagery left intense scars on the Muslim psyche and India’s largest religious minority negotiated its existence among society and state with a wounded spirit.
When the BJP was in power, a camouflaged Hindutva furthered its agenda through various cultural and educational organizations. Strident Hinduism gained respectability in media, academia and the film world with sworn secularists discovering concealed virtues in the party. The damage is not irreparable but the internecine conflict between secular forces makes the restoration process messy and complex.
Can we, the people of India allow ourselves to be continuously bitten by the lurking venomous snake or can we collectively strive to crush its head forever. The change can be brought only through judicial, bureaucratic and parliamentary resolves. The question is that does any political party have the genuine will, integrity or the strategy to mobilize the masses against such rapturous forces? Secularism is not just about giving a fair deal to the Muslims but a democracatic idealology for an empowerment for all backward classes. If constitutional ideals are to succeed, someone has to take the lead in organizing secular forces and allowing for cherished values to become immune to the clashes of power. Ideologically, culturally and intellectually, the resistance to communalism has to be fought on a war footing or else we will succumb to its malignancy. History will then see India as a failed secular state.