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‘Flood jihad’ — Hindu Right press sees ‘jihadist conspiracy’ in Assam deluge

ThePrint’s round-up of how pro-Hindutva media covered and commented on news and topical issues over the past few weeks.

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New Delhi: A group of Muslim men deliberately breached a river embankment in Assam’s Silchar, leading to devastating floods that ravaged the entire city, alleged an article in the latest issue of Panchjanya, the Hindi journal affiliated with the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS).

Headlined “badh jihad” (flood jihad), the report claimed that the devastating floods were caused by the actions of a “gang of four fanatics” led by Kabul Khan, one of the four apprehended in connection with a breach in the embankment at Bethukandi.

“The CID investigation may reveal the jihadist thought of damaging the embankment, but the brunt of the audacity of the arrested religious fanatic Kabul Khan and his associates was borne by the lakhs of people of the city, who are mostly Hindus,” read the article written by Organiser’s senior journalist Dibya Bordoloi.

The article claimed that Khan and his companions “dug up a part” of the embankment so that the floodwater entering their homes could recede into the river.

“Due to this destructive act, the Barak river, filled with rainwater, breached the damaged embankment. Subsequently, river water entered Silchar with the second wave of floods, submerging the entire city after 20 June.”

Speaking to the media on 6 July, Cachar Superintendent of Police (SP) Ramandeep Kaur had ruled out the possibility of any “communal angle” in the floods.

The under-representation of Muslims within the BJP, concerns over population control, the war in Ukraine and the economic crisis in Sri Lanka are some of the other issues that found mention in the Hindu Right press this past week.

Also Read: ‘Hindus ridiculed continuously’ — Hindu Right press on poster for Leena Manimekalai’s ‘Kaali’

‘Othering of Muslims’

In an opinion piece he wrote for Firstpost on 20 July, Right-leaning journalist Minhaz Merchant said that under-representation of Muslims within the BJP is a “symptom, not the cause of the malaise”.

The opinion piece comes in the backdrop of three Muslim Rajya Sabha MPs of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), including former Union minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, completing their terms. The BJP now has no Muslim MPs in either house of Parliament.

Merchant argued that the BJP has been blamed for the “othering of Muslims”, but this is a process that took root in India decades before the BJP was even formed.

“Underneath the secular and liberal mask political parties wear lies electoral self-interest. By creating a fear of ‘communal’ parties targeting Muslims, these ‘secular’ parties have succeeded in ensuring a large and loyal vote bank. In the process they have also ensured that Muslims remain poor and backward,” he wrote.

He went further to add that for over 70 years, political parties “that wear a secular and liberal mask during the day” have treated Muslims as merely Muslims. 

“That is a fatal error. By placing them in a separate silo, they have successfully ‘othered’ the Muslim community,” Merchant wrote, adding that Muslims are just “votes” for the Congress and regional parties that “ignore” them through the five-year electoral cycle and lionise them when elections near.

“While there are no Muslim founders in the top 100 Indian startups, they comprise nearly 35 per cent of India’s prisoners. Caught in a pincer between political parties that wear secular masks but impoverish them and the BJP that ignores them, Muslims find low-paid jobs as car mechanics, air-conditioner repairmen and food delivery boys. Those who don’t get even those jobs end up in bad company: hawala, smuggling, petty theft and contract killing,” he added.

Merchant wrote further that the “villains in this tragedy are political and religious Muslim leaders”, adding that they “encourage radicalism and back shadowy Islamist terror outfits like the Popular Front of India (PFI)”.

‘Population control – health concern, not religious’

Resounding concerns about population control, an editorial in Panchjanya asserted that there is a need to curb the “increasing Islamic population” in India. This issue, the editorial said, should be seen from a “health perspective, and not from a religious perspective”.

“The Muslim population in India has increased by 2.5 times in the last decade. It is the focus of new concerns and discussions on education, health, extremism and crime. The concern of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath on the increasing population of a particular section on World Population Day is also in this context. Their concern needs to be seen from the perspective of health, not from a religious point of view,” claimed Panchjanya editor Hitesh Shankar.

“His [Yogi Adityanath’s] concern is justified that for maintaining the democratic system of the country, it is necessary to control the population of all sections, otherwise, if the population of a particular section continues to grow abnormally, problems will arise related to density, cleanliness, proper distribution of resources in the country. With this, even situations of anarchy can arise,” it added.

‘India should use its goodwill to end Ukraine war’

Ram Madhav, a member of the national executive of the RSS, wrote in an opinion column published by The Indian Express that India must distinguish between neutrality, romantic principles and realism in the context of the war in Ukraine.

