“Pehle Babri, Phir Dadri, Aur Ab Hindutva Ke Naam Pe Bahaduri”
Muzaffarnagar where hundreds were displaced and where BJP lawmakers joined the fringe organisations in openly exhorting communal passions;
Communal incidents in one of which a young techie was lynched by a mob in Pune for being a Muslim;
Ghar wapsi where mobs moved into the districts of western Uttar Pradesh and attacked churches, desecrated Bibles, attacked priests and nuns;
Love jihad where fringe Hindutva organisations moved from village to village warning against the ‘conspiracy’ by the Muslim youth to ‘abduct’ Hindu girls, and every now and again finding a target to beat and maim;
Targeted assassinations of scholars and rationalists;
Beef ban where a strong campaign against beefeaters was followed by the ghastly lynching of Mohammad Akhlaq man who was dragged out of his house and beaten to death by a motivated mob;
Open unabashed indulgence in hate speech by Ministers in government, right wing leaders on an almost daily basis;
Smearing paint or ink on persons of repute, threatening reprisals, using armies of trolls to abuse and issue death threats to all with a different view on the social media…
The list will fill a volume.
And then comes the icing on the Hindutva cake as no less a person than the Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi stands up to pit communities against each other on grounds of religion. He openly urges one to resist the other, and promises to lay down his life for the ‘cause.’ He was campaigning in Bihar, and at Buxar told the massive public rally that the chief minister and his allies were preparing to take away part of the reservation quota from the Dalits and the backwards and give it to another community. The reference was clear: the other community being the Muslims.
Just when some BJP apologists in Delhi were claiming that he did not mean this as it was interpreted by the media, the PM repeated this in a second campaign meeting. And here he escalated the charge against Nitish Kumar,from “snatching” the reservations to “stealing” the quota from the Dalits and the backwards to favour the Muslims! The message clearly being Hindus consolidate, and defeat the grand alliance that is only going to work in the interests of the Muslims who of course, as his colleagues from the Hindutva brigade have been saying over and over again, all belong in Pakistan.
Muslims, Activists, Dalits, Christians, Women, the Poor—all come in the line of Hindutva fire.
So when the writers return the Sahitya Akademi awards, and the artists write in protest, and the scientists speak out with a 86 year old microbiologist returning his Padma Bhushan, and the historians, intellectuals, speak out against what all can now see is a pattern to turn India from democracy towards fascism the attack is turned towards them.
Those protesting are from the Left is of course the most popular canard but when it becomes apparent from the list that most are not this is changed to, they never protested before. And little bits of nobodies walk on to centre stage to hurl accusations against the intellectuals who have been consistent in their contribution to India. The consent is manufactured, they say. Why did they not speak up before, they shout. They are just a bunch of elitists, they insist. And with every passing day as more and more intellectuals join the procession of resistance, the Hindutva voices become more strident and more shrill.
This column is not going to even try and respond to the charges that fly in the face of facts, and smack of the prejudice, hate and bias that clearly defines right wing ideology in India. A resounding response came from Pratirodh (Resistance) at an overflowing Mavlankar Hall in Delhi where people just came and where the writers came together to speak out for democracy, for peace, for communal harmony. 90 year old writer Krishna Sobti came in a wheelchair to join the resistance, and to recall the days of the freedom struggle to say that they had never imagined that India would reach this pass. Romila Thapar wondered at a country where hate ruled, and where an academic like her was compelled for the first time in her 84 years to address an academic seminar in Mumbai under police protection lest ink or worse be thrown at her.
Historian Irfan Habib in also an excellent presentation wondered whether there was a difference between the Islamic State and the RSS.
The writers and the intellectuals spoke out hard, and the hundreds listened quietly and in solidarity as the fightback has begun. And that the over six decades of independence has created a resilience in India—that extends into the villages as Bihar might prove beyond doubt—that has no tolerance for hate and divisiveness. And for whom those perpetrating violence and communalism are the traitors, the anti-nationals as the writers said who are bent upon destroying the country.
The meeting was highly significant as it sought to turn the discourse, by virtually pinning down the ruling establishment in the mould in which it had sought to cast those resisting this politics of hate. On the one side is an India torn by divisiveness, hate speech and hate crime with rights being trampled on and freedoms crushed. On the other side is an India where the mind is indeed without fear, where rights and freedoms are not just valued but nurtured and protected, and where all are equal.
This is the struggle and this is the fight. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has spoken derisively of the protest again, lumping it under the label of “these Jantar Mantar activists.” Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has been very active on facebook with continuous posts attacking the intellectuals in language that does not behove his post.
But the battlelines are drawn, more and more citizens of India are going to speak out for the Idea of India that was institutionalised by the men and women , far greater, far taller and far more respected, than those who who have come to power through the propaganda of hate.