Asghar Ali Engineer
(Secular Perspective April 1-15, 2009)
Varun Gandhi delivered hate speech from his proposed constituency Pilibhit in U.P. to exploit Hindu sentiments for votes. He said the hand which rises against Hindus, Varun Gandhi will cut it by Geeta! The district Police officers did not take any action for this hate speech and Varun got standing ovation from his audience. But the Central Election Commission took prompt action and served Varun Gandhi show cause notice and also served notice to the BJP. BJP at the time maintained that Varun Gandhi was yet not its candidate and so how could CEC serve it a notice. The meeting was conducted under BJP’s election symbol so how could BJP wriggle out from its responsibility?
In fact looking historically it was T.N. Seshan who had started imposing election norms and before him Central Election Commission often neglected such utterances by politicians and no action used to be taken, however violative of election rules those utterances were. Thus hate speeches thrived by communal forces whose main strategy was to polarize Hindu and Muslim votes and win elections. This has been weakest point of our secular democracy.
Secular democracy cannot be come strong unless certain norms are rigorously observed. The Indian state has been quite soft on corruption, communalism, casteism and criminalization of politics. The reason is all political parties, especially national mainstream parties, resort to it. It is very unfortunate for Indian democracy that instead of politicians bureaucrats have to impose these norms. Politicians play it soft as far as possible and hence the rot went deeper and deeper.
The worst example was unfortunately set by the Congress Prime Minister Narsimha Rao during the BJP’s Ramjanambhoomi Babri Masjid campaign. The BJP employed several hate speech deliverers like Ms. Uma Bharti, Sahvi Rithambara and others and they delivered most provocative speeches and no action was taken. When some Congress politicians brought these speeches to his notice he is reported to have said non-chalantly it is best to ignore it.
But for this non-chalant attitude, Ramjanambhoomi campaign would not have polarized Hindus and Muslims as never before. In fact in India secularism has never gone deeper into our political life and democracy has never become tool for people’s power, but for politicians’ power and hence politicians use it to grab power for themselves, even if it weakens secularism and democracy both in the process.
Thus in last sixty years democracy has undoubtedly struck roots but politicians have become more powerful as a result and people weaker and weaker. It is strange irony but true. Secularism is practiced by all but in name by politicians. No sooner than they sign a declaration that they believe in secularism and democracy, they proceed to tear them to smithereens in their speeches. This goes on election after election.
T.N.Seshan, a bureaucrat, began taking action and whole nation felt happy, if not grateful, to him. He thus set ball rolling and subsequent election commissioners further tightened the screw. The present action against Varun Gandhi was prompt and effective. However, Constitutionally speaking election commission has its own limits. It can only recommend certain action, cannot enforce it.
In this case election commission recommended to the BJP not to nominate Varun Gandhi as its candidate. Earlier BJP had maintained, as already pointed out that Varun is still not our candidate but now it began to say what authority election commission has to ask us not to nominate Varun as our candidate and proceeded to nominate him from Pilbhit. Not only that BJP also started saying that all this is due to Congress conspiracy through Nawin Chawla, who is one of the Commissioners and soon will be taking over as Chief Election Commissioner when the present incumbent retires in April. When Election Commission took action, Mayavati Government was also compelled to arrest Varun Gandhi and even apply National Security Act to court Muslim voters in UP.
Thus instead of proving its ‘secular credentials’ as the BJP claims to have, it justified Varun’s hate speech and threw table on the Congress as conspiring through Nawin Chawla. Varun Gandhi, on the other hand, began to say the CD presented to the election commission is ‘doctored one. This doublespeak on the part of Varun Gandhi, saying one thing to his Hindu electorate, and something else before legal authorities, has become a normal practice for our politicians.
It is because elections are nothing but power game. Even for ideological parties like the BJP conviction matters the least and it is not power to promote ideology but ideology to promote power. The Congress is no exception. If power becomes the end, not only democracy but also people who suffer. It is result of such politics that people of India have suffered immensely in the form of communal holocaust.
All major riots that have taken place in India since Jabalpur riot in 1961 to Gujarat riots of 2002, would not have taken place, if state had implemented the laws prevalent in the country. Highly provocative speeches are made to prepare atmosphere for a major communal carnage to suit political parties and no action is ever taken. Result? The people, especially minorities pay with their lives.
And those who participate in perpetrating riots go not only scot-free but roam around freely threatening the survivors not to file any complain or not to cooperate with inquiry commission and so on. No action has still been taken against the culprits of Mumbai riots of 1992-93 though Srikrishna Commission dug out the truth quite painstakingly. One Farooque Mapkar, who was shot by the police sub-inspector Kapse during 1992-93 Bombay riots got justice after 18 long years that too due to the Supreme Court intervention.
In Gujarat riots too, justice would not have been possible without the Supreme Court intervention and still many culprits have not been caught. It appears the judiciary runs our country’s administration rather than the government as politicians are themselves perpetrators of these crimes or quite reluctant to take action for political reasons. What is more unfortunate is that civil society itself is polarized and our politicians are deeply interested in keeping the civil society deeply divided so that they can easily return to power.
What is the remedy then? Remedy of course are the people themselves. Unless they reject communal and caste-ridden politics politicians will continue to fragment them more and more. Also it is for committed intellectuals and social activists to work tirelessly among people and expose how politicians use their religion against them. Religion is something which is borne out of ones heart and soul, not out of ones politics.
Varun Gandhi who talked of cutting hands of those who raise them against Hindus, let us ask him what will he do to the hands of those Hindus who raise it against Hindus themselves. In Maharashtra when Navnirman Marathi speaking Hindus of Sena was raising its hands against Hindi speaking Hindus where was he and in that case whose hands would he have broken?
And let Mr. Varun Gandhi also know, if he does not know already that it is not non-Hindus (Muslims, as he means) but it is Hindus like him whose hands are rising against Muslims and Christians. What he proposes to do about those hands? It is so unfortunate that Mahatma Gandhi strengthened unity of our country through tolerance and respect for all religions in India and it is Gandhi like Varun, is trying to break it for a crumb of power.
India is great and will grow greater through love and respect for all its people. Varun Gandhis will come and go like straws flowing with wind of hatred our people of India have endured through great storms and consolidated its unity. What a pity that a youth who should have been inspired by the ideals of love and unity, is burning with hatred and destroying our unity.
We have seen what hate politics has brought to Pakistan where religious hatred has reduced society to violent turmoil. Let us remember when religious hatred is used as a tool for power consequences are very severe for people of that religious community itself, as we are witnessing in Pakistan. All great religions of the world have taught hatred destroys and love and respect builds.
Varun Gandhi is perhaps too young to understand this and also let us remember Varun is but a tool. The real ideology of hatred is being spread by RSS through its powerful propaganda machinery. RSS describes Islam and Christianity as foreign religions and keeps hatred alive against these religions. Islam and Christianity after centuries of existence are as much Indian religions as Hinduism, Sikhism and Jainism. Both religions have contributed richly to our Indian culture.
Today RSS ideology is trying to obliterate our rich composite culture and promote ‘pure’ Hindu culture. Such attempts in bewilderingly diverse India can never succeed. It is this we have to understand and instead work to further enrich our composite culture by adding to it the elements of modern secular democratic culture.
Centre for Study of Society and Secularism
Mumbai: – 400 055.