By Father Cedric Prakash SJ*
Several citizens representing and belonging to a wider range of civil society participated in a virtual national consultation on Sunday, April 24, 2022, to address and plan actions regarding targeted violence, hatred and discrimination taking place across the country. . The consultation was initiated and under the aegis of “Bahutva Karnataka”. A preparatory note to the consultation said:
“The year 2022 has seen a sharp upsurge in organized violence by Hindutva groups, particularly against Muslims. The “Sulli Accords” and the “Buli Bai Accords” which attacked the dignity and freedom of Muslim women, the calls for genocide in the Dharam Sansads, the misinterpretation of HC orders in Karnataka and the subsequent harassment of Muslim girls, call for social and economic measures to boycott Ramnavami violence.
“There have been open calls for the mass rape of Muslim women, all in the presence of the police. Prior to this, violence was also inflicted on the Christian community in several states and unconstitutional anti-conversion bills were passed in various states. Atrocities against Dalits and Adivasis have also steadily increased even though conviction rates remain low.
“Also of concern is that the Sangh Parivar is using young people from marginalized and oppressed communities as foot soldiers in their hate project, as evidenced by the way they provoked hatred among public school students when the case of the Hijab was heard”..
The result of the consultation was a national call to address and “end the hate” that engulfed the nation today!
The painful fact is that it happened with frightening regularity: slowly, steadily, surreptitiously but constantly! The past few weeks have seen it unfold in a more dangerous and vicious way that aims to destroy the democratic fabric of Indian society perhaps to the point of no return!
The hatred that is unleashed to demonize, denigrate, discriminate, dehumanize ‘the other’. In the face of all this, we urgently need to listen and respond to those who are crying out, “End the hate!
The demolition of Jahangirpuri, with bulldozers, which took place recently, with brazen insensitivity, until the Supreme Court intervened, is only the tip of the iceberg. Any citizen with a bit of intelligence will easily conclude that the act was not about illegal structures (there are millions of illegal structures in Delhi and elsewhere) but how a policy is used to demolish a minority community.
Several thoughtful citizens of the country: academics, lawyers, human rights defenders, business leaders, intellectuals and other members of civil society say unequivocally: “stop the hate!
In a hard-hitting article “What the Communal flare-ups manifest” in the Hindustan Times (April 22, 2022), well-known media personality Rajdeep Sardesai writes:
“The impunity for their actions in recent times – whether organizing hate-spewing sansads dharam, leading violent gau-rakshak movements or commanding divisive love jihad campaigns – aims to resuscitate their political fairness in the crowded market of Hindutva. The fact that the VHP-Bajrang Dal defiantly chose to go ahead with a shobha yatra on Hanuman Jayanti in Delhi, despite not having permission from the police, stems from their belief that their benefactors in power will ultimately protect their interests”.
Sardesai goes on to say that “a deliberate attempt is underway to find polarizing issues among other Muslims – hijab, halal meat, azaan – the list goes on”. It simply expresses the sentiments of many well-meaning citizens of the country who want the hate to stop now!
Among these are Dushyant Dave, one of the nation’s top legal minds and former president of the Supreme Court Bar Association; in a statement (post/tweet) that has gone viral on social media, Dave says:
“There are 731 unauthorized settlements in Delhi with thousands of people, and you choose a settlement because you are targeting a community. The police and civil authorities are bound by the Constitution and not by the orders of a BJP leader.
The politics of hatred, discrimination and revenge is there for everyone. Such a thing was perhaps unthinkable in the country ten years ago! Now it seems to have become an “in-thing”, a sweet acceptance! Before it’s too late, there must be public outrage to “End the Hate!”
The international media is simply appalled at what is happening in India today; editorials and editorials around the world and in major world languages are literally appalled at the way democracy is being destroyed in India, presided over by a prime minister and his fascist regime.
Their message is loud and clear: India is now referred to as a “banana republic” where law and order seem to have disappeared. Everyone’s warning is, before it’s too late, to “end the hate!” The UK’s prestigious “The Guardian” states in a lead article:
“Rising communal violence has sparked concern among many Indians who fear the country is becoming more polarized than ever along Hindu-Muslim lines. For many, the blame has been directed at the ruling Hindu nationalist party Bharatiya Janata , led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“The BJP is accused of overseeing a program of religious division and emboldening hostility towards India’s 200 million Muslims, relegating them to second-class citizens. Meanwhile, Hindu vigilantes such as VHP were allowed to operate freely and increasingly began to take the law into their own hands”.
