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Opinion

May 19, 2017

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Modi’s tears for Muslim women

Modi’s tears for Muslim women

The Machiavellian principle of ‘divide and conquer’ still works. In an interesting analysis in the Hindustan Times, Sunita Aron explains how the governing BJP managed to breach the Muslim vote bank in Uttar Pradesh.

Aron talks about the BJP preying on the so-called Muslim vote bank, which had been able to keep the party out of power since the demolition of the Babri Masjid at Ayodhya in 1992.

This is not a mean feat for a party that did not field a single Muslim candidate in the polls for the country’s largest state even for appearance sake and whose approach towards minorities – especially, the largest minority – remains no different from that of the Nazis towards the Jews.

By preying on the 20 percent of the Muslim population in the state, the Hindutva party took care of two birds with one stone.

One, it neutralised the power of the Muslim vote. Two, by making the Muslim vote totally irrelevant, the BJP has ostensibly deprived the secular parties of their crucial and dependable constituency. This is, perhaps, just as well as the minority community has – in the words of Asaduddin Owaisi, the firebrand leader of Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen – acted as the ‘coolie of Indian secularism’ by silently carrying its backbreaking burden all these years and getting nothing in return except brickbats from the right.

It is not just the Shia community that the BJP and its hydra-headed Parivar is targeting in order to undermine the unity of Muslim society. Hindutva groups have also been relentlessly targeting Muslim women by repeatedly raising the issue of the so-called triple talaq and demanding the imposition of Uniform Civil Code to ensure “justice for Muslim women”.

Indeed, the BJP has claimed that many Muslim women voted for it in the recent UP polls because it “champions” their rights.    In typical saffron doublespeak, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has appealed to the media and his own party to not “politicise” the issue of triple talaq. This when he and his party miss no opportunity or platform to rake up the issue again and again, taking pot shots at Muslim society and, by extension, on the faith that it professes.

While Indian Muslim society is not perfect, Hindu society is not exactly in a position to lecture on women’s empowerment either.          Every year thousands of young Hindu brides are burnt alive for dowry or simply because their spouses and in-laws got bored of them and decided to get rid of them as Hinduism doesn’t recognise divorce.

It is touching to see the prime minister shed tears over the “plight of Muslim mothers and sisters”. But can someone who deserted his young wife and still refuses to acknowledge her existence after all these years really pontificate about the rights of Muslim women?

Where were these tears when Muslim women were being raped and burnt alive en masse in Gujarat under the BJP rule in 2002? A pregnant Bilkis Bano, in whose case the Bombay High Court pronounced its verdict earlier this month, was gang-raped and her young baby, along with 11 members of her family, were butchered right before her eyes during the infamous 2002 Gujarat pogrom.

The Bombay High Court has been magnanimous enough to sentence the killers to life imprisonment. Only a day later, the rapists and killers of Jyoti Singh aka Nirbhaya in the infamous Delhi rape case were handed a death sentence by the Supreme Court. Although these are two crimes of a similar nature, both verdicts remain dissimilar. But what is new? From Afzal Guru to Yaqub Memon and from Swami Aseemanand to Sadhvi Pragya, it seems there are two standards of justice in the country.        Some are more equal.

The BJP is also targeting the Muslim community from yet another quarter, by reaching out to the substantial constituency of backward or ‘pasmanda’ Muslims in the North India.

Sabir Ali, a former MP and once the Janata Dal’s Muslim face in Bihar, has been leading these calibrated efforts to woo this constituency, a majority of which remain concentrated in UP and Bihar. The ‘pasmanda’ Muslims are desperately poor and illiterate and, therefore, vulnerable. They toil for peanuts in industries and crafts that had once been India’s pride – the weavers of the fabled Benares silk and workers in various metal industries across the Gangetic Belt.

Ali convened one such conference for his new masters under the aegis of the Bharatiya Muslim Pichchda Warga Sammelan in Delhi last week. The BJP has planned at least 100 such ‘outreach’ programmes and two major rallies across the country in the next few months to drive home the message that it is the protector of the backward Muslims’ interests.

Clearly, the party is looking to outdo its performance in the 2014 polls, wiping out what remains of the Congress and other opposition parties.

Nothing and no one would then stand in the Parivar’s way from enforcing its fascist agenda of one religion and one culture at the expense of others.

What is most disturbing about this whole situation is that few people – including other minorities, like Christians, Sikhs and Buddhists, and oppressed communities, such as Dalits – seem to be aware of the existential threat that these forces represent and what it would mean for the future of the secular democracy and the idea of an inclusive and progressive India with myriad identities, cultures and faiths that we inherited.

As Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the visionary first prime minister of India, repeatedly cautioned, the majoritarian communalism represented by Hindutva would be the end of India.

If the country becomes a Hindu Rashtra of Golwalkar’s and Savarkar’s dreams, it would not just be a catastrophe for Muslims and other religious minorities but would also be an epic tragedy and a great injustice to the followers of Hinduism – a great, peaceful and all-embracing religion that celebrates the diversity of life itself.

Hindutva’s idea of Hinduism is what happened to Mahatma Gandhi and what we have been witnessing over the past couple of years across the country through the rising attacks on minorities and Dalits and the reign of terror unleashed in the name of all that is holy.

If merely having their party in power could do this to the foot soldiers of the Parivar, imagine what they are capable of unleashing if the country is declared a Hindu Rashtra.

What makes no sense is that more and more Dalits and other backward communities are backing the same forces that have sanctioned centuries of unimaginable oppression and dehumanisation against them. The BJP won in UP and elsewhere in the country largely using this improbable coalition of upper caste Hindus, backwards and Dalits – something that the Congress had once managed. This is doubtless the success of the BJP and Modi’s massive propaganda machinery and clever tactics.

This is not just a battle of survival for Muslims – who are chiefly in the line of fire. This is an all-out war on the very idea of a democratic and secular India. And it will not stop with Muslims. They would come for the Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Dalits and everyone else who is seen and dares to be different.

It is, therefore, unfortunate that other minorities and even moderate, reasonable Hindus remain silently spectators in the face of the unfolding witch-hunt and terrorising of Muslims. The time to speak up and act is now before the mob comes for them. Before it is too late.

The writer is an award-winning journalist.

Email: [email protected]

 

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