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Mainstream, VOL LX No 25, New Delhi, June 11, 2022

Letter to the Readers, Mainstream, June 11, 2022

Saturday 11 June 2022


Letter to the Readers, Mainstream, June 11, 2022

Muslims and other minorities in India have long been repeated targets of intimidation, discrimination, hate speech, and communal violence but this process has seen an acceleration since mid-2014 with a new style of aggressive Hindu Right and the BJP-led government allowing a whole majoritarian ideological and media eco-system to flourish. A daily fare of communal slurs and innuendo have become normalised on TV and in society with officials of the ruling party in the lead. Here an us versus them divisive binary with use of gods and religiosity gets invoked in bid to polarise. In a May end TV debate Nupur Sharma the then official spokesperson of the BJP made remarks about the Prophet of the Muslims tailored as a pin-prick – a natural outcome of the new loud ways of right-wing discourse. Given the whole social atmosphere of fear among the minorities in India there was a muted reaction. But we live in a hyper-connected world and a reaction come from thousands of miles away in a dozen countries seen as part the Muslim world which officially complained about ‘offensive’ remarks on Prophet Muhammad by an official of the ruling party in India. India’s envoys tried to diffuse the situation in the Gulf countries that are economically vital and where close to 9 million Indian migrants work. Much to the chagrin of large section of the ruling BJP, the ruling party in India felt compelled to remove its official spokesperson. Ministry of External Affairs naturally went on to state that controversial views expressed in the TV debate did not represent views of the Government of India and but their presentation of the officials of the ruling BJP in question as ‘fringe elements’, made it as farcical as it gets. Removing one or two spokespersons of BJP and issuing a code of conduct wont fix the problem of a totally normalised culture of angry speech designed to enflame passions, within the party and its media machine. As a ricochet to the reaction in countries of the Muslim World, there are now belated protests in India over remarks by the former BJP leader. Large protests were reported on in different parts of India on Friday, June 10. There have been some instance of stone pelting by a mob of Muslims which are condemnable. We hope the protests remain peaceful and will finally ebb. We are prisoners of the ‘hurt sentiments’ industry in India as in other conservative societies. Gods, Religiosity, and a shrill community identity politics have come to have more power here to mobilise people than the question of class and secular common citizenship rights.

We are very far from a secular future where political leaders and civil society figures would have the unwavering courage and clarity to confront the sacred cows of religion & community identity that are today so beyond discussion and rational criticism.

June 11, 2022 - HK

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