This Republic day both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Ram Nath Kovind in their address to the nation ritualistically spoke about Gandhian values, stressing on truth and nonviolence.
“We live in the 21st century--that is the era of knowledge, science and democracy,” PM Modi stated in his radio monologue, “Mann Ki Baat”, adding, “On the solemn occasion of Republic day, I would appeal to anyone in any part of the country, who’s still seeking solutions to problems through violence and weapons, to return to the mainstream.”
Quite contrary to his “Mann Ki Baat” and President Kovind’s words of wisdom on constitutional morality, Union Finance Minister (MoS) Anurag Thakur, a day later on Monday, was caught on camera doing his own “Gun Ki Baat”, inciting mob violence in the national capital.
Campaigning for the BJP candidate for Rithala assembly constituency - Manish Chaudhari, he was seen leading a crowd of BJP supporters into chanting, “Desh Kay Gaddaron Ko, Goli Maron Salon Ko” (shoot the traitors of the country), a slogan frequently used against those protesting the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the proposed all-India National Register of Citizens (NRC).
But Thakur can’t be singled out for such shocking remarks. From PM Modi’s ministers to party leaders, cyber warriors and media spokesperson, everyone seems to be vying for the top slot in the chart.
In their venomous attacks on the protesters of Shaheen Bagh, they are putting even world’s deadliest snakes to shame. In the past one month, they have used all the tricks in the book to bully, harass and intimidate the peaceful protesters. Ironically, PM Modi on May 25 last year had asked his party’s newly elected parliamentarians to avoid making loose remarks.
Two days ago, Union Home Minister Amit Shah while addressing an election rally in Delhi, had repeatedly targeted Shaheen Bagh. PTI quoted Shah as saying on Sunday, “Your vote to BJP candidate will make Delhi and the country safe and prevent thousands of incidents like Shaheen Bagh.”
What he said was a classic case of dog-whistle politics. A battalion of Godi media and BJP spokespersons have gone into overdrive villainising anti-CAA protesters and Shaheen Bagh.
Earlier on Monday, Zee News editor Sudhir Chaudhary accompanied by another controversial TV journalist Deepak Chaurasia visited the protest site. After the demonstrators refused to talk to them, Chaudhary compared Shaheen Bagh with Syria, alleging that it has become a “danger zone” for the “unbiased” media. He went on to say that “Indian law is not applicable in Shaheen Bagh even though it’s just 13 km from Parliament, around 13.5 km from Rashtrapati Bhawan, only 13 km away from Supreme Court and about 16 km from the Prime Minister's Office.”
Pertinently, on Friday, 24 January, the Supreme Court of India had declined to give an early date of hearing to a petition seeking removal of the Shaheen Bagh protesters.
“Article 370 (which granted special constitutional status to Jammu and Kashmir and was scrapped in August 2019) is now in force in Shaheen Bagh,” Chaudhary added.
Pertinently, Chaurasia, who was shooed away from the protest site the other day, reported, “Fund le kar fasaad karne waalon ke beech se Mega show (Mega show from amongst those who take funds for rioting).”
BJP national spokesperson Sambit Patra is unabashedly referring to Shaheen Bagh as “Shame Bagh” during live debates. A day before anti- CAA protesters at Shaheen Bagh celebrated Republic Day with patriotic fervour, Patra had accused the protesters of making “seditious” and “anti-India” speeches. He has also been posting unverified poor quality video clips on Twitter, calling the protests as paid and fake, which are being dutifully reported by a familiar section of media.
What Patra was saying on TV screens and Twitter for the past few days has now been picked up by the likes of Parvesh Verma. “Lakhs of people gather there (Shaheen Bagh). People of Delhi will have to think and take a decision. They’ll enter your houses, rape your sisters and daughters, kill them. There’s time today, Modiji and Amit Shah won't come to save you tomorrow...” he said.
It’s not a new trend though. Soon after PM Modi’s election rally in Delhi’s Ramlila Maidan on December 22 ended and the participants left the venue, many BJP supporters were seen shouting “shoot the traitors” slogans against anti-CAA protesters.
In fact, a day before this happened, BJP leader Kapil Mishra had led a rally in support of the CAA in Delhi, chanting “shoot the traitors” during a “Tiranga Yatra.” Mishra, who is now BJP candidate for the assembly polls from Model Town in north Delhi, had last week suggested on Twitter that the ensuing elections were a match between India and Pakistan on the streets of Delhi on February 8. Calling Shaheen Bagh a “Mini Pakistan”, he had written on twitter that “Pakistan has already entered Shaheen Bagh and other small pockets of Delhi.”
Previously, the inflammatory slogan “shoot the traitors” was also raised at a pro-CAA rally in Nagpur, which was addressed by Union Minister Nitin Gadkari in December last year. The masked goons who had unleashed violence at the Jawaharlal Nehru University recently had also chanted the slogan while assaulting the students.
West Bengal BJP president Dilip Ghosh had recently said that anti-CAA protesters were “shot like dogs” in three BJP-ruled states including Uttar Pradesh.
Earlier this month, BJP spokesperson Amitabh Sinha, had gone off the rails during a televised debate with former JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar, on a news channel. Describing Kumar as an “anarchist and criminal”, he had threatened him: “If you don’t mend your ways, you will also be shot dead (Thok denge).”
Cornered by Kumar, he proudly admitted that he was not opposed to Mahatma Gandhi’s assassin Nathuram Godse.
Not so surprisingly, BJP leader Pragya Thakur, who is an accused in the 2008 Malegaon blasts case, was given party ticket to contest 2019 Lok Sabha elections after she made laudatory comments on Mahatma Gandhi’s assassin last year.
Incidentally, Modi government had commemorated 150th birth anniversary of the Father of the Nation with much fanfare last year.
Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated by Godse on January 30, 1948 in the compound of Birla House, now Gandhi Smriti, in New Delhi.