On August 14, 1947, in his speech ‘A tryst with destiny’, Pt. Jawahar Lal Nehru, the man under whose guidance India was to walk towards reclaiming the pledge it once made with destiny, said: “All of us, to whatever religion we may belong, are equally the children of India with equal rights, privileges and obligations. We cannot encourage communalism or narrow-mindedness, for no nation can be great whose people are narrow in thought or in action.” On August 17, 1947, just three days after this speech and two days after India gained its independence, the boundaries were drawn. The once gigantesque country was divided into two parts; India and Pakistan. The latter became an Islamic Republic, but the former which was a Hindu majority chose to remain a secular country.
India decided to be more than just a democratic state. India chose to be an idea, an idea of unity in diversity; an idea of peaceful coexistence of different religions together: the dream of our freedom fighters. But for the Sangh Parivar, this idea was a thorn in their sides. Muslims being the erstwhile rulers, for some, were easily portrayed as a threat. Partition, a defining moment that it was but was never the beginning, nor the end. It continues to influence the lives of Indian Muslims till date. It left Muslims with a label of dividers of Mother India. Although they chose to stay in a Hindu-majority India instead of migrating to the Muslim-majority Pakistan, this label still has repeatedly been used to infuse hatred in the hearts of Hindus towards the Muslims by the Sangh.
The anti-Muslim pitch has been here since the partition, though at that time it commanded less of an audience and was mostly in the form of threats of Muslims being treated as second class citizens and with the mere objective to force the Muslims to move to Pakistan. But, since the end of migration, this anti-Muslim pitch has been changing its narrative from the descendent of tyrant rulers to the silent loyalist of Pakistan and then to anti-Hindu, Love-Jihad and finally to anti-national once again. But today, being an anti-national is different from what it used to be 60 years. Today, the nationality in question no more just Indian, but Hinduism also, as it is slowly being enforced by the right-wing party ever since it assumed power in the centre. Ironically, it’s worthy of being noted that the Islamic Republic today debates on the ways it can shed state religion from its constitution to become a secular country, but 70 years later, voices from the Secular Republic are demanding a forceful imposition of a state religion.
The Bhartiya Janta Party and its patron the Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh, together with some more than 150 right-wing infringe groups have successfully managed to project themselves as the lone saviour of nationalism and Hinduism. Such is the acceptance of this anti-Muslim pitch in modern India that the right wingers, including the office bearers of this government, can easily make anti-Muslim statements and justify lynching of Muslims without even losing their chair. Since the partition, this anti-Muslim pitch has been accompanied by violence; at first with the instigation of riots and off-late by mob-lynchings.
Since the formation of the BJP-led Government, this anti-Muslim pitch has strengthened substantially. There have been numerous cases of mob lynching of Muslims on the pretext of both Gau-Raksha and Love-Jihad. At times, they were lynched for no reason at all, as was in the case of Mohsin Shaikh who was beaten to death by alleged three members of a radical Hindu outfit, or in the case of Junaid Khan who was beaten and stabbed to death by a mob only because his beard and the skull cap became a cause of infuriation to some. Akhlaq’s killer was given a state funeral by alleged Right-wingers, and Pehlu’s killers were hailed as heroes. Surprisingly, Mohsin’s killers were granted bail because their only fault was that Mohsin belonged to a different religion and according to the judge, this somehow worked in favour of the accused. Rajasthan’s home minister even went on to praise the Gau-Rakshaks (killers of Pehlu Khan) by saying that they had done a great job by saving the cows from being smuggled.
Unfortunately, RSS is not the only player of the Hindutva card. Recently, Vishwa Hindu Parishad and its youth wing Bajrang Dal distributed trishuls to the youths in Gandhinagar to fight against Love-Jihad and for cow-protection. The tale of the romance between Right-wing and arms and ammunition does not end here. In Hanuman Garth, the Hindutva heartland, Bajrang Dal is not only accused of running terror camps but also of flaunting sophisticated weapons. So is the story of RSS, its ex-members have been charge-sheeted in bomb blast cases, and many times it has also been accused of possession of illegal arms.
Every religion has had its own share of terrorism, and for last 30 years, as luck would have it, Muslims have been the flag bearers of terror-related activities. While the West has always been accused of instigating the violence, the foot soldiers of chaos have generally been Muslims. Although the active participation of Muslims in terror-related activities is very less (as approximately only seven percent of the Muslims stand a chance to be radicalised and less than one percent of Muslims actually become the soldiers of terrorism), but the destruction is still widespread.
Indian Muslims have been deemed to be the most peaceful ones around the world, and they must be appreciated for the tolerance they’ve exhibited (apart from the times they’ve violently defended the honour of the prophet), but with the rise in the onslaught against Muslims, radicalisation might seep in. If and when this radicalisation seeps in, will it be appropriate to blame the Muslims only?
India, today needs to fight for its own survival, not just for the Muslims. To save the idea that India was to be, India needs to reject Hindutva. India needs to save its Muslims from being lynched—India needs to protect its Muslims.
Note: The image used is representational. Credit: Hindustan Times|| Source: Getty Images
UPDATE: A previous version of this article incorrectly used the term ‘preserve’ in the title, which has been changed to reflect the tone of the post better.