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Whipping up anti-Muslim sentiments only brings ignominy

Whipping up anti-Muslim sentiments only brings ignominy

New Delhi: Was the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party testing the water after Nupur Sharma's obnoxious comments on Prophet Mohammad? Was it forced to act only after the entire Arab world and several other Islamic countries, stood against India in condemnation? It definitely is a possibility because for ten days after she made the hideous comment on more than one channel, the party high command only looked on benignly. The BJP obviously wanted to test how much it could stretch its anti-Muslim agenda. It must have thought that this too would pass like the clamour after the now infamous "desh ke gaddaron ko, goli maro salon ko," by another worthy BJP leader, who is also a union minister. The BJP's inaction, and the too late and too little action afterwards, spells disaster for the country's social fabric and its reputation in the world.

The outpouring of anger by Muslims on the streets all over India on June 10, 2022, following the obnoxious comment on Prophet Mohammad by BJP national spokesperson Nupur Sharma, was an explosion waiting to happen. It might have been planned and carefully executed, the way protests erupted all over India simultaneously, which now is a matter for the intelligence agencies to investigate. But what is clear is that ever since the Gyanvapi controversy has been resurrected, the Hindutva brigade has run amock with its hate mongering campaign, especially in the electronic and social media. News anchors and planted panellists spew such venom on TV debates such that it is easy for anyone to get carried away. Maybe Nupur Sharma too, schooled in the BJP's propaganda school, got carried away, without realising the damage she was causing to the nation and to her own party. But what could have saved the situation was prompt action by the party high command, which however, did not happen. The Prime Minister, known for his penchant for tweeting, forgot to utter a word. Similarly, the BJP president J P Nadda, quick to give sermons otherwise, failed to take note of the transgression. She made the offensive comment against Prophet Mohammad on May 26, but for ten days after that, the party did nothing. It was only on June 5, when violent protests broke out in Kanpur on June 3, 2022, and condemnation started coming from Islamic countries through diplomatic channels, that the party came out of its inertia and suspended her from the party. Yet another media hand, who had tweeted about the comment, Navin Kumar Jindal, was expelled. The BJP also issued a statement on June 5, saying the "Bharatiya janta Party is also strongly against any ideology which insults or demeans any sect or religion. The BJP does not promote such people or philosophy." The statement, however, refrained from directly referring to Nupur Sharma or Jindal. But obviously, this appeared to be too little and too late.

The reluctant action, however, failed to douse the fires that had started burning. Fifteen Islamic countries, including Qatar, Iran, Iraq, Malaysia, Indonesia, Oman, Quwait, UAE, Bangladesh and Pakistan condemned the remarks, describing it as 'Islamophobic.' Even the Taliban in Afghanistan gave sermons to India! The 57 member Organisation of Islamic Countries, also condemned the remarks. In many countries, call for boycotting Indian goods were given. It was then that the government of India was forced to spell out that the remarks were not the official position of the government as such, and that the government of India treated all religions with equal respect. But it was obviously too late by then.

Come June 10, 2022 and Muslim protesters burst into the streets in 14 states of India, after the Friday prayers. They demanded arrest of Sharma and Jindal. In many places, the protests turned violent, with massive stone pelting, burning of vehicles and arson. In places like Kanpur, Prayagraj, Howra, and Ranchi, massive violence took place, with police resorting to lathicharge, and bursting off tear gas. In Ranchi, the situation went out of control and there was firing from both sides, in which two people were killed and several have been injured. The situation continues to be grim, with curfew in affected areas in Ranchi and prohibitory orders undersection 144 in many other places across India.

The violence may have stopped for now, but the ruling BJP needs to realise that the long rope to fundamentalists in whipping up anti-Muslim agenda is a recipe for disaster. Can India afford to antagonise the Islamic countries, especially since it imports more than 65 percent of its crude oil from Gulf countries? Can it afford to have hostile relations with these countries, which are home to millions of Indians who go there in search for work and send billions of rupees back home? Or for that matter, can the country afford to have one fifth of its population seething in anger just because some chicken headed right-wing fundamentalists want to dig up all mosques and discover hidden Hindu deities?

The Gyanvapi issue, which for whatever reason is being whipped up into a frenzy, is a case in point. For anyone who looks at the structure of the mosque, there are tell-tale signs which nobody can refute, that it does stand over the ruins of a Hindu temple. Portions of the ancient temple are visible from a distance. The Nandi bull too has been visible all these years. But whatever happened, happened five-six hundred years ago. Even without a survey, what happened hundreds of years ago is clearly visible to anyone who cares to look around at the Gyanvapi-Kashi Vishwanath temple complex. But isn't this also a fact that the two communities did reach an understanding over mutual co-existence, and both namaz and puja in the two places of worship have been going on side by side for hundreds of years? Why then create an issue when there has been none? Why resurrect demons of the past, especially when it could open a Pandora's box?

It is quite obvious to even the most naïve that the violent protests on the streets all over India were not just about Nupur Sharma's idiotic blabber, but about the government's deliberate agenda of whipping up anti-Muslim sentiments. Ever since the Modi government's arrival, whipping up anti-Muslim feelings has been visible: whether it is lynching of poor Muslims on the mere suspicion of beef in their possession, or barbs like jaalidaar topi, or enacting laws making inter-faith marriages even more difficult, or banning hijab or preparing a national register for citizens, the whiff of anti-Muslim agenda is clear. And taking a cue from the government's intentions, the non-state agents, like Sadhvi Prachi, Yati Narsinghanand, and others give call for slaying Muslims to attain Hindu rashtra, and the government does nothing to silence such lumpen elements. Government's acts of omission and commission have made Muslims uneasy.

Several Muslim community members have told this writer that especially after the Ayodhya verdict, the sense of frustration at not being able to counter the hate agenda has been building up and the clamour over Gyanvapi, has added to that sense of frustration. All the more so because in the frenzied debate no one seems to remember that the country does have a law in place, called the Places of Worship Act 1991, which was especially enacted to prevent such ructions and rows in future. The frustration seems to have only grown at the realisation that the country's agenda is not being set as per the rule of law, but by blabbering anchors and spokespersons. The Nupur Sharma remark was simply the last straw.

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TAGS:BJPInsulting ProphetAnti Muslims sentimenets
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