October 24, 2015

India: Epidemic of Hindutva fascism (Kashmir Times, Editorial - 22 October 2015)

Kashmir Times, Editorial - 22 October 2015

Epidemic of Hindutva fascism
Silence of the government to increasing incidents of intolerance setting India on a dangerous path

Distressing, rather horrifying, bits and pieces of actions from across the country with evident streaks of Hindu fascism reveal that the situation in India is far too grave, prompting the president to make several interventions, even though restricted to rhetoric. If president Pranab Mukherjee has begun raising concern over excessive hate mongering and questioning whether tolerance and respect for differences in India is on the wane, it is because the elected government which was expected to do so failed to. With every passing day, incidents of an intolerant culture invoked by perpetuating hatred of the minorities of the country or Pakistan are out in the open and like an unattended epidemic are spreading and increasing by the day. On Monday, Shiv Sena goons torpedoed an attempt to revive non-political ties with Pakistan, and succeeded in forcing the BCCI to reschedule its talks with the Pakistan Cricket Board. In Delhi, fringe groups of the saffron brigade were busy smearing ink on Kashmiri legislator Engineer Rashid and family members of Zahid, victim of Hindutva hate-killing in Udhampur. This is within a week of Shiv Sena hooliganism inking Sudheendra Kulkarni's face for organizing an event for launch of a book by former Pakistan foreign minister and cancellation of concert by popular Ghazal maestro, Ghulam Ali Khan. Earlier this week, a foreign tourist from Australia in Kolkatta was made to write an apology letter with the intervention of police for sporting the tattoo of what looked like an Indian goddess on his shin.

The BJP, however, has yet to show remorse for any intolerance by its allies and any bits of sheepish lament only come with a rider of the "other side also being in the wrong". In the face of killings over suspicions of beef consumption and cow slaughter by some Muslims, no less than the prime minister Narendra Modi asks Hindus to valiantly fight like Maharana Pratap to protect cows from being slaughtered. Clearly, Modi has let his office down by offering a weak lament and by washing his hands off the problem with his remarks that his government or party has nothing to do with it. And, there are elements within the BJP who more brazen in their open legitimacy of the acts of violence against Muslims and dissenters. It is not just a case of band of self styled puritanical elements threatening to demonise everything that goes against their own views and their own understanding of Indian culture. Shocked by the horror of decreasing space for dissent, murders of rationalists and persecution of minorities, several writers and intellectuals have begun returning their prestigious national honours and awards. The action is inspired not just by the horror of events but also by the complete silence of the government who should be intervening both by virtue of its responsibility to maintain law and order and ensure the protection of the country's secular and egalitarian values. The outraged intellectuals, voicing their concern through returning awards or by speaking out, are aware that the stifling atmosphere is patronized by those who rule the country, making the air more toxic and dangerous. Yet instead of treating their genuine concerns with the seriousness they deserve, the government is propping the theory of "manufactured politics" and ridiculing the conscience keepers of the country. The situation indeed is dismal if the government is unwilling to see the dangers to the country and its core value of secularism and tolerance. It was thus not without reason that the President found himself compelled to remind the nation about the secular ethos of the country and the liberal constitution of the country which accommodates all kind of religious, regional and linguistic differences and the right to freely live and speak as any individual chooses. Where the elected government turns itself into a vehicle of culture of oppression and intolerance, in blatant violation of the law and spirit of the constitution, it is sadly the nominated head of the state who had to broach the important subject. But it is the elected government which can ensure that the culture of tolerance and secularism that the president talked about is not brutally vandalized as to alter the course of history and the journey of this country in a way that will only bring permanent shame.