By incarcerating scholars, Modi government contradicts values of Hinduism

umar khalid

On the World Press Freedom Day, India has slipped on the global press freedom index.

Reporters Without Borders has ranked it at 142 out of 180 countries, in light of recent attacks on journalists and scholars under a right wing Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) government led by Narendra Modi.

What could be more shameful for a country that claims to be the world’s largest democracy than this?

The news follows the recent incidents of slapping criminal charges against several journalists in different parts of the country in an attempt to suppress the voice of dissent and right to question.

Only last month, well-respected columnist Anand Teltumbde was sent to jail on malicious charges for being critical of a government that wants to transform India into a Hindu theocracy and has given legitimacy to those involved in violence against religious minorities and other oppressed communities.

Teltumbde has joined a few more thinkers already rotting in prisons. Among them is disabled Delhi University Professor G.N. Saibaba, who is suffering with 19 ailments. His only fault is that he has been raising his voice against repression of minorities and state violence. Not only have the Indian government and its courts refused to set them free on humanitarian grounds, in spite of a grave threat of COVID 19 in overcrowded jails, they have ordered the arrests of others, such as Teltumbde.

Ironically, the Modi government had recently started the broadcasting of Ramayan – a tv serial based on the epic of Lord Ram, a revered Hindu god – to entertain Indian masses locked in their homes because of COVID 19. It is believed that Ram was the King of Ayodhya. Episode 13 of the serial (posted on youtube) shows that when Ram was designated as the king, his father had advised him to be respectful of scholars and intellectuals as they are like “guiding lights” and accept their criticism with an open mid.

However, Modi’s government is doing exactly the opposite, despite its advocacy for a Hindu nation. After all, the BJP has been campaigning for years to build a Ram temple in Ayodhya. The party supporters had razed an ancient mosque built in the city in 1992. They have been claiming that the mosque was forcibly built on the birthplace of Ram by the Islamic rulers after demolishing a Hindu temple. Ram has become a rallying point for BJP to polarize Hindu majority.

In complete contradiction of its own politics that revolves around Ram, this government is throwing scholars in jails, let alone the question of listening to their concerns. It’s time for the Hindus to step forward and challenge this government which is bent upon using their religion for narrow political ends, and show Modi and his hypocritical cabinet colleagues the mirror. If they really care for Ram, then they must liberate scholars and save democracy; otherwise, history won’t ever forget Modi and those who voted him to power in the name of a faith that teaches everyone to see the entire world as one big family.

Gurpreet Singh is a journalist




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