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'We are being weakened and this is advantageous to our enemies'

By RASHME SEHGAL
December 29, 2021 08:24 IST
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'Instead of developing the capacity, capability and strength to fight our external enemies, we are turning our own people against each other.'

IMAGE: The three-day so-called 'Dharam Sansad' in Haridwar, December 19, 2021. Photograph: ANI Photo

The call for genocide of the entire 120 million Muslim population in India has sent shock waves within the country.

The Narendra Damodardas Modi government has so far not uttered a word of condemnation of such hate speech.

"Hindu identity is being used by cynical and largely ignorant people to seize power," Dr Ajai Sahni, executive director, Institute of Conflict Management tells Rediff.com Senior Contributor Rashme Sehgal.

The first of a two-part interview:

 

We are witnessing a quantum increase in hate speech directed against the minorities.
Recently we had a group in Haridwar demanding genocide and ethnic cleansing against the Muslim community.
A shapat ceremony took place in Delhi demanded we do away with the Constitution and India be made into a Hindu State.
What kind of fall-out will such toxic speech have on India?

It is going along a certain spectrum. In a sense, this is not new.

We have been actively encouraging hate speech in the last six to seven years through State institutions, through protection from the State, or through State indifference.

This has created a sense of complete impunity amongst those who are engaged in speech and also acts such as lynching, looting, rioting and other acts of violence.

Whereever they have occurred -- and they have occurred in many places including Delhi -- the rioters have gone unpunished.

In many cases, it was the victims who were punished and proceeded against by the police.

When you create a situation like this, I can only see further escalation, I do not see a reversal.

People keep talking about the role of civil society.

The State remains the most powerful institution in modern societies and if the State projects certain ideas and actions, these get embedded in the psyche.

It is very easy to see this in others but difficult to see it in us because it is a gradual process.

Look at the trajectory of Pakistan where the State adopted religion as a central tenet of its actions, we saw a slow process of a decay and degradation of all institutions in that country.

We don't see ourselves moving in the same direction because we are Hindus and they are Muslims.

But it does not work like that. Every faith which is followed with violence and blindness has the same consequences.

This is not about faith, but about religious identity.

No one is debating the morality that is implicit in Hinduism.

No one is talking about our true culture and civilisation.

They are simply saying we are Hindus. We are better than everyone else.

If anyone argues against this, they are beaten up or killed.

Are the Muslims not arguing this?

They are not arguing this in India, but they have made the same arguments in Pakistan.

In India, the Muslims at this juncture are an intimated minority.

They have taken a very defensive posture, but we cannot forget that Muslim supremacism has had a very long tradition including in India.

It may not have translated into political action because they do not control power.

Can you elaborate on this whole tenet of Muslim supremacism?

Islam is the only true faith and anyone who opposes it must be violently suppressed.

This is a deeply embedded idea in the Muslim world whereever there are Muslim majority countries.

The practice of other faiths is not allowed because they believe theirs is the only true faith and other faiths are an insult in God.

The reverse of this is that Hinduism is good, Islam is bad.

These are all fairy tales for which we kill people.

There is no true validity in any faith in the world if it does not convey the implicit morality in man.

This fairy tale is being used to consolidate power.

Hindu identity is being used by cynical and largely ignorant people to seize power.

Where do we find a debate on the content of Hinduism? The Hindutva brigade has three slogans and 'I will kill you if you don't repeat them'.

Have these people who are going on pontificating about Hinduism even read a Hindu text?

IMAGE: Student organisations protest the inflammatory and provocative speeches made at the so-called 'Dharam Sansad' in New Delhi, December 27, 2021. Photograph: ANI Photo

What are the national security consequences?

This is not only an issue of national security. Even more alarming are the mindsets being created through this hate campaign.

The deification of ignorance is being given a divine quality.

When this becomes embedded in the national psyche, when an anti-scientific attitude and irrationality becomes embedded, where are we going to progress from? Over time, all our institutions will become undermined.

How can we progress as a nation? Does Pakistan produced any scientists? Has Pakistan produced any outstanding works of social utility? Does it produce any technology. Nothing. And why?

They have spent the last 70 years saying you must read nothing but the holy book.

And if you read the book, you are a good man and if you murder people after that it is alright, you have read the book.

We are going in the same direction. We cannot see it because it is happening in a gradual manner.

Our educational institutions are being attacked in the same manner. They are being attacked by the same forces. They are being filled up with people with this mindsets.

What will that result in? It will destroy whatever little educational capabilities we have in this country. Our educational profile is very poor.

There is a way of rationality and there is a way of faith and they are diametrically opposed.

The way of faith is one will not ask questions and the essence of science is one keeps on asking questions, one questions everything including scientific laws.

If there is no social cohesion within a country, how will such a nation function?

The answer to this is no. We need to understand why this is happening. There are two categories of people who are supporting this imbecility.

One is the cynical group who have no interest in Hinduism.

It is a large category and they are exploiting these electoral faultlines in order to seize power.

The other group actually believe they are doing a good thing because this will help bind people in a single unifying identity, That would be possible somewhere else where there is a single shared identity.

The genius of this country and the reason why it has survived is the whole idea of unity in diversity.

We have to accept first and foremost that we are a very diverse people.

We have to build this into our national ethos.

This is not only a Hindu-Muslim issue.

We must understand the ethnic and linguistic alienation developing in other parts of the country as a result of this centralised dynamic being pushed through.

We are not a Hindi speaking nation.

Hinduism has many interpretations across the country.

We cannot force Hindus into a single mould.

We don't have a Bible, we do not have a single book or a single set of practises.

The cow is eaten in many parts of the country.

There are Hindu vegetarians and Hindu non vegetarians.

We cannot go around telling people they cannot eat meat.

What they are trying to restore is a kind of caste-based Brahmanism.

This should have been the first thing to have got rid of.

It has undermined and weakened this country and resulted in repeated conquests of our county.

We are being ethnically weakened and this is advantageous to our enemies.

Instead of developing the capacity, capability and strength to fight our external enemies, we are turning our own people against each other and creating millions of divisions in society by rejecting those who refuse to accept this majoritarian identity politics.

Feature Presentation: Aslam Hunani/Rediff.com

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