‘The prime minister’s silence is very troubling’

‘A climate of impunity is created when the fascistic hate-mongers reckon they can get away with anything because ‘this is our regime’ and this is going to be a ‘Hindu Rashtra’.’

As the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections near, hate speeches using extreme offensive language against Muslims have increased.

Christmas celebrations in many parts of India were disrupted, and Christians were attacked.

In an exclusive interview to Rediff.com‘s Shobha Warrier, N Ram, the well known journalist and former editor of The Hindu, discusses what is happening in the country.

The first of a multi-part interview:

The voices of hate, which started when the Narendra Modi government came to power in 2014, have become more brazen.
Were you shocked by the intensity of hate in the speeches at the Haridwar event?

It is clear that after the horrors of Partition, and the communal frenzy that was unleashed in large parts of India in which a large number of people lost their lives, and other atrocities were committed, this is the worst chapter in India’s history as far as communal division, communal hate and communal violence is concerned.

What is happening is orchestrated, deliberate and targeted, and the people who commit these atrocities seem to enjoy immunity from prosecution under the law, to a large extent.

Take, for example, what happened in Haridwar. It is a case of people calling for genocide and it was recorded on video.

The Hindu reported that according to the state director general of police, the provisions of using UAPA against them would be legally examined!

We see them using UAPA at the drop of a hat against individuals belonging to the minority community, or those who strongly oppose the communal policies of the government. But not against these vigilante squads.

UAPA was slapped on journalist Sidhique Kappan who was on his way to report the gang rape in Hathras.
In the case of what happened at Haridwar, there was evidence to show what they spoke, yet it is being examined…. How disturbing is this?

This only shows they can do it with impunity.

Let me read the tweet by (Admiral) Arun Prakash, the former chief of the naval staff.

‘Why is this not being stopped? With our Jawans facing enemies on 2 fronts, do we want a communal blood-bath, domestic turmoil and international disgrace? Is it difficult to understand that anything which damages national cohesion & unity endangers India’s national security?’

The report that came in The Hindu says a group of 76 Supreme Court lawyers have sent a letter to the Chief Justice of India urging him to take suo moto cognisance of the two separate events; organised by the Hindu Yuva Vahini in Delhi and also the one in Haridwar where open calls were made for the genocide of Muslims in order to achieve ethnic cleansing.

The letter is also signed by Anjana Prakash, former judge of the Patna high court, and respected advocates like Prashant Bhushan, Dushyant Dave, etc.

They pointed out that those were not just hate speeches, but an open call for the murder of an entire community.

They also say that these are great threats not only to the unity and integrity of the country, but also to the lives of millions of Muslims.

It is clear that the scale of this should not be underestimated.

This is not just hate speech, but fascistic conduct.

This is fascistic because they call for genocide against Muslims.

You can imagine what will happen if these words are heeded.

So it calls for strong action because this is what terrorism is about.

On one side, the prime minister talks about working for all sections of society, and on the other side we see calls for genocide, against which he never utters a word.

Yes, we expect the prime minister, the home minister and also the President of India to condemn such incidents.

Their silence speaks for itself and says a lot about what kind of government India has at present.

The President of India is the Constitutional head of the State of India and we have precedents of Presidents speaking out on matters like this.

For example, K R Narayanan spoke out on certain issues when he was President. When he expressed moral outrage, nobody really objected to that.

Presidents do not easily come out and give their opinions, but on issues like calls for genocide, they can and they should.

What about the prime minister?

The prime minister has remained largely silent on violations of law and atrocities against minorities.

The prime minister’s silence in this case is very troubling.

What you can say is, this is definitely orchestrated, this is planned.

And a climate of impunity is created when the fascistic hate-mongers reckon that they can get away with anything because ‘this is our regime’ and this is going to be a ‘Hindu Rashtra’.

Are we really moving towards the kind of Hindu Rashtra these people are professing about?

I don’t think it is achievable, first because the majority of Hindus will be opposed to it.

Communal majoritarianism may have powerful appeal for a while, but people are not going to be taken in all the time.

Surely the overwhelming majority of Hindus, even those who have voted for the BJP, are not going to endorse this.

Earlier, we could say the fringe groups were doing this. Now, the fringe is moving closer and closer to the centre. But I will not say they can occupy a central place. And that is what the fascistic movements are about.

These are clearly fascistic activities.

I am using the word ‘fascistic’ very carefully, and not saying ‘fascism’ has arrived.

From the way the BJP is winning seats, does it not show that a large section of Hindus agree with their narrative that the Hindus are being threatened by Muslims and Christians?

I think we cannot afford to underestimate the powerful pull of these appeals to communal majoritarianism.

Yes, those who are gullible and those who have a communal mindset might agree with them.

But not the majority, because the BJP doesn’t get even 40% of the votes in a Lok Sabha election.

The Congress used to score consistently above that when it was the dominant party in the system.

In 2014, the BJP got just over 30% of the vote, and a little more in 2019.

It got quite a lot of votes thanks to its alliances in several states.

And not all allies of the BJP would agree with the flagrantly communal narrative that is in progress now.

Yes, we should not underestimate the fascistic calls to incite people, and the efforts to divide people for votes.

Feature Presentation: Aslam Hunani/Rediff.com

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