India’s stature as the world’s
largest democracy is redoubtable, except for perturbations —
attacks against minorities — that often threaten the very
foundation of democracy. The polarized mentality of certain
sections of the Indian politicians coupled with the embittered
communal history of the land seems to shake the edifice of Indian
democracy. Repeated attacks on the “freedom and existence” of
minorities in India, unless effectively checked, pose not only a
challenge to democracy but also a threat to the existence of
Recently, Mr. Vishweshwara Hegde Kageri, the education minister of
Karnataka, a south Indian state, referring to Muslims, Christians,
Sikhs, and the secular Indians has remarked that all those
opposing the one-hour compulsory reading of the Bhagvad Geeta, a
Hindu scripture, in schools proposed by his ministry, are
foreigners and should leave the country. Such forcible imposition
of the Hindu religious scripture in a secular and composite
society, ignoring others’ views is completely against the spirit
of secularism, a key feature of modern democracy upheld by the
Indian constitution, which bestows the freedom of choice in
religious matters on every citizen.
Such pro-Hindutva calls are naught new in India. Barely a week
ago, a former central minister Dr Subramanyam Swamy, a liberal
academic turned right-wing-Hindutva politician, wrote an article
"How to wipe out Islamic Terrorism", on the wake of the recent
Mumbai blast. Although the title of the piece emphasizes Islamic
terrorism, the content of the tirade is horrific. It outlines a
nefarious design for making India a “Hindu” nation, thereby
virtually wiping out all Muslims, Christians, and all non-Hindus,
unless they embrace the Hindu legacy and accept Hindu-supremacy.
This fanatic call towards an exclusive Hindu-India is yet another
undemocratic and highly objectionable move against the cherished
Indian tradition of religious and cultural inclusiveness.
The sad truth is that such propositions from influential
politicians, intended to polarize the masses and foment communal
tensions, are not merely irresponsible and divisive but are
politically motivated. Because of these bigot politicians, India
is usually on a divisive track which turns all the efforts toward
communal harmony futile. Besides, these notorious remarks are
coming at a time when the country hasn’t yet recovered from the
pain and loss of lives and property in the July 13 Mumbai blasts.
At such a crucial moment, when the whole country should come
together to stand for the cause of national security and
integrity, these poignant and divisive remarks from politicians
are not just abominable, but are criminal and deserve legal action
for promoting alienation and hatred.
Owing to such divisive mindsets, ever since the independence in
1947, India has been inflicted with successive communal riots.
Both ethnic and religious communalisms have had their share of
turbulence. If the massacre of almost 3000 people in Nellie, Assam
in 1983 is attributed to Bengali-Assamese ethnic rift, the
anti-Sikh riots of 1984 in Delhi remains an indelible stain in the
dark history of religio-political communalism in India. Although
the Sikh victims received some compensation in 2010 after waiting
for 25 years, justice for families and survivors of Nellie
massacre is still a dream.
The surge of communal-Hindutva-politics is marked by the
demolition of Babri Masjid in 1992, a 465 year old mosque in north
India. The aftermath of Babri-Masjid-Demolition cost thousands of
Muslim lives in retaliation and counter-retaliation of the
demolition. Then the Bombay blasts of 1993 followed, believed to
be in retaliation to the Babri Masjid demolition.
Although the political turbulence helped the right-wing-Hindutva
party, the BJP, rise in power at Delhi, the minorities suffered
immeasurably because of these bloody episodes. The culmination, so
far, of the Hindutva communal politics was manifested with the
Gujarat pogrom of 2002, in which the official account says that
over 700 Muslims were killed but independent agencies claim that
the death toll of Muslims was in thousands and tens of thousands
were displaced and rendered shelterless - many of whom are still
languishing in rehabilitation camps.
Irresponsible calls for Hinduaization of the country, like those
of Dr Swamy and Mr Kageri may help their parties win a few seats
in the election, but far from strengthening India, these will
promote only communal bigotry, disharmony, and hatred among
communities which will ultimately lead to massive communal
violence. As the relics of the past communal riots are still
haunting India, the country can’t afford a fresh episode of
These polemic calls, therefore, must be effectively checked with
objective legislations, unbiased judiciary, and responsible media.
Otherwise, the hate-politics propagated via the Hindutva platform
will not only impede the democratic functioning of the country but
also threaten the millennia old Indian civilization characterized
by mutual coexistence.
There are bigger challenges before the country such as abject
poverty, acute illiteracy, inadequate infrastructure, pervasive
corruption, mounting internal security threats like the Naxal
movement, the ULFA, and serious external concerns with immediate
neighbors like Pakistan and Bangladesh. If the integrity and power
of resilience of the nation is exhausted by inciting and fighting
communal hatred within the country, then how will India fight the
bigger challenges toward its progress?