The Muslim religious practice of Bakrid – being observed in July this year – is in commemoration of an event in past history that is shared by both Islam and Christianity. Members of both the communities assert their devotion to a preacher known as Abraham among Jews and Ibrahim among Muslims. Note the similarities in the phonetic pronunciations.
According to the legends that form the basis of their religious beliefs, Abraham/Ibrahim in order to propitiate God for some misdemeanour that he might have committed, promised to sacrifice his son (known as Isaac among Jews and Ishmael among Muslims). Satisfied by his will to sacrifice, and to spare his son, God sent a lamb to him advising him to slaughter the animal as a replacement for his son – as a token of sacrifice. This event is described in the Christian text Genesis 22, as well as in the Muslim text Quaran, 37.102.
Since then, the sacrificial goat had been a symbol of homage to God in Muslim religious practice. On the occasion of Bakrid, goats known as `bakhra’s are thus killed, and their meat distributed among the devotees. There is a similar ritual, practised by Hindu devotees in Bengal during the Durga Puja and Kali Puja festivities, when they kill goats at the sacrificial altar and distribute the meat among themselves. Prior to the slaughter, the goats are well fed for quite some time by the devotees – so that they yield enough meat for them !
BJP’s appropriation of the Muslim sacrificial lamb
Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his recent address to his followers at the BJP’s national conclave in Hyderabad urged them to extend their reach to the minorities. In fact, for the last several years they had been trying to expand their base among Muslims in different parts of the country. Their strategy is to elevate some Muslims to privileged positions for some time, as a tokenism aimed at satisfying the community, and then discard them at some opportune moment after they have served the temporary interests of the BJP leadership. To put it bluntly, these Muslim leaders and activists of the BJP are treated as sacrificial goats.
Let us take a few examples. Some – mainly from the Muslim educated upper class – were accommodated at the higher level, like Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, Syed Shahnawaz Hussain, M. J. Akbar, Najma Hepatullah, who were given plush posts in the government or privileged positions in BJP’s different departments. Having been well-fed with privileges all these years, these Muslim politicians are now ready to be sacrificed – like the well-fed goats on the eve of Bakrid. Some among them have already faded into oblivion. Do we hear of M.J. Akbar or Najma Hepatullah ?
But what about the rest of the Muslim masses ? It is in this area that the BJP apparatchik has played a Machiavellian role. They recruited poor Muslim youngsters, often from the criminal underworld who had enough muscle power to pressurise Muslims to vote for BJP. The BJP leaders kept these Muslim recruits satisfied by appointing them as heads of the party’s minority cells or in some other positions.
The BJP leaders were waiting to use them as tools for their next murderous venture. The opportunity came when their spokesperson Nupur Sharma burst out with disparaging comments against the Prophet – which sounded spontaneous, but must have been approved of by her party, given the strict discipline that it follows. According to the BJP’s game plan, these comments were meant to provoke Muslims to retaliate with violence – thus furthering the religious polarization and reinforcing the Sangh Parivar’s attempt to stereotype the Muslim community as terrorists. Right on cue, a few days later in Udaipur, some Muslims beheaded a Hindu tailor Kanhaiya Lal, who was said to have expressed his support for Nupur Sharma’s derogatory comments about the Prophet. Curiously enough one of the alleged assassins is Md. Riyaz Attari, who turns out to be a BJP activist. There are photos showing him being inducted in the BJP in November, 2019 in the presence of the party leaders. Quite predictably, the BJP leaders are today disowning him, since he had outlived his usefulness. He was used as an agent to build the party’s base among the Muslim community during the last two or three years. Now he can be disposed of as a sacrificial lamb.
Another such Muslim sacrificial lamb selected by the BJP from among its ranks is Talib Hussain Shah. He was appointed some time ago as the head of the IT wing of BJP’s minority cell in Jammu. He helped the party to secure support from his community, and after he served the purpose of his BJP bosses, they disposed of him by branding him as a Lashkar-e-Taiba militant and got him arrested.
There are also cases of the BJP’s recruitment of Muslims with a criminal past, and promoting them to high posts in its party. One such instance is that of Tariq Ahmad Mir, who was made a sarpanch. Two years ago he was arrested for procuring weapons for the Hizbul Mujahideen commander Naveed Babu. Interestingly enough this Naveed Babu was found in the company of a senior police officer, DSP Davinder Singh, who was also arrested. The National Investigation Agency has confirmed that Mir is an associate of Davinder Singh. (Re: THE HINDU, July 6, 2022).
It appears that the BJP top brass has trained agent provocateurs (employed to encourage people to indulge in murderous activities that divide Hindus and Muslims), from both the Hindu and Muslim communities. While Nupur Sharma represents the Hindu face, Md. Riyaz Attari represents the Muslim face of the BJP’s double-faced strategy.
Murky history of the BJP leadership’s secret deals with criminal characters of the Muslim community
Given the records quoted above, there is an urgent need to investigate into the role played by the BJP leaders in negotiating secret deals with dubious characters from the Muslim underworld – in order to serve their immediate partisan interests to gain a foothold among that community.
As is evident now, this Machiavelian game plan of the BJP top brass has ended up in a dangerous fiasco, with revelations of some of their Muslim recruits acting as double agents – if one believes the police reports (which again have to be taken with a grain of salt !). It is not only Muslim recruits, but a large number of Hindu BJP leaders and activists have also been caught as spies of Pakistan. The lure of money prevails over their commitment to Hindutva. To cite cases involving some of these illustrious representatives of the Sangh Parivar – Dhruv Saxena, BJP IT cell member, along with ten accomplices, arrested in 2017 by the Madhya Pradesh Anti-Terrorist Squad on charges of spying for Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence Department; Balram Singh, Bajrang Dal leader from Madhya Pradesh, arrested in 2019 for funding terrorist groups. (Re: THE HINDU, July 6, 2022).
The Supreme Court remains a silent spectator to these scandals involving members of the ruling party who by their behaviour threaten national security. It is therefore up to civil society organizations and human rights groups to set up an independent commission of inquiry, consisting of eminent retired judges and advocates, to delve into these allegations against BJP leaders and activists.
Sumanta Banerjee is a political commentator and writer, is the author of In The Wake of Naxalbari’ (1980 and 2008); The Parlour and the Streets: Elite and Popular Culture in Nineteenth Century Calcutta (1989) and ‘Memoirs of Roads: Calcutta from Colonial Urbanization to Global Modernization.’ (2016).