By Shahid Lone
India, which I often describe as miracle in the name of democracy, has of late, since the BJP came into power turned into an extreme intolerant firepot with a 25% increase in incidents of communal violence as reflected by Home Affairs data and quoted by India Today magazine as, “a surge in communally charge incidents in BJP led states” and the innocent lynching, brutal shooting, merciless burning and rampant killing of her citizens that absolutely was not carried out by fringe elements, but by Hindu fanatics.
The recent forensic report in the lynching case of Mohammad Akhlaq, clearly indicates that the meat sample found in his house was not beef. Such a heinous and horrendous, cold blooded murder was carried out in the name of beef. Anyways as I observed, the year of “intolerance”, the word that I somewhat find unsuitable for describing the whole phenomenon through which India has passed in 2015 and has really tarnished the very secular fabric for which it claims to be remembered and championed.
The situation seemingly looks alarming, since India’s renowned artists and writer’s et’al have returned their awards in the backdrop and aftermath of the ugly, unacceptable and provocative statements and incidents. Such seems to be the magnitude that L K Advani also spoke out and said “intolerance has threatened very essence of democracy”. The question of extreme intolerance goes beyond this, to the extent that freedom of speech and expression has become hard to exercise and who so does it meets the fate like M.M.Kalburgi and Govind Pansare. Of course they were very much opinioned personalities in India and dared to speak up against the extreme Hindu fanatics and nationalists, but they were silenced very soon. The audacity of events became more visible when ruling coalition party’s MLA in Jammu and Kashmir was caught on camera fighting in the legislative assembly with independent MLA Er. Rashid over the beef issue. This set the stage for digging the erstwhile law related to banning consumption and sale of beef in the world’s militarized zone.
The Indian Prime Minister’s attitude was indifferent and kept quiet for two weeks on the lynching of this man, but was very sharp to write a get well soon tweet to Navjot Singh Sidhu, after he was injured in a road accident. This has created an environment of unease among the Indian civil society and hence a sense of pushing back. The award returning from eminent persons and their letters to the head of the nation is a reflection of “how democracy is undemocratic in India”. I am of the opinion that it’s not just intolerance perpetrated by Hindu fanatic elements, but a “reign of terror” that has manifested in different forms since BJP came into power and I suggest amending NHRC which will specifically monitor crimes committed and violence inflinged by Hindu fanatics.
The serious ramifications, be they in economic or social form arise when it comes to “intolerance beyond theatrics” and this has lead to incessant debates on print and electronic media. This has resulted in deep fair and anger among minorities and if same persists, then its more than obvious that India’s international relationships will suffer and the country will be dictated by Hindu fanatics and ruin its cultural ethos. This debate was brought more into media glare with the statements like “Muslims can continue to live in this country, but they will have to give up eating beef” by M.L. Khattar (CM, Haryana) or for that matter statements by Amit Shah, Tarun Viay et’al, who form the core of BJP’s cabinet committee. The debate is so volatile and more is added to it every day by BJP members, barely resisting in putting their feet in their mouths.
The brand new hoodlum violence has emerged in India supported by influential persons in government who are busy on working on Modi’s development agenda, but with a soft and elegant touch for latent hooliganism. Albeit prejudice and communal violence is not a new phenomenon in world’s largest democracy, but it has been summoned in new forms. Since BJP came into power in 2014, intolerance and religious extremism has increased and seems India is swaying from democracy and sinking in fascism, run by fascists, nationalist elites, and corporate elites and can’t become super power till it remains super poor and is moving instead towards reactionary direction. People are very much in deep fear with this growing scenario of polarization and despondency and what irks more is the silence from prime minister on these issues and is tantamount for holding him accountable.
Studying in a country where human blood is spilled just on conjecturing of eating beef, doesn’t signify an end but reflects broad enervation and lassitude. It’s ironical to watch that the Indian government is toiling hard to get the membership of United Nations Security Council, when Indian minorities are made to live in horror. The Indian government prefers to say that we are working on the development mantra, but at the expense of mercilessly butchering Dalits, deliberately deploying more armed personnel in Muslim ghettos.
One finds it hard to stand up and express remorse in India without being lynched or attacked like B.R. Ambedkar said “to the untouchables, Hinduism is a veritable chamber of horrors” and M.K.Gandhi said “no one probably experiences a greater agony of the soul when a cow is killed. But what am I to do? Am I to fulfill my dharma myself or am I to get it fulfilled by proxy? To make a Muslim, therefore, to abstain from cow killing under compulsion would tantamount in my opinion to converting him to Hinduism by force”. This deficit and extreme view is a result of a toxic mixture of a government which has come to power which is economically neo-liberal, Hindu supremacist, socially regressive and if hindu fanatics are not kept at bay then Indians are intellectually bankrupt, morally annihilated.
*Author is a Columnist at various International Dailies. He is currently working on his novel ” The Bleeding Bride”.