Polarisation on religious basis is gaining ground in the country and this is resulting in violence in states like Assam, Manipur, Uttarakhand and Maharashtra. All this is the outcome of continuous bombardment of hate speeches and manipulation of public opinion.
This may help some political parties to consolidate their political ambitions in electoral politics, but it causes great damage to individuals, families and the country on an overall basis.
Manipur is still burning, even after the much delayed visit of Union Home Minister Amit Shah to the state after he finished campaigning for the Karnataka Legislative Assembly elections.
There have been numerous incidents of violence in Manipur, but the worst was the incident where a woman, who had married a Kuki, was burnt alive in an ambulance in Imphal, along with her seven-year-old son and another relative, even as she pleaded for mercy. The Superintendent of Police posted in the area fled from the spot instead of trying to save them. Peace seems to be far in Manipur, with the continued attacks on Kuki tribe members, who are mostly Christians.
In Uttarakhand, Muslim shopkeepers have been asked to vacate their shops and close their businesses, before June 15, when the Mahapanchayat is to meet in Uttarkashi. The “directive” has come in the form of posters put up in parts of Uttarkashi and attributed to Devbhumi Raksha Samiti. The posters came up after a Muslim boy and a Hindu girl, who had planned to elope, were apprehended by locals. The girl, a minor, was sent home and the boy was handed over to the police, along with another male accomplice. Local Hindutva leaders branded it as “love jihad”, culminating in the threat to Muslims to vacate their shops.
While all this is happening in North and North East India, closer home there has been violence in Kolhapur, over the WhatsApp status of some individuals. Hindutva organisations in Kolhapur called for a Kolhapur bandh to protest against the photos of Mughal ruler Aurangzeb and Tipu Sultan. Of late there is increased opposition by Hindu fanatic organisations to any programme related to Tipu Sultan.
The problem in most parts of the world is that an abysmal minority in a community decides how others should live and that often leads to conflict, as is seen in the case of the Kolhapur incident.
There is a vast difference in a post on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, as by and large the posts are in the public domain, while posts on WhatsApp are visible only to individuals who are either part of a group or in the contact list of the person who puts a display picture or posts a visual or comment on the status, thus making it more or less private. As such it is nobody’s business as to what someone posts on a WhatsApp status. If it was on the status of a group, the members objecting to any post have the choice of requesting the admin to remove it or to leave the group; but that cannot be a reason to call a city bandh and indulge in violence, leading to damage to property and injuries to humans.
The violence over the post went on for nearly 24 hours, with thousands of supporters of Hindutva organisations coming out in the open and pelting shops and public property with stones. The police seemed a bit slow in nipping the violence in the bud.
The nature of the violence and the gathering of thousands of men in a matter of minutes gives the impression that the reaction to the post was planned and that too well in advance. It also shows that these are lumpen elements, who are easily manipulated on the basis of religion or caste.
The opposition to Aurangzeb can be understood, if it is on the grounds that he was a foreign invader. If that is the case, there should be equal opposition to anything to do with the British, who ruled India the longest. But at this stage that is not the agenda, as it is in the interest of some to oppose anything related to the Mughals, the hidden motive being to create an anti-Muslim environment.
Over the years, there has been a consistent campaign to manipulate such people and to create a fear in their minds that there is a threat to their survival from the Muslims. With limited abilities to think independently and to analyse situations to find the truth, they fall prey to such manipulation and are ever willing to protest or indulge in violence at the slightest provocation, as is seen in Kolhapur.
Such incidents are bad per se, but it is shocking that this has happened in Kolhapur, which has a long history of communal harmony thanks to the influence of Chhatrapati Shahu Maharaj. But it is in the interest of certain political parties to consolidate the polarisation, as that is the only way the parties stand a chance to have electoral success, having failed to live up to the promises made in the previous elections and after failing the people on various fronts. This is seen from the results of the Legislative Assembly elections in Himachal Pradesh and recently in Karnataka.
There is a grave need for saner minds to prevail among the Hindus and the Muslims. The former should refrain from provocation and the latter should not fall prey to it.
The author is a senior journalist and media trainer. He tweets at @a_mokashi
(We are on WhatsApp. To get latest news updates, Join our Channel. Click here)