There is little doubt that the current ‘intolerance’ campaign was mounted by the opposition parties in concert with the paid media, aimed at the Bihar elections, retaining primacy in Rajya Sabha and deflecting from the downward slide that a prominent political party is facing. That the paid media has been roped in along with some well known divisive individuals is quite obvious – at the altar of national security! The ironical part is that the political party that ruled India longest and holds the record of most killings and communal riots during its rule is now talking of ‘intolerance’, Mr Accidental having remained mum for most of the decade now talks of freedom of expression. Utterance s from the same party prior to general elections that 22,000 people will get killed in case another political party came to power at the Centre can hardly be ignored either . Was the specific figure related to an alternate plan and are the current killings and lynching part of the same plan, motives of which are being questioned by the same party?
Admittedly, politicians of all hues have made idiotic statements that become more erratic during elections but then this is not the first time. Without naming the politicians responsible, we have been witness to statements like “in Hydreabad, our Muslim population has crossed 50%, and now we are in majority. Therefore, I demand the Administration to impose restrictions on celebrations on Hindu festivals such as Ram-navami, Hanuman Jayanti etc. In the Bhagya-Lakshmi temple, near Char-Minar, we have already shown our strength by stopping the ringing of Bell. We Muslims will ensure that this temple is also destroyed”, “In Islam both Secularism & Patriotism are haraam (prohibited / unclean)”, “Muslims have ruled India for 1100 years. Lacs of Hindus were beheaded. Crores of Hindus were converted into Islam. We divided India, and snatched Pak & Bangladesh, demolished 2000 temples and converted into mosques. It is out of our fear that Hindus even today chant Hindu-Muslim Bhai Bhai” to give few examples. Begum Khalida Zia, President Bangla National Party stated, I regret continuing massacre of Hindus & Buddhists in Bangladesh, but Bangladesh is an Islamic Nation and not Secular. Now, the Muslims are in majority here. Under the circumstances, if Hindus & Buddhists want to live here, they should either convert to Islam or go to India.” Significantly, these statements were made when the longest ruling party was in power at the Centre. Yet, there was no utterance of ‘intolerance’, no awards were returned and no marches to the President. Neither was this done when in 1990 half a million Kashmiri Pandits were forced to flee Kashmir Valley, only 11 families having survived the orgy of violence, and neither during the mass killings of Sikhs in Delhi and NCR in 1984.
The paid media has been complicit in playing a role in the current campaign of ‘intolerance’, some examples being: the article ‘Moody’s to PM Narendra Modi’ in Economic Times was obviously mischievously inserted by a small time employee for obvious financial gain but blown out of proportion in our media; Congress march to the President for intolerance given out of proportion coverage without any mention of what has been discussed above compared to the perfunctory cover given to ‘March for India against Award Wapsi’ led by Actor Anupam Kher; not exposing the scam by Dibakar Banerjee returning a film award which actually was won by Hiremath, Director of the film. The bottom-line in a country like India should be the realization that idiotic remarks by irresponsible politicians should be ignored unless the aim is to fan communal passions. This is all the more important considering the quality of the polity, how many have legal cases pending against them, and the political compulsions under which even in the recent Bihar elections all political parties without exception put up many candidates who reportedly have cases pending against them.
But looking at our population of some 1.28 billion, do we really have a communal problem?
Listen to what Indian speakers said during the Fourth Herat Security Dialogue (HSD IV) held in Afghanistan on 2-3 October 2015 under aegis of Afghan Institute of Strategic Studies (AISS) saw participation by 17 countries including US, China, India, Iran, Pakistan, Central Asia plus UN, NATO and OIC. Salman Khurshid, former EAM India and Chief Guest at HSD IV spoke of inter regional civilization influences in the region, particularly India-Afghanistan and India-Persia, and explained that Hinduism is a way of life that embraces all and that India has Muslim Hindus, Christian Hindus, Buddhist Hindus, Jain Hindus etc; which is common phenomenon. Now it is a moot question if he had used the same language in India, whether his own political party would have expelled him or not. At the same HSD IV, Dr Ali Akbar Shah, Professor, Delhi University addressing the audience in fluent Pashto said that the Islamic countries should learn from India where mysticism of all religions including of Islam have been amalgamated and absorbed, adding that India has taken in Islam brought by invaders as also by Muslim sages like Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti. He spoke of Din-e-Ilahi introduced by Mughal Emperor Akbar and Sufiism, and that there was need to revive the true spirit of Islam, emphasizing that while everyone knows what has gone wrong, there was collective need to act to set it right. Now readers can decide for themselves whether this is the reality of India or otherwise, notwithstanding the some of the political garbage that we burden, coupled with hyperbole of presstitutes for fiscal gains.
That similar intolerance campaigns will be mounted during the elections in Assam, West Bengal and Kerala next year are unquestionable, besides any worthwhile work during the forthcoming winter session of Parliament amidst the cacophony resembling a fish market.
Prakash Katoch is third generation army officer hailing from Himachal Pradesh.