To reject community hatred as “only” an electoral tool is to miss the big picture
Academics and political observers say we should understand the recent wave of hate campaigns and violence against Muslims and Christians in Gurgaon, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and elsewhere in the context of upcoming elections in states like the UP, Uttarakhand and Goa. They explain the communal pitch as a ploy by the Bharatiya Janata Party to distract voters from the real problems of inflation, unemployment, hunger, etc. And they advise us not to panic because this communitarianism, even if it is not welcome, is understandable as an electoral strategy of the BJP to constitute a majority.
Normalcy will return once the elections are over, they believe. We are asked not to read too much the statements of the Union Minister of the Interior referring to the false story of an âexodusâ of Hindus from Kairana, or to the false claim of the Chief Minister of the Interior. UP that all ration supplies were monopolized earlier by Muslims. , or the invocation of Aurangzeb or Ghazi Salar by the prime minister. It’s just the BJP trying to rally its constituents.
One never wonders why, if only to mobilize Hindu voters, the BJP and its leaders must cultivate anti-Muslim hatred. Can they not attract to the voting booth a Hindu who is not driven by anti-Muslim hatred? Other parties also need voters. Why don’t they have to create an “outer group” that conflicts with their “inner group”?
The argument that this is temporary and will pass is easy and has been denied by BJP leaders. They know that in order for anti-Muslim hatred to appear genuine in the eyes of the electorate, it must become a routine exercise in everyday life. We cannot talk about it only in election campaigns and then forget about it. Voters must be turned into usual Muslim skeptics, if not into active enemies.
To understand this we have to see how Assam is torn into two enemy groups, unfortunately by none other than the Chief Minister of State himself. Khilaunjiya or natives, and foreigners or “infiltrators” – to be decoded by its voters as Hindus and Muslims. Those who thought this was just an electoral strategy to mobilize a majority for his party should realize that the election is long overdue. The CM is safe in his seat. There is no insecurity that should force him to resort to this brahmastra.
Why did he set out to drive a wedge between Hindus and Muslims, to create and keep alive a fear of Muslims in the minds of Hindus? He also cleverly incites violence against Muslims, in thinly veiled language that is not difficult for his electorate to decipher – especially with the kind of political and cultural ethics embedded in this tension of Assamese nationalism struggling against anti-immigrant hatred. He knows that the Assam BJP is the current benefactor of the anti-Bangladeshi sensibilities cultivated by Assamese nationalists for over a century.
Recently, Himanta Biswa Sarma made a statement that should have drawn reproach and disgust, but which was applauded by the media in Assam. The setting was Gorukhuti in Darrang district, the place where two civilians were shot and where the image of an official cameraman kicking a dying Muslim farmer shocked the world. But the conscience of the prime minister remained unshakeable; he rationalized the killings and said the campaign against the “invaders” must continue. He, the chief minister of Assam, the man in charge of the welfare of those killed, did not have a word of condolence for their families. Instead, he asked why they protested.
Months after the brutality, he indirectly referred to the killings, saying it was an act of revenge for a past “atrocity”: “In 1983, young Assamese boys were murdered in Darrang district … these deaths.
In Assam, after the failure of the National Registry of Citizens’ campaign to “eliminate” Muslims from the Axomiya universe, the “legal” and secular method of an anti-encroachment campaign is used to expel Muslims from their lands . The chief minister says the land belonged to the Assamese and was taken from them by the “illegal” people. He is now returning it to the legitimate Assamese people.
The chief minister would like the Hindus to believe that it is not only the lands but also other occupations which are taken away from them, by the Muslims. In his speech book, Eta Xopunor Pom Khedi, he claims that under the leadership of Badruddin Ajmal, who started institutions like Super Sixty, a “conspiracy” is underway to wrest the seats of medicine, education and engineering from us. He says that taking advantage of the lack of interest of young Assamese to become pharmacists, nurses and laboratory technicians, “they” entered (these professional courses). He warns readers that today “they” have entered various technical professions, taking advantage of the unwillingness to work of the Assamese youth. Gradually, the âMiyasâ are strengthening their position by entering the mainstream of our social and economic life, he writes (this is a loose translation of his words).
Who are they ” ? Why should an educational company be condemned as a plot to snatch jobs from Hindus? It is true that he never says Hindus or Muslims, but the listener or reader gets the message. Why should his electorate be warned that if one Assamese compatriot in particular, Ajmal, becomes the chief minister, which is his constitutional right if elected with a majority, it will be judgment day for the Assamese? Why should Muslims be criminalized?
The case of Assam teaches us that anti-Muslim hatred is not only instrumental and cannot remain temporary – it is a political and social pathology. It must be made a socio-political practice. It’s not just in events of community violence like 2002 or 2013, when people’s personal identities dissolve into community identity. Now, through speeches, small-scale violence and their advertising, the target group becomes homogenized, depersonalized and dehumanized, fueled by the passions of hatred.
Sudhir Kakar, in his book Colors of violence, notes that love for one’s own group is often accompanied by immense hatred for the group they despise. This duality of love and hate has its function. For those who hate, the function is to maintain a psychological distance from the enemy. The enemy in this sense, as Kakar notes, is the “reservoir of our unwanted selves and negative feelings” and “when the importance of one’s religious and cultural group increases markedly, the feelings of love linked early identifications are reborn, as do the hatred and rage associated with the targets of outsourcing â.
This targeted violence against Muslims has not yet been able to elicit a reaction from Muslims with hatred or violence. Ironically, this has not led to introspection on the part of those Hindus under the influence of Hindutva but to a confidence that the hatred and violence of Hindutva organizations is justified, if not why those targeted do not protest- they don’t? The silence of Muslims after the adoption of the new law which criminalizes invalid divorce (but only by Muslim men and not by men of other faiths) or the unjust judgment of Babri Masjid has further fueled the recklessness of the Hindutva . We need to recognize that this hatred and violence is real and will eventually divide India, first as a society and then as a nation state.
Apoorvanand teaches Hindi at the University of Delhi. Suraj Gogoi is a PhD candidate in Sociology at the National University of Singapore and tweets at @char_chapori.