When “communal frenzy” appears to gain momentum ahead of elections, parliamentary or state, it is difficult not to view it as desperate politicking- barely linked with religious beliefs of people at grassroots. There is no denying “attempts” are made to label this as “religious” and create images of communities being at war because of religious reasons. Perhaps, more attention needs to be given to what is labelled as religious, which in essence should be viewed as criminal. Elementarily speaking, where is the religious factor of those responsible for raping women, burning cars, shops, places of worship, pelting people with stones, lynching persons, shooting individuals and so forth? But when such activities take place in the name of “religious” reasons, irrespective of which community the victim belongs to, justification of those targeting them as a part of their “religious” pursuit is not just questionable but totally unacceptable. Accepting their justification as religious, when their actions can be regarded as only criminal may be viewed as equivalent to according a negative image to whichever “religion,” even socio-religious or politico-religious group they claim to represent.
The preceding point may be applied to tension afflicting Gurugram (Haryana) at present. Yes, certainly, attempts are being made to incite communal frenzy in the name of Hindu-Muslim tension. Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Bajrang Dal do not represent the entire Hindu community in India or in the world. India is home to roughly 110 crores (1.1 billion) Hindus. VHP has around 16 lakh (1.6 million) members worldwide. Limited support for this organization was apparently displayed by nature of rallies held by it at various sites in the capital city this Wednesday (August 2). At a few places, they briefly blocked the traffic at around noon, shouting religious slogans and moved away after a little while. Certainly, Delhi is on alert because of Haryana gripping with tension. But what certain headlines project as “Hindu mob” needs be corrected. VHP does not represent all Hindus in India or any part of world.
In the same vein, reports of a mob having attacked the VHP procession held this Monday (July 31) in Nuh district (Haryana) leading to “communal” tension in the state demand attention. Just ahead of the procession, a post on social media apparently spread rumours that the self-acclaimed “cow vigilante” Monu Manesar would be participating in the procession. Manesar- linked with Bajrang Dal- is allegedly responsible for murder of two Muslim boys, earlier this year. Irrespective of when, why and how the issue of alleged murders is solved, that apparently self-acclaimed cow vigilantes allegedly take such steps has not yet been tackled. There are also speculations of reports about Manesar being a part of VHP-procession having been deliberately posted on social media to provoke “Muslims” in Nuh. Whether they were provoked or not and if they indulged in attacking the VHP-procession, from no angle can this be labelled as a religious activity. Just as those resorting to criminal activities in the name of being “cow-vigilantes” do not have the authority and/or right to take law in their own hands, the same can be said about those attacking them in reaction. Nor can such criminal activities be accorded any religious label.
But sadly, history is witness to there being no reluctance in instantly according a religious label to any dispute if rival parties belong to different religions. Little importance is accorded to whether their differences have anything to do with religious issues or not. And if they do, a few dozen, even a few hundred, thousand or more Hindus and Muslims, cannot be held as representative of all members of their respective religious communities. So even if they deliberately project their disputes as “religious,” objectively why should these be accepted as such and described as Hindu-Muslim communal riot/violence and likewise?
Notwithstanding all the claims made by VHP and even Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the political reality of BJP having received less than 40% votes in 2014 and in 2019 parliamentary elections cannot be ignored. Nor can the political fact of its key rivals being parties headed and dominated by Hindus. Equally significant is the fact that Muslims do not have any political party spread all over India, rather are members/supporters of other parties viewed as secular by most of them. Not surprisingly, desperate attempts made to provoke religious passion from beyond Haryana have hardly had any impact. Yes, they have earned ample media coverage for protestors and also diverted attention from Manipur-crisis. But not for long. Media-coverage doesn’t guarantee votes. It is time, those resorting to such desperate politicking ahead of elections abandoned their style of “communal” campaigns!
Nilofar Suhrawardy is a senior journalist and writer with specialization in communication studies and nuclear diplomacy. She has come out with several books. These include:– Modi’s Victory, A Lesson for the Congress…? (2019); Arab Spring, Not Just a Mirage! (2019), Image and Substance, Modi’s First Year in Office (2015) and Ayodhya Without the Communal Stamp, In the Name of Indian Secularism (2006).