Union minister Venkaiah Naidu’s claim that BJP is not communal is at odds with party president Amit Shah’s vow to “remove every infiltrator in the country except Hindus, Buddhists and Sikhs”. Interestingly both these remarks came on the same day last week amidst the campaign of many BJP leaders pivoted around religion and national security which again is peppered with religion. In the last five years it was not unusual for BJP leaders to openly honour cow vigilantes accused of lynchings or utter slogans like ‘Ramzaade versus Haramzaade’ and ‘Bajrang bali versus Ali’ or for giving open calls to convert secular India into a Hindu rashtra. The BJP leaders including those in power have gone out of their way in legitimizing, amplifying and even lauding violence in the name of religion. The cacophony of such voices during an election season has become even louder. Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath countered the criticism of lynchers with the rhetoric of “attempt to curb the emotions of the people” to a resounding applause in the audience which also included one of the main accused in the Dadri lynching case.
No less than prime minister Narendra Modi drew flak for saying that Rahul Gandhi was contesting from a second seat in Wayanad in Kerala because he was scared of contesting from a Hindu majority constituency and that Congress had insulted the Hindus. His words were a clear appropriation of the entire religious majority of the country and dis-ownership and exclusion of all the minorities; they were also an appeal to the majority community to refrain from voting for Rahul Gandhi. The statement militates against the election related laws which clearly stipulate that no candidate can seek votes or ask electorate to refrain from voting for someone in the name of religion. After the Samjhauta Express blast accused including Swami Aseemanand were acquitted by a special court, the prime minister blared that “there is not a single incident in the history of thousands of years of Hindus engaging in terrorism?” CIA’s recent declaration of groups like VHP and Bajrang Dal as militant religious outfits is a rebuff to Modi’s claims. If groups like Al Qaeda and Jaish-e-Mohammed that propagate a militant and perverted interpretation of Islam are jihadists and Islamists, surely terror outfits perpetuating a hate-soaked version of Hinduism should be called ‘Hindu terrorists’. Such organisations have decades’ old history of involvement in acts of arson and violence right from the pre-partition days. Modi’s denial about Hindutva terror while going hammer and tongs about national security stems from a communal prejudice.
Now the BJP president, Amit Shah, has chosen to give a spin to the discourse of refugees by coining the ‘termites’ versus ‘Hindus, Buddhists and Sikhs’ paradigm. The remarks are a sequel to his previous remarks, a week before that BJP president Amit Shah made it clear that if elected, the party would amend citizenship laws on communal lines in order to favour “Hindus, Buddhist and Sikhs”. This would be in keeping with the party’s ideological position maintaining that these three religions have India as a birthplace, but Islam and Christianity have alien origins.
This position, however, militates against the constitutional values which defines Indian nation as comprising of “we the people” and not people placed in hierarchical orders as per their religious identities. The idea of nationhood of pan-Hinduism that spreads beyond the confines of Indian boundaries finds no place in the constitution. India’s immigration laws, howsoever stringent, make no distinction between applicants of different religious groupings. India is also not a signatory to international conventions on refugees but it has had a post-independence history of respecting these conventions without prejudice or favour to any community until the rise of Modi led BJP to power.
A day after Amit Shah’s utterances, Modi endorsed his views by vowing to bring Citizenship Amendment Bill back not just in Assam but in the entire country and promised to oust ‘infiltrators’ and protect ‘Hindus and Sikhs’ from neighbouring countries. So everybody other than Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists are being seen as ‘infiltrators’ whether they are bonafide citizens of the country or refugees.
With another union minister, Maneka Gandhi, resorting to communal blackmail while campaigning for elections, seeking votes from Muslims and threatening them that if they didn’t vote they will get no jobs or development, it appears the BJP is consciously on a roll in baring its Hindu supremacist ideology so brazenly. It is not only appalling but some of these statements are cognizable offences as per the constitution.
Use of religion in political speeches is not exclusive to BJP. Other parties and their leaders too have been playing this card from time to time. The recent case is of Mayawati playing the Muslim card in Deoband. But in the case of BJP, there is a consistent and repeated pattern of religion casting its shadow on every issue it speaks about. It is now more apparent that the 2014 talk of ‘vikas’ and ‘acche din’ was merely a cosmetic layer to bury the real and communal agenda for a while. The communal agenda is back as a centre-piece of their electioneering due to three different possibilities or all of them – they have miserably failed to deliver with respect to development and economy (much worse, destroyed and shattered it fully); secondly, BJP feels time is ripe to bring its real agenda out of the bag and press it into top gear as they are confident that such an agenda would have a wider majoritarian appeal; and thirdly, the party is jittery, sure of its rout and thus in a fit of cluelessness, it is simply behaving like a wounded tiger inflicting more harm on itself and others as well.
By making these communally provocative speeches, they are deepening polarization, making minorities insecure and emboldening Hindu militant bands and outfits to crackdown on minorities. The worst is that these words seek to redefine Indian nation-hood and citizenship, challenging the very legitimacy and legacy of constitutional secularism and its essence of egalitarian society. They are challenge to Indian democracy and its foundation of liberty, equality and plurality.
While BJP is harping obsessively about national security, what it is essentially doing is pitting up Indians against Indians. Their idea of nationalism is bereft of people other than the majority and their notion of national security is not about ensuring safety and protection of India’s citizens but divisive and dangerous. There is no other colour that the party is wearing this election season but only shades of communalism.