By Jawed Naqvi
Prime Minister Theresa May could have easily ignored, without anyone noticing, the vengeful white Briton who drove his truck into a crowd of Muslim worshippers, mowing down a few and killing one. After all, England had not yet fully recovered from the terror carnage in Manchester and London inflicted by home-grown Muslims.
She could have also said something stupid like Rajiv Gandhi. He had viewed the killing spree against Sikhs in Delhi as an unsurprising reaction to the murder of his mother. He had said when a big tree falls, the ground beneath does shake. That was how he had accepted the carnage.
Ms May could have also feigned pain like Prime Minister Modi who equated the pogrom of Muslims in Gujarat to a puppy coming under the wheel of his car. But she preferred to call the white man a terrorist. A comment expected from Jeremy Corbyn came from May. That’s how democracies humble their leaders. Why does Indian democracy falter here?
In Donald Trump’s America too, regardless of the viciousness his followers pursue against the non-whites, there is still a robust system that works for more than a mere pretence of justice. The white man who killed a Sikh in the wake of 9/11 is rotting in prison.
On the other hand, at least two white Americans were wounded and at least one other was killed when they tried to save Hindus and Muslims from white hate-mongers in different episodes. Despite Europe being under siege from Muslim terrorists there is vocal and robust protection for the ordinary Muslims against racist vendetta.
People come out on the streets in the US and Europe at the hint of any perceived bias. Even in strife-battered and terror-stricken Pakistan (where terror groups are, ironically, allowed to walk openly with a swagger) human rights workers have laid down their lives. And after a church was bombed in Peshawar some years ago, Muslims (and others) ringed churches in major cities in a show of solidarity for the Christian community.
Last week’s Not In My Name protests across India against the widespread phenomenon of public lynching came as a whiff of fresh air. Such relief is rare and far between in the world’s largest democracy. The lynching of Muslims, Dalits and Christians, we all know, could not happen without the encouragement of the Hindutva establishment. And this was the theme of the spontaneous protests. They came like a cloudburst to a parched land.
There are individuals who have died for the cause in India. Who can forget the murder by Hindutva assassins of the Kalburgi-Pansare-Dhabolkar trio as they fought blind faith and superstition planted and nurtured by the rulers? Let us also put on record the mealy-mouthed disapproval Prime Minister Modi expressed against his cow vigilantes. How else could another man be brutally beaten to death within hours of his disapproval?
One of Modi’s chief ministers says cow killers should be hanged. Another says they should be packed off to Pakistan. His cabinet has men who celebrated killers as nationalist icons. The reason is not far to seek. The world is crawling with the ‘us versus them’ rogue groups. The difference is that groups like Boko Haram are dismantling what is otherwise the best in their civilisation, from outside the system. They are the non-state players, whereas Hindutva in India is well entrenched within the system. It is hollowing out India’s democracy with a surgeon’s ease. Similarity is inescapable here with the zealots who were infiltrated by Ziaul Haq into state institutions in Pakistan. And this has been happening for years, decades even.
Now that the so-called mainstream media in India has bared its Hindutva fangs (Trump complimented Modi on the ‘friendly’ coverage he got at their Washington meeting) it is not difficult to perceive the cover-up that was imposed over the years. The fact is, though seldom discussed in the newspapers or on TV channels, that the destruction of Babri Masjid took place years before the Afghan Taliban destroyed the Bamiyan Buddhas. Somehow, the Ayodhya outrage is accepted as a nationalist exigency while the Bamiyan criminals were handed the terror tag.
The fact is that churches were burnt, nuns raped and an Australian missionary roasted alive with his two sons by a Hindutva mob in Orissa way before Boko Haram could spell ‘Christian’. Boko Haram, loosely meaning ‘foreign is sinful’, could learn from Hindutva’s institutionalised hatred of Christians, Muslims and communists, all three bereft of a common strategy to fight their tormentors.
Two Hindutva leaders have invited comparison with Boko Haram. Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath claims the minarets of the fabled Taj Mahal represent not Indian ethos but an alien culture. Hitherto, he implied, politicians with an inferior sense of patriotism were giving replicas of the Taj Mahal to foreign dignitaries. Now the truer Indian spirit has spurred a new crop of leaders to gift copies of Hindu scriptures.
The ruling party’s nominee for India’s next president claimed something similar seven years ago. “Islam and Christianity are alien to India,” Ram Nath Kovind had said when he was just appointed a BJP spokesperson. That’s what Boko Haram says about Nigerian Christians. That’s what the Nazis said of German Jews.
Mr Kovind had slammed the proposed inclusion of Muslim and Christian Dalits entitled for job reservation offered to the other Scheduled Castes.
Boko Haram has been carrying out what Hindutva calls ghar wapsi, forcing Christians to convert ‘back’ to Islam — their version of Islam — ‘back’ being Boko Haram’s interpretation of what came first, Islam or Christianity in the Nigerian timeline. Anyone with an iota of integrity and faithful memory will see the methods as strikingly similar. Not In My Name partisans could learn from a Pakistani humorist, who told his countrymen: accepting something without reason cannot be weeded out with reason.