The spectacular victory of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has shell-shocked a section of the civil society which has been championing the cause of a secular democratic republic envisioned by the founders of the Constitution.
This section of the civil society, howsoever miniscule it may be, fears that with its brute majority in the parliament and a much weakened Opposition, the NDA government headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi will continue unhindered towards its goal of replacing the secular democratic republic with ‘Hindu Rashtra’. In this ‘Hindu Rashtra’, there will be supremacy of the majority Hindus over all other minorities such as Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Jains and even the Adivasis who have their own distinct way of life and beliefs.
This fear is founded on the overt actions of the BJP and the Sangh Parivar since the demolition of the Babri masjid in Ayodhya and the recent public utterances by PM Modi and BJP national president Amit Shah. In their election speeches, both Modi and Shah have targeted Muslims and Pakistan in the same breath. Shah had even equated Muslims with ‘termites’ who, he said, would be wiped out – “chun chun ke khatam karna hoga.”
The fielding of terror accused Pragya Thakur as BJP candidate from Bhopal, which Shah said was an act of ‘Satyagraha’ against the ‘secular brigade’.
The BJP’s resolve to stick to the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) as a shield for the military and paramilitary forces deployed in Jammu and Kashmir and the North-East states portents further violation of civil rights in the name of maintaining internal security and national integration. The BJP branded as ‘anti-national’ the Congress’ promise in its election manifesto to review the AFSPA to ensure the people of Jammu and Kashmir and the Norh-East are not subjected to wanton state violence.
People of the North-East also apprehend that the BJP’s resolve to amend the National Register of Citizens will result not only in drastic changes in the region’s demography but also endanger the identity and culture of the indigenous people. Any resistance to the move is expected to be crushed if Shah’s threat of eliminating ‘termites’ turns out to be real.
More serious threat to the secular democratic fabric of our republic is feared from the fanatic lumpen members of the Sangh parivar who have been violently targeting Muslims, Dalits and Christians with impunity, apparently encouraged by the total silence from PM Modi. Only a day after Modi gave his victory speech at the BJP’s national headquarters in which he condemned the Opposition parties for wearing ‘fake tag of secularism’, an incident of mob lynching was reported from Madhya Pradesh. Suspected cow vigilantes thrashed two persons in Seoni, Madhya Pradesh with sticks, accusing them of carrying beef. Two days later, a Muslim man was told to remove skullcap, and chant Jai Shri Ram and then was bashed by four unidentified youths.
In Jharkhand, an Adivasi professor at a government school and college for women was arrested for a 2017 Facebook post in which he had asserted his community’s right to eat beef. The professor, Jeetrai Hansda is a prominent Adivasi activist and theatre artist.
In Begusarai, Bihar, a Muslim salesman was shot by a drunk Hindu man after he was asked his name. Mohammed Qasim was stopped by the assailant who shot him after asking his name and then and told him to go to Pakistan.
In Mumbai, Dr Payal Tadvi, a postgraduate student of gynaecology committed suicide on May 22 after being allegedly tortured by three of her seniors who abused her for her caste identity. Dr Payal was taunted about her caste and her admission to the course through the reserved quota.
Gujarat, the home state of Modi and Shah, too has witnessed a spurt of violence against Dalits recently. In three villages of central Gujarat, members of the upper castes thrashed Dalit bridegrooms for having dared to take part in their wedding processions riding a horse. It was in Gujarat at Una two years ago that the self-proclaimed cow vigilantes had thrashed five Dalit youth for transporting bullocks. The incident had drawn nationwide attention with leaders of opposition parties extending their support to Dalit organisations’ call for stopping disposal of dead animals.
The Dalit and human rights groups fear that such incidents of violence against Muslims, Dalits and Adivasis, though unrelated, are likely to recur frequently if the BJP government and top party leaders continue to maintain benign silence and fail to take stern action against those who perpetrate such attacks in the name of cow protection, love jihad and safeguarding Hindu traditions and customs.
Unmindful of such incidents of attacks on Muslims, Dalits and Adivasis, PM Modi asserted at the meeting of the newly elected members of the National Democratic Alliance that “the minorities have been deceived and made to live in fear by those who believed in vote-bank politics. We have to end this deception and win their trust.”
But social activists say that this is sheer hypocrisy. “Haathi ke daant dikhaane ke kuchh aur, khaane ke kuchh aur hote hain” (An elephant’s teeth (tusk) for show and teeth for chewing are different), is what they think of PM Modi’s comments.