An eerie calm is giving rise to an unsteady future. Hatred is being pumped into the air that is already rotten. In the bylanes of Delhi’s Seelampur, Muslim men and women are huddled, discussing in hushed silence the uncertainty that is ensnaring their daily lives. Two years back, they were the target of violence, today the violence has shifted 10 kilometres away to Jahangirpuri. Two years back, Delhi burned while Donald Trump triumphed over the streets of Gujarat. Today, Delhi is once again on a carnage boil while British Prime Minister Boris Johnson makes his long-awaited visit to India to focus on “the things that really matter”, primarily trade and growth.
But does that really matter?
In the times of New India, focus has been on everything but that. Why talk of jobs and growth when the need of the hour is to assert Hindu nationalism, restore Hindu pride and glory in politics and business. In the shadow of achhe din, the narrative of Hindutva has been brewing. The aim is to create noise, mar the humdrum of days with anger, hate, and instil unflinching fear and insecurity in the conscience of Hindus against Muslims, continuing the pathos of Divide and Rule.
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Who is the most polarised?
It all began in 2015. A feeble man, Mohammed Akhlaq, was dragged outside his home and beaten to death in front of his wife and children in Dadri. He was accused of consuming beef, storing beef, and slaughtering the holy animal of Hindus. The rumour became ripe, and hatred reached its audience, taking its first victim. Seven years have gone by and Mohammad Akhlaq has still not received justice. His murderers are out on bail, prowling and instilling fear and bitterness, while one of the accused received a hero’s farewell upon his death—a coffin draped in tricolour, being placed at the same spot where the murder took place.
And since then, there has been no stopping the rampage. Lynchings have become regular across states. Muslims are being targeted purposely, being attacked, beaten and killed over ‘speculations’ that they are slaughtering or transporting cows. Cow vigilantes have taken over the streets—villages to cities. The cow has become holier, enjoying freedom and protection that no one else in the country does. As a result, stray cattle have become a menace, an election issue, but baat Hindu ki hai, Hindu rashtra ki hai.
Who are these people spewing communal narratives, fighting to assert Hindu Rashtra?
At the onset of Uttar Pradesh election campaigning in 2021, I had met Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)’s UP in-charge Sanjay Singh. He talked about the trouble in getting people to listen, to make them understand the politics of division that is being played out by the ruling party and its affiliates. When I inquired which is the most difficult age group to talk to, to reason with, prompt came his reply.
“The younger generation, the brigade between 18 to 40 is the most difficult to speak to.”
“They are brainwashed, they see Muslims as their only enemy. Polarisation in them, within them, is embedded deep.’
In New India, it is this new crowd of young men and women who are unaware and ignorant about history and politics. They are the graduates of WhatsApp University where it is taught that Indira Gandhi was Muslim because her husband Feroze Gandhi was Muslim, where they learn that ‘Mughal Bhartiya ban gaye, aur Bhartiya Kafir, Farsi Gandhi ban gaye, aur hum sab murkh ban gaye’. [The Mughals became Indian, Indians became Kafir, Gandhi was Farsi, while the rest of us Hindus were the fools]
Social media platforms have undeniably served the BJP well in spreading its narrative into the remote corners of the country. It infiltrates propaganda with gusto into the closed bedroom of a teenager or the drawing-room of a young family. As such, throngs of young men and women have become part of the BJP-saffron sena, talking foolishly about Hindutva and Hindu Rashtra. On rise is a sickening and worrying mentality that Muslims should not, and cannot, exist. These young Indians create apps like Bulli Bai and Sulli Deals to spread hate against Muslim women. They demand everyone chant ‘Jai Shri Ram’ if they are to live and survive in New India.
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Keeping Hindus and Muslims apart
The tone of the nation has been changing steadily and systematically. The Opposition and secular liberals are worried but have no idea how to stop the carnage. On the other hand, the silence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, his top ministers, state leaders, and Swayamsevaks over the deepening chasm is further helping spearhead the venom. Also, speeches by the ‘supreme leader’ himself, explicitly evoking Kabristan and Shamshan, talking about historic Muslim aggressors Babur and Aurangzeb, mentioning identification through clothes; cabinet ministers calling Muslims gaddar, while allowing gatherings in the name of religion only to spew more anti-Muslim rhetoric. As a result, a free space has been created for the various Hindu organisations, for men and women, to brazenly preach and practice anti-Muslim sentiment.
Today, the violence we see has reached an automated mode. The current stirrings may not be coming from the director, may not be dictated, or supervised by the top brass, it is happening because of the narrative that has been set. The heat will continue to rise, bulldozers will be used assiduously, and religious festivals will become processions of strength and arrogance. In the last 15 days, nine states reported communal violence. In the coming months, every festival season may report communal violence. Little flames will erupt in every sensitive town, village or city. We have reached the same fragmented and hackneyed political rhetoric of our troubled past. To create and instil anxiety has become a necessity to keep the two religions divided and unbridgeable. No leader—from BJP or the Opposition—will care about fixing the problem, rather it will be used shamelessly, for scoring points and seeing how far the envelope can be pushed to stay in power.
Shruti Vyas is a journalist based in New Delhi. She writes on politics, international relations and current affairs. Views are personal.
(Edited by Neera Majumdar)