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Mainstream, VOL 61 No 14, April 1, 2023

Letter to the Readers, Mainstream, Apr 1, 2023

Saturday 1 April 2023


Letter to the Readers, Mainstream, Apr 1, 2023

BJP, India’s ruling party is in the regular business of using religion for political purposes and setting tensions here and there while targeting minorities. Some of this is made to happen during religious festivals. So, much like last year, this week too a very aggressive and noisy religiopolitical reverie has been on, where gun totting, abuse spewing, angry activists of the Hindutva far right could be seen, some barged into Sufi religious shrines some climbed atop mosques waving the saffron flags, demonstrating intent to insult or invite retaliation; some said to have vandalised shops on the route, some targetted roadside vehicles, some pelted stones at police or at windows in certain neighbourhoods, as if to demonstrate who is in charge; All this in the name of God during processions marking ‘Ram Navmi’—a Hindu religious festival. In the city of Hyderabad, a Ram Navami procession led by BJP leader T Raja Singh had a portrait of Mahatma Gandhi’s assassin Godse on display during the march. Most observers say that till about the late 1980s, no one had seen religious processions marking ‘Ram Navmi’, but today such new style processions are happening across the country, promoted by some political masters and there are of course instances of counter-reaction of incensed local goons or bystanders. On Ram Navami, in 2022 major incidents happened in the states of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, and in Goa. Over the past two days violence around Ram Navmi is being reported from Bengal, Gujarat, Jharkhand, and Uttar Pradesh states. It is doubtful if these sword-swinging spectacles of machismo will go away if Hindutva circles lose political power. Open public veneration of Nathuram Godse during a Hindu religious festival is very revealing. In the past months of provocative carnivals in the form of repeated public rallies to tar and target minorities and ‘inter-faith’ marriages have been on show in Maharashtra. The Supreme Court of India ruled this week calling out – the problem of politicians mixing politics with religion and Government inaction over hate speech. The Supreme Court has time and again pointed out does and don’ts to check abuse of power and state action in keeping with the constitution. The problem is that some in India’s ruling party and some leading public officials are beginning to question the autonomy and powers of the Judiciary to call out wrongdoings of the lawmakers.

April 1, 2023 — HK

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