Not very long ago, in 2014, India voted for the BJP-led NDA government. It was the first time in 30 years that any party received a clear majority of 282 seats in the Lok Sabha (the alliance won massively on 336 seats).
The results of that election showed us that finally, the public had found an ‘alpha male’ in the form of Narendra Modi. They believed in him, especially when he said that his government would ensure “sabka saath, sabka vikas”. The masses were frustrated against the Congress government – something that was clearly visible during the India Against Corruption movement, the protests against the Nirbhaya tragedy, and most dominantly, in the results of the 2014 election.
Although the BJP has been historically considered to be a pro-Hindu party, I believe that it was voted to power by people from all religions and faiths in 2014. Not only did it win in Hindu-dominated constituencies, it also won in an overwhelming majority of the other constituencies.
But what happened in the course of the last three or four years that people from minority communities started hating the BJP so much?
In his interview to Rajya Sabha TV, Hamid Ansari said, “The Muslims in the country are experiencing a feeling of unease. A sense of insecurity is creeping in as a result of the dominant mood created by some and the resultant intolerance and vigilantism.” These weren’t the words of ‘any’ Muslim person in the country. This was an observation by the outgoing Vice President of the largest democracy of the world, who had served the chair for 10 whole years.
Very recently, the Archbishop of Delhi, Anil Couto, wrote the following to all parish priests in the Archdiocese of Delhi, “We are witnessing a turbulent political atmosphere which poses a threat to the democratic principles enshrined in our Constitution and the secular fabric of the nation.” Adding to this, the Archbishop of Goa and Daman, Filipe Neri Ferrao, wrote, “In recent times, we see a new trend emerging in our country, which demands uniformity in what and how we eat, dress, live and even worship: a kind of mono-culturalism. Human rights are under attack and democracy appears to be in peril.”
The religious minorities are not the only ones living under constant fear. The plight of minority castes (the SCs, the STs, and the OBCs) is eerily similar. The emergence of young Dalit leaders like Jignesh Mewani and OBC leaders like Alpesh Thakur is proof that there’s a need for the issues of these groups to be heard. You and I might disagree with their ideologies, but the fact remains that they represent the voice of their communities, and they cannot be silenced.
Videos of Dalits being lynched, beaten and oppressed are a nightmare for any and all of us. Adding insult to injury was the petition by the central government to dilute the law on preventing atrocities against SC and ST communities. As a result, the country saw one of the most successful ‘Bharat Bandhs‘ in recent times.
An IndiaSpend analysis of the Home Ministry’s data shows that communal violence under the NDA has increased by 28% over the last three years. Nobody can ever forget what happened in Dadri, Kasganj and various other places in the last four years. Earlier, these used to be ‘rare’ incidents, if not unheard of. But they are routine today. On top of it, PM Modi is still trying to wash away the stains of 2002 Gujarat riots – and although the CBI has said that Modi himself was not involved in the riots, there’s no denying the fact that it happened during his tenure as Gujarat CM. The images of Modi and the BJP have therefore caused a lot of trouble.
The question is, when and how did this image of being ‘anti-Muslim’ and ‘anti-minority’ develop? Apart from the 2002 riots and the communal violence under LK Advani during the Babri Masjid demolition, the recent incidents have also added to their negative portrayal. The incident of Modi denying the cap offered to him by a Muslim priest is still fresh in our memories. The fact that the BJP officials decided to select a man like Yogi Adityanath as the Uttar Pradesh CM shows that they do not care about the sentiments of the minorities. Yogi Adityanath is the same person who had claimed that Mother Teresa wanted to ‘Christianise‘ India; that Shah Rukh Khan was similar to the militant Hafiz Saeed; and that he doesn’t celebrate Eid. The most shocking of all is the instance where his supporters asks men to rape dead Muslim women! Clearly, he is the epitome of bigotry.
Some other examples of religious bigotry will probably strengthen this perception:
1. Union Minister Anant Kumar Hegde indicated that the BJP government would amend the Constitution to remove the word ‘Secular’ from the Constitution.
2. Another Union Minister, Giriraj Singh, has made comments like “People who oppose Narendra Modi should go to Pakistan” and “Among those who oppose the Prime Minister are people who advocate casteism, support Hafiz Saeed and Osama Bin Laden and defend separatists.”
These are just the tip of the iceberg.
So where does all of this stem from?
In my opinion, it all stems from the idea of majoritarianism which the current government holds dearly. It stems from a single ideology trying to hijack the political sphere. The incidents of violence instill fear in the minds of the people from minority communities. What they fear most is the possibility of India turning into a ‘Hindu Pakistan’ where the minorities would be tortured – just like many Hindus in Pakistan were.
And it’s not that the entire Hindu community is trying to take over the political sphere. It is just one particularly radical, violent, intolerant and inhuman group of Hindus that have been maligning the whole religion. Their deeds have led to terms like “Saffron Terror” being coined – and this has affected the way people look at Hindus. “Saffron is the new Green”, thanks to the RSS and its allies. Other Hindus have, in fact, condemned the shameful acts of these violent goons through movements like #NotInMyName and books like “Why I Am A Hindu”. The feeling of otherness that has developed in the hearts and minds of the people from minority communities is a worrying issue which is going to hurt us badly in the long run.
In the short run, it has already hampered the image of India on the global platform.
The first proof of this is the fact that when President Obama came to India, he revealed how he had advised PM Modi, in person, to make sure that the religious minorities feel safe in India – because diversity is the strength of India.
The second instance is the video of an interview of Ram Madhav, a senior BJP leader and RSS associate, by veteran journalist Mehdi Hassan of Al Jazeera. Various international news channels and dailies like BBC, The Guardian, New York Times etc. have also written extensively about the growing insecurity among the minorities in India.
Therefore, one thing is very clear – “Sabka saath, sabka vikas” was yet another jumla. The Dalits, Muslims, Christians and other minorities have, time and again, been made to feel like outsiders. ‘Nativity’ is what groups like the RSS and the VHP claim for Hindus. According to their views, it would seem that Muslims are always violent and Christians are always trying to convert people. They have come up with terms like “Love Jihad” when BJP leaders themselves have had inter-religion marriages. Mob lynchings, cow vigilantism, and online harassment are routine occurrences now. ‘Ram-zaade or Haram-zaade’ and ‘India or Pakistan’ seem to be the most-used phrases.
The country is going through tough times. It is time for us to speak out. The nation needs you. Do not let your conscience be hijacked by these goons and the paid media.
Featured image used for representative purposes only.