BJP on Religious Persecution — Pot Calling the Kettle Black

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Activists of the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) hold placards during a protest against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill.

Abdul Bari Masoud | Caravan Daily

NEW DELHI — Questioning  the very basis of  the allegations vis-à-vis ‘minority’ persecution in neighbouring countries raised by the ruling BJP as the reason for bringing the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill or CAB,  prominent activists and leaders on Tuesday questioned the RSS-BJP’s track record in this respect. This allegation was one of “the pot calling the kettle black,” they said.

“India’s track-record in persecution of religious minorities is not good,” they noted and termed the controversial bill “a direct assault” on Indian Constitution and an act of discrimination, which would “lower the status of the country” at the international level.

Totally disregarding the all-round condemnations, strong protests and vociferous opposition inside and outside Parliament, the BJP-led central government got through the controversial Citizenship Bill in the lower house of Parliament. The justification for the bill, given in Parliament by Union home minister Amit Shah went thus: “If the minorities are getting persecuted in neighbouring countries, we cannot be mute spectators. We have to ensure their safety and dignity.”

Countering this, activists said India could not take pride in the matter of treatment of religious minorities, as far as their safety and dignity were concerned. “The BJP and the RSS had no moral right to speak on this issue, as commission after commission which inquired into anti-Muslim and anti-Christian riots had indicted the RSS and its ‘parivar’.”

Noted intellectual and activist Prof Apoorvanand said the reasoning by the home minister was flawed. He told Caravan daily that India’s track record with religious minorities was no better than those of the neighbouring countries. “The largest Muslim minority is yet to get justice in several riot cases. There were innumerable incidents of communal violence including the Mumbai(1992-93), Bhagalpur, Jabalpur and Gujarat riots,  the Moradabad, Ahmadabad riots, but unfortunately Muslims did not get justice in the matter of such cases,” he said.

Citing the Babri Masjid verdict, he said even the judiciary was not with the Muslims as it did not do justice to them in the Babri Masjid case. Despite all these, Muslims remained in the country, they never thought of leaving their motherland, which showed their love and faith in the people of this country, he said.

Calling the CAB bill as “unconstitutional and discriminatory in nature,” prominent Muslim figure Dr. S Q R Ilyas spoke on the same lines — that the explanation given by the home minister that the minorities are facing discrimination and exploitation in Muslim countries, is not based on facts.

Dr Ilyas, who heads the Welfare Party, said the Modi government has no moral right to talk on persecution of minorities elsewhere. While reminding the nation of what Modi and Shah did during the 2002 Gujarat riots, he said: “Since this government came to power in 2014, violent attacks on Muslims, Christians and Dalits and other weaker sections have increased manifold and the culprits went scot-free.

“Muslims and other minorities are also facing discrimination and attack on their life and property, but they are not leaving their country and fighting all these democratically and legally,” he said while talking to Caravan Daily.

There are other neighboring countries like Myanmar, China etc where Muslims are facing discrimination, torture and exploitation. Why they also are not promised citizenship in India, he asked.

Incidents of mob-lynching on members of Muslim, Christian and Dalit communities had become a norm in the first term of the Modi-led NDA government, taking a heavily toll of human lives. The culture of impunity has got a fillip after the Modi government came to power at the Centre, as scores of accused affiliated to  the Hindutva  groups involved in heinous crimes were either set free or got bail, citing want of evidence.

SDPI

Well-known lawyer and national vice president of the Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI), Sharfuddin Ahmed, said the bill was not an attack on the Muslim community but on the very foundations of the Constitution. Terming the move a part of the RSS’ larger design to revive the Golwalkar theory of communal divide — “they and us”– Ahmed said Prime Minister Modi has become the executioner of this theory. He also said  what they would usher in will not be a Hindu Rashtra but a Brahminical or Manu Vaadi Rashtra. Golwalkar did not recognise anything other than the Manusmṛiti as his Constitution. Calling it a diversionary tactic, he cautioned the nation that, after the Babri Masjid issue has lost its sheen, they (the present government) was on the lookout for new issues to raise passions, in order to hide their utter failure in governance. “This is an attempt to revive Golwalkar’s two nation-theory.”

Ahmed said the SDPI today held protest rallies against the CAB  in some 600 towns across the country but cautiously avoided making it a Muslim-centric issue.

Dr. Taslim Rehmani also saw a deeper plot behind the CAB move.  He told Caravan Daily that the government was trying to change the regional demography of the country and impose their pet credo, ‘Hindi, Hindu and Hindustan’. Dr Rehmani, who heads the Muslim Political Council of India, said there were only 400 Hindu refugees from Pakistan who sought citizenship here. “We should be careful in dealing with this issue as they (RSS and BJP) want to make it a Hindu Vs Muslim issue,” he cautioned.

Eminent activist and ANHAD’s trustee member Shabnam Hashmi said the bill’s stated purpose was to offer refuge to persecuted minorities from neighbouring countries. “But, this only applies to a small, very specific group of minorities and countries. The bill conveniently omits Ahmadis from Pakistan, Rohingyas from Myanmar, and Tamils from Sri Lanka.”

She told Caravan Daily that the bill was not about protecting refugees, but instead was intended simply to advance the Hindutva agenda.

Senior journalist and political commentator Qurban Ali described the bill as arbitrary and said it violated the basic tenets of Indian Constitution and its fundamentals, contrary to article 14, and against the ethos and concept of the Idea of India. “This is a blatant exercise of making this great secular country a Hindu Rashtra as envisioned by the RSS, based on the exhortations of Golwalkar. This should be opposed tooth and nail by every right-thinking Indian, he said.

Echoing his views, Kalimul Hafeez, convener of the Indian Muslim Intellectual Forum, said the bill was a diabolical design of the RSS and exposed its fascist mindset.” He said Muslim should not fall prey to communal forces’ attempt to make this as a Muslim issue.  Muslims should also not get panicky by the step as they had faced such situations boldly in 1935 and 1947.

Former IIT professor and eminent peace activist, Prof  Vipin Kumar Tripathi, condemned the passage of the bill and said this was one of the darkest days in the Indian history. The home minister’s arguments were shallow and sugar-coated venom, he said, and urged MPs to defeat the bill in the Upper House of the Parliament.

Ovais Sultan Khan, HR activist

Ovais Sultan Khan, human rights activist mobilizing people against the bill, told Caravan Daily that this was a big step towards creation of a totalitarian state and warned that such steps would lead to a disintegration of the Indian Union. “The Holocaust didn’t start with the gas chambers. It started with discrimination and hate speech. It is necessary for us to prevent such attempts through a campaign for equality – in our words and actions,” he said.

All the activists and leaders held similar views and said the bill negated the Constitution and its core values and brought a bad name to the country. A reference was to the US Religious Commission’s adverse comments on CAB.

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