Threats to Democracy and Secularism: Part 1/4—From Hindu consolidation

Rohit Dhankar

Part 1: Direct threat of Hindu Consolidation

On 17th July according to a news item in Hindustan Times Ashok Singhal issues a thinly veiled threat to Muslims, saying “[I]f they keep opposing Hindus, how long can they survive?” Less than four weeks later Mohan Bhagwat declared that “[T]he cultural identity of all Indians is Hindutva”. These kinds of statements are not sporadic, they make a thought through pattern. What has appeared in small news reports in the above mentioned two cases is worth paying attention to for their carefully crafted mix of truths, misinformation, acceptable principles and totally condemnable intentions.

Indian liberal attitude to such pronouncement is not helping. The liberals either condemn all in such statements simply on the basis of their origin or ignore them considering beneath their dignity to respond to such rubbish. Neither of these attitudes help; the first simply makes them look like totally biased anti-Hindu, and the second leaves the Hindutva forces free to manipulate public opinion. Also, both these attitudes undermine the importance of dialogue in public life; thereby destroying the only means of countering propaganda available to them.

I would like to take whatever information is available to me seriously in this article and analyse these statements in order to shift acceptable from condemnable.

Ashok Singhal

Singhal presents his analysis of Indian politics. According to him the Lok Shabha polls have proved that Hindu polarisation can win elections without Muslim support, that it is a setback to Muslim politics and that if the rift between Hindus and Muslims continues further polarisation at the level of states will happen. He also claims that Ram temple movement and Godhra incident have made this possible.

It seems to me that this understanding is earthy, simple and accurate. Those who are still denying Hindu polarisation are deluded. In spite of calling Muslim polarisation a myth the public at large believed in it. The political parties bending backwards to play vote bank politics and willing participation of Muslim religious leaders in their politics did not help dispel the myth of Muslim vote consistently going in favour of a certain brand of politics, even if not to a single party. The repeated calls for consolidation of secular votes did not help; it only aided to the call for Hindu consolidation by Sangh parivar. And Lok Sabha polls are certainly a setback to this brand of politics.
Singhal does not stop here; he also insinuates that the Muslim politics was being used by “foreign and divisive forces to destroy our identity”. This is his Hindutva card, the Sangh Parivar has created a victimhood mentality in the sizable Hnidu population. A selective use of history of what is still called Muslim era in Indian history, partition and repeated communal riots are used for this purpose. The Muslim is being painted as ‘the enemy within’ and the seculars have not been able to counter the canard.

The confidence generated by the fact that Modi has been a RSS swayam sevak and that the BJP has majority on its own is belligerently expressed. Singhal expresses confidence that the Sangh Parivar agenda of Ram Temple, uniform civil code and abolition of article 370 will be implemented. Let’s note here that the latter two of these demands have their independent justification in a democracy and to support them one does not need to be a Hindu communalist. Declaring all those who consider these later demands reasonable and debatable in a democracy as communal people will help the Sangh Parivar; the mistakes which secularists have been making for last 50 years.

The majoritarianism in the statement is unmistakable. The cursory promise that “Muslims will be treated as common citizens — nothing more, nothing less” is immediately bellied by the threat that “they must learn to respect Hindu sentiments. If they keep opposing Hindus, how long can they survive?” In his thinking it is the Muslim who has to learn to respect Hindu sentiment, and not vice-versa. No such reciprocity is demanded from the majority community. The love that the Muslims will get from the Sangh Parivar is conditional in respect of their sentiments and giving up “claims over Ayodhya, Kashi and Mathura and also accept a uniform civil code”. If they do accept, no further demands on Masjids that according to Snghal are built by Muslim rulers in medieval era on Hindu temples be made. And then comes the threat: if they don’t, further consolidation of Hindus will happen. Consolidation of Hindus in the light of “[I]f they keep opposing Hindus, how long can they survive?” is as ominous a threat as could be.

Singhal here is not talking of dialogue, resolving of issues through negotiations, this is no commitment to democracy; it is a statement of terms in a belligerent manner and a direct threat.

If this cursory analysis is correct then Singhal’s statement is based on an earthy understanding of politics, contains threats, is belligerent, makes a pretention of democratic values, and has a mix of legitimate and illegitimate demands. The legitimate ones, perhaps, to serve as smoke-screen and tools of manipulation.

[next ideological threat]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: