The minorities have been always integral parts of Indian society. There are indeed problems, but any fear that the minorities are suddenly under threat is totally uncalled for.
The gang-rape of a septuagenarian nun within the premises of a convent school at Ranaghat in West Bengal had shocked the nation. This heinous crime, condemnable by any standard of morality and social justice, warrants the severest of severe punishments to the perpetrators.
The incident occurred in West Bengal, a state under Trinamool Congress, but interestingly, immediately afterwards, Maria Fernandez, vice-chairperson of the state minority commission said , “I will not be surprised if investigations reveal that the motive of ghar wapsi was behind it”.
You would have heard similar statements – that cases of violence against minorities have increased suddenly since Narendra Modi came to power – in the aftermath of the series of instances of vandalism and robbery at various churches in Delhi around December last year. Most of the news made headlines before the Delhi assembly election early this year.
Though the Catholic Archbishop Anil Joseph Thomas Couto celebrated the BJP’s defeat in the Delhi election, holding the Modi government responsible for all the “hate crimes” and violence against the minorities, the reality is quite different. It was soon found that none of the six church incidents in Delhi – in Dilshad Garden, Jasola, Rohini, Vikaspuri, Vasant Kunj and Vasant Vihar – could be linked to hate crimes or communal violence against the Christian community. They were simple cases of burglary and vandalism, which are not restricted only to churches.
According to the Delhi Police, 206 temples, 30 gurdwaras and 14 mosques were also burgled in 2014. And all these burglaries didn’t increase or decrease with Modi’s becoming the Prime Minister. But still, Valson Thampu, principal of the prestigious St Stephen’s College in Delhi retorted a few days back in an article in a national daily, “No anaemic explanations that skirt the issue that these are episodes of burglary will help.”
In the case of the gang rape of a nun in Ranaghat, CID believes that a mix of criminals from Bangladesh, Bihar and North 24-Parganas were involved in the gruesome crime. Several Bangladeshis have already been arrested. It’s too early to come to any conclusion, but it would be even more premature to give this heinous crime a communal angle and shield a much bigger problem, which is the security of women in India.
It seems to be a very easy thing to shrug off any responsibility by just saying that a heinous crime like rape is a result of the sudden rise in the acts of communal violence allegedly perpetrated or supported by Hindu outfits like RSS, VHP, Bajrang Dal etc., with the tacit indulgence of the BJP, and more importantly Modi.
I would be curious to know that why such an aura is being created as to auger fear and insecurity among the minorities all of a sudden. It’s as though all hell broke loose the moment the BJP came to power and before that everything was fine. Suddenly, the media and intellectuals, both from majority and minority communities; religious leaders, mainly from the minority communities; and of course, all the political parties opposed to BJP are abuzz with the thought of a major threat to the minorities in India.
The Evangelical Fellowship of India & Alliance Defending Freedom India has recently published the “Persecution Watch Annual Report 2014” report titled, “Hate and Targeted Violence against CHRISTIANS in India”.
The EFI, as the Evangelical Fellow of India call themselves by, is a “national representative voice; articulating Biblical values, training our partnering members, addressing Issues, and advocating for the poor and marginalized”, as mentioned on their website http://www.efionline.org.
The executive summary of the “persecution report” says, “The Christian community in India is concerned at the intensity of the targeted and communal violence directed against it almost on a pan-India basis. Violence against Christians picked up in independent India in the early 1990s reaching its peak in 2008–2009 with more than 1,000 incidents of violence and hate crimes reported against the Christian community.”
And then, astonishingly, just a paragraph later, the report says, “Much of the violence has taken place after the new government of the National Democratic alliance headed by the Prime Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi, came into power on 26 May, 2014.”
But let’s set aside the fact that the EFI can’t read a calendar. It’s important to investigate and find the truth about such alleged “persecution” of minorities since May 2014.
Let us examine the credentials of the non-BJP parties to understand how better or worse their regimes have been, with respect to communal violence.
In the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, 2,733 people were killed only in Delhi. It’s widely known that the riots had implicit support of many Congress leaders and the police force didn’t come to the rescue to the Sikh victims. Congress leaders like Jagdish Tytler and Sajjan Kumar, convicted of mob instigation during those riots, were in power for quite some time after the riots. Tytler was even given a berth in the UPA government.
In the Gujarat riots of 2002, 790 Muslims and 254 Hindus were killed. And even if we, for argument’s sake, take the accusations leveled against the Gujarat government about state apathy and police inaction at face value, it was exactly the same as what had happened in Delhi in 1984. Both the 1984 anti-Sikh riots and 2002 post-Godhra riots are equally ghastly episodes and both Congress and BJP governments were responsible for the carnage, directly or indirectly.
During the 21 months of the Emergency, between June 25, 1975 and March 21, 1977, more than 100,000 persons were jailed without trial. This was, in fact, twice the number of arrests made during the 1942 Quit India movement throughout the sub-continent. During this time, 20 custodial deaths were reported. This was again the handiwork of the mother of the Indian National Congress, Indira Gandhi. This was a sort of atrocity towards the community (it’s uncertain though if it could be called minority or majority), that belonged not to a different religion, but to a different ideology.
