January 3, 2022 - 6:34 am

On The Brink 

    A recent so called 'religious conclave' held in the holy town of Haridwar December 17-19 witnessed brazen and open incitement to violence; inflammatory and provocative speeches by proponents of Hindutva, many of them leaders of religious organisations. Political parties and concerned citizens have termef these as 'hate speech' and demanded legal action against those involved in the propagation of hate and violence.

    Many of the speakers called for organised violence against Muslims and hinted at a Myanmar-type 'cleansing campaign'. There was a threat that if the government raised the formation of a 'Hindu Rashtra', there will be an 1857-like revolt against the state. Mahatma Gandhi was abused and his assassin Nathuram Godse received fulsome praise; a former PM was threatened with violence. In addition to this deeply disturbing event, there has emerged a worrisome sequence of incidents across the country, for instance, the repeated obstructions of Friday namaz in Gurugram, the disruption of Christian prayers and the vandalising of churches in Karnataka, Assam and Haryana.

    Rational politicians must realise that even if such repulsive and unethical ploys win them votes or elections, they would have created a socio-political Frankenstein's monster which will certainly comeback to devour them. As India struggles to cope with the triple-crises posed by covid-19, China's border incursions, and the economic downslide, we need to reflect upon the adverse impact that the persuit of majoritarianism is having on our heterogeneous society as well as on our security, well-being and international image. Over this volatile scenario, if we now superimpose religious/secretarian fratricidal conflicts, the cumulative threat could overwhelm India's security apparatus and bring us to the brink of disaster.

    But the thing about 2021 that has terrified us is not words, but the silence. The silence of our elected leaders who have not said one word to condemn the hate speech and the riots, the silent acquiescence of our police forces as they lathicharge people who demand action against hate, instead of the ones who spread the rapidly spread it. The rapidly spreading poison in our veins of hatred, suspicion and bigotry that makes no noise, but hardens our bodies into bombs that will explode one day, the sharpnel of which will fly in the air around us, and the winds of which will take decades to heal.

    Elections come and go, but India's ruling elite must recognise that in a multi-faith society like ours, religious polarization can cause irreparable damage to the fragile fabric of our nationhood. India's supreme national interest would be best served if we retain a sharp focus on unity and internal cohesion through assimilation, inclusivity and maintenance of domestic harmony; everything else is a distraction from the vital task of nation-building. If such wisdom dawns on them, there is still time for India to step back from the brink.