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India divided
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 22 - 04 - 2017

In normal circumstances Indian playback singer Sonu Nigam's objection to the adhan (the call to prayer) would have been ignored on Twitter as yet another diatribe by yet another fading celebrity to revive his stardom.
Time and again in the past, objections have been raised from several quarters including some Muslims with regard to the use of loudspeakers for the adhan or to the gathering of Muslims on the street for Friday prayers. In the same breadth, although somewhat muted, there have been objections about the use of loudspeakers in late-night Jagrata (a night of Hindu religious singing) and the disruption of life in Mumbai during the Ganpati festival. Indian courts have come up with more than a dozen
recommendations, directives and advisories, but all in vain.
India has always lived with its rich ethos of tolerance and respect for all faiths. A Hindu could fight a Muslim or vice versa but never in history have Hindus or Muslims attacked each other's faith or religion or religious places, barring one incident – the demolition of Babri Mosque in 1992, which continues to be a national shame. Acceptance, mutual respect (of faith) and even participation in each other's festivities have always been the cornerstone of India's unity in diversity.
But, tragically, power politics, communalization and criminalization of the Indian body polity have redefined the entire social fabric of India. The 2014 Parliamentary elections changed the very face of the country. A country which always took pride in its unity in diversity and in being one of the most cohesive pluralist societies, suddenly changed into a divided India. But it was in no way a repeat of the 1940 Muslim League resolution demanding a separate land for Muslims, i.e., Pakistan. Instead the present divide was between a Hindu India and a secular India. It was not a partition, but rather a division between religious extremism and orthodoxy, on the one hand, and tolerance, pluralism and peaceful coexistence, on the other.
It was a well-planned and orchestrated move of the Rashtriya Sawyam Sewak Sangh (RSS) to reverse the age-old Congress policy of Muslim polarization. Congress after independence exploited the insecurity of Muslims who for no reason carried the guilt of partition. Those who wanted partition had detached themselves from their roots and entered into new territory in search of a new identity. They struggled for one religion and one state but ended up in a land infested with sectarianism, regionalism and linguistic biases, thus negating the two-nation theory propounded initially by Syed Ahmad Khan and Lala Lajpat Rai and later propagated by Mohammed Ali Jinnah.
Dr. Rajendra Prasad, the first president of independent India, in his book "India Divided" negated the theory that the Hindus and Muslims of India were two nations, and concluded that the solution to the Hindu-Muslim issue should be sought in the formation of a secular state, with cultural autonomy for the different groups that make up the nation. This dream was shared by leaders, like Gandhi, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Rafi Ahmad Kidwai and several others, who felt that there should not be a Hindu India or a Muslim India. There should only be a secular India. Congress continued with its "appeasement policy" and no doubt created a Muslim vote bank that became a balancing factor in post-independent India.
The RSS and its political wing the BJP realized that to gain power it was necessary to thwart the Muslim vote bank and neutralize their mobilization. The plan was to reverse mobilization and bring in majority Hindus on one plank. The cleverest portion of the script was to infuse patriotism and nationalism with religious bigotry.
Prior to the election, the Muzaffarnagar riots saw the absolute division of votes in western Uttar Pradesh. Then came the cow slaughter issue that took the whole of Uttar Pradesh by storm. Interestingly, cow slaughtering was never practiced in Uttar Pradesh. Akhlaq was sacrificed on the altar of religious bigotry.
The non-BJP parties saw the public frenzy and immediately went into defensive mode keeping silent about all the undemocratic and fascist acts. After an historic win in the parliamentary election, the Modi-Amit Shah combine found the mantra for success and started shaping their policies for the UP polls. The same pattern was followed. The divide was complete, the polarization was reversed and the result was obvious. The BJP has annihilated all political parties. The Gujarat experiment has given them UP on a platter.
Installing fundamentalist Yogi Adityanath, who has 19 criminal cases against him, as a UP Chief Minister was yet another example of defiance to value-based politics. Now UP is the BJP's in the 2019 parliamentary elections. It was such a brazen move that it shocked several diehard BJP leaders. Without going into details about the credentials of Adityanath, it is enough to note that he too is a firm believer in the two-nation theory. In one of his speeches, he has categorically asserted that "Hindus and Muslims are two different cultures and they can never live together" thus negating an almost 800-year old history.
However, the last state elections showed that the BJP has all the strength in the Hindi belt, but outside that area it is either not there at all or else is not as powerful as in UP.
The long-term plan of the RSS is to have control over all of India from proverbial Kanyakumari to Kashmir. And to achieve this Pan-India hegemony, it is important to export the movement that initiated, nurtured and succeeded in north India to south, north, east and northeast India.
Efforts are being made to create an atmosphere of fear and to thus change the social fabric of India in the name of patriotism. The RSS definition of patriotism defies all of the dictionaries of the world. In the words of the late eminent historian Dr. Bipin Chandra, it is nothing but a "misplaced sense of patriotism."
Religious orthodoxy blended with RSS-type patriotism is a new mantra to stoke communal passion and infiltrate new territories. Muslims are being provoked to create a clash that will result in further polarization.
The adhan is one small and off repeated issue; triple talaq and the Uniform Civil Code are issues as well. Surely Sonu Nigam would not have thought that far unless he is really a stooge. But surely the massive reaction has given food for thought to the RSS.
Interestingly, the most amazing and shocking role in the whole gamut of politics is the apathetic role of the Indian judiciary which when it desires becomes proactive and does not hesitate to interfere in the legislature and executive, but turns a blind eye when things matter.
Despite all of this pessimism, I firmly believe in the Indianess of India. The country's beauty lies in its pluralism and its unity lies in its diversity. Hindus and Muslims may fight a thousand battles, but they shall continue to be Indian, nothing less and nothing more.
— The author can be reached at: [email protected]


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