India should use its goodwill across the world to convert its neutrality into realist action to end the war, Madhav wrote.

“From the Indian perspective, the blame needs to be apportioned between both sides. But the need of the hour is to find ways to end the war. Realists also argue that wars between big powers don’t remain wars — they become issues of prestige.”

Writing that there were no “just wars” in this age, Madhav argued that the need of the hour is to find ways to end the war.

“Putin wants annexation at any cost, while the Western powers see the protracted conflict as an opportunity to entangle and cripple Russia economically and militarily. Neither seems too bothered about the human costs.”

India must take into account this reality, he said.

“It must distinguish between neutrality as a romantic principle versus neutrality as realism. India’s neutrality had faced its first major challenge in China’s annexation of Tibet in the 1950s, which posed a direct threat to its northern borders. 

“The Americans had hoped that India would realise its mistake and join the Baghdad Pact countries that included the UK, Pakistan and Iran, besides the US. But Nehru, as a romantic idealist, argued that one shouldn’t compromise with one’s principles simply because someone else had departed from theirs. This lack of realism, unfortunately, proved costly for India when China committed major aggression just a few years later and annexed large parts of Indian territory.”

Also Read: Muslim leaders not discarding ‘Sar Tan Se Juda’ philosophy — Hindu Right press on Udaipur killing

‘Bigotry being passed off as service to secularism’

Former BJP MP Balbir Punj, in an opinion piece for Hindustan Times, wrote that the Nupur Sharma case will “eventually become precedent, allowing mobocracy and bigotry on all sides to overrun rationality and reason”.

“Can India even stay a liberal society for long”, Punj asked, adding that values such as “conscience, and free speech” which he described as the “lynchpin of Indian civilisation”, are under threat. 

“The space for honest debate is getting restricted, and bigotry is being passed off as a service to secularism,” he wrote.

Punj also criticised observations made by a bench of the Supreme Court in connection with the Nupur Sharma case, writing: “The apex court not only repeated the charges of blasphemy, but also accused the beleaguered woman of being guilty of the gruesome beheading of Kanhaiya Kumar.”

‘Hindu unity is sole guarantee of free speech’

Hindu unity is the “sole guarantee of free speech, religious freedom and other Constitutional rights”, read an editorial in RSS-affiliated journal Organiser about the ‘Hindu Sankalp March’ held in Delhi on 9 July to highlight “attacks” against the community.

Organised by outfits like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the Bajrang Dal, the march from Mandi House to Jantar Mantar was also attended by BJP leaders Kapil Mishra and Tajinder Pal Singh Bagga.

“After the Ram Janmabhoomi movement, perhaps it was the first time that the nation witnessed this kind of Hindu strength on the roads,” read the editorial by Organiser editor Prafulla Ketkar.

It went further to add: “The judicial observations while hearing the petition filed by Nupur Sharma for clubbing all FIRs were perceived to encourage the Islamists, as they held Nupur Sharma responsible for beheading. There was an atmosphere of anger and frustration. Everyone believed that the threat of Islamic radicalisation was real and existential. 

“The show of unity and expressing concerns through placards and slogans sent a message nationwide.”

‘Sri Lanka allowed itself to be placed on the chopping block’

Organiser — the RSS-affiliated weekly journal — focused on the Sri Lankan economic crisis in its cover story written by Manish Anand, Strategic Affairs Editor of digital news outlet The Raisina Hills.

Commenting that “Islamic radicalism” and “dependency on China” are among the reasons that have pushed the island nation to the brink of economic collapse, Anand wrote: “By signing the BRI [Belt & Road Initiative] project with China, Sri Lanka had allowed itself to be placed on the chopping block.”

“Coupled with debt crisis, social unrest, Islamic radicalism and lopsided economic and farm policies brought the island nation to its knees,” the cover story read.

Another article on Sri Lanka in the same issue of the Organiser read: “The storming of the official and private residences of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe at Colombo recently could be a harbinger of many things that could happen in neighbouring India also.”

The article said that it was Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s assessment that “factories specialised in churning out misinformation campaigns” were responsible for his brother Mahinda’s electoral loss in the 2015 general election.

“They operate and function under the guise of civil rights and human rights organisations, NGOs, Leftists, Urban Naxalites, Christian evangelists, Islamic extremist organisations and of course the Left- dominated media,” it added.

(Edited by Amrtansh Arora)

Also Read: ‘Sena compromised fundamental ideology’ —what Hindu Right press wrote on Maharashtra crisis


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