I was out of the country when the whole controversy over the now-suspended BJP spokesperson, Nupur Sharma, erupted. As I was in remote locations with very little net access, I was, thankfully, spared the whole outrage cycle.
Since my return home, I have been working backwards to make sense of what happened, studying both the news and the views that have dominated the discourse in India on this issue. Here are my key takeaways from the whole episode.
1) What Nupur Sharma said was what if she subjected her co-panelists on that TV debate to the same provocation of religious sentiments that she was subjected to.
Many have also pointed out that what Sharma referred to was in fact mentioned in Islamic scriptures itself. Nupur Sharma wasn’t making up facts or lying. Even her most strident critics have NOT accused Nupur Sharma of lying. They have only said that her utterances ‘hurt their religious sentiments’. If what is quoted in their own scriptures has the power to hurt a community’s feelings, shouldn't they be having an internal debate about it rather than issuing death threats?
2) Personally, I think it was absolutely disappointing that the BJP suspended Nupur Sharma publicly. She was their official spokesperson and while the party could have distanced itself from her statements if it felt it was not the official stand of the government or the party, her suspension was demoralising for BJP supporters. I hear that privately, she has been provided with legal help and police protection, but that still does not take away from the fact that Nupur was publicly abandoned.
3) What made matters worse in this case was the role played by Islamic countries. There are over 50 countries in the world where Muslims are in a majority. A whopping 26 of them have Islam or a specific form of it in their constitution as a state religion. These countries are essentially autocratic theocracies and most of them have deplorable human rights records. There are no special ‘rights’ given to minorities in these countries, and many of them have been accused of supporting global Islamic terrorism.
But many of them have money, and oil and gas reserves, and many of these countries employ thousands of Indians. Governments unfortunately have to take all the factors into consideration before making decisions.
4) Most of the oil-rich Islamic countries in the world do not really appear to care about Muslims in poor countries. None of them have taken in Syrian or even Rohingya refugees in any considerable numbers, even though they are Muslims. They do not speak about China’s brutal treatment of the Uighur Muslims. But they draw a red line when it comes to comments on the Prophet and Islam.
The recent diplomatic incident involving Nupur Sharma’s utterances was spearheaded by Qatar, which is jostling for a position as the leader of the Islamic world, ousting Saudi Arabia, which has been flirting with a mild version of liberalism ever since the current prince and deputy prime minister came to power. Qatar wants to be what Saudi Arabia was, hence the loudest noise came from them.
5) There are only two Hindu-majority countries in the world. Both are officially ‘secular’ with ‘minorities’ having special rights! And that leads to a situation where even on a perceived ‘insult’ of the Prophet, all Islamic countries close ranks, despite their internal squabbles, while Hindus are not united even in India.
Our own people laugh when jokes are made about Hindu icons and beliefs and sexually explicit memes involving Shivalinga are shared by self-certified Hindu ‘liberals’ citing ‘freedom of expression’.
In essence, in India today, you can lie about Hindu beliefs, Gods and Goddesses and get away with it using #FoE as an excuse, but commenting on Islam gets you death threats, FIRs, stone-pelting and large-scale rioting.
6) As the incidents of last Friday have shown, no amount of online indignation and outrage is a match for raw street thuggery. Hindus feel that now that they have voted a party of their choice to power, they have done their duty and have outsourced their power to the state. But state power is no substitute for street power.
The Indian state is limited by the constitution and the constitution is firmly ‘secular’ and pro-minority. While state power is helpful as a deterrent in case of violence, especially if a strong leader is at the helm who has the will and the gumption to act, it is not a factor Hindus can rely upon much.
As the demography of Indian states changes, orientation of state power will change too. Check the reaction of the state police in the state of West Bengal on Friday’s rioting incidents versus the reaction of the Uttar Pradesh police. Hindus need to make use of existing laws as well as invest in street strength by supporting core Hindu organisations who work on ground.
7) If Hindus want to have any future in India, they need to realise that retaining political power is a necessity. It is not just a desirable outcome, but it is an absolute imperative. However much you want to outrage against the BJP, right now it is the only political party in India that has consistently taken a pro-Hindu stand on most issues. It is only under a BJP rule that
Kashmir could be fully integrated in India, that we are seeing a Ram Mandir and now there is conversation on reclaiming Mathura and Kashi.
If you want to make it simpler, please understand that only a BJP can give you a Yogi or a Himanta Biswa Sarma as a CM. Other parties give you a Mamata Banerjee or a Jagan Reddy or a Stalin. So, NOTA is NOT an option, no matter what self-styled crusaders tell you on Twitter.
8) The anatomy of Islamic violence in every such incident of perceived blasphemy always follows a set template. When such an incident happens, it is always the ‘modern, elite, educated’ Muslim intellectuals who dogwhistle for violence. In their own personal lives, they barely follow any orthodox Islamic tenets, but they drive the outrage cycle, which is then taken over by their religious leaders, the mullahs and clerics, who have a captive audience of thousands of Muslims who are easily provoked in the name of religion.
In short, the ‘liberal’ Muslim is the one who incites the fanatic Muslim to attack the ‘infidel’. And when the attack is done, the ‘liberal’ Muslim will then write soulful poetry about the ‘shahadat’ of the fanatic. This formula has worked the world over.
9) Most ‘liberal intellectuals’ from other religions work as ‘useful idiots’ of Islamists in each such case. Their job is to raise the bogeyman of Islamophobia each time Islam or Islamic acts of terror are criticised. They do not want you to know that Islamic extremism is a direct result of the exclusivist philosophy as propounded by Islamic scriptures. Instead, they say that Islamic terror and extremism is only a byproduct of ‘Hindu majoritarianism’ in India and Western colonialism elsewhere. In short, they are the issuing agency of the ‘platinum victim card’ that Islamists carry in their wallets all over the world.
10) In India, Hindus are often fed the myth of the Ganga Jamnee tehzeeb, that ‘syncretic culture’ that is a result of Hindu-Muslim collaboration over the centuries. It is a gigantic lie that is force-fed only to gullible Hindus.
Truth is, there have been acts of violence, looting and arson against Hindus in India with clockwork regularity. But all these years, the Hindus mostly took the path of least resistance, and the then powers that be that were firmly committed to minority appeasement continued to enable this myth of ‘peaceful coexistence’, even when the ground reality was anything but peaceful.
But now, political Hindutva is a reality. Even ordinary Hindus are asking uncomfortable questions, they are getting more assertive, and no perpetrator or even an enabler likes the victims to speak up or resist. What we are seeing in India is the resultant churn.
11) Which brings me to the last, and most important lesson: what must the Hindus do to fight this menace? There are several ways to do that, all of which involve getting together, uniting, supporting each other, investing in organisations that work on the ground, fighting caste discrimination and learning the truth about other religions from their own scriptures and using one’s words very carefully when criticising.
As ordinary Hindus, we are all foot soldiers in this battle for Dharma, and for our own identity. Only way to do it is to keep the most pro-Hindu party in power and contribute in our own little ways to the civilisational narrative. Sooner or later, demography will make its presence felt, but what we have within our means, are actions that will make that possibility happen later, rather than sooner.
The writer is a freelance writer and newspaper columnist based in Pune.
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