Sunday Anchor

Hate Story, old Script

It’s been a little over two months since the Modi government took power in Delhi. While the official focus has been on fixing the economy and getting down to the job of governance, extremist elements are feeling empowered to get on with their agenda.

Whether it is quack-educationist Dinanath Batra and >the promotion of his textbooks, or the shocking image of a >roti being forced into the mouth of a fasting Muslim man by a bunch of Shiv Sena MPs, there is a lot that shouldn’t have happened in the past 60 days.

Also read: >Religion, culture and values

Less-known Bharatiya Janata Party leaders, too, have got into the fray. C.T. Ravi, a member of the BJP’s national executive, >tweeted in the context of the recent Saharanpur riots, “Only the Gujarat model, that worked from 2002 in containing their [Muslims] rioting elements, can work. Apply across Bharat.”

Hate-mongering is something that appears to have become part and parcel of our politics. If Mr. Ravi spoke about the “Gujarat model”, his colleague Giriraj Singh, a former Bihar Minister and BJP leader, said during the election campaign in April that >Narendra Modi’s critics should go to Pakistan.

In June, a >Muslim techie was killed for wearing a skullcap. In the wake of the attack, many Muslims reportedly gave up on the skullcap.

It’s no secret that the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and its associates want to take control of the educational agenda and put in place textbooks that reflect its worldview. Apart from textbooks, they want to put in place people who will implement their agenda in educational institutions across the country.

Also read: >Choice of ICHR chief reignites saffronisation debate

Today, there is no barrier to implement that agenda. The BJP is in power with strong numbers in Delhi and runs key State governments across northern India.

History-writing and teaching has been one of the major concerns of the Sangh Parivar and in the weeks and months ahead, we could well see the purging of secular academics from key government outfits that oversee higher education and research.

It is nobody’s case that teaching or research should be monochrome. In fact, diversity of opinion must be central to research and teaching in a country as diverse as India. But rational-thinking must form the bedrock of such research and thinking.

Hate-mongering and intolerance today have a readymade platform for delivery in social media. It might be a little difficult to espouse extreme views in face-to-face conversation, but social media make the job easier.

The use, or, if you like, abuse, of social media — Facebook and Twitter — allows the gutter of hatred to flow unfettered. The toxic material that flows in these gutters is corroding the rational and secular thought process.

And, as we know, social media also allow individuals to hide behind the cloak of anonymity. This anonymity is open to use by organisations and individuals to fulfil their nefarious designs, which can even lead to actual rioting situations.

The mass outflow from Bangalore of people hailing from Northeast India in 2012 on account of morphed pictures circulating on the Internet that they would be targeted is an example of social media’s “power”.

Communal relations and politics is an issue that has dogged India prior to its birth as a nation. There is little doubt that political parties, led by the Congress, have preyed on community fears to get votes and seats.

In-depth: >Ayodhya Verdict

In fact, the failure of the Congress to institutionalise secular politics and deal firmly with rioters and hate-mongers has given a major fillip to communal elements in the country.

The Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi movement fanned by L.K. Advani and the BJP, which led to the criminal act of razing the Masjid to the ground in 1992, led to major political gains for the BJP even as Mr. Advani’s Rath Yatra led to riots in many cities of the country.

It is precisely this “political success” that places the lives of ordinary citizens and communal harmony in jeopardy. The resounding victory of the BJP in Uttar Pradesh in the Lok Sabha election following the Muzaffarnagar riots underlines yet again the political gains that can accrue through polarisation.

The Election Commission, which has competently conducted elections in the country, is found wanting when it comes to dealing with hate speech. Other than issuing notices, the commission has done precious little when it comes to tackling hate-filled speeches during the election campaign.

And, the buck does not stop with the Election Commission. Condoning criminality amounts to promoting impunity. There has to be a disincentive for those practising this type of politics.

The police and the judiciary are equally in the spotlight when it comes to dealing with rioters having a high or low profile. Much of the debate about 1984 Delhi or 2002 Gujarat killings would not have happened had there been justice for the victims.

It is good to have a debate and discussion on these issues. However, ensuring justice for the victims of the recent Muzaffarnagar riots appears to be missing from this debate. This needs to take centre stage.

India has its fair share of fault lines and problems. If the country is serious about growth, equity and power projection, then healthy inter-community relations are a must.

There can be no growth with disaffection or violence. And, there can be no harmony with agendas that drip with hate.

With the heat and dust of elections over and the Congress out of the way for the moment, the Modi government has to make good on all the expectations it has generated.

And, one of the enduring expectations from this government is just this — that the people and the country enjoy communal peace and harmony for growth and prosperity for all.


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