The major political parties in India need to oppose the gross violations of the Constitution, the bulldozer (in)justice and beating of accused in custody, writes Dr Ram Puniyani for South Asia Monitor
The protesters against the now suspended BJP spokesman Nupur Sharma’s statement on TV and her sacked colleague Naveen Kumar Jindal’s tweet, both of which were defamatory to Prophet Mohammad, have faced police firing, arrests and bulldozers. When Nupur made the statement, there were some protests but the government slept over it till nearly 15 Muslim-majority countries summoned Indian envoys and handed them letters of protests.
India has been cultivating its relations with Gulf countries for various reasons. Nearly eight million Indians work there and repatriate a major chunk of India’s remittances. One of these countries supplies nearly 40 percent of gas; others not only supply oil but also are a good market for Indian products.
It is after this that the government decided to make a show of taking action. It called the two spokespersons as fringe elements. Nupur was the national spokesperson and Jindal was the media head of the BJP’s Delhi unit. Nupur was suspended and Jindal was expelled from the party. But no legal action was taken against them. Both put forward an apology but the Prime Minister’s silence was deafening.
In the initial protests against the remarks, 34 Muslims were arrested in Kanpur. Later, after charges of one-sided action came up, a few others were also arrested. On June 10, two boys were killed in Ranchi. In Uttar Pradesh and some other places, hundreds of protesters were arrested. A couple of houses were bulldozed. A video of policemen mercilessly beating arrested Muslim youths in police custody is making the rounds.
Where is the law and law protecting authorities? Can the police beat the accused? Can houses be bulldozed without proper legal notice procedures? Is judiciary redundant? Can the executive arm merrily become the law unto itself?
The other aspect of the issue is the treatment of Muslim minorities during the last few years. Issues relate to cow-beef, lynching, targeting of youths over so-called Love Jihad have shaken the community. As the tragedy of coronavirus unfolded, the government with the support of a compliant media blamed it on Muslims (Tablighi Jamaat), many of who were arrested and then released by court.
In this background, many started boycotting Muslim vegetable vendors in to their housing societies. Calls were given to boycott Muslim vendors and traders. In due course the issues related to hijab, halal meat, namaz in open places and azaan also became tools to intimidate the Muslims. We saw the Dharm Sansads time and again calling for genocide of Muslims. Ramnavami processions were used to incite the community. The community as a whole has been relegated to second class citizenship, living an intimidated life.
A biased film based on half-truths and lies, ‘Kashmir Files’, was promoted by the RSS chief and those in positions of power. The polarization of communities and atmosphere of hate being manufactured became obvious as anti-Muslim slogans rent the air towards the end of the movie.
The situation has come to such a pass that Gregory Stanton of ‘Genocide Watch’ warns us that India is on the eighth level on a scale of 10 as far as the danger to Muslim lives is concerned. When all this was happening, the Gulf and other Muslim-majority countries kept mum as their own record on human rights is abysmal.
The UN Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) annual report in 2022 holds a mirror to the state of affairs in India. “Religious freedom in India (is) taking a drastic turn downward, with national and various state governments tolerating widespread harassment and violence against religious minorities.”
The major political parties in India need to come forward and oppose the gross violations of the Constitution, the bulldozer (in)justice and beating of accused in custody.
Another equally condemnable thing is the death threat to Nupur. She should be dealt with as per the law of the land. Any threat should be countered by the state. The Al Qaeda’s reported threat to avenge the attack on the Prophet is condemnable.
The atmosphere is getting vitiated by TV debates where illiterate Maulanas and Pundits spew hate against each other’s religion. Religion is another name for love; hate is a part of divisive politics, not religion.
Our scriptures can be left out from such debates. Hurting one or the other community should be a strict no-no. Politics based on places of religious worship and related emotive issues should be governed by the law of the land.
The need is to respect each other’s religion. We need to follow Mahatma Gandhi: “I believe in the truth of all religions of the world. And since my youth upward, it has been a humble but persistent effort on my (part) to understand the truth of all the religions of the world, and adopt and assimilate in my own thought, word and deed all that I have found to be best in those religions. The faith that I profess not only permits me to do so but renders it obligatory for me to take the best from whatsoever source it may come.” (Harijan, 16-2-34)
Can this be a part of our social morality?
(The writer, a former IIT Bombay professor, is Chairman, Center for Study of Society and Secularism, Mumbai. Views are personal.)