In recent years Indian society has largely become polarized on religious lines as it never was earlier.
Communalism had existed earlier too in India, but it was largely latent, and erupted only on occasions. But after the Hindu right wing Bharatiya Janata Party came to power in 2014 it has become open, virulent, and continuous.
Consider the facts:
1. Lynching and atrocities on Muslims have increased steeply. Hate speeches against them are common, and in many places they live in fear. Muslims are often attacked if they have an affair with a Hindu girl (known as ‘love jihad’) for sporting a beard or wearing a skull cap, or for not saying ‘Jai Shri Ram’. A Union Minister, Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti, called Muslims ‘haraamzadas’ and a former Union Minister, Jayant Sinha, garlanded alleged lynchers.
2. In many schools in India Hindu students often call Muslim students anti-national, traitors, terrorists and Pakistanis (sometimes with the tacit suggestion/approval of the teachers). This traumatizes the Muslim student, who is made to feel he does not belong here.
3. Communalism has sharply increased even in states which were earlier regarded as bastions of secularism, like West Bengal (no doubt helped by the Muslim appeasement policy of Mamata Banerji). Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Odisha may soon follow suit.
4. Institutions in India have been ‘saffronized’, the media has largely been ‘Modified’, history and science perverted, and freedom of speech suppressed by frequent use of sedition and preventive detention laws.
5. The Indian Constitution proclaims India to be a secular country, but the ground reality has become very different, with ‘Hindutva’ ruling the roost. The one institution which could have prevented this, the Indian Supreme Court, has shamelessly surrendered before the BJP, as is evident from: (1) Its disgraceful Ayodhya verdict in which it sanctified naked aggression; (2) Its agreeing to appoint Justice Kureshi of the Bombay High Court as chief justice of the much smaller Tripura High Court instead of MP High Court to which he had been recommended earlier by the Collegium, obviously on pressure of the government as he was a Muslim; (3) Its refusal to quash the undemocratic clampdown in Kashmir and arrest of the 82-year-old Farooq Abdullah and other Kashmiri leaders despite liberty being a fundamental right guaranteed by Article 21 of the Constitution of India.
6. Even the NRIs living outside India and Indian Americans have become largely polarized, as I have myself noticed in the Bay Area of California (where I am presently staying).
What is the cause of this polarization that has increased exponentially of late in India? No doubt one cause was the Muslim appeasement by so-called ‘secular’ parties like the Congress, which only had an eye on the Muslim vote bank. This naturally created a backlash among the 80% Hindu population of India, which felt that all that counted for these parties was the 15% Muslims. Hence, a large number of Hindus went over to the BJP.
However, apart from that, the intense polarization in India today is because the ruling BJP thrives on communal hatred. Some people deny this, and point to Modi’s statement of ‘Sabka saath, sabka vikaas, sabka vishwas’, but everyone knows this is hypocritical and only empty rhetoric. The BJP is dominated by an organization called the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, which is rabidly anti-minority, particularly anti-Muslim.
Top BJP functionaries can ordinarily only be those who have been RSS members for several decades, e.g., Prime Minister Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah, etc. Can the mindsets of such persons, drilled and crammed for decades with a reactionary feudal and minority hating ideology, change merely because they have come to power? Can a leopard change its spots?
Communalism is going to increase in India in the coming times because that is what brought the BJP, which had only 2 seats in the Lok Sabha in 1984 and has 303 today, to power. It is the mantra of BJP success, and the gullible Hindu majority in India has been largely hypnotized by it, just as the Germans were by Hitler.
India is a country of great diversity, and the only policy that can hold it together and take it forward is the policy of ‘suleh-e-kul’, or equal respect to all religions, proclaimed by the great Mughal Emperor Akbar (see my article ‘Emperor Akbar—the real Father of the Indian Nation’ on my blog Satyam Bruyat). Hindutva, as practiced by our present leaders, is the path to disintegration and ruin.
Moreover, the Indian economy has tanked and is spiraling rapidly downwards, with a slipping GDP record and growing unemployment and rising food and fuel prices. So, to divert public attention from this real problem, for which our rulers have no solution, Muslims will be made a scapegoat and blamed for all our ills, just as Jews were made by Hitler and the Nazis.
Dark days are ahead for India.
Justice Markandey Katju
Supreme Court of India