The equally prestigious and analytical “Washington Post” does not mince its words either:
“This incident was just the latest in a series of clashes between Hindus and Muslims that have rocked India in recent weeks. They happened on different days, in different parts of the country, but there is a Pattern: Groups of young Hindu nationalists join in peaceful celebrations during religious holidays, then lead rowdy processions through Muslim neighborhoods, sparking violent clashes.
“Adding to the sense of foreboding, observers say there has been a flurry of inflammatory rhetoric over the past year from right-wing leaders, including a priest’s appeal to his fellow Hindus in December for them to take up arms and “lead a cleanliness campaign” that would kill out Muslims. The cleric, Yati Narsinghanand, was charged with hate speech and arrested. While out on bail, he was made another appearance this month in North Delhi, near Jahangirpuri, where he warned the public that nearly half of India’s Hindus would be killed if the country elected a Muslim prime minister.
Christians in India were also the victims of a meticulously planned and executed hate campaign. Every effort is made to target Christians and portray them as outright converts, trying to destabilize the country.
The regime in power, with its fascist strategy of divide and conquer, has succeeded in some places in creating a gap between the different Christian denominations and also between Christians and Muslims. It’s ‘not you but them!’ kind of division game!
Otherwise, how could one explain that some Christian prelates are naive enough to use insensitive and un-Christian terms like “love jihad” – terminology straight out of the Sangh Parivar glossary.
Fortunately, India still has a vibrant civil society! Campaigns against hate speech are emerging and converging everywhere. Webinars and physical meetings have taken place and continue to do so. There is an outpouring of support and the numbers are rising. The underlying message is clear “End of hate! “. Most simply say “enough is enough” and demand that the hate stop now! But mere words are not enough.
Many hatemongers continue to do so with impunity and have covered themselves with immunity. They know very well that they are only providing the regime in place with what they really want! There is, they are convinced, absolutely nothing in the machinery of public order that can ever touch them.
It is so obvious that there is no political will to stop the agenda of hatred which is being generalized in the country. On the contrary, all efforts are being made from the highest levels of power to stir up and foment hatred and division everywhere. They know it pays rich political dividends at election time! With polarization, majoritarianism naturally increases!
The fact that “hate crimes” are increasing in India is indisputable. “Hate crimes” are simply hostile and harmful crimes in their own way, when they target someone simply because of their disability, race or ethnic origin, religion or belief, orientation gender and their transgender identity.
We see this happening all the time in India today! The perpetrators are well known, the victims are obvious. It goes without saying that the targeting of minorities in India today is a well-planned political agenda in view of the 2024 general elections (and some of the state elections just before that).
This is especially the big project around 2025 where the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) will complete one hundred years of existence and in their dreams the establishment of a ‘Hindu Rashtra’ The writing is on the wall. The signs are ominous! Will the people of India rise up and rise to the challenge of preserving the rich pluralistic and democratic fabric of the nation?
The preparatory note for the April 24 consultation also specified:
“A nationally coordinated response from civil society to counter this is essential before hatred completely takes over our country. We must demand that the government operate in accordance with the constitution and we must demand accountability from the political and administrative apparatus and from the constitutional courts.
“is a call for all of us to come together and take to the streets to defend our constitution, to stand in solidarity with all who are oppressed and to say that we will not tolerate the targeted violence of Hindutva.
“Some of the ideas could be to have nationally coordinated protests on the same day, coordinated processes through which we express our solidarity with all those who have been hard hit by the violence and other actions. Above all, we we all have to discuss how we resist this together”.
A start is made!
Indian people would do well to learn from civil rights leader Martin Luther King who said, “Darkness cannot lead darkness; Light can do it. Hate cannot drive out hate; Love can do that.
Or another Nelson Mandela devotee who said, “No one is born hating another person because of the color of their skin, their background or their religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite”. Hate has never succeeded; only love triumphs. We must “end the hate and now!”
Human rights, peace and reconciliation activist/writer