Next, the Babri Masjid demolition issue. Over a thousand people were killed in incidents of violence throughout India after Babri Masjid was demolished on 6th December 1992. One wonders what stopped the Congress government at the Centre and the security forces from maintaining the peace and preventing the demolition of the mosque as the events were unfolding. Why was such tolerance shown toward the attackers in Ayodhya, who were permitted, for over a day and a half, to demolish the mosque, build the “temple foundation”, and leave the city in special buses and trains without being apprehended, even after the state had been under direct President’s rule for more than 24 hours?
We have been told that L.K. Advani was responsible for the communal violence. Let us accept that, again, for argument’s sake. But surely, then, the Congress-run government at the Centre, led by P V Narasimha Rao, should be held equally culpable?
A very recent instance of using communal violence for political gain is the Muzaffarnagar riots in UP in 2013 in which all the four major parties – Congress, SP, BSP and BJP – were involved. One day Noor Saleem of BSP, Rashid Siddiqui of SP and Sayeed Ul Zama of Congress shared the stage and delivered hate speeches against Hindus. Sadhvi Prachi of BJP followed suit, unfurling a carnage which killed at least 40 Muslims and 20 Hindus, injured close to 100 and displaced more than 50,0000. The Muzzaffarnagar riots revealed the dark side of every political party. So when the Congress-BSP-SP union rants against the communal credentials of the BJP, it’s like, as goes an East Bengali saying, the sieve saying to a needle, “you’ve a hole in your ass”.
In 2013 September, perhaps for the first time, the Home Ministry identified the religion of victims of communal violence, saying 107 people lost their lives in riots that year, of whom 66 were Muslims and 41 Hindus.
All the above statistics clearly show that communal violence is not something which started or suddenly increased after the BJP came to power in May 2014, or during its previous stints at the Centre and states. Fringe cases of apolitical communal attacks by individuals or organizations on the Muslim and Christian minorities are outnumbered by cases of politically motivated violence, where people from both sides – majority and minority – have lost lives. The latter indeed has been a very serious issue since long under various regimes and it needs to be fixed, but it’s altogether a different problem than, as is being claimed, a sudden increase in violence against (and persecution of) the minorities since May 2014.
Nevertheless, even the fringe “apolitical” incidents – one which is worth remembering is the Hashimpura Massacre of 1987, where 42 unarmed Muslim youths were mysteriously found dead in Meerut, allegedly killed by the Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC), all of whom were acquitted very recently on 21 March 2015, after 19 years, by the Tis Hazari Court in Delhi – may have some sort of collusion with political parties. Otherwise, how could you accept the inaction against the perpetrators of the Hashimpura Massacre for 19 years during which the Centre and the state, UP, were ruled by almost all the parties. Congress was in power at the Centre and the state during the massacre; in the past 19 years, BJP, BSP and SP were in power in UP and Congress and BJP at the Centre, but none could bring justice to the victims of the massacre.
The report titled, “State of the World’s Minorities and Indigenous Peoples 2014”, published by the Minority Rights Group International, places India at 54th position with respect to the minority peoples under threat, based on events in 2013. The list is topped by Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Congo, Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Burma, Ethiopia and Yemen. It’s important to note that the report identifies “Assamese, Bodos, Nagas, Tripuras, other Adivasis; Kashmiris, Sikhs, Muslims, Dalits” as the minorities – the Christians are not even identified as minority peoples under threat, despite the persecution report claiming them to be under serious threat since the 1990s.
The “State of the World’s Minorities” for India implies very clearly that the religious minorities are not the only ones subjected to conflicts, displacements, vengeance, factionalism, lack of accountability, political instability and lawlessness, the parameters which the report tracks to come up with the final score. So, giving a communal angle to “threats” to minorities is simply not logical. In fact, it’s dangerously misleading. It’s very unlikely that the overall score for India would change drastically in 2015, thus putting to rest all the much-publicized speculation about minorities suddenly becoming extremely insecure in India.
A lot is being said about the sudden spurt of communally charged “hate speeches” by BJP MPs and other people from various right-wing organizations with direct or indirect allegiance to the BJP. Sakshi Maharaj, a BJP MP, asked Hindu women to bear four children each in order to counter the rise in Muslim population. Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti, another BJP MP, relegated any non-BJP party to being haraamzada, bastards, against her own being Ramzada, the children of Ram – this she told before the Delhi assembly election, during an election rally.
Then there are the speeches of the likes of Praveen Togadia, the chief of VHP; the stress on Hindu Nation by Mohan Bhagwat, the chief of RSS; the ghar wapsi, the reconversion of non-Hindus to Hinduism, organized by the VHP and RSS; and, the BJP government’s (read Modi’s) alleged tacit support to all these, which all are cumulatively being claimed to have caused an alarming state of insecurity in the minds of the minorities (read Muslims and Christians).
