A blatant instance of discrimination against Muslims by Hindutva rulers is playing out at a school in Karnataka’s Bidar region. The school’s staff, pre-adolescent students and even some parents are being subjected to repeated questioning, arrests and threats of arrest by the police. The trigger is that they staged a play in which the Prime Minister was allegedly criticised for his government’s policy of religion-based determination of citizenship. Fareeda Begum, a widow whose eleven-year-old child performed in the play, has been arrested for “sedition”. Others also possibly face sedition charges in this case. Children have been asked questions by the state police at least four times over the staging of this play.
Yet, if one turns one’s attention to the Delhi elections, the actual masterminds of polarisation of Indian society are campaigning away, untouched by the law. The Hindutva footsoldiers—who include prominent leaders, former ministers, and others—are insistently heaping provocative, threatening, communal and abusive taunts in the Capital, but face no action.
The likes of Anurag Thakur, Kapil Mishra and Parvesh Verma are out in the open. On Wednesday, the Election Commission of India once again banned Parvesh Verma from campaigning in the ongoing Delhi elections—just for a day. This slap on the wrist is nothing considering his offence, which was to call the Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal a “terrorist”. The light penalty, if any at all, is one reason why Hindutva leaders today never bother to camouflage their hate for the ‘Other’.
This trend did not begin in Delhi. The law-enforcement wings of government had enough time to take action against them, had they wanted to. For instance, Ananth Kumar Hedge said in early 2019 that “hands that touch Hindu girls should be chopped off.” Earlier, he had said that until Islam exists, terrorism will not end. Yet, he remains untouched by the law.
In 2018, right wing Member of Parliament Vinay Katiyar said that all Indian Muslims ought to go Pakistan. In 2017, Sakshi Maharaj, another Member of Parliament, unleashed untruths about the prevalence of polygamy among Muslims. In 2016, the communal speeches of the BJP Member of Parliament from Fatehpur Sikri, Babu Lal, and Agra Member of Parliament, Ram Shankar Katheria, who was then the Union Minister of State for Human Resources Development, made news. But no accusations of being ‘terrorists’ was levelled against the duo. Both were hell-bent on publicly humiliating the minority community, going to the extent of calling them “descendants of Ravana”.
Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti heaped abuses on the entire Muslim community in 2013, which set the Hindutva abuse ball rolling, which has never stopped since then. Sangeet Som is another such BJP leader. He is a reminder that hate speech is not without consequences. This man is implicated in the Muzaffarnagar riots of 2013 and also accused of stoking communal tension in Bisada village in Uttar Pradesh’s Gautam Buddh Nagar district after the killing of Mohammed Akhlaq. Soon after that incident, when the minority community was already fearful and angry, BJP old-timer Vijay Goel made disparaging remarks about the hijab.
BJP MLA from the Goshamahal constituency in Hyderabad, T Raja Singh, has referred to Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Ajay Singh Bisht (aka Yogi Adityanath), as a “strong” regime and “Baap ki sarkar”. He used the phrase as he sought to threaten those who oppose the construction of a temple at the site of the Babri masjid in Ayodhya. India will become a Hindu nation by 2024, according to Uttar Pradesh BJP MLA Surendra Singh, who also declared that all those who do not say ‘Bharat Mata ki jai’ are Pakistanis. The list of ruling party members threatening Indian Muslims is very long. Yet each of them is carrying on with their politics without any restrictions.
A whole new generation of Muslim-haters is being trained, nurtured and tutored. They are coming out, one by one, to attack and kill, while their masters lead ‘goli maaro’—shoot them—chants. Arms training camps are being organised by the Hindutva outfits for their cadres. Children are being exposed to communal texts in schools. Several years back, the former Delhi University professor Nalini Taneja had spoken of the communally-laced and twisted history being taught in the RSS-run schools. She had read aloud several provocative passages from the text books used in these schools.
History, for the Sangh Parivar, is nothing but a sectarian agenda to declare the “Aryans” the “original” inhabitants of India, who get the sole rights to lay down the law in India. The other aim of their history-writing is to paint the ancient period of Indian history as a Golden Age of “Hindu rule”. In this historiography, the arrival of Mughals brought darkness and cruelty to this part of the world for the first time.
In the Hindutva world-view, Hedgewar, Golwalkar and Savarkar are amongst the greatest freedom fighters. While the Muslims are painted as outsiders and traitors, Hinduism is declared as synonymous with nationalism. This view also staunchly defends the caste system with all its iniquities, along with child marriage and the outlawed practice of Sati or burning alive of widows on the funeral pyres of their husbands.
As others have pointed out, Hindutva supremacists have in the past castigated women who oppose Sati as “bazaari auratein” who know nothing about “purity” or the desire to commit Sati. The late Vijayaraje Scindia, as a senior BJP leader, had publicly defended Sati as a cultural heritage. Women activists were also described as lacking respect for Hindu religion, who espoused Western modes of living and had loose morals and who frequented clubs, drank, and so on...
In 2016, the former IIT Mumbai professor Ram Puniyani detailed other ideas that are taught in RSS-run schools. “RSS has single-teacher schools, known as Ekal Vidyalayas, and Shishu Mandirs. The pattern of authoritarianism between teachers-taught, senior-junior is very rigid in them. The main value promoted is conformism. The text books are structured around the mythical superiority of Hinduism... Caste is presented as having given stability to society, Muslim kings are presented as cruel... Hatred for religious minorities is drilled into the children.”
Why should Indian Muslims be called traitors and rapists by the rulers of the day? Considering how damaging it is to the social fabric, it is these Hindutvadi men and women who should be arrested and stopped from making outrageous and polarising remarks—and from contesting elections.