Hindus must uphold unequal secularism via continued concessions while Muslims get the licence to use violence as leverage
Regardless of their actions, Muslims have a monopoly on victimhood while Hindus are the perpetual perpetrators because their very existence is provocative
The anti-encroachment drive by the BJP-led civic body in Delhi on “illegal structures” on Wednesday has triggered apoplectic rage in liberal circles. While the Supreme Court on Thursday stayed the drive for two weeks, for its part, the North Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) has claimed that in clearing “unauthorized constructions”, it was acting “in pursuance of the Delhi High Court’s order in WPC no 462/2012 titled B/C Block Market Association vs The Chairman North DMC and others” and that this was the second bid to ‘clean the area’ after the first drive was conducted on 11 April, according to a report in News18.
The demolition drive in Delhi comes in the middle of a sensitive phase in Indian politics. Since the second week of April, the country has been witnessing a spate of low-intensity communal clashes. In fact, the controversial razing of encroachments was carried out in an area that was the epicentre of the Jahangirpuri communal riot in northwest Delhi in which eight police personnel were injured. There were incidents of stone-pelting, arson and torching of vehicles. In its preliminary report to the Union home ministry, the Delhi Police called the violence a “criminal conspiracy.”
The onus of these incidents of communal clashes and rioting across the length and breadth of India, coinciding with the Ram Navami and Hanuman Jayanti celebrations, have predictably been laid at the door of the Hindus. In this liberal narrative seen through an Islamist lens, the violence on display across India’s body politic is the inevitable result of a rise in Hindu hatred, a “Hindutva mobilization” that is “hurting India’s soul” and posing a “threat to Indian state” because “Ram and Hanuman are now tropes to prepare the ideological groundwork for pogroms.”
Beyond the rhetorical overcook, hyperbolic outrage, droll despair, and comical fearmongering lies perpetual victimhood on one side and codified guilt on the other. Regardless of their actions, Muslims have a monopoly on victimhood while Hindus are the perpetual perpetrators because their very existence is provocative.
In order to maintain peace and calm in the country — that has been dismembered once because the Muslims wanted their own geographic, ideological and political space — the Hindus must drop any pretence of religiosity in their daily lives and remain apologetic and muted even in celebrations to atone for the ‘guilt’ of being in the majority. Any attempt to reclaim this space will trigger Armageddon.
From this premise arises sweeping generalisations. “This new form of Hinduism you are seeing unfolding is not an expression of genuine pride and piety. It is meant to be a raw assertion of power and violence to intimidate minorities,” writes Pratap Bhanu Mehta in Indian Express.
Since Mehta enjoys papal authority over India’s ‘public intellectuals’, let’s examine his assertion of Hindus’ “raw assertion of power and violence to intimidate minorities” a bit closely. Substantive claims such as these must be based on facts, not rhetorical flourish, so I request the reader to bear with me as I look at incidents reported in India media while staying close to the text. The evidence is exhaustive.
Among a series of violent clashes across India in the past 10 days or so, let’s start with the Jahangirpuri incident in New Delhi that is now in spotlight. According to sub-Inspector Medhalal of Delhi Police, who sustained a bullet injury during Saturday’s clashes, the Hanuman Jayanti ‘Shobha Yatra’ ran into trouble when it reached C-Block. According to a report in Firstpost, “some of those standing near a mosque got into an argument with the participants of the procession over alleged sloganeering by the latter”. Though the initial kerfuffle was managed by the cops, “those standing at C-Block started pelting stones and came out with lathis in their hands”, said the sub-inspector to the media, adding, “one of them also targeted police personnel and opened fire on our side. A bullet hit me…”
In another report, Medhalal, posted at the Jahangirpuri Police Station, said “women and children were pelting stones from the rooftops.”
Two days later, when cops went to detain a man who was ostensibly caught on camera firing at the police during Saturday’s violence, the Delhi Police team came under attack from his family members who threw stones and one of the missiles hit a police officer.
Social media is rife with multiple videos of the purported clash.
Let’s shift attention to Karauli in Rajasthan which witnessed violence on 2 April, the first instance of the recent spate. An India Today report cites a complaint by Karauli Kotwali SHO Rameshwar Dayal Meena to state that a rally by members of Hindu organisations to mark the first day of Hindu New Year — that was being conducted by permission — came under “planned attack” while “passing through a Muslim-dominated neighbourhood”.
The report states: “around 42 people were reportedly injured when stones were pelted at a motorcycle rally passing through a Muslim-dominated area to mark Nav Samvatsar, spawning violence that saw shops and vehicles being set on fire.” The India Today report goes on to quote from the complaint. “Police tried to intervene, but stones and sticks rained on them from Muslim houses and a mosque”. Six cops were reportedly injured in the attack.
