October 22, 2015

India: The ‘state-issue’ excuse [Centre cannot distance itself from the rising intolerance by pointing to the states] (Kapil Sibal)

The ‘state-issue’ excuse

Narendra Modi, Narendra Modi led BJP government, L K Advani, Advani Modi, Advani Hindutva, Hindutva, Gau Mata devotee, Congress, Sikh riots, Shah Bano case, Babri Masjid
At last, Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke. On October 14, he had this to say to Anandbazar Patrika: “The Dadri incident or the opposition to Pakistani ghazal singer Ghulam Ali are sad and undesirable. But what is the role of the Central government in these incidents?”. Not surprisingly, he chose not to condemn the forces and the mindset behind Dadri. He also chose not to publicly silence his ministers who have been stoking the fire of intemperance. Modi’s memory must be fairly selective, since he has forgotten the number of times he and other senior leaders of his party criticised the Central government and its leadership for what was happening in the states.
Mr Prime Minister, what happened in Dadri was not just an attack on Mohammed Akhlaq. It was an attack on our Constitution. We condemn it and will leave no stone unturned to fight it. The forces that killed Govind Pansare, Narendra Dabholkar and M.M. Kalburgi; the forces that beat up an MLA in the legislative assembly in Jammu and Kashmir; the forces that didn’t allow Ghulam Ali to perform in Mumbai; which forced couples out of a hotel and invaded their privacy are the same that brutally murdered Akhlaq.
The fabric of our Constitution and our civilisational culture is based on tolerance. What Modi is encouraging by not openly reprimanding his colleagues in the cabinet is the spirit of intolerance that seeks to divide rather than unite. The debate on cow slaughter and the ugly incident at Dadri are the result of a mindset and forces that support Modi. The prime minister has forgotten what he said at Nawada on April 2, 2014 about cow slaughter. He said: “The Delhi sarkar will not give out subsidies to farmers or to Yadavs keeping cows but will give out subsidies to people who slaughter cows, who slaughter animals, who are destroying our rivers of milk, as long as they set up qatlkhanas”. He seems to have also forgotten what he said in 2012 on the birth anniversary of Maharana Pratap. He attacked the Central government by stating: “Rana Pratap dedicated his life to gau raksha (cow protection). He fought wars and sacrificed young men to protect the cow… The Centre’s dream is to bring about a Pink Revolution… To make money, plans are being made to slaughter gaye maa (the mother cow) and it is at moments like this that you remember Rana Pratap”.
There is no difference between what was said by Modi then and what is being repeated by his Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma and some of his party colleagues in Parliament. On October 4, referring to Akhlaq’s murder, Sharma said: “Maar diya hoga kisi shaitaan ne”. The urban development minister, Venkaiah Naidu, said: “They are local happenings… you have to understand the sensitivities, the local situation, then come to conclusions”. Minister of State for Agriculture Sanjeev Balyan said: “The issue should not be linked to communalism and to any party base. Whatever happened was wrong and unfortunate. But why [do] such incidents happen? Look at any district in the state, cow slaughter houses are set up at every place… [A cow slaughter ban] is not the BJP’s agenda. This is an issue of the whole Hindu community. Don’t link this issue with the BJP”. BJP MP Satyapal Singh likened Dadri to a small incident, while BJP national secretary Tarun Chugh termed it an isolated incident.
In his Independence Day speech in 2014, Modi had called for a 10-year moratorium on communal issues. However, days after his speech, his MPs started campaigning on the issue of “love jihad” and “ghar wapsi”. Amidst a series of attacks on churches, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat questioned Mother Teresa’s motives. Sakshi Maharaj called Nathuram Godse a “patriot”, and called upon every
Hindu woman to produce four children to protect the religion. BJP MPs from UP indulged in fear-mongering around the census data released in August. They repeatedly made fiery speeches about proliferating Muslims and the demographic threat to Hindus.
Ever since Modi became prime minister, he has given a free rein to his ministers and BJP functionaries to create an environment of communal tension and violence. After polarising the polity for political gain, he then makes wishy-washy statements, talking of “akhandata and sadbhavana (unity and goodwill)” to reap both harvests.
Even J&K Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed has expressed concern over the rising intolerance.
The return of Sahitya Akademi awards by writers is a symbolic response to the feeling that the liberal space in this country is fast eroding. But a senior minister considers this to be a manufactured revolt.
The double standards adopted by Modi and his party are not new. While he considers the Dadri incident a state issue, he forgets that he blamed the Central government when Naxal attacks killed innocent victims in Chhattisgarh. Mr Modi, it is the BJP government in Maharashtra that has decided to give new permits for autorickshaws only to Marathi-speakers, signalling that non-Marathi-speaking persons from, say, Bihar or UP cannot be gainfully employed in the said vocation. Is it your position that you
have nothing to do with the blatant discrimination being exercised by your party in Maharashtra?
You are the prime minister of India. You must represent the voice of sanity and not obfuscate issues by absolving and distancing the Centre from the incident at Dadri merely because it took place in the territorial limits of a certain state. The state is merely an entity. The individuals behind these incidents are real people who have a mindset that conforms to the ideology of the party you stand for and the RSS, of which you are an integral part. It is time to stand up for India and what it stands for.
You have a historic opportunity. Do not fritter it away by specious logic in the hope of an electoral harvest. The mindset of a terrorist and the mindset of intolerance know no territorial boundaries when individuals are targeted either for their eating habits or for any other reason. That is a matter of concern not just for the Centre, but for every citizen of India.
Mr Prime Minister, you are playing with fire. We should douse it before it spreads.
The writer, a Congress party leader, is a former Union cabinet minister.