Divisiveness devouring diversity

By Author Geetartha Pathak   |   Published: 3rd Oct 2017   12:05 am Updated: 2nd Oct 2017   9:08 pm

The issues dominating our national discourse over the past few months are revolving around what Muslims do, what they eat, how they get divorced and how they are linked to Islamic terrorist organisations.

When the issue of Rohingya came up, our ruling politicians failed to first see the agony of the religiously persecuted ethnic group who are being brutally killed, whose houses were torched, whose women are raped and forced to leave Myanmar. They could only see the potential terrorists among the hungry rickety children, ailing seniors and the suffering people, who have lost their kin at the hands of Myanmar security forces.

Humanity has taken a backseat in the milieu of hatred and abhorrence. Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself failed to see the ruthless violence against the Rohingyas while he recently visited Myanmar. Instead, backing the territorial integrity of Myanmar, he issued a statement against the terrorist act of Rohingya militants.

Forgetting all our burning issues such as poverty, unemployment, sexual violence and gender discrimination, we are now investing all our energies in tearing society apart on casteist and religious lines. Our diverse society has been relegated to a majoritarian society. National chauvinism has raised its head to supplement the religious bigotry.

Unfounded Obsession

Our obsession with national flag and anthem has found a new ally – the US President who has asked the National Football League (NFL) owners to fire those players who do not stand up while the national anthem is played in protest against racial inequality and police brutality. The US President even did not hesitate to call such NFL players ‘son of a bitch’. We may now understand better why Donald Trump got a true friend in Modi.

The proposed amendment to the Indian citizenship Act to consider granting citizenship to persecuted religious groups other than Muslims in some of our neighbouring countries has a similar spirit with the US travel ban, which has now been extended indefinitely to six Muslim majority countries.

The BJP-led Assam government has adopted a new population policy to check the growth of Muslim population. Although nothing has been said about checking Muslim population in the 15-page Population Policy of Assam, the BJP Ministers vociferously argued during discussions on the population policy in the floor of Assam Assembly in September that if the State government did not check the rapid growth of Muslim population, the Hindus will be a minority in the State.

However, a comparison of the growth of Muslim population in the State as well as in the country over decades reveals that the growth of Muslims is fast declining than the Hindus, though the growth of Muslim population in the country is still higher than the Hindus. Union Health Minister JP Nadda stated in the Lok Sabha on December 11, 2015, that as the existing National Population Policy of 2000 is uniformly applicable to all irrespective of religions and communities etc, therefore no proposal was under consideration of the government to formulate a new uniform population policy.

If this is so, why the Assam government has formulated a new State population policy with a religious objective is not hard to understand if we take into account the present religious parameter to explain all the issues the nation is confronting with.

Without Proof

Former Chief Election Commissioner Hari Shankar Brahma is a learned man and knows better than anyone how the electoral system works in India. The Assam government constituted a committee for Protection of Land Rights of Indigenous People of Assam with Brahma as the head of the committee. In the interim report submitted by the committee, it is said that illegal Bangladeshis have a dominating presence in as many as 15 of the 33 districts of Assam. The committee also said that illegal Bangladeshi voters elected a Bangladeshi citizen as an MLA in the State.

The Brahma Committee could not produce any proof in support of its inflammatory observations targeting the Muslims, who had migrated from the erstwhile Bangladesh and are now bonafide citizens of India. While constituting the committee, the Governor asked it to suggest measures including modifications in Assam Land Reform Rules -1886 and other land laws for ensuring protection of land of indigenous people of Assam.

The committee did not suggest any such measures and modification. The same religious parameter was applied to explain the issue of protection of land rights of indigenous people.

In Assam, a section of politicians and national chauvinists see Bangladeshi citizen everywhere in the State, but no one has been able to spot them with evidence. The rightist forces have an edge in Assam because they can prosecute the Muslims, not as Muslims but as Bangladeshis.

No Other Views

It is unfortunate that three journalists were killed in three corners of the country in September. Gauri Lankesh was gunned down in Bangalore on September 5 and Santanu Bhowmik was hacked to death in Mandwai in Tripura on September 20. They were known for their anti-rightist stand.

Therefore, the line of suspicion points towards the involvement of rightists forces behind their murders. Again even the act of silencing the fourth estate has to be measured with the parameter of religion.

The killing of Mahatma Gandhi can also be explained with the same narrative. Lala Lajpat Rai wrote an article on the Hindu-Muslim problem in 1924. The opening sentence reads as -‘The Hindu-Muslim problem is the problem of India’.

Ninety-three years have passed by since then, the same problem has remained to be the main problem of India.

(The author is a senior journalist from Assam)