Rajasthan, incidentally, is a Congress-ruled-state. What has been the chief minister’s response? Ashok Gehlot has said: “Some miscreants happened to be there. They could have been from any religion.” A Times Now report claims that PFI had ‘warned’ the Gehlot government of violence during Hindu New Year celebrations.
Khargone in Madhya Pradesh was one among many states to have witnessed clashes on Ram Navami on April 10. According to an NDTV report, clashes broke out when a Hindu religious procession was passing through (once again) a Muslim-dominated area. The report says “residents objected to the songs playing from loudspeakers during the procession and allegedly threw stones” and notes that vehicles, houses “were reportedly set on fire and a temple vandalized”. While many cops were injured, the NDTV report quotes additional collector SS Mujalde as saying, “The procession was supposed to take a round of Khargone city but it was abandoned midway after the violence…”
Khargone violence also saw a 16-year-old boy, Shivam Shukla, battle for life after getting critically injured in the violence. Shivam, a student who was part of the Ram Navami procession and sustained a grievous head injury, woke up after five days in a coma. A Times Now report quotes his brother as saying that “150 to 200 people hurled petrol bombs, pelted stones and even fired shots.” https://www.timesnownews.com/india/khargone-violence-16-year-old-shivam-shukla-wakes-up-after-5-days-in-coma-condition-stable-article-90862527
Going by these reports, instead of minorities getting “intimidated” at “raw assertion” of Hindu power — as Mehta puts it — it seems to be the other way round. And along with Hindus, the law and order machinery is equally being put to test by “aggrieved” and “provoked” Muslims.
But let’s move on to more examples. In Gujarat, according to the police, “the violence at Khambhat in Anand district during a Ram Navami procession on April 10, which left one person dead, was a pre-planned conspiracy”, reports Hindustan Times. The report also cites a police statement that says, “the Hindu community takes out processions and celebrates Ram Navami. With an aim to stop these celebrations and to increase the dominance of the Muslim community in the area, the procession was attacked.”
In West Bengal’s Howrah, “a group of miscreants pelted stones at a Ram Navami procession moving along Grand Trunk Road in the Shibpur area” and 20 people who were part of the procession along with three cops were injured,” according to a Hindustan Times report quoting a police officer.
Jharkhand also witnessed violence on the fateful April 10. A Times Now report quotes police officer Shamsul Ansari in Hirhi village as saying that “Muslims were responsible for clashes that erupted in the village on the occasion of Ram Navami” and “the attackers came from mosque.”
Down south in Kurnool district of Andhra Pradesh, when a Hanuman Jayanti procession reached a mosque in the Holagunda village, “the organisers switched off the mike, in reverence to the Ramzan observation. But some devotees allegedly chanted ‘Jai Shri Ram’ slogans.” According to a report in Economic Times quoting the police, “irked by this, the Muslims started pelting stones at the procession. The Jayanti participants too retaliated.”
In Hubbali in north Karnataka, according to a report in The Wire, “on the evening of April 16, a mob of Muslims began pelting stones at the police while protesting against what it thought was insufficient action against the accused who had posted a provocative photoshopped picture” in his WhatsApp status message.”
The cops had arrested the individual, but Muslims were “outraged and not satisfied with the police action.” So “late on Saturday night they “gheraoed the police station, pelted stones, and damaged police vehicles.” ‘Provocation’ ostensibly has a very low bar.
While these reports are self-explanatory and expose the insidious and fallacious narrative that Hindus were responsible for the violence, the central argument of the liberals is that Hindus triggered the wave by playing “provocative music/raising slogans” in their religious processions while passing through “Muslim areas”.
Arguing in favour of ghettoized geographical spaces for communities (with an aim to shift the onus of violence on Hindus) is a dangerous ploy. It encourages the formation of sanitized areas and challenges the writ of the state. As the recent incidents show, ghettoized spaces also pose a problem for law-and-order machinery in a country that already suffers from chronic state capacity issues. It ends up eroding the state’s monopoly over violence. In each of the cases mentioned above, the police have come under attack, indicating very little fear of the law.
Alongside, by asking the Hindus to avoid taking out religious processions in spaces dominated by Muslims and/or mute their celebratory expressions, the ‘liberals’ are aiding the Islamists’ demand that the Hindus continue to concede more space to ensure coexistence and uphold the tenets of an unequal ‘secularism.’ On the other hand, by whitewashing the exhibition of street power, Muslims are being incentivized to keep using violence as leverage.
