Muslims And The Boisterous Rhetoric Of Supremacy: Why Mohan Bhagwat Is Right
Be it encroachments or Hijab or a new bill in the Parliament, the last few years have seen multiple attempts by some members of the minority community to assert themselves above the law, and the constitution.
Last evening (11 January) was all about the usual suspects on prime time television twisting Mohan Bhagwat’s words into a politically convenient narrative.
An interview given by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief, to the periodical Organiser, was misconstrued on debates to paint a picture of the Sangh being anti-minority.
It was deduced that perhaps Bhagwat was drawing a line in the sand for the minorities, thus further fuelling a feud.
However, Bhagwat’s comments may not have referred to the boisterous rhetoric of supremacy thinking of the thousand-year war or to the past empires done and dusted.
Instead, it may have had something to do with the events and protests of recent years.
Here are five reasons why Bhagwat was spot-on.
One, the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the debate around the National Register for Citizens (NRC).
In recent years, there has been no greater disservice to the cause of the persecuted minorities in Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan than the protest at Shaheen Bagh. Politically motivated, the protesters, mostly women, did not even care to study the bill.
While the routine sloganeering is about all religions being equal, and everyone following the law of the land, the CAA and NRC protests were about Kaagaz Nahi Dikhayenge, Hum Dekhenge, Hindu Swastika being tarnished, and one Sharjeel Imam speaking about cutting off Assam and the Northeast from the rest of India.
The eventual conclusion of the protest was a riot that broke out on the Delhi-Ghaziabad border. However, the political takeaway was that Kaagaz Nahi Dikhayenge supersedes the urgent need to have a national register of citizens, and to drive out illegal immigrants residing across several pockets in India. Rhetorical supremacy on display complemented by violence.
Two, the recent episode of Haldwani.
The encroachment of government land in Haldwani, Uttarakhand, was almost a repeat of Shaheen Bagh. The apex court stayed the orders from the Uttarakhand High Court, giving illegal occupants a political leverage against the state government.
As was the case with Shaheen Bagh, the cold winter season was cited as a reason to extend the illegal occupation. Ignorant about the Hindus on the spot, the media was busy cultivating an imaginary narrative about the government being anti-minority. The cause of lawful eviction was ignored with the likes of Owaisi pitching for the regularisation of houses on the land.
In its 176-page judgment, the High Court had remarked that the geopolitical constraints of the Haldwani Railway Station warranted the availability of land for planning against any untoward contingency, caused by floods or other calamities, and therefore the eviction was necessary.
However, it ended with the encroachers thanking the apex court for staying the order, and the encroachers celebrating it as if they had earned the rights to the illegally occupied land.
The story of imposing supremacy through violence and bloodshed begins long before the genocide of Kashmiri Pandits in 1990.
Even today, members of Hindu and Sikh community are singled out and killed by terrorists, like in October 2021, when a school principal and teacher were killed, or most recently, in Rajouri.
Beyond the violence, one must also address the supremacy sentiment that prevails.
The likes of Mehbooba Mufti condemn the killings, but not without milking it for their political gains amongst the Muslims. Beyond the political bickering and violence, there is only one message, same as it was in the 1990s; convert or leave.
Amongst Muslims there, even today, Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (PoK) is referred to as Azad Kashmir in routine conversations. For many, PoK is not a testament to the atrocities committed by Pakistan since 1948, but a political and military success that must be repeated across the entire state.
Also, recall the statements of the Muslim leaders before the abrogation of Article 370.
Four, The debate around Hijab and Burqa in schools.
When a community firmly believes that institutional rules and guidelines are inferior to the needs of a religion, even at the cost of educating the young ones, and are willing to take the roads for that; it explains a lot about the mindset.
The mindlessness prevailing about a simple rule to be followed inside the school premises was such that, uniform was defined as a pretext for institutionalising state cruelty.
Some radical outlets, from outside India, defined the imposition of school uniform as the government’s bid to humiliate the Muslim population.
Violence, sold as political avenging, also accompanied the debate around hijab.
Some were attacked for expressing their views on social media. A Hindu man and his mother were attacked by a mob of three-hundred because of their comments on WhatsApp. Even after the court’s ruling, many clerics, on many TV debates, claimed that the laws under Sharia triumphed over the Indian Constitution.
Five, the Nupur Sharma case.
Nowhere was this rhetoric of supremacy as visible as it was in this case. While the comments of the former BJP spokesperson may have been out of line for some, blasphemous for some, the ideal way would have been to pursue the law of the land. However, something else unfolded.
People were threatened for voicing their support for Nupur Sharma. The cherished Freedom of Speech and Expression took a back seat, and it was all about Sar Tan Se Juda. In the most heinous of crimes, a shopkeeper was beheaded in Udaipur and a chemist was murdered in Amravati. All they did was voice their support for Nupur Sharma.
It did not stop there, for people took to the streets, threatening more violence and arson. While the insults against Gyanvapi Shiva Linga continued, clerics and other self-proclaimed representatives of the community attributed the murders to the anti-minority sentiment propagated by the government. No law. No courts. Only violence backed by chants of religious supremacy.
While the government of the day has pursued an absolute policy of social and economic inclusion, with great success, the usual suspects have been working overtime to peddle an imaginary anti-minority sentiment.
There are some who say that the country needs healing, and there are many who recall the age of Mughals and Sultanates, to drive home the point about historical supremacy.
Recently, in Jharkhand, a fatwa was issued against dance and music in weddings. At the same time a video was going viral on the internet, originating from Pakistan, where a young Muslim girl was being admired for her dance at a wedding. In 2017, another fatwa was issued against a Muslim woman for teaching yoga.
Therefore, Bhagwat is not at all off the mark when he says that the Muslims must give up their boisterous rhetoric of supremacy.
Be it encroachments or Hijab or a new bill in the Parliament, the last few years have seen multiple attempts by some members of the community to assert themselves about the law, and the constitution.
It is this very supremacist attitude the usual suspects tend to cover up, the political affiliates tend to justify, and the citizens tend to be ignorant about.
Mohan Bhagwat is not wrong. It’s some sections of the media that are pretending to be holier than thou.
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