The letter written by 49 so called celebrities to the Prime Minister with regards to the lynching of Muslims, Dalits and other minorities has invited a lot of debate in the media. Without a doubt there is a problem in hand and the nation needs to take note of it to find early solutions. Frankly there is an imperative need for concerned citizens to raise their voice against such atrocities. The problem starts when this is done selectively or with ulterior motives or both. In this case the letter smacks of both.
The letter asks for putting a stop to lynching of Muslims, Dalits and minorities with immediate effect. It does not talk of killings of Hindus by the same whom they seek to protect. Are Hindu lives not important or worth saving? Does secularism exclude Hindus just because they are in majority? Is protection from government warranted only for those communities or groups who may have lost higher numbers of lives but not for those whose numbers may be marginally lower? Can importance of lives of people be based on communal or religious backgrounds? Would it not have been more appropriate if this supposedly concerned group had talked of killings without any religious or communal bias? By being selective has this group not further complicated the problem and added to the communal divide?
One wonders if these people asked these questions to themselves before they penned the letter. If they did then it is obvious they purposely ignored the obvious answers in their zeal to seek redress only for Muslims, minorities and Dalits. If they did not ask these questions, then they are guilty of fermenting trouble and communal discord without proper deliberation on such an important national issue.
This syndicate of forty nine talks of ‘Jai Shri Ram’ becoming a provocative war cry in recent years that leads to such hate crimes. There are certainly cases where, before committing acts of violence, some people have shouted ‘Jai Shri Ram’. But to presume it is now a Hindu war cry to commit violence against Muslims is rather farfetched. It is important to understand that a lynching incident is localised, happens on spur of the moment when passions overtake rationality and not because someone shouts ‘Jai Shri Ram’. The people who commit such crimes are invariably uneducated and belong to under developed rural areas. In addition, in many cases past enmity at local level cannot be ruled out. This is true for all and not just any particular community. When a mob or a group of people go berserk, if a few shout ‘Jai Shri Ram’ it does not make it a war cry.
A war cry is a deliberately chosen slogan or line used to rally soldiers in battle that also motivates them and pushes them to unimagined heights of valour. By default a war cry implies an organised effort to fight or go into battle. Surely this syndicate of forty nine is not implying that the Hindu community has decided and organised itself to lynch Muslims across the nation or to perpetuate atrocities on Muslims, Dalits and other minorities. If that is their belief, then they are being deliberately mischievous and bent upon fuelling communal and caste tensions for reasons best known to them. On the other hand it may do them well to study the Muslim war cry of ‘Allah Hu Akbar’ that most Muslim mobs, terrorists and Jihadis use whenever they commit acts of violence not only in India but all over the world. Without a doubt this war cry is backed by an organised effort to spread violence, to rally the faithful towards violence and to brainwash them into laying down their lives if required. It is indeed surprising that this syndicate of forty nine believes that ‘Jai Shri Ram’ is a war cry in the same vein as ‘Allah Hu Akbar’. In any case they seem to have no objection to the latter.
The syndicate feels that mere condemnation of lynching of Muslims and minorities by the Prime Minister (PM) in the parliament is not enough. One wonders if there is any other more august forum where the Prime Minister could have done that. Bulk of the signatories to this letter are from West Bengal. They did not have anything to say when a normal Bengali citizen was terrorised and exploited by communist goons for over two decades of communist rule. Today most of those goons have shifted allegiance to TMC under Ms Mamata and their hooliganism has only increased but these forty nine self-proclaimed responsible and concerned citizens have never uttered a word. Is it because the people who suffer across Bengal are mostly Hindus? Few districts of the state where Muslims are in majority such hooliganism is obviously fine because it is an internal matter of the community, so these concerned citizens have nothing to say. What about ‘Jai Mamata’ and ‘Trinamool Zindabad’ slogans that are often heard in West Bengal in rallies and during mob violence? May be these cries are classified by the few musicians who are part of the syndicate as soul music instead of cries for violence.
Does the syndicate know that law and order is a state subject? The fact that the PM has decried it in no uncertain terms in the parliament should be sufficient for state governments to crack down heavily on individuals who commit such crimes. Surely the syndicate does not expect the PM to directly issue such orders to central forces to act against such defaulters. If that happens the same syndicate will accuse the PM and central government of over reach and meddling in state governments’ affairs. Why have these individuals not questioned the state governments concerned where action on any lynching incident is still pending? The answer to these questions is simple. By asking the Prime Minister, these people are assured of prime media time and publicity while asking state governments would often go unnoticed. Every member of the syndicate is publicity hungry, particularly as many among them are now out of lime light. It is obvious they have grown on the principle ‘any publicity is good publicity’. Today it pays to question BJP and Mr Modi whereas questioning any state head or other political party will be a waste of effort.
Finally, is lynching any different from other forms of killings? While lynching invariably happens in the heat of the moment, recent Indian history is replete with pre-planned acts of violence leading to killings by design with much greater loss of life. It is important for intellectuals, eminent citizens and concerned citizens to step up and fight against all such crimes. But when they become selective in their condemnation of such heinous crimes for selfish reasons, then they are doing a dis-service to the nation and their intent will always be questioned. There are enough reasons and indications to believe that all signatories of the letter are out of favour of powers to be today. After decades of pampering, freebies and recognition beyond their legitimate dues, they find themselves on the way side today. May be they find it difficult to digest this hard fact.
It is erroneous to assume that everything that was happening prior to 2014 was good and everything happening post 2014 is bad. Such a binary approach to a very complex issue can only lead to more trouble. Are they forgetting that nothing is permanent in life? India is changing today and it may be too early to pass a judgement that it is changing for the worse. Instead it may be more prudent for concerned and influential citizens to embrace the change and work within it to help in development of a society where all can live in harmony. To do that one will have to be committed, patient, neutral and totally unselfish. That, unfortunately, is not part of this syndicate’s ilk.
Saroj Chadha, an engineering professional, is a successful entrepreneur. Having retired from the Indian Army after having served for over 23 years, he has also been a consultant for leading Indian and Multinational electrical companies. He lives in New Delhi.