Caste politics has its uses, politics based on religion has none.
The former places the traditionally exploited, marginalised and unprivileged sections of the society on a platform from where they can bargain hard for what is their due in a competitive democracy. At the core of it are positive superior values – justice, fairness and equality. The core of the politics of religion is composed of raw emotions – anger, hate and malice. It is destructive, because it is intrinsically devoid of any idea of construction.
Mature people and mature societies learn to grow beyond religious identities and grievances, and focus on the aspirational and the productive. There are indications that India has matured over the last one decade. Inter-religious tension has been substantially low, communal hate-mongering has reduced and people are hitting the streets with demands that are completely secular. Political leaders are sensing the mood and even the most communal among them are busy recasting their image to fit in.
However, some leaders don’t get the message that people have moved on.
If Akbaruddin Owaisi, leader of the Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM), thought he has impressed the members of his community with his Adilabad hate speech, he should read the sense of disgust in the members of his own community who have been speaking to the media in Hyderabad and elsewhere. Yes, he received applause from the large gathering while making the speech, but let’s not read too much into that. People always appreciate a good performance. They don’t bother so much about the content.
Speeches like these are designed to stoke communal violence. That no communal violence has been reported from Andhra Pradesh after the event is proof that people have learnt to be indifferent to what people like Akbaruddin dish out.
It’s also heartening that the speech achieved little beyond generating a lot of curiosity in the media, particularly the online media. If he expected a polarising effect from his drama, there was not any. Why is this guy talking rubbish? How can he get away with such a speech? Who’s this character? – these were the dominant reactions. Of course, we had the routine government bashing riding on it. The reactive anger was conspicuous by its lack of intensity.
Leaders like Akbaruddin fail to realise that returns, political or otherwise, from such speeches have started diminishing all over India. People are tired of the language, the tone and the tenor. They want politicians to articulate their ambitions and promise things concrete, not impress them with empty rhetoric. The audience at Adilabad would not be unaware that the speech was a self-serving one, aimed at consolidating MIM’s vote bank. If politicians presume that people cannot read motives in what they utter and do, they have to be stupid.
The world around is getting increasingly impatient of empty rhetoric. It wants constructive action from its leaders. Communal politics would be good if it ensured better quality of life for the members of a particular community. However, it invariably turns into hate politics. This has been India’s experience over the last many decades and the consequence of such politics has been disastrous.
The MIM leader offers a good opportunity to the government to press home the point. Swift and exemplary action against leaders like him would serve the purpose.
BJP leader Varun Gandhi is facing the music for his intemperate speech at an election rally. Leaders like Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi have ensured that the communal hate peddlers keep their mouths shut. There’s no reason why the likes of Akbaruddin should go unpunished.
This is the opportunity for the Congress leadership to prove to the world that it is awake to the aspirations of the new India and that it also wants to move beyond stale, uninspiring rhetoric of communal leaders.