Interestingly, none of these factors would impact the threat on eight of the nine minorities mentioned in the report of the Minority Rights Group International.
Let’s see the history of hate speeches in India. Is it again, as is being portrayed, something connected only to the BJP government? Did it really increase only since May 2014?
On 22 December 2012, Akbaruddin Owaisi of the All India Majlis-e-Ittihad-al-Muslimin (AIMIM), currently an MLA in the Telegana Legislative Assembly, gave a speech in Nirmal in the Adilabad district of Andhra Pradesh.
Referring to the 26/11 Mumbai attack perpetrator Azmal Kasab, Owaisi said:
“200 masum Hindustaniyon ka qatl kar diye – Azmal Kasab ko phaansi par latka diya… Gujarat mein 2000 mussalmanon ka qatl-e-aam karnewala Narendra Modi pe aaj bhi ek muqadma nahin hua… Pakistani hai, Hindustaniyon ko marne ke liye phaansi, aur Hindustani hai, Hindustaniyon ko marne ke liye Dilli ki gaddi di jaati hai…” Azmal Kasab killed 200 innocent people and he was hung (as if he shouldn’t have been)… There hasn’t been a single case against Narendra Modi, who did the mass murder of 2000 Muslims in Gujarat…A Pakistani is hung for killing Indians and an Indian is being given the throne in Delhi for killing Indians.”
He gave a clarion call to all the Muslims in India to be munazzim and muttahid, well organized and united. “Aap jaisa jazba,” he said, “aap jaisa imaan, aap jaisa ittihaad agar aur mussalmanon mein aa jaye, khuda ki qasm, is mulq ki mustaqbil ko likhne walon ka naam mussalman hoga.” If all the other Muslims have your passion, faith in Islam and unity, I swear by God, the writers of the future of this country would be the Muslims.
Taunting Hindus, he said, “Hum marte bhi hai, to zameen mein do gaz zameen lekar dafnate hain, kyun ki humko is mitti se mohabbat hai, tum marte ho to hawa mein, fizayon mein awara ki tarha chale jate ho.” Even when we die, we’re buried in the land, because we have love for the soil. And when you die, you’re let go into the air like orphans. He referred to Lord Ram as “sabse ganda aadmi, auraton ka ehtiram na karne wala aadmi”, the worst man, someone who doesn’t have any respect for women, as, he claimed, was said by Ram Jethmalani. He called the Hindus impotent (is it more respectable than haraamzada?) and said the 180 million Indian Muslims needed only 15 minutes to show the one billion Hindus who’s more powerful, if only the “impotent” police is kept away.
Immediately, Praveen Togadia retaliated saying that when the police was actually kept away, the Hindus showed in Assam (referring to the 1983 Nellie massacre), that they too are capable of killing Muslims.
The good thing is that both Togadia and Owaisi have cases pending against them. Togadia is not any elected member of any party but Owaisi is, as are the BJP MPs Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti and Sakshi Maharaj, as is Tapas Pal of the Trinamool Congress, who said that he would send his people to rape the sisters and mothers of anyone who wouldn’t vote for his party. Is there any real threat caused by these minions, through their hate speeches?
I myself didn’t even know much about Togadia till some time back. Even today not many would know of him. Despite his fan following and limited support base in certain parts of the country, the fact is that, when it comes to disrupting the overall secular fabric of our nation, he is as insignificant as Owaisi or Tapas Pal or, for that matter, any of those BJP MPs and members of the RSS or whosoever, who want a Hindu Nation or want the Hindu women to bear four children.
Having said that, it’s crucial to keep these people under control, and there is absolutely no reason to give them the importance that makes them believe that they are the controllers of the fates of all the minorities in India. Treating any one of them, irrespective of his or her political affiliation, as a major game changer, is totally ridiculous. They should be just ignored. Their rants and chants mean nothing to most of India. India’s population have been electing such people and would continue to do so, I believe. That’s an altogether different problem.
In general, the social fabric of India is such that there is actually no threat to the minorities, unless there are politically motivated and orchestrated riots, which we’ve seen earlier, could recur under any regime.
For Indians in general, things are quite different. Bismillah Khan had been playing shehnai at the temples in Varanasi all his life. The Khans rule Bollywood and music. Mohammad Rafi is as popular as the Brahmin Kishore Kumar Ganguly. Azim Premji is still among the richest Indians, so are the minority Parsis like the Tatas. Christmas is as popular a festival as are Diwali and Dussera. For some time, India had a Hindu Prime Minister (A B Vajpayee), Muslim President (Abdul Kalam) and a Christian Defense Minister (George Fernandes). No one bothers to ask what Mary Kom’s religion is; it’s completely irrelevant. Very few would think of Michael Jackson as a Christian singer and Jeffry Archer as a Christian author. The list can go on.
The minorities have been always integral parts of Indian society and till recently the terms minority and majority might not have been in vogue too. There are indeed problems, which need to be solved, but any such fear that the minorities are suddenly under threat is totally uncalled for.