By Ghulam Noor Jahanian
The recent condemnation from the Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi, terming the killings in the name of Gau Bhakti (respect for cow) as, ‘…Not something Mahatma Gandhi would approve of”, is conceived by most as lip service. The last time the Indian Premier admonished cow vigilantes, was about a year ago; in August 2016.
The ‘annual’ statement does not seem to bear well with the thousands of protesters that have gathered in demonstrations against attacks on Muslims in India by Hindu mobs. The main sit-ins were observed in the capital city of New Delhi, while smaller groups rallied in support of Muslims in other states of India. The protesters comprised of liberals, intellectuals, academics, Sikhs, Dalits, Muslims and people from almost every ethnic group existing in India.
“The government has been callous in its silence of collusion with the increasing spate of murders and public beating and humiliation of Muslims and Dalits,” said saffron-clad Swami Agnivesh, a Hindu preacher.
According to a Hindustan Times’ report, 86 percent (24 out of 28) of Indians killed in cow-related violence since 2010 were Muslim, 97 percent (61 out of 63 cases in total) of these attacks took place after the Modi-led government came to power in the May of 2014.
It further added that as many as 124 people have been injured in the cow-related attacks. It was later revealed that more than half (52 percent) of these attacks were based on rumours.
According to statistics, about half of the cases of cow-related violence – 32 of 63 in total – were from states governed by the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) at the time; only 8 were run by the Congress, and the rest by other parties, including the Samajwadi Party (Uttar Pradesh), People’s Democratic Party (Jammu & Kashmir) and Aam Aadmi Party (Delhi).
These attacks include mob lynching, attacks by vigilantes, murder and attempt to murder, harassment, assault and gang-rape. In two specific attacks, the victims/survivors were chained, stripped and beaten, while in two others, the victims were hanged.
Adding insult to injury is the fact that there is no codification of law against lynching or mob violence in India. The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, of India seems to be toothless against such incidents. A certain Section 223(a) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 says that persons or a mob involved in the same offence in the same act can be tried together. However, it has not proved to have given enough legal teeth to the justice delivery system.
On the contrary, there have been reports where the police have registered cases against the victim/survivors themselves. The crude ignorance of such crimes is at the least notorious.
The ‘Hindutva’ ideology and ‘orange revolution’ in India add to the rebirth of ultra-nationalism, populism, and demagoguery in today’s world.
Besides the surge in communal violence since BJP’s landslide victory of 2014, what is even more glaring is the fact that close aides to Prime Minister Modi and certain top-ranked officials hailing from the party have been openly threatening beef eaters. Some of them are even members of either the Lok Sabha or Rajya Sabha.
For instance, Sangeet Singh Som, a BJP M.L.A from Sardhana, UP, is reported to have dismissed the victims of cow vigilantism (the dead) as quote “cow killers”, while another BJP leader threatened to behead the beef eaters.
In another example, the Chief Minister of Haryana State described the lynching of Muslims in cow’s name as a mere ‘misunderstanding’.
These statements add to the apprehensions of the public regarding cow vigilantism being sanctioned by the state itself.
Analysing the current socio-political scenario of India, the British sculptor Anish Kapoor has opined that “India is currently being ruled by a Hindu version of the Taliban”.
BJP and the rise of Neo-fascism:
It is a universal fact that when it comes to political ideologies, fascism is widely reviled and abhorred. Mussolini from Italy, Hitler from Germany and Hideki Tojo from Japan, all hailed as fascist and ultra-right wing leaders during the Second World War.
Fascism follows many doctrines. Firstly, it attempts to unify the country under a single cultural, genetic or historical banner. Most of the times, it follows the order of racial or cultural cleansing, as the minorities are taken as weak or unworthy. Hitler used this against the Jews and exterminated them for not being a part of the ‘pure Aryan race’.
Other manifestations of fascism include opposition to pluralism and hybridity. Right wing leaders do not believe in mutual benefits.
Today’s world witnesses a new shape of fascism; neo-fascism. The rise of right-wing leaders and self-proclaimed iconoclasts has become a headache for the world. The victory of Donald Trump in America, the rise of the far right in Europe, and Brexit, are not just false alarms. Adding to that, the ‘Hindutva’ ideology and the ‘orange revolution’ in India add to the rebirth of populism and demagoguery in today’s world.
The three years of BJP led government are wrought with examples of the rise of ultra-nationalism.
For instance, The BJP minister Giriraj Singh who hails from Bihar is reported to have said, “The growth of Muslim population is a big threat, we have to protect Hindu religion”. Moreover, a senior BJP politician Subramaniam Swami stated, “The mosque is not a religious/sacred place, it is a building which can be demolished at any time”. The bigotry coming from such influential figures is simply unintelligible.
The BJP-RSS duo has incessantly worked to unify the past, present and future of the subcontinent under the banner of ‘One’ Hindu culture.
Adding to the distressful tale, there are examples where the Indian government in general, and the BJP in specific, have tried to misrepresent the culture of the subcontinent. They have been adamant about the existence of only one “Hindu Culture” in all of India. For instance, BJP National General Secretary and Former Spokesperson of the controversial RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) Ram Madhav in an interview to Aljazeera claimed the Taj Mahal has nothing to do with Shah Jahan or Muslim history; it is a part of Hindu culture.
The hardcore brand of Hindu nationalism nurtured and sponsored by the RSS is not unknown to many. Unnamed officials/journalists from the Amnesty International have reported that there are maps inside RSS headquarters showing ‘one united India’. RSS militias work day and night to achieve the same vision.
Ram Madhav once stated on a live broadcast that Pakistan, Bangladesh, and other countries are mere break-away states and they will be soon reunited. He later justified it by saying that his statement was just a continuation of the national policy of India to bring about cultural unity. However, it is evidently clear that the obsession of BJP-RSS with a ‘united India’ has brought more divide than unity.
There are many other incidents depicting the rise of Hindu nationalism. In Gorakhpur, names of popular places have been forcefully changed; Ali Nagar became Arya Nagar, Miyanpur was changed to Mayapur, Urdu Bazaar to Hindi Bazaar, Humayunpur to Hanumanpur and Islampur to Ishwarpur.
It must be kept in mind that Muslims are not the only victims of Hindu nationalistic rage. Dalits, Sikhs and other varnas (castes) like Shudras also bear the brunt of the self-fulfilling Hindu prophecies. Then there are the ‘untouchables’ (caste-less) who are not even considered worthy of being human beings.
Modi Sarkaar, which is also considered to be the cornerstone of RSS, heralds a fledgeling future for India. Critics have accused the RSS of killing India’s iconic independence leader Mahatma Gandhi. The RSS is also blamed for inciting communal violence against the minorities. It has also been widely linked with those Hindu mobs who slaughtered thousands of Muslims in the Gujrat massacre.
If the ruling party continues to propagate the agendas of the RSS, it will certainly not bode well for India. India also has to keep in mind that it carries the tag of being the ‘largest democracy’ amongst the community of nations.
The Indian government is apparently flirting with fascism. Playing with fire is not recommended; especially for the ruling elite of a country, which is home to such an ethnically diverse population of 1.3 billion.
By Ghulam Noor Jahanian
The writer is a graduate from LUMS. He has an interest in diplomacy and international affairs.