While the political space for such violent exhibitionism may have shrunk — the trigger for the liberal bellyache — the temerity with which these seemingly coordinated attacks on Hindu processions across India were carried out points to the steady belief that the state will ultimately cower down before the demands of Muslim exceptionalism.
Therefore, the Hindus must concede more, and restrict religiosity to their private space and avoid outward expression of their beliefs to maintain peace, while the Muslims are free to use public space for their religious expression. And if even a modicum of challenge is posed to this grand bargain then it is a grave ‘threat to the idea of India’.
While one side is ready to be violent at the drop of a hat, treat anything as ‘provocation’ and test the limits of the state’s endurance, the other side must endure, concede, submit, and live in a state of fearful conciliation or risk getting relentlessly demonised for “intimidating the minorities”. In this framing, Hindus can never be the victims. Not even if they are in a coma, battling for life in a hospital.
If merely playing music before a mosque or in a Muslim-dominated place is “provocation” and a “trigger” for violent acts, then it speaks of the tremendous sense of entitlement among Muslims that the allowances that have been made in the past must be institutionalized.
BR Ambedkar had referred to exactly this when he wrote in a chapter on communal aggression, “Another illustration of this spirit of exploitation is furnished by the Muslim insistence upon cow-slaughter and the stoppage of music before mosques… Music may be played before a mosque in all Muslim countries without any objection. Even in Afghanistan, which is not a secularized country, no objection is taken to music before a mosque. But in India the Musalmans must insist upon its stoppage for no other reason except that the Hindus claim a right to it.”
It turns out that music acting a “provocation” for violence is not new. Be it due to the soft bigotry of low expectations from Muslims or gaslighting of Hindus, this transfer of guilt is the result of the institutionalisation of “spirit of exploitation” over decades.
The spurious argument that religious processions through a minority-dominated area should be stopped due to fear of violence also does not stand legal scrutiny.
In May last year a bench comprising Justices N Kirubakaran and P Velmurugan of the Madras High Court — while hearing a petition on temple processions in Perambalur district in Tamil Nadu that was objected to by local Muslims — said “religious festivals or processions of any community cannot be prohibited or objected in a locality solely based on who forms the majority in that area.”
Regardless of the insidious narrative, India is an oasis in an otherwise hostile region for religious minorities. In Pakistan, from 23 per cent of the population, the percentage of minorities has dropped to an alarming three per cent, which a Pakistani scholar has termed “drip, drip genocide”.
Hindus in Pakistan, desperately poor and treated as second class citizens, are accepting Islam to get by, says New York Times.
The Hindu population in Bangladesh is on the verge of getting wiped out. Professor Sachi Dastidar of the State University of New York “calculates that well over 49 million Hindus are missing today”, says a report.
The Chinese have been accused of committing genocide against its ethnic minority Muslim population. It has been widely reported that China has detained more than one million Uyghurs in a gulag-like “re-education camps”, and “sentenced hundreds of thousands to prison terms.”
In contrast, a recent study by US-based Pew Research Center have found that India’s Muslim population has grown “somewhat faster” than other religious groups because of fertility differences, according to The Print that drew from the Pew report published in September last year.
Pew had conducted another survey on religious tolerance in India, and the findings were published in June last year. The survey finds that “Indians generally feel their country has lived up to one of its post-independence ideals: a society where followers of many religions can live and practice freely” and “Indians see religious tolerance as a central part of who they are as a nation.”
The religious tolerance wouldn’t have been possible if the nature of the country’s majority community was intolerant. As former chief election commissioner of India SY Quraishi has said, “Have no doubt, India is secular because Hindus are secular. The hate discourse, to my mind, is temporary. It comes and goes, but the basic ethos of India is secular, which stays because of the inbuilt liberal and secular Hindu tradition.”
The dire warnings of ‘pogrom’, fulminations against ‘Hindu Rashtra’ and elaborate constructs of a ‘lost idea of India’ are chiefly cynical expressions of political frustration at BJP’s domination of national politics. Most liberals and Islamists, for whom BJP is an anathema, find the Opposition a divided and defunct political force not worthy of investing hope. Civil unrests were manufactured and received full support as a de facto political model, but the prime minister’s ability to surmount challenges of all sort adds to the frustration. 2024 looks a daunting prospect with the added challenge posed by Yogi Adityanath.
The hatred against BJP — and by extension the Hindu voters who support the party — also stems from BJP’s cultural domination that underwrites the rise of Hindutva politics. The BJP has won the decisive argument against the intransigent veto of minorities and liberals have nowhere to go except delve deeper into minorityism from where all excesses — that Ambedkar called the “gangster’s method in politics” — must be whitewashed.
Najmul Hoda calls it out succinctly when he says, “India’s Muslims and liberals are withering in each other’s embrace.”
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