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Why BJP needs to change the mindset of its members against minorities
PRINT HEADLINE: So what if there's been no riots. *
By Keki N Daruwalla
In his press conference last Saturday, finance minister Arun Jaitley stated that the minorities in India are safe and there is “no social tension”. This is true in many respects. *[Balabhgarh, Haryana riots happened just after Arun Jaitley declared about No Riots in 100 days of Modi rule. GM]
There has been no sectarian riot worth the name since the NDA government came to power in May 2014. But is this the measure of the well-being of minorities? No houses burnt, no Muslim or Christian stabbed, so all is hunky-dory? When asked about the provocative statements against minorities made by some BJP leaders, which have included ministers in the Narendra Modi government, Jaitley responded by saying that they had been “instructed not to make them.” But the sentiments embedded in those statements have already told a story of bigotry.
Taken in totality, the impact of such statements made over the last six months, including by those satellite organisations of the far-right, is alarming. Rajeshwar Singh of the Dharam Jagran Samiti, the man reportedly behind the RSS’ ghar wapsi programmes, stated in Etah, UP, that “India will be made free of Muslims and Christians by 2021. India is the country of Hindus alone.” There’s also the infamous quote of minister of state Niranjan Jyoti dividing the electorate into ‘children of Ram’ (Ramzada) and ‘illegitimate’ (haramzada) others.
In April, the Shiv Sena publication Saamna wrote how Muslims are used as a vote bank, so their voting rights should be scrapped. At a public meeting in Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh Shiv Sena chief Anil Singh elucidated, “Muslims will get empowered automatically once they agree to undergo vasectomy and confine their families to two children.” Even Sanjay Gandhi think of pitching vasectomy as empowerment.
RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat couldn’t have pleased too many Christians when he stated that Mother Teresa’s humanitarian work was motivated by a mission to convert. And now comes the news that road signs in Delhi with Muslim names have been defaced. This can’t be very reassuring. The silver lining in all this talk is that it doesn’t resonate with a majority of Indians, including those in the majority community.
Our discourse oscillates between ‘love jihad’ and ‘ghar wapsi’. One doesn’t know if one should laugh or cry. Hedge your women in (as if they aren’t hemmed in already with thorn and bramble) so that no ‘outsider’ (read: Muslim) runs away with your bahu-beti. An 80% majority afraid that ‘their women’ will be enticed by the 15-20% — can there be a better example of national, or should we say sectarian, paranoia? When you think of power flowing from the ballot box, you come across the same fear. A far-right Hindutva leader tells people to have four children. The Akal Takht tells each Sikh to have at least three.
Where are we headed? As if the billion-and-a-quarter population of India was not calamity enough. You can’t walk without someone jostling you, or crushing your toes. We would need to ask the Almighty for another gulf somewhere, lined with a dozen countries whose inhabitants sit on oil and don’t wish to work, and who need South Asian minions to do their chores, run their trains, drive their cars and clean the snot from the noses of their children.
Has our lukewarm family planning programme gone for a toss already? There was hardly a mention of family planning in any party manifesto during the election campaigning in 2014 from the BJP or the Congress or from any other party. The reservation virus and the theory that doles are all that minorities need, as was the thinking in the UPA regime, have profound faultlines.
It encourages people to think in terms of blocks — whether casteist, communal, ethnic or tribal. Herd thinking is the worst thing that can happen to us. We are regressing into biradari, caste-panchayats and khaps, with thought processes of the masses moving into 17th century paradigms. Nothing could be more reactionary.
Some hoped that in the 21st century, the harshness of the nation state would be rubbed off the slate and what Ashish Nandy calls the “aggregates organised around cultures and civilisations, including those previously marginalised” would come into their own. This does not seem to be the case with India at the moment.
The need of the hour is not gagging the far-right, but changing the mindset of its members. And finance minister, sir, let us raise the level of debate at least a few notches.
(The writer is former additional director, R&AW, and former member, National Commission for Minorities)
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author's own. [Why editors of ET are getting nervous when truth comes out? GM]