By Shaimin Raja
As elections, whether parliamentary or state, draw near, an unsettling trend of what can be termed as “communal frenzy” seems to gain momentum. This phenomenon often appears more as a calculated strategy in the realm of desperate politicking rather than being genuinely rooted in the religious beliefs of the grassroots population.
The manipulation of “religious” elements to create a façade of communities engaging in religious warfare is increasingly noticeable, raising questions about the authenticity of these claims. In essence, the term “religious” is at times misapplied, conveniently masking criminal intent. Consider the actions of those responsible for heinous acts such as rape, arson, vandalizing shops and places of worship, hurling stones at people, lynching individuals, and other such atrocities. These actions lack any genuine religious motive, yet they are branded as such to justify their occurrence. The justification of criminal acts under the guise of “religious” pursuits is not only questionable but outright unacceptable. This twisted labeling not only clouds the truth but also perpetuates negative perceptions of the various religious or socio-political groups these criminals claim to represent.
A striking instance of this is currently unfolding in Gurugram, Haryana, where attempts to stoke communal tensions are being made under the pretext of Hindu-Muslim discord. However, it’s crucial to underline that organizations like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Bajrang Dal do not represent the entirety of the Hindu community in India or globally. With approximately 1.1 billion Hindus in India alone, the VHP’s membership of around 1.6 million is a fraction of this larger population. The recent rallies and disruptions caused by these groups should not be interpreted as reflective of the beliefs and sentiments of all Hindus. Similarly, the reported mob attack on a VHP procession in Nuh district, Haryana, further highlights the convoluted interplay of religion and manipulation. Prior to the procession, social media rumors linked a self-proclaimed “cow vigilante,” Monu Manesar, to the event. Manesar, allegedly affiliated with the Bajrang Dal, has been implicated in the murder of two Muslim individuals earlier in the year. Regardless of the resolution of the alleged murders, the overarching issue remains the unchecked actions of self-proclaimed cow vigilantes. Speculations also surround the deliberate spread of reports connecting Manesar to the VHP procession, possibly aimed at provoking the Muslim community in Nuh. It is imperative to stress that these criminal actions, regardless of their alleged motivations, cannot be genuinely labeled as religious activities.
The historical tendency to hastily categorize disputes involving parties from different religions as religious conflicts warrants scrutiny. Often, this labeling overlooks the actual motivations behind these disputes. It’s essential to recognize that a few individuals, even if numbering in the dozens or hundreds, do not represent the entire religious community. This holds true for both Hindus and Muslims. Associating these isolated instances with religious tensions between the two communities, on a national or larger scale, is an oversimplification that fails to capture the nuanced realities.
Furthermore, there’s a need to consider the possibility that individuals are deliberately attempting to provoke communal violence under the guise of religion, possibly for political gains. This manipulation for political purposes cannot be ignored, given the manner in which certain groups exploit religious identities to target and provoke specific reactions. These actions might be part of a broader strategy to propagate “religious” tension between communities and spread chaos under the guise of religious zealotry. While these efforts have met limited success, as seen in Haryana’s isolated incidents, their underlying political motives must be exposed. Manohar Lal Khattar, a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), currently serves as the Chief Minister of Haryana. With state assembly elections approaching, questions arise about his government’s effectiveness in maintaining communal harmony and peace, especially considering that the BJP also holds power at the national level. Has there been a failure in ensuring a peaceful atmosphere, or is there a calculated political manipulation at play here?
While the VHP and its actions may grab headlines, it is essential to emphasize that media coverage does not necessarily equate to broader public support or electoral success. The BJP received less than 40% of the votes in the 2014 and 2019 parliamentary elections, revealing a complex political landscape. Moreover, the presence of multiple parties headed and dominated by Hindus as key rivals further complicates the narrative. The absence of a single political party representing Muslims nationwide highlights the multifaceted nature of Indian politics. Attempts to exploit religious sentiment for political gain must be critically examined, and media sensationalism should not detract from this imperative.
In conclusion, the manipulation of “communal frenzy” ahead of elections serves as a disconcerting trend that demands careful consideration. This trend distorts religious elements to serve political purposes, resulting in a distorted public perception. Vigilance is required to differentiate between genuine religious sentiment and orchestrated provocations aimed at political manipulation. As India’s democratic process continues, it is essential to uphold the values of honesty, accountability, and respect for all religious communities.