How Maharashtra’s secular ethos is being damaged for political gains

Activists allege the Maharashtra's Shinde govt is covertly supporting rallies of hate-mongers that are calling for economic boycott of Muslims to ensure polarisation before the 2024 Lok Sabha polls

A Sakal Hindu Samaj rally
A Sakal Hindu Samaj rally

Santoshee Gulabkali Mishra

Maharashtra has never witnessed heat from the extremists group. It is a state that takes pride in the egalitarian ethos of Mahatma Jyotiba Phule, Shahu Maharaj and Dr BR Ambedkar. However, in the past three months, Maharashtra has turned into s a place of the extremist groups who are constantly destroying the peace and equanimity.

These hate-mongers are colouring the streets of the state with saffron with tacit government support. Three rallies were organized recently by the Sakal Hindu Samaj in Navi Mumbai, Vasai and Solapur. The SHS has been pushing not only for their demand of the state government to pass legislation to deal with ‘Love Jihad’ and cow slaughter but also for the economic boycott of the Muslim community.

Civil Society groups and activists say that Maharashtra has always remained progressive state but is fast losing its ethos due to these hate-mongers.

Former Bombay High Court judge BG Kolse Patil makes no bones about the fact that the BJP is behind these communal rallies, " The BJP 8s founded on communal hatred. Therefore, how can Devendra Fadnavis, the Home Minister of the state, stop these rallies? In fact, Fadnavis has been encouraging these rallies intentionally so as the party foundation remains intact. "

The protests called ‘Jan Aakrosh’ by the SHS has children as young as four years of age to the elderly. The march by the protestors raises slogan that are anti-Muslim in nature. It is being estimated that nearly 4,000 people belonging to various Hindu outfits have already participated in these rallies.

Even though a large number of police personnel were present to prevent any untoward incident at the three rallies so far, hate speeches were made in open defiance. Some videos of the hate speeches, slogans raised and oaths taken have also made their way to social media.

During the rally, slogans such as ‘Garv se kaho hum Hindu hain’ were also raised. In these videos, people walking with saffron flags, donning saffron caps, can be seen asking the government to bring in Love-Jihad laws, anti-conversion laws and anti-land jihad laws read wakf).

Jyoti Punwani, veteran Journalist said, "It is very surprising that despite the Supreme Court having said ' no hate speeches ' these people are spreading hatred in the state with impunity. It is more than astonishing that the police who were supposed to monitor the extremists have taken no action against the hate speeches.

"Therefore, it seems that the rallies of hate-mongers have got back door support from the Shinde led government. It is very much evident the way these extremists are allowed to hold rallies anywhere in the city when the government has restricted any protest strictly to just the Azad Maidan."

The rally at Navi Mumbai in Raigad district included Ganesh Naik, earlier from NCP and now with the BJP and other members from various Hindu outfits such as Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal.

According to newspaper report, a Gujarat resident identified as Kajal Shingla alias Kajal Hindustani was a keynote speaker at the rally. She is working for the cause of ‘Hindu Human Rights’. She said, “In Navi Mumbai, land jihad has become so prevalent that today 25 Bangladeshi Muslims live in one room.”

Kajal also made an unconstitutional call urging people to boycott Muslim vendors. She claimed that they (Muslims) have taken over "our produce and fruit markets. I want you to repeat after me: “We, the people of Maharashtra, will boycott them economically.”

She instigated the protestors and audience by emphasising to not rent or sell their spaces to them. She further added that if this is happening in your neighbourhood, form an association with rules stating that anyone who is not an idol worshipper should not be rented or sold a flat.

On dargahs she said, “There are eight illegal constructions of dargahs in Navi Mumbai. Only when the women of our households come out and question the authorities will Navi Mumbai be free of them. Do they seek permission to build illegal dargahs? So why do you need permission to demolish their property?”

Mehmood Dariyabadi, general secretary, All India Ulema Council, says it is very strange that this government is allowing hate-speeches in the open rallies. "This Shinde led govt looks weak and unable to control the extremists. Earlier also there was BJP -Sena alliance govt in Maharashtra but this was never observed. It looks like the BJP is polarising people for the 2024 elections."

From a video of another hate-mongers' rally under the banner of Hindu Janakroash Morcha held in Vasai, a speaker can be heard saying that if the state government of Maharashtra does not pass anti-conversion laws, then 'they (Hindus) know how to take care of those (Muslims) who pose a threat to our daughters'. She then delivers an oath, repeated by her audience, wherein she pledges to protect their “Hindu nation” and make it “Jihad free”, and that they will keep on working towards making their dream of “Hindu Rashtra” come true.

A third such hate rally was held in Maharashtra’s Solapur, also under the auspices of Sakal Hindu Samaj. In this programme of Hindu Garjana Morcha, similar demands for strict laws on love jihad, religious conversion, and cow slaughter were made.

T. Raja, a speaker at this event, had put up a post on social media thanking all the “devotees of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj” who had come to this event. In the pictures posted by him, a big crowd can be seen attending this event. It is quite another matter that Shivaji was a secular king and most of his generals and bodyguards were Muslim.

Punwani also added that the previous government of Uddhav Thackeray had kept such communalism under strict control. "These hate rallies may lead to riots in the city. People who have seen the 1993 riots know the repercussions of these hate speeches against a particular community. The deputy CM should ensure this generation doesn't witness such riot else the city will be damaged irreparable."

Kolse Patil adds that the hate mongers want to run fear in the marginalised people of society and make sure they have no voice to come forward." Democracy has been on its last legs for the last 10-years. It is sad to see such division based on religion in the state."

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