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Mainstream, VOL LII, No 45, November 1, 2014

Rubbing Salt into the Muslims’ Wounds

Sunday 2 November 2014, by Kuldip Nayar

by Kuldip Nayar

After the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992, the Muslims felt for the first time since independence that they were a minority in the real sense. The partition, on the basis of religion, did not cast a shadow on their future. But the liberal era of Jawaharlal Nehru and the Indian Constitution guaranteeing equality to all citizens saw the country through a period which other-wise could have been more violent and more divided than what the migration of bloodshed that took place on both sides on the basis of religion. One million people were estimated to have been killed.

By declaring that the Ram Mandir would be build by 2019, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat has rubbed salt into the wounds of Muslims. They have come to reconcile to the loss rather help-lessly because they do not see any light at the end of the tunnel.

With a small temple, which came up overnight on the site where the Babri Masjid stood once, the chapter had been closed for the time being at least. But that does not seem to satisfy the Muslims, nor is it in their interest, as they perceive. The BJP, guided by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, is trying to create the same atmosphere. The equivocal stand by the government on secularism has only helped the Hindutva elements.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi could have done something positive to clear the vitiated atmosphere. But his party does not appear to do so because it’s paying dividends in keeping the society polarised. No outsider could interfere because the then Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, Kalyan Singh, did little to follow the Supreme Court’s judgment which said that the status quo should be maintained.

By ‘Hinduising’ a secular society, the integrity of the country is in danger. Religion can never integrate a nation as the example of Bangladesh cutting itself asunder from Pakistan shows. The imposition of Urdu forced the same Islamic East Pakistan to become the independent, sovereign republic of Bangladesh.

India has stayed as one country because the various cultural entities have not been disturbed. True, the Hindus are 80 per cent of the population. But the minority, the Muslims, have not been threatened except by a lunatic fringe.

No doubt, the people would have secured more benefits in a Leftist outfit. But the 25 years of the Communists’ rule in West Bengal has given a fatal blow to the ideology because the government failed to give even basic education to its people. The educated Muslims were only 2.5 per cent even after the rule of the Communist regime of two-and-a-half decades.

If the RSS is really interested in Hindutva, it should be agitating for the rights of Dalits, who despite the discrimination it has forced, have remained in the fold of Hinduism. True, some have sought freedom through conversions to other religions. But they have only adversely affected the Muslim and Christian societies. The converts from among the Dalits face more or less the same discrimination in the religious society they joined.

The RSS chief, claiming to be cushioning the Hindus, did not react to the burning of a Dalit because his goat strayed into the land of an upper-caste member. Now that Modi has caught the imagination of the country, he should take up the cause of the Dalits and ask the upper castes to shed discrimination against the Dalits.

I have not seen even a mild criticism from Modi or his ardent followers, who claim that they would build a future India which will know of no discrepancy. At least the burning of Dalits, if not the daily prejudice, should have been covered by the widely-watched Doordarshan network. But it seems that the government itself doesn’t want to raise the pitch on this issue because it is dominated by the upper castes. Even otherwise, there seems to be an unwritten law which dictates that such stories should not be used. Surely, this does not constitute freedom of the press.

The institutions in the country are langui-shing. Had the media, an important institution, been free, the RSS would not have dared to challenge the basic structure of the Constitution, which includes secularism. The RRS chief should realise that the core of Hinduism is a sense of accommodation and spirit of tolerance, not the division of the society. The spread of the BJP is a point of concern because it still ignores the aspirations of Muslims. Modi’s slogan of development has gone down well because it gives the hope of reducing, if not ousting, poverty. He has done well not to deviate from that path. Unfortunately, his regular contacts with the RSS and that of his Man Friday, Amit Shah, effaces even the wishful thinking that Modi would build the society without any prejudice or bias.

Things would have been different if the demand by some liberal BJP men to sever all connections with the RSS had been implemented. Once this possibility was on the anvil when Gandhian Jayaprakash Narayan was able to convince all top Jana Sangh leaders to dissolve the outfit and join the Janata Party. However, the old Jana Sangh members stayed constantly in touch with the RSS and this negated the very purpose.

The liberal Atal Behari Vajpayee tried his best for terminating the relationship between the RSS and Jana Sangh. He, however, succeeded only on paper because he could not dilute the loyalty of the old members. L.K. Advani was the one who founded the BJP because he thought that the old Jana Sangh members were not trusted any longer in the Janata Party. He was successful in building the party because JP had given credibility to the Jana Sangh members when he brought them into the Janata fold.

By raising the Mandir issue, the RSS chief has only harmed the reputation of the BJP or, for that matter, Modi who is trying to give the impression that his party’s agenda is develop-ment and not division. To the BJP’s fortune, he is selling for the present and the party’s real intent has receded into the background. And it is unfortunate that the secular parties are in disarray and do not give any hope of revival in the near future.

The author is a veteran journalist renowned not only in this country but also in our neighbouring states of Pakistan and Bangladesh where his columns are widely read. His website is www.kuldipnayar.com