India

The writing on the wall at India’s controversial mosque

If the majority community has the vision to deal with this majoritarianism, can it ensure a better future for all Indians?

Cedric Prakash

Updated: May 19, 2022 05:03 AM GMT
Police use a water canon to disperse activists of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the student wing of the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), during a protest against West Bengal's state government over alleged irregularities in a recruitment process in Kolkata on May 18, 2022. (Photo: AFP)

Fascists use manipulative strategies aimed at whipping up sympathy and support from the majority community, to which they normally 'belong.' They do so in a variety of insidious and subtle ways. In the past few months, they have gone overboard in their efforts to denigrate and demonize minorities in India — particularly Muslims and Christians.

They have spewed hate and divisiveness through their venomous speeches; incited people to violence and have effectively used officialdom to further their vested interests. The results are there for all to see: greater polarisation of the majority community in a country which prided itself on its pluralism and diversity.

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Their meticulously planned agenda aims to gain absolute power in 2024 national elections. More so it is also a roadmap toward 2025 when their engine-room organization, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), marks 100 years of its existence.

The fascist ideology of the RSS is against the secular constitution of India, as its primary objective is to declare India a 'Hindu Rashtra' (Hindu nation) as soon as possible — for some of them as early as 2025!

Whether the vast majority of Indian people, will actually allow them to make this wish come true, is anyone's guess. Majoritarianism in India though is alive and kicking!

The latest conflict to hog national headlines is that of the  Gyanvapi mosque-Kashi Vishwanath in the temple city of Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh state. It is a long-drawn dispute and goes as far back as 1991. According to reports, a Shivling (representative image of Hindu god Shiva) was discovered within the disputed Gyanvapi premise's Wuzukhana — the place where ablutions are performed.

Reports claim that the Shivling was discovered after water inside a pond, which is used as a Wuzukhana by Muslims, was pumped out of it. After the Shivling was unearthed during the survey on May 16, a district court ordered the sealing of the disputed structure. In its order, the court stated that the Shivling discovery is substantial evidence and asked the security forces to secure the premises and prevent Muslims from entering.

Already, in the past couple of years, Hindutva elements have been disrupting the communal harmony in and around a four-century-old Catholic Church in Goa

However, on May 17, India's Supreme Court issued notice on pleas challenging the district court order. It also issued an interim order that while the area where the 'Shivling' was allegedly found should be protected, Muslims must not be restricted from entering and praying in the mosque.

A group of Muslims has been contending this order arguing that the court's directions are contrary to the provisions of the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991, which specifically states all places of worship shall be maintained as they were on Aug. 15, 1947, when India gained independence. The only exception given in the 1991 law is for the controversial temple-mosque structure (Babri Masjid-Ramjanam Bhoomi) in Ayodhya, also in Uttar Pradesh. The next hearing by the Apex Court was scheduled for May 19.

Rather than dismissing them under the Places of Worship Act, 1991, courts often allow petitions against mosques to fester, thus helping Hindutva politics, wrote Umang Poddar in a detailed and well-researched article in news portal scroll.in on May 18.

This is a worrisome trend that is taking place, particularly in the lower courts when small-time judges to ensure their place in the sun and for their career promotions bend over to cater to the whims and fancies of their political masters, giving no importance to impartiality and the future of the country.

Already, in the past couple of years, Hindutva elements have been disrupting the communal harmony in and around the archaeological site of the 416 years old, Our Lady of Health Church in Sancoale, in Goa and tried to perform some religious rituals in front of the church.

They have some preposterous claims such as the church was built on the ruins of a Laxmi Narasimha temple. This, like several other temples, which were apparently razed to the ground and churches built on them some 500 years ago during Portuguese rule, needed to be rebuilt.  

In Karnataka, Pramod Muthalik, the founder and chief of the right-wing organization Sri Ram Sene (the army Sri Ram) continues with his vicious attacks on Muslims and Christians.  On May 13, addressing a gathering in Mysore, he claimed that thousands of Hindus were being converted forcibly to Christianity.

The key question is this: can they ensure a better and more harmonious future for all?

Every day, thousands of Hindus are being converted to Christianity. The conversion is being done through deceit and force. The only way to deal with this issue is by bringing a stringent law against conversion and by also demolishing illegal churches by bulldozing them, he reportedly said. A few days earlier members of his organization were detained for playing Hindu devotional songs using loudspeakers to demand a ban on the Muslims' azan call to prayer.

Fascists are also Goebbelsian in their modus operandi. Tell a lie a thousand times and people will believe it is the truth was the axiom of Joseph Goebbels, the Minister for Propaganda in Hitler's Third Reich (regime) from 1933 to 1945. Goebbels controlled every means of communication: from radio to cinema, from publishing to oral communications. Exactly what is happening in India today with media.

It's paid rich dividends for those in power — but with disastrous consequences for the ordinary people.

The bogey of conversion is a clear example of a Goebbelsian strategy being effectively used today. Lies, half-truths and divisive politics by the ruling regime have made anti-conversion laws center stage. The regime is proving to the world that they do not have the capacity or the competency to deal with serious problems affecting the country today: from an economy that is on a downward spiral to growing impoverishment of the masses, from rising unemployment to a pathetic ranking in the social sector.

The Karnataka government recently passed an ordinance to bring in the controversial law against religious conversions, violating the provisions of religious freedom guaranteed in the Indian Constitution. On May 17, the state governor, who is the authority meant to safeguard the constitutional rights of all citizens, abdicated his duty and gave assent to the ordinance proving that he is a mere puppet in the Hindutva agenda.

There is much more. This includes the communalization of education from mandating the study of the Bhagwad Gita to the deification of RSS leaders like Savarkar and Godse; the prevention and the destruction of small enterprises belonging to members of the minority community in temple areas; the systematic campaign of what people eat and wear; the targeting of minorities when they worship — are all intricate pieces of a carefully planned agenda.

The writing is on the wall! The key question at the moment is this: if the members of the majority community have the vision and the sagacity to deal with this majoritarianism, can they ensure a better and more harmonious future for all? The directives from the Supreme Court on May 19, regarding the Gyanvapi mosque imbroglio, will hopefully be a new dawn toward this.

Jesuit Father Cedric Prakash is a human rights, peace activist, and writer based in the Gujarat state of India.

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