When Modi is silent on hate speeches
Haridwar is a holy city. The sacred place where one's body and soul gets cleansed by the holy waters of the Ganges that remove the sins. It's a kind of catharsis. It is from this holy space that the jarring notes are heard these days. Vicious words that challenge and malign the conscience of India. Vasundhara Sirnate Drennan, a political scientist and journalist, provides an analysis and interpretation of the words of hatred uttered in the Hindu religious conference held at Haridwar from 17th to 19th December 2021 (The Hindu 30-12-21). The conference was organised by Yati Narsinghanand Saraswati, the chief priest of Dasna Devi temple.
One of the key speakers at the conference was Swami Prabodhananda Giri, the president of the Hindu Raksha Sena. Vasundhara quotes Swami Prabodhananda's venomous words precisely: ''You have seen this at the Delhi border, they killed Hindus and hung them. There is no more time, the case is now that either you prepare to die now, or get ready to kill, there is no other way. This is why, like in Myanmar, the police here, the politicians here, the army and every Hindu must pick up weapons and we will have to conduct this cleanliness drive. There is no solution apart from this.''
Yati Narsinghanand Saraswati went a step further and promised one crore rupees to the youth who would turn Hindu Prabhakaran (Velupillai Prabhakaran, slain LTTE leader). We know what the Myanmar regime is doing to the Rohingya Muslims there. It is such an exhortation for the genocide that is being raised from the soil of Haridwar.
Pluralism is the cornerstone of India. The Constitution that ensures equal rights to disparate people is the guiding light of Indian democracy. Even as the neighbouring nations plunged into the darkness of religious bigotry and denial of citizenship rights, the light of democracy continued to radiate in India, because of the presence of remarkable political parties, regimes and the public who were not willing to forsake the soul of the constitution.
Prime Minister Modi upheld this spirit of the constitution in his well-known motto: ''Sabka Saath-Sabka Vikas-Sabka Vishwas" (Support of all, Development of all, Trust of all). When the PM puts forth such a motto, we the common people do believe and hope that the words would metamorphose into flesh and thus the regime becomes the real representative of the nation.
But the last seven years present a drastically different scenario. CAA, the bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir, the Delhi riots proved how our hopes were undermined meticulously. The image of a photographer stomping upon the dead body of a Muslim youth in Assam came to represent and symbolise this vandalism.
TS Eliot wrote his magnum opus ‘The Waste Land’ in 1922. It was the result and reflection of a poet who was deeply hurt and pained by the disastrous first world war. ''Son of Man, come under the shadow of this red rock, I will show you fear in a handful of dust.'' There is an element of fear in the atmosphere of India. The PM and BJP must introspect why the words "Sabka Saath-Sabka Vikas-Sabka Vishwas" which should have been the antibody for this fear, have now turned out to be hollow.
While hate speeches like the ones from Haridwar are on the surge without any checks and restrictions, we also see human rights activists like Fr Stan Swamy dying in judicial custody. A journalist like Siqqique Kappan is languishing in prison while Narsinganand and Prabodhananda continue to do what they do relentlessly. P Sainath, one of the prominent journalists in India points his fingers at this irony in his open letter to the justice NV Ramana, the Chief Justice of India, who lamented in a recent lecture that investigative journalism has been vanishing in India. Sainath raises a pertinent question when he asks the CJI what the SC is doing to help and support the investigative journalists.
We have to refer here to the two murders in Punjab recently. Two young men were lynched by the mob on the charges of sacrileging the sacred places of the Sikh religion. Then Navjot Singh Siddhu, the president of the Punjab Congress Committee responded that those who do such crimes must be hanged in public. This too was hate speech. No one can accept this kind of attitude from the Congress Chief who exhorts the public to take law into their own hands. The Congress high command must not hesitate for even a moment to expel Siddhu from the party. How can Congress forget Indira Gandhi, who reminded the IB, which recommended the removal of the Sikhs from her security wing, of the fact that India is a secular country?
No hate speech, no riot comes out of the blue. No riot could succeed without the active support of the government. Dr Subrahmanyan Swamy once recollected how he handled the threats of a riot by the DMK in 1991. This was in the context of the move by the central govt to sack the DMK govt. It was widely reported that Tamilnadu will burn if such a step is taken.
Swamy, then a cabinet minister in the Chandrashekar govt, flew to Chennai to meet the DGP and the Chief Secretary. He told both the high ranking officials vividly that if any untoward incidents take place then both of them will be held accountable. And his warning clicked. The police were on their toes and Tamilnadu remained calm when the DMK govt was removed by the central govt. At the same time we must recall what Jossy Joseph wrote about the Delhi riots in his latest book: ''On 23 February 2020, BJP rabble-rouser Kapil Mishra addressed a crowd of Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) supporters. Bed Prakash Surya, the police chief of northeast Delhi district, quietly stood by as Mishra issued an ultimatum to the police to clear the streets of anti-CAA protestors. He tweeted a summary of his threat, ordering the Delhi police to clear the roads in Jafrabad and Chand Bagh of protestors, and threatening them- 'Don't try to reason with us after this, because we won't listen.' A video of his speech was also tweeted, where he said they will maintain peace for as long as US President Donald Trump was in India. 'After that, we refuse to listen to even the police if the roads are not cleared.' The police officer quietly walked out of the frame. Then began the riots.
The photographer who stomped upon the dead body of the Muslim youth had the support of the govt. PM Modi who came back to India after attending some significant meetings on democracy at the UN didn't utter a word against this atrocity when he returned to his homeland. The silence of the regime is the standing testimony to the rioters. The Haridwar hate speech is a natural corollary of all these.
But all is not lost for Indian democracy. As the nation enters 2022, the takeaway from the last year is not all that bleak. If one is asked to point out two events that brighten up Indian democracy, then one can easily look back to the rise of Mamata Banerjee and the repeal of farm laws. And we must not miss the one major link that connects these two events. It is nothing other than the successful resistance to the Hindutva ideology.
CAA, the bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir, the neutralisation of article 370 and the political stand that BJP took in the 2017 UP assembly elections not to field any Muslim candidate marked the fulfilment and realisation of Hindutva. The high voltage campaign unleashed by Modi and Amit Shah reflected the presence of Hindutva as well.
When the farmers opposed the farm laws that were brought in violating all the democratic procedures and with the active support of the corporates, BJP and Modi govt found refuge in the laptop of Hindutva. In Bengal elections too BJP had deployed huge resources that could capitalise on the Hindutva ideology. But Bengal, the birthplace of Tagore, Vivekananda and Subhash Chandra Bose refused to give in to the ideology of Syama Prasad Mukherjee. The farmers who came from the land of Guru Nanak too rejected the ideology of Golwalker and Savarkar and upheld the greater flag of humanity. The message that arose from the borders of Delhi and Bengal was accurate. It told the nation that there is an antivenom to the poison injected by the Hindutva brigade.
The hope that Mamata and the farmers do provide is by no way trivial. Hope and optimism only lead human society forward. There is that light at the end of the tunnel still. And that's why we always wake up from sleep every morning! Happy New Year to all the readers!