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Mainstream, VOL LVI No 20 New Delhi May 5, 2018

Is Congress a Muslim Party, is it against the interests of Hindus?

Saturday 5 May 2018

by Ram Puniyani

Currently there is propaganda from the BJP combine that the Congress is an anti-Hindu party. On every conceivable occasion it states that the Congress is insulting Hinduism. In the wake of the verdict of the Mecca Masjid blast cases as the accused got released, BJP spokespersons went hammer and tongs saying that Rahul Gandhi-Congress have defamed the Hindu religion, they should apologise for that. In the ongoing campaign for the Karnataka elections (2018) the BJP has taken out a yatra against the so-called ‘anti-Hindu policies’ of the Congress. The propaganda has gone to such an extent that even Sonia Gandhi, the ex-Congress President, had to say that the Congress is perceived as a party for Muslims!

How should we understand the policies of a party for any religious community? The BJP is propagating that it is a party which is taking care of Hindu interests. Is it true? It has taken up issues like the Ram temple, Holy cow, Article 370, Love-Jihad etc. Have Hindus at large benefited from it? We see an economic slide in the conditions of farmers, workers, Dalits and increasing atrocities against Hindu women. The claim that these emotive issues are for the benefit of Hindus is a pure make-believe propaganda which has led to polarisation, increased hate and a rise in the acts of violence. The major victims of these policies are not only the Muslims but Hindus in large numbers.

What about the Congress being anti-Hindu, against Hinduism? Let’s take the case of Mecca Masjid blast. The major part of investigation was initially done by Hemant Karkare, who was killed in the 26/11 act of terror on Mumbai. Swami Aseemanand, the accused, himself had confessed of his crime in front of a Magistrate, which was not under duress, and his confession was legally valid. Most of the investigations pointed fingers at Aseemanand, Sadhvi Pragya, Lt. Col Purohit et al. During the last four years of BJP rule the case has been so presented by agencies as to exonerate them all and put the blame of wrong investigation on the part of the Maharashtra ATS. While Karkare was proceeding with the investigations, Modi and Thackeray had called him anti-Hindu. Karkare felt so much pressured by these intimidations that he sought the advice of his distinguished elder, Julio Reibero, who advised him to carry on with his honest work, ignoring the pressures.

While the anti-Hindu image of the Congress has been constructed around such issues, its pro-Muslim image has been constructed in the last few decades more so after the reversal of the Shah Bano issue by the Congress Government, which apparently was a flawed decision. Still it was just yielding to retrograde elements within the Muslim community. The Muslim community as a whole did not benefit from it. Dr Manmohan Singh’s statement ‘Muslims have a first claim on national resources’, is yet another statement circulated to assert that the Congress is pro-Muslim. What is hidden from the public view is that this statement came in the wake of the Sachar Committee Report. This report had debunked the claim that Muslims have been appeased; it concluded that the economic condition of the Muslims has got a big slideback while they are also victims of communal violence, and that the only place they are over-represented is the jails!

As such the attempt to walk on the path of secularism in our country, which has suffered from the impact of the ‘divide and rule’ policy of the British, is not easy. With the rising Indian consciousness, Indian nationalism, the Indian National Congress came up with people from all religions. Badruddin Tybaji presided over the Congress session in 1887. It also had Presidents who were Parsis, Christians, and Hindus. This time around the Congress faced criticism from Muslim communalists (Sir Syed for example), as being a Hindu party, while Hindu communalists (like Lala Lalchand) dubbed that Congress as appeasing the Muslims at the cost of Hindu interests. All through the Congress had to face criticism from these elements, as it had the primary focus on Indian nationalism; it was actually practising secularism with some slips here and there.

The criticism of Muslim communalists, the Muslim League, culminated in the formation of Pakistan. Hindu communalists, Hindu Mahasabha, RSS’ criticism was that Gandhi was appeasing Muslims, it is due to Gandhi that Muslims have raised their head, due to which Pakistan was formed. The sharpest articulation of this came in the action of Nathuram Godse, who was a trained RSS pracharak and also became the Secretary of the Pune Branch of the Hindu Mahasabha in 1936. In his statement in the Court (‘May it please your honour’), he says that Gandhi was responsible for the formation of Pakistan, he compromised the Hindu interests and had been pro-Muslim!

The present criticism of the Congress, it being called a Muslim party, it being against Hindu interests seems to be a continuation of the arguments, which began with the Hindu communalists in the 1880s, via the articulations of the Hindu Mahasabha-RSS-Godse, which have become intensified during the last couple of decades. Surely the condition of Muslims has worsened during the last several decades and during the last four years, its status is having a ‘free fall’, while those in power, making these accusations, anti-Congress propaganda are having a field day with emotive issues in which Hindus are as much the losers as the other sections of society.

Walking the secular talk is becoming more difficult by the day. Gandhi was killed for this and his disciple Nehru is being the subject of vilification and calumny for the same. The Muslim communalists rejoiced at the formation of Pakistan, where development and amity are missing. With the Congress-Gandhi-Nehru we could make a small journey towards fraternity and progress. The criticism of the Congress as being a Muslim party, as being against Hindus, reflects more about the sectarian agenda of those propagating it rather that the nature of the Congress, which despite all the flaws has been trying to protect secular values, in the face of massive limitations! 

The author, a retired Professor at the IIT-Bombay, is currently associated with the Centre for the Study of Secularism and Society, Mumbai.

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